Playtime: Surviving remote schooling and making time for holiday fun

Warm Beach holiday lights display in Stanwood.

Edmonds School District Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas sent a letter to students and families this week with some information about some changes that aim to “release some pressure on our students, families and staff.” The three Wednesdays in December will be “No New Work Wednesdays” for students from 7th to 12th grade. Elementary School students will “receive fewer lessons and/or assignments on these days.” Teachers will also offer students options to raise their grades between now and winter break and “no work will be assigned to students” over the break.

Getting back to our daily routine with remote learning after the long weekend was rough for us. Having some days off double distance learning here sort of highlighted just how much can go on in a day where no one leaves the house. One morning this week, we had drum playing in a Jazz Band class in one room and a Language and Literature class going in the next, my ‘is this real life’ glance at the clock showed that it was 9:47 a.m. – It is entirely possible I walked by the Jazz Band Zoom call in a fuzzy robe. Even as I am currently writing this, I am helping a middle schooler write a thesis statement. Getting a chance to “release some pressure” is very welcome though, frankly, it will probably be used to catch up for now.

Coming back from the break was one of our furthest departures from our optimistic effort of early quarantine set-up where we did frequent “lunch and learns” and ate most of our meals together. Having awakened the teenager via a phone call made from my own bed on Monday, I decided to change it up on Tuesday and call for him using the bullhorn I bought impulsively because I was so sick of repeating myself. It was a very satisfying though unpopular purchase, and I would share the details of this inexpensive bullhorn, but the off position and the siren position are dangerously close together.

When people ask me how the kids are doing, I almost always answer “depends on the day.” Some days they dart their head out of the Zoom frame and make comments like from “look Mom, I can clap with the back of my hands” or share the realization that the “hook” they need to write for their essay “is really just ‘clickbait.’” Other days, the gravity of the losses and fear and school work are a lot and we’ve definitely reached out for support. In an email that came home from our high school this week, I see that through the Verdant Health Commission and Therapeutic Health Services (THS), teens enrolled in the Edmonds School District are eligible for low/no-cost services from mental health or substance abuse counselors. For an assessment and follow-up appointments, you can call the THS Everett Youth and Family office at 425-263-3006.

Exercise is one thing that we know makes everyone here feel better, but getting everyone on board is zero fun. We’re currently in a trial period for a workout streaming, and — like everything we’ve tried for at home exercise so far — it’s starting strong with strong expectations for it to be “boring” any minute. I am enjoying the short class options we’ve tried and which also happened to provide a view of all of those barcode stickers that come on fruit that have been stuck under my kitchen table (writing this reminded me to “have them removed” which was met with “there are 100.”) Also sent in a school email, UW Athletics has been working to “bring back recess” each week since September. Aimed at students ages 6 to 12, but open to all, including parents, FREE virtual UW Recess is on Zoom every Monday and Wednesday at noon. Kids can join the Zoom link and UW coaches and athletes will lead a 15-minute fitness session that will be a mix of drills useful for specific sports and general fitness for all. There will be opportunities to ask questions about what it is like to play at the collegiate level. You can find more information and registration at TheWholeU.UW.EDU.

We’re also trying to combat all of the work in close quarters with some holiday-related fun. It was my plan to share the info about WildLanterns at Woodland Park Zoo this week, but their calendar shows they are sold out all but one day until Dec. 27. The new program, which looks beautiful, runs through mid January so if you are looking to visit, making your reservations now seems like a good idea. The Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach in Stanwood has modified its yearly display with a Drive-Thru Christmas and they still have plenty of tickets available before Christmas. Promising “over a million lights” and costumed characters to wave to, The Lights of Christmas is $25 per car of up to 12 people. We’re going to head up and check this one out this weekend and are excited for the change of scenery as much as the twinkly display. For more information and registration, which you’ll need as each hour of the available nights only allows a certain number of cars, you can visit

Mountlake Terrace holiday lights

If you’re looking for something a bit closer to home, the Mountlake Terrace Christmas Light Display is a nice neighborhood option that we visit at least once each season. At 228th Street Southwest and 42nd Place West you can find a couple of blocks of kid-friendly lights. For more information and some pictures of past displays, you can visit

— By Jennifer Marx

Jen Marx, an Edmonds mom of two boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time.

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