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.

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.

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.

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

 

Family Friday (Week of the Young Child)…Day 46

Today is the last day of WOYC, and this fabulous Friday is devoted to family fun! My family of three enjoyed the day together, with our little one taking the lead and requesting lots of play time outside!

Family Keepsake– The weekly lessons from my daughter’s teacher suggested that we make a family keepsake to commemorate this time together. This is what my family of three created. Although our time in isolation has been filled with frustration and some ugly moments, it has also brought tenderness and joy. When I look at our hands, represented here on colorful paper, I will be reminded of the moments that changed us for good.

The Live Generously Twins– My daughter and I decided to dress like twins by wearing our matching Thrivent, Live Generously, t-shirts. Live Generously t-shirts have become my quarantine uniform of choice as the message makes my heart happy and the soft cotton is comfortable. Living Generously has been our family slogan throughout this time of isolation. By leaving surprise gifts on doorsteps, delivering food to high risk individuals, participating in drive-by parades and reaching out to family and friends virtually; our hearts are overflowing with joy! The reward we receive when we give unto others is far greater than the gift that was given! Seeing how happy we are making others during this time of uncertainty is a lesson I want my daughter to remember forever!

A huge thank you goes out to my childhood friend, Stacy, for making these quarantine themed wine glasses at cost. She brought joy to others during a time of uncertainty.

Family Game Night– Tonight’s Family Game Night was a real “game changer.” For tonight is the night our little one was first introduced to a gaming system. We dusted off our old Wii and my little one enjoyed an evening of Super Mario Brothers and virtual bowling!Whether we are teaching our daughter to live generously, to love music and science and Jesus, or how to play Super Mario Brother’s, my husband and I are and will continue to be our daughter’s first and most important teacher.

My daughter creates a self portrait of me complete with sunglasses on top of my head!

Surviving the Monday Blues with Alphabet Exercise, Storybook Writing and Family Game Night…Day 35

We have a case of the Monday Blues. Spring break is over and daddy went back to work. COVID 19 has caused his company to move to a work one week, off one week schedule for awhile. We are happy he will be making an income but sad at the same time as we have grown accustomed to having him around! To brighten our day we tried some of the activity suggestions sent by my daughter’s teacher.

Alphabet Exercise– We used these alphabet exercises to get moving! Children can spell words or their name to engage in the physical activity that accompanies each letter. We pulled letters out of a “mystery bag” and after naming the letter and making the sound, we did the exercise. CLICK HERE to go to The OT Tookbox to learn how to do each alphabet exercise.

Writing a Story- My daughter’s preschool class loves to write! They had just completed a project on writing a book prior to the quarantine. The culminating activity was working together to publish their own class book (a fairytale) and then having a book signing party. Her teacher used School Mate Publishing and turned the book written and illustrated by Mrs. Stanglein’s preschool class of 2019-2020 into a published book! My daughter created the skunk character who sprayed the princess. Every child got to illustrate two pages. Our family of three have happy memories of the book signing party where we visited with her teacher, talked to other parents and watched our daughter joyously play with her friends! With an abrupt stop to attending school in the physical sense, with her teacher and friends, the book and book signing party is a sweet preschool memory we’ve been dearly holding onto during this time of isolation.This week my daughter’s teacher assigned the task of writing an original fairytale. We completed Step One: Brainstorm ideas by writing or drawing characters, a setting, and a problem and a solution for your story.

Family Game Night- Two of our favorite games are the Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel Game! and the Hoot Owl Hoot Game. The Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel Game! (ages 3-5) was our daughter’s first board game. The game reinforces color learning and develops strategic thinking, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills while using the squirrel shaped squeezer. This is a fun game that develops memory skills, matching, sorting and counting in an engaging way. The Hoot Owl Hoot Game (ages 4 and above) is a cooperative matching game that develops strategy. Players work as a team to get the baby owls back to their nest before the sun comes up. Although my family of three wasn’t successful at returning all of the owls to their nest; we had fun trying and the best reward was spending quality time together! 

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.

Muffins, Maps, Play, Gratitude & Generosity…Day 11 Activities

We didn’t accomplish as much today as I had originally planned and that’s OK. Some days will be like that. As we navigate eLearning and isolation the biggest lessons often come in the unplanned.

Encouraging Play and Clean Up– We began our day cleaning up. With spending all of our time at home our house was getting out of control! So I put on some music and mommy, daddy and our reluctant little one began putting away toys, dishes and art supplies. My daughter loves to play and in doing so she creates scenes that she does not want to destroy by putting the pieces back in place. The latest project was a well designed Doggy Daycare swimming pool complete with a deck for cats to sit on so they don’t get wet. The other project was the bear den we constructed the day before. As she ran around the house, screaming that we were ruining her life by cleaning up, I was reminded that play is a child’s work. I also recalled the “Work in Progress” signs I often see in her classroom. That gave me the idea of compromising and telling my daughter she can keep one “Work in Progress” out per day but the rest will have to be put away. Satisfied with our new agreement it was decided the bear den would be dismantled while the swimming pool would stay open.

Muffins– My daughter loves to bake so today we made raspberry muffins. I pulled out the book If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff and after reading we made muffins together. Through baking my daughter was learning a lot…how to follow directions, how to measure and how to be generous as we saved some to take to Maw Maw and Paw Paw and to their neighbor.

Maps– A mom friend suggested we read Me by Joan Sweeney. I know we had the book upstairs (working for a textbook company has its benefits) so I pulled it out and daddy read it to our little one. Click Here to read a digital copy of the book. Then the two of them set out to draw a map of our house. But our little one had other ideas. She wanted to draw a map of her Doggy Daycare so that’s exactly what we did! Gratitude Journal– Per her teacher’s suggestion we began a Gratitude Journal. Her first entry was a picture of mommy and daddy and her beloved blanket! She knows how to write mommy and daddy on her own and I helped her write the word blanket. We will add a new page to the journal everyday.

Generosity– Perhaps the best part of our day was delivering a weekly care package to Maw Maw and Paw Paw and to their neighbor. While practicing social distancing we were able to see our loved ones and model an example of generosity for our impressionable little one. Without a complicated lesson plan or an on line resource, children are learning. By watching the adults in their life, by listening to the sounds in their environment and by being actively engaged in activity, children are learning. Through play and imagination, children are learning!