Thursday, July 28, 2011

the wee dawn

Our alarm clocks went off at the same time that morning. 
His, the gravelly, staticky musical sounds of a small radio alarm. 
Mine, a tiny prince calling to me from the confines of his bedroom. 
He reached over to end the drone of white noise guised as music - and i - roused myself from our bed as that clear baby voice called me again and again by my most familiar name... "Mama!"
When i came back, treasure in arms, he was already in the shower - so baby and i slipped for a moment under blankets to find the comfort he kept asking for. 
A breath, a moment - a sweet beginning as the hot water steamed up the bathroom, and the traffic began to pick up outside. 
Morning rages -
afternoon flies on wings -
evening passes like a storm in July. 
Our work calls to us - one wobbly note at a time. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

he misses me, gotta kisses me

i grab my phone & quickly check my emails before getting out of the van.  Neil is coming home this day & i want confirmation that he boarded that plane.   
The one from him catches my eye & i smile as i read it, attracting the attention of the small fry. 
"What is it, mom!!??  What does it say??"
"It's an email from daddy - it says that he misses me a lot this trip."
Cairo raises her eyebrows at me, "Are you sure you're not just re-reading an email that you sent him?"


me & sunshine boy sat on the front step in our underwear to wait for daddy.  Well... sunshine boy was in his underwear.  i'm pretty sure i was wearing pants.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

hungry love

Divorce makes me sad. 
It just does. 
Neil & i had a conversation about divorce not too long ago & i asked him - why he thought divorce was so prevalent.  He said he figured it's because some people will never be happy with anything...
Maybe he's right. 
i suppose there are big reasons people choose divorce too - reasons that our culture or religion condone. 
But i wonder... if a more common reason for divorce... is neglect?  Outright starvation? 
i remember after i had Ephraim, being so hungry i thought i would never be full again.  Neil made me tea and toast - and i licked up every crumb...
Could it be that we leave our love hungry?
& there it sits... pushed aside.  Barely heard as it withers and fades.
& of course - i have never been in anyone else's shoes.  i don't know what heartbreaking moments brought them to that final decision to end a union...
i'm just saying that i'm conscious of the hunger that happens between a man and his bride - a hunger for love, respect and acceptance.  We hunger for approval, loyalty and camaraderie; for humour, company and fidelity.  We're starving for interest, affection, attention and affirmation. 
i never wanna be so busy shoveling food into my own bloated belly - that i allow our marriage to starve.

Monday, July 25, 2011

video of me singing

i picked up my phone realized that Gage took about a hundred videos of me singing today. i'm posting one for your pleasure. Yes. They're all that long :) HAHA.
Enjoy!
video

Saturday, July 23, 2011

just the little ones


just me & the little boys in the mornings this week - with daddy away for work & the 5 bigs at DVBS... Such sweet little monkeys.
On the last day, we walked to meet the bigs on their way home.  As soon as they caught sight of us, my teeny flock let out shrieks of joy & ran the length of the block to greet us.  They told me about a poor woman's unfortunate wardrobe choice.  She was wearing a light coloured pair of shorts and they were hard to see.  One of my children said to the other, "Whoops, for a minute there, i thought she wasn't wearing any pants!"
At that very moment, my son ran up behind them, stopped short and said, "Cairo.  Is that man naked?"
Poor woman. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

thank you

Permanently etched in my memory is a card i read at my sister's house.  It was sent from her mother and father in law - on the occasion of the birth of their 6th child. 
The picture on the card escapes me - as does the hallmark message - & the gift they sent?  i couldn't remember if i tried - but in swirling penmanship on the inside of that card was a simple message, "Dear Travis and Stephanie - Thank you for giving us another baby to love.  Love, Oma and Opa."
i must've read it a dozen times. 
Tears rolled down my cheeks. 
Thank you for giving us another baby to love...
In a world that so disdains children... especially those born third, fourth, fifth - and beyond... here was a message from a family that obviously knew better. 
Could they have imagined then, the blessing that husky raspy voiced boy would be?  Could they envision his blonde curly mop of hair - his broad shoulders and earnest blue eyes? 
i doubt it...
They just knew - beyond a shadow of a doubt that being given the opportunity to gratefully love a new tender being was a gift, and they accepted it as such.  Here was a fresh opportunity to nurture, teach and delight in.  Here was another unique being with the capacity to claim his own place in his family, to form relationships, birth ideas, worship God...
& even now - as he grows beyond his current 5 years, i wonder how the rippling effect of this little boy's life will change this world
Yesterday, my sister posted a beautiful defence of life on her blog. 
Read it here & be thankful for every sweet baby to love...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

the familar scent of country music

"i don't think i like music anymore..." i spoke softly - but the underlying tone was storm clouds and a certain sullen sadness.
"Oh, really?" & he smiled at me 'cause he's used to my tempestuous honesty.
& truly i thought that maybe that was the case... that i was sick of melodies and sounds and lyrics and chord progressions; sick of rhythms, dynamics, accents and noise. 
But maybe i what i really needed was to cease making music - for just a breath - a moment - a measure.

So i did.   

And, i got what i craved - sitting in silence - in the silver fox, on a great trek across the prairies riding parallel with the man i love.  Letting myself brood tunelessly while he picked the radio station and hummed along to country music.
And i realized over the chorus of, "Where Corn Don't Grow.."
That i do still like music. 
Even country music...
Country music carries me back to that little white honda civic he used to drive when he played rugby & i played piano... when i swore i'd have a Van Halen song at our wedding - and he suggested we tattoo our wedding rings on our fingers (neither of those things happened, for the record). 
Listening to music is like smelling cookies baking, or your neighbour's barbeque.  It's like waking up on Christmas morning & sniffing that turkey in the oven - or toast & fresh brewed coffee on a Saturday morning.  Some music is like the smell of bubble baths - some like neil's clean skin. 
Sometimes it's better than tasting, better than seeing, better than feeling - 'cause this mist of aromas takes you places you never knew you were allowed to revisit... it brings you back to the familiar - to that place of brokenness - to that place of first love - to that place of uncertainty...
& country music takes me back to the end of my teens - to the beginning of marriage. 
As we drove that long straight road to Manitoba, where we lived for three impactful years, the music brought me there first.  Every plunk and twang through Saskatchewan made me want to laugh out loud at the young love that defied the odds and has created a melody all it's own... (& i don't think it's a country music melody... but i could be wrong). 
So i do...
i do still like music. 
Even country music. 
Sometimes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

writing

i like writing. 
i like the clickity clack of the keyboard & watching my feelings turn into words.  It's almost like taking a photograph - capturing a moment in a day; an expression, an idea.
On a whim a while ago, i sent a couple of stories to Mamalode magazine.  They sent me an email early this morning that one of them is live on their website today. 
You can check it out here.
It's from a moment captured a couple of years ago... i hope Charter doesn't mind me talking about his undies... 
Feel free to share it!  The more clicks the better:)

Monday, July 18, 2011

indirectly

i'm peering in the mirror critically as i get ready for the day - he's in the bathroom too... keeping our three year old boy company as he sits on the potty. 
"Do we love mommy?" He's facing away from me - and he speaks quietly to our son...
"Yes." Gagey whispers back - gazing earnestly at Neil with his bluer than blue eyes - his little feet swinging as he sits on his tiny throne. 
"Do we think she's pretty?" he continues in his quiet voice, "'cause i think she's pretty..."
& the words he doesn't say to me - come to me...
indirectly...

Friday, July 15, 2011

laundry - how we do it... (socks)

k, i feel like a huge nerd even posting about organization - when i know there are a few organizational junkies that read my blog, but here goes... A few of you asked about my "system" back when i wrote my post about crowd control & socks - so i thought i'd like to post some of what i have found that works so that one day i can look back and remember what it was like when i was keeping this big machine of a family running.
A family of 9 with one in cloth diapers (though he has been wearing a lot of 'sposies lately!) creates a bit of laundry. i'm *so* blessed 'cause i have a nice big laundry room - & lots of helpers who make this an enjoyable task.
i'm not gonna even talk about sheets & all the extras - just our regular stuff for today.
Each morning, Cai gathers. There is a laundry hamper in Neil's & my room upstairs, a dirty ditty bag in Ephraim's room (my friend made it "custom" for me with funky butterfly fabric & it's HUGE with a big chunky zipper. i would bet it is the world's best ditty bag ever...) There is also a laundry hamper in the girls room in the basement.... there are often dirty dish clothes laying at the top of the stairs to bring down too... (just being honest here...)

After we get all the laundry from the whole house, we sort it & get in the first load before breakfast in the morning. (We do laundry almost every day - between 1 & 2 loads usually).  We're a little more consistent during the school year, but even now - we try not to get too far behind. 

On a school day, we'll get our morning subjects done & then someone will go down & switch it over before lunch. After lunch, someone is sent to go "restart the dryer - & empty the lint catcher" because it usually takes 2 times to dry... (we hang our laundry sometimes, but my racks have been too rickety to do it too much this year - all of Neil's jeans & golf shirts are hung so they don't get any creases - & anything i think will wrinkle or require ironing or special care gets hung too...)  Ironing & me are not bff's. 

Then we do our afternoon school. Midway, i get a child to bring me the dry laundry & another child to get hangers.  While i'm listening to reading, checking spelling, smiling at baby... etc... i hang *everything* that can be hung & fold the bits that are left. i make 2 piles of hung clothes - one for upstairs, one for downstairs & it gets hung immediately. All that the children have to do is make sure their pants are put away properly. i find this is *much* easier than trying to keep *all* their clothes neatly folded in dressers. Neil also put in rungs in the laundry room to hang laundry on because Charter doesn't have a closet - & because it's always nice to be able to hang any extras *somewhere* - and nobody has the excuse, "i don't know where this goes!!" - 'cause if you don't know, you can always hang it in there.

*All the children's underwear and (folded) socks go into a big wicker basket that i keep in the laundry room & they have to come & find their own.  This keeps my sorting and organizing to a minimum - & there's a lot of sock sharing goin' on at our house anyway. 

*All mismatched socks go into a clear zippered bag to be sorted when we feel like it (usually once a month).

*All pants are folded (except for mine & Neil's - our are hung too).

i think my system works for me because *everything has a home*. Every mismatched sock is put away, and every t-shirt hung - even if it only gets put on the rung in the laundry room, it's tucked neatly away and isn't in a pile that will get kicked over & eventually put back in the dirty laundry pile without even being worn (don't pretend you don't know what i'm talking about! hehe).

i know our systems seem to always need some give & take - some changing & tweaking over time... but this is where we're at in this sweet season. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

expectations

You wanna know Neil's tiny pet peeve about my blog? 
He thinks i'm too easy on him - he thinks i make him sound too good, too perfect, too right. 
& it's really not my fault, 'cause that man?  He fits me like a glove... The good is so glaring - and the bad is so pitifully unimportant... but today - because i feel like it - i'll tell you what he's not good at. 
Neil's not good at birthdays. 
He's good at buying things - he's generous and easygoing and willing...
But he's not good at being here - telling me he's glad i was born & became his - making his girl feel special, adored & birthday blessed...
i suppose it's partly my parents fault - having me in the middle of golf season & all...
This birthday, it's business that has taken him away - & even though we've been married these 15 long years, when i tip- toed downstairs in the early morning - an hour after he had left the house - i couldn't help but scan the counters for a card or a note... something in his chicken scratch scrawl that he left just for me...
& man - those expectations are tough to let go of. 
But - (& this is why i'm posting this today - 'cause i think it's important to not try to shove a sweet man in a God shaped vacuum...)
When did it become Neil's job to tell me my worth - and not The One who has delighted in me for these 35 years?  Who told me i had a right to expect a mere man - (albeit *my man* - who fits like a glove) - to make me feel a certain way on my birthday, as i watch the evidence of the birthdays past climb into the face i see in the mirror?
It's my birthday - & Neil?  Neil's the best present that God ever gave me...
Gratitude - is the perspective that changes everything. 

************************************************

Another review for my book posted on this beautiful photography blog! 
& my post on socks?  It's written... i'll post it soon.  :) 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

circle of moms - top 25 homeschool blogs

So, Circle of Moms published their results on the "Roundup".  Here is a link to the little write up they did on Sojourners.    Sojourners was 19th in the top 25 homeschool blogs. 
& just 'cause i can, i'll post here what i had sent them in response to their interview questions.  (The long version of the abbreviated one at the Roundup.) 
Thanks for all the votes - it was fun to get voted into the top 25.  Sometimes, honestly - homeschooling seems like such a peripheral part of our little journey, but i hope that those looking for encouragement will find it here. 
*******************************

What inspired you to start blogging?


i originally started a blog to organize my thoughts on various pro-life issues - but then, i realized that pro-life is so much more than a 'cause', or just something that i believe in... it is - in a sense - our way of life, and so i expanded the focus of my blog to include more facets of my life; and a big part of that has been our homeschooling journey.

What are 3 distinctive features of your blog:

*One of the first things you might notice about my blog is that i love Jesus; that, and the knowledge that God is Good goes down to the very root of who i am.

*Another distinctive feature of my blog is that we are a larger than average family. With every age from highschool down to baby being represented in our classroom, meeting the needs of seven sweet children definitely plays a big part in what you'll read on my blog. i started a couple of features that readers have told me they appreciate - one is called, "How We Do it..." & i use it to share some of the logistics that go into making life work for us as a big family. Another tag is "And then she said..." and that's where i try to record just a few of the funny conversations - or in the case of my seven year old - 'one liners' that are bound to happen with this many little people under foot.

*Thirdly, you'll notice that my blog isn't curriculum focused, even though every so often i might share some curriculum choices that have worked for us. My blog is meant to be more of an encouragement - i share from my heart, from life, from my marriage - & i hope for transparency and honesty; even if it makes me vulnerable.

Why did you decide to homeschool your children?

i never would have imagined when i first began having children that i would be a homeschool mama, but after registering our oldest daughter in kindergarten, it became obvious to me that we needed to consider homeschool. She couldn't thrive in that atmosphere like some of the other children could - and she sighed with relief when i told her we wouldn't be sending her back for grade 1. Since then, we haven't looked back. It has become a lifestyle i love - and keeping my children at home for their education has only added to the joy of our bustling household.

What are your 3 favorite posts?

Wow, after blogging over a thousand posts over the past 5 years, this was a fun question answer. It was a trip down memory lane sifting through all my old favourites, peeking into our homeschool and trying to pick only three to share. i tried to make choices that would show some of the different flavours that Sojourners holds...

*The Jump - was written to encourage other moms who had contacted me, wanting advice and encouragement about beginning this sometimes terrifying homeschool journey.

*Humble Pie Tastes Disgusting - shatters the myth that homeschool mamas always have it all together - and it reminds me to laugh as i eat my humble pie... it's good for the soul.

*Perspectives Part 1 - chronicles part of what happened when one of my children asked if they could attend public school.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

why i don't have a cleaning lady...

i have three reasons - (likely more, but there are three that pop to mind the quickest & with the most force). i have thought about this a lot in the past couple of years. Especially when i broke my kneecap when E was 5 weeks old.

i thought i'd get cleaning help then... but i just didn't end up doing it - & eventually i got better... & we got by... but through that experience, i came to understand a little more the battle that goes on in my heart every time i have thought about getting some paid help around here.

1. Inconvenience - we're home *all the time* using our house, homeschooling, living, napping, eating... when on earth would there come a convenient time to have someone extra come in to clean? Add to this the inconvenience of paying someone to come - & the nervousness i'd feel telling someone how to clean up our messes - & i'm left knowing that us & a cleaning lady are probably not a great fit.

2. It's part of my training. Juggling all my household tasks is doing an important work on my character.  It's also a wonderful opportunity to train my little ones to contribute to our home and to keep ourselves in a semblance of order - at least most of the time.  This is part of their education - and part of the responsibility i have.  Keeping this job is the best way i know of, to accomplish those goals. 

3. Why do i have to believe the insinuation that my house is supposed to be spotless *all the time*? Or ever? This is the most important point for me.  Our house is "lived in" far more than most houses.  We have 9 people living in a 1600sq ft house.  We have children who are home year round - and a daddy who works from home.  This home isn't for show - every single square inch of it is *used* space... Useful space should be just that - tidy, organized - (and pretty too, if i can squeeze it in - because beauty makes me happy...) but above all - we have to look at functionality & having our house perpetually 'show home ready' - is one thing i'm willing to live without. 

So, yeh - i day dream about a cleaning lady on the days when the world seems to overwhelm, and i yearn for my house to be a peaceful oasis in the chaos of life... but for now... this is how... & why... we do it. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Thoughts

We took a road trip to Manitoba. 
It was beautiful and hot - and there were no mosquitoes there - much to my surprise.  We went for a family wedding - Neil's side.  His side of the family is incredibly tight, and it has been fun as an outsider these past 15 years to watch them operate. 
Honestly?  i left my computer at home on purpose... Too much on my mind to be able to sift & blog coherently.  Sometimes you gotta live before you can digest & tentatively choose if you're able to put out your embryonic ideas for the world to see in all their vulnerability. 
So this week, i lived. 
But i took notes - hastily scrawled bits and pieces as they came to me: country music, divorce, marriage, children, wonderings, a small bit of a character sketch for my next novel - if it ever decides it wants to be written. 
i wondered about leaving off this blog forever... if maybe now was the right time to put an end to this tiny honest wondering place... But now i have been home for less than an hour - and as my boys sleep around me, and my brother in law's family finds spots in our home to lay their weary bones down for the night - i decided that maybe it's not quite time yet.  Maybe there are more words to say - more ideas to explore - more of His Goodness to declare... here. 
So in this quiet pitta pat rainy night - as midnight creeps closer - i'll tell you one tiny story from my days away. 
We got to see Elmer.   And for whatever reason - with Elmer, i'm not an outsider.  His still strong hands are getting old, and the hair i used to trim for him is becomming more white than grey.  i noticed he had put on a little weight, but for the most part, it seems Elmer never changes.  (Neither do his neices and nephews, for that matter - as they gathered for a picture, Neil grabbed the white cane out of his hands to smack his brother with).
Elmer's a popular guy at these family gatherings... but i managed to squeeze in and steal his attention for a minute or two... After a moment, he commented casually, "Hey, Paige - i wonder why those two got away on you?  If you hadn't lost those two babies, you would have nine, wouldn't you?" 
And sometimes - family is predictable in a comforting sort of way... Sometimes the sameness of your conversations become like a well travelled road.  There is a certain sweetness in the familiarity of exploring that shared past with someone who remembers.  And so i took that walk with him.... there in that crowded backyard as his words lifted me to another time and place - because even still - i know those babies changed me, and i think on some level, he must know that too - & that's why he'll never, ever stop bringing them up. 
The next day as he left the hotel, he tossed over his shoulder, "i'll talk to Cairo next week..."
And he will. 
And they'll talk about what we all had for dinner and what instruments she likes to play, and if she helps around the house.  And they'll prune that tiny familar conversational path as they meander along it, building memories of their own....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The summer you were nine...

 It's only the first week of July and my boy is banged up like a log that's been run through the rapids.  i asked him what happened when i saw his legs this morning and he shrugged, "Nothin'..."
"But why are your legs covered in tiny cuts and bruises?" i pressed.
"OH!" his face brightens into an enormous grin, "We were riding our bikes down Elgin Hill," (a huge tobogganing hill in our neighbourhood) i shutter imagining my son hurtling down that steep slope, "and I got some from that... and then we were catching fish in the pond and I slipped on the rocks.  Maybe from street hockey?  Or from racing on our scooters... i dunno..."
And he's nine.  His fishing nets and various plastic containers are stored on the deck, beside his scooter and his helmet.  He wants a job, and was disgruntled when Neil said he couldn't do a good enough job cutting grass to get paid for it. 
He's nine and he thinks this neighbourhood is his tiny kingdom and he reigns merrily over it.  From the Mac's store where he buys the treats with the pittance earned from their lemonade stand - to the pond teeming with the life that little boys never tire of examining, capturing, releasing...
He's nine - and in years to come there will be responsibilities, wages earned and less time for impromptu street hockey games, conquering playgrounds and ultimate fighting championships on his friend's trampoline...
Right now, he's working on childhood... and childhood is hard work...
He's got the scars to prove it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

picnic in the park

My friend was already at the park when we pulled up. 
She was pushing her giggling son on the swingset in the green grassy playground across the street from the abortion clinic.   The big shady trees provided reprieve from the blazing sun.  Such a different scene from my first visit all those months ago when the icy cold still held the world in it's steel grip and the sidewalks were treacherous skating rinks. 
i can't drive down Crowchild now without my heart being pulled to that building.
We leave our children running and playing - pink cheeked and laughing at the park...
And each carrying our youngest, we walk to the corner to pray. 
Oh God - give me ears to hear Your Voice...
"Just stand there... and pray... and hurt... and weep...."  He seems to say. 
so i do. 
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To read about previous visits, click the "abortion" tab in the sidebar.

Monday, July 4, 2011

le grande geste

 Grand gestures are kinda nice...
 They come about so rarely in real life... but so dang frequently in movies. 
 The happy ending is swaddled in selflessness...

And the image of sacrifice, brokenness, gratitude....
is in our minds given a kind of permanence. 
 Like that gratitude wouldn't eventually fade -
 Like that arrogance would never again rear it's ugly head -
But, the grand gesture is more fragile than it lets on.  It's delicate & tender - easily wounded or bruised.  
The grand gesture on it's own?  It's weak, broken and temporary.  
It's only power is in the very first moments it is given - 
and then -
ohhh, then -
it's power is overwhelming, moving, life-changing...
The stuff movies are made of. 
But after the soaring strings fade - and the bloody, beaten hero kisses the girl.
After the house lights come on, and i brush the popcorn off my skirt onto the grungy movie theatre floor.
i realize - that even the smallest mercy has become a grand gesture. 
Every apology, grace and 'try again'...
Has cost me as dearly as the bloodied hero gasping his last.
i realize that the no turning back moment of decision -
forsaking all for love -
throwing caution to the wind -
The climax to every chick flick on the planet -
 comes every. single. day of our lives...
"Oh, again??!!" My heart cries -
grasping and in danger
Full of doubt and fear... and the opportunity to lay it all down for the sake of another tears away yet another layer of selfish pride.
Marriage?  It needs to be full...
full, full, full...
of the sacrificial love...
of the grand gesture. 
*************************************8
ps
ok - so i realize that these pictures have nothing at all to do with what i've written, but i wanted to share them too...
Happy 4th to my American friends :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

bonus boys

i don't know how i got so lucky


To tack on two sweet bonus boys after we thought all was said and done...
Will you ever understand - how you saved me?





And the fact that you're best friends?  That only sweetens the pot...
& the younger will chase the older for a few years...

While the older will - with fierce protectiveness - save the younger from certain demise...









And for a moment - in a crazy shifting universe... i would keep you babies forever...
But i know you're not really mine to keep -
Just mine to borrow - to watch grow - to mother in these sweet years -
Like some magnificent, celestial...
Bonus.

Friday, July 1, 2011

oh canada...

i don't know that i could sing our national anthem had they not tacked on that "o" -
That direct address to the nation itself... that can become... a sigh, a sob, a plea...
Oh, Canada, you, the rocky mountains and quilted plains...
Lovely frigid land, with brief summer reprieve...
Wide open spaces hemmed in by your wild oceans...
You, shaped and formed - every treed slope and rocky river -  by the Creator Himself.
Your cities are brimming with His people; and i hear the plea in our anthem go far deeper than the geography of a nation... to the very ones who inhabit it...
Oh, Canada...
In freedom choosing bondage; choosing death over life; taking the burden of ascribing the title "worthy of life" - and stingily allocating it to too few.  It's not ours to give - and we fail to see that the One to whom the burden belongs is generous and just, and He breathes the very life we scorn...
We've too often overlooked the widows and the fatherless - because all we're ever asked or expected to give is money - and we have so. much. more. than that pittance to give, but we've forgotten how. Instead we sit back, as instructed, and open our wallets and let the "professionals" take care of the broken families.
Oh, Canada...
Debating His existence while the very rocks we stand on long to cry out. 
God keep our land.

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