Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Reflection & A Word for 2016


 Sorry, that was the dust falling off the ol' blog.  (come see me on Instagram @claireity66 where it is considerably less dusty)

2015 - you are nearly over, and like the rest of the world, that is making me nostalgic and reflective.  This was a pretty good year overall. I usually look to the blog to be my reminder of the highlights of the year, but since that would be ineffective this year, I have to use my brain.  Challenging.  

It was a good year for me personally because, much like the year after the year Harper was born, this year was the year after Quinn was born (confusing) and once the baby carrying and birthing and breastfeeding year were done, it was nice to feel like I could become myself again and settle into a routine.  I felt like I got that this year.

Friends were married this year, babies were born.  Old friendships were strengthened, new ones were formed. Life was busy and full.  

Tony got a promotion in April and it shook our family life up significantly - he went from pretty flexible, mostly work in the field or from home hours, to a commute into Atlanta with regular work hours and one late night a week.  It took a while for all of us to adjust, but we did, and we've found a rhythm.  We became better informed on Harper's sensory processing issues, which was both a relief and a new challenge.  Summer was one big frazzled mess for me, as we navigated potty training that took well over 3 months.  Quinn started walking and saying words and being a cute little maniac.  

Fall was a welcome relief and both kiddos started back to school (Harper twice a week, Quinn one day).  Harper and Quinn play together so well* now, it's so fun to see and encourage. (*well implies that they do it, not that it's always happy interaction.  Quinn picked up a hitting habit from her sister. Oy.)  December was punctuated by a sad event when my sweet and beloved Grammy passed away.  We spent 3 full - separate trip - weeks in Tennessee with my family between the holidays and the funeral, which was certainly bittersweet.

I'm staring down 2016 with what feels like a half-full battery just ready to be recharged.  I've felt a little out of control lately, meaning I don't feel like I have everything in our lives organized and orderly and figured out -but I want to.  I'm prioritizing organization and cleaning so we can all feel a little more sane.  It was a good year, but I think 2016 is primed and ready to be an even better one.  Our kids are getting older and more of the world is becoming open to us, and I'm ready to go.


I like to make New Years resolutions.  I had to go back in the blog archives to see what 2015's resolution was - and apparently I didn't blog about it so I have no idea what it was.  Let's just say I nailed it.

I've taken many approaches in the past, from a detailed bucket list type thing to a one word goal.  I was thinking for this year about the areas of my life where I wanted to focus, and one word sprang to mind.  I wasn't trying to find "my word" but it just came to me.  So here it is - it's a word, but there are lots of words and layers under it - typical Claire.


Invest.  I want to invest in 3 key areas of my life, none of which have anything to do with money, I promise :)  They are all of equal weight, but I'll form them like concentric circles, starting in and moving out.  I'm deep like that.

+ Myself.  
+ My marriage.
+ My family.

+Myself - Just like a typical stay at home mom to say she wants to invest in herself. ;) But I do.  I'm definitely not a stereotypical self-sacrificing, put myself last kind of person, so I'm not terrible at this already.  But I want to work to improve myself to be a better wife, mom, and friend.  There are lots of areas for this, but one I've decided to focus on is running.  (wait, what?).  I randomly started running this summer one evening because I didn't have time to go to the gym.  I have NEVER been a runner.  CAPITAL NEVER.  I ran one mile and realized I could do it without stopping.  I was floored.  So I did it again.  And again.  And then tried a 5k distance, and could do it without stopping.  I was still floored.  I've made it up to doing 5 miles consistently, max of 6 so far, and I'm still shocked every time I get home all red-faced and disgustingly sweaty and amazingly triumphant. I never thought I could change such an inherent inevitable part of myself and become something different.  

I want to become a runner (am I already? I don't know the rules!).  Yes, the fitness part helps.  But mostly to prove to myself that I can.  I'm going to run a half marathon in the fall.  (ahhhhhh!).  It's terrifying and right now I have no idea how I'm going to do it.  But I'm going to.  I need to step my running game up and go more frequently, and obviously, further.  This takes energy and effort and non-laziness, which are challenges in themselves, but it takes an investment of time, which is my biggest scarcity most days.  (for the record, I refuse to push a stroller while running - I selfishly want it to be MY THING!  also, heavy).  But running makes me a happier person, so I'm going to invest in that goal.

+My marriage - Tony and I have always had a great marriage.  We are both low key and on the same page about so many things.  We are a team and don't expect crazy things from each other (he might disagree with that statement).  Pre-kids it was easy, of course.  Even after Harper was born, it was different, but still easy.  But throw 2 kids in the mix, one who takes a lot of mental energy to parent and one who is a new toddler tornado, add in a job with longer hours and a commute and we've discovered it's a lot harder.  Apathy is the devil, you know?  Once the kids are in bed, we're spent.  Me from wrangling them all day, him from going straight from a busy job day to an hour in the car to dinner and bedtime routines, and there's little energy left for each other.  I can totally see now why people say you have to work at a marriage.  We've discovered that and have certainly done a pretty good job navigating it all, but I want to prioritize Tony more this year and carve out more time for us together.

+My family - This sorta ties in to the one above, but I want to make sure we don't end up counting down minutes to bedtime or wasting the weekends being lazy.  I want to plan fun activities for us to do together and to grow and learn together and to build our bond as a family unit.  I want to make sure to start this now, as I know when kids get older it can be hard to prioritize family time in the shuffle.  This one is more ambiguous but I know it's so important.

So there you go.  The circles could keep expanding outward- to friends to community, etc.  But I just really want to invest in relationships that matter.  I don't want to be biding my time, but instead really living and soaking it up.

Farewell, 2015!  2016, I'm ready! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Back to School

My babies started another year of "school" in August and it was bittersweet and exciting, just as you'd expect.  

Here's what I captioned Instagram on Harper's first day:

"First day of preschool!! This is her third year going off to "school," but it's the first year I cried. And not sad tears. She gave me a quick hug at her door and ran in to play batman cave. Not a glance back. My crazy, maddening, joyous, big personality little girl is one step closer to the real world. I worry so much for her, but her quick wave behind her back at me today helps me know she is going to be just fine."

And she was fine!! She was SOOO excited that day, and talked more on the car ride home than she ever usually does.  I was brimming with joy because of her joy.  She still loves going (she goes twice a week, 9am-1pm) and has never once been nervous or upset to go or anything.  

I know she's learning so much and I'm intensely grateful we have the means to send her to this great place and give her the head start I know she will need.  She's a social little thing and I so wish I could be a fly on the wall just to see her interacting and playing and learning and growing and making me so proud.

Quinn also started "school" this year - she's in grade Wiggle Worms.  

Here's how she felt about the backpack that is bigger than she is:

Let's be honest - Quinn going one day a week is really for me.  But I do think it's important than she gets to socialize outside her family and experience care from adults beyond Tony and I.  They say she is just the sweetest and quiet and easy going.  That's Quinn for you.

 She will give you a super serious face, like above, pretty much all of the time.  But give her a chance to check you out and observe all she can and she opens up with so much sweetness.

The routine of school, while an extra thing added on to our week, is a nice change from summer's empty stretch.  We've all done well with it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Life-Giving Comfort

I'm well overdue for a Clubfoot Files post!  Truth is, it's such a small part of our lives now that I don't have much to talk about.  I do want to do a 'big girl bed' post - so look for that sometime.  However, I did want to write a little post about perspective, specifically to those clubfoot parents who might stumble across this while reading my older posts on the subject.  And I guess it's a good message for anyone.

So, our church has been doing a message series called In the Meantime (here if you are so inclined).  The premise is that sometimes we are faced with challenges in life where things are just kinda crappy for a while - maybe months or years or even the rest of our lives.  You aren't going to work your way out of it, whatever it may be - basically something that you just need to endure and find a way to do so without losing hope or giving up.

It brought to mind a few struggles we've gone through in our family.  I should say, it also brought to mind some really powerful, heartbreaking circumstances experienced by others we know, and our problems certainly pale in comparison.

But I thought of clubfoot.  We couldn't change it when we first found out.  We couldn't work or study or pray or wish our way out of it.  Our daughter was going to be born with clubfoot.  Simple as that.  It seemed like such an insurmountable burden at the time.  

Of course, you can go back to some of my other posts about it to see that we soon realized that we were blessed - yes, blessed - that it was just a foot!  A fixable foot!  There are so many other evils in the world - a foot is not such a big deal and treatment is so very possible.  And of course now we are at the smooth-sailing part of treatment where we're almost done and the burdens of early treatment feel like worlds away.  It's easy to gloss over it all at this point.  

But today's part of the series, especially, hit home in a real way for me.  During struggles, it's so easy to ask "why?" - why did this happen?  why did God put this on us?  what is the point of this? - and really, there's no easy answer.  But one of the ways we can view our hardships, instead of trying to figure out why, is to see it through the lens that the challenges we face put us in a unique position to comfort someone else who is going through a similar challenge.  

When thinking this post through in my head, I worried it would come across as self-congratulatory or arrogant - so please don't read it as such.  It's so not what I'm going for.  But I want to say that I have received so so so many emails over the past three years from parents who have just found out their baby will or does have clubfoot.  They get the scary news and they start googling.  My blog shows up and they read my Clubfoot Files posts.  So many wonderful and kind and inspiring strangers have taken the time to sit down and write me emails - to tell me their stories and ask questions or seek advice - and usually, to say that my words have given them some measure of comfort.

Part of the series today talked about how our ability to comfort others going through similar struggles is life-giving to both the one receiving the comfort and to us too through the act of giving comfort.  I feel so much joy when I receive those emails from parents.  I hurt for their sorrow and worry and fear, but I feel so honored to be able to help take even one tiny bit of their grief from them.  I always forward those emails for Tony to read and I always make sure to sit down at the actual computer when I have a good chunk of time to reply. I take them so seriously.  Because what I couldn't see three years ago, I can see now.  God has used Harper's story and our part in it for the good of others.  Our struggles have enabled us to help others going through that very same struggle.  And for me at least, that makes it worth it.  That gives it purpose and meaning in a way that a "why" question never could.

I (we!) am (are!) uniquely able to provide this comfort to other clubfoot parents.  

If you're reading this and you are in the clubfoot trenches, so to speak, it may be impossible to see any good that could come out of it.  To see any reason why or purpose to the pain.  And maybe you won't see the good for a long, long time.  I was lucky enough to have a (albeit small!) platform that was this blog at the time, and I was able to write those posts in a cathartic way that has happened to bring comfort to others.  You don't need a blog.  But you never know who you might be able to comfort in a time of need.  You might be a spark of hope for a new parent one year or twenty years down the road, probably in a setting where you least expect it.

We received comfort from the active bloggers at the time who also wrote about clubfoot, who were living it right then.  But we also received comfort from the seriously at least 20 random people who told us "oh yeah, my _____ had clubfoot too ___ years ago and she's totally fine!"  We had barely heard of it before our diagnosis and then we hear from so many others who have experience with it and hope sparked in our heart that this wasn't as scary or unknown as it seemed.

My point is, you never know who you might help.  Your pain and fear and utter sadness for your little baby can turn into a powerful life-giving part of your story.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Family Photos - 2015

Boom back at you! 

I LOVE having family photos done each year.  It makes sense to do them in the summer, as that's when our babies have birthdays and it just makes sense. 

 I've told Tony that he's lucky I am NOT the kind of girl who needs nice jewelry or purses or shoes or anything to be happy.  All I own comes from Target (or my mom :) ).  But the one thing I do insist on is professional photos each year.  He begrudgingly obliges.  

This year, the fabulous Dabe of Love Dot Photography did them, and I was just so happy with it.  The kids semi-cooperated, considering it was at 6pm, and it was a little hot.  Harper made some weird faces but Dabe was so nice and patient and helpful with cajoling smiles out of them.  They are based in Macon, but if you are anywhere near this or that or the Atlanta area, check them out.  Good stuff.

Here are some of my faves! 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Old McQuinnie's Farm

I've given up on the notion of only blogging when I have the time to write an elaborate post on something important.  Not going to happen.  But I want to update on bigger life events here, with mostly photos, for my own life-chronicling purposes.  Just fyi :)

Quinn turned ONE this past August.  It's crazy how quickly her first year went by.  I know all parents say that... but man.  It just flew.  Although it doesn't seem like "just yesterday" when she was born - in fact, it seems forever ago and I feel like I can't remember a time when she wasn't this toothy, giggly, mischievous little crawler who was into anything and everything.  

I feel like it has been so much easier to see the forest for the trees with this second child.  Little hiccups in sleep schedules and feeding and milestones and all that were just not as big of a deal, and I can much more readily appreciate the awesomeness that is the One Year Stage.  She's just so stinking fun right now.

Anyway, on to the party!  Like I've always done, we had a very small family party at Tony's parents' house (perk of two summer babies - endless pool parties! built in entertainment!).  Some Pinterest thing gave me the idea to do a farm party, and since one of the kids' fave toys is a little barn/farm animals set - I knew I had half of the decor already.  So fun to decorate just because I want to make things and because it will make us happy - not to impress hoards of party guests, but just us.  I like being creative so this was all for me.  OH yeah, and Quinn. :) Happy medium.

My fave way to do invites for these little parties is to use a photo, and then add words in Photoshop and print them as 4x6 photo prints for like $.09 at Walgreen's.  It's easier than real invites, especially when you just need a few.  The petting zoo at the Atlanta Zoo served as our backdrop for the invite photo - until the workers fussed at us for having a baby sitting near a semi-domesticated animal with no shoes on (oops.).

I used toys for decorations, and with some scrapbook paper, burlap, and stickers, I jazzed up the food table.  Nothing fancy.  

Dirt cups because uh well... there's dirt on a farm?  And... Oreos?

I've always used their fence as a mandatory photo area.  A cheap hay bale from Home Depot and some clip art printed as Engineering Prints (and colored by my family the night before!) helped make it fun for the kids.

Quinn's cow bib is from Etsy and Harper's shirt is just something I painted with craft paint.

How cute is this cowpoke?  (the baby. not me. my shirt/jorts combo was supposed to be thematic.  i don't usually dress this way, promise.)

I made her cake because 1. cheap and 2. food allergies  :(

She liked it. 

Her party was a splash! 

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