Mar 9 2013

Adventures out with a new baby

by renee

Even with my predictable night time Ellie-boo feedings and my sweet 2 year old’s very early morning wake up cuddles, I awoke yesterday feeling pretty rested. So, I decided to venture out to the library and Walmart with almost all the kids in tow. Bennah, who wasn’t feeling that well, volunteered to stay home with Sky so Andrew could get some rest after working all night.

We got a great start in the morning and headed off to the library. Without a 2 year old to chase around, it was a very quiet, uneventful visit. I fed Ellie in a comfy chair in the corner before we left to do our shopping. The children’s section of the library is, of course, very family friendly so no one paid much attention to me while I breastfed Ellie underneath my big and brightly colored covering. I absolutely love this thing. It’s so wide that it completely covers my front and sides and has a strap attached to the top that goes around my neck so there is no possibility of it sliding around or Ellie pulling it down. I feel comfortable breast feeding in public with this. At least at the library. Walmart is a different story.

Life with a newborn changes things. Well, duh. Of course it does. Most things take twice as long or longer. Even a quick trip to Walmart to pick up a few things can take hours. People stop to look at baby Ellie, give their congratulations, comment on her awesome punk rock hairdo and share their own baby stories. Then, there is the inevitable likelihood that Ellie will want to eat and fill her diaper while we’re there. Ellie had waited patiently until my shopping list was almost done before she declared very loudly that she was hungry now, and was done waiting. Hmmmm… where was I going to feed her and occupy 4 other kids? I found a nice bench by the back restrooms and storeroom doors. And it was right around the corner from the wall of televisions that were all playing a movie based on Messiah’s life, of all things. Perfect. Kids can watch the movie while I sit and nurse Ellie under my big orange and yellow hooter-hider (yes, I said hooter. My apologies).

I guess I should have known I would attract a bit of attention. I realized while nursing, that where I sat was a very high traffic area. Great. Lots of staff coming and going from the storeroom. Lots of customers coming and going from the restrooms. And me. Sitting right there, in front of everyone coming and going, trying to be invisible with my bright orange and yellow covering.

I got a lot of attention. Most people would lance my way and just politely looked away. But I saw that I made a lot of people awkward. Embarrassed even. Some old ladies even looked very annoyed. I’m not sure why. Maybe if I didn’t have a cover and bared it all for everyone to see, I would understand. This is a completely natural and “normal” thing to do. But, it has become very “abnormal.” The thing that’s funny about this, and sad really, is that just beyond where I was sitting, there were movies and video games with women in bikinis or very revealing clothing that showed way more than I would have, even without a blanket cover. This is the new “normal.”

I finished feeding Ellie, gathered the kids and we continued on our way. I was now on a mission to just finish as quickly as possible and get home to finish school and chores before Shabbath. I had one more item to grab and was headed there when I large man in a motor cart stopped and asked how old Ellie was. Oh boy.

“She’s just over a month old” I smiled politely.

“Hey monthie! What a sweetie. Hi honey. What’s her name? I just love kids…”

Our conversation went on for a few minutes. He asked each on of my children their names and was pleased when we told him how big our family was.

I need to go. I still have so much to do today.

“I just love kids.” he said again, not in any rush to leave. “I lost my wife and kids to a drunk driver.”

I wasn’t in any rush to leave anymore.

We spent another few minutes talking about our family. I mentioned we pray for protection and guidance for our kids everyday.

“That’s good.” He said “I will pray for that as well. There are so many people that I pray for. God bless you and protect you.”

“Thank you. He does, every day. We are very blessed.”

And we are very blessed. We are blessed with so many children, although our culture views them as a physical and financial burden. We are blessed with so much stuff. We are blessed with so much food. We have too many choices. So many that it’s sometimes even hard to decide what we want!

I enjoyed the rest of our shopping trip and looked at my full cart and my smiling kids and thanked my Creator again for all His wonderful gifts and provisions, and especially our brand new gift. It is because of her that opportunities arise to meet and connect with people (at Walmart, of all places).

So, that was my day yesterday.

Apr 7 2012

Feasting in Winnipegosis

by renee

I’m sitting here with a coffee and a leftover brownie, basking in the sleepiness from a very late night and memories from a wonderful Passover last night shared with family and friends.

One of the advantages of being in an actual house, is being able to host dinners and events. I really enjoy hosting and love serving people. To see full bellies and lots of smiles is the reward for me. Living in a trailer has hindered the ability to host. Although we have attempted with success on occasion. Of course, hosting comfortably while in a trailer generally has to be done outside (we have done it inside and our guests have been very accommodating even though they didn’t have much elbow room). We have had another family of 5 over for a sleepover and it worked. We have had rotisserie over a campfire for a large group, and even with my small kitchen, have fed large groups of people. I just have to be creative. Oh, those were the days. We’ve been in this house for 5 months now and I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to live on the road.

We are still planning to move back into our trailer, but are waiting to save up a little money first before we hit the road again. We’ve not sure how long that will take since we haven’t had any extra to save lately. We’re trusting that when we’re supposed to leave, we’ll have the funds to do so. In the meantime, we are really enjoying the house, the town, the people and Yahweh’s plan. Yah’s plans are more often than not, different than our own plans. I’ve been stretched personally and challenged many times to just rely on His purposes and timing and just let my own expectations go.

But, back to last night. 🙂 We had 4 other families over to share in passover with us. The lamb took a bit longer to cook than I anticipated so, we began later than I had hoped (another challenge to let go of my own expectations) but trusted in Yah’s timing for everything. We started off the night by mounting a mazuzah on our doorpost. Yes, this is just a traditional jewish way of interpreting the scripture to “write His word on your doorpost.” We had this mazuzah for years and never used it. It was a handmade gift and is very beautiful but I had reservations about using it since it is “jewish tradition.” I had wanted to literally write scripture on my doorpost, but have never gotten around to it. This year, the idea of mounting the Mazuzah seemed cool. Contained in this little decorative wooden box, is a small paper scroll with the “Shema” passage (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), in which Yah commands us to keep His words constantly in our minds and in our hearts. The scroll also contains another passage (Deuteronomy 11:13). It is not a superstition but is simply a decorative way to obey Deuteronomy, 6:9 (And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house, and on your gates). We broke bread and drank wine in remembrance of What Yahweh’s son did for us, and shared a wonderful meal together. Andrew read some scripture and we had some good discussion and people shared some of their personal testimonies and experiences. The discussion got late and although it didn’t really feel that late, after everyone left, it felt really good to go to bed.

Thank you to everyone who was able to come and share in this very special feast with us. To the rest of our spiritual family, we remembered you last night, we love and miss you and are so thankful for you and your friendship and encouragement. Blessings and Happy Feast!

Nov 13 2011

Life in Winnipegosis

by renee

So, we’ve been in one place since April. That’s hard to believe. We have had a couple little weekend and a 2 week-long trips during that time but always returned to our little spot in front of Leon’s work shop and beside the barn where Lewis the Llama and Pixie the horse are always wondering around. Last week, as Andrew wrote, we moved from our trailer into an old, but warm 3 bedroom house in town. We loved being at Leon & Jenn’s but it was getting too cold and instead of heading south for the winter this year, we felt we were supposed to stick around. This week, it became winter officially. The temperatures have dropped (and will keep dropping) and the snow is here to stay. Being in a cozy house with lots of room for the kids to frolic makes me almost welcome the cold winter weather. For after playing a while in the snow, or a long walk to the library and back, we can leisurely take off our boots and coats with plenty of elbow room and enjoy the rest of the day indoors, sipping hot cocoa, playing games and doing more school (winter is a great time to get more school done-less time outside)!

I can say that I have become a country girl. I really love it here. I loved the spring when the snow was melting and people starting riding their quads, and the town got together to work to sandbag around the lake again. After it dried up a bit, we’d pass the tractors and other farm vehicles along the highway and wave to the farmers as they started planting. The summer was a blur, gardening and enjoying the sun. The fields were golden yellow and comforting. Fall brought out the big combines that took up the whole shoulder and your lane and some of the far lane, but around here, there was never any traffic so it was always easy to pass them and the kids made sure to wave as we were going by.

Now, winter is here. After this season is over, we’ll have stayed here a full year. One whole year in one spot. Nice. We’ll see how anxious we are to start traveling again in the spring. Andrew wants to be in Colorado for the spring/summer next year, which will be nice, although I can say already that I’ll miss this place.

I love Winnipegosis. I love the size. Even in such a small town (630), there are many stores here where you can find almost anything you’re looking for without having to drive to the large town 30 minutes away. There are two grocery stores, a hardware store, a Chinese restaurant, a hospital, a hotel, 2 banks, a pharmacy, service shops, real estate, salons, and a fire station with the only pink fire truck in Canada! I love the little library, which is as big as our living room but Zach thinks it’s the best library ever, since we did some cool crafts and played a few games there in the summer and he can take home a new bookmark and stickers after every visit. They can also order in any book I request.

I love the way people wave you when you pass them, whether they know you or not. I love the feeling of community. Even though we might not know many people here yet, many people know of us and have heard of us. Yes, people talk and gossip, but it seems to me so far that it’s more of just talking about what’s going on around town, and not malicious. I feel that if anything ever happened to us or if we really needed help, we would have lots of people come and help. We’ve felt that with many of the places we’ve visited and groups we’ve become a part of. We are so blessed and thankful to have so many people in our lives who we can love and trust like family and who love us. Many of them are not near us and are missed.

After a week of being in the house, we still need to move a few things from the trailer yet, and then do a thorough cleaning and winterizing. I’m planning to paint a few rooms in the house, just to make it more personal. Andrew rolls his eyes at me and smiles when I tell him what I’d like to do and try to explain to him, from an artist’s perspective he importance of colour in our lives.

I’ve used about half the tomatoes we harvested for sauce but still have many more to can or freeze. I need to can my beets as well. They are getting soft. We have a lot of storage space in the basement for food supplies that will come in handy and be important especially during the winter when blizzards and electrical outages and other inconveniences could prevent or limit our access to outside supplies.

Have a blessed weekend! oxoxo

Jul 15 2011

The last 3 months in Winnipegosis

by renee

I started writing this about a month ago. It takes me a while to finish anything lately. I have many projects waiting to be completed and goals to accomplish. One of the biggest goals I had this spring, was to have a garden. We planted 3 gardens this year. Or, I should say, we are sharing 3 gaardens. My grandparents just recently moved into an assisted living complex so I was offered the use of their garden. I planted some things for myself, but I started it mostly for my aunt and her family who live in Churchill, Manitoba but spend the summer in Winnipegosis. They have since mostly taken over the job of weeding and watering. They leave end of August and while they can enjoy some things while they’re here, I really hope they have at least some squash to take back with them. Another of my aunts, a veteran gardener is graciously sharing her enormous and delicious garden with us. We are also sharing Leon & Jen’s wonderful garden as well. The kids have worked very hard this year planting and now weeding. It has been rewarding for me to share in their excitement at seeing the corn growing almost as tall as them already, the little carrot tops finally poking up through the soil and being able to nibble the lettuce and beet leaves while they work. This year we planted herbs, carrots, lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, a few varieties of squash, cucumbers, beans, peas and onions. Between the three gardens, we are hoping for an abundance of food to store, share and save for seeds. We spent a couple of weeks in Winnipeg, at the end of June, visiting with my family. We wanted to stay longer, but I wanted to get back to the gardens. Two weeks is a long time for weeds to grow! I ended up having to replant the lettuce, spinach and carrots in my aunt’s garden, but everything else survived.

We’ve had many adventures already in the three months we’ve been here. Since we arrived in April, we’ve experienced a blizzard, cool spring weather, thunderstorms, flooding, ticks, mosquitos, and now the heat of the summer. The hot temperatures have killed off most of the mosquitos (yay!) and persuaded the kids to cool off in the pool pretty much every day. The evenings are almost always cool and pleasant.

Last month we had friends come and visit and just enjoy the day, fellowshipping  together. The women went on a quad ride led by Jen, the veteran quad-er. Knowing all the paths and deep water holes to take us through, she led us in and around their property and across the highway along the river. I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it, but ending up really enjoying it, even though I did run right into a barbed wire fence. The shiny new quad got a scratch and I was a little embarrassed but got over it. It’s such a different way to enjoy the wide open country, and darned if I’m not turning into a bit of a red-neck!

We love our family and friends that are here have really started to enjoy the “Village on the Lake”, even though the lake has almost taken over the poor village this spring. Bible camp was cancelled this year on account of flooding, which was a big disappointment for the kids but with the almost limitless possibilities for them here already, they got over it. We (or mostly they) swim in the pool, go for walks in the pasture, explore the junkyard, build forts, go for quad rides, jump on the trampoline, drive to town for treats and visit family and friends.

We are still doing school nearly every day but only one subject a day, math or writing, just to keep their mind from turning to mush over the summer. We have taken the summer off in the past only to discover that they have forgotten almost everything they have learned in the previous year and I’ve had to teach them some things over again, or it takes them way too long to adjust to school schedule again. If we continue through the summer, it’s not so difficult to start again in the fall.

Well, I have now finally, after 3 months, accomplished another goal tonight: finishing a blog! My next goal will be to not wait so long before I write the next one.


Mar 14 2011


by renee

1. appreciative of benefits received b : expressing gratitude <grateful thanks
2. affording pleasure or contentment :pleasing

An old friend of mine started a photo project a few years back. For 365 days, she took a Polaroid of one thing this was grateful for that day. There are many wonderful moments in my day where I can stop and be grateful for it. But, most of the time, it passes by, undocumented and then it is quickly forgotten. Documenting your gratefulness is a great exercise to not only remember all the blessings and gifts in your life (for we tend to remember the negative more than the positive), it trains you to recognize more of the good around you and you start to see even more things and moments to be grateful for.

The earthquake in Japan is another reminder of how volatile our life is. I am grateful for YHWH who gives me my every breath. Every moment is from Him. He decides when my time is done.

I have set a goal to write down one thing I am grateful for every day. This may seem easy, but it’s really a disciple to notice them and to remember to write the moments down. I have missed many days already. Even though I noticed a moment and was grateful, forgeting to write it down or thinking I could write it later, I totally forgot what those moments were. I started almost a month ago, but will share with you a few of my gratefulness moments:

  • I am grateful for my slippers and my hot cup of tea with milk and honey, on this chilly morning.
  • Joy’s belly laugh during daddy tickles.
  • Tonight, while I was taking out our garbage, I noticed the clear night sky with a total unobstructed view of the stars. It was comforting and spectacular.
  • Running around with my kids, playing tag outside in the sunshine.
  • Resting on the bed with Sky and listening to the giggles and shouts coming from the table where Andrew and the boys are playing an animated game of UNO.
  • A bag full of freshly picked oranges from an orchard next door to us.
  • Our new tad pole pets, Speed, Spot, Swimmer, Swimmer Jr, Tommy, Gus, Squirt, and Astro Boy
  • A long uninterrupted breakfast date: mocha, omelet, pancakes and a very handsome man.
  • Drinking my tea and watching the kids play outside from my window

Have a grateful day!

Feb 5 2011

Day 663: Better than the Zoo

by renee

We’ve been in California for 3 weeks now and have been staying just north of San Diego. Many beautiful rocky and sandy beaches, tall palm trees and clear blue skies. It’s a bit bizarre being somewhere so warm while hearing about our friends and family getting hit by winter storms. We’re praying they all stay warm and safe.

The campground here is completed paved which makes it an ideal place for riding bikes and scooters. Up until a few days ago, Joy was the only one without wheels. She now has Jaiden’s scooter. Jaiden inherited Zach’s. Zach now has a shiny new silver and red one that is, of course, the new favorite of everyone. Zach is gracious at times and shares it with his siblings, but makes sure he gets the first turn on it when he gets up in the morning.

Today was a great day. We spent the afternoon with some wonderful old friends who are visiting California. We explored our favorite neighborhood near our campground. We played in ocean tide pools and watched sea lions. At the end of the day we spotted the new moon at sunset. It was a beautiful way to enter into Sabbath.

Tide pool are small pools of ocean water left in the rocks and crevices when the tide is low. In these pools are hundreds of living things, hanging out, waiting to be swept out to sea again. Hermit crabs, anemones, star fish, barnacles and so many more bizarre and interesting creatures. Today was our second time at the pools. On our first visit, Bennah had said: “this is better than the zoo!”.  Tonight, Andrew overheard Bennah:

“This was the best day ever. Right Reayah?”
“Yeah'” Reayah replied.

I’m so glad our kids are fulfilled by adventures like these that don’t really cost anything. Exploring the Creator’s creation is one of our favorite things to do together as a family and it’s the most rewarding. And it’s almost always free. There are many things here in San Diego that offer too much excitement for one day for way too much money for a family of eight. It is very rewarding for me as a parent to see our children not just content, but fulfilled. Not just entertained, but quenched.



Dec 1 2010

Day 598: CO, part deux.

by renee

We arrived in Colorado about a month ago. We were here about the same time last year, braving many cold nights, frozen water tanks and kids with cabin fever. This year, the weather has been delightfully warm and so sunny. The kids have been able to play outside every day and so far have not been cooped up in our cozy 350 square foot home. We are enjoying our stay here a lot. However, we have noticed a change in our kids, mainly our oldest ones. When we left Canada this time, they had a very hard time saying good-bye. We spent a wonderful time with family and friends and had grown close to a very special family and it was very hard to leave them and embrace the road again. Seeing new places and traveling seems to be getting old for the kids and me as well. It’s been almost two years and it seems like time for a change again. Hopefully we will always travel, since we would like to be able to visit all the dear friends we have grown close to all over North America. But, we are now ready to settle somewhere. Have our own garden again. Have a place for the kids to run around and jump and play and just be loud. Dance around and sing at the top of their lungs. They do that to some extent in the trailer but they can’t run or jump, or it would fall apart.

Our trailer is falling apart. Travel trailers were build with vacationing families or retired couples in mind who use it only a couple times a year. They are not really built for full time travelers with 6 small children. The blinds are bent, couch is broken, one of the dinette benches comes away from the wall when the slide-out come in, and the trim is falling off. But it still works well and keeps us very warm when it’s cold, and cool when it hot.

Today it’s 76 degrees! Andrew is in his parent’s house on a business call and I’m planning to take the kids for a walk to the library or just into town.

Sep 9 2010

Day 518: PEI

by renee

We’ve been traveling through Canada on our longest stretch I think ever, so far. We had a wonderful week in PEI. We explored the famous lighthouses, played in the red sand, drove around the country side, met new friends and met up with old friends. On that day with our old friends, we spent an afternoon at the beach catching crabs followed by probably the best lunch of fish and chips I’ve ever tasted. Our campground in PEI was wonderful. There was a pool, a big playground and rocky beach right by our campsite. After a week exploring PEI,  I was looking forward to our drive west to Winnipeg. We left on a tuesday morning and traveled until friday afternoon when we stopped in Ontario for a brief rest over Sabbath. Traveling all day long, every day with nights spent at Walmarts and welcome centers was surprisingly easier than I anticipated. The kids were great. There were of course, challenging moments. Like giving the kids baby wipe baths in the morning (since our water tank was empty), making quick and easy breakfasts, and finding creative ways to let the kids run out their energy. Some mornings it was letting them run back and forth in a small area of grass in a Walmart parking lot or having them do lots of jumping jacks at a rest stop before hopping back in their seats. It was an adventure, but I stayed sane, knowing that in a few days we’d be at a campground with electricity, running water and outdoor space for playing again. Andrew and I have been trying to work while on the road. One morning, we spent a couple of hours at a McDonalds in Quebec. While the kids ate breakfast and played happily at the outdoor playground, Andrew was able to check emails and have a business meeting. While in Quebec, I spoke a little french. I don’t speak it that often so I’m pretty rusty but I’m always excited when the opportunity arises. Ordering 8 meatless egg and cheese McMuffins and black coffee in french was fun.  I happily pointed out french signs to the kids and tried to interpret the ones I could. I encouraged Bennah and Reayah to use some of their limited vocabulary they had learned but they were not very confidant. I guess that means we just have to practice more .

We drove through some really lovely areas of Quebec with rolling green hills and found a quiet beach to stop at. Andrew took the kids swimming while I made dinner then we spent the night in the empty beach parking lot.

I was a but sad when we left Quebec and entered into the land of the english speaking again. It had been a little like visiting a foreign country.

Soon we will be in familiar Manitoba, visiting with family and having a baby!