The good parts of 2020

by TCM

What are you grateful for? What were the highlights of 2020 for you?

I’m grateful for The Totebag and all of you, my anonymous internet friends. I’m grateful that my life is still pretty great despite Covid. I’m grateful that my kids are best friends. I’m grateful that I have a job that allows me to WFH.

82 thoughts on “The good parts of 2020

  1. I’m grateful for the following:

    DW and I both have very stable jobs and our finances have actually improved this year.
    DS was able to go to college even if it wasn’t an ideal situation.
    My dad’s health issues are holding steady.
    We adopted three great kittens, who are now full-grown.
    DD and I were able to coach softball this summer.

  2. My FIL and MIL have both made good recoveries from CV-19.
    Our health has been good.
    I’ve appreciated having DH around all day. I was concerned that I would kill him, but he’s actually pretty good company.

    The grandbaby!!

  3. I am glad I waited to post this…It doesn’t impact me directly.

    The cover of the most recent Time magazine we’ve received shows 2020 x-ed out in red with “worst year ever” in small font below. In response, I texted to DS2 “they didn’t ask the liquor store owners” because in the spring a local owner was interviewed and his comment was “it’s like the weekends before Thanksgiving and Christmas and also New Year’s Eve every day in here!” So, guessing here, that group is generally thankful for the impact Covid has had on their financial situation.

    I am thankful
    – my family, bloodline and in-laws, seems to be making it thru this ok healthwise, keeping/finding jobs
    – DS2 has received Med School acceptances
    – DW’s business pretty much continues apace. Profits actually up this year.
    – I have figured out this WFH thing since it seems I’ll be at it for at least another 6mos (today marks 9mos of WFH)
    – People I come across when I’m out still seem to be patient and polite in recognition of the pandemic circumstances
    – for this group and glad we seem to have picked up a few new regulars

  4. Despite all our cancelled vacations, including two big ones, we managed to have a few great trips. I’m really impressed with how well my children have handled disappointment and last minute changes to life. This is actually a huge deal for one child in particular.

    On a lighter note, I’m a self proclaimed Christmas cookie snob and I’m glad that I don’t have to pretend to like a coworkers or a friend’s dry, boring cookie. And don’t get me started on the ones that have been made “healthy” with fake sugar. Those are the worst. I’m happy to to avoid those situations.

  5. Nothing like a pandemic to make you grateful for the basics.

    I’m grateful that we are both employed. I’m grateful that as the snow comes down, I am sitting in my warm house, with food in my (functioning!) fridge and toilet paper in my bathroom. And that I don’t actually need to go out in this or meet with people in person to keep my job and get my work done.

    I am also grateful that my firm appreciates the nonbillable stuff I do (for which they just gave me a bonus). It feels nice to know that all the crap I deal with on a daily basis actually means something to people and is important to the firm. And I’m grateful that so far, the firm has weathered the storm. Knock on wood.

    I’m grateful we’ve all managed to avoid Covid so far. Knock on wood again.

    I’m grateful for the extra “found” time with DD. Of course I wish she could have a “normal” college experience, but she was gone just long enough for me to realize how different life was without her around and consciously appreciate the bonus time.

    I am incredibly grateful that my dumb-ass 15-yr-old boy is actually smart, organized, and self-motivated, so that I have not had to waste a single brain cell on his remote schooling.

    I’m grateful for my psychiatrist (who is currently running late calling me back for my appointment), who keeps me on the straight and narrow.

    I’m grateful that my biggest actual annoyances are having to buy a sign to keep my kids from driving me nuts when I’m trying to get work done and dealing with my SIL and mom over Covid Thanksgiving. And I’m grateful for this group for patiently putting up with my venting about these sorts of trivialities.

  6. I am grateful for the birth of my beautiful baby boy back in February. I’m also grateful that he was born before things got locked down, so we had a normal hospital visit. I am grateful for the good (physical and mental) health of my children and husband and parents. I am grateful for my uninterrupted employment and good internet access at my house. I am grateful that we live in a home that provides us enough space both indoors and out (more indoor would be nice, though). I was very grateful to be able to get back to church, once things opened up again.

    I hope that 2021 goes better than 2020! We’ve done well so far, but I feel like we’re walking on the edge of a cliff where one small slip could cause a heck of a fall.

  7. I’m glad this came up today. I was planning to post a topic about “what makes life worth living” but stopped when I saw this was already on here. I seriously need the refocus. A certain doctor is starting to sound like a movie with his pressure to have pain meds, etc be prescribed in my name and keep certain diagnoses off a young person’s record. Also, my future employer is liess off at a labor dept form the “INS” service requires, says it borders on discrimination against foreigners. Fine, but don’t use that as a reason not to hire me.

    I’ll be back later with some things that are going well.

  8. I am grateful for:
    1. My primary part-time job, even though it can be annoying, keeps my brain active and my filter in use. (Seeing too many retiree friends who have lost their filter).
    2. My small, four-member family has remained healthy and COVID-free (unless they were asymptomatic, but all tests have been negative). And, all SOs cancer follow ups have been positive; he would like to heal faster!
    3. Both DDs went to their respective college campuses this fall and are adjusting to college life with COVID.
    4. DD#1 was accepted to graduate school – masters in EE.
    5. My secondary part-time job, the few, but dedicated students who have come to classes when fitness centers opened up.
    6. My volunteer work with GS was recognized with a national award. It was even more appreciated as I felt like I was carrying a very heavy load on two different things this past Spring.
    7. All the things we normally take for granted – not worrying about housing or food insecurity to having the financial stability to buy what we need and absorb some of the extra costs COVID has brought us.
    8. People from my friends IRL to those online to my co-workers and those I volunteer with to the neighbors who I have met as more and more people got out of the house and walked the neighborhood.

  9. I’m grateful that everyone in the extended family is relatively healthy, and that neither MIL nor my dad have been exposed to COVID (that we know about). No one has had a surgery or medical treatment postponed.
    I’m grateful that we were able to travel to a family wedding in DC right as everything was shutting down. Another week and the whole event would have been cancelled. Also grateful that churches have been open since Memorial Day, that our local gym/pool is also open.
    Very grateful that DH has been able to teach in person this semester, and continue to go to the office every day.
    I deeply regret questioning DH’s purchase of a fancy espresso machine — it has been worth every penny the last ten months.

  10. In addition to the big things (health, family, jobs, etc.), I have been very grateful this year for entertainers. At first glance, entertainers might seem like the most non-essential of non-essential workers, but they have been so important to me this year. The cast of my favorite Boston morning radio show has made me laugh out loud multiple times a day, every weekday, even in the darkest days of lockdown in the spring. All the people who contributed to the various Netflix shows that I have watched gave me wonderful ways to bond with family members, or to just escape for a little while myself. I have been putting on headphones and listening — really listening — to music a lot this year, and those singers and songwriters and instrumentalists have lifted me up. Pursuing a creative field is not an easy life choice (how many of us Totebaggers are hoping that our kids become musicians or costume designers?), but I am so grateful that there are creative people out there who write stories and sing songs and tell jokes.

  11. I am grateful to have had DS1 home for the summer. Time with him is getting more scarce (and thus precious) now that he’s a senior in college. DH and I smile a lot more when he’s around.

    I’m grateful that DS2 is doing ok with having his entire senior year in high school basically cancelled. He has been so mature about everything.

    I’m grateful that DH’s company is doing ok, and that I still have a job.

  12. I am grateful for many things in 2020. It goes without saying that I have full appreciation for my late in life acquired ability to live without financial worry, a spacious residence with good year round HVAC, and a functioning supply chain and the farmers and processors and factory workers and drivers and logistics managers who make it possible. And for modern remote connectivity.

    More particularly, I am grateful for my husband’s stable health which has benefitted physically from fewer germs and mentally from less daily bombardment with increasingly complicated (for him) external daily life matters. I am grateful for the new cat, now 9 mos old. I am exceedingly grateful for 2 mos with DD2 in the house to firm up our relationship and give her some security she lacked. I am grateful that grandkids can attend in person school half time. I am grateful for the life changes for DSS- union membership achieved, a bungalow purchased with his advanced inheritance right before the virus hit. and now working on a big movie under full lockdown. Yesterday he filmed with Leo and Jennifer Lawrence.

  13. There are many silver linings to 2020. We were just talking about some of them today because of the impending storm. We have no stress about school and missed days at work because we know that we don’t have to go any where. For example, DH would be in his office today and we would be strategizing about what time he should leave later to beat the snow.The same would be true for tomorrow….can he get out to get to the train? is the train running? Is there school? All of these are non issues thanks to covid. As long as the power stays on…we are good.

    We are spending so much time with DD. Some of you have younger kids, but we rarely saw her on the weekends unless we were seeing grandparents. She was always with her friends in pre covid time on the weekends. We eat all of our dinners together because everyone is here. We don’t have to coordinate with drivers ed, Hebrew school or sports at night. She still has many of the activities like Drivers ed classes and Hebrew school, but it is all virtual so we don;’t have to run around each night to drop her. We save a lot of time since we are not drinking to meetings. I am home at night because I never meet my own friends. I used to be out at least once or twice a week to meet my friends or to attend a meeting.

    We met so many of our neighbors in the spring and summer because we walked in our neighborhood almost everyday. We don’t see them now because it is cold, but it was great to get to know so many people and their dogs. DOGS!! We do not have dog, but it seems like everyone else got a puppy this year. We still feel guilty because we know that DD would love a dog, but we don’t want to deal with the care because we want to travel once DD is at camp and/or college. So many cute dogs and plenty of dogs that DD went to visit and play with in her friend’s backyards. Walking is another great habit that we picked up and we bought the treadmill to keep it going now that the weather doesn’t always cooperate with outdoor walks.

    The genoristy of our friends and neighbors during the summer power outage. People set up their backyards for us with extension cords, and wifi. I am praying that since we already had one power outage this year that someone else will have it this week during the nor’easter.

    Sleep…my DH used to be on a train by 6AM. That as painful for him and sometimes for me because I can’t always sleep through his alarm. We weren’t sleeping for the first couple of months when the virus was terrible here, but now we all sleep at least two hours more per day. The same is true for DD except for the couple fo days that she attends in person school.

    Appointments and no waiting in lines for stuff like the DMV, shopping in a local supermarket and pickups at stores like Dick’s, Home Depot etc.

  14. I am grateful that we have managed to avoid Covid so far. We did manage to get a few key things done in spite of the pandemic. MIL got her health issue taken care of, DS is driving and my parents made it back here without incident.
    The teachers and administrators at kids school have been fantastic. The kids have been in F2F school – with very brief periods of going online. Both DH and myself have been able to WFH. My neighbors stepped up and organized distanced social events. We have had so many packages delivered this year and very few have gone wrong, a testament to all the people working behind the scenes.

  15. “Yesterday he filmed with Leo and Jennifer Lawrence.”

    Meme — I actually filled out an application to be an extra in that movie (I responded to a casting-call notice that appeared on Facebook), but sadly, I was not chosen. That’s great that your stepson is getting his foot in the door of an acting career.

  16. This move has been an utter disaster for us. From the moment we took our first steps off the plane more things went wrong than we could have ever imagined in any worst case scenario, up to and including a global pandemic. So I have been constantly pointing out silver linings for the past year. I could go on and on about so many things I’m thankful for, but I guess the greatest silver lining is that we’ve been able to experience this country and this city like no one else ever will. The emptiness of the city still amazes me. Since the borders were closed we saw more of this country than we would have otherwise. This is a very beautiful country with such varied geography from the French Alps to the Normandy beaches. We’ve seen beautiful Chateaux and, of course, drank AMAZING wine. Under normal circumstances we would have missed a lot of it traveling to other places.

  17. I’ve been surprised by enjoying having our adult kids spending more time at home. We have all escaped major medical issues, including Covid. I became more aware of how essential our essential workers are, and of how fragile some systems are, so it’s made me more grateful for the people and the systems. Although I miss being out, life is more relaxed and I enjoy that. (I’m afraid I might become a total recluse when this pandemic is over.)

    AustinMom — IIRC you teach tai chi. I’ve taken a few classes and I might go back after the pandemic, especially if remote instruction is an option. I’ve heard this many times before, but this article (Jane Brody again) mentions it for improving balance. Do your students skew older?

    Surely, I thought, there’d be helpful advice on the web. But after checking out dozens of postings on how I might improve my balance, I was more confused than enlightened. Most emphasized improving core and leg strength, which for me are already in good shape. Now what?

    Then I learned of a new book with a title that echoed my bone doctor’s warning: “Falling Is Not an Option: A Way to Lifelong Balance.” The author, George Locker, a lifelong student of martial arts and teacher of tai chi, adapted the lessons of these ancient arts into an approach he has trademarked as “Postural Retraining.”

    The goal is stability by increasing one’s downward force, and the examples Mr. Locker gave of surfers, skaters and skiers made perfect sense to me. I can easily recall my stable posture when I skated on ice or pavement or skied on water or snow: a semi squat with knees and ankles bent. Although I no longer attempt these sports at age 79, my ability to remain balanced and stable is more important than ever.

  18. It will be half way through the school year in Jan. The fall somehow seems the tougher part of the year and this year more so with the uncertainty.

    DH was saying that he would wait to get the vaccine. Well, we (except the seniors) will have a wait any way to get the vaccine. We are in the back of the line and a large part of the herd, for the sake of herd immunity, we told him to take the vaccine.

  19. A couple of recent events had us discussing last night how ridiculously fortunate we are.
    – I am grateful that we both have been able to maintain our jobs and have had no negative financial impact from all of this
    – I am grateful for our health and that we’ve been able to avoid getting sick. I am grateful:
    – that the shutdowns did not interfere with medical treatment for my family, that my brother is 6-months post chemo and cancer free, and that my dad’s decline has been as slow as it has been
    – for a close family, both my spouse/children and family of origin so that we are able to support each other through challenging times
    – For decades-long friendships that I can pick up after absences. I really cherish the connections to my old friends, and the cheerleading/support that we give each other. An old roommate will be my parents’ realtor and I know she’ll take care of them. Another was the PT supervisor at the hospital my dad was at, and would come and sit with them during his PT. Having that network when I live 500 miles away helps so much.
    – that I really like the adult versions of my kids. They are genuinely good people, and are funny, witty, and engaged in life
    – that both kids seem to be on paths to careers they’ll enjoy (although it requires college Round 2 for DD)
    – for DoorDash and take out in general, because I’m so over cooking.
    – adding to the entertainment comment above – for authors, because I’m using books to escape from the bad news and politics (I guess I should include wine there, too)

  20. J-M – although not what you had planned I am happy to hear how much you’ve enjoyed the parts of France you’ve visited.

    In contrast to my nephew who did a semester in Spain a year ago, Fall 2019. He lived in Madrid but spent basically every weekend in a different country. I think he did one weekend in Barcelona and one in the Costa Del Sol but the rest of the weekend trips were to major cities in other countries. Nothing wrong with that; I love travel too. But to paraphrase from LT, I am a study-abroad snob. Learn about the country you’re living in, learn some of the language, experience different parts of the country. He did none of that and didn’t even learn new foods!

  21. Fred – That’s exactly how I’m looking at it. Besides there are direct flights from home to all the major cities we would have visited so it will be easy to visit them another time.

  22. Austin, congrats to you and your DD1.

    I’m interested in whatever you’re willing to share about her MS program. What field within EE will she be studying?

  23. Ok, trying again, because there are some things I’m truly glad about.

    Like others here, I’m really pleased, deeply, by how well my son and I get along when it’s just the two of us for days on end in a small space.

    I continue to enjoy this city—just a long, meandering walk can lift my spirits.

    I finally seem to be getting my act together and our house in order.

    So far my parents seem to be hanging on, so we can have at least one more visit with them post-Covid.

    J-M, so glad to read your post!

  24. Kim – Yes, Tai Chi can help your balance if you find a good teacher and the “right” style/form for you. My students skew older, I don’t think any are under 55 and some are in their late 70s/early 80s as well as students with hip and/or knee replacements. Some forms are much harder to learn due to length and/or physical demands on your body and some teachers are focused on your ability to perform to move to the next level (testing happens more often in a martial arts school). My approach is that you are only competing with yourself to do as well as your body allows and that nothing we do should hurt, feel a little weird, but not hurt. If it hurts we need to see if we need to make a modification or if you are doing it wrong. Once you learn a form, which can take months, it is very relaxing!

  25. Austin, are there any tai chi folks on You Tube that you would recommend? I’d like to try it out, but I’m not comfortable going to a class.

    I need to start working on my balance.

  26. SM I just have missed a post. Congrats on the future employment!! I hope 2021 is a smooth abs enjoyable year.

  27. We have much to be thankful for. We were grateful to land into a furnished hospital provided rental, and frustrated to find that there were literally no other options in town. Covid weirdness made housing harder and we at least had security. Through no excellent planning but just dumb luck , we got paperwork done in Feb for a more permanent visa. There’s many boring details, but basically, we had an unexpected change in status in July and were allowed to purchase a house. Now we live on a windy ridge and watch the sun set over the ocean. Every night I am not working, we stand at the rail and talk about how we cannot believe our luck.

    We lost FIL in Feb and fortunate that DH could quickly run back to the US and make it back here before the borders close. Fortunate that my family has been mostly healthy – and the spectre of another emergency without the ability to travel has been avoided (so far, touch wood).

    Like J-M – we have seen more of this country that we would have, I think. We had plans to go to exotic south Pacific islands, and Australia that were ruined by covid. Instead, we have seen so much of our own neighbourhood.

    Grateful that jobs and finances have been steady. We are making about 70% less than what we did in the US. It’s surprising how little we miss it. (Fortunate the big financial goals are sailing along, so we are just changing our daily spend). A big part of that is living in a small town with few shops and a country that hasn’t discovered online shopping.

    An ADHD diagnosis and meds for a kid has been life-changing this year.

    As we move to awkward new holiday food traditions (because none of ours make much sense – spending all day in the kitchen baking when it’s hot and sunny) – I am grateful for new potatoes, fresh strawberries, cheap tomatoes (just a few months ago they were green, terrible and $15/kg).

    I’m not grateful for the new puppy, but I hope in several months I will be grateful for the dog.

  28. Finn – It is a masters with an emphasis in communications and signal processing. She had to submit her plan of study with her application and chose the non-thesis option. This is the most understandable description I found: Communications and Signal Processing area focuses on issues regarding the efficient processing and transmission of data. Some examples of sources of data include sound, images, and sensor output signals. Signal processing algorithms deal with efficiently transforming the signals resulting from these sources into digital data streams. Communications research focuses on efficiently transmitting streams of data from one location to another.

    It is a 1 year program that begins in the Fall 2021, but she was accepted as of Spring 2021. She has an orientation the second week of January and will get more details then. This overlap with her last undergrad semester allows to her mix grad and undergrad classes in the Spring (she has no classes this Spring – see below) and to maintain her status as a student over the summer.

    Her undergrad program requires a semester away from campus, which ideally would have been an internship this Spring. While there is still a little time, that is likely not going to happen partly because she is fried finishing up 4 straight full time semesters with no more than 2 weeks between each one and partly the more limited opportunities due to COVID. She is developing an independent learning experience that meets graduation requirements that she will do in the Spring. I don’t know much about that yet. She is also starting to look at Summer 2021 internships in our area and has a couple of leads. Keeping her student status over the summer will help her qualify for some of these.

  29. J-M, I know to is is a temporary post for you; when do you expect to go back to the US?

    Becky, it isn’t final until the “INS” signs off on it—cross your fingers for me!

  30. Puppy is a labradoodle. Naughty and puppy like. Good attitude, bad manners.

    We don’t have local dog training options, so will probably send to puppy military school for a few weeks.

  31. Houston – I have looked at videos to use as a reference point for students to jog their memory about the sequence and the postures we have learned in class, but not for instruction specifically. I am looking for one now for a beginner form I just recently started teaching. If I find a good one, I’ll make sure to post it here.

  32. “We are making about 70% less than what we did in the US.”

    How does COL compare overall?

    I know you’ve mentioned how some things, like turkey, cost a lot more there, but I assume there other local substitutes that aren’t so expensive.

  33. Austin, that sounds like she’s come up with a creative way to take advantage of her situation.

  34. Mr. Rio discovered that he can work even more efficiently from home and proved that to his supervisors. That never would have even been attempted if not for the pandemic.

    I was forced to try homeschooling, and we found out we like it enough that we may do it again in the future.

    We got out of the habit of eating so much carry out and restaurant meals.

    Our immediate and extended family are in good health and had no serious Covid cases.

    The mental outlets I’ve discovered to keep myself sane as a SAHM of young kids.

  35. Cost of living is high. NZ has some of the most unaffordable housing in the world (when you compare purchased price:median wage). We spend less, but we came from a very expensive urban area. Our 1600sqft house has an amazing view, but also single pane windows (and no central heat) has a $1600/mortgage payment.

    Groceries are very expensive and the swing between seasonal and non seasonal produce is huge. Cauliflower was $8 six months ago, now $1.50. Limes were basically free 6 months ago (a friend kept giving me bags of 100, I think they were $2/kg at the store). Now limes are $25/kg. Even buying cheaply, it costs a lot to feed a family.

    When we spend money, we mostly say, “wow, that’s so expensive”. The change is we just don’t buy so much stuff. No equivalent of Target, Costco. It’s really hard to explain – I don’t think we were profligate spenders in the US, but we certainly did a lot more shopping. My kids’ clothes are kind of falling apart, but so are all the kids’ clothes. Gas is about $6/gallon, but we don’t have significant daily commutes. We bought cheap cars and don’t have payments.

    Insurance is optional, but it feels too weird to skip. We buy health insurance, at $120/month, car insurance at $15/fortnight. We don’t spend anything on child care during the school year, and there are almost no school associated costs. No afterschool activities.

    I have 4 or 5 fancy dresses that I haven’t worn since arrival, so it seems ridiculous to buy more clothes. Nobody carries a fancy purse or wears fancy shoes. Even a lot of adults don’t wear any shoes most of the time. We drink at home – going out is complicated because we don’t have a single drink and drive home, there is no uber. We will spend the weekend at a local family’s beach house so that all 5 adults can drink and not go home (and benignly neglect the 8 kids). We will split the $100/night cost that the family charges to keep the lights on.

    I’ve tried to explain this to other Americans who are looking to move – it’s hard to imagine you can have a better life with so much less money, but it really has been an increase in quality of life for us. We couldn’t have done the same thing in the US, unless we had a community of like-minded people.

  36. it’s hard to imagine you can have a better life with so much less money

    It’s hard to do in America, I would think, because there are a lot of people who make and have a lot of money. If you went from making $350k to $135k in Boston while Ropes & Gray partners still made $2.8 million that would suck. But if you’re making $135k in NZ and partners in big Auckland firms are making $250k your relative position has actually increased.

    That and the tall poppy enforced modesty. So while there are relatively fewer people who make and have a lot of money in NZ they are still quite common. They just make more of an effort to keep it quite.

  37. Good things in 2020

    Both of us kept our jobs and could do them from home
    None of us got COVID (so far, knock on wood)
    We had DS1 home far more than expected – April to late August, and then he came home again at Thanksgiving.
    I did a lot more biking than in the past
    I used to have to get up at 5:15 so I could hit the roads before the traffic built up. Now I get up at 6:15, which gives me enough time to shower and drink coffee before I have to wake up DD at 7am for school (which starts at 7:50)
    We had a lovely staycation in August, which worked for us because there is so much to do within a daytrip distance. We did things we had always meant to do but had never gotten too, like the Circle Line boat tour and Bear Mountain
    Our cat is a really happy dude because there is always someone in the house to let him in and out.

  38. Ada, in some ways your description reminds me of what Germany was like when I lived there as a kid. The material standard of living was well below the American lifestyle at that time, but everyone was fine with it. We didn’t have a phone, and lots of people didn’t because it took a year or more to get one. Apartments were tiny. People, particular kids, wore the same outfit for 4 for 4 or 5 days at a time because nobody owned a lot of clothes. I remember being so shocked by that custom but I got used to it. A lot of people didn’t own cars, and the ones who did, were terribly proud of them and mainly took them out for Sunday drives. The TV broadcasting day started late and ended early. Housing was expensive and most people in our town lived in apartment blocks – so did we.
    German adults in the 70’s remembered WWII, and were thankful and happy to have made so much material progress.

    Back when I lived in NYC, one of my best friends was from NZ and we still keep up on FB (she moved back to NZ). The way she described NZ, and her persona in general, corresponds pretty much with your descriotion

  39. Berlin’s slogan is “poor but sexy”. We spend less than half what we did in Tampa each month. Housing is not expensive. Groceries kind of are, but there are lots of really inexpensive cafes & take-out places.

  40. Silver linings: DH and I are both still employed and making no less money. We saved more this year since our expenses went down, and DH also made some great market moves for us.
    Cooking. I made Ethiopian food and Indian food and lots of different Asian foods that I would not have made were it not for Covid. I baked about the same amount (a lot), but never had to worry if the kids would finish the pancake or crêpe batter since someone alway wanted it for lunch!
    Creativity. I have done several musical projects this year that I would not have attempted otherwise, which really satisfies that creative itch.
    Progress toward park-like grounds at L’Abbey – we have done a bunch of work ourselves (not fall cleanup, etc.) including planting more shrubs and trees, lots of mulch, cutting down dead trees, etc. DH is also building himself a greenhouse.

  41. Ada mentions coming from an expensive urban area in the U.S. to a NZ lifestyle. We didn’t have as drastic s move but we spend a lot less on things like restaurants, take out, clothes and cars. Most of the restaurants here are chains and there are very few fine dining type restaurants. Vacations for most people are at the beach or mountains in driving distance. Overseas vacations are a big treat. It’s also public school and state college for most people. Overall it’s a more modest standard of living than the more expensive urban areas.

  42. For me the good part was having so much time with the kids home. I think DD would’ve really struggled with an online semester if DS hadn’t also been home.

    The extra sleep has also been good, in particular, the last couple months or so of DD’s school year. I’d been getting up at 5:30 every morning to help her and DW get out the door by 6. Now I don’t use my alarm clock and typically roll out of bed at about 7:30, and within a few minutes I’m sitting at my desk working.

  43. I think where I felt out of the loop was during Hamilton. Only one person, I knew mentioned seeing it, during the very short time it came here.

  44. Finn beat me to the sleep comment. The increase in sleep is wonderful, I attribute most of it to not having a commute. I don’t remember getting this much sleep since before kids!

    I am very, very thankful to still be employed. My prediction early on was that I would lose my job by December. (No predictions yet for next year, it could be iffy.)

    DH was surveyed yesterday by DPH to ask if he would take the Moderna vaccine if offered. Here is our text exchange.
    Me: what was your response?
    DH: yes, I have no choice.
    Me: who is not giving you a choice?
    DH: umm…you.
    Me: ah, at least we understand each other.

    In all seriousness, if he receives the vaccine soon I will exhale the breath I have been holding for months.

  45. Off topic – someone recommended a good lamp earlier in the summer, and I think it was mentioned again recently. Was it useful for videoconference lighting? If yes, can I trouble you for that recommendation again? I have been using the video feature more often for conference calls and my current lighting is not flattering.

  46. d@mn.

    I haven’t gone for a haircut since January. A few months ago my hair was so long it was bothering me, so I took some scissors and cut what I could see, which actually didn’t turn out as bad as it could’ve.

    But it’s getting enough to bother me again, so I thought about the Flowbee, which used to be on late night TV a lot BITD. So I googled it to see if it’s still available, and found out that thanks to George Clooney recently saying on TV that he uses one to cut his own hair, they are all sold out.

    Procrastination didn’t pay off this time.

  47. Cass, I’m sorry to hear that.

    Finn, when you mentioned the Flowvee, I thought “dang—Finnis going to be so on trend because of that actor!” And then it turned out the actor did you in. Oopsie!

    I ve been awake for an hour, assembling a team of German experts in my mind, to ask about this doctor’s proposals to keep things off my son’s bill of health. It’s too early to call them now, but I’ve come with 3 who I think will be good.

  48. I am grateful for so many things:
    – DH was able to change jobs during the pandemic and is having fun at work again.
    – I have a job that can be done remotely.
    – DS had a summer job that was fulfilling and got him outdoors every day.
    – DS was able to get his driver’s license last January, and although there are limited places for him to go, it does give him independence.
    – All three of us have separate dedicated rooms that we can either work or do school in.
    – We were able to get the HVAC, solar panels, termite fumigation and house painting projects done. We are still waiting on the rain gutters.
    – Through twice a week Zoom calls we have spent more time with my parents, and my Brother & SIL then we ever did before. Additionally, I now meet Zoom monthly with my high school buddies, and I’ve started to Zoom with local friends (I intentionally waited until after the election to reach out.)
    – Zoom has allowed my parents to have a social life. They do nightly Zoom happy hours with their friends. They host bible study, choir practice, men’s breakfasts, and other virtual gatherings.
    – My SIL who does the grocery shopping and errands for my parents so that they can stay home.
    – Daily walks around the neighborhood with DH.
    – All the elders have stayed healthy.
    – This group – I don’t often post because I usually read after most threads have run their course or I don’t have anything new to add to the topic.

    Here’s something new that is making me happy: Our house faces south, and we have a covered patio facing north. It was very nice during the summer to be in the shade. Now that it winter, it is nicer to sit in the sun. So I now have a table and chairs in the front and I try to eat lunch out there every day. It is nice to have a new space with a different view to hang out in, and there is the added benefit of chatting with people as they walk by.

  49. Things I am grateful for:

    – We have all been healthy and my most vulnerable relatives have not gotten COVID. Those who really needed continuous and emergency care have gotten it.

    – DH and I are still employed and can mostly work from home.

    – Two of the three kids are doing well in school and seem to be learning what used to be taught in the Before Times despite the half-time hybrid schedule. Don’t ask me about the third child. That’s a different post.

    – My kids did not mind giving up all their activities and summer camps. We have saved tons of time by not needing to drive them anywhere. Not to mention the money, although some of that is going to have to go to tutoring.

    – I’ve been able to spend more time connecting with some friends (albeit mostly virtually) without the time pressures of commuting and kid activities.

    I do wonder what it will be like as we slowly return to the old normal and we don’t want to go back to that pace….

  50. Pleas for a snow day –

    Sky – one way to handle kid activities is to see if more than one of them can do the same activity. The other is to not over stretch yourself and limit them to one thing they would like to try. And if you can carpool or can get someone else to drive them, so much the better.

    My kids have come to a point where they pursue things that interest them, dropping things that they didn’t want to continue with, even before the pandemic. They were able to continue the few things they chose through the pandemic. As many posters have mentioned parents of older kids have gotten to bond with their kids more as there is no rushing about to get anywhere.

  51. Sky, for me it’s the opposite. Most people around here know that ten years ago, I was undermined and overpowered in ways that had much greater effect and were done much more casually than I realized for years, and I slowly became more and more ineffectual as the reality of what had happened took hold. Having the whole world slow down to the tempo I’ve been operating at, just while my son is getting stronger, has been extremely helpful to me, and I think I will be able to return to normal functioning along with the rest of the world as normal life slowly resumes.

  52. Louise, I wonder if snow days will be a long-term casualty of the pandemic. Now that schools have set up distance learning, I can’t imagine them not using that option when road conditions make driving dangerous. Where we used to live, there obviously were no snow days, but during hurricane warnings, kids didn’t go to school, as school were set up to be emergency shelters. They were rarely necessary, but of course you don’t know that in advance, so they had to prepare, just in case. I’m guessing those could also be distance learning days, but maybe not, because the communications centers were always an important part of the prep, so maybe they’d need the servers for that. Idk—doesn’t affect us any more.
    We also were not affected by server outages for 11,000 kids yesterday—my son’s school was already on break.

  53. “In all seriousness, if he receives the vaccine soon I will exhale the breath I have been holding for months.”

    I hope it’s soon! I learned my cleaning lady will not take the vaccine and is full of conspiracy theories about the government. I’ve known she’s a little kooky ever since she performed a prayer ritual in my son’s room to ward off the spirits that caused his extreme messiness. At least she self isolates and wears a mask, even though I have to remind her sometimes to cover her nose.

    Ada’s description of her life is fascinating. I love my Amazon and other convenient shopping options so my first thought is that I would be unhappy there. Also I’m picky about my clothes especially my shoes. But I’ve adapted to different situations in the past so I like to think I would do the same in another country. There will always be compensating advantages that offset the drawbacks.

  54. Ada, your NZ lifestyle sounds wonderful. I’m staring at a mountain of Christmas presents that I have bought my family (nuclear and extended). They don’t need any of it, and will probably want only a fraction of it…

  55. Many school districts including DD’s have a snow day today. I don’t want to turn this into the politics page, but there will be snow days around here as long as there are teacher unions.

    I have mixed feelings about the snow day because DD was thrilled to have an old fashioned snow day. Most of the districts around here announced the snow day last night so the kids can sleep in. If it wasn’t for Covid, DD probably would have slept at a friend’s house last night. The reason that I have mixed feelings is that her school district still has 1/2 days on Wednesdays so there is less instruction this year. This isn’t a big deal in the lower grades, but it is an issue in the HS especially in the AP and college level courses. Also, the timing is bad with the break because she had a bunch of exams scheduled for today and tomorrow. For some reason, most fo the teachers pushed the exams to Monday so she now has four exams on Monday including all of her AP classes. The teachers are all trying to get int he exams before the break, but the break starts on Thursday. The exams should have been pushed to Monday AND Tuesday since this isn’t a typical year where most people will leave early for vacations.

  56. Yeah, in normal times, today would have been a snow day for the North of Boston kids, but instead they are having a full remote-learning day. They are a little bitter.

    By contrast, the Superintendent in DH’s district decided to call a snow day, so no one needs to go to school in person or remotely. He thought it would give the kids a morale boost. DH, the avid XC skier, is just as thrilled as his students are!

  57. “but there will be snow days around here as long as there are teacher unions.”

    Lauren — Among DH’s teacher friends, most of them would rather have school in the winter whenever it is at all possible, because they prefer to not have to extend the school year in June to make up for the snow days. DH is unusual in that he loves winter, so he would much rather have a day off in the winter to play in the snow, than a day off in June.

  58. Lauren, interesting perspective. For my kid, all the extra time at school has always been too much. He wasn’t a fan of online classes, particularly since they couldn’t see other kids, but time to get his work done and not have to have his head filled with all the other busy-ness sounds great for him. I get that some kids are more social and don’t get so pooped out he spending their whole day around other people, but for mine, 8 hour days arenanLOt of social time.

    I’m staring at a mountain of Christmas presents that I have bought my family (nuclear and extended). They don’t need any of it, and will probably want only a fraction of it…
    I try really hard to find things my family likes. There are some gifts I know were big hits, others that probably weren’t, and most I really don’t know about. Everyone says “thank you”, smiles and nods. I’m at the point where I’d really rather not get stuff we don’t want. It’s so odd that one sister buys me nice things on her own, but y whole extended family does horribly at getting my anything from a wish list. Being specific about the exact item takes the fun out of it, and then they usually get something else anyway. And right now I’m looking at a gift I bought my son for his birthday. It’s unopened, and we are wondering if we can return it. I don’t want gifts between him and me to turn I to pressure and irritation, so I might talk to him about starting a tradition of travel for Christmas, with only gifts we can tuck in a carry-on.

  59. Have you ever fixed crumbly cookie dough? My D and I made sugar cookie dough using Alton Brown’s 3 C flour to 1 C sugar ratio but it came out too crumbly and unrollable. That ratio is a bit higher than previous recipes I’ve used, but I think we exacerbated the problem by adding the flour in by ¼ cup increments and not leveling off the top, thereby incorporating excess flour into the mixture. (And by “we” I mean my D!)

    Anyway, we could soften the dough that is currently in the fridge and add about a stick of butter to try to fix the problem, or we could throw it out and start all over. I’m not sure if I have the patience to try to fix it especially if the outcome is uncertain.

  60. I think that is just certain states because days are never made up in June in NY. Ever. The school year ends close to the end of June and it is never extended.The days might be picked up in NY during a Spring break, or many districts will apply for a waiver when there are too many snow days in one year. In a year like Sandy where they exceeded the number of days, the state just waived the requirement to have 180 days.

  61. The districts here haven’t brought up snow days (we are currently in a snowless December), but I would be terribly disappointed if they did away with them. Spending the day sledding, skiing, building snowman is the best break! That being said, we don’t have too many snow days here. We are more likely to have snow days for cold days (air temp -20 or lower), and when it is that cold, you can’t play outside anyway so online school would be fine.

  62. So my kids, who are online-schooling today, are currently in online gym class. The gym teachers told them to go move around for an hour and then return to their computers. To their credit, the two kids are out with DH shoveling. It is 19 degrees out, the wind is blowing, and snow is still coming down, hard. I just looked out my home-office window, and saw that 13-year-old DD is NOT WEARING A HAT!! What is it with teenagers and their total unwillingness to wear hats??? DS is wearing a hat, but as I have said before he is 16 going on 60, so I don’t really count him as a teenager.

  63. ” If you have a kitchen scale,”

    Unrelated to baking, but I am surprised how accurate our $10-15 food scale is. Its capacity is ~10lbs. Mostly I use it for weighing smaller boxes to ship via USPS or UPS and doing my labels at home. When I use UPS the UPS Store always puts the stuff on the scale and it’s always the same weight.

  64. I think the snow day issue is affected by whether the teachers are able to do their lessons from home. I recall that different school systems and even programs within a system set up different rules around that. One of the vocational high schools offered a snow day, in part I think because demos would not be possible.

    My house got less snow than expected,, which is always hard to predict because it is 2/3 rds of the way up the slope between lowlying Boston and the higher elevation outer burbs and the difference is dramatic every half mile.

  65. I have to shed my hat when I’m actually shoveling snow because it’s such hard work, and I generate too much heat.

  66. What is it with teenagers and their total unwillingness to wear hats???

    Kids don’t feel cold like we do. When I was a kid, my mother would be yelling at me all the time to put a jacket or hat or gloves on and I just wasn’t cold. Now I really feel it.

    It’s really funny hearing DS complain about how cold it is after just four months in AZ.

  67. I finally got DS to wear gloves recently, but he rarely puts his hood up and refuses the scarf. At his age I still ran out onto the porch barefoot to get more wood for the fire. Now socks are the first thing I put on when I feel chilly

  68. Thank you for the cookie help! I had forgotten that I used to make a berry cookie cobbler using sugar cookie dough so the crumbly dough will go in the freezer for that.

    I agree that kids don’t feel cold like we do.

  69. @NOB – That reminds me of this. They are crazy. Even when they are cold, they don’t want to admit it.

    I was busy yesterday & didn’t get to post earlier. But the Ivy family has actually had a pretty good year. I feel a little guilty for saying that, but we haven’t been hit as hard as so many others by the virus and all the ripple effects. We moved to a new house that we love. Our old house sold quickly and without incident. I got promoted to a job I had been hoping I would be chosen for. DH had a very successful project launch at work that will pay dividends in the future. DS is doing just fine with remote learning and is possible the exact right age and temperament that he really won’t lose much. DS got to play lots of baseball this summer – his favorite activity and favorite group of friends – and his team won the league championship. While we have had family members with Covid – everyone has recovered for the most part. Our health has been fine – maybe better with the additional sleep and activity WFH. And honestly, we have enjoyed the extra family time. Not all of it has been high quality, but we’ve had more game nights, movie nights and family walks/hikes. If it weren’t for Covid, DS is the age where he would have been with friends instead. And I’m happy to prolong his time hanging out with us instead a little bit.

  70. Our district is having a remote day instead of a snow day. Boo! So I had to wake all the kids up as usual. After our calls today DH and I are going to go snowshoeing. :)

  71. L, sadness!

    On “just the right age” for distance learning—a friend of mine has a daughter who got her period the end of 4th grade already. She (the mom) cried. So when Covid hit and doing school online got to be a thing that’s pretty normal, she signed her kid right up (might’ve been thinking of it anyway). Her thinking is that in a year or two, her daughter, who is in 6th grade now, will go back to school, having skipped over so much painful teasing. By then most of the girls will have changed, so she’ll fit right in.

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