Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 | A look back


It's that time of year--Christmas is over and a shiny new year is only days away. But before I start setting goals and intentions for 2017, I want to reflect back on the last year.

My word for this year was create, and I have to admit that it was mostly a fail. I did have a good stretch of writing in July and August, and launching the podcast was a success--though something I had not planned on doing at all when I chose the word create--but I did not make time for the other pursuits I intended to like hand-lettering, playing piano, and collaging.

I think the problem was one of priorities: I wanted to create, but not more than I wanted to go to sleep or read a good book. Sleep is much improved in our house, but still in limited supply. I start parenting in the 5 o'clock hour, so by the evenings I am ready to read, watch a show, or hang out with Neil. My best creative work happens in the morning and that is not time I have available for my own pursuits at this stage in our lives. I had listed those same problems in my original post and was overly optimistic about my desire to work during the blocks of time I did have available. I am going to try and be more honest with myself as I set my goals for 2017 so I don't have to rehash the same shortcomings this time next year. I may not have done everything I wanted to, but I am happy with what I accomplished under the circumstances.

Three big things that happened in 2016:

We bought a house and moved. Finding, buying, and moving into our house consumed much of my time, energy, and thoughts for the first third of the year. We are now in a house with no move in sight, which feels strange, but in a good way.

We started going to and then joined a church. Being part of a church community again has been a highlight of the year for me. Being connected to the ritual of church, the support of a community, and a place where social justice is a central aim has steadied me, particularly in the days and weeks since the election.

Abby and I launched a podcast! We started discussing this idea in the early summer and uploaded our first episode in November. It has been such fun to work on a creative project together and to share it with the world.

If I had to pick a few words or phrases to describe our year in retrospect they would be:

Settled. It was our first full year in Indiana. Our family is settled in the house, HP is settled at preschool, and Neil is settled at his job. We have now been in Bloomington for a year and a half. Things feel less new and more routine, but not in a boring kind of way, in a feels like home kind of way.

Easier. Parenting two kids is not easy, but it is getting easier all the time. HP and E can play together and entertain each other in a way that was only a dream last January. E is down to one (or no) nap, which simplifies just about every aspect of our days.

Content. I have been feeling at ease with where we are--the amount of stuff in our home, the number of activities in our lives, and the relationships we are building here in town. Life is not perfect, but it is ours and it is good.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The days before Christmas


Christmas is almost upon us. This year, even more than years past, I am so looking forward to its arrival. The season has felt particularly magical this time around. HP really gets it this year, in the best possible way. There is also something special about the fact that this is the first year we will be celebrating in the home we hope to be in for many years to come. I get a huge smile on my face just thinking about how much delight there will be on Christmas morning.

A snapshot of what's been happening in our home leading up to the big event:

Evening walks. Neil has been taking the kids on a walk to see Christmas lights most nights after dinner. Sometimes it is only up and down our block, sometimes they go farther afield. The kids love the novelty of being outside while it is dark; it is the perfect activity to end the day.

Answers to "what's Santa going to bring you?" HP: a drum, a plant, and a candy can (not misspelled, that's what he says). E: "Christmas!"

Food traditions, new and old, including Chex mix, cheese ball, enchiladas, egg and sausage breakfast casserole, and starting this year, my great-grandmother's cinnamon roll recipe. There are so many things to love this time of year, but delicious and nostalgic food ranks high up there for me.

Going to a play with Neil. We saw a local production of Oliver! We hadn't been out together in what felt like ages. I would love to make seeing a play or musical performance something we do every year in the week leading up to Christmas.

Playing Santa. HP determines who is the kid, the parent, and the Santa. "Santa" wraps gifts in cloth napkins and puts them under the tree at which point the kid wakes up and gets to open them. This process brings an astonishing about of joy and entertainment to HP. E enjoys it, too, when she isn't upset about things she wants to play with being wrapped up. Neil likes being the kid as that means he gets to pretend to sleep on the couch while the present wrapping is happening. Something for everyone!

Reading all the Christmas stories. We have many favorites, but HP especially loves the ones by Jan Brett. And for some reason both kids are drawn to Fancy Nancy and Maisy books. Starting the weekend after Christmas we have been reading Christmas books all day every day.

Being part of a church community. We started regularly going to church this summer and joined earlier this month. I so love the ritual and community church provides. It is important to us that our kids have a place to explore their beliefs and the beliefs of others and--most importantly--put those beliefs into action through the social justice work of the church. (Bonus: the music is phenomenal.) Finding church can be a challenging prospect and I am thankful to have found a good fit for our family. On a related note: children's Christmas pageant tomorrow. Excited doesn't even begin to describe.

Limiting gifts. Neil and I aren't exchanging gifts and we are keeping it simple for the kids, which leaves more time to just be and less time spent shopping and/or thinking about shopping. A win all around.

Wishing you all a holiday that is merry, warm, and bright.

(p.s.--You can hear more about our Christmas traditions on the latest Friendlier podcast.)