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Saturday, 27 October 2007

Gobble this up!

Our family is expanding yet again… New additions consist of wild turkeys raised by a family nearby over the summer. Apparently these things played with their kids and are quite friendly. Duane brought Mina and me out to meet them on October 23rd. The intro went something like this: “Ladies, this is Road Runner & Angel. Daisy is still up in a tree but will be joining us when the previous owner catches her.”

In a tree?? I didn’t know these things could fly! Or perhaps it is more of a propelled leap? The goats were rather curious about their new pen-mates. There hasn’t been any incessant gobbling (is that a word?) so I’m trusting that peace is maintained amidst the animals.

My previous experience with wild turkeys was back in St-Norbert. There was a flock of them roaming about the outskirts of the city. I would notice them (from a distance) now and again on my walks down the dirt road. One day I drove by and stopped to view them across the street. My window was down and I decided to “communicate” with them. I began my interpretation of “gobble, gobble” only to discover one turning around and racing towards my door. My eyes widened in panic as the turkey seemed to be outpacing my electric window. Luckily the window went up enough to deter the sudden pecking attempts. I have no clue what I said to them, but clearly it was not well received.

So far, Road Runner, Angel and Daisy seem to have far better temperaments! I introduced Anika to them this morning and they didn’t attack me when I attempted a “gobble-gobble”. Phew. Duane thinks we will be “gobbling” them up by next Thanksgiving… sigh.

Until then, we are enjoying their unusual presence and funny awkward walking motions. Never a dull moment here on the Vaags Funny Farm!

Friday, 26 October 2007

"I see" said the blind man to the deaf man on the phone

Hee hee hee… okay, so I’m still chuckling about this despite the fact the incident occurred nearly a month ago. Duane and I were driving the girls to school in the morning and rush hour was crawling by painfully. It was one of those days where a snail could pass by on the sidewalk, then traffic would move and you’d pass the snail, then traffic stops and you sigh to see the snail pass you yet again… you know what I’m talking about, right?

Well, we’re being rather patient and Mina is in the far back seat of the van when suddenly this guy in full body spandex on rollerblades goes whipping past us with ski poles… there was that moment of stunned silence and I asked, “what the heck was that? And what is up with the ski poles?”

And Mina being her ever compassionate and wise self suggested:

“Mom, I think that was a blind person.”

Duane and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. So there you have it, beware the blind man in spandex rollerblading at dangerously high speeds with only his ski poles to guide him… LOL!!!! Mina Bina, you are too funny!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

My pot of gold

Driving home with the girls from school was delightful despite the ominous clouds far East in the distance. Where we were, the sky was a gorgeous blue. I love those moments where it seems as though two worlds are colliding: happy blue vs lurking doom. As we got closer to home, a rainbow appeared and would you believe that it looked like it ended right on our farm?? Wow! This of course reminded me of a childhood memory which tickled my thoughts and left me smiling...

I remember a rainy day on the farm in Ste-Anne and the sun's pathetic attempt at shining through the clouds now and again. I must have been about five years old. I had looked out the back window and saw a rainbow. It looked so close that I asked my father if we could go in the blue truck and find the end of it.

Without hesitation, he stepped away from his farm work and off we went in search of the pot of gold I was sure we would find. "Go this way… no that way. Okay, keep going this way..." On and on we went and I couldn't understand why it seemed like the rainbow kept running away from me.

I don't remember how long we drove around, but my father never once shattered the hope in my eyes by explaining the reality of rainbows. He let me dream and believe in something that reached beyond reality to discover within myself that I should always chase the never lose sight of that pot of gold.

I was discouraged when we got back home, but the impression I was left with was that I could try harder next time. And the importance was that I had tried at all.

I am grateful to my father for having let me be me. I am grateful to rainbows for representing so many things in my life. And I am grateful to have discovered that it has always ended within me, that my pot of gold is my dreams and hopes for this world. But most of all, I am grateful for the Son for knowing just how to light up this world to bring out the true colors of life.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

"I love you forever" moments

Anika was scooting around in her walker this afternoon and found herself mostly near Izzy. I was working in the kitchen and would peak around the corner now and again to make sure she hadn’t pulled all the cd’s down nor the books from the bookshelf and to make sure she wasn’t trying to pull off Izzy’s glasses again. She is always bright eyed and happy to explore her surroundings.

At one point, I heard her saying “hi, hi, hi” and one peek showed she was next to Izzy who was smiling right back at her. I chuckled to myself and continued working. Several minutes passed and I hadn’t heard Anika’s walker squeaking around so I checked yet again.

My heart caught in my throat…

There was Anika next to Isabel, the two of them watching Izzy’s movie… and they were holding hands! Several minutes passed and I had to fight back the tears. It felt like the most sacred little moment between two sisters who could not speak and yet seemed to understand each other in their silence.

It was breathtakingly beautiful and I will never forget that image.

The rest of the day was busy and while Mina was watching Anika, she yelled out “Mom! She’s crawling!” Sure enough, our baby girl could shuffle a few steps on her own.

To top it off, last week she started saying “ma-ma-ma-ma”. I tell you, with every monthly birthday, she suddenly reaches several hurdles seemingly overnight! She is incredibly bright… such as her problem solving skills with the fridge magnets!

In hopes of keeping her somewhat occupied (and not ruffling thru the garbage again) I placed some animal fridge magnets within her reach. Luckily they are difficult to grasp and therefore believed to remain on the fridge and not in Anika’s mouth (which is where everything else goes!). Would you believe the little stinker slid them down and over to the edge of the fridge with enough force that they stuck a little off the side… just enough for her fingers to grab hold and… you guessed it… place in her mouth. She’s nearly destroyed all of them!

That does it, I am no longer going to take Cod Liver Oil to feed her developing brain! She’s too smart already!! Pray for guidance (and patience) that I may guide these gifts and talents appropriately. I don’t ever want to “snuff out” the light of her gifts because they mean more work for me. I want to embrace this as she grows and becomes the brilliant woman I know she will be one day. Oh my baby darling Anika… where does the time go?

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Summer come and gone!

I am finding myself shaking off the remnants of another summer come and gone to welcome all too soon the crackling of fallen autumn leaves and a sudden crispness in the air. The weather itself seems undecided between these two worlds of seasons… one day is warm enough for a T-shirt while the next requires a sweater along with the welcomed goodness of a hot beverage in your hands. It seemed like yesterday when I was looking out our kitchen window watching the trees burgeon with new leaves. Then one morning I awoke to the trees masquerading in yellow majestic gowns to discover the next morning that they were now humble and bare. Witnessing time escape can certainly make one feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things!

Another harvest has also come and gone. We lost a majority of our oats due to excess moisture so Duane has been busy this fall with ditching the fields in preparation for proper drainage in the next few years to come. I am amazed at his uncle’s innovative contraption which reminds me of a massive snow blower… but for mud! Sometimes I think men get to play with cool machines! But then I see Duane spend a majority of his time fixing them and I think “maybe it’s not so fun afterall.”

Among the harvests this year was our little garden that Duane’s father so graciously tended to on our behalf. (He is still recovering from his stroke so continued prayer on your part is much appreciated.) Duane and I had never planted zucchini, spaghetti squash nor pumpkins before so we figured several plants of each would be a good way to start… No one warned us these creeping vines would take over the garden and multiply like crazy! We have an abundance of pumpkins and now I am on the mad hunt for pumpkin pie, cookies, muffins, bread, pudding and soup recipes. Any suggestions send them my way! If any of you would like some, come on over! Mélina and Duane plugged away at collecting our ample supply.

This was my first year having my very own garden and I couldn’t help jumping up and down and giggling like crazy every time I’d walk into the garden to see an abundance of vegetables growing right before my eyes! My very own produce store… within walking distance, too! The beets are so beautiful when you’ve peeled them to uncover a rich burgundy that could put any king’s most luxurious cloak to shame. And Duane’s open pollinated purple corn revealed intricate detail and colour in each and every kernel. How breathtaking!

Farm life continues to be just as ample in life lessons as it is in its harvests. Sometimes I think even more so! The art of attachment to cute fuzzy little animals is slowly being flushed down the drain as I’ve watched nature be all too cruel in its saying “survival of the fittest.”

Mama duck abandoned the rest of her eggs after four hatched. Only one is left alive. Consequently, “Duckie” remains the only duckling name to be used.

Of all the kittens born (7 litters of 4-5 kittens each), only a few are left. I have learned to be careful what I pray for because I had prayed that God help us “take care” of all the extra cats without having to “dispose” of any of them… a rampant feline disease answered that prayer… (sigh). Next time I will be more specific and ask that we find homes for all of them!

Caring for the chickens was fun, for the most part. Watching them pool near the door when I would greet them in the morning and then spill over each other in a clucking frenzy to get outside was always amusing. Collecting the eggs in random hidden spots made it feel like an Easter egg hunt every day. Even the shapes were unique: one hen always laid some warped egg that never fit in any cartons (that must hurt on a daily basis!) while another always laid a long narrow one, another was pointy and another had a very bumpy texture. Who knew they could differ so much? Our brown hens stopped laying despite my threats to make soup out of them. Chicken à la King, here we come! At one point, I would sing to them every morning and sure enough within weeks, they went from laying 15-18 eggs to 23-25! Then they dropped down to 8-10 eggs a day when things got cold (or my singing got worse?). At least my children don’t complain!

Speaking of children, Anika has developed by leaps and bounds (almost literally) these last couple of months. As I type this, she is roaming about in her walker (yes, I know they are outlawed) pulling down my cds because she’s already taken down every book from the bookcase… now I hear her ruffling through the bathroom… (sigh). Perhaps I should be thanking the Lord that she cannot walk yet?

On October 5th, she decided to master the art of sitting up from lying on her tummy and then back on all fours. She cannot crawl yet but instead manoeuvres her way around using a move similar to “the worm”.

On September 22nd as Melina and Duane were heading out the door to Mina’s gymnastics, Anika decided to wave bye-bye from my hip. I guess she’s seen me do it countless times and finally decided to join in. This has been followed this past week by her saying “Hi” and waving to nearly everyone and everything she sees. And when she’s quite enthusiastic about seeing you, she waves with BOTH hands.

Those busy hands have figured out yet a few more signs including “all done”, “diaper”, “eat” and “more”. I routinely get her to either turn the light on when entering a room or turning it off when leaving so she has that down to an art. Her little hand will pull back and reposition until she’s got it right and then she pushes the switch accordingly. Too smart!

I continue to delight in witnessing her grow and discover the world. Cuddles are becoming more frequent as are kisses. Last night, she actually said Ma-ma… but we’ll see if that was coincidence or if we’re finally on to something here. The weather was nice enough these last couple of weeks to enjoy daily walks together (which she lived for!). Outdoors continues to be her favourite place. She can spot the quad from a mile away particularly since I took her on a very slow little ride to find Papa one day. Her little hair blowing in the breeze and her little legs kicking in sheer excitement.

It amazes me what can be understood between two people without any words. Her love and fascination for her big sisters continues to grow. Despite my silly attempts to dance and goof around for her, I do not get nearly the giggles Mélina gets when she’s simply walked into the room! Every time we walk passed Isabel, Anika waves and says “Hi”. When sitting together, she goes straight for Izzy’s glasses. Izzy is rather tolerant of Anika’s pokes and grabs.

My other silent in words but loud in presence daughter, Isabel, is also growing like crazy. She is now in an integrated grade 3 program and continues to delight the children and staff around her. She loves the weekly swim program but still cries at the sound of her physiotherapist’s voice.

She’s lost four teeth in the last month! This fall we got her new fancy fairy dust glasses along with new AFO’s for her legs and feet and orthopaedic shoes. She has grown so much that I can no longer pull her onto my lap for cuddles without something hurting during or afterwards. This is somewhat challenging to accept. But life has to keep going and children keep growing. It makes me think of “I’ll Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch… only I wish I could be strong like the son and still rock Isabel back and forth as she ages.

Mélina continues to remind me that she is a Pre-Teen and not a child anymore. So, naturally, I have allocated non-child-related chores and correlating allowance. She fills out her daily chart and gets paid on Fridays. She is becoming quite money savvy and gladly, the more she saves, the more reluctant she is to spend it! (I’m so proud!). I took her clothes shopping this fall. My deal was that I would match whatever she earned and saved over the summer so off we went to the mall. She brought her gift cards and added up some practical outfits to discover they exceeded her gift cards by nearly forty dollars. She went thru the clothes and narrowed it down to an extra ten bucks out of her own pocket. Another proud moment.

She has handled getting braces rather well although every now and again she freaks me out by greeting us early in the morning with a protruding lip full of Kleenex to prevent the metal from scraping her lips. Most unexpected! She is loving being in grade 7, particularly the musical theatre class.

She is a calm presence and her wisdom can catch me off guard at times. And yet, that playful side to her that longs for an old fashioned doll house reminds me that she is still my little girl. She is so helpful around the house and not always because of her allowance. She is working hard at school and takes pride in the increase of marks she is getting over the years. We’re still working on getting past the fear of asking questions in class (I remind her how she NEVER hesitated when she was little). The weeks back and forth between here and her dad’s can be rough on her at times. Being the wise soul that she is, Mélina points out that there are pros and cons to each location but appreciates the time spent at either place. I love that she describes our home here as “wind in the grass”.

She spent the summer chasing and taming kittens. She made posters to help find homes for them. She rescued a bird that flew into our kitchen window (among many). Forts made of straw bales remain hidden treasures in the hay shed and now there is a secret hideout in the forest someplace. I delight in having her around.

As for me, I have found a new passion… making homemade bread. This is not helping me whatsoever in my battle of losing the pregnancy weight. But nothing beats a hot piece of fresh bread with melting butter. Finding time to write or even to relax in a bath is a luxury I have stopped hoping for. Duane is phenomenal in helping when he can but with summer being his busiest time of year, I dare not expect anything more from him! Soon the season will settle with the first blanket of snow and my husband will no longer be a figment of my imagination… I’m just teasing. He has been amazing!

Duane fills my heart with laughter and sometimes frustration, but I can never stay mad at him for more than a few minutes. My family always laughs and asks me to retell the story of our pregnancy scare shortly after Anika’s birth and the fear in Duane’s eyes followed by the most unexpected comment: “But you’re not remineralized yet!” Only Duane would be concerned about the state of my health and my ability to sustain another life. I love that about him. He gave me one of those “looks” when I was cutting my nails with great difficulty the other day and said “oh honey, looks like you’re remineralized!”


He is my odd duck and I’m a strange nut… somehow together we work. My heart always skips when I see him pull into the yard or walking towards the house. I thank God for him every day, except the moments when he walks in at the end of the day and I’m exhausted from cooking meals and tending to a very wrangy Anika and he says “Um, what did you do all day?” Yeah, not so fond of him in those moments. He learned quickly, though.

I think the best part is our constant quest for Truth sought out thru scripture. I love debating him and neither of us back down from challenging several points of view on a certain passage. I can look at the sunset and say “Isn’t God amazing that He could create something so beautifully repetitive without ever making it the same?” without Duane looking at me funny. Instead, he’s got that same look on his face that sings “How Great Thou Art”. I LOVE that! I can finally be me without someone thinking I’m completely nuts!

Well, I started this off somewhat poetic and now I’m ending it with a silly grin. I’ve lost the eloquence I was aiming to have and am left with a giggle in my heart instead. I wish all of you the greatest joys of life along with the reminder that intricate details are abundant around us without our awareness. Perhaps we can take note of that when we feel the world is crashing down on us… there is so much more to life that just ourselves. In fact, we are but mere specks in the grand scheme of things in this universe. But I love each of you little specks just as you are and the BIG presences you are in my heart!

God bless!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

The whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

Yet another few milestones have come and gone over the course of these past nearly two months and among them is the little bottom tooth Anika now has in her mouth as of today. She has not been irritable nor has she had a fever but I did notice some redness in the diaper area, which is very uncommon for her. Let’s hope the remaining teeth come in as effortlessly! Or perhaps it will be a whole other tune…

The other day I was playing guitar for her as she was sitting on the floor (yes, all by herself). I started strumming a groovy beat and to my delight, she starting bobbing up and down to it! I nearly bust a gut laughing so hard. If only crawling could be as much of a laughing matter.

Anika can manoeuvre herself around on her tummy with surprising agility. Already she can locate folded laundry, video tapes and small pieces of lint. Changing her diaper is becoming an athletic challenge for both Anika AND mom!

Rather than get up on her knees when she wants to move forward, she pushes up into a pushup position and pushes herself forward on her big toes! It doesn’t look at all comfortable. She is getting irritated with the lack of control over her own mobility. When she’s in my arms, she’s leaning forward or to the left attempting to grab something. When she’s down, she wants up and when she’s up she wants sideways and when she’s sideways she wants down… mind you, I suppose she is female… hee hee hee!

I now get the occasional hug and more recently, lovely kisses. When she’s ready for bed and I am rocking her in my arms for a moment, she now rests her head on my shoulder for a momentary cuddle. I LOVE it!!! And sometimes when she has just woken up from a nap and there are new people in the house, she will lean her head against my shoulder and give them a sideways bashful look. LOL! I remember with Mélina, this was the ONLY time she would cuddle up to me so I would deliberately seek out people she didn’t know in order to get SOME cuddles!

Bath time is still a favourite. I suppose I’ll have to get some bath toys soon rather than just the face clothe. I used to tell her to kick-kick-kick her feet or to splash-splash-splash her hands, even when she was teeny tiny. This is now beginning to backfire as her kicks are becoming strong and her splashes somewhat disastrous. Oh well, I suppose it’s just water, right?

The farm animals continue to fascinate her. She can be a busy body in the house but the minute we go outside, she is silent and watches intently everything around her. She is so peaceful outside and truly seems within her element. I suppose this is Duane’s genetics kicking in because he’d be happy living, eating and sleeping outdoors. Luckily we don’t get into any arguments or I’d be the one to sleep outside… otherwise he would enjoy it too much! LOL!!

She can still spot her papa from a mile away or hear his voice (I suppose we all can!). She watches him on the tractor or working on the combine. I think she will be his helper some day. She delights in the time she gets to spend with her dad. Anika’s busy fingers often end up filthy from grabbing her papa’s dinner plate or food he is trying to eat.

Breast milk is still her only source of food at this time although Anika would eat anything if we let her. She stares down our food as though she’d never been fed in her life! I nurse every two hours and pump once in the night to give her an additional feeding. We weighed her yesterday and she is a whopping 18.0 lbs.

Oh yes, another cute thing she has started doing is crinkling her nose and breathing in and out super fast. It is hilarious!

Her big sisters continue to be the source of her laughter and joy. Anything and everything Melina does gets her giggling. Sure enough, if I imitate, Anika simply stares blankly at me. Mina is beginning to assume she is the favourite. Either way, Anika misses her sisters when they are at their dad's. Pictures of them leave her reaching out towards them. I don't know how these little ones know, but they just seem to have this innate bond with siblings.

I sat her next to Isabel one morning and she looked up at her big sister who was sitting propped up on the couch. I was thinking “how cute” when with lightning flash speed, Anika grabbed Isabel’s glasses and yanked them right off her face! Isabel was patient and didn’t complain but I decided to separate them a little bit.

A funny sight is when I’m driving the van with Anika behind my driver’s seat and Isabel in her specialized motor seat next to her. Oftentimes, Isabel will start to cry or whine and Anika whips her head and watches Isabel as she cries. Eventually, the tables turn and Anika starts crying then Isabel turns her head and watches Anika cry! The worst is when they both feel compelled to cry simultaneously. That’s when I feel I belong in some Aspirin commercial.

Speaking of being out and about, Anika has decided that the minute we step out for an excursion, she must poop herself silly. Not just a full diaper… we’re talking spilling out the top and edges “full”. Oh yeah. It has become so consistent that I now pack two sets of pants and the minute I arrive at our destination, I get her changed because by then, the deed has been done… guaranteed. This past week, she did this the moment we arrived at the mall and then again when we arrived at Children’s Rehabilitation Centre for Isabel’s appointment. I drove two minutes to get the mail once, and she managed to pull this off even in that time frame! Apparently field trips are “moving” experiences for her.

Vocabulary still consists of baa-baa-baa and da-da-da but she is attempting some new sounds that I have no clue how to attempt typing them phonetically. She’s catching on to sign language and recognizes several signs such as milk, chicken, dog, cat, more, bath, all done, and book.

Everyday is a new day filled with new discoveries and accomplishments. My hands are becoming fuller as she becomes more demanding but my heart fills as she grows more and more into who she is meant to be. It is so much fun getting to know Anika Joy!

Friday, 24 August 2007

Eggciting News!

Duane's dad has been in the hospital for over two weeks now due to a stroke and let me tell you, I have sure missed his presence around the farm. I would hear him drive in sometimes as early as 5:00 a.m. to let the chickens out, fill their feeding trays, get them fresh water and maintain the roost. Next visit would be around noon when he'd bring the first collection of eggs for the day and on special occasions I'd get a funny little story about the animals. I'd see him again in the afternoon tending to the vegetable garden or mowing our lawn... the incredible generosity of his time is truly a gift. It's been quiet without him around and the farm feels somewhat lonely.

As we have been eagerly anticipating his recovery and return to the farm, I have taken on caring for the chickens and goats. This has included overcoming a phobia of being attacked by a chicken (ok, not a phobia but those things creep me out sometimes) only to have one attack my hand while collecting an egg. I now wear gloves. I've cleaned the eggs of yummy sticky chicken poop and have developed a little muscle (much needed) from carrying 4 gallon water pales to and from the well. I've chased the goats either out of the chicken coop or off its roof and have inhaled far too many spider webs.

Chickens, I have discovered, are very punctual. If ever I'm not at the chicken coop by 7:00 am to let them out, they are all pooled around the little door in anticipation of their daily freedom and it is a madhouse as they all try to get out simultaneously!

The funniest was this morning... One chicken has decided to create a little nest between two straw bales as you walk into the coop. Three of our kittens decided this was the best place to sleep at night. This morning they were too slow in getting out of the little haven and found themselves sat on by the chicken!! We had to pick up the pecking chicken to free the kittens who somehow didn't seem bothered by the whole affair. Really, though... a chicken hatching kittens??? No wonder dad loved doing this every day!

Just before dad went into the hospital, our Muscovy ducks had laid nearly 18 eggs. We weren't sure if they were fertilized or not (although Duane claims he witnessed the awkward "special hug" from afar one time). The mother duck left her eggs in random places and we feared her instincts weren't kicking in. Dad found a roosting chicken, stuck her in a cage with the collected duck eggs in hopes we could keep them from getting cold and dying. Eventually, by the time the mama duck layed her last eight eggs, she had created a nest and was protecting it diligently. Last week she wouldn't even leave the nest so we knew it must be getting close to hatching time. We put the other eggs that were with the roosting chicken back with the mama duck and her nest... hoping for the best. All we needed were ducklings being hatched by a chicken... but hey, with hatching kittens, maybe this isn't too unrealistic?

Even dad's been asking about the duck eggs.

Tonight, my regular routine of collecting the 6:00 pm round brought me face to face with the mama duck out and about in the yard! Could it be?? I got to the chicken coop where she's nested and before I even opened the door, I could hear a little "peep, peep." I opened the door and hidden down by the trough was a tiny little duckling head staring at me. I picked it up and said "welcome, little one!" and pet it as it closed its little eyes. When I began to quack (what a sight this would be for a stranger) it quacked back excitedly. Hopefully I didn't quack "tonight's menu is duckling"...

The other eggs are still in the nest but considering the mama laid one a day for two weeks, I'm guessing they will hatch one day at a time, too. How exciting! It's like a new present every day for two weeks straight! You can see in this picture the remaining eggs in the nest in the back. Let's hope they all hatch ok. I didn't like the way the rooster was eyeing up the duckling before I left, especially with the mama duck out in the yard. And of course there's the cats... Oh nature, don't be morbid this time around, ok??? But I guess that's why they lay 18 eggs?

I went and got Anika to introduce her to our newest farm addition. She was actually gentle with it!

Before I left, little Duckie decided to hang out by my rubber boots. I mean, who doesn't want to hang out by yucky, chicken-poop-filled rubber boots, right? As you can see from this picture, one would have to pay close attention to where they are stepping. This little guy is just tiny!

I know my last farm posting was rather morbid about dying cats and that I was feeling rather down about farm life at that moment, but this just puts it all back up there with "Farm life ROCKS!"

When I went to put the chickens in for the night just now, mama duck was back on her nest but I couldn't see Duckie anywhere. I quacked and sure enough a tiny "peep, peep" replied but not from the nest. I couldn't figure out where this duckling was. Finally, I looked down at the pail of water sitting in an old tire and sure enough a little "peep, peep" came from it. I moved the bucket and there was Duckie hiding inside the tire. I put him back near his mama and she snatched him up with her beak so fast, I thought she was going to eat him! Let's hope Duckie is still there tomorrow morning... Maybe I did quack "tonight's menu is duckling". (sigh)

So there you have it, our newest member... Duckie. Now to think of original names for the remaining 17 that will hatch. Any suggestions?

Hope life is as fascinating for all of you out there. It's a good reminder that while we are preoccupied with our own lives, there are countless miracles happening around us without our knowing. Remember that the next time your car won't start in the middle of rush hour... just maybe there's a duckling peeping around nearby... and not getting run over by a vehicle!

Take care, everyone! Please keep Duane's dad in your prayers. And God bless!

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

What a cruel, cruel world for a cat

Farm life can be so very cruel…

Growing up on a farm, my absolute favourite animals were cats. If I had a dollar for every hour of my childhood I spent playing with cats, taunting cats, pretending to be a cat, forcing my little friends to be my kittens, and chasing cats, I would be a millionaire! This common knowledge earned me the name of “Cat Woman” in my hometown of Ste-Anne, Manitoba until I moved away at the age of seven. Needless to say, I have worked tremendously hard not to get attached to the twenty wild farm cats we now have.

But every now and again, one of the new kittens becomes brave and friendly and you can’t help but open your heart! I’ve told Mélina not to name them, but before we know it, we are referring to them as Oreo, Shivers, Panda, Stickers, etc…

My first lesson happened this time last year. A litter of three female kittens had been found: Stickers and Chloe were the good ones, particularly Chloe. She would run up to me and jump up on my shoulder as I walked around the farm. What a charmer! To my horror, Duane’s dad who comes into the yard several times a day to feed the cats leftovers and to feed the chickens, accidentally ran over Chloe who had been running towards his truck. This was hard to take and I reminded myself not to get attached.

Next we found Shivers, a tiny runt. We tamed him and often giggled at his small yet stocky figure and bulging blue eyes. He got some strange eye infection and we found him dead not to long afterwards. Same story with a few more kittens. Even Mina said “any kitten I play with dies.”

Chloe and Sticker’s mom had another litter this spring, Oreo and Panda. Oreo outshone all the cats to-date. Kids could pick him up by the tail, by the whiskers and he wouldn’t falter. He kept purring and smiling. Yes, smiling! He became my greeter as he always hung out by the door in hopes I’d slip him a little goat’s milk. Anika loved the way Oreo would climb on her lap when we’d sit outside. He followed me everywhere around the farm. Last I saw him, he was on the deck purring away yesterday afternoon as I headed back into the house.

Finally, Sticker (Chloe’s sister) stood out among the rest. She was the most tamed and she’d always greet me at the door, particularly because she wanted food! She got pregnant this spring and had her first litter last week. Surely her genetics would mean not-so-wild kittens?? I found them yesterday morning: four of them. But they were mewing like crazy. I kept an eye on them the rest of the day in hopes that Sticker would show her face. Had she abandoned them? Surprisingly, I didn’t see Sticker at all the rest of the day. This morning, I headed back to discover two of the kittens dead, one at death’s door and the other mewing with all its strength. My heart broke! How dare Sticker abandon her kittens! I picked up the stronger one and brought it to another litter of three week-old kittens in hopes they could keep the little one warm and hopeful until I put Anika down so I could tend to it properly. An hour later, Anika finally went down for her nap and I pumped a bit of milk and put it in a syringe in hopes I would be able to get the kitten to drink something. I went out to the litter and my heart stopped… it was gone! I searched frantically but could only find the five 3 week-old kittens. Could the mother have come back in that little time and taken the kitten somewhere else? Would she have killed it?

Truly upset, I came back to the house. Duane’s dad knocked on the door and said “I found two cats in the water barrel by the deck… drowned. Better get rid of them before they stink up the place.” (Always practical)

I froze. Please don’t let it be one of my favourites…

I went with Duane and discovered it was Sticker and her little brother, Oreo. They must have tried to get a drink and fell in. She hadn’t abandoned her babies… she’d died!

This was all too much in one day. I bawled my eyes out with no sympathy. “I warned you not to get attached.” Much appreciated words of wisdom from my husband… NOT! I know they’re just animals, but you can’t help but love the ones that stand out. I don’t try to love them, I just do! I don’t like any of the other gazillion wild cats! Why can’t they be the ones that die?? Why is it ALWAYS the good ones??

There’s my rant for today. I’m exhausted from tearing the place apart looking for that baby kitten. I’m exhausted from bawling and I’m whooped from missing my two good cats. It’s just not fair. What a cruel, cruel world.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Anika 6 months old!

Anika’s wedding was beautiful this weekend and next week, she and her husband are flying off to New Zealand to startup a new organic farm of wild buffalo… Well, with time flying as quickly as it has these past six months, it feels like it won’t be long before I’m sending out that very message. Ok, maybe it will be wild goats instead. J
Can you imagine if we learned new things and grew as much as our little ones do their first six months? From being helplessly tiny, grey-eyed and sleepy to rolling around, giggling, grabbing everything in sight, fighting naptimes, and discovering tantrums, and doubling in size. Hmmm, maybe this isn’t so different from adulthood.
These last couple of months, Anika has delighted in discovering her world. Two days ago she rolled over from her back unto her tummy for the first time and just like every other milestone to-date, she suddenly decides to try it once and is suddenly a pro. You can’t push her, though. Only when she’s good and ready. She is quite pleased with herself and kicks away in delight.
Her feet… she’s a little monkey in disguise! Never have I seen a child so expressive with their feet. Forget sign language, I can tell her mood by the way she moves and dances her little twinkle feet around. Jumping in the jolly jumper has provided hours of entertainment, and Anika seems to enjoy it, too! Seriously, I don’t know of a funnier sight than a little mini-person strapped in a contraption (which makes them look like they’re
parachuting) discovering freedom in bouncing around like an Easter bunny on catnip! It didn’t take her long to discover how to turn 180 degrees in mid-air, how to stop suddenly with poise or to leap at heights which challenge even the sturdiest spring. Attempting to take her out of it is just as amusing because as you lift the contraption off the ground to lie her down and take her out, she figures that if she tries to bounce furiously in the air, her feet might find some form of leverage. At least she gradually relaxed enough to ease the death grip she would get on the strings at either side of her head (this is what gave the impression she was parachuting). Those are some mighty hands she’s got!
Hair… not only is hers growing blonder and blonder but she has discovered the tiny hairs on the back of one’s neck and the funny sounds mommy can make when she pulls on them very hard. This is a classic Anika greeting: smile and pick her up, her little innocent hands outstretched to touch your face then suddenly they are around your neck as she attempts to take you down with some baby wrestling move! Not only can those little hands grab anything and everything in sight but she is learning basic sign language. "Milk" is a hand opening and closing as though milking a cow and lately she has finally figured this out. Her idea of yelling at me was putting her hand in my face while doing the milk sign in very quick succession. I was impressed. Tiny, cute fingers can also pinch. Tante Linda was left with a few greeting marks on her neck from holding Anika. We have yet to discover the sign for "GENTLE!"
Tonight, we brought in a litter of 3 week old kittens for her to explore. I sat her on the floor in front of me as her busy little hands reached every which way towards all five kittens. One shrieked and I quickly rescued it from her death grip while another was being lifted by its tail. Perhaps exploring farm animals will have to wait a while yet.
She LOVES the goats and the goats love her! All three kids come right up to her and her hands reach out (gently) and they sniff her as she giggles. This is right about the same time I discover one is nibbling on my pants!
Chickens are a creature of intrigue for Anika. She understands when I point to look in that direction so when we go walking by the chicken pen, I point out the free-ranging chickens and she spots each one. I make the "buck buck buck" sound and sign for chicken and she keeps staring at them with those permanently stunned blue eyes. The outdoors is by far her favourite place to be.
Vocabulary has expanded from opera singing to actual sounds like Ba-ba-ba-ba and now her favourite word "Da-da-da-da". Tonight she actually said "dad" a few times. Perhaps she thinks this is funny because it is immediately followed by mama saying "no, no, no Anika… say Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma." I can hear when she wakes up because she whispers "da-da-da-da".
She is definitely daddy’s little girl. Regardless of how long she’s been napping, she somehow knows when Duane has come into the house because she wakes up! Either that or he’s always too loud. J Perhaps a combination of the two. We call him "papa" and it’s become habit that when I call out to him for something, it isn’t "Duane!" or "Honey!" it is now "Papa!" Anika has recognized this and understands my calling out to him usually means he appears a few moments later so if I’m nursing her and call out to Duane, she whips her head around (owwww) to look for Papa. And when she spots him, her little feet start kicking.
We have introduced bananas and egg yolks this week… her first non-mommy food. And she LOVES it! Her appetite has grown considerably these last couple of weeks. I can barely keep up milk-production-wise. Sometimes she gets impatient with this and will smack my chest as she’s nursing! I don’t know if she figures this will stimulate more flow or if this is her made up sign for "hurry up, mom!" Either way, I’m not too keen on it. At least she doesn’t have any teeth yet!
She is certainly a busy body and refuses to be "trapped" on the floor or in her exersaucer. She wants to be held and walking around. Forget cuddling, she wants to be busy exploring. Sometimes I feel like her horse and buggy. She can’t quite sit on her own yet but no doubt we’re only days away from her deciding she wants to do it and will.
Mélina continues to be the best big sister anyone could ask for. She makes Anika giggle effortlessly. When the girls spend the week at their dad's, I often sit at the computer and show Anika pictures of Mina and Izzy. She stares in amazement. And whenever I bring her to see Isabel, she always reaches out her little hand and Izzy responds by putting hers out, too. The two stare at each other and when one smiles, the other follows immediately. It warms my heart!
We continue to delight in our precious daughter and thank God for every moment we have with her. We celebrated with loved ones her Baby Dedication back in June and we realize how incredibly blessed we are to have all of you in our lives as we stumble our way through parenthood. It is a humbling process and one that leaves us so vulnerable in our desire to raise our precious children in God’s light and love for His children. I could not imagine tackling life without knowing we had each of you at our side along the way. You are precious and dear to us.
Thank you for this and so much more.