Whew. 2020. The year that many of us will be trying to process for the rest of our lives, I think.
Honestly, we’re almost at the end of January, and I STILL feel like I don’t know what to make of the last year. It was messy and hard and unexpected. It brought big (unplanned) changes for our own little family and big (unplanned) changes for the world at large.
It made me see clearly some of the best in myself, and some of the absolute worst, too.
And while I can’t possibly sum up so much in one blog post, I at least wanted to document this last year in this format, for myself if for no one else.
So here is our 2020 in weekly family pictures (of which we didn’t miss a single one, miracle of miracles!) and monthly snippets.
What a year.
Is it possible to view the beginning of 2020 without thinking of it simply as “The Before”? Without shaking our heads at the resolutions and plans we’d made, the vacations we’d booked, the expectations we had of basic normalcy?
January of 2020 for us looked like a quarantine before The Quarantine. With Hyrum being born prematurely, we were scared to death of leaving the house and having him get sick with RSV, so we stuck close to home other than doctor’s appointments and the weekly trip to the chiropractor. However, as homebound as we (already) were, January was also when I started to feel like I got my life back because 1) I was no longer in constant labor and on bed rest, and 2) I dropped hundreds of dollars on chiropractic work, which finally fixed my back enough so that I could move and function and go about my daily chores with minimal pain.
With so much newfound energy, I started to throw myself back into housework again, much more so than I ever had before. I started making sure I stayed on top of the dishes and cleared the kitchen table of clutter every. single. day (a habit which has largely continued, thankfully). I let my passion for baking come out in full force, as I started experimenting and tweaking and trying out a different cookie recipe almost every single day, just for the fun of it.
I know the postpartum experience is wildly different for everyone, but in that first month, I tend to have TONS of energy, even despite the sleep deprivation. This third postpartum experience was even more flooded with motivation and energy to do All The Things, simply because I had been unable to do even the most basic of activities for months before, to try and keep my little Hyrum bun in the oven as long as possible.
While January will always be my least favorite month of the year, I was thankful that this particular one was actually pretty good, as far as Januaries go.
It’s always funny which memories stick out to me most when I reflect back on times past. While I do have a vague recollection of the kids’ excitement over our Valentine’s Day dinner (which we always do the day after the holiday, to take advantage of all the clearance deals at the store!), the outing I remember most was a completely spontaneous one (isn’t that often how it is?).
I had been cooped up in the house for weeks, the weather was dreary, and the kids and I were ALL going stir crazy. On a whim, we threw the budget out the window and decided to surprise Daddy with a day adventure after work—burgers at our favorite restaurant (Angie’s), followed by a trip to the local garden nursery to look for seed-starting supplies.
That unexpected outing gave us a boost for WEEKS after, especially as it gave us a fun new project (growing plants from seed!) to bring some cheer to our wintry days.
Another thing that was bringing us cheer? The fact that we booked our tickets for our April family vacation to Hawaii in this month, which we’d been saving for and looking forward to for months and months.
Just like for most of the rest of the world, March started exactly as planned for us—we hosted both of our families and many friends at our house on the first Sunday, as they had all come to church with us to watch Hyrum be blessed, and we were anxiously awaiting the results of Matt’s endoscopy, which would unfortunately come back with a positive diagnosis of celiac (womp womp). We picked up six new chicks to add to the four already in our coop, we were eagerly tending to our growing seedlings and planning to harden them off at the end of the month outside, and we had purchased the cattle panels we’d be using as makeshift bean/pea trellises.
Then the world as we knew it turned upside down.
Although I’d been hearing snatches of reports about this thing called COVID-19 before the mid-point of March (like in the Costco on the first Monday of the month, when I was wondering why I had to purchase the most expensive brand of toilet paper they had because the store brand was completely sold out), I didn’t really start accepting that an alternate reality for our future was about to play out until in-person church was cancelled. Until my daughter’s preschool was cancelled. Until our long-awaited and long-hoped-for trip to Hawaii (just a couple short weeks away!!!) was cancelled. Until my in-laws were called home early from their mission, and the first they ever saw of their new grandson Hyrum was by driving by our house one morning as I stood on the porch with him and waved at them from far away.
It was the first time I’d seen them in person in nearly a year, and all we could do was wave from the porch.
My tendency to look for silver linings and make the most of a bad situation came out in full force the last two weeks of the month–I planned themed dinners (Thanksgiving in March! a Green Feast for St. Patrick’s Day!) and made up fun games for my kids to play at home. We went on hikes as a family. I made insane amounts of cookies. I threw myself into a pet project I’d wanted to start for a long time—a second, more personal blog.
In the end, March ended up producing a lot of really fun memories for our family, despite the uncertainty and fear coming at us from all corners of the globe. And at this point, I still had every hope that the virus would just become another SARS scare, another Bird Flu—okay, maybe not quite as low in numbers as those, but I still had every hope that things would be contained within a few short months.
April brought the first whisperings of yet more Change-with-a-capital-C, this time hitting even closer to home. Matt came home with the news that there had been rumblings at work of possibly relocating the mill three hours south of us in a rural county I had no intention of ever living in. At the beginning, I didn’t take the talk too seriously because lots of ideas had been thrown around in the business for years that had never come to fruition, so I tried to ignore the possibility at first, though I did start casually looking into real estate in the new area.
We tried to keep going on with life as normal though (well, according to the “new normal”), and we came face-to-face with the types of questions for the first time that we now don’t have to think much about: Should we say no to all playdates? Should we see our families at all? Should we still hold a birthday party for Raven? Should we wear masks to places, even when not required?
We did end up deciding to hold a very small birthday party for Raven and invited both sets of grandparents who live nearby. Everyone came masked up, and even though Raven had a blast with her “birthday present scavenger hunt” and adored her pink cake with sprinkles, I could tell that most of us adults felt an undercurrent of uneasiness—were we being reckless?
By the end of the month, it was looking more and more certain that Matt’s company would be moving south, and I raged (raged!) against the idea for the longest time. Matt and I had many long talks over the matter, and we also started having him apply for other jobs, just to see if we could give ourselves more options. However, after he didn’t even get a callback after we applied for a job that we had a personal network contact with because the company had literally received hundreds of applications due to so many being out of work, we decided to reassess our thinking about the move.
The week before our anniversary, the state’s closure of restaurants and such lifted, which meant that Matt and I were able to go out to eat for our 9th anniversary (and out to the garden nursery again after!) while my mom watched the kids. In the same weekend, we were able to visit in small groups with our families for Mother’s Day, which was exactly what my heart needed.
In mid-May, we decided to go check out a potential property in the new area and acquaint ourselves with that part of the state in general to see how we felt about committing to a move. We ended up falling in love with the home we’d gone down to see and put in an offer then and there. However, we found out later that same night that our offer wasn’t accepted, even though it was well over asking price. At first, I was totally crushed and moped around for weeks about it. Of course now, in hindsight, I’m glad it didn’t work out—the timing wasn’t quite right for us to move down so early, and the interior and exterior of our current home has a better set-up for our family. (I will admit that I preferred the exterior look of the other house better though, as well as its kitchen!)
With our offer being rejected, it kind of felt like we were back at square one a bit. Should we continue looking for another job? Keep looking at other houses?
While we did keep checking job boards and putting out a couple more applications, we knew that a move was looking more and more likely, so we started doing a bunch of prep work in the yard—clearing out weeds and rocks, getting the lawn sprayed for dandelions, etc., as well as cutting way down on our grocery budget to try and use up as much of the food in our pantry as possible. Being able to focus on such concrete tasks as “making it stretch” dinners and yardwork provided a much-needed respite when I just couldn’t take the news anymore, especially as the end of May brought the waves and waves of protests and riots.
June brought research—lots and lots of research. We wanted to feel out all our options, so we made an appointment with a modular home building company to see if that was a possibility, we made the 3-hour drive again to look at more houses (no luck this time), and we started weighing all our options–do we rent? Build? Buy an existing home?
By the end of June, only two things were clear–we’d decided not to go with building a modular home, and we’d decided to sell our house for sure and make the move.
The question was just—WHERE.
One thing was for sure, and that’s that all the indecision and the prepping the house to put on the market and the constant chaos in the news just made me plain exhausted. The garden seemed to be my one source of daily respite from the crazy, and although it may seem silly, I literally ached at the thought of leaving all the hard work we’d put into it and never getting to see most of our harvest.
One definite bright spot in June was Mathias’s birthday, which came as a much-needed breath of fresh air amidst the literal pandemonium of all the prep we were doing to get the house on the market. Matt took a couple hours off of work, and we took the kids to a park, the first time we’d done so since the pandemic hit. It felt wonderful to finally do something that wasn’t related to the house or moving or the uncertainty of our lives at that moment, and it was so fun to just get outside and have the place largely to ourselves. The grandparents who live locally also came over to celebrate, which was just what Mathias wanted.
In the last week of the month, a potential buyer wanted to come and look at the house before we’d officially listed, so we spent a truly insane two-day period to try and stage it as much as possible. Although the buyer said she was planning on making a full-price offer, she ended up never getting back to us. We have no idea why.
However, because the house was basically ready to go weeks earlier than planned, we decided to just jump the gun and put it up for sale two or three weeks earlier than planned, at the end of June. Thanks to a hot housing market, we had back-to-back showings over the next few days and multiple offers within 48 hours. Our house was officially under contract by the end of the month!
Oh, July. What a strange month you were. Rather than barbecues and parties for Independence Day on the 4th and Pioneer Day (a Utah holiday) on the 24th, we were packing up our whole house and basically sheltering in place after we had a major covid scare, when we found out my mom and stepdad had tested positive (who we had spent the whole day with on the Saturday when our house had back-to-back showings). The first half of July meant I was making daily phone calls to them to check and make sure they were doing okay in between the packing fest.
With an official move-out day of July 31st, we booked a storage unit and decided to move in with my mom and stepdad (who live just an hour away from the old location) until the business moved down and we’d found our own place in the new area. At this point, the business thought they’d be down at the new location by September or early October, so we planned to live with my folks for just a couple of months while we house hunted, and Matt would just stay up in Logan during the week at his boss’s house and come back on the weekends.
Obviously, the covid diagnosis complicated everything, but luckily, both my mom and stepdad made a full recovery, and we didn’t have to find alternate housing arrangements.
July was also when I started seriously looking into homeschooling Raven. It didn’t make sense for me to enroll her in the local kindergarten with our future being so uncertain, and since at the time, in-person was only happening two days a week anyway, I was seriously looking into teaching her myself, which had NEVER been in the plans.
We officially moved in with my folks on July 31st, somehow managing to figure out how to move the Chicken Palace (a total nightmare, lemme tell you) and all 10 chickens, too.
August found us settling into a LOT of new routines–new routines of sharing space with my folks, new routines of Matt being away from us all week at work, and new routines of homeschooling, which I officially decided to do for the duration of our time with my mom and stepdad in Bountiful.
Honestly, August was so, so hard. I missed Matt during the week, I discovered firsthand how hard (not to mention time-intensive) it was to homeschool with two younger children underfoot, and to top it all off, my laptop got hacked near the end of the month, which created literally hours upon hours of work for me, in the form of changing passwords, changing bank accounts, getting the laptop memory wiped, and more. Thank goodness I had my mom and stepdad around because I really needed a lot of extra support for awhile.
To top things off, our house search was turning into an exceedingly frustrating endeavor. There were so few houses for sale in our desired area, and the list prices were getting insane. For the same amount we’d gotten for our last house, we weren’t going to be able to buy anything nearly as nice, and on one particularly frustrating house-hunting trip, I was ready to give up on a move to the new area altogether.
September brought relief in many forms—we found a house and our offer was accepted! I started meeting with a specialized massage therapist who worked wonders on my back! we had a lot of fun celebrating our birthdays and taking advantage of having built-in babysitters who lived with us!
The most obvious relief was that of just being able to have a solid plan again. So much of our year we had been in limbo, but we finally knew where we were going and when we were going there. That simple fact of knowing our future plans meant I could allow myself to dream big dreams with a definite house and location in mind and that I could free up all the mental space that had been taken up by the constant indecision and not-knowing.
There were still some details that needed hammering out–we didn’t have a closing date because the sellers needed to iron out their own living arrangements and the business’s move date kept getting pushed farther and farther out–but we at least had found a house!
Even though so much was still strange, October felt the most “normal” of any month since the pandemic hit. We were able to go to a pumpkin patch, do a little trick-or-treating, do lots of Halloween-themed activities for homeschool, and enjoy some small activities with family and friends (all masked up).
I also had many of my weekends booked up with photo shoots, as per usual, which kept me plenty busy (though not so busy that I didn’t start scheming and dreaming up all the updates we were going to make to our new house!).
We officially signed the papers and closed on our new place at the end of October.
Even though we’d officially signed the papers for the new house, we still hadn’t moved in yet. Matt’s company still wasn’t moved down to the new location, and once we moved down, his commute would be much, MUCH longer when he came home for the weekends. So we set our moving date for Black Friday, which gave us a whole month to drive down on weekends and make some of the updates and improvements we’d been planning.
Basically, November looked like weeks of homeschooling followed by weekends of projects at the new house (which we were only able to do with lots and LOTS of help from friends and family, and which are still not all the way completed (aka, I still have no kitchen floor)).
Thanks to the pandemic, Thanksgiving looked a little strange, and it was made even stranger by the fact we’d planned our moving day for the day after.
Basically, that whole weekend felt a bit like a stress whirlwind, but by the end of the night on Black Friday, we were officially in our new house!
December was another hard, hard month, at least for the first half. If I thought it was hard having Matt away from us during the week before, I had no idea how truly hard it would be to be on my own without knowing anyone close by and having almost no opportunity to really make friends or build community, all while living in a semi-construction zone and having all of our stuff in boxes. (I lost 10 pounds in the course of the month from stress, which has basically never happened before other than when I’ve just given birth.)
That first week was pure survival, and I didn’t know how I could keep doing it.
However, things started to get better in the second week, as I was able to enroll Raven in kindergarten and at least take one thing (homeschooling) off of my plate, and as we had Hyrum’s 1st birthday celebration to look forward to.
The boys and I got terribly sick the week before Christmas and I was sure that we’d all come down with covid, but the tests came back negative. Luckily, Matt still had some sick days he could take off from work, which meant he was home for much of the last week and a half of the year. (We were thinking that December would be for sure the end of his weekly commute back to the old location, but that actually didn’t happen until just this week, which to be honest has made this month super hard as well.)
Although it was a strange Christmas season with no parties to speak of, we loved celebrating with the kids, who rewarded our efforts tenfold with their enthusiasm for everything.
It was a long year and a strange year, and I’m not sorry to see the end of it. Despite the rocky beginning of 2021, I have high hopes that this year has a lot of good things in store for us.
Here’s to a (hopefully) less turbulent year ahead!
*knock on wood*