Come and Get It

A friend once shared with me how a family tragedy taught her about spiritual roots. She talked about how deep personal darkness left her without energy for pursuing God – all she could do was try to survive, and in the midst of all the heartache, He was there. Because she had done the work before the hard times hit, she found that her roots went down deep, and kept her steady even when all she had energy for was hanging on to Jesus, one day at a time.

I’ve often thought about that since – I love the idea of finding enough grace and strength to survive because we put in the work and grew the roots deep ahead of time.

roots

Having a baby is no tragedy, but these last two years have been spent in survival mode. During the months I struggled with postpartum anxiety, I saw a counselor who told me, “Give it until your baby is two – you’ll feel normal again. Life will become manageable, but give yourself time.”

She was right – Everett turned two this fall, and while life is still full and crazy, things seem to have fallen into place, and we have come out of survival mode. God started stirring me up and making me long for more growth.

During the last two years, I found little snippets of time throughout the day to read my Bible or a few pages of a good book. There were short times of prayer, and lots of hanging on to Jesus, but this fall, it was as though God was saying, “It’s time for the next phase.”

I was having a great conversation with two of my dearest friends one evening, listening to them share about all the things God was teaching them. It was so inspiring to hear all the ways in which He was revealing Himself to them, through His word, and prayer, and great books or podcasts, and I loved hearing all they had to say. But part of me was also getting hungry, and I found myself wanting more of what they had.

I asked God, “Why aren’t you moving in my life that way? I want you to be teaching me and speaking to me like that. Why am I not experiencing more of you?”

Right in that moment, He said to me, “Come and get it.” Immediately, it hit me – it was time for me to get out of survival mode. It was time to get to work. Everything my friends were experiencing was available to me – I just needed to do something about it.

My first excuse was classic, though – “I don’t have time for more!” I thought I was already giving all I could. But as I thought about it, I realized there were little steps I could take – set the alarm 15 minutes earlier, use a Bible reading app instead of Pinterest, get intentional about jotting down the things God was saying to me, even if it was just in Evernote on my phone, here and there throughout the day.

 

Bit by bit, I started carving out the time. The more I did it, the more I wanted it. It felt good.

But I’ve still been a bit disappointed – I wanted to see more results. I’ve been hoping those times of connecting with Jesus would result in a greater ability to be patient. To be a kinder, gentler mom. To show more love to my family. To have greater self-control with my tongue.

I felt these were reasonable expectations – I wanted to see the fruit of the Spirit. It made sense that spending more time with the Spirit would lead to more fruit of the Spirit. Where was my fruit?! I wanted to see more apples on my tree!

Fruit of the Spirit

I shared this frustration last week with those same friends. As one of them prayed for me, she said something about the work that is unseen, and suddenly, I saw a picture of tree roots. It was as though God said to me, “The fruit is coming, but right now, we’re working on the roots.”

It was exactly what I was needing to keep going. I keep tiptoeing down the dark hall to our living room each morning, carefully avoiding the places where the floor squeaks so Everett won’t wake up. I keep putting in that time with Jesus because there is no way I can do this all on my own – two-year-old molars and homeschooling and potty training and explosive emotions and bills to pay and food to make and laundry to fold and all the rest are teaching me that I need to press in closer to Jesus.

Graham Cooke says, “Our circumstances are sent to us to improve the quality of our relationship with God.” I think about that a lot, because weathering a 30 minute tantrum over a pair of pants looks different to me when I see it as an opportunity to improve my connection to Jesus. I love my kids, I love my life, but there are parts of it that are just really¬†hard. Can I remember to take all those hard parts, and depend on God to save us all? To redeem and restore, and bring peace and calm to our frazzled selves?

I need deep roots. I need the fruit, too, but I can understand how the roots come first, so I keep putting in the time. I used to think my failures as a mom meant I needed to try harder. Now, I’m seeing how I just need more time with Jesus. I’m trusting Him to change me. His job is to bring about growth, fruit, and change. My job is to come and get it. It turns out, it’s always going to be found sitting at His feet.

Entering the Terrific Twos

Our sweet boy turns two today. I still sneak into his room every single night to watch him sleep. I stroke his soft hair and pudgy cheeks, and even though it’s been two years, I can still hardly believe he’s here. Sometimes I wonder if the novelty will ever wear off, but then I remember that after 16 years, sometimes I still look over at Ben when he’s asleep, and can’t believe I get to be married to him, so maybe there’s just something magical/creepy about watching someone when they’re sleeping.

I’m not a huge fan of the Robert Munsch book “I’ll Love You Forever”, but I like to joke with Anika about how I’ll totally be the mom who drives over to her son’s house when he’s a grown man, climbs up a ladder and through the bedroom window to watch him while he sleeps. But I draw the line at holding him in my lap and singing lullabies.

EverettI watch him sleep and think about how I used to be terrified we’d have a boy someday. I was so relieved when we had two girls, because I didn’t have a clue what to do with a son. I don’t have any brothers, and although I think Ben’s very nice, I didn’t know him when he was younger, so little boys were kind of foreign to me.

But God started to change something in me a few years ago – it happened very gradually, but I’d get these sudden little flashes in my mind of what it might be like to have a little boy, and this desire started to grow in me.

Then one day, I was wiping our table after supper, and as I was leaning over to swipe up some leftover food, this sudden, clear picture came to my mind, and it was so real, it took my breath away. I saw our family, with our two girls, and a little boy. At that point, there was still no hope that we could ever have another baby, but I filed it away in my mind, and I wondered. I didn’t know if it was from God, or just my imagination, but it came completely out of nowhere, and it felt so very strong and meaningful. But I didn’t know what to do with it, so I waited.

Everett & KendraAnd then all kinds of craziness happened, and God made it possible for us to have our miracle baby. From the very beginning, I felt like we were having a boy, and I was completely delighted to find out it was true. There has not been one single second when I have ever wanted it any other way, and I am so incredibly glad God prepared me for the beautiful blessing of Everett. But really, he needed no preparation – he’s so sweet, I would have fallen in love with him right from the very beginning, anyway!

EverettHe is full of energy and smiles and goofiness. He makes us laugh all the time, and there is such a lightness and joy about him. He’s going through the usual toddler trials of learning boundaries and all that, but he really is just completely wonderful. He completes our family in the most perfect way, and I am thankful beyond words that we are able to celebrate his little life today.

EverettHe is jabbering away constantly, and says the cutest things which keep us laughing all day. Some of our favorites:

hee-haw (hockey)

Donald Chump (who apparently lives in our backyard….Everett goes running to the window and points outside when he says it, not really sure why!)

ga-ga (water)

appy (pancake)

Soo, Bang (soother and blanket)

Anka, Kaya, Evitt, Gampa, Gamma

Turn! (when he wants to do it himself)

Mommy, you! (when he wants me to come with him)

Everett

Kaylia especially is concerned about how to make today special for Everett. She’s built an elaborate fort, and keeps telling Everett he doesn’t need to do a thing – he should lie down and rest, because he’s the birthday boy. Just what a toddler needs, right??!

*photo credit: Morgan Braun

 

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One Simple Way to Remove Stress at Christmas

Remove Stress at ChristmasWe haven’t had a really good, hearty Christmas around here in a long time. Everett’s birthday is at the end of November, so the year he was born was a “get by and survive” kind of Christmas. I actually don’t remember much of it at all – I was probably too sleep-deprived!

Last Christmas wasn’t much better, because I was dealing with post-partum anxiety, so once again, the girls were disappointed by my lack of Christmas spirit. Many of our little family traditions were put aside for the second Christmas in a row.

Happily, I’m feeling much more my usual self, and excited to celebrate Christmas with all the little things that make it special for our family. I’m ready to party.

ChristmasI am NOT ready to get all stressed out and overwhelmed by Christmas craziness, however, so I’ve come up with a plan. It’s my easy way of making sure the important stuff gets done, and the special things don’t pile up until I’m cramming for Christmas like a college student the night before a big exam.

Here’s what I did to remove the stress from Christmas:

1) Make a list of all the Christmas to-do’s.

I tried to write down everything last thing I could think of, like how many kinds of cookies we’ll make, buying envelopes for Christmas cards, ordering gifts online, whatever else all needs to be done.

2) Count how many weeks there are until Christmas, and make a plan about what to do when.

I was able to think deliberately about which items need to get done first, which tasks are quick, and which ones will take a little more time. I was able to make a plan for how much I want to get done in a week, and if I can stick to my plan, we’ll get ready in time, and I’m hoping to feel less stress, and more enjoyment.

My task for this last week was to order our Christmas pictures, and make sure our address list was up to date. It’s my least favorite Christmas chore, and it’s done already! I’m quite excited.

It’s such a simple tip, it hardly seems worth mentioning, but it took me 16 years to figure it out, so maybe someone else out there can benefit from it! If you want to take it a few steps further, Marcia Ramsland writes about holidays in her book, Simplify Your Life. When she realized that Halloween and Christmas are always eight weeks apart every single year, unlike Thanksgiving which changes every year, she came up with a schedule she follows year after year. Her book is full of really great, practical ideas, and is one of the few organizing books that has made it through numerous rounds of decluttering – I keep coming back to it again and again!

Simplify Your LifeWith a restful, organized Christmas on my mind, I was also interested to come across Tsh Oxenreider’s post: 5 (Sane) Ways to Prep Now for the Holidays.

There seem to be endless ideas for Christmas organization on Pinterest, which overwhelms me, but this Christmas planner seemed like it could be a good fit for what I’m looking for.

I’m also thinking these books would be interesting to check out: A Chic and Simple Christmas: Celebrate the Holiday Season With Ease and Grace or A Simple Christmas: Celebrate the Old-Fashioned Way in a Post-Modern World.

Please share! I want to hear all of your tips for how to keep things simple, organized, and as stress-free as possible at Christmas!

 

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When God’s Definition of “Effective” is Different From Mine

Quote from Secrets of the Secret PlaceEvery morning, I choose to believe this is true. I take the chance that waking up an hour before the rest of my family, and using that time to do my devotions and exercise will be more beneficial than the extra sleep. I trust that reading my Bible and praying is the absolute best use of my precious quiet time each morning, so it’s the very first thing I do when I get out of bed.

Then I have a day like I had yesterday, and I doubt everything about those words. Everett woke up half an hour early, teething and grumpy, so I got no exercising done, which meant I had a raging headache by lunch. Ben needed help with something before heading out the door for work, so I had to drop everything for what he needed. The girls woke up and didn’t like what we were having for breakfast. Everybody needed the usual morning routine to start, but I wasn’t ready for any of it.

Inside, I was kind of ticked off – I had made the better choice! Where was my extra blessing?! I was supposed to feel calm, peaceful, and productive. I had stepped out in faith, and it was feeling as though it would have been better to spend that precious time in the morning getting a head start.

But in the end, the necessary stuff all got done. Some things had to get left behind. I had to change my expectations for the day, and let go of my to-do list. I needed to remind myself that God defines “effective” differently than I do. His “to-do list” usually looks very different from mine.

And so I do still believe that quote is true, but I needed to be reminded that as the Spirit fills me, it’s an opportunity to become more flexible and open to the circumstances I find myself in, and to the things God brings into my path, rather than get more rigid in my own demands of the day. It had become a trade in my mind – I’ll give you my time if you give me the perfect day! That sounds ridiculous now, but in the moment, it made sense to me!

It’s not a trade, though – it’s an offering. I need to give it without the expectation of getting anything back. The awesome part is that while yesterday was rough, there are also many days when I can see the benefits – verses are coming to mind more readily, or I remember to pray more throughout the day when something comes up, like a decision to make, or a tough parenting situation. Giving God my first hour of the day would be a great thing to do even if I saw no personal benefits, but God in His wisdom and mercy lets me see those, too!

 

 

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How I Got Over Seasonal Mood Disorder

I woke up the other morning feeling happy to be happy. I got out of bed excited to start the day, and I did not take it for granted, because it hasn’t always been that way.

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Five years ago, I hit the darkest, lowest point I could imagine. I’d always found winter a bit hard – the short days and extra hours of darkness weighed heavily on me, but until that November, I’d never realized how much it could actually affect me.

Night after night, I would cry and tell Ben I just didn’t want to wake up the next morning and deal with another day. I had no energy, and everything seemed too overwhelming to deal with.

It all reached a climax one night right before Ben was leaving for a week to take a group of students on a missions trip. He felt horrible about leaving me alone with the girls in the condition I was in, and was trying to figure out what to do. He kept asking me things like, “Why are you dreading tomorrow morning so much? What is it that overwhelms you?”

I tried to explain to him how I was feeling – it was dark when I went to bed, dark when I woke up, and everything in me also felt dark. Every day was the same, every day was heavy, tiring, too much for me to bear. It was so dark and cold and depressing….and it went on and on.

I’m not sure how many times I used the word “dark” before Ben finally clued in to what was happening, but he finally said, “I think you have Seasonal Mood Disorder.” As soon as he said it, it seemed silly we’d never recognized it before. We read up on what to do about it, and Ben got himself to Costco as quick as he possibly could to buy a “happy light” for me.

Things didn’t improve overnight, but gradually I felt as though the weight was lifting, and that winter felt easier than it had in the past.

I made a lot of changes in my life over the next couple of years, and in December a few years ago, it suddenly hit me that I’d sail through November without even thinking about it. The happy light stayed in the closet, and I’d never thought of getting it out. I felt light, joyful, excited about Christmas coming, fully able to enjoy the season without any of the old sense of dread. If you’ve also been down to the depths, you can imagine how amazing it was to feel that way.

I think of this every November. When I hear other people talk about the struggle this time of year, I hurt for them, because I remember.

There’s a lot of information out there about how to deal with Seasonal Mood Disorder (here’s a good article to start with), but I also want to share what I did, with the hope that it might help somebody else who’s struggling with this time of year:

Happy Light

I can’t find the exact light we bought from Costco, but this one is similar. It’s easy to use – I would sit by it for about 30 minutes every morning, and I started noticing a difference within a few days.

Vitamin D

It’s recommended that anyone living in the northern hemisphere take vitamin D, but it’s especially helpful for anyone who struggles with winter. This is the vitamin D our whole family uses. It tastes great, and all of us can take it because it’s in drop form – one drop for Everett, three drops for the girls, and six drops for Ben and me.

Get outside

Going for a walk everyday is the cheapest therapy there is, but it’s not the easiest when it’s cold and windy! Fortunately, this has been the most beautiful fall weather, so I’m trying to take advantage of it!

I always knew exercise was important, but I was still surprised to learn that getting outside for daily exercise can be as helpful as taking antidepressants. We talked about getting a treadmill last winter, but in the end, I bought myself a really good pair of winter boots instead! I bundled up every single day, no matter how cold it was, and got myself out the door. I noticed that missing my walk for too many days in a row affected my sleep and energy levels quite significantly.

Balance Your Hormones

This was huge for me. I noticed a big improvement in how I felt after our family started seeing an herbalist. He was able to figure out exactly what was imbalanced in my body, and recommended what supplements to take in order to get my mood, energy levels, and hormones back into balance. I know some people feel weird about going to see naturopaths or other alternative health practitioners, and when you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, getting yourself out the door to an appointment seems way too hard. I get that. There are options that can be sent right to your door, if you want the easiest method possible. I’ve tried a lot of stuff, so let me know if you want to hear about more options.

Find the spiritual connection

During his popular years, Rob Bell once said, “Everything is spiritual.” We are complete beings, and the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual are all connected.

This gets tricky, though, because it led to feeling like I was a “bad” Christian because I couldn’t beat my depression. I cried and prayed and hung onto Jesus in every way I knew how, but in the end, there remained a physical aspect that needed to be taken care of.

Having said that, there is a spiritual aspect which continues to help me every fall. While reading the book Naked Spirituality a few years ago, I was introduced to a completely different way of viewing fall. I always used to see November as such a dark, dreary, ugly time of year – the scenery depressed me almost as much as the shorter days.

But as I read that book, the author talked about how each season relates to a spiritual season of life – we have the vibrant, exciting time of new growth in spring, and the rich, productive time in summer when we can watch the fruit growing. But after harvest happens, we enter a time of rest. I used to see it as a dry, dead time, but Naked Spirituality views it as a time of quiet, tranquility, and drawing close to God. We can stop working and striving, and just rest in His presence. The trees are stripped of their leaves, and they are beautiful in their stark nakedness, pointing to heaven. I think of it every time I go outside, and it reminds me that this time can be beautiful and restful, instead of dark and dismal. It can be a time of snuggling under blankets while I do my devotions in the quiet, dark mornings. I see the sun coming up, and am reminded there is still so much light.

I keep hanging onto that. God is calling me to rest and refreshment so that when spring comes, I will be ready for a new season of vigorous growth.

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There is no easy answer for this delicate balance of emotions and physical limitations. I don’t think there’s a quick fix, either – at least I wasn’t able to find it. But there was still a lot of goodness, beauty, and hope, and some helpful little tools along the way.

Let me know if you have any questions, or if you just need to hear some reassurance that change is possible!

 

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Sharing the Love

Anika has always been this blog’s biggest fan. She could spend hours and hours going back over all the pictures, and reading the funny things Kaylia used to say when she was learning how to talk. She skips the “boring” posts (anything written while I’m feeling deep and spiritual), and usually sticks to the pictures. But the other day, she told me it had been too long since I’d written a post about what we’re loving around here right now.

This fall has been good to us – we’ve discovered a whole list of new things to love, so I’m delighted to share them with you today!

Chocolate Hummus

Cheap, fast, easy, and very intensely chocolatey. There, that should be enough to get you pulling out your food processor already. The recipe can be found here, and you’ll have your loved ones happily eating beans. Yes, this is related to black bean brownies, so I understand that it’s a love/hate kind of thing. Fortunately, my family loves it, and the girls are picky when it comes to beans, so this surprises me. There’s also a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Hummus on the same site, but we haven’t had time to try it yet, because everyone is so obsessed with the chocolate.

Chocolate Hummus

The Martian

I rarely watch movies anymore, because we prefer to watch a quick show instead, but Ben and I did watch “The Martian” a couple of months ago, and I’ve been wanting to see it again ever since! I loved it, and I didn’t think I would. Usually, I don’t like space movies, but Ben was very sure I would like this one, it’s on Netflix, and the trailer looked promising, so I decided to give it a shot.

It was so good!! Matt Damon stars in it, and it’s a story about an astronaut who is left behind on a mission to Mars. He has to find some way to survive until the next space ship lands on Mars – in four years. Here’s the trailer:

Swiffer Cordless Vacuum

A few years ago, a friend told me to go buy myself a small vacuum to use instead of a broom. It sounded like a good idea, but I just never got around to it, because it didn’t feel like a pressing need.

Oh, my word. If you have hardwood floors, this actually IS a pressing need! We bought it a couple of months ago, and have used it often. It is much faster than sweeping, and I love not having any cord to worry about. It’s so much fun to use, the girls like to vacuum now, and chase Everett around the house with it while he squeals with delight-verging-on-terror. He also loves to be the one controlling the vacuum, and I’m happy he has something to entertain him! If he actually happens to pick up any garbage, even better! Win/win.

Everett vacuuming

Francis Chan’s Bible App

This is an app to use if you want to read through the Bible in a year, and you’d like a better understanding of the background of each book of the Bible. There’s a really cool video at the beginning of a new chapter that breaks down the theme and background of the book. The artwork is fantastic, and it helps explain things very well. I started using this a few weeks ago, and I’m really enjoying it. Plus, I’m a check mark girl, so I like being able to mark it off when I’ve finished my reading. The drawback is that I tend to get into a “finish the reading for the day!” mindset, rather than a “meditate on Scripture” focus, so I’m trying to take time for both.

Francis Chan app

Restore

Last spring, one of my trusted alternative health people told me about this new gut health product called “Restore”, and it only took a couple of weeks of trying it to start noticing it’s benefits. We felt like it gave us a lot of energy, Ben said he didn’t get his mid-afternoon sleepiness, and the girls were able to eat gluten again for the first time six years.

But during the summer, I made a mistake with ordering options, and we ran out of Restore. After a few weeks without it, I felt exhausted, I had issues sleeping, we felt like our digestion was sluggish, the girls went back to getting sick from eating gluten, and we just felt all-around a bit yucky.

We were pretty excited when a new bottle arrived! It took a few weeks to get back to our “new normal”, but we seem to be back on track now!

Besides the fact that it makes us feel great, here are the other things I love about it:

  • No multi-level marketing
  • Not a bad price, compared to some of the other popular products out there. A bottle will last one person for three months, but our family of five goes through one bottle in a month, which costs $109.
  • it seals all the gaps in the intestines within 20 minutes of taking it, and lasts for five hours
  • It restores healthy bacteria in the gut, so it’s recommended not to take probiotics while on Restore. The best probiotics have five to seven strains of good bacteria, but we’re supposed to have 30,000 strains. Restore balances the body, and brings back a much higher variety of bacteria than a bottle of probiotics.
  • the science behind it is available on the website, including pictures of what cells look like before and after using Restore

Here’s a quick video if you want to hear more about it, and it can be ordered here, if you feel like giving it a try! No strings attached.;)

 

And finally, my recent favorite book:

Secrets of the Secret Place

This book is changing my devotions. It’s inspiring, practical, and really beautiful – like this gentle invitation to get away with Jesus on a daily basis. I love practical suggestions for how to bring about change, and this book is full of them. I’m about halfway through, so I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I’ve finished it! I’ve copied out many quotes, but here’s one of my recent favorites:

“The longer you’re in God’s presence, soaking in His word and basking in His love, the more power you’re ingesting into the very fiber of your being. The only way we change is when we come close to the Lord. His presence is the place of change.”

secrets

Well, that’s a super random list of favorites! Let me know if you happen to give anything a try! Share the love.

 

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We Have a Teenager in the House!

When Anika was a little girl, we had friends who often talked about how scared they were to have teenagers someday. It made me feel nervous, so I tried to block it from my mind.

AnikaA few years later, we met a couple who had two teenage boys, and they said, “The teenage years are so much fun! They’re our favorite – we LOVE having teenagers!” I decided to listen to them.

I have no idea how these teenage years will go – I know there’s a lot of big challenges and issues that can come up, but I’m realizing a couple of things:

  1. When we look too far ahead, it looks scary and unknown. When Anika was two, thinking of her being a teenager was quite overwhelming. But now that we’re here, it feels right and good, and I delight in seeing the person she is becoming. Let’s take things as they come.
  2. Because I love her, I also love her as a teenager. She’s not some random kid – she’s my kid. Before she was born, I was worried because I’ve never been completely comfortable with newborn babies. I’m never the one at baby showers who’s desperate to hold the new baby. I kinda used to wish they’d come out three months old. But even though I don’t love random newborn babies, I fiercely loved our newborn babies. And I will fiercely love our teenagers.
  3. We can always choose life-giving words. If we say, “The teenage years will be TERRIBLE!”, there’s a good chance we’ll be right. If we say, “The teenage years are going to be AWESOME!”, there’s a good chance we’ll be right! Becoming an adult can just be hard – there are a lot of tough adjustments to make, but there’s also a lot of exciting things to look forward to. Today, I’m choosing to celebrate where Anika is at, and all the good things to come.
  4. She was made to do this. Whenever it feels as though my kids are growing up too fast, I have to remind myself this is God’s plan. He created all of us to grow up and become adults. I have to believe that His plan is right and good and perfect, and that He has given me just enough time with my kids to do what He’s asked me to do. He had a great idea when He made Anika, and she will be an amazing adult. I will love being her mom then, just as I love it now. It will be different, but it’s meant to be.

I believe all these things, but hey, we’re only two days in!;) You’re welcome to check in with me in a few years to see how it’s going!

Anika & meSticking with tradition around here, we take a moment to record “birthday favorites” – what Anika is enjoying right now. She’s loving fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, and sliced/baked in butter potatoes. She is also very passionate about sushi, Cat Warriors or Christy Miller books, and sleepovers with friends. She loves writing her own books, babysitting, attending the youth group at our church, finally being allowed to sit in the front seat when we drive somewhere, and having her own bedroom and bathroom in our newly finished basement.

siblingsShe is a loving, conscientious big sister, and she is incredibly helpful with babysitting or doing work around the house. I love our one-on-one talks early in the morning before anyone else is awake, or curled up in her bed at night. She’s wearing my clothes, and it won’t be long before I look her straight in the eye. She’s growing up! My favorite teenager ever.

Anikaphoto credit: Morgan Braun

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