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Category Archives: Family

A Crisis of Faith

This has been a rough month.

There is a person in our lives who has rejected the measures of help we’ve offered, but who feels very entitled to what he thinks would help him (basically enablement without any accountability). He recently decided to make us pay for destroying his life. He came to our house while we were out, and smashed in 3 of our windows and our front door.  He was arrested later that night, and then released with conditions until his court appearance. He breached those conditions by threatening to come back and do more damage, so he was arrested again, and held in custody until his court date. Last week, he was released on probation.

I can’t give many more details than that, as I’m unsure of what is yet to come regarding court dates and charges. But I wanted to set the scene for you. This is a person whom we welcomed into our lives because of our faith. This person deeply resents the boundaries that we’ve put on the kinds of “help” we’re willing to give him (see above re: entitlement, enablement, and accountability). This resentment has grown into a violent hatred towards us, which has been expressed numerous times in the ways he has verbally attacked us, made accusations against our Christianity, and now physically attacked the safety of our home.

And he is free. And he is still angry. And we are not safe.

We have taken some security measures: motion-detecting lights and security cameras. Our conversations about ‘what to do’ have included the ideas of restraining orders, moving, getting a guard dog. We have been very communicative with the police, the court, victim services, and his probation officer. But none of these things, we realize, are realistic protection. The court did not rule in the way that we had hoped and prayed for, and now there is nothing stopping him from coming back.

And so, we come back to the faith that brought him into our lives in the first place.

We have to put our faith in Almighty God. It is a daily choice to focus on His capability. We adamantly cling to His promise to turn evil plans into His good purpose.  We resist the urge to live in fear, knowing full well that He might still allow another attack, but we stand firm in the assurance that He will also carry us through whatever evil may still come our way.

This is not easy. It has made me analyze my beliefs. There’s that old saying, “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” – you may have seen those words on a poster, probably accompanied by a picture of a kitten dangling from a tree branch with one paw. It’s a stupid poster, and the words are cliché to the point of being nauseating. Oh, but the truth therein! Passive faith is just empty religion. A vague belief in the existence of God serves us nothing. Trust is easy when life is good. Faith becomes real when it’s all we’ve got.

lovewinsMy faith is work right now. But it’s refreshing work (even while it’s exhausting). As a reminder to myself (and to everyone who drives by our house), I painted one of the boarded up windows. Love wins. Not our own love (which is broken and insufficient and clearly more “conditional” than we want to admit), but HIS love. His love compelled Him to step into the midst of our mess – our brokenness, our neediness, our entitlement, our anger. His love brings healing and restoration. His love is the only security worth trusting.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Adoption, Beauty, Family, God, Uncategorized

 

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Love Hurts

On the first day of grade eleven, my daughter came home and told me about a new girl who sat behind her in one of her classes. She’s from Denmark. She’s living here for one year. She doesn’t know anybody.

Alice needed a friend. And I knew Abi was the right girl for the job.

“You’ve been there. You’ve had that exact same need,” I told Abi. “You’ve lived in a different country and needed deep friendships even though you knew you would be leaving. You know how hard it was to get people to invest deeply in a temporary relationship. And you know how hard it was to say good-bye at the other end. You need to grab Alice and immerse her in your circle of friends tomorrow. Treat her as if she’s always been there and as if she’ll always be there. Don’t wait for a slow-developing, organic friendship. Make it deep immediately.”

And that’s what she did.

Now, if you know Abi at all, you know that she has big feelings about everything. Every feeling that she has is big. BIG. She is emotionally invested in ALL THE THINGS. Every relationship. Every activity. Every place she’s ever been. Everything she owns. Every bite of food. She is ALL IN.

So to tell her to invest in a relationship was probably redundant advice.

But to recall that conversation with her this week was helpful. This week brings Alice’s year here to an end. There have been a lot of tears. (Not just at the final good-bye last night, but on random days leading up to the inevitable. I think those random days started a couple of months ago. “Honey, why are you so upset?” “Because Alice is leeeeeeeaving!!!!!” Jesus, take the wheel.) And we looked back at that first day of school when Abi made the choice to love Alice – knowing how deeply she was going to love, because that’s just who she is, and knowing how much it was going to hurt saying good-bye.

I am so proud of my Abi Mae and her example of Christ-like love. Relationships don’t always end in heartbreak, and when they do, we don’t usually know at the onset that that’s how it’s going to work out. But choosing to love deeply for the sake of what might end sadly, that’s no small thing.

Today we said good-bye to Abi for the next nine weeks. She is off to camp for the summer to be a counselor to dozens of kids. We talked again about loving deeply. About investing emotionally, even though it’s an even shorter timeframe. It is her best gift to give, and the hardest.

And she’s the right girl for the job.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2016 in Family, parenting

 

Single At Night

We’ve been parenting together for 16+ years now, but when it is nighttime, I often feel like a single parent.

In the beginning, there was a very logical reason. I was nursing the babies. There wasn’t a lot my husband could do to help. Sure, I could have woken him up to change a diaper after I’d finished the feeding, but that just seemed mean. I was already up.

Once the nursing was no longer an issue, he reasoned that it still made more sense for me to get up. I could fall asleep so much faster than he could after the random midnight crises were tended to. I didn’t argue. I was too tired.

There were, of course, a few times that I insisted he be the one to respond to a child’s cries, only to have the child desperately want Mommy anyway.

He did get up that one night a mouse bit our daughter’s finger. Blood-curdling screams tend to jolt a person out of bed.

And there was another long, long night with multiple near-death experiences (as portrayed by our offspring). When there was yet another call from a far-off bedroom, I just couldn’t do it. I started crying. Eventually, my sobs compelled him to get up and see to the child’s needs. He returned  shortly thereafter…to ask me where we keep the clean bedsheets.

(Just one mom on the jury. That’s all I need…)

Our kids are mostly old enough now that nighttime emergencies are few and far between. But our youngest still has the occasional accident or night terror. Or itchy nose (for the love!). Recently, I was up with him four nights in a row (and more than once each night). By myself. Every night. I did not have lovely, tender thoughts towards anyone in those moments.

I recall being awakened the morning after the fourth night by some outside noise. A scratching, scraping noise, over and over again. It took several moments of fighting towards consciousness to identify the sound (and at the same time, trying desperately to stay asleep for just a few more minutes. I was So Blasted Tired!).  It was a shovel. My husband was shovelling the driveway.

Just then, the clock radio clicked on. Time to get up. I stayed where I was for a few minutes, realizing that he had been up for more than an hour already. Reading his Bible, bringing in a bin of firewood, getting the woodstove burning for the day, making my coffee, and shovelling our long driveway. All before my alarm went off.

I may be single at night, but praise God from whom all blessings flow, I am married in the morning!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Family, Marriage, parenting

 

How to Buy Gifts for Someone Whose Love Language is Gifts

Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas… You know you need to buy something “meaningful”, but…

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What does “meaningful” mean???

The pressure is on. And it makes you wish for an alien invasion, the second coming, Armageddon and the zombie apocalypse all at once, just to get you off the hook.

Well, Muffin, I am here to help you out. Take a deep breath. You can do this. And it won’t be nearly as hard as you think.

When buying a gift for someone whose love language is Gifts, the gift needs to say one of three things:

  1. “You are worth listening to.”
  2. “You are worth thinking about.”
  3. “You are worth spending time/effort/money on.”

Pick one; it does not need to say all of those things together. (Although on those ultra-special occasions when you know it is absolutely imperative that you hit a home run, then yes, these are the three bases you need to hit.)

No need to panic, Pumpkin. I will explain further. Please note that I will use feminine pronouns because I’m speaking from my own perspective on this and I am a girl. But I’m pretty sure the same logic could be applied to guys, so don’t let the “she/her” vernacular confuse you.

  1. “You are worth listening to.”

Your loved one wants to know that you listen to her. She probably says very obvious things in everyday life that will help you know what kinds of things she loves and hates. If she says, “Sweet Chili Heat Doritos are my favourite junk food”, make a mental note of that (or a physical note. It shows you care.) Now you know that you can pick up a bag of Sweet Chili Heat Doritos and make her day anytime!  If you know you need more than that for a bigger occasion, then a compilation gift of several of her mentioned favourite things will score big points. (IE. A bag of Sweet Chili Heat Doritos, a pound of maple fudge, a bottle of Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling, and a pair of fuzzy socks.) These are easy-to-find, inexpensive gifts. You don’t need to overthink it. Just pay attention when she talks.

Caveat: don’t pay half-attention. If she says how much she hates wasabi and all you hear is “blah blah blah wasabi” and then buy her wasabi everything…You have to know that this is just about the most hurtful thing you can do to a Gifts Love Language Person.

  1. “You are worth thinking about.”

Gas station gifts that you grab on the way home from work on December 24 send the message that you weren’t thinking about her at all. And THAT sends the message that you don’t love her, not even a tiny little bit. That will not make for a merry Christmas. You can pick up something completely dorky and inexpensive and if you tell her you bought it in October because it reminded you of her and you’ve been looking forward to giving it to her all this time, that says you think about her.

Ordering something online in the wee hours of Christmas Day and wrapping up the order confirmation will make her think you hate her. Telling her on December 2 not to open any of your emails that say “order confirmation” will prove to her that you were thinking ahead. And thinking of her means you love her.

Bonus information: In one brief shopping trip, you can buy an assortment of inexpensive token gifts and keep them hidden somewhere so that on any given day through the year, you can just hand her something and say, “I was thinking of you” and she will melt like coconut oil.

  1. “You are worth spending time/effort/money on.”

This is probably the one that is the most daunting for gift-buyers, especially if you assume that spending more means more. Relax, Cream Puff. That is a myth that I can dispel for you right here, right now.

Your goal here is to take resources that you have and show her that she is worth spending those resources on her. If you have some spare time and you choose to spend that time working on a gift for her instead of doing something you want to do, that sacrifice of time says she is worth more than your hobbies or bros. And her expressed gratitude will likely outweigh the joy gleaned from hobbies and bros anyway.

If you have a special skill set or craft that you use for everyone else’s benefit, and she expresses interest in that particular thing, but then you’re tired/bored/annoyed after expending all that effort for other people and so you don’t really want to do more of the same for her…that tells her that she is the least important person you know. Do not expect special expressions of gratitude. Duck and run, my friend.

If your general MO is to save/budget/skimp/reduce/do without, and you actually do have financial resources to spare, then the occasional extravagant gift is a good thing. Hopefully, if this relationship is of a marital nature, then you’re on the same page with the whole saving/spending thing – so frequent overspending will cause stress and turmoil. But once in a while, you would do well to knock her socks off. Just make sure it’s something she actually wants (Back to that whole listening thing. An Alaskan trekking adventure for someone who hates being cold and wishes all snow would die…bad idea.).

In conclusion, dear reader, how you present your gift can make a world of difference in how it is received. If you can show that you were thinking of her and that you were listening to her, it really doesn’t matter how much you spend. At all costs – put duct tape over your mouth if you have to – resist the urge to make excuses for a crappy, after-thought gift. Laughing off your forgetfulness says, “Not only did I forget to buy you something because I hate you, but I think it’s hilarious how much I hate you. Come on, that’s funny, right?”

Post-script: I have one more point to make. There is a right way and a wrong way to do a gift that’s something you share.

Right way: A glass of wine for her while you make dinner for both of you.

Wrong way: “Hey, this thing I got you was in the super-reduced clear-out bin so it only cost me a buck. And with the money I saved on your present, I went out for lunch. Win-win, right?”

Merry Christmas everyone!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Family, Humour, Marriage

 

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Boys are…Different

I would like to go 7 years back in time to when we were in the middle of the adoption process and change my answer to the question, “Would you like a baby boy or girl?”

Not because our now 7-year-old boy isn’t delightful. But because all the other 7-year-old boys are not delightful.

Really, really not delightful.

We love our delightful 7-year-old boy, so we decided to throw him a birthday party with a bunch of other 7-year-old boys. And they are not delightful. Really, really not delightful.

I booked the party at the movie theatre. We did that last year, and it was an easy party. It’s not terribly expensive (compared to most other party options out there), they can accommodate a group as small as 8 (unlike most other party options out there), and we were really excited about “Big Hero 6”.

We arrived at the theatre half an hour before the movie (as per the manager’s instructions) to allow us lots of time to get our cake and presents and any decorations set up in the party room. Unfortunately, they’d double-booked the party room, so it wasn’t available for us until after the movie. They did provide a space for us to lock up our presents, cake and coats. But the boys…the boys were not contained.

The screaming, running, break-dancing little monsters were everywhere. In the foyer, in the arcade, in the bathroom and running out into the mall. I could not keep track of them. And there were only 8 of them!

I didn’t even know all the kids or remember their faces after their parents dropped them off. Imagine a crazy lady snatching kids as they came out of a public bathroom, asking, “Are you supposed to be with me?” Yeah, that was me. Classy, eh?

After much chasing and herding and gnashing of teeth, we managed to get everyone to make a trip to the bathroom (“Are you SURE you’ve gone? You can make it through a two-hour movie now?”) and sorted out their drink and popcorn orders (“I don’t like popcorn.” “That’s too bad.”). Finally, the dreaded half hour of free reign was over and we were in our seats.

All I can say is, “I’m sorry” to everyone who was sitting behind or in front of us. There was talking and spilling and crying and many trips to the bathroom.

After one trip to the bathroom, I returned to my seat and whispered to the kid next to me, “What happened?”, thinking he might fill me in on any pertinent plot details. “I don’t know,” he non-whispered back. Okay, fine, I can figure this out. Oh. An important character died. Really? That wasn’t an obvious, helpful little tidbit that you could’ve shared? Thanks, kid.

And the crying. “I dropped one of my Pokemon cards and I can’t find it!” “We can look after the movie is over and the lights come on.” Crying continued for 45 minutes until the movie was over and the lights came on. “Oh look, here it is. Maybe you should put them in your pocket until the party is over so none of them get lost again.” “I don’t have a pocket.” I am going to throat-punch your parents.

So the movie is over, we get to go to the party room now, right? Wrong. The other party is still in there and then the room will need to be cleaned up. But we got some free arcade tokens to use in the meantime.

Again with the screaming, running, break-dancing monsters. Except now they’ve had Coke and M&M’s and they have basketballs to throw and game tokens to lose. “Can I have one more? I lost one behind that game.” How did your token get behind that game?!?!

Finally. The party room. That blessed little space where they can be as loud as they want and I can just block the door and keep them there.

That blessed little space where drinks are spilled and kids try to play tag and icing is smeared all over faces. “Look at my blue boogers!” “I got icing in my hair!”

And then I hear, “What the *#$%&@!?” from one of the not-delightful monsters. I look over, and one of the other not-delightful monsters is opening a present. A present that was meant for my child! I got in that kid’s face, with my finger pointing right at his nose. “This is NOT YOUR party and that is NOT YOUR present. So hands off! Sit down! And maybe try being NICE to the people around you.”

Don’t judge me.

Do you know what little girls do when they have a birthday party? They dress up in princess costumes so you can take them for high tea at a real castle. And they walk in a line to see all the fancy, old furniture. And they use their napkins after they nibble on fancy cookies. And they stand and smile for a group photo.

This is what boys do for a group photo

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Posted by on November 8, 2014 in Family, Humour, Marriage, parenting

 

Reality Bites

There have been several articles in my newsfeed lately that bemoan the perils of blogger moms. “Don’t read those things!” they warn. “You will be made to feel inadequate. You will hate yourself and your children. You will get so obsessed with making the quintessential tiramisu that you will forget to change your baby’s diaper for three days.”

Okay, the advice is actually well-founded. You can’t let yourself get sucked into the hype. Truly, if a blogger (or an Instagrammer or a Pinterester or a Facebooker) is posting only their amazingness and subconsciously (or intentionally) letting you think that they tend to every detail of their mommyhood and wifehood with such exquisite perfection, you should block them from your inbox.

However, I would like to think that I am not that kind of blogger. I’d like to think that, but maybe you are just dazzled and frazzled enough to have forgotten some of my glaring faults (which I am not shy about posting). In the unlikely event that I intimidate you, I shall hereby take a moment to share a few snippets of my reality with you.

First. Yes, it’s true that I make my own laundry soap. And I love hanging my laundry outside to dry. But I am not a laundry diva.

This is my laundry room.

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It is in the unfinished basement of our 140-year-old farmhouse. There is dust. There are cobwebs. There is dryer lint. There is cat poo (not pictured). I do clean up all that stuff once in a while (FYI the cat poo gets cleaned up way more often than “once in a while”. More like ASAP.) But you don’t need to feel like Satan if you buy ready-made laundry detergent. If you are somewhat capable of maintaining a reasonably clean environment in which to use said detergent, you are awesome!

Next. You may think all the sparkling wit, hilarity and brilliance that is created right here must happen in a zen bubble of peace. You would think I would be incredibly organized with the God-given gifts of administration and structure. Wrong-o! This is my desk right now:

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There are about 6 different to-do lists here. There are reminder notes stuck all over the place. And see all those pens? Half of them don’t work. Whenever I grab one and it doesn’t work, I just drop it and grab another one. You do not need to feel like a rabid honeybadger if sometimes things are disorganized. If you have a general idea of where most of your stuff is, or at least some good ideas about where to start looking, you are fantastic!

Next. I know, I know, you talk about my carefree beauty at your playdates. You are in awe. You are jealous. (Riiiiiight.) This is me right now.

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The truth of the matter is, once or twice a week I put on mascara and use some sort of product in my hair. And if I need to have my picture taken, I’ll make sure it’s on one of those days. The rest of the time, I look like this. You do not need to feel like Quasimodo if you have more important things to do than Kardashianizing yourself. If you have showered and/or brushed your teeth, you are a beauty queen!

Next. I enjoy a good decluttering day as much as the next gal. I do not keep scads of my kids’ schoolwork and artwork and church lessons and paper snowflakes and restaurant menu drawings. They show it to me, and I praise the work, then it goes in the recycling bin. The kids each have a Rubbermaid tub in the basement in which to store the most precious papers and keepsakes. I, however, have all of this:

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I’ve been mid-sort for about a year. I would like to get this job finished and purged and minimized. But…ain’t nobody got time for that! So I’m a hypocrite. That’s what I am. There. You do not need to feel like a Nazi if you sometimes have standards that are, shall we say, double. If you have realistic goals that you intend to someday work towards (and if your kids are not hurt by what they don’t know), then you are a rock star!

Next. I have been so proud of myself these 2 weeks while my husband is away. I’m staying on top of so many of the jobs that he usually does. I am single parenting like a boss (and I’m not even in a drunken stupor). I’m looking after his chickens and turkeys – feeding and watering them every single day! I have taken out the garbage. I have brought in firewood and built a beautiful fire in the wood stove. I looked after a sale of something that he had listed on Kijiji. I got rid of a dead mouse in the driveway (and by that I mean I stepped over it and then I guess a racoon or something dealt with it later). I have even made an appointment to take my van into the mechanic tomorrow!

However…

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I didn’t notice right away that the water softener was out of salt. I noticed AFTER I’d scrubbed the tub and then a day or two later, it was looking like this. We have iron issues.

And…

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It turns out that sometimes dehumidifiers can overflow if they are not emptied regularly. So know this, dear mom. You may be the most capable, strong, independent Guru of Multi-tasking and Super-Ability, but you don’t need to feel like Rob Ford if you make a few little mistakes here and there. If you didn’t burn down the house today and most of the children ate most of their meals, then you are pre-fraud Martha Stewart.

Next. I have a lot of things on the go. Too many plates that I’m trying to keep spinning. I don’t really like frantic busyness, but I do sometimes bite off more than I can chew. And then my schedule gets crazy. And sometimes people look at my schedule or ask me what I’m up to, and I probably come off sounding like I’m so glamorously needed by everyone and I just have to suffer humbly under the weight of all my astonishing talents. But the truth is:

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I’m on level 480. Sometimes there are just too many things to do and I buckle. It doesn’t happen often, but there are days when I get absolutely nothing worthwhile done. So you don’t need to feel like a speed bump when the world is running you down and all you can do is lie there. If those days are the exception, not the rule, then you are Michael Phelps (without the DUI and with, I don’t know, a cute sweater/skinny jeans/boots ensemble).

There you have it, folks. A few little bites of reality from your favourite (ahem) mommy blogger. Now go out and conquer the world.

Or don’t. Whatever.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Family, Humour, parenting

 

Knock Knock

I know that all parents go through this developmental stage with their kids. And kids reach this stage at different times. And it takes some kids longer to catch on than others. Even bright kids that seem to learn everything else so easily sometimes struggle with this concept. That’s normal childhood and normal parenthood. Anyone making the decision to raise a child understands this before they begin.

But sheesh! I thought we’d accomplished this and moved on a year ago. I thought we were done! Why are we having to go through this whole stage again? I am losing it over here, people.

The concept of knock-knock jokes, of all things, might just be the death of me.

This is my life right now:

L: Mom, can we tell knock-knock jokes?
Me: (with phony enthusiasm) Sure! Knock-knock.
L: Who’s there?
Me: Anita
L: Anita who?
Me: Anita go to the bathroom.
L: (uproarious laughter) Okay, my turn! Knock-knock
Me: Who’s there?
L: Levi
Me: Levi who?
L: I need to go to the bathroom!
Me: No, honey, you need to use the name and make it into a funny sentence. Like this. Knock-knock.
L: Who’s there?
Me: Levi
L: Levi who?
Me: Leave? I just got here!
L: Ohhhhhh! Okay. Let me try it. Knock-knock.
Me: Who’s there?
L: Levi
Me: Levi who?
L: Why do I have to leave already?
Me: Well, that’s close, but you have to take the first name and then make up a funny last name so that the two names together make a joke.
L: Ohhhh! I get it. Okay. Knock-knock.
Me: Who’s there?
L: Levi
Me: Levi who?
L: Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

Knock-knock.

You don’t have to answer that. It’s just me banging my head against the wall.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Family, Humour, parenting