Going Home

Reddoorfarm

We went home for Christmas, and it felt familiar again.

Like we were getting back to the way things used to be. 

For almost two decades, we've tumbled out of the car and into winter at your family's farm.

We hunker down and spend time doing nothing and everything with your loved ones—who are now my loved ones, too. 

Things have changed since those early years, when we could join the grown ups for coffee in the dining room and take long naps after devouring leftovers.

It wasn't just the arrival of kids and the interrupted meals and disjointed sleep they brought with them.

It was losing the one who orchestrated and delighted in the chaos that made it different.

And all the years since, watching you try so hard to make it matter for our children, have bruised and filled my heart.

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We've always been of the same mind: home is where you come from, where you grew up, where the memories are free of the constraints of adulthood and all the weight that it can bring.

We talk about your home, my home. 

Our parents share similar histories. They landed in new places and built homes, with nothing more than suitcases and the determination to see it through. We've swapped stories about lying in our beds listening to the rise and fall of their struggles, when we were supposed to be asleep. 

We both want our kids to think of home as the place they spent time with us, the place we built for them with our own determination. I know they've heard a lot of rise and fall, as we've tried to make that happen. 

But I hope this will be the place they feel compelled to return if they need comfort. 

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Do you remember the night we sat side-by-side on the green couch in your off-campus house? We were so young, and we were having one of those foolish love moments that we laugh at now.

No matter where we end up living, you said, I want to end each day with you.  

Student loans, cost of living, raising children, and all the weight of adulthood forced us to depart from that promise. 

There was a need for someone with your training in the place you call home. A couple of days a week. A familiar community. A second source of income, while I stayed with the kids. 

I knew it was more than the money, or I figured it out eventually. 

I know I was sure by the time you told me about standing at the window of your office and letting your eyes search for the last place you saw her—the hospital where you had to let her go.

You said, I don't know why I do it. 

Grief doesn't lend itself to understanding. It's complicated and solitary. You can share it with me, and I can want so badly to take some of it from you, but it will always be yours alone.  

You've always disliked confrontation, with its violence and showiness of emotion, but this grief wouldn't let you alone. It raged upon your mind and heart. And the only way you could do battle was your own way—with a long and quiet goodbye.

For seven years, you drove there and left us behind because you had to.

You worked hard. You took your time.

And you decided when it was finally time to let it go.  

You tell me not to thank you, but I do.

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We saw a musician that grew up near you for our December concert.

You asked me to go and joked about closure, because it landed the week after you would last work in that town.

He was coming home to raise money for the community with this show.

I hope you felt what I did, as we sat in the chapel and listened to music lift the room.

You raised a community, too. Every family you helped, every life you changed, brought your memories closer to where you needed them to be. Away from that window and back to the home she built for you.

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We sit beside each other now—more grown up than we are foolish—with a renewed promise.

I want to end each day with you. 

But these years have left us too wise to let it end there. 

And when we can't,

we hold on until we can.

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FAMILY PORTRAIT

My parents had it right with their insistence that we take family portraits. 

The photos sat on side tables and lined the wallpapered hallways of my childhood home, and I spent a lot of time looking at them. Whether it was to giggle at my dad's evolving moustache or poke fun at my sister's toothless smile—they made me happy. 

Raising a family isn't easy and my parents were proud of the many ways we met the challenge. They displayed those photos (and still do) like framed diplomas—evidence of our family's success smiling at us from behind the glass.

JB wasn't easily convinced when it came to our own family. He didn't come from the same tradition and found it a bit overindulgent and awkward. We compromised by sending out a staged family photo for our first Christmas—complete with ugly Christmas sweaters and a pair of retro dad glasses—expecting to create some good fun.

Vintagefamilyphoto

The joke ended up being on us. JB had just returned to school full-time and, upon receiving our card, friends began calling and emailing to ask if our student budget had us shopping in our parents' closets and whether they should send food.

We didn't attempt another family photo during the years we were lost in the busyness of three kids under the age of four. Our holiday cards were of the store-bought kind. I included handwritten notes, but that was the only personal thing about them. 

After our fourth baby was born, I felt a pull to return to the family photo. The first time, it was just the kids. I took them out on my own while JB was at work. I planned to wrap one as a Christmas surprise that he could later put on his desk at work. 

When we saw this photo, there was no going back. Because captured in this frame was the story of our family's success and the love that drove us forward through our own challenges. 

Firstfamilyphoto

{original photo by: Natural Attraction Photography}

Our annual holiday card is now plastered with our most recent family photo and I get absolutely and ridiculously giddy with the process every year: deciding what everyone will wear, narrowing down the final photo from the photographer, and my very FAVOURITE part...creating the holiday card.

This year we had a couple of hiccups, with uncooperative monsoons that washed out any possibility of an outdoor photo and a feisty three-year-old that wanted to take the photos her way.

Leahoncouch
But I think we're going to end up with something very special (thank you, Sarah).

It's been a year of incredible growth for each of the kids, and I can't wait to see it captured in a moment. 

Kidsoncouch

Last week, I was contacted by MINTED—which features designs from independent artists and designers from around the world—and asked to consider using them for our holiday cards. There are so many designs that caught my eye, and I am so excited to see the photo that will help me make the final decision. 

The side tables and walls of our home are now covered with photos from the last few years. I catch the kids looking at them, and they often ask questions about what they were like when we took them.

There are some traditions worth holding on to, and I could not be more sure about this being one of them. 

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MINTED would like to offer one of my very lucky readers a $50 code towards any design of your choosing.

Just leave me a comment below, about your holiday card or family photo traditions, and I'll randomly select a Canadian or U.S. winner at the end of next week. And don't worry if you don't have a formal family photo, candids work really well, too.

Now go...drool....sigh...wander around their gorgeous website and come back and enter.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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{Giveaway}: love notes

Luvunote
Getting four kids up, fed, dressed, packed and out the door for school each day feels a bit like running a marathon. And I'm doing it five days a week. There isn't a lot of room in our finely-tuned routine for one-on-one chats or extra hugs—even when I know they could use them. 

So I sneak the occasional note into their agendas or lunch bags, to let them know they are never far from my thoughts.  

Bentonotes

To help keep my awesome readers and fellow lunch-makers inspired, I've partnered with Every Day Grace (owned by mom and fellow lunch-maker, Lindsay) to give one lucky reader some Love Notes 4 Lunch Totes.

Your kids already know you love them, but an little reminder never hurts. 

Just leave a comment below, letting me know how the first month of school is going for you and your crew. I always appreciate helpful ideas and tips, too.

I'll randomly select the winner in a couple of weeks and Lindsay will send the love notes to your front door!

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If you want to see what I got up to in the bento boxes the first week, find me on Instagram

Easy not fancy, that's how I get it done. 

 

 

 

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