Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Dowdy, If Not For Daughters

My most devoted fashion critic and makeover specialist is Claire.
Tiny, adorable, clever and independent Claire was also strong-willed, high maintenance and  rather high-strung. My fifth child, Claire was a beautiful little package of contradictions who gave me strife and hilarious joy, sometimes at the very same time. Most arguments were about clothes. Although her fashion sense has developed into a wonderful gift now that she is in her mid-twenties, at three and four-years-old this “gift” was a pain. Claire changed her clothes often throughout the day, from the age of two. Watching one of the few videos of our family, one of my older daughters pointed at the screen and laughed,
“Look at Claire. That is the third time she has changed clothes during this video!”
Sure enough, the pip squeak had another outfit on.4469404d0a64addfe8bcc67b59da8837
Claire was always aware of what she was wearing as well as those around her, which often led to disagreements about what she could and could not wear. Although she was a mature, articulate, fashion conscious three-year-old, I was still concerned that Claire was too young to start four-year-old kindergarten. When she stomped into the house after the first morning, ranting about a little girl who had worn a “jean skirt with a matching jean jacket”, I realized that it was the school which was not quite ready for Claire!

Alas, Claire's attention soon turned to her busy mother. I barely had enough time to make sure my dress was clean and I had brushed my teeth before I hustled everyone out the door. This changed when my daughters were in their late teens because they organized an all out assault to bring me into the 21st century. They took me to a hair salon for a cut and dye make-over, plucked my eyebrows, bought me clothes and make-up and forced me to throw out decade old comfy clothes. Claire has been the most persistent fashion advisor, however.
camille-pissarro-peasant-woman-1880-large-1147142136One evening as I tried to rush out of the house, Claire looked up from her homework, looked me up and down disapprovingly and asked, very slowly,
“Are you going out?”
I answered in the affirmative.
Claire continued, “And you’re wearing that?”
I nodded slowly. I knew the direction that this conversation was headed.
“I don’t think so”, she added, “Remember the navy pants that Melissa bought you for Christmas and the top that Rachel gave you on Mother’s Day? That would look really sharp with my light blue scarf and my little black belt. Could you pleeeease try it on?”
I sighed and trudged back upstairs because it was easier just to comply. I must admit that she was right. Of course, once I came down, Claire had to jump up to adjust the belt and re-tie the scarf but as a result of listening to my daughter’s fashion advice, Michael, my husband, was pleasantly surprised.
Really,though, Claire is an expert at changing outfits. She has been practicing since she was two-years-old.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Set Free to Write by Blogging

Four years ago, when I closeted myself in a room to sit down and write, I froze. I considered writing to be a solitary craft but looking at a blank screen or talking into thin air was a sterile exercise in futility for me. I could not translate the same creative energy that I experienced telling a story verbally to the keyboard. My intuitive, imaginative side stayed buried and my logical intellect wrote boring drivel.
Haynes King 1831 – 1904
Haynes King 1831 – 1904
I was struggling to start writing again, after raising a large family when I discovered blogs, blogging sites and  blogging directories. I snapped to attention.  Suddenly, I was thinking up a username,  a title for a blog,  looking at templates and design and layout. All these activities loosened up my creativity while I sat typing.
It was like an invisible barrier slowly melted, allowing my imagination to bubble up in a stream of written words that felt just as exhilarating as my oral tradition. I was  excited to start sharing written stories with other people, people who would read them,  respond, comment and give me feed back on what I had written.  Within weeks, I was no longer an island but part of a community of other writers who had the very same insecurities and problems as I did.
At first I felt like I had just stepped off a spaceship into an alien world, I did not know how to do anything. Reading directions on-line was useless, I couldn’t understand half the words they used, never mind how to follow their directions.womanwriting
Early on I read that bloggers, are supportive and unselfishly helpful, rejoicing in each others success and offering free guidance . Well, I discovered that  this statement is true. So if you are tentatively  wondering if you will fit in, fear not. If a computer illiterate, web dummy can learn while having loads of fun, you can too. Trust me.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

In the Burn Zone

It's -28 C outside with 50 cm of snow but in the study, where I tap on the keyboard, the wood-stove is in the burn zone, thawing out my brain.

Even though it is bitterly cold outside, my heart is burning with fervor and my thoughts are leaping for joy because at 60 years old, I am in the springtime of a new life. It doesn’t matter that it is freezing outside; inside it is warm by the wood stove. I am coming back to life. For the first time in 33 years, all my kids have basically moved out and I am free to write.
My body has not yet adjusted because the body remembers the tension and stress of running a household of eleven people. My body has not quite caught up to this new reality because as the mother of nine, I was always on call. My ears are trained, listening for the sounds of my children playing, working and sleeping , always ready to soothe or help.The result is that I am still tense, rushing to squeeze in some time to write when in fact, I have hours of the day where I am free. I am free to write, relax and enjoy the acres of land the surround our old house.
The subconscious too needs time to unwind long after the conscious mind has grappled with the past, let go of memories and forgiven. Then there are the pre-verbal, non-verbal parts of my soul that cannot be cajoled into coming out of their cave. Any sign of control or manipulation sends them scurrying back into hidingthey take the longest to warm up in the light and warmth of the truth.
Although I have not yet adjusted to solitude and free time, I am thankful for this new freedom to start to write again. The walls of ice which imprisoned my writing skills are thawing out. It might be -28 C outside with almost 50 cm of snow but in the study, the wood-stove is burning.
Yep, my heart is burning with fervor and my thoughts are leaping for joy because the wood stove and my mind are now both in the burn

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Unplug Kids From Technology with Crocheted Toys

I have been having fun crocheting toys for my grandkids. Crocheting is a cheap, eco-friendly way to bless kids and to encourage simple, back to basics play.  It is easy to unplug kids from technology with toys that attract and entice such as play mats, toys and loveable stuffies for old-fashioned play.
There are countless patterns for crocheted toys. Play mats were fun to make, especially knowing they will provide hours imaginative playtime. The first is a farm play mat. I added the woodland animal appliques and decided to use wooden or plastic farm animals with the mat.

This undersea play mat just needs to be made larger with a plain blue area for crocheted sea creatures.Again. I added the appliques from too many patterns to mention but there are countless patterns on Pinterest or on Goggle.
A hand puppet and finger puppets.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Mental Health: Coming Out Of The Shadows

Just like a person with poor eyesight needs glasses and a diabetic needs insulin, some very ordinary people have a chemical imbalance and need medication.
Mental health.
We make an appointment every year with their G.P. to check out their physical health and reluctantly arrange for a dental check up but why don’t we also have a professional mental health check up?
Some people might laugh off the implication there is anything wrong with them. Others might nervously skim the rest of this post, fearing to admit they have problems.  This question is far from ridiculous, though. Have you taken a good look around lately? What do you see and hear?
The modern society is stressful because people are anxious about the economy and job security. They have problems sleeping; many self-medicate with alcohol, drugs and cigarettes to help ‘take the edge off’. More and more sick days are the result of depression and other mental health issues. However it never enters most people’s minds to seek professional help until they are in a crisis; there still is a stigma attached to mental illness.
Most of us who do seek help, gloss over our issues saying we go for counselling because simply as a self-help resource. The labels are so damning.”Post-traumatic stress disorder, restless leg syndrome, depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, paranoia, panic attacks”….  The labels are a terrible stigma. Often people become ashamed and it is no wonder that they do.
Others usually cannot understand these unseen illnesses. So they simply fall back on age-old admonishments,
“Pull your self up by the boot straps.
Just push yourself.
Don’t be lazy.
What’s wrong with you, anyway?
You seem fine to me!”
But often mental and emotional issues are a simple matter of serotonin levels. Problems with anxiety and/or depression are merely wake-up calls for people to seek counselling and open mental closets, setting shadows free.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Irreplaceable Grandparents

Throughout history, and even now in agricultural, third-world cultures, extended families are the norm. Secondary attachments in such families enrich the lives of children. As the African proverb reminds first-world countries, “It takes a community to raise a child.”
Most discussions surrounding attachment parenting center on the role of parents. While it’s true that children thrive when nurtured by their primary caretakers, attachments to grandparents enhance the process. By offering a helping hand in caring for the children, grandparents provide their adult children with much needed support.
Unfortunately, secular society seems to believe that nuclear families should raise their children independently, even when both parents work full-time and have afterschool activities to manage. Conditioned in this way, families in need of help may hesitate to ask for it from anyone.  But grandparents have a wonderful way of establishing consistency in the lives of their grandchildren. They provide a sense of security, particularly for children whose parents are separated, live in poverty, have mental health issues, or struggle with addictions. Although articles on attachment parenting seem to address ideal families, I have witnessed families striving to maintain an image of perfection, eventually falling apart behind closed doors under the pressures of modern-day stress. It was grandparents who saw behind the masks.

Grandparents Connect Kids to Their Family History

Grandparents can be great role models, encouraging healthy development simply because they have the time and patience to spend playing, reading, and sharing family stories with their grandchildren. More importantly, they offer a sense of cultural heritage and family history, giving their grandchildren a sense of belonging to something bigger than their nuclear family. Of course, grandparents usually share similar values with their adult kids, so they can provide great parenting tips. They are natural babysitters who do not simply take care of their grandchildren’s physical needs, but lavish love on them. When my adult children have attended weddings or other overnight commitments, they only trusted me to babysit their little ones because they knew I had a heart-to-heart attachment with their kids.  When my adult children have attended weddings or other overnight commitments, they only trusted me to babysit their little ones because they knew I had a heart-to-heart attachment with their kids.

 The Bathing Grandmother

One of my daughters-in-law calls me The Bathing Grandmother. For months, she actually timed bath days with my visits because I knew how to bathe newborns without making them cry. For my grandson’s first immersion bath, my son tried bathing him efficiently, whipping him in the air from back to front just like the nurse had done in the hospital. Of course, the baby cried just like he cried in the hospital. Babies do not like efficient baths. When my daughter-in-law asked me to help her with the next bath, she was thrilled that my grandson did not cry. I had to laugh as she literally ran downstairs to tell my son how to bathe a newborn. It took  time to build up my daughter-in-law’s confidence, but I was delighted to pass on all the little tips I learned while raising nine children.

Encourage a Relationship with Grandparents

Even though modern families are often separated by distance and busy schedules, parents can encourage kids to develop relationships with their grandparents through the telephone, email, Skype, letters and pictures. However, an attachment with grandparents is deeper than mere physical relationships because children are connected to their grandparents through strong inherited bonds.

A Startling Encounter with My Granddaughter

I learned first-hand that grandparents and grandchildren are connected to each other when meeting one of my newborn granddaughters, Lila, in the hospital. She quickly turned her head at the sound of my voice and her eyes actually opened wide when she saw me. Her look was not blank, but wise as she looked deeply into my eyes. It was if she thought, “Ah, so this is what you look like; I remember your 12 voice.” She remembered the sound of my voice in the womb, and at six hours old, finally put a face to my voice. My granddaughter connected with my spirit when we looked at each other. I was taken aback for a moment, and the experience would have been completely unnerving if it had not been so profoundly sweet. There was a bond, an attachment between us, even before birth.

A Grandfather’s Prayers

These generational connections are powerful. In fact, a grandparent’s prayers bless grandchildren, even if they never meet each other. A friend of mine was given up for adoption at birth. However, her birth grandfather, Anthony, was a man of prayer who understood the painful sacrifice his daughter had made and prayed for his granddaughter and great-granddaughter for decades. When my friend’s daughter, Sarah, finally met her grandmother, they connected instantly; it was as if they had known each other all their lives. Sarah looked just like her grandmother, had a similar personality, sense of humor, and even a similar taste in clothes. When Sarah gave birth to a son, she announced, “I am going to call my baby ‘Anthony’.” Sarah did not know it at the time, but Anthony was the name of her

 Grandparents: Our Link to the Past

As parents who understand the value of attachment parenting, let us honor our own parents and invite them to connect with our kids’ lives even if it’s through technology. Grandparents are our kids’ link to the past, just as our kids are their grandparents’ hope for the future. The generations above and below us are irrevocably linked through blood lines, but more importantly, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
first published in Tender Tidings
To read the entire magazine for free click on the title below

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

All I Ever Needed to Know …

All I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten, from my mum, from God…and from Dr. Seuss.(Dr. Seuss quotes are in blue)
If  leaders of countries  and the  heads of corporations practiced what they learned as small children, the world would be happier, healthier and more peaceful. Perhaps people in power should listen as Dr. Seuss and I talk to my children.
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
Share and others will share with you.

More toys won’t make you happier.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
Always say please and thank-you.
When you are grateful and thankful for  even the smallest things, you will be happy.
Don’t take offense quickly or every insult  and slight personally; sometimes other people simply are having a bad day and take it out on you.
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
You can.create something beautiful today out of nothing when you are creative.
Pick up after yourself., don’t leave a mess.
Always do your best.
Don’t give up but finish what you started.
Think left and think right and think low and think high.Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!
Always take the smaller portion when you are offered a treat.
Admit when you are wrong.
You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

Ask questions if you don’t understand.

Don’t brag.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Today you are you!That is truer than true!
There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Say your prayers every night to reconnect to life, light and joy.
Remember that friends might come and go but family will always be there for each other.
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened
Try something new a few times before you decide you don’t like it.
Don’t pick fights or act like a bully just because you are bigger.Maybe Christmas … doesn’t come from a store.
Learn something new today.

Be true to yourself. Don’t try to be someone you are not.
A person’s a person, no matter how small
Always give others the benefit of the doubt.
Wash your hands before you eat and brush your teeth afterwards.
Being crazy isn’t enough.
Mean what you say and say what you mean
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.

Go play and have fun.
Forgive other people because you make mistakes too.
From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.
When we try to control people we steal their identity so quit being so bossy.
Cover your mouth when you cough, and don’t spread germs.
Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.
Tell the truth.
One lie will lead to another
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
Why fit in when you were born to stand out?
Have a bath every night
Laugh lots.
“I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.” 
Get enough rest so you won’t be cranky.
Don’t be afraid to try something new.
I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.
Eat healthy snacks.
Live in the present moment
The more that you read, the more things you will know.
 The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
Take off your dung-coloured glasses and look at the world clearly.
Look for people’s good qualities and not pointing out their faults.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Don’t Let the Dog In and Don’t Let Daniel Out

Life was especially chaotic after the birth of our eighth and ninth children because everyone was still fourteen and under. It was difficult to keep a sharp eye out for my new bundle of energy, Daniel.
As our second youngest, Daniel's basic character has always been pleasant and easy-going. His eyes are still twinkling and a slight smile graces his face. Most troubles seem to just roll off his back and his small smile often changes into a mischievous grin as he sits back on the fringes of our family stage and observes the emotional drama of his six sisters unfold. Teenage Daniel has learned a lot from observing teenage sisters.
One year, a high school religion teacher noticed Daniel's deep grasp of the feminine mind. During class discussions, after a few male students stumbled out vague answers to her inquiries  the teacher would turn to the class authority on girls,
"Daniel", she'd call out," You had six sisters; what do you say?"
Invariably, as my son started giving his opinion, all the girls would slowly nod their heads in agreement.
However, this agreeable, laid-back young man, was a real handful as a baby and little kid. With his little eyebrows lifted up in surprise, his eyes wide open, making sure he didn't miss anything and with his tiny, wiry body, squirming with energy, he was definitely alive. As Daniel peered over my shoulder one afternoon, staring at a friend of Michael's, the 'stranger' blurted out,
"Boy, is that baby ever awake! "
That short statement basically sums up baby Daniel's personality.
Once he learned to crawl, he was into everything and made sure that he reached his destination with great speed. Sometimes, after running to grab and scoop up this little bundle of happy energy, before he could dive into trouble, I would realize that Daniel's hands and feet would be still moving, as if he was trying to crawl in the air.
The pivotal point, where his crawling speed accelerated dramatically, was when he discovered the bowl of dog food. If the dog, Leisha, didn't come to eat right away or left food in his dish, Daniel was immediately crawling over to it as fast as his hands and knees would move. He'd grab a chunk of dried food in his hand and start gnawing on it.
Was he using it to teeth on?
Did I not feed that baby enough?
Did little Daniel actually like the gritty, hard, dry dog food?
I don't know.
All I do know is that when we moved the dog dish and huge bag of food to the back entrance, trying to hide it from this baby, he still found the dog food. When he reached the dog dish, he dove into it, chomping with gusto. That spot became Daniel's destination every morning while I was trying to get six kids feed, dressed decently, with notes signed, homework done, lunches made and packed and hair brushed and braided.

Finally, I reached my limit. We decided to move the dog dish and food right out of the house to the wood shed, even if it meant that feeding the dog became more complicated.
Did that stop the baby crawling cruiser? Not after he was out one day and saw the kids feeding Leisha.
The kids had barely turned away from the shed when the speedy crawler made a beeline to the dog dish.
From that moment on, I'd yell from the kitchen, as the kids headed for the front door,
"Don't let the dog in and don't let Daniel out!!"
Some mornings, as older children struggled to keep happy, eager Leisha from bounding energetically through the door, Daniel would crawl as fast as he could, duck through everyone's' legs and try to squirm out the door. Then kids would call out,
"Daniel's headed for the dog food again!"

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


If only adults could apply lessons learned when they were still preschoolers, our world would be a better place. Think about the basic lessons we teach our little ones so  the family runs smoothly.

listen to others respectfully
pick up after yourself
wait for your turn
you can't always get your own way
sometimes you have to wait
ask for help when you need it
treat others the way you want to be treated.
Why  there would be a world revolution  if big business and government actually lived by kindergarten rules.
Granted, life is messy and family life is especially messy because we "let our hair down" in our own homes. Yet it is in our chaotic  homes where we learn to see and love each other when we are not wearing our masks.  In family, divergent personalities learn to live under the same roof.
Each member is unique.
Often at odds.
Still part of the same family.
These skills are essential for our families to live in love but even more so for society to thrive.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Humourous Survival Tips From Mother of Nine9

The following quotes, written by Melanie Jean Juneau, are child proof, child tested and  guaranteed  to turn any child created disaster into a comedy in minutes.

Useful  tips for every mum, dad, uncle, aunt, grandma, grandpa and godparents, houseguest, friends….

Kids need time to be bored; that is how creativity is born.”
Ignore the bad and praise the good.
The only thing that could kill you as a mother of nine is pairing socks.

“Never let little ones become over tired and never let them become too hungry. If you do, you will create a clinging wimp, or a raving monster.
Babies are pre-verbal, not idiots.
Children help you forget what is not important.
My ceiling is my children’s floor.
Don’t get upset over messes. It is just part of the normal routine.
More children are easier than less. If you have one or two kids you ave to be everything for them but with three, community starts.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015


Raising children is definitely not a default chore for women
who were not successful in the world of business, power and wealth.
Exactly how society forms the next generation
will directly influence
the kind of society they turn create.
Do we want a world focused
only on the accumulation of wealth?
Are we  creating a race of humans
who are becoming increasingly
cold and
about relationships, family and love?
A  smile
for the wisdom of mothers
for the suffering
necessary to acquire
not knowledge.
Painful regret
for this hectic modern society
scrambling after glitter
success while pushing the wisdom of mothers
to the fringes of influence.
Joyful hope
that mothers will reveal their unique
to a jaded cynical world,
which has forgotten all is fleeting
except Love.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Words of Wisdom From J.R. Tolkien

J.R. Tolkien was a respected scholar, professor, devout Catholic, and author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This genius created a complex world with a history, geography and many realistic languages. Yes, Tolkien's Middle Earth is a fantasy world but not an insipid, fluffy world for little girls. No, he wrote profound literature, filled with complex characters and plots, universal themes, and symbolism with layers of meaning. I have dug up some of his quotes from his books which have something to say to us about life.