This Year’s Family Photos

You guys, every year I think I love our latest family pictures the most. I didn’t think it could happen again this year, because last year’s were my favourite by far, but our friend Morgan was amazing, as usual, and I love them! We explored a little part of Winnipeg I’d never actually been to before, and the fall colours made everything feel just a little bit magical.

And the last one I’ll share is kind of fun – when Kaylia was the age Everett is now, Morgan took this picture of our family:

We saw some steps and decided it was time for an update!:)

All the family feet, complete!

And now I have to somehow choose my favourite for our Christmas cards! I can’t wait to start receiving all the happy Christmas mail with everyone’s family pictures – it’s one of my favourite Christmas traditions.:)

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Never Stop Swinging

When I was a kid, my dad designed and built play structures. It had a lot of perks – we had a really great play structure in our own backyard, and my sister and I loved to play on the new ones as they were being built, because it was always fun to try something different.

It seems as though a large number of my childhood involved those play structures. We would haul out all the blankets and build houses on the structure railings. We would try to teach our cats to walk across the top of the monkey bars. We would climb and dangle and twirl on the various bars. And we would swing. I remember the feeling of swinging so high, it felt as though I would soar right off into the air.

There was a huge lilac bush beside our play structure, and when I think of my most beautiful childhood memories, I remember sitting on the lawn swing with my mom, memorizing Psalm 23 while the dusk crept in. We smelled the lilac-scented air, and my mom would say, “Let’s see how high we can swing!”

One day when I was in high school, I was sitting on a swing, deep in thought, when my dad walked by. He said, “I miss the days when you girls would swing so much, the grass could never grow underneath the swings, because you would always wear it out.”

After he continued walking to the house, I got down on my knees and began pulling up handfuls of grass, trying to make the dirt show through, even though I didn’t swing enough to wear it out anymore.

I don’t know when I stopped swinging.

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The summer before Everett was born, Ben set up a play structure in our backyard. We’d been debating about it for awhile, wondering if our girls would get much use out of it, but when we were surprised with another baby on the way, we decided to get the structure, because there would be many more years of use with our little guy on the way.

In the beginning, both girls would swing together, shrieking delightedly when they were “double dating” and their swings were perfectly in sync. But slowly, over time, Kaylia often ended up on the monkey bars or in the sandbox, while Anika kept swinging.

I’d notice her going out to swing more and more. She’d take a break from school work to swing. She’d head out there the second we got home from a busy afternoon away. She would swing in the rain, the snow, the dark – it didn’t matter what kind of weather or time of day, she had to swing. I loved to watch her out the window, because she’d usually be smiling to herself, deep in thought as she stretched towards the sky.

It’s been a couple of years since Anika started swinging, and the grass still never grows under her swing.

She had a growth spurt this last winter. In the span of a few short months, she changed from being a little girl, and people started to mistake her for me. She almost looks me in the eye, and she’s borrowing my clothes. She spends hours a day writing fantasy books, and talks about being published, but whenever she’s stuck for an idea, she heads out the door to go swing. Morning, afternoon, and evening, she is out there on her swing.

Because she’s almost my size now, that little play structure built for small children was getting worn out after the intense workout she’s been giving it for three years. It was creaking and groaning, and Anika complained, “It makes so much noise when I swing, people are starting to turn and look from the sidewalk! Dad needs to fix it!!”

So last weekend, Ben finally built a new swing set (with his usual little helper!). He built it adult-size, so there will be no need for our girl to stop swinging.

We planted lilac bushes by the play structure, and maybe someday, the smell of lilacs will also make her think of evenings on the swing.

We tease Anika a little, because she’ll go off to college, and need to find the nearest park so she can swing and de-stress from college life! She says she’ll know she’s found her soulmate when she meets a boy who will swing with her.;)

We were at the chiropractor at the end of summer, and after finishing Anika’s adjustment, he came to me and asked, “Do you have her doing some kind of athletic activity?” I told him she took dance lessons during the school year, but hadn’t been doing anything during summer.

He said, “She’s in great shape – she must be very active!”

I smiled and said, “Well, she swings for a few hours a day.”

He looked confused. “She swings? Like on a play structure?”

I described to him how she swings many times a day, and how she’s gotten muscular from all those hours of pumping.

The chiropractor was amazed. “Her spine is very strong and healthy – she has the body of an athlete!”

And so Anika has proven that even something as simple as swinging can be good for the mind and the body.

I think of all those phys.ed classes when I was in high school, where I was taught that volleyball and basketball were everything, and competitive sports were the only way to be athletic. There was no value for the things I loved to do, like going for walks, or riding my bike in the sunset.

And yet, long after the phys.ed classes are over, those are the things that remain. There are many ways to move and live and feel your body connect with the moment. What I want for my kids are those beautiful moments of enjoying whatever it is they want to enjoy. To see the value in the unexpected. To find strength and beauty in simple things. To do what clears the head and gets the blood pumping. To smell lilacs and see sunsets, and to feel strength in their limbs and to get outside.

If they enjoy competitive sports, that’s great. But even more importantly, I hope they find ways to relax and move through life in small ways, all by themselves, when there’s no team around and without fancy equipment. I hope they keep balanced and active for the simple reason that our bodies were made to thrive that way.

If Anika still wants to swing when she’s an adult, I hope she does. I hope she never feels silly for loving it, because she’s found the secret for clearing her head and connecting her soul to the peace of the moment.

 

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4 Reasons Why I Love Our Wide-Gapped Family

Our girls are five and a half years apart in age.

This used to bother me a lot. I never wanted our family to be this way – I wanted a “normal” family, which, in North America, means having kids exactly every two years, bonus points to those who could squeeze them even closer.

We never had the luxury of choosing. I spent many years feeling anxious, depressed, and jealous of other people’s families. Ben always kept telling me, “Our family will be what our family will be. We’ll think it’s normal, whatever ends up happening, and it will be good.”

Yep, good. And then I’d cry myself to sleep another night over yet another negative pregnancy test.

We finally found out that Kaylia was on the way, just before Anika’s fifth birthday. (It’s funny how that doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but at the time, it seemed to take FOREVER.)

But these days, Ben is right – our family is what it is.

There are still times when it’s easy to focus on the negatives to having such a wide age difference between our girls, but lately, I’ve been getting comments from people about how nice it must be. And they’re right – there are totally benefits to our family being this way, even though I would never have chosen it, in that imaginary world where I always get my own way.

So. For anyone who’s waiting for a baby that isn’t coming, or worrying about how family will work out in the future, or thinking about how close in age you want to have your kids, here is the perspective I wish people had shared with me, back in those tearful years:

1) We have a built-in babysitter.

In two years, Anika will be old enough to stay home with Kaylia, while Ben and I date up a storm. We have big plans for our impending freedom. Okay, not really, and we’re not going to take advantage of Anika or anything, but we are pretty excited about how this will give us more flexibility in our schedule.

And until then, Anika is incredibly helpful with Kaylia. She loves being in charge, and will get Kaylia’s snack ready, gets her dressed in the morning, helped with potty training, and many other things that make my life easier. She doesn’t always feel like doing these things, but most of the time, she is very willing to help out. Leaving Kaylia in Anika’s care is a wonderful and natural thing around here already, and I love seeing the bond they have.

2) We have a built-in entertainer.

girls

All those people who say your kids have to be two years apart in order to play well together may not be completely accurate. Our girls play together from morning till night, and Anika is completely amazing with entertaining Kaylia. Kaylia drinks in everything her big sister does, and Anika was a born leader, so she looooooves having someone to boss around. They do fight like crazy, but Ben keeps reminding me that most siblings do, and they love each other very much in between fights to make up for it.

Interestingly enough, my sister is 5 1/2 years older than me, and when I was a kid, I was completely in awe of her. I thought there had never been anyone who could sew Barbie clothes like her, or make Kleenx flowers for our imaginary weddings the way she could. I thought she was amazing.

It is fun for me to see Kaylia looking up to her sister the way I look up to mine.:)

3) We get very interesting questions from random strangers.

Oh, the things people have said to me about our children.

“Are they both yours?”

“Girl, what happened to you??” (Said my black hairdresser, who couldn’t figure out why on earth I would wait so long between having babies.)

People feel the freedom to ask all kinds of questions, and then I get to share all over again about how God blessed our family with our Miracle Baby, and I got to watch the most incredible bond grow between Anika and this sister she prayed for.

4) We get beautiful one-on-one time.

I loved that special time with Anika before Kaylia was born. I read books to her for hours and hours. She had my undivided attention. I soaked in every single moment of her growing and changing, because I had no distractions.

And now, as Anika gets a little older, she wants more independence, so she goes off to her room to play or read sometimes, or goes to a friend’s house to play, and I get to spend special time with Kaylia.

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Basically, it comes down to the fact that Ben is right, once again: “Our family will be what our family will be.”

We love the way our family is, but I’m sure there are many beautiful, awesome things about having kids close in age, as well. I think it’s amazing that no matter what kind of family we have, there are blessings and gifts to enjoy. There will also be hard things about any kind of family, but I’m so very thankful that God is giving me the clarity to see the good that is coming out of doing family this way, even if we didn’t choose it.

And really, wouldn’t it be kinda boring if we all had identical families?

What do you enjoy most about your own unique family?

One Year In

Tomorrow it will be exactly a year since we moved away from Red Rock Bible Camp, and started our new adventure in Niverville.

People have been asking me how the year has been, which has gotten me thinking and reflecting. Here’s what we’re loving so far:

Friends

We are loving the people we get to live life with here in Niverville. “Community” looks different than it did at camp, but God has been so good, and has blessed us with really amazing friends. We also joined a family discipleship group and meet on a weekly basis, which has been fantastic.

I loved living with the people at camp, and I miss the way we shared life out there, but we’re starting to see how this could all work out here in “the real world”. It’s taken us a little while to get used to how different relationships happen out here, when you’re not sharing three meals a day with all your friends, but we’re happy to find that it’s still possible to become close to the people we love!

May 2012 122

Routine

One of the hardest parts of making a major change was not knowing what our “new life” was going to look like – I just couldn’t picture it while we were still living at camp, preparing to move.

But now it feels normal and comfortable, and we still feel like “us”. We didn’t get lost in the shuffle! Which is kind of amazing, because the lifestyle at camp is quite different than anywhere else. I loved our routine out there, and how we did family. I was worried we would lose what was important to us.

But we haven’t, and although some things look a little different, we’ve been able to take what we learned at camp, and bring it with us into this new chapter.

family

Home

I love, love, love being at home. I love our house. But things were a bit bumpy in the beginning, which I wasn’t expecting. Since we got to choose everything about our house, I thought it would be like a dream come true to move in.

I’m not sure if it was very high, unrealistic expectations, or just the adjustment, but it took a few months for this to really feel like home. It wasn’t perfect. It was still just a house, and it didn’t magically transform my life, just because we moved in. It took some getting used to, and I felt a little lost, for awhile.

I’m done feeling lost. My roots are in. This is home. And that is a lovely feeling.

home

It has been a great year. I feel we have transitioned much better than I was anticipating, which is a wonderful surprise.

I am ready to dive right in to Year Two!

The Best Kind of Days

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” (Anne of Avonlea)

cooking

My faithful helper.

lunch

Going through a “picnic lunch” phase.

lunch

Trying to be just like her big sister: reading a book while eating lunch. Too bad her books are just a bit larger…

supperEverybody’s favorite meal.

stories

Telling some stories.

pastaOh, delicious lunch. Put some nuts in your stir-fry. It’s my latest obsession.

Kaylia

It’s always more fun to play under a table.

What makes an ordinary day the best kind of day for you?

Making This “Ours”

Alright, everybody, today it is time to update you all on what we’re doing to make Niverville “ours”.

1) The boxes are being conquered, one by one, and the dishwasher is installed! (Ben has actually done many wonderful things to make our home feel more settled, but this is the only picture I took…)

2) The backyard has been tramped through.

There are killdeer birds everywhere around here, and Anika desperately wants to see one pretending to be injured, to lure us away from it’s nest. So she tried to chase them in our yard, and Kaylia ran around, talking about “killrobins”, and thought the whole thing was great.

Now what other kinds of adventures can we think up??

3) We are socializing! Anytime we see people we know, we practically beg them to please come visit! I’m realizing how much we grew accustomed to people dropping in at any time of the day when we lived at camp.

So if you live in Niverville, and need friends, please let us know! We are so up for friends right now! 🙂 And we are so very thankful for everyone who has taken the time to visit, or have helped us clean and unpack. We love you all!

4) All three play structures have been explored. It has been officially decided that there is no one favorite, but rather, we will be enjoying the variety of all three locations.

5) The sky saves me every day.

I used to look out at the trees each day, but now I look at the sky. I didn’t see it much at camp – the trees blocked the view. But now, it is beautiful and glorious, and I can sit on our couch and watch the sunset.

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And then last night, we went for a walk, and suddenly I felt like we would be okay. Maybe it was the water, or maybe it was stopping to watch the ducks swim by, or maybe it was just enjoying an evening together as a family.

Somehow, it felt like a little, old, familiar piece of what we used to have, tucked away among all that is new.

Whatever it was, it was a good feeling.

We’ll make this “ours”, a little bit at a time!

Weekend Favorites

We spent the weekend in the city.

Whenever we come into Winnipeg, Ben’s parents welcome us into their home to feed us, babysit for us, and borrow an extra vehicle to us so that Ben and I can run off in opposite directions and get twice as many errands done as we divide and conquer.

We are so, so thankful for all that they do to help out. I keep waiting for the day they get tired of us, but it doesn’t seem to happen.

So we move in and make ourselves at home.

During this time of preparing to move, and dealing with transition, it’s been very helpful to have this place to retreat to.

Our weekend was a mixture of relaxing, and running around like crazy, crossing off a long list of errands.

We even got in a last-minute date night! Can’t remember the last time that happened.

It’s hard to tell which was more enjoyable – the 3-D movie, or the glasses….

Hope you had a great weekend, too!