The quarantine during the pandemic hasn’t been a mixed blessing for the Tuttle family, it’s been a total blessing.
“It’s been wonderful for us because we were able to put a ‘pause’ on life. We were very much a sports family prior to this and our weekends used to be wrapped around sports and the kids’ games. So it’s been nice to slow down and remember what a great spot we live in,” said Heather Tuttle.
The Tuttle family is now finding time to volunteer in the community, play together and discover new hobbies.
Most recently, Heather was working part-time as an instructional coach for Catapult Learning, helping teachers implement professional goals.
Husband Ryan is an Executive Director of Financial Systems for Fox. His office used to be in Playa Vista, but now it’s in the family’s garage. He plans on working from home at least until the beginning of next year.
Their three boys, Tyler, 11, Brody, 8, and Logan, 5, are having no trouble keeping themselves busy. Tyler is in sixth grade at Dana Middle School and has fine tuned his chess game during Safer at Home. An avid reader, he graduated to adult fiction and is reading “The Hunt for Red October.” His baseball travel team, SoCal Truth, recently started up a very strange looking season, full of masks, social distancing and lots of hand sanitizer! Ryan was in the middle of his first season as manager for Tyler’s DRALL team, the Major A’s, before the season was cut short by the quarantine.
Brody, who as her middle child Heather describes as the “filling of her Oreo,” is in second grade at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School. He enjoys spending time taking care of the class guinea pig, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, who became an honorary member of the Tuttle family when school closed.
Logan, in kindergarten at Juan Cabrillo, is great at keeping himself entertained and as his brother Tyler says, “He’s got an active imagination!” He loves collecting the mail and distributing it and working with his brother, Brody, to maintain the family’s yard.
The boys have also been spending their days volunteering with local nonprofits. They make at least 10 cards weekly for Westside Pacific Villages to pass out to homebound seniors in their Friday Care Packages. On Tuesdays, Heather takes one of the boys to help with Grass Roots Neighbors (GRN). There they help pack two weeks’ worth of groceries for families in need.
“This has been a great thing for my kids to be a part of,” said Heather, who serves as a block captain for collecting donations for GRN. “We can make a difference and help others and it helps the boys remember how blessed we are.”
Another hobby the Tuttles have discovered during this time is looking for treasure with a metal detector.
“The airport is right behind us so there’s a big empty field for them to search. There are relics from when there were homes there in the 70s. Buried treasure is really fun,” says Heather.
Riding bikes has also become a way of life for the Tuttles and now everyone has their own.
“We used to drive to places that are two miles away, but now we bike to the beach, bike to breakfast—it’s been great. And now that the boys are older and in Scouts, hiking has really taken off,” Heather said.
She is den leader for her two younger boys, who are part of Cub Scout Pack 748 out of Westchester. They recently were able to participate in a virtual Pinewood Derby.
Heather, who grew up in Minnesota, never expected to find a piece of home in Southern California when, fresh out of college, she accepted a teaching position in Huntington Park through Teach for America. Although she studied broadcast journalism and communications at the University of Missouri, she realized teaching was her passion when she heard about the program, which sends educators to low-income schools throughout the country. She ended up with a life-changing assignment teaching seventh and eighth grade language arts at Nimitz Middle School, while she was also getting her master’s degree and a teaching credential through Loyola Marymount University.
“My two-year teaching commitment has now stretched to 17 years!” she said. “I had every intention of going back to Minnesota, but I found my little niche here.”
A few months after moving across the country, Heather was living in Redondo Beach when her roommate invited her to a party in Playa del Rey. She had to be coaxed, and they didn’t arrive at the gathering until 10:30 p.m.
“Lo and behold, my future husband was in the kitchen,” she said.
Ryan, who grew up in Simi Valley, was living in the Valley and it was love at first sight: with each other, as well as the neighborhood.
Two years later, Ryan bought a condo in Playa del Rey in the same neighborhood where they met and after they got married and wanted a bigger home, they found the perfect house—on the same street.
“When we started looking for a house, we still weren’t married to the idea of staying in the area, but we kept coming back here, to our street. In hindsight, I think part of it was that we have these wonderful trees that change colors in the fall, like in Minnesota,” Heather said.
Bit by bit, as their family grew, the Tuttles became more entrenched in the community. Combining her love of education, civic responsibility and giving back, Heather was elected as Director of District 4 for the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa in 2016. She recently became the chair of the council’s Education Committee. Stemming from her passion for her community and education, Heather is also proud to have helped establish a female empowerment book club for middle school girls.
“I started making connections with other families and really started experiencing the community,” she said. “As we began stepping out into the community in different ways, we have grown to love it so much. Just like the neighborhood I grew up in, there is a lineage here. Generations going to the same schools, staying in the same community. It never occurred to me that there was any place like that in Southern California. Everyone is connected here. That’s the beauty of this town, everywhere you go, there’s someone you know.”
As things hopefully start to reopen and the Tuttles are able to enjoy some of their pre-COVID activities, the family is especially looking forward to traveling again. Ryan is a member of the United States Lighthouse Society, which has the family road-tripping all over the country and so far they have visited more than 100 lighthouses and 30 states.
But for now, it’s all about quality time at home and finding joy in the little things that bring family and community together.
Posted September 2020.
By Consuelo Israelson
Photos by Zsuzsui Steiner.