Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Maretzki Christmas Letter 2011

Here's our Christmas letter that Mom wrote that we sent out this week.  It's, uh, just a little bit long, but please take the time to read! 

"December 2011
Hello to all our friends and family,
The years go so fast, don't they?  You probably feel you just heard from us!  Well, you know the drill, as I have a hard time keeping things short - grab that coffee, the laptop, sit back and find out what happened in the lives of the Maretzki’s this year.  We won't disappoint you.....lots went on as usual.  In fact, I think this letter will have to top all the others as more than ever, we fit a lifetime into a few months.
January and February
These were of course the coldest months of the year.  We were still in the house that Gord built finishing off a few things here and there, but mostly just existing, quietly and calmly as the year before had been so hectic, building a house, moving numerous times (it ended up being 7 moves by the time we ended up in the farmhouse, if you can fathom it).  It was wonderful to just enjoy being together without major construction deadlines.  At this time Gord picked up a few more contracts that meant the contracts got priority over finishing the final details of the house. 

MarKerr is born

In January, Gord reconnected with a friend, Kenny Kerr, who has a complimentary set of skills to Gord with respect to his computer background.  Gord's strength is in the hardware aspect of computer controls and Kenny is an expert in C++ computer software.  For years, his wife, Karin, and I had talked that it would be amazing if the two of them could do something together business-wise.  When the two of them would be in a room together, their conversations would sound like a completely different language.  It seems the timing had never been right to get something off the ground, let alone to even have a conversation about working together as Kenny and Karin hadn't lived near us until this past year.  The timing was now.  Together they are developing a controller and they hope to have a product they can take to market this spring, Lord willing. 
Meanwhile Gord's GHM Engineering business kept him busy.  He always finds himself doing such unusual projects.  This year his main work involved doing the controls work for the Canadian Center for Inland Waterways which involved automating aspects of the fish research department (with guppies)!  It was a project that took the greater part of the year which meant he was GLAD when it was done.


  March

March was a really fun month for us as we were all highly involved with the wedding of our dear cousin, Stephanie.  Our whole family enjoyed playing a role in helping her meet her future husband, Andrew, and we were therefore blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the wedding itself.  Sydney was a bridesmaid and Sawyer was the flower girl.  It was a beautiful day and Andrew and Stephanie will, no doubt, have a blessed life together.  They are expecting their first baby in January, another exciting time for all of us to share with them!
  All through the fall of 2010 and the winter of 2011, we found ourselves driving the 5 min. back and forth between our farm property and the new house.  In some ways it felt like we had a cottage that we were visiting, but just not living at and not having a two hour commute so we kind of enjoyed it.  We would build fires, roast marshmallows, dream about future things we could do there.  All along we were planning to live in the old farmhouse even though it was pretty rundown inside and perhaps a year or two down the road, once the house had sold, we would build again somewhere on the property.  That thought only lasted a few short moments as we started to truly evaluate what that would look like to our family after such an intense year of building.  That was when we realized, let's just make this house livable for now and maybe one day build again, but not any time in the near future.  Sounded like a good idea, so just to make good on our decision, Gord went to the farmhouse and took out a wall.   Thus the farmhouse renovations began.  The rest of the spring and the whole summer found Gord  working like a dog again on a house, but this time, it wasn't a new home, it was a 200 year old house that hadn't seen new plumbing or electrical work in at least a generation (or more).  Anyone who would have seen the before and after look would have had their jaw on the ground.  It turned out great and we absolutely love living in a smaller house again.  I actually know where the children are most of the time now and cleaning it isn't quite the chore.


April and May
Fidelity Books went to a number of homeschool conferences again this past year.  It was a little harder to manage with yet another house move, but we didn't want it to die, so we forced ourselves to keep it up and were encouraged to do so as the books we sell continue to bless those who read them.  More renovating went on at the farm.
June and July

June was a big month for Gord.  I dare tell you he turned 50!  Shocking, isn't it?  He's aged gracefully and the farm life is keeping him young, not to mention all the toddlers around his feet, so he fools a lot of people.  We weren't living at the farmhouse yet, but we managed to host a pig roast for our friends and church family.  It was amazing.  Soccer games were going on one side of the house and people were mingling and eating on the other side enjoying the perfect weather God had given us that day.  We were not just celebrating Gord's birthday, but all that God has done in his life, particularly in the last few years.  What a blessed life he's been given.  We wanted to thank all the people who had contributed in any way or built into his life over the years by having them come.  It was the perfect way to break in the new farm.  Gord hopes to do another pig roast of our own next -year (with maybe our own pig!).  I never question him anymore.  I've learned he's usually serious and that it usually happens.
 
Around the middle of July, we knew we'd be able to move into the farmhouse soon so we thought there's no time like the present to start acting like farmers!  So off we went to the chick store and came home with 40 one-day old chicks.  Seeing as we weren't on the farm yet, we kept them in our garage in a unique little chick nursery Gord came up with.  I cannot tell you how much fun everyone had with these little balls of peeping fluff.  I think Jude was by far the most enamoured.  Gord and I kept looking at each other and pinching ourselves, was farm life, the one we had dreamed of, really beginning to happen?  To see our children's love for these little creatures blessed us beyond what we had hoped.  We knew they would ultimately be free-range chickens, but I started to call them highly-entertained chickens!   It wasn't long before the heat of the summer and the growing chicks turned our garage into a smelly nursery that I couldn't go near anymore.  We started to make plans to move them over to the farm where they could be outside, running around the property.  There was an existing chicken coop that the boys cleaned out, added fresh bedding and filled in any holes where predators could get in.  Then the big move.  Were those chickens ever happy in their new home eating bugs and having fun with the kids.  Our children only got pecked in the eye a few times to realize chickens think everything is food!  They grew like weeds, the chicks, that is, and soon were getting bolder and bolder as they started to realize bugs were good even across the street.  After one got run over, we asked ourselves, "Why did the chicken cross the road?!"  Poor thing.  The first major farm death for our kids and it hit some of them quite hard.  Shortly after that we heard the saying, "Well, in farming you've got livestock and deadstock."  So true.

 
August

August brought our cousins up from the states - what a great time was had by all as the 17 (that's right, 17, from just 3 of us!) grandchildren enjoyed being together even though the visits are not frequent enough for our kids liking.  All this time work had been going on in the farmhouse.  Painting was really the only thing holding us back from moving in. I was getting excited!  Once the painting was complete and dry enough, I literally woke up and told the kids, "We're moving today."  And that was that.  I was so excited.  In a matter of hours I had the whole kitchen packed up and single-handedly moved over while Gord was at work.  He was rather shocked to see what I had done in such a short amount of time.  Within 24 hours we were moved in enough to stay for good.  What a great feeling to wake up that first morning to views of barns, neighbouring farms and just space.
 Sometime later that August, Gord had a rather innocent conversation one morning with someone at church.  The other man was telling him he knew of another mutual friend who was looking to sell his small herd of cows.  Gord casually mentioned he'd be interested.  Well, if we didn't get a call that afternoon from the man with the cows.  Within a week we were down at his place looking at cows and the next thing you know we were buying cows.  It was the funniest thing.  Gord was determined to make his farm not just a place with a lot of grass to mow.  The cows arrived on Jude's 5th birthday - what a great gift for a new farm boy!  We got a special breed called Scottish Highlands, 17 of them.   One of our friends says they look like the Beatles as they have very funny hairdos.  They've certainly taught Gord a lot FAST about farming, fencing, pasture management, feeding, cold weather and being disciplined!  They eat rain or shine.  Earlier in the summer, Gord had the grass of one of our pastures baled to hay for potential future animals.  I thought it was a little early as no animals were even on the property yet, but it turns out that hay fed them for the whole fall, so he seems to know what he is doing.  Anything he doesn't know he researches and quickly learns. 
 
Our farming library is growing.  You would laugh if you knew my nighttime reading regime now...books like You Can Farm now sit on my nightstand.  I think I heard you laugh out loud.

When we bought the cows 6 of them were pregnant and due in the summer and early fall.  The first cow to deliver ended up having major complications.  They weren't on our property until they had all delivered, so Gord, being the new owner, had to whip down and see what he could do to help (as if he had lots of calf delivery experience!)  So, he and the boys left, only to find the calf had already been born, but was being completely ignored by its mother.  Jesse turned into Mr. Mom Cow and attempted feeding the calf all night by bottle all the while being swarmed by mosquitoes and attempting to get a few winks of shut-eye in Gord's truck.  What a night!  The next morning the vet came and attempted to put the mother cow back together as she was suffering from a lot of her insides making their way out, so to speak.  Again, the boys were witnesses of the whole event, not missing a moment of it.  Both Gord and I felt they left as little boys and came back as young men. 

September
We were back at the homeschooling, still trying to get unpacked and somewhat organized as there is way less storage space here - don't we all have too much stuff?!  We had another fun picnic to kick off the school year.  It was there the official announcement was made, another student was joining our class!  Baby 8 will make his or her way here at the end of April next year.  Big news for a lot of people as some think we're trying to become the Canadian version of the Duggars.  I think Michelle Duggar words it best, "In our house, there is always room for another baby."  That has become my response as well as we are always thrilled to welcome a new child. 
 
October and November and December
Not being one to stop the farm surprises, Gord did it again.  I came home after a lunch out with my mom to find our children running up to me holding two kittens.  The story they told me was hilarious.  They'd been at a pet store where they observed some man come in with a couple of orange kittens in a crate asking the store owner if he'd take them.  The owner said, "No, sorry."  The kitten man left, but he also left the kittens - outside the door of the store, crate and all.  Jude saw this and said, "Hey, Dad, can we take those kittens home?"  He'd been asking for a cat for months.  Gord said, "We'll have to see, " and proceeded to buckle him in his car seat.  Meanwhile he runs back in the store and says, "What are you going to do with those cats at the door?"  "What cats?@!"  "I'll take them if you don't want them."  "You can have 'em!"  So the next thing you know, we're cat owners to two very lively brother cats.  Talk about adding life to a home!
Living up on the ridge of the escarpment is wonderful for views.  We can actually see the lake from where we are, but we've also discovered that living up here brings unusual amounts of wind - there's a geographical explanation for that, I'm sure.  It can be hurricane-like sometimes.  Yikes.  Gord started watching all around us how neighbours seemed to know things we didn't know.  They were getting snow fencing up, prepping for winter in ways we'd never even considered, so needless to say, Gord started doing whatever the neighbours were doing.  He had purchased a tractor along with the property and started getting it kitted out with the snowplow attachment, all while it wasn't too cold yet.  He's glad he did.  Then he and the boys built a proper hay feeder that got moved under the barn loft door, so now the hay just gets thrown out from the top of the barn directly into the hay feeder (bet you never thought you'd get a letter explaining hay from me before).  Now he's feeling a little more prepared for what is sure to come.
We ended up, uh, "processing", all our chickens this fall, if you, uh, know what I mean - we'll get chickens again in the spring and keep some for eggs next year.  It was too much for this year.  We also hope to have a garden for next year.  Our first chicken dinner had us feeling like the pilgrims as we ate something that fed our whole family that we had grown on our land!  Wow!
The other house was sitting unoccupied and still slightly unfinished as Gord's contracts kicked up again in the fall.  We were able to help out some friends who needed a place to stay while they were doing a major renovation on their house, so our house had "house sitters" the whole time which was a good thing to keep an eye on it as we no longer lived there.  They moved out middle of December and Gord's contracts will end at the end of December.  That should see Gord back at the other place finishing off the final touches, hopefully listing and Lord willing, selling, this Spring.  I've learned to not have too many expectations as life just has a way of changing in ways you don't expect.
 
The crew
Our little Jonas had a minor accident this summer, poor little guy.  He was just over a year at the time, toddling and falling everywhere, taking steps that would give him little bumps all the time.  One time at my parents' house, he took a step with no one to catch him in time, off the top step of a three-step deck.  His face landed on the bottom step and he immediately lost one tooth and two more had to be removed the next morning.  That was hard on all of us and we felt his pain!  He's made an amazing recovery which we are also grateful for.  He'll be nearly two when the other baby comes.  He continues to keep us on our toes and gates seem to be everywhere in this house.

 
Jinger, our 3 year old, got glasses this year.  She looks super cute and surprisingly wears them without too much fussing. She wants to do school all the time, even on Saturdays.  With non-stop chatting and imaginary friends all over the place, she remains one of our most social children.

 
Jude, now 5, is the cutest little farm boy you ever saw.  He learned to ride a bike this year and doesn't go anywhere without running at full speed.  There are a few trees on our property that he is learning to climb.  I realize how much I'm going to have to stretch as a farm boy mom as I'm not used to this kind of behaviour and I know it leads to more bumps and bruises!!!   I didn't sign up for that.
 
Sawyer will be 8 at the end of the month.  She is very easy going and lots of fun.  If Sydney is our baker, Sawyer is our cook.  Rarely does she miss dinner prep time and just loves the final result, all the smells, even just being around the stove stirring things.  She is also our farm girl and loved having the chickens as much as Jude, crying the most when the chicken was run over.   She's taking off in piano and really enjoys it.  For her 8th birthday, she's having a piano recital with a mini-reception after, very cute.

 
Davy and Jesse, 10 and 12 always have to get written about together.  Those boys are two peas in a pod.  One doesn't go anywhere without the other.  They are Gord's right hand men. They are slowly acquiring their own power tools now and are seriously contributing to making this farm work.  Gord is often amazed at their abilities considering their age.  It's wonderful to see them come in after being outside for most of the day looking as wiped as Gord!  We had Gord's shop immediately set up last November with a cement floor so he could be on-site working and near the family.  That has turned out to be the greatest blessing as he can have the boys working alongside all day sometimes.  Jesse has begun to take his writing in school much more seriously this year and pumped out a mini-novel on a young knight this fall that impressed even Gord and I in its creativity and length.  He wants to write more to this story to turn it into a real book one day.  I'd buy it!  Both boys, and our girls, for that matter, also became expert cricket players, thanks to our friends, the Kerr’s, from South Africa, who introduced the sport to us!
 Sydney, 14 in less than a month, has become the family photographer on an even greater level.  (In fact, she took most of the photos in this letter and helped compile them and place them for me as you see them now.)  Gord blessed her with a new camera this year that takes wonderful pictures and has greatly enhanced her skills.  She became quite adept as she read lots of photography books on lighting, digital photography, etc. 
 
Seeing as there are always lots of pregnant friends in my life, one of her greatest joys was to take pregnancy photos of the moms-to-be, followed by a photo shoot once the baby came.  What a gift to the new mom - they absolutely loved it.  Her blog continues to be where she posts a number of her photos and updates our friends and family on a weekly basis.  She started teaching our younger children piano lessons this year, too.  I was happily surprised to find that they (mostly) listen to her and I've actually seen some improvement since they began a few short months ago.  Nice to have a teacher in-house!  My only complaint is the amount of baking she does.  No joke, it's constant.  How is one supposed to be self-disciplined when there is always a chocolate chip cookie lying around.  Can you imagine I've had to ban her from the kitchen to once a week?  She doesn't like that rule.

So, as you can see, it's been a full year and I didn't make any of this stuff up, honest!  We always want to be quick to thank the Lord for ALL that has been done and how blessed we are.  We are thankful for a full life; we know it is a gift from above.
We thank the Lord for our good health, for his protection and for his promise of hope this season.  We trust you will enjoy the same.  Please update your address book for us as we finally have a permanent address that we hope to have for a long time.
Sincerely,

The Maretzki’s"

1 comment:

  1. Love it! It was fun to read stories I had already heard about, especially the kitten story. Too funny that you're banned from baking too much in the kitchen. Sydney, it would be VERY difficult to have you living here when I have such a sweet tooth too. I fully understand! :)

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