On New Year's Eve, the kids and I were down at my sister's.
She and I chatted while the kids played, and then we headed home in the later afternoon.
Mia and I delivered some New Year cookies to neighbors (since I was way behind schedule and never got neighbor gifts out before Christmas).
We ran and picked up a couple more balloons to replace two that had popped earlier.
Hit the grocery store for a couple of last minute things.
We pulled in the driveway, brought stuff in the house.
It was bitter cold! out (like making-me-ornery-if-I-have-to-be-out-in-it cold).
I came in and cleaned up the kitchen, turned on the Christmas lights (for the last night...sniff), and shaped hamburger patties.
Tied balloons on each chair, scattered confetti on the table, pulled out the china and stemware.
(Doesn't that seem like a total oxymoron to get out the china and stemware for thick, homemade burgers?)
(Insert crying laughter emoji...my favorite.)
But yeah...it's tradition.
New Year's dinner means all the fancy, cuz it's fun, and we wanted burgers, so hey.
As per tradition, we lit candles on the table and gathered round.
I asked them the same question I asked last year: I was curious to know something they had learned in the last year.
Isaiah didn't offer anything up, but the other older kids said things that gave me pause.
Benj offered up that he'd learned that if you're having problems with somebody, you can't just turn and walk away. You have to face it. You have to work it out.
Mia said that she had learned to be brave, no matter what happens. And then she said, "And I learned about having faith that God will lead you out of the mess, whatever it is."
My goodness...I'm grateful for what they teach me.
A lot of things, but I'll offer up three.
I've learned that God takes care of you when you can't see how it's going to work out.
I've learned that good friends are huge blessings, and that they can become family to you.
And I've tried to accept, maybe more than ever before, that you do the best that you can, and you make lots of mistakes...but then? Then you have to give yourself a break and let it go, and try to extend that love and philosophy to others.
We opened the sparkling cider and let it flow.
We toasted to different wishes we had for the new year.
Claire didn't really get it, just offering up some of our names when it was her turn to make a toast, but it was delightful nonetheless.
All of them wished I'd get a boyfriend.
I hoped for my job to stay steady, and dreamed aloud of running another marathon this summer.
Mia wished for a couple more American girl dolls and for a juice to be invented that she could drink without being dosed insulin for it (a big change that happened this year), even though she knew that wouldn't happen.
When we were done, I cleaned up the kitchen, and Benji and I sang our hearts out to Steve Moakler's song "Suitcase," which I love.
I painted my nails (and the girls') gold, to be festive for the new year.
We piled on my bed and watched "The Mask of Zorro," followed by rootbeer floats in the kitchen in the last minutes ticking down to midnight.
Then we grabbed pots and spoons and ran out the front door into the dark night (morning?), those first few seconds of 2016.
Claire cried...exhausted from the excitement, scared from the noise, cold, and nervous about the sparklers we lit, shimmering, a pile of matches in the cold snow on the pavement.
We ran back in the house and everyone was in bed shortly afterward.
I held my tired baby in my arms, snuggled up next to me in bed, as she fell asleep.
And I felt joy and quiet gratitude, and sadness, too.
She's rapidly growing, and won't always say to me, as she does now at bedtime, "But I need you, Mom."
And the truth is, that pretty much breaks my heart.
So I held her.
And those quiet moments were my first blessing of the new year.