There are over 1.8 billion websites on the internet and somehow, whether intentionally or not, you landed here. This site is what happens when a middle-aged software developer ( me ) re-discovers his childhood love of drawing.
2020. What a year, right? My family and I started the year off strong with back-to-back trips to Legoland and Universal Studios, and then life got interesting. In March, just as COVID was rearing its ugly head in the United States, Kaylee and I underwent surgeries for a broken elbow and a prostatectomy. I owe our quick recovery to Jodie, Ashley, and each other – and the fact that, like everyone else, we were stuck at home with nothing to do but recover. Over the next few months of lockdowns, social distancing, and travel restrictions my family and I all did our best to maintain normalcy as much as possible.
Ashley and Kaylee adapted to virtual “distance learning” and used Chromebooks to finish 4th and 2nd grade at Westwood Elementary. Ashley is now in her final year at Westwood and, sadly, likely to graduate without ever setting foot in a classroom there again. On the upside, both girls seem to be learning and doing great. Ashley, known as the “human calculator” by her classmates, has joined Math Olympiad for the second year, a national mathematics competition and study group. Meanwhile, Kaylee has joined “Roadrunner TV”, a weekly school news broadcast. She loves being in front of the camera and interviewing staff and students and reporting on school affairs.
Ashley and Kaylee have continued to excel in Karate and, after two years, have both achieved Green Stripe Belts. The classes, which were held online during the initial months of the pandemic, are now outdoors with face coverings, no-contact restrictions, and gratuitous use of hand sanitizer.
Kaylee is wrapping up her second year of singing and piano lessons with her awesome music instructor. This year she was introduced to the Ukulele and has now performed several recitals, the latest of which have been held virtually over Zoom. Her voice and ability have improved remarkably since she started. Jodie and I are looking forward to her upcoming virtual Holiday Recital where she’ll be performing, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”.
LEGO has now officially taken over our house to the extent that our formal dining room now looks like a toy store, and gets much more use because of it. During the early months of COVID Jodie and I started holding weekly LEGO Master competitions over Zoom with our friends to stay connected. We’ve been amazed by what our daughters and their friends are capable of building and just finished our 35th competition.
We tested the limits of our health insurance plan this year. In addition to Kaylee and my surgeries in March, Ashley has had several tooth extractions (and subsequent tooth fairy visits) whereas I have continued to receive hormone therapy and, more recently, radiation to fight off my cancer. To keep everyone healthy Jodie and I have continued to maintain a plant-based, no dairy, low sugar diet for ourselves, and be more mindful of what our daughters eat as well. Jodie has had fun experimenting and replicating some of our favorite dishes including sloppy “Jods”, vegan nachos, pumpkin-quinoa chili, stuffed sweet potatoes, and plant-based fish tacos.
Jodie, after more than ten years of working as a real estate agent, has decided to start her own brokerage and will be taking her broker exam in early January. 2020 has proven to be a challenging yet successful year for her; even with COVID headwinds she has managed to complete several transactions. I am looking forward to supporting her in her new endeavor and have passed the realtor exam in preparation to be her first “part time” employee.
As for me, after losing my job due to COVID-related cutbacks I took some much-needed time off. I have just recently started a new position at MedImpact Direct as a Software Engineer. I will be working on their direct-to-consumer and specialty pharmacy platforms, two things that I have become very familiar with during my battle with cancer.
Last but not least, we have added a new furry four-legged member to our family, Maddie, a small black-and-tan Rat Terrier with hugely adorable ears. Since we adopted her, she has brought more smiles to our faces than I thought possible and has proven to be the perfect sidekick for our other dog, Chip.
Overall, it has been a difficult yet strangely rewarding year. As a family, I feel that, throughout all the weirdness that is 2020, we have all become much closer and have a much better understanding of what is truly important – each other.
…with that, bring on the vaccines and an ultimate return to real normalcy!
“Dad! Can we do an Easter Egg Hunt on Minecraft?”, my oldest daughter, Ashley, asked me.
In years past we would go to the Westwood Club, our community center, for an annual Easter Egg Hunt with our friends and neighbors. However this year, due to social distancing restrictions enacted to slow the Coronavirus, the community center would be closed and the Easter Egg Hunt, cancelled.
“That is a great – wait, no, fantastic idea!”, I told her excitedly, “Let’s do it!”
So, during the week leading up to Easter Sunday we created a Minecraft World, populated it with a bunch of colorful “eggs” ( we substituted in-game colored wool blocks ), and scheduled a Zoom teleconference so that the participants could talk.
We kept the rule simple.
Each participant would be provided a “basket” ( an in-game chest ) that would reside in the starting area.
Each basket would contain tools ( a pickaxe and shears ) which would allow the participant to “mine” the eggs.
A hunt would last 15 minutes.
During the hunt each participant would have to find and mine as many eggs as they could and return them to their basket before time ran out. Only eggs inside the basket at the end of the hunt would be tallied.
And most importantly, the participant with the most eggs wins.
For each hunt we also hid a special “golden egg” ( an in-game gold block ) which would be worth ten regular eggs.
To get by Minecraft’s 8-player limit we would hold two hunts. The first would be for the older kids who would re-hide the eggs for the second hunt, which would be for the younger kids.
The hunt had it’s hiccups, but everyone seemed to have a good time. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to once again meet up with our friends and neighbors at the community center for a real, in-person Easter Egg Hunt, but desperate times call for desperate measures and this measure, in my humble opinion, wasn’t so much desperate as it was fun.
Take care. Stay healthy. Live life. And stay safe everyone.
My girls and their friends are all big fans of Lego Masters, a new television show where teams compete with one another to create incredible builds based upon a theme.
Leveraging the coronoavirus restrictions as a unique opportunity, five families participated in Episode 1 of the “Rancho Bernardo Lego Masters : Coronavirus Lockdown Edition”. Each family used Zoom running on a mobile device or laptop to teleconference so that they could participate.
The winner of this weeks challenge, “Build the World’s Coolest Treehouse” was the Jock Family. Alexander and Kaliope won the exclusive “Rancho Bernardo Cup” with their amazing build. They will hold onto the cup until next Saturday for Episode 2.
Each family will represent a Team. A Team will be made up of one or more kids.
Each Team will need access to a device capable of running Zoom.
Each family will have two Votes. A family can only Vote for themselves once.
A Host (me) will host the Zoom meeting and be responsible for interviewing ( and muting ) the Teams throughout the challenge.
How it works
A Theme will be chosen from a hat by the Host and presented to all of the Teams.
Each Team will take5 minutesto create a Plan. A Plan is a one page paper describing about how the Team will build a Lego representing the Theme. The Plan can ( and should ) contain pictures. No building should take place during this time.
Each Team will take 1 hour to Build their Lego.
Each Team will take turns Showcasing their Build. While doing so they must describe how their Build fits the Theme.
Each family will submit two Votes for the best Build and discretely tell the Host.
The Host will tally the votes and award the winning Team the “Golden Cup”. The Golden Cup will be re-awarded with each competition.