A Day of Pranks

**Photos are completely unrelated. Squirrel feeders Kenny and the kids made this weekend – cute little picnic tables for the squirrels!

April Fool’s Day was quite the day in our house this year…

Months ago Kenny told me he had a great prank for the kids.  He bought a box of Lucky Charms cereal and also ordered a bag of colored marshmallows like the ones in the cereal.  Then the night, before he opened the box, transferred out the cereal to another bag, filled the plastic bag back up with just marshmallows, then glued the bag and box back together.  In the morning Anna poured some cereal and exclaimed, “It’s all marshmallows!”  So fun.  Kenny said this was one of his wishes as a kid so decided to make it come true for James & Anna.  

After breakfast Anna came to me and said she completely forgot it was April 1st and still wanted to pull a prank on James.  So, we googled pranks to play on your brother and decided on stuffing his shoes with cotton balls.  She put 4-5 cotton balls in the toes of his shoes and when he put them on, they wouldn’t fit!  First he pulled out one cotton ball, said “What IS this?” then tried his foot again, pulled out another cotton ball, tried again, etc.  By this time we’re all laughing and Anna was so proud she got him!  

James wanted to be in on the action too so he put some small plastic animals on my pillow so I’d see them at rest time – a few lizards and a rubber snake!  Since his prank worked so well on me, James transferred them to Kenny’s pillow for bedtime.  

Later in the day when I went to the kitchen to start making dinner, I turned on the faucet to wash my hands and the sprayer started spraying water at me!  Kenny put a rubber band around the sprayer handle so when the faucet turned on, water would spray instead of run out the faucet.  Crazy!  Needless to say, I was wet, the kitchen was wet, and we all had a good laugh.  

The final prank of the day might have been the best one.  After dinner, while James was taking a shower, Kenny rigged up a firecracker with some string to James’s bedroom door.  Oh my word.  When James went to open his door, the firecracker went off and definitely scared James.  He was laughing so hard, though, and said, “That was a really good one, Dad!” 

Kenny definitely thought ahead this year!

Our New Normal

It’s hard to believe this all started for us a little over three weeks ago.  It feels like much longer than that!  And it’s not over yet.  I’m so thankful that the corona virus was not a surprise to God.  He’s allowing this to happen to our world and I trust it will be for our good and His glory.

The following is quite a bit of detail about what life is like right now for us.  It’s been helpful for me to write and process, plus I want to have a record here. I think one day we will look back on this time and find these details interesting.  I’ve also encouraged the kids to write in their journals about it.  The time school was closed and they stayed home for weeks and weeks on end.  

My last post on March 16th was a few days into our two-week Spring Break.  Now, school is closed through April 30th and it’s unlikely we’ll go back this semester.  We prepared the kids for that possibility weeks ago but it doesn’t make it any easier.  They are missing their teachers and friends terribly.  Their friends will be there when this is all over, but the missed time with their teachers this school year can’t be replaced.  And we had such wonderful teachers this year!  I am thankful that we’re only dealing with 2nd & 5th grade, though, and not senior year activities.  How much harder for those students missing prom, taking the SAT/ACT one more time, and their graduation ceremony? We’ll survive, of course, but there’s room for acknowledging our disappointment and working through it.  

This past week was a fairly relaxed schedule.  Every day we included some academics – keeping up with our math facts, spelling words, cursive practice, states & capitals memorization, poem memorization – all things the kids were working on before.  We’ve done something creative every day – one day we FINALLY made our sugar cookies, another we did a few projects to make our neighbors smile, another we wrote letters to our friends and sent them snail mail.  The kids have also been emailing with their teachers off and on which has been fun.  Every day we’re spending quite a bit of time outside and also keeping up with chores around the house.  Apparently James feels there are too many chores.  Occasionally he’ll salute me and answer “Ma’am, Yes Ma’am!” with a smile.  Even with all of that there’s still been ample time for the kids to simply play.  They’ve got responsibilities, but I’d sure love for them to be kids as long as they can.  And thankfully they still love to play together and by themselves.  

While we’ve enjoyed our more relaxed week, our teachers have worked tirelessly to create a detailed plan for our future weeks of at-home learning.  When I first read the plans I was a bit overwhelmed, but upon further inspection, it’s going to be great.  We have plans for every subject area, a week at a time – even our specials – library, music, PE, Spanish, and Art.  The kids will each have 2-3 hours of work each day.  While many schools have moved to all on-line learning, we so appreciate that our school hasn’t.  It’s not who TCA is – in fact, they have strongly encouraged us for years to limit screen time for our kids.  So, we’ve received worksheets to print, books to continue reading, links to music recordings, and other fun activities to do at home which I’m grateful for.  I appreciate the time and effort our administration and teachers have taken to create a system that aligns with who we are as a school.  What a gift during this crazy time that the kids can have some normalcy with their work.  

Kenny has been working from home for weeks now and we’re so grateful.  We’re grateful he still has a job and we’re grateful he can work remotely.  His desk and two monitors are set up in the basement and he’s worked there some.  Other days, and when James has a drum lesson or needs to practice drums in the basement, he’s been working in our bedroom at a card table.  Since we’re going to be doing this for at least another month he is planning on going to work to get his stand-up desk this coming week.  He’s been super flexible with us and moves to the area of the house that’s best for what the kids and I are doing.  And in turn, we’ve been trying to keep the noise to a minimum so he can actually get some work done.  

Kenny’s commute to and from work is so much shorter now!  We LOVE having him home for lunch and available on breaks to join us outside or to help with something.  And, because his commute is walking up or down the stairs, we can eat dinner a little earlier now so we have more time in the evenings for family time.  

Family Time
Speaking of family time…In the past, Family Night was usually Friday nights.  Now, family night is almost every night of the week!  We’ve played lots of games, watched movies, and some nights just spent time outside playing or walking the neighborhood.  We’ve really enjoyed the added time together.  When life returns to normal I think we’ll hear this comment from many, many families.  So much more time to be together, to enjoy meals around the table, and to build memories.  None of us would have wished for the corona virus to invade our lives, but there are always blessings in the hard.  

Movie Night – White Fang

Anna made a board game called Bopoloy!

James & Anna
Overall the kids are doing well.  They are real troopers and have rolled with all of the changes.  We’ve had our moments of working through all the emotions this past month, but most days they are just having fun and being kids.  I keep waiting for them to say, “I want to go somewhere!” but I still haven’t heard that.  I’m grateful they enjoy being home and playing together and that they’re making the most of the time here.  

I might as well record how I’m doing too.  This has definitely thrown me a little and it’s taken me a few weeks to get my head around it all.  The hardest part for me has been losing any time alone.  For this introvert that is challenging.  I realize this is a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.  We are healthy, safe, and have everything we need.  However, without some time alone to regroup and recharge I not only get exhausted and then don’t feel well, but I also get snippy and that does not serve my family well.  When everyone is home there are so many more needs to meet (and so many more dishes!).  Then you throw in schooling on top of that.  So, just like summer break I’m learning to get away to the bedroom for a short time every day to journal, pray, read a magazine, or talk with a friend.  Our family runs so much smoother when I do this.  In the Lord’s perfect timing this all came to mind a couple months ago.  In February, in anticipation of summer coming, I started thinking of ways to get some alone time.  Little did I know that I’d be using those ideas so soon.  

This last week was harder overall.  In the beginning this was all so novel and just felt like an extended spring break.  The reality of what we’re facing has settled in now after week three and it’s been more difficult.  Last Sunday I cried through most of our church service online.  Tears for how God is shaping my heart through all of this and tears longing to be with our church family.  The live-stream from church was new and exciting the first two weeks.  The third week felt very different.  The Sunday we’re allowed to worship again together will be one big celebration.  I can’t wait!  Today’s Palm Sunday service, though, was the start of a new week, the hope we have in the Resurrection, and already I feel lighter and in a better place.  I have a feeling that every week of quarantine is going to feel a little different.  But Jesus gives grace upon grace and meets us right where we are.  

John 1:16 – For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Anna created a restaurant one night for dinner! She took the boys’s order and served them too.

Oh how much more difficult this stay at home order would be without the internet!    Kenny has used Zoom for years with work, but now we also use it for our Sunday School group of more than 50 people and our small group through church.  This week my book club met on Zoom and discussed our latest book.  Anna’s ballet studio has created dance classes on Google Classroom so she can keep up her skills and training.  We cast the video to the living room TV and she dances there.  James’s drum teacher gives lessons through Skype.  We sit the laptop on a stool in front of the drum set and they pick up right where they left off.  

I’ve also created a running list of family, friends, and neighbors – local and across the country – to check in with.  Every day I connect with one or two more via text, email, or a phone call to see how they’re doing and if they need anything. I’m enjoying this opportunity for focused connection with so many people.  

Flexibility is also our new normal.  The kids and I are all needing my laptop for so many things now.  We’re all learning to be flexible and wait our turn.  James uses it for his drum lesson every week.  In addition to Anna’s ballet classes, the studio also put together an at-home dance challenge complete with major prizes.  Anna is determined to win so has been working hard on those.  All of the photos, videos, and entries are submitted online which has taken some time each day.  Now that the panic buying is subsiding, I’m back to ordering groceries online each week.  Then there’s all of the daily email communication coming in from school.  Starting next week we’ll be submitting more assignments online and already we’ve taken pictures of a project James is working on to send to his teacher to show completion.  So many more ways we need the computer these days.  We’re grateful for the technological age we’re living in making all of this possible.  

We’ve also enjoyed chatting with more neighbors lately.  Since everyone is home, more people are spending time outside which is great.  We’ve met some new neighbors that moved in over the winter – this is the first time we’ve seen them outside.  This week we visited with a neighbor up the street who is an ER nurse in one of the hospitals.  It was interesting and sad to hear first-hand information about what the hospitals are like right now.  And every other day or so I text my single neighbor across the street and we meet in the street, keeping our distance, for a chat.  She has closed her hair salon and lives alone so she is always ready for some human interaction.  Again, I’m grateful for this slower pace to connect with so many neighbors.  

Spreading some love to our neighborhood!

What day is it?
The past few weeks have felt like one loooong weekend to me.  Long ago I lost track of what day it is.  I still faithfully use my planner and have a to-do list and plan for each day, but knowing that it’s April 5th is long gone.  And occasionally, when I do have a scheduled commitment, I’ve almost forgotten it every time.  The first time we scheduled our small group to meet on Zoom I forgot until about 30 minutes beforehand.  We’ve gone without commitments for so long that I rarely remember the few that we have.  So crazy.  

Being Thankful
Finding joy and good during this time is more important than ever.  For the first time in ages I covered the spring flowers that are growing when we had another snow this week.  Most years we’re busy and it doesn’t occur to me to cover them.  I remember being so sad last year that the daffodils were frozen and crushed under the weight of spring snow.  So, this week I decided I’d really like to see the daffodils bloom and would love to enjoy the purple and yellow crocuses a little longer.  Kenny helped me cover them three nights in a row and I’m so looking forward to the yellow sunshine color and joy they will bring in coming weeks. Even the 4-5 inches of snow we received was so beautiful!

Another simple pleasure that I’m noting – flipping my calendar to a new month.  In the office I have a calendar that Ken gave me when we visited PA in November.  The pictures are covered bridges and they are beautiful.  The April picture also includes a glorious sunset and I stopped and appreciated it this week.  

Down the Road
As I’ve spent time pondering all of these different aspects of life, I’ve been wondering how we will handle our old life when it returns?  Will we run to hug a friend or will we automatically keep our distance?  Will we work harder to keep white space on our calendar and protect our time as a family?  I believe there will be many things we no longer take for granted after this is over:  Having plenty of toilet paper and food on hand.  Being able to buy the things we need when we need them.  Being able to see friends and family whenever we want to.  While we have always been thankful for our school, we certainly will no longer take for granted the opportunity to attend.  

I will say it again: None of us would have wished for the corona virus to invade our lives, but there are always blessings in the hard.  Tonight we picked up take-out for dinner from our favorite taco truck.  Once a week we’ve been getting take-out to help support our local small businesses during this time.  And we spent the remainder of the evening watching old family movies of the kids when they were little.  So fun.  We are making the most of our time at home together and count it a blessing.  



James & Anna

With the schools closing in the area for COVID-19, we now have a two week Spring Break!  We’re hoping to return to school at the end of the month, but nothing is certain right now.  We are enjoying more family time together with all of our activities and events cancelled.  It feels like Christmas break again, except none of us are sick.  A huge blessing!  We’re praying for health and safety and enjoying the time together until school resumes!  (Some of the photos are from earlier in the month.)

Play-dough roses

Anna helping make dinner rolls from scratch

James helping make Chicken & Potato Chowder

James making scrambled eggs and chocolate chip pancakes for dinner!

One of Anna’s art pieces from school was chosen to be displayed at a local library branch along with other students from our school!

James with a karate kick at our school’s Library Fun Night

New bike helmets