Noah

January 30th, 2018, was historic for this branch of the Middleton Family. 

For Anachemy, after nearly a year of pregnancy, 36 hours of active labor, midwives, doctors, drinking a full bottle of castor oil to make the baby come, pain, exhaustion, and no epidural, Anachemy finally gave birth to our first child, a son, Noah Ezekiel Middleton.  I was amazed at Anachemy’s strength. I was amazed at how tiny and perfect Noah was. 

There have been a number of times I was worried for Noah’s safety.  His first day was no exception.  I had to keep checking on his little crib in the hospital to make sure he was ok.  On the night he was born, when the dust settled and we were all finally in a room by ourselves around 2am each laying in our own bed in a dark and very cold hospital room, it was hard to sleep even though not having slept the night before.  Why?  Because there were THREE of us now.  How crazy was that?

We brought Noah from the hospital to our home, a boat.  Not many babies can say that.  But considering his name, it was a fitting reception.  Jesus had a manger, Noah gets a bilge (sort of, he’s technically above the bilge).

In fact, I built Noah a custom sized crib and installed it into the port settee.  He needed a special size because the available space was smaller than the standard crib dimensions and also smaller than mini-crib dimensions.  On a boat, none of us gets much space.
 
Noah’s been sleeping in the same crib since he was born.  Knowing what I know now he probably should have had a bassinet to start with.  But herein lies the problem, I didn’t know what to expect.  Other than the warning of less sleep, which turned out to be true. 

It is hard to keep up with Noah’s new “tricks.”  As of yesterday he can climb into our aft berth.  Gracefully.  But him getting out is less graceful and more like falling on his head, which scares Anachemy to death.

Before Noah was born I envisioned this little cuddly baby who would fall asleep in my arms while holding him.  There is a picture of Seth reclining on a lazy boy chair with his daughter Kailee on his chest and they are both peacefully sleeping.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been like that.  I can probably count on one hand how many times Noah has gently fallen asleep in my arms.  Maybe I can count that on one finger.  Since his entry into the world he has been like a heat seeking missile squirming, grabbing, energetically pulling, biting, head butting, kicking, tearing and chewing into everything he can reach.  And his reach is increasing.  One of his favorite targets is my beard.

Overall, it is a joy having Noah.  Yes, it’s lots of work.  Yes, he annoys me a lot.  But he is also super cute, and it is fun seeing him grow and develop and an honor to have a part in guiding that process.  It is humbling.  It is eye-opening when I see myself in his bad behavior.  Generally he is a very happy kid.  Also inquisitive and smart.  I guess I’ll keep him.

Overall, 2018 has been a whirlwind for us.  Caring for a baby.  Rehabbing the boat.  Challenging times at my employment since the owner unexpectedly died last December.  Anachemy building her Real Estate business.  Our family attending a new church (Faith Fellowship).

The end of the year is here and we are thinking about what 2019 has in store and what our goals should be.  Part of us thinks that if Noah had a sibling then the two of them could bother each other instead of bothering us so much, but maybe it wouldn’t work that way. 

Here is a “Noah photo reel”, in no particular order:

Day 1, Noah Arrives:

Birth

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25

 

(there were traumatic photos too from the first day, but my phone accidentally went in the swimming pool so we lost those, which is just as well)

 

Noah comes home to I-Dock (our boat is the one with the dinghy on the back):

Our Home on I Dock

April 1st, 2018, Easter Sunday:

Easter 2018

Hanging out with Dad while Anachemy hosts an open house:

Hanging Out

In the stroller in the woods:

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

On the docks:

Noah on the Water

Crib on the Dock

What’s Mom doing?

Happy Wife Happy Life

Enjoying his crib:

Sleeping

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Making a mess and finding the maps:

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Happy Baby:

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Even happy when shopping:

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Sleeping Noah while we were out adventuring on our Christmas Trip:

Emmerson Point Reserve

Christmas Trip

From THIS to THIS:

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Transitions

Transition has been a key theme for us since getting married back in May. Transitioning into marriage. Transitioning into living together. Transitioning out of our jobs in Haiti. And now transitioning back to life in America.

After three years living in Haiti, some may wonder, “Why did you leave now?”  Some of the immediate reasons, for the curious, are that Anachemy needed to return to the States for the best chance of not jeopardizing her residency, we needed a better income (I was down to my last dollar), and we wanted to start our marriage off in a less chaotic environment, among other reasons.

Once we decided to move back to the USA, the question became, “Where?”  Anachemy’s family is in New Jersey and mine is in Kansas.  We decided to start off in a new place.  That left 48 options.

After much prayer, a number of surprising “coincidences” came together for us to move to St. Petersburg, Florida. Things fell into place: housing, a job, a vehicle. I remember one evening in Haiti, Anachemy and I got on our knees and asked God that if he wanted us to live in St. Petersburg to please confirm it by providing me a job.  Housing had already been provided.  Engineering jobs in St. Petersburg seemed sparce and I wasn’t excited about commuting to Tampa. The very next day I was contacted for a job interview from a company only minutes from the housing already provided!

The job interview led to a job offer and on October 18th I moved to St. Pete and began working the following morning. I was working in Haiti right up until the Sunday when I got on the plane.  The following morning was the first day at my job.  After four years without a paying job, I was back in corporate America.  Funny thing is, I’ve worked harder volunteering than I ever did as an engineer.

Anachemy joined me three weeks later after wrapping up her job responsibilities in Haiti. The time we spent apart for those three weeks was difficult, but neither of us seem worse for wear now and are enjoying starting this new life together.

Before Florida, we had been thinking of moving to Denver. I know Colorado would have been awesome, but I surely can’t complain about this balmy November weather, nor can I complain about living only 20 minutes from a top-rated beach! Yes, I can say we are both enjoying the amenities this country has to offer. It doesn’t feel so much that I am in Florida as it does that I am in AMERICA. To be honest, all of America has a similar look with the chain stores.  And because Florida is flat like Kansas, the topography looks similar too, except for the ocean 🙂

Being back in the saddle as an engineer has been a shock to the system, but receiving a paycheck is such a relief it makes the work worth it. And to be honest, this job is a good fit for me. I appreciate it is a small company where I get to wear multiple hats. Not to mention I’ve never had a computer with three monitors before.  They also gave me a flashlight for checking parts.  Any place that gives their employees a flashlight has to be a winner.

As we start this new chapter, I’m looking forward to all the adventures Anachemy and I will have in Florida. Heck, we’ve already started the adventures. For instance, my dear wife just learned to drive stick shift in the last two weeks. Helping her learn was an adventure, but now she’s doing great with it.

We’ve also been down to the ocean in the evening and watched the scudding clouds and crashing waves and the moon come out.  Life is always new and interesting.  We’re so thankful for all our many blessings and also for our good health, which I never take for granted.  Though I’m a complainer by nature, there isn’t anything I have reason to complain about these days.

(here are a few pictures from down by “öur” beach)Ocean Birds

At the Sand Castle Competition

Getting Married Soon!

I’ve been intending to write a stupendous blog post about how I met Anachemy, what all she means to me, and how much I’m in love with her. I didn’t want to write just “any old thing” though. It needed to be special. So special, in fact, that I didn’t feel up to the task of writing it.

Upon reflection, it seemed fitting the two of us write something together. So… together we wrote, “Our Story.” And we put it on a more visually aesthetic webpage to give it justice.

You can see it here!

http://simplefollower.com/ourwedding

TheTwoOfUs

Turning 30

I want to thank everyone who took the time to tell me “Happy Birthday”!  Thanks to all who helped make it a special day.

So perhaps the best part of having a birthday is the cake, right?

Fellow Heartline co-worker Melissa Alberts was kind enough to make my favorite kind: chocolate.

Cake

As far back as I can remember, my birthday cakes have always been chocolate.  Times haven’t changed much as you can see in the picture below of me celebrating my third (also outside the USA):

Turning Three Years Old

On the evening of my 30th, all the Heartline staff threw me a pizza party.  In the picture below I’m holding a special one with the numbers “30” created from pepperoni’s!  Wow, it was all really delicious.

30th Pizza

It did feel weird being overseas on my birthday.

But last year on April 25th I was also overseas: in Venice, Italy, celebrating the occasion with three random people I met at a hostel: an Argentinian, a Mexican, and a Filipino. 

And last year I remember having pizza too: at an outdoor café with my new acquaintances in Venice. Considering I was in Italy, it wasn’t that good. I thought they would have the corner on great pizza, seeing they invented it. But somehow the staff here at this unassuming guesthouse in Port-au Prince, Haiti have managed to improve greatly on the original design.

Here is a pic from last years 29th birthday, with my “International Friends for a Day.” 

Nick with his Venice Tour Group

I wonder if I’ve changed in the last year?  Am I in any way better now than before? 

One time I heard someone say we’ll be the same person a year from now as today except for the people we meet and the books we read.  In the last year I’ve done my fair share of both (meeting and reading), so maybe I am different somehow?

Post “big day” I feel the same.  Turning 30 wasn’t depressing, just another day.  What I think helped soften the blow of leaving my 20’s is bright hope for the future.  I’m excited about what all is coming up!

Though I’ve always imagined being in a far different stage of life than I am now at this age (like responsibly holding down a regular job and married with kids), I sure can’t complain.  Life has been good.  And the Lord has been good to me too: I have a life rich in relationships and experiences.

Like Abraham Lincoln once said, ”In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

When Helping Helps (maybe)

They say nothing we learn goes to waste.  In relation to language progress in Creole, I’d say that is true.  Every time I learn a new word I quickly find a use for it.

In the process of memorizing John 3:16 in Creole I learned the word for “eternal” (p’ap janm fini).  At the bank today I needed that word to describe the speed of the tellers: eternally slow. 

Then today I learned the word for daughter (pitit fi).  This evening a neighbor came to our gate asking for help with his sick teenage daughter who needed an operation, something wrong with her stomach.  The cost of the operation was US $70 and could I please help?  He had a stamped paper from the Dr’s office dated from yesterday with both diagnosis and cost listed.  I couldn’t tell, but wondered if the problem was perhaps a ruptured appendix.

People here often make reference to the popular book, “When Helping Hurts”  which lays out the basic premise that handing away free stuff creates unhealthy dependency and should be avoided.  It says our best intentions usually hurt people more than help people, especially when we try solving local problems through doling out cash.

In general, I agree. Nevertheless, each situation is unique, and requires wisdom.

As I listened to the father describe his situation, some advice came to mind I’d recently heard at a seminar here in Haiti.  A long-term missionary said when you move into a new neighborhood, undoubtedly a situation will arise where you are asked to give emergency medical aid to someone in the community.  He added that the manner in which you first respond will set the tone and precedent for all future dealings.  He laid out three options.

The first was to do nothing and turn the person away.  This is arguably the least compassionate response, though does certainly avoid the pitfall of creating unhealthy dependency. Some would argue this option is best for helping in the long run.  The result in reputation is having the neighborhood perceive you as seperate from the local community.  Not to mention a miser, because it’s no secret “white people” are loaded down with money.  I may not perceive myself as rich, but considering I have enough money to fly to and from Haiti at will, I’m far and away richer than the majority of people here.

The second option is to simply give the full amount of cash required.  At face value, this response seems most compassionate and even most Biblical as well.  After all, didn’t Jesus say, “Give to him who asks”?  Nevertheless, this does most certainly set up a patronage relationship.  The result in neighborhood perception is to be viewed as a pushover, a money bags, and worse yet, perhaps even a sucker (if the story wasn’t even legitimate). 

This leaves the third option of helping pay some of the costs.  The long-term missionary I was listening to implied this option is perhaps the best balance between compassionate and culturally appropriate.  It both helps the immediate need while at the same time defusing patronage dynamics.  The reputation hopefully garnered in taking this option is to be seen as one who stands in solidarity with the community, as a part of it.

As you might guess, I decided on option 3, but not before first discussing the situation in private with our Haitian yardman, getting his input into what he thought the validity of the actual need was. 

Giving the man some money, I also told him I felt quite bad about the situation and would be praying for his daughter.  His response was a thankful one and he implied he would ask others for the remainder, telling me that while he had some money of his own he had used it all on the doctors examination and tests. 

Anyways, maybe I did the right thing, hard to say, but I did feel bad because the entire bill was such a small sum ($70) it hurt to not just pay it all. What if he can’t raise the rest of the funds? What if, while he’s out collecting donations from neighbors and friends, his daughter dies of internal bleeding? All because I was following an idealistic principal of what would truly help more? Following a principal that is based, at least in part, on maintaining my own reputation in a certain light within the community?

I wrote this post to help process my own rationale for what’s best, and to get wise input from them what has more experience than myself (them what wants to share it).  I tend to over-analyze everything in life. Both a strength and a weakness. Feel free to comment.