No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it. 1st Corinthians 10:13

Jul. 2, 2008

My Big Canadian Family

I am not a regular blogger; I have not made it a habit to sit down and write everyday. I envy (intake of breath) those who do. I enjoy writing, but right now it is more of a tool. I'm not the best at communicating my thoughts and feelings; there seems to be a disconnect somewhere between my brain and my tongue and much to the frustration of those who are close to me, I tend to speak in half sentences. Sometimes I'm sure I've said something, but in reality I've thought it and said little

This past Sunday we had ALL of our family gathered. It was the first time we'd been together in the same space since our time away between Christmas and New Years. It was the first time we'd been together in our home (affectionately referred to as "the Palace) since before Meg and Cam left for their respective countries last September (Meg to the Czech Republic, Cam to the US) and it was the first time we'd all been together since the birth of Tess. Effort, intention and perseverance are words I would use to describe calling all of us together, but we did it. This morning I sat down to send a simple email to give everyone the date of our next gathering.....and it turned out to be a little more than that SO I decided to share it here.

Brad, Meg, Ben, Noah, Cam, Car, Dec, Rhys and Tess too

It was great having you all here on Sunday. I was so looking forward to it; as dad mentioned, you each have had accomplishments this past year and we have much to be thankful for; much to celebrate as a family. Each of you either have or are transitioning into a new place: Meg is settling back into being in Canada after spending 8 months in Europe and will be heading into her final year of undergrad in the fall. Ben has completed his first year of University, has moved out of the house (or flown the coop) and is enjoying making some money. He's also enjoying spending time with a certain special young lady.....Noah has graduated from high school and finds himself single (...right, Noah??). He's looking into some online courses for Sport Management and has already had a couple casual meetings, one that was completely out of the blue. Cam, somewhat like Meg, spent 8 months out of the country and is enjoying his freedom once again. I can't imagine being that close and not being allowed to enter; I'm sure it was harder than any of us thought. Kudos to you, Cam. Carleigh graduated from grade 8 and made the Honour Roll; she also enjoyed her first year of voice. Of course, Dec goes to the washroom like a big boy. Rhys.....well, he's graduated to "big brother".

I wanted to say something the other night, but words failed me. I can't explain to you the thoughts and feelings that I almost any given day they range as much as your ages do. I have "kids" that are adults who deal with all of the issues involved in being a young adult. Career choices, what school to attend, finding a place to live, work issues, relationships..... I also have "young'uns"....a 4 year old who has a very active imagination and wants to draw and write and colour and learn; a busy almost-three-year-old who is into everything!!! One minute I'm after him for getting into something and the next minute he's got that big, beautiful smile that lights up his face and his arms wide open, looking for a hug and "tiss". "I love you too, mom"!! Well, that's what he is saying, though that's not quite what comes out. Then there is "baby Tess"; you can't help but smile when you look at her 'cause that's what she's doing. Such a happy wee girl.....I love her so much.

I love you much.

And yet I know that there are times when I frustrate you; there are times when I forget how quickly the time passes and I spend too much time "doing" and not enough time "being"; there are times when I say one thing and yet I do another; there are times when I open my mouth knowing that I am speaking in frustration and I'll end up saying something that I'll later regret.....I know there have been times and there will be times, far too many times, when I'll come to you looking for your forgiveness.

Meg, thanks for taking the time to come. Thanks for driving Cam, Carleigh, Ben and Vanessa here from church and for taking Ben and Vanessa home afterward. Thanks for making the potato salad, too! Ben, thanks for making the time and for sharing Vanessa with us. Thanks for fishing in another pond, honey; she's lovely....deep down lovely! I especially enjoyed looking down that long row of "my kids" and seeing her worshipping! I would love to get to know her more. Thanks for taking the time to throw the football around with Cam. Next time, Ben, we WILL play Euchre!! Noah, thanks for the amazing job you did at cleaning up and for just being you and making me smile. You have a gift, bug; a gift for relating with people where ever they are at. Cam, thanks for the amazing job you did at setting up the table; wow, good silver and everything. I was impressed!! As much as I appreciated your offer to Indian leg wrestle, I'm sure you can imagine why EVERYBODY turned you down. Carleigh, thank you for all of your help with the little people; you are good and sweet and kind, thoughtful and helpful. I could not manage around here without your help.
Brad, thank you for sharing the past 22 years of life with me. Thanks for loving me unconditionally, encouraging me to look beyond what my eyes can see and for supporting me. Thanks for reminding me when I take things (including myself) too seriously.

I was watching some little show on Treehouse TV with Dec and Rhys last night....I don't know the name of it but it was about the Chinese New Year (kinda like a Chinese version of Dora.....). Anyway, there were five characters carrying a dragon. One of them, I think it was a tiger, stomped off in a huff because he didn't think his job was important, leaving only 4 left to carry this dragon only the 4 that remained couldn't do it. The 4 end up encouraging the little tiger of his importance and in the end he comes back to take his place. Pretty simple message....and not a new one in this house, yet it had me thinking.

Each of you is a piece of something bigger here and when one is absent, there is a hole. I realize that you all are at different places and a couple of you don't live here anymore, yet when we all make the effort and take the time to gather together there is SOMETHING that happens just because we're together. I'm already looking forward to the next time, so mark July 20 on your calendar.

Jun. 17, 2008

Is it too late???

Yesterday I asked my husband if it was too late to change my mind on this mothering thing.....

I was having "a moment"; I've had many over the course of the 21 years I've been a mother, and I expect there will be more. I would love to say that these last three have been easier because of my experience with the first five, but it isn't so. The theory of parenting really isn't that difficult.....I know we have many books that line the shelves of our bookcase with all sorts of great advice on how to deal with anything from getting babies to latch while nursing and sleep through the night to potty training in 3 easy steps to raising boys and dealing with strong willed children..... Like anything in life, the practice of raising children isn't quite as easy.

Today Rhys, our almost-three-year old was on top of his little tikes car. We have a couple of them, which is perfect and saves many an argument 'cause we have a couple little boys. Anway, Rhys was laying on top of his car which was parked next to the couch and was working his way forward to get to the couch. I was sitting there, watching this and at one point offered a warning. Being almost-three, he chose not to listen and though he didn't fall on his big head, he did have an incident which left him walking away limping and whining.....but he did walk away!

Told ya' so.

No, I didn't say it, but I do wonder sometimes when he will learn that I can see what he can't? From my experience, I can honestly say that I don't know when he'll learn, but it won't be from me telling him not to do it but from him getting tired of walking away with a limp. That's how his mother did it.....and still does.

As a mom I have watched my kids make a myriad of choices; some I have heartily agreed with, some I haven't and it doesn't get any easier as they get older, in fact it gets shut my mouth; it gets harder, in some instances, to wait until I'm asked for my opinion, to be encouraging and to continue to love each of them unconditionally while they figure things out.
Meg, Ben, Noah, Cam, Car....Dec, Rhyser and baby Tessie too; from the moment you blessed my life I've had to learn to let you go and to allow you to grow. Like you, I'm still learning :0). Thanks for loving me anyway.

Jun. 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Growing up I believed; no, I knew that I had the best dad. Dad was easy to talk to and as the father to three daughters; nothing was off limits. As a little girl I recall going with him to the old A & W drive-in to buy the big jugs of cold root beer and of course, Dairy Queen for buster bars. He was great to take shopping; he had good taste and typically only asked one question: "will you wear it?". What more could a girl ask for? I loved dad's laugh. He was a gentle man; a quiet man. He had an interesting way of responding to questions at times; especially if we were asking permission to do something when he knew that we already knew the answer.....he would just sit quietly. Eventually we'd get the idea and stop asking stupid questions. He was hard working; a good provider. When I reached college, we commuted together. On wintery days when the roads weren't great, he'd get me to drive. I'm thankful that he did that; it has served me well on many an occasion. I have one sort of "frozen in moment" time when I was very young; we lived off of Pim Hill (I think) and I can picture myself running to greet my daddy as he walked home from work.

Growing up, Dad always provided enough rope by which I could hang myself; and he was always there to cut me down, too. I believe that my dad knew most every stupid thing I did, yet he loved me anyway. My dad was the first man in my life to love me unconditionally. Aside from my husband, I don't know of a man who was, and is, as generous as my father; whether it was with his time or his money, he has always been a generous giver.

On December 26, 2002 I got a call advising that my dad had left. I was 37 years old.

The initial shock of the separation was followed by a myriad of emotions: denial, hurt; anger…..of course disappointment. I would find myself staring blankly at pictures, crying and wondering if the memories they stirred had all been a lie. My father; a man that I’d looked up to, who had been one of the biggest influences in my life......the cause of so much pain? My hurt and disappointment wanted to find a place for the blame, and in those early weeks, it rested squarely on my dad. I recall the first time he called here..... I listened and I cried; mostly I cried. I said little, but yet I felt like I'd said too much. It was a difficult time. I actually thought at one point that if I sacrificed my relationship with my father, then he would change. Yeah, that would teach him! Fortunately, I had another thought.

Unmet expectations are difficult to deal with. What do you do when the man you believed to be perfect turns out not to be?? I recall the first Father’s Day after ...... I was struggling, wondering how to honour my dad. I went to church on Father’s Day and our pastor was sharing about his own dad. He shared how he chose to see beyond his father’s faults to the good. It is always easier to see the faults in somebody else; always easier to poke the finger and tell somebody else that they need to change. The Pastor honoured his dad that day and I left with a different perspective. As I think back to that time I am thankful. I do believe that in my questioning and wondering, God opened my mind and my heart and he gave me compassion, helped me to see differently.
I realized that in terms of my relationship with dad there was really only one question I needed to answer: Was I prepared to deny myself, and my children, a relationship with him? Did I want to be so "right" that I was at risk of losing all that was good about this man? The answer to that question was simple. No matter what dad did, does or ever will do that has no bearing on who he is….my dad. The relationship we share today has been tested. It is honest and I cherish it. I respect my dad – he is a good man and I know that he will do anything within his ability for me and mine. I have watched him over my lifetime genuinely care for people. He took his brother into his home when he learned he was dying and now he helps care for his 90 year old parents so they can remain at home. I've watched him walk the floor with Rhys when he was a cranky baby, help Brad clean the basement when the sewer line had backed up (now THAT is love); he's helped me by doing a myriad of things from cleaning to painting, knowing that these things mean a lot to me. 12 years ago he put me on a plane and sent me to my husband and I am thankful that he did. Harold serves; that is what he does…..but it is also who he is.
I may disagree with my dad on some things, but there is far more that we agree on. It is my choice, my pleasure and my privilege to love you dad; I am thankful for the father that you've been; I've learned that the pictures don't lie. I honour you today for the man that you are.

Happy Father's Day, dad.

Jun. 10, 2008

playing Catch Up

We celebrated Cam's birthday this past Sunday. It was a busy day for him - he had tried out for the Eastern Ontario Under 17 football team and was successful. Sunday was the day they made the final cuts and decided who would be on the starter squad and again, Cam was favoured. He seems to have hit a stride this past year. After many years of "sowing", he is now reaping his reward for all of his (and dad's too) perserverence and hard work.

Ben officially moved out just over 3 weeks ago. The plans he had made for summer employment fell through AND YET he was able to find a great job (even better his mom would say) working for a friend of ours who maintains grounds for many of the schools in this area . Ben has become very familiar with the weight of a weed whipper. He is sporting a lovely tan these days and I was certain when we met up with him Friday evening for coffee that his arms looked bigger.....He is enjoying the hard work as well as the fruits of his labour: a pay cheque and that feeling of a job well done. Ben's plans as to where he would live this summer also fell through, but again that all worked out. He's boarding with friends from church; they know Ben and yet still love him (kidding, honey....). I expect this summer to be a memorable one for Ben as well as a bit of a lesson learned.

Noah is finishing up highschool and looking forward to spending some time on Manitoulin, the "big Island". Having grown up on a neighbouring, Manitoulin (aka "Largest Freshwater Island in the World") was always referred to as the "other Island". My best friend's family hailed from there so it was frequently mentioned.... That was until Brad and I moved to Manitoulin. Now it depends on who we're talking to which Island gets called the "other Island". Noah really had wanted a program at Laurentian in Sudbury, but he didn`t get it, so he's looking at options. Just as with Ben, I know there is something for Noah, we just don't know what it is just yet. Noah is well able to roll with it, though, and he;ll soon have it figured out. Noah is a huge help around here and does most anything he's asked. He's good in the kitchen and does a great job on the barbecue, thank you very much!

Carleigh is finishing up grade 8 and will be a minor niner next year. She will continue her half french immersion program at St. Mikes. She has a number of other "cute and sometimes mind-numbingly silly" friends!! Do you remember 13?? Did I mention she is blonde?? Sorry Car. She can't leave a room (or get off the phone) without declaring her love for whoever she is speaking to. She is good and sweet and kind and makes up for all of the testosterone around here. Carleigh is finishing up her year of voice lessons and we'll soon be attending her recital and then her exam. She's a huge help around here with the little boys (who do try to take advantage of her); she took on bath time when Declan was just a baby and has been doing it ever since, bless her heart.

Meagan arrived home after enjoying a year abroad.....and is already planning her next trip. She had a great year; she did a lot of growing up and has returned home even more confident then when she left. She met her baby sister for the first time and we enjoyed her for two weeks before she left with her U-Haul, Peterborough bound. She is working at Elmhirsts' Resort; she worked there last year and they were happy to have her back.

The 3 little ones.....ya' know, I grew up one of three and always said I'd never have "just three". Well, we had the "3 older ones", then we had 3 boys in a row and now I have "3 little ones". NEVER say never.... The boys continue to provide us with countless stores whether it's Declan's imagination and creative way with words or Rhys' antics.....there is rarely a dull moment. Thankfully, Rhys seems to be over his "wake up at all hours of the night" phase. They are early risers, all of ours were, but he hasn't been up before 5 in a while and a couple mornings ago we didn't see him til 6:30!

At four months, Tess is sleeping through the night. The boys go to bed at 8 p.m. and Tess closely follows, waking shortly before or after them. She is such a pleasure; a happy, content little girl who loves to talk to her dad (or anybody else listening....or not!) and has a quick smile. The only thing we've found that she doesn't like is her car seat. It's what keeps her from being perfect! I have found that I am able to block her out, but others find her screaming somewhat disturbing. Rhys or Declan are good about letting me know when she's crying, just in case I didn't hear her. They love her to bits.....though Rhys somewhat less gently than Dec! They frequently ask if they can hold her "all by myself".

They are a blessing.....all of them, though there are days when I have to remind myself that I chose this. When I have thoughts of "what have I done" or start to feel sorry for myself I remind myself that I was the one who wanted more. Yes, I have a husband, but I was the one who actually prayed for more. I wept for another baby. I was the one who had to go through the whole process of the tubal reversal.....I had to convince not only my doctor, but we had to convince the surgeon that we were not crazy, because I wanted more; and God heard my prayer and he answered it with.....more. Despite all of that, there are days and moments when I have to remind myself. The rest of the time I do realize I have been blessed and favoured.

Our summer isn't a crazy one in terms of the practice, but with Brad's court schedule, Cam's football schedule, Meg, Ben and Noah's work schedules, finding time as a family has become an issue. I've instituted monthly family dinners over the course of the summer to ensure we do get to spend some time together; to catch up and to spend a bit of time enjoying one another. Though I do not regret choices made in the past year, it wasn't always easy having Meg in another Country, too distant to see; Cam in another Country, not able to enter Canada and the others off in different directions. They're growing up and it is hard to believe it has come to this...but ya' gotta roll with it and I'll make whatever concessions I need to make in order to get us all together once a month!

Apr. 22, 2008

Another Step.....

I found this in draft and thought that despite being written in April, the 22nd I believe, I'd post it.
Just got a call from Cam. He and Brad left this morning at 5:30 for his Visa interview in Montreal.

It's done! He's in! He doesn't just have a Visa (or Green Card), but once his feet touch U.S. soil he is deemed to be an American Citizen (so he'll have Dual citizenship like me) because he is the son of one. We can apply for his SSN and U.S. Passport anytime.

So, the big boy with the big dream of playing in the NFL is one step closer! Having the dream is just the first step, and a relatively easy one; walking it out is another. I do believe that even if Cam never steps foot on the football field as an NFL draft pick, he has succeeded because he is running his race.

Ya know this whole process, like much in life, has really been and continues to be a learning experience....not only for Cam, but for me as well. Some of my ideas about God and His will have been challenged; ideas about how He leads, guides and directs my life have been challenged and have changed. My husband, my kids, people I'm in relationship with, both past and present, have had a huge effect. How often do I sit on the sidelines waiting for the path to light up before I take a step?
I am continuing to learn about sacrifice and as a family we continue to work together to help achieve the goals of one another. Meg will soon be home after having spent her school year in the Czech Republic. Ben is close to completing his first year of university and is a step closer to his dream of becoming a doctor....and on it goes. God's will for our lives is rarely the easiest journey to take; but I do believe if we continue to, as my husband says, "put one foot in front of the other", it is where we will learn the most and where His plans for our life "work together" for our good.

Mar. 15, 2008

Earth's Broken Things.

Christ is building His kingdom with earth's broken things. Men want only the strong, the successful, the victorious, the unbroken, in building their kingdoms; but God is the God of the unsuccessful, of those who have failed. Heaven is filling with earth's broken lives, and there is no bruised reed that Christ cannot take and restore to glorious blessedness and beauty. He can take the life crushed by pain or sorrow and make it into a harp whose music shall be all praise. He can lift earth's saddest failure up to heaven's glory.
--J. R. Miller

I'm going through a difficult time right now. I can't chalk it up to only one thing; it feels like everything is being shaken and though I know God has a purpose in this, my human mind struggles for understanding. I know I'm not alone. I've spoken with 5 or 6 others who are dealing with their own situations and I do take comfort in that.....that doesn't sound good. I don't take comfort in others problems, just in knowing that I'm not alone.

I grew up with this beautiful, vivacious, bubbly girl......lets call her Betty. Betty and I weren't "best friends" or anything, but we lived close to one another and our sisters were close. Betty was a grade higher than me and we had a different group of friends but we were in the school band together and CGIT. Growing up on a small island in Northern Ontario means if folks aren't family, they're friends (or end up family unless you marry a non-islander like I did). We keep in touch and when I'm "home" I like to pop in and say hi.

Betty has a beautiful big smile and a great sense of humour. What makes her truly remarkable to me is her positive attitude; though she was never blessed with a child of her own she has always been excited when we've brought another new one for her to meet. Never have I sensed her holding back in her sincerity at welcoming a new baby; never have I questioned whether or not I should bring my babe for her to see. To this day, despite the fact that I've moved several times and had more children, Betty still sends her warm regards that can be felt through the world-wide-web. I know that there were many prayers offered up both by and for her; I don't know personally of the pain she endured; of the questioning that had to go on as she walked through that dark time in her life AND YET she walked through it holding fast to the only One who had any hope of filling the child-shaped void. Betty was pregnant once and miscarred; today marks the 12th anniversary of her due date. I know this day will hold memories for her, but she stands as a witness to me of what God does with one of his broken things.

I'm a Christian - a "follower of Christ" and, like all of us, I've had to deal with life's difficulties. Despite the experiences I've had and the lessons I thought I'd learned, when these circumstances arise my first reaction is most often one of dismay. Once the shock wears off and the emotions clear, then I remember that God allows in his wisdom and love what he could easily prevent by his power and I'm left again with the question of who I trust; who is in control.

Here I am......again. This place is familiar; I've been here before though I really wish I could get it all done in one shot. It took some time but I did find myself a few times over the past week amidst the tears thanking God for where I'm at.

Broken again.

Mar. 11, 2008

Praying for plastic monkeys

Yesterday Declan had his tail in a knot because he couldn't find his monkey (you remember the barrels of monkeys? well he's down to 3 monkeys and had misplaced one of them). Declan likes order and is very single minded.....the complete opposite of his mother and sometimes I find him hard to understand. He was convinced that he'd dropped one of the monkeys between the couch (it's a sectional). Even after we had moved the different pieces of the couch and he still couldn't locate the monkey, he was insistant that it was there. I could feel myself growing frustrated as he cried over this stupid monkey and nothing helped calm him. Finally I sat down on the edge of his bed and took his little hands in mine and started to pray. I couldn't remember the last time I had done that with him. I asked God to help us find the monkey. I told Declan that God cared about everything that concerned us; even his missing monkey. By the end of the prayer we were BOTH crying. We spent some time looking for the missing monkey, Declan calmed down and I was reminded that God does care about what concerns well as what concerns Declan's mother.

I headed to Ogdensburg late afternoon. Somehow the keys to one of our vehicles had gotten locked in the car (some electrical problem with the door locks) and Tess' interim health card being the only ID she has was locked inside. I figured they'd still let me cross and headed out. I had to explain my sad story, but the guy at the US border let me bring Tess in. He likely figured it was such a tale, I couldn't have made it up. This morning when I came back into Canada it was again on my mind.....sometimes these border guys have no common sense at all and despite the fact that I cross that border 3 or 4 times a week, today might be the day I get some new guy who is making sure he asks for ID (rarely do they even ask for it at the Canadian border) and whether or not I have any firearms, alcohol or tobacco. Instead, I had a super friendly guy who let me in with no problem......and tears came to my eyes as I was reminded again that God knows about even these little things that concern me. I asked Him to forgive me for forgetting, for doubting......again.

It has been a difficult week and I found myself one day thanking God for the discomfort. I can't go into details of all that is going on but circumstances have arisen and there is a need for change; a change I know that God has been preparing me for. I'm not completely sure of all that is going on, but it is time to course correct. Walls have gone up that really need to come down and though I know it won't be easy, it is time. Hope - REAL hope is found in brokeness; when we get to the end of ourselves and realize that we can't.....but God can.

Today I had the opportumity to share my "Declan story" to a friend. He said something and though I won't be able to repeat it word for word, it made sense to me. Often it is not the things we accomplish that are important, but the things we overlook in our busyness that are most important. Those few minutes I spent praying for the monkey meant something to both Declan and I.

.......By the way, we found the monkey and CAA unlocked the car door, too.

Feb. 19, 2008 we grow again

For anyone following my rather spotty attempt at blogging, you may recall that Brad and I were expecting our eighth child. Tess Elizabeth arrived on her due date of February 4, after only 2 hours of labour and lets say 18 minutes of pushing. She weighed in at 9lbs 2oz. A little girl who will act as the "period" in our family (or perhaps I should say exclamation point).

I love my boys; all 5 of my boys. Any woman who has had a son knows that there exists a special bond between mothers and their sons, as does, I believe, between fathers and their daughters. I think we all were quite happy that this last one was a girl. It somehow seemed.....appropriate that we once again experience the "kinder, gentler" of the two sexes. Tess will be - or should I say is indeed - the princess; youngest of 8 with 5 older brothers to keep guard. I can only imagine what sort of reception awaits the poor sap fortunate enough to fall for our youngest. After he gets through dad there will be 5 other males standing in line, waiting for their shot. I just shake my head.
So the honeymoon period, the "after glow" is pretty much over. The hormones have kicked in and its nothing to see me sitting on the couch while nursing Tess, driving to Ogdensburg, thinking about something or nothing at all, blubbering away like a fool. My thoughts are rather chaotic; though if you know anything about our home there are valid reasons for that! I was reminded this morning that it is so easy to forget all that one does until one tries to insert something new and are soon reminded. Brad and Dan have been taking more of my office responsibilities away, which is good.....but then I have to work through my own issues in terms of that. Easy to say that what we do isn't as important as who we are; fact is, things still need to get done and we're (okay, I'll admit it) hugely rooted in what we do and even more than that, who we please while we're doing it. Again I find myself in a place where I must force myself to be honest; not only with myself but with those around me. Sad, isnt it; that at the age of almost 43 I often find that I need an excuse?
The baby is crying......must go. Who knows when I'll drop this way again. I often thing of some great stuff to write, but making my way to the computer to actually do it comes after a fairly lengthy list of other "must dos".
Thanks to Brad, Dan and the family for picking up all that I've put down. Thanks to Julie for your prayers! Thanks to Don and Jess for the laughs! Thanks to Bonnie for reminding me I'm normal....well, as normal as I can be and thanks to Auntie Pat for caring enough to call back. Love, and appreciate, you all.

Jan. 8, 2008

Christmas, Family and Life

I'm tired today.
36 weeks along; a few more to go. I know these sleepless nights are sort of preparation for what is to come once this baby arrives, but I find myself wondering what I would do for even one night of uninterrupted sleep! This was the first morning in a long while that Rhys wasn't in our bed before 6 a.m.; for quite some time it was 5:11. I've never been one to sleep in, but 5:11 is just a little too early for me. I went to Ogdensburg on Sunday afternoon and was in bed with the light off by 8:30. Of course I had to wake up for the trip to the bathroom around midnight, but that is to be expected at this point.

Meagan flies out tomorrow. It has been nice having her home and the time has indeed flown by. Brad and Carleigh picked her up at the airport in Montreal on the 22nd and she's been busy every since! The rest of us were waiting for her in Ogdensburg so that Cam could be in on the welcome.

You'd think that nine people in a 2-bedroom house would be over the top, but we all spent 2 nights there before we left for Virginia Beach on Boxing Day. We took two cars down and piggy backed one another. With 4 drivers it worked out well. Of course there were moments of tension; that happens when you have that many people (especially of the related variety) spending significant time in reasonably close quarters! We had two rooms: a boys room and a girls room. We wanted to give the girls some privacy (and mom a bit of a break) so we took turns with the two youngest. Rhys slept better while we were away and we didn't have many of those 5:11 a.m. mornings.
There were a couple times over the holidays when I had left Kemptville headed for Ogdensburg feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed. I hadn't put a lot of expectations on myself in terms of decorating on either side of the border. The kids do most of the shopping; we downloaded that to them a few years ago and it works great! Brad and I take care of stocking stuffers. I hadn't done any baking; my mom had brought some over and my thought was that we girls could do some of that together Christmas Eve and besides, we weren't going to be home for the week between Christmas and New Year's. So there wasn't a lot of stress associated with those typical things.....however there was the fact that I was 34 weeks pregnant, dilating and 50% effaced to lend an extra bit of excitment to being out of the Country. A few days prior we had discovered that the air mattresses we were using in Ogdensburg were not holding air and we had a houseful of people and nothing to sleep on. Brad and I had taken a trip to Sleep Country where they were advertising a great sale - $189/piece! Our thought was that we could upgrade ourselves to a King and take our well-used bed (we got it when I was expecting Cam who is now 15.5) over along with a futon we had here. Well, the good folks at Sleep Country wanted to sell us a $1,500 bed which may have been a great deal, but wasn't what we went in to buy. There were also some tensions within the family that had me fretting about what the coming week would or could bring and when I finally left here Christmas Eve day after spending a few hours cleaning up stuff in the office, I discovered that some of the boxes of food that had been delivered a week or so prior were starting to thaw. They had been put in the "cold wing"; the unheated section of the old nursing home we call home upon delivery. We had no idea there was so much coming at once and I wasn't prepared. I went into Dan's office to hug him goodbye and wish him a Merry Christmas and it was all I could do to choke out the words; I felt heavy....burdened. My chest felt tight with that feeling you get when you try to hold back tears. When I walked out the door my mind was a buzz and I would have liked to just lay down somewhere and sleep for a very long time.
But it was Christmas Eve. We still had a tree to pick up and decorate in Ogdensburg. I had some last minute things to fetch and Brad was out buying that mattress. Though the plan had been to get a real tree, those were all sold out so we bought a lit artificial tree (though that took two trips because the first one didn't work).

The girls had made popcorn garland and after we decorated our tree, it looked beautiful. Rhys' response on Christmas morning was "wow"! We baked a couple things and Brad and Carleigh picked up groceries for our traditional Christmas Eve feast. It was a nice, quiet evening and once we were all together, under the same roof and in the same country, it really was all that I had imagined it would be. I had said to a couple people that Christmas was taking a back burner to other things: Meg`s coming home, all of us together for the first time in over 3 months and of course the imminent arrival of #8.....I got thinking about that afterwards and realized that THAT is Christmas.
Brad and I slept in the living room, the girls had Cam's bedroom and all 5 boys slept in the second bedroom! They did great. I think Brad and I were the first ones awake with Meg following closely behind....she had only been home a few days and had 6 hours to adjust to! We enjoyed our morning. Meg helped me with Christmas dinner in our very small kitchen and despite the over crowding, everything went really well. We were up and out of the house by 7:30 on Boxing Day and enjoyed a big b'fast at the Cracker Barrel in Watertown (about 45 minutes from Ogdensburg) before heading south. Our destination was Virginia Beach and we got through Washington and stayed just inside Virginia on our first night, which made for a short day the next day. The weather was nicer than what had been forecasted and we even had a day or two of 70 degree temps, though it was overcast on the one day.
We did have a little scare on the day we went to the Aquarium....there were wheelchairs available so Ben got one for me and the big boys took turns pushing me around (having Cam push me was like being on some sort of midway ride). When it came time to go, Ben suggested that he and Meg take the wheelchair back and bring the cars over to the building we were at. Ben, Meg and Cam left, I headed for the ladies room and when I returned I noticed that Declan wasn't with the rest of them. I asked where he was; Noah and Carleigh thought he was with me. The hunt began. I had told a few people that waiting 6 days for an ultrasound confirming that this baby was alright were the longest 6 days of my life; well, this was the longest 15 minutes of my life. The mind is a funny thing and it was amazing how quickly the thoughts came. Brad and Noah took off to search the boardwalk that we`d walked over on and Carleigh checked all of the entrances. I sat there with Rhys on my knee, hiding my face in his neck feeling once again utterly helpless. I offered up some pretty desperate pleas while trying to remind myself of what my husband had said; that he could have followed his older siblings out. It was scary.

He had, in fact, followed Ben, Meg and Cam. Carleigh came running in the front entrance telling me that Dec was with them and it was only then that she started to cry. Cam came sauntering in with a grin and then I broke again.....amazing what happens when relief meets up with that pent up emotion. Meg had asked Declan if mom and dad knew where he was he of course he had responded with a resounding yes. I tried to explain to him that we thought he was lost, but he simply replied "but I'm not lost now". He didn't have a foggy clue about the scare he'd given us, which is probably a good thing. I'm sure it won't be the last scare that boy gives us.
We did make it back home with both vehicles in tact and all 7 children. There was no sign of early labour while we were away and I didn't spend the whole time wondering if we were going to drop a child in the good 'ole US of A. There were moments that were great and moments that weren't though some of those could be attributed to a rather emotional, exhausting time for all of us; particularly the pregnant one.
We left Brad and Cam in O'burg and before Meg headed out the next day she took a trip down the hall to that second freezer only to discover that it wasn't working. It was New Year's Eve. Getting somebody to answer a phone in Kemptville didn't happen and I didn't know what to do. A neighbour stopped in with Season's Greetings and offered to take a look. Andy and Cheryl live in the trailer park beside us. They don't have a lot, but we have been on the receiving end of their very generous hearts on more than one occasion. Andy, Dan and Ben buried food in the snow out back between layers of snow until we could get a replacement freezer here or ours fixed. What else could you do on a holiday? My dad had arrived on New Year's Eve and found several used oneson the internet. Christmas isn't the best time to have to replace beds and freezers. Noah's girlfriend's dad delivered it out here to us and we got the food back in just in time for the real thaw to begin. They say that when it rains it pours. Fortunately it wasn't until we got the freezer problem fixed that the roof began leaking in several spots. At one point we were mopping up one corner of the kitchen every 10 minutes or so. My dad picked up a little pump and we spent four hours pumping water off the roof yesterday and it was going again this morning. I prefer the warm weather, but right now I am hoping for a deep freeze. It is a busy time for Brad who is back in the swing of things with trials almost everyday this week. The kids are back to school and Carleigh's dance and voice lessons have restarted. There will be a new addition here soon and I am behind on office work. I would like to spend some time "nesting" but there are office chores that need to be tended to and after the holidays, I'm having a hard time motivating myself.
The little boys seem to be at odds with one another today and are perpetually hungry. Declan needs to be reminded to sit on the potty....the older ones aren't without their own struggles and as a parent I feel those, too. It's life; it isn't always fun or easy or wonderful and it would be silly for me to think it should be. I don`t know what 2008 will bring, and though I`m sure it won`t be without its share of situations, I also know it will be full of life`s little victories. In the midst of daily life and living, I sometimes need to be reminded of how richly blessed I am and what is truly important to me. Focussing on the roof, the unpainted rooms, the unfinished bathroom, the almost 4 year old who can`t get through the day without an accident, the older ones who seem to need to be constantly reminded to do their chores - these are things that can, and do, get to me. I am fully human. There are those times though in the midst of the mess when I'm the one that is in need and there are many arms around here that are willing to offer a hug......many shoulders to lean on when I allow myself to lean.
Think I`ll take advantage of that more in 2008.
Happy New Year.