Spilled Milk

The picture above was taken early this week.

Gallon smashing – my eleven year old calls it, apparently, is a lot funnier on YouTube than in reality.

I had just come home from a shopping trip/errand run…my three younger boys, who had come along with me, complained the entire drive.  My 10-year-old daughter had stayed at home, tired, after a night of throwing up. I had a migraine which had come on after yet another sleepless night. I drove into our garage, turned off the vehicle and turned back to my wild, crazy crew.

“Boys,” I said in a gentle but firm voice, “I want you to help me carry in the groceries before running off to play.”

And the miracle was, they did it! Without complaining, the older two boys exited the van, opened up the trunk and each grabbed an armful to haul in. I proceeded to get my youngest out of the van and clean up some garbage when I heard it: A thump, some yelling from one boy to another, and a heartbroken wail coming from the younger of the two helpers.

Before I even opened the door to our house I knew what had happened. Something had accidentally been dropped, probably from carelessness, and a big mess would await me inside.

I took a deep breath and went in to assess the damage.

A few years ago, I would’ve seen the full gallon of liquid, splattered everywhere, leaking underneath my permanent island and FREAKED OUT, probably sending every child to their room, guilty or not. I would’ve screamed, I would’ve yelled, I would’ve LOST IT.

Simply put, I would’ve looked only at the spilled milk.

But as I walked into my house, I barely saw the milk. Instead, I saw two big blue eyes brimming with tears. I saw my six year old brace himself for the reaction he expected. I saw his fear. And mercy gripped my heart. I couldn’t bring myself to get angry at him.

He had tried to carry two gallons at once, they had been too heavy for him to lift on the counter and one had slipped. I found myself kneeling before my son, comforting him and thanking him for doing his best to help.

I’m aware that I write a lot about how I’ve changed in a good way these past few years.  And I can point to many different things that may have been a factor, but the truth is, I simply began seeing the fruit of my authoritative-based parenting…and it wasn’t pretty.

First of all, of course, I noticed it in my children. My children seemed to no longer be able to speak a kind word to each other. They would yell at one another for making simple, honest mistakes.  They would harshly accuse each other of terrible things, without waiting to hear the full story. And I, in return, would try to discipline these behaviours out of them. However hard I tried, my discipline didn’t seem to be helping, in fact it seemed to be making things much, much worse.

In reality they were simply copying me, my pride, my overreaction to their mistakes.

I wasn’t a terrible parent, I was giving it my all and doing as best I could with the resources I had at the time.

If I could just be more consistent, I thought. Maybe if I was just a little more firm, maybe if I would be involved even more, maybe then these things would change.

Yet, the more involved I tried to be, the more frustrated I became until I came to the end of my rope in parenting and had to take a big step back to find out where I had possibly gone wrong.

And finally, after many months of reflection, reading, parenting courses and support groups, I came to an eye opening conclusion: My core beliefs in parenting were wrong.

They were wrong! They were causing my harsh responses. They were causing the lack of connection I felt with my children. They were causing the extreme ups and downs of each emotional outburst.

I believed that the stricter I was, the better behaved my children would be. I now realize that control CANNOT shape a heart the right way…only peaceful love does. 

There is much more to say about this, but I think I will leave it at that. I have much more to ponder today.

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Motherhood isn’t a Sprint, it’s a Marathon

In life, many things are a sprint.

In school it was always a race: who could get the highest grades? Who could be the fastest athlete? Who could be the student of the year? The most popular? The most likely to succeed?

In school, one could run their course, like a sprint. If they worked hard enough, studied harder, pushed a little bit more…if they had the strength and the speed, the drive, they could be the winner. And there was always only one winner. No one remembers the girl with the second highest grades.

Getting a job can have the same drive. Who can be at the top of the pyramid? Who can be the supervisor? The manager? The Boss. The one who leads them all? Only one person can be CEO…do you have what it takes?

And then comes Motherhood. We read all the books – certainly we will be the best parent EVER. Certainly we will stick out from the rest. And we quite literally waddle up to the starting line, expecting that this race will be like all the others.

And for some of us it starts of very much the same. We have all our ducks our in a row. The house is prepared. The nursery is finished. The work schedule is cleared for a year. The baby falls into our social schedule nicely. Check.

When our baby sleeps through the night first. Our house stays cleaner than those around us, we lift our heads a little higher. Other Mom’s fall behind and we scoff, because they obviously don’t know the secret to this race. Then comes along the second baby, wait, and what?!? A third! And slowly we begin to say, “Hey this race is no longer fair!! Of course THAT lady is winning, she only has one tiny newborn, who contendedly lays strapped to her mothers chest. Of course she looks more put together. Of course her house is cleaner!”

But still, it bothers you and you try to pick up speed. To keep up to who you once were. Except the problem is that there are three little ones crying around your knees. They’re too tired. The baby is hungry and needs a diaper change. The toddler is getting blisters on their tiny feet. The four year old just want you to read them a story.

And you scream: “NOT NOW!! Can’t you see? I have a race to win!!”

Their sorrowful cries are met with impatience: “Hurry up! Get your shoes back on! We had to keep up!”

Running at this speed, that once felt normal for life, is now downright impossible. And you wonder: Where did I go wrong?

What is wrong with me?

Why can’t I keep up?

You think to yourself: “Obviously, I just need a better stroller. I’ll get the two seater. Maybe a better set of runners for the kid. Maybe an iPad for the bored one.” So you get some new gear. And start running again. And it works!! NOW we’re talking!

Looking ahead, your jaw drops. An obstacle course?!? Who put that there? Obviously your new stroller can’t go around THAT! You contemplate leaving the kids behind, after all, if someone else could run with them and take care of them for you, the kiddos could catch up to you later!

You’ll never win at this pace!

But then you see their tiny, tear streaked faces and you stop. Because something in your heart cries out: They just need YOU!

So you pick them up, now carrying two in your arms. Wow, this is hard. The four year old trips and begins to cry. And you slam to the ground, discouraged and downcast.

It’s no use. You can not win this race.

Weeping in despair you sit in the dust, but then, what happens next amazes you. The four year old crawls on to your lap and gently pats your face. Then he hands you the book he’s been begging you to read. You look at him for the first time, and his eyes shine back. And you truly look at the others. They stretch out their hands to you.

On the ground suddenly things look different and you see much further ahead. You see that the woman who was in first place has fainted and lies motionless from exhaustion. And that Mother you passed at the beginning of the race, she slowly walks up to you, now caught up, and gives you a knowing smile.

It was never a sprint, you whisper to yourself watching with pity the others who don’t yet realize this. For their children all have the same sad eyes. They have the same yearning look: Please Mom, just stop!

This wasn’t sprint. It was a marathon. And it wasn’t about being first, at all. It was about sticking together, through it all. It was about taking breaks and getting back up to go a few steps more. It was about stopping to admire the beauty around you. It was about reading that book, over and over again.

You begin to enjoy this race, this Motherhood thing, but then you look up and you see the finish line approaching. The kids are now older, and they begin to race towards it at an alarming speed. You cry out: “Wait!!! Slow down! It’s not a rush!” But all too soon they cross that finish line. Tears stream, because it took much longer than you had first pictured, but, oh, it all went by too soon.

The sweat, the pain, the frustration and exhaustion is forgotten. You smile and let them go to begin their own races. If only, you think with a sad smile, you had know this from the very beginning: Motherhood isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Don’t Forget the Good

I mentioned a few posts back that I’ve been sifting through old journal entries. A lot of the entries focus on my frustrations, my failures, my kids failures. But then there was one, a complete gem, that made me vow to start keeping track of the good as well. This entry was so touching that it had me crying and smiling all at once:

Date: Aug 16, 2012

Yesterday my children put me to shame. I heard of an orphanage being built in Ethiopia that would house abandoned babies. It is already being built in faith that the needed funds will come in. But until the house is completed they are by law unable to take in any of the babies that are left in the wilderness to die. The government has strict rules on this so they need the money desperately – lives are at stake. Innocent lives. I had already had it in my mind to give $500, which is already $200 more than we usually give every month. As I wrote out a check, my eldest son, Isaiah, asked me what it was for. I told him the story of these babies and he ran to his room to get his piggy bank. He pulls out EVERY bill, toonie and loonie, only keeping a few cents for himself. It came to $75 – his entire life savings. Then, my next child (Bella) saw this and pulled out her piggy bank and the next child (Jonas), giving over half of their own money. Together, out of their own will, they gave all the money they have been saving from their birthdays, Christmas’ and other earnings. It came to $105. And here I am sitting on a big savings account. God, bless the tender, giving hearts of my children! It will take them years to save this money again! Isaiah is only 6, Bella 4, and Jonas 3…and already they are being generous for you. I wrote out a new check to cover their balance and have it in my mind to secretly put their money into the bank for them. Thank you for kids, who continue to teach me lessons that completely amaze me.

Often I just see the things that need to be changed in my kids lives, and quite honestly, the lists of behaviours and irresponsibilities they have completely overwhelm me. But then, I read this and step back to actually see my children through the Father’s eyes. And the truth overwhelms me: In many ways they are FAR more sweet, pure, forgiving, compassionate and gentle than I am. And I am instructing them??

I shared this journal entry with them instead of devotions one morning last week, weeping and asking for forgiveness. For too often focusing on the bad. For too often overlooking the good. When they are GOOD kids. They are often sweet and unselfish, and I often feel the opposite about them because I get stuck on teaching what needs improvement, but I forget that the most important thing in a teacher is the ability to see the good in their students and call it out. In doing this, we don’t try to make our children become something they aren’t, rather they begin to see who they are and flourish into a mature version of that. When I am told I am good at something, it pushes me to try even harder, to learn even more. But when I am told I’m terrible, or a failure, it makes me want to give up and not try at all. Teaching my children, has taught me this in a very sobering way.

I think God has a sense of humour, because I see myself as their teacher, but quite often they are mine. 

Highs, Lows and Frozen Toes

Ahhh February… the month that always goes by the fastest but feels the longest. This month was a crazy one in our homeschooling family of seven. Commence photo journal!

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On the upside, we’ve had many pleasant days: quiet afternoons reading books, random coffee times with our wonderful neighbors, family days building extravagant snow forts (wood stove included) and playing “to bean to bean” with the kiddos (our youngests made up version of Bonanza), brunch outings with great friends, skating with Emerson for the very first time, movie nights, and a last minute surprise date that brought joy to my heart!

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Homeschool has relaxed quite a bit from our push in fall. We are on schedule and lazy about our days. My tight grip on what “needs” to get done has lightened. The complaints of the kids are met with grace and a lightened load. School often looks goofy and unprofessional, like this:

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We have also spent many extra hours in front of screens, which I plan to put an end to by the end of the month! (But they are so cute, huddled together, wasting all sorts of precious time…hey at least there’s no fighting!!)

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And another highlight, my BABY turned 4!!! Where has the time gone?!? I still remember having 2 in diapers while trying to homeschool and deal with a VERY demanding toddler! Now those sleepless nights and physically draining days are over!! But oh, I sometimes miss having a baby in the house!

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On the difficult side, we dealt with sickness (one kid had the flu and another had a intense case of food poisoning, which thankfully, no one else was affected by) two terrible migraines which lasted for days, a lot of boredom and kids out of sorts, terribly cold days, struggles with a dear friend, and just all around sadness for disappointments that have happened in the last few years.

There has been ALOT of time spent this month figuring out how to navigate through this unfamiliar situation we are in. This, of course, brought about a lot of self reflection, a lot of prayer and flipping through old, long forgotten journals.

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There is so much treasure there, in reading back about how God has worked in the past! There are so many trials that God brings about in our lives to shape us, so many people who come in and out of our lives at just the right time in different seasons, and looking back, EVERYTHING has God’s finger print all over it!

Its also quite humorous to me that I have a certain picture of who I am and who I used to be, and I often look back with fondness on those early years of motherhood and marriage, thinking that everything was easier, that I was probably a much better person back then.

And then I actually go and read in my journal about such times and the funny thing is I am shocked to read about the terrible mistakes I made…and, how yes, God is changing me after all! It’s just so slow a process, that I forget who I was a decade ago. A person who struggled intensely with anger and lying, with an unfaithful heart, with gossip, with self righteousness, with immaturity and outbursts. And I can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief because God is in the business of shaping my heart. God is in fact, through the fights, the tears and the struggles, shaping all of us. Whether it’s letting go of my control, or whether it’s encouraging gentleness and patience with each other.

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Examples of this? Emerson wanted to help make his cupcake toppers, and this year I actually let him!!! Previously, I would’ve absolutely not even thought of allowing such thing, because I am the cake decorator. Bella wanted to do something in Language Arts other than going over the difference between nouns, pronouns, verbs and proverbs… which by this point in the year is getting dreadfully boring, so we simply shut the books and allowed room for creativity. She decided to make a horse encyclopedia. Perfect. Art, ELA, copywork and handwriting practice all done in one project that she loves. Jonas followed suit and made a cheetah encyclopedia.

I’m learning what matters, and what doesn’t. It hasn’t been easy, but the kids can be kids, without needing to feel anxious when they are less than perfect. They are free to live KNOWING that they are loved, flaws and all.

This February I have also been a part of a parenting course which is another step in shaping the way I view children and respond to them. And oh, if I could start Motherhood all over, knowing what I know now! How I regret how harsh I was during my first three children’s early years! But even in this, there is grace…children are so forgiving.

So that was my past month.

It was stressful, it was joyful, it was hard, it was fulfilling, it is LIFE. And I’m praying every day, “Oh God, help me to slow down and enjoy it. Help me to not take this chaos for granted. Help me to remember to love deeply through it all.

 

 

 

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.

Welcome Here

I’ve noticed that recently more people are stopping by…it’s great to have you! I’m glad you’ve decided to join me.

If you’re looking for a flashy person or a celebrity type figure, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place!

I’m quite an ordinary person: a Christain stay at home mother of five precious kiddos, a wife to an amazing man, a homeschooler, a cake decorator, and a wanna be writer, who lives where winter lasts FAR too long 🙂

By now, many of you will have noticed that my blog isn’t consistently about anything in particular. It doesn’t have a set format, theme or topic. My blog actually came about after a dream I had one night about becoming a writer. This dream stuck in my heart long after I woke up and I realized it was a God-given desire; one that I would pursue as God opened doors for me.

This space is simply meant to be an encouragement for the Christian, but more than that, it was meant to be an honest picture of how life looks.

Many times, I post about the positives in life: Mothering, Christianity, Homeschooling, Things God is teaching me…but other times you’ll notice that I post vague and somewhat depressing pieces: poems and entries that reflect the dark situations and feelings I struggle with. My reason for this isn’t so that I can get my readers to feel sorry for me, or even so that I can “vent”.

It’s because my desire in blogging is to be raw and honest, authentic and real. You can think of it sort of like reading a modern day Psalm: you will get glimpses of my joy, happiness and worship of God, but also pictures of struggles, hardships and pain. Too often it’s tempting to just post the good things, and leave the bad stuff for my journal entries, but this just isn’t real. It gives the false picture that after becoming a Christain, everything is just “great”.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean we always walk through life showing others our good sides, rather we show people our true selves so that GOD gets the glory.

My prayer is everyone that visits this place will come to know that Christianity isn’t a neat picture of perfect people with put together lives, rather Christians are ordinary people, with sometimes messy lives.

The point is that whatever is going on in my life, whether good or bad, I will trust God. In my joys, I will praise him and in my hardships I will cling to him.

Either way we worship and trust him because we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes.

May you find this to be a safe place to be encouraged, to cry, to share, and above all, to gain a true perspective of how God works through ordinary, normal lives, like mine.

Welcome here 🙂

 

 

It’s Not Ok

Some days can be exhausting as a mother, believe me, I have five kids – I KNOW. And while many times I enjoy the energy and giggles (…ok more like shrieks and screams) in my house, sometimes it just WEARS on you. I know. I sometimes just want to sit in my room in silence and lock all the doors. I GET IT.

But the other day I had a conversation that literally caused me to choke back tears, not because I didn’t relate in some form to the mother, but because I realized at that moment how horribly mean us mothers can be.

Yesterday I was talking to another mom about how her Christmas Break had gone –  and I kid you not, she gave an exaggerated sigh, rolled her eyes and said in a loud voice, “My kids are driving me CRAZY!! They are SO annoying! I just can’t wait until I can give them back to the school to deal with! Like I love them, but I need them gone!”

Stunned at her boldness, I quietly managed out the words, “Oh, that’s too bad.” And looking at my shocked expression, she softened her tone and gave me a smile, “Oh it’s not THAT bad, but it will be nice to have them gone so I can sit in peace again.” And I nodded, regaining my composure and smiled back, “I understand.”

Truthfully though, that conversation has haunted me all day. It broke my heart. Because one thought plagues me…what if her child had overheard her?

What if any child had overheard her?

I can’t imagine the pain of overhearing my own mother say that about me. Luckliy, I grew up in a much different time, where mothers simply didn’t say such things about their children.

Now, that same day, my six-year-old son came back from his Sunday school class with a picture in his hand. On the paper he held there was a question: “What makes you happy?”

His response? “Mom and Dad”

The contrast of those two moments are forever burnt in my memory.

Mothers, it’s okay to have hard days. It’s okay to break down in tears. It’s okay to need space. It’s okay to leave the room. I TOTALLY understand.

But you know what’s not okay? Saying hurtful things about your child. PeriodEven if you’re joking around.

It is OUR JOB to pour out unconditional love on our undeserving littles, not the other way around. But more and more I see the roles being reversed and children loving their parents unconditionally, while their whiny parents complain about having to put up with them.

This is not okay.

I’m so far from perfect, it makes me want to cry. Often I have to go back to my kids and apologize for hurtful and careless things I’ve said…again and again and AGAIN.

But more and more our culture is getting callous to these mean hearted “authentic outbursts.”

Let’s not become callous to them. Let’s not find them funny. Please, let’s just not go there. Because under each tiny child is a soft, tender heart – yearning to be loved by YOU.

So watch your words carefully, Moms, for the sake of your little one who – when asked what makes them happy, responds ever so sweetly: “My mom.”