By the end of two weeks of quarantine, the boys were itching to see their grandparents, the grandparents were becoming impossible to placate through virtual means alone, and Lori and I were ready for some adult conversation (and beyond ready to share the boys’ “love” and energy with other parties (which isn’t easy, might I add, in the time of Covid!!!)).

Both sets of grandparents have been living in their own little pandemic bubbles for the past few weeks in anticipation of our arrival.

We had taken the precautions we needed to to keep everyone healthy.

Still, in these times, Lori and I couldn’t help but have a nagging feeling in the back of our minds that it could all unravel, and all of us could get sick at any moment.

After all, it only takes one misstep from one link in a chain that stretched among 14 people (including four young children) to wreak havoc.

The Makings of a Covid Bubble

We found ourselves in the awkward position of playing ref, fielding “reminders” from the most cautious end of the group, and monitoring the social behaviors (and doling out “reminders”) to the least cautious end.

You know, so we can all remain on speaking terms (and live to talk about it).

Fun times.

Sure, we could have all worn masks and maintained two salmon-lengths distance apart at all times (the unit of measure they used at the Seattle airport when we arrived).

But after nearly two years apart from their grandbabies, we weren’t going to do that to the grandparents (and, let’s be honest, the grandparents simply weren’t going to go along with that anyway ⏀ a torture worse than death to a grandparent, I suppose). Plus, there’s really no way it would have worked staying in close quarters with two young kids.

In the end, the decision to proceed without masking and distancing measures was made in the same vein as all of our big decisions ⏀ driven by hard data/evidence, cost-benefit analysis based on our specific situation, and risk management, rather than fear or irrational thinking.

And, this was the result…

First hugs with Nanny after 20 months.
Noe finally gets to walk the Loop Trail with Poppi (and Riley does it for the first time since…learning to walk (or crawl)).
Story time with Grampy!
Gardening with Grammy.

We’re eternally grateful for the kindness and generosity of our family (and family and friends who showed their support from afar) during this particularly gnarly transition period in our lives.

These weeks back in the U.S. were a time for reconnecting, but also for Lori and I to catch our breath, regroup, and put together a plan for moving forward.

When we arrived back in the States, we really had no clue how long we’d be here. We were considering a number of opportunities near and far, but nothing had been solidified by the end of quarantine.

Needless to say, that took up a considerable amount of our time and energy while in the U.S.

We were also able to carve out some time to get rid of 80% of the remainder of our stuff we’d been storing in Oregon since our departure for Laos in 2016.

It was a much larger task than we thought, but we’re happy we were able to take advantage of our unexpected extended stay in Oregon and time away from work.

In other news, my mom has become the covid mask queen of the county while we’ve been gone, having been featured in the local news multiple times and recognized for her tireless work for the community.

To date, she’s made over 6,000 masks since March on a donation basis. We are very proud of her efforts!

One of Noe’s big highlights of our maternity leave visit in 2018 was helping Poppi and Nanny harvest their Baco Noir grapes.

Harvest came early this year, so most of the grapes were already picked by the time we got there, save for a few clumps that Noe and Riley devoured without hesitation.

It didn’t take long into quarantine to realize I could delegate my plant watering responsibilities now.

Riley’s always curious what Poppi’s up to.

We couldn’t visit the U.S. in the summertime and not play a little ball! Something that Noe definitely hasn’t done (or even seen) in two years.

Wildlife Safari

A visit back to Southern Oregon is never complete until we’ve done the drive through Wildlife Safari.

My parents always seems to have an annual membership on hand for when any of their four grandkids visit town, so of course we utilized it as much as possible.

In the time of Covid, the drive through portion has become exceptionally popular, as you might expect any socially-distanced car-based activity might.

We got there early and were eighth in line, which didn’t seem to make much difference.

It was a cooler morning (temps in Southern Oregon in late August can easily get over 100F), so the animals were more active than they normally would be this time of year.

We spotted four of Africa’s Big Five (leopard was the only one missing on the list, but we did spot a couple of the park’s famous cheetahs), plus giraffe and many others.

Both boys were beside themselves for most of the ride.

Pool time! Approaching September, even the afternoons are starting to feel a bit cool for a swim in the splash pad or kiddie pool.

An Illness in the Family

Noe woke up one morning not feeling well. We took his temperature, and sure enough, he had a fever.

His first fever since the start of the pandemic.

In the old days (pre-Covid), a fever like this wouldn’t be cause for much concern, barring any other serious symptoms.

But here in August 2020, a fever (or cough) is suddenly a very big deal.

Fortunately, Noe didn’t have any other symptoms, and no one across the two households (our parents live across the street from each other) had any symptoms either.

None of us had had any contact with anyone outside of our bubble for weeks.

Still, living in close proximity with over 65s in these times, we needed to take whatever precautions we could.

We sequestered Noe to the guest room and talked to the pediatrician the boys go to when they’re in the U.S.

At this point, the doc didn’t see a need to get a Covid test based on Noe’s symptoms.

Still, we knew we (and other family members in our larger bubble) would feel better if he did get one.

Nobody seemed quite sure where to get it done or how much it would cost. Even in August, tests were a relative novelty in the county.

We found out that one particular Urgent Care did drive-up testing by appointment, but you had to do a Telehealth consult online first, which was a major headache to sign up for and getting working.

Immediately following the Telehealth call, we were told to be on standby and await our appointment time. Of course, there was some miscommunication and we didn’t receive the call.

We ended up driving to the clinic and calling the number. Within minutes, a technician was suited up and ready to do the test.

Not fun to watch your little boy get a swab shoved up his nose, but Noe’s been through a lot worse.

He winced and let out a few tears, mostly out of surprise. After the initial shock of the procedure (almost immediately afterwards), he wiped his nose off and that was that.

Later that evening, we received the results, which were negative, thankfully.

As happy as we were to get the news, it still didn’t explain the moderate fever.

All we could do at this point was encourage him to rest, which he did with gusto.

Riley, on the other hand, enjoyed having full reign over all the toys.

…and, the grandparents all to himself.

Within days, the fever was gone and Noe was up and about and mostly his usual self, and able to make himself useful again.

I told the boys this was a football. They immediately put it on the ground and began to kick it back and forth to each other. I didn’t have the heart (or the patience) to try and explain that one this time around.

August and September in Southern Oregon was a time of beautiful weather, and optimism.

Covid cases were down (in this county, they were close to nil for new weekly infections), and a number of establishments were reopening with social distancing and enhanced safety measures, taking advantage of the excellent weather and outdoor space that afforded.

We took the opportunity to visit a few area wineries and help out struggling local businesses.

At that time, we felt totally confident in our decision, due to the low cases and measures taken in the places we chose.

And, we had a great time and made some great memories.

(Postscript: Later on, after leaving the U.S. again in October, the situation across the country dramatically deteriorated. We wouldn’t have dreamed of doing these sorts of things if the situation had been anything like what it has become here in late 2020/ early 2021.)

Hiking Susan Creek Falls

One day, we made a last-minute decision to go on a hike. My parents jumped on as well. Little did we know then how big of a deal this hike would be later.

I included a lot more of our photos from hiking around the area than I normally would in this post and the last, owing to the fact that most of what you see in these pictures was obliterated by wildfires just a couple of weeks later.

It was important for Lori and I to make sure that the boys got to do some solid hiking in the forests that she and I grew up hiking and playing in as kids.

In hindsight, it was extra significant owing to the fact that Noe and Riley may very well be my age before this hike looks anything like it did on this particular day in 2020.

Shredding time!

Noe was in heaven. The kid loves cooking.

Riley always seems to have some sort of business to attend to these days.

When he started to call me Driver and ask me to let him off at the next corner, I knew we had let things get a little out of hand.

Tio Potato & Tia Yessima

When Noe was born, it was important to us that he be raised bilingually. We chose Spanish on account of Lori’s fluency in the language, and my ability to quote the Taco Bell dog. Incidentally, Uncles became tios, and aunts became tias.

While the boys are fortunate to have lots of “tios” and “tias” in their lives, they have but two sets of traditional aunts and uncles that are related to them by blood/marriage.

On this particular day in early September, the boys are thrilled to see their Tia Jessica (my sister), and Tio Mateo (bro-in-law) and their two very favorite cousins (only cousins to date).

Well, Noe’s excited to see them!

Riley doesn’t remember the last time he hung out with these people in person, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

This may look like a fun game of Mancala, but is in fact a high stakes game of winner takes all. What’s on the line? The keys to the Power Wheel hummer and sovereignty over the tree house.


Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Noe’s fever cropped up again, so we made a few phone calls and ended up in the hospital.

Since this was Noe’s second bout of a moderate fever of unexplained origin in a 10 day period, he was having a bit of flank pain, and we were going into the weekend, it was recommended we head to the ER.

And, thanks to my sister, the three of us had face shields to add to our collection of stylish PPE wear.

Multiple docs attending to him ruled out Covid, so that was a relief. But even after throwing every test they could think of at the poor guy, they were stumped.

Meanwhile, Riley found himself with his Tia Jessica for the day, who he had quickly gravitated to.

But it’s obvious from this pic we received at the ER, that Riley did not take Noe’s sudden absence lightly at all.

6 thoughts on “Reunion”

  1. Another cliff hanger. Love reading this. The pictures are amazing.

  2. Please tell us that Noe’s okay again; and I love little Riley’s sad, yet adorable face..

    • I wouldn’t leave you hanging if he wasn’t πŸ™‚ But, given my slow reply, you probably already know that from the next post!

  3. Shirley Northcraft

    What sweet pictures. I don’t even remember having them taken. Please don’t wait another 20 months to come home again.

    • We’ll try not to! We’ll see what Father Covid has in store in the coming months. Hopefully only better things!


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