Monday, December 31, 2018

Reflection of 2018

More often than not, I hear people say whether they have had a great year, or a bad year when we reflect our year as a whole. It is true. There has been some tough years, and some wonderful years. As I sit back to reflect 2018, my first response is that our year has been neither terrible or amazing as in going on many adventures, experiencing a new life coming into the world, or winning a lottery, but it has been a pretty good year. A lot has happened to Russ family in 2018! 

January and February were uneventful with an exception with Franklin becoming extremely ill with a nasty stomach virus, and it landed him in ER due to dehydration. That was a tough experience to go through without Stu by my side. He had a work conference out of the town, and was unable to be there for us. However, I was so blessed to have Spencer and Wally in the town as well as my mom visiting, so they were able to help me out. Franklin made a quick recovery after getting IV for hydration. I was so thankful to a wonderful staff of nurses that helped to ease my worries, who took their time to write to me every time they checked on us, and for taking care of Franklin's messes without batting their eye. What a wonderful people, really. I had no idea how they did this every day, but I was sure thankful for them. 

I celebrated my 33rd birthday, and embraced being a mom of three. While we battled winter doldrums, the boys kept me on my toes, and eagerly looked forward to spring. Unfortunately, we had to wait a bit longer for spring, because we had a freak snow storm in mid-April that invited about 30-33 inches of snow! Stu sure shoveled A LOT for almost three days! The entire town was snowbound! It was very exciting for the boys and Beatrice, because they had never seen this much of snow, and they spent a lot of time playing in the snow. During late part of winter and early part of spring, I felt I needed to start focusing on myself. I had lost myself to motherhood, and allowed it to become a big identity of who I was. I loved being a mother, and loved every bits of it...well, most of it! But I needed to reclaim myself. I was slowly losing myself, and realized I didn't really know who I was. I struggled a lot emotionally with that. My clothes were from my younger days and didn't reflect who I was, but I had no idea who I was other than being a mom. I was tired of dealing with toxic friends who wanted nothing but drama. I felt emotionally drained by catering to their problems. I didn't like how I neglected myself in the past seven years. I felt I didn't quite fit in with the parents at Forrest's school. I wondered what they really thought of me. I was always in leggings, sweaters or sweatshirt decorated with baby vomit or food stains, and had my hair up in the bun. I did feel insecure, and hated that feeling. Stu suggested that I should start making a list. I laughed at his suggestion. He insisted, and reminded me how MUCH I LOVED lists. I figured he was right, and I started making a list....and forgot about it, because life happened while we were busy making other plans, right?

I made a small step that seemed insignificant to me at that time, but later held a huge significance for me. I said good-bye to several of my toxic friends, and their constant drama. I felt guilty at first for cutting the cord, and say good bye. I struggled whether it was a nice thing to do, or not. Later I did come to a realization that I made the right decision. I was not cruel with how I ended things. I sent them with love, and best wishes. I left several groups on Facebook. The dynamics had changed over the years, and I felt I no longer belonged. The members in those groups were not bad folks. Matter of fact, they were (and still are) good folks with your everyday problems. It was just not the right group for me anymore. I figured that people who cared, and wanted to be a part of my life would have found their way to become my Facebook friends, or remain as Facebook friends if they were already my friends. Most of them did remain as friends, or found their way to be my friend on Facebook. Doing this alone made me feel lighter, because I was able to refocus all of my energy into my family, and myself. 

Then spring finally came! The weather became warmer. I was able to get out of the house, and shake off the cabin fever. My internal struggles were briefly forgotten as sun came out to warm us all, and by a dilemma that fell upon our laps. 

Stu wanted to advance his career, and become a principal. He felt he had gained enough experience as an associate principal to try his hand at being a big guy of the school. I fully supported him. There came a choice of us leaving Shawano for a job opportunity with more guarantee, or staying in Shawano for a job opportunity that was up in the air, and held a lot of uncertainty for a short while. Stu and I had a lot of heart to heart talks. We created several lists of pros and cons. Ultimately, I felt we were given many signs to stay in Shawano, and had a strong conviction that staying was the right decision. We held each other's hands as we plunged into the murky waters, and prayed that our choice was the right one. I continued to be Stu's anchor as he fretted about his decision. I figured that he was there for me through my challenges earlier in the year, then it was a mutual decision to keep him bolstered until he steadied himself. Stu dove into his work, and pulled up the sleeves to start his role as a principal at Shawano Middle School.

My conviction to stay here in Shawano was further confirmed with Forrest finishing his first year in LEADS program. I loved the teachers in the program. They all were wonderful, hand-on, and engaging. I knew that it was a program that I wanted to keep our kids in for as long as possible. Shawano may have had its own set of problems, but what a town doesn't come without problems. There were also a lot of good in the community. This was reinforced even more when we befriended a wonderful family, and through them, we met even more wonderful people. If that was not telling enough, then I had no idea what else that sign could have meant. We always had signs all around us, and it was just a matter of learning how to read them. Those became the answers to the prayers, thoughts, or a confirmation to a gut feeling that one may have had. 

The summer rolled around. Fox turned one! It was hard to believe that a whole year flew by with Fox being in our lives. I had a hard time imaging what our lives were like without Fox. I always believed that our kids were like puzzle pieces, and once fitted in a bigger picture, it was like they were always there from the beginning. Our summer was not filled with a big vacation, or major events, yet it was still a great summer. We visited our family quite often. The boys went to Camp Grandma for a week while I stayed behind at home with Fox and Stu. Our summer may have been relaxed, and unstructured, yet it was a nice summer. The boys had a lot of time to play outside, to enjoy family time, and celebrate friends both new and old.

I started purging a lot of my clothes. I said farewell to the Pre-Mom chapter, and began shedding off what did not fit me anymore. I realized that a lot of my clothes indicated a very young age more than what was appropriate for my age. I still saved my favorite T-shirts, and my comfortable leggings.  Now, that were not going anywhere! Once I made that realization that I was dressing too young for my age, and that it no longer fit my identity, I started browsing around on Pinterest. Now I was far from being the most fashionable person. I had never been into fashion. Comfort was my thing. I also liked to look nice. I needed to blend those two somehow. Pinterest was a great place to start.

Slowly but surely, I began to replace every article of clothing with a new item that fit me personality-wise. The more I did this, the better I started to feel about myself. I began to focus on my skin care, and putting more work in myself. Sure, that sounded a bit vain, but I needed it, because I had neglected myself for so long. The summer gave its way into fall, which was one of my favorite seasons, and school began once again. I looked forward to structure, and routines.

Forrest began kindergarten through LEADS. Franklin joined St. James for 3K program shortly after, and continued speech therapy with a new therapist. Franklin slowly flourished with being in St. James, and with continued therapy. Fox took his first steps, and eventually started walking! He also finally got teeth. No longer was he a gummy joe anymore.

An opportunity presented itself when my friend asked me to become one of the tutors for her Deaf/hard of Hearing program. I had met my friend at Gallaudet all of these years ago, and it was amazing how little things like that became useful later in our lives. I decided to take up on her offer, because I did really enjoy teaching people about Deaf culture, and American Sign Language. I worried a bit at first whether it was going to work out with my kids, and Stu's hectic work schedule as a first year principal. Stu encouraged me to saddle up anyway in despite of my worries. So I did. It turned out to be one of the best decisions that I made. I LOVED being able to sit down, and work with the students. I loved watching them grow in term of signing, and becoming more confident with themselves. I enjoyed learning a bit about them. I never had one session of feeling that it was a work, and I was not looking forward to it. I looked forward to every session I had with the students. I wanted to see them succeed, and they did. I was pretty proud of them when the semester ended, and I was a bit sad to let them away from under my wings, but I had a feeling they were going to do just fine. To my surprise and pleasure, I was given an opportunity to tutor again next semester! I gladly took up on that offer again. It was nice to do something outside just being a "mom", and do something that I enjoyed.

While I was doing all this, I decided to sign up for a 5K walk, in honor for my friend who had passed away from Breast Cancer at a young age, and realized how much I enjoyed doing something for just myself. Feeling inspired by my lifelong friend, who was participating in 5K races and by Brittany's dedication, I decided I wanted to take up on running. I did my research. Of course, I had to research! I looked around for a gym with a childcare. I found one! I was pretty excited about that, and figured I could start in December instead of January. I felt that starting in January was a somehow doomed. You know how New Year's always had those commercials of people trying to be fit, and lose weight, then by March, more than half of those people gave up on dieting or working out! What else was a good way to end the year other than starting something new JUST for myself. I decided I'd participate in at least 2-3 5K races next year; Alzhemier's, Color Run, and Breast Cancer. That should motivate me to keep going for the whole year. The idea of having a childcare in the gym helped too!

Stu and I also paid off our debts through doing Dave Ramsey program. It was crazy, because initially, I was not sure about Dave Ramsey. I told Stu that Dave Ramsey was a loony who wanted fame and money from people subscribing to his program. Stu insisted it was a good game plan, and I trusted him. Well, sure enough, Dave Ramsey was not a looney, and his program DID work. We had worked extremely hard to better ourselves, and to pull ourselves out of the debt. Because of this, we have decided we deserve a reward for our hard work, and sticking to it, and we decided to set up a family trip for next summer. We began planning our trip.

Of course, it wouldn't be almost to the end of 2018 without Franklin's adventure to a hospital once again. He had swallowed a quarter, and needed a GI scope to remove the quarter. Stu jokingly said that it was the most expensive quarter ever. Once again, I was reminded by how wonderful the team of nurses and doctors were by how well they had treated especially Franklin during a scary situation.

Then we also decided to have our shed to be built. We needed more space for our home, and we were slowly outgrowing our home. The possibly of house-hunting for a bigger home was brought to our table, but we decided we would stay in this home for at least one more year to see how Stu's job was going first before committing ourselves to such a big purchase again. We felt that by having a shed would boost our house's value for future buyers. The idea of selling this home made me feel a bit sad for some reason, yet I was looking forward to the idea of having a bigger home with more space.

As each one of us continue to grow in our own ways in our family; let it be Fox learning how to walk and talk, Franklin becoming more confident with his speech and language development, Forrest acquiring chapter books to boost his love of reading (his current favorite is Magic Tree Clubhouse series and Goosebumps), Beatrice sleeping more and more these days (she's doing pretty good's just a Basset thing to sleep day away), Stu navigating as a first year principal, or I with discovering who I am all about outside just being a "mommy", we are also growing as a family unit, and changing our dynamics as we grow older.

We are not sure what 2019 will bring to us. It is definitely a new beginning being forged, and we are looking forward to what our new beginning will look like. We wish you a wonderful New Year, and all the happiness that comes to your way.