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 😉

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.

Education · Homeschooling

Helpful Tips to Homeschool Your Public School Child

The situation we are in right now is completely shocking to me. Never in a million years would I have believed you if you had told me that all of Manitobans would be homeschooling their kids in 2020.

Never.

From people who have been adamantly against the idea, to people who have hesitatingly accepted it in my life, I have been getting emails, calls, and texts asking me the question everyone is asking:

HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU HOMESCHOOL?!?

How am I going to stay sane?

How am I going to keep track of all the stacks of schoolwork we are receiving?

WILL I SURVIVE?!?

So, this is my blog response to anyone who finds themselves feeling quite overwhelmed, panicking, devastated, and afraid: You are not alone. Everyone is in this situation together. Take a deep breath, you will get through this!

Here are the tips I’ve been giving for keys to being successful in your child’s education.

1) Homeschool is not like public schooling. I think the public school system is about to find that out. Feeling overwhelmed by five different subjects for five different kids, and the expectations that are being put on to parents right about now?? I sure am! And I’ve done this before!!

Again, take a deep breath, you do NOT have to do it their way. This is new territory! Teachers are feeling pressured to give loads of work assignments to their students to help them complete their public school curriculum guide. And they are giving instructions the only way they know how! So let’s have a lot of grace for them. Ok that being said, the amount of things I’m expected to do (listening to morning announcements, band practise charts, thirty minute recorded gym times??) Yeah… not happening. Sure, I’ll go on a walk or a bike ride with my kids once it warms up, but homeschooling moms have long realized that we can’t be everything to our kids. We tell them to play outside. Or help with chores! Gym time done.

I set up a room in the basement full of instruments to play with when their bored. Practice done.

Don’t you see? Boredom begets creativity and fitness. Not schedule.

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2) Stick to a schedule, but feel free to stop when it’s not working. Yes, the most successful homeschoolers must schedule in time for schoolwork. Preferably when the kids have the most energy, and when everyone’s feeling motivated. For us, this is mornings. I also prefer teaching in the mornings because then they have something to look forward to when they’re done their work (free time in the afternoon) or they have a consequence if they don’t work… an afternoon of more work 🙂

Most of the time, I start our day with prayer and devotions and reading a good chapter book to them. This draws them in and connects us in a fun way. Afterwards, we try to do subject by subject together. Some kids work ahead, that’s ok too! They can finish early as a reward for their hard work! I try to have a snack time or a 10 minute play break in the morning… again, something to look forward to or a consequence to lose. So make a schedule, try to stick to it, scrap it when needed. And don’t be afraid to try something new if it’s not working out anymore! Homeschooling works best when it’s not the same old thing everyday. Kids like a change once in a while!

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3) Remember the Important things! In the younger years (grades 1-4) this is math, reading (you to them and them to you) and lots and lots of writing! Seriously, don’t sweat the other stuff… it will mostly be forgotten. (Sorry teachers!) Feel free to put some of the work aside. Just get them writing, as the goal isn’t to have them remember how many buses long a blue whale is, the goal is for them to learn measurement and writing! Keep this in mind. You don’t have to do it all!

In the middle school years or older, science, history and geography do become more important, but by this time your child should be quite independent. If they need help you can’t give, I have one secret for you… YOUTUBE. It will quite literally teach your kid how to build a rocket. Or how to do open heart surgery… and hopefully the assignments they’re getting won’t be that complex!

4) Make a homeschooling room or corner! Seriously, nothing is more frustrating than having homework, laptops and kids learning in every single room in the house. Find a common area to work. Store all the work, binders, textbook and supplies in the same place: A bin, a bookshelf, a desk or a drawer. It doesn’t matter what you use, the key is to be able to have one place to store everything. This will keep you organized.

5) See the blessings. I admit, I had more than one day that my husband came home to find me discouraged and crying. It’s difficult teaching and getting all the kids to get along, while trying to keep up with housework, meal prep, laundry and work! At times it feels impossible. But it does get better with time. And there are SO many benefits to homeschooling! Remember that many people actually choose to do this!

The blessings I’ve experienced with homeschooling:

  • Feeling closer to my kids and understanding them/the way they learn.
  • Less negative influences.
  • More opportunities to teach important life skills… like sorting laundry, doing a cooking class, teaching them how to budget by letting them watch you add up the bills!
  • Closer sibling connections.
  • Learning to listen and parent instead of pushing them away and surviving until they go to school. These children are in your care for a reason, because YOU care about them more than anyone else!!
  • Children learning to understand you are human too! This is a really good thing! They need to know you have emotions, you get overwhelmed and sad too. This doesn’t cause them to feel unsafe, just the opposite! They can finally relate to you!
  • Calmer, less rushed mornings.
  • More free time/less driving around and chaotic schedule. Ok some of us thrive on busyness… but most of us actually should have slowed down LONG ago. Make the most of this time! Don’t squander it on devices. Spend time together. Let the kids become bored enough to get creative. Once they get over being told what to do every hour of every day, they will come up with fascinating games and ideas!!
  • More creativity.
  • Housework helpers… because kids as young as three CAN sort their own laundry and clean their room. Now YOU have more free time 🙂

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There you have it! The best of my advice. Now… just to store up your favourite secret stash of chocolate or snacks! Trust me, you’ll need it!

 

Education · Family · Homeschooling · public school

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

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

I had dreams of what this would look like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or lazy.

Or bad for your kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros of homeschooling:

-Students learn at their own pace

-Less distractions

-More one on one teaching

-Flexible Hours

-Flexible curriculum

-Less wasted time

-Closer family connections

-Better values being taught

-Limited exposure to negative influences

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

Cons of homeschooling:

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

-Lack of support

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

-Some children struggle to respect other authority

-Narrow perspective

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

-Difficulty with clashing personalities

-Very little down time or quiet moments

-Bored children

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

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

A Typical Public School Day:

So let me just clarify a few things:

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

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

– My days are more chaotic than ever.

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

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

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

Then the phone begins to ring…

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

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

“Mom I forgot my…” click.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about public schooling on the students side of things?

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

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

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

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

Pros of public school:

Consistent routine and schedule

-Close friendships

-Unique opportunities

-A larger worldview/different perspective

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

-The variety of subjects/courses

-Independence

Cons of public school:

-Homework

-Less Free time

-Overly busy schedule

-Negative influences

-Costs and pressure to do more outings

-Distractions and noise

-Disrespect to teachers

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

-Lack of supervision

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

Faith · Purpose · Wisdom

A Forgotten Grave

I sit at my desk, once again, tapping the keys on my laptop. Trying to form another post. I must’ve started fifty in the past months. Fifty posts unseen to the world. 

There is a largely unseen aspect to my life right now, and for the first time, I’m okay with it. I mean truly okay.

I wake up. Journal. Read. Pray.

Connect with my family. Send them to school.

Clean. Bake. Cook. Shop. Volunteer.

Kids come home. I make supper. Connect with my family some more. And then go to bed so I can repeat it all over again in the morning.

And I feel full.

I think it’s because I’ve finally come to the point where I’m no longer trying to move to the next stage and the next. I’ve become content with the journey itself.

We do that a lot in life, don’t we?

Wake up Monday and just try to make it till the weekend.

 

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Start a job and go through the motions… just surviving until the next holiday.

Start parenthood, just waiting until the baby is sleeping through the night… then till they’re potty trained… then just till they’re in school…. finally until they’re out of the house.

And then we still wait! Until retirement. And even then. Fill the schedule so full of social outings and volunteering that we just long until we can go south for the winter.

Is this really what life is about? Waiting for the next good moment?

Now just a caveat: I’ve seen many take this idea to unhealthy places, where people start feeling guilty for even enjoying anything in life. Breaks are fine. Holiday’s are good. Rest is good.

Let’s not get weird.

Yet what I’m saying is this: What if, we actually saw the journey as the purpose; the moment we live in, as the joy of life? And the breaks as just that: A short pause; a rest before the next stanza in the symphony.

Not the only thing to look forward to.

And most certainly not the meaning of it all! For what would a symphony be with no sound?

I’ve decided to homeschool my younger two boys again next year. To finish what I’ve started. Why? Because I’m happy with the results of the older three kids, with the time I’ve put into their lives, with the good relationship we have and I want to provide my younger two children with the same opportunities.

I think, our culture at large has no idea how much time it takes to raise children. To create loving and close bonds with the next generation. That’s why I often chuckle at younger moms or others who are just waiting until the next stage.

Guess what? A teenager needs the same amount of time as a toddler.

HA! I bet you didn’t know THAT! (As most people reading this gasp and shake their heads. Now they know I’m off my rocker!)

How can I make this bold claim? A teenager can do almost everything for themselves!! Yet… Most teens feel so unconnected to their families that they are known to cause trouble, run off, steal, do drugs, engage in risky sexual behaviour. It’s why people dread those teenage years.

My older two are just entering these years now. And I am LOVING it. I love my teens. They are SO much fun! They understand so much. They have a spark that I’ve lost. They are losing that lame elementary school humour and becoming hilarious to be around (sorry to my younger kiddos, it’s just true!!). We spend most evenings together. Chatting. Eating supper. Cleaning up together. Laughing. Playing games.

And my question is this? Where are the other parents of this generation?

At work. Rushing to unimportant outings. And hiding behind screens.

I get asked a lot about my relationship with my children. Why they like church? Why they like our family cell group? How I get them to share their struggles openly with me? How do I manage to have our teens enjoy family times together?

The answer is quite simple, but it isn’t easy: It is quite literally laying down my life daily for my family.

I have no career.

I do not travel.

I have no outside hobbies: my hobbies happen at home. I run at home. I read at home. I bake at home. I write at home.

I have no fame.

I have no degree.

I am nothing, No one to the world.

HA! Feminists HATE this kind of talk. Why am I not doing something for me??

Oh, but I am.

I have no importance to the world, yet I am filled with a profound sense of purpose: I am raising the next generation.

Do you understand the importance of that statement??

I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION!

Unseen. Unheard. Probably will never be known or famous. One day, a century or two from now, my graveside will be long forgotten.

But there will be five kids who will live on… and build five more legacies, and their legacies will multiply and their children will have children. And on and on. And perhaps the most profound thing will be this: they will have a legacy of love.

They belonged and they were loved. So they too will love and invite others to belong.

If I could have one wish, it’s that every single person, every single parent, every single mother could see this.

Our purpose isn’t to provide a fancy house, car and clothes for our children. It’s not to give them that dream vacation. It’s not to give them every opportunity with career or extra curricular event. These are usually just our dreams for them anyway.

Our purpose is to be there and listen. To love and connect.

To build a strong legacy, which may never be recorded in the Guinness World Records or history books, but will be written on the hearts of our children and grandchildren.

Our purpose is to let this love overflow to the world. Because the more I love and take time for my family, the more I find myself caring about those around me. Instead of judging, wondering, do they have a place of belonging? Do they have someone to care?Often, the answer is no. So we invite them in: Come, join our family.

No, maybe I won’t end up in the Hall of Fame, and there’s a good chance that my grave will one day be forgotten, like the millions of heroes and saints that have gone before me. People pass away. Memories are forgotten.

But you know what doesn’t pass away? The fruit that comes from a labour of love.

Authenticity · Faith

Breaking Point

Sit down. Breathe.

The first morning to rest in weeks. Well, maybe just a bit of rest, there’s a lot of catch up to do.

Oh, what to do? What to do with this extra hour of time. An hour of quiet. An hour of alone time.

Should I read?

Sleep?

Go for a quick run on the treadmill? It’s been over a week since I last could run. Since I last had the time. The strength.

Weddings and long flus do that you know. My house was a place of bustling activities for the past week. So many people. Wonderful people. But a house full of 14 wonderful people, still holds the chaotic mess of the McCallister family from Home Alone.

Yup that was our place. Add a wedding and the flu to whatever you’re imagining. Harry and Marv didn’t even dare stop by. Our house was too much for even them. 

Oh and I almost forgot…there was a wedding cake order that I had to make in the mix. A large one:

Where was I going with this?

Right. Alone time. Rest.

That was supposed to be this morning.

Then the phone rings. My son, who was already sick last week with the flu, just threw up at school.

Morning of rest… OVER.

This is an honest look at Motherhood. An exhaustion that goes beyond exhaustion.

Reality: I don’t get a break. I am Mom.

Also Reality: This is why I need Jesus everyday.

Every. Single. Day.

This past week was impossible for me. If anything, it showed me how human I truly am.

I can’t do it all.

I really can’t! I need help. When I’m up at night holding buckets in front of kids, when I’m up early in the morning doing laundry, when I’m up late after everyone else is gone to bed, baking and decorating wedding cakes & cleaning up the mess that’s left behind, I am not enough.

In fact my character shows it. I become snappy. I become focussed on things rather than people. I grow bitter and bossy. For crying out loud, I quit a card game with my family because I was losing. Immature much??

My normal capacity to handle stress was gone.

Put me in any one of these situations: Host. Wedding. Cake Decorator. Sick family… and I can do it.

I can handle anything. (Or so I think)

But put me in all of the situations at once and I break.

Everyone has a breaking point. This was mine.

I am human.

I am weak.

The inside yuck comes out, and surprise, surprise, I’m just as short tempered, grumpy, and controlling as anybody else.

It gives me a lot of grace, to think this way. Because what is this trial compared to so many others have gone through and are going through right now?

Oh, that I would have eyes to see this! We are all just humans, struggling along in our weakness. We actually cannot do anything.

BUT…

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

All things.

Not some things. All things.

As I sit now, resting, with my hand in his. I believe it. Because he never said that I have to do everything perfectly. I just need to hold his hand in mine and stay soft through it all.

When I fall, all he asks is me to reach out again and get back up.

That I can do.

If this is what keeps me humble, if this is what keeps my heart soft towards others, then Jesus, I thank you for it. Bring me to my breaking point over and over so that I learn to truly rely on you. Then I will truly do all things in your strength and not my own.

Christmas

Broken Angels

There were nine. Nine golden angels made of glass.

It all started when they caught Mother’s eye. A rare, impulse buy. All at once in that tiny moment, in that unknowing act, a progression of events was started that would eventually end in a yearly disaster.

The act of buying glass anything was foolish, she knew, for a household with not only one, but two babies. However it wasn’t that first year, nor the second, but the third when the tradition began. That third year, when there were three children.

Nevertheless a tradition was born – thee tradition was born – for every tradition must make its debut.

It was an innocent mistake, that first broken angel. A boy, a girl and a ball. One quick game of indoor catch was all it took. Of course, Mother saw it all before it actually happened, as most mother’s do. Wisdom. Foresight. Experience. Whatever it was, she called out her warning a second too late.

The inevitable crash of shattering glass. Immediate chaos, if only for a second. An overreaction of sorts. Yelling. Tiny stricken faces with regretful tears.

Finally, understanding dawns: it’s not that big a deal.

Voices soften, the room calms and Mother warns gently now: “Be careful, step away, that glass is sharp.”

Year four. Fast baby. Moving baby. Soft chubby hands grab for a sparkling figure, carelessly placed two branches too low. A single snap. A piercing scream. Mother holds baby close as little drops of red appear on the cherub’s hands. She cleans them carefully, silently. Kissing them, bandaging the wounds. Angel number two is momentarily forgotten.

When, and only when baby is safe in his crib, Mother cleans up the mess. She looks at the angel, broken in pieces and shakes her head. What a stupid move, such a thoughtless notion, to buy glass.

The fifth year, another child joins the picture. Four little children. But they can’t be blamed for broken angel number three. This one was on Daddy. Goofy Daddy. Careless Daddy. Daddy with his smiling eyes.

Mother yells again, “You careless bunch of hooligans! I only have six left!” but as she turns to get the vacuum, a smile tugs at her lips.

Three years, three angels.

Year six was quite different, for the angel broke itself. At least, that is what Mother claimed as she carefully and gently lifted the angelic piece to the tree. The halo, which held the string simply snapped and down, down, down fell the ornament as Mother gasped. The room is silent, except for the breaking angel. The shattering of glass now sounds like the chiming of a familiar childhood memory. Each piece holds its own pitch, and rings out its broken song: The sound of Christmas.

A snicker. A snort. The room hold no more tension. The family bursts into laughter. Four years in a row. One broken angel a year. No more, no less.

By the time year seven rolls around, the family of seven opens up the decoration box to find a fifth wingless angel. Had the box dropped? Had it been carelessly packed away? No one knows. But by now it’s a game. A silly little game. How will next year’s angel break?

Year eight doesn’t disappoint. Mom’s once again growing tired of the negligence. But still, she allows the laughter, pulling out the vacuum, the expression she wears is one resigned to the destiny of her fragile figures.

“I only have three left.”

The oldest child just giggles, “But Mooom, it has to break. It’s tradition!”

Year nine and ten fly by in a similar manner. There’s now eight broken angels. Never once was one shattered on purpose. But each year it happens just the same.

Finally, year eleven approaches. The Christmas tree is up. The five children are all older. Less careless.

Mama stares at that last glass angel. Something in her hopes it will break. Another part wishes it will last forever. But either way, she knows, the tradition will soon end. All traditions must have a finale. Either that or they slowly die out, forgotten forever.

A finale sounded much better.

But what? A slow smile spreads across her face.

A plan.

Christmas Day comes and the angel still holds tightly to the tree. Gently swaying there, beautifully. The family seems to momentarily forget their ridiculous ritual. Angel breaking.

They forget as they rip open boxes of paper; brightly colored paper that carpets the floor. Suddenly it happens. Mother brings out a box; a clear box with a string. To protect. To safeguard. A monument to last forever. This last angel will not break. It will be preserved.

Ooohs and Awws fill the room. The perfect finale. Mother takes the last angel and carefully places it within its cage, sticking it with care to the bottom. Savouring this precious moment, she turns to place the memory box on the tree.

A piece of discarded wrapping paper was all it took. Her foot slips, she stumbles, as if in slow motion. Her eyes grow wide as the treasure slips from her grasp. The angel and the box hang in the air. Mother hits the ground first, then all at once, it happens. As if the tradition has a mind of its own, the box hits the ground. The last angel shatters within its own shield.

First shock. And stunned silence. Impossible!

Then that magical moment. The outburst of howling, almost delirious laughter. Floor pounding, snorting and roaring type laughter. Tears rolling down each face, unable to breathe sort of laughter. Wave after wave it continues. The kind that erupts from deep inside and goes on until all sides are aching.

Finally, as all good times do, the moment ends. For the very last time, Mother cleans up. It is all as it was meant to be.

There were nine. Nine golden angels made of glass.

Now, there are memories.

Faith

Keeping my Family Together

These were my thoughts today as I reflected on the influence I have on my family:

The most sobering and shocking revelation that I’ve found in my home is that I am the heartbeat of it. When I isolate myself, when I’m upset or allow myself to become mean and uncontrolled, the rest of my family is sure to follow.

When I am in a room, the kids gather around, drinking in the conversation, the laughter, the stories I share.

When I leave, they scatter.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that I stay present.

My joy lights up the room. My sadness darkens it. It is as if I am able to control the very atmosphere of my home with my responses to those around me.

This may just be the greatest blessing or the greatest curse a parent can discover.

About Me · Family

Parties, Carrots and a Cute Little Pirate

I’ve been finding it hard to find time for WordPress these days. I do apologize for missing many of your wonderful posts. Hopefully when life slows down a bit, I can scroll back and read them.

“What’s so busy?” you may ask yourself.

First of all, our family celebrates two birthdays one day apart at the beginning of the month.

Our second youngest is now eight and requested a hot wheels themed cake. (I love making special cakes for my kids, another hobby of mine). I also planned a party for him with eight very rambunctious kids in the house.

Our only daughter turned 12 and went with an Aladdin themed cake to go with her movie night. She had five (much calmer) girls over, but it was a sleepover so it still took up half a weekend.

To top it off my eldest son had a tournament that same day. So we’ve been in recovery for the past week.

Also, I’ve been dealing with carrots.

A lot. Of. Carrots.

I’m trying to sneak them into pasta sauce, soups, casseroles, carrot cakes… our kids get them for snack.

And to be honest, I’m not even a fan of them. But they’re healthy and free… so… there’s that.

This is half of them:

I am currently shredding and freezing them. Hopefully I’m done by next spring. If there’s ever a world shortage of carrots, I will be a very wealthy person.

We are also running around in circles for Isaiah’s volleyball practises and games.

This lovely schedule will go right into November. But we love our kids and so we love investing in their interests.

I leave you with a picture of my cute little Pirate. Although he doesn’t look very frightening, don’t let that charming smile deceive you… those plastic knives really hurt when dropped from a balcony onto an unsuspecting mother.

Happy October Everyone!!

Faith · Family · Parenting

Remember the Little Guy

Growing up in a conservative background, one of the most remarkable trademarks of the adults around me was how selfless they were.

Traditionally, where I grew up, even clapping for others was seen as prideful and vain. Bragging about or praising anyone but God was unthinkable.

These people lived out what they sang: “I will not boast in anything, no strength, no power and wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection!”

I loved that line… I still do! What I’m writing about today is in no way putting down these beautiful truths because I do believe we live a time where people are way too self focused (…just see my previous post haha)!

We live in a world that praises many things.

It glorifies power, money, sex, careers, possessions, fame, yet places very little value on family, time, connecting, caring for the needy or serving without pay.

Why, even those in the church are beginning to buy into the idolization of wealth and power.

And I think the reason is quite simple:

We’ve forgotten what’s important, because while the world boasts loudly about what it sees as valuable, those who value true worth remain painfully silent about what really matters.

And we’re beginning to buy in to what the world is saying.

When I write about motherhood and how vital it is, about how valuable family is, and how important stay-at-home-mothers are in our society, I’m not just trying to toot my own horn and to gain recognition for what I’m doing.

My purpose isn’t to get praise for myself.

It’s alright when people misunderstand me, because if I was the only one affected by misconceptions about moms who don’t work outside the home, I would just keep my mouth closed. But the truth is, our lack of understanding and value of families… of stay at home mothers in particular, is changing a whole generation.

Every single comment about what I am doing with all my free time makes me understand more and more why women are ashamed to stay at home. It feels awkward to try and justify the value of cleaning, cooking, organizing, grocery shopping, driving around… it would be so much easier to just say, “Oh I work AND I am a mom of five.”

It just sounds better!

No one would flat out say stay-at-home moms are lazy. But… what are they doing at home? We wonder.

Sometimes even ask.

Have you ever asked that about someone who is at work?

Have you ever asked someone in an office, “Just what are you doing with all your time at work?” Have you ever asked someone at a workplace, “Sooo, what do you do with no children around?!?”

Did you know that right now there are women working their tail off, with no children at home, and, there are also women at work scrolling through their Facebook feed?

Did you know that laziness is a heart issue, not an occupation issue?

This goes both ways people!

Of course there are stay at home mothers who don’t spend their time wisely! Just like there are students who skip class or don’t do their work, just like there are employees who take advantage of their employers by taking a ten minutes smoke break every hour. There are also leaders who live in luxury, taking advantage of taxpayers hard earned money to go on elaborate vacations or hire not one but two expensive full time nannies… ahem. Not naming any names here.

Yes there are people who take advantage of others. Some of them are on welfare, some of them are in the workplace, some of them are stay at home moms.

Working hard has very little to do with capacity or position… it has everything to do with the heart.

I know people who physically could not be a firefighter or a labourer. Yet they work incredibly hard in an office. Just like there are people who are physically strong but who would not have a hot clue how to navigate what many people do in an office.

Personally, I could never do what my husband does. As a part owner of an Internet company he’s smart, incredibly efficient and able figure out problems that I would stare dumbly at. He’s able to deal with hundreds of emails in a day. He’s able to maintain a cool when there’s power outages and frustrated customers who are depending on him.

However, he admits that the coordination of finances, schedules, meals, gardening, cleaning, and taxing people around is something he could never do.

Working hard, with or without pay, deserves recognition. Period. It’s about time we stop valuing people for their net worth.

Let’s boast in the janitor who shows up every single day and works with all his might for the whole shift. We need him! Let’s recognize the children who take their schoolwork seriously and do their best in each class. Let’s praise the stay at home parents, who do all the unseen things to keep the families lives running smoothly. Let’s give honor to the cooks, the artists, the singers and writers who bring enjoyment to life. Let’s bless the truckers who keep the shelves stocked so we can eat and the volunteers at the soup kitchen, who care for the needy.

For when we recognize the forgotten ones in society, it’s then we remember that the little things often hold the greatest worth. And some of those we hold in high regard, when stripped of the fame and power, may seem very small indeed.

It’s time we remember what and who matters the most. Then, let’s boast in it.