Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hello, Goodbye

  Happy 2013! I'm hoping both that this year goes by a bit slower than the last (does that ever happen?) and that I am asleep for more of it than I was for 2012. Being pregnant for the first half of the year and having a newborn/infant for the second half = not too much sleep for Stefanie. I think 2013 is looking up in that department ... hopefully.

  2012 gave us some great opportunities to say hello to new things in our lives ...

We have gladly welcomed the kazillion new words, phrases, and imaginary friends Liam has brought into our home this year. Interacting with him and learning more and more about what's going on in his awesome little brain has been one of the most fun parts of the year ... and our lives.

  We have said hello to the presence of pink in our home! The first half of 2012 brought LOTS of fun sewing, painting, and decorating projects as we awaited little sister. It was so fun to start planning for our daughter.

  Josh had the opportunity to say hello to some new responsibilities at work. He is still primarily focused on the 4th-6th grade ministry, but he is now the team leader for 1st-6th grade. He continues to love the team he works with and the grade school, high school, and college students he spends time with.

  We have joyously welcomed the many new babies that have either been born into our friends' lives this year, or who have been matched with our friends who are waiting to bring them home. It has been so fun to have so many friends to go through the newborn stage with this second time around, and we can't wait to kiss some sweet Ethiopian, Chinese, and Haitian cheeks in the coming months. Here's hoping 2013 brings at least 4 or 5 little ones home to some forever families we love.

  We said hello to many, many new questions and facts about baseball as a result of Liam's great passion for the sport. In 2012 he LOVED attending Razorback baseball games and cheering, primarily, for Coach Van Horn. He also spent tons of time studying his Grandad's Cardinals' memorabilia and memorizing players' names. Liam also called the Hogs on his own for the first time in 2012, and learned to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." We are all looking forward to the 2013 season starting up next month.

   It goes without saying that our loudest, most joyous hello of 2012 goes to our sweet little Cora. She dramatically entered the world the day before the 4th of July, and has continued to light up our lives just like the fireworks we watched out the window of my hospital room.

  I was blessed to say hello to finally earning my LPC (licensed professional counselor) license, which has allowed me to become a provider for several insurance companies, thus giving me the opportunity to go into private practice and only work one day a week. I'm now working at my father-in-law's practice in Fayetteville (Center for Psychology & Counseling, if you ever want to send anyone my way!), and I'm so grateful to get to be home with my babies the other 6 days a week. Working in a new, less trauma-focused setting, has also renewed my love for working as a counselor and has definitely re-energized me.

  Josh was blessed to be able to say hello to running, again, in 2012. After he broke his foot (pretty badly) on Memorial Day 2011, he had to take it easy for quite a while. However, in 2012 he was able to build back up and meet some hard-earned goals.

  Along the same lines of fitness and outdoor fun, we said hello to the development of many new trails in our town. We are so excited for the 4 main towns in our area to be connected by trails and have big dreams of the family biking adventures we will have in the future.

  On a more frivolous note, 2012 brought some new forms of entertainment into our lives. The Avett Brothers. We had heard a lot about them from my sister, but we finally started listening to them ourselves this year. For my 30th birthday Josh sent Abbie and I to their concert when they were in Fayetteville and it was AMAZING. Downton Abbey. I watched the first two seasons this spring when Josh was out of town for various trips, as I worked on projects for Cora's room. I fell in love. My kind in-laws gave me the seasons for Christmas, and to my great and unexpected joy, Josh really likes the show. I can't wait to watch season 3 this year! 2012 also brought Josh an iPad - a source of great delight to him. Oh, and Clifford, the Big Red Dog. In 2012 we watched approximately 2,000,000 episodes of Clifford. It is Liam's very favorite cartoon, and his grandmothers have supplied us with numerous DVDs, which were very helpful in the early days of Cora's life, when I was nursing her all the time and the two-year-old was bored. The past year also saw us saying hello to the library on a regular, every other week, basis. Liam adores library books and consistently memorizes a good portion of the 5 we bring home with us after every visit (5, because that seems like a number I can keep up with ... I'm less likely to forget some if I know we always have 5). Without question his favorite library book this year was Casey Back at Bat (I think we borrowed it 4 different times, for a total of 8 weeks in our home ... we all have it memorized), but in general he loves any book that is about baseball, dogs, or dinosaurs.

  2012 also brought some goodbyes ... some welcome, some sad.

  Just before Cora was born, we had to say goodbye to our sweet friends, the Bogues. They only lived in NWA for 2 years, but we shared so many great memories with them in that brief time. Their little boy, Bryson, is 8 months younger than Liam, and this fall they welcomed a little girl, who is just 3 months younger than Cora. We still miss them dearly and wish we could be scheduling weekly playdates and dinners.

  We said goodbye to half of our community group at the beginning of the summer. The majority of our group had been together for 3 fantastic years, but last winter we began to sense that it was time to multiply into two groups so that we could continue to welcome in new couples without losing the intimacy that is only possible in smaller groups. While we are so thankful to still be with two of the couples we love, we so miss the "other half" that we no longer see on a weekly basis. But, God is good and it is exciting to know His plans are for more than just our own comfort.

  I said goodbye to the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County after nearly 4 years of working as a counselor there. Although it definitely felt like it was time for that chapter of my life to close, the change has been difficult. I deeply and sincerely miss some of the clients and families that I had the privilege of working with, and I often wonder how they are doing now. While it has been a healthy change - to no longer be dealing solely with the trauma of abuse - it has been more challenging than I thought it would be to change my therapeutic pace and methods.

  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I said goodbye to sleeping through the night. Hopefully, 2013 will have me saying hello to that delightful part of life again. Just last week Cora seems to have said goodbye to her 4am feeding, so hopefully all-night sleep is right around the corner! I think once we say goodbye, once and for all, to the swaddle she will be good to go.

  We said goodbye to Liam's long hair and his pacifiers in the past week. Little man is growing up and Josh and I are experiencing the wonderful ambivalence of pride, relief, joy, sentiment, and sadness.

  We said hello and then (gratefully) goodbye to 9 of the hardest weeks of my life. If you would like to know more about those "dark days" as I like to call them, go back in my archives to postings from the end of July - mid-September 2012. Cora was sort of incorrigible and I found myself fatigued, overwhelmed, and guilt-ridden on a daily basis. It was a tough time, but the hourly reminder to lean on Jesus was sweet.

Very sadly, we witnessed many families say goodbye to loved ones: babies born too soon, a toddler who went to be with Jesus in his sleep, and a couple of daddies who loved Jesus and their families and were killed on the road. Not to mention the horror of Connecticut. Processing these goodbyes from a distance has been a sobering reminder of the frailty of life and the fact that none of us is promised a tomorrow. I am so grateful for a good and all-knowing Father who never stops working out His glorious plan in this world.

  It is my sincere hope that 2013 brings many more joyful hellos into families than painful goodbyes; but knowing that separation is part of this broken world, I pray that the God of peace is welcomed into the goodbyes that will inevitably come, and that He is celebrated in the hellos.

  As for our little family, I anticipate saying goodbye to toddler boy diapers and a well-loved crib (sniff, sniff); and I look forward to saying hello to first steps, first words, and 12 more months of precious and hilarious memories.

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