History in the Making…Day 75

On Saturday afternoon my family of three gathered around the TV and watched a historic event. On May 30, 2020, we witnessed the first launch of NASA astronauts on American soil since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011 and the first private company (SpaceX) to launch people into orbit. SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, crewed by astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, successfully launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, with plans to dock with the International Space Station.

The launch was a welcomed distraction during an unstable time in our country. Watching the launch took me back to my 1980’s childhood when my elementary teachers would pull out the “TV on a cart” and we would gather with other classes in the hallway to watch the Space Shuttle launches. It was always a big deal and something they didn’t want us to miss. I was in junior high in 1986 when the Challenger exploded while taking the first teacher into space. I have vivid memories of watching the tragic footage during lunch as administrators wheeled TVs into the cafeteria. I will never forget that devastating day.

From my first visit to the Kennedy Space Center at the age of six, to my years as a a young educator spending multiple summers teaching a space themed summer camp, I have always been fascinated with the space program. I hope this historic voyage ignites something positive during a time when our country is filled with anger and sadness.

 

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.

A Social Distancing Mother’s Day Weekend…Days 54 and 55

I never imagined a time where we would have to social distance from one another to stay safe and well. A time when my extended family would find ourselves unable to gather around the dining room table to enjoy good food, fellowship and hugs! This Mother’s Day weekend looked a bit different, but it was filled with love and happy surprises and I can’t think of anything better than that!

I am blessed to have the sweetest, most supportive mother in the world! She taught me the faith, loves me and has never tried to change me. She continues to be my biggest cheerleader!

Three generations enjoying the backyard fried chicken picnic, with all the fixings, we had for my mother on Saturday. My daughter bought pink daises for her Nana.

Visiting Maw Maw on Mother’s Day and delivering her an afternoon tea.

I want to remember all of the mothers in my life, past and present, who helped raise and nurture me, who inspire me, teach me and support me. The women who make me a better person and through their unconditional love, have taught me how to be a good mother to my daughter.

My daughter looking at the pictures of the important mothers in our lives, both past and present. My dad made an outdoor display for our outdoor Mother’s Day celebration

 

I also want to recognize all the mOTHERS in our lives. Women who are not mothers in the traditional sense but are strong, beautiful role models for me and for my daughter. My daughter is blessed to have two amazing women she lovingly calls “aunt” and “auntie” and although they are not part of our family tree, they are our family and we love them so very much!

I know Mother’s Day isn’t a joyous day for everyone. For some there is great sorrow and loss. Others feel an emptiness as they yearn to become a mother and many are fighting a battle with infertility. I understand, I have been there and have experienced the pain.

Mother’s Day Tea Cups– When I taught kindergarten I had my students cut and color this paper tea cup for their mothers. A single tea bag was placed inside. My daughter created some special tea cups for her grandmothers.

Mother’s Day S’mores– We enjoyed a s’mores bar at our outdoor Mother’s Day picnic for my mother. My husband built a fire (he is an Eagle Scout) and we roasted marshmallows! Look at the variety of menu choices!

Mother’s Day Tea– A local tea shop, The London Tea Room, offered a special carry out Mother’s Day Tea, for two, with sweet and savory goodies to make for a proper afternoon tea. Complete with Laura Ashley tea cups, plates, tea pot and cloth napkins, we knew this would be a wonderful gift for my mother-in-law! As an avid tea lover, she is responsible for my love of tea parties. My in-laws have enjoyed several trips to London and planned to return this summer. Unfortunately, COVID 19 cancelled their trip. A huge thank you to The London Tea Room for bringing a taste of London to Missouri!

Tea for Two– My daughter and I enjoyed a mother/daughter tea after a virtual church service filled with beautiful Easter hymns. Our table was set with my butterfly meadow tea set and a variety of delectable delights. My little one discovered a new found love for scones and lemon curd. While we dined and talked of future tea parties after the virus, my mini me explained, “This is delightful!” This Noteworthy Mommy couldn’t agree more!

 

 

 

 

From “Caterpillar to Butterfly” and a Pop-Up Flower Shop…Day 51

During the seven years l taught kindergarten, one of my favorite things to do with my class was to order Painted Lady caterpillars from Insect Lore. My students and I enjoyed watching these teeny, tiny caterpillars grow and change; first into a chrysalis’ and then transform themselves into beautiful butterflies! It amazes me that the entire metamorphosis took a mere 3 to 4 weeks!

The caterpillars in my daughter’s classroom have all changed into chrysalises and her teacher placed them into the butterfly net. The caterpillar cam has been turned off, for now, as the metamorphosis begins. While we wait, my daughter and I continued our study of butterflies with some exciting activities. Our day ended with back yard play and an impromptu pop up flower shop in the backyard.

A Butterfly Garden– After completing the Scholastic Learn From Home module “From Caterpillar to Butterfly,” we went outside and planted some wildflowers that are supposed to attract butterflies. My daughter loves the dirt and is looking forward to watering her flowers everyday.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar Yoga”– There are extensive benefits of doing yoga with children! Yoga improves their physical, mental, emotional and social health. From helping to balance energy levels and calming the nervous system, to building sensory awareness, flexibility and balance, yoga is simply amazing! My daughter needs to develop these skills so doing activities like yoga do not come naturally and it’s difficult to get her to do it without a fight! Her teacher recommended Cosmic Yoga, engaging story based yoga for kids presented by storyteller, Jaime Amor. My daughter was resistant at firs, but after awhile, to my great surprise, she began to request Cosmic Yoga! Amor has created yoga stories for just about any theme you can think of. From “The Wizard of Oz,” to “Star Wars,” to “Frozen,” everyone will find something they like! CLICK HERE to do “Very Hungry Caterpillar” yoga.

Pattern Block Creations– We used pattern blocks to create caterpillars and then we made symmetrical butterflies. We also played a symmetry game found here. Young children have a strong intuitive sense of symmetry. Research shows that knowing symmetry helps us learn things like graphing, understanding negative numbers and how to simplify complex information.

Pop-Up Flower Shop– Being an only child my daughter effectively plays independently and benefits greatly from child-directed, free play opportunities. One of her favorite places to play, during the quarantine, is in our backyard. Today she created an impromptu flower shop after gathering wildflowers in the field behind our house. She got plastic containers out of her water play toys and used them as vases. She used her toy phone to talk to customers and solicited me as her number one customer! I gladly joined in and helped direct her imaginative play. I asked the following questions…How much do the flowers cost? What is the name of her shop? Can she created mixed bouquets? I provided paper and crayons and encouraged her to create a menu for her shop, listing the prices for her various creations. By guiding her play, I was able to introduce new vocabulary and incorporate literacy skills in a fun, engaging way. CLICK HERE to read a short article about the benefits of adult guidance in play (or learning).

Happy Half-Birthday and “The State of Arizona, (Ditat Deus), God Enriches”…Day 50

Today is my daughter’s half-birthday and although I find it hard to believe, she is now 5 1/2 years old! As a child I never celebrated half-birthdays but it is something we started when she was a 1/2 year old (6 months) and have now made it a family tradition. Since her half-birthday happens to fall on Cinco De Mayo, we are already in party mode with margaritas in hand. Although my mini me spent her half-birthday in isolation, she had a fabulous day…homemade cupcakes, a scooter ride, (between the rain showers) presents from her loving grandparents and a game of tag in the yard with her Noteworthy Mommy after dinner. Happy Half-Birthday to our little miracle baby!

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My daughter was excited to have her two best friends in small group today. Their teacher, Mrs. Stanglein, read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

Making a cake with homemade frosting for her half-birthday.

FaceTime birthday singing with Nana and Pops and a surprise porch visit from Maw Maw and Paw Paw.

 

My church publishes an Easter devotional every year. Members of the church, both young and old, write the daily devotionals and I wrote the one for May 5. Titled, “The State of Arizona..”Ditat Deus” God Enriches.”

CLICK HERE to hear Pastor Reitz read my devotional or continue reading below. CLICK HERE to download a copy of the entire devotional book.

arizona mug

The State of Arizona… “Ditat Deus” God Enriches

By: Jennifer Freeman Talley

Every morning I drink coffee from a mug purchased during my travels and I am immediately transported to the experiences on that trip. Today I’m drinking from my Arizona mug. Did you know that Arizona’s state motto is the Latin phrase Ditat Deus which means God Enriches? I can’t think of a more appropriate motto since that describes how I felt after visiting Arizona in January 2014.

It was a cold start to the new year and a blizzard rolled in creating a blanket of snow over a layer of ice. My flight to Arizona was delayed and eventually cancelled. It would have been easy to get an excused absence from the national sales meeting as more flights were delayed the following day and American Express Travel was inundated with phone calls making it next to impossible to re-book. Although I enjoyed seeing employees who live across the country I never loved going to the meetings. Deep down I am extremely shy and easily get lost in a room filled with extroverts. Catching up on employees’ personal lives and hearing about their children was another thing I simply wasn’t looking forward to. By this time in my life I expected to have a baby or be pregnant and another year without any “good news” was a disappointment. My husband and I struggled with infertility and over the past year we had silently endured three failed IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) cycles and were told we could try one more even though statistically the odds were against us. But something told me I needed to get to Arizona and after hours on the phone I was re-booked and found myself on a flight. That “something” was God. He knew what I needed before I even had a clue!

Have you ever gotten out of doing something you didn’t want to do by searching for an excuse or even going as far as making one up? The excuse always makes us feel better because we lay all our quilt and insecurities on the excuse and take ourselves and God out of the equation. It would have been easy to use the winter weather as an excuse and not attend the meeting I was feeling overly anxious about. Isn’t it a comfort to know God is with us during fearful times and through Him we can gain strength? Upon arrival I attended sessions and took advantage of the beautiful weather by walking through the desert landscape, basking in the sun and gazing in amazement at the beautiful mountains crafted by my Creator. A feeling of calmness and love embraced me; something that had been absent for months. I prayed and willingly handed my worries over to God. I left Arizona enriched by God’s everlasting love, knowing He had a plan for me and that I was going to be ok whether it included a child or not. My fears about the future were washed away and I felt an inner peace knowing I wasn’t on this journey alone.

Dear Almighty God, Thank you for listening to my cries for help. Give me patience when I encounter uncertainties in my life. Help me be strong in times of fear and help me trust in the path You have already mapped out for me.   Amen