(I’m not a fan of clickbait titles. I wrote the title meaning that 2020 is almost over, but I now realize that it could imply that my family didn’t survive 2020.)
This is the Christmas week post I thought I’d ever write and certainly not the one that you probably thought you read. Like everything else this year, the words, “But here we are!” apply.
I thought I might write a review of the last year. That’s typically what I do this time of year. For the first time ever, it seems that everyone can agree that we don’t need that.
Still, some things stick out in my mind and it’s worth a quick look back review.
I remember when I started to realize that COVID was going to be something different. It was February 24, when The Atlantic put it bluntly, You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus. I remember sharing that idea in a conversation with a medical professional and having it dismissed. After all, there were only 35 known cases in the US at the time (note there was almost no testing available). Three weeks later, much of the country locked down. Personally, our Rhode Island location was sandwiched between big NY and Boston outbreaks.
The lockdown was a very strange time. Remember being told not to wear masks because the frontline professionals needed them and that they wouldn’t work? As we learned more, we found that masks were perhaps our greatest defense (along with social distancing).
My biggest COVID story (so far), was trying to run to separate schools, kindergarten and first grade, in my house at the same time. My wife was virtually deployed and could help out for a couple of hours of the day, but it was exhausting. Our biggest expense is a private school for the kids, so paying tens of thousands of dollars to teach your kids was an extreme disappointment, to say the least. It also meant that I couldn’t blog and lockdowns meant that my dog-sitting business went to zero.
I complained about everything, but the reality is that we were healthy and our finances were doing well (despite the loss of my income). Our kids were learning. Sometimes life throws you a curveball and it’s all you can do to foul it off and get another pitch to hit. Everyone got a curveball in 2020. I hope you were able to foul it off. I think that in 6 to 9 months from now, we’ll be primed to knock the next pitch out of the park.
Reviewing the “Good Stuff” of 2020
As I wrote before, no one wants to review 2020. However, what if we focused on just the good stuff?
“Good stuff?”, you ask?
Yes, there was truly good stuff in 2020, Virginia
Here are a couple of examples:
- 50 Surprising Wholesome Christmas Gifts – Warning: Your heart will grow three sizes while reading these.
- Wired’s 20 Positive News Highlights from 2020 – Warning: Panda Sex!
We’ve had big achievements at the science and history level… and big achievements at the personal level.
With that in mind, I’m going to close out the 2020 review with a personal review. But, before I do, I expect to publish a goals review for 2020 next week. Hint: It is going to be ugly! Early on in 2021, I have some timeless tips to reset and move forward. I also have some investing tips and one thing new that is motivating for 2021. I rarely plan a week of posts in advance, but here I am with three weeks of posts.
Lazy Man 2020 Reviewed
We started the year, literally Jan 1, with a kid who got scary sick. He wasn’t able to eat or drink much for a couple of days. We brought him to the peditrician and she sent him to the state hospital on emergency appendicitis speculation. Without thinking much about it, I offered him a full-sugar Coke on the way. We don’t allow the kids to drink much (maybe 3 times a year), but he drank it down on the way to the hospital. There they performed all the tests and came up with nothing. After an IV, he was mostly a normal person.
We all got sick a week later. We were told it was a virus. Was it COVID? I doubt it, but we certainly thought more about it in March.
My favorite part of the review is my new 6-year old building an extensive Pokemon Mew model. We were all sick so he was on his own. I also taught my 7-year old to add some two-digit numbers, and he came up with the best strategy with the ones he didn’t know: “Ask dad.”
This month was packed with a trip to Ice Castles, hitting 100K miles on a car (remember driving?!?!), archery practice, and skiing. The sky was the limit in January 2020.
My least favorite part of the review is about how spry my dog was. He’s going to be 84 in dog years and is not very spry anymore. Hopefully, some supplements we have in the mail helps with that.
My wife and I had our annual overnight at a romantic hotel. Unfortunately, that’s not possible in 2021. We also had a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, where we ran out of conversation in the first 10 minutes of a 3-hour meal. We’ll try again in 2022.
I went ice skating because the kids made it a condition of them doing it. It was a horror show, but everyone had a good laugh. Most importantly, the kids learned that they can be better than their dad if they try (or in this case, just exist).
The highlight was Mardi Gras night at the local Navy Base. My wife didn’t want to do it because we knew we wouldn’t know anyone. We danced the night away and no one had more fun than my wife.
The start of COVID of course. You can see a downturn in my tone.
My wife bought me some great steaks for my birthday. I’d rather go out to dinner, but we have to do our part.
I have a picture of my dog on a beach walk with a caption of, “Before they closed the beaches…”
The kids school has a normal March break where we usually travel. We couldn’t travel as we expected, so I ran my own “homeschool” consisting of chess, scootering, Mythbusters Jr., Ruff Ruffman, and anything else I could do to keep kids mentally and physically engaged.
The highlight was one snow, just one inch, the only one of the year. It turned to rain briefly and froze over. I rushed the kids to a hill and we got an hour and a half of sledding on icy snow. They could go a mile on that icy inch of snow.
April was the most challenging month of the pandemic. Trying to teach two curriculums is tough, but it rain almost every day. We weren’t just locked down from seeing other people, but we couldn’t easily go walk the dog down the street.
We had some help from Jack Johnson (a video concert), learning how to cook, Oregon Trail and Lemonade Stand, a visit from the Easter Bunny, and a Harry Potter puzzle.
The highlight was simply having the energy to move forward and try to turn this negative situation into something positive. That burst of energy, unfortunately, didn’t last long.
I thought April was the worst with learning how to homeschool in daily rainstorms. May brought police brutality and system racism to the forefront. My personal finance annual conference, FinCon, got “cancelled” due to some controversial conversations from the founder.
Kids continued to cook and hike. They camped out on their floor under a tee-pee. We took the Mustang convertible for a ride – the first time the kids were old enough to be appropriate seats that worked. We even had outdoor dining.
The highlight was that we can look back on those pictures and realize that, under the circumstances, we’re doing well.
We took the opportunity to escape to Block Island. It’s the smallest town in the smallest state – a great place to hide from COVID. We were fortunate that we could vacation in our own state. The local mom and pop hotel we usually stay at called and asked us to come. The entire island is summer tourism and COVID hit them bad.
We didn’t have school or camp for a time during this month. With my wife working full time, this put me back into “Dad school” mode. This is when having STEM toys really paid off.
The kids started camp and it went well. We had them signed up with a lot of exciting special camps, but they all canceled. Outdoors with masks in a place with very few COVID cases was a winning combination. The kids got a lot of beach and swimming time in. They also picked some blueberries.
My wife and I had an outdoor anniversary celebration as well.
This was the start of learning to adapt to life with COVID. That said, our area’s circumstances allowed to have a very good summer.
We went back to Block Island. My wife became obsessed with finding one of the glass orbs that they hide every year there. I suggested that we make it a competition and we divided into two teams. Team Floppy Whale (me and my 6-year old) against team my wife and 8-year-old’s team Fire (something). We made up shirts and flags – turned it into a whole event.
Neither team found an orb. It usually takes a few years to find an orb. There’s always next year.
We lost electricity as Hurricane Isaias knocked out the power. I thought we might be out for days, because it takes time to restore power to an island. We fled until we got to a place with electricity so we could at least check the news. (There’s no news when local cell towers and radio stations don’t work.) It wasn’t bad, so we enjoyed a meal and went back. My 6-year-old asked for only brown M&Ms in his dessert so he could make his gummy play. I explained how ridiculous the request was, but the restaurant did it anyway.
The kids played with Gravity Maze and we watched the Trolls World Tour movie for free from Redbox. They learned some sweet dance moves in the special feature.
The highlight was the trip to Block Island, but there was an honorable mention. The kids got to go to a local water park. “Water park” may be stretching it for two water slides, but it’s 2020. For 2 hours, the max allowed, they got about 12 slides each.
By this time, you’ve noticed that I’m happiest when the kids are happiest. That’s why almost all of these reviews go through the kids. My wife and I are working and we don’t have much to share from an adult perspective. Plus, I don’t think you’d want to know it anyway, right?
September was the start of in-person school. However, we still had a corn maze to do. The kids started in-person karate. They love it! I think this will be a thing that lasts for many months. We also went to a food truck event.
We did a family event called the BouldrDash. It’s one of those “extreme” obstacle courses but designed for a family with young kids. My anxiety level went to 11 before the event but wasn’t bad at all.
Lastly, our 7-year old turned 8. We had a socially-distant birthday party. We also had our annual Gregg’s birthday cake. (Gregg’s is a Rhode Island restaurant chain.)
We did more cooking with the kids. The kids also learned how to play Stratego. We had “the best Halloween yet” that was just a trunk or treat with a lot of candy. We even got to see some friends, because that was something we could do.
My 6-year-old built a Nintendo Labo Robot. I needed to help him a little, but not too much. We did a lot of cleaning of a new rental property (we sold one and bought one). We had a good Thanksgiving and set up the Christmas. I shared some of my 6-year-old’s unique thinking on homework – change the problem and solve that one instead.
We’ll get December next month because we’re still living it.
Wrapping up 2020
It’s fitting that on Christmas Eve I’m wrapping this up and putting a bow on 2020. Please note that all the family stuff above is the top 10% of everything and not the typical 90%. I recommend going through your phone and seeing if you can find some good moments in 2020.