Yes, I am already in the midst of Christmas decorations and plans....I admit
this is a weakness, no will power when it comes to waiting. My best excuse is
that with the decorations up, it gives me all that much more time to enjoy
watching my kids enjoy it. They never get tired of the lit tree, the mysterious
packages underneath, and the nativity that gives purpose to it all.
Which brings me to the best gift any of my kids has ever received. My sister-in-law, Heather, has a gift for giving just the right thing (see last Christmas' post when the kids spent hours threading shoelaces through dinosaurs, still trying to figure out the allure of that one). When Sophie was getting ready for her first Christmas--eight years ago, unbelievable--Heather and Chris (though I don't know that he necessarily knew they were giving this...feel free to comment and defend yourself, Chris) sent us the Fisher Price Little People Nativity set.
I must admit, at first I was less than taken with this gift. It's musical, in that battery-operated kind of way that most of us parents learn to dread. Aside: Am I the only parent out there guilty of saying to her kids "Sorry the batteries must be dead," when I secretly removed them or replaced them with dead batteries just so I wouldn't have to hear that song/noise/voice ONE MORE TIME?
To add injury to insult, the song this little treasure plays is "Away in a Manger". Not my favorite Christmas Carol, which is a running joke between John and I. Its the simple line, "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he made". I mean, come on! I am TOTALLY on board with the fact that Jesus, God-man, was sinless. This is a foundational part of my theology and my theology is a foundational part of who I am and what I do. HOWEVER, crying--especially the way newborns do it--is a form of communication, not sin. Of course He cried when He was hungry or needed changed. And so, my dislike of the song. Unfortunately, my kids love it and when the girls start to sing it they catch my eye and say, "I know, I know, He really did cry. Mo---oom, its just a song." Obviously, I have not yet passed on the theology as a foundation for living stuff yet. New Years Resolution.

Anyway, back to the gift. This little nativity set has really grown on me over the years. Even as I hear its tinny version of Away in a Manger, a smile comes to my face. The memories of Christmas past flood back, Sophie's obsession with getting everybody in just the right place, Annie's obsession with Mary, and now Benjamin. At three, this is his first year to really begin to understand why we as a family celebrate and anticipate Christmas.

I must admit, when I gave it to him last week, I had high hopes that this would
be the beginning of a new understanding of Jesus for him. These hopes came
crashing down when he started calling the wisemen "ladies"--and afterall, they
do look pretty feminine with their long robes and glitzy crowns. He also began
adding his other Little People to the mix...Construction workers, Animals from
Noah's Ark, poodles, and even a beanie baby frog began joining the mix. My inner theologian began to cringe. Was this treating something sacred so lightly?

Then I began to look at it as children do, and my theology came back into sync.
Who better to worship at the feet of Jesus than construction workers and
poodles? Jesus didn't come just for those 2,000 years ago, nor did He come only
for those "wise" enough. He came for the every man, He came for Ben.



One of the many joys of Canadian life is that for a small fee, and the price of some skating gear, the lower grades of the school troop off to hit the ice once a week during November, December, and January. What fun! Its also great exercise as they walk to and from the rink (30 minutes each way) and skate in between.

Sophie started off with a little contraption to give her support, but quickly moved on to "solo" flights.

Annie showing off Benjamin to all her buddies.

John, his dad, and Benjamin came to give moral support. Grandpa Cook is seen here helping kids get their skates tied.





Nancy Drew

Fireman ("I realdy scary guy")

With pumpkin, Patrick.



Fall has always been my favorite season, and I must admit I have missed getting to enjoy its North American flavor the past few years. Here are some of the memories we made this fall. Hope yours was as fun as ours!

Sophie enjoying the tons of leaves in our yard.

The girls had been looking forward to crunching through the leaves for ages. We are staying on a HUGE property. One of the perks of this place is that the lawn care is sourced out. This also meant that not a lot of leaves were being allowed to fall before they were mowed up! I took to raking the leaves to the base of a couple of trees and "saving" them up for the girls!

Well worth it!

Annie spent October searching for the most beautiful leaf.

Here, holding one of the main contenders.

Enjoying a provincial park on a Sunday afternoon.

(This is the caption you think this picture should have. For the real story behind this "best laid plans gone bad" afternoon, give me a call! Annie at least enjoyed it!)

One of many gorgeous sunsets over the pond in our yard.

A visit from my sister, Anne, and niece, Mary-Michal, was the perfect highlight of our fall!
(Hint, hint: Come again!)

Thanksgiving! We do it in October up here!

The family shot that only took 200+ attempts to get all five of us looking in the same general direction without pained looks on our faces! Thank goodness for digital!

We'll end up with a few of the unfortunate misshots:

This one is just wrong in a lot of ways...

Ben, contemplating a dive in the pond.

Yes, Benjamin is picking his nose. Classic.



Hard to believe our "last cradle", as they say in our home away from home, is turning three! What a treat to get to celebrate it here in Canada.
Benjamin's new favorite thing to say:
It sounds like one word when he says it, but it means "I'm three years old".
Love him!



Why is dressing up so fun? Here our kids show how much fun it is.

Grandma and Grandpa Cook brought over lots of their costumes from their days in South America. Endless amount of fun dressing up as village girls, cowboys, bullfighters, and anything else the mind can imagine!

Benjamin wearing an old Halloween costume. We discovered that we didn't have many masculine costumes and Benjamin, not wanting to be left out, got into the act in quite a "pink" way (see below). Needless to say, a quick trip to the dollar store equipped us with a fireman's hat, a construction hat and other more gender specific items (not politically correct, but then, when am I?)

Ben getting in touch with his girly-side. He sure looks a lot like Sophie at this age!

All suited up for outdoor fun. How did I ever survive childhood without all this gear.
Surely its a miracle.

The thrift store has been a great place to find dress up stuff. Annie's main goal in life is to be a wife and a mom (and maybe a hairstylist) so this bride costume (circa 1988) was
right up her alley.



The girls first day of school was unique for us as a family and full of firsts:

  • Annie, who has never attended school before, would be skipping Kindergarten and going into Grade 1 (Canadian for "First Grade")....The joys of a December birthday in Canada.
  • Sophie and Annie would be attending a public school...
  • ...a school where we didn't know their teachers...
  • ...we didn't know their classmates...
  • ...and we didn't know the other parents;
  • a school 5 times the size of the one they attend overseas.
  • They would be riding the school bus.

I must admit, as a mother, I was a bit petrified for them. I know you are thinking, "You take your kids to live in a 3rd world country most people can't pronounce, nestled in an area known to be a political tinderbox, and you can't send your kids to a small, suburban public school?" Exactly. Most of you reading this are MUCH braver than me!

I came to realize that this wasn't a question of whether the school was safe, the teachers, competent, or the other kids "nice". It was a question of whether or not I was trusting God with my kids. Could I let them go and trust Him to not only go with them but before them? It has become a lesson for us as a family to trust in the words from Deuteronomy 31:6&8:

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”

“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

What a great God we serve who not only goes with us, but he goes BEFORE us, preparing the way. You know what else? The girls haven't just survived; they are THRIVING. Yes, they are being stretched in new and challenging ways, and yes, the year has only begun. But the biggest lesson has been learned, and not just by the girls, but by their mom, too. God is enough.



Folks in Southern Ontario called this the Summer That Wasn't. But for us coming from summer
heat that usually stays in the 90's, we thoroughly enjoyed the mild summer temperatures. Having lived in an apartment in the downtown core of our city for the last five years, the girls found new wonders every day in the great outdoors. We are renting a home outside of town, settled on lots of land. The girls have discovered the freedom that most of us who grew up a generation ago in small towns take for granted. Benjamin, too, has adapted to his environment well. He had never walked barefoot in the grass, and wasn't sure of that situation. He quickly adapted, however, and came and announced to me one day, "Mommy, I love DIRT!"

Our summer was busy, full of things like visitors, daycamp, a trip to Alberta, a Cook Family reunion, and multiple trips to Wal-Mart...the girls have yet to figure out their parents' fascination with the latter...."There, AGAIN?!"

Sophie and Annie in their favorite climbing tree in our backyard.

A Familiar Face: Sophie's teacher from Caspian, Miss Courtney, came for a visit! Needless to say she was a popular guest!

Annie's new best friend,
one of our barn cats.

More Cousins! This time discovered at the Cook Family Reunion.

Our travels took us to Calgary, Alberta to go through re-entry seminars and other work related activities. The kids got their own re-entry camp and had a great time and made good friends with other TCKs.

Watching "channels" in Uncle Charlie's basement bathroom.

Annie, always model-pose ready!

Good times with the Tim Cooks (cousin Katy here with Sophie) in Edmonton.

The West Edmonton Mall, what an experience!

Back to Ontario
Sometimes "the Summer that wasn't" got a little chilly....yes, these are long-sleeves in August!

Tio Walter and BA are always a source of fun for the kids!

What would summer be like without a yard sale? We took the chance to get rid of stuff (long-overdue) and the kids sold lemonade...I should say, Annie sold lemonade. The other two had no patience for it!

Those of you reading this from our home away from home may wonder if Benjamin has finally gotten his hair cut! The ongoing battle between mother (pro-cut) and father (anti-cut) found a happy conclusion for all. Here is a happy customer.



We left for our year back in North America in June. We opted to land in Atlanta and get visit in with Beth's side of the family in Atlanta before transitioning north (via Beth's hometown, St. Albans, WV) to the Toronto, Ontario area.
Here are some memories of that time as we began to get accustomed to our new environment!

Here, Sophie grabs some shuteye with her new mask courtesy of Air France.

Benjamin and adjusting to cousins and pool (the cousin part was easier than the pool part).

Storytime with Uncle Chris...always fun!

Sometimes God gives us bonds so strong that it feels like we've never been apart...Sophie and Annie with Aunt Anne.

Outside St. Albans High School. The building may be new, but the smell is the same! The cousins, overcome with the emotion of those hallowed halls clung to Chris for support (actually this is some strange form of West Virginian greeting).

Whenever all the "Boggess" cousins are together we do this group picture, here on the gymnasium floor at SAHS....We were given a great tour of the new building even though it was the first week of July and school was long out of session!

Are you getting the idea that we took lots of cousin pictures?

Anne, Chris, and Beth outside their childhood home. The gracious owner of 2612 saw us moping about outside and took pity on us by giving us the grand tour.

Another cousins picture, but this time with second cousins. Our kids loved finding out about all the family they had!

Sometimes family is by blood and sometimes God gives it to you along the way. Pictured here are good friends of ours from our home away from home. They were home in Ohio for the birth of baby Ethan, and so Sophie & Abby, Annie & Sophie, and Benjamin & Lydia got a mini-reunion at a Bob Evans in Ohio.