Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Auf Wiedersehen 2014: Year in Review

So last year right about now I was pregnant and blissfully unaware that our baby would be in our arms exactly one month later (Zoe really snuck up on us over a month earlier than expected).

This year, champagne! Although, like last year, I do foresee NOT making it to midnight. At first I felt a little bit sad but then I was like, but why? This baby wakes up early regardless of when I go to bed and I'm really not missing anything by seeing the clock change from 11:59 to 12:00 so I'm just not going to hold myself to that unnecessary standard. Freedom.
So, as is the tradition here at ATY, let's review the last year. 2014 was a big year...

- We had a baby! And our lives changed dramatically. It has been incredible and hard and new and exciting and tiring and overwhelming and sweet and emotional. It has been everything. Definitely the highlight of our year.
- We traveled to 14 cities in 5 countries (some new, some repeats). Highlights include a trip down to the Alps, our Black Forest adventure, a trip to the states (Zoe's first flight!), Lake Como and Venice, Italy, and our monster road trip to London. We also had a bunch of visitors here in Germany and we LOVED that, as usual.

-Z ended his time in command and transferred to a different position in the battalion. This meant less middle-of-the-night phone calls, less weekend work, less stress overall. I was so pleased to have him around more, home earlier each evening, and not in constant work-mode.

- We celebrated 3 years of marriage and our 2nd full year in Germany.

- I officially quit my job after initially trying to quit and getting talked into moving to a part-time position instead. But then after I quit for real, I got another part-time job, with tons of flexibility and the ability to create my own schedule. It's been nice to do a gradual step-down from an intense full-time job, to a challenging part-time position, to a work-from-home job that gives me complete control over my hours each month. I don't miss the corporate world very much, but it is nice to have something to keep me engaged on an adult level when my days are so filled with baby things (which I love. I adore being a stay-at-home mom!)

- I read 19 books, a pretty significant decrease from the past few years...but you know, we had a baby so that's kind of a time suck. I was really tempted to put 20 books because I'm halfway through 2 right now but let's not end the year on a dishonest note, right? Zach read 24 books and I'm feeling a little bitter that he beat me, but I don't know if he's aware it was a competition. We'll keep it that way.

- I started to grow my hair out. YES THIS MAKES THE LIST, BACK OFF. It's a huge deal. It's awful. It's hard. It is a trial. I am in near-constant angst. I probably need to reassess my priorities.

- We spent our 3rd (and final) holiday season away from our families, but my in-laws were here over Christmas, which was amazing.

I wrote last year about feeling a little bittersweet about the "lasts" (last trips, last Christmas, etc.) we were experiencing as a couple preparing for our first baby, and I'm here to tell you that I didn't even think about that once since Zoe joined our fact when I reread last year's post I was surprised to recall feeling that way. I'm glad I wrote it down, I'm glad I was honest with myself and you all, and I'm even more glad to share that there is just zero regrets about no longer being "just us". Zoe is one of the best things to ever happen to either of us and being her parents is an incredible, enormous blessing. This year was all about her FIRSTS and I wouldn't change that for anything.

2014, you were a good year. There were challenges and bumps, but it was overwhelmingly a joyous, full year for our little family. We are grateful, and we are excited for what 2015 holds (including a move back to the states, WOO!)

Happy New Year, friends! 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

All is calm, all is bright...

I know there are other lines to the "Silent Night, Holy Night" song...I know there is a bigger story told through the verses, one that is beautiful and full of hope. But today, one line seems to loop through my head...


All is calm, all is bright.

I let it continue to scroll through my mind, although admittedly it is taken out of the Christmas-story context in my overactive brain. Today it is more of a mantra refocusing me and reminding me to look towards the calm and bright. Because sometimes I tend to lean more towards the angst and darkness.

My in-laws left this morning after a fabulous week with us...tears were shed, as usual. Sigh. It doesn't get easier. 

I am focusing on calm and bright very intentionally, because it was not forthcoming earlier today. I had a decision to make after Zoe and I waved forlornly from the window as Zach and his parents headed to the airport. I could focus on the sadness of the goodbye, on the stab of pain I felt that our baby doesn't get to spend regular time with her wonderful grandparents (on both sides), on the awful quiet of a house after guests leave, and (the straw that threatens to break the camel's back) on the fact that the top stand of lights on our Christmas tree weakly zapped out when I plugged them in this morning (*wails*)...


Or I could focus on the sweet memories of the last week, of how Zoe adored her Mimi and Poppy and how they loved on her, of experiencing Zoe's first Christmas, of traipsing through multiple Christmas markets, of watching the snow fall over the last two days, and of a day at home, warm and cozy with my little family while the brightness of the snow reflects almost-sunshiny light through our windows in spite of the cloudy sky.

I still really fight despair and the potential to spiral downward into the regrets and disappointment of living so far away from our families, of Zoe growing up seeing her grandparents way less often than we all would prefer. It makes me overwhelmingly sad if I really let myself think about it. Sometimes even when I am not thinking about it too hard, it just washes over me like a wave I didn't see coming. Earlier Zach and I were talking about something completely silly, like the weather and our plans for the next two days, when I just burst into tears because it breaks my heart that Zoe is growing up so fast, that her grandparents love her so much, that she has SO much fun interacting with them...yet that interaction happens so infrequently right now. Such a sneak-attack meltdown. 

I know that this is a short season, and that in a few months we'll be back in the states (and hopefully in the southeast, so much closer to our families) and things won't always be like this. I KNOW that. I know I should (and I do) absolutely cherish the fact that our baby's first Christmas was spent with her Mimi and Poppy. But it's still a bittersweet feeling, all of this joy of watching your baby grow up and the pain of having that baby so far away from the people we love so much.

So to regain some focus and reverse the downward spiral, I took a little self-imposed time out, got my winter gear on, hooked Olive to her leash and we took off on a solo (sans baby and husband) walk through the calm, bright, snowy landscape.

This is what needs to happen sometimes. Get up. Get out. Just a little jumpstart to recalibrate. To zero in on the calm and bright. It doesn't always come so easily or naturally, but it's a choice...for me at least. So we got out in that 19-degree frigid air and tromped through the snow and I took deep breaths and reminded myself that it's ok to be sad but that it shouldn't overshadow or rob me of the joy. There was a little encouraging pep talk. A lot of enjoying the snow-covered landscape. A teensy bit of wallowing, followed by a mental pat on the back for all the self-improvement that was going on (you recall I'm a fan of long and dramatic wallows). And then we came back home, Olive and I, freezing our buns (tails) off, but a little more clear-headed and ready to embrace calm and bright.

Right now, as I write this, calm and bright is easier to grasp. Big Z sits on the couch across from me, reading his book.

Olive is curled up on her bed, snoozing.

Little Z is playing contentedly with her new Leapfrog learning table, which is alternately singing the alphabet or belting out colors and shapes with great enthusiasm (good news: when I get tired of hearing that, I can switch it to EspaƱol and hear "amarillooooo!" instead of "yelllllooow!"

I scrolled through all my pictures of the last week and smiled and focused on the good memories of the time we had together and not the tiny minor detail of the months in between our next time together. I'm now feeling ready to fully embrace the calm quiet of a snowy Sunday with no place to be and nothing on the to-do list.

All is calm...all is bright.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The most wonderful time of the year

My blogging has been and will continue to be sporadic for a while...because, you know, life. And CHRISTMAS!

Mostly I'm just working on soaking in Zoe's first holiday season and our last in Germany. This makes me feel so many feelings...pass the tissues, mostly. Speaking of which, I am foiled every time I do reach for a tissue because, whoops, our Christmas tree is so fat that we had to actually remove furniture from our living room for it to fit. This included an end table that formerly held a box of conveniently located tissues. Alas. But really, I could not be happier about our fat, fabulous tree because we have suffered through some scrawny, wonky German trees the last few years (you'll recall our tree last year fell over...twice. And the year before the tree died and drooped and ornaments fell off and shattered, as did my heart). But this year, our big daddy tree is just fat and happy and taking over a really good chunk of our living room. I am happy.

We put the tree up on Thanksgiving, definitely the earliest we've ever decorated. But I wanted Zoe to experience Christmas magic for as long as possible this season. I think it's been a success so far.

(Yes, we have a gate around our tree. But this keeps the tree, the ornaments, and little hands safe. It's been a fabulous investment.)

I just can't really explain what Christmas with a child, our child, really means for us. I just know it has made me super emotional. Seeing her stocking hanging up with ours makes me well up. Watching her little fingers reach out to touch the tree branches leaves me in awe. Don't even get me started on Christmas songs, because "Mary did you know?" absolutely slays me. I adore Christmas and seeing it through the eyes of my baby girl just renews the magic and the hope and the excitement. It's truly the best.

In the meantime, Zoe is 10 months old. This is 2 months short of 1 year which is absolutely shocking. Our baby! How is she so big? But then I see her in her daddy's arms and she still looks tiny, which helps me calm down a little bit. The whole thing is just overwhelming. So the blogging takes a backseat so I can soak up these days and squeeze every last drop of joy and happiness and Christmas magic out of Zoe's first Christmas and our last Christmas in Germany...

I hope you do some joy-squeezing of your own this month particularly. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.