Dear Ellie …

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Today is your birthday.  It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been four years since we met … I remember your birth so vividly!  There were two doctors in the room with us.  Your dad had his head by mine – I could hear him praying in my ear.  He glanced up seconds later and the room was filled with more than a dozen people – all of them prepared for your birth to be as crazy-difficult-traumatic as your brother’s.  But with three pushes you were here – no drama, no life-saving techniques or machines needed.  You were placed on my chest, I kissed your red, splotchy face, and my heart was full.

You’ve changed a lot in the past four years.  Obviously, you can walk and talk and feed yourself, and you go to the bathroom on the toilet most of the time.  This past year, though, in particular, you’ve become fiercely independent:  You want to do everything by yourself, from pouring your breakfast cereal to brushing your hair to zipping up your winter jacket.  You’ve gone from following your brother’s every move, obeying his every beck and call, to telling him no every now and then.  Sometimes you take charge when you play together, building forts and obstacle courses and tents for your toys.  While I miss the days you called balls “gollys” and dogs “gogs”, I’m glad you’re becoming your own person!

Because I think you’re pretty amazing.  Even at the age of four, I can see great things in you!

You’re kind and compassionate.  You love others – “I love everybody in the whole world!” you frequently tell me.  I was so proud of you earlier this year when you noticed one little girl in your class who didn’t have any friends.  She’s so shy that she doesn’t even speak to your teachers, she only smiles.  But you made it your goal to become her friend – drawing pictures to give her, sharing your toys, inviting her to sit with you – and now you’re best friends!  She scrambles over the other kids to sit next to you at rug time and even though I have yet to hear her voice, she always makes sure you see her wave good-bye at the end of the day.

You’re persistent.  You don’t give up.  I’ve seen you stand at the parallel bar for ten minutes before your coach is able to help you – and you keep trying, over and over and over again, to pull your feet up between your hands into a tuck position.  And when you finally do it, your grin covers your entire face!

You’re organized.  Sometimes to an extreme– you line up all 47 of your ”pups” at least six times a day, then move them all over the house – in order! – and eventually back to your room, where you put them to bed for the night.  We’ve learned to start your bedtime routine 45 minutes earlier than your brother’s just so your pups can be tucked in in time!

You love to be the center of attention.  You’re always saying “Look at me, Mommy!  Look at this trick!”  Sometimes it’s a gymnastics trick – a somersault or a dog tail or a stork stand.  Sometimes it’s slurping up half a cup of juice with one pull on your curvy straw.  Whatever it is, you’re always so proud of yourself!

You also love to make people smile.  When someone is sad or hurt or sick, you’re the first to rush in, arms open, ready to offer a comforting hug.  When I’m not feeling well you bring me books, hug me and kiss me, and crawl under the covers to keep me company.

You’re helpful.  You’re always under my feet when I’m doing chores around the house.  “What can I do Mommy?  Can I help?  What’s my chore?” And (unlike your brother!) you never, ever ask for payment!

You’re an artist.  You can spend hours sitting at the kitchen table with a pile of white paper and crayons, drawing cats, dogs, dinosaurs, spiders, suns, and your latest favourite:  traffic lights.

I hope you don’t outgrow any of these things as you get older.

I hope you don’t forget about them.

I hope I don’t forget about them!

It’s my job as your mother to love you, to nurture you, to support you – to help you develop roots, but eventually watch you take wing and fly.

That thought terrifies me!

I pray for you every day, sweet girl.  I always have and I always will.

You’re growing up in a very different world – in a very different time! – than I did.

I pray for you to be strong.

I pray for you to be courageous.

I pray for you to be kind and compassionate, and to love others.

I pray for you to have a servant’s heart.

I pray for you to stay creative, and to pursue your passions.

But above all, I pray that God, “from his glorious, unlimited resources … will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”  (Ephesians 3:16-19 – NLT)

I love you Elliebelle!

Happy birthday!

xoxo

Mama

The List

I was always a serious child. I liked rules, I liked routines, and I liked lists.

Maybe that’s why the youth retreat I attended when I was fifteen had such an enormous impact on my life.

I remember sitting in the dark conference room, squirming in my chair as the speaker talked about one of my least favourite topics: Boys.   I was a late bloomer when it came to boys. Horses were much more interesting!

Nevertheless, I began paying attention when she started talking about a list. She explained that when she was in high school she had created a list of the qualities she was looking for in a boyfriend. If a boy didn’t possess all the qualities on her list, she wasn’t interested. We were given pen and paper and directed to create lists of our own. According to the speaker that weekend, if The Boy didn’t meet all the requirements on The List, he wasn’t the one God had chosen for us.

It seemed simple enough.

Lists were my thing, so I wholeheartedly embraced the project!

At first my list was very specific and looked something like this:

  1. Must love horses.
  2. Must love animals.
  3. Must be older than me.
  4. Must be smart.
  5. Must have brown hair and brown eyes.
  6. Must have a good sense of humor (but not a crude sense of humor).
  7. Must be anti-drinking/smoking.
  8. Must meet and be approved by my grandmother.

My list changed as I got older and actually began to develop relationships with the opposite sex. (At first I wasn’t sure if changing my list was allowed but decided it was when I realized there weren’t any boys in my entire town that fit all of my requirements!)

The List changed even more as I began to date real boys instead of fictional ones. (SPOILER ALERT FOR MY CHURCH GIRLS: TODD SPENCER ISN’T REAL!)

Items on my list that I once thought were deal breakers no longer were. I began to value traits like loyalty more than appearance and being treated with respect was more important than an undying devotion to my pet cat.

By the time I graduated from university The List had changed from that The Boy had to be to what he couldn’t be:

  1. Bearded.  By that point in my dating career I had firmly established that I did not like beards – or facial hair of any sort. It was prickly and scratchy and my hair got stuck to it like Velcro, never mind that kissing a man with a beard was sometimes downright painful, and I was always picking hairs out of my mouth that were not my own.
  2. Anything but a New Brunswick boy. I was a maritimer and I wanted to stay that way.
  3. A pastor. I grew up in the church. I wanted nothing of the politics and nothing of the drama.

When I moved to Alberta after university I wasn’t looking for love. I wasn’t looking for any sort of romantic relationship at all, to tell you the truth. My plan was to go to school, learn what I needed to learn, and go back to New Brunswick to start a youth ranch. Boys didn’t factor into the equation at all.

Especially not Alberta boys.

Then I met Nathan and I forgot all about The List.

He was everything I didn’t want:

  1. David Crowder’s doppelgänger (proof here and here.) My husband has more hair on his face than our dog does on her entire body.
  2. An Alberta boy – and not just that, a complete city slicker who had never seen a live chicken – in real life – until he visited New Brunswick with me when he was 25.
  3. A pastor in every sense of the word except official job title. Nathan graduated from Bible College and worked in full-time ministry, then decided he preferred volunteer ministry positions instead of paid ones. He leads small groups, teaches Sunday School and Wee College, leads worship on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings as well as at retreats and conferences, is involved in prison ministry – the list goes on!

What I thought I wanted wasn’t what God knew I needed. That silly list seems insignificant now, after ten years together. If I could write a new list and send it to my younger self, these are the qualities I would put on it:

  1. Passion for God and things of God.
  2. Love for family.
  3. Patience.

Nathan meets all of those requirements easily!

He’s devoted to God and his family and he has more patience than anybody I have ever met! Who else would calmly pull over on the side of a busy highway to console his sobbing, hormonal, pregnant wife and pray for a dead coyote’s grieving family?

For the past ten years he’s been my rock.

He’s my support, he’s my encourager, he’s my inspiration.

He’s my love.

So although I’ve swallowed more beard and moustache hairs than I can count, dip my toes in the Atlantic ocean every five years instead of every weekend, and have fed my children cheerios in the church coffee shop on more Sundays (and Thursdays, and Saturdays) than I ever would have imagined – I’m happy. I’m more than happy. God has done abundantly more than I ever could have asked, or even thought to ask! – in giving me my husband.

Happy birthday, Nathan!

 

Family Photos

I don’t like to spend money on frivolous things.

My wardrobe is 90% Old Navy sale rack, I prefer the library to Amazon, and I shop three grocery stores, depending on sales.

But every year, at least once a year, I shell out several hundred dollars and force my family to pose for professional photos.

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Nathan hates it, Topher tolerates it, and Ellie – well, I think she actually looks forward to it!  She’s a bit of a ham :)

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My friend Lindsay started her own photography business when Topher was only a few months old, so she’s always been the lucky one who has to make my grumpy boys smile.  She’s gotten pretty good at it over the years – out of the 68 photos she edited for us this year, there were only 14 with silly faces/tongues sticking out!  (I don’t want to know how many she didn’t bother editing!)

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I love how natural the photos are.  She always manages to catch a couple of the kids that are just so them, like Ellie with her cheeky little grin.  We see that expression every single day and it usually means she’s plotting something she knows she’s going to get away with because she’s so stinking cute.

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And Nathan and Topher, acting like the goobers they are.  Somehow I can’t see them relaxing like that in the Sears Portrait Studio!

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There was a whole series of silly face shots.  Maybe I’ll put those ones on our Christmas cards this year?

She even got some nice pictures of me with the kids!  I don’t always like the way I look in photos but there are so few family pictures with me in them that I treasure the ones Lindsay takes!

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Now if we could only sell our condo so I could put up a gallery wall ….

 

Missing My Mom

A month after graduation, I packed my bags. I was allowed one suitcase and two carry-ons so I boxed everything else up, carefully winding tape around and around half a dozen boxes. I was looking forward to the cross-country move. Growing up in a small town, the goal had always been the same: Get out.  

And at first, I didn’t look back. Of course I missed my family and my friends, but I was looking to the future instead of the past. My eyes were set on the life I wanted to build for myself, not on the lives I had left behind.

Since then I have missed countless events:

Birthdays and Christmases.

Taco Fridays and pizza Mondays.

My maternal grandmother’s last months and weeks and days.

I missed her funeral …

And I missed visiting my mom in the hospital when she was there for an extended stay shortly after our wedding.

She has missed out too:

On my relationship with Nathan.

On the births of her grandchildren.

On birthdays and Christmases, concerts and celebrations.

She’s seen her grandchildren grow up on Facebook instead of in person, and only knows them through Skype.

* * *

Today is my mom’s birthday.

I’m missing it – but more than the party and cake and balloons and candles –

I’m missing her.

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Around Here

I finally took the Christmas tree down – much to everyone else’s disappointment!  I love Christmas, but I love having my house back to normal too!  We’ve decided (once again!) to list our condo, so I’ve spent the past few weeks purging, organizing, and cleaning.  I’m going to tackle the kitchen next, then the kids’ room.  Is it horrible that I’m planning to get rid of a lot of toys while Topher is at school?

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I spent an entire Saturday evening sorting through my clothes so I could make more room in my dresser for books.  Amazon is my weakness.

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I found a lump on Chloe’s right hip back in October.  She’s had lumps before that never amounted to anything so I didn’t think much of it – until it started to grow.  She had it aspirated last week and we found out that it’s not cancerous, but there are inflammatory cells so she needs surgery.  She’s due for a dental at the same time – poor, sad pup.

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We’re bracing for another cold snap this weekend.  I think it’s supposed to be -21 on Saturday, plus windchill.  I was planning to get my hair cut but if it’s going to be that cold I might just spend the day under a pile of blankets on the couch!  I’m sure I can convince the kids to help me build a fort …

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What have you been up to lately?