Sunday, 31 January 2016

Like a bird with a lion's heart we let them go

We have been preparing for this moment for years...we just didn't know it. Every time we dropped them off at a friend's house, a movie, or at the mall, we were setting the stage for the big one. Today, we watched our children pull their suitcases toward an airport's security clearance - together, but apart. Together as brother and sisters; but apart from us, their parents. This is a moment that will be etched in our memory just like the first day we brought our children home from the hospital. Sure, parents of all times have watched their children take flight, but until it's experienced it's a foreign concept.
 
As parents, we live in tension. We bemoan the fact that time goes so fast. "I can't believe how time flies" is the expression heard around the world, millions of times per day, as each birthday is celebrated. We look at old pictures and home videos and wish we could turn back the hands of time and recapture the days when our children crawled along the floor. But at the same time, we look forward to milestones in our children's lives such as graduations, weddings, and new births. Inwardly, we long for the hugs and kisses our children used to give us. Outwardly, we're training them for life on their own - knowing that their full independence is our goal.
 
It's an old and often used image of a mother bird pushing her young out of the nest, but it models our lives so closely. During the early days and weeks of  new life, in all types of weather, the mother works night and day, evades predators, protects her nest, and scavenges for morsels of worm and weed to feed her young. And then the day comes - and only she knows - when the time is right for her fledglings to leave home. It must be a bird with a lion's heart that can push her baby out forcing it to fly. If it fails to fly, it will die. So, she has to be sure it's ready for the first flight.
 
We didn't push our kids out of the house this morning. They were eager to leave! As parents, we've tried to give them the tools for survival and life skills to flourish. Are they fully ready to live alone without us? Probably not. Hopefully, not yet! But they're close. Close enough that we didn't include special notes in their luggage the way we did when they went off to summer camp or a friend's cottage.
 
God has been good to us. He has graciously given us three beautiful children that are now testing their own wings and are flying solo. For a few days, we'll be empty-nesters. But by God's grace, they'll fly back to us...on a wing and a prayer.
 
Here's hoping time flies!
 
 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

2015 - The Year of "Barb and the Italian Chef"

The year was 2015...well...it was just three days ago...and it goes something like this...loosely.

On August something, in their not-so-collective wisdom, my family renamed our family pet. (Actually, I'd like to see the official stats on the success of renaming pets. But I digress.) You see -  our cat, Smartie, began to sneeze in uncontrollable fits. These fits lasted so long that she could not finish her food or even sleep, and she became lethargic and 'un-catlike'. In fact, things like running up the stairs and leaping on to the top of our fridge - a.k.a. her lair lookout - became impossible feats for the four-footed, flea-less feline. Smartie, in her dopey state, wasn't so smart...and one of my kids, whom I will mercifully leave unnamed, decided Smartie was having a mid life crisis and needed a new name! And on one summer day, this child announced unceremoniously, I might add, that Smartie shall be called 'BARB' for she shall come, go, and sneeze as she pleezes! So, in the summer of 2015, Smartie became Barb. Frankly, I haven't heard any complaints from 'Barb' on this matter...except for the occasional litter box 'miss', which is probably more about her than us!

And what about the Italian Chef? Well, didn't you hear? He pasta-way! Yup. That's it. I've got nothing more on this mysterious, mustachioed, Mediterranean maschio. But for a week or so this summer, the same, previously mentioned, unnamed child spoke kindly of this fictional character, and at every opportunity reminded those who would listen of his unfortunate fate! The answer never changed - he always pasta-way!

And then came along Apple, iPhones, and group chats! Just around the same time as Smartie became Barb, and when we would hear of the Italian's demise, a group family chat was formed.  We couldn't just go with 'The Vanderlaan's', or 'HWKAJ', or anything normal. Nope - the same child (who will still go unnamed) decided that our group name shall be 'Barb and The Italian Chef'! And as life has a way of adding humour along the way, the name stuck!

For me - this family chat name is more than an ice breaker or funny story. It's more than that - it's about family. It's what connects me to my wife and children. I'm forever grateful that God has blessed my life with these remarkable, intelligent, beautiful, and funny people...and cat. In 2015, amid some major life changes and trials, God has also awarded me with irreplaceable moments of humour and laughter!

As for Barb - after a few trips to Dr. Albert, she's back to lurking us - enjoying her lavish, lazy lifestyle atop her lair lookout whilst uttering the occasional lewd and lascivious laugh...uh...meow.

Oh, what was that noise?

"I'm coming, Barb!...And what would you like, m'lady?"