Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Music of Life

Do you know who Billy Talent is? If you do, you’re one step ahead of me…..in another universe parallel to mine. My musical awareness is still taking a walk around the block of Soft Rock and Seventies music. Billy Talent’s music lives about three decades away in a different time zone. Right now, he’s “visiting” our home for about a week, on loan from the library.

My 12 and a half-year old son insisted that I listen to the CD today. He finally got his chance this evening as I worked on our dinner in the kitchen. I have to say, I was a pretty captive audience, given that I happened to be doing a stir-fry and hadn’t much choice about remaining in the same spot for some time. So listen I did. (Mental note: That sounded like something Yoda might have said…..)

Billy Talent uses a lot of drums in their songs. (Apparently “Billy Talent” is the name of a band and not just a singer. At least that’s what I’ve been told.) It also sounded like the singer was always kind of……..shouting……..singing loud…….lots of electric guitar……loud……

My husband walked in as I continued to stir around the chicken in the wok.

“That’s the music your kids like,” I said under my breath, glancing furtively over my shoulder for overly-curious little people with big ears.

“Hmmm.” Sigh. He wasn’t paying attention.

“I don’t like it. Ugh,” I muttered. The chicken was looking pretty good, but the music was not to my taste.

My husband laughed. “Isn’t that what our parents said about our music before?” Ahhhh, he was listening after all!

“My music had words I could understand. I can’t understand what that guy is singing about.”

My husband shrugged his shoulders and walked out of the kitchen, laughing. And of course he would. He liked new wave music when he was a teen-ager. While I appreciated some of it, I always had a very mixed bag of musical preferences. I grew up listening to the music of the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Ventures and the Shadows, the Mamas and the Papas, Bread, Kenny Rogers, Barry Manilow, the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb, Earth, Wind & Fire…….see what I mean? My music was all over the place! And I loved it!

I have my father to thank for the variety of music that I appreciate and love to listen to. One of my most favourite songs is by the Bee Gees — “How Deep is Your Love?” I remember as a child asking my dad to play the record of that song (No CDs then, little children…..). He would always get a smile on his face and — as if I had actually asked him how deep his love was — would say to me in reply, “Very deep.” To this day, the song evokes sweet memories of my dad and I am comforted by a song to which I can sing along. Every time I hear it, the years melt away and I am once more all of nine asking my dad to play my favourite song. In my mind’s eye, I see my father’s smile lighting up his face.

But back to tonight and my Billy Talent moment. As I stood in my kitchen, cooking dinner and listening to my son’s kind of music, I briefly felt……old. The music I was hearing spoke to me in a way I couldn’t seem to appreciate. And inasmuch as I am quite comfortable with my age (37 years and four months, if you please), at that particular moment by the stove, I felt about as young as pterodactyl. For about a fraction of a second, I felt positively Jurassic. And then — it was gone. It was not a feeling I could or would entertain. After all, dinosaurs can’t very well cook stir-fried chicken in oyster sauce and garlic green beans, not to mention manage a household of eight children and a husband.

Ambivalent feelings about Billy Talent’s music aside, it’s really not an option to feel “old” when you’ve got a family that keeps you young at heart.


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The Up-side of Down Time

I went to bed last night with a plan. I was going to get up on time and not hit the snooze button. I was going to get an early start to my day and do all sorts of things. Wonderful, important things. I was going to have the energy of the Energizer bunny!

Of course, I did not count on my three-year old waking up with a fever, restless and crying at 2 AM. And I didn’t count on the little baby waking up with a fever as well at about 3 AM. Neither did I figure on not being able to go back to sleep right away. Sigh. And so my day started out groggily, kind of fuzzy actually. My cup of java helped me to get through a slightly sluggish morning. My day has been anything but “according to plan”.

Like a lot people, I think having a plan is great. You know what you have to do, where you have to go, any time constraints, etc. There is a certain sense of control over life. And then — life shrugs its shoulders and things are thrown off kilter. We are reminded that, in fact, we are not in total control of everything.

Rather than make us feel scared, or upset, the knowledge that we are not in control of everything should serve to free us from having to worry ourselves willy-nilly. There are just certain things we cannot do anything about. Mind you, I am not being fatalistic. I believe in giving or doing my best, as if everything depended on my efforts. I believe in trying again if I fail the first time in something. But I also believe that if things do not work out as planned, it is for reasons more important than what I know or understand at that time. In the end, I know things work out for the good — for what is best.

dscn0481.jpgAs I type away on the keyboard, my 3-year old daughter is alternately resting her head on my lap and looking at the computer monitor. She still looks tired. No one has any fever now, but there is a lot of sniffling, sneezing and coughing going on in the house. (Quite obviously, a bug has taken up residence in our home.) My hope is the children will get better soon. Really soon. I hope my husband doesn’t get sick. I hope I don’t get sick! (My patients need me!!) But if things don’t go according to plan — as they often times don’t — then I will chalk it up to a chance for some down time with the family. It simply means my child needs me to get her milk, hold her hand, or feed her more soup. My energies are needed more in certain endeavours, and not necessarily what I deemed to be top priorities at first.

Whatever the reason may be, the change in plans will not be the end of the world. Life happens. I’ll deal with it.

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At the Check-out Counter

The FamilyMost people get excited for couples expecting their first child, and rightly so. There are still looks of pleasant surprise and congratulations with the second and the third. The fourth pregnancy can bring about moments of silence for some, looks of genuine surprise from others. It gets pretty interesting from the fifth onwards.

I’ve had people look at me in disbelief, one woman even ask me point-blank if I was crazy. People who see our family all together for the first time almost always have a reaction. It has taken some getting use to, and was not very pleasant at first. I had to remind myself that, in truth, my husband and I were not doing anything wrong even if there were those who acted as if we were committing a crime.

So it was not with dread that I heard the question asked again today. Let me back-track a bit here…..

I brought four kids with me to do some grocery-shopping. The kids are great to have with me since I can ask one to get an item, while another kid can get something else. At the check-out, the kids started getting some boxes for the grocery items while I started to pay the bill. The cashier smiled at me and said, “So……3 boys and 1 girl, eh?”

I smiled back at her. “Eight. There’s eight kids.”

Her eyes kind of popped out a bit as she stared at me. “No way….”

“Yes! Eight kids — a girl, then 4 boys, then 2 girls, and a boy. I gave birth last August.”

And then came the inevitable question.

“So that’s it, right?” I could almost hear her holding her breath in anticipation.

I had to laugh. This lady with a wonderful smile was still asking me if eight was “enough”! A lot of people had stopped asking at number 6 or 7 because they either got tired or figured it out for themselves. Or thought we were plain crazy. In any case, this lady wanted an answer, and I had one for her.

“No! Listen, I have a 12-seater van, you know…..Besides, God has never let us down. He’s always taken care of us, gives us what we need. And what we don’t have, we don’t need. That’s how I see it.”

And you know what? This lady got it! She smiled at me, looking really happy this time.

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

It thrills me when people “get” my family. And if they don’t — well, there’s always hope that they will one day.

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Isabel, Regina and JoaquinI’d like you to meet my daughter Isabel. She is 6 years, 7 months and 22 days old, and was born after we had had four of her brothers in succession. You can imagine how thrilled we were at the birth of a girl after years of hoping for another one. My eldest child, Kathrine, had been the only girl until Isabel was born. She, more than anyone else, had been praying and wishing for a girl.

Notwithstanding the fact that I happen to be the mother, Isabel is a beautiful child. More than just physical attributes, I am referring to how she is inside. She likes hugs — loves to get them and loves to give them away. At church, she opens up the hymnal to whatever song is being sung and holds the book open for me. I, in turn, point out the words to her as they are sung. She will make a point of tucking in the label of whatever top I am wearing if it happens to show. She’s quite thoughtful that way. Isabel also has a great memory. If she hears something enough times, she’ll remember it. She also recalls certain things that a person might have mentioned — a favourite food, a funny story or a preference for something or other. The information becomes useful in her trying to think of what the other person would like or what they may find funny.

I wanted you to meet Isabel because this afternoon, while preparing dinner, the baby cried. I was in the middle of trying to do three things at the same time (never a good thing, I know….) and couldn’t have done anything right at the moment. Isabel was nearby and heard the baby cry. She called out to me and asked if she could hold the baby. I told her she could, but she had to stay by the sofa. She was good about following my instructions.

Isabel had held the baby before, always with me in the same room. She has cuddled the little baby and has tried to soothe him many a time that he was crying. She knew what to do and what she couldn’t do. While she couldn’t walk around with the baby, she could certainly try to distract him by talking and singing to him. She tried to show him the gifts under our Christmas tree and was making comments about this or that package. After a bit, the baby had stopped crying and had let himself be properly entertained by his older sister.

When I’m tired and distracted by the mental to-do list that never seems to go away, it helps to consider each child that we have been blessed with in our family. Each one is different and unique — definitely their very own person. In Isabel’s case, she being the sixth had older siblings to look up to and to look after her. Having her older sister afforded her another girl to kind of follow around and learn from. Having four older brothers has helped her be active and interested in other things maybe most girls would not necessarily care for. (She has played goalie to her brothers who love ball hockey.) Having two younger siblings has allowed her the opportunity to be someone’s older sibling and care for them.

My husband and I firmly believe that the children we have are blessings from God. We didn’t “plan” them. They all came, one by one, when they were supposed to. Each one brought into our a family a measure of their character and a great deal of joy that I cannot find enough words to describe. I talk to you about Isabel because I realized, in listening to her care for her baby brother, that the best possible gift we could have ever given each of our children is a sibling. Another child. Another human being to care for.

Isabel does not have to be bored, unless she wants to be so. She has a siblings who can play-pretend with her, and several others who have made it their mission to teach her chess. (Chess is BIG among our kids.) She has siblings who can read her stories, others who can tell her stories. She has siblings who can make her laugh, others who may try to make her cry and so — at that moment — serve the purpose who providing Isabel with a human punching bag. (She packs a mean punch, I’ve been told.) And she has siblings she can care for as any little girl would do with a baby doll.

A baby: the best gift you could ever give your child. More fun than any toy you could possibly think of. Guaranteed.

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All in the Family

(This is taken from the November 2007 newsletter of a girls’ club we run once a month from home.)

Allow me to gush: I love being a part of a large family! Eight kids, all singletons –thank you very much! I have friends who have more than eight, and some who are close to the number. For now, we (my husband & I) are at “eight”. God willing, we will be blessed with more.

I have a very good friend who has told me more than once that being a part of a large family is an education in real life itself. Consider this: you do not always get your way. You must watch where you are going or else risk trampling on some poor, unsuspecting smaller member who has yet to learn how to walk. You must be on time for everything, including and most especially meals. (Hunger seems to preclude counting of heads to make sure everyone gets their share.)

On paper, we do not look too promising: one-income earner, stay-at-home mom, lots of mouths to feed. But life is not lived on paper, and the truth is we have what we need, and oftentimes more than what we need. Whatever we may lack materially, we more than make up for with the sense of family that is so much a part of our life.

Is this experience limited to large families only? Thankfully, it is not. It may be more pronounced in a large family because of the ever-present need to help one another. Rooms are almost always shared by siblings. Things are passed down from an older sibling to a younger one. There is a natural need to consider the others. The same sense of family can and should be present in all families, regardless of size.

When we take on the considerations of the mother of a large and poor family (as a saint I am greatly fond of liked to say), what is most important comes to the fore. The non-essentials fall by the wayside.

We use things well and are not frivolous with what we have. We look out for each other. We try to do our work well because what we do matters. There is no room for selfishness because there are always others to bear in mind. And what a great blessing it is to have others to consider in the quiet of our hearts and to fill us with joy!

We are all connected with each other — our very humanity underscores this truth. It is a gift we must pass onto and teach our children about. Our kids need to learn how to be compassionate, understanding, concerned for others. In other words, our children need to know how to love. And we are each blessed with opportunities to teach them by example, every single one of them.

Finally, this sense of family transcends space and time, and thus I invite you to remember those who have gone before us: those who we loved and those whom we never knew on earth. This month, keep these souls, both known and unknown, in your prayers and thoughts. They are gone, but not forgotten. They are, after all, a part of this family we call the human race.

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