Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / Gary the bear makes an appearance for kids playing the ҂ear HuntӠgame on Waldenճ Ridge.

Times Free Press columnist Mark Kennedy is writing an occasional column about his family's experiences during their coronavirus confinement.


Adults don't admit we are "bored" because it sounds adolescent. Instead we look for subtle ways to channel our pent-up energy.

I knew I was bored on Sunday when I began organizing files on my MacBook's desktop into folders, which is the modern equivalent of twiddling one's thumbs.

Feeling (but not admitting) boredom, I suddenly thought of Gary, a four-foot tall stuffed bear who came to live with us when the boys were younger.


I'd been reading about the "Bear Hunt," a new kid's game designed to turn the daily family walk into a hunt for stuffed bears posed in peoples' windows. In a fit of boredom, I hauled out big Gary and posed him in a chair on the front porch.

Next, I took out my iPhone, took a photo of Gary, who was leaning back in repose, and posted it to Facebook with this caption:

"This is Gary, our seldom-mentioned third child. He heard about the 'Bear Hunt' game and demanded to sit on the front porch so the neighborhood kids could see him. Usually, he just sits in his room and eats Trefoil Girl Scout cookies. Gary is 8 and enjoys the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cubs. He is a Virgo."

Our 13-year-old was not amused.

His exact words when I showed him the Facebook post were: "Take that down!"



Sunday night there was an explosion in our front yard that startled me out of my stupor. I heard a "ka-boom" and then a series of whoops that made me think somebody was hurt.

I ran outside, my heart in my throat, expecting to see body parts in the grass. (More about the big bang in a minute.)

Our boys are 13 and 18. Being at home has made it harder for them to burn off hormones. They are both athletes whose sanity is linked to hard training. Now, all this testosterone is looking for something to punch.

They've begun working on projects. They are tearing apart shipping pallets to make planks for an accent wall our 13-year-old is constructing in his bathroom. This involves hammers and crowbars and flailing about, and it provides excellent stress relief. The younger one has hit himself in the shin with a hammer and stepped on a nail — all in a day's work.

Still, the two boys are constantly looking for new ways to tear things apart or, better yet, blow things up.

So, Sunday evening when they found a forgotten "Big Blast" toy hiding on a bookshelf, they were ecstatic. The "toy" is actually a supply of plastic bottle tops with embedded air valves.

They work like this: You screw a top onto any empty plastic water bottle, pump it full of air using a bicycle pump and then shoot it with a BB gun. The resulting explosion sounds like someone has detonated a quarter-stick of dynamite.

This is the boom I heard when I ran outside.

The boys were both standing as still as statues, both of them in a state of amused shock. Meanwhile the plastic water bottle they were using for target practice looked like it had been blown apart with a bazooka.

"What the heck!," I said.

The boys explained that they pumped air into the bottle, per the instructions, then placed it in a mesh bag and hung it from a tree in the front yard. When plastic pellets from their pump-action Airsoft gun failed to penetrate the plastic, the 18-year-old decided to fling a screwdriver at it, javelin style.

In a one-in-a-thousand shot, the screwdriver blade pierced the bottle and exploded as advertised.

"Don't do that again!" I said, sternly.

"We know," the boys said in unison, barely suppressing giggles.


My Sunday school class has migrated to Zoom, the teleconferencing web site. Our Sunday morning sessions provide great comfort.

We are a group of friends who started as a young-adult class a couple of decades ago. Now, some of us are inching toward Social Security. Ironically, our long-time friendships have become sources of genuine social security during these trying times.

On Zoom, we catch up on family comings and goings. Some of the group have kids home from college, which is one of the strangest consequences of this big national drama.

Anyway, I shared with the group that my most memorable spiritual experience of last week was listening to a group of Nashville studio musicians sing "It is Well With My Soul" on Zoo. They called it a virtual choir, and it sounded like a clear-channel radio broadcast straight from the pearly gates.

The majesty of the hymn touched me and unlocked some deep emotions.

I went out on the deck, and wept.

Contact Mark Kennedy at