It seems everyone on the internet wrote family reviews covering the past year. I like the idea because I only wrote sporadically in 2014 but there are many details I don’t want to forget. Our year was blessed, busy, and full of big ups and downs: illness, travel, a back injury, extreme work stress through the winter and spring, a new baby, weeks in the NICU, another new baby… Fair warning that this is a long, unedited post full of run-on sentences and giant photo dumps. All but the grandmothers, beware!
(All photos from our Illinois trip, bottom three by my awesome sister-in-law, who runs her own photography business).
After hosting the Man’s family at our home for Christmas we flew to Illinois to spend New Year’s with my family.It was so nice to catch up with my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, niece, and nephew. After several days at my parents’ place we drove into Chicago to spend a few days with the Man’s family as well. Unfortunately we all caught a vicious cold that knocked most of the family off their feet for four solid weeks. Rather than spending time out in the snow or exploring in downtown Chicago we mostly stayed in by the fire and coughed. I ended up in the ER with pleurisy (…it felt so…Dickensian. Who knew that was still a real diagnosis?). Even after we flew home we all slogged through most of the month feeling feverish, miserably sick, and sleep-deprived from pathetic babies who coughed so hard they vomited at night for many weeks. In addition, the Man’s hospital started the new year deep in preparation for a major inspection that kept him away from home and stressed much of the time. It was a rough start to the year! Bright points in the month included catching up with our families, Jack learning to walk in Illinois (cheered on by crowds of relatives), celebrating our niece’s first birthday after a medically rocky year, visits to Daddy at work when he couldn’t come home for evenings, and welcoming our fifth anniversary at the end of the month.
Things finally began to improve on the illness front. The Man and I celebrated our anniversary a few days late by hiring a babysitter and taking a day away by ourselves to hike in the snowy woods, grab some Mexican food, and enjoy baby-free conversation. Extended time together and long outdoor expeditions without kids’ on our backs are very rare treats these days; our hiking day was one of the high points of the year. We also enjoyed a few rounds of beautiful snow. While the Man’s work continued to be intensely stressful, things felt quieter on the home front. I got the house back in order after our sick month, cooked, played with the twins, and took them out as often as possible for walks, hikes, and outdoor time. Just for fun at the end of the month we took a quick weekend trip to Charlotte, NC. Everyone enjoyed the break from work tension and the chance for a little “city time”. We rented a small cheap apartment downtown via airbnb and spent a couple of days walking, hiking, enjoying treats like French pastries and Chinese takeout, exploring the city center and old neighborhoods, eating breakfast out, and (wheeee!) wandering IKEA for an afternoon while the Man stayed with our napping toddlers. There isn’t an IKEA for hours around our home, which is probably a good thing for our bank account. We also racked up our first (but far from last) call to poison control after the kids found a scent diffuser plugged into the apartment wall, broke it open, sucked down the gel, and vomited on the rental’s couch. Lovely!
For the most part, I stayed home with the kids while the Man battled ever-increasing inspection tasks at work. There were lots of long days and late nights. On weekends off, we always loved gathering for worship on Sunday mornings, and joining our small group for Bible Study and a shared meal together on Sunday nights. The friendships we’ve made through church, and, in the last year and a half, our small group have been a rich source of encouragement, edification, and fun. Several months of increased stress on my back finally sent me to the pain clinic; several months of doctors visits, x-rays, chiropracter visits, and PT followed. As the weather warmed up, the kids and I spent many days out on walks or in the yard clearing up after winter and prepping the gardens for Spring planting. At 18 months Annie finally started walking one day as I played with her in the backyard (she’d had us nervous due to other developmental delays). At the end of the month the Man’s stepmother flew down to watch the twins for a long weekend while we drove off for our very first kid-free getaway together. We went to Savannah, Georgia, and absolutely loved the gorgeous architecture, much-lauded squares, food, and ambiance. Unfortunately, the Man’s work once again intervened. Mid-way through our first full day in the city hospital staff began calling and texting non-stop about the inspection. By that evening we learned we were being called back early. We left first thing the next morning. While we thought Savannah was amazing, incessant work interruptions and the Army cancelling our leave really put a damper on our special trip away sans kids. Perhaps another time.
We kicked off the month with a miserable bout of stomach flu. Once recovered, we headed to New York City with the twins for some meetings and time with extended family. From our fairly isolated town Manhattan is a very inconvenient place for a trip with small kids. Add in the logistics and costs of packing, sitters in another state, transportation with car seats, etc, then reversing the whole process two days later and it’s an enormous amount of work! However, most worthwhile things take some effort. It was a good change of pace to dress up, eat fancy dinners out, walk a bit in the city, sit in meetings, and catch up with family as the cousins played. We were glad to survive the trek back and resettle the kids into their usual routine, though! Once home we planted our vegetable garden. We also went through a very rough stretch of toddler tantrums with Annie (as in, four hours of screaming a day for a full week). We celebrated Easter with local friends (who patiently endured more toddler screaming, and took the family photo above) and spent lots of time outdoors soaking in the beautiful springtime South.
As the twins edged closer to the two year mark we privately started talking about adoption again. We didn’t feel ready to adopt right away, but knew that the process can be very long. Since we knew that another lickety-split adoption like our first was highly unlikely (*cough* yes, well, we’ll see…), we mentally set a time frame of four years until another child came home. We hoped for something much faster, but didn’t want to get our hopes up in the face of long timelines and the usual bureaucracy. We quietly started to do a bit of internet research and talked about special needs adoptions. At the end of the month my parents visited. We celebrated my Dad’s birthday and then spent several days renting a cottage together right on the beach. If you’re traveling in a group, it definitely pays to rent a house; even though we stayed right on the beach and had a whole cottage to ourselves we spent far less than if we’d booked a couple of cheap hotel rooms further inland since we cooked our own meals. We loved the convenience of space to spread out and having the beach right out the door – no packing sandy toddlers and gear in and out of the car several times a day. We all soaked up time playing in the ocean, walking on the beach, boogie boarding, digging in the sand, exploring the local historic town, eating ice cream, watching dolphins, sea and skies out the cottage windows, wandering the marinas, playing games, and watching movies together. Unfortunately the tension of the never-ending inspection at the Man’s work continued to hang over our heads and interrupted the trip a few times. Regardless, it was so nice to spend time as a family, relax, and enjoy the ocean. Having my parents’ extra helping hands and staying right on the beach made it a real vacation for the Man and I (perhaps less so for the grandparents!). Nothing makes you appreciate your extended family like having small children! We don’t live near any of our family members, so their visits are always a treasured treat.
Southern summer settled in. We played in sprinkler with the kids, took family bike rides, picked blueberries in our yard, grabbed homemade ice cream at the farm, ate dinners on the porch, and watched with pride as our toddlers took their first hike on their own legs. It’s a milestone as big as anything on the pediatricians’ charts in this outdoors family! On Father’s Day, our usually silent Annie who hadn’t really spoken in half a year and had never sung a “real” tune, surprised us by humming through “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” perfectly in its entirety unprompted. Definitely one of those “blink and stare at your child open-mouthed” moments. We put out preliminary inquiries to a few agencies for information packets on their domestic, international, and special needs adoption programs. We also emailed our old adoption agency just to see if adopting through them again was even a possibility. We mutually confirmed that another adoption with our old agency was not a good option since we’re likely to move out of state within the next year or two.
I stayed back with the toddlers while the Man headed to Chicago for some quality one-on-one time with his sisters, Dad, and stepmom. We had colds. He had dim sum, went to the Art Instititue of Chicago, and swam in Lake Michigan. It’s possible one of us had more fun :). I was so glad he got to enjoy a visit without the distraction of busy toddlers and their needs, though. The month ended on a sad note as we passed empty houses around town and empty pews in church. We’re in a military town, and June is peak PCS season. At least half a dozen of the families we knew best all packed up and moved to new postings simultaneously. Military life can be a gift when it brings new friends from all around, but it’s hard when duty calendars coincide and all your closest friends leave in a flood.