10 Things I Love About Our New Normal

I find it ironic that I’m writing this blog article right now, considering that I had a minor breakdown this morning, overwhelmed by all the ins and outs of our “new normal.”

I’m 100% positive that I’m not the only mom struggling with adapting to this new crazy:

  • Working full-time from home
  • Unexpectedly homeschooling 6 children
  • Constant interruptions to answer questions
  • Wiping tears from little eyes
  • Letting kids play jungle gym on my desk chair
  • Navigating snacks
  • Giving attention to older kids who need mom, too
  • Coordinating dinner
  • Playing referee

With. No. Escape.

We’re all here, and here is where we’ll be on this government-mandated indefinite “grounding” of FOREVER.

I’d lie if I said that I didn’t have elaborate daydreams of a tropical island where I could think for a second or two, without a little 4-year old hand being shoved up my shirt to touch my warm belly, or wondering how to lift the spirits of my senior who will be deprived of prom and a graduation ceremony.

Mix that in with two teenage daughters and one preteen with needs of their own. It’s a lot to deal with. The many sympathetic posts I see on Facebook and Instagram right now confirm the fact that I’m not the only mom desperately trying to stay afloat. 

I’m NOT alone.

Lump it or like it, we’re all in the same boat.

So back to the 10 things I Iove about our new normal… (Yeah… I get it… you’re not hearing the love part – yet. Bear with me… it’s coming.)

I guess I should start off with what triggered my own personal #QuarantineBlessings challenge and why I chose to write this particular article. Every year, I choose a word for the year that I can focus on and pray for God to reveal new ways in which I can grow. My word for 2019 was “unleash.” It was powerful and the lessons learned were equally intense. So last December, I began to pray for my new word.

In my search, I kept seeing the word “present.” It would sit nagging in the back of my mind during quiet moments of prayer, but I kept resisting it. The word “present” seemed too boring or simple, and in my mind, the year 2020 required something quite grand! 

But God made it clear; the word for this year was to be “present.” So, I chose the word and asked God to reveal His plan.

Sitting here now, I just have to laugh. “Present.” In this forced time-out, it would be easy to wish this chaotic time away. I’m having flash-backs to the movie “Click” with Adam Sandler and moments like, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just click a button and get to the next part where we’re all able to buy toilet paper and go out to eat?”

But, then, I remember the lesson Michael learns when he gets to the end of his life and realizes that he fast-forwarded through most of it, missing out on all those little moments that made up a lifetime of laughter, memories, and love.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a seminarian about the immense grace found in each present moment. It was honestly the first time I had ever thought about stopping for a minute, taking a breath and being present. I was always one to go-go-go, take a deep breath, and then go-go-go again. Being still or being present just wasn’t something I even thought about doing.

Over the years, I’ve learned about taking time to not miss out on the little moments with my kiddos. Doing the tea parties, snuggling, taking the time to listen, really doing up the birthdays. 

We’ve learned how counting our blessings can actually change the brain. It can eradicate perpetual negativity and make us happier, more positive people.

Michelle Hillaert

In the past two years, my family has learned about the power of gratitude. We’ve learned how counting our blessings can actually change the brain. It can eradicate perpetual negativity and make us happier, more positive people.

In St. Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue, God the Father tells her that there are three things we need to do to be pure. The very first thing that He tells her is that we need to “commit to memory every blessing.”

In the midst of the many ‘what ifs’ right now, I’m choosing to follow this advice. To stop worrying about what happens next, to be grateful for blessings, and to strive to enter each new moment with enthusiasm!

“Live the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence.”

St. John Paul the Great

With all that said, I give you the 10 Things I Love About Our New Normal.

10. Less laundry!

Anyone else realizing their laundry pile is diminishing–finally? 

Yup! It’s days of snuggling in and wearing yoga pants or workout clothes. I’m so grateful that my job doesn’t require video conferencing so I can hide the fact that my hair is usually in a ponytail, and I’m in my fav comfy pants.

The kiddos don’t change much either. We’re not going out nearly as much and they’re home from school, so there is less reason to wear multiple outfits in one day.

I just MIGHT get caught up before the quarantine ends. Can we just stop for a second here and say, “Praise the Lord and Hallelujah!” That’s something to get excited about!

9. Things are getting organized.

You know that chore chart I’ve talked about revamping for a whole year? Well, it is FINALLY finished. With everyone home, the house was getting Out-Of-Control. 

After a full day of work, it was exhausting and irritating to come out of my office to a house where chores weren’t done and only that one child with the helpful spirit went above and beyond the bare minimum. We were quickly getting behind.

So, I revamped the chore chart and got buy-in from my kiddos, having them review and approve it before we had it printed and laminated.

For the past week, it has been better than it has been for a long time. Without the quarantine, it might have been another year before that project finally got tackled!

8. We have a garden!

We’ve talked about building a garden for years, but there’s always been some sort of excuse– cost, time, work, learning how to do it. It’s been a lot of talk and no action.

With all the economic and health unknowns right now and the realization that having some fresh organic veggies right in our own back yard might be helpful, we finally took the leap.

We researched and figured out what mix of dirt to create, how big to make the boxes, and what and what not to plant. 

7. Rise in creativity

With less to do, and our refusal to have every day spent with television, I’m seeing a rise in creativity. We’re challenging the children to find other ways to engage their minds and to be creative. We’re seeing a lot more of the following:

  • Creativity with Legos
  • Making creative Thomas the Train track setups 
  • Playing make-believe Playmobile
  • Building things outside
  • Coloring, drawing, being creative with art.

For the older kiddos:

  • Learning to play new songs on guitar
  • Learning new makeup or hair tips and tricks
  • Taking masterclasses to learn a new life skill
  • Making cookies or baking new things
  • Doing fun photoshoots.

It’s been a gift to see them think outside of the box and tap into their more creative side.  

Of course, they’re not the only ones being creative. I’ve been writing and blogging, and Trent and I are working on getting our “Catholic Family Uncorked” podcast launched. In addition to that, we finally built a running trail through our woods, so we can all run laps and get in some extra exercise in the great outdoors.

6. Less hustle & bustle

Right before the quarantine, I remember having a long talk with Trent about how I felt we were always running. Soccer season was about to start, and we had barely wrapped up the previous one. Adding to that all of the school activities, such as the play and spring sports, it was getting to be pretty overwhelming.

And then the quarantine happened. All I have to say is be careful what you wish for, because it might actually come true! This time we had longed for suddenly became 100% ours overnight.

Now we’re surrounded by children 24/7. We’re all free as birds. Well…as free as a bird in a birdcage, that is. 🙂

Seriously, though, the fact that we’re not constantly running from one place to another has been a huge gift and one for which we are truly grateful.

5. Who else is saving MONEY?!

Trent and I started a new budget program this year, which has been AMAZING! Every month, I’ve been tracking how much money we’re spending on gas, kids’ activities, etc., and it’s been overwhelming, considering how busy we were.

Now that we’re not running around as much, it’s fun to see the amount of money we’re NOT spending on gas or activities.

No eating out of the house.

No soccer games.

No extra kids’ school activities or field trips.

No spontaneous shopping sprees.

No last-minute dates.

Instead, we’re eating family dinners more, playing games inside and outside the house, learning to make do with what we have, and having mini date nights at home.

It’s a great wakeup call as to where we’ve been spending time and money and a lesson we’ll take with us long after the quarantine is over.

4. Making memories

I love that song, “Side by Side” sung by Kay Starr. “Oh we ain’t got a barrel of mo-ney. Maybe we’re ragged and fu-nny. But we’ll travel along, singing a song, side by side.”

It always leaves me smiling and remembering that making memories has nothing to do with money or big vacations. It’s about being present and making the most with what you have, using it to make life-long memories.

We’ve made memories snuggling up under blankets and watching movies. Around the fire-pit on our back porch, listening to my 18-year-old son play guitar and singing along with him. And building the running trail or garden.

Like the song, we may not be loaded with money and might be a bit ragged and funny, but we are happy to spend time together and have the gift of being able to make these precious new memories.

3. More family time

It’s easy to let the craziness of life and the world separate us as a family. During the craziest seasons, it seemed like we all did what we had to do during the day–work, school, etc., and then everyone got home, and it was a mix between eating dinner, doing chores, finishing up homework, and then bed. By the time we could spend time together as a family, most of us were exhausted. 

Ever since we’ve all been ordered to stay at home, I have to admit, I LOVE that I get to see my kiddos on a more regular basis.

I’ll be working on the computer and have one kid sitting behind me, just to be by mama, with another teen working on her Chromebook in a desk chair to be near me while I work.

We’re playing more games together. Talking more together. And just BEING together. My favorite nights are when Trent lights a fire on the back porch and we all talk, laugh, and sing  our fav praise and worship songs mixed with songs like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “Wagon Wheel.”

2. Challenging growth

In addition to the upsides of everyone being home, there are challenges, such as feeling stuck, getting on each other’s nerves, dealing with overwhelm and juggling emotions that you just don’t know how to handle.

This quarantine provides an excellent opportunity to grow and work on virtues such as patience, love, and trust.

It’s in the crushing that we become new. So, it’s in times like this that we can choose to love those who challenge our charity. We can choose to trust, that He’s got this, when fear steps in, and we’re blind-sided with all the “what ifs.”

Growth isn’t easy, and I honestly hate seeing myself this clearly, in all of my sinfulness, which tends to come out when I’m under pressure. At the same time, I know that if I’m not given the gift of this insight, I won’t understand where I need to grow, and I might remain blind. So, I ask God to enlighten my soul and flood me with grace, so this crushing will lead me closer to Him in the end.

It’s certainly not easy, but when we’re open, we might be amazed by how much we can stretch and grow when we’re intentional.

1. Deepening faith & trust

What I love BEST about our new normal is that every day, I’m given another opportunity to say, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

When I hear another COVID-19 statistic and immediately worry about my husband or our parents…“Jesus, I trust in you.”

When we learn that work might slow down and things could get hard for us financially, right as they were beginning to look up, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

When I’m overwhelmed in the middle of the morning while my 8-year-old is throwing tantrums, 4-year-old clinging to my belly, teenagers wanting my attention, and I have a technical document due in an hour, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

I’ve cried colossal tears over my inadequacies and failures. Usually, these times are when I’m in the shower, talking to God about the way I’ve dropped the ball with my family, been irritable with my husband, or have lost my temper with my kids. I’ve cried out to God, “Why??? WHY can’t I just be PERFECT?”

It can feel so overwhelming with each failure hanging over my head. And then I remember St. Faustina and her diary and how she went on and on about how big and vast is the ocean of God’s mercy. So, I close my eyes and imagine myself taking a deep dive. 

“Father, see the ocean…see your son. Not me, but Him.”

This quarantine has challenged our faith in a new way. We can’t physically receive the sacraments. There’s this emptiness, this longing, this deepening desire to be reunited with our heart’s love. It’s challenged us to find new ways to tune into the sacraments. It’s uniting many of us in this deep sense of loss and yet growing sense of community.

To wrap it all up, while there are days where I’m overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion and desiring an immediate escape, I’m learning how to be more and more present to my family. I’ve been forced to see myself in a new ‘under pressure’ light and see some things I’d like to improve.

Best of all, it’s challenging me to work at becoming a better person, to become more creative, and to above all, learn to give myself, and especially others, grace.

About Author

Michelle Hillaert is a wife, mother, bestselling author, coach, and a woman of vision. She is passionate about spending time with her family, making memories, and being intentional in cultivating an intimate relationship with Christ. As an entrepreneur, avid blogger, and website design and branding enthusiast, Michelle is a recovering perfectionist who gets a woman’s desire to strive for more. A mom of 6 kids, she is attuned to the needs of busy women striving to stay ahead while still being “good enough.” She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and best friend, Trent. They have fun creating a close family culture and sharing the lessons they’ve learned in over 20 years of marriage in their new ministry and podcast, Catholic Family Uncorked.

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