Sometimes I forget how beautiful my children are. Then I ask one to hold still while I check my exposure, leave the photos on the camera for a couple of weeks and then get blown away when I open the file...
As you could tell if you took the time to read yesterday's post (or even just to scroll down and down and down and down), 2010 was overwhelming for me.
Most days I feel like I've been steamrollered.
I'm a simple girl.
I have simple goals and simple dreams.
I get easily flustered and frazzled.
I need plans and schedules and predictability in my life.
I like to feel connected and inspired. Part of this reveals itself in the large number of blogs in my google reader. Those blogs fall mainly into two groupings:
Photographers and/or scrapbookers and other creatives whose work brings a smile to my lips and awe to my heart and
Super moms who have large numbers of children whom they teach, craft with, create with and prepare lavish and nutritious meals for in their beautifully decorated and perfectly organized homes.
I am not those women.
Attempting to be those women makes me tired and discouraged and grumpy. Attempting to be those women feeds depression and discouragement and often leads to a paralyzing inability to do anything because I know I'll never be able to do it as well as them.
I need to stop biting off more than I can chew, stop suffering from the-grass-is-always-greener-syndrome and stop judging myself based on impossible and imaginary standards. I need to be kinder to myself, to drop perfectionism and set my own standards--attainable standards. I need to stop scrambling for more and more and more and take time to give thanks for what I have.
Dreams are good but guess what?
So is reality.
At one point this fall I was lying in my bed weeping, swamped by a wave of grief and loss. Out of the silence of the night and through my open window came the mournful call of a loon on the lake and it suddenly came to me in a rush of peace and love that I was living my lifelong dream. I am living in a home in the country, by a lake, in the type of community where people support and encourage one another and everyone knows your name. I have a husband whom I not only love but like and admire, who makes me want to be better every day and somehow knows what I need and tries to provide it for me. He has a good job that provides for our needs and he's willing to work hard and make sacrifices so that I can stay home and make a career out of being a mom. I have 3 beautiful, smart, talented, healthy children who make me laugh at least as often as they make me want to scream. My God is good and merciful and answers my prayers, even when He does not answer them in the way I wanted or expected.
This is the dream of my childhood, my youth and my single days.
I AM LIVING MY DREAM.
So I don't have a beautifully decorated home that could be on HGTV. So I get behind. So I'm a crappy housekeeper (probably good that I don't have that beautifully decorated home if I'm just going to let the dust pile up). So I yell at my kids more than I wish I did. So I haven't sent out Christmas cards in 5 years (or is it 6?). So I'm not rich. So I've put on some weight. So I'd rather spend an hour with a good book--and I prefer Romance Novels to non-fiction.
I've decided 2011 is my time to finally find balance. To change the things I can and accept the things I can't. To let go of the guilt. To make small and specific goals and take the time to celebrate when I meet them. To be less rushed. To be less busy. To complain less. To practice saying "no" when it needs to be said. To be more patient. To be more understanding. To be more grateful. To be more happy.
This year I'm joining the One Little Word movement and plan to focus on my word in a big way.
I will rejoice every day; even when the day hasn't gone well.
I will rejoice out loud and I will rejoice softly in my heart.
I will rejoice in life and love, in rainbows and dandelions.
I will keep a gratitude journal, for there is much to be grateful for and I believe that gratitude and rejoicing are Siamese twins.
I will rejoice in the great and the small, in my triumphs, in the triumphs of my children, in the triumphs of my friends and the triumphs of strangers.
I will rejoice despite depression, grief and pain, focusing on the joys of the things and experiences and people life has sent to me instead of mourning their loss. I believe that there is a purpose to it all and trust that all will be revealed. I have learned that time is fleeting and I will rejoice in my faith that one day our sicknesses will be healed, our tears dried and our loved ones returned to us.
I will Rejoice in my God. I will rejoice in your God. I will rejoice in goodness wherever it can be found--and I will seek that goodness.
I am thankful to be called to work with the youth in our church right now. Our church's theme for our youth for 2011 is our 13th Article of Faith, which is
"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul--We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
I rejoice in the opportunity to focus on these ideas this year and to honour the amazing youth I know who embrace these ideals. I will be seeking after these things and rejoicing in them.
I plan to share my progress with you and hope you will rejoice with me.
Oh, if only there were a publish button connecting my brain to the computer! I composed so many blog posts this past month and got around to actually sitting and typing out....um....well, I guess you can see exactly how many I got around to actually typing out.
I have several goals for 2011 but don't feel that I can move forward until I've given one last look back--especially since so much of our lives this year never got blogged. Also because I think I need to give 2010 a fair shake. So much went wrong this year and the more that went wrong the more I focused on that. I honestly couldn't wait for this year to be over and done with. But when I started looking back I found that there was so much GOOD this past year that I was forgetting. I little reminder to myself that life is what we make of it and perspective is everything.
Without further ado....
January was a lazy month. It was cold but cozy. We spent lots of time snuggling on the couch, lots of time playing with the new Wii Fit, and lots of time being silly. I started a big 365 Photography Project and was enjoying finding things to photograph each day. I was also doing a great job of keeping my 2010 "get healthy" goals...at first. We watched as much coverage of the big earthquake as we could stand to view and gave constant thanks for our many blessings (and as much as we could afford to relief efforts). As the month progressed I found myself more and more lacking in energy and put it down to the encroaching February blahs. It finally occured to me at the end of the month when the last time I felt this tired was....and I bought a pregnancy test. It was positive. The first person I told was Princess (I actually got her to read the stick to me). This may have been the high point of the year--a new baby! So exciting!
February started off on the wrong foot. Actually, February slid off the wrong foot and left us concussed. On the first day of February my morning sickness hit in full force. I threw up 8 times by mid-afternoon and was counting the hours until Hubby came home....except he never came. He finally phoned just after suppertime to let me know he was in the ER and would be home when he could. What a day! He had slipped on a patch of ice on his way from a meeting and broke his hand. We were quite the pair.
Fortunately he only missed a couple of days of work and didn't need surgery. PHEW! The month continued on that way with small mercies making us give thanks daily. The first big snowfall Hubby and I stood at the window wondering what to do--he couldn't shovel and I shouldn't. Just when we wondered aloud what to do our next door neighbour appeared on his tractor and plowed us out. He had no idea what we were going through, he just showed up. He showed up all winter. He was just one of many angels that helped us get through a tough month. My exercise goals and 365 project were both given up early in the month (but boy was I losing weight!) and I had to stay away from the computer as more than 15 minutes made me ill. There was still plenty of snuggling with the kiddos though and excitement as they continued in Brownies, Sparks, Beavers, Dance, piano and various clubs and activities at school. Sweetpea was doing an Olympic Enrichment project at school and some of the most cherished memories of my life will be those early mornings where she would slip out of bed and snuggle up with me on the couch (which had become my sick bed) and we'd watch the early morning Olympic coverage together. We'd talk about how well Canada was doing and share little nothings and big dreams. Second highest point of the year?
March was a bit of a blur of misery. I hit my sickest point the first week...right at the same time as March Break. Oh, and our Boy spent his March Break suffering from Scarlet Fever. Just when we thought he was all better, on his last day of antibiotics, he broke out in hives and it was back to the ER. It turns out he is allergic to that particular type of antibiotic (no surprise--both myself and my mom are too). Eventually he was back at school though he never really got his energy back and would occasionally have a fever in the evening only to wake up fine in the morning. It was obvious his body was fighting a big battle against SOMETHING but we weren't sure what or how to help. The coming of spring was rejoiced over GREATLY--we were all looking forward to more time spent outdoors in the fresh air, my first trimester was OVER and the nausea and vomiting should be easing up in the next month (my body is pretty predictable that way) and we were all ready for a little more colour in our lives. Sweetpea had a low-key sort of a birthday celebration, but it was good enough for her. I felt guilty for not feeling up to making a cake, but she asked for an ice-cream cake and LOVED it.
April started on a high note. I was feeling a bit better; still nauseated but not vomiting as often, and we FINALLY put away our Christmas tree. Yes, we broke records in 2010 by having our tree up until April. We were just too sick and tired to get it down before then. We got it down just in time for Easter, and I even managed to make a respectable Easter dinner. The bunny came, the local deer dropped by to graze on the lawn...yes, things were looking up.
(Four little Easter friends from Grandma for our 4 little babies)
Sadly, it turned out to be an up before the biggest dip on the roller-coaster that was 2010. When I went to my 16-week wellness check-up, the doctor couldn't find our baby's heartbeat. (Strangely enough, the doppler was able to pick up a country music station though. Hilarious!) The doctor told me not to worry (but I did) and sent me for an emergency ultrasound to find out what was happening. You can read all about that heartache here. The short version is that our baby had died only days before, I was induced and delivered our son, Gaelan, on April 14th. I don't have words to describe the way this changed us all, individually and as a family.
(Looking out the sky from my hospital bed after they took him away, I thought I saw a baby sleeping in the clouds and snapped a photo. I kept wondering how the sky could be so blue.)
Life had to go on though and we somehow survived April. Friends from church and the village brought meals that first week and even came to help clean the house (after 4 months of illness and neglect it needed an embarrassing amount of help). The kids continued with their activities and the tulips bloomed. Both girls presented their Enrichment Projects and did wonderful jobs (and the few parents who noticed me bolt from the room to sob uncontrollably in the washroom while the kids sang that "I Believe" song from the Olympics were kind enough to say nothing). The Boy was sick again with a suspected case of mumps that turned out NOT to be mumps (though it took nearly a month to get the test results back). His lumps seemed here to stay and we got to take him to doctor and ENT appointments. Frankly between the two of us we seemed to always be at the doctor for the entire spring.
May miracles. I began seeing them all around me. Of course, maybe it was that perspective shift; so many things that I may have missed or taken for granted seemed the mightiest of miracles to me in May. May showers arrived and everytime I thought I was going to have a breakdown a rainbow would appear. I felt that God was near and that He knew my pain. Not that I was ready to forgive Him for breaking my heart.
The month started with our annual Music Festival. This year only Sweetpea sang in the children's choir (the others felt unmotivated by the lack of treats offered) but I sang in the Ecumenical choir. This year was the first that all 3 children participated and all did SO well. The Princess topped her piano classes. Sweetpea sang a sweet solo and placed second in her class and even the Boy placed with his spoken verse. To make it all that much sweeter, the Grandparents were visiting during festival and got to see everyone perform. May also saw a bittersweet Mother's Day and my last Kindergarten Mommy Makeover (the Boy is an artist!). Hubby travelled to Texas on a business trip and we made the best of it with his daily emails and phone calls, as well as fun times at the airport. It was a crazy month for Girl Guide activities and saw all of us girls head to the big 100 Years of Guiding Provincial Rally in Sussex. Later in the month I accompanied our Guides to Operation Olave in Woodstock where our first year girls placed 1st Overall AND took the Shianne Delong Memorial Award--a very high honour. I'm not sure I could have been prouder of those girls if I was their parent. And slowly....slowly I began to pick up my camera again.
June was a baby month. Showers, photo shoots, excitement....I may have nursed my broken heart by shopping quite extravagantly for friends and strangers--though I was genuinely happy for them. Just a little jealous. The rainbows continued to find me and soothe my soul. A heat wave hit early in the month and the kids and I were swimming at the lake by the 12th. THE 12th!
June was the month we got the final autopsy and test results for Gaelan, only to find out he was fine. I was fine and healthy, he was fine and healthy, and one day his heart just stopped beating. There would be no explanations for our loss from the medical community. The news had me throwing myself into life and my children's lives full force. There's no tomorrow so enjoy today! I tagged along on end of year field trips for both Sweetpea (St. Andrew's-by-the-Sea, a family favourite) and the Boy (Scott's Nursery). I helped with the Boy's Enrichment Presentation, planned and prepped for our Girl Guide Summer Camp, snapped photos everywhere I went, and got involved in anything anyone would let me get involved in. I cheered my three at their school's family fun day, with their amazing end of year report cards, and just for being themselves. At the end of the month we all went to camp--but not together. Guide Camp, Brownie Camp, Spark Camp and Beaver camp were all the same weekend. Crazy times! June was about grabbing the joy in life and wringing it dry. June was fun but frantic.
July continued in much the way that June had. We blasted off by spending Canada Day in St. Andrew's as a family (another highlight of the year). I had signed myself and the kids up for a couple of classes at BPS (now Big Picture Classes) and we were working on our assignments (which were always about fun). We shopped, we played, we visited, we threw ourselves into having the best summer ever. We visited DQ more than once (and the freezer at home was always well stocked with ice cream and fudgsicles). We did the reading program at the library. We drove to Fredericton daily for swimming lessons. We welcomed my Mom and her husband at our place for a few days before meeting them in PEI for a camping vacation that was jam-packed with adventure. We rarely stopped and we were rarely home.
July is the month for which I did 3 photo shoots and still have 3983 personal photos waiting to be edited.
Did we slow down in August? A little! We came home from PEI to another round of swimming lessons, but we were getting tired (well, I was, anyway). We wrapped up the swimming lessons and the library program, though we didn't stop swimming or reading. We blew bubbles and hung around in hammocks. We came home. We enjoyed our village's Community Days, we went into town to experience the Changing of the Guard, we did a little back to school shopping, but we basically wound down. We remembered that life can be enjoyed just as much at a slower pace. Sometimes it's even better to stand back and watch it all go by.
September was back to school. The Princess began Grade 4, Sweetpea Grade 2 and the Boy Grade 1. Hubby worked and worked and I was finally forced to face my empty nest, along with the hardness of my due date and all the "should'ves" that danced through my mind, dreams woven in winter and shattered in spring that never got to see the fall they were waiting on. I took up running and found myself back in PEI one weekend for a youth conference. The phone started ringing with requests for fall photos and I remembered that the plan for 2010, before our roller coaster started, was to start my own photography business. Did I still want to? The Boy turned 6 and celebrated with cake and gifts, including his newest and greatet love--Garfield. We found comfort in a return to routines and the structure that school brings, plus those crisp fall nights and warm sunny days that we love.
October is always our favourite month. It was dulled a little by the knowledge that someone was missing this year, but we still had fun. Nothing dulls the beauty and wonder of October, at least not in this part of the world. We had our Annual Trip to Hunter Brothers Farm and Corn Maze (Sesame Street this year--fun!). Note to self though--dress in lots of layers next year. We FROZE this year!
I quietly launched myself as a professional photographer and spent a lot of time on budgets and pricing and so forth (and it never ends!). I gave up running. We invited friends for Thanksgiving who brought Dutch Blitz with them, a game both Hubby and I used to love playing and forgot existed. So much fun! I saw a moose at the school and she was kind enough to let me take lots of photos. I had lots of photoshoots and kept busy editing them all. We kept busy with all of our various activities (so busy!). We celebrated the Princess' birthday and Hallowe'en. We smiled more.
We started November with a trip to Halifax for Gaelan's interrment. It was the first time the kids had stayed in a hotel, so there was fun along with the sadness. We spent some time at the temple before the ceremony, another first for our kiddos. We said good-bye.
We saw snow early in the month (we actually got some snow for Hallowe'en) and enough to play in by mid-month. We had Christmas Mommies and told Santa our wishes, observed Remembrance Day, and started plotting our Christmas (cantata practices!). We girls were able to attend a big Guide Sleepover in Brookside Mall (in Fredericton) together and had a ton of fun.
December was busy yet not. We had a pretty low-key Christmas this year. We sang in the Cantata, attended our ward Christmas dinner, decorated the house, baked....but we did everything a little less than usual. I only made a couple batches of cookies instead of all the cookies and squares I usually crank out for Christmas. We decorated later than usual (and I'm itching to take things down). We saw insane weather with a big storm every Monday in December but were spared the flooding that many of our friends and neighbours struggled with. We had a quiet Christmas where we all took turns with some kind of gastro-intestinal bug (the only one who escaped was Hubby) and stayed home to bring in the New Year together. My December photos aren't even off of my camera yet--and that's ok.
All in all I'd have to say that 2010 was a difficult year. We were stretched in so many different ways and we're still figuring it all out. It truly was the best of times and the worst of times. We'll hope that 2011 has more best than worst in store for us. Honestly we could all use just a bit of a rest.
In an attempt to focus on the best, I'm leaving you with the kiddos' ideas of what they liked best about 2010.
1. Our trip to PEI!
2. Swimming lessons.
3. Christmas Eve Party at our friends' house (first time we went out for Christmas Eve).
4. Dance lessons/recital.
5. Music Festival.
1. Playing with the neighbour's kittens.
2. Birthday party at the twin's farm.
3. Having a White Christmas.
4. Seeing lots of bunnies.
2. The twin's birthday party (different twins than Sweetpea's friends).
3. Beaver Camp
How would you sum up 2010? If you've done some kind of a summary post on your blog, I'd love to see it! Link me up!
The title of this blog comes from my best friend's mom; who critiqued my high school English journal as "full of superfluous fluff". This is where I embrace all that fluff and share it with you in its pure, unedited, rambling glory.