Author: Lala
•Saturday, February 01, 2014
(By Carl)

So I have been meaning for a while to write up a summary of all the things that went on last year, since it was such an eventful and intense year for us. There are some ways we were challenged and forced to grow, we experienced significant life events, and had some very happy times. Four years into our marriage, Lala and I came come out of last year closer and happier together than ever before.

2013 was a year of expenses. We started the year in a fancy shmancy high-rise apartment. To cut expenses and get more room for the baby that was coming, we began looking for a house and we did buy a beautiful one. Of course there are a lot of up-front costs that come with buying a house, even if the monthly expense might be lower. We bought six nice appliances brand new, and paid to have laundry connections added in the garage and an outside vent hole cut for the over-the-range microwave fan. We paid for movers, bought paint, a rug, a manual lawnmower and yard equipment, etc. Then of course we had to continue paying for our apartment for two months until the lease ended. After all that, all of the monthly savings from housing were immediately swallowed up by preschool tuition, since the kids started that in September.
We lived on the seventh floor of this building.
Some of the things that we miss in our old apartment are the pool and sunsets.
Breathtaking view from the porch of our old place.

Our new house

We closed on the house July 25 and moved in five days later.

Back in February, we bought tickets for Lala's parents to fly from the Philippines, bought medical insurance for while they were here, bought a phone, and made a car down payment, all on one credit card bill. Later in the year, we bought a security system for the house and flew everyone to Illinois for Christmas. A year of expenses! Fortunately we were able to do all of these things with savings, income, and low-interest-rate debt, and many expenses will go away in 2014.

More significant than the financial events were the stresses and struggles of the summer. What a summer! Our baby Talia was born May 19 in a fortunately straightforward C-section. We had been scheduled to close on our house four days before, but that ended up being delayed for over two months because of title problems. So we had a lot of uncertainty while that was pending. Two weeks after Talia was born, I was called to be Elders Quorum President in our branch at church. This is a struggling quorum to say the least.

At work, we had chaos all summer due to a new managed IT services provider and a new CIO. I had no credibility with this new leader, who managed to alienate every single person in the IT department with a "shoot first and give lectures later" approach. Two days before our house closing he said that all scheduled telecommuting would be canceled, leaving me with basically a choice between the house and my job. He apparently told people that my team didn't do anything and he could replace us all tomorrow with five new people. While he has since decided to be nicer and now believes I do provide value after all, I still count the months left in my employment agreement.

Talia, our baby, has been a very easy baby generally, but she did turn out to have a milk allergy. Lala tried very hard to adjust her diet so she could continue nursing, but eventually was forced to stop. Within the space of a few weeks:
  • We got word that telecommuting was ending and I needed to eventually find a new job if we wanted to live in St. Petersburg
  • We closed on our house and moved in
  • We were in the throes of toilet training the twins 
  • The twins began preschool
  • Lala tried to adjust her diet so she could nurse Talia despite the milk allergy
  • Lala became terribly sick, probably due to the stress and diet affecting her immune system and strength, such that she could not eat anything for days and had pretty much a liquid diet for two weeks. She still had three small children to take care of. The nursing ended and we began buying a special formula.
  • Just as Lala was recovering, I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss. I went to bed fine August 24 and woke up in the morning permanently deaf in one ear.
In the midst of all of these stresses and more, the most difficult thing for me was dealing with whiny and fighting children who made messes and could not obey instructions. I learned something this summer about my own mental and emotional limitations. I have a bit more compassion for people struggling with whatever they struggle with, because I discovered that I myself just could not cope well with something as basic as children.

The terrible twos really are terrible, and they last into the age of three. However, we have seen over the past six months that the kids are now learning how to entertain themselves and how to play the game (if they cooperate with parents, they get privileges and everyone is happier).

When I came home from the doctor with my prognosis on September 6, that my right ear would probably never again hear anything useful, it seemed almost laughable that I would have such a random "crisis" right in the middle of everything else. Was God piling on, or punishing me? Or testing me or teaching me? All I knew is that I had things I wanted to accomplish with my life, service I wanted to give, and being bitter was pointless and silly. I decided that the most constructive reaction would be to go home and have a Family Home Evening with my family, which I did (Family Home Evening is a church-encouraged family night). That day seemed to be a turning point, as both my mental state and the stressors calmed afterward.

We think that after we got married, Lala had some depression and a lot of mental adjustments to make. She had a life-threatening pregnancy, then postpartum depression and two babies to take care of. By the time she was recovered from that, she began another pregnancy. So it makes sense that she is finding herself happier than before.

She really is a rock-star wife and mother. Every day when I realize that I am actually married to this woman I feel exultant and I am astonished at how blessed I am.