My girls are out of town visiting Grandma. So Max and I are living it up, fulfilling all the dreams of an almost three-year-old. So far we have done lots of puzzles, played lots of games, read lots of books, and been to the zoo twice. This guy loves the zoo. We discovered this fact in the Spring at homeschool zoo day. I was shocked when Max showed as much enthusiasm for the animals as his older sisters, and even more disinclination to leave.
Today we spent three hours at the zoo looking at animals, and then he was thrilled to play in the splash pad area while the baby finished his nap.
Obviously, our biggest change is adding a new human to our family. Overall, I am pleased with how I handled this pregnancy and transition. I was gentle with myself during the pregnancy and did a pretty good job of not beating myself up for our high levels of media consumption. I also feel like I have dealt with my postpartum depression with grace. I have not felt depressed in about a month, and so I am also very grateful that it was short lived, but I take no credit for that.
This semester of homeschooling has been our most consistent and productive so far. I am a sprinter, not a marathoner. I love working with intensity for a short amount of time, and then letting my project drop and move on; so, consistency is not my strong suit. We joined a new homeschool group (Classical Conversations) and this has provided the framework and accountability to really help me buckle down and get it done, even with a newborn.
This has been a great year for our marriage. I am not sure when it happened exactly, but Paul and I have reached a point where our relationship comes very easily. We resolve conflict quickly and feel closer after we are done. We want to serve each other and we are mindful and grateful for the sacrifices that each of us makes. We have always had a good marriage, but it is only recently that it has become easy. I don't know if it will stay this way, but it is a great payoff for nine years of hard work.
In my lesser roles, I taught a youth Sunday School class this year and I am pleased with the relationships that I developed over the course of the year. All of my students will be moving on to the next class, and I will genuinely miss each of them. I was also the field trip coordinator for another homeschool group and I am happy with my work there. I feel like I added value to the group through field trips. I coordinate the local drop point for a co-op called Azure Standard. I fulfilled my responsibilities there, but it was very minimal. This year I plan to increase my communication with current customers and spend a little time advertising to new customers. I admit freely that this is completely selfish, since they recently added a small (very small) commission for orders. I was a pretty consistent visiting teacher this year as well. I had a really easy route, and a great companion, so I'm not sure how much credit I can take for that.
My house is still perpetually untidy. I'm never really sure what is considered 'normal' for a family with lots of little kids. I imagine I am in the normal range, and truthfully, I have spent very little time trying to improve. I have other things that are more important to me. We have talked about having people over weekly, as that guarantees that at least once a week the house will be perfectly clean. Plus, we like having people over. I am improving at preparing to leave town. The house used to look like it was ransacked when we left town for any amount of time, but now it looks mostly normal. I am figuring out how to pack in a more organized way, and my kids are getting older so they no longer channel a tornado while unattended.
I still do not spend the one on one time with my children that I would like to. I am having a hard time consistently making the time each day, which has been my goal for a while now. I have a new plan that I will start on Monday (which is when we start school again after winter break). Overall, I am happy with my parenting. I am usually kind, affectionate, and quick to forgive. I am getting better at expressing myself before I get too angry or overwhelmed, ie, "Ella, I know that you are not meaning to upset me, but for some reason I am not handling [insert annoying but not necessarily bad behavior] very well today." or just telling the kids I need some time along to calm down. I have been reflecting recently that I spend too much time correcting behavior that could be corrected, but doesn't need correction. It is hard for me to trust that my children are capable of figuring out appropriate behavior the majority of the time, even though I believe this is true. My goal is to be slow to correct and criticize and also do it mindfully, instead of in the moment.
I didn't spend the time I wanted to writing. I love to write and I just don't make the time to do it well. I am not sure that is going to change this year. There are other things that are more important to me right now, and I have other outlets that fulfill my creative needs. But long term, I imagine I will revisit this goal.
I did spend more time this year practicing the piano, and I have even seen improvement, which hasn't happened in a long time. I play well enough that I can get by without doing very much most of the time. But I volunteered to play 30 minutes of solos at a church event and it was a wonderful motivator to spend the time practicing. I loved it and have continued the habit.
We are not eating as many vegetables as I want, I recently made a goal to include vegetables at every meal, and we have done okay. It should be easier when we get back into the swing of things next week, and this is a relatively recent goal, so it hasn't really taken hold yet. For those of you who are curious, I have found that tomatoes (grilled), avacados, and bell peppers go with breakfast very well. We usually have cucumber, celery, or raw tomatoes with lunch, and then eat cooked vegetables at dinner (squash, broccoli, roasted carrots, peas, green beans). I personally eat too much sugar, but I think that might be the holidays talking. I will be glad when there is not so much access and focus on treats. Other than that, I am happy with our other food choices, we eat meat, but pretty sparingly. We usually eat one chicken a week, and then a pound of another meat spread out over a couple of dishes for the whole family. This has been just about right for me to not crave meat (like I did during Max's pregnancy), but not feel like we are eating too much. We are relatively low dairy I think, we go through about a half a gallon of milk, about half pound of cheese, a quart of cottage cheese, and a quart of yogurt, and a pint of sour cream each week. (These are averages based on how often I have to buy these items.) About half of our dairy is grassfed, and for now that's good enough for me. I could write forever about food, so let's just leave it there.
I never exercise. So, that's a problem. Also, I don't spend as much time outside as I want to. In my perfect world we would go on family walks every day.
I am happy with my relationship with my iPhone. I have disabled my internet browser and email and deleted Facebook and my other time wasters. This has been going on for at least six months. I love it, it is a tool not a toy, and it has worked really well for me.
I might watch too much television. I usually watch a show in bed while I nurse the baby before bed. Plus one other show with Paul during the week, plus a couple while I fold laundry (if I am lucky enough for my kids to leave me along and fold laundry in peace). Let's call it five hours a week. I'm not committed to cutting down, but I will consider it.
I also have studied the scriptures more consistently this year than I have in a long time. I haven't missed a day in maybe four months, possibly five. I am also pretty happy with our family scripture study, we read scriptures every day we do school. I would like to do better at reading again in the evening with Paul, and we also stink at Family Home Evening. But we do pray as a family at least twice a day. Also, Ella hates to pray (I assume only at home, since her primary teachers haven't said anything), and I would like to figure out what to do. We have tried a few things, FHE lessons on prayer, and also just talking about it, but she is a stubborn little cuss. Maybe we should just drop it. I have pointed out to the kids when I am feeling the Spirit to help them recognize it several times, and that has had a positive impact both on the moment, and also the time following it. I will continue to do that, and seek to do it with more frequency.
Well, I'm out of priorities. Here is to another year of growth and change.