Our Five Ring Circus: Social Distancing the Big Family Way

Monday, March 30, 2020

Social Distancing the Big Family Way

Big Family Blog

It's unbelievable how much life can change so quickly. Two weeks ago, I had no idea that our lives were going to change so drastically as I dropped my kids off at school on a perfectly normal Friday morning. Two weeks later, my family is finishing our second week in quarantine like most of the country, and "social distancing" is now an everyday term. 

Life still feels so surreal, but the threat of coronavirus is very real. We are missing our normal, busy life, and I'm realizing just how much we took for granted, but the safest place for my family right now is home. In two short weeks, so much happened. Our schools initially closed for two weeks, by the order of the governor, until March 30th, but it was extended until the Monday after Easter. (That being said, I doubt they will go back then since the virus just hit our county.) My husband ended up working from home, because his office is closed due to the governor ordering that all non-essential businesses close. And as of Friday, our county officially has a stay home order. No going out unless it's to exercise, go to the grocery store, check on family members, or (safely) drop off or pick up essentials from another home.

Our health and safety, and choosing to protect others by staying isolated, is the most important thing right now. Life in isolation is definitely tough, though. It's so difficult not seeing our family and friends, we are worrying about our health and the health of our loved ones, we are trying to explain to the kids about what's going on, and our kids are dealing with the disappointment over school being closed and so many important events and activities being canceled. There is so much uncertainty and fear right now, but we're just trying our hardest to stay positive during this incredibly difficult time!

In case you're wondering, social distancing is VERY interesting for a family of 7! We are living in the same house 24/7, and quickly realizing that our family is too big for our house. To say we're close would be an understatement!

We have always made family togetherness a priority, and although I'm trying to embrace the gift of uninterrupted time that we were given, there can be too much togetherness at times! We need breaks for our sanity, so we're still trying to figure out that aspect. We can't escape to our extracurricular activities, head to the playground, or spend time away at a friend's house like we normally would. There's literally nowhere to go but outdoors.

We're coming together for more meals, and more regular family movie nights and family game nights, which is awesome. But we're also working on carving out some personal time and space for each of us! Keeping our sanity during the isolation is just as important as enjoying our time together, so we can continue to have a happy home!

Our new normal is much different than it was! Ten days ago, Grant was working in the office, 45 minutes from home. I was beginning to work on four sponsored campaigns, finishing up blog post drafts, and running each day. Dylan was home doing cyber school, and going to weekly doctor appointments to learn how to manage his newly diagnosed ADHD, as well as spending his time with his friends and girlfriend on the weekends. Lexie was in middle school, fully involved in the school's volunteer club, and starting to get into running. Lily LOVED going to 3rd Grade each day, loved her teacher, was having fun with weekly tumbling lessons with her best friend, and looking forward to starting cheer again. Liam was in 1st grade with his amazing teachers and para, receiving all of his therapy at school, and getting ready to start baseball again. And Coen was rapidly growing up, and throwing a curveball our way - a fainting/seizure disorder.

Now, it has all changed. Grant is now working full time at home. My sponsored campaigns are temporarily on hold, and I'm now a full-time homeschooling mom and stand-in therapist. Dylan was already homeschooled, but his appointments came to a halt, and his weekend social life came to an end. Our school district is closed with no return date set, and Lexie, Lily, and Liam will be starting online schooling next Monday. Lexie and Lily are devastated because they love school and their teachers, and Liam thrives in a school setting, where he also receives all of his therapy services.

Lexie and Lily are missing their teachers and friends fiercely, and rumor has it that all the support staff has been laid off so they can collect unemployment. Liam's AMAZING para was with him all the time, and he just adores her. It breaks my heart that they may never see each other again. At this point, I'm just praying they can return to school for a few weeks, and that Liam's para will be hired back. Our home is now work AND school, and we don't leave for much. Our only escape is our backyard! Now that we are living in our home 24/7, we had to make a few changes to keep things running smoothly.

Here's how we're handling social distancing, work at home, homeschooling, and therapy:

  • First, we had to set up a new wireless router to support all the devices that will be used for work and school. Lexie will be using her district-issued chromebook for online schooling, Lily will be using Dylan's personal laptop, and Liam will be using my iPad with my support. 
  • Each person will have a designated work space. Grant will be working in the bedroom, I will be in the living room with Liam and Coen, Dylan will be working in the basement, Lexie will be working in her bedroom, and Lily will be working in the kitchen. 
  • We are NOT a strict schedule kind of family. There are just too many of us, and too many factors that get in the way of time blocks. Instead, we opt for personal To Do lists for each child. I create them at the beginning of the day, hand them out, and they have to complete each item before handing them back to me in the evening.
  • I am relying on my Cozi calendar app, with reminders, more than ever these days! Everything goes on that calendar!
  • Our kids already have regular chores, but they are going to get a bit more complex while they are home. They will learn how to properly do laundry, start learning how to clean the floors, clean the bathroom and counter, and dust. They will also be helping me a bit more with food prep and cleanup.
  • We started a timed ten minute bedroom cleanup this week. It happens just before bed!
  • We are focusing more on clean floors and disinfecting. Our home gets dirty fast with all of us at home full time. We are sweeping and mopping each night, soaking dishes and toys in Clorox each day, and using disinfectant spray on every frequently touched surface at the end of each day. Hand towels and dish towels are being washed more often, and we are starting a shoes off policy in our home, since Coen and Liam spend so much time on the floor. 
  • I tend to make a big meal 5 days a week. Now that it's a bit more difficult to find certain ingredients, I had to simplify the plan. Our meals are still good, but I did add one day of frozen foods, and a leftover day, so we can clean out the fridge and stop wasting so much food!
  • Daily dinners together continue to be a MUST.
  • Unless the weather is absolutely awful, the kids have to play outside each day. It's our only escape! 
  • We have regular family movie nights and started family game nights, but we're going to have them more often. We're going to make good use of the time we have together. 
  • We have an "organize one area of our home each day" rule. Sometimes it's as simple as a drawer, and other times it's a bigger project, like a closet. By the end of this quarantine, we want to get a dumpster to throw away big things, and have bags of items to take to donation centers. 7 people tend to accumulate a lot of stuff throughout the year. We all have too much stuff, and it's overwhelming. 
  • We said a temporary goodbye to our strict wake schedule. There was no reason for the kids to wake up between 6-8 if they didn't have anywhere to go. 
  • At first, I planned a lot of homeschool activities since they didn't have to do any schoolwork. There were so many online learning activities coming our way, and I had a ton of worksheets and workbooks. The first few days were very structured, then I said no to the worksheets and workbooks. Instead, I focused on other forms of learning. Each day, they had to read two books or two chapters (or more), do something creative, bring music into their day in some way, write in a journal to document their time in quarantine, watch something educational, do their chores, get exercise, and play outdoors. Liam also had to do a FUN speech activity and a fun OT activity. By the end of the week, we realized our kids were learning, rediscovering hobbies, and having fun!

Starting tomorrow, there will be even MORE changes! Other than Dylan, who continued with cyber school, my kids haven't had any schoolwork. Their district has been hard at work implementing an online learning platform, and that begins tomorrow. This is new for everyone, so I have no doubt that the teachers and students will be learning together, and that the work is going to be a bit easier. 

In addition to Lexie, Lily, and Liam having to log on each day to complete assignments, Liam will start his teletherapy sessions. We will be using the Zoom platform for these live sessions with his school therapists at home. Honestly, it means more work for me, since I will have to be present for every session. He will have a 30 minute OT session on Monday afternoons, a 30 minute speech session on Tuesday afternoons, a 30 minute physical therapy session on Thursday mornings, a 30 minute speech therapy session on Thursday afternoons, and a meeting with his social worker on Friday mornings. 

Liam will have circle time at the same time each morning, and a zoom meeting with his general ed class once a week. Lily's teacher will be having regular zoom meetings with her class as well. The rest of their work will be at their own pace, and all of Lexie's work will be at her own pace. 

Here's where I'm going to get real, and show you my insecurities. I'm not certain HOW we're going to make this work. Dare I say that life seems to be busier at home full time, just in different ways? Our house is just always loud, chaotic, and busy, and my time is already stretched too thin trying to fit it all in. Gone is all the driving around and extracurricular activities, but in it's place is more cleaning, more time spent trying to keep our children happy and engaged, and now I have to fully oversee three more educations. 

I do feel prepared for the homeschooling aspect. We always supplement our kids' public school education with learning at home, and I am a non-stop therapist with Liam. I'm already involved with their schoolwork, so that doesn't change. One of my children already uses an online learning platform, so this isn't really new to me. 

Managing time, reducing stress, and keeping my kids from missing their normal lives, is what I'm worried most about. How am I going to juggle four kids learning online, all the scheduled teletherapy sessions and zoom meetings, AND a baby? How will I keep the other kids engaged and quiet during Liam's therapy sessions, the class meetings, and Grant's conference calls? How will I do it all, make time for myself, and maintain my sanity? How will I keep my kids sadness in check. Yes, FaceTime and these live meetings are a gift, but they don't replace REAL life. 

I'm not certain how we're going to do it, and I truly don't have any answers. My old "one day at a time" philosophy has changed to "one hour at a time" during all of this. I'm learning and adapting every single day. We all are! All I can do is not overthink things, and not get ahead of myself. 

I had so many posts lined up to go live this month, but they all seem trivial now. I'm going to put most of them on hold, and focus on relevant topics for now. Learning at home, how we homeschool, kids' activities, recipes, date nights at home, therapy ideas for home, and more. After all, we are living history! THIS moment in time will be something we all remember. We will be sharing these stories with our kids and grandchildren one day!

Yes, I might still sneak in Lexie and Coen's birthday posts, but the rest will wait. And at the end of this week, I just might be able to share a few tips on how we were able to homeschool four kids, do all of Liam's therapy sessions at home, and keep our family happy and healthy! This is a new experience for all of us, and I honestly believe we can all learn from each other, and learn valuable lessons during our time in quarantine. 

We are only two weeks into social distancing, and it's tough to process. When I look out the window, it doesn't seem like life has changed at all. But when I start to think about it, this entire situation is so surreal. It's beginning to feel a bit like that movie "Groundhog Day."  Every morning I wake up, and I hope that this is over, and we can return to normal life. The reality, unfortunately, is that we are only two weeks in, and there are most likely MANY more ahead of us. If social distancing will protect us and prevent people from dying, then that is exactly what we have to do!

Social Distancing

How are YOU handling social distancing? Are you and your family healthy? Now, more than ever, we need to connect online. Share your thoughts/tips in the comments! 

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Social Distancing the Big Family Way


  1. I am definitely feeling more busy than I used to be, but you're right that the driving around time is now spent differently! Luckily most of my kids can handle their online learning on their own. I'm worried about next week when we're on spring break though!

  2. This has been such an eye opening experience for me. I hope you and your family stay safe during this time.

  3. The days are going a lot slower with being stuck in the house all day . I work from home, which is nice, but my dad is laid off for a couple months so he's here, as well as his dad who lives with us and now can't go anywhere. It's great when the weather is nice because you CAN go outside, but in general, it definitely feels surreal and I do have anxiety about it. I'm just trying to do my best to stay positive.



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