Saturday Morning Rituals

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Sugar cereal and cartoons were the mark of my Saturday mornings growing up. It’s never been the same for my kids as we didn’t have cable for the first 10+ years of their life, but we have some rituals nonetheless! We call it Documentary Saturday.

There are so many amazing documentaries on Netflix even if your kids are little. We started off watching many of the nature, animal or geography ones about our earth. Now that they’re older we’ve branched out into politics, art, government and so on.

Of course, we know that every documentary has a slant. The storyteller is coming at it from their worldview and this has spearheaded many interesting conversations amongst our family. Whether its evolution or conspiracy theories or that time we accidentally started one about a performance art project where all of the models were naked! Oops! (Thankfully the opening scene showed all and I screamed “look away, look away!” and that was the end of that. ha)

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Most Saturday mornings you can find us curled up with cups of coffee or bowls of cereal taking in whatever happens to jump out at us that day under the documentary genre. We’ve learned a lot from it and it’s exposed my kids to things I simply couldn’t teach them on my own.

I thought I’d share a few of our favourites!

Exit Through the Gift Shop

This is an insider’s look at the world of street art and artists. It offers a look at some pretty quirky lives as well as a peak into the world of artists/criminals. Because tagging and graffiti is against the law it gave our family lots to talk about but also opened up this interesting art form as an actual art form. Graffiti isn’t just done by thugs looking to cause trouble. It’s actual artists with actual talent and actual motives – whether right or wrong. This was one of our favourites and we would definitely recommend it, specifically if you have teens – the twists are fantastic and we sure didn’t see them coming!

Food documentaries are some of my faves as I try to make sense of the world, the rise of allergies, the way our food is processed and what my family is eating. These documentaries are so good to watch along with your children – to open their eyes a bit to what they are actually eating and begging for. Watching these as a family have been game changers for us. I no longer have to be the bad guy always laying down the law on the food we buy and don’t buy – but our kids are educated and I can let them help make decisions.

We had been at the grocery store on a Friday and my boys asked if we could buy grape juice. I said no (juice isn’t something we do) and they argued that the label said it was 100% real fruit and no sugar. I stuck to my guns and left with disgruntled children. The next Saturday morning we just happened to watch Sugar Coated and they spoke exactly to the same grape juice that my boys had been wanting the day before. They talked of labeling and marketing and how much sugar was actually in the juice though it said no sugar with an asterisk! Talk about perfect reinforcement to my parenting!

Black Fish

Not exactly a nature story but an interesting look at whales in captivity and some of the stories behind the deaths of trainers. Before watching this, I had no idea about these stories, even though a famous moment happened right in our backyard in Victoria! I wouldn’t watch this with young children as some of the footage is shocking but again, for teens, it’s a great thing to watch and discuss as they form their own worldview and opinions on these sorts of matters around us.

The Human Experiment

This was our latest Saturday watch and it made me both irate and passionate for change. It was nothing I didn’t already know but confirmed so many things about the business behind chemical corporations. It shows us what’s going on in our food, in our beauty products, in our furniture and paint. It shows us what’s going on in congress and who is actually fighting for safety. It shows us some families dealing with the repercussions of toxin build up in the body. I’ll be writing more on this one soon – but I’m too riled up just now! ha

Born Into Brothels

This oft hard-to-watch documentary gives us a glimpse into the lives of the children in Calucutta’s red light district. The work they do, the way they’re treated, the streets they run down and what they know about what their mama’s do is all a bit much for a heart like mine but it’s also stuff I need to know. This documentary is the story of a photographer who moves in amongst these children of prostitutes and teaches them the art of photography. It’s a beautiful picture of someone who cares as well as what can happen when kids are taught something and know a different way of life. As well as, what doesn’t happen – while my heart wanted each child to adopt this new way of life they were shown, of course they don’t all choose it.

I would totally encourage your family to hop onto Netflix and find some documentaries that will open your eyes to new things! Whether it’s new animals, new ways to cook or new insight into this world we live in – documentaries are a great way to spend time together and open up lots of great conversation.

What ones have you watched and loved? What should we check out next?

A few other faves to check out:

Living on One Dollar

Happy

Craigslist Joe

Babies

Talking to Our Kids About Pornography

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Pornography is something that we don’t even want to think about, let alone consider talking to our kids about. But when we open our eyes to the world around us, the digital world in particular, we simply can’t be ignorant about it.

Sexually explicit content is everywhere. Whether it’s the lyrics to a song on the radio, the massive posters at the mall, or right in our very own homes via tv and internet. Thinking that we can avoid it would mean hunkering down in a cave and never embarking out into culture.

Of course that’s not realistic, nor is it sensible. We can’t hide from the world or what’s in it for many reasons but a key one being that our kids certainly aren’t hiding from it! Having a plan to face the culture we encounter is critical. We’re wise when we work to ensure our kids have a plan, as well.

*I’m over at FamilyLife Canada today talking about some great resources for parents in order to help protect their kids from pornography, resources to help you talk to your kids about it and how to make a plan both for you and your child for when they see it. (Unfortunately, it’s not IF anymore, friends.) Read the rest of the article here.

Public School + Love + Stretching the Soup [and a winner!]

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I worry about my teens being in public school. But only sometimes. It’s usually on the nights when my mind gets the best of me and I concoct all sorts of random happenings in my head, none of which have ever come close to occurring. My thoughts get the better of me at times and run rampant all around my head and I can’t help but lie awake thinking that my kids are for sure going to do horrific things because they’re clearly surrounded with horrific people. Because – public school.

And while yes, they’ve been offered drugs and been told exactly how to take them, it’s true. And there was the time they were on lockdown because of a gun scare, sure. And no, they don’t go to prayer meeting at lunch time but sit around and talk nonsense with their friends. Because – public school.

We very intentionally chose public school for our kids and while I know it’s not for everyone, it is for us, even amidst the drugs and lockdowns. (I’m not here to debate schooling styles but simply talk about our choice. You can make your choice and I’ll be your biggest fan!)

Public school for us was a simple way that we could be involved in our community and quite easily get to know families who are different from us. As a christian it’s all too easy for me to surround myself with people who look and talk and think just like me. Public school pushes us out of that in a way that I’m not sure we could do otherwise and while each day is a struggle for the balance between loving it and worrying about it, I know it’s right for our family for right now. But I’m getting sidetracked…..

I got a text today at exactly the moment that school got out.  Mom can some friends come over?

As parents we have choices to make in these moments. Big choices, I think. Because my mind flashed to the beautiful floors I’d vacuumed and mopped only hours earlier. And I thought about the dinner that I didn’t have made yet. I lingered for just a second on the fact that I’d have to drive all these kids home later tonight and that they’d hog all the good snacks and monopolize the tv.

For all of these reasons it would be so easy to say no. No, not today. How about another day because, y’know, the floors?! No, it won’t work right now because I haven’t made dinner and at this point I don’t even know what it will be. No, I’m tired. No, I just don’t want all the noise. No, it might inconvenience me. No, it will use up my time.

I contend, however, that love says yes. Love says yes when it’s inconvenient and yes when we’re tired and yes when we have no idea what we’ll feed them. Love goes out of it’s way for others at a cost to ourselves. Love gives and serves and says come over, yes, be with me. Love says our home is open and who cares about the floors, you’re more important. Love says dinner will find it’s way. Love casts all of those other thoughts aside, the ones that all revolve around me and my comfort and my ease and my luxury. Love reaches out and gives and shares and doesn’t consider the cost.

Or at least that’s what the love of Jesus looks like.

I posted a photo on Instagram today and I mentioned that we were changing a room in our home. It’s been a spare bedroom for four years now as we’ve waited to be approved as a foster home. But after four years and no answers I posted that we’re moving on. We’re changing the room and we’re realizing that foster care is certainly not happening for us.

I got so many messages of love and care and encouragement for our family. I guess I didn’t realize that, of course, this was news to my insta-tribe though of course we’ve thought it through over 4 years now and this conclusion is something we’ve known for months.

It doesn’t come with sadness for us, this ending of a plan. Some disappointment, maybe, but even that can’t last because we know that we only want to be where God wants us and if He’s not paving the way into foster care then there really isn’t much we can do.

I was reading these lovely thoughts and messages from so many people and feeling a bit bad. People were sad for us, and I get that and I’m thankful but also, I turned around to see 7 teenagers around my table that I was feeding. Two more randomly showed up along the way. I saw them gulping down the chicken and rice soup that I prayed would stretch far enough. I heard them laughing as they took another helping of salad. I got to sit down beside them and engage with them about life and school and friends and what it all looks like for them as they gorged themselves on garlic parmesan buns I sort of threw together. I can’t be sad about foster care when I’ve got this whole other thing happening right here, right in my home, right before my eyes.

It’s moments like this that my worry about public school goes clear away and I know that we made the right choice for our family. I can’t see any other way that I would have 9 amazing teens that come from so many backgrounds and world views and life circumstances in my home on a random Monday afternoon. I can’t see any other way that I would be practicing hospitality in my home, often daily, to those who have never heard the love of Christ before. How else would I get the chance to love on a group of misfit teenagers with blue hair and band t-shirts and language that I have to correct at times for the sake of the youngest.

It’s okay that we’re not fostering. There are a million ways to love people. There are a million ways to show people who are different from us that it doesn’t matter if you’re pierced and have no idea what to do when we pray – you’re welcome here. Please come over, sit at the table with us and eat, talk, laugh. There’s room for you here in our home and at our table. You don’t have to look like us or think like us to be here. You don’t have to like the same music and movies as us to be our friends. We just want to know you, just as you are.

When my son asked if he could have friends over I said yes. His next immediate question was – how many? All of them, I answered.

What a privilege it is that these kids want to be in our home. Want to take over our sofa all lounging and sprawling all over each other. Want to eat our food though it’s nothing more than soup and there isn’t a sugary beverage in sight. What an honour it is to share our home, our time and all that we have.

My table was full, my dishwasher is fuller and my heart is the fullest of all.

Say yes. Because love is an action that we’re called to do and there is joy in the doing. Guaranteed you’ll forget about the floors and you won’t even remember you were tired because love fills us up and overflows our hearts and gives us what we need when we practice it.

[Winner of the book giveaway, Falling Free by Shannan Martin, is Laura Luyt! Yay!]

New Years in September + What I’m Working On

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You all know by now that I consider September my New Year, right? It’s the time I set goals, make changes, reminisce about the past and look to the future! I mentioned this at work the other day. The office was full for the first time in a long time after summer vacations, and working from home cause kids are there, and all of the other things that July and August bring. Everyone seemed to agree that September feels new and fresh and next time we should decorate with banners and noise makers! My kind of people!

I know some people choose words for their year (something I’ve never been intuitive enough to do) and others make grand goals. I know myself well enough to know that none of these are a good idea.

If I choose a word I’ll want to change it mid-stream or I’ll taint everything that happens against it or for it. Neither of which is healthy, obviously.

Say I choose “brave” for example. I’ll do everything. Every. dang. thing. Thinking that this is how one is brave. Or, if I do nothing I’ll be mad at myself for not living up to the word. It’s just too much pressure, people.

Plus, I tend to buck against trends and this whole word thing has just gotten out of hand.

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What I do along with my fam is look back at the last year. We talk about the things that were awesome and we keep at those. We talk about the places we lacked and how we might adjust to make them better. We talk about character traits we need to work on (patience has been mine for 4 years running and I’m pleased to announced it’s finally moved on and kindness, bless its heart, has taken its place!)

These are the things we’re adjusting around our home this New Year. Most of them aren’t lofty, because we know better. They’re doable, fit with our life and yet challenge just enough to keep us moving forward!

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Get Back to Better Eating:  After a summer of s’mores it’s a good time to reign in the sugar consumption and meals on the fly and get back to well rounded dinners and sitting together at the table. I love the spontaneity and simpleness of summer meals but I’m also excited to get back to real cooking and chatter around the table.

Fall Cleaning:  I know most of you get at this in the spring but we’re such summer lovers around here that by the end of it the house is chaos, rooms are disastrous and sand is everywhere! I wish I’d taken a picture because I didn’t tell my kids to clean their room once this summer. It was a nightmare. So I committed to going through every closet, cupboard, and drawer. Getting rid of what’s no longer needed, no longer fits or was just a dumb purchase. (Hey – it happens!) I wiped everything out, vacuumed all the corners and got all rooms back to where they should be – with the help of my family, of course!

Keep Momentum towards Safe Products:  You all know that it’s important to me to know what’s in our food, what we clean our house with and what we put on our bodies. It seems like just when I get to where I want to be with it all, I learn something new! But I love that. It means that we don’t ever get stagnant but keep learning and growing and changing our ways to be better and smarter. I’m thankful for the friends around me who are further along on this path than I am (you know who you are!) and I’d encourage you to find one too! If you’re just starting to make changes to safer products it can feel overwhelming and a friend is sure to help you keep it less daunting. My motto has always been change what you can – even one thing can make a difference. One thing this year, one thing next – over time adds up to a lot of changes and healthier, safer living! (If this interests you and you want to make changes you can find my all-purpose cleaning recipe here, how we changed the way we eat here and the beauty products I use here)

Create Space for Non-hectic Homework time:   We generally start out strong in September but somewhere around November life gets a little crazy and we forget about the important things. Somehow I find myself barking out on the way to bed, “Does anyone have homework?” Of course if they do, it’s the worst time to start it and generally everyone is frustrated and near tears by the end. My kids hate coming straight home and doing it after being in school all day and I agree! They need to get outside, get some air and destress after their days. But we also need not wait until the very end of our days. I’m not sure what this will look like just yet but I’d love your suggestions! In the meantime, we’re working on an office revamp to create more space for my hubs working from home, and also a quiet space for homework. More on that once it’s done!

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Work on Voice Tones:  From the time my kids could speak we’ve been talking about voice tones in our house. We left zero room for whining as it made my mind want to explode. As they got older we had to work on angry tones and sarcastic tones and disrespectful tones – so this is nothing new to our home. It turns out, however, that I have a tone that my kids don’t like. It was brought to my attention recently that a certain tone makes them feel belittled. *ouch* It’s not what I meant them to feel, but I can see that it was a bit of a persuasive and commanding tone that questioned their motives and intentions. I don’t know where they got belittling from. (ahem) So, I’m working to change it. I’m thankful they could express it to me and I never want them to feel like I’m shaming them or making them feel less than human.

What are you changing, shifting or adjusting this season? Tell me, tell me, tell me!!

’twas the night before back to school

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It’s the eve before the whole back to school deal and I’m always left feeling so torn. I love having my kids home so stinkin’ much. I love calmer mornings and eating food that doesn’t have to be packed in a bag. I love my people near. Though I admit, a few times this summer they all got a bit too near and mama needed some space!

But we’ve chosen public school for our kids for our own reasons and I know you choose the type of school your kids do for yours. We all know our kids best and what their lives need and I won’t question your choice for a second and I know you won’t raise an eyebrow at mine either. Cause you guys are the coolest.

But here we are, backpacks packed and P.E. wear ready. Hearts challenged and minds made up and we’re kinda sorta ready to do this thing.

I’m sure no matter what type of school your kids do there are challenges. We simply know the ones of public school and they can be vast. So tonight weights my heart just a little and tomorrow morning when they all head back I have a little ritual that I do.

I wrote about it a few years ago on my hardest year sending my kids back.

I wanted to touch on it again because it’s become a beautiful gift to me and my kids all through the year.

On the first day of school I block off an hour to pray. I drop everyone off in their proper places and then I choose a spot near to the school (often walking the track or around the school neighbourhood) and I pray specifically for each boy and the year they will have.

I pray for the relationships that will be deepened or newly formed. I pray for their teachers and their coaches and their principals. I pray for safety in that place for every student and I pray for wisdom for my boys. I pray that they’ll hold fast to the things we’ve taught them in terms of drugs and parties and alcohol and driving and all of the potential dangers that may be offered them. I pray for relationships with girls that may form and that they would be honouring and right in the eyes of God, that my boys actions and words would only be respectable and good. I pray that in that place, the halls, the gym, the change rooms, the classes, sitting around the art tables or walking around outside that they would be challenged, that they would be strong and courageous, that they would stand – always – for what they believe.

This time sets us up for the entire year. Because when hard things come along, I talk about how I prayed that they would be challenged and how we also prayed for wisdom and maybe this is just that moment. When new friendships are formed I remind them that we prayed for that and we give the thanks to Jesus for all of them. When conflicts arise with teachers or hard moments and choices come when they’re with their team, they can remember that they have a mom (and dad!) who have prayed for these very moments.

It’s simply a way to start the year with Christ as the centre. Of course, we pray for them all through the year, but I want them to know that on these big days, we’re setting aside even more time. When events in their life are happening we want them to do the same and learning by example is the best tool we can offer.

I’m sure you have your own things that you do, but if you don’t – start one! I know you’ll be so glad that you did. It doesn’t have to be like mine – though feel free to use it – but you can also make it yours. Year to year I look forward to this time and the tradition of it and committing the school year to God in my own little way.

New Neighbours + Awkward Social Skills + A Giveaway!

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Things in my life always seem to come at me over time. Like wave after wave rolling onto the shore, the repetition finally seeping in to my soul.

I’m a stubborn girl who thinks she knows best most of the time and I need the pounding waves on my rocky shores to smooth me slowly and repeatedly and over much time.

I’m sure you learn the first time. I’m sure you listen when others speak. I know for sure that you perk up your ears and change your ways immediately at the words of Jesus.

I wish I did. But alas, I’m slow to learn and slower to change. I need a repeat button in my life and I’m unendingly grateful that the Lord offers me one in His ever-so-gracious and patient way. (I could definitely take some parenting tips from his ways…)

The lesson over time has been an easy one to hear and a hard one to put into practice. It’s so simple to listen to the words saying that we should love our neighbour, but right alongside the expert in the law, the self-justifier, the one who wants to be let off the hook easy I say, “But who is my neighbour?”

I can convince myself that my family is most important and loving my husband well comes first. I can speak of time pressures at work and how that’s an important ministry in itself. And yet all of these, while right and noble, don’t let us off the hook when it comes to Jesus specific words. His second command. On one side we have that we are to Love the Lord our God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. And right cozied up next to those words, which we deem all important, are the words love your neighbour.

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John Piper, who always says things excellently had this to say,

The second commandment seems to me to be an overwhelming commandment. It seems to demand that I tear the skin off my body and wrap it around another person so that I feel that I am that other person; and all the longings that I have for my own safety and health and success and happiness I now feel for that 0ther person as though they were me.

Right. *crickets*

That’s a little hard to hear for a self driven culture and my self driven….well, self.

I started praying for our neighbourhood months ago. I know by now that I ought to be careful what I pray for because often times we’re actually given what we ask. We don’t know our neighbours. We’re the newbies on the block. No one really introduced themselves when we moved in and we just sort of fell into our small streets ways of mind your own bees wax and just waving sort of cordially as we pass each other.

So I prayed. That was the first thing. What stirred my heart for this was just my normal bible reading. The words leaping off the page and moving my heart and causing me to think about how we’re operating with those who live, literally, right beside us.

Then I was sent a book. Shannan Martin’s words in these precious pages she’s written cut daggers into my heart, made me cry quiet tears and at times left me feeling sucker punched. She holds no bars and yet she is gracious and kind.

I read words like this;

Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted is the very drumbeat of my soul, that in God’s eternal kingdom where down is actually up, His more for us often looks like less.

I sat and wrote it all down, the pain, the relief, the rescue and the freedom. I pleaded for the courage to tell the truth about finding the life I was created for in the rubble of the one that had kindly been dismantled, beam by beam. It turns out, we weren’t made to want what the world craves.

This is my back-alley redemption story,  and we continue to grow and fail. We over-complicate and default to pride. We commit the most cringe-worthy faux pas in the history of ever while standing in our kitchen trying so hard (too hard!) to “love” our neighbor. (< spoiler alert) But when we run hard toward the pain around us, we discover more of the foolish love of God, who owed us none of these unexpected gifts, but gave them anyway.

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Her words were the second or third wave of what Christ has been teaching me. They came at a perfect time. That perfect time is in the midst of this housing market boom where people are selling and buying and snapping up whatever they can to hold their family. It’s been a bit crazy around here and 3 of the houses right in our little space have new neighbours moving in.

I feel God giving us a do-over. I feel him saying – you’ve been praying for this neighbourhood and for ways to love your neighbours. Well, guess what – you aren’t the new kids on the block anymore but all of these new families are. What are you going to do about it?

What AM I going to do about it?

Wave 16 or 17 came this morning from our church that we love so much. As our pastor from Pakistan spoke about cultural barriers we erect in our minds that tend to justify why we don’t engage our neighbours. The ways we let ourselves off the hook in terms of what Jesus is calling us to.

We don’t speak the same language, or we don’t cook the same foods. How can we communicate when our lives are so different and there are no connecting points to be seen for miles? Surely God can’t expect us to engage there? That’s too hard, we whine.

 

I remind myself that God didn’t say to do it if it was easy. He said to do it. Period.

So we’re praying and we’re bracing ourselves for all of the awkwardness that we’ll exude on these unsuspecting neighbours once they start to move their life onto this cul de sac. We’re having discussions with our kids at how weird it’ll feel to walk over and say hi. We are a heaping pile of ridiculousness in our house, with the social graces of a gold fish. We rush to the edge of our bowl, let out a few bubbles and then just stare cause that’s all we’ve got.

So we walk forward, and I’m sure we’ll mess it up, and we feel completely like we wish someone else could do it but if we believe what we believe then we believe that Jesus said to love and so love we will. Our literal neighbours. Because what better place to start?

We don’t know what that looks like yet but we’re buckling up for the journey, because I have no doubt we’re about to learn!

*Shannan Martin has offered my readers the gift of one of her books. One of you will get to be the recipient of her new (not yet out) book; Falling Free. I wish I could give one to ALL of you and we could have a big ‘ol book club about it but one is the deal for now.

To enter, just leave me a comment along with your email so I can contact you! Tell me why you want the book, or a story of an #awkwardneighbourmoment or what you had for breakfast today! I don’t care. Just let me know  you want it and I hope I pull your name for the win!

If you don’t win, you can pre-order Shannan’s book here.

**Contest ends Sunday September 10, 2016.

***Winner will be drawn and notified Monday September 11, 2016.

 

An App to Help Manage Your Kids Devices

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Years ago, women would gather on front porches or in market places and general stores and share their stories of life. As they met up with their friends I can imagine they discussed family events, favourite recipes and the things they got up to that day.

It’s different now, obviously. Gathering together to share info doesn’t always happen as much as I’d like. More often now, women work and it means that we can’t be quite as easily connected to other women as we may want to be.

It’s for this reason that I’m endlessly thankful for social media!

How else would I get to see pictures of my friends trips to Nova Scotia, Paris and Iceland? How else would I know about that amazing Thai Noodle Salad that has now become a family staple in our home? And how else would I have heard about my new favourite parenting App?

I wouldn’t have! But I’m so glad that people use this avenue to share the things they’re loving and doing! That they show me their best finds and just how cute their baby is just now, and what they’re making for dessert and that they broadcast apps that they think others should know about!

Immediately upon seeing the high praise for OurPact on social media, I looked it up. Within ten minutes I was downloading it and within 15 I was using it seamlessly!

OurPact is a parents best friend if your kids have online devices!

We’ve never let our kids have their devices with them in their rooms behind closed doors or in their beds at night. It’s just not good practice. Internet and all that it holds, in our home, is to be used in public portions of the house.

We ran into difficulty though, when our kids wanted to fall asleep listening to music or podcasts (which we totally allow!) Transferring everything to old iPods (the kind without internet access) was tedious and they no longer stayed charged long enough and it was just a pain to be doing when they had all they really wanted on their iPads already.

But, we still didn’t want them in their beds at night so, we went through the painstaking procedures.

Until now!

OurPact manages your child’s screen time, helps teach them time management by setting time parameters around internet/app use, blocks internet and apps when you want, and can be scheduled to kick in at times and on days that you choose!

And it’s simple, which is brilliant.

I quickly downloaded the app on my phone and followed the step by step instructions on how to add each of your child’s devices into your management system. Once I had each kids device set up (just a few clicks), I could set it up how I wanted it. I chose internet and apps to be blocked from 9 pm – 7 am on Sunday-Thursday, and I broadened the hours a bit for the weekends.

You can also set up a homework schedule or a dinner time schedule, so that around the hours that you set, internet and apps all (literally) disappear from your kids device.

Like, Instagram isn’t even visible anymore. But then once the time hits that you’ve set it to come back on – voila! They all appear back.

So cool.

The only thing I see us using it for right now is at night, because our kids can have their devices in bed with them to fall asleep listening to the Chronicle s of Narnia audiobooks or our church’s podcasts without us worrying about them playing games or snap chatting without us knowing.

However, if my kids were younger and less compliant than they are, I can see it being super helpful for homework/chore/dinner times as well.

Even if you just think your kids are checking their phones too often to see who uploaded a new picture in the last 2 minutes, you can schedule blocked hours so they won’t even be tempted to look. Cause Facebook isn’t there! ha

I’ve only known about it for a few hours and I’m already a fan. If you’re a parent, I suggest you check OurPact out. I’m glad I did!

**OurPact can not disable phone or text features as those are phone programs and not apps. But let’s face it, our kids don’t use iMessage to chat with their friends – only us!

3 Ways to Save on Back to School

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As of this back-to-school year I have officially made it through prepping for every grade. I’ve done Kindergarten – Grade 8 three times over and as my oldest gets thing organized for his final year of high school I feel like we’ve learned a thing or two (or 40!)

If I could go back in time, of course, I would do things a bit differently from the start. But I didn’t know. Now that I do, I thought I’d share a few of the things that were my biggest learns and how we implement them from year to year.

Back to school does NOT have to be expensive. It just doesn’t. Think about the fact that every single family, from the highest of incomes to the lowest, are all sending their kids back and with that in mind – there’s no way it has to be hundreds of dollars per child (which I feel like we were once spending!)

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  1. Buy a GREAT Backpack – Yes, your child is going to want the Spiderman or the Paw Patrol or the [insert whatever kids are into these days] backpack if you let them choose. They just are. However, if you don’t let them choose – you can save a ton of cash over the years. A good backpack is expensive to start out with but your kids will end up using it for years and the savings in the long run is huge! El Cheapo backpacks will still cost you $20 per kid and most of them barely survive the year. Purchase a good backpack and it’ll be paid off by year 3 and they’ll still be using it 5-6 if not 8 years from now. The backpacks we’ve found to last the best are from MEC. Plus, they stand behind their products. Zipper breaks – return it and get a new one. Try THAT with your Spiderman backpack. Not gonna happen. We also learned that Dakine has a lifetime warranty on their backpacks which means essentially for $70 or so you could only purchase your child one pack for all 13 years of school. That’s a savings of $190 per kid. Plus, there’s no reason my son can’t still use his (that he’s already had for 5 years) well into his college/travel/whatever years. It’s still perfect. And we haven’t even taken advantage of the warranty yet!
  2. Reuse School Supplies – In a generation that is taught to reduce, reuse and recycle, I find it ludicrous that we were buying brand new pencil crayons each year. Sure, in the younger years they may wear them down but we found ours could easily get 2 years use. Never mind all of those pens, fine liners, and what goes wrong with a ruler? There’s simply no way our kids need a new one every year. At the end of each year we go through everything they bring home and toss the little nubs of pencils and keep anything that’s of decent size in a reusable grocery bag and pop it into the closet. The week before school starts again, we grab the bag, go through the supply list and reload backpacks. This year for all 3 children the only thing we need to rebuy is one ruler (because it was lost), a few erasers and one binder (these don’t last forever so after 3 years of use, it was time for a new one for one boy!) Not only does this save money but it also helps teach our kids the things we want them to know. Like, if something is still good – we don’t toss it and buy new just because. We use what we have. We steward it well. We certainly have to fight their consumeristic tendencies (and mine!) and this is just one more way to do it!
  3. Buy Clothes Throughout the Year – One thing is for certain, stores know that we’re going to be stocking up for ‘back-to-school’ clothes and they do everything they can to capitalize on it. Of course, it’s tempting not to cave to the newest in fall fashions, but you can save way more money by purchasing clothes that your kids actually NEED throughout the year as they need it. It means you aren’t shopping solely for the purpose of shopping and getting caught up in a ton of wants instead of needs. When my kids need jeans – we buy them. There’s no way they all suddenly need jeans in September! Shopping throughout the year also helps you take advantage of stocking up when things are on sale and purchasing at better times. January is the best time to buy shoes and buying things like jackets and shorts off-season can help save a lot.  As we took stock of closets this week we found that 2 boys could use a few t-shirts and one boy needs a hoodie or two. That’s it!

So back to school for us isn’t something we have to save for or even something that’s a big deal. Back when we were purchasing everyone’s shoes (indoor/outdoor/athletic) and everyone backpacks and lunch bags plus school supplies all new and fresh it was costing hundreds and hundreds for all three boys – and that’s before clothes.

Now, it’s not even a big deal. The final total is smaller than a quick trip to the grocery store for a few staples. Plus, our kids are learning the two steps that are way more important before we get to the recycle one – they’re reducing and reusing and those are the things that are going to make a bigger impact on our planet, lives and budget than recycling will!

A Dessert You’ll Want to Make [NOW!]

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When my son got home from Ireland he was excited to share with us the gifts that he brought and a few of the little mementos he had from his time away, but the thing I think he was most thrilled to tell us about was the airplane food.

I know what you’re thinking. That he was going to describe how gross it was. That’s what I thought too. Until he pulled out the cutest little jars with a fun little label and stated, “You HAVE to try this!”

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Apparently the dessert aboard his flight was out of this world and the lovely flight attendants kept bestowing them upon his little wobbly tray. They brought so many that he couldn’t finish them all, but also decided that he really wanted to share.

I didn’t get what all of the fuss was about until I tried it. Hello – mouth watering good!

I instantly googled the company and discovered why this little chocolate pudding delight was so amazing. These little cups of goodness were created by outstanding Chef’s from Britain. Also, when you buy them in the store they come in the cutest little reusable ceramic pots! Score!

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Ours were just mini versions and I learned there was no way I was going to find them for purchase around these parts so I set out to find the perfect recipe to make my own!

Here’s what you need:

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate, melted (I used semi – next time, milk!)
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 orange (for juice and zest)

I combined a few of the recipes that I found online and while it’s not quite the same, obviously i’m not a world famous chef – I did discover an amazing new dessert option to add into our repertoire!

You know when you have company for dinner and nobody needs a big dessert because you’re all stuffed but you still want a little taste of sweet?  That’s what this is perfect for. Because you don’t need a lot to satisfy your chocolate craving or your sweet tooth.

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Combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in a pot and mix in the eggs, egg yolks and milk slowly.

Heat the mixture until it gets all good and bubbly and then stir in the chocolates. Keep mixing and stirring over medium heat until it starts to boil. Turn your heat down and continue stirring for two minutes.

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Once it’s good and thick remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, the vanilla, orange extract, the juice of one orange and the zest from about 3/4 of the orange. Set the other quarter aside to add into the whip cream you’ll plop on top. Orange whip cream? You’ll be glad you did!

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Pour into teeny tiny containers because that’s all you’ll need of this decadence and top with whip cream (complete with remaining orange zest!)

What you’ll have is a scrumptious taste of heaven. Or at least pretty close to what we can get of it from here.

*main recipe inspiration here

 

Entitlement + Teens

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It’s been just over a week since our boy came back from his missions trip. A week since he travelled across oceans wide to serve in the rough communities of rural Ireland.

While he was away he was run ragged in the best possible way, rising early and going non-stop until pillows beckoned and eyes could stay open no longer.

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While he was away he served with his hands and his feet and his voice in ways that I can’t even count. There was tangible help to elderly, there were races against arrogant children taunting that they could totally beat him, there were choices about simply being a mature teen and staying calm and cool when the locals words made him turn a deep shade of red.

What we wish for our kids when they come back from something like this is that it would continue. That they’d come home and wake up the next morning and ask how they can get involved in their local community. That they’d rise early and make breakfast joyfully for their brothers because they’ve learned that sometimes that’s what serving looks like. That they’d quickly sign up for all of the church groups that are heading out to do great things and they’d rally the troops for family prayer because they don’t know how they’ll get through their day without it.

That’s what we WANT to happen. Of course, it’s not what DOES happen.

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Instead they come home weary and they crawl into their beds and in the morning there are cupboards filled to the brim with their favourite breakfast foods because that’s how we welcome them home. It’s how we want him to feel our love. With stuff. With comfort. With ease. I mean, serving was so hard – but your home now, little one. Come rest and eat some Corn Pops.

And they’re tired because jet lag is a real thing and so we let them laze around for a few days and during that time they reconnect on instagram with all of their friends and they watch a few movies and grab the playstation remotes and we tell them it’s okay, because they’ve worked hard. They’ve done a good thing.

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But all too quickly we’re feeding them a reward program for service and it looks something like being a sloth. Our actions are very clearly depicting that when you do something hard over there, across the world, it’s so nice to be back here in a sterile home with every comfort you could possibly want. You deserve it. Have another pillow. Well done.

Our souls have been restless this past week and we knew that this wasn’t how we wanted to do it. We’ve always taught our kids that being a missionary isn’t for the select few that head across the ocean but it is for all of us. If we are Christ-followers then we are called to make disciples wherever we are, not just the moments we choose, not just the times we head off and feel ready but every moment of every day.

As parents we understand so deeply the difference between telling our children something with our mouths and reinforcing it with our very lives. It’s so easy to tell our kids that missions happens right here. It’s way harder to pick up our cross and show them that it’s true.

By the very words of scripture we know that Jesus did not come to this earth to be served but to serve. But with our very words we’re showing our kids exactly the opposite. We ask things like, “What do you want to do today?” or “You’re bored? What would make you happy?” and we go on to do those very things.

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You want to go to the beach? Let’s go! You want a restful day at home? Done. You want spaghetti for dinner? Here you are! You’re annoyed by your brother? Maybe take some quiet time to regroup by yourself. Maybe put your headphones on so you don’t have to be annoyed. Maybe build a barrier because you don’t deserve to be annoyed. You deserve to be happy. And if it doesn’t make you happy – I know, that person is hard to love, they’re tiring to you, they’re so needy, they make you crazy? Probably you need some boundaries. Don’t let them wear you down. That’s not okay. YOU figure out what YOU need and YOU make sure that noone gets in the ways of YOU!

The words bring on waves of nausea and hurt the deepest part of my head. The disconnect causes turmoil in my heart and tension on every side of figuring out how we’re supposed to live and I think that it’s exactly how it should be.

I never want to feel overly comfortable; finding unending rest  and constant ease in life, I want to wrestle with which way to turn next. Sure, we can find rest in our homes and shut out the needy in the world. It’s easy. Close the door, turn on the tv and eat a bag of chips. We can even take a photo of the moment and broadcast to the world that God has given us so much joy and rest in this season. #blessed

But I can’t help but question if this is really the good life? Is this what we were made for? Jesus tells us the exact opposite but we’re struggling to find the words and actions to show our kids that this is true. Because netflix and popcorn sounds pretty great to them.

We changed our words over the weekend. We gathered the kids around and made it clear that our vocabulary was changing and for good reason. We’re breeding self-absorbed, entitled teens and we don’t like it, want it, and even more it’s not what we’ve been told to teach them. We haven’t been told to give our kids a life of ease and safety and comfort. We haven’t been told that showering them with everything they’ve ever wanted is the way to go. We’ve been given the example of Jesus life and He washed feet, while we play Halo and drink lemonade.

Our vocabulary change was simple. We made the choice, as parents, to change our sentence. No longer was our first mode of thought each day going to be, “What do you want to do today?” but rather, “How can you serve someone today?”

It’s small. It’s just a few words difference. But the entire meaning of how that changes our days is huge!

How can you serve? Here, in our city. Here, in our home. Here, in this country of privilege. Here, in your school where it feels like everyone already has more than you. Here. The place that we’ve been given. The place that God has planted us for now.

We want a paradigm shift and I may be bold in thinking it can happen but I really do. Change a few words, plead with God, feel the tension between the gifts we’ve been given and our self-absorbed nature and focus on what He focused on when He was here on earth.

Serve. There are a thousand ways but that’s another post altogether.