Things That Made 2022 Better

2022 hasn’t been the most prolific year of my writing life—few poems, chapters and blog posts found their voice in the midst of a busy life. Perhaps I’ll write more about that later, but lest anyone think I’ve been doing nothing (I know that no one thinks that), here are some of the things that have filled these twelve months with their own unique shades of good.

Cookbooks: For a long time I pretty much baked two kinds of bread: wheat bread for my seed-averse eldest daughter to take to school in sandwich form, and crusty sourdough loaves of the kind we’ve see plenty on Instagram these last few years. This summer, I actually cracked open the three books on the matter I’ve accumulated, vowing to turn on the oven and bake a new kind of loaf each week while the season lasted. Favorite Loaf: Country Rye (pictured left) from Tartine Bread, by Chad Robertson Runner Up: Sourdough Pain du Mie from Sourdough From Scratch, by James Morton.

Covid Tests: Thanks to generous state and federal governments, we’ve received dozens of free COVID-19 tests this year. And thanks to a nearly non-stop stream of viruses between the four of us (including the real thing in June) we’ve used almost all of them. I guess if I could have chosen I’d rather not have been sick at all, but it was nice not to have to pay for the endless testing that this year required of us.

Playgrounds: Whether the ever-sandy structure at Ellie’s preschool, the brand-new playground installed at Luci’s elementary school this year, or the trusty playground adjacent to our church, where we go when the school playground is closed, playgrounds have become a true community gathering spot, a place my girls and I have made and deepened friendships.

Chapter Books: If I included the books I read to my kids this year, my reading total would be off the charts greater than ever before. This was a year that I read far more than I wrote, a wild, unstructured and usually joyful journey guided by friends’ recommendations, library holds, and the books that the girls shoved in front of me saying “Can we read this, pleeeeeeeease?” Best Kid Fiction: Heartwood Hotel Series, by Kallie George Best Grown-Up Fiction: The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson Best Nonfiction: The Anthropocene Reviewed, by John Green Best Reread: Persuasion, by Jane Austen (but this super cool version with handwritten letters slipped in throughout!)

OfferUp: There are many ways to sell things on the Internet, but this particular local selling app helped us to acquire an ice cream maker in the middle of the summer and the dollhouse (pictured left) that I spent most of the fall renovating as a Christmas present for my daughters. Lately I’ve also been excited about any opportunity to prevent something useful from being thrown away (the fact that these things are also much cheaper is also a real benefit).

Coffee: Whether sipped from a favorite cafe while my youngest is at preschool or brewed before dawn, coffee has made life even better in this busy year than in the years before. (Not that I had any doubts that our relationship would make it.)

MOPS: Since January, I’ve been one of two coordinators for our church’s chapter of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). Though I’ve participated in MOPS for most of the time I’ve been a mother, it’s been a rewarding sort of challenge to work (mostly) behind the scenes to create this community for women. It’s also wild to realize that though I attended my first MOPS with no kids (seven months with my first), now I have some of the oldest kids there.

Wading Pool: The Green Lake wading pool—a humble, amoeba-shaped eight inches of tepid water—was our main summer activity. The kids are old enough that sometimes (gasp!) I even got to read a little while they splashed around. Runner Up: Pendleton picnic blanket, on sale at Costco.

Family Meals: Between school and (my husband’s) work, we’ve had a number of shifting schedules to manage this year, making finding time to connect as a family more challenging than ever. I know that this part gets harder as everyone gets older, so this year was a good reminder that it’s valuable, even on days our “family meal” was cake together after school.

Patio Furniture: Early in the summer, we added a dining table and four chairs to our little backyard patio (pictured left). I’d wanted one for ages, convinced that outdoor dining would be the icing on the cake of our summers together. For once, this purchase exceeded expectations, and we enjoyed hours of eating, playing and relaxing outside together. Highly recommend a table outside for anyone.

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