Friday, July 21, 2017

My Journey Through Hating, and Maybe Loving, Cottage Life

I am a little amazed at myself...or perhaps it's that I'm amazed by how circumstances can change one's outlook on things.

I mentioned the other day that we'd recently bought my parents' cottage. This fact, for those who know me well, is an irony, because I've always hated the cottage. And I do mean that I hated it. Shudder. And yet here I am...cottage owner and, once again, mortgage holder.

My parents bought this cottage when I was 18, about a year after high school, as I age/time of life when I had no interest in being anywhere but in the city with my friends. I was fairly peer attached at the time, I'd say. But to the cottage we went, pretty much every d--- (read: darn) weekend, as my Dad spent the next five years gutting and re-building the cottage and doubling its size. So not only was I away from my friends pretty much every weekend, but those days were filled with nostril-clogging sawdust, the inconveniences of a cottage incomplete, and chores. So many chores. As I look around even now at the cottage walls that surround me, I know precisely which walls I was responsible for staining in 30C heat. I know every room in which I stood on a ladder with the upper half of my body swallowed by the ceiling as my brother passed up big rectangles of insulation to stuff into the ceiling; insulation dust rained over my hair and face and when I wiped sweaty cheeks with the backs of encrusted hands, my eyes would water and sting. 

These are amongst the early memories I have of this place. And while today I can appreciate the meticulous and detailed job that my Dad did as he rebuilt the cottage, all I remember of those early cottaging days was that while my friends were partying, visiting, and enjoying countless hours together in the city, I was stuck out here - miserable and bored and hot and resentful. The only thing, the only thing I liked about the cottage in those days was the ceiling of my bedroom, which was half old cottage and half new cottage and which angled in different directions as a result. I used to lie in bed and count the number of knots in each pine board that my father had perfectly tongue-and-grooved into place. I could probably still remember how many knots many of those boards have.

Fast forward a few years and I moved away...and I was gone for about fifteen years as I studied, married, worked, and became a mother in London (Ontario), Toronto and Vancouver. And during most, if not all, of those years, when we'd travel back to mecca to visit the fam, we'd invariably head to the cottage for a weekend or two, where I would re-live the intensity of my dislike on repeat.

To add to the complexity, I don't know that two women should ever co-exist in one domain...mainly the kitchen. My mom, much as I love her, was not the easiest person to be with at the cottage...and I'm sure I was no picnic either! Meals were on her schedule; rules were tight about what we could/couldn't do; I wasn't allowed to clean out the desperately packed kitchen cupboards; we had to count cutlery (yes, truly) before we left the cottage for fear that an (ugly) piece of cutlery had ended up in the trash and then dig through the trash on the deck if, heaven forbid, a piece of cutlery couldn't be found; and so on. It's nothing against my mom...I just think that two women of any ilk will inevitably end up doing battle when sharing a single domain.

And so the intensity of my feelings grew towards cottage life. When we moved back to my home city years later, and as the expectation grew that I would participate in (and love) cottage life, I discovered that I could create all manner of excuse as to why I needed rather to be in the city most weekends. Of course, given that my husband enjoyed cottaging (without all of the baggage that weighed me down) and given that my young son was growing up with the expectation that we would enjoy weekends at the cottage, my excuses were growing thin. But oh, how I dreaded cottage weekends. I feel it deep in my bones even now. Even as I sit here as cottage owner.

For the past several years, my Dad has been talking, perhaps half seriously, about selling the place...or at least enquiring of my brother and sister and me what we thought about the future of the cottage. As my folks have gotten a little older, the cottage has been a little harder each year for them to maintain, and I think my Dad was also growing a little bored because he didn't have quite as much get-up-and-go for the project work that he used to complete with great vigour. And then, when my Mom went into the hospital for the winter and most of this spring, they started asking their kids in earnest what to do with it. Finally it reached the point of no return, when my Dad said that they wanted to sell this spring - either to one of us kids or to someone else.

Geoff and I processed our thoughts fairly quickly and came to a decision. And then everything happened fast - a few short weeks later, we were signing our way into cottage ownership in the lawyer’s office. I felt a little shocked even as I put the pen down.

So what happened? you might ask, quite legitimately. How could I overcome my visceral reaction to cottage life enough to actually buy the thing and take on a mortgage again? Well, it’s an interesting question and I'd say that most of it was done on faith. Geoff and I were, somewhat surprisingly, very unified throughout the decision-making process; as we considered the financial and other implications, I kept saying to myself that because my husband and all three of my kids love cottage life, I could learn to love it too.



Things began to change for me from the day we took over. We began cleaning things out of the cottage that we no longer needed or wanted - in fact, a good chunk of our garage at home is filled with things that we carted back to the city in car load after car load to either sell or give away. Things that had bothered me for years I could simply deal with. And when Lizzie tried, that first weekend, to count the cutlery, I put my hand on hers and stopped her, saying that we never needed to do that again...ever. When she expressed horror over potentially lost forks and knives, I reminded her of our recent trip to IKEA, where we'd bought a couple of sets of cutlery to supplement what we have at home. She visibly brightened, dropped the cutlery she'd been counting, and skipped off to play.

As it should be.

It’s. the. cottage.

These kinds of things have made a surprising difference for me already; as has re-arranging things to look the way I like (with the help of keen-eyed friends who are far better at design stuff than I am!). We have a long ways to go to make it look the way we’d like it to, but we’ve made the best start our pocket book will allow for now. 

Other things have also made a big different. For example, we've been able to have lots of friends here in recent weeks, and I love that. For another example, we installed a satellite wifi connection so that I could stay connected to friends/family via email and texting, and so that the kids and I could enjoy watching movies on Netflix on an occasional evening or during a rainy day. I know that connectedness at the cottage is a controversial thing, and I do understand that - most people like to get completely away from technology. I'm like that, too, actually…being free of technology holds great appeal to me. However, I've also been at the cottage in the past during long, lonely evenings after the kids are in bed - these are evenings when I've longed to be able to watch a movie or to send an email to a friend (or, hmm...write on my blog!). So far (granted: early days yet) our wifi connection has been just what I've wanted it to be be - an opportunity for me to stay connected in the evenings, and to watch an occasional movie. It's made a huge difference for me.

One surprising thing I’ve experienced a taste of, recently, is the peace and quiet that one can appreciate out here. The first weekend that the five of us were here together as owners, Geoff took the kids and the dogs on a two hour walk/hike; and I had those two hours all to myself - something that, as a homeschooling mom, I experience, like, almost never! During those hours, I sat on the deck with a book and a cup of good coffee (did I mention that I used airline points to 'purchase' an espresso machine for the cottage?!) and simply breathed in the crisp air; there wasn't a single other cottager on the bay that weekend and the only sounds to hear were the waves lapping against the rocks and a handful of seagulls screeching overhead. Then, as an added bonus, I spotted three bald eagles soaring over the bay and coming to rest on the tree tops of the nearby island. In that moment, for the first time in my recollection, I thought to myself that ahhh, maybe THIS is what the benefit of a cottage is. That two hour period of silence and peace began to shift my heart towards this place.

After a few weekends cottaging as a fivesome, I decided to take the plunge - I decided to stay for a couple of weeks (with the kids) while Geoff came out for weekends. I ended up staying for 22 days, with only one night and one day in the city to do laundry, run errands, and load up on groceries.  Now we’re back at the cottage, after four days in the city, and I hope to stay for a bit again.

And it's been good...with some adjustments needed by all, but good.

And then there’s the other big thing that has inclined my heart towards being here.  While we were deciding whether or not to buy the cottage, I expressed to Geoff my great hope for our kids here…particularly Seth. Seth tends to be both insecure and peer oriented - his friends are the focal point of much of his life, often at the expense of his siblings. We so hoped and prayed that by having time as a family here, he would find himself in a position of dependence on his siblings for playmates. In addition, we wanted to 'help' Seth experience the benefits of boredom - which, from my perspective, is really and simply an opportunity for his brain to come to much needed rest.

Sure enough…about eleven days ago, with much prayer on this topic already behind me, I began to see small changes in Seth. It happened on a Tuesday, when one of his siblings jumped off of the dock and grabbed onto the rope trailing behind the kayak that Seth was paddling around in. Rather than blowing up at his sibling, Seth actually laughed and began towing the kid along behind him. Then he suggested that both of his siblings climb into little floaties so that he could pull them both behind him. I'm sure this sounds like such a small thing, and it is; but for a boy who is so defended from past woundedness that it is almost impossible to allow himself to enjoy his siblings, this was a huge deal. I was a little incredulous when I heard the sound of Seth's laughter trailing behind him as he worked hard to pull Matthew and Lizzie around our end of the bay. Seth's laughter is a wonderful thing to hear - we just don't have a lot of opportunity to hear it. Since that day, the kids have together created a number of games using the hammocks that they strung up outside the cabin, and I've heard gales of laughter coming from all three kids as I've hunkered down in the cottage, making no noise lest my sounds interrupt the attachment moments that are happening.

Even at the moment of writing this, Lizzie is sleeping but my boys are out on a kayak ride initiated by Seth; and although it's well past the usual bedtime for my morning bird boy, the fact that he wanted to be with Matthew for an hour is well worth any later bed time issues that might crop up. In fact, I think I'll prep them a snack to share when they come back.

In addition, Seth is always one who thinks he is in need of constant stimulation/'s so hard and scary to let himself relax or rest. Virtually the moment he has completed a task or finished doing some sort of activity, he pronounces himself bored and is rather resentful of the fact. Being at the cottage for an extended period of time is a little difficult for him. Here, when he's bored, there aren't all of the options available to him that there are at home; so he flops down on a couch or a hammock with hands behind his head and he just lies there for ten or more minutes. He is actually at rest! That's just unheard of for Seth, my boy whose brain is in a constant state of alert watchfulness. After a period of time, he'll pop up and announce that he's going fishing (or whatever) or he'll come and ask if I want to play a game of cards...which, of course, is a great attachment opportunity for the two of us. And he seems happier than I'm used to seeing him...just a teensy bit more relaxed.

When we drove out to the cottage this time, I still had that visceral negative reaction in my gut as the kilometres passed by…it might take a while for that first reaction to fade. I had to remind myself that things are different now, that my heart is on a different trajectory. I calmed, and remembered some of the highlights of the past few weeks.

And so the journey towards re-visioning cottage life has begun. Maybe I have a ways to go yet, but for a woman who felt so strongly opposed to being a cottager, I am a little more than amazed by how readily I have taken to it.

Now, off to read a book…maybe with a cup of hot chocolate.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Article: Incessant Chatter Survival Tips for Trauma Parents.

(Note: I've chosen to not name the child who is the subject of this post; please excuse the occasionally awkward use of pronouns.)

Well, this is a new one for me...a friend (thanks Joy!) posted this article on f/book some time ago, and I was stunned because I have have never, ever heard of a correlation between adoption trauma and incessant chatter. I have one of these children...I have so often thought that there is something other-than-normal about this child's constant chatter at home, but I've never gone much deeper in thinking about it, and never thought to correlate it to a trauma past.

Until now. Totally makes sense. I'm stunned. This is an issue that drives Geoff and me (and our other two kids) completely and utterly mad at times. When we four or five are at home, the talking and noise-making from this child is, really.  I am often at the edge of sanity half way through the morning because of this fact alone. During the Christmas season, Geoff wore ear plugs deep in his ears, just to be able to tolerate the noise and chatter levels from this child a little more easily.

Side Note: I'm not really a fan of the large, noise-cancelling headphones that the author of the article wears - it seems too obvious to the child that they are being blocked out. By comparison, it took me six days to even notice that Geoff was wearing ear plugs because he could still hear us talking and we couldn't readily see the plugs in his just took a really good edge off of his ability to hear all of the noise-making. I remember feeling amazed, before I learned of the ear plugs, by how calm he was throughout the holidays!

Our child with this issue is completely unable to filter his/her talk and noise-making at home, when it's just family. It's almost like, without the distractions of friends or outings, there is an obsessive need to fill the air with his/her own noises. This child is genuinely and completely unable to accommodate requests to be a little quieter, and it's really not out of mal-intent on part; it's just that it's impossible. Sometimes we have to ask this child to stop talking altogether for a short period of time (5 minutes?) and s/he is somewhat able to do this as long as one of us is physically present during that time. There's just no filter, and no ability to manage what comes our of his/her mouth.

Thus, this is a very fascinating article to me...much food for thought. If true, it might provide me with a little more compassion at a very needed point.

Below is the link and the body of the article, written by Monica at her "Emerging Mama" blog.


Article: Incessant Chatter Survival Tips for Trauma Parents



There is really no way to capture this reality other than to live it, but FOR REALZ, one of the most unexpected and difficult day-to-day realities of parenting kids who have endured trauma is that some children process their previous hurt by making noise all the livelong day.
Big noise, little noise, white noise, background noise, main stage noise, all kinds and flavors and decibels of noise. And it is so stinkin’ painful. Physically painful. Mentally painful. Emotionally painful. Like, I am going to lose my ever lovin mind painful.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. All kids are noisy! I have a house full of  boys and they are crazy all day long. My kids are always singing! My girls are SO loud! My kids sound like a herd of cattle stomping through the house! And, yes! Yes, all kids are noisy and drive us crazy in all sorts of normal ways. But also, No….
Not all kids chatter incessantly. Not all 10 year olds make baby noises when they want attention. Not all kids hum, drum, talk just to talk and fill the air, and “ummmm, mom or dad” you to death. Not all kids do these things. They don’t. I promise you this is true, as we do have a normal noisy child or four in our home. But we also have an attachment challenged child who takes incessant chatter to an entirely new place. A place that does not make the Traveler’s Choice Awards most sought after destination list. A quick google search for “attachment disorder and incessant chatter” will pull up more information than you probably care to read or digest.
Why do trauma kids make noise all the time?  Well, I used to think that something about my child’s traumatized past made her feel like she would disappear if she wasn’t making noise. Like, something about her making noise validated her existence and kept her fear at bay. “If I’m making noise, I must still be here. Therefore, I must continue to make noise. Otherwise, I may cease to exist.” And I do believe this is part of reason.
Yet, another part of the reason is that her past trauma is not being sorted out yet in the part of her brain that logically and methodically processes information. According to Dr. Viatschslav, “Severe emotional trauma causes lasting changes in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex region of the brain that is responsible for regulating emotional responses triggered by the amygdala.” Because of an extremely volatile and traumatizing first two years of life, my daughter is almost always operating in a heightened state of fear and awareness. In oversimplified terms, her amygdala, which drives the fear-response center in the brain, operates in overdrive while her prefrontal cortex is essentially stalled out. 
Alas, one of the fun ways this plays out is through incessant chatter. Now, if you have any introverted tendencies whatsoever, the constant noise vomit being hurled in your direction will be enough to make you go running for the hills. I have been told extroverts feel this way as well.
What can be done?
* First, we need to constantly remind ourselves that our children are operating out of a place of fear. They often do not know “why” they are making noise all the time. Sometimes I lose my crap and scream, “WHYYYY ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? WHY? I AM YOUR MOM!” But then I return to my senses and realize this is not a good tactic. Helpful, I know? If I have it in me at the moment, something that does work is holding my daughter on my lap and having us breathe, together, syncing our breaths. Breathe in, breathe out. Together. And, repeat. This benefits me just as much as it benefits her and it assures her that she is not alone. AND, we do this exercise in near silence. Thank you, Jesus!
* Second, invest in a good pair of noise canceling headphones. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these babies. In fact, I am wearing my super stylish accessory right now. White noise, all day long, flooding my head with thoughts of peace and tranquillity and a chatter free existence. Do some research, find a pair and make the investment in your sanity. YOU are worth it. 
* Find time each and every day to be alone. This is not a luxury, but is absolutely essential to keeping you healthy so that you can parent and nurture your special needs child or children. It is physically impossible to be bombarded with all that comes at us each day without also taking some time to replenish and restore. Whether you can capture just 20 minutes or a couple of hours, taking time to decompress, away from the chaos, is an antidote to the constant noise.
* Move your body. We all know that exercise has many physical and emotional health benefits. Yet, when we are busy caring for others, we often forget to take care of ourselves. Whether your thing is running, walking, practicing yoga, swimming, dancing, boxing or screaming at your personal trainer that you hate him or her, get yourself moving. You will be in a better position to embrace or deflect the incessant chatter when you return. 
* Know that you are not alone. I have said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Anything that you are experiencing in your home or with your child is likely happening in thousands of other homes (and schools) across our country, and thousands more around the world. Research on early childhood trauma and the impact on development and behavior is increasing each day. When we connect with others and are assured that some do get it, it makes the world feel a little less lonely, a little more safe, and some days your village will provide that one word of encouragement needed to go on.
So, go on! Get those headphones and schedule in your you time. Take the breaks that you need to keep yourself healthy and whole and don’t feel guilty about it. You are important. You matter. Your health is important to the heath of your child. And who knows? Maybe after a nice long walk, the next time your child comes humming or singing in your direction, you might just be ready to hum right along back. OR, at least be ready to grab your headphones and meet the challenge at hand.
Blessings and Rest,

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Today's Highlights

Another day at the cottage...and a day of perfect weather and fab relaxation. We spent a little time doing some school-like stuff, and did a few easy chores; but basically the kids spent hours in and on the water, having such a good time. They got along pretty well all day, which feels like a bit of a miracle! :)

By the time 5:00pm came, we were all a little sun-tired, and feeling a little lazy. So instead of making a real supper, we made a couple of huge bowls of popcorn, pulled some fruit out of the fridge, and sat down to some Netflix watching. It was a fun way to end the day.

I can tell that I'm finally starting to relax a little after the winter's busy schedule because every time I sit down for a few minutes I start to fall asleep...this is very unlike me, so I'm thinking my body is trying to right a bunch of wrongs from, well, the past year or so. I'm thankful I'm in a place where I can allow myself to just drift off for twenty minutes if that's what I need.

And so comes to an end another day.

About 6:15 this morning...glassy lake, misty air...the only sounds the symphony of birds. The kids were still sleeping and so I had a great hour to commune with nature and have a little chat with God.

The best part of today's breakfast for the kids? Orange juice. Somehow when we're
at the cottage, the usual rules don't apply quite a strictly!

Loving, loving, loving the genuine and easy smiles I've been 
getting from my boy this week!! :)

The two amigos.  Charlie on the left, Finn on the right.

And lots of water time was a perfect day.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Something I Never Imagined I'd See: All Three of my Kids with Books!!

Earlier this week, Seth found four old hammocks in the boathouse, and strung them all up between a few trees outside the cottage.  The kids have been relaxing in them and playing games in them for hours over the past few days.

This afternoon, just a little while ago, in fact, the kids announced that they were going outside for a while; this worked for me because I was starting supper.  But twenty minutes later, it was so quiet that I began to worry, and so I poked my head out the door just now.

This is the sight that greeted me just moments ago:

All three kids are lounging in hammocks with books!  

Matthew and Lizzie are reading their chapter books, and Seth has his headphones on and is listening to his audio book.  They are so engrossed that they barely even noticed me sneaking outside to take these pictures...I'm not certain that Seth registered me at all.  Absolutely amazing!

Yes, I'm letting Matthew (pictured with Finn) read The Hunger Games.  I've asked him to wait to read it for over two years, until I thought he was old enough; and the time came a few days ago when I said it was ok.  He's still a somewhat reluctant and slow reader, so imagine my delight when, over the past two days, he's regularly been disappearing into a bedroom or outside with his book.  Music to my ears that he's so enthused about a book!

Seth and Lizzie (with Charlie)...totally absorbed.  This is the third time Lizzie is reading her book, Smile.  She's just learned to read this year, and is improving every week!

Who says miracles never happen??!!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

An Update on Life

It's been a long time since I've been here.  I have no idea if there's anyone left to read my ramblings! I so miss writing on a regular basis - it's just that life has been so's only now, in July, sitting at the cottage with a bit of time on my hands, that my mind and fingers can turn their attention to what they love to do...write.

It seems like much has happened over the months since I last wrote. Here are a few things that stand out, in no particular order:
  • We survived a really busy winter - our busiest yet. The kids were involved in so many things: piano; swimming; dance (jazz and hip hop for Lizzie, and hip hop for the boys); our Learning Centre Tuesdays; choir; art; gym class; math tutoring; a sports club that involved Seth and Lizzie doing cross country running, track and field, and ultimate frisbe; electric guitar for Matthew; and so on. We committed every Thursday, this winter, to the kids attending a small, very unique, Christian school that caters towards newcomers to Canada (mostly children from various parts of Africa); the school offers homeschoolers an opportunity, one day/week, to participate in various programming and, in this way, the kids got involved in some very unique stuff (including Matthew taking a crazy-good weekly art class with a renowned local artist). It was a very, very busy year. In spring, as things finally began to wrap up for the year, I resolved never to plan such a busy year again...the only problem with this resolve is that, as I plan next fall now, it seems as if next year won't/can't be any different!  Sigh.
  • My mom spent over seven months in the hospital, beginning at the end of November.  We thought we were going to lose her around the end of February, when she had a major medical incident and ended up spending ten days in the ICU with a ventilator down her throat; but she amazed us by rallying; she then went through a few months of rehab and came home just a few weeks ago (with assistance). That certainly shaped many things over the course of our winter, including our general level of busy-ness.  And it's hard seeing a loved one in the the hospital, in the care of people who don't know her or really care about her well-being. And it's hard seeing one's other parent, my dad, having to adjust to life's curve balls and be there for his wife of 55+ years. The health care system leaves so much to be desired...and yet, I remain thankful that this same system enabled her to come home again.
  • My brother-in-law was also recently in the hospital as a result of a serious injury, but thankfully he is recovering and is home with his family.  We need this guy around, and love him, and I'm so thankful that he is still with us.
  • In December, we did a family trip to Orlando.  Just the five of us.  We were badly in need of time together, as it had been a super busy fall with lots of adjustments.  We didn't really care where we ended up traveling to (other than having a need for somewhere warm) and we ended up getting a great deal to travel to Florida for 8 days.  We spent a day at Disney, and another day at a big water park, but beyond that, we spent most of our time at the pool and puttering around Orlando and eating at a vegetarian buffet called Sweet Tomatoes...yum.  It was good to get away.
Here we are at Disney World towards the end of a blistering hot day.  We were all completely 
done in by the heat and humidity at this point.  Shortly after this picture, 
Matthew threw up...pretty sure he had heat stroke!

  • Lizzie got eye glasses!

  • Towards the end of February, our beloved dogs turned 2 and 1 year old.  They are the best dogs in the universe, there's no doubt.  Here's a picture of their joint celebration:

Charlie (2)                                                                                           Finn (1)

  • All three of my kids completed a year of hip hop dance (Lizzie also did jazz dance).  The boys weren't terribly enthused about doing hip hop, but I really wanted them to experience one year of dance, just to have the experience.  I told them that they'd never have to take a dance class again! Well the year finished, and they even participated in the final recital, with 300+ people watching in the theatre audience. Between you and me, the boys were pretty terrible during the performance (which was not a big surprise), and Geoff and I sat in the audience with hands covering our mouths (whether in horror or in prayer, I'm not sure)...but they did it and we were very proud (and relieved that it was over!).

 Lizzie in her jazz attire:                                                          Seth & Lizzie were in the same hip hop class

Matthew's hip hop costume

  • In June, we celebrated six years together as a family, marking Seth's and Lizzie's entrance into our family.  We celebrated in a way that the kids LOVE: by eating ribs!  Once before we'd been to a restaurant that specializes in ribs, and we all ate off of the same platter of food; and we decided that it was an awesome way to celebrate this occasion.  We are forever blessed to be a family.
Matthew (13); Lizzie (9); Seth (11)

  • Matthew cut his long hair!  A few months ago, we took about six inches off of it because it was getting to an unhealthy stage; and then, about six weeks ago, he decided to take the plunge and cut it all off.  Lots of people have asked him why did did it after growing it long for over four years.  Basically it was a combination of two factors:  First, he was having a hard time feeling motivated enough to take care of it well, and with summer time coming at the cottage, he knew that hair care wouldn't be a priority; second, he's been increasingly interested in using power tools and we were worried that he might sometime forget to put his hair into a ponytail.  So that clinched it...and here is how he looks:
Before:                                                                                            After:

  • Matthew broke two bones in his right arm on New Year's Day. The kids were tobogganing and he was flying over a jump...and landed badly. We ended up in Emerg that evening, and it turns out he broke his collar bone and had a crush fracture in his upper arm. That's the first broken bone(s) amongst the kids! Although it was painful and inconvenient, Matthew wasn't very sorry to have to cancel swimming lessons and piano practice for the next two+ months while he healed!
  • I lost a friend...not because of death, but because she renounced our friendship, and did so publicly at the beginning of 2017. In all of my years, this has never happened to me and it was an incredibly hurtful experience. We'd walked a lot of miles together in the twelve years we were friends; we spent a lot of time together over the course of those years and my kids, who knew her very well and who were used to seeing her very regularly, have also had to deal with the sudden loss of her presence in their lives, and the grief and confusion that resulted from her actions. I still have her Christmas gifts in my closet. Anyway, it was a big and a hard thing and I'm still quietly grieving it, to a degree.  But I'm at peace with it. I have moved on.
  • I had my first root canal and crown installation.  And if you're wondering why my teeth made the list of significant things to happen over the course of the winter, it's because I've always had perfect, no-problem teeth.  Never braces, no cavities until a couple when I was in my twenties. And then in November, something happened and I was in agony for a week while a terrible infection took over the entire left half of my head.  I couldn't do anything but sit upright and moan!  Eventually, after two rounds of heavy-duty antibiotics and just in time for our Florida trip, the infection subsided and all seemed to be well...for about four months. Then, on Good Friday, everything re-activated when one of my teeth broke and I had to go in for emergency dental care on Easter weekend.  The following 2-3 weeks were rather nasty as we tried to figure out what was wrong, and then eventually, a root canal was completed, a crown (made by a 3D printer) installed, and all was finally well.
This was my view for a whole lot of hours this winter, 
as the dentist and I tried to figure out what was going on. :(

  • A few months ago, we made a decision to leave our church.  It was a big decision, because we've been there for almost 12 years and our kids have grown up there, and because we had no issue whatsoever with the leadership or any of the programming or the message that the church spoke to.  No issues whatsoever.  The only reason we decided to move on is the lack of connectedness that our kids were experiencing, year after year.  We tried so hard, periodically, to help our kids connect with other kids; and nothing 'worked.'  It's a large church, and the people who attend tend to be a little 'mobile'/transitory and so kids often weren't in attendance regularly, making it one reason that our kids had a hard time connecting.  And Matthew needed a weekly youth group opportunity, whereas our church offered something occasionally.  All in all, after contemplating this for over two years, we made the decision.  We took a month or two off, and have now started attending elsewhere, but we know, too, that the summer months will see us at the cottage many weekends, and so our dedication to finding a church home will likely resume in earnest in September.  I still feel a little sad about this decision, but with Matthew being 13, and the other kids growing up fast, too, it's really necessary that we encourage solid friendships within the church community.
  • All three kids were involved in our Learning Centre's steam-punk production of Hamlet at the end of April. The Learning Centre that we are part of has an annual tradition of putting on a Shakespeare production, and this year was no different.  It is a whole lot of work, from January through April, but the kids learn so much and have so much fun...and it is such a unique opportunity for them.  These shows are unbelievably professional, and the kids are all simply amazing!  We were glad when it was all done, but it was a great experience.
Rehearsal.  Matthew is on the left...the dude with the then-long hair.

  • In other big news, we bought a cottage a few months ago!  Specifically, we bought my parents' cottage.  That is where I'm writing this blog post from right now.  It was a big deal, deciding that this is what we wanted to do, especially because the opportunity came up rather quickly, when my parents decided that it was time to sell.  We had to consider our finances, the longevity of such a purchase, the age of the kids, and whether or not it would interest us to spend a lot of time at the cottage in lieu of other things - such as travel.  In the end, we decided to go for it.  We thought it would be a great attachment enhancer for our kids, and we already knew that they loved coming here.  We spent a number of weekends here in early spring, cleaning things out (and there's still a ways to go in this department) and I've spent all but a day of the past two weeks here with the kids.  We've also enjoyed a bunch of visitors to the cottage, which has been fun.  The kids have been canoeing, kayaking, visiting islands, building fires and roasting marshmallows, jumping off the dock a gazillion times, swimming morning/noon/night, staying up too late to watch movies, peering through the telescope at various things in the sky and around the lake, riding their bikes, going for walks, lounging on hammocks, reading books, doing puzzles, playing games, learning card games, running with the dogs, and just enjoying life at a slower-than-usual pace.  They (read: Seth) sometimes get bored, but this is a delightful thing for me because I enjoy watching the kids in do-nothing mode and also finding creative things to do out of their boredom!  It's been great so far!  Here are a few snaps:
Early morning, standing on the deck of the cottage and looking out at the mist and glassy lake:

Geoff with the boat out.  Matthew is in the boat with Geoff; Seth and 
my niece are in the tube, getting ready to 'hit it.'  Finn is on the dock supervising!

Seth...aka Cool Dude (Matthew photo bombing in the background)

Matthew in good cheer

Charlie                                                                             Finn

Matthew and his beloved cousin

Seth catapulting off of the deck...with dogs at full attention!




Matthew kayaking with Charlie who is, surprisingly given her size and breed, 
becoming something of a water/boat dog!

Geoff and Matt taking their turn off the end of the dock.

    And that's a wrap!

    It feels like there should be so much more to say, to encapsulate the winter, but that's all that immediately comes to mind.  While I don't think I'll get back to writing as regularly as I used to, I do hope to be here much more often than I have been in the past year.  So join me, as always, in rambling about daily life, faith, adoption, homeschooling, and whatever else catches our fancy.  I'm looking forward to it!