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Monday, 3 May 2010

Our butler, man-servant, helper... but mostly, our friend!

In our ever expanding family, we have recently added (since the beginning of March) a much welcomed addition! My dear friend, Amy, who had flown in from Korea last June to live-in with us and help out where needed (kids, laundry, cleanup, emotional support, etc...) has returned permanently from Korea as of this past December. But she did not come alone. Well, she did... initially, but soon to follow suit was/is her darling fiance, John!

While Amy temporarily lives with her parents, John has respectfully chosen to live "off-premise" until they are married so as to allow Amy the time she needs to delve further into her research papers and continued efforts at getting her Masters degree in Applied Behaviour Analysis.

John and Amy are two of the smartest people I know and their research expertise has been graciously shared with me on countless occasions! I can fire off an email to either of them asking if they can give me a Coles Notes version of research on white blood cells or toilet training, childhood milestones, alternative approaches to boosting Ethan's immunity, etc... and within the hour, I will have an extensive email report summing up major research papers out there.

How AMAZING are they???

Simply put, words cannot say what a God-send these two have been to our lives and to our family.

John has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and is highly conscious of his carbon imprint on this planet! It is always fascinating to converse about his boycott choices and to delve further into HOW things are done and WHY. Watching CSI is especially hilarious with John as his British accent fills in to let us know how inaccurate the science or technology is behind the current scene! Hee hee hee!

Yes, John is from Britain and until he gets his Visa to work here in Canada, he has GRACIOUSLY chosen to live with OUR FAMILY and help around in any way possible: farming with Duane, cleaning the house (he makes a better housewife than me!!), playing with the kids while I make meals, putting together elaborate play structures (so sorry, John... but at least it will be named after you... the TOWER OF JOHN)... etc...

If I could have a quarter of the energy that John has and diligence in keeping things neat and orderly, I would be a very happy woman! Bless his heart, when I told him this, he humbly replied "It is both a blessing and a curse."

We've got hilarious stories and memories to treasure of the little ones loving John, testing his limits and pushing buttons! John says it's great practice in preparing him for family life after he marries Amy this June. Prior to meeting our kids, John had very little experience with toddlers. When he arrived here, he lowered himself to the kids' level and introduced himself. Anika was only a bit shy whereas Ethan ran over to him and hugged him!

Well, the way I see it, if John can survive the Vaags household, he can survive ANYTHING!

It has also been great fun to read about John's experiences here with us and in Canada on his blog: He does AMAZING photography (you can even see the pictures he took of those prairie fires I was talking about) and his blog entries about the kids (whom he names child#2 and child#3) are hilarious! It's fun to see your children through someone else's eyes.

We have also had great fun introducing John to family and visitors as our butler and/or manservant on several occasions at which point most people look at us as though we are crazy. And then we elaborate and explain why he has come to live with us and they relax and smile and say "oh, that's so nice."

We love you, John, and are so grateful for the wonderful ways you help our family!! May God richly bless you for the measure of graciousness you have shared with us!

Meet Keeshka

Our latest addition (and not the one growing in my womb) is Keeshka... our puppy. She is half Pyrenees and half golden retriever.

Why o why would we get a dog, you wonder? Well, after Duane came across five wild coyotes strolling around in our yard, unafraid of him, in broad daylight... we figured it might be time to get a family protector (especially for the little ones).

And then, a month ago, while I was taking the small kids for a walk to the hay shed, we came across HUGE bear prints leading up to the little forest by our house. Anika was excited by this and said "I will feed the bear and it will be my friend."

Yeah, you'll feed the bear, alright!

So bing, bang, boom, after a few internet searches, we discover the bonding and herding instinct of pyrenees dogs (and massive size) combined with the docile nature of a retriever, how can you go wrong?

The little ones LOVE Keeshka and she loves them, too. Although we are working with her on not nipping the children in her excitement to see them when we come outside to let her run around. She has grown so much in the few weeks we have had her! It is funny to watch her run up to the kids and progressively throw them down unintentionally because she cannot grasp that she is getting drastically bigger! The kids don't seem to mind one bit although Ethan will not hesitate to yell at her "Keeka! No biting!"

So far, no allergy flare-up for Ethan so we are hopeful that having Keeshka will not be harmful to him in any way. So there you have it... we finally have "life" on the farm again (besides coyotes and bears). Soon we will be getting chickens again, some turkeys (Duane's idea, not mine) and possibly sheep. The farm will be bustling with animals and the early rise routine of feeding them all, once again!

Much love to you out there and here's hoping you don't come across any fresh bear prints the next time you take a stroll outside...

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Like a prairie fire

It has already been a few weeks since farmers around here had the opportunity to burn old swaths and other vegetation that could not be handled any other way until now. Duane had taken me for a quad ride at dusk as we watched the remnants of the golden flames leave a dark path of black where life once was. It was magical and beautiful in all of its power... no wonder Duane loves fire!

And it is a good thing he "knows" fire as well as he does. Not only as a firefighter but also as a farmer. Fire exhibits patterns of behaviour and you can cut a fire off by knowing the wind's direction and ironically, by fighting by starting another fire. Now I understand the saying "fighting fire with fire."

Now, I won't mention the one portion of our land that took off like a firecracker and left the municipality's deputy shaking a finger at Duane (good thing we are related... heck, they're all related out here!). But 99.9% of the time, Duane manages these blazes as though he was herding cattle. It is beautiful to watch.

It was not until the next day that I got to see the full effects of these fires. In the dusk lighting, I could see that it was blackened but in the full daylight, it looked as though someone had laid a blanket of black velvet over the earth. The smell of burnt grass and straw hung in the air if you stepped on the black carpeted earth and disturbed the ashes.

It looked like a beautiful death.

How on earth could anything survive this? Of course, I have to ask Duane this question and he explains that new life emerges stronger and more vibrant after "cleaning up" with a fire. I smiled at the depth of that statement.

What a metaphor for life... even in the midst of our deepest, darkest and most devastating chaos, our lives are merely being "cleaned" and prepared for stronger growth and more vibrant life!

Being Sabbath for us today, we typically enjoy a family quad ride around the perimeter of our farm. There on that once blackened hill is a greenery that outshines any of the new life growing anywhere else this spring. The sun beamed down fervently on that blackness as though enticing life from deep within the earth... and it responded!

God must do the same thing for us... in our darkest moments, he beckons us with such fervor so as to entice the "life" that is deep within us as though summoning an old memory we can barely grasp at our fingertips.

Isn't it beautiful to know that death cannot touch us without new life emerging?

So here is this thought deep in my heart to be shared with you in hopes that you are comforted in whatever challenges you face right now... whatever your own experience is with "death" whether it is that of a relationship, that of life as you knew it, or that of a loved one. I pray that new life be stirred deep within you to remind you that you are deeper in life than you ever thought possible.

May you dance like a vibrant flame and burn rich like a prairie fire... stirring up new life everywhere you have touched.

Much love to you out there and God's richest blessings upon you today and always.