What a year!
2020 started off like any other: Michael stayed up until midnight with us to ring in the New Year, and we were excited and ready for a big year: adventures, kindergarten, and lots of time with family. (Oh, we had no idea!)
In January we embarked on a Southern adventure, with Brandon and I having work conferences a state and a week apart. We decided to make a trip of it and brought Michael with us.
We flew to Nashville, ate lots of BBQ and Michael and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of Music City while Brandon conferenced.
From there, we rented a car and our next stop was Gatlinburg and a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains. We were there off-season but we still had a great time. We rode the Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster, we hiked in the rain at the park, and we ate the best sandwiches we’ve ever had at Tennessee Jed’s. (SO GOOD!!) We stayed at the Park Vista Double Tree right in Gatlinburg, which we honestly chose because of the indoor pool with two water slides. They did not disappoint and to this day, almost a year later, Michael talks about the pool and how much he wants to go back and visit.
Back in the car and we were off to my work conference in Charlotte. Michael and Brandon explored and I had a great time connecting with my colleagues from around the country.
Our final stop was Charleston, SC. We stopped by Congaree National Park on our way for a boardwalk hike and a stamp for our National Park passport book and a Junior Ranger activity book and badge for Michael.
We stayed at the Mills House as our home base and explored historic Charleston and the Magnolia Plantation, dined at Husk (Michael’s first James Beard award-winning restaurant), visited Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter (dolphins escorted our ferry!), and really enjoyed ourselves.
We returned to a brisk Buffalo winter and dreams of Spring trips to Southern California and Seattle, trying to make the most of Michael not being in kindergarten yet.
Little did we know, this would be our last air travel for a while. And those plans were cancelled, well, never fully planned.
We’ve been ‘safe at home’ since New York’s first lockdown in March. We’re lucky to have had the flexibility to spend a lot of time at home, teaching Michael while also being able to work.
We finished up hockey, took a hiatus from swim lessons, and we’ve painted, planted, cleaned, crafted, cooked, baked (a lot), cut our own hair, and grown out our hair. We’ve become experts at zoom’ing and FaceTiming, attending virtual birthday parties, holidays, and lots of work meetings and class virtually. We learned math, we became kindergarten teachers and a kindergarten student, and Michael has made great progress in learning how to read. We even took “porch photos” to commemorate our time at home.
Nature has played a large role in our time at home — we have gone for countless walks and hikes. We discovered, logged, and tracked frogs and toads at our neighbor pond. We tended to a huge snapping turtle who found their way into our yard. Our front yard was even chosen by a pair of rabbits for their burrow and baby bunnies. We had a great time watching them through the window and checking on them multiple times a day. Hopefully they come back this spring!
This year Michael has become an expert computer gamer (coding school/camp is definitely in his future). He started off quarantine riding his bike with training wheels — now he’s in a 7-gear bike flying by me, sans training wheels. We’ve really enjoyed the time we’ve spent together (all while wanting to pull our hair out).
From a former-public-servant standpoint, I’ve been very pleased with Governor Cuomo’s response. I’m able to at least listen to 75 percent of his press conferences and I know that we have a great leader in this unprecedented time.
We were itching to travel and after watching the infection rates closely, we took for a socially-distant road trip south, visiting Gettysburg and Shenandoah National Park in July. We had a great getaway and enjoyed seeing Pennsylvania, Maryland (briefly), Virginia, and West Virginia.
At Shenandoah, we stayed at the Skyland Lodge in the national park and had a great private room with a balcony where we would eat our meals and watch fireflies at dusk. We saw tons of deer, hawks, and raccoons, including one in a recycling bin.
If you’re down that way, definitely plan a visit to the Luray Caverns, the largest caverns in the eastern US. The caverns were discovered in 1878 and are incredible floor-to-ceiling stalactites, stalagmites, and mirrored pools. It’s really cool.
Michael started kindergarten in the fall and it’s been weird. He hates virtual school but loves learning, so we’re figuring it out. We’ve bounced between hybrid and virtual learning this year and look forward to (hopefully) more hybrid learning as the vaccine rolls out.
This fall Michael joined Cub Scouts and Brandon is the Den leader (fulfilling a lifelong goal of his). The kids have mainly met virtually so far. We’re hoping for more in-person gathering as we get into 2021.
My magazine flourished this year. When you’re stuck at home, what do you have time for? Writing for your community magazine! (That I publish.) My advertising partners generally stuck with me and I even made more sales this year than I did in 2019. I look forward to sharing more resident stories and meeting more business partners in 2021.
This year Brandon published his first research paper, MD&A Disclosure of Critical Accounting Policies and Financial Reporting Risk: Evidence from Restatements, and redid his curriculum to transition to teaching virtual and hybrid courses. We all picked up bike riding this year and Brandon often rode to work.
We’re cautiously optimistic for 2021. Of course we’d love to travel, especially to the west coast to see family and friends we’ve missed over the past year. We’d love to get vaccinated for COVID and eventually see a five-day school (& work) week.
Michael lost his very first tooth on December 28 and his second one to ring in the New Year on January 1. He already has three permanent teeth on their way, so we’ll likely see more of the Tooth Fairy this year. (It’s very common, but very weird: Michael’s two bottom middle teeth started coming in a month or so ago and they basically pushed the baby teeth out, causing us to miss the whole “jack-o’-lantern” missing teeth look!)
We’re skipping hockey this winter but have embraced skiing, joining the Buffalo Ski Center. Michael had his first lesson a few weekends ago and he LOVES skiing. We stayed a few hours after his lesson and two hours after putting skies on for the first time, he can ski as well as I can, cruising up and down the magic carpet hill like an expert.
We’re looking forward to continuing to enjoy our time together, safe and sound at home. Cheers to 2021!