Over the past several years of blogging, I’ve established a year-end tradition of reflecting on the previous calendar year with a post commemorating the year’s highlights and favorites. Though 2020 was far from what we all envisioned twelve months ago, it was still a year worth remembering and memorializing. So today, on this final day of a year like no other, I’m looking back and remembering all the high points.
PERSONAL AND FAMILY HIGHLIGHTS
In January we celebrated Charleston’s fifth birthday in grand pre-COVID fashion, with trips to Burger King and Chuck E. Cheese’s and a friends party at Urban Air.
My parents were able to visit us twice this year: they were here for my birthday in March, and again in August on a road trip in their new Corvette. The kids loved getting to spend time with their grandparents.
My friend Cara came for a one-day visit on the last weekend of February. She met the twins for the first time, and we got the chance to see our fave Annie F. Downs teach in the Love Better Tour. (Little did we know this would be the last big event we would attend in 2020!)
Of course, we all know what happened in March and beyond. . . While the world was shut down, our little fivesome made the most of our time at home and created some great memories as a family. Charleston and I had fun with BINGO-style Challenge boards and Mo Willems’ videos (which inspired a months-long obsession with making and playing games of Super Bounce!); we sleep-trained the twins and introduced them to real food; and we participated in online church and Bible Study Zooms. I learned how to enjoy exercising from home and rediscovered a love of cooking. (I also came to appreciate my weekly trip to “forage for food” at H-E-B, which doubled as my once-weekly Mom break!)
In June and again in October, Luke and Charleston went on weekend camping trips with Luke’s parents and sister, and I enjoyed extended time alone with the twins.
In August, we made our official debut as a Homeschool Family. Charleston and I began Kindergarten at home, and he started attending a weekly enrichment program and weekly sports camp for homeschoolers.
In September we celebrated the twins’ first birthday, Disney style, with a fun family party complete with plenty of darling pictures and the twins’ first taste of cake.
In November, we road-tripped to California to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents and attend the funeral of Luke’s grandfather. It was great to spend time with family and pretend that COVID didn’t exist for a little while.
Holidays are always a highlight, and this year’s celebrations did not disappoint. We dyed eggs and had backyard egg hunts at Easter; carved pumpkins and dressed up as characters from Peter Pan for trick-or-treating on Halloween; and participated in a wide assortment of seasonal traditions and activities throughout the month of December.
Thought not quite as Instagram-worthy, it tends to be the small, everyday moments I cherish most and that I most want to remember. I’m sure there are many I am forgetting to include here, but these are some of my favorites from the year.
Joining a new community group through our church; meeting online throughout the spring, and back in person since this fall. We adore every couple in our group and feel blessed to be doing life alongside them.
(Through March) attending a weekly women’s Bible study and monthly MOPS meetings with the twins in tow. Participating in the studies while holding two babies was challenging, but made for some memorable mornings!
(Before moving on from the nursing pillow in June): long hours nursing the twins, them curled up on their nursing pillow, heads touching, arms reaching out for one another.
(More recently): Post-nursing playtime, reading, singing, and laughing in the glider with Kali and Sully bouncing on my lap.
Nightly prayer time and blessing with all three kids.
Watching the twins play together in their room and snuggle up with one another in their sleep. . . it NEVER gets old!
Weekly phone calls with my mom (and sometimes Dad, too!).
Eating dinner from the solitude of our front porch on warm summer nights.
Attending church services, twins on our lap, through March; watching church online throughout spring and summer; and heading back to church in person this fall, when Charleston began participating in Upstreet (“Big Kid” church) and the twins entered the church nursery for the first time.
Nightly story time and nighttime cuddles with Charleston after the twins are asleep.
Friday “picnics” with Charleston (lunch in the living room in front of a movie of our choice).
Introducing Charleston to several classic animated movies thanks to Disney Plus (itself a big highlight of the year!).
Since August: mornings spent learning alongside Charleston at the table in our playroom-turned-classroom.
Mother/son dates with Charleston—some that required leaving the house, but many that were held in blanket forts or from our background playground—playing games or reading together.
Tackling—and almost finishing (pre-nervous breakdown)—a Couch to 5K program during afternoon runs at the gym (Charleston cheering me on from the sidelines while I pushed the twins in the stroller); then driving through McDonald’s for ice cream on our way home.
Neighborhood walks with the kids (twins in their stroller, Charleston walking beside me).
Picking up crafts from our local library every day this summer, and books-to-go throughout the year. (The Liberty Hill Library receives a HUGE GOLD STAR for its curbside services this year!)
Endless hours of playtime with Charleston, Kali, and Sully up and down our hallways and on the nursery floor.
Friday nights with Luke (we always put the kids down early, then watch a movie or show together while we eat a blissful kid-free dinner).
Reading through the whole Bible alongside Luke for the second year in a row.
Supporting Luke as he began a new job at the start of October.
Throughout summer: COVID-style dates with Luke, in which we would pick up take-out from Applebee’s and enjoy it on the outdoor patio of a local coffee shop.
I think I say this at the end of every year, but it really does feel like my little boy grew into a BIG boy in 2020. This year saw the loss of his first two teeth, his welcoming Jesus into his heart, and his foray into Kindergarten! This was the year he was introduced to video games and chapter books, and he went from knowing just a few of his letters twelve months ago to learning how to read many words on his own.
BEST CHARLIE-ISMS OF THE YEAR
JANUARY: When Luke mentioned that he is taller than his own dad. “That’s because Grandpa hasn’t had his birthday all the way up to how tall adults can get.”
FEBRUARY: “Mom, what I want for my next birthday is another baby. But this one has to not be crying. We just have to pray to God to try to make one. And then their birthday will be on my birthday!”
MARCH: “When will I get the chance to die? Because I think I might like Heaven better.”
APRIL: Talking about why he doesn’t like to pray in front of anyone: “I pray my own times when no one’s around because I never want them to know how good I am at doing it.”
MAY: “God is the author of the Bible, right? Did he do the illustrations too?”
JUNE: Talking about how we shouldn’t treat people differently based on race: “That’s trying to fight God and being on Satan’s team.”
JULY: About having a big gap in his mouth after losing a second tooth: “Now my mouth is available for a whole finger! Last time it was only available for half a finger. But my thumb is too big. Pointer is the one I usually have to use.”
AUGUST: “If you want to see real magic you trust in God. And BAM, He’ll do what you want.”
SEPTEMBER: “I can’t wait to see my friend at school tomorrow. Like they say, it’s not good for man to be alone.”
OCTOBER: “How did you get to be a teacher at church? Did you have to pay?” Me: “No, I didn’t have to pay to help out at church.” Charleston: “You mean you got to volunteer for free?”
NOVEMBER: “I think the prayer about God keeping our family safe is coming true. I mean, we’re always safe. I don’t think a piece of our family has been killed or something yet!”
DECEMBER: On why there are more female teachers than male teachers: “Is it because they’re smarter? Or they hold the pointer better? Or because they like to get money more than boys?”
KALI’S AND SULLY’S MILESTONES
The twins were still teeny-tiny when we rang in the new year; now they are full-fledged toddlers who have passed more milestones in the past twelve months than I could list here. In 2020 they began eating real food and sleeping through the night; started creeping then crawling then standing (and Kali started walking); began babbling and saying a few words (particularly our loquacious Sully); and each grew two new teeth.
Their personalities have blossomed this year: Sully is our sweet, sensitive boy, quick to laugh and also to cry and a TOTAL Daddy’s boy; Kali is more independent and also more easygoing, but shyer around strangers and more stingy with her smiles (but NEVER with her dance moves, as that girl loves to dance!).
A FEW NEW FAVORITES
Choosing superlatives is a challenge for me as I always fear I’ll leave something out. But I like having a record of art, resources, and personal items I’ve particularly enjoyed each year. These are just a few of 2020’s standouts.
I dedicated a full post to all of my favorite 2020 reads here. Topping the list of this year’s favorite novels—with no other title coming remotely close—was Cara Wall’s The Dearly Beloved which I loved for its incredible story, memorable characters, and poignant themes. I had a harder time choosing a single favorite nonfiction title; the book that has stuck with me the most was Self to Lose, Self to Find—a book that has helped me apply all that I’ve learned about the Enneagram in some helpful new ways.
Charleston’s favorite picture books this year were the Danny choose-your-adventure books, and the twins had lots of fun reading (and playing with and chewing on) their box set of Eric Carle books. As a family, we are thoroughly enjoying this treasury of several beloved children’s classics.
Of the (few) movies we watched this year, there were two easy family favorites: Luke, Charleston, and I all loved the live-action version of Aladdin as well as The Greatest Showman. We are clearly a musical-loving family who also appreciates beautiful cinematography, nostalgic films, and a heartwarming story.
Luke and I watched the final season of Jane the Virgin this year and I was so impressed with how the series wrapped up. And we both positively adored the first season of Ted Lasso, which was the feel-good show we all needed this year.
I had a difficult time choosing my favorite podcasts this year, because I regularly listen to SO MANY of them. Among the podcasts I’ve listened to for a while and continued to love this year were: Armchair Expert, Currently Reading, and That Sounds Fun. I also really enjoyed the membership perks and bonus podcast material from my Bible Recap and What Should I Read Next Patreon memberships.
Of the new shows I added to my queue this year, favorites included Annie and Eddie Keep Talking (it’s been so fun to get to know these two beyond their roles as hosts of other podcasts); Bookend Homeschoolers (the perspectives of a seasoned homeschooler and a homeschooling newbie have been very beneficial); The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast (though I’m not a church leader, I’ve been fascinated by Carey’s conversations with various leaders about trends within the Christian Church); and The Holy Post (Phil and Skye have a unique perspective on faith and politics that has shed light on the intersection of these realms).
FAVORITE NEWS SOURCES
This year I began closely following the news for the first time in my adult life. After initially getting in too deep with too many news sources, I settled into a healthy (for me) routine of listening to two daily news podcasts—The Fox News Rundown and The Daily (and occasionally tuning into Ben Shapiro’s news show)—and reading the 1440 Daily Digest, which comes straight to my inbox each morning.
FAVORITE NEW-TO-ME BLOGS
As a blogger, it may surprise people (it always surprises ME) that I follow very few blogs. This year, I began subscribing to just two new ones: Baby Foode has provided me with many fun baby- and toddler-friendly recipe ideas for the twins, and I am smitten by the gorgeous food styling of Half-Baked Harvest (though admittedly I’ve yet to try any of her recipes).
FAVORITE CLOTHING ACQUISITIONS
Between quarantine and SAHM-life, I needed very few new clothing items this year. I really did live in my Zella live-in leggings (the pockets are a game-changer!), and this winter I’ve been wearing this oversized fuzzy sweatshirt more often than I’d care to admit. (I loved it so much I bought it in a second color!) I also tried out the romper trend with this comfy piece, which was a quick and attractive option for summer days when I wanted to look like I’d put a little effort into my outfit. For Christmas, I received this Barefoot Dreams cardigan and though it’s a new acquisition, I know it will be a favorite for a long time to come. I’m also obsessed with the Barefoot Dreams robe Luke gave me for our anniversary.
FAVORITE ONLINE DISCOVERIES
Quarantine Life introduced our family to numerous new resources, many of which we will continue to utilize for years to come. For many months this year (up until my mental health crises this fall) I enjoyed working out to the fantastic (free!) exercise videos from Fitness Blender. Charleston has enjoyed exercising along to the creative workout videos from Get Kids Moving and taking drawing lessons on the Art for Kids Hub. In the homeschooling realm, Education.com has proven to be an invaluable resource for supplemental worksheets, and we’ve appreciated the variety of books and educational videos from Epic Books.
FAVORITE HOME PROJECT
My hodgepodge spice assortment gave me years of grief; it was a relief to finally get a handle on the mess that was my spice cupboard by transferring my spices to a collection of matching jars that resides neatly in a kitchen drawer.
Last month we traded in my Honda CRV for an Odyssey, and while I never wanted to be a van mom, we have been absolutely thrilled with our new wheels.
FAVORITE KID ITEMS
Though they’ve mostly outgrown it now, Kali and Sully spent many hours entertained by their twin-friendly playmat, and they continue to love their set of wooden stacking blocks and their alphabet train, as well as their wide collection of board books. These full-coverage bibs have been a lifesaver, as have their easy-to-clean highchairs.
Charleston’s favorite activities this year have been playing with LEGOS (especially these awesome Mario LEGOS he got for Christmas), snapping pictures on his kids’ camera, playing dress up, making crafts that he tapes around the house, playing board games (Guess Who? is a new favorite), hanging out on his backyard playground, and (on the weekends) playing Nintendo.
BEST OF THE BLOG
I’ll be the first to admit that 2020 was not a banner blogging year for me. But for all my shortcomings as a blogger, writing continues to be a treasured hobby (and sanity saver) for me, and I’m grateful to have succeeded in maintaining this space this year, with mostly-regular posting and quite a few posts that I am truly proud of.
Some Thoughts // “A global pandemic, mandated social restrictions, national homeschooling and working from home. . . all of this is entirely new territory, and while things may (will?) eventually be okay, I doubt that any of us will ever be quite the same after this.“
Weathering the Storm // “Our boats within this storm offer different levels of safety and protection. Some of us will emerge from this storm unscathed; others might not be so fortunate. Rather than responding critically towards those in differently shaped boats, I need to offer empathy and grace. And this goes for myself—while my watercraft is consistent, the storm we are in is a dynamic one that requires different responses by the day.”
Black Lives Matter // “But I also know that when it comes to racism, my continued silence is part of the problem. I can’t claim to love God and love His creation without speaking up for justice and equality. So I’m here, doing my admittedly small part to stand in solidarity with my black brothers and sisters.”
What Am I Keeping, And What Am I Leaving Behind? // “I can’t speak to the future of the pandemic, the economy, or race relations; so much is unknown, and opinions are numerous, largely ill-informed, and predominantly unhelpful. What I do know is that I serve an omnipotent God who is capable of redeeming the most dire of circumstances. I believe this is true on a global and national scale, and I have found it to be true on a personal level as well.”
A Mental Health Check-In // “The start of quarantine was odd and uncomfortable, but it was straightforward: we were told not to leave our house, so we didn’t. Now, things are much more complicated: places are open, but is it safe to go? If it is safe, is it worth dealing with the hassle of restrictions just to get out of the house? Social gatherings are also a landmine: it’s difficult to gauge each family’s level of comfort, and broaching the topic feels too stressful to make it worthwhile.”
Old Love (Valentine’s Day) // “Young love is exhilarating and showy, but also exhausting and shallow. It’s no wonder that the seeds of young love often wither and die before they have the chance to take root. However, if pruned and cultivated, they have the potential to flourish into something substantial and majestic.”
The Hope of Easter // “Just when the world was at its darkest and it seemed the enemy had won, Jesus appeared. His resurrected body was proof that sin had been conquered. Death would not prevail. Life and light and hope had NOT been vanquished, but had triumphed in an unexpected and magnificent victory. Love had come from Heaven to rescue the world, once and for all.”
Moms: The Ultimate Essential Workers (Mother’s Day) // “Motherhood is pure, undiluted, sacrificial, heart-exploding love. Being a mom is the most important job in the world. We moms—and our mothers before us—are the ultimate Essential Workers. From conception to cradle, college to career life, and eventually creating families of their own. . . our children need us (albeit in different capacities) every step of the way. Our love and support will always and forever be ESSENTIAL.”
A Present Father (Father’s Day) // “Unfortunately, the helpers aren’t always easy to spot or available to assist. In today’s strange and frightening times, it can be difficult to know where to turn or whom to trust. Helpers—even well-meaning ones—can sometimes do more harm than good. Our world doesn’t just need helpers. We need a Dad.”
Thankful in All Things (Thanksgiving) // “Whenever I find myself on the verge of a depressive spiral, I have made it a habit to stop and thank God for something good, even if the only ‘good’ I can see in the moment is the air in my lungs, or the solid ground beneath my feet, or the knowledge that I have Someone to whom I can give thanks, Someone who is listening and is vested in my prayers.”
A Thrill of Hope (Christmas Eve) // “In this Christmas of 2020, it’s helpful to remember that we are not the first people to sit within the tension of hopeful longing as we await the advent of peace, joy, and restoration. “
Charleston Michael // FIVE Years Old! // “What are you proud of? ‘Me! And YOU ‘cause you do good stuff for me.'”
A Day in the Life: Quarantine Edition // “Over the past few months, I began to realize I had outgrown that insecurity and decided it might be fun to document a day in the life of our family.”
Charleston Michael // Half Way to Six! // “What is the best part about being a kid? ‘Hmm, you don’t have a job, except for I do, but it’s a fun job. My job is (whispered) fighting bad guys.'”
Banking Extra Minutes // “Watching my children grow is the definition of bittersweet. It’s beautiful and miraculous and heartbreaking all at once. But resistance is futile, and banking extra minutes with them has already proven to be an invaluable tool in stemming the tides of regret.”
Welcome to Kindergarten: Our Plans for Homeschooling This Year // “I rarely feel confident in my decisions, but in the months since finalizing our choice to homeschool Charleston, I have experienced an otherworldly peace—and even excitement—about this coming school year.”
My Good List: Homeschool Edition // “A great benefit of homeschooling—and one of our primary motivators for choosing to do so—is that it allows us to move at Charleston’s pace, NOT one dictated by textbook timelines and schedules. Homeschooling also gives us the freedom to set official lessons aside for the day in order to engage in activities or outings that ultimately will serve Charleston better academically, socially, and spiritually.”
Homeschooling Kindergarten: Time to Check In! // “Let me start off by saying how thrilled I have been with our decision to homeschool. Despite some initial hesitance regarding our schooling plans, this choice has proven to be such a wonderful experience and one that has been repeatedly validated for me over the past couple of months.”
Reflections on Twelve Months of Parenting Twins // “I hope I have also become a mom who lets herself off the hook when life is imperfect. And I absolutely have become a mom who has more grace for other parents whose parenting journey looks different from my own.”
Conquering Boredom With Daily Challenge Boards // “Last week, in a moment of exasperation after hearing Charleston complain for the umpteenth time that day that he was bored, I grabbed a sheet of paper and sketched out a Bingo-style grid made up of twenty squares. Inside each square I jotted down a task or challenge for Charleston to accomplish, with the promise of a small reward if he was able to check off every box by the end of the day.”
Hopping Off the Struggle Bus: My Quick-Fix Strategies for Coping with Stress // “Over the years, I’ve developed systems and routines that help me manage the day-to-day stress of Mom Life, and I credit these (as well as a supportive husband and HEAVY reliance on the Lord) for preventing me from taking up permanent residence in Crazy Town.”
Feeling Pensive: Prompts for Reflecting on a Historic Year // “There are no rules for these questions: embrace those that are valuable to you, and leave the rest. You can take them to your journal, discuss them with a partner or friend, or simply spend some time pondering your answers while sipping cocoa next to a cozy fire. The goal isn’t clearcut answers, but a general sense of clarity and uniformity of heart, mind, and soul as we close the chapter on one year and prepare ourselves for whatever lies ahead.”
2020 Reading Recap and My Favorite Books of the Year // “This year’s compilation of Top Books includes just eight novels and a shockingly high FIFTEEN nonfiction titles, all of which happened to fall into fairly tidy categories. (I can’t begin to express how happy it makes me when coincidence complies with my OCD!)”
JOY in 2020 // “Joy is not simply happiness. It is not turning a blind eye to negativity. It is not an absence of pain or struggle (and it can in fact coexist and even thrive in the midst of trying circumstances). Joy is also not something that happens to us, but something that WE CHOOSE and that is further cultivated in us as we fully rest in God’s promises and His sovereignty.”
There Is No Fear In Love // “When I find myself succumbing to fear-based parenting, I can remember that God—our own Heavenly parent—IS love. There is no fear in love, therefore there is no fear in God. When I place my full hope and trust in Him, His light will shine down into the dark crevices of my motherhood, exposing fear’s deceptions and pointing me toward the truth.”
Getting Real About Authenticity // “Hopefully they will all be reflective of our own true essence, but we don’t need to expose every layer to everyone we encounter. Some contexts will merit a full unveiling of our must vulnerable selves; others will only require us to expose our surface ideas/beliefs/etc. But as long as these thoughts and actions remain in alignment with our personal beliefs, both these core- and surface-level portrayals of ourselves can be totally authentic.”
Hope Is Not a Strategy // “No farmer ever planted apple seeds hoping they would yield potatoes, nor would a farmer expect an abundant crop to flourish from one or two planted seeds. Farmers also understand that cultivating a harvest is not something that happens overnight: it requires long-term planning, patience, a fortuitous environment, and plenty of work.”
Holy Lament // “Lament connects us to the truth while shifting our focus back to God and to the goodness of what has been lost. Lament presupposes God’s goodness and evil’s evilness. When we engage in lament, we are trusting God’s good intentions for humanity and aligning ourselves with His will.”
The Thief of Joy // “We doubt the abundance of goodness/happiness/resources, assuming there isn’t enough to go around. We distrust God’s provision and His plans. We question whether God has set us on the right path, or whether we should actually be in an entirely different lane. We worry that because we aren’t experiencing somebody else’s best (which we perceive is THE best), we are missing out on OUR best.“
Five Things Saving My Life This Winter // “This second time through Scripture is revealing to me that the Bible really is an active document that speaks to us differently at different times in our lives. I am noticing so many new things this year, and I’ve loved seeing how God can use the SAME words to speak new messages and lessons to my heart.”
Fifteen Things I Learned This Winter // “I tend to be much harsher toward myself than I would ever be toward anyone else. However, a number of recent podcasts and personal experiences have made me realize that being hard on myself (i.e., perfectionism) can have deeply painful repercussions for those around me. While I might never excel at self kindness (particularly related to body image and coping skills), it’s easier for me to do when I frame it as an indirect act of compassion towards those around me.”
Twenty Things I Learned This Spring // “The level of creativity we are seeing everywhere from YouTube to socially distanced weddings is astounding. People across the globe are accepting the hand we’ve been dealt and not only inventing new games, but truly mastering them! In many ways, my faith in the human race and our ability to move through hard times has been restored.”
Elevin(ish) Things I Learned This Summer // “Just as I cannot speak for all white individuals (or even all white Christian women), I cannot expect a single black American to speak for millions of people. If I want to truly understand in order to be a constructive force for racial reconciliation, I need to listen to a range of voices—including voices with opposing opinions—with a posture of humility and curiosity, and zero expectations for straightforward, unilateral answers.”
Words to Live By // “While ‘this too shall pass’ helps me to push through the hard times, recalling that ‘the years are short’ reminds me to be mindful within my current circumstances because they will be over before I know it.”
Fifteen Things I Learned This Fall // “The dark times of this season have deepened my faith and my prayer life, forcing me to hang on to God when it feels like the world is crumbling around my feet.”
What I Learned in 2020 // “The power of prayer; the freedom of relinquishing control; the importance of truth; the silver linings of a global crisis; the value of assuming the best in others; an ability to feel empathy; the beauty of messy parenthood; a renewed commitment to seeking and experiencing divinely appointed JOY! These are the things I learned over the past twelve months and that I will carry with me as we collectively limp into 2021.”
That puts a cap on another year in my life and the life of this little blog. Thanks so much for joining me as we weathered the craziness that was 2020. Here’s to a happy (healthier!) 2021!