Our Brutally Honest 2015 Holiday Letter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours!

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One of our Christmas Card picture attempts. I think it’s a pretty good representation of us as a family, don’t you?

2015 was a full year for the Rileys! We spent most of the winter and spring feeling unsettled and unsatisfied with our house, which was a money pit from the day we bought it and never felt like “home.” We shelled out a lot of cash making improvements on it just so we wouldn’t die in our sleep (remember the time we discovered that the upstairs furnace was shooting open flames into the attic and the downstairs furnace was putting carbon monoxide into the air ducts?). I got into a huge e-mail fight with the people at Lowe’s over some defective carpet they had installed two years earlier, only to have the whole thing fizzle out after eight months of LOTS OF CAPS LOCK because the house finally sold right at the beginning of the summer.

We lived with Rob’s parents for a few weeks while we shopped for a new house, which was really quite an excellent situation and reminded us how nice it is to have someone make dinner for you and ask if you’d like some tea. In August, we moved into a new place that is nothing short of lovely.

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In the midst of all the caps-locking and the house-moving, I was OVERCOME with angst over whether or not to have a third child. We had two already, and lots of people have two, and two seemed like a manageable number. But I just couldn’t say I’m done. I couldn’t get that possible third baby out of my head.

(Rob, of course, was completely fine either way.)

Ultimately, we decided to go for three and just see what happened, and, well…

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I’ll be 26 weeks tomorrow. Am I nuts? What makes me think we can handle another child around here? The ones we already have can go from ADORABLE to VELOCIRAPTOR in two seconds flat. It’s like trying to control a couple of ferrets who’ve been fed Red Bull that was laced with speed. I mean, we love them. Of course we love them. But I’m pretty sure that if we’re going to have a third velociraptor-ferret, I’m going to need more hands. Or maybe just a clone of myself.

There’s also the ever-present guilt I feel over my ability to simply decide to get pregnant. It’s hard–or impossible–for so many people. Why do I get it so easy? That doesn’t seem fair, and on some level, I’ve always felt like an enormous jerk because of it. But then I feel like I’m making other people’s struggles into something about me, and then I feel even worse for being selfish on top of being excessively fertile, and it just spirals into a big ol’ vat of crazy from there.

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“Vat o’ crazy” is also how I would describe Child #2.

After everything you’ve read so far, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that professional counseling is now a regular part of our lives! Fortunately, our church offers counseling as part of its ministry, so we’re able to go whenever we want. Good thing, because we are INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE, as they say.

(Well, we’re not really insane. We just have a lot of things to talk about, and we’re pretty sure marriage is one of those things that can crumble pretty quickly if it’s neglected, so we’re regulars in the counselor’s office now.)

I’m still teaching high school Spanish and trying to hold my household together while growing a human in my belly, but on top of that, I decided to release two books within three weeks of each other–one in January and one in February of 2016! This has resulted in a large helping of self-doubt, mild panic attacks, mounting piles of laundry, manic dish-washing, and the purchase of a planner that accounts for basically every minute of my day.

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I’m obviously really into exercise since I walked exactly one time that week.

As far as the kids go, M turned five this month and spent the last twenty minutes of her party crying in my lap because people had started to go home.

No, really.

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J will be three in just a couple of weeks, and she still hates eating more than anything in the whole world. Her entire diet consists of baby food veggies and fruits, Greek yogurt, milk, and water. She has never eaten cake on her birthday (and won’t this year either, I’m sure of it), has licked ice cream off her fingers but won’t actually eat it, and has never had a bite of anything because she refuses to use her teeth.

As an added bonus, she hates feeding herself. I’m supposed to put my foot down about this and make her do it because she can, she just won’t, but there are many days when I find myself too tired for the fight, and I end up spoon-feeding her like a baby and perpetuating the problem.

This time last year, I thought to myself, There’s no way she’ll still be doing this when she’s three. But friends, we are mere weeks away from that milestone, and not much has changed.

More guilt, more internal condemnation, more vat o’ crazy.

In summary, we are tired, confused, uncertain, unstable, frustrated, and desperate for control. We long for everything we can’t have, and we’re constantly surprised when we can’t be our own God. We get angry, we can be spiteful, we pick and nag and scorn–each other, yes, but also ourselves.

But there is joy in our home. Somehow, amidst all the chaos, there is joy and love, and there are many moments of beauty in our broken, mixed-up, disorganized life. It just looks less like a Hallmark card, and more like this:

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And I don’t think I’d want it to be any other way.

Merry Christmas, all.

 

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