Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fall flourishes & An upcoming wedding

A vase of flowers, or a potted plant, can transform a house. Since our's is still looking a little rough, I thought I'd give it a cheap and temporary face lift.

Tonight is the night before the morning of my sister's wedding. I have been running through checklists on paper, making sure I have thought of everything we need for tomorrow. The plan is to rehearse this evening, (thus determining whether or not my Lijah will be brave enough to make it down the isle with the rings.) My family will head back home, while I stay the night with my sister, calming her nerves and being as helpful as I can be with my prego brain.

Note: I just fit it my dress. My stomach fills every millimeter of space, the fabric pulled shiny and tight around my middle. I'm hoping to pull off the cute momma look, rather than the waddling penguin look.

Bright and early we will head to the salon. Meanwhile my superhero husband will attempt to rise and shine, and on his lonesome, get our brood fed, watered and out the door to meet us at the church. Please lift up this insanity in your prayers today. I want Kate to have a fantastically bump in the road-free day, or atleast be protected by a false perception that is so.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Apple Day

The kids, their Aunty, and I had a blissfully classic Fall day this past Friday. It was filled with blue sky, fiery trees and APPLES. After careful consideration, the orchard of choice was Kilmarnock Orchard. The drive alone convinced us we had chosen well. The countryside was spectacular. The hills rolled. The colours were intense. And every house was charming.

The orchard itself was thoughtfully laid out. The perimeter of white fencing was quaint. The trees were labelled clearly, ladders scattered throughout the orchard. Picnic tables were placed here and there, offering nice resting spots. Once our two bags were brimming with fresh crisp apples, we all filed into the lovely Pomme Rouge, a little cafe run by the orchard. There we were served a warm slice of traditional apple pie, topped with Balderon's Old Cheddar, along with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. Mmmm.

What made, perhaps, the strongest impression of all were the owners. They had big smiles and offered warm and generous service. They chatted with my children, making friendly overtures with us all. They encouraged me to bring along a few more moms next time and they would give us a tour of the orchard by wagon ride. And when our costs were tallied up, I noticed a few dollars had been knocked off. That clinched it. They have guaranteed our continued autumnal devotion.

That evening we cooked up an apple feast. Curried Turkey, Apple & Sweet Potato Soup , served with warm buttered buns for dinner. And the most delicously rich Apple Custard Tarts for dessert. Everyone needs an Apple Day in their lives.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Moved in

This Saturday we moved from the garage to the big house. A "red letter day" for the Van Dyk family. In preparation for a dinner we were hosting Friday evening Aidan and I had stayed up well into the wee hours of the morning the night before getting important things done. We finished the railing. We installed the island and put together our dining table. We hung a chandelier and vacuumed as much of the dust off the floor as we could. The next day we began to shuttle things from the garage to the house, putting them in their proper places, and before we knew it there was little reason left not to move right in! We're home.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Warming a house

There is so much truth to the warmth that thoughtful little gifts can bring to a home. When I got home last evening my husband and brother-in-law were being adorably jittery, strongly and persistently encouraging me to follow them over to the big house to see the "progress on the railing." I followed them over and had a look at their handiwork. They certainly had done some good work but I was clearly missing something important. They were both standing quietly, eyes shifting from me to a place in the corner of the room, waiting for me to catch on. Finally Aidan pointed me in the right direction, "Look!"

Up in the far corner of the livingroom, hung from one of our posts, was a beautiful little clock. I squeeled with delight. Partly out of the basic pleasure of surprise, but also because the clock could not have looked more at home. It just fit. It is Colin's housewarming gift to us, and he couldn't have chosen a more fitting one. It reminds Aidan and I of our honeymoon in England. Our time spent curled up in cozy wooden pubs.

But perhaps the greatest thing this little clock has offered is an added hominess to the entire space. This one little gesture of thoughtfulness and generosity from my brother has brought me and my house a little bit closer to one another.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Between us and the edge

This building process has yielded it's fair share of opportunities for our children to seriously harm themselves: pits, gaps in floors, long nails, exposed electrical wires, sharp equipment. . . Yet all have escaped relatively unharmed. (Please, don't ask me to elaborate on my use of the term "relatively.") The miracle of this is, in large part, that I haven't done much to supervise my childrens' wanderings. They come and go. Up and down. In and out. And, despite being left mostly to their own devises, they have kept themselves out of trouble.

But even I have not been able to rest easy about the hallway upstairs. It offers a 10 foot drop straight down to the concrete floor of our livingroom, and has been completely exposed for a year now. My preventative actions have ony really extended to the littlest one. In theory, he is not allowed to go upstairs without one of us. (Please don't ask me to elaborate on my use of the term "in theory.") The eldest have been free to go up and down, as I have long since recognized, within them, a healthy sense of fear and self-preservation. But my heart still lurches when I see them peek their heads over the edge and holler, "hi mommy!"

I have had friends decline a tour of the upper floor because of the edge. And most who have built up the courage to climb the stairs have slowly and cautiously shuffled sideways, hugging the wall, until they reach the safety of a bedroom. We have had a few questions concerning our intensions for a railing, and have resisted the urge to tell people, "oh, no, we like it this way. Better view." But our tardiness in putting one up has had everything to do with the order in which things needed to be done. This explanation had been met with patient understanding, until recently, when my mother finally gave us an ultimatum; " I won't come visit until you get that railing up!"

Last night, Aidan finally began the process. The middle section is up while the last two will be completed this evening. True to her word, my mom will be visiting this Friday.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Alone at night in the country

Just me and the sleeping children, and the darkness. Oh, and of course, the crickets. But then, there are also the occasional sounds of our porch deck being walked on, or the garage door being tap-tapped. Be calm, my imagination. This is why I want a dog. A big, big dog. Even if he proves himself to be entirely too friendly and hopelessly unwatchful, he would likely provide enough doggy noises to distract me from the less pleasant ones coming from outside.

I keep trying to convince myself that country women must grow accustomed to being occasionally manless at night, but from where I'm sitting that sounds impossible without happy pills. And this is with me safely holed up in the decoy structure. What bad guy is going to start with the garage? (Don't answer that-- expensive power tools, multiple vehicles. . . ) What happens when I'm alone at night in the big house with all of those windows and doors? Not even crickets to keep me company. It'll have to be two big, big dogs. No. Let's make it one dog for every 10 feet of floor space. That'd trip a person up, atleast, should the dogs prove themselves unable to muster up anything scarier than a few face licks.

With these pleasant thoughts on record it's bedtime. Sleep? Pfff! Not until my husband is occupying his side of the bed. The side nearest the door so he'll get it first when the bad guy comes up the stairs. (Come on ladies, you know that's why you sleep on the side you do!)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fall Cozy

"Fall cozy," a term I stole from somewhere, but from where, I cannot remember. A nod to whomever it was that provided it to me. It is a perfectly descriptive couple of words. As a chill creeps into the air and leaves begin to die their beautifully colourful deaths, I am always overcome with a delicious feeling of anticipation. This feeling is common to many, but perhaps more so to women who seem to develop a nesting compulsion, much like that of squirrels. Every squash encountered MUST become soup. Each apple, a pie. And before the month is out, the freezer will likely be stuffed with hearty good things made from the season's harvest.

This year I hold out no hope for a full freezer, but I do hold out perpetual hope for the perfect Fall Festival. I have attended many fall fairs in the hope of catching hold of a certain essence. An earthy gathering of wooden stalls selling homebaked goods and fresh produce. Livestock shows, of which I know nothing about but find fastinating all the same. And those quirky produce contests where a pumpkin might be awarded a red ribbon for it's enormous size, or a squash awarded for it's ressemblance to one of the prime ministers of the past. Simple games for the kids. No smoke belching carnival rides, just burlap sacks for potatosack racing, and barrels of apples for bobbing. Perhaps some open air fiddling under the stars?

I think that Road to Avonlea is responsible for much of what informs my ideas about such things. I do realize that we're living in a different day and age, but I yearn for what was. If any of my rural readers can direct my yearnings, or squash them entirely, please do. I'm tired of searching.

Ultrasound #1 . . .

. . . showed one little bouncy baby. He (she?) was bopping up and down. Flinging arms up high and making it very clear that he had a healthy little body and knew how to use it. However, my enjoyment of the moment was dampened by the documentary I watched a few months ago. In it, I learned that ultrasonic rays actually emit a high pitched keening noise that hurts the baby's ears! So, of course my little jumping bean was active. He was trying to express discomfort. Some things are best left unlearned. Sorry little bean. I just wanted to take a peek at you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An Ode to Sixty Three B Havelock Street

I have loved this home. It was FULL of frustrating old-home tendencies, like doors that wouldn't shut, and stained and slanted floors, leaky windows that took real muscle power to open. . . I had to climb 16 stairs to get the groceries into the fridge, and demon squirrels haunted our rooftops all day long trying to infiltrate. But the place was good to us. We never felt cramped for space, despite the growth of our family. We were happy to share the warmth and colour of our home with others, pushing the limit around the kitchen table. And we were able to access all that downtown Ottawa has to offer: festivals, bike paths, coffee shops. . .

Now that we have been out of the house for awhile I can objectively assess my feelings towards the old place. I can say that the memories are overwhelmingly good, and I will always count us blessed to have been given those few precious years there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My apologies to RSS Reader subscribers

To all of you who read my posts in an RSS Reader program, you will have noticed by now that I never get the post right the first time. This means that it gets published two or three times consecutively until I have fine tuned the post to a milder level of error and embarrassment. Do me a favour and just read the most recent publication. If not, and you find it amusing to peruse my more blemished versions, don't tell me about it.
Sincerely, Jo

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hopes & Warm fuzzies

I just had to write with a full heart. Aidan and I are snuggled up in the loft this evening waiting for our kids to settle into sleep. The usual routine. But this day will end better than yesterday because we started a new relationship today.

Our neighbours have been fleeting presences thus far. Aidan has been the one doing all of the interacting, and it has been mostly functional in nature. He's borrowed a boost, a phone, or a son for the day. As for me, all I have ever managed to do is wave out the car window. And I make sure I do every chance I get, as I recognize this act to be an intrinsic part of country relations. But I've known that it's not enough. Nothing meaningful is truly established through a wave.

This morning, however, I took it a bit further. I was out for my second-ever morning walk down the gravel road, wad of kleenex in hand, when a familiar white pick up truck headed my way. She was slowing down before I was even certain it was her, and my waving hand was soon clasped in a handshake as I announced that we were officially neighbours. Before long we were chatting way. For fifteen minutes, or so, we idled in the middle of the gravel road discussing everything from large families to bug bites. We were forced, eventually, to part or incur the wrath of the big yellow school bus driver rumbling up behind us, but before going our separate ways I told her I'd stop by later with the family.
And we did.

An hour ago Aidan and I were seated on their lawn, chatting with the whole family while our kids chased their dogs around the yard. I liked the way they liked my kids, reaching out to take theirs hands, and encouraging them to explore what was theirs. Even as it was taking place I could sense how important the interaction was. It was the beginning of our relationship with the closest neigbours we have. And I felt asthough we were being woven into a sovereign plan. Perhaps it's my wide-eyed optimism coming through again, the kind that doesn't look realistically into the future, but makes shiningly beautiful extrapolations based on one nice moment. But I am often struck deeply with a sense of opening. Asthough a door is swinging wide through which vistas of possibility exist for goodness and love and fellowship.

So I sit here brimmingly eager to trek into this new relationship. I will watch, and listen, and learn about, and from, my neighbours. I will pray for careful words and caring actions to flow from us all towards them. And perhaps God will take these dear people to himself somewhere along the way. That is my hope.

In which I detail, in a lengthy way, what I have been doing with my days

We wake around 8:00 a.m. All of us late in waking because bedtimes are pushed back too late, or stirrings in the nights interrupt our much-needed sleep. Gabriel stands in his crib and begins cooing, and chatting to his older siblings. Usually his one-way conversation is punctuated with sharp "no's", just because he can. The older two are wakened fully by his jabbering and make their way to our bed where, once Gabriel, too, is gathered up into bed, they all remain for another 40 minutes or so. I love this part of the day, and will be sad to see it go once Caelah has to be up and off to school. My three kids just smother me with affection. They mill about on the bed burrowing themselves into my neck and my arms. They compete, good-naturedly over the best spot, which happens to be directly on top of me. And I keep a mental tab on the baby within me, making sure there is no damage being done by knees and elbows.

Hesitantly, I eventually extract myself from my pile of cuddlers and set about getting something into their bellies. Our food, at the moment, is piled haphazardly into a storage shelf up here in the loft, while the rest is down in the fridge at the bottom of the stairs. I despise making the trip down those stairs in the morning. If I only stay up here where the floor is new and shiny and everything is cozy, I can forget that below is a dirty, dusty, bug-filled den of chaos filled with tottering piles of things I care about which are likely being invaded my spiders and centipedes. Often, I have managed to convince one of the kids to run the noble milk-fetching errand, showering them with high praise when they return. But the novelty of this will not last long I'm sure. We eat. Aidan, by now, at his desk a few feet away beginning his work for the day. And I muse about the many ways to fill up our own day.

Much exploration has been done this past month. My motivation for being off this property is strong. First, I feel helpless here. Second, Aidan needs to be able to hear himself think. Third, there is only sand on offer, and it has only been good for filling my children's noses, ears, diapers and eventually their bedding. This, I would rather do without.
Discoveries I have made while exploring:

*Arnprior beach. A beautiful beach off the Ottawa river in Arnprior. There isn't enough shade, and the shore line is very pebbled, but the sound of waves and the smell of water are things that were hard to come by in downtown Ottawa, and being a water-baby, I find it incredibly appealing and plan on getting my fill. Plus, it keeps this kids busy for hours.
*Bonnechere bakery. Everyone should have access to a good bakery because sometimes fresh bread and warm croissants taste better made by someone else. This particlar bakery is not a five out of five, but it's the nicest one I have found around here so far. It is beautiful, first of all, with exposed brick everywhere, and warm coloured accents. The baked goods are expensive but tasty. And the lunch items I have sampled are respectable. Most important, perhaps, the bread is excellent. But why don't they have an espresso machine? Why does this town not appreciate a good cappuccino? I met a woman at the beach the other day who summed it up for me; "We're just Timmy's kind'a people."
*Morris Island Conservation Area. I actually hesitated before adding this one, because when I happened upon it, it felt like a secret place just for me. Ridiculous, I know, but I have already begun to emotionally take possession of it. It will be one of those places I begin to think of as Mine. I first saw alluring signs for it along Galetta side road, without understanding what they indicated. The sign showed a symbol composed of water and trees cupped within a 'C'. It's obvious now that this is the standardized symbol for a conservation area, but to me it just looked the kind of sign I wanted to follow. So I did. And I was not disappointed. The 5 Km road spat me out at a place on the river that is so broad it looks like a lake. A beautiful treed picnic area awaited as did a map showing a series of trails that weave across two or three little islands. I got so excited. Hiking! Swimming! Cross-country skiing! Now I just need to find someone who shares my enthusiasm.
*Pakenham beach. A tiny secluded beach area off of the Mississippi river that is perfect for killing time. The river flows by lazily. The far bank thick with trees and only a stones throw away. Here we have shade, and a less intimidating expanse of water for the kids. Although, it is not hedged in by bouy lines, and rarely supervised, so this is up for debate. I like it because it's quiet. Very few kids come here at a time, so mine can take over the place. I can see it being a good place to wind down crazy kids at the end of a summer day.
*Almonte. I know. It's not like the town itself was a big discovery. It's just that I didn't know how easy it was to get to from here. So, I plan to make it my hub. They, at least, know the value of espresso. And it's just a nicer town than the Prior.
*Carp Library. If ever there was a library that fit my ideal, this would be it. It is full of light, clean and friendly, and completely devoted to children. Half of it is designated to little people, with bean bag chairs and puzzle tables and a drawing center. I love it there. And I have tested the patience of the librarians with three loud, smelly, and havoc-wreaking children, and they have been shown to surpass expectations. No hint of annoyance could I detect.

So, daytimes have been pleasant here. More so than I had expected. And I imagine this will only increase as I grow to know the area and people better with time.

Evenings are a bit less varied, and much less fun. We have yet to be able to bathe our children with any normalcy here. There has been one attempt in the kitchen sink. And another attempt in the bath upstairs the old fashioned way; boil twenty kettles of water and hope it gets warm enough for them to bare. Note: It never does. So, there have been shuttle runs into the city for baths and showers.

Also, all three kids are sleeping in an 8x8 space, forcing us to put them down for bed at the same time. This is a lenthy affair. Gabriel is truly ready, and tries to settle while the other two chat and giggle, or fuss and fight, their way to sleep. It takes an hour from start to finish.

As for social time. Ha! We can't have people here easily, because kids are sleeping, and neither of us can leave. Aidan, because he always has work to do. And me, because someone needs to supervise children while Aidan gets that work done. This is one of the hardest aspects of life here for me. I just want people time. I'll either get creative in seeking it out, or I will learn to be content with only my man and little people as company. And they are good company, just very familiar company, you know?

Nightime fills me with dread. If not for my God who miraculously upholds my body and keeps my mind intact, I would have gone crazy a few weeks back already. I have never before experienced allergies like those I am experiencing now. During the day, I suffer explosively messy sneezes and mild itchiness, but at night. . . I can usually fall asleep, but sometime in the night I awaken to a head so stuffed that I can't hear or see or breathe. And I am so itchy I just have to rub. And the moment I do, I begin to sneeze. Not once, but anywhere from 6 to twelve times, trying to contain it with rolls of toilet paper. And when than subsides I can then focus on the rawness of my throat. It aches and itches. And if I start to cough, I will not be able to stop. These sessions of misery last for two hours at a time.

Add to this equation crickets. Even now I can hear one of those evil critters chirping like an alarm clock with as much infuriating regularity as a dripping tap. And there's nothing that can be done about it. (Except squishing them, of course, but 1:00 a.m. is hardly prime cricket-squishing time.)

Finally, Gabriel troubles. Of all the times for him to begin testing his boundaries, he has chosen now. We made the grievous error a week ago of letting him into our bed one night. He had begun to fuss, and we didn't want him to wake the others. But the kid learns fast. The last few nights he has begun to howl, not for any other reason than to get himself back into our bed. He howls and howls. We check his diaper, give him water, check that he isn't feverish and yet he howls. Our strategy with all of the children, to the horror of some of you, is to let them cry at this point. We know our kids. We know that God, in His divine wisdom, has given us stubborn children, each and every one. So Aidan and I snuggle together in our bed, tense and alert, and together we stand against the noise, which sounds so much louder at night. Even the crickets can't compete. Last night's record was two hours. And folks, we know the kid is genuinely putting it on when we call out; "Gabriel lie down and sleep," and we hear him throw himself down on his bed and holler "No! No! No!" I can ever hear him jabbing a finger at us in the dark. Accusing.

Sleep. Blessed sleep.

And so go our days here in Kinburnia. All are welcome to interrupt with a visit at any point, and to infuse our life here with even more variety and colour.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nature finds

*Pheasants? We are still not positive that they we have identified them correctly, but it would be yummy if we have. They have been spotted having a family reunion at the edge of our yard. And I have been told we can eat them. . . (The legalities of this are a little fuzzy, still. . .)They had better park themselves elsewhere if they know what's good for them. We have a hunter in the family now, and a penchance for eating meat.
*Crickets. Didn't know they were so big. Or so loud. They have invaded the garage, hence, our life here in the loft. Chirping at all hours of the day and night. It has become a household rule that all persons, upon entering the domain must scan the floor, and immediately pounce on any cricket they see. Tricky, because they can really pounce well themselves. Gross, because they crunch really loudly when contact is made. Admittedly, I have yet to do the deed myself. But will likely never have to as my offspring have zealously taken to the task.
*Wild turkeys. BIG! Apperently they aren't nice, so I hope, unlike the pheasants, they do not take to having family gatherings on our property or they too may need to take up space in our freezer.
*Funny sounding birds. Gabriel got a kick out a one this evening that did a good monkey impression. I must admit I was equally thrilled by the bird and began doing monkey impressions that sent my kids into fits of giggles. I'm not sure the men from the heating company found me half as amusing.