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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Getting Old

Ah yes, the signs of aging are beginning to stare back at me in the mirror!  Since our trip to Florida, I have been finding grey hairs... which was met with both intrigue and pride!  (Quickly followed by, "wow... this is the beginning of the end of my brown hair!").

Yep, someday I'll look in that mirror and see a wrinkled, grey-haired woman looking back at me and I will wonder where on earth time has gone!  Or maybe the cataracts will be similar to a soft-lens camera and I'll think I look better than ever!

Regardless, I am living my life and feeling good about what I have experienced thus far.  I can only imagine how I will reflect on my life in those days.

With that preamble, I was sitting on the couch the other afternoon actually indulging in the rarity of reading a book... yes, actually reading a book!  Anika is beginning to outgrow her afternoon naps and sure enough she came tip-toeing down the stairs and stood next to me on the couch as I continued reading an intense part of the book.

After a few more minutes of silence, she asked me "Mom, why do you have a grumpy face?"  I looked away from my book into her questioning eyes and said "What?"  To which she replied, "Mom, do you have a grumpy face because you're getting old?"

At this I burst out laughing!!

It really is fun to see how kids view the world.  So those of you who are grumpy around her, be forewarned she may think it's because you have not come to terms with getting "old"!  Hee hee hee!

Well my dear ones, may you rejoice in every well-earned wrinkle... every exhausted grey hair... every varicose vein that maps your leg out like a well-travelled story... and every migrating hair finding its way to places on your body you never dreamed you'd find hair!  LOL!  May you be timeless in who you are and loved for the time you are here.  God bless!

From sunlight to Son's Light!

The sun is in a slow rise into the sky as though the lazy relaxation of Sabbath is rising with it!  I find this time of year so intriguing... the sun's journey across the sky is so shortened and narrowed that it's almost as though he merely pokes his head up to check in on us and then dips right back down below the horizon again.  While the days are shorter with light, they somehow feel longer in duration.  The only aspect of our lives that seems unchanging is the constant exhaustion that follows our every reluctant step and the relentless interruption of our every move and attempt to accomplish anything...

Already, I have had to stop and feed a few bites of snack to Sivana, answer Ethan's question about which sticker I want, unhook a latch he couldn't figure out, put Sivana down for a nap, wake up Melina, and start Isabel's next episode of Little Bear... all within trying to type three sentences!  No wonder it is a huge accomplishment for me to even GET to the blog, let alone TYPE something on it... sigh.

But even as I type this, I am all too aware of this season passing us much as summer and fall did... and the seasons before them... and before we know it... (hang on, one more interruption....) our children will barely be popping their heads in to check in on us, their light all too quickly leaving the comforts of our home and illuminating somewhere over the horizon.

I try to be careful with my feelings ("try" being the key word here).  I think it is important to acknowledge whatever processes we are experiencing but then moving our perspective outward to the bigger picture.  When successful, I can accept the moment of a "feeling" and then let it go as I choose what significance it will have in the grand scheme of things.

I suppose that is free-will.

No one else gets to dictate what we experience feelings-wise... we get to choose.  I don't know about you, but sometimes when I REACT to a situation, that hurt seems to be a direct result of what the OTHER PERSON said or did.  So once upon a time, I would have agreed with those who claim that outside sources dictate our current emotional state.  And to some extend, perhaps they do.  Bang, we've been hit with something, and for whatever reason we have wired ourselves in such a way that determines what our REACTION will be.  But the truth is, we CHOOSE how we want to wire ourselves and ultimately HOW our immediate reactions will look like.  One step even further than that, we can see what would be our reaction and still choose an alternate outcome.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of people who have a real feeling about something but choose to put up a front that mirrors what they WANT their feeling to be rather than what it really is.  To me, that gets chalked up with deception.  There's a fine line between being civil and diplomatic and being down-right two-faced.  How many times have you personally experienced deep hurt from a situation that after seeking clarification, you found out it was misunderstood from the get go?  All that hurt for no reason at all!

But how often do you seek that clarification?  How much hurt do you have that may not even need to be there at all?

I've decided that I would much prefer having someone come up to me and say "Hey, when you said... blah-blah-blah... that really hurt.  Is that really what you meant or did I misunderstand you?"  Wouldn't that be so much better than the person thinking I really meant what I said in the negative aspect they mistook it for?  Yikes!  My mouth rambles off many times... I shudder at the notion of things I may have said that could have easily been misunderstood!  Please allow me the chance to further explain, or clarify rather than think I would wish ill on anyone!

Doesn't everyone feel that way?

To my surprise... no.  Some people just really have no desire to find out where they are wrong.  I suppose it is much easier to live in a lovely world where one makes no mistakes, but the truth is, we do live in a fallen world and that means we are riddled with mistakes... both conscious and unconscious.  So how can fix them if we aren't willing to find them?

How badly do we want to see ourselves as we truly are?

Perhaps some of us much prefer the shortened days of winter where the light being cast on us is minimized and we can better live in the shadows of our own denial.  Some days, even I think I like it there!  Otherwise, I am reminded of my many faults and the long road ahead of me.

And why do we try to hide our faults from each other?  I find that those who try to hide their humanity the most are those who often experience offence.  So ask yourself truly... do you often take offence to what others are saying?  Do you often care more about WHO knows about your life rather than WHAT is in it?

I think that's why this blog is so important to me.  For one thing, it's a time for me to ask myself these questions and really seek out what is going on inside of me... Is this what I am doing in my own life?  It's my processing, so to speak.  But it also keeps me accountable.  It's often a public confession, a big 'ol sign that says "Man o man, I am not perfect... look at me and see WHY God sent Jesus in the first place!"  It knocks me off my pedestal of "best intentions" and reminds me that I have to LIVE my faith through constant growth.  And how can I grow if I am not constantly challenging myself to look beyond my comfort zone?

It also teaches me to be respectful of other people's opinions.  It's a vulnerability that doesn't leave me feeling as though other people's judgments could reach me like arrows... it is a giving of myself to God through witnesses.  While other people's judgments can sting, their opinions have nothing to do with my eternity.  In fact, they themselves will have to be accountable for their judgements... not me.  (Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  So really, I have nothing to lose in being raw and honest... but I have everything to gain... freedom from my sin through accountability!  Jesus cannot atone for my sin if I do not lay it bare before His feet.  That means I need to know exactly what it is... and proclaim it!

As though on cue, a sunbeam has come bursting through the window!

So these are some of the questions that visit me today and the challenges they present me.  Whose opinions matter most to me?  My brethren or God's?  Where do I seek my validation?  My husband?  My friends?  Or God?  Do I keep pointing the finger at those who "hurt" me?  Or do I ask myself where I have played a part in situations of unease?  Am I willing to apologize to someone who has felt hurt by me?  Do I want to find out that I have hurt him or her?

Do I love my brothers and sisters in Christ enough to be lovingly honest and accountable to them?  Or do I fear their opinion and live out a false front?

So many questions to keep me on task!  So what do I CHOOSE?  (I use the present term so as to own the following statements NOW rather than view them as a future goal).

I choose to be accountable.
I choose to be honest and seek clarification even if the potential outcome scares me.
I choose to see the bright side of all situations and to remind myself how things could be much worse.  (Because really, they can!)
I choose to conquer each challenge in my life with triumphant conviction that all can be accomplished through the strength of God... and NOT my own!
I choose to shine with His light, not for my glory but for His!

With those choices in my heart, I can better serve my husband, my children, my family, my friends and even perfect strangers when I step out my front door... which means I can better serve God.  Let's hope I can live those choices and stay accountable to them!  Don't worry, I'll let you all know when I've failed!

With that, the sun is well in the sky beaming with his own triumphant glow!  May the very warmth of His light pour forth and find you at this very moment.  May you be freed not just by asking yourselves these questions, but by accepting the answers... even if they are not what you want them to be.  May you feel my hand on yours as I look humbly into your eyes to remind you that you do not walk this humbling journey alone... and that I cannot think any less of you for your mistakes for I cannot even see yours past my own!  May we find each other in the darkness and seek His light for the sake of illuminating what it is we need to see about ourselves... so that we can change it.  And through this season of Winter in your lives, may you find His warmth and comfort as he embraces you as His sacred child... filled with the breath of His will.  I love you all out there!  Thanks for loving me, too, just as I am!  God bless!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Double-Chocolate Crumb Cake Recipe

My sister, Linda, found a recipe that allowed Ethan to partake of his very first Birthday cake last year.  For those of you interested in making it, you can either buy the recipe book entitled, BABY CAKES by Erin Makenna or you can click on this LINK to take you to a slighted adapted version.

It is a very delicious cake with a moist, brownie texture.  Probably one of the most delicious gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan recipes I have tried thus far!

Enjoy!

Rita's Coconut Sunbutter Bar Recipe

After feeling so bad that Ethan could not partake of any "desserts" I was determined to find him one that would also fill him with protein goodness of Sunbutter (sunflower seed paste) and the benefits of coconut oil.  Eventually I created this recipe which Ethan absolutely loves... and so do we, for that matter!

Some of you have partaken in this with us and have asked for the recipe so here it is:

Rita's Coconut Sunbutter Bars

1 cup Sunbutter
1/2 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Agave Nectar
1 cup shredded coconut, sulphite-free
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Enjoy Life Allergen-free brand)
3-4 cups coarsely crushed organic corn flakes (fruit juice sweetened)

Cream together sunbutter, coconut oil and agave nectar.
Fold in coconut, chococolate chips and corn flakes.
Press into 9X9 square pan or a cookie sheet for thinner treats.
Refrigerate 1 hour before cutting and serving.

Keep refrigerated!  And by all means... ENJOY!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The WHOLE Spirit!

This morning was greeted bright and early (as usual) thanks to our morning dove, Sivana, who likes to wake up around 6:00 a.m. (and sometimes even BEFORE that).  Duane was wrapping up a night shift at the firehall so the darkness of the morning was interrupted only by the sound of the rocking chair as I gave Sivana her bottle and the occasional time she would sit up and say "Oooooo Wassat?"  (Which I have come to assume means "ooooh what's that... as this is a highly repeated sentence for me when teaching the kids about their surroundings).

There is a syndrome that comes with being the wife of someone who works night shifts... apparently it is not restricted only to me as I have discussed this with other firefighter wives or those whose husbands work the occasional night shift.  I am not sure WHAT to call this syndrome... what-the-heck-was-I-thinking Syndrome?  Where-Did-I-Leave-My-Common-Sense Syndrome?  Or better yet What-On-Earth-Am-I-Doing-Still-UP Syndrome!  You guessed it... when our husbands are out working for a night, us wives have a tendency to delay going to bed to an empty bed... even if it means staying up watching the dumbest things ever, reading books or magazines or aimlessly surfing the web.

So when Duane works his night shifts, despite telling myself "okay, Rita, you know how you feel in the morning when Sivana is chiming away "AH DONE!" (all done) so NO STAYING UP TONIGHT!  Despite this repeated conversation and what appears to be renewed resolve to overcome this syndrome, it seems to win each and every time.

Needless to say, sitting in the rocking chair with Sivana shortly after six this morning included the usual knocking myself over the head for being responsible for my own exhaustion!

Regardless, the promise of Sabbath together refuelled me and a surprising amount of energy began to rise with the sun!  Praise be to God.

I found joy in my heart as I played with Sivana, I found creative conversation when Ethan came down and I sat with him as he ate his breakfast.  We had to pretend that his spoon was an excavator trying to dump his load into the dump truck (his mouth).  Ethan's "excavator" kept slowing down and stopped scooping and Ethan would exclaim he was out of fuel again... so I would pretend to pump him up with fuel and the excavator could continue "shovelling" his load in!  After the sixth refuelling, I exclaimed "I think your excavator's tank has a leak, Ethan... here, let's use MY excavator."  As I reached out my hand to grab his spoon to help finish feeding him, he gently took my hand, rested it on the table, put his overtop of mine with great sympathy and said "No Mom... you can't do that kind of work."

Somewhat taken aback, I said "Oh?  Why not?"

"Because you're a girl."

GULP!!!  Where on earth did THAT come from???  Trying to make the most of the moment I said "What do you mean by that, Ethan?"

"Well, only boys go and do the hard work."

"Hmmmm, well, when mommy is cooking all the food for everyone to eat, do you think mommy is working hard?"

"Uh... "

"And when we drive Isabel to school, Melina to voice lessons, Anika to preschool... when mommy takes you and Anika to swim lessons, cleans up your accidents, changes Sivana's diapers, Izzy's diapers, gives you guys bath time, washes all of your clothes and puts them away, cleans up after your toys, cleans up after a meal, does homeschooling with you.... do you think mommy is doing 'hard work'?"

"Uh... YEAH!"

"And did you know that some girls also drive excavators and dump trucks?  There are even some girls who are firefighters, just like Daddy!  Hard work is found everywhere and is for anyone who is willing to give it their best!"

"Oh."

Now THAT was interesting!  I had to reflect on that one and wonder where on earth he got the concept that only boys worked hard.  Hopefully the message delivered was honourable, truthful and fruitful.

When his breakfast was finally done, Anika came and sat at the table with her breakfast.  We sat together as she said "Mom, I LOVE the bible."

"Oh, well that is very nice to hear.  It is a great way to learn more about God and His love for us as His children!"

"Mommy, He is God our Father, God the Son and the Whooooooooooooole Spirit!"

I chucked at that one, particularly because the choice of word may very well be more appropriate than I can fully imagine!

"Mommy, we have to learn to listen to God."

"Yes, Anika, you are right.  How do we learn to listen to God?"

"Well, we have to be good and listen to Him."

"Yes, but how do we find out WHAT is good and WHAT He wants for us?"

"Um... Hmmm... I don't know!"

"You just said you love the Bible and that is the best place to find out WHAT God tells us is good and WHAT His rules are.  You know that God is everyone's Father, right?"

"Yes, Mommy."

"So if He is EVERYONE's Father... that means He chose to make each and every one of us, right?"

"Yes!"

"Do you think God really wants us if He chose to make us?  Do you think God loved you and wanted you when He chose to make you, Anika?"

With that, a beautiful smile spread across her face as she sat up straight as if proud of a new realization.  Or perhaps she was proud for already knowing this in her own heart.

"Yes, Mommy... He wanted me."

"That must mean that your life is very special, Anika... because He wanted you to have it.  So if God is everyone's Father, do you think He knows what is best for us?"

"Oh yes!"

"Just like when Mommy and Daddy tell you not to play on the road, or to wear your hat and mitts when it's cold outside, to share your toys with Ethan and Sivana... do you think we give you these rules because we know what is best for you?"

"Uh hunh"

"If mommy and daddy can figure out what is best for you, and give you rules to keep your body and your heart safe, then surely the Father of EVERYONE knows what the best rules are, right?"

"YES!!"

"Anika, that's why we read the bible... so we can learn what God's rules are... so we can believe in Him and TRUST Him.  And so we can truly KNOW His love for us."

The morning was proving to be far more of a gift than I had known to anticipate!  I love that these precious children seem to have a genuine desire to LISTEN and to LEARN.  I honestly believe with my whole being that humility is essential in one's spiritual journey... my fear is that if I am TOO certain of something, I have removed the part of me that is willing to find out I might be wrong!

And wouldn't it be better to find out you are wrong so you can fix it, then continue to live in error?

So I teach my children what I understand and remind them that what I teach them is ONLY that... my limited understanding of TRUTH.  In the end, they will be responsible to take that and choose for themselves what to do with that understanding... grow from it, question it, or down right throw it in the garbage!

I have no idea what they will choose and I do my best not to fret over that.  In the end, it has to be their own life story inscribed with THEIR choices, THEIR mistakes, THEIR outlived sorrow and wisdom gained.

What I DO fret about is whether or not I am providing them with the very tools they need to LIVE life and its challenges in such a way that it SHAPES them without destroying them.  I want their sense of value to come from within and not from external praise or outside values.  Even I have found myself struggling with this these days!

My darling Duane is not one to offer up compliments and this is a continued lesson for me NOT to look for them!  But I did tell him early on in the marriage "Duane, think of me like your crops in the field... you are constantly worried about the amount of water they are getting, the nutrients, the soil conditions and you are out there regularly doing your best to ensure top quality in all these areas... I need you to touch base with me in a similar way.  If you show me the same amount of concern about our marriage, our communication, saying positive things when they come to our mind, then it is like you are watering me and strengthening my root system!"

"Yeah, but I don't want to insult your intelligence by saying something more than once."

"But Duane, by that logic, why would we insult God's intelligence by thanking Him repeatedly for each and every meal?"

He genuinely looked surprised at that association, and I think even I blinked at the words that came out of me!  But it was true!

It is insulting if the words are empty.  No differently than I think our prayers are insulting to God if they are mere words, empty of their meaning.  But if we can renew our thankfulness each time we pray and give thanks for our food, then we safeguard the genuineness that COULD risk being lost through repetition.

But still, when the weeks go by and Duane and I seldom have moments of sitting together and reconnecting, it is hard to face the emptiness that can grow... the distance that can threaten even the strongest love!  And as I seek validation from him and cannot find it because he is too busy, or too tired (the poor guy is genuinely exhausted at this stage in our lives), I am digging my own grave in feeding that distance through my own hurt.

This is where mastering the lesson for myself will allow me to be a more fruitful wife... If I could seek my validation in being precious to God and to God alone, then any moment with Duane, even if weeks or months apart, can be as precious and significant as if they happened daily... they would not be expectations... they would simply be "gifts".

So while the morning was filled with opportunities to teach the children about hard work, God's love and His truly WANTING each and every one of us, I find myself humbly looking at where I fail to live my very own words!  There is no man on this earth that I have ever loved nor will ever love as much as I love my darling Duane.  He is my King, in all his glory and in all his humanity.  I am failing him these days and humbly ask for your prayers as I remember my true purpose as laid out from the beginning of time... to be HIS helpmate!

I want to uplift him.  I want to offer HIM understanding rather than demand it of him.  I want to love HIM without condition rather than point out where he is being conditional with me or where I arrogantly believe that I am deserving of more love!  I want to seek his forgiveness rather than point out the justification of my actions.  I want him to feel validated by God, led by His spirit, and respected by me!

I want to stop thinking only of my needs and be a servant unto his.  Not because he has earned it through his own actions but because he has earned it as my husband and life partner and as the father of our precious children.

I wish I could come before you and proclaim that I am always honourable and respectful.  I wish I could declare that the very spirit of God exudes from my every being at all times but the truth is, I have been one big grumpalump since August now and I am really tired of it.

More often than not, I find it easy to confess my sins to God but ironically, I find it harder to profess my sins to my fellow brethren.  Hopefully this public confession will motivate me to make some serious changes in my heart with a sincere desire to be accountable.  I am wrong here... and I want to fix it.

Join me in prayer as I send this out to find you... that you may feel freed from your own limitations and mistakes... that you are willing to see where you have truly wronged someone else no matter how hard it is to admit it... so that you can finally be free of its burden.  No one deserves to be poisoned by their own guilt whether conscious or subconscious.  No one.  And most importantly, I want you to know you are not alone in your mistakes.  I am your fellow sinner... your sister-in-error, if you will.  But I hope and pray that we can encourage each other, pray for one another, and genuinely desire for each other to rise above our challenges to become better people... better mothers, better wives, better sisters or daughters.... better children of God.

Afterall... He breathed His sacred breath into us.  He loved us so much that He WANTED us and even sent His only Son to die so that not even our sins could keep us from being with Him.  So let us love one another WHOLLY so that not even our sins (whether publicly professed or hidden) could keep us from truly loving each other unconditionally!  God bless you all and know that this is the very place I come from when I say to you all, stranger or not... I love you!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Family update

Sometimes there just isn't a better feeling to be found than sitting comfortably on the couch with thick, happy, freshly fallen snow plumping out the world outside your window as you sip a hot coffee watching your children be who they are.

How does one describe that feeling in the heart when everything that is your whole world is right before your eyes... dancing a silly dance while the littlest one claps her hands and the other is trying to wrap himself up like a cocoon in his favourite blanket?  While the eldest is strumming away on the guitar and the second eldest coos with delight at the level of activity that surrounds her?

As I gaze from one beautiful face to the other, it still chokes me up to know I get to be their mom!  These little life stories, already written from beginning to end, unfolding before my very eyes!  What privilege to be witness to these lives!  Sometimes I get so lost in it all, I really do forget that there is a whole world outside my own door.  Some days, I am not even sure if the world outside my door even matters!

When we sit around a meal and thank God for our food, these past few weeks, an added note of thanks has crept into my heart like never before.  I have to swallow the lump in my throat when we thank YAWEH for the food from His bounty as it dawns on me the added level of deep gratitude I have that I do not have to watch my children starve.

And what of the families that do?  Here we are feeling like we are sitting in the lap of luxury, feeding our leftovers to the dog and cats, while there are parents out there whose hearts are aching as they watch their very own little ones go hungry.

How do we fix that?  How can I fully appreciate the sheer privilege of the bounty we know without taking it for granted?  This is something that has weighed heavily on my heart these days as I have watched my children... well-clothed, well-nourished, sheltered from the cold of winter and the chill of abandonment.  I write to you today with a great humility in my heart as I thank God for our freedom to raise and nourish our children without any fear.  It is good here for us... more than good.  Makes me mad that I still choose to complain about things at all!  Argh... why is the learning curve so pathetic??

Alas, let me share with you what I have been witness to lately where the children are concerned...

Little Baby Vaags is growing bigger and stronger every day.  We are officially twenty weeks along which brings us to the half way mark of this pregnancy!  Wow... half way there!  Before we know it, our newest addition will be right in there with the other ones with the silly dances, cuddles with mom and dad and all sorts of shenanigans!  We have our ultrasound on Monday so if we are able to get some pictures, I'll be sure to post them at this section of the update.  I do feel that God had told me before I was even pregnant with Sivana that we were meant to have a boy and a girl, yet.  We've had our Sivana and so I believe this is our little boy.  BUT, I have been wrong about these "feelings" before so we can all laugh at this posting if April comes and another little girl joins our family!  We are excited either way to receive the blessing of a new life as each one has brought more to our family than words can say.

Which is why I have been so puzzled by the varying degree of reactions we get from people when they see our whole crew or find out we're having a sixth child.  Some people literally look at us with disgust!  Can you believe that?  Where is new life ever a disgusting thing??  Where is the camaraderie of brethren ever a disgusting thing?  Where is having an entire network of family connection a bad thing?  As we watch the littlest ones play together, help each other, hug each other (and yes, even the moments they struggle with the concept of "sharing"), there is a sense of community and of serving more than one's own selfish needs and desires that is fostered here.  If we are to live in a world where we look out for one another, how on earth do we expect that to come about if all we ever do is live by the motto of "gotta look out for number one!"?  But I digress...

Sivana is a real hoot of a character!  I thought she was going to be our quiet one but she is more our STRONG but quiet one!  She is by far the most like Duane in character.... she will merely point at what she wants with such authority that you find yourself giving in to whatever she is "asking" (or is it "telling") you she wants!  At the first sign of affection, she will push you away and nearly right hook you!  She has already given our sixteen year old nephew a bleeding nose!  And she is so rough and tough that she herself has had about six bleeding noses!  I've had maybe two bleeding noses my whole life... two.  She's not even two years old yet and she has out roughed most of us in this household!  Things really do have to be on her terms or you'd might as well forget expecting anything from her.  In fact, if she knows you expect it, she'll deliberately withhold!  For months and months we kept trying to teach her to walk.  Finally on October 31st, after we'd finally stopped encouraging her, she just up and started walking.  By the second day, she was nearly running!  Then she decided to FINALLY pop those two top teeth AND grow some hair... it was a major week developmentally!!  We often jokingly call her a shark because she has to be constantly moving (just like her papa).  A shark apparently cannot stop moving and apparently, neither can Sivana!  Not even for one minute to drink her bottle!!

She took a nasty tumble from the top of the stairs last Friday... it was the most horrific thing to watch, especially because I was only a few steps above her and could NOT for the life of me catch up to her as she flipped and summersaulted down those steps!  And no amount of yelling "STOP!  MAKE HER STOP!" was doing a darn thing!  The worst was watching her jack knife the square pillar at the landing which knocked her down a few feet onto the corner of the bottom steps and onto her face!  It was so horrific!  She bled from her nose like crazy and I was terrified that jack knifing against her back like that would harm her kidneys!  To top things off, she has been very, very sick since Wednesday with fevers reaching as high as 105.6!  I feared a bladder infection but a trip to Children's Emergency and a catheter urine sample showed no signs of infection... thank the good Lord!  But it has been really tough to see such a highly active little girl become a very lethargic fragile little being these days.  All in all, I have to thank God that He gave her such a feisty and strong nature as I have no doubt this will bring her far in life and have her outfight many of life's obstacles.  We love our little "peanut" (she's the only "nut" allowed in our house!) and thank God almighty that our fear of having more children after Ethan was outshone by His desire to have her life be a part of ours!  We could not imagine a moment without her!

Speaking of Ethan, he probably has the most "character" in this house... yes, even more than this outlandish mama!  He is so strong in his personality that I struggle with wondering if I should be fighting it all the time or working with it!  His obsession (and I do NOT use this term loosely) is anything to do with firemen!  His aunts and Grandma bought him a firefighter's suit for his second birthday last year and that kid has practically LIVED in it ever since!  The basement has become his "firehall" where he proclaims after breakfast, "Okay, Mom... I've gotta go to my firehall now.  Have a good day!"  I give him a kiss, remind him to go potty first, and then tell him "Okay Firefighter Ethan, but don't forget to come back for lunch!"  He can play down there for hours!  I peeked in on him once only to see him sliding down the arm of my treadmill (which he knows is against the rules) so I said to him "Ethan, mommy told you not to climb the treadmill." to which he responded while still being wrapped around it, "Mommy, I'm NOT climbing it... I'm HUGGING it!"

Smart kid... he knows I'll never argue about hugs!

His imagination is downright impressive as he comes back from his "firehall" to tell us stories about HIS firefighter.  He has named him "My Firefighter Dad... the OTHER one" which has Duane looking at me a bit funny!! I reassure him as I point out that Ethan has told me that his other firefighter dad apparently has no teeth and sometimes poops his pants, too... just like Ethan.  Wow... what a catch!  But it has been quite helpful to find out how Ethan really feels about things as he often uses his firefighter to express similar experiences to his own...

We've been dealing with lots of "accidents" lately and sure enough, so has his firefighter!  It's been handy to use this to ask Ethan questions like "Your firefighter pooped his pants, too?  How did he feel when his mommy got frustrated with him and had to clean the toilet seat, and his pants... and the floor where he sat down to try putting his underwear back on?"  "Oh, he was very sad.  He didn't like making a mess everywhere.  And then his mom took the fire hose and cleaned his bum really good!"  Sure enough, I had put him in the shower and hosed him down with his last incident!  Which happened to coincide with a moment when Sivana had just vomitted all over the kitchen floor!  Man o man that was not a good night!

He is also strangely particular about his drinks of water.  They have to be "a TALL drink of water" (which means nearly to the rim) and it has to be "fresh" (which means really cold).  He's so picky that there have been times he has taken a sip and thrust it back at us and yelled "I said FRESH!"  Aye-yay-yay!

But one of his cutest moments is when he comes in from being outside with Duane, walks into the kitchen where I am preparing our meal, leans against the counter with his rosy cheeks and says "So, how's it going in here, Mom?"

On Thursday I took him with me to do a grocery shop and as we were stopped at a red light, I turned around and looked at him so cute and handsome in his car seat watching every aspect of the world outside the window.  I smiled and said "Guess what?  You're my FAVOURITE Ethan in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD!"  He looked at me, smiled and said "Thanks, Mom... and you're my favourite mommy in the whole wide world!"

Yes, I will buy you a pony now... if you weren't allergic!

Anika is our sweetheart... always looking out for those around her, always wanting to do things "right" and with as few errors as possible.  I laugh as I watch her because her personality is very, very similar to mine.  We both want to wrap our arms around the whole world, we both thank God for everything He's taken the time to create, we both get angry with ourselves when we don't do things perfectly and we both get upset with Duane when he tries to assemble something without reading the "map" (as she calls instruction manuals) first!  LOL!!!  This truly baffles Duane.  He is fearless when it comes to trying things he's never done before whereas I have to study it first and learn everything I can about it to minimize my mistakes.  My mentality is along the lines of "if you're going to do something, take the time to do it RIGHT!"  And Duane's mentality is "if you're going to do something, DO IT and do it NOW!"  (even if it means re-doing it cuz it wasn't done right).

Ah, the ways that God keeps balance in our lives!!  Hee hee hee!

I have been working with Anika on learning to read.  For all you other moms out there, www.starfall.com is a phenomenal website for teaching!  Anika is doing very well so far reading some very simple stories.  She is an eager learner.  She is also adamant in writing her name "properly" but was having trouble writing her "K's".  You could still tell they were K's but she would cry and say "I can't do it perfect!!!  It's not working!"  Duane looked at me and said "This is YOUR fault, you know!" as I just laughed at how familiar these very words sounded to me!

She still astounds us with her unexpected wisdom at times.  She came up to me one morning and said "God told me why Ethan has allergies."  "Oh really?  What did He tell you?"  "God wanted to make Ethan special so He made him different... He doesn't want Ethan to eat the foods that the rest of people eat."

Gulp!

She also never stops to astound me with her shocking moments of humbling me!  Monday mornings Anika and Ethan have swim lessons and I have to be in the pool with Ethan as he is still not quite comfortable enough to be in the class unassisted.  When it came time to get dressed in the change rooms, I got Anika dressed first.  As I started to dress myself and held up my underwear to make sure I wasn't putting it on backwards, she exclaimed "WHOA!!"  I looked at her quick and said "What's wrong?"  "Mommy, those are big, big, BIG panties!"  Golly gee, thanks kid.  I could hear the woman in the next stall snickering.  "Mommy, my panties are small but yours are soooo, soooooo, sooooooo BIG!"  "Anika, maybe you should go look for daddy now.."

Ironically, I have not been back at the gym for my workouts, since!  That's right, after three months of working out three times a week for over an hour each time with NO results, I have decided that my time is better spent at home with my children!  Before leaving, I was always on the stationary bike at the same time as this seventy-year-old woman who could not even turn the bike on let alone add resistance!  She and I eventually started conversing and she started asking me about the weight training routine I always did after the bike.  I had shown her how to do them and there were quite a few machines she couldn't do.  She would tell me apologetically "I can't put any weight on it just now" and I would just say to her "Hey, what you're doing is better than nothing at all!"  So over the weeks, I kinda looked forward to seeing her there.  She pointed to the sit-up machine and told me "I tried that one day you weren't here and couldn't get out of it again!"  We both laughed and I said "at least you tried!"

Well after a few weeks of not going to the gym, I finally saw her this past Monday and there she was on all the machines, using weights!  I said to her "look at you!  Pretty soon I'll be asking YOU for advice!"  She laughed and said "AND now I can do five sit-ups on that machine!"

Pretty soon, ladies and gentlemen, my seventy year old workout buddy will have surpassed my physical stamina!  And I'll just be wearing big, big, BIG panties... sigh.  Where's the cheesecake... Moving right along!

Isabel continues to puzzle us with her seizure activity.  She is now on max dosage for Topamax, max tolerance of Keppra and now a recently increased dosage of Valproic Acid as well.  We have had to use her rescue medication (Lorazepam) several times these past couple of months... the scariest being a few weeks ago when seizures were lasting greater than three minutes!  These have happened while at school and it has been her Educational Assistant who has had to witness these and make the judgement call on giving her the Lorazepam.  This has been very difficult on her... she is also a mother and she has worked with Isabel for two years now... and loves her very much.  We have reassured her that we trust her judgement completely and appreciate how well she knows Isabel and looks out for her... and we support her when she has to make these calls.  They are not easy and can weigh very heavily on the heart, especially when you're making this call for someone else's child.  But she is phenomenal and we love who she is to Isabel and what Isabel is to her.

Izzy continues to LOVE her swim lessons and the adaptive programs the school fosters for those with special needs.  This will be Izzy's last year at that school (as they've already extended her stay by one year) so we will be very sorry to leave behind the most amazing school!  Prayers for this upcoming year and the quest to find a middle-ground school between James' and our home is most appreciated... and to find a school that can celebrate Isabel as she has been these last seven years would be a true gift.

Sivana and Isabel sure seem to have a special bond.  It reminds of when Anika was little and she would crawl to wherever Isabel was, sit beside her and just hold her hand.  This is where the gift of siblings is so evident to me.  I am so happy they have each other, and will continue to have each other long after I am gone.  This is such a comfort to me!

Our dear Melina continues to grow into a young adult and we are witness to that process of celebrating responsibility while letting go of childish ways... it is a painful process some days (hey, even I still have some of these to shed sometimes) and it's hard to know what is the best way to support that process.  Some days are met with communication attempts stopping short at her crossed arms and unwillingness to discuss anything while other days are met with her confident spirit and willingness to embrace whatever life has to offer.  It's as though we are watching her decide WHAT is her skin and if she is comfortable in it.  I think it is meant to be something truly beautiful, confident and independent... fearless of what others think and questing in the ways of Truth and integrity... but we shall see what she herself discovers and what she wants her roots to be.

It is a strange place watching your little one not be so little anymore, and yet you know that little one is still in there.  It's hard to say "I trust you" and to let them make their own mistakes without trying to "fix" them all the time.  It's hard to watch someone else's internal battle of looking out only for themselves, to being a part of a family unit... contributing through selflessness and willingness to look out for more than just yourself.

But I pray that this journey strengthen her beyond her wildest imagination.  I pray that God is shaping her to be the strong person I think He has always intended her to be.  It's kinda fun knowing it's all there and she has no clue yet!  Oh what joy when she discovers how endless that strength of hers is!  Without having to belong to anything but her own resolve to be the best she can be!

That is the joy of motherhood to me... being witness to those victories... watching your own flesh and blood discover the world and decide what to make of it... and now I anticipate the moment(s) they discover that they have been more than equipped to deal with anything and everything that is thrown their way!

I used to read the story in the bible of Abraham finally being blessed with Isaac through his very old wife, Sarah and how God had promised to bless a nation through Isaac's seed... only to have God tell Abraham that he is to offer up his son to Him on the altar... and Abraham goes WILLINGLY!  For years and years I could not understand his willingness and wondered if that was really faith or blind obedience?  Surely he knew that God never once asked for human sacrifices?  Abraham was the one who KNEW God's statues and laws BEFORE Moses ever brought them down on tablets!  But here he was, bringing his son to the altar ready to offer him up to God!

It has only been these past few weeks that I have been enlightened with WHAT Abraham's faith entailed in that submission...

It WAS true faith because he believed God's promise to bless Isaac's seed!  To Abraham, even if killing his son on the altar is what God asked of him, He knew that God would safeguard His promise whether through resurrection or any means outside Abraham's understanding!

He believed God's promise outside of his own understanding which allowed him to surrender to God's request in FAITH!  And then for the Ram to be caught in the thorns?  In fact, for the Ram's HEAD to be caught in the thorns because Abraham had explained to his son that God himself would provide the sacrifice when Isaac had asked him where it was... and sure enough, what did our Saviour wear as a crown on his head at the cross?  A crown of thorns... Indeed, God did provide the Ram!

This lesson has been a huge eye opener for me.  I have gone from questioning Abraham's sanity to actually grasping at the concept of how DEEP his faith truly was!

In a previous post, I had written about the helplessness of watching my own children suffer, whether Ethan with his allergies, Isabel with her scoliosis and many other physical ailments, to Anika and her bladder issues and Sivana with her multidysplastic kidney.  I wrote how it felt like I was outside of an arena with glass all around keeping me out as I watched my baby on the other side in a den of lions.  There I was banging on the glass yelling for God to let me in to protect my baby!  MY baby.

Therein lies the crutch...

These are not MY babies... these are God's children placed in my care and His will for their lives exceeds my ability to understand it, but I CHOOSE to have faith in His promise that He will never give us more than we can handle.

So if my babies are in the lion's den, it is because God has EQUIPPED them far beyond my ability to break through that glass to save them!  And while it has felt like absolute cruelty to be able to look into what SEEMS like their own doom, I realize He has allowed me to look in so as to witness their VICTORY.

I am not to fear their life story but rather to trust what will be their victory IF I equip them with the faith they will need to also believe in their own victory through God's promise and the salvation of our Saviour!

So as they dance in our living room and my heart swells with pride, the reality of the task at hand also sinks in and I gulp with a prayer in my heart that He equip me with the wisdom and tools I need to give these precious children everything they will need according to His word.  I pray that I can live a faith that can teach them and inspire them which means I need to get past that starting line!  It means letting go of the "self" and to be an example to them that "authority" IS beautiful, loving and life-giving!

As I type this, I wonder what your own parents thought as they watched you play or sleep... did they feel overwhelmed as if they could not live up to the task?  Did they feel scared?  Or did they lose themselves to the glorious feeling of pride that you, their flesh and blood, were living your own life story outside of anything they could ever offer you?  Did they get angry with your shortcomings because it reminded them of their own?  Or did they just want the best for you?

On that note, I pray this finds you celebrating your own life story and everything that has made it a life worth living (including those chapters you may think you wish you could omit!).  And may you celebrate with me the knowledge that children are not the shadows cast in our image, but rather the LIGHT casting our shadows!  Don't be afraid to see what needs to be worked on (even if it means trying to fit into smaller panties!) but rather WILLINGLY embrace the painful opportunity to SEE where you can really become the best YOU can be!

Much love to all of you out there... and may you rejoice at knowing that our Father in heaven looks upon you with even greater joy and love that we ourselves know with our children!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Squeak Squeaken!

I keep hoping that with having an extra set of hands around here, I would become a far more efficient person... if anything, I have been resting, catching up with many things that have been placed on the back burner for so long, etc... but mostly, my day seems to consist only of running around with errands, doctor's appointments, midwife appointments, school visits, Izzy's daily commute, and making meals!  Some days, it really just doesn't feel that different than being on a big mouse wheel running as hard as you get, getting no where fast!

Sigh.

But I know this is only a season in our lives.  All too quickly, we'll look back on these days and ache that we wasted any of it wondering when it would finally pass us by.  It's all about living in the "present" right?

I have missed sitting down at the computer to catch up via email and/or the blog.  I am lucky if I sit at this thing more than twice a week!  Alas, here is a quick update for those of you who have lovingly nudged me and suggested I get on this whole "blog update" thing! :)

Well, after over a month of nocturnal terrorism from our furry little friends, I am DELIGHTED to report that God has finally answered our prayers!  We have been a full week without scritch scatchings, nor with little presents of mouse dropping in my frying pans and cereal cupboard.  But this process was not without bringing the absolute worst out of me!

The night I blogged about nocturnal terrorists, I had a face off with the mouse that I finally discovered has been living in my Bose docking sound system on the kitchen counter... hence the mysterious bites out of my muffin now and again... (so gross that I shared my food with a mouse)!  I trapped him in the Bose system by taping the opening shut with duct tape, but not without dropping the whole roll on my foot, yelping in pain as it immediately began to fill half my foot in a bruise!  Seriously??  Well, that mouse was not happy about the enclosure and he squeaked and squeaked something fierce so I cut a small slit at the base, placed some sticky tape right at the opening and chuckled at the notion of finally capturing the little bugger.

Well, in the morning, he had scratched a big opening and had left a little "present" for me on the sticky tape.  Now this was starting to get personal!  I took that thing outside and started shaking the bejeebers out of it as I watched Tostitos crumbs and bread crumbs and mouse poop and speaker parts come flying out of the opening... but no mouse.  I knew he was still in there!  So I decided I would put the whole speaker system in a big clear container and put it right on my kitchen counter.  I placed a baited mouse trap and a bunch of poison in there and duct tape the whole thing shut.

Take that, you mean ol' mouse!

Well, day one and two passed without seeing him but he had set off the mouse trap and ate some of the poison.  We noticed he had chewed through any plastic pieces that were sticking out of the container... he was one determined mouse!  Eventually, without water and proper food, he started venturing out in broad daylight and he and I would stare at each other... well, mostly I would glare at him.  Several more days passed and sadly, I began observing his pattern of behaviour... out of the speaker at 9:50 a.m. where he would climb on top and try chewing through the plastic lid of the container again, then he'd stretch himself out with his sticky feet and try scaling the smooth walls only to fall down.  Then he would proceed to a specific corner where he would jump (scared the bejeebers out of me the first time I saw it... did NOT know mice could jump like that).  He would literally jump with such force that he was banging the lid of the container!  Then he'd go around the corner, climb up the top of the speaker then scale the side of it back into the hole with his tail only grazing the mouse trap tauntingly.

4:50 pm he would come out again and do the same thing... and then again at 10:00 pm.

I found myself making note at the grocery store, "oh look, it's ten in the morning.... I bet you squeakers is out and jumping right now."

Yep, after a week and half, this blasted arch nemesis suddenly acquired the name of Squeakers in my Speakers.  Good grief, this isn't good.  At this point, we invested in even more traps, ultrasonic devices and even YouTubed to find homemade mouse traps... and I had to watch a few videos on mice dying just to satisfy the raging within... so many mice, eight caught to-date but none being caught for over a week other than Squeakers!  Come on!

Eventually, another one earned its name... one decided to take up residence right underneath my pantry beside the fridge.  He knew that if he could just scratch his way through the base of that pantry, he would have hit the jack pot!  He was so bold he would even scratch in broad daylight with all our noise and hubbub around him!  He would even come out and poke his little head out beside the fridge and squeak away as if to tell us to turn it down!  Duane sat there with the broom one morning for a long period of time, just waiting for him to poke his head out one more time.  Duane doesn't sit for anything... I was starting to worry for him, too!

Well, that mouse scratched so loud that had we not already seen it was a mouse, I would have asked myself if it was a rat!!  He dug and dug diligently under that pantry despite my getting right down on all fours and roaring at him (yes, roaring like a wild lion) and banging on the baseboard yelling at him to get out because God gave me dominion over him and all his little friends!  Melina and Antoinette thought this was hilarious but I was short of ripping that baseboard off and killing that thing with my bare hands.  Even as I yelled at him, he'd resume scratching and then even dare to EEK EEK at me in the process!!!

Those YouTube videos of caught mice, dead mice, drowned mice were sadly (and alarmingly) therapeutic for me...

Because of his incessant digging, I named that one Alcatraz.  He literally dug away as if trying to escape Alcatraz!  He was like clock work throughout the day, too.  I knew when to count on his clawing noises.

After two weeks, Squeakers was finally starting to not look so good.  I was actually surprised at the slight remorse and guilt in knowing his days were finally numbered!  But as I looked at my destroyed $600 Bose sound system, the guilt quickly faded...

One morning, ten o'clock came and he did not come out.  Five o'clock came and he did not come out... gulp... I think we have a dead mouse.  Alcatraz also stopped digging for gold under my pantry.  Could it finally be???  I had told God "Hey, you SAID 'ask and it shall be given'... well I am ASKING you, as your servant and with these witnesses before us, PLEASE get rid of all these mice in the next five days and do NOT allow any more to return!"

By day four, it was very evident that we still had many of them around the house.  I felt defeated, down.. not understanding what on earth God could possibly want me to learn from this.  Sure enough, though, by the fifth day, it was my first quiet night with no mouse noises!  Squeakers and Alcatraz were still around but at least I had my first good night's sleep.  The next day, Alcatraz was no longer making noise but it would still be a whole week before Squeakers would die.

But none have returned, thus far!

I have pictures and video footage which I will try to add to this post when I can.  Yes, I have taken more video footage of a blasted mouse than of my own children lately!  Know that this process has been hugely humbling.  Even with Squeakers in the Speakers finally gone, Duane tried taking the whole system apart and STILL can't get the darn thing out of there!  He is burrowed deep within the components despite removing a majority of them!

Yuk.

Through all of this, I was beginning to think our outdoor cat was vegetarian... afterall, how were all of these mice getting past him and into our house?  Not only that, but every time I opened the door to throw more veggies into the compost bucket, there he was with his bum in the air and his hind legs shaking trying to hold on to the edge of the pail eating the veggies!  Great... we live on a farm with a vegetarian cat... so helpful.  But these last few days, he has been looking pretty fat and I am starting to think good 'ol Herman has stepped up "to plate" and has been feasting on the infestation of mice around the farm.

All in all, prayers have finally been answered and sleep is most welcomed without the slightest sound making me jump anymore.  I can pull out my frying pans without dread and I can open a cupboard without fearing a mouse will be chewing on some food, look up at me and say "what's up, doc?"

I thank you for the prayers and support.  I even appreciate the laughs that have been had.  And I am quite thankful to God that He took my sheer rage towards these vermin and allowed me a little bit of grace with Squeakers.  My sister Linda said it well... "you have to LOVE all things you are trying to let go of or they cannot truly leave you."  I certainly wouldn't say I loved Squeakers, but at least there was something resembling compassion for the little furry guy by the end... even if he did destroy a very, very expensive piece of equipment.

So here's hoping that wherever you are:
a) you are free of mice.
b) if you are not, that you also can find some measure of peace and/or grace as you confront the issue.
c) if you are free of mice, that you be able to face some other "pests" in your life with some measure of "love" as you let it go and free yourself of its burden(s) upon you.

May the Lord bless and keep you as you travel this life, as He watches and loves you just as you are (even if roaring at a mouse).  Take care, all of you... and God bless!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Nocturnal Terrorists!

I feel terrorized in my own house these last few weeks.  It starts when the lights go out and the dreaded scratching and scurrying sounds around the house and in the walls begin!  Darn these volatile, vindictive, vermin with their cute little whiskers and twitchy noses sniffing for food.  And why does their name rhyme with something so lovely, so "nice"?

You got it... MICE!

Reluctantly, I reach over to turn my nightlight off... nuzzle into my blankets hesitantly while half listening for the dreaded sound of their presence.  Those little buggers wait until you've just about drifted off to sleep before they start playing with you mind.

Scratch, scratch, SCRATCH!

It doesn't matter how quickly you can turn that lamp back on, when that light flicks on there is nothing to be seen!  You sit there listening, barely breathing while precious minutes of much-needed sleep tick past until finally you resolve to turn the light back off and go back to sleep.  Only to have the blasted game start all over again!

It's terrorism, I tell you!

And with a pregnancy bladder, putting my feet on the floor is NOT a welcomed notion in the middle of the night for fear one will run up my leg!

We have managed to catch seven mice so far... yes, SEVEN!  After months of Sabbath preps NOT including making a Challah loaf, this past Friday I finally managed to make TWO of them!  I was so happy.  Finally a sense of accomplishment for breaking of the bread and sharing the grape juice!  But the next morning, those little buggers managed to chew through my loaf bags and burrow, yes BURROW, into my challah loaves!  One loaf, fine.  But why did they ruin both of them those little gluttonous, gruesome good-for-nothing challah-ruining ego-bursting rodents!

In case you haven't picked up on it... I'm slightly angry and fed up with this.

And our dear Sivana who scoots around the floor like a vaccum cleaner picking up everything and anything she finds and putting it in her mouth... including mouse poop!  Thankfully I have been able to catch a few in time before they dissolved like little disease pellets in her mouth but I shudder at the thought of those which I did not find!

I dread nightime.  Last night, Duane worked a night shift and Anika cried and cried, screaming of an ear ache from 1:00 a.m. til 3:00 a.m.  Finally at 3:00 she stopped crying and I lay there for thirty minutes wound up from trying not to lose it on my daughter.  With each moment that I was not sleeping, I was getting angrier and angrier until finally sleep came over me and I began to slip into la-la land only to be rudely awaked by a huge SNAP sound.

The snap sound was immediately followed by that blasted familiar sound of frantic scratching until it slowed down and stopped.  On went the night light.  I was determined to find this little bugger!  I grabbed my shoe and headed towards the corner I heard the noise from.  I found a mouse trap Duane had placed there and realized now it was the sound of the mouse trap snapping on the mouse's face that woke me up and the resulting desperate scratches that have come to sound like nails on a chalk board to me.  There it was, motionless.  And there I was with zero sympathy.  None.  Zippo.

"Take that you little bugger!"

Yep, zero sympathy folks.  Pretty heartless but my first thought was "finally, one more down... probably fifteen more to go."  Even as I type this at almost midnight, I can hear them.  Like little ghosts haunting our house with noises you cannot catch with your eyes.  Hmmm, does that sentence even make any sense?

My feet are up on my chair (not too comfortable) as I dread one running past my feet as it did the other day.  That one resulted in high pitched screams and a surprising STOMP of my foot... which happened to crush it.  Truly not a lovely moment.

The house is riddled with sticky tapes, mouse traps tempting them with dabs of sunbutter and even ultrasonic devices that make horribly annoying buzzing sounds.  One mouse got stuck in the tape but managed to drag himself to a hole in the wall where he used it as leverage to rip his tail off to free himself.

Yep, to make things worse, somewhere in my house is a tail-less mouse.  Either that or something ate the mouse that was stuck in the tape and left its tail... this thought is no more comforting than the first!

I am a prisoner in my own home, terrorized by the pitter patter of rodent feet, trying to lay claim to our house... and nearly succeeding.

So my dear friends, I ask for the power of your prayers once more.  Would you join with me in a prayer to our Father begging Him to kindly get rid of any wildlife that does not belong inside a house?  And that He not twist the request by the house burning down (got rid of the rodents, didn't it?) or by some other double-edged form?

Oh those darn scritch scratches... they are in the kitchen just behind me right now.  I set up around some grain with sticky tapes around it... hang on... I'm gonna go check... my heart is already pounding...

It's now twenty minutes later as I have been nearly outsmarted by a mouse, yet again!  Went into the kitchen and nothing was in the sticky tape traps but I heard scurrying on the kitchen counter.  Sure enough, I moved everything where I heard the mouse go and he started squeaking something fierce but no sign of him anywhere!  It sounded like he was behind my Bose docking station so I kept moving it over to look behind it but nothing... until I moved the Bose station and realized there was a nice little hole in the back of it.  The mouse is currently in my Bose docking station so I stood there for ten minutes with the only tool I could find handy (which happened to be my garlic press) ready to whack the vermin when he finally came crawling back out.  Apparently mice have more patience than humans.  So I put the sticky tape at the base of the hole, tried blaring some music hoping it would make him scoot right out of there but nearly woke up Sivana instead.  No wonder mice outlive every living condition!  So I am back at the computer hoping that with the kitchen lights off once more and my angry breathing no longer nearby, Mr.Mouse will come out and find himself stuck to that tape!

I'm sure you all have better things to do than read my play-by-play of trying to catch stupid mice.  I'm sure I have better things to do than blog about them!  Sigh.  12:32 and sleep is not looking promising yet again.

So please, please, please pray that God get rid of these blasted mice once and for all.

And may this find you out there, hopefully sleeping and free of the torment of rodents ruling your home at night.  May you rest peacefully knowing that all is well.  And if you happen to be facing mice troubles, then know you are not alone.  From this terrorized insomniac to you, we'll battle those little suckers together!

Good night everyone.  God bless you!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

FLORIDA TRIP PART 5: A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS (Minnepolis to Home… Take 1!)

We had our first flight under our belts with only Anika’s upset stomach as a set back.  We were now making our way to our gate for our last stretch of flight back home. 

It was now 9:15 pm and our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:00 p.m.  Duane still hadn’t eaten (bet he was willing to eat a frozen turkey sandwich now!), Ethan was fit to be tied, was not eating his meals that Duane was now eying up, and it was long past bed time.  Once at our gate, we noticed that it was packed, and we learned that the previous flight had been cancelled.  Great, we had an over-booked plane.  The gate clerks were chiming desperately over the intercom… pleading for five people to forsake their boarding pass… “was anyone willing to skip this flight and be compensated with a $600 voucher PLUS meals PLUS accommodations?” 

Hmmm, 600 times 6 = $3,600.  WOW!!  But are we that brave?

I looked at Duane whose eyes got bigger as it dawned on him that I was entertaining this notion.  “But we’re so close to home!” is what screamed to me from his eyes.  But think about it… we even had Ethan’s extra frozen soups… it COULD be done!  HOWEVER, we had originally booked Thursday flights home because we wanted to come back a day early to ensure there would be no issues picking up Isabel at our scheduled switch time on Friday after school.  This gave us a good fifteen hours of wiggle room should anything go wrong.  So to risk not being back in time was not worth it.  It would not have been fair to James, his fiancĂ©e nor to Isabel.

Sigh… farewell beautiful compensating opportunity!

It was now time to board the plane.  The flight was delayed by thirty minutes as they kept trying to get more volunteers to pass up their seats.  By this time, Sivana had been screaming a blood-curdling scream for the last forty minutes and Ethan was beginning to have his own meltdowns.  Sivana also decided to poop yet again (seriously child!) and I had the pleasure of changing her in what appeared to be a tiny linen closet with a toilet!  Hmmm, the humour was quickly beginning to fade.

Finally, two final people volunteered to forsake their seats, and I wondered how much Sivana & Ethan’s screaming aided in that.  Annoyingly, another thirty minutes later, our pilot piped through the intercom announcing that the delay was due to the fact that the last two people who left were circus acts and they had to dig for five large pieces of luggage from the plane.  What are the odds?  Finally we had the green light to take flight!  One more hour, one more hour, one more hour…. We were now scheduled to arrive just past midnight, but at least we would finally be home!

After thirty minutes of screaming & crying, Ethan finally collapsed into sleep on Duane’s lap & Sivana was beginning to settle down in my arms.

And then that feeling.  That blasted instinctive feeling…

Melina (who was sitting next to me) saw the look on my face and said “What??” 

“I cannot shake this feeling that we are NOT going to see our home tonight.”  Hmmm, I hope that feeling doesn’t mean we are going to crash!  Better keep that last thought to myself!!  And so began my prayers asking God to still my anxious heart, to give me deeper faith in Him and His plan and to be with all of us on our journey home.

Pilot piped in again as the plane began to move warning that the weather in Winnipeg was alarming but planes were still able to land and the forecast did not indicate worsening conditions.  Blizzards back home… what a welcome party… I hope our ride can make it to the airport without being in any kind of danger!

After what felt like forever, the plane took off as Sivana finally, finally, exhaustively fell asleep in my arms.  Sigh… this was looking promising.

But that blasted feeling…

The take off was bumpy and shaky (thankfully Anika had nothing left in her to throw up!) but we finally made it up to the sky.  To my horror, I heard some unusual sounds under our seats, not helping my anxiousness.  Sure enough five minutes later, the plane banked hard to the right as the pilot’s now familiar voice chimed in.

“I’m afraid I have some bad news, folks….”

As a mother with five children on board (one of which is my sister’s) can you imagine the many horrific thoughts that can cross your mind in that millisecond after those words are spoken?  I assure you, it is both impressive and terrifying!

“Planes are no longer able to land in Winnipeg, folks, as the winds and turbulence are impassible.  I’m afraid we need to turn around and land back in Minneapolis.”

Oh my goodness, Ethan’s food!  Hopefully it will only be a few hours delay.  Oh why did we pay the blasted $75 to check that luggage instead of taking on the challenge we did coming here?  But we honestly did not think things could be worse than our journey TO Florida.  Apparently I can lack imagination!

As the plane was landing, Ethan woke up suddenly SCREAMING and SCREAMING, “IT HURTS, IT HURTS!  MY EARS ARE BROKEN!!”  He was hysterical and Duane could barely hold him in his arms as he thrashed around.  Out came the water bottles hoping that drinking would help pop his ears from the descent.  He fought and kicked and screamed while Duane was short of restraining him and shoving a water bottle down his throat!  He finally got him to drink and Ethan’s ears must have popped as he stopped thrashing around.

But naturally, all the screaming woke up Sivana who was now chiming in as well.

Once off that plane, we were shuttled to a man at a computer who was to help us rebook our next flight.  When he announced that the soonest flight out for six passengers was on Saturday… TWO days from now… my jaw dropped.

Ethan’s food? 

Our winter jackets are back home and it’s flippin’ winter out there!  We’ll have to pick up jackets!

Our crew is too big for one hotel room… shoot, that’s two hotel rooms times two nights… oh my goodness!!  Oh and all the meals… holy smokes!  This will cost more than the trip to Florida did!!! 

Izzy’s Friday appointment will have to be cancelled… oh shoot, James… he’ll have to keep Izzy another day!  And our supposed ride from the airport??  It’s too late to call him now!  This is disastrous!!!

WHY DIDN’T WE TAKE THAT $3,600 DEAL???

You know those little wooden desktop birds that slowly move downwards then back up again?  Well, for two hours, we watched that not-so-helpful clerk type on his little keyboard much the same way… “we can fly you to Chicago?”

“Um, no!”

And down goes the little wooden bird… type, type, type, type… back up again… “We could get you to Regina?”

“NO, that won’t help us!  What about renting a vehicle?”

And down again to type away only to come back up to say “We can find you a sedan.”

“No, do you see our crew?  We need an eight passenger vehicle.”

“Oh, yes… hmmmm, we can get you a full-sized car?”

“NO… that will not hold 8 passengers, now will it?  Can’t we get a van or suburban??”

“You can’t cross the border in a rental vehicle greater than a car.”

ARGH!!!!!

“Duane, we should try to find out where the Ethan Suitcase is.”

“Yes dear, we’ll all make the long trek out to luggage claim when we figure this out.  For now, let’s stick together.”

As the reality of the situation was sinking in, I sat myself down and started crying.  Yep, plopped down on the chair and let the waters flow from my amply-supplied tear-ducts.  This apparently drew the attention of an airport Swahili worker who approached me with his best of intentions (or so I tell myself).

“Hey, hey… you not need cry!  You are ALIVE.  God has different plan for you!  And hey, you not DEAD!”  At which point he looks down at baby Sivana, our young Ethan and our sleeping Anika and adds, “But even if you DID die… this is BEST time… These little ones will NEVER remember you!!”

SAY WHAT?!

Everyone around us literally stopped what they were doing as I starred at this man whose big bright smile really did make me believe he was convinced he was helping.  Can you really punch someone whose innocence just stabbed you in the heart?  The pressure was on as everyone looked to see what I was about to do given the clear “stability” of my current mental state.  (Please note sarcasm here).

“OH… Okay, Sir… Um, thank you.”

“Yeah, they never know you!  It would be okay!”

“Yes, Sir.  That’s true… thanks for pointing that out.”

The man looked satisfied that I was no longer bawling and went back to his business.  At which point I slowly looked down at each of my precious babies still somewhat stunned and started to wail… albeit, a lot more subtly!!

Did that seriously just happen?? 

We finally spoke with a manager about SOME form of assistance for our newly anticipated MEGA EXPENSES and reluctantly we were given a voucher for two hotel rooms.  Phew… that covers $300!  I have no doubt that had that manager seen what had just unfolded with one of her employees, she would have made the Swahili worker pay for the second night!!

Finally, it was decided that we could get two flights home Friday at 1:30 pm with the rest of us on standby, two more on 5:30 pm flight (with the rest of us on standby) and all six passengers booked for a Saturday flight (as a worst case scenario… because as you can clearly see, our family HAS to plan for these worst case scenarios!). 

By this time, it was passed 1:00 a.m. and Anika was sleeping across two seats with her legs dangling off the end unto a piece of luggage.  Ethan, unsurprisingly, was still awake.

Finally after two hours of pleading, rebooking & being “comforted” by a Swahili airport worker, it was time for us to get our luggage and car seats.  I felt so close to the brink of a breakdown that I dared not speak a word for fear it would result in some kind of assault charges.  I had been anxious about getting to Ethan’s food suitcase so we quickly began the long several-mile trek to luggage claim. 

A little shuttle buggy was driving by and Duane, Anika, Ethan, Melina and Loreena were able to get on.  Unfortunately, Sivana in her stroller , my suitcase,  purse, carry-on and I could not fit on as well so we continued walking… trying not to focus on what felt like another jab from fate as they disappeared around one of many, many corners.  A few seconds later, I heard the sound of another little buggy “beep! Beep!”  Aha!  Perhaps things are not so unfortunate afterall! 

Lo and behold, Mr. Swahili-oh-so-helpful-comment guy is there with his big smile and his own shuttle buggy driving right next to me gesturing for me to “hop in.”

Oh dear me… I think I am about to snap… better just keep walking.  Please Mr. Swahili man, for your own safety, just keep going.

“Hey Lady.. it is very far walk… I give you ride!  Come, I give you and baby ride!”

Oh sure, and maybe you could accidentally drive into a wall, orphan my babies so they’ll never remember me!  ARGH!!!  (Where oh where could I find a good Samaritan / good Christian pill right now?).

I looked down the empty endlessness of the airport where Duane and the others were nowhere to be seen… okay, Swahili guy, but you’d better leave orphaning my children out of anything you have to say!

Thankfully, he did manage to get me to the luggage claim without any majorly unwanted comments and I was reunited with the others.  I had the luggage claim tickets in my pocket and handed them to Duane who was waiting patiently for them.  I took a few deep breaths trying to keep the reins on the floodgate of tears that still felt too close to the surface.  Keep it together, Rita.  For the sake of the kids (and those still in this airport) just keep it together!

Duane returned hesitantly and asked “do you have another ticket in your pocket?”

“What… do… you… mean?”

“Well, um, you only gave me four claim tickets… and we need five.”

My heart begins to beat alarmingly fast as I ask, “Which ticket is missing?”

“The Ethan Suitcase of food is missing.”

My breathing felt funny as I tried to keep it together.  I tried digging through my purse, my pockets, the file folder of impeccable organization (which did NOTHING to serve us in that moment).

How would we feed Ethan?  WHAT would we feed him?  Where is the stub???

I started throwing the file and dumping my entire purse desperately on the floor and finally falling to the floor and crying like a baby.  This was quickly becoming way too much for me!

Anything else, Dear God… anything but the Ethan suitcase… PLEASE!!!

Like an answer to prayer, Duane worked with a clerk and within minutes (to me it felt like forever) they found Ethan’s suitcase.  Loreena came down to the floor where I was, hugged me, and with her ever optimistic heart proclaimed “Hey, Tante Rita, this is still the best vacation ever!”  And now I know where the optimism pills ended up!

With our mountain of luggage, and mild twitch in my walk, we made our way to where shuttling services could be found.  We called our hotel only to have them tell us that their shuttle service ended at midnight.  We were on our own, transportation-wise.

“How much for a shuttle with you guys?”  Thank God Duane still had his wits about him because I was border-line rocking back and forth with a glazed-over look.

“We have six passengers, two car seats, an infant car seat, stroller and all this luggage…”

The lady looked at our crew, the mountain of luggage and said “$86”.

And now it was Duane’s turn to nearly flip out.  Oh this was going so well.  We were fast approaching two scoops of crazy with a side of coo-coo-catchoo!  After he choked, he looked around and saw two men standing by taxi vans just outside the doors.  He ran out and spoke with them, ran back in and said “these Swahili guys could do it for $36 in total.”

No!  No more Swahili guys!!!  (No offense!)

At this point, I had nothing in me to argue… I just wanted to crash somewhere before anyone else dared to speak to me.  Duane, Melina, Anika & Ethan were loaded into one van (the one with the Swahili guy who COULD speak English) while Sivana, Loreena and I were in the van with the Swahili guy who could NOT speak English.

I felt numb despite our guy driving alarmingly fast.  Within ten minutes we arrived at our hotel.  I started to unbuckle Sivana’s carseat when the driver gestured for me to “wait”.  I watched Duane bolt into the lobby and then bolt back gesturing “keep going!”

What do you mean, keep going???

Before I could ask, we were driving like mad 80 miles an hour on a freeway following Duane’s van (who had also taken up driving lessons from Thelma and Louise!) when suddenly our van lurched followed by a ka-thump-ka-thump-ka-thump-ka-thump sound rattling our brains!  Even I knew we had just blown a tire but the driver kept driving… at 80 miles per hour… on a blasted freeway!!! 

Maybe I could open the door and just let myself fall out… then this would all be over… oh who am I kidding?  Knowing my luck, I would survive!!

Finally I yell to the guy “I THINK YOU HAVE A FLAT TIRE!!!”

As a side note… why on earth do we assume that yelling at someone who doesn’t speak our language will somehow magically make him understand?

“FLAT TIRE!!  PULL OVER!!”

Finally the guy pulls into a gas station as we watch the red tail lights of Duane’s van disappear in the distance.  How on earth are we going to fix this?  The driver just sat there, I looked at Loreena… I looked at the dollar signs clocking higher and higher on his meter.

“Um, Sir… can you STOP the clock, please?  STOP the clock?”

“Yeah… yeah… we STOP.”

“No, I know WE are stopped… can you please stop charging me for sitting here??”

“Yeah, yeah… we stop.”

Oh good grief can someone just put me out of my misery??  Ten minutes passed (with the meter ticking the whole time) and another van showed up to pick us up.  I dug through my purse, pulled out a wallet only to realize it was Duane’s.

Are you flippin’ kidding me??

Do not, folks, in any circumstances ever ask yourselves “can things possibly get any worse?”  Because you will ALWAYS get your answer.  And that answer is “YES!!”

I panicked and say to my driver (as though he could understand) “oh my goodness, I have my husband’s wallet.”  At which point the driver of the van who’d just arrived to rescue us said “yes, I know… I was your husband’s driver.  I am here to pick you up… and his wallet!”

My cab driver prints off my receipt and points to the part that says “TIP AMOUNT”.

Yes folks, I burst out laughing.  Not a nice laugh but more of a slight crazed laugh of ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

We unloaded and re-loaded in the freezing cold and ten minutes later, I joined the rest of my family at the hotel and we finally walked into our hotel rooms.  It was now just after 2:00 a.m.  Anika & Ethan collapsed exhaustively into one double bed, Melina & Loreena in another one.  No crib so Sivana slept in her stroller and Duane and I each got our own double bed.

Exhaustion seized us both as we looked at each other much the same as I would imagine one looks over at their comrade in battle after a cease-fire.  It had been an onslaught of relentless misfortune in just four hours but we were now only moments away from much needed sleep!  We were unwilling to think of what tomorrow would bring and surrendered only to the overall blessing that no one was hurt, we had Ethan’s food & meds, and an oh-so-humorous God watching over us!

Where most people would have thought to themselves, “man, after all of this, I am going to need a vacation!” this thought offered anything but relief for me!  When this would be all said and done, we would be wiping "vacations" off the map for a LONG time!