Peas

I love growing vegetables.

My mom occasionally kept a garden when I was a kid, mostly growing potatoes, onions, peas, and carrots. These were staples in our straightforward meat and potatoes way of cooking. We usually harvested enough potatoes to last us through the winter. The peas rarely made it to the house because they are Dad’s summer candy. My garden this year is planted in their backyard and I have serious doubts that I’ll see many of my peas with my dad keeping an eye on things!

I used to think it was silly to tell people that no garden is too small, that even a pot of herbs on your windowsill is better than not growing anything. I didn’t know what the point was in that – maybe because I have not once grown herbs successfully. But now I understand the thought behind it. The payoff in growing food is not necessarily a financial one, but there are so many other benefits to be found.

I grow vegetables because I love the taste of carrots straight out of the ground, cleaned only by rubbing the dirt off with the carrot tops.

I grow them because I love eating fresh peas that I’ve just shelled into my dirty hands.

I grow tomatoes because I love to hate canning salsa in the fall.

I grow vegetables because of the delighted surprise of my kids when they learn the secret to secret chocolate cake is beets, and it actually tastes good!

I grow them because of the adventure of waiting for a variety of vegetable you can’t buy in a grocery store to be ready for picking. It is so fun to experiment with different foods!

I grow vegetables because it just tastes better when you grow it yourself; however, there are exceptions to this if you are as inexperienced a gardener as I am. Organic gardening sounds idyllic until your radishes are crawling with worms. I just buy them from the store now!

I grow them to remind myself that food production, however mechanized it has become, is something that involves people who work hard. There are many hands that contribute to my ability to buy what I want when I want it from the grocery store.

I grow vegetables because it reminds me of the goodness of God. He made a home for our first parents in a garden, and provided them with every plant good for food. When I plant, water, and harvest I am reminded that every good and perfect gift comes from my Father in heaven. He has given us what we need for health and flourishing, and allows me to participate in the process of life and growth. When I involve myself in the process of tending a garden, however small it is, I feel closer to Jesus and am more thankful for all he has done for me.

For the past few years we have been members of the Western Development Museum (WDM for short). We purchase a yearly pass for our family and this allows us to visit the museum anytime throughout the year, including the time before Christmas when they host the Festival of Trees, and Pion-Era, their annual summer festival. For the first time since we’ve had our membership we were not busy on Pion-Era weekend so we finally went to check it out, and I am so glad we did. It was so much fun!

The kids all had special bingo cards that if they filled with stamps throughout the grounds, they would be entered to win a prize package. This was a sneaky way for event organizers to get feedback from the survey they printed on the back of the card, and it was also and excellent way of motivating the kids to check out all that there was to see and do.

This is a saw that cuts large blocks of wood into thin shingles.
Pion-era 2015

Here we saw a rock crusher in action. Rocks were loaded into the bottom, crushed, carried up the conveyor belt and dropped into the wagon. I always find these old belt-driven machines fascinating – the ingenuity of machinery during this period of history is so interesting to see in action.
Pion-era 2015

This goat at the petting zoo was eager for attention. Don’t you love his horns?
Pion-era 2015

The kids tried their hands at washing clothes with a washboard. The big boys assured me that they’re thankful we have automatic washers and dryers today, which makes their task of doing laundry much easier than it would have been 100 years ago!
Pion-era 2015

Pion-era 2015

Markus is a rockstar at milking the fake cow!
Pion-era 2015

This little train was one of the highlights of the kids’ day!
Pion-era 2015

Bailey’s favourite part was the pony rides: she went three times! Amazingly to me, she is quite comfortable around horses. I was horse crazy until adolescence made me boy crazy, so it’s very sweet to see Bailey enjoying horses too.
Pion-era 2015

A beautiful team pulling the wagon rides.
Pion-era 2015

Me and my sweetie! While the kids were enjoying their train ride I pulled my phone out and said it was selfie time. Clay asked, “Since when do we selfie?” Since now! I know I am absent in so many photos and I want to be more willing to get my face in front of the camera. I want to be able to look back and see that we were enjoying this day right along with the kids.
Pion-era 2015

Bailey and I took in a fashion show on the Boomtown stage. It was so interesting to see the evolution of fashion over the past 70 years. My favourite outfit was a dress from the 1940’s, it was so feminine and sophisticated. Unfortunately it is not pictured here, and I know this photo is not great but it’s the best I could do with an iPhone in the spot I was sitting in. It was also neat to see some of Clay’s aunt’s fashions from the 70’s and 80’s in the collection: she is a curator at the museum and some of her old clothes made it onto the runway!
Pion-era 2015

We finished the afternoon outside for an old fashioned threshing demonstration. They showcased the different methods of harvesting as technology progressed from using man power to horsepower, then steam and gas machinery.
Here they are pitching the sheaves of grain into the wagon.
Pion-era 2015

It is difficult to see what’s going on here, but the steam tractor is attached with a belt to the threshing machine, and the grain is being loaded in one end, and at the other the grain is pouring into a wagon and the chaff blows away.
Pion-era 2015

I was so pumped to see this because I have amazing memories from grade 3 when my favourite teacher took our class on a field trip to her friend’s farm to witness this process. We rode on the wagon and were up close to the action as the old tractor rumbled, and men with a commitment to heritage and passing on this piece of history involved us in what life was like for farmers in the early 1900’s. This is when history comes alive to a child, and it certainly made an impact on me! I hope some of that wonder of discovering days gone by happened for my kids today too.

The afternoon closed with the Parade of Power – tractors, cars, motorized wagons, and men and women proud to show off their restorations of the past.
Pion-era 2015

There is so much I didn’t include in photos, like delicious homemade bread slathered in butter and strawberry jam for only 25 cents a slice, Saskatoon berry ice cream sundaes, cranking homemade ice cream, rope making, three legged and potato sack races, and so much more. I don’t know how I’ve lived here my whole life and only experienced this today! If you have the chance to go, do it!

My mom asked Markus today if he misses getting into his school books, and he replied with a simple and sure, “No.”

We have schooled through the summer before, and at that time it worked well for us. In this season of life, a good break from school books is in order and we are definitely enjoying it! My kids aren’t the only ones who are relishing a break from school: lazy days of unashamedly late breakfasts, bike rides, dirty feet, berry picking, and popsicles have been enjoyed by all of us.

With that said, I do feel like I need to start thinking about what we’re going to do when fall comes and we have to get back to business. The options are endless when it comes to school curricula. It can be so overwhelming to find the right choices for your family, and I have learned through experience that at some point you just have to pick something and go with it: there is usually not a right or wrong answer. No program or method is perfect, you’ve just got to start trying stuff and see what works. Easier said than done when you’re footing the bill for experimental education!

As I look ahead to what I’ll try this fall, I thought I would take inventory of what we already use that’s working well, and take some time to think about what I still need. If you find this helpful, you’re welcome; if you don’t find this helpful, that’s okay, I wrote it more for myself anyway!

Math: From the beginning of our homeschooling adventure we have used Math-U-See. I really appreciate the hands-on approach, and the focus on mastery. It can get a little tedious at times when they are drilling facts, but I know my kids are gaining a solid foundation of how math works, and the sequential building of concepts has been very effective so far. The manipulative blocks help them to see how and why things work the way they do. Love it, sticking with it!

We’ve also been using Khan Academy recently. The kids love the challenges and earning points for new avatars. I can’t see how that’s motivating, but whatever works!

Reading: I started teaching my kids to read with this book. I had heard good things about it, and maybe it is effective, but I also found it incredibly boring. I was hesitant to let a computer program teach them to read, but we gave Reading Eggs a try and everyone was hooked. Markus and Wyatt both learned to read by playing Reading Eggs, and Bailey is well on her way. The tedious lessons of the book we were using have been replaced with games – they think they’re just playing, but they’re learning so much in the process!

The big boys are both reading chapter books. It is a constant challenge for me to find books that are not empty fluff, that are captivating, meaningful, encourage positive values, build their character, and encourage them to dream. I am amassing a collection of what I think are great books, but it’s tough to sell my guys on novels when there are graphic novels to be read: which I’m not against, but there’s much to be found outside the pages of Captain Underpants and Jedi Academy. I did start reading The Chronicles of Narnia to them at bedtime, and they were so intrigued that Markus has been reading ahead without me, so that’s a step in the right direction!

Reading is the main thing I want to do better next year. I know there are countless benefits to reading aloud, yet it is something I have such a hard time making time for. I’m going to find a way to read to all of them more often.

Writing: My big guys are getting to the point that they should be developing better writing skills. Their minds are brimming with stories, but they are not very good at getting those down on paper in a way that flows and makes sense. I really want to work on developing stories and characters. We also need to work on spelling and punctuation, and if I follow through with my goal to be reading more, these details should fall into place more quickly.

Science: This is by far my weakest area. Science was never my thing. Experiments make me uneasy because there’s too much to prepare and too much potential mess. We had a science kit subscription come to our house monthly, and we’ve only done a handful of them so we have a pile more waiting for us, if I would get my act together and do them with the kids! They are eager to explore and discover, it’s me that’s the weak link in the chain in this department and I really need to be more willing to try things with them.

History/Social Studies: We’ve done Canadian geography studies, which could use a refresher but I think I want to grow their knowledge of world history more this year. I’ve heard good things about The Story of the World, and The Mystery of History. I need to research them both and then just make a decision and use one!

For all these essential subject areas that we have to cover, I also supplement with these Complete Canadian Curriculum workbooks. It’s good to see what we should be aiming to learn in any given year, and these help fill in the gaps sometimes.

Another area we’re working on is typing and coding. Markus is interested in the possibility of making games so he can make money, and his computer programming daddy has told him he needs to get really good at typing before he’s ready to create his own games. Typing.com seems to be good so far, so I’m going to have him stick with that for now. Code.org is a fun way to learn programming – we’ve tried it but need to stick with it.

We’re going to work on learning French using Duolingo. Our kids are dreaming that one day we will take a family trip to Paris if they learn the language well enough. If Markus writes games and sells them, perhaps we will!

Another thing I want to improve on is encouraging their artistic side. This is in the same vein as science: I don’t like mess. I am a tense ball of anxiety in the presence of children wielding scissors or paintbrushes. That’s my problem, not theirs, and I’d like to challenge my control-freak tendency and allow them to do more art and crafts. Another challenge is what to do with the things they create…

Finally, music. We’ll be back to Music for Young Children in the fall. This program is fantastic! I took piano lessons for nine years and I still learn things when I go to class with them! I gained so much from my years taking piano lessons, and I am so glad we are making music education a priority for our kids. It’s about way more than music as they grow in confidence, dedication, patience, and so much more.

There we have it: a long, potentially boring post about what school is going to look like here in a few months! I found this incredibly helpful, since I often feel like I’m not doing much. This shows me what’s working, what needs work, and that we are doing a lot more than I thought we were!

The kids and I went on an adventure yesterday, which means this post is full of pictures!

We are a part of a CSA (community supported agriculture), and in a nutshell this means we pay a farmer directly for a portion of garden produce. Everyone who buys into the CSA takes turns making the weekly 2 hour drive to collect the produce and bring it back for the rest of the group. So yesterday it was our turn to go see where our food comes from!

July 8, 2015

I had envisioned a large garden, but I was not prepared for what we discovered when we arrived. There were three gigantic garden plots, all kept pristinely tidy. There was not a weed in sight! Since there was a dog to greet us, Bailey was afraid to get out of the van. I did manage to get her out, but she jumped into my arms any time the dog came near.

The kids had fun testing their knowledge of plants, trying to identify the many things they saw growing. I’m impressed: they’re pretty good! We were stumped by the row Wyatt is pointing at here. They looked like onions, but not. It turns out they were onions from last year that were being kept for seeds.

July 8, 2015

We visited all the animals: chickens, pigs, a calf, and horses (which I didn’t get a photo of).

July 8, 2015

July 8, 2015

July 8, 2015

Markus was eager to help feed the chickens.
July 8, 2015

It was lovely just to let them roam. There was so much to discover, so much air to breath, and sky to behold.
July 8, 2015

July 8, 2015

July 8, 2015

There are a few houses on the property, and families and individuals all pitch in with all the work it takes to make life in this tiny village work. In the house we were sorting vegetables in, this is the view of the kitchen.

July 8, 2015
The light streaming in the window onto the weathered chair at the table, the Saskatoon berries in the process of being canned on the wood burning stove, and just the simplicity of life slowed down and savoured in each season was so inspiring. I could have stayed so much longer, soaking everything in and learning from people who are so resourceful. It is a different life than the one I live, that’s for sure!

The kids were sad to say goodbye to their new friends.

July 8, 2015

On the way home we stopped at a lighthouse at a nearby lake and snapped a few more photos before making the trek home. Wyatt made an exciting discovery when he reached the top of the hill!

July 8, 2015

July 8, 2015

July 8, 2015

July 8, 2015

Just in case you don’t believe that I was there, Bailey snapped this photo with me at the top of the hill.

July 8, 2015

Thanks for stopping by to share in our adventure!

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.