On this December 31st—Day 365/365—it seems fitting to zoom back the lens for a bird’s eye view of the year. In many ways it was an entirely ordinary year for me and my family, yet no year is without its highlights. Join me in celebrating a few highs from life in the Jernejcic Family in 2022.
My parents came out during our spring break for their first (of two) Texas visits of the year. They tagged along on our usual activities (like the library, church, and gymnastics) and we got to do a few special things too, including our inaugural trip to now-family-favorite playplace Indigo Play.
I gained a sister-in-law in March when my brother married Yesenia. They eloped to Hawaii, so we were not there for the wedding itself, but loved hearing all the details of their private ceremony and gawking over their stunning photos. The two make the cutest couple ever and I love seeing my brother so happy. Yessi is a delight and we are overjoyed to have her in our family.
On March 10, the other side of our family grew when Luke’s sister gave birth to our niece, Brooke Rose. She is perfect, and happens to be the world’s most easygoing baby. It’s hard to believe she was just born this year, it feels like she’s been a part of our family all along!
We became gardeners this year! And by “we” I mean “Luke” as he independently designed, built, and cultivated our new garden. I was blown away by his efforts, and despite lackluster growing conditions here in central Texas this summer, he had good success with a variety of vegetables. For my part, I mastered the preparation of collards, kale, and green beans, and our whole family enjoyed the science and nature lessons we harvested alongside our edible crops this year.
We spent a lot of time at the library in 2022 (the local Liberty Hill library through summer, and the larger Cedar Park library in fall after their reinstitution of midweek family storytimes). During the summer we took part in the library’s Harry Potter reading program, which launched Charleston into his love for all things Harry Potter!
We hosted Camp 75 (backyard Bible club put on through our church) for the second time this summer and were honored to have friends, family, and neighbors gather in our yard to laugh, sing, play, and hear a clear presentation of the Gospel. We love seeing our church’s teenagers lead and serve in this program, and the fact that it is all done in our own backyard is such a gift.
In July, my friend Cara and her husband, Dan, visited Texas from South Dakota and we got to spend some time with them while they were here. It was a quick visit, packed full with laugher and games and non-stop chatting—Cara and I have been friends since we were teens, and we never run out of things to talk about when we are together. Thankfully our husbands are on board with our effusive friendship.
In August we made our annual trip out to California to visit family. We stayed with my parents (who graciously offered up their own bedroom for us on this stay!) and enjoyed all their Huntington Beach home has to offer (ocean, beach, playground, pool [which involved the twins’ first time swimming!], boating). We also made visits to all three living grandparents and explored a few of our old favorite spots. It was one of our most relaxed and enjoyable CA visits of the many we’ve made since moving away in 2016; the perfect summer vacation.
In October, we joined Luke’s family for a week at a beach house on the Gulf Coast. It was my first visit to a Texas beach, and also our first time taking a vacation with all twelve members of the Jernejcic/Seckrater clan, and it was a huge success—definitely looking forward to doing it again!
Our Harry Potter love made its way to our Halloween costumes this year. As Ravenclaws, Luke and I were certainly appreciative that our Gryffindor offspring welcomed us into their Halloween festivities.
My parents came out to visit again during Thanksgiving week, and their visit was mellow but also absolutely perfect. We played tons of board games and joined Luke’s sister at her house for Thanksgiving dinner, and my parents got to join us at a few Christmas events including a tree lighting, picking out our own Christmas tree, and the first Sunday of Advent. We usually are out of town for this weekend and it was nice to spend it at home, especially because we still got to spend it with family.
Parent/child dates with all three kids made for some memorable moments this year. We’ve learned that dates are a key to helping our whole family unit thrive; this year we continued our trend of Luke and I alternately taking Charlie out each week, and we added in weekly dates (usually Saturday morning donut runs) with the twins, who have LOVED this new tradition and done great apart from one another (the only time it happens every week). It has been so fun to see our kids’ three unique personalities shine when they are in a one-on-one setting, apart from their siblings.
This year was all about groups! Luke and I participated in a couple’s leadership cohort early in the year, and we spent the spring semester with our couple’s community group that had been together since early 2020; it was sad to see the group come to an end but we were happy that it ended well. I participated in a women’s Bible study through another church in spring (studying Philippians) and again in fall (studying 2 Timothy) and was involved in women’s groups through our church both semesters as well.
I began serving in the children’s ministry at our church this year, leading a small group of Kindergarteners on Sundays and helping out with curriculum and other behind-the-scenes prep on Wednesdays. This was a surprising highlight of the year for the kids and me, as we developed some great new friends through serving and enjoyed playing an important role in the work of our church.
I’ve continued to enjoy workouts at the Cedar Park rec center a few times each week: I get some elliptical and reading time in, and the kiddos have fun playing with babysitters Betsy and Alyssa and their gym pals. Our walks in and out of the gym are always eventful and usually involve one or more of the following: nature observations; bee/snail/butterfly hunting; games of chase; and plenty of fun and funny interactions with other members coming and going from the gym (most of whom are over the age of 70).
Closer to home, some quotidian moments involved tons and tons of time reading picture books and playing chase and hide-and-seek; early mornings doing schoolwork with Charleston and afternoons doing school all together as a family; family dinners (which have remained a priority, despite the craziness of this hour); lots of board games with Charleston; playdates and coffee meet-ups with new and old friends; dinner with other couples (at our house, and on couple dates); introducing the twins to McDonald’s play scapes (so glad they’ve made their post-COVID return); Saturday writing days for me while Luke takes the kids; front porch chats with Luke on summer nights after the kids were in bed; neighborhood picnics and park visits; and household noise levels that I begrudge now but will one day miss.
KID MILESTONES AND MOMENTS
Charleston turned SEVEN in January, and we celebrated with a small Mario-themed birthday with family. I’m still in denial that he will be EIGHT in just a couple of weeks!
The twins participated in their first gymnastics class through the Y. Charleston joined me as the second “parent” for the Mommy and Me class, and all three kids loved the experience. Kali has excellent motor skills and was a natural from the beginning, but Sully also made great strides in a very short time. We took a break from gymnastics this fall but hope to re-enroll in the new year.
In spring Sully got his first hair cut (since then he and Kali have both referred to their hair as their “hair cuts”). He was cautious but did well with the experience, and I was shocked at how much a small trim changed his appearance, transforming my Baby into a bona fide big kid.
In May, we wrapped up First Grade with Charleston. He made huge strides in our second year of homeschooling, memorizing nearly thirty Bible verses and exploring various historical periods and reading dozens of classic novels through our Sonlight curriculum. Most notably, First Grade was the year he became an avid reader. By summer he was plowing through books—first graphic novels, then full chapter books.
Charleston got to participate in several fun activities and camps over the summer, including private swimming lessons, a VBS at my in-laws’ church, and a week-long wilderness camp. The outdoor camp was an entirely new experience for him and he loved it (even all the creepy crawly and wet and dirty parts) and has enjoyed continuing with the monthly version of the camp this school year.
Kali had her first hair cut in September. The experience was a rough one for her, as she was too overwhelmed and scared to sit in the seat on her own and had to have her hair trimmed from the security of Mama’s lap. She still doesn’t have much hair, so the cut was just a light trim to even out the back. Now we wait for those luscious locks to start filling in!
Charleston and I started our third year of homeschooling in August, with a brand new curriculum and new set of rhythms. So far the school year is going well (despite some needed attitude adjustments from my pupil and some growing pains as we’ve begun including the twins in our history and science lessons). Charleston is still participating an a weekly sports camp as well as a weekly enrichment program where he has classes in art history, music, science, Spanish, PE, and character building.
Kali and Sully turned three in September! How is it that they are no longer toddlers?! We celebrated with a pink-and-orange themed birthday party with family at home. They loved dressing up in their favorite colors and playing on their brand new trampoline! Shortly before their birthday we started the potty training process, and though we are making headway I can’t say we’ve crossed that milestone quite yet.
We transitioned the twins to forward-facing car seats in October and it has been a game-changer. They are so much happier facing forward, and I’m enjoying carseats that are easier to work with and kiddos who aren’t as fussy in the back seat.
KID UPDATES & KID-ISMS
Our Kali Cat is one little lady with a very big personality! She is quirky and expressive and loves to narrate our days (often through “phone” conversations with her imaginary “sparkly friends”). Though cautious in social situations, when it comes to physical activity she is more adventurous and rough-and-tumble than both brothers put together. She adores anything girly, glittery, or pink, and loves imitating her role model Cinderella with dramatic “whimper-crying-into-hands” when sad. She’s especially loving playing dress-up in the Disney Princess costumes she received for Christmas. She is almost always singing, dancing, or gathering toys and other “treasures” for her various collections.
A few favorite Kali-isms from the year:
+ Me, seeing her crying: “Kali, why are you crying? What’s wrong?” Kali: “I’m crying because my face is wet!” (from her tears)
+ Her prayer before meal time: “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you sparkly pink friend!”
+ “My fingers are dirty. You need to put ’em in the washing machine, don’t ya?”
Sully has proven to be the most complex of our children: at times incredibly easygoing and silly, yet capable of unbelievable stubbornness and competitiveness. He is also extremely sensitive and particular about all things, and he is always sure to make his opinions known. He loves to sit and look at books and covets one-on-one time with adults. His curiosity is insatiable, and his chatter never stops—mostly coming in the form of questions or, once answered, his interpretations of our responses. He loves all things Paw Patrol, and this Christmas he developed a fascination with Frosty the Snowman in all of his forms (movie, book, song, artwork); he has a significant lisp, and hearing his rendition of Froth-ty the Thnow-man is just about the cutest sound on the planet.
A few favorite Sully-isms from the year:
+ Me: “Sully, how’s your heart doing?” Sully, looking around: “I don’t know. I can’t find it.”
+ “Oh, Kalinda pulled me! She’s gonna breaked me. We don’t want to break me ’cause Jesus made me!”
+ Luke: “Sully, did you forget?” Sully: “No, I get.”
Charleston has fully embraced his role as game-coordinator and ringleader of our little trio of kids and loves teaching, helping, and playing with his siblings who are finally old enough to be true playmates. He spends his free time doing crafts, creating mazes, playing building-type toys (like train tracks and Legos), concocting elaborate imaginative scenarios, and listening to Adventures in Odyssey. He is confident, enthusiastic, and insightful, and my own understanding of God and of the world has grown in leaps and bounds through exploring it alongside Charleston.
A few favorite Charlie-isms of the year:
+ “I have so many toys, I’m thinking of asking Santa for a storage unit.”
+ “I think I must have been born with a four leaf clover in my stomach because I don’t have ANY food allergies!”
+ “When I’m president, I’m going to make it a law that you can’t put a picture in a book that will give away the mystery.”
WHOLEHEARTED IN 2022
Choosing a Word each year has become one of my most treasured spiritual practices, and it is always exciting to see how my Words play out over the course of a year. Embracing Wholehearted this year led me to live more fully within my calling as a wife, mother, friend, and daughter of Christ. Reading through the Bible again this year (including the seven Deuterocanonical books of the Catholic Bible) was key in this, as was memorizing all of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)—a challenge I was not sure I would be able to accomplish and am excited to have mastered. I also learned and grew so much through studying twelve Word-themed books over the course of the year; I so enjoyed getting to share that reading journey here with all of you.
Pursuing wholeheartedness this year has led my faith to shift in ways that have felt a little scary but have me holding more tightly to God than ever before. I’m coming to the end of 2022 with a faith that has shifted some but is much sturdier and more rooted in Scriptural Truth. All of this will play into my Word for 2023—more on that next Thursday!
BLOGGING IN 2022
I do not pay attention to numbers or analytics, so I have no news to report regarding page views, followers, or other “business-y” parts of blogging. What I can say is that I’ve continued to receive such wonderful and encouraging feedback from many readers and I’m thankful for the way that God has used me and this small corner of the internet for good. I’m coming up on my tenth blogging anniversary next summer, and in many ways I still feel like a newbie at all of this. But I’ve loved the opportunity to share myself and all I am learning a couple of times each week, and I am still amazed that so many of you continue to join me for the ride. A few blogging highs this year included a heavier emphasis on faith content; the addition of my new 28 Things series (those have been so fun for me!); some tweaks to my Lately posts; monthly reviews of books related to my Word for the Year; and monthly deep-dives into the Sermon on the Mount. I’m excited to continue writing in 2023 (and if there is anything you all would like to see more or less of in this blog space, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!).
A FEW FAVORITES
I shared the long-list of my favorite books of 2022 last Monday. But if I had to narrow it down to just two favorite titles—one nonfiction, one fiction—I would have no problem choosing Gentle and Lowly (for its remarkable take on the heart and character of Jesus) and The Lincoln Highway (for its absorbing plot, memorable characters, vivid storytelling, and poignant cultural commentary).
Favorite Books (Kid)
It would be impossible to list out the twins’ favorite books of the year, there have been WAY too many. A few series they’ve grown to love are The Berenstain Bears, all Look and Find books, and everything by Jan Brett.
In his independent reading, Charleston’s favorite books were the Pup Detective graphic novels, the A to Z Mysteries, and the 13-Story Treehouse books. As for read-alouds, he fell head over heals for the first two Harry Potter books and is chomping at the bit to start Prisoner of Azkaban (which I promised we will start on his 8th birthday, now just two weeks away).
Charleston has loved reading through his Adventures in Odyssey Bible, his first real Bible and a great introduction to Scripture that ties into his love of Odyssey. (We also got him this Bible but Luke and I are more into it than Charleston right now. It’s a fantastic study Bible for kids of all ages!)
I only saw one movie in the theater this year, and only four new movies total all year, so there wasn’t much competition for this category, but I really did love the newest Downton Abbey movie. It fit so well with the whole series, with some delightful stories that so many feel-good moments. The visuals were as lovely as I’ve come to expect from all things Downton, and I loved seeing so many storylines tied up with a bow.
Favorite Movie (Kid)
I did not have high expectations for Encanto and couldn’t believe how much I loved it! In fact, it is now tied for favorite Disney movie of all time (with Beauty and the Beast). The music, the colors, the culture, the family themes—I adored it all, and didn’t even mind when my kids wanted to listen to the soundtrack on repeat for a few solid months.
I unsubscribed from a lot of podcasts this year, and started following quite a few new ones. In looking at the six podcasts that were my favorites of the whole year, one commonality is minimal ads (each of these is either ad-free or the ads are short and not disruptive). Sadly many of my old favorites seem to have more ads than content these days, which is understandable but also frustrating. The six that rose to the top are the shows I can’t press Play on fast enough.
A Drink with a Friend—Tsh and Seth have deep conversations about topics that are relevant, though not super splashy. I’ve been intrigued by their exploration of the Catholic faith following their conversions from Protestantism. The fact that Tsh lives across town from me makes their small-town talk especially fun for me.
The Alisa Childres Podcast—I have Alisa to thank for my current fascination with apologetics. Her show (along with her books) has helped me refine my Biblical understanding and added depth and structure to my world view.
Honestly with Bari Weiss—This woman is a brilliant thinker and a genuine truth-seeker whose approach has taught me so much about journalistic integrity and how to engage in thoughtful, productive conversations with people of opposing perspectives.
The Megyn Kelly Show—Megyn in an excellent journalist who does not hold back in her opinions and is unafraid to “go there” with her commentary and interviews. I admire her strength, character, and willingness to ruffle feathers, even if I don’t always agree with her political views or salty language.
Morning Wire—My go-to source for daily news. Love the short format, fair presentation, and lack of political spin. The addition of Afternoon Wire with rapid-fire news stories has been helpful.
Sarah’s Bookshelves Live—My favorite reading podcast. Sarah’s reading taste is similar to mine, and I appreciate her unfiltered reviews of both old and new titles, as well as her thoughtful interviews with successful authors.
Favorite New Resource
After years of Luke’s urging me to take my internet security seriously, I finally heeded his advice and adopted 1Password. It has been done wonders for my digital life: not only is everything now more secure, but there’s no more frustrations over losing and retrieving endless passwords. My only regret was that I didn’t listen to my husband sooner.
Favorite Home Item
I was resistant to the digital frame trend at first, but this frame that was a gift from my in-laws has brought so much joy to our family. I immediately upload favorite family photos to the frame when I take them, and the kids love seeing the endless scroll of our family memories. I had not anticipated how much they would love this and how it would spark some great conversations about past events and the friends and family members who pop up in the photos. It has been a great way to get the photos off my phone (and it’s something we see more than the photo albums I print each season).
Favorite Clothing Acquisitions
I keep a running list of my clothing purchases (and clothing gifts), and other than some new underwear and a couple of shirts bought on discount, this year’s list was quite small. I’ve loved every single purchase, though. I’m completely on board with the overall trend and these linen overalls are so comfortable and super easy to style. I discovered a passion for ballcaps this summer and now own quite a few, including my favorite that features our pal Mickey. I’m pretty obsessed with my Rothy’s—the first pair of white shoes I’ve loved, because I can easily toss them into the washing machine when they get dirty. And I had to bring more of my favorite color into my wardrobe this year with this darling dress.
Favorite Personal Item
My first encounter with Palmer’s Coco Butter was at my parents’ house last summer, and purchasing a bottle for myself was the first thing I did when we got home from vacation. It smells scrumptious and hydrates my skin like nothing I’ve used before, and the price just can’t be beat.
Favorite Kid Items
These days my kids spend most of their play time engaging in imaginary play (building forts, setting up house, playing doctor) and endless games of tag or hide-and-seek. Their ride-along airplanes continue to be family favorites; the number of miles they’ve racked up on those things would definitely be in the triple digits.
The twins love playing with all of their Meliss and Doug playfood sets as well as their play kitchen, which is used for “cooking” as well as a desk space and secret storage spot for Kali’s various collections and finds.
Charleston loves games of all kinds. He mastered Chess this year, and is great at Clue and various different card games, but his favorite game—the game he’d play all day, every day if he had playing partners—is Mario Monopoly. I’m not a Monopoly fan, nor do I care about Mario, but even I like this version.
I bought the kids their own fuzzy robes last winter and they are not only adorable but highly functional. There’s really not much cuter than a trio of kidlets in footy jammies, fuzzy slippers, and cozy robes!
Favorite Homeschool Resources
I make zero apologies for my effusive love for The Good and the Beautiful curriculum. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this curriculum has revitalized our homeschooling! It’s fun, beautiful, open-and-go, Biblically sound, and effective: Charleston is thriving with both the language arts and math programs, and we are loving the history and science curriculum for our whole family. At this point I cannot imagine using anything else for our schooling. Hands Down, of everything on this year’s favorites lists, this goes at the tippy top.
The Heroes of Liberty picture biographies have been a great addition to our history curriculum. These books are engaging as well as inspiring, and a nice counterpoint to a lot of the heavily agenda-driven history resources currently being marketed to families.
The best gift I received this year came on Christmas: Charleston gave me a journal of our memories together, that he’d worked on all year (beginning last January). It’s nearly fifty illustrated pages of our relationship in 2022 and it is the most precious thing EVER. I was blown away by his thoughtfulness, intentionality, and effort. I’m one blessed Mama.
Favorite New Tradition
We added a collection of GoodKind Advent Blocks to our Christmas collection this year and loved counting down to December 25 with these beautiful blocks and accompanying Bible storybook. I’m all about the Christmas traditions and ones that tie in with faith instruction are especially welcome.
From Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger:
I hope that your 2022 held more highs than lows, that the highlights were abundant and memorable and that any hardship or sadness you experienced this year will be entirely forgotten or somehow redeemed.
If you made it all the way to the end of this post—thanks for sticking around, for today and for following along with me for another trip around the sun. Let’s do it again next year!