Some Favorite New-to-Me Things

I was listening to the Lazy Genius podcast the other day, and she (Kendra, the OGLG) shared her favorite discoveries of 2020. She said that maybe it would make me (or you) want to remember the good things that I discovered  and enjoyed and learned, and indeed it did. So here we go! A couple of disclaimers: (1) these are not necessarily things that are new to the world in 2020 but things that were new to me, and (2a) this list will be heavy on the end-of-the-year discoveries–I’m not great at remembering, for example, what I read in January or thought about in March, (2b) I don’t love announcing plans ahead of time in case I don’t follow through, but today with all the energy of the new year and high hopes, I am thinking I might like to blog more this year and then I could do a favorites post monthly-ish, which seems much more manageable than a whole year’s worth of good stuff.

Not on this list are all the good book discoveries I made this year. That’ll be the subject of another post.

(Late to the) Game Changers:

I’m starting out with things I’m sure you already know about but that have been revolutionary to me. Both of these things I knew existed, of course, but I had no idea how much I have needed them in my life.

  1. Snow pants. Probably enough said, but seriously, snow. pants. So far I don’t have a pair for myself, but I bought a pair for each of the kids, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the best money we spent all year.
  2. Taco sauce. I had no idea. I guess I thought taco sauce was just salsa without chunks? No; it’s so much better than that. I want tacos just thinking about it.

Small Habits:

  1. Stretching. Specifically this video. What I love about this one is that there is a little preview for each stretch and a countdown timer that beeps when you’re almost done so you don’t have to constantly glance up at the screen wondering if it’s time to change yet. There is no talking, just relaxing music. I don’t necessarily do this every day, but when I do, I can tell a huge difference in (lack of) hip and back pain when I sleep, which is otherwise often a problem.
  2. The Daily Delete. I feel a little silly including this because I have been doing it for exactly three days now. But when you know you know. All this is is taking a few minutes each day to go through the photos on my phone and delete the duplicates and dumb ones. I also take a half a minute to upload the photos to Smug Mug, which is what we use for backup/storage.

Family Habits:

  1. Birding. Our first unit study for school this year was North American Birds, and it turned us all (especially me and the boys) into avid birders. This has been great for our family in so many, many ways–time together, time in nature, wonder, conversation, information, simple enjoyment.
  2. Weekly Date Night. Jason and I have never had a regular date night, probably because lining up a babysitter was one of those simple things that was always hard for me (just a personal quirk). But one of the beautiful consolations in time marching relentlessly forward is that at some point a few months ago we realized that our kids are finally old enough to be left at home for a few hours at a time without a babysitter. There are a lot of things we can’t do because of the pandemic, but we make do–picking up a shake from Honest Abe’s and driving around for an hour has been our go-to idea, and I look forward to it every week.

Television Shows:

  1. Ted Lasso. Jason and I watched the ten episodes of Season 1 in three nights last week, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I haven’t loved any pop culture anything this much in a very long time, maybe ever.
  2. New Girl. We missed this during its network run, but I’m so glad we discovered it earlier this year. This show makes me laugh hard.

Pandemic-specific Coping:

There is so much that could be said about the pandemic, so much opportunity for reflection and deep thoughts, but this is not that. This isn’t even a list of things I’ve been thankful for in the midst of the pandemic. No, this is just a two-point list of things that came to mind that have made how it has to be a little more bearable.

  1. Zooming Church. Although our church has the option of meeting in person, with numbers as high as they are right now, we are still opting to watch the livestream each week. When a friend suggested we watch together (with a few other families) via Zoom, I was a little skeptical of how it would work. But, oh my goodness, it’s lovely. We dial in to a Zoom call and chat for ten or fifteen minutes before church starts, then we all mute and watch the livestream just as we would (but we can still see our friends sitting on their couches), and then chat for five to ten minutes after church. That little bit of community–just a touching base before and after and watching together–has been disproportionately refreshing.
  2. Netflix Watch Party. A couple of months ago my book club watched Rebecca together (we had just read the book together that month). I love a good old-fashioned movie night, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that watching together virtually was great. It had the feel of something normal from the beforetimes (watching a movie with friends) and with the added benefit everyone being able to be equally comfortable at home/in jammies. Using the chat function once we got used to it was a lot like watching a movie with subtitles; after a while your brain processes the information so quickly, you almost forget you’re reading. Would recommend.



Happy the Birthday!

The celebration looks a little different this year, but I, for one, am thankful for the quiet day. I’m so in love with these kids and so unspeakably thankful that I get to love them and be loved by them. Happy 11th to Ian, and happy 9th to Clara.

Christmas Jams

December 24

December 23

Guys. I have been wrapping presents for two days straight. My dining room table is a fright, and I have blisters from the glue gun on both my thumbs. But I’m chuffed, as the Brits would say, at how the packages turned out. I am obsessed with making these felt birds (patterns from Downeast Thunder Farm). I started with making them into ornaments with all the embroidery details, but one blue jay took me hours, and Jason wisely talked me down from that. Instead, I pared it down to the basic shapes and colors and hot-glued instead of sewing, and I really like the graphic look.

December 22

The making continues, though I’m running low on ideas for pictures. There are only so many pictures I can take of the kids at the kitchen counter or dining room table, head bent in concentration. Ya know?

December 21

Winter solstice. Christmas star.

We ventured out to Holmes Lake this evening to catch a glimpse of this once-in-a-lifetime celestial sight. I was surprised–though, of course, I shouldn’t have been–at the number of people scattered on the hillside (all socially distanced) to see the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. It felt really special to share the experience–it felt like a cool community thing, which we all know have been so few and far between this year.

I had heard different things about how long it has been since this Saturn-Jupiter togetherness has happened, so I looked it up. It seems that conjunctions happen about every twenty years (the last one was in 2000), but the planets haven’t been this close together since 1623 (Galileo was alive then), and the last time such a close conjunction was observable was 1226. So, yeah, once in a lifetime (although Ian did remind us that if we missed it this time we would get to see it in heaven).

I can’t get my mind around the size and scope of the universe. I mean Jupiter is 551,073,816 miles away right now and Saturn is 1,006,731,903 miles away; those numbers are so big they are basically nonsense, and tonight we could see those planets with the naked eye. I. am. in. awe. And as much as that truly staggers my imagination, that’s nothing compared with the idea that the God who made Saturn, the Word who made Jupiter and who made you and who made me “became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Look, I don’t know if the Star of Bethlehem was, as some astronomers have theorized, a rare conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. But tonight’s star (planet) gazing was a sweet reminder that “the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9). And so we wait–with so much hope and anticipation–for Jesus to return. Come, Lord Jesus.

December 20

So much making happening today.

December 19

Each year one of my favorite DPP pictures is of my book club because my book club is my favorite. This year has been…you know…different. When the pandemic began we tried Zoom for a couple of months and then all summer and into the fall we found a lovely outside spot. Now it’s cold again and harder to gather in person, but figuring out how to make it work so that we get a couple of hours together–however that looks–is so very worth it.

December 19

December 17

December 9

December 8

December 18

We studied birds earlier this year, and we have all become pretty big bird nerds. We took a ride to a lake near Fremont and saw red-tailed hawks, cedar waxwings, cardinals, robins, juncos, blue jays, northern flickers, downy woodpeckers, and chickadees. Yesterday, we didn’t see any of those, but we did see a bald eagle, blue herons, and either a golden eagle or juvenile bald eagle (also we learned that you can only age bald eagles up through age 5; once their feathers turn completely white on their head they are “older than 5”).