Monday, December 31, 2012

Day 31

December 31
Finishing a year well

A few weeks ago our activity was to write "10 things I love about you" notes to each person in our family with the intention of opening those today. This gave us all the opportunity to see ourselves through the eyes of the people who know us best. But only the lovable parts. The parts that smooth over the rough patches. It is a way to say goodbye to the year past and yet bring with us the best of who we were into the new year. Because my parents were here as well, we each wrote a note for them to open with us. It was beautiful to hear my children's appreciation of each other. Some very wise and insightful words were spoken over the course of the evening. It was precious. My personal favourite from my envelope was, "I love your tummy, I lived there once." 

Resolutions so often give voice to what we see as weaknesses or faults in ourselves. We focus on where we faltered and promise not to do it again, only to be discouraged before February hits with our lack of endurance or will power. I am not certain that this is really the best way to begin a new season. There is plenty of time all year round to choose to be resolved about "fixing" oneself. For myself, this year I am choosing to honour the year that is ending and let it go. 

2012 was a year stuffed full and bursting at the seams with change. 

We spent the year pregnant with a dream that was ready to see the light of reality. We faced insecurities. We measured our worth in hours of work and then slowly passed on that work to other capable hands. We learned to measure our worth in different units. Then we learned not to measure it at all. 

This year we said more good-byes than we had ever before. We laughed louder and cried harder and embraced tighter. We let go of a life we had built for ourselves that was good and satisfying to find out what may lay just beyond the horizon of safety. We took a great leap and have yet to land.

This year exposed our weaknesses, flaws and intimate failures which left us raw and naked. We found the worst bits of ourselves hiding dormant in the recesses of our hearts, waiting for the tethers of comfort to be undone. We faced those bits with frustration and tears and conflict, until we came to accept them and understand them. Then, like shadows react to the sun reaching higher in the sky, they shrunk and didn't seem so encompassing.

This year we chose to trust God with everything and discovered the freedom of having nothing to lose.

So, we end this year grateful for good company, new friends and old friends. We release the wealth and health, frustration and failures of the past year and embrace the new one. With our children and my parents we honour the people we have been by sharing the parts we hope will go on. 

May 2013 be a year of incredible adventure and growth.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 30

December 30th
More Art Gallery Fun!

I know, I missed a few days. There was cooking and a Levi/Dad day and some other fun, but the important part has been that Grandma and Grandad Dalton have come to visit! We have been enjoying their company and introducing them to some of our favourite parts of Kelowna. 

Today, we spent the morning at Metro church because the kids really wanted Mom and Dad to meet Pops. He is the man Levi has been cooking with on Tuesdays. It was a very cool morning and the message was a good reminder about Jesus' yoke being easy. There is a significant temptation these days to pick up our burdens again. To be impatient. To falter in our faith and our beliefs about God's promises. This mornings message was the reminder I needed that it would be foolish and frustrating to stop trusting God.

After church and a nice lunch, we headed down to the art gallery for the weekly Sunday afternoon family craft. This week was New Year's resolution magnets.

From left to right,
Hannah's resolution is to do more abstract art.
Grandma's resolution is to smile more.
I made a matching set of resolutions for Grandad and I. I intend to keep the "don't worry" and send "be happy" home with Dad.
Alex's resolution is to find a way to keep blacksmithing.
Levi's resolution is to be kinder to his three sisters, depicted here as angels.
Shiloh's is to love more.
Selah's is to take care of Coco by herself.

I love the different mediums we all chose and how some of used words and some didn't. As parents, we hope to instil certain values and ideas that we believe are important, but we also try to make room for our children to become their very own selves. I appreciate that art has a way of magnifying our uniqueness. The Kelowna Art Gallery is quickly becoming one of my favourite places.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 22, 23, and 24

December 22, 23, and 24
A different kind of magic
(sorry about the cheese! 'tis the season!)

As we have approached Christmas Day, there have been several delightful surprises. Visitors stopping on their way to see relatives, pretty packages arriving from home and invitations from new friends have all served to make this season feel extra special. We are all very grateful for the warmth we have received this Christmas. In spite of all the visits and treats and fun, however, my favourite activity was tonight.

Every year, we are so involved with church parties and concerts that December seems to just fly past without much warning. This year has been so different. And quiet. It has been a bittersweet mix of missing the party and participation and relishing the slow pace and opportunity to reflect. One thing we have enjoyed entirely is the opportunity, for the first time, to create our own traditions. We have never experienced a total lack of expectations before. 

So tonight, we headed down to Metro. We served and ate dinner alongside the people of a beautiful inner-city community to celebrate the season. We smiled and shook hands and served coffee and cleaned-up. For three hours we watched from a distance as all four of our children genuinely grinned their way through an evening of hard work. At the end, I watched Shiloh give one of the two little stuffed animals she had just been given to an old man and tell him it was to make him happy. 

Before we got there, we talked with our kids about who Jesus really is and what he came to say. He taught that we should not invite only those to dinner who can in turn serve us a meal. He taught that it is the lowliest servant that is among the greatest of mankind. He set the example that love can heal, sooth, restore and conquer. He told us that we are capable of becoming like him.

We have very little to give this year. Even to each other. We could choose to feel sorry for ourselves or apologize to our children for not lavishing them with stuff, but we're not going to. This discomfort we are experiencing has grown us individually and as a family in ways we have never expected. We have learned that enough is so much less than we thought. We have learned that there is a measure of blessing in having nothing to lose. This is a life experience that is stretching all of us and our perceptions about what we need and what we have a right to. We have watched and seen that even someone with nothing has much to offer. I am not sorry about that. 

As we walked away from the dinner tonight, I listened to my children talk to each other about their evening. They expressed feeling content in a way they hadn't before. Levi said he wanted to remember that feeling for the next time he was grumpy or feeling sorry for himself. He said it was a special kind of contentment. I can learn a thing or two from these kids. I do learn, more than a thing or two, from these kids. 

To me, this is Christmas magic. That my children can see beauty and whimsy and meaning in having nothing to offer but themselves. That they can be filled with joy in spite of the present pile being significantly lower than in seasons past. I can not think of any gift I could open that would mean more.

Friday, December 21, 2012

An inspired extra

I am passionate about community, families and parenting. I suffer from a ridiculous and sometimes overwhelming sense of idealism. I really believe that if we break out of the humdrum of racing other humans and climbing ladders, we can change the world. Not by grand gestures and fundraisers and picket signs. Not that I am opposed to those things, but real lasting, healthy, healing change comes from the daily choices of everyday people. Choices to engage solutions instead of complaining about the problems. Choices to create bridges instead of building walls. Choices to bring hope and options instead of judgment. 

I met a couple at our last leadership conference for Lifelinks that seemed like kindred spirits. We became facebook friends and went our separate ways. Well, I came across this lovely lady's blog today and I am again inspired to cling to my optimism. I am not alone in it. These people are my kind of crazy. If you have any interest in kids, families, international issues, HIV, or just the goodness humankind is capable of, give it a read. Totally worth your time.

Day 21

December 21
Mommy Daughter Date for Hannah

We used to call her Hannah Banana. Cute nickname. Rolls off the tongue. It was perfect until we found out bananas caused her vomit violently for hours until she passed out in my arms. Less cute. Now when someone calls her that, she reminds me how much she hates bananas. 

Hannah doesn't throw up anymore if there happens to be bananas hiding in her food. She has grown out of that sensitivity. She has grown out of rather a lot of things and into many others. From a Yoda-faced, cranky, uncomfortable baby, to a graceful, kind and very beautiful young lady. I find myself looking at her more these days and thinking, "where did that stunningly beautiful girl come from?" Not that she didn't get good genes. Alex and I really could have been internationally renowned in the modelling industry. We just decided we wouldn't enjoy all that flying. Seriously though, she is amazing. 

Part of Hannah feeling like she is growing up is the constant requests to let her cook. By constant, I mean more than a few times a day. So, although this would not be my idea of a great date, Hannah's date consisted of us creating a meal plan together, buying groceries and starting on tomorrow's very fancy and overly involved borscht. Hannah was gleeful and exuberant even when we spent a half hour driving around a parking lot at 3pm looking for a parking spot. I chose to focus on her glee rather than be consumed by my own frustration with shopping the week before Christmas. It was fun. 

This is us browning our short ribs in preparation for their 3 hour roasting after which they will be shredded and mingled with veggies and other scrumptious things to, finally, create soup.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 20

December 20th
We broke tradition....

I know, I know, the parents are the ones who are supposed to have the will power to wait until Christmas to open presents. I get that. I do. But for the 13 years we have been married, we have never had to look at unopened presents for days and days before. The Christmas trees and stockings have always been at the grandparents houses. We did not anticipate our complete lack of maturity in this area. The packages all came this week. We tried. We tucked them under the little Christmas tree and we tried to ignore them. Part of the problem is Alex. Yes, I am blaming him. He has a very analytical mind and is constantly asking why. It was only a matter of time before we questioned why we have to wait until Christmas day. The answer was clear when it involved other people, but nothing is stopping us now! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Before any Christmas do-gooders give me a lecture, let me put your mind at least slightly at ease. We only opened one that was addressed to all of us. It was the perfect one to open! The kids LOVED doing the puzzle a couple weeks ago and only complained that it was too quick and 300 pieces was not enough. Well, today we are building a 2000 piece puzzle thanks to Aunty Erin. I hope she will forgive me of robbing her the joy of thinking we had opened it five days from now. 

In 1.5 hours we only got this far. 2000 is a lot more than 300. Regardless, merriment was had by all and our naughty present opening selves aren't at all remorseful. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 19

December 19
Daddy Daughter Day for Shiloh

 Shiloh needs lots of hugs and "I loves you"s. She needs to be listened to and actually heard. It brightens her whole world when someone demonstrates that they really "get" her. This sounds like a lot of work, but the truth is, when she feels loved, she is extravagant in it's return. Because she is sensitive and a little thinned-skinned, she is gentle with other people. She is quick to encourage and lend a hand. She will find the left-out kid on a field and invite them to play. She cheers for the underdog. She will love the people around her with a depth and breadth that is astounding. She takes some very deliberate investment, but the returns are beyond worth it.

A great example of this happened this morning. I walked into the kitchen to find a bowl of cereal as well as two pieces of toast on the table. Beside them was this card....

Yesterday, Shiloh and Selah decided to create her own big big sister holiday. Shiloh made a card that she had Selah sign, then woke Selah up early so they could make Hannah breakfast together. I wish I could articulate how beautiful this was. I can't think of a better way to begin a day.

Because of Shiloh's very soft disposition, time spent alone with one of us means more to her than the others. Not that the other kids don't love that special attention, but to Shiloh it is more life-giving than anything else we do.

For their Daddy Daughter Date, Alex took her to the H2O. She LOVES the swimming pool there and although she really likes it when we all go together, she sometimes gets frustrated trying to keep up with her older siblings. Going there and having Alex's full and undivided attention was a rare and wonderful treat. The grin on her face as well as the thousand words a minute story was proof of her appreciation.

Sometimes people ask us if we regret getting married and having kids so young. Certainly, there have been some sacrifices and some dreams that have been set-aside for the most youthful parts of our lives. I would not tell my daughters that getting married at seventeen and having four kids before their twenty-third birthday is for everyone. However, I honestly can't think of anything I was dreaming about before kids that was worth more than this. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 18

December 18
Family Snuggles

Sometimes the day is just long and life is just a little hard. Sometimes, for one, or two, or a few of us there is just a lack of motivation to create, to go out, to be energetic or even to talk. Mostly, we have stayed positive and excited about this adventure we are on. Often we feel like our life is pregnant with something new and beautiful. Today, though, we were all just a little tired and cranky.

It was a significant leap for us to leave our jobs, our ministry, our family and our friends in Cranbrook. We were happy and comfortable. We lived in a house we owned and that suited us. We had careers. We were successful. The kids were also content where they were at. Good friends, doing well in school, enjoying that our family fostered other children. Starting fresh has been difficult for all of them too. It has been humbling to go from feeling like we have everything and we are oh-so-together, to starting from scratch.

I am not complaining. It sounds like I am complaining, but I am not. There are many beautiful and talented people that we are meeting who are suffering truly difficult things. The events on the news this week are a clear indication that we still have it pretty good. I am sharing these feelings because I think we all have bad days and we are expected to just chin up and keep trucking. I share these things because I think it's OK to be a little sad sometimes and let our kids do the same. I share these things because the truth is, sometimes there are not words, or pictures to paint, or songs to sing. Sometimes, when you are tired and your heart is heavy, there is nothing to do. 

So, today, Alex was struggling with a headache and I didn't hear back from the potential job I was hoping for. The kids were cranky, overtired and snippy with each other. Even the dogs didn't seem to be getting along. So instead of some big event, or creative venture, we decided to forgo the pre-planned December fun. Tonight, Alex is making a snack and we are all piling into our bed for a big snuggle and a movie. We are going to hang on to our kids and each other, watch something clever and adventurous, and just be still. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 17

December 17
Mommy Daughter Day for Selah

I love all my children completely and entirely and without conditions, but I like them for different reasons. Levi has the same interesting, creatively analytical mind as his father. He is an excellent conversationalist. Hannah is sweet-spirited. Even as the age of teenage-hood approaches, she continues to be the peace-maker in our home. She is very often the voice of reason when the Marriott house gets grumpy and tired. Shiloh is the giver. My blog title is little mother, but I share that title with Shiloh. She is always eager to hold a baby or occupy a toddler for a weary Mama. If there is a way for her to help, she is watching to find it. These are just the things that stand out, there are so many reasons my children are a blessing to me.

But this is Selah's day. Selah, youngest of four, seven-year-old ball of energetic fun. Selah, whose name, by some definitions, means "to pause and contemplate" is an interesting character who regularly inspires my own pausing to contemplate. Selah seems to have only two speeds; quietly self-occupied and the fully engaged center of attention. She seems equally happy in both roles and is equally entertaining in either. The other night we were at a Christmas dinner for people who volunteer at Metro. At one point, I looked over to find her lecturing the entire children's table about something they all found clearly interesting, and at another point she was in the far corner of the room, away from everybody, dancing to the dinner music by herself. She is so comfortable being in her own skin, it makes my Mama heart happy.

Needless to say, she is good company. Today, she and I went to the Marmalade Cat for lunch and the moment we get out of the van, this is the conversation we start with;

Selah: So you know how you can't see sperm, well you can with a telescope.
Me: Do you mean microscope?
Selah: Ya, I always mix those up.
Me: Just curious, what makes you think of sperm right now?
Selah: Eating.
Me: Eating?
Selah: 'Cause growing babies need good food. 
Me: Of course.

At this point there is a lull in the conversation as we order and ogle our mango cake thing.

After a healthy dose of sugar, and as we are starting to each our much healthier sandwiches, the conversation turns even more interesting.....

Selah: Mom, did you know you're still young enough to have babies?
Me: Uh, huh?
Selah: Nothing. I just wanted to say you are still young enough to have babies. Just because. If you wanted to know. 

Hmm. I can only guess what is going on in that little head......

Anyway, Day 17 down, 14 more to go. Past the halfway mark and this whole thing has been a success. We have gotten to know our kids and each other a little better this month, as well as made our first December away from home feel special. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 16

December 16
Painting ceramic plates

The Kelowna Art Gallery is a very cool place on Sunday afternoons. I imagine it's a cool place any day of the week, but Sunday's are particularly special. On Sunday afternoons, they allow us common folk to come and create our own works of art. They have a different activity each week for only $5 a person. This week we painted our own ceramic plates. 

I have four kids. This means I have oodles and oodles of special, beautiful and completely useless art work that I have quietly recycled. Don't judge me. If you keep every single piece of art that four children made, you would soon be buried in it. Our children are creators. I love that about them, but their creations can quickly go from beautiful to burden because of their sheer volume.

This is the very reason I love the Kelowna Art Gallery activities. These plates will be a useful, and lasting reminder of a wonderful afternoon spent creating together. They will not clutter up my house. If anything, I can get rid of six other small plates to make room for them. 

I want my kids to express themselves and stretch their creativity in as many ways as possible. If I can make room for them to do that without it costing the planet an entire forest in construction paper, all the better.

Day 15

December 15

Had a bit of a Mommy fail this morning when I realized we made the reservations at Cupcasions at 9am and then stayed up way too late watching movies with Alex. The parental energy level was not as it should be. However, the staff at Cupcasions made up for our bleary-eyed attempt and the kids had a great time getting their faces painted, decorating cookies and making cupcake trees.

Our favourite line of the day was when Selah looked at the face painter with an utterly straight face and said, "I love this face. Seriously, I love it." We love that face too Selah :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Taking a moment

After reading this morning about the school shooting in Newtown, I couldn't bring myself to simply post the warm fuzzies of our life. I couldn't just let the day pass as though all is right with the world. It's not. The truth is, there are pockets of incredible soul-crushing darkness. My heart is broken for the families of the children that were killed this morning and I am consumed by the desire to understand, to comprehend in some small way how anyone comes to this point. I feel helpless and small and hopeless against such incredible pain. 

The truth is, long before this morning, all was not right with the world. We recently had a heart-breaking conversation with Levi about the world-wide sex industry and the horrors caused by greed and self-indulgence. The world is broken. Something is very, very wrong when we talk about schools shootings. Plural. When we have events to compare this morning against. What can we possibly do to address the the wounds in our world caused by greed, suicide, rape, abuse, bigotry, hatred, weapons, addictions, ect? 

I don't have the answer to that question this morning. I have no hope of personally being able to heal the brokenness of the human race. I do not have a voice that reaches nations, nor do I have the wealth to make great change. I am not powerful or famous by any stretch of the imagination. I am only one and a small one at that. But I have at least as much as anyone else. I have my small pocket of the universe to impact.

That is why we do what we do. It's why we moved to Kelowna to follow God and our dreams. It's why we homeschool and expect too much of our children. It's why we foster and serve soup. It's even why I blog about frivolous, unimportant things like eating cake for breakfast. In the face of such anguish, this is how we cling to the hope that the world can be a better, kinder, more loving place. If we can combine our efforts with others who are hanging on to that impossible hope on dark days like today, then maybe we will see light pierce that darkness. 

And if there is nothing else I can personally do, I have this one last and most important gift of significance. I can give the world four people who are not only loved well, but expected to love well. If every other effort means nothing, I still believe that our children can be our offering to an imperfect world. They can be encouraged to light up dark places. 

Though I am fairly certain no one from Newtown reads my little blog, just in case you stumble across it, we are deeply sorry for your loss. Our prayers and thoughts are with you. 

Day 14

December 14
Let them eat cake!

There are many things you should never do, like drink antifreeze or roll in the snow naked for fun. However, there are some things you should do once in a while for the very reason that you "shouldn't". Eating cake for breakfast is one of those things. It is certainly not recommended as a daily event, but occasionally having dessert first makes for a bit of whimsy that we can all use in our lives :)

Day 13

December 13th
Mom and Son date!

I completely enjoy my sons company. His conversation is interesting, his heart is huge and his humour is delightful and contagious. Getting to spend quality time with him is great.

We go down to Metro at least once a week. Usually I leave him in the kitchen with Pops and he helps heat up lunch and prepare sandwiches or buns, however, today was special. Today, Levi and I brought the ingredients to cook chowder from scratch. Levi, Pops, and I spent the morning chopping and mashing and stirring while we chatted and laughed. Another special moment was the discovery that Pops and Levi share a birthday! Watching my son and this wonderful white-haired man adopt each other over the last few weeks has been so delightful, so it was a particularly sweet moment. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 12

December 12
Bake cookies together!

We have had this jar waiting for awhile. Finally getting to bake it was a very fun, no cost family activity. Messy, tasty and free, its a hard activity to beat! Due some other, and important, responsibilities, I missed today's main event, but I did get to enjoy the fruits of my children's labour. And let's just admit that, sometimes, that is what it's all about. They like to show off, and we like to enjoy their successes!


Day 11

December 11
Do a puzzle together!

Quite a few weeks ago I purchased a 300 piece puzzle anticipating this fun event. I kind of thought it would be a one time thing. I wasn't sure it was actually going to be that much fun for everyone and I was certain there would be at least one squabble. I was very pleased to discover that not only was I wrong, but we need a harder puzzle next time! We had so much fun and the kids absolutely loved it! There was not one complaint regarding the fact that we kicked them all off the wii in favour of the puzzle. Fantastic! Here are a few pictures of our puzzle participation.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 10

December 10
Make a family tree with everyone's handprints!

We love art. And crafts. And messes. When Alex and I were dating, he etched some artwork into my bedroom window, drew me pictures, silkscreened t-shirts and even made me his subject for photography. As the children have grown up, I have many fond memories that involved handprints and footprints, glue and glitter, pasta and paint. I have worn every piece of original pasta jewelry and finger-painted clothing with pride. Somewhere along the way, the craftiness has slowed somewhat. We've gotten busy, said "not right now" too many times, and the enthusiasm has waned. So, today, we made some messy art together and revive this long standing family tradition of self-expression. It's never to late to redeem lost time.

Here are the handprints before we embellished.

I will upload the embellished picture when its fully done. 

Their hands are big. They're growing up. 

Day 9

December 9th
Daddy Daughter Day for Hannah

After our family breakfast, Hannah enthusiastically asked to go back to the same restaurant when she gets her parent date. Alex, being a very generous and thoughtful daddy, did just that. She came home absolutely glowing! 

Hannah is growing up so fast. She is almost 12, she doesn't look like a little girl anymore, and she is officially taller than me. I admit, I have spent the last 11 years being nervous about having teenage daughters. Well, we aren't exactly there yet, but we will be soon and, so far, I love it! 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Day 8

December 8 
Photo-scavenger hunt!

Today we went all over Kelowna and West Bank to take pictures that fit the clues we started out with. After getting the pictures all together, we have created a story arc with captions.....

Our story begins with an innocent morning of light reading.....

Until suddenly, Mom and Dad, while reading about how to scratch a wombat, discover an old legend about the Ogopogo being trapped in a tiny puddle by an evil, unscratched wombat. They decide to go in search of the poor, lonely, trapped Ogopogo....

Mom and Dad find the Ogopogo, wake him and ride him to safety!!

The very grateful Ogopogo expresses his gratitude.

Levi warns him not to get fresh with his sisters. 

This magnificent rescue adventure is over by noon. The Marriotts, enticed by their new hero status, go in search of new adventures.....

They find a blaze! Mom and Dad disappear into the flames. The children hear them crying out for help! Unfettered, they brave the flames to find their parents!

Once the fire is under control, the mini Marriotts succumb to the disappointment of their parents seemingly being lost forever. They head to a local church in hopes they will know of a family that might take them in. They will promise to do chores for their supper.

Once again the children are smiling! A kind soul from the parish found Mom and Dad and nursed them back to health!

Together again, the Marriott family share a cheesy pose by the lake to celebrate!