As is always the case, December was a whirlwind month that is coming to a close much sooner than I’d like. What a fun month we’ve had, though, with so many wonderful memories to look back on.
// READING LATELY //
I (unintentionally) read a number of nicely-paired books this month: White Awake and Blackout provided different perspectives on racism that were helpful to read back-to-back; Rhythms of Renewal and Get Your Life Back each offered beneficial practices for rediscovering peace and restoring relationship with God; His and Hers and And Now She’s Gone were both suspense novels that embraced misdirection to great effect; and One by One and The Hunting Party were VERY similar thrillers (I liked one much more than the other).
This horror (or is it science fiction?) novel was a bizarre but deeply memorable read (I can totally understand the polarized reviews). I loved getting the chance to listen to Annie Downs read her upcoming book (the full audiobook was a preorder bonus!), and enjoyed settling in with this seasonal title over Christmas week. And this title is setting me up for great success with my word for 2021 (more on that soon!). As always, I’ll be sharing reviews of each of these titles in the coming weeks.
// LISTENING LATELY //
I spent most of this month listening to a bevy of favorite Christmas albums. Most-played albums this year were perennial favorites Barlow Girl’s Home for Christmas and Christy Nockels’ The Thrill of Hope. Each Christmas I enjoy discovering new holiday releases, and favorites this year included the new Christmas album from Pentatonix; this album from for King and Country; and Carrie Underwood’s My Gift (especially her renditions of “O Holy Night” and “Hallelujah”—wowzer!).
I took a break from the Christmas tunes to check out Taylor Swift’s surprise new album, Evermore. With the exception of the unnecessary explicit language, I am enjoying this album immensely. This new singer/songwriter version of Taylor might be my favorite iteration of her ever-evolving musical style and I can’t get enough of the bewitching tones, dreamlike storytelling, and elegant simplicity. There are so many beautifully poignant lyrics, my favorite coming from “Happiness”—”There’ll be happiness after you but there was happiness because of you, too. Both of these things can be true.” Taylor’s album was such a gift to us all this December!
// WATCHING LATELY //
Ted Lasso ~ Luke and I are rarely up to speed when it comes to buzz-worthy shows, but we were hearing so many great things about Ted Lasso that we jumped into watching it as soon as we could, and binged it in what for us was record time (just a few weeks!). This show about a kind-hearted, half-glass-full American football coach who moves to England to coach a professional soccer team was every bit as wonderful as everyone was proclaiming it to be—exactly the show that our world needs at the tail end of this insane year. The characters are beautifully layered and immensely easy to root for, modeling incredible depth of emotion, healthy growth, and unique deftness at navigating prickly relationship dynamics. Ted in particular is one of the most inspiring and likable characters I’ve encountered in television, and nearly every side character is a delight as well.
I loved the show’s humor and the writers’ ability to laugh at the mashup of British sensibility and American spirit, without mocking either culture. (It was nice to see an American portrayed as the good guy for once!) While I care nothing for soccer (or any sports, really), I found the stories engaging, and even enjoyed the scenes set on the field. The show’s singular flaw is its colorful language, but even in spite of f-bombs galore, Luke and I both adored Ted Lasso and cannot wait for Season Two! I heard someone describe Ted Lasso as “a show about the transformative power of human decency” and that is JUST what we needed to watch this December!
My Rating: 5 Stars!
On the Rocks ~ Luke and I rarely take a night to watch a movie these days, but the trailers for this film featuring two stars we really like had our interest peaked. The story is a simple one: Laura is a young mom who has reason to believe her husband is cheating on her. Laura shares her suspicions with her playboy father, Felix, and together they begin an an incognito investigation. Unfortunately the movie was largely a disappointment. Rashida Jones and Bill Murray are both great in their roles, and there are some humorous and touching moments (most of which made it into the trailers), but there is almost no plot and the artsy production style wasn’t to our taste. It was frustrating to waste a rare movie night on a film we didn’t love.
My Rating: 3 Stars.
The Social Dilemma ~ We were a little late to the game on this documentary, but it kept coming up in conversations, so we knew we needed to check it out. To be honest, I wasn’t at all surprised by the “shocking” truths of how we are being manipulated and reprogrammed by social media: I’ve recognized the gradual changes in my own brain wiring since becoming a smart phone user, and I know how much happier and emotionally healthier I am when I limit my tech time, especially social media consumption. I’ve been puzzled by how shocking many have found this documentary, as I assumed everyone was aware of these problems.
As for my impressions of the documentary itself: I admired the experts in the film for voicing their concerns and admitting their own complicity in creating a massive societal problem, and I thought the interview portions of the documentary were informative and helpful. However, I didn’t care for the dramatizations or alarmist tone, and I didn’t agree with all of the film’s proposed solutions or takeaways. Still, I’m glad this documentary was made and that people are paying attention to its message.
My Rating: 4 Stars.
Soul ~ As huge Pixar fans, our family was ecstatic about the release of this movie to Disney Plus this week, and it did NOT disappoint! The story of a jazz musician who has an existential experience and learns about the true meaning of life is heartwarming, funny, and filled with important messages about identity, purpose, friendship, and courage. Granted, some of the afterlife elements are a little theologically questionable, but that didn’t take away from the enjoyable and meaningful viewing experience. The jazz music and culture are also great! While the movie doesn’t quite have the ineffable magic of my Pixar favorites (like Monster’s Inc. and Toy Story), Luke, Charleston, and I all really loved this one.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars.
// MONTLY CHARLIE-ISMS //
I had so much fun this month with my big boy. Every Christmas I worry he might have reached the age when the magic of the season has been lost; thankfully, this wasn’t that year. Charleston loved everything about December and I enjoyed experiencing the holidays through his eyes. I captured fewer than usual Charlie-isms this month, but we did get a few good ones.
+ When he commented that his teachers were all girls and I asked his guess on why more teachers are female than male: “Is it because they’re smarter? Or they hold the pointer better? Or because they like to get money more than boys?”
+ While playing a hiding game (in which Charleston gave me finding hints), when it was Luke’s turn to search: “I’m not going to give Daddy any hints because he’s smarter than you. I mean, I’m guessing. He is a little better at internet problems.”
+ When we told Charleston the first day of winter is the shortest day of the year: “So it’s the shortest week too, right?” Me: “No, there is the same amount of time in the day and the week, it’s just that there is less daylight.” Charleston: “Oh, so there is the same number of milliseconds?”
+ “We don’t want Santa to get too full so let’s just give him three cookies. The other houses will fill him up.”
+ Driving home from Christmas with my in-laws: “It was the best Christmas ever! But I’m not sure it was the best for remembering Jesus. What can we do different next year so we remember God better? Maybe have less presents?”
// HAPPENINGS AND HIGHLIGHTS //
I always enjoy the month of December—and the season leading up to Christmas—even more than Christmas itself, and this year’s seasonal celebrations we’re all I could hope for. Charleston and I participated in our assortment of Advent traditions, including reading this book and this one each day, lighting a new candle in our Advent wreath every week, adorning our little Advent tree with a daily ornament, and—in lieu of a chocolate Advent calendar this year—assembling a new Lego figurine from his spiffy calendar. Each night at bedtime we read a couple of books from our rapidly growing collection of Christmas picture books. I love that Charleston is old enough to remember these traditions from previous years, and I am looking forward to introducing our family traditions to the twins as they get a little older. We also started a fun new tradition this December, a less-stressful alternative to Elf on the Shelf: each night I hid a little ornamental star, and in the morning Charleston would take the wiseman figurine from his nativity set to look for the star. I don’t know if we will keep up this tradition in the future, but it was certainly fun this year.
We always buy our Christmas tree from a small lot located at our nearest YMCA; their trees are fresh and beautifully trimmed and shopping there for our tree always feels more special than just picking one up at Home Depot. Going tree shopping is always a fun family adventure.
We like to make a special event out of decorating our Christmas tree: we stock up on Christmas-colored M&Ms, stream Christmas tunes over the SONOS, take pictures of us hanging the most meaningful ornaments, and take a time-lapse video of our tree’s gradual adornment. Each year since we were married, Luke and I have added a new ornament to our collection that signifies a memorable milestone or event from the previous year. This year, since Luke vetoed my purchase of a quarantine- or mask-related ornament, we added a stack of books to represent our foray into homeschooling—a true highlight for us in 2020.
We got to attend a Christmas festival in Burnet, the small town where Luke’s parents live. We walked around checking out vendors’ tents and Charleston got to sled down a snowy slide and play in the snow (which he said was too cold and “not fluffy enough”). It was a simple outing but a refreshingly normal one, and so fun to spend some time participating in Christmas activities outside our own home.
We weren’t sure we would get to visit Santa this year due to COVID. In the past we’ve always gone to see him at the mall, and while he was there this year too, we would have had to wear a mask in pictures which wasn’t ideal. So we pivoted and went to see him at Bass Pro Shop; this was a first for us, and I think we liked this location even better. Sadly Santa was behind plexiglass and wearing a face shield that made it hard to hear him talk, but Charleston was still so excited to talk with him and make his gift requests (and the twins’), and I was happy to get some pictures.
On December 23, we did our annual baking of cookies for Santa. I always let Charleston decide what type of cookies we will make, and this year he chose to make cut-out cookies; I’m pretty sure this was my first time making them (or at least my first time in a very long time) but it was a fun activity for both of us (minus a finger burning incident when Charleston grabbed the hot cookie sheet without protection!). We also made some birthday cupcakes for Jesus, a tradition I’d like to continue.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, we participated in yet another tradition our family has come to love—decorating a gingerbread house. We had fun and it turned out pretty great!
That afternoon we got to attend a Christmas Eve service at church. Of course God doesn’t need us in church seats to celebrate His son’s birthday, but I know that in-person church was not a reality for many Christians this year, and we were so grateful for the opportunity to worship the Lord from inside the church building. This is always my favorite service of the year and it was special to be joined in the service by Charleston (now officially a “big kid” according to our church) while the twins had fun in the church nursery.
We always do two gifts per kid on Christmas Eve: a book and Christmas pajamas. This year we all got matching Christmas jammies for the first time (because Luke finally conceded—woohoo for Daddy/Husband of the year!).
And before bed on Christmas Eve, Charleston got ready for Santa: he put out milk and cookies, as well as carrots for the reindeer and cheese for Santa Mouse, plus several stuffed animal friends to greet Santa while he was at our house. I got a kick out of witnessing Charleston’s excitement and the thought he put into his preparations. Christmas Eve with kids is just the best!
Christmas morning was so fun! It wasn’t the twins’ first Christmas, but it definitely felt that way since this was the first Christmas with them mobile and participating. Charleston’s reactions to his gifts were all I hoped they would be, and he did a great job passing out presents to each of us and helping the twins unwrap their packages. Luke really spoiled me with gifts, and the kids spoiled me with Christmas hugs and smiles.
On Christmas afternoon we headed over to my in-laws’ for family Christmas. It was a such a memorable afternoon of eating, playing, and opening gifts—a perfect ending to this Christmas season.
Today Luke and I are celebrating our twelfth wedding anniversary. We were 24 when we were married, meaning we’ve been married for a full third of our lives. The newylwed days are far behind us, but I still thank God every day for the opportunity to do life alongside such an incredible man.
And that’s a wrap on this December recap. I’ll see you back here on Thursday for a look back on all of my highlights and favorites of 2020. I hope you are having a great holiday week!