Have you seen that meme going around about 2020 being a unique leap year? “It has 29 days in February, 300 days in March, and 5 years in April.” Yep, that sounds about right.
Despite the strangeness of this seemingly endless month, our April was a good one. We’ve been taking full advantage of the time at home to spend time as a family, establish some healthy routines for the twins, and dig in deep with homeschooling. While my heart goes out to all who are suffering due to illness, loneliness, job loss, or heartbreaking cancelations, this time of quarantine has been a mostly positive experience for our little family unit. Here’s a glimpse at some of the month’s highlights.
// READING LATELY //
I read several wonderful novels this month. This thriller had a twist I never saw coming, this unexpectedly absurd title actually lived up to the hype, and this genre-bending thriller/literary novel explored a challenging subject matter with compassion and intrigue.
In the world of nonfiction, I was blown away by the writing and the ideas in this Biblical deep-dive, learned a lot about the act of decision-making from this insightful book, and resonated with almost every word of this deeply vulnerable essay collection. I also continued to explore the theme of joy with this book and this one.
Last week I received my issue of the new MOPS magazine in the mail, and it has been an absolute delight to read. I have especially loved seeing the theme of joy woven through the magazine’s pages. The very first essay (a version of which can be found here) brought me to tears and reminded me of WHY I am pursuing joy this year. I appreciated the opening letter from MOPS President Mandy Arioto about the numerous silver linings that can be found amidst our current crises. She writes:
“Mornings became unhurried and evenings calm. The harmful systems that said you have to do more to be more crumbled under the weight of the pandemic. Many have found soul rest for the first time in years. Sure, there are tears, but there is more laughter. I believe pain can happen at the exact time as healing, and that’s what we’re seeing—individuals, homes and nations have been forced into doing their work in order to heal. . . . I can’t help but think this is doing something positive to our species. There is a collective feeling of unity, of wanting to do right by our fellow mankind .”
And then there was the following definition of joy, which is part of MOPS’ theme for the coming year:
// WATCHING LATELY //
Onward ~ In this film of mythical creatures and magic, two adolescent elf brothers embark on a one-day quest to rediscover their deceased father. Meanwhile, their Mom teams up with a manticore to find her missing sons and bring them home. I have to admit that when I saw the trailer for this movie, my first thought was, “well, THAT obviously isn’t Disney” because it just didn’t seem like a Disney-quality (let alone Pixar-quality) film. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this odd looking movie was, in fact, a Pixar production. And because Pixar has proven itself to me time and again, I conceded to giving the movie a chance. (The nearly-instant release to Disney Plus certainly helped, as I don’t think I would have paid to see it in the theater).
Well, once again, Pixar came through for me. The odd premise actually proved quite creative, mixing together familiar tropes in a way that felt entirely fresh. I loved the themes of family, courage, and confidence, and was very impressed with the vocal casting. I did have a hard time getting on board with some of the more bizarre magical elements, but overall found this a very enjoyable and family-friendly film. And yes, I totally bawled at the end, but that too is to be expected from a Pixar movie.
My Rating: 4 Stars.
// LISTENING LATELY //
I’ve recently fallen in love with the Classical Crossover station on Google Play Music and have been streaming it all day long on the Sonos speakers in our house. This new-to-me genre combines instrumental music and occasional vocals with a mix of contemporary and traditional songs. I’m really enjoying the blend of comfortably familiar melodies and unexpected instrumentation, and the soothing sounds make for the perfect background music that our whole family is enjoying.
// LOVING LATELY //
Homeschool Resource ~ With Charleston starting Kindergarten in the fall, I’ve been taking his PreK homeschooling much more seriously in recent months and have been delighted by the numerous resources available for schooling at home. One recent find is Education.com, a website that provides worksheets, games, and lesson plans for Preschool through 5th grade. Though the site does provide some free resources, I paid for an annual membership and have found it to be worth every penny. The high-quality resources are standards-based and cover a range of subjects. The website is easy to navigate and I like that it allows me to customize Charleston’s schoolwork by level and subject matter, supporting him in specific learning areas in a way that a workbook can’t.
Digital Puzzles ~ While I’ve long been a puzzle fan, I haven’t done one (at least not an adult-sized one) since Charleston was born, since elaborate jigsaw puzzles aren’t exactly little-kid friendly. But with the resurgence of puzzle popularity during quarantine, I was craving the experience of piecing one together. Enter the puzzle app. No, it’s not as satisfying as completing a physical puzzle, but I’ve been quite impressed with the experience this app provides. There are numerous lovely images to choose from, all of which can be customized from 9 to 400 puzzle pieces. The app has several kinesthetic features that really bring the puzzle-building experience to life. I have deeply enjoyed piecing together puzzles while listening to audiobooks during middle-of-the-night nursing sessions.
A Kid-Friendly Tool ~ I recently found these light-up toothbrushes for Charleston and they have been a HUGE hit. With the push of a button, the toothbrush flashes for one minute, giving Charleston a visual cue as to when to switch to the next row of teeth. He has had so much fun with this that he’s been asking to brush his teeth multiple times per day! In addition to the light-up feature, the toothbrushes have suction-cup bottoms which Charleston also finds quite impressive. If I’d known $3 could lead to such an enthusiasm for dental hygiene, I would have bought these toothbrushes years ago!
At-Home Workouts ~ As I mentioned in my day-in-the-life post, I’ve discovered recently that I have difficult staying motivated to exercise when my workouts lack variety. While I’m still working my way through the MUTU system, the repetition in those workouts was getting old, so I’ve been alternating days of MUTU workouts with other exercise videos I find online. My latest favorites are the free workouts on Fitness Blender, a fitness site created by a husband/wife team of personal trainers. The site features more than 500 workouts, ranging from 10 to 80 minutes long and with varying intensity levels and exercise varieties, allowing you to choose your workout based on length, intensity, body focus, or equipment. I like the mix of traditional and new-to-me exercises and appreciate the instructors’ encouraging yet realistic vibe. The workouts I’ve done have been challenging yet attainable, especially with the suggested modifications. These are a great option if you are looking to add some at-home workouts to your day but don’t want to commit to a pricy program.
// MONTHLY CHARLIE-ISMS //
Although I would consider Charleston an extrovert, he has done remarkably well during this enforced time out home. Of course he has his moments of boredom and complaining, but for the most part he is excellent at entertaining himself and it’s been fun to see the ways he chooses to fill his time. This was a month of drawing, list-making, and endless coloring for Charleston. He and I have also been having fun coming up with daily activity challenges, which is something I’ll share more about soon. And time at home has done nothing to quell the fountain of funny quips that stream from his mouth on a daily basis.
+ Watching me clean the house: “Mom, is it only girls who do cleaning stuff?” This was followed by him making me a sign to hang at the door of each room I was cleaning.
+ Talking about why he doesn’t like to pray in front of anyone: “I pray my own times when no one’s around because I never want them to know how good I am at doing it.”
+ When I mentioned that a lot of restaurants are currently closed except for drive-thru: “What about restaurants with toys in the kid’s meals? Are they still open for the drive thru? They are? Good. . . good . . . good.” (Said in his most thoughtful voice.)
+ “Mom, I have to tell you something. I a little bit like that this sickness is around because I WOULD have to sing two songs at church, but right now we only have to do one song.” (Referring to the preschool videos our church releases every Sunday which do, in fact, only feature one song.)
+ Responding to my saying that I would “do my best” to draw a good maze for him to complete: “I feel like you don’t always have the same amount of best.”
+ On a hot and sweaty walk: “Why do I feel like there is water in my armpits?”
+ When I wondered aloud if we could buy a coconut at the store. “Of course we can. They have everything at HEB Plus!”
+ When he was learning to count past 100 and guessed that 109 was the biggest number: “You’re 36 now, right Mom? So when you get to 109, then you’ll be all done with birthdays?”
+ When I saw him sitting down to write a list and asked him what he was doing: “Oh, I’m just coming up with my plan to defeat Satan.” It was an elaborate plan involving creating a gun to give to Jesus to use.
// HAPPENINGS AND HIGHLIGHTS //
Easter was different for all of us in a lot of ways this year, but our family was able to continue with many of our usual Easter traditions. In addition to reading our collection of Easter books and portions of the Easter story in various children’s Bibles in the weeks leading up to Easter, we spent time each day of Holy Week with our Easter Story egg. Charleston enjoyed opening the nesting Eggs each day and hearing the corresponding Bible story. Because we’ve done these eggs for a few years now, he is familiar with the images and the stories they represent. I think this was our first Easter where he truly understood the meaning of the holiday, and it was so cool to be able to have some spiritually rich conversations with him throughout Holy Week.
On Good Friday we “attended” our church’s communion service online. It was short but poignant, and Charleston got to take communion with us for the first time, which was really special.
On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, we spent the morning dying Easter eggs, a tradition I have loved since I was a little girl. I wasn’t sure how our eggs would turn out this year since a number of our eggs were brown (it was all they had at the store one week) and the dye I found was an off brand that we hadn’t tried before. Much to my surprise, they turned out beautifully! Rather than hardboiling eggs, we did all confetti eggs this year and Charleston enjoyed helping Luke stuff the eggs with tissue paper confetti and putting stickers all over the eggs once they were done.
That afternoon we FaceTimed my parents for a virtual egg hunt. They had hidden plastic eggs around their house and Charleston had to “guide” them around their house to find the eggs. Each egg contained a challenge like “tell what Easter is about”, “kiss a sister,” or “act like a bunny.” It was so creative and a total blast, and I LOVE that we were able to celebrate with them despite the miles between us. (Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the virtual egg hunt since Charleston was using my phone, but I DID get pictures of the kids with the cards my parents sent!)
That night we got ready for the Easter Bunny. Per our usual tradition, the kids put out empty baskets for the Easter Bunny to fill, some plastic eggs for him to stuff, and carrots for his midnight snack. This was our first year to set out THREE baskets!
The next morning, we woke up to find the Easter Bunny had indeed paid us a visit. (We are so thankful he is considered an essential worker and didn’t have to comply with social distancing laws). Charleston was adorable checking out the contents of his own basket and that of the twins, then searching the house for plastic eggs. I was impressed by how quickly he found them all; next year I think the Easter Bunny will need to find some better hiding spots!
Later Easter morning we watched our church’s online Easter service. Though we’ve been attending church online for weeks now (and quite a bit over the past few months, when Luke and I were taking turns going to church and staying home on twin duty), it felt strange and a little sad to be home during the most important religious holiday of the year. However, it was comforting to know that much of the world was joining us in worshiping from home and that the Gospel message is no less powerful simply because we didn’t get to hear it spoken within the walls of a church.
On Easter afternoon we had a backyard egg hunt with our confetti eggs. This is something we would usually do with my in-laws, and it was a little less exciting with fewer participants, but Charleston had a blast hunting for eggs and participating in the smashing of the eggs. The twins and I mostly supervised—I hope they were taking notes for the Easters to come, when they will be searching for eggs right alongside their big brother!
And that’s it for April in the Jernejcic household. I am hopeful that May will involve slightly more outside-the-home time for our family, but I am also thankful for the memories we are making right where we are.
How was your April? I hope that you have been able to make the most of whatever situation you find yourselves in. Stay healthy and safe, friends!