Friday, July 29, 2011


I'm having one of those down days.  Not down as in sad, down as in, winding down from 2 weeks of swimming lessons.  I'm getting absolutely nothing accomplished, and that is totally okay with me.  I just finished five levels of swimming lessons, after all.   

What better thing to do to wind down than to make myself a nutritious cup of coffee (98% water, so it's healthy) and blog about making dinner.

It's almost like making dinner, only fewer calories.  I might lose another 10 pounds if I devoted more time to blogging and less to eating.  There's a thought.

When I don't feel like cooking, and/or have spent the "eating out budget" for the month, and/or I just want to say quinoa (pronounced:  keen-wah)multiple times in one evening, this is my go-to meal.  It's all hipster and everything (which I am not,  but I like to think if I was 10 years younger I would be) because it has quinoa  and ALL of my kids love it - even Tyson, who often appears to prefer air over anything served to him.

As long as you have black beans, corn and quinoa, you're good to go; any other vegetables you want to add just add flavour and colour!  I'm sure Jamie Oliver would be proud.  It takes only a few minutes of actual prep and after 20 minutes of watching quinoa cook - dinner is served. 

Plus, Quinoa is really fun to say.  Try it.

keen-wah.  KEEN-wah.  keen-WAH.

You can also say it like you are going to do a karate chop:  Keeeeeeeeen-WAH!

Keen-wah, keen-wah, keen-wah.

How can you say no to this fantastic sounding dish?  Notice I have avoided using fantastic-looking because, alas and alack,  I am not a food artist, and let's just say it - it doesn't look like much.

But did I mention it's perfect for a Meatless Monday?  Because it is. Perfect.  And Meatless. Who knew both things were possible? 

Did I also point out that I was feeling rambly today?

I make meatless dishes fairly frequently now.  I truly wasn't aware it was an option when, as a newly minted wife, I  first started cooking for Josh and I.  True, I was only 18 and my vast cooking repertoire included following recipes by Jean Pare, spaghetti sauce, chili, shake'n bake chicken and chocolate chip cookies,  but still.  I remember Josh suggesting we make a margherita pizza when we first were married and I looked at him like he had been sniffing glue. Seriously?  Next thing you know he'll be telling me we should recycle.  

Pshtt. Whatever.

In our house, growing up, we always had meat for dinner.  My Mom is the Queen of Roasts, and  the Conqueror of Comfort Foods. We grew up very well fed and there was always, always, meat and lots of it.  I was going to say we occasionally had pancakes for supper, but even then, I am positive there was always bacon.

Mmmm, bacon.  Is there anything it can't do?

I promise the next food-post will include bacon.

For now, enjoy the hipster Quinoa Dish.  Recycle the cans when you are done - it's for the enviyerment and everything.

Prep Time : 15 min
Dinner served in:  40 minutes
Serves:  4 if main, 8-10 if side dish
* large frying pan with lid will be useful
1 lug vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 c. Broth – I usually use chicken
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chilli powder
s & p to taste
1 large can (19 0z.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ c frozen corn
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, OR 2 Tbsp dried
Whatever other sauté worthy veg you have on hand,– sauté with onions in step one, or do separately and add to mixture at the end.  Seriously it’s that flexible.
·         Pre-heat frying pan, add oil and heat on medium heat, add onion and sauté till soft.  Add garlic and sauté till fragrant. 
·         Add quinoa to pan and sauté for a couple minutes longer then add broth and seasoning EXCEPT cilantro. 
·         Bring mixture to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Once boiling, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed into this most miraculous ancient grain.
·         Remove from heat, add frozen corn and black beans, and cilantro.
·         Heat through and serve!

BTW – this fabulous meal is also great the next day in a tortilla wrap, or eaten cold atop a salad – or even straight out of the Tupperware container...not that I have ever done that.  Ever.
You can eat it here or there,
You can eat it anywhere!

*you can click on the title of the recipe to get a .pdf format if you prefer!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

All in the Family

The Summer List
We have no big summer plans this year.  We had high hopes of travelling to Manitoba to visit some relis that we love and adore, but we had to make the tough decision to be financially responsible and stay home and save up a little longer to make that happen.  Being responsible is sometimes a bummer.

Sitting around and moping was not going to be a summer theme, though, so following the example of my friend Chris, we made an official, very large summer wish list.  It has been a great thing , and I highly recommend it, even if it's just for the remaining weeks of summer.   

It's been nice to have a visual reminder of things we'd like to do and places we'd like to see.  It's not even going to be possible to do everything on the list - you'll notice Manitoba is still on the list - because you can do that when you dream...dream the impossible.  It was a fun family activity to make the big list and it's continued to be fun as we check things off and think of new things to add to it.  Maybe we should make one for the fall too, dreaming together takes me to my happy place.

We Interrupt This Blog Post...
We had a most unusual visitor in our backyard on Friday (at least I think it was Friday) morning in our backyard.  Nathan, Tyson and Keaton were eating breakfast when Nathan, in his best hillbilly voice, says:  "There's a BAR in the yard!"

And I said something to, you know, build him up and encourage him.  Something to the effect of : "Yeah sure, Davy Crockett."  

To which he responded - "I'm serious, there is a bear cub in our backyard!"

Sure enough there was.  I began to madly search for  calmly took the camera and hoped to catch a picture of what I hope to be a once in a lifetime experience.  At this point the boys were squealing with delight to one another all about the bear, and I guess Smokey decided that was about enough commotion for him, so he waddled through the little gap between the neighbours and our fence, hopped up their retaining wall and then back to the greenbelt

We do not live in the middle of nowhere - sure there is a greenbelt surround our subdivision, and sure we technically live in the mountains, and sure we've often seen deer along the roadway, and we've had the occasional raccoon and numerous squirrels and chipmunks in our backyard - but a BAR???  Well soak my feet and call me a pickle, I never expected to see a bear.  

And We're Back...
One of things Tyson put on the summer list was a sleepover with his nearest and dearest cousin, Jackson.  I let him put it on the list, even though doing sleepovers anywhere but at Gramma's house is not the norm for these two.  It happened to work out though, that Loni was working, and Gramma was away - and so the Amos boys had to come for a "leep-over", and Tys and Keats couldn't have been more excited.

I have often felt bad that because I had most of my kids before anyone else in my family did, I never have been the "single, fun and fancy free" aunt that my sister-in-law and sisters were able to be to my oldest kids.  However, when cousins come over to play here now, there is no end to the kids and excitement, so I guess it all works out.

Jackson and Tyson never got tired of each other, especially because Nathan and Brennan were happy to play with them as well. Wyatt and Keaton spent the weekend in the usual ebb and flow of playing and fighting with each other, just like a couple of 3 year olds should.

And Morgan, while all of this boy-ness was going on, decided to make cupcakes.  Inspired by a cupcake book, and by the number of times I have taken pictures of fun in the kitchen - she documented her progress, unbeknownst to me.  What a fun surprise to find when downloading pictures!  They turned out great and tasted even better.  Way to go, Babe!

What Doesn't Kill You Makes a Great Memory
One of Keaton and Wyatt's favourite games to play is "Let's See How Close We Can Come To Killing Ourselves", it's actually a game that Nathan invented, at least in our family, and seeing as how they aren't our first boys, Loni and I usually are okay to let them play that - or we're just too tired to stop them.  Either way, the outcome is the same.

This weekend's version included climbing the wall at the back of our yard,  putting ride-on toys into the trampoline and racing and jumping with them as fast as possible.  They had fun AND they lived. Bonus.
Bedtime stories for the boys were a success.  Nathan was so excited to read Tyson and Jackson a bedtime story. I love it when they get to that stage of reading!  

Once everyone was tucked in they only needed to be reminded a couple of times to keep the sillies at bay.  I guess they wore themselves out - it wasn't too long before it was quiet and they all were asleep.  They stayed that way for the whole night! Another installment into the Good Memory Bank was made.

Given that the weather has been less than stellar this summer, we have coined the phrase "summer is an attitude".
Artwork courtesy of Nate
 Summer so far, is sweet at the Loewen house.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Swimming Success

It would appear the seagull has left the building.
Not a seagull

Screeching has been replaced by a lot more positive self-talk on Keaton's part in the morning:  " I go in da pool, an I play wis Mike (his instructor), an I make bubbles and NO SCREAMING."  
We like to celebrate with chips bigger than our heads

Then he comes, he swims, and he conquers -woohoo!
Yay Keaton!

I think what I love best about watching his lessons is how proud his siblings are of him. I think that's something we have done well - created a culture of encouragement in our family.
I had to endure this
To get this - Love ain't perfect, but it is grand!
We all try really hard to celebrate the successes big and small of each family member, and not spend too much time asking "why not me?"  

Anyway, I love that there are a line-up of hugs and high fives and snacks waiting for each kid as they exit the pool.
Chips followed by apple - the yin-yang of snacks.
Summer Love and Guilt

This summer has been my favourite so far.

We are busy enough to say we are doing something,  but not so busy that we can't have fun.  
Time for pancakes in the morning

I made the decision to say no to a few good things in July, and while I still feel that guilt that I am not doing enough, I can't ignore the fact that we are in a very good place right now because of it.

Time for the beach with Nana and Papa
I feel I must confess - we didn't do VBS at our church this year, not at all.  The kids didn't go, nor did I volunteer my time or effort. We "just" did swimming lessons and then some random summer-ish things on some of the afternoons.  There have also been some one-off good things in the previous weeks that we had to do, but they were good too.  In part because I had less on my calendar than I might have.

To ease my guilt, I bought a bag of cheese off of the things we need list from church - so in a very small, abstract way - we did help.  As my friend Karis told me when i was kvetching about my guilt - "cheese covers a multitude of sins"...including skipping VBS, apparently.  
Time for Drama Camp
I have really enjoyed this past week.  Although I feel like I have been beating back guilt with a big stick.  Our church is great.  They have a phenomenal kids program throughout the year, and VBS is no exception.  We didn't say no because it was a bad thing.  We said no because it was going to make our busyness a burden if we added it to the list of things we were saying yes to.  

We are so blessed to be busy. We have so much freedom, so much choice, I want my kids to hear me telling others about how glad I am we get to do life together.  But it takes work, and where we live, it takes saying no to a lot of good things so we can actually have time to live. Complaining about how busy and crazy my life is easier, but hardly better.  I want to squeeze the joy out of every moment if possible.

It's all about balance, I suppose. If I say my family is my priority but commit to so many things that we are all cranky and too over-tired to build good relationships, then something is amiss.

This is the sermon I give myself on a regular basis, anyway. I am trying hard to find the right balance, and I happy to say that this week, it worked out!

It's time to go enjoy some more summer - the sun is actually shining!

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time."
John Lubbock

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Things I Wish I Had Pictures Of

I have got to get better with carrying my camera with me wherever I go.

Take today for example:

Seagull in the Rec Centre
We started out with swimming lessons, which are always fun.

I should have a picture here of the oldest four kids dutifully doing their lessons with smiles and looks of joy as each stroke and glide is perfected.

And then I should have multiple pictures of  Keaton totally cooperating with his teacher when it was his "turn" to do whatever it was, followed by a high-pitched screaming "Mom...Mom...Mom" ,so that he sounds like a seagull circling a crab carcass at English Bay, in between each segment of his lessons.

Just to clarify:  it's not the "look at me, I'm having so much fun" scream.  No, it's the "why is my mother making me do this" scream.

You know, the one that makes you think everyone in the pool is looking at you, cause well, they are.

We had talked about all the fun snacks and things he would get when he did a good job happily doing his lesson.  He had cheerily put the sticker-book-of-fun and the Jumbo Jet-puffed marshmallows in the swimming basket himself.  Apparently, the power of food has yet to grip his heart.

I'm working on it, I promise.

Seriously if you saw how well he cooperated when it's his turn, you'd know it had nothing to do with fear of water, or even fear of the teacher.

It's basically fear of appearing compliant.  It's common on almost-three-year-olds, I've found.

And although I didn't do it,  I thought about standing on the wobbly plastic rec centre chair from afar and giving him the Look of Death  while raising the Pointer Finger of Seriousness  with a implied message of  "YOU. STOP. IT. NOW" .

On second thought, maybe it's ok to not always bring a camera.

Instead,  I just sat far away and tried not to think that every time another mother looked around that she was looking for the errant seagull inside the rec centre building, or that each time a mom leaned over to talk to another mom, she wasn't talking about what a wretched  parent I was.

Thankfully, Keaton  finished the last half of his lesson without screeching.

I wonder if he will think his Scully impersonation will need work tomorrow?

If I could get over the fact that some moms might be judging me for leaving him in the pool, which I am totally confident is the right thing to be doing in this case, it's kind of funny.

Moooom...Mooooom...Moooom.  Starfish float.  Moooom...Mooom.  Motorboat bubbles.

Next time you hear seagulls, I know you will think of me.

But don't you wish you had a picture?

Down on Grampa's Farm

After lessons I packed up my seagull and my other four fantastic fish and we went to the farm to visit my parents.

My littlest nephew Atticus was there.  He's so sweet, I love him to death, but I don't get to see him nearly as much as I would like.   My sister Kyla was also there, sporting a fantastical new haircut.  I am, in Christian-love, totally jealous at how cute her hair looks in a pixie cut.

But you'll just have to take my word for it.

We ate lunch, and then my other sister, Loni, stopped by with her kids and the visit got even funner!

What?  It's a word.  Spell-check says so.  And how else would you describe something that was only a few people short of a spontaneous full-out family gathering?

But still, no pictures.

I wish I had a picture of Wyatt and Keaton breathlessly running  full tilt into the kitchen from the chicken coop,hands full of fresh eggs.

"We got some eggs!"  they squeak (or squawk in Keaton's case)  together.

Those two little problem-solvers sneaked down to the coop, propped up crates so they could reach the laying boxes and took the eggs, proud as could be.  Then they ran to the house without giving second thought to the chickens potentially escaping from the now-open laying boxes, or the potential mess they would find themselves in if they tripped running back to the house.   But they made it, as they always do.  And the coop was closed up before any chickens went missing, which is good news.

I love it that they are starting to build a relationship with one another now.  We might do well to fear for their lives, because they have no fear themselves.  But seeing them play and discover and make memories together is priceless.

I just hope I don't forget - cause, well - you know why.

Like A Sister

There was a time, back when I was still growing babies for a living, that I was sad that Morgan didn't have a sister.  I was never sad that I had the wonderful brood of boys I did, just sad that Morgan wouldn't have a sister.

Morgan didn't even have any girl cousins for 10 years, until Bennett came along last year. As it stands, they are the only two girls in this gaggle of Strahl grand-kids so far.

Today, whether it was because Morgan was bored with the adult conversation, or just because she realized having Bennett around is like having your own live doll, except better - they went downstairs and Morgan introduced her cousin to one of my favourite growing-up-with-sisters games: Morgan played dress-up with Benzie.  And the look on Bennett's face was priceless when Morgan carried her into the kitchen dressed in the fuzzy quail-feather hair band and old flower girl dress of Loni's.  It was  and I hope it marks the beginning of many girl-stuff memories between the two of them.

I could almost get verklempt, and ask you talk amongst yourselves.  And no pictures!

There might be 10 years between them, but I know they are gonna have many more moments like that, and I hope I remember to bring my camera for at least a few of them!

That was today...or at least parts of it.  Tomorrow, I've got to remember my camera!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nate the Great is Eight

Nathan Charles turned eight last week.

I can't believe he did that to me.  I am certain we had a conversation about it once, and I tried to make him promise to stay little.  But it's not working.  He keeps growing.  

He holds the distinct honour of sharing a birthday with my Mom, and a name with my Dad.  I'm pretty much the favourite because of it.  Or at least I'm still trying.

Actually - he also shares a birthday with my sister-in-law's Mom in Botswana too - it's just a good day to be born!

Birthdays are also a good excuse to eat lots of food.  I took a cue from Dairy Queen and made  an ice cream cake for when we had my family over...I might have to make it a few more times this summer to perfect it!

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake
Memory Lane

It's funny the memories that flood back when I think of the days each of my kids were born.  

I remember Mark & Lisa coming to stay with our kids and having more fun with Morgan and Brennan the day that followed than our kids had ever had in their life before.

I remember being in complete denial that I was in labour, because I was two weeks early, and had told the doctor just the day before that I thought we should have booked the c-section date earlier than we had - but who is ever right about that???

I remember it was the first time my Dad was on the other side of the country when one of his grandkids was born.

I remember, when we finally did go to the hospital and it was confirmed that I was, in fact, in labour, choosing to not wake up an anesthetist in the middle of the night and opting instead for morphine and waiting out contractions till the morning, in the hopes that I would finally get a "good block" unlike the first two deliveries.

I remember figuring out that when I did get an epidural that actually worked, that epi-morph makes me borderline insane.  

I'm still using that as an excuse. 

Nate the Great and Marvelous Mom
May the Friends Be With You

Then we had a fantastic friends party at our house.  It was awesome.  We picked a theme and we ran with it.  Nate loves a theme almost as much as I do!  The theme this year:  Star Wars.

I think Brennan's 8th birthday party was also with the same theme.  That's one of the advantages of having so many boys - by the time Keaton gets to requesting a Star Wars birthday party, I'll be able to do it in my sleep!

We played a few games... most of them involving pool noodles that we turned into "light sabres".  My favorite part about those pool-noodle sabres is that they could whack each other like crazy, and no-one got hurt !

So far no-one has noticed that I tend to choose the same games over and over again and just "theme them up" by changing the names...I'm a tricksy Mom that way.   We shot silly string at targets, played Freeze Fighting, melted Star Wars figures encased in Carbonite, did a Jedi Training Course, it was all kinds of awesome for these boys.

I might have enjoyed it as well.

Keaton may have slept through the whole thing.

The boys gulped down Yoda Soda (you may have heard it called Mean-Green-Sedin Soda in the past),  they ate a shocking number of Fruit Sabres,- I guess it's all in the name, and the boys demolished the Death Star cake like the Rebellion depended on it.

By the way, it was waaay easier making the Sports-Ball Pan into a Death Star than those crazy cake-pucks!

When it was all over we sent them home with some caramel-chocolate dipped Pretzels that looked an awful lot like light sabres for a goody bag.  They tasted a lot like a Twix bar - I was sorry there weren't a whole bunch extra...or maybe I'm not!

Nate the Great

Nathan, you are intense.  You have been gifted with passion and persistence. I really do love it, and even though it drives me crazy sometimes, I wouldn't ever want you to give up that tenacity, cause I believe it will take you places.

You are hilarious. I  especially love your pretend cry "Why do you have to be so mean" and your sinister bad-guy laugh.  They always make me smile, even when they shouldn't.  Remember - timing is everything.

I rarely worry about you being our "middle child". You weren't just made for the middle - you own it.

May you learn to love and trust that God has some great big plans for your life, Bud.

We love you like crazy.

Oh yeah.

And may the force be with you...always.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Another guest post

Family Matters has let me write for them again -Huzzah!  

I would also like to say  a belated thank you to all of my family and friends who were so wonderful to assault their blog with comments for my last post.  It totally made my day, (who am I kidding - it made my week!) and I was very honoured that so many of you took the time to comment so positively.

Here's a snippet from my lastest offerings for FM:

God says yes to us all the time.  He doesn’t demand that we always pray about whether we buy Cheerios or oatmeal, or paint our walls blue or green.  We can die our hair…or not.  We can send our kids to public school…or not.  We have the freedom to do a lot of different things, when our hearts our right.
Why then, am I so prone to say “no” to my kids’ little requests, day in and day out?
It’s a bit of an oxymoron, really.  You’d think I would say yes! all the time because I love doing, I am a.l.w.a.y.s. doing something because, I don’t know, it’s just what I do.
The problem is, saying yes to someone else’s agenda is just about always an inconvenience, or at the very least, an interruption.  It is really easy for me to just say no to the requests within their daily minutiae and ask the kids to go and entertain themselves. If I am feeling particularly snarky, I will give them a chore to do, because, you know, they were bugging me and all.
Again, your comments and thoughts are always appreciated!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cause I Once Bought Wii...

While cleaning out the car a while back, I found these two sheets that Nate and Bren made in Sunday School on Mother's Day, titled:  My Mom.

They love to leave things like that lying around to surprise me like that. I think secretly they really love arts and crafts, but they don't want anyone else to know. I'm sure it's not that the thought of eating lunch was more important than bringing a handmade "I love you because..." note to me.

Priorities, man.

For posterity, I thought it would be fun to save the contents - spelling included:

My Mom is
My Mom’s favourite food is
My Mom’s favourite colour is
My Mom is good at
Making food
My Mom and I like to
Watch hockey
Play games
My Mom likes it when
She gets coffee
I clean up
My Mom is great because
She onc bought wii
She is kind
I love it when my Mom
Play gams
Bakes cookies

Really, they know me fairly well - I couldn't say what my favourite food is...cause I like all of it.

I don't have a favourite colour - as long as it makes me look 4 inches taller and 10 pounds lighter, I'll wear it.

Oh, and here is Brennan's picture of me from said card as well...all I can say is - at least I am smiling.

I love my boys, and I need to make sure they know that my greatest happiness does not come from  them cleaning their rooms, or from when I get coffee.  Although drinking coffee in a clean house does feel pretty good, nothing tops being with the people I love the most!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Glorious and Free

Today is Canada's birthday. It also happens to be Morgan's birthday. I think that everyone's birthday should include as much pomp and circumstance as her's does.  There are parades, celebrations galore, it's a national holiday, and who doesn't want to end every birthday with fireworks!

What birthday is this for Morgan?  Her twelfth.  That's right...t.w.e.e.e.l.l.l.l.v.v.v.e.  It's really not possible, because I'm positive I still feel like I'm 25,(except for the fact that I can no longer stay up past 10 pm without going cross-eyed) and I often think I don't act a day older than 19.   So how can she be 12?

I know how shocking it is that any parent would write (again) about how they can't believe how fast their kids are growing up.  Time really does fly!  I want to be quick, however, to point out that aside from the fact that my heart wants to break thinking that she is probably more than half way through living life under our roof, that watching her grow up is one of  the more delightful things we get to experience as parents.

There are moments where emotions run a little high, but the good moments far outweigh the tough ones.  Morgan is a wonderful kid, teen, tween - whatever you want to call her, she is wonderful.  We know that she won't be "ours" forever, but for now, we are loving every age and stage.  

Dear Morgan

Without further adieu, here is a top ten list, in honour of you, Morgan.  We love so much about you, this is not nearly a complete list!  Thanks for being our sunshine for 12 years running now, Babe.  We love you!

10)  You never act like you are too big or too cool to play with those that are younger than you.  You are willing to put the needs and fun of those younger than you first, and because of that, there are a lot of little ones who look up to you, and want to be like you. 

9)  You are so mature and responsible in so many ways and yet you still know how to play.  How I love this about you! In fact, I admire it!  I never was good at playing even as a kid, I was always "doing".  I think your ability to imagine and be young at heart will do you in good stead, long after the playmobil is in storage.

8) You have an incredible eye for colour and design.  I know it seems like nothing to you to create a beautiful hand-stamped card, or draw endless pictures of people and things - but you are so good at it...waaay better than Dad. We've discussed how being better than Dad is not really saying much - but I love it that you and Dad joke about that, and I love it that it is a talent that we share, even though our gifts and personalities are different in many other ways.

7)You are a great dancer.  You have a fantastic sense of rhythm and you give everything on the stage.  Maybe it's because I am your Mom, but I always think you look like you know exactly what you are doing, and I love that you do it all with a smile.  You are so fun to watch - and I mean it.  Even though I can't watch you dance, even for 30 seconds in a parade, without crying.

6)  Speaking of crying.  I love it that you make me cry.  When I watch you, or any of your brothers on stage, for any reason, really, I feel so much love for you and I am always flooded with memories of the fun I had doing different performances as a kid.  I hope you are creating a heart-full of good memories as well, so that one day, you can cry when your kids get up on stage and make you proud.  

5) I love your sarcastic sense of humour.  Dad loves it the most though: joking with you is something that brings him great joy!  I am not sure if that's good that I love it so much, but seeing as how I grew up in a home that practiced sarcasm like it was a spiritual gift, it's hard for me not to love it when you and your Dad do a little verbal sparring. (By the way, you are totally worth a frappucino today!)

4)  I love the intensity with which you pursue the things you love. One of  the things you love best right now is playing piano.  I always know when you are trying to avoid doing other chores when you close yourself into the piano room to play!!!  I love how it relaxes you to make music. It's funny how cold your hands get when you play.  You practice piano like nobody's business, and you are learning to express yourself wonderfully on the keys. You really are a piano teacher's dream and I can't wait to see where you go with this.

3)  You care a lot about doing well and pleasing others.  Of course, this is a double-edged sword, but I think you are developing a good balance, and learning to make the most of your God-given desire to think of other's first.  You have taken your Bible study very seriously this past year, you often put me to shame.  But I love it that you are making this faith your own and you work hard to make I Peter 4:10 a verse that you live by:  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

2)  I love your laugh and I love it that you laugh easily.  It's impossible not to smile when you are laughing.  It's another way that you make people around you feel good.  It's no wonder everyone you meet wants to be your friend.

1) I love it that you are comfortable being yourself.  Whether you are talking to a grown-up, or a six year old - you are just having a good time being you!   This feeling may come and go in the next few years, but I hope that you always feel confident knowing that being you is a fantastic thing.  Auntie Loni would probably like me to remind  you of her favourite verse, and one that I see you have added to your growing list of "post-it notes" on the desktop here:  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful I know full well.  Psalm 139:14

Did I finish ten things already?  I feel like I am just getting started!  I am looking forward to these next years.  Watching you transition from a young girl to a young woman is going to be an amazing adventure.   The best years are coming Babe - and that's saying something, the first twelve have been pretty fantastic!

Love, Mom