Best Of: 2016

'Tis Time for a New Year, Smarties, and hot damn are we ready. This year has been tough. So rather than roll around in all the ugh of this year... I want to say "Peace out, 2016" on a high note. It's been an exciting year for us! We've continued to see beautiful pieces from our incredible contributor Jess Burnquist and her Making Out column. We've also had the great pleasure of taking on Rattle & Pen as a new column here, and Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum has already written some gorgeous, thoughtful pieces for us. In addition, Christina and I have started teaching workshops at blooming kids in Tacoma, and we're looking forward to teaching more in the New Year. If you're local, we hope to see you there! And, of course, we've continued to write sometimes deep and sometimes silly content for you, our beloved Smarties. We look forward to continuing to write for you in 2017 and to bringing you interesting, poignant, and hilarious content in the year(s) ahead.

Now, as an end of the year celebrations, let's take a look at our favorite Smarty Mommies posts of 2016!

Shannon speaking here. It's been a weird year. There have been highs and lows, but we've written through it all, and I'm proud to say we've produced some serious beauty. These are the pieces that have stuck with me this year, but I cried and laughed and seethed through so many more. I was particularly fond of this piece by Christina about staying in the conversation as a mom and remembering that you are, indeed, a person worth talking about. It's easy to forget as a parent, but eventually it feels really, really bad to never feel as though you're worthy of discussion. Because you are, Smarties. So stay in the conversation. I also LOVED this one about the love between sisters and the bittersweet pulling away of the Smartlings. Raising children is a constant cleaving. I could not have come up with a better word. It's beautiful... but it certainly aches sometimes. Christina may not like feelings, but she sure can write them with beauty.

From our talented contributors, I went through every possible emotion reading Jess's "Sporks" and thinking about my own childhood and my Smartlings' coming experiences. She writes the intersection of a million feelings so well. Meanwhile Kirsten's "This IS What a Feminist Looks Like" is important for so many of us to read, whether or not you consider yourself a feminist. I love that she discusses growing into her feminism, and I think there's a lot we all recognize here. These incredible women have taught me so much about being a mother and being a writer, and I look forward to learning more from them as we go.

As for my own pieces, there's a special place in my heart for this one about separation. It marks the end of an era for me as a stay-at-home mom, and it was an end I was ready for and happy to see. I loved my time staying home with my kids (most of the time) and I will be forever grateful that I had it... and I was also all done. I needed to be able to miss them. It's nice to miss the people you love from time to time. It makes the time you are together that much better. And there they are - my favorites of the year. Christina- what are yours?

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So glad you asked, Shannon! (See how you can tell by the way I added the "Shannon" part at the end there that it's Christina writing now? OF COURSE YOU CAN. YOU'RE SMARTIES. You done me proud again, readers, and I high five you.


Anyway, I'm having a hard time answering this one because it's like choosing a favorite child. HAHAHAHAHAHA! PSYCH! We all have a favorite child, just like I have favorite pieces. The only difference is that it's socially acceptable to name your favorite Shannon-essay, and I'll happily do that now.

1. Parenthood: A Play In One Act is one of my favorites even though it's not exactly the best showcase for your beautiful writing. What it is instead is a hilarious, relatable piece of reporting from deep within the trenches of parenting. It's such a perfect morsel of truth. I love it.

2. The Seven-Year Itch: Separation is gorgeous and speaks to me as much now as it did when you first wrote it. You walk that razor-sharp line between the joys and pain of stay-at-home parenthood with such honesty and equanimity that it makes suffering the pains intermittent with celebrating the joys of my own stay-at-home parenthood both normal and palatable. Thanks for that one, friend. It's a balm.

3. Your GIF game in Self-Care: Do It Now still makes me laugh when I think about it. I also think this piece is really the one that got our collective balls rolling (heh heh) in the direction of teaching our new workshop "Self-Care for Busy, Creative Parents." Period jokes AND inspiration for further collaborative endeavors? Damn, you're good.

From Jess, who I want to be when I grow up, I most love Calculating. It still chokes me up now like the first time. It's easy when in the throes of parenting, teaching, or recalling our own parenting and education, to view experiences, past and present, through a two-dimensional lens. To process whole, 3 dimensional, meaty, complicated events by rendering them into flat, bite-sized, simplified caricatures of the truth. Jess never, ever does that, and in Calculating she is especially careful to fully render her own memories of learning, her daughter's struggles with asthma and math, and her deep love and acceptance of her daughter just as she is: perfect, flawed, glorious, and luminous. It's a gem, people. A goddamned gem.

And, OH HEY, remember that time when Kirsten wrote about fascination and obsession and creativity and writing and parenting and HAMILTON in Fascination and the Creative Mind? You know, that piece she wrote that contained EVERYTHING THAT I LOVE IN THIS WORLD, along with reassurance that creativity can live and thrive even among the obstacles of parenting's distractions? Because that was my early Christmas gift. I don't think Kirsten intended it as such, but it was. It is. It will forever be the best thing in my Smarty stocking.

It was a very good year, friends. Cheers to our 2016 together, Smarties! And here's to a 2017 filled with more writing, more camaraderie, and more GIF-fueled menses jokes!

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Kirsten weighed in with her favorites from the year as well! Here are her picks:

* Shannon's piece on her grandfather's passing. "Gorgeous. Heart wrenching. Honest."

* Christina's post-election post on grieving. "Spot on. Brutal and right."

* Jess's "Reality in Cloudlike Fragments". "Fucking beautiful."

Kirsten said, "You all made me feel understood and less alone through this chilling autumn. I'm counting on more of your strength propping me up during the next (certain-to-be) shitty four years."

Likewise, we're sure, Kirsten. Likewise, friend.

And, holy smokes, peeps, Jess did a proper Top 10! Here are her faves from 2016:

1. Sisters Are Doing it to Themselves? Invisible Labor and the Value of Work

2. Acknowledging Privilege

3. Passion Planner

4. Self-Care: Do it Now

5. Just Do It (After Exhaustively Planning and Worrying About it for Years, and Years and Years)

6. 7 Year Itch: Separation

7. The Pause, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

8. This is What a Feminist Looks Like

9. Grieving

10. Time to Do Something

Happy New Year, Smarty writers! Happy New Year, Smarty readers!

Shannon, Christina, Jess, and Kirsten ready to drop knowledge, not bombs. (Image Source)