Anika Turns Sixteen

Anika turned sixteen this week. I’m trying really hard not to slip into the whole theme of “HOW can she be SIXTEEN??!! I remember my sweet baby, and what it felt like to be a new mom, and she is growing up too fast…” etc, etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about how that’s all focusing on me freaking out because she’s growing up, and not about celebrating the person she is becoming. Those are thoughts to work through some other time, because our sweet sixteen year old should most definitely be celebrated!

Ben keeps playing the song “Sweet Sixteen” because he delights in Anika’s reaction. She delights in rising to the occasion. And I delight in watching her – watching her change, watching her grow, and getting these glimpses of what’s to come.

She’s been the one who’s taught us a lot – first kid, going through all the stages for the first time. I often tell people that she’s been very easy on us. Not a lot of teenage angst around here. (Hormones aplenty, but we can deal with that!) She’s always been mature for her age, pretty much from the womb, which has helped. We could reason with her already when she was two, so we haven’t really hit anything that couldn’t be talked through. Sometimes it takes a lot of talking, but she’s teaching me the art of agreeing to disagree.

Once when we were discussing a clothing issue, she gave in to my guidelines so easily, I was surprised. “Don’t you disagree with me?” I asked. “Of course I do,” she replied, matter of factly. “But it’s not that long until I’m 18, and then I can do whatever I want. I can wait.”

I know that in the world of social media, it’s pretty easy to make everything sound perfect. Obviously, nothing is perfect, and we’ve hit a few bumps during these teenage years, but for the most part, it has been delightful.

In the language of Myers Briggs and all things personality type, Anika is a thinker surrounded by a bunch of feelers in this home. (We’re fairly sure Everett will follow in her footsteps, but time will tell.) Everyone has feelings, of course, but thinkers will put them lower on the list of priorities. Anika will often calmly evaluate a situation, and bluntly call things exactly as they are, and cut right through the muddled mess in my head. She gets a bit annoyed when people respond with too much emotion. I’m still learning how to speak her language, because it doesn’t come naturally (it’s ALL about the feelings for me!!!!), but it has taught me a lot about how people communicate in different ways. I enjoy her perspective.

As we move towards a different stage of parenting, the long talks at bedtime explore different topics, the inside jokes keep growing, and I remind myself to soak it all in.This year has brought huge changes and new experiences into Anika’s life – her first job, learning how to drive, going on her first missions trip, touring with choir, going to the Counselor in Training program at Red Rock Bible Camp and being gone from home for the longest stretch yet. It is fun and exciting and a little bit scary and hard, but so rewarding. I love seeing the direction this is all going. I’m so proud of her, and just really thankful that we get to be her parents.

This week, Ben and I are taking her out on a birthday date, just the three of us. It’s funny to think that for many years, we thought that’s how things would always be – just the three of us. I’m so very thankful God chose to make Anika a big sister, because it’s formed who she is, but also because Kaylia and Everett are so blessed to have a big sister like her.

It warms my heart when she comes home and needs to tell Kaylia all her secrets, or when Everett shows me dance moves Anika has taught him (completely hilarious). She might regularly drive him to frustration because of her many requests for hugs and kisses, but at least he’ll know how to sing all the greatest Broadway hits.

So this week, we celebrate Anika, delight in all the things that make her Anika, and ignore the fact that this is all going by much too quickly, because right now, it is the time to party.Happy birthday, Anika!!!

Anika’s 14th Birthday

This weekend was Anika’s birthday. Ben was trying to put words to the significance of the occasion, and said, “You’re the only 14 year old daughter I’ve ever had!”

Anika responded dryly with, “I’m the only 14 year old daughter you’ve ever had.”

Ben replied, “All the others only reached their 13th birthday…”

Not his best joke, but he always tries.

We’re delighted to have a 14 year old. I’d have to say our first year with a teenager has gone very well.:) There have been some bumps along the way, but looking back, I can see how those were the times when Anika’s growth and maturity really developed and came through, and I love seeing the person she is becoming.

Life is such a weird thing – how can I not remember what life was like without her, and yet so clearly remember the first day we brought her home from the hospital?! I can still feel the panic inside when Ben put Anika’s car seat down inside the door of our little house, and went to get something from the car, leaving me standing there, wondering what in the world we were going to do now. We were responsible for A BABY, and for the moment, she was quiet, but we didn’t have a clue what we were doing! It all seemed very strange and overwhelming, and a little bit scary, but I loved her fiercely. I got nothing done for weeks – I just watched her sleep and cried over how beautiful she was!

Slowly, we figured things out, and everything was okay because she was our baby – we knew her, and she belonged, and we figured out what she needed and liked, and her little personality began to show in all kinds of delightful ways.

For years, we’d hear other parents talking about the teenage years with dread, and I felt a little uneasy about it, but mostly I blocked it out, thinking we’d deal with it when it was time.

We’re only one year in, but I’m already glad for all the time I didn’t spend worrying about it, because it’s not unlike the feelings I had when we were first learning to be parents: we don’t have all the answers, but she’s our teenager – we know her, she belongs, we’re figuring things out as we go along, and the person she’s becoming is showing through in all kinds of delightful ways.

She’s smart, creative, imaginative, wise, motivated, strong, self-aware, capable, discerning, level-headed, funny, and determined. This was the year she started setting her alarm early in the morning, so that she can finish her schoolwork in the morning, and spend the rest of her day writing. She’s pumping out books at a rate which makes me jealous, and dreams big dreams about all she will do with her future.

She always amazes me with her ability to cut right to the root of a problem and determine the solution. I will forever love our long talks, and this last year she was finally able to graduate to the passenger seat for our drives to the city. She spends most of the time drilling me with questions about Myers Briggs, and wants to figure out everyone’s personality types, in real life as well as all the characters in her books. The rest of the time, we talk about boys.;)

14 years of loving her. I’m so glad we get to celebrate our Anika!

photo credit: Morgan Braun





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



Happy Birthday, Dear Anika

Kendra & AnikaShe’s the extrovert to my introvert. She’s the wild, crazy ideas to my methodical, detailed solutions. She’s the music and noise lover to my silence craving. She’s the dramatic energy to my need for peace and calm.

But she’s also my long-talk-loving, good-book-inhaling, open and honest sharing-of-the-soul craving daughter.

She’s so much like me, and she’s also so much like Ben. She keeps me from getting stuck in my own controlled, organized little world, and reminds me that music, imagination, and a little flamboyancy keeps life happier.

Yesterday was Anika’s birthday, and although we could not make it a national holiday, which would be her preference, we were able to have a great day celebrating our sweet girl.


As is the custom around her, we’ve put together a list of her favorite things right now, as a brand new 12-year-old:

Food: POTATOES, pancakes, fish, sushi

Things to Do: reading, playing dolls and Lego with Kaylia, writing, hanging out with friends

Books: any Warrior Cats books, Story’s End, The Inheritance cycle, Anne of Green Gables, Christy Miller series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Colour: Blue

What she wants to be when she grows up: Actress and Author

And oh, my goodness, has she ever changed from last year! I didn’t realize how much she’s grown up until I went back to her birthday post from 2014. It shouldn’t have surprised me so much – I can hardly buy clothes fast enough to keep up with her growth spurts, she borrows clothes from me, and I slip into her rubber boots when I need to quickly run out to the garden. She’s also become very responsible in the last year, and takes care of Kaylia and Everett almost like they were her own children….Almost.;)

I’m having so much fun watching her grow up and becoming the person she was created to be!


Photo credit: Morgan Braun


Anika’s Birthday Favorites 2014

We celebrated Anika’s birthday this week!


She turned 11 on Wednesday, and was quite disappointed that her birthday happened to fall on a day when we had to be rushing around in the city with appointments and swimming lessons. But she got to choose our meals for the day, which was planned out months in advance, and we’re having a little party for her tomorrow with a small group of friends.

If Anika could plan her birthday in whatever way she truly wanted to, it would be a national holiday. She would invite about 30 girls to our house, we would decorate for about a week straight, and it would be a Huge Event. Someday, she’ll make a fantastic event coordinator…

For this year, we’ve had to have many little talks about keeping things small and simple – birthday party stamina is in short supply for me, so we’ll see how this goes.

In the meantime, we’ve got the tradition list of birthday favorites that I always do for each member of the family.

Breakfast: waffles, breakfast sausage and bacon, Tatortots, Honey Cloud Pancake

Lunch and Supper: sushi, Chip Potatoes, rotisserie chicken, fried potatoes, fish, steamed broccoli, mushrooms

Snacks and Treats: muffins, cupcakes, toast, Popcorn Twists, chocolate

Things to Do: play with Polly Pockets, Lego, read, play with friends, write books

Books: The Golden Compass, The Lord of the Rings, Emily of New Moon, Anne of Green Gables, The Babysitter Club series

Color: blue

What she wants to be when she grows up: author, actress, teacher (but she’ll homeschool her own kids!)

My Favorite Things About Anika:

– Talks at bedtime. This girl cannot go to sleep until we’ve talked through anything and everything that might be on her mind, and I love it. Bedtime is my favorite time with her!

– Her ability to enjoy such a wide range of people and activities. Anika loves babies, little kids, kids her own age, adults, anybody. She is comfortable talking to everybody – hairdressers take a special delight in her, because within about two minutes in the chair, she’s maturely pouring out her thoughts and secrets, and they’re talking like old friends.

She will make anything fun – entertaining kids with toys she has long outgrown, or using her imagination to transform anything into a fun, exciting story. It is no wonder Kaylia can’t wait to spend every moment playing with her sister.:)

– Her love for the dramatic. It is her greatest joy right now to have been given one of the main parts in our church’s Christmas musical. She has waited for this for two years, and when her dream finally came true, it was very difficult to eat or sleep or function normally in any way, for a few days.

Everything is a Big Deal with Anika. At times, it is hard for me to keep up with her energy level, but at the same time, I know that as she grows and matures, this will be a gift that I hope she will use in increasingly positive ways, and that will bring joy and excitement into the lives of people around her.:)

-Her help. I would not have been able to survive this pregnancy without her!! She has done a ton of extra chores around the house, little favours for me, and helped with Kaylia. I’ve been a hormonal grouch, and she’s been so understanding, telling me when she thinks it’s time for me to lie down and take a nap!!

She’s a beautiful, sweet girl, and I keep telling her that next year, when we’re not on the verge of having a baby, we’ll make up for this year’s low-keyed celebration!!


photos: Morgan Braun

Weekend Favorites: Along the Way

We went to my parents’ cabin again this weekend, but we travelled a bit differently this time…

My massage therapist has suggested that to ease the tension in my body caused by sitting in a vehicle for two straight hours, we should stop every half hour so that I can get out, walk around, and stretch a little.

This does make the ride a bit a longer, but it seems to help ease some of the discomfort.

And the fun part is that I started noticing all kinds of things to take pictures of along the way! So here’s a little bit of photography from our weekend of driving and relaxing…train




making suppersupperKayliaOn the way home, Ben decided that we should go down to the river for one of our stops, so we jumped out and took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful evening.:)

bridgeKayliaFunny how we need to be forced to slow down and pay attention sometimes, hey?!

Weekend Favorites: Filling Our Gaping Hole!!

She’s home and back where she belongs! It’s a good feeling.:)

AnikaBut she says she hardly missed us at all, which didn’t make me sad – it made me think she’s growing up, and that’s a good thing!

Kaylia We got to stick around for a bit to enjoy the parents’ program and a BBQ, and it felt kind of like old times, and kind of not. I think that’s a good thing, too!

caterpillarhuggingB & KNext item on our summer to-do list: Vacation Bible School! What’s on your list?

MS Walk 2014

Excitement is building at our house – this weekend is the MS Walk in Winnipeg, so Ben and Anika are fundraising up a storm! This is their second year participating, and all four of us enjoyed being at the event last year.

It’s been two years since Ben’s sister was diagnosed with MS, and I love it that Anika feels like she can play an important role in supporting her special auntie. I wish I could join them!! It was my goal last year to get myself to the point where I’d be able to walk in it this year, but maybe next year!! Just need a bit more physio…:)

In the meantime, there’s some fierce competition going on at our house, because Ben challenged Anika to a fundraising contest – whoever raises the most money gets to plan a special Daddy/Daughter Date!:) Right now, Anika has left him in the dust, which he pretends to be disappointed about, but really, I think he’s super proud.;)

If you’d like to contribute to a great cause, and pick a side in our little contest here, you can head on over to Anika or Ben’s sponsor pages to donate:

Anika’s Donation Page

Ben’s Donation Page

Even Kaylia ran for her piggy bank yesterday, and helped out with her pennies and dimes!


Looking forward to a great weekend, and wishing you the same!:)

Anika’s Birthday Favorites 2013

Tomorrow our girlie turns 10!

She’s been counting down the days since last October already. Her motivation doesn’t seem to be the desire to grow up quickly, but rather just her deep love for a good party!


She had BIG plans for her party this year, but unfortunately, Stressed Out Mommy had to put a stop to some of her ideas. We did do a Tinkerbell party, but there was no Pixie Dust Tree in the front entrance, or flowers and grass covering every available surface in the house.

Once again, Ben saved the day with his Children’s Entertainment skills, and led all our little fairies in some games very fitting to Pixie Hollow, such as bouncing the “dew drop” to the spider web…


The party is over, but we still have lots of things to look forward to, as we continue to celebrate.:)

AnikaPhoto: Morgan Braun

Anika’s writing assignment for school today was to make her annual “Birthday Favorites” list:

Breakfast Foods: pancakes, waffles, sausage, bacon, cinnamon apples, tatertots

Lunch and Supper Foods: fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, fish, beef, peas, steamed broccoli, mushrooms

Snacks and Treats: vanilla cupcakes (made from a Betty Crocker gluten-free mix), Popcorn Twists, any sweets

Things to Do: read, play, dream, spend time with friends, draw

Toys: Lego, Barbies, Play Mobil, Polly Pockets

Books: Mandie books, Watership Down, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit

Colors: blue and pink

What she wants to be when she grows up: author, artist, actor, photographer

My favorite things about her: There are many, but I’ll list the ones that come to mind first!

– Her wild, fun imagination, her sense of humour, and fun-loving personality

– Her love for stories, adventures, reading, and being read to

– Her love for people and fierce loyalty to the loved ones in her life

– Her laugh, her appreciation for a good joke, her ability to play along with Ben’s silliness

– Her desire to care for people, especially Kaylia, but also any other small child around

– Her love for talking things out, especially at bedtime, her inability to keep anything from me, and her desire to learn and understand all things around her

– Her huge conscience, and intense desire to do what is right

– Her strong leadership skills, and her ability to share her ideas with everyone around her so passionately that they all get drawn into the fun

Oh, the excitement and drama she brings into our home! It is my hope and prayer that God will use all these gifts to bless the people around her in powerful ways. We love her so much, and are so very thankful for each of the wonderful years we have enjoyed with her so far!