Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jul Fest (and a repost)

Two years ago I wrote this post, tears, about Jul Fest at our church and it is one of my most read and shared posts. Reading it now I want to say it all again: how I love our church, how I miss my grandparents, how quickly Anna is growing up, how weepy I still am. Except now she IS the four that I alluded to back then. She WAS a pepparkakor girl this year and even last year at three she was up there singing her little heart out. I will never forget the ladies behind me murmuring about how cute my little just-turned-three girl was walking up there with all the big kids, eyes wide and mouth open. I will always remember her face searching the crowd for mine and her huge, proud grin when our eyes locked. Or the way she broke from the line and ran straight into my arms after she was done. Talk about tears indeed.

This year she had no nap and a meltdown prior to the performance and it was hit or miss whether she would wear the 'gingerbread' costume after all. But we witnessed a Jul Fest miracle and she danced around in a circle with her little buddies - again with the sheepish little grin on her face. And this year Grandpa and Mormor were there to see her. And my heart burst once more.

Both years she sat on my lap to watch the big girls in the Santa Lucia pageant and has talked about it ever since. The girls with the candles, the singing, when is it her turn, does she get to wear a white dress next year? Someday when she's an adult will she be the Santa girl? Will she get to sing in church too?

And I tell her, yes baby girl, you probably will. You'll probably be the Santa Lucia girl someday. Probably the next time I blink.

I cried through the Jul Fest program at church the other day.

I cried watching all the little kids in their costumes singing the cute Swedish songs. Some of these kids I'm getting to know; all of these kids I already love. 

I cried looking at the various people from church who played instruments, and sang, and made cookies, and volunteered so many hours and poured their hearts into this concert. I was moved to tears thinking about their devotion and love for our church. I cried because I love these people, and because I love this church.

I cried looking at the faces of dear friends who have made all the difference in our lives this last year and a half. Friends who snuck into our hearts and lives in unexpected ways and make them so much better, fuller.

I was crying because it will only be two years before Anna is up there in a silly gingerbread costume in front of all these people. It's easy to picture her little eager face up there singing her heart out and it's already too much for me to take. She's two too soon and when I blink she will be four and I cry because it's flying by, and life moves so quickly and this is our only shot, our only life and I keep waiting thinking it's supposed to be something more when it is already so much more than enough.

I was moved to tears singing the old swedish hymns thinking how much my grandparents would love Jul Fest and how I should have found a way to get Grandpa here for it this year. I cried because I miss them, I feel guilty for not seeing them more and because it will be my first Christmas home in Calgary without them. I couldn't control my emotions as a particularly beautiful memory came to mind of when Adam and I drove home from Banff with them one Christmas and sang our favorite hymns together a cappela in the car. I cried because I love them so much, and I cried because for most intents and purposes, Grandma is already gone. 

I most definitely cried watching sweet Linnea, a girl from our church with some significant limitations, beaming with delight as she participated in the Lucia pageant. Waving at everyone with such unadulterated joy and pride. She was so poignantly beautiful. 

And for sure I cried while we closed the service with Silent Night. Hundreds of voices echoing through the sanctuary that beautiful, haunting carol. Thinking of the many Christmas Eve services at my home church and how incredibly grateful I am for those people and that church and the legacy of faith that I have been gifted with. 

I have been crying a lot lately, but mostly tears of joy, or gratitude. Bittersweet tears, many of them. Thankfulness mingling with loss. Relief mingling with grief. A beautiful release.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Merry Christmas card 2014

2014 has been a wonderful year! Etta Jane joined us March 21st and brings us so much fullness and joy. Anna, at four and in preschool, is as sassy, smart & sweet as ever. We are blessed with our home, Adam's work, church, friends and family nearby.

We remain madly in love with Seattle as we continue to miss those of you who are so far away. Please come visit!

Praying that peace, goodwill with all abide this holy Christmastide.

Adam, Sheri, Anna & Etta

Monday, June 30, 2014

Dear new owners (lucky you)

Dear new owners of 1311,

Congratulations on your new house. I hope you know how lucky you are.

That house you just bought is so much more than four walls. My family's entire history is in that house, and let me tell you, it's a good one.

It's time for my parents to move on, and I guess it's time for new memories to be made. So, I begrudgingly wish you well. I hope that house is as good to you as it has been to my family for the last 38 years, and I hope you are good to it.

I hope you fill that house with lots of love, laughter and tears. Leave the door wide open to friends and family, and let everyone know they are welcome there. The house has hosted thousands of guests for holidays and dinners and showers and Grey Cups. It's at its best when it's full of life. So fill it.

Make friends with all your neighbours and raise your kids together. Let your kids run and play in the park all year long. Watch them from the kitchen window on the playground, or playing baseball and hide and seek. Plant sweet peas in the side yard and peas and carrots in the garden. Get your kids to help you pick the crab apples in the summer and shovel the driveway in the winter - you will come to regret that it's double wide. Go sledding in the park when they are really little and move to the one across the street when they are a little bigger. Make snowmen and snow ice cream in the winter and run through the sprinkler and after the ice cream truck in the summer. Use the chimney as a backstop for tennis and you should really know that the basketball hoop is a foot too high. Take swimming lessons at the neighbourhood pool and let your kids drink lots and lots of slurpees, but make sure they never hang out there. Find the shortcuts to 7-11 and the tennis courts and let your kids ride their bikes around the neighbourhood and down to Fish Creek.

I hope your kids love that house as much as we do. I hope they chase each other around the kitchen-dining room-living room loop, slide down the stairs on their bums and leap over the back of the couch. I hope they imagine that the sparkles on the ceiling are the flash of tigers claws in the attic and that Babbling Brook is really the bridge to Terabithia. I hope they play for hours and hours in the basement and have a healthy fear of the storage room. I hope they share stories about their day when they brush their teeth together in the upstairs bathroom and that you eat together every night at the kitchen table. I hope they get excited every single time they see a deer in the backyard, even if it is every day. I hope they welcome the familiar sound of footsteps on the front stairs or of the garage door opening, signaling that someone has come home.

Keep your keys on the top of the fridge and assign odd names to each kitchen cabinet such as 'peanut butter cupboard'. Never ever oil the linen closet upstairs as the squeal is oddly comforting. Leave the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceilings. Your kids will love them. Keep the bedroom windows open on warm nights. Be careful of the curb on the driveway and know that it will take practice to back your car out of the right hand side of the garage. The study is the coldest room in the house and the living room is really only meant to be used at Christmas.

Play catch in the park and hit grounders at the ball diamond. Teach your kids to ski at Nakiska. Watch a lot of sports with your kids and teach them the finer points of baseball and hockey and when they are older maybe they'll call just to talk about 'the game'. Let them sulk in their rooms when they are teenagers and when they are older maybe they'll call home just to say hi. Let them bring their friends home after school and have them stay for supper too. When they grow up they will want to keep coming home and their friends will too. Make sure there are fresh flowers awaiting them in their rooms.

If you're really, really lucky your grandkids will get to make memories there someday. You'll watch them playing together in the house that their parents grew up in and realize that buying it was one of the best decisions you've ever made.

That house may just be another move or a big mortgage to you right now, but I hope that someday it will be so much more. I hope that it will be your Home.

It will always be mine.

So if one day a strange woman shows up on your doorstep with tears she can't quite hide please don't call the cops. It's just me, wanting to say hi to my old friend. My Home.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


I wrote this last week but haven't posted it  since all my energy has been spent either crying, screaming at Anna or trying not to. Don't misinterpret my parenting life as a perpetual state of bliss. I guess it's one of those complicated and paradoxical things about life: the hardest years are the best years.

This baby is coming, and soon. This baby we have long sought after, longed for and impatiently prayed for is going to make its appearance. Reality is setting in. My annoyance with this pregnancy is giving way to excitement of holding a real live baby in my arms.  Soon we will welcome a very real person, a very real human into our family. It's a wondrous gift that I can't quite wrap my mind around.

But I'm scared. I'm not just scared of labour and delivery (which somehow seems even more daunting the second time around). I'm not just nervous about dealing with two kids - a screaming newborn on top of an emotionally manipulative and screaming three year old. I'm not just worried about how Anna will respond to the new addition. I'm scared of how it will change our family - this little world we have built together.

The bond between the three of us is indescribably precious, and strong. We've had three years together, just me and Adam and Anna. We're in it together, doing our best, being a family and forging our path - just the three of us.

She's our little girl, our big kid, our baby, our everything and in turn we are her entire world. We take care of her, and she takes care of us. We are intimately bonded, wrapped up in this life we share.

There is something so precious about this uncomplicated time we have shared without competition, crazy schedules or  many distractions. It won't be the same, ever again. We're adding a newborn and losing even more sleep. We will have two kids to juggle - different needs, different wants, different personalities, different people. And Anna is getting older and more scheduled. Our leisurely days will give way to carpools and homework and soccer games. But we want more kids, and Anna desperately needs a sibling. It will be good for all of us to broaden and grow. It can be crazy and frustrating and sometimes stagnant in this insulated world of ours.

But it's familiar and wonderful and safe and oh so magical, this life we have built. It's luxurious and indulgent and I'm loathe to give it up. As excited as I am to relive the baby and toddler years, to grow our family, to enter a new stage, it's not without a sense of loss. We won't ever have these days and years back - the sweetest ones of my life.

My grandma once told me that love doesn't divide, it multiplies, and I'm holding onto this promise with great anticipation. We are so blessed I simply can't imagine multiplying our joy.

So I'm holding onto the last few days and weeks of our lives as is and cherishing them as the priceless gift they are. I'm relishing each moment and thanking God for the gift of these last years. The time where Dada and Mama and Anna made three.

Monday, February 24, 2014

with glowing hearts - a repost

I wrote this blog post four years ago after the Vancouver Olympics. I thought I would repost it following yesterday's big gold medal win for Canada - and our generally fantastic showing at the Sochi games.

And I want to add this for those who wonder why Canadians get so fiercely proud during the winter Olympics: we are always that proud, we just take this chance to be loud.

I spend most of the Olympics being lovingly harassed by my American friends, particularly the hockey fans. Suddenly, Canada gets attention - we are rivals, we are annoying, we are disliked, we are noticed. We love it.

In my experience, Americans like to pretend that Canada doesn't exist, or at least doesn't matter. Hence all the jokes about being the 51st state or "America's hat." Nevermind that we are the USA's biggest trade partner, largest provider of oil, a member of the G8, a strong presence in the UN, NATO, NAFTA, the Commonwealth, were a crucial presence for the entirety of both world wars, the US's strongest and most loyal ally and share the world's largest unprotected border. We have one tenth the population of the US, yet have a fairly pristine and highly respected reputation internationally. We are peaceful, peaceable and peacekeepers. We are not a superpower. We aren't perfect, but we are great. We are a country that is deserving of tremendous respect, even when we don't receive it.

As a nation we tend to be quiet and humble, not willing to engage in culture wars. We're not trying to be better than the US, we don't want to be the US. Please understand: we have nothing to prove. We're not your jealous little brother. We are Canada.

Every once in a while we get the chance to shine in our own way on a world stage and we make sure to take advantage. And Americans are starting to take notice. Not even willing to let us have our hallowed sport, we get under your skin with our hockey gold. And frankly we love it.

Not always loud, but so very, very proud.


I'm a proud Canadian.

8 days ago I watched Canada's men's hockey team win the gold medal against the US on home ice. I watched with my hands over my eyes, pacing the room, and developing ulcers, but I watched. I wasn't sure I was going to. We were on vacation in northern California that week and were heading to wine country that day. After the heartbreak I endured a week before (Canada lost to the US in the round robin) and the vivid memories of the stress I felt watching the same game 8 years before in Salt Lake (Canada won gold then also), I felt like it might be in the best interest of my mental health to avoid the game and to drink some wine. At least that was the plan. I woke up with a nervous stomach, and the nerves only escalated through our drive, my frantic search for radio coverage of the game and our eventual arrival at my aunt and uncle's hotel room in Sonoma during the first intermission. Not watch the game? Who was I kidding?

I couldn't miss that game. As Neil put it, it was a life event. I'm sure you're rolling your eyes at the hyperbole, but I assure you I exaggerate not. It wasn't just a hockey game, and it wasn't just that our collective Canadian pride was on the line, it was that and more. It was the culmination of a two week celebration of my country, my home that I miss so much.

After Canada's loss to the US in the round robin, I was inconsolable. No, it wasn't anger at the taunting text messages I received (I know they were all sent in love), and it wasn't just the loss. I was having a hard time putting my finger on the source when Adam (oh how I love him) did it for me. I hated that I wasn't in Canada to watch that game. I wanted to be in Vancouver still, surrounded by fans as fervent (or more so) than I. I was missing home, and it all came crashing down on me then.

Our Olympic experience was amazing. We spent 6 days and nights total in Vancouver. We watched the Opening Ceremonies (which I LOVED) with some of my closest family and friends. We saw the fireworks outside Kara & Tyler's front door as we were watching the coverage on TV. We went to Robson Square, saw the torch, the Olympic rings, and the general pandemonium that was Vancouver. We went to a men's preliminary curling match - and were overwhelmed by the flags, the spirit, the curling savvy and the NOISE of the fans. We are the proud owners of the autographs of the gold medal winning men's curling team. We went to hockey games and cheered at the top of our lungs, even though we didn't care who won. We sensed the excitement and were part of it. The 'Olympic spirit' isn't just a cliche and it was palpable in Vancouver.

Undoubtedly my highlight was the VIP room of Molson Canadian Hockey House. As the lucky recipients of unused VIP passes, Kara, Tyler, Carter, Adam & I spent the night enjoying free drinks, food, and one of the poshest lounges I have ever been to at one of the most coveted venues in Vancouver. The night before all of team Canada plus Gretzky were in the VIP lounge post win, and although they weren't expected that night, the thought alone was enough to make me permanently giddy. They didn't show up, but Lanny McDonald did (Calgary Flames Stanley cup winning captain in 89). Meeting him was... maybe the highlight of my life?

Point is, we had the best time. We were able to see and do so many cool things. But the best part, the essence of it all was being in Canada, with Canadians, watching Canadian TV coverage and unashamedly reveling in all things Canadian.

For me, the Olympics was two weeks of celebrating Canada and bursting with pride. We're back in the States now and will happily live here for the foreseeable future, at least the next few years. This is Adam's home, and it's mine for now - and you know what, I love this country too.

But when Crosby scored the game winning goal and I stood singing "Oh Canada" with my aunt and uncle there was nothing but pure unadulterated joy (and yes plenty of pride) even from afar. Sure, it was just a hockey game, but it was so much more. It was a celebration for Canada, of Canada, in Canada. With glowing hearts, indeed.

Friday, January 3, 2014


She's officially three now, although it's felt like three for a while.

You know, the three the books warn you about. The doctor, too. The three that means never listening, always talking back, not responding to discipline. The hardest year of (early childhood) parenting I've been told. That three.

She's definitely three.

But she's also the other three. The wonderful three. Where everything is magic to her. Everything is special. Everything a delight.  Everything has meaning and everything matters. The stakes feel high at three. Three is utterly delightful. Three is rewarding. I am loving three.

She's always been full of personality and character, and like her doctor observed after being in the same room with her for less than 10 minutes, she remains 'strong-willed' and 'determined'. She likes to get her way. She is sensitive and her emotions run a tad high. We have a bit of an issue with temper tantrums that we haven't quite figured how to manage.

She has decided that she's shy, except for when she's not, which is most of the time. She is friendly, charming, and engaging other than when she's screaming no at people or taking off her coat or sunglasses because someone said they liked them. She has a complicated relationship with attention. But we've noticed that lately she has been warming up a lot more quickly to our friends when they come over. After a second of freaking out, she decides that they are HER friends and takes them hostage playing in her bedroom, never to be seen by us again. Lately she's been making friends fearlessly at the playground, the library, wherever she goes.

She still wakes up talking and keeps talking till she's asleep again although for much of the day the talking becomes singing. She LOVES to sing, loves learning new songs, making up songs often with her trademark 'dum dum' at the end. She has recently started to identify instruments in songs we listen to ('that's a trumpet!' 'that's a piano!'). She sang in 'Swedish' for our church's Julfest concert last week and impressed many that she was actually singing the words. Not sure they were the correct words, but they words all right because she wanted to practice all the time. Given her mixed record in front of crowds we weren't sure if she would do it, and didn't want to push her since she was a year or two too young. But as the big kids go so does Anna, and so for the love of song and big kids she was game. And perform she did, much to this mama's delight. We'll watch her on her video monitor at night, rocking her baby to sleep and singing in 'Swedish.' It's pretty darn cute.

We do this because it takes her, oh, well over an hour to fall asleep most nights. Sometimes she's still awake in her bed when we go to bed two hours later. Since day light savings hit she wakes at 7:30 on the dot and crawls into bed with us for a while. Obviously, we don't complain. When we get up we read books before breakfast and then we read some more books after nap and again before bed. And then probably some more books too. We encourage this, one for the reading itself and two for all the sitting still she does in this time. A miracle, really.

She's at the age now where she does half the 'reading' herself. Remembering the stories sometimes after only hearing them once or twice, or just making up a story from the pictures. She could read all day, and the truth is that so could I. Our mornings snuggling and reading in front of the Christmas tree have fast become my favorite time of day.

She also really loves to paint, draw and 'do crafts' which means to her cutting up a piece of paper with scissors - maybe her favorite thing in the world. She has literally cut one piece of paper for over an hour. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Another thing that will keep her otherwise super short attention is playing a puzzle or game, her new favorite being Sequence for Kids, or as she calls it for some completely unfathomable reason - 'credit cards'. Or, of course, watching TV. Her screen time is quite limited these days but she has a special fondness for Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Daniel Tiger and Dora. She asked for a pirate birthday party this year which was easily delivered, but the next day she told me she wanted Daniel Tiger instead. She got over her disappointment pretty quickly though when she decided that she will have a Daniel Tiger party when she turns five, and a princess party when she turns 4. Apparently 3 is the magic age where suddenly kids care a lot, a lot about their birthdays. She talked about it for months ahead of time, was giddy when it rolled around and still talks about it every day. Anything that she sees that she wants she asks for her birthday next year. I'm not sure she understands quite how far away November 29th is.

Halloween was another favorite this year, with any shyness melting away completely as she would march up to a house and yell 'trick or treat!'. Candy works wonders with this girl. She still asks me a few times a week what I will dress up as for Halloween next year. She, of course, wants to be a princess because she is brave and smart and strong like the pirate princess in Jake, or maybe just because she wants to wear a pretty dress.

Meal times remain interesting. She won't sit in a booster seat and therefore isn't in her chair for more than seconds at a time. We do our best to keep her there by playing 'what you see today?' which consists of us giving clues to something while the others guess. She is shockingly good at this game. But then again, she surprises us in every way, every day.

We are all masters in negotiation at this point, trying to get her to eat 5 more bites, or come put her socks on. Adam is more likely to concede to keep the peace, while her Mama isn't prepared to be out maneuvered by a preschooler. I'm also not great at picking my battles, but this isn't about me.

Point is, she insists on dressing herself now. Which often means wearing her dress up clothes out in public. I wouldn't let her be a princess the other day to do errands because she'd be way too cold, so she was going to be a lion until she changed her mind and just wanted to wear her pink polka dot leg warmers, purple zigzag boots, pants, pink striped skirt, pink and orange toque, pirate bandana and pirate hat. She said her theme was 'pirate princess'. The next day it was 'superhero ballerina' complete with cape and tutu. So. When I follow the advice to give her two options and let her choose, she asks why she can't wear X, and frankly I have no good answer. Thus sometimes we are a cowgirl at church, but most often just wearing a lot of bright pink. She has drawers full of cute clothes that don't get much wear. And Mama learns yet another lesson.

She's perfectly healthy but still tall and skinny as can be. Her bone structure is tiny, her legs a mile long. She still wears infant size mittens and can fit in skirts for 3 - 6 month olds but wears size 4 in pants and shirts for the length.

Her allergies are going strong so she's still on a vegan plus meat diet which sounds really healthy but in reality looks more like a lot of noodles, chicken nuggets, rice and beans, fruit, tons and tons of soy milk and as much candy and cookies as she can finagle. I would hang my head in shame but as her doctor says eating at all is ever so much healthier than not eating. And don't worry, she loves her vitamins - probably because they are basically gummy bears. Last week she decided she liked broccoli (for a day or two) and hell froze over.

She's still playing soccer and loving it and has been in a class with mostly 4 year old boys for the last few months. She's really quite good when she's focused, but is clearly outrun by the older boys partly because she likes to stop and add some pirouettes along the way. We're working on her sports(wo)manship as she likes to be the one to score all the goals, but is not so interested in the physical jostling required to steal the ball back.

She has a strange aversion to 'loud noises' and will cover her ears defiantly. She won't do the team cheer at the end of soccer without me for that reason and burst into tears when we all clapped after all the kids sang Away in a Manger at my MOPS group.

I used to say that she was extremely affectionate but not at all cuddly. I am thrilled to eat my words. She cuddles in the morning, after her nap, when we read books and get ready for bed. She's actually willing to cuddle any time at all if it means she can have her pacis and blanky. And yes, we're working on that.

And the potty training. That too. For a girl who has been early on pretty much everything, the potty training doesn't interest her much - some days. Part of this may be due to her lazy mother's hope that she will eventually just teach herself.

But back to being cuddly, she remains the sweetest and most affectionate human I have known. She is a lover, this one. There is nothing she cares more for than the happiness of those she loves. If I cry, she bawls. If I frown she needs to know why because she wants to fix it. She has a freakish memory and will hold onto the most random, apparently tragic moments for months. She says, 'sorry your water bottle broke, mama' at least once a week. It broke in August. I don't remember being upset about it, but she sure was, and is.

She loves babies almost as much as she loves big kids and is very excited about the baby in mama's tummy. She loves to kiss my bump and talk about 'her' baby all the time. Although she says she wants baby to be a 'gwirl' because she wants to dress her in pink, she has the makings to be a phenomenal big sister no matter who joins us in March. It's also pretty clear that it will do her some good to have a sibling in the house...

We're not quite sure how to teach her that the same rules don't apply to her as to us. She likes to tell me to take another bite, or sit down and she tries to speak to us the way we sometimes have to speak to her. She will ask me, 'do me a favour and pick (something) up' and we get a lot of, 'yes I can do x' and 'no way' and 'not at all' and 'no I don'ts' spoken under her breath or screamed in our faces. She also likes to stomp her feet and hit at things. But this is nothing new as the fits and temper tantrums have been around for at least a year and a half now.

But when she's good, she's the best.

I mean, the absolute best.

I can't get enough of her.

Being sick in bed so much over the last few months I have been treated to countless kisses and tuck ins. She will bring me her cherished blanky and pacis, pat my face, kiss me, rock me and sing and then will say, 'if you need anything just let me know Mama, and I'll get it for you.' She then counts as we do to close the door and says 'sweet dreams, I love you!' When I tuck her in at night she pulls me into a tight hug and has me sing while snuggling deep into her neck.

In those moments I know that I am the luckiest mama in the world.

I marvel daily at the incredible gift she is and can't fathom my luck at getting to be her mother. I get to be on the receiving end of all her hugs, kisses, smiles, songs, silly stories, and yes even her temper tantrums. I get to snuggle with her in bed, listen to her 'read', watch her imagination come to life and witness how she grows and learns every day. I get to be astonished by her ability, her intellect, her love, and her compassion.

Every day is a fight between being sad that she is growing older, that this is passing so quickly, that I won't have these moments forever and being incredibly, profoundly grateful that I get to experience this at all. That my daughter will sing Jesus Loves Me to her ailing great-grandmother then wipe the tears off my face, saying, 'it's OK, mama. I know you're sad because you're going to miss great-grandma, but I'll take care of you all night if you're sad. I'm not sad. I'm happy because she's still here now." I get to be the one to wipe the tears from her face when she's overcome with sorrow, or anger or some unknown emotion. I get to hear her make up silly songs, giggle a million times a day. I get to see the unbridled joy on her face when her dada comes home from work or she makes me laugh. I get her skinny little arms thrown around me in a huge hug and my face plastered with kisses after every single time we're apart, even if it's only an hour or two. I get to watch her become the person God made her to be, as similar and different and so very, very much more than I ever dared to dream.

At three she is both 'big kid' and baby. I still love the way she smells after a nap, and when she's sick or tired she's very much a baby who needs her mama. As I watch her independence and fearlessness grow I am very much grateful for this remaining vulnerability and neediness. She just turned three and she's never going back. All I can do is hold on tight, count my blessings and try to let her go.

Three is magic, and she is my joy.

I love you Anna Grace. More than you will ever, ever know.