It’s that time of the year for retrospection.
After posting my Top Ten Songs of 2019, Top Ten Books of 2019, Top Ten Hikes of 2019, and Top Ten Ministry Moments of 2019, I thought that I would conclude my lists with looking back on the Top Ten Family Moments of 2019. 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 2019, in ranked order:
- The Blue Hole of Santa Rosa
- Road Trip from Kent to Chicago to Rapid City to Estes Park with Olivia
- The Frosty Frolic 5K in Canton
- Elliot’s Last Soccer Home Stand
- Living out of a Camper-Van in Scotland with Jay
- Anniversary Getaway to the Gorges of Ithaca
- Spring Break Trip to Southeast Ohio
- The 2019 Christmas Circuit
- Elliot and Olivia go to Homecoming
- ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving Story Walk through Downtown Kent with Elliot, Olivia, and Cor
And again, for any who might appreciate more context, my explanations for each selection are included with the listing (reverse rank-order), below:
#10 – ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving Story Walk through Downtown Kent with Elliot, Olivia, and Cor
This happened on an unseasonably warm Monday afternoon in November. After the kids got home from school, I took them downtown to follow a StoryWalk set up by the city of Kent. Even though none of us were in the target demographic for story-books any more, the kids were more agreeable than I though they’d be. They genuinely went along with the StoryWalk, each person taking turns to read a page of the story at each participating location in downtown Kent. Each person got to choose his or her own snack, from whichever downtown location they chose along the route. And we also had a lot of fun taking pictures along the way.
#9 – Elliot and Olivia go to Homecoming
Our household sent two teenagers to the Kent Theodore Roosevelt High School Homecoming Dance this year: sophomore Olivia and senior Elliot. Olivia went with a group of friends (and friends of friends). Elliot took a date: a young woman named Kaylie, from the year below him in school. I’m proud of the way Olivia and Elliot are navigating life, including school dances. They were both out quite late, but I didn’t worry about anything except for two of Olivia’s friends who were at odds with each other earlier in the week and the funny way that Elliot’s tie kept skewing to his right.
#8 – The 2019 Christmas Circuit
Our family has a pretty established routine for celebrating Christmas with our families. Christmas Eve, we get together with my side of the family for a worship gathering, an evening meal, and a gift exchange. Christmas morning is just the five of us in Kent for an Advent devotional, exchanging gifts, and eating a nice breakfast. And then in the middle part of the day, we drive down to Marci’s side of the family for a late lunch, a gift exchange, and then hanging around watching movies and/or putting puzzles together. It’s a very clear pattern with only minor deviations from year to year. But I noticed this year that I really like it. The time with family and the delicious food are lovely. And our kids were super-enthusiastic to receive their (and our) present this year: a summer vacation to Wales, Scotland, and the Netherlands.
#7 – Spring Break Trip to Southeast Ohio
We stayed in Ohio for Spring Break this year. But we did do something special. We took Elliot on a college visit to Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio. And while we were there, we also took some time to do other fun family stuff like hiking a few trails at Hocking Hills State Park and eating pizza while sitting on the floor of our hotel room. Elliot ultimately decided that Ohio University was not very high on his list, but it was still a fun trip together as a family.
#6 – Anniversary Getaway to the Gorges of Ithaca
Marci and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary this year, with a trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York back at the end of May and beginning of June. We rented an apartment overlooking Keuka Lake for two nights. And during the days, we spent our time together walking quiet trails and roads, eating interesting food, and lounging around the apartment — just resting and enjoying each other’s company. It was lovely.
#5 – Living out of a Camper-Van in Scotland with Jay
I’ve only been to Scotland twice, but it might be one of my favorite places on earth. I just love the feeling of freedom and “elbow room” like my brother and I had from the grocery store in Perth to the parking lot of Eilean Donan. I don’t think we encountered any other tourists during those four days! We ate good food. We saw beautiful elements of God’s creation. We enjoyed time together as brothers. And even though the sleep wasn’t great in Scotland — partly because we were sleeping in a camper-van, and partly because of my brother’s snoring — I appreciated those nights in the camper-van and the way they actually gave me space to do some thinking about everything that’s happened in my life over the previous seven years, since our first trip together to Scotland. It was a great week of reflection and renewal.
#4 – The Frosty Frolic 5K in Canton
Our family has done this race for six years in a row now. It’s become enough of a tradition that I wrote this year’s Asp Family Christmas Story about it. Even so, I have to admit this is a holiday tradition that’s kind of weird and hard to explain. We are not a family of runners (we don’t do 5K races at any other time of the year). Registration for the race, alone, is relatively-expensive. The event is in Canton — 45 minutes away, by car, from our home in Kent — and it almost always leads to a lot of stress about the logistics. Still, the Frosty Frolic is something that’s just come to feel like us. I’m grateful that our health and circumstances still allow us to do this together.
#3 – Elliot’s Last Soccer Home Stand
Our friends and family in Kent helped to make this special. They swarmed the stands and surrounded Elliot for his last two home soccer games and affirmed him for all the right reasons. It was wonderful to cheer when he was exhibiting his quick feet and tenacious toughness on the field, during the surprisingly-meaningful minutes that he got to play. But it was also wonderful to cheer at the end of the games, at the end of the nights, at the end of the home stand — with the rest of Elliot’s life in front of him. I look forward to cheering him on for many years to come.
#2 – Road Trip from Kent to Chicago to Rapid City to Estes Park with Olivia
Gosh, I love a good road trip! I have a special affinity for the Great Plains. And to be able to experience this with my one and only daughter, Olivia, was a true delight! We both had job assignments out in Estes Park, Colorado, which required us to travel ahead of Marci and the boys — but instead of trudging out there, duty-bound, we made an adventure out of it. And I’m really glad we did.
#1 – The Blue Hole of Santa Rosa
Family vacation time was limited this year, due to unusual circumstances with my job and Elliot’s extracurricular activities. But we did get to have one particularly special day together in New Mexico, on our way to a family reunion in Texas. I have a particularly fond memory of rolling into Santa Rosa, New Mexico, right around sunset that day. We drove directly to a spot we’d heard about called the Blue Hole. It’s a natural spring in town: 81 feet deep, 60 feet wide, with a constant, cool temperature of 61 degrees Fahrenheit. At the end of a long day on the road, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go through with it. But God bless my wife! Marci sized up the situation and said, “I think you guys should just change really quick and do it now.” So we did. We leaped into the Blue Hole several times, from several different jumping points. The water was very cold, and the encroaching darkness made it difficult to see very far down into the water. Still, we had fun splashing and playing in the dusk. As we drove away from the Blue Hole, my arms shivering from the cold, my swimsuit soaking the driver’s seat of our minivan, I looked in the rear-view mirror and smiled broadly. “This is why we travel,” I thought to myself. We sift through the mountains of dust and dirt to find the sapphires, shimmering faintly in the darkness of the desert. So we can swim in them and make memories as a family.