Two Thousand Eighteen: The Highlights

Two Thousand Eighteen: The Highlights

Happy New Year’s Eve! What a year it has been! And what a week of review and reflection. (If you missed it, last Wednesday I shared my best books of the year, on Friday I did a December recap, and on Saturday I shared what I learned in 2018). Today, on the last day of the year, I’m taking a look back at the year’s happenings, highlights, and favorites. This post is an extra long one, and that’s because 2018 had so many moments and new discoveries worth remembering. I love writing these annual highlight posts (see 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014) that serve as a sort of yearbook for me and my family, recapping all of the year’s Greatest Hits. 

PERSONAL AND FAMILY HIGHLIGHTS

A few of the highlights I’d hoped for this year—like moving to a new house, and having a baby—didn’t happen. But 2018 was NOT an uneventful year for the Jernejcic family. It was a year filled with love and laughter, exciting trips and activities, and momentous family additions. 

In January, my parents came to visit us in Austin. It was freezing while they were here, but we had fun visiting the Thinkery Children’s Museum and exploring downtown Austin with them.

My parents were in town for Charleston’s third birthday, and we had a small Thomas-themed party for him with BOTH sets of grandparents! He loved being the center of attention, and having so many people he loves in one place. (I loved it too!)

In February, Luke and I belatedly celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary with a day in the quaint town of Fredricksberg. We perused shops, had lunch at a German restaurant, and enjoyed our kid-free time together (it proved to be the first of only two dates we went on all year, but it was a good one).

Arlo joined our family at the end of March. Since then he’s grown from a 12-pound bundle of fur and energy, to a 47-pound bundle of energy who can now counter surf, but is also sweeter, much better behaved, and no longer pees all over my kitchen. His addition to our family was the most momentous event of the year, and while there have been many times where we’ve questioned our decision to get a dog, he’s brought so much fun and laughter into our lives this year and has proven to be an important and much loved part of our family.

I got to attend a Hillsong concert with my friend Lexi in April. I forgot my camera in the car and didn’t get any pics, but it was a great concert and made me fall even harder for Hillsong’s awesome music.

In July we participated in Camp 75, our church’s Backyard VBS. We sang songs, watched skits, and played games with teens from our church and other kids in our neighborhood. Charleston has been asking to go back ever since.

Luke’s sister, Amanda, gave birth to Collin in July. He’s my first nephew and Charleston’s first cousin, and the two are already great pals. He is now five months old and is incredibly happy, sweet, and much more mellow than his big cousin!

In August we made the first of two trips this year to visit my parents in Huntington Beach. We spent lots of time at the beach and on the water, visited Downtown Disney, hung out with grandparents, and made excellent use of my parents’ community playground. The trip involved everything I love and miss about our home state, and had me missing California more than ever.

My friend Cara came from California to stay with us for a few days in October. Charleston loved having a built-in playmate for the weekend, and Cara and I had a fantastic time at a Happy Hour Live event, where we got to meet Jamie Ivey, Chrystal Evans Hurst, and Annie F. Downs. Cara and I have been friends for more than half our lives, and while we stay connected through calls and texts throughout the year, these in-person visits are my favorite.

In November we headed back to California to see my parents. We took Charleston to Knott’s Berry Farm, discovered an awesome park, and had Thanksgiving dinners with my family and Luke’s extended family.

While in California, we went to family camp at Forest Home with my parents and brother. We had an amazing time hiking and soaking up God’s word through some great teaching. Charleston had his first stage performance, which he was not a fan of (but which was exceedingly cute for those of us watching). For the second year in a row, this was my favorite weekend of the entire year; it’s such a blessing that my parents have kept up this annual camp tradition for our family.

Luke and I celebrated ten years of marriage last Friday. The anniversary day itself was a simple one (we went to a movie and had lunch at a local restaurant), but it was special to reflect on this decade of life we’ve spent together; we’ve had high highs and lows lows, but through it all, our love has grown stronger with each passing year.  I’m excited about the many memories we will make together in the next ten years!


CHARLESTON’S MILESTONES AND MOMENTOUS EVENTS

Charleston turned three last January, and this year he left behind all traces of toddlerhood as he passed numerous milestones and also went through some great (and some terrifying) experiences. It was a roller coaster of a year with him, but through it all I’ve grown to love and cherish my kid more than ever before. Watching him grow up has been both heartbreaking and the greatest joy of my life. These are a few of his biggest moments this year:

Learning to ride a scooter and a tricycle.

Becoming fully potty trained in January (and night-trained by summer).

Starting gymnastics at the Y in January, participating in gymnastics classes at a private gym during the summer, and moving to a more advanced class at the Y in December.

First ER visit (for croup) in March.

Moving from a crib to a toddler bed in May (though he still only sleeps there for naps; he’s in our bed at nighttime.)

Swim lessons through the city of Cedar Park in July.

Reversing his car seat to be forward-facing in August.

First surgery (to remove several styes) in September.

Favorite Charlie-isms of the Year

(January) After seeing a picture of me from when I was pregnant with him: “But why didn’t I say cheese in the picture?”

(March) Charleston: “How old will you guys be on your next birthday, Mom and Dad?” Me: “We will be 35. That’s really old, huh?” Charleston: “But I will still love you!”

(April) “Are we going to buy a baby? Why did we buy a pet Arlo and not a pet baby?”

(April) Playing with his train set: “The trains will be at the station in a few secs. They have lots and lots of secs to get there.”

(May) “Why do your ears have holes for your earrings? Did God just make them that way?”

(June) “God is a really good rescuer. But sometimes I don’t want to be rescued. I don’t want to go to Heaven yet, I just want to play.”

(August) “I was naughty at church today because of course it’s impossible to be good.”

(September) At the library book sale: “What books are you looking at?” Me: “I’m looking at the parenting books.” Charleston: “What are parenting books?” Me: “Books that help me to be a good mom.” Charleston: “But you’re ALREADY a GREAT mom!” (Said with a hug and a kiss.)

(October) “When Daddy goes to God in Heaven, then we will return Arlo to his house and get a cat instead.”  (Because Luke is allergic to cats.) Edited to Add: As I was reading this list aloud to Luke and Charleston, he exclaimed, “I am going to LOVE that!”

(October) “Every day when I nap I talk to God. And I think God wants me to tell you a message. He wants me to tell you there’s not going to be a playground any more in Heaven. And no nap time.”

(November) Upon discovering there was no toilet paper in a public restroom. Me: “Don’t worry, I have wipes in my purse if we need them.” Charleston, crying: “But I’m just so sad because what if somebody has NO toilet paper and NO wipes or NOTHING [pronounced nuh-fink] to wipe their booties if they go poopoos?!”

(December) “When I am six, I’m going to go to school.” Me: “I’m really going to miss you when you go to school.” Charleston: “Don’t worry, it’s still gonna be a long time before I turn six. You stay your number a suuuuper long time before you have your next birthday.”


QUOTIDIAN MEMORIES

While it’s fun to recall the major events, it’s the small daily moments that make up a life, and we had so many wonderful ones this year that I want to remember:

Being part of a community group with five other couples from our church; participating in weekly Bible studies with the group, going on couples dates, attending a Galentine’s Party with the other women in the group, and having many of the couples over to our house for dinners.

Volunteering in the church nursery on Sunday mornings, and helping out with monthly preschool curriculum prep with a group of moms from church.

The Library! Weekly story time, crafts, and play time at the Cedar Park library, as well as several fun shows and other events at the Cedar Park and Liberty Hill Libraries, plus a visit to the epic new library downtown.

Joining MOPS in January (one of my best decisions of the year) and attending monthly MOPS meetings.

Monthly Girl’s Night/Book Club at The Grove Wine Bar with other ladies from MOPS.

Monday mornings at Open Gym with friends from MOPS.

Play dates with MOPS and Bible Study friends at parks, the bowling alley, the zoo, play places, the splash pad, and various friends’ houses. 

Participating in a weekly Women’s Bible study at Hill Country Bible Church, with studies on the whole New Testament in the spring and the book of John in the fall.

Weekly phone calls with Cara (made interesting by Charleston’s interruptions!).

Daily workouts (that doubled as reading sessions) at our Rec. Center while Charleston hung out with his buddies at the gym childcare.

Long afternoon walks/scooter (or tricycle) rides with Arlo and Charleston. 

Friday night family movie nights with picnics in the living room. 

Luke’s taking a desk at a co-working space (and no longer working from home).

Scootering everywhere with Charleston this summer.

Mommy & Charlie dates to playgrounds, restaurants, the pool, new libraries, and play places. 

Celebrating Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and several other token holidays with barbecues and backyard time with my in-laws at Luke’s parents’ house.

Blessing several friends with new babies by cooking and delivering meals to their families. (I made a different main dish each time, but always threw in a batch of these cookies for dessert. They are super easy to make and a total crowd favorite!)

Saturdays to myself (spent writing and running errands) while Luke and Charleston hung out at his parents’ house or went on adventures (including an air show and a Day With Thomas train event).

Visiting Sweet Berry Farm for berry picking in March and the pumpkin patch in October. 

Dog training classes with Arlo.

Family dinners with our little crew of three nearly every night.

Daily times with God, reading through several devotionals this year and experiencing God’s nearness and love through prayer journaling and reflecting on Scripture.

Attending several local seasonal events: an egg hunt at Easter, town parade on 4th-of-July, trick-or-treating at City Hall on Halloween, and Christmas festivals in December. 

Endless rounds of chase, hide-and-seek, and “I Spy,” and marathon picture book reading sessions.

Lazy pajama days spent doing puzzles, coloring, and playing trains.

Participating in all of our holiday traditions: frozen yogurt with candles for birthdays; dying eggs, visiting the Easter Bunny, and doing egg hunts at Easter; fireworks with the family on Fourth of July; carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating, and family costumes at Halloween; decorating the Christmas tree together, participating in various Advent traditions, going to look at lights, visiting Santa, and building a gingerbread house at Christmas. 


GRACE IN 2018

In January I named Grace as my word for 2018, and it proved to be a steady theme throughout the year. Grace has several definitions, and I focused on two of them: 1) the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful and 2) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. I read a handful of books that were specifically about grace, and I intentionally looked for ways that grace and redemption played out in every book I read and movie I watched. 

As the year unfolded, God taught me about grace through more than just the content I was consuming. Grace moved from my head and into my heart as I learned a lot about what it means to have grace for others’ mistakes, and for myself when I mess up. More than ever, I was aware of God’s graciousness towards me. I truly felt His unmerited favor, and daily became more in awe of—and grateful for—God’s grace shown through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and through the gift of the Holy Spirit who is living in me. These themes have been woven into the fabric of my being, and I am forever changed.


A FEW NEW FAVORITES

Each year I like to take inventory of the things I truly loved in the past year—all of my new favorites. These annual lists have become a fun little time capsule of the things I loved each year. For this list, I’ve mostly left off favorites from past years, even if they’ve remained on my LOVE list. I also haven’t included a few items I received for Christmas this year that I’m sure will become favorites; I like to sit with things for a while before giving them the Favorite treatment. To that end, you will see many items that came into my life in December of 2017.

Favorite New-to-Me Podcasts

My podcast queue continues to be flooded with fantastic new shows, as well as several old favorites. (Topping the list of oldies-but-goodies this year were The Vox Podcast with Mike Erre; For the Love with Jen Hatmaker; The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey; and The Lazy Genius Podcast. There are many more, of course, but those are four that I am always stoked to see show up in my feed.) Among my new podcast discoveries this year, the following four were clear favorites. All but one existed before this year, which meant I had plenty of past episodes to catch up on!  

The Big Boo Cast ~ With their self-deprecating humor and hodgepodge show content, Melanie and Sophie’s casual, down-to-earth conversations always have me laughing. I want to be real-life friends with these two. 

Chrystal’s Chronicles with Chrystal Evans Hurst ~ Chrystal’s book was one of the best I read all year, and after finishing it I wanted more. I enjoy the mix of interviews and teaching-style shows from Chrystal herself. I really resonate with Chrystal’s practical approach to life and faith. After meeting her at the Happy Hour Live, I have even more respect for Chrystal and her work.

RISE Together with Rachel and Dave Hollis ~ Rachel Hollis’s career has exploded this year, and while I’ve learned a lot from her solo work (blog, podcast, book, etc.), it’s her marriage that inspires me the most. Rachel and Dave have the type of relationship I want with Luke, and their candid conversations and actionable advice has had a big impact on our marriage. 

That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs ~ This is my hands-down favorite podcast of the year, and probably ever. Annie is an incredible interviewer and the conversations she has with her guests are hilarious, inspiring, informative, and have helped me grow in my faith more than any other single source this year. Nearly every single episode has spoken to me in some significant way. I adore Annie herself (even more since meeting her in October), and am amazed at how God is using her to touch my life and so many others. 

Favorite Blog Discoveries

Many of the bloggers I once followed have been blogging less or stopped posting altogether. (Old favorites I’m still loving include Modern Mrs. Darcy, The Art of Simple, Putting Me Together, and Skinnytaste.) I was happy to discover some excellent new blogs this year to fill some of the gaps in my blog-reading life. 

Fearless Flourishing ~ My friend Cara started blogging this year, and I’ve loved reading her thoughts—which are great of their own merit, but especially meaningful because we are close and it’s fun to see ideas we’ve discussed show up in her writing.

Living in Yellow ~ Great fashion advice and outfit ideas, with some fun lifestyle posts sprinkled in.

Lunchbox Babies ~ Shawna’s reflections on miscarriage and infertility have been so encouraging for me as I’ve walked through my own infertility journey. 

Reading Ladies ~ Carol has become one of my most trusted resources for book recommendations. Her reviews are thorough, thoughtful, and geared towards helping readers find books that are the perfect fit.

Super Healthy Kids ~ Helpful kid-centered nutrition information and family friendly recipes. This site has been an invaluable resource for our family.

Favorite TV Shows

Luke and I have mostly given up television, but this year we managed to fit in a few new shows on the rare nights when Charleston went to bed early. (In addition to these new-to-us shows, we enjoyed recent—but not the latest—seasons of Jane the Virgin and Fuller House). 

The Good Place ~ Funny, smart, and surprisingly thought-provoking. I adore Kristen Bell. I’ve heard Season 3 isn’t as good, but we’re still waiting for it to come to Netflix. 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel ~ Visually stunning, engrossing characters and setting, and a riveting storyline. We haven’t found the time to watch Season Two yet, and the wait is killing me. 

Favorite Movies

I didn’t watch a single “adult” movie this year; thankfully, we watched a handful of excellent family-friendly ones! 

Brave ~ Not sure what took me so long to watch this exciting Pixar film. It was definitely worth the wait.

Ferdinand ~ Heartwarming, beautiful animation, and wonderful messages.

The Grinch ~ I was skeptical of yet another Grinch movie, but this was my favorite yet. I love that this version helped Charleston overcome his Grinch phobia.

Mary Poppins Returns ~ This movie that we snuck in the last week of December was the best of the best this year. I loved it almost as much as the original! 

Favorite Books

I shared my twenty favorite books of 2018 last week. If I had to narrow my favorites down to one fiction and one nonfiction, these would be my top picks (don’t make me choose between these two!).

This Must Be the Place, by Maggie O’Farrell ~ One of the most provocative, beautifully written books I’ve read in years. Maggie  is a literary genius.

Soul Rest, by Curtis Zackary ~ God spoke some profound messages to me through this book that managed to be both convicting and refreshing all at once.

Favorite Music

Music played an important role in my life this year. I regularly chose music over podcasts and audiobooks, and it made a difference in my moods and clarity of thought. I also felt God using music to touch my heart more than ever this year. The songs that I loved and listened to the most were Arms Wide Open (still makes me cry every time I sing or hear it), New Wine (even more special after hearing Hillsong perform it live), Wrap This One Up (favorite song of Christmas), Reckless Love (quite possibly everyone’s favorite song of the year), and Despacito (not moving in any way, but so great for dancing!). Beyond specific songs, I had a number of new favorite albums this year. 

Sleeping at Last’s Atlas Year Two ~ I love the concept and execution of this Enneagram-themed album, which I have enjoyed even more since hearing the behind-the-scenes info about the songs on this podcast

Josh Groban’s Bridges ~ I expected the gorgeous singing; the fun, upbeat vibe was an unanticipated bonus.

J.J. Heller’s I Dream of You, Vol. 2  ~ Such lovely and soothing renditions of some favorite classics.

Cory Asbury’s Reckless Love  ~ While the title track is my favorite, the entire album is uplifting and spoke to me at such a deep level. I’m not usually one to gush over a worship album, but this one deserves the hype.

Favorite New Apps

My arsenal of most-used apps has remained stable for years. The apps I added this year really needed to earn their spots on my phone, and each has proved worthy of the addition.

Hoopla ~ With its enormous catalogue and no holds required, this app (which I access through my library) is largely to thank for getting me to my goal of 200 books this year.

Libby ~ This app has replaced OverDrive as my library’s main source of e-content. The new interface took some getting used to, but I’ve finally come around to loving both the look and the new features. 

Verses ~ Such a great resource for helping me memorize Scripture.

Favorite Food Finds

I’m an exceedingly unadventurous eater. I eat almost the same things every day, and when I find something new I love—a rare occurrence—it tends to become a favorite for life. These two items were fantastic finds that are both delicious and nutritious.

Elli Quark ~ This yogurt-like scoopable cheese is creamy, sweet (but not too sweet), and packed with protein. I’ve happily replaced one of my many daily servings of yogurt with this delightful treat. It’s even better after an hour in the freezer!

Barney Butter Snack Packs ~ So many delicious flavors, and the individual packets are perfect for someone like me who can’t trust herself with a whole jar of almond butter. It’s great on a banana for a nighttime snack!

Favorite New Household Items

These items made my life a tad easier, and my home a little more beautiful. 

Roomba ~ This item is a MUST for pet owners. Luke nailed it with this Mother’s Day gift.

Wireless Phone Charger ~ Like most tech items I acquire from my husband, I didn’t know how much I needed this until Luke ordered it and set it up for me. It’s makes the perfect “home” for my phone when I’m working in the kitchen (and it’s especially useful when I’m cooking from a recipe on my phone). 

Rifle Paper Company Planner ~ I’ve used a daily planner since I was in elementary school, and after years of settling for planners I didn’t love, I finally found one that meets all my needs. (Yes, this is the infamous planner from this post.) My 2019 planner is already ordered and sitting on my desk, ready to be put to use starting tomorrow!

Canvas People Canvases ~ This year I discovered the wonder that is Canvas People, which sells lovely custom canvases so cheap they are practically free (when you buy during a sale, which I always do). I had several canvases made from family photos, and I love that I’ve gotten those pictures off my computer and onto my walls!

Favorite Skin Care/Beauty Items

Much to my dismay, I learned this year that pumping your body with hormones wrecks havoc on your skin. While my face is puffier and more spotty than it’s ever been, I’ve been happy to add a few new tools to my skin care regimen to help minimize the damage.

Rose Petal Witch Hazel ~ I swipe this on my skin first thing in the morning and after I wash my face at night, and it leaves me feeling clean and refreshed.

Clinique All About Eyes Cream ~ I got a professional makeover for our family photos in October, and this is one of two items the esthetician recommended I start using. I’m not sure it reduces dark circles and wrinkles as promised, but at least I feel like I’m doing my part to solve my eye “issues.”

Clinique Moisture Surge ~ This was the other product the esthetician suggested I begin using. I apply a thin layer onto my face before going to bed at night, and it’s worked to keep my facial skin fully hydrated, even in the winter months.

Favorite Clothing Acquisitions

Compared to last year, when I overhauled my entire wardrobe, I made relatively few clothing purchases this year. (Clarification: few purchases for myself; I did a lot of shopping for Charleston who has been growing like a weed)! I picked up a couple of grey sweatshirts and a springy yellow dress from Old Navy, some summery tops from Nordstrom Rack, two tunic sweaters from Nordstrom during the Anniversary Sale, and a handful of great basics that proved to be favorites of the year. 

Levi’s 711 Skinny Jeans ~ Denim is one area where I did do a lot of shopping this year. (Turns out that spontaneously gaining ten pounds [#infertilitydrugs] means your old jeans no longer fit.) I bought four new pairs, two of which were pricey designer denim, but the pair I love and wear the most are these Levi’s. Great quality, comfortable, and they don’t get stretched out. I can’t recommend these enough!

STS Blue Boyfriend Shorts ~ Believe it or not, these shorts are on the long end for me (I love me some booty shorts), but they are comfortable and more age-appropriate than my other pairs, and they became part of my standard summer uniform. 

Kühl Flight Jacket ~ I have never owned a sweatshirt this warm or soft and since it’s gotten cold I’ve been wearing it as often as I feel I can get away with. 

Old Navy Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket ~ I took a risk on this jacket, which wasn’t something I would normally wear, but that I got on sale at the tale end of last year. It served me well throughout last winter and has been worn on the daily since the cold returned this fall.

Black Riding Boots ~ Soft, durable, and attractive, these go with just about everything. Great quality for the price. 

Cognac Sam Edelmen Penny Boots ~ These stunning boots were a gift, and they are probably my favorite footwear I have ever owned. 

Addidas Tennis Shoes ~ I’d worn my old Nike’s almost daily for three years, so it was no surprise that I finally wore a hole through the toe. I kept wearing them, though, until Arlo gnawed through my laces (while I was wearing them, he’s talented like that). I replaced them with this sleek pair that is cute, comfortable, and lightweight. 

Noonday Necklace and Earrings ~ Cara gifted me a Noonday gift card and after much deliberation,  I picked out these two pieces and am in love. They are classy, unique, and because they’re made by international artisans from vulnerable communities, they’re great conversation starters.

Kendra Scott Necklace ~ This was my birthday present from Luke, and it’s easily one of my favorite pieces of jewelry that he has bought me. 

Nickel & Suede Nova Earrings ~ It required some serious self control to keep from buying up every new pair of leather earrings N&S released this year. I got these during a sale and love them. They make a bold statement, but are feather light and easy on my ears.

(Related: I bought this jewelry organizer to house all of my new earrings!)

Favorite Travel Gear

I really stepped up my packing game this year. Though we aren’t big travelers, these items made packing for the trips we did take so much easier! 

Mason Weekend Bag ~ My parents gifted me the duffle from last year’s Gift Guide and it’s the nicest bag I own. Such a chic design, and I love the bottom zippered compartment.

Jewelry Case ~ This traveling case is massive, perfect for someone like me who tends to pack more jewelry than clothing. It has numerous compartments of various sizes, so I can keep all of my pieces safe and separate.

Packing Cubes ~ I can’t stop recommending these! They make packing a breeze, especially if your trip involves more than one destination. It was great to just unpack the cubes from my bag rather than having to empty my whole suitcase into drawers.

Favorite Dog Purchases

I hadn’t realized how much stuff a dog needs. We added many pet items to our household this year, some that were disastrous (we have gone through way too many toys and dog beds), some that are totally generic and not really worth getting excited about (like food dishes, and a crate, and collars and leashes). There have also been a few standout items that are worth mentioning (and recommending to fellow dog owners).

Kong ~ One of the only toys Arlo hasn’t destroyed. Perfect for stuffing with treats as well as outdoor play.

Bull Sticks ~ Arlo gets through one of these pretty quickly these days, but it’s a handy treat to have on hand when we need to occupy him for a bit (like during our meal times when he’s acting unruly). I buy them in bulk at Costco.

Split Rack Elk Antler Chew ~ Arlo LOVES this thing, and it has lasted him way longer than any other bone or chew toy.

Elevated Pet Bed ~ Unlike the plush pet beds that Arlo destroyed, this one is sturdy and also easy to clean. It sits in our kitchen and is a great place to “park” Arlo when he needs a break and we don’t want to put him in his crate. 

Charleston’s Favorite Things

Like most kids, Charleston has a room full of toys and tends to play with the same few items. He loves his stuffed animals, and he’s still very attached to almost all of the toys he’s had since he was a toddler (or younger!) like his activity cube and pushing toys. There have also been a few prized items that have gotten a ton of extra love this year. 

Micro Kickboard Mini Scooter ~ If I could only list one item here, this would be it. Charleston received this scooter from Santa last year and he has ridden it almost every day since. He’s gotten incredibly fast and can do some really cool tricks. Luke and I now both have scooters, too, so that we can ride with him.

BMX Mini Tricycle ~ Charleston has had this tricycle for a while, but only learned how to ride it this year. He loves riding his trike on our walks with Arlo (which works out better than the scooter because he moves more at Arlo’s and my walking pace). 

Melissa & Doug Magnet Calendar ~ This was such a great tool for helping Charleston learn his numbers, months, and days of the weeks. I hope to continue using this for years to come.

Mouse Trap Board Game ~ Charleston begged for us to get him this game for months after seeing it in the The Boss Baby movie. He earned it as a reward for filling up his marble jar, and he loves it so much that we leave it set up on a table in our loft so he can play with it at any time. He’s gotten into other board games and puzzles this year, too, but this remains his favorite.

Mo Willems Books ~ Both the Pigeon and Elephant & Piggie series were Charleston’s very favorite this year. They are cute, smart, and filled with humor that my 3-year-old could understand. We especially love this treasury of five books in one, which was great to bring on road trips.

Wee Sing Bible Songs ~ Since we mostly listen to adult music in our house, I was worried Charleston wouldn’t like these kid songs that I grew up on, but he loves listening to them in the car and has half the songs memorized. The Bible themes and stories have prompted some good discussions. 

Mini Lärabars ~ This was the best kid food find of the year. Charleston devours these, and I appreciate the wholesome ingredients and mess-free factor.

Collapsible Step Stool ~ This little stool is so handy. It’s easy for Charleston to carry around so that he can reach sinks and light switches and other high-placed items. He likes to sit on it when we eat at the coffee table. 

Melissa & Doug Train ~ We’ve had this for two years, so it’s not a new toy, but I couldn’t exclude it from this list because it remains Charleston’s favorite. He’s moved beyond playing with the trains on the tracks we build, to building elaborate tracks all on his own. He plays with this for hours on end. If he’s not outside on his scooter or tricycle, chances are he’s playing with this train.

Favorite New Life Hacks

Each year, I get a bit better at organizing my life and staying on top of all the details. These life hacks each made my life a little more seamless this year.

Photo Organization ~ I started organizing each day’s photos at night, right before I go to bed. I move photos into monthly albums, and save Instagram photos (which are my favorite/best of the best photos) into an an annual Instagram folder. I also save images of the books I’ve read into their own folder, which proved to be a lifesaver when compiling my Best Books of the Year post. 

Evernote Folders ~ I started a Medical folder with separate notes for all of our various doctor visits. I  also created a 2018 Folder this year, with separate notes for categories like Verses Memorized and Annual Goals. I even had a Highlights Note which I relied on to create this post! I’ll definitely be repeating this for 2019.

Pinterest Organization ~ I took major advantage of Pinterest’s Board Categories feature to organize my most-used boards. This gave me a helpful visualization of my 2018 books which I organized by star rating, and it has made it much easier to locate recipes I want to make.


BEST OF THE BLOG

I celebrated five years of blogging in August and feel like I hit my stride with the blog this year. I consistently posted four times per week, and wrote more from my heart than ever before. While I’ve loved blogging from the beginning, in the past it has also been a huge source of stress for me. This year, writing was almost entirely a rewarding and fulfilling experience. I believe I have grown as a writer, and I am amazed at how God has grown me as a person through the act of pressing Publish four times each week. Blogging has continued to be a way for me to reflect and document personal and family highlights, but it has also evolved into my own little ministry, with more posts written for the sake of encouraging others (i.e., YOU who are reading this!).  

Crowd Favorites

Thanks to a monthly linkup and many book-loving readers, my Quick Lit posts are always the most visited. I enjoy compiling these and am glad that my book reviews have been helpful for so many.

School Is In Session: Fun Back-to-School Facts ~ This post is more than three years old, but oddly received more traffic this year than any other single post. 

Reading Review: An End-of-Year Wrap-Up and My Favorite Books of 2018 ~ This post is less than a week old, but I’ve already heard from so many of you that it’s helping you narrow down your TBR lists for 2019.

The Enneagram in the Hundred Acre Wood ~ I love how much attention this post received. It’s good to know I’m surrounded by so many Enneagram enthusiasts!

Most Vulnerable

Opportunities for Grace ~ One of my lowest parenting moments, and in true blogger fashion, I decided to write about it!

Motherhood, Unexpected ~ The hardest thing I wrote this year, maybe ever.

Evolving Thoughts on Change ~ Change is hard for me. Admitting to my attempts at becoming more comfortable with change was almost as hard!

Notes From the Ironing Board ~ In which I confessed to being a 34-year-old woman who didn’t know how to iron! 

Trusting God With Our Stories ~ If I had to choose one post that defined my faith walk this year, this would be it.

Most Practical (& Useful!)

What’s Saving My Life Right Now ~ A list of the tools and routines that were keeping me afloat in February; most of those are still in heavy rotation now, ten months later.

What’s Working For Me (Right Now) ~ Another roundup of my routines and hacks. Listing these out helped me to see what was right with life at a time when everything felt out of control.

What (and How) I Feed My Preschooler ~ My food philosophy, plus useful lists of all our go-to meals, snacks, and feeding resources. Several fellow moms have thanked me for this post.

Why I Value Reading Aloud ~ The “Why” behind the emphasis I place on reading with Charleston, as well as all of my best tips for creating a read-aloud culture in your family.

What’s Working for Me This Fall: My Big List of Traditions and To-Do’s for September Through December ~ Writing out this list was a lifesaver for me this fall, and I heard from many of you that seeing my list was helpful as you made your own seasonal to-do lists.

Best Parenting Meditations

Mom Report Card ~ This exercise of openly acknowledging my parenting shortcomings, then listing out what I’m good at as a Mom, was incredibly beneficial.

Proper Care & Feeding of an Introverted Mom ~ How I manage my introvert needs while being a full-time SAHM.

Mom Guilt ~ My thoughts on an issue EVERY parent wrestles with.

Grace for My Parenting Journey TODAY ~ On learning to live in the present, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. 

Best Reflections

Sharing From Our Scars ~ On balancing vulnerability and privacy in the pursuit of healthy authenticity. 

Self-Help: How Should We Feel About It ~ An example of personal processing through writing. I was happy with where I landed on this controversial topic.

Good Grief ~ Learning to find value in the grieving process. Thankfully this wasn’t written from personal experience, but writing this was oddly cathartic for me.

Dreaming Small ~ This has been such a theme for me lately that I felt compelled to share.

Wisdom of the Ages ~ Seeing others age gracefully, and learning to value the gifts that aging has brought to the senior citizens in my life, has helped me come to terms with my own aging.

Light Shining in the Darkness ~ On finding hope within the hard times. (I 100% wrote this for myself.)

Personal Favorites

I’ve really enjoyed (and learned so much from) writing my monthly verse posts. And the What I Learned posts will always hold a very special place in my heart and soul.

Charleston Michael // Welcome to THREE! ~ Wow, hard to believe we are coming up on his fourth birthday, this post feels so recent!

Lessons from the School of Puppyhood ~ Getting a puppy was SO hard for our family, but we learned a lot and came out stronger for the experience.

Father’s Day Musings: What a storm, a big fish, and a stubborn prophet can teach us about fatherhood. ~ I had a blast writing this post about parenting messages found in the book of Jonah.

Three Point Five // Half Birthday Q & A ~ I LOVED this Q&A session I did with Charleston for his half birthday

Thankful ~ I really enjoyed compiling this list of 18 things to be grateful for on Thanksgiving of 2018.

What I Learned in 2018 ~ Writing this post helped me put words to the growth I experienced this year. 


Like I said . . . this year was a great one! Thanks so much for coming along for the ride with me in 2018. Cheers to another momentous year!