My, my it was another busy year. I'm tired just thinking about it. But I'm also proud of Calm Cradle's growth and looking forward to all the projects and adventures to come in 2014.
2013: A year in review
Personal: I began 2013 with a newly minted 2-year-old and an 8-month-old...and I'm still alive and standing! Watching the girls grow into a preschooler and a toddler this year has been amazing, mind-boggling and exhausting. One friend who also has kids 17 months apart told me that during the early years, every day brought the "highest highs and the lowest lows." I second that. Last year was indeed filled with ups and downs, but we've come out the other end with two little girls who love to play together (before the playing turns into tackling, hair-pulling and crying), jump off anything they can find to climb, work busily on art projects and explore the outdoors. Their increased independence and fewer completely sleepless nights (thank you, ear tubes x four) left me more time to create, photograph and write than I've been able to do in the last few years. It felt good to develop ideas and then actually be able to follow through on them—with many interruptions and on a different timeline than I might have imagined several years ago. But still.
Travel: We took 10 family trips this year, which I documented in Adventures. (Most of them were working trips for Jeff, and I don't even want to tally up all his additional business travel or I might cry). Our family trips included: Blue Ridge Mountains (here and here), Orlando (here, here and here), Charlottesville, DC, Denver, Boulder/Summit County, Naples, Outer Banks (here, here and here), Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Asheville. We've flown so much with the girls I decided to offer up some tips on flying with young kids, too. Travel with kids is tiring, but we can't help ourselves. Exploring the world around us is a major part of who we are, and we want to instill that value in our kids. Plus we get bored if we stay home too long.
Photography: After years in the making, I officially launched Calm Cradle's children's photography division this fall. I also began migrating my nature photography shop to Society6. And, of course, I took an overwhelming number of photos of our family.
Writing: I wrote a novel! No biggie. I also wrote nearly 70 blog posts. (I bill myself more as a photographer on this website, but really I've always considered myself a writer first and photographer second.)
Design: This year was busy on the design front. I rebranded, redesigned my website (and just updated "Popular posts" on the right-hand sidebar), learned how to design fabric patterns (here, here and here) and created my sister's wedding invitation package, which I'll share with you soon.
2014: A look ahead
Personal: Perhaps my most important goal for the new year is to continually re-balance—and give myself a break when things don't go the way I planned. More than three years as a parent has taught me that "finding balance" is a constant process. Kids, routines and the rest of life change on a dime, so finding balance means constant readjustment. I'm a creature of habit, so this realization has been a difficult one. Instead of setting my expectations for tomorrow based on today, I need to accept that flexibility and shifting expectations is not only okay but necessary to survive and enjoy the next few decades of family life.
As part of that flexibility, another goal is to focus more on my girls when I am with them. I remember seeing moms at the park spend more time playing on their phones than engaging with their kids. I vowed I would never be that kind of mom. And now I'm glued to my phone, for no good reason other than being addicted to it. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge believer in free play and letting the kids entertain themselves, but I fear that I'm too distracted these days.
I haven't come up with any brilliant strategies to accomplish these goals and am looking for suggestions. How do you re-balance and manage your distractions to live in the moment?
Travel: We have a two big trips coming up early in the year and then will probably make our usual family visits, plus one or two extras. Our family travel felt a bit excessive last year, so this year we plan to be more deliberate about trip planning. For example, we used to plan back-to-back trips. Over the last few years, we've learned that travel disrupts family life quite a bit (time changes, plane-contracted illness and getting out of the routine are all rough on kids). So we'll try to build in more down time between trips to re-charge.
Photography: I'm in no rush to grow my children's photography aspect of my business too quickly, since I'm still a full-time mom. I plan to offer mini sessions in the spring (April/May) and fall (October/November) and take full sessions as I can fit them in. As always, I'll continue to build my nature photography portfolio and migrate that work to my Society6 shop, as well as document our daily adventures as a family. I'd also like to build a larger following on Instagram. Any suggestions on how to do that?
Writing: At some point, I'll pick the novel back up, do a serious read-through and define a strategy to tackle the next draft. But I'm not sure when that will happen. Working at the NanoWriMo pace was not sustainable given our other commitments, so I need to figure out how to move forward in a more manageable way. I'd also like to write a few more informal essays this year.
Design: I plan to continue to learn new design skills, software and sewing techniques. (My sewing goals are embarrassingly basic: learn how to choose the right stitch for a project and sew a straight line). I'm also considering adding a dedicated design category to the blog.
Business: When I have a good week—defined by these things: the girls are healthy, happy and independent; Jeff is in town and available to help with wake-up and bedtime routines and I feel a sense of accomplishment with Calm Cradle—I become overly ambitious. I plan to take huge steps forward with my blog and business. I think I can squeeze more and more projects into my day. And then, inevitably, the next day or the next week, the kids get sick and swear off sleep, my husband hops a plane for a business trip and I get crabby and stressed and fall behind on everything I had planned. I lose confidence and momentum. So my most significant business goal for the year is to go with the flow. If advertisers approach me, I'll consider them for the blog. If the children's photography aspect continues to pick up, I'll consider stepping back a bit from blogging to focus on portraits. And if things get too crazy with family life to make much progress on either front this year, then there's always next year, right?
This week Calm Cradle Photo & Design turns 2 years old. It continues to amaze me that people out there are interested in hearing what I have to say, seeing how I view the world through photography and even hiring me to document a part of their own lives. Thank you for playing a role in this grand adventure. I look forward to spending 2014 with you!
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.