Family, legacies, memories and more barn repairs

Last week you saw some of the repairs that we did this fall on the barn’s foundation. Today, I’m sharing some other work that we ended up doing on the siding.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

It took four cousins, two very tall ladders, a pile of lumber, hundreds of nails (and we still ran out), and a few other assorted other tools and supplies.

We replaced missing boards, renailed loose boards and closed a trap door that had swung open a couple of years ago. It might seem odd that Matt and I left the door open for a couple of years. However, it was at the peak of the gable, and the climb was a bit daunting. One of my cousins brought a climbing harness and ropes, so he went up.

Climbing inside the barn

Working together felt so good. Not just because of how generous and kind and caring our family is. And not because it was a chance to balance Mama-me with DIY-me. What was best about the few hours we worked together that morning was how strongly I felt my Dad.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

All of my cousins worked with my Dad at various points. We know how to do so many things because he taught us. We also know how to work together because we all learned from the same person.

There was such a great rhythm between all of us as we talked things through, divided up the tasks and did the work. We trusted each other to make the right cuts, choose the right materials and hold the ladder steady no matter what–even when it was fully extended and nearly vertical.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

“You happy?” was always my Dad’s line when he and I were working together. That meant, “Is your end good? Can I nail/screw/glue/attach mine now?”

A short while into the work, my cousin at the top of the ladder called to the guy at the bottom, “You happy?”

Hearing that, I was definitely happy.

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Family photo shoot at the farm

Family photo in front of the barn
There’s a very special project at the farm that I have wanted to do for years. A family photo shoot.

Aside from our wedding, Matt and I don’t have any professional photos. Since moving to the farm, I’ve wanted to have a photographer come here to this place that’s so special to us.

With the addition of Ellie, my desire for photos only increased. So for my birthday in September, I reached out to a local photographer and booked a shoot.

Matt and Ellie

We kept things fairly simple. Just a half hour. Outside at the farm. Wearing our regular clothes (although this was Ellie’s first time in jeans and I did put on makeup).

Me and Ellie

Top on my wishlist was a photo of all of us–Ralph, Baxter, Ellie, Matt and me. But I wasn’t sure we could make it happen. Ralph was the wildcard because she’s occasionally not around. But as soon as the photographer arrived, Ralph came out of the barn, tossed her head and struck a pose–basically saying, “I’m ready for my close-up.”

Family photo in front of the barn

At one point the photographer suggested some shots of us sitting on the driveway. My reaction was to smile, and she said, “What? Is that weird?” And I said, “Having a long driveway was one of my requirements when we were looking for a farm. So having photos done on the driveway is actually perfect.”

For Bax though, the driveway photos were a bit weird. He sat slightly behind the photographer off to the side for awhile, and then he slowly moved closer and closer. Until, “This sitting on the driveway thing is weird, but if this is what we’re doing, okay.” (Aside. This sequence resulted in my favourite photos from the whole shoot. Matt’s facial expression is so natural and so happy. Please ignore my awkward, not at all natural, attempt to lay my head on his shoulder.)

Baxter photobombing our family photo shoot

Hiring a professional is so worth it. She understands lighting and setting and composition and equipment. It’s very different from getting a family member or friend with a “good camera” to come over and take some pictures. Plus, photographing a dog, cat, baby and two self-conscious adults is not an easy task.

(Our photographer was Ashley of One Love Storytelling Photography. Her storytelling approach resonated with me so much. You can check out her site to see wonderful photos of other beautiful families.)

Family photo shoot at the farm

These photos are something I know we will always treasure. It is so special to mark this time in our lives and have this record of all of us together.

Remembering

Ellie and I at the Remembrance Day ceremony

Before my Dad died, maybe even before I was pregnant with Ellie, I said to Matt one night how sad I was that if we ever had children they would never know their grandfather. My Dad’s Parkinson’s was progressing, and coupled with dementia he wasn’t himself anymore. Matt said, “There is more than one way to know someone.” My wise husband.

So I make sure to tell Ellie about her grandfather and teach her some of the things that my Dad taught me.

Today is an important day for our family and part of the tradition I want to pass on to Ellie. Remembrance Day.

This is the day when I think about my grandfather, another man that I want Ellie to know.

The annual Remembrance Day service at the legion in my hometown is something I shared with my Dad every year. It was different this year.

My Dad was not there in person.

But we went with Ellie. And we talk to her over the day about her grandfather and great grandfather. We will carry on the tradition with her.

I feel my Dad’s spirit every day. So he was there still. And so was Ellie.

What is taken and what is given

In the early days of this blog, my Dad was a regular presence. He showed up in photos and posts as we shared the various projects we were working on.

Matt, Dad and me tiling the basement bathroom

Over the years, his presence here has slowly dwindled as Parkinson’s Disease took more and more of his body and his mind.

A few weeks ago, Parkinson’s Disease took his life.

Way too soon.

We are mourning that he was taken from us. But we are also mourning everything that was taken from him. More time at the farm or the house he built with my Mom, helping my brother and sisters with their houses. Time with Ellie and his other grandchildren. Time with his garden, his lathe, his boat–all of the things and places and people that he loves.

Dad meeting Ellie for the first time

We grieve what has been taken. But we celebrate everything that he has given us.

A few years ago, I wrote about how I became a DIYer. I said, “When it comes to the renovation and home improvement side of my DIY personality, my biggest influence is my Dad.”

Working with my Dad and Grandpa

I see my Dad in so much of the farm.

When we first moved in, Dad was here every weekend, helping us put the basement back together. A contractor, he ran his own business and worked construction all week, and then he gave us his weekends, doing more.

Removing a window well

He supervised trades, leaving us notes to let us know how things went. He advised us, he supported us and he taught us.

Note from Dad

This note, left on the day we had our new well drilled, gives details on the well and pump and ends with “Drinks is on me. Love Dad.” He had filled the glasses outside with water from the new well.

He is the most selfless person I know and does everything for his family.

The major reason we felt ready to take on the farm and actually looked for a fixer-upper was that we knew Dad was there for us. He’d been with us through our first house and I’d worked many summers with him in his business.

Drilling post holes with an auger

He helped us to achieve this dream of having a farm and making it what we want. I feel him here, even as I miss working with him. Being at the farm gives me an amazing feeling of peace. I would not be here without him.

All my life, my Dad included me, taught me, gave me confidence and spent time with me.

My Dad took every chance to tell me how much he loves me, how proud he is of me, how happy he is to see who I have become. Especially as he neared the end of his life, he made sure we had no doubt how he feels about us.

I love the life that Matt and I have built together. I hope that we can give Ellie the love, guidance, work ethic, responsibility, kindness, strength and confidence that my Dad and Mom give me.

jump

Dad, I am so grateful for the life you have given me. Thank you. I love you so much.

We’ve been encouraging people to honour our Dad with a few suggestions that are in keeping with how he lived his life:

  • Get together with a friend or family member whom you haven’t seen in awhile

  • Donate blood at your next local blood donor clinic

  • Donate to Parkinson Canada or the Alzheimer Society of Canada

  • Help a child have a fun experience outdoors (take them yourself or donate to a children’s charity camp)

If you choose to do any of these things, it would mean a lot if you’d share it with me in the comments.

First Father’s Day

The moment Ellie was born, she let out a cry and the doctor placed her on my chest. Matt said, “It’s a girl.” And he was laughing. I was in an over-whelmed haze at that moment, but hearing that happiness, that emotion is something I will never forget.

So much joy that he had to laugh.

Matt and Ellie

A few hours later, our midwife asked for her name. I looked at Matt and he said her name for the first time. That act of him naming her is one of the best moments of my life.

Matt, Ellie and Baxter snuggling on the bed

We have some amazing examples of fathers in our lives. Men who are hard-working, kind, selfless and who do anything for their children.

These are qualities I have always seen in Matt, and they have reached another level as he has become a Dad.

Happy Father’s Day, from our family to yours.

Role model

Our nephew digging out rocks while Ellie sits in her stroller

When he first met Ellie, our oldest nephew was worried. He thought that we might not need his help anymore now that we had Ellie. She would work with us around the farm, or we wouldn’t be doing as many projects because we were busy with her.

We quickly clarified that we felt like we needed him more than ever. Ellie is a long way from being helpful and, yes, we are busy with her, but there is still lots we wanted to do.

Every time we saw him after that, he asked if we needed him to come to the farm. Finally, we set a date for him to come over and start the spring clean up, picking up branches that had fallen over the winter and piling them up to burn.

I set him up with the tractor, and he went to work. A month later he was back, digging out rocks, burning more brush and helping to pick up firewood.

Loading firewood into the tractor bucket

Over our six years at the farm, and especially since having Ellie, we have had lots of help from family and friends. We are extremely grateful that people are willing to give us their time and help make the farm what we envision.

Our nephew is 18 years old. I remember the first time I met him at the hospital the day he was born. It’s been so rewarding to watch him grow up, and I’m so proud of the responsible, caring, hard-working young man that he is now.

I hope that we can teach Ellie those same values and that she shares her big cousin’s enthusiasm for helping around the farm.

Our new addition

Ellie's birth announcement

Matt and I are very happy to introduce our daughter, Ellie, who joined our family on Feb. 23.

Ellie arrived one week before her due date and weighed 8 pounds even.

Ellie with pink tulips

Her full name is Elizabeth Audrey Julia. Elizabeth from my mother’s middle name and Audrey from Matt’s mother’s name.

We’ve been doing very well getting to know each other. Ellie is a good sleeper and eater so far, and we’re doing our best to keep meeting her needs.

Family picture

Baxter is maybe a little more watchful, but mostly he is his usual relaxed and lazy self. He chooses to interact with her every so often, sniffing or sharing his sunbeam or hanging out on the bed with us. He’s not bothered by her noises, except for the occasional moments when angry baby shows up. Mostly he ignores her and carries on as usual, which is exactly the response I was hoping for.

I’m continuing to write about the steps we took to prepare Bax for Ellie’s arrival on ThatMutt.com.

Ellie and Baxter on the bed

We’re all taking our time adjusting to our new family and enjoying life together.

It’s amazing to see our families come together in this little girl and think about what her future holds. The optimism and possibility that a baby brings are pretty special.

New year and new addition

Hello everyone. Happy 2018. We enjoyed a nice long, relaxing break (thanks for your patience with the silence on the blog).

I’m calling the break well-deserved because it turns out Santa brought his friend the Stork when he visited our house over the holidays.

Our little family of Matt, Ralph, Baxter and I is going to be welcoming a new addition early in March.

We're having a baby

As we start the new year, there’s obviously lots of news to share–the baby’s room, how Baxter’s getting ready to be a big brother (Ralph’s already got the big sister thing down), boy or girl–along with more updates from the farm.

While we’re counting down to baby’s arrival, I’m going to be decreasing my posting schedule to once a week (Sarah in Illinois will be continuing as a contributor, so every other week you’ll see two posts).

I love keeping track of the memories we’ve made since moving to the farm through the blog and sharing our farm adventures with all of you. There’s lots more to come, and I’m hoping to continue sharing our story once baby arrives.

Messages, signs and good news

Just about two weeks ago, Matt had an important check up for his eye tumor. We had had a month of anxiety leading up to this appointment. While his eye is healing very well, a biopsy had revealed the tumor had a mutation that meant it may spread to other parts of his body.

This was not at all the result we were hoping for and was quickly followed by a meeting with an oncologist and then appointments for an MRI, CT and blood work to see if the tumor had spread anywhere.

Two weeks ago we found out that all of his scans came back clean.

It’s hard to describe the feelings in that moment. Just as it’s hard to describe what we’ve been feeling ever since we received the biopsy results. This note I stuck in my planner was a reminder that we only need positivity in our lives.

There is no room for doubt, fear or guilt. Only good thoughts and love.

In times like this, all kinds of moments take on different meanings and I often feel like the universe is sending me messages.

We had left the hospital and been in the car for a few minutes, starting to make our way through the city traffic and back to the farm when at the same time we tuned in to the song that was playing on the radio.

“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright, bright sunshiney day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone. All of the bad feelings have disappeared. Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for. It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright, bright sunshiney day.”

Fortunately, traffic was moving very slowly because we were both in tears again.

Throughout the month while we were waiting for this appointment, there were other songs, Instagram posts, messages, blogs and emails that have come through at the right moment. Some of them have been scary.

A blog titled “On illness, loss and identity” showed up in my reader the morning of Matt’s appointment. After waking up well before the alarm, I was trying to fill time online. But there was no way I was reading that post. However, it kept appearing, even opening on my phone when we stopped for an errand on the way to the hospital.

Finally, I read it.

The second last paragraph said, “I suggest that you reject fear and insecurity as well as the structures we have put into place in our lives that seem powerful, but now only serve as iron cages of anxiety, stress and fear.”

Yup. That’s what I needed at that moment.

There have been lots of intentional messages too, of people actively connecting to support us. I admit that I’ve been surprised how much those mean to me. When someone says, “You’re in my thoughts, I’m praying for you, I’m thinking of you,” it’s not an empty platitude for us. We know we have a huge support network–even of people we don’t know very well, like some of you readers–who are pulling for us and wishing us well.

We now have a clean slate for the rest of the year. Matt will continue to go for scans for awhile yet, and I’m sure the fear will return. For now we’re enjoying looking ahead to the holidays and the new year in a way we haven’t been.

Thank you for all of your support. It truly does mean a lot.

Inspirational messages I want to remember instagram.com/p/Bb9sdDynPVj/, instagram.com/p/BXMJpRgBXvk/, Lisa’s email on results day, hearing “Heaven” after HR paperwork–“nothing can take you away from me”