Nature Journaling

I’m starting a blog post mini-series on what homeschooling looks like in our home. I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of how our days are spent, and how delightful learning at home can be!

Today we spent  much of the afternoon working on our nature journals. We’ve been reading the Burgess Bird Book for Children for the Natural History component of Year 1 and it has been a great delight. What I’ve appreciated the most about this book is how it makes us pay attention to the habits of birds – do they fly smoothly, or do they fly in a way that makes them look like a rabbit hopping through the sky? Are they neat and tidy, or messy homemakers? Why do some woodpeckers spend so much time on the ground instead of in trees?

This afternoon James painted a picture of a red-headed woodpecker.

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And June coloured a picture of a red-headed woodpecker. (She goes for colourful rather than accurate in her pictures and it drives her brother crazy!!)

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And I painted a picture of a northern flicker. James pointed one out to me the other day – it landed on the Douglas fir tree right next to the patio and we admired it with wide eyes (it’s quite lovely with that startling red bit on the back of its head!) for a few seconds before it noticed us and flew off. I don’t have an original bone in my body when it comes to art, so I focus on copying paintings or photographs found online. It’s working well so far.

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Life Lately

We returned home this past Monday from a most enjoyable weekend in the Fraser Valley celebrating Thanksgiving Day with our families. I’d been down there with the kids the week before to attend a homeschooling conference, and James, June and Alice were so thrilled to be going back to Grandpa and Grandma’s again in such a short time frame. (Definite advantage of living in Kelowna vs. Fruitvale!) Alice spent the week leading up to Thanksgiving keeping her ears open for any mention of Grandpa and Grandma’s place. If she heard the words, she’d run over, ask, “Go with you?” and “Get my shoes?” with an urgent look in her eyes. She was not going to be left behind!

Speaking of Grandpa and Grandma’s, James has lately mentioned several times, most mournfully, how disappointed he is that we actually found a home in which to live; he would have preferred living at his grandparents’ place. “We could have stayed there for a whole month!” he’s been heard sighing. While I share his enthusiasm for the enjoyments of Grandpa and Grandma’s home, I’ve very much relieved we have this lovely home in which to live! 🙂

Anyways! Thanksgiving weekend! Jeremy spent hours and hour marking. Then we got drenched in a monsoon on Saturday afternoon while attempting to enjoy a corn maze. And then we spent a lovely afternoon and evening with my side of the family. The kids rode their bikes, played around in the basement and . . . well, I don’t really know what else they were up to. They were having such fun they just kept busy the whole time. 🙂 We enjoyed a delicious gourmetten feast, some rousing card games and some old, catchy Dutch music that transported us back to our teen years.

The next day we went to mass in Abbotsford, visited our hospitalized nephew, and enjoyed another round of Thanksgiving deliciousness with Jeremy’s side of the family. James tried a Wii for the first time and was quite thrilled with it; it was his favourite part of the evening. For the record, June’s fave: seeing her cousins again. And Alice’s: playing with Oma’s play kitchen.

And on Monday we returned home with the beginnings of colds for everyone. That’s made for a bit of a long week here. Alice has been coughing atrociously, and James and June are keeping me on my toes by shouting in alarm any time there’s a hint of a dribble from her nose. June’s just completed yet another round of antibiotics . . . and Jeremy had his first sick day at school (well, half day). Our neighbour had given us a free family admission to the local pool, so when Jeremy showed up at home after lunch, I bolted out the door with James and June. (Gotta use that van whenever it’s around!) It was lovely to get out of the house, and we thoroughly enjoyed our wet and splashy afternoon!

Jeremy also gave me a sabbath day from mothering today. Talk about speaking my love language! 🙂 After coffee time this morning, I headed out for the day; it was my goal to see something beautiful, to experience some quiet, and to go to confession. I started by visiting Kalamoir Regional Park, a lovely little area along Okanagan Lake. There’s a trail that runs along the water and through a bit of forest. It was so beautiful! There were two areas along the trail that were more heavily forested, and in the first area a group of black-capped chickadees (which I had just painted in my nature journal a week or two ago, and actually recognized on sight) was spiritedly chirping about, and in the second patch there were some cheerful robins bustling about. Our backyard is as dead as a doornail (too dry this summer), and our van is nearly always in use, so our nature study has been severely restricted since moving here. It was so refreshing to see a lovely, lively spot in the world again, and to spend some time observing the frolicking antics of those dear little birds!

After some time walking about outside, I found a quiet spot along the beach and prayed for a while. And then perused a used book store and found a lovely stash of books for a certain Redwall fan (shhhhh!), and then spent a couple hours reading in a comfy coffee shop. Then I went to confession, and headed home. It was a wondrously refreshing day! (Alas, the afternoon caffeinated beverage means I’m still awake at 1:30am! Mental note to self: do not drink caffeine after lunch!!!!)

I haven’t really pulled out my real camera since moving to West Kelowna, but the other day the light coming in the window was just perfect. I love these shots of my sweet and sparky little lass! (Going to have to take it out more often!) I’m also loving the fact that, despite my absolute incompetence in all things hair-related, June manages to walk away from a bath looking like we slaved over her hair for an hour. 😉 I can’t believe she’s going to be four next month!

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And here’s what we’ve been reading lately . . .

Me
The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater
Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason (for an online book club)

James
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

June
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The High Hills by Jill Barklem

Alice
Jamberry by Bruce Degan
Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field

I’d love to dive into another good work of fiction. After finishing The Lord of the Rings and marvelling over the exquisitely beautiful portrait of selflessness (Sam), friendship (Sam and Frodo), and a world in which things are as they should be (comfortable homes, noble kings, Gandalf responding to the destruction of the ring by talking less and laughing more), it’s been hard to muster enthusiasm for anything else. I’d love to hear your recommendations if you’ve read an excellent book lately!

Quotable Kids, October 2017

James: “Mom, I do declare that there is a faint, buzzing sound in the air.”

James to me: “Oh, are you about to make dinner? Well, here I am, your little scullion ready to help you!”

James to Jeremy: “I’m listening to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader right now, and I’m at the part where Eustace Clarence Scrubb is still such a beast!”

During a conversation about babysitters:
James: “Well, I would like to have Methuselah as my babysitter!” (A kindly old mouse in the Redwall series.)

James, while putting cheese on his toast: “Who wouldn’t let the cheese man in at the door? And all the good little children get double lumps of cheese!”

June, pretending to shoot her bow: “Alice, you’re Smaug and I’m Bard. Twang! Twang!”
Alice: <laughs>
June, affronted: “Hey, Smaug doesn’t laugh!!”

June, reading Frog and Toad to Alice: “And this is Frodo, and this is Sam.”

June, in a sing-song voice:
Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.
Catch a mouse by its toe.
If it’s Reepicheep say hello!
Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.

June, holding up a copy of Cinderella: “Mom, what’s the name of this book again? Mozzarella?”

On Becoming Catholic

The winter of 2015-16 was one of the strangest seasons of my life. Jeremy was halfway through his fourth and final year at seminary, and the end of seven long years of studying was finally within sight. Up to that point, everything had led us to believe that Jeremy would make a good pastor, and he was being contacted by various churches who were interested in calling him when he completed his Master of Divinity. We were looking forward to some stability in life: a steady income, knowing where we’d be living for the next five years, and getting to know the congregation Jeremy would be pastoring.

But by the end of 2015 that vision of the future had crumbled. Rather than discussing questions like, “Which of these calling committee inquiries sounds more interesting?” and “Would you ever consider moving to Australia?” I was wondering, “Can I really believe in Purgatory? If I become Catholic, will I lose my love of Scripture? Will my kids fall away from the Lord if we start attending the Catholic Church?” Questions that only a few months earlier during Jeremy’s summer practicum were unthinkable, were now plaguing my thinking.

This dramatic change had begun in September when Jeremy had happened upon a YouTube video by Peter Kreeft, a Catholic theologian, detailing why he’d left the Christian Reformed church of his youth for the Catholic Church. Jeremy had been troubled by the question of whether the early church was closer to the Reformed or Catholic church of today. “I feel like the bottom has fallen out of my world, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same,” Jeremy said to me afterwards. “I think I’ve taken the first step to becoming Catholic.”

That’s a surprising statement to hear from your husband who’s been studying Reformed theology for three years. But as unexpected as it was, I wasn’t entirely unnerved by it. In fact, I had begun to wonder about the Catholic faith myself. This had begun about a year earlier when I’d come across several blogs on books, homeschooling and motherhood. Well, it turns out these blogs had a fourth thing in common I wasn’t aware of straight away: they were also Catholic. And looking back, what first began to change my mind about the Catholic Church was regularly reading the writing of Catholic bloggers.

The first of these blogs was Joyous Lessons, Celeste Cruz’s homeschooling blog. We are using the same curriculum she is, Ambleside Online, and when I realized how organized and detailed Celeste was, I knew I didn’t want to miss a thing. So I began with her first blog post and slowly read through to the present day. She is a devout Catholic, but she grew up Protestant and is soundly grounded in the Scriptures. It was reading her blog that made me realize that the stereotype about Catholics (they don’t know their Bibles and are Christians in culture rather than in practice) are not necessarily true. There are Catholic women who know their Bibles, who love the Lord passionately – and who have chosen to be Catholic rather than Protestant! That was quite a revelation to me.

Haley’s blog on homeschooling, Jane Austen, art and excellent children’s literature was another blog I’d been reading. I was intrigued by how closely the life of her family was tied to the church year, and realized this wasn’t the case for me. A couple years ago, I’d been chatting with a doctor at work and, when he learned I was a Christian, he’d said, “Oh, this must have been a big week for you then!” (Easter had just passed.) Honestly, it hadn’t been. Aside from Christmas, my life was not anchored to the church calendar, and I wondered why.

And a third blog I’d been reading was Mama Needs Coffee. You know how the Scriptures speak of creation groaning in travail? The next verse says, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” Jenny’s blog reminds me of this . . . the way motherhood is a path to holiness, and there’s a whole lot of dying to selfishness along the way. I was intrigued by a series she wrote on why the Catholic church tells believers not to use contraception or birth control, and how separating sex and children is never a good thing for a married couple. Her comment that, prior to the 1930s, every single church forbade the use of contraception and birth control – well, that was stunning. Really? I wondered. What happened?

So, because I’d been reading these blogs, Jeremy’s confession about having taken the first step to becoming Catholic didn’t alarm me as much as it might have. Some further questions about Catholicism I had included the following . . .

We all know that our culture is completely messed up when it comes to sex. It praises disordered sex, sex outside of marriage, etc. And it also praises separating having sex and having children – you can have the pleasure of sex without the inconvenience of children. Is it possible that our culture’s thoughts about sex have been seeping into the church? If it is true that up until the 1930s all churches opposed the use of birth control and contraception, why do so many Christians today consider birth control a given? “We’re getting married, but we’re not ready to have children yet” is the norm, it seems. “We’ll use protection till we’re really ready for kids.” And, seeing as I’m in my mid-30s, the latest thing I’ve been hearing is, “My husband got ‘snipped’ because our family is complete” or, “We’re done having children.” Why is the Roman Catholic Church the only church opposed to birth control, contraception and sterilization today?

More questions popped up while I was working through a Bible study on the book of 1 Peter with some friends. We came across a remarkable verse that says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, [i.e., the flood] now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (3:21). I wondered, does baptism literally save us by the washing away of our sins, like the Catholic Church teaches? Or was Peter speaking figuratively? And when there are two or three possible interpretations, how do I know which is true? Do I go with the argument that most compels me? Or is there a higher authority that can define Christian beliefs for me?

This verse from Peter’s letter made me wonder about other Bible verses Catholics interpret literally. Like Jesus saying, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (John 6:53-54). Why did so many of Jesus’s disciples abandon him when they heard this teaching? Did they leave because Jesus was talking about people eating/drinking a symbol of his body and blood, or because he was talking about them actually eating his body and blood? What about the verses at the end of the gospel of John, where Jesus breathes on his disciples and gives them the power to forgive sins? Did the disciples really possess that power? Was that a little tidbit we ought to ignore, or explain away? What if transubstantiation and the work of the priest in the confessional was actually true and scriptural?

One of the best things about seminary was that we got a chance to talk about all the things Jeremy was learning about over lunch together. It was like having my own personal theology instructor. I loved it! And when Jeremy began seriously diving into Catholic theology, we talked about that even more than usual. He did the bulk of the research, while I acted as more of a sounding board. (Our little children were 4 years old (James), 1 year old (June) and newly born (Alice) at the time, so I didn’t have lots of energy or free time for deep reading.) We talked about sola scriptura and church authority. We talked about the early church fathers and whether a Reformed or Catholic person would feel more at home in the ancient church. I bought a DVD by Wes Callihan on the church fathers and read through the writings of men like St. Ignatius and St. Clement who lived just after the time of the apostles. We talked about Douglas Wilson’s book on why he’s not Catholic, Papa Don’t Pope, which, unfortunately, was far less helpful than either of us was expecting. And we began to think about apostolic succession, the Catholic belief that Jesus gave teaching authority to the apostles, which was handed down to the next generation of church leaders, and so on and so forth throughout the history of the church.

And what emerged from all these hours spent reading and discussing were two questions: How can sola scriptura be true, if the Bible itself doesn’t teach it? And, is the Catholic Church the church that Christ founded, as it claims to be? (Or, to put it differently, do I decide what I believe the Bible teaches, and then find a church that agrees with me? Or do I find the Church, and then side with her?)

In November 2015, my parents flew out from BC for a visit. Those visits with family during our years in Ontario were so precious; they were golden days, absolutely treasured! We sat down with my parents and explained what was going on in our hearts and minds. They were surprised, but promised to pray for us – and have done so, without ceasing, to this day. We appreciate those prayers for our spiritual wellbeing so much! What better way to care for people you love than to lift them up in prayer before the Father? It was a relief to be able to share some of these thoughts that were crowding our minds.

On the day my parents were returning home, James came bounding up from the basement with a what appeared to be a necklace clutched in his hands. We asked him what he was holding and where he’d found it, and he showed it to us. It was a small, pale rosary and he explained he’d found it hanging at eye level on a nail in the workshop downstairs. Jeremy and I had been in that workshop countless times and had never seen a rosary there. We both wondered at the timing of a Catholic devotional aid appearing out of nowhere just as we were looking more deeply into The Catholic Question. And looking back, I’m reminded of Jesus coming into the world without a trace of pomp or splendor, but instead wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. So Catholicism did not come into our lives with an ornate, hand-crafted wooden rosary, to which Jeremy and I would both have been instinctively attracted, but with a flimsy, plastic glow-in-the-dark rosary. Seems entirely appropriate, doesn’t it? 🙂

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Late that autumn, we invited a local Catholic priest to our home. There were many particulars about the Catholic Church we had questions about: parish life, purgatory, Catholic schools and justification by faith alone, and it seemed we needed a real live Catholic person with whom we could discuss these matters. Father Adam happened to have a blog, so Jeremy emailed him and he agreed to meet with us. I think we were all rather nervous that evening, but Father Adam answered our questions plainly and honestly. Parish life varies from church to church. Avoid sending your children to a Catholic school in Ontario. Yes, Catholics believe in Purgatory and they believe their sins are fully forgiven by Christ. The two are not mutually exclusive.

And justification by faith alone. Martin Luther’s analogy of being made right with God was that of snow covering a dunghill: God clothes the dunghill (the sinner) with righteousness (the snow). You’re still a dunghill, but now God sees the snow. This reminded me of an old friend who had attended a Reformed Church once and had heard a sermon on justification that had contained a similar metaphor. It had mystified him. Why would I want God to see Jesus instead of me, he wondered. Isn’t that a lie? That question had lain around in the back of my mind for years. Father Adam said Luther’s analogy is not what Catholics believe. Catholics teach that you are baptized and believe in Jesus, and your dunghill-ness is turned to snow. God doesn’t just cover you so you appear clean and fresh and white, but you are actually made clean.

This reminded me of something Jeremy’s dogmatics professor had said: Anytime you encounter false teaching, the question you ought to ask is, What does this say about Jesus and his work of salvation? On reflection, it seemed that Jesus transforming dung into snow was a much greater work than Jesus simply covering dung with snow. And I wondered, Could it be that the Catholic understanding of salvation actually gives greater glory to God?

It was refreshing to meet a Catholic in real life and to speak face to face, rather than face to book. Speaking of books, Father Adam gave us a copy of Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn at that first meeting and I read it quickly over the next few days while I nursed Alice. In it, the Hahns share their story of becoming Catholic. It’s a dramatic story, as Dr. Hahn had been a Presbyterian pastor with a passion for converting Catholics to Protestantism when he first began to investigate Catholicism. Dr. Hahn also has a deep love for Scripture, and his conversion to Catholicism happened because of Scripture, not despite Scripture as some might suppose.

Another thing Father Adam did was to introduce us to a young Catholic family who lived down the road from us. They were friendly and interested in our situation, and very open to answering all the questions we came up with. Mike had been in seminary to become a priest, and Elena was well versed in Catholic theology, too. Emotionally, it was an immense relief to be able to speak openly about the turmoil we were in with people who were sympathetic to our plight. Jeremy had spoken to his seminary mentor about these matters, but we were not sure it would be wise to share widely our misgivings about the Reformed faith given that Jeremy still harboured a small hope of becoming a Reformed pastor. What if this were a phase, or something that led us to cling even more strongly to our Reformed faith in the end?

Jeremy attended Mass once or twice with Mike, and I went to Mass once with Elena. Although I’d visited Catholic cathedrals on past trips to Europe, I couldn’t remember having been at a Catholic service before. The building was large and austere, and I was struck by reverence of the service. There was a silence in the church that was profound, and before church members received the Eucharist, they knelt or bowed deeply at the waist. I found it quite fascinating how physical Catholic worship was, and was reminded of this lovely line in Scott Hahn’s memoir: “Now I know why God gave me a body: to worship the Lord with his people in liturgy.” One didn’t simply hear the Word, but one also touched holy water, made the sign of the cross, knelt in prayer, and showed reverence to the Body of Christ by bowing or kneeling.

The school year marched on, and in January of 2016 Jeremy quit preaching and teaching catechism classes. The Catholic Question had grown large enough that he no longer felt he could preach or teach in good conscience. He got through the final semester of school with a heavy burden on his heart. This last stretch of seminary was a peculiar time for me, one in which I felt quite alone. I remember one night in particular. I had joined the other ‘seminary wives’ for an evening out, and we’d been talking about the next stage in our lives. They were looking forward to classis exams, their husbands getting calls to various churches, and becoming pastors’ wives; we were even reading a book on this topic, You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes, at our monthly get-togethers. They were gearing up for a busy, exciting summer filled with possibility. I’d been fairly reserved that night, as Jeremy wanted to keep things quiet till he’d finished his studies. At the close of the evening, I headed in one direction towards my van while everyone else walked in another direction, gaily chatting and laughing. It seemed like a perfect picture of our lives. They were all headed towards a future of security and of supporting their husbands in the ministry, while I was alone and discouraged, with only broken dreams of the future.

Seminary finally came to an end, and Jeremy wrote his final exams and shared his growing attraction to Catholicism with his professors and classmates. This was an enormous relief to me, as I was tired of wrestling with these deep questions in silence. A friend from church later told me she’d assumed I’d been suffering from postpartum depression. She was right about the suffering, but wrong about the cause – it wasn’t postpartum depression, it was these question about Catholicism plaguing my soul.

I’d been praying desperately over the past months. Prayers of frustration. Why did these questions pop up at the last minute? How unfair! After seven years of school! And just when we were beginning to imagine what our future could look like! Why now, Lord? And prayers for truth. I recognized that Satan hates it when good men graduate from seminary and go on to preach the good news, and I did not want to be led astray by the father of lies. Lord, if the Catholic Church is in error, make that plain to us! Keep us in Your truth. How can we know which way you want us to go? And desperate prayers for our souls and for the souls of our children. I was terrified of straying away from the Lord, and of leading my children away from Him. The line from the Heidelberg Catechism about the Mass being an ‘accursed idolatry’ pinged around in my mind as a grave warning. I wondered if our children wouldn’t be better off in the Canadian Reformed Church. There seemed to be fewer people rejecting their faith there than in the Catholic church – maybe we could just ignore these doubts and suffer them for the sake of our children’s future. And yet, I found great peace in the belief that if the Catholic Church was who she said she was, then I could know that submitting to her was the same thing as submitting to Christ.

An interesting verse in this regard is found in one of Paul’s letters to Timothy. He refers, almost in passing, to the “pillar and foundation of the truth.” When you read that quote, what do you think he’s talking about? What would you say is the pillar and foundation of the truth? As a Reformed person, I would have said the Scriptures, of course! But read what Paul writes: “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Paul actually calls the church the pillar and foundation of the truth. Isn’t that fascinating?

After seminary was out, we shared our thoughts about Catholicism with our elder as well. We wished to withdraw from our Reformed church then and there, because, while we weren’t ready to be Catholic yet, we were quite sure we done being Reformed. But our elder advised a cautious course with room for dialogue, and we agreed to that.

And then we had to decide what to do with our lives: should we stay or should we go? We could either remain in Ontario long-term, as Jeremy had been offered a decent job in woodworking, or we could move back to BC where I could work as a nurse. I was not able to work as a nurse in Ontario, as I hadn’t worked for four years, but I was able to work in BC where the requirements are slightly more lenient. My working for a year would give us some more time to decide what sort of career Jeremy should pursue, and it would mean we’d be much closer to our families. We thought about it and prayed about it, and decided to move to BC. Within two weeks we had moved across the country.

 

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Our new backyard in Fruitvale. 

I wish we had been able to leave in a more leisurely fashion, though work requirements didn’t allow for this. We would have welcomed the opportunity to meet with our elder several times over a period of a few months, rather than sharing our concerns and leaving a week later. That wasn’t ideal. And it wasn’t ideal in terms of our friendships and relationships, either. We told our friends and some fellow church members we were seriously considering becoming Catholic, and then we relocated before we could really talk things through. But, for us as a family and for our mental health, it was a good choice. Once we settled in to our new home in the little village of Fruitvale, Jeremy began smiling and laughing again, something that had been sorely lacking during the last few months in Hamilton.

After we settled into our home in Fruitvale, we began to look around for a church to attend. We weren’t sure about immediately going to a Catholic church (we did still have many questions to sort through), so on our first Sunday in the Kootenays we attended an Alliance church. On the drive home, James declared that church had been “fun!” It certainly had been a casual experience. What I remember most is the way the members of the congregation were always looking around, instead of paying attention to the songs being sung, the sermon being preached, etc. There was an unappealing restlessness at the core of the church, kind of like hanging out with a person who is constantly checking her phone.

So, on our second Sunday in Fruitvale we began attending the Catholic Church. It was a small congregation of mostly seniors, and our young family stood out. Plus, if you’ve ever been to Mass, you’ll know that there is a lot of standing and sitting and praying, and the first time you go you don’t really know what is going on. But there was a reverence to be found there, something that gave one an inkling that something profound was occurring.

And so we kept coming. After a few months, we asked about starting RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). This is an introduction to Catholicism that usually involves weekly meetings from September to April; newcomers are then received into the Catholic Church on the Easter vigil service. Our parish was a small one, so we were the only people in RCIA; and our parish was flexible, too, so our RCIA classes were held at our home. We worked our way through Father Barron’s Catholicism DVD series and peppered our RCIA leaders with many questions. And we did lots of reading on the side. I read parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (it’s a whopping 825 pages long, so it takes way longer to get through than the Heidelberg Catechism!), On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard, The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn, quite a few blog articles by Leila Miller, the occasional article by Called to Communion (I think Jeremy’s read their entire website from top to bottom), and watched Catholic Answers videos by Jimmy Akin, a Catholic apologist (who was formerly a Protestant – it seems some of the best Catholic apologists out there used to be Protestant!).

When we started RCIA, we withdrew from our church in Hamilton. The elders encouraged the congregation to correspond with us and to pray for us, and many people sent us little notes letting us know that we were in their prayers. We appreciated these prayers on our behalf tremendously, as well as the notes of encouragement. They demonstrated a heartfelt concern for our spiritual wellbeing, and we were very grateful for that.

A tiny number of people emailed to ask us why we wanted to become Catholic (I’m still grateful for those genuine questions), and a larger number emailed to tell us of specific concerns they had with the Catholic Church. Some people felt very reluctant to email because of Jeremy’s background in theology (what could I possibly say to change your mind?) but still chose to correspond because of a conviction that it was the right thing to do. We were very touched by that effort.

The concerns raised included the following points, and I’ll include a brief response to each one.

– Catholics venerate relics.

Yes, they do. If you think of the Church as a family, the saints are the family members known for their extraordinary holiness and devotion to God. And relics are physical, tangible reminders of these holy people that turn our hearts to God, to the beautiful work he accomplishes in the lives of his people. And when you read the Scriptures and note that a dead body that touched Elisha’s bones was raised from the dead, and that handkerchiefs handled by the Apostle Paul healed the sick and exorcized demons you can see why believers throughout history have held on to relics of the holy. It is also worth noting that venerating and worshiping are two distinct things. We can show respect to someone or something (we’d all bow or curtsy in the presence of the Queen, for instance) without worshiping the person or object.

– Catholics worship saints.

No, they don’t. They venerate saints, that is, they show them honour, but they worship God alone. You could compare it to how you’d act if a great hockey player like Pavel Bure walked into the room. You might stand up, shake his hand and offer him a good seat and something delicious to drink. Likewise, Catholics show deference to the men and women throughout history who have lived holy lives. Certainly Catholics distinguish between the Creator and the creature. They don’t worship saints; they recognize that the godly lives of saints point us to God.

– Catholics think saints can intercede for us.

Yes, they do. Catholics don’t believe that the communion of the saints is only for the living. They believe that all members of the Body of Christ, whether their bodies have perished or not, are part of the communion of saints. So Catholics believe that a soul in heaven, enjoying the full presence of God, is able and willing to pray for believers still alive. A lovely picture of this is found in the book of Revelation, where the living creatures and elders are holding bowls of incense, “which are the prayers of God’s people,” before the throne of God.

– Praying to saints is not biblical.

What ‘prayer to saints’ means is that you are asking a holy person to pray to God on your behalf. I love to ask holy people to pray for me! For example, I regularly ask my dad to pray for me and I find it very comforting to know he’s doing so, for as the Apostle James says, “the prayer of a righteous man avails much.” There’s no reason to think that believers in heaven don’t care about our troubles; for example, you may recall the rich man interceding for his wayward brothers on earth in one of Jesus’s parables.

– The Catholic Church gives you lots of ways for you to earn bonus credit before God.

Catholics believe that salvation is a gift of grace, not something you earn. So, no, there is no ‘bonus credit’ before God. What does ‘bonus credit’ even mean in a family relationship of love? Do you ever think of your children as earning ‘bonus credit’ with you when they hug you or draw you a picture? Of course not. That being said, Catholics do believe that God rewards our good works, as Jesus taught repeatedly, and as the apostles reiterate in the New Testament. The reward that we receive, though, is more of God himself. Contemplating more of His majesty and more of His glory is the prize, which means that the only thing that can motivate us to earn these rewards is our love for God.

– The Catholic Church has troubling traditions, such as venerating Mary and believing in Purgatory.

Yes, the Catholic Church does think highly of Mary (or, as Wordsworth called her, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast”). If you’re interested in reading more on this subject, I’d recommend Jeremy’s blog post, Fragrant Mary on the North Wind. And yes, the Catholic Church does believe in Purgatory. I’ll touch more on this later, as Purgatory is something I struggled with before becoming Catholic.

– You’re leaving our church and not joining another one, but you need the sacraments to remain strong in your faith.

There was a gap between us leaving the Canadian Reformed Church (around October 2016) and us joining the Catholic Church (in April 2017), but we were enrolled in RCIA during that time. I certainly did hunger for the sacraments during that time!

– You must think you need to earn God’s favour if you’re considering becoming Catholic.

No, I don’t think I need to earn God’s favour.

– Salvation should only be sought in Jesus.

Yes, the Catholic Church teaches that salvation is found in Christ alone.

– I hope that you will not sever all ties with the Canadian Reformed churches and your friends and family within it.

It was never our plan to sever all ties. We are profoundly thankful for the way our parents raised us, and we are grateful, too, for all that we have learned and the many ways in which we have loved and been loved within the CanRef church. We did not leave because of bitterness or disappointment or resentment. (We were perfectly happy there, until The Catholic Question hit us!) We have simply come to see that Christ is to be found in His church, the Catholic church, and so are following Him there.

– I’m sorry if you have had a bad experience in our churches, or were hurt by our churches.

Neither is the case. We didn’t leave because of a bad experience, or because we were hurt. We left because we realized the Catholic Church is the Church of Christ.

These email conversations gave us a lot to think and pray about. My one disappointment in this regard was that so many conversations ended after the other person had made his or her point. Very few people took the time to really engage with our questions. Then again, I think we could have put more effort into our relationships in Hamilton; had we done that, I imagine those conversations would have been more robust!

It was a lot of changes in a short time period. Aside from leaving our church family and moving across the country, I was also returning to work and getting used to being away from our children for tiring 12 hour days. At first I coped by getting wrapped up in a murder mystery series on Acorn TV (like Netflix, but with British television shows). I sent an email to a friend around that time saying, I’d expected to lean on God more during this difficult transition in our life, but instead I’m just drowning myself in distraction! Sending the email was enough to effect a change. I began to pray again, and to seek God.

I came across a beautiful hymn, “O Jesus Thou the Beauty Art,” that really spoke to me. The lyrics say,

O Jesus, Thou the Beauty art
Of angel worlds above!
Thy Name is music to the heart
Enchanting it with love.
O my sweet Jesu
Hear the sighs
Which unto Thee I send!
To Thee my inmost spirit cries,
My being’s hope and end!

I thought about those words a lot: the beauty of Christ, Jesus listening to my sighing, Jesus being both the hope and end of my life. Months later I spent several hours chatting with a work colleague (we had no patients that day) about my experience so far in the Catholic church. She was intensely interested. What would you say is the greatest difference you’ve noticed so far, having moved from a Protestant church to the Catholic Church? she asked. It sounds so cheesy, but what I’d noticed was a profound appreciation for the love of God. God looks on me, his child, with love! That same love that I have for each one of my children, only magnified because He’s God and He’s thoroughly and completely good and selfless. That love boggled my mind, and drove away insecurities I’d always had.

By February of 2017 Jeremy was ready to join the Church, but there was still a holdout in my heart. Even though I mentally understood that Christ had founded the Catholic Church, that he had passed His authority to that Church, and that she was His beloved bride, there was still some part of me that was dragging my heels, not quite committed.

One of my hang-ups was about Purgatory. I’d read Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, that epic Norwegian Catholic novel set in the medieval era, and was troubled by the scene in which Kristin’s father, Lavrans, dies. He was a good man, a man pained by his sins, faithful to God, generous to those who had less than him.

Lavrans now spoke often of the purgatory fire, which he expected to enter soon, but he showed no sign of fear. He hoped for great solace from the prayers of intercession offered by his friends and the priests; and he consoled himself that Saint Olav and Saint Thomas would give him strength for the last trial, as he felt they had given him strength here in life. He had always heard that the person who firmly believed would never for a moment lose sight of the salvation toward which the soul was moving, through the fiery blaze.

Kristin thinks Lavrans is anticipating Purgatory like a soldier “eager for battle and adventure.” This was a very different way of thinking about what happens after death, and I worried about how to console a dying person. I remembered very clearly the death of my step-grandmother, how she’d held on to life for nearly two weeks after we’d begun to anticipate her death. My family had encouraged her to let go and to enter heaven. Reflecting on this, it seemed we had been asking my step-grandmother to lay down her weapons and enter a time of rest. My uncle had also recently died, and this refrain of rest and peace had sounded again. How could I encourage a person to let go their last grip on life when it meant facing yet another hurdle before heaven? What joy or consolation was there in death that was not an immediate entrance to heaven, but an entrance to flames and suffering? Should I be praying for the soul of my uncle? Was he in heaven, or was he in purgatory with no Catholics to pray for him?

Personally, I think CS Lewis’s explanation about purgatory makes a lot of sense. (That really has been my experience with becoming Catholic; that for every question I’ve had, there has always been an answer that just makes sense.) Lewis writes,

Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’?

Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’

‘It may hurt, you know.’

‘Even so, sir.’

I suppose it is not so common these days for us to think of ourselves as having smelly breath and being dressed in muddy rags. If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings, you may remember the part of the story where Sam and Frodo are being led by Gollum to Mount Doom. Gollum is ravenously hungry and Frodo shares some of his lembas (elven bread) with him. Gollum, whose soul has been twisted by the evil ring so that he has lost most of his hobbit-ness, can’t eat the bread that tastes of honey. It chokes him. I think that’s a great picture of what sin does to us. It makes goodness and the things of God unbearable to us. And sanctification is God changing us so that we begin to stomach, and eventually to love, the things of God. In Catholic teaching, most people aren’t totally healed from that twistedness in this life (that is, made fully perfect or holy) – and Purgatory is what finishes the healing, what makes us open to the fullness of God’s love. It’s not a pleasant process, but it is for our good – so that we can fully enjoy Him.

Lewis continues, “I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition, partly because most real good that has been done me in life has involved it. But I don’t think suffering is the purpose of purgation” (Prayer: Letters to Malcolm). My problem with purgatory was the question of its purpose; certainly, a purgatory that is all about punishment would drive us farther away from God and would be a torment as we lay dying. But Purgatory is meant to draw us closer to God. Catherine of Genoa said purgatory is “incomparably painful because we see all the horror of our own sins, yet it is incomparably joyful because God is there, and we are learning to endure his truth, his light.” What a beautiful thing, for our hearts to be wholly open to God!

About this time, some friends we made through Called to Communion sent us two packages of books in the mail. Shipping from New Zealand is not cheap; I think they spent around $150 sending us these lovely treasures! This Catholic couple had also been Reformed once upon a time, and had received books in the mail from overseas friends when they were investigating Catholicism, and so they felt compelled to do the same for us. Amongst these books was one by Peter Kreeft with the title Catholic Christianity. It really is a gem of a book, and I highly recommend it. If you are at all interested in what the Catholic Church teaches, this is the book to read. I wish it had been used as the basis of our RCIA instruction. It carefully goes through the teachings of the Church, and explains them in the most straightforward and delightful way. It is grounded in Scripture, and it is a rich feast for the mind. It answered more questions I didn’t know I had, and the remaining reservations I held washed away after reading this book.

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St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy

I remember traveling about Europe with two friends and coming across a lovely old church in Bled, Slovenia, that had marvelous paintings illustrating the Lord’s prayer. The church was quiet, in a rich and full sort of way. When I remember that church, I think – why are many Catholic churches so beautiful? What is it about them that makes your soul quiet and reverent? And conversely, why are most modern churches so dull and uninspiring? There is a newly built church in Abbotsford that Jeremy compared to a dentist’s office, and unfortunately, he was bang on. Peter Kreeft answers those questions, saying,

The greatest works of architecture were built to glorify the Architect of the universe: to house the incarnate Eucharistic Christ. These were the cathedrals, miraculous “sermons in stone” that made rock and glass seem to take wing and fly like angels. Many of the world’s greatest paintings and statues were made for churches, and much of the greatest music was composed for Masses. For what happens within that sacred time and place is the most beautiful work of art ever conceived: God’s work of redeeming man from eternal darkness into heavenly light by enduring hellish darkness in man’s place on the Cross.

And in answer to my question of why our lives should be tied to the church calendar:

Liturgy sanctifies all times by its special sacred times . . . Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts,’ the ‘Solemnity of solemnities’; just as the Eucharist is the ‘Sacrament of sacraments.’

On April 2nd, Jeremy and I joined the Catholic Church. I mentioned Rome Sweet Home earlier in this post. In that book, Scott writes about how his wife, Kimberley, remained Presbyterian for another five years before also joining the Church. Their marriage suffered a lot of strain because of their division in the faith. When Jeremy and I got married, we didn’t spend much time choosing our wedding text. If I remember correctly, I flipped through my Bible for a while, suggested Philippians 2:1-2, Jeremy agreed to the selection, and that was the end of the matter. Our wedding text ends with the words, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” And despite our lackadaisical approach to choosing a text, I am convinced that God has answered the prayer within it by graciously leading us down the path to Catholicism at the same time. And my heart is full of gratitude for this extraordinary mercy God has shown us. We were confirmed that day, and rather than waiting till the Easter vigil service for our first communion, our priest waved us on up for our first communion then, too.

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Jeremy and I were received into the Catholic Church on April 2nd, 2017!

One of my favourite parts of the Mass happens just before members of the congregation walk up to the front of church to receive the Eucharist. The congregation says in unison, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8). Isn’t that such a beautiful picture of the gospel right there? Our Lord, who humbled himself to become man, and who humbled himself to die by a criminal’s death on the cross, daily humbles himself to become bread for us, too. In one of Elizabeth Goudge’s novels, she mentions three three-word prayers that sum up the Christian life:

Lord, have mercy.
Into thy hands.
Thee I adore.

Eating communion nearly always brings those last three words to mind. Thee I adore! How astounding to receive by faith a Saviour so great beyond comprehension, and yet so humble as to become our daily bread!

God’s Abundant Provision

Things have changed substantially since my last blog post about Alice’s second birthday. We’ve moved to West Kelowna, Jeremy’s prepping for his first year as a teacher, and James started Year 1 of Ambleside Online!

Looking at each of those items, one at a time . . .

First, the move. When Jeremy accepted his teaching position in Kelowna, we gave notice to our landlord and agreed to move out July 31st. And then we began looking for a home in Kelowna, which turned out to be much more difficult than we’d anticipated. Well, there are actually a fair number of homes for rent, but the cost to rent out just the main floor of a home is astronomical! So we scoured Craigslist, Kijiji and Castanet daily in our hunt for a small home at a reasonable price.

The first place we came across was a cute little home in downtown Kelowna. It turned out to be a scam; the guy had copied pictures from an active MLS listing and was pressuring us to send money ASAP to “secure our rental” (i.e., fill his pocket). The second place was a three-bedroom main floor in Vernon. It was on a busy street, and the back yard wasn’t totally fenced, and it would have been a 45 minute drive to work for Jeremy – but the price was okay. We hummed and hawed and slept on it overnight, but by the time we emailed the landlord back, she’d already rented the place to someone else! And then we came across a third place that looked like it might work. The price was good, but the home, half of a duplex, was tiny . . . maybe 900 square feet. It did have three bedrooms, though, and it had a tiny yard. We drove out from Fruitvale to take a look at it, and toured the place with about five other people who were also interested. It turns out there was actually another suite tucked in below the duplex that was rented out to a student, and I imagined our children running around at 6am . . . And then we waited on pins and needles to hear back. A week or so later we got a text message saying the duplex had been rented to someone else.

We were devastated. The duplex had been far from ideal, with its cramped quarters and negligible backyard, but it was nearing the end of July and we had to be out of our Fruitvale home and now we had no place to move to! We began to consider alternative arrangements. Perhaps the kids and I could move in with mom and dad for a month, while Jeremy camped in Kelowna and got started on school prep work. We could look around for a home, Jeremy could pop in for a walk through, and we could move in around the first of September. It wasn’t ideal, but it could work. (Plus the kids were overjoyed at the thought of living with Grandpa and Grandma for a WHOLE MONTH!)

Throughout this whole time, Jeremy and I had been praying constantly. Despite being in the early weeks of my pregnancy and easily able to sleep eleven hours a night, I woke up one morning at 4:30am with a strong urge to pray. I prayed and prayed. I went to work that day and prayed desperately on my breaks. Our housing situation was constantly on my mind, but I was also constantly bringing it before the throne of God. We asked our families to pray for us. I asked some friends to pray for us. I asked saints (like Saint Ann and Saint Joseph) to pray for us, as well. I imagined Joseph leading Mary to Bethlehem when she was pregnant with the Lord Jesus, and then desperately looking for a place for them to stay.

And then we found an ad for a home for rent in West Kelowna. A whole home. With a good-sized fenced yard. For the same rent we were paying in Fruitvale! Jeremy called the property manager and happened to be the first person to leave a message. But the property manager had left messages with several people who had posted wanted ads on Castanet, so she said she would get back to us. Then she let us know that a couple had toured the home, and she expected to rent the place to them. And then we waited for a couple days as she waited to hear back from them.

On July 28, three days before we were supposed to move, we got a call from the property manager saying the other couple had passed on the place, and it was ours if we wanted it. She explained that it had a deck, and that our kids could fall off of it. That the basement bedroom might not be comfortable enough for a child to sleep in. That parts of the basement were unfinished. That there was no dishwasher.

We said, “WHO CARES!!!! We’ll take it!!!!” (We haven’t had a dishwasher in five years, anyways. What’s another year?)

And we moved in August 1st. Our new home is twice the size of our Fruitvale home. The yard is dead because of the dry summer, but there’s plenty of space for the kids to run around. The street is quiet, and the neighbour across the road said the other day that she loves hearing the kids play outside. “They sure sing a lot!” she commented cheerfully.

We are still basking in the unexpected surprise of God giving us so much more than we’d asked for. A huge home! A lovely deck outside! A good-sized yard! I’ll post some pictures of our new place another time, but suffice it to say we are more than happy with this place. It is temporary, till the end of March (or possibly June), but it gives us time to get used to the area and look around at where we’d like to live in the future.

Some photos! Here are James and Jeremy, about to embark on their trip to Harmon Lake a few days after we moved in. James was thrilled he was allowed to come along!

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We’re now only three hours away from the Fraser Valley and we’ve had a bunch of visitors already. Definitely easy to get used to that!

June holding Everly. 🙂

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Second, the job. Last year, when Jeremy decided not to go into the ministry, we thought it would be best if I worked for a year so we could think for a while about the best career path for Jeremy. There were several options . . . going back into woodworking, purchasing a landscaping franchise, or going into teaching. Last September, we decided to spend the month praying about what Jeremy should do for work, and by the end of the month he felt that he ought to go into teaching. My parents were visiting around that time, and as Jeremy and my dad were walking down the road in Fruitvale, some random child hollered at Jeremy, “Hey old guy, are you a teacher??”

From that time on, then, we looked around for teaching opportunities. Jeremy and I have both been drawn to classical education and when Jeremy thought about where he’d like to teach, he immediately thought a classical school – preferably, a Catholic classical school. Well, those are awfully scarce in Canada. There are a couple (mostly elementary schools) in Ontario, but none in western Canada. And so we began to look into getting a green card so Jeremy could work in the USA. That turned out to be a much longer process than either of us had predicted (9+ months wait to see if you’re approved for applying for a visa, more like 15+ months to actually get the visa). So while we found a number of fascinating schools in the USA that would be a dream to work at (here’s looking at you, Gregory the Great Academy) in the end those were not realistic. By the time we realized that, it was late spring.

Around that time, my dad had a vision of sorts in which he saw two things: the Bible, and Jeremy paddling in a canoe. Both of these were in reference to a job for Jeremy. We were puzzled. The Bible was pretty obvious, but where in the world could Jeremy find a job that involved a canoe?

He ended up applying for a restricted teaching license in BC, and looked around for teaching positions at Catholic schools in BC. There were a couple available and he applied for them, but none seemed like the right thing and we were beginning to get desperate as the months ticked by. I had said I would work for a year, and as June 1 of this year rolled around, my heart despaired. Would there be a teaching position that Jeremy would be qualified for? If so, would a school hire him despite his lack of experience? What if nothing came up? What ought our Plan B to be? Would I be able to homeschool James for first grade? Where did this canoe fit into the picture?

We began looking at other ways Jeremy could use his Master of Divinity degree. He applied for a Youth Coordinator position at a Catholic church in the Lower Mainland. He applied for a Spiritual Director position at a retirement home. He applied for a Building and Yard Maintenance position at a home for special needs adults. He applied for a woodworking job, for a site maintenance job at a mini storage facility. He applied for a Forest Ranger position. And we prayed over and over for guidance, direction and for the right job to fall into Jeremy’s hands.

In June, Jeremy prayed a novena (a nine-day prayer) asking Saint Joseph to pray for a job for him, and the day after he finished it, a lady at church thought Alice looked so cute toddling out of church she just had to give her a church bulletin to carry (we didn’t often get one). Alice happily carried it to the van, and later that day we perused it. There was a job posting inside for a teaching position in Kelowna – a position for a high school religion teacher at a Catholic school! I immediately popped onto the computer and applied on Jeremy’s behalf. He got a phone call shortly thereafter and an interview was set up. The interview came and went. Jeremy didn’t think it had gone that well. We waited a bit longer.

And then the principal of Immaculata Regional High School called back and offered Jeremy the job! And Jeremy accepted it! He called me at work and feigned a disappointed attitude. My heart plummeted. And he told me he got the job! It was one of the best phone calls of my life, and I could barely contain my excitement at work. It was difficult to go back into the labour room without dancing all about the room for joy!

Last week, Jeremy was explaining to me that he’s not just the Religious Studies teacher, he also is the Religious Coordinator. That means he has to organize Masses at the school,  as well as teacher retreats and student retreats . . . and he has to go on the student retreats, too. It turns out the senior class retreat has already been planned. Guess what one of the recreational activities is on this trip? Canoeing.

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Hiking the Bear Creek Canyon Rim last week:

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And last but not least! Homeschooling!

I have wanted to homeschool ever since James was born. Even before he was born, actually. I started reading homeschooling books when James was a baby and they reinforced the reasons why homeschooling can be great for a family – tailoring a child’s education to their strengths, giving children more time to learn concepts that are difficult for them, being able to focus on what is true, good and beautiful instead of what makes you most suited to a particular job. About two years ago I came across Ambleside Online and thought it was pretty much a perfect fit. It is full of rich literature, but it also includes classical music, beautiful paintings, nature study and plenty of free outdoor play.

James and I completed a light kindergarten year last year. He learned how to read. He began to understand basic math. And we read so many good stories together! I had a miscarriage in January, and began working full-time in April, so school slid to a halt this past spring. And that was just fine. James and June played outside almost all day, and that was so good for both of them!

Two weeks ago I dropped off my little treasures at my parents’ place for several days so that I could finish up our homeschool plans for the year.

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And then on August 14th, James started first grade!!!

We started by sorting out some household tasks. James now makes breakfast (oatmeal) for us on school mornings. He is very, very pleased to have this responsibility and he does a careful job.

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Math games:

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Copywork. June loves being close by when we do school, and she enjoys playing Upwords and other games while we’re busy.

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Reading practice:

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Our handicraft this semester is loom knitting. James is knitting a toque for the baby expected in March. He’d very much like it to be a boy, so he’s knitting a blue toque. 🙂 We’re finding this to be a perfect beginner handicraft. It’s varied enough to remain interesting, and it’s simple enough not to be frustrating. I got the loom on amazon and found the bulky yarn at Michaels.

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So here is what a week of school looks like in our home. I’ve divided our day up into sections. We all do Bible & Breakfast together (prayers, questions about the day/date, Bible or religious readings and some songs), and we do Tea Time together with all the kids, too. Ambleside Online recommends reading books slowly over a whole term (12 weeks) or even over a whole year. So we’re slowly working our way through several books. Some are history books (Our Island Story), some are geography-based stories (Paddle to the Sea), some are nature books (Burgess Bird Book) and others are simply literature (Aesops’s Fables, Blue Fairy Book and Just So Stories). So far, they are wonderful and rich and we are thoroughly enjoying them!

During Alice’s nap time, James and I do math together, as well as some copywork and reading practice. In the afternoons we get some housework done, listen to some music, practise our handicrafts and do some drawing. So far, this is working well for us!

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A number of the local hikes have been closed due to the forest fire risk. That’s been very disappointing as we’ve driven around looking for little nature walks to go on! This past week we ended up at the Gellatly Nut Farm where we walked through the nut orchards and took a dip in Okanagan Lake. James thinks this should be our back up plan every week. 🙂

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We’ve been finishing the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy this week, and just read the bit where the ring is destroyed in Mount Doom. The joy! The delight! James could hardly contain himself! He’s been bouncing around on the trampoline in delight for some time, celebrating.

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And, last photo of the post. This morning we had a lovely weekend breakfast treat: cinnamon roll ragamuffins. They’re like cinnamon buns, except they don’t have any yeast and so they don’t require any time to rise. Quick, and so delicious!!! Even better when paired with a chai tea latte. 🙂

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Alice’s Birthday & Other Summer Happenings

Our dear little Alice Genevieve turned two earlier this month! We were camping with my mom and dad at Syringa Provincial Park at the time, which was pretty much the best birthday Alice could have asked for!

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The weather was very, very hot and the water was very, very cold. Perfect!

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We stayed at an RV campsite for the first bit, and while it was pleasant to have an electrical hookup, the lack of shade made it a less than ideal location. We then found a lovely shady campsite to move to, which proved to be an excellent decision. The kids loved exploring the little trails around the campsite, it was close to the playground and beach, and James found an abandoned scooter (its wonky wheel was speedily fixed by Grandpa) and scooted on the road till he dropped into bed exhausted at night.

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Chucking rocks while people fish is generally considered a sin. But Grandpa and the girls were a sufficient distance away. 🙂

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Jeremy caught a little whitefish! Exciting for us, rather disappointing for him. (I guess they are not exactly fish you brag about catching.)

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Rather than setting up the pack’n’play in the fifth wheel, we tucked Alice into this little wardrobe. She fit perfectly and slept pretty well. 🙂

James investigated it first to see if it had a secret portal to Narnia (most disappointingly, it does not) and was wondering if Alice would go to Narnia in her sleep. “If she does, then I’m going to sleep in there, too!”

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Opening some gifts!

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Grandpa and Grandma took us out for dinner for Alice’s birthday. We went to the Lion’s Head Pub in Castlegar and the food there was excellent! Alice relished every bite of her enormous grilled cheese sandwich.

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It’s been so hot and sunny the last few weeks! A friend from church lent us this little pool and the kids have been enjoying it daily. Alice loves wearing her “bathing soup” and cheers, “Hurray!” when she puts it on. 🙂

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James has been fighting many imaginary battles against the Calormenes (the enemies of Narnia, in case you haven’t read the Chronicles lately).

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June joins in frequently.

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“Mom, take a picture of my face set in grim determination as I prepare to go to battle!”

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Off he dashes!

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And vigorously fights!

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Our apple tree is going crazy this year!

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Jeremy’s accepted a teaching job in Kelowna and we are currently preparing to move there. It is a stressful time, as we don’t yet have a place to live (the rental market there is absurdly competitive). Please keep us in your prayers as we are finding it awfully tempting to be anxious.

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It’s a cold, exceptionally rainy day today and my thoughts are drifting back to last week when we ventured out to Champion Lakes because of the delightful warmer weather. The kids went for a dip in the water, and we watched an osprey coast and look for food down below. It never dived, though.

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