I grew up with my mom at home. In a culture that was going through a massive shift in values, while I was being told I could be anyone I wanted, and do anything I wanted, I didn’t have a career ambition. I knew I wanted to be a mom when I grew up – a mom like mine. A mom who stays home.

As the youngest of five children, I watched my sisters forge a path for their own families. They were smart, educated, and when they started having babies they put their paying jobs aside for the work of caring for their children. I knew it was against the grain of what culture was doing, but as I watched women I respected take a stand for what they believed was the best choice for their families, it gave me courage to do the same.

We don’t live on one income because we’re wealthy. Clay’s income is not so large that it equals two salaries. One income for 6 people means there’s less money to go around than if we had two incomes. I keep up with the budget: I’ve done the math. That means there’s a lot of stuff we can’t afford. It means Christmas is lean on gifts and large on traditions. It means family vacations look like camping with Grandma and Grandpa, and visiting grandparents who don’t live nearby. It means both our cars are at least 10 years old. It means our kids are riding 25 year old bikes. It means we frequent thrift shops and sale racks, and we welcome bags of hand-me-downs for our growing kids. It means by the time we’ve paid our monthly bills, there’s next to nothing left.

We all have priorities about where our money goes. We give to our church until it hurts, because the church is deeply important to us. We are laying down our lives for Jesus, and our money goes along with that. We spend money on eating healthy food because we believe it’s important to take care of our bodies. We spend money on our home and utilities because we clearly need a roof over our heads. We spend money on music lessons for our kids because we feel it’s important to invest in that part of their education. And we spend as little as possible on our vehicles because all we need is something that reliably gets us where we need to go.

Living on one income is a choice I’ve made with my husband, and I live it gladly. We give up money for the sake of more time, and that’s a sacrifice I make willingly. I’m not being held back from achieving my best. There are days when I feel like I would gladly trade this work for a paying job and a break from the endless work that comes with raising and educating four children. I’m often overwhelmed and feel unequipped for the task before me. But when I take a step back, I realize that being at home with my kids, and sacrificing luxuries to do so, is exactly where God wants me. Where he has placed me is not an oversight, it’s his plan. Through the daily trials and joys of mothering I am being refined by the Holy Spirit. Through the daily surrendering of my self to God’s will, He is making me into the woman I was meant to be.

I have struggled to find a good balance with social media in my life ever since I created my Facebook account 9 years ago. It is a constant drain on my productivity, creativity, and relationships.

If I’m online too much I do too little of everything else, and the bottom drops out on my motivation. I begin and end with good intentions, and my to-do list grows to soaring heights along with my guilt. My kids often don’t get the best of me because I’m zoned out on my phone – so there’s that.

So when I began my daily writing challenge a month ago, I decided I would not allow myself to go on Facebook each day until I had written for a minimum of 15 minutes. There were a few days that didn’t happen until late evening, so I waited to scroll through my newsfeed until the day was almost gone. Surprise, surprise: I really wasn’t missing much. This past weekend was exceptionally busy, and I actually didn’t write for three days. As a result, I have not been on Facebook since Friday. Clay told me I haven’t missed much. I’m not surprised.

This isn’t some ground breaking epiphany about how you become alive when you shut your computer, put down your phone, and decide to be present in your real life. This is nothing earth shattering, it’s just a predictable realization. I waste time on things that don’t matter, and I’m learning to do that less.

Have I had a weekend of intense productivity with my writing? No, but I was busy doing things that matter, and there’s something to be said for that too.

One piece of writing advice I keep reading is, “Write what you know.” I’ve been wondering what it is that I know. What am I passionate about that I could share, and that would add value to the lives of others? That question was percolating while I was jogging last night, and the answer was staring me in the face.

I’m not giving up on the book I started at the beginning of the year, but I am taking a break to work on something new. Of course, letting you all in on my lofty ideas fills me with fear because I worry I’ll fail, but at the same time I hope that a wider community that’s aware of my efforts will motivate me to keep working hard and get things done!

During the month of July, I’m going to write an ebook about the role of fitness in the lives of Christian moms. Moms face unique challenges on the road to being fit and healthy, and I want to break down the barriers and encourage women on this journey. I make health and fitness a priority in my life, and I’ve experienced so many good things as a result. This isn’t about vanity and looking good, it’s about honouring God with the body He gave me. It’s about taking care of what’s been entrusted to me, and I want other women to learn to see their bodies as something they can and should be worshiping God with.

I’m also calling on my friends for help. If you have a story to share about the role of fitness in your life, I would love to hear from you. What struggles do you face? What excuses keep you from health and fitness? What positive changes have you made in an effort to be healthier? Why do you make it a priority – what motivates you? What role does fitness play in your life as a follower of Jesus? If you’d be willing to contribute, please email me at kim(at)kim365.com, and also specify if you would be willing to let me excerpt part of your submission as part of my book’s finished product.

Thanks everyone for cheering me on in this writing venture. I’m still finding my feet, finding my voice, and am so thankful for all of your encouragement.

I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t spend much time planning our summers so that we would create the best possible memories. I do have fond memories of my summers as a kid, a lot of them thanks to my parents, but I don’t think they sat around making lists of all the fantastic things we’d do together.

Summers were slow. They were filled with endless days of boring, that added up to endless days of fun. I read innumerable books, and I rode my bike to the store to buy candy and Slush Puppies. I rode my bike to the park. I rode my bike everywhere. On the weekend we’d throw our bikes into the boat and go to the lake, biking around the park, riding the tube behind the boat, and going fishing. There was always an ice cream cone from the beach shack before we went home. I also have memories of picking wild Saskatoon berries with my mom and grandparents – I hated it at the time, but now I am trying to figure out how I can replicate that awesome (awful) experience for my kids.

My summers were unremarkable, but that’s what made them fantastic. We enjoyed what we did, and we didn’t worry about what we weren’t doing. I bring all this up because these days, summer parenting feels like something completely different than what I grew up with. (This shouldn’t surprise me, since everything about parenting these days feels different.)

I see so many blog posts about how to create an awesome summer for your kids, how to be intentional about summer vacation, how to squeeze every last drop out of summer, and while we’re at it, why don’t we just pile on another ton of bricks to the mommy guilt load we all carry over how we are just not measuring up to the gold standard of what we should be doing.

Here’s my advice:
Make a list – if you want to.
Do everything on it – if you want to.
Make a list and burn it – if you want to.
Then have fun with your kids. Enjoy what you do with them. Enjoy them.

If you make a list of all the things you think you should do in order to be a good mom, and you manage to do every last thing but you’ve squeezed the joy out of summer along with it, the list is not your friend. Let go of whatever peer pressure tells you is going to make you win this mommy game, and just love your kids. Parenting isn’t a game, and your kids already think you’re awesome. They want you to show up and have fun, because they’re not reading all the blog lists of endless summer fun, they just want to go for a bike ride and eat a picnic.

I also feel compelled to point out that your kids are capable of having fun without you orchestrating it. Send them outside by themselves. Let them have some time without you hovering over them and making sure they do everything the way you like it. What have we become? This craze of helicopter parenting has to stop.

Three years into our marriage, my husband dropped a bomb on me.

“Honey, I think God’s calling me to be a pastor.”
No. No, no, no, no. I would have been okay with, “Honey, I think I’m going to become an electrician,” or, “I got a new job and we’re moving across the country.” But this? This was not part of the plan.

You can read the rest of this post about my struggle with our calling to pastoral ministry
here.

A game of tag.

Standing like a statue in an area rug display, pretending to be a rolled up carpet.

Clinging to a chain link fence, 2 feet off the floor, “Look Mommy, I’m Spiderman!”

Each of these scenarios has resulted in me getting in trouble with a very concerned adult about my kids’ dangerous behaviour. Someone could get hurt! Kids. Always living on the wild side, walking the line between life and death.

Why are people so uncomfortable with children acting like children? Childishness does not always equal foolishness. If responsible adults could loosen up a little, kids could teach us a thing or two about having fun and taking risks.

Sure they might fall, but maybe they’ll fly.

I hear a lot of talk about creating margin in your life, having space in your days so that you don’t feel stretched to the max. We are a culture that thrives on busy. Our days, evenings and weekends fill up with activities in a never-ending sequence of go, go, go.

We all know that children need extracurricular activities in order to grow into thriving adults. If you don’t have your kids in at least 3 things each week, you are failing them, and they will grow up to be delinquents. Oh, and you have to start when they’re 3. Kindersoccer. Kindermusic. Kinderdance, Kinderart. What else can we add the word Kinder to so we can make money?

Let’s work out an unscientific equation to determine the insanity factor of too many activities, shall we?

Multiply the number of activities your kids are in by the number of children you have. This will give you your weekly number of activities. You’re already looking for trouble if your number is higher than the number of days in a week. Now consider the monthly cost for each activity and divide by four to find your weekly cost. Multiply by your number of weekly activities. Finally, if you’re an extrovert, multiply by 1. If you’re an introvert, multiply by 100.

Run the numbers, and you’ll soon find that keeping up with whatever culture tells you your kids should be doing will quickly leave you bankrupt and ready to kill someone.

Allow me to simplify things for you. Get off the treadmill of others’ expectations. Consider your financial situation, consider who you are, consider who your kids are, consider your family and how you function, and make choices based on those things.

What does this mean for us? It means we make music lessons a priority. It means we tossed the idea of soccer this spring because the insanity factor of 4 different team schedules was more than we could bear. We opted for swimming lessons instead (an hour of our time, once a week). It means we have time to eat supper together. It means we’ll get more serious about sports when our kids do, and we’re not pushing the issue when they are happy enough to get exercise riding their bikes to the playground. It means we’re fighting for margin in a world that prizes a lack of it.

I had a conversation yesterday with a woman who grew up in the same hometown as me. She’s a few years younger than I am, was nursing a baby, and I asked if she had any more kids.

“Yes, we have four.”

I reacted with a surprised, “Really? Wow!” I promptly followed that up with, “I’m sorry, that was a stupid thing to say: I have four kids!” I have dealt with all kinds of reactions to my posse of children, wishing people wouldn’t make such a big deal out of the size of my family, yet I did the same thing to someone else. Why?

I guess it’s because large families really are unusual. Four isn’t a large number, but by today’s standards I suppose it is. We chatted a bit more with another mom of five about peoples’ reactions to large families, and I said that I used to care a lot about how I was perceived, but by God’s grace I’m pretty much over it. Most of the time I am oblivious to what people think of me and my life choices.

Then this morning happened. My littlest had an eye appointment and since we’re weird homeschoolers, we all go everywhere together on a “school day” in a mob of small people (I guess I am included in that – I’m not tall). We’re short, but anything but inconspicuous. A woman seemed to be racing us to the entrance, so I asked Markus to get the door.

Rather than saying thank you to such a polite young man who would hold the door for a woman, she rudely exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, that’s a lot of kids!” I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. I’d tried to tell myself that she was taken off guard like I was yesterday. I know people often feel the need to say something, and it can come out before thought is given to how it’s delivered. But the truth is you say a lot without words, and her sour tone and expression were tell-tale signs of the attitude behind her comment.

My bad. How irresponsible of me to be raising so many children who are polite and thoughtful.

*sigh*

The temptation to defend myself to a total stranger is not high (anymore). I don’t owe her an explanation. I do wrestle with how to approach these situations in conversation with my kids though. Yes, I do have a lot of kids, and their ears all work. They hear rude comments like these. Are they internalizing these things, or do they go in one ear and out the other? Do I address it with them later, or let it slide? I don’t know what’s going on in their minds and I don’t want to make a mountain out of something they might not even recognize as an anthill. Do I tell them some people are jerks but we pray for grace to be kind to them? I know I need that reminder.

I’ve heard it said that the best diet is the one you actually stick to. It’s true.
The same is also true for exercise: the best exercise is the one that you actually do.

Don’t waste time weighing your options, trying to figure out if this program is better than that one. Pick one that looks challenging and doable, and do it. Stop talking about it.

You’re not getting healthier by thinking about working out. You’re not burning any fat simply by having a gym membership. You’re not building muscle by having free weights in your living room.

In the end, Shaun T, Jillian Michaels, the gym, or any way or anywhere else you can exercise will all deliver results if you put in the time and get something done. The only thing the couch and a bag of chips will deliver is a reminder that you don’t have the metabolism you had back in high school.

School's Out!

We have finished schooling for another year!

We began the year with gusto, as we usually do. Shortly after, we slowed to a crawl, as we usually do. Then we moved, and school wasn’t just on the back burner, I completely took it off the stove. I am so grateful for the flexibility of home education, which allows me to do that. While we dealt with the transition of moving we could take a break and no one suffered because of it.

However, we did reach a point where I realized we really needed to buckle down and get some work done before the end of the year was upon us. I am so proud of my big boys, they worked so hard for the past few months. I made a schedule for each of them to complete, with June 12 as our target end date. They were both done yesterday, and today we finished our year-end testing!

Generally, home educators are required to submit a portfolio of work and summative record at the end of the year. The division we were registered with in the fall, before our move, allows that year end reporting to be replaced by standardized testing. I have found these tests to be a great tool in seeing where my kids have strengths and areas for growth, so that’s the route we went this year. I’ll drop them off on Friday, but as far as I am concerned, we are done!

Now’s when I get really excited about homeschooling. The summer months are when I dream about all the things I can improve, all the fun things we’ll do, all the books we’ll read, and I don’t have to deal with enforcing anything. I just dream of reading captivating books and having a couch lined with good listeners who beg for another chapter. I dream of going exploring and there are no kids complaining about bugs, temperature, or wind. (I am working on having them understand that these forces of nature are completely out of my control but they can take it up with the God who can do something about it.) I somehow convince myself that my curricula choices will finally be the perfect ones that make homeschooling easy.

Reality will set in soon enough when the leaves start to fall, but for now I will live in my summer dream world.