Tuesday, April 30, 2013

morning glory

Our mornings have taken an unintentional - but beautiful - turn.
Neil has so much work out east that he just keeps his body on Ontario time now and he rises before the sun. He uses his morning hours to answer emails and phone calls from our living room couch. He brews the coffee, and lately? The hazelnut fragrance, my expectant discomfort and the promise of his solid, quiet company is enough to drag me out from underneath my blankets so i can enjoy the quiet of morning while our seven children slumber and our eighth hiccups and kicks gently in my womb.
There's usually a half-grin of greeting as i pad through the kitchen. And then the quiet of companionable silence broken spatteringly by brief conversations about the price of oil, the state of politics, a work crisis or any number of situations that are currently unfolding with any one of our little ones.

"What are you singing for that open mic thing at our church?"
"i'm doing a rap."
"Cai's gonna add some violin... It's really more of a spoken word..."
Silence. A grin. A cocked brow.

And then slowly we both look back down to our reading... i'm reading an article about euthanasia and he's checking his portfolio online. Comfortable silence... We both know we're an odd match - but God knew what He was doing when he gave us to each other - and our oddness only balances us out in some unexplainable chemical reaction that makes one what was once two separate elements unrelated by composition, state or quality... Marriage just completely blows my mind.
Sometimes he'll wait till the first peeks of cottony bed head and hungry tummies make their way upstairs... and sometimes he gets an urgent phone call and sneaks out before any of them wake...
But these mornings with him home (he has been home more in the last month than any other month in the past year and a half) - have been something of a golden era - which the online dictionary defines as, "an untroubled and prosperous era during which people lived in ideal happiness." - or "a period of great peace".
And my eyes are heavy with sleepy happiness in those early morning moments...
There's no banging and shouting and moaning at my piano... If music is played, it's soft - so as not to wake our little ones. It's not a time for deep conversations - just little snippets of thoughts as we have them... things that connect us as i read and he works and daylight creeps ever nearer.
And who knows how long these precious mornings will be a part of our routine? Travel ever beckons and breaks habits and rituals. New ones are formed and old ones are quickly forgotten and replaced. But for now - in my 35th week of pregnancy, i'll gather each golden bud like a delicate morning glory and breathe deep the fragrance of peace.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

countdown to baby

32+ weeks pregnant with my little june baby.
i feel healthy and full and content and peaceful... so far... All my third trimester bloodwork came back with good results - my iron is a little low, but normal, my blood pressure is nice and low, my weight gain predictably around 24 pounds right now, my feet swell when i stand too much and i've lost the ability to sleep in, my fundal height is in the right range... All normal stuff for me in pregnancy. He's also head down - which is a relief after Ephraim stayed breech so late. i know he still has time to turn, but i'm thinking the chances are getting less now that he's getting bigger every day.
i've always found the last 10 weeks of pregnancy feel like living in a state of constant heightened expectation. i hear this countdown in my head - like the amplified voice of the space shuttle launch announcer - as these last weeks count themselves to their close. (Though don't worry, i'm not silly enough to believe that the end of a 40 week countdown = the end of pregnancy, it's always fun to countdown to the final count-up, isn't it? :)
And so i'm planning this little ones birth - as much as you can plan for the birth of a child that will be unique in timing and execution. We want to use Arbour Birthing Center again. Ephraim's birth was my favourite birthing experience - and Neil's too. We liked the freedom that the birthing center brought, and feel like we'd sure like it to work out for us to use their facility again. There's a little cost involved, ($525) but we felt like it was worth it for the experience we got out of it. We'll need to go and put down a deposit sometime in the next 4 weeks.
The other thing that comes to mind as we prepare, is Neil's travel. Neil had a travelling job the last time we had a baby, but in the last year and a half, his travel has kicked into high gear. It will be a little nerve wracking in the last bit i'm sure, as i want so badly for him to be home - but i do feel really sure that i can just let go and trust that God has the timing and arrival all worked out and that no scheming on my part will make anything go any more smoothly. As it stands, we're counting on baby being a little late, and i'm feeling certain that our little one will oblige.
This little boy is an active one. i've only resorted to kick counts once - as he's constantly on the move - moving my entire belly with his jabs and rolls. i love active babies - i've had both active and the gentle quiet ones - (and strangely, it didn't seem to have any measurable impact on what they were like after they were born) - but i sure appreciate my babies who are movers and shakers, easing any anxiety and offering constant reassurance that all is well.
We don't have a name yet.
My inlaws keep calling him, "Neilson" - and when i asked Neil if he liked that name, he gave me a, "you're ridiculous" face and a thumbs down... so i guess that's off the table. :) Neil is famous for only wanting to use his veto power on names and not coming up with any himself. He says it's because i come up with ridiculous names (he thinks "Watchman" is a ridiculous name). i don't know which one of us came up with the only one that he likes a little bit - but we're keeping it to ourselves right now since we're still so unsure. i keep a short list of names that stand out to me though - and i'm sure we'll find something to name baby at some point. It's funny though - i felt absolutely certain about my 'girl' name... so if the ultrasound tech was wrong and we end up with a june girlie instead of a june boy... she'll be all set. ("Saphron Glory" for those of you who are curious - & we would call her "Phronsie" just like in the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew).
i can't decide if 8 weeks left is a long time or a short time. It seems like such a short time to me... but then i second guess myself and say, "Oh, but paige, in the next few weeks - that's when your body will fall apart at the seams as this little boy packs on his chubbins and the exhaustion will threaten to overwhelm...
So i guess - it's both a long and a short time, so i'll just enjoy it while it's relatively easy - and when the tough stuff comes, i'll break out my stash of butterball bath bombs from Lush. (Neil bought me 3 when we were in banff... i might need more...)
So there are the meanderings of my mind - the bits and pieces that are a part of life in this snapshot moment of expecting number 8. Maybe not terribly interesting - but it's a part of the savouring of these tender child bearing years that can't help but count themselves to their close too.

Friday, April 12, 2013


i only met Neil's grandparents in the last few years of their lives. Neil and i had only been married for a summer - and we'd just had our fresh tiny new girlie when Neil got laid off from his job pouring concrete precast forms. He was discouraged and anxious to provide for us - as we both had a dream of having mama stay at home with any children we'd have. One day,  a couple of months after his 19th birthday, my husband came home and said, "Let's go to Manitoba."
i'm always game for adventure - and so we packed our bags and climbed into our horrible little white car and drove from BC across Alberta, and then a seemingly never ending Saskatchewan,... stopping at dirty gas stations to change diapers and nurse our darling before finally arriving at that sweet corner house in Minitonas, Manitoba.
We rang their bell - bedraggled and exhausted - and they bustled us in the door.
Alvin and Anna.
They welcomed us in... fed us fresh home made buns and cranberry juice that was so tart, it would turn you inside out.  They cooed over our baby. He wondered if his great-granddaughter was getting enough milk as she was so painfully tiny - and she told me that Cai's forehead was so big, her head must be chock full of brains.
They loved her...
And because we were Neil's, they welcomed us into their family - holding nothing in reserve.
i never knew them when they were newlyweds - decades before i was even born... or through the thick of their childbearing years... raising their family and making sacrifices for the ones they loved...
i only met them in the twilight...
And what i saw changed me and any expectations i had begun to form on my own fresh, unspoiled marriage and family.
They were some kind of a team those two...
When, a few months later, we moved to Manitoba - to a tiny house just down the road from them, i'd see them out walking together. They were desperate not to slip on the icy sidewalks knowing that one fall could cost them their health and independence and they'd walk slowly and carefully, holding each other protectively - walking to and from the tiny community hall where they'd meet other seniors to play shuffleboard.
He knew she was funny... i saw it in the way his eyes twinkled when she said something off-colour.
She knew he was dependable... i saw it in the way they worked side by side.
She was spunky and good natured.
He was helpful and loyal.
Their home was companionable... comfortable... welcoming...
And i watched - young bride that i was... as their love story wound sweetly to it's end.
Only 4 months after we arrived, she suddenly passed away. Neil's extended family gathered in shock at the hospital - wondering if there was any hope, and i remember him saying that she had grabbed her chest and sighed, "Oh Alvin..." before he called the ambulance...
The whole community mourned, it seemed. She was a tiny spark of a woman - but even at her age, she still retained that rare beauty that's so easy to recognize and admire. At a family service, he stood and his voice trembled and shook as he said, "It was 56 years we had together... i only wish it had been longer."
It was maybe 5 years later when he followed her - only days after his 90th birthday.
He waited till he had his children gathered around his bedside and then it was almost like he just decided to go. i remember being told that he kept saying, "i'm ready. i'm ready."
And oh...
How i want a marriage that is long and fruitful - that is companionable and comfortable.... but never, ever long enough. How i want a life story that ends with a readiness for eternity... How i long for a love story that impacts a generation that isn't yet here... and how grateful i am that i got exposed to theirs.... even if it was - just as the sun was setting on it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Another Baptism

It was a crazy resurrection weekend... (Still can't stomach the word 'easter'... what does that word even mean to me as a Christ-follower?)
Neil's mom & dad were visiting, but God had also provided other opportunities to bless and be blessed; like loving a sweet 6 year old girl for a few days, singing at a funeral - one that felt like a true Homecoming - leading worship at two poignant Good Friday services, welcoming some company who we couldn't wait to see on Friday afternoon, and preparing a party to celebrate our daughters friend's baptism on Sunday. We had a lot going on, and Neil only arrived home on Thursday at midnight - so by the time Sunday rolled around, my whole body was pretty swollen.

i shrugged at my puffy face in the mirror that morning, figuring nobody would see me in the back row of our church anyway, and got myself ready to go. We were attending the second service because that's when our little sparkplug friend was getting baptized. We couldn't miss it. The sanctuary was packed - and it felt like it was about 800 degrees - and so i thought, "ahh, no one will notice if i pull off my sweater" - even though i had put it on that morning purposefully, to smooth out a few of the puffy pregnancy lumps that had appeared over the past few busy days...

A couple of songs in, i noticed our little friend waving to me to come up closer so i wouldn't miss anything - and so i slipped from my seat and tried to unobtrusively make my way to the front row where the fresh faced teenagers were sitting.

The first baptism was a friend and fellow expectant mama... i wept as she told of God preparing a way for the spiritual nurturing of her entire family and the gentle leading of a shepherd who is so keenly aware of those who are with young.

And then i watched from the front row as our little 16 year old hero, courageously stood in front of an absolutely packed sanctuary. She stood in front of her friends and her family who had come especially for this occasion - in that hot room with wiggly little ones whose Sunday School teachers had brought them down and who were hooting excitedly, to see one of their teachers taking this incredible step of obedience in baptism. She read her testimony - reminding us all how God calls us, redeems us and oh, so gently leads us to obedience. i couldn't help but cry when she stepped into that tank - and she acknowledged her Saviour - in front of a cheering crowd of believers.

Then the pastor spoke. His short message pointed unapologetically to our Rescuer - and spoke tender truth. And then... he gave opportunity - if there were anyone in the room who would like to be baptized... that they could come forward and be baptized that very morning...

By this time i had snuck to the back to sit with my husband and family again - and that's when i noticed our 14 year old daughter fairly skipping down the aisle towards us.

"i'm getting baptized, daddy..." She said to Neil. He wrapped her in his big arms - and then let her go run to tell the pastor that she was ready.

i tried not to cry. i did. But it was useless. (Truth be told, Neil wasn't all that successful either...) i was officially a puffy faced mess...

My sister's church has a tradition to publicly affirm the person who makes the decision to be baptized. It meant a lot to me to be able to affirm Cai when she got baptized 2 years ago - and i knew i wanted to do the same for my Sloanie... and so as she shared her heart, self-conscious beached whale that i was, i climbed the stairs to stand beside my little girl - to support her and affirm her decision to declare her love of God. She told everyone how she had wanted to be baptized before - but each time, had shushed the 'still small voice' - with a promise of, 'next time'... She had decided that the time was now - and the procrastination would end with this moment of obedience in front of her friends and family.

Our pastor let me talk too - so i told my girl that when she was born, we gave her the name Sloan Evelyn True. Evelyn meaning, "life". i told her that her first name, Sloan, means warrior - and that our hope for her - even then as a tiny baby - was that she would grow to become a warrior for life and Truth. There is nothing more precious to a parent than to see a child grow - and learn to love and cling to the One Source - and i said that i wanted to affirm her decision to claim the name - warrior for truth - by getting baptized on resurrection Sunday morning.

And then my sweet daughter climbed into that tank... and a pastor who cares so deeply for her, baptized her in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He prayed a blessing over my dripping girl - and she emerged, radiant from the water.

Oh, Father... bless my littles as they grow and have claimed their faith for their very own. Protect them from harm - and keep their eyes steadfast on You.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

29 & 30 - & a blogging confession

29 weeks

*a delayed post... i'm trying to push past my blip of self-consciousness in posting - and remember that this blog was created - not to capture each moment perfectly - but instead to remember the essence of what made these years so deliciously incredible.

(March 23rd) - i'll be 29 weeks tomorrow... My little one grows and kicks in my womb - and as i rub gently the piece of my own flesh that covers the tiny foot of another human being that just made an appearance on my ever expanding abdomen, i finally figure out why my mind has been so scattered lately.
i've been forgetful like i haven't been in years... So many plates spinning these days - and so many days spinning them without daddy.
Don't get me wrong, it has been good. (Minus a good week-long stretch where we got sick and i cried in bed because i thought that maybe i would be sick for the rest of my pregnancy and, Oh, God, how would i ever do this?)
But now i'm well - and strong - and i can laugh at my hormonal tears and defeatist attitude.
My mind is pulled in so many different directions these days: the dark eyed boy who writes sweet texts to my oldest daughter - and she who reciprocates, my middlies who are struggling with spelling despite the fact that i've made it a priority, my little boy whose runny nose keeps coming back, my tiny one growing in what feels sometimes like an ancient womb... (i get why Sarah laughed...) My mom - who i miss - and don't get to hear from enough, my sisters who are also navigating strangeness, my dad who is most often on the road, Good Friday - all that it means, all that i hope for, all that He is, my husband - and the peace that he unknowingly brings every time he comes home... there are only so many trails that my brain can follow before it just gives up...

And do you know where it goes?

It goes to the tiny one who is slowing me down. This little babe of mine reminds me with my own diminished abilities - that i am human... there is only so much i can do. He illustrates my weakness as 5 minutes of cleaning is inevitably followed by a 10 minute rest. He ignites my wonder as i feel him kick and grow inside of me and i could weep with the knowledge that his little life was ordained by a Holy God - for purposes beyond my imagination.
And i'm grateful.
i'm grateful for the scattered thoughts, for the rabbit trails my mind can't help but follow, the distractions that cause me to grow and try and be and do...
i'm doing the best that i can.... & it's enough.


(April 2)  A break in blogging brings to me an insecurity in ever pressing "publish" again... i haven't posted in weeks... "is this worthy of breaking my bloggy silence?" i wonder.
i write for week 29 and it sleeps in drafts while week 30 slips away.
i writhe as i write - i sneak in a post... it's harder than it used to be.
i'm different than i was - (even though my old posts still resonate truth, and i'm glad i've been honest - and i'm so very, very glad that i wrote them - there's always the balance between authenticity and the ugly over-share...)  Things i thought i was sure of forever, have changed - things i thought might change, haven't. i guess it all comes down to the profound truth that so many before me have already discovered; that the older i am, the less i am sure of... you know... it's one of those lessons we are all bound to learn if we end up living long enough... and i'm muddling through it - 'cause that's how i roll... i muddle.
i want to write for you *now*, little son.
i dream about you often. So much of this pregnancy has a strange new flavour for me - your experienced mama... who must acknowledge... that she has never, ever experienced YOU. You're bringing me to exotic new places - my Father is drawing me in - carefully prying open the layers of my heart to expose me to truth, to Himself and to His Great Love.
He's using you to bless me, tiny boy.
And so i'll press, "publish" - because i only ever started blogging for you anyway... for all my sons and daughters - to leave you a breadcrumb trail to my Creator (and yours too). As an echo proclaiming the Faithfulness of a Holy God who was leading your mama in preparation for the journey of your precious life.
i love you little "june baby"...
i'm so glad you've come.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

back seat driver

i remember the first time i drove alone as a new mother with Cairo in the car.
She couldn't have been more than a few days old... i don't even remember where we were going, but i strapped her tiny 6 pound body into a plastic car seat, securing all the straps and making sure that she was safe and snug in the back seat before i climbed into the drivers seat. i backed out of the driveway and she started to cry.
"It's ok, baby..." i crooned... to no avail... her thin cry became a wail and before i was half a kilometer down the road, i had pulled over and was almost in tears myself trying in vain to unbuckle my screaming baby to comfort her.
When she turned one, her grandparents bought her one of those toy ride on cars. We still have it 6 siblings later - a little rougher for wear, but it still gets used. We laughed, when it was still shiny and new, to see the contrasting image of a toddling one year old behind the wheel of her very own car. Babies don't drive. But she'd spit and bounce, making the purring sound of her engine, and her little car would go and we'd cheer and laugh as we created safe pathways for her toy-mobile to travel.
When she switched to a forward facing car seat, she had a baby sister, and we had traded our crappy old car in for a truck. She rode up high in that back seat and when she decided the trip had been too long, she would try to pry the straps apart so she could escape the bonds of her infernal carseat. i remember one trip from Manitoba to Edmonton, she was mad that she couldn't get out. We played children's songs and daddy drove while i turned my body in my seat, craning my neck, trying to entertain my angry daughter. We'd pass her any number of things to try to distract her, but she'd fling them to the ground. Finally, daddy passed back the little porcelain container of carmex that he used on his lips on those broiling days working on the floor of the mill. Five seconds later, there was a violent CRACK as it hit the front windshield and we howled at our stubborn little girl who continued to sulk in the backseat, refusing to be distracted from her goal of escape or her displeasure at being constrained.
Years passed, carseats became a thing of her past - and i still remember when she'd try to sit extra hard on the front seat when she'd climb in, trying to make the airbag light go off - because it seemed she was never quite heavy enough.
Finally she turned 14 - and in Alberta, that meant she was eligible for her learners licence... Her dad took her - and i remember looking at her picture when it arrived in the mail, thinking - she hasn't changed a bit in all these years... She still has those enormous blue eyes set in a pale face - the smallness of her frame belies the stubborn chickie who resides within - all deep waters; thinking, but firm, decided and purposeful...
Over the next two years, there was drivers ed, and so many, many, many trips sitting in the passenger seat, slamming my foot vainly into a brake that was no longer mine to press. Finally, a few months ago, in the dead of our Albertan winter, some woman with a clipboard and pen, decided that my sweet daughter could now be licenced to drive by herself.
And she does.
And this is where i'm hardly even talking about driving anymore...
But sometimes... when i watch her... i want to slam on the brakes even now... "Take that corner slow, my little love... don't slip, there could be ice... are you signaling and giving yourself enough time to stop?"
Every other driver is a threat in a mama's eyes. Every text that tells me she's leaving work, brings wordless prayers. Every time that little orange car pulls up to our house, there's sweet relief.
She's driving.
And sometimes... worse than being a back seat driver... i want to bundle her up in a soft pink blanket - and buckle her into a carseat. i want to strap her in, and keep her safe. "Let's let daddy drive - his reflexes are honed, he's experienced and confident. He'll keep us safe..."
And yet, here i see my little heart strutting around outside my body - as though it doesn't leave me totally exposed and vulnerable.
i want to growl like a wild animal at a boy who might bring pain. When i see her eyes light up at the mention of his name, i want to slam my foot on the brake and shout warning... When she's navigating winter driving conditions in confusing friendships in the throes of normal teenage hormones and pressures and servanthood... i want to...
Take the wheel.
Oh girlie...
How well do i know those roads aren't safe... but your safety isn't all in my hands anymore...
And so i do the best i can, mothering in these last fluttering moments between childhood and adulthood - trusting you... to navigate these roads with the care and discernment they deserve.
i love you.


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