Now, here at the end of 2015; it felt as though this year was noticeable longer than previous years. Instead of having high memory peaks like years past (i.e. kids birth) along with long lull/waiting times (i.e., waiting for kids to born), there were a variety of activities that resulted in more positive and memorable moments.

This year I still spent a significant amount of time building personal Android apps, but I don’t have a lot to show for it. The Android marketplace is too saturated now and it’s too difficult to make something great and popular. It’s not the time, but the user acquisition and differentiating your product from everything else that is out there that is tough. I no longer have the patience or the enthusiasm to build a polished product that I’m happy with, and try and make it successful. Because of that, I ended up making a couple of things that ended up on Google Play (Always Taeyeon, Simmering), and some that never made it public (Android port of the card game Love Letter, Hearthstone collection tracker, a location sharing app).

It was a good travel year for us. In 2014, we didn’t travel much because Jovian was born in the middle of the year (so couldn’t travel before or after). However he was 6 months by the time 2015 started, so we he was fully able to travel with us. Our “one year old” trip with Jovian was to Spain & Portugal and it was different adventure than we normally do as we drove around instead of taking public transit. After that, we had a couple of short (at least overnight) trips here and there in North America, some by plane and some by car. In the end, I’m quite happy with my Places I Stayed recap for 2015. The one thing we didn’t do was travel during the Christmas break, due to work commitments, but we plan to do some more traveling in January to make up for that.

On the other hand, travel for work was lower in 2015 than it was in 2014. I’ve been working remotely for almost 3 years now so there’s not much need for me to show up at my NY office anymore. It’s almost 6 months between trips there now (which is a bit excessive, that might be a bit closer next year). Another reason is that I’ve been traveling to our Silicon Valley office in place of some of the NY trips, but again that is less frequent than it could be. Due to the lack of work travel, I wasn’t able to attain my SPG Gold status for next year (I’ve had it for 2 years in a row). This year, I also started collecting Marriott reward points. The impetus was because I ended up staying at Marriott’s when I went to California, and I ended up collecting more because I started using a credit card that rewarded Marriott points. Starwood and Marriott combined this year so it might be moot (they haven’t combined their rewards programs yet though).

I’m still desperately trying to use my phone as my camera. I know a lot of people do it, but I just can’t make the switch. I started out the year using my Nexus 5’s camera, but it was just too horrible (slow, can’t focus). I tried using the Note4’s camera but I found it performed poorly in low light and the file size was way too huge. By the end of the year, I’ve been using my One Plus Two’s camera which is slightly better than Nexus 5 in a lot of respects, but also slightly worse (file size too large, hangs if phone is locked). Above all, I still haven’t found a good burst mode app (although haven’t been trying hard) so I still have to carry around the dSLR.

I did take a lot of photos this year (most in past 4 years), although that might be because we went on a couple of vacations. I have more photos of Jovian than Apollo this year, which I attribute to Jovian still being in the midst of growing up. There were often times this year where I felt that taking a photo is meaningless if no person (read: kids) are in it. I don’t take photos for a hobby anymore (never going to be an Instagram celebrity) so scenic shots are no longer valuable to me. At the same time, it’s frustrating to have to carry around a SLR while chasing kids.

I didn’t have a lot of techlust this year. I still don’t have an Android watch (actually no new watches for me this year) and my Fitbit is a couple of generations old by now. I kind of do want the coolest new gadgets, but at the same time I’m already surrounded by too many phones, tablets, and other electronic gear so what’s one more? Having a great phone (and data plan) is still very important, but it’s impossible to find the perfect phone anymore, even if you’re willing to pay flagship prices.

The kids are growing up. Apollo is fluent in Cantonese (as well as you could expect a little boy to be) and his English is slowly catching up. Although he’s only 3, he feels like he could be a kindergarten-er or early primary school kid. I have no frame of reference as to what kids at those ages should know, so it’s difficult for me to place Apollo at a certain age. It’s because he still needs parental supervision and guidance, but he can do (or learn to do) a lot of things by himself (obviously bigger kids have more experience and practice). I still envision Jovian as being a baby, but he’s now almost as old as Apollo was when Jovian was born. He can do a lot of things by himself (like eat, walk in the mall), and understand other human beings; but my benchmark (i.e., Apollo) keeps advancing so it feels like he is still a baby.

Jovian is old enough that he can interact with Apollo, asking for help or just playing (and negotiating or fighting). This is a bit of a conundrum for me because I’m not sure how to treat them as siblings. With Apollo, it was easier because I was an only child; but I’m not sure what goes through Apollo or Jovian’s head when they have to interact with their sibling and parents.

There was a continuing shift this year where our group of friends shifted. As our young kids get older (i.e., no longer babies), there’s less desire to spend time with our kid-less friends because conversation topics are just too different. We spent much more time with Apollo’s friends’ parents and did activities with them – common interests and conversation topics are much higher there. It’s not a surprise, but this year is where it’s much more noticeable. However, we had numerous friends with end-of-the-year babies so that might change next year. Just like a few years ago when everyone was getting married, it’s time for my cohort to have kids.

Looking back, I think the key memories from this year will be 1) being there in Jovian’s 12-18 month old “cuteness” phase, 2) being able to drive around Portugal and Spain on our summer vacation and 3) having the freedom to take the kids around if we wanted to do different activities (not just travel). I’ll miss the flexibility that we have while both kids are young and not in school – we weren’t beholden to a strict schedule. I think next year will be a transition year similar to our schedule starting this past September; but in 2017 Apollo will be in JK so I expect there will be a lot less freedom.