2017

2017 with a bow

It’s the last day of the year and it always comes with a hint of sadness and a bit of reflection for myself.  Another year has been written down, in totality, in our family books.  The girls each added a higher notch on our family growth ruler, celebrated another birthday, and all of us packed in 365 days of life, building lots of memories along the way.

This year was a good one, but I don’t feel AS sad to see to it go as I have some in years past. That being said, it was a great improvement to 2016, and I feel thankful for a year of some reprieve following that one.  Still, it seems too soon that we have gotten to this point, the days flying by much faster than I care for and a big giant pin about to be stuck in the space labeled 2017.  Here we are.

Of course I would be remiss in not mentioning that this year was very big for us in one major way.  We spent half of the year in ignorant bliss about the direction our family was going and then the other half reeling from the shock that we would be adding in another one, later coming to be known as our fourth girl, Baby Surprise. It seems this year had a very clear demarcation to it: the half of the year BEFORE we found out about Baby Surprise and then the half of the year AFTER.  Both good in their own right, just approached AND remembered with different feelings.

That was our biggest news but we also went on two vacations, one long one to Seagrove Beach and the other a mini vacation to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. I’ve come to realize that when we are singing over our (proverbial) champagne about the memories from each year, vacations are always the highlights for me.  So many good feelings surrounding vacations, with memories almost pungent from how real they still feel.  I love the way they force you to slow down, leave behind, take it all in, and somehow, always leave differently.

Besides those two vacations, we also went to Indiana three times this summer and said goodbye to N’s grandpa, Grandpa Joe.  We had lots of visitors, especially this summer, and have carefully crafted our own perfect guide to the city; including where to eat, what to do with/without kids, and what to see along the way.  It’s becoming our home.

We’ve become more established here, in our hometown, and settled into our new normal.  This was the year we declared “our grocery store”, “our church”, “our gym”, & “our pool”.  We poured a lot of love into our home, some of it via physical labor and some of it via digging into our pockets to pay someone else to do the manual labor for us.

The biggest change to our house we made was our floor/kitchen renovation this spring. We even got kicked out and had to go live with my parents for a week+ while the heavy duty work was being done.  Almost a year removed, and I’m still so glad we did it.  A huge improvement from what we moved into and certainly more our style.

When you move into a house that’s 15+ years old, there are bound to be some surprises, and we had a few of those as well.  But when I look around our house, I don’t see any big gaps anymore.  We used to have a non-functional eat-in kitchen because we didn’t have a table that fit there.  This year we gained that, among an array of other things you buy/build/borrow to make everything from your old house transition successfully into your new one.  It’s still hard for me not to look around and see all the things still left to do, though thankfully this is a list left more in my head and not glaringly obvious when you walk in the door.  But such is the case when you live in a house built 15+ years ago: almost everything is due for an update.  The bright side to that is that get to pick these updates to my liking.  But still.  Almost everything is due for an update.  And the way our time and money seem to traditionally work is that not everything gets updated in the same year.

That being said, I hope in 2018, we see a lot less workers in our house.  Between this year and the seemingly endless rolling in and out of the sticky, plastic, carpet-protecting, runner at the schoolhouse, I’m tired of turning over my routine to the schedule of others. It’s especially difficult when you have a nursing/napping babe, and I’ll be getting another one of those in about two months.

My greatest wish for 2018 is that it brings more reprieve and peace.  That sounds like a crazy wish when you are planning to add in another child (a fourth one at that), and maybe it’s a bit idealized.  But there’s a method to my madness.

Though as I said earlier, 2017 wasn’t a rocky year of deep lows, but there are a few negative feelings left over from it.  N was very busy.  I don’t think busier than he’s ever been (that would go to our first year in the schoolhouse when his job was ultra-demanding, he was taking a labor-intensive class for his doctorate, and we were also undergoing renovations on our house), but because the girls are getting older, it felt like more of a sacrifice at times.  Add to that the weariness and sickness of a surprise pregnancy and a super sensitive emotional meter that accompanies each one, and there were many days I barely scraped by with either my nerves, tears, stomach, or mind in tact.  We also got sick a lot this year.  Unusually so for us.

To cap off the year, MG spent a late night in an ER full of fluish, vomiting, and hacking children to be seen for a badly split open chin (all the way to the bone).  Those accidents happen so fast. One minute I was lying on the couch reading a Christmas book to Sib, thinking about how I was going to bed early (*that’s another thing.  I think I went to bed around 9pm for most of this year) and savoring the delight of the older girls running around and acting silly around us.  The next minute, I was throwing on blue jeans and putting boots on my hysterical 7 year old, trying to explain to her that we weren’t going to call an ambulance to come take her away, but we were headed to the hospital right now.

Seven hours and seven stitches later, she was nearly as good as new, but once again, my nerves were left rattled and my mind wondering, when is there going to be peace in our house again? (ironically or not, she broke out in hives from the medicine used to treat the stitches and spent the last days of 2017 with a puffy face and on steroids.  What a month for her!)

Thank goodness for family that lives nearby.  Like my mom coming over to stay at the house so N could join me in the ER and help us keep our sanity after going on hour four.  She finished cutting and baking the sugar cookies for our planned decorating party the next day and cleaned our kitchen while she waited up into the hours to make sure we got home safely.

Just a reminder that we’ve had some rocky moments this year, but each one has come with a safety net.

To finally circle back around, the word that has been haunting me in this time as I reflect back on 2017 and pray forward to 2018 is peace.  I’m not sure if this is a positive peace (like everything is truly going to be okay, even better than imagined) or a negative peace (like this year is going to be turbulent, so find your Peace now and hold onto it for dear life).  But I have been constantly reminded of one of the names of Jesus being the Prince of Peace and also coming to this world to bring peace.  Either way, I’m clinging to that for now, and will continue to meditate on what it means as this year is slowly unveiled.

I also deeply hope that 2018 is a redemptive year for us. I openly wrote about how I felt some of the joy surrounding Sib’s birth and her first year of life was stolen from us via the massive upheaval in our lives that year, her lateness and consequently my induction, and her scary illness.  I had made peace previously with it by saying, well we’ll never have to do any of that ever again. But now that I’m looking down the barrel of another potentially trying but also potentially lovely year, I’m hoping that we get to enjoy, thoroughly enjoy, the fruits of our labor (so to speak), as we add in the final piece to our family puzzle via a sweet, precious newborn (my favorite).

Traditionally, transitions are NOT our sweet spot.  This is something we both laugh over and stew over, a bit anxiously at times.  But this transition is one we have seen coming from a mile away and that has given us a lot of time to prepare for, and talk over, what we want it to look like, to the best of our ability.

And so, with that, 2017 comes to a close.  A fond farewell to you, my friend.  I’m thankful for the growth you brought us, the memories I have made with you, and the closeness I have felt to my family inside your bounds.  But it is time to cast you off and see what your dear sister has for us as we set sail upon her.

And thank you, as always, for finding your way here time after time, Reader.  I will see you on the other side,

-smk

Summer

After a quick, unexpected trip North, and some end of the year craziness, today was our first true day of summer break*.  And it was every bit as magical as I expected.

*this post was written earlier but sat for a while until I could get back to it.

I was eating dinner with a bunch of moms last night and someone asked the group which we prefer: the schedule and routine of the school year, or the relaxed laziness of summer.  Only two of us were solidly in the latter group.  Everyone else said they preferred the routine.  I was stunned that I was in the the minority, but after having another 12 hours to contemplate it, I still agree: the school year is something I endure in order to thrive in the summer.

Today the girls slept in till about 8.  I didn’t get as lucky because I have been waking up to run before N leaves for work, but the payoff being I have the rest of the day to devote to them with zero interruptions while I am doing it.

Sib woke up a quite a bit earlier but lazily rolled around in her bed until I was able to get to her.  I made oatmeal, one of my favorite breakfast meals because of the variety of ways it can be dressed up.  Today we had it with almond butter and honey, and a handful of chocolate chips to entice the girls.  And because in my mind, chocolate is always acceptable for breakfast. I accidentally grabbed only two bowls at first and then quickly added a third before MG caught my mistake of not factoring her in.

“What are we going to do next?” they asked as soon as they had put the last bite to lips, their bowls already forming a hard crust of leftover oats around the edges.  I instantly felt the doubt spring up in me for an anxious second.  For one thing, I did not have a solid plan for the day yet as I wanted to take a more laissez-faire approach on day one to get my bearings. Secondly, I did not want to be their source of entertainment.  I am determined to let them spend many hours of “boredom” this summer and try not to intervene.

It’s playtime right now while I do my morning chores, I responded and they marched off merrily, MG happy to have time to play with her toys and Bea happy for a play mate.  Easy as that.

I made quick work of my chores, every once in a while hearing some verbal skirmishes upstairs.  They just need some time to acclimate, I told myself, don’t intervene.

Thanks to her early morning wakeup, Sibby went down for a morning nap, with promise of an afternoon one as well.  I set the girls up on the deck, each with a glass pan full of dried rice, and enough miniature cats, water bowls, litter boxes, and balls of yarn between them to hopefully inspire some Montessori free play.  It kept them busy for a good hour and a half.  I could not believe my luck.

Lunch was crock pot roast beef, shredded and served cold, with a small dab of mayonnaise and a proportionately larger smear of mustard, presented on gluten free white bread. On the side, pretzels in the shape of pillows with a small pat of peanut butter inside, and a plug of peach applesauce. The girls ate fast, talking through the meal, over their excitement of our plans to go to the pool next.

MG has loved the pool since she was a baby, but the past three summers, we’ve had to bribe her to get her face wet and swimming lessons have been met with many tears of fear and frustration.  This year she turned the corner, even before we could get to the lessons (another parenting lesson to just wait until they are ready?).  She has been jumping in, going under, and even trying to swim on her own, much to her own pride (which we have happily been stroking). Today she told me the first thing she wanted to do at the pool was a head stand.

Going to the pool at the noon-2pm hour usually doesn’t yield a lot of friends for the girls to play with.  Most moms of young kids are home during these hours, napping under the cool AC.  But we were in luck today as a little girl about MG’s age was there and eager to practice headstands too.

While I watched them play, LB floating lazily between us, and me keeping Sibby from plunging head first into the water, my mind instantly began writing a hundred blog posts while I tried to ESP them to my phone, less than a dozen feet away, that may as well have been a hundred.  I also couldn’t stop stewing about the disparaging comment a mom made to me on our way in that had to do with raising girls (right in front of my own little tribe, no less).  I don’t get those comments often, but when I do, they stick with me for a little while, like a bloated mosquito bite.

I looked over to the “big pool” and watched two boys, feet dancing on the concrete, hands reaching out to smack each other’s chest, in an effort to butt each other into the deep end.  They reminded me of young rams, both showing off and claiming territory, horns clashing loudly and every once in a while, locking. I feared for their safety as they were close to a corner, close to a ladder, and close to other little kids.  I tried deftly with sweeping glances to see if another adult, perhaps closer, hopefully a mom, was also watching this display.  That’s when the mosquito of insecurity bit me again.  Like maybe I wasn’t meant to have boys because I am too careful.  Or maybe I have girls and that’s why I am so careful.  I don’t know, but it’s something that nags at me the rest of the time we are there.

In another part of the shallow end, a clearly high-school aged couple was engaged in making a Boomerang video.  He was crouching on the concrete, she was practicing her jumps in the water, each time making a different face or motion with her hands.  I was struck with the silliness that goes into making those.  But the end result never looks that silly.  When we’re watching them, we don’t really think about what it took to make. And I pondered some more about all I had to be careful for.

Thirty minutes after we arrived, adult swim was called.  I had to explain it to the girls and I knew exactly what they were thinking.  Those ten minutes to a kid are the longest ten minutes of the summer.  I was there for a quick bribe though, organic cheddar ducks and applesauce pouches.  As I handed out these particular treats, I thought, I could not be a more suburban mom if I tried.  But it’s everything I wanted and exactly what I pictured it would be as I was growing up.

I’ve arrived.  Not in any worldly sense, no the opposite, actually.  I’ve arrived at the intersection of my childhood dreams and factual reality.  And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Long live summer,

-smk

2017

After the last post, I think it goes without saying, I’m very excited for a fresh start to 2017.   I love getting on social media and seeing that I’m not the only person who feels this way.  It seems there are many of us in a state of reflection and aspiration this January and I’ve loved seeing what others are doing, whether it be food fasts, picking a word to focus on throughout the year, or the good, old-fashioned resolution.  Solidarity.

I, too, carry a torch of hope this January as I look ahead to the big picture of a whole year. Three-hundred and sixty-five days of a blank slate.  In 2017, I want to obtain SETTLEMENT, to feel PEACEFUL, and RESTFUL.  I don’t have any specific resolutions this year, but I have a lot of prayers and this verse that keeps coming up

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, ESTABLISH, strengthen, and SETTLE you.” 1 Peter 5:10

I’m praying this is the year we find our next church home, our core group of friends, and N finishes his doctorate.  I’m hopeful we can put our finishing touches in this house and make it feel completely like ours and a comfortable resting place for a long time.

I’m dedicated to strengthening my body through time spent in exercise everyday and strengthening my mind by reading more books that I like this year (2016 was kind of a bust for good books for me.  I either didn’t finish or didn’t like most of the ones I read. Plus having a newborn killed my pace for a while).

Right now sewing is my go-to hobby in my afternoon free time but I am behind on Sibby’s baby book and feel the pressure to catch up, and ultimately finish around her first birthday.  I also feel the call to write more and whenever I read a good book, it fills my heart with an even greater longing to do so. I’m hoping that more & higher quality input = more & higher quality output.

I’m paying attention to the way I start to feel a bit sad everyday around 3:30pm.  I’m not sure the significance of this despondent hour; if it’s due to the winter hours and that’s when the light begins to change from full sun to creeping towards sunset, or if it’s when the day starts to feel like it’s over because MG is home from school and my short window of leisure is running out.

I feel stretched thin in my time, to be sure. Managing the needs of the three little ones is a lot, on top of caring for the house, keeping up with hobbies, and the aforementioned exercise. I think it’s good to pay attention to little nigglings of dark feelings and try to root out if they are coming from a good place or a negative one.  So my ear is cocked, proverbially speaking.

Being stretched thin makes me aware that I cannot give each girl my best, and carries with it some guilt.  I can’t decide if this is coming from a place of mom-guilt, remorse, or a true need to manage my time better, so I am paying attention here as well. Trying to manage and schedule us well so that I can feel a satisfaction as I lay my head on the pillow with how I spent each day.  Perhaps that is chasing after a unicorn, so to speak, but I don’t want to look back and think I could have done better, or even given up one small thing that would make a huge difference.

Finally, Is is weird that I am so dedicated to this blog?  That I’m still pecking away at it in the face of a collective blogging demise and despite not turning over a dime for it? I think the answer is yes.  I have steered away from and turned down all offers of sponsored posts because I think they take away from my original mission of the blog, which is to tell my family’s story from my perspective.  I’ve never cared much about growing my audience or scaling it, so to speak, but wrote with a hopeful longing that my humble thoughts will find their way into the hands of the right people. And, the public nature of it keeps me accountable (I’ve found through many false starts that I am not a long-term journaler.  The public nature of this blog is what keeps it running.  The comments and likes feed the bear.)

2017, here I come.  Older and wiser, worn and sleepier.  A fulcrum tipping towards peace and rest, I do so hope.

-smk