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story.lead_photo.caption Sisters Henley Stokes, left, and Anastasia Jones sew masks while practicing social distancing. They plan to donate them to the community.
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With a shortage of face masks in the community because of the coronavirus outbreak, Clarissa Stokes knew her family needed to help.

It was time to form the assembly line.

Henley Stokes, 6, cut out face mask straps and long strips of material before attempting to sew them. Next to Henley, her older sister, Anastasia Jones, 10, sewed the main patterns for the masks. Stokes made the final touches on the face masks, sewing the edging and straps.

While practicing social distancing, Stokes saw the opportunity to teach her young daughters how to sew.

"With teaching my kids how to sew, I'm giving them not only a life skill, but a developing talent, a pastime, hobby, and the most important, sewing to give to others in a time of need," Stokes, a Brazito resident, said.

They gave some of the masks to businesses and to individuals for personal use last week. The family plans to make as many as they can while in self-isolation.

Like the Stokes family, many Mid-Missourians are finding different ways to spend their time while practicing social distancing or going into self-isolation.

Along with teaching them to sew, Stokes is busy homeschooling her children, one in kindergarten and the other in fourth grade.

A fifth-grade teacher at Eugene Elementary School, Stokes enjoys molding instruction to each child's learning ability and having one-on-one instruction. She also challenges her children with new concepts and worksheets.

Distinguishing leisure time from school time has been difficult for her children, though, Stokes said.

"It's hard for them to make the transition mentally, meaning they are used to having their school atmosphere and home atmosphere," she said. "That home atmosphere is where they relax in the evenings. That's the hardest part. Not having a school atmosphere has definitely shown their lack in wanting to learn. It's more of a push on my end."

Homeschooling isn't a 24/7 job, though, and her family has made it a habit to have family nights while practicing social distancing, including watching a movie or playing board games.

"I feel that families don't have enough time these days with the business of jobs, school activities, etc.," Stokes said. "I have loved having the time to cook homemade meals, provide crafty activities for our girls, and we love popcorn and movies. It's wonderful and gives comfort on a level that is much needed in this time of unknowns."

Emma Wittstruck Call also decided to use social distancing as a way to spend more time with her four children, who range from 1-13 years old.

One activity her family enjoys is going on car rides to look at trains, barges, tractors and planes. The family will stay in the car and play sound effects from YouTube on Wittstruck Call's phone.

"My kids need a change of scenery periodically, and the weather hasn't been that great to play outside," said Wittstruck Call, who lives near Jefferson City. "Also (it) gives me a slight break from chasing them around."

Parents should think outside the box for activities to keep their children entertained, she recommended — for example, using free online resources like museum tours and zoo livestreams.

Stokes also recommended using technology to stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. She suggested children call their friends and family members and parents play online games with their children.

Self-isolation is only temporary, Wittstruck Call added, and entertaining children doesn't mean parents should give up their own mental wellness. Parents who are overwhelmed can contact friends through social media or take naps to recharge.

"Self-care is so important," Wittstruck Call said. "Take care of yourself first so you can take care of others. If anything else, y'all are doing a great job. Moms feel like they are failing 70 percent of the time and are not told this enough."

Self-care extends to everyone who is practicing social distancing or self-isolation. Many locals are picking up hobbies to entertain themselves or catching up on home projects.

When Jefferson City resident Sam Trout decided she was going to practice social distancing, she immediately scoured the internet for home-based activities.

She stumbled upon an article on Pinterest that listed 99 productive stay-at-home activities, including clearing out email inboxes, deleting old contacts, do-it-yourself crafts, baking, working out, and video-calling friends and family.

The University of Missouri junior plans to do the majority of items on the list, like journaling, reading and crafting. She's even going to try a couple of new activities — yoga and baking.

"I love to work out already, but I've never pursued yoga," Trout said. "I normally just do strength training, but I would love to be more flexible. I've always wanted to learn how to cook and bake better, but I've never felt like I've had the time."

Jefferson City resident Shelby Finch is already starting to knock a couple of things off that Pinterest list, particularly doing home projects that have been in the works for months, like organizing her basement and garage.

She has also been keeping her husband busy by adding more items to her "Honey Do" list, Finch said with a laugh.

"Now is the perfect time to do this because I am literally stuck inside all day and normally I am extremely busy," she said. "Being in isolation forces me to do projects instead of just pushing them aside."

Since she began social distancing, Jefferson City resident Sarah Struemph said, she has gone fishing, caught up on household chores, done some woodworking and spent quality time with her dog.

Her biggest advice to those going into self-isolation is to be inventive and keep an open mind when trying new hobbies.

It's also important to stay productive, Struemph said. For her, that means making a list of everything she thinks needs completed and scratching those items off one by one.

Several locals said routine is key for a time like this.

Trout still maintains her school schedule by working on her college classes online instead of in the classroom.

In between working on home projects, Finch said, she still does her morning routine as if she were preparing to go to work.

Even though they're being homeschooled right now, Stokes' daughters still go through their morning routines as if they were going to school.

"As an elementary teacher and a mother, routine is everything," Stokes said. "Routines provide structure and normality, which is hard to feel at this time. Having your kids on a routine at home gives them the comfort of knowing what is going to happen on a daily basis at home. They can expect home to be their fortress."

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