Category Archives: Parenting with God

Keeping the Family Holiday

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Every summer since our first child was born, we make a trip to Ontario to see our families. Both my husband, Dan, and I are both from there and it was important to us to have our children develop relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We collect Aeroplan points, shop at stores to rack up our Airmiles and do all we can to make the trip possible. We have made sacrifices over the years to make the trip an annual event. All of our vacation money, new furniture money, and new vehicle money goes into that trip. I have to say, though, it has not felt like a sacrifice and it has been totally worthwhile. Our children have meaningful relationships with their extended family. The bonus of this trip is the family togetherness.

My children are now young adults, 16, 18 and almost 20. With busy schedules and summer jobs, as well as the end of August being preparation for returning to university, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to take a vacation as a family. As a matter of fact, this is the first year in which my oldest son, Maxx, will not be able to join us. Although four out of five of us are going on the annual Ontario trip, we wanted to take some kind of vacation, even if it was just a short camping trip so we could all be together. We tried to co-ordinate a trip to Vancouver; perhaps biking the seawall, hiking the Grouse grind and renting a boat for a day. This never happened. With Carlee and Jonah working as lifeguards at the pool, and Maxx’s position as a summer student forester with West Fraser Mill, we could not get 5 days in a row where everyone could leave work.

We came up with a brilliant solution! We decided to camp at Moberly Lake which was about a half an hour drive from everyone’s workplace. It was great! I am the only one who stayed all day, the entire 5 days to be there when people came and went (me, the one who doesn’t really like camping in the first place :)). Dan had his motorcycle, Carlee used our vehicle and Maxx had his own car, so everyone could come and go to where they needed to be. By the evening we were all together, ate dinner, played games, went for walks and just enjoyed each other’s company.

There is something about being away from home, where there are no distractions so you can just focus on being together in beautiful surroundings. It’s healing, bonding and necessary (at least for us). For as long as we possibly can, we will fight for this family time. Perhaps someday it will include spouses and grandchildren?

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Seasons

Spring is here! In Northern British Columbia we tend to have to wait a little longer than the rest of the country for the snow to melt and new  life to form. Some of my blog followers have noticed that my posts have been few and far between lately. I have been recently pondering this as to why that is. I admit to a sort of writer’s block. Life has had its challenges this winter season but there is something healing and hopeful about Spring, is there not?

Easter was lovely. Maxx was home and brought Kersten, his lovely girlfriend. We had fun going for walks, playing games, painting, watching movies and eating turkey dinner.

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Carlee Jonah, Kersten, Maxx, Daisy and Pepper

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Art Attack

 

Family walk

Family walk

There have been some significant changes in our home life. My oldest, Maxx, has gone to university. He is due back in a couple of weeks for the summer! Yay! My youngest son has transitioned from full- time homeschooling to almost full-time public school. Although we had a few bumps along the way, he is doing well and we are proud of him.

My daughter, Carlee, will be graduating this June and heads to Mexico in two weeks for a six week amazing experience of her life!  She will be travelling with her online school class, Heritage Christian Online School. The grade twelve class of the “brick and mortar” school (Heritage Christian School) out of Kelowna, BC, join up with several of the online students for a four week stay in Puerto Escondido (the west coast) where they will be doing a combination of high school courses, fun adventures such as snorkeling and horseback riding on the beach, and part-time missions work (building a soccer field and an after school program for the local children). She will travel inland for two weeks to Nopala and do a homestay with a Mexican family to experience the language and culture. Here, they will also be doing a children’s ministry and various work projects. The class will take in activities such as a trip to the Mayan ruins, visit an artesian presentation on rug weaving, attend a native dance and dinner, visit archeological sites, to name a few.

I know she will come back changed. How can you not with an experience like that? She will experience a different culture, independence, and hard work. She will meet lots of new friends and probably will keep a couple for life. Carlee jokes that we make her take a cell phone when she goes for a ride around the block on her horse, but we let her go to Mexico for six weeks? All joking aside, we are very confident that that she will be well cared for. We are excited for her, however, I am not looking forward to my “Carlee withdrawl!”

On the bright side, just when my season of “Carlee withdrawl” begins, Maxx comes home from university for the summer! Yay! Maxx will be working for West Fraser, as an “assistant forester” in Chetwynd, BC (about 40 minutes from here). He will have long hours but he is very happy for the position as this fits right into his forestry degree that he is taking at UNBC.

Soon after Carlee returns, her grandparents from Ontario and Aunt and cousin arrive and we will be preparing for her graduation. Carlee was homeschooled for almost all of her schooling except for a couple of courses at the local high school this year. We will be having her graduation “ceremony” and party here on our property. This will attract friends from all over the province. I am sure that will be a post of its own!

Both Carlee and Jonah will be working as lifeguards at our seasonal outdoor pool, here is Hudson’s Hope. I look forward to my aquafit work-outs and get particular pleasure out of having my kids as my instructors 🙂 . Our pool is one of my favorite things about Hudson’s Hope. The winters may be cold but the summers are beautiful and there is nothing like exercising on a beautiful sunny day in the pool!

Fortunately (for me 🙂 ) Carlee has decided to do a “gap” year, meaning she will not go off to university this year. She would like to take a couple of courses and work and save some money. She has been accepted to Trinity Western University in Langely, BC,  but she has deferred it a year.

So lots to do. Getting one kid off to Mexico, helping another move back home for the summer, getting the garden and greenhouse in, getting the house looking nice for company and a graduation ceremony/party….and  preparing for a busy summer of teenagers which is a really good thing! Stocking up on staples….chips, crackers, cookies, ice cream, juice, pop, pizza, lunch meat, cheese, etc. etc. Time for a Costco trip!

With Spring here and summer around the corner, I count my blessings of all God has provided for our family. As my children grow older, I know this season is precious. Embracing the “now” is essential to my happiness. Pre-empty nest, pre-weddings, pre- grandchildren. I look forward to those times as well; but right now I will savor these precious moments and look forward to the memories being made in the near future.

Writer’s Conference with Carlee

Carlee and I at the Surrey International Writer's Conference

Carlee and I at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference

What a gift it was to spend four wonderful days at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference with my lovely seventeen year old daughter, Carlee.  We arrived in anticipation, not really knowing what to expect as neither of us had ever been to a writer’s conference. I was excited to be spending this special time with her on our mother-daughter get-away. I don’t know what excited me more, going to a writer’s conference or going to Vancouver with my daughter for some much needed girl-time! One thing I knew: we were making memories.

We arrived the night before the conference. The hotel was already filling up with writers from far and wide, (later we had found out that there were writers from the U.S., Ireland, Scotland and Australia). We met a couple of writers on the shuttle to the hotel and “the” question had already been asked, “So what do you write?” Since we had not even arrived at our destination and being brand new to the writing world (well, publically anyway) we both stumbled and fumbled over our answers. I had not mentally prepared us for answering the question that I would be asked 100 more times that weekend. What do I say? I have many things on the go. Blogs, guest posts on blogs, magazine articles, devotions, a parenting book and a novel. What was my answer going to be? I basically gushed out all that information in a not-so-eloquent-fashion. Carlee, on the other hand did a little better than me. She said that she wrote lots of things including poetry and that she was working on a novel.  But we were both timid with our replies and promptly went on to rehearse them once they were out of earshot. By mid-way through the conference we realized the proper answer was a summary of the biggest project we were writing as well as the genre. My answer went like this: “non-fiction, a parenting book. Also, a novel: contemporary women’s fiction.” Carlee’s answer was, “a bit of everything but mostly poetry and fantasy.”

The conference began with our “Blue Pencil” sessions. We both chose the same author, Joelle Anthony, to review our work. She was very helpful, personable and encouraging however she told me a few things about my work that surprised me. She said I needed to be more comfortable writing more with my voice. I thought I did write with my voice but she pointed out that I begin with my own personality shining through and then I turn l formal and “lawyer-like” in my work. She stroked out all my “did nots” and “was nots” and made them into contractions! I was shocked. I thought contractions weren’t okay for some reason. She was super-helpful, so much so, that I booked another session with her later in the conference. She really liked Carlee’s work and said that she wished could write like that when she was seventeen! I think that was encouraging for Carlee to hear.

I had a “Pitch” session with an editor from Harper Collins Children’s Books, for my children’s picture book, Mommy Why Don’t You Drink Beer?.  It is a conversation between a six-year-old boy and his mother about alcoholism, recovery and sobriety. I was very nervous as I sat down to do this pitch. I started reading my index cards and realized how ridiculously rehearsed I sounded so I ditched the cards and just started talking to her. I realized that this editor was truly engaged in what I was saying. When I was finished, this woman told me honestly, that although she saw merit and value in this important message, the target audience would be too small to be taken on by a publisher. She commented that a book of this nature is one that would be self-published and perhaps I should look at targeting specific recovery groups (basically self-market). Although it was not the answer I wanted to hear, I did walk away with a sense of purpose. I wasn’t crushed, like I had expected, but came away with a renewed sense that the message of my book was important. If I had the funds to self-publish it, I would, however I don’t; so on goes my quest.

Every meal we would sit at a table with a different group of writers (and often, a speaker, agent or publisher). Everyone would go around the table and answer the question. We found it fascinating to hear what everyone wrote. The most popular genre seemed to be YA (young adult) fantasy. One young woman answered, “Well, I am the dark side.” When we asked her to expand on that she said she writes horror. Wow. She didn’t look like she wrote horror! She was just a well-dressed middle-aged sweet looking woman. The friend beside her said, “Yes her stuff is so scary, I cannot even read it!”  Interesting and a bit disturbing at the same time. What we did realized was that about half the writers we spoke to were not yet published. A popular term we began to hear was, “I am pre-published”, meaning not published yet.

The workshops were helpful and interesting. Carlee and I split up for the most part. Either there were two workshops that we both wanted to attend, happening at the same or we were interested in different things. It was ideal as we could split up and swap notes. The workshops that I found particularly helpful were, “Writing with Gusto”, “Creating a New Writing Life”, “The Six Key Scenes in a Novel” and “Self-Publishing”. Carlee’s favorites were “The Theory of Being Funny” and “Creating Imaginary Worlds”.

Although this was a secular conference, I was able to be honest in conversation a few times about how my desire was to write the words that God wanted me to write. This seemed like a new concept to some and not to others. I had a few very interesting conversations about God. I just prayed that God would use me as He saw fit.

I came away with a few practical key things that from the conference such as the Pomodoro technique of writing. You set a kitchen timer for 25 minute intervals and you write without stopping. You then take a 5 minute break (not a social media break). I have already tried incorporating this technique into my day and it is really working for me. The other epiphany that came to me during this conference was to write my novel. This was the reason why I started writing in the first place. It is the desire of my writing heart, but I have put in on the back burner, to build my platform, blog, write articles, and connect with other writers. All these things are important and help me grow as a writer but the novel is not going to write itself.

On short breaks between workshops and before meals, my daughter and I would meet up in our hotel room and flop on the bed, drained but happy. We would recharge and compare notes. I realized then, that somewhere along the line, our mother-daughter relationship has evolved into a friendship and writer-colleague relationship. I realized that there was no one else in the world that I would have rather been at that conference with. We are each other’s editors and biggest fans. We made lasting memories that we will always cherish.

Things change

In the past when I have read people’s blog posts saying something like, “well, it has been forever since I have posted….” or “I haven’t posted for a while but here goes…”, I confess, I was a bit judgmental. But… I get it now. People get stuck with their blogs for all sorts of reasons; life happens and circumstances change. This could potentially inhibit a writer or perhaps if you are like me, make me wonder if I should change the theme of my blog, start a new blog or just not have a blog at all. I am involved with other writing projects so it is not like I am not writing somewhere else. Then I think, it is my blog, I can do whatever I want!

As you know, this blog is called, “Life with My Teens…and all their amazing friends.” Well, one of my teens has vacated and gone to university and so did most of his friends, who were my other two teen’s friends as well. Here is where my mental block comes in. It feels like there was a mass exodus in our little social circle here. However, my two other kids are still here and lots of life is still happening. Also, lots of great things are happening for the kids that have gone off to post-secondary pursuits. Potentially there is a lot to write about. Truthfully though, I think I have been down in the dumps and a little bit stuck. I thought I was pretty good at handling change but I think perhaps that was a false perception I’ve had of myself.  Or maybe I am just getting older. Or both.

As I have stated in my previous posts, many times I am sure, Maxx, my oldest is at University of Northern British Columbia. For those of you that are not familiar with the area in which we live, that is about a five-hour drive from where we are now. In the grand scheme of things that does not seem very far. However, once the snow hits (which is about mid-October) the Pine Pass, which is the not-so-nice snowy mountain pass between here and there, makes it difficult to travel. The Greyhound bus does leave from a town about 45 minutes from here. Not only is it expensive ($160 round trip but hey, we are willing to pay as many times as Maxx wants to come home) but it arrives at four in the morning! We are willing to do the middle-of-the-night drive but these challenges don’t make it any easier.

Last week, it was a four-day weekend at the beginning of November. Maxx was going to come home! Yay! But then, the kids came up with the idea that Carlee, Maxx’s sister and Amanda (Katie’s sister who is also at university with Maxx and very good friend of Carlee’s) take the bus to Prince George and have a reunion with some of the amazing friends! It was Joel’s birthday (another one of the exodus kids) so why not go and celebrate there? Including the kids already in Prince George, there was a little reunion of seven of them. I was sad for me that Maxx wasn’t coming home, but happy for them that they got to be together. (I was also a little sad for the few of the gang that were either just a little bit too young or too far away to join them.)

They are good kids and I did not have a problem with my seventeen year old daughter going to hang out with her brother and friends at his university. They don’t party in the traditional way (of the alcoholic nature) and their plans included all going to church together on Sunday morning. How can you argue with that?

Jonah, our youngest son,  went  hunting and trapping with Mr. Biever, our very good friend who loves the outdoors and enjoys Jonah’s company. I was grateful for this opportunity for Jonah. This left us pretty quiet on the home front. Needless to say, once I moped a little, sulked and felt sorry for myself, I was able to enjoy in their excitement through various texts and Facebook messages. I was excited for them and it touched me how happy they were to all be together again. It made me think…..last summer these were all the kids having a tea party and staying at my house for the weekend. Now they are all having fun for four days in residence at the university without any parental supervision! Wow, overnight, times have changed.

I was even able to enjoy the weekend once I got used to the quiet. It gave my hubby and I time to talk about the future. We had some nice dinners: extra-large scallops, the really huge ones that I just cannot buy for the whole family because they are too expensive! We went out to breakfast, watched a couple of movies and just relaxed. Both of us commented on how this is what it will be like soon, with all the kids gone. It wasn’t a bad thing; it was giving us a glipse of the future. I am not ready yet, but I take comfort in knowing that God is preparing my heart for that day.

Back to School and those left behind….

 

I love the summer. It can be busy—or should I say just different busy? With our family vacation, all three kid’s working at the pool, aquafit , friends and family visiting – the summer has just flown by. I will add that this year we have also been preparing for my oldest son, Maxx, to go off to university. A few of our other close friends in our social circle are also preparing to head off to post-secondary venue as well. Many changes: exciting for those leaving, but harder for those left behind.

Our family will be taking Maxx and well as our friend, Katie, to University of Northern British Columbia at the end of August. I have been mentally preparing myself for Maxx to leave for about a year. I had a bit of a trial run last year when we left him behind on a vacation in Ontario for a couple of months  to stay with some dear friends. After that two months, I knew I would be okay when he actually left for university a year later. Well, it is a year later and I am not feeling as confident. I know that it is inevitable that all my children will leave, but the day has arrived where the first is actually leaving the nest. As hard as it is, these are a few of the things I am certain of:

I will miss Maxx terribly. The sound of his guitar through the walls, his steadfast quiet spirit, his voice of reason when I feel a little bit crazy, and his willingness to pray for me when I need it.

He will be ok. He is a capable, responsible, amazing young man who loves God and will seek his guidance continually. He is on the meal plan in residence…he will eat.

I will be ok. I will go into withdrawl at first, maybe cry in his room for a bit, but then come to appreciate his room as MY extra space where I can retreat to do writing, reading or watch a movie that no one else wants to watch. He also has a pretty awesome ensuite off his room which will also become MINE!

We will adjust. God will see us through the changes. We will all miss Maxx terribly, dinner for 4 just doesn’t sound right but we will look forward to when he comes home…Thanksgiving, Christmas and reading week.

Life will go on! I am still homeschooling two other wonderful kids that bring me great joy…56 days until thanksgiving.

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Maxx’s Tea Party

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“Mom, Trevor and I are having a tea party.” Huh? My 18 year old son wants to have a tea party? Why not? Maxx and Trevor work together at the pool. Both being young men, who made the choice not to drink alcohol, they were talking about tea. Maxx likes to collect various plants in the wild, and make tea out of it. There is often some kind of concoction brewing on my stove. Sometimes it smells enticing and sometimes not. Their discussion led to, ” Why not have a BYOT (bring your own tea) party?”

Maxx's tea biscuits

Maxx’s tea biscuits

Trevor's muffins

Trevor’s muffins

So when Maxx came to me with the idea of having a tea party, suggesting the festivity take place after he works a twelve hour day, on the same day as when I had to go to the next town to pick up Jonah, my youngest from the airport, I asked him who was going to prepare for this tea party? He assured me he would and that I wouldn’t have to worry about doing anything as he knew it was a busy day for me. He was having out of town guests come to this function and was trying to find a day that worked for everyone. Maxx’s idea of throwing a tea party (which he requested be a semi-formal event) was putting a bunch of tea out on the counter and mugs and everyone help themselves. Clearly my son needed a bit of help. I grumbled a bit thinking…”I guess I am preparing for this tea party” and my daughter said a very wise thing to me. She said, “Mom! Your 18 year old son wants to have a TEA PARTY!” ….meaning, I should count my blessings my son is excited about a tea party. Point taken.  With the help of some lovely female friends, we sprang into action: Out came Grandma’s teacups, china, goodies, candles and soft jazz music. Three kettles of water boiling and several pots of interesting teas brewing as well as a couple of iced teas. A selection of interesting flavours of tea arranged artfully. And of course I cannot forget the tea biscuits and muffins that Maxx and Trevor made ahead of time! That actually was particularly impressive!

Trevor

Trevor

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Maxx and Joel

The hosts arrived a  after their long day at work, along with their guests (some arrived before them) and everyone was dressed for the occasion. It was a beautiful summer evening so people chose their tea and their goodies and went out to the deck.

The evening was a success of drinking tea, visiting and playing board games. As I watched this amazing group of kids, my heart sang and I vowed to never grumble again when my son informs me he is having a tea party! (or anything of a similar nature).

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Joey, Grace and Jonah

Grace and Carlee

Grace and Carlee

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Katie Caralee, Grace and Kersten

Katie Caralee, Grace and Kersten

 

Kersten’s Grad

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Carlee and Kersten

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Kersten and Maxx

Our family has been busy with grad’s lately. None of them are actually happening in our family, however, four of my kid’s close friends are graduating which makes this is a important time of year. I would like to do a little mini-feature on a young woman who is very special to our family….

Kersten was born in Vancouver, at B.C Children’s Hospital. She moved to Tumbler Ridge when she was three and has lived ever since then. She has one older sister, 20 named Ellyanne. She is her best friend and  “loves her to death!”

Kersten was homeschooled up until half way through grade 9 when she began going to public school at Tumbler Ridge Secondary School (TRSS).

She has grown up in a Christian home, so she always knew about God and Jesus and how He died to save us. She made the decision to give her life to God when she was about 5. At that young age Kersten feels that though she obviously did not have a full understanding of what that meant, she has grown in the Lord over the years and is continuing on that journey to learn more about Him. When she was 13, she decided she wanted to be baptized.

She met my son, Maxx, at a combined youth get together that was hosted by two churches in her town and included his church in Hudson’s Hope, in the winter of 2011.  Kersten only really started to get to know Maxx though when they took their National Lifeguard Safety course together in Edmonton 2 years ago. She met my daughter, Carlee, at the youth get together as well and they started to get to know each other better at Maxx’s grad last year.

Kersten is going  to College of New Caledonia in Prince George, British Columbia, for her first year of her post secondary experience. She will be taking a one year Intensive Fine Arts program  and she is extremely excited! She is a very talented artist!

She does not  know what she is going to do after that however she is trusting that God will lead her to her next step in His time.

Even though Kersten lives a couple of hours away, she easily connected into Maxx, Carlee and Jonah’s peer circle. She is one of those genuinely sweet girls, with a kind heart, who is effortless to like and a pleasure to have around!

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blowing bubbles

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Maxx, Kersten and Joel

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Kersten and Danielle

Fashion comment : I want to take a moment to comment on Kersten’s gown. Although the most popular style for grad dresses and wedding gowns is strapless, I cannot say I have been a big fan of strapless. However, when I saw Kersten’s dress I thought it was lovely. My issue with strapless dresses is that they can be cut quite low and many girls look uncomfortable in them…like the dress is going to fall off:). Kersten’s dress was appropriately cut, very elegant, and with her hair down like it was, the colour of the dress combined with her hair is what was so striking. This is a wonderful example of how you can be fashionably modest!

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Lovely