Alice’s Birthday & Other Summer Happenings

Our dear little Alice Genevieve turned two earlier this month! We were camping with my mom and dad at Syringa Provincial Park at the time, which was pretty much the best birthday Alice could have asked for!

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The weather was very, very hot and the water was very, very cold. Perfect!

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We stayed at an RV campsite for the first bit, and while it was pleasant to have an electrical hookup, the lack of shade made it a less than ideal location. We then found a lovely shady campsite to move to, which proved to be an excellent decision. The kids loved exploring the little trails around the campsite, it was close to the playground and beach, and James found an abandoned scooter (its wonky wheel was speedily fixed by Grandpa) and scooted on the road till he dropped into bed exhausted at night.

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Chucking rocks while people fish is generally considered a sin. But Grandpa and the girls were a sufficient distance away. 🙂

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Jeremy caught a little whitefish! Exciting for us, rather disappointing for him. (I guess they are not exactly fish you brag about catching.)

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Rather than setting up the pack’n’play in the fifth wheel, we tucked Alice into this little wardrobe. She fit perfectly and slept pretty well. 🙂

James investigated it first to see if it had a secret portal to Narnia (most disappointingly, it does not) and was wondering if Alice would go to Narnia in her sleep. “If she does, then I’m going to sleep in there, too!”

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Opening some gifts!

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Grandpa and Grandma took us out for dinner for Alice’s birthday. We went to the Lion’s Head Pub in Castlegar and the food there was excellent! Alice relished every bite of her enormous grilled cheese sandwich.

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It’s been so hot and sunny the last few weeks! A friend from church lent us this little pool and the kids have been enjoying it daily. Alice loves wearing her “bathing soup” and cheers, “Hurray!” when she puts it on. 🙂

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James has been fighting many imaginary battles against the Calormenes (the enemies of Narnia, in case you haven’t read the Chronicles lately).

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June joins in frequently.

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“Mom, take a picture of my face set in grim determination as I prepare to go to battle!”

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Off he dashes!

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And vigorously fights!

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Our apple tree is going crazy this year!

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Jeremy’s accepted a teaching job in Kelowna and we are currently preparing to move there. It is a stressful time, as we don’t yet have a place to live (the rental market there is absurdly competitive). Please keep us in your prayers as we are finding it awfully tempting to be anxious.

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James’s 6th Birthday!

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Our dear little lad turned six years old yesterday! He had a wonderful birthday, beginning with a treasure hunt to find his presents (a big hit!), having a pancake breakfast at church after mass, playing baseball at the school next door, and having a delicious dinner of his choice (tortellini soup, for the fourth year in a row!).

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James requested and received a baseball bat, a baseball, and a butterfly net for his birthday. He was so pleased!

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Trying out his new baseball bat!

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All set for church. Despite the cool weather, his sweater lasted one minute in church. I still want to overdress him!

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James also requested chocolate cupcakes for his birthday.

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Birthday dinner!

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And here is James’s birthday interview for your reading pleasure.

Q: How old are you today, sweetheart?
A: Six.

Q: And what can you do now that you’re six?
A: Hit with a real baseball bat!

Q: What are some things you enjoy doing?
A: Playing baseball.
Q: Okay, what other things do you enjoy doing?
A: I enjoy listening to The Silver Chair, and praying the rosary with dad. Those are two of my favourite things to do.

Q: Tell me about your sisters.
A: Well, June is a girl, and you probably know a bunch of things about girls. Or about three year olds. They can’t do much the same things as six year olds – which is pretty commonly known.
Q: Oh, like what things can’t they do?
A: Well, they can’t hit a baseball with a baseball bat.
Q: I see. What are some things you like doing with June?
A: Oh, I like reading stories to June, and I like playing games with her.

Q: Tell me a bit about Alice.
A: She also likes hearing books, and doing puzzles, and eating breakfast, and she likes candies. And yeah.
June: And I like balloons!
A: And June likes hot chocolate.

Q: What do you and I do together?
A: We do school (though not very often these days), and you read me books, and we read Lord of the Rings, and those are some things I like.

Q: What are some things that you and dad do together?
A: Playing chess, and playing checkers. One thing I would like to do with dad is play Wild Craft with him, because he doesn’t play it that often. And one thing I like is having a break from talking.

Q: What makes you happy?
A: Oh, lots of ordinary boy things, like playing baseball, watching videos of aircraft carriers, listening to Miss Vidovic, and things like that.

Q: What is something scary?
A: It would be if Smaug came flying straight over top of our house with an army of goblins and orcs! And an army of Black Riders! Do you think that would be scary, mom?
Q: Yes, that would be terrifying!

Q: What are you really good at?
A: Saying “I can do this!”
Q: Okay . . . And what else?
A: Uh, I’m really good at . . . throwing balls. And I’m really good at waiting for mentos at teatime.

Q: What do you want to do when you grow up?
A: I would like to be an arborist, and maybe after I’m an arborist a policeman!
Q: Why would you like to be an arborist?
A: Oh, because I’d like to be up in a tree for a while and use a saw, and maybe even a chainsaw!
Q: And why would you like to be a policeman?
A: I just would. I’d enjoy driving around, and I’d enjoy maybe going in a parade, and I’d enjoy just doing my job and coming home and seeing my wife and children, if I had them.

Q: What is your favourite song?
A: Loving Shepherd.

Q: What stories do you enjoy hearing about?
A: St. George and the Dragon.
Q: And why do you like that story?
A: I like that story because the knight defeats the dragon. And I like hearing about how the Red Cross knight rides sooooo far just to fight a dragon and almost die.

Q: What are some of your favourite books?
A: The Princess and the Goblin, The Silver Chair, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings!

Q: And what is your favourite poem?
A: The one about the knight and the lady!

A knight and a lady
Went riding one day
Far into the forest,
Away, away.

‘Fair knight’, said the lady
‘I pray, have a care.
This forest is evil –
Beware, beware!’

A fiery red dragon
They spied on the grass;
The lady wept sorely,
Alas! Alas!

The knight slew the dragon,
The lady was gay.
They rode on together,
Away, away.

Q: What is something new you’d like to try?
A: My baseball bat!

Q: What do you think about before you fall asleep?
A: Lots of things! Like how it’ll be my birthday tomorrow. That’s the thing I most wanted to think about when I went to bed last night.

Q: What do you love about God?
A: That He is generous and good, and that He gives us His Holy Spirit to help us come to heaven.

 

Winlaw in the Slocan Valley

When I say “The Valley”, I’m referring to the Fraser Valley, but out here when people say “The Valley”, they’re talking about the Slocan Valley. It’s out of the way, it’s rural, and has a reputation for being pretty independent, quirky and beautiful.

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We went for drive up the Slocan Valley today. The blue skies clouded over pretty quickly, so we ended up turning back home around Winlaw. We found a lovely nature park there and explored the area with the kids. We found a small cave that might have been a badger’s home, enormous stumps from trees that appeared to be over a hundred years old, and some Canada geese honking on the Slocan River.

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It was a lovely stop. Across the river, we saw a Rail Trail that stretches all the way from the entrance of the Slocan Valley up to Nakusp (about 1.5 hours by car one-way). I must confess I was awfully tempted to move to Winlaw for its Nature Park and Rail Trail alone. 🙂

June is very interested in climbing trees these days!

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Rustic perch.

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Winter Happenings

I’ve been reluctant to post this winter because my photos are rather lacklustre these days; I think it comes of being inside so much of the time. Low light photos just aren’t my thing, you know? Oh well, here we go, regardless. 🙂

Our Christmas dinner! ‘Twas a joyful and festive way to end the Advent season of waiting and anticipation.

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With the month of December came piles and piles of snow! Here’s the view from our side entrance.

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And our back yard, a sea of snow as far as the eye can see!

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We’ve got lots of icicles hanging from the roof.

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James enjoying the snow. JUMP!

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John David and Tessa and their kids stopped by for a visit in late December, and we drove down to the Fraser Valley in early January, but unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of those wonderful visits.

The school next door has a good-sized hill that is perfect for sledding/tobogganing. We’ve gone a few times already and James loves it. June finds it a little too speedy for her liking, but she did join James on the sled a couple times. (This was taken in December, there’s lots more snow now!)

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Sisters who love to dress up together!

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I’ve been listening to Pride and Prejudice on the drive to work and it has been such a delight. Listening to the story aloud has made me notice details I’ve missed the previous nine or ten times I’ve read the story; I love it when that happens! So I spent a lazy afternoon watching the 1995 film version this past week. The kids were more than happy to join me. 🙂

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A Child is Born

The other day I pulled out a little jar of nail polish and painted June’s fingernails for the first time. She was wide-eyed, wondering what exactly I was doing and then, after a bit, admired her sparkly pink nails and (of course) couldn’t quite resist touching them before they’d had a chance to dry. The nail polish was a gift from a patient at the hospital, a thank you from a family who’d appreciated the care we nurses had provided during and after labour. That’s the thing about working on a maternity unit; because you share in the intensity of birth and the radiant joy of new life, you are also flooded with thank you gifts. I’m surprised the nurses on our unit aren’t all overweight as makeup accessories are not the norm; rather chocolate, donuts and cheese and cracker baskets are a regular part of the rhythm of our days at work.

Of course, the thank you gifts are only a small part of why I enjoy my work. A maternity unit is a special place. While other parts of the hospital may bring out the pitiful and anxious nature of people, a maternity unit often is a place of community, encouragement and service, because that’s what a woman in labour needs. Attentive care. Steady support offered by people she trusts. And lots and lots of encouragement.

I’d worked on a maternity unit before I was married, but after I had James, I thought I could never work there again. Birth was so intense! And so overwhelming! I needed other people, my doula in particular. And while I’d known about the intensity of birth and the benefits of labour support in a careless sort of way before having my own children, I hadn’t truly understood it.

And yet, here I am, working on a maternity unit after all, hopefully equipped with a larger measure of sympathy than my childless self of former days. The unit I work on is small, so it’s actually fairly seldom that I work with women in labour. It happens once or twice a month, and I love it. Birth is both thrilling and terrifying. It’s a marvel every time to see a woman’s strong body bringing forth a little baby; a miracle and a profound relief to hear a newborn’s first cry; and a wonder to witness parents beholding their child for the first time. Sometimes you just have to stand there quietly and soak in the joy of the moment for a while before you come back down to reality and think about vitals and pads and other non-transcendent necessities.

And it’s terrifying because the story has not yet been told. You are in the middle of it without knowing exactly how the ending will be reached. Certainly slow and steady labours are a reality, but any maternity nurse can tell you a story of a woman who was 4cm five minutes ago who is now delivering her babe. There’s a tension you have to bear until the baby’s been born.

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Imagine you’re a nurse caring for a woman having her fourth baby. She’s had a healthy pregnancy. Her contractions started several hours ago and they’re now strong and three minutes apart. She’s swaying back and forth during contractions, moaning lowly, and when it comes to pain control she says, “Just let me do my thing.” She was checked an hour ago and her cervix was 7cm dilated. The baby’s heart rate has been lovely.

And then her water breaks and you see what looks like pea soup all over the floor. You realize that the baby, whose heart rate has been normal, has already taken a poop. This can mean that the babe is in some distress. And you know that when a woman’s water breaks and it’s her fourth baby, chances are the delivery will happen quickly. You call the doctor and the baby nurse and keep an eye on the baby’s heart rate. A few extraordinary pushes later and a little baby girl wriggles her way into the world, warm and wet and a little stunned. The baby nurse dries her off with towels and that is just the stimulation she needs; she lets out a hearty holler that is music to everyone’s ears.

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More of my days are spent helping new mothers and their newborns adjust to life together. And while there is something marvelous and profound about witnessing and assisting another person’s entry into this world, there is also something very satisfying about helping a woman flourish in her new role as mother. And you do that by sloooooowing down, taking the time to acknowledge her little one, and meeting her where she is.

Is she having a hard time breastfeeding? Let’s work on her baby’s latch and see if we can improve it. Is she exhausted? Is she in pain? Is she worried about anything? Let’s take the time to talk about how her last baby didn’t gain enough weight and how she’s worried she’ll have to supplement again. Are there questions she’s wondering about? (Is it normal for babies to cry like this? How do I know when she’s had enough to eat? What should I use to trim her fingernails so she doesn’t scratch her face? Is that sound normal? Why is her head so cone-shaped? It seems like she’s breathing too fast.)

Slowing down is necessary. In a way, caring for a new mom is akin to caring for an elderly person. A new baby is very, very precious and very, very distracting. The tiniest little grunt or peep or gasp can make your words float away, a cloud of unheard sentences. And especially for first time moms who haven’t held a baby or changed a diaper before (and there seem to be an awful lot of people in that category these days) things just take a long time. It can be an exercise in patience watching someone use fifteen wipes to clean a small poo that required one, but that is what you do. It’s the first diaper and while it would be more efficient to do it yourself, it helps to see it as a first step.

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Now imagine you’re a nurse taking care of a first-time mom who gave birth yesterday. She’s tender and a little swollen, but managing fine with her icepacks, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. She rings the call bell for a bit of help latching her babe. He’s got a lovely thatch of dark hair, a small mouth and a ravenous appetite. She explains that he’s been nursing on and off for the last two hours, but still seems hungry! She begins tearing up as she points out that he quickly gets frustrated if he can’t start nursing right away; he demonstrates this by tossing his head from side to side frantically and wailing.

You sit down next to her and help latch him on again. And once he’s settled down and is feeding quietly and contentedly, you remind her it’s quite normal for babes to begin cluster feeding on day 2 or 3. It’s totally exhausting, but it helps your milk come in. “You’re doing everything you need to do. This is totally normal, and you’re doing amazing. Things will settle down in day or two and then you can catch up on some rest. You got this!”

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This season of Advent has made me recognize our need for Christ’s return in a fresh way. I used to think of Advent as a season of joy, because it’s a time during which we anticipate Christmas . . . But I read this quote on Sarah Clarkson’s blog a few weeks ago (she’s an author living in Oxford, England) and have been mulling over her wise words ever since. She writes,

“But Advent isn’t a season in which we force ourselves to be sad, it’s the season in which we recognise how sad we truly are. In Advent we remember that we are still waiting. Christmas is when we remember that Christ has come to defeat death and ‘overcome the world’. But Advent is when we remember that we are still in that world. We are children of God, inheritors of glory, and we still get cancer, we still fight wars, we still suffer loneliness, and death. Advent is when have the chance to stop running and be still, the season that allows us to recognise our need for Christ’s final coming to right the suffering of children, the loneliness of the poor and forgotten, the grief of the sick, the darkness crouched in our own hearts.”

Because while most of the time our unit is a happy one, it hasn’t been this past month. We’ve had a baby weaning off of narcotics because her mother was addicted to drugs during her pregnancy. She sneezes, has watery poops and is constantly irritated because of something that’s no fault of her own; and while you’d like to blame her mother, her story is one that chills your heart, too. And then there’s an abusive father whose baby has been taken into foster care; and you ache for a woman who can walk away with a heartless coward and leave her baby behind alone in a hospital. And the most difficult experience for me, a child the same age as Alice dying of a common virus. You hear the Code Pink alarm with a sinking heart, and then you watch this mom kissing her baby’s limp, pale hand while the nurses do CPR and you just can’t bear the suffering.

We are still in this sad and suffering world, and this time of Advent has been a powerful reminder of just how sad this world truly is. Jeremy’s dad nearly died of a heart attack, too, and so the frailties of life have been on stark display.

Christmas Day has come and gone. And I’ve been thinking about how wild the Incarnation really was. God became a helpless baby! Even in the hospital nowadays there is a note of anxiety as we wait for a child to take his or her first breath; how much more so when that little one was the Son of God and was born in a cave! There’s no account of a midwife attending Mary’s birth. No note about a professional trained in neonatal resuscitation. Just the simple line that the time had come for her baby to be born, and the sweet extra details about how she wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger. Isn’t it incredible how frail and humble God made himself?

And all so that he might indeed heal the world of its suffering and sadness.

A Medley of Photographs

 

This is one of my favourite photos of Alice because it perfectly captures her affection for June’s doll. I find it remarkable watching her spend time with Pearl. She hugs her, kisses her, speaks to her in a gentle voice and shows her to Jeremy and me with the affectionate and doting pride of a mother.

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Pearl joining Alice for a coffee time snack.

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And this one is a new favourite photo, too. 🙂

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All three of our little blessings.

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We have a wee bit of snow on the ground here . . . enough to warrant snow suits and some outdoor escapades! Alice kept tipping over in her snowsuit . . .

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. . . and couldn’t get up on her own.

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Group effort!

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Turkey.

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Fun times on the swings. Taking the swing set along from Hamilton was an excellent, excellent idea.

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Snow angels!

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Snow fights! I love how James is hiding behind his shield in this first photo!

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Ooof! No one was hurt in these pictures, despite appearances to the contrary!

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We bought an Advent candle holder with a beautiful nativity scene on it and have been lighting the candles every Sunday. Alice finds the candlelight fascinating! She stands up in her high chair, points and chats animatedly! So darling.

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We also had a little celebration for Saint Nicholas day (also known as Sinter Klaas). The kids left their shoes by the front door and got some new socks and some candy and were totally thrilled! 🙂

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Growing lad. And yes, James wears t-shirts and shorts mid-winter. Apparently 21 degrees inside a house is “hot” and “stuffy” and unbearable in jeans and a sweater!

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Little lady. 🙂

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