Since I started working in an actual job at the end of the summer, my weeks have flown by in a new rhythm of life: Mondays are for cleaning, getting groceries, and running errands, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are all about writing, editing, and publishing a weekly issue, Thursdays are largely for meetings and various planning and management issues, and Fridays are a catch-all before the weekend appears. Email, once a fun link to the outside world, has become a whack-a-mole nemesis, something to be checked constantly and responded to multiple times a day. Writing, once a creative outlet for a brain that was subsumed with the details of mothering, has become a paid part of my existence. I'm responsible for a website that thousands of people read. I've met heads of foundations and city government and companies. A staff reports to me. I hired an intern. All these things sound like things someone else would do, and yet they are things I have done in 2013. I mostly love it.
Last week, Jemma lost her second front tooth, turned seven, and got her ears pierced in quick succession. She went from being a snaggle-toothed little one to a Big Kid in the blink of an eye, her new earrings glinting in her lobes, her new quiet confidence obvious in the photos I took on the 27th as she opened her presents. She's ripping into new piano songs daily, eager to practice and quickly catching up to her big sister. She has not lost her love for the Boxcar Children books, but she's branching out, too: Magic Treehouse, Nate the Great, Cam Jansen, and plenty of animal-related non-fiction, too. She had an All About Me week at school during December. I went into her classroom to bake with her, and I sent in photos for the bulletin board. She had to answer some standard questions (favorite book, favorite place, etc.) and under "I am special because . . . " she wrote, "I am special because I have a kind heart." Truer words never written.
Annie is blossoming into a curious, thoughtful, creative person. She notices everything. She has gobbled up fourth grade, and has been learning some good lessons about time management, studying, friendship, and responsibility. Her fall was full of soccer, and she was named captain of her team as much for her work ethic at practice as for her scrappy play during games. She's fast, smart, and tough, and I love to watch her figure life out. She'll spend hours at a time designing Lego houses (not from the books, but from her own brain), playing the piano, creating "training" courses for the kitties, and crafting bracelets and folders and god-knows-what from various materials she hoards in her bedroom. She's reading Harry Potter, singing in the school choir for the first time, and just learned to breathe to the side while swimming freestyle.
Jason and I fall onto the couch (or the porch furniture, or the hot tub) at the end of the day, just barely able to speak clearly about bank balances and car maintenance, holiday plans and vacation reservations. We've loved the last week: plenty of time to sit and watch the fire (truly plenty on the three separate times our power went out!), plenty of guitar and conversations and eating fudge and seafoam and watching Arrested Development. Six months ago, we were just getting back from Paris. I'm so very grateful we got to go there this year, and I actually dream about being there very occasionally and daydream about being there even more often. There is a small part of me that wants to live there, and you never know: it might prevail.
This fall, my annual college girls' weekend trip took us to Charleston, SC, a city I've now decided I'd be happy to retire to, and for some reason, this year was an extra-good dose of togetherness and excellent conversation, perspective, and eating. At a time when things were a little confusing here at home in the social realm, it was a solid reminder of the value of old friends and a lovely little getaway from the weekly responsibilities of being a working mom.
My grandma passed away a few weeks ago. She was 99 years old and had been begging, "Lord, take me now!" for several years, off and on. She was tough and beautiful and had a hilarious sense of humor along with a serious commitment to faith and family, and our Annie is her namesake. She was quite old when I came along since my dad was her youngest, so I never knew her quite the way my oldest cousins on that side did. At her funeral, though, I got a glimpse of a woman who, widowed young, found the courage to find love again; who, at age 65, took up golf; who, after having five kids in eight years, still managed to be a hearty and healthy mother and matriarch. I wished Annie (and Jemma) could have been there to hear some of her wisdom (we didn't take them to the funeral, just the visitation), but luckily my dad and I are still around to pass those traits on, and my grandma left behind a much-written-in Bible and many journals that give glimpses into how to be a strong and wise woman.
This Christmas, we surprised the girls with a little "clubhouse" of their own: an attic space that's been unfinished, now paneled with beadboard and wired with a little sconce and filled with beanbags. They've been holed up there for a few days with their Rainbow Looms and crayons and CD players and Legos, being lazy and cozy on their school vacation. Jason got me a Vitamix, which I've used daily and already wonder how I lived without, and I got him tickets to an upcoming concert in Ann Arbor, where we'll spend two nights sleeping in and eating out and enjoying good music together. There were, of course, other presents, but the clubhouse and the time with family were by far the biggest gifts.
I haven't been in this space much in the last few months, and I'm not going to promise to be here all that much in the future, either. Next week, we'll all dive back in to our crazy schedule and I'll dive into a much-needed detox from alcohol and red meat and sugar, and before I know it we'll be hauling out the porch furniture again and sleeping with the windows open. But I do hope 2014 holds more of the same (professional challenges, family time, travel, music, great food) and a few new opportunities, too. I hope for lots of small-but-wonderful moments. I hope for balance, and more vegetables, and spontaneous adventures, and meaningful service, and deepening friendships, and a better handle on my DSLR, and better posture. I hope we find a church that makes our whole family feel at home. I hope I remember that I only have this one wild and precious life and to seize the day with as much grace and good humor as I can muster.
No resolutions for me. Just pointing my compass in the right direction, fortifying myself with some green smoothies and hot yoga, and jotting down a list every night before I go to bed.
Happy New Year.