"journal"

Almost Groovin'

On Tuesday, the boys started school. Ever since the painful decision was made to send them to school this year instead of home school them, my feelings toward the subject had changed from being based primarily in sorrow and anguish to excitement tinged with only a little worry and self-reproach. There were days in the summer, especially up until Jude finally completed Grade 5 Math (only two weeks before September 3), when the end of the school "holiday" couldn't come fast enough.

While Jason will be driving them to school most days, as his office is nearby and his work hours begin about the same time, I drove them in on the first day to help them find their classrooms and settle in. As I finally pushed Levi's stroller back to the van, unaccompanied by any of my other children, I found myself surprisingly emotional. While I don't have the typical fears that many mothers do for their wee ones when they send them off to the first day of first grade, I still found myself grieving. After all, I usually enjoy spending time with my children, which is one of the reasons I wanted to home school in the first place. For the last ten and a half years, I have had them with me for most of the hours of my day, not only during school sessions, but also at the grocery store, post office, while having tea at a friend's, or on business trips.

Not anxious to go home to a quiet house, I decided to take my mother's mail out to their place (we share a post box, which is a long story and had a good reason for it initially, but now that they actually live in the Peace Country, it is a bit of a drive to make sure we both get our mail in a timely manner--my mother and stepfather live about thirty minutes away.) As I left town, the memory of Noah asking to listen to music in the van, which he always did almost immediately after I turned the key in the ignition, imposed itself on my brain. Sometimes I would say no, not wanting to listen to children's music or have the kids argue or complain about what we listen to (they all prefer different CDs, of course), but sometimes yes. I came to the sudden realization that I could listen to whatever I wanted, and no one would say a peep about it.

So I didn't listen to anything. A sentimental tear trickled down my cheek, instead.

Levi fell asleep in the van on the way out, so while he snoozed, my mom and I shared a cup of tea, talked over the challenges that our climate has presented to our gardens this year while we inspected her crops, and more. By the time I left, my spirits had reached a more buoyant level, Levi was awake, and by the time I got home it was nearly the lunch hour. The rest of the day seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, my other three boys were walking up the driveway with stories about their new teachers, new school, new classmates, and a ravenous appetite. (They are last off the bus at 4:40--oh, does that bring flashbacks to my own bus-riding days.)

The next three days were just as full of activity for me, but by Thursday, I was able to actually get started on my "to-do" list. (Blogging has been on that list all week, but obviously not as high as some of the other items it contained!) Beautiful Indian summer temperatures approaching 30 degrees Celsius meant I got work done both outside and inside.

Levi is much easier to keep occupied outside. Our yard is large and open, and I can see him nearly anywhere in it, no matter where I am. He loves watching the chickens in their various enclosures, or chasing the four-week-old chicks with their mama scolding furiously, or climbing on his little slide, or playing with his trucks, or chasing the cats, or cuddling with Sunshine, our Golden Retriever (who thoroughly enjoys it, too.) As a consequence, I was able to make progress on gardening, mowing, cleaning out the chicken coop, and organizing our SeaCan.

In the hot afternoons, we hung out inside. Despite the loads of work I have waiting for me in my office, I found it tricky to make time for it, and am hoping to have better luck carving time out of my schedule to get my butt into my office chair this week. Without anyone else in the house, when I am in the office, Levi is either unsupervised in the main area of the house (a bad idea, as he loves to redecorate with dirt from my plants or torment the new kitty we have in the house at the moment, or do various and sundry other activities he knows he is not allowed to do), or he hangs his arms over the baby gate to the office and whines at me for attention, which is way too distracting to actually accomplish anything over.

So, instead, I began the changeover of our living space from a "school room" to a dedicated "living/dining room."

Something else novel--when you have ALL your kids home ALL the time, it seems as though the house is ALWAYS messy. While it is nearly always more work and energy to train your children to clean up after themselves, and have them do household chores to contribute to general cleaning maintenance, we considered the short-term pain worth the long-term gain of training our children. Not to mention, I simply did not have the time or energy to do all the cleaning myself. Thankfully, a combination of lowering the standards for what I expected and not having done all the cleaning work myself allowed for much less frustration at the constant re-cluttering and re-dirtying of everything.

BUT! Now that I am here by myself most of the day, not having to spend so much of my energy with cooking two full meals a day (lunch and supper), and cleaning up after at least one of them myself (lunch), with only one pint-sized boy whose messes are easily tidied in about 30 seconds (most of the time), I felt a sudden nesting urge. In only two days, the general level of order increased about ten-fold--at least, during daytime hours. I am looking forward to increasing that exponentially in the next week.

And all the flurry of cleaning and organizing activity helps me to forget, sometimes, how quiet it is in the house.

So, changes are happening, and most of them for the good. Supper and snacks now get more of my attention and creativity, and has already resulted in healthier eating. Yay! And I am also getting to enjoy some time outside, which too often got put off as the last thing to do on my list, right down there with exercising. Now, I am combining them in my work activities.

And, for the first time, I actually get to play with my baby instead of just care for him.

It might take me a while to feel like this changeover is complete, and get me "back in the groove", but I know it will happen. And, sentimentality aside, I know it's a good thing.

Happy September, friends!

Remembering Grandpa

I never put much stock in the old "deaths come in threes" adage. Nevertheless, we will soon be celebrating the life of someone close to us for the third time this year.

Kenneth Stanley McCarty was a long-standing and involved member of his church, community, and family, but I just knew him as "Grandpa." Whenever I lose a grandparent, I always feel the keenest loss at feeling like I didn't really know much about them or their life, and that is true now, also, to a degree. However, I was fortunate enough to know him some, and I was glad of the time we spent together.

When I was a little girl, I used to love biking around Lacombe with Grandpa. He taught me how to use hand signals for safety, and the rules of the road when biking. He didn't take me as often as I wanted to go (something to do with him actually wanting to get some exercise, I'm sure), but those were still treasured memories.

Around the time I was born (his first grandchild), he went into semi-retirement and drove school bus for income. In between, he also picked up running as a hobby. By the time I was a teenager, he had a wall full of medals and trophies of all sizes, colours, and shapes. I remember watching him carry the Olympic Torch for a mile on its trip across Canada when the 1986 Olympics were in Calgary. It never occurred to me how special and unique that was until I would tell my friends that my Grandpa still ran marathons, and see the look of amazement on their faces.

Grandpa was extremely musical. When we were kids, he would serenade us with old songs from the 40s and 50s, or hymns, or gospel songs, and accompany himself on the guitar or the accordion. One of my favourite photos of us together is when I was still a baby, lying on their couch, Grandpa with his poofy red-brown sideburns and accordion, singing something or other to me.

When I was a teenager, he recorded a cassette tape of two songs for me--"The Bull Song", an oldie by Wilf Carter, and "The Teddy Bear's Picnic", another one he often sang by popular demand. He had a steady voice with good pitch. Unfortunately, that tape was in the vehicle that was stolen from me when I was in college, and was among the items never recovered.

A couple of years ago, some of my uncles, my mom,  and I were encouraging Grandpa to sing us a few songs. By that point, his memory had declined to the point that some of the words never did come to him. Between us, though, we did manage to remember most of "The Bull Song", a humourous tale of a cowboy who finds a rogue bull on the range and determines to bring him home at any cost. It's proper name is "The Riding of the Maverick", but everyone who knew Grandpa always just called it "The Bull Song".

When I reached adulthood, Grandpa seemed much more meek and timid than I remembered him. Really, he was always just kind of quiet, and that reserved nature sometimes made me unsure around him as an adult. I have one very vivid memory of him and Grandma at our kitchen table, though. They had come to visit us when Jason and I still lived in Sylvan Lake. Grandma made some remark, like she tends to do, that hinted that "Ken" wasn't living up to her expectations. For the first time (in my memory), I heard him make a rather witty comment back. She did not catch it, but I did. It was the first time I had seen him stand up to her bullying a bit, and after that, I had more respect for the man. I suddenly saw a man who maybe didn't show it most of the time, but who had loved this woman, despite her flaws, for so many years that little comments like she makes didn't concern him. They were her problem, not his. He just lived his life, anyway, doing the best he could with the cards he was dealt.

Seeing his mental and physical decline over the last few years has been hard, made worse because it seems so sudden. For a man winning gold marathon medals into his seventies to go downhill so quickly was quite shocking to me, and it was emphasized by difference between visits with my sporadic contact with him. I think he always remembered me when he saw me, but I saw the haze of confusion in his eyes for a few minutes when he saw my boys, until he put the pieces together again.

Grandpa always had a hug, and a smile, and a helping hand for those that needed it. He lived his faith, and was generous to a fault.

I'll miss you, Grandpa, but I look forward to catching up with you when we're both on the other side of the Pearly Gates. Scout out the best scenic routes--I bet biking around the Holy City will be the best memory yet.


Growth Opportunity

I've been sitting here debating about how verbose I should be about the week I've had.

I'm going with the minimalist approach--highlights only. Let's just say, Jason's been on a trip since Monday morning. Let's also mention that Jude, who is still working on finishing his Grade 5 math, has a way of turning a 45-minute lesson into an all-day affair that simultaneously involves a minor civil war. Let's discuss how my three oldest children can't seem to go for more than five minutes inside the house without fighting, arguing, or complaining, either with me or each other (both are equally wearing on me). Let's also remember that once I finally get all my kids into bed, (primarily Levi, as the others are all perfectly capable of getting themselves to bed), I have been working outside until it is too dark to see (about 11:30 p.m.), then coming inside and working in my office until my eyes refuse to see anything, which has made for way more short nights in a row than any single parent should allow themselves. And let's not forget that someone nearly ran me off the road on Tuesday (I'm pretty sure they were texting, also driving down the centre of the gravel road in the first place--WHY do people do that?!) And let's tack on that the baby seems to be having one of those weeks where he thinks that sleep is only for other, less-happening babies. And that he is now paying for that attitude with a nasty cold that descended upon him today, and which is making it even more difficult for him to sleep.

Let's finish that up by mentioning that I don't feel like I have only one raw nerve left, but that I am that raw nerve. I love my kids to pieces, but I need a break. With a capital B-R-E-A-K. It is taking all my effort not to run out the door, arms outstretched and eyes bug-eyed like a cartoon character, laughing maniacally and beating my head against a brick wall repeatedly to make it all stop.

I can't seem to get a grip on myself this week, and I feel weak and ridiculous about it--I feel like I have had a whole week of "epic failure" as a parent, and wonder what happened to that strong, self-assured woman I was the week before? Or the week before that? And how other women of my acquaintance manage to "single parent" for stretches of time quite well, without being fodder for the Funny Farm in only five days?

Okay, I knew I needed a break before this week descended on me. But I think what happened is this: if I am a tomato plant, developing strength and resistance to the pressures of wind and weather and heavy fruit to grow strong, and those pressures are the strong wills, needs, and requirements of my four children and running a household and hobby farm, then the stake that lends me support is Jason. And Jason left. Only, I haven't developed the extra strength required for not having him here to take the pressure off of me for the last several hours of every day so I can recouperate from the day's efforts. And I toppled over.

Now, my fruit is all messy and bruised, and I'm pretty sure my kids didn't remain unscathed, either. I may indulge in a cry (not for the first time this week), and some chocolate (also not the first), and maybe a chick flick and early-bedtime (that would be the first one) tonight. And I am very much looking forward to my husband's return tomorrow morning.

Lord, thank you for helping me grow stronger. Even if the process is painful sometimes. And please let Jason's work trips be over soon. Amen.

Fresh Start

I have a new goal: write a little every day.

And by "a little", I mean at least 10 minutes.

I may not always write in the same place. In fact, I can guarantee it that I won't. Sometimes it will be here on my blog, but more often than not, I am sure it will be in notes on my computer or my tablet, or in a journal (a private, pen-and-paper kind), or my songwriting notebook, or one of my other blogs. (Yes, there are multiples. All of the others I have are updated even less often than this one. Do the multiple blogs denote narcissism, or simply wishful thinking when it comes to writing time? Um... I'm going with option two.)

I find writing to be therapeutic, even cathartic, as evidenced from the stacks of hand-written journals I have in a box somewhere (created during my teen years, when I had, you know, time and stuff). And, I have noticed (and have also been told by many others who noticed the same) that it is much easier to write, and the writing is better, when it happens every day. I prove that to myself every time I look back at blog posts from, say, five or six years ago--when the posts actually made it into pixels on the World Wide Web four+ times a week rather than getting lost somewhere in the corpus callosum of my brain.

Speaking of corpus callosum, it is regenerating the long-dusty pathways of that very marvel of the human brain that is the precise reason for my new sense of purpose when it comes to writing. Why? Because somewhere in the dark and musty halls of the right hemisphere inside my skull wanders that elusive spectre that many have referred to as the Muse, but which I prefer to think of as inspiration. The problem is, in the crushing pressure of the "too much on my plate" that I have been overwhelmed by--and am finally starting to wriggle out from under--in the last several months to years, I have forgotten how to hear her.

(Aside: Henceforth, I will sometimes personify Inspiration as a woman, since that part of my brain is the source, and I am a woman. I may even refer to her as the Muse on occasion, although I have no desire to give any credit whatsoever to the Greek idea that Inspiration took the form of a tempestuous and fickle goddess. Rather, I consider inspiration to be divine, either directly from the Holy Spirit, or indirectly through the fact that God created this marvel inside our craniums, and made all of its workings wonderful, and gave us the ability to listen to (and the freedom to choose not to) the more elusive messages our right brain tries to share with us constantly. Nevertheless, as the Muse is now a term that has come to represent this inspiration, and most do not consider it to be divine in any form, let alone to be a goddess, and is SO much easier to use than explaining all the aforementioned stuff every time (and is seven letters shorter to type than "Inspiration"!), I may represent Inspiration with the word "Muse" on occasion as I muse over why my inspiration has been so sparse in the last year or two. End aside.)

I have read a book or two on brain mechanics. My brain is a little over-tired right now, which is why I know "mechanics" is not the word I was looking for, but can't think of a better one at the moment. At any rate, it is probably not news to you that our brains develop new pathways at a startling pace until we are about five years old. After that, those that do not continue to be used are essentially disconnected, and by the time we are twelve, they die-off rate is exponential. The older we get, the more difficult it is to reconnect pathways (or create new ones), but it becomes somewhat easier if we do it a lot. That includes the pathways that connect the logical left brain and the creative right brain together in the web of nerves between them. The stronger the pathways connecting these two dichotomous selves, the more easily and often we get those "Eureka!" moments that are the Creator's gift to us--moments that help fill our lives with purpose, meaning, and excitement.

I think it's only natural that the Creator gave those he designed in his image the ability to create in turn. But like the talent that was taken from the foolish servant who hid the only one he had in Jesus' famous parable, if we do not exercise our creative muscles, they grow weak and flabby and disintegrate... or rather, those neural goat tracks are abandoned for highways that are better maintained.

So, here's to repaving some roads!

... Now, I really gotta go get some sleep. :-)

Keep Moving Forward

So much time has passed since my last blog post, I find myself at a bit of a loss of where to start... which is where I've been with it for at least two weeks, and why I haven't posted before now. The overfullness of my life has continued on through May and June, but became a little more manageable with the purchase of a new dishwasher about seven weeks ago. We spent the big bucks and got a stainless steel interior, which has now saved me the additional work of de-rusting it every two months--after heavy use all this time, not a single part of the interior of the dishwasher is turning orange. Yay! Another perk of spending the big bucks is that the thing is so quiet, it is sometimes hard to tell if it is actually running. The dryer at the other end of the house drowns it out... *quiet smile*

I guess I could talk about the forest tent moth caterpillar infestation that ravaged the Peace Country this spring, and made all of our trees naked.* Thank goodness the grass is still green, because the trees make it look like January outside. Now, two weeks after the caterpillars started starving to death en masse, the trees are just starting to get a dusting of green on them again, but for several weeks, I found it depressing to look out the window. I wasn't alone.

"Poor trees," Noah sighed one day on our way into town. Where gaily-fluttering foliage should have been were wooden skeletons cobwebbed in sheets of caterpillar silk, with the occasional "cocoon tree", looking like it had managed to bud out its fluff without the benefit of leaves.

We did not have them quite as bad as some people I know, who literally had a layer over an inch thick and solid covering house, yard, and vehicles, but it was bad enough. They especially seemed to favour our south-facing front sidewalk and the corner beside our steps--which is a very difficult place to remove all the little carcasses from, and made it quite stinky there once they started dying.





Everyone say it with me: "EEEEEEEEWWWWWW!"

Once they started diminishing in numbers to something reasonable (e.g. 1/sq. ft. as opposed to 1/sq. in.), we actually managed to get our lawn mowed, and I even got the garden in. (Didn't seem to be much point in trying when the beds were covered in greenery-chomping nasties before that. Sadly, I was a little behind this spring, and hadn't got a thing in the ground before the plague hit.)

In my last post, I alluded to the fact that we had been in Sylvan Lake. We were there for Jason's grandma Joan Morrison's memorial service--a small family celebration of her life. Unfortunately, little Levi got a nasty stomach flu the night before the service. He had managed to keep a few things down for an hour or two by the time we needed to leave for the event, so I decided to go and take him, anyway. (Previously, I had been planning to stay home with him so Jason could go, at least.) All was well until I got distracted with visiting while feeding him a bottle and let him drink way more than I planned. The eruption of Mount Leviticus was epic, and folllowed by a first for Jason and me--washing our baby's hair together in the sink of the handicap washroom. :-)

Other than that, the weekend was great, and we were glad to have even a short visit with family members that we don't see nearly often enough.

After sudden jolts to a life system like adding Levi was for us, your habits and ways of doing things take a while to reconfigure themselves into something workable. But slowly, it does happen. My garden is in. The taxes aren't done, but at least progress on finishing my year-end has resumed, and taxes will hopefully be finished in the next couple of weeks. My boys are wrapping up their school subjects, with only one or two that will not be completed until sometime in July. While I still feel overwhelmed a good portion of the time, I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

This morning, the boys and I went to a registration interview at the school they will be attending in the fall. I had expected to be upset about it, but I'm really not. I feel like I am under a huge, rainy cloud of pressures and responsibilities right now, and I can look across the field of summer to see some golden-leaved autumn trees on the other side--and that's where the sun is shining. But not here. Not yet.

I find myself wondering how long it will take for my mind to slow down, for me to not feel like every moment I am awake must be a productive one? How long to revert to a time when blogging could happen several times a week (on the actual computer instead of only in my head), I could occasionally sew myself a dress over a couple of days (instead of only buying fabric that sits collecting dust in a pile somewhere), and making a scrapbook page was a healthy, self-nurturing habit, not something I only do in stolen moments--with the guilt of things not being done whispering through the window screens of my mind's art gallery all the while? I am really looking forward to that "reset", when I don't feel like my whole life is lived on a deadline... to pick up the writing course I was doing... finally go through a few other educational books I have had calling my name on the shelf for a year or several. To compose again. To not be too exhausted to go out with my friends once in a while. To spend my evenings with my husband instead of my office work.

Wow. I am really, really looking forward to that. I know it's up the road a ways, yet, so for now, I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other. 'Cause the only way to get past where you are is to keep moving forward.

Happy summer, friends. I hope the sun is shining on you.

*In light of the floods ravaging southern Alberta at the moment, I want to clarify that I mention this not by way of complaint, but posterity. I'll take caterpillars over floods any day.

The Wheel of the World Keeps Turning

I stepped through the oversized wooden doors onto plush carpets and paused. Breathing in deeply, I savoured the smell of new paper and coffee, and listened to the muted tones of contented voices chatting comfortably on overstuffed couches. The whole atmosphere oozed calm and peace... the perfect notecard for the invitation the rows of books were giving... Come in. Sit down. Read awhile.

Next to church, the bookstore may just be one of my favourite places in the world to visit. Ever since we were married, my husband and I would consider it a good date to head in to Chapters, have our favourite dessert-like coffee treat, browse through shelves as though searching for buried treasure, and leave with a few paper-bound nuggets in a crisp plastic bag, all anticipation and excitement for the adventures that would soon be ours when we delved into their pages.

As our family expanded, this has still been a great place to visit--we all find treasures when we go. As I insist on previewing children's fiction that I have not heard of or seen reviewed, I spend more of my time in the "Young Reader's" section than anything else these days... however, for the most part, I find children's fiction just as or more enjoyable than that meant for adults, as it tends to be, um, cleaner.

On Saturday, we packed up the kids and the van and drove to Sylvan Lake to spend time with our extended family and grieve Lance's passing. It was a good time of remembering, celebrating, and visiting. By yesterday, feeling drained because of the high emotions and all the visiting, we decided to spend the day in Red Deer, just the kids and us, relaxing a little. A few errands, an hour at Chapters, and a family movie at the "cheap" theatre ("Wreck-It Ralph") was a great "family date."

Now, we are ready to head home and pick up our lives again. The memorial will not be for several months, when spring weather has arrived in Alberta.

For now, life goes on. We enjoy each moment we can. And we treasure the places and moments we find peace... like at the bookstore.

Woe is Me... or not

2013 has been an interesting year so far, already stock-full of misadventures and trials.

For instance, on Sunday night, my dishwasher--which has had to be cycled manually since sometime in mid-October--finally decided it was time for retirement. Wow, I sure didn't miss dishpan hands. I felt like most of my week was spent doing dishes. No wonder people used to hire servants...

Two weeks ago, late on a Friday afternoon, I was rear-ended while stopped on the highway, waiting to turn left because of a long line of traffic. Fortunately, no one was hurt--the li'l ol' lady responsible had seen me, just too late, thanks to the low-slanting rays of sun in her eyes. So, she had slowed down, just not enough to prevent a collision.

Unfortunately, the dent she gave the hatch of my van was enough to prevent it from latching. Thus, the interior lights wouldn't shut off. Thus, my battery went dead. At -27C. And killed it completely. So we replaced it so I could get the thing to town for a damage assessment, and THAT one went dead. Which I discovered 20 minutes before the chiropractor appointment that was meant to address my mild whiplash and give a professional assessment of the state of the children (who kept insisting they were fine, I just figured I'd check.)

I felt horrible about having to cancel that appointment, but there was no other option. I was rather insulted, though, when I called to reschedule, that the receptionist would not allow me to book anything before 5:30, because "we can't have that happen again." As if I cancelled on purpose. As if I'm an unreliable person. As if I hadn't fixed the problem with the battery, despite having told her I had.

By that point, nearly a week had gone by since the collision. I had been managing the pain and inflammation in my back and neck quite nicely using essential oils and a couple of massages from my husband. I decided I definitely would not go to that chiropractor, but figured it wasn't really worth it to try and see the other one in town at that point, either. We all seemed to be doing okay.

All this pales in comparison, though, to the real trial of the last month: Jason's dad had a heart attack three weeks ago. Since then, he has been sedated in the hospital, and his health has been steadily declining. Jason spent about five days down in Calgary with his family (actually, that's where he was when I was rear-ended), then came home, as there was not much to do but sit, and wait, and worry.

The doctors kept offering the hope of recovery, despite finding new problems on what seemed to be a daily basis for a while. Until today. The hard decision was made to remove life support tomorrow, and let Lance go home to Jesus.

Of all the trials of life, death of a loved one can be the hardest. Appliances and vehicles can be replaced, health can be managed, but the presence of someone important will always be missed once it is gone.

I thank all of you who have been praying, and sending words and notes of encouragement (on Facebook and otherwise)... they have been felt, and appreciated.

And we have this hope... this goodbye is only temporary. Someday, we will see him again as we worship together at the feet of Jesus.

We'll miss you, Dad. May you be at peace.

The Great Disappointment

Ah, Monday. A whole new week to discover.

Jason was away in Vancouver for the whole of last week, taking a computer course for work. We went and got him from the G.P. airport Saturday afternoon, had a good Sunday together, and now he is home in bed with a stomach bug. I don't know what kind of evil creation can bring Jason down, and don't want to find out. He's usually the one with the stomach of iron, I'm the one who catches things like this--so I'm really hoping I don't.

The week without him was more challenging than I expected--not because he was gone, persay, although we all missed him, and my life was definitely busier (these are the parts I did expect)--but because that was the week that Noah decided to try out vandalism.

It rained, hard, for most of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On Wednesday, I had Noah's friend Q.S. here, a boy who is also home schooling, but his family is going through a tough time with health issues right now, so I've been taking him three days a week to do school at our house in order to help the family out. Q. is an interesting child with a tendency to "forget" the rules whenever it is convenient for him, and so is Noah--more like Dory on Finding Nemo--"something shiny!" they exclaim, and immediately forget about anything else. However, the two of them together are not usually a major problem. Until now.

I once received a hilarious e-mail forward about boys, and there was something in there about how a group of boys together have a lower combined I.Q. than each one individually. That was borne out last week, when Noah and Q. came in just before lunch, bragging that they had been breaking glass in the old trailer (which is still sitting a few hundred yards away in our yard, but at such an angle that I cannot easily see it from anywhere in our house, especially in the rain.) They did not think of it as "destruction of property"--until I illuminated them, that is. They were simply two boys, not thinking, having a lark, enjoying the noise and effect of shattering glass.

I haven't been that angry for a looooonnnnng time. Of all the things left on that trailer, the windows were the only thing of any real value. I had intended to take them all out and make a greenhouse with them.

On surveying the damage, I found that only four windows in the entire house remained unsmashed. The four panes in the beautiful large bay window in the front was destroyed. The only surviving windows are smaller. There is glass everywhere there, and so we have had to restrict and carefully monitor our dogs since then, as we have not yet had time to begin cleanup.

Most of the cleanup will be done by the two boys, as part of their discipline. We (our family and Q's) have initiated several other measures of discipline to really drive home how big of a deal this is, but the unfortunate part is that you can't make eight-year-olds get a job and pay back $6000 worth of damage. That is just the way it is.

However, I think that the part that will really help these boys remember is the lack of trust I now have for them, especially the two of them together. Even when Q is allowed to come back over to play (which will be some time), I will not trust them to be unsupervised by an adult or an older, more responsible child. How are they going to earn that trust back? I don't know--but it is going to take a great deal of time.

Because if a child was four, I could maybe see them not "remembering" that you don't just wreck stuff. Especially something like a house. But at eight, if you can't trust them--how does that trust get rebuilt?

Without a lecture on my parenting, I would appreciate any further insight that other experienced parents may have in dealing with a situation like this.

So... here's to a new week. Let's hope it is less exciting than the last.

Has it really been nine years?!

When I got out of the shower this morning, I could hear a little boy making shuffling noises outside the door.

"Is someone waiting for the bathroom?" I asked.

"I am!" piped up Noah.

"Okay, I'll just be a couple of minutes." I hurried through the process of drying off, wrapped my towel around myself and opened the door.

"SUPRISE!!" he shouted, holding up a drawing of a flower that he had coloured and cut out, with "Happy Mother's Day" scrawled across it.

"Thanks, buddy," I said, giving him a big hug. His ear-to-ear grin was a photo-worthy moment in itself.

That was the beginning to a day that kept getting better.

The other two boys had made Mother's Day crafts for me, too, which they sprung on me as soon as I came out to the kitchen. (Jude actually made me look around the room for his three items, one of which was a poem: "Hair like sparkeling Jewels, you say all the rules, We made these gifs for you. Like em, save em, and enjoy em. Love Jude." Tee hee!)

Jude had been up since 7:00, mixing up blueberry pancakes. He had told us last night that he would likely do so, and Jason said that was fine, just wait for him (Jason) to cook them.

So, after a huge pancake breakfast, we got into the van, dressed up and ready to go to church. Out on the road, I took a look at the clock.

"We're going to be half an hour late. We'll miss most of the service, and then there is the Mother's Day Brunch, so we'll just be eating again."

Jason thought for a moment.

"Do you just want to do church at home?"

"Yep." (I hate walking in late, and a half an hour just seems quite ridiculous.)

So, we turned around and were home about two minutes after we left. Sunshine (our Golden Retriever) greeted us like we had been gone for hours. :-)

Since we were all spiffed up, and it was a gorgeous morning, we took the opportunity to take some family photos before we went inside for our service.

During our service, Jason had each of the boys say a few things they like about their Mom (that was pretty neat for me). Then he talked about how when they start looking for a wife, one thing to consider is that she will be a good mother, and teach their children rightly. After that, they gave me their biggest surprise: a video presentation that they had all worked on together yesterday while I was out for the day, covering the last nine years in family photos in about forty minutes. It was so fun looking back on my sweet boys as they were growing up, and it was a really great gift.

I am so blessed to be a mom, and I am so thankful for the boys I get to mother.

Really, how could I resist?

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I don't know how those boys got to be so silly! (Ahem.)

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Good Ol' Days

I've been working on my "About Me" page for my new web store, and to complement it, my mom sent me some photos of me, circa 1986, enjoying our family's horses. The palamino filly (which I believe was dubbed "Blondie" while we had her) was the gray mare's foal, sired by a black stallion, believe it or not. (And YES, my pants were always too short. It seemed impossible to keep me in clothes that fit--a problem that I am now dealing with in my own tall, slim children!)

Here is the relevant excerpt from my "About Me" page:

The summer I was nine, my parents acquiesced to my pleas to let me go riding alone. We had an old dapple grey mare named Gal. Stubborn—my father made no secret that he was not overly fond of her—but she was stable, and short enough for a tall nine-year-old girl to get up on by herself. I tried to saddle her a few times, but of course, one of my parents always checked to make sure everything was snug… (Well, except that one time… but no harm done—I just learned how to slide off a horse instead of under the belly with the rig.)

That summer on top of Gal was full of magical memories. I took miles-long, hours-long rides all over the surrounding countryside (most of which was owned by relatives, so I guess my folks weren’t too worried), all by myself. Riding a horse became my first taste of independence, of freedom—and all the magic that had only lived inside my head until then seemed absolutely real. Gal was old, and grey, and kind of pudgy, but in my mind I was atop a brilliant silver unicorn, and we were dancing through woods filled with faery kind.



And when do you get to see the actual page, complete with a functioning store? Soon...

But not yet.

Out With the Old...

Sewing was the first handicraft I fell in love with.

Yes, my grandma had taught me to knit and crochet at about the age of 5, so I knew how to do both already, but that work was slow, and finicky, and beyond my young attention span.

When I was nine and my brother seven, my parents (like all good Canadian parents do*) put him into hockey. I was a little peeved that I didn't get to "do anything" (I was really angling for ballet lessons, but for reasons I now understand, that wasn't about to happen), so my mom made a deal with me that she would give me sewing lessons.

I had always been fascinated with sewing. My mom and her mom both did a lot of it, and I had seen them make the most beautiful bridesmaids gowns, and dresses for me that made the best twirly dresses with full skirts down to my ankles. (I was the first granddaughter, so I got spoiled from both machines). Other than things sewn directly for me or received as birthday gifts, all of my clothes were hand-me-downs. I didn't have a problem with that, but when I was offered the chance to learn how to make my own clothes, I jumped at it.

For my first real project, I chose a jumpsuit (for you Brits, that is not a sweater, but a bibbed coverall) and made it out of black corduroy.

Mom had let me start on making Barbie clothes (though I'm not sure why--probably to waste less fabric if I screwed up, but anything that small is way harder than normal people clothes!) When I was quite young, she would let me stand beside the machine and take out the pins as she was sewing seams. So by the time I started on the jumper, I was not intimidated. Also, it was a good start on learning how to match fabric and to keep the grain straight when cutting out. I was so excited, and managed to finish them in a few weeks. I had planned to use them as my "Christmas" outfit that year--except I broke and dislocated my arm a few days before Christmas, and ended up spending it in the hospital. Oh, well! I still had the coveralls. The good feeling I got from knowing I made it myself (with my mom's help, of course!) was addicting, and I never looked back.

(Aside: When I actually took Home Economics in Grade 8, I was a little dismayed that we were expected to do a pair of boxing shorts or a tie as our "first" project. I had purchased a pattern and blue taffeta for my first fancy dress long before the sewing unit came up, which dismayed my teacher more than a little. After my mom had a talk with her and reassured her that not only could I do it, I could do it without any help, she "let" me do it as my project, and even let me work on it at home. After three days, I was finished, and got to read novels for the remaining two weeks of the sewing unit. End aside.)

Husqvarna sewing machine

My mother's machine was a sturdy Husqvarna that had been given to her as a gift from her mother when she graduated from high school. And later, she gave it to me as a graduation gift.

That machine sewed my first project. It sewed my first gown and my prom dress. It sewed my wedding gown, and a wedding gown for a friend. It sewed dresses for myself, my friends, pants that fit (something that became crucial as I continued to stretch skywards), clothes for my children, costumes, quilts for friends' babies, and more. I took it to college with me, where it adorned one wall of my bedroom.

And then, about a year and a half ago, the gears started stripping. The longer the stitch I set it on, the worse it was. Our local "sewing machine doctor" (the male half of the couple that owns the local fabric store--a very senior gentleman who tinkers with sewing machines in his spare time) couldn't do anything about it, and said it was too old to get parts for.

Dismay, this time at the fact that I was without a sewing machine for the first time in my life!!

When she heard of my plight, my friend L gave me a Pfaff Hobby machine of hers that she no longer used. The first project I made on it was a pair of fluffy flannel pajamas for Jude. When I went over the flat-felled crotch seam (about 6-8 layers of fabric), something in the machine growled fiercely at me, and it was broken. The good doctor wasn't able to do anything about this one either. (I think it might be fixable at a Pfaff store, but we don't have one of those here.)

So, I started saving my pennies for a fancy, new machine that can do embroidery, but with our very expensive summer last year, those pennies seemed to keep getting misplaced into other projects.

As the December holidays approached, though, I really started to feel the absence of a sewing machine. Yes, there is always knitting (which you all know I now LOVE), but there are some things that just need to be sewn. I started thinking that maybe all I really need right now is something functional, not fancy.

Then, my in-laws gave me $100 to spend at Sears for Christmas. And my friend Colleen told me about a machine she had heard about that Sears has that is only about $300, and pretty good, too. And when I went looking for it, I found out that the very well-reviewed machine was indeed there, and on sale for only $200, but the sale was ending that night. So I bought it, of course.

And when it came, I found out that it has pink on it. How great is that?!! (I have to glory in areas of femininity when I can, you know.)

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So, I quickly went stash-busting to find a quick project to make that would test the capabilities of this new machine. I discovered that there have been some pretty nifty new inventions in sewing machine technology in the last fifty years. (I'm in love with the automatic buttonholer.) Here is the vest I made first, using some fabric rescued from some horrible curtains and vintage buttons from my Grandma's stash (the weird crop is to spare you a view of my armpit):

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Now I am working on a linen-and-lace peasant top of my own design:

Linen Peasant top

And you already know about the Angry Birds.

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Ah... a sewing machine is back in my life. All is right with the world again... (Okay, maybe not, but that certainly helps me cope!! :-D)

*Jason and I have sworn off hockey, as it is the most expensive, time-consuming sport available--so I guess we are the bad Canadian parents!

Festival of Dedication

We have been celebrating Hanukkah for three or four years, now, but after this year, it holds more meaning than ever. That can be attributed to the wonderful information we found in an eBook I got last year in a newsletter from First Fruits of Zion called "Light in the Darkness". (I'd link to it, but can't seem to find it on the site--must have been a one-time thing.)

As we celebrated the eighth night of Hanukkah tonight, we had all gained a deeper appreciation of how lighting the hanukkiah (the Hanukkah menorah) represented the Light of the World, Jesus Christ--for the Temple menorah was also known as the Light of the World. We understood that we were choosing to rededicate the temples of ourselves to be a light to those around us, and to stand for truth and share God's love with others. And we understood how God had helped his people in the events that led to the Hanukkah festival, and that a Great Miracle Happened There.

And by the end of the week, the kids were almost able to remember the name of Antiochus IV, the Seleucid general who defiled the temple and murdered so many Jews in the first place! (Maybe next year will be better! :-D)

(I accidentally broke our home-made clay hanukkiah on the third night, so we improvised with tea lights for the rest of the week. Oh well, it worked--and was less messy, too!)

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Happy Hanukkah, friends!

Nine

Last Thursday, my firstborn turned nine.

As usually happens whenever one of my children has a birthday, I tend to have a bit of emotional wrenching as my memory juxtapositions images of them in my arms on their very first day breathing air on the "big boy" faces that are now before me. However, the advantage of the now is that instead of holding a beautiful, mysterious ball of potential that was in all ways completely selfish and which I adored unconditionally anyway, I now get to see potential in various stages of realization. It is quite exciting, really.

So, to celebrate the start of one more spin around the sun for you, Jude, here are nine things I can see in you right now:

  1. You have a servant's heart. You love to help your dad and me, and you look for ways to serve your friends. I was recently thrilled to hear your teacher praising you in this area, and for you to sheepishly volunteer how you had been cleaning your friend's desk while he was away.
  2. You are so intelligent. You learn quickly, and your visual learning style allows you to excel in school. This strength is a blessing you will appreciate even more as the years go by.
  3. You love to learn. At home, you spend much of your free time researching strange facts or reading books about animals. I still hear phrases that begin with "Mom, did you know...?" fairly frequently. And you know what? Sometimes I didn't know! :-D
  4. You are so creative. You are always coming up with fun little projects to do, although you don't always finish them. However, most of the time you do (I know you'll get that papier maché volcano done one of these days!) and it is so great to see you entertaining yourself and learning at the same time.
  5. You are learning to think--to analyze, check out what's going on, figure out the situation. Sometimes, I get frustrated that you don't do this as well as I'd like, but I need to remind myself that you are only a young boy, and don't have the life experience to always understand what certain things mean.
  6. You show love by spending time. Your dad and I have known this about you for years, but it still touches my heart that even if I only carve out a small part of my day to spend with you, it still means so much to you. You are really enjoying your morning rides to school with Daddy for this reason, too.
  7. You love to read. You went through all 28 "Magic Treehouse" books that I brought out in mid-August in less than two weeks. You love reading fiction and non-fiction alike. You are currently working on Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I recently read that "One cannot open a book without learning something." Keep it up, buddy. No wonder you are so smart!
  8. You love to organize. You regularly organize your room, and I have been thrilled to see that making your bed in the morning is becoming a habit. Just you wait--you'll be organizing your movies alphabetically and your shirts by colour before long, too! (Actually, I would just be happy if you started organizing your shirts at all! How come that part of the character trait hasn't kicked in, yet?)
  9. You can be a bit bossy. However, if you can channel that by learning how to use people skills, and in combination with your many other positive traits such as compassion, creativity, intelligence, and a heart of service, you will become a great leader someday. We all lead by example to someone--and I am so glad to know that you are already spreading an example that is worth following.
I just keep loving you more, little man. I can hardly wait to see what the next year will bring!

Not Quite Half Full

"I guess I just prefer to see the dark side of things. The glass is always half empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth." 
- Janeane Garofalo 
"The tongue is ever turning to the aching tooth." - Benjamin Franklin

Last night, I chipped a tooth. And for reasons that I am trying to fathom, it has totally sent me for an emotional loop.

I have personally known three people in the last year who have chipped their teeth. These people were all a generation ahead of me, ergo, their teeth had seen much more wear and tear than mine. I could tell it affected them, and I empathized with the annoyance that having a sharp something in your mouth must be. But I figured it was only natural that eventually, this happens to teeth (especially those continually exposed to our refined Western diet, even in limited quantities). And I knew their inconvenience would only last until they could get to a dentist.

But now that it is my mouth, and my tooth, why can't I be as rational? Why am I so upset about it?

I have never had any problems with my teeth before. Blessed with good genetics and good nutrition early in life, I have never had a cavity, and the worst problem I occasionally endure is teething because my wisdom teeth have not fully emerged. (I was teething wisdom teeth while Jabin was teething his one-year molars--believe me, though the pain made me grumpy, I had loads of empathy for the little guy. I think he handled it better than I did.) They are also slightly out of alignment with the rest of my teeth, so I try to be extra-careful that food does not get caught in them. However, I recognize that someday I may have to have them removed.

But this is different, maybe because it was so unexpected. I think that, deep down, I believe it shouldn't have chipped. That's part of it. I wasn't eating anything hard, only pizza. Homemade, "healthful pizza", at that. For crying out loud, I ground the flour myself! Which means that my tooth (and probably more than one) must have some structural integrity issues. Which means I need to change.

I guess I had believed that the healthier-than-the-average-bear diet that I try to follow would help me keep my teeth to a ripe old age, undamaged. The link between teeth and internal health (especially your heart) is fairly well-known, and I wanted to believe that I was doing all I could to keep myself healthy, without having to go to extremes.

But now, I'm not so sure. And am I doing all I can for my children? I don't know. Jabin's lower jaw, which I once thought had plenty of room to fill up, is starting to look a little crowded...

One chipped tooth has filled me with self-doubt. Ridiculous, I know. But just like my tongue cannot stop worrying at the broken remains (and, in all honesty, most of the tooth remains--it was a tiny piece that came off, only a flake), my mind cannot stop worrying that maybe I need to make more dramatic changes to my lifestyle and diet. And I don't want to. I have done "dramatic" for short periods, and it is a serious pain in the arse, for reasons mostly having to do with the convenience of both myself and friends that may ever want to entertain our family. Mostly me, though. Can't what I do now just be enough? the petulant three-year-old in the back of my mind whines.

The final straw is that, after a summer that has been especially rough on our emergency fund, I know that there is nothing I will be able to do to change it right away. There is no trip to the dentist's chair in my immediate future for a "Band-aid fix." Only twenty-four hours later, and the tip of my tongue is already raw. How long until it is worn flat by use? And is the rest of the tooth about to crumble?

I know I'm making too big a deal out of it. And I'm really trying to get a grip. But this is my blog--it's where I get to vent (within limits, I realize). And I guess I was hoping that typing this out would help me "get over it."

One of those others who chipped their tooth recently claimed that this has been "the summer of her discontent." I'm beginning to feel the same. Not really--for the most part, I am not discontent. And when I think of Job, that amazing man who lived so many thousands of years ago, and lost so much, including his livelihood and children within only a few days, and still blessed the name of the Lord, I think that I must still have a long way to grow. When he also lost his health in a severe and painful way (body covered by painful boils), he finally started to question God.

It would definitely take a lot more than a major move, a few gardening setbacks, and a chipped tooth to make me question the God who is my Rock--but apparently, that is enough to make me question myself.

All I can say is, whatever it is I am supposed to be learning this summer? I wish I would just get it over with!

Angels Among Us

"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. 
An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
- G. K. Chesterton

Last Sunday night, I grafted the toe on the first of a pair of socks destined to grace Jabin's footies, wove in the end, and immediately after I clipped the yarn I noticed that when I had turned the heel, I had managed to skip about 8 stitches, leaving about an inch of yarn running straight across the bottom of the heel in a most inconvenient manner. Non-knitters may wonder how I managed to do that, but the technical explanation will leave you glassy-eyed, so just trust me that it can be done. This was actually the second sock in a row I had managed to do this magic trick on, but the first time, I caught the mistake after only a few rows. This time, I was finished the sock. Deep down, I knew that the only way to really fix this problem was going to be to frog ("rippit, rippit") it back to the offending row and re-do the last few hours of work. Grumpily, I tossed it aside.

I thought of that sock a lot yesterday. I wished I had it with me to ease the tension, or (more like) the boredom, I was experiencing on my current "adventure".

You see, the day before as I left the house for a day of shopping and errands in Grande Prairie, I looked at my long, long list and the thought crossed my mind to bring my knitting. What would be the point in that? I wondered. I never have time to knit on an "errands day" anyway, especially one in G.P. So I left it at home.

By that night, as I was trying to wind down in the holiday trailer belonging to the couple we had bought our new home from at their farm near Teepee Creek (about forty-five minutes from G.P.), I was wondering what normal people did when they had nothing to do. And by "normal", of course, I mean "those who aren't obsessive-compulsive knitters". I wondered about it even more yesterday, as I twiddled my thumbs around the town of Sexsmith, waiting for my van to be repaired so we could finally go home. Had I only thought to bring my knitting, I could have finished those socks today, with no guilt for the amount of hours taken away from renovating to do it! I lamented.

As it was, the kids and I got well acquainted with the one-horse town of Sexsmith before the van was repaired and we were on our way at 4:30. Also, I texted to Jason a lot! :-D

See, I had been going to check on the addition (which is still at the previous owners' old farmyard) and to get the pantry shelves for my kitchen which I knew were leaning against the wall of the storage room there. On the way back toward the highway, I was squinting into the sun, low in the west, when I hit a huge mound of gravel on the road which had been squished up by the large trucks that often travelled there. A mile later, my van completely overheated, binging at me wildly. Sure enough, that gravel had blasted my fan belt in two, and it was now firmly wrapped around my water pump and alternator and was visible hanging from the bottom of my van from twenty feet away.

Fortunately, I knew that the folks we had bought our trailer from lived in a family farmhouse they had just inherited, and it was only a few miles away. In fact, I had seen their pickup truck in the hay field next to the addition when I had stopped there, so I knew they were around. God allowed my phone call to get through, despite the spotty cell phone service where I was parked, and Karen was soon on her way with Barry to rescue me.

Did they ever  (rescue me, I mean)--for a couple we barely know, who owe us no favours, they went beyond the extra mile. Karen took my kids back to their house while Barry and I did a "farmer-tow" of the van back to the yard where the addition is. Then we headed over to their house so I could update Jason and decide what to do. By then, B&K had offered to let us sleep in the holiday trailer, and were already brainstorming about the closest tow truck and mechanic.

In the morning, to save us the nearly $300 it would have cost to get a tow truck out of G.P. to haul us to Sexsmith, they borrowed a car-hauler trailer from their neighbour, and Karen took us to town herself, to the mechanic that Barry had arranged for first thing. This was after a full, farm breakfast, and on a day with plenty of haying still to be done (the rain has pushed the whole season quite late, this year).

Honestly, I wasn't really stressed out about the whole thing at any point. As I told Karen on the way into town, "This isn't the most exciting adventure I've ever had..." Maybe it is because of the fact that I have been in far worse pickles, and things have always ended up okay, that this seemed more like a little unplanned adventure than anything else.

So what did I learn from this particular adventure? I mean, besides the fact that there are still really kind and generous people in the world?

Never leave home without my knitting again, of course!

(The next "Suddenly Busy" update will be coming "soon"--I promise! *heh, heh*)