Fitness · Health · Running

Run

Lost in thoughts that swirl like the wind around me, the steady rhythm of my feet keeps the time. The world around moves slowly, as if I’m in some different place entirely – a world far different from mine.

Golden fields stretch out far as the eye can see. Chaos fades into peaceful breaths, left alone to my thoughts and steps. Sometimes in silence, sometimes singing with each gasping breath. Sometimes yelling to the dog because she’s off in the field, nowhere near my side.

Beside me, my dog comes alive. It’s the favourite part of her day. Just us, going nowhere for no reason. When does that happen?

Most days, just before evening.

The sun begins to set.

The stifling heat of summer gives way to the cool of the fall. Leaves turn warm colors as the air grows colder each day. Red, brown, yellow and orange. The perfect skyline bouquet.

Run.

As my breaths become sharper, and my knees begin to ache, I change the tempo and taper my speed. The rhythm is slower, but perfectly in tune with the world around me which is also preparing for rest. My favourite shoes begin to rub and pinch in the all wrong places. The skin beneath my arm feels tender. A sword pierces my side.

But I do not stop.

Perseverance is par for the course. Runners know persistence, they are tenacious and among the stubborn on this Earth.

Because what would we do without this?

Trade real beauty and peace for a screen? Trade true emotional rest for a sitcom or show, that wearies the mind and troubles the soul? Or rush from one event to the next…still running, but without taking a breath. Or make wearisome conversation when all that you crave is stillness and to be alone?

No.

I run. To nowhere at all.

For the Joy. In the pain. Finding God. Shutting out hate. For the peace. For my health. This keeps me sane.

To remind myself that I’m still here, and I still matter.

Keep running.

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Family · Summer

Summer Adventures in a Family of Seven

Sometimes I really get a kick out of people’s reaction to how many kids we have. When I tell people that we have five kids, first I’m asked if I’m Catholic, which I am not.

The next question on the list is if I homeschool, which I do. And the look of sheer amazement that follows is amusing to me… as if I should be runner up for the next “Duggar Family TV series” or as if they expect us to break out into a Von Trapp family singsong.

Which I am thrilled about. (The Von Trapp family part). And believe me, we do break out into many songs but more often than not it is the latest trending YouTube kids music artist singing, “It’s a cat flushing the toilet” or “Hamster on a piano”…Not quite standing ovation worthy, although now that I’m picturing it, I can see us doing a twisted remake of the songs and filming our cat on the piano, or flushing a hamster down the toilet (Gasp! Did I actually dare type that?? Yes, yes I did. Hamsters are just the WORST and should not be considered pets. Shudder.)

Moving on.

We are not that picture perfect family. My boys will often leave the house with stained T-shirts and ripped jeans, if I can get them into their jeans that is… More often than not it’s sweatpants again (I hate that this has become a “trendy” teen thing! REALLY?!? SWEATPANTS of all things?!?)

My kids can also be crazy and loud but they are also sometimes really well behaved. They say inappropriate things at the dinner table, but they also can be remarkably mature. They fight like cats and dogs, yet, unlike a lot of siblings these days, really do enjoy being together.

This summer is a unique one for me. Until now every autumn that follows has really been no different from the summer. My kids stay home for schooling and other than my mornings being much busier while teaching, my life doesn’t really change in the fall. However, this year my children will all be in public school come fall. And knowing this, has changed summer for me.

My mind is on the fact that summers will be the only full days that I have with all my children from now on. And I only have five more summers until Isaiah, my oldest, hits 18. That brings me to a place where I want to make the most of these days: Slowing down, being with them, doing the things we love. With this being our goal for the summer, we bought a larger above ground pool. Here I’ve found we have been able to spend many hours being together and enjoying our time together. Everyone likes swimming! Suddenly our five-year-old and 13-year-old have something in common! Put a trampoline next to it (safety first over here 😁) and it becomes a hit for teenagers to hang out.

Next we planned a couple of camping trips. We just finished the first one and now I’m dreading the second! Really. It wasn’t a great experience. That’s an understatement. It was quite literally the worst camping weekend of my life. And I’ve had a lot of bad camping experiences!!

The Storm of the century came through and we ended up spending WAAAY to much time in a little camper, which was cute for sleeping space, but for hanging out was just a little much for me…

Soooo ten hours of Bingo and watching spongebob square pants later:

Not to mention we lost our seven-year-old on the beach for nearly 10 minutes in one of the most terrifying moments of my life. Suddenly I had looked up to count my kids for the fiftieth time and noticed he was missing from where I had seen him last. Scanning the beach, I didn’t see his bright yellow shirt that we dressed him in and so I ran to the bathrooms by the beach thinking that for sure he had gone there and forgotten to tell me. I checked every stall, calling his name, before I started to panic. One lady noticed me and also started calling his name. My husband ran back to the campsite to check there and I began asking people on the beach if they had seen my boy.

No one had seen him.

At this point I was nearly hysterical. His bike was still at the beach as were his sandals so I figured he wouldn’t have gone anywhere else and I already had a group of people on the beach looking for him/calling his name. He was nowhere to be found. I finally began searching the water where I had last seen him, before my friend found him in the washrooms way back at our campsite 😱

He had simply forgotten that there were bathrooms closer to the beach and figured that he wouldn’t make it to the bathroom if he stopped to tell us where he was going. Why he left his shoes and bike behind is still a mystery to me, as it would’ve taken him for longer to run barefoot all the way…

So in all, I have decided that I’m possibly never going camping again unless all my kids have built in tracking devices that beep when they get too far away from me.

Speaking of which we also have swimming lessons coming up in a couple weeks… Drowning is one of those things that absolutely terrifies me, and I think it is so important that kids learn to swim well!

Another thing I’ve also decided to venture in this summer is to try new things when it comes to baking. There are certain things that I avoid making because the’ve never turned out for me. Pastries are one of those things…mainly pies. In the past when I’ve tried making pies it’s always been a disaster. The crust is crumbly and ugly and the pie ends up being too runny. Finally this week I perfected the pie (Made with hand picked berries from when we went camping).

The Perfected Pie:

(Don’t worry, I will be baking the other two as well, but they look so much prettier before coming out of the oven.) They were SO good! I will definitely be making more!

I also want to be more hospitable and so I’m trying to have one family down each week for a meal. This is one thing our generation is losing, the art of hosting and I feel like it’s such an important thing to keep doing! What better way to get to know people (and for them to get to know me) than to I have them in your home where they can see the real you? We like to meet places these days, to keep the mess out of our homes and make things “easier” but I really do feel like we are missing out on so much by doing things this way!

Finally I’ve been trying to keep up with my running a couple times a week and also my Spanish. There’s a little three-year-old girl at church that I talk to in Spanish occasionally. Last week I tried to comment on something and she giggled and said, “Dora??” I had to laugh so hard because I totally picked up that phrase from the show and she caught me 😂😂

Yes I speak Dora Spanish.

I’ve also been really enjoying the view from my front veranda. The farmer across the field decided to plant canola this year and every morning I get to look out on a beautiful sea of yellow. The view is just breathtaking! There’s nowhere else I would rather be than here right now.

So that’s where I’m at! Enjoying life, taking it slow and one day at a time. And trying to keep five kiddos alive…

Let me know what your summer plans are!

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Beautiful March

I don’t know what it is about turning the calendar page and seeing that uplifting word “March” that lightens my heart so. Maybe it’s the promising thought that the worst of the winter winds, storms and temperature drops are over. As I’ve shared in the past, winter in Manitoba, Canada is no picnic. With windchill, temperatures where I live can drop as low as -50 degrees Celsius (That’s -58 Fahrenheit for my American readers)…This last February we spent almost a week in such weather and I don’t need fancy wording to describe what it feels like: It sucks. 

Kids get out of sorts, vehicles break, snowblowers break. My doors freeze shut and I literally have to blow dry the handles to thaw them. It’s just too cold. And I know I’m not the only one around here who asks the question, “Why do people LIVE here?!?”

But then, March! A glimmer of hope, the end is near! Spring is near. With it, longer and brighter days, sunshine, fresh cool air that doesn’t hurt to breathe, mounds of snow that day by day look just a little bit smaller. And yes, spring comes with its own troubles here… BUT after the dirty roads begin to dry, after the flooding ditches and after the loads upon loads of laundry from kids playing on the soggy, soaked grass and mud, after all this comes a beautiful and dreamy summer. Summer in Canada is wonderful! And every time it comes I thank God over and over for this country I call home. The skies are open and blue, the fields around my home stretch out for miles. It’s so warm and sunny that winter is but a distant memory. I forget the harsh reality that winter lasts half of the year; starting gently in November and December, freezing harshly in January and February, and slowly thawing from March until April.

I wonder, would I fully be able to appreciate summer if I never experienced the harsh, cold realities of winter? Would I love every minute of the sunshine if I hadn’t experienced the long days without it? Would all the warmth be taken for granted if I had never been without it?

Interesting to think about, that hard seasons of life make the good ones so much better. If I light a tea light in a sunny room, it goes unnoticed. But light that same candle in a room that is pitch black and the candle shines brightly. It reminds me that even bad things can serve a purpose in this world and that thought fills me with so much hope. Sickness makes health so much sweeter. Pain makes comfort all the greater. Going without, does bring about thankfulness for the things we have and it’s no secret that a thankful heart is a happy heart.

So, I guess (though I hate to admit it), even winter in Canada has it’s purposes.

 

 

 

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Don’t Blame a Selfish Generation on the School System (or the Government)

Sometimes a post or a comment can trigger a string of thoughts. Often I just ponder them throughout the day, but, once in a while – if I have the time to sit down and write – a new blog post is written. A few months ago, I noticed a paragraph that got posted a few times on my feed by different people and so even though I often skip long status updates, I ended up reading this one through many times. And each time I read it I thought, hmmm…it’s very interesting how whoever wrote this felt the need to both write off an entire generation of people and blame the government for making them that way.

Here’s the post:

R.I.P. Canada You are too soft. You raised the cost of living so high that both parents are always at work, rather than spending time with their children. You took authority out of schools. Parents were told ‘No you can’t discipline your kids’. Well, Canada You shall reap what you sow, and we have lost a percentage of next generation adults as the soft approach turned them into rude, selfish, disrespectful humans who have no respect for people, property or authority…

(Ok I deleted a big section of this long-winded rant, but I left the conclusion for you 😜)….

Things need to change! Copy & paste if you have the guts too!!!”

Now, I would agree with some of the thoughts behind the post, but today I’m not writing about politics or my concerns about our current government’s shortcomings. Today I want to address a FAR more important issue that’s damaging households and families in every background and social status across our Country.

Let me start off by saying this:

Fellow parents, it is not the governments fault or the school system’s fault if our children turn out to be selfish, disrespectful and rude. It’s OURS. If all our children are really turning out that bad, we just have to look in the mirror to see who’s really at fault.

I hear again and again that “both parents HAVE to work in order to survive these days” and I have to tell you, in the most respectful way possible, that this simply isn’t true!

I got pregnant as a teenager. I got married at 18. My husband was making only $24,000 a year when our first son was born. And you know what? We have been living off of one income for the past 12.5 years.

Was it easy? No. No it wasn’t.

What teenager wants to go from living in a wealthy home in a nice neighbourhood, to living in a mouse infested trailer in the trailer court? What woman (or man) wants to be stuck at home all day with a baby because there’s no money for a second vehicle? What teenage new mother wants to stop wearing makeup and buying new clothes because she can only afford the used ones? Or go without internet, satellite, or a smartphone (gasp!) and settle instead for a landline.

Not very many – I assure you. Not very many are willing. But don’t tell me it’s not possible! I’ve lived it.

But here’s the thing: my baby boy couldn’t care less whether he was laying on designer sheets, in a fancy house, with a well decorated nursery – or a plain white sheet, in a used crib, in a trailer.

All that mattered to him was that he was being loved and tenderly cared for.

Now don’t get me wrong….I’m NOT saying you need to homeschool or stay at home and live on one income to raise good children. But you do need time. And it’s not the governments fault that we haven’t made time for our kids.

It’s our own busy lives that do that.

If us parents would be really honest with ourselves, all that stuff we buy for “them” is really not for them at all!

It’s for us.

The fancy themed bedrooms with matching decor, the name brand outfits bought for that perfect photo shoot, the outrageous Pinterest birthday parties, with the perfectly decorated cakes (as I gulp…guilty over here 🙋🏼‍♀️) …all these things never were really for them in the first place. They were for us. To boost our egos. To make up for what we fear we lack. Social Media and Pinterest have only fueled this struggle for parents because deep down we want our kids to have the best childhood! We really do!

Yet, I look at so many children and do you know what I see? Emptiness. Sadness. Disconnectedness. The result of parents not giving them what they deeply wanted and needed all along.

Parents: All your children want is YOU! From day one. This is why the new fancy toy set you just bought for them remains in the corner a few days (or hours) later while they whine and cry at your feet…they didn’t really want it in the first place. They just want YOU!!

Twelve years have gone by. My husband went back to school for a college degree and got a job in a field he loves. Four more kids have been added to our home. My oldest boy is in grade 7 and has been in the public school system now for the past couple years. My husband is making a lot more and we are living in my dream home in the country. But we still are making “sacrifices” so that I can stay home. And somehow, looking at the relationship that we have with our kids, I no longer see them as sacrifices. I willingly give up a finished basement, a shiny new vehicle, or a perfectly manicured yard to finish raising my children well – to have them feel safe and loved and connected. To have time to teach them to work hard, to volunteer, to cook and clean.

And I don’t worry about the negative affect of the school systems policies, because I’ve done the hard work at home. No matter what happened at school, I know my boy can come home and talk about it with me, feeling safe and loved. It wasn’t up to the school to raise him.  It wasn’t up to his coaches to teach him respect, or up to his Sunday school teachers to teach him about God and morals. It was my job! And unfortunately not all parents understand this!

Parenting is a hard, draining, often uncertain and lifelong commitment. It’s a parents job to teach respect and morals. And in Canada we still have so many opportunities and freedoms to do so! You know the best way to change your country? It’s not simply changing the government. It’s raising the next generation to be confident, caring, compassionate, hardworking individuals who believe that their most important job in life isn’t the one that pays them to be there, but rather their responsibility to the lives around them.

You want to change Canada? Then do!

But don’t try to change it by copying and pasting some whiny rant against the government. Change it, one person at a time, by taking responsibility for what’s happening in your own home.

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Summer Prayer Challenge- Praying for Our Countries

Week 2- Thursday- True North Strong and Free

I love my country. 

When I go outside and feel the fresh air and see endless fields before my eyes, I am reminded how beautiful and clean Canada is. There’s SO much land untouched by civilization.

I love the diversity in Canada. I think it’s so neat that we have two national languages and I love hearing different languages spoken all around me. I rarely even notice differences in skin tone.

I love how it’s not weird to smile at a stranger and how when I bump into someone in a store, we both pause and say “sorry”. I love that I can worship God, speak freely and walk down the streets without fear. I love the different seasons: The way the colors change in the fall, the beauty of the first snowfall, the excitement when the long winter gives way to warmer, sunnier weather, the real appreciation for summer, because it only lasts a little while.

Also, poutine is kind of amazing…and it’s CANADIAN!!

I do sometimes fear for where were headed. It saddens me that many who are set against God seem to yell the loudest and get their voice heard in court rooms, in public school systems, in the legislative buildings. Things are changing. People are slowly seeming less friendly. Our eyes are on our phones. Tempers flare on the busy streets.

I think that in some way or another, we all love our countries. They’re different. They’re unique. They are HOME to us. We want the best for our people, our home lands.

Prayer Challenge:

-Thank God for your country. Spend time thinking of specific things to thank him for!

-Pray for your family members. Is there something difficult they are facing? Is there healing that needs to take place? Pray for each one, thanking God for his deep love for them.

-Pray for your own country: Confess to God the ways that it has pushed him out. Confess laws made against him. Ask God to bring your people back to him.

-Ask God to bless your country by opening up hearts to the gospel to prepare the way for many to come to know him.

-Pray for churches in your country to reach out in their communities, to make a positive difference around them.

-Pray for leaders to recognize the GOOD the churches are doing and to bless them.

– Pray for freedom of conscience. That our religious rights and freedoms would be protected, so we can continue to live peaceful lives, freely obeying and worshipping God without fear.

-Pray that it will remain (or become) free. That it will stay clean, beautiful and unpolluted. That it would be a safe place for the next generation to grow up.

-Pray for the leaders, that they would make wise choices to build up the country, to build unity within the people.

-Lastly pray that God’s will would be done in your country as it is in heaven.

As always, don’t limit yourself to my lists. If other thoughts come to mind. Pray!

On a personal note, I thought I’d share something really positive that God has been doing in my life through this. I don’t know who’s all reading these posts. I don’t know if you’re praying along or if your just curious and stopping by for the first time. I know I use lots of “churchy terms” or “Christianese” as some people call it. But I can honestly say that God is changing me. I feel it and I believe my kids feel it too. My mind has been more “present”. I am becoming aware of just how busy I have been most of my Mothering days and how negatively it affected my children. I am seeing things I haven’t noticed before.

Yesterday, one of my children made a huge mess. And I didn’t feel like dealing tenderly with him at that moment. But because of my prayers for him that morning, I saw the event in a new light. My eyes were opened to the SWEET, CARING HEART behind the act. He wasn’t just “making a mess”, he was trying his best to help. And God was pleased with him, because what he was doing was coming from a tender heart of trying to show love. Instead of getting angry, I was able to THANK him, hug him and appreciate him. Then I was gently able to show him a better way to do it next time.

This was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for when I started this challenge: New eyes to see what God sees.

Keep on praying. It’ll be worth it.

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A Long Cold Winter

What do you do when you’re shut inside for almost half of the year? What do you do with five kiddos who have been shut inside for months on end?

We are loosing our minds here in this household. I know I can’t be the only one out there, right?!?

I know there are many of you reading this who have no clue what I’m talking about. But let me explain: This year in Manitoba, Canada, it has been a very, very long, cold winter. I don’t remember winter to be like this, but yet…it feels familiar because at about this time every year, the reality begins to set in – winter where I live is SO long.

For those of you from warmer climates, let me give you a picture: Winter in Manitoba officially only starts at the end of December, but it snows much, much sooner. By the end of October we usually  have snow. Now, November and December are very manageable months – the first snowfall brings excitement! The children jump into their snow gear to play in the sparkling, white snow. My excitement builds too, even though I’m turning 30 this year. My favourite snowfalls are when it’s close to 0°C and the snow clumps together in big beautiful clumps which seem to fall in slow motion from the sky. And the anticipation for Christmas usually stifles out any complaints about the weather. This is the favourite time of the winter season, it makes me happy to live here, full of joy that I live in a place that has such extreme seasons. It usually cools off after it snows, but it still feels quite manageable, maybe -15°C (approximately 4°F).

But then Christmas ends. The tree is packed up and put away. The cheerful decor is taken down. Enter January. The days feel so dark, so long, yet daylight hours are short by around 5 o’clock the sun sets. Those who work longer than 8 hour shifts often drive to and from work in the dark.

And then…the cold starts setting in. The cold that just doesn’t seem to leave no matter how cozy your house, no matter how warm your bed. The temperature drops to -20°C, then to -30°C, on really bad days it hits -45°C or lower (that’s -49 in Fahrenheit). The fun of the Holidays are gone, and screen time rules get stretched just a little bit longer.

By the time February hits, the children have completely lost their minds! They take longer to get dressed for the North Pole, then they actually stay out playing. Even after 15-20 minutes the youngest comes in with frost bitten cheeks. But winter isn’t over yet and I remind myself it will be another month before the days begin to warm and another two or three months until the snow completely melts.

Sigh.

Ok, this calls for some creativity. Let me think…The kids are tired of their books (they’ve been reading a chapter book a day for the last two weeks.) The activity books have all been filled up (except for the colouring pages, because what boy really wants to color?) The puzzles have been done. We’ve used our screen time and then some.

Well, what now? I need to think of something before someone loses an eye over here!

Ah, then I begin to have ideas, they’re messy, but they might just do the trick! Bring out the paper, the glue and the crafting supplies. Bring out the newspaper and globs of paint. It’s time to have a contest. It’s time to become world famous artists who are designing their own art gallery. Paintings, sculptures, artwork of all kind is welcomed…

“No, Emerson, you may not paint the kitty.”

He glues candy to a paper, but not before sneaking as many as he can into his cheeks before I stop him. Why not? We need the extra fat out here in this climate. Everyone works cheerfully side by side for the rest of the afternoon.

I was really having a bad day – but looking around this room of sticky hands and happy faces, my home, here in Snowy Manitoba, feels a little bit warmer.

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.