Looking Back for the First Time


(Trying on Pirates of the Caribbean hats in DisneyWorld, 2013)

I confess that our family is usually sliding into the new year, exhausted from the harried month of December, a little frail from managing chores and sibling bickering, and not too excited about the three months of shut-in still left of winter. We’re usually in survival mode and stumble right past a time to reflect at the close of the year.

We have some good friends that have led us (by example) to a different path this year. Each year their family (of 7) head off to a cabin over New Years Eve and Day for some intentional family time.  They look back over their year and scrapbook their highlights together, answer questions about the past year, write notes to people who have blessed them, and look at their goals for the New Year.

New Traditions

We didn’t have plans to head out of town over the holidays, but we are trying to adapt some of these traditions into our holiday stay-cation. Over the last two days we’ve looked at a slideshow of pictures from the past year and answered some questions over hot chocolate and dinner. In the next two days we’re hoping to bless others with some written words of thanks and talk about our family vision, goals, and calender for the New Year.

As I sifted through pictures for our slideshow, I was surprised by all that had happened since January.  Before answering the questions and looking at the photos, my view of the last year easily gravitated toward the challenges, but after our family time I realized that in the midst of the challenges also came many blessings.

Here our my top 10 family moments of 2013:

 #1 Art Show

In January our family took an intense and wonderful art class with Carla Sonheim and to celebrate our hard work we had an art show at our house.  Aside from reading stories out loud together, art time is my favorite time at our house.  And it was a treat to share it with others. (Highlighted here at Carla Sonheim’s blog!)



#2 The last semester of our Homeschool Co-op

For two years we were blessed with a sweet, sweet homeschool community.  About six families who shared a similar love of all things creative met once a week.  We had book club, art classes, PE, and in the final year a drama class and a writing class.  For the brief two years we shared a creative place, laughter, children inspiring other children, and an absence of many of the rules that govern boys and girls in traditional environments. In the photo below, our friend Jennifer (author and writing teacher)  is celebrating our 11-year-old  as a writer by giving her a new name. (check our Jennifer’s online writing classes)



#3 The Boy Finally Loves to Read

Even though our son has had the ability to read for a few years, this March he finally got it. He finally found the treasure hidden between those pages of little black words. For days I found him with a book at the table, on the couch, in his bed, and left him in the car in the driveway as he lived in the World of Story.  A life-changing moment for an 8-year-old.



 #4 Making Movies

This was the year of IMovie and Fireborn Studios.  The kids have made about ten movie trailers this year, starting with the first, The Adventures of Spy Dog.  My 13-year-old can do things with computers I could never even dream of doing.  We put all of their work on DVDs and gave them out as presents this year.  In our house, everyone gets to be a star, even the four-year-old acted in her own documentary trailer about the life of a ballerina.



#5 A Summer Worth Savoring

The end of the summer found me wishing for more.  Instead of anxiously needing to go back to routine and structure, I wanted more time at the pool and the absence of managing school. It was a summer of the swimming and…well, whatever surprises the day might hold.  I also had the luxury of time spent writing and getting some constructive criticism from a friend.


#6 DisneyWorld

In the Fall, my in-laws treated our entire family to a trip to DisneyWorld.  They paid for accommodations, park tickets, and meals for a three-day trip.  I thought this would be a stressful trip. It was, instead, our best vacation.  We haven’t really had many true vacations in our thirteen years of family life.  It was an incredible gift to cast off any worries about our mundane chores and meal preparations.  Instead we woke up each day with one precious goal: go have a great adventure.  We rode scary roller-coasters and watched the magic of the kingdom work its way through each member of the family.  Our four-year-old has started a fund to go back.

photo 1



#7 Dance Class

In the Fall, we joined a new co-op after our beloved one I mentioned earlier in this post, finally disbanded.  Life instantly became busy and stressful.  My favorite time of the week became our four-year-old’s dance class.  She’s the baby of our family but in this class she was the oldest, the leader.  I don’t know what’s more delightful than watching a dozen 2 to 4-year olds skip, march, and curtsey their way through classic musical songs.



#8 Our Eldest Daughter Participates in Her First Large Scale Theatre Production

If joining our large homeschool co-op came with great challenges, it also came with blessings, usually tied up together as I mentioned above.  She auditioned and got a part in the Fall drama in Shaw’s Pygmalion.  It was a twice a week rehearsal commitment and I also helped with costumes. Many times throughout the process I regretted that we’d gotten involved with the play, which made us the busiest we’ve every been with outside commitments.  But as often happens, Play Week arrived and it felt worth it.  She is certainly in her element when she’s performing.



#9 My Favorite Fall Day

While we juggled a new kind of school, dance classes, rehearsals, choir, and Boy Scouts, we had one of my favorite kind of days.  It arrived at the end of the fall trees.  This october was a struggle for me because it was the one-year anniversary of my father’s death and he died when the trees were at full glory.  Usually the Autumn trees are my favorite seasonal decoration, but they brought flashbacks of pain this year.  It was on this day, one of the last days of our yellow tree in the backyard, that my soul finally found some peace with the beautiful, burning trees.  It was the kind of day I’ve always loved in our years of homeschooling.  All of us outside, art supplies spread out, creating new worlds on paper or in our imaginations.




#10 Hutchmoot

When the Rabbit Room took reservations for this conference back in March, my husband and I both got on computers and phones and tried to get tickets, but we both failed as the conference sold out in less than three minutes.  As the October date of the conference approached, I went through all the stages of grief that we wouldn’t get to go.  About two weeks before the date, I found out a ticket had become available and I threw grief aside.  This is a community that feeds all the often denied places of my creative spirit.  A weekend of excellent music, authors, visual artists, and theater.  A place to say yes to the way God sculpted my art-loving heart. And then it’s so much more.  It’s a place set apart where the light of God blocks out the darkness that we muck through in our daily lives.



A final note on the challenges of this year.  My kids are entering out into a bigger world, their faith and foundation are being tested.  It’s certainly arrived with a cost on our time and our way of doing school, and I can’t say what our plans are for this next year yet.  But it has also grown their character through the testing.  And it’s grown mine as well.

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