"I did it! I did it! I did it, did it, did it!" Read in your best sing song voice paired with the moves only a three year old can master. I couldn't recall what she was so proud of, but regardless, when this girl hits a milestone, she celebrates.
We do too. We celebrate our children's success stories. He puts two legs and two hands together and starts crawling across the floor, we grin and cheer (and cringe a bit and start covering all the plugs.) She climbs to the top of that super-d-duper tall ladder, and doesn't look back once, we grin and cheer again (and cringe just a bit once more.) Each step and leap from one milestone to the next does not go by without a celebration. Our children are confident. I imagine yours are too. Our culture celebrates our children, as it should.
But when was the last time we celebrated ourselves? When was the last time I stood up and did a dance and a little sing song because I reached one more milestone? In fact, why do I feel so vulnerable to share pride in myself? What would happen to my self esteem and confidence if I learned to celebrate myself or and my accomplishments instead of only focusing on what I could do better? Do I need to declare my goals in order to celebrate?
My hopes and dreams for 2015 were very simple and straightforward: Wake up. Having gone through and been spit out the other side of the first year of a baby’s life, I knew better than to set too many expectations for myself. There were no big goals or major resolutions in the new year. The only weight I told myself I had to lose was the total weight of my second born. The only races I was running that year was the marathon of mothering two. If I was organizing anything in the new year, it was going to be a diaper bag. End of story. I had one goal, and one goal only, wake up each morning and care for your children the best way you can on that day. I like to dream big, but I don’t like to fall short. And I really wanted to guard myself from the pain of depression and exhaustion that I recalled from the first of a little one’s life. I wrote myself a letter. I knew it would get ugly and I needed to stand by myself if anyone of us were to come out alive. And so if I made any single goal last year, it was to give myself grace to merely wake up each morning and just be.
But you know what, the beauty of that freedom is, as I look back, I think there was a little more than just waking up, a little more than just “raising” out of bed. When the days (and nights, oh the nights) are added together, sewn square by square into the quilt of 2015, there are some pieces that stand out, that shine. Some woven fabrics that surprised me with their beauty. And if I did not take the time to notice them, to shed light on them, to do a celebration dance, I would be doing a disservice to myself and to the One whom all the glory is given.
So, in light of not having a goal chart to check off in my year end review, I am creating what I am calling the Reverse Bucketlist. Had I had the foresight to see the potential that this year could bring, I might have included these items on my list for 2015:
- Experience Natural Labor
Boy oh boy, did I ever. My goal for labor was of course to end up with a healthy baby, but second to that I wanted to deliver my baby via VBAC. I found the right doctors who cheered me along, I stayed as healthy as I knew how throughout the pregnancy, and I opted for a natural labor (and hoped for delivery.) I did not anticipate that natural labor, i.e. experiencing every single agonizing animal sound wrenching contraction, would last for 20 hours. But in the end, right at the 10 centimeter dilation mark, when the doctor feared the worst and rushed me into emergency c-section, I had zero regrets. I believe even more than experiencing a complete natural delivery, I wanted to give my body a chance to do what it could do. And it did. I needed help with the delivery in the last 10 minutes, but those first 1190 minutes, those were all me and my body and the Good Lord who made me. And I am damn proud of it, too.
- Breastfeed my baby
This is a part of my mothering experience that I feel the most blessed. I have experienced little to no challenges with nursing my children, a fact that I know not all mothers can claim. And while I feel little ownership of this ability, I also know that there were many times when this was not an easy feat, mainly in the wee hours of the night. Other than a blissful 5 weeks when my baby slept through the night, I have had to be the soul care provider, often multiple times a night, for the last nearly 11 months (not to mention uncomfortable pregnancy kept me from sleeping in the last 2 months, bringing us to a grand total of over 12 months of little sleep, but who is counting?). I handled it with as much grace as I could muster, some days were more graceful than others. But in the end, I have nearly completed a whole year with no big plans to finish quite yet. Call it luck or blessings, either way, it is an accomplishment for any parent to nourish their child the best way they know how, and this happened to be the way I was able to care for my children. A milestone to check off indeed.
- Go camping with both children. Visit the cabin with both children.
Who knew camping with a 6 week old could be such a breeze? Really, we were in that sweet spot where sleep was such an ease for a newborn. Even though he was up a couple times a night, he would go right back to sleep. So why not sleep in a tent? He didn’t care. And we were already a little dazed by suddenly being parents of two, whynot feel dazed surrounded by the beauty of nature! And Caroline, well she could probably live in a tent if we let her. It was the one and only camping trip our family took last year, but it was fun, it was worth it, and it gave us the confidence to try out other trips throughout the year, such as our cabin visit a month later. Sure, it was more relo-cation than va-cation, but it was a memory we will cherish, and learn from. I can’t wait until we have a first camping trip of 2016 and then a big family cabin trip in July! We are such experts by now, it ought to be a dream!
- Move into Austin.
We had dreamed of this for a year and are still pinching ourselves when we go for walks and realized we actually did it. To be closer to everything we participate in on a regular basis - church, school, work, play - our lifestyles have just improved drastically. We had to make sacrifices for space and quality at times, but the pros out weight the cons more and more every day. It was no easy feat packing up a house and moving with two very small children, and we certainly hope to not have to do again anytime soon. But it was a big goal we set for ourselves and to see it come true is exciting.
- Spend a month away in the Midwest.
Best decision I made last year, well, one of them anyway. I saw all the people I wanted, we escaped the excruciating mind numbing heat of an August in Austin, and we came back refreshed and ready for an exciting fall ahead. The hardest part was being away from Mike. And I know he does not have the same warm and fuzzy feelings about being away from us for so long (probably because his mind was numbing in this heat) but we made memories I will always cherish. And being away from family like this means different sacrifices. I hope to make it work again. I am still dreaming of dinner on the patio under the setting Midwestern sky.
- Send my first born to school.
It’s a two day program for 4 hours of the day. So I might be painting this picture a bit large. But that was a big moment for me and for Caroline. I am more and more proud of her each and every day. Her love of learning and desire to be the best friend she can be, that is exactly what I dream for her. Big Things Happen One Day at a Time, and I am beaming with pride each day as imagine where this little one is going.
- Sign up and train for a half marathon.
In two weeks I get to see this accomplishment truly pan out. But the hardest part of doing a big running race is not the actual race day, it is the 12 or more weeks leading up to that day. Fitting in the mid week runs while still not sleeping longer than 3-5 hour stretches at night was exhausting. This was the first time I trained for a run while nursing and my energy level was challenged because of it. Making the sacrifice on the weekends is also a hurdle, but all thanks is owed to my fabulous coach and partner in parenting. Without him, those kids would not be fed each morning, I guarantee it. But above all, getting back out there after such a brutal previous attempt (more on that later but if you are curious, you can read about it here) was the biggest challenge to overcome. And when I finally hit those double digit numbers for my long runs, I saw I could do it. I hope to carry this pride all the way across the finish line in less than two weeks.
- Read more books, less blogs.
I'm not sure about the blogs part. I still have to check my Feedly account each morning. I find reading others' words inspires me for my own. But I do know I read for more books than I had imagined I ever would. Right before delivering it suddenly occured to me that while I might not have time for many things with two children under foot, what I could do while logging in hours of nursing was hold a book. I spent many a nap time or early hour of the morning reading. And when I didn't read the book I listened to the book. Cleaning the kitchen is far more interesting when paired with a good book. What surprised me the most with this reading was how many non-fiction books I completed. I have never been drawn to non-fiction, but so many recommended reads this year were memoirs. Since I write often about my own thoughts and experiences, I could very much relate to others sharing their stories. I'm not good with naming favorites. I always feel the book I am reading in that moment is my favorite. But I would say ones that stand out are The Creative Habit and anything by Liane Moriarty (I listened to two of her books, Big Little Lies and the Husbands Secret.) I am currently in the middle of reading All The Light We Cannot See and listening to The Rosie Project. This is a habit I hope continues in this new year.
- Visit Boston with the family
An epic trip, the first big trip since Mike and I visited Europe, and we did it with both children in tow. We loved every minute of it, if you couldn’t tell by the three hundred thousand blog posts I did on it (Start here.)But we learned an important lesson from this trip…exploring this awesome world is just as important for children as it is for us. You can do it. You need to do it. So go have adventures.
- Launch a new blog.
Speaking of adventures, the Award for Most Surprising Adventure of 2015 goes to…Raise & Shine! I would love to say I have been planning and dreaming up this blog for years, or at least months. But really, it was a simple thought that started brewing in early summer. Probably while I was out for a walk with the kids. Something with this new baby stirred up new creative juices, of which I had not been expecting. But instead of letting them sit on the back burner, I cranked up the heat. With support and cheering from my family and friends, I can say I started this adventure with few plans but big dreams. I am proud of the work, and I am proud of the tenacity. I needed this more than anything this year, and I believe the happiness it brings me is what is keeping me alive and growing.
"I did it! I did it! I did it, did it, did it!" I'm dancing today. I'm choosing to put that spotlight on some of the parts of 2015 that deserve the light. If this year is about shining, then I need to be proud of that light. Because when others see my light, they might see who deserves the most praise. Let the celebration dance commence!