Autumn · Family · Food · Parenting

My First Week of “Freedom” – It was all a Hoax

Back to school! All the Mom’s cheer…

Really?

Don’t believe it for one second, I tell you!

That cup of coffee never got finished…just saying.

First week back, well, you heard about our first day, but let’s just say the next two didn’t go any better! On the third day of school I received a call that Dallas (in grade 2) had really hurt his foot during recess. Being laid back (and also, having dealt with many twisted ankles, sore legs and bruised bones), I sort of shrugged it off until the next day. Dallas still couldn’t put weight on it the second day, so away we went to ER and, long story short, he is in a cast for two weeks.

How we are going to keep him from wrecking the other leg…I do not know, because literally this is what it looks like a week later:

Yeah… he somehow decided to go on the zip line and jumped off into my garden. Barefoot!!!

Boys, I tell you! It’s like they have a built in self-destruct button!

The second week I have had some busy moments and some calm ones, but I’m in the process of harvesting the last of my vegetables for the season and canning takes SO much time! But I got to canning some pasta sauce, which is my least favourite thing to can, so now it’s just salsa!

I also did a lot of baking because, oh my word, are school lunches ever expensive!!

And last but not least I am making cakes for others again!! This is something I have a love/hate relationship with. I love it because it is like doing arts and crafts…but I hate it because I literally make about $4 an hour for my time. Here’s a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on but I think I’ll do a separate post about it later:

And burger week! I can’t forget burger week!!We have such a thing in our small city as burger week and participating restaurants each make their own specialty, limited-time, burger to be voted on …so of course Ryan and I had to go to try at least one:

It was amazing!! And I still feel full. Yes, I did finish the whole thing. 😋

So there you have it! My first four-day-week of having half-days with no kids around in over 13 years!! It’s amazing how much I can pack into a day with them gone. However, when they come home the life returns to our house and once again it’s chaotic and loud….and I realize that I truly have missed them.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from them. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the one whose quiver is full of them…”

Psalm 127:3-5

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Family · Parenting

I was Almost Supermom…

The key word being almost.

That is my back to school line up of kids…such a good looking bunch! The photo was taken after school, because, well, I literally flopped the first morning of our family public/private school experience.

We were up at 6am. Every last one of us. Breakfast was eaten. We even did family devos. The kids made their own lunches. I looked like Super Mom!

Can I stop right there?

No.

Because that, my friends, is where life came in. My daughter was full of nerves and was stressing about what to wear and such. She wanted her hair curled so I offered to do it for her. Her hair is thick, and I’m no hairdresser (there’s a reason the good Lord gave me four boys and only one daughter). So, granted, it took a bit longer than I expected. But we had time…I thought. When who should pull up but the bus driver a good 5-10 minutes early. My daughter was horrified (the boys were ready faster than her) and she ran out with one shoe on halfway.

Ok. Whew… three down. Two to go.

My older son, now being in a private school, comes out in sweatpants that could fit my youngest. I stare at him, aghast. Where did I go wrong?!?

“Your not wearing that.” I say shuddering. It’s a command, not a statement.

“It’s all I have.” He shrugs.

I look through his selection. Sure enough, he must’ve grown half a foot over summer. All of them are ankle pants. Every single one of them. It’s too cold for shorts. How did I not notice this before today?!?

So I grab the keys. I’m about to go on a spontaneous shopping spree, 25 minutes before school starts. Glancing in the rear view mirror, I stare back at the morning glory that appears before my eyes. Hair sticks out in all the wrong places, circles under my eyes reveal the true story behind getting five kids ready for the day.

Shouldn’t have looked.

Oh well. It’s my kids that matter, right?!? I mean, if they look good, I look good – I reason to myself. So away we go. We arrive at Superstore.

15 minutes. I have 15 minutes to find pants and get my son to school.

I’m not fussy. We’ll make it. I know we will.

Except for one problem. Superstore, the clerk informs me after a frantic 5 minute search, does not sell clothes for teenage boys. Yup. You heard me. There are about 5 million pairs of pants for women and girls. But not one single pair that fits my boy. Nor do they sell belts (I asked).

Now frantic, because my son is wearing sweatpants that I wouldn’t want to be buried in, I grumble out a thank you to the clerk and rush out of the store. I am now in overwhelm. Nothing else is open in my small town that calls itself a city. Wally’s world it is.

I run in as if I’m participating in an Amazing Race Episode, grab the first pair of $8 pants I see and race back to the car (stopping to pay of course, because if I’m going to steal, it definitely won’t be an ugly pair of Walmart pants).

I force my horrified son to change as we drive. We pull up to the school. Five minutes late. My mind flashes back to the Gilmore Girls episode where Lorelai brings Rory late to her first day of fancy private school dressed in a slutty cowboy outfit. I have become Lorelai Gilmore. I am literally the world’s worst mom.

Sighing I lead my son to his new classroom. Empty. I exhale hard. Ok fine then. Desperately, I search for any sign of life. The children are in the chapel. Poor Isaiah gets escorted to the front of the room to his classmates in front of the whole school.

And as I watch this scene play out before my eyes in deep shame, my gaze falls down to my boys new pants, which are sitting right above his ankles…

Man, and I thought homeschooling was hard.

Autumn · Family · Parenting

And Just Like That – It’s Fall!

Ahhh, September. Beautiful September!

It happens to be my favourite month of the year because…

A) It still has days that feel like summer.

B) Because autumn is beyond gorgeous. 🍂 😍Seriously Canada is beautiful in the fall! It even smells good. Okay aside from the farmers around me dumping manure on their fields…

C) Running gets better in fall. No more heatwaves that cause me to sweat before I’ve left the driveway… The scenery is 👌🏻.

D) Because I’m a nerd 🤓 and I love all things back to school! Yes, even when I homeschooled I looked forward to school. In every single grade of my childhood public and private school years, I looked forward to school AND now that my children are all leaving me (for the first time EVER!) to go to public school, I’M STILL EXCITED!!!

School is just such a privilege. Reading, writing, routine, friendships, classrooms, new books, and supplies! Gah! I could just go on and on about my love for it.

Someday I will go back to school… someday…

But for now, I will jealously watch my five kiddos taking it all in.

My daughter is nervous to go to school, and understandably so, because she is about to enter grade 6 and hasn’t been to public school since kindergarten. Bella has a quick wit though and is super outgoing, so I’m totally confident that these feelings will pass!

My four boys are all excited, like – they can’t wait – excited. I credit that to our homeschool years and us discovering that learning can be fun together. My kids also all love reading, because, well… let’s just say I make sure they read the right books that are well written.

We will pass on the “LEGO- Ninjago” and “Zac Powers” mind fluff thank you very much.

Seriously parents. If you want your kids to learn to love reading, give them something good to read!!

A few of our favorites for earlier chapter book readers:

“Frindle” by Andrew Clement

The “I Survived Series” were interesting for young boys because they were packed full of action. Ok, I personally found them a bit boring, but I loved my boys reading them because they were all based on different historical events! My boys now know more about the San Francisco Earthquakes of 1906 or the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 than I do, thanks to these books! (Written by Lauren Tarshis)

“Owls in the Family” by Farley Mowat

“Holes” by Louis Sachar

“A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“Number the Stars” and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

“Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Ronald Dahl

“The War That Saved my Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

And one of my kid’s favourite mystery series, “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stuart.

I could just go on and on here because there are so many books that they love! I hope you’ll pardon the rabbit trail, because I love sharing favourite book titles since I personally like it when others do! I’m always on the hunt for well written book (especially for my kids!) I should also add that once you find a good author, you often hit a jackpot of wealth and find good books for another few weeks!

Anyways, carrying on…

This month brings so much change for our family, but I can’t help but feel it is a very, very good thing. Change causes us to self reflect. It makes us take an honest look at everything we are currently doing and what choices have brought us to the place we are. Change causes us to think back on the good and bad changes we’ve made in the past.

This is so healthy to do yearly! When life gets rushed and all that you become focused on is staying afloat, it is very hard to stop and make the changes necessary to thrive.

BUT when the season shifts and things naturally change, I have learnt to take full advantage of it! Carefully combing through my schedule, I ask myself what is beneficial to us, that we need to keep in doing, what is harmful to us that we need to stop and what might need to be added.

There’s no one set formula of “the right way”, there’s no proven schedule to follow that will create the best adults. Rather, I believe life is about the small decisions, the little tweaks we make, which bring about the greatest impact in the end.

What about you? Do you love fall? Do you have a season that you stop to reassess? Any good book suggestions? 😁 (I’m going to follow up in a couple days and do a post about current Adult Fiction/Books that I’m enjoying so stay tuned!)

Faith · Parenting · Vulnerability

No one is Really Ready for Parenting

When I became a mother at the young age of 18, I clearly remember a very real pressure to prove to everyone around me that I was ready to parent. Now I can’t speak for those who wait until their 30s to first start having kids, but I can tell you from my own experience that I always felt as if someone was watching and even waiting for me to mess up.

As if they had CFS on speed dial and were eager to have the chance to call me in for any mistake I would most certainly make.

Every choice was thought through at least twice.

Every cry was my fault.

Everything I couldn’t afford to provide, I felt the need to justify. For crying out loud, I couldn’t even order a drive-through coffee back then without feeling guilty, as if I should be spending my money more wisely (on baby).

Every feeling of overwhelm was shoved down and pressed into a deep dark pit in my stomach which would only be addressed a decade later as I neared my thirties.

The reason was simple: Teenage mothers get a really bad rap. And I understand this! Often the mother is far too inexperienced, too self-absorbed, far too naive to realize what raising a child all entails. A baby definitely does not just simply mean a cute doll to haul around and a gorgeous Pinterest nursery to create…

Right from day one, the child is a living, breathing, individual being; a little human who hasn’t a clue how to tell you what they need, much less regulate their own emotions or take care of their most basic functions.

Being a young mom, I was painfully aware of this stereotype – so much, that I couldn’t even admit to my very normal feelings of becoming a mother. I couldn’t admit that I was afraid. I couldn’t admit that I needed help or ask for a much needed break. No parent should live with that kind of expectation. Raising children is far too difficult for one person to do alone. I took motherhood all on my own shoulders, lest someone would step into my life and tell me: “I told you so! I knew that you were too young. You never should’ve been allowed to keep your own child. You should’ve given it up to parents who were ready! Parents who are established in their careers, who have a house and can keep their plants alive (heaven knows I can’t!) YOU’RE JUST NOT READY!!!”

And you know what? They would’ve been right about that last part.

Because I wasn’t ready. Not for a second.

I wasn’t ready to give up sleep; to eat cold meals for the next year because the baby needed to be fed.

I wasn’t ready for the postpartum pain women experience after childbirth. I had no idea that for the next month I would have trouble standing without fainting and dread every bathroom break.

I had no idea of the pain I would experience while breastfeeding, or the loneliness of being the only one who was able to meet that need for my baby.

I had no idea of the absolute love and protectiveness I would feel when someone else would hold my baby in a position I knew he didn’t like or wrap him up too warmly.

I didn’t know the absolute terror I would feel as he lay with needles and cords from every limb while he spent almost a year in the hospital awaiting a diagnosis to why he was so sick.

I just wasn’t ready.

But neither is any parent, really.

A few days ago, I had the privilege of bumping into some new parents in their thirties. As I asked them how they were doing, they smiled and responded in awe of how nothing had prepared them for both the joys and the struggles they were facing and with a slight smile the man said, “It’s crazy how such a tiny person can completely change everything in your life!”

And it struck me: These feelings are normal! They didn’t just happen to me because I was too young.

Oh, that I would’ve realized that years ago!

I’m now 31 years old, with 5 kids. You could say that I have some experience…

And yet I still don’t feel ready in so many ways.

I’m not ready to stay calm, when my kid rages out of control.

I’m not ready to give up the things I love so that I can replace yet another worn out pair of shoes.

I’m not ready to navigate the teenage emotions and schedules, much less ready for my oldest to get his drivers in a couple more years.

But parenting never was meant to be about being ready. It’s about doing the right thing, even when you’re not ready. It’s about being the bigger person and admitting your mistakes (and you will make MANY). It’s about grace and second chances, for your kids, for yourself.

It’s about recognizing that everyone else around you was also not really ready, but yet, somehow, are doing it – and doing it well. Because what you really need to become a great parent is selflessness, love, persistence and a whole lot of people to walk beside you.

 

Family · Summer

Summer Adventures in a Family of Seven

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

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

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

Moving on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one had seen him.

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

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

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

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

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

The Perfected Pie:

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

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

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

Yes I speak Dora Spanish.

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

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

Let me know what your summer plans are!

Homeschooling · Parenting · Poetry

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.

Family · Homeschooling · Parenting · Porn · Purity

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.