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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.

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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! 🙂

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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!

Kiera is 13!

With every birthday that passes, I feel a sense of awe at the passage of time and the effect it has on the growth of my family, our relationships and the world around us.  But this birthday has taken that to a new level. In preparation for this special birthday – the birth of a teenager – I’ve spent a fair bit of time looking back over photos of Kiera’s past 13 years.  Each and every one has me catching my breath. They’re captured moments that I remember with such clarity that it is as if I am in them still. How can it be that it’s not just minutes ago, but years? Years and years?  And how will I feel in another 13 years? Or 30?  These memories have stirred up such mixed emotions – joyful memories emerged in a pool of sadness that I cannot revisit those moments in actuality, ever. And then, there’s that number … 13.  In one sense it’s just another year in the life of a person. But, in another, it symbolises a shift in the journey of life. Which is why this year we’ve chosen to do a few things to highlight this time – starting with a special dinner with just Mom, Dad and Kiera, and a gift of a very special ring and some letters. But more on that in another post.

For this post, I want to focus on Kiera.

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Like past posts, we like to record the highlights of the year – the fun times, the achievements, the joys, the celebrations. And this year has been full of them…  Writing numerous stories, plays, screenplays and poems. Reading up a storm. Top marks for drama exams. High honours in her drama eisteddfod.  Joining her sister’s dancing classes and thriving after just a few lessons. Making the Western Cape team for gymnastics for the fourth year running. Writing and publishing more short stories for Nali’bali. Getting the lead role in her drama studio’s year end play. Fulfilling her dream of being on the Artscape stage by performing a musical number with her best friend at the Artscape Arena for the Schools’ Arts festival and been selected out of 90 acts to be one of the 12 finalists to perform in the Gala event for the mayor of our city and other dignitaries.  They’re exciting highlights in her life, for sure.  But most celebrated, for me, are the heart moments that reflect a child who is choosing to think along the lines of What Would Jesus Do?

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This has been a watershed year in many ways. There have been so many little and large upheavals in Kiera’s life – disappointments mixed in with great joys, yet every single time, I’ve watched a young person grapple with adult-sized emotions and reasoning and come out the other end with an attitude of selflessness, kindness, gratitude and humility. Of course, she is by no means perfect, as is the case with us all. There’s hardheadedness, boisterousness, and outspokenness that can trip her up, yet, while she grapples with these personality traits that often don’t lend themselves to the attitudes just mentioned, I stand in awe at the work the Holy Spirit is doing in her life. Recently, as part of helping her sort through a friendship issue, she gave me her diary to read. A diary of a 12-year-old girl. Ever read one of those? Remember them? I have and I do. Because, it wasn’t that long ago that I was writing my own diary entries at the age of 12. They were all boys, friends, and good doses of selfishness and self-absorption on my part. Yet, in the pages of Kiera’s diary, I saw honest struggles penned as her heart and mind dealt with the bigger picture. Just about every moment of hurt described ended with serious honest self-reflection and a determination to live with grace, forgiveness, and humility.  I found myself humbled and discipled by my daughter’s words, as I reflected on my own sinful heart over the matter.

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There have been many moments like these in the past year, where her actions have stood as an example to me and those around her.  There have been the expected disappointments, like not being good enough to sing solo for the church, handled with grace and joy for her friend who was awarded the solo.  And then there have been the unexpected disappointments, like the time the low results for her gymnastics floor routine had her coach furious with the decision and actively questioning the judge about the huge disparity in results. Even though it cost her a podium spot, and even though she had to bite back tears of disappointment, she chose to honour the judge with her words: “when all’s said and done, it’s the judge’s decision and it’s not the end of the world. I had fun and enjoyed being with Dad on the trip there and back.”  Again, an attitude I wish I could wear as easily.

And then there have been the joyful moments.  When she and a friend got to perform a musical theatre number at the Artscape last week, her joy and excitement bubbled over as she thanked the staff, the stagehands and just about everyone else involved.  And, not too long ago, she got a lead role in her drama studio’s 2015 year-end performance of The Silver Chair. Her joy was tangible, even across the ocean in Australia where I happened to be when it was all announced. Yet, within seconds of hearing her joy, I also heard her deep and great concern for her best friend who had also coveted the role and who would be very disappointed. Her tears that week were for her friend’s feelings. My tears at that age?  They would’ve been simply because I couldn’t enjoy my “win” to the full extent.

Yes, she has taught us much. And continues to do so. And I am grateful.  Grateful that lessons I’ve only learned (and am learning) later in life, she is learning now. Grateful that in the tough times, she doesn’t stagnate in her disappointment or in self-pity, but climbs out of muck and chooses to be positive. Grateful that she is honest and realistic about her own personal failings, but at the same time not satisfied with settling with the traits she views as unhelpful. And grateful that I get to see and be a part of the process. Just this past weekend, I saw her actively at work on an area where she has struggled in the past.  Being the natural (boisterous, yes) leader that she is, it’s easy to take charge. But during team games at her birthday party, I watched her lead with such patience and inclusion, making sure that each member got to contribute and feel a part of the team.  They did not win, but she was beaming with the enjoyment of the experience.  And I was beaming that she managed to reign in the competitive spirit enough to allow the others to participate equally in the game.

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Not too long ago, Kiera pegged herself as an optimistic realist, and I think she’s pretty much spot on. She shoots for the top, even if she does not have expectations of reaching it.  I reckon we’re similar in that way.  It’s a useful attribute to have and considering all the failings I struggle with, I am grateful this is not one of them… and I’m grateful that I could pass on (at least something in the mix of outspoken and boisterous character traits) that is useful and good! It’s helped her prepare for potential disappointments, and it’s given her a healthy dose of realism when unexpected joy comes her way.

But most of all, it’s the work of the Lord Jesus in her life that has shaped her.  It’s that which matters most. And it’s that for which I am most grateful. I have oft said, here and elsewhere, that my prayer as a parent is that the Lord will bring our children to love and serve Him because of and despite of our parenting.  “Despite” because I know that we fail every single day and ultimately it is not our parenting that saves a child, but the choice of the Lord God Himself.  And “because” so that I will be reminded to honour God by choosing to raise our children in His ways, despite the fact that, while we shoot for doing the best job, we will fail time and again. Another prayer I’ve prayed is to be reminded in those tough parenting moments that it’s less about changing the child’s behaviour in the moment and more about a sanctifying opportunity for myself!  In other words, an opportunity for me to practise being godly.  But, the prayer I’ve never really thought to include, with any kind of regularity, has been the one that stands out the most: that the Lord would use our children to teach us and shape us as He raises them to love and honour Him. In the last 13 years of being a parent, I believe that prayer has been the one answered more often than not.  And I suspect it will be the one to be answered most often for a good many more years to come.  But, always, always, I will continue to pray that Jesus will be her #1 and that the verse we’ve chosen for her this 13th birthday will be one close to her heart for now and ever:

Romans 12: 1- 2 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

And, finally, to Kiera, by the time you are reading this, you will have received your special letters from Dad and I, and the ring that we hope will be as special to you as it is to us. You will know that this blog entry, and all the entries before, reflect our hearts and our joy in you and our gratitude to God for giving you to us. As we have said before and say again now, we love you so very much and we are committed to walking this journey with you, as your parents and family-in-Christ, as you stride towards independence and responsibility as the adult you are becoming. Let’s keep Jesus our number 1 and our relationships honest, open and full in Him. Love you!

Love Mom and Dad

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(and for memories’ sake – click here for a photo-only post on Kiera: ages 0 through to 13)

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