A Socially Distanced Summer at the Lake

COVID-19 has changed summer. This was the first July 4th in twenty-two years that I did not play patriotic music with the Northwinds Concert Band. Over the years the band experienced oppressive heat, wind and drizzle, but the event was never cancelled and the band always played on.

With no concert to play my family of three retreated to the family lake house. We enjoyed all of our favorite summer activities but things were different. A majority of people at the lake are not wearing masks or practicing social distancing. As a result we don’t go shopping or out to eat, opting to cook all of our meals at home and using grocery pick up to shop.

Golf– The game of golf is already a socially distanced sport so you may be asking, “What could possibly be done to make the game safer?” When my husband and father in-law went golfing at the lake they reported that The Club at Porto Cima had some extra precautions in place to make sure all of their golfers were safe. Rakes by the sand traps had been taken away, foam was placed in every cup to elevate the ball so there was no need to touch the flag at each hole, water coolers (normally found throughout the course) had been taken away and golf carts were extensively wiped down after each use.

Swimming– We went swimming at the neighborhood pool in the woods. Choosing to swim late in the day proved to be a good decision as we always had the pool to ourselves! New social distancing signs had been added and someone came to clean the bathrooms while we were there (something we never saw in past summers). The pool at the yacht club was the opposite. It was crowded, there were no social distancing signs and the servers and bartenders were not wearing masks.

Boating– We enjoyed several boat rides and were easily able to social distance at the Lake of the Ozarks with 54,000 acres of lake and 1,150 miles of shoreline. Over the years we have become friends with the owner of Bikini Pier, a boat rental business. Mike shared that he was experiencing stellar business due to COVID-19. He is 80% ahead for the year on rentals and has sold 24,000 more gallons of fuel compared to this time last year! Most of his customers were new and many were from IL and IA.

I hope you and your family have time to get away this summer. After months of being confined at home the simple change of scenery was welcomed. Although I missed playing “Stars and Stripes” with the band, we had a fabulous July 4th! We returned home with sun kissed cheeks, adventures to share and long lasting memories. This is summer.

A July 4th Egg Hunt?…Helping a Small Business and Beginning a New Tradition

The year 2020 has brought unimaginable events so adding an egg hunt to our July 4th celebration doesn’t seem too far fetched!

Plastic eggs at stores in July.

When COVID-19 cancelled Easter egg hunts throughout our country, American Carnival Mart (ACM), a small family owned business was in trouble. ACM depends on Easter egg sales to support their business throughout the year. They also partner with Canterbury Enterprises, a local sheltered workshop that employs people with disabilities. The Canterbury workers fill the eggs for the egg hunts and without any sales in 2020, there won’t be any eggs to fill next year. Dierbergs, a St. Louis area grocery store chain, partnered with ACM and plastic eggs filled with candy and small toys began to appear on their shelves in late June. Dierbergs is giving 100% of the proceeds to ACM and to Canterbury Enterprises.

In our ongoing attempt to “Live Generously,” my husband and I bought some of the treat filled eggs and held a July 4th egg hunt at the lake house this year. My daughter met a new friend down the street who is from CA, and we invited her to join in the fun. The two girls had a blast hunting for eggs in the backyard with the lake serving as picturesque backdrop.

My daughter enjoyed the egg hunt at the lake house.

I overheard out of state shoppers questioning the colorful eggs they saw on the store shelf. My family of three were delighted to spy the eggs and look forward to making an egg hunt part of our July 4th celebration for years to come!

A Socially Distanced Field Trip to the Zoo

Last month we took a field trip to the Saint Louis Zoo. The zoo had many precautions in place to keep everyone safe.

Safety Precautions– To limit the number of guests on the zoo grounds they required everyone to make free reservations online and show up within their reservation window. Upon entering, each group had to show their reservation. Masks or face coverings were required for children and adults over the age of nine. While we were there I saw zoo employees enforcing this requirement. Hand sanitizer stations were placed throughout the grounds and extra measures were taken for keeping surfaces clean.

The Train– My daughter loves the train so we rode it around the zoo twice! Plexiglass panels have been installed between each seat to help social distance. At every stop the train announcer reminded everyone to keep their masks on.

The Carousel– One row of animals was marked with red tape and the other row was marked with green tape. They switched colors on each ride so every other animal was being used and an attempt at social distancing could be made.

Although the children’s zoo was closed, along with the indoor animal houses and theatre, there were plenty of animals to see and I appreciated the attempts being made to keep everyone safe. We defiantly enjoyed this socially distanced field trip to our famous zoo!

2020- We Didn’t See That Coming!…Confessions of a Dance Mom

This year was my daughters second one dancing at the Performing Arts Centre (PAC). When COVID-19 closed the studio in March, the Davenport sisters immediately turned to virtual classes and a week later…PAC danced! When our county began to open up in May, the Davenport sisters strategically worked out a plan to keep everyone safe, re-opened the studio and…PAC danced! After weeks and weeks in isolation, dance class was the first place we returned and our hearts filled with joy and…we danced!

As June approached and the dates of the annual recital inched closer, it seemed next to impossible to hold an event of such magnitude, let alone one that loved ones could safely attend. Would PAC even have a recital this year? How will they ever orchestrate such a production when auditoriums and theaters across the country are closed and there are social distancing protocols in place? Without fail, the Davenport sisters got to work and with a bit of creativity and tons of grit, PAC held their forty-sixth dance recital on June 20, 2020 and…PAC danced! Nothing can stop PAC from dancing, not even COVID-19!

Our sweet little dancer posing after her recital.
My daughter with her multi-talented teacher, Ms. Tracy Davenport.

How Did They Do It?– They constructed a stage in PAC’s parking lot, laid out a detailed seating diagram, to ensure safe social distancing, and held nine separate showtimes throughout the day that consisted of eleven numbers each. Each show was live-streamed on-line for those who couldn’t come in person.

The detailed seating chart.
Fans were handed out to keep everyone cool during the outdoor performance.

From the Noteworthy Dance Mom- As a second year dance mom I wasn’t alone in feeling nervous about the recital this year. COVID-19 made the recital challenging for everyone, even the experts! My daughter and her adorable class did a sweet tap routine to, “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake.” My daughter was fantastic and I’m so very proud of her. Having Ms. Tracy Davenport, PAC owner and artistic director extraordinaire, made for an amazing PS4 dance year! As a second year dance mom, I was faced with new costume challenges like attaching shoe bows and a hair piece. My prayers were answered when my mom and dad appeared at our doorstep, unannounced, just minutes before it was time to leave. Pops helped me style my daughter’s hair and successfully attached the head piece in just the right position. I am proud to say we survived our second dance recital, although it will go down in history as the one we didn’t see coming!

Pops styling my daughter’s hair for the recital.

The Tale of Two Dads and Two Ducks…Happy Father’s Day!

During my quarantine cleaning I discovered two ceramic duck banks purchased last year from the dollar store. Planning to have my daughter and her BFF paint them during a trip to the lake last summer, I asked my daughter if she would like to paint a duck for each of her grandfathers for Father’s Day. My mini me excitedly answered, “Yes,” and part of the afternoon was spent painting ducks and decorating cards for the important men in her life.

After gathering all of her supplies my daughter began painting the first duck. She studied the box with intent and proceeded to paint the duck exactly like the one on the box, copying every detail from the orange beak and yellow body to the dark eyes. She grinned, proof that she was proud of her accomplishments. When I asked her who was going to be on the receiving end of the “traditional” duck, without hesitation she answered. “Paw Paw!” Then she eagerly set out to paint the second duck but this time chose blue and green along with the yellow paint, covering the ceramic with an abstract design that resembled a miniature model of the Earth. Taking great effort to cover every last spot of white, a huge smile emerged as my daughter declared the “abstract” duck was for Pops because he is an artist who likes lots of colors. I shook my head in amazement because at five years of age it was clear my little one has us all figured out.

The painted ducks represent her two grandfathers with perfect accuracy.

Paw Paw– The “traditional duck” is perfect for Paw Paw. He is an engineer who can fix anything. He loves Cardinal baseball, playing golf and reading. He dresses conservatively and always wears khakis and a collared shirt. Paw Paw is passionate about history and genealogy and has traced his family tree back to generations. He remembers everything with clear precision and retells events in great detail.

Pops– The “abstract duck” is perfect for Pops. He is an artist who can transform the mundane into a thing of beauty. He loves old movies, gardening and sunsets. Pops is creative. He has an eye for color, draws effortlessly, creates beautiful table scapes and can easily stage a home for resale. He is the party planner extraordinaire who helped me plan the wedding of the century along with themed birthday parties all without missing a single detail. He is outgoing and passionate, often exaggerates the retelling of events and has never been seen in a pair of khakis!

I have been on shopping excursions with both grandpas and the experience was drastically different with each one. Paw Paw would be found holding his wife’s purse and taking a nap while she tries on clothes in the dressing room while Pops would be browsing the racks, putting together outfits with just the right accessories for his wife to try on. While Pops enjoys browsing the aisles and bargain shopping, Paw Paw is a “get in and get out as quickly as possible” kind of shopper who would gladly stay at home and shop online.

Although the two grandpas are as different as they can be, they do have one very important thing in common…they both love their one and only granddaughter! She is their little princess and without hesitation they would move mountains for her! We were blessed to celebrate Father’s Day with Pops on Saturday and with Paw Paw on Sunday. These two individual men are a true blessing in our lives! Happy Father’s Day to Pops and to Paw Paw!

Joy Appears Out of the Ordinary

This weekend I was given time to beautify, to reconnect and to rejuvenate and it felt wonderful! I even checked a new digital book out on my tablet and retreated to my bedroom for 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading!

Saint Louis Wind Symphony Members Meeting– Unable to play our last concert, the SLWS never found closure to the 2019-2020 season so a Zoom meeting was held this weekend to wrap up an unprecedented spring and summer and share possible plans to perform once again. It was nice to see familiar faces and talk about the possibility of playing again. COVID-19 has prevented a challenge for performers and audience members across the globe. Some possible solutions were shared…outdoor performances, smaller chamber groups, even a virtual concert. We don’t know what the future holds but our goal is to perform again and connect with our audience while keeping everyone safe.

I’m Gonna Wash That Gray Right Outta My Hair– The day I had been waiting for finally arrived…a visit to the hair salon for an overdo cut and color! As Ms. Kelly worked her magic, gray streaks slowly washed away and with each snip of the scissors came a feeling of weightlessness. I emerged feeling beautiful and ready to face a summer of social distancing, virtual Vacation Bible School and inventing new ways of creating summer memories!

It’s Time to Clean Up– After virtual church on Sunday we spent the afternoon cleaning out the garage. We made some progress although to a bystander it would appear we hadn’t even begun! I forgot to take a before and after picture but two boxes and a few bags dropped off at Goodwill provides evidence of our efforts.

During normal circumstances my weekend would appear to be nothing but ordinary at best. Somehow all of those days spent in isolation have changed me. To think that I would find myself giddy at the thought of getting my haircut and actually look forward to a meeting with great anticipation! The fact that I found joy in cleaning out a garage (a task we have spent years avoiding) is proof. COVID-19 has transformed me, giving me a greater appreciation for my life and all of its simplicities.

When the Familiar Feels Unfamiliar (Navigating Our New Normal)

Our city is slowly opening up and after weeks and weeks in isolation, my family found joy when we had the opportunity to engage in some familiar activities. Although familiar, COVID-19 continues to hold a threat and precautions were put in place to keep us safe, making the familiar feel oddly unfamiliar, in many ways.

Therapy Session- My daughter returned to occupational therapy at Leaps & Bounds this week and things were a bit different. The number of therapists and students was limited, temperatures were taken at the door and parents were asked to wait in their cars. Masks were required. We finally found a face mask that my daughter can wear comfortably. The masks with adjustable elastic straps are a must for little people! My daughter did a great job and mentioned she couldn’t wait to go back next week!

Communion at Church- Our church offered communion by appointment this week. Three families could sign up for each 15 minute time slot. Our senior pastor recommended that families bring their children to communion as a way to ease back into coming to our physical church building. We agreed and found communion to be the perfect way to make our little one more comfortable about going back. We were greeted by our music director and each family stood in the narthex, waiting for one of our three pastors to greet them and walk them to a different part of the alter where they individually led each family through the Service of Holy Communion. We are blessed with a big, beautiful, sanctuary so there was plenty of room to spread out. I appreciated the short conversation my family of three had with our pastor before and after communion. Seeing familiar faces, being in God’s house and receiving His body and blood brought us pure joy. My daughter agreed, saying, “Church was too short!

The Library– Our local library system opened up for curbside pick up this week. We went online and reserved several books and then after receiving an email that they were ready for pickup, we drove to our local branch, parked at a spot and followed the directions on the sign. A friendly librarian, wearing a mask, put our books in our trunk and we headed for home. This isn’t the library experience we are accustomed to but we were grateful to get some new books! Our library system has done an amazing job providing online programming throughout the quarantine. From cooking demonstrations to story time to live concerts, the programs we enjoyed in person at the library have moved to on line streaming. Our library is streaming a special program for children every Monday afternoon as part of the summer reading program.

While summer usually brings travel and new adventure, this summer we find ourselves slowly returning to our “new normal.” The adventure comes in new ways of doing things that just months ago felt ordinary. New library books, fun at Leaps and Bounds and receiving Holy Communion, made for a very exciting week!

The Laurie Berkner Band, (The Music That Got Us Through the Quarantine)…Day 81

Although our life is filled with a variety of music, there is one musician who truly got us through the 2020 pandemic and her name is Laurie Berkner!  Known as “The Queen of Kid’s Music,” when I look back at this time in my life, Laurie Berkner and her catchy melodies will be the soundtrack of our time spent in isolation.

Our Introduction– We were first introduced to the Laurie Berkner Band when our local librarian played the “Goldfish” song and the “Bumblebee (Buzz Buzz)” song, which are two of our favorites, during a library class my daughter and I used to attend. That introduction got us interested in her music and we would occasionally listen to Laurie’s music in the car, during playtime and while we cleaned the house.

Live Berkner Breaks– Then the pandemic hit and I began searching on-line for activities to engage my daughter. During our first week in isolation I discovered Laurie Berkner was having live Berkner Breaks on Facebook. We began watching them and had a blast dancing and singing along. In total she had 46 Berkner Breaks. Click Here to access all of them or watch the performances through the Laurie Berkner channel on YouTube.

Singing “These Are My Glasses” during a Laurie Berkner break.

We Love Laurie Berkner!- Now my daughter asks Alexa to play Laurie Berkner and songs like “Rocketship Run,” “We Are the Dinosuars,” and “I’m Gonna Catch You,” all off of her Best Hits album, are some of our favorites. She has also published books based on some of her popular hits and we have enjoyed listening to Laurie read several of them. Laurie’s music has brightened our lives from our first week in quarantine through today. Her familiar tunes, enduring lyrics and beautiful voice, have brought us comfort and joy. We looked forward to seeing her sweet face on the computer and continue to watch her videos and dance along to her creative songs.

Virtual Concert– The Laurie Berkner Band, unable to tour because of COVID-19, is having a virtual concert on June 21. If you and your favorite father are looking for something special to do together, I recommend buying a ticket and dancing along!

Musical Memories– I have a memory to go along with just about every one of Laurie’s songs. “Rocketship Run” reminds me of the historic SpaceX launch. “Airplane” reminds me of our drives past our local airport (which currently looks like a ghost town due to the pandemic), “Boots” reminds me of the fun my daughter and I had playing in the spring rain, “I’m Gonna Catch You” reminds me of sweet little girl giggles as I race around our house trying to catch my daughter whenever this song comes on. “Waiting for the Elevator,” “I Know How it Works,” and “Pig on Her Head” are just pure fun! But there is one song that really touched my heart and that is “Moon, Moon, Moon.”

Moon moon moon, shining bright 
Moon moon moon, my nightlight 
Moon moon moon, I can see 
Moon moon moon, you’re taking care of me

Thank you, Laurie Berkner, for taking care of us through your music and brighting our days and nights with song!

A Socially Distanced Field Trip ….Day 80

On Thursday we took a much needed field trip to the World Bird Sanctuary, a bird habitat about thirty minutes from home. The World Bird Sanctuary is an organization that protects and preserves the avian species of the world, while inspiring others to do the same. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed their education center as well as their outreach programs. A few weeks ago they began a free Drive-Thru Safari Experience, where you can see and learn about birds, safely from the comfort of your own car! This educational opportunity made us “flutter” with excitement!

world bird

The birds and their handlers were safely distanced around the perimeter of the sanctuary’s outdoor learning space and we slowly drove from bird to bird where we observed, asked questions and learned new things! The most important question on my five year old’s mind was finding out the name of each bird and discovering what each one ate for dinner!

Meet the Birds

The first bird we met was Patriot, the Bald Eagle. We learned her favorite food was fish but that Bald Eagles are known to eat other small birds and decaying prey from other animals as well. Patriot is 35 years old and was part of the opening ceremonies for the St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball division title in 2004.

Then we met Mia, a Spectacled Owl. She was beautiful but was being bothered by bugs that her handler kept swatting away from her face. My daughter already knew that owls come out at night and that they are nocturnal animals. We found our Mia eat mice and rats but enjoys watching the snakes in the nature center.

We see a lot of Red Tailed Hawks visit the pond in our backyard for a quick snack so we immediately recognized Willard. We learned that Willard’s favorite treats are fish, small mammals and rodents.

Oliver is an Eastern Screech Owl and he was much smaller than Mia. We learned that Oliver eats mice, rats and lizards!

Jet is an American Kestrel Falcon and I recognized him from an outreach program the Wild Bird Sanctuary presented at our local library last year. We learned that the black markings around Jet’s eyes protect his eyes from the sun. Athletes who wear dark tape under their eyes got the idea to do so from Jet! Jet eats insects, small rodents and small birds.

Lone Elk Park– After our visit with the birds we drove a few feet to Lone Elk Park and enjoyed a little more of nature. My daughter requested a photo with her stuffed Owl, Owliscious, so we pulled over for a photo op in front of the lake.

As we drove through Lone Elk Park we saw bison in the distance, spotted a raccoon and got a close up visit with some of the many elk who call this beautiful park home.

Even though this was a socially distanced field trip, it felt wonderful to get out of the neighborhood, enjoy some new surroundings and marvel at the beauties of nature.

 

How Does Your Garden Grow?…Day 79

Last year we got a few tomato plants and started a little patio garden. My daughter loved tending to her garden and her plants produced many yummy tomatoes for our family of three to enjoy! My little gardener has been begging to start a garden again this year, so we masked up and went to the local garden center to select some plants.

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Why Garden With Children?– Children are born to be curious and they learn best by doing. Gardening gives them an outdoor, hands-on experience in the dirt. By tending to a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction of caring for something over time and watching it change and grow. Through their observations, little gardeners can witness the cycle of life firsthand, gain environmental awareness and explore the workings of nature.

Gardening Builds Self-Confidence– The process of tending to a plant and seeing it bloom or produce fruit takes time and a lot of patience. When children see the payoff, they gain satisfaction and pride in knowing they contributed to the end result. 

You Eat What You Grow– My daughter is a very picky eater but I have found she is eager to eat what she grows in her garden. From different varieties of tomatoes to peppers and even wheat grass, if she grew it in her garden, she will eat it! In fact, we were all amazed when she gulped down a wheat grass smoothie! Gardens encourage good nutrition and healthy eating because anything you grow will be healthy!

What to Grow?– Although you can grow anything, most of the research I did recommended the following vegetables and herbs based on the fact that they are easy to grow and have short growing seasons: tomatoes (specifically cherry and grape), radishes, leggy pole beans, lettuce, peppers, pumpkins, potatoes, mint, cilantro, basil and dill. The following flowers were recommended: sunflowers, nasturtiums, butterfly bush, sweet alyssum and succulents. 

How to Grow- My daughter has grown wheat grass, pole beans and wildflowers by planting seeds and watching them grow. This method will yield the most benefit as children will have the opportunity to observe growth from seed to plant to table. For our small patio garden we cheated and bought starter plants. Even with a combination of seeds and starters, I saw positive outcomes in my daughter and she benefited greatly from her gardening experiences. Next year I would like to expand our garden with a raised bed. 

Asking Questions and Problem-Solving– The day after we got our starter plants home, we noticed a predator had eaten the leaves off of our strawberry and pepper plants! This led to a great discovery as my daughter predicted and then researched… Who ate our plants? We decided it must have been a wild rabbit we had nicknamed Clover and we caught her in the act, nibbling more leaves the next day! We discussed ways to solve this problem and decided to hang the strawberries and put the peppers on a high outdoor table.

Gardens come in all shapes and sizes and can be filled with a variety of vegetables and flowers. Whether you have a patio garden like us, participate in a community garden or have an entire backyard devoted to nature, children who garden harvest a whole lot more than vegetables and flowers!