Home covid-19 a new kind of first day of school

a new kind of first day of school

by Shawni

Goodness, gracious I have a lot to catch up on. We’ve been working on some good things around here, and I have so much to say. But for today I figured I better get my act together and at least document the first day of school…

…online school that started back on Wednesday. (Yep, we’re crazy like that here in the desert and start school when it’s still pushing 120 degrees.) We were set to start in person on August 17th after a couple weeks of online but I’m not sure that will happen.

Anyway, there we were, no school supplies bought, no fancy bangles or spanking-new shiny backpacks, just these two girls and their computers (oh, and some fresh hair trims, so there’s that!)

They’re totally faking those smiles by the way, because they were not happy about online school.

Lucy and I were in tears the day before. We sat down together to figure out her login information on her computer and her tears came before mine. She didn’t understand the instructions, couldn’t see the screen, and just wanted more than anything to be going to school in person that next day. I buoyed her up, talking up all the grand things we could do with online school, rainbows and butterflies.

But later in the afternoon as I sat and watched the little video the high school administration had sent out…kind of a silly welcome back pretending to look for the students in that hauntingly-quiet school, their muffled, masked voices bouncing off the echoing walls. At the end they flashed to one of the pre-game pep rallies in the front hall from last year, students jumping up and down in a gigantic smiling crowd, ready for a big football game and I got all teary. Of course there are so many worse things in the world, but I do ache for these kids. I celebrate the fact that most of them really WANT to go back. My girls sure realize they took school so for granted! I ache because who knows when going back will really be a reality?

The silver lining is the schedule. Ahhhh…new schedules are a beautiful thing don’t you think? Loved having devotional again and tried to put a pep in the girls’ step with our traditional rainbow pancakes, cause you gotta keep traditions rolling, you know?

The online systems were so slow trying to get all those students going but we finally got in a groove.

Little did we know when we got our act together to get their rooms finally finished off this past summer how handy those desks we added would be.

Didn’t hurt to have these two (and Carson too) around for some distraction between classes…Grace was working hard on her Spanish she’s trying to get a toe-hold into before September 15th:

Just have to add these pictures because they’re so real:

…and also it documents how much of a ham Claire can be.

Lucy got great teachers and came out pretty happy about that first day, but this is going to be tough business for this girl sitting four inches from her screen for hours on end each day.

She can hardly see her screen, she can’t figure out how to mute or turn on her camera by herself, navigating to the different screens is really tough when you’re vision-impaired. Right now I am her right-hand-man, but she is fiercely independent and does NOT want any help. I know it’s only the beginning and of course, it’s a steep learning curve, but boy, we were both sitting there in her bedroom with giant tears rolling down our cheeks yesterday, the first day excitement having dissolved quite completely. It was a bad day.

But let’s go back to happier times back on the first day when we had our traditional “cookie chat” after they got through those classes.

Well, cookie and muffin chat, because since Lucy is still going strong with no desserts or candy this year (!!!!), she has deemed that this healthy-ish banana muffin recipe does not count as a dessert.

Seriously, look at those cheerleaders back there who were happy to join in on that cookie chat hoopla:

Luckiness.

And silver linings.

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56 comments

Margo August 7, 2020 - 2:24 am

My dad has vision problems and he’s been so helped by having an ENORMOUS computer screen – like the biggest the shop sells. He then cranks the text etc up to the biggest size that he can. Would that help Lucy at all? Love to her, and you, as you navigate all this. It’s so tough!

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Jade Rogers August 7, 2020 - 9:18 am

I was going to suggest the same thing! You can also make a television a monitor – also, maybe a braille keyboard or keyboard overlay?

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 11:50 am

Yes a bigger screen would help a lot, and her vision teacher recommended the same thing (making the television her monitor), but the problem is that she does a touch screen (it’s difficult to maneuver the mouse). So it would be really tough for her to transition her eyes from a big screen back to a smaller screen to touch what she needs to maneuver. But we definitely have to figure out a bigger screen somehow, I’ll have to look into the keyboard overlay.

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Tiffany August 7, 2020 - 10:56 pm

Check out this 23.8″ HP touchscreen at Costco…I know it’s sold out online but I bought mine in store and it’s been really nice so far, especially for my husband who is losing his vision to a corneal disease: https://www.costco.com/hp-23.8%22-touchscreen-all-in-one-desktop—amd-ryzen-3-325ou—1080p.product.100571679.html

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Kate August 7, 2020 - 2:30 am

You are doing an amazing job keeping spirits up while navigating a tough situation.

The picture of Lucy so close to her laptop screen made think about the size of the screen. Have you considered a much larger external monitor and keyboard attached to Lucy’s laptop? Much like how you had music transcribed to make the notes larger for her, a large external monitor attached to the laptop could help her increase the font and icon size without losing any of the operability. There are also large print keyboards with high color contrast made to assist those who are vision impaired. I also found a UK site with some addition options to assist those who are vision impaired.

The 10 Best Keyboards For The Visually Impaired. https://wiki.ezvid.com/best-keyboards-for-the-visually-impaired

Vision impairment and Computing. https://abilitynet.org.uk/factsheets/vision-impairment-and-computing

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 11:56 am

Oh Kate, you are so kind to send me those sites. They have some great information! Her Braille teacher has made her keyboard high contrast (with large black and white stickers and little sticker bumps so she can know where her fingers are), which helps a lot when she is typing answers, etc. But she uses the touch screen a lot as well to help her navigate (it’s difficult for her to see a cursor on a screen no matter how much contrast or how big), so that makes it tricky. I’m going to look more in depth into that UK site, it may have some promising alternatives. We are also looking into a larger iPad or something similar…we have a lot of research to do!

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 11:56 am

Thanks again for sending those links!! xoxoxox

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Audrey August 7, 2020 - 5:55 am

My daughter has poor vision and when she as learning to read her teacher scanned her materials and we cast them to our TV. It was a game changer for us at a time when her confidence was oh so low. Have you thought about getting her a much larger screen or using your TV?

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Jasmin August 7, 2020 - 6:03 am

Using a big TV (like the one in your game room) sounds like a game changer. Hope that works and it will ease Lucy’s struggle with the online classes.
So excited that you are back on your blog 🙂

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 11:58 am

Yes we have thought about that, and are still working on it (see above responses), the problem is we are trying to figure out the touch screen option on something larger. I’m sure there’s got to be something out there, just doing some research. She is mad as a hornet at any suggestion of needing a bigger monitor (she doesn’t want to be different in any way) so it’s tricky business 🙁

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Jayne August 7, 2020 - 6:12 am

Following up on Margo’s suggestion…. with a video cable, TVs can be used as computer screens too. I’m not sure how that impacts microphone/camera usage as I’ve just used to view movies and the like. Possibly, you’d need to get small external cameras/microphones but perhaps could still use those from the computer by changing settings — others in your household and/or your nearby brother likely could help with that.

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:00 pm

Thank you Jayne! See above comments but hoping we can figure something like this out!

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Nancy August 7, 2020 - 6:17 am

Oh my! I’m so glad my kids are done with school and we don’t have to navigate this new school year! I can’t imagine! Prayers for all of you.
Bravo to Lucy for sticking to her no candy and desserts! That’s so hard to do!

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 11:59 am

Yes it is, so proud of her determination!

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Libby August 7, 2020 - 6:50 am

Lucy’s posture looks so great – tall and straight! Is she entirely healed from the surgery?

Go Claire – starting her junior year I think? I”m sure she will figure out how to have some fun to balance the work of this year.

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:01 pm

Yes, Lucy is pretty much healed up! Her back still hurts occasionally, but when you think about all the muscles and bones that are now trying to adjust to their new positions it’s pretty amazing that she isn’t having constant pain! It’s a pretty miraculous recovery if you ask me!

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Melissa August 7, 2020 - 8:07 am

Hi Shawni – you might find something useful here –
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility/features

I recently watched a webinar on inclusive design that featured Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer – it was really thought provoking! (https://calendar.aiany.org/2020/07/27/the-future-of-accessible-design-ada-30-years-and-beyond/)

Another idea to consider might be a pair of “computer glasses” – I know a few people who have glasses prescriptions specifically for reading something at the distance of a computer screen (different from distance or reading).

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:01 pm

Oh I will definitely look into these links, thank you Melissa! xoxo

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Meredith Etheridge August 7, 2020 - 9:05 am

Thanks for your great post and I admire your ability to stay positive. I so appreciate your willingness to share the hard parts so that parents feel supported and normal, especially in these strange times. I know your girls will do great, but it is a slog right now. Hang in there!

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:04 pm

Yes, a slog is a good description for it! Sending out good vibes for everyone else to “hang in there” too…it’s a crazy world right now! Life is sure filled up with mountains and valleys, right? Thanks for the love. xoxo

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PS August 7, 2020 - 9:05 am

I look at my nieces’ faces when I Zoom with them, and I see their childhood being stolen from them. Sending lots of good thoughts your way that y’all get some solutions soon! (Your girls all look so tall and healthy! Those banana muffins must be magic 😉 )

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:05 pm

yep, there really is something magical about them 🙂 xoxo

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Christine Enyart-Elfers August 8, 2020 - 9:52 pm

This post brought back a flood of memories! I know I’ve written before, but my daughter is visually impaired (Stargardts – juvenile macular degeneration)…. and was diagnosed right before she turned 15. It was a rough time and YES, I was her right hand person, too. I didn’t want her to get discouraged nor did I want her to feel different.
But once she decided to connect with another person who was visually impaired, she actually decided to try to use the technology offered. A large screen monitor, a docking station for a laptop & a CCTV (which we borrowed from the school district). Technology changes fairly frequently, so I am not all that certain what she uses now. But, I know her computer talks to her….
Stephanie is 43, mother of two daughters (2 & 4 year old)…. she works for the American Foundation for the Blind (in Arlington, VA) and I know she’d be able to provide information about additional resources for Lucy. As my daughter recently told me, “I don’t even strain to read and use what little vision I still have when I can have my computer read to me.”
Large print textbooks, books on tape, live readers (yes, she had several people who read her textbooks to her when she was at Stanford University), books on cds, note takers, computer reading software…. Was it easy? Heck no! But, over the years she figured out she couldn’t change the fact that she needed to be flexible.
There were definitely good days & some pretty awful, tearful school days, but given the fact that Lucy is strong (giving up sugar for a year, amazing), she will figure out how to advocate for herself.
If you need to chat, feel free to contact me…. really!

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Kelly August 7, 2020 - 9:15 am

Good luck with all the back to school stuff. My kids don’t start until the end of the month and they are not too happy with going back and having to wear masks. I’m also curious about Lucy’s healing. My niece has to have the same surgery and is nervous about the healing process. Lucy seems to be doing well. Does she feel like she is getting back to feeling normal or are there still side effects?

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:07 pm

Lucy really is doing so well. I am amazed at how she has bounced back. One of her legs is longer than the other so that is causing a few extra issues but she is sure progressing beautifully in my opinion! She is feeling pretty much back to normal except for some pain here and there…which is totally normal when you think about what she’s been through! Good luck to your niece, hope it all goes well!
xoxo

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Meli August 7, 2020 - 9:21 am

Lots of great suggestions about getting a huge monitor for Lucy. You can also find monitors that are touch screens – this would save her from having to change focus so much (screen, keyboard, screen, keyboard). Best of luck! We start in three weeks and are not excited either.

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:07 pm

That’s what we need are the touch screen monitors. Looking into those but let me now if you know of one in particular.

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Meli August 7, 2020 - 1:15 pm

I have a 22-inch HP touch screen monitor – the whole set up is part of their Pavilion All-In-One series. Not a laptop. The hard drive and monitor are one piece and we have a cordless keyboard (you still need a desk, but there is less stuff on it.) It works great. My husband is the IT guy around here, but I think you can get up to a 27 inch – I’m just looking on Best Buy now. I see fine, but do not have a left hand, so I try to keep my work space smart and simple. I also have cordless, noise reducing head phones (helps me concentrate and if I”m wearing them, my kids don’t interrupt so much.) Good luck.

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Hayley August 7, 2020 - 10:47 pm

As far as touch screen monitors go, I work in a college athletic department and we got a couple of these: https://www.acer.com/ac/en/MY/content/model/UM.WW0SM.002 which we plug into a laptop to use for inputing live stats for basketball games, after they switched the stat programs… which I mention as a way of saying, it’s responsive enough to keep up with all that happens in a college basketball game and not at all laggy (which is honestly what I was expecting after dealing with a touch screen laptop a couple years ago). And we got those a year ago, on a bit of a budget, so I’m sure that’s not the end-all, be-all option!

I do hope you find something that makes this weird time a little easier for all of you!

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Lauren August 7, 2020 - 9:33 am

I was going to ask about setting her up
With dual monitors, docking station and a headset. It may help with the controls and seeing things more clearly.

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Kristine August 7, 2020 - 10:42 am

I can mirror live off my iPad onto our big tv via the Apple TV. I wonder if you could do with an Apple laptop?

My wish is all parents don’t worry about this. It’s like the story emperors new clothes. Just like there is no suit there is no school. They are pretending they are really doing school when they are not. Thank you teachers and school districts.. The goal should be an honest effort at doing some academics daily to try and retain their skills. If they don’t like how it’s going they can open the darn school and do it themselves. We have never been in a position where we are out of beds. The goal was to care for everyone who got it not for no one to ever get it.

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:10 pm

Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of mirroring from the iPad. I have never used an iPad but Dave has one, we need to try that out. I wish Lucy was more open to trying new things! And I am struggling with the school thing right along with you!

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Amanda Taylor August 7, 2020 - 10:44 am

Shawni-i love the girls new desks! Especially Lucy’s! Can you share where you got them? Best of luck with school this year! At least we are all in this together. I hope you can figure something out for Lucy to make it easier!

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:11 pm

We got that one from BluDot. We had to have a darker desk top so she could have some contrast when she uses white paper, and so far, so good.

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Shaun Farquhar August 11, 2020 - 1:07 pm

Shawni…while you’re talking decorating…where did you get the hexogonal shelving in Claire’s room?

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Shawni September 11, 2020 - 10:55 am

Hi Shaun, I explained where we got those in my post today: https://71toes.com/2020/09/changes-for-claire-too/

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Marcie August 7, 2020 - 11:20 am

My dad has been blind since birth and now is the accessibility/technology guy for Ohio State University. He loves technology and connecting blind people to the tech that will help them keep up in today’s world. If you ever feel like you could use more support in the tech arena feel free to shoot an email to me, marcie.jessee@gmail.com and I’ll put you in contact with him.

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:11 pm

Oh Marcie thank you, I’ll email you for sure.

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Jenny August 7, 2020 - 11:39 am

The commenter above likely has much more info than I do but I run digital sites for some major retailers and we’ve put a large focus on making sure our sites are fully accessible for assistive technologies. Lots are integrated but I know there are specific programs catering to specific needs that they may be able to help with. A larger monitor with an HDMI connection May also help Lucy out a bit. Hoping for a smoother ride as you all get adjusted!

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Shawni August 7, 2020 - 12:13 pm

Thank you Jenny! Thank you everyone for all the help, I’ll have to come back and report what we find…until then keep the suggestions coming if you have any!
xoxo

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Jolie August 7, 2020 - 2:03 pm

Shawni, can you share where Claire’s desk came from? We’ll be doing the school thing from home and my daughter wants a white desk.

Thank you!
Jolie

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Shawni September 11, 2020 - 10:56 am

I think that’s from Allmodern.com…If I find a link I’ll come back and link it in.

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Morgan August 7, 2020 - 3:00 pm

Hi Shawni – long time reader and fan here. Thank you for what you share, I’ve learned a lot from you! I really felt for Lu and you reading this blog post. I know you’re considering lots of way to improve the experience, and I wanted to throw out, FWIW, that homeschooling might also be a good option to consider. A big change, I realize, but any version of how life is set up now will be a big change! I have a 6 and 9 year old and we’re homeschooling this year for the first time, and it’s working really well and feels surprisingly doable. It’s a joy to spend so much time working and playing and reading and biking and baking and learning together, and I think they’d be learning less and struggling more if we were doing online school this year. You understand the contours of Lucy’s situation far better than I could, ofc, and homeschooling may not make sense for your family or Lu, but I just wanted to throw the idea out in case it’s of any use. I’m rooting for you and have total confidence you and Lu will find a good way to tackle this challenge, one way or another, and you and your fam will love each other through it. Sending friendly wishes your way!

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Meredith Holman August 7, 2020 - 7:10 pm

Any chance you know where the twin bed frame is from? I love it! Best of luck figuring out the computer situation for Lucy.

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Shawni September 11, 2020 - 10:57 am

Are you talking about Claire’s bed? It’s actually a queen bed…and I got it on a clearance West Elm deal years ago. Sorry I’m not much help on that!

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Julie August 7, 2020 - 11:15 pm

Hi Shawni,
Welcome back, you’ve been missed. x

My heart goes out to Lucy, it must be so hard for her.

Despite this, I hope Lucy & Claire still have a good school year.

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Shawni September 11, 2020 - 10:57 am

Thank you Julie!

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angie August 8, 2020 - 8:09 am

I love your blog and have gleaned so much insight, and information from your posts! We do a homeschooling program though our district, and even though my kids don’t do full time classes, they miss the classes they took and friends they saw. Since there are many online resources for classes and clubs, I thought I’d recommend one that we are starting to enjoy. It’s called Outschool, it offers classes and clubs. I’m finding its helpful to give a little extra social time via zoom, talking about things my kids are interested in. They have Harry Potter clubs, gaming clubs, art clubs, mindfulness clubs, and so on, as well as classes that are interesting and fun. Most likely your school district will have an online program, but I’ve found the extra clubs and classes helpful for my kids. They look forward to them. Thought this might be a light for Lucy to enjoy some of her interests with other kids without the pressure of it being school Anyhow, thought I’d pass this on, as maybe an extra fun resource/activity during this time.

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Jen August 9, 2020 - 2:05 pm

My heart goes out to you and Lucy as you navigate this. ❤️

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Shawni September 11, 2020 - 10:58 am

Thank you for this information…I looked into some things like that but online school sure taught me a lot. I’ll have to write a post about it some time. I so appreciate these ideas on clubs…I still would love to look into that!

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Loni August 9, 2020 - 9:02 am

Lucy will look like a real college business girl with a monitor. I bet Claire would like one too. It improves posture and takes you to the next level of technology. You might need to take her to a local business and see how they do things with technology and she will see it puts her in the high tech world nothing to do with vision. I would think you have neighbors and friends that have that type of set up.

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Jo August 9, 2020 - 12:32 pm

Shawni, does Claire have the mid century mini white desk from westelm? Thank you!

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Shawni September 11, 2020 - 10:59 am

No I think it’s from allmodern.com, but I’m sad I can’t remember exactly! I looked through my emails to try to remember with no luck.

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Liz August 10, 2020 - 8:42 am

Thank you for putting this! it is so hard to balance both physical and emotional health especially at a time like this.

I must say that I’m pretty frustrated with how many comments asking the hard questions about your quarantine decisions deleted over the past few weeks- you’ve always been at least open to questions even if you haven’t replied to them. But a wholesale deleting of people concerned about the safety of their communities?? Tough to see.

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Shawni September 11, 2020 - 11:01 am

Sorry that disappointed you, Liz. I really do love to engage in discussions here and I’m trying to get better at it, but I also have other readers who are so uncomfortable with the combative nature of some of the comments so I’m trying to find a balance. I think everyone is trying to figure out how to be socially responsible at a time like this and no one has all the answers so it’s tricky business. You’re right, the balance of physical and emotional health is sure tricky!

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Mom August 12, 2020 - 8:34 pm

What a lot of great advice and wonderful cheerleaders! Love all these great suggestions!

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