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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

We Choose Virtues

Thanks to my friend, Linsy, I have fallen in love with this We Choose Virtues teaching tools.  They are faith-based and teach the twelve virtues (diligent, helpful, perseverant, gentle, content, attentive, honest, kind, self-controlled, patient, obedient, and forgiving).

I have just ordered the entire home school curriculum and will keep you updated on how the lessons come along.  I have a humbling feeling I will likely learn more from this process than the kids will!  There is also a big part of me that fears not being able to do the home-schooling to the level I believe my children deserve.  Hopefully this little mini program can ease my way into a teaching routine and allow me to 'test the waters' in my ability to do this to the degree I long to.

They have wonderful posters that I think every family could benefit from having in their homes.  Be sure to check them out by clicking here.  I am so excited about this!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Bowling Bawl!

With the kids registered for Kids Bowl Free, I thought I would surprise them by bringing them in for a game and meet up with my sister and her step-kids, too.  After the zoo incident, I was cautious about telling the kids what the plans were despite their queries as we began the long process of loading everyone into the extremely hot Suburban.  But this time I had called the bowling lanes to confirm their times and to confirm their participation in the Kids Bowl Free program.  We had an early supper and all was looking promising.

Duane was working a night shift and once again, Antoinette and Melina were my incredible helping hands!  The drive was excruciating particularly with temperatures being above 30 degrees in a non-airconditioned vehicle.  Fifty minutes into our drive and five minutes away from our destination, I thought it was safe to tell the kids what the plan was.  This was met with cheers and high fives in their car seats.  Literally moments after telling the kids, my cell phone rang and Melina answered for me.  It was my sister.

"Tell her we're less than five minutes away."  I said.

Melina, instead, is quiet and answers "No, I don't think Mom is aware of that."  It's amazing what can get the heart pumping as one's thoughts visit every possibility in the span of a split second.

"Okay, I'll let mom know... Um, Mom?  Did you know that the Kids Bowl Free is only on weekdays from 9:00 til 5:00 pm?"

You have got to be flippin' kidding me!!  Oh my goodness, do we pay $90 for all of us to bowl anyways?  No way!  The whole point of registering with Kids Bowl Free was to bowl... for FREE!  For this single income family, that was the reason for registering! We paid the $25 adult fee so that Duane, Antoinette, Melina and myself could be added to the list all summer long, too.

I grip the steering wheel hard between my slippery, sweaty hands and remember my husbands words in these moments "Just breathe."

"No.. I was NOT aware of the time restriction."

"Mom, Tante Linda says she might have a coupon for bowling"

"Okay, tell her we're driving to her place right now."

"Mommy?  Aren't we going bowling?"

"I don't know kids... it's not looking like tonight will be the best time after all.  Maybe we could try again really soon, ok?"  Even though my instincts said don't look in the rear view mirror, I couldn't help it and once again felt crushed by their sad looks.  Why on earth can't I get these outings right?  I'd phoned and asked questions but not the right ones!

We arrive at my sister's, peel out of our seats like one would flip a half cooked burger on the grill and drag our feet towards my sister's house as though we've just found an oasis within the desert!  All bags are dropped at the entrance and the cargo looks as if we're staying the week.  Thank God almighty for my sister's sense of humour and the fun we were all able to have despite another set of plans gone awry.  My sister's coupons had expired and one desperate call into the bowling lanes asking if they'd make the exception this one time was futile.  But the kids were well entertained by Uncle Gil and true to form, Avalyn unleashed in her diaper which leaked everywhere.  Much easier to manage in a home than a bowling alley!

But truly, why is it that a child's bowels are stimulated during outings??  Why o why?

A few days later I was brave enough to attempt bowling one more time.  Kids were up from nap early, got in a nursing, and we drove down to the bowling alley closest to Izzy's daycare.  It was our Friday pickup day so a quick game before picking her up could be nice for the kids.  Duane had to work in the fields and Melina was working her first shift at her new job (way to go Mina!).  So it was just Antoinette and me with the four little ones.  This time, I resolved not to say ANYTHING until we were throwing bowling balls down the lane!!

It was another scorcher of a day and the ride in the Suburban was "pleasant" as always.  The kids kept asking where we were going to which I kept replying "you'll see."  We were in the parking lot, I still wouldn't tell them what we were doing.  We were climbing the stairs with images of bowling pins and the kids exclaimed "BOWLING!!" but I still would neither confirm nor deny.  At the front desk, I said "We're here because we're part of the Kids Bowl Free program?"

The manager looked at me and said "Ok.. where's your coupons?"

"Coupons?  What do you mean, coupons?"

"You have to login to the website and print your daily coupons."

The all too familiar heart palpitations were felt but a quick solution came to mind.  "I didn't know I was supposed to print any coupons but could I borrow your computer and print them here?"

"No.. our computer's not working right now."

"Can I login from my iPHone and show you the coupons from there?"


"Listen, Sir... we just drove in from out of town for a SECOND time trying to do this whole Kids Bowl Free because you wouldn't make the exception the other day when I didn't know about the time restrictions of your program.  Are you seriously telling me there is NOTHING I can do to bowl with my children right now?"

"If I make the exception for you, I'll have to make the exception for everyone else."

Oh good grief, what is this, elementary school?  Sheesh!  The kids are watching with excitement the effects of the black lights lighting up the whites on their clothes and they're jumping up and down with the idea of bowling.  One last thought... my sister Linda lives three minutes away... she's home... maybe she'd be willing to print my coupons and meet us here.

A desperate phone call to her saying "So I'm trying this AGAIN and screwed up yet again.  Any way you could print my coupons and join us for a game?"

Tante Linda saved the day when she showed up ten minutes later with coupons.  Sivana had since unleashed in her diaper and thankfully Antoinette tackled that one as I waited for my sister.  She later told me the alley was NOT equipped with a change table!

When Linda arrived, I handed the manager my tickets as I asked Antoinette to get the kids leather Robbies on.  The day was saved!  Except the manager hands them back to me and says "These are for the other bowling alley."

Gulp... twitch, twitch... "Aren't you all part of the same program?"

"Yes, but you have to register with a specific participating bowling alley and you registered with a different one."

At this point, I'm short of yelling at the sky at the top of my lungs "WHAT ON EARTH HAVE YOU GOT AGAINST BOWLING????"  My brave sister said "Look why don't you use my coupons for my kids?"  The manager did not look pleased but he said he'd make the exception this one time.  Only... as he was looking at her coupons, they were for the wrong day.

I must have looked pretty pathetic (or scary) because the guy finally let us get some bowling shoes.  What should have been a good hour and a half window of opportunity to play was now down to forty minutes thanks only to the fact that my sister joined us and could help me while Antoinette went to pick up Isabel before the daycare closed.

"Antoinette?  Is it just me or do things seem to go wrong for me lots?"  She laughed and said "I can't help but think it's so you have something to blog about!"  To which I burst out laughing.  So at least the good Lord has ensured that the end of a chaotic attempt is met with some humour thanks to my helpers!

Our Torah portion that Sabbath was about the loyal donkey who kept veered off the path three times despite her owner's wrath.  The good Lord granted the donkey speech in that moment so she could tell her master that she veered off the path those times to spare his life from the angel of death she was able to see but that he could not.  The Lord then allowed him to see the angel of death and the master felt terrible for striking his donkey for what seemed like her disobedience.  The lesson being that when things don't go as we plan, it is likely because we are being lovingly spared by a worser fate!

Despite the lesson, I could not help the fact that my original hope of bowling on Mondays had dwindled considerably and the idea of just staying home (in an air-conditioned home) was sounding more and more pleasant to me!  But apparently not enough to talk me out of an attempt to the movie theatre the following week.  Stay tuned for that one!

Zoo-Zooming Around Town

Ah yes... that time of year when school is out and the pressure is on to organize summertime activities to keep the kids from getting cabin fever.

Early July always starts off as usual... the best of intentions.  Notions of visiting a different wading pool around the city every Wednesday, Library visit every other Tuesday, picnic at the park every other Thursday, free bowling (Kids Bowl Free program) every Monday, etc...  The occasional "big deal" trips such as a Tinkertown, water slides, Zoo, Children's Museum, so on and so forth.  The possibilities for making it a memorable summer are endless.  But the challenge lies in the timing between nursings, snacks, meals and naps.  But who isn't up for a challenge in this family, right?

Apparently I live in a world of ideas which seem to rarely transform into action.  And what good are the ideas if you cannot make them happen?  What is the old saying about the road paved with good intentions?  (Nervous laugh).  So I resolved to make these activities happen to the very best of my ability (singular here because at this stage of my life, I feel like I have only one ability left!).

I registered our children with the Kids Bowl Free program and was pleased to see that two more alleys had joined the program.  One, of which, was much more conveniently located than the one from last year.  Awesome!  We're set for some Monday fun (said my Good Intentions brain)!

First off, I figured a trip to the zoo would be great.  Izzy was at daycare so we'd have to drive into the city to pick her up anyways... why not make it a zoo-trip day?  The only vehicle we own that fits eight of us is the old Suburban, which has no working air conditioning.  Given the fact that air conditioning was a near pre-nup must-have for me, a vehicle without air conditioning is an eye-twitch factor for me.  Not to mention, it is rather challenging to get Izzy in and out of the Suburban particularly in comparison to our modified van with turn seat!!

But hey, at least we HAVE a vehicle that fits most of us!

I checked the weather and it was to be a high of 22 degrees.  Perfect.  By the time I finished nursing, changed some diapers, packed snacks for the kids, packed Izzy's stroller and the double stroller, filled water bottles and sippy cups, loaded Ethan's Emergency backpack (epipen & Benadryl), refilled the diaper bag and found a place for that, too, including hats and sunscreen... it was about an hour later and we were ready to load all the kids.  Antoinette and Melina were my helping hands which is the only reason I felt this task could be tackled in the first place.  Duane was working a day shift.

I had a chicken in the crockpot so that supper would be easily set out despite having to nurse upon our return, Izzy given her water and feeding bag setup, diapers changed and potty breaks enforced.  It would be hectic and there wouldn't be much time but hopefully it would all be worth it!

Alright kids, here we go!

Sweat was soon dripping down my face as we drove, particularly when we discovered major construction and traffic issues.  What should have been a fifty minute drive became nearly two hours!  Wiping the sweat off my face, I turned to Antoinette and asked "Good grief... what is the temperature??" to which a quick glance to her iPhone confirmed my fear... it was well passed 22 degrees and was now 28 and rising!!  Avalyn was crying in her car seat and a quick look in the rear view mirror revealed red-faced children looking exhausted before even arriving to the zoo!  Windows opened too much made poor Sivana look like she was having seizures trying to breathe!  I could feel the tick in my right eye...

Finally, we arrived at the zoo and so we commenced the unloading of the children.  Its description could rival a circus act, if you ask me!  Antoinette get's Isabel's stroller while I get the double stroller.  Diaper bag, Ethan backpack, purses, water bottles and hats while Izzy's backpack with emergency meds for seizures are loaded on her stroller.  Baby Avalyn next, then Sivana in double stroller while Antoinette loads Isabel in hers.  Melina is keeping Ethan and Anika entertained while the rest of us load up like pack mules!  Sometimes it feels like moving a small army!

What originally began as an aimed 3:30 pm arrival in reality became a 5:20 pm arrival.  My shirt is sticking to me from sweat and my left arm is already burned from the drive in.  The kids have nearly drained their water bottles and look as though they're fighting heat stroke!  The nervous tick in my right eye is threatening to turn into incessant blinking!  I send Duane a text "Won't be home when you arrive at 6:00 but chicken in crock pot for 6:30, potatoes & beans ready to go.  Eat without us."  We've got enough Ethan-safe snacks for his supper and the rest of us could just pick something up.

As we walk towards the zoo entrance, I notice the sign... "Zoo doors close at 5:30 pm and zoo closes at 6:00 pm."

We'd invested well over three hours into the excursion thus far and the idea of reloading the Suburban to turn around and tackle another two hour trek home in that heat was border line insanity.  But so was the tantrum I was imagining in my head... full blown rolling on the ground kicking and screaming "WHY?  WHY?"

The kids' eyes were so excited despite their overheated red faces as they asked "When are we going IN the zoo, Mom?"  "Mommy doesn't know if we CAN go into the zoo today."

Six kids.  Six kids and I still haven't figured out a more tactful way of breaking my children's hearts.  My general rule of thumb is "do NOT tell the kids where we are going, who is coming over, etc... UNTIL you are WHERE you aimed to be and/or the friends who were supposed to come over have actually ARRIVED."  For whatever reason, I had stupidly told the kids we were going to the zoo and anything other than going to the zoo was NOT going to go over well.  Their jaws dropped and tears glistened in their eyes as they looked at me as if I just cancelled summer itself!

So I paid the admission for our whole gang for a thirty minute zoo excursion.  And then paid the $5 fee for a wagon for Ethan & Anika so we could zip through the park randomly pointing at animals as we whiz by to maximize on the thirty minutes and ridiculous price of admission.

So began the whizzing around... first exhibit - empty.  Second exhibit - empty.  Third, fourth, fifth - empty.  "Mommy, when are we going to see animals?"

"Look kids!  It's a PEA-COCK!"  I attempted to say it with sheer excitement hoping it would rub off on the kids but instead it came out more threateningly through gritted teeth.  "Here, we'll go find the polar bears."

We whiz passed more exhibits that are empty and surprisingly come to the end of one part of the zoo... we ask how to get to the polar bears to which the staff answer "we haven't had polar bears here for a couple of years.  We're still constructing the exhibit."  Oh my goodness, some savage-based instinct could be felt bubbling through my veins threateningly close to the possibility of biting someone's head off.

"Okay kids, we'll go find the zebras and the camels."

Nope, they weren't out either.  And as we tried making our way towards the other end of the zoo for the last fifteen minutes, we were stopped by zoo staff on a little buggie saying "You can't come through here.  You're gonna have to start making your way towards the exit now."

"Why?  We still have fifteen minutes."

"The zoo closes in fifteen minutes so you need to start walking towards the exit."

Ladies and gentlemen, we just about had a polar bear exhibit at the zoo in that moment.  I remained dangerously quiet as we walked back towards the exit.  There must be an aura of caution that surrounds me in those moments because the kids tend to leave me alone.  Melina, however, pipes up and says "with the zoo's slogan being 'imagine a place', I guess they really mean it."

And like a nudging gift from Heaven, I burst out laughing and the choking grip of the heat-stroked-savage from within was let go.  To my surprise (and relief) the kids seemed happy about the zoo visit (thank goodness they had no previous memories of it to measure against) and things were looking promising for us to be home around 7:00 pm or shortly thereafter.  Hopefully Duane will have been able to get supper on the table and we could have a relatively smooth transition into a meal before 7:30 pm.

But the fact that it was now 6:30 pm and I still hadn't heard back from Duane... I was thinking it would be just our luck that he would be held up at a call.  Which he was.  We ate around 8:00 pm and then put the kids to bed.  And I vowed never to attempt a zoo trip without every last inch of zoo details memorized!  Or at the very least, not until the Polar bear exhibit is open.

Stay tuned for my attempt at bowling, and the movie theatre...

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Morning Song

I have a cup of coffee in my favourite fruit mug as I smile to myself listening to the sound in our home this morning.  I can actually enjoy it because no child has had a melt down as of yet so the noise is a comforting one of children's feet running around, toys clambering around in buckets downstairs (some getting dumped out yet again), the gentle sound of Anika's voice chatting with Daddy, cereal being poured into a bowl and best of all... Ethan singing a Korean theme song downstairs!

Yes, a Korean theme song for a show on YouTube he simply cannot get enough of.  I chuckle at the fact that he has song it so many times now, it will likely be some ingrained knowledge later in his life should he choose to learn Korean... somehow, someway, he'll be able to say perfectly something about a rescue engine and an ambulance.

Life is not dull around here.

Anika is asking Daddy what the word "important" really means.  And Sivana is quiet, which kind of worries me, to be honest.

Anyways, it's just a small glimpse but it's the morning sounds of my life that I know will pass by all too quickly some day.

I wonder what sounds surround you as you read this... what has become so familiar to you that it almost goes unnoticed?  And on that note, I hear Ethan yelling at Sivana for something and Duane's response "Sivana!  Why are you naked?"

This is my cue to go.

Much love out there!  And God bless!!!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Six Years Ago...

I can hardly believe it's been another year, another anniversary.

With the busy hubbub of our lives, Duane and I were barely able to make time for an anniversary date on Sunday, but thanks to Antoinette and my Mom, we were able to escape for a dinner and walk around the Forks.  Avalyn tagged along and it was really nice to enjoy our baby daughter together.

This time of year is the hardest.  Farmers' wives become seasonal widows as our husbands tend to the fields, fixing machinery, seeding, harrowing, fixing machinery, cutting hay, fixing machinery and last but not least... fixing machinery!  With Duane working his full-time firefighting job in addition to working full time in the fields, moments together are very few and far between.  When too much time lapses without good connecting moments (a hug, a touch, kind words or a gentle smile) it's easy to feel a distance growing between you.

Thank God Almighty that the gap is always quickly closed in with eager hearts but the exhaustion and sleep deprivation can make the "reaching out" difficult at times.

Needless to say, our anniversary date was an absolute gift and I truly cherished our time together.  I cherish my husband, our life together, our children, our challenges and our triumphs.  I am in love with "our story" and the incredible fact that we have started a lineage of our own together... who knows what it will look like five generations from now!  We are a part of a future generation's history (God willing).  That is pretty darn cool!

But for tonight, I am just happy to be Rita.  A daughter to Claude and Jacqueline... a sister to Danny, David, Diane, Linda and Eric... an aunt, a cousin, a friend... but best of all, mother to Melina, Isabel, Anika, Ethan, Sivana and Avalyn... and wife to my favourite person in the world: Duane.

No matter what the distance that can grow in times of separation, it cannot change the simplicity of my joy which is my life.  In all its chaos, in all its upheaval, in all its glorious details (and boy are there details!).  Amen.

God bless you all out there and thank you for your patience as life settles down enough for me to find the time to write.  It's like an old friend waiting patiently to reconnect... and I eagerly anticipate the reconnection!