Inspired by Gretchen Rubin and her Happier podcast, I created an 18 for 2018 list a year ago. I’ve wanted to sit down and reflect on what got crossed off, what substitutions were necessary, and what was left on the list as 2018 gave way to 2019.
1. This was harder than I thought. I went to several outdoor concerts with Penny, thanks to the LBI Wednesday Night Concert Series in Harvey Cedars. But Seb was always working. I also got to see Ed Sheeran with Seb in the open air. This didn’t match my vision of something done “as a family”, but every time I found an event that was local and feasible, it would rain or somebody would be sick.
2. When I became pregnant in April, I realized that I’d need to amend some of my fitness goals. Pregnancy is not the time for personal records and if I didn’t allow myself to substitute something else, I feared the “upholder” in me would still feel on the hook for them and try to do something that wouldn’t be in the best interest of myself or the baby. I did purchase some reusable totes and have had success using them for grocery shopping. I find it much harder to remember to forgo the plastic bags you get on smaller errands and would like to build on this habit in the new year.
3. This was easy to do and worth doing. I now desperately want to continue making a yearly album for each child. Penny and I have looked through her “Penny books” countless times.
4. Thankfully, this was the year my daughter fell asleep for someone other than me. When I put this in writing, it felt like a pipe dream, but child development has its own metronome and all kids grow up eventually.
5. This action item unfolded unexpectedly. I submitted a very personal essay early in the year to crickets. I then was contacted by the PR firm that works with my school to develop a Facebook post into a longer Op-Ed, and ultimately this was published after several failed submissions. This taught me a lot about how hard it is to get your work out there – it requires way more fortitude and a thicker skin than I would have anticipated. It’s also definitely possible if you are relentless and believe you have something worth saying.
6. I loved this one. It was a mood booster that helped when it was harder to get in a run as my body made room for another little one. I was able to visit my dad’s memorial bench and savor a little solitude, no matter how many people were currently sleeping at the beach house.
7. I struggled with whether or not to cross this off. It’s hard to find causes that toddlers can actively support. If pressed, I’d say that this year we prioritized supporting local business and Penny definitely is a part of this with her frequent trips to our indie bookstore. We donated to our public library and the Guild in our town for small business. We give gift certificates to a local business for all birthday parties. I envisioned something bigger than this though, and still want to keep this in mind as we raise our children because I believe kids benefit from understanding the things their family values.
8. I’m so glad I put this in writing. It made me reach out early and secure a ticket. Historically, this event took place during the school day but they shifted it to an evening time which made it easier for my work schedule to accommodate it. Not only did I attend, but I got to speak on behalf of the kids I taught for four years straight and still to this day love to pieces.
9. A solo plane trip with a toddler necessitates some rallying of the soul. This was so worth it and led to quality time with a dear friend. I felt really supported as a mother too, mostly because Jess is awesome and didn’t expect me not to tend to my kid. It had been too long since I’d visited Chicago and I’m not sure when I will get there again, so I’m so thankful that I made this happen.
10. Hooray! Our walls are now white and it makes the room much less dreary.
11. Epic fail. I’m currently reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work, and it’s allowing me to see why this didn’t happen. No matter how committed I am to something in theory, certain things require deep work and for me, writing fiction is one of them. I need chunks of uninterrupted (read: child-free) time where I feel comfortable not prioritizing the job I’m paid for, and those didn’t exist this year.
12. Penny was entirely screen-free until 2. Our “movie nights” aren’t really movie nights – we watch a single episode of Daniel Tiger together, often dimming the lights to make it feel festive. I added this because I wanted to introduce her to screens in a positive way that would also hold me accountable – the temptation to let the TV be a babysitter is real. She went from having little interest to being fully absorbed by 24 minutes of Daniel and his friends and it would be easy for me to let myself off the hook and go do something else. But I strongly believe that what makes screens dangerous is that we let our kids sit by them without our supervision, so this has allowed me to watch alongside her, which allows me to talk to her about what she sees. Our one episode a day limit occasionally gets tested by her trying to distract me from turning it off, but I hold strong and it’s made this not a battle of wills, but a mostly positive thing.
13. I loved this. It’s such a quick, simple, positive outlet for kids. They run a quick 50m dash and get a medal at the end of the series. Everyone is celebrated and it allows me to share something I love, even if it’s something I haven’t been able to do much of lately, with my daughter. We did both the spring and fall season.
14. This made me want to give myself a medal in adulting when I got it done. Ironically, I was most negligent in seeing my OB-GYN, so I made my annual for the beginning of January, and of course now I’ve been there a bazillion times since then.
15. Done. Not often. I like spending time with my kid and I’m a homebody. Not much can entice me to go out after 8pm. But we went to one concert and one memorial service and both required that I rip the band-aid off and let someone else put my kid to bed. Thank goodness for grandparents.
16. Oof. This one was so hard until it was over. I had so much mommy guilt and fear about putting my baby through a medical procedure, but it became medically necessary and it went well, and it’s wonderful to be on the other side of this action item.
17. I wish I had made this monthly. I figured out how to use a Cricut to craft things, which is fun. I also dabbled on Skillshare, but didn’t come away with any new passions. That said, learning makes me feel alive and I’d love to learn new skills more often in 2019.
18. No Crossfit competitions for me this year. I did start using a daily eye cream. Not very glamorous, but I hear it’s important for a woman of my age and I’ve made it pretty habitual at this point.
BONUS: There were no races that I ran in 2018 that I also ran in 2017. I did to a 10k in March both years, but the route was different. That said, I PR’ed by a significant margin for the distance, and then I got pregnant. Running quickly became unbearable.
SURPRISE: I never anticipated that a pregnancy would catch me off guard. It was very much wanted, but you have to remember that when it came to my first daughter, I slogged through three years of unexplained infertility before I held my baby in my arms. So when I found myself looking at a positive pregnancy test less than a month after rationally discussing the possibility of trying for a second, I was unsettled. I was very hesitant to get my hopes up and terrified of all the (not-fully-healed) wounds that threatened to pop back open if this pregnancy also ended in a loss. Even still, ten days from my due date, I’m constantly aware that giving birth to a healthy child is a luxury and not an inevitability. This pregnancy has been much harder on my body and equally heavy on my soul. There is something to be said for cellular memory – at times I feel like my body equates being in this state with being in peril and being on the brink of life-changing loss. I’m fearful of the ways another kid will change the relationship I have and cherish with Penny. The kicks that I want to bring nothing more than peace of mind rock my mid-section and result in persistent discomfort. And when I’m grumpy or anxious or inexplicably emotional, I’m also holding in my heart all the people I know who are still doggedly making their journey down the road to parenthood, exploring other routes to get the children they dream of, and fully deserve. If I’m completely honest with myself, I know that some of my mixed feelings are residue from being afraid of what I can’t control. I didn’t really let myself appreciate the reality of Penny until she was in my arms, pink skin and breathing all on her own. I wish I was brave enough to open my heart to this new life while it still beats on the inside, but I know that maybe I’m just not.