With the closures of schools, restaurants, libraries and movie theaters — along with the edict to practice social distancing due to the COVID-19 outbreak — most people are reeling as they try to balance working with keeping their families healthy and children entertained.

Amy Cargel Veuleman, a professor at McNeese State University, said her oldest son, Harrison, has cerebral palsy so she is always concerned about keeping him safe and in a clean environment.

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Harrison Veuleman is a big fan of sports in general and especially the McNeese State University football and baseball teams.


"In the week leading up to anticipated closures, I went to several stores to stock up on essentials that I had a feeling would be in short supply — mainly cleaning products," Veuleman said.

Since measures were put into place requesting people practice social distancing when possible, she said she made the decision to keep him home.

"He has kept entertained with movies on demand, spending time on the patio, playing with his dog, and just making the best of the situation for more family time," Veuleman said. "I've also decided to restrict visitors to limit any potential of peer-to-peer spread. We are mindful of washing hands and frequent use of hand sanitizer."

Veuleman's full-time job at McNeese has gone online now.

"I now primarily communicate with my students via email and our Moodle system, but I do miss the face- to-face communication with them. My younger son is a senior in high school and he is also completing coursework online since his high school has school-issued laptops."

She said her family coordinates homework and online instruction time throughout the day and her son is also limiting how much time he is outside the home.

"I think it has allowed us to get back to the basics, a bit," Veuleman said. "We focus more on family meals, taking care of things around the house, and communicate face to face more often rather than everyone being on the go."

Veuleman said she was sad that son Nick's senior trip with family had to be canceled.

"We are waiting to see what happens with other events like prom and graduation. I sincerely hope that all students that plan to graduate from high school and college are able to participate in such ceremonies, if the situation allows."

Like many out there, Veuleman said she has family members who work in the medical field and in hospitals.

"We have decided not to travel to see any family members right now in an effort to limit any potential exposure with regards to my special needs son."

Sarah Gandy is a local kindergarten teacher and she and her husband, Chris, have two boys, Lawson, 5, and Elias, 2. Although her husband is working and his plant job has not been affected due to the Coronavirus outbreak at this point, she is at home with her children during this time.

"School for my oldest son has moved online so we've been home schooling in the morning," Gandy said. "But I'm missing my sweet students for sure!"

Gandy said she has been trying to find a lot of things for her children to do around the house and outside.

"We've been doing a lot of play dough and outside time, and doing things like riding bikes and scooters."


Lawson, 5, left, and Elias, 2, enjoyed getting in the kitchen and making their own pizzas from a $10 kit their parents picked up at CiCi’s Pizza on Ryan Street.

Earlier this week, she heard about a local eatery, CiCi's, offering make-your-own pizza kits for $10 and decided it was perfect for her family to try out.

"When I saw the pizza kit I thought it was unique and something the boys would enjoy," Gandy said. "I also thought it would be a fun lesson on hand washing, cooking and the steps to make a pizza."

Gandy said it turned out that the pizza was a big hit, tasted delicious, and her boys are still talking about their experience in the kitchen.

Elise LaBorde Benton, another local mom, said the last few days have been "hectic, to say the least."

Benton, who works as a mortgage loan officer, said she hadn't panicked until a few local events were cancelled, which she said meant that her spouse was probably going to lose some work.

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Elise and Tommy Benton with their children, from left, Taylor, Talyn, and Trevit.

"Then, our dryer went out," Benton said. "And knowing that my husband had contracts canceling, I didn't want to buy a new one. I wanted to keep every penny in the bank but we have to do our laundry so yesterday we bought a new dryer."

What happened next? Well, the washer went out and her family ended up having to buy yet another new appliance.

"I woke up in the middle of the night, not being able to sleep and with a migraine and anxiety," Benton said. "At 2:30 a.m., I was in my bed praying to God to ease my mind and let me know everything would be alright."

In addition to purchasing a new washer and dryer, Benton was attempting to do what almost every other person was trying to do — keep pantries and fridges stocked while also picking up household items such as paper towels, toilet paper and other basic necessities.

The Bentons have three children — daughter Taylor and two sons, Talyn and Trevit — and knew they would need enough food on hand to keep their family fed for at least the next couple of weeks, if not more.

"We didn't stockpile but finally got what we needed," she said. "We do not have a choice but to self-quarantine and take this seriously."

That's because their daughter has cystic fibrosis, a lung disease.

"If we get exposed, she becomes exposed," Benton said. "To gamble on her life is not an option for us."

Benton said she has learned a valuable lesson this week.

"God has reminded me that he has always provided and will continue to provide," she said. "I'm so thankful for being able to cover our needs during these tough times and for the ability to continue working (from home right now) and supporting my family without sacrificing their health."

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