Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The year that's gone

Well, well, well. 2013 is upon us, with a rocket (or, more accurately, several rockets, given the amount of backyard fireworks that were popping around here at midnight).

I always like to take a backward look on New Year's Day; take stock of the year-that-was, what was great, what was terrible, what worked and what didn't. It helps me get a bit of clarity in thinking about the new year to come, not to mention serves as a family record for us. Sometimes it really helps to count your blessings, too - name them one by one, as the old song says. Whenever I'm in danger of allowing myself to get whiney about trivial things, reflecting on the fortune that has me firmly in the "most of my life is good" camp helps restore some perspective.

2012: A year in review
Looking back over 2012, a few themes and shifts stand out in my mind. The biggest were:

- Music coming into our lives in a much more serious way. In January, we were lucky enough to be given a beautiful piano, and my 7 year old, E, and I have been taking lessons since March, while my husband and 9 year old continue to gain proficiency with the guitar.

We are now at the point where we can enjoy playing together and jamming on simple songs, and what a pleasure it's been.

- Social and couple / personal outings have increased exponentially for us this year. From 40th birthday parties featuring the DeLorean from Back to the Future, to music concerts (3 of them!), a Comedy Festival show, non-kid movies and even occasional meals out, my husband and I have been able to get out together much more this year than in any year since our eldest was born 9 years ago - on average, once every 6 weeks or so. This has been a welcome and enjoyable shift, and I put it down as one of the unexpected bonuses of being through the baby and toddler stages now.

- Birthdays were once again a big deal in 2012, from C's 3rd birthday party on a scorching 40-degree day last February, complete with Dorothy the Dinosaur cake, to E's art party for her seventh in May and A's movies-and-sleepover with her friends in August. We also celebrated parents' and siblings' birthdays (in January, April, May and November respectively), the family-friendly 40ths of several friends, and G's birthday in March. My own birthday, in June, slipped by unremarked this year, due to the next factor, which is:

- Work became a major part of my life again. In January and February, I completed a medium-sized contract work project, which both provided some needed and welcome income, and gave me the confidence to try to develop a freelance business in professional writing and policy development, my fields of experience when I was a salaried worker. Not much happened in March, due to a combination of family holidays and a transient heart problem that forced me to go slow for a while, but by late April I had several small jobs in, and in late May, I picked up a major contract for a big client, which was to run, as it transpired, until Christmas.

That contract also led me to another, which ran concurrently from August til November, and I have been able to lock in follow-on work with another client from November til Christmas, and already have two jobs booked for February-June.

Working has allowed me to build my professional portfolio and pay for things that we have been hoping to do, but couldn't afford - from our 4.9kw solar panel system, installed in June, to our new air conditioner, new BBQ and new book shelving. (Reorganising the shelves was the occasion for much delight for Miss 7, who thought lolling about on a pile of books was some kind of wonderful :-)

- Daddy time: Me working again has necessitated some changes in the way we do things in our house. Although my work has been primarily performed from home (I have averaged only one half-day a week onsite with my clients), I have worked between 25 and 50 hours a week since late May, with the average week being around 35 hours. With C, my 3 year old, only in creche 16 hours a week, this has meant that I have had to rely on working evenings and weekends, so that when she is with me, I can engage with her and meet her needs. In turn, that has meant that my husband has picked up much more of the care of the children, in a day to day practical sense, this year than ever before.

So this year, the girls have gotten used to - and loved - having much more consistent Daddy time and seeing their father as a primary caregiver, as well as me. Saturdays have been Daddy and girls days, as he's picked up sole responsibility for the swimming lessons and grocery shopping with them.

He also took a week off work in the term 3 school holidays, when I was especially snowed under, and was definitely the Fun Dad that week, introducing the big girls to Luna Park among other things. I could not have built my business without the teamwork that we've deployed this year, and I am really grateful for it.

- Family times and holidays were once again important for us in 2012. We holidayed in Anglesea for a week in March, and had a great time; as it turned out, with work, it was an ideal time for a break, as my schedule made getting out of Melbourne for any length of time after that quite difficult. That holiday gave the girls their first experience of horse riding, which was a wonderful thing, if ever so slightly hair raising for me!

We got to the snow for 4 days in July, which was a novel experience for the kids. Getting caught in a blizzard on Mount Hotham was ... interesting ... but we made it out OK and it was fuel for story later on!

We also made the most of day trips - family days at Southgate, eating Yum Cha and watching street performers with friends; a visit to the Zoo and to Scienceworks; a trip up Eureka Tower to admire the city from on high; a fun freebie day at the Adventure Park in Geelong.

I would've liked more such days, but at the same time, I acknowledge the benefit of (and our need of) downtime days where we just don't go anywhere or do anything, especially in Term 4, aka The Term of Doom and Overtired Children.

- The rest - which was way too much: If the things I've listed above were the highlights and top notes, there was a constant buzzing bass provided by our welter of volunteer, community and administrative things. I waited far too long to adjust my volunteer commitments appropriately when work went into full swing, and paid the price with several weeks of overstretched, cranky, exhausted juggling. It's important to do these things, I know, but I need to be more realistic in 2013 about how much I take on, for my own sake as well as the family's.

- Writing, especially poetry, was once again a major part of my year in 2012. Writing professionally (business and government documentation) and being paid to do so has freed me, in an odd way, to be creative and poetic again; it's as if, released from any expectation of or need for "marketability" in my creative work, I can just let my mind run free again. I can "wash my own face" with my business writing, so the poems are just for fun and expression. I am feeling more sure in my voice and I am liking that.

Lots of other things, major and minor, happened to us in 2012. My middle girl, who is extremely bright, has soared academically and struggled in other ways; my 9 year old has shown signs of becoming pre-adolescent, and has rediscovered a passion for dancing; my almost-4 has had dramas with creche and delighted in art and gymnastics. We had stressed times and happy times, we all had at least one major-ish illness apiece, and there were plenty of things, in our family and the wider world, to cause worry and fear and sadness.

At the end of the day, though, 2012 was a great year. In many ways it was a watershed year, marking the transition between our baby-toddler parenting years and the next stage. I can only hope 2013 is as varied, challenging, rewarding and bright.

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