We had some pictures taken last year around this time; my thought at the time was that I'd use them as Christmas presents for my family....send some out in the mail. I never did it. On Sunday I picked up some photo cards thinking I'd use the pictures from last year and this year do what I had planned on doing last year. Then I looked at the picture.
Meagan, 19 at the time is holding Rhys, who is just over a year. This was the first full year Meg did not live at home; she went to school in Peterborough and worked at Elmhirst`s Resort over the summer. In September we put her on a plane bound for the Czech Republic where she is doing her 3rd year of University. When she returns in May she`ll be 21, back to work, looking forward to her final year of undergrad. Meg is ours.....always missed, always welcome, but a visitor here.
For most of her 12 years Carleigh was Meg's little sister; the two girls share a close relationship despite the age difference. Carleigh just celebrated her 13th birthday and is now a teenager. She is moving into the position her sister held for a long time and now Carleigh has stepped into those shoes for her younger siblings. She is in her 3rd year of dance, her 2nd of hip hop and has also taken on voice lessons. She is no longer the new kid in her french immersion class; in fact her average in almost every class is above the class. Quite an accomplishment. She is enjoying her final year of elementary school before she`ll take on grade 9 next September.
When this picture was taken, Benjamin (holding Declan) was 17 and in his last year of high school, the "big fish in a small pond" enjoying all of the benefits that come with that. He graduated an Ontario Scholar with top marks in Biology and English. He was single though looking; ALWAYS looking! This year has brought changes for Ben who is working hard in his first year of a pre-med program at Ottawa U; the "small fish in a big pond". For years Ben was involved in Air Cadets and wore his hair short. Now his hair is longer and curly; on his 18th birthday he got his first tattoo and shortly thereafter had his ears pierced. He is no longer single but involved in a relationship with a girl he met through cadets and has known for several years. Ben sleeps at home and commutes daily to the southern limit of the bus system. He is transitioning out which I have to remind myself of every once in a while......
The difference a year makes.
Noah aka the "Smiling One" finally (after 10 months) got his learner's permit. He still is his easy-going self, comfortable in his own skin. This year he is the one enjoying his senior year at the local public high school. Noah cut his hair this year and for a short period of time sported a bald head. He is working part time at the Subway in town and has the same girl friend. Life for Noah is largely the same; kind of like the "calm before the storm" because next year he too will head off to University because the program he wants is not offered locally.
Cam has had many changes. This picture was taken just shortly after his football season was completed; anybody who has read my posts before knows that he had to lose some fairly significant weight and in this picture he is about 6'3" and probably weighs in between 185 and 190. A year later Cam is 6' 5" and weighs 280 - out came the weights last winter and gone were the weight limits! At 15 Cam is living pretty independently in Ogdensburg, NY where he played his first season of US Varsity football. He is enjoying life as a football player; he is greeted in the halls by kids he doesnt know but who know him simply because of what he does. Football is a HUGE deal in the States and the plan is to get one of those lovely american scholarships. He had a 90% average on his first report card and that combined with his size and ability gives him a great opportunity. At $50,000 - 60,000/year I don't know how anybody affords to get an education otherwise.
Then there are our little men.....Declan and Rhys, who are now 3.5 and 2 respectively. Dec and Rhys are buddies - they spend their days together and play well. Rhys is now a "terrible two", testing the boundaries all the time. Declan is a pretty typical older brother, more sedate and serious than his younger counterpart. Neither of them are trained, much to their mother's dismay and this year we learned that Rhys would come to enjoy being a "big brother"; though this one came as more of a surprise than the others, baby #8 is due February 4. Every good book must have an end and THIS will be it! I had come to that decision just weeks before learning that we were expecting again and though a surprise, this one is definately wanted. Children are indeed a gift and a blessing.
Ah, the difference a year makes.
This Christmas will be different for us. It is the first year in 8 that Brad and the boys will not be involved in the Men`s Choir at church on Christmas Eve. With the exception of the year when we moved from Yellowknife to Ottawa and spent Christmas at my mom and dad`s, this is the first time we will not spend Christmas in our home....well, that`s not quite true. We will spend it in a home that we own, but it will be in Ogdensburg, NY; our first Christmas morning spent in the US. I`d have never thought I`d ever see the day! These are pretty minor changes compared to those others will face but all too often it isn`t the big things that are difficult, but the little things that add up to cause a problem. At this point in our lives, I`m happy to think that we`ll all be together.....we have no guaranty of anything else.
These are just some of the changes our kids have experienced but of course each of their changes effects us as their parents and us as a family. If I chose to spend my time longing for what was, what enjoyment would I get from today or tomorrow? It is in the learning to adapt, to accept challenges and move forward that we can appreciate the past for what it has given us.....great memories, some difficult circumstances and hard lessons perhaps. I want to continue learn to live like that; to appreciate my past (the good, the bad AND the ugly!) and move forward to what lies ahead; to press on and remember to enjoy each day and the making of new memories and experiencing new challenges. THAT is life and THAT is living it.