Spring Frenzy

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's not uncommon to have people comment, upon hearing I have four children, "My, you have your hands full", or otherwise similar sentiments.  Usually I just smile and nod and agree.  Busy...sure...[shrug].  It's just my life?
This spring has seemed particularly busy, with most weekends taking us from here to there and back three times.
It started with Honour's first competition of the season as I blogged about before.  A couple weeks later we realized that my worst fear was upon us....Honour and Verity had a competition on the same day. Eeeks.
Fortunately they were not at exactly the same time.  Honour was in Niagara Falls in the morning and Verity had to be in Milton for around noon.  It was Palm Sunday on top of it all, and I was needed at church in the morning to sing with the praise and worship team.  We devised a plan....

We've gotten to be fairly good friends with one of the families at the gym, and they mentioned that they'd be willing to take Verity to the competition if we needed them too.  At first I thought it wouldn't be necessary, but we soon realized that it would be a good idea.
So, James and Honour left the house quite early on Palm Sunday, around 6am, as this comp started a little earlier than most. They arrived in good time--scheduling success #1. I left a couple hours later and dropped Verity off at the friends house, then continued on to the church.
The service started at 10:30, and the team sang early in the program, so I was good to leave just before 11. I hopped in the van with the rest of the kids and my sister Maya, and we made our way to Milton.  I arrived even before the girls were let into the gym to start warm up.  Scheduling success #2.
Verity's competition started a little early, which really didn't help our cause in the end.  I took advantage of Maya's cell phone (I don't have one) to text with James, expecting that by that point, Honour's competition would be done and there would be news of how she did.  Unfortunately, despite their early start, the awards ceremony hadn't begun.  I would find out later that the competition was incredibly packed, with four stages running simultaneously to service 300 dancers. Scheduling blooper #1.

Verity's competition was moving along nicely, and I had expected that James and Honour, who were planning to head to Milton once they were done in Niagara Falls, would miss an element or two, but as the third element came and went, and still they hadn't left the Falls, I began to dread that they would miss the entire thing.  A text from James to say that he'd locked the keys in the car certainly didn't ease things along.  Scheduling Blooper #2....

Finally, the victory text arrived: Honour had won three medals, a first in her Fling, Third in Sean Truibhas and Fourth in her Sword Dance. Yay, another stamp!  They hopped in the car to try and get to Milton in time...

Meanwhile, Verity's last element was quickly approaching--her beam routine.  She had a rest period right before...but alas, her group moved to the beam section of the gym and began their practice run throughs...

I kept craning my neck to see through the high windows from the bleachers to the foyer, but it was Afton and Maya who saw them first...about 20 seconds into Verity's routine. :-S

This past weekend was slightly better.  Verity was scheduled for late Friday afternoon in Mississauga, and Honour was entered into a competition in Ajax the next morning.

Friday started with a trip to McMaster to meet with a PRS family I'd met online, through my PRS Facebook group.  Their little one is still in the NICU and scheduled for a jaw distraction tomorrow morning.  It was really nice to connect in person and (hopefully) be an encouragement.  After getting trapped in the NICU during a fire alarm, I then ran down to 2G where James was frantically motioning for me to get into the examining room for our appointment with the neurologist.  Jairus had an incident a year and a half ago that we suspected was a seizure.  Subsequent tests confirmed that he had underlying seizure activity present in his brain.  We had hoped the appointment would explain everything....but not so much.  Bottom line is that they wouldn't or couldn't confirm a seizure and we are left in hyper-hover mode. Sigh.
We had determined that there wouldn't be enough time to go home after the appointment before heading to Mississauga so we had planned to go straight there from Hamilton.  It was a good plan as of course the specialist appointment went much longer than we thought it would.  We arrived just in time for Verity's 4pm registration time.
Unlike Milton which was extremely crowded, Mississauga's facility was roomier and overall her flight was smaller, so less families were in attendance.  It made for a much more pleasant way to pass the 3 hours that we were there.

Bars at Mississauga from Leslie Kent on Vimeo.

Verity was the only attendee from her club for this flight, something that's not happened to her before, but I encouraged her by pointing out that she'd have her coach, Katie, all to herself.  She started with the parallel bars, moved to the beam, performed on the floor third, and finished with the vault.  Her back walkover on the beam was flawed again, as her first meet, but at least this time she hopped back up and tried again.  The second time around she was successful.  The other events seemed to go well, but she'd decided not to include her newly attained front tuck in her floor routine, as she'd been out from training all week due to a strep throat infection.  Still, the two back handsprings were impressive.

Floor at Mississauga from Leslie Kent on Vimeo.

Her vault was also more confident and she stayed on her feet, unlike the last meet when she landed on her butt.  All this earned her a gold standing for both floor and bars, and silver for the beam and vault, for an overall rating of gold. Yay!

Up until right after Verity's comp, I actually wasn't going to be able to go to Ajax, as I had my last Musikgarten class to teach mid-morning.  I was pleased to be able to tell Honour at dinner that my director had moved the class to the following Saturday.  It ended up being a very good thing that I went...

We got up around 6am for a 7am departure.  We were about 10 to 15 minutes late leaving, and there was a bit of slow traffic through Toronto, so we arrived about 15 minutes into the 30 minute registration period.  No problem, right?
Hum.  HEW-mungus line-up.  I had thought this was a 'little' competition.  Hum.  Not so much.  Now to mention a slight glitch...
The day before the registration deadline, I had realized I couldn't send it in because I didn't have any cheques.  They were on order, and I had been expecting them any day, but they hadn't arrived yet.  I called the organizer to find out if they'd accept an email money transfer, but before I could even suggest this, she told me to email in Honours info and bring the cheque on the day of.  That sounded great to me, and I immediately sat down and emailed her with the registration particulars.
It wasn't until a day or two before the competition that I had a troubling thought; she hadn't emailed back to confirm the registration.  James pointed out that they didn't confirm with snailmail registrations so why would it be any different for email?  Spam boxes, that's why.
When we got back from Mississauga with Verity, I emailed the organizer and asked her to confirm that she'd received Honour's registration.  She didn't email back.  Hum.
We set off anyways, with a printed copy of my original email in my purse.  Good thing...

Sure enough, Honour's name was not on the list.

Some slightly tense moments later, as I sweetly insisted that I had followed the organizers instructions, all was well.  They conjured up the number #249 for Honour.
Glitch number two arrived only a few moments later when the Flora dance began and I realized with horror that we had forgotten Honours underskirt.  Fortunately, a quick trip out to the vendors in the hall furnished us with a new one (for a mere 40$). Ah well, her old one was pretty sad looking.
After that, things motored along.  Honour's group was quite large, so I was nervous that her chances were slimmer than usual.  It was also a 10 and up group, which meant she could very well be competing against 16 year olds--and some of them did look around that age.  We were there alone, as another competition had her teacher and some of her dancemates off in London.

Once her Flora was accomplished, I got her into her kilt for the rest of the dances.  There was only 15-20 minutes or so between each dance, so she would do a quick run through of the upcoming dance, and then we'd wait back on the bleachers for the announcement to line up.  Fling was next, always a strong dance for Honour, followed by Sword, usually strong as well, and finishing up with Sean Truibhas (say trews).  That last one has been slowly becoming more confident for Honour.

Sean Truibhas from Leslie Kent on Vimeo.

As usual, after the dancing was done, we all waited anxiously in the bleachers for the results to be tabulated. The first phase is always the worst; waiting to hear if her number would be called. Her newly added #249 would be the first called, if it would be...
And there it was, "249".  Phew.
Then comes the raised hope that perhaps her medal would be a first, second, or third and win her a stamp. Flora results were called without even a nod at Honour.  Fling was next....and there she was, walking confidently over to the official to receive her first place medal. Yes!
And now a more recent phase introduced....Miss Diannes students are often winning trophies.  Honour has not yet accomplished this.  But as I watched her receive another first a moment later for her Sean Truibhas, I began to feel a little tug of hope...that was two dances out of four that she'd won first place....
It was not to be, however, as the girl who'd won first place for the other two dances had also won medals behind Honour in the Fling and Sean Truibhas.  Ah well.  Happy for a stamp today!

Now, it was Jairus' turn for the spotlight, a rare occasion.  As soon as we started to gather up our things to leave Honour's competition, he caught my attention by patting his chest and making drum motions.  "Me?", he asked, "Me?".  At hearing my answer of "Yes, Jairus, your turn now", he responded excitedly "YES!".

The drive back seemed to take even a little longer than going out there, and it was mid afternoon before we stumbled through the front door.  Verity needed to go begging soliciting the neighbours to buy her latest gym fundraiser, as money was due back yesterday, and I needed to confirm that Jairus had all the wardrobe needed for his concert debut with the beginner band at church.
His white shirt just barely made the grade, slightly short in the sleeves, but acceptable, and after a frenzied search around the house, we located his navy clip-on tie.  By 5:30 we were on the road again for his 6pm call time.
This is the first year that Jairus has been playing in the beginner band.  Last fall, the director, also his former public school music teacher approached me and asked if he might want to join. We managed to finagle the rehearsal times into the schedule every Tuesday night and he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his new musical expression--the drums.  He played out in one church service prelude but this would be a 'real' concert.  It was called Blazing Brass and it was a fundraiser for sending kids to music camp.
We arrived a couple minutes late and Jairus immediately went up to run through the songs with the group. We had an hour until the concert started so I relaxed and spent some time chatting with church friends.

7pm arrived and the concert began.  Jairus filed out with his bandmates.  Unfortunately, the first song they would play was combined with the Junior band and their drummer took the stool.  There wasn't anything else for Jairus to sit on, the leader was on the other side of the platform and of course none of the kids around him thought to help get him a chair to sit on....so he stood for the first 20 minutes or so, until their song came up.

He 'assisted' the Junior band drummer for that first song on the floor tom, which I got video of, but you can't really hear his part.  Then they played a song on their own and that's where he really shone.  He was on the snare and was well practiced.  I thought he did just perfect--even when he wasn't watching the director and beat one final tap after everyone had stopped.  His grin sent mild chuckles through the first few rows of the sanctuary.

James had to stay back and help with tear down, as he'd been the soundguy for the evening, and since supper had actually been a late lunch of Swiss Chalet leftovers, the kids were now hungry.  A final celebration at Wendy's was the answer, made even better by some friends joining us.

Am I busy?  Do I have my hands full?  Absolutely.  Is this a bad thing?

I wouldn't trade it for the world. :-)

Birthday Boy...I mean Young Man

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Last Sunday we celebrated the 13th birthday of Jairus Donovan Kent, our first born and on this earth, only son.
It was a marvelous, glorious day.
It was his actual birth-day, as of 4:34am on Sunday the 30th.  I had decided a few months ago that I wanted to do something really special.
Last year we were invited to a birthday party for the son of good friends. He was also turning 13.  It was quite a large affair, with many friends and family.  There were lots of beautiful decorations with a medieval/knights sort of theme, which I thought was quite appropriate for the occasion.  There was a guest/scrapbook out for everyone to look through and sign with messages of encouragement.  It was fun to see pictures of the young man, as we've only become friends in the past year or so, and not watched him grow up as many there had.
The thing that touched me the most was a brief time during the party where my friend and her husband had asked some church elders and senior family members to come say a blessing over their son.  It was a really beautiful, meaningful time and I just loved it.  I decided to be a copycat. ;-)

To start, I sent out snailmail invitations just slightly more than a month in advance.  Any sooner, and I was afraid people would forget; any later and I worried they would already have plans.  And I chose real, paper invitations because people are so apt to ignore Facebook and email notifications.  After much consideration, I decided to limit the guest list to only family for a few reasons.  A) Our house couldn't handle much more--I have a large family. B) Growing up, my moms family (2 brothers, a sister and all children involved) met monthly to celebrate birthdays. Thems fond memories and I wanted to have one of those again.

So I used the online planner from Staples and personalized one of their invitation templates with Jairus' picture and sent it off to be printed.  I ordered about 60 copies and got them sent out quickly.  We had a good response and in the end, probably about 85-90% positive rsvp's.  I was pleased.

I decided to make it straight-forward and low fuss: 3-5pm would be the timing, with simple finger foods to snack on (veggies with dip, fruit tray, hummus and pita chips) and 3 home-made cakes which would hopefully be enough to feed everyone.  I was expecting around 50 people. (Note: I don't do home-made to impress anyone, I do it because generally I'm not fond of store-bought cakes. :-)  )

I started cleaning the house an impressive 5 days before the party and marveled at how much less stressed I was by the weekend when only a few jobs remained.  By Sunday afternoon, everything was sparkling and ready to receive our guests.  The kids were beyond excited to see their family and especially, cousins.  My one oversight was...of all things.....Jairus' birthday gift.  We'd intended to get him a digital camera but a few days before his birthday, he spotted an archery set in Canadian Tire and was highly excited.  He took an archery class at camp last year, and since my husband also learned it at the same camp as a child, we decided it would be a good present.  However, I forgot to pick it up the day before, so a quick stop on the way home from church, aided by bags to cover the gift on its' way out of the store, solved the problem.

I had purchased the perfect little scrapbook.  It said 'Family' in lovely stitching on the front of the handsome brown leather cover, and each page had room for one photo and a few lines for signing.  My plan was to take a picture of each family as they arrived, print it immediately and have them sign the page with their photo above.  It didn't quite work out, as the printer gave us problems.  Instead, I had everyone sign a page, and printed up their pictures the next day when I had time to fiddle with the printer.  I filled the rest of the book with pictures from the day, which my uncles wife was gracious enough to take and leave with me before they left.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, which I was so grateful for, as it gave family the option of gathering out around the porch swing, which many did.  We had plenty of food, plenty of cake and it was clear that many were happy to spend the afternoon catching up with family not often seen.  I had our ancestry.ca family trees displayed on the TV and tried to encourage people to look through it and add information that was missing or mistaken.  I pulled out the two large scrapbooks I made for Jairus; one detailing his first 2 months of life in hospital, and the second the remainder of his first year.  I was pleased to see them being passed around and enjoyed.
[Great]Grandma 'Hutchie', Nana (my mom), Sherri with shy cousin Donovan.

My brother and his wife, all the way from Parry Sound.

Verity with cousin Samuel

Cousin Jacquie's hubby Michael, standing with my Uncle Tom

Jacquie and her daughters, and her mom, my great aunt Wilma

My sister Lauren, standing with my dad's twin brother Dave.  Uncle Dave had a liver transplant just a few months ago.

All the kids mesmerized by Jairus' slideshow

Jairus' Family

For a number of days before the party, I worked on a powerpoint presentation.  Any other 13 year old would likely have made a big presence known.  He'd have told his stories and reminded everyone of his antics growing up, his triumphs and successes.  Because Jairus isn't really able to do that, I decided to make a voice for him.
Once everyone had arrived, we gathered in the main room and reflected on the life of Jairus.

Jairus Birthday Slideshow from Leslie Kent on Vimeo.

The first song was the same one I sang at Jairus' dedication.

After the video, my dad, James, and his dad had prepared words of blessing and prayer.  They stood with their hands on Jairus' shoulders, in front of all our family and spoke of the challenges he has faced, this momentous occasion of his 13th birthday, and their faith in what God alone can--and will accomplish through Jairus. Here is what my father said:
The Blessing of Jairus
Today is a special day for Jairus as we gather together to say happy 13th birthday. It hardly
seems possible that 13 years ago James, Leslie and Marie spent the night at McMaster waiting
and waiting for Jairus to arrive. Meanwhile, I was at home all nice and cozy in bed when
Marie called somewhere after 5 am to inform me that I was now a papa since Jairus had
arrived. Then I remember seeing him with a bunch of tubes in his tiny little body – but that
start to his life hasn’t stopped him from growing into this young man we have here before us
Jairus you are no longer a little boy, not a pre-teen – you are a young man. Many times
in life we wonder why things happen. We may question why did God and does God allow
Jairus to have certain challenges in his life while others do not? Jairus, scripture tells us
that before the foundation of the earth, God Almighty planned for your life and planned for
you to be a man. Psalm 139 says that He created your inmost being. He knit you together in
your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. All the days ordained for you
were written by God even before you were born. Today we are recognizing publicly what
God has done in you. Your nana and I are thankful and joyful that God has given you to our
family as a gift. You have a great ability to make lots of people smile and laugh. You are a
wonderful grandson. We love you and bless you with the promises of God. You are His and
have been set apart from the world for his Holy purposes. I bless you with God’s everlasting
love, wisdom, peace, and joy.
We pray that God will provide you with all the resources you need to overcome the spiritual,
physical and emotional challenges you face as you grow and develop your faith and trust in

Numbers 6:24:  Here just as God commanded Moses to have Aaron say to the people of Israel,
I say to you Jairus: The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon
you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you His peace.
Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by
the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Amen!

As they finished, I had a cake ready with 13 lit candles.  I walked the length of the kitchen and living room, past family filling nearly every square foot, and we sang. There's nothing like a family that can sing together.  I carried the cake up to Jairus and his face was beaming.  And I remembered how difficult it used to be for him to blow out candles.  He took a great breath, and snuffed them out in three tries.

Then came the gifts.  Such generous family! If anyone had asked, I had advised gift cards, because Jairus loves to carry around cards of all kinds.  He got gifts cards plus much more!

My father in law, making a point to his sister and her husband, Anne and Don

We were so tickled when he finished, and my mom suggested he stand up and thank everyone.  He jumped to his feet and in a big voice that everyone heard, did just that.

The whole afternoon was really wonderful, and I loved how so much of our family came out to be a part of Jairus' celebration.  The kids were really tickled to meet 'cousins they didn't even know'!

The last few years, as Jairus has drawn closer to adolescence, I've worried.  I'm a mom, of course I've worried.  As his speech development stagnated....as his academics faltered...as I began to realize that our home might always be Jairus' home, I've worried.  And I've asked God, what is your plan for him?  And this is where that pesky trust comes in. 
9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned,this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
The second song in the slideshow was not just chosen because it's a current house fav, that gets us all singing and dancing around the joint.  I realized that it said exactly what I'm hoping and trusting in for my son.

My life
I know it's never really been mine
So do with it whatever You like
I don't know what Your plan is
But I know it's good, yeah

I wanna tell You now that I believe in
I wanna tell You now that I believe in
In You, so do what You do, oh

I'm an empty page
I'm an open book
Write Your story on my heart
Come on and make Your mark
Author of my hope
Maker of the stars
Let me be Your work of art

Won't You write Your story on my heart?