Ho, Ho, Ho, and a MERRY Christmas! The only thing that makes me happier than opening ridiculously expensive Christmas presents (which let's be honest, my husband is in the military so *that* rarely happens, ha!) is opening the cards, letters and pictures that everyone sends during the holidays. As you all know, I am a HUGE fan of the bulk Christmas newsletter and love reading them, and sending them, each year. For those of you we have met online, I thought I would post our family Christmas letter here as a journal entry ..... my version of a virtual holiday letter to all of you!
Two of the best holiday cards we've opened this year weren't the kind we normally receive, but touched our hearts more than you can know. From our dear family friend Bruce G. in Connecticut; a note from the American Red Cross that he donated blood in honor of Kendrie, which is truly a gift of life this holiday season; thank you Mr. G! And from my wonderfully kind friend Deb B. in Cincinnati; a notice that Deb and her husband Pete made a donation to Caring Bridge in Kendrie's name. I think this web service, which has allowed us to keep in touch with everyone in such great style, is an amazing service. I'm truly touched that Deb and Pete made such a kind, generous gesture. Thanks to you all!!!
ANNUAL FAMILY CHRISTMAS LETTER
Well, I’ve sat down several times to write this Christmas letter, and can’t seem to find a positive way to start, so let me begin by being honest:
2003 WAS NOT A GREAT YEAR FOR OUR FAMILY !!!
I could be even more brutally honest, but I don’t think there is a need for profanity during the holidays, so we’ll just leave it at that. There were some highlights, however, in between our lowlights of the past year, so I’ll do the best job I can to mention those and ensure this is not the single most depressing Christmas letter ever written.
Rather than “Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter”, the seasons we experienced this year are better described as “Good, Bad, Great, and Really, Really Crappy.” So let’s start with GOOD:
The year began well enough; I had just started my second surrogate journey and was excited to discover I was carrying twins. Our kids were enjoying school; work was going well for Blaine, life seemed pretty GOOD at this point. Then, out of the clear blue March sky came the news that Blaine’s head had been invaded by, of all things, a tumor. I knew he was harboring some fantasies about life as a professional hunter, but had no idea he was harboring cancer! He underwent two surgeries to have the tumor removed and spent over two months off work. He assured me that the more time he spent fishing the quicker his recovery time would be. Apparently the bump on my head is from where I fell off the turnip truck yesterday, but I went ahead and gave him the ok to buy a new fishing boat and hoped for the best! Even now, he still is having reconstructive work done, and will be for some time, but for the most part we sat back afterwards and thought, “whew! Was that a lousy thing to have to go through or what? At least the BAD part of our year is out of the way.” Little did we know our “or what” was still ahead.
Summer began and we settled back down to normal. Spent lots of time at the pool, traveled to NY/NJ and Ohio to visit friends, and waddled around town waiting for the twins’ arrival. We enjoyed the time off, despite the occasional, frequent, daily, ok, let’s be honest, INCESSANT, non-stop bickering between the children. I found myself quoting Rodney King on more than one occasion, pleading for them to all just get along! In fact, the experience of our first summer break between school years led me to the decision I should write my own parenting book entitled: “Because I said so, that’s why” OR “I’m going to have a heart attack if you don’t stop that” OR “Five lousy minutes of peace, is that too much to ask?!” OR “Do you want to spend the rest of your life in time-out, because you’re sure headed that way!” (Cast your ballots for the title of your choice.)
The GREAT highlight of the summer was the arrival of Benjamin and Jonah on August 20. Easy pregnancy, easy delivery, awesome experience yet again. How did I get so lucky? Born at 38 weeks, they are handsome, healthy boys and are doing great back at home with their wonderful family. We enjoyed their parents and grand-parents visit here to Georgia to await their birth so much! I’m blessed to receive pictures and updates quite often and can’t wait to see them again.
Then, school started, this stay-at-home-mom got her groove back (who knew the endless cycle of class parties, field trips, volunteering at school would be so, well, endless?!) and then REALLY, REALLY CRAPPY hit us right between the eyes. We didn’t even see it coming. I won’t go into great detail because let’s be honest; if you’re a good enough friend that you’re on our Christmas card list, then you already know about Kendrie’s leukemia diagnosis. Hands down, no contest, darkest day of our life. Some days it’s easy to keep our heads above water, other days I feel like we’re treading water in the Sea of Optimism with both hands tied behind our backs and a fifty pound boat anchor wrapped around our waists.
I can never in a million years thank all of you for your support during this time. And, going back six months, to your support during Blaine’s convalescence as well. I had no idea how much the encouragement of friends and family would mean to us until the time came when we needed it. Please continue to check in at Kendrie’s web site: www.caringbridge.org/ga/kendrie and also continue to keep our entire family in your prayers. Thank you. Sincerely.
Despite all the upheaval in their lives, the kids have done well this year. Brayden reached lots of milestones – swimming like a fish, reading everything she can get her hands on, learning to blow bubbles with her gum (knock on wood, none stuck in her hair yet) and learning to make farting noises with her armpit (yes, we have cousin Dalton to thank for that one.) She still loves school (1st grade) and Brownies, and played soccer for the first time this year. She spent lots of time (too much time) perfecting her pre-pre-teen behaviors, such as eye rolling, head bobbing, and “flouncing” out of a room. If she wasn’t so genuinely sweet and kind and loving and helpful the rest of the time, I’d have to kill her.
Kellen also perfected the farting armpit skill, and played his first season of t-ball. He’s in kindergarten this year, thinks any joke with the word “toilet” in it is hysterical, and loves bike riding, as evidenced by the thousands of skid marks on my driveway. He also enjoys engaging his father and me in serious philosophical conversations on topics such as: Do trees have families? What makes muscles? Where does underarm hair come from? Are there bathrooms in Heaven? (sigh) Most of all, he’s a sweet little kid who still prefers cuddling with his mom and wrestling with his dad, and we’re going to enjoy it as long as we can.
Prior to her illness this fall, Kendrie was doing a great job keeping up with the other two. Swimming, bike riding, you name it, she wasn’t far behind. After her diagnosis we pulled her out of school and now she and I spend lots of time at home together, working puzzles, playing games, reading, and watching Air Bud (or whatever is her current movie of choice) over and over. And over. It breaks our hearts to see her go through this, so we try to focus on the many special qualities she has, like making us laugh, and plow through one day at a time.
At least our year ended on a high note, as Blaine was promoted to Lt. Colonel the beginning of December. For the third year in a row, he made the squadron commander’s list, and for the third year in a row, circumstances intervened. We have requested, and been granted, a one-year extension here at Warner Robins. Our goal is to keep Kendrie’s treatment in Atlanta, with the same cancer center, as long as possible, since her chemotherapy treatment will last until early 2006. We like Georgia and think the extra stability will be good for all of us.
I’d like to end this note with something wise, warm and witty about seeing you through the holidays in good health and happiness --- blah blah blah. Quite frankly, we just want to get through the end of the year intact and start fresh in 2004! Best wishes to you and yours as well.