Christmas 2017

It’s hard to believe it has already been a year, and it’s hard to believe it has only been a year as well, since…last Christmas!

At Christmas time last year, we had just finished our first week in our current home.  After receiving notice from our previous landlady in mid-November 2016 that her son was going to move back in to the house, we were blessed to be able to find a new place within 2 weeks for the same rent and more space! Thankfully Earl’s mom was with us at that time, which enabled us to get packed up a lot more quickly than we would have otherwise, and Charlotte’s mom and brother, as well as a horde of our friends showed up on Moving Weekend to help us with the transition.  So, needless to say, Christmas last year was a bit of a whirlwind of boxes and therefore no Christmas cards or letter were sent, as we settled into our now much-loved new place.  Even though we really loved our old place, our current home is on the agricultural land reserve in Burnaby, comes with about half an acre of land, a surprise bounty of fruit-producing plants, and a chicken barn which may have clucking residents earning their keep come spring!  As a result, we call our home the Farm House.

But I am getting ahead of myself by talking about fruit…we moved in the middle of December when the Vancouver area was covered in snow and we had a blast enjoying the snow in our backyard with a sled we inherited from a previous tennant.

Winter was a slow settling in for us, and, as the snow melted, the beginning of another new garden (Almeida Christmas Letter 2015).  We were able to salvage some compost and transplant some rhubarb and jersulam artichokes from our old house but had to start from scratch on most things. This time, Earl had a much better handle on what he was doing, so he lined up 7 truckloads of free woodchips, trunk-fulls of collapsed cardboard boxes to go under the wood chips to keep the weeds down, and other odds and ends he discovered here and there, so that by springtime, we had a few different beds for vegetables, as well as several cold frames and a new compost bin Earl constructed out of found lumber (yay for free stuff!).  In fact, in this new place, Earl has discovered he enjoys building things out of wood.  As a result, he has acquired a pretty decent collection of power tools to work with, and Charlotte has her requests for shelves fulfilled pretty quickly!  It helps that we live next to an orchid greenhouse that often has several pallets available for the taking and we have a property with plenty of projects available to be done.  Suriya has been a great little helper when called upon as well!  As you can see in the pics below, she loves to ride in the wheelbarrow, testing out the new compost frame and assisting with projects and yard work.

In March, the newest member of our family, Darien Bram Almeida, was born in another home birth.  He was a relaxed newborn and slept and nursed so well that he is now a rather large 9 month old, who has been crawling for months, and is looking like he’ll walk pretty soon! Darien is calm, affectionate, and totally in awe of his big sis. Suriya, has grown to really love her brother and be a great big sister and mom helper, in spite of the fact that she had been hoping for a girl!  She has even become a mom to her own collection of stuffed animals and dolls and is often changing their diapers, putting them to sleep or carrying them around in a carrier like her mother, as you can see below.

We were grateful to have lots of help in the first couple of months after Darien’s arrival as Oma and Opa (Charlotte’s parents) came for a few days, followed by Charlotte’s brothers and sister-in-law.  In April, Grandma (Earl’s mom) came for a month to help out, followed by Grandpa for two weeks at the end of May.  We always enjoy hosting family and really appreciated all of their help.  And as much as they missed being around the kids after they went home, I think they were also happy to get a break from all the work we asked them to do while they were here!

In early Spring, we started to realize the bounty of fruit we might receive from our property.  A large strawberry patch in front of the house gave us an abundance of strawberries in June, then, bowls full of Rainier cherries from the tree in our backyard kept us busy on the Canada Day long weekend in July. By mid-summer, it was baskets upon baskets of sweet purple plums from a large tree in the front yard.  We lost a few branches of that tree in the Spring due to some heavy winds but still had more plums than we knew what to do with.  And finally, we cut bunches of grapes from the vines over our chicken yard (and also 3 times from the yard of our generous neighbours across the street!).  Thankfully, Charlotte had the foresight to borrow her Oma’s dehydrator, as we would never have been able to fit all that fruit in the freezer! Which then lead to us purchasing our machine.  There have, of course, been several late nights preserving fruit, as having a newborn, as well as an active 2-½ year old, doesn’t exactly lend itself to concentrated periods of pitting/peeling/slicing/juicing/canning/dehydrating, but we made it work.  We were thankful to have a good sleeper on our hands with Darien who slept through the night at 2 months of age.  How we miss those days now!

The rest of our summer was taken up with Earl working and Charlotte taking the kids to the park, as we had such beautiful weather this year! One night a week we met up with a few families from our church for a picnic dinner, which was a lovely way to enjoy the summer. In addition, our church enjoyed weekly gatherings at the park as well (as we have for the last 3 summers), which is always something we look forward to and enjoy! And of course, the weekly softball outings continued just like the last few years, where Earl plays, and the rest of the family cheer him on/play in the park nearby/enjoy a picnic on the bleachers.

And what would summer be without our 5th annual trip to Vancouver Canadians baseball game?! With enough family and friends along to qualify for a group rate, we had lots of eager hands to help entertain the kids!

This past year we discovered we enjoy hosting people for breakfast, and to date, we’ve had two Pancake Parties, the first for Pancake Tuesday just before the season of lent, and the second of which was held as an open house outdoors in August, and had 50 people attend! Earl flips the pancakes, Charlotte watches the kids and makes sure the condiments are stocked and the coffee is hot… We’ve realized it’s a fun way to connect with people in all our circles, and do something that’s just a little out of the ordinary.

The end of the summer and much of the fall found our guest bedroom getting a lot of use, as we hosted more family and friends, including Charlotte’s parents and some of her siblings, a cousin from the Netherlands (Eva), and new friends from Switzerland as they were passing through town on a world trip.  Technically, they actually stayed in their RV parked in the ample space in our yard, and not in our guest room.  We find we really enjoy those longer visits with old and new friends… it allows for deeper conversation, and lots of chill playtime with the kids!  Our Swiss friends left a lasting impression on us as they taught us a singing prayer that we now sing before almost every meal.  Suriya has really taken to it and Darien is slowly starting to clap along.

In October, Earl changed careers.  He had a great 5 years providing digital marketing services to small businesses with RevLocal, and while there are quite a few things that he will miss, it was time for him to move on to something different.  He was called by a recruiter in the summer and now he is working with Cintas, selling deep cleaning services to bigger businesses.  It has been a bit of an adjustment for our family as Charlotte and the kids definitely see Earl a lot less now that he isn’t able to work from home as much.  Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Earl though, is that he needs to wear a necktie every day!

In November we went on our much anticipated trip to visit Earl’s parents in Toronto and attend his 20 year high school class reunion. And although Suriya was so excited to spend her birthday on the airplane (with an unexpected visit to the cockpit upon our arrival!), perhaps the biggest highlight of the day for her was the blue birthday cake that was waiting for her at Grandpa’s house! We spent a relaxing 9 days in Toronto visiting with family and playing with the kids.  And although there wasn’t any snow at the time in Toronto, we found some to play in when we went up to visit Charlotte’s Uncle Nick and Aunt Dora in Thornton, about an hour or so north of the city. 

December has been a relatively quiet month but we enjoyed a short visit from Oma and Opa where we enjoyed a nice trip to the Burnaby Village Museum Christmas Display and Suriya was excited to ride the up and down horse now that she was 3 (her words).  With family travel plans scheduled for other times, we are excited to spend Christmas at home just the 4 of us and start some of our own traditions.

We wish you and your family all the best this Christmas.  Our hope for you is a lovely, relaxing Christmas, and a fresh encounter with Jesus in the New Year.

Peace and love,

Earl, Charlotte, Suriya, and Darien

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