2016 in Review - As Seen By the Smiths

It's the second of January (Happy Birthday, Maddie!) and that means this post is at best one day late, at worst a week. But sometimes it takes us Smiths a bit to transition from one state to another, so all things considered, I'm calling it perfect timing. Here's my breakdown of 2016, in all of its ridiculousness and beauty, *through the lens of life in our loud and rambunctious home (Sorry neighbors Mary and Ann! We tried to be quite but you know it didn't work out for us...) 

Our Year - 2016

 The Big Moments of 2016*

Locally - EZRA WAS BORN! 3/10/16

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Hands down the best part of 2016 for me was the birth of our adorable chubs, Ezzie! He is a constant source of joy and delight. I'm so thankful for this perfect little human with whom I've spent so many happy moments in the past nine months.

Nationally - BLACK LIVES MATTER 

I hate to admit how few friends I have that look different than me. It's always been my hope to have a community as diverse and culturally unique as the larger world around us, but I haven't seemed to break out of my little bubble of "the same." When the Black Lives Matter movement started this year with the gut-renching deaths of so many black men (followed by violence against police offericers), I was speechless. I knew, was 100% sure that racism was still very much a thing of the present. But I had no idea how rampant, how obviously entrenched it still is in our society.  I couldn't believe how blind I've been to the real and daily suffering of my brothers and sisters at the hand of man's wickedness and hatred of others. I felt shame, shame at my ancestors who used their power as right and divine privilege to oppress their neighbors; shame at the same evilness silently poisoning and corrupting our hearts as Americans and even followers of Jesus. This brokeness screams for healing, even as we rush to minimize and move on.

Listen to Lacre's song "Can't Stop Me Now" for a beautiful take on #blacklivesmatter. 

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Locally - JUDE'S ASPERGERS DIAGNOSIS

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I sketched this on my iPhone in the waiting room during Jude's evaluation, while he screamed for me for 45 minutes without a break.

I sketched this on my iPhone in the waiting room during Jude's evaluation, while he screamed for me for 45 minutes without a break.

We spent most of July at a children's psychologist office getting our oldest Smith boy evaluated for autism. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars later, we received a diagnosis of Level 1 Aspergers, Separation Anxiety, and ADHD Combined type. In many ways, getting a doctor to confirm our fears was a huge blessing. We now know why he seems so inattentive, needs constant direction and redirection, and completely falls to pieces at the slightest change to his routine. I wish, though, that I had been given a large dose of patience and confidence with that pricy diagnosis though. I fee like 99% of my interactions with Jude are frustrated, voice raised, stressed and exhausted. *sigh*

 Globally - Syria, the refugee crisis, and acts of violence

Ugh, what is there to even say on this one? It's been a crushing year of violence, political unrest, and sorrow. It got so bad this year, I was afraid to turn on the news with the kids around. The last thing I wanted them seeing was drowned toddlers or bombed ruins of cities. And yet, that is the harsh reality for so many right now in Syria and other conflict zones. 

Locally - WE READ A LOT OF GREAT BOOKS 

Our Top Three Favorite Books for Kids of 2016:

There we're so many winners for 2016, but here's our boys' faves.

1: Weasels, by Elys Dolan

"Find out how the weasels’ dastardly plans for world domination are foiled in this hilarious, off-the-wall debut picture book. Weasels. What do you think they do all day? Plot world domination -- that's what! This rollicking madcap weasel adventure is packed full of mischief and mayhem, featuring hilarious weasel antics rendered in Elys Dolan's exuberant style. Will the weasles succeed in taking over the world?"

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2: Robo-Sauce, by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

"Fans of the best-selling Dragons Love Tacos will devour Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri’s newest story, a hilarious picture book about robots that magically transforms into a super shiny metal ROBO-BOOK.

FACT: Robots are awesome. They have lasers for eyes, rockets for feet, and supercomputers for brains! Plus, robots never have to eat steamed beans or take baths, or go to bed. If only there were some sort of magical “Robo-Sauce” that turned squishy little humans into giant awesome robots… Well, now there is. 

Giggle at the irreverent humor, gasp at the ingenious fold-out surprise ending, and gather the whole family to enjoy a unique story about the power of imagination. It’s picture book technology the likes of which humanity has never seen!"

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3: Interstellar Cinderella, by Deborah Underwood; Illustrated by Meg Hunt

"Once upon a planetoid,
amid her tools and sprockets,
a girl named Cinderella dreamed
of fixing fancy rockets.

With a little help from her fairy godrobot, Cinderella is going to the ball. But when the prince's ship has mechanical trouble, someone will have to zoom to the rescue! Readers will thank their lucky stars for this irrepressible fairy tale retelling, its independent heroine, and its stellar happy ending." 

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Best Books of 2016 for Adults

1: Slade House, by David Mitchell

Slade House - Best Books of 2016

I read a lot of great books this year but this one far surpassed them all in creativity and originality. I have never, never read a book quite like this. I was absolutely sucked in and couldn't put it down. If you like spooky, gothic stories, curl up with Slade House (but leave the lights one, please). David Mitchell needs to write another book NOW! I haven't read a work by him that didn't completely blow my mind and leave me thinking about it for weeks afterward.

"Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents—an odd brother and sister—extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late. . . .

Spanning five decades, from the last days of the 1970s to the present, leaping genres, and barreling toward an astonishing conclusion, this intricately woven novel will pull you into a reality-warping new vision of the haunted house story—as only David Mitchell could imagine it."

2: Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star (All Three! Because I read them all in a week), by Pierce Brown

Red Rising / Morning Star - Best Books of 2016

One part Ender's Game (in depth of characters and dark mood) one part Hunger Games, this series was absolutely flawless. Technically, only the final book, Morning Star, was published this year, but I read them all back to back, so I'm simply nominating the entire series here.

"Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
 
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
 
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so."

3: Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel

Best Books of 2016 - Sleeping Giants

"A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power. A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.
 
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected. But some can never stop searching for answers.


 Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?"

 

Non-Fiction Pick for 2016

Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, by Carl Medearis

O.k., I know this wasn't published this year, but I read it in 2016 and it was one of the best books I've ever encountered. This should be on every believer's shelf. Seriously. It dramatically changed how I think about loving those around me and how I think about "evangelism" as a whole. It's a small little guy but it really packs a punch.

"Some of us fear moments when we need to defend our theology. Some of us seek them out. But we are seldom ready the way Jesus seemed to be ready. So how do we draw others to God in the midst of these ordinary conversations the way Jesus did?

 

In Speaking of Jesus, Carl Medearis draws on his experience of international reconciliation between Muslims and Christians to remind us of the heart of the matter: Jesus. Here he gives us tools, stories, and the foundation we need to move beyond “us” and “them” and simply talk about the One who changes it all.

 

As Carl writes, “While others are explaining and defending various isms and ologies we’re simply pointing people to our friend. The one who uncovers and disarms. Who leads people right to himself. The beginning and the end of the story. A good story indeed.”"

 

GLOBALLY - BREXIT

Brexit - 2016 in Review

The week leading up to Brexit, Justin and I talked a lot about how ridiculous it was and how it would never pass. Ha ha, wrong!

Locally - WE JOINED. NEW HOME GROUP

Since Jesus radically saved me and transformed my heart from zombie to living, I've been part of five different home groups (all but one a result of splitting from growth). We've been with the same core group for seven years, so when our HG disbanded last year and we needed to find a new group, I was very very very (-ahhhhhhh!!!) nervous. I shouldn't have been. The Shivers have been incredibly welcoming as have all of the other wonderful hearts that have opened their lives and homes to us! It's a very different experience being in a community with a broad range of ages and I absolutely love it! God has been so good to us through this group of friends. I'm so incredibly thankful for each one of them!

 

Globally - TRUMP WINS A VERY CONTESTED ELECTION  / Locally - SMITHS ARE GOBSMACKED BY ELECTION RESULTS 

Yeah, I don't have any comments on this. 

Presidential Election - 2016

Locally - I TRANSITION FROM A FULL-TIME CAREER TO A STAY-AT-HOME-MOM

 There's probably a lot I could say about this. I don't feel inspired though. I'm going to let Justin fill in (if he gets around to it, that is. He's currently pretty sick so maybe he can retroactively add his piece at a later date).

That's pretty much 2016 as we saw it. Globally it was a stinker. Locally, it was mostly wonderful. Here's hoping for a much better and brighter year ahead!

Jenny Smith

3705 Oceanview Drive, Denton, TX, 76208