Summer Photo Dump

Yesterday’s post was pretty heavy, so I figured it was time for something lighter:  a photo dump!  Here are some of my favourite pictures from this summer.  Enjoy!

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RAWR! Topher the dinosaur!

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Ellie and the dandelions

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Topher learning to ride his big boy bike

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It was the summer of smoothies …

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The kids on Canada Day

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Ellie and her cucumber

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Good times in Calgary

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This is always how I find the kids after my shower …

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Ellie is made of awesome!

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First rollerblades

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Ellie loves the indoor playground!

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I signed him up for skating lessons. He thought he was drafted by the Oilers.

Date Night

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It was Tuesday.

Date night.

Earlier in the day I had been looking forward to it, but now?

Now I was tired.

Both kids had been up multiple times the night before and neither had napped during the day.  I was scrambling to bath the kids, tidy the house, and make dinner before my mother-in-law arrived to babysit.

Six years ago I would have spent hours getting ready – picking out a new outfit, doing my hair and make-up, painting my nails – but now I budget approximately fifteen minutes for self-beautification.

I glanced at my watch.  Nathan was due home any minute, so it was probably time to start getting ready.  I parked the kids in front of the TV with some cheerios and disappeared into my room.  The dinner theatre was “business casual”.  I knew what I wanted to wear, the question was whether or not it would fit.

Or whether or not it was clean.

It wasn’t.

It had been almost two years since I had worn that particular outfit, back in my pre-Ellie days, and it was covered in more dust than a quick spot clean could get rid of.  I sighed.  Now what?    I finally settled on a skirt and top and plugged in my flat iron to do my hair.  I heard wailing from the living room.

“TOPHER!  What did you do to Ellie?”

“Nothing, Mommy!” was his response.

“Then why is she crying?”

“Oh. Well.  I accidentally punched her in the head.”

Accidentally is Topher’s new favourite word.  I don’t think he quite understands what it means …

I snuggled Ellie for a few minutes until she was calm and I was  reasonably sure she didn’t have a concussion, then let her empty the bathroom cabinet while I finished my hair and make-up.

Nathan arrived home.  “DADDY!  DADDY!” the kids yelled, racing to the front door for hugs and wrestling and tickles.

I stirred dinner, which I had completely forgotten about while I was getting ready, and which was by then completely stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Oops.

The doorbell rang.  “GRANDMA’S HERE!”  I scurried around, grabbing whatever random out of place items I could find and throwing them in our room, which has essentially become a storage room for anything that doesn’t really have another home.  We keep the door closed whenever we have company so people think we’re super tidy even though we’re really not.

We said our goodbyes to two sobbing kids (Seriously.  We need to get out more!)  - and we were off.

We had an hour before the theatre opened and we could pick up our tickets, so we sat in the lobby and talked.

About the kids.

Once we were inside, we found our table, then filled our plates at the buffet.

I filled mine with things that would be easy to share with the kids before I remembered that I didn’t have to.  I didn’t have to take spaghetti and meatballs or chicken fingers and fries – but I took those things anyway.

Nathan took extra cookies to bring home to Topher.

While we ate, we talked.

We laughed about the  lame jokes we were sure Topher was telling Grandma.  “What kind of socks does a bear wear?”  “I don’t know, what kind?”  “A bear doesn’t wear socks, silly!  He has BEAR FEET!”

A former co-worker of Nathan’s passed our table and stopped to chat.  Nathan pulled out his iPhone to show him pictures of (what else?) the kids.

The lights dimmed and the show started.  We both enjoyed it, but when the lights went up for intermission we both checked the time:  Nine o’ clock.  Bedtime.

We’re old.

We debated whether or not to stay for the rest of the show.

“It’s date night!” Nathan finally declared.  “I’m on a hot date with my wife and we’re going to stay for the whole thing!”

So we filled our plates with more dessert to sustain us through the rest of the show, making sure to take extra for the kids.

The evening ended at eleven o’clock.  We both crawled into bed, exhausted.

“That was a good date,” Nathan mumbled, drifting off to sleep.

“Mmmhmm,” I agreed, snuggling under the warm covers.

Then I heard the door open.

“Mommy?”

I’m sure I groaned then, but looking back, it was the perfect ending to a perfect date night.

Life looks a little different now that we have kids, marriage looks a little different now that we have kids, and date night looks a little different now that we have kids - but I wouldn’t change any of it.

Well, except maybe the spaghetti and chicken fingers.  That herb crusted prime rib looked awfully good …

Compassionate Hearts

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This week was exhausting.

Our dog, Chloe, has been sick.

It’s nothing serious, she just had an abscess on her tail, but taking care of her has required a lot of time and a lot of energy.

See, Chloe isn’t the best patient.  She’s needy, to put it mildly.  Once she had the abscess – on her tail – expressed, she decided she couldn’t walk.  Then she decided she couldn’t lie down – she could only sit on a pillow, or a warm washcloth, or a pile of blankets.  She wouldn’t eat her regular food, so we bought her canned dog food – and after three days she decided that wasn’t good enough and now she will only eat sliced ham.  She only drinks fresh water from a bowl held under her noise and she spends a good part of each day lying in her bed, crying.  I made her a nest in our walk-in closet so she can get away from the kids and she’ll stay in there for six minutes or so, then she’ll run out and do a quick lap of the kitchen, banging her cone into everything she can find to run into, just to remind me how miserable she is, before going back to rest.

So yeah.

I’m tired.

And whiny.

And I’ve been complaining.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week being frustrated with Chloe.  Even the vet said she’s being dramatic!

But there have been bright moments.

Moments when I’ve been able to watch my kids with their dog, and see expressions of their compassionate hearts.

Like when we left Chloe home alone while we visited with friends at the spray park.  The poor dog was beside herself – “You’re leaving me?   Alone?  In my state?” – and Topher was worried about her.  He told me he wanted to give Chloe one of his babies to snuggle with.  I tried to discourage the idea – everyone knows how attached he is to his babies, and Chloe has a tendency to shred things! - but he said something that stopped me in my tracks.  “I love my babies,” he said.  “But I love Chloe more.”  And he put Boo down beside her.

Yesterday Chloe was lying on her blankets in the living room and Ellie laid down right beside her.  Ellie loves Chloe – she’s always chasing her around the house, yelling “GOG!”, trying to feed her a piece of kibble or shoving a ball in her face.  But yesterday, she didn’t touch Chloe.  She just laid there, letting Chloe know she was there.

Every time I try to convince Chloe to eat so she can have her medicine, Topher stands right beside me, scolding Chloe.  “You have to eat or you’ll die,” he tells her.  “And you’re not allowed to ever die because I love you!”

I’ve always believed it, but in my tired state, I think I forgot:

Pets are part of the family, too.  

Life Lessons From a Four-Year-Old

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Topher used to think he knew everything.  “Me and God and Jesus?  We know everything!” he would say.

Nathan and I would shake our heads and laugh, thinking that all too soon he would realize just how big the world really is and just how little he really knows.

This summer he started to learn how to read.  At, Bat, Cat, Hat, Sat, Pat, Am, Sam, Bam, and Ham are his current achievements – but all of a sudden it was as if the floodgates had been opened, and the questions are never ending.

“But I thought you already know everything!” I tease him.

“Well, not everything, Mommy!” he says seriously.  “Just almost everything.”

When I get exasperated with the constant barrage of questions, he looks up at me with his big blue eyes and says – usually with that adorably quivering lip – “But Mommy, I just want to know as much as you do!”

So I apologize, and I answer his 479th question of the day.

I’m pretty confident that I know more than my four-year-old, but some days I can’t get over all of the things that he has taught me.

* * *

There is beauty in everything if you just look for it.  Topher could probably spend hours lying on his stomach on the front step watching the ants scurry back and forth. “They’re beautiful, Mommy!” he says. It’s not how I would typically describe an ant, but Topher is completely convinced.

Take time to smell the flowers.  Literally.  Every single time we go to the grocery store, Topher asks if he can sniff the flowers.  It doesn’t matter how much of a hurry we’re in or where we’re going after the grocery store - he wants to sniff every single plant and boquet at least once before leaving the store.

Dance like no one is watching.  Topher and I regularly have dance parties in the safety of our own home. He also loves to dance at church – me? Not so much. Yesterday Topher was rocking out while Nathan and the rest of the band were practicing. I was sitting in my chair, just watching, when he decided that I needed to join in too. He danced over to me, grabbed my hands, and said “Dance with me, Mommy! Please, come dance with me!” I tried to tell him “No, Mommy’s tired!” – but of course he wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I felt like a total goob, but who cares?  I’ll do just about anything to get one of Topher’s belly laughs!

Running gives you energy.   Topher has an endless supply of energy and whenever I ask him how he has so much when I’m completely exhausted, his answer is the same:  “Running gives you energy!”  Oddly enough, I’ve found that it’s true!  When I’m starting to fall asleep at my desk, if I get up and take the dog (or the Topher!) for a run, it’s amazing how much better – and how much more awake! – I feel.

Some things in life are scary, but friends make them doable anyway.   Topher was afraid to stay at day camp without me and nothing I said could convince him to stay, so I let him come home with me.  We were halfway there when I heard his little voice from the backseat:  “Tristan will probably miss me, won’t he, Mommy?”  “Probably,” I answered.  Silence.  Then “I don’t want my friend to be sad, Mommy.   Let’s go back!”

More than anything else, though, Topher has taught me about the heart of God, and how God loves me even more than I love Topher.

No matter how many questions I ask.      

Weekends Are For …

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  • Beautiful country weddings
  • Catching up with friends
  • Planning Pinterest parties
  • Hot dates
  • Long walks with the dog
  • Testing new recipes
  • Tickle fights with Topher
  • Folding piles of laundry that tower over my head
  • Late bedtimes
  • Lots and lots of writing time!

What were you up to this weekend?  

Link Roundup

It’s time for another link roundup post!  I haven’t been reading as many blogs lately because I just don’t have the time – so this list will be short and sweet!

* I printed off this list of  17 Hard Things You Have to Do to Be a Great Leader (shared by Lesley Myrick) and taped it on the wall above the computer so I can look at it all the time.

*  Kathleen’s Houston Project has inspired me to start my own Edmonton Project!  I’ve lived in this city for nine years but only know my way around the west end (more or less) and the area within a two block radius of the office where I worked downtown.  There’s so much more to explore and experience!

*  Elise shared her thoughts on Time Spent Consuming vs Creating.

* I could really relate to this post: I Used to Be Fun by  Anna Quinlan.  I used to be fun loving, adventurous, heck – even spontaneous! – but adulthood, responsibility, and motherhood have made me forget that part of myself.   I want to remember.

* I applauded after I finished reading Kerri’s post on Being Almost Thirty.  “Thirty just feels like a big deal, in the best way possible—like a beginning and ending all rolled into one.”

* I loved The First Month of Gratitude by newlywed Hilary.  The pages of my journal were filled with anything but gratitude in the months following our wedding.  I had a hard time adjusting to life as a married woman.  I wish I had been as wise about the discipline of writing down the gratitudes.

* I also adored  What I’ve Learned After a Decade of Loving Him by Ashlee.  So many of my friends who have gotten married since Nathan and I did have already gotten divorced.  Loving the same person for a decade – or seven years, in our case! – is such a beautiful thing.

Recommend a post for me to read :)  

Being the Church

Topher has been at day camp at our church this week.

Last week I was envisioning all the free time I was going to have in the mornings while Ellie napped.  I was going to catch up on chores!  Deep clean my house!  Make a work schedule!  Submit queries for freelancing!  Organize the linen closet!  Nap!

None of those things have happened.

Instead, I’ve been spending my time deep in thought.  The sink is full of dishes, the floor is covered in crumbs, and the doors on the linen closet still won’t close – but I’ve figured something out.

All week I’ve been struggling with the fact that the place I should feel the most at home is the place where I feel the most self-conscious:

Church.

This is how a typical morning goes:

Topher picks out his own clothes so he’s probably wearing wearing his swim shorts and an oversized “T-shirts for Turkeys” shirt he got from the local radio station when we donated a turkey last Thanksgiving. I’m wearing my usual summer wardrobe of shorts (that I’ve probably owned for at least six years) and a tank top from Old Navy.  My hair is in a ponytail, I’m not wearing make-up unless you count chapstick, and Ellie is still in her wrinkled pyjamas.

Our mornings are so rushed that I don’t think anything of it.  We have to wake up an hour earlier than usual to drive Nathan to work so we can have the car (our church is too far to away to walk to) and we barely have half an hour at home before it’s time to take Topher.  I’m feeling good – we’re going to be on time! – but then I see the other moms in their skinny jeans, flowing shirts, and Pinterest updos, with their kids in brand name clothing that actually fits properly and matches.  Topher never matches.

And I feel disgusting.  Frumpy.  Less of a mother.  

Pathetic, isn’t it?

The church we attend is fairly large and fairly wealthy.  I never really noticed it when we were part of the young adults/college and career group because we were all struggling to make ends meet, but now it’s glaringly obvious.  When I went back to work after Topher was born I felt like I was the only working mother in the history of our church.  I would have loved to stay home but with student loan and car payments and a mortgage, it just wasn’t possible – but all of the women’s events and Bible studies were during the day.  Now that I am home during the day, every now and then I get invited to join in but I always say no, because they cost at least $80 to join (for “materials), plus $60 (minimum) for childcare – and I can buy the same Beth Moore book on Amazon and do the Bible study at home.   I don’t go to the Pop-In group on Wednesdays because we only have one car and it’s too much of a pain to drive Nathan to work for something Topher isn’t going to enjoy anyway.  And don’t get me started on preschool!

Earlier this week I was feeling frustrated that we don’t have more.  We don’t have a house in the Hamptons – we live in a tiny, two-bedroom condo in a less than stellar neighbourhood.  We only have one car.  I stay home with the kids during the day but work from the time Nathan gets home into the wee hours of the night, either typing medical reports or writing about exciting things like equine dentition and rain rot, just to make ends meet.  We shop the sales at Old Navy and buy used toys and clothing from Once Upon a Child.

But we have enough.

No, we have more than enough.

Sometimes I get so caught up in comparing myself to other people and the lives I think they lead that I forget that.  

I get upset with The Church when I really am is frustrated with not actually being The Church.     

So tomorrow is going to be different.  I’m still going to wear my six-year-old shorts and a tank top, and Topher will probably beg to wear his “T-shirts for Turkeys” shirt again because it’s his favourite, and I can guarantee that Ellie will still be in her wrinkled pyjamas.  But instead of feeling disgusting and frumpy, I’m going to take a step outside of myself.  Rather than judging others and deciding that they’re judging me, I’m going to talk to the other moms.  Instead of grabbing Topher and making a mad dash for the door, I’m going to thank Topher’s teachers for the great job they’ve done this week with their ten tiny campers.  I’m going to connect with the new mom who posted on the Pop-In Facebook page.

As terrifying as it is, and as inadequate as I feel, I’m going to reach out.

I’m going to be The Church.

Lipstick and Dinosaurs

Nathan and I went out for dinner on Sunday evening.

It had been a busy day, with church and an afternoon walk that ended at the playground, so I didn’t get a chance to shower until late in the afternoon.  I’m always excited when I get to have a shower when Nathan is home to watch the kids because not only do I get to rinse all the shampoo out of my hair, I even get to condition -  and sometimes I even have enough time to shave my legs!  So I had a long, relaxing shower, dried off, got dressed, and went into the half bath in our bedroom to do my hair and put on my make-up.

And realized that Nathan had not been watching Ellie.

Playing with my make-up is one of Ellie’s favourite pastimes.  She very carefully takes each item out of my make-up bag, examines it, opens it if she can, closes it, then places it somewhere else.  I don’t understand her system at all:  Some items end up on the scale, others on the toilet, and every now and then I find something in the garbage can.

My initial reaction was one of frustration.  I had just cleaned the bathroom earlier in the day!  It’s not really a big deal to pick up the small amount of make-up I own, but doing it ten or more times a day can be a little tiring.

But then I saw the dinosaur standing guard atop my eye shadow.

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And I realized something.  The day is coming when I won’t find miniature dinosaurs in the bathroom next to my make-up.  There will be a day all too soon when Ellie cares more about the numbers on the scale than how to line up my lipstick on it, and at some point she’s going to stop using my make-up brush on her hair.  She’ll probably still get into my make-up – but she’ll be painting her face instead of the walls, trying to fit in with her friends or impress a boy.

Sixteen months old, and she’s already growing up.  

So I let the frustration pass.  I scooped her up, smoothed her jam-encrusted hair, and kissed her sticky little cheek.   I wish my little girl could stay little forever.

True Romance

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It was the summer of 2011.  We were at Laurier Park, on a dirt path beside the river.  Walking on either side of me, her arm linked in mine, was a young woman, waiting for an answer.

The question?  One asked all too often when you’re the only married woman in a group of singles who are praying desperately to fall in love:

What’s the most romantic thing your husband has ever done for you? 

I remember racking my brain, trying to come up with an answer they would deem “acceptable”.  Nathan is many things, but “romantic” has never been one of them – at least not in the traditional sense!

“He wrote me a song,” I finally said.  “He sang it to me when I walked down the aisle at our wedding.”

It must have been the right answer, because they oohed and awwed and gushed about it and I congratulated myself for my quick thinking.

But now, three years after that conversation and six years into our marriage – I’m not so sure I would give the same answer to their question.

I might tell them about the time Nathan took six months of riding lessons to keep my horse in shape when I couldn’t ride.  Or how he strapped a stuffed toy into the carseat and carried it in and out of the car for two weeks before Topher was born to “practice remembering the baby”.  Or the time he pulled over on the side of a busy highway to pray for a dead coyote and his family because I was a crazy hormonal pregnant woman.  Or how he made sure my pad-sicle supply was always fully stocked in the days after childbirth.  For that matter, the fact that he stands unashamed in the checkout line at the grocery store whenever I send him to buy feminine products!  I might tell them about the time he caught Topher’s puke in his hands while we were on an airplane or the time he slept on the couch with me and Chloe (the dog he “tolerates lovingly”) when she was sick.  Maybe I would tell them that he deals with boogers when our kids need assistance (because that’s just disgusting!) or that he’s watched all seven seasons of the Gilmores with me, not once but twice.  He gets up with the kids on Sundays so I can sleep in, and he tells me I’m beautiful when I feel anything but.  I might tell them how he works hard at a stressful job to provide for our family, and how he is always supportive of my writing, even though there are other things I could do with my time that would earn more money.   He makes me laugh when I’m about to cry and he loves me when I feel unloveable.

Nathan did write me a song, and he did sing it to me when I walked down the aisle at our wedding, but my definition of romance has changed.  It’s not about the grand gestures, it’s about the little things Nathan does every day that show me he loves me.  

Tomorrow marks six years of marriage for Nathan and me.   Six years of choosing to love each other through the highs and lows, the good times and the bad.

Here’s to at least sixty more!