JANUARY: We found out our little bundle of joy was a BOY!
FEBRUARY: The start of the month was unseasonably warm in Virginia Beach and we enjoyed time at the beach flying kites with friends. The following weekend we were buried in snow! Arthur left his position as full-time Associate Pastor and entered active duty Navy as a Chaplain. Our friends and congregants gave him a beautiful going away celebration at his favorite restaurant. It was such a show of love from the people the Lord placed in our path. Our first taste of Navy life began on Fenruary 22nd as a 5 week separation while he went through Officer Development School in Rhode Island. The time apart was hard but the blessing was having my parents live in the neighborhood nearby. They helped cheer up Giana, fed us often when I was exhausted and helped in many ways.
Giana got to celebrate her best little friend Julia's birthday this year with a pool party and sleepover. We are glad the Olivas are back in Virginia Beach!
MARCH: Giana and I traveled North, stopping in New Jersey for a quick visit with my longest friend Camille. Then we headed up to Rhode Island to watch Arthur graduate from ODS and bring him back home for a few days. We enjoyed traveling the Eastern seaboard together, visiting the NJ Aquarium and having some sweet time all together before he left for more training. At the end of the month he then went into his next phase of training at Naval Chaplaincy School in Fort Jackson, SC.
APRIL: We were overjoyed to have Arthur come home on Easter weekend. The next weekend my dear friend Mary threw me an incredible baby shower- we were so very blessed by many generous hearts! We spent the two following weekends traveling south to spend a weekend house hunting in the Camp Lejeune area, which would soon become our home, and spending a fun weekend in Charleston as well. The travels then came to a hault with my progressing pregnancy.
MAY: This month was a tornado for our family. We celebrated Giana's 6th Birthday with a pony party at Oceana Stables in Virginia Beach.
The month was full of Doctor appointments and medical trials. Giana was diagnosed with juvenile cataracts and have to have surgery in Arthur's absence. It was burdensome and her recovery involved eye patches, eye drops and eventually glasses. I witnessed my daughter go through fear, be brave and enduring through trial. She was a champion.
The end of the month intensified. Our life was in boxes and delivered to North Carolina. We said goodbyes and shed many tears leaving our friends we called family the past 10 years.
And we were waiting for the best package of all- our son's arrival. And on Saturday morning, May 30th after Arthur and I did bible study, drank coffee and laughed, a few slow pangs became full-on contractions. A visit to the Doctor became an emergency cesarean and our little boy (at 9 lbs, 12 oz) was born just after lunchtime. Our lives changed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and time stood still in frames. Gideon experienced some complications with his blood sugar that dropped dangerously low (I had gestational diabetes throughout this pregnancy) and was whisked away from me. The medical staff wasn't having much luck at our hospital and made the decision to transfer Gideon to a more equipped hospital for speciality nursery care. 72 hours passed before I held my precious baby boy. I laid in recovery for 48 hours in one hospital and he fought hard in those first days in another hospital. In 72 hours he flourished- eating well and maintaining healthy blood sugars. He proved just like his big sister that he too was a warrior. And that's what his name- Gideon- means: "warrior."
JUNE: Arthur left the night of May 31st to sign-in for official duty at Canp Lejeune. With both Gideon and I in the hospital, my parents helped with Giana and supported us for a long 24 hours. Arthur was released later in the morning, given leave to both settle our home and enjoy our newborn until June 20th. Arthur was back in Virginia Beach the evening of June 1st, and I was released from the hospital as well that same afternoon and got to rock, cuddle and feed my son-- finally! Gideon was released on the evening of June 2nd and came home to my parent's home temporarily. The next morning Giana graduated Kindergarten (June 3rd) and we celebrated all-together. In the evening, we packed our remaining items and packed up. The afternoon of June 4th we left for North Carolina to settle into our new home and life at Camp Lejeune. Recovery from my cesarean was tough for the remainder of the month and unpacking was a challenge, but my dear friend Caniah came for a weekend to help.
Arthur's parents were our first guests in North Carolina later in the month. Their visit was enjoyable and a blessing. Arthur got to spend Father's Day with his Dad and with his son. The next day was Arthur's first day officially at work as a Chaplain, so the visit was an opportune time. Oma and Opa took Giana on many fun daytime adventures (Emerald Isle, Hammock's Beach State Park, walking trails) while I adjusted to taking care of a newborn without Arthur home. Many good times were had by all.
JULY: We were getting used to small town living again. Our neighborhood is in a rural community- we have to drive about 25 minutes to the nearest Walmart. It's much like the area we grew up in Upstate NY but it has beaches and much nicer weather. We enjoyed an awesome 4th of July in the neighboring town of Swansboro eating well and watching fireworks from a prime location, Santorini's Mediterranean Grille. The rest of the month was spent mostly indoors because it was SO hot and humid!
AUGUST: We spent quite a few weekends enjoying North Carolina beaches. The children and I traveled back to Virginia Beach for some Doctor appointments and spent time with family and friends. The day after we returned, we packed up again and went away as a family for the weekend. We drove out to rural Tennessee and spent the weekend at a cabin on Roan Mountain. It was secluded and peaceful- a much-needed retreat. During that weekend, Arthur took Giana to her first NASCAR race. They had a wonderful day together. We ended our weekend with a back-to-school dinner at Logan's Roadhouse- Giana wanted steak! :)
On August 24th, Giana started school at Swansboro Elementary. She quickly made new friends, enjoyed riding the big yellow bus and instantly gained the affections of her teacher & teacher's aide. Her assimilation and good attitude never cease to amaze. She is a resilient and kind girl. We're so proud of who she is becoming.
The last day of August was Arthur and my 13th Wedding Anniversary. We spent time together relaxing in the quaint seaside town of Beaufort, NC and went sailing. It was a wonderful time.
SEPTEMBER: Another weekend trip for us to visit family. My Grandma V from New York was in Virginia Beach spending time with my parents so we got to visit with her and celebrate my Mom's birthday as well. We spent Saturday at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens followed by a nice meal together. It was time well-spent and a blessing to see Grandma. The month ended by celebrating Arthur's birthday together.
OCTOBER: We had some good friends- the Malones- come visit us in our new home and they brought along their newest addition- baby Joey! My birthday was a nice time- my family always makes it special. The middle of the month was again another goodbye and Arthur went to California with his Marines for training called ITX. The children and I again ventured to Virginia Beach for Giana to be a flower girl in our dear friend's wedding. We made some memories with Grammy and Grampy at the pumpkin patch as well.
NOVEMBER: Our most favorite veteran came home from California on Veteran's Day! The holidays approached quickly. We had a beautiful, laid-back Thanksgiving and my parents came to North Carolina to spend the time with us. The following day we kicked-off Christmas festivities at the Christmas Flotilla in Swansboro. Then it was decking the halls in our new home before we rang in December.
DECEMBER: We enjoy many traditions together as a family. We have an Elf on the Shelf that's always a lot of fun for Giana and keeps us all laughing. We also celebrate Advent and read Scriptures on the coming of Jesus every evening. Many times our Advent calendar is full of family-friendly activities helping us to focus on the real meaning of Christmas- Jesus and the gift he is. We look forward to the Christmas holiday, as we'll have Grampy and Grammy with us again and also some time together as a family with no school or work.
We pray the symbols and fun of Christmas all point you back to the real reason of this season: Jesus. What a gift He is, indeed. And what beautiful gifts He's given us this year. We are blessed. And we hope to live our lives to be a blessing in return.
The Briggs Family
-Arthur, Jessica, Giana & Gideon-