Thursday, 31 May 2012

A Photoblog- My Spring Gardens

I love gardening, especially with my fingernails right in the soil. I can go outside feeling completely exhausted and once I soak in all the feeling of life in my garden and allow my eyes to drink in the green scenery, I feel renewed.


To the left of top picture- opposite side of the house, steps to lawn, fruit trees, 30 white pines and creek.

Columbine off stone patio with bench

stone wall. I hauled hundreds of rocks from our property and I am still not done.

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White bleeding Hearts

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

If I Just Take A Moment To Look Up

Although I have a simple digital camera, these photos capture the glorious colour and drama that exists just above my head.

I simply need to remind myself to glance upwards, above my little busy world  and enjoy the gift. It is an extravagant present that continually fills me with the joy of life if I remember to take a break from my "important" business. 

 This is the view above that brightens our day and gives us perspective!  It is so important to LOOK and to share because it connects us to God and to each other . 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Different is Good.

ALL children need  lots of free play time, even boring times to discover who they really are, what they are good at and what they like to do. Our daughter, Katie became the philosopher/ artist  she is today partly because I didn't have time to try to "normalise" her or the money to put her in a constant cycle of sports or other after school activities. 

Katie was completely unique as a child with amazing concentration. While four year old little boys were struggling to print or draw, my second youngest daughter would cover sheets of paper with tiny intricate drawings at 18 months old. Once she drew at least fifty  tiny "eyes"  while she stood on a chair and leaned over that paper, in deep concentration, for half an hour.

After we bought her a chalkboard  for the Christmas, just before she turned two, she was so oblivious to everything but her drawing that she kept drawing her little designs off the chalkboard in a line on the wall and kept going around the corner. We laughed so hard at that example of her quiet passion.

When Katie was a newborn, her hair was thick, black and stood straight up on end and her eyes were huge and very dark brown; they were almost comical  looking the way they popped out in a constant look of surprise. Those eyes seemed to study everyone and everything. Her hair became brown with gorgeous blond highlights that looked like she had streaked her hair but she still has those big, brown eyes that study everything.

How did this toddler fall asleep?
Why by cutting tiny triangles out of magazines until she passed out, child proof plastic scissors still in her hand. I'd gently remove the scissors and cover her with a baby quilt. Once a week I'd sweep up a whole overflowing dustpan of tiny triangles! When I wanted Katie to help, she'd be so absorbed in a craft or art work that she would not even hear me.

My daughter really, really marched to her own tune and I am grateful that our lack of extra cash gave her the freedom  and opportunity to discover her talents on her own.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Turn Off The T.V. and Computer

The best thing we ever did, while raising our children, was turn off the T.V. and computer and hand them pencil and paper, blocks, lego, a book or a cardboard box.

 ANYTHING is better for a child's mental, physical and emotional health than sitting passively and staring at a screen.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Birthday Breakfast

I started the day out right! I ate a poached egg, no extra fat, a cup of strong tea AND A BUTTER TART!
My kids, gardening, someone else cooking and a glass of wine will make the day perfect.
In addition, it is sunny, warm and a large snapping turtle is laying her eggs among my boccoli plants this very moment.

What more could a girl ask?

My Infant Was Loving ME!

Want to know a secret, a secret few people seem aware of?
Living with little people keeps you young if you allow them to teach you how to live.  However, I did not discover this truth at first.

As  an expectant mother, I braced myself for the marathon that was to come by reading everything I could get my hands. I was tense, serious and tended to concentrate on pouring out love and nurture to my newborn with little thought of my own needs.  It was an exhausting regime of nursing, burping, changing, bathing, rocking and soothing with perhaps two hours of sleep before the relentless routine started again. It was in these early , hectic years  that I desperately attempted to carve out quiet time to sit and replenish myself but it rarely ever worked out.

One day while nursing one of my babies, I experienced a powerful surge of love pouring into my heart from my baby to me.I started smiling, heaviness and exhaustion lifted and joy started to bubble up from deep within.
My baby was loving me!

The ramifications from this discovery were life changing. I discovered that if I relaxed when my baby gazed into my eyes with his guileless eyes, a hidden source of energy flowed from my baby to me.This attitude of allowing my children to love me into new life has allowed me to discover the joy of mothering. 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Our Dog is BRILLANT Enough To Act Dumb

Labs are often trained as guide dogs because they understand complex commands and have the ability to remember up to one hundred and fifty of them.
I could complain  for this entire post about my still not trained chocolate lab who is brilliant enough to act stupid when it suits him. However I will limit myself to two antidotes and then I will astound you with his gardening skills.

We adopted Duke (Marmaduke) when he was nine months and he stubbornly clung to several bad habits  that were just too much fun for him but a pain in the neck for us. For example,  he constantly leaps up literally in my face, to engage in some sort of mock fighting. Since he is only 14 pounds lighter than I am but all muscle, he is the definite victor in these contests of strength.  After one frustrating encounter, I harshly commanded Duke to stay "down" and to "sit"  about ten times. I finally threw up my hands and said,
"Oh, why don't you just go get a toy instead of attacking me?"
Duke suddenly stopped in his tracks, his ears perked up , he looked at me with wide opened eyes and then quickly put his nose to the ground and began to search for his hidden toys! All of us were shocked, especially since it now works every time.

Another secret weapon that halts mock fighting is an invitation .
"Come on up and cuddle instead of attacking me."
These words instantly transform Duke into a passive lap dog. After a couple of hours, of sharing a crowded couch with a monstousity of a dog,, one of my daughters pushed Duke off the chesterfield when he refused to move. The intelligent dog's reprisal? He purposfully stuck his tongue in her coffee while maintaining eye to eye contact,  slurped and then turned right around and stalked out of the room.
Way too smart for a beast!
No wonder labs are trained to be finely tuned, obedient guide dogs.

For all his faults, Duke is an excellent gardener. I know that this seems to be an absurd statement but trust me. I speak the truth!

This last fall I was pulling out old grape vines around our property. Duke pushed me out of the way as I struggled to dig up roots and he proceeded to dig furiously with his front paws. Very impressive.

 As I pruned  over head branches, often I only managed to cut half way through the branch. I'd tug and pull but it was Duke's who deserves all the credit for finishing the pruning. He'd leap incredibly high, grasp the errant branch with his teeth and then hang his whole ninety pounds on the branch. that dog saved me hours of work.
Now if we could only become smarter than our dog, all would be well.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

May Flowers

I am trying NOT to post but spend time away from writing But I must posts pictures from my garden. I will add more tomorrow.

Early May Tulips                                         White bleeding hearts


 Late April Daffodills

      Planted annuals on Mother's Day with my daughters

Saturday, 19 May 2012

WHAT! Not One Seat On The Jet Plane For Me?

...our journey through life can be compared to this scene.

We are in the airport, waiting for a jet plane to fly us to our oasis but a plane never seems to land for us. Meanwhile, there is a camel tied to the fence, with our name on it, waiting to take us across the desert.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Our Farm Animals Think They Are Part Of The Family

Living on a hobby farm with a crew of kids provides a wealth of material for a story teller. For example, our farm animals alone were so full of character, that there antics will be the subject of many stories. Of course, the kids enjoyed interacting with the animals but we did as well. My husband  especially liked his intelligent pigs and always maintained that when animals feel loved, they relate to people in extraordinary ways.In our experience, this premise proves to be correct.

I must admit that when my husband scratches, behind the pigs ears, they actually fall asleep. Our goat Daisy and our pony Starlight tried to get into the house because they considered themselves to be part of the family and one, huge, ancient horse  named Moonlight actually did manage to get into the kitchen. 

 Daisy did not like to be stuck in the barn because she was a socialized goat who gave us milk but she also wanted to be  friends.  I must admit that she did have a charming personality. If she hadn't seen anyone in a long time, she'd bleat until someone at least poked their head out of the door and talked to her. She would have made more friends if she had quit eating my flowers or stealing the little peoples' hats and pulling on their scarves. Most of the time she was tied up but a couple times a week, we let her follow us around in the vegetable garden. As long as she mainly ate weeds, we let her be part of the family.

 Starlight was usually fenced in the pasture or in the barn and couldn't get into as much trouble as Daisy but he always tried to open the door of the house by biting the door knob either before or after the kids had ridden him.  Once he actually managed to turn the handle and open the door, much to every ones'  delight. However we made sure he didn't pull that stunt again because it was not easy dragging him out. That pony had a mind of his own.

Now as bratty as the pony and goat were, old Moonlight was a gentle push over, who let toddlers run under him, three year old children feed him carrots and two or three little people sit on him,all at the same time. Through the entire ordeal, Moonlight barely flinched.Once he was plaintively looking through the window. I let him step into the kitchen to eat a carrot.  He passively followed us out afterwards.

 I like to think that The Spirit flowed from our home into the land and swirled around our animals. Many farmers were confounded by the sight of our cat curled beside our hunting dog. Several farmers commented that they had never seen anything like it. Perhaps there was a bit of heaven on earth on our hobby farm and natural enemies became friends.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Epidemic Strikes

 Imagine this scene.
 Eight children are sprawled  limply on chairs, a chesterfield and on the rug surrounded by pillows,comforters and favourite stuffed toys.  Every one is moaning on and off with fever, lethargy, and itchy spots that are driving them crazy. I dole out acetaminophen, rotate who gets an oatmeal bath (that brings temporary relief), continue the never ending task of dabbing calamine lotion on chicken pox spots and in between these nursing chores, I scramble to fetch drinks and light snacks from the kitchen.

 That was what my house looked like for Epidemic Week when chicken pox attacked my children. The youngest three had light cases but the older kids were utterly miserable with pox in their ears,nose and hair. Matthew had 175 spots on his back alone. As they began to feel better, I lined kids up literally in a row so they could put calamine lotion on each other.
Desperate times call for creative thinking

Human beings are never given a warning before calamity strikes. If I had an inkling of the trouble that would be unleashed by allowing Melissa to go on her first baby sitting job over at the neighbours house, I would have vehemently screamed,

Melissa, Jana, our neighbour and I were confident that with her baby asleep, Melissa would be fine with just a toddler to keep happy and tuck into bed. Melissa left the house excited to finally get paid for what she had done for years at our house ( while I was at home, of course). Four hours later, Melissa called home frantically; both children were whimpering and crying, flushed with fevers and she had been rocking both of them for hours. I gave her permission to give them a dose of tempera. Next day, Jana called; the babies had chicken pox but only a light case . We were not so fortunate.

There IS a bright side to this story. I had only one case of chicken pox left to go!
As well, there is also an amusing conclusion.

Emily as one of the younger children ,was the first child back at school. She loved school and was always very conscientious about homework.  As I saw her trudging home, up a long lane that had not been even cleared of snow yet, I noticed that she looked like a beast of burden. This tiny girl, in grade one, was carrying five school bags stuffed with textbooks and notebooks.
As she came through the door, she cried out in a happy voice,
"Hey, everybody! Look what I brought home, all your homework so you can get caught up!"
I admired her  diligence, but four other people just complained and groaned loudly
" Emmmilyyy!"

Monday, 14 May 2012

A Pre- Schooler' Humourous Conclusions About God

I was preparing dinner one afternoon, when five year old David came running up to me with a serious look on his face. He was always full of good natured energy and mischief but he also had a delightful spirituality that was not taught but inborn.

 Once again, David had another theological question for me,
"Mum, does Mary live in my heart?"
I did some fast thinking. Heaven is within us and Mary is in heaven, I thought. So I answered,
"Yes sweetie, Mary is in your heart."
David sighed and concluded the discussion,
"I guess that means that God is in my feet."
I laughed silently to myself and thought that that was a very theologically correct concept since God is our foundation. I had no idea what went on in David's head after that answer  but I  soon found out.
 It was about a week later, when all the kids who were old enough (and one who wasn't really old enough), were playing hide and go seek.
When David's toe was pinched by a closet door he ran up to me again, this time he was sobbing. Although I tried to calm him down, while he sat on my knee, he wouldn't stop crying.
Finally I said, "David, you are going to be fine. There is no blood; you might get a little bruise but that is it."
"I know", he cried," but Jesus is in there!!"

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Trust Me:Even Multi-Task Women Are FORCED To Be Realistic

 Once I became a mother, I tried to do everything around the house that I had done before I became a mother but even a perfectionist or a muli-task woman is eventually forced to be reasonable.
It wasn't until I was exhausted that I finally I capitulated and grudgingly accepted the fact that only a few chores were essential -
clean clothes, clean little bodies, clean kitchen and bathrooms--period.
Most anything else I liked to keep up was for status, keeping up with fashions or trying to give visitors a good impression.
Sometimes I had to give myself a good shake and let go of an impossible standard and and remind myself that a  peaceful, centred mom has peaceful and happy kids.

Two things helped me put everything into perspective:
If I cleaned my house everyday for two weeks at the end of that time period, my house would be clean.
If I cleaned my house once a week for two weeks, at the end of the experiment, my house would be clean.
And what if I cleaned my house only once, at the end of the two weeks?
My house would be just as clean as if I had done it everyday. It might take a little bit longer is all.
This new way of viewing housework lifted a whole burden of guilt off my shoulders.

The second trick was learning how to juggle while balancing on a beam.
One acrobatic trick to  is the ability to operate in two different gears, slow and patient and fast and furious.
Fast and furious is for the moments when little ones are sleeping .
Slow and patient is best for ANYTHING to do with little kids.

 If you try to rush
little people, they dig in their heels, become antagonistic and angry.
Trust me. Slow and patient gets better results because everyone is calm.
I tried to let toddlers  fumble and try to do things on their own. In the end, even if they look a little odd, they felt proud and become more and more independent. Sometimes checked pants were worn with a polka dot top but they did it on their own! Little people's happiness and self growth are more important than what outsiders` think about our homes or their appearance.

I don't want to die and find out my priorities were all wrong, that I chose public approval over love.

Transformed In An Instant Into A Mother

When I gave birth to a baby, I was re-born as well. My fears of inadequacy were instantly swept aside by a surge of motherly love and joy that rose up within my spirit and heart.

A sense of awe at the miracle of creation overwhelmed us as we examined tiny, perfectly formed fingers, nails and toes. We marvelled at his resemblance to us and I was startled by the innate instinct for survival as my newborn rooted hungrily and nursed before I even left the delivery room.

Our baby turned his head sharply at the sound of our voices because he recognized our voices! He focused intensely on my face as he bonded to me and by doing so made sure that I bonded to him.
For me, this entire process of becoming a mother was automatic and I reconized the this was a gift, pure and simple.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Our Ceiling Is Our Children's Floor

Tonight  my children will dance with joy and abandonment as they celebrate another sibling making a committed choice in their lives

They will dance in a circle, facing each other, laughing and enjoying  each other as well as other people young and old who will get caught up in my kids' exuberance.
To their father and I, my adult children radiate  freedom and joy. Thank God that our ceiling is our childrens' floor.  I could weep with relief because they are not starting their lives back at the same point as we did.

Each time my husband and I bare witness to another child taking a committed plunge into their adult lives we are surprised by their strength and maturity. My children posses a degree of inner healing that we could only long for at their age.
People ask Michael and I what our secret is to raise great kids and we must honestly admit that it was  letting go of control, while still  in the darkness and trusting. All our best efforts , struggles and sufferings simply threw us head long into a stone wall. Giving up and trusting in our kids was the best thing that we ever did.

Just look at our adult (and soon to be adult ) offspring dance.

Their dancing says it all.

                                                                           Mara's wedding day

Playing on Water Covered Ice

The yearly tradition,  on our hobby farm, of  "One Spring Soaking Per Year" began quite accidentally. 
Who plans something that outrageous anyway?
Not a well-brought up, city girl such as myself. I would never  dream of floundering on water covered ice and laughing about it.

This auspicious annual celebration began on a sunny March day when every one but the baby was outside in their snowsuits, laughing and enjoying a beautiful spring day. The littlest ones were content to slip and slide on tiny patches of ice near the house but the bigger kids flung themselves down an icy hill about half a city block away.

 There was a fairly deep puddle at the bottom. O course one of my boy's feet were thrown up into the air and he slammed into the water with a grand splash. Everyone froze for a moment but finally Matthew reached to help his brother. As he tried to haul his brother up, he also slipped and was pulled down to lay  flat in the water beside him, fully soaking both of them. Some one started to giggle  as they reached out a helping hand and soon everyone was down in the water,  laughing hysterically.

What is a mother to do with a joyful crew of laughing but drenched kids?
Yell and ruin the fun when the deed is already done?
So I announced,
"Okay everyone, I'm glad you had fun but only One Spring Soaking a year, okay?"

 Everyone readily agreed and then the work began as squealing little people struggled with water-logged boots, mitts and snow suits and ran laughing to warm baths or showers. Water was everywhere, all over the kitchen floor, pouring down the cellar steps. I just pitched  heavy, water logged snow suits  into the cellar to join the mess that was already at the foot of the stairs.

 Meanwhile, those left waiting in line in the summer kitchen decided to play with the bunnies.  Of course some of our pets wiggled free and were soon hopping through the puddles leaving soaked straw in their wake. Bunnies were hopping, kids were slipping, running to warm baths and shrieking

 Laugh, cry or scream ?
 I chose to laugh along with my kids.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Bloggers Inspiring Bloggers

After reading a post at BlogHer by Isabel _Anders , I began writing the above words. Her post triggered  a response in me that felt like it had a life of its own.

In turn, I posted my sentence in a "Chatter"  post.

 A few minutes later, my wordsIt resonated with  @Behaviouralchild  who burst out, "Yowza. That is deep".
She created a unique pin with my words in a matter of minutes without any obvious effort.

As a computer illiterate, I was dumbfounded.

Now the new pin is a  playful creation which none of us could have created on our own. It took THREE women, sharing their thoughts and talents freely and generously, with no thought of self- promtoion.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

One of a mother's dire warnings came true

It was Sunday evening.
All the kids had simply flopped down on the chesterfield, chairs, pillows and rug after supper. This was "Walt Disney Night" if you were young or "Sports Night" if you were a teenage boy. The problem was that we had only one T.V. for eleven people. Half asleep,lounging on the couch, with a grin on his face,  my oldest son, Matthew,  had just switched the channel back to basketball yet again. In utter frustration, three year old Lucy, who was standing up, indiscriminately flung a charcoal pencil down towards the floor. Anthony was laying on the rug nearby.
Then it  happened.
One of those gory warnings, probably originating in the fifties, that mothers tend to shout at their rowdy offspring became a reality. We all keep these common sayings hidden in the back of our brains. Even though modern mums try not to resort to these dire predictions, they do slip out now and again:
"Come down this instant; you are going to fall and break your neck!"
"Careful with that knife; you don't want to cut your finger off."
"Don't come crying to me if you fall and break your leg."
"Watch out for cars or I'll have to scrape you off the road and put you in a box."
"You will be the death of me yet."
"That water is boiling hot; you'll be sorry if it spills all over you."
"Pay attention to what you are doing or you'll poke out your eye."

 That last warning about the eyes?
Suddenly the dramatic over statement  became a reality a as Lucy's flying pencil pierced Anthony's eye.
At first I thought that Anthony had a piece of the chocolate pencil laying underneath his iris; in my ignorance, I tried to flush it out.  Thank the Lord that Anthony resisted my attempts  and my husband rushed over and stopped me. We handed Anthony a huge freezie to hold and Michael instinctively reached over, as he drove, to keep our little guy's hands away from his eye.

Later found out that if I had been successful, in rinsing out my son's eye, Anthony would definitely have lost it to infection.What I was seeing was not a piece of brown artist's pencil, I was actually seeing the iris  muscle leaking out from the puncture wound.

Later, just before surgery, a resident asked my husband to sign a waver which stated that, as Anthony's parent, he was fully aware that Anthony could lose his eye during the operation. My young son didn't even sigh during the interview but after the doctor left, he stared sobbing, petrified that he would lose his eye. Michael calmed him down and after he prayed over him, draining fear, trauma and pain, Anthony fell asleep until the surgery.  That was our second moment of grace that day. Anthony's indignat father informed the  head eye specialist that a certain resident needed instructions on bedside manners.

Modern medicine astonished both of us.
The tear was sewn, three holes were drilled into his eyeball and eye fluid was pumped back in to restore the exact curvature to his eye!  In post-op, while two other little fellows struggle and fought the staff by trying to rip out tubes, Anthony was so calm and pleasant that the surgical team gave him a bear for being the best patient ever. The team even remembered  the guilty little Lucy with an  adorable bear sporting fairy wings and a tutu.

For rest of the five days in the hospital, Anthony felt like a prince.
He had sole possesion of a remote, play station and t.v.That simply never happened in our large family where every kid  watched the clock as their time to play approached. In addition he was delighted to receive visiting siblings and their friends who all came bearing gifts and candy.

 Anthony's badge of distinction ,to this day, is a pie shaped area in his iris that is more green than brown and 20/20 vision.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Exploding Cowpies

We expect playful pranks from boys in their early teens because they delight in stretching the boundaries. Firecrackers offer many exciting possibilities to a creative thirteen year old.
My son, David, along with a neighbour wondered what would happen if they lit a couple of  fire crackers  and threw them into the family's country style mailbox.  The result was even funnier than they imagined as the metal door flew up and slammed shut again with a loud clang. David and Riley doubled over with hoots of laughter.

Unfortunately for the boys, who should drive by at that exact moment?
The principal  from the local public high school.

The boys  noticed a car had stopped. They  hopped on their bikes  in a frenzy,  rode down the long, curved, lane way to Riley's house and lunged through the front door. However, that did not curtail this conscientious educator; he backed up his station waggon, followed the boys right up to the house and rang the door bell. Riley's mum was mortified and the boys were embarrassed  by his stern lecture.

David sheepishly recounted his adventure at the dinner table that night and we just shook our heads.
That incident was never repeated because David had been humiliated but firecrackers in the hands of one father led to sheer mayhem at our house a few years later.
We were barbecuing with a few other families . In the late afternoon, when the kids were getting restless and hungry, Pierre gathered the kids together, like he often did but this time he led them into the barnyard.

What did this fun loving father do to amuse the throng of children who surrounded him?
Why he lit  firecrackers that were positioned in the middle of manure plops! We all heard the squeals and roars of approval from the kids. Before we knew what was happening, Pierre was paying the kids who dared to stand the closest to the smelly, disgusting explosions.We all shook our heads this  time but smiled in spite of ourselves, wondering who was more mischievous, Pierre or the kids?

That was before we saw the kids close up. They were splattered with manure. Actually the  foul smelling gunk that covered them wasn't even manure yet, it was fresh.  The other mother's and I were desperate to bathe our kids before dinner but we simply rinsed out their hair, gave quick sponge baths and I scrambled to find clothes to fit everyone. Rhonda, Pierre's wife,  fumed the loudest about stained clothing and Pierre looking sheepish, helped clean up his four small children.

 I must admit that no one has forgotten "The Day Cow Pies Exploded ".  My grown children still laugh in remembrance and I just mentally file that incident in the same category as "One Mud Bath a Year" and "One Spring Soaking a Year"(stories to follow).  I suppose that day is another example of the freedom, joy and muck that a farm makes available to all playful kids, both short and very tall.