The after-Christmas slump

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I have a hard time in January, and I know that I’m not alone. The holiday stretch from October through December brings me so much joy and opportunity to engage in fun, creative activities with the kids and to make those seasons magical. So once it’s all over I struggle to find a similar source of inspiration and wonder.

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It doesn’t help that New Year’s Eve stresses me out a little. At Christmas it feels so easy and natural to create traditions that are meaningful for us, but NYE always makes me feel like I’m missing something. I have no idea how to spend it and yet it feels high-stakes enough that I ought to be doing something significant to mark the gravity of the occasion. This year I even had a fleeting thought that if I did it wrong that might sabotage my intentions for the year. Ultimately we went bowling, the kids wore party hats for awhile, and I think we watched a movie together (I don’t even remember what it was). It was the kids’ first experience bowling and we had a lot of fun. Later Kristin and I decided that we want to do some sort of family activity every NYE (no matter how unceremonious it may be).

While we were bowling I kept thinking of the NYE when my family went bowling together at the very same place. We may have even done it more than once. I have a lot of wonderful memories of family time on holidays big and small. When I was in college I remember spending my first NYE and also my first 4th of July with friends rather than with my family, and while I tried to enjoy it, fully aware that this was what college kids were supposed to love doing, the secret pain of missing my family on those evenings was huge. While I don’t want to cause our children any pain as they grow up or keep them from their independence, I would love for us to cultivate the kind of environment and traditions that make our kids want to spend holidays with their parents and siblings.

The other day, Kristin and I had a conversation about the concept of a meaningful life (because of this post written by a friend). We attempted to define the meaning of meaning, and I spent some time talking about how I’ve recently come to the realization that parenting, and even sometimes managing a household, is my source of meaning. While I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mom, I think that I’d convinced myself that the work I do around the house was selfless because I was caring for others (and that, by extension, those who were more focused on career or otherwise were being more selfish than I was). It seems clearer now how wrongheaded that was. I told Kristin through tears that I’ve worried ever since our oldest was born how I’ll cope when the kids are grown and out of the house. She took my hand and told me that then I’ll be like the creepy mom in I’ll Love You Forever who climbs into her adult son’s room with a ladder while he’s sleeping. Kristin always has the right thing to say.

We both went back to work over the last week and a half, the Christmas tree came down, and I’m feeling bummed out about all of the cold and grey without something sparkly to look forward to. I’m not much of a resolution person (if I were, perhaps I’d feel more motivated and inspired this time of year). It always feels like too much pressure to come up with them on time. Last year I set some goals on my birthday because that gave me a two-week runway, and I’ve actually done fairly well on two of them: lots of creative activity over the last year, and I finally joined a gym in October and I’m loving being active again. This year I’m still defining what I’d like to focus on personally, but since my sister gave us a cute little letter board we decided to set some family resolutions with the kids. It made taking down the Christmas card wall a little more bearable to know that I had just the thing to hang in its place.

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Watercolor art from the kids added the color that it needed (we’ve been doing a lot of family painting lately, including lots of tiny paintings to stretch the paper a bit further). This series also includes lots of Lisa Frank stickers, so bonus I guess? We came up with the list collectively, with each person contributing at least one item.

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One of K’s gifts to me for Christmas was a set of magnetic cords to hang photos or cards, so a week or so ago I ordered a bunch of prints and this week I hung them up on a blank stretch of wall in the living room. I love how easy it will be to change up the pictures whenever we want, and to get even more photos off of the computer and onto the walls. The kids love looking at them and talking about them, and printing some of our favorite memories from 2017 was a nice way to reflect on the year.

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Completing these two tiny creative household projects was so gratifying for me, so I know that I need to keep up the inspiration if I want to stay out of the winter joy slump. My parents gave me a sewing machine for Christmas and I’m excited to learn how to sew as an additional creative outlet. Now I just need some beginner projects (and probably some You Tube tutorials). I did know how to sew once; I learned in seventh-grade home economics where I made two pairs of shorts which I unfortunately wore to school. Kristin laughed for several minutes straight when I shared that. So maybe not shorts. If you sew, can you recommend any fun beginner projects?

Besides tapping into my creative side, I want to make sure that we get outside more as a family (now that the single-digit temps seem to have abated), maybe pick up a few new puzzles to do as a family (Jonah told me the other night that puzzles are his favorite thing in the whole world, which was news to me), and make sure that we’re finding ways to lift the kids’ spirits too. Jonah mentioned how much he misses summer tonight, so I think that the gloom is beginning to wear the kids down too.

What’s inspiring you and bringing you joy in January? What are you looking forward to?

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