The Holiday Card Letter

Remember the folded up letters tucked inside greeting cards that were often printed out on Christmas-y stationary and several paragraphs of what the family has been up to? That is what this is. I have never done one and thought this would be the year to start. You may have already read my reflective posts below about how 2020 has been so I thought I would just try to give a nice little recap of the year since we hardly saw anyone this year except on social media. I have missed my long talks with friends and family, they’ve been far and few between. I know this is only a one-way conversation but it may still re-connect us a little. At least that is the hope.

This year was just as much a whirlwind for us as everyone else. We are grateful that we have not suffered greatly during this pandemic as other families have. We have our jobs, our home and health. I have been working from home since March 19th and Hugo’s school had shut down the week prior to that. This flipped our routine on its head. For the next few months, we reestablished what would come to be our new normal as we quietly watched the world reach where we find ourselves today. Seriously, what a ride.

The spring was spent in lockdown taking all the precautions. We didn’t see friends or family, we left surprises on the doorstep of family and waved from our car as we doorbell dashed, we zoomed, took long walks on the trail around our neighborhood, groceries were delivered, TP and sanitizer was scarce, and I just have to say—the world felt scary. The saving grace was the sense of security and calm I felt at home. I’ve never been more grateful for my introverted home body tendencies. I would seriously go full weeks without ever leaving the house apart from trail walks, and never got stir crazy. How weird am I? We got very creative about how to make the days feel different from one to the next. We planted some seeds to grow in little pods in our dining room that we transferred to pots on the patio. It went ok, we have LOTS to learn about gardening. Once the weather warmed up, casual play and picnics outside became the norm. Kris and I would often enjoy some wine on the patio while the kids played and it **KIND OF** felt like we were on a tiny date. We took the win. We celebrated the kids birthdays at home and family came for visits of well wishes on the patio.

Summer was full of outdoor play, outdoor toys, swimmies and water. As the temperatures got hotter, we invested in more shade devices so they didn’t bake and bake as they played for hours outside. The alternative was to spend time in the same place they had been for the last few months. The extension of our living space was needed. In July, Hugo’s school opened back up and we enrolled Hugo and Cora for two half days. It was a strange time to start Cora in school, but she hit the ground running and has loved every second. This was a really nice way to shake up the week and give the kids some other interactions. By this time, we would engage in small family gatherings where the kids could see their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And lastly, we took a handful of long weekends to Lake Tahoe where we spent both our birthdays. Sometimes just a Friday to Sunday, others a Thursday to Monday. Each time, we’d come home refreshed after the change of scenery. These really helped a pandemic summer move along. The kids absolutely loved playing in the sand at the beach. They were so content to stay and play. When Hugo and Cora were younger, beach days were exhausting because they’d want to be everywhere but our beach camp. Things clicked into place and made the time at the beach a joy for all.

As the fall semester approached, we were not anticipating me still working from home and for there to still be a pandemic. We toiled over what to do for Hugo as he was to enter the public school in our neighborhood and begin his Kindergarten adventure. We could not imagine him starting school within such uncertain times and resolved to enroll him for the private kindergarten at their pre-school. This was a relief and far less stressful then having to deal with the public school system (I love you educators!!! This was just new school mom jitters). And so, Hugo and Cora went off to school each day and our once exhausted nanny went from three wildlings to just one. We celebrated our eighth anniversary with a dinner out at the Wild River Grille. What a treat!

The fall was full of many things. The sky was full of smoke for so much of august and September, the philosophical divides between masks and presidents ravaged the headlines and the pandemic worsened. Around the time despair began to creep in to my feelings, Kris saved the day and invested in our physical and mental health with a Peloton exercise bike. I could have a whole post on all the ways this bike has made such a positive impact but the best thing about it was timing. For me, the world was feeling so ugly, and the community I was able to connect with, lessened those feelings. We spent Thanksgiving home, just us. I cooked the whole meal and enjoyed every single minute of it. Truly. Time in the kitchen, to work through the steps of a recipe, feels so satisfying. Perhaps it’s because a feeling of completion in parenthood or life in general is somewhat fleeting as things can often seem so endless (to do lists, cleaning, meals, repeat), the ability to start something and finish it brought me so much joy. It is funny though—more than a full day’s work was finished in about 15 minutes of sitting at the table and eating.  

As we near the end of the year, I don’t see much changing with the start of the new year. I know everyone is anxious to say goodbye to 2020, but I anticipate much of our daily life staying the same. I’ll continue to work from our downstairs office at home, the kids will be attending school with temperature screenings, we will likely continue to limit our socializing outside of family and will keep learning the lessons we’ve been learning all year. I’ll patiently wait for this pandemic to subside and for new versions of the old normal to return. While I will truly look back on this year as personally transformative, it was not without its challenges, despite the rosey memories I share above. Our marriage, parenting style, finances, friendships/relationships, and more, were hit with significant challenges that we continue to work through. Nobody said life was easy, that’s for sure. But just like all of you, we all have stories to share, and we hold on to the positive and let go of the negative. So I hope this blog post finds you healthy and happy and enjoying the holiday season, however you plan to spend it. I also hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how things have been for the Kent Family. I’m fine, we’re fine, its all fine. The end 😉

Reflecting on 2020

Reflecting back on 2020, I have to say I’ve never had so much awareness and attention for the small things. I am so aware of how much my kids grew over the past year because we were home—all the time. Even though I have continued to work full time, being home and not having the hustle and bustle of going to the office and having social things on our calendar on nights and weekends has made things that were often flying below the radar more in my daily focus. You know how so many things usually just happen without you even realizing? I am grateful for the added awareness this year provided.

What is new and different compared to Jan 1, 2020?

  • I no longer have an infant. Esme was a little over 1 at the start of the year. Wobbling around on her legs, being broken from the bottle, and hardly verbal. She’s now big, fast, demanding, vocal and so interested in learning everything that Hugo and Cora are able to do.
  • Hugo is a giant. He basically skipped over size 5. In January he was a little over 4 1/2 and wearing size 4 clothes. I bought him some size 5 stuff in the spring and he has already out grown it all (pants wise). He’s impossible to pick up while sleeping. My toddler guy is gone, he’s a boy now.
  • Cora has found her voice. At the start of the year, she had a lot of speech with her tongue and teeth. They aren’t fully resolved, we had seen a speech therapist for a bit, but I think the issues were partially related to her being home with a quiet nanny all the time. She would express herself but didn’t have a large vocabulary and the words she would use were often intelligible. Going into quarantine and hanging out with her brother all the time, having a new nanny, and being around mom and dad more brought her to a new level and fast. She is now in school full time as of the fall and it is like night and day.
  • Me and my health. I eat salad. Every day. I eliminated dairy, and kind of do the trendy intermittent fasting each morning. (I say ‘kind of’ because I do have oat milk and a super food creamer in my coffee). I exercise almost daily. With these changes, I have lost 15 pounds this fall alone! Lots more to go, but still. Putting more time into what I eat and when because I work at home has been truly life changing for me, my habits and my body. I dread going back to the office and losing ground on this.
  • We fully moved into our house. I know we’ve lived here for a long time, but there were portions of this house (inside and out) that we were ‘waiting’ to get to. When I needed a place to work, and when home because the ONLY place we could go, we worked hard to make every square foot utilized. While we still want to do a million things to this house, we are happy to actually be moved in.
  • The kids (mostly referring to Hugo and Cora here) are turning into little independent humans, a shift from the needy highly dependent beings who were constantly tugging at our sleeves. They have their own interests, desires, opinions, and emotions. This is so different from prior phases where all of their basic needs all required a care giver. But they get themselves dressed, use the bathroom on their own, can open their own snacks, clean up messes and even like to help with things like the dishes or yard work. This is new. And I don’t think I would have been as aware of these subtle shifts in our role with them without having been home with them so much more.
  • We don’t need that anymore. And there is a lot of that. Starbucks? McDonalds? Bakery? Heck. No. We have been doing so much more of our own food prep. No more need for pre made stuff like salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, salsa, cakes or cookies. Without a social calendar on the weekend, we cook and we bake, and we use our espresso machine, BBQ and air fryer to replicate what Starbucks and McD’s once provided. There is still plenty that we do buy, I’m not saying we’ve gone exclusively farm to table-we are far from it. For example, we get a Pizza Factory delivery one a week, almost without fail. And lets be honest, that started pre-COVID. But overall, we have started to cook and bake more things reducing the need for others.
  • We wash our hands as soon as we get home. We use sanitizer when we are out of the house. We are aware of what we touch and how close we are to others. These are new life skills that wont go away with the pandemic. We had far fewer colds this year than other years (knock on wood—the year isn’t over!).

Well that’s enough for now, although the list could likely go on and on. I keep reflecting and keep watching what is changing and am truly enjoying the show.

May 2020

**I wrote this in a word doc and never got around to posting it. The date of the document was May 7, 2020. So here is what was on my mind back then. Enjoy!

There has been a pretty dramatic shift in the world and I’ve been wanting to document it. It is not that my usual methods of memory making (journals and my instagram) aren’t working. They are, but I wanted a different medium so here I go. First though, I realize it has been some time since my last post. The last post was in 2017, some things have changed since then while others have stayed the same. First major change: We had a new baby! Her name is Esme and she was born in September 2018 and has already crossed the year and a half threshold. Kris and I have the same jobs, and we still live in the same house. Life day to day feels very different from back in January of 2017, not just related to the global pandemic.

With this Coronavirus crisis and the requirement to stay at home, I wanted to share our story. Is it necessarily significant or dramatically different than others? Likely not. But it’s my blog, is that not what it is here for? If nothing else, I have claimed this blogspace as where I document our family’s adventures. I’ve just been doing a poor job lately.

Around mid-January, the Coronavirus began to enter my world professionally as the virus spread around China where my company had 71 students studying abroad. We also had over 1000 students around the world, who all had to end their studies and return to the US where they found newly implemented stay at home orders (for most states). There are so many adjectives but fear and creepy were among the top of how things felt in the US by mid-March. While work was already exceptionally grim, we transitioned our personal worlds to work from home and typical work duties went out the window. As a small company with a huge operation, it was time for outside the box thinking and lots of waiting to see what happens. My team is pretty great so thankfully this has not been as challenging as it could have been. We live on Zoom and miss our potlucks terribly.

So each of my weekdays are still requiring me to work 8 or more hours from my new home office. The space I am working from had become a bedroom size junk drawer. It was very embarrassing when someone new would come over because off to the left of the front door is this room without a door that collected any and everything we didn’t have a place for. When the babies out grew some baby device like a bouncer or a large bag of cloth diapers, or large amazon boxes that don’t fit our recycle bin, etc. would all be thrown down here. We never spent time here. Me having to work from home has forced us to revitalize this space and keep it clean and organized and full of good juju for full time work from home. We’ve done a good job so far. Today, I am off work and down in my space typing away.

What are some of the new themes in our quarantine? As you might imagine, a great deal surrounds the kids and how we keep them from being idle too often. Two toddlers who are very close in age and together all the time usually don’t do well with too much idle time. Fighting or disastrous shenanigans inevitably ensue. This is where our Au Pair comes into the picture. Stefy. Stefy joined our family just before the pandemic hit. We got lucky. Like, really lucky, to have a third set of hands in quarantine with us. I don’t know how we would be managing without her here every day. While of course I wish I worked less, not being able to work at all and being with the kids all day every day without the mental distraction from parenting that work provides would leave me even more exhausted than I already am. So here are some of our new normals or things that have been present during this time:

New Movie Releases
Our favorites so far: Frozen II, Onward and Trolls World Tour

Walks on the trail after lunch or occasionally on the weekend

Zoom calls with family

Baking

Gardening (yes, we planted vegetables from seed in early April and just got them in the ground)

Sticker rewards

Daily white board where we talk about what day it is and what we are up to

New things for Kris and I:

Alone time in the morning. We both have been waking up at 5-5:30 which gives us a chance to sit together and chat, or watch recordings of the previous night’s late shows.

Setting the coffee pot to brew coffee automatically—because everyone needs a little extra motivation to get out of bed.

Sitting in the new patio furniture after the kids go to bed.

Shows we’ve binge watched: Tiger King, Homeland, Ozark, Derry Girls, Modern Family, Parks & Rec rewatch, Grey’s Anatomy (me only), I know I am missing some.

Special shout out to the resourcefulness of some of our late night faves who recorded from their homes to keep our spirits up: Steven Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, James Corden and Jimmy Kimmel. They are simply the best. On this note, we have really enjoyed seeing the celebrity interviews or Instagram live streams as such tangible examples that the entire world is all effected by this crazy virus. So many acts of good will and kindness. Seriously, the first part of this quarantine when Kris was out the door by 6—I would be crying and crying as I slowly let the reality of all of this settle in.