May 2012


It’s getting a little crowded. The eighty or so chicks, nine turkeys, and four ducks are growing growing growing and the little henhouse is about to burst at its seams. Thankfully, the birds can be let outside during the day, now. They are ready to leave the hothouse environment, where they’ve been kept warm and sheltered and protected, to venture out a little. It’s fun watching them checking out the big ole world.

I understand crowded. I know the challenge of sharing space.

I also understand the temptation to try to maintain a controlled environment. There’s a part of me that would like to keep my little chicks safe and protected and in my henhouse for as long as possible. Save them, as it were, from the elements that could cause them harm.

Can’t do it, though. They are growing and venturing and yes, there’s some danger and many unknowns involved. They will make their mistakes and suffer the consequences of them.

But they will also see and experience and enjoy so many things that I can’t help but be excited for them! To encourage them, even, to get out there and live their lives the best way they can. ‘Cause they weren’t meant to live their lives in the henhouse. They were meant for so much more.

It’s opener, out there, in the wide, open air.

Dr. Seuss – Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

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Until Sunday, I’d never been part of a foot washing ceremony. In the churches I’ve been a part of, well, we just didn’t do that kind of thing. But I have always loved the stories.

I love the story of the woman who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. The intimacy, the vulnerability. The imagining of it sends a shiver through my heart.

I see them all, he and his friends, gathered in that upper room. The feast, the knowing it was the end, the sadness over the pending betrayal, the bittersweet sharing of this last supper. I see him pour and kneel and touch and wash. I see tenderness, a lingering, as he bends over each foot. Knowing where each has been and where each must go. An anointing, in a sense.

On Sunday, my mother and my sisters and I gathered at my mom’s home to celebrate with her these past seventy years. Years of growing and living and marriage and children and grandchildren. Years of much love and many sadnesses. Of hello hugs and farewell tears.

So we gathered, mother and sisters and one granddaughter, and we spent Sunday morning together. And as a woman named Lisa bent over my feet, washing and rubbing and oiling and painting, I thought of him and of his friends. Of how good it felt and how sweet it was, to be together in that room, five women of common blood, sharing that moment.

Life can be so sweet, and my toes are pretty.

It has been almost a month since I wrote my last blog. Since then Shirley and I have spent several days in California, holidaying and attending the Bible Lectureship at Pepperdine University. We listened to inspiring speakers, attended great classes, heard wonderful singing and learned. After we returned home we spent a week in Smithers, BC, visiting Shirley’s uncle who had just been moved from the hospital into a care home. I will share a bit about these events at a later date.

Last weekend our three daughters were all home to visit and help Trey, our oldest grandson, celebrate his grade 12 graduation. We honoured Trey, took family pictures, looked at old photos, ate lots of food, reminisced and laughed. A tear or two was also shed as we watched the handsome 6 foot 4 inch young man wearing a big smile posing with his parents, grandparents and girl friend. I thought of “my little buddy” helping me build a fence, snow boarding down our drive way and practicing his golf swing on our front lawn and was proud of the man he has grown into.

I thought back to the time I graduated from high school many years ago. There were 175 fewer students in my graduating class and no stretch limos to take us to the banquet but it was still a significant event in our lives.

Honouring achievements and participating in ceremonies that celebrate important milestones in our lives create memories. They help us remember how far we have come and point us to the future.

And so I say congratulations to all of the students who are graduating from high school this month. Remember your accomplishments with pride and look to the future with anticipation.

It’s the May long weekend, the holiday Monday, and I am home alone. My husband is working, helping the neighbours get the last of their crop in before the rain comes. My youngest is at Grandma’s house, planting potatoes and rafting in the slough with his cousin. The oldest two are at a friend’s. They took their dad’s old Browning and the bows and they are out to get them some gophers. Pesky critters.

I am home alone. And I’m thinking of my friend, Anne, who I’ve been avoiding lately. Hello, Anne. My friend and I are trying to do some writing together. We’re trying to write about our boys and our homeschooling years and being a mom through it all, and it’s been hard. The ideas are rolling around, but the corralling of them, and the writing of them – not so easy.

A few weeks ago we gave ourselves an assignment. We decided we would each write about why we decided to homeschool. You know, way back when. And I’ve been wondering why this has been such a hard thing for me to do?

I have been homeschooling children forever. My oldest son is seventeen. I have one year left with him and then, poof. He’s done. We’re done. And I’m struggling with that a little, I think. As I’m trying to think back over the years to the mom I was when we began this journey, well, she sometimes seems like a stranger to me. And the reasons for the beginning are not the same as the reasons for the continuing or the finishing. And, really, as homeschoolers – what does finishing really mean?

Because how do I measure success? I have no idea how things would have turned out for us if we had not been homeschoolers. I can’t see how it might have been. I only see what is. And the truth is, it’s not perfect. I make mistakes and my kids do, too. Imagine.

Why do I homeschool? Here’s my short answer. Relationship.

As I near the end of my homeschooling years with my biggest boy, I am thankful for the shared time, shared space, shared words, and shared working-it-through experiences that we have accumulated together through the years. Because what that has resulted in, I think, is a unique relationship.

I think that I have a unique and interesting relationship with my almost-grown son because we chose to homeschool.

There’s nothing magical about it, really. It’s more a mathematical thing. I just know that my relationship with him (with all of them, and they with each other) is different than it would have been if he’d been traditionally schooled.

I cringe a little as I say these things. Because I don’t want anyone to feel judged, or to think that I consider myself better than anyone else IN ANY WAY. Most of my friends, all of whom I consider great parents and who have great kids, do not homeschool. So, while my short answer is relationship, the main answer for why we are a homeschooling family is because I feel God made us this way. It just seems right for us. The lifestyle, the way we live, the simplicity of it – it fits us. And because we are all uniquely made, I accept that homeschooling doesn’t fit everyone.

We homeschool because it feels right. How’s that for an airy, artsy, non-substantive answer?

Because homeschooling can be such a divisive topic, I haven’t blogged about it much. But the truth is, lately people have been asking. And I’ve been pondering, and Anne is waiting for my words. So, this is a start.

The original version of this recipe comes from my old Harrowsmith Cookbook, Volume 1, which was published in 1981, the year I graduated from high school. The cookbook was a gift from an old boyfriend, the vegetarian one, and I’ve made many dishes from its well-worn pages. The relationship was short-lived, but the gift has been a treasure. The Blueberry Crisp recipe, found in my cookbook on the stained and dog-eared page 222, has been a favourite.

I usually make this recipe with saskatoon berries, but frozen blueberries were what I had, so that’s what I made. The topping is the one I use for any fruit crisp I make, saskatoon, blueberry, strawberry, rhubarb. A perfect desert, especially served warm and topped with ice cream. This morning’s crisp is for a friend’s potluck birthday party this evening.

Here’s the original recipe, with the changes I have made included in brackets:

Crunchy Blueberry Crisp

Filling:

4 cups blueberries (or any fruit – I usually use at least 5 cups of fruit.The more fruit the better, I think!)

2 Tbsp tapioca (If I have it, I use it. If not, I leave it out. The tapioca keeps the dish from being overly juicy.)

1/3 cup sugar (Today, because I had organic cane sugar in my cupboard, that’s what I used.)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp lemon peel (This would probably be really good, but I’ve never included it. Just lazy, I guess.)

Mix it all up in a bowl, and add to a buttered 9″ square baking dish. I like to use one of my old wedding gift casserole dishes, because then I have a lid to use for storing any leftovers in the fridge. Also, I just like using those wedding gifts. I love that they, like the marriage, are still going strong!

Topping:

2/3 cup brown sugar (Again, today, I used my organic cane sugar.)

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup flour (I used spelt today, but I’ve used a variety of flours for this and they have all turned out great.)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

6 Tbsp butter (I got tired one time of measuring out 6 tablespoons and figured out that 6 tablespoons is really close to 1/3 cup, so I use the 1/3 cup measurement now. ‘Cause I’m a lazy cook, remember? And I melt the butter in the microwave. Makes the mixing easier.)

Mix all the topping ingredients together and place on top of berries.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

I’ve had so many compliments on this recipe over the years. It really is yummy!

It seems like such a big number. How can he be this number?

On the eve of his seventeenth birthday, his dad comes home from the neighbour’s fields and the evening is warm and lovely and the breeze is soft. And the old schoolhouse-turned-barn calls, and out they go. All my men, from top to bottom, to put a few rows of metal on the roof.

I stand at the bottom, looking up. And I see my husband at the top, calling to his sons. Hold it steady, an inch to the right, hold it, hold it. Below him, clinging to the roof like a monkey is the youngest. Whirling the power screwdriver in the air like a gun, blowing the pretend smoke away like in the old westerns. Passing tools between the older boys and his dad. Trying to be a part of what is going on. And then my big boys, together, as they’ve been for so many years. And I think to myself that they should be wearing their brave knight costumes and battling each other with plastic swords. Instead they’ve donned work gloves and they handle power tools, but wasn’t it just yesterday I was sending them to bed in matching footed jammies?

I can hardly watch. I imagine the falling and I hold up hands so that I have a shield of fingers through which to peek.

What are you doing? calls my husband to me. You have to watch, or you’ll miss it.

From the bottom, looking up at my men, I see the story of our family. Growing and changing before my very eyes. And I open my eyes wide, and I watch. Seventeen years have passed in an instant, and I know the precious gift I have. I don’t want to miss a thing.

Today will be the seventeenth time I make a cake for this boy. Chocolate, with vanilla ice cream.

Every summer I have a little love affair. I am head-over-heels in love with hanging the laundry on the line. There is a kind of poetry about it. It is a circle-of-life kind of task. Washing the clothes, harnessing them to the line, leaving them to the forces of nature, and then releasing them from the battle to be folded, sweet-smelling with the perfume of the wind, into their drawers and cupboards.

It is an ancient, womanly thing. It is one of those simple tasks that has been done, countless millions of times through history, and as I pin and unpin, I feel their breath in the wind.

As I am doing the laundry today, decorating my yard with the colour and fabric of my family, I pray for each of them. I ask the creator of the sun and the wind to bless the ones I love. The ones who wear the faded tees and the denim blues.

Laundry, today, is a prayer.

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In the midst of writing this post in my head, I read this facebook post by my friend, Nadine. It says it beautifully.

I am having a love affair with my makeshift clothesline. I love experiencing each article of clothing and pondering its purpose and worth. It’s such an act of love, to hang someone’s clothes. Makes me grateful and more mindful of the things I use.

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