I don’t choose words for the year so much as they choose me. The past two years have been difficult and the words that attached themselves to those years were equally difficult. But this year, thanks to a wonderful therapist and some other life changes, we all seem to be in a better place. I am interested (and a little relieved) to find that the word that keeps popping up is ‘beautiful’. That has a nice, positive sound, doesn’t it?

Now the tricky thing about words, I’ve found, is that they can carry multiple meanings. Some words can start out sounding just fine, but then you realize that an alternate meaning or process is in order. It has made me ponder what the word, ‘beautiful’ could have in store for us. This is especially true since we are in process once again and there is a slim (very, very slim) chance that we could travel to bring our new daughter home later this year.

At first glance, the potential meaning of ‘beautiful’ seems pretty obvious to me. One of our daughters has a fairly significant facial difference and learning to be her parent has caused me to think hard about what our society says about beauty and what I think about beauty. Then when you add in facial reconstruction surgeries, you really start to wonder what cost (in terms of discomfort and such) is worth paying to come close to what others see as beauty.

This will become an even more important line of thinking once we bring our newest daughter home. She shares the same genetic condition as our daughter and we will be faced once again with questions of how far to go and how much surgery is necessary. Difficult surgeries do make the question of, “What is beautiful?” quite personal and important.

To us, our daughter and our soon-to-be daughter are beautiful. But we wonder what our responsibility is to their adult selves. Should we work on self-acceptance and creating strong girls who are comfortable with who they are and expect that world to meet them on their own terms? Or do we go the surgery route to make their faces look as ‘normal’ as possible? Of course, it is not an either/or question, but a tightrope that has to be walked inch by inch.

I think there is another meaning to beautiful that I will need to confront in the coming year. Life with 10, soon to be 11, children can be hectic, especially when multiple doctor’s appointments and medical procedures are involved. It can be easy to become focused solely on the busyness and the externals and lose sight of what’s important. I see this next year as one of learning to pause and appreciate the beauty of the moment. I don’t want to miss what is going on with my family and individual children because I am so fixated on my to-do list and my calendar. It is the small moments of life that are the most beautiful.

Finally, my last possible meaning for beautiful this year is my ongoing war on stuff. I want to live in a place that feels beautiful. This doesn’t mean that my house needs to be worthy of a magazine photo spread; that’s just not going to happen. It does mean that I can look around my home and feel comfortable and relaxed. And if Mom is comfortable and relaxed, then that goes a long way to helping the children feel comfortable and relaxed. I don’t have to have stuff sitting around that I don’t like. I don’t want piles to take over every surface. It might even mean that I change some curtains that have been bugging me or buy a can or two of paint. I’m sure we all have those little household projects that we’ve been meaning to get to for years. It is a beautiful thing to not feel stressed or depressed by one’s living space.

So this year… beautiful.

Learning to see the inner beauty of people.

Stopping to appreciate and notice the small moments of beauty that are constantly around me.

Working to make my family’s living space a beautiful, comfortable, and relaxed place to be.