Learning to Live with Our New Normal: September 2020-September 2021

We’re all a little reluctant to say that living with Coronavirus rising and falling, giving us hope and then dashing it again, is our new normal, but… it is. (For now, at least…)

This blog post is going to begin and end with pictures of butterflies. It’s hopeful that we can, with God’s grace, emerge as creatures that are more beautiful than before each time we need to tighten up, wear masks everywhere, look at the numbers soaring, and deal with lots of people’s thoughts and ideas. This is definitely a “refined by fire” kind of situation. We are in need of a lot of God’s grace and wisdom!

The 2020/2021 school year was unusual. Fairfax County Public Schools offered virtual-only instruction for much of the year. I homeschooled Isaac and Nathan. Caleb did his school over computer. It was okay.

The best part of the weird school year was that Caleb’s Mondays were asynchronous, which meant that he pretty much didn’t have school every Monday. So, we took advantage of that and did some adventures. Caleb, Isaac, and Nathan also rounded up some neighborhood boys to play football at the turf fields a mile away. That was terrific. (Who’s that cute blondie? That’s my nephew, Quincy.)

Baseball was a consistent thing in our lives, as well as going to church every Sunday. Sunday School began in-person in October. It was a crazy hybrid approach, but with a lot of work and a lot of players, it happened. We gained a lot of new families through the year because we were meeting and teaching in person.

Nathan played AA in the fall and then was drafted to AAA in the spring! Go Nate Dog!

Christmas rolled around, and I introduced something new to Cornerstone. “The Maker Fair” was held on December 6th. Since we didn’t have VBS in 2020, we weren’t able to do our usual fundraiser for The Cornerstone’s Children’s Home. I came up with a bit of a half-baked idea that was a huge success and was wildly popular. Daniel kept teasing me that it was going to be a “super spreader event” when we saw the crowd, but we were as responsible as we could be, and God was gracious.

Another new thing that happened in the Schuttinga house is that we entered the teen years.

Happy birthday to my sweet-hearted Caleb!

March 12th, 2021, was the end of virtual-only school for Caleb. It was an entire year of being at home. FCPS started out small, only sending kids two days a week, then allowed all who wanted to return in-person to do so 4 days a week. Caleb got back on his bike and happily went to school. So what if you have to wear a mask all day? At least you get to learn from a real live teacher with real live peers. School is infinitely better when you’re in the building.

Spring brings… Easter! We celebrated with the kids at church by making a Resurrection Garden. It’s no surprise that we had a record turnout for this event. People want to celebrate!

Spring also brings Spring Break, and we have been vacationing near Clemson, SC, these last few years. On our way to Clemson, we did the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is in southwest VA. My college roommate lives an hour away in Tennessee, so we thought that we would spend the night with her family, bike the trail, and then continue driving to Clemson. The weather was iffy, so we left a day early to beat the rain, and stayed with Catherine and her family for two nights. Well, we didn’t beat the rain…

There was thunder… there was lightning… there was torrential rain… there was hail… there was yelling… “This is the WORST!!! I have mud in my eyes!!! This is a nightmare!!!” But what a story we had to share! We used a hose to spray down our clothes at Catherine’s house before putting them in the washing machine. Thankfully her husband Ryan had a big powerful fan to dry out our sneakers. We were a MESS!

When we returned to Virginia, we had big news! The vaccine was available for our age group! I went to “The Chic Fil A” of vaccination centers. It was incredibly impressive. They vaccinated thousands of people each day, and the line constantly moved.

Getting the vaccination to whoever wanted it was a HUGE leap for joy. The Coronavirus numbers plummeted. It was like Covid was gone. Had we really beaten it? We were taking our masks off, smiling at people, we did it!!! Mask up, vax up… it worked!!!

Bring on the Brood X Cicadas!!! And the house renovations!!! And the pool opening like normal!!! And swim team!!! And summer vacation!!!

Okay, okay, one thing at a time… Let’s talk about the Brood X Cicadas. They are a once every 17 year phenomenon. My neighborhood really gets them. As you can see by the pictures, our yard was coated with cicadas. The noise was deafening. It was terrific. 17 years ago, one of the coolest, most fun, wisest men that I know cooked them for his boys. When I found that out I thought, “I’m going to do that when they come back.” So… I did!

Cicadafest #1 was okay. They were sauteed in too much butter.

My childhood friend, Vivian, was so intrigued by the cicadas, that she flew here for Cicadafest #2! It was so much fun to get reacquainted with Vivian! We hadn’t seen each other since 1995! And, Cicadafest #2 was much better. I prepared Popcorn Cicadas, which is just like Popcorn Shrimp. Yum!

We also took Viv on an evening bike ride through DC. It was one of the best nights of the summer.

Bring on the house renovations! We have been thinking about doing this renovation for 18 years. We thought, “Hey! The price of lumber and all materials are scarce and incredibly high. It’s the perfect time! Let’s do it!” We love it. It’s perfect.

The pool opened in all its glory. Right before our last Board meeting before opening, the governor lifted all restrictions. We kept on reminding ourselves “All restrictions are lifted,” and took a sigh of relief! Swim Team, Raven Camp, cookouts, Fledglings, Movie Nights, you name it, we did it! We love our neighborhood pool.

Vacation in Minnesota… 5 Stars.

Also this summer, 2 more Schuttingas got vaccinated!

When we got back from vacation, we learned that Covid had a new variant, Delta. It was spreading like wildfire. The numbers in Fairfax County were almost as high as ever! What did this mean for school? Work? Church? Masks?

I’m proud to say that Fairfax County Public Schools stayed firm and pressed on with 5 days a week in-person learning. It was the right thing to do. Sure, there are cases every week, but with vaccinations and masking, they have been pretty minimal. Last night Daniel and I attended Back to School Night at Lake Braddock Secondary School (the largest school in Virginia). It was a JOY. We were so impressed with all of the teachers. They were so excited to be back. Other than everyone wearing masks, it’s just like normal school! When we went to the band room, there was talk of the upcoming concerts! The energy and enthusiasm was awesome. I’m so happy for my boys, and all of the kids.

I’m not going to lie, it has been a bumpy reentry into “Covid life” again. We thought that we had it licked. I’m hoping and praying that God will continue to sanctify me and all Christians so that we can bring glory to God in all that we say and do.

Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. Daniel 11:35

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