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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Last Day for Homeschool

Seven long years gone by,

But all too soon it was done.

Like a lifetime it passed,

Then just like that it was gone.

From cute little voices and singsongy rhymes,

To difficult writing ups and chemistry times.

There was no climax,

No warning,

No bell.

No clock chimes to warn the end of the spell.

It just came and went,

The same as the others.

This very last day.

No extra sentiment or tears.

Just rushing through work,

Learning through play.

The same as the others,

But altogether different,

This very last day.

Still, the mind reflects,

A tad of happiness, a tinge of regret.

A bittersweet memory, a promise not kept.

From now on moments together will be few,

My role half way done,

My job nowhere through.

Long days of sighing past,

Only to sigh looking back.

Wanting what is behind.

And knowing I don’t want it all.

That last day passed us by,

I’m glad it’s done,

yet,

I wish there were more.

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures and Other Stuff Parents Don’t Want to Talk About

Sometimes what we have to talk about, isn’t what we want to talk about.

I’m currently homeschooling my four youngest children and life is busy, frustrating, amazing and often chaotic.

Being their only teacher, I am constantly aware of the huge responsibility on my shoulders to teach them enough. I not only need to teach them academics, but social responsibility, manners, character and faith! That’s a heavy load! And it often overwhelms me!

What was once a challenge having one or two children to teach, has overtime become an impossible responsibility with five kids. But being convinced that this is the best way, I trudge wearily on, albeit, blindly at times.

This is part of my reason for taking a break from homeschooling next year. To re-establish my passion for doing my best to raise up these precious kids. They are the next generation; the future. However my decision to take a break from homeschooling wasn’t made lightly. My oldest son has been in public school for three years now and I’ve seen the tremendous pressures and temptations that come from public school life.

I realize now, that I have to prepare all my children for the first time they will view porn.

What?!? You may choke out. You’re preparing them to view it?

Yes. Unless your head is completely buried in the sand, you have to be willing to admit that it’s no longer a matter of if they will see it, but when.

“When” came sooner than I had hoped for my oldest child. But thankfully, before he formed a habit out of sneaking off and viewing the filth, God spoke to me gently and told me it was time to order this book:

To be clear, I do not believe in having a one time “birds and the bees” talk with children. These days, that just doesn’t cut it. Conversations need to be had regularly, in an age appropriate way with children from young on, for them to become comfortable enough to talk openly about these things. When I gave this to my older boy, it was followed by prayer and intentional conversation, making it a great tool for us. Again, these books are not meant to replace actual heart-to-heart discussions!! They are simply an easier starting point (especially for someone like me who came from a very conservative background where these things were not talked about.)

My son read this book and said that it was so eye opening to him, and gave him such good, practical ways to reject porn, that he is convinced it saved him from an addiction to pornography.

This is HUGE, parents!

I had no idea that he had seen anything of the sort, in fact, when I first handed him this book he denied knowing what porn was because he had been so ashamed of what he had seen. Later though, he was able to open up and share his heart, as the book is so gentle and allows children to see that they don’t need to be ashamed of telling an adult, in fact, that is one of the steps encouraged!

Such a contrast to today’s parenting: “I’d rather not know…” or the famous “my kid’s a good kid, they would never do that!”

They’re almost all good kids!!! Are you seriously suggesting that only “bad” people view porn? Only terrible criminals?!? Then you are about to get your world view turned upside down…here’s some startling statistics for you:

Net Nanny reports that only 3% of teenage boys and 17% of girls have never seen online pornography.

According to Google Analytics, pornography searches increase by 4,700% when kids are out of school for the summer.

In 2015, Childline conducted a survey of 700 pre-teens/teens. They found that one in five reported seeing pornographic images that upset them. Furthermore, 12% of those surveyed admitted to taking part in a sexually explicit video.

Peter Liver, director of Childline, states, “We know from the young people who contact ChildLine that viewing porn is a part of everyday life, and our poll shows that one in five 12 to 13-year-olds thinks that watching porn is normal behavior.”

As a parent, these facts not only shock me, they upset me.

Yet all around me I see children as young as 6 who have full access to their own personal iPad and YouTube channels without any parental monitoring. This isn’t just foolish parenting, it’s dangerous and in my opinion, neglectful.

Where are the parents who still care about their children’s innocence? Why are we turning a blind eye to these harmful behaviours and addictions?

In a way, I understand actually. It’s difficult to start up the conversations. I really don’t enjoy the pressure or the start of them as I feel uncomfortable too. It’s much easier to just ignore the silent killer that’s lurking behind every screen. We know it’s there. It’s just easier to not think about it.

It’s easier to do nothing at all.

But the truth is, I’m usually much more uncomfortable than my children are to talk about these things. And in fact as I begin these conversations, I’m always amazed at how well received they are. At how open and honest my kids are. And for that matter, I have never once come out of a sex-conversation with them thinking “Well that was awkward! I’m glad that’s over.”

Not once. In fact, I’m already seeing the fruit from being open. It is so important!

Not long ago, I opened the Bible at the breakfast table to the stares and yawns of all my five children. It was clear, no one really wanted me to read. They were sleepy, they were bored and they just wanted to leave the table… everything in me at that moment wanted to shut the Bible, and just stop! Forget the devotions and get on with my long “to do” list for the day.

But instead, I took a deep breath and I read a verse, just one verse, and explained what it meant. I tried to get the kids involved in the conversation, but again I was met with blank stares. It took 5 minutes and it was over.

Useless! I thought. Why do I even bother?

Later that evening, my son came into my room. He looked at me with tears in his eyes confessing that he had google searched something inappropriate and was about to click on the link, when the verse that I had shared that morning popped into his head:if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

He told me that he was sorry and that he wouldn’t do it again. He asked me to forgive him. I was SO unbelievably proud and not at all upset. I hugged him and thanked him for telling me.

He had been listening. It wasn’t useless! What 10-year-old boy tells his mom such things? Only a child who is secure in their parents love, who has understood the consequences of hidden sin and been taught the dangers of pornography.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t matter. Teach them while you have the chance. It does matter! And these children of mine are living-proof.

It’s My Birthday…

From childhood, birthdays have been so special to me. I guess that’s a result of having great parents who always made a point to make the day an extra special one for me.

I’m not one of those super mature Mom’s who quietly lets their day slip by unnoticed. Nor do I hate the extra attention and no, I’m not embarrassed about my age because getting older to me is (and I hope will always be) a blessing! So we celebrate!!

In fact, being a homeschooler I have quite literally declared my birthday to be a holiday from school!

“Hey Kids, guess what?? There’s no school today and you know why that is? Many many years ago a VERY special and most important person was born…do you know who that is??”

And while my younger children hop up and down shouting out the answer as if they’ve won the lottery, my older three smirk at each other and roll their eyes… “Mom, it’s not a Holiday…”

“WHY OF COURSE IT IS!!” I reply. “Why else would school be cancelled today?!?”

“Because you don’t want to teach and you would rather have the day off?”

Errr, ummm….they know me too well.

But do I let their lack of enthusiasm spoil MY day? No! I most CERTAINLY do not! I grab a slice of my all time favourite, grocery store strawberry shortcake, for breakfast, I turn up the “Greatest Showman Soundtrack” and dance with the littles like I’m 14 again.

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Or, at least that’s what a will be doing. I’m still in bed at the moment. And I’ll probably be back in bed after pulling a muscle from dancing. I’m not 14 anymore ya know.

How about you? Do you hate/love your birthdays?

A Homeschool Pause

Today I want to share something that is going to be incredibly life changing for me this coming year. As many of you know, I am currently homeschooling four of my five children – and now, after my sixth year of homeschooling, I am going to take year seven to pause and reflect.

Thats right! My five precious children will be strapping on their backpacks, and lining up like little ducklings to face “real school” 😜 this fall! (For those of you who don’t get my reference to “real school” I mean public school, although you fellow homeschoolers will know exactly what I’m mean!!) Watch out everyone…the Bergen’s are coming!!

I have known our plans for a couple months now but just recently have begun to share the news and I must say, it’s very interesting to see all the different reactions that have come from this decision…

I’ve had it all from, “Are you sure you want to send your kids to Public School?!?” (Spoken like I’m sending them away to some evil war camp) to “Wow! Good for you! Won’t that be nice to have an empty house and all that free time?” to “Oh finally you’ve come to your senses! Are you going to be normal get a real job now?”

Ok. I’m exaggerating just a wee bit. None of those things were actually said to me, but I’ve had many conversations that give me each of the vibes above and I’m quite sure that none of them are what I’m actually feeling.

So let me answer these questions for those of you who are too polite to ask them in the first place:

1) Yes, I am quite sure that for this year, our five children are going to attend school together. One of the reasons I am sure of this is that for the past few years I have felt very split up as a family, having one child in public school and the rest at home. I have comforted myself by the fact that we would be split up anyway if they were all in school (as in my youngest was still to young for kindergarten so he’d be at home with me.) This year is the first and only year that my children will ever be able to attend the same public school altogether. This brings me so much joy and excitement – the thought that my five kids can experience school life together; bus rides, assemblies, family days, etc. I also am confident that even though yes, there will be some negative influences in their lives, the school is a very good one with wonderful teachers. I also am prepared to clear our evening schedules as much as possible so that I have time to spend with our children each evening.

2) No I don’t expect a break. I don’t even expect an easier year. I don’t expect calm days of doing whatever I want. I just don’t! Helping five kids adjust to public school after homeschooling will take a lot of correspondence with the teachers, a lot of patient evenings helping with homework, a lot of volunteer hours so that my children can see that I still value their education and work environment, a lot of healthy lunch planning, ALOT of papers brought home (found in crumpled balls at the bottom of their school bags – along with…”Eewww!!! What’s that?!?”), and to top it off a lot of driving around and planning for the future!

3) And lastly, no, I’m not going to finally be normal. I will continue to be my weird self, no “real” job in my near future, AND my hopes are to continue homeschooling at least two of my boys the following fall.

So, you may be wondering…why the change? Will one year off be worth all the paperwork, adjustments, etc. of public school? Why not just keep the two boys at home and start a new normal?

To answer that I would refer back to the first answer I gave: But they’ll all be together!

And I also will add that these last couple years my homeschooling hasn’t been at its finest. I’ve still been committed to giving my kids an excellent education, but I’ve really resorted to doing the bare minimum and even that lacks creativity. Quite simply, I’ve lost my former spark and zeal for homeschooling.

So instead of viewing this year as a rest, I’m focusing on using my year “off” to reassess some of the reasons I began homeschooling in the first place. Creative teaching and planning takes time, lots of time and to continue for a couple more years I’m simply setting aside this year as a gage of where we are at. I’ll be answering a lot of questions. Is my heart still in it? Do the benefits of it outweigh the inconvenience? What is our long-term goal, and how is homeschooling accomplishing it? How has homeschooling been beneficial to my older kids? Have they been able to adjust to life among their peers? And so on. You get the picture.

So that’s my big news for today! How about you?

Do you homeschool? A former homeschooler? Have you ever had to make a similar adjustment? If so, how did it turn out for you?

A Parents Call to Pray

I’ve been all over God’s word today… Deuteronomy, Psalms, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Proverbs… and you know what I see throughout it all? The same loving, gracious God, gently calling and beckoning his people to walk in his ways and teach his ways to the next generation.

And the realization hit me: I can teach my children, but it is God alone who can save their hearts.

God alone can grow the seeds that I’ve so earnestly planted. God alone can hold their hearts and win their love and devotion. This is why my prayers are so important. For what my teaching is powerless to do, my prayers CAN do! I don’t want God to just have their outward obedience! I want him to have their hearts to the very core!

Dear parent, do you feel helpless for where your family is at? Pray!

Do you feel like all your efforts in teaching your children were in vain? Pray!

Have your children rejected your teachings? Pray!

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat, for He grants sleep to those he love. Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in ones youth.”

Psalm 127:1-4

Surely the Lord answers our prayers in accordance with his will. And we know from scripture it is his will that NONE should perish, but that all will come to repentance.

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.