If you visited our home last year, the floors were probably less than sparkling, the dinners simpler, there was probably a basket of laundry waiting to be folded and put away, and I was likely wearing yoga pants and sporting a ponytail. Elie probably made you a delicious coffee, and I hope you got a cuddle from Theo. But most of all, I hope you felt appreciated and loved. 2016 was about letting go of perfection and simply being present and grateful. It was the year of gratitude.
My intentions for this past year can be summarized as being a present and loving mama and a present and loving wife, to not take myself too seriously and to let go of perfection, to live joyfully. Overall, I'm really proud of myself. Our year has been filled with very few tears, so much laughter and boundless joy.
It should come as no surprise that in 2016, our greatest gift was the birth of our son, Theo Moses. I don't have any other babies to compare him to, but he feels remarkable. He is quick to laugh, feisty, strong-willed, observant, loving and playful. All of the cliches are true: being a parent is the best and the hardest job; he has brought immeasurable joy and laughter to our lives; we love him more than we ever thought possible.
And I love being a mama. All of it. I loved being pregnant. I loved giving birth, and I am so grateful I received the birth I intended. After we got the hang of it, I love breastfeeding. I even love getting up in the middle of the night to hold and cuddle Theo and rock him back to sleep, because I know it won't last long. The first few weeks of new motherhood felt very overwhelming, but I fairly quickly released myself from unrealistic expectations and settled into savoring every sweet, oh-so-fleeting moment with our son. Yes, sometimes I get bored playing blocks and making up games, and yes, sometimes the nights are so, so long. But, every phase passes too quickly. I am so very thankful for that early revelation, the serenity that followed and the deep well of patience and tenderness that sprung forth. To watch him grow and learn and to get to know him as his own person, that has been my greatest joy.
My marriage to Elie has only been strengthened in the past year. Elie is an amazing, present, playful daddy, and my love and respect and admiration for him has just continued to grow. Although we have more disagreements now, because Elie takes more risks with Theo than I do, our disagreements are always thoughtful and respectful. We have never once raised our voices at each other, and I hope it stays that way forever. As parents, we balance each other well. When Theo was about eight months, we started a weekly date night, just to get out of the house and either spend time alone or with friends. It's been good for us.
And we traveled! We took Theo to Palm Springs at six weeks, went to Winthrop for a long weekend, drove to Vancouver at least a dozen times, spent a month in France, and ended the year with a few weeks in Maui. Theo is a great traveler, curious, easy-going and always interested in exploring. He doesn't really like to sleep, so the plane rides have gotten busier and busier.
Elie and I wanted to make sure we didn't disappear from our family and friends' lives after Theo was born, and so we made an effort to spend time with family and see friends as much as possible. The visits were more impromptu, more casual, and often fragmented by chasing Theo around the room. But we had houseguests, we threw dinner parties and we went out. We got to spend a lot of time with my Mom, Mimi, who lives next door to us. She has been such a blessing in our lives this year. We drove to Vancouver a few times a month, to see Elie's Dad, known to Theo as Saba; Uncle Oren and his family; and other family. My Dad traveled from Mississippi, and it was so good to spend time with him. My Granny came from Kentucky, and my aunt and uncle drove up from Oregon. Elie's cousins visited from Indonesia, Israel and Toronto. Family from British Columbia came to see Theo. We had lots of friends visit from out of town. Our home and hearts were full.
In 2016, I retired as a registered dietitian nutritionist, at least for now. My best friend and business partner, McKenzie, went to work for Wild Hive, a marketing communications company we had worked extensively with, owned by people we love. We decided to dissolve NourishRDs, which feels bittersweet. It was a labor of love for McKenzie and me, and we built the business from nothing, sitting at Elie's dining room table. I'm really proud of what we accomplished with Nourish.
Over the past year, I did post faithfully on this blog, although not as often as I planned. Most of the posts were about Theo or about things related to motherhood and there were much fewer recipes or lifestyle posts. I am grateful for this blog and the recorded history of Theo's first year, because I am already understanding how quickly the details fade.
Of course, the year did not go exactly as planned. I didn't go to church a single Sunday in 2016 and my prayers were usually fragmented in a sleep-deprived fog between nursing sessions, but Elie and I did establish a daily gratitude practice, which we do faithfully. It feels like progress. I also got less exercise than I ever have in my adult life, because for the longest time Theo cried in both the stroller and carriers. When Theo turned five months old, we hired a nanny (who we love), and so I returned to yoga twice a week.
Thank you, 2016. In my memory, you are imperfectly perfect.
Elie and are calling 2017 the year of discovery. As Theo grows from baby to toddler, what kind of parents do we aspire to be? How can we best nurture our inquisitive, playful, strong-willed little boy? What are our personal goals, outside of our roles as mama and daddy? How do we continue to focus on our marriage, the cornerstone of our family? We don’t have all the answers now, so we approach this year with curiosity, open to the joys and challenges and blessings it will bring.
And so that is how I am approaching my intentions for 2017: with an open mind, knowing that some things are out of my control, my priorities might shift and my intentions change or grow. But for now, here is where I begin.
My intention for 2017 is to be curious, open to discovery.
To continue to be kind. To be present. To continue to let go of perfection.
To pursue only what brings me (or us) joy. It's YES! or not at all.
To keep our marriage a priority, strengthening our foundation of love and respect. Our marriage is the cornerstone of our family.
To be a loving, nurturing, playful and open-minded mama to Theo. To give him what he needs and not what I want him to have.
To make our home a warm, welcoming, nurturing place for friends and family to visit. For it to be a place that creates wonderful childhood memories for Theo.
To nurture friendships.
To live consciously, being considerate of the food and goods we buy and how the production of those food and goods impact(ed) other people, animals, our environment and our world.
With those intentions/values as the cornerstone of discovery in 2017, I have the following goals.
To take care of anyone else, I first have to take care of myself. I will continue to focus on my spiritual practice and begin a spiritual practice for our family, with the intention of starting to take Theo to church. (Activity: daily prayer, download a prayer app to keep track of prayer requests, continuing daily gratitude as a family, start attending church myself, with Elie and Theo joining occasionally)
Focus on my physical health. (Activity: practice yoga two to three times per week, daily walks (even short ones))
Focus on the health of my family by continuing to prepare healthy meals, doing a better job of prepping ahead so we always have healthy options available. (Activity: weekly meal planning and prep).
Our marriage is the cornerstone of our family. I will continue to make my marriage to Elie a priority: being present, spending time, practicing kindness, listening, being understanding and accepting of differences, checking in regularly, giving love. (Activity: regular check-ins, weekly date nights, supporting Elie in pursuing the activities that bring him joy, snuggling as much as possible)
Be a loving, nurturing, playful and open-minded mama to Theo. Give him what he needs and not what I want him to have. (Activity: join mama-baby group(s) to give Theo/me social time, host a mama-baby group in our home once our renovation is done, be present during playtime, explore activities Theo shows an interest in, family cuddles)
Travel. (Activity: Palm Springs, trip to Ohio and Kentucky to visit family, at least one other trip)
Continue to make my friendships a priority. (Activity: telephone dates with out-of-town friends, continue to get together with in-town friends weekly)
Complete home renovation project to make our main floor more family-friendly for Theo and friends. (Activity: renovation in March, furnish new space, community espresso bar(?))
Pursue activities that enrich my life/mind/soul outside of mama-related activities. (Activity: Enneagram workshop with Elie, pastry class, pasta class, improving sourdough bread making, reading at least three books not related to child development, blog (see below))
Rebrand Simmstown.com as just Lisa Samuel, a blog for pursuing and inspiring conscious living with posts on motherhood, marriage, travel, food, lifestyle and home design. (Activity: dedicate one afternoon per week to writing posts and taking photos, explore collaborating with photographer for blog posts, establish an editorial calendar, look into partnerships and collaborations with like-minded brands)
Try as much as possible to buy from ethical and sustainable brands/manufacturers, including Theo's clothes and toys, our clothes, furniture and other household products.
Adopt a semi-vegetarian lifestyle, avoiding mammals and reducing consumption of dairy (only eating dairy from ethically- and humanely-treated cows). This one might require more explanation, which I will leave for a blog post.
I always find this process of setting yearly intentions and goals to be such a good check-in for myself, to make sure I'm spending my time and energy on things I care about, things that bring joy to my life and don't wear me down. The YES! philosophy means we only do the things we're excited about, and that's the example I want to show Theo. Live life with passion and intention and joy will go hand-in-hand.
Happy 2017! What are your intentions for this year?