52 Weeks of Family Pictures
Family, Family Portraits, Year in Review

2021 Year in Review {+52 Weeks of Family Pictures}

One lesson I definitely learned from 2020 was that I really can’t even begin to predict what each new year will have in store for us, and that trend of being endlessly surprised by life’s curve balls continued in 2021.

To be honest, I didn’t have much of a definite life plan for 2021 other than adjusting to our new community and maybe being pregnant sometime in the latter half of the year. I definitely had not planned on actually going for my “pipe dream” of owning a flower farm and picking up an additional part-time job on the side.

I had hoped 2021 would bring back some semblance of “normalcy” from the pandemic, and that it would basically be over completely within the year. I of course hadn’t seen the surge of the delta variant and all the fallout from divided opinions on just about everything to do with the pandemic, which made certain aspects of our life in this particular area challenging.

Honestly, if you asked me if 2020 or 2021 was the harder year, I’d say that they both had their definite ups and downs. Both were hard years, but both had some really positive aspects about them too, at least for us personally.

One post I loved that I published last year was my yearly run-down of 2020 month by month, which was also a great place to put the weekly family pictures we’d been taking each Sunday. We’ve managed to continue our weekly family picture tradition all the way through 2021, so I figured I might as well do the same thing again.

Here’s how our 2021 looked:

January

I’ve spoken for years about how January is pretty much always guaranteed to be my hardest month of the year because I definitely struggle with the winter blues, but this January was particularly brutal. We’d just moved to our new home in our new community in November of 2020, so I was still extremely new to the area and hadn’t even been able to meet hardly anyone because we were rotating who was doing at-home church and who was going to church in-person every other week to stay socially distanced (and there was just the big general meeting instead of the smaller classes).

Not only did I feel stuck at home due to weather and super isolated because we hadn’t met hardly anybody (thanks to the pandemic), but I also felt those things doubly so because Matt was still having to live apart from us during the week while he worked at the old location while his company was in the process of switching over to the new place. The situation was even more frustrating because we’d been told that December was for sure going to be the last time he’d be living apart from us during the week, but then plans changed.

However, his work *did* allow a change in his schedule which gave him the option of working three 12-hour days instead of the four 10-hour days he’d been doing all the months prior, so that meant he only had to be away from us from Sunday evening to Wednesday evening. The revised work schedule meant we could go full throttle on getting our house more put together and set up on the weekends, which we did — Matt finished putting in the last of the new floor in the playroom, we got most of our newly painted kitchen cabinets back into place, and we started creating a much better sense of order on the main floor and in the kids’ rooms. Additionally, I officially started my 1,001 Decluttering Challenge this month, and Matt and I also decided that one of our family’s main focuses for this year would be building up our food storage and working on our overall emergency preparedness, which we started doing this month.

In other good news, we also bought a new-to-us car from Matt’s parents in January, which was such a blessing. We were expecting to have to pay so much more in order to get a highly reliable car for Matt to take to work every day, but the timing (and budget) worked out perfectly for purchasing the car from them.

The real thing that got me through a hard January though was the promise of spring, and I went maybe just a *tad* overboard with my seed and plant buying. In fact, my obsession with planning out how we wanted to best utilize our much larger yard coupled with too much time indoors in the dead of winter were both the catalyst for what would happen the rest of the year.

February

In February, we filed our taxes early and got a nice-sized tax return back, which I then promptly spent part of on things we wanted for the new house (4 rugs and two new armchairs) and the yard (a gazillion grow lights, seed starting supplies, etc.). In fact, we spent SO much on seeds and supplies for my huge cutting garden plans that I started to scheme up ways to perhaps get some of that money BACK.

After talking with Matt for hours about it and also to several of my friends from high school via Marco Polo, I was getting all sorts of people who said I should just go for the dream I’d had for years of owning a backyard flower farm. I went back and forth all month about it, but by the end of the month, I was 110% committed — I was going to officially start a business!

Because Matt was finally living at the new house with us all the time by then (since the business had moved down by the end of January), I had the time, support, and space I needed to come up with a business name, open social media accounts for the farm, collaborate with my dad so he could design me a logo, and so much more.

In other fun news for February, Raven lost her first tooth, we added six chicks to our flock, hired someone to repair the subfloor in our kitchen so we could be one step closer to actually having a kitchen floor, and did a fun Valentine’s Day dinner with the kids. We also were excited when the announcement was made in church at the end of February that everyone in the congregation was going to be able to come on Sundays to participate in person, rather than have to trade off weeks.

March

March was madness, and not because we watched any sports–

I literally spent every available second doing flower farming work, which included setting up our grow room and starting hundreds of seeds, direct seeding beds as fast as they were prepared, weeding, amending soil, researching, and so much more. You know it’s bad when I only blogged twice in the whole month! Matt also spent every spare second of his nights and weekends helping me by building and filling all the garden beds and tilling up the in-ground beds.

We did manage to fit in a few other things, though — my mom came and stayed for a couple days and helped us paint our kitchen island, and we also were able to squeeze in several fun things over Raven’s spring break, including a couple trips out to eat, some play dates, trips to the park, and more. I also got my second COVID shot (and Matt got his first), which gave us the promise of more opportunities to comfortably socialize with more people in the not-too distant future!

I also remembered just in the nick of time about the St. Patrick’s Day holiday tradition we started last year of doing a “Green Feast” for the kids. This particular feast was a bit haphazard and last-minute, but the kids didn’t mind — they just thought it was super fun to do something out of the ordinary!

Hyrum also finally started walking this month (after months of stubbornly refusing to do so).

April

April was many things.

We started the month off on the right foot by having a wonderful Easter together — we did the fun stuff on Saturday (egg and basket hunt) and followed it up with the more spiritual side on Sunday (with a lovely church service and a nice ham dinner). The week after that, we celebrated Raven’s 6th birthday by first driving two hours north so we could celebrate with grandparents the weekend before, then we surprised her by taking the family out to our favorite burger place and over to the nearby park on the actual day.

On the flower farming side, April started off really hard. I transplanted out a ton of hardy annuals the first half of the month, very few of which survived and/or thrived. To lose hundreds of seedlings in such a small amount of time was extremely disheartening, to say the least. On the bright side, it did teach me a LOT about what mistakes to avoid in the future. My later plantings in the month all did significantly better, and I lost very few. I also opened up our bouquet subscription program this month, with no idea how it would go. Much to my surprise, we sold out in about a day and a half! I was totally floored at the amount of support, especially since we were virtually unheard of and had no track record to back us up. I was so thankful that so many people were willing to take a chance on us.

We had a long-awaited family vacation down to Southern Utah near the end of the month, which required us to hire some neighbors to take over the care of our flower farm and chickens for the week. The day before we were scheduled to leave, we learned that one of Matt’s coworkers had tragically died by suicide. It was an extremely hard day, but we decided to go ahead with our vacation as planned and hoped that it would provide the space and rest for healing that Matt especially needed.

We joined my mom and stepdad for our vacation, which meant that we had some built-in babysitters when we needed a break. The vacation ended up being exactly what we all needed, complete with multiple hikes, trips to parks, and lots of delicious food, and Raven was so sad when it was over that she sobbed for most of the 3-hour drive back home.

May

If I thought March and April were insane, I had no idea how much crazier/busier things were about to get. We got the go-ahead from our church leaders to resume having the second hour of church in person, which meant Matt and I finally started our new calling of being Primary teachers. We also had lots of end of school things for Raven, which culminated in her getting super sick the very last day of school and missing all the fun field day activities. So sad!

Matt and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary on the 7th with a Sam’s Club run and meeting up with some friends for pupusas after (with our combined six kids along for the ride). We knew we would be planning something a little more special to celebrate this landmark anniversary a little later on when we weren’t so swamped with flower farming stuff, so we didn’t mind taking it easy on the actual day.

The big news on the flower farm front was two fold: 1) I finally got everything planted out by the very end of the month, which meant I finally got some breathing room for the first time in months, and 2) I started delivering my CSA bouquet subscriptions this month. The funny thing is, I definitely didn’t have enough growing in our own yard that was ready to start doing the subscriptions, but thanks to a bunch of small miracles, I was able to get an abundance of cut flowers from a garden up near where our folks live, which was a definite answer to prayer. I also did a small seedling sale, which was a good learning experience.

A big part of our flower farm vision was always to use it as a way to serve others, and we got our first taste of doing that in May. For Memorial Day, we took flowers to various people in the community who had recently lost loved ones and would be having their first Memorial Day since their passing, which was a really special experience.

Lastly, I also put together my annual Summer Reading List in May, and Matt and I also officially decided to pursue FIRE (financial independence/retiring early), which I detailed in posts this month as well.

June

June provided a much-needed breather from the insanity that was spring planting, although it came with its own struggles for the flower farm. We had an insane heat wave the first week of the month, which meant that pretty much two-thirds of the flowers I was counting on for that month and for part of July all started blooming waaaay too short. It was extremely stressful coming up with enough material to fill my CSA bouquet subscriptions, but the good thing about it was that it made me prepare WAY better for future years, since June is actually a tricky month for cut flowers, period.

We celebrated Mathias’s 3rd birthday in the middle of the month by having a little party with the grandparents who lived close enough and by dragging out the kiddie pool for the kids to cool off in. We also enjoyed the (short-lived) freedom that came with most of our family members being vaccinated and spent lots of time with Matt’s family in particular, who own a camping property nearby and who threw an impromptu little family reunion over the span of a week.

Admittedly, June was mostly a month for me to catch up on all the housekeeping things that had been neglected all spring, including general cleaning, decluttering, more unpacking/moving of boxes that had been put off endlessly since our move, and going to the dentist and doctor for all our regular checkups.

July

July was awesome. The delta variant hadn’t really creeped in yet and case numbers were still super low for our area, so we were able to fit in more parties with family, a fun 4th of July celebration, and so much more.

July was also the month we successfully finished potty training Mathias. I’d put it off for months (even though he was basically raring to go since February) due to flower farming stuff and just my own dread of the whole process, but all in all, it actually was a much smoother experience than anticipated. He did so well with his potty training that he quickly earned not only his toy car for going successfully during the day, but also his trip to the zoo for being potty trained at night! We took my mom to the zoo with us (since we’d invited her to go with us last year in 2020 but then COVID hit), and the kids LOVED it (as did we).

I was getting desperate for Matt to resume work on getting our kitchen floor put down (since we’d been living without a kitchen floor since moving in), so we finally made that happen in July. He didn’t finish it this month, but he did make significant progress and did finish up the whole area under our kitchen table and by our laundry closet, which made a huge difference in how easy meal cleanup was.

Near the end of July, I finally had enough of an abundance in the flower farm to start selling bouquets to the general public, rather than just making my CSA deliveries. Once again, I was blown away by the immediate enthusiasm for what we had to offer — we sold out of everything I had those first few weeks!

The last two days of the month, my mom drove down to stay with our kids so that Matt and I could finally take our 10-year anniversary trip. We decided to just do a little weekend escape down to Capitol Reef National Park, which is only about two hours away from our house. I’d never been before, and I loved how it wasn’t busy at all. We loved the chance to get away just the two of us, and we also loved the chance to watch the Olympics after a lot of time out hiking!!

August

After the slight lull in flower farming in June and much of July, August came in with a rush! Not only were we regularly selling bouquets via social media, but we also got personally invited to join the local farmer’s market since we are the only local business of its kind (most other vendors were just offering food/produce). Doing farmer’s markets hadn’t been in our original business plan, but we decided to try it out since the market only went for about a month. Although it wasn’t as profitable as we would have liked, it was still a good opportunity to get the word out, meet people from the community, and sell some of the excess of blooms that were coming on much faster than we could keep them picked. In addition to continuing to deliver my CSA bouquet subscriptions and offering weekly bouquets for sale via social media, I also hosted a bouquet-making night in August for CSA members.

On the home projects front, Matt finally finished laying the kitchen floor hours before we were about to host our first potluck with friends since moving here. He also was able to put together and fill up the kids’ new sandbox, finally put our laundry doors back on (so we weren’t having to stare at our washer and dryer as we ate our meals), and we took advantage of having friends over to finally move the fridge out of our front entry room, where it had been since we moved in last November. The evening was so enjoyable and we absolutely loved entertaining again…too bad it would be the last time for a long time since COVID cases started going crazy soon thereafter. I also was able to squeeze in the first meeting of the new book club I helped form, where we came up with a loose schedule for the next 12 months.

In mid-August, I did my final photo shoot (maybe ever) for a paying client. With the flower farm taking up so much of my time, I needed to cut down my commitments, so I basically stopped doing photography this year. I did have one shoot I’d booked way in advance (all the way last year, actually), so I needed to follow through on that before closing the books for good. Although the money is decent from photography work, I’m not sure the stress I felt all the time about it was worth staying with it.

Raven also started first grade in August, which was her first time being in school full-time. And she rocked it (and continues to rock it)! There were some tears the first week because we’d chosen to send her in a mask and she was literally the only one in her grade wearing one, but she’s been really good about it and felt overall better about things after a few weeks.

September

The biggest news from September was that 1) I was able to close the books on the public side of the flower farm for the year, 2) I ended up getting a job offer to be the senior copy editor at the local newspaper, which I started doing very part-time the last half of the month, and 3) Mathias started preschool for the very first time.

In other news, we met up with some friends in the first part of the month to do a family photo swap (where I took pictures of their family, they took pictures of us) at a u-pick orchard about an hour and fifteen minutes north of us. We loved the place so much that we ended up going back twice this month, once for the traditional u-pick apple experience as a family, and the other just to pick up more produce because their prices were insanely good. (The picture at the very top of this blog post is one that they took on this photo swap.)

Later in the month, we celebrated Matt’s and my 35th birthdays. My mom watched our kids so we could go out on a little date, and although we had a hard time deciding what to do, we ended up just going to Leatherby’s, even though they didn’t have many gluten-free options, just because we missed going so much. Totally worth it! (And we also noted that in the future, we can just bring in our own gluten-free buns and have them accommodate us that way.)

Besides adjusting to my new part-time job and wrapping up loose ends with the flower farm, our huge focus for this month was on emergency preparedness. We’d been building up our short-term food storage all year, but we just felt we needed to not put prepping more long-term storage off for too long, so we dropped around $1,000 this month (some from savings, some cash flowed) to go towards getting enough short- and long-term storage to now last our whole family at least 6-9 months. We also got 72-hour kits for each member of the family and started filling those with the essentials. All told, it was a gigantic relief to have our food storage more or less “completed” — now we just have to worry about buying things to replace those we take out of storage as we eat our way through it.

October

I feel like each month in this whole year will always be marked first in my mind by what was going on in the flower farm — perhaps it will always be that way from now on? Anyway, October was Plant All the Bulbs Month. And I mean ALLLLL the bulbs . . . thousands of them. While the recommended way to plant bulbs as a flower farmer is to dig a trench, we decided to go with a different approach, largely because 1) we don’t have a tractor, and 2) we’re seeing how many of the bulbs will “perennialize” in the ground, rather than just counting all the bulbs as annuals and harvesting them with the bulbs and all. We ended up buying a special auger drill bit and an electric tiller to get the job done, and Matt and I (but mostly Matt) spent pretty much every spare hour in the evenings and on Saturdays doing the work. But by the end of the month, we had all 2,500 or so bulbs that we had snug in the ground!

We did carve aside two weekends though just for fun stuff — one to meet some friends down in Capitol Reef for a day trip (and then later that night to go to a work Halloween party with Matt’s company), and the other to attend my mom’s annual Halloween party. As usual, we procrastinated our kids’ costumes, which meant that Hyrum went as a strawberry (and everyone thought he was a girl), Mathias wore the same cow outfit that’s been passed among all the grandkids, and Raven had a couple different costumes — she first had to wear a monkey costume that was way too small (because we didn’t have time to get together anything else), and then we did buy her a few things so she could be a unicorn, as requested, for the actual holiday and for my mom’s party.

The biggest (shocker) news from the end of October was that after over 10 years of solid efforts, Matt finally convinced me to let him get a puppy. So, on the 30th of October between my mom’s Halloween party and the community Halloween gathering we were attending later that night, we picked up Onyx, a 12-week-old Ausselier Doodle.

November

November was the month I realized that I basically knew nothing about training, raising, or owning a puppy. I expected the first couple nights to be rough (which they were), but I hadn’t anticipated the challenges that would come during the day, especially since I was basically on my own to figure everything out. In addition to the (unsurprising) potty accidents all over various parts of our home, I was brought to furious tears one day when the puppy got into some of my raised beds on the flower farm and ripped up the snapdragon seedlings I’d been babying for the last 4 months to prepare them for overwintering.

Matt was able to take the puppy into work with him a couple days each week though, which provided me a much-needed sanity break, and by the end of the month, Onyx had made a lot of progress — enough that I wasn’t seriously thinking of finding him a new owner anyway πŸ™‚

Interestingly, although Raven was initially the one most excited about getting a puppy, she also has been the one to generally pay him the least attention on a day to day basis. The boys, on the other hand, though they were a little wary of the puppy at first, have since gotten a little *too* comfortable with him and regularly wrestle him around and try to “snuggle” with him in his bed, which basically means they start inevitably squishing him on accident.

As far as the flower farm went, November was basically the month of putting the farm to bed as much as possible by ripping out the dead plants in the raised beds, covering everything with compost and mulch, and doing some weeding and mowing. The tasks we could do for the farm are literally never-ending, but we at least did enough that I felt confident going into winter (although so far it’s been the mildest winter in my living memory — we even had to cover some of our bulbs with an extra thick layer of mulch because some of them were already starting to poke through the ground!).

At the end of the month, it was our turn to be with my family for Thanksgiving, and I did have to admit that Onyx actually made everything generally more fun, which surprised me (since up to that point, he’d just been a whole lotta work and frustration for me). However, by Thanksgiving, he was trained enough (ish) that we felt comfortable bringing him and leaving him outside in the backyard, and everyone in my family had a fun time playing with a puppy for the holiday.

The end of November also marked our one-year anniversary of being in this new house and this new area. While I still have mixed feelings about being here (although I’m working on just having a good attitude period about it), it was fun for me to gather together the info for my one-year mortgage payoff update post, which is a goal we’ve really been working on this year.

December

December flew by, as December always does. Over the first weekend of the month, we were excited to be able to go to the extended family Christmas party on my mom’s side, which we’d had to cancel in 2020 because of COVID restrictions.

Before we knew it, it was already time to celebrate Hyrum’s 2nd birthday, which we did by inviting the grandparents who live close enough over for dinner and cake and ice cream. My mom also brought over all her sugar cookie decorating magic, and all the kids had a blast frosting all the cookies before we started the official birthday celebration.

Perhaps because our Christmas season last year felt so disrupted due to moving and no one having any holiday parties due to COVID restrictions and concerns, I felt a need this year to try and be more intentional about making sure we had a lot of quality experiences together as a family as we celebrated the season. Some of the things we enjoyed together included decorating a gingerbread house, going to our city’s light parade, having our “new Christmas picture book week” the first of the month, and making donations to local causes.

Christmas Eve was a whirlwind of activity as we made the 2-hour drive to see our families (although it took closer to 3 thanks to a good-sized snowstorm), where we visited with and exchanged presents with the two sets of grandparents who live locally and also attended Matt’s extended family Christmas party with everyone on his dad’s side. We drove home that same night so we could be in our own home for Christmas, which was an exciting affair! Hyrum didn’t want too much to do with the actual opening of the presents–although he did squeal and shout, “WHOA!” after everything was opened for him–but the older two sure got into it! It was the first year Raven was old enough to really “get” the idea of her giving gifts to others, so she actually had used up some of her own money from selling eggs to buy presents for us and for her friends, and she’d also spent a lot of time painting a really special picture for Matt, which we framed. The whole holiday was so much fun, and it was made even better by the fact that Matt took over for a couple hours after all the hubbub so that I could squeeze in a nap πŸ™‚

Matt hardly had to work at all the last week of the month, so we took advantage of him being around to get some long-neglected things done, like painting our master closet, as well as spending lots of time together as a family and just resting. I also used all the family time at home to start giving Raven piano lessons, which I’d been wanting to do all year.

The last day of the year found us celebrating with homemade tamales and chili verde at my in-laws’ house, as well as me getting to make a quick getaway in the middle of all the hubbub for lunch with friends.

Even though I don’t dare to try to plan out my years too much anymore, I’m excited about some of the Big Plans we have already in the works for 2022! Happy New Year, everyone!