we read & play together

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As long as I’ve homeschooled (and we’re into our 13th year now), we’ve had a baby or toddler, plus a preschooler in the house. Keeping the homeschool plates spinning in the air is tricky enough with multiple ages and personalities, but the littlest ones are really who keep us on our toes.

Setting up a very casual toy rotation has been key in getting some time to read aloud together- one of my absolute favorite things to do with my kids! I love the discussions that come, the play that evolves, the snuggle time and the possibility to inspire them (and me) with beautiful language, ideas and stories.

I have a few bins of different toys that only come during these times: lincoln logs, lace-up cards & chunky wood beads, blocks, drawing supplies, playdough, and wooden play food are in my current stash. Anything that keeps little hands busy & minds engaged, with enough pieces to not fight over works beautifully.

Knitting, corking, weaving friendship bracelets or beading projects are perfect for the older ones (and for me, when we find a good audio book.)

If not occupied with their own project, the older ones want to get their hands on whatever play is happening on the floor. We can usually get a stint of 30-60 minutes this way (punctuated of course by questions, snack requests and the occasional squabble.)

It’s wild & lively around here most of the time- and try as we do, read-aloud times are occasionally a total bust! But some of my favorite parenting memories are these moments when they settle in, play hard and beg for “just one more” chapter. We get lost in the setting, the characters feel like old friends and we feel sad when they’re over. So we push through and try to be consistent and most of the time, it works well. Which makes it all worth it.

Reading aloud with little ones close by: how do you do it?

(Note: first attempt at phone blogging while my poor laptop gets some much needed professional attention! Actually really simple- who knew?)

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we keep sowing

we keep sowing

Al bought this big bag of daffodil bulbs for me a few days ago and I managed to plunk them into the ground today.  We have some new garden beds outside our entrance way that are only partially filled with a few plants.  I’m keeping my eyes open for end-of-season perennials and shrubs to fill it out before next spring.

But today was narcissi!  Cheerful yellow delights, ready for next spring.  They’re usually up by early-mid April around here.  Only today, as I was getting ready to plant did I realize that I would have something to look forward to and remember our little one by, who would have been due early April.

As I dug them into the soft earth, already covered by decaying leaves and pine needles I was struck by a few thoughts around this.  I was feeling a little heavyhearted today- grieving for friends who miscarried, for the recent difficult news with another family, for the lives being lost to Ebola in West Africa.  There are no guaranteed outcomes to our actions, our offerings, our plantings.  Amidst the joys and beauty, life is full of trials, full of sadness and loss.

But we can always, always sow.  We can continue to sow seed, dig in new bulbs, grow new flowers.  Share love in our actions, release words of kindness and gratitude.  Nurture creativity in ourselves and others.  Weep when others weep and rejoice when they rejoice.

The act of sowing truly brings me to a place of hope. Or maybe I can sow because I have hope.  It is probably a beautiful mix of both, only possible because of a wholehearted faith that truly believes in the ONE who makes all things beautiful in His time.

So in the face of difficulty, grief or opposition?  Sow hope. Because the best is yet to come.

 

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we make do

So it’s been a funny few days and as such, I have missed 3 DAYS of my 31 day challenge! Somewhat disappointed, but this is so often my reality these days. My best-made plans are not always achievable or, in the moment, even the best idea.

Life happens: computers & cameras crash, vacuums stop sucking (as in stop working- which means they actually start sucking?!) Washing machines die.  Winter tires need to be purchased. Relationships need extra care, bodies need extra rest, bathrooms demand a deep clean.

So in keeping with the “How We Do It” theme these days?  We make do.

I have learned, like I’m sure many of us have, that there’s a certain rolling-with-the-punches, a going-with-the-flow that is absolutely essential in big family life.  Or I would have gone insane long ago.

Stuff happens. Perhaps more often and to different proportions in big family life! The hassle-factor has a way of getting really big, depending on how many things go wrong at once! It takes a ridiculously long time to shop for a washing machine, for example.  Buy new, buy used? Read reviews?  Go with the sales?  Follow other’s advice?  Wait for a week to have one delivered or borrow a truck and pick up yourself?  Borrow for the best machine to hopefully save time & money in the long run- or buy used for the meantime, watch sales and buy new later?  And in the meantime, the piles get really big.

So this has been my week…bumps in the road among many other really good things.  Raising money for an awesome cause.  Enjoying beautiful sun as well as down pouring rain.  Welcoming home our big boy after 10 days on a hunting trip near the Yukon.  Sending off our other big boy on a 3 night canoe trip.

Choosing gratitude in the midst of hassles is not easy, but so worth it.  Seeing the good in my days and the people around me melts away discouragement or disappointment pretty fast: when I remember to go there. (Cause let’s face it, having a huge load of expenses all at once is never easy or fun.)

Choosing faith. Recalling the times the Lord has shown up as Provider, over & over gain.  Usually in unexpected ways.  Seeing the adventure in it, recognizing those familiar patterns of those extra special circumstances as a test: do I want to pass this one, or have it come round again?  Yes, I think I’d like to pass the first time. Show me how to walk this well, Lord.

And leaning on the Truth of those familiar passages that become very real when you actually have to put them into practice.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”  

Phil 4:11-13

How do you respond when life throws a curveball or two?

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we don’t walk alone

feathers

(some more of Isabel’s art last month as she journeyed through her own experience of grief.) 

 

It’s so very interesting how our human lives want to package grief all up and keep everything tidy and can we please move on, thanks very much?  Really, I can hardly believe it was only a month ago that we lost our littlest one, it feels like so much longer ago already.

But I have felt such a pull- a need in me to draw down deep, that I can’t ignore. Because I know- *I know*- that He is so present where those darker corners are.  It’s a coming back to His heart, not a wallowing in sadness, but a surrender of my heart to at least be willing to be softened & shaped.

I want to remain where He remains.

I loved Shauna Niequist’s post today as she remembers her own losses on this National Day of Pregnancy and Infant Loss.

“This is what I know, what I’ve learned: the pain will recede, and you weren’t made to walk this road alone.” 

And I feel that, a gradual moving upward in that spiral of grief, where sadness comes round, but doesn’t overtake. Where much of the days are filled with anticipation and vision and true joy in a new season.

I am convinced as well, that we are not made to walk this road alone.

Day 15 of  the Capture your Grief Project is Community.  And that is what I truly believe has carried me through this season of loss: the presence of such authentic community.  Friends who have shared their food, their help, their listening ears, their very  hearts.  Stories of their own losses and sadness and how it played out physically for them. Details. Names. Hope restored. And the struggles.

So I agree completely- that we are not to walk this road alone.  For those that have reached out to me, I am ever so grateful.  And for those who have shared your own stories, thank-you. It has blessed me so much and I know it has encouraged so many others as well.

And if you feel alone, or hopeless, or just plain sad and need to say it AND have someone hear it- please share.  You are so welcome anytime.

He’s just so good & near in it all, the joy as well as the pain.  And when we feel tempted to push ahead, it’s His love that draws us back.  Often expressed through the hands and feet of His people.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18

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we keep giving

grey cowl

 

Sometimes a little effort adds up to a lot.  This humble little knitted project- joyfully worked in to the scraps of time that appear in my already full days, was just that.  The thought came to mind about five days ago as God brought a need to my attention, and I put this together with a couple of new skeins of wool sitting on the shelf, and an online pattern I adapted.

It’s a loaves and fishes experience when a mere offering of this kind multiplies the way it did today.

$695 raised!  In 8 hours!  I nearly doubled my goal and we were able to purchase a pulse oximeter, a TENS machine and one set of surgical instruments.  Equipment and tools that are so commonplace in maternity care here will greatly improve the care my midwife friend in Kigali, Rwanda is able to give.  And ultimately- the lives of women, children & their families who live there.

Entire communities can be transformed when we act with the little we have. Finances, skills and extended acts of love in any direction can be multiplied- if we just sow the seed.  Toss it out into the ground- and see what happens.

So as a family, on Day 14 of this series called How We do it?  We really do try to give.  We give in faith, we give for fun. We give a little more when fear or worry about finances creeps in.  We give in secret, we give out loud.  We’ve really seen the fun of giving, the fruit of sharing what’s already His.  Because that’s the thing- when our grip is released, He can run with it. And that is just so fun to witness.

Today- you gave. You stopped for the one. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the need and possibilities around you, you gave to the one in front, the right now need.

I want to get better at this, this doing instead of just watching, stepping into the action that both requires and produces faith. To see the need and to realize- you know- this isn’t actually about me at all.  Step in, but step aside too.  Put it out there, and watch what God does.  Again- it’s His love, His presence, His grace that empowers- and for that, I’m thankful.  I sensed His pleasure today.

How have you experienced God’s presence through giving? Either as the giver or the recipient? 

 

 

 

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we live In community

kids & piecoffee time

 

You know it’s a holiday Monday when you can meet for coffee and pumpkin pie with your besties & neighbours at 10:30 am (AND bring down your 4 loads of laundry to do in their washer since your own packed it in 3 days before and has yet to be replaced!) With toddlers playing together in the toy corner, teens downstairs crafting, and a row of littles and middles feasting on their own portions of morning pie, we are well aware that days like these are gifts to be treasured.  A feast for the senses mixed with laughter and joy that comes in the morning- these breaks in the rhythm of the everyday life are a privilege that we savour! And try our best not to take them for granted.

It all started nearly eight years ago, when we came to visit these guys here at the property.  The kids were outside making soup over small open fires while we sat inside, probably over coffee, and talked and talked. After being friends for many years beforehand, we knew each other well, and always connected easily with our ideas around family life, how we wanted to raise our kids, and the God dreams we had for the future.

Fast forward only 6 weeks or so later and the opportunity came up for us to join them in co-owning the property. We jumped at it! Within weeks, our own house was sold and we were packing up & moving only a few months after that.

It’s been over seven years since that we have shared this six acre piece of paradise in a co-owned arrangement.  It’s been a beautiful, wild ride of working out what it means to really function as the Body of Christ- living in unity, interdependently.  With five more adopted children plus one biological child for them, and three more for us, (for a total of nineteen between us!) life has not stopped growing and changing- with priorities constantly shifting within our families individually.

(And by the way, neither of our families would have EVER predicted this or dreamed of it in our wildest imaginations if you’d asked us what our lives would like like 20 years ago!  So many stories to share about that and the conversations Anita and I DID have back when we had two little ones each!)

In it all the foundation of this amazing relationship remains strong & secure. In its most simple form- we know that we have a good, good thing going on here- and we cherish it, nurture it and protect it.

Have you ever had opportunity to live in community?  What has it been like for you?  

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we give thanks

Isabel's piesSo much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  Five homemade pies by Isabel, with our own pumpkins, and her second go at pastry, are pretty near top of the list.  (Just ask Will- who single-handedly scooped out the filling with his bare hands of nearly one entire pie while they were cooling yesterday.  He missed his proper dessert portion last night, needless to say.  And left three more finger-scoop marks in the pie at the top of this photo.  That kid. Seriously. )

Most of all- I’m so thankful for His grace.  That at the end of the day, I can come to him and say Lord, how I need you.  Thank-you for the gifts of healthy children.  Fresh food. A beautiful place to call home. The challenges that strengthen and grow me. The work of my hands that serves others and fulfills me.  Your unending favour towards me.

A constant turning of my heart towards His is where I need to remain, where I want to be.  Oh- how I long to see through His eyes. To know that those times, when patience wears thin and tiredness rises up are the exact moments I can choose to run away and indulge in my own negativity or fatigue, or I can lean in- say oh God, this life of mine needs to be infused by your strength alone.

He shows up every time.  I can breathe deep, run into His lap, and remember who I am because of who He is.

That’s good news to be thankful for.

Rest in His unfailing grace tonight friends.

 

 

 

 

 

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we make it work: kids outdoors

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Some of my favorite parenting moments happen when we’re all outside together.  Work, play or a combination of both, being outdoors creates a natural ease that I love in any season. Usually after lunch & naps, we head outside.

Al had taken down a few trees to create some garden light and much needed firewood for the season, so we’ve taken on the task of clearing branches, raking leaves and making room for the littles to play on the forest playground they love.

Having them close by, with reasonable expectations of what “hard work” looks like is our goal for them at this age.  I want them to grow up understanding that work is a part of life, and something to be enjoyed.  Not simply the necessary tasks that need to be done so they can get on to what they really want to do.  (Though of course, that happens and is perfectly OK too.  I get it!)

We try to make sure they have the right tools: good kid-sized work gloves and enough clippers, hoes, shovels and rakes to go around.  Depending on the job, we may have a treat after: popcorn and hot chocolate, or an ice cream run for the all day projects.

More importantly, it’s about being together. Sharing the parts of life that build the childhood stories of who they are now and who they’re becoming.   Being outside, with a project at hand, just gives a little more breathing room and a little more grace to run around, to explore the outer edges, and to share discoveries- like frogs and bugs and handfuls of worms.   And to celebrate the accomplishment of a stacked woodpile at the end of the day.

What’s your favorite way to spend outdoor time with your kids? How do you keep them happily working on the work days?

 

 

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we document the dailies

Linking to soulemama today:

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{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

……….

kitchen

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how we do it: the kitchen tools

As promised, here’s the drive by photoshoot of my current kitchen favorites that keep the food production humming along around here. Some old, some new, and those that were camera-shy will get an honourable mention at the end:

modern convenience

Nearly every day the large stock pot, smaller stock pot, cast iron fry pans and stovetop kettle are in use.  This year I upgraded to a 7qt crockpot from my 5 qt oldie, as well as a new rice cooker to replace the one we got as a wedding present 22 years ago (!).

The espresso maker is a much enjoyed thrifted find last year, and the container in front is a yogurt maker, incubating yogurt to perfection! (And only $10, thanks Value Village.) I used to make yogurt in mason jars in my oven set at 115 F, which worked great but occupied my oven for 24 hrs.

everyday essentials

More basics in my favorite skinny little drawers.  My immersion blender is by far my most well used tool!  Smoothies, soups, whipped cream, homemade mayo, bulletproof coffee…I use it everyday. So quick and easy to clean…just the best.  Go for the Braun, it’s the best motor for sure and the parts don’t strip.  Best $40 spent!

vintage machinesThese darlings don’t get used as often these days but they are way too sweet to part with.  I bought the Champion Juicer back in my raw/vegan/juicing-all-the-time days.  It was about 20 years old then and I bought it used for $100- and have not spent a penny on it.  Such an awesome machine! We pull it out for juicing fruit & veggies every couple weeks or so, and it’s also amazing for nut butters, pesto, and frozen banana soft-serve “ice-cream.”

The Vitamix is of a similar vintage & story- I bought it for $100 about 12 years ago. It too was about 20 years old then and ran like a dream.  It doubled as a food processor and blender for me for many many years: shredded cheese, veggies, bread dough as well as all the normal blender options of soups, smoothies, ice cream etc.

I bought a new food processor a few years ago to have a bigger bowl and more of a slicing function, and I use it a few times a week as well. Between that and the immersion blender I find I just don’t pull the Vitamix out as often. Replacement parts are easy to find and both these machines are so heavy & solid!  I highly recommend buying these vintage beauties if you’re looking for the functions they offer- and if you can find them! Plus they look pretty awesome.

My others necessities…

  • good knives- chef, paring & serrated
  • wood cutting boards in a variety of sizes- they get used for lunch platters as well as cutting boards.
  • plastic boards for meat products
  • oodles of mason jars: used for food storage, drinking glasses, preserving, culturing, bug catching 😉
  • garlic press, zester & lime squeeze
  • pizza pans, 4 baking sheets PLUS parchment paper.  (The best discovery!)
  • dehydrator
  • cheese cloths and tea towels
  • 3-4 sizes of strainers and colanders
  • cast iron wok
  • 2 smaller saucepans
  • waffle maker and Donvier ice cream maker for birthdays breakfasts and summer fun

We have a few more supplies in the pantry for sprouting, canning, apple processing and baking (cake pans, springforms and pie plates) but I think these are the current essentials here.

So really- I want to know! What kitchen tools can you not do without?! 

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