The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Tofino Getaway

I was at the grocery store, trying to read my scrawled, haphazard list when he called me.

“Hunny, I won.”

No kidding. I’m getting groceries for your fishing trip tomorrow, when you leave me alone with a newborn and six other children. Yes, you won indeed.

“No, I won the grand prize. We’re going to Tofino!”

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Two months later we landed in Comox, Vancouver Island. Once we arrived, our rental car was ready and took us on a beautiful drive through forests and coastline, unlike any we had ever seen.

We checked into the Pacific Sands Beach Resort, which is situated right on the ocean. You can literally surf right from your room. Our condo had a well stocked kitchen, and we had a leisurely dinner before walking up and down the coast. The sunset was amazing and everything I had hoped for.

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The next morning, after a late breakfast, we took surfing lessons and rode the waves. Well, Sim did. He’s a natural at everything he tries. I took surfing lessons, and drank the water. It really is salty.

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We didn’t just win our flights, our resort stay and rental car, we also won a $500 VISA gift card. We decided to use it for experiences. Surfing was an “experience” for sure. We also took a Whale Watching Tour, and were not disappointed. Sea otters, sea lions, humpback whales and grey whales all made their appearance within a two hour boat ride. Feeling the breeze and the ocean spray on our faces and just letting someone else steer the boat was, to me, the highlight of the whole trip.

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On our way back to the airport to fly home three days later, we hiked through the Rainforest Trail in Pacific Rim National Park. The trees were huge and so different than anything we had seen before. It was peaceful and humid and an awesome way to end the weekend.

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We couldn’t be more thankful to win this trip! We got to experience a piece of our country that we had only heard about. To be there and feel the ocean spray, smell the salt in the air and just have such a beautiful time together was an experience we will never forget.

 

 

 

 

Be Known for Showing Up

It’s been seven weeks since my baby died. I had him or her close to my heart for seven or eight weeks, so it’s just an interesting thought. I wanted to tell everyone a day or two after I found out, but with Christmas coming we thought it would be so much fun to surprise the kids around the tree. We were going to get Melody a onesie that said “Big Sister,” and see if they would figure it out. So fun; what a memory that would be.

But, the day before my husband had his wisdom teeth taken out, the bleeding started. I tried to shrug it off, but I knew. It was the beginning of the end. I was a bit more prepared this time for what to expect. At least I was home, and could go through the physical process alone.

We were quite a team. He had some kind of reaction to his procedure that left him with a splitting migraine for weeks. I alternately cried, self-loathed, and yelled for no reason. I’m still stuck on the self-hatred. Our poor children are so gracious, and tried so hard to make us smile. They know that when Mommy’s crying, it’s not because of them. Elijah, who’s three, will just wrap his arms around my neck and stay there. Compassion is so beautiful in the young, it is unfettered. We named the baby Jordan; we all decided together.

I am so thankful for my two friends that checked in on me, and another who brought a crockpot full of supper. I don’t know what I would have done. My heart was broken; my dreams shattered. There was a beautiful life, and then it was gone. I am just sick.

If I could go back and change things, I so would. I would have proudly told the world, or our little world anyways, about the new life that was blooming. I know some people like to wait but I just don’t get it. A baby is a baby is a baby. I know not everyone agrees with me, but when I saw the second line on the seven different tests, the furthest thing from my mind was a clump of cells. I could feel the weight of a full baby after a feed. The way they streeeetch their arms up and stick out their bum. When they make the most ridiculous faces, crossing their eyes, sticking out their tongues. Oh, the smell. I just wanted to hold him or her so bad. Darn the people who would have commented stupid stuff. Seriously, we know how babies are made, and we are really, really good at it. I’ll link to our instructional DVD later.

Instead of taking my vitamins, drinking my protein shakes and being so careful to avoid caffeine, I got to cry alone, take care of my husband and come up with chili for a prior commitment. Bring my girls to dance class while still feeling the life drain out of me. Smile and chuckle when the fourth person TODAY asks “when is the next one coming?” The world changed, the world hurt, and there was no reprieve.

Now I’m coming out of the fog. I still cry, every freaking day. New babies, commercials, news reports of babies hurt or abused literally break me. I’m not as angry, not as raw, a bit calmer, but still just. So. Sad. I am so sad. Seriously. What was the point of all this awful heartache?

I got to learn things, so there’s that. I learned the importance of showing up. My two friends- neither of them had gone through this. They probably didn’t know exactly what to say. But they knew the importance of just being there for the heartache. They knew that a quick text or praying for comfort for someone is a healing balm for the soul. The being alone in your grief and pain- or worse, being alone with a pile of kids to watch and teach all day- is not where we are supposed to be.

We are supposed to commune. To lift each other up, to encourage, to celebrate and to cry. I have never known that as deeply as I do now. We need to look out for each other, especially those on the sidelines. But people can’t support and care if they don’t know.

So I encourage us to be a bit more real with each other. There are people in your life who will love you and support you. Make sure they know where you’re at.

And if you know that someone is hurting, reach out. Say the wrong thing. Do the wrong thing. It’s always better than no thing. They will see your heart. And even if they don’t, you will know that you did your best.

We need to be known for showing up, not known for our absence.

Get Ready

Today, the beginning of Advent and the Christmas season, I’ve been thinking lots about Mary.

 

She was not prepared to be pregnant. She was young, unmarried, and a virgin. She never saw it coming.

 

Now some things in life, you have time to think about; time to decide. Should I volunteer for this role? Should I step up in this way? Am I “called” to this? But pregnancy? Sometimes, you just plain find out your pregnant. There’s no testing the waters in pregnancy. You can’t try it out and see if it’s for you, or quit if it’s too overwhelming or uncomfortable.

 

Once that happens, everything changes. Everything you eat, drink, feel or do affects that little tiny baby.

 

And Mary? She was ready.

 

She went from being completely floored at the sight of an angel in her house, on her rug, next to her- maybe within touching distance?- to saying “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” It doesn’t look like a lot of time went by, in Luke’s accounting.

 

She didn’t have to pray about it first. She didn’t have to think about it, poll her friends, read some articles, or hem and haw about her own thoughts and opinions.

 

She was operating within the Spirit and answered the Lord when He requested her. Done. She recognized the ambassador of the God she served, and was ready to give up everything for this request.

 

Would Joseph still marry her? Would her parents disown her? Would the town destroy her?

 

“May your word to me be fulfilled.” Let it be. Let me do this thing that God has asked of me. I am His. 

 

Are you ready for what He asks of you? I know I’m not. I was given an opportunity lately that I floundered in for a little while. I didn’t have immediate obedience. I listened to my selfish heart, instead of the one that wants SO BADLY to please my King. It was a good, clear view of my first reflexes (fear, anxiety, selfishness). I will not ever have that same, exact opportunity again. It was one of those decisions that required quick, fast and resolute decisiveness. I regret my feelings and my thoughts. I know I’m forgiven, but darn, I want so badly to do the right thing at the right time!

 

So this month, in this season- I want to get ready. I want to be operating in a frame that knows quickly and swiftly an attitude of submission and praise to the one whom I serve. I want to know His voice, and I want it to be louder than my own, than my friends’ and the people around me. I want to be unafraid and unashamed, and ready to do the roles and parts that only I can do.

Some things you pray about; some things you wait to make a decision.

Some things you need to quickly do when He asks.

Are you ready?

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When Chaos Meets Autopilot- What to Do When Life Throws Curveballs

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There have been a few times in our family journey when I can say things have been so hectic; so crazy; so unbelievably bananas, that I if I listen hard enough I can hear a roar in the back of my head. Now obviously, you don’t want to stay in those “life spaces,” but sometimes it happens and you feel like you can’t hold your head above water. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, be so thankful. If you do, there’s hope. I’ve discovered a few ways to keep paddling against the waves that I would love to share.

  1. Make everything as easy as possible. Get rid of (temporarily) all obligations. Even a simple email expressing that you are going off the radar for a bit, and you will pick up again when you can, is all that’s needed. Or- have a friend do it for you. Feel free to give specifics (sometimes reaching out is very appropriate) or don’t, but you don’t need to be dealing with the hubris of affairs that just aren’t important at the moment. It’s also unfair for your absence to be hurting others, if they are waiting for you to make decisions or fulfill commitments. Drop as many bags as you can, with as much notice as you can. Depending on the situation, add a week or two to your leave of absence. You can always come back full force earlier.
  2. Take three deep breaths as often as you can. I am in the habit of doing this at very weird times. In stressful situations, even going to the restroom provides enough time to make sure you’re breathing properly and your brain is getting enough oxygen. If possible, have a glass or bottle of water at all times, and try to drink from it occasionally. Survival is key.
  3. No. More. Decisions. Our family is in the middle of a pretty chaotic time. It’s probably the busiest I’ve ever been in my whole life. It won’t end anytime soon, but it’s also not an emergency, so I’ve had to make things as easy as I can. When I hang up my clothes, I hang them in outfits so I can easily throw one on in the morning- no rummaging or trying to choose. For especially chaotic mornings, I do it the night before for the kids, too. All our meals (and one snack) are on a weekly plan- same thing every Monday, Tuesday, etc. This has helped to make sure we’re still eating pretty well, and helped me plan and purchase groceries super quickly. If you are having a hard time with decisions, just start saying “No” to most things (except for #7) until the feeling passes.
  4. Use the services offered. Bring bills along to set up online banking from your phone while you’re sitting in a waiting room. Figure out how to use Click and Collect from any grocery store nearby. Even driving a few minutes out of your way will help save time in the store, and decision fatigue while you’re there. I cannot count how many times I’ve frozen in a grocery store aisle, panicking that I may need something, and should get it- but it would put my budget over. Nothing is more pathetic than losing it next to the canned pineapple. Email, email, email anything you can to save time from texts and phone conversations. These can be done in the middle of the night, when it comes to mind. If you have the budget, hire people to do the things they specialize in- house cleaning, babysitting, etc. This is not the time to save money, this is the time to be where you need to be, and do what you need to do. If you can replace yourself in an area, do it.
  5. Plan ahead, as much as you can. If you know you’re leaving the next day to go back to the hospital, or anything- put everything you can in the car. Even if it’s just snacks, water bottles or diapers, it’s one less thing to carry or remember. Load the stroller, grab some books for the kids. Keep phones and electronics on chargers if you possibly have to dash out. We now keep our van completely stocked with necessities, (I think we could survive a whole weekend just in the van) but it’s still helpful to have extra supplies on hand. We do this with our extra curriculars- as soon as we’re done school, all ballet bags and Kids Club stuff goes in the car before anyone gets lunch. It helps so much when you’re leaving and taking several trips to load up babies.
  6. Use all appliances. Do not leave the house without switching a load or running the dishwasher, if needed. Even three or four year olds can do this (as long as there isn’t anything dangerous.) It doesn’t have to be perfect- maybe some plates will be in the same slot. You’ll be okay, and most of your dishes will be clean when you get home. Maybe- just give it a double glance before you turn it on. I don’t know what the worst thing that could happen would be, but my beautiful insurance agent does. Maybe God’s just been gracious to me in this area. As for your laundry, it will not fold itself yet, but at least it will be clean. For folding or putting away, see the next two tips.
  7. Ask for help. Wave the white flag. Ask your people, or any people, for specific things to be done. Most of your friends and family would love to help if you’d ask, ya big dummy. Even little things like chopping up veggies for snacks, or packing a PBJ lunch and dropping off wherever you are is super helpful. Obviously meals, babysitting or help alongside is priceless. I remember when my mom was in ICU in the city, and a family friend took my two babies to a park nearby for an hour. It changed my whole day. Not too long ago, I appealed in desperation on Facebook, and two ladies came to my rescue. A lot of people will say in times of crisis “to let them know how they can help.” So, you know, do it. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering.
  8. Enlist the kids. They can do so much: way more than people give them credit for. Ask them. Share how you’re feeling, so that they can see how to ask for help when they need it and know the words to say to express themselves.
  9. Don’t forget your husband. I so hope he’s your best friend. Give him the situations that he can fix- and even those he can’t- and trust his judgement. Sometimes their eyes are exactly what you need to see the whole picture. Let him support you or love you how he does it best.
  10. Pray, pray, pray. Pray in the Spirit. There have been so many situations that I didn’t know how they would work out, but He is faithful and with us in all of them no matter what. Ask people to pray for and with you.
  11. Fall on grace. The panic will fade. You won’t stay running on adrenaline forever. Try and know in your heart that the Tim Horton’s dude is not trying to ruin your life. Your toddler is still toddling. Deep breaths. This, too, shall pass. It doesn’t mean there won’t be scars, but let’s try not to leave them everywhere we go. It’s when we’re at our weakest that He’s at His strongest. Find a few safe places to vent or cry, and don’t waste your emotions or panic on those who will not understand or empathize.

I will write soon about how to prepare for the times of emergency family-mode, but I would LOVE to hear your tips about how to deal with things when they’re thrown at you unexpectedly!

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Gezellig

Gezellig- an almost undefinable Dutch word that describes cozy and homey. The warm bath and old slippers feeling. 

 

I was an amazing kid. I know some people say that, but I so was. I was super responsible, super helpful. I was capable, and really considered myself equal to my mom. We were the best of friends. She would practice her Tupperware presentations on me. She tried to homeschool me a couple years. I would tell her everything about my life. I would literally narrate each day spent away at school, each birthday party, every sleepover. I would tell her Every. Single. Thing.

 

Fast forward through high school. She was still my best friend, but I rebelled hard. It was probably the worst time of my life- knowing that I was breaking her heart and then still needing her so bad. I’m sure it wasn’t a peach for her, either. We would talk, argue and spend hours together, both in our garage and at the restaurant in town. I valued her friendship so much: but no longer was I her equal, and I knew more about life than she did.

Now, I realize how much she really knew.

She knew just the way to react to everything. When I did something great- a good job with my chores, or at school- she had this way of drawing in her breath really audibly. I don’t know how to explain it better than that. This sort of shocked, WOW! slow, deep breath in. With a huge smile, big eyes, and so much praise. Even right now, I can hear it and feel it. I wish I could bottle it up and hold it forever and release a little when I complete a task around the house.

 

She knew when to be mad. She would understand my offence right away, and carry it herself. She knew exactly how I was feeling and where I was coming from. I never really had to explain because she almost always knew my motivations and my intentions. She always believed the best of me

 

She would leave me surprises on my bed. Magazines, treats, anything. It always made me feel like I was loved. Whenever I needed anything, I would just ask her, and I would get it. Whether it was gas in my tank, clothes, or drive thru, I always felt taken care of. There was never ever a doubt in my mind.  Looking back, I was spoiled and entitled, I guess!

 

Seriously, no one has ever had my back as much and as tough as my mom. And how much credit have I ever given her?

 

Seven years ago, my mom had a stroke. It was one of those moments that have shaped me. When the phone rings too early or too late, I think of her. Of when she didn’t remember me, or she kept telling me the same things over and over. Of being in ICU, and calling the nurse a few times a night to make sure she was still breathing. Of having no money, and trying to pay for parking at the hospital, and needing gas to get to the city every day. Pacing the floors at 36 weeks pregnant, along with a three and a two year old.

 

A few days after she came home, I delivered my first girl. Since I was so expecting her to be a boy, it took months for different hopes and thoughts to come over me. I would lay awake in the middle of the night nursing my sweet baby, and all of a sudden think of chatting into the night. Doing her nails. Shopping for shoes. Being friends.

 

And now that little girl is getting bigger, and I realize how much work this whole parenting thing is. It doesn’t just happen- this magic where they look at you and want to please you or make you proud. You have to work for it. You have to be present in the small moments, so they will trust you with their big.

 

I’m starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t amazing at cleaning the bathroom, or watching my little sibs, or doing my math. But- she really made me believe it was so. She called out the best in me by meeting me exactly where I was and loving me for it the whole time.

 

Basically, I just need to honour my mom. Just to tell the world what she is, and how she’s done it. Our house was always full as a teen. I share her with many people who still, to this day, call her Mom. She started over late in life, and found herself in a new community and new church. She has struggled with her health for longer than I care to remember, and yet still tries to give every last bit of herself away. She tries so hard to make sure people are comfortable around her. She loves to make people laugh, and will laugh easily with you too, even if you aren’t that funny (ask me how I know.) She is my biggest fan.

 

I know a lot of really smart people. A lot of really put-together people. A lot of successful people, in all different things. I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable around them, or good about myself. They didn’t make me want to chat for hours and hours about nothing and everything. If anything they make me feel less than, or leave me worried later on that they misunderstood me, or didn’t get me.

 

It’s hard to make a house into a home, to make an environment where people grow and thrive and know they are loved.

 

But my mom has mastered both keeping the home, and being the home wherever she goes. She is gezellig, walking around.

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You *Can* Try This At Home!

It’s mid September, and the end of the month is looming. Many think they need to have all their ducks in a row by Labour Day weekend, but that isn’t so. You have until Sept. 30 to decide where you want your children educated in Alberta: but the sooner, the better when it comes to paperwork. Obviously you can always decide, but that’s the deadline for the bit of funding to cover most of their education needs.

Maybe- school isn’t going well already. Maybe the same problems as last year are resurfacing. Maybe you enjoyed the summer; the laid back schedule, no homework or lunches, the time spent one on one and as a family. Maybe you can feel the years rushing away quickly and you feel an urgency to slow everything down.

Whatever the case, take a few moments or the next week to consider. For most people, launching their kids on the school bus is just what’s done. There’s nothing to think about or wonder, there are no other options or ways to do it. It’s not something that most will deliberate about or pray on, it’s just “the next step” in parenting. It’s pretty impressive that the school system, while relatively new in our nation’s history, has become as paramount to childhood as birthday parties and breakfast cereal. It’s also equally impressive to see parents and people blast the government- it’s leaders and it’s motives- but completely entrust their children’s education and well-being to them every single day. For twelve years. As a matter of fact, if you have time, research the beginnings of the government’s school systems.

You see, when you have the children, you have the next generation (or five). In Canada, the first educators outside of the family was the Church. I specify that because family has been the main influence and teacher of children throughout all of history- until now. But then missionaries came and began to teach them to read and write, and do sums. Obviously this is a good and beautiful thing. Eventually the government came into play, as the church slowly relinquished its hold. I love this, taken straight from the site:

“Leading educators, or school promoters, argued that mass schooling could instill appropriate modes of thought and behaviour into children. In their minds, the purpose of mass schooling did not primarily involve the acquisition of academic knowledge. School systems were designed to solve a wide variety of problems ranging from crime to poverty, and from idleness to vagrancy.” The Canadian Encyclopedia

 

You see, they got it. When you are able to mold the minds, you mold the society. I can’t say it any more gently than that.

I won’t go on. But you can see the point. I encourage you: research. Research comparing stats of kids and adults who are homeschooled as opposed to conventional school. I will only link one study, done here in Canada, but please look up more. There’s lots out there. There’s also many done on the negative sides, which I appreciate because it helps me look for pitfalls. Learning shouldn’t be finished when we’re done school- it should be celebrated as a lifelong pursuit. So please, learn about the options that you haven’t before thought of.

I was listening to a podcast from Heidi St. John the other day, and something she said struck me. We are raising our grandchildren right now. The work we are doing is not just for today, and not just for this year. These little people we are raising will be raising up a whole other generation. Where are their ideals being formed? Who is instructing them? Who has their attention, their hours and their hearts?

I only share my heart on this to make you stop and think. Please know: many of my closest friends are teachers and I so appreciate the work that they do. They don’t get paid for much of the hours and supplies they put in. They deal with everything from germs and behavioral problems to entitled parents and abusive homes. I am SO thankful that they are there for the kids, and I know they bear the brunt of everything. They are severely underpaid for the stress they are under, and yet the vast and great majority wear it with a smile and love for the kids. It is a calling, a vocation, that most of us cannot do. My only issue is that the governments in Ottawa and Edmonton do not have the best interests of my children- the ones given to me, by God- at heart. I honour the government and respect them as I should. I will give them my tax dollars, my volunteer service and whatever other civic duties I must, and more. I will not give them the majority of my children’s lives.

This barely skims the surface. This has nothing to do with tailoring your children’s education to what they need, what they are passionate about, and the speed in which they can go. How when there are special needs, you can meet them right where they are. When they are excited about the world around them, you can share the moment. When barriers are broken and milestones are met- it’s you they will remember. That is the sustaining stuff.

I will not say that educating your own children is for everyone. It is incredibly challenging. It takes everything you have in you- and sometimes more than what you have to give. It forces you to identify problems in your own life and faith walk. It brings to light everything that would otherwise be swept under the rug in the hustle and bustle of living under a regimented schedule. It’s against the norm, counter-cultural and the most time consuming thing in my life. It’s so hard. It may not be what’s best for your family. I will encourage you to look at the reasons why, though. If it’s a matter of logistics, that’s usually an easy fix. I know single homeschooling moms. Moms that work full time. Online and distance learners. Every family faces different challenges, and most can be dealt with in a supportive community (which is huge, and growing.)

And again, for the people in the back- IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE.

All I beg of you, is to think on it. Be a rebel. Colour outside the lines. Be different. And if all that means is having a cup of coffee and reading some articles and doing some research, I will be blessed. That’s more than most people do, I think? I’m obviously assuming that. But don’t just do something because it’s what everyone else does. Do it because in your heart, you are the one that knows what’s best for your babies- whatever it may be.

Where Feet May Fail

I was feeling so confident.

The surf instructor, May, gave us our lesson on the beach, with a fabulous Aussie accent that makes everything sound light and easy and oh-so-fun.

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I can see some kids in the water, coasting down on the waves. They bounce off with a big splash; some add a little flair. The wind is blowing my hair. The sun is beating on my face. The new baby, the only one I am responsible for at this moment, is in childcare and being snuggled to pieces. I smell the sea.

 

You call me out upon the waters; the great unknown, my feet may fail

 

What a great moment, for me and the Handsome Hubby. He is so lucky to have me with him. I could be reading in our posh room at the resort, and here I am instead, being so fun and hip.

 

In oceans deep, my faith will stand

 

She assures us (me) that we will only be going into water up to our chest, or a little lower. We draw a board in the beach and practice our “pop ups.” I never achieved it on sand.

 

And I will call upon Your name

 

The butterflies have steel wings as we pick up our surfboards and begin marching towards the water. The cold water barely penetrates the suits, so we are surprisingly warm. I’ve got this.

 

And keep my eyes above the waves

 

Twenty, maybe thirty, yards in a wave hits me. And it’s for real. Down I go, under the water. I cover my face to protect it from the massive projectile I drug in with me on purpose. It hits my shoulder instead.

 

When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace

 

It’s really salty. I know that, because I drank it all. And it’s in my nose, my ears, my eyes. I come up sputtering and the lovely May and her star pupil (my husband) are looking at me concerned. Just standing there. Like it takes no great effort to remain upright with thousands of liters of water going the full force of a steam train. They casually mention to “jump with” the waves. I’m fine, on we go!

 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

 

He literally starts surfing. Just like that. End of story. I’m quoting Bible verses under my breath and in my heart about fear and perseverance. May holds the board for me, and I ride in on my tummy. As long as I don’t see the wave coming, I do okay. If I see it, I casually mention that this isn’t a good one- maybe the next? She is obviously a connoisseur of the “good wave.” She looks at me doubtfully.

 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders 

 

Finally I stop looking at the waves coming. I don’t look ahead. I keep my eyes on the beach and listen when she tells me to get on. I got halfway to surfing- that is, she held the board until I got on and I almost achieved an upright position each time after the wave took me and she let go. I keep trying.

 

Let me walk upon the waters

 

Eventually, I run out of steam. I didn’t mention that you HAVE TO PLANK, each time you surf. You get on the board and hold that position until you “pop up.” Well, when you’re afraid to “pop up,” you hold the plank much longer. I keep putting “pop up” in quotes, because I don’t think I can move anything fast enough to qualify as a “pop.” I’m more of a “slowly lumber to my two left feet” kinda girl. The waves just weren’t long enough to get me there. Another five minutes and I would have had it. You know, if I weren’t completely terrified.

 

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

 

I keep going under. Every time now. I never realized that I am actually afraid of water. I won’t do water slides, tube rides, diving boards, deep ends, big water parks. I just realized that the common bond all these things have is water, and here I am. So this probably won’t end well. Huh. The handsome hubby surfs by and gives me a thumbs up.

 

You’ve never failed, and you won’t start now

 

If you aren’t familiar with the song, it’s beautiful- and about God. It’s one of my favourites to sing at home and at church. It went through my mind the whole time. When a worship song refers to waves, or the deep, or any water references really, I guess I never really understood the magnitude until now. We were in water up to our chest which was already pretty overwhelming for me, but then the waves came, and they can knock you right off your feet. You can’t stand through them- you have to roll with it. They’re strong enough to propel you, and nothing you say or do can stop it.

 

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

 

I’ve prayed this prayer; I’ve given up my own plans. I want to go where He goes. I want to hear His heart and feel His voice, and go to crazy places and talk about His love and see Him MOVE in undeniable ways. Some days it’s all so overwhelming I feel a rising up in my spirit that I just need to thank Him and worship Him for His almighty power that I see in my life so obviously, and the lives of our children. So I praise Him- and then I throw in another load of laundry. Or make another meal that at least one person doesn’t like. Or pick up another eleven things off the floor (I should be so good at the “pop up.”) And I kinda wonder if this is all I’m good for? These ridiculous, easy, boring things? I drown in the fact that nothing is ever all-the-way done.

 

Sometimes, the waves aren’t even the hard things. Sometimes they’re the mundane, easy things that just have to be completed (or started) and you’re the one to do it. Sometimes you have to keep your eyes above the waves of monotony, because you know that’s exactly where God called you to be.

 

And my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior

 

How amazing, that He meets me there. In unloading the dishwasher. Changing a diaper. Resolving a dispute. He has people working for Him, all over the globe, and He is no less with me. So how can things be so annoying, so dreary, when He is there? Keeping my eyes above the waves of laundry, dishes, arguments and chores will be my goal this new year- for it is holy ground.

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Passport to Memories

Last summer, I had to go all the way into town for one thing. It’s a 45 minute drive or so, and we don’t have any A/C in our big passenger van, so it’s kinda a big deal. On the way there, I offered to the kids that we could do the radio contest that Shine FM holds every year- Passport to Summer. To complete this mission, you get a passport of a bunch of local businesses, and you have to go in to each one and get a special stamp. They are always down for anything out of the norm, so they heartily cheered. We stopped at the radio station, picked up our passport, and away we went.

 

The whole time we drove around the city, we talked about what we would do with the reward if we won. There was mention on the commercials that there were a few different prizes available- but we were reeeeeally hoping to win the grand prize, which was $3000! We dreamed, we bartered, we laughed (“space travel is a little more than that, buddy,” “No, I would never let you buy $3000 worth of candy.”) All in all, it was a good day. When we were all done, we prayed about our plans, committed them to the Lord, and left it at that. Very hot, very long, but it was so fun imagining and pretending that we won’t forget it.

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Two weeks later, we got a phone call before 8am and my coffee was finished, telling us that we HAD WON! I was completely in shock, and it took me a few minutes to believe it, but soon the kids woke up to Mommy hollering, crying and praising Jesus. Here’s the budget that we had agreed upon:

 

$500

We go to an amazing family camp at Clearwater College, and they charge a ridiculously small fee. I think it’s $85 for our whole family for the whole long weekend of August, which includes food and lodging. We always want to give more to this awesome ministry, but simply can’t. So this was an easy decision.

 

$100 ($600)

Each child got $100 of their VERY OWN, to spend however they wished. At the time, it was fun. Once the talk around the kitchen table turned to candy and jackknives, I became very afraid. The handsome hubby and I made a rule that no one was allowed to spend anything for one month- to make sure they didn’t suffer huge cases of buyer’s remorse. I put the money for the two littles right into their bank accounts, instead of letting them “pick” things out. That was a very fun and energetic trip to Walmart. I must have been wearing the baby.

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$100 ($300)

While we were driving around, we realized that this wouldn’t be fair to our other “children.” We sponsor two children through Compassion, and one through World Vision. So they each got $100 to spend how they wanted, too. Believe me, there is a huge difference between what our children bought, and what they bought! Here are the pics of Christian (10, Mexico) and Emilyn and her haul (15, Philippines.) I had a photo of Vinicius (13, Brazil) on the fridge FOR MONTHS, and I’m guessing I added it to my scrapbooking pile a bit too early. It was so fun to get these pictures in the mail.

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$900

The kids have always wanted to do the World Water Park at West Edmonton Mall. We’ve done Galaxyland (the amusement park) a few times, but we’ve always been super rushed, and we wanted to be able to spend a “whole day” there (apparently in the off season, they are open 11-5.) With it being a two hour drive, and ridiculously expensive, this was never even really a thought. Well, with a LOT of finagling, budgeting and some handy-dandy Air Miles, we were able to spend two nights at Fantasyland and have a day at each park. We saved this for February, because we knew it is just such a hard month when it feels like winter will never end. We took along the Handsome Hubby’s dad, too, for his birthday!

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$200

We have a special, dear friend of our family who always loves us and invests so much time and energy into our well being- the kids wanted so badly to be able to bless her and make her smile.

 

$500

When we were driving around the city, sticky and hot, buckling and unbuckling cars seats, this was my contribution to the plan. At the time the HH and I hadn’t even spent one night away together in over a year, and each date night was so hard to come by. I remember tearing up and saying (kinda desperately) that Daddy and Mommy should go away for a weekend, just the two of us. The kids were totally down with the idea, even offering to send us to China or the Caribbean for TWO WHOLE DAYS. We somehow put it off until the end of April (with a baby due any minute!) and went to Calgary for a lovely, amazing break that was so much exactly what we needed. We booked an Airbnb for the first time and had a condo all to ourselves overlooking the Bow River. It was a perfect balance of quiet, good food, rest and touring, and such a needed investment in our marriage.

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And now we’re done. A whole year of fun times, dreams and plans that we would have never been able to fit in the budget hadn’t we won this contest. At the time, it seemed so frivolous to spend money on these things when it can be hard to balance the chequebook each month, but to us it was a huge reminder that God loves us lavishly- providing for our day to day needs, and also our “wants” too. He is so good.

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This is the day we picked up our cheque! There was another little bitty baby along for the ride, which we didn’t even know about yet.

 

Thank you SHINE FM, and all the sponsors: Country Cupboard, Gary Moe VW, Blue Grass Garden Centre, Mission Thrift Store, McDonald’s Red Deer, The Eye Studio, and Divine Flooring. It was a YEAR that will always be treasured by our family.

 

School’s Out for Summer

Finally, we have found our groove.

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I didn’t even know we were looking for it- until we found it. This was by FAR the best school year we’ve ever had, and we have done it through a new baby, potty training, renovating, pregnancy (along with the sickness and appointments it brings) and all the other things that make a house a home. A lot of it was due to having a lighter year last year; we were able to work on some relationship stuff, attention issues and self control habits (for me, too!). Only when that was all under control could we finally plug in and get somewhere, it seems. We are officially DONE school for the year, and now I can get a few things ready for new baby to come! We have finished grades 1, 3 and 5, and have a preschooler, two year old and one year old.

 

Here are some of our highlights:

 

Morning time was a big hit. So big, I wrote a whole post on it, alone. Handsome Hubby and I have decided to do a condensed version of it over the summer to keep us all in the habit. It’s been a great way to add Bible reading and specific prayer to our day, as somehow our mealtimes just get too hectic or late.

 

Field trips/Lessons. We didn’t do a lot. We did two sessions of swimming, gymnastics, sporadic drawing lessons, and the Telus Science Center (where I met the most beautiful new friend! Yay for homeschool day!) but that’s kinda it. This is what we needed this year- to just embrace being together and home. The schedule was so much quieter, and we weren’t in a rush all the time. Once you add in midwife appts, play dates and just regular life, it’s busy enough dragging along two babies. This was a good year to evaluate which things were worth keeping, and which we should wait a year or three. No regrets from any of us. We were also super blessed by our friend who came to read individually with the kids, each week. It was a beautiful way to get some one on one time, and help me have an extra opinion as to how they are doing.

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Combining Subjects. As this was the first year with three school age children, it worked well to do lots together. Science, Bible and social studies were fun with everyone. Some parts of LA were combined through the different grades, with differing expectations depending on experience. Another way of combining was introducing a formal grammar for the two boys, grades 3 and 5, and then making it their copywork, too. It greatly helped with cursive writing and printing practice, but wasn’t just another thing to check off a list.

 

Routine. This completely saved our life. We wouldn’t be done now, if we had left things more loose. Some years you can be relaxed, and some years, I think you just have to be tough so that everyone knows what’s expected of them and when. We had little to no discipline problems when it came to just sitting down and doing the work. It was simple- we just did a little each day (even through the breaks- we didn’t take off many days simply because I wanted to be done before baby came.) Some days we did all the subjects, and some we just did the bare minimum, but we did a little each and every single day. And they are so excited to have a long summer, that it’s a terrific reward and lesson to just do the hard things and get ‘er done. It was very hard for me- there were so many times I just wanted to finish my own projects or clean the house, but somehow everything got done. Next year I will add in more scheduled days off, though, for my own mental health!

 

Curriculum. In case you care, this is the actual books or texts I purchased for this year. It doesn’t really include stuff we did from online, novel studies, etc.

Math- A Beka (loved it. Much stronger than the Jump! we were using.)

LA- AAR; AAS; IEW Fix-it Grammar: The Nose Tree (LOVED this. My boys, who aren’t huge on writing or bookwork at all, were in a huge hurry to do it every day.); various reading lists (for individual and for all of us)

Writing/Printing- All About Handwriting (meh. Not stuck on it.)

Science- Apologia Astronomy (loved it, bought the box with all the experiment stuff inside, collated and bagged. Living out of town, we would never have done the fun activities if I hadn’t purchased this. Great buy for me!)

Social Studies- Canada, My Country from Donna Ward (It was okay. I’m more excited about Courage and Conquest next year, but this was a great starting off point.) Also, piles of current events, and daily life stuff.

French- Basic French (big waste of life I’ll never get back. Looking for better for next year.)

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This is the nitty gritty of the year passed. It’s also good to remind myself every year of the WHY. Why do I devote hours upon hours to this? Why do I put this “stress” on myself, when I could literally send them off each morning?

 

Here are my three biggest whys:

 

1.  Time. These memories I’ll carry forever (reading Little House on the Prairie, and them all begging not to stop; drinking hot chocolate and starting late on the day of the first snow; when they each grasped different concepts in their own time, and I could literally see the light go on in their eyes).

 

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2. Individualized learning. My grade 5 son, who loathes writing, has been working on a fantasy novel for months. It’s incredible. Absolutely astounding. His description, plot strength and imagination just completely floor me. When I help him edit it, I literally just can’t even believe it. To go from not wanting to write a freakin sentence in grades 1-3 (sorry, this has caused me a lot of angst, if you can’t tell), to taking a bit of a breather in grade 4, to writing on his own for afternoons on end has been so inspiring for me to watch. On days when he was wrapped in a plot twist, I could push the schedule back and let him unwind it all.

 

3. They are my children. I don’t trust the government to raise them. I respect the government, I’m thankful for a lot of what they do, but God has given me these children to disciple and raise- not them. I know I can’t do that job with just a couple hours each evening, and weekends. I already feel like there just isn’t enough time between now and eighteen.

There’s lots of other reasons, but these are the ones that get me outta bed each morning.

 

So, we’re done! I was going to add one of those cool pictures of my feet, but then I realized my toes are not painted. I can’t reach them, and I’m pretty sure it was the first time I even saw them in months. So, use your imagination: Today, I am sitting on the deck with the sun in my face and kids playing in the yard. It’s a good life. It’s rarely easy and it’s not always fun, but man, it’s good.