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Personal Stories: Behind the Pandemic

Families spending more quality time together

Jj Lambert and son, Jaden, smile for a photo taken three weeks ago while on a hike in Olinda forest. — Photo courtesy of Jj Lambert

EDITOR’S NOTE. Personal Stories Behind The Pandemic is a feature The Maui News will run periodically about how people, groups and organizations are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This installment deals with parents and children stuck at home with school out and most activities and facilities in the community shutdown. If you would like to share a personal story, email citydesk@mauinews.com with your story and contact information.

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It’s stay-at-home time due to the coronavirus, and parents across the Valley Isle are getting creative with their families to stay active and busy.

Just two weeks ago, Haiku resident and single-mother Jj Lambert was working full-time, taking her son to school, spending time in the community, coaching and exercising freely. However, with the recent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many daily activities have come to a quick halt. Gov. David Ige and Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino have issued proclamations calling for people to stay at home and work from home.

While life has slowed, Lambert said she’s been making an effort to run every morning with her 11-year-old son, Jaden, as well as watching Netflix and working on school projects to keep each other busy.

Jaden Lambert, 11, works on an assignment Tuesday during Haiku Elementary School’s extended spring break. — Photo courtesy of Jj Lambert

While “I miss everyone,” she said she hopes that families take the self-distancing seriously to keep the community safe.

“We’ve been talking about doing workouts together, like pushups and situps, and that kind of thing,” she said by phone Monday morning. “The other day we did a science project with pennies. We put one penny in vinegar and the other in soap, just to see which one would get cleaner quicker, and then we still have his science other project he still has for school.”

Regardless of whether classes will resume, Jaden chose to make a space shuttle for his school project, which will include using items found around the house or yard.

“We’re definitely going to continue working on schoolwork, and I told Jaden that we’re pretending that this is his first day of school. He’s not happy,” Lambert said with a laugh. “We’ve also been drawing every day, we’ve been doing art. We both pick a picture every day that we want to draw, and then we both draw and compare it, so we’ve been staying really busy with that.”

Lambert had worked as a private house cleaner, but with social distancing standards, quarantine guidelines, and just the overall fear of spreading the virus, she had to put her job on pause.

“None of my clients are hiring me right now because everybody is afraid,” she said. “I totally respect my clients’ choices in wanting to protect their families, and I mean, I don’t want my son getting sick either.”

“And me not having any income coming in and thinking about retirement funds, there’s definitely a lot of crazy concerns coming up,” she added. “Will we all be able to stay in our homes?”

Lambert is also an active volunteer in the Haiku community as a cross country, volleyball and basketball coach for Haiku Elementary, but in conjunction with the state Department of Education and statewide “stay-at-home” order, all sport leagues were suspended indefinitely.

The DOE also announced that all public schools and their related activities will be shut down until April 30, so parents are doing what they can to homeschool and wait for the instruction of their local teachers.

“I’m super sad about that. I’m really into the kids and doing sports with them, that’s my thing,” she said. “Just being able to connect with the kids, play sports with them and teach them . . . not being able to do it has been a bummer.”

After a few basketball practices this season, “so many kids signed up, and they were so excited to play, so I’m bummed that the season was cut short,” she added.

Many parents also have posted home project ideas and activities on various social media accounts to share with other families since most county parks, fields and facilities have been closed.

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Before Ige announced the month-long stay-at-home order, a large Hana town family had already been making the most of their time in social distancing.

With a household of 12, mother Leiaanala Perry said that the extra days have been a blessing as they fill the hours with conversation, games and other activities.

For Hana High School student-athletes Tyra-Li and Pristine Perry, their spring season was suspended indefinitely, but they are still doing what they can to maintain fitness while also spending quality time with the family.

For the past four years, the Perry family had been commuting two to four times a week to Seabury Hall for club volleyball practice.

“I’ve seen so much growth in the girls but have also sacrificed a lot of time on the road and away from the rest of our household,” said Leiaanala Perry on Monday. “The girls really miss being on the court and being able to socialize with their friends, but they have been out in our backyard making sure they are getting their reps in and touching the ball daily.”

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A South Maui family has modified their daily schedules for the sake of public health.

“With my husband being a physician, we started this much earlier than many and feel very strongly about the need for it,” said mother, Cassie Kepler.

Her two sons have been taking advantage of the University of Hawaii’s distance learning program while waiting out the extended spring break.

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Upcountry mother Maile Mathison said Tuesday that her son and daughter have been engaging in a lot of outdoor activities while they wait for school to reopen. This includes riding bikes, playing baseball, and playing with remote control cars, as well as fishing for prawns in a river that runs through the family’s property.

“Lucky we have a big property to explore and enjoy,” Mathison said. “I am taking the social distancing very seriously due to the fact I have young children and live on property with elderly parents.”

They take the stay home, work from home order “day by day so I don’t get overwhelmed,” she said.

Mathison recommends that families shop for supplies online and stay home.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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