Monday, January 05, 2009

The Difference a Year Makes

We are five days into the new year and I have yet to post anything.

According to all of the blogging traffic gurus, I have lost all my readers and my blog is in danger of becoming extinct by implosion. Or inattentiveness.

In other words, it's business as usual around these parts.

Our new year is going well so far. Most of the Christmas toys remain intact, the children went to school in clean uniforms, and I have remembered to write "2009" on every check I've written so far. I'm easily impressed, so maybe I should quit while I'm ahead.

I had planned to do that retrospective meme where you cut and paste the first sentence of each post from each month of the past year, but it didn't happen, mostly thanks to my crippling fascination with PathWords/Scramble. Now I feel like I've missed the boat -- like I can't go back for some reason.

Why am I so weird? It's a question for the ages.

What I will do instead is steal an idea from Jennifer at Conversion Diary, and share eight things I learned in '08.

(I won't put this on the official list, but I did learn that I have to restrain myself from borrowing all of Jennifer's excellent post ideas. She's the kind of blogger that makes me want to hang up the old keyboard and retire from blogging so I can read more. She's just good.)

Eight for '08

Don't take easy pregnancies for granted. This one I learned the hard way. I still consider myself to be good at child-bearing (it's after they're out that I have the problem!), but Bun's pregnancy had me up against a wall a few times. My complications were not even considered very serious, but they were something I never experienced with the first three pregnancies.

Which brings us to the next item on the list . . .

Good health is foundational . . . and matters more than I think. This sounds intuitive, but I am notoriously slow on the uptake sometimes. Actually, I have been blessed with what Victorian novels call a "strong constitution," meaning that I am not "sickly" or succumbing to "the consumption." I get the usual colds and flus, but I am a generally healthy person (knock wood!).

Over the course of 2008, I realized that I do very little to help that along, and it's wrong of me. I have come to believe that a few of my prenatal problems with Bun could have been prevented by taking better care of myself. More specifically, by being a proper weight before getting pregnant.

I used to joke that at least I wasn't on crack when I got pregnant, but is non-stop eating of super-refined carbs because of a minor food addiction really more excusable? I think the correct answer, the hard answer, is no. In many ways I behave just like an addict when it comes to certain kinds of food, and it takes a toll on my health and my mood.

While I've always tended to focus solely on the weight that comes with eating too much junk, I'm using 2009 to focus on the issues below the surface. I don't know if I will regularly chronicle the challenges here -- it may be a little too close to the vest right now, if that makes sense.

Jennifer wrote about surrendering her food issues to God, and I know that I need to do the same thing because there's no way I can do it alone. In fact, I think it will majorly suck for a while, but I have to do it. Once I break myself of bad eating habits, the weight will follow.

And that's when I remembered . . .

Menu planning works. Do it. I've known this for a long time, but I got away from regular menu planning at the end of my pregnancy and during Bun's early babyhood. Menu planning saves me time, money, energy, calories, and, most importantly, all the angst that happens at 5:00 when everyone is breaking down and ravenous and hounding me relentlessly and WHAT ARE WE EATING FOR DINNER, MOM?!

We all deserve the happy results of me being on the ball with menu planning, so I need to make sure that I carve out the time for drawing up a menu.
That also makes me realize . . .

Being famous for my blog is not meant to be for me right now. I don't know if it will ever be meant for me. I have a sneaking suspicion that I would not handle a high-traffic blog very gracefully, and the pressure to be always on, always good would be too much for my system. I am a delicate flower, you know.

This year I tried some of the things that the aforementioned blogging gurus suggest for increasing your traffic, and frankly, I found it to be exhausting. I don't know if I am unusually slow with navigating the web or with media in general, maybe I am just too scattered, but I found myself at the computer far more often than was good for me or my family.

What's more, I started to become a little consumed with what I was doing. I felt a great weight lifted when I stopped checking my rankings on parenting sites, and then I immediately felt ridiculous for feeling that way. This is something I do for fun, this is not my vocation. This is not even a paying job.

I let it all go, and I've been rewarded with a merry band of regular readers and commenters with whom I enjoy a rapport that sustains me on harried days. I discovered that's what I really need and want from my blog these days.

Another reason for back-burnering the blog these days . . .

Sometimes "special needs" just means a little more work. Sometimes it means a lot more work, and it can be crushing when people who are closest to your child seem disinterested, or even disinclined, to help him.

Fiver had a rocky start to his school year, although things are going much more smoothly now. We've all been on a huge learning curve, and this season has seen some significant changes in his diagnoses. I've learned that I need to be involved with Fiver in different ways now, but no matter how I look at it, I still need to be much more available to his schooling needs, and his personal needs, than parents of developmentally normal children. And I'm totally good with that.

I've also been reminded once again of how grateful I am to anyone who does help Fiver. I've always made it a point to acknowledge the effort that other people make on his behalf, but sometimes the importance of their work just washes over me anew.

And that's why it this was so difficult . . .

Losing someone is hard no matter what. I've been blessed with good friends, friends I think of as my chosen family, and I have been further blessed with not having any of them suddenly pass away. Until this past summer.

It sounds strange to articulate it, but no one expected Sarah to succumb to such a virulent illness so soon after the birth of her first baby. In fact, no one even expected her to get sick at all. It was a real gut punch.

What made Sarah's death even harder to accept was knowing all the work she had done for Fiver. Rob and I have often talked about how she was the one who unlocked his future. She got him to speak, and she was in tune enough to know that he needed even more help.

While I was bustling around during my Christmas shopping marathon, I looked out into the faces passing me in the mall and I saw a woman who looked remarkably like Sarah. In fact, I thought it was her, and in that split second before reality came crashing in, I smiled instinctively.

I think that smile is her legacy.

Speaking of smiling, I learned . . .

The "more" really does make the "merrier." I have heard mothers of large families say that having more kids doesn't necessarily mean an automatic exponential work load increase, but I never believed that until I had Bun.

I'm not trying to say that adding to your family means no work or is no big deal, but I know that I am not as stressed as I was when I was the mother of one.

My attitude has mellowed over the years, and that has changed my perspective on a lot of things. I'm not as afraid of screwing up, mostly because I already know I'm screwing up in some fashion. It's the way of parenting.

But it's a thrill to see my children in the late afternoon light, with their golden brown heads all bent around a game or task. It's a joy to see my eldest child hoist my baby up on her hip and carry him around the house. It's a balm to hear one child compliment the other or offer them help.

And when their laughter rings through the house . . . well, I feel like we should have eleven hundred more.

Of course, I'm very realistic, so I can say . . .

I am so happy to be where I am. My days with my family are good. They are golden. Even if I am having the most frustrating, nerve-wracking day, when I take the time to stop and think, I realize that there is no where else I'd rather be. It is my privilege and my blessing to be with these four little souls and my soul mate.

Um, wow. So this turned out to be incredibly long, huh? Are you still there? Did you have to get snacks or take a bathroom break? This is why I usually write off the top of my head and not over the course of two days. My verbosity has been my weakness since first grade. Ask my mom.

I could have just said that I'm looking forward to the challenges and joys of the new year, because I really am. Come along with me, will you?

New Year's Day, 2007
Can you see how enthused I was? And how enormous?!

New Year's Day, 2008

One short year later, Bun has taken over. How could he not?


  1. Love the pictures! That is exactly how I looked on Christmas day, only there were probably tears of misery streaming down my cheeks!

    I could amen most of the things you have learned. Closest to heart was probably the blog traffic thing. I really let it get to me early in the year but as soon as I accepted the fact that I would never be a super blogger, I started to make some incredible friendships that are so much better than "fame" or popularity!

    Blessings in 2009, can't wait to navigate it with you!

  2. Hmm.. a verbose delicate flower with a strong constitution who blogs honestly about parenting.

    What's not to like?

    I always *think* of stealing the stuff you stole, but am too lazy of a blogger. The truth. Plus, your reflections give me pause... in a good way. Here's to '09!

  3. Anonymous1:19 AM

    Wow, girl, you are wise. Not to mention, Bun is adorable.

    As for blog traffic, quality not quantity is clearly what you have going on. Just sayin'.

  4. I appreciate your honesty -- on all counts. Looking forward to the year ahead...Cheers!

  5. Anonymous8:49 AM

    Great post and great pics- both of them! Happy New Year!
    Mirabella MOM

  6. Hey there - it's the Juje, just checking in. "Don't end your sentence with a preposition." Okay, sorry, I spaced for a sec. Although you seem to think that your posts aren't all that great, I like them, and I assume other people do as well, since we all seem to come back for more. I know we'll be back in 2009...well obviously, since it is 2009, and here I am, commenting. I like your reflections, I think they are the important counterpart to the ever-popular resolutions, however reflections rarely get a glance. I agree with everything, but I must say that the one about Sarah and Fiver's needs touched me. My heart still cries for that woman. Also, love the pictures, but I must say, for the first one - "Are you big? Cause you look big? Are you big? I think you're big? Are you? Big? Soooo exciting! (clapclapclapclap)" you...

  7. Great post Aimee! Makes me think too.

  8. Happy New Year!

    I'm glad to hear that things are starting to go better for Fiver.

  9. Anonymous10:41 AM

    Granny could not stay in touch without your blog. It gives a homebound person great pleasure to read about and see pictures of her great-grandchildren and their loving parents.

    I love your verbosity. You inherited it from me, however yours is more fascinating to Charles Dickens! Mine just produces words in scattered phrases and non-related mutterings!

    I think about Sarah often, and wonder about her husband and son...

    I, too, love to watch my four little angels growing up in such a beautiful, loving environment. It makes me wish that more young parents would take their vocation as seriously as you and Rob. Our nation could truly benefit if we learned what love is really all about...

    You are a much better mother than I was. Although I always regarded parenting as Job #1, I think I was more selfish than you. I put myself first many times, and I have since lived with the consequences. Only now have I really come to appreciate self-sacrifice. I'm a late-bloomer in many things!

    You are wise for your years and I am proud of you. Always.

    Verbose? Me? you.....

  10. I think you are wise, and smart, and funny, and I plan on sticking around no matter how infrequently you post. Happy New Year!

  11. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Great, great post!


  12. Great post! And I made it all the way through without going to the bathroom!

    I love to read Conversion Diary as well.

    Happy New Year!

  13. i'm here and i love you!
    after being stay-at-home for a little over a year and now back out to work all the time, i really do miss it (we always want what we haven't got, though i guess)
    your wisdom is my wheaties. if i don't eat it up every morning, then i curl into an amorphous blob of discontent. thank you for being my real life friend and happy new year!


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