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!