Hazy Days

the shadow of the life to come

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Sam in 10!

sam2016This guy! Man, oh, man! Ten has felt 100 years away if his conversation has been anything to go by. Sam has the unfortunate pleasure of being the last child to celebrate his birthday each year. It always feels like it takes forever and the wait is excruciating for poor Sam. I’ve long stopped wondering how many more conversations that he starts with me will begin with, “for my birthday…”

Looking over Sam’s “Sam is 9!” post, I’ve seen such changes in him. He can still be a bit of an eeyore, but this is usually related to sibling treatment than anything else.  Last year, his pessimism seemed to dominate his actions and thoughts, but this year there has been such a positive change in him.
For example, this year he joined a cricket and soccer team. Initially he was frustrated with the kids there generally being mean and rude. He would return to the car despondent and annoyed. But, when we talked through it, we decided to pray beforehand each week and then Sam left the car with the challenge to find something to encourage at least three other kids with. Even just a “great catch!” would do. Nowadays, I see him bounding across the field and often I don’t even have to ask him before he is telling me about the kids he encouraged and the great day he had playing sports.
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This newly kindled love of life is echoed in so many areas that it’s become more normal for Sam to be bright, interested, engaging and happy than it is for him to be down in the dumps. During our read-aloud sessions, it’s Sam who often jumps up to get the globe to see where our story is in the world. He pipes up more and more with interesting contributions and insights in our discussion, all while having his head buried in his latest Lego creation – some things never change, it seems!
Long hours have been spent by Sam gobbling up all he can about composting and raising a successful crop of tomatoes. Seldom does a branch, old cardboard scrap or piece of piping escape the whittle and cuts of his penknife. Lately, Bear Gryll facts pour out of him at a steady stream as he regales the stories he has been reading. If he isn’t telling me the latest survival skill, he is rattling off jokes, riddles and stories he has collected from all over.

It’s been quite a year of a boy growing up. I’ve seen a leap in maturity in this last year – a greater sense of who he is, a greater confidence, and a greater assurance.  This has been most obvious to me on the stage and amongst his friends. On stage, he has blossomed – acting up a small storm so different to the shyer, somewhat awkward 8 year old of last year. This confidence seems to have spilled over into his friendships too. He has enjoyed a couple of new natural friendships where connections have fallen into place out of shared interests. sam2Watching the boys deep in plans for creating a business from treasure finds on the beach br

ings me such delight. The teachery side of me delights in all the learning and practising going on as they work out discounts for their proposed sales. The mama in me loves the connections and the ease in which these friendships have developed.

Even his skills are gradually being honed and where he once hated aspects of school work, he now gets on with it and sometimes even with diligence! Perhaps the biggest frustration he has had all year has been the learning of the piano. A rebellious grumpiness erupted in him each and every lesson – to the point where we’ve shelved it for now and will see about picking it up in the new year. But, even though he’s not so keen on the piano, he absolutely loves the piano teacher and her two girls. He recently asked again if we could spend more time helping out with the Mamas and Munchkins because he loves to play with the little kids and look after them. These are the things that warm my heart – for all the academic and sporting opportunities, for all the reading, writing, skills and more that he gains, it’s heart and character that matter most to me. To see snippets of this growing from a desire to serve others means the world and more to me.
Of course, it’s the morning hugs, the chats with mom, the seeking out of Dad’s opinion on his latest creations that reminds me that while 10 is big in some ways, it’s still little in many others. I’m looking forward to what 10-year-old Sam will grow to be. But at the same time, I’m so very keen to hang onto my freckled nose, sweet boy of yesterday who still very much loves a cuddle, a chat, and to kiss me goodnight with a ritualistic kiss on each of my cheeks … and my chin, forehead, eyelids, nose and mouth!
Sambo, I’m proud of you and delighted to see where this next year will take you. My prayer is as always – that you will deepen your love, knowledge of and dependence on Jesus our Saviour. I so look forward to seeing His work in your life as you seek to serve and honour Him.
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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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Kiera is 14!

Dear Kiera,

I started writing this birthday post in my usual fashion – as a post about you, rather than a post to you. There is so much to say about this year. So much joy, disappointment, hurt, happiness, lessons learned and much more. But, the truth is that you know what these things are. I don’t think you’re going to forget this year and all that has gone into it. And, while I love that we can read back on these posts and remember events and moments in detail, today I want to focus on what this year has meant. At least, for me, as I have observed you.

If I had to label each year with the focus on your passions, this one would be the year of Musical Theatre. Although, I do chuckle at that rather anomoly-like remark. Hasn’t every year been varying degrees of love for musical theatre, increasing in frenzy these past 4 years in particular?! Indeed, if I had to label this or any other year with any theme, I doubt they’d differ much from year to year. Your passions are deep, all-consuming. Your determination, drive, desires, depth of feeling and thought have not diminished in all the years I have known you. They’ve only strengthened and grown. Shifted and changed to accommodate the experiences of life and the maturity of age.

And this is what I want to focus on this year.

This year you’ve suffered some deep hurts. You’ve had to learn lessons where the choices were anger and bitterness or grace and kindness – lessons, as a wise older friend told you, that most of us only learn as adults, if at all. And I’ve watched you grapple with your own conflicting emotions. I’ve seen you angry, betrayed, hurt and deeply disappointed. I’ve seen you rise above these feelings – choosing to love, choosing to serve, choosing to show grace undeserved and choosing gratitude. The disappointments you’ve experienced this year will not be the last of all disappointments. There will be many more in future. But, with each and every disappointment comes another opportunity to practice being godly. To choose the high road. To choose to stretch out your hand in grace, even when your feelings may not be there. To imitate the wonderful example of Corrie Ten Boom who did exactly that when faced with her prison guard those many years later. Knowing that at the end of the day our lives are not really about our own passions or our own desires, but rather about the wonderful, amazing, incredible good news of what Jesus did – the ultimate grace – makes these lessons all the more valuable.

Rising above your hurts and choosing to put your head down and work hard, making the most of opportunities you have been given, or seeking out new or different opportunities has been another one of those things that is a strength. It’s been one of those tricky strengths. So good in so many ways, and so admirable. I’ve often found myself running to catch up with your vision, not quite sure I think you’re being realistic, only to find you already there and proving that while they may not be realistic today, they may well be tomorrow and, quite often, quite realistic right now today, thank you very much ! 🙂 But, with this determination has come other hard lessons to learn. With resources available not always being ones that match our pockets or family, it’s been hard for you to see some possibilities fall away. Sometimes, you’ve struggled with how to express your disappointment. It’s not been easy. But, and I’m not sure I tell you this enough, if ever, but: it blows me away each and every time I hear your sweet words of gratitude. Yesterday was one of those days – you said, “Thanks for doing this for me, Mom. I know you don’t have to and I really appreciate it.” Sometimes these words are learned and taken to heart; sometimes it’s your heart that I learn. Each time I’m touched.

This “being a teenager” thing has brought with it that tug-of-war between independence and dependence. That tussle between wanting what’s ahead and being frustrated with having to be content with the now. You’ve had tastes of awesome fun independence – your stint on the My Fair Lady cast being particularly exciting in this regard – and yet, there’s still the “no, you can’t watch, read, go, do, see, be …” that you hear from us, your parents, that often stirs up that desire just to be older, already, man! Sometimes that comes out in overconfident tones that sometimes sound unkind, brash or conceited. It’s such a struggle to temper the bigness of teenage emotion, thoughts and confidence and you’re experiencing that more than ever. And, boy, have you taken on the argumentative teenager mantle like it was tailor-made for you! It’s quite something to be the person to cause Dad and I to stare at each other dumbfounded and say, “is this what we were like as teens?” Finally, we understand what our parents complained about! We joke, yes, but we also admire your ability to process after the argument. Hearing you advise your little sister that in retrospect you realise that oftentimes you were wrong or unwise, and it helps to listen to us – well, that’s music to our ears! Seeing you take on board the big and small corrections, even if only much later, is so encouraging to us. But, the truth is that, more often than we’d like (!), it’s mom or dad who is in the wrong, and it’s something so very special to experience your forgiveness and kindness and continued love for us, despite our own fallenness.

Kiera, there is so much to say, but these things are what have stood out for me the most this year. Yes, you’ve done a lot of fun things. You’ve excelled in dance, drama and singing. You’ve had opportunities to work with incredible people. You’ve rocked your subjects in school this year, aceing even the dreaded high school science curriculum. You’ve achieved much. BUT, these things mean nothing in the greater context of who we are in this world. I’m so very grateful that you continue to look to Jesus and that He is your rock. I pray that He will always be your rock and that you will seek, more deeply as you grow older, to serve Him, including in the way you love those around you.

We love you sooo much.

Happy birthday, dear sweet Kiera.

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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.

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