Wednesday, 27 November 2013

“My God! How Did She Get Herself Into That Mess?”

I am conundrum. A rather outmoded sort of woman, ridiculed by modern career women, vilified by the earth’s prophets of doom and sanctified by the religious right. I was the least likely candidate to have a lot of children.I mean, I had never even held a baby before my first born.You would think having nine children would have turned me into a frazzled wreck with a figure like the Pillsbury Dough Boy and a brain gone to mush, but I remain quite articulate, with a quirky sense of humour, standing at 5’1” and weighing in at 106 lbs. Not quite a rosy-cheeked, robust, matronly looking mother of a large brood.

Wen the words The Joy of Mothering popped into my head as a sub-title for my short stories, it was like an epiphany for me because those few words verbalize my experience living with little people. The very existence of a joyful mother of nine children seems to confound people. Embracing an outdated lifestyle on a traditional, small, family farm has been a struggle through confusion, guilt and even public condemnation to finally reach the point where I can now shout loudly,
“This is my call,
this is my vocation,
this is my witness to the world.”
After the birth of our fourth child, Michael and I struggled to understand exactly how we were meant to live our lives. We were discussing an article by an author whose main premise was that letting go of control and trusting in God was not some abstract principle but a day-to-day practical call that included the surrender of our fertility. Of course we practised natural family planning but I was one of those rare people who could conceive long before ovulation.
As my doctor said once, “Ah, I remember reading about a woman in New Zealand, two years ago, who conceived five days before ovulation.”
I raised my hand and chirped, “Well, you can add me to that list!”
Although we could not imagine how large our family would become, the words of that article resonated within both my husband and I. Guilt lifted off us and a surge of excitement, a sense of purpose welled up from within. Although it took time to really believe that none of our children were simply a failure of the natural family planning method. Many small experiences kept reinforcing the truth for us that God called each of our children into being with our co-operation. We’d stumbled blindly at times and then a burst of clarity would shine light on our purpose.
For example, twenty-five years ago, I once again slipped into panic mode, worrying if I was pregnant with my fifth child. Suddenly a wave of peace enveloped me and my whole body relaxed.
I heard these words within me,
“This is your call.
This is your vocation.
This is your witness to the world.”
All sorts of objections rushed into my head,
” What on earth do you mean a witness, a witness to what?- stupidity? People don’t understand. They just think we are irresponsible or idiots……”
Then unexpected joy bubbled within me and I sensed these words in my spirit,
“I am with you.”
Once again a blanket of peace wrapped like a blanket around me. It was an actual physical sensation. My mind was calm and my spirit felt strong.
That was it for me; I understood and I said,
Though I still cringed under disapproval from society, I always understood that my children were saving me by compelling me to dive deeper into my spirit, discovering the power of eternal Love at my core. A love that can stand strong against all opposition

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Daisy,Our High Maintenance Goat

Kids need to relate to animals to grow up into well-balance, caring adults who can relate and feel connected to the natural world, not just technological society.

Daisy entertained us with her antics even more than our traditional pets.
For over two decades, we lived on a hobby farm surrounded by nine kids, wild animals, farm livestock as well as traditional pets. Kids need to relate to animals to grow up into well-balance, caring adults who can relate and feel connected to the natural world, not just technological society. Just watching our children’s delight in their menagerie of pets and farm animals confirmed how important animals were to their development.Their unconditional love was a powerful sources of energy that transformed our animals into confidant, intelligent creatures with strong, unique personalities.
Consider Daisy. She produced milk like any normal, domesticated goat which I made into a delicious dill and garlic cream cheese spread but she did not like living in the barn or fields with the rest of the livestock. Nope, Daisy was sure she was part of the family, expressing her displeasure by bleating loudly until one of the kids ran out to the barn, released her from her isolated stall and tied her to a post with a direct view of the front door.
Daisy needed to relate to people because she was a socialized goat with a charming personality. She even tried to get into the house a few times by gnawing on the door handle to the kitchen. Even once outside, watching the activities of our bustling household, if Daisy hadn’t seen anyone in an hour or so, she’d bleat frantically until I alerted on of the kids by yelling out,to no one in particular,
“Daisy is lonely again!”
One of the little ones would clamber to the kitchen door, haul the heavy door open and call out,
“Daisy, what’s the matter? We are still here. Everything is just fine, so relax!”
If it was cold, they’d slam the door closed and Daisy would calmly return to grazing on our lawn.
Admittedly, Daisy would have made more friends in our family if she had quit eating my flowers or stealing little people’s’ hats and pulling on their scarves.The littlest children loved to pet Daisy and talk to her before heading down the long lane to the school bus but inevitably a cry would arise,
“Help! Somebody help me!Daisy is pulling my scarf off. Daisy won’t give my hat back or Daisy is eating my mitt!”
It is a testament to her charm that the kids could not resist her demands for affection and attention even though she was a nuisance and a pest. Most of the time we had to tie Daisy to a post so she could not cause too many problems. However, a couple of times a week we let Daisy follow us around in the garden. As long as she mainly ate weeds, we let her hang out with us.Dasiy was a delightfully, albeit high maintenance farm pet.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

I've Been Nominated

Vote For Me

It’s time to vote for the 2013 Frankie Award!
Don’t forget to invite you readers (and friends and family, and fan club) to visit this page and vote for you. Feel free to copy the badge above and link back here from your blog.
My post is Mary is Living in my Heart? Help! by Melanie Jean Juneau of Joy of Nine9.

Mary is Living in My Heart? Help!

 Even now, some 30 years later, tear well up and I could weep with relief all over again as I write these words. Somehow I was given the grace to lay down my logic, reasoning and Protestant theology and simply throw myself into the arms of my Spiritual Mother.
What would be the absolute worst thing that could happen to a nice Protestant girl? Why Mary, the Blessed Virgin, would do a little interior house cleaning, then make a home for herself in the poor girl’s heart, that’s what! If that was not bad enough, this perplexed young woman’s belief system would stay staunchly anti-Catholic for oh, about another 10 years, even though she had converted to Catholicism. I mean what choice did she have? Nobody but the Catholic Church even wants someone who craves the Eucharist and has a relationship with the Mother of Christ.
 Obviously this young woman was and is me. God has a peculiar sense of humor and now I can look back and laugh at my dilemma. At the time, though I was shook up. As Pope Francis said at the Easter Vigil, God delights in shaking us up, or as I like to say, ripping the rug from underneath us. Nope, God will not stay in a nice, neat little box of our own making. Just when we think we have Him all figured out, He pulls another fast one on us. Thank goodness; life is never boring when you give God permission to work in your life.
I was reluctant to turn to Mary, I couldn’t help but feel like a heretic somehow turning from Jesus as my only Savior. Yet over and over, God only offered healing and peace when I turned to His Mother. Finally a wonderful priest from Madonna House, the Director General of Priests. Fr. Bob Pelton, smiled at me compassionately and said something like this:
“Melanie, why don’t you relax for a few months and stop tormenting yourself with guilt? Simply relax into the bosom of the Church and Her teachings and allow your relationship to Mary grow naturally, without fighting everything with your intellect? Trust in your own heart as well.”
Even now, some 30 years later, tears are welling up and I could weep with relief all over again as I write these words. Somehow I was given the grace to lay down my logic, reasoning and Protestant theology and simply throw my self into the arms of my Spiritual Mother.
968Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”
“This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.“
Actually, we really do not have a clue what we are saying “yes” to in the beginning of our Christian walk. At our wedding, 34 years ago, I sensed these words within my heart:
“I will change the way the two of you work and play, the way you walk and talk, the way you laugh and cry, everything about you, so that in everything you are and do, you will reflect the glory of my Father in Heaven.”
Foolishly we thought that this was a nice word from God! Little did we know that 34 years later we would still be being turned inside out. I agree whole heartedly with Pope Francis, God does seem to delight in shaking us out from our narrow little lives. I could not live any other way. His thoughts and ways are far above ours. Just when I think I know it all, that I understand the spiritual life, He upends my life yet again.
Thank-you God for not listening to my opinions, theology or plans for my life.
Thank-you for the grace to give You permission to take over .
Thank-you  for making me Yours and giving me to your Mother.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Advocating For Large Families

A prompt on a health website asked,
“Are you an advocate for any cause?”
I sputtered to my self,
 “I am not an advocate for anything or anybody!”
Immediately after that statement, a new idea popped into my mind,
“Hey, wait a minute. I stand up for large families in modern society!”
In my experience as a mother of nine children, I have met more condemnation than acceptance and more questions that understanding. Perhaps it is because I do not look like the mother of a large family. I am tiny, look younger than my age and all my life people have labelled me as cute. So people’s first reaction to me is shock. Confusion follows because I am happy. Now a joyful, cute, tiny mother of nine simply baffles people. I shatter all their preconceived notions. The typical image of a multi-para woman would be a large, matronly, robust, grim, battle-axe of a mother, efficiently marshaling her young charges with little time to coddle or love the poor deprived dears.
Parents with two children cannot fathom how a mother of a large family manages to cope with all the work necessary to keep up a home as well as have enough time to love each child. However, more children are easier than less. In a large family, a seven-year old will repeatedly read the same book to a toddler who loves one particular book. A ten-year old feels important when he can help his six-year old brother who struggles with reading. A young teenager delights in rocking a tiny, dependant infant to sleep.
For me, family started with three because then community started. A community works and plays together and for little children work is as fun as play. I included everyone in ordinary household chores and made chores fun. A trained Montessorian once declared that I ran my home like a Montessori school. What a wonderful confirmation that was for me. My kids were not deprived because I usually could not sit and play with them in the traditional sense. Instead they received an expensive, educational experience simply because I integrated them into the running of our home.
It was never too soon to give one of my toddlers a job such as picking up the toys his younger sibling drops from the high chair.The secret was to delegate, each according to his or her talents, but never to order them around like they were in the army. They chopped wood, helped fix the car, weeded the garden and took care of the animals. If teenagers are still treated like kids or overindulged, they don’t have a purpose and become really angry. When parents appreciate their kids contributions, their confidence blossoms and matures.
Employers love my kids because they know how to work and do not take anything for granted. Many have said,
“I will give anybody with the last name Juneau a job.”
Large families strengthen the basic foundations of our society. They live lives of greater interconnectedness. If you don’t have a lot of money, you’re not an island unto yourself. You learn how to share and barter both skills and things with others. My children who go to college or university, adapt well to communal life in a dorm or a shared house. Just imagine, they already know how to share a bathroom with a lot of other people. They know how to get along with opposite personalities, how to give and take. For starters, they know how to cook and clean up after themselves.

Healthy, large families benefit society. So open your mind and heart the next time you see or hear of one. The condemnation is really hard to handle and totally unjust in a society that loves to call itself open-minded and tolerant.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

My Ceiling is My Children’s Floor
Whimsical, philosophical thoughts from a mother of nine.

The only thing that could kill a mother of a large family is trying to pair all the socks.
Raising children is not a default chore for women who were not successful in the world of power and wealth.
The existence of a joyful mother of nine confounds most people.
steve hanks
Children help you forget what is not important.
Relax. If it is not broken yet, it probably should be.
Laughter turns each tragedy into a comedy of errors.
My kids helped me discover who I really am.
Babies are not idiots; relate to them like intelligent people, albeit little people,
I became a baby whisperer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
Ingenuity and creativity are birthed in boredom.
Bored children never stay bored for long, so don’t worry about it. They will pick up a book or a pencil.
Ignore the bad and praise the good.
Don’t get upset over messes.
Pino Daeni

Mothers hold the future of society in their hearts.
I am not the centre of the universe but merely one part of a community called family.Discover joy in the plethora of little details that delight your children.
The joy of mothering is my call, my vocation and my witness to the modern world.
Closing the wings of my intellect and opening the wings of my heart.
This too will pass.
Let your baby love and nurture you.
All will be well in the end.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Extra, Extra, Read All About It ! joy of nine9 is out

Saturday, 9 November 2013

“I’m Bored!”

When your kids announce that they are bored, how do you respond? Do you rush to fix this horrible state of affairs? Well boredom is not a disease that needs cured. All children need free time, even boring time, to discover who they are, what they are good at and what they enjoy. Provide them with art materials, books, old-fashioned wooden blocks, cardboard boxes and a costume box . Unplug your kids from all electronics everyday and give them the gift of time, time even to lay on the grass and simply look at the clouds.

Our daughter, Grace became the philosopher/ artist she is today partly because I didn’t have time to try to normalize her or the money to put her in a constant cycle of sports or other after school activities.Grace was a unique child with amazing concentration. While four-year old little boys were struggling to print or draw, my second youngest daughter would cover sheets of paper with tiny intricate drawings at 18-months old. Once she drew at least fifty tiny “eyes” while she stood on a chair and leaned over a piece of paper, for half an hour. We bought her a chalkboard for Christmas, just before she turned two. Grace was so oblivious to everything but her art that she kept drawing her little designs off the chalkboard in a line on the wall and kept going around the corner. We laughed with delight at that example of her quiet passion.
How did this toddler fall asleep?
Why by cutting tiny triangles out of magazines until she passed out, child proof plastic scissors still in her hand. I’d gently remove the scissors and cover her with a baby quilt. Once a week I’d sweep up a whole overflowing dustpan of tiny triangles! When I called Grace to help around the house when she was a little older, she’d be so absorbed in a craft or art work that she would not even hear me.
When Grace was a newborn, her hair was thick, black and stood straight up on end. Her eyes were huge and very dark brown. Actually, Grace was comical looking because her eyes literally popped out in a constant look of surprise. Those eyes seemed to study everyone and everything. Her hair became brown with gorgeous blond highlights that looked like she had streaked her hair but she still has those big, brown eyes that study everything. One day at a store, she caught a glimpse of a girl and thought,
“Wow, does she ever have huge eyes!”
A second later, Gracie realized that she was looking at her own reflection.
My daughter really marched to her own tune as a child. I am grateful that our lack of extra cash gave her the freedom and opportunity to discover and develop her talents on her own. We did not force her to join team sports or go to brownies; we let her enjoy what she loved to do, read and draw. As a result , she is a philosophy/religious studies major and a gifted artist who still wears a tiny smile of contentment as she draws and paints.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Through the Eyes of a Father: The Poignant Art of Steve Hanks

Steve Hanks is a well-known American figure painter who was born into a military family in San Diego in 1949. Just as good writers write what they know, Steve paints what he lives. When his children were born, his work was filled the intimacy between infants and parents, the  joy of toddlers, and the wonder of youngsters discovering the world around them.

His watercolor paintings are infused with emotion and poetry  by a delicate use of light and shadow.  Each painting reveals a slice-of-life as he expresses his own emotional responses through art.
He calls this style ‘emotional realism’, often leaving the faces of his figures obscured or turned away, to allow the entire figure to express their emotion. Many pieces are what he refers to as “moments of introspective solitude,”.
However, his signature technique is backlighting.
“Sunlight has become one of my favorite subjects. I’m fascinated by how it filters through things, how it floods a whole room with color. Often my paintings are really more about sunlight than anything else”

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Altar of Success


I want to yell out as loudly as I can that raising children
is definitely not a default chore for women
who were not successful in the world of business, power and wealth.
To all people, raised in a Western  capitalist society:

Since preschool, society has pushed you to excel, to rise above your peers.  You were groomed for success, to get into the best universities and snatch the most prized careers. Well, it is nice to have confidence, to fulfil your dreams and have a sense of satisfaction in your chosen field of work but that will not make you happy.
Just take a look at the generations that have gone before you. The all to common mid-life crisis is a testament to the failure of a life focused on career advancement to the exclusion of family. Men and women bemoan the fact that they did not have time for nurturing and loving their spouse or children.
All to often family life crumbles to ashes, sacrificed on the altar of success.
As for childcare, society relegates this to women who are often treated as second class citizens. I want to yell out as loudly as I can that raising children is definitely not a default chore for women who were not successful in the world of business, power and wealth. Exactly how you love and form your children will directly influence the kind of society that they in turn create. Do you want a world focused only on the ruthless accumulation of wealth? 

When a person blindly follows the dictates of a capitalistic society, his focus becomes egocentric not on God, family or community. What will you focus on as you embark on your adult life? Do you set your heart simply on the accumulation of wealth or will you live out true Christian social principles and consider the universal destination of goods? Will you create a race of humans who are becoming increasingly shallow, cold and cynical about relationships, family and love? Do you want your offspring to be more comfortable texting you, their parents, than speaking with you face to face in a warm, loving way because it is more cost effective way of passing on information?
Family is crucial; it is the foundation of society. I am pleased that my adult children, raised on a farm with little technology are completely modern. Yet they are open to life and family. They are beginning to grasp how important their own young families are.
Just after his daughter’s birth, my son turned to his dad and said,
”Dad, I think that this is the best thing that I have ever done in my life.”
And , a year later, as his little daughter lay sleeping on his chest, Daniel said,
”Now I know why you and Dad had so many kids.”
Can you imagine that if you put family first, your kids will be healed by love and set free to serve the world in and through Love? It would be heaven on earth. It would be the beginning of a revolution that would change the face of the earth.  In doing so, I assure you, you will be happier, more content and live longer if you treasure more than money and success.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Our Quirky House

Welcome to our house. We love kids, animals and plants but watch out! Don't trip over the dog laying in the hallway.
The kindest description for the house where we raised our nine children, would be quaint. Picture a sprawling, two-storey house built in 1886, with all sorts of quirks. Three sets of steps converge on the upstairs landing as the result of creative home renovations. A window became a doorway to a hundred-year old addition which then needed its own set of three steps before anyone could get through this new doorway. Someone with an odd sense of humour cut a 4 ft 10 inch high doorway to the babyroom, squeezing it under the slanted roof. (When I walked into this room in the pitch dark, I banged my forehead against that door frame every night for the first month after we moved in). That doorway needs another set of three steps off the landing to reach the threshold of the bedroom. Logically, the two shortest people in the family shared this bedroom.The most absurd design feature, though, is the fact that there are six doorways leading out of the formal dining room and another six to the outdoors.
The bathroom, added in 1949 when a local farmer installed electricity, is so tiny that the tub is not even 4 ft. long. I must have a sadistic streak because the times I have laughed the hardest concern my husband and this bathtub. Once I stumbled upon him wedged in the tub with his knees drawn up, trying to keep water off the floor as he rinsed his hair with a princess shower head. I laughed so hard that I ended up on the floor. My husband did not even smile.
Laughter is usually my weapon of choice against the irritations life throws at me but is difficult to laugh at our shallow well which dries up continuously, forcing us to get a truck load of water from the neighbouring farmer. The toilet water pump is in the barn, surrounded by hay bales but still manages to freeze in the winter. We employ ingenious methods to thaw that pump but when it doesn't work we pail in water from an old fashioned pump ourside.
I simply must whine about one more irritation. If you plug two appliances in at the same time in the kitchen, the power shuts off and I resort to sending a kid running down to the cellar to turn the power back on. (I do mean a cellar, with huge oak beams and 2 ft, thick stone walls). That cellar is home to three freezers stocked with our home raised meat and vegetables are kept in the cold storage room. The kitchen pantry is tucked in under the stairs with shelves and old-fashioned hooks to hang aprons and cloth bags of flour, rice and sugar.         
The decorating theme of this unusual house is Early Childhood Art and it is everywhere, on the fridge, on cupboards and walls. Too many plants add to the sense of colour the eclectic combination of furniture is at least comfortable. Generations of former owner, who were all full-time farmers, believed in 4 inch spikes for building barns as well as hanging pictures, So those 4 inch spikes dictate where mirrors and pictures hang because they refused to come out of the old plaster.
The list of quirks is even longer long but it all adds up either to frustration or comedy and we choose to laugh. Yet we also love this quirky house with its thick, pine plank floors, wide wood wainscotting, original door knobs and engraved hinges and stained-glass window.
Now into this absurd house, picture eleven people living in five bedrooms with bunk beds, 13 dressers and huge trunks because half the bedrooms have old-fashioned hooks on the wall but no closets and there is no linen closet. Organizing the clothes and belongings of eleven people is not an easy task without proper storage. I should not have to explain further except to remark that I once lost a grade one reading book for three months in a dress-up bin. You can surely picture the chaos as I madly flung socks about in a 3 foot high wicker basket full of unpaired socks, trying to find a pair or two to throw over the banister to a child rushing to pull a coat and backpack on before running down our long lane to catch the schoolbus.
This is the scene for all sorts of mix-ups, and mayhem, many of them cause by the house itself. I reacted the only way possible,I laughed. Our laughing transformed that house into a very, very fine house with two cats in the most comfortable chair, a dog that tripped visitors by the door, goldfish on the counter and a guinea pig that squeaked for food every time the fridge opened.

This is the background to all sorts of mix-ups, and mayhem. I reacted the only way possible.. .I laughed. By laughing, that house became a very, very fine house with two cats in the most comfortable chair, a dog that tripped visitors by the door, goldfish on the counter and a guinea pig that squeaked for food every time the fridge opened.