Stuff good moms do

…And why I don’t do them. At least not now.

When my oldest was a baby, it was scrapbooking. Everyone was doing it and had multiple page spreads of each child in their family. They went to retreats and craft nights and spent every spare moment working on their scrapbooks. They had them for camping trips and holidays and homeschooling.

I tried. I really did. For about a month. My daughter got a photo album because we still used film and then she got a baby book. She’s still the only kid with one of those but the rest of them are boys and I figure they don’t care as much as she does anyway.

Quilting and blanket making was another one. My own sisters-in-law have made blankets for their children and a few friends have knitted one every time. I made a few baby blankets when I was pregnant for the first time but again it required a complete devotion to the craft – can you imagine the moms who were scrapbooking AND quilting?!

I remember someone asking me when my oldest kids were still pretty young if I had finished all my Christmas baking yet. I just sort of stared back at them without comprehending. It turns out that up here at least, moms bake for weeks in preparation for Christmas, making enough to last them through New Years and give adorable tins of them away to friends. This was one thing I jumped into with both feet for a few years. I filled buckets for my freezer weeks in advance and made cute little gifts of cookies or other treats to pass out to family and friends.

None of these things are bad, but when they become expectations we feel we have to live up to, they can become suffocating.

Since I started homeschooling, I found the big thing was having a garden. Most of my homeschooling friends grow something and of course, involve their kids in the production of all of those vegetables. Our growing season here is extremely short and my one attempt at a container of carrots left me with a handful of inch long carrots. Now rhubarb is the only thing I grow because I couldn’t kill it if I wanted to. People ask me if I garden and my answer is, “Not in this season.” I may do it someday but I have released myself from the often suffocating expectation that if I was a good mom, I would have a garden.

I know how some people will read this – “Hey, I have a garden! What’s so bad about having a garden? I love it!” Sure you do. That’s fine. But as someone who has a baby every other year and incredibly busy summers (all of my babies up to this one have been born between the end of April and the end of September so that’s birthday season for us), it’s just not feasible for me to garden every year and keep my sanity. Maybe some new baby-free summer I will pick one thing that I love and just plant that, but right now, it’s not the season I’m in.

Maybe I’ll be the grandma who makes blankets for all her grandkids but my own children are getting the short end of the stick on that one and they honestly don’t seem to care. I think most of these things we do that feel like service to our kids are really some kind of obligation we feel in ourselves. And I said no to that years ago. I’d rather be a stable mom than a hyper productive one and I know that I have a tendency to overdo things and fall back into perfectionism so it’s better to just put certain things by the wayside for now.

This is not particularly funny or entertaining, I realize, but it’s something that needs to be said, and said again, and again. New moms every day are coming under the weight of all the “shoulds” that their peers, their mothers and society unwittingly put them under. Let it go, mama. If it doesn’t work for you and your family or your lifestyle, let it go. Eat convenience food, buy canned vegetables, skip the Christmas baking and the crafting and the journaling and all the other stuff that someone (or yourself) told you to do. Just do what works.

I drive a big white van.

Alternate title: A blog post in which I obsess over my big white van and complain about the week and a half that I was without her.

When my husband and I were not quite on the same page about having more than say, six kids, one of his reasons was because he didn’t want to have to drive a fifteen passenger van. He had easily been won over to the mini-van life, as I was, but the idea of a monstrous beast of a vehicle was a bit much for him. When we decided it was going to happen, but before I was actually expecting number seven (the magic number that one needs to officially outgrow mini-van life), we bought our big white van. It had a crazy amount of kilometres, snowboarding decals on the back window, and zero headrests on any of the back seats. But I fell in love instantly.

This was my dream vehicle, people. It meant I had made it into the elite club of crazy people who have way more kids than everyone else. It was a bit intimidating to drive at first, sitting way up high above all the other cars and remembering that it was massively long and therefore could not always fit into conventional parking spots. But I eased into it well enough and got used to the friendly waves of passing Mennonite families driving fifteen passenger vans who thought I was one of them. So cute.

In January of this year, I was rear-ended. It was not a big deal sort of accident, even though it was jarring and made me shriek like an old lady in the moment. I didn’t have the kids with me and was able to drive it away and get the car seats replaced by the insurance company without much of a fuss. We finally got it in for an estimate on the repairs early in the summer and set a date for early September to get it all fixed up.

We got home from our three week long, 6,000 km road trip, on which we had a breakdown and had to replace our alternator (another story) and had another breakdown just days before it was due at the body shop. This meant that we quit driving it through the holiday weekend, waiting for it to be mechanically fixed so we could drive it to the body shop the following week. It all worked out fine and we took it in on the scheduled day.

As we were not at fault for our accident and have a few extra coverages as well, we were provided with a rental vehicle. I went online and applauded myself for finding a local rental company with fifteen passenger vans. Hooray! I booked one for a week, double checked a few things with the insurance company and the body shop and showed up the day of the drop off to pick up a familiar vehicle.

Except they don’t actually have them, apparently. Which they informed someone…who knows who it was, but it wasn’t me. So they booked us a Yukon instead. A huge white brand new Yukon with one too few seats for our family. The kind with super narrow seats and way too many bells and whistles to ever figure out.

We did our best to find a way out of the mess but had to give it up and live with the beast for a week. I realized very quickly that my eleven year old van is just fine for me. There were so many lights and knobs and buttons in that thing and rather than being massively long in the back, it was huge in the front. I will admit that a back up camera is a nice little perk and I might even get one for the van eventually, but otherwise I was very excited to take it right back to the rental company at the end of the week.

On Monday afternoon, two days before the estimated finish of the body work, I called to find out when they thought it would be done. “Oh, it will definitely be done tomorrow.” Hallelujah! A whole day early sounded sublime to me.

Except apparently you shouldn’t trust a body shop when they say things like that. You should, in fact, take it to mean that it will take approximately two full days longer than they have told you so enthusiastically over the phone. Because that’s exactly what happened.

All things said, I have my van back now. All the kids’ seats are back where they belong and I am certain that loading them into it a few times will clear it of the odd cleaning solution smell that the body shop left behind. But oh, please, if this could never happen again and I could just go on driving this thing until it dies for good and then get another one just like it. Please?!


So what sort of mother are you, exactly?

A few nights ago, I was in tears because the weight of my different-ness was so heavy. It is isolating at times and the obvious answer of, “Um, maybe don’t be so different, duh,” is not the answer.

I have often felt that if I could just be “that mom” – the one who happily orders curriculum, sets up her home like a classroom and joyfully takes on the role of teacher, I could be happy and accepted.

But I’m not that mom.

If I could just be that mom – the one who journals creatively, builds furniture, makes Pinterest worthy birthday cakes and sews dresses for her little girls – I could be content and successful.

But I’m not that mom, either.

Maybe the public school mom,then? Taking first day of school pictures, packing lunches, chatting with teachers and going to Starbucks after the kids have all been dropped off?

But I’m not that mom.

So who am I? What kind of mama am I?

I am the only, very only mom like me. I believe that.

Look at me, tooting my own unique little horn.

But instead of making people ooh and aah at my uniqueness, I feel more often people shake their heads, roll their eyes and question my sanity.

Today I make a brand new declaration:

“That’s okay.”

Go ahead, world! Shake your nicely coiffured heads and roll your eyelash extensioned eyes. This is who I am. This is my family, my life. Time to be okay with it. Time to be at peace.

I can acknowledge that this is easier said than done. It will be a challenge every day to remind myself that I’m okay as I am, that my kids are okay. To ignore all the “you should”s that are ever-present in the world of motherhood and do what I know I need to do even if it looks vastly different than what everyone else is doing.

I’m here all night, folks!

I’ve had this bubbling in me for awhile. I knew it was time to start writing again, and seriously this time.

But not too seriously.

When speaking to a blogging friend recently who asked me what I write about, I replied easily that my favourite thing to do is make people laugh. And being a mother of seven (eight, actually, but one isn’t out in the open yet), I know how much laughter encourages me.

Psalm 17:22 says that “a merry heart does good like a medicine,” and I believe it. At the end of a long day with my kids, I am often served best by laughter. In our house, that means a lot of inside jokes with my husband and movie quotes galore. And just laughing at my kids (or with them, depending on the situation).

My goal here is to laugh at myself a little bit and let you do it, too. We are a weird family, choosing to have a lot of kids and homeschool yet we look nothing like the typical large homeschooling family. We are living counter-culturally within multiple different sub-cultures and that can be a little bit lonely at times. I can be okay with that most of the time because I see the humour in it and little by little am learning to accept that isolation comes with the territory.

I’ve been writing for nearly my whole life. I believe my first piece was titled, “Sally and Me,” or something like that. I started blogging way back when blogging was still a baby but writing has been lying dormant in me for awhile now. Time to wake it up. I know I have something to share that might just have a great purpose in encouraging other weirdos like me.