2021: A year in review

Every January, I assemble a blog post of sorts that catalogs our year. Largely organized in list-form, I touch on the big and little things, events and thoughts and experiences that shaped our life over the last year. I do find this incredibly helpful as a sort of reflection, a glance back on the Lord's faithfulness, to show me, time and time again, that He is a good God. And with that mindset, I feel less encumbered as we continue on into the new year, more ready to face a full year of new, fresh days, with the heart attitude that regardless of what the days will hold, mundane or exciting, difficult or good, I can walk into the future with hope and trust in Him. Plus, I do enjoy looking back on a lot of the little details of our life, the ones that make me smile or think, Oh, yes! We loved that! What a little joy in our life.

For ease of reading (and ease of writing!) I group my thoughts about the year into link-heavy sub-categories. The links all direct to the original posts that I wrote this year:

Knitting

I will write a post that goes into more detail about the knitting projects I completed in 2021, but I'll mention a few overall trends here. I did a lot of sock knitting, since it was easy to pickup those projects on the go. I knit a truly comfort pair of socks (the yarn, the pattern, the genre of project) in the aftermath of a second miscarriage this summer. I knit very little during several weeks of morning sickness with my current pregnancy this early fall. I did complete a few more (than my usual) larger projects this year. In particular, two sweaters: my Nurtured sweater and my Lodge Sweater , as well as my Color Craze shawl, which was an enjoyable colorplay/scrappy project, and then most of the other completed projects were gift knitting, many of which were socks.

Sewing

Overall, I did very little sewing. Or rather, what I did do was very concentrated and bunched together. Since we furnished the basement (it was already finished off, but we purchased furniture and decor for it, etc.), I have a lovely sewing space, when the mood suits. But it does still require what sometimes feels like a large amount of mental effort to setup a sewing space within a shared space, knowing I don't want to commandeer it indefinitely. Also, there is no room in this room that Cooper can't access, and my sewing setup isn't particularly toddler-friendly. For all the above reasons, sewing feels more like an ordeal. I did manage to sew some, however. I completed some boring but necessary sewing, like hemming curtains, mending, and shortening too long pillowcases. I also sewed a quilted table runner for our coffee table, and two additional quilted project bags (here and here). I made a quilted weekend tote for my mom, which may be the most intensive sewing project I've attempted in a few years. It wasn't difficult persay, but bag making in that context was somewhat fiddly and it was time intensive. And perhaps the biggest sewing burst of the year was this late fall when I sewed matching family Christmas stockings, a mug rug for a friend, a quilted project bag for my mom, and a quilted treasure zippered pouch for Cooper, all mentioned in this post about Christmas creative projects. Lastly, I finally got around to starting and finishing my first embroidery project in years: a Christmas cross stitch that I worked on alongside my friend, Maeve.

Work

This was the second full year that I've stayed home as a wife and mama. I will say that I deeply enjoy staying home with Cooper and taking care of our home and household. I love having a routine within each day. Our days feel full and sometimes long, but the joy of being witness to seeing the world through my child's eyes is such a gift, and a privilege.

In the kitchen

Overall, we spent the majority of this year eating a paleo-ish type diet. I say "ish" in that we do flex to what feels good, but focus on real, whole foods, high quality animal proteins, and avoiding inflammatory foods. I did start up with sourdough baking again this fall, after a friend of mine gave me some of her super healthy and bubbly starter! I have greatly enjoyed trying out new sourdough recipes (cinnamon rolls, pancakes, etc) that we have tolerated well, since I've made a point to long-ferment everything I make. Favorite meals: bacon burger breakfast skillet, the best (easy!) whole roast chicken, carnitas in the Instant Pot (and then leftovers used to make these flautas with grain-free tortillas). I made several batches of superhero muffins (I sub in mini chocolate chips for the raisins), We are still thoroughly enjoying our coffee routine, utilizing our Palmpress, and recently, an upgrade to a burr grinder and glass, insulated mugs that keep our coffee hot much longer, for us slow coffee drinkers. We drank the vast majority of our coffee bulletproof style, with grass-fed collage and coconut oil added in for extra fat and protein. Nicholas also gave me a new, smaller cast iron pan for Christmas that is the perfect size for our daily breakfast of fried eggs, alongside bacon or sausage.

Beauty

I didn't deviate too far from previous years. I actually went the entire year without getting a haircut (and have the split ends to tell that tale), mostly out of procrastination. My makeup routine is quite minimal at this point, and I know what products I like to wear when I leave the house: concealer, matte brightening powder, bronzer, mascara, and brow gel, sometimes pencil eyeliner, rarely liquid foundation. Most products are W3ll people. All three of us love beautycounter lip conditioner (almost always a Christmas gift), and I've recently incorporated a few products from Rowe Casa into my routine, namely their magnesium cream. I also adore using this basil and cardamom hand scrub when my hands feel rough or dry, or I just want the experience of it.

Favorite music

Noah Kahan, In the Hall of the Mountain King, performed by the London Symphony orchestra, for Coop's enjoyment, mehro, Branches, Chris Renzema, Tom Rosenthal, a lot of mellow jazz music (all three of us enjoy it). Nicholas and I listened to a decent amount of Anberlin and other "throwback" bands. And ultimately, I listened to a lot of single songs from artists that were suggested and then I promptly binge listened to while driving or in the shower. Overall, I felt a lot more flighty in my music tastes.

Favorite reads

On the very high praise of my mom who knows books(!), I read Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes, and loved it. I finally finished my beloved Mitford series by Jan Karon, including Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, Come Rain or Come Shine, and To Be Where You Are. I read all except the very last chapter of (A)typical Woman with my dear friend Rachael for a virtual book club (she lives in Texas). This fall, I started the Little House series (a re-reading for me, but I haven't read them in many years). Last year, I read Little House in the Big Woods, and Little House on the Prairie. Also, I began a daily Bible reading plan in September, and I've been keeping up with that. The plan runs from September to May. Sometimes I read in my physical bible, sometimes I read on my phone in an app, and sometimes I listen while folding laundry/showering, etc. It's been really neat to make new connections between Old and New testaments and to be consistent in my bible time.

Traveling

We took two trips to Michigan, once with my in-law's for a weekend, a restful visit with games and Lake walks and coffee. And the second Michigan trip was a day trip, just the three of us, with marina-watching, burger- and ice cream-eating, and barefoot beach playing. We drove a few hours over to Illinois to Starved Rock State Park for a day trip and Coop's "official" first big hiking experience. And we drove up to Minnesota mid-December for a lovely early Christmas celebration with my family.

Locally

Coop and I enjoyed going to playdate at a local park with friends weekly. The three of us went on countless special family dates (usually on Saturday mornings). Coop and I went on dates, just the two of us, always on days when he got his haircut, sometimes on other days too.

We took Cooper to a local, smaller zoo, and he loved it. We went on a lot of family walks, including our favorite "cozy hikes," where Coop would ride in a wagon, cozied up with a blanket and a snack. We visited a local apple orchard, and Cooper loved the tractor ride and eating an apple like a big boy. I went on coffee dates with my SIL Katelyn, often walking around downtown with coffee or taking it to a local park.

Visitors

My family visited us in early January for a belated Christmas visit. We played outside, visited parks, I made candy with my dad, and we spent time catching up and exchanging gifts. Our dear friends Lauren and Casey visited us in January with their baby girl for a short visit with the best shared meals, conversation, and baby snuggles. And they made us breakfast and coffee before they headed home (the absolute best). My sweet friend Jessica visited with her littlest boy Weston, and the boys played in the snow and we drank coffee and we cooked meals and baked cookies and laughed and cried together. And then in June, my family visited for Cooper's second birthday! My mom brought some plants from her gardens to plant in our yard, and we spent so much time outside, all of us.

Finances, practical things, & home updates

We built a simple ledge shelf for Nicholas' home office, he made a butcher block deak for his office, and then he also made a built-in desk for the basement. He learned electrical wiring basics and replaced all the outlets in the house. Nicholas installed a reverse osmosis water filtration system under our kitchen sink. We had several home owner-related purchases, like a lawn mower and various yard tending equipment. We hired a carpenter to completely remodel the stairs, and then hired a team to finish (stain and paint) them. We bought a bike for Nicholas as a belated Father's day gift, and a bike trailer for Cooper, as well. We bought a new table and chairs for the kitchen. Nicholas replaced the exterior lights and shutters on the house, and we got the carpet in the house replaced throughout. The week before Christmas, we had a new front door installed as well. Between the extra light from the larger window in the door and the new staircase, the entryway feels a lot fresher. We finished furnishing the basement with a large, modular sectional, a built-in desk (mentioned above), and a round table that's just the right size for puzzles or games or sewing projects.

Rest

Not unlike last year, this year was less prolific for me with writing in this space. As such, many of the posts are list-like and catch-up posts about "life lately," since I enjoy writing them and that felt like the most doable type of writing here. I spent less time on social media than in any prior year, and didn't miss it in the times I was away from it. I took lots of naps during the early days of this current pregnancy, a perk of having a consistent toddler naptime at that point in time.

Movies, TV, and other things we watched

The Great British Bake Off (always a highlight!), Downton Abbey, for the fourth(?) time, For All Mankind (good), Mosquito Coast, (okay), Unforgotten (good), and several shows I didn't love or ones Nicholas watched while I knit and didn't really pay attention. We went to one movie in theaters this year, Dune, and really enjoyed it. Going to the movies felt so fun! A special date for us. I watched a few different knitting podcasts/vlogs on YouTube to accompany my knitting in the evenings.

Living in light of the seasons

I wrote about a boy and his snow shovel and the joys of waxing and waning winter beauty for me, and about our life in wintertime, about cozying up with knitting and fika, playing with friends in the snow, dressing for cold winter days. I wrote about blue skies in February, and the beginning of winter's thaw, the promise of warmer days ahead.

And then in March, I wrote a post about seeing spring everywhere, shedding heavier coats and warmer temps. We spent many summer nights having dinner picnics and playing in the backyard, barefoot. I wrote about our first beach day of the season. I spent cool mornings on the three-season porch with coffee. We visited our County Fair. August and September were hot, so we spent days in the backyard inflatable pool, snacking on nectarines.

We went on cozy fall hikes and made apple cider donuts at home. I decorated for Christmas the week of Thanksgiving, and enjoyed adding bits of cheer throughout our home, in the first Christmas and advent season that this home has been fully furnished. We celebrated Thanksgiving with my in-law's, a mellow and nice affair. And then I wrote about our Christmas at our home this year, after visiting my family in MN for an early Christmas.

Motherhood

I didn't focus so much on monthly updates and timed updates on Cooper, but rather wrote about little life things, here and there. I wrote about Cooper at around 20 months, him serving us imaginary soup, making animal sounds, being the coziest baby. I also wrote about Cooper at age two, and celebrating his little life. We visited local farm/parks, splashed in puddles, went for walks in rain, sun, snow, hot, and cold, and all the in-between. I enjoyed several video chat dates where my mom read to Cooper and we caught up and talked about life. We mourned and celebrated the twins on a would-have-been due date, I bought flowers for them, and we cried some together, and celebrated their little lives. We lost another baby on Father's Day, which I didn't write about explicitly here, but we mourned and grieved privately. And then, at the end of July, I had a positive pregnancy test, showing I got pregnant on my first cycle after our recent loss. We kept the news rather quiet, for much longer this time, since that just felt right. And we announced our happy news on the blog/the larger circles in our lives in November, after the morning sickness had come and gone and I had already felt the sweetest baby kicks. My days were filled with the sounds of a harmonica, kitchen dance parties, the sight of a little someone's favorite stuffed bear on the couch, or sitting in a kitchen chair. Walks with Cooper picking up pinecones and sticks and berries and saying, "Hold this, mama." And the sweetness of "Thank you, mommy!" after I get him a snack or help him with something. Also, I turned thirty-one, with a sweet secret growing babe and a day balanced with caring for and loving on a toddler, amongst the normal daily life things. I heard the phrase, "Happy birthday, mommy" for the first time in my life, what joy!

Love & marriage

I wrote Nicholas his annual love letter on his birthday, "I love the way you have held and comforted, checked in with, and listened to me in our grief. How you have taken care of me and loved me well, even in sadness yourself." We celebrated eight years of marriage. We worked on puzzles together, talked parenting methods, worshipped in church together, worked in the yard together, snuggled our sweet boy together, sat in an ultrasound room together, tearing up in relief and joy seeing our healthy, wiggly 20-week baby boy. I think we both felt more settled this year than we have in a long time, with lots of dreams for the future, but also contentment for what we have.

Heart lessons

  • Thoughts on play: "It was refreshing to just play. And it made me realize that this little family of ours, this home and yard of ours, these are not minor blessings. Having a little boy to play with outside makes me more playful. And oh, it's good for my heart to feel the lightness that only play can spur on. So thankful we have a God who knew that children can bring this lightness, and that He created children to specifically learn and enjoy life through play (and us alongside them)."
  • Even the tiniest thing that brings a heart to worship isn't so inconsequential.
  • God gives stones of remembrance to us in unexpected ways, ie. discovering that the previous owners of our home planted daises in the yard in several places, the birth flower for the month of April, the month I was due with the twins: "Finding hope in God's promises, that we can trust the God who created the world with our present, moment by moment, and the future, whatever lies ahead. Praying for my own heart to hold fast to Him in love. My deliverer, protector, answerer, companion, rescuer, satisfaction, cherisher (Psalm 91: 14-16). Finding beauty in the way the water beads up on our kitchen window, alongside sunlight peeking in, after a rain."
  • "He is present in the happy and the heartache," and more thoughts on a would-have-been due date.
  • Messes can be cleaned up; just one thing at a time. The biggest lesson to me as both a mama and a person who loves tidiness and order.
  • "Every day has worth, from the belly laugh of a toddler, hearing him sing Go tell it on mountain, go tell it on mountain, that Jesus Christ is born, to the sweetness of a quiet morning. The crunch of leaves underfoot, the hush of coming cold. Oh that I would eyes to see and ears to hear His little mercies in the everyday. They are there."

One of the first posts I wrote last year included the following, which felt fitting at the close of a year and the start of yet another:

I'm a nostalgic person, and I don't need reminders to glance back with fondness, since I'm already busy doing it all the time. This isn't all bad. Never looking back can lead us to miss evidence of God's faithfulness. But I feel the most balanced with eyes on the horizon, a more eternal perspective, glances at my feet (however much mud or beauty they might be standing in) and glances backward, to catch a better view of God's faithfulness. The way we glance back affects how we see what is up ahead, I think.It's a twilight practice to look back at a truly wonderful day and be grateful. It's a dawn practice to look forward, to an unknown day, and say, God, this day is your's. Use me and help me delight in you in whatever the dawn brings. And when twilight comes, oh, I long to have noticed Your goodness woven throughout the hours.

Happy new year, friends!  If you want to read previous "year-in-review" posts, here are the ones from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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