Thursday, August 27, 2020

FAMILY CAMP 2020

Obviously, this year has been upended, and nothing has looked the way we thought it would.  When we were canceling things off our summer calendar, it felt super depressing.  We were in a dark place in May as a family, and we knew we needed something to look forward to.  We realized that Kanakuk was still opening their doors, and we made the decision to head up to Branson in June.

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We went last year to K-Kauai and had a great time but hadn't planned to be back until 2021.  But once we saw that it was open and saw the precautions they were taking, it seemed like a risk we needed to take.  And I am so glad that we did.  Everything right now is a risk/reward proposition, and for us, the reward outweighed the risks.

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The week's theme was Mahalo, which felt super appropriate.  It turned out to be a wonderful week where Covid obviously played a role but was not on center stage.  There were fewer families than normal, and they adjusted the schedule, spaced everything out and moved even more things outside.  Our kiddos had the time of their lives - especially after having been mostly cooped up for the months before.

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There were treats by the pool everyday, excellent counselors pouring into our kids every morning and even a couple of date nights, which had been such a rarity in our world at that point.  Basically, we had a lot of freedom to enjoy being together in a new environment.

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There were still themed party nights, though I didn't have the time or energy to go as all out on costuming this year.

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All in all, it was a great week, though we did go ahead and upgrade for next year to the larger/more room option, because we do not thrive all in one room together.  I'm so thankful for camp being open and the ways they ministered to our family during a difficult season.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

BACK TO THE WEIRDEST SCHOOL YEAR EVER

All we parents seem to have talked of for the past month+ is school.  Will you go in person?  Will you go virtually?  Will you homeschool?  So many options, and yet, finding normalcy in the middle of them is not exactly on the table yet.  When school ended abruptly last year, some of us managed better than others.  We learned that virtual learning is not the best plan for the twins, and knowing that there is still so much uncertainty with this coming school year, we made the difficult choice to switch schools.

So, we went from having all four kiddos in one beloved school, to having four kiddos in 3 schools, two of them totally new to us.  I've adjusted to the idea all summer, but now we are learning the ins and outs of executing that plan.  None of that even takes into account the Covid measures that our schools are taking which also change everything.  (As a side note - this is a MASSIVE SHOUT OUT AND THANK YOU to all teachers, staff and administrators.  Y'all are the real MVPs, and I so appreciate everything you are doing to make this work!!!!)

Yesterday, everyone was at school for the first time since March 12th.  And though the drop off situation took almost 2 hours total including forgotten medicine and extra long car lines, it felt really good to drop them all off.

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The twins actually started last week, and they are going in person, 5 days a week.  The school we have switched to actually never had to close during the pandemic, because the population they serve does not thrive doing school online.  We needed a pandemic proof school, so this is a match made in heaven.  I have been so pleased at the care and intentionality they have already shown, and so far, though the twins miss their old school, they seem to be doing very well in the new environment.

First Grade

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Lily and Bella are doing the blended option for school for the time being.  They'll go in person 2 days a week and virtually 3 days.  Bella is the only one going back into familiar surroundings for 4th grade, and she was SO READY to be back in a classroom setting!  We had a virtual meet and greet with her teacher, who also taught Lily, and so far, it seems to be going well.  We'll see how virtual looks tomorrow.

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Lily, bless her heart, has started middle school in the midst of everything.  This has included an outdoor meet and greet for 6th grade girls, but it did not include a tour where we got to walk her schedule.  I basically dropped her off with her classes/teachers/rooms/times printed out and hoped for the best.  She really does seem to be rocking it so far, even though this is a massive change.

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We've been trying to celebrate and also pace ourselves.  The beginning of school, especially after a 5 month break, is exhausting.  I realized that I am still traumatized by all this year has contained, and this shift is welcome, though also filled with unknowns.  It's so good to be getting some routine back. It is so nice to have even two days a week in my house where I can think my own thoughts.  I will absolutely take it and be grateful for it and hope that it can last.

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Wherever this school year finds you, I hope that you are making the most of it!  We certainly are doing our best.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

WALKING THE MINEFIELD OF 2020

I'm exhausted.  You are probably exhausted, too, whoever you are that might be reading this.  This year is on my last nerve, and we just passed the half way mark.  I am not prone to anxiety, and I've felt it creeping in as I contemplate the next six five months (I started writing this at the beginning of the month and am only now finishing it) that include a continuing pandemic and a contentious election.  I spent a little time scrolling Facebook and realized that so many people are screaming, scathing or sarcastic.

I feel it too.  I want to yell and scream about the things that matter to me.  I want to be understood.  I want people to consider that maybe, just maybe, they may be wrong.  This includes myself.  I want to walk this life with humility, understanding that there are a billion things I need to learn about, and I want to be able to change my position as I receive new information.

It feels impossible to get this year right, because so much is still unknown.  And I'm angry about it.  I've been really open about the fact that quarantining just about did our family in.  That said, I understand the continued need to physical distance and use masks.  We are still neck deep in this virus that is probably not going to kill you or me, but the sheer volume of people getting sick and the lack of effective treatments mean that we need to continue to slow it down.

That said, we are working to normalize as much as possible for our children and taking calculated risks.  Our big girls went to camp, and we all went to family camp earlier this summer.  We went to the beach.  We've been taking precautions and using masks and distancing, but I know we are still taking risks.  We can and will distance from anyone in our circle that is more vulnerable.  We want to stop the spread.  But we also must advance our mental health that has suffered greatly this year.

We'll be sending our kiddos to school in the fall, doing a mix of in-person and virtual with the big girls, whatever that looks like, and in-person for the twins who fall into the category of necessitating in-person instruction.  I am praying fervently for our teachers and school administrators who are tasked with something impossible.  None of us have ever done this, and it is certainly not one size fits all.  And I'm prepared for them to come home again if that is what ends up happening as seems highly possible.

I guess as I rant and rave through the minefield that is this year, I hope and pray that we can offer grace to one another and to ourselves.  How can we love each other well during a time that is hard on everyone?  To my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I would humbly ask how we can put other's needs ahead of our own?  If I feel like I "need" to go to the beach, then I also need to wear a mask to protect others from any possible exposure I might encounter.  If I am taking risks, then I want to protect those around me.  I would likely be fine getting Covid, but so many around me might not be.

None of us is getting this perfect.  It is so easy to scroll through social media and pick apart what people are doing, especially when you don't know even a quarter of the story.  Or if you do know part of the story and disagree with it, as is often the case, it's easy to deride someone in your own mind.  But I can't change what that person is doing.  I am responsible for me, and my family and our attitudes.  Criticism is easy.  Leading and making choices and living is much harder.

I want to make choices that take me from being the critic to the questioner.  From the screamer to the soother.  For me, that's only possible in God's grace, and even then, it's an uphill battle.  Especially to my fellow believers in Christ, let's look for ways to lead with love, instead of fear-mongering and twisting of "truth" on all sides.  Let's not allow the relational fall-out from Covid be worse than the lives lost.  Cheers to loving better and listening more.  And just being quiet when we can't be kind.

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QC: TWINS' UNDER THE SEA DRIVE-BY BIRTHDAY

I know it's June July, but I never posted about the twins' birthday party back in April.  Better late than never.  And though this is obviously not the birthday I had had in mind for them, it turned out to be a lot of fun.  Drive by parties really let you maximize balloons, so that was a bonus.  And, the twins loved it and felt celebrated.  Plus there was less overall cleanup.  All in all, drive by parties have some things I might keep in the end, because it was a quick, fun way to make the twins feel special and get to see friends.

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As usual, my sister designed the cutest invite for the event, highlighting sharks and mermaids.


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The girls and I blew up a BUNCH of balloons.

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We had cake with family a couple of days before the party.

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And our birthday twins thoroughly enjoyed the day.  We had The Little Mermaid soundtrack going, a bubble machine and snacks to pass out as friends came by.

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Of course, our snacks were themed - Goldfish and Swedish Fish.  I also got a cake for us to have after dinner that night, because you can just never have enough cake.

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When it's all said and done, I think the twins will have fond memories of this birthday, and for that, I am thankful.

Twins' Past Parties
{Twins' Donut Party}
{Twins Ice Cream Party}
{Twins' Fiesta Fourth}
{Hungry Caterpillar Party}
{Berenstain Bear Party}
{VW Party}

All other Spenst parties here!