2021 in Review

We started the year off cautiously optimistic that things would be better than 2020…I guess it’s up to the individual to decide how much truth there is to that! I do know that over the course of the last 12 months, our entire family has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and some of us have also been able to get booster shots, and for that I am extremely grateful. There were, of course, ups and downs to 2021…here’s a look back at some of our moments.

In January, we rang in the new year in our traditional way. Ryan celebrated his birthday on a day when it felt like the world was falling apart. We enjoyed a nice Burns Night Supper. We finally had enough snow to play in. Bunny gave me a haircut in our kitchen salon. I began a second attempt at photographing the Ottoman Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden every month.

February is never my favorite month of the year, and this year was no exception, but I was very excited about the ColourPop Animal Crossing collaboration. I finally made pączki from scratch, after threatening to do so for I don’t even know how many years. Ryan was the first member of the family to get a COVID-19 vaccine…he went to a mass vaccination site that was held not too far from our home. We had a nice celebration in honor of George Washington’s Birthday.

March is always a fun, busy month, and that was true this year more than most. We did start of the year on a serious note, as we reflected on a full year of COVID-19’s influence on our lives. We had a fun time celebrating MAR10 Day and then Pi Day. Ryan received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and we all breathed a sigh of relief at the knowledge that one member of the family was fully vaccinated. We were all excited to hear from Lucky the Leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day. Turkey turned 18, and I still can’t believe it! I celebrated one year of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Chickadee turned nine! She was also confirmed at our new church in a very quiet, private service, which was just another strange thing COVID-19 has brought us.

We started April strong with a fantastic Easter celebration, especially after our subdued Easter-at-home in 2020. Turkey, Bunny, and I went to a vaccine clinic at our local hospital and received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and celebrated with smoothies from Smoothie King afterward. We visited Origami in the Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden for the first time.

In May, Turkey, Bunny, and I were back at the vaccine clinic to receive the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and Moose and Ladybug got their first doses at Walgreens. We celebrated “May the Fourth” and the “Revenge of the Fifth.” Ladybug turned 14 on Mother’s Day. We took a very special field trip to Grant’s Farm. Ryan and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Ladybug finished 8th grade. After 13 years of homeschooling grades K-12, Turkey and Bunny graduated from high school (and I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet!)! We bought a new double oven, which makes our endless cookie baking much easier!

We started preparing for Tokyo 2020 in June with a summer school that was, like the Olympics themselves, delayed a year. Moose and Ladybug received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. We visited Origami After Hours at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I shared a tour of my Animal Crossing: New Horizons island (I’ve made quite a few changes since then). I had a very nice birthday. Chickadee got braces! We saw the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

In July, I continued my Animal Crossing: New Horizons tours with a peek inside my home, a look at my neighbors’ homes, and a visit to the museum. I also took a look at one of my neighbor’s obsession with the native fruit. We actually took a trip and visited Bowling Green, KY! We also stopped in Nashville to see the Nature Pop! Lego exhibit. Bunny turned 17…the second Golden Birthday of the year! We visited Francis Olympic Field and the Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis. The Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremonies were finally held, and I made a Japanese dinner to celebrate.

August was a Big Month. Moose attended band camp for the first time…all day, five days a week for two weeks, and he loved it! We watched as much of the Olympics as we could…there were a lot of great moments! Turkey and I finally visited the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station. We began a new school year, and I found myself with only two students in my classroom for the first time in years, with Ladybug in ninth grade, and Chickadee in fourth. Moose started his second year of high school, but his first year in-person, and he loved that, too, especially all of his band performances and competitions! Turkey and Bunny started college (spoilers: they both earned straight As in their first semester!). I abandoned my photography project of the Ottoman Garden for the second year in a row, but for very different reasons. We visited a beautiful sunflower field!

September was a quiet month. We did a lot of cooking in school, trying recipes from around the world, and from the Little Women Cookbook. We also took a field trip to Forest Park and visited the St. Louis Zoo. We had our annual family Oktoberfest celebration.

In October we went pumpkin picking, and we were even able to go on a day when everybody could come along. We finished cooking our way through the Little Women Cookbook. I had fun celebrating Erstwilder’s 10th birthday. We had a nice Reformation Day/Halloween.

We started November with a fun “Outdoors Week” in school. Bunny and I were very excited about the update for Animal Crossing: New Horizons! Moose turned 16! I wear dirndls now. We went to Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Chickadee finally got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Walgreens…and then a few weeks later, got the second, as well! We visited Creve Coeur Lake. We had fun doing all of our traditional Thanksgiving activities in school. I learned something really interesting in church. Pie Day involved making nine pies this year! Our three-day Thanksgiving celebration was very nice, especially because this year, we could have visitors. We started our new Advent Lego project.

That brings us to December, one of the best months of the year. Bunny participated in a speech contest at college and placed third in the persuasive category. We made our triumphant return to Christmas Traditions. Speaking of traditions, we may have come up with a new family tradition for St. Nicholas Day. We had fun celebrating Santa Lucia Day. Christmas School was a lot of fun! We got to hear Moose play in a band concert for the first time in two years. I’m really into gnomes right now…no, seriously! We finished building the Lego Millennium Falcon, but we’ve yet to figure out where it’s going to go…it’s an enormous set! We had a very nice three-day Christmas that included lots of church and visiting with family. I wasn’t ready for Christmas to be over, so we visited the Wild Lights at the St. Louis Zoo for the first time.

I think it’s safe to say that for us, at least, this year really was better than the last. I know that wasn’t true for everybody, so my hope for 2022, whatever is may bring, is that more people are able find joy and things to celebrate in the midst of whatever chaos we’re still living in!

A Return to Christmas Traditions

After a hiatus last year due to COVID-19, yesterday we made a return to Christmas Traditions in historic St. Charles, MO!

The parade was a little different this year, including the fact that it ran the opposite direction down Main Street from what we were used to. This actually made it easier to photograph because I wasn’t pointing my camera into the sun, so that was really nice. And Santa liked my Christmas skirt!

Seeing the characters is always the best part, and we saw all of our favorites…in the end, we collected 21 of 35 cards, which is only ok, but the point is, we were there.

The very best moment for me was seeing Bunny see Jack Frost again. If we had accomplished nothing else yesterday, that would have made the trip worth it. And I think he was equally glad to see her!

My annual gazebo picture was a little different this year, but again, the point is, I took it:

Of all the things COVID took away from us last year, missing our favorite family Christmas event was one of the ones that hurt the most. Even if things weren’t exactly the same as they used to be, I was so glad to be back!

Chickadee Thursday

Chickadee has been busy since Thanksgiving! She got the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine:

And she added Christmas colors to her braces…next month, she gets to have brackets placed on her bottom teeth, too!

I’m looking forward to more fun and excitement in the coming weeks!

Advent 2021–Day One

We have been waiting for this year’s Advent Lego project for a long time!

Almost two years ago now, I purchased a set that everyone in the family dreamed of building, but no one person could afford…the Lego Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon. The plan was to build it last Advent, in advance of the big trip to Orlando, and especially Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disney, that we were supposed to take this summer.

Of course, COVID-19 happened, and we quickly realized that we would need to postpone our trip to (God willing) summer 2022. So I offered the children the option of building the Falcon anyway, or building another set I had on hand and saving the Star Wars set for the Advent before our vacation as planned. They chose the latter, and so the GINORMOUS box for this set became a fixture in our den while we (kind of) patiently waited to build it. Seriously…it could play the part of an end table it’s so huge!

Today Turkey got started on the build. He took care of bag one of seventeen. I know seventeen bags doesn’t sound like enough for 27 days of Advent, but this set has over 7,500 pieces, making it one of the largest Lego sets created, so one bag is more than enough for one day…we’ll be splitting many of the upcoming bags in half, and that will still be plenty of building for a day! He took care of the base of the frame, and looking at it right now, you wouldn’t necessarily have any idea what the completed set will even be! Also, check out the enormous, spiral-bound instruction book…that’s definitely something new!

I’m very excited about this set, because of what it represents: a dream that had to be postponed that will hopefully be all the sweeter for the wait!

First Day of High School, In Person

For the first time in almost 18 months, I dropped Moose off at school this morning!

Even though he’s a sophomore (I can’t believe it!), this is his first year in the high school building. It’s a strange way to experience the (continued) transition to high school, but I’m sure he’s up to the task, and he’s already excited about some of the things he’ll get to do this year!

Summer School 2021

It seemed like the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics would never get here, and now they’ve already come and gone. Here’s a look back at our Japan-themed summer school.

We visited Origami in the Garden at the Missouri Botanical several times over the summer. The large-scale art installation was the perfect field trip to coincide with Tokyo 2020 (and was also postponed from last summer).

We also visited the Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis at Francis Field, home of the 1904 Summer Games:

I made a few fun treats for the Olympics…Olympics torches (white chocolate covered pretzels) and Team USA CHEERios treats.

We did a lot of cooking and tried a lot of Japanese foods. I worked really hard to find things we hadn’t had before, and used a variety of cooking methods and unfamiliar ingredients. We tried:

  • Spicy Ramen/Udon
  • Pork Gyoza
  • Coffee Jelly
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Matcha Mochi Cake
  • Vegetable Tempura
  • Potato Korokke
  • Fluffy Japanese Cheesecake
  • Kani Cream Korokke
  • Chicken Katsu Sandwich
  • Matcha Green Tea Cookies
  • Oyakodon

We were supposed to go out to a Japanese restaurant this summer, but COVID-19, so we got a party platter of sushi instead:

I’ve been holding on to the Lego Architecture Tokyo skyline since last year, and we finally got to build it!

Our American Girl dolls got into the Olympic spirit:

In between watching as much of the Olympics as we could, we also did some more traditional school work. We learned about Japanese history and culture, as well as the history of the Olympics. We read a lot of books…some I read out loud, and some were book basket choices. We also watched a selection of Olympic documentaries:

  • FirstLondon 2012
  • The Everlasting FlameBeijing 2008
  • Atlanta’s Olympic GloryAtlanta 1996
  • 16 Days of GloryLos Angeles 1984
  • Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory
  • Seoul 1988

And we also did several crafts, including origami, paper lanterns, Koinobori (Japanese carp windsocks), pipe cleaner and tissue paper cherry blossom branches, and medals (of course!):

I’ve been holding on to Ticket to Ride: Japan since last year, and we finally had a chance to play! I really enjoyed the new game mechanics introduced in this edition, and it was fun to get to know the geography of the area a little bit better.

We updated our medal chart every evening…here’s a look at the final results…we were very excited that the US won the gold medal race and had the most medals overall!

And, better late than never, our Family Olympics, which was delayed due to heat. We only had four events this year (frisbee throw, broad jump, soccer kicks, and a running race), thanks to time constraints and a lack of basketball hoops on the backboards we normally use. Technically, Turkey came in first, but since we participate as a family, we all won gold!

This summer school was a long time coming. I think we all still have mixed feelings about the fact that the Olympics were held at this time, but we had to just accept that that was out of our control, and embrace the Olympics as we usually do. It’s always hard to say goodbye when they extinguish the flame, but the Winter Olympics are less than six months away, and we only have to wait three more years for Paris 2024!

Road Trip Wrap-Up in the Time of COVID-19

Our travels this summer might not yet be back to what they were in pre-COVID times, but we did actually go somewhere this year! Since we weren’t quite as busy as we have been on previous vacations, I’m just going to take a look at the whole trip instead of going day-by-day.

On Monday, we left for a short trip to Bowling Green, KY. Any visit to Bowling Green includes a meal from Zaxby’s. Fortunately, we have always done carryout, so that wasn’t even any different from our usual dinner.

On Tuesday morning, we drove into Nashville to visit Cheekwood Estate and Gardens and see the Nature Pop! Lego exhibition by Sean Kenney. Both the sculptures and the estate were breathtaking!

We also drove down to the Cumberland riverfront to get a look at the Nashville skyline.

We were going to get lunch at Hattie B’s, one of the locations in Nashville known for hot chicken, but the line was unbelievably long, so we went to Chaney’s Dairy Barn and had ice cream for lunch instead!

Our day ended with a beautiful double rainbow!

On Wednesday, Bunny and I went with her grandparents to tour Western Kentucky University, where she is planning on attending after she finishes at community college:

And on Thursday, we visited the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green, where we saw not only an authorized replica of Marine One, but also an aircraft flown by every astronaut who walked on the moon!

We also had an early birthday celebration for Bunny that night:

We were up early on Friday morning to head home, but we did stop for donuts at the Donut Bank on the way:

It was a little challenging coming up with fun things to do outside in the summer heat, (I wanted to go to a Bowling Green Hot Rods game, but between the temperatures and the fact that I’m still a little hesitant to be in a big crowd, even outdoors, made me table that for the time being), but we found something to do every day, and it was so nice to get away for a bit!