A story about a big sister and her little sister.

Friday, April 16, 2010


We've been heading out-of-doors more these days, after several weeks of unrelenting wind that prevented us from getting our daily dose of sunshine. Southern Alberta experienced a crazy spring blizzard Tuesday night, dumping about a foot of wet snow on our little area of the prairie. It was perfect for snowball-making and fort construction. Our snowman fell apart due to the weight of his head. Better luck next time, Frosty. We hope not to see you around these parts again for quite some time.

Anyway, the swingset has been in heavy use for the past few days. I give her a push, and Mia swings back and forth, chattering to me. "I am going so high, I touch the sky. I wish I could swing up to a rainbow, and climb on, and say 'hello, birds!', and slide down the other side onto my swing. Wouldn't that be great, Mommy? I wish I could do that."

And then she is swinging to and fro, propelling herself with her own energy, pumping her legs as fast as my heart beats for her, achieving yet another milestone - swinging solo, no pushing needed. One of the many things she no longer requires me to do for her. Another developmental moment that is bittersweet - liberating for us both, yet another turn in the road that takes her on the path to complete independence. And while I wouldn't want it any other way, it feels as if these moments are coming more and more quickly these days, rushing forth in a cascade of new skills and feats. I just don't know how to deal with them all at once.

"I'm swinging so high. So high, Mommy! Look at me! I can touch the clouds!"

I'm looking, I'm watching you, Mia. You are flying, sweet girl, stretching those wings and flying.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Self-lobotomy in seven easy steps

1. Surreptitiously purchase one of those Easter-egg dyeing kits. Accidentally allow the children to see it while you're unpacking the groceries, thereby inviting a continual stream of "What is that? Can I eat it? When are we going to dye the eggs? Why do eggs die?" questions until you want to curl up in a ball in the corner.

2. Choose a time when the children are particularly cranky, say, if they have cabin fever from being in the house for days on end due to freakishly powerful winds, or if they have colds or haven't taken proper naps. Before you're actually ready, tell them you're going to do something fun so they can ask you "How much longer, Mommy? Can we do it now? How about now? Now?" about eleventy bajillion times.

3. Realize that, despite the fact you are almost 35 years old, you don't actually know how to hard boil eggs. Consult your friend Google.

4. Mix the dye tablets with the vinegar to get the absolute MOST VIBRANT colours available. Fail to follow the remainder of the directions that indicate how water should be added to the mixture, thus ensuring an insufficient volume of liquid in each bowl, making the dyeing process that much more trying for a four year old.

5. Rummage around for something to cover the children and the table from the inevitable spill. Argue with the four year old about how the colour of her paint shirt is not pink and why she still needs to wear it anyway.

6. Pick cooked egg off of egg shells because you didn't notice one of them was cracked during the hard-boiling process and now they are all covered with eggy goo. Decide the bumps will only make the eggs that much more beautiful.

7. Fail to have paper towels ready for when the four year old drags the paint shirt through the green dye, spilling it all over the table, floor and four-year-old, who subsequently begins to cry, because "I'm a human, not an egg!" Mop up. Mop your brow. Dump dye down the drain. Place dyed eggs in a bowl that no one looks at again. Throw them in the compost heap a week later.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saying goodbye is hard to do

One of the strangest experiences I've had so far in my life is articulating my final wishes in a will. Deciding what would happen to our kids if Mitch and I both got hit by a bus, or determining where our money would go if our entire family was taken out in a horrific plane crash, or thinking about what I would want to happen if I was alive but mentally incapacitated -- these are not pleasant things to consider. I understand now why it took us so long to do this, and why some people just never make it happen. For days during and afterward, I had endless, morbid thoughts - what if this is the last car ride we ever go on together as a family? What if I slip in the bathtub and hit my head and I am no longer around to decide what's best for my kids? Considering all of the "what-ifs" freaked me out.

Which is why, when Mitch and I (and Lisa) were hovering over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter a few weeks ago, I had a mild, but real, anxiety attack. I could not stop thinking about my impending death, how life would go on without me after I hurtled to a messy demise amidst helicopter rubble at the bottom of the Canyon. I'm not normally such a sissy, but the whole experience, coupled with the recent writing of the wills, made me a bit of a wreck. I couldn't distract my mind from conjuring all of these negative thoughts. So, I really missed out on a beautiful opportunity - seeing the Grand Canyon from the air - but was quite frankly OVERJOYED when we landed.

We were in Arizona at the end of February with the Lees for our first kids-less vacation, a celebration, of sorts, of Mitch's 40th birthday. We spent our time in Sedona, which is a gorgeous spot, surrounded by crazy red rock geological formations. It was a lovely six days, and fun to not have to be responsible for anyone else for a while, to sit in restaurants and actually linger over our meals.

But it was also kind of hard to be away from the kids. I didn't pine for them, but I did miss them a bunch, and was very, very excited to come home. I envisioned that our return would be met with huge shrieks of joy, and tiny arms being thrown around our necks. What we got was a confused "is that really you?" sort of response - loving but reserved. Mia was a little more on the welcoming side of things, but Liv was a bit weirded out, I think - how could we be gone for SO LONG and then all of a sudden be back? It took her a little while to come around, and during that 20 minutes or so, my heart shattered into a million tiny pieces that stuck into my major organs and made me weep.

The even more difficult part, really, was that I didn't keep up with pumping while we were on vacation, thus effectively ending the little nursing sessions Liv and I had come to enjoy. Before we left for Sedona, Liv was still nursing a few times a day, mostly before bed and naptime, and maybe once or twice in between. She had just started sleeping through the night entirely (hooray!) a few days prior to her second birthday, but we both still enjoyed the daily nursing routine, and I never felt compelled to stop. But my milk supply was never great, and I had been taking a drug to stimulate my milk production since Liv was about three months old, so going on a vacation without her seemed like maybe it was a good time to just stop doing these things, and I did.

It has been hard for me to say goodbye to this part of motherhood. I've been nursing nearly non-stop for about four years. Mitch and I are fairly sure we won't have any more kids. And so this is an end for me, a finale to the baby years, and that is hard to wrap my head around. I miss the nursing ritual, one that Liv and I struggled for so long to develop. Her early arrival and tiny size initially made breastfeeding very difficult. But once she got the hang of it, she was a little champ - it was her favourite activity for a long time, and I was happy to oblige. Being the single person who could provide her essential nutritional requirements was a job I was proud to take on. There are few more rewarding experiences on this earth.

So ending this beautiful love affair has made me a bit melancholy, and sentimental, as I am once-again confronted with the fleeting nature of childhood, and, really, of life. The days slip past so quickly. I just want to hang onto them as long as I can.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Four short years ago our sweet, funny Mia was born.

We didn't know what hit us. She was five weeks early - all four pounds, one ounce of her - and, at the time, she was the tiniest baby we had ever seen. We were grateful that she was healthy and only spent one week in the Special Care Nursery before coming home with us. We spent hours and hours staring at the small, amazing creature we had created. We devoted every hour to her. She slept with us for months - we didn't even set up a crib until about month seven or so - and we took her everywhere. The first time we ever left her for more than a couple of hours was the day before Liv was born, when I was sent to the Foothills Hospital in an ambulance.

We no longer stare at her for hours - time does not permit, nor does Mia. She's a whirlwind. She keeps us on our toes. Even when she was very, very small, Mia had personality. She is fun and spirited and, as our friend Jessica says,
kinetic. There's an energy about Mia that is exhilarating and exhausting. She runs from morning until she falls into bed at night. It's always a bit shocking when she doesn't feel well and slows down or takes a nap - we are accustomed to the tornado.

Mia possesses an admirable fearlessness. She is not shy. She is rarely hesitant in new situations or around new people. Her heart is open and willing. She is curious and imaginative. She loves being read to, and is beginning to "read" to us and her sister. She loves dressing up. She is stories and songs, dancing and drama.

We love this girl beyond measure. Being around Mia is fun - almost always. She is bright and very, very funny. Already, her comedic timing is kind of amazing. She is witty. She is complicated. Mia can be charming and sweet one moment, exasperating and miserable the next. She wears every emotion on her sleeve. We frequently butt heads, little Mia and I. She is stubborn and strong willed and knows how to push my buttons. If I have not had enough sleep and she's in a sassy mood, sparks fly. But we always end with a hug and a promise to be best friends again, and we carry on from where things derailed, all laughter and goodness.

Four years. It seems like yesterday, and like always. Our Mia is a bright star, and we are thankful each day for the energy and light that shines through her and into our lives. We love you Mia - keep shining, little girl.

Love you always,

Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Our Liv is two today. TWO. How much our lives have changed in these past two years - most certainly for the better. Despite the tumultuousness of the first year or so of Liv's life, we have all come out on the other side more appreciative, more aware of the gifts we've been granted, more understanding, better educated and feeling a whole lot more fortunate than we ever did before we met this spunky little kid.

(Click on the image to embiggen.)

Liv at two is a whole lot of fun. The other day someone remarked "I think her smile is bigger than her face!" And it's true. Liv's grin lights up the darkest day. She is delightful. Her happiness is infectious. She loves to run and dance and sing and clap and spin around like a crazy person. She takes care of all of the babies in the house (at least, the ones Mia isn't simultaneously caring for), loves trucks, trains and anything with wheels, plays ball and builds block towers. She brings a levity to our family that is so, so awesome.

Liv at two is a whole lot of trouble. She throws stuff in the toilet (when it needs flushing), in the bathtub (full of water), in the garbage (toys, books, magnets from the fridge.) She pulls books and games off of shelves, puts things in her mouth that she shouldn't, takes CDs out of cases and uses them as skates, writes on stuff with crayons, and generally creates quite a lot of work for the adults in the house.

Liv at two is a whole lot of sweetness. She doles out hugs and kisses. She wants to hold her sister's hand. She laughs easily. She smiles at family, friends and strangers alike at the drop of a hat. She loves people. She is, dare I say,

Liv at two is healthy. She walks, talks, runs, problem solves, thinks critically. Her heart and lungs are good. We no longer require specialists of any kind for any sort of intervention. Her voice is still pretty quiet - that paralyzed vocal cord hasn't quite come into full working order - but it doesn't stop her from talking and shrieking and crying and laughing with the best of them. She is still wee - but on her own growth curve and proportionate and doing just fine.

Liv at two - we are so fortunate that you are here and that you are who you are. You make us laugh and marvel and count our blessings every single day. Thank you, thank you, for being such a sweet gift.

Love you always,

Mommy and Daddy

Friday, January 01, 2010


Yep, this about sums up New Year's Eve:

Happy New Year! Wishing you all a happy, loving, fun, peaceful 2010.

The Berreths

Friday, December 25, 2009

A few Christmas thoughts

I was putting Liv to bed tonight after a few days of hubbub and excitement and sugar and presents and company, but she didn't want to sleep. I knew she was tired, but she resisted slumber, so we hung out in her room for a while, rocking and snuggling and nursing. We were laying on the bed and she scooted over to the window and looked out, eyes shining, the moonlight highlighting her standing-on-end hair, fresh out of pigtails. Her smile was impish, her breath was sweet, her little voice was filled with wonder. And I wanted the moment to last forever, so we could always be this happy, this young, this fortunate.

I wish that feeling gratitude for these brief moments would make them stay, that they could become more tangible than just in my mind's movie reel. That's the thing about experiences, and time - they exist, and then they don't, and all you have left is memories.

And so, as we make more and more memories out of these fleeting bits of time we're allotted, we try to enjoy these days, and let bygones be bygones, and show love to each other, and have patience with one another. And when we fail, we have the memories of those times when we did better, when we laughed easier, when we were more capable of putting aside hurt feelings or bruised egos or whatever.

This moment - right now - is the only one that matters. It's all we really have. And so on this Christmas Day, I wish for everyone to be happy in these moments, to set aside differences of opinion and grudges and negativity and to be grateful and loving. We are trying to do the same.

Love and peace,

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From our house to yours...

Enjoy this season of merriment!

(I won't even get into how difficult it was to get this photo. It was almost as crazy as last year. Perhaps moreso, since Liv is now mobile and really, really doesn't like sitting still for more than two seconds.)

Be merry and bright!
Kim, Mitch, Mia, Liv (and Wilbur)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Santa says hi!

The upside to advancements in technology is the ability to really propagate certain mythologies and bring them to life, unlike anything in previous generations.

Thinking back to when I was a kid, visiting Santa was a trip to the mall and standing in line with the rest of the riff-raff. Or, if you're from a small town such as Kim and I both were, it was arranged for Santa to visit the local community hall.

But now, video up-loads are the norm, straight from the North Pole, with Santa providing a brief commentary on your child's behaviour during the past year. (See Santa's video message to Mia). I think I was more impressed with the video than Mia -- and Grandma Lolo was almost beside herself about how natural and realistic it seemed. There may have been a brief moment when Grandma actually believed there was a Santa after all!

Anyway, have a look for yourself. You might find it interesting and just maybe, if you're a good girl/boy, you might get a video message from the fat man himself...

Merry Christmas and hope to see you in the New Year!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Little bits of random

Here are a few tidbits from this fall...

Mia started playschool this year. The exposure to other kids has been great, and it has also been good for her to have to listen to other grown-ups.

She enjoy
s school quite a bit. However, there were a few days this fall when she said she didn't want to go. "Why not?" I asked. "Malcolm pushed me," she said grouchily.

, I've met Malcolm and he seems pretty laid back, so this didn't actually seem likely, but I mentioned it to the teacher. She said she'd chat with Mia and find out what was going on. When I went to pick Mia up later that morning, the teacher said she had told Mia that if anyone was mean to her, she should talk to the teachers, and they would deal with it on the spot. She asked Mia if she understood. Mia solemnly nodded "yes". Then she said, "And if I see any badgers, I'll kick 'em." Um. Okay then.

Liv would be a TV addict if we let her. Experts say kids under the age of two shouldn't be allowed to watch any television. I think this is a good rule. It is one we tried our mightiest to enforce. But when she was about 18 months old, she started becoming really interested in the set itself. At first, she would casually meander over to it, and then randomly push buttons. Once she realized doing so could conjure up something on the screen, she knew she wielded some power, and couldn't get enough. Now, she backs her little self into the Winnie the Pooh chair and points at the TV, dictator-style. If we refuse, she just turns it on herself. We have to unplug the TV now when we're not watching, otherwise she would be sitting there constantly, mesmerized. One evening she was awake later than normal, and happened to see a bit of So You Think You Can Dance. She was utterly transfixed. We may need an intervention.


Mia is enrolled in dance lessons. Ballet and a bit of tap. She likes to wear her tap shoes in the house, though that is not technically permitted. She loves, loves, loves to go to class, and her newfound dancing skills, coupled with her tendency for drama, lead me to believe she will have a successful career in musical theatre. Diva-dom, here we come.

In September Mitch (and his mom - thanks LoLo!) re-built the fence in our backyard that blew down a few years ago. (Those Southern Alberta winds can really wreak havoc.) Here Mia is helping Daddy with the finishing touches.

Our little Liv is a pretty good eater. There are some days when I think she eats more than Mia. She's just not a great gainer (she's currently around 18 lbs). The pediatrician isn't terribly concerned and believes she will eventually catch up. In the meantime, Liv enjoys eating with reckless abandon, sometimes foregoing an actual utensil in favour of her digits.

Who dresses this kid anyway? She's starting to look like Lisa Larson Lee.

We went for a wagon ride in our back pasture late one afternoon in October and got a few cute shots (click on the image to embiggen.)

Halloween was a remarkably pleasant experience this year. The weather was good, Mia was excited, Liv didn't protest too much, and Mitch and I ate ourselves silly on the candy haul. I'd like to present to you our cute bunny and her princess sister.

We've had a lot of long afternoons to fill now that the weather has turned cold, so we've been doing some painting and glueing and cutting crafts. Mia is all over the cutting. She was practicing one afternoon, then sadly told me that she had to stop. "How come?" I asked. "Well," she sighed, "my hands are getting dizzy."

A final note: Liv had ear tubes put in before Thanskgiving. Her speech has come along quite well since then (they detected a bit of a hearing loss due to fluid in her middle ear.) In the past few weeks in particular, she has been wowing us with a new word almost every day. "Mommy" is still the fan favourite. I try to be grateful every time she says it, though it can be a tad wearing at times ("mommymommymommymommymommymommy...."). She also loves the "where's your nose?" game, particularly the part where she gets to gouge out the other player's "eye!"

Hope all's well at your house.