We started off the year with Stephen's second birthday in January. After being a bit of a late talker, his speech exploded and he began to add vocabulary daily, as well as rapidly learning all his letters and the sounds they make.
In February, Cohen set a Crouch family record for crawling by doing his first scoots across the floor at about 9.5 months (Stephen, in comparison, crawled a week before his first birthday). His little personality started to come out and the first seeds of adoring admiration for his big brother began to show.
In March, we enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather and started wearing shorts and eating popsicles almost every day, which continued until about late October of this year. I love living in the South!
I also had my 26th birthday in March, thankful for another year that the Lord was gracious to give me. I can't even remember now how we celebrated, but I'm sure it was special...?
In April, we celebrated Easter with my sister and her family and continued to enjoy playing outside. Christian and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary in the middle of the month. Some friends kept the boys overnight and we enjoyed a special dinner out, a morning of sleeping in and a trip up to Charlotte for a movie and shopping.
In May, Christian finished up his spring semester and we enjoyed a bit of a break from school for a few weeks. We also celebrated our sweet Coco Bean's first birthday by having my family come over to eat dinner. This was the first time my whole family had been at our house, so that was really special. Cohen decided to celebrate by walking for the first time, and once he started, he did not stop.
June was a hard month. Things were going along like normal, at least from our perspective, but then in the middle of the month, something happened with Christian's job and our church situation that kind of turned everything in our world upside down. The day everything hit the fan, so to speak, I remember feeling complete hopelessness and despair. I wasn't sure what we were going to do or how the Lord could possible bring any good out of such a hard situation. I felt completely alone, and we felt like our entire support network had been ripped out from underneath us. From that point on and for the next couple of months, I felt like I was limping along.
In July, we looked for fun ways to stay cool and also enjoyed a trip up to Tennessee to visit Christian's family. Our boys met Christian's dad for the first time and we survived the car trip there and back despite neither of the boys sleeping at all in the car. That part was not so fun. We celebrated Christian's 26th birthday (and, again, I cannot for the life of me remember what we did). We began looking for a new church, which was hard, because in addition to it just being hard to go to a new place where you don't know many people, we were still reeling from the pain of leaving our old church. I continued to feel like I wasn't sure how we would ever start to build new friendships and find a safe place to call home.
In August, we went to the beach for a week with my family and had an amazing time. The boys slept great because they were exhausted from being outside; they both loved the water and couldn't get enough of it! At night when all the little ones were in bed, we played games with my parents, sisters and brother-in-law. It was a great week to relax and to get out of town, which allowed us to have a bit of a mental break from the difficulties we had been facing since June. In addition, the morning before we drove to the beach, we visited a church for the first time. We left from church to drive to Florida, and the whole way there, we couldn't stop talking about how much we had liked it. The welcome and love we received that first Sunday morning paved the way for us to continue to go to that church, which is where we are now members. We started going to one of the small groups on Sunday nights, and the relationships we have built in that group are some that I think will continue for many years. Our boys have made friends, and later in the year, Christian was able to start an internship there that is part of the requirement for his degree. We could not be more thankful at the way the Lord took care of us over the summer. It was amazing to see his tender care in a time when we were really hurting.
In September, Christian was hard at work back at school and I started trying to do some fun things with the boys at home. I also began training in earnest for a half-marathon, and Stephen loved to stretch with me when I got home from my long runs on Saturday mornings. We began the process of getting Cohen evaluated for speech therapy, which he qualified for. We have two therapists who come to our house; one is a play therapist who comes twice a month and the other is a speech language pathologist who comes every week. We love both of them and are so thankful for their help in teaching Cohen how to talk!
In October, things pretty much continued as normal. The boys dressed up at superheroes for Halloween, which led to an obsession for Stephen with all things superhero-related. Depending on the day, he is Spiderman, Ironman or Word Girl (a character from a PBS show). He's definitely not Word Boy - only Word Girl.
In November, I successfully completed my first half-marathon, running the whole way without stopping. After the race, I promptly quit running and have not picked it back up since, partly because of a foot injury and partly because I needed a break. I also got a new job working from home as a copy editor. It was initially supposed to be a 40 hours/week job, but it has not turned out to be quite that much work. Still, it is helping us pay the bills and giving us a bit more wiggle room each month, which is the first time we have had that in almost two years.
In December, we finished off the year with exams for Christian and a huge bout of sickness. Everybody got sick at some point and it felt like we were never going to get our house germ-free. But just a few days before we were supposed to travel for Christmas, everybody started to get better. This year we celebrated not one, not two, not three but four Christmases. The first one was just the four of us opening our presents for each other. Then we celebrated in Tennessee one night with Christian's dad, grandmother and sister and another day with his mom. When we got home, we celebrated with my family. Needless to say, we are not hurting for toys! The boys have no idea what jackpot they hit.
And as we finish off this year, I cannot look back without almost crying at how the Lord has taken care of us. I was in a dark place this summer, and while I wasn't completely without hope, I did not see how things could ever get to a point where I felt even a tiny bit of what I had felt before all the hard stuff happened. But the Lord took us to a wonderful church that has surrounded us and loved us and where we are continually directed to Jesus and what he has done for us. We have loved serving and living alongside the people there, and we look forward to this new year, even as we face uncertainty as to where we will be and what we will be doing once Christian finishes seminary in July.
If I dwell on some of the specific details of this past year, I can take myself back to places of deep hurt and sorrow. But when I take a few steps back and look at the big picture, there is only one thing I can say:
Surely goodness and mercy... [have] follow[ed] me all the days of my life.
The Lord is so good, and I can't wait to see his hand at work in our lives in 2013.
Happy New Year!