Monday, January 18, 2016

2015 | A look back

Before I started writing this post I went back and re-read my post about my intentions for 2015. I was surprised by how spot on I was with what I expected. There were many, many wonderful moments and I feel like I did my best to soak up the good in this stage of life. But it was also very, very hard. Here are some highlights from the year in list form:

  • Neil and I both turned thirty.
  • Neil applied for and got a job in Bloomington, Indiana.
  • We celebrated six years of marriage.
  • HP turned three.
  • We moved across the country.
  • We sold our house.
  • E turned one.
  • Neil studied for (and passed!!) the Professional Engineering (PE) Exam.
If I were to summarize the thoughts/sentiments/activities that dominated 2015, they would be:

Parenting two small children

Raising an infant and a three-year old is hard work. I frequently needed to remember my words for the year (this moment), take a deep breath, and embrace what was right in front of me: exhaustion, joy, craziness, frustration, sweetness, and chaos--I experienced them all, often in the same day or hour.

Having a baby again was both a challenge and a joy. So many things were easier the second time around (we know what we're doing!), and also harder (there are two of them!). We know that E is our last child, so were able to appreciate her in all of her lovely infant-ness. One of the biggest highlights of the year was watching her and HP interact as she has grown. As much as I loved her infancy, I am thrilled to be leaving the baby days behind and moving into the next phase of life as a family of four.

Moving

At the start of the year, I had no idea that our days in Austin were so numbered. Early in the year we decided that Neil would start actively looking for jobs elsewhere (here are some of our reasons why), but we were very particular about the type of place we wanted to move and did not know when the right thing would come along. But here we are, and happily so.

Solo-parenting

Neil taking the PE dominated the last half of our year. From August until the end of October he was studying in every spare moment. I wish that statement was an exaggeration, but it's not. Every night once the kids were in bed he would pull out his books and study. Same thing on the weekends. I ended up picking up the slack around the house, taking over dish duty (usually his responsibility), and doing more parenting on the weekend so he could study. 

Really, the whole year felt like a lot of solo-parenting. In Austin I took on more childcare because he was applying for jobs, then applying for the PE, then fixing up the house to sell. Once we moved, he went right into studying for the PE. It is only in the last two months of the year that we've found any kind of new normal. I am looking forward to continuing to find a better balance in the evenings and on the weekends in the upcoming year.

Sleep deprivation

So very, very little sleep was had in 2015. A week or so ago both kids slept through the night and I turned to Neil and asked, "Has that ever happened before?!" I know it has, but I can count the number of times on one hand. And I wouldn't need all the fingers. E has been our early riser (oh, hello 4:45 a.m., how are you?), and HP has been waking up multiple times as night. Sigh. I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. 2016, may you be filled with many hours and nights of uninterrupted sleep.

The next thing

There were many times this year where it felt like we were waiting to get through "one more thing" before life could return to normal. Applying for jobs, packing up the house, applying for the PE, moving, unpacking the house, taking the PE... And now we've arrived. Thank goodness.

Good

Despite all the craziness, the lack of sleep, the big life changes, and the never-ending needs of two small children, things have felt good. Sometimes in the evenings I will just look at Neil and say, "Isn't life good?" We have two amazing kids, we have found the place where we want to put down roots, we have a supportive community of friends and family... Quite simply--we are happy.

So if 2015 brought that much happiness and joy, I can only imagine how amazing 2016 will be. Right now, it looks shiny, new, and full of possibilities.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Social media: A new approach for a new year

Just before the holidays, I decided I needed a break from social media. I noticed that after I had spent any length of time staring at my feeds, I felt worse than I did before. It is so easy to sit down after a long day of parenting and mindlessly scroll. But when I stopped to ask myself if I was gaining anything from the experience, the answer was no. So I deactivated my Facebook account and uninstalled Instagram from my phone.

One thing I have learned from reading Gretchen Rubin's books is that I am a textbook abstainer. It is much easier for me to not get on Facebook at all than it is for me to regulate myself. Taking a break showed me that I don’t miss it when it's gone. Now, instead of falling into the rabbit hole of my feeds, I find myself picking up a book, or writing, or texting a friend, or talking to Neil--all of which are preferable to spending time on Facebook. This last weekend, while talking to my wise friend Abby, I decided to delete my account altogether. It may seem a bit scorched earth, but I am confident that it is the right decision for me.

Facebook is touted as a great way to keep in touch with friends near and far. I do know more about acquaintances lives through Facebook, but I haven't found that it helps me deepen those relationships. I keep in touch with a good number of out-of-town friends over the phone and email, which I plan to continue. If anything, I think being off of Facebook will help me connect more to the people I love because when I am seeking connection I am going to call, text, email, or (gasp!) arrange to see someone in person.

Facebook has permeated so many aspects of our lives that even though I wanted to quit, I kept thinking of reasons I should stay on. For example, I have found that here Facebook is used more than Craigslist (which was not the case in Austin) to access the local secondhand market. Solution: before deleting my account, I added Neil (the very definition of a moderator) to a handful of  local buy/sell/trade groups.

So here's where social media and I stand right now:

  • I deleted my Twitter and Pinterest accounts, neither of which I ever used.
  • I deleted my Facebook account, which I used far too much.
  • I culled the list of blogs I follow on Feedly to the ones I am truly excited to read.
  • I deleted the Instagram app from my phone, with the intention of reinstalling it in the future.

I have not deleted Instagram because I do find enjoyment from that feed. When I go back to it, I plan to be even more intentional about who I follow. For example, I follow several healthy food blogs. I love the content in theory, but I always move right past the photos. When I want food inspiration, I prefer seek it out rather than have it come to me. I am trying to be honest with myself about what I really love in my feed, and what I scroll past, then seeking out more of the former.

Before I go back to Instagram, I want to set some clear boundaries with myself about when I will use it. Ideally, I would scroll through just once a day. I like the idea of doing it in the evening once the kids are in bed and the house is picked up, but I find that when I pick up the phone it becomes hard to put it down. Perhaps that will be less of a problem now that Facebook will not be an option? I am waiting to go back to Instagram until I can find a sustainable solution for myself.

At this stage in my life I have precious few moments to myself and I want to use them in ways that truly bring me joy. I know that my approach is not for everyone and that other people find a lot of value in Facebook. For me, Facebook was becoming a distraction and a net negative in my life and cutting the cord altogether works for my personality. In a few months or years I may change my mind, but for now, I am happy to be spending less time on my phone and more time engaged with what's right in front of me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Life lately


Friends, it has been a rough start to 2016. A stomach bug has been going through our family. I won't go into details (because who wants or needs to hear that?), but let's just say I'm ready to erase the last few days from my memory. E has somehow remained unscathed (may it continue!), but the rest of us have been limping along. One upside: both HP and E are napping right now, which never happens.

In happier news, Christmas was low-key and lovely. HP is still so sweet about opening each gift and wanting to play with it for awhile before moving on to the next one. It was just the four of us so we had a lazy morning and took our time. When E needed a nap, HP and Neil headed to the park and played for a solid two hours before returning home to do more presents. The biggest hit was the used wagon. Both kids loved to ride in it. I loved hearing HP say, "E, get in, E! I'll give you a ride! I'll hold it still for you to climb in!"

I recently finished reading The Last Child in the Woods after reading Kelsey's list of parenting resources. Many of the books/sites I have found most helpful were on her list, so when I ran across one I hadn't read I put it on hold at the library. To be honest, I found the writing to be a bit of a slog to get through, but the content was fascinating. We've always loved being outside with the kids, but reading it has renewed my desire to find nature in our neighborhood and explore. It has also made me think about the type of property we want to own in terms of access to natural places.

Speaking of buying a house, we are in the process of getting pre-approved for a mortgage and comparing closing costs and rates across companies. Not exactly fun, but exciting to think about and plan for buying our (hopefully) forever home.

And the biggest news: I am taking a three-day trip away from both kids to visit a good friend from college. This will be the first time I've spent more than a handful of hours away from E. She will be 15 months, which is about the same age HP was the first time I left him (also a three day/two night trip, that time to NYC). I cannot put into words how excited I am to talk, eat delicious food, go on walks, and talk some more. Of course the best part will be catching up with Abby, but I have to admit that I have been day-dreaming about the plane ride (no wrangling kids! the luxury!) ever since I booked my ticket. Also: two nights of uninterrupted sleep. Priceless. Sleep has been less than ideal (read: terrible) at our house and I am not sad to be leaving that behind for a weekend.

I have lots of thoughts on 2015 and goals for 2016 that I'll share soon. The turning of the new year always carries with it such optimism and motivation. Our family has gotten off to a slow start this year, but we are now on the mend and I am ready to turn my focus to harnessing that positive new year energy and making some changes.

Happy 2016!