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!

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.

Monday Thoughts

Lots of puddle weather recently.

Lots of puddle weather recently

Grief is a strange, lurking beast. While I’m prepared for it in many ways, it surprises me at so many other moments. Sometimes I can ready myself, steel my thoughts against it. And sometimes it simply appears.

Pearl and I went to get our flu shots today and I’d forgotten one of the questions they always ask:

“Is there any chance that you’re pregnant?”

Sometimes, I’m completely undone by these moments. By a reference to pregnancy loss in a television show or stumbling across a pregnancy announcement on Facebook. And sometimes I can take a deep breath and carry on with my day.

Fortunately, today was a deep breath kind of day. “No. I’m not pregnant,” I told the woman who was just doing her job. Pearl and I got our shots. Pearl was brave and only cried a little and then enjoyed playing with bubbles and fell in love with the stuffed Panda the nurse gave her. Today was a good day.

This is the box her Duplo came in. She loves to sit in it.

This is the box her Duplo came in. She loves to sit in it.

Pearl is 20 months and a bit and is full of personality. Her vocabulary is slowly increasing (this morning she said cheese!) but even without words she knows how to make herself understood. She is full of energy and affection and laughter.

Big Bear going for a ride in Peter's backpack.

Big Bear going for a ride in Peter’s backpack.

She’s in a swim class this fall and loves it and we have lots of fun. Bath times are full of kicking and splashing now too. She meows whenever she sees a picture of a cat and will set up tea parties for her four best stuffed animal friends. She hates getting dressed most mornings and wants to wear her pyjamas all day. She likes to brush her own teeth. She continues to want to live on a diet of carbs and cheese but will eat almost anything in smoothie form.

Pearl’s most consistent words are “dad” and “mum”. It took a while for her to say “mum” and now that she does it makes me so happy.

She loves this guy a lot.

She loves this guy a lot.

I’m reading a lot of the Psalms lately, working my way through slowly, using those beautiful poems as a jumping off place for my own prayers. I find a lot of comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in my sorrows, that God has heard and answered other anguished cries.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer,
and by night I find no rest.

Yet You are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and You delivered them.
To You they cried and were rescued;
in You they trusted and were not put to shame.

Psalm 22:1-5

This past weekend, Peter and I got to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of friends. “Only forty-three and a half more years to go!” we told each other. I’m sure you don’t get to 50 years without some ups and downs and some sorrow and lots of laughter. (I can tell you that you don’t get to six years of marriage without those things.) I’m so glad that God brought such a good partner into my life to make this journey.

I just realized that almost all of these photos are Peter and Pearl. That says a lot about what a fantastic dad he is, I think. But just for good measure, here’s one of Pearl and I:

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday!

Halloween 2016

Yesterday evening Pearl went trick-or-treating for the first time ever. She also ate candy for the first time so all in all, it was a very big day.

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We weren’t sure what we were going to do with Pearl this year. Knowing there will be many years ahead of us where she’s eager to trick-or-treat and dress up, it didn’t seem crucial to push her into this year. Especially when there’s no way she’ll be eating all that candy!

But a hat she already had and a fifty cent costume from the thrift store and we couldn’t resist. So here you have Winnie-the-Pooh!

We went out early, trick-or-treating in our local mall, which was busier than Peter or I had ever seen it before. Pearl didn’t quite understand and at first tried to give her candy back. We didn’t stay long but she seemed to enjoy herself. A quick stop at the grandparents’ and three little candies later and it was home to bed.

Next year will probably be really crazy!

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Autumn Leaves and Gumboots

Please enjoy this picture of my child posing with an apple from which she has taken several tiny bites:

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Also, she chose to wear that romper over top of the clothes I had dressed her in. I did not expect battles over clothing to begin so early in our mother-daughter relationship.

Every September I feel like the only person on the internet who isn’t super excited about fall. I mean, I like fall but my favourite season is definitely summer. Living on the West Coast means that autumn is not about crisp leaves and bright cold days. It’s about rain and more rain. And I’m a Vancouver girl so I actually like the rain but I also know that I’m going to be seeing a lot of it in the next months.

I also have a really take-it-or-leave-it attitude about pumpkins. Phew. Feels good to confess all that.

Pearl, however, loves the autumn leaves. She likes to collect as many as she can and then scatter them all over the playground.

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This time last year, I had a baby who had just started crawling so I could get away with spending a lot more time indoors. However, since last spring, Pearl and I have spent time outside almost every single day and I do want to continue that. Gum boots and toddler rain suits are essential wardrobe items here.

It’s recently been extra stormy around here with wind and weather warnings. We’re fortunate in our part of the world to avoid a lot of extreme weather but for once we were being told we should prepare for power outages and stock up on canned food. In the end, it was a lot of rain and some strong winds.

That stormy Friday, Pearl and I did spend most of the day inside. I made cookies and a second pot of coffee and, aside from a quick run to the mailbox, we didn’t set foot outdoors. Fortunately, the mailbox held Pearl’s latest book from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and that kept her pretty entertained for a while. In the afternoon I got a phone call from the hospital to confirm my 20 week ultrasound and had to phone back to inform them that I was no longer pregnant. Pearl only napped for an hour and a half and I was feeling pretty crummy so I did something we rarely do and let Pearl have some screen time.

I found The Littlest Hobo on Youtube, set Pearl and I up with some snacks and we cuddled together while we watched the dog help a man wrongfully accused of murder. Pearl loved it – she helpfully pointed out whenever the dog was onscreen – and I felt a lot better too.

I’m doing lots of reading, lots of coffee drinking, and lots of toddler cuddling.

Pearl’s First Camping Trip

IMG_3863Peter and I have camped several times together in the years that we’ve known each other. We’ve camped with friends or just the two of us but we’ve never camped with a toddler. Until now!

When it comes to parenting, I’m learning that often you simply have to take the plunge. We’ve always known that we want to camp with Pearl and it’s been a given that camping will be a common summer activity for our family. But that thought of actually doing so with a seventeen-month-old was kind of intimidating. I asked friends how they did it, Peter and I talked it over and, finally, we just picked a week and we went for it.

Very early in the morning.

Very early in the morning.

We decided to start easy with one night away in a location not too far away. We went to Keats Island, somewhere we’ve camped several times before, and is only a short boat ride away. (We took the public ferry from Langdale but we’ve also kayaked from Gibsons in the past.)

View from our site.

View from our site.

The good news is that we had a terrific time. I can’t wait to try it again. Hopefully, later this summer. Hopefully, with a few lessons learned.

We left Thursday afternoon on a direct ferry from Langdale to Keats Landing. The provincial campground at Plumper’s Cove is a 2km hike from the Landing where the ferry drops you off. (Hence the advantage of taking your own boat over.) We packed as light as we could for our one night. I carried Pearl in her big Deuter hiking pack, along with our dry food, our water, and Peter’s clothes. Peter carried everything else (tent, blankets, mine and Pearl’s clothes, and our little cooler). He’s a champ.

Just getting started on the hike in.

Just getting started on the hike in.

Pearl actually walked a good portion of this hike on her own, for which I was thankful. Normally, the hike takes around 30-40 minutes but it obviously took us a little longer that afternoon.

Also note Peter's giant bag.

Also note Peter’s giant bag.

Plumper’s Cove works on a first-come-first-served basis so arriving on the Thursday before a long weekend meant it was busy but there were still sites available and we were able to find one with decent privacy.

Our tent was one of our first big purchases as a married couple and it’s been awesome ever since. It is technically a 3-person tent though I doubt I’d want to sleep in it with 2 other adults. For the three of us, it worked well.

Having had some co-sleeping success on recent trips, we opted to make one big bed in the tent with one sleeping bag and a blanket. Fortunately, the weather was fantastic all week so staying warm wasn’t an issue.

As soon as we set up camp, we headed for the beach. The water was perfect and Peter and I enjoyed a swim while Pearl stayed on dry land, wearing her life jacket.

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In fact, she insisted on wearing her life jacket for most of our camping time, regardless of distance from water. Safety first is Pearl’s motto!

We kept our meals simple in the interests of packing light. Dinner was hot dogs cooked over an open fire. Pearl became an unusually picky eater and subsisted primarily on crackers and cucumbers and bites of granola bar.

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Night-time sleep was, of course, our biggest concern going into our adventure and the thing I’d asked most people about. Here’s what we did and here’s what I would do differently.

We kept Pearl up until about 8 o’clock, around an hour after her bedtime. We tried to follow her usual routine as close as possible and read stories and cuddle in the tent. At home, we then put her in her crib with her bear and let her fall asleep on her own. That definitely did not happen while camping. Especially when she figured out how to get out of the tent on her own. I rocked her and sang and Peter and I took turns laying down with her but it took a long time and there were a lot of tears. In the end, at around 10:30pm, both Peter and I got ready for bed and lay down together with Pearl. It helped that it was dark by now and she fell asleep shortly after this. She did wake once in the night and seemed scared in the foreign space until I held her close. In the morning, she had squirmed her way to sleep in the top corner of the tent, on her own, bum in the air. We were all up and eating breakfast at about 5:30am.

Very early in the morning.

Very early in the morning.

So here’s what I would do differently: First of all, the tent was too exciting. I think if we had set it up in our backyard a few days earlier and let her nap there or even camped out for a night, Pearl would have had an easier time associating it with sleeping. Sticking her in it and expecting her to fall asleep the first time was, perhaps, overly optimistic.

Second of all, I think next time we camp we’ll simply all go to bed at the same time. If that means Pearl stays up late (and until it’s dark), so be it. I think we’ll all get a better sleep that way.

But even on a lesser amount of sleep, we had a fun day. We made morning s’mores on the campfire, went for a hike (which Pearl slept through), and swam some more. In the afternoon we hiked back to the ferry landing. Pearl slept the whole way this time so I packed all twenty-three pounds of her.

Pearl liked putting Big Bear in her pack. He would have been much lighter to carry.

Pearl liked putting Big Bear in her pack. He would have been much lighter to carry.

I’m sure this is only the beginning of our family camping adventures! If anyone has further tips on camping with a toddler, I’ll gladly hear them!

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