Tuesday, December 15, 2020

christmas greetings 2020


Dear Family, Friends and Blog Readers,

Well, this has been an interesting year, to say the least. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who are more than ready for 2020 to be over! Between Covid-19, a property severance in-progress, and ongoing health struggles, it has been a stressful year. In the midst of all the changes, both at home and in the world, we are thankful that we serve a God who never changes. Despite all the uncertainty of what the future holds, He is in control. As a little 3-year old Olivia once told us: “God is holding everything.” May you hold on to this certainty throughout this Christmas season, and into the New Year.

As some of you may know, back in July 2019, we began the lengthy and expensive process of attempting to sever our house from the rest of the family farm. As Donna’s mother’s health has been declining the past few years, it became imperative to take the necessary steps toward legally owning our home. Needless to say, we encountered many obstacles along the way, and the waiting has been excruciating. Nevertheless, after decades of being told that it could not be severed, our application finally went to the county council this past August, and was approved! After drilling a new well, formally changing use of outbuildings, moving a driveway, preparing to register easements and enter an encroachment agreement, we have nearly completed all the requirements. We await the completion of the final paperwork some time in the New Year. Each new day brings us closer to our goal. God is good!

Due to Covid, Olivia was unable to complete her first year of gymnastics and she is not yet enrolled in any other extracurriculars. She is looking forward to joining a number of clubs for a variety of activities in the future. We were very thankful that Olivia was able to participate in-person for the “Ready, Set, Read” kindergarten readiness program at Mommy's alma-mater, Belleville Christian School, back in February. She loved being in a “real” classroom and seeing what a “real” school was like. Her favourite part was going to the gym! We missed out on a lot of play dates with our friends, however we were able to have several outdoor visits. Olivia enjoyed playing in the sprinkler, bike riding, going to the park and picnic-ing with friend Deegan. We have really missed our visits with the Virtue family and their boys, as well as friends Jaylynn and Lucas. 

We celebrated Olivia's 4th birthday in June. Due to Covid, we did not have a large party; rather, friends and relatives dropped by throughout the week for outdoor visits.

We are now in our second year of homeschooling! We are doing two half-days per week at home, and meet up with another family on Tuesdays where Donna teaches kindergarten to both Olivia and friend Lydia. In this way, we are able to do small-group activities for math, language, and music, and have some much-needed social time. This fall, Oliva started speech therapy to work on some of her speech sounds. She enjoys her virtual sessions on the computer and is making good progress with her /c/k/, her /g/, and her /l/ sounds.

Covid brought more changes to our life this past year. Jared had already been working from home on and off, but in March, he opted to make it permanent. He’s settled into his new routine and it’s nice to finally have a use for our home office again. It’s also nice not having to make lunches every day! He just reached a milestone of ten years at his current job of senior software developer for clevr.  We converted our spare room into a home gym where he is able to continue his weight lifting. He also enjoys being outdoors and walks 5 (sometimes 10) kilometers a day.

Donna worked hard this summer and fall with all her canning. She has sold about 250 jars since June and hopes Christmas will clear out the rest of her inventory. In addition to her regular clients, she gained some additional clients for whom she sells items on consignment. She also sold a variety of items for her in-laws who were downsizing before their move. Aside from a brief break due to Covid, Donna continued her cleaning/organizing job one day a week for a client. She also manages all the secretarial work of the household, including coordinating appointments, contractors, and all the severance paperwork. Occasionally she has time to scrapbook. 

Sadly, we recently had to say goodbye to our dear cat Charlie who passed away  suddenly on November 20th. He was part of our family for nearly 9 years and is dearly missed. He is survived by brother Chester, as well as several barn cats. 

Despite our many hopes and plans for this year that did not come to fruition, we have been blessed. We were able to go to the beach a couple of times-once in June before the tourists descended, and then again in September. We kept cool in the pool nearly every day during July and August. Olivia especially enjoyed having water fights with Mr. Ron. We enjoy his company as well as that of Ms. Gayle, and have come to think of them as family.

We are fortunate to have such wonderful neighbours who bend over backwards to bless us in so many ways. As I recently prepared Christmas cards for our neighbours, I reflected on all the ways that each one of them have touched our lives this past year. From free fertilizer, cat food/litter, honey, and fresh produce, to personalized Halloween treats, to snowplowing and rototilling, to Costco runs, to advice about our severance, to the use of a fridge when ours was broken, and even the occasional feeding of our barn cats, our neighbours are the best! 

We hope that you and your family are well. May you have a joyous Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. 

With Love, Jared, Donna & Olivia Gryce

Friday, October 9, 2020

five books that changed my life (for the better)

Books have always played an important role in my life. As a child, I always had my nose in a book, mostly as a means of escape. As an adult, I read in order to learn more about myself and others. Throughout the years, I have referenced a number of books on this blog that greatly impacted me.

Admittedly, I have read very few books in the past five years. I also have written very few blog posts. However, in an attempt to remedy the latter, I thought I would share my top five thought-provoking and life-changing non-fiction must-reads:

5. Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge

Every girl longs to be romanced, to play an irreplacable role in a great adventure, and for a beauty to unveil.  These desires of a woman's heart are clues to who we really are and the roles were meant for. The way we see ourselves now was shaped early in life. Every girl longs to be lovely; her worst fear is abandonment. When her beauty is marred through wounding, she either becomes dominating (by manipulation and control), desolate, or both. The question of her loveliness is answered primarily by her father. From him we learn that we are delighted in, that we are special, or that we are not. Every one of us is wounded, but "the only thing more tragic than the things that happened to us, is what we have done with them." Shame makes us believe we don't measure up, so we hide our truest selves. Ignoring our wounds will never bring healing.

When I first read this book back in 2010, it was so beyond anything I'd ever heard before. Concepts like "childhood wounds" and "feminine heart" were certainly not in my vocabulary. Over the next several years, I ended up re-reading this book a few times, making extensive notes. I even facilitated a small group study focussed on it. The questions it raised and the thoughts that it provoked are what I attribute to beginning my healing journey.

4. Love & War by John & Stasi Eldredge

Marriage is hard. But beneath the surface, the real battle is against the work of the Enemy who schemes to tear love apart. In this book, the authors use real-life examples from their own marriage to illustrate how to fight for each other, instead of against each other in marriage. Every woman wants relationship, intimacy, and to be known and loved. Her deepest fear is abandonment. Every man wants affirmation and his deepest fear is failure. Each person's own woundings create the perfect storm within a relationship. God, therefore, uses marriage to get to the issues in your life He wants to address. There is no greater place for damage because there is no greater place for glory than in marriage.

This book was, and still is, an excellent reminder of how Satan seeks to kill and destroy the earthly picture of Christ's relationship with the Church. His strategy of "divide and conquer" is something we had to fight against every day, especially as we were in the midst of major home renovations for the first six years of our marriage. As we watch the marriages of so many of our peers fall apart around us, we know that the battle is real.

3. In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Building on principles developed during her long career as a therapist, no-nonsense Dr. Laura provides a wealth of advice and encouragement to women who know in their hearts that staying home to raise their children is the right choice for the whole family. She outlines the benefits for both your children and marriage, showing through research and her own personal experience, how your current sacrifices will make for lasting bonds and a stronger family. 

I read this book six months before getting pregnant with my first. Having been raised by a stay-at-home-mom myself, I assumed I’d likely be doing the same thing, yet I felt fairly ambivalent about it. This book challenged, convicted, and convinced me (from a psychological, non-religious standpoint) that every mom should be available to her children, especially during the formative years.

2. How We Love by Milan & Kay Yerkovich

The ways you and your spouse relate to each other go back to before you even met. Based on attachment theory, this book explores how your childhood created an “intimacy imprint” that affects your marriage today. It outlines 4 basic relational styles (avoider, vacillator, pleaser, controller) and how the combinations play out in a marriage relationship. In the follow-up book, “How We Love Our Kids,” the authors explore how the four styles play out in your role as a  parent. Both books contain numerous checklists, diagrams, and real-life examples as illustrations.

As a classic avoider, this book was truly eye-opening for me. Being raised in a traditional Dutch family where big feelings were most often frowned upon, if not suppressed, I am still in the process of learning to a) identify my feelings, b) express them in healthy ways without fear of rejection and c) having safe people where I can go to for comfort and validation. What's crazy is that my four-year-old and I are in this learning process together.

1. The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander

Following the personal testimony of the well-known blogger, this book outlines how when the author relinquished her desire to be in control, her marriage became the one she always dreamed of. Based on the influence of Debi Pearl, author of “Created to Be His Helpmeet,” Lori shares the mistakes she made and what she did to bring back intimacy, closeness and affection to her marriage. Based on the teachings in Titus 2:3-5, Lori has offended millions of highly liberal feminists mentored countless women through her highly controversial blog, “The Transformed Wife.”

This book, along with Lori's daily blog posts completely changed my views on what Biblical womanhood looks like. Following a scripture-based model of marriage and family, I slowly learned exactly what the Bible teaches. I mourn the fact that these truths were completely ignored in all my experiences in Christian education, Christian counselling, Christian pre-marital counselling, Christian mom blogs, church services, and women's small groups. The more I study scripture, the more I am encouraged to embrace my role of stay-at-home wife and mom.

What books have most shaped and influenced your life? I'd love to know! Leave a comment below listing your favourites.

**The views and opinions in this post are completely my own,

and I have not been compensated in any way for publishing this post.**

Sunday, December 15, 2019

christmas greetings 2019

Christmas 2019

Dear Family and Friends, 

Another year is nearly in the books. Time just seems to go faster and faster these days. We are doing well here, and enjoying this exciting stage of life with a preschooler. We are amazed at how Olivia has grown, not only in knowledge and stature, but also in confidence and independence. God is good!

Olivia had a number of firsts in 2019. After some practice over the winter in Beppe’s basement, she finally got to ride her tricycle outside this spring. She has since graduated to riding a bicycle and pedals all over the barn with it! In July, Olivia attended Vacation Bible School for five mornings at Beppe’s church. She loved all the activities and of course, the music! Olivia started gymnastics in September and has now progressed to the second level. In October, she hosted her first sleepover with cousins Molly and Lola. 

This fall, Mommy was thrilled to put her teaching skills back into practice when Olivia started her preschool year of homeschool. She enjoys learning a new letter each week and participates in a variety of activities teaching literacy and math concepts. Olivia’s favourite activities are music and making crafts. She has her own special “making things desk” in the kitchen, filled with craft supplies! 

Some things we did in 2019:
-Daddy and Olivia enjoyed the Easter egg hunt Mommy planned for them. 
-Olivia celebrated her 3rd birthday in June with an indoor party because of the rain. 
-Mommy picked lots of strawberries again this summer, although they weren’t ready in time for the party. We grew a bunch of our own veggies again this year, but were blessed to receive many extras from our farmer friends, the Van Grootheests and the Laundrys. 
-We attended the Waterfront Festival again this year where Olivia was big enough to go on a variety of rides, unaccompanied by a parent. 
-In August, Mommy and Olivia attended the Ameliasburgh Street Meet for the 3rd year in a row with the Dykmans. 
-We visited Campbell’s apple orchard with our friends the Moores. The kids loved the corn maze and wagon ride through the orchard.
-We enjoyed swimming in our neighbours’ pool several times a week all summer long. Mr. Ron and Ms. Gayle have become close friends and are like an extra set of grandparents to Olivia. -Mommy and Olivia also enjoyed half a dozen beach days yet in September.
-Our dear friend Randi-Lee paid us a surprise visit. It was a blessing to have her here, after having not seen each other for over four years.
-We adopted a Mama barn cat and four kittens in October. Olivia had the pleasure of naming them: Black & Orange, Smokey, Smokey, Girl Smokey, and Pumpkin Heads.
-We visited the Laundry’s pumpkin patch with the Broekema cousins, and also attended an open house at the local fire station. 
-Cowgirl Olivia enjoyed trick-or-treating again this year, but had to cut her time short because she was sick. 

This past year, Mommy spent a lot of time driving Beppe to doctor’s appointments and running errands for her after her stroke and subsequent fall back in March. We are thankful that Beppe’s brain bleed is fully healed and that she has finally been given the ok by doctors to drive again. Mommy continues to do housecleaning and organizing for one client on Thursday mornings. It is a blessing that Olivia can come along. Mommy also sells lots of items online. Whether it is her homemade preserves, things she’s found at the thrift store, or items on consignment for clients, she loves making a sale!

Daddy is still working as Senior Software Developer for clevr. He takes his role of provider very seriously. We are thankful that he was finally able to receive benefits through work last December. It has been a real treat to have coverage for things like dental, optometrist, chiropractor, and physio appointments, as well as little extras like massage therapy. We have certainly made it worthwhile this year! Over the summer, Daddy cut and split another eight cords of wood, and filled our garage for the coming winter. 

We hope this letter finds you well. We hope you enjoy a Merry Christmas and a have very Happy New Year. 

With much love,
Jared & Donna and Olivia Gryce

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

homeschooling adventures

In September, I started homeschooling our 3-year old for two mornings a week. We've been having lots of fun learning thus far. I'm thrilled to finally be able to dust off some of the old Kindergarten activities and curriculum I've saved over the years. 

Welcome to our classroom!  This is our primary work area:

Here's what a typical morning look like:

9:30 Morning Meeting
Calendar, Day Count, Weather Chart

9:40 Letter of the Week Activities
Letter crafts and stories, letter sounds song, intro to tracing/printing/creating letters. A combination of Letterland, Jolly Phonics, and my own research/ideas.

10:00 Fine Motor Skill Activities / Centres
Puzzles, play doh, sand, colouring, matching/memory games

10:15 Morning Message/Writing Journal
Following/using ideas from Building Blocks.

10:30 Math
Counting, number sense, sorting, patterning, shape activities and games. Using ideas from Math Their Way, and Making Shapes and Building Blocks: Investigations in Mathematics.

10:45 Music

Singing, movement, intro to rhythm instruments. Using ideas from Musicplay, Rhythm Instruments, and Wee Sing.

11:00 Creation Studies
Science, social studies, health, and seasonal/holiday themed stories, crafts, and activities, saved from my teaching days and extensive home library. 

One afternoon a week, we go to an introductory gymnastics class.

We've also done several field trips already (farm/pumpkin patch, fire station, apple orchard):

We love experiential/hands-on learning, and try to integrate learning wherever and whenever we can!

We've had an awesome autumn, and are now looking forward to Christmas-themed learning, and some wonderful winter activities.