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Roy Sullivan was hit by lightning seven times between 1942 and 1977. The chances of this occurring are 4.15 in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. I can relate. It seems like if something bizarre is going to happen, it’ll happen to me. I have no idea what it is about me that invites this.

Case in point. I flew down to Victoria to see my sister, brother-in-law and adorable nephew (I mean off the charts adorable) a couple weeks ago. My sister fed us wonderfully healthy and tasty food. (Some people were having trouble digesting all those beans. Ahem. But I won’t mention names.) And I initiated the Tube Olympics where we had to shimmy through my nephew’s play tunnel.

On my last evening there, my dad and brother left early and everyone else went to bed early. I was moping a bit about the fun being over. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and I caught sight of the bathtub.

If you know me well, you know I don’t have running water which means that I have to heat water in pots on my wood stove and carry them to my little bath tub. It’s been about a year since I’ve had a bath with more than a few inches of water. And while it is a method of getting clean, shivering in a few gallons of  luke-warm water is far from enjoyable.

I tried to fight the temptation. “Rachel,” I told myself, “what kind of a guest would help themselves to a bath when everyone else is in bed?” But I was like a starving person rationalizing the theft of a hot-out-of-the-oven loaf of bread. “They know I don’t have running water. They’d want me to enjoy a piping hot bath with water all the way to my chin,” the other voice in my head said.

My willpower melted the longer I gazed at the tub. I locked the bathroom door, put the plug down, and turned the water on. I cringed at the noise of the thundering water. My sister had been up much of the previous night with her son, and my brother-in-law had a long day ahead. I hoped I wasn’t waking them up. “Worst guest ever,” I muttered while sinking down into the steaming water.

Bliss. For about one minute I was in heaven. This is so worth it. The water was as high as it would go, and I turned the taps to shut off the water. But nothing. The water still poured full force. I turned the taps the other way . . . and then one at a time. I had to start letting water out so it didn’t overflow.

This isn’t happening to me! Please, God, I pleaded. Please let the water turn off.

By that point I was out of the tub, dripping, and going back and forth between pressing my hands against my face in despair and trying with all my might to turn off the water. I watched all the hot water swirl down the drain. I paced back and forth between the toilet and the bathroom door. I got dressed and went to my sister’s bedroom door and tentatively knocked, but not hard enough to wake them. I pretty nearly just hung my head and cried while the water continued to pour into the bathtub.

Finally, I went down the stairs where my mom and step-dad were sleeping. “Mom, Scott. I tried to have a bath, but now the water won’t turn off and I don’t know what to do.”

So then the three of us were in the bathroom trying to turn off the water. “I just should have resisted the temptation,” I moaned with my head on my mom’s shoulder.

At that point, my sister and brother-in-law were wondering why the water had been running for half an hour and why the three of us were in the bathroom talking. Believe me, no one was sleeping and I was fervently wishing it was all just a bad dream.

By the end of it, even the landlord had to be woken up, and the water for the whole house needed to be shut off for the night. Turns out that the rubber ring inside the tap chose that moment to disintegrate.

Sigh. Groan. Sigh. When I shared my story with a close friend she just laughed, “It would happen to you, Rachel.”

I’m tempted to ask why. Why in all the time they’ve lived at this house—turning that tap on several times a day—did it decide to let go the one night I snuck an illicit bath?

But some people are just lucky like that. 😉

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A Longing Resurfaces

Intimate
Photo credit: Sona Psotova

I’m a dreamer. I’ve finally come to realize that about myself. Dreamers aren’t known for being practical.

My latest dream isn’t new at all. It’s been at—or just below—the surface for 20 years. All those years I’ve had a hunger to foster and adopt children.

There are times when that hunger buries itself in my chest, and I can think of little else—like after Haiti was ripped apart by the earthquake in 2010. “Can we please go to Haiti and look after the orphans,” I begged my husband. But Kevin is the practical one. He sees the consequences and obstacles with clarity while I only see the need and feel the pain.

I’ve tried to be more practical over the years. When I hear of suffering children—of orphans and foster children who never find a forever family—my heart squeezes with the desire to help them, but I remind myself that I’m raising six children in an unfinished house. “It’s not real,” I tell myself. “It’s just a dream.”

But last week, as I watched a friend snuggling her baby girl, I felt the desire to care for hurting children resurface. Maybe it’s time, I found myself wondering. Our house could be finished this summer. My youngest is four, and I have more time now. Kevin might even be semi-retired.

The next day, at an archery meeting, I overheard a woman talk about her experiences as a foster mother. I unabashedly drew near. “I’ve always wanted to foster or adopt,” I said.

“Really?” She seemed surprised. Maybe the idea to foster children crept up on her instead of being the culmination of decades of desire. She talked about some of the joy and pain she and her husband have experienced on their journey.

Over the years I’ve read dozens of books related to fostering children. Knowing that many children in care have special needs led me to studying about Down’s syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, and autism. I’ve also looked into caring for drug addicted babies.

But what is it like to love a child and then lose them? What if we did decide to foster children, but the pain eroded our family like a sand castle caught in the tide?

There have been times in the past when my dreaming and scheming have gotten us into trouble. Maybe I’m finally learning. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to rush into anything this time.

I found a book titled A Baby’s Cry by a foster mother about her experience with fostering a newborn. She and her two children form a deep bond of love for the baby, and then they must let him go when he is returned to his birth mother less than a year later. It’s helping me to understand what it’s really like to willingly suffer pain to offer a child a home and love—for a time.

I started reading A Baby’s Cry to my whole family a couple days ago. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a foster mom, but I need to believe that the ache that lives in my heart is there for a reason. Maybe some of my children will remember reading this book and decide to one day foster and adopt children themselves.

Maybe the time will be right one day for Kevin and I to welcome some of these little ones into our own hearts. I don’t know, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to know. I accept the pain and pray that one day I’ll have the chance to alleviate some of the pain of a hurting child.

A Baby`s Cry at Amazon.com

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Image credit: Lora Bates

Image credit: Lora Bates

I bought my new phone just after my husband bought his. Kevin couldn’t wait to get his new phone set up. Mine sat on the counter in its crisp little box for months. Why bother? My old phone worked fine.

Finally, I decided to contact Telus and have my new phone set up. I used my husband’s phone to make the call.

I’m not sure if I can write out the following events and have it make any sense at all. I went through hours of frustration when the agent switched my husband’s number instead of mine to the new phone . . . the call dropped . . . I called back on my phone and was put on hold . . .  I totally confused another agent when I tried to fill him in on what happened . . . he put Kevin’s number back on his phone and discovered that they’d wrecked the SIM card by putting Kevin’s number on it . . . now I had to go buy another SIM card.

Argh. Sigh. Groan.

The Telus agent offered to put a $15 credit on my account and apologized for their mess up.

“I’m sorry if I sounded irritated. I know this wasn’t your fault,” I told the agent at the end of our long conversation.

“You have every right to be frustrated. I’d be pretty irritated too.”

“Well, thanks for your help.”

I set the phone down and rested my head in my hands. Why did I buy a new phone anyway?

We drove into town to buy a new SIM card . . . the store was closed. The next day, when I finally got the stupid, puny little card—it was almost $2 more than Telus had given me to buy it. “Just let it go Rachel,” I told myself.

Thankfully, the transfer went smoothly this time. “Are you sure it’s my number?” I asked the agent for the second time. She was patient with me.

Whenever I feel like freaking on someone in customer service, I’m reminded of my years as a waitress. If someone is angry because the food is too cold or it takes too long or doesn’t meet expectations—they take it out on the waitress. Not fun.

I few years after I’d quit waitressing, and while we still lived on Cortes Island, Kevin and I were grocery shopping. Our town trips were always stressful and rushed with ferries to catch. We stood in the lineup as the cashier moved with the rapidity of a frozen sloth.

“Would you like your milk in bags?”

“No, it’s fine!” I replied, snatching the milk jug from her hands and packing it into the cart.

Later, as we sat on the ferry and watched the trees slide away, Kevin turned to me. “I was shocked when you snapped at the cashier. You more than most, know how hard it is to deal with angry customers.”

I nodded. An image of the woman’s hurt expression flashed in my mind. “You’re right.”

I’m glad Kevin said something to me that day. It doesn’t matter if Telus cost me hours of time and $1.81 in cash—I’m still responsible to treat others with respect and to apologize when I fall short.

This is even more important to me now that my daughters both serve at Tim Hortons and try to meet even the rude customers with a genuine smile. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time and kindness doesn’t cost us anything.

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The twins I prayed for

The twins I prayed for

I kept myself awake last night coming up with a list of the craziest things about me. Sometimes we just need to embrace our unique side. 😉

Yes, I really do have six kids. And, no, I don’t have running water. Part of me has always loved simplicity. For most of my life I’ve been convinced that I was born in the wrong century (until I had a good think about what it would be like to have a tooth pulled without anaesthetic). We catch water off the roof and store it in tanks under the house. Once a week, we use a small pump to fill up a barrel that we dip out of for dishes and bathing. We heat the water on the woodstove during the winter and on the propane stove in the summer. But I’m ready for a well and running water now. This summer . . . please.

I love giving birth. This is my favourite thing to do. I’d rather give birth than go to Europe or to a U2 concert. I don’t just love the baby-after-the-birth part. I love the birthing part. I love being woken in the night by contractions or my water breaking and the feeling of wonder and excitement. I love the building contractions that force me to withdraw from the world and focus within. I love meeting my babies for the first time. I’m proud of the fact that I caught my first and last babies with my own hands. Best thing ever.

I wrote a book in a month. There’s actually an event—NaNoWriMo—for the thousands of people around the world who are crazy enough to give up sleep and their favourite TV shows to write an entire novel in a month. So if you notice me wandering around with dark circles under my eyes, talking to myself, and it happens to be November—then you know why. 🙂

I wanted 20 kids. For real, and I’ve never even seen the “19 kids and counting” show. I wanted to birth 10 and adopt 10, but my husband didn’t want to have any kids, so we compromised and had 6. Notice that I compromised more.

I brainwashed myself to enjoy summer and winter. I grew up on the west coast where it snowed once or twice in a winter and the white stuff was gone by lunch time. And then we moved north. Our first winter we had close to four feet of snow. Turns out we’d bought our house in the “snow belt.” I hated winter and we were stuck with six months of it. But at some point I made the decision to embrace it. I went for walks every day and tried to see the beauty of winter. It worked! I actually started enjoying the winters. I decided to try my whole “I love the seasons” thing on summers, since I hated the heat of summer too. I’d go sit in a chair in the sun, close my eyes and say, “I love the heat. It feels so good.” No kidding—it also worked! It’s the spring I have trouble with now. I’m not sure if I’m going to try the whole brainwashing thing again. I don’t think, “I love mud and mosquitoes is going to work.” I might just keep one season to hate. 😉

I prayed for twins and got them. No, twins don’t run in the family. I just got it in my head that I wanted twins, so I prayed for them. Soon after that I got pregnant. We were in a little church at that time—maybe 100 people—and a girl stood up and announced she was having twins. I was ticked. Obviously, there wouldn’t be two women pregnant with twins at the same time in that little church. I was ridiculously convinced that she was having the twins that I prayed for. When my midwife told me I was measuring big, I brushed it off. “Nope, Amanda’s having my twins.” I didn’t even want an ultrasound. At 24 weeks, I was feeling my belly in the night, and I felt two heads! For real—I self-diagnosed twins. They came 10 weeks later.

If you’re shaking your head and thinking, “What a nut,” then I accomplished my purpose for the day. Have a great weekend!

❤ Rachel

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Joel and William

Joel and William

It’s hard to believe my youngest will be turning four in two months—he’s growing up so fast. In the midst of the busyness of raising children, it’s difficult to imagine a time when there aren’t little ones about, but now I find it’s just around the corner.

It’s been my goal for these sixteen years of childrearing to treasure the time with my children. I’ve often failed in this. There have been seasons when my focus has been elsewhere. But God has been faithful to remind me that the time is short with my children, and to draw my heart back to delighting in the simple joys of mothering.

During this time of raising children, I’ve experienced more pain and more joy than I ever thought possible—and if I had the choice I’d do it all over again.

This is life—raw and uncontained—where I’ve discovered the depths of love in a thousand acts of devotion, from a droopy sunflower handed to me from a chubby fist to heart-shaped cards found hidden in my suitcase while away from home.

Were the sleepless nights worth it? Yes! Or the horrifyingly embarrassing moments when my children have vomited in restaurants or knocked over shopping carts? Yes—worth it even then.

Tonight we went out for Chinese food and several times my three-year-old, Joel, had us all laughing. At one point he belted out, “I need champagne!” (He meant chow mein.) After our meal he was handed his very first fortune cookie. Everyone was reading their fortunes when one of my sons asked Joel where his fortune paper was. “I guess I eated it,” was Joel’s solemn reply. I’m afraid I laughed long and hard at his deep sigh. (His big sister soon made it all better by giving him her fortune.)

I’ll miss having a three-year-old around! It’s always at this point—when my youngest is two or three—that I start begging my husband for another baby. But I promised I wouldn’t ask him again, and I am content with my six wild and wonderful children…but I’ll still miss having a little one to make me laugh.

I’m enjoying every stage—teaching my six-year-old to read, being startled when my eleven-year-olds jump out of dark closets to make me scream, watching my thirteen-year-old blossom in her first part-time job, learning chemistry along with my fifteen-year-old—but I’ll never have another one, two or three-year-old again.

And so here I am—making a recommitment to…cherish the moment.

 

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Photo credit: Aiyaz Kidwai

Photo credit: Aiyaz Kidwai

Did you know that the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb happened right here in Canada?

Our family’s been delving into Canadian history with Canada: A People’s History. I always thought that Canadian history was more boring than counting snowflakes, but homeschooling has given me a second chance to fall in love with learning about the history of our beautiful country.

I feel like it honours those who have gone before us to learn their stories and share them with our children.

Back to the explosion—it happened December 6, 1917 when two ships—one of them full of explosives—collided near Halifax. A pressure wave from the blast flattened the community of Richmond, and a Tsunami that went out from it completely destroyed a community of Mi’kmaq First Nations people.

 

To learn more about the Halifax explosion, check out this interactive website: cbc.ca/halifaxexplosion/

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A couple weeks ago, my oldest daughter compiled this video of the poem “In Flanders Fields.” I hope you are blessed by it as we remember the fallen.

❤ Rachel

 

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The Joy of Screaming

Photo Credit: Betty Miller

Photo Credit: Betty Miller

I’m not sure if this is unique to my family, but the males in my home love to make me scream.

It’s often during a pause in a movie—while the house is dark and ominous. Kevin will find a door to hide behind or a corner to emerge from unexpectedly. I’ll scream or make guttural noises in my throat and flap my arms—and for a moment Kevin will look worried—but then I’ll see a hint of a smile that spreads all the way to his eyes, and soon we’re laughing until I’m wiping away tears.

There’s something exhilarating about a good scare and a neighbourhood-rousing scream. It’s better than coffee for revving up the senses.

Often, after I’ve been thoroughly terrified, I’ll hear the children giggling in their rooms. Somehow my screams boost the morale of the whole family. I’m just as confused at that as you are. But now the boys are getting in on scaring me too.

A few nights ago, I was walking with my friend Miriam on the driveway. It was getting dark. We were deep in conversation as we walked past my husband’s work truck. Suddenly, a dark figure leapt off the bumper, landed in front of us, and yelled.

I screamed…and I screamed. My legs went numb. And there was my son Owen, bouncing from one foot to the other in complete delight. The three of us laughed long and loud, and before long the feeling returned to my legs.

We went back to walking, and Owen went off to bed. Almost an hour later we were even deeper in conversation, it was darker, and an even larger figure jumped off the same bumper and scared us again. It was Kevin this time, and he didn’t even know that Owen had beat him to the scream.

My family knows not to tickle me—I’m much more likely to punch than laugh when tickled…But being scared? Yeah, I’m okay with that. 🙂

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Miriam and William

Miriam and William

This post was written last year by my dear friend Miriam after she watched our children while my husband and I were on vacation. She is a continuous blessing to my children and to me.

~     ~     ~

“I picked this for you, Miriam!” A little four-and-a-half year-old marches proudly into the house from his typically lengthy jaunt to the outhouse, holding out a fresh-plucked dandelion in his chubby hand. His sweet face is lit up by a huge and loving smile. My heart completely melts. “Thank you, William! That’s so sweet of you,” I exclaim as I accept the gift and add it to the steadily growing bouquet of flowers, smiling widely in return. Indeed, How can one help but smile when one is so blessed by the love of a child?

The baby giggles happily as I rock him to and fro and sing his favourite bedtime song, “Jesus loves me,” with a smile on my face. We are having so much fun together, that I start a new song right after, which includes the phrase, “God is always there watching you.” The baby catches the phrase, squealing in delight,” God watching me? God watching me!” I assure him that God does indeed love him and watch over him (and Mommy and Daddy and his brothers and sisters, too!) as I settle him into his crib, tucking the blankets around him and saying a little prayer. Precious moments, these!

“The soul is healed by being with children.” So Russian novelist Dostoevsky said; and certainly many times when I have felt ‘low’ – even for no particularly good reason – my spirits have risen just by having the chance to play with and read or listen to one (or more) of my friends’ little ones. There is nothing like caring for children to bring us out of and beyond ourselves – I find, anyway. I am so very grateful to those friends who have shared not only themselves, but also their precious ‘littles’ with me over the years.

Today more than ever marriages and families are in dire need of help and encouragement, as the attack against them (on both a physical and spiritual plane) grows steadily more prevalent and powerful. I have discovered that just because one happens to be unmarried, it doesn’t mean he or she has no role to play in the lives of the families whom God sees fit to place in his or her life.

Indeed, I believe single persons (as well as other married ones) may have a powerful role in supporting the parents’ training and work with their children, not only by being an example to them by how they live their lives, but also by teaching and affirming the parents’ instructions both in word and deed. For no family is an island to themselves; each requires the positive examples and strong support of other outside influences as they grow to maturity, be those influencing factors from individuals or from families, at home, at church, in schools and daycares, from various teachers, or from counsellors at a summer camp.

Does recognizing (and seeking, as able, to walk in) this role mean I no longer desire to one day have a home filled with a husband and children of my own? Certainly not! I do, indeed; but more than this longing, I desire to glorify my Lord with my life, whatever my marital and familial status might be; and I perceive that if I cannot learn to be joyful, content, and productive in serving the Lord during this season of my life (which in His Providence may last all my life), I shall not discover greater joy in any other. “The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today” (Elbert Hubbard), “for while we are executing any work, we are preparing and qualifying ourselves to undertake another” (William Hazlatt).

As happy as my visits with my friends and their children may be, oftentimes I still drive away with tears stinging my eyes; but they are tears of joy rather than of sorrow. My arms may be yet empty, but my heart is, oh, so full!

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“Who are you and what have you done with my wife?” Kevin pulled away from me, and his mouth fell open. Moments before we were getting ready to pray together—like we do every night—when I asked him if our daughters could go on a school trip to Hawaii.

It was out of character.

Since our oldest daughter was born, we’d held our children close and sought to protect them. When other 5-year-olds boarded a bus and went to school, I kept mine at home to teach them myself. Our children stayed with us during church instead of going to Sunday school. We felt that it was our duty to teach our children the Bible.

Of upmost importance for both of us was to protect our children. Too sheltered? A greenhouse? Maybe, but our children were happy and thriving, and we wanted them to be strong and have a firm foundation before being thrust into the world.

I’m not sorry for those years of holding them close.

But it dawned on me that there had to be a time of letting go too. In only a few years, our oldest would be old enough to go to college. We’d protected her and sought to teach her truth, responsibility and honesty, but what had we done to prepare her to stand on her own?

I was notified of a Biology 11 class that included a trip to Hawaii. It sounded like an incredible opportunity for hands-on learning, and both of our daughters have interests in that field. The thought of sending them that far away terrified me, but I prayed about it and then asked Kevin what he thought.

“Do you really want them to do this?” Kevin finally asked.

“I don’t know, but Myra’s 14 and she might be leaving home in four years. We need to be thinking about ways to prepare both her and us for this.”

We decided to send them to camp last summer and see how that went before deciding whether or not they would go to Hawaii. Even sending them to camp was hard, but a close friend was going to be the camp nurse for the summer and the kids’ home teacher would be there too.

The girls had an incredible time at camp. They came home tired, happy, and more confident. We signed them up for the Hawaii trip.

The interactive class completely engaged both girls. They took part in v-classes with their teacher and the other students. They did group projects, and were forced to look at some big issues—like evolution—and learn where they stood on them.

They were scared the day we stood in the airport. They cried when they hugged us goodbye, but they were ready for this. We’d spent years loving them, protecting them, and teaching them. It was time to fly.

Of course I worried about them. I’m a mom. On the morning we were to pick them up at the airport, I had a few meltdowns. The hotel put us down for the wrong time for the shuttle to the airport, and the girls’ plane was ahead of schedule. I was beyond upset at the thought that we wouldn’t be there when they got off the plane.

As it turns out…we were there an hour early and by far the first parents there.

I watched them come through the doors trailing their suitcases. They scanned the crowd. Anxiously. Looking for us. I waved, and they came running. They threw down their bags and suitcases and squeezed us tightly. I wasn’t ashamed of the tears on my cheeks.

The girls had been on the plane all night and had slept very little, but it didn’t keep them from talking excitedly about their trip most of the 11-hour drive home. I laughed when Myra said she woke up on the plane and saw Melanie sleeping with her head face down on the table in front of her. I laughed even harder when I heard the story of how they accidently stole a cooler from the beach and when they opened it, it was full of rice. Cooked rice.

It was a celebration. We were together.

Myra is now looking for a job. She wants to go on the school trip to Europe next year. A longer trip. Further away.

They grew up on this trip. They are more confident, more vibrant. The letting go has begun.

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