First things first, I need to apologize to my 7-year-old son.


I’m sorry that I got overconfident and decided during self-quarantine that I was capable of giving you a buzz cut, and I’m even more sorry that when I did, your head ended up looking like a cross between a soccer ball and a patchwork quilt with all of its uneven spots.


"I asked for a lightning bolt," you said when you surveyed yourself in the mirror afterward, "but I like my squares, too."


I know I don’t encourage lying in our house, but with that lie, I couldn’t possibly love you more.


You see, much like my son’s haircut, life at home with our family these past two months has been messy and imperfect. My husband and I have six kids, and our family was built in part because of the foster care system — we have two biological daughters, a son and daughter adopted out of foster care, and two goddaughters who live with us. They are 11, 8, 8, 7, 5 and 4, a spate of ages that makes me tired just typing it.


When everything started to shut down in March, I tried to control the chaos and uncertainty by being organized, drafting schoolwork sticker charts and weekly meal plans and even implementing a "10-mile challenge" in which I decided the kids would run a mile a day and, after they completed a total of 10 miles, would earn a prize. My visions of jauntily waving at neighbors who’d ask, "Out for your evening jog?" abruptly dissipated on Day 2 when our 4-year-old waged a pint-sized protest by throwing herself on the sidewalk like a human speedbump and refusing to budge.


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For my husband and me, working from home while juggling the requirements of virtual school has proven to be a challenge, too. One week I added up the total amount of time that our six kids were expected to be on Zoom calls over the course of a week and it was more than 20 hours. That’s not including the modules, videos, projects, quizzes, reports, crafts and experiments that need to be completed on a daily or weekly basis.


As much as I appreciate the breadth of these educational offerings and adore our hard-working teachers who have handled this transition with so much grace, patience and compassion, I had to finally admit that we simply don’t have enough hours in the day to complete everything available to us. I said goodbye to sticker charts and hello to a new mantra that would have made me cringe six months ago: The bare minimum is A-OK.


I mean, it’s a weird time for everyone, right?


I never imagined I’d get glared at while at H-E-B because of my full cart — I promise we’re not hoarding; that’s actually just three days worth of groceries for my family.


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Or that I’d be staying up late devouring articles about the coronavirus on my phone, then attempting to counteract the gloom by posting memes of Ken Jeong in a sombrero.


Or that I’d be greeting my parents, who live 10 minutes away, with jazz hands instead of hugs and attempting to do a contactless drop of my tween daughter’s Bath & Body Works strawberry-lemonade hand sanitizer, only to learn that my dad had already concocted his own version with aloe and rubbing alcohol.


Amid the uncertainty and confusion, the forced slow down also has brought with it many beautiful memories. One afternoon, I played assistant to my 11-year-old as she spent nine hours baking a complicated cake, something we never would have had time for in our former life — between cheer practice and homework and board meetings. Another day, during one of our many lingering afternoons in the front yard, our entire family sat in awe of a raven (we think?) that was perched high in a tree, then stared in shock as it swooped down to steal a baby bird from a nearby nest.


We’ve started to appreciate the little things, like the serenity of a hike at a state park or the sweetness of a mask-clad trip to the snow cone stand. And there have been flames of creativity that have sparked during the pandemic, from homemade music videos to Harry Potter-themed high teas, that I hope never dampen if and when our former activity-filled schedules flood back through.


There have been breakdowns, too, of course. Moments when not even the tightest, longest hugs could quell the sobs that come from the realization that soccer season is canceled, play dates are forbidden, birthday parties are drive-by only and the school year is fading out without fanfare. Moments where their big, bright worlds just feel dull and no one can adequately explain why.


Adding to the confusion in our house is the trauma that some of our children have experienced that colors who they are. Because when you’ve had your whole life ripped away from you before and then, just as you start to feel settled, everything turns upside down again, you can’t help but wonder if you’ll ever to be able to just breathe.


Even seemingly minor issues, like not being able to find a particular brand of granola bar at the grocery store, might feel like the end of the world to a child who has experienced food insecurity in the past. I have never been more grateful for our children’s therapist, who has been there to guide them, and me, through this tricky time through weekly telehealth visits.


No matter the challenges, though, at least once a day — even on the loudest, most annoying, most frustrating, most whiny of days — I’m grateful that they’re all together, here, under one roof, squabbling over the remote, asking for snacks every 15 minutes and complaining that they’re bored. The coronavirus pandemic has been catastrophic and devastating for so many people — imagine what it's like for at-risk children.


As everything begins to open up, I hope to use the lessons we’ve learned during our forced slowdown as an opportunity to re-frame our future, which I hope will include more nine-hour cakes, more front yard bird watching, more hikes, more homemade music videos and more snow cones as a family.


But I promise to stay away from mom-inflicted haircuts — I’ll leave that to the professionals.