2018: A year in review

31 December 2018

I read through last year’s review post as I prepared to write this one, and I was wowed again at the amount of life that has happened, and the amount of change we’ve seen, in the last two years of our family. That’s one reason I love these opportunities to stop and reflect — life is constantly calling us to move fast-fast-fast, but the rhythms of seasons and calendars give us an opportunity to pause and count the fruit.

So here we go – some of our favorite moments of 2018, in our lives and on the blog.

Life on the blog sprinted out of the gate in January with the first four posts in the How We Do It series: Time, Finances, Homes, and Personal Lives! I also shared my Life List Book (and have since had occasion to add several items to its pages). John and I celebrated our 13th dativersary (a tip here) and June’s second birthday (sans party this year!).

A highlight of February was sharing three more How We Do It posts: Work, Relationships, and Spiritual Lives (the last one, Kiddos, posted in March). We announced some VERY happy news and John and I took an early babymoon to Anna Maria Island, one of our most laidback vacations ever (and our first multi-day trip without June!). I also shared my refined vision for our home, which I’m happy to say is slooooowly coming to fruition – more updates to come in the new year! Our church home also broke ground on a new building!

We spent time outside in the beautiful North Carolina spring weather in March. We got and shared the news that we were adding a BOY to our family (and I shared so many thoughts!). I delivered a manifesto on the purpose of EFM and wrote one of the most popular posts of the year: our favorite board games! (Loved your comments!)

We celebrated the resurrection of our Savior at Duke Chapel and celebrated spring by picking strawberries approximately twice a week. We traveled to Georgia for a dear friend’s wedding and learned an important lesson about vacations. On the blog, I shared tips for managing money together (complete with controversial article) and organizing your own childhood memorabilia.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I mused on a variety of kiddo topics: a revelation about parenting, the cost of our first year with a baby, and our you-do-you clothing solution. (We also made a flower craft!) My skincare routine was a fun post to write.

We logged our sixth-annual camping trip with the Rays, spent lots of time outside scootering, welcomed visitors, and celebrated John passing his Certified Financial Planner exam!!

With baby boy’s arrival approaching I think I was on a kiddo kick, because I shared three more kiddo-centric posts in June: what June eats, the plans for Shep’s nursery (reveal coming soon!) and my favorite parenting books. We filmed June in June Volume 3 (they keep getting cuter!!) and I loved sharing this post about my parents – one of my favorites from the year.

And oh yes – we spent two weeks in Connecticut and Maine!! Around those two big trips we tucked in tons of little adventures closer to home, savoring our final days as a family of three.

The highlight of our month (year!) came on the last day of July: John Shepherd Thomas made his arrival! He has delighted us from the start with his sweet sideways smiles — we couldn’t love him more! At least for now, all my hesitations about having a son have been put to rest :)

In less exciting news, I also FINALLY shared a look at our backyard renovation – only took me a year! :)

Shep took it easy on us in his first month, and life with a two-year-old AND a new baby meant things didn’t slow down as much as they did last time! We headed out frequently for picnics, splash pad trips, the zoo, birthday parties, and visits to the Museum of Life & Science. I was so happy to share the meaning of Shepherd’s name!

We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary with dinner at The Durham in September, as well as ten years of Em for Marvelous! We marked the beginning of fall with apple cider scones and weathered Hurricane Florence with my parents.

October saw us in Asheville with my sister, trick-or-treating all around our neighborhood, and flying to New Hampshire for a dear friend’s wedding (our first flight as a family of four!). Shep and I had lots of solo adventures in my last month of maternity leave, two friends and I hosted a pumpkin painting fundraiser for Florence victims, we hosted our annual pumpkins and soup party, and June moved to her big girl bed! I shared the tax benefits of an HSA, my favorite jeans, and everything we read in Articles Club this year.

Things slowed down in November around EFM as I went back to work and our parents traded shifts watching Shep. We celebrated three Thanksgivings – an early one in Virginia with the Thomases, on Thanksgiving Day with the Terhunes, and the weekend after with the Ayers – and marveled at the fact that we now have family living in North Carolina.

We closed out the year with an early-season snow day, a visit to the Nutcracker (and many subsequent living room performances), and a big trip home for Christmas (complete with stays at both grandparents’, a horse ride at my family’s farm, bowling, and a trip on the Polar Express!). Our Christmas tree was naked until mid-December, we never did get our outside lights up, some Christmas cards were mailed on December 23rd, and posts were sparse on EFM, but there were sweet, slow moments even on the busiest days.

I am grateful for a fresh start tomorrow. I know there’s nothing magical about January 1st, but marking time is important, and a whole new year ready to be etched with memories and milestones gives me a bubbly feeling inside :) I’m about to wrap up my PowerSheets and am excited to share my 2019 goals with you soon. They’re different — more concrete — than in recent years, and I’m excited to dig in to them little by little over the next many months.

I know I’ve said it before, but I am SO excited for what we’ll discuss here in 2019. Thank you for being here, and for sharing so generously with me! It’s one of the delights of my life. Wishing you a healthy, happy, and abundant new year. I’ll see you soon! :)

2017 year in review
2016 year in review
2015 year in review
2014 year in review
2013 year in review
2012 year in review

Our 2018 Christmas cards and newsletter!

21 December 2018

At the beginning of last December, I was experiencing the lows of pregnancy – the can’t-get-off-my-couch-feel-sick-all-the-time lows. From the couch, I fretted about sending out our Christmas cards on top of all the other, more mundane tasks I had been neglecting, and ultimately mailed them without personal notes and without our customary infographic/newsletter just to get them out the door (though I included it here for you to see!).

That was painful, friends!! Though I know handwritten notes aren’t for everyone, I feel deeply that jotting a quick line acknowledging the recipient as an individual goes a long way towards our Christmas cards feeling less about us, and more about connection and Jesus. I mean, yes, the card is still a big old photo of us, and the newsletter is about our family’s doings, but I think it helps (as does hand-addressing the envelopes instead of having them printed).

So it was with a big sigh of relief that I was able to send out our cards this week WITH notes and WITH a newsletter even with more December craziness. They’ve already led to several additional connections with family and friends since then, which is the best! Here they are, if you’d like to see…

Minted Christmas cards

Our card, as always, is from Minted. Choosing the design was super simple this year — this one from Sara Hicks Malone couldn’t have been more perfect for our photo choice! Can’t wait to show you more from our newborn session with Graham soon!!

modern Christmas newsletter

As our family grows, I’ve found myself including more and more text… though I love our graphic interpretation of a newsletter so much, I could see us switching to a more traditional letter style in future years! It’s a family tradition, after all :)

Christmas newsletter

I can’t believe I forgot to snap a photo of the back of our card – it has a few more photos, and a favorite verse from Luke! I’ll try to share a photo on Instagram so you can see it!

Friends, I am sending you all lots of love and wishes for a cozy Christmas filled with sacred moments, delicious food, comfy pajamas, and laughing until your cheeks hurt with the ones you love. I will see you back here next week for my year in review – one of my favorite posts of the year!

Minted graciously gifted us our cards this year — so glad I can share them with you!

2018 Gift Guide: Husbands, Dads, and Brothers

11 December 2018

If your male loved one is anything like mine, he gives you little direction on gifts – but is happy with anything you choose! Here, a few favorites that we’ve either gifted or gotten in the past that might become beloved in your family, too.

gift guide for guys

A. At-home whetstone | I’m no kitchen expert, but we have one of these and it seems to do a great job sharpening our knives with little effort!
B. Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth | A cult favorite in the finance community – one of the most successful self-published books of all time!
C. Landmark tees | John loves these soft tees, and with all their sharp-looking designs you’re sure to find a national treasure your guy loves.
D. Guitar hook | I’ve written about these before – so classy and useful if there’s a guitar in your home!
E. Work bag | This was my early Christmas gift to John this year, in celebration of his new job. I think it strikes a nice balance between youthful and professional!
F. Star spangled spatula | I know at least one patriotic husband who would really enjoy flipping burgers with this.
G. Leather work gloves | Made in the USA and handsome for house projects.
H. Ring door bell | To help him feel confident his beloved family is safe! :)
I. Fruit & nut clusters | John’s parents buy these for us every year, and they are DANGEROUS. So delicious!
J. Paring knife | John’s parents also put these in one of our stockings one year, and we’ve been hooked ever since! They’re perfect to take on a picnic, since they’re compact, super-sharp, and come with a plastic sheath.
K. Stowaway chair | If you love going to outdoor concerts or movies, these low-slung, reclined folding chairs are perfect!
L. Striped tie | I never really understood why people included ties on gift guides until John started a job where he needs to wear a suit every day. Now I get it :)
M. Southern honey | We visited Asheville Bee Charmer’s honey tasting bar this fall and John thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever. His favorites were the sourwood and acacia, but you can’t go wrong with any flavor!
N. Socks | I’ve written before that one of John’s very favorite gifts is a good pair of socks. I also like these, these, and these!
O. Bottle opener | To coordinate with his spatula :)
P. Camping cookbook | For the backyard or deep in the woods. Add these roasting sticks for a complete gift!
Q. Pennant | I feel like this would be neat in John’s office, but fear he might find it too hipster :) Maybe your guy would think differently?

Of course, I also love giving experiential gifts – tickets to a game or a show, dinner out, an indoor skydiving place gift card… the options are endless :)

I hope this is helpful!!

2018 Guides:
Sisters, Moms, and Best Friends
Parents, In-Laws, and Grandparents

P.S. I’ve written two other guy gift guides over the years and still love all of the picks – here and here!

December 2018 goals

6 December 2018

Friends! I’ve missed you! This may be the latest in the month I’ve ever posted a goals post in my many years of doing them, but gosh darn it I’m here! :)

Since going back to work at the end of October, we have essentially had house guests 24/7 as our parents took turns watching Shep during the day. We have also traveled 3 of the 6 weekends between then and now, and John, June, and I all came down with a 24-hour stomach bug this past weekend. Combined with a busy season at work, the holidays, and John starting a new job (!), I’ve felt a bit like I’m just keeping my chin above water. On any free evening I do have, it seems by the time I’ve taken care of my necessary tasks to keep our household running, it’s 10:30 and time to get ready for bed. This is unusual for me, and honestly it’s been frustrating. There’s been no time for reading and no time for writing, and I’ve felt the lack of both.

All this to say – thanks for sticking with me! I am hopeful that I’ll be able to share a few posts before the year is over (I’ve got so many brewing!!), but even if not, I know 2019 will be a fresh start.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves :)

On my calendar this month:
— Dinner out with John for our 2018 review and celebration – one of my favorite nights of the year!
— Christmas in Connecticut, complete with a Polar Express train ride with matching cousin jams!!
— A low-key New Year’s Eve dinner and board game night with neighborhood friends

What I’m loving right now:
— We’re trying the Crew + Co Advent cards for the first time this year, based on the beloved Jesus Storybook Bible. I think June is still a bit young for the practice, but I’m enjoying it :)
— Listen, if you enjoy the government/action/conspiracy genre (only my favorite genre of them all), you MUST watch Bodyguard on Netflix. It’s six episodes and you will be on the edge of your seat the whole time. SO SO SO GOOD.
— You all know and love my friend Nancy (she of How We Do It fame), so I wanted to make sure you knew about her new blog! I’m as eager as you to learn from her, and can’t wait to see what she has coming down the pike.

What I read in November:
— Still plugging away at The Coddling of the American Mind (see above). If you’d like more recommendations in the meantime, I’ve rounded up my favorite fiction and non-fiction picks for your perusal!

Revisiting my goals for November:
Write one thank you note per day (Only got through about 15 notes, but it was a great practice!)
Organize our loft (Uhhh no. Moving this to my yearly goals because it clearly needs a more expansive plan.)
Do lots of Christmas shopping, taking advantage of Black Friday sales (Oh yes.)
Share gift guides for ladies, gents, parents, and kiddos (Wish I could have gotten more of these together earlier, but they take hours to research and write! Would you still be interested in seeing the last two, even though Black Friday is over?)
Order Christmas cards and Christmas newsletter (Christmas cards ordered and received – they look so good!!)
Work on Shep’s baby book and update June’s
Take down June’s pelmet and replace with curtains, creating a reading corner

December goals:
— Set our 2019 budget
— Finalize and print our yearly newsletter and send out our Christmas cards with love
— Work on Shep’s baby book and update June’s
— Share the story of Shep’s birth
— Send out invites for June’s birthday and order supplies
— Love on our trash and recycling guys, our neighborhood friends, and June’s teachers

Friends, I’d love to hear: do you do anything special for the folks who help make your life run smoothly, like the ones I listed above? I’m always looking for good ideas, though peanut butter balls are perennially a must.

P.S. On the subject of goals: I’m sharing bits of my PowerSheets prep work on Instagram this week, and it has been fun! Would love to have you join me!

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