Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 | This moment


We're a little over two weeks into 2015 and I can already tell you that I year from now I will not use the word calm to describe it. The honeymoon phase of E's newborn days has worn off and we are in the thick of parenting two small children. As I told Neil, I don't expect 2015 to be bad; I expect it to be hard.

With HP, there was a distinct turning point around fifteen months when he went down to only one nap. Freedom! Everything felt easier--because it was easier. E will turn fifteen months a few days into 2016. So while I know this year will be marked by all of the wonderful infant milestones and the joys of having a daughter in addition to our son, it will also be marked by the constraints of multiple naps a day and being off the bike for half the year. Neither are terrible situations, but both make life that much more challenging.

Before 2015 arrived, I spent time thinking about a word(s) I wanted to keep as a guiding intention/mantra for the year. I kept coming back to the phrase embrace this moment.

The inspiration for my mantra is from the book Momma Zen. One chapter in the book that focused on the fact that there is just this moment. Remembering that fact has changed my mindset. When both children are crying and melting down because they are exhausted and it feels like we are drowning: There is only this moment. As simple as it sounds, it helps. It helps me put it in perspective; it helps me see the situation for what it is; it helps me stop judging and just be.

The first year of parenting is hard. I'm sure all the years are/will be hard. But the first year is hard in a we are so tired and have no time to ourselves kind of way. So when life feels like it's falling apart all around me, I want to remember that this moment, as messy, stressful, and frustrating as it may be--or alternatively, as beautiful, joyous, and happy as it may be--is all there is. Just now. I don't want to spend my time with my kids constantly thinking about how after bedtime I'll get to read by myself. Or how if they would just nap at the same time I could write. It is not bad to look forward to life's small pleasures (for me, watching The Good Wife while eating dark chocolate), but I don't want to do that to the exclusion of seeing what is in front of me right now.

So this year, I want to soak it all in--the good and the bad. Because has hard as it may be, there will only be one 2015. I'll be working my way through, one moment at a time.

*I made the pictured collage at Sara's Reflection and Rejuvenation New Year's gathering to visualize the kind of year I want to have.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2014 | A look back

Mid-January isn't too late to post my year-in-review, right?


 On January 1st, I spent some looking back at the last year and planning ahead for the next at Sara's "Reflection and Rejuvenation" gathering. We individually reviewed 2014--what happened, what went right, and what could have gone better. With the past firmly in mind, we made plans for the upcoming year. Before I turn to 2015, I want to share my reflections on the last year.

The biggest events of 2014 were deciding to have a second child, getting pregnant, and giving birth. Everything else paled in comparison to becoming a family of four. When I zoomed out and thought about what words that best described the calendar year, I kept writing down calm, settled, and community.

Calm

It feels like our society has a competition for who can be the busiest. I have no interest in competing for that prize. I like having a free time, and Neil and I have set up our life in such a way to maximize it. We read for fun. A lot. After the kids are asleep, we sit around a talk, rehashing our days, laughing at silly jokes, and making plans for the day/week/year/lifetime ahead. We cook a homemade meal most every night and eat around the table. We go to bed at a decent hour. And that is just how I like it.

Of course, E's birth has thrown a wrench into a lot of that, and for the last quarter of the year much of the time it felt like we were just surviving. There was a whole month where it took two to three hours to put E down for bed. So we'd get our tired, non-napping toddler to sleep, then trade off with E until she finally went down, at which point we were too exhausted to do anything other than go to sleep ourselves.

And then there was the craziness of the move, where every spare moment we had from mid-April until mid-June was spent working on projects to get our house ready to rent.

So I guess I wouldn't say that the whole year was calm, but somehow, it's still the word that feels most right. Because even in the midst of moving and having a newborn, I still felt so centered. Yes, parts of our life were in upheaval, but other parts were not. Which leads me to the next word:

Settled

I feel settled in Austin. Phew. It's taken me awhile to get there. We have found a community, both in terms of physical place and people. While I am still not sure this is our "forever place," I am happy here. I have officially lived here longer than any other city as an adult and it feels like home.

Community

The longer we are here in Austin, the larger our community naturally grows, but I have also taken concrete steps to expand and deepen our ties here.

Sometime after HP's first birthday, I started getting serious about making friends here in Austin (making friends as an adult is hard!). Through that process--which was basically me asking people for their number and then actually following up--I met and got to know many new people. Some of my (and HP's) closest friendships are a direct result of those efforts.

Friends with children are wonderful (and essential at this point in my life), but I also need time to connect with the parts of myself not related to being a parent. I joined a book group at the tail end of 2013, and have loved that social and intellectual outlet. I am the only member with children, which means I get to spend hours in the company of other women without once mentioning diapers, naps, or toddler tantrums. Amazing. In addition to the lovely company, I get to read and discuss books--a favorite pastime of mine.

In late 2013 I joined the Steering Committee that helped to create the Yard to Market Cooperative and in May of this year, I was elected to the Board. My participation in the cooperative has connected me to the larger community and allowed me to keep a foot in the local food movement. Bonus: I get to interact with many thoughtful, engaged individuals who are passionate about increasing the economic opportunities available to small-scale growers in Austin.

The extent of our community revealed itself immediately before, during, and after E's arrival. There is nothing like having a baby to show you how many people you have who love and support you. Multiple friends who watched HP while we were at the hospital, countless meals brought to our doorstep (our friends are amazing cooks!), family who came to stay and helped with whatever was needed, and most importantly, people who offered a listening when I needed it most during the transition. There is no overestimating the importance of community during life's major transitions.

2014, you were good to us. New baby, new house, and a sense of being "settled." I'll take it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Life lately


Since my post on Thursday, things have looked up considerably.

E, my child who would only sleep in the Ergo, suddenly decided that she prefers to sleep on her bed and have a (somewhat) predictable nap schedule. This change will make it more challenging to be out and about with HP in the mornings, but overall, I love it. Now I can focus more attention on HP while she's napping in the mornings, and then they both (!) nap in the afternoons. Seriously amazing. Fingers crossed it lasts.

Having Neil home over the weekend makes everything easier. With him watching the kids, I can get other stuff done around the house, and vice versa. In addition to normal life, we managed to season all four of our cast iron pans, lanolize two wool covers to go with our new overnight diapers*, and take a load of stuff to Goodwill.**

On a slightly less positive note, we attended Neil's work Christmas party on Friday night. Neil was hesitant for us all to come, thinking it would be more stress than it was worth. I pushed hard to all go (because the other option was for him to go by himself, and I love a good Christmas party and wanted to attend), so we did. And he was right; it was stressful. E didn't want to fall asleep in the carrier like she usually does (see note above), so she was exhausted and crying most of the time. It didn't help that the other baby present, who is exactly one week younger than E, alternated from being alert and happy and dozing in people's arms. Not our child. HP did great--especially considering he stayed up two hours past his bedtime--but a two-and-a-half year old on the loose in a new house needs constant supervision. Confession: at one point in the evening, this happened:
Neil: Where's HP?
Me: I thought you had him.
Neil: Nope.

Neil starts walking through the house looking for him. I scan the crowd from my perch on the couch (I was feeding E at the time) and spot him. Outside. He had opened the door onto the back porch by himself and was pressed up against the glass door looking in on the party. I guess he needed a break from the action...
The thing we love most about Christmas parties is the food--obviously. I can summarize the general feeling of the experience by saying this: it was the first time I have left a party hungry, because there just was not time to eat. The whole time I kept thinking, this is just a season. Next year they'll be older and it will be a different story. Or we'll hire a babysitter. Problem solved.

In Christmas related news, I am inspired by the Girl Next Door podcast to bake Christmas cookies for our neighbors. I think HP will love this project, and I have been wanting to get to know our neighbors better. We'll see if it actually happens since it may feel like one more thing to do, in which case, I will happily abandon the idea in the name of sanity.

How was your weekend?

*We got the diapers for E, but are going to try them on HP, too. He's been in disposables at night for the last year or so because we could not find a cloth solution that he didn't leak through. We have heard good things, so hopefully this is it!

**That's right--I'm still getting rid of stuff. I just. can't. stop.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

When patience is nowhere to be found


On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say my parenting so far today is hovering around a 3. It feels more like -3, but I am giving myself credit for both children being alive and fed. 

Being patient is so hard when I am sleep deprived. Not just hard--impossible. And patience is exactly what you need when you have a toddler who is programmed to test limits.

Children, I hope to be a better parent tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then maybe sometime in the next month or two. And if not then, just know I am doing my very best.

It's just a phase right? It's going to get better? That thought is the only thing that keeps me going these days.

The longest, shortest time indeed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Home for the holidays

 
Last year we visited both sides of our family for Christmas--two weeks of vacation split between Missouri and Arkansas.

We read, we ate, we relaxed, and generally enjoyed a low-key holiday. HP was a champ when it comes to traveling and went with the flow. Later nap than usual? Delayed flight? Long trips in the car seat? No problem. The child who normally woke up before 5:30 a.m. regularly slept until 7 at both grandparents' houses. Amazing. All in all, the holidays were lovely.

That said, I am looking forward to staying home this year. Not because we had a bad time, and not because there was anything particularly stressful about our experience, but because I want HP to experience what I had growing up--a simple, beautiful Christmas at home.

I have always been attached to spending Christmas with my family--probably too attached at times. I love all of our traditions (most of which revolve around food, of course) and I wanted HP to be a part of it. But being home last year made me realize that I don't want to recreate memories of my childhood for HP; I want to create new memories and traditions with him.

After having stress-free Thanksgivings in Austin the last few years, the thought of spending Christmas at home is even more appealing. I don't want HP's holidays (or ours!) to be filled travel--no matter how pleasant the experience is once we arrive. Never having to travel for the holidays? Now that is living the dream.