My (Wonderfully) Clueless Husband

My husband is clueless. He has absolutely no idea how wonderful he is. He works day and night (literally) to support our family, and even though he is exhausted, makes a point of spending time with me…even if it’s just watching a stupid show in the wee hours so we can laugh together. Relationships matter to him. There’s nothing more precious than his family (ok, his books come a close second, but still).

Despite all this he often feels inadequate, because he can’t be the magical dad who is home at 5 pm helping cook dinner and then wrangling all the kids into bed. His work to-do list never ever ends, but without it, I couldn’t be home with the kids. I couldn’t be there for all the first steps and first words, for my five year old’s funny science questions (What if tongues didn’t stop growing?), for the impromptu ballet performances and puppet shows, for the discussions about novels and movies and what life is all about. All these things, my husband primarily has to miss so I can be there for them.

Thank you, honey. It’s crazy hard….your work, my work…but it’s a gift. Our family is a gift. I’m so grateful.

Right now, on the midst of all this business, you’ve taken a week off so I can have a break. So I can go on workshop to feed my mind and recharge my soul. Because even imperfect moms deserve a break. That means we all do. It’s hard to go away when I feel like there’s a million things I should be doing at home, but with your love and support I’m going. Sailing off to be a kid in school again for a week and study philosophical anthropology–what it is to be human and live a fulfilling life–and honestly, I can’t wait! 😉 As a homeschooling mom, it’s nice to take a turn being the student!

While there’s always so much to do, sometimes the best way to move forward is to step back and let go for a bit. So cheers to that, and thanks, honey for being amazing.

Beautiful Mess!

A baby is the best decoration for any room…and makes even a pile of clean laundry into a throne from which to beam at the world!

I’ve been in bed with a sore throat reading Jennifer Fulwiler’s hilarious, inspirational book “One Beautiful Dream: The rollicking tale of family chaos, personal passions, and saying yes to them both.” It’s amazing…I can so relate the struggle and beauty of a writer mom with a large young family trying to be present to her kids while digging deep to pursue her “blue flame”…her passion for writing. I love how she’s integrates them both with such honesty and humour…and leads you along her journey of discovering that perhaps a loud house full of little people is a place of inspiration and growth, rather than just distraction from her craft. If you ever wonder if only your house with kids is a little crazy…I highly recommend it!! I laughed and cried and shouted…you might, too! 😉

Anyway, she inspired me to share this moment from our own beautiful chaos…

The Kamakazi Toddler and Other Adventures in Eating Out with Kids

We went to the Dosa Factory restaurant

with a very good old friend

and our seven kids.

They were very good:

one napped quietly and the others played card games like “Go Fish”

and set up their Littlest Pet Shops on the lazy Susan

to show our sweet friend

who expressed genuine delight.

They sat in their seats and were very good indeed…

except the toddler

who played musical chairs

and repeatedly catapulted himself off his high chair,

grinning delightedly under his cropped golden mop:

“Wheee! Whahoo! Wheee!”

Of course the encouraging smiles of the surrounding people

just added fuel to the fire

and when he hid under the table

it wasn’t in shame but in jest…

he was playing house!

It was all well and good until he spilled water all over his pants

and decide to strip down, then and there, in the high chair….

and then bolt–laughing!–

as Daddy followed in hot pursuit.

After being bribed with “Coffey” (sweet milky chai tea)

he temporarily settled back into his high chair

(now in his pants again…which were only pjs…but still)

and sipped his drink off a spoon with relish:

“It’s yummy, Mama; it tastes GOOD!”

And while all this went on

we ate mutter paneer dosa, and chicken korma and naan

and talked faith and philosophy,

the importance of being yourself

and why the little things matter,

and I nursed the baby

and bounced her as she cooed and giggled

those new little laughs

that are like spring flowers

meeting with the world for the first time

to share their loveliness.

And once the kids escaped their seats

and scampered about eating fennel seed candy,

we settled up and walked home in the slight rain

to the scent of June roses

perfuming the grey evening with hope

and splashes of colour.

“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! 

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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This Father’s Day, every baby counts!

   
On Father’s Day we had a funny little thing happen. James and I were on the bus with the kids going to meet my dad for lunch. As people usually do, they commented on the number of our kids with surprise. I like to joke that as a homeschool mom I do my best to promote basic numeracy skills in the community. Like counting up to six. People frequently do that. They use their finger and point “1…2…3…4…5…6! Are they all yours?” “Yup.” Then they might shake their heads in disbelief or give a thumbs up. “That’s awesome! You don’t see big families that much anymore…” 

But this time was a little different. A slightly bedraggled older man got on the bus and sat next to an Asian grandma who began to point and count in Chinese. “They all yours?” he asked. “Yes,” I smiled. “Seven, eh?” “Yes…” I replied somewhat mystified…because it’s true. I have six here and one in Heaven. Josephine would be about 20 months if she were alive. “Five girls and two boys?” he asked. “Yes!” I replied, even more surprised, because he even got that part right. I looked around but there were no other kids on the bus besides us. 

And if that wasn’t strange enough, when we are walking back home a lady with two kids, a baby on her back and a toddler having a tantrum on the ground, looked at us and counted. “Wow, all yours?” Then she said to her little boy, “Look at that, seven kids and not one of them having a fit!” 

Funny, right? It was as if little Josephine wanted to wave hi to Daddy on Father’s Day, to reassure him that she’s right here with us, and that he’s her daddy still. How did those people see her? I don’t know. Maybe their angels showed them. Or maybe they’re terrible at counting. But however it happened, one thing is certain: every baby counts, no matter how short their life, and they are always, always, always a part of their families. 

A Joyful Day: Bussing with Kids

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Today as I was riding the bus with the kids I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman sitting next to me. It was a gorgeous March day, full of the smell of blossoms and the tentative warmth of the newly emerging spring sunshine.

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“So did you order the weather?” I asked.

After a few pleasantries about the beautiful day, how spoiled we are on the west coast, and what an amazingly diverse city we live in, he turned and smiled at the kids. One in the stroller, more on seats, one in the snuggly on my chest.

“You’ve got your hands full.”

“Yes, I admit I do!” I laughed, having heard this phrase countless times before.

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But then the elderly gentleman surprised me. He followed this banal, overused cliché with one of the nicest things anyone has said to me about parenting.

“But every day is a joy,” he said in the voice of one who remembers.

“It’s so true. They say so many funny things, and are always making tons of cute pictures just for me, and are all amazing.”

I can’t express how much his comment made my day. How that simple phrase affirmed that life is beautiful and worth living. How it pointed out that there is joy in giving, joy in loving, joy in sharing life in a family.

How despite things sometimes being a crazy zoo, full of shrieks and laughter and chaos, running over with spilled juice and bath water, and littered with stickers and Cheerios that stick to my socks (try that for fun!), life in a big family is a beautiful thing, and each day is a joy.

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