Thursday, May 28, 2020

Corona Me-It's the Last Day of School

No please, I'll pass on the Coronavirus, but I'll definitely take a Corona (Refresca, that is; they're pretty good for those wondering). It's been 10 weeks since we took on virtual learning, homeschooling, social distancing, and quarantine. It's been up and down. I had a mental break 3 weeks in (for the record, I went back to check on the good ole' blog here about my break and I was actually correct in that timing before looking it up. That's winning these days) when I decided, for everyone's well being, to switch to a homeschool approach.

I know I'm lucky when I say I can look back on these 10 weeks with fondness. We stopped. We enjoyed simplicity. We laughed. We cried. We worried. Then we laughed again. My minis thrived. My business didn't thrive, but that's about the only thing in my life that didn't thrive these last 10 weeks. My relationships thrived. Our family thrived. The minis are happy. They think it's cool to receive surprise mail from their teachers and saying goodbye to their friends and teachers via a Team Meeting.


I'm a mess. I'm disappointed the school year ended the way it did. I'm disappointed my sixth, newly seventh, grader didn't get a typical end to his first year of middle school. He missed out on so much: orchestra concerts, a performance in a play for acting class, assemblies, and time with his friends. I'm sad for him. I feel for my middle one who didn't get a special lunch with his favorite teacher, no talent show, no excitement at the end of today that he was finally a fifth grader. He doesn't know to be excited for fifth grade because there was no build up to it. I feel for my youngest who still had so much to learn from her amazing teacher, no dance pictures or costume pick ups, no cleaning out the locker and finding that missing sweater we've been searching for (although I'm fairly certain it's stuffed under her bed from her last round of "cleaning"). Instead their years were wrapped up in clear plastic bags and handed to us with masks covering everone's faces.

I feel the uncertainty for next school year. Instead of the emails thanking us for sharing our children with the school, we are getting reminders to fill out the latest parent survey to help the district make a decision on how to start school in a matter of months. Every year on this day, the mini's have school friends walk home with them and we do a huge backyard party with friends, daycare kids and friends, and a special family dinner. It's a celebration. This year didn't have that same ring to it. Just as I get confused about which day it is now, I feel confused about which time of year it is. Usually I'm dying for summer vacation to get here, yet it doesn't feel like summer vacation. The last day of school signifies so much: summer vacation followed by a start of a new school year. How that new school year begins has yet to be seen. The unknown of it all gets to me time and again.

The past 10 weeks haven't been a walk in the park, nor has today. Yet I look at my children's faces and I don't see the disappointment I so feel for them. Instead, I see happy faces who are excitedly talking about their day as if I wasn't with them through it all. These faces, currently covered in their end-of-the-year ice cream, don't realize the impact the last 10 weeks have had on me, our family, our family dynamic, and most importantly, our future. The future remains largely unplanned for us.

On the day when we were to be halfway to Texas by now (for our summer vacation, one that we're missing), I don't see the stress of the last 10 weeks. I see faces who had fun, who made memories and eased through it. I wouldn't have it any other way....but I'm totally taking another Corona as I prepare for our first day of summer vacay with (most) of the usual suspects. It's odd to think that on a typical last day of school I would be doing the same thing after the minis went to bed. It goes to show that there's always things you can count on despite what's happening in the world around us.

Memorial Day Weekend of Social Distancing

The warm weather has me missing our active lifestyle. I figured a long weekend was the perfect time for a day trip. I picked places we hadn't been to yet, things we hadn't done, and off we went. Our first adventure Friday night was getting the rental vehicle all packed up and read to go. Since I had to idea what was in store for us I had to pack a variety of clothing: an extra pair of clothes for us all, pants (just in case we needed them for hiking), hiking shoes and walking shoes, swimming suites, masks, extra socks, snacks, reading material, a playlist. The one thing I forgot were extra underwear for the kids (oops!), but they managed. 

Saturday took us to the countryside in Cumming, Iowa to Howells Tree Farm. There we spent 30 minutes snuggling baby goats followed by spending way too much on new flowers and plants. We all loved the goats! This was the first time we did their goat cuddling--I really can't believe we hadn't done it sooner. I tried to talk the minis into coming back another day for bottle feeding (the goats) but they asked to do another session of goat cuddling! We each had our favorite goats and we all left with funny stories to tell.

Goat cuddling took place in a greenhouse, so we didn't have to worry about the wet ground. Good thing too because we spent a lot of time sitting on the ground and letting the goats climb all over us.
I told Elizabeth to put her hair in a bun so the goats didn't get it...I didn't think once about my own hair. Big mistake! The goats kept JUMPING up to get my hair. They were also partial to my shirt. Weird.

Elizabeth wasn't too sure about the goats. She liked standing and petting them. She refused to hold them and didn't like that they kept biting her boots or her shirt whenever she sat down.

Elizabeth took most of our amazing pictures from goat cuddling!

This little girl, Clover, was our favorite. She was only a week old, brand new to "goat daycare," cried whenever someone got close to her, but cried when we set her down. Then she walked away and peed. That's why she was the mini's favorite.

After goat snuggling, we headed to southern Iowa. We checked out Red Haw Lake, hiked the lake trail (4+ miles, quite curvy, very few trail markers along the way, but a fairly even trail that was grassy most of the way), and played at the beach. The thing to do at this lake was fish. That's what 90% of all visitors were doing.

Pushing and attitudes at the start of our hike. Things turned around quickly with a few under-the-breaths "stop or I'll leave you here when we're done."

Check for frogs and fish. We've seen a lot of frogs, toads, snakes, and fish on our hikes lately.

Harrison discovered tad poles. 

Same kid also discovered broken bird eggs. He had to wash his hands in the lake after. As if that was cleaner!

The kids were having a grand time at the beach when mom had to pee. Thus our time at Red Haw Lake came to an end. The park bathrooms weren't open, so we masked up and went to the nearest gas station. From there I convinced everyone that we should go see the American Gothic house while in southern Iowa. I convinced them by bribing them with Steak n' Shake for dinner. So basically, we traveled an hour and a half to go to the Lake, another hour to the American Gothic House, about 45 minutes to get Steak n' Shake, then two hours home. Logical in my mind. 

In between the Lake and Eldon, Iowa to see the house, we drove through Albia. Along Hwy 34 we happened upon this memorial. After quickly looking information up, we learned it was called Welcome Home Soldier Monument. What a neat surprise in the middle of the Iowa countryside.

Books and journaling kept them busy while we traveled.

I've lived in Iowa all my life. I had never visited the American Gothic house, but I pictured it in the middle of a corn field with not much else around. Imgine my surprise when we discovered the house with IN town, surrounded by neighbors. In fact, a disc golf course sits on the opposite side of it with a bike trail running in front of the house. I was mindblown for a minute there. Our visit was made more special because the minis had learned about Grand Wood a couple of weeks prior in art class.

I wonder if we could visit all of them in one summer?? I feel another Tour in the works...

Gardetto's are a requirement for all road trips. The minis got in on it this round. They've been reluctant to try them up until this point! They've now discovered how addictive they are.

Matt surprised us when he said "we're making a quick stop in Mount Pleasant." He brought us to Sheaffer Park! The kids were excited to visit their very own park (it was just a grassy field), but weren't thrilled about the picture taking. I've decided we need a street sign that says 'Sheaffer Street.'

Burgers and shakes. Totally worth the bribe to see things earlier in the day.

Sunday we had a family grill out (in the rain) and then worked on projects around the house. We got the dog kennel picked up for the puppy, the basement cleaned (a bit) and furniture shuffled around. It was a bigger job than it sounds like. 

You didn't think we'd get a dog kennel and the kids NOT mess around with it, did you??

By Sunday evening the minis were playing school and math games in the playroom.

Monday got to be my "lazy day." I pretty much laid around, watched movies, and read books all day long. The oldest made breakfast quesadillas for us all and then they played in the rain in the afternoon. Hubs worked on electrical and installed new outlets in the homeschool room just in case we need to use that room as a school room longer than anticipated.
Breakfast quesadillas, complete with queso and salsa for dipping.

This is how long his hair has gotten. He called himself a troll as he danced in front of the mirror. This kid cracks me up.

They had to use the hose in the rain too because it wasn't pouring enough on them.

Not a bad intro to the unofficial start to summer!