IMG_1524 IMG_1534 IMG_1545 IMG_1547 DSC_3155 DSC_3148 DSC_3157 DSC_3160 DSC_3162 DSC_3164 IMG_3028We drove like crazy people yesterday, stopping in New Brunswick for an amazing and carbohydrate filled lunch at Potato World.  Honestly, we needed those spuds more than they needed us.

We’ve come to the conclusion at this point in the trip that Canada is truly astonishing.  It is more rural than we could’ve imagined.  More spread out and in need of good communication than we could have dreamed.  I mean, we know these things.  In many ways, it’s what makes us Canadian.  Perhaps that friendly spirit we are famous for is because of the desolation and loneliness?  I don’t know.  Okay, maybe not ALL of Canada is quite like that, but it seems like we drive and drive and then all of a sudden, oh look!  there is another pocket of civilization.  Quite a contrast form our recent trip to China!

We’ve found friendly people everywhere.  So many are openly encouraging of our little jaunt east and the fact that we’d bring our kids large and small on a trip like this.  Just when it feels like we might really have bitten off more than we should have, we get a little bright ray of sunshine from a fellow Canadian and it brings it all back into focus.

Today was a day like that.  It started with a trip to the walk in to have Faith checked out (it appears that her lymph nodes are swollen and not to worry), followed my some monkey business from a couple of the herd.  We recouped and headed to Timmy’s for a bite before our visit to the Harbour.  We all felt a bit wiped out.  We headed to the Maritime Museum first.  Took in the exhibits about the Halifax Explosion, shipwrecks and sailors lost at sea, a dying way of life, followed by an exhibit on the Titanic.  Honestly, it wasn’t the cheeriest time we’ve had.  We were doubly tired and I had wanted to head over to one more place, Pier 21.  Doggedly  we drove down the harbour front and walked into the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.  What we didn’t know, was that our day was about to change.

We paid a small admission and headed upstairs to the exhibit.  We were greeted by a young woman with a heavy eastern european accent.  She brought out legos for the kids to build with and got us ready for a tour starting in a few minutes.  We gathered as a group with others and  were unprepared for the amazing tales ahead.

Over 1,000,000 immigrants were processed through Pier 21.  Ships from all over the world with people hoping to be admitted as Landed Immigrants.  Initially Canada had a policy of allowing only those that could be easily assimilated into Canadian society (read, white, western europeans, folks from Newfoundland  during pre-confederation (!) and Americans).  Over time, others were welcomed and the policies changed.  Tragedies occurred in the meantime.  While we had heard of the Chinese Head Tax and the ship filled with hopeful refugees from India that were held at bay in Vancouver’s harbour, we hadn’t heard of Mackenzie King’s denial of some 900+ Jewish refugees just prior to World War 2.  They were sent back to Europe.  There are records that 254 were killed in concentration camps and the other roughly 700 suffered horrible atrocities.  This formed a bit of a wake up call to the immigration policies in Canada.  There was a protectionist feeling during the depression, but post WW2, the feeling of a global connectedness formed.

Another aspect that changed the face of immigration in Canada were the War Brides and Grooms (yes – grooms, who knew?). Of the 500,000 Canadians who were involved in active service in WW2, 1 in 10 married a foreign spouse.  48,000 wife of servicemen entered Canada in the years following the war and brought with them 22,000 children.  These new immigrants brought with them a new surge of immigration in their wake.  My maternal grandparents and my Mom entered Canada around that time.

We found out that 1951 was a huge spike of immigration from the Netherlands and while it was a popular thing at that time, it was not a guarantee of entry nor was it stress free upon arrival.  I found it fascinating as we have heard stories the hardships that they faced once here, but what their first days in Canada would have been like really filled in a puzzle piece for me.  While they would have been well cared for, the confusion and simply the chaotic mess of it all would have been overwhelming and utterly exhausting after an already stressful goodbye to loved ones at home and a long steam ship ride to Canada.  No matter the provisions offered, it would have been a lot to take in.  No Google or Skype.  No guarantee of a friendly face once being given that highly prized ‘Landed Immigrant’ stamp on their passports.  A long, gruelling, expensive train trip west to major cities (in my Mom’s case, Winnipeg).

We left that tour and headed to a meeting hall filled with flags from many countries around the world and a large Canadian flag, made of puzzle pieces ,hanging as the centrepiece.  The young woman from earlier joined us.  Her name was Natalya and she, too, was newly immigrated (2.5 years ago).  She is a teacher by profession, but was given the job at Pier 21 for 6 months as a training period to gain work experience in Canada. She loves her job there and the kids really enjoyed meeting her.  Grace in particular commented how she was also a new immigrant and drew the connection to herself.

A number of people in our tour group had immigrated through Pier 21 and the guides told other stories of people who had found relatives, or even belongings, on display that belonged to themselves or a family member, while visiting the museum.  This led us to heading to the research room.  A number of guides were there to lead individuals through the process of finding information (landing records) for themselves or a relative.  I was unable to look for my family’s records.  Somehow another guide allowed Stephen to find his Oma’s.  I am not sure how!  Perhaps he made a personal plea, but my guide had told me that due to privacy laws, we would need certain proofs of family  connection.  Interesting.  I had a wonderful time looking through their bookcases of material and huge collection of fiction and non-fiction works on immigration in Canada.  So many fascinating stories.  I may or may not have added to our van’s weight today.  Books are hard to pass up.

The kids spent at least an hour on building Boxopolis.  A city of their own creation out of boxes.  A dream exhibit for a kid!

We wrapped up our day on a bright note.  After stuffing ourselves silly (no really, Isaiah has a hollow leg), we were driving along out of the Harbour district and I grabbed Stephen’s arm, “You’ve got to stop!”  What was it I saw?  A game/comic book store (Monster Lounge Comics – highly recommend it!).  There just may or may not be a couple new additions to our family’s game hoarding collection when we get home.


Bookend vignettes from today:

Samuel loudly and with gusto told the tour guide at the beginning of our tour, “My family drove a LONG way to get here and we all hate it!”

A young docent at the end of our Boxopolis time let me know that all the staff in the museum were whispering about our family.  Apparently we were the highlight of their whole summer because working in a museum can be boring at times and the kids were so enthusiastic.


A few more tidbits:

One of the couple’s in our group had an interesting mix.  The wife had come into Canada in the 1960’s through Pier 21, and the husband?  His family was one of the original French settlers in the 1600’s!  They live in Nanaimo, BC now.

A couple of our guides were exceptionally fascinating.  An ex-olympic figure skater (not sure which one, sorry!) was there and brought in a pairs outfit to show another guide.  One of our tour guides was a young man in wheelchair who is affected by Cerebral Palsy – he asked the best questions and was extremely knowledgable about the material.  Our guide Natalya?  She’s been in Canada 2.5 years, said goodbye to her 65 year old Mom to come here. Her Mom is sick back in the Ukraine and Natalya does not think she will be able to get back to see her before she passes.  Her Mom told her to stay.  Canada is the land of her dreams.

It still is folks.  Let’s not forget it.




22 years ago, I was my son

We drove from Ottawa to Riviere du Loup yesterday. On the way we drove through the little village that I lived in during the summer after high school graduation. The government had given bursaries for anglophone and francophone students to learn the others’ language. Oh Canada!

Anyway, being back there with James at the same age as I was then reminded me of everything I thought and felt and believed. Talk about a good reality check for me. 17. Interesting age.

We drove around and saw all the places I remembered. Ate at a diner that was built in 2002. I think the Poutine trailer used to sit there. 🙂 My spoken French was not a good investment but I understood a fair bit (even things I don’t think I was meant to hear :).

We stayed at a super contemporary hotel last night that reminded James of a scary movie he’d seen. Grace and I closed out the Walmart and IGA for supplies.

Kids are still doing well. Tempers only flare when Samuel touches Isaiah or when we finally pull into a rest stop and the person desperately in need just needs oooone more second to save their game. Ha!

I plan on taking Faith to the doctor tomorrow morning. James’ computer will need a visit from a geek, as well. We’ll be in Halifax for the next few nights so hopefully we can rest for a bit from all these crazy driving days.





Still truckin’

While Steve covers the quips, the daily homeschool journals cover the facts (and more – too cute sometimes!), it seems this blog is covering my emotional state. 🙂

Doing much, much better. Had some sleep, did some laundry, made some reservations and have unabashedly been sneaking bites of chocolate every hundred kilometres of so (was going to say hundred miles, but lets be realistic here).

We’ve had some shocks (nearly crossing into the US without passports), realizing we need those passports for our ferry to Newfounland (thank you, Mom, for having them couriered to us!), and then there are those roadside bathrooms (I don’t think I need to elaborate).

There have also been those moments when all we could do was laugh like when we had to try out five different restaurants in Sault Ste. Marie before heading to Timmy’s because none of said restaurants had room for us nor kid friendly tablecloths (wuuuuuuhite!).

Over all we are ready to get to the vacation part if this trip. Most days there is quiet in the van, chaos over our picnic lunch and then a mad scramble to settle into our rooms for sleep. I am loving the changes in scenery. The kids are absolutely amazing me with how the are following along on the map of the landscape of Canada. Total pay-off,right there.

Please pray for Faith. The last couple days she has developed first one painful bump on the back if her head followed by a different feeling one behind her ear. No obvious sign of entry from a tick or other insect, but the fact that spot number two has shown up is concerning. No other symptoms though. Thank you!









Okay now I’m

Having a tough time. Wah, I know. The kids are still ticking along. The kilometres are falling behind us. I even spent crazy long hours laughing my self silly with my husband. I think I’m just tired. Anyway, back to reality.

Isaiah seems to have fallen into a routine. He even gets to watch his Praise Baby DVD during the afternoon. He is still stuffing his cheeks full at mealtime but not every meal. And he wields his Chinglish well. He seems outwardly secure.

Samuel is having a tough time and a great time. It depends on the moment. He can be so pesky, nothing new, but the little things make him so happy.

Garnet is our little tour enthusiast. Whether looking for animals, begging Dad to be the first out to help at the motel or just having an overall cheerful attitude, he’s our man.

Grace is absolutely delighted by screens. This trip affords her plenty of ample device time. Therefore, Grace = happy! She was pretty tearfully overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the trip in the beginning. That seems to have waned. I thought she’d be begrudgingly accepting but we seem to have skipped straight to acceptance. I won’t argue with that!

Faith is an avid reader and this trip has been ideal for her. Plus, with James back with us, she’s so happy to have her buddy, she’s pretty silly, fun and cheerful. She’s also quick to want to play with Isaiah, something he has appreciated greatly!

James is happy, helpful, funny, cheerful and downright gleeful over a strong wifi connection. Honestly, we couldn’t have a better young guy to join us. We weren’t sure if he’d resent this trip. Did we delay it too long? But he’s been so fun to have along. Great enthusiasm.

Stephen drives and finds us great picnic spots, not to mention accommodation for eight on a nightly basis. He’s quick to share in all the tasks that need doing every single stop and very supportive of whatever I ask of him. He’s such a fun travel companion for me!

I have taken pictures of beautiful scenery, oddities and our motley crew, all of which have remained on my camera. Let me leave you with my view from Thunder Bay. Not bad, eh?



The voice of Fatigue

I am so tired.

Like wiped out.

I just wrote the most wonderful post. And the deleted it. By mistake. Honest.

We headed from Regina to Dryden and stopped short in Winnipeg. The two voted “Most Likely to Squabble” did right on the Manitoba border. No, really. We were trying to take a picture at the border and all chaos ensued. We may be featured on social media everywhere as our van tends to draw the eye of passing motorists as it is. The squabbling gang at the rest stop probably held attention after the initial glance.

We pulled if together and all 8 piled back in the van. Stephen announced about 4.5 hours to go and I cried uncle. We got a couple hotel rooms and ordered pizza in. James and Garnet went swimming and we enjoyed Melatonin all around. Don’t judge me. Remember, I’m tired?

As I told one of the kids today, this trip is about two things. Number one is sightseeing. Number two, making their lives miserable. Number two is actually as truthful as number one. A state of misery (come to Jesus speech anyone?) leads to strife. Strife can only lead to resentment or resolution. We are hoping to walk them through resolution.

Then again. I’m tired.


Entrust Your Loved Ones to Me

The title of this blog post is from today’s devotional reading from Jesus Calling. As so often, today had me from the title.

We drove the highway from Calgary to Regina today. Lots of silliness and goofy pics (none of which are in this post today – sorry!). The prairies are truly so pretty. And honestly, the kids had some Minecraft to catch up on. 🙂

We have one kiddo who has always struggled to receive love that is offered. This child will through their arms around you and be all smiles, but the second we turn away is quick to draw negative attention with mean and provocative behaviours. We truly, deeply, madly adore this child but it has been a struggle today to draw close and know which way to create an attractiveness to our relationship so they will draw close in return.

The title really reminded me of how much I need to entrust this child to Jesus. His love is the most attractive, loyal and truly winsome. I am thankful, tonight, that He was there to remind me.


Best Day EVER!

Today’s best moment of the day was looking over at five kids having the time of their lives in the pool tonight absolutely killing themselves laughing over a camp song. I had Isaiah in my lap and I looked over at Stephen and we had that moment of utter glee. THIS is why we are doing this.

Yeah, I took the kids to Heritage Park Historical Village and yes it was really sunny, with a light breeze. Samuel helped raise a tipi, we rode the steam train and a bunch of 100 year old amusement rides, all topped off with ice cream. Yeah! So fun, right?

But, today marks the one month anniversary of our receiving Isaiah. He ate the ziti noodles in his minestrone soup tonight. He splashed in the pool and beamed with joy over being encompassed by his Baba and I at the same time. He laughed with abandon over his upside down self in the mirror. He rode the forklift with Baba.

This is love, contentment and unfathomable joy. I love my family and I am beyond grateful for these moments. Lord, let me hold them closely in my heart.

This was the best day yet!20130822-220832.jpg





Cross Canada Road Trip – Off we go!

Day 1

We started off happily singing choruses while putting along in our energy efficient hybrid……. um, nope.

We spent half the morning packing and re packing scads of stuff into the back of our monster van (the Magic School Bus my brother called it the other day – the name may have stuck. :). I had a mega migraine and we had just thrown out every decent scrap of food set to expire causing me to run to Subway for a huge order to go.

We finally gave up on peace and perfection and ushered everyone into the van.

And then off we went. After a couple quick stops we drove out of town. By the time we hit Mara Lake we had laughing kidding the back. By Revelstoke we were all roaring with laughter over James and Faith’s parodies just begging us to pull over for a pee break. 🙂 Golden brought us to McDs and a hunt for a store that sold the one important thing we had forgotten (we hope the only one!). A search fir Elk that ended in quarters for finders. And finally we pulled over the Rocky Mountains to Garnet’s gasps of Ooooo and Aaaah. So cute. Pulling into Calgary under a perfectly, enormous full moon with a spectacular sunset in the sky and finished the night with room service, deep fried pickles (I’m in love – who knew?) and a bottle for Isaiah.

We began our journals tonight (hey, it is the first day of homeschool for us!) and Grace wowed me with her drawing skills and perspective.

The day definitely started off this trip with a rosy glow!





{photos taken with my phone}


So here we are

After writing that last post about our visit to Samuel’s friends, we returned to the hotel and Isaiah promptly fell into a deep, dark, angry grieving rage.  It was a long and loud one.  So long in fact, that we sent my folks off to the Goodbye China Party that our agency throws all on their own.  We ended up following them after a bit, and enjoyed watching Samuel so excited over the magician, but that’s not really the point.  Actually, that rage was only the beginning.

The airplane.  The drive to Stephen’s folks.  Driving home.  At mealtime.  At bedtime.  At play.  At the doctor’s.  Never for so long that we fear for him, but definitely intense.

Isaiah had fussed and cried before.  Not long-lasting, but it spoke of what was going on underneath.  It appears to be a typical two year old type of thing, for sure.  Head clunking against ours.  Back arched and stiff.  Sharp screams and yells.  The hard part is knowing where the two year old part of it begins and the fear and grief ends.  And mix it all in with thoughts like our doctor voiced yesterday, “He’s got to be frustrated that he can’t do for himself.”

Yeah.  Not a simple thing to sort out.

He has enjoyed playing with his siblings, that’s for sure.  And honestly, I will do a post later about it, but they’ve enjoyed him too.  That is the 90% of it.  The 10% remaining is this rage.

0-60 in no time flat.

So, we hold him and remind him and love him and hold him some more.  And sometimes when the yells are too piercing we hold him and wear ear buds.  Whatever it takes.



Post swimming at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  He’d say, “WOOOOOOW!” with great enthusiasm every so often.


Samuel, showing Isaiah how to open one his birthday gifts.


Rolling, rolling, rolling…  Sure glad we kept those baby gates up!


Yes, we own desks and nice furniture.  This is James’ room.  And this is the den of Minecraft.  Isaiah was welcomed into the fold.


It looks sad, but this is the crew allowed to play, yes, you guessed it, Minecraft, together for a few minutes before we headed out for swimming at their grandparents’.  They had just finished laying all over the floor playing with Isaiah.  He was kind of like, “Huh?”  He is pretty good at swiping on the iPad.  IT’s only a matter of time….


He’s sexy and he knows it.





People Watching

We are waiting for our flight from Beijing to Changsha. Thunderstorms have cancelled most flights in and out. Lots of time to sit and people watch. People are the same everywhere. Except for one family that has me thinking. They have a tween daughter and a toddler son. Two children. Special quota? Children missing in between? Infertility? Second marriage? Adoption? Careful birth control until fines raised? So many thoughts run through my mind. Different thoughts than I have in other countries airports. The land if my four youngest children’s births.