Life in June

June is coming to a hectic end and we are heading full force into July without a break in sight. But the sun is shining and Peter’s work schedule will (eventually) slow down so June is also getting really good. We spent a good portion of this past weekend at the beach, including a Saturday dinner picnic. Pearl loved playing in the sand and the creek and trying to find tiny crabs. Here are a few pictures from our life lately:

Our hikes (or “forest walks”, as Pearl calls them) often look like this when we have Bella around. Bella runs ahead and off the trail, Pearl runs after her, yelling, “Bewwa! Come!” Bella does not often listen.

The tricycle we found at a thrift store in Washington is a big hit. Pearl is now tall enough so that her feet can reach the pedals. Bike riding is limited to the carport/driveway currently but we have big plans to one day bike to the park.

“Pearl help!” is something I hear a lot. And while it would definitely be faster for me to empty the dishwasher myself (and the cutlery would get into the correct spots), I remind myself that we are (hopefully) instilling good habits. Plus, she’s such a cheerful and eager helper!

We are currently spending a lot of time in our backyard and in this little pool.

No one can say Pearl doesn’t know how to relax.

I decided to let go of keeping the play dough colours separate. It still makes me cringe when she mashes them all into one giant ball, but it also means I can let her play by herself and get something else done and that’s worth it to me in the long run.

We are currently making our lists of goals and dreams and projects for the summer. No big plans but lots of fun and friends and sunshine ahead, I hope.

A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of an epic tantrum, I picked Pearl up and carried her outside. Sometimes a simple change of scenery can help calm her down and give us a fresh start so I held her, thrashing and screaming, against my body and walked to the end of the driveway. Turns out, a crew of men were arriving to work on our neighbours’ roof and so as Pearl wept and I paced back and forth, speaking to her softly, I had an audience. Most of them were young men who watched me with surprise and a hint of laughter but one fellow, a little older than the others, gave me a knowing nod. I can only assume that at some point, he too has done this walk.

Posing with flowers from our backyard.

Pearl is two. Tantrums are part of our lives right now. She has intense desires and a growing sense of independence. She wants to do so many things by herself and so many of those things are still hard or impossible for her to do. Sometimes she just can’t do them (like reaching the light switch in her room) and sometimes I can’t let her do them (like buckling herself into her car seat). Her vocabulary is constantly expanding but we often run into moments where she has trouble expressing herself or I have trouble understanding her. Sometimes I’m impatient, sometimes she’s tired. We might go days without a tantrum or we might have three in one afternoon.

A rainy day at the park.

More and more these days, when strangers ask how old Pearl is and I tell them, the reply is, “You have your hands full.” Sure, but not really. Pearl is smart and fun and imaginative and delightful. She’s two, she’s not a rabid wolf. She’s learning a lot – about herself and the world – and it’s my job to help her figure it out.

New gear for the summer.

I do believe that some ideas can be become self-perpetuating and so I make a concerted effort to avoid the idea of “the terrible twos”. Why should I approach an entire year of my daughter’s life with the idea that it is or will be terrible? Can I honestly expect that when she turns three, everything will magically be easy? I can miss the docility of a newborn and look forward to the independence and real conversation of a five-year-old and still embrace and enjoy where we are right now.

Stories with Bella.

Two. It’s playing games that she’s made up all by herself. It’s waiting a painfully long time for her to climb into the tub “her own self”. It’s the morning cry of “Hi Mum!”. It’s the sharing of lip gloss, it’s pulling toy cars out of my washing machine because she fills her pockets with them. It’s rushing out of the shower because I can’t hear her anymore, only to find her quietly looking at books in her room. It’s learning who is this little person that I helped bring into the world but is suddenly so much herself.

Observing what Pearl refers to as a “pillar-cat”

The tantrums are hard and frustrating, I won’t gloss over that. The reasons for them vary and are often minor and I regularly find myself wondering if I should have just given in right away but of course I can’t give in now or I’ll teach her that tantrums work. So we walk to the edge of the front yard or we rock together in a chair or we read stories and look at birds and it usually ends with a cuddle. Two also means there is always another chance, always a time for cuddles.

I pray a lot. The last three years of pregnancy and parenting have brought me more joy and sorrow than I ever knew before. They have stripped me of many of my illusions and brought me continually to my knees, praying for the Lord’s guidance. I have a feeling that won’t change any time soon. They have also filled me with a greater and larger and better thankfulness than I have ever before experienced. Two is good. I am thankful for my two year old.

Easter 2017

I’ll admit it, this post is nothing more than cute pictures of my kid. While I’m fully aware no one else but her dad cares quite as much as I do, I also think these pictures of Pearl having her annual Easter Hunt in our backyard are pretty adorable so I’m going to show them to you.

Patiently waiting while Peter hides the goodies.

Last year, Easter was even earlier but we had Pearl outside in a springy dress. This year was boots and rain jacket.

Her hunting skills have really improved though.

This was her favourite find. We had lots of chocolate eggs and bunnies for her but since she doesn’t get much chocolate, she didn’t really know what they were. We filled a couple of these eggs full of goldfish crackers and she knew right away what that was.

She did miss some obvious hiding places.

But she got there eventually.


And then got to enjoy her spoils!

I hope you all had an excellent long weekend!

Pearl is 2!

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Last week we celebrated because our girl turned two! We’ve been talking with Pearl for a while about her birthday and that she would be two and she’d figured out the response to, “How old are you?” (“Two!” said with a huge amount of glee.) Though “two” also became the response to any other question involving a number. (How many dogs do you see? How old is Dad?)

Toddlers are great at celebrating their birthdays because their expectations are pretty much nil to begin with. This came in handy when Pearl woke up with a bad cold on her birthday and was running a fever the morning before her party. After warning the other moms, turn out was a little lower than originally planned but Pearl rallied after a nap and, in the end, seemed to enjoy her day.

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Because Pearl is very into tea parties right now and because there’s a song called “Tea for Two”, we decided to have a tea party for our brand new two-year-old. We kept it simple with scone (made by my father-in-law) with jam, fruits and veggies, and cookies in the shapes of woodland creatures. (Pearl “helped” me make them.) And, of course, vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting.

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Pearl got thoroughly loved on by friends and family and the afternoon was a lot of fun. She poked at her cupcake and never ate it but had a few cookies and scones to make up for that.

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The backpack was her gift from Peter and I and she wore it most of the day.

We feel so thankful for our beautiful, fun, healthy, smart girl and extra thankful that so many people, near and far, love her, celebrate her life, and have joined with Peter and I in praying over her life.

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January…

After the three of us recovered from our extended colds, January turned out to be a pretty good month around here.

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Pearl is now 23 months! Her hair is long enough that it occasionally gets in her eyes, she is currently getting a new tooth, and she is full of energy.

We stayed away from most of our usual toddler groups and drop-ins because we didn’t want to spread our germs around and so we ended up spending a lot of time outdoors, exploring the forest nearby and playing at the local parks.
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When the new year began, I made a list of a few goals for myself and while I haven’t worked out five times a week (probably not a realistic goal anyway), focusing on a few small changes have made a big difference in my attitude. Lots of outdoor time is key for both Pearl and I and makes our days more interesting.

Another of my goals was to spend less time on-line, especially before bed. I always have a book (or three) on the go so it’s a simple switch to close the computer and read inside. As well, I’ve stayed away from Facebook all month and I feel like that’s made a difference too. My Facebook feed is just too full of pregnancies and babies and while I normally love that I felt that I needed to step away for a while. I’ve been surprised at how good it’s felt for my own well-being.

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Pearl and I went on a fun adventure, just the two of us. We took a day trip into Vancouver, walking on the ferry and spending the day downtown. It was rainy and busy but we had a blast and I can’t wait to try it again when the weather’s better. We walked around a lot (her mostly in her stroller), Pearl had her first drink at Starbucks (steamed milk), and we rode the SeaBus just for fun (Pearl’s first time).

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Recently, Pearl had an appointment with the speech therapist. At her 18-month check-up, she wasn’t quite hitting the amount of words they expected her to have at that age (around 20) so we went on a wait list for speech therapy. By the time the therapist contacted me, Pearl had added a lot of words to her vocabulary; Peter and I estimate she has about 50 words now. It didn’t seem like it would do any harm to have her assessed by a professional though and to see if there was anyway we could help her along. I wasn’t sure how it would go since Pearl isn’t always the most outgoing around strangers. The therapist was awesome though, having a tea party with Pearl and bringing out lots of toys to engage her, all while surreptitiously jotting down her observations.

In the end, our suspicions were confirmed – Pearl is totally fine! It’s been apparent that she understands what we’re saying, including multi-step ideas (like, “Go get your boots and put them on”) and she’s adding new words to her speech everyday. She’s simply learning at her own pace and that’s okay! Just this past week or so she’s begun putting two words together to form sentences (“Hi mum!). I’m still glad that I took advantage of the appointment, plus I learned a little more about how to aid her speech development along. I can’t wait to hear what she says next!

I Made This!

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Don’t get excited – I’m not about to show you anything impressive. I am decidedly un-crafty and not a hands-on kind of person so I’m pleased that I actually made something.

Pictured above is what I started with. Four wooden boxes found for free. When Peter and I spotted them I was sure I could do something with them. At the time, Peter was re-doing our deck and didn’t want to take on anything that involved sanding or painting (fair enough) but I was sure I could figure it out.

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My first step was to sand the boxes. I used a sander! A power tool!

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I bought wood glue at the hardware store and glued the boxes together. I used my heaviest books to weigh them down.

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Then I painted. Above is after one coat of paint. I did two but this was the longest DIY project ever so there was about a month where it sat half-painted in our carport. We had some leftover paint from when we painted our kitchen after we renovated last summer so I just used that. It’s a very, very light green.

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And the finished project! This corner of our living room (where our Christmas tree was a month ago) is now Pearl’s little play corner. I don’t love having all her toys in our living room but we have a small house and this lets her room be a quiet, sleeping place with just her books and stuffed animals. We have one other basket full of Duplo and a wooden box for her trains. And now I’m wondering if Pearl’s toy stash is excessive…At least this keeps them contained and easy to put away and Pearl seemed happy with the finished product.

If anyone needs any woodworking tips, let me know!

“The Lord was with Joseph”

We’ve lurched our way into 2017 in our household with bad colds for Pearl and I. Peter and I made it to 10:30 on New Year’s Eve and I spent most of January 1st in bed. Pearl picked up the illness from me and has had a rough couple of nights recently. Despite that, I’m hopeful for 2017. I’ve set some goals (I don’t know why that sounds better to me than resolutions but it does) and while the year may not look the way I hoped it would last summer, I am still looking forward to what it does bring.

Our house, morning of Christmas Eve.

Our house, morning of Christmas Eve.

As we enter into a new year, the story of Joseph has been on my mind. I know, not exactly seasonally appropriate but here’s what’s been on my mind.

Growing up, I heard this story a lot. Joseph and his dreams, Joseph and his colourful coat. Joseph and his brothers, more dreams, his success in Egypt. It’s told as a success story. It all worked out because in the end Joseph saves his family from famine. His brothers betray him, sell him into slavery, and lie to their father but it has a happy ending.

That’s not a false telling of the story but what’s struck me recently is that this couldn’t have been God’s ideal plan for Joseph and his family. Joseph is the son of Jacob, the great-grandson of Abraham. For four generations God has been promising to expand this particular family. God has promised that a great king will come from Abraham’s line, that Abraham descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the sky. It was never in God’s plan to let this family die of starvation three generations later. God could have kept them alive and safe in their own land. But He didn’t because Joseph’s brothers sinned hugely. Jealous of their younger brother, they could barely restrain themselves from killing him. Instead, they sold him into slavery in a foreign land where he suffered for years. He served in other men’s households. He was accused of crimes he didn’t commit. He spent years in prison. Genesis tells us that Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh. His entire youth was spent in slavery and imprisonment.

We know less about what Joseph’s brothers were up to in that time but what we do know points to them suffering too. Aside from a devastating famine, we know that Judah at least has turned from his brothers and raised sons who are “wicked in the sight of the Lord” and things degrade (Genesis 38, that’s a whole other story). We know also that the brothers are wracked with guilt for what they did to Joseph. When they stand in Joseph’s presence in Egypt and don’t recognize him, one of their first reactions to Joseph testing their honesty is to recall how Joseph begged for his life and they didn’t listen. No matter how many years have passed, his cries still echo in their ears.

My point is that none of this would have been what God wanted for this chosen family. God uses it, yes; Joseph remains obedient to God and faithful in his worship no matter the circumstances and God raises him up to a position where he’s able to help his family. But I don’t think God’s perfect plan involved those years of suffering for the brothers. It didn’t involve what followed for the Israelites – enslavement, escape, wandering through the desert.

Park time on Christmas Eve.

Park time on Christmas Eve.

I take comfort in this because I don’t think the way 2016 unfolded was God’s perfect plan for my life. We live in a sinful, fallen world, just as Joseph did and that means death and decay and broken hearts. It’s so hard to understand why an all-powerful God doesn’t step in and fix these things but as Christian we also believe that He is doing so. That when He sent His Son to die for us on the cross, that was the beginning of fixing all things. Making all things new. We’re not there yet and so we suffer. We suffer because we know that things are not as they should be. Just as Joseph suffered, knowing that his life should have been different, even as he gained power in Pharaoh’s court.

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Snowy Christmas Day in Vancouver.

Joseph trusted that God could redeem what had happened to him. That enslavement and betrayal was not the end of the story. We don’t know what Joseph’s relationship was like with his brothers after they were all reunited in Egypt. I can’t imagine that it was ever as good as it could have been. There are wounds that are not healed this side of Heaven. But the healing process can begin on this side. God works in our lives now, despite the sin, despite the roadblocks we try to put in His way. He works now. He is working now.

A ferry ride home.

A ferry ride home.

I am excited to see how God unfolds His plan for our family in 2017.

(The story of Joseph is find in Genesis 37-47.)

Christmas is Coming

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We’ve had more snow around here this winter than is normal for our little coastal community. Granted, it’s still not that much snow but we’ve been enjoying it nonetheless.

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Every time it’s started to snow, I’ve bundled Pearl into her snow suit so we can go out and enjoy it as much as possible. Around here, you never know how long the snow is going to stick around.

We are in the final countdown to Christmas now and getting more and more excited. Pearl doesn’t really know yet what’s coming but she loves the lights and the fact that there’s a tree in our house and I can’t wait to see her face Christmas morning.

Watching the snow come down.

Watching the snow come down.

Christmas feels a little different this year. As thankful as I am and as much as I have to look forward to, there is a sadness. It has been a hard year. This last season has been really hard in our little house. Every day I can’t help but think about where I should be by now in my pregnancy and every day I grieve the loss of our little boy. Some days I feel surrounded by pregnancy announcements and friends excitedly waiting for their little ones. And I’m happy for them because I love them and I love their babies but it’s really hard too and I wish my happiness for them wasn’t also tinged with jealousy.

And so, when I’m struggling with those feelings, it’s easy to look at the Christmas story as yet another story about a woman who can have a baby when I can’t. And yes, I know, it’s ridiculous to be jealous of Mary – a virgin who unexpectedly becomes pregnant with her own Saviour – but for someone who has had two out of three very planned, very desired pregnancies end in loss, I envy those who can get pregnant so easily.

I’ve found myself skipping forward to the story of Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a woman I can sympathize with right now. A woman who probably spent years trying, unsuccessfully, to have a baby. A woman who had probably long ago given up hope. Or maybe a woman who held on, silently, secretly, to a ridiculous hope for her longed-for baby. A woman whose husband was so shocked by the news that she would have a child that the angel Gabriel literally had to shut him up. That’s a story I understand.

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This year, too, I’ve been thinking about the Christmas story itself a little differently. We like to focus on the starlight, the lambs, the newborn baby. Those things are all important and beautiful but it’s not the whole story. Some focus on the reality of what it must have been like to give birth in a stable, far from home. The stink of it. The fear. How helpless Mary might have felt to be given such a responsibility when she couldn’t even find a room in which to deliver her son.

At Christmas we celebrate the arrival of Christ. That’s a good and wondrous thing to¬† celebrate and we should probably celebrate it more. But this year I’ve been wondering what that moment was like for God. To send His son into our sinful, filthy world as a helpless baby. To send Him to grow up, to suffer, to die. This year, God is whispering in my ear, I, too, have lost a son.

There is no path I can trod that my God has not walked. There is no road I can take that my God does not walk with me. That is part of the Christmas story. It’s beautiful, yes, but it’s messy and it’s painful and death is part of it. The really beautiful part is that the story doesn’t end on Christmas Day and it doesn’t end with death.

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I don’t really know what it means that I will meet my baby one day in Heaven. I don’t know what that looks like – what he’ll look like – and so I don’t find that much comfort there. What I find comfort in is knowing that the Lord embraces those who mourn. I find comfort in knowing that He holds my baby – all my babies – in the palm of His hand. That He holds me there too.

I know this is not the most uplifting Christmas post but Christmas is still Christmas even in the midst of grief. God is still good.

Camera timer family photo before our church Christmas dinner.

Camera timer family photo before our church Christmas dinner.

Snow Day (and other Christmasy moments)

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We don’t get a lot of snow in our part of Canada and when we do it tends to melt away pretty quickly. Despite seeing snow in the forecast, it was a lovely surprise to look outside this morning and realize the white stuff really was coming down.

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Pearl’s seen snow just once before in her twenty-one months of life. Last year on Christmas Eve we drove up to a slightly higher altitude so that she could experience it. This morning, as the flakes were coming down, I bundled her up and we went for a walk right away because I wasn’t sure if it would last all day. (It’s now past noon and it’s stopped snowing though there’s still a little on the ground.)

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Thank goodness for hand-me-down snowsuits from older cousins!

It’s wet and slushy and it won’t be here long but Pearl had a blast stomping and playing and insisting I make more snowballs. Today nicely corresponds with a professional development day so our local park was full of kids out playing in the snow.

And then we came home and cuddled up with warm milk, banana loaf, and The Littlest Hobo.

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It’s definitely feeling like Christmas around here. This past weekend we went out on our annual Great Christmas Tree Hunt and we found a good one.

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Pearl’s not that in to looking at the camera these days.

We picked a full-sized tree this year in hopes that Pearl’s old enough to understand that she has to leave it alone. So far, so good. She loves when we turn on the lights and is delighted by all the new little decorations around the house for her to play with.

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Every day Pearl is growing and learning and it feels like every day we have more fun together. I’m so excited to watch her enjoy her second Christmas.

No, this isn’t her hair cut

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Only one person thought she was a boy on this day.

When I’m out and about with Pearl I typically have some form of this conversation with a stranger:

“How old is your little fellow?”

“She’s twenty months.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought…”

“Yeah, she doesn’t have much hair yet.”

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There’s her hair!

It really does not matter what she’s wearing. Wearing a floral-patterned romper, wearing her pink coat (pictured above), doesn’t matter. I actually find it really funny. I never before realized how much people count on hair to signify gender.

I tend to dress Pearl pretty neutrally. Some pink and purple but lots of blues and yellows and greys. She has some things with flower patterns but her girliest articles of clothing have all been gifts and hand-me-downs. She also has several items that were handed down from an older boy cousin and a couple of sweaters that were her dad’s when he was tiny. I don’t really care if strangers can’t instantly identify my toddler’s sex but they’re all very apologetic when they’re wrong.

Pearl and Bella

Pearl and Bella

I want Pearl to grow up celebrating and embracing her femininity but I also don’t want to teach her that being a girl “looks” a certain way. Maybe one day her hair will grow long and she’ll wear it in fancy ways. Maybe she’ll always like to keep it short. Maybe in a year or two she’ll insist on wearing nothing but pink and flowers or maybe she’ll keep mixing it up with colours. I don’t know and it’s pretty far down my list of things I care about when it comes to Pearl’s future.

I don’t really care when strangers refer to Pearl as “he” but I do care when people try and predict her behaviour based on her being a girl. When people talk about how much more energetic and crazy boys are, I just smile but I think of my little girl who runs laps around the house, loves to “crazy dance”, and who is already in a toddler bed because she’s really darned good at climbing. She loves to cuddle and she loves to make her stuffed animals nose nuzzle each other and she laughs like a tiny maniac when I use my stern voice on her. None of these things is because she’s a girl; they’re each a part of Pearl and the unique person she is.

Pearl becomes more of an individual every day, full of her own thoughts and opinions, and as she learns to verbally express herself, I’m learning too. How to support her, how to teach her, how to love her. It’s a big job. And I’m thankful I get to do it.