This Is Why You’re Not Getting a Christmas Card From Us This Year (or maybe ever again)

6 12 2012

No More Christmas Cards explains how we came to our decision to NOT send Christmas cards this year.

So, the winner of what would have been our Christmas money was Safe Haven Family Shelter, by almost a 3-1 vote.  I was introduced to Safe Haven almost two years ago, and since then, both Caleb and Jason have joined me on various occasions to help provide dinner for the residents.

Besides the money issue, the other reason you are not getting a Christmas card from us is because this is it!  SURPRISE dear readers!  We’re going all-digital this year.

Many of you keep up with us via Facebook anyway, so you already know our year in review.  For those who don’t, here you go:

The Huddleston 2012 Year in Review

Matthew continues to teach physics and launch high altitude balloons at Trevecca Nazarene University.  He loves his job, and even took on the challenge of hosting a national high altitude balloon conference at TNU in June.

He finished his first (and possibly, probably, hopefully last) full marathon in April.  His goal was an ambitious 4:00, but he made it around 4:25.  This is incredibly impressive considering he only “trained” once each week . . . most of the time.

He has also completed several mud runs, the latest rage in running races around the country.  Now that he’s in a new age bracket, he will probably start placing and winning some nice prizes.

On a heavier note, Matthew’s dad, Mark, was diagnosed with colon cancer in October.  He had surgery just a few days after.  The doctors thought they got all of the cancer, but subsequent tests showed a spot on a lymph node.  He is currently undergoing chemo therapy once every two weeks for six months.  His doctors remain very optimistic, but we’d still appreciate your prayers for complete healing and for strength and endurance for Mark and Martha during this time.

Kelly (me) continues to teach technology and journalism/graphic design at Franklin Road Academy.  I also love my job.  I did NOT do a ½ (or full) marathon this year, and I feel great!  Triathlons are my new thing (My First Triathlon).  Having successfully finished three of them, I can no longer qualify for placings in the Beginner category.  However, being really a really weak swimmer, mediocre bicyclist, and slow runner, I wouldn’t qualify for placings in any category anyway.  Maybe when I’m 80 and still doing triathlons will I win something.

Gourmet cupcakes are my newest indulgence so if you are ever looking for a gift . . .  (I also love chocolate and a good extra sharp cheddar cheese.)  However, I really need to be eating more fruit and vegetables, so a membership in some sort of fruit-of-the-month club would be a better gift.

Matthew and Kelly’s (our) international trip this year took us to Nicaragua in July.  We met another one of the kids we sponsor through Compassion International.  Always an eye-opening, life-changing event, you can read about it here:  Open My Eyes.  You can also read about the amazing amount of fun hell we had as we hiked a volcano on Ometepe Island.

Next year’s trip is another once-in-a-lifetime trip:  india!  For three weeks we will traverse a good chunk of the country in June.  The first 10 days or so will be spent in Chennai and traveling up the Indian Ocean coast of south eastern India, mainly to visit two more kids they sponsor through Compassion International (link) as well as spend some time with a friend who pastors a church in a small village there.  During the second half of the trip, we will get to play tourist:  visit the Taj Mahal, ride elephants and camels in the dessert, visit Agra, Jaipur, New Delhi, and take a boat tour along the Ganges River in Varanasi, the heart of the Hindu culture.  Expect great blog posts to come from this adventure.

Other big news for 2012 included placing membership in a new church, Priest Lake Christian Fellowship.  Our former home church group, the Gathering, fizzled out as families found new churches around the Nashville area, so we started looking, too.  Being less than a mile from our home was a great benefit, but the people were the main draw.  We have never been to a more humble church where the Holy Spirit is so alive and thriving among its members.  It’s inspiring and challenging and moving each week.

Caleb is in fourth grade at Franklin Road Academy and continues to love school and excel in his academics.  To brag on this child for a moment, he has yet to receive a B in any term grade since he started PK.  He’s got his Daddy’s brains and aptitude for math and building things.  Caleb continues to love all things Star Wars, but his Pokemon obsession (thank goodness!) has come to an end.  If you know of anyone interested in buying a 700+ card Pokemon collection, please let us know.

Caleb’s newest obsession is legos.  The kid lives and breathes legos, which we are fine with.  He actually builds some really cool things, like a working flashlight—complete with an on/off lever and working bulb.

Caleb is also learning to play the recorder and trumpet, and we (as in Kelly) are trying desperately (and futilely) to get him to sing “This Song is Just Six Words Long” by Weird Al Yankovic in the Fourth Grade Variety Show in January.  Weird Al is another recent obsession of Caleb’s, and being the cool parents we are, for his birthday we bought him tickets to see Weird Al in concert in April when he comes to Nashville.

Caleb is a Webelo scout this year, and is a popcorn selling machine!  He sold over $1500 to win first place again in his cub scout pack.  He won an archery set, 8% of his total sales in cash, a $50 Walmart gift card, an LED head lamp, a patch, Predators’ tickets, and a trophy.  (Don’t get me started on winning trophies for something like selling popcorn.  Let’s just say, I’m not a fan of the practice.)

Caleb’s most exciting adventure this year, though, was his ER trip that led to a hospital stay for a couple of days at the end of August for pneumonia.  Despite this bump in the road, we are still tremendously blessed.  His asthma and allergies have plagued him something fierce this fall, much worse than normal.  We have an appointment with an asthma/allergy specialist next week so we are praying for something to help manage this better.

Jason started preK at FRA this year, and is loving it.  Being the second child, we did not work with him on things like the alphabet, drawing, writing, or reading much (hardly at all) before he started school.  Thankfully, the kid has a mind like a sponge and is taking off in the writing and reading department.  He also loves to draw.

Jason, too, is obsessed with Star Wars and legos.  At three he could recite entire scenes from Star Wars.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed by this.  Did I mention he was three at the time?  The kid can build lego creations with the best of them . . . well, maybe not a working flashlight yet, but he can build really cool spaceships, race cars, jails, mouse traps, and monsters.

Jason and Caleb took their first official swimming lessons this summer.  Lesson 1 involved Jason crying and screaming for the full 45 minute session.  He had snot running out of both nostrils to his belly button when I picked him up.  He only cried for about 15 minutes of lesson 2, and by lesson 3 he was actually excited to go.  Now, of course, the kid is terrified to put his head in the water, which reminds Kelly of herself as a child forced to take swimming lessons.

Packer, our dog, continues to love to eat anything that falls on the floor including baby spit-up (true story) as well as grass to later make herself throw-up said baby spit-up.  She loves to sleep during the day and wake us up around 4:00 a.m. to pee and play.

Finley Bubbles the VIII, our beta fish, didn’t last the year.  At this time, we are uncertain if we will buy Finley Bubbles the IX.

Hopes and prayers for 2013:

  • Good health for everyone
  • A safe and amazing trip to India
  • Jobs we love
  • Caleb and Jason would continue to grow and mature in their faith, following Christ
  • Matthew and Kelly possibly beginning a new Marriage Builders home church group
  • Kelly hopes to begin working on her MBA at Trevecca in the fall

As we reflect back and look forward, may we always remember WHY we celebrate.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:14

Love and prayers to all,
the Huddleston Family

PS.  If any of you find yourselves in Nashville and need a place to stay, we’ve got plenty of room and love house guests.


Counting My Blessings Amidst Illness

27 08 2012

(This was written on Friday, August 24.)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. -Psalm 46:1

The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind, and I am running on fumes as I write this.  Caleb, my 9-year-old son, is going on night #2 in the hospital with pneumonia.  And yet, I have been filled with extreme thankfulness all day as I ponder my blessings.

In less than 24 hours, Caleb went from his normal health to “he needs help NOW!”  I am always amazed at how quickly our health can turn on us.  He went to bed on Wednesday night complaining of a sore throat.  He woke up Thursday morning, and his throat no longer bothered him, but he had a very runny nose.  He was sneezing a lot, and he had a lot of nasal drainage.  His breathing wasn’t terrible, or so we thought.  Nothing a breathing treatment at school and maybe a few puffs of his inhaler couldn’t fix.

When I went to pick him up after school, his skin looked gray.  If there were a Crayola crayon to describe his skin it would be named “Brain Matter Gray.”  My sweet child needed help.

My husband, Matthew, took Caleb to a minute clinic.  The closest one to us had already closed, but I found another one not too much farther away that was open late. (Blessing #1!)  I thought Caleb might have bronchitis and would need antibiotics.  At the minute clinic, Matthew was told Caleb would need a steroid shot, but they didn’t administer those at that location.  They were sent to another clinic across the street where they were told the same thing.  Only this time, they checked Caleb’s O2 level and it was in the 80s.  Normal/healthy levels are above 95.  Levels in the low 90s are common for people with respiratory illnesses, sleep apnea, and smokers.  Anything in the 80s is usually cause for concern.

Caleb in the ER

Caleb in the ER

With this news, Matthew and Caleb were headed to the nearest ER, only two miles away.  (Blessing #2!)  Caleb was immediately given an oxygen mask and a breathing treatment.  His O2 levels improved, but whenever his mask was removed, his levels dropped back into the 80s.  His chest x-ray also showed a spot.  Pneumonia.  He would be spending the night.I was at home with Jason, our 4-year-old as well as my dad and a motorcycle buddy of his.  The two were en route from Florida back home to Wisconsin, and our house was approximately the half-way point.  (Blessing #3!)  God’s providence in the timing of all this actually makes me smile.  If this had to happen, timing it so that my dad would be in town—and we weren’t planning on seeing him for another three months—all I can say is, thank you, God!

As Matthew and I were discussing what needed to be done, Matthew realized he had taken my car, but he also had our only working van key with him.  So I had a vehicle with no means to drive it to the hospital or to work the next day.  And it was after 10:00 p.m. by this point.  My dad had his motorcycle, and while I have my operator’s license, I am not at all comfortable driving his Honda Goldwing that cost more than our Nissan, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Suzuki cycle combined.  So I texted my neighbor.  (Blessing #4!)

I don’t know many people who can call/text a next-door neighbor late at night and ask to borrow their car.  I am one of the lucky few who have amazing neighbors like that.  Not only did they let me take their car, Linda offered to drive me if I needed the emotional support.  And she stayed up until I got home which was almost midnight.

Before my we moved into our current home in 2006, I had been praying for years that our next neighbors would be faithful Christians, and God answered that prayer abundantly with the Shepherds.

Back to Blessing #3, I didn’t have to worry about leaving Jason alone while I went to the hospital since my dad was in town.  Normally, taking care of Jason through all of this would have been a minor ordeal by itself.

I finally made it to the hospital, visited with Matthew and Caleb for a little, and got back home around midnight.  I was physically exhausted as well as mentally and emotionally drained, but I couldn’t sleep.  I drifted off at some point, but Jason popped in around 2:00 a.m. to visit and say hi.  (I call him my Midnight Snuggler.)  In my stupor, I told him to crawl into bed where daddy sleeps.

In those wee hours of the morning, I was reminded to be thankful for our overall good health. (Blessing #5!)  Despite this temporary setback, we really are blessed with good health.  And though both Caleb and I have asthma and allergies that act up occasionally, I know far too many people who deal with chronic pain, MS, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases on a daily basis.  There is no reprieve for them.  Physical and emotional struggle are a part of their daily lives.

My dad and his friend were going to get up around 5:00 a.m. and hit the road to avoid the morning rush hour traffic today.  However, when I got up at 5:30 they were sitting in the living room, talking quietly.  My dad said he would be glad to stay the day if it would help.  He would sit with Caleb at the hospital so Matthew and I could go to work.  (Blessing #6!)

Missing out on visiting with his Papa was the one thing that Caleb got really emotional about in the ER.  He adores his Papa.  Being able to surprise Caleb with an all-day visit with Papa was priceless.  (Blessing #7!)

Day two began, and Caleb’s O2 levels continued to slip whenever he removed his oxygen mask throughout the day.  He was feeling better and desperately wanted to go home, but the doctor wanted him to spend another night.

My day at work was actually amazing. (Blessing #8)  Despite my physical exhaustion and overwhelmed emotions, the prayers and support I received from my co-workers, students and their parents still amazes me.  (Blessings #9-245!)  I think I spent half my day saying thank you to hundreds of people who told me they were praying for Caleb.  I am also astonished that I accomplished anything at work, but I did.  I left in peace and not dreading what Monday would bring when I returned to my classroom. (Blessing #246!)

There were quite a few people; however, who questioned my decision to work today.  I had my reasons, but the most important was this:  Matthew was with Caleb, and Matthew is an amazing father.  (Blessing #247!)  He is more than capable of doing what needed to be done.  If the roles were reversed, I doubt many people would have questioned Matthew’s decision to work if I was at the hospital.  Do we really need this double-standard?  For our family, it made the most sense for Matthew to stay with Caleb and for me to work.  We traded places soon enough.

When Jason and I got to the hospital Friday afternoon, our dear neighbors (from Blessing #3) were already there.

The best part was definitely the bed.  His bed at home isn't nearly as exciting.  The hosptial bed even had TV and light controllers in the side panel.  We won't even let Caleb have a TV in his room.

The best part was definitely the bed. His bed at home isn’t nearly as exciting. The hosptial bed even had TV and light controllers in the side panel. We won’t even let Caleb have a TV in his room.

Our pastor also popped in for a visit and prayer. (Blessing #248!)

A tray of food was delivered for me along with Caleb’s dinner.  I had already eaten before arriving at the hospital so I was able to offer my meal to my dad who was hungry. (Blessing #249!)

I remembered to bring my phone and tablet chargers.  (Blessings #250-251!)  And socks.  (Blessing #252!) And Caleb’s DS. (Blessing #253!)

Caleb played his DS.  A lot.  He also read two complete books so I can't complain.

Caleb played his DS. A lot. He also read two complete books so I can’t complain.

Wireless service was available for free in Caleb’s room.  (Blessing #254!)

Jason commented that Caleb’s room was like a hotel room.  Yes, dear little innocent son.  A very, very, very expensive hotel room.  While my dad and I considered how much this little visit would cost, I was not worried about the final price tag.  We are financially disciplined and live a debt-free life.  We are able to save so that adventures like this one will not impact our finances negatively.  (Blessing #255!)  Matthew also just happened to get a significant bonus at work just a few days earlier which will hopefully cover the remainder of what we have to pay after insurance, our deductible, and HSA contribute.  (Blessing #256!)

We had never been to Stonecrest Hospital before.  Our usual health journeys bring us to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.  Everyone at Stonecrest was amazing. (Blessing #257!)

The Extended Care Director at FRA had the other fourth graders email get well notes to Caleb.  Watching him read them and some other cards made by his friends at school was such a sweet moment.  (Blessing #258!)  Seeing him realize his friends really cared about him and missed him . . . that warms a mother’s heart.

In the short time I have been with Caleb tonight, countless nurses and respiratory specialists have been in to administer breathing treatments or take his vitals.  He handled himself with such maturity and respect and no complaining, even while eating apple sauce laced with prednisone and amoxicillin. (Blessing #259!)  I can’t tell you how tasty it was, but I can confirm that it smelled like warm vomit.

Drug laced applesauce!  Can you say yuuummmm?

Drug laced apple sauce! Can you say yuuummmm?

I’m now watching my son sleep peacefully without difficulty breathing. (Blessing #260!)