Apr 27 2009

Day 16: Family Day

by andrew

You may think this title a little ironic – aren’t we supposed to be on a Family Life adventure or something? Why need a Family Day? Well, yesterday… actually it built up to yesterday, but we’ve seen cracks forming in our children’s behavior pretty much since we got here. It just took one good, epic Walmart session to shake the cracks into chasms and inspire a good bit of frustration in all of us. By the way, I hate shopping at Walmart. I’m not sure what it is, but I almost always come out of there worked up. Maybe it’s all the people, maybe its the fact that Walmart is a pretty good poster child for the materialism that I’d just as soon escape completely, maybe it’s something else. But4 hours is more than I can take, and I can understand how it would demand more than the best behaved child’s capacity. But we had a LOT of decisions to make as we continue the Revolution of Organization in our tiny home, and that takes time.

Putting them to bed, reflecting on some of the disobedience that surfaced (and our own shortcomings as parents who are still learning patience and all that good stuff) we concluded that we needed a Family Day:

  1. YHWH first – give Him the day
  2. Each other second – Love > Respect > Serve each other ALL day
  3. Whatever else happened to work out.

It was a great, full day. I let Renee sleep in because she almost always lets me sleep in (hey – she’s the morning person in the couple), I whipped up some semblance (impostor) version of the homemade granola she spoils us with, we had Scripture Study and prayer, then we hit the chores: Zach did dishes, Reayah cleaned everything off the floor so Bennah could vacuum, I mounted a baby bouncing seat thing in the trailer so that Renee could free her arms up a little more often (this project took a bit of improvisation since RVs typically don’t have the kind of door frames those are designed to take advantage of), Renee got the kids bunk room in order with all the Walmart supplies, then she made Fruit Salad for lunch, then I went rollerblading with Bennah (he was riding Zach’s scooter) down “the lane,” then back in the creek with everyone, then we borrowed a sprinkler for the kids to run around in and invited the friends over…

Speaking of friends… I have a theory about one thing that contributed to the meltdowns (aside from, of course, the normal difficulty of adjusting to such a big life change, which we expected and knew it would throw things off balance for a period of time). We also realized that the kids have spent a LOT of time with their friends here – which has been great. But it isn’t “normal,” and despite the fact that we are now redefining “normal” for us as a family on a daily basis, it is at the very least not good if we aren’t balancing quality family time with quality friend time. We’ve been so busy getting settled and trying to stay on top of all the things that seem like they have to get done that perhaps we were just kicking back to be a family and have fun together as deeply as we should. Perhaps up until today (and I already had a tendency to do this anyway) we were subconsciously treating family time as just one more thing that had to get done during the day so that we could get onto the next chore.

Anyway, the whole point we’re doing this is to learn how to take our own personal expression of Family to a deeper level so that YHWH’s purposes in love for others can pour out of that. Today was certainly a neat milestone on that journey. There were still issues, but we were in a new place of strength to deal with them.

…so after all that (around 4pm) when the older friends got home from school and since it was so hot – all the sprinkler running and creek wading quickly deteriorated into massive water gun battles, pond throwing, and that sort of thing. We collected our children from the fun-tangle for dinner together as a family – one thing that we DO want to guard as “normal” – and feasted outside under the awning on grilled salmon (cooked over a new grill we are trying out that is a gift if we decide we can take it with us) and grilled asparagus (from our family friend here – she cut it from their garden today). After that: family movie time and popcorn in our cool A/C’ed mini-home and then bed time. Overall, a marvelous day together.

And we really needed it too – we are basically down to ONE week before we plan to pull up anchor and get underway again. Hopefully, this has recharged us a bit, as there’s lots to get done yet. I have to finish the desk project that I’ve been working on (wait till you see this thing!), we still have to get our overall weight down (we’re going to jettison the bedroom doors at least – replace them with curtains, ditch the blinds in the kids room – they just kick them all night in their sleep anyway, and anything else we can eliminate), replace the fresh water pump with a quieter model and keep the current one as a backup, make our reservations at campgrounds in Winnipeg and Oregon for the next few months, etc. etc. I could go on and on.

But I actually have to go take care of all that kind of stuff now… Some REALLY cool show-and-tell posts in the pipeline though… just taking longer to finish the projects that will inspire the posts. Renee and I are also trying to get $$$ work done somewhere in this all. This is really a lot of challenging fun!

Apr 24 2009

Life and Death

by andrew

Yesterday I helped dig a grave out in a field’s corner at the farm where we’re staying. That was a first for me, and a  very sobering and reflective endeavor on many levels. There we laid to rest the body of Barucha – a wise and strong spiritual grandmother to many – she didn’t need it any more. YHWH delivered her spirit from a three and a half year struggle with cancer, and she is now dancing in the Heavens once again.

As her husband shoveled the first few scoops of dirt onto the body in the grave, I put a rams horn to my lips and sounded a long steady blast that held strong until my breath collapsed. It was a wail of mourning and a victory shout all at once. The victory is this: she trusted and served her King – Yahushua the Messiah – faithfully until the end and will be raised incorruptible in the last Day.

My last memory of Barucha – the most vivid one – was etched in place on Day 9 (just 2 days before she passed away). She was lying there on her hospital bed in a lot of discomfort, holding my 6-month old daughter’s tiny little hands, delighting in baby Joy who was just sucking away on her finger. I remember feeling the profound weight of the differences and similarities colliding in such a small space between the two of them. Here were two Daughters of Tsyion that – by all physical appearances – were at completely opposite ends of life. And yet, they both had such a strong ember of life burning in each of their spirits that they could connect at precisely the same spot beyond human comprehension.

I have been very thankful that this was my children’s first firsthand exposure to death – as part of a bigger spiritual family in Barucha’s immediate family and others here who understand that death is part of life – that it is a transition, not an ending – that it is not something to be feared or avoided in conversation or treated as some strange thing.

I believe that death – as with anything in life – should be faced squarely, head on, dealt with as best anyone can, and then left behind. Barucha did this with all her might, and her family carries on in the same way.

Apr 23 2009

Day 12

by renee

The sun has been out and the children have been outside. If it’s not pouring out, they want to be out the door as soon as they have their clothes on and some food in their bellies. Fresh air makes happy kids. The sky has been very clear the last couple of nights and the constallations are very visible and breathtaking from where we are. Bennah and I went for a quick run tonight to burn off some energy and get one last breath of cool air in our lungs and did some star gazing before bed. Zach turned the big 4 today and picked out a special dinner and desert that we shared with all our friends here.

Apr 22 2009

Day 11: Laundry day

by renee

Something that we are going to get to is doing our laundry at a laundromat. This can be a wonderful adventure, depending on how you look at it. It takes up most the day, since we try to get other errands done as well while we are out and about. Today it took 2 hours to wash out clothes. It is quite an operation. We had two bins of clothes, a big book bag full of things to do (books to read, school workbooks, toys, coloring stuff, snacks) and 5 kids. The laundromat we found was clean and bright, and had a few college students and an elderly lady who really got a kick out of our kids. After about an hour and 15 minutes, they were getting bored and started using the laundry carts as go carts and bumper cars. For boys, everything can become something to climb on, ride in or turn over become something else. I was exhausted at the end from reigning them in and teaching the boys how to respect other people’s propety, keeping Joy happy and occupied and stopping Zach from drying himself in the big industrial size dryers. But we got our laundry done and the kids had fun. By the end though, the kids were tired and hungry and grumpy. As we were leaving we got a sympathetic grin from the old lady.

We are seriously thinking about buying a portable washing machine that would fit in our bathtub. It’s convenient, but adds weight and takes up valuable space. Laundromats can become a fun family outing, but take up time and cost a lot of money.

Apr 20 2009

Day 9: chaos rains

by renee

What a day. It rained all day. It was too cold to really get any fresh air, so we were pretty much cooped up for the day. And it seemed like a completely unorganized, frustrating, chaotic day. Andrew and I both had plans to do some work today, the kids needed to do some school, meals had to be made, kids needed physical activity, all which seemed to happen at once and then none of it happened successfully. Still a bit run down and tired, there were some nuclear melt-downs, arguments, teasing, more fits, hungry grumpies, and still more challenges which I have completely forgotten now that it is the end of the day and all the days events are a blur. I do remember trying to feed the kids left-over black bean burgers for lunch on the floor because Andrew had taken over the whole dining room table as his office space. It’s only temporary, but it’s very inconvenient. I was stepping over kids and plates and books and toys and boxes if I wanted to get anywhere.

I’m learning that in a small space, everything has to be very intentional. Everything must have it’s own place and must be there for a reason. Nothing can be half-hazard. It’s fun in some ways to figure out how to organize everything to make life easier, but if anything is out of place, suddenly, it’s a mess. In a small space, a little mess, is a big mess. A few dirty dishes becomes an immediate chore that needs to be done to free up more space. A little bit of clutter is a huge deal. Not liking clutter and messes in particular (I’m not a clean freak, but I do like things tidy), this experience is definitely stretching me. I’m going to have to get used to a more cluttered lifestyle. With 7 people in about a 300 square foot space, things are bound to get messy and cluttered. It would help things a bit, if we got rid of even more things, which I am in the process of doing. I organized our bedroom a bit more tonight and emptied out a few more boxes and found new practical homes for things. I also threw out a few more things. I am coming across things and thinking to myself, “now, why on earth did I ever want to keep that?” or “this just doesn’t go in this new space.” More purging.

After lunch, after a few naps, things quieted down and Reayah started worshipping. We all joined in for a bit, and I was thankful for this moment of peace and mental re-calibration. I am always reminding myself (or my heavenly Father is reminding me) to have a worshipful heart in every moment, no matter what is happening. This can seem almost impossible, when you’re trying to put a fussy baby to sleep, force feeding black bean burgers to another, taking another to go potty, and trying to motivate two unmotivated kids in their school work. It can not happen on my own strength. Only with YHWH’s grace can I do this. When I decide, in my frustration and exhaustion, to lift my eyes up to where my help comes from, and say a prayer of thanks or even force a song of praise out of my lips, things get lighter and the rain that is beating down on our awning outside sounds so beautiful and soothing, like a simple symphony and I am so thankful for a warm cozy home, my amazing husband and wonderful children. Another day is done and my heart is full.

Apr 19 2009

Day 8

by renee

It’s pretty windy tonight and will probably rain. Andrew is out rolling up the awning and putting our things away. I’m making tea and we are just about the settle down and get cozy, looking at campgrounds close to Winnipeg, Canada (our next destination). We had our first meal outside today. It was fun and I think we will be eating outside mostly. Clean up is much easier. Black bean burgers with chips, salsa, carrots and chocolate chip cookies for desert. The kids and I are a bit run down. It has been an intense first week. They have been real troopers and have adjusted very well. There is so much to explore here (as you can tell by the great pictures in our last post). Bed time has been pretty effortless, since they are usually exhausted by the end of the day from all the fresh air and sunshine.

Apr 19 2009

Week 1: Review in Photos

by andrew

Apr 15 2009

Day 4: Black Tank Battle

by andrew

The day went moderately well: I watched the rest of “The Pirates who Don’t do Anything”  with the kids, the rain stopped, Renee took the kids to the library in town which freed up some valuable project time, I went over to meet our friend’s neighbor to offer replacing the bike ramp / board my son and his friend broke trying to use it as a trampoline, I hauled another load of stuff to get rid of out of the trailer, had a quick but productive talk with Joe, put the chicken in the oven for dinner, set up the computer and flat screen that serves as one of my development machines and doubles as a large picture frame with 40,000 of mine and my dad’s photos (including scans) parading in an endless random slide-show, figured out how to pull down the awning, immediately saw that it had been poorly cared for by the original owners which led to a massive soap-broom-and-hose scrub down session, and set up the exercise bouncer (one of our kids’ favorite things back home was our huge trampoline, and we figured with all the new trailer rules – no running inside, no jumping inside, no bouncing on the bed, etc – they should at least have something they can bounce on rain or shine… and hopefully prevent breaking any further boards-that-are-NOT-trampolines).

And that’s where the day got dicey.

In our first bit of RV life drama, our black water tank clogged up. For those thinking, “big deal…” or “what the heck is black water… is that some sci fi thing like dark matter or something?” Well, the interesting thing about modern conveniences like city water and sewage is that they make us almost completely oblivious to the amount of bodily wastes we each generate on a daily basis. Not so in an RV. One has the blessed opportunity to become intimately aware of the byproducts of such gratifying endeavors as eating.

So, when things stopped disappearing down the toilet, I knew we had a problem. Hmmm. Where to start? The internet of course. After a wee bit of research – the kind one always wishes they had done before the information is actually needed, I launched into action with some great helpers. The scene was hilarious, and now I cannot believe I neglected to have Renee catch some shots, but let me paint a mental picture for you: Imagine me in the bathroom wearing latex gloves pushing a garden hose (metal end cut off) down the toilet as far as I can and holding the flush lever open with my toes while my 3 year old son tries to shine a maglight down the hole so I can see if any progress is actually being made and my wife – who is outside – communicates with me via speaker phone (cell phone to cell phone) so I can have her turn the water supply on and off and pull this lever and push that lever as necessary. And that really about sums it up.

Of course, that was after several other… um… less invasive solutions failed in the attempt. In the end, I think we are on the path to recovery albeit not quite out of the woods just yet. There is still quite a bit of black water in that black water tank. I’ve poured a couple bottles with very scary warning labels down the toilet, and added a bunch of extra water, and I’m hoping things will be sufficiently liquefied by morning to get a clean dump. What an paradoxical notion.

Now, I’m just sitting here at 10:30pm sipping wine, eating chicken, thinking about all the other things I would have liked to have gotten done tonight, and blogging about it. Life has never been better. I know you think I’m crazy, but this is exactly why we hit the road in the first place – well, one of the reasons at least – to face life head on and force confrontations with challenges that we’d otherwise never even know are out there.

And what happens in the process? Why even bother? Because it changes us, teaches us, refines us, sharpens us, stretches us, enlivens us. YHWH uses all of these mundane and even, in some cases, gross / disturbing / painful experiences to strengthen us.