2014: looking back

Looking back at one year ago today (December 2013), I am so glad I wrote up a year review.  I was so in love with our 2013, it was so full of life and love and hope and rejoicing.  It is nice to have that to remember the year.

As much fun as 2013 was, it was also exhausting.  As a result, we entered into 2014 with the intent to see more of our own town and province.  Something we haven't done in all our 11 years of marriage.  Looking back to that choice, is hard.  Not that we didn't have a full plate, and love and hope and all that of 2013.... but now I have regret - which is pointless I know.  But it's there.  That dreadful "what ifs".

However, I think I'd make the same choice of staying around home.  We can't afford to travel with the cost of gas and feeding a growing family of 5 on fast food (the go-to when traveling).  Also, staying home fostered a new love for our home city.  I finally realize just how blessed we are to live where we do.  It's just hard, not being near family.  Anyways.   Our 2014:


We really didn't have much of a choice in travelling or not in January.  Last winter was a tough winter.  But it was also so fun for Connor.  He'd go out every day, or at least he'd try.  The arctic temps made it difficult to play outside.

We embraced the onslaught of snow by consuming it.  ha!  (snow ice cream).  We made weekly library trips, kept up with our extracurriculars, and made indoor "caves" with play tents.  Connor began to prepare for his birthday party by painting decorations.  That's supposed to be Queen Amidala that he painted.


 Oh the snow.  Connor loved it so much.  And it made us laugh anyways.  It was so deep and the banks were comically high.  We never did make it sledding this year, because we couldn't make our way thru.  lol.  Mostly we stayed indoors, visiting museums (where Connor battled pirates!), having wii safari hunts, and reading books.

We celebrated Connor's 7th year, in Star Wars fashion.  I celebrated the kids with a heart each day, on their doors, until Valentines Day.


March was yet another long month of staying inside.  Poor Sammy started to long for his backyard.  We made due with family snuggles, book reading, painting and movie watching. 

This was the month Sam discovered his passion for making music.


The snow started to melt (and fast!) and we wasted no time in finding our way back  outside.  The blessing of our backyard is that it is full sun all day.  So the kids stayed plenty warm and spent most days playing in the now packable snow, as if it were a snowy version of a sandbox.

One of my favorite spring and summer things is to hang laundry on the line.  Saves money, and it smells so good.  Plus it reminds me of Grandma.  Slightly on the topic of laundry, this month reminded me to embrace my children in their current youthful state.  Often we treat Connor as if he should be and act much older.  I think because he's firstborn?  This month I was reminded of just how young 7 is.  7 is young.  Still young enough to see a beloved "baby" blanket hanging on the line, and want to cuddle it because it's your lovey.  And that's okay.  7 is so so young and this innocence slips away all too fast.

April was also the month I had a panic attack when Connor came down with Scarlet Fever.  Lesson learned:  Scarlet Fever doesn't mean the same thing it meant to the Ingalls family - chill out Debbie!  lol.  I'm so incredibly thankful for modern medicine.


Sweet little Emma had her first busy ballet recital weekend.  She just adored it, but also declared herself through with dancing after the weekend was done.  Poor thing was so exhausted.  (she took up dancing again in the fall, after a nice long break).

This month was full of walks and walks to parks, playing at playgrounds and adorable duckling sightings.  We spent many days on our porch with sidewalk screen door chalk.  We also had our first trip to Great Wolf Lodge - which is a huge ordeal for us because Connor used to be so terrified of pools.

We ended the month in chaos.  I became ill and spent many days in/out of doctors offices and the ER.  (spoiler alert:  I lived).  Also, Connor had been fighting an eye infection for weeks and mommy intuition said we should go to the doctor.  Others said I was overreacting.  Then one day he came in crying and his eye was bulging out and swollen.  I'll admit I flipped out.  Completely.  I wanted to rush to the ER in a panic, but decided to call the optometrist instead, pretending that I was cool, calm and collected.  They were so reassuring and insisted we could (calmly!) come in later.  The doc took good care of him and we became frequent visitors of the optometrist for a few weeks while we slowly and patiently (maybe not patiently) fought off this doozy of an infection.

The one photo up there where Connor is cradling his poor swollen eye ball cracks me up now.  Connor was so uncomfortable and scared.  Then little Sam, the character, thought he'd take the opportunity for a snuggle.


June.  I could relive June forever.  Sam began to finally flirt with the idea of walking.  He'd often stand up on the porch and squeal a happy squeal.  We spent many days on our front porch, making art with sidewalk foot chalk.  Sam had a newfound sense of freedom, learning he could open the screen door and venture out to our (fenced in) back yard.  Often I'd find him out there on the slide or just lost in thought, listening to nature.

We had baking days, napping days, barefoot in the grass days.  First tooth lost days.  We had stormy sunset days.  Checking muscles in reflections days.  We had first visits back to Michigan beaches and Grandma.  Sweet visits with distant cousins we see but once a year.  Backyard bonfires with family.  S'mores.  Fireworks.

Anyone around last year, that read my recap of September 2013... Grandma had been diagnosed with lung cancer and we came back very often.  Very.  So often that, as I said, we made the decision to spend time in our own town - until this month, June.  Back in September I wrote that it was bittersweet.  That last moment with Grandma unchanged.  How hard it was to leave her, knowing we wouldn't' see her again until spring, if it all, and when we did she'd be changed. 

Chemo is rough.  It sucks.  Cancer sucks.  But here she still was.  Grandma changed, yet unchanged.  She changed on the outside.  But her love and good humor never did.  All my life her love has been unchanging.  Unwavering.  Unconditional.  She's been my dearest friend.  And it's not just me.  She loves my children, my siblings, my cousins, my parents, aunts and uncles, my Grandpa with the same unwavering unconditional love.  She's our #1 fan.


July we really embraced the life of our city.  We visited trails, festivals, fairs, car shows, splash parks, science fairs, local musicians, ice cream shops.  We renovated our front yard.  We walked daily for a week of VBS.  There was family journaling on the front porch.  Father/son talks on the front porch.  Sibling time with sidewalk front step chalk.  Hot lazy days outside, sitting and listening to the world around us.  Visits with an Uncle we rarely get to see - and along with "the other side" of family.  How blessed we are that two "sides" can happily visit and genuinely enjoy each other's company.

Then there was Grandma again.  We went back to Michigan for my cousins beautiful outdoor wedding.  Grandma took off her oxygen to dance the night away, all to see the kids smile and laugh with her.  She said she couldn't understand why no adults were out there enjoying themselves.  But she wasn't one to scold or manipulate, she lead by example.


August was so full of life for us, that I couldn't make myself choose one jam packed collage.  So here's two.  lol.

We celebrated our 11th anniversary this month.  We don't live near family to take the kids, and I'm not one to be entitled to time alone, thereby burdening others with our kids.  We made the kids within the marriage, we celebrate our marriage in this season with our kids.  We took a day trip to Lake Huron to see the sunset.  I remember yearning for my Grandma and for Michigan while there, but also being content with my own little family and knowing that we just can't afford to go every weekend.  So I secretly waved to her across the lake.  It was odd watching the sun go down on the lake - I grew up on the sunrise side.

This was another month like July, walks to parks, daddy/son talks on the porch, more festivals.  Walks on new-to-us trails.  We chased views of the sunset within our own city.  We ate icecream.  We visited a blueberry patch.  We played at parks, we played in the rain.

Sam began to agree to walk, but only while holding a hand.

We went camping in Michigan.  But not in our familiar "with Grandma" spot.  We were downstate celebrating my nephew's birthday.  We camped, fed giraffes, and surprised my mom with a belated birthday gift.  A dream come true - balloon ride!! 

We decided, when we left the campsite, to visit Grandma on our way back home (which wasn't at all "on the way").


September we treated the kids to another visit to Great Wolf Lodge.  We spent a lot of time on the porch of the hotel enjoying the heat and the sunsets.  On "the way home" we again visited Grandma (which wasn't on the way, and was in a different country, lol).  This visit was another very quick (over night) visit but we really felt like we needed to.  What was different about this particular visit was in the morning she got up out of bed to say goodbye.  Usually she stayed in bed and we'd leave her a note.

We also used this Michigan visit to reunite with the best friend of my life and her family.  It's been too many long years apart.

The rest of the month was more local hiking trails and sunset chasing and sunset dancing.  1950s blueberry pie recipes.  More festivals.  Storm watching.  Sidewalk pants chalk drawings.  And the return of homeschool field trips and community center programs.

This month held a huge milestone for Connor.  He's always had, what I suspect to be, a sensory processing disorder.  He doesn't like movement or noise.  Not like in a way where you might have a poor taste for something, but in a way that is crippling.  He was the boy that would hide under slides at the park, holding his ears, screaming in terror.  He'd shake in sheer terror at sudden movement.  So imagine our delight when he confidently decided one day to pick up his bike and just GO.  No trainers, no help.  He just went!  We celebrated with a night out at a restaurant, eating desserts and laughing and coloring.  I missed my very first homeschool group meeting, and it was so worth it.


October and November are always hard on me with the Canadian and American Thanksgivings, being that we don't live close to family.  This year friends opened their door to us and we celebrated in great company.  It was so uplifting and just what we needed in that moment.

The rest of the month we continued to enjoy our parks and walks and outdoor time. 

We visited Al's grandparents, which is always a great joy for us.  On the drive back we witnessed the most glorious sunset ever.  We would think the amazing colors were over, Al would say "that was so intense!  I think it's done though." and it would come back more glorious than before.  The pictures can't even capture it.  Anyway, moving on from sunsets.

Halloween.  Not surprising, Connor wanted to be Mario.  Emma however, threw me for a loop when she declared she wanted to be a cookie.  But not just any cookie.  A Unicorn Cookie.  She declared all this with one week to spare.  I think I did pretty decent.  lol.


November was so fun for us.  Many firsts.  We ventured out into the woods without dad (Connor was so humored by this).  We had our first big snow of the season, and enjoyed it thoroughly.  (It later melted and we've yet to see any again).  Connor had his first drama performance.  We had our first sushi.  We had our first visit to a big city, as a family.  (we always drive thru but never stop).

Usually November is super depressing for me as we often can't make it to Michigan for American Thanksgiving.  For the first time in 11 years of marriage, I felt okay with this.  I felt like I already had my Thanksgiving - back in October.  Of course, I missed the time spent with family, but I didn't miss the holiday.  Signs of becoming a Canadian myself?  lol

We got news this month that Grandma's cancer was back, but in her brain.  She briefly lost ability to speak, which broke my heart for her.  I remember her saying the one thing she feared most was any sickness to her brain.  She didn't want to lose control or memory.  We couldn't visit because they winter in Florida.  But, the doctors said it was temporary (the loss of speech), which it was.  They were confident they could get the cancer and Grandma agreed to radiation.  We sent videos and photos daily, via Facebook to cheer her up and send our love. 

I often suspect I annoy a great many people with my many postings on Facebook.  But now you know.  I did it for Grandma.  She was our #1 fan and she loved the updates.  How could I deny her?  :)


This is a month of kids programs Christmas parties.  Tea parties with Elsa.  Peeks into ballet class.  Snuggles with siblings.  Cuddles with cousins.  Visits to libraries.

It's also the month of the greatest sorrow I have ever known. 

Regardless, I felt I needed to write up our year "lookback" because there was also such joy and happiness.  And that's what is important.  Focusing on the good.  The love.  The memories.

This month, in the hand of her devoted husband of 61 short years, one amazing, wonderful and beautiful soul unexpectedly left this world. 1 husband, 4 children, 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren have lost their #1 fan. She left this world very true to her graceful and nurturing nature. Like a mother goes into a school room to comfort her crying child on his first day of school, she kept coming back from the shadows of death. Comforting us, hugging us,... easing our pains, and assuring us we were well loved and that she was beyond happy with her life. Her laugh, her smile, her humor, her infectious optimism on life, the way she loved- all will be greatly missed. 
She would risk her own life (literally, when she took off her oxygen and danced the night away), to see a child's smile. She lived for her children. Big, small, grand, and great. She lived for us all.
Many times, to me, she talked of her inevitable death. She'd tell me she had not but 1 regret in her long and happy life. She chose to not focus on the "what I did/did not say, what I did/didn't do, the ticket I did/did not buy". That didn't matter. But 1 thing mattered. She wished she had read the bible because she could have used that comfort in her life. I assured her it was not to late. As long as you have breath in you, it is not to late.
Take a page from this remarkable lady's book, and have 0 regrets in your own life. For there is but 1 that matters. (and in the end, I do believe she had 0).
"Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne."
To my dear Grandma, thank you for allowing me (and others) to ease into our final goodbye, although, as you promised, it is not easy at all.

I will love you forever, and I will like you for always.
What made her so remarkable to every person she met?  She lived the Truth.  Grandma was patient and kind.  She didn't envy others or boast of her accomplishments.  She was not arrogant or rude.  She didn't insist on her way.  She was not irritable or resentful.  She didn't rejoice in wrongdoings.  She bore with us in all things.  She believed all things in us.  She hoped for all things.  And she endured.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
2015 will be a new year.  A year like none I've ever known.  A year without my best friend.   A year without my #1 fan.  But there is still hope.



1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. You put into words exactly how we all feel about Grandma. I also really enjoy looking back on your family adventures. Hoping to make some new ones with you all this June. :)


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