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

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.


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.

Move it.

A year and a half ago I summed my life up in three words: tired, weary, and exhausted. I was living with so much chronic pain in the way of muscle tension and headaches. I would find mild relief with chiropractic adjustments, and physiotherapy treatments, but I was stumbling through my days with Advil, coffee, simple carbs, not enough sleep, and wondering why I felt so awful.

It was time to get down to the roots of my problems. My pain boiled down to a lack of physical strength and vitality. I could do a lot of things to manage my pain, but it didn’t go away because I wasn’t dealing with the underlying issue of my body being weak and poorly fed. I could not keep doing what I was doing and simply hope for better results. I reached a crossroads. I’d had it with feeling sick and tired all the time.

So I did something about it.

I started exercising and paying attention to the food I was eating. Really revolutionary, right? It is amazing how quickly things started the change. I started exercising for 30 minutes a day, eating well, drinking copious amounts of water, and my quality of life skyrocketed. My aches and pains turned into good aches from my body actually doing something, my headaches disappeared, I had more energy, and I dropped over 10 lbs. It’s also a plus that I stopped popping Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) every 4-6 hours.

People sometimes wonder how I manage to exercise everyday. We’re a single income family homeschooling 4 kids: I don’t have time or money to go to a gym. I work out in my living room while my kids are banished to their rooms for 30 minutes so that I can get a workout in for the day. Working out gives me strength and endurance to keep up with my kids, clears out my mental cobwebs, balances my emotions. Everyone’s quality of life is improved because Mommy forced herself to push play and get things done.

Eating well is really not that complicated. Less junk, more veggies. Less bread, more protein. Carbs are not my enemy, but they are not the only thing I eat!

It comes down to the fact that I was not glorifying God in the way that I was treating my body. I was selfish and short-sighted when I would fuel my body with caffeine and sugar, and make excuses for why getting up and moving was too hard.

Is it hard? Yes. And it’s worth it.

Being a doer is something that has been on my mind for a while. Thinking is easy. Action is hard. I told you that I’m writing a book, and I started with passion and fire, and it slowed to a crawl, then stopped. I made excuses for why that was okay.

“I tried getting up before the sun and writing at the beginning of the day, but I write so much better at night.”

“It’s been a long day and I’m tired, I don’t have the energy to write tonight.”

“I just need some time to get my daily life in order. If I can get more of a rhythm in my home, then I’ll be able to work in a regular writing time.”

“I can’t write my book right now because I feel like I’m in a spiritual desert. How can I write about being a faithful disciple when I’m not one?”

My excuses compounded to the point that I immobilized myself. They fed into my fears and I believed my own bad press. What it boiled down to is that it’s too hard, and I’m not capable.

My goal had been to write for at least an hour every day. An hour really isn’t a long time, but for something that I need quiet and solitude to accomplish, an hour became a mountain I could not scale. Rather than give in to defeat, I’m changing the rules. 15 minutes a day. That’s all I need to get done.

I’m following along with Jon Acuff’s DO Summer challenge to choose one skill and work on it for 15 minutes every day for 3 months. By September 8 I will have spent 1500 minutes developing my skill as a writer. My daily writing will sometimes be found here, and other times it will be spent on my book. I hope this will be a push in the direction of making writing a habit.

Because what’s worse than working hard to do what you know you should do is making excuses and living in fear of it. I’m tired of fearing my failure, I’m tired of excusing my inaction. It’s time to do something again.

For ten years I have been navigating the minefield of Mother’s Day. As the years go by I have learned one important thing that helps to make this day enjoyable. It can be applied in so many situations, but I find it particularly helpful on days like today.

It’s very simple.

Drop your expectations.

That’s it. Don’t expect your husband to know you’d like waffles with strawberry sauce and coffee for breakfast. In bed. Don’t expect that your kids will make you a card and a gluey mess of a craft. Don’t expect that your husband knows you don’t want him to buy overpriced flowers when he could get them cheaper next week. Don’t expect that your children will obey you. Don’t expect that everyone around you will treat you like a queen for a day. They don’t know what kind of royal treatment you are expecting, and even if that were their goal, all their best efforts would likely fall short of your expectations and you’ll all be yelling at each other by the day’s end. Not that I’d know.

I know the job is hard, and I know it takes sacrifice and is filled with thankless work. Believe me, I know. I also know that I don’t do the endless work of mothering for praise and thanks. I do it because it is who I am: I am a mother. I have birthed four miracles into this world, and I have given myself for them and to them because it is the holy task given to me.

God in his wisdom knew better than I, that I think of myself too much. In my mothering I am taught sacrificial love and am reminded of the great love that Jesus has loved me with. He didn’t just get up in the night to calm night terrors, he left his throne to take on the form of a lowly human so that he could serve me to the extreme of taking the punishment for my sin. God now calls me his daughter, and he is my Father. I’ve already gotten far more than I deserve.

If I can learn to drop my expectations, I realize how rich I already am.