Merry Christmas 2018 and a Happy New Year!

Photo Credit: Vicky Falk
(More pics to come at some point)
2018 has been an up and down year marked by gratitude for health, growth and celebration.  This year our family has seen movement from the chaos of the last 3 years (ever since the twins were born) towards finding our new rhythm with the ever-changing variable of the kids growing up!  Ryan and I are enjoying celebrating life whenever possible and catching glimpses of our favorite parts from our “old normal” (pre-twins, pre-cancer) in the movement towards our “new normal”.  There is still much uncertainty in our lives.  However, amidst this uncertainty this is certain: our family chooses to be optimistic, hopeful, believing, fun-loving, celebratory, and above we choose to place our trust in Jesus, the very One we celebrate this Christmas season.
The growth in Garrett and Allison from being 2 year olds to becoming 3 year olds has been delightful.  In April our nanny moved on to a new job and our twins transitioned to daycare 4 days a week — which slowly, but surely has become wonderful for them. (This allows adequate rest for me and also one-on-one time with Rayna after school.)  Not only are the twins now potty-trained (potty training 2 x two-and-a-half year olds is NOT for the faint of heart!) and dressing themselves for the most part, their personalities are emerging with stamina to enjoy outings and activities.  While Allison loves princesses and proclaims her “Elsa power” Garrett is a fan of anything sports.  Both played soccer this fall; but Garrett is showing a keen interest and aptitude for all things sport-related.  Furthermore, at the beginning of the year fighting vs. playing nicely together was about 50/50.  At the end of the year it is heart-warming and oh so cute to listen to them chatter and natter with and at each other and mostly play so wonderfully together.  And having two 3 year olds in the house anticipating Christmas is the sweetest: pretty gift wrapped presents being arranged and rearranged by little hands, Christmas songs being sung non-stop by little voices, seeing Santa and talking about Santa and the goofy grin this brings to Garrett’s little face (and hearing Garrett defend the existence of Santa when his big sister declares that Santa is not real), and the unsureness of the exact countdown for Christmas but the complete sureness of something really spectacular on the horizon bringing much excitement to these two little cuties.  Each day we are living out sweet and treasured memories. 
Rayna is now in grade 1.  She worked very hard this fall to master the monkey bars and was so sad when it got too wet and cold to play on them.  Furthermore, she also played soccer for the first time this fall and it delighted my soccer-loving heart to see her enjoy it so much.  Though her 6 going on 16 attitude can be strong at times, she is the kindest, most encouraging, and creative girl.  She warms our family’s hearts by making cards for us and wrapping “presents” for us – just because and on special occasions.  She’s been secretly working on a Christmas card for Ryan and I for a couple of weeks, and now that her writing is really starting to take off these very sweet gifts are all that more precious.   
Ryan’s local Chilliwack Blind Factory is steadily picking up pace and, along with the Saskatoon Blind Factory, is keeping him busy.  He plays pickleball whenever possible, which with work and family demands has been much less than he would like.  It’s still ‘the best thing ever’ to him (he’s been bugging me to start playing and maybe, just maybe, 2019 ought to be the year I try it out?).  Since fall Ryan has also started participating in music at church.  This is finally feasible for our family and has been very life-giving for him.  He hopes to press into more music involvement as much as our family demands allow.
At the beginning of the month I received another clear MRI report and the oncologist bumped up my scan interval from every 3 months to every 4 months.  This is very good news!  We are still trying to process and sort out what this means for pressing into the future (see blog post about Brain Injury Awareness); but joyfully embrace each clear scan.    I fill my days taking Rayna to and from school, helping with daycare drop offs and pick-ups, I re-learned how to cook (at least that’s what it felt like!), household task, resting, running 3 days/week, writing and I played soccer this fall (yay!).  I also volunteer once a month for my church visiting the “shut-in” elderly and will be increasing my involvement in this role in the new year.          
Our family likes to have fun.  I feel we have excelled at celebrating the “small stuff” this year: Valentines Day, Easter, summer, fall, Halloween and BIRTHDAYS!!!!  Though such things are now quite exhausting for me, my heart was bursting planning and hosting Rayna’s 6 year old birthday party in March and a (smaller) party for the twins’ 3 year old in October!  We’ve also enjoyed nature and hikes and the tulip festival (well maybe Ryan didn’t really enjoy that one, but the rest of us sure did 😉 going to Hells Gate, the Othello Tunnels and, ****our family hiked Lindeman this fall!!!!!****  (for you non-locals, this is a not so easy, beautiful, rock-scrambling, local hike) This was a major accomplishment and symbolic of adventures the future could hold for our family. These are on-top of another epic summer road trip vacation (see Summer Vacation blog post for further details) visiting Kelowna (Ryan’s pickleball tournament, kangaroo farm, beach), Camp Oshkidee (so amazing, as always!), Saskatoon, Swift Current (Ryan had flew back home to work while I took the kids to my parents’) West Edmonton Mall.  Along the journey we connected with so many precious friends and family members.
Ryan and I also did a daytrip to Manning Park to cross country ski in Jan. Ryan enjoyed a “guys trip” to Phoenix in Spring which was much needed and deserved.  I enjoyed (at least the parts where the stomach flu wasn’t striking) a girls trip to Whistler in June.  And Ryan and I celebrated a couple nights away in October to the Sunshine Coast.  In Nov. I took Rayna to Okotoks to celebrate my sister’s 40th birthday a low-key lovely time together punctuated by a super-fun surprise birthday party my brother in law threw for her!   Dec. found Ryan and Rayna going on an in-promptu trip to Maui (they got 2 buddy passes to be used in a 2 week time-frame, so obviously they had to go, right?!)
Phew! What a good year!  And that’s not even mentioning the visits from my parents, my sister and niece, our friends Brad and Ashley, local fun at Cultus lake waterslides, rides, the beach and splashing in the river! 
Wowee!  Isn’t life such a gift!  We celebrate gifts at Christmas.  Our family chooses to celebrate the gift of Jesus at Christmas.  What a gift He is.  It is by trusting Him that our family has been able to find such Hope and thrive during these past trying years.  We thank Jesus for the gift of “more and better life than we could have ever imagined!” (John 10:10 MSG, loosely quoted)  My Hope and prayer is that 2019 will be another year of “more and better life” for our family as well as yours.
Love and blessings,
Ryan and Cheryl
Rayna, Garrett, and Allison.