Deep Gratitude at Christmas

Woven forever into the fabric of our family’s story will be the Christmas eight years ago that we spent between the Pediatric ICU with Timothy and the Ronald Macdonald house in Hamilton. Gratitude doesn’t come close to describing what I feel as I look into the eyes of my healthy, well adjusted children eight years later.

For every child with uncertain health, for every caregiver in hospital or home, for every family remembering a sweet, courageous child no longer with them, I hold a prayer in my heart tonight.

Turning the Tables….

‘Mom – did you empty your lunch yet? Have any homework?’

This were the questions that greeted me upon return from my first day of classes as a Masters student. My children seemed to thoroughly enjoy this reversal of roles. After many years of wanting to study beyond the Bachelor of Theology I earned in my early 20’s and the certificate in Spiritual Direction that I completed in 2012, I have finally embarked on a part-time journey toward an MA in Theological Studies focusing on Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy through Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. By plugging away at it at about 3-4 courses per year, I should graduate about the time Emma is graduating from high school.

I have so much to be grateful for – finding the program that was right for me; the support of my Chris and my children; and the time to go deeply into the necessary classes one at a time. What do I plan to do with this degree, you are wondering? I’m not sure yet whether it will result in an enhancement of the spiritual care work I already do through Spiritual Direction, or if I will enter the world of Psychotherpy and Counselling. For right now, I don’t need to know any more than the deep satisfaction of fulfilling a long awaiting desire for further study.

Better go empty my lunch and start that homework!

Sisters take to the English countryside

After a long time of dreaming and planning a trip with my sister, we have arrived in the English countryside. Finding ourselves nestled in the East Sussex village of Kingston-near-Lewes in the guest house of Ian and Pippa Campbell (parents of a good friend of our family in Niagara) we are soaking up the local history, hiking the South Downs and enjoying this rare opportunity of being together, just the two of us.

The South Downs are not so much down as up…a stretch of chalk hills along the south of England. There is an ancient road from Roman times that climbs the Downs from the village to the South Downs Way, a 100 mile hiking trail and a view of the English Channel. From our guest house window the Downs crisscross in shades of green, fields separated by hedgerows and dotted with sheep and cattle. I am reminded of the daily presence of cattle in our lives growing up, the hours Heather and I spent in the spring time naming all the calves born on our ranch.

A short walk down a footpath takes us to a busy highway where we caught a bus to Lewes yesterday and Brighton today. Lewes boasts the ruins of an Norman castle (1068), the house of Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry the VIII and the ruins of a once large and famous Cluniac Priory. Walking the streets of the town is a tour through history with curious twists and turns at every corner and totally delightful.

Brighton is a completely different experience, being a vibrant and colourful city by the sea. Our time was spent touring the Pavilion, a decadent and rather outrageous seaside palace built by George the IV. If you know your royal history you will remember him as Prince Regent, the son of George III who filled in for him as King while he suffered from mental illness. There is little to admire of his memory as he racked up debts in his pursuit of pleasure, but his Pavilion, which is a bit ridiculous with its imitation of Indian and Chinese architecture and design though he had not visited either, is impressive and beautiful anyway. Unusually, it is owned by the city of Brighton and has been restored to its original state by many volunteers, including our host Ian Campbell.

We had to have fish and chips at the seaside in the shadow of the pier, full of its Niagara Falls-like flashing lights and fairgrounds, on the very stony shore. It was a beautiful day with full sun, though windy and Heather had hopes of taking a swim…she got her feet wet, I’ll give her that much. We then wound our way through the Laines poking in and out of shops. While we waited for the return bus we rested our weary feet in the gardens of the Pavilion. All in all….so much fun!

All photo credits go to Heather Hodgson.







Better late than never – 2014 year in review

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Mullet Koop clan!


Another year comes to a close with the celebration of Christmas, a break from school and the chance to reflect on the year that has been. We are grateful for family, wonderful friends and the challenges and joys of life. Here are some of our highlights:

Timothy: age 10 – With the closure of our small Jordan school and becoming a part of a larger school community in Vineland came new opportunities for Timothy, most notably the Lego Robotics Club. He continues to love building and designing with Lego and enjoys figuring out how things work.

Emma: age 12 – Softball and hockey remain two of Emma’s favourite things to do. It was fun to watch her play more competitively on the select softball team this past summer. She continues to be determined and dedicated to everything she does – which is aptly demonstrated in her mastery of the Rubiks Cube! A fun project this fall with Dad was to build a longboard from scratch, something they both excelled at.

Josiah: age 15 – Counting down the days until he is 16 and able to start driving, Josiah is enjoying learning the ins and outs of mechanics in auto shop class. While he is dreaming about buying a fixer-upper he keeps busy building a model railroad and helping on the farm.

Laura: A major shift for me this year has been adjusting to part time work as Spiritual Director for Quest, the church we started in 2007. I love serving our community in this way, and together with the farm bookkeeping, household administration and general family management my weeks and days are full. I have loved watching the kids grow and develop their interests, the holiday times we have had and spending time with my wonderful friends. When I am not working, I love to hike the Bruce Trail around our home.

Chris: It has been a busy two years of major farm projects and finally he has a chance to see the benefits of them. For the first time we have placed laying hens in our barn that we have raised from day-old chicks. It has been a steep learning curve but the results are that we now raise and care for laying hens in an ‘enriched, colony style’ housing system which is designed to encourage their natural behaviours and give them more room. As it is a fairly new system in Canada, Chris has hosted a lot of barn tours from farmers and others in the egg industry. So as not to be completely absorbed in the demands of farming, he continues to take the odd jazz piano lesson and, thanks to his new keyboard and headphones, can practice at all hours of the day or night without disturbing the rest of us.

Family highlights and observations: It seems, these days, that every corner of our house is being used and full of life, enthusiasm and the occasional opportunity for conflict transformation. As our occupations are both very intertwined with family life, it is often difficult to find the boundaries. The children all share in the work of the farm, and all of us relish the relationships and responsibilities in our faith community. A highlight this summer was spending a week on Beausoleil Island, part of Canada’s smallest national park – Georgian Bay Islands. We enjoyed being ‘unplugged’ together in a lovely rustic cabin, playing games, climbing on the marvellous rocks, and slowing down to notice nature unfold around us.

Another major adventure for us was bringing home a springerdoodle puppy. It must be said that Emma has been petitioning for a puppy for several years, and not just any puppy, but one we could have inside. For some in this farm family, the idea took considerable negotiating. We brought Jersey home at the beginning of summer and keep wondering how big he is going to get! It is a lot of work, but a lot of fun too.

As we look forward to the adventures of the year ahead, we give thanks for the friends and family near and far who continue to mean so much to us.

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Chris and I have just returned from a lovely, relaxing cruise vacation in the Caribbean. Yes, this is the second year in a row and the trend is growing on us. Prior to these two vacations, we have usually tried to take a weekend away together once a year or so and pretty close by. Often we would start with the idea of 3 or 4 nights, which would eventually get whittled down to 1 or 2. With some very busy years behind us and very little holiday time, choosing a week away completely unplugged – and warm! – has felt adventurous, not to mention luxurious. Some guilt leaving the kids behind? – definitely; twinges of reluctance in handing Chris’ parents our busy life? – yes. Pangs of conscience at such a luxury (while my adventurous aunt and uncle had just taken the bus to Mexico)? – indeed.

Guilt aside, and reassurances that the world would indeed go on even if we are miles away….we let the Caribbean sun warm us, the sea inspire us and very good food fill us.


Our ship stopped at three ports and it is always a question of how to spend those days. Do we join a cruise led excursion with the assurance that if we are late arriving back the ship will wait for us? Do we go off on our own and risk it? Can we avoid the tourist traps? Slightly discouraged by the barrage of gold and diamond shops at each port, we weren’t even sure we would get off the ship at the third stop, which was the Dutch and French island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. After a lazy morning and eventual disembarkation, we headed to the tourist information booth to see what our options were. When we explained that we wanted to see countryside, or something agricultural perhaps, the tour guide’s eyes lit up like he was glad to finally point someone in another direction – the centre of the island called Pic Paradis, just above a nature reserve. Perfect. One thing led to another, and before you knew it we were navigating the island in a rented jeep away from the crowded port.

We had so much fun! When we got to the peak, it was completely silent and the view was spectacular. Shortly we were joined by some hikers who told us that tourists never get to that part of the island, which was like a badge of honour for us.

Winding around the steep and narrow roads (or were they wide paths?) reminded me so much of our days in Korea when we would take off and explore the countryside for ourselves, or the time in Cambridge, England when we wandered into a church and ended up in the choir – I had forgotten how much joy that had given us! And of course our first ‘date’ way back in 1993 was a Sunday drive (on a Thursday afternoon). We are by no means extreme adventurers, but this rediscovery of the excitement of being almost lost and then finding the way after all was pure delight.

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Good hard work

In the ‘little house in the big woods’ of my childhood, there was an enormous wood burning stove that heated our house from the centre of our basement. Winter mornings were chilly before the stove was stoked afresh. My body still remembers the early morning wait in front of the stove for one side of me to warm before turning to warm the other. To keep this fire burning around the clock obviously required large amounts of fuel and inevitably the day would come when my parents would announce that the day’s activity would be traversing deep in the forest (an expanse that my southern Ontario children can not possibly fathom) to collect firewood for the year. A network of cutlines and trails would take us through the lease land that we ran cattle on, past the ‘spring’ (a favourite spot for moose to hang out) to a small clearing where we would begin our endeavour.

I remember complaining – a lot – about going. I remember complaining – a lot – about the effort required. Endured and ignored, my complaining eventually succumbed to the satisfaction of good hard team work.

This morning, the first day of Christmas holidays, Chris announced a similar venture for our children. There might have been a little complaining but I don’t believe it was a match for that of my childhood. Let’s be clear – this is a different experience. The ride to the forest is certainly not as long – a short walk. The forest, though the trees are taller and grander, it is but a sliver next to that endless northern Alberta woods. As I could hear the chainsaw from the house, it was by no means remote.

Walking over to see their progress, the sight of them working hard together, the smell of the freshly cut wood and their fresh rosy cheeks flooded me with gratitude and memory. Thanks mom and dad for pushing me through complaining to great memories!

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Busting Clutter

What do candy wrappers, lego pieces and dust bunnies have in common?

There may be others, but at the very least they can all be found in Tim’s bedroom, until last Saturday that is. Tim and I woke up with a mission – well, I woke up with a mission and was determined to get Tim on my side. So with promises of a medal if the task was accomplished, we set to work as a team to bust a serious accumulation of clutter.

Tim is a natural collector. As we excavated the room we discovered a natural history collection, a travel collection, antiquities of various origins, assortments of miniature trains, planes and automobiles, and a rather outstanding Lego stockpile. I believe that he may be destined to curate a large and engaging museum some day.

However, sometimes the line between collecting and hoarding is crossed, and once crossed is particularly difficult to find again. A parent with greater stamina than me would have redrawn the line a long time before now. I have chosen to turn a blind eye for quite some time partly because it is easier, and partly because I’m just so glad to have him here making a mess. During the long, long, painful days of his cancer treatment, his one satisfaction between so many things he could not control, was to keep things. Lots of things. Every plastic cover from a temperature probe, every syringe as a trophy after taking medication, every toy and trinket given to him as a prize for getting through another difficult procedure. We had bags and bags of these.

It is six years since the end of his treatment. If clutter in his room is the main side effect from those years, then frankly we can live with. But it seems like the right time to move on from that period in our lives. It was a big deal when he agreed to throw out packaging that no longer had any purpose. I’m very proud of him for sticking with it and busting the clutter to a clean and spacious room. I’m grateful for his curiosity, ingenuity and inventive nature that can always find a use for things I would rather trash. It’s time for us to find the line together of what to keep and what to let go of. In the mean time I hope we never let go of our gratitude for his health and healing.

Check out the before and after photos!



Starting to see some progress...

Starting to see some progress…

Getting closer....

Getting closer….



One of my favourite discoveries...

One of my favourite discoveries…



Proud Clutter Buster

Proud Clutter Buster

Taking time for the Sunset

This past week was our 19th anniversary, the same day that Chris’ grandparents, Jacob and Hilda Koop were married on 70 years ago (Koop family – correct me if I have the year wrong!). I always think of them – even though I never had the chance to meet Jacob (Opa). There is a lovely photo of Oma resting on the same front porch we enjoy with her gathering of wild daisies for the wedding. The privilege of farming that we enjoy is thanks to the hard work of many before us, including them.

When Chris and I were first married, we took Oma down to the local park along Lake Ontario to watch the sunset. She made a comment that they hadn’t taken much time to stop and watch sunsets and perhaps they should have. So this past weekend as we took our supper to the lake and watched the sunset, I thought of her, their hard work, and the true challenge it is in farming to make the time for the simple things.

Sunset at Charles Daley

Sunset at Charles Daley

Life as we live it

These are reflections from my brother and sister-in-law, currently living in the Philippines. The are insightful and thought provoking. I admire them for their ability to immerse themselves so quickly into another culture. Enjoy!

The little red boat

Here are a few word picture glimpses into our day to day lives.  We are cautious to put too many details about anyone we have met and built friendships with here, because of privacy reasons, not wanting to somehow disrespect or embarrass the people we meet and see every day.

That being said, it is difficult to accurately portray what really goes on in a day, without including the people.  So, we will walk you though a day, in a few “word pictures”.  Perhaps we will bring our camera on a few outings and take some more photos as well, but frankly, it is an awkward feeling to pull out a $500 camera (a skilled workers pay for 2 months) and take a photo of the 13 year old boy who walks past hauling huge sacs of charcoal out of the mountains.   So here you go.

-wake up to…

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