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I just wanted to pop in to say that we made it through B’s first day back at work! And Bubby and I had a bunch of fun and only a few hiccups. He ate his first whole fruit, I gave him a nectarine and he chowed down, we replanted a few things in our garden (I had to remind Bubby a number of times that “grass is for bunnies, not for babies” as he kept crawling to the edge of the blanket and cramming his mouth full of it), we walked to the mail box to post a letter and met another neighbour on the way, and had a few friends stop by as well. All in all it was a good day. It sure was nice to see B again, though.

Thanks for all you guys who sent up some prayers for us. So far so good.

How was your day?

So, after a lovely six month parental leave, B goes back to work in just over a week. I’m not sure how to feel about it and I know it will be a big adjustment for all of us, especially the long days and shift work aspect. I think our little Bubby will find it lonely with out his Daddy around to play with him and spend time with him.

For me I’ll miss B, I’ve loved having him home for so long, but I’m most unsure of how we will handle the logistics of running a home, feeding everyone and making sure there’s time for fun and special moments crammed between loads of laundry and night shifts. I love spending time with our little Bubby and I love making a home for B, making sure he has his huge cooler of food for each shift and clean clothes when he leaves the house, but I don’t know how I’ll be able to do both of them well, at the same time.

So the question will become one of priorities and needs and I, with my (sometimes overwhelming and unhealthy) desire to do everything well (perfectly?), will have a lot to learn about grace, good enough and what is really important. So if we disappear for a few weeks/months you know where we are: readjusting and learning what it’s like to be a shift work family of three.

Any tips on priorities? Things you saw your parents do well? Things you are trying to do well in your family?

Since last summer a lot has happened and, though I can’t see all the things that have been growing and changing in my own heart, I know there have been all sorts of things germinating and taking root. A quick re-cap of the last twelve months includes:

  • moving out of our apartment into the basement of some great friends while looking for a house
  • finally finding and getting the perfect house after 5 bids and losses on other houses we thought perfect at the time (thank God he let us get the one we have)
  • renovating the whole entire house before we moved in; this meant painting every surface that holds paint, ripping out the nasty carpet and refinishing the hardwood underneath, knocking a hole in the wall between the kitchen and living/dining room, and so many other small projects that it took us a month of work before we could even move in. Big thanks to the many people who helped us out with this, especially my parents who basically lived here for a few weeks and provided lots of moral support in addition to the many hours of labour they also contributed
  • we’ve been given amazing neighbours on both sides of our home who also both have boys within a year of Bubby so there are built in friends for our whole family. The moms and boys have been getting together once a week to visit and let the boys play or we have been going for long walks together. It has been such a gift for me. Our neighbours also watch out for us, which is really nice to know that I have someone to go to if there is a problem when B’s at work, from coming to light the pilot light in the furnace when B was gone to scaring off someone rifling through my car at 3 am we are looked after
  • in October we welcomed a baby boy into our family, making us the perfect-for-right-now family of three and turning the whole world on it’s head. There are so many things added to life now that our little Bubby is around, things we never thought important before take on new importance and other things fade into a past life
  • since I don’t work and B works for the government who tops up parental leave, he was able to take six months off to be with us and get to know our son, saving us the difficult adjustment of doing shift work with a brand new baby we were just getting to know
  • Christmas and Easter fall in there somewhere, don’t they? Our family headed out to visit B’s family for a special Christmas with the whole extended family around. I was apprehensive of travelling with an almost three month old and being in a different space for a while but B’s family welcomed us and made us feel as comfortable as possible next to being at home and it was great to share  our little Bubby with B’s grandma
  • B’s grandma was sick, hence everyone coming home for Christmas, and passed away a few months ago. We would have all liked to be there but B went out for a few days to be with his family as a representative for all of us and out little Bubby and I spend our first few days just the two of us. We survived, that’s all I’ll say about that, and we were glad B was able to have lots of time with his family
  • we’ve found a great church in our neighbourhood that we enjoy a lot and is within easy biking or walking distance. We have been enjoying meeting and getting to know the people in this church, and it’s a Mennonite church (if you know anything about me you will know I am passionately theologically an Anabaptist and have grown up in a Mennonite church so this is going back to my roots) and they sing from Hymn books! in four part harmony! It makes me smile and I want Bubby to grow up to know how to sing in parts from a Hymn book.
  • on top of all that, in the past few weeks, we decided to move the whole house around so that we’ve been working on making the new rooms comfortable and free of clutter so we can spend a few weeks in a put together house before B goes back to work

So there you have it. Consider yourself caught up. Now we’re half done rearranging the house and have spent many happy times dreaming of our next project; trying to decide which ones are most important and which ones would be the first ones that need to get finished. Should we replace windows, a practically wise choice, or put in a two piece bathroom upstairs where our bedrooms now are, a choice of convenience (especially with a baby in cloth diapers) or do we spray foam the basement or or or…

We’re also planning on selling both our cars and paring down to a one larger car family to save some money (for all our house dreams) and have room for all of Bubby’s stuff when we travel, so if you know anyone who would be interested in a 2008 Mazda 3 in great condition or a 1992 Honda Accord in great condition for her age let them know and let us know.

So there you have it. We’ve been busy and growing and learning and adjusting and rejoicing and exploring and celebrating and mourning and praying and planning and moving and sharing and so much more. What have you been up to?

So, in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been around for a while… if you know us, you know that we have been pretty busy and life has been full of many exciting things. Many new things. To recap: we found out we were expecting a baby in January, didn’t tell anyone till February/March; my brother left for Korea in January; we decided not to renew our lease since we were expecting and wanted more than a one bedroom to share with the baby; my dad retired (Congrats Dad!) and my parents took off for Texas; and we started looking for a house. This was all before March.

We found that buying a house in this city was far more difficult than hgtv makes it seem, offer dates make buying a house more like a blind auction and since we had decided on how much we were going to spend, we lost a few houses. This was getting pretty stressful, especially since our lease was up at the end of April and we had to move out! We had no idea where we would go if a house didn’t pan out. Thankfully we had friends who had bought a house a few years ago and they offered a room in their basement to us while we kept looking. I figure this is what church looks like, what Acts talks about, everyone had enough and took care of each other.

We were hoping to live in the basement for only a few weeks but weeks turned into two months. During this time B was working crazy shifts, three rotations in three weeks, with only days between, not enough to recover, so he was exhausted. I was pregnant, so I was exhausted. And we were looking hard for a house when we could. We bid on a few more, didn’t get them. I cried a lot, by the end I just wanted a place so I could know where we were going. The baby was growing and I wanted a place to put it, I wanted to settle in before this new change threw everything back into chaos.

We prayed like crazy. And I mean like crazy. And we held on. I knew God knew what was best for us and what we needed and I knew he would do something when it was time. In my experience with trusting God for things he is always on time, but never early. And so we waited. And I cried a lot, pregnancy hormones and living in someone else’s house while dealing with the stress of trying to find a home are not a great combination if one wants to be composed, add to that B’s very busy and spastic work schedule and it was quite a crazy few months. But finally we found something.

It wasn’t perfect but we figured with a few changes we could make it great. We put in our offer, we were getting tired of the whole process, and waited. Wednesday night, the answer: Nope, this isn’t the one either. Almost pushed me over the edge. And B was working the night shift so I couldn’t even really talk to him. But there was this other house, with no offer date, we decided to look at it the next day when it went on the market.

We looked. We bid. We won! We finally had our house. And, it worked out that we could get possession almost right away, which was different from many of the other houses we had looked at. So here we are now, expecting a baby in October, living in our new home, which is far more than we expected or imagined. It has been worth the wait, this place is better than anything we had previously bid on and pretty much exactly what we were looking for. My parents came by a lot and helped out, this dad being retired thing was a great help, especially because my dad is so handy and willing to try anything once. The house needed a lot of work, and there’s still tonnes to do but we’re getting settled in and soon it will be time to get the baby room ready.

We have great neighbours who are also in a similar spot, one couple has a baby, the other is expecting any day now, so we have really enjoyed the chance to chat over the fence and share stories, we have felt very welcomed by them. We live near a river valley so there are lots of birds and bunnies running around and the occasional deer wandering along the sidewalk. At the same time we’re in the middle of the city, only a few minutes from anything, including B’s office and the hospital.

So that’s where we’re at. Lots has changed. And lots will be changing in the near future. But we have been blessed and loved in all of this. Blessed in the gift of this house. Blessed by friends who let us invade their space for a while. Blessed by parents who have helped us work on making this house a home and who have helped us celebrate the upcoming baby in between coats of paint. Blessed that the baby seems to be doing well. Blessed by friends who have cried with us, prayed for us, helped us and cared for us. And all I can say is thank you, and you’re welcome to come by anytime (just make sure B isn’t sleeping).

Christmas has come and gone and I am back. Much has happened since I last wrote and there is lots to share. Back in November B had almost six weeks of work without night shifts. It was, in one sense, lovely but in another quite difficult. Since I finished school and work B and I have been working extra hard and finding how we can cope with the long hours and night shifts that are part of his job. It has been a tough road but for now we have found a rhythm that works for both of us and allows him space to recoup after working a bazillion hours in a few days.

So we were just on the cusp of finding a solution for the unending exhaustion that B seemed to experience after his normal rotation (two 13 hr. day shifts followed by two 13 hr. night shifts), we had tried a few things that seemed to be working, when we moved into November, a blessed reprieve from night shifts but this launched us into adjustments in the opposite direction. It was lovely to have him home for dinner and for us to be able to spend time with friends in the evenings, but it was tough to find spaces for the time that we needed alone and together.

Come December we jumped back on the night shift merry-go-round and tried to find our groove again. Needless to say that caused quite a lot of re-adjustment again. Add to that an art show that I was privileged to help organize, an early Christmas visit from B’s parents, a new and delightful hobby, and other Christmas themed things and you have your answer as to why I have been silent over the past few months.

But life has been good, so many lovely visits with family and friends and the promise of another year full of adventures.

B and I were not sure how we would handle the long winter months since the past few winters have been very difficult for both of us in part because of the unbearable cold that can be part of Manitoba winters. This year we received a special gift that is making winter much more enjoyable. First, the weather has taken quite a while to get very cold so winter does not yet feel as long as in past years.

We also have a plant that’s just about to bloom. In the fall we cleaned up our balcony garden and put the pots away till next year but we took in two dead plants because there was some lovely ground cover still alive in the pots. A while after we brought them inside we noticed that there were shoots coming up from the lily bulb that we thought was dead for the year. Over time it has grown tall and produced buds that look like they are ready to bloom any time. It has been such a joy to watch life grow in the midst of winter.

How have you been adjusting to the new year? Has there been anything that has brought you hope this winter?

This past weekend has been filled with friends and fun adventures. The one that stands out the most was an evening we planned to go out for dessert with friends. We met at our place and had decided to try a little pub on a nearby corner since I had heard good things about their food. We were hoping for a particular dessert which we had heard they carried from another friend so we were quite surprised when the waitress didn’t mention cheesecake in her list of desserts for the evening. We were surprised and a little confused as to what to do next. She gave us a moment and, as we deliberated, we decided to make a break for it. Silly, I’m sure, but as we walked/ran out of that restaurant there was a delicious giddiness that overtook me. The joy that comes from sharing adventures with good friends. It’s a feeling that I believe happens often as a child but as one grows up we seem to forget about it and it lies dormant, buried under responsibilities and duty until, in a moment it is again in the air in all its anxious and excited glory.

It was just a small thing. We decided that the restaurant didn’t have what we wanted so we left to try somewhere else. But in that action we found ourselves back in the car giggling and high on adrenaline and excitement. In the same way I have been trying to live my whole life as an adventure. Sure, not all of it is as dramatic as talking to strangers or even running out of a restaurant (which is a big deal for me because I don’t want to hurt the waitress shrug) but there are so many bits of excitement and joy to be found. Whether that means making a new meal for my wonderful husband or chatting with agood friend. I am once again excited to learn from the people around me and look forward to growing from it.

This is something that I feel my brother and sister do well, especially my brother. He seems to find adventures under every rock and lives like there are new things to discover when things don’t go as planned. My brother is the guy that everyone wants to hang out with since they know that he will find something fun to do, even climbing grain elevators (which is probably illegal so I don’t recommend it). But when I have hung out with him I have had all sorts of good times and adventures I wouldn’t have had alone, including the rail bridge incident pictured to the right. This is partially due to his outlook of exploration but also due to the thought he puts into hanging out with people, planning ahead of time what would be fun to do with that particular person. And even though there are times I am a bit afraid for him I still admire his adventurous spirit and the care and thoughtfulness he puts into his time with people.

What are the ways that you find joy and excitement and adventure in your own life? Are there certain people that bring those experiences into your life?

It seems that there has been a lot happening in our lives over the past few weeks. In mid September my parents rented a cabin in the Manitoba Whiteshell Provincial Park and invited all of us to spend the weekend together. Everyone was available and we had a great weekend together, with a few adventures thrown in.   

We did a little hiking, some geocaching and B shaved on the dock while my sister jumped in the freezing cold lake to wash her hair. I even have a picture to prove it. All in all we were able to spend a lovely time exploring the area, canoeing across the lake and taking some time to enjoy a slower pace of life.

When we returned home I began to really think about where I am right now and what I am doing. I know that questioning one’s place in the world is something to be expected when transitioning and I sure have experienced transitions over the past year, including getting married (!!) and completing my Master of Counselling degree. All this has left me asking “where to now?”

I have spent a lot of time thinking about my place as well as what the future may hold for our family as well as for me personally. I have thought about this as I have spent time working to create a wonderful home for B and I have thought about this at times of loneliness and loss and I think I have finally come to an answer, for now.

I think that right now my job is to be available. Now I know that may seem strange or just plain lazy (just being at home and waiting to help?) but I really feel that right now it is important that I am present in the moment and available, not only for my husband and my family but also for whomever needs our help. I have found that in the face of the recent tragedy in our family I have been able to help out a bit making food and talking with people and generally just being there in the midst of it. The freedom that I have has enabled me to reach out to people in ways I couldn’t have if I were working too.

This idea only came to me the other day, as I was responding to an email from a friend, but I feel that in some ways it is my calling from God. I am to be here, living my life and enjoying it, cooking, baking, having fun, but with eyes open to the needs around me, ready and willing to lend a hand wherever needed. And in this way, though perhaps unconventional, I have a place in the world. I belong wherever I’m needed.

So if you’re around here and need a little help, you know who to call.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, say and hour or more, you probably know that I have not lived in Canada my entire life. In fact, though I have lived most of my life till now in the same general area, I still feel that in some ways I spent a huge chunk of my life away from here and therefore I do not belong anywhere. I will probably explore this more in another blog but I wanted to bring this up because this experience has impacted me in an interesting way. Because of the moving I have had a hard time feeling completely at home, anywhere.

In the past many years I have been working through a lot of those feelings of loneliness and aimlessness, feeling like I don’t belong or more so, that people don’t think I belong or don’t want me around. Growing up I would dream of a place where I could be myself, where people besides my family would want me around and love me as I am. Perhaps this is something that doesn’t completely exist in our broken world, something that we will only truly experience in heaven, but I think we can get glimpses of it if we look around. And yesterday was one of those times, a peek in the door, if you will.

When I was growing up, once we moved to Canada, occasionally our family would take an afternoon to make donuts. Now for me this is normal but as I chat with people, and when my husband found out about this, most people, including him, are surprised and somewhat intrigued since they have never experienced it before. But for our family it would be a project we would do together, sort of. My mom would make the dough and get the donuts cut and onto pans. Then someone would fry them in hot oil in the garage to keep the smell out of the house, I used to do it but then my sister started taking over once I headed to college. While they would be preparing the donuts I would make a glaze so that as soon as they were fried they could be dunked in the sugary goo. Many donuts were eaten by whomever happened to be around, but they were also passed out to the neighbourhood. That was my dad’s job, mom would keep him running with full paper plates lined up to be brought around. It was always a good day when we made donuts.

When B heard about this he wanted to see it in action so last Christmas during a storm that snowed us in we made donuts. It was great. Everyone did their jobs and by the end of the day the whole neighbourhood was full of the sweet goodness of fresh donuts. Once he had seen it he asked if we could make donuts too. Eventually I got an extra electric frying pan from my mom and we decided that yesterday was going to be donut day. And what a day…

We started thinking of a few people who might like to come over, when Mom makes them there are tonnes to go around so we cut the recipe in half but wanted to make sure they got eaten fresh, since they’re the best right out of the oil and dunked in sugar glaze. B invited a coworker over, warning he he would have to help make the donuts. I invited a friend too, so I wouldn’t be outnumbered by guys. B had invited another friend too and so he came by with his wife after she was done work, and I had randomly texted a friend I knew would not turn down fresh donuts, he brought my cousin along too.

Needless to say it was a full house, well, apartment. But just that morning we had picked up a great find on Kijiji, four dining room chairs, and they were put to use right away. So our afternoon was spent with friends, eating donuts just out of the oil and chatting a lot and enjoying each other’s company. It was a motley crew, people from very different backgrounds, experiences, and at different places in their lives but it was wonderful.

I’m not sure how I can explain it any better but it really felt like home, like our home, like community and caring and fun. The donuts seemed to make everyone relaxed. I didn’t try to host, I just welcomed people in an gave them space to be themselves, and they let me be myself too. B made delicious Transcend coffee and people helped themselves. It was so neat to see everyone interacting and people getting milk out of the fridge for their coffee, comfortable, like they would if they were at home. Sounds cheesy, maybe, but it made me feel a bit more at home too.

So what makes you feel at home? If you were to pick one memory that epitomizes home to you what would that be, I would love to hear it. 🙂

In the past few weeks it has gotten cooler around here. If you look closely you can see fall peeking in around the edges of a fading summer. Everyone is heading back to school again, that or they have been there for a while now and life is taking on a new routine. This is the first time in three years that I will not be returning to school at all and, in all accounts, I may never formally be going back again. This is bitter-sweet to me.

I love to learn and, since I enjoy interacting with and learning from other people, I consequently love school and all the people I get to meet. While the three r’s of grad school, reading, writing and research, sometimes seem to drain all the fun out of life I still liked being ‘forced’ to spend time growing my mind and changing how I think. Now, if I want to continue to intentionally learn something specific I will need to be self motivated to take the steps to read and think.

Life has changed a lot for me in the past year. Not only have I completed a two year graduate program in three years, I have also gotten married and moved to a familiar but new city, I completed my term at the part-time job that was helping me fund my education, and am now trying to figure out where to go from here. Ultimately, I am in that endless process of transition that is part of being human. This time I am transitioning from being an independent student/employee with a regular schedule and a school full of friends around me to being the wife of a shift worker with a non-static schedule living in an apartment building where we know only a few people.

Lets just say that life has changed completely for me in so many ways. Now before you think I am complaining or that I hate my life please know that I feel so blessed to be right here, right now. I have been given a wonderful husband who has taken such good care of me in so many ways. He has been key in giving me the opportunity to do what I am doing now, something that I have desired since I was a girl. It is really because of his hard work and support that I am able to be home and have the opportunities that I am blessed with because of it.

It has been neat to see the opportunities that have been given us to connect with people and each other over the past few months as I have finished with school and work. Since B has such a crazy schedule, sometimes working long days, sometimes working all night, it was difficult to see each other some weeks when I was working and studying. This was super tough in our first few months of marriage and brought up some things we really had to work through early on. In those weeks, when we could not count on seeing each other, very often it was difficult to think of reaching out to others as well. That was our story at the time and so we worked in that framework, and we made it through.

Now, with me at home most of the time we are better able to connect with each other and we are able to connect better with the people around us, building friendships that we are so excited about. I’d like to think that it also helps that I love to bake and cook so when we hang out with people there is usually (good?) food around. I am also better able to support B in his work and work with him to figure out how we can live a full life even with shift work taking so much of his time and energy.

For those of you who have ever worked shift work you know what I mean by that last sentence, and for those of you who have lived with someone working shift work you also know what I mean. One of the biggest things we have had to work on in our marriage of almost a year is how to function with shift work. It was really tough at first, who am I kidding, even now there are times when it is really tough, especially since there don’t seem to be many resources for living in community with shift work. It seems that the most helpful thing many shift work resources suggest is just to become friends with other people who work shift work too and hope your schedules allow time to get together. This isn’t always possible so we have been exploring ways to be as ‘normal’ as possible with a very abnormal schedule.

The best thing is that B loves his job, which is helpful if you’re working different hours. It allows me to support him in it and helps us work together to find solutions to combat shift work’s control over our lives. It is also helpful that, because of his hard work, I am able to take time to be home and do some of the things that need doing differently because of his schedule and not feel pressure to find a job. I have always wanted to be able to have a home that is open to those around us, a place for people to come and connect and feel comfortable for a while, a place with good conversation and good food, a place to rest for a little while. I feel that right now I am able to do this in some small way with what we have and I have been so blessed by the many friends that we have been able to spend time with.

And that is how I feel right now. So blessed. I want to enjoy the moment and experience the feelings and events as they are happening. Through my studies one of the things that we talked about a lot was how important it is to just be. In a world where it can be easier to live in the future, perhaps in a place where we are judged by our output or busyness I think it is intensely important to ‘breathe in the moment’ as it were, to be in the here and now, experiencing it as a gift. Easier said than done, I know, I have often lived my life in the future or the past, fearing what the present would bring, but now, right now, I want to be here, I want to experience what is now. I want to revel in the many wonderful gifts and blessings that are all around me and work through the many fears, stresses and difficult times that come with really living life. I guess I’m just saying that I want to live.

And you? How have you changed or been changed in the past year? What are the blessings that you have been given?

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