Our Trip Out West

In mid June, our family took a trip to Spokane, WA. We were going there for the UMJA conference. It was a bit of an adventure for us because it included driving through the mountains and spending lots of time in the car with our 4 month old and 3 year old. Ben’s parents let us borrow their minivan for the trip which was a huge blessing!

How did the boys do on the road trip? They did really well! Better than I had thought! I think that they’re both at the perfect age for road trips. Zac isn’t mobile yet, so keeping him in a car seat wasn’t so bad. It’s not like he was restless to get out and move around. Since we were in the minivan, I usually sat in the middle row next to Zac and Mali sat in the back row. This way Zac could see my face while travelling, I could sing or talk to him and hand him toys or his soother. He was pretty happy most of the time. Mali was in the back and I could hand him some toys or put on a movie with the portable DVD player that we borrowed from some friends. Mali doesn’t get a lot of screen time normally so watching movies on the trip was a real treat and kept him occupied. He was happy most of the time as well. We took frequent stops as can be expected. Zac needed to nurse, and Mali needed to run around a little bit. The scenery along the way was quite epic and we all enjoyed our trip.

As we left home, we first drove through our flat prairies. It really is flat out here. I remember when Ben and I were friends, he would tell me that the prairies are so flat that if your dog runs away, you can still see him running away for three days…

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But you know, the prairies have beauty of their own. Standing out by a flat field, looking out at the vast open space around you makes you feel really small. With nothing obstructing the view, it makes me feel closer to God.

Our first day we drove about 6 hours and then spent the night at Ben’s uncle and aunt’s house.

The next morning, as we continued to head west, we started to see some hills and distant mountains.

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Then we came to a town and saw the world’s largest truck! It really was quite big and Malachi was fascinated by it.

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The weather was overcast that day and then turned to rain. We were planning to go hiking when we would reach Fernie, BC, so we prayed for clear skies. And indeed, when we reached Fernie it became nice and sunny!IMG_8234

We stopped by a nice mountain trail for an hour long hike. It felt so good to get out of the car and start walking.  The mountains are so amazingly gorgeous. I mean, I’ve always heard people say that  mountains are amazing, but you really don’t know it until you’ve been there and seen them. They are so huge and majestic and tower over you. Wow, it just makes you feel so in awe of God to know that He created them in just one word.

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It makes you feel small, like on the prairies, but in a different way.

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One of the first things that I noticed when walking into the woods was the smell. My first thought was that I must smell someone’s perfume that had just walked past. But there was no one else there and I realised that what I smelled was the forest itself. The plants literally perfumed the air.

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Someone got a little tired…

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We saw this interesting sign:

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And these footprints:

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The second day we spent about 12 hours to get to our destination in Spokane. It should have taken only about 7 hours, but we took our time and enjoyed the ride.

In Spokane, we attended the UMJA conference. Ben was excited about meeting some of his friends from Torah Resource Institute (TRI), as well as meeting new people. TRI is a really great organization. It’s an online Messianic school and it’s very well balanced. The courses are scholarly and prepare the students to not only have a good knowledge of theology, but also how to discern between proper and improper scholarship. Ben has really enjoyed his studies at TRI. While at the conference we also were able to meet other people invovled in UMJA and/or TRI. Ben had the opportunity to talk about Messianic mission and promote Messiah to the Nations.

The conference was quite teaching-intensive. In the mornings the boys stayed with us and played quietly with some toys that I packed for this conference and trip. I packed a little suitcase with toys, stickers, crafts and colouring activities that would be new to Malachi and that would keep him quietly busy. In the afternoon, there was a children’s program available. Malachi was extremely shy and didn’t want to participate in any organized children’s activity, even if I stayed by him the whole time. So, instead we tried our own different things. There was a playground near by as well as a big nature reserve area and some stores. I was nervous about trying to drive around there…I don’t really like driving in the states and there were a lot of one-way streets in that area, plus we had my in-laws minivan so I chose not to venture very far.

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We also went swimming as a family at the hotel where we stayed and on Shabbat afternoon we went to a park that had a playground and a rose garden.

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Malachi was a little sleep deprived on this trip and as such got cranky at times. While we were at the rose garden was one of those times. He was unavailable for pictures.

On our way home we got to drive through the mountains again! Our first night we stayed with some friends in BC and Mali enjoyed playing with his friend whom he had not seen for a long time.

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Don’t they look like they’re having a jolly time?

The next day we continued on our journey home and stopped at a place called Frank Slide in Alberta. This is known as “Canada’s deadliest rockslide”. A huge avalanche of rocks fell down over a town called Frank in 1903 and tragically killed many people. There is an interpretive centre there as well as a trail through the rocks. It’s a very eerie looking place as there are rocks and rocks everywhere.

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We spent another night with Ben’s aunt and uncle on our way home. We don’t get to see them very often so it was nice to visit.  We also visited for a little bit with Ben’s cousin who lives along the way too.

Finally we arrived home.

At first when we were talking about the possibility of going on such a road trip, I thought it might not be a good idea to travel so long in a car with a baby and a three year old. But it turned out to go really well! The boys enjoyed it and we made some good memories together as a family.

One of the best gifts ever. (Or, some musings on siblings and fertility)

What is one of the best gifts your child can receive? It’s not a toy that stimulates imagination or creativity. It’s not a game or a bike or even music or sports lessons. I believe that one of the best gifts a child can receive is a sibling. And this is not a gift that a parent can always choose to give…as secondary infertility is on the rise.

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This. This was why I so badly wanted another baby.

I grew up as an only child for most of my childhood. When my parents first had me, they were happy with just having one child. They were nominal Catholics at the time in Poland. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, they were saved and saw children as a blessing from God. They decided they wanted more. But, it didn’t happen. My mom had unexplained secondary infertility and she was never able to conceive again. She was only 18 when I was born, so she still had many childbearing years ahead of her, but for some unexplained reason, her womb was closed.

I have a lot of good memories from childhood, but I also remember feeling lonely and wanting another sibling. Preferably a sister. Preferably close to my age. Even better, a twin. Sometimes in my imagination, I pretended that I had a twin sister. We had some good family friends and a wonderful home fellowship that I attended with many children and I enjoyed playing with them. But much of the time, at home, I was lonely. I played with Lego and made crafts…by myself. I remember seeing ads for sponsoring children. They showed all these African children and I so badly wanted one. I was disappointed when I found out that sponsoring doesn’t mean you get to bring one of those children home.

Many of my friends were homeschoolers and came from larger families. I wished so much to have siblings and as I got older I dreamed of one day getting married, having lots of children and homeschooling them.

When I was 12 years old my parents became foster parents. We started having children in our home. It was challenging and fun in different ways although most of the children we had stayed for shorter periods of time. Then, one day when I was 16 years old we received these little fellows:


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And they stayed. In fact, my parents adopted them.

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So then I acquired 3 brothers.  Receiving 3 brothers at once as a teenager is different than growing up with siblings close in age all your childhood.

So anyways, moving ahead I ended up getting married to my wonderful husband. Knowing about my own mother’s struggle with fertility, I wondered if I would have struggles in that area. I hoped not.

Looking back we didn’t have much trouble getting pregnant with Malachi. However, at the time I was already getting worried when it didn’t happen in the first few months that we wanted it to. We were so happy to have a baby! Becoming a mother truly changed my life and I was overjoyed with the love that comes with having a baby. When Malachi was 9 months old we got pregnant again! I was a bit surprised at how quickly that came about, and figured that I wouldn’t have the same struggles with fertility as my mom experienced. However, at 12 weeks into that pregnancy, we lost our precious baby. It happened while we were on our trip in Poland. It was a terrible experience. For some time after we lost the baby I just felt in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe that it really happened. It all happened at the end of our trip to Poland. There was a whirlwind of activity. We lost the baby and we still had a few days left to visit with family there. It all felt so unreal. But then the sorrow sunk in and I had to deal with all the emotions that came with it. There was sadness and anger and thinking of all the things that I could have done differently that maybe could have prevented it. Maybe if I had not flown on a plane while in my first trimester…maybe if I hadn’t pushed myself to stay up late every night and visit and walk around everywhere so much….maybe if I hadn’t changed my diet drastically from being (at the time) gluten-free at home to eating gluten every day in Poland….maybe if…And so I wondered about the maybe’s and of course blamed myself for not being more this or more that to prevent the miscarriage. But anyways, it happened and there was no undoing of it. At least I had my very supportive and caring husband with me through this as well as my parents who were with us on this trip.

Now, before this miscarriage happened I remembered reading an article in a women’s magazine about how right after a miscarriage you are the most fertile you can be because of all the pregnancy hormones still running through your body. I had told this fact to some of my friends who had miscarried and they all got pregnant right away again. I was pretty sure that this would happen to us too, that we would just get pregnant again right away. I wasn’t prepared for the year-long wait that lay ahead.

We came back to Canada and I didn’t get pregnant right away. Or soon after. The months went by.I started to worry and panic on the inside. I was so scared of having secondary infertility. I really desired for Malachi to have siblings. In my worrying I would pray. I took fertility-friendly supplements and tried to eat a healthy diet. I would also do google searches for “secondary infertility” and read other people’s stories of not being able to conceive again. This wasn’t an encouraging activity. I also read articles online about parenting an only child. They suggested things such as:  you’ll need to organize more playdates with friends because  your child won’t have siblings to play with. You’ll need to play with your child a lot more, because they’ll be lonely. It made me sad. I would go to the park with Malachi and notice all the moms of 1 and 2 year old toddlers who were pregnant with their second. Meanwhile, a lot of my close friends were getting pregnant or having babies during that year. My Facebook news feed was flooded with pregnancy updates, birth announcements and baby photos. Every month that went by where I found out that I wasn’t pregnant I would cry.  I wanted another baby oh, so badly.

Finally, I had to release my fears of infertility to the Lord.

And then, we conceived! We were so overjoyed to see the two pink lines on the pregnancy test. Finally, after all the tears, all the prayers and that long year of waiting I was blessed with the desire of my heart!

Looking back, I know that a year isn’t really that long to wait. But it seemed terribly long at the time. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t been so distressed about it. But hindsight is 20/20.

I have some friends who struggle with fertility, a lot more than I ever did. Although I didn’t struggle with it as long as they have, I feel like I can empathise with the struggle. It’s real. And saying  trifling comments about it doesn’t help.

Children truly are a blessing from the Lord. I love seeing the large families around here who are blessed with many children. I love seeing the siblings being best friends with each other, encouraging each other and being like “iron that sharpens iron”. I love how large families work together and play together within the varying age ranges of the siblings. We want to home school our children, so my hope is that my children will be best friends with each rather than needing others to be their best friends.

In the public-school mentality, siblings are seen as annoying. You have friends with kids that are your age and in your classroom. My hope and prayer is that our home will be a centre for friendship and security for our family, and that our children can learn and grow together, spurning each other on to do great things for God’s glory.

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