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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

They're Here!

They're here! It is such a happy day. My lovely girl and her lovely girl are here!

Over nine years ago my oldest daughter moved to Vancouver. It was just supposed to be for 3 years while she attended Studio 58 at Langara College(theater school).  Nine years later she and her husband and little girl are firmly established in their community. I am truly happy for them. They have a close knit, warm and supportive community. It is a comfort to know that your loved ones have found a place where they are blessed and are a blessing. Being separated from them for most of the year only increases the joy of having them come and stay.

The last time they were here I really got to know Calla. She is a peppy,dramatic, imaginative girl with unruly blond curls. Her laugh is completely infectious and she is my granddaughter!

It is one thing to be a mother but another to see your child as mother. The experience is almost surreal at first but slowly you become accustomed to it. My daughter is a gentle, caring and fun loving mother. I watch and listen to her explain things to her daughter and think what a great teacher. I witness her comfort her girl when she is hurt and think what a great nurse. I listen to her read stories and think, great actress. I eat the meals she makes and think, chef. My daughter has grown into all these things and will continue to grow. It is a wonderful thing to witness.

But Tina is more that the things she does and accomplishes. To me she is a miracle. I had her when I was 19. I loved her from the moment I knew she was there. It was not easy calling my parents and telling them I was pregnant( their response was amazingly accepting). It was hard enduring the scorn of others, some were ashamed of me, others judgmental, some thought I was throwing away my life. I however loved that little life growing within and decided to do my best for her/him. I quit doing all the unhealthy things I had been doing and started to read books on pregnancy and breast-feeding. She gave me a reason to care for myself, she brought purpose to my life. God has been good, faithful he has helped me along the way. The statistics are not good for children of teen mothers but God is bigger than statistics, He is Love. I think that Tina would agree that he has been our Father, our strength, our wisdom, our all in all.

When Tina was five a man came into our lives.  This man is a good guy with a big, kind and generous heart. Our second date involved all three of us going roller skating. We skated with Tina between us holding hands. After skating we were wandering around TO when we found ourselves witnessing a parade. Pete picked Tina up so that she could see over the heads in front of her. At some point he became aware that Tina was not looking at the parade but instead at him. He turned to look into her eyes and she said, "You know I don't have a daddy," as if to say, "I think you might just do." It went straight to his heart. I don't know how many men out there can marry a woman with a child and truly become that child's daddy but Pete did it. How good God is. He not only provided me with a husband but my little girl with a good and trustworthy Dad.

Tina is spunky, she gave me some crazy moments growing up but mostly joy. It has been a long and wonderful journey with my girl who is now a mother herself. I am so glad that I have the opportunity to experience life with her and now I get to share in the journey she is taking into mother-hood!

Soon the house will be full with all 5 of my children, my granddaughter, my son-in-law. It will be chaotic, noisy and heavenly!

Monday, 12 December 2011


Today is a special day. It is my oldest son's 22nd birthday. Time has gone by fast. I still remember his 'birth' day well. It was a cold and early morning when Pete and I set out for the hospital in Scarborough from our home in Uxbridge.  On the way the car stalled at a  deserted intersection. I had visions of the two of us at the side of the road trying to flag down a semi to take us to the hospital but thankfully Pete got the car going. We arrived at the hospital and were admitted. I tried walking some as was my usual habit during labour but started to feel the pressure to push coming on. I got into the bed and told Pete to call the nurse, which he did. After the nurse looked at the situation she informed me that I would have at least 2 hours to go and asked if I would like something to help me. At that point I couldn't imagine 2 more hours of labour so I said yes. As soon as the nurse administered the medication I felt an overwhelming urge to push. The nurse yelled at me not to push but it was too late my body had taken control. She physically tried to stop the baby from coming and in a panic asked Pete to pull the call bell out of the wall to signal an emergency. Things progressed very quickly after that till the doctor told me to hold on and not push. The umbilical cord had become wrapped around the baby's neck. I stopped everything held my breath and prayed. The doctor finally had to cut the cord away from the baby's neck and I continued pushing till my little one made his first appearance. I was instantly elated and then sobered as I realized he was not crying, not breathing, he was blue. I held my breath again, prayed again as the medical staff shook him, prodded him, suctioned him and finally got him breathing with a wail that was like music to both Pete and me.

Being a mother has been one of the greatest joys of my life but it has not always been easy. There were times when I was tested and failed ,when words came out of my mouth that shouldn't have. There were times spent in emergency wards and hospital rooms. Times when having a gracious loving mother was a comfort because all I had to do was make a phone call and she would be there. 

When I was 19 I became a mother for the first time. I was young and impressionable. I knew nothing about parenting beyond my own experience. One day some one gave me the book "Dare to Discipline." This book advocated the use of corporal punishment, it made it sound reasonable. It also made it sound as though the parents' job was to break their children's will. That if parents did not break their child's will (without breaking their spirit) disaster would ensue. Aside from the model I'd grown up with this was all I had to go on. I used corporal punishment. I always tried to be sure that I never hit out in anger but only as a means to discipline. I continued on in this way until my oldest son was three. This son is a wonderful guy. As a child he was not much of a talker but rather a person of action. He rarely sat still, he ran, jumped, hopped, leaped and made really loud sound effects while playing, he was full of pep. He loved to push boundaries. If I said to him "stay off the road, he'd go and stand at the end of the driveway with one foot just touching the edge." I tried to discipline this boy to make him mind. One day after a battle, I broke. I saw that I was losing and so was he. I prayed and then went in search of a new way. I found it. I started reading. The first thing I read that made a huge impression was; "there are no perfect parents, no perfect children and no perfect families." This gave me a huge sense of freedom. I began to see that what I'd been doing was trying to control my children to make them what I wanted them to be. I wasn't accepting them for who they were. I started to take a look at them differently. My oldest son changed in my eyes from a difficult child to a child with spirit. I started listening to people like Barbara Colorosa, and I read a book called "Raising your spirited child"
 I also sought out counselors. It was not easy but I made the transition from a mother seeking to control her children to one trying to give them respect and train them for life. I also learned to appreciate and enjoy my children. About the same time that my oldest son turned 3 my oldest child became a teenager. This approach I believe saved my relationship with her. I realized that I was talking at her and to her but rarely with her. I also was guilty of not listening, really listening. 

Things did not always go smoothly. You may laugh but I kept a broom handle in my room to beat my bed with when I needed to let off steam. I prayed, recited the twenty third psalm, counted to ten and started asking others for help when I needed it. My kids are great people, each one an individual. When I look at them I am amazed at who they have grown into being. The best times for me are when they are all together. They are times of intelligent conversation and lots of fun and laughter. 

Being a parent has been a journey of discovery for me. I found out that there are others out there willing to listen and help. I've also become someone who rarely judges other parents. Except those unwilling to listen, grow and change. I'm still working on that one.  I've grown to realize that people are unique and have unique places to fill in this world. It has been such a joy and blessing to watch my children grow and discover who they are.

My son who is turning 22 today. Is an intelligent, responsible, hard working person who is always willing to help others when they ask. He is still a man of few words, he thinks before he speaks, he can crack up a room of people with one line and a barely discernible smile. He has not figured out his chosen career yet but I have no doubt that he will find his way In the mean time he is discovering who he is and what his place is in this world. I am glad I have the privilege of being his mother.

I have 5 children and will probably take the time to write about each one in their turn.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


After my last blog someone asked me about my father so I thought I'd attempt to write about him.  It may seem like I'm  beatifying my mother, I'm not. My mom was human and she had her failings but my relationship with her was simple. My relationship with Dad is more complicated. Dad is a complicated person.

When my father was 2yrs old his parents split up. It was 1933 in a Catholic society, the south Netherlands. Divorce was not common. It was nasty. My Grandfather accused my Grandmother of adultery and refused to believe that my father was his. When my grandparents split; the children, 3 girls and my dad, were almost abandoned, but my Great-grandparents came to the rescue and took in dad's 3 older sisters. Dad went to the neighbour. I'm not sure what dad's life was like with the neighbour, he doesn't remember. After 2 years of my aunts begging for their little brother to come and live with them their grandparents relented. My dad was 4 when he went to live with his grandparents and sisters. His sisters loved him and from what he says so did his grandmother. My father's grandfather however never showed him any love. Dad once remarked to me that he had no father. I said something about his grandfather taking that place, dad's reply was  a vehement, "that man was no father to me!" Great-grandfather had a temper, he was an angry and bitter person. Dad once told me that his grandpa used to shout at him and say, "you're no good, just like you're father." Someone, it could have been one of my aunts, told me that when my great-grandfather finally relented and agreed to allow my dad to come live with them he said, "okay but I wash my hands of it, I'll have nothing to do with it!"  It is fortunate that my great-grandfather was many years older than my great-grandmother and died while dad was still young. He grew with little contact with his father and visited his mother infrequently, his great-grandparents didn't get along with his mother. From stories that Dad has told me, his father sounds like he was mentally ill.

Dad was 2 when he was left with his neighbour, 4 when he was taken from there to live with his grandparents and sisters and 8 when WWII started. Dad has stories of that time. His stories of his childhood are not like mine or my mother's. They involve bombing and occupation. Buildings that were there on the way to school leveled by the time he bicycled home in the evening, of hiding in the cellar. It was a time of fear and uncertainty and my father grew up in it.

Dad left the Netherlands in 1950 when he was 18 and immigrated to Canada. He didn't know anyone here and he worked on farms. A year later his sister came with her husband. My aunt introduced my parents to each other and 2 years later they were married, it was 1954. Two years after that they started having kids. 

Dad is one of the most generous people I know, he loves to treat people to meals out and is quick to give assistance where needed. Growing up he would pile us and the neighbour kids into our Chevy Biscayne and take us all swimming or skating. He loved to be goofy and he made us all laugh at times. He does a great impersonation of the fat lady in the circus. He's an amazing whistler. He can whistle like Roger Whittaker. He took us camping, canoeing, hiking and on picnics. he loved being out doors. But my dad had a temper and you never knew when the lid would blow and you'd be left sitting in rubble. I was always a little on edge around dad. We danced around him never quite sure what would set him off.

My great-grandfather's legacy to my dad was fear, hate and anger. I think Dad hated those parts of himself but didn't know how to escape. As dad has aged he's mellowed, he rarely raises his voice anymore. I love my father intensely and tell him so, but it is a word he seems incapable of uttering.

When I grew up and started having my own family that anger started to surface. At first I thought "I'm a Christian all I need is Jesus" but it wasn't enough. I needed others. I did not want to pass this on to my kids. I didn't want to be like that person in the joke who is drowning who keeps telling all his would be rescuers that it's okay Jesus will rescue him and when he dies he asks Jesus, "why didn't you rescue me?" To this the Lord replies, "I sent you a canoe, a motor boat and a helicopter!" So I went to counselling. God uses people. We need to be brave enough to say, "I need help." My counselor was a lovely and wise man named Bob Johnston. He listened, prayed with me and gave me practical strategies. I thank God for the men and women that He has used to help me. Fred Penney is another person that the Lord has used. He understands that there is no shame in asking for help or in saying "I'm depressed I need someone who understands." I am also glad that I have found a father whose love is not complicated but unconditional and never ending. I pray everyday for my dad, for peace within and for the knowledge of how high and wide and deep and strong is his true Father's love for him.

Another favourite:

My God I am Thine

My God, I am Thine, what a comfort divine,

What a blessing to know that my Jesus is mine!
In the heavenly Lamb thrice happy I am,
And my heart it doth dance at the sound of His Name.

He came from above our curse to remove.

He hath loved, he hath loved us because he would love
Love moved him to die and on this we rely,
He hath loved, he hath loved us, we cannot tell why!

True pleasures abound in the rapturous sound;

And whoever hath found it hath paradise found:
My Jesus to know, and feel His blood flow,
’Tis life everlasting, ’tis Heaven below.

We all shall commend the love of our friend,

for ever beginning what never shall end.
When time is no more we still shall adore,
That ocean of love without bottom or shore!

Yet onward I haste to the heavenly feast:

That, that is the fullness; but this is the taste!
And this I shall prove, till with joy I remove
To the heaven of heavens in Jesus’ love.

Written by Charles Wesley