COVID-19 · Education · Homeschooling

Are you Homeschooling?

I’m hearing this particular question often these days. Whether from friends, family or mere acquaintances (who used to ask the question with a hint of judgement in their voice), now suddenly are interested, and inquiring as they make decisions for their own family.

“Yes, some of my kids.” Is the usual reply before I get barraged by a host of questions about curriculum, how I made my decision and where to even start with planning a school year.

I relax. Take a deep breath. And then reply that after 7 years of homeschooling, I have realized that I am not ever prepared to homeschool.

Yes, I’ve chosen my curriculum.

Yes, I’ve made a schedule.

Yes, I even have a special room.

But with kids, things rarely go as we imagine them to.

I have five kids and each one is unique. The have all been a blessing to teach, but every single one of them have had their struggles, in different areas. I can pick the perfect curriculum for one child, while the next child absolutely hates it. Then I switch things up for the next year and the other child loves the rigid teaching style, while the other four struggle to thrive. And then I face the problem with missing important things because I’m switching curriculum year to year. It’s never simple, but we’ve always made it work.

For those new to homeschooling, here’s a little secret: You simply will not achieve the perfect school year… BUT, you can definitely achieve a productive and rewarding one.

This year is different for everyone.

There are so many uncertainties each person has to face. Many, who would’ve never previously considered homeschooling before, are now delving into it.

I’ve also had some thinking to do.

I’ve homeschooled each of my kids through their elementary years. I always planned to send them back in middle school. The purpose of this was to make the transition to public school easier and for the opportunity for friendships to be formed before they entered a high school where one rarely has two classes with the same people.

Still, this didn’t stop me from reconsidering for this year.

I have never wanted to teach high school, and truthfully, I looked into it this year for my oldest son, but felt a tad overwhelmed. The stakes are higher with the older grades and questions that are pretty irrelevant for the younger years, are sobering now. What if I miss something and he falls behind? What if I miss the courses he needs for getting into college? What if the university/college he applies for doesn’t recognize a homeschool graduation diploma? And finally… these are his final years to form healthy friendships as an adolescent, how can I keep him home? So finally, I made the decision… he will be entering grade nine this fall in a local private school.

I was less sure about my middle schoolers, especially my son who struggles with asthma and can barely stand a mask on his face for five minutes before he starts flailing his hands, begging me to take it off. I offered both my daughter in grade seven, and my son in grade six that they could homeschool this year. I even ordered curriculum for them, but they both would really like to try out public school with their friends this fall. So, I agreed to let them try it out. If huge issues arise, we will simply take them back home.

As for my youngest two, they will be at home with me. They are in grades 1 and 3 and are the best of friends. Both enjoy being taught at home. They love the extra time they have in the afternoons to play and enjoy the slower pace of homeschool life.

I sit here and write, knowing full well I should be working and lesson planning because… well… school’s now just two weeks away, it’s canning season, and we are in the middle of basement renovations.

Each room is stacked with boxes and tables and furniture that should really be downstairs. I know some people fly through life with stuff thrown everywhere and don’t seem to mind. But as for me, when things aren’t in their rightful place, it leaves me feeling scatter-brained and frustrated.

Not a great way to start off the school year.

However, I know from experience that I can have the most organized classroom, but if my heart is not ready to teach, it will be a difficult year.

I have to be ready for a messy house some days, while I ignore the clutter and teach when I want to clean.

I have to be ready to adjust my plans when things aren’t working out.

I have to be ready to put away my phone during the teaching hours so that my children have their mother’s undivided attention.

I have to let some things be less than perfect.

I have to be ready for bad attitudes, sick days, children who are out of sorts ,and fighting siblings… I have to be ready for a lot of patience and selflessness.

I have to be ready to put of finishing my book for just one more year.

This year, my room doesn’t look ready… but my heart definitely is.

How about you? Are you sending your kids to school? Homeschooling for the first time? Are you ready? Let me know in the comments!

Faith · Prayer

Without a Thought

One of the most unsettling stories in the Bible, comes from the chapters 38 and 39 in the book of Isaiah.

In this historical account, King Hezekiah becomes very sick… to the point of death. In walks the great prophet Isaiah. He has no fancy message, no hopeful encouragement, he just states the word of the Lord: “Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

I don’t know about you, but with Isaiah’s perfect track record, I would of wept in complete despair. For when the Lord speaks to Isaiah, those words are concrete.

He’s a prophet of God, tested and true.

I think it’s important here to note that a word from the Lord is true and final – however, God has given us a secret weapon that can change everything: Intercession.

He does this so that when we get a prophetic word, we do not need to sit in despair. We can DO something! We can turn to him and pray! In this sense, prophetic words are rarely concrete. In the hands of a prophet, God’s words are to be shared with others. But for the receiver of the words, they are to be brought to heartfelt prayer!!

Hezekiah does exactly this. He breaks down and prays; weeping and begging God to let him live, to not cut him down in the prime of his life. God hears him and listens.

Do we get this?!?

God hears him AND listens!!!

God gave the word, which was final: Death.

But then he saw his beloved child, weeping in despair, pleading for more time to serve him and God relents.

If this message doesn’t wake us up to prayer, I don’t know what will. Our prayers have the power to change our outcome.

How often do we do this? How little we take advantage of this precious gift!

King Hezekiah is healed! How I wish the story ended here!

After King Hezekiah gets better, the king of Babylon sends an envoy with gifts to celebrate Hezekiah’s recovery. Hezekiah shows them everything in his kingdom, all his possessions. We aren’t given a reason for this, but one would assume he did so out of pride. Then the prophet Isaiah asks about the envoy and specifically, what the king all showed them.

“Everything” is Hezekiah’s reply.

And Isaiah utters another prophecy: “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: The time will surely come when everything in your palace… will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord Almighty. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood born to you, will be taken away and become eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.”

And we collectively hold our breath, awaiting another impassioned prayer by the king who changed his own outcome. Surely, after seeing the Lord change what was to come over his own life, he will cry out on his knees for the future generations!

Here’s Hezekiah’s response: “ The word of the Lord you have spoken here is good.” For he thought, “there will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

My children… taken into captivity!!

The word of the Lord is “GOOD”?!?
Shackles on these precious ones…

“The word of the Lord is GOOD?!?”

If this is not the most disturbing display of selfishness, I don’t know what is!

Where is the desperation? Where is the man who reminded God of his promises? Who reminded God of his righteousness? Where is the repentance? Where is the humility that he had claimed he would live out for the rest of his days?

Silence.

Reminding me of my generation:

Hours pined away on social media and screens. We know how damaging these things are for our children. We know it already! Yet… “It’s the easy thing to do.”

“I can’t adult today.”

Five minute devotional books sold by the dozen because we “don’t have the time for long devotions” while we laughingly post on Facebook about our five hour Netflix binge and ask “Is there anything else to watch?!?”

Our generation, splurging on frivolous and unnecessary things: expensive outings, over priced coffees, beauty care and home decoré… all while adamantly claiming: “we barely make enough to scrape by.”

Trust me, North Americans, we simply do not know what these words mean!

Our government spending outrageously, knowingly, unsustainably. Obviously with no care at all for the future generations, because “We want to live prosperously NOW!”

“We deserve better.”

Without a thought for future generations. What a hauntingly disturbing response from a selfish generation in the midst of a pandemic.

Who knows what lies ahead? Who has the wisdom to discern the times?

I think we would do well to remember King Hezekiah. Do we only care about the here, the now? We may not have the future told to us, but we most definitely can get on our knees and change the course of it.

What are we waiting for?

Authenticity · Vulnerability

Something Changed

Something has changed.

It was a slow change. From childhood when I was adored, to that awkward stage in between cuteness and puberty. Then again in youth (when I was the center of the world… and quite possibly the universe), until I became a young mom, who people wanted to help. And EVERYONE is eager to help a teen mom. (No, I’m not being sarcastic, this is my experience.)

I mean there were sometimes when I actually yearned to have some independence!!

Now I’m thirty-two.

Faith-filled. Strong. Steady.

But, somehow, more alone then I’ve ever been before. For where there once were people and mentors to guide me, there is a void. A big, empty chasm so deep I can’t see to the bottom. Where there once were mothers who poured into me… now I am the mother, pouring out. Teachers were filling me with knowledge, now I am that teacher filling others.

A funny change, when one becomes grown. A sad change, to do so much on our own. But a necessary step, I suppose. Independence certainly isn’t what I imagined it would be, back when I dreamed of the days it would be mine.

Being mentored.

Who would’ve thought that something children so often take for granted, would become something so precious to me in my older years. For now I truly see how it is the people who showed love and care, who sat with me when I was alone, who offered comforting words of wisdom, who lent a hand when it was needed and gave much needed parenting advice… those are the people who I now think of as I try to live and love those around me.

But there has been a shift these past few years. Where I once mourned and wished to find a mentor, I am now finding the positives in the lonely place I am. Not that I would refuse advice or an older woman’s input, but I am comfortable and at peace being on my own.

When I was in my 20s there were a few women that I would often call for help, or for prayer if I needed anything. But to be suddenly alone, with no one to ask, that was unexpected for me and threw me into a very raw season where I felt completely paralyzed to do anything. I felt helpless!

Until I realized that I have many mentors, they may just look different than they once did.

Each book I open, a new mentor speaks. Some who lived centuries ago, others who are my age. Some who went through the worst trials I could imagine and came through victorious. Some who lived through famines and wars and came through stronger. Some who died for what they believed in, others who were tortured until almost dead. Those who lost husbands or children. Those who lived a lonely life, unloved.

These mentors speak to me. They share wisdom. They share correction. They give perspective.

And best of all, I can take or leave their advice and they don’t know any different. I can take the time to meditate on their stories and assess if what they say is applicable for me. It’s wonderful. It’s freeing. I am becoming “me” without being swayed this way or that to please people or try to impress those I admire.

I am becoming quieter, as I listen to these mentors. Where I used to feel that the world needed another “truthful voice” – I now realize that it needs far more someone to listen. I used to want to be known, now I yearn to know those who are unknown and alone.

The change was slow. The change is deep.

It’s a letting go kind of change, and a change of embracing a new sort of perspective: It’s not about me.

It’s not about me.

I used to say those words and believe that I was living them. But now I know that I am just beginning to understand them.

So I ask, my readers, what are you learning lately? Has there been a change in you? A shift? Do you long for a mentor? Someone to depend on? Or do you love independence?

I truly want to know. Because these days, the best part of my blog, it’s not the stuff that I write (who cares about that 😂)… it’s the people I meet.

Creative Writing

Sometimes I Observe

A writer is often telling a story within their own scene.

Let me paint mine:

Though the forecast called for sun and unbearable heat, it was a cloudy day. The wind felt steady but not chaotic. Just a soft, consistent cool from the humid haze.

I sat, aware of the family beside me speaking overly loud to catch the attention of those around them. Exaggerating stories, ever glancing at their imagined audience. As if those around would care, be impressed, about the tent that collapsed on their holiday and the amazing burgers they made for supper the previous day.

I observe, my heart melts, at the innocent, awkward motions of the younger swimmers, trying desperately to follow the detailed instructions on how to perfect each stroke. They try to correct those crooked legs. Oh, how they try!

It looks exactly the same as before.

Aware of the self conscious woman, who hides her body under the water, even though the water where she stands is knee deep. Who by society’s standards is overweight, but her son smiles at her as if she’s the most beautiful person he’s ever seen.

She’s gorgeous.

Far more so than the tanned, chiseled man across the pool, who stands out – as a movie star would stick out in a soup kitchen. He looks… flawless. He beams his perfect white teeth and flirts shamelessly with the woman beside him.

Though he’s married. I saw his wife here yesterday.

I also notice the corner perv, who stares at his phone as if intently interested in it, but he’s watching the lifeguard through his camera lens.

People.

They’re a funny sort, wherever I go.

All so different. Also, the same.

Sometimes, it’s too hard to see it all. I notice things. I see too much. So I duck my head and close my eyes, I hide behind a book.

I write on my blog.

Sometimes I observe. But usually, I prefer to ignore.

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.

Authenticity · Faith

The Small Things

This week is my “rest” week. (If a mother can ever call any week rest while homeschooling five children). As in, I literally worked myself to getting an infection last week and now my body needs to recover. This week, I’m forced to slow down. Sleep longer. Just maintain the home, rather than improve it.

No worries, this is a welcome change. Next week the projects will resume and I will again get to create a list of sorts.

My exhaustion has me wondering if every mother is feeling the lack of mental space to keep a blog running these days, or whatever other hobbies they may have. Having my kids around 24/7 with no sport or music programs, no public school, no church events or parties for the past three months was, in some ways, a welcome break from the normally busy schedule. But if you’re slightly introverted like me, any people, even your own children whom you love will drain all energy for other things.

Is anyone else out there, like me? Completely mentally drained?

Last week I shared that I haven’t found energy for reading, writing, running or other hobbies because of projects. But with more thought, I think it’s also been draining to have my kids around without any breaks. I feel rather uninspired to write about anything.

Now if you’ve followed my blog of any amount of time, you would know that I’ve homeschooled for seven years prior to this year (this was my “break” from homeschooling year… LOL!!! But apparently I’m not allowed to stop homeschooling.) I’ve already had my kids home for much of their lives, however, this has been different. It’s that kind of situation where they have nothing else.

Just home.

Just me and their Dad.

They’re bored. I’m never bored. I’m too busy homeschooling, gardening, cooking and cleaning to feel out of sorts. But I’m trying to sympathize and hang out with them. When I’m tired of being their entertainer, I find them chores to do. And though life is slowly returning to normal, there is an unusual amount of white space on their calendar where their lives are concerned.

I’ve been spending money to help with the boredom… we renovated the bathroom, we purchased a dirt bike and a hot tub this month, plus tons of extra supplies for our pool. The hard-earned/slowly saved money was originally supposed to go to our first ever HUGE summer vacation, but since the borders are closed, we are bringing the fun home.

Someday, we will travel. This year we make the best of our situation. On the bright side, the hot tub will hopefully last us for years to come… vacations come and go so quickly.

Alright… now to deeper matters:

Yesterday, my husband asked me a question. It’s a question I’ve always hated, but I humoured him and answered it anyways.

If you were given a million dollars, what would you do with it?

I hate this question because it stirs up unhealthy pride/greed in people. I feel it in myself. Because there’s two ways to answer: I either list all the things I’ve wished for in my life but could never afford, or I act all spiritual and generously give it to those in need. I didn’t want to answer the question, and I told him so, to which he replied: “You are such a ‘Debbie-downer’, it’s just a fun question that reveals a lot about a person’s interests.”

So fine. I answered it.

  1. I want to go back to school to become a nurse.
  2. I would pay off our mortgage.
  3. I would hire someone to give me a magazine perfect yard and finish off our projects because I love to host family and friends.
  4. I would consider adopting two children (of course, HE would have to agree with that one haha).
  5. I would give 10% or more of it away, because I have found that giving brings me FAR more joy than spending money on myself.

He was surprised. He honestly thought I would travel the world. But as much as I DO like travelling, I don’t like being a tourist. Meaning, I love the places, and the people. Not so much the luxury. Whenever I am served by others, either in restaurants or on a resort, my mind wanders to the verse:

“For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

And I feel guilty. Because I know very well I’m not here on this earth to be waited on. I’m here for the very people who are serving me. To care for them. To show them kindness and bring them joy. Ultimately to show them the love of the Father.

Maybe I am a Debbie Downer.

Yet… I just want to live with purpose! And purpose means radical, right?!?

Hmm… but often, it’s not. The longer I live, the more I am learning that a fulfilling life starts with the small things. In fact, the small things are very often more important than the big things.

How do I treat those who serve me?

How do I treat my own family?

How am I talking to the people around me? With respect?

Yesterday Ryan asked me a question and I said nothing because I wanted to think about my answer for a bit. Which was very unlike me, if you know me at all. I respond first and think later. But an hour later, after I had carefully thought through my feelings and reasons for them, I responded gently, without picking a fight.

He smiled and said, “I respect that, you know. When you think about it and respond thoughtfully. Now I can understand your feelings about it and I’m good with doing things your way.”

And I’m like, “Wow! Why haven’t I done that before?!?”

So… small things. That’s what will make me a loving person. Not the big “save the world” attitude that I so often push myself to have.

A small thing: we ordered limestone to build a pad for the hot tube and pool, but my family scheduled a visit during the time I had planned to work on it. At first I found myself getting so worked up. Why did it have to be that particular day? Why not a better time? But, I took a breath and I pushed off my schedule to “window” visit my elderly grandpa. He beamed when he saw us all there. I cried half of the time. It was SO worth it.

Such a small thing, but it made the world of a difference to him.

Life Lesson: I don’t have to be everyone’s hero. I just need to love in the little moments. Pause to think before I speak. Switch my schedule around to make room for someone else’s.

THIS is true greatness.

 

 

 

Authenticity · Canada · Writing

Unrealistic Expectations

Is it really nearing the end of May? I feel like it’s passed me by in a blink.

I took a pause to write today.

Not because I really wanted to or because I had a lot to say, but mainly because I’ve been working non-stop on projects this past month and I need to just stop. Stop and remember that there are more important things than work.

“All work no play makes Jack a dull boy” …and it makes me a “grumpy, task focused, tired gal.”

My mind is drained. My body is weary. I work through the aching back and sore neck. I strain through the blisters, the cuts and the bruises. For what exactly?

To distract myself from an uncertain and unfamiliar world.

It’s easier to focus on things, rather than people when it’s people we’re told to avoid. It’s easier just to stay home and ignore the outside world while I work myself to the bone. It’s easier to watch “how-to” videos than the current news.

So I shut it all out and focus on one thing: Making home better.

It took a good sit down this afternoon to realize how hard I’ve been pushing myself and how ridiculous my expectations are. You wanna know what I expected to accomplish this month?

-Lead a weekly bible study on zoom.

– Homeschooling 5 kids.

-Finish our downstairs bathroom (from dingy, concrete floor bathroom to Pinterest post).

-Handtill and plant my garden.

– Repaint my front door.

-Sand down and paint my large back deck and veranda.

– Organize my closets, shed and garage.

– Plant 12 trees on my yard.

– Re-level our ground to set up the above ground pool. Also order a new cover, heater and filter system for it.

– Make front Garden Boxes and fill with soil/shrubs.

-Keep up with all the housework, meals, etc on top of everything else.

I seriously had it down to eight hours of work a day besides my cooking, housework and homeschooling. And it took three weeks of this before I realized that it’s just too much to expect. You think just reading through my “to-do” list would have snapped me back to reality, but in reality, it’s that very “to-do” list that keeps me going at sprinting speed from morning until night.

No time for texting, writing, social media, baking, running, personal care… just my list.

And so I stop, taking the time to write today because I need to. It reminds me of what’s important. God. Family. Laughter, relationships, rest.

And I delete. Check the boxes I’ve done. Let the accomplishments sink in. Cut the other goals in half. They will happen. It does not need to be this month.

Homeschool kids. Check.
Plant a dozen trees. Check.
Feed the family. Check.
Work on basement bathroom. Check.
Next To Do: Find time for joy

To Do:

Level ground and set up pool

Sand and stain deck & veranda

– Repaint front door.

Organize closets, shed & garage

Make front garden boxes and plant shrubs

See you later “to-do” list. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

…Ok. Maybe after I finish planting the garden 😉

COVID-19 · Faith · Family · Homeschooling

Boredom and Projects to Stay Sane

It’s month two of “the end of the world” and I’ve been feeling all the ups and downs and everything in between.

Somedays I love the new snail pace of our world, the next days I hate it and feel like I’m stuck 20,000 leagues under the sea (or worse… reading about it!) Sorry to any fans of the classic. Sorry… that you have such terrible tastes in literature!! Haha.

Ahem.

So, I don’t mind being alone so much, what I hate is being alone with five kids and forgotten… which is precisely how many mothers have been feeling!

Yet, how dare I complain? There are so many elderly and sick people right now who haven’t had close human interaction for this whole time! I can hardly stand to think about it! However, my kids have been unusually out of sorts and at each others throats constantly. So after a week of yelling and threats and more grey hairs popping out than I care to mention, I decided enough was enough. After all, there’s only so much “VonTrapp” family in me! Sometimes I just need some peace and QUIET!!

I AM the mother over here, am I not? And five precious (out of sorts, whiny, grumpy, complaining) children are my responsibility, right? So therefore, how can I keep getting upset at them when it is really up to me to give them SOMETHING ELSE to do?!?

Enter my cries to God at 6am.

The prayer I kept repeating? “God, give me the gift of creativity!! Please!!” And so after a week of praying for ideas and scrounging the internet, the result was projects, idea boards and kids enjoying each other again. Whew!

So – anyone tempted to say I’m “super mom”- just, no. I’m not. I pray. I try. I copy others. And by some miracle, it sometimes works out!

First project: THE TABLE

I really do kick myself for not taking proper before pictures, but I am always so eager to start that I couldn’t possible bother to take five seconds to do so. But here was a picture of how our kitchen table looked a week ago:

And after taking turns sanding it (at first by hand, but then my incredibly generous neighbours saw how ridiculous we looked and borrowed me their power sander) and adding a few coats of varnish:

I was so pumped on how it turned out! It feels so much better wiping a table that actually looks clean when you’re done!

Second project: THE IDEA BOARD

Ok, so not every single thing we do has to be together. And after project number one, I desperately needed some “ME” time!! So this board was created at 6am after waking up in utter agony that I was just not creative enough to give the kids ideas on what to do. So I looked through idea books, googled “how to entertain kids” and desperately tried to remember things I loved to fill my hours up with as a kid! The result was an entire idea board for my kids when they come to me and say: “Mom. I’m bored.”

Voila! Now I just turn to them and ask: “Have you done everything on the board yet?”

Project 3: THE FIRE PIT

We’ve been burning stuff “country style” for four years. What I mean is this… instead of bringing furniture and boxes to the dump, we burn them. Shredder? What for? We burn paper. We burn old cat houses. We burn excess branches and leaves and grass… we burn it! The result was an old concrete slab with a pile full of ashes and soot so high that one could not see there was actually a pit underneath. (Again… no proper before picture. Sorry!)

People. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The sludge!!

It wasn’t ash anymore. Just hard, rock like substance, filled with nails, bits of metal, burnt pop cans and broken glass! I even found bones in it, presumably buried there by my dog… hopefully… either that or I really don’t want to know!

We sorted out the garbage, emptied the sludge and picked out the rocks. Then we swept it off and washed the rocks down, setting them out nicely in a circle. Finally we built a little fire and had a weiner roast.

Now, I know it’s not magazine worthy or Pinterest worthy or even internet worthy, but I just loved the country, rustic, relaxed feel of our new fire place. It was just so rewarding to set up!

Project 4: BLESS OTHERS

Two women in my cell group just had babies. Since I am 6 years past the itty-bitty clothes and nappies, I just had to go out and buy something for them! Baby shopping is my FAVOURITE!!

But wait! I thought. What about the “new” little older brother and sister? They are often missed in the excitement for baby. And how about the Mama’s?? So what started out as a simple baby gift, ended up being a family care package:

  1. An outfit and toy for the new one.
  2. A care package for mom: A chiller cup, facial mask and body scrub.
  3. A small, wrapped present for the older sibling.
  4. A gift card for the dad.

Other things we’ve been up to:

A pick up and walk down our road.

Outdoor water games and sandbox play.

My plants are almost ready to go in the garden.

A school community parade.

Oh, and my husband’s new purchase:

So that’s it folks! My world just keeps shrinking these days, but it doesn’t stop us from living. I’d love to hear from you in the comments! What have you been up to? Any projects or fun ideas keeping you afloat?

COVID-19 · Faith

From Strength to Strength

As I began this post I had many titles pouring through my head. Titles such as, “We’ll Get through this” or “My Kids are Driving Me CRAZY” or “Understanding without Excusing”… But the truth is, not one of these titles fit perfectly. As a matter of fact, I’m pulling so hard on the reins to bring my jumbled thoughts together that I fear I might just rip them.

My heart has gone out to a number of people throughout this crisis:

  • The elderly/lonely
  • Mom’s of school aged children struggling desperately to adapt
  • Children from broken homes, who’ve lost the stability that school gave them
  • Those who’ve had a loved one who has suffered or died alone
  • People struggling with anxiety or depression, left alone with their thoughts

I think some people assume that mothers who previously homeschooled are now laughing and looking at the world and saying, “Look how hard I had it! Now you finally understand!” or maybe a smug, “What’s wrong, can’t take care of your OWN children?”

I can tell you truthfully, I feel none such things. I feel anything but smug. I just feel very, very heartbroken. Because I know how difficult homeschooling was in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. Oh how I wish I could individually hug each of these working mothers who find themselves suddenly stuck at home, doing the very thing they have never wanted: Homeschooling.

I got to CHOOSE it. I was able to slowly adapt to it, one child at a time. I could get outside help, research homeschooling methods and curriculum’s, join support groups, meet with other homeschooling moms and have grandparents visit. I was able to arrange fun field trips, work at our own pace and PLAN. I had all summer to plan out agenda, schedules, prizes and reward systems.

These poor mothers had a week and have none of those opportunities. Some of them have full-time jobs. How alone and lost many women must be feeling! And their children… what an adjustment!

Despite having homeschooled before, our kids are feeling it too. And acting out in VERY unpleasant ways. Fights, scratching and hitting, which were once just occasional issues among our five children, have become hourly occurrences. Yesterday my six year old PEED on his older brothers pillow. Randomly. Without reason. Ahhh!!!

WHY?!?

The kids beg constantly for more and more and MORE screen time. They lash out in anger at small things… but really, deep down, there’s more going on than what meets the eye.

The world is changing. We all know it. They feel it. My children haven’t left the house in a week. And when we do leave the house together, they stay in the van. They feel like prisoners, with no clue about what’s going on in the world around them other than the conversations they overhear us adults having over the phone.

It must be terrifying.

Not that I’m excusing the terrible behaviour. I’m learning to understand it. There’s ALWAYS a reason for for the outbursts. This doesn’t excuse outbursts, it helps me to understand them so that I can properly deal with each one as it comes.

Now let’s back up a bit. At the beginning of this week I was almost overcome by self-pity and a real, deep hurt towards other believers was starting to grow. It started Sunday and grew and grew in my heart until Thursday morning, I felt so overcome by the thought that no one cared about me, that I was dispensable, I was honestly terrified at my own thoughts.

Ironically, God had arranged that I was to lead a Bible study on Philippians 2 that afternoon (on zoom). This Bible Study has been water to my soul. Thursday was no exception. I found myself reading these very words aloud with six other women,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

What had I been doing for the past four days? Sulking. Wallowing in self pity. Thinking about me, me, ME!!! And it occurred to me: if everyone lived like this, looking not only to their own interests but thinking about others, how much different would our world look?

Think of it!

What if… my thoughts were mainly focused on how I could help, serve or love others, rather than how they are not “helping, serving or loving me??”

What if, we all lived like this?

You know what would happen? I wouldn’t HAVE to look out for my needs, because the people in my life would be looking out for me! And they wouldn’t have to “look out for number one” because the rest of us would be looking out for them as well.

And it occurred to me… I could sit around, waiting for others to listen to this verse and live it out.

Or I could live it out first.

And you know what? From that very moment, I had joy! Great joy! It’s like I was given the freedom to take my eyes off of my own problems (which I couldn’t control) and could turn my eyes on to others, and how I could help them (which I CAN control).

And in an instant, I went from being helpless, to helpful.

And that, my friends, isn’t me being “stronger” or “better” than anyone else. It’s me learning to go from “strength to strength” – leaning every single moment on the life-giving words of God.

 

About Me · COVID-19

Boring Updates and Much Ado about Nothing

When COVID-19 first began impacting my world, my screen time went up by hours. It wasn’t that I was immediately self-isolating and needed the connection. In fact, at first I was so shocked that I was definitely NOT social distancing. It was simply because I needed to know what was happening.

What was happening?!? I still don’t think I really know.

On March 12, my life was pretty normal. I went out for a rare evening coffee with a friend. I decided to pick up a few groceries as well, just because I had started to hear stories of things getting crazy around the world.

Imagine my surprise when the pasta aisle was empty, as was the toilet paper aisle and flour, sugar, etc. Shaking my head at “those crazies” I grabbed enough for my week and went home.

The next day, on March 13, our school division announced that schools would be closed the following three weeks.

I was completely shocked. I felt many things that day. Distrust in my governments “overreaction”. Confusion, as I’m not on most social media and I don’t watch the news. Mostly, I felt numb and indifferent. Numb, because the ramifications of what the shut down of civilization would mean hadn’t fully hit me yet. Indifferent, because I am a mother. A stay at home mother. Social distancing has been my life for the past decade.

Yet, sometime in the following weeks as more places closed, as lockdowns grew tighter, as people started loosing their jobs, the tears came. They fell and they fell.

And now they are no more.

I haven’t cried for a week. Mostly, I have been angry. A deep, unsettling anger, at no one and nothing in particular. Just angry at being stuck. I’m a “do-er”. Now I’m encouraged to not go and do, but to stay put. It sucks me dry.

But enough about feelings, I am writing today to share that my life right now is about as interesting as watching seeds grow, which is precisely what I’m doing these days.

I planted seeds and they are taking longer than usual to grow, but every day or so, another one pops up reminding me that life can’t be rushed. And patience produces fruit. Or in this case, vegetables.

I also bake daily. Yesterday it was banana bread and an Easter dessert. The banana bread actually was a part of a funnier story. Want to hear it?

Well sure! I’ll tell you, since it’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to me all month.

I ordered groceries online and was given FOUR CONTAINERS OF SOURCREAM.

Large containers.

What I had really ordered was yogurt. To eat with granola. For breakfast. And obviously this was the best replacement?!? LOL!! Anyway, there was no way I was going to wait in line just to complain but goodness did I have a laugh. And then promptly changed my entire weeks meal plan to revolve around sour cream.

When life gives you sour cream… Make Nachos and banana bread!

Really people, those are the most exciting moments of my life this past month.

Like everyone else, I am on screens far too much, homeschooling, staying home, shopping only when absolutely necessary, surviving boredom and stir-crazy kids, who fight and bicker, and then whine and complain. In cycles.

I make meals from scratch and then clean them up.

I read lots, but I’m not really in the mood for writing these days. Life isn’t inspiring enough to write fiction. Once the world stops being fiction, I’ll write again.

Me and the kids finished four 500 piece puzzles, all of which were missing a single piece.

One. Single. Piece. (I may have found the reason for my anger!)

I also run, though the weather is cold again, and who really wants to run on a treadmill indoors after getting a taste of the fresh outdoor air these past weeks?

So as you sit around doing nothing on this fine Easter Day, take comfort, we are all doing nothing. And I’ll read about your nothing while you read about mine. Together we’ll get through this.

One sour cream container at a time.