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!

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.

 

 

A Hero’s Parade, Family Zoom and a New Hymn…Day 41

Our day began like a typical Sunday in isolation with our family of three gathering by the big screen to worship together. Little did we know the excitement that awaited! The day was filled with adventure… a new hymn, a multi-generational family reunion on Zoom and a surprise from our favorite baseball mascot, Fred Bird!

 An Anthem During Isolation– We sang a new hymn in church today. “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death,” is a modern hymn that expresses the comfort and assurance that flow from trusting Christ, who has conquered death and guaranteed our future by his resurrection. Written by the modern hymn writers, Keith and Kristyn Getty, the words we sang reminded me to trust in God during this time of isolation and uncertainty; through the troubled storms, trials and fear, God is good and the blood of Christ is our hope in life and in death. CLICK HERE to listen to the song on YouTube and CLICK HERE to view Zion Lutheran’s worship service.

Getty song

Family Zoom Reunion- My husband participated in a Talley family Zoom with his father, most of his aunts and uncles and some of his cousins. There were 20 family members in attendance and they represented 8 different states! My daughter, the third generation, enjoyed waving to her extended family. The conversation for this week centered around the old house on the family’s homestead in rural KY. It had recently been torn down and the first generation had a lot of memories to share. Filled with family history and updates from the present, these virtual family reunions are becoming a weekly tradition!

A Parade For Heroes– During our Zoom call imagine our surprise when we heard a commotion coming from behind our house! From across the pond we heard horns honking, music playing and saw a parade for our medical heroes being led by our favorite baseball mascot, Fred Bird! Louie, the St. Louis Blues mascot, also joined in. They were heading to our local hospital to surprise the staff and thank our medical community for the hard work and great effort they are putting forth during the pandemic. They happened to take a detour behind our house along the way! My daughter has been blessed to meet Fred Bird, the mascot of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, multiple times in her short life. (5 times if I’m counting correctly) I’ll never forget how excited I was to have an up close and personal chat with him in the Cardinal Club. I told my daughter how lucky she was to meet Fred Bird and how I only dreamed of such a meeting when I was a child. My daughter, three years old at the time, replied, “Well, you’re getting to see him now!” A year ago Fred Bird was a special guest at a birthday party we attended and more recently he made an appearance at her school. My daughter had won a contest where Fred Bird came to her school to surprise her! He visited with all of the children but extra special attention was given to my daughter. The photos show that special day in December 2019, when all of the preschool students and their teachers happily gathered in the commons area. Fred Bird has been part of my daughter’s life so it should come as no surprise when she said, “Fred Bird drove past our house because he knows me!” Thank you Fred Bird for putting a smile on our faces during this time of isolation!

 

Childhood Moments with Gary the Puppet and the Great Outdoors…Day 39

Today was a good day and at first glance it looked like a typical spring day with a preschool child and her stay at home mom. The weather was perfect, lending itself to lazy walks and carefree exploration. My daughter had early childhood chapel and this Noteworthy Mommy went to happy hour where I laughed until I cried with some of my best girlfriends! When you take a closer look you’ll see that although some things are indeed the same, they have been altered; filled with unexpected adaptation due to COVID 19.

Outdoor Fun– Observational walks around the pond in our backyard have become a staple on peak weather days. Today we heard the chirps and splashes of spring frogs as they quickly jumped into the pond, protecting themselves from our anticipated arrival. We were lucky to discover a big frog, camouflaged among the murky waters, hoping to go undetected. The picture of my daughter blowing seeds off of the season’s first dandelion is accompanied with talk of the abrupt shift to virtual learning. I am brought back to our new reality when she says, “I wish I could go back to school, I really wanted to plant lettuce. I could plant lettuce with you but it won’t be as special.”

Gary the Puppet– The early childhood classes at my daughter’s school have chapel every week and Gary the Puppet often makes a special appearance. My daughter participated in chapel today where she learned that as Christians we continue to celebrate Easter and sing our Alleluias! CLICK HERE to learn how to make an Alleluia Shaker. Even though COVID 19 has shuttered the doors of her physical school, she continues to hear the message of Jesus’s love through weekly virtual chats with Pastor Rouland and Gary the Puppet. She finds joy and comfort in them and seeing familiar faces is a highlight of her week. This will become a cherished childhood memory. CLICK HERE to view this week’s message.

Noteworthy Mommy’s Happy Hour– Occasional happy hours with my girlfriends are cherished but during our busy lives they unfortunately are few and far between. In the midst of the pandemic I am reminded how important it is to spend time with my girlfriends, enjoying a glass of wine and sharing a few laughs! Our happy hours are now more frequent (weekly) and have become virtual with iconic Brady Bunch squares, funny stories and glasses (some weeks, bottles) of wine. Taking the time to relax with friends, even virtually, is helping me navigate the weeks upon weeks spent in isolation.

Polka Dots, Puddles, Purposeful Writing and Banana Bread…Day 38

The day welcomed us with rain but we didn’t let the rainy day get us down! Polka dots brightened our day and the smells of Nana’s homemade banana bread filled our home and our tummies with sweet comfort. Purposeful play is a focus everyday but even more so on rainy days. So we took our play outdoors and joined the American Robin by splashing in rain puddles.

Polka Dots– This week is virtual spirit week and today was polka dot day at Zion Lutheran School. My daughter looked through her wardrobe and dressed herself in a polka dot shirt and polka dot jeans. She used her Scented Juicy Fruits Dot Markers by Do-A-Dot-Art and made a colorful polka dot painting. These are the best dot markers I have found and the fruit scents add some extra fun! And they last forever! We also incorporated some math by making patterns with the DO-A-Dot-Art markers!

Robins, Rain Puddles and Rain Art– The last time we had a rainy week in quarantine we discovered my daughter had out grown her rain boots and rain coat. We ordered new rain gear and she couldn’t wait to test it out! Before we headed outdoors we visited a website dedicated to the American Robin and learned a bit more about this busy bird. Since mommy robins are busy building nests, we put some yarn in our yard for them to use as nest building supplies (pet hair, yarn and string are all good). Then we played in the puddles and took a neighborhood walk where we bird watched and counted 14 American Robins! Our fun in the rain ended by making some rainy day art. We used cardboard and washable markers and made some colorful rainbows! CLICK HERE for more details.

Banana Bread– My daughter and I followed my mom’s award winning recipe and made homemade banana bread. The secret ingredient is chocolate chips! CLICK HERE for Nana’s Banana Bread recipe. My daughter loves to be in the kitchen. Through baking, children learn how to follow directions, measure and be patient. The best reward is eating the yummy results!

Purposeful Writing– If you read my blog regularly you know how much I value play. Children process their feelings, thoughts and learning through imaginative, unstructured, play.  Towards the end of the day I discovered my daughter had made a trap for her daddy on the stairs, leading to her room. She prefers that mommy conduct her night time routine and wanted to make sure daddy didn’t come in! She labeled the traps with the words “Daddy No!” on sticky notes. She used print for a meaningful purpose, without prompting and without asking how to spell; writing the words conventionally on her own during purposeful play.

A Sunday Filled With Donuts and Alleluias!…Day 34

Before the COVID 19 isolation my husband would often get his girls donuts on Saturday mornings from Donut King, a nearby independent donut shop. Hands down, this place has the best donuts around! Their signature donut is the Chop Suey, a gigantic mound of dough with cinnamon and sweet icing, but our little one thinks the donuts with sprinkles are the best! After being closed for three weeks we were delighted to discover they were opening for the weekend and would be providing curbside service to their loyal customers. In an attempt to support a local favorite, we placed an order online and my husband went to pick it up on Saturday morning. While there he saw some familiar faces from Zion (Lutherans really love their donuts) and was told that some customers waited over an hour for their orders! Over run with a tremendous response from local patrons, the small donut shop was unable to fill all of the orders and he retuned home without any donuts. Although disappointed, I viewed this as glorious news because we want our local businesses around after the quarantine is over! Donut King asked that he return on Sunday morning and our family of three happily enjoyed our favorite fried doughy delights while watching church in our pajamas. 

Alleluia Shakers– The week before Easter my daughter’s teacher recommended we make Alleluia shakers. My daughter enjoyed making the Alleluia shakers so much we had extras that we shared with family and friends when we delivered Easter meals. And we all enjoyed shaking them every time we said Alleluia on Easter morning! This Sunday Pastor Rouland (our senior pastor) reminded our congregation about Zion’s Alleluia shaker tradition. He suggested various ways one could construct an Alleluia shaker (toilet paper tube, beans, rice, coins) and encouraged everyone to make one if they hadn’t already. Earlier in the week I came across our Alleluia shakers and questioned if I should pack them away. Time got away from me and they remained on the end table next to our couch. Pastor Rouland reminded me that Alleluia shakers aren’t just for Easter. Instead of packing them away with the Easter baskets, continue to shake them as we rejoice and shout Alleluia for our risen Savior, Jesus Christ!

Fear Not!…Day 30

When we opened the Easter basket from my daughter’s Godparents I never expected to find homemade masks tucked next to the beautifully decorated cookies. During the day I am easily distracted from the daily news. With my young daughter as my primary focus, I am joyfully occupied with play and engaging activity. The masks were a stark reminder of the seriousness that is COVID 19.  Our days pass quickly (when you have a preschooler with a ton of energy you have to be active). But when night appears I find it hard to sleep as my mind is captured with fear… How long will this last? When will my husband return to a normal work schedule and a full salary? With schools overcoming their own challenges will they ever be in need of my consulting services? Did I hurt my daughter today when I relied on technology to occupy part of her day while I attended to neglected household chores? Will my daughter attend kindergarten at a brick and mortar school in the fall or will digital learning continue to be the norm? Are my friends and family members safe?

I know I am not alone. All of my readers are experiencing their own fear, anxiety and personal worry. Reading a daily devotional helps me begin each day in a positive way. FEAR NOT is the theme for Zion Lutheran Church in St. Charles’s annual Easter devotional. Written by members ranging from school age to senior citizen, the devotions cover most of the Easter season, beginning with Easter Sunday (April 12) and ending with the day after Ascension (May 22). The devotional booklet was written before COVID 19 hit our area and this Noteworthy Mommy wrote the devotional for May 5. CLICK HERE to download the devotional booklet. I turn to my writing as a way to make sense of the challenges our world is facing. And just as my daughter is comforted by my loving touch, helping her fall asleep when she awakes in the middle of the night, I find comfort in the hands of my Heavenly Father. As a child of God I place all of my fear and worries into His hands. As Miss Tracy reminds us at the end of dance class… I AM LOVED. I AM SAFE, I AM WELL.

An Easter Sunday in Isolation…Separate But Not Alone

This Easter is like no other we have ever experienced. I should have been singing in the choir at our 11:00 service, marking my first Easter singing with the treble choir at church. Instead I sang with my family of three as we sat on the couch in our family room streaming Zion Lutheran Church St. Charles’s worship service through our TV. While COVID 19 shuttered the doors to physical church buildings around the world it did not cancel Easter or close church. It didn’t stop us from getting out our alleluia shakers and saying He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!

Although this Easter was different in so many ways, at the same time it was oddly familiar. As we sang all of the Easter hymns I grew up with, from the opening hymn, “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” to “This Is The Feast” to the closing hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today; Alleluia,” I was transported back to my childhood. To an Easter where I worshiped with my parents and maternal grandmother at Zion Lutheran Church in Belleville. It could have been any Easter in the early 1980’s. I would have been in elementary school, third, fourth or fifth grade, it doesn’t matter as they would have all been the same. Me wearing a dress that I couldn’t wait to get out of, sitting uncomfortably on the hard pew daydreaming about the Easter eggs, candy and toys that would occupy the rest of my day. But the music always drew me back in. As we sang from the blue LCMS hymnals I hung onto every note. My mother’s beautiful voice, the organ and occasional trumpet, brought me comfort and embraced me with loving arms. God didn’t bless my grandmother with an angelic voice but as a life long Lutheran she belted out each note with Lutheran pride. I admired her tenacity and unwavering love for her church. Although she has been with Jesus for thirty-three years, I felt her presence today as we sang “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds.” As my daughter fell asleep in my lap I was transported back to the present, the first Easter in my daughter’s young life that she won’t be able to celebrate with all four of her grandparents. Although we took an Easter meal to both sets of grandparents this weekend and each one had a surprise Easter egg hunt for her in their yard, we weren’t able to be together and that bothered my daughter. It felt weird to be so close to our loved ones, yet so far a part. In keeping with proper social distancing there was no physical contact on our short family visits and no comforting hugs due to COVID 19. This historic time of isolation will change us all. And as a result my five year old daughter will grow up with a greater appreciation for worship and devotion, family dinners and comforting hugs.

Living Generously, Easter Eggs and Holy Saturday

We spent Holy Saturday Living Generously by cooking, filling plates and delivering Easter meals to our parents and to family friends. All are being cautious about going grocery shopping due to their high risk status of contracting COVID 19. After days of isolation my daughter and I were excited to go on a drive where we helped others. Last week we prepared and delivered Easter baskets to my daughter’s BFFs and surprised some special friends with a palm cross. Although we didn’t use Live Generously funds for these outreach opportunities my daughter and I began discussing what we can do to Live Generously in the future.

Easter Eggs– I have many wonderful memories of decorating Easter eggs with my father. When my daughter came along he continued the tradition with her. This year the quarantine kept us from decorating eggs with Pops so our family of three had a night of decorating instead.

Holy Saturday– Today was supposed to be Immanuel Lutheran Church’s annual Easter egg hunt. I had signed my daughter up for the hunt and upon cancellation our sister church contacted me with the exciting news of delivering goodie bags to all of the families who planned on attending. My daughter beamed when she discovered the goodie bag on our front door. One of the gifts in the bag was the book, The Sunday Morning Miracle along with a companion activity book. I enjoyed reading the book to my daughter in preparation for Easter Sunday.

We also watched a short video about Holy Saturday. CLICK HERE to view and we sang the following song… He Hung Upon A Cross.

He hung upon a cross, He hung upon a cross. He hung upon a cross for YOU and ME…

One day when I was lost (ca chicka chicka) He Hunt upon a cross (ca chicka chicka) He hung upon a cross for me.

He bowed His head and died…

They laid Him in a tomb…

He rose on Easter morn…

He’s coming back someday…

CLICK HERE to listen to the song.