A Beautiful Birthday Celebration…Days 72 and 73

Yesterday we celebrated my mother’s birthday. Birthdays are a big deal in our family and nothing was going to keep us from recognizing Nana’s special day, including COVID-19!

The pandemic caused Nana’s birthday celebration to look a bit different this year. Thanks to my daughter, Nana received a homemade gift made out of recyclables due to stores being closed and my daughter unable to shop for the perfect gift. When we went to pick up Nana’s birthday cake, we found our order waiting on a table outside the bakery and we simply picked it up with no human contact. Since Nana’s favorite restaurant was closed, Pops prepared an Italian feast for all of us to enjoy. And instead of blowing out the candles on her cake, Nana fanned them out with a homemade fan crafted by my daughter! This is defiantly a birthday to remember!

Nana extinguishes her birthday candles with a homemade fan, lovingly created by my daughter.

From drive-through graduations, birthday parades, virtual trivia nights and streaming church services, spring celebrations throughout our world have been altered due to the pandemic. New traditions are being established as we find creative ways to recognize these important life events. And through it all, nothing is stopping us from celebrating!

To Dance or Not to Dance? Integrating Into the World After Quarantine…Day 71

My daughter’s dance studio opened up last week. Following CDC guidelines, the owners worked long and hard creating new procedures to keep everyone safe. They even released a video with step by step directions on how to enter the building, move about the building and what exit procedures would look like. From using antibacterial gel, wiping down surfaces and walking on green tape placed 6 feet a part, to creating socially distanced “parking spots” for dancers to place their gear and assigning dancers a spot to dance that is 6 feet a part, they carefully thought about everything. CLICK HERE to watch the video.

After months spent in quarantine I thought it would be easy to return to our beloved activities, but it wasn’t. My husband and I thought long and hard on whether we would send our little one to dance. After calculating the risks and reviewing the well thought out procedures, we determined we would send her. Then the time came to hop in the car and go and I couldn’t bring myself to grab the keys. Knowing we would see Nana in a few days made my mind race at the thought of putting my mother at risk. Why does this have to be so hard?

Another week has come and gone and I am faced with the same dilemma…to dance or not to dance? I reviewed the procedures once more and after two months of isolation, my daughter went to dance class. She happily walked inside, looking forward to something “normal” being brought back into her life. I was a mess the entire time. It was the first time in over two months I have been separated from my mini me and I experienced separation anxiety. Something I never expected.

An hour later my daughter emerged from the studio with a huge smile on her face, something that had been missing for months! The video prepared her for the new expectations and allowed me to help her process the changes, making my daughter’s return to dance class a success! As we continued our day she explained, “Today was the best day ever!” Fully unaware of the difficult decision her parents had to make, she was filled with joy and the innocence of childhood. Although some won’t agree with our decision, please know we did what we felt was right for our family of three.

This is the first of many decisions our family will make over the coming weeks and months. As states begin to open up and we find ourselves integrating back into society, like me, you might feel uneasy. COVID-19 has changed our world and even the familiar will feel unfamiliar. During this difficult time please be responsible, follow recommended guidelines and show kindness and compassion to your neighbors as they make decisions they feel are right for their families. And remember, you are not alone, everyone is in this together.

Taps Across America (A Social Distancing Memorial Day Weekend)…Day 70

On this Memorial Day Weekend, I wanted to learn more about the holiday while teaching my daughter about this special day. What’s the history behind Memorial Day? Why do we celebrate it? Who does it honor?

According to the USO website, Memorial Day, which is celebrated on the last Monday in May, honors service members who have died in military service to our nation. It’s roots date back to the post-Civil War era and was originally called Decoration Day, when citizens placed spring flower memorials on the graves of fallen soldiers. In 1868, General John Logan declared that the first ever National Decoration Day would take place on May 30. Over the next few decades, the day transitioned to being called Decoration Day to its current name of Memorial Day. In 1968 Congress passed an act declaring that Memorial Day be celebrated on the last Monday during the month of May and in 1971 the three-day weekend for federal employees was established.

Today, unfortunately, Memorial Day is associated with the start of summer, swimming pools, cookouts with friends and discount sales. I want my daughter to grow up knowing the real meaning of Memorial Day, a day where we honor the men and women who died serving our country.

Taps Across America COVID-19 is making most Americans spend this Memorial Day social-distancing. Parades have been cancelled and many Memorial Day ceremonies and celebrations aren’t taking place. Steve Hartman, a CBS journalist, began a campaign called Taps Across America, where he encouraged trumpet players across the country to play taps at 3:00 pm local time to honor our fallen service members and to play tribute to victims of the coronavirus pandemic. My daughter and I were thrilled when my husband, a trumpet player, decided to participate. He has a history of playing taps on Memorial Day, having spent his high school years, rising early and playing at VFW ceremonies throughout town. Today, this Noteworthy Daddy played taps on the front porch of his parents home, while family members, neighbors and friends, listened on and kept proper social distancing. After a moment of silence, everyone spread out their lawn chairs, ate some pizza and simply enjoyed being together.

Memorial Day Books– Picture books are a brilliant way to teach children of all ages. I found a book and a short cartoon that helped my daughter understand why we celebrate Memorial Day. Memorial Day Surprise by Theresa Golding is a captivating book about a mom who takes her son to his first Memorial Day parade. The surprise is seeing his grandfather, who is a decorated war hero, in the parade! CLICK HERE to read the book. CLICK HERE to watch a video that explains why we celebrate Memorial Day.

This Memorial Day was like no other. Filled with honor and remembrance, sunshine and showers and social distancing with our neighbors. We will never forget.

Now What?… Day 66

Our school year is over and summer vacation has officially started. As I sit here thinking about the days ahead, all that comes to mind is…Now What?

As states begin to open back up many uncertainties remain. And our media is no help as it is flooded with mixed messages and different opinions. Early on I thought once the stay at home order was lifted things would go back to “normal.” Now I know that transitioning out of isolation will be a gradual process. Through the transition we will need to continue to practice social distancing. Will we be required to wear masks? Hand sanitizers and extra hand washing will be imperative. So many unanswered questions remain… Will swimming pools open up for the summer? What will worship look like when our church reopens? Will we have VBS in person this year or will it be virtual? Will schools conduct professional development sessions and will I train teachers this summer? What will the 2020-2021 school year look like?

Among all of the unknowns, one thing is known, the pandemic is something we have never experienced before. As we transition back to “normal” we need to be accepting of others, allowing every person, every family, to enter back into society in a way that makes them feel comfortable. We shouldn’t judge others but focus instead, on what feels right for our family.

I continue to find comfort through God’s word and am reminded not to worry about tomorrow. Although COVID-19 has changed our world and the summer continues to hold many unknowns, we will get through this together.

End of the School Year Celebrations… Days 64 and 65

Although the last two months of the school year brought the unexpected, the 2019-2020 school year is one we will never forget! Although it was unprecedented and filled with great adaptation and a few tears along the way, our school year ended with the closure we were desperately seeking. Over the past two days we had proper summer send offs with a memorable visit with my daughter’s preschool teacher, an end of the school year car parade at Zion and a new tradition with water balloons and pizza!

End of the Year Memories– I’m happy we had an opportunity for a private send off with my daughter’s preschool teacher and assistant when we went to pick up my daughter’s end of the year bag. Although my daughter will be leaving preschool and beginning kindergarten in the fall, this isn’t goodbye. She is simply moving to a new classroom down the hall and will continue to see her beloved preschool teachers at weekly chapel and at special assemblies. And when our church opens its physical doors, we will worship together once again!

It was bittersweet to open up the red bag filled with memories of my daughter’s last year of preschool. When we got the bag home we found a children’s bible with a special inscription inside. Along with an extra set of clothes, preschool master pieces created on construction paper, summer wishes and a portfolio full of growth and learning; was a container of Clorox wipes and an interview my daughter had with her teacher over Zoom, titled, A Preschooler’s Perspective on a Pandemic. She says she misses her friends most of all and when the pandemic is over she looks forward to play dates and spending the night at her grandparents house. Although she misses school, she has enjoyed spending time outside and learned to write letters to authors and have birthday parades. Her answer to finding a cure for COVID-19 is medicine and Jesus’s healing hands.

Items from my daughter’s red bag.

Special Early Childhood Closing Chapel– The marvelous preschool teachers at Zion Lutheran School recorded a special closing chapel for their students. Sitting socially distanced on the alter, in our sanctuary, we joined in when they sang and danced to familiar songs the children had sung throughout the year. They shared best wishes and recognized the children moving into kindergarten. They ended by inviting us to join them in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, something we discovered my daughter could do independently when we began virtual church in March. CLICK HERE to view this special chapel.

Car Parade– End of the year car parades are the popular way to bring closure to a school year that ended virtually due to a pandemic. We enjoyed decorating our car for the school wide parade through our school’s parking lot. It made us smile to see all of Zion’s teachers, support staff and administrators waving and wishing us well. At the same time we were sad because we miss our Zion family so very much and the parade was simply too short! We hope everyone has a safe and happy summer and we can’t wait until it’s safe for us to be together again! CLICK HERE to view part of the parade.

New End of the School Year Traditions– Last week one of my daughter’s dear friends left a bag of water balloons on our doorstep. During normal circumstances they would have asked friends to join them for an end of the school year water balloon / pizza party. Since COVID-19 kept that from happening, they gifted us with balloons so we could have our own party. We had a blast playing with water balloons and ordered pizza for dinner. Next year we look forward to this new tradition and celebrating with school friends will be the best part!

Staying Connected Through a Birthday Visit, Fancy Surprises and a Virtual Concert…Day 63

During a time where we are socially disconnected, in many ways we are connecting even more! We are simply finding new ways to stay in touch and show we care. Today included a surprise birthday visit to a family friend, a heartwarming surprise package in the mail and a virtual live concert by a talented church friend.

A Birthday Visit and Fancy Nancy– Perhaps one of the most enjoyable things we have done during the quarantine is dropping off surprises to teachers, family members and friends. Today we surprised a family friend with a special birthday card. This eleven year old didn’t want a birthday parade, so we recognized her special day with a short outdoor visit. I’m sure this will be a birthday she will never forget! We were treated to laughs and a bag full of “Fancy Nancy” books to take home! If you have a young child in your home I encourage you to check out the character, “Fancy Nancy,” a French loving six-year with a fancy wardrobe and an even fancier vocabulary! In her world of fancy things, “Fancy Nancy” celebrates the things that make us unique and different. CLICK HERE to visit a website filled with fancy fun!

A Generous Surprise– My daughter was excited to receive a spring craft packet in the mail from Katelynne, a mommy blogger, who is also know as The Disguised Super Mom. CLICK HERE to check out her website. What a generous surprise! We can’t thank you enough! 

 Virtual Concert– I filled a wine glass with some liquid therapy, sat on my comfy couch and experienced my first virtual concert with “Live at the Library With Bethany Coad.” Bethany is an extremely talented contemporary folk singer/songwriter who also happens to be a member of my Zion Lutheran Church family. It was a relaxing hour of fabulous music, storytelling and escapism. Her original songs took me on a delightful journey and for a few minutes I forgot about social distancing, disappointment and the pandemic. I could relate to the peppy tongue and cheek “Lincolntown” as I have made the laborious drive from St. Louis to Chicago too many times to count! I also enjoyed the beautiful ballad titled “Lewis and Clark.” Her newest song, “A Place Where Time Stands Still,” conjured up happy memories of playing concerts, dining with family and attending festivals and parades along our historic main street in what has become my daughter’s hometown, St. Charles, MO. If you missed the concert, no worries, it was recorded. CLICK HERE to listen to Bethany Coad’s virtual concert at the library.

 

 

Finding Comfort in the Familiar…Days 61 and 62

Our weekend was filled with the familiar and this brought me comfort as we continue to navigate an unfamiliar world filled with uncertainty.

Trivia Night- The Mid-West is known for holding trivia nights, a fun way for organizations to raise funds and an enjoyable night out with friends. This year, several trivia nights in our area were rescheduled due to COVID-19. We participated in our first virtual trivia night on Saturday when we gathered with friends, virtually, and answered questions as a team. Although there were fewer questions and we didn’t get any of Debbie’s yummy chocolate chip cookies, debating on answers felt familiar and there were snacks, drinks, laughs and a whole lot of fun! 

Church– Although we miss our Zion Lutheran Church family, worshiping together in front of our TV on a Sunday morning is becoming comfortably familiar. When we return to regular worship I’m going to miss these lazy Sundays where we sleep in, eat brunch (sometimes from Donut King) and snuggle together in the family room listening to the word of God, praising Him in song and remembering our many blessings.

I find joy in the music we sing every Sunday. Last week the hymns during worship were all familiar and comforting. CLICK HERE to listen. From the opening hymn, “From All That Dwell Below the Skies,” to the hymn of the day, “At the Lambs High Feast We Sing,” to the sermon hymn, “Christ is Our Cornerstone,” to the closing hymn, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” all were wonderfully familiar. In fact, I can’t remember a time in my life that any were unfamiliar. These are the hymns from my childhood. They bring comfort and healing and have always been part of me.

Family Dinner- We ended our weekend with a big Sunday dinner. COVID-19 has my family of three preparing meals together and eating them every night around our kitchen table. Tonight we enjoyed homemade smoked sausage (leftover from Zion’s sausage supper), mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and green beans. The menu was familiar and took me back to my childhood as this was one of my grandmother’s favorite meals. She prepared it often with sausages bought at a wurstmarkt. The meal also warmed me with more recent memories of our church’s annual Sausage Supper, held a mere three months ago, in February. Although the day felt ordinary at the time, I would give anything to return to that moment. A morning spent worshiping with my family of three in our physical church building, a non-social distanced sausage meal enjoyed with my parents and then serving sauerkraut next to dear members of my church family. There were no masks and plenty of hugs!

 

 

 

 

Endings, New Beginnings and Butterfly Blessings…Day 60

Today was the last day of school. The final week brought many endings: the final chapel with Gary the Puppet, the last preschool blog post and the final virtual circle time with her teacher. As I clicked out of the Zoom meeting, an all too familiar thing to do these days, I wondered if her kindergarten year would begin the way her last year of preschool ended… with virtual learning? As the 2019-2020 school year comes to a close, it’s too early to know what awaits us for next year. One thing is certain, there will be changes. COVID-19 has assured us of that.

The last virtual preschool class was a fun dance party!

As we say goodbye to another school year, in a few days, my daughter’s teacher, Mrs. Stanglein, will release the butterflies the class has been observing virtually. Our world has changed over the past few months but we have adapted. It hasn’t been easy, but we have fought. We continue to be filled with uncertainty but with prayer, love and support, from our family, friends and from Zion Lutheran Church and School, we can make it through any storm. As my daughter and I read the last page of the book, Where Butterflies Grow, by Joanne Ryder, the words on the page spoke to me. Although written for the butterflies, it easily could have been written about my daughter, or any child in the world who finds themselves graduating or advancing to the next stage in their educational career. I leave you with what I like to call the butterfly blessing…

“You have grown and changed and your world has grown too. Now it’s time to fly to new places, time to look for others like yourself- bright flyers in the sun. Fly, butterfly. Good-bye.”

My daughter is standing next to a Zion Lutheran School graduation sign that proudly stands in our neighbor’s yard. Signs like these appeared in yards across our country. After a prekindergarten-8th grade education at Zion Lutheran, he is graduating. My heart goes out to the middle school, high school and college graduates who spent the best weeks of the school year at home, engaging in virtual classes and will experience a virtual graduation.

 

 

Hands-on Butterfly Fun…Days 58 and 59

Our classroom butterflies have emerged from their chrysalisthis week so we spent a few days celebrating with some butterfly fun! When I was a teacher, the last months of the school year were always my favorite because my students were comfortable with me and the classroom and they had grown academically, allowing for our class to engage in some exciting projects. Experiencing these butterfly activities with my daughter took me back to those days in the classroom.

Butterfly Books– On a rainy day this week my daughter and I snuggled together and read butterfly books. We enjoyed Where Does the Butterfly Go When it Rains? by May Garelick and the book prompted some on-line research to find the answer. We also enjoyed reading Where Butterflies Grow by Joanne Ryder and Waiting For Wings  by Louis Ehlert. I found a website called , The Butterfly Lady, that describes many wonderful butterfly books to share with your little one. We read several on the list. CLICK HERE to view the list. The Scholastic Learn At Home resources are fantastic! CLICK HERE to view the one on butterflies!

Butterfly Snack– This is a snack I enjoyed making with my kindergarten students at our butterfly release party. Back then you could “cook” at school and it was rare to find a student with a peanut allergy. My daughter and I improvised and used cream cheese spread instead of peanut butter and veggie straws instead of chow mein noodles. CLICK HERE for a copy of the recipe and a few additional butterfly resources.

Colorful Butterflies– We used coffee filters, washable markers, a pipe cleaner and a clothespin to create colorful butterflies! First we decorated the coffee filters with the washable markers. Then we folded the coffee filters in half and then in half a second time. We dipped the tip in a cup of water and watched as the water was absorbed by the coffee filter and spread the colors across the filter creating a colorful masterpiece! When the filter was dry, we gathered it in the center to create two wings, clipped it with a clothespin and added a pipe cleaner antennae! CLICK HERE for directions to a similar project.

Butterfly Party– You can’t have a party without some party favors and a colorful costume. My daughter used her fairy wings and put them on so she would look like a butterfly. Then she acted like a butterfly by sipping sweet nectar with her proboscis. A proboscis is a butterfly’s skinny straw like mouth. It curls its proboscis, or tongue, up like the party blowout shown here and when it gets ready to sip some sweet nectar it unfolds its proboscis and sips the nectar like we would use a straw. We simulated this by drinking orange juice with a straw and decorating party blowouts to look like a butterfly; uncurling the butterfly’s proboscis by blowing into the party favor.

Unicorns, a Bowling Ball and Bri Reads…Day 57

Last week was the 27th annual auction at my daughters school, Zion Lutheran. On-line this year due to COVID-19, my family of three walked away with some interesting items! My daughter was thrilled with the Unicorn Basket we won. Filled with a variety of unicorn themed books and a delightful stuffed unicorn, the basket is a little girl’s dream. My husband is looking forward to his winning item, “Pop Corn For a Year,” from a local specialty pop corn shop. And what did the Noteworthy Mommy end up with…a hot pink bowling ball! It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting but I was the only one who bid on it. Now all I need is a case and a pair of bowling shoes and I will look like a professional bowler! Notice how I said I would “look like,” not “play like,” a professional! In all seriousness, even though it had to be virtual this year, the auction was a lot of fun. The bidding resulted in over $42,000 raised for our amazing school and a possible new hobby for the Noteworthy Mommy!

Unicorns have been coveted for centuries by little girls all over the world, even a tomboy like me loved them as a child. I remember the unicorn fad in the 80’s. I had unicorns on my sweater, unicorns on my stickers and unicorns on my Trapper Keeper! Unicorns have been around forever and have only gained in popularity over the years.

Unicorn Cookies– My husband discovered that Nestle made “unicorn chips.” We followed the cookie recipe on the back of the bag. The result, similar to chocolate chip cookies, was colorful and super sweet!

Unicorn Books– There are many wonderful books about unicorns and our favorites are Thelma the Unicorn and the sequel, The Return of Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey. CLICK HERE to listen to Blabey read his book. We also love the book, Unicorn (And Horse) by David Miles. These engaging books teach children to learn to love who they are. Some days we feel like unicorns and want to wear a little sparkle and some days we prefer to be plain like a horse. It’s our differences that make us unique!

Bri Reads– While in isolation we discovered Bri and her animated story telling! Bri is an educator, actor and dynamic storyteller that my daughter simply adores. Some of her videos are on YouTube, but I encourage you to go to her webpage at www.brireads.com and sign up to gain free access to her entire library. Along with professional readings of favorite children’s books, she has original songs and drawing lessons! One of our favorite videos is Unicorn (And Horse) by David Miles. Since it’s release, just a week ago, my daughter has asked to watch it every night before bed. If you like unicorns you have to watch! CLICK HERE I want to thank Bri for bringing us sunshine on some of our darkest days in quarantine.