Friday, 3 January 2014

there's gold in them hills

See our first post from Costa Rica:

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

happy new year and WE'RE MOVING!

Happy new year to you!

Today we're flying to Costa Rica - so we're on the move. We'll be there for 4 months, and blogging more regularly from there.

I'm also moving this blog! It's got a new look and a new address, so if you've been following this one, please bookmark the new and improved version:

That's where we'll be.

Best to you and yours in 2014.

Friday, 22 November 2013

family Advent calendars and traditions

It's that time of year again. When I try to come up with creative, fun little ways to celebrate the Advent season.

I've blogged about various Advent calendar ideas in the past:

* Advent calendar crazy
* Advent calendar ideas

Last year we had a photo Advent calendar.

And there are just so, so many wonderful ideas online. Like:

1. Hallowe'en candy wrapped up, one for each day of Advent.

2. Small treats in 2 regular muffin tins = 24 days, 1 mini muffin tin = 24 days, with covers attached on each opening that you peel off as the days go by.

3. A tell-the-nativity-story calendar with items that remind kids of the various pieces of the Jesus Christmas story.

4. The one-bottle-of-wine each day of Advent calendar. Adults only.

5. Another idea I had was to take some moments of quiet every day - as a family. Maybe we'll reward ourselves with a chocolate afterward. I don't really need more ideas to busy myself up. I'm really good at that already. I need ideas for how to clear some space to wonder, reflect on the year, anticipate what's coming, and wait for the light.

Advent Wonder is what I'll be reading each day Monday and Friday throughout December. I really loved their Lent stuff, and I'm looking forward to these little free nuggets too.

What are your Advent traditions?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

collect manna

I've had these post-it notes stuck to my bedside table lately. They're the first things I see when I wake up.

Because too often I wake up with a vision of scarcity. Never relating to food or money - those would actually be important worries to have. My worries are more to do with a feeling of scarcity of time - time for myself, time to get work projects done, time with my family and friends. Too much on my plate, not enough space in my mind. I worry about needs like meaningful connection with others, Sabbath rest, and time to create. I crowd out God and any kind of "enough" space from the moment I wake up.

So I've tried having this as my mantra lately:

God will provide. 
There will be enough.
Collect manna.

Those wandering Israelites were whiners like me. But they were actually complaining about where their FOOD would come from. But every day, they woke up to fresh manna bread on the ground - enough for that day.

I look back on my last blog post which was written an age ago, and I think WHO WAS THAT HUGE SCAREDY CAT? It reminds me again of how we become what we dwell on. I was dwelling on fear, and that's what I was becoming. I was Fear. I do not want to be Fear. I want to be Brave.

There was a word that kept coming back to me, and I wrote it on this puzzle piece as part of a women's retreat that I facilitated in beautiful British Columbia: OPPORTUNITY.

[By the way, if you ever have things you need to work through in your life, just sign up to facilitate a retreat for others. It really helps! That whole thing about when I teach, I learn is so true.]

Back to opportunity, I want to seize our next Costa Rican chapter this winter as opportunity. Because it is. And now I can see it, and I'm excited about the possibilities.

I want to go into my days looking for God's divine fingerprints - looking for evidence of manna provision all around me. It's there - I know it is, when I take the time to look.

Photography helps me to seize those manna moments - pausing to consider small things in nature or in my family life, to realize that God is in these moments, and that God is providing each day - if I take the time to notice. Bottling manna moments.

Here are some of my manna moments over the past couple of months: (oh, how I love fall...)

morning mist

plunging into a northern lake on Thanksgiving weekend

lone pine


reflecting the light

gift of water

I just have a thing about mushrooms. Isn't this one a beauty?

Monday, 30 September 2013

when fear gets in the way

We're in the thick of trying to sort out details for January. My husband has a 1/2 year sabbatical, and we had planned to spend it in Costa Rica. He wants to be in the Spanish-speaking world to get his Spanish skills back so that he can teach in that language. Costa Rica has a seminary in San Jose where there are apartments for families to stay, and Derek would have access to a great library with Spanish resources for his current research projects. We were thinking of a 4 month stay, and even have some university students ready to rent our house.



I'm scared.

And I feel silly about these fears. Because I know lots of people would think that it's silly to be scared of uprooting your family for 4 months.

At the beginning of the school year, Zoe dug in her heels and said, "I don't want to go to Costa Rica! Not for 4 months! I'll go for a month, but not 4!" She loves her teacher (she's in grade 5), loves her class, and she's generally cautious of new experiences. That said, she looks back with fondness on the 4 months we spent in France when she was in grade one, and on the month we spent in Benin this year. On the plane ride back from Benin, she asked, "When do we get to travel again?"

But she seems more flexible now. We watched a library video called "Families of Costa Rica" and after that she said, "Actually, maybe it would be ok to go..."

Derek would be going to Costa Rica with a purpose - to research and write. I would be in charge of our children's education - probably a mix of homeschool/roadschool (a new term I just learned that means educating your kids through travel) + Spanish classes for all 3 of us.

We have a place to stay. Check.

We have people to rent our house while we're gone. Check.

Two big things. So what are my fears all about?

January and February are the summer break at the seminary. So there won't be lots of people milling around. If we homeschool, that doesn't give us access to a group of children for my kids to play with. I fear being isolated.

Other times we've traveled, we've gone to French-speaking countries where I had language skills. My Spanish skills are very limited. I can understand things OKish, but French comes out when I try to respond. So I'd be relying on Derek, who is fluent in Spanish. Who also needs to get his own work done. I fear not being able to get around without the language.

Although I am a teacher, I have never homeschooled my children. I wouldn't even consider the idea here in Canada. There are too many things about the local school that I love. And I loved being a teacher to a group of children who WERE NOT my own kids. But going to Costa Rica for a short term, I don't know if it makes sense to enrol them for just 2 months (March and April, after their summer holidays in Jan-Feb are over). And what do we do for Jan-Feb? In my better moments, I get excited about planning some units around the many things that Costa Rica has to offer - like rainforests, many interesting creatures like monkeys, insects, sloths, leatherback turtles, and volcanoes, etc. etc. Engage in a blogging project together. Take photos. But then I fear losing patience with my kids - I've never been their sole teacher before, and I worry that we would get on each other's nerves. I've also looked into some volunteering experiences - need to spend some more time looking into these options.

Derek doesn't understand these fears. He thinks it's a great opportunity for us to travel and experience something new as a family. We know from our past experiences how travel has brought us new perspectives and made us reliant on each other. We felt more cohesive as a family - not so stretched. And this has been a gift.

So... how to address these fears...

1. isolation: not sure, but we have family members who want to travel to Costa Rica during our time there, so that might help with the feelings of maybe-isolation.

2. language: I have some language CDs that I can listen to at home or in the car to get my ear around hearing Spanish, and responding in Spanish.

3. homeschool/patience issue: Map out some fun learning units for each month, and plan a field trip to do with each one. Research more fully some volunteer options for us as a family. Make a calendar. Plug things in. Plan for visitors. Give ourselves a task each day to explore a little tiny piece of the city. Expect surprises.

I'm open to any other advice you may have for me as I try not to be the stick in the mud for our family.

Monday, 23 September 2013

summer scrapbook

Here are some photos from June to Labour day weekend, 2013.


BEWARE: [Mom and Mush, especially] There is a picture of a SNAKE near the end of this lineup (at the end of the August photos).

June 2013

July 2013

on the way to the market... I just couldn't help myself. 
swallowtail butterfly
inspecting snails

a new cousin

August 2013: the month of lakes

Fraser Lake Camp (family camp weekend)
Fraser Lake Camp's water trampoline 

Crawford Lake Conservation Area

Crawford Lake 

Lake Huron
camping at Point Farms Provincial Park
walking through the labyrinth in Kincardine

Lake Nipissing

paddleboat rescue operation
cousins' first ride in the newly refurbished VW van
double rainbow
Playing with the sun

a monarch is born!

Little Glamour Lake


one of the 3 snakes Eden caught
Camp Trillium

the big catch

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Eden writes: a letter to Stephen Harper

[Rebecca's note: Our Benin experience, though only one month long, continues to have a ripple effect on our daily lives here in Canada. Various things can trigger memories or our friends and experiences there, like driving past a factory the other night. This is what Eden wrote.]

Dear Stephen Harper,

I think that people shouldn’t have factories like that because they’re polluting the earth which means they’re polluting nature and God’s children. And if they would have factories then I wish they would keep the smoke inside the factory because when it’s outside, that’s just polluting the air and the animals that God made.

I also think of the orphanage that we saw in Benin and how much the children have and how much they should have. I don’t like it that a lot of people here have lots and they have so little. Why can’t we all have medium?

I also don’t like the money amount of what we have and what they don’t have. I don’t like how we have, let’s say, $100 000, and they only have, like, $5.

I also think of Shegofa and what she has been through in her life which makes me really sad because I don’t like all the hiding from war. I don’t even think we should have war. So I think I can do a little help just by giving a letter to the prime minister.

So that’s why tonight I’m going to pray the way Shegofa does when she prays at night and in the afternoon. I hope that when she goes back to her country she will have a good time there.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

dogs in Benin

Difference #2: In Benin, people don't take dogs for walks.

Our neighbours recently returned from 2 years away in Ghana, West Africa. They brought their big poodle dog along with them, and they said that it was difficult for people to understand how they treated their pet - a mocha-colored dog named Chai who slept in their bed and was part of the family. For people there, dogs were for 2 things: security or supper.

We didn't see any dogs on the menu in Benin, but one of the things we noticed upon arriving in Paris, and then home, was the plethora of pooches on leashes being walked here and there. I'm not anti-dog - we always had dogs growing up - just noticing a big difference from there to here.

People don't take dogs for walks in Benin. In fact, I didn't really see people take anything for a walk. Including themselves. Walks were generally for a purpose - to go to the market, to go to the miller, to go to the tailor. Giving animals their exercise is pretty low priority, it seems.

I've been away for awhile. Summer sabbatical, I'll call it. But I miss this space and what it does to free up my mind, so I'm sporadically back. To write about important things like dogs in Benin. Because the world doesn't have enough people writing about dogs in Benin. Also, our family is speaking this Sunday about our Benin experience, so that has me coming back to this blog and what we wrote during that time.