When 2020 began, Owen was eight months old. He was crawling and babbling without uttering a comprehensible word.
Our world was innocent and clean.
Nine months after Owen was born, we were starting to get back to some of our favorite recreational activies.
Then it came. It drove us from our daily routines and from the joy of pursuing our professional aspirations. Putting physical distance between ourselves and others was disorienting to say the least.
We had to adapt.
Without access to the cleanroom at NIST, Jeff transitioned his research to be primarily computational. Without access to school, Katie moved her classroom home too.
We modified a room in our basement to become half classroom and half scientific laboratory. Here is an interactive image Katie put together to share with her students when they all returned from Spring Break to a whole new way of doing school.
The first few weeks were the toughest. We all felt so confined. In an act of desperation, Owen tried to chew his way out.
In this isolation, we turned our attention to creative endeavors. In a revival of a childhood favorite, hundreds of intricate castles and majestic towers were erected. In response, with tenacity and precision, Owen toppled each one. Each crumbling masterpiece that fell was a tangible reminder of the fragility and impermanence of our creations and ourselves.
How can we rebuild in the face of such relentless opposition?
Owen's first step was on leap day. He took 11 steps on the day he turned 11 months old.
We followed his example and started taking things one step at a time. New games and activities filled our evenings with quarantainment.
Quarantine wasn't exactly hard work in the traditional sense.
As the weather improved, we weren't confined inside. Katie and Jeff worked in shifts and took Owen outside when they weren't stationed in their basement workplace.
Owen turned one on May 2nd.
At this point, the lockdown was still pretty severe. Owen didn't get to see most of his family for the first couple months, but Grandma Ellen, Grandpa Carl, and the Reid cousins came to celebrate his birthday from a distance.
A few days later, Katie turned 29 again.
Keeping distance was hard, but we tried to stay connected. Like the rest of us, Owen learned to endure video calls. We were grateful to have technology that enabled Grandma Ellen to read to him.
Being quarantined in the summer months wasn’t so bad. The backyard became a makeshift water park, and we inherited a sandbox from our neighbors.
Sounds of splashing and laughter echoed from our backyard.
Always on the move and ready for more, Owen started developing his cycling skills.
He grew more confident as the summer went on.
As we continued to hike a lot in these bright summer days, Owen developed a real taste for nature.
We got into storm chasing. Owen monitored the sky and alerted dad when it was time to get the van.
Despite having the ability to spend time outdoors and do some of our favorite summer activities, the limitations of pandemic life wore on us. We sought to explore new opportunities...
...but we kept getting stuck right where we were.
Something was missing.
We needed to see our family. After lots of hand-wringing and risk assessment, we found ways to spend more time with our loved ones.
Owen spent the night at his grandparents’ house so we could enjoy a romantic anniversary near the site of our wedding ceremony all those years ago. Here we are hiking near Chautauqua.
Turns out that Owen is a very physical kid. After seeing him try to ascend the dining room table as though it were El Capitan, we realized it might be wise to get Owen something safe to climb. So, Grandpa Kim and Katie built Owen his own Pikler triangle.
After teaching entirely online from mid-March until summer, school started up for Katie in August, again virtually. Owen helped her get "camera ready" in the mornings.
The weather stayed nice for much of the fall, so we were able to keep enjoying the outdoors.
During our annual leaf-peeping pilgrimage to Salida, Owen got to refine his rock-skipping and dirt-hurling skills.
Adding insult to 2020 injury, fires in Colorado reached historic proportions. A few were near Boulder, but fortunately, none threatened our home.
The flames were visible at night from a park near our house.
By October, pandemic fatigue paired with incessant election ads and spam texts had us feeling a little claustrophobic again. Katie started teaching at school in a "hybrid" model where half the students are in school and the other half are home. Three weeks later, she was sent home to quarantine after one of her students got sick. The inconsistency of schools being in-person then quarantined had Owen feeling the plight faced by so many of our nation's youth.
Against a landscape of uncertainty, Fall traditions brought a source of normalcy. Owen loved climbing the huge hay-bale pyramids at the pumpkin patch.
We took our pumpkins over to Great Grandpa Russ's house for carving.
Then we celebrated Halloween! Owen joined his cousins in dressing up as Baby Yoda.
At eighteen months old, Owen liked to help out around the house with vacuuming, raking leaves, and shoveling snow.
As with everything else, Thanksgiving was different this year. In an effort to support our favorite local restaurant, we ordered Thanksgiving dinner to-go and enjoyed it at home with Grandpa Kim and Grandma Vickie.
Then Owen got to play with his cousins during a masked block-building day outside at The Reid’s.
Turns out, even with no turkey or Black Friday shopping, being with family really is the most important thing.
We're still playing frequently with blocks, but now Owen builds as well as destructs.
In these cold months, Owen reminds us to stay hungry for more.
Even in the dead of winter, on the shortest day of the year, we can find joy if we seek it.
Christmas was simple this year, which is a tradition we’d like to keep. Owen loves cars, so his grandparents set him up with some new Hot Wheels and Matchbox Racers as well as some good books.
Christmas was also distanced this year, which is a tradition we do NOT intend to keep.
It wasn't the greatest year in the history of humanity, but for our family, the blessings have been immense. We've had the opportunity to intimately witness the nuanced evolutions of a small boy as he learned the world. We are so grateful for each other, our home, our health, and our livelihoods.
We wish you and yours happy holidays and hope for growth in 2021!
Hindsight is 20/20, and 2020 is in hindsight.
Looking back with a new perspective, here are a few lessons we’ll be carrying forward into the new year.
1. Towers will fall. Keep building new ones.
2. One foot in front of the other eventually leads to significant progress.
3. Our highest calling is to care for each other and ourselves.
4. When you want to dance in the rain, but you aren't allowed to go outside, dance in your rain boots.
5. Admire your loving mother.
6. Let your joy out.
Aside from bickering over banalities as we both grew fatigued by quarantine, our love remains as strong as we hoped it would be as we learn the craft of parenting.
Let us leave you with this duet.
He must have learned the mic drop at school.