queenheroical thenandagain



Calm: An Anchor #wholemama

Calm – another small word dense with meaning. Its weightiness misjudged even as the word rolls over my tongue and out of my mouth like a slow blessing.

I am mesmerized by the double-sided nature of the word – clear and glass and reflective and all the while sending out a prismatic array of colour. Its colour and weight exist only in tandem with all that excites and incites action, activity, and movement.

Calm –the cessation. The stillness on a lake which breathes peace and tranquility into one’s thoughts, notable and inviting for its beauty and for its rarity. The absence of wind and turmoil.

Calm – the extinguished fire. The point at which burning ends and smoke settles – the quiet after.

Calm –the focused lock down. The clear mind in a crisis, moving without agitation, intent and reasoned.

I much prefer to walk the quiet road of calm. I have a low tolerance for “chaos.” The words “calm down,” and “keep calm,” are frequently spoken in my home. I say them like little prayers over my children wishing them into compliance. However, these children of mine are growing selves, full to bursting with wants, desires, passions, and deep feelings. Winds blow across the lake of our lives daily; gentle waves to whitecaps. Calm is rare.

I am an agent for calm. I walk around “putting out fires” to keep my calm. I douse flames as they rise up and threaten my peace and quiet. As a mother, I extinguish as routine. I temper. Might I also be dampening the spirits of passionate souls? This is the sidedness of calm which troubles me sometimes as I go to bed at night. What is the cost of calm above all else?

The story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat comes to mind. Jesus was calm, he slept while the storm raged; he did not rush to calm the waters. In fact he only did so because his fellow boat mates were whipping up a fear storm on their own. I am certainly not Jesus, I am the seeker of calm not the calm sleeper who trusts while in the storm. Am I therefore “ye, of little faith”? Alas, I fear so.

The one very true thing I can say about being a mother is this: I am never settled or calm when it comes to the decisions I make regarding my own children. The waves lap relentless at the side of the boat; oftentimes threatening and worrisome. I want to see the placid lake, I want to know it is all clear sailing. I want this with a fierceness churning about in my heart.

And so my mind turns back again to the double-sidedness of calm. It is the weighty anchor, holding me in place while the storm within rages on.

The #wholemama word this week is: Calm   Follow me over to Overflow to read more stories from lovely #wholemama storytellers.


A little Rain: 16 years – a story of beginnings and endings

 Once, not all that long ago, there was a husband and a wife and they loved each other. Their love had been growing since the day they had met. Together they were complete and happy. They enjoyed evenings lounging around, watching movies, visiting, or reading. They liked to talk about all sorts of things; from funny commercials, human behaviour, politics, economics, painting, drawing, stories they had read, to things they had seen or wished to see. Nothing was felt to be lacking, all was well and they were happy.

But then during a vacation away to the wide open sea, God confronted them with an idea, a possibility, a notion far out of their realm of current thought; a baby. A third to their twosome, an unexpected unknown. They were giddy and nervous and in a word–awed. So strange a thought for them; to be forever changed and yet feel so much the same. So they carried their secret home with them like a fragile egg wrapped up in vulnerability and expectation. Once home, a tiny wand confirmed the news – both wonderful and thrilling, an affirmation of life growing ever so tenderly inside. They laughed and cried and danced around each other uncertain how to respond to such a feeling. They flew out of the house and heralded the news to all those who loved them and all rejoiced in the possibilities. Time leapt forward and the doctor visits started and all was well and good. Plans were laid and jobs changed, nothing could dampen their spirits. Their dreams were full.

Then God laid a quiet hand upon the wife’s body and called the small babe back home. Frightened and alone, the wife called her husband home, together they made their way to the doctor’s office. Unable to find what should have been a pitter-pattering heartbeat, their doctor prayed over them. More tests confirmed the shattering news to the couple, procedures and surgeries followed quickly and quietly. The lovers gripped each other tightly holding themselves up against such fresh grief and sorrow.

They knew an intimate emptiness like they had never known. Together they fit and loved one another to the ends of their beings but God was showing them a love outside of themselves, a love born out of love and for the sake of love. They had crossed over into a new life from which there was no return. So in time and amid their grief, the lovers asked God to look upon them again and grant them another opportunity, another baby, another unknown.

And in his time, He blessed them, He blessed them richly indeed.


Originally written February 23, 2003 (up-dated October 2015)

October 15th is Worldwide Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  This is my favourite version of my story – there are other versions but this one is both the sorrow and the sweet and therefore my favourite.  Today, is the 16th anniversary of our loss.  The beautiful children above are the legacy which followed, our rainbow kids.

My dear Jordan,  I never forget. Love Mum

Breathe …please just breathe: #wholemama

“Take a breath.”

“Calm down, and take a deep breath.

“In through the nose, slowly out through your mouth.”

“Breathe …please just breathe.”

For years, I have been begging my kids to breathe through their feelings – their big, messy, tear-filled feelings. I have walking into the middle of screaming matches, hauled kids out of bedrooms after doors have slammed, and I have watched each of them wind themselves up so tight their faces begin to turn red and pinched.

So, I remind them to breathe.  But every time they resist. Every – single – time

They fight this advice like it is bad tasting cough medicine. Instead they grasp at words and try to force them out through tensed up lips, they resist any effort which might stop them from trying to cram every breadth of space with reasons why they are so very upset and justified and ultimately …right. As if by overwhelming the quiet, they will overpower all sense before silence has a chance to fill up the space with reflection.

And so I begin again with “Breathe” and together we gradually work our way through the balled up helter-skelter feelings. We take a breath and slow down and start again. Trying again, but this time, breathing through the feelings, letting the emotions expand and fill out so that we can recognize them and name them, letting their fullness come into focus, and then together we let them go like overfilled balloons, letting them fizzle and shrink and look a little silly.

Mediation is a mothering task which has taken me some time to grow into- I learned it on the back of parenting toddlers and babies and preschoolers who were unequipped to deal with mum’s feelings and therefore the only adult in the room had to re-evaluate how she was managing her own self – she had to learn to breathe through her own messy, balled up feelings or explode. You would think I had it all mastered by now.

And then… something comes along and strikes a nerve, sets off my internal “rightness” button, or my “but I have a thing or eight to say about that” switch, or the “I can’t believe I think they think this thing about me” toggle. And off I go, usually internally, ranting and arguing and justifying or just plain conjuring things out of thin air which seem to support my internal feelings. I fill the space in my head with all kinds of imagined slights and hurts and injustices. I cram any and all perspectives out the window and slam it shut, rebreathing my own stale, mostly foul air. When finally I can’t keep up the internal waves of feelings –when the space is so stuffed up with me that there is no air – I sputter to a stop – hurting, aching.

And a still and quiet voice says:

“Take a breath.”

“Calm down, and take a deep breath.”

“In through the nose, slowly out through your mouth.”

“Breathe …please just breathe.”

And as soon as new air enters, something changes – a lightness comes in again – reminds me to look carefully, to name the feelings for what they are, to let them go like crazed overfilled balloons… again.

Reluctant child – I am. Reluctant children – they are. But then compassion fills the heart space between us and together we can rest in knowing that we are loved with a greater love, one which breathes life into our dry, obstinate bones.

Breath enters our lungs the moment we hit the cold dry world – and our first impulse is to cry because it is a foreign thing – to let the lightness into ourselves, to have it fill us up, nurture our bodies, our hearts, our minds. We fight it and yet we cannot deny it.

Today the #wholemama word is: breath.  Follow me over to Overflow to read more stories from lovely #wholemama storytellers.

A Challenge: #BlogAhead2015

blog ahead 2015

I am planning to participate in a challenge this October – I will be writing 31 posts behind the scenes which will be scheduled to be revealed on my blog over a stretch of time beginning after November 1st.

I have a few ideas I am working on as regards topics but you will just have to wait for those.  For the time being – I will be keeping track of my progress here on this post.

 My writing goals:  Some ideas for future blog series’
1- 10 for 10:  My favourite 10 Homeschool Moments  Goal: 11  Tally: 4
2- Growing my mindset – Changing what is fixed Goal: 10  Tally: 0
3- Continuation of my ThenandAgain series Goal: 10 Tally: 0 …I have selected 10 blogs to re-address as part of this series – but I have not written them yet.

If you are a blogger and want to build up a stash of post to be posted at a later date – join   #BlogAhead2015

When your homeschooled kid is curious about public school …

So while I have her captive during her goodnight snuggle – I ask my eldest daughter:

“So, we are 10 years into this homeschooling gig, what do you think so far?

Standard reply of shoulder shakes and giggles.

“When you are 30, am I going to find out you resented being homeschooled?”

“No,” with firm head shake.

“So, there are some good things about it?”

Strong affirmative nod.

“But you are still curious?”

“Yah, still curious.”


This is not an unexpected answer. Of my four children, she is the most curious about public schooling despite her rather strong inclinations for solitude and introversion. She is an avid reader, and an avid imaginer of other worlds and places. I suppose this reveals many of the reasons why she is the most curious.  My other three children are appalled by the idea of spending so many hours of their day in a building, other than their home. They like social activities, co-operative learning days, but they love being home where their things are, where they have autonomy over much of their time and learning.

Not this one, although she doesn’t “hate” being homeschooled, she does have a healthy, persistent curiosity about public school. So how do I balance this curiosity with our choosing to homeschool her? There is a bit of me which is saddened by her curiosity, a small part which wants to say “Aren’t I enough?” But I know full well, I’m not and that is how it should be. I understand that it is normal to wonder about how the other “90%” live, especially after reading so much about it. I am also aware that reading about it and reality are different things.

I am not convinced that curiosity is enough of a reason to enroll her in public school – but what is a good enough reason? I don’t want to end up being the parent who “forced” her child to be homeschooled. I will exercise my right to make the choice – but how can I recognize if my choice is harming one of my kids?

Funny, I’m sure not as many parents of public schooled kids have this conversation with themselves. Granted there are some, and I have met many who have made a change and taken their children out of the public system and begun homeschooling. But those numbers are small compared to the overall majority of public schooling families is the essence of what I am saying. However, I think nearly every parent who homeschools considers these questions many times over throughout their journey. Being in the minority makes it hard to avoid the flow of the majority. This is not a political statement but rather an observation.

Back to my kid and her curiosity – should it affect our choice to homeschool her? For now, I say yes but no. Yes, I need to keep in mind the motivation behind the curiosity – is it the learning or the social aspect she is curious about? But no, I don’t think, at this time, it is enough to consider enrolling her in a public school. She currently can’t articulate why she is curious – and “I don’t know – I think it looks fun” is not enough of a reason. I am not closed to the discussion either should her reasons become more tangible. For now, I ruminate on the subject, it is good to check in and ask questions and see if the answers still match up and make sense.

But, for the time being, she gets to be curious and I get to snuggle her and ask her questions and get shoulder shakes and giggles in reply.

Belief in motherhood 

 Before I had children, I believed I knew what I wanted.

When I first got pregnant – I could hardly believe my luck.

When I lost my first baby, I felt like everything I believed was a myth.

Then I held my first-born and I couldn’t believe how much I loved her.

Everything I believed about what I wanted simply wasn’t …

It was all wrapped up in a small bundle perfectly fit to the crook of my arm.

And with each bundle came a deeper belief in where I wanted to be.

But there were days, in the midst of all the wiping and folding and feeding when I couldn’t believe that this was all I was meant to do. I lost sight of anything I believed about myself which didn’t somehow have to do with the raising and caring of my children and family. I mourned the life I had thought I wanted, I mourned the loss of my choices. I resented how little I valued the work. I floated around in a cloud of me and my and mine.

But, even in the dark, I remained tethered. There remained a sliver of belief that my long days, my endless hours of folding, and the many thankless tasks were the making of something.

It turns out it was more like five somethings (maybe six, but I can’t really speak for my husband on this matter). Those busy, endless, beginning years were the winnowing of one life and the care and nurturing of four others. Not a bad trade, she said with a great deal of understatement.

Everything I had believed prior – was thoroughly tested, tried, and re-tested. Now, on the other side, although it is taking time to find the gems in the pile, I am learning to recognize them amongst the chaff.

For example, I no longer believe I have or hold the answers. Instead,  I have faith. It has walked me through the darkest of days. It is the thread I followed despite my blindness. I hold to it now, or perhaps it holds to me. Regardless, come what may, I will travel this way forward.  Holding to the hand that carries me, if even by a thread.

The #wholemama word this week is, belief. Join the conversation and read more about it over on Overflow, and follow what others are saying by clicking the Linky box at the bottom of the page.

What I have learned from playing Minecraft with my family

I am not what you call a tech-momma – but I do live in a tech rich home due to the influence and interests of my husband. I never had a computer until I was in University, I didn’t play video games while I was growing up. My childhood home was book rich and anti-television. My generation was one step before the big boom in technology and computers, I remember rotary dial phones, having to use a nickel to use the payphone, and what it sounds like to use a manual typewriter.

I am what is called a “technology immigrant” while my children are fully immersed members of this new culture.

So how and where do the twain meet … well we definitely enjoy books and music and silliness and even dancing around together but there are times when I hear them talking about things I don’t have a clue about. I understand that this will happen, I don’t need to know everything they know, or like everything they like, or be involved in everything they do.

But there are times when they really love something, love like they “can’t stop talking about it” love it – and with these “loves” comes a lingo, and humour, and sense of community which I feel I am missing out on it. Playing Minecraft is one of these universal loves in my home. My kids all play, my husband plays … he has even set up a server for our kids, their cousins, and their friends to all play on together. It is a big deal around here. And as much as I listened to them, I couldn’t wrap my head around why this particular game was so interesting to all of them.

So I decided to try it out.

What I have learned playing Minecraft:

  1. I am a chicken. True fact. Virtual, make believe, baddies – scare me. I have a very over developed sense of self-preservation which I have learned extends to my virtual self.
  2. My kids are bold, brave, and wildly creative people who leap to defend each other and help each other out. This mother could not be more proud of her Minecraft warriors.
  3. Their bravery is encouraging – it emboldens me to face my fears and try new things.
  4. I like being their neighbour.
  5. Building whatever you want, out of materials you had to gather yourself, while fighting off baddies, and remembering to feed yourself is pretty rewarding. I take pride in my “work” – I admire what others are doing. I “get” the creative end, the planning, and thinking that goes on in this game. Yes, it is like Lego but you live amongst your creations. Who, as a kid, didn’t want to walk into the front door of their Lego home and sit on their Lego chair? … And then to have the capacity to make actual functioning items … it is brilliant.
  6. My kids teach me things and encourage me to do more. They are patient teachers who revel in their knowledge and share it generously.
  7. I like being the student – it is like turning a full circle in our home learning journey – opening up opportunities and it puts us on a more equal “playing” field.
  8. My brain dislikes disruptive visual information – it likes to believe I have been poisoned and thinks I am having hallucinations which results in some pretty terrible nausea. But once I learned to change my screen views – step one in the learning curve, I was able to manage playing for short periods of time and then eventually longer periods of time (…perhaps even really long periods of time)
  9. I get how “addictive” it can become – there is a great deal of investment of both time and thought, it can be hard to stop working toward a goal or investigating a new place. We all need to learn to manage our “screen” time.
  10. My husband thinks it is “hot” that I play – ah, bonus 🙂

I know there are lots of kids playing Minecraft and a lot of parents who don’t know what Minecraft is all about. I don’t think everyone should play it – I would encourage all parents (yes, even you Mum) to try it out, or watch your kids while they play, and ask them questions. It is more than you think it is.

But mostly, I would encourage parents to learn more about whatever it is that their children “love” – join their world, try out something they like, or have them teach you something you don’t know how to do. It is pretty great to be part of their “community” for a change.

Dear Momma across the way: an open letter to those in the trenches

Dear Momma across the way,

I can hear the anger in your voice – the edge to the words and the frustration from whence it comes. I recognize it and remember my own. I hear it as an echo from the past rising up out of the dark caverns of my own mothing journey.

So, Dear Heart, know that I, too, am familiar with the strain and pull that mothering can have on your wits, your sense, your being. I have walked that way before and I carry the wounds, still tender, but not as tender as theirs.

Those little ears, and eyes, and hearts so unprepared to understand my wrath. Eyes wide and fearful and timid. It broke me to see it and that only fed the angry parts, I acted out under the pain. But they were not equipped to comprehend that it was more me than them. They took their little wounded hearts away and I fled from the shame.

But, Dear Heart, it can change. It can start by looking at it for what it is and accepting that it is wrong. Wrong does not make you bad – does not mark you up irrevocably – it makes you flawed and therefore human. The shame does not own you – not if you look at it full in the face – acknowledge it, admit it and it will wither up under the scrutiny – letting in light, everything that grows needs light.

About those little eyes and ears and hearts – they are truly amazing. Their capacity for forgiveness is astounding, humbling, and so full of grace it may make you weep. Good weeping full of cleansing tears.

Ask them to forgive you. Let their forgiveness in. The change begins.

I cannot promise you there will not be days when you stumble, days happen which we regret. But the cycle of forgiveness and change goes on too – it is not a one-time promise, it is a lifecycle of loving.

Eventually, the anger subsides, releases that grip on you. Perhaps it is due to little bodies growing up to be more present and aware of their space and place or perhaps it is due to your having grown and matured in a way that only motherhood could bring out in you. Regardless, know that it comes to all of us, if we let it.

Know too, that I am pulling for you, Dear Heart. You are not alone.

How to “Not” Go Back to School

This September marks the beginning of my 11th year of “not” going back to school. In all honesty, my kids never started “going” to school so technically they have never had the opportunity to go back to anything. But I digress.

Over these years, we have tried different “re-entries” into our most structured season of home learning:


  • We have taken “not” back to school photos.
  • I have surprised them with special “back to learning” baskets. They loved that – but how many more pencils and erasers do we really need around here?
  • We have tried shopping for new clothes with nobody in the store – except the entire store had been so badly picked over already by the public schoolers, we ended up buying little and going home disappointed.
  • We have made bird feeders and enjoyed fun and messy science activities.
  • I have even had “school” conferences with each kid to discuss their goals and ambitions for the year – best conducted over hot chocolate and coffee at a local shop.
  • We have enjoyed “not” back to school picnics in the park with fellow homeschoolers – which are actually a ton of fun and as the chairperson of a local support group, we’ll do this again this year.

School Fairy Surprise :)
School Fairy Surprise 🙂
But none of these things have really made the start of my year better or worse.

They are simply things to do.

What truly makes a difference to our “re-entry” into the learning season – is mindset. It is perspective and patience. I have spent many Septembers racing out of the gate and burning out in October.

My thoughts on how to “not” go back to school.

  1. Think of September as a month of curriculum “tasting” – try out new books and approaches, but don’t marry them. Chuck out what doesn’t fit for you or your kids. If you don’t like it, you won’t use it no matter how much your friend loves it.
  2. Take yourselves outside for as long as possible – the seasonal change will come regardless and you will miss the fresh air when the cold comes. (A truly Canadian home school tip)
  3. Find something you love to do with your kids – and do it, regardless of schedule, make it a priority. Which means it doesn’t come after math, or spelling, or (insert various should item here) – make it happen. Read that book aloud, go for your walk, paint something, and build Legos – place value on your family and its culture above “schooling.”
  4. Give the kids some choices – there is plenty the kids don’t get a say in, so if there is room for a choice, let them have input. Remember how they won’t eat certain foods until they started helping make dinner? Same principle, different objective.
  5. Protect “uninterrupted” home time – I get so eager at the beginning of the year, I over-extend before the year even starts, I usually resent the busyness before the snow flies.
  6. Find your “monkeys” – your support, your fellow home educating buddies.
  7. Lastly, don’t let your mind go “back” to school. As a publically schooled child, then public teacher, I am quite familiar with the way school works in a public setting. I have been known to compare our “schooling” to my knowledge of public schooling, and to feel like I am failing the comparison. But if I stop, breath, and look around me – I see that this isn’t “school” but rather my family learning together, through all these seasons. I see that our choice to follow this lifestyle is working for us – and for them. It is apples and oranges – both are food but delivered via different sources.

Every family should have their traditions and by all means go do something you enjoy before you begin another season of learning in your home. Make memories and then move slow into your September, and learn about what makes your days “not” school.

I am joining other Canadian Homeschool bloggers today on the topic of “not” Back to School and other ways to kick off a new year.

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