December 31, 2018

Merry Christmas (letter)

Dear friends,
What a year it’s been. Welcome to the first (and possibly only) edition of our annual Christmas letter. It’s been such a big year for us, full of so many changes, we thought it would be prudent to try to sum it up for those of you that haven’t been able to keep track.
As you’re likely aware, we sold our sweet little house in Regina and moved back to Victoria at the end of March. We always knew Saskatchewan was a 3-5 year plan for us, but that didn’t make the transition any less difficult. We left behind incredible friends, a greater community than we could have ever dreamed of, and the best coffee shop. We were back in April to see Jeff and Kim get married, and are hoping to make it back for a visit in 2019.
My mom graciously let us stay with her for 8 long months while we got settled and looked for a place of our own. With three adults and one bathroom, it was hard, but we persevered and are the stronger for it.
When we sold our house in Regina the only thing we knew for certain was that my mom would take us in. We had no jobs or childcare lined up, just the faith that Victoria was our next destination and the hope that God would provide so we could hit the ground running. And that we did. We had childcare and jobs lined up before the UHaul was even loaded.
Karl and I each have good jobs. We’re lucky enough to have dear friends watching our kids during the week.
If you’re a little behind, you might not know that we recently bought a home with my dad. We are now the proud owners of half a pink duplex in beautiful Sidney by the sea. Dad is living in the main level suite, while us Mortons mostly occupy the upper level. The house needed some work done to make it livable and hygienic, but the bulk of it is scheduled for completion right before Christmas. As you read this (likely in the new year, let’s be honest) we will be done all the renovations that I naively thought could be completed in two weeks.
The kids are doing great. Parker never stops talking and is so curious about the world around him. He wants to know everything, and has a great imagination. Molly is incredibly sweet, but also becoming very strong willed. They have both done so well with all the changes of the last year and totally exceeded our expectations of them.
We’ve settled back into life in Victoria and have found a new church, new community, and reconnected with old friends. It’s so good being close to family again, and the kids absolutely adore seeing their grandparents regularly.
We accomplished a lot this year. Moving, starting new jobs, putting the kids in daycare, and doing a renovation are all big things. We’re also currently navigating through some serious health issues in the family. While I’m not sure we’ll be sorry to see the other side of 2018, it was a big year for us. We grew, we stretched, and Karl and I got our first ever night away from our kids.
We did not do a great job at keeping in touch this year. We’re sorry. You’re important to us, we just got overextended.
Please consider this your formal invitation to come over for dinner in 2019. If you’re from out of town, bring your pajamas and spend the night. We don’t have a proper guest room anymore, but our laundry room fits an air mattress quite nicely and we promise to make it cozy for you. You’re also welcome to bunk with Parker, who transitioned into a double bed this year and would love to tell you about dump trucks as you fall asleep next to him.
Merry Christmas, friends. We hope 2019 brings you much joy and happiness. Thank you for all you’ve done for us. We’d be nothing without you.
Anna

If you're still here, as always, thanks for sticking around.
My kids are currently eating popcorn and I'm introducing Parker to The Santa Clause. My tree may be coming down tonight as part of our roaring New Year's party, (I also plan on binge watching Travelers and eating Oreos in my sweat pants) but we'll finish the season strong with Tim Allen in a fat suit, just like Jesus always liked to.

August 05, 2018

Jesus was in my mom group.

One of the greatest joys of 2017 was the mom group I joined.

I was added to the Facebook group in the fall of 2016 while I was still pregnant with Molly by a casual friend from church. Molly was due in February and the group was for mothers in the city due in March or April. I was due in February, but the group was small and in its early stages then, so they pushed the date back to include February. 

The group wasn't super active in the early days, or maybe I just wasn't very attentive to it. This was my second pregnancy and I had a decent grasp on what was going on. The group tried to get together once or twice in late 2016, but I wasn't very interested. Some of the parents had other children, but most of them were a bit older than Parker and our weekends were kind of our family time anyway. I commented on the page once in a while, but most of the people were total strangers to me, and I had enough going on at home to not really feel the need to get involved.

By the time Molly was born in January, making her the old lady of the group, I was committed enough to the group to not feel the need to leave and find a local January group. The next baby was born  in February, then the momentum grew and, by the end of April, there were over 50 us in the group. 

Once the baby boom was well underway the play dates started. When you have a newborn, a playdate is an excuse for a mom to get together with other moms. Playing is optional, particularly because newborns are glorified paper weights, and it's more about the desperate need for social interaction. Moms with other kids would bring them and they'd play while the moms and babies sat around and visited. 

When Parker was a baby we went to a weekly group at the Y. It was lovely, a huge sanity saver, and how I met other moms. It wasn't something I could attend with toddler Parker and baby Molly, though. Enter the mom group.

My maternity leaves were so different from each other. With Parker, I loved the downtime we had, and how easy it was to stay home and do our own thing. I loved our weekly visit to the Y, but didn't feel the need to do much more. With Molly, I needed to do far more to fill the time because it wasn't just me and a sweet little newborn anymore. I had a toddler to entertain as well. Parker's not a high needs kid, but being home with toddler Parker all day was very different than being home with baby Parker.

I hosted my first play date in April. I've always enjoyed hosting, and I found it so much easier to stay home with the kids than take them to someone else's house, a community centre or a park. Parks in Regina in April weren't exactly the nicest places to go anyway. 

I took the plunge and invited the group of (mostly) strangers to my house to come hang out. Many of the moms had not met each other in person before, and only one of them actually knew me. My living room was covered in bucket seats, moms, and babies. I loved it.

I love hosting. It can be draining depending on the occasion, but hosting those moms and their kids in my home felt like my calling. Whereas I had spent my year with Parker selfishly hoarding my time to myself, I suddenly loved having my mornings with those women. 

It started off slow, because I didn't want to make it weird. I hated getting my kids out of the house, so I assumed other people would, too. I later learned I'm a bit of an anomaly. It was so much easier to make sure the Keurig was on and put muffins in the oven than to wrestle my kids in clothes and car seats. Eventually it picked up speed and, instead of waiting for someone to suggest a play date and waiting to offer to host if no one else did, I just started making invitations to the group and whoever showed up was welcome.

Our group was amazing. I sometimes had people over once or twice a week. Sometimes someone else would host. Regardless the location, I saw them almost every week. There were around 20 active members in the group that I met at various play dates around the city. 

I have always felt incredibly insecure about myself. Growing up, I never thought people liked me. I struggled with bitterness for years. So many years. It wasn't until Molly was a baby that that bitterness finally started to seep away and my tendency to be judgemental started to wane. I started actively loving people and accepting them for who they were. 

We were a mixed group, coming from all sorts of different backgrounds, but being around that group changed how I approached the world.

There is no room for judgement in a group like that. Everyone was so different but fighting for the same goal (keep the little children alive and well) that it was hard not to feel united. I'm not saying I haven't struggled to come to terms with some of my friends' choices, but I could love them through it. Instead of feeling the need to snark about them behind their backs I chose not to. I let it slide. I focused on loving them instead.

If this is making me sound holier than thou, bear with me. I didn't always succeed. Sometimes, but surprisingly infrequently with my judgy track record, I did think nasty things. But more often that not I tried to just love them where they were at and be honest. 

I didn't have the great time with that group of moms because of myself. That was Jesus. 100%. 

There is no way that I, as an anxious train wreck of a person with two kids that weren't the picnic I'd been hoping for, could have hosted such a successful run of play dates without Jesus. He was 100% there for it all. I have no doubt in my mind.

He ran the Keurig. He baked the muffins. He sat on the floor and wiped the collective spit up of half a dozen babies off the carpet. He made sure there was no room for judgement and shame and insecurity and He wrapped those play dates up in so much love.

People seemed to genuinely enjoy coming to my house. They'd not so subtly suggest that I should host again. I couldn't believe it.

I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that those play dates were my job while I was home with my kids. It didn't feel like work. It was so easy it almost felt selfish. No one cared that my floors weren't clean or that I'd just wiped the bathroom counter off with a baby wipe right before they came over. They were there for the friends and community and muffins.

Our house wasn't huge, but it was the perfect size for those play dates. Some days there were 23 people including moms and kids in my living room or basement. It was cozy.

All my insecurities were thrown against the wall when we announced that we were moving back to Victoria. I couldn't believe the love that flowed out from people that had been total strangers nine months earlier. When we moved from Victoria to Regina, leaving lifelong friends, I didn't feel the amount of love I did leaving that mom group. I hadn't realized how much people valued those play dates, either.

Something happens when Jesus gets involved and takes the reins. I didn't used to feel likeable, but suddenly I was. I had helped cultivate something special without even meaning to. I took that awkward step out there of inviting strangers into my home, and in the process met some very dear friends, grew up (finally), and Jesus took over the rest. And it was surprising and it was good.

June 30, 2018

More party, less business.

- I promise to no longer use a certain Bon Jovi song no matter how relevant it feels in my post titles. I'm sorry. I overdid it. I will try better to be better. Thank you for your forgiveness and understanding as I work through this character flaw.

- I hate walking down hallways at work. When you're walking down a hallway and someone is coming towards you, where are you supposed to look? At your feet? At the wall? The ceiling? Directly into the person's eyes and, by extension, their soul? If it's a colleague you know, what is the reasonable distance to acknowledge them? When you first see them at the end of the hall? When they're close enough to touch? As you're passing them do you go for the high five?

I think, for the sake of lessening the mental load, all work spaces should be rejigged to no longer include hallways and simply have more corners and walls instead.

- Molly is getting a mouthful of teeth and woke up shortly after 5 a.m. twice this week. Never, ever has one of my children been up for the day at 5 a.m. before and she did it twice in a row. Because she loves me.

- I wore my hair in a half bun half down the other day and got a bunch of compliments on it at work. I'm not even sure I like that hairstyle because it's basically the millennial's version of a mullet. Even though I'm on the fence about it, I'm trying to let go of the full mom bun (too much business, not enough party) but am too scattered to do my hair every day when it's down, so I'll just get my validation from others and the style grow on me.

- I started watching The Let Down on Netflix. It's an Australian comedy about a new mom and her life with a baby. I was really excited about it but had to stop watching halfway through the second episode. It was too painfully accurate about some of the hard things of motherhood.

- I started watching season two of Santa Clarita Diet instead. I remember enjoying the first season of it but I watched it when Molly was in the hospital at a couple weeks old so it's all a bit of a blur.

I am loving season two. I don't remember season one being this good. Nathan Fillion only adds to the brilliance.

- We looked at a house yesterday that had vinyl plank flooring and it blew my mind how nice it looked. I'm curious if it actually lives up to the hype. Anyone know?

- The house hunt is still slowly going along, but we've officially looked at two houses with our realtor, been to one open house, and driven by two others. That's like a 500% increase in the last eight days. I'll take it.

- Skinny jeans have their place, but I bought a pair of Gap "sexy boyfriend jeans" from Value Village the other day. For $10 they're like the sweatpants of jeans that I can wear to work on Fridays. The only thing I don't like about them is that I think"sexy" in this case means that they don't go to my belly button, so I think I might need to get a belt or something.

When I was in high school I used to cut the waistbands off my VV pants and move the belt loops down to make my own low rise jeans. Now I'm wishing I could do the opposite. They call them mom jeans for a reason. My hips were not only made for birthing children, they were made to hold my pants up. Motherhood humbles you.

- It's Canada Day tomorrow. I haven't gone to the fireworks in years, but Karl and I are going to go with a friend and I feel like I'm 17 again. Ask me how I feel at 6 o'clock Monday morning when Molly wakes up. That's a problem 17 year old Anna certainly never had to deal with. Does anyone else remember when waking up at 9 felt early on a day off?