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Katie is 13!

Ack! Another teenager woke up in our house on this morning of June 3rd, 2017. Now we have two! Katie is finally, finally, a teenager in the official capacity. Of all our kids, Kates is the one who was born a teen and has looked forward to teen years with as much excitement as she has for Christmas morning. Where Kiera has turned her nose up at “all things teen” – going as far as to declare her 13th birthday party to be in fierce rebellion against being a teen and thus choosing to go ‘full on’ kiddy-party style – Kates has embraced the teen party idea full on herself, inviting her friends over to “hang out”, eat junk food and chill. Games haven’t even been mentioned on her party plan. And I love it. I love that the girls are entirely themselves, with their own set of personality traits that they own with veracity. Yes, some days I wish some were with a little less veracity, but other days I’m in awe of these children that God has blessed us with.

And Katie is one such child. Wow. Looking back over the past 13 years has sent us down a tear-streaming journey of memories. How did our chubby-cheeked “Hamster Hayes” suddenly become this long-legged, beautiful teen? Really? It was yesterday she was caught with her chubby fist clenched gleefully around my mascara wand, black smears all over her face (evidenced in the photo below) and tottering around in my heels. Today, she’s giving me make up tips, and I’m the one borrowing her clothes! Okay, so she still totters around in my heels, but these days they fit her like a glove! Timewarp stuff.

I remember well hearing the saying, “the days are long, but the years are short” when my kids were still preschoolers and toddlers. I remember thinking that there was truth in that, but that my days felt more long than the years short. Today, I feel a desperate sense of wanting to slow it all down. Yes, those toddler years were hec.tic. Our sweet Katie-Kates knew how to pull out the stops and throw the most blood-curdling temper tantrums. Going back over the blog posts from the past 10 years, a common theme is “oh my goodness, this is hard!” From when she was a tiny tot, Kates has been our fierce, but compassionate child. Independent, but needy. Brilliant at puzzles, figuring out anything technical and hands on, picking up on the emotions of others, and yet often finding new tasks and big changes to be insurmountable and scary.  Confident in relationships, Katie has always been the one to find the child who needs extra attention and make them feel at home; she’s the one all the little kids flock to, like bees to honey – the favourite cousin; the much-loved big sister figure to our church friends’ littlies. She finds herself at home in just about any group of people, be it adults, teens, kids or a brand new bunch of people she’s only just met. There are no pretences – just honest, fresh-faced interest in other people. It’s no surprise that her friends’ list for her birthday party eventually had to be cut down. Nor is it a surprise that her friends include people from all sorts of backgrounds and contexts and that she embraces them all. Even when she was undergoing an operation to remove that pesky eosinophilic granuloma from her forehead, her compassion and thoughts mostly centered on those around her. So often, her compassion has me in awe, and in shame …

We started a tradition when Kiera turned 13 of presenting our kids with a special book made up of words of wisdom from close friends and adults in that child’s life. Overwhelmingly, amongst the beautiful words of wisdom, was thanks to Katie for being inclusive and caring with their children – genuinely and sacrificially caring. When I was 13, little kids were foreign creatures to me and the last thing I felt like doing was hanging out with them, never mind caring for them. I marvel at this nurturing side of my newly minted 13 year old.

Along with Katie’s compassion and open friendliness comes an impulsivity that sometimes serves her well (inviting friendships) and sometimes acts as a disservice (acts of disobedience that happen almost without realising). As she grows older, she has come to be more aware of this impulsivity. Sometimes she despairs deeply over her own actions. In moments of great frustration, she will ask me why it is that she did what she did, or behaved in a particular way that she hates. Her own bewilderment with herself gives me – strangely – hope and joy. Hope because she doesn’t like acting out and wants what is good. Joy, because she is able to articulate and recognise the heart of it all. There have been some prototypical tussles within herself of wanting the independence and adventure of being older. This has worked itself out in both positive and negative ways. But the positives have been awesome.

This year, Katie has ventured out to try more things that she once shied away from. She took it upon herself to do the Trinity Drama Exams, despite great fears of the exam context. She ended up scoring a high distinction and loved every minute of it. Her joy was infectious. Her confidence has grown and for the first time, she even auditioned for a role in a theatre production of Jane Eyre. The surprised delight on her face when I got the message that she was cast as Helen, young Jane’s consumptive friend, is one I will never forget. Her venturing out to try new things, to push a little harder in areas where she was once too scared, to give a little more, have all been both delightful and encouraging.

Those are words that I feel many times when I look upon my daughter. Delight. Encouragement. I delight that even though she’s a tall girl, almost my own height, that she still loves cuddles and hugs just as much as she did as a little girl. I am encouraged by her desire to honour and serve Jesus. And I’m encouraged when she despairs when she struggles to do both. I love her sense of humour and how she teases her dad. I am delighted when I see her playing with her brothers, or patiently helping them with school work or in the kitchen or creating art projects for them to enjoy. I am sooo encouraged when I see her tackling new things; big things; scary things and when she overcomes old fears – like heights (ziplining) and gaps in stairs (no more!). The list is long, but mostly, I am so encouraged by the growth I have seen in this precious girl of ours over the years.

As we have been thinking about the years ahead, we’ve felt it pressed upon ourselves to chose for Katie a special verse that will serve as a good reminder and encouragement for the complications of the teen years. It took us much prayer, consideration and thought to settle on 2 Timothy 2:22:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
 Along with this verse, comes another verse that we also felt was a poignant one for Katie. That is Philippians 1:9-11:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
When we consider the teen years and all the temptations and complications involved, coupled with our impulsive, people-loving daughter, we knew that discernment and a pursuit of righteousness are worthy attributes to look forward to. In our special letter to Kates, we highlighted the following:
The teen years often carry over “youthful passions” into the adult years. It’s an ongoing act of obedience to God to pursue the things that honour Him. Not all passions are bad, however. But the ones that Paul speaks of the kind of things that we may want to pursue, but that do not bring glory to God. Paul reminds us that a far more worthy pursuit is godliness.  The traits he highlights are traits that we hope you will pursue wholeheartedly as you seek to serve and love Jesus all the days of your life.  It will take prayer, like Paul prays in Philippians 1: 9. It will take time spent in God’s Word gaining knowledge and discernment. And it will take being alongside others who also call on the Lord – they are those whose hearts God makes pure, as Paul points out in 2 Timothy 2:22.
Together with the meaning of your give names (Katie Ann – Pure Grace), we pray that this ring and these verses will be a lifelong reminder of the goodness there is to be found in the pursuit of godliness. We pray that as you navigate these years ahead, with all the changes and challenges you will face, that you will continue to love others deeply, in the light of the gospel, and that you will seek to honour Jesus in all that you do. And as you do, we want you to know that we will always be here for you. No mistake is too big; no foolish decision is too weighty a burden for us not to carry alongside you. And where we may falter, Jesus never will. ALL your burdens you can take to Him.
Lastly, we want you to see these gifts – especially the ring and the chosen verses – as a symbol of our love for you and our commitment to you. We want to be parents who choose Jesus first as we walk this road of life with you. When you read this letter, look at your ring, or read your verses, we hope that you will remember our love for you and that Jesus loves you even more, especially when we fail.
Happy 13th birthday, dear Katie-Kates!  We love you hugely.
All our love, Mom and Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micah is 8!

And Micah is 8!

Every year that my baby turns one year older I feel my heart constrict more tightly than I would like. On Sunday, I got to cuddle my godson – all 6 months of him. Everything about that was familiar. It was yesterday that Micah snuggled against my chest in the very same ergo… wasn’t it? But, no, 7 1/2 years has passed since then and while it feels like a flash, so much has gone into these past few years in the life of Micah. And with it has been my graduation from a mom of babies and toddlers to a mom with teens, tweens and rough and tumbling loud, dirty, very physical boys.

Micah 2015-20162

Looking back on this year in the life of Micah, I’m struck by the constants as well as the changes. Micah has always been a fierce little guy. Loves fiercely; fights fiercely. He demands hugs from everyone and can’t quite get enough of the squeezes and cuddles, especially from me. Kiera, his big sister who is not the huggy type, has rationed him to one hug a day from her. Yet, still he adores her and will milk those hugs for all they’re worth. Every morning, I’m not awake more longer than a few minutes before this little guy tiptoes into my room and comes to claim his morning cuddle. If I so much as dare leave the house without a goodbye hug, I will find an unhappy face and wagging finger of chastisement at my car window before I can even back out of the driveway. Even Gracie, our 6-year-old cat cannot escape his squeezing affections! But, even while he loves big, he fights big too. Impulse control is not his strong suit and it can be quite exhausting refereeing his frustrations and his sense of injustice.  While he is the youngest, he certainly treats everyone else in our family like he is equal and/or superior in every which way!  No flies on this guy! But, still, so much maturity has taken place over this past year. Remorse is more ready. And with it a better ability to articulate his frustrations.

It’s a funny thing, this “growing up” business. I took part in a homeschooling talk recently as a “veteran” homeschooling momma giving advice to newbies. The other “veterans” were mommies who are further down the road than me and their advice reminded me once again that my Micah is very much a late bloomer. I started all the school-y things with my kids at a similar age to kids at school. But, Micah has never taken to it in the same way that his siblings did. I find myself oscillating between frustration and resignation. He would much rather be playing, playing, playing than ever learning to read, write or do arithmetic. Yet, in each of these fields, when he doesn’t concentrate too hard on trying NOT to grasp the work, he gets the concepts and flies through them. In just the last month or so, I’ve watched him move from not knowing or caring how to spell anything, to suddenly being able to spell words as if second nature. I’ve caught him reading everyday sign posts and billboards, despite his continued insistence that he can’t really read. He reads his readers with fluency, and yet, somehow there is a lack of confidence that he truly can tackle chapter books. For this guy, formalised learning is probably not the best approach. Yet, tell him a story and he is there. Ask him practical things and he will figure them out. Money? no problem. And once again I’m reminded that he quite easily fits into the ‘better late than early” mould of formal learning. And, I’m the one who needs to chill! 🙂

Micah 2015-20161

Micah’s favourite things revolve around people and fun. He is fiercely loyal to his bestie, Jemma. He loves playing with his siblings and friends. He loves Lunch Bunch on Wednesdays, can’t wait for drama classes each week and coming home from kids’ club on a Friday night has Micah hyped up and excited from the fun and games. While he loves running around, biking and generally outdoor fun, he hasn’t loved organised sports all that much. He is sensitive to unkindness (although he is happy to dish it out!) and too much boyish rudeness and mean remarks at soccer and cricket on a Friday afternoon had him determined not to take part. We put him to the test by making him fulfil his commitment for the second term. Stubborn to the core, he chose to quit even though he loved playing soccer. He would much rather play tennis with a coach he adores. Greg is the epitome of patience with smart-mouthed, excitable young boys. And Micah can’t say enough about Greg.  He started drama classes and took part in his first stage play this past Sunday – nerves galore, but he loved every minute and wished he could do it all over again! This year, Micah has discovered Minecraft, Michael Jackson, and alternative parody in the form of Parry Grip. Much to our consternation. His taste in music is as eclectic as his taste in movies. Top of his music list would include pop, rock, country, metal, and rap from the last 50 decades. Movies wise? He is just as happy watching Barbie and Ever After High as he is watching typical boy-fare. Top of his list is reserved for Star Wars, however. Star Wars pretty much influences his hours of Lego play, story-telling, and gift list!

Micah 2015-20164

Being the youngest, I often forget that Micah missed out on many of the childhood rituals the others experienced. He doesn’t remember Bible stories in bed, because he only remembers our current set up of couch time and Bible discussion. He doesn’t remember many of the nursery rhymes of his baby years, because the older kids’ musical tastes ruled the radio. It surprises me time and again when he comes home to tell me something he learned at church, as if he’d never heard it at home! Like we haven’t read or spoken of these things with our kids time and again over the year. But, then I remember that the simpler versions of the stories of the Bible aren’t read quite as much by us as they were when the older three were little. And I’m reminded how blessed I am to have other teachers in his young life to reinforce our own teaching. Best of all, is sitting with him while he reads aloud his Bible stories to me and he exclaims, “this is my favourite one!” and begins to tell me what he loves about the Bible.  He is a little guy who struggles with big emotions. But those big emotions give him a big heart. And his heart longs to see everyone safe in the arms of Jesus. I pray that this continues to be his desire, each and every day of his life. And that he will indeed act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God as he seeks to love and serve Jesus.

Micah 2015-20163

Katie is 12!

katie1There is something about 12 that I cannot quite get my head around. I remember 12. I remember how big I was. And how big I thought I was.  I remember a level of maturity and immaturity that I’m not quite ready to attribute to my own precious Katie. And yet, even as I say that, I have flashes of memories from this past year that highlight facts I can’t deny. My Katie is growing up far quicker than I am comfortable with.

There’s the physical changes – she’s overtaken her sister in height and suddenly she’s able to fit into many of my clothes. I’m beginning to have to watch my wardrobe carefully!  Then there are those moments when I find myself having to look twice: yes, that young lady curled up on my couch is actually my 11-year-old daughter. 11 yesterday. 12 today. 18 tomorrow.

Those 18-year-old moments are like little flashes into the future. Flashes? More like buzzing shocks. Most often, they occur when she teases her dad. Her wit can catch him out these days, and her “Oh, Dad!” responses to his teasing betray a mature confidence – a future Katie – that trips me up everytime. I feel proud and bewildered and utterly amazed at these glimpses. And I love it. I love getting hints of grown-up Kates and imagining a future of coffee dates and shopping trips.

A future…. To think that just a few months ago we lived through an agonising week when the concept of “future Katie” was challenged. It feels like a million years ago, and yet just yesterday all the same. Not quite the usual birthday musings, but as I think back over that time, the memories come fast and furious. Never recorded before; perhaps now is the appropriate time….

It was a week where Katie showcased the whole of who she is in a multitude of ways. And it was a week that I remember with snapshots of vivid clarity. The look on the GP’s face when he recommended an MRI for the unexplained lump on her forehead. The drama year-end celebration and the gymnastics display that we rushed to later that day – celebratory events that the kids absorbed with all the joy and excitement of those celebrating a wonderful year of accomplishment and fun. Celebratory events overshadowed with a nagging sense that not all was right. Yet, Ms Katie, unconcerned. Never one to agonise over life, she reserved her fears for the next day – the day of the MRI. Her fears? Partly for herself, for the unknown of the machine, for the results. But also? For her uncle, our radiologist. For the radiographers. For me. My little 11-year-old sweetness spent the better part of an hour in the claustrophobic innards of the MRI machine, praying. Praying for the people she loves, for the nurses, for her uncle. Her sweet, gentle, caring, compassionate self. Shortly afterwards contrasted with her feisty, don’t-mess-with-me self when dye-injection became necessary. Like anyone, she shed tears of fear when she was hospitalised soon afterwards for a biopsy the next day. Those snapshots in my memory flutter down on top of another – feisty, chatty, warm and loving Katie teasing the nurses; contemplative Katie wondering what the Lord has in store for her; grumpy Katie telling the doctor off – no, I will not get an injection!  Katie, gowned up and heading into surgery, a lonely tear escaping down her cheek. Katie, returning home with a little plastered cut and a heart brimming over with emotion. Katie, sending tear-filled voice notes of thanks to friends and family who had gifted her, loved her, prayed for her.  Katie, confused at the tumultuous sea of emotion she rode for the next week. Katie asking, “why me?” and then, “why not me?”  Oof. Revisiting the memories: gut-kicking stuff.

Perhaps the most vivid of memories are the emotions that accompanied those days. Not knowing if the dreaded C-word would feature in the diagnosis. Not knowing. The hardest part of that week for us all was the not knowing – oscillating between feeling cold, desperate fear and utter, calming peace. Peace. Such an incredibly surreal feeling in the midst of such uncertainty and fear. Sharing the journey with friends and family had both Craig and I marvelling over the power of prayer. A strength we didn’t expect and a certainty in Katie’s ultimate future, no matter the diagnosis or outcome, carried us through the days that followed. How glorious it is to know that this world is not all there is! Even faced with the “what if” we had assurance and peace. Of course, it was not without moments of sadness and tears. But, those moments never happened without assurance, either.  The warmth of good friends and family who gathered around us, showering us with their comfort. I remember one particular moment when two friends hugged me close when the tears spilled over my kitchen island – all while Katie was carefree, life-embracing, fun-loving Katie, enjoying a Star Wars marathon with her buddies! And then, when the final diagnosis of an Eosinophilic Granuloma with potential damage to the dura meant surgery to remove part of her skull, we gathered up our courage to tell Katie. I will never forget that moment. Craig, so gently explaining to the grave little face before him the plans for the week ahead. Katie, nodding through silent tears as she took on board the magnitude of the surgery ahead. Their closeness. My heart. A constricting, breath-gasping love for them both.

And then the surgery. The hours and days following, watching our daughter slowly return to us. Those first 24 hours: the hardest. It was as if our daughter was lost to us, and all that remained was her body. No emotion of any kind passed over her face. The nurses, coming in and out, cared so deeply for their youngest ICU patient. The mothers amongst them tearing up as they made sure I was well cared for as well. And then, my Katie, slowly, slowly, returning to me. Caring, sweet, gentle Katie. Katie, whose first sentence was out of concern for me, “Mom! You haven’t had much sleep. You need to eat!” Katie, who allowed herself to be the subject of the student nurse’s neuro-patient exam, and then was so concerned to hear that she passed. Katie, whose smile returned. Katie, who wanted to gift her doctor and nurses with thank you bundles and spent hours planning and executing her ideas. Katie, who exuded a peace I never expected. Katie, who bounced back in a way so unexpected, the doctors marvelled at the unlikelihood. The black-eyed raccoon-like bruising that was promised? Nothing beyond a little red swelling that disappeared within 36 hours. Katie. The vessel God chose in those weeks to bring glory to His name. How incredible it was to share Jesus with others around us through this time; to hear our daughter speak through deep theological thoughts as she faced the question of “why not me?”; to be a part of the hardest questions people ever ask of themselves and to be able to know, with certainty, that this life is but a snap of the fingers and the best is yet to come. How grateful we felt, to the depth of our souls, that Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we can be a part of the best that is yet to come. Yes, we were amazed by our young girl. But, more than that, amazed at our great God.

Katieop

The six months since then have relegated those weeks to a chapter passed. Katie’s growth spurt happened within weeks of surgery. School began again. She took up swimming and loves it so much, she’s chosen to do club swimming and is moving up the lanes rapidly. She still creates incredible concoctions of homemade cosmetics and science experiments. She devours books of all kinds. She adores young kids and they adore her – so many seeking her out as their adopted big sister as she creates worlds of play and fun for them. Drama, singing, and dancing still fill her days and again and again she surprises and infuriates me with the raw talent she has. Surprises me, for the incredible displays of song or dance I’ve never quite seen around the house. Infuriates, for if she dedicated just a fraction more time to the discipline of practise, she would far exceed her own expectations! Practise – perhaps the only thing she happily practices is born out of her love for all things make-up: whether stage, special effects or just modelling the models, she will easily spend hours creating incredible combinations. The bedroom carpet stains stand testimony to that! Creating is her thing. So much so, that this year I found myself being worked out of a party-planning job. Even today, she took another aspect out of my hands by planning the food and executing the decor right down to the themed food labels! I could get used to this! But, then again, maybe I won’t. Simply, because every moment of every day with these kids is a gift. Some days that is harder to remember than others. When those teenager moods swing through our home and the nasty, eye-rolling, prideful biting comments are tossed, it’s hard to remember. Especially when I find myself to blame; myself the perpetrator. But, then, with Katie, apologies are readily accepted and heart-hugs follow. My precious girl – so often a real example to me. To God, I am grateful.

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On this 12th birthday, Katie, I am so so grateful to God for these 12 years. For His love. For the woman He is growing you to be. For all the grace, kindness, gentleness, feistiness, care, wit and love you exhibit. For all that He has in store for you. We love you. Happy Birthday.

Sam is 9!

Nine! It’s here! Yet, when I look back over Sam’s birthday posts of the years past, it seems that our boy has barely changed. Yes, he has grown a little taller, but essentially he seems the same as ever. Still loving Lego. Still loving drama. Still loving hours playing outside. Still loving practical jokes, making up riddles and presenting me with a new Lego creation each and every morning, all while talking a hind leg off a donkey.

 

Yet, as is expected with another year to mature, the chatter involves deeper questions and thoughts. In many ways this has been very positive. In others, not so much.

Somewhere along the line this year, this little man has taken upon himself to view life through a bit of a pessimistic lense. It’s puzzled and frustrated us often when, after a great day full of fun, his summary assessment is, “it wasn’t fun, because …”  Usually the “because” is a trivial upset that lasted mere moments – hardly anything to overshadow the entire day of fun and games. Eeyore much? In talking to him about this way of thinking, it becomes clear that it’s not really his desire to focus on the negative, but it seems to crop up more regularly than we would like for him.  My prayer is that it’s just a imitation of one of his buddies who also does this, or perhaps just a passing phase.  So, we pray… and, we chat a lot. His little heart, when thinking of these things more closely, shows a strong desire for positive gratitude.

And we do see this desire realised more often than he sees himself.  I love his sweet love notes to me – sometimes hidden in the mail box, many times secreted next to my bedside. I love his prayers for his dad at the dinner table and late at night, especially when Dad is away on business. I love how excited he gets about small things and especially when he discovers new things. His budding interest in electronics has him spending hours creating electronic circuits with Snap Circuit and his fascination with all things Minecraft has him building virtual Lego almost as much as he does when handling the real thing. I love his enjoyment of people. Developing new friendships this year has been a rewarding experience. Yet, his interest in people extends beyond his peers and for this I am truly grateful. I love how he shows interest in older people and younger ones too. This year, his piano teacher and our friend, Laura, has brought her two little girls along during piano lesson time. Our boys can’t wait to spend time with the girls, even going as far as to argue over who gets to hold baby Kaiya first! His enthusiasm for these things puts all the pessimism to rest.

For this I am grateful. But more so, I am grateful for his ability to express his feelings. This year, Sam has felt quite bothered about having discovered some swear words. Having them ricochet through his head against his will has had him beg me to pray night after night that he won’t think about them. When his friendships overwhelm him, he will talk through them with me. Sometimes, I discover that the little thing that ruined an otherwise perfect afternoon was little in event but big in heartache.

I wish I can say that I am always the wise mom, generous with her time, but so often the burdens of his heart pour out just before bedtime when I’m aching to shake off some of the responsibilities of being mom. Writing this reminds me once again that while the days are long, the years are short … I don’t want overwhelming regrets. So, this 10th year my prayer is that I will linger longer; listen harder and love deeper.
Sam2014-2015

And, while I pray that the Lord works in me, I pray too that He continues to work in my little man – that he will grow to be a man after God’s own heart; that he will yearn to serve Jesus with all his heart and mind and that he will choose gratitude even when the world offers a dismal picture.

But, for today, this 9th birthday, I mostly want to thank the Lord for this special boy – all his sensitivity, his enthusiasms, his joys and his worries, his love and his struggles – all that makes our Sam our special big boy whom we love so dearly.

Happy Birthday, Sam!

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