2023: A year in review

31 December 2023

Generally, I prefer to look forward. I love to dream and imagine the future, and we’re lucky to have reason to hope for good things ahead.

Looking back can be harder. It’s a reminder of the good things that have happened, yes, but an inevitable reminder of the passing of time, too – and, depending on my mood, that can be fraught. (I know I’m not alone in this!)

Still: looking back in intentional ways has helped me to take what I can from each year, to appreciate what it had to offer, to learn what it had to give, to acknowledge the hard and appreciate the good. Our lives are what we give our attention to, and these posts are my way of giving a little attention to the year of my life I just lived. Thank you, as always, for indulging me!

As always, our year started by celebrating our best big girl turning another year older – this time with a birthday hike on the big day and a petite pottery painting party a few days later. We said goodbye to the CWM commercial office space and I headed to the beach for a weekend with the Articles Club gals. On the blog, I shared my reading list, my goals, and – for the first time – our family goals for the year.

There were more celebrations in February! In lieu of 2022 Christmas gifts, my sisters and I (and husbands) chose to go out to dinner together – not so easy since we don’t live in the same place! – and we were able to make it happen at Kindred over Presidents Day. We also stuffed our Valentine’s mailbox, went to see the Duke basketball team play and Riverdance tour for my birthday (reflections here), finished the first Harry Potter, and started composting (a long-awaited splurge).

On the blog, I shared one of my favorite practical posts and one of my favorite introspective.

We spent lots of time outdoors in March, including on the field and sidelines for another soccer season for June and Shep. I chaperoned my first elementary school field trip (a dream come true, as silly as it sounds!), we replaced our roof after hail damage, and we kicked off our spring break trip with 20 hours in Serenbe, a nostalgic treat from my SW days.

On the blog, I shared three friendship case studies, a first round of family faith formation practices, and a “new 36” list, which to be honest I had mostly forgotten about but was delighted to see I had made significant progress on when linking this post.

In April, we reached our spring break destination – a return to Watercolor, Florida, to celebrate John’s parents’ 50th anniversary with the whole family! This is where we discovered Annie is obsessed with belly flopping into pools, ha. We celebrated Easter in Greenville, SC on our road trip back (complete with an ER visit after having to administer the epipen.) We took another little weekend trip to Asheville, where we met up with my younger sister to celebrate her paying off her student loans, and I traveled to Texas for work. Whew!! In between trips, we picked strawberries and June had her first piano recital.

On the blog, I shared a first installment of our favorite family read alouds and a peek at our kitchen refresh.

We wrapped up soccer, camped with friends from church, and visited with cousins in May. A slower month after an on-the-go April! On the blog, I wrote about the financial implications of having a third child and shared our Google Docs packing list and a tour of our main room.

With school out for the summer, June swam on our neighborhood team for the first time (and greatly enjoyed learning group dances on the pool deck), the kids played street soccer almost daily with neighbors, and June and Shep camped in the backyard solo. I hosted another book swap, biked the American Tobacco Trail with a dear friend (44 miles!), and we took one of our favorite trips of the year to Beaufort, NC before heading north to spend a week with my parents, sister, and cousins in Connecticut.

On the blog, I shared some of June’s favorite book series and a final round-up of baby gear picks.

We began the month of July in Maine at our island and concluded it with Shep blowing out the candles at home on his fifth birthday. In between, we had a stopover in DC on our road trip south, an insane rash from moths (!), many evenings at the pool, and a joint birthday party with Shep’s best friend at a local park. On the blog, I shared a few takeaways from Habits of the Household, my favorite nonfiction read of the year.

In August, we welcomed two of our nieces and nephews for a week of cousin camp, highlighted by the debut of the Best Friends Snack Shack, hikes, and our nephew learning to ride a bike! We discussed the Barbie movie with an all-pink Articles Club, stayed with John’s parents for a week at their new home in Virginia (so much closer to us!), and kicked off another season of soccer at a field we can walk to. And then school started – second grade for June and a final year of preschool for Shep!

On the blog, I shared a mini back-to-school series – jobs, artwork, bulletin boards, shoes – as well as our bedroom refresh and an Ask Em on moving away from family.

September saw the advent of Team Thomas Tuesdays, a dream many years in the making. It’s been (mostly) a delight! We also organized our garage – a sore spot in our home that had been dogging us for years – with some professional help. In honor of our 11th wedding anniversary, John and I had a special date night to see Wicked and took a quick weekend trip to Charleston (not without its relationship lessons). We led a book study at church on The Common Rule and I started volunteering weekly in June’s classroom to run a reading group.

On the blog, I kicked off this year’s big series, Christians in Public Schools, and shared another slate of family movies and a few things on my “decide once” list.

We had another favorite trip in October – to Boone, NC – as well as a memorable gathering for the 8th anniversary of Articles Club, a visit to the state fair, our annual camping trip with the Rays, and a chocolate chip cookie tasting party. Sadly, John’s back pain flared up again and he continued to battle it for the rest of the year.

In November, we met up with cousins for a coooold day at the zoo, I biked the ATT one more time, we had friends over for what we hope will be many more Sunday pizza hangs in 2024 (more about that soon!), and we celebrated Thanksgiving in the Florida Keys with my family in honor of my parents’ 40th anniversary. (Annie’s first flight!)

Significantly, I also soft-launched The Connected Family and was truly touched (and surprised!) by your enthusiastic response.

December felt full, slow, and all about community. We fit in lots of beloved Christmas traditions – many with friends or family in tow – but worked hard to keep plenty of white space for playing, baking, and reading books at home, too. Shep started the very lowest-key basketball, a new delight of his life, and at the end of the month, we hosted my family for a few days of Christmas fun and then flew to California to be hosted alongside all of John’s family at his sister’s home for even more.

For us, each year in the life of our young family is a delicate balance – between travel and staying home, between “new” and “the same,” between pushing and choosing rest, between work and play, between freedom and control. We do not get it right all the time, not by a long shot – but we try. We think deeply about it, and pray for wisdom, and act carefully, and adjust as we go. It’s both rewarding and overwhelming to see a year in our life summed up like this, but as always, I’m choosing gratitude. It’s not hard, and for that I am, well, grateful.

Friends, I know I’ve said it before, but I am SO excited for what we’ll discuss here (and elsewhere) in 2024. 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. My 2024 goals are just about ready to share, so I’ll see you soon! :)

2022 year in review
2021 year in review
2020 year in review
2019 year in review
2018 year in review
2017 year in review
2016 year in review
2015 year in review
2014 year in review
2013 year in review
2012 year in review

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Kelly Strawberry
January 1, 2024 10:27 am

I always appreciate following alongside your family each year and getting so many takeaways for how I can help shape my own. Happy 2024 to the Thomas crew!!!

January 1, 2024 2:26 pm

I so enjoyed reading along; thank you for sharing! What a good and full year. As I reflect on my own year it’s fascinating and helpful to read the reflections of other people. Sometimes it helps me remember something from my year or inspires me towards something for the new year. I just wrote my own 2023 reflections plus I always do a favorite things round up of the past year for my birthday which is just before Christmas — it’s a very reflective season!
Happy 2024! And I look forward to your 2024 goals post to see what you are percolating.

January 2, 2024 4:33 pm

What is Team Thomas Tuesday? I’m intrigued! Wishing you and yours all the good that 2024 has to offer!

January 3, 2024 12:14 pm

Wow, what a beautiful, full year you have had! I love this recap and for the first time, it’s inspired me to write one of my own! Would love to hear more about Team Thomas Tuesdays :)

January 6, 2024 1:23 pm

Could you tell us more about how you handle Christmas away from home? Our extended family situation is such that we are thinking of flying to a destination for Christmas rather than going to each other’s homes (my siblings and I now all have multiple kids and we just don’t *fit* well anywhere). What I can’t wrap my mind around is squaring travel with Advent traditions (do you skip the last few nights? Bring everything with you?), presents, etc. How do you approach this when you travel?