Merry Christmas, 2020!
2020 has been…a year.
What more can I say? Like so many of us, I am looking forward to 2021.
As for so many of us, it started off uneventfully enough. My parents ended their annual Christmas visit, and a few weeks later, we welcomed two short-term Korean students into our lives. Somehow two turned into three, and our family temporarily was a family of eight (with the addition of our long-term student, Mirii, in the mix). Thankfully despite the chaos, we had a great time, and life resumed some normalcy – or so we thought – at the end of February.
In mid-March, the kids’ two-week spring break turned into an – to quote our education minister – indefinite spring break, much to the chagrin of this already exhausted mom. My business simply shut down, and Justin transitioned immediately into a work-from-home schedule that continues to this day. Josh’s beloved preschool classes never resumed and Mirii spent the remainder of the spring term in Japan, but Ben started up greatly reduced distance learning classes in April.
We spent the remainder of the spring – and truthfully, summer - in a blur of exhaustion. We used the down season to remodel parts of the house – pressure washing the back deck, staircase and fences (who knew that all were Pacific red cedar under that grey weathering??), remodeling/painting the living room and kitchen, and repainting our entire house. The repainting itself was a project in and of itself – our 2-floor home is no longer a stunning two-tone shade of 1980s pink and brown, but is instead a nautical blue with white trim. Anyway, my business gradually resumed in May before an absolutely chaotic June and early July season. Distance learning, was, for all intensive purposes, a joke for a young child already struggling with technology addiction. Add to it that his entire curriculum is in French and we were dealing with an energetic crazy little brother at home…the day schools reopened in June, Ben was back in attendance. He loved being back, and it was a positive step for our whole family.
With any sort of distance travel off the table for the year, we instead did what so many Canadian families do…we packed up the tent trailer and headed off for three separate weeks of vacation. The first two were amidst alpine forests during frequent summer rainstorms, but the third week was one for the books. A technical glitch with the BC provincial camping system let us score an entire week at the notoriously popular Porteau Cove campground. Porteau Cove is a small campground an hour north of Vancouver directly on a fjord on the ocean. Not only did we have an entire week there, but our campsite was oceanfront on a completely private beach. The week was filled with beach explorations, rock and driftwood creations, ocean kayaking and swimming, star gazing, and unlimited picnics and campfires along the ocean. Despite two earlier rainy camping weeks, the weather gods finally worked in our favour with an entire week without a cloud in the sky. For not having traveled more than 2 hours from home all year, this week certainly made up for it. We finally were able to give our children some semblance of fun this year.
The remainder of the summer and into the autumn has been full of local exploration - bbqs on the beach, hikes in the mountains, evening beach visits, and using our inflatable kayaks throughout the area. As lousy as 2020 is, it has very much given us the opportunity to explore our local area - perhaps more than we ever would have otherwise - and we're incredibly thankful for that. We've also made it a point to explore a fair number of foreign cuisines with the kids through take-away meals this year. It turns out that the boys have a particular penchant for Nepali dumplings. Who would have guessed?
On the home front, a whim purchase found us the owners of a secondhand inflatable hot tub this summer. Our pools remained closed throughout a chunk of the year, and with the ocean relatively chilly, we figured why not? After watching the boys spend 8 hours per day in a tub barely larger than our bath tub – and hearing their incessant shrieks and giggles – the inflatable was replaced by a much larger and fully permanent hot tub a month later. The hot tub buying experience was an interesting one – we found it used from a dealer who works out of a converted barn full of old hot tubs an hour away – and it took repeated visits from his tech guys to get it running properly. It’s old, big and absolutely perfect for splashing…during the warmer months, the kids are in it all day. Even as our weather has turned cold and dreary, it’s being used a few times per week. Now that many pools have closed again, we’re very thankful to have a place where the kids can still splash around and enjoy the water, and be kids freely.
School resumed in September. We feel incredibly, incredibly blessed to live in a place that has prioritized the kids being back in school. School resumed 100% in-person and full capacity in September. Mirii returned home from Japan, and all three students went back to school – Josh to kindergarten, Ben to grade 3 and Mirii to grade 12. Three months later, Covid caseloads are up provincially, but school is still in session. We are so thankful.
Ben is in grade 3 now and absolutely loving it. After being in a gr 2/3 split class last year with an amazing teacher, he got placed this year in a solid 3 class with a teacher he adores. For all intensive purposes, he’s now fluent in oral/aural French. Grade 3 is the first year that English has been introduced into the curriculum, and it’s amazing to see how fast his English skills have come along. For a child who couldn’t even read in English last year, we now constantly have chapter books strewn around the house. His latest obsessions are ancient Egypt and the Titanic, and kiddo happily will discuss the Titanic for hours on end with anyone who will give him an ear.
Josh just started French Immersion kindergarten at Ben’s school. Ben’s old k teacher is no longer there, so Josh has a new set of teachers. They are absolutely phenomenal, and he is thriving. Truth be told, we had a lot of reservations about his starting kindergarten this year…both from his maturity levels and his tendency to push boundaries...but he absolutely adores going to school. We had braced ourselves for what may happen at our parent-teacher conference this year, but lo and behold, his teachers love him…apparently the enthusiasm that exhausts us at home brings a lot of joy to his classroom. Kiddo started the new school year with glasses for a vision correction that borders on legally blind (+7), and now peppers his conversations with us with quite a bit of Franglish. It’s amazing to see him grow!
Justin’s been working from home since March, and I’ve been thankful enough to have a full-steam-ahead autumn. Over the past year, my interest in preschool/daycare/school photography has picked up, and I’ve had 49 days of preschools this autumn before closing out my last school on Thursday. There were some inherent modifications due to Covid, but generally, it was an amazing experience all around…I feel blessed to have gotten through the entire autumn without a business lockdown or without my getting sick myself, although I suspect my own N95 masks may have been behind that! Our own two boys finally let mommy take their photos regularly - and even sometimes ask me to take their photos. That alone is the best gift I could have ever received.
As we move into the late autumn, BC is currently on another modified lockdown as cases have soared to record heights for us. No gatherings of any sort are permitted, and we can’t travel beyond the metro area. All events are cancelled through early January, and our border has remained closed since March. I find increasing ambivalence – about the difficulties and exhaustion of our day-to-day life (no playdates, no running around the playground after school, no activities, no socializing) coupled with gratitude that our own family has remained healthy. I struggle with missing my parents and friends back in the US, wondering when we can reunite, and then trying to appreciate simply that we are healthy, that we have a safe place and that schools and businesses have been able to resume. That being said, heading into the holidays – my first spent away from my parents in my entire 40 years – it’s not easy. We’re trying our best to hold it together with lots of Christmas movie nights for the kids, an increasingly growing collection of Christmas inflatables taking up our front yard, and a few booked trips for Christmas snowshoeing and sledding at the local ski resorts over the winter break.
We're optimistically hoping for a better 2021.
And a critter update…late 2020 saw the passing of our beloved Barnaby. He’d been getting weaker, and we waited until the day he told us it was time. We spent a day cuddling in bed with our sweet boy before bringing him to the vet. A few weeks later, we realized our home had space for more than just the 2 rescue kitties we still had (Poe & Timmy), and we brought 2 additional rescues into our lives in early January. Yoda and Chewbacca are Siamese kitties who were three months old when we adopted them from the same rescue Timmy came from – these two had come from a cat hoarding situation. They are total goofs. Yoda is a showshoe chocolate-point kitty with white feet who squeaks when you pick him up and spazzes at the goofiest things. Chewbacca is his all chocolate-point brother – no white feet – who doubles as Ben’s teddy bear. Chewie lives up to his name by eating everything in sight. At just a year old, he already has a fat belly and loves nothing more than to have his human brother carry him around like a teddy bear. Amidst all of the strange things that have happened this year, seeing their bond has made 2020 worth it.
Wishing you joy and peace…but most importantly, good health, for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.
The Laufer family-
Justin, Kirsten, Ben (age 8), Josh (age 5) & Mirii
Poe, Timmy, Yoda and Chewbacca