2020 Reflection

In ways, it feels like I was just sitting down a year ago typing up my 2019 reflection. I just read it back and was deeply encouraged by it. My words a year ago reminded me of my own growth and ultimately showed me the faithfulness of the Lord. Even if you don’t click the link and go back to read that reflection, I would love for you to read these words from that post:

The thing with 2019 was that there was no big ah-ha moment. There was no big day of delivering a baby or getting married or starting a new job. However, 2019 held a lot of small choices, small decisions, ultimately of saying yes. I will join that. I will do that. I will help out with that. There were a lot of miles done in secret. Lots of early mornings of pouring out my heart onto a blog that only a few very kind people read. Lots of talking with God and quite a lot of waiting. These types of years can be hard but they also can be wonderful. It is a time of preparing and pruning and getting ready for what is to come.

Preparing and pruning. This is what stuck out to me. After now living out the year 2020, I see the work the Lord was doing in 2019 to prepare for what was to come. I see His faithfulness.

The thing with 2020 is that it is really easy to write it off as just that really, really bad year where the world shut down and everything was cancelled and people lost their jobs and lives and sanity. This is easy, but instead, I want to dig in. I want to see the Lord’s faithfulness in the hard and the unexpected.

Good Thing of 2020 #1: Blog Growth

To really reflect on 2020 and to look ahead at 2021, I am going to reference some of my posts that I wrote throughout the year. Before even getting into specific posts, I want to write very quickly about this blog. I have been writing on here for over 2 years. Of all things postpartum, this blog of mine has been the thing I have been most consistent at. It has given me a place to make my words a home. A place to be honest and reflect. When I think back to 2020, one thing I am truly proud about is this blog. I have felt the calling to write and create for most of my life and this blog is ultimately an outpouring of staying faithful even when the growth is slow.

I was blown away to see that the amount of visitors to my blog over doubled in 2020, compared to 2019. Amazing! I have found that this past year I have spent significant less time writing on here. It was just one of those years. I wrote 51 posts and just a bit over 67,000 words this year. In 2019, I wrote 71 posts and over 100,000 words. Yet, I had over double the visitors! This is a small little thing, but it really encourages my heart and reminds me that good things come to those that stay faithful in the small ways. I am excited and hopeful for the ways this blog can continue to grow and transform with me.

Good Thing of 2020 #2: Bouncing Back from Boston Marathon Cancellation

When I look back to everything I was writing about, the majority of my posts at the beginning of the year were part of my “Marathon Monday: The Miles to Boston” series. There ended up being only 8 parts to this series and I wrote the final Marathon Monday in the middle of March once the marathon was officially postponed. This was just one of the many things that happened in 2020 that I definitely was not expecting. In the unexpected, it allowed me to still push myself and realize that running for me, goes way beyond racing on a big stage. Like a lot of my running career, the performances I am most proud of are the ones that happened on quiet streets where no one was around. The cancellation of Boston, allowed for me to push myself in two virtual races: the 10k and the half-marathon. If you get a chance, go back and read that half-marathon recap. In a lot of ways, it captures my heart for this entire year and season of my life. It has never been about the stage. It has always been about showing up and remaining faithful to the tugging the Lord has put on my heart:

These past few weeks, I have had to really dig deep.  What do I do when really no one is watching? How hard am I willing to push myself when the cheers are silent?  Will I keep writing when it sometimes feels like only one sweet friend reads my words? Yes. I will keep running, writing, pushing, dreaming; until God says otherwise. 

This is the freeing part.  It was never about the stage.  It was never about Boston. It was about saying yes to the dreams and visions God has put on my heart.  Whether we are in a pandemic or not, I will continue to say yes to God even if that means running for 13.1 miles on empty streets. 

Both those virtual races and the necklace I won from the half-marathon race really meant a lot to me. Ask my husband. I did not take off that “run to overcome” necklace for months!

Good Thing of 2020 #3: Starting my Teachers Pay Teachers Store

I feel like this year was the first year I felt at home in my purpose as a stay-at-home mom. The transition from being a high school English teacher to staying fully at home with my son was hard for me. I ended 2018, feeling like I really lacked purpose in my life. It was a hard season for me personally. I reflect more on those feelings here if you are interested.

2020 brought to me a sense of both clarity and contentment. The Lord gave me a better vision for how He wants me to steward my time as I am in this season of raising little H at home. He showed me how I can use my love for teaching and pour that into intentional activities for Hudson. He also revealed to me that I can sell my curriculum and share the resources I make with others to help them teach their own toddlers at home! A win-win.

Quarantine really pushed me to begin thinking outside of the box on ways I can intentionally spend time with H at home. This led to teaching him a different color every week, which eventually led me to start a tot school ABC curriculum. I started selling curriculum on my Teaching Toddler Mama store and I have found a great sense of joy and purpose in this new project. It was my first time outside of my teaching career that I actually made some money. Not to mention, the first time I ever made money for something I created with my own creativity. It was empowering and it was just another way the Lord encouraged my heart in a challenging year. He is always so kind + tender.

Good Thing of 2020 #4: The Joys of 2 Pregnancies

One thing I have really struggled with this year, is to figure out the best way to grapple with both intense grief + abundant joy. 2020 will always be the year I was pregnant twice. I am not going to go into all the details of our miscarriage story here, but I wrote an entire post sharing about our loss, which you can read here. Of everything I have ever written on my blog, this is the piece I am most proud of. From the very beginning as we were walking through losing our second baby, I could feel the Lord tugging at my heart to openly share. I really did not want to. And I almost did not, but I am really thankful I did. It was one of the most healing things to openly share our story. I was also deeply humbled by the outpouring of texts I received from sharing that story. I even got the chance to connect with other women who were walking through very similar situations and my story helped them in their own grief. It really is amazing the type of work the Lord can do through our pain + suffering.

Less than 2 months later, we found out we were pregnant again. The emotions were quite different this time. I was incredibly humbled + grateful to again see those two pink lines, but the trauma I just walked through was still alive within me and I was paralyzed with fear that the same outcome would happen. I am 20 weeks pregnant today and as I type this I have a visible bump. Words cannot accurately describe the gratitude I feel for this pregnancy and our precious baby boy. Yet, at the same time, this pregnancy has been difficult for me to feel as joyful because part of my heart is still grieving the baby we lost in July. Every ultrasound I cry alone as I drive to my appointment because I am so terrified that I will have the same ultrasound experience of hearing no heartbeat. Miscarriage is a type of trauma. And for me, this trauma + this healthy pregnancy both happened in the same year and it is a lot for my heart to process. I finally feel like I am at the point where I can get excited for our baby boy and rest in the miracle of this healthy pregnancy. I miss our second babe with all my heart, but I also feel so much peace and love for this third pregnancy. Grief + joy. They have both been in my heart a lot this year and I finally feel like I can walk well with both these emotions.

We are due in May and we cannot wait to meet baby T! Hudson is especially excited to be a big brother. He has been talking to my stomach almost every night and it just melt my heart like no other.

In summary, here are the major things the Lord has taught me this year:

  1. He is always faithful, even in the hardest, most painful seasons of our life.
  2. He blesses small acts of obedience.
  3. He is incredibly tender and will make his love known to us when we are walking through hard things.
  4. He has placed me right where He wants me. As much as I have tried to fight it these past couple years, I see with clarity the position and purpose He has put before me.
  5. His plans are always, always better.

2020, you were hard, but you were also very, very important. Thankful for this year and feeling very hopeful for the year ahead! Excited to share with you in the week ahead some of my hopes + goals for 2021 and the word I have chosen for my year!

Happy New Year, friends!

Simple Christmas Toddler Ideas

I have been desiring to write on this little blog of mine more, but recently have been busy working on my toddler curriculum + getting ready for the holidays. I am working on a mental list of things I want to do more of in 2021 and writing here is definitely going to be on that list. I feel like I have so many ideas floating in my head that I would like to share with you all, but since we are just a week from Christmas and I still have a long list of to-dos, I wanted to share a very short post of a few Christmas activities we have really been enjoying. Hudson is now already 30-months (be expecting a 30-month update soon), so Christmas time is proving to be even more fun this year than the previous one. It is hard for me to fully believe this is already his 3rd Christmas. If you are interested in reading what our Christmas was like last year with an 18-month old, please read here.

I think this Christmas for all of us is going to feel a bit different from previous years, but that does not mean it can’t still feel just as magical (especially for our kiddos).

Before I get into the list, if you are looking for some intentional learning activities themed off of Christmas, I just released a Tot School: Christmas Curriculum. I know Christmas is fast approaching, but there is still a whole week to squeeze in some intentional learning time together. You can get this curriculum for just $5! It comes with a full-week calendar with books suggestions, activities, and the early learning standards addressed.

Alongside my Christmas Curriculum, here are a few other things we have enjoyed this season:

1. Checking Out ALL the Christmas Books at the Library

I am not going to put a list together of our favorite Christmas books because I did that last year, you can read it here. However, I would like to add a few that we have really been enjoying from the library. Side-note: I am SO thankful our library is still open for holding/picking up books. It has been one of my favorite parts of quarantine to still be able to pick up new books from the library every week. Hudson is really enjoying all the gingerbread-themed books I checked out, his favorite right now seems to be The Library Gingerbread Man by Dotti Enderle. He also is loving all the Llama Llama Christmas book, especially Llama, Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney.

Ignore the fact he is standing on a table.

2. Decorating a Mini Tree

This year, I got a mini tree from Trader Joe’s and he has been loving decorating it! Before I even set-up all the things for him, he started decorating on his own by throwing pom poms on it. I walked in and he was happily decorating his tree. This was quite the contrast from last Christmas when he broke multiple ornaments. So far, we are at zero broken ornaments! A small win.

3. Christmas-Themed Play-Dough Tray

I love making seasonal play-dough trays. It takes just a few minutes to put together and then it is something I literally leave out in his playroom all month long. It makes it feel like there is always a festive activity for him to work on without all the work of setting up a new activity each day. This year, I just made some green play-dough and added gold sparkles to make it more festive. I love this green jello play-dough recipe, I use it for both Christmas + St. Patrick’s Day. In the tray I put mostly little things I picked up from the Dollar Tree, along with a roller and kid-safe scissors. H is really enjoying practicing his scissor skills. Play-dough is perfect for practicing to use scissors.

4. Naming Friends/Family in Holiday Cards

I noticed this year that H has really enjoyed as I put up the holiday cards. He loves seeing family and friends and will point and name everyone! This is such a fun little activity that takes no setting up and I am amazed with how many people he easily recognizes!

Looking at lights on Balboa Island!

5. Looking at Holiday Lights

Every night we enjoy walking in our neighborhood and looking at the lights. H’s favorite thing this year is what he calls the “blow ups.” Probably not the best name for it, but he is referring to all the holiday inflatable decorations. We also have been enjoying taking hot cocoa on-the-go and driving through neighborhoods with lots of lights. A new favorite place to view lights is at Balboa Island. We walked around and looked at all the beautifully decorated homes/boats. The boat parade was so fun to watch!

6. Dropping Off Cookies to Friends

This year felt like the first year I could really lean into the message that Christmas is more about giving than receiving. This is also the first year that H is gift-obsessed. It is taking so much self-control for him to not tear open the presents under our tree. He is constantly asking about gifts + presents, so I really want to make sure we model to him how giving is much more important. A small and simple way to do this is dropping off cookies to friends. We had a special night where we drove around and knocked on doors and H really loved it.

Polar Express Ride!

7. Making Special Christmas Memories Together

I really want to do a whole blog post on our Arizona trip we went on a couple weeks ago. We stayed in Sedona and drove to Williams to do the Polar Express Ride. It was magical for H. He got to see Santa and tell him about that baseball he really wants (which I am still slightly confused about since he has SO many baseballs). We got to ride on the Polar Express and sip hot chocolate and sing Christmas Caroles. Santa even gave us all jingle bells. Hopefully more on this whole trip in a blog post to come, but in summary, it was a really special Christmas memory I think we all will remember.

There is probably a few more things I could add, but these came to my mind first and I fear nap time is coming to an end! However you spend your holiday this year, my hope is that it can still be a memorable one, even in a year that did not go the way we imagined.

Merry Christmas, friends!