This year was not an easy one for far too many people. For me personally, it was both the best and the worst of years. It started out rough, got worse, then unfolded into something so beautiful it brings me to tears. I unpacked a lot of that journey in Monday’s post. Today, on this last day of the year, I’m keeping it celebratory with a look back at the goodness that 2021 brought to me and my family. Enjoy this highlight reel of 2021.
We were gifted with the most lovely snow day in early January. (Little did we know what was to come the following month!) The day was pure magic, the perfect start to my year of wonder.
We had a simple sixth birthday celebration for Charleston, entirely planned by the birthday boy himself. We were joined by family for a morning at the train followed by lunch at Hat Creek and presents and cake at home.
In February our family (along with all of central Texas) survived a great snowpocalype that will likely go down as one of our most challenging but also bonding moments. The days without water and power were tough, but we learned a great deal through the experience and are stronger because of it.
My mom and dad came out to visit in March. Every single visit with them is precious, even the simple ones.
My friend Cara and her husband Dan visited from South Dakota on Easter weekend. It was great to meet Dan and have them join us at our church’s Easter service.
In May we went to California to spend a few days at my parents’ house in Huntington Beach, then we headed up to Family Camp in the mountains. It was our first “big” trip with the twins and it was challenging (mostly because Sully was very sick while we were there) but I loved getting to spend time with those I love in one of my favorite places on earth.
This summer we had the opportunity to host a backyard VBS camp with our church. It was an incredible time of community and faith sharing and we can’t wait to host again next year. This is in my top three favorite memories of the year.
My parents were back in Texas for the twins’ second birthday. We had a fun Taco TWOsday party with family, and it was wonderful to have all the grandparents together for the first time since the twins were born. (Also a top three memory.)
Charleston accepted Jesus into his heart this summer and was baptized by Luke in October. What a blessing! (And this is hands-down the TOP memory of 2021.)
The kids all worked together to choose our Halloween costumes for this year—a selection that reflected their cumulative taste in movies this year. We all looked pretty cute, if I may say so myself.
In November we headed back to California for a simple but lovely Thanksgiving week at my parents’ house. We were able to visit all three surviving great grandparents—something we definitely don’t take for granted in these days of mandates and quarantines. We also got to celebrate my brother Austin’s engagement to Yessi.
Christmas (the whole season) with the family was amazing. From decorating to Santa visits to Advent traditions and going to see lights. . . all three kids loved every part of Christmas, and that filled my heart with so much joy.
** There’s no pretty picture or flashy anecdote for this last highlight, but it was a defining part of my year, so I couldn’t end this list without mentioning the mental/spiritual rebirth I experienced this past spring and into the summer. (Thanks in large part to starting antidepressants.) It is because of this profound shift that I can reflect back on 2021 with joy and gratitude rather than disappointment or despair.**
It’s always the smaller, less Instagrammable moments that mean most to me when reflecting back over a year. Here are just a few standouts from 2021.
Fostering new in-person friendships and rekindling old ones online.
Nightly storytelling with Charleston, and adding each story installment to his journal the next day.
Weekly date nights with Charleston.
Library story time throughout the summer.
Seeing all three kids play together: chase, hide-and-seek, fort building, and more.
Beginning this summer, weekday trips to the gym—especially the times spent watching the kids race and play in the surrounding park afterwards.
Reading with the kids at meals and any other opportunity.
Participating in a women’s Bible study at Hill Country Bible Church this fall.
Monthly MOPS meetings and occasional playdates.
Sunday mornings at Northpoint!
Weekly evenings with our church community group.
KID MILESTONES AND MOMENTS
It’s remarkable what a difference a year makes when kids are young. In 2021, Kali and Sully both began walking and talking, grew several teeth, learned to feed themselves with forks and spoons, and came into their personalities in a whole new way. They’ve become more independent but also more attached to each other, still sleeping in the same crib and spending most of their time playing together. They’ve overcome their fear of strangers and look forward to daily time at church, the gym, or with friends. They adore coloring, imaginative play, playing chase, bubbles, and sleeping to the Daniel Tiger soundtrack. They are terrified of our Roomba (or any vacuum) and of walking into the garage without being carried. They are excellent sleepers (sleeping through the night from 7:30 until around 6:30, and for a two-hour nap every afternoon.) They’re still breastfeeding a couple times each day, and they’ve become pickier eaters but are healthy and growing.
Sully is our silly one, but also the most stubborn of our three kids. He’s a chatterbox, and began speaking in complete sentences this fall. He narrates our actions and asks a LOT of clarifying-type questions, and he is not a fan of changes to his environment or his routine. We love how he calls his sister “Kinda Joy” and himself “Sully Luke” (after some initial confusion, when he thought he was Sully Joy).
Kali is our dancer, our snuggler, and our climber. She’s filled with wide-eyed-wonder, leaping with excitement about the smallest things. She’s more independent than Sully but does tends to follow his lead when they play. She is self aware, knowing when she is hungry, tired, or in need of a new diaper. She is quite the ham and is a huge fan of posing for pictures.
Charleston had a big year as well, graduating Kindergarten and beginning first grade. He learned to read this year and excels in science and math. We’ve had our struggles with homeschooling but continue to enjoy learning together, and Charleston had a great year at his weekly enrichment program and homeschoolers’ sports day. This summer he took swimming lessons and learned how to swim on his own. Charleston has developed into an incredibly deep thinker, a more thoughtful student, and a very conscientious brother, son, and friend. He spends his free time creating, using his imagination, and listening to Adventures in Odyssey. We’ve been especially blessed to watch his spiritual maturity over the past year.
I’ve enjoyed documenting his Charlie-isms throughout the year. Here are our monthly favorites:
JANUARY—“Helping is one of my favorite things to do. It’s one of the things that makes God’s children his children. Because God helps, so we should help to be part of his family! And also lots of hugs and kisses.”
FEBRUARY—“I have something sciency to say. You know how, when you were in school, you feel like you are the special-est? That’s because really it’s just you acting you, so that’s what you know. But I can’t lie, at Sports Day, I feel like I really AM the special-est because everyone says I am, even the big kids. So I try to act like them.”
MARCH—“Would you rather know things that are going to happen in the future or things that are going to happen in the past? I would want to know future. Because I’ve been wanting to solve a lot of problems. Things like communism.”
APRIL—When I referred to the Bible as God’s Word: “What is God’s word? Is it love? And why does he only get one word?”
MAY—When we read a book in which God is referred to as our Dad: “God calls himself our father, not our dad. They’re different. Isn’t a father a little bit more grumpy and tough than a dad?”
JUNE—“You know how some people call their kids things like ‘sweetheart’ and stuff? Well, I think when I have kids, I’m going to call them ‘ice cream.’” Luke: “Great idea, what’s better than ice cream?” Charleston: “Jesus. But it would be weird to call your kids Jesus.”
JULY—About a handicapped parking sign: “It says $500 Fine. I think that means they’re fine with you parking there as long as you pay them.”
AUGUST—“A lot of people think the Bible is our biggest treasure. But that’s not really true! Our greatest treasure is God and Jesus. Actually, the greatest treasure is our hearts, because that’s where the Holy Spirit lives.”
SEPTEMBER—“Isn’t Arlo made of turkey?” Me: “Hmm, no, he’s not made of turkey.” Charleston: “I mean meat. Isn’t he made of meat? And don’t we eat meat? So when Arlo dies, do you think we should, you know….”
OCTOBER—“So far I’m one of the smartest people in the family.” Me: “Really. And whose the very smartest?” Charleston: “Siri.”
NOVEMBER—Telling me about the several girls he has a crush on, or that have a crush on him: “There’s too many good options. How am I ever going to choose a wife? This is going to be so hard when I grow up.”
DECEMBER—During a prayer the week before Christmas: “God, I hope you feel loved and have a lot of fun on your birthday. Which is in…about FIVE days.”
YEAR OF WONDER
I named 2021 my year of Wonder, and I think I’ve said this every year, but this really was my favorite word yet. My quest to find wonder led me to cut back on screen time and begin waking up to God’s presence all around me. Wonder gave birth to gratitude, a softening of my heart, and an insatiable thirst for the Lord. My faith flourished this year as I invested in spiritual practices and spent dedicated time with the Lord every morning. I was blessed through my in-depth study of the New Testament and through Scripture memory, with each monthly verse speaking to me in some truly God-orchestrated ways.
BLOGGING IN 2021
Blogging looked quite a bit different for me this year. If you’ve followed me for a while I’m sure you’ve noticed the changes; I cut back on the number of posts per week (from four to three) but poured more of my heart into my writing. I found healing and insight through writing this year, and blogging shifted from labor of love to genuine lifesaver. I celebrated eight years of blogging in August and truly can’t imagine my life without this creative outlet.
A FEW FAVORITES
I dedicated a full post to all of my favorite books of the year. Topping that list were Anxious People (the rare novel that truly had it all) and Live No Lies (the nonfiction book I CAN’T stop recommending).
We watched very little television this year, but I really can’t fathom a world (even a TV heavy one) where The Chosen wouldn’t have topped my list of shows. Entertaining and powerful, it’s helped me view Jesus’ time on earth in a whole new way.
Of just nine movies I watched this year, I’m having a difficult time choosing one clear favorite. Knives Out wins for best story, while Luca was my favorite animated movie and I was so impressed with Cruella.
Favorite New-to-Me Podcasts
I’ve tried to narrow down my favorites for a lot of these categories, but I just can’t bring myself to do that for podcasts. In 2021 I unsubscribed from more shows than I added to my regular queue, but I still found several new shows to love.
FAVORITE NEWS SHOW: Morning Wire
FAVORITE SHORT-RUN SERIES: Live No Lies with John Mark Comer
FAVORITE BIBLE STUDY: The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz)
FAVORITE FAITH TEACHING: Made for This with Jennie Allen
FAVORITE CONVERSATIONS: A Drink With a Friend
FAVORITE POLITICAL SHOW: Relatable with Allie Beth Stuckey
FAVORITE PODCAST FOR PARENTS: Raising Boys and Girls
FAVORITE BOOK PODCAST: Sarah’s Bookshelves Live
FAVORITE POP CULTURE SHOW: The Plugged In Show
Favorite Returning Podcasts
Other podcasts that I’d been listening to prior to 2021 and continued to enjoy this year are That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs, Currently Reading (I especially enjoyed the Patreon-only content), and Bookend Homeschoolers.
I discovered Needtobreathe this year, and their live album became my most-listened-to music of the year. My favorite song of the year was this tearjerker from Ellie Holcomb (the whole album is pretty great).
Favorite Clothing Acquisitions
Luke gifted me my first pair of Rothy’s last Christmas, and they were my go-to shoes throughout the year. This cardigan (another gift from Luke) came out every time the temps dipped below 75. I also replaced my
dilapidated well-loved black booties with a cute and comfy new pair.
Favorite Kitchen Item
I somehow made it twelve years into cooking without a Dutch oven; I’m now seeing how my kitchen was incomplete.
Luke and the kids got me a set of stacked birthstone rings for Mother’s Day. Luke designed the set himself and I LOVE it.
Favorite Personal Purchase
I unfortunately plowed through the Kindles this year, losing one and dropping two and getting an upgrade this Christmas. Eek! With each new Kindle, I bought this case that I love. It’s attractive, simple, and allows me to prop my Kindle in front of me while I read.
Favorite Kid Items
Our magnetic letters have been so helpful in our spelling lessons, and I credit this book for Charleston’s ability to read. Charleston has had hours and hours of playtime with his Mario Legos. The twins’ favorite new items this year were their elephant chairs and Magna Doodles. All three kids played constantly with their Toy Story stuffed animals (we acquired Jessie, Woody, Buzz, Rex, Zurg, Slinky, Bullseye, and the Potatoheads this year!).
Favorite Food Find
Favorite Online Discoveries
The kids and I are all pretty in love with the Adentures in Odyssey app that lets us stream all of our favorite episodes. (It’s really impossible to overstate how much we’ve enjoyed being part of the Adventures in Odyssey club; and I enjoy geeking out with trivia on the Odyssey Wiki!) I’ve also had a lot of fun tracking my books on Storygraph.
Favorite Home Update
We made a number of small (but significant to us!) changes this year: we added a chandelier in our dining area, moved our mattress from a boxspring onto a grown up bed frame, finally bought clocks for our bedroom and living room, moved the glider from the twins’ nursery into our room, lofted Charleston’s bed and got him his own desk, moved Charleston’s old chair into our living room, added shelving in our garage, and prepared our yard for a garden (coming soon!). My favorite home update was the addition of a gallery wall featuring some favorite family portraits.
Proverbs 3:5-6, memorized in the Passion Translation, became a genuine guideline for me throughout this year.
I’m ending this year feeling so grateful to all of you who read here: thanks for joining me in 2021. Let’s do it again!