The Perfect Family…That’s Us!

Perfect-FamilyI’m not exactly sure what those of you who have never met me & my family think we are really like.  The impersonal aspect of the online world is that we can make people believe (on purpose) whatever our agenda is.  At the same time, I think that by virtue of not sharing everything about ourselves and our families, a false impression might ensue.  Not on purpose, by any means, but because we don’t share all the nitty-gritty of our lives.  After all, who’s interested in the regular everyday events that take place behind our walls?  That would be boring, right?  And nobody wants to be Negative Nelly.

For years I was involved in a homeschooling support group which was predominantly moms who attended.  (Seems dads don’t attend them, much.)  No matter the topic for the evening, most people tended to share their successes rather than their failures.  They were looking for answers, and there was always people willing to dole out their perspective answers.  There wasn’t much negativity at these meetings (opposing views, yes, but not evenings of negativity).  What curriculum worked for particular learning styles? Who were great music instructors? How to get your kid to finish their math?

I didn’t think the women were being unrealistic, painting their lives as wonderful at home when they really weren’t.  I just think we focused on the positive.


Rude kids…of the perfect family.

I had a lady over just once shortly before our big family started to travel.  If I recall, there was some physical interaction between 2 of my kids, like somebody hit the other person in the head or something like that.  I think there was a burst of verbal abuse between siblings. This visiting woman visibly started to relax.  She was relieved to see that my kids weren’t the angels that she had envisioned!  And she excitedly told me so!!

I was quite shocked, actually, and gave a chuckle.  Having never socialized with this lady and her children she had no idea what my household was like until that day I invited her over.

She realized that she had taken all the good things all the women had shared over the months at the homeschool group, and concentrated them into one Perfect-Homeschooling-Mom (that has never ever existed).  She thought I was it…or at least one of a few.

The first winter we were living in our rooftop tents, Laars was still sleeping with Everette & I.  We weren’t aware of it yet, but he was having issues with certain things in his diet, affecting his behavior and probably his brain.  I just knew that some days were much longer and painful than others, and often we could tell the moment he woke up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed.

One of those mornings before we were even out of our tent Laars yelled out, “I HATE YOU!”  Ah, welcome to another long day.

A short while later Pat, a grandma lady who was tenting down by the lake with her hubby but whose car was parked next to our van & tents, said, “I was so happy to hear Laars say ‘I hate you!’ this morning.  Now I know you are just a normal family!

We all have ideas what somebody is like without really getting to know them.  Many people have ideas about what I/we might be like, without necessarily being aware of their own pre-conceived ideas.  How do I know this?  Because more times than I can count somebody has sized me up and down and then said, “I can’t believe you’ve had 9 kids!”  Why??? Because they subconsciously were expecting an obese woman (perhaps in a denim jumper).

So, today I got to thinking that maybe my blog makes it appear that I’m a put-together mama fully engaged in my children’s lives, and that every day my kiddos are abounding in their creativity, confidence and friendliness.

It ain’t so.

From comments over the years I surmise you think:

  • I’m overweight from all the pregnancies
  • I slave in the kitchen making nutritional & scrumptious meals
  • I am well organized (or sloppy as hell) and a hard worker
  • We have a strong marriage
  • Our kids’ clothes are neat and tidy and we have good hygiene
  • We do endless activities and crafts
  • I am well connected with my children’s needs
  • Our children never fight
  • I spend endless hours with my homeschooled children pouring over textbooks and marking their work
  • I am superwoman getting my housework and grocery shopping done
Brotherly Love

Brotherly Love

NOPE!  I mean, Yes I’ve got some extra weight on.  But most of the other statements….nope.

  • I don’t enjoy working in the kitchen most days; I feel accomplished if I make one good healthy meal per day.
  • I am decently organized but I am consistently lazy and a great procrastinator.
  • Everette and I have been together 30 years (end of Aug) but it certainly hasn’t been easy.  Worth it, yes.  Struggles, absolutely.  We have a strong commitment to keep working on it, so that’s worth a whole lot!!
  • Our kids might wear the same clothes for days and their feet might stink.  But they’re happy.
  • I imagine hanging out with the kids all day engaging in games and crafts and science experiments…but I rarely do.
  • The kids yell; some say “I Hate You!” and slam doors.
  • We are allergic to textbooks (just kidding, but we don’t use them on the whole since we find them boring & unengaging) and don’t do busy paperwork so there’s nothing to mark.
  • I’ve never been a duster of the home unless I know company is coming.
  • Everette is the main grocery-shopper for the family and has been for about 13 years or more.

Ok, so now that’s off my chest..I feel better.

Now you know I’m just another mom trying to do my best….well sometimes I don’t even think I’m honestly trying my best.  I’m just existing, making it thru another day.  Doing my own selfish thing while my kids fend for themselves.

But at least now you know what a Perfect Family really looks like!

Week in Review 24/8/14

Brian SchindelLast Sunday we were visited by my eldest brother, and after a beautiful ferry ride we find ourselves in Portland, OR.  We had to come see our daughter’s baby bump before she pops in October, and synced it to celebrate Marin’s second birthday.  (Celebration yet to come.  Stay tuned.  She’s gorgeous!)

Everette with one of Seth's many cargo bikes

Everette with one of Seth’s many cargo bikes

A bike-friendly city finds us cycling for our morning coffees where we go to get internet service.  We go for frequent walks with our darling Marin who picks the route, whether its one block or multiple.  Longer walks for bigger people.

By sheer numbers we turn the Burke house on end. Three occupants swells to an even dozen.  Furniture moves and increases.  Endless grocery shopping/food prep/dishes. Arts galore.  Creativity rules.

Marin is thrilled to have all these dotting aunts and uncles plus Grandma/pa.  Already the parents are talking about the withdrawal Marin will suffer with next week when we head back north.  But for now, we all enjoy the change of pace and the deepening of relationships.  Her parents sometimes are brushed aside in favour of time with another little-but-bigger one.  Mitchell can bribe Marin into wearing clothes and shoes and going for a walk when all she had said to her daddy was a repetitive NO!

She’s familiar with us again.  Each time we come to visit we have to slowly work our way into her heart.  And before we know it, we’ll be gone again and have to repeat all of this come October.

Week in Review 10/8/14

I remember as a child the days of summer seemed endless.

We frolicked barefoot in the cool grass;

jumped through nondescript sprinklers…a sprinkler was a sprinkler, not a crocodile or mammoth or anything but a sprinkler;

rode our bikes tirelessly to the neighbourhood corner store that was neither on the street corner nor in our neighbourhood;

ate Sweet Tarts and got Double-Bubble for 2 cents;

pulled wings off of leather jackets (that’s what we called those things that look like mosquitoes on steroids but don’t suck your blood);

hid under scratchy junipers or climbed inside the laurels to hide until the opportune time to Kick the Can.

Nearly every Saturday our family of 7 would head south across the international border to plunge the boat and our bodies into the waters of Whatcom Lake where Dad considered learning to water ski mandatory for all of us.  I loved the water, thinking I’d like to be reincarnated as a dolphin one day (or that maybe I had already been one in a former life) but I resented being forced to learn to water ski.

I wonder what my kids will remember about their own childhood summers?

Layne and Rauchelle remember plunging their heads into the ice cold waters of Englishmen River every Saturday night in preparation for going to church the next morning.  We were building houses, and there were no bathing facilities on the property so we would trek down to the river to clean.   Clearing salal and roasting banana slugs.  Building forts and throwing sticks for Jake.

I’m sure Layne and Rauchelle also remember going to Long Beach with various cousins, sleeping under lean-tos & having snake races.

The younger bunch, I’m not sure what their summer memories will be.  Countless BC evenings at Spider Lake or Sunny Beach, geocaching in the Jeep, building sandcastles and digging up the sandy backyard until hitting pipes in the septic field.  Heritage Days and Canada Days, creating S’mores and memories with the Schwartz while adults compared their gardens.  Playing ‘Pretty Underwear’.

Nova Scotia days learning to sail, celebrating Acadia Days, touring mainland NS and PEI, walking Pt Michaud one more time.  Anders taking his Uncle’s car for a spin (oops!) and the family trip to Niagara Falls.

A Colorado summer of building houses and boats, driving to Denver and the Great Sand Dunes and down to Albuquerque to pick up Marin (and her mommy) for six glorious weeks.  River swimming, gondolas, hot springs and wild horses.

And here we are again back in beautiful British Columbia.

This IS the  summer of 2014:  The Traveling Family on the Hamilton Hobby Farm.





Anders on another hay ride

Anders on another hay ride



Keisha helping Gaelyn get the saddle up and over

Keisha helping Gaelyn get the saddle up and over



This weeks posts….slim pickin’s

Gaelyn masters the golf cart

Parenting Roles Get Flipped

Barrier to Learning

Roles Flip

I was gone a whole week….a sudden and unexpected week.

One day you’re just doing your family thing and then suddenly you realize maybe you are needed more somewhere else for the time being.DSCF1205

My mom was having some medical tests done because upon arriving home mid-July from 3 weeks on the prairies she wasn’t feeling well.  When after 2 weeks of “not quite right in the head” (her own description, not mine!) she decided to have it checked out.  Nothing noted as unusual; everything appears clear.

With humour still intact she phoned the doctor’s office for the results of the ECG. The receptionist said, “You’re as healthy as a horse!” to which my mother responded, “That’s what they told my husband, and 2 months later he dropped dead!”  True story.  No further comment.

For additional reasons, mom has decided it’s time to move from her condo that she has called Home for 13 years.  And so I helped her declutter, and prep for the big move.  I’m glad I’m “local” for this transition in Mom’s life.  Before we travel some more we’ll get Mom settled in her new place.  She’ll start making friends in her new neighbourhood and start the New Chapter in her life.

This will be Mom's new kitchen

This will be Mom’s new kitchen

The whole parenting role has flipped.  Once, the older took care of the younger….then we seemed on similar ground for a while….and now the younger takes care of the older.  Time moves on.  The cycle repeats.


Week in Review 20/7/14

Hot scorching days have morphed into cloud and sprinkles, a bit of reprieve for thirsty  gardens but not enough to douse blazing forest fires.  Its picturesque to see houses tucked into the clutches of wild forest –until the tables turn and the forest licks towns up with its flames.

Gaelyn and Chantel take a (cold) swim.  They went back to Chantel's aunts house and had to warm Gaelyn up with 8 blankets and a cup of tea.  Chantel had a sleep-over with Gaelyn and Danaka before she leaves tomorrow to go back to Nova Scotia.

Gaelyn and Chantel take a (cold) swim. They went back to Chantel’s aunts house and had to warm Gaelyn up with 8 blankets and a cup of tea. Chantel had a sleep-over with Gaelyn and Danaka before she leaves tomorrow to go back to Nova Scotia.

It’s been peaceful here on the island.  Our days are taken up with keeping two ‘homes’ stocked with food and clean laundry.  Some of us are back at Shelley’s house while her and her kids hop-skip-and-jump between summer camps and plain-old-camping.  We’ve been watering the gardens, taking care of bunnies and dealing with a kitty charged-up.  Nothing is out of reach of this little creature; she’s climbing curtains & screens, and can now jump straight onto the table without any springboards.

The rest of the family has spread out to fill the vacated space in the 5th wheel, and while they stay up late watching movies, they sleep-in in the mornings and hope mom & dad bring provisions before they starve to death.  They volunteer their time every day on the hobby farm.

Some weekends Annalee comes and camps out with us so she can volunteer more than otherwise might be available for her.  (Isaiah comes sometimes, too.) But the first time the teens had to put their tent up, it was somewhat humorous. Toveli caught it on camera.

The other evening we invited ‘the teens’ (which is now including Gaelyn who is only 10…she’s grouped in with ‘the teens’ with this current living set-up, but in other circumstances she would be lumped in with ‘the younger ones’.  Sometimes it works in her favour and sometimes not so much)….so like I was saying, we invited the teens up to ‘the house’ for dinner and they stayed long enough to get their laundry washed and dried.  Hmmm, seemed a bit strange to be doing this with 10, 14, 16 & 17 year olds, just visiting!!

Anyways, it makes me take notice again at how quickly the kids grow up and before we know it we’ll be suffering the empty-nest-syndrome.  Well, I doubt we’ll be suffering from it.  I think we’ll be happily embracing it while we travel the world to visit our 9 kids spread around the globe.  We won’t have time to notice the empty nest, right Everette?!!

Already we’ve become peripheral in some of our children’s lives, and that’s all fine and dandy.

Layne hugs Maret and Gaelyn

Layne hugs Maret and Gaelyn

Some of you readers knew that we were planning to spend some extended time in Puerto Rico learning about the business of aquaponics.  For now it’s on the back burner. However, Everette and Danaka had a successful trip to the island in the Caribbean, gathering information and taking a course.  Hopefully they are both wiser for the experience!


We have apparently misplaced our camera which is a real bummer, so photos are becoming fewer and farther between.  Wordpress has issues uploading pics from my phone so that’s a real bummer, too.