“How do you do it?” An honest answer from a mom of 6. 


This is a question I get a lot as a mother of a large family. “Six kids! How do you do it?” And it’s hard to know exactly how to answer. People sometimes look at you like you’re some kind of rock star, or insane person…or both. It’s kind of embarrassing. Usually I just say something like: “Oh, you know…prayer,  chocolate, and great mom buddies.” 
You get answers like, “Well, better you than me. I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the patience.” 

As if I have a magic unending supply if it myself. 

So sometimes I feel like answering the “how you do it” question with something more like, “Terribly! My kids haven’t had matching socks in years… How about yourself?” But then…I’m already freaky enough…

So what is the real answer, and why? To get there let me tell you a story of a man who inspired me a lot. He was a Polish priest who was very humble, very gentle, and very brave. He was quiet, unassuming, and attentive to everyone he met. But above all, he loved to a heroic degree. He loved beyond the capacity of the human heart, because the love of God infused his life and broke it open. He loved, as my kids might say, “Up to the sky!” This man died when he offered his life in return for a stranger in the concentration camps, who was spared the torment of the starvation bunker. That young man he saved lived and was I believe reunited with his family, for whose sake he had pleaded to live. 

The man who saved him was St. Maximilian Kolbe, ands when I read his story I was so moved. “I want to love like that,” I thought, “but there’s no way I can on my own.” And that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. That’s where grace takes over and lifts our small efforts Heavenward. So every day, in the midst of all the small and large sacrifices of raising a family, I rely not on my own virtue, strength or talent, but on the ever present, merciful love of God. 

I can do all things in Him who strengthens me…

Each day I try, make mistakes, lose my cool, have moments of sweetness, little successes and big failures, but without giving up. Beginning again and again. Trying to pour out love from a heart cracked open…and from my open hands reaching out for grace. 

Family life is a beautiful crucible..a place to be purified and to grow in love. But then this is my goal, remember–to love to heroic degree. To love beyond my natural human capacity, because the love of God overflows from my imperfect, struggling heart–the heart of a mother who gives, and of a daughter who receives daily from God the strength to carry on.


PS Next time I’ll share a few of my practical survival tips to lighten the load, like ordering in groceries, hiring cleaners, having regular mommy dates and also the importance of smiling! 

Happiness Haiku

A listener of happiness author Gretchen Rubin’s  podcast recommended the practice of writing a daily haiku to promote mindfulness…noting the little beauties of each day. What a great idea, in a simple form: 3 lines of verse with 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. It’s quite fun, actually, and worth a try! Here are a few I wrote this morning:

Haiku 1

Morning light floods in

kitchen aflame with brightness

blue sky day begins

Haiku 2

Ring of Queen Anne’s Lace

bursting in my picture frame–

silent fireworks dance

Haiku 3

Sun warms my bare toes…

toddler drags me down the stairs 

delighted to play!

Thanks, Mum

Perhaps motherhood is less about who we are
and more about who we let our children become.

Thanks, Mum, for letting me become me.

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Thanks for letting me play in the dirt,
build forts in the woods
and climb trees taller than our house.

Thank you for my brothers–
companions in the world of pretend,
where winter was always coming
and we had to stock our pantry with
meat and potatoes–
pine cones and red chunks of log.

Thanks for giving me my own tiny garden
to grow flowers and cucumbers
and look for fairies in the morning dewdrops.

Thanks for letting me stay up late reading
“The Hobbit” and “Anne of Green Gables,”
and for those quiet chats before bed,
when the hectic bustle of the day was over
and you lay in your long cosy nightgown,
listening to me.

Thanks for taking me travelling
to live overseas,
to speak a new language
and see so many places
beyond our small town in Canada.
(It was awesome, eh?)

Thanks for making those thousands of school lunches
and the unimaginable amounts of laundry,
for letting me play soccer and do drama
and especially for coming to my plays.

Thanks for encouraging me to write, take pictures and chase dreams.

And as I read stories to my own brood of elves and fairies,
build forts and make gardens with them,
I smile at getting to be a kid again,
your happy daughter, still.

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Planning: An act of hope!

Some people take great comfort in planning out their day in great detail, laying it all out in neat time-slots, and ticking off each item with satisfaction. And then there’s me. A clear agenda sheet divided into tiny intervals makes my chest tighten and is more intimidating to me than a blank page waiting for a blog post or poem. As a poet I love to capture spontaneous moments and share them, but I could never get into writing short stories…I just don’t know what would happen next…so much planning!

When it comes to homeschool, I love to have tons of great supplies around for art, drama, reading, baking, geography, learning games, etc, but planning exactly when to use them or in what order is my downfall. With four young girls being schooled, and two rascally boys in tow causing lots of ruckus, planning at all is an act of hope. We end up doing a variety of things, but the disruption of various bad moods, sudden low blood sugar, baby diapers and necessary chores makes planning specific times for each topic seem ludicrous. With children literally climbing the walls, having an exact time for geography seems beyond the realm of possibly. I know there are homeschool moms who are amazingly organized and structured, because this is what works for them. That’s awesome, but just not where I’m at.

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However, I yearn for more peace and order in my day, and think I have finally found a handy resource to help me be reflective and intentional about creating this kind of day. It’s a sheet of question put together by April and Eric Perry, the great husband-wife team of the site http://learndobecome.com/.

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The idea is to quietly read through the 7 questions, ideally before bed or early the next morning, and use them to reflect on what kind of day you want to create. The questions include things like appointments and important projects for the day, but take it further to ask how you will strengthen you family relationships within carrying out those duties, as well as how you will take care of yourself physically and spiritually. Rather than just a to do list, you record a number of important intentions that help set the tone of your day. It’s then up to you to put them into your agenda or up on your white board in whatever order seems best. There is a great 17 minute podcast that goes with the sheet, explains how helpful it is to do this process prayerfully, keeping in mind character goals as well as things to accomplish.

The question that really interested me was “How will I learn today?” Not just how will I teach my kids, but how will I learn and grow as a person today. April mentioned something that she learned at a leadership conference I think, that to be a great leader, you must be a great learner. Of course as a homeschooling mom, like any mom I’m sure, I want to promote a lifetime love of learning to my kids. And the best way is to model it. So I tried to think how I could fit more learning into my busy jumble of the day…and the best solution is to listen to great podcasts about homeschool, happiness, personal and professional development, etc, while I do dishes. It gives me something to look forward to, as well as lots of new ideas to think about, use and share. Hurrah for my iPad mini, now keeping me great company while I’m “stuck at the sink.”

Here is the question sheet so you can try it out, but I highly recommend also checking out the great articles and podcasts on LearnDoBecome site as well!

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Using this template has been helping me, and this morning I included the kids in planning as well. We actually had quite a good day, and did lots of learning, ticking off all boxes but one in our plan. The kids added lots of their own reading and projects as well, like making a Canada clubhouse out of their puppet theatre, and making homemade flags to wave while singing the anthem repeatedly, much to the delight of their loud baby brother, who delights in song and dance.

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So when life is chaotic, remember to P.P.P….Pause, Pray and Plan…even just a little. And don’t forget to hope, which makes everything a lot brighter. I’ll try to remember that myself! My bigger kids making muffins all by themselves today after a number of classes in our Kids Cook Real Food e-course certainly confirmed that little continuous efforts do pay off! 😊

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The father-daughter trip of a lifetime: visiting the Holy Land

One good thing about my dear old friend insomnia is that when the days are way too busy and chaotic to find moments to write, the quiet of night is a secret refuge…moments stolen from sleep to find myself again, and to reach out and reconnect with you, my readers. So in this much overdue post I will finally tell you where my daughter and husband James went on holiday recently! The Holy Land!

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Last time I posted a few pictures with palm trees and rocky desert but no one ventured to guess where they were…so now you know! My husband has always wanted to go, and recently that desire had increased even more. As he is such a hard-working accountant and really needed a break, I finally relented…having been reluctant to have him so far away. To make the trip even more special, he wanted to bring our 10-year-old daughter with him, to make memories for a lifetime. When I was 12 my Dad took me on a train trip to California to the San Diego zoo and Disney Land, and it was so wonderful, and such a bonding experience, so this partly gave us the idea. At first that really scared me, but the more we researched and learned about the trip and their great tour company, Tours 206, the better it felt…security there it pretty top-notch now, and Tel Aviv airport is said to be the safest in the world. Apparently Norway is more dangerous…and what is there to worry about there…perhaps falling tree or grumpy gnome? 😉

A few of my closest friends encouraged me to not make decisions and live life based on fear, and to let them go as it was such an amazing opportunity to see the world, especially while she is young enough to still want to hang out with her Daddy. My daughter really wanted to go as well. “Please, Mummy? I want to see where Jesus lived!” So after weeks of crazy passport preparations, paperwork and shopping for desert gear like giant sun hats, off they went! Now here is the fun part: some more pictures!