2019 Wrap Up

I can't believe this year is almost over! I love taking the time to reflect on the year and remember all the ups and downs.

2019 Word of the Year - joy. I chose this word to help guide my priorities and focus on what brings me joy rather than what needs to get done. When I kept this word at the forefront of my mind, I was able to find more joy and let go of some things. However, sometimes the joy got buried in to do lists and "shoulds." Also, one thing I learned in reflecting about the year is that planning ahead often brings me more joy than just trying to go with the flow. Joy doesn't have to mean letting go of obligations, instead I can joyfully plan out the things that matter to me, making sure I prioritize what is most important.

Most exciting trip of 2019 - Arizona. In October Aaron and I took a kid free trip to Arizona for a friend's wedding. It was so nice to get away and take a break from work and parenting. The weather was gorgeous, and we had an amazing time with our friends, riding scooters around Scottsdale, eating, and (my favorite) dancing at the wedding reception.

Books read - 89. See my list of favorites here.

Biggest parenting challenge with Violet - potty training. Overall, this is a win because she is now potty trained. However, with Jona, although he was fairly late to shed the diapers, once he was ready he was ready--accidents were rare. Violet was ready much earlier, but continues to have accidents (only at home--at school she's so good!), mostly when she's playing and doesn't want to stop and go. Sigh.

Biggest parenting challenge with Jona - eye issues. A little over a year ago Jona was diagnosed with amblyopia, or lazy eye. It's not noticeable when you look at him, but the vision in his left eye is far worse than his right. We've been treating it with eye patching for several hours a day, and now we're trying a thin film that goes on one lens of his glasses to mimic the patch (but worn with his glasses all day). We are crossing our fingers his vision will improve, so he does not have to wear an eye patch all day. He has been great in the process; he doesn't complain (much) about the patch or his glasses, and he does everything he is supposed to do. I think that's what breaks my heart even more, I just don't want this sweet kid to have to deal with it any more. I know in the grand scheme of things this is a small problem to have, and I am grateful that his overall health is good, but it has been a challenge for sure.

Favorite new entertainment - Disney Plus. It's been so much fun watching the Disney movies I grew up with and sharing them with the kids. And Jona loves all the Marvel movies of course. I'm also thankful I can watch Moana any time I want. Typically I'm not a big movie watcher, and I'm also not someone who can even watch Disney movies on repeat, but I adore that movie.

Moments my kids impressed me - When Aaron taught Jona about negative numbers. I was quizzing him on subtraction for school, and Aaron asks him, "What's seven minus nine?" Jona goes, "negative two," and I couldn't believe it! I guess that's what you get when your dad is a math teacher--bonus math lessons. With Violet, is was when we were waiting at the doctor's office for her 3 year check-up and she wrote her name on the chalk board there. The letters were huge and some were barely distinguishable (like the "E" with too many lines) but it was her name!

Favorite work trip - Chicago for a conference. I mostly spent time at the hotel where the conference was held, but I got to do a little exploring, which was fun!

Thing I want to remember - our last year with Ellie. Over the summer Ellie started getting sick, and in August we had to say goodbye to her. She lived a long life but was brought down by a tumor that took over her body. She was the best dog and we miss her so much.

{family updates}

Aaron - Aaron is teaching at the same school as last year, and he loves it there. However, he hopes to get a job as a school counselor, so he is looking around for options. He has kept busy at home with multiple home repair projects, from replacing our kitchen faucet to redoing the kids bathtub and shower (still a work in progress). I am thankful he can do many of those things!

Jona - Jona started first grade this year and he loves it! He is excited to go to school every day and talks about it a lot. He still doesn't love to read (although will happily be read to) although I do see him progressing in his reading. He loves science and still can't get enough Lego building. For Christmas he got a ton of Legos but also a "circuit building" set that he has been loving as well. We started reading Harry Potter this year (so far the first two) and that has been really fun. He is such a sweet, helpful kid and still a great big brother to Violet. Watching him grow up brings me so much joy.

Violet - Violet started a new school this year, the same preschool that Jona went to. She loves it and often comes home and pretends she's the teacher in her own classroom. Although she still challenges me constantly, she's grown in a lot of ways this year. She is finally able to sit through picture books beyond her favorite board books, so it's been great reading to her this year. It is never a dull moment with her around, she has a big personality and you never know which side you're going to see. She's sweet one moment and saying something funny, and the next she's shouting "Please stop, I don't like that!" at the top of her lungs.

What are some of your favorite memories from 2019? 

{reading} favorite books read in 2019

Now that that it's December already (how?!) I've been spending a lot of time frantically preparing for Christmas reflecting on the year. I took some time to look at all the books I've read (current count is 86) and decided on a few favorites. Here is my list.

{favorite non-fiction} Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. As a child I was obsessed with horses, reading books like The Saddle Club series and watching the movie National Velvet over and over. This story took me back to my horse-girl roots, but in a grown up way, telling the true story of a horse who inspired a nation, as well as the owner, trainer, and jockeys who helped make him great. I adored this story.

{favorite fiction} The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. I can't tell you why this book has stuck with me like it has--there's nothing ground-breaking or sensational about it, but I loved every moment of reading it. See my review here. My close second in this category is The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne, which I read back in February and still think about (review here).

{favorite audio} Becoming by Michelle Obama. I mean, do I even need to explain this one? Listening to Michelle Obama narrate her smart, well-written memoir was just the best. (Original review here.)

{favorite essays} I Miss You When I Blink by Laura Philpott. I don't read a lot of books in essay format, but this was delightful. It's honest, funny, and insightful, and I found myself nodding along with so much of Philpott's observations about her life. I read a library version but should have purchased a copy, as it's one I'd like to go back and re-visit.

{favorite dysfunctional family} Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane. That deserves its own category, right? I loved this story of two families who are neighbors and friends, and how one event changes their lives and their friendship forever. It sounds dramatic, but really it's a story of relationships and forgiveness.

{favorite "worth the hype"} Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. When I heard that this was an oral history of a fictional seventies rock band, I did not for one second think I wanted to read it, or that I would love it. After multiple people expressed a similar opinion, yet stated that they did read and love it, I decided to give it a try. I could not put this book down, and I found myself caring more deeply about this fictional band than I thought possible. Sometimes the hype is wrong. Not this time.

{favorite YA} Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. This was a tough book to read, about a teenage girl--star athlete and good student--who becomes an addict after a car accident. Although it's fiction, it helped me put a face to the opioid crisis, and McGinnis did a great job of showing how addiction goes beyond stereotypes, age, and class. This was a gut-wrenching book that stuck with me for a long time. (My review here.)

{favorite parenting book} How to be a Happier Parent by K. J. Dell'Antonia. Parenting books tend to be hit or miss for me. I keep reaching for them, because my children (especially the sassy three year-old) keep reminding me that I have A LOT of learning to do when it comes to parenting. Yet too often I find the advice irrelevant, obvious, or just not applicable to my daily life. However this one is different, with its focus on how I can make changes in myself as a parent, rather than strategies for improving my child's behavior. See my review here, but if you're looking for a good parenting book that offers a refreshing perspective, pick this one up.

Tell me, what were your favorites from this year? 

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. 

{listening} podcast addict

I just talked about audio books, and I do enjoy those, but what's streaming through my AirPods more often than audio books are podcasts. I am completely addicted to podcasts, and it feels like the rest of the world is too, because I keep finding more to listen to. Here are a few of my current favorites.

{listening lately}

Before Breakfast. This is a short, daily podcast with time-management guru Laura Vanderkam. I read and enjoyed her book I Know How She Does it, so when I found out she had a podcast I had to check it out. It is a quick listen--around 5 minutes--and each day she talks about a time management strategy or tip for living more intentionally. Her topics are broad, but to me this podcast is geared toward working moms/working women.

A Beautiful Mess. I have been reading A Beautiful Mess the blog for years, so when I heard they had a podcast I couldn't click "subscribe" fast enough. Elsie and Emma, the sisters behind the blog and brand, chat about everything from home decor to personality types. I love the casual, conversational style, and so far I have enjoyed every episode I've heard.

One Great Book. This one is from Anne Bogel, of Modern Mrs. Darcy blog and What Should I Read Next? podcast. In this short podcast, Anne discusses one book from her shelves and why she thinks it is "one great book." You know I can't resist adding to my TBR list.

Didn't I Just Feed You? This podcast is hosted by two moms and food editors and it's all about feeding your family. They share a lot of great tips and I love their episode themes, like leftovers, cooking for a crowd, and school lunch packing ideas.

1619. Four hundred years ago, a ship carrying over 20 enslaved Africans landed in what was then the English colony of Virginia. This 6-episode podcast series explores how that fateful landing broadly and irreversibly impacted the United States. This one is a departure from what I typically listen to, but it's been excellent so far.

10 Things to Tell You. This one is hosted by Laura Tremaine, who I first listened to when she was a cohost on the Sorta Awesome podcast (another favorite). Each episode has a theme, and Laura shares 10 things about that theme and encourages her listeners to share their responses as well. My favorite episodes are her book episodes, but she's done many other interesting ones as well, and I like her mix of lighthearted and deeper subjects.

Are there any podcasts you love that I should add to my list?