Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on the Christian Shame-Bomb...

I am wondering how many people have been brought to a reconciled relationship with Jesus through Christians posting and sharing videos and memes that tell people how foolish and wrong they are for forgetting to include Jesus in their lives and in society.

Maybe I'm just spending too much time on facebook, but I feel like I see it more all the time and it's starting to make me feel nauseated whenever a new shame-bomb is thrown in the name of Jesus.

On Black Friday instead of asking "Did you get a good deal?"  we blow up our statuses with the message of "You should remember that there is only one Black Friday that delivered savings that will last for forever. That's right, it's Jesus's death on the cross, not your 70% off coupon for Bed, Bath and Beyond."

Awesome.  Thanks for missing the point there, Debbie Downer.

When people are attending Christmas celebrations, decorating and participating in long-held family traditions we toss a self-righteous grenade and say "hey - you know that Jesus said Merry Christmas but you won't let me and I bet you won't be brave enough to post this as your status because you're ashamed of Jesus...isn't there room for him under your tree with all of your excess stuff?" or something like that.

Excellent.  Isn't it nice of you to tell everyone how right you always are.

When children and their teachers are brutally murdered through an act of pure evil, we post smug videos that contain a message of  "Sure, you've spent years removing God from society, so what do you expect? "

Here's a thought...Maybe we should tend to the wounded instead of shooting them again with our piety and superior intellect?

Maybe some Christians think posting things like that will make people stop and think about their lives and their need for a Savior. However, I have yet to meet someone who has been shamed into the Kingdom of God. Seriously. Not one.

It might be that every thought or idea in those memes and videos contains truth.  But context matters.  Truth  spoken in LOVE matters a lot.  And I'm really wondering if I'm the only one who thinks that sharing the message of Christ, who longs to love and heal and restore the brokenness within our hurting world, in that meme/video-I-bet-you-won't-post-this-because-you-don't-love-Jesus-as-well-as-I-do way does nothing but make Christians look smug, elitist and uncaring.

We share the message of Christ through that life-changing truth lived out in genuine relationships with people, don't we?  We're not actually trying to set up a theocracy where our faith will be legislated and never be challenged and we can just live without living differently, right?  We're not trying to create heaven on earth - because that's not our job, is it?  I don't exactly know.  But I don't think that's our job.  Isn't it more important to be Christian than to be right?

Maybe instead we need to turn the camera on our own lives, and ask if this arrogance and removal of Christianity from society hasn't been at the hands of "us" instead of "them".  Maybe people will begin to understand the peace and freedom that comes from a relationship with Jesus when we start being a gentle light in the darkness.  Sometimes I think we try being a flame-thrower instead of a candle.  And true - a flame thrower is a source of light, but it seems to me it's doing more harm than good.

The message of Jesus matters. The truth of God sets people free.  But truth couched in shame doesn't help.  So maybe we could just stop tossing those shame grenades on our facebook pages and instead get to know the people around us, for real.  Love people in their messes, through their difficulties, celebrate life with them, and earn the right to speak truth in love into their lives.  Sure, it's a lot more work than finding a clever meme to post on your timeline, but it might work better in the end.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Apology of Sorts aka The Great Snow Debate

Dear Mom and Dad,

I need to apologize.  Sort of anyway.  You know when you see something happening in your own home that you remember happening in your childhood, and you understand it from a completely different perspective now that you are a parent?  Yeah.  That.  It's not the first apology I've ever made to you, and I'm sure it won't be the last, but I feel the need to clear the air over the Great Snow Debate that happened every year when we were kids.

I can remember clear as day, the arguments Mark, Loni and Kyla and I used to have at the first sight of snow.  Maybe these arguments were unique to our family. I don't know.  But whatever genetics that predisposed all of us to thinking we (or at least me) were always right/ mini-meteorologists has been passed down in spades to all five of our kids. The conversation, way back then was the same at it is now:

"Oh look! It's snowing!"

"That's not snow - it's mixed rain and snow."

"No, it's for sure snowing.  See!  It's starting to stick!!"

"No, it's not, it's actually more like slush.  It's NOT going to stay."

"Nooo! It's at least rain mixed with snow...Dad?  Wouldn't you say it's at least mixed snow with rain, or more like rain with snow?"

"Mom, where are my snow pants?"

"Do you know where my mittens are? it's definitely starting to stick."

"Why are you looking for mittens?  It's not even snowing at all."

"Where's a ruler?  I'm going to measure it..."

And on and on and on and on....

I'm certain this happened every time it snowed/ almost snowed/ rained thick rain.

We, much like my kids now,  would spend the entire time with noses pressed against cold windows, wondering, hoping, and wishing that it would stick, and making silent prayers hoping that we would be the one that got it right on the meteorological composition of the wonderful stuff falling from the sky.

How you managed to listen to this same debate multiple times a year without losing your mind is one of the great mysteries of parenting. I'm sorry I put you through it.

I haven't gone insane yet over snow predictions time five kids here yet this year, but I'm certainly having to have a constant inner dialogue reminding me not to be a kill-joy and say "Whatever it is, it will probably be rain my the morning.  Stop arguing about something you can't control!!!" Kettle

And yet, even with all the craziness of the great snow debate every year, I have to admit that it's a memory I will treasure, even if it's just way deep down right now. One day the house will be quiet and it will just be Josh and I looking out at the snow and there will be no kids running to the window, or making up snow to rain ratios in the van as we're driving around town, and I think I might even miss it.

And for the record, it's absolutely 100% snowing right now, and I have some mittens to find for some kids that are growing up way too fast.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Being More, Even When You've Done Your Time

There's something that's troubling me.

I don't know if it's just the circles I've travelled in, if it's a new attitude, or if it's been around for years, but ladies, it's gotta stop.

I'm heading into firmly planted  in the done with babies stage of life.  I am almost in the all my kids are school-aged stage of life.  And I am troubled by the attitude of many in my new life-category towards those precious Moms who are in the baby/toddler stage of life.

It's usually in regards to helping out somehow, somewhere and the expression and sentiment goes like this:  

I've done my time  

What a short statement loaded with meaning.  Is it possible that those who are in that stage of life hear something more like this?:

"I've done my time, so you can suck it.  I barely made it through, and  you can do the same, sister.  I will not allow myself to be reminded of the absolute physical exhaustion and weariness that you are living in right now. I suffered.  So can you.

I will not be moved by the overwhelming nature of raising little ones, teaching them manners, right from wrong, dressing them, feeding them, loving them, guiding them.  I will have nothing to do with the difficulties you face in feeling like you are begging for a babysitter, again.  I will forget what it's like to be in such a physically exhausting stage of parenting that I forget that I am not just a mom, but a wife. I refuse to care that you are trying to make your house a home with little money and little people.  Make it work on your own. Suffer through your little fix-it projects - because I had to.

I will close my eyes to the fact that it takes everything in you just to get your family through the doors of the church on a Sunday morning, and there is no way on God's green earth that I will volunteer to teach a Sunday School class once a month - you can do it.  They're your kids anyway.  I will forget that the thought of having a quiet time with Jesus every morning is nothing more than a pipe dream.  I will deny that most of your conversations with Jesus consist of a continual cry of "help me!" and that you need to be renewed with the word of God in a church service more than I do.  Instead - you can just try and get something out of the church service while you are sitting in the nursery. I will not be moved by your lot in life.  

Because.  Because it hurts me to remember how alone I felt back then.  It is painful to remember the feeling of hopelessness that comes when you can't even get your kitchen clean at the end of the day from the chronic and constant interruptions you face. I will not be broken for you."

Does it hurt you to read that like it hurts me?  I can't go back to remembering those physically exhausting days of parenting little ones without shedding tears.  I want to forget it all.  I want to put it behind me.  But sisters, we are called to something so much harder and greater than forgetting.

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.  
But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.  
Instead,  use your freedom to  serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

So enjoy the freedom that comes from not being in the baby stage any more.  But allow yourselves to always remain a little broken with the plight of those who are a stage behind you.

Offer, before someone has to beg, to babysit every once in a while.

Make a new Mama's day and bring her dinner, just because.

Volunteer in the Children's ministry at your church.

Listen to these wonderful, beautiful Moms who are hoping and prayinig they aren't screwing their kids up, without belittling where they are with your profound advice of "I'm so glad I'm not you anymore"

Write a note of encouragement to a young Mom and let her know you are praying for her.

Speak words of encouragement to these young women and tell them you are praying for them.

And then pray.  Get down on your knees and pray for those who are coming behind us. Then they will see our example of love, and in turn do the same. When we retain a bit of the brokenness we experience during hard times, we build better community.

See them.  

Love them.

Be more.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Happy

Well, it's Halloween.

We carved our pumpkins this morning.  The oldest three kids carved there own.  This is what I refer to as the light at the end of the tunnel.  I actually feel a little insane when I get to the till of the green grocer with 7 pumpkins in tow.  That's probably fitting.

My two April babies still can't clean out a pumpkin without wretching, but I thought I should write this down as a reminder to myself, because I always wait till the last minute to get this stuff done because in my head, a scary place any time of year, I'm convinced that it's way more work than it really is. I feel the same way about egg decorating too.

But it's really not that bad.

And they love it.

Plus - the upside of carving so many pumpkins has to be roasting and eating the seeds.  We get enough to make a nice big batch each of savoury and sweet seeds.  So again I say to myself, and myself only-  it is worth it.  You can do it.  Quit whining.

In other over-acheiving-last-minute news: I made pumpkin pancakes for lunch today.  They weren't the fantastic hit I had hoped for - but I did let them season the pancakes with chocolate chips, so again - win-win.

There is a rainfall warning for tonight, so I'm not certain the kids are going to go trick or treating, but we will have our "warming station" ready to go for any poor souls who find themselves out and about.   I love getting a chance to say hi to the neighborhood all in one night. I highly recommend it!

Until then - enjoy one of my favourite Hallowe'en clips.  So at least if you are out there getting soaked tonight you can be thinking about snickaloaf and popcorn balls and smile.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Short and Sweet

This post is short, but very serious.

I saw a recipes for Toblerone-mini-Cinnamon Buns in a magazine the other day and it started with the following phrase. If I don't remember the exact words, the following certainly was the sentiment:

"Here's a great recipe for when you have leftover Toblerone..."

Are you kidding me?

I'll tell you what happens to unattended chocolate in my house - I eat it. 


But maybe that's just me. 

Now I have a sudden craving for chocolate AND cinnamon buns.

Stupid Magazine.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Story of Us


I remember turning 17.  Sort of.  As much as I remember anything.  Which isn't very well.  But for the sake of this post, let's pretend that I do remember some things.

First of all - I know I had a boyfriend.  I remember the big joke in the family when I turned 16 had been something to the effect of "well I guess we'd better watch out for the stream of young men who will now come knocking now that you're allowed to date..." Don't worry, it made me laugh. Sarcasm is our love language.

There was no stream of eligible bachelors.  Or even a threat of a trickle really.  I just wasn't that type.  I think I scared them mostly.

But then six months, one choir trip, and one very important walk around Vancouver on said choir trip later, I had a for-real boyfriend.  And I was 16 and a half...not that I was counting.

So I know for sure that I had a boyfriend when I turned 17.   I liked him a lot.  His name was Josh.  His Dad was my history teacher.  I was his favourite student.  True story...maybe.

That isn't even the seventeen we celebrated this past weekend. But it is kind of all connected.

That was grade 12.

And it was right about this time that Josh went through his Unshorn/Werewolf-before-Werewolves-were-cool-phase. I'm not sharing pictures because I love him too much, but in all of my grad pictures he looks like Grizzly Adams in a suit.  He was rebelling from 10 years of having buzz cuts I think.  I hope all of my kids rebel just like him.  I think my Mom wondered why in the world I was still dating him at this point.  But don't worry Mom, I'll make him remember how I stayed with him in just a few short years!

He was already in university, cause he was like, a whole year older than me, which was kind of cool when he came to visit me at lunch hour in high school.  We were like, soooo serious.  He would break into my locker when I was in class and like, totally leave cute gifts and cards.  I totally was practicing my first name with his last at this point.  True Story. 

I may also have been naming our future babies at that point.  But so was every other girl who had a this just a high school phenomenon or does it continue thereafter?  I'm asking for a friend.

I started university.  Then, I had to quit university because of complications from a car accident that happened when I was in grade 8. That's the really short version. 

That was hard.  That's also the short version.

But I still had Josh.  And we were sooooo, like totally in love.  I was pretty sure we were meant to be.  I may have even said we were "soul mates".  Actually, I never said that.  I probably made fun of people who said that.  But I did want to spend forever with him, for sure.

Months and months and months, in fact more than 17 months after I graduated, (I'm trying to make it sound like a long time in case anyone younger than 26, or more specifically, Morgan, is reading my blog) we got married, my boyfriend Josh and I.

That was seventeen years ago this past Sunday.  Seventeen.

So we got married.  I was way older than 17.  True story...sort of.

And then he went to school and I worked.

And then he left school and we both worked.

And then he went back to school and I worked.

And then I got pregnant.  And it's fair to say that I made up for the awkward Grizzly Adams phase by doing my best impression of Shamu the Whale.

I wish I was joking.  I have stared down 200 pounds 5 times in my life, give or take 10 small feat considering I am just over 5' 4".  It ain't pretty.  But my very smart husband always thought I was beautiful. 

He also wears glasses in order to see clearly.  I'm not sure if these two things are connected.

I have one specific picture of me pregnant with Morgan that I shan't post, (actually there are many pictures from the past 20 years that I won't post for this reason) because I'm certain it would become an internet meme and I just don't want to be remembered in the same category as the Dos Equis Guy and Bad-Luck Brian - or whatever his name is. My sisters can vouch for my enormity.  My husband knows better than to do so.  We just like to pretend it never happened.  Except for the fact that it happened four more times after that.

What an incredible gift a family is. I am quite smitten with all of us, with "Team Loewen" as Josh calls us.  I do think our five kids are our best thing.  And for the record: they don't feel like too many and I know exactly how it happened...mostly, anyway.

In that time Josh graduated from university, started teaching, left teaching, and started his own business. 

I stayed home with our babies.  I sent (some of) them to school.  Then I took them out of school and we started doing school at home.  I did not see that one coming.  But I like it.  Except for when it makes me insane. 

We've moved 9 times.

We've owned 4 houses...not at once.

We've handed in our cool card and now proudly drive a mini-van.

In the past seventeen years there have been moments that we wished would never end. 

There have been moments that we didn't ever think we'd see through to the other side. 

What I want to remember until death separates us is that for every valley we go through, there is a mountaintop that will eventually, one day, come.

In fact I have never found the valleys in life to be where things are hardest for us.  When the crazy, the horrible, the unthinkable happens to us, to people we love around us, when for whatever the reason one or both of our life is in crisis, we're solid.  We've got each other's backs and we know it.   It's usually after the crisis has passed - when we see ourselves heading out of the valley, when we are in that horrible place of being out of the valley, but not yet at the summit, that things have been more difficult.  And every time it surprises me.  I don't expect to feel detached from Josh after a crisis.  I think - look at all we've just been through, why do we feel so far apart right now?

I wonder - because it's not like I can say I know at this point, because there is no stage where you can just coast through a marriage and say you've made it - but I wonder if the falling a part after a crisis is just a sign that  you are good for each other, that you are doing something right.  That you can and will make it through tough things, but that you are still human and eventually you will  need to fall apart a little (or sometimes a lot) and express hurt and try and change and apologize and just doesn't happen when you expect it to.

So right now, I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy and mountaintop-y Which given that it's our anniversary, I'd say is totally appropo.  It's fun to say I'm still in love with my highschool sweetheart.  He really is my best friend.  I'd call him my Lover to, but that kind of makes me want to throw up in my mouth when people refer to their spouses that way - to other people.  Unless you say it like Will Ferrell.  Then that's totes ok.   So here's to my Lovahhh, wouldst that we had a hot TUB...

That's what the first seventeen years of marriage (and a few years of dating before that) have taught me so far.  It's hard work. But it is so worth it.  

True Story.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Things I Should be Doing Instead

I had this revelation recently about discipline: it's a choice, not a feeling.

Attitude follows actions, and  sometimes I wish it weren't so. For example, I have not in the past 4 years that I have been waking up at the butt-crack of dawn so that I can get my day started before my kids are allowed to be awake ever felt like getting out of bed.


Not once.

But I choose to do it because I like myself (and my kids) a whole lot more when I do.

Choosing discipline has compelled me to be a much better mother and teacher these past two weeks. Until today.  Today I waited for the feeling of "let's do school" to take over and as history has already taught me many times before, it never came.  I did do what I had to-had to with Morgan and Brennan, which has an air of discipline-ness to it, but who are we kidding - it's not been a gold star day for getting school done, or much else.  Unless you count distracting my friend Sher from getting her work done by talking on the phone.  Maybe my motto is "be disciplined unless you can convince someone else to be undisciplined with you."

Excellent work, Smithers.

I suppose that would mean that right now, I am fully aware that I am being undisciplined and taking a break and blogging when I should be getting something done.

But hold the phone...

Resting and taking breaks, are part of a well-disciplined life, n'est pas?

Maybe if I just called this a Thursday afternoon a Sabbath, I could sound well educated and deserving of the respite I have provided for myself today.


Here are some of the things I am choosing not to do right now as I grow discipline in the area of random Sabbath taking.  Spin is everything, right?

I am not folding laundry.   I'm not even letting it out of the laundry room to grow right now.

I am not cleaning the school room tables.  I started cleaning out my school cupboards so that all the new and old curriculum would be in it's proper place and at least if I wasn't going to do school today, I could at least make the days that follow much more organized and well thought out.  Well begun is not half done in this case.

I am not writing my talk/sermon/speech for the Women's event at our church that I am "guest-speaking" at next Thursday.  Are you a guest if you always attend?  Discuss.

I didn't make a well-balanced meal for lunch.  We had banana cake.  On purpose.  True - I did reduce the sugar by 1/2 and subbed some whole wheat flour - but still. Cake. For. Lunch.  Proving once again that I will always try to make up for what I lack with good food.  I'm buying your love, one baked good at a time.

Speaking of baking, I haven't finished baking for the Worship retreat my friend and I are responsible for either.  Good thing for Friday.

I didn't go for a walk this morning. And I had cake for lunch.  I might have to add clothes shopping to my list of things to do on Friday.

I haven't printed out the music I need for tonight's practice.  Been thinking about the set since Tuesday and my heart is in the right place - my printer just isn't well connected to my heart.  That's next.  Right after I hit publish.

I haven't listed the boxes of rubber stamps I have purged from my crafting cupboard for about 3 months now.  I may need someone to be disciplined on my behalf for that one.  I know.  I need to be disciplined enough to find someone more skilled in administration.  I'm sure that's what needs to happen.  Or they may never leave my house.

On that note I haven't taken the boxes of books that I purged from our home library to the Book Man either.  Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi.  You're my only hope.

And finally,  I'm not getting something ready for dinner. At least the fridge is full of leftovers.

What didn't you do today?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The One Where We End Summer By Eating from a Garbage Can

For all the things we didn't do this summer.  We did finish well.

True story:  every time I type "finish well" I think "Finnish Well" and I wish I knew how to speak with a Finnish accent, because I'm pretty sure that would be fun.

The best way to finish (not Finnish) well is by eating from a garbage can, naturally.

Which no doubt begs the questions: How does one eat out of a garbage can unnaturally?

I digress.


The one and only memory my kids have from this summer, aside from the fact that Tyson had surgery - is that my parents put in a lovely pool this year, just to make sure none of us strayed too far from home. So, as often as we could - we went up there to swim and to just hang out in paradise.

Dad thought it would be fitting to have a big season finale before the kids were all back in school.  So they prepared our favourite big gathering feast: "The Garbage Can Meal".  It's something that Josh's extended family apparently used to do when he was growing up.  I don't really know all the details, because, well - although we married young we didn't grow up together, and given Josh's propensity for forgetfulness, I think it was actually his Dad that told my Dad about it years ago...and now we're playing the Mennonite game and does it really matter where it all started?

We like to eat from garbage cans.  At least, this particular one that is saved only for cooking.  You want to know how to do this yourself, don't you?

Take a never-been-used metal garbage can.  Wash it, Water-test it, and solder any leaky spots.  I have no pictures of this step because this was done years ago.  But when you're done, it looks like this:

 Soak a load of potatoes, carrots and a few onions for....I don't know, a while. My Dad wished he had cut the potatoes in half again - probably could have shaved 20 minutes off the final cooking time.

Peel a bunch of corn...I'm guessing it's 4 dozen cobs here.  We like to attempt to make enough for double the amount of people present at any gathering.

Place husks in the bottom of said garbage can

Chop up a bunch of farmer sausage.  Farmer Sausage is Bacon's Mennonite cousin.   That sounds weird...but delicious.

Get yourself a heat source - my Dad has this fancy burner, and it gives a nice constant clean heat.  I think way back in the olden days when Josh's family would do this, they would make a platform of stacked firewood and place the garbage can on that?  If you are using a fire, cover the bottom of the can with dishsoap (on the outside) so it will clean up and not be permanently charred afterwards.  Handy tips and tricks from this gal.  It's why you come here, right?

Cover the husks inside the can with water.  Chuck all your food inside.  Cover it and cook until done.For the amount we had, I think it took 1 1/2 - 2 hours. And could have easily fed 30 or more gluttonous adults.

It was fantastic.  It always is.

And my great big family.  I love you.  Anywhere with you is my happy place, especially if there's farmer sausage.

Here's to a happy fall!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Can we talk?

I suffer from an apparently incurable condition called lineupitis.  It runs strong in my family tree and is likely very much the reason why we were never taken to Disneyland as children.

Don't worry, I'm not bitter.  We got a trampoline instead.  

And then another year we got a hot tub  instead.

Basically there are number of very fun things my parents did for us and outfitted our home with instead of taking us to Disneyland and I am ok with that.

However, this condition basically makes it impossible for me to wait in line for any great lengths of time without developing hives or at least a very serious case of the heebee-jeebies.  Funny how spell-check doesn't think that's a word.  Because if you saw me in a lineup that had me waiting for more than 10 minutes, you'd know exactly what I was talking about.

So, here's the problem.  We're supposed to be popping south to visit some new, sure to be dear-life-long friends today.  

This is what the border lineup looks like right now.

It says it's a 50 minute wait.  Which means for reals it's at least and hour and 15 minutes.  

Considering my condition, it might kill me.

I'm hoping it's going to magically disappear in an hour when I "have to-have to" leave.  Forget a leisurely stroll through Costco before we land on their doorstep.  I'll be grabbing milk and cheese like I need to put out a housefire at this rate.

That didn't make sense. 

I'm fairly certain of this.  If the lineup doesn't dwindle, I'll have to bring snacks, and water, and probably a barf bag. Where is my medical kit?  I think I might be hyperventilating while just thinking about it.  Betcha didn't know one could do that and type at the same time, eh?

Sometimes I can't help but speak Canadian.  I have a heritage to protect, eh?

To my knowledge no-one in my lineage has ever attempted to do anything like this...and survived.

It's very possible that this might be my last blog post ever.  

Here's hoping that chocolate and a coffee are all that it takes, cause the company waiting on the other side is totally worth it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Right Brain Organized - Things I Love Thursday (TILT)

I have been accused of being organized before.  Mostly by people who don't know me well.

I am, by nature fairly free-spirited, spontaneous and also a titch forgetful.  I add that last one because my Mom reads my blog and I know she'd want me to admit to that for posterity.

Being free spirited gives me the freedom to share a "Things I Love Thursdays" post on a Wednesday  Tuesday (did I mention about he forgetful?!)  after not posting anything TILT-worthy for a month or more.

I love starting projects.  I'm even fairly good at finishing projects, right up until the point of clean-up. I create phenomenal messes when I do. Period.  Even my clean laundry piles are enormous.  I get a lot done and create a lot more work for myself while doing it.  The flip side is, it drives me nuts to live in my self-induced chaos.  I still am trying to figure that one out.

So, all of that to say, I find it funny when people tell me I'm organized.  I never feel that way, but, I will admit that living in spaces that were, until we moved to this house, very small considering the size of our life and then leaving the national average family size in our rear-view mirror and having five kids, and then choosing to homeschool them has sort of forced me to either enjoy the chaos I create (I don't) or to learn how to do something that doesn't come naturally to me at all (amazingly, in some cases, I have).

What was the point of this confessional again?

Oh right.  Anything I do that appears to be organized could be compared to someone learning to speak a second language.  I vote for German, because I'd love to learn how to say "Ich Liebe Dich" without it sounding like a threat.  It must be possible because German people continue to fall in love and have babies.

Sweet little German babies with appropriate names like Frederich and Lizel.  If I had a baby named Frederich I would sing to him all day long...High on a hill stood a lonely goatherd, lady-odle-lady-odle-lay-HE-WHO!.

Where were we? Babies?  Oh. Right. Organizational Metaphors. Carrying On.

I know  it when I hear it.  I can learn how to replicate the sounds and what it means, but it's never the language I speak in.  So, it is true, I have learned how to help myself be a little more organized.  It's not usually in a way that would make it into a "how to make things beautiful and pinterest worthy" book, but I've found those book are great for helping naturally organized people become more organized.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Below is one of my favourite things.  It's loud, not pretty, which fits me better than it should.  It hangs on the middle of the wall in my kitchen nook and screams everything I'm supposed to be doing each day.  But it works, and maybe some of you right-brain-random-abstract types might find it helps you too.  All of you linear-sequential people can just shake your heads and wonder how people like me manage to remember to breath.

I call it:  Big Fat Magnetic White Board Calendar with This is My Life Magnets.

Brevity is something I'm also working on, with much less success.

I got the calendar white board at Costco for $15 if memory serves.

It was a huge improvement from the calendar I kept forgetting to look at in my phone drawer.  However, I didn't love having to fill it in with the monotonous weekly events each month I had to re-do it.  Because not only am I not  truly organized, deep down, I'm a little lazy.

My laziness has been saved by these fantastic inventions.  Blank magnet sheets - available in both languages at an office supply store near you!

What you see above are the new additions needed for this school year.  I am still using a lot of what was printed off last year as well.  They sit in jumbled chaos on the left side of the calendar, where I am sure an organized person who do things like write out their grocery lists or favourite bible verses.  I just make a mess there, cause I can.

I made the magnets by creating a table in Microsoft word  with our regularly occurring events, colour coded them and then printed it off and cut them out. Yippee!

I still keep the large paper yearly calendar in my phone drawer and put things like appointments and upcoming birthdays etc, but each month I transfer it onto this bad boy and do a much better job of keeping track of my life.  As long as I remember to write everything down on it.

I'm working on it.  Ich leibe dich, Ich liebe dich....

What's something that helps you keep your life in order?  Share in the comments section or write about it on your blog and share the link here!

Monday, August 20, 2012

One Week Later

Here I sit, a little in disbelief that a whole week has passed since Tyson entered the world of gall-bladderless living.

It's been a good week.

The stress level here is definitely lower now that the big day has passed, and of course, it's all made easier by the fact that Tyson is doing so fantastically well.  Laparoscopic surgery has to be one of modern medicine's better miracles.  He hasn't even needed any type of painkillers or anything since we left the hospital the morning after the surgery. 

If they could just figure out how to deliver babies via laparoscopy, we'd all have it made. Not that I wish I was having another baby.  

At least not officially.  


We felt well prayed for - thank you for doing that.  

Tyson was an absolute trooper.  He was agreeable.  He was thankful.  He didn't complain once.

We made good time getting into Vancouver the morning of the surgery, and no matter when you arrive it's good to know that hospitals involve lots of waiting.  So we played a few rounds of Uno.  Lots of Tic-Tac-Toe.  And then the fun started.

And I don't mean the surgery.  Oh no.  There was still a good hour or more of waiting after all that preliminary weigh-in stuff happened.  But Tyson couldn't wait to wait.

I'd like to say it was because we are awesome parents who have trained our children, through our excellent example that being patient in all things is noble.  But that would be lying.

He couldn't wait to wait because he knew he could ask for a DS as soon as he was in the waiting area. Turns out they had DS's but no games in the OR waiting area.  But...he could play wii if he wanted.  

He wanted.

This is what I like to refer to as a side benefit of having an ogre for a mother.  By mother, I mean me, not my Mom.  She's way nicer than me.  I'm the ogre.  I say no a lot to gaming.  I think deep down he appreciates it because it makes gaming at the hospital so much more special.

He even made this face and let me take his picture.  
Pretend his face and not the rail at the back are in focus.  Thanks.

It's my favourite Tyson face.  I'm weird like that.

He chose to have Josh go into the OR with him.  They had talked lots about counting to 10 and suddenly falling asleep.  It was so cute, because the nurse assumed I would be going in with him, and so did I, because I am usually the one who does the hospital stuff with him, but this was a special day.  Josh was there. You could tell that he didn't want to hurt my feelings by saying he didn't want me there, but he thought it was awfully special to have Josh with him.  Don't worry, I'm not bitter.  I can't always be the favourite.

He fell asleep at "7", and then Josh and I waited.  And then my Mom joined us.  She's a champion wait-er.  She could give waiting lessons.  I love my Mom.  I want to be like her when I grow up.

Wait?  Does being married for 16 years and having five kids of your own mean you are already grown up?  


Dr. Butterworth came out one and a half long hours later and said everything went swimmingly.  The relief was palpable.  

Of course everything went well.  I never doubted it for a minute.

No, not for a minute. Instead I doubted it for months.  Silly me. But I'm better now.  Again, thanks for praying for me as much as you prayed for Tyson.  You are all great.

When he was in post-op the only time he would talk or answer the nurse's queries was when she offered him a frozen treat.  It was quite comical.  Every time he'd give me this look that said  "Am I allowed??? Really???" I acted like he was being silly and should know the answer because after all, I always give him multiple Popsicles in a day, in case the nurses were wondering.  I smiled and said "Of course you can!"

Once again I will point out there are benefits to denying your kids fun things most of the time.  

Now in terms of being favourited, at first I thought it was so sweet that Tyson wanted me and not Josh to stay with him for the night.  However, it turns out the hospital cots were designed by Satan himself, and are made to actually prevent sleep and magnify pain of any kind, so I'm not quite sure what to make of it. 

But if you ask Tyson, he had a great time.
More Tic-Tac-Toe with Gramma after surgery.
It's true that being given Popsicles at every turn helps.

Or a snack of cookies in the middle of the night because your nurse just thinks you are the sweetest thing ever, doesn't hurt either.

A few hours after the surgery with "Teddy"
And getting a new Lego set and stuffy from Gramma and Grampa, and lots of little crafty projects from us, well wishes sent from  near and far, plus a few more presents from friends and family thrown in for good measure...what's not to love about surgery?
On our way home the next morning.  That's my finger.  I was there too. 

This is Tyson 37 seconds after we got home.
And we would be remiss if we didn't thank the wonderful nurses, doctors and staff at Children's Hospital.  You are all amazing.  You instilled confidence in us every step of the way.  And aside from being really great at "doing surgery" I think Tyson would want you to know that you make really good popsicles.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On Horses and Hospitals

I've been a little absent. Partly because it's been warm and sunny for days on end - which around here, we count days like that, well, by days - not months, or even seasons, so it doesn't leave a lot of time for blogging.

And then there's this little thing going on in our lives that's been messing with my emotional well-being.  Which is a nice way of saying, I feel loopy. Or I did feel loopy.  At the very least my writing is very disjointed and loopy.  But I'm okay with that now. I want to preserve the memory more than I care about my sentence structure right now. :) 

Tyson is having surgery in a few days  tomorrow, his gall bladder is going to be removed from his sweet little body because it's causing trouble.  Actually, it's his blood condition that's caused the trouble.  It's never really bothered me that he has a chronic condition/disease (spherocytosis, for the medically interested) .  It doesn't affect our lives too much except for regular check-ups at the hospital and the occasional trip to the lab for extra blood-work when he gets really sick.  Except for now, when it is starting to affect our lives. And I wish Tyson didn't have to go through all of this.  But he does.

And he's being such a trooper.  He is so trusting.  And so good at finding the silver lining in everything.  Tonight when I told him he wouldn't be able to eat till after his surgery tomorrow he was a little sad, but within a few seconds he and Keaton were in fits of laughter imagining all the barfing he would do if he did eat.  Keaton would ask Tyson question after question and Tyson's only hysterical answer was "Baaarf!"  followed by uncontrollable giggling.  This went on for a good five minutes - and they all went to bed smiling.

Tyson seems to be able to put it out of his mind for the most part.  He just wants to know we'll be there with him, and he's fine.  He's mentioned he's going to miss his siblings a bit, "but, Mom...when they give me the IV, do you think I can have a DS again?"   "I'm so glad I can have surgery tomorrow so this  can be over with, do you think in five days I can call Jackson Schulz and have him over?"  Oh Tyson.  I love you.

He makes me smile.  And he teaches me to relax and let go.  And I'm really trying.  But boy howdy is fear doing it's best to move in and set up shop.  I'm working on it.  And this week was better than last week. and by next week it will all be over.  So really, get over it, Karina.

Sheesh.  There are times that having a vivid imagination and being a titch dramatic come back to bite ya in the butt.

I can't control how I'm feeling.  I can't control that his body creates improper red blood cell membranes. (But boy, would I like to if I could.)  But I can control my response.  I can choose joy.  I can choose thankfulness.  I can do my best to "fly casual", even when it terrifies me.

My friend Karis likes to quote the great American philosopher John Wayne in circumstances like this:  "Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway" I can do that.  Because fear is a dirty stinking liar, and I don't have to listen.

It's been good for me to realize how strongly my heart beats outside my body in each one of my kids.  I often wish I tended towards being more of a softy and less of a drill sergeant.  It's good to know there is a mushy Mama buried somewhere deep inside me. 

The other good thing is I have relied heavily on distraction techniques for myself over the past couple of weeks.  This means i distributed 7 1/2 yards on shiny new bark mulch in all the flower beds around our place.  They look smashing now.

We also squeezed in two weeks of swimming lessons.  I realize it doesn't qualify me for Mother-of-the-Year or anything, but it was good to get that checked off, and the kids all loved them.  Even Keaton.

For all of it's faults, I will forever be thankful for our medical system.  Not once, have I worried about the cost of any of the scans, appointments or hospital stays that we have needed.  The doctors and nurses we have worked with have been exceptional.  We couldn't be in better hands.

I have been overwhelmed by the many people who have offered to take in our other kids for the couple of days this is going to take.  And the crazy thing is, that I know those who have come forward are really just a sampling of the host of friends who would gladly lend a hand if need be.

I'm also so thankful for my friends and family who assured me that wishing this whole thing didn't have to happen, and having terribly dramatic visions of all that could go wrong isn't a sign of a lack of faith, just that I have a pulse.  Your phone calls, hugs, and encouragement have meant the world to me.

And God.  God has been so good, and so patient with me as I have taken these few weeks flapping around wondering if he cared that I was being so silly.  And he is just showing me over and over again that he is there.  He is with us.  And He loves me. And he loves Tyson more than I ever could.  This perfect love drives out any fear that might be lurking in the recesses of my heart.

I gotta go shine my spurs.  I have a trail to conquer tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Knee-High Perspective

Keaton's latest favourite past time is taking pictures with my phone.

What I find most interesting is his perspective.  Either in what he finds important to take pictures of, or how he takes the pictures.

All of this leads me to ask this very important question:  do all almost-four-year-olds live in a virtually headless world?

This question makes me want to write excellent poetry.  Please don't tell my old English teacher,  He might go back and change my marks.  It would be so sad to fail Language Arts after all of these years.

A Day in the Life of a Keaton

This is my Dad.  He's making drinks
For he and Mom so's they can thinks
He goes to work, I give him hugs
He saves me from the spider-bugs

 This is  my Mom, She's by the sink
She makes me bath so I don't stink.
That garbage can's at my nose height.
Mom, make IT bath, it smells a fright!

 This is a top that I just found
When I spin it, it goes round
And round and round and round and round
And round and round and round and round
I've found my calling, now, right here!
I'll take spinning pics all year
I'll take a hundred pictures here
My Mom will like them, have no fear.
Oops! Here she comes, I'd better stop
Taking pics of spinning tops!
 Now I'm at a playground see? 
My headless brothers play with me
 There's lots of pavement
And some dirt
My brother has an awesome shirt

 And here's his shadow and his feet

 This pavement splotch is really neat
 Now we're back home. Look what I found
My stuffy Miga, on the ground
And here is Sumi, right by he
They both have heads smaller than me.
 And that is it, my day is done
Thanks for the phone Mom, that was fun

Friday, July 20, 2012

Family Matters - on Waiting

I love writing for Family Matters!  Sometimes it takes what seems like forever for my thoughts to come together to send to them, but it's always a treat and an honour to write for them.

Here is an excerpt from what I wrote this month - I'd love to hear what you think!

It has been said that some people were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and while that may or may not be true, it could be argued that I was born holding a microphone.
At the very least it should be no surprise that in my heart God has placed a few dreams and questions about what I would do with that love of living life out loud and in front. Some of these have been ruminating for almost 20 years, waiting for an answer.
20 years is a long time to wait for anything. It’s especially long to wait and have a great attitude about it.  So before I move on I feel compelled to confess that I am not the world’s best wait-er.  Waiting might have once or twice made me a little cranky.  So while on one hand I will admit now that the waiting has been positive ...Click to read more!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Just Call Me "Tips"

Today we embraced the glorious sunshine and headed to one of our favourite haunts: Stanley Park.

We were one of the many who headed for the coastal gem in a sun drenched euphoria.   It was totally worth the trip.  There are few places as breathtaking as our fair city on a gorgeous summer's day.

We got there just after breaky enjoyed a leisurely cruise: some of us by foot, some scooting (scootering?) and one strollering (or is it strolling? My conjugation on modes of transportation certainly could use some work) around the sea wall.

Before we started our trifecta of transportation around this famous wall, we stopped at Prospect Point.  It's where all the magic began 19 years ago when two star-crossed children began dating after a fateful band trip to the Variety Club Telethon followed by a bus ride through the park. Buses and band cheesy, but a good thing nonetheless.  Prospect Point is also where Josh proposed a little more than 17 years ago.  I like that place, though it's been years since we stopped there.

The kids we awestruck at the magnitude of our love and begged us to please take their pictures in that same spot.  Or not.  Believe what you want.
All kinds of awesome in this picture.

We've hardly aged.  Or - my age has more than doubled.  Believe what you want.

While we were out today I made some observations that I'm quite sure should be preserved for prosperity's sake.  Keep in mind, these were not just one-off observations.  These were things I noticed enough times it was worth mentioning here.  Feel free to bookmark this page and refer to it often when thinking about any of the following:  tattoos, technology, and transportation.

1) Moms (and Dad's too, I suppose): getting a calf-sized tattoo of the faces of each of your children is a mistake. It just is.

I know you love your kids.  They might even be really cute when they are 3 and 5, but just don't do it. Think of how embarrassed your kids will be 10 years from now.  Or think of what your legs are going to look like 30 years from now.  Your kids will look like saggy trolls or shrunken heads - and what if you forget to shave for a few weeks? That's not a memory you want to preserve.

Maybe I didn't see this one a bunch of times today, but I'm pretty sure you'll thank me later for this excellent advice.

2) When you are at a playground full of kids who are playing don't look so irritated with all of the random kids who are running around actually playing on the playground equipment while you try and get an amazing photo to share with everyone on facebook to show what a magical life you lead.

Let your poor children play on the playground instead of shouting their name over and over trying to get that perfect shot all the while getting annoyed that your kids aren't happily looking at you and other kids are using the playground for the intended purpose of playing.  Instead, take a couple of candid shots that are actually candid, then put your fancy SLR camera away, save the picture taking for a different time and place,  and play with your kids. 

(Perhaps it's worth noting that the irritated types weren't irritated with my own progeny, so this isn't a case of sour grapes.  It's just me using my super-sleuth skills - over and over again with many different people engaging in this behaviour.)

3) When you are out and supposedly bonding and making memories with your kids - put your stupid (feel free to insert any stronger word you prefer) phone away!  You aren't actually doing what you think you're doing. You look like a loser - and that's mostly just because you're acting like one.  You're better than that.  You're kids deserve better than that.   Be all there, or don't bother. In fact - this is a good life rule when you are out and about with anyone, not just your kids.  The people you are with in the real world are more important than the people living in your phone. Just. Stop. It.

4) I really didn't see anything crazy in the transportation department. Although someone else might be blogging about the motley crew of transportation that was my family.  Who knows.  I just like the letter T.

The boys were inexplicably drawn to the compass, but I  only took a couple of crappy shots and then we laughed and played and made a macrame plant hanger.  We bonded for reals.  Some of this comment may be fabricated, but I for sure wasn't irritated with other kids and this wasn't on a playground, so we're cool.

Here's to real relationships and face-free tattoos!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Do Not Feed The Bears

While Josh and I were having coffee outside this morning, we had a little, or rather, large visitor at our backyard fence.

Perhaps it was the little cub of this visitor from last year.

I didn't bother to ask it, so I guess I'll never know for sure but  I realized a few things when I saw the bear this morning.

Bears are beautiful.  And they look totally approachable.  I feel about bears like Tony Stark feels about Dr. Banner.  I know the potential for rage and harm is huge, but  I kind of want to poke it and see what happens.

I was sort of irritated with our (otherwise very nice) backyard neighbours for not getting rid of their many bird feeders. They are a huge attraction for the lovely herbivorous creatures.  I have a bird feeder that sits sad and empty right now, but for the sake of everyone else in the neighborhood, I have to do without watching the chickadees, juncos and squirrels feeding and preening steps away from my own coffee perch.

I sort of feel like a jerk for being upset with my neighbours.  They are very nice.  I need to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they don't read the papers, or listen to local news about the multiple bear sightings and bear take-downs that have happened in the surrounding neighbourhoods. Maybe they haven't realized that we live on a mountain and share a habitat with wild animals.  Maybe.

On a somewhat related note, if I had a theme song for today, it would have been "I'm Grumpy and I Know It"  Some of the words (that I wrote myself, can you believe it, what talent!) go like this :

The morning sun is high, there's so much mess I want to cry
I'd much rather sleep, So don't make a peep, better only creep yeah
This is how I roll, yoga pants, hair outta control
Its your Ma with a big afro
And like a bear I'm gonna growl

Kids look out for Mommy
Kids look out for Mommy
Kids look out for Mommy
She freaks out

Bring me the coffee pot, cause I don't want no tea
Everybody run, don't you try and mess with me
I'm tired and I'm cranky and I ain't afraid to show it

I'm grumpy and I know it
I'm grumpy and I know it.

Can you picture the fantastic music video that would go along with this? Would that I had the skills to create it for you all!  My demise for your entertainment! Or am I the only Mom that has ever woken up feeling like this? 

It's all so dumb, really. Back to our show.

Part way through the day I realized that Do Not Feed the Bears might apply as much to me as to my neighbours.  I know it's kind of silly, to turn this into a life lesson, but honestly, I just rewrote a song I've never heard, save for the title. It's possible I excel at silly, so stick with me.

If my neighbours would all stop inadvertently feeding the bears, they (the bears, not my neighbours) would find elsewhere to go.  The big bad bears would leave the neighbourhood. 

I had been pouty, grumpy, and throwing a fantastic pity party for one the whole morning.  I was feeding the grouchy Mama bear, and then some. When this revelation about bear feeding hit me square between the eyes,  I decided promptly to stop feeding it.   I got my butt off the couch and wiped down a kitchen counter I had been glaring at with little success the whole morning.  I started to purposefully interact with my kids that I had hoped Netflix would help me avoid.  We cooked together.  We conquered the paper route together and made it fun.  

It was amazing how quickly choosing to change my actions led to a change in attitude.

It was, dare I say an imperfect, but very good day.

So in case you missed the point of this whole essay.  The lesson today was two-fold

1) Taking a song you know nothing about and rewriting the lyrics is a lot of fun.

2) Don't Feed the Bears.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Remembered My Camera!

Tonight was the last night of baseball(ish) for the kids.  I say "ish" because it's a very casual meet-once-a-week-practice-and-game-the-same-night-just-for-two-months kind of league.  There's a lot of budding music majors on these teams, if you know what I mean.

BUT...and it's a big but, (no jokes please) the kids love it, and despite the fact that we are doing everything we can to hamper their lives by making them weird and homeschooling them and stuff, they did really well.
Especially considering that half the games were rained out this year. I choose to believe that we have now used up all the rain quota for the summer, and in a few weeks everyone from BC will be complaining about how hot it is, and how they just wish it would cool down and rain already.

I'm a punch drunk optimist sometimes.

Tyson loved playing t-ball.  He confidently declared "I was awesome tonight and I'm pretty sure we won" every single game.  It doesn't matter how often you tell kids you aren't keeping score - because they always are, even if it's only in the imaginary game they are playing in their heads.

I love his confidence.  He just oozes awesome, and like Nate did when he was that age, he provides his own sounds effects for every move.  Screech...nair-na-nair-nair-naaaaaiiiiirrrr...zzoooooom...nah-nair-nair...uuuurrrch...nah-nah-nair-nair... WOOHOO!  AWESOME! Ya!  Fist-pumps all around  (That's him rounding the bases in case you don't speak six year old.)

And then there's Keaton.  I really can't relate to his lot in life, I was always the one who got to do everything first, I never had to be dragged around from thing to thing all for the glorious privilege of watching everyone older than you do something.

Fortunately for my brother and sisters there wasn't a lot of dragging, or more truthfully any dragging to sporting events for me.  (Minus the one year my Mom had me in t-ball.  She got tired of calling me off the playground to attempt batting, so we never did repeat that.  Or if we did I've buried the scarring events in my sub-conscious)  But they probably had to sit through their fair share of piano recitals, music festivals, and drama performances.  Suckers.

Anyway, Keaton survived with a minimal amount of whining all because I bought a box of "training" (wagon) wheels for when the game was over.

Morgan, Brennan and Nathan were all on the same team.   It was great watching them have fun together like that.  It's not very often they get to all do team stuff together, and this is Morgan's last year in this league,so I'm glad we took the plunge and did it this season.  Good memories, those.

My husband, bless him, remembered how much he loves to coach.   The kids were so proud of their Dad.  He is a great encourager and a fantastic teacher.  He even eventually figured out how to pitch.

Can't help lovin' that man of mine.

I'm feeling pretty smurfy because I remembered to bring the real camera, and while saying I got some great shots to anyone with any photographic talent is kind of like buying a fancy stove and saying I make great Kraft Dinner to a chef - I did get some pictures, and some of them did turn out, and another good batch memories has been saved! Fist Pumps all around for me too!