Posted in Helping Others, Motherhood

We’re Building A Medical Clinic in Honour of Our Caleb :)

EXCITING UPDATE: A week after launching this fundraising campaign, we are already at $931 raised!

Our goal is $7000 CDN by December 31, 2016.

That’s right – It only takes $7000 CDN to renovate existing space in the village of Ascension in Dominican Republic, provide necessary equipment, and purchase the initial medicines needed for the clinic. Will you consider joining us in realizing this dream? Thank you! 🙂

Our Story…

This year would have been Caleb’s 13th birthday year. Caleb is our middle son, and he was stillborn in May 2003. Some birthdays are milestone birthdays, and we do something a little different, and make the event a little more special. 13 is one of those milestone birthdays.

Instead of our annual balloon launch, we are partnering with our friends at Go MAD (Make a Difference) in Dominican Republic. We have been getting to know the people and the work of Go MAD for a few years now, and we love them and what they do.

They are in need of a medical clinic in the village of Ascension. We visited this village in 2011 and again in 2013. There is a definite need for basic necessities, health care, education, life skills training, and more.

Josh has always had a dream to build a medical clinic in honour of our Caleb, and when we discovered the need in Ascension, we knew this was just the present we wanted to give to other families for Caleb’s 13th birthday. The chance of good health, full life, and most importantly the chance of hope.

Consider giving in honour of a loved one in your life – whether it’s a tiny baby, a child, a family member, a friend, or another person who has touched your heart in some way.

Give hope – that’s one thing our Caleb has taught me – even in the most challenging and confusing and trying times and places of life – there is always hope.

Our goal is to raise the funds by December 31, 2016.

This video tells a bit more about the DR and Ascension, about Go Mad and their partner TEAL.

 

And let me encourage you with some pictures…

Josh drew this picture many years ago, as he let the dream start to grow in his heart of a medical clinic in honour of our Caleb…

Josiah drew his version of the clinic as Josh shared the dream with him…

Pinecone art for a university Fine Arts class that Anna took – inspired by the emotions she feels whenever they visit Caleb’s burial site – there is a tree full of pinecones there and we decorate Caleb’s memorial stone with them every time we visit…

More art from Anna’s university class – inspired by mission trips to the village of Ascension in Dominican Republic. There is a big gap between our standard of living and what is found there, and we hope to bridge that gap with a medical clinic in Ascension…

Posted in Life, Motherhood

What About When Life Isn’t So Simple?

Sometimes life is complicated. Sometimes it’s anything but simple. Sometimes the answers are a long time coming, and it’s really hard work to get to them.

It’s harder still when you don’t even know the answers you’re searching for.

Sometimes it’s confusing, and frustrating, and seriously trying.

The farthest thing from simple.

I’ve been on a very complicated, confusing, frustrating, and trying journey for about 5 years now.

And for now, the journey has taken a new turn, a stop at simple, at least for a time.

Wow – I’m relieved – to put it mildly!

I feel like I could fall down and sleep for a year.

In fact, in quite uncharacteristic dramatic fashion, I lay down on the kitchen floor last night as my oldest son was trying to tell me something about his day.

He looked at me in exasperation because I wasn’t listening in the least.

All I could say was “Don’t you see? It’s all OK! At least for now – there’s nothing else to do about it! And it might be OK forever! It might just keep getting better and better!”

He mustered a “Ya, that actually is pretty cool” and just kept on walking past his crazy mother.

A similar conversation happened in the car after a doctor’s appointment with my youngest son yesterday afternoon.

He just couldn’t grasp the great news we’d just received – that no more appointments were necessary – no more physio, no more special orthotics, no more hospital tests, no more doctor’s offices.

I tried to make him understand – but I got the same look of exasperation and amusement all mixed together in one facial expression.

Both my boys think I’m nuts.

But really I’m just totally and completely relieved – shoulders drop and I put my head back on the chair – I look up and close my eyes and… Thank You Lord.

You’re probably wondering what in the heck I’m talking about…

Let me share a story with you…

Five long years ago my youngest son woke up screaming in the night. He was 6 at the time, and he had intense pain in his legs. After three hours we were able to settle him into sleep again.

A visit to the doctor suggested growing pains. I was less than impressed. I did the online research and found out growing pains can be very, very horrible for some kids (our oldest son just had a mild bout at around the same age as his younger brother), and learned some of the coping techniques like warm baths, massage, stretches, pain relief pills, etc.

Over the next few nights I tried them all. Plus a visit to the chiropractor.

The pain didn’t ease up for Elijah, and it became a nightly occurrence, and it lasted a very long time.

On one of my less-than-stellar-mother days I threatened to take away all the things he loved in life – TV, toys, video games – ya, great mommy moment. I was absolutely done, hubby was away for work, and my parents were staying the night to help me drive the boys back to their house for a few days while Josh was away. We were having car trouble as far as I can remember, because usually I’m just fine to drive the few hours to my parent’s house on my own!

So… at this point I was giving Elijah children’s pain relief every night, giving him a soothing warm bath, and doing stretches and massages on his legs. It was quite a process every night, but I knew there were families dealing with alot worse (the year before we had spent a week at the Children’s Hospital in Ottawa because Josiah had a very rare, very bad infection in his eye – ugh – let’s not get into that just now!) so I kept going.

After a couple of months the nightly pain seemed to taper off, and I was so glad to say the least. I chalked it up to a bad case of the growing pains.

Fast forward about 6 months and suddenly the pain returns, but only in one leg, and he feels it in his toes as well.

He’s a little older and can explain things a little better to me, and he tells me it feels like butterflies behind his knee.

WHAT?!

No, not this again, and what’s with the adaptations?

So we try the old routine until we can get in to see the doctor.

We discover that a heating pad wrapped around his knee does the trick (and one around his toes too).

This seems to hold the discomfort at bay when he tries to lay down to sleep (thank God!).

The doctor recommends a round of blood tests, x-ray, and ultrasound.

We do them all, me wondering about all sorts of diseases and illnesses, trying to keep Elijah calm about it whenever it came up in conversation.

He’s my new hero because of all he goes through – usually smiling at the doctors and nurses, bringing out the best in them.

Then there’s me with white hairs growing in by the second and worry lines forming on my forehead🙂

And after all the tests… nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

Maybe he’s playing it up for attention, Anna. Maybe it will pass shortly Anna. Maybe there’s really nothing there Anna. Time will tell Anna.

This is what I hear from the experts. I try not to be bitter. But I sort of am.

And I buy into it for a while – that there’s really nothing wrong. That he’s just trying to get attention. That all this effort and worry is for nothing.

I go back and forth for quite a while.

Because the nightly discomfort goes on for quite a while.

And it starts to creep into his days whenever he’s sitting for too long or resting for too long.

Activity makes it better, sometimes he even has to get up and walk around at night so he can fall asleep.

I hear him turn the heating pad back on if he wakes up in the night, and when he gets up in the morning and reads in bed.

This constant reminder that something is not right.

And no one knows what it is.

Not even the experts.

And some days I waver more than others in believing there really IS something wrong.

Then one day – he’s now about 8 years old – yes, this has been going on for a LONG time – Elijah tells me about how he wishes he could just fall asleep like a normal person.

Without a heating pad, without discomfort, without worry.

I look at him and think to myself – Why can’t he have that? Why can’t we figure out what’s wrong and solve this problem for him? It’s obviously not going away on its own. Time to go back to the doctors. This time we push it until there’s answers. Something IS wrong. Elijah doesn’t go around lying for no reason, or seeking attention without reason, and especially not for THIS long. 

So we chat about it, about going back to the doctors, about more tests, about more questions, about maybe them not believing there’s anything wrong and how we would handle that – and he agrees to try again.

When the doctor finds out Elijah is STILL in nightly discomfort she agrees to more tests. She agrees it’s not just growing pains. She agrees he’s not making it up. A good start for sure.

We don’t have to redo all the tests, we just have to wait for an appointment with a pediatrician. This takes a few months, but we get in to our favourite pediatrician. He’s the one who sent Josiah to the Children’s Hospital for his eye (we believed he saved his life that day), and he’s the one who ordered a chest tube for Elijah just after he was born to get rid of the air pocket that was forming outside his lungs (he definitely saved his life that day). He’s basically our hero. And here he was again, helping our boys live to the fullest.

By the time we get in for the appointment, Elijah is 9 years old. It’s been three years of discomfort now – but at least the screaming discomfort was only the first few weeks of this whole ordeal. At least it’s manageable at this point. It’s not slowing Elijah down at all. Just not helping him sleep at night. Just worrisome, frustrating, tiresome, annoying, confusing.

The pediatrician calls for an MRI. Oh man, we’ve never had to deal with one of those before. And we’ll have to wait.

In the meantime, he notices one of Elijah’s legs is slightly shorter than the other (possibly due to a nasty fall on the growth plate when he was 2), and orders a lift insertion for his shoes and physiotherapy.

The lift we get very soon from our footcare specialist. The MRI we get within a couple of months. And the physiotherapy we get… on a waiting list. A LONG waiting list.

The MRI shows nothing wrong with the hip. And Elijah was so brave – such a little guy in that big, loud machine.

But the MRI shows something else might be wrong with his upper leg – there’s a mass that needs to be re-examined.

WHAT?!

So he goes back into the MRI machine a few weeks later and… it’s all good – just a cyst – pediatrician says nothing to worry about.

WHEW.

Elijah is now 10 years old. The heating pad still works wonders at night, but he’s developed a strange web-like appearance on his leg.

A trip to the doctor’s tells us it’s from the daily use of the heating pad – bringing the blood more to the surface of the skin. When he’s able to stop using the heating pad, the skin discolouration will disappear. Nothing to worry about.

WHEW.

Elijah continues to be a very active, healthy, growing-like-crazy boy. This brings me so much joy, but the nagging unknown gets to me every night as I hear the heating pad turn on yet again.

Then I need physiotherapy for consistent hip and back pain, and I discover our sons are covered under Josh’s benefits for a few physiotherapy visits each year.

So I book Elijah in with my physiotherapist while we wait for free physio offered by Ontario health care. But it’s been over a year now, so I’m not holding my breath.

My physiotherapist does her assessment, Elijah is very patient, and she gives him some exercises to try at home. He’s pretty excited at first, and he’s pretty diligent – he knows this should help with the knee. After the covered benefits run out, I consider just paying the quite-expensive fees out of our pocket, but summer comes and we’ll be travelling, and he says it’s not really helping anyway.

Another lull in progress.

The fall comes and we get a call from the pediatric physiotherapist that works for our city, and I ask Elijah to keep trying, to go see just one more health care worker. He agrees, and he goes through another assessment. This young man has now officially gone through more poking and prodding and tests and assessments than I can even count. I marvel at his patience.

This physiotherapist is trained to work with children, and she’s amazing, and she’s thorough, and she becomes the major key in our quest for answers. We didn’t know this when we scheduled our first visit with her.

She gives Elijah exercises to help with his now-aching back, his sore shoulders, and his extremely tight hamstrings. And she notices he needs an adjustment to his orthotics. And wants to send him for one more MRI to check on the area behind the knee instead of the hip. Elijah is less-than-thrilled about all of it, but he keeps trucking along in an effort to get to the bottom of his dilemma. I marvel at him some more.

I watch him leave the house with his daddy at 6am on a dark, cold winter morning – for another MRI appointment. Josh says he’s a super-star, and the noise didn’t bother him this time, and he’s a charmer with all the nurses. That’s my boy.

The MRI results are the final piece needed to solve the not-in-the-least-bit-simple puzzle of Elijah’s 5-year leg discomfort.

He’s got an old injury. They say it looks like a sports injury. The ligaments behind his knee don’t join up properly.

WHAT?!

How many times have I asked that on this long journey, I don’t even know.

My now 11-year-old son has an old sports injury that’s been causing him trouble since he was 6 years old. But that does explain the “butterflies” he used to describe to me.

I wonder to myself… What did you DO Elijah?

I run through all the nasty falls, bumps, scrapes, bruises, etc. of the last few years – BEATS ME.

Could be anything really – take your pick – there’s LOTS to choose from!

But I’m so happy for the results, and I gush over the physiotherapist, and I thank her repeatedly, and I hug Elijah when we leave, and I smile big smiles.

But the hard work of getting better continues.

Every day there are exercises for Elijah to do to strengthen around his knee, and exercises to ease his sore shoulders and back and tight hamstrings from carrying his body a little funny these last few years.

He keeps at it, and I keep nagging when necessary, and I do the exercises with him to try and get a smile from this weary fella of mine.

It’s been a long journey – it’s gone on for about half his life – he probably can’t even remember a time when he DIDN’T have leg problems.

(And let’s not even mention the barracuda slicing his other leg and needing 10 stitches on a recent family vacation to Cuba – it’s just been INSANE with leg problems for Elijah. That’s one scar he’ll never get rid of, and may need cosmetic surgery if it doesn’t heal right – we won’t know for A YEAR – ugh!)

But there is such good news at the end of this story – or at least this time of calm in the storm (he may need minor surgery if it gets worse as he gets older) – we went to the doctor yesterday and Elijah is…

CLEAR for no more physiotherapy (his shoulder and back aches are gone, his hamstrings are much more loose, and his knee discomfort is much better!)

CLEAR for no more heel lift (his hips are the same height now!)

CLEAR for no more appointments, or tests, or anything for 8 months!

YES! NICE! CAN I GET A HIGH FIVE!

So as Elijah sat across from me in the car in the parking lot at the doctor’s office yesterday, looking at me like I was crazy, me asking him how he wanted to celebrate, congratulating him on the excellent effort he’d put in to get better these last few years, marveling at him for going through all those tests, reminding him of all the days I’d had to pull him from school from appointments (not sure he minded that one too much🙂 ), explaining to him it was ALL OVER for at least a while – he just smiled at me in his relaxed way, told me I was getting really excited for nothing, and we didn’t need to celebrate, and la la la la la…. it struck me how this has all become so normal for him.

What was not-simple-in-the-least for me, was simple for him – get the answers. Do what you have to do. Focus.

Maybe he was just reminding me what I’d told him a million and one times through the last five years? What I’d lost sight of in the complicated and confusing and frustrating?

Just… Keep… Going.

Eventually you get there.

Thank you Elijah for all you taught me the last few years on this journey of the Mysterious Pain That Wasn’t Really Pain But More Discomfort.

I’ll have to come up with a shorter title🙂

Posted in Good Eats

September Menu Plan

So… I create monthly menu plans to make life much more simple for me. Yes – it’s all about me. Imagine 3 hungry men coming at you every night with the same question, and never knowing the answer…

What’s for dinner?

Such an innocent question, but so loaded with angst for me.

It should be an easy answer, but… What’s in the fridge? What did we have last night? What’s on the schedule for tonight? Do we have any coupons? (No, wait, we can’t eat out AGAIN!) And so the angst cycle begins.

Many moons ago I realized I’d love to develop menu plans – they’re all the rage in simple living books and blogs. How hard could it be right?

Well, it took much trial and error, and required me to get rid of alot of people-pleasing tendencies (because not ALL of us like ALL the dinners I make).

A big factor for me was fitting all this required food into the budget. And the budget has expanded as my boys have expanded (vertically🙂 ). And that’s perfectly fine.

When we started on the Food Box program that was a challenge as well, because I never quite knew what would be in the box every week! I had to learn to cook with what I was given, instead of buying food needed for recipes I’d chosen beforehand. Quite a switch for me, let me tell you. But I think I’ve mostly got the hang of it, and many of the things in the Food Box are seasonal or similar every week, so I’ve learned to roll with that as well. Sometimes the menu plan becomes an idea outline instead of a set-in-stone regiment.

Here’s our September plan – let me know if you’d like a recipe and I’ll start to type them up🙂

 

BREAKFAST School Lunches – 8 Items AFTER-SCHOOL SNACK DINNER – 1st Week & 3rd Week DINNER – 2nd Week & 4th Week
MONDAY Muffins/Smoothies 1-Pizza/Sand./Leftovers muffins Chipotle Meat, Rice, Torilllas – Double It Thai Chicken Stir Fry – Double It
TUESDAY Breakfast Cookies/Smoothies 2-Yogurt popcorn Chili with Nachos, Buns, or Hot Dogs – Double It Spaghetti Pie – Double It
WEDNESDAY Muffins/Smoothies 3-Fruit muffins Sausages or Salmon & Salad BBQ Skewers, Rice, Broccoli
THURSDAY Breakfast Cookies/Smoothies 4-Vegetables popcorn Eggs, Beans, Toast, Tomato Crock Coup – Lentil & Veg
FRIDAY Sausage/English Muffins 5-Granola Bar/Muffin choc bar Burgers or Salmon & Salad Burgers or Salmon & Salad
SATURDAY Pancakes/Bacon 6-Treat Homemade Pizza & Raw Veg Homemade Pizza & Raw Veg
SUNDAY Anything Goes 7-Juice Can Leftovers or Potluck or Crock Pot Recipes Leftovers or Potluck or Crock Pot Recipes
8-Bottled Water
N O T E S 🙂
MONTHLY BAKING – Portion & Freeze ALSO MAKE DESSERTS BEDTIME SNACK
Cereal Squares 2 Granola Bar Recipes for Us Fruit Cereal
Choc Chip Bars Ice Cream Toast
Choc Snack Cake Cake Fruit
Peach or Apple or Berry Cake

In addition to this plan, I also have a few frozen pizzas on hand for hunger emergencies🙂

Having everything mapped out like this really helps with making the grocery list as well – SO NICE!

When I scan the weekly flyers and make note of the sales, then I can stock up for the recipes coming, or for next month if I’ve already got everything I need for the current menu plan.

What’s for dinner you ask? … well let me just check… 

See how easy that can be?

Yep, lovin’ it!

 

Do you menu plan? If so, do you have any tips for the rest of us?

Posted in $$$$$

Financial Freedom – What Does It Look Like For Us?

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A few weeks ago I wrote about an idea for working towards Financial Freedom in 1000 days – it was 1000 days until Josh’s 45th birthday and that seemed like a great goal to have over the next not-quite-three years🙂

I do tend to get ahead of myself and jump into things with great gusto, and often need to refine the ideas after the initial sharing of them with the world.

So I’ve had to do a little refining.

But never fear – Financial Freedom is still on the horizon.

Let me tell you more about our updated goals and dreams, about how we hope to achieve Financial Freedom, and what that looks like for us.

Because everyone’s view of Financial Freedom is a little different – even when comparing my view to Josh’s view – hence the update🙂

Financial Freedom Goals & How We Hope To Achieve Them

$1030 still to be paid in car repair – by early 2017 – use $200/month from budget in auto repair & maintenance

$520 still to be paid for new laptop & Chromebook – by early 2017 – use Kijiji sales & Shoppers Optimum Points redemptions – 2 x at least $200 (I have enough points for 1 redemption, and 1/3 of the points for a 2nd redemption) – when I use the points to get free groceries, hygiene items, etc I can take this money from the budget and use it to pay for other things – you can actually get some pretty healthy grocery options at Shoppers now!

$600 needs to be paid for purchasing hard copies of (all TEN! Wow – cool!) of my books – sell the books! (want one?😉 )

$12,000 saved in TFSA for Emergency Savings – by late 2018 – use monthly $ we receive from the gov’t for new Child Bonus

$175,000 Principal Mortgage paid off – by 2023 (when we are both age 50) – use positive cashflow from rental properties to double up on mortgage payments + allocate some of our income tax returns and extra income to make lump sum mortgage payments + take equity from rentals when time to renew mortgage if needed

$130,000 – $150,000 in RRSPs – by 2039 (when we are both 65) – contribute $100/month – currently contributing $85/month so we need to increase by $15/month

TOTAL Short-Term Debt = $2050

TOTAL Emergency Savings To Build = $12,000

TOTAL Principal Mortgage To Pay = $175,000 (+ interest accrued before paying off = about $20,000 more – ugh!)

TOTAL RRSPs to Build = $130,000 – $150,000 (depending on how the market goes and if we can find good investment opportunities that earn about 5%!)

**I’ll give an update every month to help me know exactly how we’re doing**

 

Here’s something I wanted to share… I charted an image for y’all…

image

I left out the actual numbers, but I wanted to show you something really important…

A little goes a long way, and slow and steady wins the race.

Josh and I started out with so little. So we only had a little to put away every month in RRSPs and RESPs once the young ‘uns came along. And we only had a little to put towards a mortgage on our first home. But you know what? That little sure has become more than I thought it ever would. I am officially a believer.

The blue line is our RRSPs.

The red line is our RESPs.

The yellow line is our Real Estate Equity.

What does this chart mean to me? It means that God faithfully provided, we anxiously learned, and hard work was nothing foreign to us.

It also means there were many generous and giving hearts that helped us along the way with their time or their ideas or their resources.

But it also means we were able to be the generous and giving hearts when we felt God was asking.

There is much more to share about Financial Freedom in the coming months.

I’ll end this post with these thoughts…

 

What does Financial Freedom look like for us?

  • Debt-Free
  • Mortgage-Free
  • Emergency Savings Fund that equals about 3 months of current take-home pay
  • Resources in place to pay for all or most of our son’s education
  • Resources in place to supplement gov’t pensions in retirement years
  • Ability to choose employment schedule
  • Using gifts/passions/abilities to support our needs
  • Time/health/resources to pursue dreams

 

So… it doesn’t look like quitting any and all jobs, scrimping like crazy on all our household needs, never taking a vacation, sacrificing to the extreme, and moving into a 1-bedroom house. Nor does it look like living a life of luxury on a yacht in the Mediterranean or eating caviar every night😉

It does look like continuing with the mindset we’ve had all along – slow and steady, and a little goes a long way. It looks like choosing our activities wisely (be it employment, volunteering, or hobbies) to match up with who God made us to be. It looks like being truly available to live in the moments of each day – whatever the days bring. It looks like enjoying the finer (and mostly free🙂 ) things of life with our family and friends. It looks like peace of mind, sharing what we’ve learned with others, equipping the next generation, and all the things we already crave for more of in our lives. It looks like spiritual, emotional, and physical health. It looks like defining who we are by a different set of standards than social norms.

Spending less than we earn, being fun and creative with saving money on the things we need (and want!), reveling in the challenge of living counter-culturally, and not being afraid to be our wacky frugal selves (wait, the wacky part is just Josh, and the frugal part is just me😉 ).

That’s what financial freedom looks like.

And we’re getting there…

🙂

 

What are your thoughts on Financial Freedom? What does it look like to you?

Posted in Motherhood

“Be More Heart and Less Attack”

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While I was taking a break the last couple of weeks, I went away on vacation with my family🙂

We listened to alot of music in the car, and I found myself belting out this tune whenever it come on – More Heart, Less Attack by Need to Breathe.

The song lyrics went along with this nugget of wisdom I found in the first few pages of  Personalized Promises for Mothers by James Riddle (I always take a pile of books to read, and usually get through a good chunk of pages before the vacation is over):

“The Word says to train our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4 KJV) Notice that nurture comes first. If we show our children love, spend time with them, become involved in what they are doing, and teach them with a heart of compassion, we will eliminate most of the need to discipline them.”

I really resonated with these words.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines discipline as:

  • control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behavior

  • a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules or orders

  • behavior that is judged by how well it follows a set of rules or orders

This is how I used to mother my boys when they were younger. Rules, order, obedience, punishment, control.

It was a struggle to figure out what I heard about this verse:

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” – Proverbs 13:24
And this verse:
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4

When my kids were going through their darkest times – trying to figure out the world around them, their place in it, all their emotions, temptations, and relationships – I was expecting even more of them in blindly following social norms. Somewhere along the way I started to realize this was how their whole world was revolving – at school, on sports teams, even when it came to faith.

They were constantly measured by how well they were adhering to the norms of whatever environment they found themselves in.

And I was missing out on just getting to know my sons.

Don’t get me wrong, of course some rules are required, and there are some social norms that just need to be followed in order to live in our world, but there’s this other Bible verse that has grabbed me and just won’t let me go. Now I’m at the point where I hope it never does. I think freedom and full life are waiting in this verse…

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

So I’ve learned that a shepherd’s rod is usually used to gently guide the sheep, that a shepherd would never hurt his flock intentionally, that I am a sheep myself and my Shepherd loves me in the most humble ways, and that my Shepherd is so patient as He guides me on the path He has laid out for me.

I want to be the same for my children.

I’ve learned to pick my battles. I’ve learned when to stick with something and when to let it go. I’ve learned that children are full of wisdom and good ideas, and often compromise is OK. I don’t need to be right, I don’t need to be perfect, and I’m human too. And my boys need to know that. They also need to know they are loved, respected, important, and valued – no matter what age they are.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – I Timothy 4:12

I was trying to be someone else with all the rules and rigidity. I was trying to be my personal concept of what a good mother & pastor’s wife would be.

It was getting pretty complicated, and I was liking myself less and less.

So I decided to Simply Live more often. To remember more of who I was instead of trying to be someone else. To remember how much I loved children and loved their fresh perspectives, their honesty and openness, their caring, generous, and forgiving hearts. I let them show me what their world looked like – it was often so beautiful.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14

It’s not about winning or losing, or being in charge, or getting my way. And it’s not about letting my kids have the upper hand either. It’s about doing life together.

As far as I can tell, they know I still get the last word, I’m still the parent, and somebody needs to make the final decisions if no common ground can be found.

For the most part, they respect that. There might be some complaining and sometimes there’s still a “punishment”, but they can usually see it coming a mile away if that happens.

Sometimes they even choose the punishment. And sometimes it’s more harsh than what I was thinking!

But I think it’s all a part of raising young people to be old people who will one day make all their own decisions, and live their own lives, and be totally self-sufficient, and contribute to the world around them.

Not conforming, not cookie-cutter, not always what is expected, free to be themselves, change the world as only they can, and have lots of fun along the way.

God made us all so unique, and I don’t want to miss out on truly knowing my sons.  

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” – John 10:14

Just as I can trust and rely on my Shepherd, so I want to parent my boys in a similar way.

I want to gently guide, humbly correct course when headed for danger, share the path ahead, reminisce about the path behind, look for green pastures and blue skies, pay attention to any fences that are in place for our protection, and explore the wide-open fields together.

Posted in Life

Time For A Break :)

Long Beach

Thank you for all the wonderful feedback about what you’d like to read about on this blog – keep it coming!

I so appreciate your words.

I’m taking the rest of the summer off – or at least a couple of weeks🙂

What with Josiah breaking his wrist 3 days ago, soccer season winding down, less than half the summer to go before… (SSHHH – school starts again), and many more things to check off the family to-do list – I figure it’s time to take a break from the computer.

I’ll be back – don’t you worry😉

Can’t help myself.

I’ve had great fun launching the Lunchbox LOL Series (I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about that, but good news – I’ve had the most monthly sales ever on Amazon, and it’s only the 10th of the month! Cool), and spending time thinking about what I’ll write about in the coming months, and working on a couple of other book projects (more on that later🙂 ).

I hope you enjoy the rest of the warmer weather days, and make some great memories with your family, and take some time for yourself along the way too.

I was looking for a good photo from the archives for this blog post, but instead I found way too many, and thought I’d stroll down memory lane with you a little.

Here’s some of my favourite pics from the last few years – in no particular order…

Enjoy!

IMG_1950  ??????????????????????? Josh Mexico Anna Mexico IMG_4168 Anna and boys IMG_3858 bro DSCI0698 DSCI0079 DSCI0002 112 DSCI0022 464 445 DSCI7795 DSCI7768 DSCI7742 DSCI7736 IMG_4901 DSCI7700 DSCI7671 DSCI7591 DSCI7615 DSCI7530 DSCI7510 DSCI7479 DSCI7519 Sprinkler Jump Josiah Forest Walk Elijah Path Football Boys Wrestle Josh Fishing Josiah Hand Fishing Elijah Boots TH - Town Josh Kids Town Luc Anna Mommy Hugs Josiah April 23, 2008 089 DSCI0362 DSCI0266 DSCI0675 DSCI0644 Little Helpers

Posted in Life

What Would You Like to Read About?

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There are so many blog post ideas running around in my head.

I always feel like there’s so much I want to share with you all!

But instead of typing away frantically, I thought I’d try a different approach…

What do you want to read about?

Which of my previous posts seems to be of most interest to you?

If it’s easier – here’s a little list of possibilities I’m mulling over… would you like to read about any of these?

  • Simple ideas for helping others – many at no cost or minimal cost to you or your household
  • Stories of our family life
  • 1000 Days to Financial Freedom Updates
  • My Journey to Health – Emotionally (as one who deals with anxiety/depression) and Physically (as one who needs to work on eating and exercise habits)
  • Thoughts About Faith in the Family
  • Home Renovations – I have some work to do around here over the next few months! Mostly painting and storage solutions and decluttering and sprucing up🙂
  • Frugal Ideas for the Home (eg – I made 2 sets of curtains & 1 valance for $3 total!)
  • Frugal & Healthy Recipes & Menu Plans
  • Filling a Christmas Stocking or Easter Basket for $20 or Less

What do you think?

 

AND SERIOUSLY – some of you have said you’d like me to start doing workshops about saving money, AND YOU’D PAY ME to do it – is this really true?

If so, what sorts of things would you like me to talk about for an hour or two?

And how much would you pay for something like that?

 

I’m just trying to get an idea of where to focus my future efforts for this blog and elsewhere in the coming months.

So send me any feedback and I’ll look forward to reading it!

I do love to share the journey with you all…

🙂

Posted in $$$$$

1000 Days to Financial Freedom – How Do We Plan To Do It?

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It all started very early in our married life – if you haven’t already read Our $$$$$ Story, I encourage you to go ahead – it’s a good one!

We had so little money to live on, right from the beginning, that frugality was not originally a lifestyle choice (at least not for my Joshua), it was a necessity.

It was much easier for me – I am definitely the more frugal one in our marriage relationship.

There’s a story Josh loves to tell – of one night early in our life together – it goes something like this…

Josh (as he grabs his coat and heads towards the door) – Let’s go out tonight! 

Anna (following hesitantly behind, the ON button of her mind calculator pushing itself) – Um… OK… where?

Josh (turning towards Anna with a big smile) – How about the movies?

Anna (stops dead in her tracks, her mind calculator overheated already) – It’s not Tuesday!!

Josh (starting to hesitate himself) – Well… that’s OK.

Anna (taking a deep breath and recalculating) – OK. What about dinner, though?

Josh (regaining his confidence) – We can grab something out on the way.

Anna (inner frugal voice screaming but trying not to let it be heard) – Where?

Josh (his hand on the doorknob, ready to embark into the adventure of the night ahead) – I don’t know… Outback?

Anna ………………………….

Josh (looking back over his shoulder to throw another big smile at his new wife, realizing she is not moving from the doorway of their home) – What’s wrong?

Anna (inner frugal voice bubbling up and spilling over, imminent threat of hyperventilation) – That’s going to cost, like, $70 for us to go to dinner and a movie! 

Josh (doing his best to adjust to this new life of compromise) – Where do you want to go for dinner?

Anna (taking a deep breath and recalculating, doing her best to adjust to this new life of compromise) – Wendy’s. I love their 99 cent super-value menu.

Josh (big smile again) – Sounds good. Wendy’s and a movie. It’ll cost about $30. Better?

Anna (smiling back) – Yes. I can do that. So… what movie do you want to go see? 

Josh (excited) – Gladiator!

Anna …………………………

As you can see, our financial mindset was vastly different when we were first married. Early on we really had to learn to communicate about what we wanted to do with the money we had.

About a year and a half after our wedding and a few months pregnant with our first son, we gathered together all our financial statements and had a good look at everything.

We had $38,500 in debt from school loans, credit cards, and a car loan.

Josh was earning $28,000 and I was working part-time until the baby arrived.

We were in over our heads.

We wanted to live a debt-free life, and we wanted a house of our own to raise our family, and we wanted to give any children that came along their best shot at a debt-free life once they were ready to spread their wings.

That’s about all we knew at age 27.

There were no plans to save in RRSPs, find financial freedom, or purchase rental properties.

Those things came later, after the RESPs had been in place for years (no matter how lean the finances got sometimes), after the school debts and credit card debts were paid off, after we realized we both loved being hospitable (most of the time🙂 ).

Through all the years, we’ve always strived to live on one income. For the most part, there was only one income anyways – Josh worked while I stayed home with the boys.

As the years went by and raises came, we tried not to spend the raises, and only adjusted the flexible budget we have. (Flexible because trying to stick to it rigidly was pretty stressful and I kept beating myself up – instead I stuck to our overall financial picture and it was good!)

We’ve watched our RRSPs climb a little, our RESPs climb too, our debts vanish, and our net worth grow.

All by the grace of God, folks. That can never be forgotten.

We scraped together money for a down payment on our first rental property.

We leveraged our principal mortgage to put a down payment on a second rental property (both have 20% equity in them).

We learned all about positive cash flow from rental properties, and which tenants would be best suited to us, and how to find the right tenants, and what exactly were our duties as landlords. It’s been fun for the most part🙂 A great experiment that so far is going well.

We’ve paid off the last two used cars we had to buy in less than a year each (and transferred the balances to 0-1% interest credit cards while we paid them off).

To make a long story short (too late!) we’ve compromised – in a good way.

We’ve learned each other’s spending and saving habits (or lack thereof), and sometimes I’ve had to be rigid and sometimes Josh has had to be carefree.

We’ve taught each other to stick to the lifestyle that matches our values – saving when we can, spending when we can.

Always spending less than we earn (except for the two years of loss and living off EI – during those months we sank $300/month into debt but could see no other way. We caught just a glimpse of what that life is like, and we worked hard to crawl out of it.)

Never living off more than one salary.

Keeping things simple as best we can.

In a future post I’ll break down the actual numbers of HOW? so the whole idea can make more sense.

So much to share!

Posted in Life

It Has to Bring JOY or It Has to GO

I promise to share what I can if you promise not to judge…

DEAL?

Deal.

You see, I have some OCD issues.

Like there’s this one plate in my cupboard that bugs me every time I open the door.

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Upon first glance you might miss it sitting on top of the other plates.

But it’s there, not fitting nicely in the stack, always needing to be moved as I put away the other clean plates, just bugging me and my OCD.

It’s this plate…

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An old-school Swiss Chalet plate.

I keep it because I absolutely love it.

The joy it brings when I see it definitely outweighs the amount it bugs me by not fitting in with my organized cupboard.

I need these little reminders than not everything needs to go as planned, and not everything needs to fit in nicely with everything else.

Some things should just be fun and spontaneous and mess up any kind of plans I might have had.

Like moving out west on my own for 5 months to attend Rocky Mountain Bible College, like meeting my Joshua, like finding out I was pregnant for the first time, like moving to Sudbury, like our family trips to Mexico, Dominican, and Cuba.

So many amazing memories than I hadn’t planned for, so many incredible changes that I didn’t see coming, so many ways my life has been surprisingly enriched.

Like the Swiss Chalet plate.

Swiss Chalet was our family’s favourite restaurant when we were growing up. Birthdays and milestones were celebrated there. My go-to meal is still the chicken on a kaiser with white meat and fries. YUM.

When I moved out west on my own I got a job waitressing at Swiss Chalet in Calgary. I loved that job – I loved the activity of the restaurant, having a job that required constant movement, meeting so many new people, and half-price meals! I could now enjoy a chicken on a kaiser with every shift I worked – even as a struggling student!

And when I moved back home suddenly instead of pursuing my Bible College degree, and started dating Josh a few months later, Swiss Chalet was often where we would hang out – especially after church on Sundays with a big group of people.

Josh and I also had many date nights at Swiss Chalet. On one of those occasions we discovered the old plates would be replaced with new ones very soon. I remembered this happening in Calgary during my time there – how the plates got much bigger and heavier – I could only carry 3 now instead of 5! More trips to the kitchen and back!

One night Josh asked if he could have an old plate before they would become obsolete. He’s quite a charmer and had no problem convincing the waitress. She tucked our plate into one of the old foil containers they used to give for doggy-bags – you know, the ones with the cardboard lids? His request was never discovered by upper management, and we escaped the restaurant with the plate – no problem at all.

And that’s why I can’t seem to part with the plate – because it has memories of so many different chapters in my life. It’s from the exact same restaurant I used to frequent with my family as I was growing up, many celebrations were there, I remember so many dates with Josh there, so many times with friends, and it also reminds me of a special time in my life that I spent out west – just growing up and figuring things out.

That odd plate can stay in my cupboard as long as it likes – no matter what my OCD has to say about it.

Why?

Because it brings me joy🙂

If it didn’t bring me joy, it would have been on the way out long ago.

I just finished reading a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. 

These sorts of books really appeal to my love of all things organized and efficient.

One thing that stood out for me in the book was that we should only keep things that bring us joy. We shouldn’t hang on to clutter that has bad memories, or guilt – things that have been passed down to us that we don’t even like, even things that are attached to memories of long-ago chapters of our lives. We can still have the memories without the things – I’m always telling my youngest son this – he’s a bit of a clutter-bug. We replaced his massive bookshelf with a much smaller one last week, and the first thing he said was, “Yes, more room for posters on the wall now!” I’m just not sure I got through to him when I was trying to encourage him to declutter🙂

I find most of my clutter comes from wanting to hang on to special memories – like when the boys were young. But I also feel like maybe this stops me from living in the moments of NOW – this is one I’m figuring out still, and haven’t touched the “Memory Tote” I have for each boy. Totes they’ve never looked through (and neither have I to tell you the truth). It’s just stuff, stored away being no use to anyone, so I can hang on to a phase of life that has long passed. I’m sure I’ll hang on to a couple of items, but I’ll have to limit myself I think🙂

Even my wedding dress is potentially on the chopping block – I’m still not sure. It was specially-cleaned as a wedding present, and packed into a storage box. I have moved this box a few times, never opened it, never gazed on my wedding dress since the one day I wore it, I don’t have any daughters, and I’m not sure I want to inflict any unnecessary pressure on potential daughters-in-law.

And I’m trying not to pressure my item-attached husband too much to find another home for his family momentos. We all move at our own pace. And he’s done well with often coming home to find things moved around in the house and piles of boxes and bags to discard. (Thanks for understanding Josh🙂 )

So there it is – when you look around your home – do the items that currently live there bring you joy?

Or do they weigh you down in some way?

Those are the questions I’m answering as I sort through my house…

Apparently when the things that surround you are of your own choosing and bring you joy – this helps you uncover much about who you are and things that you love to do.

And the absence of clutter can restore and renew your passions and dreams.

Looking forward to it!!

Posted in $$$$$

1000 Days to Financial Freedom

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Today it is 1000 days until my husband’s 45th birthday.

It’s a good time to get serious about a few goals and dreams that we have.

I’ve been tracking our daily finances for years, and recently I did some more extensive tracking.

Because I needed to figure out why it always feels like there’s never enough.

I concluded that some of it is the culture we live in, some of it is misunderstanding on our part, and some of it is misplaced priorities.

I can’t do much about the culture, except choose whether or not I want to follow what it dictates.

I can do alot about the misunderstanding – I love to do the research and learn new things. Especially things that will be beneficial to those I love the most in this world.

And together with Josh, we can put the priorities in place according to what is truly important to us.

I’m giving us 1000 days to learn, grow, rearrange, renew, work hard, and play hard (for as close to free as we can get it🙂 ).

Why 1000 days?

Simply because I work better with deadlines, and 1000 days is enough time to figure things out, and 50 seemed a bit too long to be on this road.

45 is good. I’ll be 45 by then too. I’m 4 months older than my Joshua🙂.

We will have been together for about 20 years (if you count our dating months). And we’ll have another 20 years until official “retirement” age. Smack-dab in the middle of our working lives together. Seems a good time to regroup.

Why Financial Freedom?

Financial freedom means we have choices.

We can choose to take a full-time salary, part-time salary, or side hustles for 20 years – until we’re 65.

We can choose to take time to travel or volunteer or spend time with family.

 

What are our goals?

$2000 paid off for recent car repairs, newer laptop for me, and some writing expenses.

$15,000 paid off for recent home repairs/renovations on 3 houses – our house plus our two rental properties.

About $10,000 saved up in a TFSA account.

About $65,000 put aside in RRSPs.

Rental properties are self-sustaining.

Part-time work or side hustle income = enough to cover ongoing expenses.

NOTES:

*We’ve been putting aside RESPs for the boys (along with other members of our family) since they were babies, so they should be OK for post-secondary education, but we’ll help if needed.

*We’ll need another car at some point soon – I haven’t figured that in the plan yet🙂

 

What now?

Once in a while, I’ll fill you in on the numbers a little more as time goes on – maybe even a chart to track it all🙂

Occasionally I’ll write about how we accomplish our goals over the next 1000 days.

Accountability is always good, so thank you for reading!

 

I wonder what the next 1000 days will bring…