Aug 23 2009

Mosquitoes and apple butter

by renee

This morning for breakfast we had homemade biscuits and crab apple butter. The campground where we are staying has 3 large crab apple trees that have apples the size of regular apples and almost just as sweet. My mom came by to visit yesterday and helped the kids and I fill about 2 grocery bags. Last night we had an assembly line going in the trailer while we peeled and chopped apples for the crock pot. This morning, it was ready. It’s a little more tart than other apple butter, probably because it was made from crab apples and I only put in a little maple syrup to sweeten it as opposed to the ridiculous amount of sugar it commonly calls for. It was very yummy! Andrew says it’s not sweet enough (but then, nothing can ever be sweet enough for him!).

We are outside now, and we are being attacked by mosquitoes. We’ve sprayed ourselves down, are wearing those repellent bracelets and have a bug zapper going. Still, I’m about to cave and bring out the Deet.

There are still many more apples to gather and use. The kids want to bake apple pies for all our friends here. Sounds like fun, and a lot of work! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak :). Of course, I would rather bake sugar free whole wheat apple pies, but that might not go over too well. So, we’ll probably head to the store and buy a bunch of pre-made frozen pie crusts and a big bag of sugar. Yikes! I haven’t bought (white) sugar for a few years now. Haven’t even had it in my house! There are plenty of other natural things to make things taste almost just as sweet. Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. 🙂

Ahhh, Andrew is making a wonderful fire and the smoke is chasing those little buggers away!

If any of you would like some crab apple pie, come on by Welcomestop, site # 10. I’ll even let you specify, regular or sugar-free!

Please be sure to check out Andrew’s photo blog below of our travels in July. I think I stole his thunder a bit by posting this blog so soon after his.

Aug 23 2009

Day 134: July Photos and Twitter

by andrew

So, I’m still working on a bunch of media updates for the blog… videos… The Map (which is giving me some headaches)… all kinds of great stuff. And I had originally intended to put it all out at once, but I figure I better pace myself since everything takes so long to edit and upload. So, here’s a window into what our July was like:

Click through to go through the gallery in order… or just watch random moments from our July right here. There’s nearly 200 photos in that gallery. And, as if that wasn’t enough, I had to give our family time in Neskowin, OR a separate gallery of it’s own since there were so many photos from that week with my brother, sister + her family, and our parents celebrating their 40th anniversary:

You might have also noticed the Twitter feed that I added a couple months ago near the top of the side-bar to the right. It automatically updates whenever we save a new post here, whenever I upload new photos from Lightroom to SmugMug, and whenever who knows what else my geekiness will think to wire up. Once in a while I even update it manually. If you like Twitter, you can follow my feed directly here:


Aug 8 2009

A Sunny Shabbat

by renee

At this moment, Joy is asleep on my lap, Reayah is quietly reading books, Bennah is out riding his bike, Jaiden and Zach are asleep and Andrew is working on his photos. About an hour ago, Andrew and I we were enjoying the warm sunny day, sitting outside under the awning, drinking coffee and watching everyone play in Shawn and Shelley’s back yard. Reayah was shelling peas, our younger boys were playing in the water and Bennah was reading. I took a sip of my delicious hawaiian hazelnut coffee and looked out at everyone happily entertained and thanked YHWH for Shabbats. To top it all off, a loud choo choo train went by only a few yards away on the tracks that run right behind their house.

Little boys love their trains and fire trucks! Since we’ve been traveling, we’ve seen many trains. Some have even blown their whistle for us as they passed us and probably just happened to glace out and see a blue Suburban with all the windows rolled down, filled with kids grinning widely, hair blowing wild in the wind and waving frantically at them. On one rest stop in Saskatchewan, we stopped for some burgers at A&W.  A beautiful bright train just happened to pull up and stop right in front of the kids. I jokingly said “Maybe they stopped for a bathroom break or a lunch break!” Just then, out stepped 3 conductors. They walked along the tracks and headed straight for us. They graciously waved back at the ecstatic children and walked on to A&W for some lunch! We are constantly trying to teach the kids that everything good thing is a gift from YHWH. The kids love the trains so much, that they have started to thank Him every time they see a train. And why not? He knows the desires of our hearts and wants to give us good things to make us smile. Even if it’s something as common as seeing a train up close and having them blow their whistle just for you.

He has answered our prayers and is constantly blessing us with good gifts. In Oregon, on our way to the coast, I had prayed that Father would help us to eat healthy on the road and help us find good food to eat. Within what seemed like minutes, we saw signs for an indoor farmer’s market with fresh daily picked produce. It was in the middle of nowhere and had a HUGE gravel parking area that was perfect for RVs. I was blown away at how quickly He answered my prayer. From fresh cherries, yellow watermelons, berries, raw honey and green beans, we all enjoyed the wonderful bounty of the local farmers. The little blessings that we all receive everyday are actually a big deal when you consider who gives them and why they are given.

Shelley and Danica are out picking beets for the beet borscht she’s planing to make. I should go out and see if she needs any help.

Aug 7 2009

Day 118: Chez Manitoba

by andrew

This post was supposed to be a media blitz: photos, videos, links, etc. galore… Time is the incredible shrinking woman, it seems, and experiences are the clothes that always remain the same size. Sorry for the obtuseity. I’m feeling saucy on this rainy friday morning in the middle of a restless kids chaos storm swirling around the narrow chambers of our camper trailer. Let me set the scene further for you:

The hospitable Shawn (we’re comfortably parked and hooked up behind his home) is sitting next to me on the couch here in the trailer. Bennah says in frustration “I don’t care if it’s raining I want to go on the swings anyway… fine after I do some math [slams math book on the table]…” Jaiden exclaims in his high pitched excited voice from the steps (our door is propped open to shed the heat from the granola-cooking oven and let the cool rain air in) “it’s raining look it’s raining all so much.” Reayah tries to get her jacket on saying “I can’t wear it,” and Renee says “here, just over one arm,” and helps drape it over her sling.

She fractured her elbow a couple days ago.

And so begins a journey backwards through the most recent adventures. Should I start at the beginning or the end? Ok, we’ll go forwards from the last post.

Confession time: I actually did not end up going to bed after my last post like I said I was even though I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Well, they shot back open when I was closing the blinds because the Wal-Mart parking lot was literally swimming and swirling in the shadow of vast moth-clouds hovering around the lot’s lights. It was epic-plague-like. I’ve never seen anything like it. They were being chased, evidently, by an immense mountain lightening storm because after snapping a few stills and getting the video camera ready to roll there was scarcely a moth left and then the thunder started. I spent the next hour or two capturing some of the best lightening shots I’ve grabbed so far… and getting drenched doing it. Yes, I will post some of them eventually. It was spectacular. I only wished for a better backdrop, but I made do.

The rest of the trip went quite smoothly as we worked our way back up to Canada. We managed a good long stop each day for the kids to let out some energy including a Dinosaur Museum in Montana where they got to learn how to dig for fossils and practice on a big replica buried in a huge dirt pit in front of the museum.

And then the 2nd border crossing. My theory went like this: we’ll try crossing at a small customs portal in the middle of nowhere to avoid the hassle of over-cautious guards who have the added stress of constant traffic and a high-visibility location. Well, the crossing went quite well, and the theory seemed sound… until I realized a mile up the road into Saskatchewan (SK) heading towards Swift Current that those roads have no tax payers living along them and therefore calling them “paved” is a stretch of the imagination. More like – a patchwork quilt of materials that all bear some resemblance to pavement in their own unique way. I’ve pulled the trailer faster on dirt roads. What I thought would take a couple hours took twice the time, but we eventually made it to the Wal-Mart at Swift Current. So, the moral of the story (so far) is: you can’t beat the border even if you can choose whether to spend the wasted time in customs or on the precarious roads in the middle of nowhere. I still hope to find the ideal place to cross though… but like all things it will take some more trial and error.

Once we got close to Swift Current and of course along #1 across SK driving was a joy. I never thought I’d love driving across SK so much. But after the juggling act between gauges, engine temp, pyro, gears, speed, brakes, down-shifting, etc. in the mountains from Oregon through Montana, it was a mental reprieve to actually use cruise control for a while and savor the relative flatness.

We pulled into Dauphin Bible Camp at 9:10pm on Jul 31st after killing some time pulled up along the canola fields so I could take pictures of the vivid yellow landscapes. At least three other trailers pulled in right behind us and the great Rempel/Andres family reunion was underway. Not enough details from the weekend can be captured here. I’m still swimming in names and faces and my brain is still trying to put all the connections together even though this was my second reunion among Renee’s cousins and aunts and uncles. After all – her mother is the oldest of 16 (living) children and I think the last count at the reunion was over 100 immediate relatives (near 140 when you include the Andres side). I still need to hit facebook and the family web site again and have several aha! moments of “so that’s who that was!” here soon while it’s still somewhat fresh.

We did nearly everything Dauphin Bible Camp has to offer: pool swims, archery (Bennah is a natural), horseback riding (Reayah’s favorite by far), a crud-like game in this special long table made for it (the kids were most often hanging out there), and I even got in some BMX trail runs with Andrew’s Adventure Cam (soon to be unveiled in the still-coming media blitz). The time was full and the kids got tuckered. Jaiden even missed dinner one night because he was unconscious at 6:30pm.

The best of that time was spent reconnecting with family – especially some of our cousins who share so much in common with us for which it was a joy to discover and rediscover. Out of these moments of reconnecting we ended up adding a couple stops to our itinerary – Winnipegosis on the way to Minitonas – and Calgary on our way to Colorado (which will happen after Winnipeg – our next stop via Winnipegosis one more time).

Which brings us to Reayah’s fractured elbow. Our cousins in Winnipegosis have the kind of property that I dream about raising our children on some day if YHWH ever provides and leads us to actually settle down again and build the log home we have in mind: lots of land in the country, pasture, bush, trails, huge yard, dogs, play structure that you can jump off of onto the trampoline, pool, shop, etc. etc. etc. and QUADS (or as we say in the States: 4-wheelers). I took the kids for rides on their Polaris 500 through the slightly overgrown pasture trails and had such a blast that I’m itching to go back for more (maybe next time without any little passengers so that I can really get into some rough ATV action). Reayah made fast friends with one of our cousins’ daughters; they were inseparable, and could often be found zipping around on the little 150 quad in a manner that suited the adventurous personality they share.

Looking back, Renee and I should have set more explicit ground rules for our kids and the fun machines. At the time (and still now) I completely trust her friend’s piloting, even if the natural parental “be careful” mantra was always present. But I didn’t really feel any alarm for safety. She was in good hands as a passenger with her friend, and I was excited for them to get some experience on the 4-wheelers (Bennah was driving the 150 solo quite well before we left). The problem snuck in when Reayah thought it would be ok to try driving herself with her friend. I had let her drive the 500 sitting on my lap, and never made it clear that she could only drive with dad or mom helping her.

As best we can piece together so far, Reayah was sitting in the back reaching from behind her friend to steer, while her friend ran the throttle and the brake. This was probably perfectly logical to them. And I think Reayah turned too sharply a couple times and her friend even warned her about it. But before long, there was a ditch, maybe another sharp turn, and the whole thing came to a flipping halt. When the dust settled, thankfully the only carnage was Reayah’s left arm in some acute pain…. but no lacerations or protruding bones or blood or any of that. Still, Reayah is one tough girl, and from how she was holding her arm and answering our questions we knew we had to get it checked out.

At the hospital we saw one of our 15 aunts, and the receptionist that had to figure out how to put us Americans into their system grew up playing with my mother-in-law and her siblings. The doctor was competent albeit perfunctory. Initially the x-rays came back and nothing appeared broken. But after the radiologist’s report the next day, there was indeed a hairline fracture in the elbow. 4-weeks in a sling and lots of rest and no crazy adventures for Reayah (for now). The pain has not been too bad since the first day, and she never complains about it as long as she keeps it still.

I think we all learned a good lesson on this one with minimal damage (credit: YHWH’s mercy and grace). I don’t think Reayah will ever forget to ask us about similar situations in the future when she wants to do something new… nor the potential dangers that motorized toys can present. And I know Renee and I will strive for a better balance between trusting YHWH with out children’s safety and setting / communicating reasonable, preemptive ground-rules for new environments and experiences.

Overall we are feeling extremely blessed. It could have been a lot worse. But we’re so thankful that in this case YHWH is instructing through life while minimizing the consequences. And, this stuff happens, you know. I told Reayah the story of how I broke my elbow too when I was roughly her age by falling out of a tree that up until then had been perfect for hanging upside down from. Despite the tumble, I’m rejoicing that she had the fun she did on that quad with her friend. The injury is merely a small part of an overall amazing memory. And like the wonderful memory, the lessons will not be quick to fade either.

I can’t wait to go back and visit our cousins there again. I just feel a bit sad that Reayah will have to sit out on the quad rides for a while. I wish the Florida clan could meet the Manitoba clan up here… some day.

Next on the agenda for today: a visit to a dairy farm around 4pm to catch some machine-milking action. I love the kind of field trips we get to do with the kids now.

And then… SABBATH… it’s a blessing to be here with our friends in Minitonas (and this is the furthest north I’ve been so far). Oh… and by far, this is the best internet connection we’ve had on our travels 😉 Thanks Shawn!