Stumbling Back to Normal


Before March 2020, my household normal was full of bustling commotion.

There weren’t many days on the big whiteboard calendar in the kitchen that were empty. Each afternoon and evening (and mornings on the weekends) were booked with my kids’ various activities, and each item was carefully noted on that board in bright colors. It was a cheerful fixture on the wall, even though it was a constant reminder of our family’s chaos. We were constantly on the go, and while some weeks felt longer than others, I was typically able to keep up with minimal issues.


The white board only had one thing on it: Wash your hands!

Then, everything shut down.

The blocks on the kitchen whiteboard were slowly erased as each of our activities were cancelled. Soon, the normal cheerful board that once detailed our days and weeks was just a smeared reminder that everything around us was shutting down for the pandemic.

I didn’t even bother to update the board for April. 

After the initial shock of having nowhere to go wore off, I felt my shoulders start to relax (not completely…we were in the midst of a pandemic full of unknowns, after all). I found myself with time to unwind and do nothing, where I had been used to running around without breaks for days on end. We started to take daily walks as a family, to fill our time, and we enjoyed board games and endless rounds of Yahtzee and Uno. We had consistent family dinners, all together, and looked forward to our Friday Night Takeout ritual.

It was stressful yet calming to stay home, unbusy. 

I certainly didn’t like the reason we were suddenly home most of the time, but I did find myself appreciating all the time I had suddenly regained.

The summer passed and school started, and our days began filling up a bit. We still were nowhere near the level of normal activity we’d been at before the pandemic, though. It seemed to be a nice, happy medium; not completely still, yet not overwhelmingly busy. I didn’t mind it.

Now that summer is here again, and vaccines are available, it seems that our schedules are blowing up again. 

Everyone wants to be open and going and not wait one more second to get back to normal. 

My kids are ecstatic to have their activities back, but it’s exhausting for me.

Suddenly, I’m back to where we were: ridiculously busy, scrambling to plan dinners and make sure everyone is fed (and family dinners have dwindled again), collapsing into bed each night wondering how many things I forgot to do.

I think this must be what a marathon runner would feel like, if they trained hardcore for years and then unexpectedly took 15 months to sit on the couch and binge watch shows, and then tried to immediately return to their intense training. 

It just doesn’t work very well. At least, not for me. How did we ever keep this pace? The whiteboard in the kitchen is still blank, as I haven’t even had the energy to write everything up on our calendar.

So, for now, I’ll just stumble my way through our busy lifestyle until I’m back up to speed. I’ll get there, eventually. Or, maybe I won’t. One lesson learned during these weird times is that nothing really ever goes as planned. We have learned to roll with the changes, extend grace to ourselves, and just try again the next time.

Maybe the kitchen whiteboard will once again be filled with colorful notations and important reminders. Until then, we still have Friday Night Takeout to look forward to each week. 

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Jen Franklin Kearns
Jen Franklin Kearns grew up in Central Ohio and is pleased to raise her family here as well. She and her husband Mark reside in Delaware and are parents to Alex, Addie, and Andrew. Their home is completed by their loyal beagle, Maisey. Jen is a social media analyst for a local family foundation, and she is also a passionate advocate for inclusion and disability rights. Jen’s oldest son, Alex, has Down syndrome and Jen works tirelessly to ensure that Alex has access to inclusive opportunities in their community. Jen and Mark are raising their children to know that that inclusion matters for all. When Jen isn’t advocating, writing, or shuttling her kids back and forth to sports practices or club meetings, she enjoys perusing social media, reading, and drinking large amounts of coffee.