Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jude's 5 year letter

My darling Jude,

I'm sitting at my computer and typing this letter up to you. I haven't blogged in a million years (okay, a few months), and it's a few weeks past your birthday, but I'm doing it.
Ah Jude. Where to even begin!?

You are a plucky 5 year old. You are tender and can be sensitive, and then the next minute you're terrorizing Blaise. You do have a compassionate heart, though, and there have been multiple instances of you seeking out a new kid in your class (whether it's the YMCA or church) and playing with them, or offering them a toy or trying to cheer them up when they're upset and scared. This speaks volumes to me about who you are and that you are listening to God's still, small voice inside you urging you to show love and friendship to those who need it most. I love for this. Seriously. My heart almost explodes a little when I hear about these occurrences.

But there's a sassy mouth on you too. You love shouting, "FINE!" or "OKAY!" when things are neither fine, nor okay for you. It's hard for you to receive instruction or criticism, but I do see growth in you in this area.

You played on a soccer team for the first time this summer and you learned so much! We watched (and okay, we laughed too) from the sidelines as you would run up to the ball but only really hover around it and the other players instead of just going in and kicking it. This was a bit surprising for me as I wouldn't have thought you to be tentative, but by the end of the season you did end up going in for a kick or two.

You learned so much at school this past year too! Junior Kindergarten wasn't too difficult of a transition for you, but you did have some teary goodbyes in the mornings for a few weeks. Your teacher, Mrs. Fulton, was an absolute gem and we are so super excited that you'll get her again in a couple weeks for Senior Kindergarten! You learned tons of songs and loved gym and recess and you can even read a bunch of words. You made a bunch of friends but I think struggled to find that one friend that you really clicked with even though we would hear you talk about many different kids in your class. I'm praying for one really good friend this year and that s/he would be someone that would be a good influence on you and vice versa.

You are one smart cookie and I often hear you sounding out words or when Noah was learning to read this past year, you would intuitively guess the ending of the sentence.

You are my affectionate boy. You love saying that you love me and that I'm "the best" and giving hugs and cuddles. You definitely need to hear words of encouragement and affirmation and I'm constantly reminding myself to give you those as it's not my first instinct to do so.

You got a scooter for your birthday and you are getting so good on it! I'm so proud of you and your desire to stick with it and get "really good" at it. It's really cute to see you bombing down the sidewalk and learning to balance with both feet on it at the same time.

You are musical! You love clapping out rhythms, you pick up on songs and lyrics (and even was a voice of conviction in a Lumineers song when the guy says, "Oh my God", telling me that you didn't like that song because of it.) and you have lately started requesting jazz music. Which totally melts my heart. You pick up on moods and feelings in music and it makes my heart so happy to discuss music with you!

You love Noah. You miss him when he's not around and I'm so thankful you have each other, even if it does mean that you fight with each other a good deal of the time.

And you're really calming down around Blaise which is good for all of us. I know you love him, but how it comes out is sometimes a little too aggressive. Regardless, you have a really special relationship with your baby brother and I see it in how you and he interact and make up games together and the giggles you share as you engage in things like jumping on top of each other from the armrest of the couch. Yeah.

Sometimes you seem older than a five year old and I know I expect a lot from you. You are just my favourite Jude ever and I am so thankful you came into our lives on that hot, July day five years ago. Such a calm, (quick), chilled out entrance into this world and yet you have one of the biggest personalities in this family. I love you, Super Jude!

I love you, Jude.

Mama (Mom, Mommy)

Saturday, May 3, 2014


We slept over at some friends last night and everyone was pretty tired today. I took this on the drive home from Toronto and I'm hoping for good sleep all around!
Blaise is busy and funny and trouble and holding his own in fights with Jude. I turn my back for a second and he's throwing toys in the toilet or mucking about with my hand cream or spitting out food everywhere (his latest thing that makes me want to stab my eyeballs).
Jude is adorable and stubborn and learning a lot and always full of stories and "Guys! Guess what?!". And praying. He loves to pray which I absolutely love.
Noah is growing up way to fast with his reading and sassy attitude and helpfulness with housework and his brothers. He is drawing and colouring with amazing skill these days and really into hanging out with his friends (a sign of thjngs to come, I suppose).
My three boys. I love them, the funny bits and the challenging bits; the easy bits and the feisty bits. Love love love 'em.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April THREE (20th)

So I'm late on this one. But I do want to post these here for posterity, I suppose.
It's Easter Sunday and I got to coordinate our outfits which was pretty fun. 

Blaise sure looks happy. (Note the sarcasm.)

Oh my boys.

Gotta love the crying kid pics. 

Happy Easter! (Sorry for the lack of insight and thoughtfulness. It's an iPhone post this month.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March THREE {on the fourth}

They like to take all the pillows off the couch and build boats or walls or forts or hideouts. It's a rare occasion that they put them all back. At first I contemplated making a rule about not taking cushions off the couch. But...I'd rather them take the cushions off and use their imaginations than keep the living room pristine with them glued to the tv because there's nothing else to do.

They are growing, growing, growing. Fighting and talking and laughing and eating {a lot!} and wrestling and making messes and learning and it's going all so fast and yet so slowly sometimes.

I seriously don't even know how I managed to capture that picture. Nothing short of a miracle, folks.

I am exhausted and full and happy and sometimes yelling and hugging and kissing and tickling and teaching and correcting and loving. I am filled to the brim and yet often completely drained. Motherhood is a complex thing.
Blaise is finally sleeping better {glory hallelujah!}, Noah is reading like a fiend and it thrills my heart every time he reads a book or a word or a sign and Jude is always full of questions {and stories} about life and God and so soft to the gospel despite his challenging behaviour at times {which one of us doesn't have "challenging behaviour" in our own lives?}.

I am just trying to live each moment to the fullest and soak it all in.

Every month I take pictures of my boys on the third {or fourth}. See past months here

Monday, February 24, 2014

running and stuff

I'm in a sweet spot with running right now. This morning I did my run at the Y and it felt so good. I've moved past the wall of feeling like I'm going to die and though I still prefer to run outside it feels so great to know that my cardio has improved and I am becoming more and more fit and strong.
One thing I've learned {or remembered} is that I'm highly motivated by music. Lately I can't get enough of Songza's Sunshine Indie Workout mix and today I was just flying. In fact, often when I'm running and I hear a song that makes me smile and pick up my pace, what I really want to be doing is this:

And you know what? I think I should probably go for a fist pump or over-the-head-hand-clap if I feel like it because do you see anyone else paying attention to this guy? Nope. Me neither. This guy is killing it. {Check out the YouTube video for the whole video. This guy has some moves.}

So that's me. I'm working out and it's become a good little routine for us in the mornings; me exercising and Blaise {and Jude every other day when he's not at school} hanging out with the stellar childcare workers and doing adorable little crafts. Everyone wins!

I know. I still suck at blogging these days. And that's okay. I'm trying to soak it all in and one day I'll come back more consistently. But for now you can follow me on Instagram for a daily look at life around these here parts.

Hang in there! Winter has to end eventually! {Right?}

Monday, February 3, 2014

February THREE

We went skating with the boys yesterday. Their second time, our first time taking them.

It was such a perfect day. Not too cold, a light dusting of snow; it was lovely. For about 8 minutes.
Jude refuses to have anything but jelly legs on the ice which is always super easy to carry a 40lb child around with jelly legs. Blaise wanted to walk on the ice in front of the other skaters. So that wasn't dangerous or anything. Noah is actually doing pretty good and seems determined enough to just keep practicing so he can skate "as good as Daddy".

We met up with our friends, Dan & Amanda there and did a bit of skating before heading back to their place for hot chocolate. But how awesome is it that our little downtown city hall has a skating rink outside it? I love our little city. It's beautiful and I really hope the boys will remember this crazy snowy winter we're having. It sure is a huge shock compared to the last two "winters" we've had in Uganda.

I have to say, I am a fan of winter. Especially days like the last couple have been. Snowy but not ridiculously cold {like, say, -30 C!!!} and sunny like today! Beauty.
Or maybe you relate to Jude and winter makes you feel like this;

I take pictures of my three boys on the third of each month. You can view past months here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

doctor's office

Last week while Jamie was away I thought it would be a good idea to take all three boys to the doctor's office and then navigate the older two getting booster shots. Yeah, it was about as awesome as you can imagine.

On the upside, I almost hit two pedestrians crossing the road on the way home because the sun was glaring right into my eyes. Oh wait, that was supposed to be an upside. Well, I didn't hit them. So there's that.
Okay the real upside is that Blaise managed to charm absolutely everyone in the doctor's office and get smiles out of everyone - big and smile. I mean small.

We had to go back to the doctor yesterday to get some meds for a brutal cough that Noah's had for the past two weeks. Hoping it clears up. Blaise was at it again with the other patients in the waiting room. He walked right up to a teenage boy and pointed to his pants. The boy was a bit surprised at first, but then smiled and engaged with Blaise. It was quite sweet.

I'm always thankful for the opportunity my kids give me to interact freely with strangers. But I'm definitely not winning the Super Mom Award for my behaviour and attitude this week. I've yelled more and sighed more and muttered things under my breath and it hasn't been pretty.
I blast worship music in the car when the whining and bickering threatens my sanity and I pray that the words will seep deep down into my soul and I will find peace in the madness. That God will be merciful to me and give me His love to love these gifts that He's given me. My children.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

all I have is Christ

Yesterday afternoon our dear friend Andrew finally ended his battle with Leukemia and went to be with Jesus.

I don't have words. I am not a wise person full of insight and poignant words. I can cry and I can bake. And I can listen to this song over and over and over again.

Continue to pray for our friend Suz {Andrew's wife} and her two sons, Jacob and Daniel.

Friday, January 3, 2014

January THREE {2014!}

It's a new year and I'm still taking pictures on the third!  Blaise is always, always busy, moving, doing, getting into trouble. He can pull himself up onto the dining room chair and then climb onto the table from there. It's pretty intense. He learned how to say "NO!" this week. Which is awesome. Right? Uh. Yeah.
He's my pickiest eater yet. I never know what he will or won't eat. Except sugar. He will always eat cookies, cake, chocolate or anything else he somehow just knows is full of the good white stuff.
He's my hitter. My scratcher. People, it's not easy having the rough kid. We were at a friends' house on New Years Eve and I had to follow Blaise around to make sure he wasn't hurting the two other babies there. The kid is a bruiser, I tell ya.

Jude. Still marching to the beat of his own drum. Or the toot of the horn. Whichever. He's had a major case of the whines this last week which is driving me bonkers and yet he's still so adorable with his floppy hair and squinchy eyes and belly laugh. I love the kid, but he certainly knows how to push my buttons. He got his beloved "big rocket!" for Christmas which he and Noah have been loving playing with all week. He hates the cold and would rather be playing inside than outside in the cold although he does oblige Noah {who incidentally loves the snow!} and will bundle up and go sledding or shovel the driveway.

My first born, Noah. I love him so but we have been butting heads recently. He's so sweet and tenderhearted, though. He usually helps around the house, willingly {though often needing a reminder} cleans up the toys, even if it wasn't his mess and is slowly learning to read. We have totally slacked in helping him with "homework" this holiday and I need to get on that. It's hard finding time to hunker down and do school work over the holiday with three kids. And it's a holiday so I want to let him watch tv and play with toys and go outside and not have to always do school stuff. I'm so motivated by education, can you tell? Ha.
Anyway, we'll put in a decent effort in the eleventh hour, I'm sure.

So this is the new year and I won't make any resolutions {I've never been the type}, but I will make lists and dream dreams and have hopes and as always, I don't want this year to just breeze by. I'm making it count and living it to the fullest that I can.
Happy New Year!

Every month I take pictures of my boys on the third. You can see past months here

Monday, December 30, 2013

on throwing a neighbourhood party

I wrote this on the 22nd of December but, you know, life and all that. Many of you have been asking how our neighbourhood drop in went and so I wanted to do a bit of a write up for you all. I also wrote this in the hopes that someone may be inspired to do the same and just go for it! 

Jude's got the flu but is finally feeling well enough to cozy up on the couch with some cartoons. Noah is doing the same and Jamie and Blaise are in the basement playing/watching sports {I would imagine}. I am sitting at our dining room table with a freshly brewed cup of coffee now that our power has come back on!
We got hit pretty bad with the ice storm last night and our power conked out this morning but we're hoping it stays on now! {All reminders of being in Uganda with power outages, although I would like a little bit of heat if I'm going to lose power.}
So thankful to have a house and warm clothes and smartphones to stay in contact with the outside world. 

Many of you were wondering how our neighbourhood Christmas drop in party went so I thought I'd update via blog post.
In short, it was perfect. At least that was what Jamie said when all was said and done. And I don't mean perfect in that everything was out of a magazine. No, it was far from that. We don't even have baseboards up in the living/dining room or the guest bathroom. It was beautiful. I guess it was perfectly beautiful. I've been reading a blog where the mantra is, "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." And that's exactly it. I chose to love my home with all it's flaws and "not doneness" and welcome people into our home and our lives. Perfectness only serves to alienate I think. When others see that you are just like them, it helps in providing an atmosphere of authenticity and vulnerability. Okay. I'm done my rant. The nitty gritty:
We had about 10-12 people drop in and most of them stayed for the entire time, which was pretty cool. 
There was music and candles. 
I pulled out a bunch of chairs from the dining table and kitchen into the living room and had the dining table set up buffet style. I put out a few plates of Christmas goodies (including the ginersnap s'mores which were as easy as they were awesome) and had some hot drinks in the kitchen (of which there was way too much left over, but that's part of the guesswork with drop ins). People mostly sat and chatted and the boys ran around (Blaise was in bed before the guests arrived) and snuck extra sweets. 
We engaged in "get to know you" type conversations and I was surprised how often religion and spiritual themes came up. It was interesting and I often found myself just listening to others. Which was great! 

I am so glad I did it and if you've been thinking about doing something or reaching out to someone or you've been dreaming a big dream, Go For It! You won't regret it, but you probably will regret not trying at the very least. 

I will definitely do this again next Christmas and I'm already dreaming up some warm weather get together ideas! 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas morning 2013

So I did it! I did adjust the position of the camera a few times and it's not perfect, but it's real life. Here's a taste of what our Christmas morning looked like! Enjoy!

Christmas morning 2013 from Vanessa Strickland on Vimeo.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Stricklands!

Wishing you so much love and joy and peace this Christmas and in the new year!

These verses have been stirring in my heart with hope and sometimes I feel like I might explode with the kindness and love of God. We were in dark. Lost. And then He came. The Word became Flesh. For me For you. 

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-4,14

It's because of the Word becoming Flesh, it's because of Jesus that there can be peace and joy. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance. There is peace and joy because of Jesus. 
Merry Christmas to you!

Friday, December 20, 2013

weekend {before Christmas} links!

It's the day of our Christmas party and I'm excited and happy that I got a lot of what needed to be done ahead of time so I can enjoy the day with my family.
The boys and I built a snowman this morning and I got to Facetime with my friend Kelly and see her brand new baby girl!
About an hour before the party I'll put together the cinnamon infused hot chocolate in one slow cooker, and the wassail in the other {thanks to my friend Christina for lending me hers!}. The cookies will get put out, the candles will be lit, the music will be playing and we will wait for our first guests.

You like the way those cookies above look? They're gingersnap s'mores and they were ridiculously easy and the perfect party food as far as I'm concerned! While I'm all for making everything from scratch, when you have a lot to do and you're hosting a bunch of people, sometimes it's best for your sanity to do things the easy way. There ain't nothing wrong with easy now, is there? Check out the instructions here for Gingersnap S'mores.

Have you seen the video with Jean Claude Van Damm where he's standing between two trucks and then does the splits? If you thought that was impressive, you can be sure Chuck Norris can make that look like doing hopscotch! Merry Christmas from Chuck Norris.

I read this blog post from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary about how Christmas isn't always candy canes and presents for everyone. It can be a difficult and painful time and we need to be aware of this {if you aren't already}. Sometimes Christmas can be sucky.

My friend Beth wrote a post the other day that speaks to this balance of experiencing joy and peace in our own lives, and yet holding in our hands the pain and suffering of those around us. She quotes CS Lewis in this: To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. Check out her post here. It is both beautiful and vulnerable. 

On the same note, if you are the praying type, would you please pray for my friend Andrew? He is battling Leukemia for the second time around and his situation is not looking good. Just today, his white blood cells have jumped to a very dangerous level and there is risk for stroke and brain hemorrhage. He's married to a close friend of mine, Suzanne and they have two little boys (aged 3 and 8 months). My heart is breaking for them and we are praying our hearts out for a miracle for Andrew.

I've posted this video before {this is a typographic version}, but every year it speaks to me so strongly and I pray it encourages you and reminds you of what we wait for during Advent season and why we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

a kindness

We survived 10 days without Jamie! He got in last night and we were all super psyched to see him again. I love watching my boys love on their Daddy. Seriously. Is there anything more adorable?

And this morning it was as if my body knew Jamie was home and I woke up feeling nauseous and with a migraine. I slept for a bit and now I'm feeling a bit better, but honestly I don't have time to be sick! I want to enjoy every last second of this season and I also have a bit {okay a horseload as my friend Tamsin would say} of baking to do before our neighbourhood Christmas party on Friday.

Also my brain has gone completely mushy and I totally thought yesterday was Friday and almost wished Jude's teacher a good weekend. Goodness. And then because I was all mixed up, I forgot that we had made plans to visit our neighbour who has chickens. But being the sweet lady that she is, she came over with six lovely eggs for us! I felt so bad, but we're going to try and head over there on Thursday during the day some time and meet the chickens.

We had scrambled eggs for breakfast!

Yesterday I lost my phone and I almost had a full-on cry in the parking lot. I had Blaise with me and had thought my phone fell out of my pocket and so there I was, walking around staring at the snow and slush covered parking lot for my white and brown phone. Awesome. I must have traced and retraced my steps three or four times. And I wasn't really upset about the phone itself. I meant I would have been sad as it was expensive and I've only had it for a few months, but it was everything else! Lists, to-dos, people's numbers, pictures, videos; everything is on there! Eventually I went into a store and asked to use their phone so I could call my phone. And then mercy of all mercies, someone picked up! A man had found it and had come inches away from running it over. He was working in the pizza shop and I could pick it up there. Thank you Jesus!

I have just experienced the sweetness and love of God in so many ways this past week and it's been in the little things and some unexpected blessings. One thing I've wanted to do forever is pay for the person behind me in drive thru so while the boys and I were picking up hot chocolate for a friend we were about to see, I decided I would do it. Well the lady at the window was such a sweet heart and ended up giving me three large cookies for the boys for free {especially cool as we were able to share a cookie with our friend's son too!}! It was so sweet and a cool way to show my boys that sometimes when you show kindness to those around you, people often will show kindness to you.

So all that to say, I'm hoping that our neighbourhood party would be a kindness to the people we live near and that this would be a fun first step in building a true community of people who look out for one another and freely show kindness to each other.

If you remember, pray for our little party this Friday night between 7-9pm!

Friday, December 13, 2013

weekend links! {let it snow!}

Of course it would snow practically every day that Jamie's been away. I haven't shovelled the driveway yet. Eep. It is beautiful and it seems like it's here to stay so we'll have a lovely white Christmas!

I'm sure you've seen this video, but if you haven't please watch it! It's happy and it made me teary. Well done, WestJet!

So I wanted to share how excited I am about something big coming up: we're doing a Christmas drop in for our street next Friday! Me and the boys will hand out the invites today after school and I'm hoping we'll get to know a bunch of people on our street! We'll be serving hot drinks and Christmas goodies and I'm thinking I might serve up this awesome cinnamon infused hot chocolate! I mean, it's Joy the Baker. You can't really go wrong with Joy.  Although I might have to test it this evening. You know what they say, never try a new recipe when you have people coming over. Right?

Another great post from the Art of Simple. Three simple tips to keep the joy in entertaining and at this time of year, it's always a good idea to do a heart check.

So I have really dry hands. I think it's a combination of my skin adjusting back to this cold, dry weather and perhaps just getting older {eep!}, but I have never seen my hands look and feel so cracked and dry. It's horrible and makes me want to weep. I'm constantly moisturising but what I really need is a pair of dish washing gloves. Yes. That is what I need. So anyway, I came across this list of 7 ways to keep your hands soft this winter and I might try all of the things. What do you do to keep your skin (specifically your hands) soft and moisturised? Please tell me you have a magical cure and what it is.

And one last video. Check out The Lower Lights for some fabulous, folksy tunes. They have two Christmas albums and I can't get enough of them!

Happy Weekend!
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