Friday, December 4, 2020

Parenting in the Pandemic: Episode 2, "The Doom of Zoom"

 If any of you have had the pleasure of meeting my eight-year-old, Elliot, you know that he is a very active boy. My dad likes to compare him to a 1950's boy. If he's not on his bike, he's got his bow and arrow trying to shoot turkeys from our deck. And yes, one time he thought perhaps he could chase away a bear with his bow and arrow. I reminded Braveheart that his dull-tipped arrows probably would just make the bear mad! And give his mother a heart attack!

This same little boy who loves the outdoors, finding mischief and experimenting also doesn't do so great with screens. I've read plenty of examples of how screens affect kids' brains (adults, too by the way), but with older brother, Ethan, I never saw dramatic changes in behavior. Elliot is a different story. The word screen zombie is a real word in our house that we try to avoid. Screen time for Elliot is short and a sweet treat.

So, you can imagine when schooling went remote what that was like for Elliot! Welcome to the doom of Zoom. 

Now, before I go any further with this blog, I want to make something very clear. Teachers, ALL teachers right now and seven months ago, well and forever actually, are amazing. I can not even fathom trying to teach a classroom of second graders. Remotely! Are you kidding me? Yet, that's exactly what our teachers were called to do. Not because they got some pay raise or bonus. I'm pretty sure teachers don't get those, yet they have been asked to accomplish the impossible. And now, those same teachers who rallied in the spring are teaching in-person, risking their lives for our children. They are teaching blended classrooms and remote classrooms. Many of them simultaneously. Have you ever been asked to go ahead and do three jobs AT THE SAME TIME? For the same pay? They are true heroes.

Back to Zoom. We knew pretty quickly that Zoom wasn't going to work for Elliot. We watched as the active boy turned morose, couldn't focus, was having toddler-like meltdowns. This, happening while both my husband and I are remoting into our jobs. A meltdown in the middle of a virtual court hearing is not a good idea!

Once upon a time in 2000, I had gone to college to earn a BA in English Education. No, not early childhood education. But I wasn't a complete dummy on the subject. We made a super hard decision. One that we are not alone in making as thousands of other families across the globe were in our exact situation. We unenrolled Elliot from public school. I jumped on and reviewed the State Standards for second grade and third grade, bought curriculum books and created a schedule. 

I would like to report that it was all sunshine and rainbows. I was the perfect teacher, Elliot the perfect student. But that would be a laughing lie. It was hard. Real hard. I'm still remoting into work, remember? So, trying to keep an eight-year-old on task while Zooming in to my own meetings was sometimes a nightmare. I hate to admit I think I had some of those toddler tantrums myself. And on more than one evening I was ready to quit my job.

But I didn't and something amazing started to happen. I realized that although I operate under a strict schedule, Elliot does not. I created a sticker chart with each subject he needed to complete. We tabbed the pages he needed to do, reviewed those pages together and I let him go. The rule? By the end of the day, all stickers on the chart equals that blessed thirty minutes of screen time. And it's not perfect. We both have good and bad days. He gets stuck, we work through it. But it's amazing how motivated he became to figure out his schoolwork when it was no longer my schedule, but his. I saw him taking ownership of his learning.

As May came to an end, we decided to just keep going with it. It would give him a head start, occupy his summer days and keep him from harassing too many of the wild turkeys. 

And for Ethan? He remoted in to Google Classrooms as an eighth grader. Being the techie kid that he is, he excelled in it. And thank goodness for that! He absolutely rocked it. 

As we rolled into summer, we had some hard decisions, based on the ever-changing facts of COVID. To remote or not to remote, that became the question.

Some hands-on science

Ethan completing a science experiment for school

The favorite class of the day: reading time on the hammock

Friday, October 23, 2020

Parenting in the Pandemic: Episode 1

 So I'm writing this at eleven p.m., which, let's face it has been the new two a.m. for a couple decades now. It could be a really bad idea. I may just delete the whole thing in the morning. But here I am, suffering from a mild flu shot vaccine reaction—yep that's me—and not able to sleep. I'm usually the up-at-five-a.m. person, so tomorrow should be very interesting. Don't judge me for typos.

 You might be wondering why I'm writing about parenting during the pandemic. Isn't this a book news site? Well, yes, yes it is, but let's remember it's two a.m. And like millions of parents out there, the pandemic and what it has done to our lives is always on my mind.

If I was smart, I would have started this episode months ago. Seven to be exact. But, let's be honest, I was just surviving seven months ago. And I'm pretty sure I would have lacked the perspective to see any humor in the situation at the time.

Our family is one of "those". You know, one day it was the last day of school before spring break where I was picking up my second grader from school, lugging home his prized school work (we had to keep it, his best comic strips were written in the margins, after all) and going to my eighth grader’s choir concert, and the next we turned into the crew on Gilligan's Island, where social interaction was a sweet dream and plotting and failing to get off the island our daily routine. Those were the days.

You see, I've got a super rare and super obnoxious auto-immune disease. It's about as predictable as a toddler. One minute everything is fine and then the milk spills. And on no, total melt down. And then, the milk can spill again, and everything is fine. So COVID posed a special risk to our household. 

You know that day back in March? Yah, the last day before spring break. That's the one. You know what I was doing? I was in my office, downloading software to remote in to work from home. I think I mentioned something about being prepared. And as the Finance and Operations Director, I was doing just that. I'm not sure if my coworkers thought I had lost my mind. I think I was scaring them a little, so I went ahead and download that software on their computers, too.

The brain wasn't turned on all the way, I hate to admit it, and only the part of me that was raised Seventh-Day Adventist (look it up, best survivalists on the planet) must have kicked in. All those years of tying knots, identifying edible plants, and making snow shelters was paying off. But I left everything in my office desk. I mean everything. Stamps, pens, chocolate (I really regretting this one later), the emergency kid supplies (I regretted this, too, more than you can know), and walked out the door. 

And for the first week, you know, it was almost exhilarating, like watching one of those zombie apocalypse movies. The world was going nuts, but we, in all our wisdom and toilet paper buying, were fine. I painted the office, we took hikes in the woods, and we ate our "survival" food, consisting of canned foods and macaroni (this is not, I repeat not what we eat). But we are Generation-X, the latchkey kids. Canned and boxed food. We got this. 

I'm not sure what my husband and I thought. That, like a bad movie, it would end, and the lights would flicker on. We would rub our eyes and look around disoriented and then march ourselves back into reality? It must have been, but by day five, the fun was over. News overload was served for breakfast, and the emergency fund at my office, serving our community, was activated. I plugged the kids into left-over "summer school" curriculum books (you know, the ones we always buy and the kids never use) and popped open my 2011, Windows 7 laptop, and we moved into the Twilight Zone. 

It wasn't Gilligan's Island anymore and the bad movie wasn't going to end. We weren't going to get our brains eaten by the COVID zombie, I was going to make sure of that, but the monsters under the bed were just starting to peak their heads out. The layoffs hadn't happened yet (it's spring break, remember), and moms (and dads, too)  across the globe hadn't yet realized that they were going to be logging in to work while simultaneously logging into their child's Zoom classroom. All with faulty internet (thank you, rural Colorado).

It was, as my class of 1999 high school motto stated: "It's not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end. It is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." -Winston Churchill


P.S. Help a starving artist, multi-job, homeschooling mom and check out my new release:

My little helper, painting the office
Spring Break, 2020

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Knock Over Book Launch AND Moonshine Murder Relaunch is Here!

I am beyond excited to announce the release of The Knock Over a Moonshine Murder mystery! Book launch video below with a link to the book launch page where you can sign up for E.S. Jameson Book News and receive a free digital bookmark.

For the next four days, the new edition of Moonshine Murder is FREE!

The Knock Over Book Launch Page

Friday, July 17, 2020

Having Fun Researching

I've been having fun researching for my new work-in-progress. Research is one of my favorite parts of writing historical fiction. It's so exciting to uncover a new piece of history and I want to share what I've learned with anyone who will listen. Not all of what I research makes its way into my writing. In fact, only a small percentage does. I decided I need to share some of these great pieces here.

The link below is to a Denver 7 News channel clip, captioned, "On the outside, the house may look like any other historic home in the north Denver neighborhood, but inside, the secrets of a gangster's paradise are finally revealed. Jaclyn Allen reports.

If this is your first time back to this site in awhile, you are probably noticing some changes. Moonshine Murder is getting a new look, to be released next month along with the sequel, The Knock Over. Stay tuned for the launch date.