Hello dear ones! It is my delight to share with you the milestones and daily happenings of our family life.
Something I have not had the chance to blog about is the wonderful news that our son, Ethan, has been challenging some of his many allergies... and passing them! By challenging them, I mean that bloodwork confirmed low risk of anaphylactic reaction; therefore, under medical supervision in a doctor's office over three to four hours, we let him eat the "potential allergen" and monitor for any reaction. Thanks to these challenges, Ethan was able to break bread with us on Sabbath for the first time several months ago! Duane and I would sit and stare at Ethan as he ate bread... it was mind-boggling! Making him toast for breakfast had every alarm bell going off "Mayday! Mayday! Allergen! Allergen!" only to set it on a plate in front of him for his nourishment. Astounding! We have challenged (some by accident at home) butter, gluten, eggs, dairy, tomatoes, mustard, garlic and he has passed all of them!! He is partaking of almost every meal and it is a joy I cannot properly express. He turned seven this fall and is just as funny as ever. The other day, my Mom poached him some eggs and he asked for seconds. My mother said "you're a hungry boy" to which Ethan replied "well, I am fond of eggs you know." My mother kept a straight face and added "especially these farm-fresh eggs from your farm." "Yep" said Ethan "these are chicken-layed." Both Ethan and Anika are taking violin lessons and is it ever fun to watch them grow in this skill.
Anika is turning nine very soon and is becoming more of an eager helper. She and Ethan collect the eggs daily, wash them and put them away. They are helping out with rinsing dishes, loading the dishwasher and clearing it. They're even making their own breakfasts! I can see the internal battle with Anika who knows she is getting much older yet misses the days when she could easily be thrown into the air, bounced on our knees or carried up the stairs like a baby. She continues to be my law-abiding-citizen keeping us all in check with what the rules are and ever-ready to let me know when her siblings are not keeping to the rules! She helps to hold us accountable, that's for sure. This fall, we completed a full annual Torah cycle with Ethan and Anika and have begun our second year. It has been a beautiful thing to see their eyes opened to understanding things in the Scriptures that cannot be revealed by flesh and blood. What greater gift can a mother ask for?
Sivana is starting to read even though she has just turned five. She loves sitting with us for the first part of the Torah portion, reading the first two lines. I am excited for the day when all four of my youngest can read aloud with us every Sabbath. Sivana is an artist at heart and it's fun to view the world through her optimistic eyes... ever trusting the good in people. Sometimes I have been rebuked for being ignorant or naive about this world but even in the face of those who have harmed me most in my life, I have seen their suffering hearts more than my affliction... It's as though I see everyone's wounds and how they are trapped and bound by them and this keeps their hurtful actions from being a personal offense. I see this same attitude in Sivana. Sometimes, it will mean being betrayed, but we have not been called to love those who are easy to love... but rather we have been called to love those who make it difficult to love them. Sometimes, I will overhear Sivana talking to herself about how much she loves Yeshua (Jesus) and when I see her open heart towards everyone, I see His love in her. Even adults who come to teach Sivana in our home talk about her nurturing nature and the joy it brings to them. That is our Sivana.
Where Sivana trusts and loves everyone, it is hilarious to see the stark contrast in Avalyn who suspects and watches everyone as though she is on guard! She is not easily swayed! Her determination and stubborn will has us hopeful to guide these towards becoming a strength and not a weakness. She is the one who refused to turn upside down in my womb and had to be born by c-section. Her obedience is among the hardest of the kids to submit so I know to acknowledge her efforts when she has willingly set aside her own strong will in order to abide by a command or instruction given to her. I pray that she continue to grow in the joy of this difficult task and that she be comforted in her trust in us. I suppose strong-will and stubbornness has always boiled down to trust. Avalyn does not trust easily but when she does, it is a great gift! Her voice is so unique and her speech is so advanced. She is hilarious, much like Ethan, and often has us laughing about something on a daily basis. Her hugs are the kind that melt right into you... she is a darling gift!
Isabel is turning seventeen in May. Last Spring, a terrible thing happened. As I was transferring her from the Bruno Turn Seat in our van to her stroller, my hands slipped and her leg collided with the stroller. She cried briefly as I comforted her and checked her over but that was it. I was dropping her off for a respite stay over at a special facility who cares for special needs kids. Two days later, they called and asked if her left thigh was typically twice the size of her right one. Um... No! X-rays showed a broken femur!! Off to Children's Hospital where they confirmed that the break was low enough that surgery was not required. Praise be to God! But you can imagine how horrible I felt!! Here we are with a major main-floor house addition built for wheelchair accessibility, ramps and all, with a lift system in her bedroom as well as a modified van. Talk about trying to be fully equipped to minimize any injury possibilities... yet I still manage to break my daughter's femur! Surely the good LORD had a purpose in this affliction in our lives. Well, my dear ones, after this incident, Duane and I decided to buy a brand new van to be shipped off to Montreal, Canada to be fully modified with a ramp. It is a $26,000 modification. Oy! We submitted an application to a funding agency who reviewed our file. Approval can sometimes take up to two years so we were very nervous; however, they said that due to her recent injury, our file was considered top priority. Wow!! I was struggling with how anything good could come of what had happened but here we are with Isabel's bone twice as strong in its healing and with a van currently in Montreal, funding approved for $16,000, being modified to better provide for her needs. He is good indeed!
Another thing that happened was back in September. Isabel was struggling with her breathing more than usual so she was brought in to Children's Hospital where they admitted her and had her on oxygen while they ran tests. X-rays showed fluid in her lungs but more alarming was that her heart appeared to be larger than x-rays done a few months prior. Cardiology got involved and an echo was performed on her heart. The doctor sat me down and explained that Isabel had fluid around her heart and they needed to do a procedure using a needle into her chest to draw out some of that fluid for further testing. Untreated, it could compress the heart and cause death but the procedure had risks of puncturing the heart, especially due to Isabel's scoliosis (curvature of her spine). My friends, I prayed and prayed... I submitted her life into Yaweh's hands. The procedure was scheduled for the next morning. Her father and I were there first thing. They wheeled her away for one last echo prior to the procedure. To our dismay, they returned and said the procedure was cancelled!! The fluid seemed to be reducing on its own!! Blessed is He who hears the prayers of those who love Him!!! I still cannot thank our families, loved ones, etc.. enough for uniting with us in prayer. We are still visiting cardiology every couple of months to make sure the fluid is still going away on its own. So far, doctors are pleased with echo results.
Lastly, we have our Melina. She is twenty and planning a wedding for this May. She has been tasked with making supper twice a week in preparation for the harsh reality of working and being responsible for ones own meals. She is slowly growing in her confidence to cook... She is full of bright ideas for the kids and is doing a great job being a nanny for a family in the city. It is my delight to watch her grow in skill sets I pray will bless her home in the near future.
As for Duane and me, we have LOVED our first summer of grazing cattle. It is in our blood! We were blessed with his cousins cows to care for over the summer and Duane has dubbed me "the cow whisperer." Although there is no whispering going on when I'm talking to those cows! :) I LOVED caring for His creation and leading them to green pastures. They trusted me and followed me even when it meant walking long distances. It was a joy to ride out to them and see how they were doing and even more joyful to open up new grazing paddocks to them. My husband was phenomenal with planning their rotations and I felt quite proud of his cowboy abilities. Best of all was watching his excitement as he would take me for quad rides in the fields and show me how beautifully the soil was responding to our Holistic Management approach. We would let the cows graze the plants half way down and then trample the rest back into the ground for regeneration and redistribution of carbon back into the soil. Some local farmers called us crazy for wasting what could be turned into hay for selling, but seeing the land respond as though it could itself rejoice at life affirmed us in our resolve to "invest" in the land. One of the blessings of keeping Torah is that the LORD will move us from a position of borrowing money, to being the ones lending it out. Our debt load was so high that I did not see how this could be done but praise be to God, if He keeps blessing the works of our hands as he did this past summer, we could be exactly in such a position within two years!! How is that humanly possible??? It isn't and that's exactly the point. All praise to Him who is steadfast and faithful to His covenant!
So dear ones, that is my family in a nutshell these days. Our home is buzzing with home school, music lessons and Torah studies. We thank God Almighty for the freedom to worship Him in our home and in our country. I pray this finds you doing well. Thank you for loving our family. May Adonai bless you and keep you and place His name upon you! In Yeshua's name.. amen.