Three Memories From the Summer I Met Ben

I’ve been thinking a lot about the summer I first met Ben. I think it’s been on my mind because I was 19 years old when I met him, and Anika is turning 18 this year, and that is all a lot to take in!

Ben had almost no hair when I met him, because he’d spent a couple of months tree planting and had shaved his head for the occasion. I preferred boys with hair. He also had a girlfriend, and both of these were factors as to why I wasn’t planning on paying much attention to him that first summer at camp.

But then we were put in charge of teaching canoing together for the whole summer, and it took about two seconds to realize that we got along very well. We became friends right away, because his hairstyle and his girlfriend did not hinder anything in that department.

When I think about that first summer of getting to know Ben, I have a collection of memories – my little glimpses of who Ben was and still is, and all that makes him my favourite person on the face of this earth. I have lots of memories of hanging out with him and having fun together, but I have three memories in particular that made me stop and pay attention – when it almost felt like time slowed down just for a little while, because I felt like I was seeing something important. And I was. I was seeing Ben.

Memory #1

We had only known each other for a couple of days at camp when something horrible happened. Campers hadn’t arrived yet, and we were in the midst of staff training, when a little girl who’s family lived at the camp was playing with her brother, and ended up getting lost. The entire camp was searched, and then we had the awful task of searching the water front, linking arms and swishing our feet through water and seaweed, desperately hoping we wouldn’t find anything. After that, we spent hours tramping through the woods in long rows, searching and calling her name.

It was a horrible, tiring day, and I can still see the look on that mother’s face as she waited for someone to find her little girl.

We paused our search long enough to eat, and while all the summer staff were finishing up the meal, the full time staff left the dining hall for a meeting to figure out what to do next.

A dessert trolley was rolled to the front of the dining hall, and we were asked to serve ourselves, so more people could attend the meeting instead of serving dessert.

I don’t think anyone had a problem with this – it wasn’t a big deal to get up and grab a dessert, and we all thought nothing of it. But I remember looking up and suddenly noticing that Ben was making his way down the aisle with the dessert cart, serving desserts to the rest of the staff. I watched in surprise for a moment, before nudging my friend with my elbow and saying, “Look at that. You should go for Ben.”

The little girl was eventually found, safe and sound, and there was much relief. What stands out most in my mind from that day is linking arms with staff members to work together as we searched for her, the beautiful ringing of the bell to signal she had been found and we could stop searching, and Ben pushing that dessert cart down the aisle, serving everyone during a time of need, when we were all too stressed to think straight.

Memory #2

I had my 20th birthday about two weeks after camp started, and during that time, Ben and I had already become good friends. He knew all about my boy problems (there was a particular boy who was very confused about his feelings towards me, and I was not at all confused about how much I wanted to date him), so Ben and I would chat about this and that and everything else under the sun – the rising sun specifically, because we’d get up at 6:30am to go canoing when the lake was pink glass.

For my birthday, Ben wrote me a very nice note, and gave me a coupon for a free chocolate bar from the tuck shop, to be redeemed whenever I needed to talk about “silly boys” and other things troubling my mind.

Because the confused boy caused me a lot of grief, it didn’t take very long for the need to arise for my free chocolate bar + chat with Ben. I went to find him one afternoon, on the verge of tears, and tracked him down while he was mowing grass. He took one look at my face, and said, “I was just about to take my break.”

He walked me to the tuck shop, bought my chocolate bar, and led me to a picnic table. He listened so kindly and patiently, and it was only months later when he finally confessed that he’d thought all along it was a bad idea for me to pursue any kind of relationship with the other boy.

He didn’t tell me what to do, he just dropped everything to listen, and he made me feel seen and heard.

Memory #3

After we had been working at camp for many weeks already, Ben spent a week working one on one with a little blind boy. I knew by that point how good Ben was with larger groups of people, and how he could take charge easily and comfortably, but that week he poured all of his attention into helping one blind camper.

I remember coming down the path from the cabins to the large clearing where all the campers were playing volleyball and basketball, or heading down to the beach. There were people everywhere, but I caught sight of Ben with his blind camper, and I stopped short, just watching them. Ben was so patient, anticipating the boy’s needs and offering help at the very moment it was needed. And I felt like I couldn’t stop watching, because he didn’t know anyone was watching, and his kindness was so genuine.

Even though I wasn’t interested in being anything other than friends with Ben, I kept having these moments of realizing what a special person he was. I didn’t really know what to do with them, so I just filed them away in my mind.

It took a few months, but we eventually cane to a point where he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore, and I didn’t have confusing boy issues anymore, and suddenly all those moments of watching Ben made everything very clear for me.

Our first picture together, at a Christmas banquet a couple of months before we started dating.

That was a long time ago, and many things have changed since then, but some things have not changed at all. After 20 years of being married to Ben, he is still just as ready to serve, as eager to help out, as gentle and patient in the way he listens, and as great with kids as he was that first summer at camp.

This weekend is Ben’s birthday. Celebrating during Covid, when we can’t really go anywhere or do anything all that different from the usual is kind of tough, but finding things to celebrate about Ben is not hard at all.

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!!!

Kaylia Turns 10

Kaylia had her birthday last week. On the day of her party, this is where we were at:

The next day, I asked her, “So, was your party as good as you hoped it would be?” She sighed dreamily, and said, “It was even BETTER!!!!”

I feel like that is a very accurate example of what life is like with Kaylia – always full of elaborate ideas, but completely overjoyed with the smallest, simplest things. It doesn’t take much to make her very happy. Hers is a life of extremes.

She lives in the most colourful, imaginative world in her mind, where anything is possible and everything is beautiful, and my biggest challenge as her mom is helping to navigate through the emotions when her world collides with reality.

Kaylia leaves behind her a trail of paper, glue, tape, and fabric scraps. When she’s not producing elaborate craft projects or Lego creations, she is curled up with a book in a nest of pillows and blankets, or she’s playing with friends, moving all of her sewing projects and painted rock collections outside to build elaborate setups on our front step. I was not surprised to find pieces of felt in my flower pots. I don’t know what their purpose was, but I’m guessing some kind of toy had a bed or nest or den in my plants.

Kaylia has the softest, kindest heart. She can coax Everett to come around to any idea, no matter how stubborn his mood. She is a faithful and devoted fan of her big sister, and is always a willing listener and cheerleader.

Her thoughts run deep, and she is constantly surprising us with what surfaces after she’s had enough time to process things.

Her plans for the future include getting married, having kids, homeschooling them, and teaching art lessons in her home.

Whether that comes to pass or not, I am quite sure her life will include all the colourful dreams and creativity that she can possibly fit into it.

Ten years with our sweet girl! It’s always an adventure.

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





He Makes Me Laugh

It had been a long day of running errands in the city, and I came home feeling distraught, because I’d come dangerously close to hitting a pedestrian. The sun had been shining at the exact angle which made me unable to see the lights flashing at a pedestrian crossing, and I had slammed on my brakes just in time to avoid hitting the child who suddenly ran across.

I described what had happened to Ben, embarrassed by my mistake and feeling like a horrible driver. He listened patiently and sympathetically, and as usual, was quiet for just the right length of time when I finished speaking before saying anything. But after 16 1/2 years of marriage, I know that whatever comes after that small silence will always be worth waiting for, and once again, I was right. When Ben finally spoke, he said, “Just think about all the people you actually hit, and didn’t even notice!”

As always, he made me burst out laughing instead of bursting into tears, and reminded me for the millionth time not to take myself too seriously or beat myself up unnecessarily for a mistake made – or in this case, didn’t actually make!

Years ago, my older, wiser sister once said, “In the beginning, you think you know exactly why you’re marrying your husband, and what you love most about him, but as the years go by, you realize you hardly even knew him at the beginning, and you love him even more for all the things you’ve learned about him since then.”

Ben has always made me laugh, and I’ve known that from the first day, but as I look back over the years we’ve been married, I can see how his ability to diffuse an intense situation with his sense of humour and lighthearted warmth and goofiness has kept our whole family in balance. I love many, many things about him – his sensitivity, humility, wisdom, unselfishness, and amazing ability to listen, but lately, I’ve been thinking about how I love the way he makes me laugh.

He adds so much joy to my life, and has shown me repeatedly how laughter changes situations and people. I am so thankful our kids can grow up in a home where there is so much laughter.

Yesterday was Ben’s birthday, and it’s tradition for me to write birthday posts for my family. As I thought about what I wanted to say about Ben this time, the picture which remained stuck in my head was of him sitting next to me on the couch, grinning in the way he does after he’s said something he knows was hilarious and made me shriek with laughter.  I love the person he is, and I’m thankful for everything that makes him “Ben”, but today, like many days, I’m thankful for how he makes me laugh.

Ben and Kendra



Wild and Free

So it took me almost a month to convince Kaylia to let me take some pictures of her for her seventh birthday!

KayliaThis is one strong, determined, unique, feisty girl! Everything has to be her idea, or there is absolutely no way it’s happening. My sneaky parenting skills have greatly increased in the last seven years!

She is creative, sweet, imaginative, carefree, goofy, lovable, and independent. She makes us laugh all the time, but she doesn’t try to be funny just to get attention – she has this quiet way of slipping in these smart, funny little comments.

KayliaShe loves to play outside and help me in the garden. She doesn’t need a lot of people to make her happy – she is fiercely devoted to her three friends, and loves to spend time with Anika and Everett. We are learning the power of alone time for her!

KayliaIt’s so much fun to watch her being a big sister. She’s been the littlest for most of her life, but now she is becoming amazing at finding silly ways to keep Everett happy.

She likes things neat and tidy. She has very specific ideas about how she wants things, much like her big sister, but she doesn’t get emotional about it – she is very matter-of-fact about the way things are going to be.

Being heard and treated with respect are very important to her. Words can deeply wound her, but that’s about it – she is a tough cookie! She’s not a complainer, and she’s a hard little worker.


I tried to keep up the birthday tradition of writing down her favorite things right now, but after the first question, she informed me she was not in the mood, so I filled in her favorites myself.

Food: “I have MILLIONS of favorite foods! You’d have to do a very long list!”

Clothes: Up until now, she has always wanted to wear dresses. But about a month ago, she came to me and said very seriously, “I think I need to get used to wearing pants or shorts.”

Books: Anika has managed to pass on her great love for “Cat Warrior” books to Kaylia. Sometimes she reads them to Kaylia, sometimes Ben or I do, or sometimes Kaylia “pretends” to read them herself.:) The girls play cat warriors, wrestle like cat warriors, draw pictures of cat warriors, etc.

Toys: She is very into Lego Elves, when she’s not playing cat warriors!

KayliaI came across a quote the other day which made me think of her:

WildGod knew I needed her to loosen me up, and teach me a few things about being wild and free!


Quoting Ben

Both my mom and my mother-in-law often ask if I’m remembering to write down all the funny things our girls say, and I do. But I’ve also started writing down the funny things Ben says. Between the three of them, we have a lot of funny moments in our home. (With Everett’s goofy personality already showing strong, I have no doubt I’ll be laughing for many more years to come!!) Ben has taught them well…

Today is Ben’s birthday, so in honour of my favorite person to laugh with, I share with you some of his best moments from this last year:

Ev & Ben

While reading an article about how my personality type interacts with Ben’s personality type in a marriage relationship:

Me: “This article says we have an effortless relationship, and I’m drawn to your positive energy.”

Ben: “It’s like you are the moth, and I am the flame.”


On a day when I was feeling a little discouraged and down about myself:

Me: “Tell me something nice about myself.”

Ben: “Your voice is like the caress of 1000 puppies licking my feet.”


Me: “So my physiotherapist says if I keep clenching my butt muscles while I do squats, I’ll be able to squeeze a penny between my butt cheeks.”

Ben: “Ah, yes, the old penny trick.”

Me: “You talk as though you have experience!”

Ben: “I never saw that penny again…. I don’t like to speak of it.”


Me: frantically mixing some biscuits so I’ll have something to eat for breakfast.
Ben, coming into the kitchen: “Oh, you’re a good mom!”
Me: “These are for me…..”
Ben: “Oh. I thought you were baking a birthday cake for Anika.”
Me: “Shoot, am I not a good mom after all??!!”
Ben: “Oh, you’re still a good mom, just…not in the way I was acknowledging…at this moment….”

He’s always able to word things so delicately.


Telling the girls about our first date:

Kendra: “I remember that Daddy was wearing tan pants, and a black and blue sweater with green stripes.”

Ben: “Mommy was dressed in starlight and beauty.”


Kaylia: “I want to have a Frozen birthday party. I want a Frozen cake, and Frozen cupcakes, and everyone can dress up like Elsa or Anna.”

Me: “How about we don’t have a theme this year? It’s your birthday, not Elsa’s or Anna’s. How about we just celebrate your birthday, without Frozen stuff?”

Ben: ” It’s JFK’s birthday – she could have a JFK-themed party.”

Life With Kaylia

We celebrated a birthday this weekend, so it’s time for a birthday post!


Kaylia turned six, and this morning when I climbed up into her bunk bed, we had the following conversation:

Me: How do you like being six so far?

Kaylia: I like it, but I’m more stressed than when I was five.

Me: Really, why is that?

Kaylia: ‘Cause, like, I get more angry now.

Hopefully, she’ll be able to work out these new anger issues, but in the meantime, here’s a bit of what she’s loving right now:

Food: chocolate chip pancakes, Popcorn Twists, watermelon, carrots, fried potatoes, Honey Cloud Pancake

Clothes: fancy clothes

Books:  Stolen Magic and anything else by Gail Carson Levine, Little House on the Prairie books, the Pixie Hollow series, and anything to do with Disney princesses

Toys: The new princess set that she got for her birthday, Lego

Favorite Things to Do: Rainbow Loom, playing with her friends Cadence and Lexy, helping in the garden, being read to, playing downstairs with Anika, swinging outside, coloring

birthdayWe don’t usually ask our kids what kind of job they want to have when they grow up, but try to encourage whatever they come up with on their own. This year, Kaylia has talked a lot about becoming an art teacher. She loves anything to do with coloring, painting, cutting, and gluing. she gets her most creative, energetic ideas when I am most exhausted, or when I’m in the middle of making supper. This is usually how these things go around here:

Kaylia: Momma, can I have some cloth so I can sew a doll?

Me: I’m sorry, but I’m in the middle of making supper. I can’t help you sew a doll right now.

Kaylia: Can you get me some felt?

Me: I can’t do that right now.

Kaylia: Oh look, I found some felt! Can I have some scissors and a needle?

Me: Kaylia, I can’t help you with that right now. I’m making supper.

Kaylia: Momma, can I have a cotton ball?

Me: We don’t have any cotton balls.

Kaylia: I’ll just use a Kleenx instead. Where’s the glue?

Me: It’s in the cupboard, but I can’t get that for you right now.

Kaylia: I found it! Can you help me sew a dress for my doll?

Me: Not right now. Aren’t you hungry? I’m making supper.

Kaylia: This isn’t really working. Can you help me?

Me: No, I can’t. What did I say I’m doing right now?

Kaylia: Making supper. Maybe I’ll do a different craft instead. Remember that gluing craft my art teacher taught me? I’ll do that….

And in the end, she produced a very creative picture “painted” with so much glue on blue felt that it took 3 days to dry.

tentsKaylia set up camp for the princesses and fairies.


Kaylia always knows exactly what she wants. I’ve learned not to ever straight out ask her to do something – things always go better if she’s given a choice.

She is feisty, independent, determined, and creative. She will always find a way to get things done.

She is quick to apologize, to share, and to comfort.

She never wears the same outfit twice (unless she REALLY loves it, and then she wears it every day for a week), and the more stripes, polka dots, and plaids she can combine in one outfit, the happier she is.

She would gladly play with Anika every day for the rest of her life, and one or two more friends make her perfectly happy. She doesn’t want a crowd of people around her.

She loves to sing, dance, and make up actions for everything. For her birthday, a ukalaili was her heart’s desire.

snugglingShe adds color, laughter, silliness, and deep thoughts to our life. She keeps us on our toes, but that’s what she likes best anyway – in her world, life should be a dance or a musical.

She has taught me everything I don’t know about parenting. She has taught me to slow down, pay attention, and listen like I mean it.

I’m so thankful for this sweet girl!


Weekend Favorites

We spent our first weekend at the cabin this year! It was good to be back.:)

branchThe trees are just starting to bud, but there isn’t a whole lot of color anywhere yet! I went in search of some green…




wiener roastwiener roast

We celebrated Kaylia’s birthday. It’s a bit early, but it looks like this is becoming a tradition in my family – birthday party on the long weekend at the cabin.:)

KayliaKayliacupcakespresentsEveryone else left on Sunday evening, but we stayed until Monday – we love slow mornings when we have nowhere we need to be!

Ben and girlsWe packed up near lunch, and drove to Brereton to grab some fries and let the girls run around for a little while before heading home.

beachpussy willowsCan’t wait for all the buds to start opening! I hope you had a great weekend!

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!