Love on a Mission {Part 13}

posted in: Love on a Mission | 5

This is the story of how my husband Chuck and I met and fell in love. If you have missed any posts, be sure and check out my Love on a Mission Page. Love on a Mission: 3 Countries, 2 People, 1 Marriage

The plane began its decent and the stewardess collected my coffee…I feel the plane shudder as the landing gear came down. I could see the lights illuminating the city below.

It was game time.

Stepping off the plane and into the airport, I barely had time to scan the crowd before Chuck rushed up, and wrapped his strong arms around me. Then he stepped back, looked down at me for just a moment, and kissed me.

Instead of flying to Vancouver, I had flown into a city in Washington I had never heard of before, Bellingham. Neither of us had any idea that this would be our future home. That I would birth six babies in this city. That we would build our dreams and face trials we couldn’t yet imagine.

It was dark as we drove to Chuck’s home in British Columbia. The rain was falling lightly and we held hands as he drove. I stroked Chuck’s hand, admiring its strength, the calloused palm born of hard work outdoors. There would be no work this week though. Chuck had the taken time off so we could spend as every moment together. His parents (who I had yet to meet) were hosting a huge engagement party for us. We were going to squeeze in months of premarital counseling (common in our church) into two days and we were going to have our pictures taken professionally. In between that I was going to meet his three siblings and two nieces.

And, of course, we had months of kissing to catch up on.

Chuck’s parents lived on 8 acres and had ducks, chickens, peacocks, dogs, cats, a cow. I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in months at Chuck’s parents’ house. Buttery softy, flannel sheets under a heavy down comforter. I slept peacefully until I was awakened by the sound of roosters crowing. Chuck was eager to make me poached eggs out of fresh-from-the-chicken-eggs. He served these with fresh baked (and mold-free) baking powder biscuits. I marveled at the green grass without a patch of snow to be seen.

How I met and fell love with my husband in the jungles of Brazil.

While still in Alaska I suggested we our pictures taken together. Engagement photos sounded so cool; so adult. I envisioned us driving to Sears or JCPenney (or whatever the Canadian equivalent was) and posing in front of a gray, wrinkled sheet…maybe even embellished with a few paint spatters. We would pay $19.99 and come away with six zillion prints in every size imaginable.

Chuck apparently had different visions because he hired a custom wedding and portrait photographer. We met the photographer at a park in Vancouver, a soft mist falling around us. The most memorable photo for me is the one where I balanced precariously on a slime covered rock in a creek, in March, to get the perfect shot. While I shivered in the cool, damp air. In the end, the photos were totally worth it, as photos always are.

And then there was Chuck’s truck. 

Chuck owned a 3/4 ton 4-Wheel Chevy pick-up truck. He had customized it with Super Swamper TSX  tires, a Detroit Locker and True Track with a 400 stroker. And if you know what that means, you can be Chuck’s new BFF. All I knew was it was difficult to climb into since the top of the truck bed was nearly the same height as me.

How I met and fell love with my husband in the jungles of Brazil

The engagement party was a whirlwind night with every person Chuck had ever met (and probably a few he hadn’t) showing up to congratulate us. This was also my introduction to my mother-in-law’s mad cooking skills. This amazing woman thought nothing of cooking a dozen pies, half a dozen cakes, and a hundred cookies to go along with the three course meal she had cooked. I’m not exaggerating. Chuck was excited to have me taste his mom’s poppy seed chiffon cake, shortbread cookies (aged for a full six weeks) and pie. In addition I tried numerous other foods I had never even heard of: cabbage and noodles,  pierogi, cabbage rolls, and Hungarian nokedli

One woman at the party had a fat, beautiful rolly-polly baby who she proudly held up saying, “Nine months old and completely breastfed”. Chuck and I looked at each other and grinned. That’s how our babies would be.

The week flew by. I didn’t think I could leave Chuck. We had two whole months until our wedding…I had another quarter of university to complete. But oh, how would we part again? We had only been together twice outside of Teen Missions…It added up to a mere thirteen days. We still had so much to say, so much smooching to do…so many memories to make.

But the day came that I had to board the plane home. The next time I flew I would be Mrs. Chuck Bergeron.

We kissed way too much in the airport, not doubt disgusting everyone around us. We didn’t care.

On the plane I stared out the window. I had a book with me but couldn’t read. I sipped my coffee listlessly and nibbled in the brownies Chuck’s mom had sent with me. Suddenly the loud speaker came on and the flight attended announced, “I have a message for passenger Renee”…

To be continued…

If you have missed any posts in this series, take a moment to check out my Love on a Mission page and get caught up!

Teens, Screens and Social Media: Part 1

posted in: Large Family | 6

Post contains affiliate links.

Teens, Screens and Social media: navigating a brave new world of teens and social media.

I recently read the book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. It was the scariest book that I have read this year.  Every parent needs to read this book.

The author talked to girls ages 13-19 in 10 different states about social media. Yes we all know kids can access porn online and we have all heard of cyber bullying. What scared me the most in the book was the girls saying, “I just can’t not be on my phone.” These girls talked about hating what was going on around them but being unable to leave their devices and social media behind. This is where I believe we can help as parents. Just as it is my job to monitor how much candy my three year old eats, it is my job to monitor how much social media my teen engages in.

In her Vanity Fair article on the same topic Nancy Jo Sales says:

“If you’re between 8 and 18, you spend more than 11 hours a day plugged into an electronic device. The average American teen now spends nearly every waking moment on a smart phone or computer or watching TV. This seismic shift in how kids spend their time is having a profound effect on the way they make friends, the way they date, and their introduction to the world of sex.”

My kids have actually complained to me about hanging out with friends who spend the entire time on their phones. 

Social Media is a Brave New World and we need to be guiding our children through it.

The girls in Sales book described sending nude pictures to boys the barely knew, and the boys in turn sharing these with friends or using these as blackmail. They talked about kids using social media as a weapon, going through and “unliking” photos and posts as a way to control them socially. The girls talked about being threatened and bullied online. The girls described boys who they barely knew texting them and asking for sex. They talked about posting a photo and checking it constantly to see who “liked” it and who commented. They talked about being hurt and crying because certain people unfollowed them or didn’t comment on their photos. Girls (some of whom were virgins) were slut-shamed over pictures they  posted or a refusal to have sex with boys.

No, the issues of sex, bullying and slut-shaming aren’t new. What is new is the access to 24/7 social media. This is a world most parents  know nothing about.

Current research shows:

Video games change the way our brains work.

Porn changes the way our brains work.

Texting is replacing real conversations and relationships. 

In my opinion this information cannot be ignored. We were a screen-free family for years. While that is no longer possible for us (I run my business on a computer, after all, and our kids have to have it for research for school) you can bet we limit and monitor its usage. We will also specifically limit the social media our teens are allowed to consume.

When Adalia (now 20) turned 13 we let her have a Facebook account. We owned one computer at the time that was hooked up to the modem in the dining room (no wi-fi). We monitored it closely. Soon Keziah had Facebook, then Judah, Tilly, Enoch, Kalina and Jubilee as they each turned 13. And it is getting harder and harder to monitor everyone’s usage. 

I think anyone with any social media knows it can be a mindless distraction. Just as I used to flip through the channels as a kid looking for something to watch, I see my teens scrolling through Facebook or YouTube mindlessly. When Chuck and I noticed this, we quickly put more limits on the teens. We used to be strict about 30 minutes a day on the computer. But sometimes school work takes more than 30 minutes on the computer, and there are at times good reasons to be on longer…My kids like to Skype their friends from Teen Missions and chat with friends who don’t live nearby.

Earlier this year we invested in Circle with Disney and got wi-fi for the first time. You can read my thorough review here, but one of my favorite aspects is being able to limit any device the hooks up to our wi-fi and setting time limits. When one of my kids’ friends walks in the house I get a notification on my phone and immediately set filters on the device. No, I don’t feel bad about it and no I won’t stop doing it. 

[As a rule of thumb, I set the filter level of other kids to the same level as mine…for instance, if Tucker’s friend hooks up to wi-fi, I will set the same filter level as I have for Tucker. If Enoch’s friends come over, I set the same filter level as Enoch has.]

I am not naive. Believe me, I know I cannot control what my kids see when they are outside of our home, but you can bet I will monitor what I goes on in my house. Yes, I know there are ways to get around these devices and hack into them. There are also ways to break into my van, but that doesn’t stop me from locking the doors.

Our goals are to protect our children from becoming addicted to screens and social social, to teach them reasonable limits and to make our home a safe place to be.

Here are our current social media rules:

Our children do not have smart phones. Our teens who need cell phones are given flip phones. This allows them to make phone calls and not much else. No texting, no videos, no internet access. 

[Tilly has an iPod touch, but she is 18 and it still has a bedtime and filters. Kalina also has an iPod touch with even more filters and a limit of one online hour per day]

Our teens have Facebook that we monitor. We don’t go and read every conversation they have, but the policy is we can access their account at any time.

Kalina and Tilly both have Twitter. Kalina mainly shares poems she has written and things he has mis-heard on her hilarious DeafGirlSpeaks account.

Hezekiah (12) and Tucker (10) both have email but not social media. Yes, I am a firm believer in no social media accounts until kids are old enough (i.e thirteen for Facebook).

Every device in our house has a bedtime controlled by Circle, meaning the internet cannot be accessed once it goes to sleep.

What kind of social media rules do you have in your house? How does it compare to their friends?

To be continued…next week I will specifically address the topic of pornography.


Weekend Reading: Ada Twist Scientist Review

posted in: Homeschooling, Uncategorized | 2

Post contains affiliate links. Thanks Abrams Books for sending me these fun books.

Ada's Ideas is a great pictures book about the world's first computer programmer.

Ada’s Ideas by Fiona Robinson

Friends, I love this book! I am a huge fan of picture books that show the fun and human side of scientists and mathematicians. If you haven’t already checked out the books Mathematicians Are People Too you really, really need to. These have been favorites of ours for years. They offer short (and interesting!) narratives of mathematicians throughout history. These books totally opened my mind to the fact that mathematicians are people too.

Ada’s Ideas all the story of Ada Lovelace the daughter of Lord Byron (yes, the poet) and Anne Isabella Milbank a mathematician and lady.  Isabella left Lord Byron when Ada was just a month old. Isabella was so terrified that her daughter would turn out to be reckless and irresponsible like her father, she encouraged the study of numbers and discouraged poetry and anything imaginative. When she became sick and bed bound as a child, Ada focused more and more on her studies.

This book covers the difference engine, analytical engine and Jacquard Loom (my mind is spinning with all the ways this could turn into a unit study!) It shows how one idea leads to another which eventually leads to bigger things such as the modern computers. While Ada died before her ideas would come to fruition, her ideas and algorithms influenced the world’s first working computers. 

Ada Twist Scientist review.

Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty illustrated by David Roberts

This is another great science book with a strong female character. Ada Twist doesn’t talk for years…until finally one day she asks the question Why? Soon after she is asking, how? where? what? Her insatiable curiously drives her parents crazy but paves the way for her to become a scientist. 

This book has fun illustrations and is filled with easy to read rhyming text* that Apollo loves. 

I despise poor rhymes, hard to read rhymes and just plain bad rhymes. These definitely fall into the good rhyme category. 

Cityblock is a bright, sturdy board book all about the city.

 Cityblock by Christopher Franceschelli is a visually exciting book all about the city. The pages are thick and sturdy (think board book) with fun cut out shapes. Each section of the book starts with a big view of the city block, then as the child turns the pages, you see more and more details.

This book is geared for ages 3-5 and, in my opinion, is perfect for those ages. Having said that, Apollo really enjoys this book because of the creative illustrations. 

What have you been reading lately? Please share in the comments. I am always on the lookout for a new favorite book!

Another one Flies the Coop {New Zealand Working Holiday Visa}

posted in: Travel | 8

Traveling to New Zealand on a working holiday visa.

Artist Point, Mt. Baker

I am thrilled to announce that Tilly is soon to head off on a new adventure. She has already been to Colombia and helped drill a well in Malawi. She graduated with her high school diploma and Associate of Arts degree at age seventeen. She turned eighteen earlier this month and is now headed to New Zealand…not for a two-week vacation but for six months!

Traveling to New Zealand on a working holiday visa.

Tilly applied for a received a Working Holiday Visa. She will be able to live and work in the country. She will be staying with BEN! and Adalia. While I will miss her  terribly, I am so excited for her newest adventure. And, if I’m honest, if feels good to send Adalia one of her sisters. If I have  one daughter in New Zealand, why not two? I at least know they have each other. Tilly hasn’t seen Adalia in over two years, so I am sure it will be a happy joy-filled reunion!

Yes, we are mighty proud of this girl and can’t wait to see what her next adventure holds.

I have written before about The Art of Letting Go and why we chose to send our 15 year old to New Zealand alone to visit her sister. It honestly gets easier with more children. Not because we care less or are too busy to notice, but we have now gained twenty years experience in parenting. We know that some things are Big Issues and something things are Small Issues. I am working on a post right now about raising teens in our current culture. I feel like things have changed so much in even the last seven years (since Adalia turned 13). If you have any insight or topics you’d like me to address in that post, be sure and leave a comment.

I hope you have a great weekend!

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