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A Look Back: 2023

by Megan

What? A new blog post on Shaping Up To Be A Mom?! Shocking.

It’s been two and a half years since my last post, and at that time I wasn’t sure about the future of this site. In January 2020, I started a travel blog into which I’ve put all my extra time and energy (cause there’s sooo much of that…). I love writing over there, it’s gaining some traction, and it’s a better fit to move forward with.

Tenneys today

When I turned 35 in 2019, all I could think was, “I’m almost 40!” So I made a list of goals to achieve between 35 and 40. One of them was “make the blog work or let it go.” I turn 40 this year.

I’ve entertained selling this site a couple of times, but the price it would fetch wouldn’t be near enough to justify saying goodbye to the absolute time capsule it has become over the years, and so I keep paying the domain and hosting fees. It makes a small amount of ad revenue each month, more than enough to cover its cost.

And so I think this site should live on. It’s been many things over the years, starting as not much more than a food diary, then a place to post pictures of my young ones, then my personal hub in the growing community of mommy lifestyle bloggers, then largely a collection of sponsored posts.

Back in 2012, some of my blogging buddies and I started a series called A Look Back, where we posted memories and photographs from each year in our lives. We started with 1984 and made it to 1991 before interest fizzled out. At the end of 2015, I briefly resurrected the idea by recapping the past year.

Now, I’m bringing it back! Maybe someday I’ll fully rejuvenate this site, but for now I’m happy for it to continue as a record of our family’s life, even if that’s just one post per year. Thanks for being here. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Want to read more about our years of traveling? Check out this post about our family gap year itinerary, which I keep updating as I write more about the various destinations we visited!

A Look Back at 2023

2023 was our first full year back in the United States after backpacking through Europe for 10 months. We came back to the States in mid-2022 and got semi-settled in South Carolina so we could get the kids enrolled in school.

At the beginning of 2023, Carter was halfway through his freshman year in high school, Vanessa was in 6th grade, Harrison in 4th, and Melody in 1st.

Melody skips ahead!

Because of South Carolina laws, Melody had to start Kindergarten in Fall 2022. Her birthday is September 9th, so she just barely missed the September 1st cutoff. We were disappointed because we were planning on her going into 1st grade. She was one of the oldest kids in Kindergarten and way ahead of the material.

Halfway through the year, I asked if the school would consider letting her skip 1st grade and start 2nd grade the next year, and to my surprise they suggested moving her up to 1st grade immediately. She was happy to move up, and so she got the best of both worlds โ€” half a year of Kindergarten, half a year of 1st grade, and now she’s in 2nd and excelling!

Melody Kindergarten graduation

The rest of the kids are doing awesome in school as well. All four tested as gifted and talented, and they are loving the opportunity to make long-term friends, now that we are settled.

Carter took his first AP course during his freshman year and scored a 5 on the test!

Carter at Five Guys

He’s on track to graduate a year early…which is next year! He’s on the school robotics team, likes to play bass, and plans to study software engineering at UCF. Or mechanical engineering. Not sure which it is this week! He also has his driver’s permit and a girlfriend!

One of the first things Vanessa did after we settled down was to snag a lead role in the intermediate school’s musical. She played the Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods, Jr.

Vanessa in Into the Woods

Now she’s in 7th grade at the middle school and heavily involved with the chorus and musical theatre programs. She’s on track to earn three high school credits while in middle school, and she recently won the middle school spelling bee!

Harrison completed his first ever year of public school in 2023, and now he’s thriving in 5th grade at the intermediate school. He loves all things video games, especially coding his own, and he’ll be participating in the school district’s tech fair this year for the second time.

Harry at tech fair

He surprised us by wanting to audition for the musical and got a great part โ€” Motel the tailor in Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.

We already talked about Melody, but yeah she’s 7-going-on-17 (or is it 37?), and she’s the hit of the neighborhood. A total social butterfly, she rides her bike up and down our street and knows just about everyone!

We bought a house!

We lived in three different Airbnbs in the Myrtle Beach area while house hunting and then waiting for our house to be built. We bought a new construction home in a brand-new neighborhood and moved in at the end of February.

New house

After four plus years of traveling and not having a place to call our own, we are absolutely loving this wonderful home. Daniel and I both work from home, so we chose the model that gave us each our own office. It’s a dream come true!

Music room
And a music room!

He didn’t get out of the cockadoodie car!

In May, after exactly five years of not doing any theatre whatsoever, I returned to the stage and got to play Annie Wilkes in Misery! The auditions were in March, and I went kind of on a whim, with zero expectations. I just love the book and movie, and I thought I’d just audition for fun and to check out the local theatre. Welllll, I got a callback, and then I got the part!

Megan in Misery

It was an amazing opportunity, and I had a blast! The theatre is historic, and they put on really impressive productions, so I’m especially happy just to know some of the people there and to have such a great venue nearby.

Traveling from a home base

Even though we decided to settle down after four years of full-time travel, we still love to roam! Now we’re just doing it from our home base. During our first year settled (from mid-2022 to mid-2023), we reupped our Universal season passes and visited my parents in Florida on pretty much every school break!

On one of these visits, we stopped to explore Savannah, Georgia on the way.

Kids in Savannah

We also got to be in the Universal Studios Mardi Gras parade, throwing beads from one of the floats! Melody wasn’t tall enough to join us, so she watched the parade with Gramma and Grampa, and we threw her some beads.

Universal Mardi Gras parade

In the summer, we loaded up the van and traveled across the country to Arizona. Daniel hadn’t seen his family in a year, and we have a free place to stay there, so we stayed a full month, having lots of fun with family and close friends in the area!

We were there for the 4th of July festivities, and Carter participated in a pie eating contest! We got to enjoy all our favorite west coast foods, like Eegees and In-N-Out Burger!

In-n-Out Burger

On the way to Arizona, we stopped at Rock City โ€” a place we’ve been trying to visit ever since directing the musical See Rock City back in 2011!

Rock City

Career update

In fall 2022, I started a new job as Director of Marketing at a small ad tech start-up, and I had a great experience working for them. I got to travel to New York several times a year, which was fun.

However, in June 2023, while we were in Arizona, Daniel pointed out a job opening at his company (also the company I worked for from 2019-2022), and it sounded like a great opportunity for me to return in an exciting new role. I applied, interviewed, and they invited me back!

Megan and Daniel at work
Also in 2023, we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary!

I’m now a Product Manager, which is a very busy job that keeps me on my toes, but I love it. It’s been a great fit and allowed me to learn new skills and move up in my career.

Riding in style

Coming back from Arizona in July, we spent an unexpected couple of days in Georgia when our beloved black van broke down. We were able to get it fixed and drive home, but when it needed more work the next month, we decided it was time to put it to rest!

That van took us all over the country for several years. Luckily, we’ve immortalized it in photographs!

Black van immortalized

As sad as we were to see that van go, it was pretty exciting to get our new van, which is twelve years newer!

New van

Megan got smaller!

In my last post, I shared how I got gastric sleeve surgery in late 2019. I’m still so grateful for how that allowed me to lose 75 pounds and feel good in my body again! I was able to keep most of that weight off for several years, including the time we spent in Europe, give or take 10 pounds.

However, in 2022-2023, my appetite started to come back stronger, and I wasn’t doing a very good job making healthy food choices. By the time I did Misery, I was up more than 25 pounds of the 75 I lost. Honestly, it kind of worked out well because Annie is traditionally a little plump! But after the show wrapped, I knew I needed to do something to turn things around, because I was NOT going to end up back where I started.

I admire anyone who can lose weight on their own without intervention. I’m not one of those people. I’m also not ashamed to say that I’ve had surgery and now use medicine to keep the weight off! I started weekly injections of tirzepatide (Mounjaro) in June 2023, and since then I’ve lost 32 pounds. I’m the lightest I’ve been in over 15 years, closing in on my goal weight, and feeling incredible.

Megan the influencer
Body by Mounjaro, awkward “influencer” face by me

Holidays at home

This was the first year in many years that we had a home of our own for the holidays! So we invited my whole family to come for Thanksgiving. My parents drove up from Florida, my brother flew in from Las Vegas, and my sister and brother-in-law flew in from Toronto.

Family at Thanksgiving

This was also the 8th Christmas in a row that we celebrated in a completely different location. But it was the first of many in our forever home!

Christmas in our new home

Wrapping up the year

All in all, 2023 was a banger year, and I’m looking forward to everything that 2024 brings. I hope you also had a great year, and I hope you’ll tell me all about it! Consider this a “call-to-action” to publish a new blog post if you’ve been slacking like me. Or if your blog has gone the way of the 2010s, leave me a comment and give an update! Wishing you all the best! ๐Ÿ’•

Daniel and Megan
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