What. A. Year. Talk about a roller coaster. For me, the year actually started out on a high. I spent my February birthday in Bora Bora! We stayed in one of those huts over the water that you don’t think really exist. I drank tropical drinks from coconuts and swam with sharks. Even got serenaded by ukulele. It was heaven on earth and you all must put Bora Bora on your bucket list. I took this picture from our hut just after a lovely morning rain.
The international terminal at LAX should have been my first clue that the rest of the year was going to go downhill fast. We’d really just started hearing of this new coronavirus in China, and the first US case was made public shortly before our trip. I for one didn’t realize the severity, nor could I have imagined how our lives would change over the next few months. We were so lucky we were even able to go to Bora Bora. And now that trip seems like a lifetime ago.
Soon after we arrived home, many more coronavirus cases were being reported in the US and the CDC declared it a pandemic. Here in Wake County, North Carolina, schools closed on March 16th. We all thought it would be temporary, but our kids haven’t been back in a classroom since.
My oldest son missed out on his 5th grade graduation and all the fun activities the end of elementary school brings. Instead, they had a drive through graduation. It should have been the most special day. We got the car all decorated, and then in true 2020 form, it poured, washing off all the decorations, and we were again left feeling sad and helpless.
I had volunteered with another artist to paint a mural with the 5th graders for their Legacy Project. We had only gotten through about half the kids when they shut school down, so the mural remains unfinished.
At some point, it was announced the rest of the school year would be done virtually. We are some of the lucky ones whose kids already had Chromebooks, we have Wifi, and my husband and I both already work from home. But I felt for the families who didn’t have the technology or the money or the time to be home with their kids. Everyone was forced into this and had to figure it out. And since we all just thought this was temporary, my family embraced the extra time together and we were able to make the most of it and actually have fun.
We did a lot of puzzles and played board games. We had art class every day. I found fun ways to engage the kids so they could keep learning and having fun. And so did many celebrities, who would read books to us (Thanks, Josh Gad!), or doodle with us online (YAY for Mo Willems and Ben Clanton!). We made Miximals and friendship bracelets. The boys missed hockey, so my husband got some special flooring for the garage so they could practice. We were watching zoos and museums give virtual tours. We were drawing messages on the sidewalks and putting Easter eggs in windows for kids to hunt for. The boys participated in a Lego challenge via Zoom. I may have gotten addicted to Animal Crossing…
I found so many amazing resources, I wrote a blog post about how to keep kids engaged during coronavirus.
I admit, it was a lot of fun in the beginning, when we thought it was only temporary. But then it got to be too hard to maintain this new lifestyle. Reality would sink in. We missed our friends and family. We missed traveling and having adventures. People were dying, numbers were climbing, businesses were suffering, and the weight of it all was just getting to be too much. And it was too much damn work to plan art class everyday (major props to you teachers!!!). But we all were doing the best we could.
Stores were out of toilet paper, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. Art stores were out of paint and craft kits. You couldn’t find any of the “good” Lego sets, according to my children. Thankfully, the liquor stores were still deemed essential and I learned how to make a kicka** cosmo. A dear friend even brought me a jar of liquid sunshine. We missed going out to eat, and I started loathing meal planning and cooking.
But then a birthday would come along. When you have a child with a birthday during a pandemic, you’re bound to get creative to make their day magical, especially since we couldn’t have the typical party or sleepovers. One of my favorite things to come out of this crazy year is birthday parades! Seeing all the cars line up, decorated with balloons and signs, honking their love instead of hugs… well, it is a very emotional experience! We had birthday parades for both boys and got to participate in many birthday and graduation parades as well. The boys loved that they got to stand in the back of daddy’s Jeep and throw candy at their friends.
I got ZOO an amazing balloon arch on our front sidewalk for his birthday, complete with googly-eyed octopus, and it gave us and neighbors so much joy for a few days! We rented an enormous water slide for ROO on his birthday and made candy sushi. Now they didn’t have to sit in buckets of water in the driveway to stay cool! LOL! Both boys exclaimed it was their best birthday ever! And that is thanks to so many family and friends who went out of their way to spread love.
This is why the whole year has been a crazy roller coaster of ups and downs. The joy of spending time together. The exhaustion of spending too much time together. The excitement of new, fun activities. The realization of how many people have died. Online grocery shopping. Remote learning. The election. It’s been really, really hard for everyone.
Through it all, I’ve been working my small handmade business and I’ve been humbled by the amount of people who want to shop small this holiday season. I spent a good amount of time in the beginning of the pandemic organizing my craft room since business was slow, and I was short on creativity but high on stress. And then I realized 2020 was giving me plenty of inspiration! So I started designing…
You know you need an ornament to document this crazy year. And if you can, shop small this holiday season. Buy a gift card to some local restaurants to help them stay afloat. The only way to get through this is with a sense of humor and support for each other! Here’s hoping life begins to get back to “normal” in 2021…