When October rolls around each year, I start getting REALLY excited, because I realize I’m just one month away from my favorite time of the year. November 1st through December 31st, is absolutely the Most Wonderful Time of the Year to me. I love everything about it: the music, the foods, the smells, the anticipation, the excitement, the parties, being with family, the quiet evenings, the movies, etc. Everything about this season makes me really happy.
November 1, 2011 was no different. However, this year has played out differently than most and has became a time that I hope I never experience again.
For me, Christmas music starts around November 15th and this year was no different. That may seem really early for some, but I actually have to hold myself back from not starting to listen sooner. Around the time Christmas music started playing in our house, Elijah, Natalie, and Aaron all got a terrible stomach flu. It only lasted 24-36 hours, but it was enough to cause a lot of chaos in our family. Since our home is also our “church building” during the week, we have people in and out of our house all the time, which meant that many people from our church also got infected with the stomach flu. Normally, a sickness like this wouldn’t be so bad, but my kids had been sick with colds and viruses on and off since September 1st. I was DONE with sickness!
My birthday is November 21st and I was so excited to get a special treat this year. I got to take a trip with my friend Erika to the Dominican Republic. It was a very quick trip, but a much needed respite. We got back on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Before I left for our trip, I had prepared everything to have a few people over for Thanksgiving dinner. It was going to be a bit of a potluck, which was a good plan. While I was away, my mother-in-law came up to help Aaron with the kids. Like others in our church, she got infected with the stomach flu too. So, she and my father-in-law were unable to spend Thanksgiving with us, they just went back home. We ended up having a nice dinner and enjoyed some very low key time together with our friends.
The Friday after Thanksgiving every year I beg Aaron to let me put up the Christmas decorations. He’s always a little reluctant, saying “It’s too early!” But, I always remind him that we’ve been listening to Christmas music for two weeks, so it’s not really THAT early. On Black Friday, while everyone was shopping, we were putting up our Christmas decorations on the inside of our house. We decided to wait to put up the outside decorations on the following day.
Everything looked beautiful, the family seemed to be fairly healthy for the first time in a LONG time, and the Christmas season had officially begun!
We finished the outside lights and decorations around 5PM on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Just in time to have worship practice at our house that night for our Thanksgiving service.
We had just about finished up worship practice when I got “The Call” about my dad. What a sudden shock and difficult thing to experience, especially during what is usually the most wonderful time of the year. We packed up our stuff and headed to WV with the kids for a week of funeral preparations, financial details, bills, and uncovering the “Rosetta Stone” that was my dad’s financial situation. It was a bit of a haze or a fog…..stay tuned for the blog post on what to do or not to do for a family who’s lost a loved one.
We returned home, thankful that our house was nicely decorated for the holidays and we could try to somewhat return to life as normal. And life did just that, returned to normal. People in and out of our house for newcomers dinners, worship practice, small groups, church meetings, individual meetings, parties, etc, all things I normally LOVE! It was life as normal at the Graham house….which actually was not helpful at all. I had no time to process; no time to grieve; no time to really absorb everything that had just happened in my life. Of course, with little kids, you rarely have time to process things like this anyway, but there was very little space to think, pray, cry, or just be.
The week before Christmas my mom drove over to spend the holidays with our family. I was really glad that she was coming a little early so she could be with me, my family, and others leading up to the holidays. Elijah had two weeks in preschool between the week we were in WV and the Holiday break….just enough time to pick up yet another sickness!
When my mom arrived, Elijah was already sick. It was mild, but he was definitely sick. He was also a little demanding because he was used to being in school and having a lot of structure. I don’t have the same level of structure for him at home….which makes life very difficult, especially with two kids.
We had a party at our house Sunday night the 18th, and one on Monday night the 19th. Both for church and both really wonderful. BUT, both took some prep time and energy from me, while taking care of two kids and trying to make sure mom wasn’t overwhelmed.
Tuesday night was the Marshall Bowl game, which they won (Go Herd!), but my mom and I decided we just couldn’t watch it. It would be too emotional. Marshall’s last game, which actually led them to the bowl game, was the last game my dad ever attended….and we just couldn’t handle it. So, we cleaned out our basement, which was kind of a nightmare, but also very therapeutic.
We got through the next couple of days as Elijah seemed to get worse with his sickness and Natalie started showing signs of sickness.
On Friday, December 23rd, we headed to my brother’s house in Leesburg, VA for the holidays. The day was filled with keeping Elijah entertained and realizing he and Natalie didn’t feel very good.
Christmas Eve was going to be a tough day. Aaron and I had to leave at 2PM to go into DC to get ready for our church’s Christmas Eve service. Natalie was NOT feeling well, but I also know when babies are that young, there’s not much you can do except try to comfort them. Elijah was doing better, but he will play through just about anything.
I love our church and I love my family, but this Christmas has been tough. I felt as though I was having to choose between the two. Normally on Christmas Eve I spend a lot of time with family, eating, talking, playing games, watching movies, going to church together, and looking at Christmas lights. This year, I don’t think I completely thought through all the details of the weekend. Aaron and I ended up spending 7 hours away from my family doing Christmas Eve stuff for our church (traveling, setting up, having the service, and tearing down). We got back to my brother’s in time to chat and watch most of a movie together, but I didn’t get to spend much of the day with my kids at all. AND, mentioning my kids, Natalie was MISERABLE! She was inconsolable most of the day and my mom didn’t really know what to do for her. Besides the fact that my mom and sister-in-law were starting to feel sick AND my whole family was emotionally drained from trying to cope with Natalie’s crying.
We woke up Christmas morning to do the traditional opening of presents and nice breakfast together. Elijah had a great time and got some fun toys. There was definitely a “Thomas the Train” theme going on!
Things were going well, until Natalie finally woke up. Her eyes were glued shut, she had a fever, she was retracting (very labored breathing), and where most babies her age breath 40 breaths a minute, she was breathing 75 times a minute. It was getting serious, so I called the Urgent Care and got a 12PM appointment.
While my family was enjoying the day (and worrying about Natalie), Natalie and I spent 5 hours at the Urgent Care. The doctor REALLY wanted to admit her to the hospital Christmas night, but she did give me the option to take her home and bring her back at 9:15AM the next morning. I decided to take her home (now realizing, I probably should have gone ahead and taken her to the hospital). We went back to my brother’s house, with an IV in Natalie arm (which I now know is a BIG no-no) and did a breathing treatment…and she went to bed. She slept well, but still had all the afore mentioned symptoms, including the labored breathing.
December 26th, we went back to the Urgent Care. At 10:15am, the nurse came in and said that the doctor that was on duty for adults and pediatrics (there was only one) did not come in….so they had to reroute everyone. Yes, this is turning into a nightmare.
We were supposed to go to Richmond this day, but it was looking more and more like our Christmas plans were definitely NOT what we had in mind. We loaded up the car at my brother’s and headed back into DC to the Urgent Care in the city. Natalie and I headed off to a 2PM appointment. After waiting for an hour and a half to see the doctor, she too wanted to admit Natalie to Children’s Hospital.
We waited another hour for treatment and paperwork, and then headed to the hospital. We had to go through Children’s Hospital ER, which was actually pretty efficient initially. We arrived at 5PM and Natalie received a treatment around 6:30PM. It wasn’t until 9PM when we actually moved from the ER and made it to a room. THANK GOODNESS, I had a sweet, sweet friend, Lauren, from our church who came to the hospital, brought me dinner, and even SPENT THE NIGHT with me. She was AWESOME! I’m so thankful to have her in my life. It made our stay at the hospital so much more bearable.
Natalie definitely started improving after the treatment she received, but they needed to monitor her. We knew that we would have to wait until the following afternoon before we saw the main doctor, who made the decision about discharge. Sure enough at 2PM on December 27th, we saw the doctor and at 3PM we were discharged and on our way home.
Now, Natalie is still sick; Elijah is still sick; my mom is very sick and had to cut her trip short; my sister-in-law is sick; and Aaron is sick as well. What is normally the most wonderful time of the year has been a complete nightmare and I’m so ready for it to all be over.
God did bless us yesterday, by letting us know that He is indeed still with us and His promises are are true as He covered our house with a rainbow. So, I’m very hopeful that 2012 will be a better year, full of health and joy!
Thank you God, I really needed that!