Money · Wisdom

A Matter of Money

For fourteen years, I looked away when I saw something I wanted, but didn’t need.

This wasn’t some extreme, religious practice to deny myself. Rather, it was something I have learned to practice early on in my adult life; something I realized very quickly would be the key to having enough: Contentment.

This morning I scrolled through google news (I really need to stop, ya know!) only to find that half of the articles were about – you guessed it – MONEY.

Our Government extending the CERB benefit.

Capitalism – should it be demolished?

The Current Debt of our Country.

Superstore Ending the $2/hr pay increase as COVID-19 risk subsides.

Home owners forced to sell their homes because they couldn’t pay their mortgages.

And you know what I find extremely funny? The comments! You would think from the statements that were made that the Canada we live in is a 3rd world country where people are starving and have no opportunity to work! And that homelessness is just a step away for the average person.

“Debt or not, people NEED this money! Just increase taxes on the rich!” was one comment I read.

“Have you ever tried to live off of a minimum wage income? IMPOSSIBLE!” another commenter stated.

“Company owners should NEVER make more than their employees, they’re the ones who actually do the WORK!” said another.

Now before I say another word about these comments, let me tell you my story.

I grew up in a sheltered, “bible belt” area in Manitoba, Canada. I was raised in a middle class, mennonite family who worked hard and spent wisely. But I made my own choices, and around the age of 17, I found myself pregnant, working at a minimum wage job (Dairy Queen) at the beginning of my grade 12 year. 

In my opinion, when one finds themselves a pregnant teen with no husband, she has two options: Selfishness or Selflessness. Basically I needed to decide: am I going to continue to make choices for myself and what’s best for me? Or will I think of my child and what’s best for him?

Long story short, I chose to think of the baby.

I married my boyfriend (A wise decision in my particular case because he is a GOOD, hardworking man… I’m aware that often this wouldn’t be the best route!) I quit high school one credit short so that I could work full time and get mat-leave. I chose to surround myself with wise people, leaving my party friends behind. And I looked the other way when I saw things that I couldn’t afford.

This became my path:

A 70s trailer with mice (and rats), instead of a brand new condo or home.

Hand-me down outfits and self-help wardrobes.

Second hand furniture. If it was free, even better. 

My “beauty” care was called soap and deodorant.

No cell phone. One vehicle (a used, $3,000 jeep… not a brand new lease!!)

No internet. And definitely no daily “Timmies”.

None of what my “millennial” generation deems essential.

And yet, these same people, who deem minimum wages “impossible”, don’t realize that it’s VERY possible.

START LOW. Period.

DON’T SPEND WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE.

You can not start off life like your “rich” or “middle-class” parents ended theirs!

Really!

They took their whole lives to get to the place where you ended off. Don’t assume that’s where you can start.

Slowly, as my husbands work experience grew, our one wage grew. My mat-leave ran out. His raise almost covered it. I took a correspondence course and graduated with no celebrations. No parties. Just a mailed in diploma. Very anti-climatic. But SO worth it!

I then stayed home and realized how much I could “earn” by NOT working: I shopped for deals, made meals from scratch, started a garden, made cakes to sell and babysat for a bit of extra cash. There were no daycare costs, no “take-out” bill because I was too busy to cook, no second cell phone bill, no high gas bill because I drove almost nowhere. And I calculated that our savings in doing this was almost as much we would’ve made if I went back to work.

I guess the point of my story – the point of me sharing, is to say that the Western Entitlement attitude HAS to stop, or our country will bankrupt itself.

Down the road, my husband got to go to a nine month college course. He got a much better paying job and later, had an incredible opportunity to buy into a small rural internet company. For a year, he was the only employee and worked day and night to keep the company growing. In time, he hired two more employees. They DID make less money than him, but they also never had to deal with angry customers, late night service support, or canceled events or outings because of emergency outages.

And speaking as a previous business owner, I have to say that many, many of them deserve ten times the pay their employees make.

You. Have. No. IDEA!

It sucks to own a company. I can’t speak for huge companies, but I watched my husband’s life basically drain out of him for the three years he worked to build up his small business. And when he got the chance to sell and become an employee again – you bet – he ran at the chance! Even when it meant losing some of the “benefits”.

So please, please people. Do not think that business owners are undeserving of a bigger check.

They’ve earned it. 

And to top it off, far too many Canadians, don’t even want to go back to work! They simply want to have a share in what they have not rightfully earned. Our government is paying able-bodied people money to stay home and watch Netflix! Why ever would they want to look for a job?

As the debates continue, I just cling to the hope that wisdom will prevail. Someone has to pay for the government handouts. Either our generation or the many future ones to come. Equality doesn’t mean everyone gets the same amount of cash. Equality means equal opportunities for everyone to get it.

This means that if you are unwilling to start low, your bank account will never grow. If you don’t put in the work to get an education, you will never be able to get a higher paying job. If you are a lazy employee, you don’t deserve the promotion that your colleague got. If you think you deserve a $90,000 a year salary, benefits, and the ability to choose your own hours, you better get your head checked, because it AIN’T gonna be handed to you! Those who are there, either worked hard to get there or their parents did.

Equal opportunities. Not equal “stuff.” And we do have equal opportunities for education, healthcare, jobs and life in Canada. But it does come at a cost: Hard work.

It was the hard work of previous generations who made our country what it was. Let’s not throw that away.

Education · Family · Homeschooling · public school

Homeschooling vs. Public School – from a Mom who Loves Both.

Autumn has come and gone and we’re already two full weeks into March! I have now had my all five of my children in school for a little more than six months. After 13 years of having non-stop chaos in my home, I used to wonder how these days would feel… No kids at home for half of the day. Only one around for the other half (he’s in kindergarten).

I had dreams of what this would look like.

Heavenly dreams of slow mornings, hot coffee, settling down with a good book in hand and a bowl of chocolate covered almonds in the other… Or maybe I would go on a run each morning.

Or strike off a few more books on my never-ending “to read” list.

I definitely thought I’d finish editing my book by now. And that it would be published already…

I had grand plans of organizing every single room in the house; touching up the worst of the nicked-up walls with a fresh coat of paint. Plus it was going to look clean all the time as there are no kiddos around to mess it up…am I right??

Even now I’m chuckling to myself because what was I even THINKING?!? Did I actually believe that the moment my kids got on that bus, time would just magically multiply for me? My ideas that moms with kids in public school must have nothing to do… yeah, those are quickly getting squashed.

If anything, this year has been a good reminder about the reasons I decided to homeschool in the first place.

So now that I’ve had a fair chunk of time with my kids in each, I want to give an honest look at homeschooling and public school. Hopefully, with taking a deeper look, the large wall that seems to hang between homeschoolers and those who go to public school will come down.

And we’ll realize how similar we really are. Our differences aren’t so bad either. My hope is that we begin to see that the “other side” isn’t crazy.

Or lazy.

Or bad for your kids.

One isn’t necessarily easier than the other. And honestly, both can be impossibly difficult but amazingly rewarding if done well.

Oh, and I almost forgotaren’t most Canadian’s going to be homeschoolers now for the next three weeks or more?

I had to chuckle to myself about this, because now all the people who have told me they could never homeschool… will actually get the opportunity to test that theory out. I’m willing to pay money, that at the end of the next three weeks, the children in their care will have learnt more under their intentional direction than in a public school setting. 

A Typical Homeschool Day… was not at all what my dream homeschool days looked like.

I had visions creating a curriculum a where science, social studies, ELA projects all worked hand in hand together. I also thought it would look more like the public school setting that I was raised in. And to some point I was able to achieve a bit of this. Don’t see what I mean?

To homeschool, erase much of what you know of public school. Set time schedules, hand raising for help, line ups, waiting for the kids that are ruining it for the rest of the class and subjects that follow a little bit of everything. Only to repeat and go more in depth year after year.

Homeschooling is actually much more freeing then this. And I found that it took considerably less time. Teaching my kids took a third of the time then a school day actually takes. This means I was able to pack more information into my kids before lunch then public school is able to do all day. This isn’t bragging about my teaching abilities, this is just honestly how much faster teaching goes with students who get real discipline when they misbehave and who would rather spend the afternoon playing outside with siblings, then sitting at the table alone working on unfinished assignments.

The most difficult thing was that I actually had to work out character clashes between me and the kids. This not only helped shape them and gave them opportunity to find their place in our family, it sharpened me as well! Impatience and outbursts of anger had to be worked on. It could no longer stay tucked safely away.

What I mean is this… when you only have to “behave” for a couple hours each evening it’s easy to never deal with character issues at all, rather go from “break” to “break”, merely surviving in between. But when you’re always with five children who are testing your patience ALL day long, you actually have to come up with a solution in order to function well.

Pros of homeschooling:

-Students learn at their own pace

-Less distractions

-More one on one teaching

-Flexible Hours

-Flexible curriculum

-Less wasted time

-Closer family connections

-Better values being taught

-Limited exposure to negative influences

-More affordable (You bet, more affordable! At least, it is for having five kids! Even when I spend $500 a year on curriculum, it saves me unnecessary school supplies, indoor/outdoor shoes, School fees, instruments, field trips, mandatory gift exchanges, teacher gifts, lunches, book fairs, etc). Public school is expensive!

Cons of homeschooling:

-Negative sigma- feeling isolated or discouraged from other friends and/or family members

-Lack of support

-Extra sensitive kids with uncontrolled outbursts (Which can also be a positive thing, when children are taught to properly express their emotions.)

-Some children struggle to respect other authority

-Narrow perspective

-Lack of Independence or ability to solve relational problems on their own.

-Difficulty with clashing personalities

-Very little down time or quiet moments

-Bored children

**Notice what ISN’T on this list? Socialization. Quite simply, this is a NON issue. In fact, in this day and age I would argue that most homeschoolers are more socialized than public schoolers. They are able to talk with a variety of ages… (adults, peers AND younger children) most of them aren’t glued to their personal devices, unlike most public school children. Especially those with siblings and support groups, in my opinion are FAR ahead socially. The real argument is do they “fit in”? And my response to that would be… do you want them to? Do you want them to gossip? Show disrespect to teachers? Mock those who are weaker than them? Look up inappropriate YouTube videos?

No, in this sense, my kids do not fit in. And I’m 100% happy with that.

A Typical Public School Day:

So let me just clarify a few things:

– There are no leisurely mornings… I run around like a crazy woman making sure everyone has clean clothes, lunches packed, homework done, books to return for library, gym clothes for class, flute or trumpet for band, clean shoes, washed faces, clipped finger nails, breakfast eaten, and on and on and ON!! My neighbours can probably hear me yelling through the walls, “HURRY UP! YOU’RE GOING TO MISS THE BUS!!”

– There is no extra time….After the kids are gone it looks like all my possessions were thrown into a topless blender and vomited all over the house.

– My days are more chaotic than ever.

So yes, you probably understand the chaos in the mornings and the homework/ extra curricular schedules in the evenings. But what do Mom’s really do between those 7 hours from 9-4pm. That’s a lot of time!!!

First I clean up. Dishes, lunch meats still sitting on the table, breakfast items, socks thrown around on the ground in a panic. Forgotten papers for me to sign.

An hour or two later, the house is finally tidy (not clean, tidy, there’s a HUGE difference).

Then the phone begins to ring…

“Mrs. Bergen, I have your son here in the office with chest pains..”

“Mrs. Bergen, your boy really injured his foot today at recesss…”

“Mom I forgot my…” click.

It is now 10:30 and I have approximately 1 hour left before my youngest son comes home on the kindergarten bus. And yes it’s only one kid, but can we just acknowledge that one child is often harder than having five??? I am his only entertainer ALL afternoon!!

Anyways usually, it’s halfway through the morning before I can even start my “to do” list.

Where is this “Glorious Freedom” I was told about? I have come to realize, it is there. I really just have to stop and notice it.

It’s in the peaceful silence as I work and clean.

It’s in the mornings I decide to push off the cleaning and go for a run.

It’s in the cup of coffee I drank that stayed hot.

It’s in the muffin I did not have to share.

There is a difference to being alone, and it is most refreshing!

I established early on that if I was staying at home while my kids were in school I would not waste my time. The temptation for moms to “Netflix binge” is all too real. To safeguard myself, I established firm rules for the days I do find myself with extra time:

1) I do not watch Netflix while my kids are at school and my husband is at work. I do not turn on the T.V. Period. I do not spend time on social media while they are at school. (WordPress is the only social media that I’m currently on). Wasting time on my phone or other devices would be incredibly unfair to my family.

2) Only one social outing a week while the family is at school/work. Again, how is it fair if my children are working all day and my husband is providing all day for our family and I am lounging around?

3) I get all the housework/cooking done while the family is away so that we can make the most of our family time together in the evenings. Yes I make most of our meals and lunch snacks from scratch. It’s healthier and it saves us A TON of money. The secret to living off of one income: Budget well and eat at home. Seriously.

4) The only shopping I do during the day is for necessities. Therefore, I do not waste time browsing stores for my enjoyment.

You may wonder, why all the rules? Quite simply, because our society sees stay at home moms as lazy, particularly once kids are in school. I know this can be true. But I also know, that if done well, stay at home moms are vital to the family unit and to society.

Who else has the time to volunteer in the school system and help struggling children learn to read?

Who else has the time to visit the sick, give meals to the weary or babysit for those who desperately need?

How about public schooling on the students side of things?

The first thing my kids noticed about public school was the noise. It was so loud and distracting! The kids were constantly interrupting the teacher and showing disrespect. My kids honestly felt terrible for the teacher and found it hard to work.

They did enjoy having weekly activities that we did not get to do at home (for instance: music class, phys ed, science labs, after school sports, track and field, etc.) I just simply could not fit all these things in for them, but the school system can!

They also enjoyed making new friendships, hearing new perspectives on life, having recess and lunch with kids their own age, being able to have friends their ages to relate to their struggles on a new level! This was all very wonderful to see!

I also appreciated that there were areas I never taught because I didn’t know how like French and art. Our kids have grown to love these subjects, and I’m so glad that they’ve had the opportunity to study them!

Pros of public school:

Consistent routine and schedule

-Close friendships

-Unique opportunities

-A larger worldview/different perspective

-Space away from parents (Yes I listed this as a good thing! There are some homeschooled children who are smothered by their parents in an unhealthy way.) They do need space to make their own choices and freedom to grow!

-The variety of subjects/courses

-Independence

Cons of public school:

-Homework

-Less Free time

-Overly busy schedule

-Negative influences

-Costs and pressure to do more outings

-Distractions and noise

-Disrespect to teachers

-Lack of individuality in teaching that is often needed for students, especially ones with minor learning disabilities (Although to be fair I think the school system has improved tons in the last few years in this area).

-Lack of supervision

So there you have it! I know I’ve missed some of the pros and cons and there’s so much more I could write. But this is a starting point to better understanding both sides. I’ve learned to appreciate both public/private school and homeschool and I’m so thankful that I live in a country that allows me to choose!

Canada · Vulnerability

A Fragile World

Coronavirus. I don’t even need to blog about it, because everyone else has.

Schools are shut down for three weeks.

Sport events are too.

Church is cancelled.

Lineups pile outside of doors before the local grocery stores even open.

Isles are packed with people, void of food…

The world pretends to panic, I sit here and write. It seems surreal. I’m in a book; a doomsday movie.

I run… from the insanity. Breathe in the cool country air.

Real panic is still low, I believe.

Why? Because most people are smiling, letting others ahead in line. Shaking their heads in wonder while they make jokes. Texting pictures of line ups and empty shelves. Kindness is still abundant, violence and aggression are low. This tells me it’s not so bad. We are still a people who have plenty, we don’t know what it’s like to go with out. So far we haven’t seen the desperation of Venezuela.

Real fear is at bay.

I’ve succumbed to the pressure of preparing for something… not sure what. Other crazy shoppers emptying the shelves?? We have food to last us a while. We’re fine. I’m fine. I’m not worried.

Should I be worried?

I feel amused and calm.

Calm because it’s not the end. I think we all know it.

Amused because it’s like we’re all rehearsing for the real thing. We’re not so much afraid of the virus, of halting our lives. But we’re afraid of being helpless. Unprepared. So we prepare ourselves for something much bigger, something completely out of our control.

An illusion of control, in a very fragile world. The world hangs in a balance that we don’t even notice from day today. Movement of small, intricate parts:

Work and school.

The stock markets.

Our health.

Border crossings.

Truckers bringing in supplies.

Smallest changes that tip the scale.

We know this isn’t the end. Yet we live in a fragile world which holds on by a thread. What will be the final tug that pulls this civilization apart?

History doesn’t lie: no “kingdom” lasts forever. All eventually come to an end.

And I think instinctively we know this. So we hold on and rehearse just a little while longer. Each year becoming just a little more paranoid. Live as if death stalks behind us.

As I sit here and watch the desperate gain their illusion of power and control, I wonder, if the end finally does come… will we know it?

Or will we casually laugh at another false alarm?

Canada · winter

Snow Day… in Fall?!?

I took this photo 4 days ago…

It’s October after all! The day was a dream October day… warm, beautiful fall colours starting to show. I was out in my tank top picking the last of my garden carrots.

Today, this is that same view…

Oh and, school is cancelled.

Canada’s snow days are not like snow days in many other places of the world. We LIVE in snow half the year after all. In our school division, it has to be -45°C with windchill for our school to close. Roads have to be impassible to shut down buses. Usually this happens in January or February.

But it’s OCTOBER!! This type of thing is unheard of… like a heat wave in January. Which, by the way, I won’t complain about. I already think winter feels long when it snows in November. It usually lasts until May.

I’m sure hoping that this means that summer vacation is coming in February.

Or I’m moving. Somewhere without snow…

You know of any good places?

Canada · Justice · Politics

Will our Politicians Please Grow Up?

I rarely post about political matters. Partially because they frustrate me and my voice doesn’t particularly stand out in the crowd when it comes to the the way my country is run. Quite possibly, the actual reason I avoid the topic is that I really don’t know enough about politics to get into heated debates.

For that reason, other than voting, I usually keep a large distance from politics.

Like, Grand Canyon, large.

But I love my country.

So, once in a while I get really passionate about the deep flaws in our system.

Mainly, wondering how it is that we have created a system that elevates corruption, while the wise people among us are silenced. When will society finally get so tired of the false exteriors and games our politicians play, that we will once and for all address the superficialities behind campaigning in the west?

Federal Elections are coming up in Canada. Our elections are like child’s play when compared to the grand election campaigns that take place just south of our borders. But it’s still politics, mind you… and it’s as predictable as a cheesy hallmark movie.

Every single election inevitably leads to the media leaking out new and “shocking” information about the terrible past mistakes of our leaders.

It’s politics… time to vote…. out comes the the dirt that NO ONE CARES ABOUT on the candidates.

Every. Single. Time.

Now, I’m personally not a fan of our current Prime Minister. He seems incredibly self-focused, inexperienced, and has all of the qualities of a typical “yes man” most of us cringe at. And he spends our money like it’s going out of style.

Yet the “racist scandal” (if you could call it that), that littered my google news feed this past week, literally had me rolling my eyes.

Someone released a picture of Justin Trudeau at a dress up party, themed Arabian Nights from almost two decades ago with his face painted and the world goes ballistic.

Wait a minute, you’re telling me that he dressed up at a costume party? And now he’s racist? Am I missing something?

Here’s the gem, people, that has everyone’s knickers in a bunch:

In the middle is our beloved Prime Minister.

Face palm.

Yeah, I guess it would be bad taste...

And I would agree, entirely inappropriate….if it were taken at the legislative building in 2019.

Did you know that our society has changed since 2001?

This was not racist at the time, the same way, using the “R” word to describe those with special considerations was not wrong in the 1930s. And the same way that “Indian” was once an acceptable way of addressing our Indigenous people in Canada.

Are we really going to hold people to a standard 20 years from now that they didn’t even have at the time?

And, even otherwise, is the assumption that everyone is the same person today as they were 20 years prior something we really want to believe as a society? That people don’t change their views and grow up eventually?

Twenty years ago I was 11.

Please, no one bring up the lame jokes or the fashion that I had back in middle school (we called it junior high back then) and assume that I still dress and act that way.

I wore bugle boy jeans for crying out loud! And lip gloss! I parted my hair down the middle and had never heard of a hair straightener.

Thank GOODNESS times change…

So are we really assuming that Justin Trudeau hasn’t changed since then either?

As much as I dislike the guy, this was the most pathetic attempt on an attack of his character that I ever have seen.

Actually, it makes everyone in Canadian politics look really bad. And what makes things even worse is when they actually address this immature child-like bickering, as Leaders.

Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, issued a statement condemning the act.

Seriously?

Do you want to gain my respect Andrew Scheer? Then stand up for your opponent! Nothing reveals a wise and capable leader like someone who is willing to expose all those silly political games and refuse to play into their hands.

Because Justin Trudeau is a lot of things…but racist wasn’t on my list of insults towards him.

I have a list of about 30 things that I am more concerned about with our current leadership, than what he dressed up as in his 20s.

I care about the lack of funding when it comes to hospital staff and public school educational assistants.

I care about the waste of money in every area of government run services.

I care about the unborn who are being aborted up until full-term in Canada. There are no laws regulating abortion in Canada.

I care about the lack of security at our borders.

I care about the rate of unemployment and the unsustainable cost of our welfare system if it keeps rising.

I care about the environment that we are destroying.

I care about the lack of funding and space for those needing nursing homes.

And many other things!!

But you know what I don’t care about? Your silly political games.

No one cares about Justin Trudeau’s dress up party.

Grow up Politicians! Refuse to even address such trivial things. In fact, please begin to dismiss these lame-attacks entirely. You have far more important things to be doing – you have been given the reigns of leadership to an entire nation!

So please, would you stop playing games?

You have a country to run.

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.

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.