Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Life after Mango picking

Many of you will have just come through the season of harvest. Thanksgiving, pumpkin picking and carving, apple picking, corn mazes. The usual fantastic photo opps for parents and fun for everyone. This has always been my favourite time of year and something I loved sharing with the kids. So none of you will be surprised when I tell you that I went seeking some sort of pick your own activity to fill the void in my life! To my great delight, a few months ago one of my new friends shared about his yearly Mango picking practice and I was hooked. Admittedly I jumped to a romantacized vision of this activity where my happy children and I plucked luscious, sweet smelling Mangoes while posing for adorable, scrapbook worthy, photos.
As the day approached, I was giddy with excitement. Someone mentioned something about being careful of sap burns and I smiled cluelessly. I also knew that my Canadian friend Kristin was allergic to Mango sap and had an unfortunate reaction to it the first time she went picking which is how I landed the job of catching Mangos for her husband Scott. In preparation for the day, I was to bring lots of water for drinking and washing sap off, long sleeves and gloves if I had them (which I didn't...at least no long sleeves that weren't also very hot to wear), and Scott would bring the ladder. Hmmm....a ladder....so much for photos of the kids plucking Mangos...oh well, the excitement was still overwhelming.
We drove out and parked on a cul de sac near the public bike paths that are all over Townsville. We unloaded the kids, the coolers, buckets, some gear and the ladder and cajouled the children into making the trek to the perfect tree. Scott had had his eye on this tree, and while the lower fruit had been picked, there was still lots at the top. The kids were still excited and willing at this point. Now Mango trees are much larger than apple trees and Scott gave me the option of picking or catching. I chose picking and climbed the ladder. No magoes here, would have to climb higher. Oh, and the tree was filled with green ants, an Australian gem that love to bite--hard. Climbed a bit higher, still no Mangoes. Once it became evident that I was going to have to shimmy out accross branches that were significantly high, while being eaten by green ants I wimped out. I was also increasingly aware that if my kids decided to take off I would be much too high to climb down to stop them. So I decided to be the catcher.
Now ripe mangoes are fairly soft and squishy, but mangoes aren't usually picked ripe because we have to compete with the fruit bats. Unripe mangoes are much closer to rocks in my oppinion. So Scott would pick, aim, and drop. I wish I'd had a catcher's mitt! While it only took one catch to realize this exercise would leave my hands severely bruised, my need to be tough drove me forward! I think I partially dislocated my ring finger at the knuckle somewhere within the first 20 catches. I realized it was more than just bruised as the afternoon progressed and the back of my hand swelled up and turned purple rather than the palm where I was catching. Anway, the ones I managed to catch cleanly went into one cooler, the once that bounced a little went into another. Then, occassionally Scott would tell us to get out from under the tree and he would shake branches that weren't big enough for him to climb out on. It was like a Mango scramble and my 3 yr old would yell 'Mango, mango, mango' as we would gather up the felled mangoes. The kids helped by sorting mangoes into the right coolers (called 'eskys' here) and generally running around. When they got bored Kristin and her daughter Maia entertained them with candy and running races.
In the end is was a wonderful day. We gathered over 300 mangoes for eating and freezing and while it was a much longer undertaking than I'd imagined, there was sweet satisfaction as I proudly brought home my bags of mangoes. I was tired, bruised and exceptionally content. Given the mangoes weren't ripe yet I didn't get to eat one yet, but I could hardly wait!
The next morning things started to go downhill. I woke up to a very swollen hand and some patches of red bumps on my fingers which later spread up my arms and chunks of my legs. And it was all very itchy. By Sunday I was covered in blistering sores that look just like a poison ivy reaction...these were Mango Sap burns apparently. By Monday I could no longer touch my fingers to each other because of the blisters and I knew it was time to head to the Doctor. Waited forever and had to pay for a very quick appointment to be told to take antihistamines and use calamine lotion, but that it shouldn't spread any more and if it did I should come back. The next morning I had many more blotchy read places and a rash that was now all over my neck, ears, torso, arms and legs. 6 hours in the ER got me 2 sets of pills, s2 creams and the likely diagnoses that I was allergic to Mango sap on top of the burns. And I wasn't allowed to eat any mango. Again, start getting better or come back. With my husband in the middle of studying for Med School exams, friends came over to help out with the kids and help cook as trying to do the usual things led to popped blisters which oozed and bled down my fingers. Not to mention I wasn't sleeping at all because of how itchy I was and that I was now crash weaning my 16 month old because of the meds I was on. By Saturday my eyes started swelling shut, and when I went in this time they said the next course of action would be to take me off all the meds in case I was allergic to one of them. Fantastic.
So here I am, two weeks post-mango encounter. I am still very itchy, but I can touch my fingers together again and I feel exceptionally blessed to have a chunk of friends who love me enough to play with my kids in the rain, do my my dishes, help with meals and generally love me even when I look like I am one afflicted by the plague of boils. I am also thankful for my mango picking trip. I didn't know at the time, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Oh, and apparently mango sap and poison ivy are very closely related. Who would have thought?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Some Thanksgiving smiles!

My oldest lost his first tooth while preparing chicken and leek cannelloni. He was so proud of both! Jr. Masterchef has been a fun inspiration for us!

Okay, so as close as I could get to a good shot of all three this month!

"Mom, why are you so excited about my birthday present?"...BECAUSE IT'S THE BEARS WE KNOW!!

So the adventures continue here. I continue to juggle homeschooling, parenting 3 and working part time at the church. The days, evenings and chunks of the night are very busy. I think if the kids could learn to sleep through the night the days wouldn't seem quite so long!
My oldest and I are navigating homeschooling challenges and really hoping he can start school in January when the new school year begins here. He misses having other kids his age around and really misses the classroom setting. While he is improving in many areas, I am exhausted and struggle to keep up. He doesn't like working independently on things and his little brother and sister insist on picking at him any time he does settle in. The one thing that we are both very excited to share is watching Jr. Masterchef on TV; a show where kids are in an extended cooking competition. We download some of the recipes from the show so he can try them and I love that it helps his reading, writing and organization skills as he makes grocery lists and works at measuring and following directions. Optimistically I look forward to having someone in the house who actually enjoys cooking! Unfortunately I'm not sure that we will still be here for him to qualify for the show in a few years which is what he is truly dreaming of!
My middle son is expanding his imagination as his vocabularly and his ability to create a story line is increasingly entertaining. The other day we were playing pirates and when it was time for the pirates to sleep he told me a bedtime story about an ogre who was captured by a dragon and carried over a sea of lava. I loved how he maintained that the story was a pirate bedtime story! He has some very kind moments as he is constantly sharing with everyone...even though it is often because he wants more himself...but we are emphasizing the sharing part! Now if we could just get him to sit at the table and eat at mealtimes.
Our youngest is toddling along and has begun climbing everything in sight. She even pushes toys together up against the wall so she can climb from one to the other and then look out the window. She is playful and independent and already tagging along with her brothers.
On the ministry front, some wonderful things are happening. After much prayer, I have been blessed with three amazing people to be part of my children's ministry team. They have been a huge encouragement in my life and we are already seeing a change in the kids as they begin to feel cared for. We are following a fairly camplike model with a fantastic science lab theme for our teaching. We also have this fabulous fish puppet that eggs the scientists on in doing crazy things. On the stretching end of things, I have inherited leading worship because I haven't yet been able to recruit an actual musician. At least this keeps me feeling as uneasy as my new recruits. The other amazing thing is that there is this shift toward prayerfulness that is taking place in pockets of the church, including youth and children's ministry, and in response we have seen a few people healed in miraculous ways. It is a real priveledge to be around to see God at work in such tangible ways.
I'm up for preaching this Sunday at our evening service. Chewing on thoughts about how we hear from God and how we wrestle with the desire to live significant lives in the face of the everyday that seems so ordinary. I've also been thinking about what a gift it is that God has given us the freedom to follow Him while also giving us grace if we get it wrong. The nugget being that we aren't meant to be paralyzed by a fear of getting it wrong when we are seeking His will, but set free to live radical lives without fear. Always happy for input prior to actually speaking! I'm also missing the beauty of sitting in a room brainstorming for Youth Eventz and Ryerson dreams that evolve from God revealing vision in group settings. I miss you my friends back home! But...my settling in activity for the week is a plan to go Mango picking...so I am expanding to having Australian friends as well!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just a little update

"I think I grew a bit now that I'm six"

Now that my oldest has mastered riding a bike, my 3 year old has to run much faster to keep up!

Sporting his new Ryerson Camp shirt! And my little girl wearing the family running hat.

We stumbled accross this fire awareness fair down at the Strand and it had the perfect outlet for the boys! I am particularly fond of the head gear and am considering making it a permanent addition.

Thomas the tank Engine pass on hat (originally courtesy of Adam Cresswell who owns a matching version), Spider man shirt, Kung Fu Panda villain in hand and a skirt for that feminine flair. My daughter is embracing the role of little sister to two older brothers well!

Packages from Canada can take anywhere from 2 weeks to three months to arrive (so we have learned), but when they do come, there is great celebration! Thanks to everyone who sends us stuff. The excitement is overwhelming when it arrives! (This one was courtesy of Lauren and it's contents were subsequently spread accross the entirety of the lawn)

And so the adventure continues! I have a job! Which is wonderful and has provided a church home, a ministry and a community in one go. I'm beginning to settle into the role of Family, Youth and Children's Pastor and have been blown away by the love and generosity of the many people who have made it possible to be in this role. The church didn't have a job oppening, but a bunch of folks decided to kick in a little extra each week to bring me on board as staff. There is lots of opportunities and I'm hoping that all my experience back home will be of some use to them. I am also already confident that I will learn a lot from these wonderful folks!
I continue to adjust to all things Australian. I am now to the point that I don't think, 'drive on the opposite side that you think' and have entered the 'I can't remember what is normal to do the opposite of'...so have to think even harder about which side to be on. The heat is picking up here, but we have already had the air conditionning on since...well, all through the winter, so I'm not sure how to get it cooler! It also means I'm increasingly desperate for the kids to sleep through the night, because running later than 8 is too hot to handle! It also has made homeschooling increasingly challenging. Trying to motivate a sweaty 6 year old while his brother and sister pick at him has proven a significant obstacle. But we are working together on it and trying to sit under the air conditioner to read and write!
My youngest's personality has begun to shine through and she is asserting her independance. She is also now able to be a co-conspirer with my 3 yr old as I found the two of them behind the sofa with the white sugar all over the floor and licking their fingers...then a couple of days later it was the brown sugar! That is apparently the other homeschooling risk, as I was working with my oldest on both occasions.
We have also managed to attract quite the colletion of birds at our feeder, many of them Lorikeets that are absolutely beautiful. They take the place of our pets for now. My next goal is to try to get them to eat out of my hands. We will seee how that goes.
Okay, so that is the check in up date for now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Crazy Eyes

This picture captures so much about our youngest. The eyes, the tongue out, the camera strap in her finger and a bruise on her forehead. Yes, this is my daughter.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oops, thought I'd posted this...but it's here now.

I AM AN AUNT! Yay! My brother and his beautiful wife welcomed their first son into the world this week and I am ever so excited to get to be Auntie Jenn. Congratulations you guys!

It is also birthday time in our house and today we celebrated my oldest son's 6th birthday. I have been worried about trying to make him feel well cared for on this special day, given how short we are on friends and family in the area. He got up quite early and we let him open his presents before breakfast, which was a real treat. Than my wonderful husband made him (and the rest of us) pancakes from scratch, which are his favourite. Then we had a picnic at the beach where we tried out a new battery powered plane that needed some room to fly. While we weren't planning on swimming, with the tide out, the water was bath temperature warm and perfect for splashing in and collecting shells. I enjoyed searching for hermit crabs while my youngest delighted in having freedom to roam in the ankle deep water. The boys decided to play 'deadly 60' which is their variation of a tv show that rates animals on their 'deadly' factor. I think they like creating their own scoring system. I was nominated the 'deadly cameraman'. We were all wet and muddy and content by the end of the adventure and fortunately I had packed extra clothes...for all the kids. When will I learn? After the fresh air adventure we headed to the toy store to spend the precious gift from Aunt Meg and Uncle Steve. This was a huge success as my oldest got to pick his own gifts and loved having that power! He also generously got his younger brother a little something, which simply makes mom and dad proud. We came home to find a little package of homemade cupcakes on the doorstep for the special occasion which was really sweet. We also continue to enjoy the Superman card from Grammy and Grandad. Huge thanks to our family and friends who have worked so hard to overcome the distance with emails, phone calls, and cards. It has been a wonderful day celebrating my eldest.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Slogging forward and the 'laundry hanging super hero'

Okay, so I have been reminded a number of times now that I must get my butt in gear and offer up a post. So here we go...though be prepared for a smattering of random thoughts alongside the run down of moments in our life over here.

First off, I made it through the worst week for homesickness, known to some of you as 'Ryerson Family Camp'. For those who don't know, Family camp was a dream in my heart (and the heart of a few others) for a number of years before it became a test week back in 2005. I have loved Ryerson since I first drove up the driveway as part of LDC back in 1994. There is something about the freshness of the site, the soft sand between your toes (I mean under your rule abiding shoes on your feet), the sunrise from vesper point, rewarding the effort for morning quiet time, the old cabins that have been increasingly acquiring a freshness from the hard work of many, the dining hall, that has this wonderful space to dance and twirl and have laughter echo off the walls. I miss the sound of the leaves as the wind comes off the lake and the beauty of the bush as you hike through it (sticking to the path to avoid the altogether too familiar poison ivy). I miss walking by the volleyball court, the basketball court, the ropes course, the bouldering room and the archery range--all that are brilliant reminders of God's good gifts to the camp through people who have invested in that place. And that is to just name a few. I know there are new places this year that I haven't seen yet. That feels a little funny. Can you feel the longing? And that is before I think about the incredible people who I know were at Family Camp. I miss watching my kids run around the site, making new little buddies, trying new things, and most importantly tasting the goodness of the kingdom of God as they worship in song, learning and playing. I have loved the pictures and stories from the week and look forward to hearing more. But my heart ached through that week, praying and longing for my dear friends. And it continues to celebrate the many folks involved with the camp as they are poured out throughout this summer and into the fall.

It has also hit crunch time for us, and we are praying like crazy for things to come together financially for us. We have decided to try and rent out the house, and one of our cars still needs to sell, so that we can be relieved of paying 2 sets of bills. On the upside, there is a very good chance that I will be starting as the 'Family, Children's and Youth Pator' at Aitkenvale Uniting Church. It has gone through the elders and now will go through Council on Monday. It is a challenge for me to figure out quite how to feel about this blessing. First off, and most obvious is that I am thankful. But more than that I am overwhelmed. The church wasn't looking for a second staff, but as I got to know them and they got to know me, a bunch of people stepped forward to sponsor a position hand made for me. I have never been more aware of just how directly church staffs salaries are paid by the offerings of the community. I am humbled and thankful and just a little intimidated as I now hope to live up to this opportunity. I am very excited to be working alongside the minister who is already there--he and his wife are both fantastic and have already been a huge support and blessing to us, and I am encouraged to finally have a church home for all of us. The piece that is really exciting for me, is that after years and years of children and youth ministry, this will be the first time my kids are part of the focus of my ministry, though Family Camp was a step in this direction. So part of my job on Sunday mornings will be to minister to my kids! Thankfully, they are pretty excited about this! So, lots of pieces still need to come together, because I can only work 20 hrs a week on my visa, and that won't quite cover the bills even if we do manage to shake off the expenses back home. So we continue to pray, but are hugely thankful for this part coming together.

My oldest turns 6 on the 19th. This has obviously come all too fast as I remember well the three days of labour and then finally holding my first born with joy and absolute and utter exhaustion. It doesn't seem that long ago, and yet here we are, 6 already. And,just as his sister was determined to walk by her birthday, so has my oldest finally mastered bike riding just this week. After much pleading for us to get him training wheels, we finally convinced him he could do it on his own--and so he has! Now I just have to try and figure out how to keep up with him as I push the other two in the stroller. Today he joined me for my run on his bike though, and that might be a good fit for a while at least, and has the added bonus of giving him some much needed one on one time in the midst of some fairly demanding younger siblings. So I am approaching this special day with nevousness. I want him to know how wonderful he is and to feel blessed, but what he wants most is to have lots of kids around to play with. And I'm running short on those. I am ever so thankful for the few families we have pulled together who will be joining us. I am also feeling stretched to come up with ways to honour my precious one in the midst of extremely tight finances. The blessing in this is that it is pushing me to stand by my belief that blessing him shouldn't be dependant on material things. I do wrestle with trying to make up for tough parts of this international move for him. So that's my oldest, learning to read, write and ride a bike are all exciting steps he is taking, as well as taking responsability for preparing one meal a week (with help). He is a joy every day.

My second born continues to grow in his creativity as I am invited into the world of superheroes, animal rescues and babies often. One of my favourite moments this week was when Spiderman asked me if I could help him find his baby because he was lost. Well who could resist helping a distraught Spiderman? So I asked where baby Spiderman might be? 'At the toy store' he replied with a cry. Clever little boy! He has been insisting that he needs a 'baby' spiderman action figure for awhile, but I was truly amused by this new tactic. Along the super hero theme, my son was bouncing on the trampoline articulating his imaginary world as he jumped. He described how he was fending off attackers using the 'kangaroo defence', which entails throwing kangaroos at his attackers...okay, so it isn't realism! Then he kindly asked if I wanted to pretend superheroes when I was done hanging the laundry that I was busy with. Then he said, 'My super power is super strong. Your super power is hanging laundry'. It made my day! As I struggle to stick to my environmentalist guns and gut it out hanging laudry to dry-a task that means I spend 1-2 hrs a day dealing with laundry and cloth diapers once all the steps are put together--it was a change of perspective to think of this as a super power. This week I am heading into a Bible study on the environment as I continue a 'Just Faith' series with a small group from church, and I delight in the notion of our little acts of faithfulness qualifying us to be superheroes. Even better that my 3 year old saw it this way.

And my youngest, well, she is taking the world by storm. She is independent (most of the time, right now she is screaming at me), and loud. I am baffled where she might get these traits from :) She has learned how to climb onto the coffee table and loves to run/dance back and forth while yelling, blowing raspberries and laughing maniacally. She is also willingly enlisted for mischief as she joined her brother in opening, spilling and consuming a considerable portion of brown sugar. When I found them, she stood up and ran away laughing, then turned to look at me, while licking her fingers, and laughed even harder. We are in trouble with this one!

Well, I just had to microwave my coffee for the fourth time since I poured it, my youngest needs a clean diaper and my second has set up a chair on top of the coffee table to sit in, while my oldest is off biking with his dad. So that is a reasonable snap shot of what normal looks like these days!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Early Steps

Hanging out on the beach, and the boys sporting their new hair cuts. (courtesy of their mom)

And the dancing queen, with her tongue out...always with the tongue out.

And finally some steps caught on video!

So our youngest is beginning to take the world by storm as she toddles her way around everywhere. She has also decided it is time to join the fun and games of her older brothers, with all its rights (to bruises) and responsibilities (to share all toys). She is quickly becoming a playmate for our middle son, which is creating some needed space for my oldest and I to work on reading and writing. She is a tough, independent little thing, with a fantastic laugh. At times she comes out with a mischievious cackle that is identical to our middle son. I'm sure she will be a handful in no time!

Our newly-turned-three, has also taken some significant strides forward. He is sleeping through the night more often, closer to being fully toilet trained, using much more complex sentences and ideas all of a sudden, and of most importance, has decided that he adores his little sister. We are sure that he loved her before, but he has decided to act on it more often and reach out to include her in new and exciting ways. In many ways he has finally begun to immitate his older brother in this, who has always adored both his younger siblings. All of these steps forward have brought some relief to the tension that was living with a 2 year old.

My oldest has also hit a recent growth spurt as well as making significant strides forward in reading. I'm not sure we've really hit a groove with homeschooling, and we certainly haven't found a routine or rhythm as I continue to try to figure out how to challenge him without overwhelming him, but his reading is better so that is one step forward. We've pretty much settled on regular school for him when the new school year starts in January, so I am trying to set manageable goals in the mean time and trying to get him comfortable with reading and writing so he will be up to standard when he streams back in.
Anyway, the main goal of getting this post up was sharing some toddling videos! Enjoy :)