A Christmas Letter ~ 2015

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O little town of Bethlehem,
    How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
    The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
    The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
    Are met in thee to-night.

And what a year it has been. So much hope. So much fear. Dreamless sleep and all.

January always begins with Azrielle beginning a new chapter in her life. It also met us with the closing of the book regarding her wierd episodes that later that month we determined were seizures…likely caused by the UTI that she had experienced in her second year of life. Infection can cause all sorts of long-term issues – seizures being one of them. If you ever need to get to UMass Worcester, we can show you the way! So many specialist, so many appointments…ruling one thing out and then another. We had an in-hopsital EEG done, and then an at home “walking EEG’. Both tests came back showing no signs of seizure activity. As long as she made is 6 months without experiencing another seizure, she should be fine. The human body is an amazing work of art that God created. And finally this medical chapter in our life was closed.

February and March dragged on as winter did not want to leave us this year. March also met us with a new milestone – Kreade sleeping through the night! And finally the happy boy we always dreamed was inside him began to emerge.

O morning stars, together
    Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
    And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary
    And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep the Angels keep
    Their watch of wondering love.

And there was peace in our corner of the earth. And finally some sleep. April rolled around and the emerging happy boy turned 1. We celebrated with family and moved on to enjoy Easter. With Kreade becoming increasingly happy, I began to start thinking about graduate programs. Something just kept tugging on my heart to continue my seemingly life-long college journey. But God puts dreams in our hearts for  a reason, and after a few months of trying to ignore the longing, I gave in to the dream and began searching out colleges and programs. Graduate programs are  hard to nail down! Perhaps it’s just that my undergrad work is in psychology – which offers a variety of graduate options. I prayed everyday that God would help me to know which program was “the one”. My mind kept going back to one: Southern New Hampshire University offers and online program specializing in Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology. Yep. Right up my alley. So I applied, and was accepted, and we began to plan for the start of my first course.

May began with the ending of my school year and the beginning of our camping year. Both of the kids just really LOVE camping. We are so happy to have our camper, and thankfully God allowed us the use of a truck as we had sold Klayton’s earlier in the year. Yes, May was good.

How silently, how silently,
    The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
    The blessings of His Heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
    But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
    The dear Christ enters in.

But alas, the goodness never seems to last. Towards the end of the month, Kreade caught a mild cold. Well, that mild cold turned into something much worse: croup. Which apparently is common in kids his age, Ellie never really even had a cold, so I never imagined. We were on the phone with the doctor in the middle of the night, in the office the next morning, beginning a steroid that same day. Spent a night and a day at home, and ended up in the ER on Friday afternoon. Meanwhile the chickens were getting huge and needed to be moved to their coup, which still needed renovations, spring yard work was piling up since winter had lingered so long, and the to-do list was mounting in its usual fashion. About a minute after walking in to the ER we were quickly given a room. About a minute later there were 2 doctors, 2 nurses, and a respiratory specialist in the room with us. Poor buddy boy was having great difficulty breathing, had chest retractions, and was a congested croupy mess. We ended up staying the night in the hospital. Another kind of steroid later, home we went. It took about a week for the croup to completely go away…and we were very tired of ER trips and doctors appointments and worrying about sick kids.

And then one morning Kreade woke up crankier than ever. He began vomiting and had a diarrhea diaper just about every hour. I took his temp and it was 104.5. Yep. Time to freak out. The doctor didn’t even give me an appointment. They said to just go. Go now. A dose of Tylenol and ibuprofen later his fever came down to around 101. We spent a few hours just sitting at the doctors office…watching. During that time we noticed there was blood in the diarrhea. Great. Well, lets run some tests and see what could be up. Home we went. Only to end up the the ER the next afternoon because buddy boy was crying and no tears were coming out of his sad little eyes. He was so dehydrated! But we just couldn’t get him to drink anything; never mind eat. He slowly began to improve. The ER trip was on Wednesday. I remember where we parked. On Sunday, we got a call from the doctor. Kreade had salmonella. All I could think was: how?! We were at the doctor the next morning.

The following Friday, Ellie had an interesting bowel movement. Black and sticky. We didn’t think much of it until we noticed blood in her stool the very next day. She had a low temp on Sunday, and we debated another trip to the ER. Our doctor advised us to monitor her, and told us to come in first thing Monday. I love our doctor. As my sister says, she is seriously the bomb.com.

More appointments. More blood-work. More tests.

By July we had met with a pediatric GI. Ellie did  a clean out, and we began a maintenance dose of Miralax. Thank God, she was finally passing her stools without pain, and we didn’t notice any more blood. After a couple more appointments with the specialist, she felt confident that Chron’s or colitis were unlikely. Finally, nothing but well-child checks for 6 months.

In between doctor appointments, we went camping. I think it worked out something like ER one weekend, camping the next. And we camped about every two to three weekends. We so enjoyed these trips! My mom and sisters were even able to come along to Cape Cod with us. We traveled to the White Mountains, to Old Orchard Beach, and several other lovely places.

Where children pure and happy
    Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee,
    Son of the Mother mild;
Where Charity stands watching
    And Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
    And Christmas comes once more.

Meanwhile, I had begun my first graduate course. It felt so good to resume learning. I so just love school. And thank God for Klayton’s job. Seriously. I don’t know what we would’ve done without it. So many times when I needed to get to the ER, Klayton was only five minutes away and able to come with me. Other times when I had to take one kid for a last minute appointment, the other kid was able to go and hang out with daddy at work. We prayed a really long time that God would show Klayton what he was supposed to do for the rest of his life, for a job that was family friendly, and something that Klayton enjoyed. Well, I guess good things really do come to those who wait. Klayton is going on a year and a half at Triumph Interiors, and neither of us could be happier. We are really both so grateful for his job, and the Christ-centered workplace that it is.

Finally, around September, Kreade’s bowel movements resumed normal toddler consistency. We had been having him tested routinely to monitor the salmonella levels, as it can be carried in the gut and stool for a month to a year. He carried the bacteria for a good four and a half months. And finally it was gone! Truly, the dark night wakes and glory breaks.

I went back to work just before Labor Day, and began what has turned out to be a rough year. So much heartache and so much pain – the world is just so full of hurting people and children. It feels like whatever I do, it is never enough.

Klayton has been oh so busy. We really fell behind with the to-do list that life produces with so many sick kids and ER visits. And then the engine on the new-to-us truck went in July. On 495. On our way home from the Cape. Extra bills means extra work, and poor Klayton has been so busy. We just kept trying to remind ourselves that God has a plan, amidst the sickness, and with the truck.

After Thanksgiving, Ellie had another x-ray just to make sure that her bowels were working the way they should. Well, they weren’t. In fact, her colon was so full of fecal matter that there was no room for free air. I almost cried when the doctor called me to let me know. She had been having a bowel movement every day! Why, why, why? We did another clean out and see the GI in January again.

And here we are.

December. Christmas.

I love looking back.

I did one of those “your most used words” on Facebook. You might have guessed, it was DOCTOR. It seems like the story of our year. Literally, I don’t think a month went by, never mind a week where we weren’t at the doctor.  From seizures, to salmonella, and digestive issues – we’ve done it all.

And yet, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Well, maybe the salmonella. That was horrific.

Life is hard people. Life is really hard. It’s stressful. There never seems to be enough money. Trucks break. Kids get sick. The to-do list never gets done. You forget to have your car inspected. Forget to pay the cell phone bill. Don’t remember the milk when you go grocery shopping. I guess life is just full of crap sometimes – in our case, one of us is literally full of crap. Yes, life is hard.

But it’s when you’re in the depths of despair, when you think that you can’t handle one more doctor appointment, one more bill, one more trip to the grocery store…and God finds you.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
    Descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in,
    Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels,
    The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
    Our Lord Emmanuel!

This year, looking back, I am struck by His faithfulness. His provision. His deliverance. And even though life is hard, our hearts know the love that was born in us. Today, and everyday, we live in the promise that the Christmas angels told…He has come to us, he abides in us, our Lord Emmanuel.

Yes. God is with us. Everyday. Through it all. And He always will be.

And even though it has been a hard, hard year…we know that He was with us, and will be forevermore.

Praying that your hearts accept the holy Child, and allow Him to cast out all sin and enter in so that He can abide with you too. And if your heart already knows the faithfulness of our savior, remember, the great glad tidings tell. 

Merry Christmas!

Love,

Klayton, Alicia, Azrielle, and Kreade

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In Which I Compare My Life to ‘The Mindy Project’ And Realize Just How Awesome My Husband Really Is

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“It makes me cry because it means that fewer and fewer people are believing it’s cool to want what I want, which is to be married and have kids and love each other in a monogamous, long-lasting relationship.”
― Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Danny: The thing that’s most beautiful about you is your confidence.
Mindy: Really? Because people say that is the most annoying part about me.-The Mindy Project, Season 4

The Mindy Project. It’s all I ever want to watch at the end of a long hard day of work, school, kids & life in general…cuz I know it will make me laugh – probably harder than I should – and take the edge off of, well, off of life.

But lately, the show has been tackling an issue that is really quite close to my heart. You know the topic – that one that everyone wants to avoid and no one wants to address but that really should be talked about more.

Working moms.

Yep. Leave it to Mindy Kaling to take this less-than-popular topic head on in her Hulu Original Series. And as hard as it is to watch, as much as I just want to yell at Danny every time he says something so heartless…I am interested to see just where she goes with it all. And I really can’t wait – because my life is like a mini version of this season’s plot.

I’m that woman. Just like Mindy Lahiri. The one who starts her career…cuz, you know, starting a career is just so awful and heinous when you’re a women. Then there I go…I get pregnant and horror of all horrors: I don’t quit my job. Cuz where I’m from, women kind of just are expected to be moms. And nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way diminishing motherhood and the calling that it is. But if you can have it your way, why can’t I have it mine?

And then baby number two. So of course, you’re quitting your job now, right? How can you work and have two kids?

How can I not?

Some days, I wish that I could be nothing more than a stay at home mom. But God has created two types of women to ride the tides of Western Society; and I fall into the non-traditional category.

I used to be self-conscious about the fact that I am a working mom (try to explain to people that I also am a Grad-student and just imagine the looks on their faces). When we first got married, I thought that this was how my life would be. Eh, might as well work for a bit and then when we decide to have a baby -poof – God will make sure I can stay at home.

It’s amazing how God works.

I never would have imagined being anything but at stay at home mom at one point in my life. Looking back, I lacked so much self-confidence, and that “dream” of being a stay at home mom was born out of insecurity and self-doubt, lack of worth and lack of allowing God to use me as He would.

Financially, I have to work.

Mentally, I have to work too.

Spiritually, I need to work.

Because now I know that this is what God has called me to do. Now I am full of confidence – not my own, but the confidence that only God could have filled me with. I have self-worth, because in the depths of my heart, I know I am fulfilling my purpose here on this earth. And now I am totally secure in the knowledge that even though this full time job-grad student-mommy-wife thing is exhausting, it’s what I was born to do.

And I just feel so bad for Mindy Lahiri.

I get how she’s feeling. You love your babies. You love them so much. You love them so much that you know you will go completely insane if you are home all the time, so instead you hire someone who doesn’t go insane and go to work for some of the day.

You love your babies. But you love your job too. You love the platform that your job is – how it allows you to make a difference in other people’s lives. How you can experience the joy of bringing a smile to a child’s face, helping them learn and grow, and supporting their family through so many things. How your job makes you feel so fulfilled, and you know that for some of the day, this is just what you are meant to do with  your life.

Because some of us have bigger hearts – hearts that can hold both love for our children and husbands and love for our careers.

And we are enough.

But where I’m at in this series,  it’s not enough for Danny. And my heart breaks a little, I kind of don’t want to watch the show.

Because I can’t imagine if my Babe told me that I wasn’t a good mother to our children unless I stayed at home.

And I realize just how awesome my husband is.

There should probably be more Christian guys like him out there.

Truth is, if he said I should stay home, I would. It would break my heart (and I’d probably literally go crazy), but I would do it. I know that God asks that wives follow their husbands lead.

But marriage is a beautiful thing.

And when you love someone, and allow God to fill you up, it’s amazing how dreams align.

And I’m just so thankful for all that my husband is for me. Because I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it without him. And on my hardest days, when I’m totally stressing out about all I need to do at work, or the assignment I think might be a ‘B’, there he is…supporting me.

Cleaning up after dinner, playing with the kids while I finish writing my paper, making dinner, going in late so I can go in early and catch up on PTC’s, sitting next to me watching hockey while I’m frantically answering discussion board posts…quietly supporting. Cheering me on.

And I just know that he is my biggest fan.

And every woman who has a heart for family and work deserves someone who will cheer them on.

Because for some of us, God is calling us to both home and workplace. And it’s hard enough to follow this non-traditional path without the support of the one we love most.

So thank you Babe.

Thank you for how awesome you are. Thank you for supporting me, building up my confidence, encouraging my dreams, and letting me fly. I couldn’t do it without you.

So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:28