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

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.