It’s the first day of 2015 (or at least it was yesterday, when I started writing this post…), and of course that brings with it a time for reflection and for looking ahead – and, if you’re a part of our family, a day spent wearing pajamas and relaxing 🙂
As Matt and I were reflecting on this past year, we were noting all of the significant milestones and changes that had occurred. In February, we hit the one year mark of Madeleine CaiQun being part of our family. Soon after that, we decided that while we didn’t think we were in a place to adopt another toddler yet, we’d be open to adding child #3 to our family biologically, and at the end of March, we found out we were expecting our next baby. I spent the next 16 weeks or so feeling relatively miserable and trying to care for the girls through that as Matt wrapped up his semester. Then he had the opportunity to be part of the Wakonse Conference on College Teaching at the end of May. He spent most of his summer developing the course for Mizzou’s first online class offering of Drawing 1, which meant that we traveled less last summer than ever before – no trips to Wisconsin or to New York to visit family. This summer, the girls started gymnastics – their first “extra-curricular activity” – and we found out that Matt was awarded a promotion to his next rank as a faculty member. Fall semester started at the end of August and was Matt’s busiest teaching semester yet. In the midst of that, in addition to setting up our baby furniture and freezing meals and preparing specifically for Atticus’s arrival, we also undertook some significant home improvement projects, scraping the wallpaper off of our dining room walls and repainting that room and then painting our living room and ultimately building and installing built-in bookshelves along one wall. And then, of course, at the end of November, there was the arrival of our little guy. All in all, I’d say 2014 was a significant year for our family!
Even with all of that going on, though, the year generally felt relatively peaceful. Matt and I were talking this morning about why we thought that was. Some of it was clearly due to external factors, but in addition to that, we really pared down our commitments outside of our family. We also had more appropriate expectations about parenting and what all it would entail. And of course, there is the fact that up until the end of the year, we had the same 2 kids with which we started the year, and they were at pretty fun ages.
I’m a little more apprehensive as we look toward 2015. We are loving life as a family of five, but it definitely has its challenges. Chief among them is that we now have a baby who is pretty easygoing but obviously still needs fairly constant care just to meet his physical needs – feeding him, changing diapers, and helping him get to sleep – as well as two small children who are self-sufficient in a few areas but still require help to meet many of their basic physical needs throughout the day and are also high needs emotionally. Even though they play together fairly well, I still need to be the referee of their disputes, and when they get sad and frustrated throughout the day I need to help them talk through various situations, and I often need to help them obey when they would rather do something other than what I’ve asked them to do. It feels like it would be pretty simple to care for either the baby or the pre-schoolers, but the combination of all of them is challenging! And while I think we’ve laid a good foundation in all of our relationships over these last few years, we’re all still adjusting to our new family configuration and feeling out what our roles are in that context. The girls are testing limits, and Matt and I are finding that it is so much easier to give in to frustration and respond emotionally instead of maintaining an atmosphere of kindness and respect when we’re worn out and the girls are behaving inappropriately in some way and we’re trying to care for Atticus all at the same time.
Beyond parenting, it’s difficult to accomplish much of anything these days. Case in point: I’ve been working on this blog post for over 24 hours in no less than 6 sittings, and I’m only now getting it published. And apart from the help we’ve had from family members who have been in town during this last month or so, I doubt much cooking or cleaning would have been done. Now that we’re on our own again, those meals I worked so hard to prepare ahead of time and freeze are definitely a blessing. I am keenly aware, though, that we have only slightly more than 2 weeks until Matt goes back to work, and he has some travel coming up this semester, as well. And I’ll need to get back into taking care of the cooking and cleaning and other household tasks, plus return to at least a few hours of work each week myself fairly soon. Obviously we don’t need to be ready to tackle all of those things right at this moment, but thinking about adding all of them back in feels a bit overwhelming!
As I think about my goals for 2015, I think I need to keep things very simple. I’d like to keep our family and our household running somewhat smoothly. Beyond that, I really want to focus on what is most important – not the household tasks, but my people. I want to love big. Even with a new baby in the house, I want to maintain the closeness in Matt’s and my marriage that we were experiencing last year – and that will be hard. I want to parent my girls well even when I am frustrated with their behavior. I want to continue to be pro-active in doing fun things with them, whether that looks like a day at the zoo or reading their favorite books over and over again or doing puzzles with them or helping them to make bead necklaces.
And obviously I want to care for Atticus well, and I’d like to maintain the relationships I have with family and close friends, and I’d like occasionally to have time to have some thoughts of my own. All of this seems simple, but I think it will be pretty all-encompassing for me. In fact, I am entirely certain that I will not be able to do it all just in my own power. I’ve really been lax in maintaining my own Bible reading and prayer times recently, and I want to get back into that. I want to know God better, and I know that as I grow in that area, I will also be encouraged and be so much better able to love and care for my family well. I read an article recently about reading through entire books of the Bible at a time and was encouraged by that. Oddly enough, one of the most fruitful times in my life spiritually was when I was reading through and studying large portions of the Bible in that way for a Bible as Literature course at Northwestern that was taught from a pretty agnostic perspective. This morning I got started by reading through 1 John and hope to continue focusing on that book through January and see how it goes! I think we’ll just have to see how a lot of things go this year.
Here’s to hoping that 2015 is an amazing year, both for our family and yours 🙂