Sunday, May 3, 2020

Nature

Visiting Gibbs Gardens has been a joy for our family during this unique season. We had no idea it'd be a spot that would remain open and have loved checking out the change in blossoms, walking together, and enjoying so much beauty. One of the times I took along a scavenger hunt for the little girls to complete and they enjoyed having that to focus on (and the reward of fruit snacks at the end!). I've found it so calming to walk and sit in the stillness of nature and the outing together as a family has been wonderful. A few of these walks, I had some real time to process internally and just listen. God's comforting voices was woven into so many moments - the steps, the quiet benches, the blossoms, the pathways. Beautiful.










 This one isn't in Gibbs, but in a random spot of a parking lot where we had a picnic with burgers and fries. It was new and different from eating at a restaurant, but gosh, we had fun!

This was our next trip there (looking forward to going again soon!)





 I fell in LOVE with this plant! I've always loved hydrangeas, but had never seen a variety that blooms like this (and so early!). We came home and figured out that we have THREE of them planted at our house! SO EXCITED!





Church At Home

I gave a recap here, but wanted to put the photos in one spot. Our Sunday photos together of church at home. We were able to spend our first weekend of home church with grandparents celebrating Tayler's baptism weekend!

 Kiddos teaching their lessons.




 The very end of general conference weekend. Easily it was our most favorite general conference as a family. We talked about why it was different, and while it was nice to have a free schedule, we found the real change was in the preparations and conversations beforehand. So grateful for the counsel from President Nelson and looking forward to studying the new messages together!






 We are so grateful for this bunch!

Life

It's amazing to look back and see how quickly things can change globally. What began as "something tragic happening across the globe" transitioned into "something tragic happening here." It brings up so many emotions. As I'm writing this well into the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to record a snapshot of what "life" looks like now.

SCHOOL

School quickly evolved from cancelling for two days to clean the buildings, to online schooling for two weeks, to online schooling for a month, to online schooling for the rest of the year.

Our first week was rocky. If I were to sum it up in one word, overwhelm would totally cover it. Trying to juggle the explosion of emails, the variety of online programs and log-ins felt like my brain was ready to explode. But as with all things, each step got a little easier, and as the schools adjusted the workloads and streamlined so much of the teaching, we found a flow that has been working well. But gosh, that first week was pretty crazy.

That first week I quickly realized I'd need to supplement significantly. With the libraries closed, it wasn't long before the kiddos had drained all of our books, so Easter timed well with some new books for each kiddo. And, we figured it was an opportunity to "seize the day" and ordered a handful of math manipulatives, restocked on some art supplies and ordered something I've wanted for ages - a microscope! It's been fulfilling from my role, to not simply cross off their online learning for the day, but to spend a short amount of time together learning and doing something intentional. We've done collages, mosaics, watercolors, microscope discoveries, yoga, writing prompts, virtual tours of places, cooking, Petri dishes and science experiments like the pepper/water/dish soap to learn about germs. In many ways, it's been our "cheetah school" again but with the whole crew together. And we spend lots of time outside! Basketball, bike rides, golfing, bubbles, building fairy houses, sidewalk chalk (when we can find it!) and teaching Vern how to play fetch!

We've had some super thoughtful teachers as well. Mailing handwritten notes and sending messages through email and Marco Polo and chatting on FaceTime. Abby's kindergarten teachers even dropped by one day with treats and a wave!

And while school in this way is something we never expected, I am so grateful for the time I've had to teach each kiddo in this way.

WORK

Mike's been tasked with working from home during this time and played around with some spots in the house until he settled in the master bedroom for the bulk of work and then popping outdoors when possible for calls. He's been a rockstar with the juggle and transition and we've been so grateful to see him for lunch, or for little windows of time here and there. While we know he'll be getting back to the office the middle of May, we are SO grateful for this added time we've been able to spend together.

HOME

As it turns out, having all six folks at home all the time (and one puppy) has definitely made for a lot more messes, a lot more food, lots more dishes and lots more of everything. But everyone has been awesome at stepping up and helping with the extra work (well, except for when they don't!).

CHURCH

We just wrapped up our 8th week of "church at home." We've found a rhythm that's working for us, and we've really loved the simplicity. While it's ever evolving - this week was the first week we actually split the kids into two groups - one for "primary" and one for YM/YW, rather than keeping everyone together the whole time - we're learning and growing with the process. We sure do miss seeing those faces of friends and growing from the light and strength of others, but we are so grateful for the guidance and direction of President Nelson who truly prepared us for a time such as this. We are so grateful for his direction and how it has impacted our family - not only on Sundays, but each day of the week with the Come Follow Me program. Some moments are small and woven in a whole bunch of crazy, but they are there.

VERN

Countless times, I've thought how much of a gift Vern has been for all of us. He wakes up joyful, excited and so full of excitement in each day. When we picked him up the middle of February, we had no idea that we'd get to spend so much time with him and it's been amazing to see him really connect with each one of us, and get all the puppy play time imaginable. He's been a light, a comfort and a clear friend, especially when any one of the kids is having a hard day.

SHOPPING

In the beginning, it was interesting to observe the community reactions to the initial phases of the process. It's hard to describe how eerie it was taking those trips to the stores and seeing inventory completely depleted, signs up on limits, and people walking with panic in their faces. Fascinating to see what went first - toilet paper (ha!), paper towels, all types of soaps, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, oatmeal, rice and over the counter medications were the first to go. Then it rolled into other areas - canned foods, bread, any type of packaged pasta, meats, milk (!), eggs, flour, yeast. Shelves completely empty. Lines to get into stores. I remember looking around Costco and for the first time seeing the bulk of their upper shelves empty, and section after section just empty or with only a pallet of product. Going from a safety net of walking into any store pretty much anytime for anything to suddenly standing in lines, choosing from what was available and seeing limits on so many items felt awkward and surreal. Mike and I tag team with who goes to the store, and we online order where possible.

FAMILY TRADITIONS

In some ways, some of our regular traditions have become more frequent and less rushed. FAMILY DINNER every night has been a normal and we haven't had that since the kids were littles. It's been SO wonderful. We love reading questions from the game TABLE TOPICS during the week. Such a fun conversation that breaks up the "what'd you do today?" repeat question. Even with the shelter in place ruling, we maintained our family dinner out. When it was still an option, we'd pick up dinner and eat it at a park, otherwise, we'd bring it home. Last week was the first week in over a month that we've been allowed to eat at a park again, and it was SO WONDERFUL!

CONNECTION

We've been striving to connect with each kiddo in some way one on one each day. It's been simple and short, but there is so much value in even a few minutes of eye contact and time together. We've loved connecting through games, challenges (who can run the hill), puzzles and watching the amazing race series. FaceTiming or zooming with friends and family has been such a gift!

DATES

We've kept our "daily dates" strong - where we bookend the days together. While we've been waking up early together, it's been awesome to have the time to exercise, read scriptures and chat without either one of us on a time clock to buzz out the door. We've spent some time on house projects, most recently staining our back deck and getting some seating for the covered porch, complete with lights! We often wrap up the evenings listening to birds, owls, coyotes (or the occasional bear!). Mike and I have been able to enjoy a weekly Friday night date consistently during this entire thing and it has been the most frequent we've been able to do that in YEARS! Between work, school and church commitments, we seem to always have something somewhere that makes the juggle of dates a once a month occurrence. We have LOVED going out together once a week. And during the shelter in place, we built a little routine of picking up take out, eating it together (in the car for a few weeks!) and pick up "essentials" at a store together. So simple but we love the intentional time together and it's something we both look forward to each week!

SERVICE

We've sought out some intentional service opportunities within our community. It seems that anytime we can step out of our own "space" and step into someone else's, our life feels a little brighter. We reached out to the nursing home we'd visited before, and were able to drop off notes and homemade cards to their door for residents. We joined up with a local Atlanta group for making face masks. The kids were awesome helping to cut and prep the fabric. The sewing was a bit more technical than we'd originally thought, and it took some serious time on the sewing machine, but we were able to finish them and deliver them! We also found a local food bank that was in need of some staple supplies and were able to go drop those off. At first I thought it'd be really hard to find service to do as a family but once we started looking around, the needs were all around. And while we can't control or fix all the hard things happening right now, we hope in some small way to be a drop in the bucket. That a little offering, combined with so many other little offerings adds up to something great.

MINDSET

It's fascinating how much "routines" and "plans" completely shift. Things we "thought" were happening at the first of the year went to being postponed and then went to being cancelled. Fascinating to see how the mind processes what we thought the future would look like to stepping more fully into embracing the present moment for what it is. Interesting too to make "plans" in this season. Everything seems a bit like a plan A (go to do the thing) or plan B (stay home) which hasn't been something we've juggled before. But I believe we're learning a lot about flexibility and hope. And so much gratitude for our health, which really is what all of this is about anyway - not only for our family for for (hopefully) helping other families stay healthy as well. Overall, we feel really grateful for this time. While I won't write all of the details of the struggles, they've been there. Hard things have come up, disappointments, fears, uncertainties and anxieties. But, we keep taking the next breath and settling into the next step. We trust God's hand in all things. And that's okay. And there have been some amazing moments. Ones that I know I will hold in my mind for this time and season of life of motherhood. We've been able to spend time together in ways that would have been impossible otherwise, and while the reasons for this opportunity are complicated, hard, and heavy, it's our hope to grow the good, keep finding purpose in this place, and remember that God's hand truly is guiding all of us.
 Just before the official "shelter in place" we took the older two to the store so they could see the empty shelves. Crazy.
 First day at Costco as they were setting up a "new normal" for shopping.
 Kiddos sharing their schoolwork with one another! Tayler made a powerpoint on puppies.
 Chasing sticks.
 Reading time
 Castle building during our weekly theme of "fairy tales."
 I never regret planting bulbs! My parents helped me plant these in November along with some Daffodils! They have been so beautiful!!
 Love love the puzzle and game time we've had!

The kiddos have had a blast jump roping
 Abby found a slug at our house and we took it with us on a nature walk so she could give it a new home. She LOVED the whole process.
 This puppy LOVES having them home!!
 Building fairy houses!
 Science experiments - how many coins to make the boat sink?
 Our first 500 piece puzzle together. We've done a few more and have been having a blast doing them!
 Getting exercise on a nature walk together.
 Abby learned how to bike down and up our hill! I told her she had to pass off figure 8s in the driveway, stop and start and maneuver through cones on her "new bike" (we bumped up the kids in their bikes because they've all grown, and Max is actually riding around on my old road bike!). She was determined and worked SO hard every day until she mastered it. Then she was off! She loves being able to join her siblings on the street!
 Yoga time! I took them out on the deck for a yoga class one afternoon which was a bit chaotic - we didn't bring mats and were barefoot and 50% of the kiddos ended up with splinters. Oh well!
 Puppy love.
 More puppy love!
 Two peas in a pod!
 Sisters!
 Hanging out reading together!
 Me as I was finishing up the last steps of staining the deck! It was a ton of work but turned out really nice!
 Sewing masks on a rainy day in the basement!
Dying Easter eggs! Such a relief to do this out on the GRASS!
 Alexis built this fun and creative reading robot. When you turn it around there's a spot to hold books. Tayler and Abby have loved putting their books in the robot!
 Max joined me for an early morning run. And shortly after, Alexis joined me for a run - I didn't get a picture of it, but it was so awesome to spend this time with each of them!
 We took Vern out on his first walk! He was crazy.
 She ADORES him.
 And so does she! Well, they all do!
 Backyard tag and games (with a newly stained deck in the background!).
 These two have had so much fun together. During Vern's first month with us, Mike traveled a huge portion of it, and hadn't had the chance to really spend time with him. It's been so fun seeing these two. They are buds!
 Our annual "pot painting" tradition continues!
 Planted them with seeds and ready to see how they grow!
 A typical morning of school work together. A picture I never thought we'd see happening, but so GRATEFUL for this.
 Bikes and basketball.
 Abby has been determined to learn basketball with Max. She's been amazing at it and he's been a rockstar teacher. Max has even gotten the girls to all play 2:2 basketball together. It's been so fun.

 Vern loves these kiddos. This is a typical shot of him - looking at all of them to see what's happening next.
 Piano lessons with the girls! Alexis is missing in this photo, but gosh I love this view as their mom and teacher!
 First time eating at a park in over a month! We were so excited the shelter in place lifted for our weekly dinner out as a family. It was so sweet to see the excitement of getting to eat at a park together!

Mike and I put this trampoline together and the kids are loving it. It was a beast to put together, but the kids love it!