The month of quarantine! Florida began a “Safer at Home” executive order on April 1st, where we were only supposed to leave our homes for essential tasks or business. Everyone has been affected by COVID-19, in some way. It’s important to acknowledge that experiences vary. Something that I learned pretty quickly is that this season is not a competition! Everyone has either been negatively or positively affected financially, mentally, and or physically. It is not a competition on how structured/unstructured we are, how little/much work we got done, how much/little tv time our children had, how we did/didn’t spend our stimulus check, how often we did/didn’t seek the Lord, how well/not well we handled quarantine or how often we put on real pants. We aren’t measuring ourselves to other people’s standards, successes, or failures. While I believe we are accountable for our actions, our family has been more focused on how we are honoring and representing Jesus with what we do (and don’t) have. Without comparing ourselves and looking to the right or the left, have our decisions brought reproach to the Gospel? Am I loving my neighbor, my team, my family, and myself with decisions? If not, how can I try again?
Overall, I will say that despite the changes and challenges, I really loved the month of April. The best thing about this whole thing is the time with my family. It was so life-giving because of the amount of quality moments we had. I am embarrassed to confess that this quarantine has made me realize how little I prioritize being at home with them since I am quick to fill my schedule as an extrovert. I am quicker to be doing things outside the home than just being at home. I’m leaving this month recognizing I need to put more boundaries in my free time as I protect family life. This isn’t an excuse not to be living in community but is an opportunity to make family a bigger priority.
A few updates for our family this month:
- Wayne’s internship was postponed, so he had a week off at home. Then his full-time job at the City of Gainesville was deemed essential, so he was able to work full time. He was even able to work from home three days a week. That was so huge!
- We pulled Ethan from daycare and cancelled babysitting hours for Selah. This was very challenging for the first two weeks as there was no schedule with the kids. I struggled at the beginning of the month because of the sudden shift in my work schedule. I was finding myself getting frustrated with either the kids or the work, so I decided early on that while the kids were awake, I was with with them. Nap times and bedtimes were gold until Wayne was working from home and taking the kids those days.
- Thankfully, we didn’t have too many weddings reschedule, since it was a slower season. By the grace of God, we were prepared financially for that. We did have our Office Manager, Tori, work remotely from home. We sent her off with our office desktop! I had to adjust my workday hours, since having both kiddos at home with no childcare was not conducive to my physical work hours (or mental health). I cannot multi-focus! While my workload was only reduced by shooting, I still had a lot of work to be done for editing, managing, meetings and even taking care of back-end things. Given that the amount of work hardly changed, my mentality definitely had to shift. Everything outside of client deadlines had to be flexible!
- We got a lot of extra family quality time. Since I wasn’t going out of town to shoot weddings on the weekend, I experienced weekends with no work! I would have lunch breaks with Wayne, we had pizza picnics in the backyard, played disc golf, had bedtime discipleship where I read Ethan a story from the Bible and we chatted through his questions, played extra Candy Land games (with Everest), stayed up late watching Disney movies, had a sleepover in our family room and walked around the block a few extra times.
We even got creative with date nights at home! My favorite date was when we recreated a college date. Alex and Wayne set up a table and lights in the backyard. Alex served us dinner and even had Dan & Shay radio playing in the background for us. We ended the night dancing in our backyard and then eating brownies that Alex made for us. Other dates included a 1,000 piece puzzle and a living room picnic with takeout from my favorite Gainesville restaurant.
Covid Cutz by Tio Alex. He cut my hair with craft scissors and it doesn’t look bad! Ethan’s is okayyy.
Happy (quarantine) birthday, Alex! Ashley organized a car parade where Alex’s friends decorated their cars, honked through the street, and played ratchet music as they passed our driveway. One of his classmates drove 45 minutes just to make it! It completely caught him by surprise and overwhelmed him with all the birthday love.
The next day we celebrated Easter at home! We watched service online in our PJs, ate our lunch in the backroom, and exchanged moments from the Lord that we are thankful for. We ended the day getting dressed up for 5 mins just so we could take a nice picture together. Not pictured: my children’s meltdowns… and mine.
Just being real.
I tried Misfit Market this month. It a subscription box that sends you farm-fresh produce at a really good price (especially if you have a 25% off code: COOKWME-VA6BCY). The cool thing about it is that you get some unique fruits/veggies in each box, so I got to experiment with my meals! The most unique thing I made was a stuffed acorn squash dish. Thumbs up from everyone! This month, we spent a lot less money on food, we tried new recipes, had more meals together at the table, and having the extra time made me enjoy cooking.
My FAVORITE thing I made was ropa vieja over a bed of rice and black beans. A traditional Cuban dish! I am pushing myself to learn one dish from my heritage a month. You guys, this was SO simple. My friend, Emily, made it for me when I visited. I loved it so much that she sent me the recipe to finally try at home.
Below was one of my favorite moments to witness this month. Wayne would take the kids many mornings, so that I could sleep in a little bit. One morning I came out and caught them praying together before breakfast. My heart. I also thought it was the cutest thing to see a father and son eat cereal and milk together!
Lots of (silly) quality time together.
We had some front door surprises and visits! This made me feel so pursued and loved by Jesus. As an extrovert that loves quality time, I literally cried tears at these surprises. Peep at this adorable dress that was a front-door surprise… all the way from India!
Selah had some milestones! She turned 8 months in April and is moving along pretty quickly. She tried puffs for the first time and walks along surfaces. She’s even letting go to move to other surfaces! Also, we moved her out of our bedroom and into the office. I’ve been working in my back room. Now that we don’t share a room with her… she and I have slept through the night. THE LORD!
Community this month looked like a lot of love through technology. We connected with our friends and family through FaceTime coffee dates, Facebook video Bible study, Zoom happy hours and Zoom microchurch, Groupme texts, and Houseparty games. We got to celebrate one friend’s birthday by dropping off letters of encouragement with treats and ending the night playing games on Houseparty. Another friend’s birthday was celebrated by playing Catan online over Zoom! A sweet moment with microchurch was when someone posted in our Groupme that they were heading out to get essentials. She asked if anyone needed anything, so I posted that we were on our last roll of toilet paper. While she didn’t find any, another friend from the group did, so she did a surprise drop off. One thing that the Lord drove home for me this month was that Philippians 4:8 verse. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Paul was divinely inspired to write that verse while in prison when circumstances were less than ideal. A worse kind of quarantine. I am quick to complain sometimes and there were a few really frustrating moments while adjusting to working and parenting at the same time. I genuinely feel like the Holy Spirit led me to the reminder of that verse because I needed practice in the renewing of my thoughts. I think he says to think of such things because it postures our hearts to praise God for what we have right now. It does something to our hearts. So, I practiced finding the good by journaling 5 ways I felt the Lord’s presence or faithfulness that day. It’s easy to thank God and even see Him in the big ways like the way He provides financially… but I can tell you right now that there weren’t a lot of “big” moments that happened every day. This led me to remember Him in the little, everyday moments like bathtime with the kids or a bag of toilet paper on my doorknob. Then someone challenged me to think of it a little deeper and just see the good in who He is, rather than what He gives.
April was a good month, regardless of the state of the world, because He is good. And in His kindness, He provides good gifts in the chaos. That is more than enough.