Emery is now a whopping 7 years old! Even with the dreaded Covid, we still had a semi-outdoor party with a few friends to celebrate the occasion. The girls did some painting, pinata, cake, and wrapped up the party with some fun in the snow. After a super long 2020, it was nice to see Emery having fun with some of her buddies.
We obviously can’t have a large party with the entire family but we still luckily got to see the grandparents. Grandma/grandpa Wassmer made the long hike up from Davenport to hand-deliver some birthday goods. Grandpa and grandma Stubler are now just down the road so it was a quick trip for them to come over and say hi.
To wrap up the celebration we obviously opened presents and had an awesome meal. For the super-special family dinner, we ordered in some really good sushi from our favorite place downtown Naperville.
In keeping with 2020 holiday tradition, we stayed home this year for Christmas. We had to dream of sugar plums and vaccines in our own beds instead of the usual visits to the grandparent’s houses. Since everyone was remote we had video calls with both families to open presents and attempt some sort of normal holiday celebration. Luckily Santa is immune to covid so he still swung by Christmas day. He dropped off a lot of gifts but unfortunately did not leave any vaccine.
Like the rest of the year, Turkey day in 2020 was not normal. This is the first year in a long time that we have not done the Naperville Turkey trot but we still got a good workout in. We all did an awesome live family turkey-burn on Peloton. We broke out everybody’s floor mats and muscled through all the cardio they threw our way.
The one thing that was normal was the magical appearance of our elf, Sam. Like every other year, he flew down from the North Pole to start his watch of the family behaviors. He was not a good elf this year because he was hanging out in big groups of elves and came down with COVID! He now, unfortunately, has to be quarantined in a jar in our living room for the next 2 weeks!
Even though we were home we connected with the family with a video call to grandma and grandpa Stubler and then met up with the Wassmer family on zoom. I set up a screen share so the entire family could play a few different trivia games from the Jackbox 7 game. Everyone can log in via their phone to answer questions or draw crazy pictures which is a pretty fun way to pass the time. After we did a few rounds of games we did the most important tradition… the food. Julie put together an awesome mini-thanksgiving meal to fill our bellies to finish off the day.
Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Ali recently. Her health had been declining over the past couple of weeks, however, she ended up passing pretty suddenly. The whole family is sad and will miss her greatly. Ali was such a good dog and we enjoyed having her around for the past 14 years. I’m really glad the kids got to grow up with such a good little pup.
Since she was so old, she did a lot of sleeping and laying around, but like most Jack Russels, she had a lot of energy and never missed a chance to cause trouble. Uncle Jason loved getting her to chase a dot. It didn’t have to be a laser dot, a reflection from a phone or flashlight would be enough to get her going. I never did figure out if it made her mad or she enjoyed chasing it around. Before she lost her hearing she was always there to keep us up all night by getting angry at thunder/lightning storms. Ali would also get into a barking fit at anything that passed in front of our house, especially other dogs. We know Jaxon was waiting for Ali with a tennis ball in his mouth, so we are focused on her reuniting with him and all the time we shared with her.
Remote learning has officially started and its going better than we originally expected. Emery has had a greater learning curve than Carter, but to be expected from first grade compared to fifth grade. She’s getting the hang of her Chromebook and new daily routine. Carter has been excelling at paying attention online all day and getting his work done. The kids have a nice functional workspace which helps make it feel a little more like an actual classroom. They are both enjoying seeing their classmates even though its been virtual. The teachers have really been working hard to make it a positive experience for kids.
Both kids are officially back to soccer practice and they are trying a new sport, tennis. Carter was a bit hesitant to give it a try, but soon realized he was better than he expected he would. They both get excited for their weekly lessons. Emery had her first outdoor Daisies meeting last week as well. It feels nice to get into a bit of a routine, regardless if things are quite “normal” as we’re used to.
We finally made it to the first day of school! The summer of COVID has come to an end and now we hopefully return to some familiar school activities. The kids are pumped and ready to get back to school.
Yesterday we wrapped up some last-minute shopping at Ikea to get their desks set up. Both of the kids picked up a pet plant to watch over and take care of during the school year. Emery was lobbying for a pet fish but we all agreed a plant would be better this year.
This morning we did the standard first-day pictures outside but then it was back inside to start remote learning. It took a while to get both of them logged in but the internet and zoom seem to be holding up.
Last week I took a day off and wondered around Starved Rock for the day. It was a nice 3.5 hour hike through 8.5 miles of trails. There are typically some pretty neat waterfalls but unfortunately, it was pretty dry so nothing was flowing. Since we’re not taking any vacations, days like these are nice to break up the normal daily grind and do something different.
Our big man just hit double digits! We’re so happy that Carter got to see some of his friends for his birthday, it was a good relief from the past 3 months of isolation. The weather was awesome so most of the fun happened outside. He had a great time and obviously appreciated all the presents.
Usually, Memorial Day kicks off summer activities like swimming and vacations, but this year it was just another weekend at home. The weather was great, so it was sad that our neighborhood pool didn’t open as usual. It is far from the same, but Julie picked up a little pool that the kids can at least splash around in on hot days this summer. The mini pool combined with a sprinkler, water guns, balloons, and the old fashioned hose should keep them busy.
We have a kid-sized fishing pole in our garage and Emery had been asking me to take her fishing for a while. Since there was nothing else going on, she and I went fishing at the small pond in our neighborhood. She lost interest pretty quickly when she realized you just sit in a chair and wait for the fish. We didn’t catch anything and I doubt she will be asking to go back any time soon.
It had been a few weeks since our last haircuts, so Carter and I badly needed one. Julie broke out the razor, turned the garage into a barbershop, and started buzzing. She does a pretty good job, but I sure hope to get back to a real barber soon.
Donuts with Dad is an annual tradition sponsored by the kid’s school where kids and dads get to have donuts together. We decided that COVID can’t keep us from our donuts, so we brought this celebration right to our own kitchen! This was a very special surprise and treat for the kids since we don’t do donuts very often. Emery was especially excited because it was going to be her very first Donuts with Dad. We are finding that any sense of normalcy for the kids is a good thing!
Since we’re still in lockdown we had to creative this year to make Mother’s Day extra special for Julie. Each kid used a bunch of small printed pictures of them and Julie and formed them into a big heart collage. She loved them so much she wanted to hang them in the offi
We spent the afternoon on a family Mother’s Day hike at Knoch Knolls. Emery nominated herself as the “trail expert” and led us through various trails with her walking stick. The hike had an added bonus, it covered some requirements for Carters Boy Scouts badge.
Since Sunday was rainy, we continued our Covid-19 house projects with more painting. I finished the shiplap project by putting a coat on paint on it, and Julie put another coat of paint on our fireplace. Everything is looking great with fresh paint everywhere!
Last weekend was a beautiful Spring weekend so we spent a good amount of time outdoors. Carter and I went on a long bike ride which Carter called “The Longest Ride Evvvveeerrrrrr.” It wasn’t that long, but definitely more than he is used to. The ride was much easier with his new geared bike compared to riding his fixed gear kids bike. Afterward, I took Emery on a hike to Knoch Knolls. The park was busy, but we managed to avoid people and had a good time wandering the trails. Emery was all about running ahead and scoping out all the pretty flowers in bloom. At home, I spent all day Saturday putting up shiplap (still needs paint) in our dining room and Julie got dirty while washing windows on the house, cleaning our driveway of mulch stains, and planting flowers, vegetables, and herbs in our garden. The house is looking great so it was well worth the time.
Emery and I were supposed to have our very first Daddy-Daughter Dance this year! It was sponsored by her Girl Scouts and was scheduled to be at school. Since everything is closed up, the leaders made it a virtual experience. Emery was super excited for the dance so she prepped all week. Julie helped her buy a new dress and get decorations to make the basement look great!
Before the party started, Chef Julie and Sous Chef Carter provided a wonderful 3-course meal (menu created by Emery) for us to enjoy, at our special table for two. We started with carrots, then had cheese pizza and chicken meatballs, followed by a healthy banana split. After dinner was complete, a bunch of dads and their daughters all joined the virtual dance via Zoom. The kids were allowed to put in special music requests, and all of the Patterson teachers joined the call as a surprise. The teachers announced each song one by one! We hooked the live video stream to the stereo and projector and got c-r-a-z-y. Emery’s first dance was a success and she had the time of her life!
The craziness continues and is making another yearly event completely different than past years. Typically, we go to the grandparent’s houses on Easter but this year we are stuck at home like the rest of the world. Luckily we are not in a very densely populated area, so we can still leave our house for walks and not come in too close of contact with anyone.
The weather was good, so we got out of the house and got to see the Easter Bunny! He made an appearance in a little parade that went around the entire neighborhood. It wasn’t as fun as the usual clubhouse egg hunt, but was still something to get in the Easter mood. After the parade, we went back to the house and colored some Easter eggs to try and lure the bunny to our house. The plan worked! On Easter morning we woke up to a welcome surprise. Somehow the Easter Bunny snuck in our basement and hid a bunch of money-eggs and Easter baskets full of goodies for the kids. Carter came out on top of the hunt with $5.37 worth of change to add to his piggy bank.
Spring break 2020 was quite different than we originally planned. We had plans to go to Florida and hang out with Grandma and Grandpa Stubler, but COVID-19 put the brakes on that idea. Instead, we hung out at home and tried to make the best of this crazy lockdown. We joined in all the great neighborhood activities, like putting stuffed animals in the window and drawing positive phrases on the driveway so kids could get out of their houses for scavenger hunts. It definitely helped get Carter and Emery interested in going around to see what all the houses had. Since we didn’t have much else to do, we spent some time prepping for Easter. The kids got all of Easter baskets out and hid them around the house. Hopefully, the Easter Bunny can find them all when he comes in a couple of weeks.
I have been keeping busy with a few house projects. I finished putting up wainscoting and painted all the walls in the office, and put a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling in the dining room. At this rate, the whole house is going to get repainted by the time the lockdown ends.
Wow, what a crazy couple of weeks. The disruption to everyone’s lives is just unbelievable. We’re doing our part to flatten the curve, with the recommended social distancing, grocery delivery on the regular, and stockpiling of toilet paper.
Thankfully our schools were somewhat prepared by having an eLearning plan in place. Although it was meant for snow days, it definitely has helped in this situation. The first week was pretty tough because Julie and I are also trying to work full-time. We made it through and I suspect the following weeks(?) will get better as we get into a rhythm.
Both of the kids have had a crash course in video conferencing. They are doing mostly Zoom calls now and a lot more video calls on Facebook and Facetime.