Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

December 2012
Dear family & friends,

As I look about me this fine evening, I cannot help but feel tired.  It’s not that I’ve physically exerted myself; on the contrary, I’ve been sitting most of the day.  It could be the general lack of sleep that comes with a newborn, but that’s certainly not the whole story.  The lights shining from the Christmas tree and the stockings hanging from the mantle give quite a cozy feeling to the place, but the picture doesn’t stop there.

Scattered across the floor is a strange assortment of mismatched toys relocated with love by Hosea.  The dining room table is piled with bins and what appears to be complete randomness by my well-meaning husband.  Shrieks and squeals are regularly escaping from the girls’ room down the hall, where I imagine all sorts of creativity and imaginative play are forming a scene that only the producers themselves can fully appreciate.  And here, in my arms, lies the newest member of our family, born October 10, engaged in an activity somewhere between eating and sleeping.  

For better or for worse, being a breastfeeding mother forces me to sit down and take a break frequently.  My house may suffer for it, but I love this special time with my babies.  Avelina is my fifth child, and I still marvel over the tiny fingers and toes and consider myself one of the most blessed people in the entire world whenever I kiss one of these soft, little cheeks.  Her only hobbies at this time are nursing, sleeping and fussing at me if ever I dare to lay her down, but how precious is this fragile creature to me!

Many people have asked about Hosea’s adjustment to having a little sister.  Honestly, I can’t say he seems to have noticed all that much!  When he does pay her attention it requires careful oversight by an adult, as he’s a rather heavy-handed guy.  We’re thrilled to report that he is finally showing signs of some basic receptive language, but he still has yet to understand “gentle.”  Physically, 2-year-old Hosea has made some great strides this year.  He has been learning to use a walker in therapy, and he is now able to attempt a few independent steps so long as he has his ankle braces on.  On a day-to-day basis, his primary mode of mobility is knee-walking.  All of the tests from last year were, in essence, negative, so we still don’t have a more specific diagnosis.  I suggested “Hosea Syndrome” to the geneticist, who said it may very well take the discovery and recognition of some new, rare disorder to finally be able to give a medical explanation for Hosea’s challenges.  (Methinks I should try my odds in Vegas!)  We will continue to follow-up with the specialists, but we’ve decided to take a small break from all of that until spring.
With two little ones not walking, I am extra grateful for the help of our oldest three children.  They are each eager to hold Avelina, and they play well with Hosea and often feed him for me.  Even 4-year-old Anastasia has proven herself a big helper and often likes to bring me breakfast in bed.  Her gentle temperament and sweet smiles are a blessed start to my busy days.  For now, Anastasia is learning her letters and often enjoys listening to a story or following along during Eliana’s history lesson, but I plan to start a phonics curriculum with her in January.  She is very excited about it and asks me nearly every day if she can do school, too!

Six-year-old Evangeline is in first grade this year and brings an admirable positivity to our school room.  Her cheerful attitude and responsiveness to praise make her a joy to teach.  Her wonderment and happiness in everyday things is such a beautiful, classic picture of childhood, and her creativity often impresses me.  She recently lost her first tooth and successfully stopped sucking her thumb.  We are very proud of her for giving up such a hard-to-break habit!

Eliana is eight years old now and in the third grade.  Her favorite subject is history, in which she is currently studying Rome, Greece, and the New Testament.  Earlier this year, Eliana enjoyed playing soccer in our neighborhood league. (Evangeline also played, but it clearly did not hold her interest this year.)  Our home is often blessed with Eliana’s ever improving piano skills, and our little musician especially delights in being our accompanist.  It is a joy to watch her grow into a young lady more and more every day.

As our children are getting older, so are we!  Chris and I both hit a new decade this year.  Turning 30 didn’t feel nearly as strange as the reminder that I had not already passed this milestone!  As for major events, Chris and I managed to stay on the continent all year and lay low.  He continues to teach computational fluid dynamics (Just smile and nod—I do!) at the Air Force Institute of Technology, and I was still attending births and teaching childbirth classes through May, at which point I took an early maternity leave to focus on my own baby and upcoming birth.  We did manage to have some unexpected excitement in April, when we discovered some major water damage in our home due to a small, previously undetected leak, and over the summer, when the Air Force sent Chris to Montgomery, Alabama, for some training for 2 months.  We quickly jumped back into school once that was behind us, and I’m in shock that a semester has already gone by!

It’s been another busy year of love and growth.  The sights and sounds around me tonight do represent a good deal of work to be done, but far more importantly and dearly, they represent a beautiful life that I am blessed to call my own.  Thank you for being a part of that life, and let us together give thanks to God, from whom all blessings flow!

                                                                        Merry Christmas,

                                                                        Jennifer, for the Martins

Monday, March 05, 2012

Looking Back

March 4, 2011

My life changed forever today. This morning, my sweet son was a perfectly healthy baby, albeit a bit delayed and unnaturally easy and mild-mannered. Then I took him to his developmental pediatric evaluation...

This is the opening line to my journal a year ago yesterday. That's right, we just passed the first anniversary of discovering Hosea's global developmental delay. Of course, nothing changed about him that day. He was still the same same precious 8-month-old boy he had been that morning. And yet...he wasn't. We didn't know until that day that we were dealing with a severe disability.

Walking back to the van was so surreal. I pass people and think that it feels strange to realize that they are probably having a fairly normal day. It's also strange that they pass me and don't realize that I've just been dealt one of the hardest blows of my life. You just never know who you're passing or what they're going through.

I got in the van and started toward the exit. I then realized that the Westminster Shorter Catechism CD playing was on the question, "What are the decrees of God?" I listened with fresh ears to the answer, "The decrees of God are His eternal purpose according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass." That's right. And when God set the creation into motion, he foreordained that very song to be playing at that very moment. Because He loves me like that.

I actually made it all the way home and into my husband's arms before I began to cry. And once the floodgates were open, there was no holding the waters back.

I wept. I screamed. I cried like...well, like I've never cried before. Eliana wanted desperately to comfort me...poor thing. But it felt so liberating to let out everything I'd bottled up for the previous two hours.

I eventually regained some sense of composure, and Chris, Eliana and I had a talk about everything.

Eliana calmly asked, "Why would God do this?" (This realization came to her after she said she would pray for God to make Hosea better. "And God promises to give us what we ask for if it's what He wants, too," she said. So, I believe she was struggling with wondering, Why would God not want to make Hosea better?)

We told her about Job--how he was richly blessed and how God allowed Job to be tested and how his life was a testimony. How I managed to share this with Eliana at that moment can only be explained by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. I remembered my internal mantra in the doctor's office upon hearing the news--"God counts me worthy. God counts me worthy." Lord, please make me worthy.

Today, a full year later, Hosea is 20 months old and we still don't have a more specific diagnosis. Perhaps someday we will. Perhaps not. What is clear, however, is that Hosea is a very special child. He can now crawl and babble. He can pretty much pull to stand on his own, but he won't unless someone is ready to catch him if he falls. He wears glasses and soon he'll be wearing ankle braces. But, more importantly, Hosea is a darling little boy with a charming personality and a contagious laugh. He is loved and wanted and so very dear to us just the way he is.

To say that my life changed a year ago seems like an understatement. The adjustment we had to go through was so major, so long, and just so...painful. I felt like I was walking around as if in a dream for several weeks. And yet, here I am today. My life is so different now, but it's my life--my new "normal"--and it's a good one. The adjusting continues, and, I assume, it always will. I guess that's why it's more than simply "life-changing". Hosea's needs will continue to change my life as he continues to grow and develop and new challenges arise. The trajectory, if you will, is not so predictable. I suppose it never is. It's just that, now I don't assume.

I know I will probably wake up tomorrow morning and for just a moment--during the delay between consciousness and reality--I won't remember this. For just one moment, it won't consume my thoughts, my very being.

But then chapter 1 of my new life will begin...