Monday, July 29, 2013


6003559370Every year on their birthdays, Glen and I write a Birthday Letter to each of our kids. What they were like that year. What strengths and talents we see in them. What words of wisdom we have for them.

Someday, they might even appreciate the gesture.

From Mom…

I write about you ALL the time! This past year you’ve hogged the ink in my journal and the word count on my blog. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m overdoing it. If one day, you’ll look back and shake your head at all the gushing and worrying and over-analyzing. Will I embarrass you?

A decade from now, I can practically guarantee it. But right now, you don’t know the meaning of the word. That might be the best part of being 3. Especially a 3-year-old YOU!

You are wholeheartedly and unabashedly yourself. You have no use for limits at all…

Not social conventions.

Not medical diagnoses.

Not the laws of gravity.

Not fences or child-proof locks or boundaries.

And while this tendency can be both exhausting and terrifying for us, I hope you don’t lose it entirely.

You are my exuberant, half-wild, but entirely charming boy! This year we will try to keep our wits and keep you alive, without taming you completely. If you need to run, run toward us, not away. If you need to climb, chose somewhere safe. If you need adventure, take us with you.

You are a fearless explorer in perpetual motion! Right now your most common phrase is “I GO TOO!” as you race as fast as your little legs can go toward your next adventure. You were not made for sitting still. Or staying in bed, apparently, which has caused no end of late night power struggles and overtired shenanigans. I know it’s hard for you to downshift from your high speed lifestyle, but trust me, sleep is good.

You have one of the happiest natures I’ve ever seen! While your moments of frustration are impressively loud and passionate, once the tantrum has passed, that toothy grin comes back in full force. Happy is your default setting. And you’re always eager to share the sunshine. Our Child Development Worker coined the phrase “aggressively affectionate” to describe you. Not all your friends and cousins appreciate the full-body tackle-hug the way we do, so this year we’ll work on reading people’s cues and showing love in other ways. If all else fails, know that Mommy is ALWAYS up for one of your tight-squeezy-whole-body-melting-into-it-Hugs (ALWAYS… like, this offer will not expire during the teen years or adulthood or, you know, ever).

You are an adorable chatterbox! This goes against all the boy-girl stereotypes, which shouldn’t surprise me, since I know how you feel about staying in bounds. Without a doubt, you are the most talkative child we’ve ever had. This time last year, you only had a handful of words, which you rarely used, but you’ve blown us (and your speech therapist) away with your progress lately. They call it a developmental leap. I call it, Unleashing Your Inner Announcer. Wherever we go, whatever we do, your cute little voice gives an enthusiastic running commentary.

I’m not going to lie. You keep us hopping. I’ve reached heretofore unknown regions of exhaustion this past year. But chaos has never been so fun.

I love being your Mom!

Happy Birthday 3 year old!

From Dad…

Dear S,

When I wrote your birthday letter last year, I barely knew you. We were still just figuring out this whole daddy-son thing, and you had just had your entire world turned upside down. New home. New family. New food. New routines. 

Everything – new.

One year later, we’ve all come a long way. We’ve learned to anticipate at least some of your moves, and you’ve learned how to play us to get your way sometimes too.

If I could sum up the past year in one word, it would be RUNNING. You, running, always on the move, finding ways to escape just when we thought we had you locked down, creating danger where we thought we had ensured safety. Us, running, trying to keep up with you, attempting to even get one step,ahead… occasionally.

You’ve forced us to become more creative and resourceful. If we’re not trying every strategy under the sun to keep you in your bed at night, we’re divining inventive ways to make it impossible for you to climb the deck railing and fall into the backyard two stories below.

You’ve forced us into action. For a family that loved their peace, quiet and a good book, the addition of a hyper-energetic little dude who can’t sit still for a second was quite the adjustment. It’s been good for us.

Most of all, you’ve forced us to love. Not that we didn’t love before, and not that it was against our will. But you, my son, are undeniably lovable. Sometimes we get frustrated by your latest escapade, but then you flash us that ear-to-ear grin and instantly transform our righteous anger into laughter. It’s really not fair. But it’s probably going to get you out of all kinds of trouble over the years. Because who can resist?

So here’s to you. Happy Birthday 3-year-old! And just so you know, I’ve been working on the assumption that by the time you’re four, our life will be slightly less frantic. Do you think maybe we can make that happen… please?




Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Yes, it’s another post for married grown ups.

Since the last one, a few people have admitted that they were MUCH more likely to click on an article about sex than anything else. Let’s be honest, there are more than a few of you. You know who you are.

Is Sex a Big Deal?

Yes, it sure is.

That’s what she said!

Phew! I’m so glad that I got that out of the way. Now I can discuss the issue like the mature, serious adult that I pretend to be.

As many of you know, Glen and I worked for many years in the “marriage enrichment industry” helping put together conferences, websites, study materials and even a tv show at one point. With 3 little kids at home, my contribution mostly consisted of the occasional opinion and a willing subject for Glen to try out whatever advanced marital skill his latest article was about. Definitely a job with perks! The old joke was, he must be a marriage expert at this point, because, “after all, he wrote the book.”

I remember one session for wives that I attended. I was distracted by the details, making sure there was enough water, ensuring the power point was visible to everyone, dealing with that bothersome hangnail… but I perked up when it came to the sex talk. Ya, I know, I’m kind of like you people who clicked on this just because you saw the word “sex”. You understand.

Perhaps I missed some crucial prelude to this portion of the talk. Perhaps I misunderstood. I kind of hope so, because it was just so discouraging for me to hear.

The speaker (who is a lovely, amazing woman I admire) offered everyone a multiple choice question:
Your spouse has made some indication that he is interested in sex.

(At this stage in our life this often consists of: “so, you ready to head to bed?”, eyebrow waggle, aaaaaand leans in for a kiss. Try not to be jealous; for parents whose kids stay up almost as late as we do, these are some wicked moves.)

Anyway, the stage is set. Now, as a wife, you do which of the following:

a. pretend not to notice (you are tired and want to be left alone).

b. complain that you have a headache (or cramps, or toxic internal multi-system fatigue syndrome).

c. grudgingly give in (might as well get it over with).

d. put your husband’s needs before your own and cheerfully give him the gift of yourself.

That was it. Those were the choices.

Do you see the problem here?

I hope I’m not the only one. The best option (apparently) was d. And I didn’t get the impression she meant “give yourself” in a sense that included chocolate sauce or wearing only a ribbon to bed; more of a grin-and-bear-it dynamic.

What about:

e. enjoy some special grown-up time for all you’re worth.

Because I have needs too!

Is that weird? Am I some kind of freak because I enjoy sex? I sure felt like it at the time.

This caricature of the horny, insensitive husband and the prudish, longsuffering wife is really big in religious circles. It’s pretty common in sitcoms and stand-up comedy too. And I’m sick of it.

Must we accept this stereotype that men want sex anytime, anywhere and with any old person and nice women just really aren’t that into it?

Of course there will be times I put my husband’s needs first. As I expect him to do for me, in the bedroom (but that’s a whole different kind of post). Yet, even the occaional quickie does not seem like a one-sided thing to me. And I would hate to see the day that sex becomes a chore to either of us (whether it is cheerfully delivered or not).

Here’s something that may blow your mind: sometimes it is the woman who wants sex when the husband doesn’t – a problem made significantly worse by this stupid stereotype.

I understand that there are a whole range of problems which can affect this dynamic: sexual abuse, hormone levels, past trauma, porn addiction, unhealthy baggage, compatibility issues, etc. I am not naive. Sex can be a place of great conflict and frustration in marriage.

But it isn’t hopeless. We live in a day and age with a great amount of information and help for those who are willing to look. I firmly believe that a sex life characterized by MUTUAL PLEASURE is worth the effort, even if it doesn’t emerge overnight. This is the ideal we should expect: physical intimacy that is about giving, but also enjoying.

God designed us to enjoy each other, and not just in a platonic way. Sex is what sets marriage apart from every other friendship, and it should be amazing! Study after study shows that married people have more sex and are more sexually satisfied.

So here’s me, picking option “e”, every time!

So Here's Us

Friday, July 19, 2013


Of all the things that surprise me, a whole year after our adoption, the biggest is the undiminished pride I feel when I slip the words “My Son” into a conversation.

Capital letters: MY. SON.


And I might… possibly… slip them in more often than is strictly necessary.

Perhaps it is those years when all those typically “boy” things (which my girls disliked no matter how enlightened and gender neutral we tried to be) – the dinosaurs and matchbox cars and hockey gear and train sets – sent a little ping of grief across my heart. All the things I never got to have or do or be with the baby boys I lost.

Perhaps it is the length of time we had to wait for you. Wondering. Imagining. Making plans that ended with “… if we have a new baby by then.”

Perhaps it is the way I feel we earned you. Not like a possession or a prize… but coming home at the end of a hard fought, life changing journey.

And perhaps this is how adoption, and every other scenario where kids don’t come the easy way, is different. Most of the time, having a child requires only a small amount of planning, if any. Two of mine came without any planning at all (surprise!). They are not any less (or more) precious for it, but I took being their Mom for granted.

It just happened. It didn’t require much thought or soul searching. I never felt the need to prove it or defend it. I didn’t have to work hard to get there. Those maternal instincts came pre-assembled.

But you, My Son, we made this Mother-Son thing together. We built it ourselves.

So when I talk about you, I puff up my chest and emphasize the words: MY Son.

So here’s me, an obnoxiously proud Mama. Even more than usual (and I was already pretty obnoxious, according to the oldest kids).


Monday, July 15, 2013


I hate looking at pictures of myself.

It comes second only to listening to my voice on the answering machine in the line up of cringe-worthy activities-to-avoid-at-all-costs.But when I came across this Writing Challenge: tell the true story behind the picture of a smile, I knew immediately which story to tell.

Because I remember exactly what this little girl was thinking in this moment.



I’m so glad to see you!

You look great.

In fact, you’ve never looked better to me!

I’ve missed you! I know it’s only been a day, but what a day.

I have so much to tell you. Nothing seems real until I tell you.

Have you seen my Grandma’s hat? All blue feathers. You’re going to laugh. But try to be cool. She’s awfully proud of it. It’s cute.

Guess what we did last night? My cousins and I pulled out Mom’s wedding gown and her bright yellow bridesmaid’s dress from Aunt Lois’ wedding. We tried them on and looked at pictures and giggled like crazy.

I couldn’t eat at all this morning, I was so nervous. And I just wanted to talk to you and I needed you to hold my hand and make me laugh. But I sucked it up and pasted on a smile and tried not to throw up.

Everything feels right again now.

You always make me feel better.

I have so much to tell you. It’s only been a day, but what a day.

There are so many people here. Our whole gang from highschool is here. I even saw some friends we haven’t seen since graduation. Did you see Jason? He looks like a movie theatre usher. He’s wearing a bright red suit jacket. Of course he is.

There’s family here I haven’t spoken to since I was little. Yes, I consider third and fourth cousins family no matter how much you roll your eyes.

Also, it’s weird to have your parents together under one roof, isn’t it? But everyone seems pretty happy, so don’t start getting stressed.

There was some kind of problem with the decorations. And you’d think that kind of thing would make me nuts – you know how I get. But after all the planning and the choosing and the fussing and the debating and the detailed schedules with each person’s part carefully highlighted, I don’t actually care about any of it.

I’m just SO glad to see you!

Can you believe we’re doing this?

I’m trying to pay attention now.

Come on, Christie, get it together.

Mostly I’m waiting until we can leave. And it can be just us again.

Just us from now on.

Just us forever.

It’s only a day, but it’s OUR day.

I’m so absurdly happy that I get to keep you!


So here’s me, still a grinning-like-a-fool bride. That cute boy is still my best friend. And as I’m sure you can imagine, he does a lot of listening.


Friday, July 12, 2013


Most people who’ve spent time as the Responsible-Adult-in-Charge-of Keeping-Beloved-Child-Alive-and-Accounted-For will eventually feel this feeling, even if only for a few seconds. Of all the ups and downs of childcare, this is the worst.

Worse than answering the same question, breaking up the same fight or issuing the same clear direction for the 9,837th time. That day.

Worse than labour and delivery.

Worse than endless government paperwork.

Worse even than cleaning up after a violent stomach flu, one that explodes on both ends.

2219056224It is that moment of sheer, undiluted panic, when you turn around and your child is Gone. Out of sight. Missing.
Your entire body is on high alert. Stomach in your throat. Heart pounding. Adrenaline pumping. Your brain instantly replays every single missing child crime show you’ve ever watched. For a moment you look around and call their name and try to stay calm. Then any sense of dignity or propriety is discarded as you frantically search and come up empty. Your entire being narrows to this single task… Find. My Baby. Now.

Usually, this dissipates quickly. You turn around and there they are… right behind you. Around the corner. Under the bench. Playing with a friend. You heave a sigh of relief, chuckle at your overreaction and carry on.

But we all know, not every story has a happy ending. So the panic is genuine. Every time.

Today at soccer camp my son’s coach turned around to help the other kids. Just 30 seconds to untangle the parachute. And when she glanced up, he was gone.

One of my favourite things about our church’s soccer camp is the huge number of dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers who run it. Practically everyone between the ages of 11 and 85 pitches in, in some way or another. There are hundreds of kids at camp, but there are hundreds of leaders too. It’s well-organized and safety conscious.

Everyone in the area dropped what they were doing when S went missing. Instant search party, right in the middle of camp. With so many adults all around, it seemed amazing that anyone could slip through. How did such a little guy get past everyone unnoticed?

Just last week I met with our social worker and filled out a Needs Assessment for our boy. We put an extremely high mark for “Safety Concerns.” He is fast, agile, impulsive and has absolutely no sense of danger.

The week before that, I met with his new preschool teachers to discuss his needs for the fall. He is bright and engaging and loves a group setting, but he needs CONSTANT supervision. I must have said it a dozen times, “You can’t take your eyes off him, not even for 30 seconds.”

This is our biggest worry: That our rough and tumble explorer will come to harm. Child-proofing can only do so much. He has super-human determination and a flair for creative problem-solving.

We have child locks on the doors. A fenced and double latched yard. A puppy “backpack” that is actually a leash. A one-on-one helper for Sunday School. “Watch the boy” is on the task list for any family outing.

“CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” is our motto.

Today… I was his coach at soccer camp.

So here’s me, still a little shaken after a heart stopping 10 minutes of drama. He had ducked down in the ditch right beside us to play in the rocks. He was close by and safe all along. But it’s a 10 minutes I’ll never forget.


Monday, July 8, 2013


I don’t have anything smooth and polished to give you this week. It’s been a bit crazy at work and quite frankly, I can echo the words of Bilbo Baggins when he told Frodo, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
Busyness isn’t enough to make me feel stretched. I have just seen an inordinate amount of pain in past weeks, and it is weighing heavily on me. I spoke about it in my last post – the loneliness, the sadness. There are a lot of sad people in my world right now. But in the midst of this sadness, I have seen small acts of courage.
The man who is no longer in love with his wife but is willing to try again said, “I will stay with you even though I am almost out of hope.”
The woman who is trying to survive the turbulence of her husband’s mid-life crisis said, “I am confused and hurting too, but I am here for you. I’m not giving up.”
The woman who decided to be open and vulnerable with her new love rather than stony and closed took the risk to say, “I love you even if you don’t love me.”
The man at the end of his rope finally decided to say, “I can’t keep my nose above water anymore, please help.”
These small steps – to connect rather than withdraw and isolate – these take courage. Make no mistake, the risk is huge. I can’t predict what will happen in the lives of these people. They could be crushed for their vulnerability. Or they could find more intimacy than they ever thought possible.
As I was musing about these things this week, a music video dropped into my inbox – Sara Bareilles’ Brave. The sheer lack of perfection, the awkwardness, and the unbridled joy of this video utterly delight me. And, in my personal opinion, the best lines of the song are:
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
So, to all the sad people in my life – I see you. I care. I know it’s tough. I’m in your corner. Be brave.
PS – Dude in the library, I want to give you a huge hug. You are my favorite part of this video!

ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach ®

Monday, July 1, 2013


It’s always been about the words for us.

love-notes-718721Since I was first allowed to get calls from “a boy” and I reassured my parents that we were totally just friends anyway and somehow the hours sped by while we talked about everything and nothing, until my Mom would pick up the downstairs line and yell up the stairs to “GET OFF THE PHONE!”

Since those early days when we wrote long rambling notes on loose-leaf paper, doodling in the margins and folding them into elaborate shapes before handing them off to each other in between classes.

Since the poetry unit in English 20, when he took a 10% penalty rather than read his poem to the whole class, but printed it up, glued it to a giant red heart and gave it to me for Valentine’s Day.

It’s the words that made us friends in the first place. 

It’s the words that made us laugh until it hurt and console each other and get closer than anyone had ever been before.

We built our own world with those words.

And now they come with a 140 character limit. And a data bill at the end of the month. And an audience of friends and family and people we sort-of knew in elementary school who we haven’t seen in years.

Sure, there are times when I roll my eyes and glare at the iPad. “You’re with the REAL people now” I say. Then hastily tuck my iPhone back into my pocket, lest my hypocrisy come back to bite me on the ass. It can feel like a barrier; a virtual distraction in our already busy lives. Bound to happen when both Mom and Dad are social media junkies.

But I can’t imagine our relationship without it. Especially not now, when time is at a premium and life moves at warp speed (that’s really, really fast for you non-nerds). Every day we text and tweet and message and status update and comment and like, and yes, even blog our way to intimacy.

We build our own world with those words.

If you’ve never live-tweeted a date, then maybe you won’t understand. When something goes wrong, I text him. When something tickles my funny bone, I send a picture with a caption. When he can’t be there with us, he’s the first to like it on Facebook. When I want him to know how much I appreciate him, I tell the world (here and here and here).

If it weren’t for this, we’d be ships passing in the night. Instead, we end our days on opposite ends of the couch, with our feet tangled in the middle – sending me a link to that great blog he was talking about, pulling up the funny YouTube video on Apple TV for us to watch, and commenting on each other’s pages. Real and virtual romance inextricably entwined.

I used to doodle “G+C 4ever” on my binder covers, now I download cheesy gifs and emoticons to send him. The medium has changed, but not the message.

This is what flirting looks like in the digital age.