Tuesday, December 31, 2013

681 to 690

681. Vava picking up the crayons Sam spilled and putting them away.
682. Sam banging on the window and calling "come back" when his grandparents left.
683. Sam & Vava, sitting on separate couches, watching George. Sam gets down and asks "can I sit by you, Va?" Then he climbs up and snuggles under her blanket and asks me for toast. Ahh♥.
684. Laughter. Vava trying to climb up my legs ... me: "don't pull my pants down!" Vava: "why not?"
685. Sam in the dark, captivated by stars and more stars.
686. Friends and chocolate and chips and bananagrams.
687. Hugs and well-wishes.
688. Sam waking, scared by the fireworks; "stay, Ma?"
689. Rejoicing in hope!
690. Resting with peace.

Monday, December 30, 2013

671 to 680

671. Good advice.
672. My wise & loving mama.
673. Your strength.
674. Your mercy.
675. Your forgiveness.
676. Crispy spring rolls in hot sauce.
677. Sweet Vava hamming it up for the camera.
678. Sam vacuuming underneath the couch cushions, "oh mess!"
679. Papa Gerry doing somersaults with Sam.
680. Matante's visit.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

661 to 670

661. Vava in her adorable new outfit.
662. Sam wearing size 4 today. Gak. My two-year-old is a giant.
663. Friends greeting us with crayons and a colouring sheet for Sam at church today.
664. Sam and Vava going to the same class in Sunday School together ♥.
665. Soup and friends for supper.
666. Cuddles from bright baby Sophia.
667. My lovely dish-washing mother-in-law.
668. Vava warm on this cold day in her new coat.
669. The Reason for patience.
670. The hope of seeing Your face.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

651 to 660

651. Playing with the kids and their grandparents.
652. Vava trying to sing along with the music.
653. Patrick and Sam playing in the snow.
654. Snagging a nap mid-afternoon.
655. Remembering what exactly my God does with dust.
656. Knowing in whom my hope is found.
657. Letting my Comforter heal hurt.
658. Laughing at Vava's silliness.
659. Opening a gazillion presents ♥ Christmas x2!
670. Sam bringing a snowball inside and chasing me around.

641 to 650

641. Sam being Mr. McHelpington today - dishes and vacuuming, all on his own.
642. Finding an effective natural consequence for toy-grabbing ... hello peaceful afternoon!
643. Remembering that He makes beautiful things out of dust.
644. That fresh clean tidy-house feeling.
645. Sam and Vava waiting eagerly for their grandparents to arrive.
646. House full of friends, plates full of food.
647. Chrissy's birthday :D
648. Patrick rocking the party prep.
649. Finding presents I'd forgotten about for the kids.
650. Playing with my sweet kids, a nice quiet stay-in sort of day.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

631 to 640

631. Waiting - an oasis of solitude and sunshine in the middle of the day.
632. Peppermint mocha.
633. The story of Esther, God's work through her - and in her.
634. Sam making up conversations between his trains.
635. Vava in a striped shirt, adorable elf.
636. Love that puts on its boots and puts the garbage at the curb. ♥
637. Sam's sleepy joke when I tucked him in. "Cold, cold." 'Oh darling, are you cold?' "No (smile); nice warm."
638. Friendly cashier at the pumps.
639. Vava playing Papa-goes-to-work, smothering me in kisses and waving goodbye.
640. Patrick making me laugh with notes on the mirror.

621 to 630

631. The kids adoring Uncle Louis long before breakfast.
632. Sam's breathless "oh wow!" when he saw his new trains and tracks.
633. Precious Vava wearing her new hat all morning ... with the mittens still attached.
634. Sam asking to go to bed during the scary part of the morning (when Patrick blew up his inflatable car).
635. Lunch with (and from) loved ones.
636. Aunt Priscilla hiding under the bed to grab Sam's toes; he squawks "no fair!"
637. Owls and stars on my tree!
638. Vava carrying around the grunty toy pig, squeezing and slapping it with glee.
639. Uncle Louis wearing my pink slippers all day.
640. Having a wonderful Christmas full of family and happiness, laughs and treats, a full table and full hearts.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

611 to 620

611. That You came as a baby.
612. (Oh, of all the wonderful things: a baby!)
613. For our sweet sleepy babies.
614. And everyone, once, a baby.
615. Fresh and new like all this snow.
616. Treasured and honoured, Holy baby.
617. Wrapped and loved and worshiped.
618. Placed under a tree.
619. Shining from shadow.
620. Son of man, Son of God; a baby.

Monday, December 23, 2013

601 to 610

601. Sam greeting me with an enigmatic and adorable "moooooose gone" two mornings in a row.
602. Vava trying to show me she needed the toilet by picking up the potty seat.
603. Sam vacuuming up the sensory tray he spilled, using the wand to get every grain of rice.
604. Finishing my short story.
605. Our neighbours and their gifts and treats.
606. Presents under the tree.
607. Little neighbour asking, suspiciously, "were you guys trick-or-treating?" when she saw us coming home carrying presents.
608. Remembering it's better to give and receive love than be self-sufficient.
609. The gaps in my abilities ... handholds of blessing.
610.  Our stove working again, just in time for Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

591 to 600

591. Hugs & hellos at church this morning.
592. Vava deciding to be grown up and capable all of a sudden; climbing up the stairs and announcing "pee potty."
593. Sam singing fa la la la la ... "fa wa wa wa wa."
594. Church after dark, golden and full of candlelight.
595. The song that's been playing in my heart all week? Our first hymn this morning.
596. Cozy afternoon nap.
597. Patrick putting the kids to bed while I snagged groceries.
598. More than enough redemption, grace, salvation.
599. Laughs and jalapeno soup.
600. Jesus.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

581 to 590

581. Sam asking for a kiss, then saying, "thank you mama for kiss me." ♥
582. Patrick manning the kids while I sorted two closets.
583. Finding cute earrings I thought I'd lost.
584. Vava rediscovering the puppy she fell in love with during our last visit to Chapters.
585. Bright face in the window, waving gladly.
586. Warmer day: only -10!
587. Patrick assembling our armoire.
588. Freshly cleaned mattress and pillows.
589. Thick soft snow like cotton.
590. Writing to a treasured friend.

Friday, December 20, 2013

571 to 580

571. My kids yelling as the cart bumps over ice&snow and makes their voices sound funny.
572. Understanding friends.
573. Finding the song I've been looking for.
574. The zazzling effects of coffee.
575. A sweet kid who loves to share his favourite gum ♥.
576. Caroling in the snow.
577. Candles aglow in the dark.
578. Decadent chocolate truffles.
579. Vava's awe-filled wow.
580. Snagging a bunch of kisses from Sam with reverse psychology.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

561 to 570

561. Round white moon, caught in the branches of a frost-silvered tree, soft blue sky.
562. Two bare bellies like gold, like milk, laughing and darting from room to room.
563. Steamed milk, nuts&bolts, conversation.
564. 2-year-old energy, beautiful and dizzying.
565. The way my parents are so affirming and sympathetic.
566. Sam asking to paint, careful and glad, so proud of his art.
567. Vava putting her diaper in the garbage without being asked.
568. My awesome brother-in-law saying goodbye to cigarettes.
569. Collaborating on a project with some incredible writers.
570. Chores with my One True Love, white wine, Christmas music.

551 to 560

551. Not having to pay postage for sending five presents back home.
552. Seeing my beautiful nieces and nephew on my fridge :).
553. Having super special company.
554. Being blessed with a babysitter who loves&plays with the kids and does the dishes!
555. Sparkly Christmas mail.
556. Vava falling in love with her new teddy.
557. Yummy dessert, good laughs, nice friends.
558. Reading my daily advent book and adoring Jesus.
559. Running into friends at the grocery store.
560. Late chats about good books.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

541 to 550

541. Goodbye kisses from my one true love.
542. Kids jumping on the bed, laughing and silly.
543. The snow being so light and easy to shovel.
544. Sam being friendly and sharing nicely at the train table in Chapters.
545. Sam earnestly playing his harmonica.
546. Vava hanging out with me while I wrote.
547. Getting the cards all sealed and stamped while the kids played.
548. Parcels and cards arriving!
549. Sam 'fwimming' in the tub.
550. Vava using the potty!

531 to 540

531. Vava's good morning, ringing out like a bell.
532. Kids sleeping late.
533. Huge fluffy snowflakes falling all day (so. much. snow.)
534. Christmas love arriving in the mail.
535. Finding new old friends.
536. Making yummy homemade wraps.
537. Chrissy bringing presents to our excited kids.
538. Sam kissing Chrissy with glee.
539. Vava delighedly trying on her new jams and exclaiming thank you!
540. Hearing 'oh come worship' on the drive home.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

521 to 530

521. Sam and Vava talking to each other in the car.
522. Imaginary snowball fight in the living room.
523. Giving Sam an imaginary balloon to take to bed.
524. Extra snuggliness from my very-sleepy Vava.
525. Shopping with the whole family; kids giggling.
526. Writing down my sister's fun Korean address.
527. Couch-cuddles with Patrick.
528. Seeing my mom's beautiful Christmas tree.
529. The adorable Christmas play at church.
530. Patrick making a cute apple & cheese snack for Sam ... on swords.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

511 to 520

511. Sam and Vava's wake-up chats.
512. Sweet mango for breakfast.
513. Sam's cushion-fort.
514. Chatting with my sister, standing on a chair.
515. Getting my Christmas present from Patrick ♥.
516. Taking the kids to the mall and plunging into the shopping insanity.
517. Thick soft snowflakes.
518. Warm slippers.
519. Eggnog and a Christmas movie.
520. Vava's dear and generous kisses.

501 to 510

501. Gift from God in this morning's read.
502. Vava's laugh.
503. Sam's beautiful hair, gleaming after the bath.
504. Late date and mini-manis with the girls.
506. Tomato coconut soup.
507. Leftover tabouleh.
508. Christmas presents from loving friends.
509. Sam and Patrick singing along with YouTube before bed.
510. A second car for two weeks ... yay!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

491 to 500

491. Sam and Vava singing Celine Dion with me on our early morning drive.
492. Vava politely asking "get banoon pees!"
493. Watching the monitor as Patrick settles our scared boy by climbing his big-papa self into Sam's crib for a snuggle.
494. Going to the gym in the middle of the day.
495. A sweet friend who watched my nuggets for me.
496. Family around our table.
497. Toddlers playing with red balloons; sheer joy.
498. Vava pointing at a picture of Sam and exclaiming "brother!"
499. Jesus coming as a baby, gift of God!
500. Jesus coming as a King, gift of God!

481 to 490

481. Crisp sweet melon.
482. Eggnog pancakes.
483. A lovely reminder that I need to teach S&V to share because sharing reflects God's heart, not so I can check it off the good-mom checklist.
484. Sam calling to Vava while we drove to the store, "wook baby! Christmas twee!"
485. The adorable way Vava curls into sleep the instant she's placed in her crib.
486. Patrick's hugs.
487. Another no-shovel day!
488. A skype-hug right when I needed it.
489. Psalm 4.
490. Real friends.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

471 to 480

471. Sam and Vava helping me decorate the tree ... happily, gently, carefully!
472. Washing my hair while both kids were awake ... and no one got hurt.
473. The sky fading from robin's egg blue to white as snow-clouds moved in.
474. Vava telling me she wanted her nap by resting her head on her hand and fake-snoring.
475. Sam making shadow puppets before bed.
476. Dancing with Sam and Vava during lunch.
477. Sam's "you okay ma?" when I banged my wrist.
478. Vava whistling.
479. Knowing there are only 11 days left 'til the days grow lighter.
480. Our little class clown making Sam laugh during timeout.

461 to 470

461. A happy morning with friends.
462. Lots of food for my two-year-old teenager's appetite.
463. Laughing while cleaning house ... skyping with my heart-sister.
464. Seeing sweet friends for the first time in too long.
465. Sam's glad thank you when I brought him a new toothbrush as a wake-up surprise.
466. Finding Vava's Christmas present on sale!
467. Snuggles on the couch and funny YouTube videos with Chrissy.
468. A relaxing neck rub from Patrick.
469. The bright moon smiling hard in the sparkling cold sky.
470. Organic Greek yogurt on sale ... yum win!

Monday, December 9, 2013

1000 gifts

I'm almost halfway through this series of thankful posts, 1000 gifts.  If you haven't read this book by Ann Voskamp, I highly recommend getting a copy and reading it in the quiet hours.  It's so good.  I read it a few years ago, just after Sam was born.  I started keeping a grateful-list then, but in the busyness of figuring out life as a Mom, I stopped writing.  

I know a lot of you are familiar with the book, so I won't review or recap it, but I want to explain my listy posts for those who might be wondering what they mean.

The big idea in One Thousand Gifts is that God blesses us with gifts, constantly, every day.  Once we start opening our eyes to see them, we discover them all around us.  There are big gifts, like salvation and redemption and the eternal character of God - and small gifts, like the way the light glints against my daughter's fuzzy soft hair.  All of creation - gift.  And so keeping a list of the gifts God gives is a way of doing two things: seeing and thanking.  Every item on my list is prefaced with a grateful "ahh.  I see this gift, Father.  Thank you for blessing me with this moment - experience - thing."  

It's not a braggy "look what I have" - because none of this is anything I do or create.  It's all received, given from the Father of Lights who pours out every good and perfect gift.  This series of posts is a teensy attempt to walk through the whirlwind and mind-clutter of everyday and pause when something catches my attention - pause and take it with two open hands and enjoy it and say Thank You, Father.

I used to do the opposite.  I used to grouch through the day, gloomily counting all the things that went wrong, all the ways I suffered and had to do extra work and had to give and give.  I used to think "AUGH!" at every turn.  I really focused on the bad things and I'm sure I was a real joy to be around ;).

I'm not Pollyanna or anything, but I've been growing in gladness and gratitude since I started noticing the gifts that God showers on me every day.  Some blatant, some hidden - it's a bit of a scavenger hunt for treasures, every day - looking for Him, His touch and blessing.  It sure beats mulling and stewing over the unpleasant parts of the day (and yet even those are His gifts ... and I'm learning to say thank you for those parts too).

I love my family more because of this exercise.  It shouldn't be such a surprise, but one of the things that I didn't expect was finding His gifts so abundantly in my children.  Sam and Vava - their actions, words, presence, challenges - they are my gifts from Him.  And every day they show me more of His generous gladness and goodness.  And my husband's kindnesses and love, the way he takes care of us and serves us and enjoys us - these are gifts straight from the heart of God.  I am blessed with heaps of gifts, piled up and lovely, and His opening my eyes to see them ... well, that's another gift.

I am blessed - blessed - and I will never stop saying thank you.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

451 to 460

451. Our pretty tree with lights a-twinkle.
452. Poinsettia reviving after its disastrous weekend in the chilliest corner.
453. Snuggles from my accident-prone darling.
454. New coat hooks inside ... for when the porch is too cold!
455. Pulled pork & lettuce wraps.
456. A hot shower with a good man.
457. More snow.
458. Knowing my little sister-in-law is happy happy happy with her new husband ♥.
459. Seeing a picture of my astonishingly grown up niece.
460. The sweet scent of Fraser Fir pervading the house.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

441 to 450

441. Sleeping in while Patrick cared for the kids.
442. Brunching with friends.
443. Quiche with goat cheese.
444. Sam telling me to go away, because he wanted to keep having fun with Papa.
445. The creaky grindy sound of frozen winter tires on well-packed snow.
446. Everyone napping through a cold winter afternoon.
447. New plans for Christmas.
448. God pressing on my heart.
449. Finding Vava's lost love, Zebra.
450. Making things sparkly clean with my pretty new Norwex cloths.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

431 to 440

431. Wind rushing through the dark night.
432. A completely uninterrupted full night's delicious sleep. Ahhhhh.
433. No shoveling today ... hooray!
434. Sam being concerned for other kids when they cry.
435. Nacho night.
436. Coffee with the ladies :).
437. Laughing with Patrick.
438. Giggling and wrestling with Sam.
439. Vava's quick sorry-kisses.
440. So many new babies on Facebook this week - congratulations, friends!

421 to 430

421. Getting the garbage out just in time!
422. Fun morning at playgroup.
423. Norwex order arrived!
424. Taking Patrick hot drinks at work.
425. Bowling with Sam; he was the pin.
426. Vava rapping Sam on the head after he took Baby.
427. My niece's gorgeous Christmas poster.
428. Vava being so eager for bedtime, sweet sleepy girl.
429. A speaker-phone chat with two of my favourite people.
430. Patrick going to bed at 7 ... sleep away the flu, love!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

411 to 420

411. An unexpected trip to the library; happy kids.
412. The simple pleasure of a good snack: oranges and raisins and cheese, oh yum!
413. Being stronger than I thought.
414. Reading sappy stories to Vava and shamelessly tearing up.
415. Snow-bright night and a bottle and cuddle.
416. Being silly with S&V ♥.
417. Having grapes for sick Patrick!
418. Neighbours who show Jesus' love in practical&generous kindnesses.
419. Sam's glee at the clap-crush method of putting crackers in soup.
420. The house at rest and wrapped in snow.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

401 to 410

401. My Dee who has always loved me. ♥
402. Rearranging the living room ... ahh feels good.
403. Planning a movie double date.
404. My neighbour telling me I'm a good wife.
405. Sam forgiving me for losing patience with him.
406. Vava loving her Baby like Joanne loved Clotilde.
407. The fun of throwing snowballs, even though I have spectacularly terrible aim.
408. Getting an hour of snuggles from Sam during movie time.
409. Unwinding with Patrick, Christmas lights, and a super cozy blanket.
410. A great hair day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

391 to 400

391. Sam climbing up, wrapping his arms around me, and sighing 'nice warm.'
392. Homemade hot&sour soup.
393. Sam asking me to make him snowballs, then pelting me with them.
394. My kids going outside to "play in the snow" ... a.k.a. eat all the snow.
395. The way the windy squally storm turned to calm in my neighbourhood.
396. Two ladies asking about my book at the gym. (The Book Thief. Yes, it's crazy great.)
397. My good husband who stays in with the kids when I want to go out.
398. Vava completely mastering all the climbing she can find. Patrick's daughter much? :).
399. Insulation in our attic ♥ winter nights were never so warm & cozy!
400. The Scriptures, their light, their hope, their peace.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

381 to 390

381. Sam asking me to laugh ♥.
382. Sleepy Vava waking up from her nap, confused and delicious.
383. Fitting into a favourite old skirt.
384. The gas station attendant waving at our pretty Vava.
385. Delicious leftovers for lunch ... thanks Elizabeth!
386. Making snowcones from real snow.
387. Being dumb and awkward with new friends ... always better than lonely and isolated, right?
388. A cookbook with stories that make me cry on every page.
389. Having wonderful parents to miss.
390. Making a solid editing plan for my book. Yay!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

371 to 380

371. Sam clearing his toys off the bookshelf and cuddling down in it for an imaginary nap.
372. Dinner at Donald and Elizabeth's ... with take out to bring home! Yum! We were so thoroughly spoiled.
373. Doing a family photo shoot with the self-timer in the snow.
374. Patrick doing laundry with the kids.
375. Tackling a chore I've been dreading and killing it in ten minutes.
376. Scrubbing the shower with my favourite mint scrub (and using all the hot water ... sorry love!).
377. Movember ending; kiss bliss at last!
378. Making a duplo tower taller than Sam.
379. Vava falling asleep in my arms.
380. Patrick playing Christmas music for me all day, even though he's not really a fan ♥.

Friday, November 29, 2013

361 to 370

361. Thick & fluffy snowflakes, dreamy naptime weather.
362. A pretty decent night's sleep :).
363. Driving behind this irresistible slogan (picture below).
364. A good chat with my brother.
365. Vava waking up from a car-nap and shopping so cheerfully.
366. Cold sweet mandarin oranges.
367. Quoting William Carlos Williams when my kids coloured a red wheelbarrow.
368. Sam's fierce bedtime snuggles, and his sweet 'you okay, ma?'
369. Vava hailing neighbours with her happy wave.
370. Lazing under a cozy blanket while Patrick tidied the house.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

351 to 360

351. A recipe book - including one for Nshima! - from my lovely thoughtful Jo ♥.
352. Patrick putting out the garbage
353. A quick chat with my sister.
354. Greeting the kids post-nap with their toothpaste & tooth brushes .... insta-smiles.
355. Sam sharing nicely at playgroup.
356. Both Sam and Vava wanting a good snuggle this afternoon.
357. Vava and her friend giggling together and trying to hold hands during supper.
358. Having friends join us for dinner.
359. Looking through old pictures of people I love.
360. Going to bed a little earlier ... good night!

What Comfort & Joy Looks Like

I woke up for what seemed like the millionth time last night, because Sam was cough/crying in his sleep.  He has this cough - it just seems to be sticking around - and it's waking at least two of us up every hour or so.  Sometimes he sleeps right through it (lucky bum), other times he cries and I go in, pass him his sippy cup, rub his back, and settle him back to sleep.  Sometimes all of this wakes up Vava too, who wants a bottle (since she's awake) and Mama's on duty, and so it goes.  Back and forth, praying for a little more sleep.

And then morning comes and they're raring to go but somehow I struggle to shake the sleepiness off.

This is my ideal morning: I wake up before the kids after 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  I have coffee and some quiet time, tidy anything left around from the night before, and prepare the kids' breakfasts.  Then I turn on some music and let it drift up the stairs until they wake. 

This is morning lately: Sam coughs into the monitor, loud, and cries.  Vava stirs, and joins him.  The cacophany manages to penetrate my (oh so blissful!) 2-hour sleep-coma, and I find my feet hitting the floor for the fifth or sixth time since I went to bed.  I carry a gigantic kid in each arm, counting each stair because my eyes are too heavy to open.  The sixteenth step is the floor and I can put them down and zombie-walk toward my coffee (thank you, Patrick!).

I shouldn't even be writing about this.  Parents with fussy sleepers will shoot me - because my kids both soared through sleep-training with ease, and when everyone's healthy and all things are normal, they both sleep for a solid, uninterrupted 11-hour stretch.  So I'm used to being totally spoiled, I know.

I was whining to Patrick about how tired I was, how tough it is to get up every time Sam coughs, how annoying that Vava wakes wide-eyed and wants a bottle for sleep to resume ... when it hit me.  This is what comfort and joy looks like.  You wanna keep Christ in Christmas? 

Because I've been thinking about that (bossy and dreadful) phrase we see every year about this time ... Keep Christ in Christmas.  

I don't know what the slogan-slingers mean, exactly, when they say that.  Are they protesting the shorthand X-mas?  Are they rejecting the generic Happy Holidays?  Are they wishing for a little less Santa Claus and a little more Baby Jesus?  I'm not really sure.  But it made me think.

What am I celebrating, and how?

I'm celebrating the Saviour of the world, born of a virgin, laid in a manger, given for all humanity. I'm celebrating God's generosity by giving gifts, celebrating Jesus' coming to the world by hanging up lights, celebrating His quest to bring many sons to glory by making special effort to spend time with - and love - family.

But how did God celebrate that first Christmas?  I'm not trying to be blasphemous or anything, but when I wonder what His Christmas was like, I think it was a little bigger on the sacrifice and smaller on the may-i-have-more-gravy-please.  He celebrated that first Christmas with a gift.  A costly gift. A sweet baby gift. And he wrapped that gift up in the silver paper of starlight, the golden ribbon of angel-song.  Heaven's perfect lamb.  He gave Him to us ... and that Christmas, Heaven was a little emptier.  The Son, poured out for our redemption.  

When I think about Christmassy feelings, I think of things like a warm house, lots of delicious things to eat, twinkly lights, cozy clothes, happy laughter.  I think about the security of being inside when snow howls outside, nibbling something dipped in caramel or cheese.  I remember the Christmas when Patrick and I fell in love, and the heart-stopping wonder of belonging and foreverness.  I don't really think about getting up in the middle of the night for weeks on end.  About wiping runny nose after runny nose and changing soggy bums.  About preparing her bottle when I'd rather be turning my pillow to the cool side. I don't think about putting myself last.  

But that, really, is the spirit of Christmas.  Isn't it?  Giving your best for someone else's blessing?  Like God did.  It's not about surrounding ourselves in comfort and joy, but others. Not about feasting and filling ourselves (all fingers pointing at me, I know it), but, in honour of Jesus who gave Himself as the Bread of Life for starving souls everywhere, giving food to the hungry and clothes to the naked and love to the lonely.  And my crib-bound babies, crying and lonely and hungry in the wide dark night, are the nearest needies I know.  But there are more too - homeless and hungry and cold and I don't even have to look outside of my neighbourhood to find opportunities to pour out.

Keeping Christ in Christmas starts here.  When the monitor carries the sound of my midnight babies, I can bring comfort.  When I'm buying groceries, I can buy for the food bank too.  When I plan parties, I can search for the lonely to invite.  When I make a Christmas list, let it be for giving - not receiving. I might scrupulously say Merry Christmas and sing Silent Night more than Jingle Bells and buy verse-engraved presents from the Christian bookstore but if I'm not giving with His sacrificial love, I'm not keeping Christ in Christmas.  

I'm praying for eyes to see the corners where I can shine a little merry brightness.  Looking for someone who needs a little comfort & joy.  I think there are two little squawkers in the middle of the night that could handle a Christmas-hearted mama and some joyful self-sacrifice.  He's already blessed me with comfort and joy ... so You know God's going to ask me to be like Him ... and pour it out.

God rest ye merry, gentle readers :).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

341 to 350

341. Listening to Sam's conversations when he plays alone. (Today Diego wanted to ride the tractor but he was too big and it would break.)
342. Stripping the bed and letting the kids jump on the mattress.
343. Sam helping me with laundry.
344. Vava nestling down like a kitten into fresh soft blankets.
345. Sweet Emma watching the kids s we could both go out together!
346. Sam and Vava going to sleep like champs.
347. Christmas music in four-part harmony.
348. That achey-happy homesick feeling ... wishing my sisters could meet my new friends.
349. Realizing my old boots will crunch happily through another year's worth of snow.
350. Fuzzy sheets fresh on the bed! Goodnight world ... hello coziness.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

331 to 340

331. Patrick getting the kids out of bed.
332. Bowling with the basketball and four toy trucks standing on end.
333. Vava down on all fours for the serious task of eating snow.
334. Smoothing baby oil on winter-dry skin.
335. Painting mess and happiness.
336. That bluey golden moment when it's still technically light out, but dark enough to turn on the Christmas lights.
337. Kids bursting because Patrick came home.
338. Two big clean babies in fuzzy warm jams, cuddling mama and papa before bed.
339. A gorgeous new song, fine in my ears.
340. Sam trying to obey the letter of the law by taking imaginary bites at suppertime.

Monday, November 25, 2013

321 to 330

321. Vava's rabitty front tooth.
322. Sam and Vava being so happy to see each other this morning.
323. Vava bringing cranky Sam a favourite train and making the stormclouds flee.
324. A glad message from an old friend.
325. One of Vava's friends visiting this morning and totally bossing  the forward crawl.
326. The magical way a good playlist can soothe & settle everyone at once.
327. The wonder of God choosing a mercy seat to meet with us. Mercy. His heart is fixed on blessing us, redeeming us, meeting us in costly mercy.
328. Calendar squares filling up with good things.
329. Cycling beside the old man I inspired to gym-read last week.
330. Beautiful snow and bearable temperatures.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

311 to 320

311. The strange and lovely sensation of being small ... sitting in a crowd of people who are all standing and singing glad to the Lord.
312. Being surprised by a fresh blanket of snow after Sunday school.
313. Stealing a nap on the couch while Vava played.
314. Finding a dollar!
315. Vava's irresistible cuteness in her stripey hat, even when she wears it on top of her hood.
316. Cute blue boots for miss V to wear with dresses.
317. Sam spontaneously thanking Patrick for making him a snowball.
318. Christmas carols that melt self and greed and pride clean off the heart.
319. Getting my first shoveling exercise of the season.
320. Organizing the pantry and realizing there is more yumminess there than I thought!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

301 to 310

301. Patrick being home with us; hooray for Saturdays!
302. Sam's massive recent appetite took a little rest today ... I actually did something other than feed him.
303. Taking the kids bowling - they were both so excited, and got to use the ramp.
304. Nice warm blankets to wrap around them in the car.
305. A chance to reconnect with my Emma-girl.
306. A peek into a fascinating book.
307. Quick hellos with dear friends.
308. Lovely faces around the table.
309. Creamy sweet smooth cheesecake!
310. Christmas lights up and a-twinkle.

Friday, November 22, 2013

291 to 300

291. My God's kind heart - overwhelmed by His tenderness today.
292. Chilling with mamas and sharing each others' struggles.
293. Last night's leftovers for lunch and supper today ... yum!
294. Both kids napping at the same time, for a long time, so I could write.
295. The clear morning sky rimmed with ominous heavy clouds.
296. Fat snowflakes dancing in the air.
297. Silly Vava saying Hi Poo when I change her diaper.
298. A quick just-to-say-hi phone call from my mama.
299. An envelope stuffed with good tears and love, addressed hilariously.
300. Unexpected old friends sitting around our table & laughing. There ought to be a really rich old word to describe that satisfying-loneliness feeling.

when it's your own fault

Sam is two.  There are lots of things I tell him not to do.  Some days it feels like all I do is say "no!" in varying degrees of sternness.  Sometimes I turn around in the middle of telling him not to do something and find him doing that EXACT thing ... like reaching up to touch a hot burner, or pushing his sister, or turning on the TV.  Gah.  Seriously, I need a recording of myself saying "no, Sam" on repeat, just so I can save my voice.  I have good reasons for saying no - he'll get hurt, develop an ugly character, or turn his brain to mush - but Sam doesn't always see the reasons.  He just hears the "no", that burden I place on him ... and sometimes decides to disobey.

When he gets hurt, he flies to me.  Tears welling and overflowing.  Full-on wailing.  He heaves himself against me and wraps his arms around me and cries snot and tears all over my neck.  

And I coldly say "you were warned!" and walk away ...
No!  Ugh, it hurt me just to write that - of course not, a thousand times, no!
When my darling boy is hurt, I comfort him and hold him and kiss him, and rub his back and smooth his hair and wash his face and when his sobbing is done and his breathing has returned to normal and all that awful tension is gone from his body, I talk with him and remind him again about obeying mama.

And that's God's heart for us too.  Jesus told us so - you remember the parable of the prodigal son?  I like to think of it as the parable of the waiting father.  God provides for us and teaches us and when we disobey Him He is always waiting to wrap us up in His great arms and comfort us while we cry. Yes, even (especially?) when our hurt is our own fault.

A friend was sharing a piece of her struggle with me recently, and she confessed that she didn't feel like she could pray about it, because she felt like her burden was her fault, the natural consequence of her own actions.  And she broke into tears.

And I cried with her.

And then I laughed, because there is one thing motherhood is teaching me and it is this: God's tender, kind, dear heart is always loving His children.

Yes, even this God who gives us commandments, laws, and makes His expectations clear in His word.  His laws - much like my rules for Sam - are for our blessing.  Not because He's power-hungry, or gets a kick out of saying no.  No.  Because He is kind and good and blesses us and protects us and cares about our character and peace and comfort and joy.  That's why He gives us crosses.  To make us strong, to keep us steady, to build us into good things.

It wouldn't be called a cross if it wasn't difficult.  I don't have to tell Sam "you can't leave the table until you eat this bowl of blackberries!" because he loves blackberries.  So I don't burden him with that rule. But I do burden him with "you must have a nap" because even Sam doesn't like himself when he is overtired.  I do burden him with "don't push your sister" because I want him to enjoy a loving relationship with her (and be able to get along with other kids), so I require him to practice self-control.  I do burden him with boredom, because it gives him a chance to think and wonder and create.  The cross he bears - the rules he is given -  will strengthen his character and shape his personality and help him to grow into someone good and loving and intelligent and strong.  It's hard - but worth it.

My mom and dad and aunt and uncle visited recently.  When they were here, we got talking about our crosses - the particular burdens and struggles that God has given each of us to bear.  My aunt said that if everyone's crosses were thrown down in a heap, and we got to choose which one to bear, she'd choose her own again.  It made me think about my own cross - and I would too.  Some of the struggles I carry, you already know about. Miscarriages.  PCOS.  The ebb and flow of motherhood exhaustion.  And some burdens are private - heaviness that God lays on me alone, to bear before Him and grow strong in the carrying.  Sometimes I drop the burden, try to shuck off that yoke - and get hurt.  My own fault. And I find myself hurting, crying - and I knew better.

And I run to my Lord.
Sometimes I don't even have the words.
I just cry in the presence of the Comforter. (Oh, God is kind!  He is the Comforter!)  I throw myself into His presence with my ugly tears and incoherent wails and everything.  
And He loves me and He cares for me and He forgives me and He washes my face and kisses my cheek and when the storm subsides He reminds me to obey Him.

Ah.  Some days, Sam's constant disobedience is my cross.  Vava's determination to explore the world one bump at a time with her precious bald head is my cross (and hers ... :S).  Being so far away from my family is my cross.  When it gets heavy, tiring, overwhelming, I take so much comfort, place so much hope, in the assurance that God is crafting me into someone good and loving and intelligent and strong.  

My So-wise Father ... thank You for loving me.

My cross-carrying mamas ... keep on with your rules and your comfort and the thousand toddlerly repetitions.  They'll learn.

My burdened friends ... come cry in the arms of the Comforter.  Even when it's your own fault.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

281 to 290

281. After we dropped Patrick off at work this morning, Sam declaring, "Sam no want Papa work. Papa home. Sam work." ♥
282. Garbage day, fresh start, five minutes without a stinky diaper in the house ;).
283. Vava walking around and playing independently at playgroup.
284. A just-when-I-needed-it reminder that Jesus is with me.
285. Yumtacular supper for company that canceled ... so we got to enjoy all that deliciousness and prettification ourselves :).
286. Christmas lights shining merrily from a happy house.
287. Hazelnut Mocha Pressies and cranberry tea.
288. Patrick running to the store for formula at bedtime because I thought I could wait til tomorrow, but Vava woke up and wanted tomorrow's portion tonight.
289. Neighbourhood chimes singing in the dark.
290. My soft, high bed at the end of a busy day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

271 to 280

271. Chats with my sisters this morning. Is there anything more reviving than feeling loved - celebrated - understood by your sisters?
272. Playing outside with my giddy goons.
273. Pleasant temperatures and mittenless hands ♥ ... one less battle.
274. Sam's glee at playing catch with a really bouncy ball.
275. Vava figuring out Sam's pull-tab book and reading it to herself this afternoon.
276. The relief of hiding in the bathroom when both kids decided to yell/wail for a solid hour.
277. Friends joining us for supper.
278. That sweet stillness ... kids in bed, carpet vacuumed, dishes done.
279. The cozy sway of my rocking chair.
280. Sam cheering for himself after (unwillingly) cleaning his marker off the cupboards.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

261 to 270

261. A friendy morning!
262. Sam practicing his sharing words before kids arrived :).
263. Cozy quiet time in my new rocking chair nook.
264. Patrick coming home for lunch today! Yay!
265. Curling up in the crib with my sad darling. (hehe I totally did. And I fit!)
266. A reminder to turn commercial Christmas upside down, to find His presence, not presents.
267. Hazelnut syrup in hot cocoa. Mmm.
268. Getting laundry done ... ahh.
269. Songs that hit right where you're feeling.
270. Hilarious Vava, looking stubbly and homeless in blackberry juice and Sam's old shirt.

Monday, November 18, 2013

251 to 260

251. Vava taking 2 naps today, after a cranky early morning.
252. A visit from Chrissy, who came bearing peppermint hot chocolate and hugs.
253. Sam trying to make it lunchtime by eating at 930 so Chrissy would come earlier.
254. Vava in her snowsuit ... adorable string bean in a marshmallow cloud.
255. Friends around our table at suppertime.
256. Vava brushing her hair ... the substance of things hoped for? :)
257. Friends who love me even in ratty old clothes.
258. That oldie-but-goodie, the welcome-home kiss.
259. Fun food art for my young bottomless pit.
260. Adorable video of happy babies.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

241 to 250

241. Arriving at church during Sam's all-time favourite hymn (holy, holy, holy).
242. Vava willingly staying in the nursery for the first time ever.
243. Meeting (so many!) lovely Nova Scotians at church.
244. Sam pretending to sleep - like Vava - in the car on the way home, and talking the whole time.
245. Wearing gemtone tights.
246. The look on Sam's face when Patrick told him yes, we were going to let him play with the trains at Chapters.
247. An unexpected encounter with the original flooring upstairs, thanks to our leaky humidifier ... weirdly enough, tearing up the carpet was super fun.
248. A calendar full of happiness this week.
249. Breakfast inspiration ... egg and pepper owls tomorrow!
250. Sweet sleepy Sam murmuring to himself "I love Pa."
Sam pretending to sleep ... and oh yes, covered in cracker dust.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

231 to 240

231. Dancing in the kitchen with my one true love.
232. Patrick taking Vava for her first bottle of the day.
233. Happy breakfast a quatre.
234. Seeing friends at the parade.
235. Shopping with a silly dynamo of cuteness.
236. Hearing Petra on Songza and feeling like my brother-in-law was playing cassettes in the next room.
237. Making peppermint chocolate bark for the first yummy time ever.
238. Sam's contrite apology after waking Vava.
239. Enjoying a treat-tacular cheat day.
240. Friends who hug.  Ahhh.

Friday, November 15, 2013

221 to 230

221. Sam and Vava doing cheers with their sippy cups.
222. Vava's spontaneous and adorable kisses.
223. Happy cuddles with Sam before naptime - sunshine after rain.
224. When Vava forgot the words to peekaboo and jumped out at me and said "baa!" instead.
225. Sam's glee at walking over the train bridge.
226. Vava gobbling soup and calling for more between bites.
227. The big bright moon in a wide black sky.
228. Family cuddles around an episode of Peppa Pig.
229. Laughing so hard with my heart-sister I could barely breathe.
230. Making a schedule for tomorrow with lots & lots of boxes to check.  Ahhh. I love checking items off lists!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

211 to 220

211. Sam and his pretty friend holding hands and watching for cars.
212. Vava calling "again!" every time she reached the bottom of the slide.
213. Lovely snowflakes, falling but not staying.
214. 3-minute mug cake.
215. Safety on the slippery road.
216. Cloud-shrouded sunset, mysterious and dim.
217. Chatting in the kitchen with Patrick, kids settling into sleep.
218. Neighbourhood dogs taking a breather during naptime.
219. Winning a battle of wills with Sam.
220. Patrick almost using air freshener instead of shaving cream. (Hehe I'm glad he caught it in time)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

201 to 210

201. Frozen yogurt tubes for my teether.
202. Sunshiney walk.
203. Lollipops for the kids from the nice lady at the store.
204. Mittens on strings.
205. Old movies on YouTube.
206. Sam "helping" clean up.
207. Running into a lovely friend at the gym.
208. Starbucks date, warm drinks, good chat.
209. Southwest salad for supper ... with bacon, because everything should be with bacon.
2 10. A fairytale, conceived and awaiting delivery.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

191 to 200

191. Sam exclaiming "oh cute!" when I put on my holey old sweater.
192. His amazement at the fan blowing a balloon straight up in the air.
193. Vava sticking out her tongue whenever she sees the camera.
194. An hour of quiet time in the wee sma's.
195. Phone call from Patrick just to say hi.
196. Sam eating his imaginary kitty. (It didn't suffer lasting damage, he snuggled down to sleep with it later.)
197. Dayquil.
198. Realizing that God is answering my prayer to make me a more patient mother by providing me with ample opportunity to practice.
199. Taking comfort in the long view.
200. Knowing that other mothers are in the same boat, bailing with faltering arms and praying for miracles.

Monday, November 11, 2013

181 to 190

181. Soluguard. Amen.
182. Vava saying tons of new words.
183. Fresh air and sunshine in the backyard; my sick babes needed it so much.
184. Sam bursting through the door with cough syrup, "Wook ma! Sam buy!"
185. Sam up late, dancing with delight in the lamplight.
186. Precious, hilarious Vava sleeping like a sitter, legs straight out in front of her.
187. A good book.
188. The bright gym and my favourite lazy workout.
189. Cranberry tea with my one true love.
190. All of those who fought for all of this.  Their courage and selflessness humbles me.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

171 to 180

171. Both kids having colds at the same time.
172. Tag-teaming the morning so we both got a little more sleep.
173. Borrowed movies - something new to make the day nice for our house-bound snotsicles.
174. Some one-on-one Vava time.
175. Lovely splash of sunshine.
176. Sam taking Monkey for a train ride
177. Tea tree oil in the humidifier ... mmm the smell.
178. Sunshine in the forecast for a solid week.
179. Settlers of Catan date this week!
180. Fresh inspiration to work hard and rest gladly.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

161 to 170

161. Yummy lunch with new friends.
162. Sam bowling with Weebles as pins... being the ball himself.
163. Hazelnut flavoured syrup in my coffee.
164. Vava going back to sleep after an interrupted nap.
165. Quiet afternoon with Patrick.
166. Sam's imaginary cat.
167. Patrick manning the kids and cart while we got groceries.
168. Vava going down the stairs all by herself for the first time ever.
169. Darling husband folding laundry.
170. A pretty new scarf that twists so beautifully.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Vava Grows Up

Today I had one of those really strange moments where one little change means that nothing will be the same.  You know - the ones that hit you with surprise and clarity and probably seem a little more boggling because you were up three times in the night.

I took the kids to Mom's Group.  The big kids play downstairs, and the babies play on their moms' laps upstairs.  So Sam goes downstairs and Vava sticks with me.  Except today, Sam asked if Vava could play with him.  No no, I told him, babies play upstairs.  And then Sam brings toys upstairs to play with Vava, and she picks up a truck and goes brrrm brrrm and pushes it down the hallway, and sits at the top of the stairs.  So we take Sam downstairs again, and Vava sees a Little People play house and she's smitten.  She starts playing right away.  I wait a bit, pause, walk away, and she doesn't look up.  The last thing I see before going upstairs is Vava kneeling in front of the house like a big kid, carefully putting toy people into the rooms.

And then all the other big things she's been doing lately really hit me - she's been asking for her bottle and soother with words, not cries ("gwink" and "footh").  She and Sam have been playing pretty independently, with less interference from me.  She's been taking steps across the living room, when no arms are open to catch her.  She's feeding herself solids with very little (no?) guidance. It's not so much that these are big steps for a 12-month-old, but I guess I haven't been paying much attention to the fact that she's growing up ... and it just hit me as a really big surprise that she's so capable and independent.

I love my Vava-bell.

151 to 160

151. The kids being so happy because Patrick woke them this morning.
152. Bittersweet moment of realizing how grown up Vava has become.
153. Sam wagging his bum around and laughing.
154. "Corn hot, Va! Sam bwo corn? Bite now, Va."
155. Driving to get Patrick from work, we see a plane take off into the evening sky.  An astonished Sam exclaims, "plane crash moon, ma!" Perspective lessons from a two-year-old.
156. Coming out of the store into a dark world, Sam warns me, "shh ma. Sun fweep."
157. Vava waking up for the bottle she'd been too sleepy to drink at bedtime, smiley and precious.
158. Warm blankets for snuggling on the couch.
159. Taco salad.
160. Patrick laughing.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

151 to 160

151. An early-morning shower.
152. Sam beelining for Vava after naptime, with a joyful hi! and a sweet kiss.
153. Midday kisses from Patrick.
154. Sam's eyes lighting up when friends came over.
155. Coffee for a cold drive.
156. A houseful of happy kids.
157. Compliments from a five-year-old.
158. Chilly chat with neighbours, hugs, hellos.
159. Strength for today.
160. Hope for tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

141 to 150

141. Sam and Vava chasing each other around the living room.
142. That unexpected moment when the sun shone through, and everything grey became pink and gold.
143. Both kids happily gobbling the same food for once! Three cheers for Pad Thai.
144. Breakfast alone with Patrick.
145. My dad's voice on the phone.
146. Sam's delight over finding a "baby tree!" (the spine of a leaf).
147. Vava's hilarious attempts to climb up the slide ... crawling, in boots and mittens.
148. Treats and laughter with fun friends.
149. Sam teaching Vava how to build a tower.
150. Vava's joy at being reunited with Baby after a 30-minute outing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

131 to 140

131. Vava on my hip while I was making supper, leaning over the bacon with her little hand out demanding "come! Come!"
132. A kind friend watching Sam so Vava and I could have a peaceful appointment.
133. Vanilla latte.
134. Naptime ... for me too.
135. Silly, growly hugs from Sam.
136. Sweet nurses for Vava's shots.
137. A fun evening out with the kids.
138. My big helper lugging a huge bag of mangoes.
139. Glancing back over some old prayers and seeing so many answers.
140. Old sermon notes - and old preachers.

No One Should Have To Go Alone

The last thing I saw you do was sink into the earth.

The preacher raised his black shoe and pressed it squarely over that bump in the plastic green carpet, and your body – locked up, so strangely – eased its way down into the precise rectangle you'd been allotted.

I don't know how I knew there was a pedal underneath the fake grass, or that it was the catalyst for sending your body away, but I knew. And when I think of that awful shoe pressing that awful pedal, I am filled with rebellion and suddenly I am four years old, fighting to throw myself on top of your casket, wanting to go with you because no one should have to go alone.

I think I've been wanting to go with you ever since.

Because no one should have to go alone.

Life is full of things I don't understand and since you died, the oldest part of me has only been alone.

It was inevitable, our goodbye. Your leaving was just a matter of time. You hadn't recognized your life in a long time, but I couldn't recognize mine without you.

I remember this one time. All the adults were gone, you were home with us kids. And my big sisters were wide-eyed because you had been carrying kibble out for the dog – and you ate some. I defended you, saying maybe it was good, who knew? Maybe you liked it – and if someone had lived as long and as kindly a life as you, then why shouldn't you eat dog food if you felt like it? It didn't seem to do any harm – to you, or the dog.

There was one of the thousand times we went for a walk. We got lost. I knew it wasn't quite right, that you shouldn't know your way home, and we shouldn't have turned into that street. There was a wilderness in your eyes, and I could see that you knew it wasn't quite right, that I should know my way home.

There was the book I loved. Long and wordy. And you read it to me seven times in a row, and even I tired of asking, “Again?” And I realized that you were different from everybody else but it was a difference that was okay.

You wore a grey cardigan. I suppose I must have spent a lot of time with my head upon your shoulder because I see it up close in my mind's eye. Feel the scratchy softness of it on my cheek.

Sometimes I turn to show you something and the world tilts a little bit, because you aren't there. A yellow flower on the side of the road, the spring's first pussywillows, that perfect mud for squelching between your toes.

Where are you?

I mean, I know where you are. I know you're in Heaven, and life is glad and good and you're home – finally, home. I guess when I ask where you are what I really mean is I miss you here with me.

121 to 130

121. Vava trying to stand on her head.
122. Christmas music.
123. A happy story about a friend's new crush to start the day off with a smile.
124. Crayons with Sam, drawing tracks, tracks, and more tracks.
125. Patrick coming home; best moment of every day.
126. Friends for supper.
127. A room full of lively fiddles and instant homesickness.
128. Stack of dishes,  done.
129. Sam's awe (fear?) at the speed with which white clouds can tear across a black sky.
130. A just-right pillow.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

111 to 120

111. Bath toys, bubbles, and cute baby bottoms.
112. Vava's delight over bacon bits.
113. Sick Sam snuggles.
114. "Night Ma! Kiss?"
115. Banana pancakes.
116. Texting with my family.
117. Chat in the sunshine.
118. Smiles at the grocery store.
119. Refreshing shower.
120. Heavy clouds at sunset.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

101 to 110

101. Warm husband who snuggled me close in my chilly, fevery sleep.
102. And brought me tea.
103. And manned the kids.
104. So I could sleep until 3pm.  Seriously.
105. And did the grocery shopping.
106. And put the kids to bed.
107. And cleaned the house.
108. And did the laundry.
109. And told me he loved me.
110. And drew happy faces on my feet.

Friday, November 1, 2013

while it was still dark

it's still dark.
maybe there's a huge spray of stars overhead, or maybe it's cloudy, but either way - dark.
dawn hasn't yet softened the pitch into something more navigable.
and these women come along, carrying jars and baskets and bags.
and sorrow.
that heaviest burden.
it's night, coal-dark, and their hearts are darker.
i think it's too stark for tears.  i think their throats and eyes are burning, that dry ache of despair and confusion.  
there's no way they could have slept.
maybe they sat up and whispered together.
maybe they stared into the dark, eyes wide open, hearts nailed shut.
they walk stark in the horrible awareness that this is a world without hope, carrying their bottles, their last things.
it's not like they'll be able to use them.
it's a pointless walk, at best.
their heart's hope is dead and gone, their grief unresolvable.
but still they come to the graves.
they come to soften the blow of death, to anoint it, to give tenderly what was not permitted in those last searing hours of life.
good samaritans ... late, but better late than not at all.
and perhaps they can persuade a guard to relent, crack the seal, and release their tears, their mourning.

dawn whispers in the east, and 
there are guards, sleeping, all around.
the breeze quickens, slight, a breath
and there is an odd scent of - spring - 
and the stone is rolled away

the stone is rolled away
and the dead they came to wail over is
standing there
glad and perfect and FINISHED!

light streams from everywhere
and joy is deep and sweet and still
and glad and
the relief!
the stone is rolled away
death is gone
leave that tomb for someone else, 
it's irrelevant
this resurrection changes


Ninety-one to One Hundred

91. Children's Tylenol in the long painful night.
92. Coffee in the early painful morning ;).
93. Sam and Vava waving to each other from opposite sides of the patio door.
94. Simple but yummy side dish for supper.
95. Airplane rides and giggles.
96. One-sock Vava.
97. Sam's fascination with bugs, and his determination not to let any get too close to mama.
98. Sam licking Vava, "yum baby!"
99. Sam passing the markers to Vava; dexterous darling conquers the tightest of lids.
100. Sam hiding under the table, announcing "Sam hide ... make poo. Sigh ... No, make mess." (No poop ... just an attempt to drag a red herring across the Case of the Art Supply Mess.)

Eighty-one to Ninety

81. Up early while the kids slept late. Stillness.
82. Sam passing Vava snacks in the car.
83. Playgroup ... and mom chats for sanity's sake.
84. Creating a spectacular blackberry-mandarin-vanilla salad dressing.
85. Cinnamon candied walnuts.
86. Neighbour-love for the kids! Love our street.
87. Sam passing out candy by the fistful.
88. Guests.
89. An adorable baby announcement.
90. Invitation for next weekend - yay!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Seventy-one to Eighty

71. Ducks streaming through still water, shining in sunlight.
72. Sam pushing Vava in the stroller, bumping it right up to the edge of the bridge. "Wook, Va, ducks!"
73. Clapping "yay mama!" when I succeeded in putting on the mittens he'd been protesting against.
74. Friendly neighbours giving our kids an early treat.
75. Sam pretending to have and release a handful of helium balloons.
76. A stranger showing me her son's performance video in the mall.
77. Unexpectedly low repair bill :).
78. Hardworking hands, home from work, right into the dishpan.
79. Delicious lunch.
80. Quiet naptime, house still, tidiness restored.

Sixty-one to Seventy

61. A break from teething pain, crying, red cheeks.
62. Kids absorbed in the bath, new toys, splashing.
63. A shower, uninterrupted, while Sam was awake!
64. Laughing family run at dusk, baby legs eager and wobbly.
65. Grandparents' love arriving in the mail.
66. Vava's spontaneous "thank you".
67. Sam and Patrick's tower, eight feet tall and full of glee.
68. Sam blowing raspberries and laughing as only he can.
69. Cuddling with Vava under a navy sky.
70. Sweet sweet sleep.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fifty-one to Sixty

51. Playing in the park with a lovely friend.
52. Sam's infectious laugh.
53. Vava's new tooth.
54. Fried feta dipped in homemade marinara.
55. Government papers coming in on the very last possible day! Whew!
56. Early morning quiet, coffee, Bible.
57. Sparkly new earrings, hand-delivered from Prague.
58. Breaking out my wonderfully warm (and fantastic) giant toque.
59. Sam, finding me curled up with his stuffed monkey, brings me his soother and says "mama fweep."
60. Anbesol ... relief for little miss v.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Forty-one to fifty

41. Watching snow fall on a pitch-black morning.
42. My kids playing together, giggley elves in stripey jams.
43. Breakfast sizzling on the grill, music, and dancing with miss Vava. Recipe for a warm heart.
44. Vava loving spicy food.
45. Kids singing the number song together.
46. One True Love doing dishes.
47. Yogurt topped with blackberries.
48. Sam telling me about his day ("Sam mine! Kids cry." ... I think he might've had a sharing issue in Sunday school!)
49. Smiley faces Patrick drew on Vava's feet.
50. Coffee and playtime at Chapters with friends.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thirty-one to Forty

31. Friends around a table, faces bright and hearts glad.
32. Sleeping in ... ahhh such a Saturday!
33. Coming home to two glad welcomes and squeezy hugs.
34. Silly Sam-love.
35. Vava eating crackers like a boss.
36. Cuddles with cozy baby Phia.
37. Amazing babysitter and the peace of knowing my kids are in her good care.
38. Late-night treats and a good chat.
39. Grocery day ... full cupboard, full fridge, full thanks.
40. Nighttime silence as the house creaks itself to sleep.

Twenty-one to thirty

21. Snowpants from people we love, to keep our kids and hearts warm.
22. A huge pile of leaves at the park.
23. Chicken and bacon and tomatoes and basil and parmesan salad for lunch ... mmm.
24. Sam's beautiful smile.
25. Vava's little nose, red in the cold.
26. Warm soup, comfort and joy.
27. A good book and a hot bath.
28. I love you from my nephew.
29. An unexpected hug in the mall.
30. Answered prayer for a heartsore friend.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

eleven to twenty (1000 gifts)

11. white branches against a black sky, specked with stars.
12. sweet warm sleeper snuggled in my arms.
13. my sister's voice on the phone, so close.
14. a happy scene in the book i'm reading.
15. belly-laugh laughing with patrick.
16. sam putting his arms around vava, saying i love you.
17. bacon and hot sauce.
18. sam singing before bed.
19. hilarious vava barking at the mailman.
20. sam blowing kisses to blondes at red lights.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One-to-ten (1000 gifts)

1. Fuzzy socks in warm boots.
2. Naptimes coinciding.
3. Brave girl whooshing joy on the slide.
4. Busy boy holding my hand to cross the street.
5. Handsome kiss goodbye.
6. Morning coffee, waiting for me.
7. Toys all over the floor, crumbs of happy play.
8. Scripture Audio right on my phone.
9. Friends - so dear! - coming soon.
10. French onion soup with melty cheese.

Friday, October 18, 2013

how to make baked collard chips

there is a way to time your baked collard chips perfectly.

8 minutes at 375*, roughly ... but the perfect way is this:

when you've ripped out the spines and tossed the leaves in sesame oil, laid them flat on parchment paper on your favourite pan, and sprinkled them with zesty salt, pop them in the oven, and take out an absorbing book.

you must stand while reading, or the trick won't work.  sitting is too seductive.  stand at the counter, hunched like an ancient granny, chin in hand.  read your book until the smell of the baked collards catches your attention.  as soon as it pulls you out of that other world, fly to the oven, open the door, put on your oven mitts, and remove the pan.

they're flat and crisp and flakey ... perfectly, deliciously done.  now you can enjoy your book - and crispy greens.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

dear vava (ten!)

darling vava.
you are ten months old.
it feels like five, tops.  
i can't believe it's been ten months.

you are nothing like we expected.
no, let me amend that.
you are a lot like we expected.  you are beautiful, delicious, and irresistible.

and you are a firecracker.  you have a long fuse ... you're pretty patient with sam, and his rough & tumble hugs, his less-than-generous toy-trades, his big loud laughs.  but sometimes you want what you want and you aren't going to stand for anything less!

like when you want to stand up.  you grab on to whatever is nearest and you pull yourself up.  you're so strong, baby.  and you love to run.  you clutch my index fingers for all you're worth and just go.  crazylegs labelle is what we're calling you these days.  vava VROOM!

you have an adorable wave.  like the queen, on fast forward.  you have the prettiest little leopard-print birthmark.  your hair is just starting to grow in, coarse blond fuzz all over your lovely bald head. you're gorgeous.  

we all love you and everything about you, vava.  sam cheers every time you crawl, or try to walk, or run.  you miss each other if one of you is asleep.  he's teaching you to throw, and you're surprisingly good.  (surprising for your age, yes, but also considering your parents ... we never won any prizes for sports, baby.)

you like to eat finger food, but you hate purees.  you've loved pickles since forever, and today you had a tiny taste of a blizzard ... but i think you still love pickles best ;).

a few nights ago, after we put you in your playpen, we knelt down and peeked through the sides and you were delighted to find our faces there.  you laughed and grinned and high-fived us, and kissed us, and drooled through the mesh.  it was a party.
then last night, well, you wanted us to do that again.  but we didn't understand.  you can't talk yet, baby.  you're fiercely smart - you understand so much, and you communicate a lot, but we didn't understand, so instead of sleeping last night you just cried.  and thrashed.  and got so so angry.  red in the face and yelling.
it took a long time before you went to sleep.  we knew something was wrong, but we couldn't figure it out.  tonight, you batted the side of the mesh really hard, over and over - until your slow mama finally caught on and i realized - you wanted us to play again!
so we did, and you smiled such a triumphant smile.

you're a sweet sweet love, vava-my-darling.  your kisses make me happy like birdsong, like starshine.  thank you for ten wonderful months!

Friday, July 26, 2013

broken (five-minute-friday)

naptime is broken, snapped clean off after 45 minutes, and i try desperately to stitch it back together. 

i whisper into the monitor "good night" and you ask "coze?" and your sister is stirring. 

i climb the stairs, these knees clicking and creaking and with every click i remember the falls; holding you, holding her, landing slam on my left knee, my right.  each knee bore the weight of me holding you both, the scars, the damage.  i'd do it again without thinking twice - without thinking once - catching you comes easier than breathing.

and there is something about mothering that breaks me down, and keeps these knees pressed hard to the floor.  there is so short a time for me to catch you.
i'll never stop holding.
i'll be pulling you on to my lap when you're a freckled eleven, a brawny twenty, a thirty-year-old holding your own newborn.

and i'll keep on crashing to these knees, broken.

(writing prompt broken from lisajobaker.com)

Monday, July 22, 2013

come down!

check out the first few verses of psalm 144.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.  

O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?

those possessive pronouns kill me.
the Lord, my rock?  my fortress?  my shield?

i think they must have killed david too, the way they come so naturally, even when approaching God Almighty.

because after that collection of pronouns, david bows and shakes his head.  what is man, that you regard him?

can the God of all creation really care about ... me?

the God who is mighty in glory?  above all and in all and by whom all things exist?  the God who spoke the universe into being, who knows the stars by name and has hosts of angels at his command?


can he really want to be my rock?

and of course, the scriptures stand firm and abolish any insecurity on that point.
God persistently pursues us, from eden to calvary to the doors of death itself ...

david calls, his voice a tiny cry in the echoes of endless eternity,
bow your heavens, o Lord, and come down!

and of course ...

he did.

but that's another story :).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


be of good courage.


not a character quality i've ever been noted for.  i'm definitely the stay-home-with-a-good-book type.  bearding lions in their den?  uh-uh.  let's just stay away from lions' dens altogether.

but i think it's one of the key qualities that i need to develop if i'm going to live a life with my heart turned determinedly toward God.

i've been loving matthew 6 lately.  Jesus points us to the beauty of discretion, of living a gorgeous life in secret.  as my friend's grandfather put it: christians should be better than they appear.  hidden from all but God, our hearts should be devoted to praying - fasting - giving - forgiving.

not for others to see - but for Him to see.

and i think in this twittery facebooky world, it's hard to do.  i want to announce to the world when someone wrongs me.  i don't want to absorb that hurt and quietly forgive them.  i don't want to bear injury in secret.  i want commiseration.  validation.  maybe even a little mocking session, to make myself feel better.
and when i'm doing something good?  i want to announce that too.  hey!  look at me!  i'm being awesome!
but ... that's exactly what hypocrites do.  announce other people's wrongdoing, and trumpet their own good deeds. 

shame on me.
that's not what Jesus would do.
that's not righteous.
that's not loving.
that's self-centred.  me first.  me best.  me always.

so ... why courage?
it takes courage, to live righteously for God alone.  it takes courage to admit - to myself, and to you - that i haven't been.  it takes courage to realize i'm building a legacy of unrighteousness with my self-first actions, and face the fact that i need to tear that down and live righteously.  it takes courage to value the hidden life over the public one ... to live for the one who sees my motives and intentions, not just my facebook status.

i was thinking about what God's facebook might look like.  i'm not trying to be irreverent or anything, but i think of the things he could say vs. the things he would say, in keeping with his character.
he could say:  seriously!?  she asks me for kids and then complains about them when she has them?!  gah. grow up, pansycakes!
but he'd more likely say: lovin' my peeps!
or something like that.  :)

because love covers a multitude of sins.  it doesn't bring them to light for everyone to see.  it covers.  protects.  bears.  heals.

 and that takes a brave heart.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

the narrative that is

i've been thinking a lot about nature lately - innateness, characteristics - that kind of nature.

some writey friends and i have a fb group where we chat about our stories - our characters - the worlds we create.  we're kind of a diverse group, but one of the challenges we all face in creating our stories is crafting a world that makes sense within its own context.  i mean - the world in a story can be anything - fantastical and magical and wondrous in ways ours isn't - but it still must be true to itself in order for a reader to sink into the story and follow along.  readers can suspend disbelief while in a story-world, but if the story-world is false to itself, that strikes a jarring note and pops the reader right out of the imaginary world. 

(as an aside, i think it's interesting that truth and consistency are foundational concepts in narrative - and as a Christian, i see God's character woven into the very way we understand stories.  but i digress.)

so, i was thinking about evolution.  what this world would look like if it was formed by the big bang.  what kind of universe that would be.

and it made me smile, because it's kind of a funny fiction.  i think it's the kind of world where we wouldn't be surprised to open our cupboards and find our ingredients had turned into a fully formed cake.  where we could encounter a 30-storey brick building in the middle of nowhere and reasonably assume it had emerged from the ground as a result of rocks and solar energy and time.  the kind of world where i would open my purse at the end of the day and see that my pencils and notebook had jostled together in such a way that now the mona lisa stared up at me off the page.  the kind of world where we regularly pull letters from the scrabble bag and find they form a tiley copy of war and peace.  the kind of world where babies actually do appear in cabbage patches, and where logical things with laws and innate orderliness just form from chaos.  the kind of world where a bulldozer drives through a junkyard and a camaro forms in its wake from the scraps left behind.

but that isn't the world we see, is it.

we know it, we breathe it, we rise and sleep to its rhythms ... this is the world of creation.  things are made - built - created.  anything that is complex must be put together by intelligent intention.  the only thing that occurs without intervention is decay.  the very nature of nature goes against the possibility of a big bang as a creative event.  (i should note that i'm arguing against the big bang on its own - not as a tool in the hand of an intelligent designer.)

i'd love to go to sleep at night, reasonably expecting that the eggs and cheese in the fridge would appear as an omelette for breakfast.

if we lived in a world where bits and pieces arranged themselves into order, a big bang creation would make sense.  but ... we live in a world where bits and pieces tend only to decay. 
and i know.
i have a toddler.
he leaves a trail of crumbs and pieces after every meal.  but those crumbs don't reconvene into a bowl of fragrant, buttery mashed potatoes.  not ever.  no - they turn grey and mash and separate further.  (yuck.)

it's really obvious, isn't it, when we think about things we find in the wilderness.  say we're in the middle of absolute nowhere and we come across cave-drawings - maybe a few stick figures.  we know someone made those, because in the world we experience there is an obvious difference between untouched nature and nature that has encountered humankind.  if our friend looked at the same cave-drawings and insisted they spontaneously appeared due to the presence of some drawing material, possible energy in the cave, and the passage of time - we'd think our friend was nuts.  because in this world, basic elements are only ever made more complex by a do-er's hand.   

that's the narrative that is.
it makes sense within its own context.

God has woven His nature into the universe.  creation is innate.

Friday, May 31, 2013

three days' drive

i always imagined being a mom with my mom.

my nana and grampie were really close to us - when i was really young, they came over almost every day, and when i was 4, we moved into a house just 2 houses away from them.  i remember being at their place as much as at our own.

i guess when i was a kid i just thought that was what my life would be like as a mom too.  with my mom in the kitchen alongside me - hers, mine, whichever, and my kids hearing her stories and growing up eating her cooking and rummaging through her cupboards for toblerones or liquorice. :)

it feels weird, when i stop and think about it, to have this house so empty and silent through the day.  i wish i had my mom to laugh with over the funny and silly things sam does, the hilarious noises vava makes.  i wish i was chatting with her about the inconsequential everyday things - the great sausages i got at the deli, and the neighbours' new truck, and the best way to keep squirrels off the deck.  i wish there was someone who really would pop in and love us even if the laundry wasn't folded and sam was tracking mud in and out ten times a day.  i wish there was someone who would call out "love you!" even if i was just running upstairs to get sam out of his crib.

i never imagined i would be raising my kids so far away from my family.  it's really hard.  and i make so many mistakes, and they loom large when i look around and there's just us.  no one else to say "pfft, they'll be fine" when i start to worry.  no one else to hug my kids and be proud of them when they succeed at little things, or to laugh at them so much that they find it easy to laugh at themselves.

the happy, full busyness of a big family is such a gift.

wrap your arms around the people who sit at your table and look at their beautiful faces and put that picture on your mental desktop forever.

i miss you, mom. some days i just want to hop in the car and drive and drive and drive until i get to your door.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


dear sam and vava:
today is may 29, 2013.  your new cousin miquella was born today!  it feels like the two of you were just born yesterday, so i wanted to take a minute to savour what you're like before i blink and you're standing in front of me with your own kids in your arms.

sam, you are almost 27 months old ... 2 years and 3 months! wow.  you're sitting on the couch right now, watching the incredibles before bed.  you love the running and throwing and laughing. 
this afternoon you came running across the yard to me, gleeful, with a dandelion in each hand.  i was thrilled - was my baby boy actually bringing me flowers, unprompted by papa?  you ran fast, zoomed up onto the deck and stood in front of me.  you yelled something excitedly, then stuffed a dandelion into both of your ears, and spread your arms wide.  "ta-dah!"  you announced.  you were so proud of yourself.  i love every silly inch of you :).
after supper tonight, vava was lying on the floor, kicking her feet and waving her arms.  you helped her roll over and over, all by yourself.  she loved it.  you're such a helper!
a minute ago, you looked up from the movie and we had this funny chat.
     me: sam, do you want to go to bed?
     you (adamantly): no!
     me: sam, do you want to put on your jams?
     you (adamantly): no!
     me: sam, do you want mama to read you your bedtime story?
     you (adamantly): no!
     me (laughing): sam, do you want a pinch on the bum?
     you (compliantly): yes.
oh sam.  i love you so so much.  thanks for being so much fun.

vava, you are seven and a half months old.  you are absolutely amazing.  you can say mama, papa, bye-bye, hi, boo, bottle, and ham (which means sam).  you wave whenever you hear hi or bye-bye, and you clap when someone says yay.  you can roll over and over, and you love to take steps while i hold your hands.  you adore music and singing and whistling.  you're really content and you like to just hang out.   
earlier, you were sitting on a blanket on the bathroom floor.  you discovered that you can put your hands on the linoleum and pull yourself forward.  you scooted the whole way across the bathroom like that.  you little champ.

so.  that's what you're like right now.  delicious and adorable and wonderful.  and sometimes we drive each other crazy, but always always always we're happy to be together.

time to put on your jams ...