2016 In Review

The Bad of 2016

  • The first quarter of the year consisted some of the most stressful months of my life. Nolan was still an infant who wouldn’t stop screaming. Our house was on the market and it was a constant battle to keep it picked up and clean with three children. Selling the house proved to be a nightmare, with one obstacle after another. I really thought I was going to crumble under the stress.
  • The amount of time I spent driving in Houston traffic from January to May nearly killed me
  • Our friend Caroline passed away in the spring, my grandfather in the summer, and our friend Kaiman just a few weeks ago
  • Charlotte has been three years old for all but three weeks of 2016. Enough said.
  • This year, I’ve found parenting to be way more frustrating than enjoyable.
  • I’m angry and fearful about the future of our government
  • I’m struggling with the Church and how I fit in as a more liberal Christian.
  • I barely cooked at all the whole year. But I’m fixing that with my InstantPot.
The Good of 2016
  • We moved to our new house in a wonderful neighborhood and have some great neighbors
  • Grayson has had a relatively good year health-wise: He recovered really fast from surgery to remove the hardware from his hips, and he hasn’t been sick as much as in the past.
  • Both Grayson and Charlotte started new schools and we couldn’t be more pleased with them. They have incredible teachers and they both love going to school.
  • The school bus might be my favorite part of 2016.
  • I was invited to join Houston Moms Blog. I have a ton of new, amazing friends and get to write for a larger audience. Definitely one of the highlights of the year.
  • My brother got married and I have an amazing new sister in law and a cute new niece and nephew. Downside: they live in Australia.
  • I got a lot of clarity on where I stand on political, social and moral issues.
  • I found a ton of new podcasts that I love
  • I blogged every day for 30 days in November and revived my love of writing
  • Hamilton
What I Learned in 2016
  • I can love people wholly and dearly and still be angry and disappointed with them at the same time
  • Young toddlers are the cutest, yet most maddening and frustrating creatures on the planet
  • To drink and enjoy beer
  • To drink coffee (almost) black
  • I am totally satisfied with my family and am 100% content with being done having babies
My goals for 2017
  • Revive my creative side and hopefully use it to make money again
  • Keep blogging regularly
  • Cook dinner
  • Enjoy my children more that I did this year
  • Do something other than debate on Facebook to change the world
  • Keep reading/learning
Happy New Year! Here’s to a great 2017!
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Santa Letters 2016

We were in the hospital the past few days with Grayson (stomach bug and dislodged feeding tube) so I’m late posting the kids’ Santa (Grandaddy) letters this year. I think these letters just might be my favorite Christmas tradition. 


Dear Grayson,

What a big year for you!  I see you are sporting a new house, new school, new glasses, and a missing tooth!  The IT elves have entered all this new information into our Windows 10 database – what I am happy to see for myself is what has not changed – your sweet spirit, genuine smile, and ability to receive love.  Grayson, this season is a confusing mixture of universal truth and meaningless platitudes, and of the best and worst of communities.  But you my friend, have it figured out.  You are loved.  


Speaking of platitudes, the one that I have had trouble processing during this time of year is “tis better to give than to receive”.  First, unless you are a lifelong resident of one of the ten counties that make up the Scottish Highlands, do not use the word “tis”.  It’s a clumsy attempt to introduce an unnecessary contraction without paying the price of an apostrophe.  Second, if giving really is so great I would be earning more than minimum wage at my mall gigs. 


More to the point, remember what I have been telling you in these letters since you were a baby.  Christmas is all about receiving.  The world was in darkness and without hope.  God brought light to the world in the form of a Savior.  That Savior is Christ the Lord.  He does not need an Occulus Rift virtual reality set.  He is reality.  All we need to do is receive Him.  Grayson shows us how. 
Merry Christmas, my accomplished friend.  Keep up the good work.


Love,
Santa

Dear Charlotte,  

I save copies of all my letters because they connect me to the trajectories of great lives. I still have the letters I wrote to little Neil Armstrong (I brought him a truck!), young Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), and Mary Daly (challenger of convention with insightful feminist theology). 

 
Charlotte, the greatest gift I can give to you is encouragement.  You already have many gifts that equip you for a life of accomplishment and significance.  You are articulate, intelligent beyond measure, and energetic. You question the status quo and have a rapidly developing sense of justice.  You are a boundary pusher (we still need to work on what boundaries) and celebrator of big visions.  I know that God has big plans for you, and a purpose. 


As you know from my previous letters, Christmas is about purpose.  In the most intentional act since creation itself, the Lord of the Universe chose to dwell in covenant with his people, among his people.  That purpose brought us eternal life (the good news!) and the opportunity to glorify God with our gifts.  Those are the themes of “Hark the Herald Angels”, which I have head you sing on Facebook – glory to God, opportunity, and encouragement. 


I know that when you wake up you will accept the gifts I have brought with your usual joy and enthusiasm.  Use them to continue growing during the year to come.  I look forward to following your journey.

Love,
Santa


Dear Nolan,

Merry Christmas!  I hope you are getting a sense of what that means.  You were around for the festivities last year, but probably did not take in much as you were only a few months old.  I visited you last Christmas, but in your old house.  Now that you are able to walk around you can get a better view of the Christmas landscape – lights, music, non-native foliage, food, and gifts.  
Regarding food, the proper meal for Christmas day was codified for us by a nineteenth century author named Charles Dickens. It’s essential Christmas elements are goose and plum pudding.  Dickens was a visionary, who foresaw the special relationship between Britain and America.  That is why the rest of the meal is standard American fare – bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, overcooked green beans, and gravy made as salty, but otherwise as tasteless, as possible.  Sadly, must Americans substitute turkey for goose, reflecting the massive agricultural / industrial complex that services both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  My educational point here is that whenever your family asks you to vote on a menu for Christmas dinner, vote for goose. 


The gift side of the season will come into focus as you continue to grow.  It used to be that I was the only game in town, but over time my North Pole attorneys have negotiated strategic alliances with grandparents and a company named Amazon. That’s a good thing, like NASA contracting low earth orbit supply deliveries to SpaceX.  It frees me to focus on helping children understand real gift of Christmas, Emmanuel, God with Us.  Among all the custom and tradition, never forget that Christmas itself is a gift, that gift is holy and eternal, and it is for you. 

 
Nolan, my wish for you this year is that you experience the joy of growing, as the Bible says, in wisdom and stature.  You are privileged to be able to associate with people of many different life backgrounds, economic circumstances and medical outlooks.  Embrace them and learn for them, for they, too, have received the gift of Christmas.  I will be watching and cheering you on.


 Love,
Santa

Is It Christmas Yet?

It’s been an emotionally tough week. A few days ago, one of the Leigh’s families we are closest to lost their precious little boy, who was the same age as Grayson. I’m still caught between shock and sadness- for them, and for our community. It’s been a definite reality check that this is what we are also living with, and this is our future too. We will miss little K so much.

K and G, 2 years old

Is Christmas here yet? Good grief, this month is dragging on forever. Thankfully, the holiday season this year hasn’t been too stressful: I didn’t do Christmas cards, which surprisingly, I’m totally fine with. I ordered almost every gift with one tap on my Amazon Prime app, and we’ve kept Christmas events and “stuff” to a minimum. But, ahh, I’m still over it. Or maybe I’m just sooo over 2016 and ready for a fresh start to the new year.

Most of us aren’t feeling great today- could be because it’s 30 degrees one day and 78 the next (insert eye roll emoji). That on top of no school, no schedule, and too much sugar…again, let’s get this season over with.

I do have a few things I want to share that are making me think, laugh, and cry from pure sweetness.

1. My sister in law sent me the link to her pastor’s sermon from last Sunday (it’s the Proclamation, the third section of recorded content). I’ve listened to it 4 times. So, so good. Since the election, I’ve been wrestling a lot with my faith and who I actually believe Jesus to be. This sermon dives into the “whitewashing” of Jesus and how a lot of times we relate to him to fit our context instead of actually learning and relating to him in the context that is the truth- who he actually was. Listen to it. It’s only 12 minutes long and worth your time.

2. This is silly and inappropriate, but made me laugh so hard. (If you are easily offended, skip this one). It does make me think- not only were Mary, Joseph and Jesus not white, the birth of Christ wasn’t as peaceful and serene as our nativity scenes portray.

3. My sweet girl (who will be FOUR next month, but insists that she is turning seven) learned “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” for her preschool Christmas program. I’m so proud of her and impressed that she can sing it so well. Precious little angel (sometimes).

My Don’t Do List

One of my favorite podcasts, Sorta Awesome, released a show on Friday called “The Awesome Freedom of the DON’T do list”. Basically, the point was we can’t do it all, and there’s freedom in letting go of things that just aren’t a priority. I also think there’s a lot of freedom in admitting your “Don’t Do” list and releasing any shame associated with any of the things on the list.

Here is my Don’t List:

  • I don’t bathe my kids every night. Or every other night. Or even every third night. Once or twice a week works for us, unless they get really dirty or sticky.
  • I don’t grocery shop. It totally stresses me out. Ryan doesn’t mind doing it, so it works out for all.
  • I don’t take my kids to birthday parties of kids we don’t know that well (like from school).
  • I don’t throw big/elaborate/Pinteresty  birthday parties for my kids. Not. My. Thing.
  • I don’t do “extracurricular” activites with the kids, yet. Charlotte has one thing a week at night right now, and it’s a good thing for her, but it makes that evening so, so hectic.
  • I don’t bake. If you want me to bring something somewhere, I’ll be glad to, as long as I can pick it up at a grocery store or drive-through.
  • I don’t (and won’t) sign Charlotte up for dance classes.
  • I don’t vary breakfast, at all. Charlotte and Nolan both eat a waffle, yogurt and fruit every single morning. They haven’t complained, so I’m going with the no-brainer.
  • I don’t make my bed or change my sheets often enough.
  • I don’t go to football games.
  • I don’t watch movies.
  • I don’t listen to much music (prefer podcasts) so I don’t know any of the popular songs
  • I don’t keep 99.5% of the artwork the kids bring home from school/church. I take pictures of the cute stuff and toss it all.
  • I don’t do my Bible study homework, ever.
  • I don’t buy much organic food
  • I don’t make phone calls unless I absolutely have to, or I really like you.
And my holiday Don’t List:
  • This year, I’m probably not going to do Christmas cards. I love them, but it’s already December 5, I have no picture and really don’t want to spend the money. Maybe I’ll do a social media post that can count this year.
  • I don’t do Elf on the Shelf.
  • I don’t do elaborate decorations. We have about 15 ornaments on the tree that are out of toddler-reach, and I decorated the mantle. Done.
  • I don’t watch Christmas movies (because I don’t watch movies) but A Christmas Story on in the background is a must for Christmas day.
  • I don’t buy a ton of presents. I wish I could, but yikes, this time of year is so expensive.
What things are on your “Don’t Do” list?

Letters to Nolan: 15 Months

Dear Nolan,

Oh my goodness little boy, I cannot keep up with you these days. I thought your sister was a human tornado, but you, little rascal, are a category 5 hurricane. You are running and climbing everywhere, not to mention the messes you are able to make in no time. I feel like I am constantly telling you “no”, taking inappropriate things from your hands, and mopping or sweeping up your path. Most of the time, you think your antics are absolutely hilarious, but when you get mad about something, you are MAD. Your face scrunches up, you scream, and you have lately started banging your head on the floor or wall. It’s a good thing you are so stinkin’ adorable because you, my friend, are wearing me out.

Nolan, at 15 months you:

  • Weigh 22 pounds, 13 ounces
  • Wear size 18 month clothes, size 5 shoes, and size 4 diapers
  • Nap once a day for about 2.5 hours
  • Go to bed most nights around 6:00 pm, and are waking up once or twice a night. The time change has been rough; there have been many mornings where you have been up before 5:00 am, but the last few mornings have been much better, with you waking up right around 6:00.
  • Are a fairly good eater, although you love to throw food off your tray onto the floor.
  • Still hate getting into your carseat
  • Can now climb up the stairs and the slides on our playset, so no more leaving you in the backyard to play by yourself
  • Try to maneuver around the baby gate and climb up the stairs a million times a day.
  • After all the teething drama of last month, you still only have 4 teeth total (front teeth on top and bottom)
  • Say Mama, Dada, and what sounds to me like Cracker and Thank You. You “talk” constantly, and at a VERY loud volume.

Sweet boy, as much as you are driving me crazy these days, I absolutely adore you. Your smile melts me and your antics do make me laugh. Welcome to toddlerhood- we’ll both get through it. I love you.
Love,
Mommy

 

Finished!: #NaBloPoMo Day 30

I did it- thirty consecutive blog posts! So far this month, my blog has been viewed 18,032 times. These are definitely not big-time blogger stats at all, but for this little blog, that number kind of blows my mind. Before this month, I’d only blogged (on here) 36 times in 2016, and now my total is up to 66 posts for the year. That still pales in comparison to 2011, when I blogged 148 posts!

Although I definitely won’t be keeping up the pace of a post per day, I do hope to continue writing here more frequently, because I enjoyed this month and getting back to regular writing a lot more than I even thought I would. I did this month for the “challenge”, but meeting my goal aside, I loved the writing itself.

Some things I learned this month:

  • I learned that although I do love writing about my kids, my best (and most viewed) posts were not on them. I’m kind of over reading Mommy blogs and sort of over Mommy-blogging myself. I’m emerging from the fog of everything in my life- my interests, my time, my reading- being about kid stuff. I love reading about, thinking about, and writing about politics, religion, and issues related to social justice. And I want more. A few years ago I changed the name of my blog to A New Version of Me. I think that title perfectly fits where I am in life at this moment.
  • I learned that some people would prefer that I just shut the hell up and go back to Mommy-blogging.
  • I learned that the world won’t end and I won’t be left with no friends if I post something that pisses off a whole lot of people.
  • I learned that relationships can actually be strengthened and deepened by disagreements.
  • I learned that the more I write, the more I want to write, and the easier it is to write.
Thanks for hanging in there with me this month- it was fun, challenging, and thought provoking.
#NaBloPoMo…complete!