2016 was a pretty big year for our family. A lot of awesome things happened that made this one of the most eventful years of our lives. I’ve been reflecting a lot on the ups and downs over the last couple of days and wanted to get it into words so I can remember all that we went through. Many of the actual events made this a fantastic year. But a lot of the more abstract struggles I went through made it a harder year.
THE BEST PARTS OF THE YEAR
We bought a house!
It’s been six long years since we decided to leave our lives in Minnesota and move back to Wisconsin so our children could know their family. That first year back when we were living in Greg’s parents’ basement, and then subletting a friend’s house, and then going back to his parents’ when her house sold, all while our house was sitting in MN unsold (not to mention I was pregnant and then had a newborn (and toddler!) during it all) was a very, very hard year. Our experiences with finally letting that house go in a short sale so we could move on with our lives, left us very weary of owning again. We moved to our apartment in Columbus and spent five fairly happy years there. We loved not having to deal with all the things that come with home owning and we were mostly content. But as the boys got older and wilder and clearly needed more space, we were starting to feel like it was time to move on again. So in a whirlwind of house showings in a crazy market this spring, we found our new home! A little over a month later it was ours! Buying this house has been the greatest blessing for our family. We live in an awesome neighborhood with lots of kids that the boys play with all the time. We’re only a couple of blocks from school so we can walk there, to parks, basically anywhere in town. The boys have their own rooms. I have a sewing room to continue building Hearstring Annie. We all have plenty of space to breathe and grow and thrive in the new house. We plan on living here a very, very long time.
Having neighbors and friends on the very same block has been incredible.
We didn’t have a ton of time to work on and enjoy the yard this first summer, but I’m looking forward to making better use of it from now on!
Greg and his dad did build an awesome sandbox!
Of course six months after I took these pictures the house looks a lot more lived in. 🙂 But it’s honestly so great.
10 Year Anniversary
A couple days after buying the house, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary! It was fun to hit a milestone anniversary, though it also feels like we’ve been together so much longer than that. Well, we have – almost 17 years. But buying the house right before our anniversary made it feel extra special this year.
10 Year Anniversary Vacation
Before we even talked about buying a house, we had planned out a cross country road trip to Charleston for our 10 year anniversary vacation. Most years we tend to just go away for a weekend, somewhere relatively close. This year we wanted it to be a bigger deal, so we had an eight day trip planned out with stops in Tennessee at the same cabin where we spent our honeymoon, a couple days in Charleston, and then a couple of alternate plans for how we might drive back home. When the trip rolled around, though, ONE WEEK after we bought our house, life was a little bit insane. We were both more tired than we’ve ever been in our lives, Greg had rolled his ankle during the move and was having a hard time walking, and we didn’t have a lot of money to spare. But we reveled in having time to ourselves after an overwhelming month and a half of packing, cleaning, moving, Mother’s Day, birthdays, school ending, etc. We spent a lot more time relaxing on the trip than going out and being adventurous in new cities. Charleston itself was quite a disappointment to us, but we had a great time in Tennessee on the way there and North Carolina on the way back. I’m so glad we decided to keep our plans and still go on this trip, despite everything else.
More Opportunities to Entertain
Over the last few years, I’ve really been wanting more opportunities to invite people over. I love having parties, I love having friends come over here and there to hang out. But our apartment was not an ideal location, so it rarely happened. Since moving in we threw a big 4th of July bash, had family over a few times, threw birthday parties for Caden and my dad, and held my Favorite Things Party. I’m looking forward to a lot more chances to invite people over to celebrate the big and little things in life. I have the space, it can happen even when the boys are asleep, and it makes me happy!
I Found Podcasts
One of the most exciting things that happened this year was that I discovered podcasts! I talked a lot about this in my Favorite Podcasts post, but it really opened up this whole new world of entertainment and learning that changed so much for me. The best part about podcasts is that they can be listened to while doing other things. I rarely do household chores anymore without also listening to something entertaining. I love listening to creative and inspiring podcasts while I sew. Funny podcasts always accompany me while I’m walking. There are so many different things to listen to no matter what mood I’m in and I absolutely love it!
Exercising Became Fun
Okay, so I’m using the term “exercising” lightly. But in the middle of this summer after the house was mostly settled in and after I learned about podcasts – and Pokemon Go – I decided to start walking. In years past I always loved when Caden was in summer school because it gave me a built in time to walk around downtown and dream about my future. Now that future is my reality and it’s the greatest. Our apartment was about a mile away from the rest of the city, so walking was not part of my daily life. Now it is and I can’t be happier. I made a goal of 70,000 steps a week and for four months I exceeded that goal week after week. I was having fun, but also really proud of myself. Once December and snow and Christmas busyness came around, things have really started to slid. But I’m planning to get going again in the new year.
Besides walking so much more, I also joined a Drumfit class with my friend Laura. It was my first experience with an actual exercise class and I was really nervous about it. But with her moral support we started going and we both love it! It’s so much fun and the hour just flies by. I know that only going to a class once a week probably isn’t doing a whole lot for my overall health, but it’s better than not going at all! I definitely plan on continuing the class for as long as they keep offering it.
Shepard Transitioned to Kindergarten Smoothly
This is something I was really worried about. He’s always been very difficult about going to school. I think he has some social anxiety when it comes to being in large groups of kids. He was in a summer school class in June to prepare him for kindergarten and drop off every day was HORRIBLE. Every day for three straight weeks he’d cry and scream and fight to follow me out the door while the teacher had to hold on to him. I was so sure that every day of kindergarten would be more of the same. But shockingly, amazingly, it’s gone really well. All thanks to Caden. Because there have been a couple of days when Caden was home sick and Shepard put up the biggest fights I’ve ever witnessed when trying to drop him off alone. But on days that they go together, he’s been fine! He spends a lot of time with Caden at lunch and recess, but as the months have rolled by I notice him talking about his own friends a lot more. He definitely seems like the most outgoing member of our family, so once the anxiety is behind him there’s no holding him back!
Timmy and Brittany Moved Back
This was one of the most shocking developments of 2016. During a visit to WI in August, my brother dropped the bomb that they were moving back – in two weeks! They seemed to be living the dream out in California and none of us expected them to want to come home ever again. It was shocking, but really awesome! We’ve seen them a couple times a month since they moved, and even went on a really great double date in Milwaukee. I’m looking forward to developing our sibling friendship now that they live closer.
Alex and Sarah Got Married
In October, Greg’s sister Sarah married her long time boyfriend Alex. Tons of family flew to San Francisco for the week to enjoy all the wedding festivities. It was the first time on an airplane for the boys and the biggest vacation we’ve ever taken them on. We also had some big triumphs on the trip when Caden got over his extreme fear of flying and Shepard used public bathrooms as necessary for the first time in his life – something we all had a severe amount of anxiety about in the months leading up to the trip.
The wedding was beautiful and we gained a new brother! Greg was a groomsman and the boys were each ring bearers. Despite Shepard’s attitude during photos, they did a great job.
There were a lot of ups and downs on that trip, as expected any time you gather that many people together for a giant event. But my absolute favorite memory was the morning before the wedding when I got to spend a couple of hours alone with Shepard. It was absolutely pouring, but it didn’t stop us from following through on our plans. We walked a couple of miles in the rain, ate a big breakfast at Boudin, and then went to my favorite pearl place to open up some oysters! Shepard opened an oyster for me and got twins! We were both really excited. 🙂 My oyster had a single pearl which I made into a necklace for my friend Michelle who was cat-sitting for us while we were gone.
It was a splurge, but we had my twin pearls made into this gorgeous necklace. I’ll treasure it forever and the memory attached to it. My relationship with Shepard is so easy and delightful, and this necklace will always remind me of that. I love sentimental jewelry.
More Time Alone
The older I get, the more I realize the need I have for time alone. It’s always been pretty obvious that I’m an introvert, but this year I’ve been reading a lot more about it and what I need to make myself a happier and better person. Now that both kids are in school full time, I get seven hours a day to be alone. I definitely don’t always use that time wisely, but I do appreciate the quiet. I’m a lot less desperate to get out of the house at night because I’ve had time during the day to restore myself and feel a lot more calm and content. It’s made the last few months easier on me emotionally. Though it also worries me how used to the alone time I’ve gotten. When summer comes around and kids are flocking my house day and night again, it’s going to be really hard to transition back to that loud and wild atmosphere. But it does make me appreciate these times by myself that much more!
THE WORST PARTS OF THE YEAR
There weren’t any specific events that made this year worse than any other. No significant memories I can pinpoint where things did not go my way. But it still felt like a hard year. A challenging year internally. I’ve had a lot of emotional struggles in this new season of my life that I’m still trying to figure out.
No Time for US
I think the hardest part of this year is that it’s felt like Greg and I have almost no time together. The boys are at an age where they want Daddy’s attention ALL THE TIME. And they need a lot more than their basic necessities met. They want constant interaction, every waking moment. I feel like I can’t even have a two minute conversation with Greg until the boys are in bed for the night because they are always interrupting. Greg is an awesome dad and I don’t want my kids to feel like they are a secondary priority. But I often feel that way myself and sometimes find myself envious of how they get the best parts of him every night and weekend. We occasionally try and do more full family activities, but I always feel a little left out. My interests are so different from theirs. I have a hard time fitting in with their easy father sons dynamic.
Besides attention demanding kids, we also have a demanding house now! We have a lot more square footage to clean and take care of every day. The lawn needs to be mowed, the gardens worked on, the gutters cleared, the driveway shoveled. It’s taken some getting used to. Our favorite part about apartment living was not having to deal with any of that stuff. It’s time consuming. But it also comes with the territory.
I just wish that Greg and I could find more opportunities to connect. After 8:00 at night when the boys are both asleep, we’re both completely drained and have very little left to give each other. I miss the fun and spontaneity that happened so much more often earlier in our relationship. I also miss feeling awake and energetic and excited about spending time together. Parenting is hard work. Kids make marriage harder. I’m sure many, many couples deal with these same feelings and it’s just a matter of changing our priorities. We do usually get a night a week alone when the boys go to Grandma’s house. And we try to go on dates about every other month. But we need to find a way for more of that.
It’s been an expensive year! Buying a house costs a lot of money. Followed by a week long vacation and then a summer of new house related expenses. Followed a few months later by a huge trip to San Francisco that cost about four times more than any trip we’ve ever taken in the past ten years. Followed by Christmas. It was a lot and it was depressing. I’m looking forward to catching up again in the new year. Though currently we need/want a new toilet, new sewer pipe, new lawn mower, gutter guards, new garage door, and a snowblower. Owning a house is quite the expensive venture!
Ah, the dreaded weight gain. When I went off of pills and switched to an IUD a year and a half ago, I gained 20 pounds in three months. I blamed it on the IUD and had it removed. The weight has continued to pile on in the year that followed. I know I only have myself to blame at this point. I went on Weight Watchers a few years ago and while I did lose some weight I was completely miserable. I want to enjoy food and be happy instead of hating the world and everybody in it because I’m so hungry all the time. So now I’m in this constant struggle with wanting to be happy with my body at any size and wanting to be healthier to lose weight. Every time I see a picture of myself it’s followed by days of self hatred. I never think I look that big in the mirror. I thought that walking so much more every day would have some sort of positive effect. But it hasn’t and it’s frustrating. On a positive note, in the last six months I’ve started finding styles of clothes that I feel like are more flattering. They at least make me feel better about myself. Lots of dresses, skirts, leggings and tunics. Despite being very unhappy with the number on the scale, I’ve had so many more compliments about my clothes and accessories that it makes me feel like maybe I’m okay.
Overall Disappointment in Myself
I had a lot of expectations for what my life would look like once the boys were in school all day. I would go on a brisk walk every morning after dropping them off at school and then happily sew away all day long. I’d take breakfast or lunch dates with a friend once a week. And I’d have spare time in the afternoons for reading or resting or whatever else I felt like doing. By the time I picked the boys up from school I’d be excited to see them and energetic about making a great dinner and taking time connect with them individually every single night. I’d help put them to bed, spend time with Greg, and wake up again the next morning to do it all again. Well, guys, that has NOT been my reality. Instead I feel like I’m constantly flailing around, never fully getting a grasp on anything. Household chores continue to overwhelm my to do list and sewing has been one of my lowest priorities. I’ve barely spent any time with my friends and by early afternoon I’m so exhausted that I still need to take a power nap to deal just surviving the rest of the day. I lose my patience after two seconds of an after school tantrum and have very little interest in making good dinners. I still let Greg handle most of the nightly entertaining with the boys while I work on my never ending list of things that need to be done. I sit down to watch tv with him at 9pm and I’m exhausted and emotional and disappointed. I never feel like I’m doing enough, and yet I’m always DOING. I’m struggling so hard to find a balance in my day to day and always seem to come up short. On paper it looks so easy. I’m home alone seven hours a day! How am I not getting everything done? How am I not even sewing 1-2 hours in that huge chunk of time! I’m frustrated with myself all the time. I don’t know how to change either.
So despite all the mess in my head, overall it’s been a really great year. So many positive things changed to make our family’s quality of life that much better. I’m hoping that 2017 will be just as great of a year, though it’s just fine if things are a little quieter! I’d like to settle into this new life and figure out how to be even happier.