Monday 23 December 2013

Dear Everyone Who Put Up Christmas Lights

Thank you.

This hasn't been the easiest Christmas season for me. In fact, it's been the most challenging one so far. I've kept it slow and simple and that helped, yes, but your lights? Your beautiful bright Christmas lights? They meant the world to me this year.

Every evening as the sun starts to go down, I make myself a mug of tea and settle myself into my favourite chair with a warm blanket. I put on Christmas music - the mournful ones, mostly, the come, Emmanuel ones, because that's where my heart is this year.

And then I just sit there and watch.

I watch the sun spread its beautiful pinks and blues and oranges through the scattered clouds. I watch as the sky darkens and the colours fade, and then I watch as you replace that beautiful sunset with bright colours of your own. The sky turns deepest blue and you start to plug in your Christmas lights, one at a time, as you get home from work or notice the darkening house or usher your sweet children in through the door. All up and down the street, blink, blink, blink, houses burst into bright reds, blues, yellows, and greens, and I just sit there sipping my tea and singing those Christmas songs as I watch.

Thank you.

We don't have any Christmas lights this year - a new house and a shortage of spare money and a lack of mental presence all combined to leave our house dark - but your beautiful lights bless me every evening. They minister to me, speaking of hope, of light in the darkness, of brightness and joy where winter would offer only chilled silence. I sit there in the growing darkness and am reminded that darkness doesn't have the final word. Your bright lights shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

So I say it again, to everyone who took the time to put up Christmas lights this year, to plug them in each evening as the darkness gathers: Thank you. Truly and from the bottom of my heart.

Next year, I'll see what I can do about adding our own brightness to the dark nights.

Friday 20 December 2013

On the occasion of your fourth birthday

It's funny how it happens - one day you're three, and then you wake up the next morning as a newly minted four year old. The whole day is a celebration of you and you, beautiful boy, reveled in it.

After I got a birthday smile out of you (it's not hard - saying "stinky ____" usually does the trick, because you're you and you think talking about stinky things is just the funniest thing ever), I tried for a quick photo of all three of you. Amidst all the squirming and blinking and grimacing and fooling around, I managed to get this one. Your sister is actually looking at the camera, your brother is doing his very best to look and smile and not move a muscle, and you're just patiently smiling away. You know this is your day.

As group pictures usually do, the chaos soon morphed into your sister sitting on your lap trying to rip your jaw off while you laughed and laughed. She loves you and you are endlessly patient with her. Good thing, too, since this sort of thing often happens.

Then we took some selfies. Because selfies are cool, yo.

And yes, I'm wearing a scarf. Our new house is freezing. I miss the gas fireplace in our old house. The lovely husband laughs at me for wearing a scarf in the house, but I'm warm and he's cold so who's laughing now, huh? I knit that scarf a couple of years ago and it is the softest smooshiest thing ever.

Birthday pictures taken care of, you and your brother went off to play. You came out a few minutes later, having been transformed once again into a princess. Sometimes you're a knight, sometimes a princess; it's all good with you.

I snapped the picture, you gave birth to a baby, your brother caught it ("It's a girl!"), and the two of you ran off again. Congratulations on your new bundle of joy.

You came back every half hour or so to ask if you could pleeeeeease just open one present, but I made you wait until your daddy got home from work. Sorry buddy. We went to IHOP for lunch because that's what you asked for, then came home to wait out those last hours until you could finally see what was in those wrapped packages.

At last it was time.

You were thrilled to get the Lego Mirkwood Elf Army from your grandma. Lego and the Hobbit, two of your three favourite things.

Your daddy read The Hobbit to you guys as a bedtime story last year, and you soaked it all up. Now he's reading The Lord of the Rings - you three are nearing the end of The Two Towers - and none of us expected how head-over-heals you would fall for that world of elves and wizards and orcs and men. You know details that I don't even know, talk about it all the time, pretend to be Gandalf or Boromir or any of your other favourites. Nearly every day you come up to me and say let's talk about Lord of the Rings! or do you want me to tell you who I like best in Lord of the Rings? and I listen and nod and tell you my favourites too (Aragorn, without a doubt, and Gandalf too).

Your love for that world is so strong that there is, of all things, a Gollum hanging on our Christmas tree. I just never in a hundred years would have expected that, but there he is, swinging away next to my 1983 Baby's First Christmas bulb. You saw him on that day when we were choosing this year's Christmas ornaments and there was no budging. Gollum or nothing, that was your stance, so Gollum it was. Thanks, Hallmark.

You also loved the costume your Oma made for you. The accompanying card said that opinions varied as to what exactly it was - possibly a bear, a wolf, or a even beaver - but you didn't hesitate. "It's a Minotaur!" you roared, and you gave us an appropriately frightening growl. Minotaurs are your new favourite mythical beast, so sure, we'll go with that.

You had already received most of your birthday gifts when we celebrated your half birthday, because you had to wait an extra week past your due date and placed your birthday precariously close to Christmas, with its own influx of gifts. Still, your daddy and I couldn't resist the one present that was sure to earn us that long-lashed wide-eyed grin and squeal that we love so much.

Hockey shirts. Four of them, from four of your favourite hockey teams. When I said Lego and the Hobbit were two of your three favourite things, hockey would be that missing third.

"Winnipeg Jets!" you shouted, except that you pronounce it "win-a-pig", always, every time, no matter how many times I try to correct you. The Jets were followed by Chicago Blackhawks (and a little squirm of joy from you), Buffalo Sabres, and Nashville Predators. The teams that will never make it into our house if your dad has any say? Boston Bruins (the "big bad Bruins"), Ottawa Senators (this is a Toronto Maple Leafs home, thankyouverymuch), and Montreal Canadiens.

After a dinner of your requested birthday meal, salmon and rice, it was time for cake. You asked for a strawberry cake with pink icing, so I found an appropriate recipe and gave it a go. You were pleased, at any rate.

You blew out the flickering flames and started licking the icing off the candles.

Then you licked the icing off your slice of cake and declared yourself full.

A birthday just wouldn't be complete without one more little surprise before bedtime. Sparklers on the balcony were just the thing, I thought, and you and your siblings agreed.

The only birthday wish you didn't get? There was no snow for the snowman you'd hoped to build. Well, there's nothing a mother can do about the weather...but you just never know what God might have in store for you the following morning.

Happy fourth birthday, my beautiful boy. Two days ago you were my favourite three year old. Now you're my favourite four year old. I love you.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Children Become What they See

Starr Meneely is the author of the recently-released children's picture book, What A Lovely Sound! This is a sweet story about Melody Jane, a young girl who travels out of the city and finds music in nature.

Today Starr is sharing a guest post on children and nature, as well as offering a copy of her new book to one lucky reader. Enjoy her post, and enter the giveaway below!


When my son was small we sat one afternoon waiting in the car for my husband to run an errand. I heard his sweet little voice comment suddenly from the back seat:

“Look! the trees are hugging!”

I looked up and out of our car. We were sitting next to a row of trees and the wind was tossing these tall elegant conifers backwards and forwards. I noticed what he saw and couldn’t help but smile. Where the trees met at the top, as they swayed in the wind, they did indeed look like they were hugging.

Once again, like so many times throughout my mothering, I marveled at the way a child sees the world around them and I was reminded just how important it is to give them beautiful things to look upon. It is, after all, the things that they see and hear and feel that become a part of who they are.

THERE was a child went forth every day;

And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;

And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

-Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass

Sometimes I believe that life is not unlike this little verse. Of course, imagination and beauty can be found anywhere but our senses are heightened when we sit in Nature. Our thoughts soar above us and our hearts expand around us. We become just a bit of what we see and where we are.

I take my children outside because I want them to learn how to feel...wind, rain, mud, grass, cold, hot, and the freedom of wide open spaces.

I take my children outside because I want them to learn how to hear...birdsong, running water, the way their voices bounce all around them in magnificent echoes.

I take my children outside because I want them to see...tiny, up close, minute little things and vast, expansive, gigantic spaces.

Nature has a gentle way of inspiring imagination and creativity that cannot be replaced by anything else. We find nuance of colour, shading, light, and shadows that cannot be re-created indoors. We ramble around shapes, textures, edges, and curves that fall in and out of our eye line. These are the things that structure the way we think; build the way we live. These are the things that shape our children’s dreams and inspire their imaginations. I take my children outside because I want them to see beauty and become what they see.


Starr Meneely is generously giving away one copy of her children's picture book, What a Lovely Sound!, signed by both the author and the illustrator. For a chance to win, enter via the Rafflecopter system below.

This giveaway is open worldwide and will close Sunday, December 15th at 11:59pm EST.

About the Author

Starr Meneely is the author of the children’s picture book “What A Lovely Sound!” (illustrated by Susan Merrick). She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance from the University of Alaska where she studied under Dr. Timothy Smith. She owned the Littlerose School of Music in Anchorage and taught at the Alaska Fine Arts Academy. Starr writes children’s books in a little village in Surrey UK, where she lives with her husband and four children. She loves to hear from readers both big and small.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday 7 December 2013

Weekend Reading {vol. 106}

In which Advent is for the ones who know longing @ Sarah Bessey
If Christmas is for the joy, then Advent is for the longing. As I learned in particular through our lost babies, one after another after another, the joy born out of suffering and longing is more beautiful for its very complexity. The joy doesn’t erase the longing and the sadness that came before but it does redeem it, it may even stain backwards changing how we look at those days or years. But the joy is made more real, richer and deeper perhaps, because we longed for it with all our hearts for so many days.

Sometimes the only thing left to do is simply hold on to each other and dance in the darkness, waiting for the light.

Little girls, get up! Get up and eat! @ Momastery
Then she added: “Everyone at my table wrote ‘I want my mommy to be happy!’”

Holy crap, you guys. We’ve got to get our joy back. We think it’s love to allow our roles – mother, wife, volunteer, career woman – to consume us like a fire until we can’t even be seen anymore – but that’s not love. I think our kids want to really see us. They want us to leave a part of ourselves unconsumed so they can see us. I think our kids want to see us come alive sometimes. Our kids never asked for martyrs. It is not love to allow yourself – your spirit – to be buried and then fade away.

Every gift for children this year is terrifying — a walk over the Thin Pink Line in Target
But that was what struck me about these toys. Pretty much everything in the pink aisle was designed in a way that limited the number of stories you could tell with it. In the blue aisle, accessories vary. There’s a Batman with a submarine. There’s a ninja with a castle. Not in the pink aisle. Everybody just had hairbrushes. Merida’s bow didn’t work for archery; it was just a hair accessory like countless other hair accessories. Lego girls didn’t get attacked by pirates. If you wanted pirates in the pink aisle, you had to bring them yourself.

In conclusion, here’s a Hot New Barbie Set.

You will be relieved to know that this beautiful doll can be contained entirely inside her closet.

Of course she can.

They just don't do that anymore @ Steady Mom
I don't want to minimize the stage you're in. I don't want to tell you "Enjoy these days, they go by so fast." I don't want to patronize you.

Instead let me pour a little encouragement your way:

Go ahead and grumble, or be patient. You don't have to handle all the issues perfectly.

Go ahead and cry, and wonder if it's all worth it.

Go ahead and pray, for strength to make it through the next five minutes.

Because one day--often when you least expect it--often when you've come to peace with the imperfections and decided to be happy anyway--you'll wake up, look around and realize:

They just don't do that anymore.

And a video: Hackschooling Makes Me Happy by 13-year-old Logan LaPlante at TEDx University of Nevada

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Waiting and mourning and longing in hope

I've never spent an Advent in mourning, not until this one.

There have been Advents of joy, quiet ones, intentional ones, busy ones, uncertain ones. This is the slow Advent, simple out of necessity because my grief has little space for extras this year. And yet somehow, unexpectedly, the mourning fits. I mourn what is as I wait and long for what will be, and throughout it all is the hope that silences the temptation to despair. These past months have carried with them a deep, central, soul-level pain, but it is that pain itself which has served as an Advent reminder to me.

It was a reminder that the Kingdom is here but not yet fully here. It is coming but it is not yet fully here and in the meantime things are not as they should be. There is pain and selfishness and fear and quiet whispers in the night, please, please, let it be okay in the end. There is senseless tragedy and there are blissful moments before everything changes - you never thought, no, not that. We hurt each other and neglect each other and fail to truly see each other. Disease ravages and waves sweep away and children go to sleep hungry at night. No, things are not as they should be.

Things are not as they should be, and I am not as I should be. The pain brought that reminder as well, the reminder that the work in me is begun but not yet finished. It is begun but not yet finished and in the meantime I yell at my children when I should be patient, I fail to communicate well with my husband, and how many times, O Lord, have I been unfaithful to You? How many times have I forgotten my first love, despised you with my actions, remained silent and uncaring towards you and your presence? How many times have I sought the satisfaction of my own desires, derived my pleasure from that which is fleeting instead of finding my joy in you? How many times, O Lord?

Things are not as they should be, and I am not as I should be, and I mourn and long and wait, hope holding me up until the day hope is fulfilled and all is put right again. That pain we feel in the deepest part of us will no longer exist.

All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

One day.

For there is a Saviour who has come and is coming and will come again and somehow we can hold all these truths at once, in one hand, roll them through our fingers like marbles. He came. He is coming. He will come. It shouldn't make sense but it does.

And in the meantime we wait. These are the days between Sarah's first hope of life within her and the blessed day when that hope was fulfilled. These are the days of Simeon and Anna, waiting to see the Lord's Messiah. These are the days between a death on a cross and an empty tomb. These are the days in the belly of a whale. These are days of lament and our joy comes from our hope in the one day when all is as it should be.

Maranatha. Come, O Lord.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Slow and simple

It's December and I don't know how I feel about that.

Part of me is ready for the season, the way everyone is a bit more merry and everything a bit more sparkly. I want Christmas carols and bright lights and gift wrapping and the works.

The other part of me isn't ready. I'm still trapped in this well of sadness, there's no other word for it, and the joyous season just feels a bit too much amidst my grieving right now. I don't want to pretend everything is okay when it isn't, not really.

But December is here whether I like it or not. And we're here in our new house, slowly making it feel like home. It's beautiful and I'm grateful for it; I've even made my peace with the lack of carpets.

Slow, that's how I'm doing everything these days. I haven't the energy nor the mental presence to dive wholeheartedly into anything, so I'm just plodding along, one slow step at a time. Slowly I'm unpacking boxes and organizing rooms. Slowly I'm expanding our knowledge of our new neighbourhood - where to shop, where to eat, where to find the best library and the best produce and the best butcher and baker (and candlestick maker?). Slowly I'm readying myself to try yet another new church. Slowly I'm preparing to dip our toes in places where we can meet new people, although right now it's only preparing, I just haven't the headspace for new friendships, especially when I'm desperately missing old ones during this difficult time. Lonely, maybe that's how I feel. I need a coffee date with a good friend and someone's shoulder to cry on and a place to spill secrets and crushed hearts and goodness, I had no idea I was still so damn sad until I sat down here to write.

Anyway. Slow. Slowly I'm offering up one thanks after another. Slowly I'm taking two steps forward, one step back, then another two forward and we'll be okay in the end, I know.

It is my intent to approach the holiday season the same way. Slow, methodical, simple, I can't do it all and it's possibly best if I avoid Pinterest altogether for the entirety of this month. But I love Pinterest. So there's that. But if I can just skim past the endless holiday homemade decorations and recipes and crafts and everything else, I should be able to remember: slow, methodical, simple.

Slow afternoons with favourite Christmas carols and new library books and warm blankets, that's where I'm at right now. A box unpacked here, a photo hung there, a bit of Christmas cheer placed quietly on the mantle. Homemade cookies just because, and they don't even pretend to be healthy, just flour and sugar and butter and whatnot. Tea in the morning with a Bible or a baby on my lap; apple cider in the evening as the husband and I read aloud together. Maybe tomorrow I'll wash a window, maybe the next day I'll mop the kitchen floor. Maybe I won't.

These are our days, long and slow. We're not doing a lot and somehow it feels just right.

Friday 15 November 2013

Weekend Reading {vol. 105}

Learning from Beauty @ A Deeper Story
We have so many opportunities to consume beauty: To capture it on our phones and hoard it in the cloud. To sneak an episode of an epic story between washing dishes and finishing emails from work. To listen to a well mastered album through head phones while walking through the airport past hundreds of thousands of others. To listen to poetry being read over podcasts while mowing the lawn. To taste a hand crafted cocktail or cappuccino or grab a day-long-smoked pork sandwich while meeting a colleague for lunch.

Is this much ode to beauty defeating the purpose by only creating deeper pining within me? Am I becoming a beauty voyeur?

What Seems To Be @ Story Warren
When I reread that passage to the kids, I realized that Tolkien doesn’t really give much visual information about some of his villains. There is plenty of detail about the hobbits, elves, dwarves, and other heroes, but some of the bad guys get talked about in very abstract terms. It’s genius. They stay in the shadows.

Imagination is a powerful tool, and it can work against us sometimes. I’ve been thinking lately about my tendency to make anticipated things worse than they really are. Tolkien creatures are worthy of dread; most of the things I fear are not — or at least not as worthy of dread as I make them out to be. I look at situations in my life and make them out to be far worse than they are in reality, because the details are hidden. I am like the little hero facing down an unknown monster, and for some reason I sketch in the missing details in the bleakest way possible. All those things I don’t know must certainly be the worst.

Some things are harder than algebra @ Oh, That's Simple
The hard part is getting along. The hard part is the relationships. The hard part is being a grown up at all the right times, like when things are falling apart.

The hard part is the good part.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

The spider that fought back

We live in a basement suite and spiders are simply an ever-present fact of life here. They hide in corners and under blankets and inside every roll of wrapping paper I ever go to use. I've come to terms with them; sometimes I even let them live out their quiet lives in whatever corner they've made their home.

A few weeks ago, however, I nearly turned the whole house over to a spider.

I was quite innocently vacuuming my bedroom when I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I glanced that way, didn't see anything, and continued to vacuum in what I thought was blissful safety.

Then. THEN. The biggest spider I have ever seen (tarantulas aside) runs out from underneath my dresser, smacks my vacuum cleaner with its leg, and runs back to safety.


I sent my husband a text.

(The ceiling comment was because we were having some repairs done to leaky pipes above our bathroom.)

I then told him the rest of the story, so that he would know that I wasn't at all kidding about having to move.

The brave husband came home that evening and shone a flashlight under the dresser. He didn't see any sign of a monster spider, so I reluctantly agreed that we could go to sleep in our bedroom that night. Weeks went by and I didn't see leg nor huge hide of him, so I told myself the vacuum must have been the victor in that particular sparring match.

Yeah. Turns out not so much.

I rediscovered the monster spider a few days ago when another (smaller, spindly, not even a little bit terrifying) spider walked by the dresser, and monster spider ran out and chased him off. I You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.

Well, this morning I stepped into the bedroom and saw monster spider lurking just outside his home. I grabbed my phone because this just needs to be documented and shared with the world. That's right, I risked life and limb just to get this photo of the spider that lives under my dresser. I only wish it could better convey the sheer size and utter terror of this beast, but alas, 'twas only a cellphone camera and low light and a short opportunity before he retreated.

And now you know why we're moving on Saturday.*

* Okay, fine, so we're not actually moving because of the spider. But we really are moving on Saturday, so wish us luck - and, also, a spider-free new home.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Weekend Reading {vol. 104}

When your temper scares you @ Lisa-Jo Baker
There’s no rage like the exhausted rage of motherhood.

These aren’t the things they don’t talk about in the parenting books, or play groups, or coffee dates. How you will one day lose your ever-loving mind because two boys sat and watched their sister pour an entire bottle of purple Motrin all over the beige carpet and didn’t think to stop her.

More than the battle of sleeplessness or figuring out how to make broccoli appealing or mastering potty training for the third time, this full out war against my own angry, shouty spirit will be the biggest victory I am determined to win through motherhood.

“I don’t want to disappoint you.” @ Brave Writer
If a child could risk showing her vulnerable side, she might say something like, “I hate that I don’t know what to write, right now. It makes me feel dumb. You look so disappointed in me and I hate being a disappointment. I want you to be proud of me. Maybe if I just don’t write, we can stop writing all together so I can make you proud of me in another way.”

If you can hear the subtext to the complaints and bravado, the defensiveness and listlessness—you can meet your child in the center of his or her weakness.

Thinking thoughtfully about Doug Phillips’ resignation, Part V: Praise where praise is due @ That Mom
This has been a difficult week for many moms. Doug Phillips is the man the Lord used to inspire their husbands to consider the value of being a dad. He is the one who painted a picture of motherhood for them that resonated with the God-given desire most women have to nurture and love children. He gave them hope for their families in a world that most Christians realize is increasingly post-modern if not downright pagan. He inspired families to love America and to see God’s sovereignty in many places we had forgotten it existed. And those messages are true and good ones.

But somehow hearing criticism of the man and his philosophies has translated to these wonderful moms that their choices have not been valid ones. And this is the real sadness of it all. Because God HAS used Vision Forum for good in many ways IN SPITE OF the bad theology, IN SPITE OF the dangerous teachings, IN SPITE OF the damage done to so many. But rather than minimize or ignore the false teachings and pretend it is genuine Biblical truth, now is the time to say, “God is good, He has led our family, not because of what Doug Phillips said but because God showed us these things by His grace alone!”

Now is also the time for families who have been caught up in the patriarchy paradigm to ask hard questions. It is time to put away the big red manuals, the endless CD’s of “encouragement,” the books and programs and conference paraphernalia and pick up the Bible. It is time for parents to humble themselves and seek forgiveness from their children, some of them long-estranged because the paradigm taught that they should be. It is time to repent of the pride of who has a larger family, who is interning where, who is courting whom, who has the most modest clothes, who God is blessing, who He is cursing, etc. Have you been blessed? Rejoice and be grateful! Are you struggling? Rejoice and be grateful! Reject the idolatry of the paradigm, embrace the relationships around you. Pull out one of the one anothering verses every single day, over and over again, and live them! Love God, love your children, love your neighbors. Welcome God’s grace and be thankful for how God alone, not Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, a patriarchal leader, radio teacher, or any man, has brought you to this point!

Saturday 9 November 2013

"The Gentle Parent" Book Review

This post is part of the Virtual Book Tour for the launch of L.R.Knost's newest release, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline. Click here if you’d like to check out the other stops on the tour!

"It is in the ordinary moments of life itself that you are building your relationship with your child, and it is in those moments that you decide whether your relationship will be built on control and correction or built on trust and connection."

From the author of Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle parenting through the ages and stages and Whispers Through Time: Communication through the ages and stages of childhood comes a third book in the Little Hearts Handbook series: The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline.

Like its predecessors, The Gentle Parent is concise and to-the-point. This slim book contains 30 short chapters, making it an easy read for busy parents.

Don't mistake its brevity for lack of content, however. The Gentle Parent is filled with practical steps, tips, and scripts to round out the "why's" of gentle discipline with nice solid "how's".

This comprehensive look at gentle discipline carries the reader from the beginning stages through to the teenage years and beyond. Following an introduction on the problem with punishment, the next five chapters look at the importance of setting a solid foundation in the baby years. The author then moves on to the toddler stage, with eight chapters covering everything from tantrums to biting to boundary testing. This section also explores the consequences of spanking, shaming, threatening, manipulating, and yelling at children.

The next six chapters cover the preschool years, including a chapter on parenting strong-willed children. This is followed by five chapters on middle childhood. The book concludes with five chapters the discuss the adolescent years, including some insight into the root of violence and bullying in our society.

There are also three appendices, covering lying, backtalk, and a twelve-step approach for parents who wish to work toward a more gentle style of parenting.

The entirety of this book is girded with the three C's of gentle discipline: Connection, Communication, and Cooperation. Both new and seasoned gentle parents will find it a worthy resource.

Gentle Parenting Workshop (and a freebie!)

The author of the Little Hearts Handbook series has also just released the first in a new Gentle Parenting Workshop series. The Gentle Parenting Workshops are companions to her Little Hearts Handbook series. The first workshop in the series, Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey, will help you set your gentle parenting goals, identify specific parenting problems, and target practical solutions to help you along on your journey to gentle parenting.

This workshop will be free to download on Kindle on the last day of the book tour, Sunday, November 10th, so be prepared to snap up that offer tomorrow!

About the Author

Best-selling parenting and children’s book author and mother of six, L.R.Knost, is an independent child development researcher and founder and director of the advocacy and consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages and Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood are the first in her Little Hearts Handbooks series of parenting guides. The newest book in the series, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline was just released on November 1, 2013. Other works by this award-winning author include the children's picture books Petey’s Listening Ears, and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series for ages 2 to 6, which are humorous and engaging tools for parents, teachers, and caregivers to use in implementing gentle parenting techniques in their homes and schools.

Monday 4 November 2013

I Well Remember

My recent insomnia followed me into the early hours of the morning. I gave in, got up, closed the doors on three still sleeping children, then settled myself in my chair beside the fireplace.

I opened my soft grey Bible from the place where it sits, too often undisturbed and neglected, on the shelf next to me. I turned to Lamentations; it's a Lamentations sort of season, you know? Woe and despair and tears, verse after verse. My eyes fail from weeping; my heart is poured out on the ground, oh yes, mine too.

And then, bright jewel among ashes, I remember my afflictions, I well remember them, yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope...

I well remember.

Oh, how very many things I well remember. Things from recent times, things from years long past, dark times and hard times, things that lie silently in my heart and come to mind in the quiet hours, I well remember.

And yet.

And yet this I call to mind, that your compassion never fails, Lord. Great is your faithfulness, and your love has no end. Yet this I call to mind, that you are near to the brokenhearted. You desire not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his wickedness and live - live! - and this too I remember, that I am that sinner, day after day I am that sinner. Fall down, try again. Turn and live.

And because of these things, I have hope.

Monday 28 October 2013

The pen

It's been many years since I've picked up a pen and poured out my thoughts.

I used to do it daily, but when you learn, too late, that your every word has been read by another, the humiliation sticks and the words do too. Instead I picked up my keyboard and made myself at home in this space, right here, writing down my words for anyone to see.

Some things can't be shared with the whole world. There is real and raw and authentic, yes, but there are also other people's stories, that tangled mess of mine-but-not-mine.

But writing saves me. The words build and build inside me and they demand release, threaten to sour in my veins if I don't bleed them out, I need to write need to write need to write the way I need my very breath. So I picked up my pen and a pad of paper and I bled pain in ink and tears and it was Good.

It continues to be good. The little one's naptime now begins with me picking up that pen and writing as she falls asleep beside me. It's cathartic and easy and I didn't realize how much I edit online. Cover all the bases, clarify this, preempt that, add disclaimers and feel guilty because I didn't take the time to find a picture to go with the post; I'm a bad blogger. To write just for me and no one else? What rediscovered freedom!

Of course, there's no one in my journal to push back, to point out, to provide feedback. No one to encourage or empathize or share their own stories of pain or beauty, death or life.

That is why I keep coming back to this place: I need you. Thank you for being here.

Just writing along with the EO...

Wednesday 23 October 2013

From the ground up

My mother tongue is silence, sarcasm, and cold shoulders. I've always said I'd do better, but a first language isn't easily forgotten and a second not easily learned. Caught in limbo between what I know and what I want to know, I try to avoid conflict altogether. I stuff it in and eat it away and numb it with too much mindless time spent staring at a screen. Hand me a pen or a keyboard and I'll get the words just right, but ask me to say them out loud and I freeze. I'm fine, I say. Except that I'm often not.

* * *

It was the end of summer when the husband and I crash-landed in our own marital winter. Like the barrenness of that season or the charred remnants of a forest fire, it seemed as though nothing good could grow there again. But God, as He so often does, has breathed life into our dust and brought beauty forth from what was broken. Vulnerability has a way of bringing us closer, doesn't it? And goodness knows I've never felt so exposed.

It was in those first days of crisis that I knew there were only two options: I could find both the ability and the courage to speak in that unfamiliar tongue, or I could fall back on what I know to the certain end of the marriage to the man I've known since I was twelve years old. There was no cold shouldering this away.

I'm not sure I've ever prayed harder, and those words in that unfamiliar language came. I spoke them with a voice both trembling and certain, and it made all the difference for both of us.

* * *

The husband and I have been rediscovering each other for the past several weeks. Some days are good and some days are not; it's all just hard, very hard. He has been endlessly patient and understanding as we work to rebuild shattered trust and broken hearts. From the first moment, he has not denied, minimized, nor failed to take responsibility for what his actions have done, and that too has made all the difference. We're both learning.

I'm still fighting to hang on to the fragile beginnings of that new spoken language. Some days I have done well and others I have failed terribly, but the importance of it has sunk deep into my soul. Those days following dredged up anger from old wounds that I hadn't known were still open, but how can they ever be healed if I will not acknowledge them? I have been unfair to my husband and to our marriage in my reluctance to simply speak my hurt aloud. I have failed to allow him to make amends or to understand my thoughts and feelings. It was all small stuff before, daily annoyances that arise when living with another imperfect human being, but even those things become big when left to fester.

So I'm learning to speak, and it's hard. I'm a mess of leave it well enough alone and how do I say this right and fear and trembling and second-guessing. But I'm learning to speak.

* * *

Everything always seems to happen at once, doesn't it? Now we're moving to a new home and all that entails. We're purging the excess that has accumulated over the past four years and it feels good but it's challenging, too.

We're rebuilding from the ground up in many ways, circling back to the beginning. Starting over. Learning. Trying again.

Maybe we'll do a little better each time around.

Tuesday 22 October 2013


It took us nearly a month, but both of our cats have found new homes.

Lucy now lives with a lovely woman and another cat in a quiet apartment, perfectly suited to her quiet temperament. She is well loved and cared for, making it easier to have said good-bye to her.

Simon has become the resident cat at a local residential care home, which also perfectly matches his outgoing and affectionate personality. Simon thrives on attention, and I nearly cried with joy when I found a residential care home that was interested in adopting him.

I am so grateful to friends and readers who offered encouragement and suggestions, who tagged Facebook friends and shared statuses in hopes of finding someone willing to open their home to a cat or two. Lucy found her home thanks to a tag by one of you wonderful readers, and Simon's home was found in response to one of more than thirty emails I sent to local residential care homes, hoping to find one who was interested in a residential cat.

It feels strange to not have cats in our house. I've had at least one cat since I was a little girl, having convinced my parents to let in a stray black kitten that I had found. I named her, unsurprisingly and uncreatively, Midnight, and she died only a couple of years ago. There was also Casper, the white cat we adopted shortly after taking in Midnight, and you can see how my uncreative naming streak persisted. Next came the stray cat who wandered into the library where I worked as a teenager; I had begged my mom to let me bring him home. He's still there, living with my parents, and you won't be at all surprised to hear that I named him Books. Then I moved out and adopted two cats of my own, my Lucy and Simon.

Now it's just us and the hermit crabs and it hasn't really sunk in yet. I still automatically tuck my shoelaces into my boots so the cats don't chew on them, still go to scoop the cat litter when I'm taking out the garbage, still keep food carefully watched lest a cat jump up and help themselves to a few unattended bites.

I suppose we'll all get used to it in time.

Monday 21 October 2013

Sights and Sounds and Smells

It's fall and I'm in love with rainbow trees, red tips cascading down to orange and yellow, with the last green holdouts hanging around the bottom. Red leaf-carpets on the ground remind me of cherry blossoms in spring; the two make nice bookends to the equinoxes, I think.

We drive past the fall rainbow trees on our way to pick up their daddy from work. They sit in the backseat, those boys and that girl, and the boys ask endless questions while the girl shrieks. The middle one tells us about his "reflections", which from the sound of it are basically laser beams that come out of his eyes in the dark and help him see. Oldest scoffs, does not, but then he relaxes and joins in and soon they're having laser beam fights with their eyes and now there's even more shrieking.

I've memorized the smells of the 45 minute route from our house to the husband's work. We begin in the sun-warmed car, but the smell of french fries soon takes over as we pass the McDonald's on the corner. A little further down we pass a restaurant that invariably makes me think someone in the backseat has either thrown up or pooped in their pants, which so far has only been the case once; I was amused at that coincidence, having discovered the poop only seconds before passing that particular restaurant. Life is funny sometimes. As we turn off one main road and onto another, the smell of fried chicken takes over. Further down, as we drive over a bridge, the earthy smell of logs floating down the river invariably catches my attention. I always breathe deep here; I love the smell. Soon after we arrive at his work and begin the sensory journey in reverse as we head back home.

We won't be making the drive for much longer though. Early mornings to make the long commute coupled with late nights when he takes transit and long drives when we pick him up have taken their toll. We looked at many (many) houses that were reminiscent of the last time we looked for a place to rent, but we've finally found one that has that perfect trifecta of location, yard, and nice house. We dropped off the security deposit and will now spend the next four weeks purging and packing and moving. Oh my.

It's not perfect, the new place, but it's clean and updated and nice. I'll miss the cozy feeling of carpets beneath my feet, trading them in for all hardwood floors - a bonus to most, but not my cup of tea. Cushy area rugs will be Priority Number One. And our beautiful walls - our bright yellow kitchen, the calming pale blue bedrooms, the lavender bathroom, the hard-to-describe-but-sort-of-teal living room - will become solid peach throughout. I'm grumpy about it and also ashamed of my ungratefulness, that we should have found such a lovely place and yet I'm pouting about paint colours and hardwood floors. I expect we'll make it feel like home in time.

Now it's late and the house is quiet. Our days are so full with so many changes happening at once; I arrive at the children's bedtime feeling jittery and unsettled. Now comes the exhale. Breathe. Relax. Rest. Begin again tomorrow.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

When I grow up

It's the preschooler's new Thing: "When I grow up..." It's usually said in response to being told that he cannot have the current object of his desire, but he'll happily share his grown-up dreams during less volatile times as well.

"When I grow up, I'm going to buy whatever I want."

"When I grow up, I'm going to have a birthday party every day."

"When I grow up, I'm going to eat ice cream all the time."

"When I grow up, I'm going to have meat and rice for every supper."

"When I grow up, I'm going to buy all the Lego."

"When I grow up, I'm going to buy clay, so much clay that it will fill a whole room, and I'm going to build with it every day."

"When I grow up..."

Usually I just agree with him. Oh yes, that will be very nice. Sometimes I forget he's only three and I slip into logical mode - money and responsibility and contentment and happiness not coming from things and blah blah blah, he doesn't care, he's still little and these dreams are the stuff of life in his mind.

Of course, I remember thinking the same things a child. I would drink pop whenever I wanted and I'd stay up late every night and I'd have really long nails like my mom's and I would never be mean to my kids and basically, my life would be perfect and so would I.

Surprisingly, that hasn't actually happened yet.

If I'm honest, though, the game hasn't really disappeared for me. It's just changed a little bit, morphed into something both equally unachievable and equally appealing. It's the running joke between the husband and I: "When we're rich..."

We say it with a wink and a twinkle in our eye. We say it as we sit together right in front of our 18-year-old 12-inch TV, playing Wii and straining to keep track of things on the fuzzy little screen. When we're rich, we say, we'll get one of those big screen TVs and actually get to see what's going on. My Lego Frodo beats up his Lego Sam and steals all his coins. He pokes me in the ribs in protest and I flash him an evil grin; he returns my grin with a mock glare and a kiss and you know what, forget a bigger television, I'd rather keep snuggling in front of this little old thing.

But we keep saying it anyway. When we're rich, we'll indulge in this. We'll splurge on that. We'll have a house of our own with a yard and a garden and a library (because of course) and a white picket fence. We'll spend a year traveling abroad and we'll have that fancy SUV and our furniture will no longer be purchased primarily from IKEA and we'll have that new coveted-but-unnecessary gadget and our ethical ideals will more easily become reality and and and...

We'll do all the things and have all the things and then life will be perfect, right?

Oh, it's mostly said in jest. We're old enough now to know that money can't buy happiness and other such trite-but-true clichés. There will always be something else promising us contentment if only we had it; you never truly "arrive" in this game. But I am merely human and sometimes I forget these things and the joke feels less funny, more wistful, oh, one day, when we're rich...

But these someday-when-we're-rich dreams, they're not so different from fear, I've discovered. Like those worries about what the future may hold, they pull me out of this right-now life and I forget gratitude, forget to be here and present and thankful for this very moment. Oh, they can be fun, these dreams, and they can be truly good, too, but only as long as I'm still actively and abundantly living in the present instead of longing for something that may or may not come.

It's always gratitude that brings me back. When my fears or my dreams pull me into a future I can't live in, when pain and anger pull me the other way into the past, it's gratitude that reminds me to live abundantly here and now. It's gratitude that I carry with me like a shield during the day and pull over my shoulders like a blanket as I lie down at night.

I close my eyes and breathe deep. I feel the baby pressed warm against my side, the comforting weight of the quilt lovingly stitched by my grandmother's wrinkled hands, my husband's strong hand in mine even as he sleeps. I smell baby girl's damp sweaty hair and the crisp fall air drifting in through the open window. I hear a soon-to-be-gone cat's meow, the quiet giggles of boys in their beds but not yet asleep, the childhood-familiar sound of a train in the distance. There is so much right here and it doesn't matter what may or may not come, not as long as it is today. And it will always be today.

But for now, a three year old dreams of complete freedom and a thirty year old still sometimes dreams of the same. Some things never really change.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Farewell, Felines

Oh, my mama heart.

The boy has been dealing with some asthma-like symptoms for a while now. He's on an inhaler and has been visiting the pediatric asthma clinic since spring.

In the ER when his breathing troubles began in earnest.

The specialist felt his asthma symptoms were related to prolonged exposure to an allergen, so they set up an appointment for an allergy test. He just had that test last week.

The doctor asked the usual questions. Any pets? Two cats, yes, but we've had them since before he was born. What do you and your husband do? He's an electrical engineer, and I'm home with the kids. Does he have trouble breathing after physical activities? No, never. Do his allergies seem to be tied to a particular time of year? Not really, no.

And so on.

Then came the test, which was very quick and simple. Ten minutes of waiting - no scratching! - and a physical exam, then the results.

"I'm afraid no one is going to like this news." I couldn't think of what she could possibly mean. She continued. "This dot here? The only one with a reaction? That was the cat dot."

Our cats? We've had those cats for as long as we've had the boy. And I mean that quite literally - we got the cats the same week we got pregnant with him. Apparently, though, these allergies commonly develop around 4-6 years old. Who knew?

The doctor explained that because of the severity and singularity of the allergy, there really weren't any other options besides removing the cats from the home. I didn't think the boy was really listening, but his tears quickly indicated otherwise. He sobbed in the office as the doctor apologized and sympathized and offered tissues.

The boy is heartbroken. He cried that entire day, sitting on the floor with the cat in his lap. Nothing hurts a mother's own heart like seeing her baby in pain.

Cat pillow, 2011

Although he was still holding onto the hope that he could convince us to keep the cats, he was ever-so-slightly comforted by the thought of them going to a home where he would still be able to visit them sometimes. He had particularly hoped his Oma could take them, since she already has a cat, but she was already looking forward to a cat-free home and was unwilling to take on two more. We've asked cat-friendly friends, posted on Facebook, pleaded in local email lists, contacted residential care facilities in the lower mainland, all to no avail - after all, how many people are interested in taking two cats? It's been a heartbreaking and discouraging process, and as each day goes by, the cats' prospects look increasingly bleak.

Simon is our outgoing black-and-white cat who takes an immediate liking to everyone he meets. He loves to be stroked, snuggled, and have his tummy rubbed. He enjoys spending his nights cuddling with the boy in his bed.

Lucy is our more reserved white cat who prefers a quieter show of affection, making her an excellent lap cat for those who just want some company. She loves a cozy warm fireplace to curl up in front of.

Both cats are friendly and gentle with no displays of aggression, having patiently tolerated the fur-yanking stage of five different babies without so much as a warning hiss. They were adopted as a pair when they were kittens and often spend time grooming or sleeping next to each other; it hurts our hearts even more to think of them being separated. These are lovely cats who just need a new home to call their own, and it is so frustrating to me that we can't find a single family or care facility willing to welcome them into their home.

When we moved out here, the husband and I briefly talked about giving away the cats so we didn't have to bring them halfway across the country. The boy, only two at the time, overheard us. "But they're my friends!", he passionately protested. That ended the conversation right there; how could we give away his friends? And you know, I have complained about these cats more times than I can count over the years. Cat hair and litter boxes and hairballs and meowing just as I'd get the baby to sleep - they're good cats, but they're still cats, and they lost their cherished baby status as soon as the first human baby arrived. Now, though, there's little I wouldn't give if only my baby could keep his beloved pets.

But he can't, and these cats need a new home.


Monday 30 September 2013

What I Am Into - September 2013

What I Am Into :: September 2013

So. September. Good bye and good riddance.

On My Nightstand:

I'm doing another Harry Potter re-read. I tend to get bored around book #4 and give up, but this time I am determined to get through #4 and 5 so that I can get to the really good stuff in #6 and 7. I just finished #3, so whether I succeed remains to be seen.

I am also enjoying an advanced reader copy of Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women. I'm used to Sarah's lovely flowing blog-post snapshots, so it was a bit of a mind shift to hear her voice in this longer book. The further I read, though, the clearer I can hear that compassionate and poetic voice coming through.

On the screen:

Each Friday is pizza and a movie night here in the Hippie Household. We all assemble our own pizzas, then sit down in front of a nature documentary because we have a strange little three year old who sobs his eyes out during even the happiest moments in most movies. Which is fine; we all love the nature documentaries. Creation is fascinating. So far we have finished BBC's Planet Earth and Blue Planet series, and we've now started watching through Life, with Human Planet next in line.

In My Kitchen:

I'm enjoying the return to fall cooking - tortellini sausage soup, beef stew, and everything butternut squash.

In My Ears:

I know I'm a little slow on the uptake here, but The Civil Wars have a new album! It is amazing. Of course. So beautiful and just perfect. My ears also perked up at the mention of a new Gungor album, which I will most definitely be checking out as well.

What I'm Looking Forward to in October:

Um, it won't be September anymore?

No, seriously, I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving (here in Canada, at least). We're getting together with the in-laws for a big Thanksgiving weekend at a cabin they've rented. Should be a good time.

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?

Linking up to What I'm Into with HopefulLeigh...

Thursday 26 September 2013

One and wonderful

Ah, my baby girl, such is the lot of the third child to have their first birthday reflected upon more than a month late, isn't it? My apologies, my love.

You, though, are not a child to be ignored. Such personality! Fun and quirky, you demand laughter, interaction, and applause - from us, at least. You're less assertive around those you don't know, but even then your shy face is so inviting of coos and attention, and of course no one can get enough of those cheeks of yours.

Because you never like to be without something in your hand, you've carried around the oddest little security objects over the past year. It's often a Duplo person or a ball or, when I'm within reach, a fistful of my hair, but you're not fussy, you'll take whatever's nearest. Most recently, you became attached to a small tube of stretch mark cream (it didn't seem to do much for me anyway, so you're welcome to it). You'd fall asleep with it clutched in your adorably chubby little fist and reach for it first thing in the morning. Well, if only we were all so easily pleased, right?

Not that you're always content. Most of the time, yes, but your mood can swing with the best of them, happy one moment and distraught the next. You throw yourself backward, cry at the insult of smacking your head, then use your feet to push yourself across the floor on your back. You make a sad little "ooooo" sound, complete with round pursed lips. I try not to laugh at you, but oh, the cuteness. I can't get enough of you.

Your Daddy is utterly smitten with you as well. It's been heart-warming to watch him with you this past year. He was a pretty shy new father when your oldest brother was born. He didn't really know what to do with that little crying bundle. But that baby grew into a wild toddler and he warmed up to fatherhood with relish. When his second son arrived, he was pretty convinced that toddlers were his job and babies were mine. But you! You came along and he was certain that you liked him right from the beginning. I think he was just a little less gun shy the third time around, but who knows, maybe you really did like him better than your infant brothers did.

And now it's you taking your first tentative steps. Three, four, five, and then you fall down and look up with that proud grin on your face, just waiting for the laughter and applause. We give it happily, little one, just as happily as you give out kisses. You open your mouth wide and press it against our cheeks and we melt, all of us. Well, except for that one time when your kiss became a bite on your brother's lip. He wasn't happy about that and he let the whole grocery store know it, and then you joined in, the two of you sobbing your eyes out in front of the applesauce. Such is siblinghood - and motherhood - sometimes.

The one thing you won't tolerate is your father and I hugging. Kissing, of course, is right out. You start squawking as soon as we dare bridge those last few inches between us. Apparently you have no interest in any younger siblings right now. Don't worry, baby, I'm in no rush; I'm quite happy to enjoy your own sweet babyhood. But I'm not going to stop hugging your father, so get used to it.

You're still my snuggler, my cuddler, my sweet little thumb-sucker, and now you're growing into my sunshiny toddler as well. Happy (very belated) birthday, my love. I look forward to discovering more about the fascinating person God created you to be with each passing day.

Monday 23 September 2013

What fear does

It's been three weeks since my heart was shattered.

It's my story and it isn't, and so I share only in part. But I will ask of you what I've asked of others: Pray for my marriage. Pray for me, for my husband, for healing, for strength. Pray for us.

* * *

I chose forgiveness, but forgiveness does not erase pain. It's here and it's real and acceptance, surrender, it's the only way I know to pass through to the other side. There aren't any shortcuts or sidesteps, no bandages or pretending it away that will do the real work of healing. I hurt. I simply do, and right now is a time of sitting with that pain, acknowledging it and experience it but not clinging to it. Likewise with anger: I acknowledge and accept its presence, while not clinging tightly to it either.

But a third emotion has also risen up, threatening to bloom so out of control as to drown out the intensity of the other two: fear.

I am terrified that this isn't really the end. I am terrified that it will happen again. I am terrified that my husband, despite having witnessed the depth of my pain these past weeks, will choose this path again. I am terrified that it will become something that will threaten to end our marriage. These are fears that I have never lived with before. I have never wondered, never worried, never suspected, never distrusted. And now I am afraid.

But I recognize that while the hurt and the anger have their rightful place in my heart right now, that fear doesn't. If I allow fear to take root, it could threaten my marriage all on its own, whatever my husband's future actions may or may not be. This fear is not healthy, not healing, and not to be trusted.

I love my husband. I love our marriage, our shameless flirtations, our 18-year-long love story. I love our inside jokes and shared history. I don't want to spend my life in fear, but right here, now, enjoying the life we have together. Isn't pain the risk we all take when we choose to commit to another person in marriage? I'd just never given it much thought before. Not him. Not us. Anger I could imagine, those daily frustrations that arise when living with another imperfect soul. But deep pain and utter heartbreak? I'd never imagined that.

* * *

Christ came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Abundantly.

He abundantly comforts (2 Corinthians 1:5), abundantly loves (Psalm 5:7), abundantly pardons (Isaiah 55:7), and offers abundant grace (Romans 5:17). He is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20), and in Him we have an abundance of joy (2 Corinthians 8:2).

I want to live abundantly.

* * *

Every minute spent in fear of the future is another minute not spent living in the present.

Every minute spent in fear of what my husband may or may not do in the future is another minute not spent enjoying our marriage and friendship today.

Every minute spent trying to live in the future is another minute not spent living abundantly in the life God has blessed me with here and now.

Those fears arise. They will continue to arise. And I will continue to take each one captive to the obedience of Christ, which leaves no room for fear. God is love and perfect love casts out all fear. All fear.

My peace and security are in Christ, and that will remain whatever may come.

Sunday 15 September 2013

Weekend Reading {vol. 103}

Heroes don’t come easy {on nice guys, bad boys, good girls, & unicorns} @ A Deeper Story
We’re all capable of hurting each other deeply, but beauty and kindness are just as perennial. Each life charts paths through light and dark, changing course from one breath to the next.

Forgiveness won’t preclude boundary setting, but it is woven with shades of mercy and grace like rain. None of us is the sum of the mistakes we make, our worth rooted deeply in Whose we are, not what we’ve done (even on our best days). Resurrection is as real today as it was that Sunday morning long ago.

Two-dimensional characters exist in monochrome fantasy, unlike the broad-spectrum Story we write with our lives together. Saint. Sinner. Hero. Villain. Human. Forgiven. Beloved. The whole motley mess of us.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand: Being Physical In A Sexual World @ Internet Monk
The physical world used to impinge on all of the senses all of the time. And that’s as it should be. We are physical beings. We were made so by God. We eat, sleep, make love, and defecate. We cuddle for warmth and comfort. These things are all healthy and satisfying – and not sexual. We have a need for physical satisfaction of all kinds, not just the sexual; we must have it to be healthy. In our digital, cubicle-dominated modern world, we are starved for physical interaction. Because we’re starving, we try to satisfy basic needs for contact, comfort, and belonging – which the surrounding culture tells us to do through sex.

For our society to become healthier and more balanced, we have to consider physicality as a separate need from sexuality. Although we often find each other difficult, hot, smelly, and loud, we fulfill each other in many ways. And although creation is dangerous, extreme, and uncomfortable, we were made to interact with it. People who long for physicality, who need to touch and be touched, should not be expected to satisfy that longing only sexually. Attempting to meet all one’s physical needs through sex shows not only a misunderstanding of human nature but a real lack of imagination.

Defiantly aging gracefully @ The Not-Ever-Still Life
If you dye your hair and it brings your pleasure or boosts your confidence or is wild red or streaked with purple (especially if your hair is wild red or streaked with purple), I say carry on with your regime. But if you dye your hair and think it's a pain and think it's a hassle and think it's expensive, maybe think instead about all our young girls growing up, bombarded with messages about beauty and conformity and too few messages about confidence in our natural bodies; and our young boys growing up bombarded with messages of beauty as a narrow ideal and an objectifiable one at that.

Nothing negative has happened as a result of my decision two years ago to stop dyeing my hair. And my growth in confidence has been slow, quiet, unremarkable. But talking with E on Saturday and in subsequent conversations since have confirmed every minute of these two years as correctly played. And that's the most challenging and honest part of parenting: it's not just that I've been forced to define my ideals, but I'm forced to examine them, defend them, and explain them. This one stood up perfectly under unanticipated scrutiny, and that felt great.

Why You Never Stop Being Needed @ A Holy Experience
“Hey, Josh?” One brother’s calling over to the other. “Can Mom see us doing this?”

And I hear that. The old mother at the bottom of the mountain, she hears her boys hollering that and I nod and smile slow.

Yes, boys – right to my end, I will be your witness.

Go ahead, sign me up to witness the launchings and the beginnings, witness the dares you take, the challenges you rise to, the heartbreak you don’t want anyone else to see and the crazy you wish you could hide.

Be brave. In all your crazy, be brave, boys. And I’ll be there, in heart or in body, to witness the first dates and the failed dreams and it’s okay to cry, boys, your tears are safe with me.

Because the truth is: Life’s a trial and everyone needs a witness — someone on your front row, someone on your sidelines, someone to clap you across the finish line when everyone else has gone home.

Everyone needs a witness – someone to testify you were really here and you really tried, someone to witness your wounds and believe in your worth, someone to say even your crazy can’t stop you from being crazy loved. Everyone needs a witness who will stand and not hold you back because if we all only lived safe, no one would ever get saved.

Monday 9 September 2013

When your heart is shattered

One minute ordinary, the next everything changes, your world upside down. Everything you thought to be true, untrue, or it feels that way at least. One piece of knowledge and maybe ignorance was bliss and maybe it never is, but whatever it was, it isn't anymore.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.

When your heart is shattered and you can't eat and you can't sleep and it's all you can do to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other, remember that. Say it over and over because you know it is true, He is near, He is near.

The Lord will bind up the brokenhearted.

And then just keep doing it, one foot in front of the other, one prayer after the other, one word of honesty and vulnerability after the other. The beauty of the dew on the grass will feel so wrong the next morning - why should such beauty exist in the midst of such pain? - but give thanks for it anyway. Give thanks and then do the next thing.

The Lord will heal the brokenhearted.

He is good and faithful even when nothing and no one else is. He can bring life and beauty from the dust and the ash, and He will use it for your healing and His glory. He is our Redeemer and our Rock. Trust that when trust is left shattered on the floor. When you're not okay, say it again:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Because she needs me

She turned one whole year old during our month away, and I need to write it down, all the little things that make her the child I am so crazy in love with. Right now, though, she's holding tight to my leg, thumb in her mouth, and it's something different that I want to write down today.

My content child, my happy child, my joyful laid-back easy child, has become a clingy koala who despairs of life whenever I am too far away for her comfort. This is especially apparent when it comes time for her daily nap.

Gone are the easy days of whispering her naptime benediction in her ear as I lay her down and close the door behind me. I knew that could change any day, but somehow I didn't expect it to come after a full year. It has, oddly, made it more difficult for me to accept.

Whether it was the giant routine disruption that was our August, a shift in her developmental stage, or some other cause, I fought against it for the first few days. It was always so easy with her! Why won't she just go to sleep? I have things to do!

But nothing eases change quite the way acceptance does, and so I accepted. Book in hand, I settled down beside her, and now we share a quiet mid-day break. I read while she squirms around until sleep overtakes her. It's lovely, really, when I accept it instead of fight it as an intrusion or demand on my time.

I stayed with her brothers when they needed me, and now I will do the same for her. It may have taken longer for her to arrive at the stage where she feels my absence so keenly, but here she is, and here I am, for as long as she needs me.

Sleep well, my love. I'll see you when you wake.

Just writing along with the EO...

Tuesday 3 September 2013

(Not-)Back-to-School Season: Avoiding homeschooler panic

It's that time again. Or has been for a while, depending on where you live. Summer is, for all intents and purposes, over, and kids are back in school.

Meanwhile, some of us homeschoolers are facing a bit of not-back-to-school panic. (Or maybe it's just me. I don't know.)

See, while some parents are filling backpacks with the necessary supplies, other parents are writing out detailed homeschooling plans, purchasing stacks of curricula, and signing their children up for every extracurricular activity that piques their interest. They're taking pictures of their magazine-worthy homeschooling spaces and their Pinterest-perfect not-back-to-school celebrations. And they're sharing it all with the rest of us.

Us mere mortals.

And as confident as I am in the way we have chosen to approach our home education, I still find myself starting to panic. Wait, do I need a curriculum for my preschooler? Maybe I should enroll the boy in some formal music lessons. Piano? Voice? Guitar? Okay, all three, that'll cover all the bases. And Latin, yes, that seems to be a must. I'll have to bake cupcakes tonight and do a first-day party tomorrow, and I really ought to go buy a chalkboard so they can all pose next to it with their relevant grade-year written in fancy lettering, which I can't actually do but that's beside the point, really. Probably the baby needs some sort of directed learning as well...

Maybe you feel the same way. Can I just be the one to tell you (and me)? It's okay.

It's okay if you don't teach Latin to your five year old. Or your fifteen year old.

It's okay if you don't have an advanced math program selected.

It's okay if you don't have a curriculum at all.

It's okay if you do.

It's okay if you don't have a picture-perfect homeschooling room (or any homeschooling room, for that matter).

It's okay if your kids can't juggle while hula hooping and balancing on a soccer ball in a perfectly-choreographed routine set to music they composed and recorded themselves.

It's okay to guard your family time by limiting the number of activities your kids participate in. After all, you can't do everything at once.

It's okay.

That insecurity you're feeling? I'm willing to bet a lot of the other homeschooling parents are feeling it too.

Sometimes it feels like there's an awful lot of one-upmanship going on, but I gotta tell you, it's usually just in our heads. We do it to ourselves. Another homeschooling parent mentions a new curriculum acquisition and suddenly we're feeling judged, we're feeling pressured, we're feeling inadequate. That other homeschooling parent? They're just sharing their new curriculum acquisition. Chances are, quite apart from feeling superior, they're still feeling insecure about that new lesson you mentioned enrolling your kids in last week. The one you mentioned not because you wanted to show off, but just because it was new and interesting and you wanted to share about it with your friend.

Share away. And let others share too. They're not trying to compete with you, just sharing part of their lives with you.

It's okay.

Alright. Let's (not) get back to school!

Want to share what you are (or aren't!) doing as part of your homeschooling plans for this year? Share away in the comments and let us celebrate with you!

Friday 30 August 2013

August memories

Bare feet slapping on chalk-covered sidewalks. Bathing suits and sandals and hair filled with sand. Freshly mown grass and the sandal that is no more. Fat caterpillars and oohs and squeals and laughter. Ticks, bee stings, scrapes, cuts, and tumbles. Bandages and kisses and only a little bit of worry.

Water, water, water. Water to drink, water to swim in, water to spray and splash and even jump on. Canoes and waterslides, lifejackets and victories. Water pouring down from the sky, then, as we began our journey back home, hail pounding down, like stones being thrown to run us out of town.

A full week's worth of driving, twenty-five days away from home, and somehow we all survived. Long highways through the bug-covered windshield. Charlotte's Web and Henry Higgins and Treasure Island. Growing boys and an exuberant baby and missing daddy and disappointment when (my) expectations are too high.

Sunshine and thunderstorms and lightning shows. Late mornings and later nights, slow days and full days. Sunsets so perfect they leave you breathless with gratitude and wild with wonder that such beauty could exist in this sin-sick world.

Family visits, hello, goodbye, see you again but never soon enough. Motels and floors and beds that aren't ours. A first boyfriend for one sister and a first breakup for another, and gratitude that I could be there for both. Love and heartache, isn't that just the stuff of life? Long talks and little sisters, why must they make the same mistakes I did? But maybe some things you have to walk through yourself before hindsight shines down its clarity.

Tents and sleeping bags, campfires and marshmallow roasts, stars and songs. Fingers sticky, hearts happy, souls satisfied. Worn out kids sleeping in the grass. Blackberry bushes fairly dripping with berries, thorns scratching at arms and legs as we fill buckets and bags and bellies with gifts straight from the Creator.

It's good to be home again. Summer was wonderful, but now I'm ready for autumn's quiet and rest.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

What I Am Into - July 2013

What I Am Into :: JULY 2013

Oh July. I want to kiss you and hug you and never let you go. Thanks for being awesome, July.

On My Nightstand:

My lovely parents-in-law gave the husband and I Kobo Touch eReaders for our birthdays. (Yes, birthday. I'm 30 now. Let's just pretend that didn't happen, mkay?) So then came the Big Question: What would be the first book to grace my lovely new eReader?

I mean, my love affair with books began when I was just a wee little girl. I lived my childhood in other worlds thanks to my precious books. My dad would crack jokes about how he could drop a bomb next to my head and I wouldn't even notice, so ever-engrossed in a book was I. I worked in a library for seven years and have never loved a job more. So. Like I said. Big Question.

I feel like the answer to that question deserves a drumroll.


And congratulations to Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt!

Sure, it's a young adult book. It's also one of the best books I have ever read. It was one of my teenage self's favourites and one of the few books that I have read over and over. It was simply wonderful to immerse myself in that story again this month, and it was no surprise to me when the second in the series, Dicey's Song, soon became the second book on my eReader. I quickly finished that one as well and, for the sake of my bank account, am trying to hold off on purchasing the rest of the series for a little while.

I also enjoyed reading through Wild Goslings: Engaging with kids in the mysteries of God by Brandy Walker. It was full of hope and truth and authenticity and I loved it. I especially love that I'm seeing more of this sort of thing, this willingness to invite children to truly experience God rather than simply be spoon-fed moral lessons from a variety of Bible stories, unnaturally and unhelpfully separated from any cohesive and holistic overarching Story. But that's another soapbox for another time.

On the screen:

We discovered BBC's Sherlock Holmes series this month and are eagerly catching up on past episodes of that. It is so nice to have something witty and interesting to watch in the evenings, while our other favourite shows are taking a break for the summer. Of course, with only six episodes to watch, it won't keep us occupied for long, but it's thoroughly satisfying while it lasts.

In My Kitchen:

Boring boring boring. Lots of hamburgers and salmon burgers and sausages on the grill. I'm feeling thoroughly uninspired. If you have a favourite summer dish you want to share in the comments, my fried brain will thank you profusely.

In My Ears:

The boy made his very first mixed CD last fall. Well, he's gone and made another one, and it amuses me every bit as much as the first one. I must admit, that shift between track 4 (The Beatles' Twist and Shout) and Track 5 (Wee Sing's Triceratops) is rather jarring, but aside from that, it's quite fun to listen to. (The husband disagrees, however; there's entirely too much Christmas music included for his liking.)

What I'm Looking Forward to in August:

Half of our month will be spent travelling. We'll drive nearly 900 km to visit my in-laws for several days, drive back home, and then the kids and I will head out three days later on a 2300 km drive to surprise my mother with a short visit for her birthday. We'll take our time driving those same 2300 km back home, though, stopping to spend some time in Drumheller on the way. Known as the "dinosaur capital of the world", it's unsurprising that it's one of the boys' favourite places to visit. And all those beautiful mountains we get to drive through? They make the drive worth it all on their own.

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?

Linking up to What I'm Into with HopefulLeigh...