Family Quarantine Activities

Are you running out of activities? Are you and your kids going stir-crazy? I thought I would share what my family and I have been doing during the past few weeks. I hope it helps you with some ideas to fight the boredom and engage your kids. To clarify, we have not officially begun any distance learning with the schools yet. The schools did send over packets of things for my kids to do that include: Color by Number Math, Weekly Readers, and Sentence Practice sheets etc. Since our schools will be closed for the duration of the school year, we are expecting more structured learning to begin soon. Last week I did not stress about school work, because technically it was supposed to be their spring break. So, in no particular order, here are some things we have done so far:

1) Reading. My kids both love to read, so they usually read books every day without prompting. My almost 8-year-old daughter loves me to read her Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books out loud. I finished a real quick-read chapter book, Bunnicula right before the stay-at-home order. She loved it. My 5-year-old son has really come along on his reading. We alternate reading from a stack of books. The library here is closed, and we had books checked out. The library won’t hold us to any fees, so the kids are excited to keep the books for longer than 3 weeks.

Chalk-Your-Walk: We took a walk around our neighborhood and drew random hop-scotch boards, scriptures, and messages to spread positivity.

Cooking: I taught my kids how to measure out the ingredients to make Jell-O and pudding. It was quick and easy and it helped them learn about exact measurements and to practice stirring ingredients at a reasonable pace. We also made chocolate chip cookies. They have helped me before, but I gave them more freedom to follow each step. The kids enjoyed having more responsibility and the cookies turned out delicious!

Science: Together as a family, we made a paper-maché volcano together that really erupted and a very easy DIY lava lamp. The links for the volcano and the lava lamp are below. My daughter is really interested in the stars and the planets, so she started asking about the solar system. I was surprised that she, along with my husband and other family members never heard the acronym that I learned in school. Mercury (My) Venus (Very) Earth (Educated) Mars (Mother) Jupiter (Just) Saturn (Served) Uranus (Us) Neptune (Nine) Pluto (Pizza Pies). We sang it to the tune of Swany River. When we have a clear night sky, we will teach her more about constellations. If you are able to, pitch a tent in your backyard and have a campout under the stars.

Paper Maché Volcano

Lava Lamp.

Card Games & Board Games: I taught my kids how to play Crazy 8’s and 7’s. They also enjoy “Go Fish”. Some of our family favorite games are Apples to Apples, Yahtzee, and Candyland. We have the Disney version of Apples to Apples also, which makes it easier for younger kiddos to play along. Play charades. Play playground games like, “Red Light, Green Light” “Hokey-Pokey” or “Mother, May I?” Have you played all of the games you have? Have the kids make a new one.

Crazy Eights

The Ha Ha Game: the first person says, “Ha.” Next person says “Ha ha” Next person says “Ha ha ha”. Go back and forth adding a “Ha” each time until someone cannot control their laughter.

Going on a Picnic Game: Everyone takes a turn choosing something to bring on a picnic, but it has to be in alphabetical order. For example, the first person could say “Apples”, the next person can say “bananas”, etc. And try to make it through the whole alphabet.

“What are you Doing?” Game: I learned this game in my high school theatre class and it is a hit with young ones. One person starts by acting out something, almost like charades. It doesn’t have to be anything specific, just some kind of movement. The next person comes up and asks. “What are you doing?” The actor then tells them something they are NOT doing. The more creative and silly they get the more fun the game is. For example, they can say, “I’m sizzling like bacon,” or “I am dancing the Can-Can.” Then the person who asked, has to act out what the person says they are doing.

Zoo Virtual Tours and Live Cameras: We watched live streams from the Cincinnati Zoo and Georgia Zoo and even discovered some educational videos where we got to see animals up close.

Geography: States and Capitals. We have a United States puzzle at home that includes all of the capitals underneath the pieces, and if your kids are the same age as mine, it is not too early. It was even a good refresher for me, so it could really be a great activity for any age. I quizzed my kids afterward and awarded them with Skittles to motivate them.

Bear Hunt: This is a popular trend going on in the US right now. Neighborhoods are placing teddy bears in their house windows, so families who are walking will find them on a “bear hunt”. I had each of my kids put as many stuffed bears as they wanted in their window. They got a kick out of it.

Car Scavenger Hunt: Go for a drive and make a checklist of things for your kids to look for. Items like traffic cones, people walking a dog, a motorcycle, etc.

Chores: If you’re like me, you may have a bad habit of having an “I’ll do it myself” attitude, or “fixing” what your kids already cleaned. It is a good idea to resist this, because the kids need to have the skills to do basic chores. I’ll admit I am not the kind of mom that makes sure beds are made with perfectly creased sheets, heck, I don’t even own an ironing board. If I did, it would probably be used as a motorway for my son’s Hot Wheels. So, yeah, chores are not a big priority, but I admit it is time to get my kids to start helping around the house more.

Letters: Let’s not let snail mail go extinct. Most mailboxes this month are filled with ads, tax information, and bills. Add some sparkle to someone’s trip to the mailbox and surprise them with a letter from you or your kids.

Virtual Social Calls: Do you have family or friends that you only see during the holidays? Don’t let the social distancing take over completely. Initiate video calls with old friends, cousins, whomever!

Nature Walk: There are fields of poppies at the base of our mountains. We drove out there and walked along a trail. It was good to have some fresh air and the kids and I thought it was just beautiful.

Get to Know Your Kids: If you don’t know all of your kids favorites, take the time to find out now. If you want to go a few steps further, turn questions into journal prompts to help with writing. For example, “What would you do with $100?” “If you could have a wild animal for a pet, what would it be?” The “Would You Rather Game” is a good way to get to know your kids also.

Music Education: I have mentioned in the past that my music taste is incredibly random, but being a mom I always end up turning on Disney songs and Baby Shark type songs to entertain my kids. If you are sick of those repetitive kids songs that stick in your head long after the kids are in bed, see if there is some different songs that your kids would like. See how they react to classical music. One particular day, I just needed something different. I realized there were so many music genres that my kids are not familiar with. I put on a playlist I made of 40s music. The kids enjoyed it and it even made up little dances to the swinging, big band sound. And, of course, have dance parties!

Art Etc: My mother was a First Grade teacher for many years. One of the favorite activities were “Squiggles”. You start by drawing a random squiggle or shape on a piece of drawing paper. Have the kids transform the shapes into a picture all their own and/or write a sentence/story about it.

Find rocks and paint them. There are a lots of free print-out coloring pages online also.

Self-Care: Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Take a bubble bath or paint your nails. Let your daughter paint them, no matter if she is 3 or 13. It is a wonderful bonding activity.

Finally, it is okay to let your kids get bored. Do NOT! I repeat, DO NOT try to entertain your kids 24/7. You’re going to exhaust yourself. Let them play on their own and their creativity will grow. Playtime has benefits, even if you don’t necessarily see any evidence of it. Don’t be afraid to initiate quiet time, even if you have a wide age range of kiddos. Quiet time is always a good idea. I don’t know about you all, but I am hoping to have at least another week left in me, before I go cuckoo. I know this is hard, and I am not pretending that I have all the answers. We will get through this. Praying you all have a wonderful April.

A New Blessing

I have been holding it in for a long while, but I can finally tell the world of Word Press that this mama is expecting baby number three. A few days before Christmas day I saw those two beautiful pink lines that confirmed what I had been hoping for for the past 2 1/2 years.

2 1/2 years of trying for a third child felt like an eternity, being that our first two kids were conceived quite quickly. I started doing research after about a year, wondering if I was stressing too much, if I had to change my diet, or if it was too late. I was creeping closer to the age of 40 and the stereotypes haunted me. And since I have had two miscarriages, the scenarios of hopelessness in my head were elevated. A mother can move on and be at peace after a miscarriage, but no amount of time and grief will keep an expectant mother from worrying that another miscarriage could happen. We moms hold a piece of the experience forever. I thought I miscarried before this pregnancy was confirmed. I wrote my Angel’s Await poem around this time, because mom’s who have gone through miscarriage were heavy on my heart. For awhile I was so paranoid that I thought I was going through early menopause. I had zero symptoms, but I believed it, thanks to the first search engine hit on the Internet. Normally, I don’t take much stock in the information the Internet has to offer, but I still gave into all the doom and gloom I was seeing about infertility after 2 kids etc. So…yeah, don’t do that! However, after a year when I was going through some difficult stages with my two kids, I thanked God for not answering my prayer. I knew we weren’t ready, and I knew God had a plan.

This pregnancy resembles my two others, but it has also come with some new things. My first pregnancy, I was sick the whole first month, and after that it was easy, other than the occasional struggle with constipation. Jonny was easier, except when he kicked, he kicked HARD. When I was pregnant with Becky I craved lemon, having never cared for lemon in my life. When I was pregnant with Jonny the same thing happened with cucumbers. Unfortunately, I also lost my taste for bananas and cannot stand the smell of them to this day. So far, in this pregnancy, there are no strange cravings to report. During the first trimester, nausea only came at night. Right around dinner time, food of ANY kind sounded absolutely repulsive to me. Sometimes I had to leave the room after dinner was cooked, and I was able to come back and eat with no problem. Other times, I would just stare at my plate, trying to get the taste of the food, (I hadn’t even eaten), out of my mouth. With every gag, and every wave of nausea I used it as an opportunity to praise God. A third child was a great desire in our heart that we prayed for, our family prayed for, and our friends prayed for.

February was a difficult month, because it came with a lot of guilt for not keeping up with my writing. After all, I’m always home. I certainly had the time, but the smallest things would leave me exhausted. Every time I came home after dropping the kids off at school I would come home and collapse into the sofa. Part of it was the pregnancy taking my energy, and the other was that my cat, Alvin always looks up at me with those beautiful green eyes beckoning me to cuddle on the couch with him. I felt lazy. I felt pathetic. Thankfully, another writer friend of mine told me, “Just accept the season that you’re in and don’t beat yourself up about it.” She is so right!

I admire other women who have gone through pregnancies MUCH harder than mine. I know there are ladies out there right now, in their third trimester, still throwing up and struggling to keep nutrients absorbed into their body. I know there are ladies out there on bed rest, because of complications. I know there are ladies out there praying for their pre-mature babies to make it through the night. So, me writing about an easy pregnancy when others have it so much harder, is kind of obnoxious.

To the mamas, like me, who are getting older and are worried when their doctor claims that they are “high risk”, I know that it is easy to let that discourage you. And during this coronavirus craziness, it is only natural for us expecting moms to be more on edge. After all, women over the age of 40 give birth to happy and healthy babies all the time. I pray for the safety of this world every morning and I pray for blessings for mothers everywhere.

Children are a gift from the Lord ; they are a reward from him.
Psalms 127:3 NLT

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him…Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:12;17 NIV

Don’t Go Back to Normal

What was normal before COVID-19 rocked us all? I truly believe we all desperately want our world to be healed, but what is the “normal” we are waiting to get back to? What desires are driving us to escape our feelings of uncertainty? We all want that sigh of relief. We all want that day to come where, if we want to, we can buy an airplane ticket to Fiji, or even more luxurious, enter a supermarket with fully stocked toilet paper. Are we waiting to throw a gigantic party and celebrate the end of a “boring” few months? When you say, “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal” think about what that really means to you specifically. Does going back to normal mean only alotting the evening hours to our kids and families? Does this world really have compassion for the sick and other countries when there isn’t a pandemic to focus on? After this is over will countries resume their hate for each other, and disregard that we were all human together for a short while?

Although we were busy last month, we were still idle to the things around us. Scrolling through Facebook is just as popular now as it was before there were Coronavirus updates to check on. It is a convenient source for news, and the memes keep our spirits up, surely, but it still has the power to distract us from a huge opportunity that we all have to unite together. It is admirable that teachers, entertainers, and even normal “Joes” are using the Internet to spread hope during this time, but I shudder to think about what happens when this is all over. The hope and the unity will be quickly forgotten and dismissed. The news will quickly shift from a world united by quarantine to 2020 election mudslinging. What about in Venice, Italy where the water is more clear now, and dolphins have returned? What happens when they go back to normal there? Will the restored beauty not be enough to drive the apathy that created murky waters?

Don’t misunderstand this blog as a message of despair. I, myself, can’t wait to whisk my kids away to something super fun and exciting outside the four walls of our home. Staying home has taken it’s toll on me, and I know the day this pandemic is over, there will be so much joy in this world, it will be amazing! My intention is to help people realize that we have a gift. Do not wait until the quarantine is over to do good and to let out the same amount of joy that comes from attending a sporting event or taking a family vacation. If we start fueling the joy now, it will grow. Define a new normal where love and encouragement is so strong that all the noise of the world will be just a hum; a tiny mosquito that comes to annoy and suck life from you, but you have the power to swat it away and live a life with purpose. Don’t let the quarantine continue to live in you spiritually after it is lifted physically. We have all been quarantined longer than we think we are. Change your life now, before the “normalcy” returns. Don’t allow it to mess with your brain and compell you to continue staying put. Use this time you have with your family to grow closer. Don’t stop spreading the good in the world. Keep believing that the panic will die down and the financial woes will end. And if you haven’t already, turn to Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Nothing is impossible for Him. His promises are not lies.

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.
Matthew 13:15

So produce fruit that is consistent with repentance [demonstrating new behavior that proves a change of heart, and a conscious decision to turn away from sin]
Matthew 3:8 AMP

“I Give Up”× 3000

If you read the blog title and automatically thought of the Marvel reference, welcome, my people!

At what point does saying “I give up” lose it’s credibility. I know I am not the only mother who feels like she has said this phrase way too many times, in my head and out loud. What if we shared every single “I give up” on social media? I can just imagine the comments:

“There there…don’t let a bad 10 minutes label it a bad day.”

“Yes…you give up…we KNOW!!!!🙄”

“Did someone hack your account? Your status updates are all the same.”

“You give up, huh? Obviously not praying hard enough.”

These comments might not surface during our world’s current situation, because there is more solidarity with the “I give ups” among people trying to cope with all of the changes.

As I said in my blog last week, the Covid-19 pandemic is capable of heightening anxiety in parents everywhere. I have heard stories of parents stressing to re-create a full school day for their kids. Some parents are adjusting to working from home, some parents are stressing over daycare and babysitting, because they canNOT work from home. Some parents are waiters and waitresses who are not able to work. With the stress of hanging onto the last few rolls of toilet paper, and any of the above scenarios, I know there is potential for a wave of guilt to sweep our world.

I truly admire the way the school in our city came together and provided resources the best they knew how. Our schools even came together and provided meals for families. THAT is the America that makes me happy and proud. NOT the greed that drove people to empty grocery store shelves. I wonder, however, how administration letters were worded when contacting parents about said, resources. In this world where we communicate by text messages, the tone can be misconstrued many times. I wonder if the letters made parents think that they were responsible for sticking to ALL school resources and educating their kids 24/7, so that they won’t fall behind academically. I don’t think administrators intended on adding to our stress, but sometimes the wrong message can be sent, because we are human, and we sometimes interpret things differently. Whether they are printable worksheets or working online, I wonder if there are some parents out there thinking “They told me to make sure he was practicing his sight words. They said to make sure he practiced typing for 20 minutes. Oh no! He didn’t wake up until 10, and he played outside all day! I screwed up!” Breathe. No, you did not screw up.

Trying to shift gears to be employee, parent, and educator has the potential to be overwhelming. Yes, it is important to make sure your kids keep learning, but please know, that there can be small nuggets of learning in things that are not solely academic. The first day of my kids being home. I started with 2 hours of playtime. Don’t think that playtime isn’t important. It is! My kids were planning, thinking about solutions, and sharing their desires and dreams with me through their play. That is valuable!

Don’t be guilty if homeschooling is getting weird and complicated and you decided to take a break and binge watch all day. Don’t be guilty if you have a friend who is posting positive outcomes from their homeschooling experiences. “OH! You’re crushing the homeschooling, huh Mary, well my kids can quote a whole episode of Phineas and Ferb, over and OVER again. So there.” Try not to slack on your self-care either. If you need to spend some time alone in your room reading or napping, there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t even feel guilty if you have a week long staycation, especially if one of these quarantined weeks was going to be spring break anyways.

As for me, I am currently taking this one day at a time. I plan to use some of the materials the school sent over, but I am not going to stress about my kids falling behind, because I know that there are learning opportunities in many things. A good friend of mine said that she doesn’t want her kids to get into bad habits, like, sleeping late, watching tv, and going through the next week without any reading or writing. She says that teachers do not deserve us sending kids back to school and having to start all over. I agree. Don’t feel like you need to school them all day long, but don’t give up on the importance of reading and writing either. It can be as simple as writing a letter to a family member or writing down a monologue they have memorized from their favorite movie. Snail mail is becoming a lost art, so teaching how to address an envelope is a great learning opportunity as well. It is the first day of spring, so preparing a garden or talking about the changes of the season can be beneficial from pre-schoolers to high schoolers. Having your kids help with the chores is educational, and not child labor, no matter how many times your teens may roll their eyes. Put on some music and have a dance party while you wash dishes and sweep the floors.

There are many great resources out there. I have shared a few below. I also listed some books I have read over the past few months that have helped encourage me. I love that there is a movement of women writing books to encourage moms. Do not let the guilt push you down. If you feel like you are surrounded by grief and panic, don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends. No doubt, they may have similar struggles, and there is worth in working together to benefit you and your kids.

This past week, my city has had a record rainfall for this time of year. Yesterday, I stared at my backyard, gazing at the drenched grass and my tulips that are about to burst open. It was a gray day, with very little color. There was a veil of fog draped over the mountains. “That is beauty.” I said to myself. I automatically thought it was so strange that I said that. After all, gray is a gloomy color, and I had an English professor who labeled days like these as “vampire weather,” a symbol of darkness, isolation, and despair. Rain for our part of the country is always a blessing. The more rain we have, the less dust storms we will have. I saw the gray day that the rain brought, but I saw beauty before the color appeared. About 30 minutes later, a rainbow brightened the sky. Not a faint half rainbow, but a full, vibrant rainbow. There was more purple illuminated than I have ever seen in a rainbow before. My husband and I walked outside, gazed at it and embraced. “You have to think that is for us,” he said. And I truly believe it is. The Bible says that God will “heal our land”. Use this time of isolation and uncertainty to connect with God and to put your trust in Him. You may give up more than 3,000 times, but He will never give up on you.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
Psalms 72:6 KJV

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV

I set My rainbow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring clouds over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the clouds, When the rainbow is in the clouds and I look at it, I will [solemnly] remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
Genesis 9:13‭-‬14‭, ‬16 AMP

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
Revelation 4:3 KJV

Recommended Self-Help Books:

1) The Proverbs 32 Woman, by Kerri Pomarolli

2) Fierce Faith, by Alli Worthington

3) Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis

Educational Resources:

First of all, there is no harm in experimenting with challenging your kids. Read aloud from a chapter book just above their reading level, or see if they are ready for times tables. See if it interests them. If it doesn’t. No worries, but it may make them feel proud to sound out big words or learn something that won’t be covered until next year. Give them a block of time to read on their own, because they do this frequently in the schools.

Also, many museums and zoos have live streams and educational resources at their websites.

I have this on VHS. I loved it when I was a kid.

Does Your Anxiety Have Anxiety?

I am so thankful that two weeks ago, while, I normally just buy a 8-count roll of toilet paper, a little voice said, just get the big one this time. Jealous? Okay. We obviously have a sickness that is endangering many people. We are called to be cautious. I can understand people sharing articles that pass on vital information. I can understand that people need to be informed of who is at risk. What I do not understand is why people are sharing the articles that promote fear and anxiety over the Corona virus. It is not helpful to anyone to elevate news mediums that continue making their money off of exploiting our emotions and inducing panic. And everything nowadays has to be political. This stupid virus still hasn’t kept political sides from spreading nastiness and hatred. Ugh! Anyone who knows me, knows I can’t stand politics, so that is all I will say about that.

Someone posted that we should not go out with our kids, otherwise there is no point in closing schools. Hmm…alright. So we need to shut our doors, stay inside, and live in fear until the virus dies down? What exactly is this teaching our kids? We may as well board up our windows, right? We should take vitamin D supplements, for lack of sunshine, (that is until the grocery store runs out of those too). But, wait, doesn’t the Bible say “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” (Proverbs 27:12) Yes, it does, but it also says, “The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7). So, yes, take precaution, but you don’t need to withdraw your life savings and spend it on toilet paper over a respiratory infection that might infect you.

Based on the level of hysteria that is going on, it is adding a lot more anxiety to many people. I know I am not the only one that feels this craziness is giving my anxiety, anxiety. What are YOU sharing on social media? Messages of hope, or messages of negativity and outrage? Granted, I have laughed uproariously at some of the memes highlighting the ridiculousness of the situation. Some may say it is bad taste, because of the people suffering. Whether it is single digits or hundreds of infections, yes, those lives matter. But at least laughter is better than dwelling on fear of the future. I am not denying the seriousness of the virus. I don’t even expect everyone to agree with me, but my faith instructs me NOT to live in fear, and my belief is that if we don’t give into fear, the panic will dwindle and peace will overcome.

I know my fellow mamas out there have anxiety, and now that a threat of sickness is looming, it is not making our job any easier. Now, in addition to the anxiety of raising our kids and keeping house, and keeping up with jobs, we need to make sure our kids are washing their hands correctly. Maybe if you are extra anxious, you have created a hand-washing schedule. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. I wish I could be that committed. Our heads pop off the pillow in the middle of the night if we hear a sniffle or cough, because, what if? We are hanging onto our Clorox wipes like they are precious gold bars. When our kids ask questions about what is going on, we need to put them at ease. Maybe some of their friends are spreading more panic into their little minds, or maybe they are scared by the crowds fighting over soap and toilet paper. Some of us might not feel prepared for this. It’s way too much, and now the pressure to self-quarantine you and your kids without symptoms is a pressure that is circulating on social media. I am not planning on keeping my kids cooped up. I will not let this fear overcome them. If they get sick, of course I will keep them home, but I am not going to teach them not to live life. If your kids are home from school for the next few weeks, and you do choose to stay home, please try not to let the screens take over as the only entertainment. Turn off the news and don’t allow the worry to spread any further. Read a fun fiction book that requires little brain focus. Walk around the block. Teach them how to bake something. Play games. Talk. Use this time to be a family and to grow closer.

I was in a play when I was in 6th grade, that was promoting awareness of many serious issues. My character had a monologue about a brother who was in a gang and how I was afraid to go to my own mailbox. This is the world we live in. Threats are always there. Anxiety is always there, but we need to stop using our technology to heighten it. My pastor shared statistics about what average people worry about. 70% is worry about things that might happen, but never will. 22% is worrying about the past. So, 92% of what we worry about are things we have no control over. Yes, by avoiding large crowds, we have the power to defeat the virus, but we also have the power to choose not to be afraid.

I am praying for our world. I am praying for those affected by the virus, whether they are infected, recovering, or are family members of those affected. Skeptics will say that it won’t do any good. Some may criticize me for not protecting my kids the way that the world is saying I should. God is still in the healing business. God is still in the miracle business and God is NEVER responsible for spreading fear.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet, a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”
John 14:19 (ESV)