Hello, hello! Happy 2022! December was full. I had a lingering cold (but not COVID!) that turned into an ear infection but there was also holiday magic and amazingly even some rest. Then I spent the first week of the new year in Austin where I snuggled my new namesake niece, Quinn Kelsey, and doted on my sister and nephew. It was so so special.
Now we're getting back into the swing of our regular routines. I love the holidays but also find myself delighted to greet my usual habits once again. I'm embracing a gentle start to this new year and am taking January to finish some wrap-up writing for 2021 and to finish contemplating my intentions for 2022.
Twenty twenty-one was our first full year as a family of five and it was the year we started finding our groove, even as we continued to navigate life during a pandemic. I revisited my first post of 2021 and remember the weary optimism that I had heading into the new year. I closed 2021 feeling more balance and like a healthier version of myself than when we started the year. Thank goodness! What was missing at the beginning of 2021, and thankfully what we have now, is predictability and routine both of which create a feeling of foundation. I am a better parent, better spouse, and better human being on solid footing that includes sleep, movement, and introvert time.
What specifically helped rebuild me foundation this year were COVID vaccines, the return of our in-person school routine, Maeve's sleep improving, returning to the gym, and having part-time childcare for Maeve. Thanks to all of this I'm not feeling as weary as I was at the beginning of last year. I feel, perhaps, quietly optimistic. I'm still reflecting and working to solidify my 2022 goals. Usually I like to have my goals set by about January 1st. This year I didn't feel that pressure but they'll be done by mid-January-ish. I'm also feeling drawn to make fewer goals this year and for my goals to have depth and not necessarily breadth.
A few other reflections on different aspects of life at the end of 2021...
In the past year we emerged from the sleep-deprived fog that marked the first many months of Maeve's life. We watched Maeve bloom from a babbling, crawling baby to a walking, talking toddler. Overall she's easy-going but we are being reminded of the mercurial nature of toddlers. My nursing relationship with Maeve ended sweetly on January 2nd, just shy of her turning 21 months, when I nursed her for the last time before leaving for my trip to Austin. Since then she has asked to nurse but I suggest doing something else and she is easily distracted and forgets. I nursed Maeve the longest of my three and am thankful for such wonderful experiences being able to nurse. I'd like to commemorate my nursing commitment and journey in some way but I'm not sure yet what that will be.
Last year the boys seemed to really leave their little boy selves behind. Dash turned 8. Cedric just turned 7. The boys returned to our neighborhood school in-person last February and that brought a welcome sense of normalcy and much needed structure and socializing for them both. In 2021 our boys fell in love with Minecraft and with chapter books. They still love to wrestle and be completely silly together. They are still captivated when we read aloud to them. Managing screen time, homework, and figuring out what the heck everyone will eat for dinner feel like weekly if not sometimes daily parenting challenges. Navigating more complex emotions and friend/social situations have been bigger parenting challenges this year. More to come on that front I'm sure!
Just in December I started to feel that our family dynamic has changed in a beautiful way. Since Maeve's arrival our family dynamic was two older boys and a baby. But now more often I just think of us as a family of five which I love! With Maeve napping once a day now at a consistent time we can plan more family adventures plus Maeve can join in most things in her own way, from playing at the park to visiting the farmer's market. More and more all three kids can be found together. In the morning when Maeve hears stirring from the back of the house she gleefully calls for "brudders" and marches back to see them. She says "hewwoa!" and gives hugs to greet them. Just today Maeve got a plate from the dishwasher and then three apples from the fridge and took it all back to Cedric's room for the three of them! I love seeing all three siblings together and to see how their bonds with each other are developing. I often say to Chris, "I love having three kids so much." And I do!
Uninterrupted conversations and quality time with Chris felt almost non-existent in 2020 and did come back to us a little bit in 2021 although not consistently. I'm really proud of us for how well we've supported the other through all the challenges and changes of 2020 and 2021. We're both passionate about our creative endeavors and exercise and we readily take on solo-parenting stints to make sure those happen for the other person. But there's not much time for the two of us after the day-to-day household management, parenting, and then finding time for our own endeavors. More time with Chris is something I want to prioritize this year!
Twenty twenty-one ended up being my best reading year ever; I read over 100 books which I have never done before. A significant number of books that I read were audiobooks which was not part of my regular reading routine until this year. I have very fond memories of listening to audiobooks this year. At certain hard parts of the year they made for much-needed distraction, entertainment, and companionship. For the first time in my life I feel that my actual reading pace is approaching my ideal reading pace. Previously I would hear about so many more books that I'd want to read than I had time for. Now that I'm able to read more (mostly because of audiobooks), my to-be-read queue does not feel as overwhelming. I love all of the stories and information I was able to consume last year and feel they had a significant influence on my life. My life feels richer and I have a better understanding of the experience of others through my reading. It feels impossible to pick a favorite read so here are the books I rated five stars on Goodreads in 2021:
The Idea of You, Just Mercy, Eligible, The Book of Longings, Rodham, How To Be A Family, Bad Blood (a re-read), Sitting Pretty, Olympus, Texas, The Great Believers, Piranesi, Beyond The Bright Sea, Shrill, The Ensemble, Caste, and Calm Christmas.
Here's my Goodreads profile if you'd like to keep up with what I read throughout the year.
For me, this year brought a slow return of the things I need to feel my best self including predictable routine, exercise out of the house, and time alone to work and recharge. I'm so proud of launching the audio version of my blog this year and making that an ongoing format. Originally I had planned to only produce the audioblog in April and October and instead I started in April and didn't stop.
Towards the end of 2021 I found myself thinking about the effort that goes into parenting a 1, 7 and 8 year old. I think it's easy to write off all the physical and emotional work of parenting because it's so familiar; we've been doing it for years and so shouldn't it feel effortless by now? Some things feel easier for sure. And it doesn't feel as bewildering as those first few years when everything was new. But it's still so much work, and especially with three kids. It's everything from all the daily tasks to stopping what we're doing to help someone through a big emotion. It's dedicating spans of time to be fully present and not trying to multi-task. There's also parenting work like working through what our screen time policies are as the boys' interests and our family routines change. There's figuring out if everyone has weather-appropriate clothing that fits. And of course so many other things! We don't account for the parenting and related household management hours in the same way we account for paid work. For me personally, this leads to my wondering why I don't get more done or to thinking I have the bandwidth to take something new on when really I don't.
Accurately accounting for how I spend my time also extends to writing and podcasting. These are things I've been doing for so long and that are so familiar I almost forget about the time they take up. In forgetting how much time I truly need to get into the flow of creating I'm not protecting that time and it is so easily absorbed by other things. So I've been reframing how I account for my time in parenting and creating and I'm taking this perspective with me into the new year.
I'm thankful for the good things 2021 brought to me and my family. I'm thankful for being able to weather the hard parts of the year and also that they are behind us. I'm thankful to greet a new year, to see what good things it has to bring, and to see what good I can make of it.
Wishing you light and health in 2022, friends!