Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How many Plants Does it Take to Cover a Plastic House?

After spending the weekend in the meadows with my hippie friends, I knew that coming home to white vinyl siding would be particularily painful.

Sometimes pain (and the blinding light of sun reflecting off bright white vinyl) is a great motivater. Accomplishment number one involved the two of us climbing ladders and covering the west wall of the house in chicken wire in order to guide the virginia creeper up and create a little texture and colour to break up the monotony. (Yes, the hippies have actual chickens, but one must start somewhere.)

That felt so darn good, that today I thought, "Hey! that drilling holes into the house looked pretty darn easy! I bet I could do that all my big self!" So, I put up some old picket where (wait for it....) white vinyl lattice had once enclosed the deck. I nearly sang the Halleluia chorus (all seven parts ). I then resolutely marched to the back of the house and mounted the willow window box and stuffed it full of purple and green vines. I then planted some scarlet runner, and attached some branches to the siding for it to climb up on. This adds purple, green, and branch colour to the south side. (I'm sure that's one of Martha Steward's colour names...)

I have a picture of it, but really it still looks pretty darn ugly and plasticy and I prefer to present my home as being amazingly transformed-- I mean, I USED A POWER TOOL ALL BY MYSELF!

Anyway, the cat seemed overwhelmingly impressed.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Soccer Culture

Having two girls in soccer in a league that encompasses most small towns east of the Pacific Ocean and slightly west of the Atlantic has forced me to drive to some unlikely destinations. On a recent road trip, I knew that we'd be in for a real cultural treat when, just past the green sign that heralded our destination I spotted the local drinking hole: The Cat Sass Tavern.

The host town had sprouted up out of the scrubby bush like a bad weed gone wild. The individual in charge of zoning must not have seen the outside of his trailer since 1971, judging from the haphazard layout of yards, swamps, the odd ball diamond, a school set way too close to the main street, and a boarded up church with the plastic off the windows flapping into the Holy Mother's face.

We drove around the windy gravel streets for some time, hoping to locate some soccer fields. There were plenty of mobile homes, windows opaque with dog snot and bug smears, set back towards the bush, to leave plenty of running space for two or three large dogs, a camper laying on its side, and large quantities of trucks and cars in varying stages of disassembly. Auto wrecking and dog breeding appeared to be the main industries of the town.

After several dead end "streets" that ended in either bush, or another abandoned camper, we found what must be the Mayor's home. A large, brick bungalow sprawled across grassy prairie. A large, manicured lawn flanked the front and west side of the dwelling.

But wait- are these soccer nets I see? Ah ha!! The mayor must love watching children run and play- these are not manicured grounds I see, but soccer fields! (could the town planner possibly live in the bungalow, and not the trailer down the dirt road? Imagine his shock, when he emerges from his basement one summer to find it invaded by ten year old girls chasing a soccer ball!) A cluster of lawn chairs stood on each side of the lawn turned soccer field, with parents nervously chewing and spitting sunflower seeds and bellowing encouragements to their jersey clad youngsters.

The coach had a face the colour of month old pea soup, and stumbled up and down the sidelines in his rumpled jeans and dress shoes mumbling things like: "blimey", and taking swigs from a two litre of 7-Up whose contents I had to question. I feared he'd spent too much time inhaling some bad smoke in his basement, while tending to some mysterious leafy plant under a heat lamp. Most of the young players suffered from smoke-induced asthma, but nervously raced up and down the field, sneaking glances at a big, burley fellow on the sidelines waving his arms and flapping his lips (cigarette intact) with "helpful advice" for the athletes.

When our girls won five to one, I felt it prudent to walk quickly and confidently back to the van before the coyote hunting parent pack chased us down and beat us to a bloody pulp in their jealous rage. Walk quickly past the rusty cargo vans and the trucks weighted down with fridges and ranges who had seen better days. Wind back down the road past the windows that held foaming insulation where glass once had been, youth in black hoodies hunched over their nicotine candy sticks, and staight(-ish) north back to the highway -and home.

Next week we will be the host team and have a chance to welcome this town to our fields.
If they find their way.

God on the blogspot, revisited

A few days ago I wrote a post expressing appreciation for the creativity of God. I received a comment asking about what I "meant by God". I had an instant, defensive reaction, as though God is someone we can custom design to suit our own agenda, and out of that fierce, gut reaction I wrote a blog. Within the hour of publishing it, I reread it, and had to ask myself whether love had been my greatest aim? I needed time to think, and so I deleted and rewrote it.

I welcome people who ask questions about my creative and mighty God, and won't be silent, but I guard against being one of those loud, obnoxious, religious types who just talks louder and faster because the reaction is fear based- fear of one's truth being challenged, and possibly fear that one can not adequately defend their faith.

Having ruminated on this for three days, I conclude that my own wisdom is not what is in question here. There are certain truths that I would willingly make myself vulnerable defending- they are not MY truths, they are simply God's honest truth. So, in light of that, I will try to remember what I initially typed on blog #1.

a) God is way bigger than you and me and this small planet
b) I will not attempt to manipulate God, to imagine a "higher power" custom designed by me, or you, or your neighbor's best friend.

I search for truth constantly. I grow frustrated at the limits of my mind and understanding, and with the apparent lack of sovereignty in certain aspects of the world. But I do not doubt that this is NOT just about us- our happiness, our comfort levels, our wish lists. I do believe that God has a plan, and has asked humanity to join him and trust him in the dance.

God has the last word. Any questions, refer to the book on God-- The Holy Bible.

Yes, I said GOD on my blogspot.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I love houses. Not necessarily for the architecture, but because the inside of a home is an extention of its owner.

If I were any good at lying and math, I would have gone into real estate. I could probably work on the lying, but the math would require a large scale miracle.

I'm a snoopy old tom when I'm out for a walk, casting glances into people's windows and wondering if they are happy, if they take pleasure in their surroundings, if they dream of a large house on a hill.

Being ushered into someone's home is one step closer to their heart, in my books.

These are a Few of my Favorite Things

The infamous frolic in the meadow, gin in hand.

Four orphaned children who make their own home in the woods from fallen branches, and survive on pond water and lilacs.

Or should I say, Five well- dressed orphans?

Buildings that stand the test of time.

Boys who rediscover their zaniness.

A little romp in the dump.

The goat who was just seconds from storming the house when we foiled his insidious plan.

And these are a few of my favorite things.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Yeah, thats right- I SAID GOD on my blogspot

I want my blogspot to be a happy place. I also know what I believe. (well, at least on good days when I've taken all my medication....)

I don't want to be angry and defensive when people have different belief systems than I do. I recognize that typing "God" on my blogspot makes me sort of vulnerable, but God made me, and I can't help but mention him.

And because I seem to have precious few neurons firing today, that's all I've got to say.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Like Alice, I've fallen, fallen down a bunny hole and entered into a strange and wonderful world. Joy, beauty and wonder is mysteriously woven into the ordinary--even the hens in their feathery coats of many colors display the glory and creativity of God . They strut about, their necks keeping rhythm with their fingered feet, competing with the expectantly fat barn cat for barbeque scraps from generous humans.

No amount of landscaping could compare with the lilac bushes, columbine, and poppies that spring up in the surrounding bushes. The sun warms the deck as the kids take turns riding the moterless lawn mower down the grassy hill, the dog watching, amused.

The world seems so very good. Miles away from genetically altered food, pesticide treated lawns, milk full of growth hormones... terrorism. "Keeping up with the Jones's" here would seem to entail using more willow branches for fencing, cutting wider hiking trails through your bush property, or possibly learning to milk your goat- though not for profit.

There is something so unbelievably encouraging about embracing the simplicity of life. Watching kids who have not forgotten how to play outdoors, animals who are not owned for their market value, lawns and bushes that don't mind hosting dandelions.

And I am filled with gratitude.

Friday, May 19, 2006

May long weekend

This weekend I and my chosen one and my offspring will be sleeping in this house:

We will be pee-ing and possibly showering (optional, we may not have the time) in THIS bathroom:

while we are gazing upon this prairie beauty,

we will be sitting in this hot tub, on this deck:

And that's how we are kicking off fun season in 2006.
Our friends love us so much, that they had four children to perfectly coincide with our four children. They moved to this 112 year old stone house, because they knew how much we needed a quiet little country get-away. They have gin, and boursin cheese. They have a fabulous sense of humour, a dog named Daisy, a bunch (flock? gaggle? ) of chickens, plenty of cats, a goat, and some bunnies.

I won't see the kids for three whole days. They will be making up games on the hay bales, mucking about in the pastures, looking for unique rocks and maybe some Indian arrow heads.

If you need to find me, I'll be oggling REAL baseboards and doors with REAL doorknobs. I'll be splashing about in a REAL bathtub in a real bathroom that was designed before they turned closets into places you pee in. I'll be snarfing back strong coffee in a REAL country kitchen, quite possibly sitting on a REAL window seat. I'll be licking cheese and strawberries off my fingers. I'll be frolicking in the meadows in my bonnet and petticoats, gin in hand.

That's where I'll be if you need me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


A few weeks ago (on blue box day) the pre-schoolers and I went for our daily walk. I can't resist throwing casual glances at what people throw out on a weekly basis. On this day, we were strolling down main street and passed by our local thrift shop. My well-trained eye immediately spotted primary colors in amongst the jars and cardboard destined for the recycle plant. Stuffed into a large box, was an entire collection of jumbo cardboard blocks!

I momentarily froze. Just 4 days earlier I had seen this exact set stuffed into the very same large box at a garage sale, with a piece on brown tape on it, optimistically asking for $10.00. This was too good to be true!! Now I had been rewarded for my frugality. I knew that ten dollars at a yard sale was nearly criminal, and though I'd been tempted because I knew how much fun the daycare kids would have with them, my Mennonite heritage found its assertive side and Yelled: "NO! For ten dollars, you could buy 3 jugs of sensible white MILK!!! Waste not, want not! This toy is frivolous, and a dreadfully irresponsible way of "stewarding your resources!"

Yes, I was being blessed indeed- good things come to she who waits, and I was receiving my reward as promised. I prompty tossed all toddlers out of the stroller and turned the versatile beast into a shopping cart, carefully propping up my treasure and buckling it in to ensure that all forty-one pieces would make it safely home to their promised land.

OOOh, life has its unexpected pleasures. Goodness only knows what may be resting on the curb this week.....

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stuff that Makes Joyce Grin

My boys.

My firstborn spending hours with Morley.
My momma with one of her babies.

My creative daughter drinking off of a plant stand.
A barn swallow nest found in the hay loft.

These things make Joyce grin.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Low, low Expectations

I feel sucky and gross today. I'm so not in the mood for toddler voices asking me questions like "What are you doing?" when I'm clearly making a peanut butter sandwhich. I find myself playing the "if only" game: If only I had a vehicle, I could load the kids up and go for a field trip. We could go to Petland and look at all the animals. We could go to McDonalds and have then race around in plastic wonderland for a few hours. Or, if we're fantacizing anyway, how about I go to the city all my big self (a phrase borrowed from one of the toddlers), go to Wal-mart all my big self, and buy myself a NEW BRA!!!! Nothing could be more exciting right now. Except possibly going through the wal-mart lingerie all by myself, with a Tim Hortons coffee in hand.

But I've got to run. There are a whole bunch of intelligent toddler questions that I have to go and answer now.

Home Twice

I'm feeling homesick today. This is ironic, because I am at home and its a very happy place . I live in a terrific little town, my kids are thriving in the local school, and I've made some great friends. But this is not my only home.

Three years ago we lived in another wonderful world, complete with all the (non-materialistic) trappings of happiness. I never wanted to move. I lived in a terrific little OLD house in a crappy neighborhood. I had the prettiest little yard, and the very best next door neighbors IN THE WORLD. Yes, we found hash pipes in our front hedge, piles of mattresses and discarded furniture in the lane every single week, tiny toddler criminal minds running up and down the sidewalk stealing our kids' toys, and throwing dirt into our kiddy pool..... (okay, maybe it wasn't entirely perfect...) But, I had my neighbors, my family, my friends, and my house.

My next door neighbor lived in a gigantic old castle of a house and she and I learned to live "in community" in our community. We watched each other's children, warned one another of creeps that we saw in the area, shared amaretto over the fence when the kids had finally fallen asleep in the hundred degree house. We shared a love of scavenging, once finding two dumpsters full of bridal gowns, bridesmaid and flowergirl dresses, tierras, and pink satin shoes. The bridal shop we shared the alley with cleaned out their basement the quickest possible way, and flashlights in hand, she and I reaped the benefits. Our girls played dress-up for years from what we found in those dumpsters....

My other friends were just as much fun- laughing and crying at life, rocking one another's babies, shopping for one another, pooling resources. As I said- I had no desire to go anywhere. There was something about these friends that brought out the best in creativity, and I never left their homes without about a million ideas of what to make with my sewing machine, or a brilliant idea of how to use some broken down chair, or how to make a curtain out of a branch and a table cloth.

But life has a way of changing things up, and we did move. So did one of my favourite friends. She has moved twice, and most recently into a 110 year old stone house in the country which I am counting the days to go and see. I feel physically ill with joy for her, and for anticipation of our time together in her "new" house.

And so, I am homesick. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Whacky, but Brilliant!

Monday morning, and the weekend seems a dim memory. Oh, but it was wonderful! There was the food, of course- cardommom flax bread with cranberry butter, exotic salad, brie and camembert cheeses, chile and lime nacho chips with artichoke dips..... oh dear, too good. (she says, staring into an empty tin of tuna that was her Monday lunch...) There were the caesars with celery, the kiwi and strawberry ciders, the dry white wine, there was the good strong coffee.

We talked and laughed and some were known to smoke colts on the deck, before the first ladies dropped off at about 1:30-- wimps. The rest of us made it until 3:30 and 4:00 before we found beds in Mary's spacious farm house. I had the insane pleasure of sleeping until 11:30 the following morning, then followed my nose back to the kitchen. The cousins were already sitting in the sun sipping coffee and munching on fresh strawberries and mangoe. Carol taught us small- potato- hick -non- world -traveller types how to PROPERLY slice and eat a mango.

I must say that there is a great deal more brilliance, power, intelligence, and confident strength in these women than I had quite taken note of before. There was no time wasted with pettiness or gossip. It was not one of those cluck- fests where a woman slinks away feeling inadequate and inferior and too flabby. No. This was empowering.

The whole thing about being the youngest now seems unfair on an entirely different level. I get to learn from my sisters and cousins who will always, always be older than me. Did they have such good role models when they were in their thirties?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday night, friday friday friday night

I've had a really challenging week- kid wise, so I'm pleased to note that it's Friday. Not only is it Friday, but I also have something to look forward to. Tonight directly after work, sister Kathy (in the biological sense of the word, and not the religious!) will pick me up in her shiney silver vw bug and whisk me off to Winnipeg, sans kids! Did ya hear that? I SAID NO KIDS ALLOWED!!! We will do a few errands until biological sister #2 is done work, then head off down the trans Canada highway to biological sister #4 's home in the country. We are celebrating our annual Kehler cousin reunion/ Holy-cow-I-always-thought-you-were-a-proper-relative/ sleepover event. We expect two or three other cousins to arrive.

As usual, I will be the youngest. You know by now that I'm the youngest in my ridiculously large family but what you don't know is that my mother was the youngest in her family, and had her eighth baby at the same time that her neices (my cousins) were also pro creating. That makes it interesting for me to get to know my cousins now, since they are actually in the grandparenting phase of their lives, and no matter how old I am, everyone always thinks I'm just so incredibly young! That bugged me when I was in my twenties and was sick of feeling like a stupid snotty-nosed kid, but now that I've rethought my definition of intelligence,(to account for the fact that this is really just as good as its ever gonna get.....) I just enjoy always looking and sounding young although I am in fact fairly haggard and nearly forty.

All that aside, what I look forward to is some really nummy appetizers, some nice white wine, and staying up so late that the funny jokes seem way funnier than they did by the light of day . Plus there's always the possibility of learning more dysfunctional tidbits about my dad's side of the family. Truly a brilliant but WHACKO group of individuals. I can say that because I'm one of them. Sadly, because they ran out of parts, I didn't get my share of the brilliant, but then again, some people got more than their fair share of whacko, so I should be grateful.

So, ta-ta for now! I assume all you really important people out there have huge pressures hanging over your heads, but I"M GOING OUT TONIGHT, nobody will miss me, (well, maybe the hubby and kids......), and there isn't a single important thing that I have to do. (Oh, besides influence the lives and behaviors of people in their first crucial five years of development, but who asked?)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Do I Have to be a Grown-up?

So I'm finally learning to be assertive. I am not a rug, I will not be intimidated or embarrassed. Oh, nuts- this is school children I'm talking about, not even adults, or some fancy beurocracy.

The scene: Joyce being a selfless caregiver and pumping up a bicycle tire so kids can ride bikes around the block.
School children: "Joyce- Joey says that when you bend over like that, we can see your butt crack."
Joyce (the adult): "Oh, yeah? Well, if you don't like the looks of my butt, then don't look! I'm going to be bending over on occasion, and you get to make a choice- take a good look if you think you'd like to, or if you don't like butt cracks...... DON'T LOOK!!!!!!!!!!"

I felt really empowered there for a while....

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

And God Is Perfect

There are some relatively simple concepts in life that become more clear to me with age and life experience. For example: commandment #7 of Exodus. "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."

I run a home daycare. Every day starts early, and with both feet on the floor. As a generalization, I love looking after people's needs and making their days meaningful and fun. I'm not perfect though, and there are certain things that irritate me to no end. My pet peeve? The misuse and over use of my name! From 6:00 or 7:00 am I hear "JO-WIIIICE, JO-WIIICE, JO-WIIIIIIIIIIIIICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (Now, imagine that in the sound of tickle-me-Elmo).

I'm sure I'm over generalizing here, but I look after only 4 or 5 preschoolers at a time. God has humanity in its entirity to deal with.

I can really see the point of this commandment now.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Here is an official disclaimer to any of you who may be considering adding to your family. In my house, it takes roughly 28 hours to drain 4 litres of milk. If you wonder why I shop for carpets on trash day and clothe myself in cast-offs, just try to imagine how thirsty and hungry my lineage would appear if I were to spend that milk money on anything other than milk!

When I was a kid, and the youngest of eight hungry farm children, we were sent across the road with two empty ice cream buckets that we filled ourselves out of the giant silver milk holder thingy in the neighbor's dairy barn. It was called the milk room- a clean concrete room with one door directly from the farm yard and the other leading into the barn. It had a faint smell of cow in it, but in a really friendly, clean sort of way. Then we would leave a dollar or some other unreasonably small amount of money in the milk room and carefully carry those heavy pails home to the fridge. After a few hours in the fridge the thick cream would rise to the surface and mom would skim it off with an old ladle to be put into coffee and baked into cream cookies.

The milk we drink now has probably been over processed, with mysterious things added and subtracted. Anyhow, it's the best I can do since I have a church across the road from me now, and I highly doubt they'd want me coming in there swinging empty pails around, scrounging for affordable milk in their prayer room.......