Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Still Here

Just a quick post to let you know that I'm still around!  The kids and I have been spending time at my folks' cottage, where there's no internet access, and otherwise having a good and relaxing past few weeks.  It's been a nice break.

But we're gearing up for fall again and I have lots of things on my mind...just need to get a little back into the swing of things.

Back soon.  Enjoy the week!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Photos - Covering Up the Joy

Even when he's happy (as he is here), Seth's basic instinct is still to cover up the emotion.  The great news is that he's feeling more and more comfortable as time passes.  In the scene below, he was so excited about his birthday gift (learning about his two riding lessons) that his joy started out as an involuntary smile.  Within a sparse second, however, he quickly covered it up with a fist and tried so hard not to smile in an effort to gain control over his face (even as he's smiling in that first photo, his fist is poised, ready to cover his face).  In one picture, you can see him pulling down on his face near his eyes - this is his attempt to (literally) wipe the smile off his face.  Often at this point he buries his head under blankets or behind our backs or under our arms.

But, in a testament to the long way he's come in the past few years, you can still see that, despite his efforts, the joy is still there!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pictures: Seth at 9 and Lizzie at 7

Every year on and around the kids' birthday I try to take a few photos of them to mark the occasion.  I forgot to post these ones from Seth's and Lizzie's recent birthdays.  Aren't they beautiful children??

Seth at age 9:
His birthday gift from Geoff and me was two riding lessons...the kid is a total animal nut.  This was taken during his first lesson, riding bareback on Chicklet...he loved his first lesson...and his teacher said he was a natural.  Sigh...couldn't he choose something cheaper to love??!

Seth in his glory...holding a puppy (no, not ours!)

Such a beautiful, fine-featured boy...the spitting image of his First Father!

Best buddies...even when it's hard for Seth to admit that!

Seth with Matthew and two of his best buddies, off to ride bumper boats and go karts to celebrate his birthday.

Let them eat cake!  Seth wanted a homemade coffee ice cream cake with a graham crust...and so that's what I made him...complete with marshmallow cream and toasted mini marshmallows on top!

Lizzie at age 7: 
Lizzie's main gift from us was a beautiful (second hand) doll house....which she had really wished for.  The picture on the left is of her face when she came up to her bedroom and saw what was waiting for her...the picture on the right is of her posing with the new doll house.

Lizzie with her beloved cousin.  I took the two of them swimming for Lizzie's birthday, and they had a blast!

Lizzie also requested an ice cream cake with marshmallows on it...only her ice cream flavour of choice was strawberry.  The cake was blinking hard to make and you can see that the top layer is a little uneven...but the taste...mmmmmmm!

Happy Birthday, Seth and Lizzie!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Mama's Full Heart

Last week, my boys independently told me something that completely melted my heart, and filled it up at the same time.

On Tuesday, my birthday, Matthew said this to me:  "Mom, you're the best mom ever...better than a boy could even dream of.  I love you with my whole heart!"  He's repeated these assertions a few more times since then, and has surprised me with sudden, fierce hugs and hand grabs, too.  And a few times lately, he's said things like "Mom, I have a really great life...thanks for working so hard for us...".'s been awesome.  I've worked with and loved that boy so hard and for so long, and in moments like these, I can just feel the blessing of that love pouring over me.

And then there's Seth.

Mid-week last week, while sitting at the dinner table, I glanced over at Seth and couldn't help but notice that he was staring at me intently.  I did a double take.  He looked almost angry, he was so intense.  Those eyes.  I asked what was wrong and he immediately said "nothing."  So immediately that I knew I needed to follow up.  I wondered what I'd done to merit such a look.  I asked if I could speak privately with him for a moment in the library and we excused ourselves from the table.

Once sitting on the couch, I asked again what that look had been about, and said that he looked angry at me about something.  He covered his eyes and said that he couldn't say it...he just couldn't.  I told him that it was ok, he didn't have to, but that I was very curious and that, no matter how awful it was, nothing would change my love for him, and that our relationship was more important than any hard feelings he was having towards me.  He said that he wanted to tell me but didn't think he could tell me (classic sign that mixed feelings are coming).  I said something like "no worries" and that he could tell me another time if that was easier.

Seth:  "But part of me wants to tell you, Mommy."

Me:  "Well, if you want to, why don't you try to tell me one word at a time."

Seth:  "OK.  The first word is I."

Me:  "OK.  'I -.'  What's the next word?"

Seth:  "Think."

Me:  "Ok.  The next word is think.  So far we have 'I think.'"

I had no idea what was coming but I knew nothing could be as horrible as warranting his hiding his head under my arm.  His first instinct, always, always, is to defend his heart; it's so hard for him to share his heart.

Me: "What's the next word, Seth? Can you try to tell me?"

Seth:  "You."

Me:  "All right.  Got it.  'You.'  What's next?"

Seth:  "Are."

Me (trying to guess where this was headed and bracing myself inwardly for the worst):  "Got it.  So far we have 'I think you are...'.  Do you want to tell me the next word?"

Seth: "A."

Me:  "OK.  'I think you are a....'  Can you keep going?"

Seth:  "Gr."

Me:  "What?"

Seth:  "Gr."

Me:  "Gr?  Do you mean Girl? Green? Grinch?"

Seth:  "Not those words."

Me, stumped:  "Well, what word is it then?  I have no idea Seth, I'm sorry.  Do you still want to try to tell me?"

Seth:  "Yes."

Me:  "All right.  What's the next word?  No matter what it is, Seth, I love you and nothing will change you and me.  So...what's the next word?  I'm ready for it."

Seth (hiding his head under a pillow on the couch beside me):  "Great!"

Me:  "'Great?'  OK.  So far we have 'I think you are a great - .'  What is great?  That I am a great lizard?  A great big meanie?  What?"

Seth (still ducking his head, pushing hard against me with his full body weight):  "The last word is Mom."

Me (stunned...waiting for the bad news to drop):  "What?!?  Mom?  You think I am a great Mom?"

Seth: "Yes."


Seth glanced up then to see how I was reacting and saw the tears in my eyes.  He grabbed me around the neck and hugged me hard.  I was overwhelmed, and had to fight the big wave of emotion that threatened.  So much that child and I have gone through, including lots of the bad and the ugly, even recently, and still he believes that I'm a great mom.  I was floored, totally taken aback.  Never saw that one coming.

I told him that I thought he was a great son and that I loved him so much that my heart hurt with it sometimes.  Shortly after, we walked back to the supper table hand in hand and he ate the rest of his meal from my fingers while he sat perched on my lap.

Two beautiful moments in as many days.  I don't know how it could possibly get any better than that!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Recovering from the Mistakes I Make as a Parent

A number of weeks ago, Matthew was involved in an unfortunate situation where he was pushed and kicked and called names by a few kids.  As I understand the situation from both of my boys, towards the end of the incident, Seth also joined in with the others and shoved his brother and likely even punched him.

It wasn't a great situation; Matthew was pretty bruised up the next day in all of the places he said he'd been kicked, and it's taken him a while to recover emotionally; but thankfully all's well on that front and it's been talked and cried out to the point of exhaustion and, ultimately, I think, adaptation and recovery.

However... the week following the incident, I had a hard time with Seth as a result of his involvement in the incident.  I had a hard time looking him in the eye; I was undoubtedly a margin cooler than usual in my treatment of him; and I just had a difficult time overall being as warmly inclined towards him.  I was furious, or maybe just deeply hurt, that he would be involved in hurting his brother; devastated that he would choose to 'follow the pack' by mimicking what others were doing rather than protecting his brother or getting help.  And, as much as anything, I was also pretty angry with myself for not having monitored the situation more carefully in order to prevent the situation from happening in the first place.

In my hurt and anger that following week, I lectured Seth too often:  I told him a story about how my sister protected me when, as a child, I was beat up by another kid; I started talking to him about the importance of being a follower who chooses the right values to follow; I told him that we always protect family; etc etc etc.  I felt a little out of control in my need to manage and correct the situation, even though I knew as the words were coming out of my mouth that I was messing up with Seth.

I wasn't harsh.  I still hugged him and said kind things to him.  But I'm embarrassed that it all felt forced on my part; it didn't come from a soft place inside of me.  And given that my middle-born comes from a place of trauma and struggles constantly with defendedness and a need to prove his worth, this was the exact wrong thing to do with/to him.

At the same time that this was going on, my sleep was suffering - I was experiencing a downward slide into my come-and-go battle with insomnia.  As a result, when the kids got up in the mornings, I was getting into a habit of offering them tv for 30-45 minutes a few mornings a week so that I could rest a little more.  This went on for almost a month.  This wouldn't be a huge deal under normal circumstances, but sadly this affected Seth, too, because usually the early morning is when I get concentrated cuddle time with him and have a chance to talk with him and read him stories.

These things combined did not have a good impact on my beloved boy.  The effect was to create alarm in Seth.  I alarmed him with my disapproval of his actions and by seeming (from his perspective, when I didn't have as much time with him in the mornings) to distance myself physically.  After three years of working hard with him, after three years of helping him bring down the walls that had worked so hard to protect his heart, I alarmed him and made him insecure in the relationship he has with me and made him doubt his own sense of right and wrong.  I made him feel like there was something wrong with him.  It's a terrible feeling, with the clarity of hindsight, to know that you've hurt your child and your relationship with him.

The only thing I'm thankful for in that situation is that I noticed what was happening.  Over the next few weeks, after I got back to my usual self, I noticed that Seth was a little more withdrawn than usual.  He was also very insecure about whether or not he was doing the 'right thing;' he was constantly coming to me and asking "Mommy, is it the right thing to..." or "Mommy, I don't know what the right thing to do is...."  He seemed rather paralyzed in his ability to make decisions, even about trivial things.

So Geoff and I booked an appointment with our wonderful Gordon Neufeld consultant and it was she who helped us put the pieces together...about how what I'd really been upset about was that Seth appeared to have chosen loyalty to his friends over loyalty to his brother...that my lectures had led him into a state of feeling badly about himself and insecure...and that my physical absence a few mornings a week just confirmed for him his sense that he wasn't worthy of my attention/love.  The thing is, she said, when Seth joined in on the gang-up on Matthew, it was instinct, not a decision to hurt his brother, that was driving his action.  He's at the age and development level where he wants and needs to be accepted and to appear funny to other people, so when he saw others laughing at what was happening, he instinctively jumped into the fray.  She assured us that he had no intention to hurt his brother, and that he didn't choose to be involved in hurting him.  We talked about a recovery plan.

That helped.  A lot.  I immediately formed, and implemented, a plan of action to help Seth recover.

The next morning, despite another hard night of sleep, I was up before Seth and was available for our old cuddle and reading times.  He wasn't terribly interested in being very close to me that first morning (or the one after), but I was determined to work my way back under his heart walls; I hoped that it wouldn't take too long because Seth really does love his mama and because there'd previously been so much trust between us that I was very hopeful that his defences would come down again with a little patience on my part.

My plan was to spend the next two weeks of mornings regaining the physical proximity that we'd previously had and then, in a moment of attachment/closeness, raise the issue of 'the incident' with Seth and to start the repair work that needed to be done.

I didn't have to wait two weeks for the right opportunity to talk to him about it.  On the fourth day, something happened that took us right there.

On the morning of that fourth day, the kids and I met up with some friends at a nearby park, where the boys like to wander off into the forest a bit and build forts or collect branches or whatever.  On that morning, it was decided by the moms where the boundaries would be for their wanderings, and we asked them to always be with a buddy.  The kids had a great time, but I could sense on the drive home that something was bothering Seth.

When we got home, I sent Matthew and Lizzie into the backyard to play and sat down at the kitchen table with Seth.  I pulled him in to me and kissed him and asked if there was anything he'd like to talk about.  He pulled away.

"I did a wrong thing, Mommy," he said, starting to cry.  "You're going to be mad at me."

I had no idea what he could possibly be talking about but I was sure of one thing:  No matter what he'd done, I was not going to be mad at him and risk pushing him away again.  This would be a chance to get us back on the right track.

"You know, Seth, I really don't think I'm going to be mad, but even if I am, we'll get through that, too.  Our relationship is waaaay to important to me - we'll get through it no matter what."

"I didn't know what to do," he cried.

"About what?" I asked.

"At the park.  You said that we had to stay with our buddy."

"Yes," I prompted.  "You were buddies with M.  Do you want to tell me what happened?"  I kept my voice as gentle as possible.

"He went past the line, the boundary thing.  Where we weren't supposed to go past.  I made a bad decision, I think."  He was crying hard now.

But ahhhh....the light was turning on for me...I could see where this was headed and the opportunity that was coming my way.

"Seth, it's going to be ok, really," I said.  I reached out to hug him but he pulled away to arms' length...a manifestation of our recent distance.

"I didn't know what to do," he cried in an anguished voice.

"It sounds like you had a huge struggle.  Why don't you tell me what happened?" I asked, already knowing but wanting so much to hear him say it.

"You told us to stay together but he went past the line and I didn't know what to do!" Seth responded.

"You must have been so confused, Seth.  What were thinking or feeling when you saw M go past the boundary line?" I asked.

"I was scared because I didn't want to do the wrong thing.  I wasn't supposed to go over the line, but M did and he didn't come back and I was scared that he would get lost and he's my friend and I didn't want him to get lost and you said to stay with your buddy." All of this came out in a gush.

"Seth, oh Seth," I remember saying with great feeling.  "Those are such big, hard things to have to feel and think all at the same time.  You were all mixed up about what to do and such strong mixed feelings.  On the one hand you really wanted to honour the rule about not going past the boundary; and on the other hand you wanted to honour the rule about staying with a buddy.  Is that right?"

"Yes!!!" he shouted, sounding almost relieved.  "And I think I did a bad thing then, made a wrong decision."

"I doubt that, but tell me.  What happened then?" I asked.

"I crossed the line and stayed with M because I didn't want him to be alone or get lost!!  Soon we came back.  Did I do a wrong thing?"

"Seth, my Seth, that was such a hard thing to have to figure out all at one time and all by yourself and no, you didn't do a wrong thing.  I am so proud of you for thinking through everything you thought through all at the same time.  That was a very, very hard situation for you and you managed it and made the best decision you could when it was a hard situation."

"So you're not mad at me?"

"No, love, I'm not mad at all.  I'm proud of you for working through that situation and trying so hard to do the right thing and for making such a hard decision, and I'm proud of you for telling me about it."

He took a step closer and leaned on me, the way he used to when all of his walls were first coming down.

"Seth," I said.  "I want to tell you one more thing, ok?"  This was my opportunity to start repair work on the past incident and my response to him.

"OK," he said.  "About what?"

"Remember a few weeks ago the incident with Matthew...?"  I used a few specific words to remind him, but he needed no refresher was still uppermost in his mind.

"I remember," he said.  "I did a wrong thing then.  I'm so sorry.  I'm very sorry."

"Seth," I said.  I gripped his shoulders and looked him straight in the eye.  "I don't need you to be sorry.  You have nothing to be sorry for.  No more.  And I want to tell you this.  You know how when we're at home here and one of your siblings might hit you and hurt you, and I get frustrated with them because you've been hurt?"

"Yeah," he said.

"Well, when that thing happened with Matthew, it was kinda like that for me - I was frustrated when he got hurt.  And I didn't handle it as well as I could have - you got a lot of my frustrated voice and face those following days and I think that hurt you with so much frustration."

"Yes."  He was crying now.  I put my arms around him, where he was leaning against me, and I squeezed him tightly against me.

"Seth, I want you to know something about that.  First, I never wanted to hurt you and I wish I could do those days over.  But more important, I want you to really, really understand that I know you didn't mean to hurt your brother; and I know you love him and would never want to see him hurt. I totally and completely know that about you and that you have a kind and soft heart and that you didn't mean to hurt your brother."

It was a classic, textbook response:  Seth sighed deeply, still crying, still leaning against me.  Then he turned to look at me and he climbed up onto my lap and put his head on my shoulder.  I started to cry a little, too.  I put my arms around him and Seth put his arms around me and I repeated those last words to him and then told him how much I loved him; a few seconds later he said that he loved me more, and we started that age-old game of words about how much we loved the other.

And then he said, out of the blue, with tears still on his cheeks, "Mommy, could you and me have some chips and dip together?  And can we eat from the same plate?"

I have no idea where this came from because we don't often have chips and dip, but I could tell that something in him wanted us to break bread together and that sharing a plate was a sign for him that we were one again.  Of course I said yes and we went to get some chips (thankfully I had some!) and dip.  We put some of each onto a small plate and Seth dipped a chip into the dip.  Rather than place it in his own mouth, however, he reached over and held it in front of my mouth until I took it in; I then did the same for him.  There was something intimate and uplifting about that action.

It was, quite honestly, a beautiful moment, sitting there, munching our chips together and feeding each other.

I certainly know that I mess up as a parent; sometimes, as now, with greater impact than at other times.  But I'm so thankful that I'm close enough to Seth to see how I'd impacted him and then to have some help figuring out what to do about it.  Mostly, though, I'm just thankful that Seth and I are in right relationship; that the walls around his heart that we worked so hard to break down didn't have a chance to get really built up again.

I have my Seth back; and he's got me back.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Matthew and Lizzie. A Change of Heart

I commented to Matthew today that I've been noticing, over the past few days, a change in his attitude and approach to Lizzie.

They've been on a bit of a rocky road for the last while:  In a desire to claim his attention, she seems incapable of restraining herself from tormenting and bugging and poking at him; and he eventually gets tired of it and snaps at her or yells or even gives her a slug.  It's been hard to manage them again over the past month or two.

But over the past few days, although her attempts to annoy him have not changed in any way, I've noticed that Matthew has changed.  He hasn't been shrieking at her, even when one might begin to think that he's entitled to; he hasn't slugged her; he hasn't spit out any hateful words.  He's been frustrated, but he's walked away from her, or come to find me to vent when he's been unable to manage on his own anymore.  Furthermore, he's been answering her taunts and jabs with a tolerant "Oh Lizzie..." and when she's been tearful about something that's hurt her or hasn't worked for her, he's actually gone to her on a number of occasions and flung a caring arm around her and asked if she's ok.  My jaw's just about dropped open on several occasional over the past few days.

So I noted out loud today my observation, and told Matthew that his changes have also shifted the nature of their relationship a bit.  I commented on what a change it's made.  Here's what he said in response (as closely as I can remember):

"Thanks Mom.  You know, I've been praying a lot lately.  Quietly.  Just talking to God.  Sometimes when I lie in bed and can't sleep right away, I just lie there and talk to God and I've been trying to listen for His voice.  I've told him that I love Him, and I think He's told me back that He loves me.  And I know, from those quiet times, that He wants something different and better for my relationship with Lizzie.  So I want that, too.  So I'm trying to do something different."

Huh.  I've been reminded by my ten-year-old that it's God who brings about true heart change...through listening and communicating and spending quiet time with the One who knows all about me and where my heart is at.  No wonder believers in the New Testament were encouraged to have the faith of a child.  Out of the mouths of babes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lizzie's Thoughts on Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

I asked Lizzie over dinner last night what she might like to do when she's a grown-up.  She immediately answered that she would like to have babies (preferably adopted) and be a stay-at-home mom with them.  I was a little surprised, but the thought of her wanting to do something like her mama had me glowing just a little on the inside.

The glow wore off quickly when I asked her what made her want to be a SAHM.

She crossed her arms across her chest and leaned back in her chair with a deep and longing sigh:

"Because then I can just relax and do nothing...and I can sit around watching tv with my kids...or I could get my kids to clean everything up."

Sigh.  Clearly I have some more educating to do!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Seth at 9

In our family of five, we celebrate four of our birthdays within a twelve day period between the end of July and the beginning of August (and, if we include my parents and my siblings, we celebrate eight of our combined eleven birthdays in this period of time!  It's crazy, man!!).  Between kids' parties and family dinners and the making of cakes, it's usually a very busy time around here.

Today Seth turned 9.  Nine years old!  Amazing.  Although he came home at almost age six, I feel so blessed to have known him at ages 5, 6, 7, 8, and now 9.

My kids are all extremely different in personality.  If there could be opposite ends in three different directions, that would pretty much describe my kids.

Seth is my hard-won, precious middle child.  My child who loves so deeply but has such a hard time showing it...even sometimes recognizing it.  My child who would do anything for his family - whether his family here or his first family in Ethiopia.   He is a hard worker, always willing to pitch in and help out, and in some ways the bigger the job the better; he aims for perfection always but is slowly learning to be ok when that doesn't work out for him.  He adores animals, oohs and aaahs over every dog he sees as we drive about the city, and one of his favourite things to do these days is look up pictures on the internet of various dog breeds; he meticulously and consistently checks his pumpkin and tomatoe plants every single morning to see how they are doing and how much growth has happened since the day before; he loves watching tv and movies and is drawn to anything that smacks of technology; he is becoming very Math aware and has recently been making some new connections in this area, but learning to read will continue to be a challenge for him for a while yet; although at first I thought Seth was introverted, his inclination towards quietness (particularly outside the home...he can talk endlessly at home!) has, I've learned, more to do with his insecurity around language and vocabulary than it does with how his batteries are recharged, and the truth is that he's actually quite extraverted and tends to not like to be by himself for long periods of time; he is amazingly focused when he is working on a project, whether it's cleaning out the van or building a lego project or organizing the tupperware drawer or trying to finish an "I Spy" book or figuring out why his remote control car isn't working and fixing it; he's great with his hands and learns best through a hands-on approach; he loves to help out in the kitchen, especially if he has the opportunity to cook or bake with me; he loves talking about and learning about God, despite having some strange ideas about God as a type of magician, I think; he is very cuddly despite appearances, and has a hard time not leaning on me or sitting on my lap or sitting close beside me or reaching for my hand; he's hugely compassionate for people (and animals) in need, and I've learned because of Seth's big heart to carry money and a kind word of blessing with me so that we can give both to people at street corners; he's the most observant child I've ever known, whether it's seeing something that's changed since the night before or knowing where he is in the city or knowing what needs to be done before we can head out the door; he is a somewhat fussy eater and doesn't like all foods, but because he's determined to be as healthy as he can be, he eats whatever healthy foods I put in front of him and even asks for as much of our home-juiced super-greens as possible and drinks them despite the shudders going through him while he does it; he adores Finn, his puppy dog teddy that he's slept with every night since he came to Canada; he is getting better and better at understanding his feelings and being able to take risks to express them; he's fun to play with because he tries hard at everything and sometimes hard to play with because he tries hard at everything and doesn't like to lose; he has boundless (and I do mean boundless) energy and goes at full speed alllll day from early morning until he's required to go to bed; he's very athletic and a beautiful runner; and he's the kind of kid that is going to make an awesome husband and father some day because he's giving and sacrificing and looking out for those he loves.

For his birthday, Seth wanted to take his brother and two of his closest friends to a nearby amusement-like park, where they rode go-karts, played mini golf, rammed each other in the bumper boats, and so on.  Then the kids came back to the house for homemade coffee ice cream cake with a graham/almond crust and marshmallow topping.  From there we went out for dinner as an extended family so that his grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins could celebrate his birth, too.  It was a big party day!

His gifts from Geoff and me were:  Three books (two about dogs, of course; and one "extreme challenge" I Spy book, which he will love); a rainbow loom; and, best of all, two private horse-back riding lessons that he is over-the-moon excited about!!

He had a great day!

Seth, you are a remarkable boy and a joy to parent.  We love you so much and we're proud of you!  Happy 9th birthday, my child.  May God bless you and keep you over the coming year and make His face to shine upon you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lizzie at 7

On Sunday, my baby turned seven years old.  I can hardly believe it.

Although she was almost four when she came to Canada, it is somehow significant to me that I have known her at 3, I have known her at 4, I have known her at 5, I have known her at 6, and now I know her at 7.

Lizzie is quite the character.  Quite the not-so-little girl.  It's hard to describe her in some ways, though those of you who know her will understand quickly the things I say about her.

She is a highly, highly extraverted person:  Although she is slowly learning that her world won't fall apart if she is by herself for a short while, she clearly draws energy from being with other people and prefers it.  She is charming, loves to laugh and to laugh often; she draws people to herself like a bee to honey, and she understands people remarkably well (including their touchy points!).  She gets fiery mad very easily and stomps around and shrieks during these moments, but she forgives just as readily and she blessedly doesn't hold a grudge for more than a few seconds of arm crossing and eye rolling.  In the blink of an eye, she can transform from a child who is furious with a brother into a child who is offering to fetch something for that same brother.

She rolls her eyes when disgusted; she crosses her arms, tilts her head to the side, and says "really?" in a jaded and incredulous tone when someone says or does something that she finds ridiculous or patronizing; she is awesome at knowing where she is in our city and can guide me home from even far off or new places; she has very little patience and, in true diva form, stomps her foot or grunts with frustration when she is asked to wait for just a moment; she loves building lego creations and playing with her new-to-her dollhouse; she alternates between taking meticulous care of her 'babies' and throwing them under the bed with abandon when she's done with them; she loves family and has no problem holding the complicated perspective that of course she can love both her first and her second families at the same time; she hates having quiet times on her own; she loves being read to and can sit cuddled under a blanket with me for two hours reading books without wanting to go anywhere; she loves God and has great questions about how He works in our lives, and she likes to ask her friends and relatives if they also have Jesus as their friend; she loves watching movies, especially if they're accompanied by popcorn; she adores hanging out with older girls and her best friends are between the ages of 10 and 12...and she seems somehow to hold her own with them despite the age and size differences; she changes her mind about things constantly and drives her brothers crazy in this as well as in her desire to be just like them and to follow them around; she loves to answer any and all questions, whether they're directed at her or not and asks a thousand questions a day; she likes to help around the house, particularly in the kitchen or with folding laundry (but she hates cleaning up her bedroom and folding blankets!); she's brilliant with remembering song lyrics and is going to be a wonderful reader not too far in the distant future, but to her 2+2 easily adds up to 47 or 63; she adores her grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and loves to imitate her grandma's expressions with great precision and humour; she has a fabulous memory for everything except for what she's supposed to be doing at this moment; she is game to try eating pretty much anything and is one of the most naturally healthy eaters I've ever known in a child (she loves vegetables more than she loves cookies, though candy might give veggies a run for her money; she loves legumes and lean meats and nuts and every fruit; etc); she loves pretty things and pretty clothes and is great (waaay better than I am...thank goodness) at putting outfits together and would love to be wearing makeup already if I let her; she can climb trees, build forts, kayak, swim, and run incredibly fast, and also loves both skating and gymnastics; she is game for every single thing that we want to do with her, whether it's a sports activity or running an errand or a special event; she gives cuddles and hugs like nobody's business; she has the kind of relationship with her daddy where she pretty much has him wrapped around her little finger and uses it to full advantage but it's so sweet to see them together that it's impossible to want anything different (she even has a special voice for Geoff, which gets put into action the moment he walks in the door after work); and she has a twinkle of mischievousness in her eyes that would make one wary of her if it weren't for the knowledge that she also has a kind heart the size of Canada.

Truly Lizzie is one of a kind.  Although we often feel like pulling our hair out at the challenge of parenting her many extremes, she is in far greater measure a joy to parent.  It's easy to love Lizzie, and easy to scoop her onto a lap for a cuddle because she's always a willing and ready and equal participant.

For her birthday celebration, she wanted me to take her and her cousin Madeline to a nearby town where we could swim for a couple of hours and then have lunch together.  Later that day, we had dinner together with grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins at Montanas (she loves ribs!) and she chose a strawberry fudge ice cream cake that I made for her.  Her gifts from Geoff and me were:  A classic, beautiful, second-hand playmobile dollhouse with accessories (which her cousin sold me for $60 despite having paid $50 for it second hand years ago!!); a rainbow loom; and two books.  She had a great day!

We're so blessed to have our little Bean in our family.  Happy 7th Birthday, Lizzie.  We love you so much and we are very proud of you!  May God bless and protect you during the coming year, and bring you much joy.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Woof Woof

No, we haven't taken the plunge yet (still working on Geoff)...we are not dog owners.

But on Friday, on route home from a friends' house, I spotted a small dog wandering down a busy road and, even as my heart sank just a little because I knew our afternoon's trajectory was about to change, I pulled over to the side of the road.  Just as I was doing so, Seth saw the little guy and immediately became teary and insisted that we stop to help the dog (a boy after my own heart, without a doubt!).

I instructed the kids to stay in the car and I grabbed a handful of kid snacks that I had in the car.  And off I went.  The dog clearly hadn't been away from his home for too long because he was still a little full of his own adventure; he wasn't too keen on being caught!  In the meantime, Seth was (literally) hanging out the car window, alternating between sobs and pleas to get him, and cheering me on and clapping.  Thankfully I was able to accommodate:  After less than two blocks of tracking the dog, I noticed that he was listening to the sound of my voice and he stopped briefly to pick up one of the little food bits I'd thrown at him; then, when he stopped to do his business on the grass, he let me grab his collar.

I've rescued many a dog in my adult lifetime - it has seemed, from time to time, that stray dogs seek me out, knowing that I'll do my best to help.  It's just something I do.

In fact, the night before this most recent dog rescue, I was out for dinner with one of my oldest friends, and we were talking about this tendency of mine to pick up strays.  She's been with me on at least two occasions when I've picked up a lost dog and has earned the right to roll her eyes at me on the topic.  :)

The most memorable experience we shared on the rescue front happened over a decade ago, on an occasion when my rescue attempt failed.  My friend was visiting me in Vancouver and we decided to spend a few days on Vancouver Island, in the Long Beach area (side note: Eucluelet, which book-ends one end of Long Beach is pretty much my favourite spot in the world).  So we took a ferry over to Nanaimo and then drove that oh-so-beautiful highway cross island, on a narrow and wind-y highway that cuts through mountains and borders the prettiest lakes on the continent.  Mmm...I'm longing to be there just thinking about it.

But I digress...

Coming around a corner on that bendy highway, we spotted a German-shepherd-like dog wandering down the narrow shoulder of the highway and knew immediately that something was amiss.  I slowed the car and I remember to this moment the sound of my friend's groan; she knew, she just knew, knowing me as she does, that that dog was going to delay our min-vacation.

And it did.  By at least an hour (possibly more??).  I tried, oh how I tried to get that dog into our vehicle.  But nothing - not bribery, not softly-spoken words, not commands - nothing ultimately worked, and it remains one of the few times that I've been forced to give up on a dog rescue.  Sometimes you have to move on.

But it was a different story on Friday afternoon.  As I walked back towards the van carrying that little white dog, I was Seth's super hero and it was a good feeling...worth the effort of the next twenty-four hours before the dog's family was found.

I'll probably never change.  Given Seth's reaction to this rescue, I'm not sure I'd ever want to change.  Sure it was inconvenient.  Sure it wasn't precisely fun to wipe leftover poop from a canine butt.  But to see the boys that night sleeping on the floor as close as possible to the dog, to see their joy as they discovered that the dog knew how to play fetch, to listen to their peals of laughter as the dog did some cute thing or another, and to feel on my shoulder the devastation of their loving tears after we delivered the dog home the following afternoon...well, those things made a bit of inconvenience all worthwhile.