An Old Time Christmas...Family and Friends 'Round the Tree


Our Christmas Day here was probably similar to many of yours. We spent the day with people we loved, missed those who were far away, got more excited about the gifts we gave than the ones we received, and took it all in by remembering the little baby who came to earth to live and die for us.
The differences? The garbage men still picked up the trash, life outside our four walls went on as usual, no Christmas carols on the radio, no special Christmas programs on the TV, and (thankfully) no post-traumatic stress disorder from mall shopping. The last part may sound like a dream-come-true, but the trade off is spontaneously bursting into torrents of tears everytime the iPod shuffles to "I'll Be Home for Christmas" or "Old Time Christmas" (this one, by Randy Travis, really gets me. OK,
Christmas is over and I'm still getting misty just thinking about it.)
A picture IS worth a thousand words...this one, in brief, is saying, "Please, please, please tell me you didn't gem me a back-up generator for Christmas (read the box)!" The box contained a lovely baby doll sent by her aunt!

Benjamin opening presents with help from doting sisters. In reality, they barely let him put a finger on his toys before they took over and "showed" him how to play with them.

Sophie's face aglow at the thought of her own alarm clock...was I this mature at six? Doubtful.

Sophie and Annie's surprise at their new dollhouse! Shock and Awe : )

We finished our day with a lovely dinner spent with great friends and birthday cupcakes to celebrate Jesus' birth.

'Tis the Season


Strangely enough, Christmas season seems to be hectic, no matter what side of the globe you are on, here are a few pictures of our warm-up to the big day, and good reminders from our kids what it is really all about.

A patient big sister, Sophie teaching Benjamin to walk...

Those of you with more than one child knows the pain of trying to get a decent picture of all three of them at the same time...this attempt was obviously not successful...nor were the other 100 attempts NOT SHOWN.

Our "angel" Sophie, in her school's Christmas program. She shows signs of her father's flare for the out world!

Annie enjoying decorating cookies (I think more icing went in her mouth than on the cookies!)

With all the "busyness" about the house, Benjamin found sometime for some monkey "business" of his own...Some children play with blocks, our boy likes longlife milk. Future architect or demolition engineer?

Festivity Fatigue Sets In: Benjamin falls asleep waiting for dinner to hit the table.

This was Annie's first Christmas where she really got into the Christmas story. So my scarves became her Mary costume, and the huge spot light atop a buidling 5 km away became her "shining star". Admittedly, it did take some convincing to keep Sophie from disillusioning her by telling her this is NOT Bethlehem, the spotlight is there to help protect the building at night not to lead wisemen bearing gifts to our doorstep...., but in the end we have all been inspired to take another look at the Christmas story through an almost-four-year-old's eyes and embrace the WONDER.

Mountain Retreat


For the first time in way too long we were able to get away for a kid-free weekend...thanks to the generous babysitting of some dear friends. We headed northwest about 5 hours (not including the times we were lost, which we choose to describe as "a lot of learning going on".

We spent the weekend in a mountain town known for its snow capped peaks, sweets, and humorous inhabitants. Here are some visuals that we hope will help you get a taste of what a lovely weekend we had...

Scenic shots from the road...
Mountain views...

Giant trees displayed on the backdrop of gorgeous mountains...

and fall foliage that was eye candy for us city dwellers!

Traffic Jams and other highway hazards...

Scenes from a mountain town...

Beautifully restored buildings...

and some wonderfully UNRESTORED alleyways...

An ancient king's palace...on the outside...

and inside...

some likewise ancient churches, one of which is believed to date back to the first century A.D. ...

and so many minarets we lost count...

Friends along the way...

Evidently the phrase, "Don't talk to strangers" transcends culture...these little ones fled from us as if we had suddenly sprouted horns!

These fellows were more than happy to talk to strangers, and insisted we take their picture.

These guys' friendly faces welcomed us when we strayed into a deserted courtyard.

Loaded Ladas and other oddities...

Let's play a guessing game...the one who guesses how many persimmons in this Lada gets to take the whole thing home!

Those dangerous "naked" lights!

Random Shots inspired by our "global nomad" friend (you know who you are and sorry there were no bugs!)...

In an ancient caravan saray...

rice warmers from the 14th century (Beth thought they were military helmets!)...

Samovars for our national drink, tea...

An intricate doorway into an ancient church...

Produce rather speaks for itself doesn't it?

Thanks for taking this little tour with us...come visit and we'll take you in person!

P.S. For those of you tenderhearts concerned about our dear kiddos, they didn't cry for us a bit, and were delighted we had returned. The best of both worlds!

A Preschool Thanksgiving Program


No doubt you were beginning to think, as our Canadian relatives put it, we'd "fallen in". November was a really busy month...including a trip for John to Hungary for a conference, lots of holiday celebrations and preparations, and as any of you with young families know...a plethora of "stuff" that simply takes up masses of time, but in hindsight you can't recall where the time actually went...
we call this LIFE!

I was able to capture a few shots of Annie's Thanksgiving program at her preschool. A natural performer, and one who loves the spotlight, this was her time to shine and she had a real ball. We even let big sister Sophie skip school so she could check out Annie's school for the first time and get to see her do her stuff....

Boys...aren't they silly?

Sophie performs for the half time show.

Our little "Indian", bearing gifts for the "Pilgrims", also known as "the four-year olds"

Enjoying their own Thanksgiving feast...

For those of you out there who have expressed and interest in funny facial expressions, this one's for you!

Annie Reading "Purple Cat"


Sorry, for those of you who are not Annie's grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other loving relative. But for those of you she counts among her biggest fans, here is a portion of her "reading" Brown Bear, Brown Bear. One of her oldest cousins (and you know who you are) read it in much the same way and so for those of you on the "Boggess" side, this may have special meaning. You may have to turn YOUR volume up, 'cause I couldn't get HERS any higher!

Birthday Boy...


Hello folks, its me again, Benjamin. Notice anything different about me? You guessed it, I am a year older! If I had a dollar (Canadian or American at this point would do) for every time I hear, "Has it been a year already?" or "Where has the time gone?"...and that's just my mom saying it!...I could pay my way through university.

This being my first birthday and all, I didn't know quite what to expect. And, as things go, I probably will have no clue what to expect next year either...don't have an account at the long-term memory bank least not for birthdays. This one turned out to be pretty fun, but pretty low-key, which, I am learning, is how things go around here.

It began with the dynamic duo bursting into my room and greeting me only slightly more zealously than usual. If it is only up to them, I will probably turn out with a great sense of self-esteem. What can I say? They love me. Balance that out with all the Barbie doll, princess dress-up clothes exposure that I suffer at their hands, and I may just turn out fine after all.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, bursting in. So in they came all smiles and clapping and singing. Now there is one thing you need to know about me. Some people say that yawning is contagious. I don't find this true for me. Mom and Dad can be yawning away, at say 10 pm, and I don't feel the slightest need to yawn. However, I do find another action both spontaneous and contagious...clapping. What can I say, I can't pass up on an opportunity to clap. I've been this way for awhile. Most of those baby milestones I tend to be on the lower end of the curve. Mom says I'm laid back, others use the word "lazy". Neither is really true. I just know a good thing when I see it...and letting the dynamic duo do most of my work for me is a pretty good thing. However, when it came to clapping I started early and I haven't lost any of my enthusiasm for it. So in they come clapping, and I start clapping and it turned into a giant clap fast...great start to the day!

Dynamic Duo posing in front of their handiwork

After my standard breakfast of oatmeal and applesauce, it was time for the presents. Mom tried to fore go the usual first birthday ritual of the baby liking the wrapping paper more than the gifts by letting the dynamic duo decorate a big packing box (about 97.5% big one, and 2.5% little one in effort), so all I had to do was crawl in and collect my toys. It was good fun!

Dynamic Duo supervising my present opening. Note the green ball. I was completely freaked out by it, but now, a week later, am coming to terms with it. Another one of those scarred for life moments.

However, mom should have known that a baby's desire for tissue paper will not be ignored. While the dynamic duo were playing with my toys, I sneakily snuck into Mom and Dad's room and got in their trash can, where there just happened to be, you guessed it, tissue paper! It was all golden until Mom caught me. When will parents figure out the mixed signals they send when they say "No" and then run to get their cameras to capture ones misdeeds on film? The clincher is that they say "Smile" in the midst of all the evidence. Yeah, I'll never get tissue out of the trash can again. Sure.

The tissue paper trail.

The rest of the day was much like any other: eat, nap, play, repeat. That is until the evening. It turns out my birthday was on a Sunday. This is really super because Sunday nights are house church nights, and a bunch of fun people come to our house. This meant that they got to celebrate with us. We ate pizza (which I love) and cake (which I endured) and laughed a whole lot. It makes me wish I could turn one all over again. Oh yeah, since I have already forgotten this whole event, I will get to do it all over again...same song, second verse. Maybe mom will just reissue this blog this time next year. Lucky you.

Cake's not so bad, but I'll take lasagna over it any day of the week!

Haircuts, Harvest Party, and Happy Thanksgiving!


For those of you Americans out there, we hope the title hasn't sent you rushing to the calendar wondering where you lost a month and a half of your life...this weekend we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving. Though being a bi-national family sometimes has its hassels, one of the perks is the extra holidays. This year we had the unique treat of gathering with about 50 others to give thanks, eat turkey, and "be" Canadian together. It was a treat, but I did miss the "good turnips" that are always apart of the Cook family Thanksgiving table...don't knock 'em until you've tried them!

But I'm getting ahead of myself, and out of sequence. Let me fill you in on the last few weeks. A recent lice outbreak at the school and preschool gave me the motivation I needed to get the girls' hair cut. Sophie got lucky, I at least took her to a beauty salon. It looked so easy (sorry, all of you trained, talented hair stylists out there) that I was sure I could do it Annie's hair. I started by hacking it off, and then proceded to become extremely sick to my stomach! What had I done? After a reassuring smile to Annie, I fled the bathroom to receive reality-check-advice from John ("It will grow. Its only hair.") and returned with re-enforcements in the person of a dear local friend who cleaned up my mess a bit and you can hardly tell the difference between the professional cut and the home-grown doesn't hurt that Annie's curly hair covers some of the rough edges! You can see their new do's in the pictures below.

September 28th was Sophie's school's annual Harvest party. It was a gorgeous day (before it has always been in October, but this year the planners got smart and took advantage of the beautiful late September weather) full of games, costumes, treats, and a potluck meal of epic portions. Because of the diverse nationalities represented at our school, we got to part take of not only the standard North American fair associated with potlucks, but also dishes from Brazil, Korea, Norway, Ukraine, and India. What a treat! Because of the lice outbreak, we ended the night taking turns at bat against a giant egg-shaped pinata labelled "nit" (for those of you lucky enough to never have come in contact with a lice out break, "nits" are the eggs the lice stick to the hair shaft with their own personal brand of super glue). It was a fabulous night spent with wonderful friends, delicious food, and loads of fun.

Sophie and a buddy (dressed as a Hawaiian girl)...they decided Sophie could be her Hawaiian cat!

This dear friend gave Annie yet another reason to love Cinderella.

Naptime wasn't going to keep the rest of us from joining in the fun...we parked a sleeping Benjamin in a quiet corner.
For such a featherweight, Sophie proved quite adept at the crowd-favorite game, pillow-jousting.
An awake, but dazed Benjamin is questioning why this had to be the week he had to cut his one year molars!

A youngest-to-oldest policy meant that Annie got her swing in before the pinata broke....Should I say swings? It took awhile for her to actually make contact.

While Benjamin was busy cutting teeth, Sophie was wiggling away at her two top front teeth. Having already lost her bottom front teeth (and cut new ones) she is an old pro at this tooth-losing business.

Sophie displaying her lost tooth.
And now the Thanksgiving shots...
John and Annie, joined by our new friend, Esther, show off Annie's favorite Thanksgiving treat: Chocolate. OK, so its not as festive, but it is certainly TASTY!

Sophie and Annie, joined by a fellow Canadian and schoolmate. The look on Annie's face captures how she feels about being with the "big girls".

Ben's first Canadian Thanksgiving: he would have licked the plate clean if we'd have let him!

Thanks for taking the time to catch up on our news! Don't forget to drop us a line and let us know what is new in your world.
Coming soon: Benjamin turns ONE!