Hooligan Zoo

Two Zookeepers… many Hooligans… It's always feeding time at this zoo!

Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

After a long week where Ja has worked overtime. Where it’s been hard to be the one doing everything at home. When it’s difficult because it feels like you are the one responsible for everyone and everything. When you feel like everyone wants a piece of you, but you have nothing left to give. On those weeks? That’s when I need to count the blessings all the more.

Because the blessings? They pour like rain on the tired garden that life can sometimes be.

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Lego creation

502. Crazy pastors, driving the table cart around with a pile of kids on top
503. Sweet baby toes
504. Ten year old compassion
505. Days just being
506. Ja taking the van to work, leaving us to HAVE to stay home
507. Morning thunder
508. Cozy duvets
509. Almost 13 years married
510. Good friends
511. Crazy neighbours
512. New climbers
513. The secret beach
514. Excellent Kijiji finds
515. Tomato plants
516. Great Great Aunts
517. Learning to distinguish weeds from plants
518. Wise advice
519. Yogurt Oatmeal
520. Tidy house
521. New hand knit sweaters

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

We’re smack in the middle of a heat wave here in Ontario. The heat so dense and thick that you sweat while sitting still. That beads of water form instantly when you pour yourself a cold glass of water.

The heat does something though, it encourages quietness. Slow movements. Relishing in the relative coolness of the basement. Of the mattresses spread down there, ready for the tired and hot bodies to fall at night.

It seems to me that this heat wave has created in me a lack of motivation… motivation to put the dishes away, catch up on the laundry, vacuum… all those things seem so hard to get up and do. And in that moment, I put myself down. I think about how I should do this, and I should do that. How that laundry mountain is never going to be scaled if I sit here.

And then, when I look back over the days, over the weeks, and I think, but what value does being still have? And yet, and yes, even He tells us to be still. Sometimes it’s in the stillness, in the quietness of the heat, that is when I can most clearly hear Him.

And while I snuggle my fevered child and have a nap on the swing, and while I “watch this, mama!” just one more time, and while my darling holds my hand, because it’s too hot to touch anywhere else. That’s when I know the importance of being still.

But it’s still a lesson I seem to learn every moment of every day.

There’s a time for the busy, a time for laundry mountain. But right now? This moment? Is the time to be still.

481. New baby toes
482. That sweet new baby smell
483. Giant cloth diapered bums
484. Kids who can’t wait to hold that baby – it may be the only time they’ve sat without wiggling in months!
485. Forced stillness
486. Smoothies
487. Dogs obsessed with water
488. Little boys giddy with glee over that obsession
489. Reading books on the swing
490. Napping on the swing
491. Too hot for mosquitoes
492. A sister obsessed with babywearing, breastfeeding, and cloth diapers, and how that has brought us closer together
493. Last swimming lessons
494. Happy kids, so proud of their accomplishments
495. The basket of wet and dirty towels, a sign of a good time had at the beach
496. Wading pools
497. A beach five minutes away. The ‘secret’ beach
498. Snuggles from sick little girls
499. A husband who takes the well children away for the day
500. Roly poly babies who won’t stay still, even for a second!
501. Being still

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

This week, oh this week. The recovery period after a crazy busy and wonderful days away. A week of regrouping, reprogramming, of finding the rhythm in our day to day that keeps us going… it seemed out of reach this week, with sickness, cranky tired children, obligations. All of those things that prevented us from finding the peace that occasionally exists in our home.

But, if I was careful… I could see it, just peeking around the edges of the whining four year old. The oversensitive nine year old. The seven year old who just wanted to build with Meccano.

I could see it when the nine year old asked to hull the strawberries. When the seven year old spoke nicely to the four year old. I could see it in the splashing at the beach on the oh so hot day. On the joy at mastering a new swimming stroke, on listening to the teacher, on making the body obey what the mind wanted it to do.

So maybe, just maybe, part of our rhythm IS the chaos. Maybe out of that chaos, as I seek those moments of peace, that’s where they’re really learning. The midst of the chaos, of berry picking in the rain, of dashing to swimming lessons every night, of the usual day to day laundry, cooking, cleaning, schooling, reading, bedtimes, in the midst of that is where the learning happens.

Most importantly? In the midst of the chaos is where I am most likely to see grace.

463. Strawberry fields, generously given to the gleaning program
464. The cooling sprinkle of rain
465. Helping children, actually picking more than they were eating
466. Sand between the toes
467. The heat of the sun on my back
468. Girls, best friends, playing together
469. Building rivers, figuring out which way the water will go
470. Patient fathers, bringing bucket after bucket of water
471. Making new friends at the beach
472. Gathering with friends new and old
473. Sweet newborn baby, asleep on a shoulder
474. the encouragement of a friend to just. say. no.
475. pudgy toddler feet
476. singing while riding a bike. Always singing.
477. The washing machine at the beach
478. Life jackets
479. Pruney fingers
480. Jumping off the diving board

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

I’m a homeschooling mom. The education of my children lies solely on my husband’s and my shoulders. I stress about it sometimes, even though I firmly subscribe to the better late than early model of thinking around education.

Today tho, today, the sun was shining. The sky was that pure blue of early summer. The trees held all the hope and expectancy of warm weather and outdoor fun. And because of all those things, we took the day “off” and went to the zoo.

Where the hooligans learned about friendship. And about taking turns. They learned that if you step on one water spout, the others go higher. They figured out that 20 children cannot go down a slide at the same time, but if you squish together, you can all fit on a bench in the sun. They learned that if you knock a child down in a race of tag, that you need to stop and make sure that child is okay. They learned compassion. They learned manners. They learned how to be with other people.

They may not have done math and science today, but oh how they learned.

And I learned. I learned that while the noise was overwhelming, while I hadn’t really wanted the trouble of packing up and going. It was worth it.

And I find that now, these days, I am LOOKING for the little things, those little blessings that make up every day life. That make it okay that the laundry is still piled up, that there are dishes in the sink, and that I have to cook dinner AGAIN.

436. Getting groceries by myself. Lingering over the rows, enjoying the solitude.
437. Giggling children
438. Icy water on sun warmed skin
439. Squinty eyes
440. Little girls who insist on giving me giant hugs, and wonder why their name isn’t on my necklace
441. Rough and tumble boys, laughing so hard they can barely formulate the next tackle plan
442. Toddler bellies
443. Sleepy milky wide mouthed smiles
444. Brown toes
445. Bathing suit issues
446. Climbing trees
447. The ease of being with these women, this support system
448. Last minute plans that work out the best
449. Being able to take off for a day and enjoy the sun, the blue, the water, the friends
450. Coming home to quiet time in the cool of the basement

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Eucharisteo – a belated Multitude Monday

I skipped Multitude Monday this week. In spite of the gifts showered upon me every single day, in spite of the blessings that we receive at the turn of the head, I was overwhelmed. I was discouraged by the day to day… the seemingly neverending.

It’s a hard place to be, a stay at home homeschooling mama. When your self worth is completely tied up in things that you do over and over again. The laundry. The vacuuming. The attempting to calmly guide fighting children. Dinner, oh dinner, how you have weighed on me!

Every once in a while all these never to be finished things, they start to get me down.

It feels endless.

It feels pointless.

In spite of the fact that all I have to do is to turn my head and look, look and SEE the wonders that surround me, that have been given by God to me! Undeserving, ungrateful me.

Getting caught in that cycle is death for me. Not only do I get unhappy with my lot in life, as it were, but I become unhappy with those around me. If only he would put his socks away, THEN I could be happier… If only she would stop whining, THEN I could be happier… if only… if only…

Yesterday though, yesterday I was particularly low in my cave of self pity. That is, until the mail came.

In the mail I received a few books that Barry had ordered for me, and one of those books happened to be Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.

It’s always a joy to receive a package in the mail. Especially when it’s books. I do love books, books of all kinds. I had put this one of Ann’s in my cart kind of as a last minute thought. Leave it to God to put it right into my hands exactly when I need it the most.

I picked it up and it took me about half a page to become so involved that I didn’t hear what was happening around me anymore. I was engrossed in her story. In my story. In the way that her story echoed much of what I had been feeling… much of what I feel over and over again.

On page 31, Ann says,

Isn’t it here? the wonder? Why do I spend so much of my living hours struggling to see it? Do we truly stumble so blind that we much be affronted with blinding magnificence for our blurry soul-sight to recognize the grandeur? The very same surging magnificence that cascades over our every day here. Who has time or eyes to notice?
All my eyes can seem to fixate on are the splatter of disappointment across here and me.

It is here tho. The magnificence in the day to day. Beyond the laundry, beyond the dinners, beyond the crying eyes. The magnificence lies in the laughter of the children as they race around the newly cut lawn. The smile in my husband’s eyes as he sees me, in spite of my downtrodden demeanour. The joy, the joy is everywhere. I just have to open my eyes and SEE it. God gives it in abundance every moment of the day.

Maybe, just maybe, I have been pulling myself down by refusing to see it around me at all times. Refusing to see that which is designed to bring me up, to give me grace. Grace that is undeserved but that is offered in love, in so very much love.

On page 33,

So then as long as thanks is possible… I think this through. As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning — now; wherever, meaning — here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the mess, piercing ache of now, joy might be — unbelievable — possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.

Eucharisteo meaning Thanksgiving
from the root, Charis, meaning Grace.
Chara meaning joy.

There is joy found in giving thanks. If every moment is spent with eyes wide open to the wonders around us, if every moment is spent giving, breathing thanks. Then that is where the joy is.

426. Coming together with a forever friend, a sister of the heart.
427. Seeing our six children play together, like they had never been apart.
428. A wonderful 13 year old boy who will still play puppies with little girls.
429. The eagerness at cutting down trees, at helping.
430. Their laughter as branch after branch is cut down.
431. The being, waking up every day, ABLE to do it all again.
432. His smile, all for me when he walks in the door.
433. The children’s shrieks of “DADDY” when they hear the door handle turn.
434. Dinner. That there’s always enough.
435. The swish of the washing machine, thankful that I have a machine to do all the hard work for me.

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Multitude Monday – One thousand gifts

With finger nails encrusted with dirt, and happy children streaked with more dirt, I watch them listen and learn… learn the way that I did from my Great Aunt, their Great Great Aunt.

A woman who is wise in many ways, with whom I share a love of the fibre crafts. Who used to come to our graduations, parties, and was always a definite fixture in our lives while we grew up. Now she is a fixture in my children’s lives. And I am glad.

416. Traveling Aunts. Who come bearing gifts of green.
417. The hooligans, gathering around her, learning about planting right alongside me.
418. Watching a newly planted garden form, take shape, and grow.
419. The gift of family.
420. Green. Oh, I am still enamoured with the green after the oh so long winter.
421. New patio sets from other aunts and uncles.
422. Laughing and enjoying a meal together.
423. Filthy mosquito bitten legs.
424. Shoes on the wrong feet.
425. Dirt under fingernails… a sign of hard work, the fruits of which are yet to come.

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Multitude Monday – One thousand gifts

It’s the day after the day that marked 12 years for us. 12 years ago we stood in front of all who loved us, who knew us, family, friends, all of them… we looked each other in the eye and pledged to spend the rest of our lives together. Through sickness and health, through good times and bad.

After 12 years married, and 19 as a couple, there have been good times, so many that it’s hard to count them all. There have been bad times, some that have faded over time, some that still occasionally feel sharp with remembrance. And yet, when I look at this man, this man who makes me laugh, who makes me cry, whose smile is the one I seek at the end of the day, and I am so very very thankful.

406. A man who has no qualms about wearing his precious baby in a pretty floral wrap.

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407. Who listens to his children, and is really interested in what they have to say. Even when they were very small.

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408. Who makes me smile when I’m playing around with a camera… has no worries about having his silly faces recorded for all to see.

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409. A man who shovels the front walk in classic Canadian winter gear. A touque, handmade of course, boots, a vest, and… shorts.

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410. the patented “Daddy hold”

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411. The way he still plays with me, just the way we did when we were teens.

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412. When he snuggles the sick ones. Just to give me a break.

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413. His strength in taking care of us. Making sure that we spend the winter warm, regardless of the extra work that it makes for him.

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414. His absolute and undying love for our hooligans. Even when they’re being rotten.

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415. Now is the time for honesty. I really married him for his butt.

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I can’t even begin to count how thankful I am that God gave this man to me. That I get to spend my life with him. That he is standing beside me when I struggle, that he is the strong support in our family, the one who keeps us all together. He is a solid man, and I am glad for him.

Hunna? I’m still glad that it’s you.

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

We debate. We debate on making a long trip for a short visit. My worry about our loved one overrides any thoughts about inconvenience. About planning. About hauling three children on a long van ride.

When my Dad calls to give us updates, I can hear the hint of weary worry in his voice, and when Dad is worried? Dad? The rock in our house? The glue that holds the rest of us women together… when he’s worried, as much as he tries to hide it, I know that there’s something to worry about.

But, we drive down. We enjoy lunch and visiting. And then we spend a short time in the hospital where Mum is thrilled to see us, see the kids, in spite of her pain, and in spite of having a very hard time staying awake. I feel relief because I can see her. Because she is hurting, but she is okay. She had the same grin. Her eyes twinkled just enough, and my world is okay because I can see, because I can know that she is okay. Not great, but okay.

And sometimes, sometimes it’s good to just be okay. Because from okay, you can always go up. Sure, you can go down, but up is so close… so easily attainable.

When my Mum texted me today, I knew she was on her way up. And it was good.

386. peaceful van rides, full of Narnia, knitting, and snoozing four year olds
387. the relief at seeing my Mum. Okay. Solidly Okay.
388. lovely and lengthy lunch with Dad
389. books
390. library book sales
391. kids excited about library book sales
392. books. just. books.
393. Friday night movie night
394. crackling heat from the woodstove
395. Sun snowstorms
396. winter tires
397. long chats, some deep, some not, with good friends. Agreeing to disagree, and still friends in the end
398. old cats, purring, fuzzy, happy
399. drawing and dreaming with Daddy
400. cooking together
401. Babies, falling asleep on the floor, bums in the air
402. 3 year olds, modelling the “big boy carry”
403. Hope
404. good chats with family
405. Easter coming

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

Today I was at a friend’s house. Our hooligans were running amok, and we were conversing. Talking about parenting, as women who are with their children all day every day do sometimes.

We had our tea in our hands, and as an armour plated knight ran past, she looked me in the eye and said,

“You know, sometimes I am shocked by how selfish I am.”

And I looked around her house, I saw the evidence that her children are a priority in her life. My mind flashed back over times when I had seen her calmly and patiently correct her children, deal with strife between both of our children. I thought about how I knew how much she thought through her homeschooling plan, how she worked hard for her children, her family. As an onlooker, on the outside of her family, I thought to myself in that moment, “Selfish??”

And then she elaborated.

“I get angry when it’s MY agenda that’s being disturbed. When the kids are too noisy and it makes me crazy, it’s because I WANT it to be quiet. I want things a certain way. When I’m too stuck in what I want, THAT’S when things don’t go well.”

Huh.

It’s so true, isn’t it? I know I post a lot of happy stuff here, tend to not get too deep in the nitty gritty, in the days where I would happily ditch it all and fly off somewhere warm with a cabana boy to hold my yarn and bring me cold drinks. All while I lounged, the sun shining down, sparkling off of the clear blue waters…..

Some days I want them to just obey. Blind obedience would sure be helpful. I say that, but then I also say that I want my children to learn to THINK. To make good choices. To be helpful and take initiative. How can they do that if I’m barking orders all the time to get them to mould to my agenda? My agenda that changes? Seemingly on a whim?

Is that selfish?

Sure it is. It makes our family all about me. Not about us. Ja and I, as parents need to be firm, not harsh. We need to raise these children up to be good adults. Adults who are grounded in faith, who know that we love them more than the things they screw up. Adults who know that they are loved, and in the knowing, can spill that out onto others, making the world a better place.

And so, I, once again, resolve to create firm boundaries, but to allow the hooligans to have freedom within those boundaries. To help them to learn from their mistakes, and not to be fearful of them. To learn that giving of themselves is glorifying to God. That showing grace to others is what makes people smile.

They will learn this best when I start modelling it. When I let go of my own agenda, and adopt God’s agenda.

Because frankly? When I put God at the centre, things tend to go my way regardless of what else may be happening.

371. visits and heart to hearts with good friends
372. small knights rescuing small princesses
373. green. hazy, fleeting, but there…
374. a life well lived
375. talking over worries, even when it’s scary to do so
376. fear
377. new books
378. homemade bread
379. knitting sleeves
380. curtains billowing in the breeze
381. Trees showing the promise of spring
382. small boys, content to dig… and dig…. and dig….
383. the glee of that first spring bike ride
384. laughing children
385. sweet neighbours who come to play

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

Sometimes friendship is fun. Sometimes it’s about getting together, having a laugh, relaxing. Sometimes it’s sharing burdens, tears, hope. Sometimes being a friend is inconvenient, but you do it anyway. Some friends are as comfortable to be around as when you slip into a pair of old ratty pyjama pants. Some friends are intellectually challenging, some you feel the need to limit time with.

Some are thousands of miles away. Some you may never have met in person. Some share the same ideals, the same goals, are at the same place in their lives. And some aren’t.

And yet, through the similarities, through the differences, through the love and the fighting, it’s always there. That underlying connection. The love of a friend.

I can see my children creating these relationships through the children of my own friends, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. It’s always a surprise who clings to who, who gets along best with who. It’s also always interesting how they talk about the child that they fought with every moment… it’s usually with a positive bent. “He’s my very best friend, Mama.”

Really, isn’t that how friendship should be? You forgive the differences, you forgive the squabbles. You grow as people, you grow together. We’re strong when we’re together, and that’s really the whole point.

A rope of two, three, or even four strands is much stronger than one.

361. Good news on a heart checkup
362. Borrowed babies that snuggle
363. Toilet boil cleaner
364. laughing together
365. crying together
366. little friends, working together at a big task
367. the laughing of those little friends while they figure out the big task
368. failure, and learning from it
369. understanding
370. small boys, learning to read, so very excited to read a chapter book

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