It’s that time of the year for retrospection.
After posting my Top Ten Songs of 2018, Top Ten Books of 2018, Top Ten Hikes of 2018, and Top Ten Ministry Moments of 2018, I thought that I would conclude my lists with looking back on the Top Ten Family Moments of 2018. Like the ministry moments I recalled yesterday, family life doesn’t fit neatly into a summary like this. Even so, there’s really something to be said for the way that a retrospective exercise like this helps to heighten my awareness and appreciation of life as it goes by. So I’m giving it a try, even if the results might be imperfect…
So anyway — without further ado, here are my Top Ten Family Moments of 2018, in ranked order:
- Binge-watching the Parks and Recreation television series in a tiny home in Lyons, Colorado
- Laughing in the Face of Winter over Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend
- Driving the Pacific Coast Highway with Marci in an Orange Mustang convertible for our 20th Anniversary
- White-water Rafting in the Yellowstone River
- Learning to cook in the tiny kitchen of our cabin in Colorado
- Bedlam at the Q when LeBron hits an overtime buzzer-beater against the Timberwolves
- Elliot getting his driver’s license
- Graduation party for Marci’s TESL Cohort at Kent State
- Early-morning Tennis Time
- Wedding Celebrations for Tommy & Kairie, Zach & Naomi, and Kyle & Danielle
And again, for any who might appreciate more context, my explanations for each selection are included with the listing (reverse rank-order), below:
#10 – Wedding Celebrations for Tommy & Kairie, Zach & Naomi, and Kyle & Danielle
I’ve come to appreciate weddings more and more, as the years go on. Especially now that my kids are a bit older and able to fend for themselves in these environments, it’s just fun to get dressed up and celebrate the love of a newlywed couple. Reuniting with family and friends… worshiping God… feasting… dancing… Reminding ourselves of the love that started with God… Weddings are a joyous picture of God’s Kingdom. My work with college students (and recent graduates) means we get invited to a lot of weddings, and I’ve noticed a few trends recently: nobody gets married in church buildings anymore… barns and barbecue are popular for receptions these days… the time of day and day of the week for a wedding celebration is much more fluid than it used to be… and it’s become more common to exclude children from wedding festivities. But I’m really glad that our whole family got to attend three weddings this year — and we had so much fun celebrating with three couples we really admire.
#9 – Early-Morning Tennis Time
While we were at Leadership Training, we were housed in a cabin that was pretty close to four beautifully-maintained tennis courts. Consequently, we made it a habit to play regularly: sometimes as a family (all five of us trying to share one court, three versus two)… sometimes with friends (like the Clays and Chepkes, pictured above)… but most often with just Marci and me. We played enough to actually feel pretty comfortable with rackets in our hands and maintain rallies for at least a little while. I hope we make it a priority to keep playing tennis together in the year to come.
#8 – Graduation party for Marci’s TESL Cohort at Kent State
In the summer of 2016, without any initiative or effort on her part, Marci was offered a two-year assistantship at Kent State University that allowed her to get paid for earning her Master’s Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL)! As a result, her part-time job / super-gradual education was significantly accelerated and intensified. Now that it’s over, we can fully recognize this as an amazing blessing and benefit for her (and our) lives. In the midst of it, though, we were challenged to maintain regular rhythms for marriage, parenthood, household chores, and ministry, so it felt like a deep sigh of relief when we made it to graduation. We hosted Marci’s cohort for a graduation party at our house, and it was a fun way to mark the end of this process. We’re proud that Marci has now been given the opportunity to work as a licensed instructor at Cuyahoga Community College and Kent State University.
#7 – Elliot getting his driver’s license
We’re so proud of the way our kids are growing up. Socially, academically, spiritually, physically… they’re really doing well (even though adolescence definitely puts one through the ringer). One key rite of passage and gateway to freedom was Elliot getting his driver’s license. He passed the exam on his first attempt, and he’s proved himself to be a pretty safe driver (at least as far as sixteen-year-olds go). But even more than that particular moment of “accreditation,” it just seems like he (and his siblings) are making steady progress towards full-fledged, independence — and as weird as that can feel on a certain level, watching family dynamics change, it also feels good to know that we’re working together towards the future.
#6 – Bedlam at the Q when LeBron hits an overtime buzzer-beater against the Timberwolves
Wow! What a game! Me and the boys love going to Cleveland Cavaliers basketball games under any circumstances, whenever we can. But this game was extra-special because of the way the game played out. In their last game before the Trade Deadline (when the team’s identity was pretty radically shaken up), LeBron James logged a triple-double with 10 rebounds, 15 assists, and 37 points — including a dramatic buzzer-beater in overtime. I don’t think I’ll ever forget bouncing around and screaming at the top of my lungs with Elliot and Cor (and 21,000 other fans) that night in what was likely LeBron’s last season in Cleveland.
#5 – Learning to cook in the tiny kitchen of our cabin in Colorado
As a part of our continued efforts to help our children prepare for adulthood and independence (see #7, above), Marci made it a goal to teach the children how to prepare and cook several different kinds of meals, while we were out in Colorado to help staff the Estes Park Leadership Training program this summer. Elliot, Olivia, and Cor weren’t always thrilled to practice these skills, but they definitely improved and gained confidence over the course of the summer. I have no pictures from the cooking lessons themselves (the kitchen was so cramped on those evenings that it may not have been possible, anyway) — but this picture of our mini-van crammed full of groceries from Longmont seems emblematic. The experience was not always comfortable, but it was significant to learn and grow together as a family.
#4 – White-Water Rafting on the Yellowstone River
Elliot and Marci had both done some white-water rafting, individually, prior to this summer — but we had never tried white-water rafting together until our visit to Yellowstone National Park. It was really fun! And this activity just seemed representative of all the outdoors activities we got to do together on our tour through National Parks in June: canoeing… hiking… swimming… wildlife spotting… I’m not typically one to buy the tourist photos offered after disembarking from an amusement park roller coaster or “official race photography” offerings from a marathon… But I couldn’t resist purchasing some pictures of our white-water rafting adventure.
#3 – Driving the Pacific Coast Highway with Marci in an Orange Mustang convertible for our 20th Anniversary
They totally up-sold us at the Rental Car desk… but it ended up being even more fun than I thought it would be to drive around in an Orange Mustang convertible for our 20th Anniversary in Northern California. We based ourselves in a little AirBnB north of the San Francisco Bay, in Mill Valley —
within walking distance of stands of ancient redwood trees — and we had a lovely time exploring the region together. One of my favorite moments from that trip was driving north on the Pacific Coast Highway, spotting sea lions and pelicans along the way, doing a little bit of hiking along the coast, and then stopping for tacos from the Siren Canteen on Stinson Beach. The tacos were great, but the time together was even greater. We’re looking forward to the next twenty years together!
#2 – Laughing in the Face of Winter over Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend
The Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend was a cold one in 2018. A deep layer of snow covered everything in Northeast Ohio, and temperatures had been well below freezing for weeks — but instead of cowering inside on the kids’ day off from school, we laughed in the face of winter and traipsed about much in the same way one would do over a summer holiday weekend. We went to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and trudged through the snow to Deer Lick Cave, where we had a “picnic” of hot chocolate and challenged one another to icicle-saber duels. We walked along the shores of Lake Erie, as the winds howled inland, and we made snow angels on the beach. We got ice cream at Mitchell’s in Ohio City. And we made a lot of memories along the way. I didn’t expect much out of the day, when we started, but it ended up being one of the most special days out of the year.
#1 – Binge-watching the Parks and Recreation television series in a tiny home in Lyons, Colorado
It might seem kind of sad to make television a top family experience of 2018. But there was so much packed into this one moment. We had rented a tiny home in Lyons, Colorado, to join in the wedding festivities for our friends Zach and Naomi. And after a full day of catching up with old friends from Amsterdam, we returned to our tiny home — and it just so happened that a Netflix user named Rodney had forgotten to log out of his account on the smart TV in the living space. So we went on a binge, watching the television series Parks and Recreation — and it just felt decadent to be doing it on a school night, in the middle of the busiest season of the year, far away from Northeast Ohio.