Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Michelle, the $35 mistake

Something I rarely post about here at Books and Bairns is Jo's little sideline interest of raising and showing rabbits. When we realized that her interest in the veterinary sciences was not a passing fancy a few years back, dh and I began brainstorming ways to help her gain knowledge and be mentored in that area. We stumbled upon our local 4-H club and have been very, very pleased.

Rabbits are an exceedingly easy animal to care for--especially when space is at a premium. Jo's current rabbitry consists of three cages in our gameroom and one hutch in our tiny yard. Hopefully, in a few weeks we will have three hutches in our tiny yard and just one cage in our gameroom, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Rabbits are Jo's thing. They are not mine. While I have a passable knowledge of animal care learned through osmosis from my grandparents and their farm, I have no interest in keeping up a small herd of bunnies at this juncture of my life. I raise people, not rabbits. Heck, I can barely work up enough excitement to wash my beast of a dog at this point. Priorities, priorities.

At any rate, up until a week ago, Jo had only two rabbits--both Mini Rexes-- to call her own. She had attempted to breed her pair, only to be met with two bouts of disaster that left her with no kits. Not quite willing to give up, she started looking for another breed to tinker with while she waited to breed the Mini Rexes again after Fair.

During this same time, dh has been working with Jo to bring into being a feeding program that he has visions for in a tiny Haitian mountain village we work in through our nonprofit. This area has no workable farmland save small, rocky garden patches, and is 4 hours from the nearest markets. Even if food was more readily available for purchase, the cost ($15 US for a single chicken) would be prohibitive for these people. Rabbits--the ultimate breeders--seem like a good fit. Small, easily cared for and self-propagating. Together, Jo and her daddy have researched breeds, cages, uses for the fur, the poop, feeding options, heat resistance ... all the stuff that has to go into a well-executed plan.

These two elements came together two weeks ago when Jo announced that she had found the perfect breed: Creme d'argents. A meat rabbit that kindles large litters and is happy to live on scraps of grass and roots, these large critters are also fairly rare and show very well. A little tinkering with the breed to make it thrive in warmer weather and BINGO! We should have the ideal rabbit for Jo's showing purposes (the straight Creme d'argent) and Haiti (the slightly altered Cremes).

Fine, we said. Let's find some.

The internet searching we did proved one thing: these little rabbits are quite elusive in our area. If you want a Dutch, a Mini Rex or a Lop, you're in luck. But a Creme d'argent? No way. So we hit our local rabbit show (which happened to be that Sat.) and we found a breeder. One. This is a good sign, because it means that Jo will not go up against 75 Creme d'argent's on the show table--which has been the case with her Mini Rexes. Hard odds, those are.

We inspected the pair she had for sale and found them suitable. They were show quality--what we wanted--and $35 each. The ears were a bit long for standard, Jo said, but it was still a good place to start. She checked her account balance with us and saw that she could afford the rabbits. We went home, prayed over it, and called the next day to make the sale.

Jo and her daddy went to pick the new bunnies up last Saturday. They arrived home beaming. O.k., Jo was beaming. Dh looked slightly annoyed, but hey--the man had just driven quite a ways for some rabbits. Understandable. Jo ceremoniously unloaded her two new prizes, introducing us to the beautiful, fat bunnies she had named Michelle and Pascal. Into their new homes they went, where they helped themselves to the hay Jo had provided. After a short while, she couldn't fight the urge any longer and took Michelle out for her first cuddle.

It was then that my daughter realized ....

Michelle has a torn ear.

This is not good news. A torn ear, in rabbit show land, is a DQ--a disqualification. Michelle is, in other words, great for breeding purposes, but not for showing.

Jo was horrified. Already in love with this new rabbit, she started to cry.

And this is when my Momma Bear instinct kicked in. Every part of my heart wanted to jump up and call that breeder and let her know that I sure didn't appreciate my daughter getting a rabbit home and finding out that it was a DQ--especially when we had been very clear that these rabbits were for show purposes. I looked at my husband and saw that he wanted to do the exact same thing.

But we didn't.

Because just then, Jo looked up and said, "I was so worried about just getting them that I didn't even look at them when we got them today, Daddy. I should have inspected them. That's what you're supposed to do when you buy rabbits. I know that! I made a mistake."

I made a mistake.

Not: how are you going to fix this for me? Not: how come you didn't remind me? Not: I can't believe the breeder did this to me!

I made a mistake.

A while back, I read a book that a friend had recommended called "Raising Your Child For True Greatness." In it, the author talks about how we as a society so often rush in to right the wrongs in our children's worlds. We want the best of the best for them. We want them to come out on top. We want the fair shake. We want that playing field even, if not tilted ever-so-slightly in their direction. And this is a good thing. Parents are not meant to let their children be taken advantage of.

But where, in all of that, is the chance for a child to learn? To lean into the Lord? To lose gracefully? To sample the acquired taste that is perseverance? To grow in a knowledge of what you were meant to do? Life is not fair. People are not always looking out for you. And sometimes, you are going to go up against 75 other rabbits every bit as good as your own on that show table. And you will lose.

And that, my dear, is life. Imperfect, messy and bought and paid for by the blood of a Savior who asks so very little of us and gives us so very much. Not always in line with OUR plan, not always what WE want ... but always, always for HIS ultimate glory.

I was amazed that Jo so easily accepted the fact that she skipped an important part of her rabbit buying protocol. I was pleased by her ability to shake it off and say, "Next time, I'll make sure I check my animals out from head to toe!" And I was amazed by her instant realization that perhaps God has a plan in what looks to us like a $35 mistake.

"Who knows? Maybe I would have been so caught up in showing Michelle and Pascal that I wouldn't have worked as hard on the rabbits for Haiti. And those people need food a lot more than I need more ribbons."

Amen, Jo. Amen.


Sarah said...

Bravo, Jo! Kudos to all of you for your planning, research and giving your dc a chance to grow and learn on their own.

I say Michelle isn't a mistake at all. :)

Luke said...

Great post!


Mom Of Es said...

Thank you for sharing your heartwarming story! What a great lesson your dd has already learned.

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

What a *neat* story! (Especially as a momma who would love for her kiddo(s) to someday be interested in rabbits...)

So neat to see a "serious" mistake and realignment that is only $35!

A Momma in Waiting... said...

Stumbled upon your blog tonight and I'm glad I did. Awesome post and Amen!


Kindred Blessings said...

This situation just shows that you and C are doing a great job!

Woman in the Tent said...

Awesome post. Thank you for sharing.

BTW, I'm having a giveaway over at my place if you know anyone interested.

~ Angi :) said...

Ah. The BlameGame defeated once again ~ and by a young lady at that! Wow and Bravo!

Perhaps the 4-H Ribbon at the county fair should be reassigned to the Mom and Dad who invest well in their children's character.

No torn ear on that rabbit. No Sirree.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post! You were a very wise to let your daughter handle this herself! Thanks!

cabsplace said...

Hi there!
This is a great blog and this post really resonated with me. I'm not a homeschooling mom. Always wanted to be, but, well, it just didn't work out that way for me. Instead, I'm a single mom, four kids and I teach in the public schools. I guess I homeschool in the summer. :) I'm adding you to my teacher blog over at if that's okay with you. Homeschool families and parents would love this. Thanks and keep writing!

Sarah said...

$35 is very inexpensive for a lesson like that! You did beautifully in handling the situation, and I'm impressed at Jo's maturity in her response.

(MrsPianoMan from SL forums)