Saturday, 31 December 2016

Warm Wishes from Winterpeg - Our Yearly Family Update

Photo by Photos By Brenda
Hi friends and family!

We haven't done an update in quite a while and Christmas seems like a good time for a little check-in. To bring you up to speed, after four years of med school and five years of residency, Nathan achieved board certification in both Canada and the U.S. making him an internationally qualified general surgeon

*He only made the top 4% of surgeons writing the U.S. board exams so we're hoping he'll pull up his socks.

Thanks Wikipedia.

General Surgery. The best misnomer ever. 

Never one to trust two national governing bodies, Nathan decided he needed a little more training and chose to complete an additional year of subspecialized training in colorectal surgery. For anyone wondering why someone would choose this particular field, Nathan finds the surgery interesting, technically challenging and incredibly rewarding since it has a huge impact on people's quality of life.
Image result for general surgery joke
KIDDING. Via Pinterest

Since there are only two colorectal surgeons in our home province of Saskatchewan, this summer, our family moved 783 kilometers (that's 486 miles U.S. friends) to the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba for him to complete subspecialized training. Nathan's year here is mainly focused on surgical treatment of complicated colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Plus, you can count on the fact that I have a whole ARSEnal of jokes to accompany his career choice. 
  

"He's a pain in the butt, but he's my pain in the butt. Actually, no, he's your pain in the..."  
Never mind. I'll work on that one.
Joking aside, we are so so proud of Nathan and all that he has accomplished while being our rock as an incredible dad and husband. 
 
Since we've been in our new city since July, here are few reflections on Winnipeg so far:

1. There is a lot to do. 

Is Mom walking behind us again?
From kids' activities to accessible shopping to nature walks and lakes, we have been loving Winnipeg. 

CHOCOLATE?
The people are easygoing and friendly and there are a ton of small businesses, local and thriving markets and some dang good coffee shops.

Gotta watch out for the bears, though.

2. It's Franco. 

Maman! Des fleurs!
I've heard more French in my neighbourhood than in a year out in the general public in Saskatoon. While I'm not Francophone, I love the option to use my French while getting groceries or at the park. Emily is very excited to teach Nathan French and she's been loving her preschool (shout out to the amazing staff at École Guyot). She recently informed me (after a school field trip) that French Santa is different than English Santa so she asked him for something different. She's already working this bilingual system at the age of three.

Vive le Canada!
3. Even though it's a Canadian prairie city, it's not home. 

Wanna be my friend?
It takes time to make connections and to find and forge friendships. When I look around and realize that not one acquaintance will run into me at the store, not one former student will greet me at Starbucks and when the preschool teacher gently informs me that I need a 'local' emergency contact for my child, it still feels a little lonely. On that note...


4. Good friends are awesome. 


Whether it's a coffee date at McNally's or an evening at Thermea Spa or a cross-country visit or a phone call when we are terrible at phoning, we've been so encouraged by you awesome people. You know who you are. 

Princesses. Duh.

5. Pre-booked daycare at the gym is the key to fitness. 
Ummm... you're welcome.
Alone time? Yes please. Shout out to Shapes Winnipeg for incredible classes, instructors and childcare providers my girls are excited to see. Emily cries when I come to pick her up. I'll be bench-pressing minivans by July 2017.


Here are a few of our 2016 highlights...


Nathan:

Finishing and excelling at his board exams and residency have been huge achievements for Nathan this year. Along with this new stage of life comes a little more time and a lot less stress. 

Flailing kids are so relaxing.
He loved the time he was able to spend locuming (working as a general surgeon) in the Yukon this past summer due to the variety of work, the northern lifestyle and the incredible scenery.  
 



Nathan's been enjoying this year of dedicated sub-specialized training before really and truly starting his surgical career full-time (He's been working on the weekends because a full-time fellowship is too chill for him... also rent and groceries or whatever).


He's also been able to consistently be present for church and other activities and
to spend time with the girls outside on the trails in our neighbourhood and the surrounding area.





This year, Nathan's looking forward to starting his own surgical practice and a summer family vacation road-trip with lots of hiking and although he hasn't mentioned it, I'm certain he's looking forward to his ten year anniversary with his darling wife in May.

Heads-up, sweetheart.

 
Abbie:


Following my year of maternity leave with Gabrielle, I'm on an additional year's leave from teaching and at home with our girls, Emily (age 3) and Gabrielle (18 months). The first part of 2016 was a real struggle for me with postpartum anxiety, moving and trying to find some balance between family, Nathan's focus on exams and the writing outlet I began last year. Since moving, I've calmed down a little chosen to focus on what is right in front of me in this season: our family.  

To be fair, they are fairly hard to ignore.
The second half of 2016 has been challenging and rewarding as I enjoy this bonus year at home with the girls and as Nathan and I sort out a new routine together that doesn't involve 4-6 hours of studying every evening

What's your name again?
Photo by Photos By Brenda
Two of my most memorable experiences this year were completing the incredible West Coast Trail with two of my girlfriends, Ashlyn and Lesley,

Photo by The Lost Girl's Guide to Finding the World
Photo by The Lost Girl's Guide to Finding the World
and the time I got to spend in Warman with my new niece, Natalie after she arrived in the world this last September. 


I'm looking forward to reincorporating writing into my schedule, running a few outdoor races in 2017 and maybe sneaking in some travelling time with and without the family. 
  

Emily:

Photo by Photos By Brenda

The most verbose member of our family, Emily's enjoyed gymnastics and swimming lessons this year. She's loving preschool two mornings a week but is missing her friends and family back home. Collecting miniature plastic dogs in hopes they will come to life has been a time-consuming and so far unfruitful activity for Emily, but she remains hopeful. 


This year, Emily is very much looking forward to being four because she will be able to move home to Warman, see her Grandma and Grandpa on the farm a lot more and visit Auntie, Uncle and cousin Natalie daily. She's also counting on a dog and catching up in age with her older friend, Audrey. We'll keep you posted on those two.

Photo by Photos By Brenda

Gabby:

Photo by Photos By Brenda

Gabby will charm you with her mischievous antics and sweet personality but will also empty every drawer, turn on the faucets and be sitting on the stove if you turn your back.  

Who, me?
Walking, climbing and successfully communicating in screeching decibels have been a few of Gabrielle's accomplishments this year. 
No. You come UP.
We are so thankful that she finally began sleeping through the night at 14 months and that she has been adding choice English words to her personal language. 

What?
She definitely takes after her wee Irish Granny in activity level, love of music and in her leprechaun-like height. This year, Gabrielle is looking forward to keeping up with Emily in all activities, figuring out the code on mom's phone, dismantling her carseat and reaching the snack cupboard above the fridge. 
 
Photo by Photos By Brenda

So here we are at the very end of 2016.  


We've just finished enjoying time with half our family in a B.C. style Armstrong Christmas. 

Grandpa and Granny Armstrong
The Spezowka Family!
Auntie Katie
Uncle Tim and baby Natalie
We can confidently and consistently say that God is good all the time and that He is faithful, both in the small everyday tasks and in the larger decisions affecting our family.

If you have time to pray for our family this year, we're placing our larger directions for work and location in His hands. We'd also continually take all the parenting wisdom, patience and guidance available. 


This past year, our marriage has been strengthened and while we have done less, we've done more with intent and enjoyment. I am reminded over and over of the importance of doing small things well and of not rushing everywhere. 

We've appreciated the immeasurable value of a little kindness when not quite fitting in and discovered again that joy is not found in the number of hats we wear or in success in our roles, but by being faithful and willing in our day-to-day lives right where God has placed us today. 

We'd love to keep up with you in 2017. From our family to yours, Happy Happy New Year and all the best in His hands this year.



"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

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