The last year has lasted an eternity. COVID-19 has impacted, well, the entire world, and my family wasn't spared. I don't mean to complain - we are blessed and privileged and are able to react to the uncertainty - there is just no question that every event in the last twelve-to-thirteen months has existed in the shadow of the pandemic. Overall I'm incredibly grateful to my wife, my kids, and my larger family for pulling together to get through this time.
Chris (brother-in-law) and Kiley were married on the last weekend of February. We didn't know it at the time, but this would be the last social event we'd participate in for a long, long time. A few weeks later my eldest son was on permanent spring break from school, my wife's store closed down, and we cut off any sort of social interaction with other people.
We had to quickly adapt to the new normal. My wife found a work-from-home job helping a non-profit organization with PPE manufacturing. Both of us juggled teaching the eldest, and we kept our other two kids in an at-home daycare to keep them socially engaged (and to help preserve our sanity). Completely avoiding our extended family for their safety was the most difficult change, though everything else (curbside pickups, masking while outside, no stores or restaurants) were easy habits to stick to.
Five months dragged by, and we soon had to decide what to do with our kids. Thomas, the middle child, was old enough for kindergarten, and there was no clear guidance on what our local schools would be doing. We made the choice to home school, pulling all three kids to stay home with us, and adjusted our work schedules accordingly.
This closed our one risk vector, and after a few conversations laying down ground rules, we opened up a social pod with Katie's family. Our pod has several members with health risks (asthma, age), so we all agreed to adhere to strict rules, including no unmasked interactions (inside or out) with non-pod members, no unnecessary store visits, no restaurants, clear communication around potentially risky behavior, etc. We entered the fall mildly hopeful, with a grandma who could help us teach the kids, and with some semblance of a social life.
At this point, between a few years of careful saving and the extra income from Katie's job, we finally made the leap and bought a house in San Tan Valley, about ten miles southeast of our old rental place. We got wildly lucky with our mortgage and realtor and, after a single day of hunting, had an accepted offer. Due to the surge we decided to move completely by ourselves, using the holidays and contactless truck rental.
While this was a bright spot to end the year, the last few months of 2020 were rather bleak. We had a few COVID scares within the pod, had to put down both of our dogs, and lost some friends and family. It felt like a constant roller coaster of emotions, wild swings within a single day, and moving into a new house as the year ended felt deeply therapeutic.
Has it already been a year since this thing started? I supposed we're in better shape now. Everyone within our pod is now fully vaccinated, and with the case counts in the state dropping we've started re-introducing the kids (who cannot be vaccinated yet) to normal activities, like the local zoo (masked) or the neighborhood playground (unmasked, for now). Our hope is to enroll them in normal school this fall and, even if it has to start with virtual, have them attend in-person sometime later in the year.
There's been a lot of other things happening. Owning a house feels strangely adult, and I need to pinch myself regularly to make sure we belong here. I've gone on some ambitious adventures, both solo and with the kids, that I need to catch up on blogging about. Katie has dramatically changed her career path and, while the PPE job has wound down recently, we're excited where she'll go next. Also, my role at Shutterstock has scaled up dramatically in the last six months. It's been hard to find time to sit down to write even though there's no lack of stories to share.