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Archive for the ‘Our Family’ Category

I’ve been suffering from writers block lately. When I sit down at the computer, it seems like there’s lots I could say – but someone has already said it, and better than I ever could. Really, it’s hard not to compare; not when there are so many great writers out there.

Still, I like to write. Because, no matter what other people have written, this is our life. It’s something my kids like to read. And someday, down the road – maybe I’d like to remember what I thought when I was in the middle of raising my kids, being a wife, mom, juggling everything. And I hope, looking back, I can say, we enjoyed the journey. That even though there were hard times and not every day was easy, life was good.

One of my favourite books I’ve read in the last while  is called A Lantern in Her Hand. It’s a story set in pioneer days, and I love pioneer stories.  This book doesn’t gloss over the hard times (and really, there were a lot!) but it also shares the good times. How being a mom is such an important job. How, at the end of the day, it’s not your circumstances that were important, but how you lived through them.

At the end of the book while looking back at her life, Abbie, who’s lived through all those pioneer years, shares her happiest memory with her granddaughter. She says:

“There are many memories. But I’ll tell you the one I like to think of best of all. It’s just a homely everyday thing, but to me it is the happiest of them all. It is evening time here in the old house and the supper is cooking and the table is set for the whole family… the robins are singing in the cottonwoods and the late afternoon sun is shining across the floor. Will, your grandfather, is coming in to supper… and the children are all playing out in the yard. I can hear their voices and happy laughter. There isn’t much to that memory is there? Out of a lifetime of experiences you would hardly expect that to be the one I would choose as the happiest, would you? But is is. The supper cooking… the table set for the whole family… the afternoon sun across the floor… the robins singing it the cottonwoods… the children’s merry voices… Will coming in.. eventide.”

It makes me remember, as Gretchen Rubin, from The Happiness Project writes: “The days are long, but the years are short.”  And someday, the kids will grow up, and start their own families. I hope when that day comes (not too quickly!) we’ll be able to say, too, those are our best memories, the simple things…. sitting at the table together… enjoying each others company…  just living life… together.

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Thanksgiving Weekend

October…. leaves falling from trees, days getting shorter, thanksgiving… How did this come so quickly?!  September was a whirlwind in our home. You’d think after five years homeschooling, I’d know better. I’d know that everything just starts at once. And although I think I’m going to start slow, stay relaxed, life happens. Hockey, dance, school, youth, more school, more hockey, work…. it’s a month of starts, a month of adjustments.

So, I’m thankful that it’s October. I love fall, although I’m a bit sad about the shorter days. (It’s just so much harder to get up in the morning when it’s still dark!) But still, isn’t fall beautiful?

This weekend I’m also thankful that the Christian school my oldest daughter attends takes a five day break on thanksgiving weekend, and so we have too. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I think I just might celebrate American thanksgiving in November. Probably by then, we’ll appreciate another five day break!

One of our big projects this weekend was rearranging and reorganizing bedrooms. It may be a bit crazy, but I really do love clearing, de-cluttering and organizing. And really, who decided that big cleaning projects are supposed to happen in the spring anyway?!

It started simply enough when we decided to get our daughter a new quilt  for her birthday. But that led to switching her twin bed with the double bed in the spare room. And then that led to moving our oldest daughter into that spare room. And then our son into her room. So, four bedrooms got switched around this weekend. Not bad for a few days off!

And now we’re finally done. Well, almost. Now there’s talk of painting, decorating… one thing really does lead to another! And I have to admit, the rooms do look a little bare – and a fresh coat of paint is always nice too. For now, though, I’m done. I’ve got bags to give away, bags of recycling, and bags to throw out… it’s been a good weekend. (It’s just too bad I didn’t take before and after pictures!)

Of course, the most important reason for this extra long weekend was thanksgiving. We had a great day Sunday, cooking, cooking, and more cooking… and then of course thanksgiving dinner. :) It was so nice to spend time with family and get reacquainted with cousins we haven’t seen for a while.

So, after all the dishes are cleaned up, and the house is back in order, here are a few more things to add to my list of things I’m thankful for:

A husband who takes complete charge of the turkey. Seasoning, basting, checking if it’s done, carving; the details of that really overwhelm me. But John looks after it all;  it’s nice to have a husband who likes to cook!

Of course, I can’t forget the kids who are old enough to help prepare the meal as well.  A busy day in the kitchen, cooking with my family; it’s a good day.

Everyone who brings a dish, a bottle of wine, a beautiful flower to brighten my house and my days.

Laughter, fun, ordinary everyday celebrations with family; it’s so good to take the time to get together. We feel so blessed to have many of our family (on both sides) living nearby. I’m glad that my kids are able to spend time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a great thanksgiving weekend as well.  :)

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Family Reunions


Summer just seems to be the time for getting together with family. One of my favourite summer memories as a kid was the family reunions that we had on my dad’s side of the family. My dad came from a family of twelve kids, and then added to the mix were his aunts and uncles and their families. We had so much fun playing together, swimming, tag…

I especially remember the crazy merry-go-round at the playground, where all the kids jump on as it’s moving and hang on for dear life, while a couple of kids run along the outside trying to make it go as fast as possible. I actually don’t remember anyone getting hurt on that one either; a miracle in itself!

With so many cousins around there was always someone to play with. I loved the fun and laughter when everyone got together. None of my aunts or uncles were especially quiet, and once everyone started talking and laughing, it would just get louder and louder. We had so much fun all together that I was sure one day I would have twelve kids of my own. People get a little quiet when I tell them I have five kids – I wonder what reaction my grandma got with twelve!

Anyway, this summer we’ve had a chance to enjoy a few family reunions. And when I look at my kids playing with their cousins, I hope when they grow up they have the same great memories that I have of time with spent with family.

This weekend we had a camp out with John’s family. Not everyone could make it  – but 63 of us did! Because it was a regular work weekend, our family wasn’t able to arrive on the Friday, since the reunion was six hours away. So we did the next best thing. We woke up all of the kids at 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning, and arrived by 8:00. A bit crazy, but fun.

Once we woke up, and  had our morning cup of coffee, the road trip was really nice. There was hardly any traffic, and some of the most beautiful scenery around. By about 5:00 the sky was getting light, and mist was rising from all of the fields. It made me realize what I’m missing all those mornings as I sleep in.

The last six miles of the trip were through the bush, on an old logging road. Our trailer bounced and squeaked along behind us, but we made it in once piece. We even arrived before some of the people were up!

We met another vehicle on the single lane road coming out at 7:30 in the morning – who would have thought? They ended up having to back up until the last turn off – with our trailer, there was no backing up or going around.

John’s uncle has a beautiful property on a lake, so peaceful and relaxing. There was so many fun things for everyone to do.

Ready to go tubing

Kayaking

The boys getting brave

Enjoying the sun and water

Kayaking in the sunset

Preparing for fireworks

Fireworks... somehow pictures can never quite capture them...

Moose pancakes for breakfast

What a great way to spend a weekend. It was so much fun to connect with family we hadn’t seen for a while. The two days were over far too quickly, and we were heading back home.

Sleepy, but content

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Simplicity

Simplicity… I’ve been thinking a lot about living simply, in the past year or so. It seems to me that we have too many things… things that have to be taken care of, cleaned, organized, and stored. And so, I’ve been using some of my free time this summer to go through our things, organizing closets, and (trying!) to be ruthless in getting rid of stuff. I’ve never really been a collector, and yet, with five kids, collections just seem to happen.

As I’ve watched world news over the past few weeks, worrying about what is happening in Somalia, it really hit home to me again that many people in the world don’t have the luxury of thinking about living simply. There are so many people whose only goal right now is simply living. I think about the refugees who are literally starving and needing clean water, and I wonder what we can do. We can send money, but really, it’s just a drop in the bucket.

And so, I am simplifying, but with the realization that our our life still would seem the ultimate in luxury to so many people around the world. We just returned from camping, and even the trailer that we use for weekends away is far more luxurious than some of the homes that people live in.

I’m trying to teach my kids that simpler is better. That giving is better than getting. That we need far less than we want. But at the same time… I’m realizing that it really is a luxury to even have to teach our kids to differentiate between needs and wants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring break is coming to an end… so sad. Spring break really has to be one of my favourite holidays.

We get rain in the winter. Lots of rain. Days and days of rain. January and February can be really dull, and homeschooling can have its slow moments. Moments when you feel you’re really not creative at all – and you really don’t feel like getting up and cracking the books anymore than the kids do. And you really just want to curl up in bed when the alarm goes off at six o’clock instead of getting up for your morning walk….

And then spring break comes. And yes, the rain doesn’t miraculously disappear, but there are sunny days. And those days are longer. And the trees outside your front window are starting to blossom. And you feel like getting things done.

Truthfully I had a very long to do list that I was going to tackle spring break. Very long. And honestly, I really didn’t get many things done on it. At all. (I did, however, clean off my office desk. I really was planning to have it stay that way too – for at least more than a couple of hours. However… the best laid plans, and all that…)

Here’s what I did do, though. I went hiking with my family.  We went across a suspension bridge, and hiked down to the bottom. We splashed around in the river, and managed to come home with a couple of soaked feet. We went to the ocean together with our family. We checked out the starfishes clinging to the pier, listened to the barnacles on the seashore (they really do make noise!) and turned over rocks and found tiny little crabs. We wrote messages in the wet sand. We had ice cream at one of the little shops on the beach. (As a side note: you know you have a big family when the grandfatherly man ringing up your ice cream tells you the total and then says, “Ouch.  That hurts, doesn’t it?!”) We introduced our kids to sushi.  My girls and I went Value Village shopping. Cute clothes, without breaking the bank. My kind of shopping!

And all those things were so much better than my original plans. My to do list can wait. Spring break was fun, and life is good.

So next week, reality is going to set in. I’m going to have to get up at the crack of dawn (sort of) for my walks. My days will feel like a whirlwind again as I teach, keep my house clean, make meals, do laundry, work…

But I’m ready for it. I really didn’t get the planning done that I thought I would, but that’s okay. Learning will happen and we’ll all be ready to go again. We may even be able to do some schooling outdoors in the sunshine. Really, does it get any better than that?

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Life has gotten very busy around here the last while. My kids have felt like I’ve been living in my office.  And to be honest, I’ve felt that way some days too. But the good news is, it’s for a short time – and I’m  getting to the end. In my job, I have busy times, and slower times… and this happens to be a busy time.

I love my job. I really love my job. I am a curriculum consultant and support teacher for other homeschool families. So not only do I get to homeschool my own kids, I get  to work with other families who are travelling down this same path. How great is that?!  I get to work from home. I get to spend time with my kids. I get to spend time with other homeschooling moms talking about homeschooling.  But one of the greatest benefits is that I get to see so many different styles of homeschooling, and I get to see lots of great ideas in action. There really are  many different ways of homeschooling, and it is fun to see what other people are doing.  March is one of the busy times, when  I do home visits, look at portfolios, and write report cards, but I’m almost done them now – and I’ve got some great new ideas!

What else has kept me busy? After being inspired by Moneysavingmom, I decided to really get an idea of where my  grocery money was going, decided to work on using coupons more effectively, and created a price list of all the best prices I’ve found for items in my area. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s been fun! I always thought I was careful with my grocery money,  but I’ve been able to shave a significant amount off my monthly bill. It’s been a great contribution to our budget too.

We’ve also had an international student from Japan living with us for the last couple of weeks. The kids have really enjoyed it, and it’s been fun for them to learn a bit more about Japan. And  I’m quite sure we got the best student  – he’s so eager to learn about Canada, so polite, and so friendly… and so interested in hockey! That of course makes him a hit with my boys! They’ve had fun introducing him to road hockey, watching the Canucks together, playing video hockey…  It’s been interesting for me as well… Besides learning about Japan, I’ve learned: fifteen year old Japanese boys are the same as Canadian boys; they eat a lot! Also, driving back and forth to school across town each day takes a lot of time (making me appreciate that my kids are home schooled). And, I learned I’m not such a big fan of making lunches! Really though, it has been a neat experience. My kids have been learning about other cultures around the world this year, but nothing beats seeing someone else’s culture up close and personal.

Next week we’re taking a week (mostly) off school. I’m really looking forward to getting organized for the last term of the year, and I’m also planning to spend some time organizing and decluttering at least a few rooms in my house. I am a big fan of living simply – but somehow with five kids, even living simply takes time and effort! In between, I’m hoping to be able to get outdoors with my kids, and just enjoy being a mom. Here’s hoping for some sunny days!

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God is Good

Our church is doing a six week series on “Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows”. The first week was called “God is Good”. The pastor talked about why we say that, when there are so many bad things that happen in the world all the time. If God is good, why do bad things happen to good people?

Thinking about this has made me look back at one of the hardest things I’ve had to face in my life. When I was in my early twenties, my mom was killed in a car accident. The other driver was drunk…

My husband and I had been married for just over a year, and my parents had recently moved, so they were living quite close to us. Life was good. We were looking forward to having them nearer, and since we were thinking about starting a family, I was thrilled that my mom would be close by.

The night of the accident was a cold and rainy night in December. My husband and I had just come home from a movie, to find that someone had been at our door, trying to get in touch with us. Since the intercom had gone through the phone line, even though they didn’t leave a message, we could hear them talking. It sounded like the police, and they were talking about going to my sister’s house next.

I won’t ever forget the cold hard hollow feeling that I had in the pit of my stomach. We phoned the police station, and they told us that my parents had been in a car accident, and that we should go to the hospital. “Your dad is waiting for you there,” they said.

That hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach got worse. Why had they only mentioned my dad? Where was my mom then?  I phoned the hospital, and got  the same news. I asked, “What about my mom? Where is she?”

There was a pause on the other end of the phone. “Didn’t they tell you?”  And then came the news I had been dreading, ever since I had heard the police talking outside my door. My parents had been in a serious car accident, and my mom had died at the scene.

Suddenly, I felt the ground give way beneath me. Everything I had thought up to then seemed less sure. All my planning and hopes were gone. It was indescribably painful.

We drove as quickly as we could to the hospital. The weather matched the news and our emotions. The rain was pouring down in sheets, and the wind was gusting. We knew what had happened, and yet it didn’t seem real… couldn’t be real. Around us, homes were lit up with Christmas lights, and that seemed so wrong. How could people be happy and celebrating Christmas, when my mom had just died?

At the hospital, we found my dad and younger brother. Our hearts ached for our loss, but even more so for theirs. How could they go on without my mom?  My mom was the one who knit the family together. My dad didn’t know how to cook, do laundry… all of those practical, day to day things he’d never had to worry about. He had also been quite seriously hurt in the accident, and would have to remain in the hospital for a few weeks.

We stayed at the hospital for quite a while; we didn’t want to leave my dad. Eventually though, we knew we’d have to leave. Someone had to go home with my brother, there was no one else to take care of him. At the same time though, we didn’t feel that we could leave my dad alone. It was just too much, to have him face that pain alone.

So, it was decided. My husband and siblings went home with my brother, while I stayed at the hospital with my dad. Watching them walk out the door was so difficult. I just wanted to be with them, to have my husband there with me, but I knew my dad needed me at that moment.

That night was one of the longest of my life. My dad was in a lot of pain, both physically and emotionally. It was so tough to be there, and I couldn’t imagine how my dad was going to go on. He and my mom had been such a team.

Throughout that night, though, in the midst of that darkness, I felt the presence of God. My husband wasn’t there at that moment to be with me, but I knew God was. He brought a song into my heart. It was a song that I had learned as a child for memory work in grade one, and I don’t think I had sung it for years. But at that moment, it kept going through my mind.

Abide with me/ Fast falls the eventide/ The darkness deepens/ Lord with me abide/ When other helpers/ Fail and comforts flee/ Help of the helpless/ Lord abide with me.

Later that week, we met with the minister of the church where my parents had just started attending. It was a new church, and the songs they sang there were unfamilar to our family. Knowing this, the pastor tried to suggest songs that came from our tradition. I couldn’t believe it when the one he suggested was “Abide with Me”.

God really was there. And He was good. Despite the bad that had happened, I knew that he was a good God.

Feeling God’s presence didn’t stop the hurt. It didn’t stop the dark dark night that we went through over the next year. I wanted my mom back here with us. I wanted my kids who weren’t born yet to know her; I wanted her to be part of their lives. At the same time, though, God’s presence brought peace. I knew that my Mom was with her Heavenly Father.

God  was there through that time, and He walked with us through our pain. He was there in the countless people who knew the right thing to say – or not to say. He was there in the hugs and tears and meals that people brought.

God has been faithful. He later brought a new wife into my dad’s life, someone who had also lost a spouse suddenly, at a young age. She didn’t replace my mom, or stop us from missing her, but she brought happiness back into my dad (and brother’s) lives, and has been a blessing in our lives as well.

I still miss my mom. With each baby that I had, I wanted my mom to be there. I wanted to ask her all those questions a new mom has. I miss her on her birthday, and on holidays like Mothers Day. I wish that I could have had one last conversation with her. But I also know that I will see her again someday. And she will meet my children.

Life isn’t always easy; God never promised that. But he did promise to be with us. He is our Heavenly Father, and He is a good God.

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