Jan 04

Image by Viktor Nagornyy

I know I’m not the first or the only person moved at the beginning of January to reflect on the year that just ended. But, when I saw Tsh’s list of 20 questions for reflecting on 2011 over at Simple Mom, I knew I wanted to stop and write on them.

What can I say? Cliche, thy name is Kristen!

So here goes: Tsh’s questions and my responses…

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

A no-brainer: my daughter was born on February 4, 2011, completing our family and bringing us boundless joy with her gaping grins, hearty laugh, and rolls and rolls of fat.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

I spent the weeks before my daughter was born in the hospital on bed rest due to a placental abruption.  Having to leave home – and especially having to be away from my sons – was emotionally devastating, even though I knew that being in the hospital was the best thing for me and my baby.  Luckily, my husband, my mother, and our terrific babysitter rallied together to shower our kids with love and attention so that that wild month now feels like a wacky memory instead of a wound.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?

I’ve found the transition from having two kids to having three much easier than I found the transition from having one to having two (and much easier than the transition from being childless to being a mother).

I’ve also discovered a heretofore unknown love for – wait for it – crossword puzzles.  That’s right: I am a wild child.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

I developed shingles when my daughter was six weeks old. Trying to find ways to care for her, her brothers, and myself, all while recovering from a c-section, presented me and my husband with another unexpected medical challenge.

5. Pick three words to describe 2011.

Chaotic, surprising, exciting

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2011 (don’t ask them; guess based on
how you think your spouse sees you).

Busy, overwhelming, successful

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2011 (again, without asking).

Hectic, exhausting, fun

8. What were the best books you read this year?

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

Middlemarch, by George Eliot

The Gift of an Ordinary Day, by Katrina Kenison

The Blue Jay’s Dance, by Louise Erdrich

Abide With Me, by Elizabeth Strout

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?

My husband, my kids, my parents, my sisters-in-law, my local friends (That last one was a bit of a revelation for me. Since moving to the Midwest four years ago, I have sometimes resisted the idea of creating a life here. This year, though, I felt increasingly attached to and grateful for the handful of good friends I’ve made here.)

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?

I went from being a full-time stay-at-home mom of two to a part-time work-at-home mom of three.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

I think I’ve gotten more resilient this past year, more willing to really be okay with “good enough,” to strive for excellence rather than perfection.  There are still days when I want to throw up my hands and go back to bed, but there are more than ever before when I look at the chaos, sigh, and smile.

“Oh well” has become a mantra of late.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

That’s a tough one and an area of my identity I struggle with. I continue to be fascinated by spiritual memoirs (Dani Shapiro’s Devotion is one of the few books I read and reread) and resonate deeply with stories of people of faith who are trying to forge new paths of devotion for themselves and their families.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?

I became a runner – and continue to challenge myself daily by lugging around the world’s largest 11 month old baby!

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

The challenges of the past year have only strengthened my relationship with my husband. After years of dating and years of marriage (Sunday was our 8th anniversary!), I can honestly say that I am more in love with him now than ever before. I’ve said it before: there is something profound and magical about seeing your partner as a parent to your kids that deepens and expands the contours of your love for him.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

I cherish the balance that my writing gives to my life. Making time for myself and my words each day brings a dimension to my life that I deeply value.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

Having been a teacher for nine years before having my kids, I am unused to the uncertain pitching life that freelance writing dictates. Also, working part-time and at-home, I sometimes struggle with flipping the switch between being a mommy and being a writer. Not surprisingly, I suppose, these two critical parts of my identity aren’t really separate, even if I’d like the time that I devote to each one to be delineated somehow.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

That’s easy: the Interwebs! (How is it that I go online to look up a recipe for whole wheat bread and end up researching which one of our hand soaps has parabens in it?!)

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?

This summer, my husband and I started going on weekly date nights. We put the kids to bed, our babysitter arrives, and we head out for a late dinner. Having that time to catch up with each other – and to eat a meal in peace! – has been a tremendous gift to me and to our relationship.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?

There is enough of me to go around for all of us – including myself. (Thank you, Rebecca, for helping me see that.)

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2011 for you.

All you need is love – and a good night’s sleep.

May your new year be filled with good stories: the ones you live, the ones you read, and, where applicable, the ones you write.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Galit Breen January 4, 2012 at 8:09 am

This is lovely. I adore seeing you through these questions.

And honey? There’s *nothing* cliche about you!



Kristen January 4, 2012 at 10:10 am

Thank you, my dear. xo


Lindsey January 4, 2012 at 8:20 am

Love this … can’t believe we haven’t discussed Blue Jay’s Dance, which is one of my all-time favorites … I actually love it way more than Operating Instructions which I know is kind of radical to admit. And as you know Abide With Me is one of my favorites … and Katrina too! Happy happy – here’s to more of everything in 2012. xox


Kristen January 4, 2012 at 10:12 am

I just read Blue Jay’s Dance this fall and it immediately entered my personal pantheon of favorite memoirs.

I know you are a big fan of Louise Erdrich. I’ve only read that and Love Medicine. What should I read next?


slamdunk January 4, 2012 at 9:19 am

Fun list Kristen. I like your #5; especially chaotic being considered a positive.


Kristen January 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

That’s been a big lesson for me: finding the up-side in the chaos! :)


TheKitchenWitch January 4, 2012 at 10:24 am

Not surprisingly, we have the same taste in books! And I’m all for date night–if I didn’t have that, I think I’d forget that I actually am a person, not just a mommy. Happy New Year!


Kristen January 4, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I know that date night can get a bum rap, but I’m a big fan. You’re exactly right: it’s nice to have that time set aside each week to remind you of the couple you were before the kids came along.

Wishing everyone Chez T a happy – and healthy! – 2012. xo


Andrea January 4, 2012 at 10:33 am

What a wonderful list–and a wonderful year (other than the hospital bedrest–ick!). You seem to have such a great grasp on who you are and where you need to be in life, and a truly positive attitude. I am in awe! Here’s to a great 2012!


Kristen January 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Thank you so much, Andrea. Your kind words and vote of confidence mean a lot to me.

Happy New Year!


Tiffany January 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I love this. Am I double cliche if I do it too? :) Happy belated birthday!!


Kristen January 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Go for it! I’d love to see your responses!

Thanks for the birthday wishes. :)


Cathy January 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Happy New Year Kristen. I look forward to more of your words as 2012 moves forward.


BigLittleWolf January 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm

What a cool exercise (and time consuming). I’m impressed with the evolution of so many things, the running (!), and all those books!


Jane January 4, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Shingles? Seriously? You poor, poor thing. I had them just a few months after son was born. The most difficult illness ever to endure.

So many books in a year with young ones underfoot. You’re my hero!

Here’s hoping for a healthy, happy, happy New Year for you and your family with plenty of time to curl up with a good book!


Perfecting Motherhood January 5, 2012 at 12:58 am

That was quite an interesting exercise to review this past year. I hope this helps you sets some new goals and adventures for the new year.
Happy 2012!


Christine @ Coffees & Commutes January 5, 2012 at 6:58 am

So much wisdom and happiness here. Thank you for sharing.


SleeplessinSummerville January 5, 2012 at 9:41 am

“All you need is love. And a good night’s sleep”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I wish you a year full of both of those things!


Kristen January 5, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Thank you, friends!

All of my best wishes to you and your families for a happy and healthy 2012!


Justine January 5, 2012 at 11:03 am

Happy New Year Kristen!

Cliche schmiche – I loved reading these reflections. I’m still on catch-up mode since I took a little bloggy break so by the time I actually get down to writing a new year post, it may already be March, and who wants to read about resolutions and reflections at that point? ;-)

So happy to see two of my favorites books (Eliot and Erdrich) made it to your list this year. I recently read “The Dovekeepers” and enjoyed it as well. Just fyi, in case you need to replenish the one missing spot in your mile-high pile of books on your nightstand.


Kristen January 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm

You know me so well – and will likely not be surprised to know that the stack is not only replenished but has in fact increased after I received lots of books as gifts for my birthday and Christmas.

But I have just added Dovekeepers to my wishlist. I have never read anything by Alice Hoffman, but I’ve heard good things and your recommendation, of course, goes a long way! xo


Wolf Pascoe January 5, 2012 at 10:21 pm

She writes. She works. She reads. She has three kids. She romances her husband. Sheesh.


Kristen January 6, 2012 at 10:30 am

What can I say? I’m totally awesome. ;)


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri January 6, 2012 at 12:21 am

Loved getting to know you better through this exercise. I just bought Blue Jay’s Dance and can’t wait to delve into it. Thanks for sharing.


Kristen January 6, 2012 at 10:30 am

I think you’ll love it, Rudri. Please let me know what you think! xo


Denise January 6, 2012 at 11:58 am

I loved this–I really enjoyed seeing you through your answers to these questions. As I was driving, just before sitting down to read some of my favorite blogs, I was wondering what books I should grab for my flight tomorrow (to the funeral; thank you for your wonderful comment today, BTW). I’m going to hit the library and try to get one of your favs above.

I must tell you that one of my “on-line” highlights of 2011 was getting to know you better. I would truly love to have our paths cross IRL soon. xoxo


Kristen January 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I would love that too. I think we should try to have a NYC-area reunion some time this summer. You bring the DD iced coffee, I’ll bring the Diet Coke.

Safe travels this weekend, my friend. I am thinking of you, as I have been all morning since reading your post. And if you do have time to hit the library, I think Abide With Me might really speak to you right now. (A favorite of Lindsey’s too, btw.) xo


Sarah January 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

It’s like I’ve always said: when you share these tidbits about yourself, I gobble them up.

Happy New Year!


Kristen January 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm

And to you, my dear. Hope to see you early and often in 2012!


ayala January 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Love this, Kristen!


Jack@TheJackB January 7, 2012 at 2:16 am

All you need is love – and a good night’s sleep.

That is a motto that you can use every year.


C @ Kid Things January 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

“Oh well” has been my mantra for awhile. Seems like you’ve had a great year.


Privilege of Parenting January 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Love this glimpse into you and your life… for some reason I wasn’t getting your posts, and I just thought you’d been buffering. Here’s to a great year ahead for you, expanding on the fun and dispensing with things like shingles. All Good Wishes (better late than never, but then we have all year, don’t we)


Kristen January 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Thank you for your good wishes, friends. Happy New Year to you and your families!


Yulia January 9, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I love this, Kristen, you make this lists.. I think I also need to start to make one, so that it will give me some beautiful memories of last year. Happy New Year Kristen :)


Kristen January 10, 2012 at 9:09 am

Thank you, Yulia! You too!


Liz January 9, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Hey there! So don’t think I’m an idiot, but…did you come up with your closing line? It frickin’ rocks. Seriously. You gotta put that on a bumper sticker or something. I love it.

Quite a year you’ve had…I can never resist reflecting a bit on the past year. This was a great way, cliche or not, to do it!


Kristen January 10, 2012 at 9:10 am

Yup, that corny closing line is all me. You know, never since starting my writing career have I considered a line of bumper stickers, but maybe I’ve found my calling! ;)

Love to you and your boys this new year! xo


Jen @ Momalom January 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I find myself with a rare moment to leave a few words. I loved reading yours. This is much more than list of answers. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. You must know how often I nodded my head at much of this!


rebecca @ altared spaces January 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Rolls of fat on a baby…what a great year. We all want to live in that kind of abundance my friend.

Thank you so very much for the mention.


Jana@AnAttitudeAdjustment January 21, 2012 at 7:51 am

Here is where we differ: I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy crossword puzzles!


Alana January 31, 2012 at 12:22 am

What a sweet glimpse into your world. I’m so glad your placental abruption went the direction it did and that you have those rolls of baby fat to nuzzle (and run with!). Wishing you continued success with the new writing career and a 2012 full of love and laughter.


Kristen January 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Thank you so much for visiting, Alana! I love your blog and look forward to connecting more in the year ahead.


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