A look back on 2017

My birthday being so close to the beginning of the year, I’m usually feeling pretty retrospective around this time.

I think this is the first time that one of these hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, but I’m not going to lie: 2017 was a hard year. It is not lost on me that I’ve lived a semi-charmed kind of life up until now, and that my problems tend to be of the “first world” variety. I’m not trying to say that I have it harder than so many people. But, you know, I only have this one life to live, so.

I’m generally a pretty upbeat, optimistic kind of guy, and stress usually just kind of rolls off me. So maybe I’m just not used to dealing with it, I don’t know. But I do know that 2017 has been, by far, the most stressful year of my life and, in retrospect, I have not been handling it well.

There was the drama of buying / selling houses, the tremendous amount of work we’ve put into said new house, and just generally having a one year old running around, to say nothing of the mugging and subsequent identity theft. (You might even be surprised to learn there are other things that I don’t even share on the blog!) And honestly, parenting the big kids has gotten quite a bit harder too, partially because of all the activities and things they do, which require a lot of time and effort on our part, and partially because as they get older, their problems (and the remedies to those problems) get more nuanced and complex.

(Just to talk about the mugging for a second: on one hand, I would say I’m well and truly over it, and it doesn’t impact me anymore, and on the other hand I would say that it’s been 9 months and not a day goes by that I don’t still think about it.)

So there are good days and bad days. It is certainly true to say I have probably cried more in 2017 than the previous 5 years combined (probably more in the last MONTH than the previous 5 years combined). I think maybe I had my first ever panic attack. But there have been a lot of good things too, not the least of which is my health. I ran not my customary one, but TWO 5ks this year. My weight has been maintaining somewhere around PRE-COLLEGE(!!!) weight. I have three very intelligent, very unique children, and a wife that I love very much, and we live in a house that is so amazing that I am consistently embarrassed by it.

I find myself reminiscing fondly for a time life was simpler (like, 2016 forex). At the very least I’m hoping for a calm, uneventful 2018, after which we will look back on 2017 and see it for the aberration it was. Just one blip on the radar, not the beginning of a trend (please not the beginning of a trend; I can’t handle another 2017!), just a one time course correction before everything settles down.

In the meantime, I am reexamining everything. Typically my approach to difficulties is just to keep my nose to the grindstone and work as hard as I can until I get to the other side. Just keep those legs churning. It has lately occurred to me that that approach only works if I am pointed in the right direction. If I’m throwing myself into work in the wrong direction, that is, in a way that is not recognized or appreciated because it’s not what everyone else wanted or expected, then I’m actually just digging in deeper and making the problem worse.

So my New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to realign and strive for Zen. Hopefully, if nothing else, I can learn some lessons that will help ultimately redeem 2017 into something worthwhile.

Here’s to a peaceful, calm, Zen 2018!

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Happy Birthday to Ollie

The year of first grade is such a big year, and Ollie has changed so much. Reading and writing, having real friends, just being like a person rather than a little kid. He has real interests, he has things that he’s good at and things that he’s not good at, likes and dislikes…he’s not a baby anymore.

At the same time, though, there are so many things about him that are exactly the same. Do you know how many pictures I have of Ollie making a goofy face? He’s still goofy, still such a sweetheart.

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One pretty significant change in the last year is Alex, and how much he loves his big brother. “Oliver!” he tries to say the moment he wakes up. “Oliver! Oliver!” It is so…heart warming to see the way that he looks up to his big brother, and I’m interested to see how that continues to develop.

Here’s to another year, buddy. Hope you continue to carve your own way in the world.

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(Photos courtesy Jeremy Sanderlin)

Happy Birthday Evelyn!

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(Photo credit Lauryn Marinho)

You know, it is getting pretty difficult to live up to Mrs. Evelyn’s birthday plans. As readers of this blog well know, she has always been a “big idea” kind of gal, and as you can imagine her birthday is no exception. Luckily for us, she finds ways to spread it out as much as possible. (“We can do that on my actual birthday, and then for my party we can do X, and then we’ll have my birthday with the family…”)

Oliver certainly did his part, working on present after present for her in his room for weeks. His gifts ranged from meticulously copied chapters from Harry Potter into custom made “books”, to all of his legos, to a caterpillar made out of pipe cleaners and an egg carton, to stuffed animals he rescued from the “give away” pile, all buried under a metric ton of tissue paper.

So far today I have only gotten one, “It’s my birthday, you have to do what I say!” which, to be honest, seems kind of low.

It’s so easy to jump on kids when they’re bad, but ignore them when they’re good. Evelyn is so good so often, and I don’t say it enough. She is:

  • So responsible. You almost never need to tell her something twice; when you tell her to do something, she does it.
  • So helpful. She’s always willing to jump up and help you (maybe not in the way you wanted, but help you nonetheless!)
  • So empathic. She absolutely cannot stand for Alex to cry. It physically pains her.
  • So independent. She has strong opinions (especially when it comes to clothing). She makes her own lunches. She practices the piano every day. She keeps track of her brothers. She’s basically like a little adult.

In the past year Evelyn has learned 1) she really enjoys baking, especially inventing her own recipes (she can make her own scrambled eggs!), 2) she never wants to be caught ANYWHERE without a book to read, and 3) she does not want a rabbit. I know she is looking forward to 3rd grade and going to the “old” school BY HERSELF.

My favorite things to with Evelyn are read her a story at night and listen to her play piano. I love how excited she gets about theater, both as an actress and just watching other people perform.

I can’t wait to see how she grows in the next year!

Happy Birthday Ollie

Well, Ollie turns six today, which seems pretty crazy. Can you believe he’s going to start 1st grade next year?

What to say about Ollie? He sure loves being goofy and making people laugh.

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He is just a ball of creativity: he spends hours every day drawing pictures or constructing things out of cardboard and tape or anything else he can find in the house. Every day when I come home from work he has some new project to show me (the other day he made an “outfit” entirely out of plastic bags).

He will strike up a conversation with absolutely ANYBODY, so I don’t think there is a single person at his school who doesn’t know him. Seriously, it’s just kind of routine now that every adult says hello to him as we walk through the halls.

He loves looking “cool”, especially with his hat, sunglasses, and a jacket. He’s got this jean jacket that he inherited from Evelyn (who never liked it) and he thinks it makes him look like Michael Jackson. Believe me, he will show you his dance moves (Beat It is his favorite song).

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Despite him being such a big kid (did I mention he can read now??), deep down he is still the same cuddly, sensitive little boy he has always been, and I hope I can protect that part of him from the world so that he never changes.

Happy birthday, buddy!

Hey everybody!

Pirate Party

Since I was gone for a couple of weeks (more on that in a post later this week), we just now got around to celebrating Evelyn’s birthday. Evie had the idea to do a “murder mystery” party (you know, like most 8 year olds), but they strangely don’t make a lot of those for kids.

Sara looked around online and found a company that makes kid-friendly equivalents. However, there were like 8 princess ones, and Evelyn said, “absolutely not” to that idea. So instead, we ended up with pirates.

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It turns out, hosting a pirate mystery party is a tremendous amount of work. Not only do you have to prepare everything for the kit and come up with really awesome food ideas, you also have to deal with the fact that the company involved thought it would be a really good idea to have the scavenger hunt lead to rooms such as “the master bedroom” and “the main bathroom”. And you can’t just stuff all the mess in a closet or something because, hello, it’s a scavenger hunt, where do you think the kids are going to start digging first?

So, yeah, lots and lots of cleaning.

Of course, Evelyn also demanded a chocolate cheesecake, because it can’t be easy, right?

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Luckily we borrowed a truly authentic looking pirate chest for the grand finale (filled with Pirate’s Booty, natch). We gathered clues, solved mysteries, swabbed the deck, played pirate guessing games, and told pirate jokes, but when the kids found that pirate chest, they lost their freaking minds. I doubt real pirates, with real gold, were ever so excited about finding a treasure chest. Or, if they were that excited, I bet their screams were not quite so high pitched.

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Despite the tremendous amount of work, I don’t think I exaggerate to say it was the best party I’ve ever given. Everybody had a blast (even the adults), and it lived up to all of Evelyn’s expectations (something that, needless to say, is difficult to manage on the best of days).

I’m already a little nervous about what she’ll want next year…

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Another day older, and deeper in debt

So, it’s my birthday.

I had a rough plan of talking about how my birthday always makes me feel like posting a “year in review” post even though I really didn’t have anything important to say, but then I sat down and read last year’s birthday post and I already said all of that, except funnier.

So.

Not much to say. Good year. Well documented.

This is a weird thing to say, but maybe I do feel more grown up? Part of it is that I’ve noticed that the way I think about things has definitely changed. Definitely more into the long view, definitely feel like I understand the previous generation a bit more. Better understand what it means to be a parent, and how having kids changes how you approach life. Another part of it is that this is the first year in a while that I feel like I can see flaws in myself that I need to work on. The flaws were always there, but I can see them now. That’s growing up, right?

It also took me 35 years to figure out that boots and a hood are awesome and amazing things in the winter.

What can I say, I’m a slow learner.