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!
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!
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."
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!
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!