How I Went from Being a Thinker to a Maker

knitting edited

*Note: Please forgive this bit of shameless navel-gazing. Even though it’s completely self-centered, I thought I’d share this, in case anyone else can relate. It’s connected to my last post: Why I’m Not Writing a Book Right Now.*

A few weeks ago I was editing my Instagram profile — I think I was just temporarily changing the link to a specific blog post — when I was struck by my own description of myself: “Thinker.”

I’ve been using that word to describe myself since I started this blog six years ago. (You can still see it in my author description in the right column of the blog). I’d gotten used to it.

But all of a sudden, I noticed that it didn’t feel like it fit anymore.

For basically all my life, I probably could have described myself as a “thinker.” I’ve lived most of my life in my head. (My mom would attest to that. I’ve always been absent-minded, absorbed with my own thoughts.)

I ruminate. I imagine. I ponder. I reflect. I take things in and I dissect them with my brain. I’ve never been much of a talker or a doer.

That’s why my life has always revolved around the written word. Words are a thinker’s tools.

It made me rather clumsy and not very useful in the real world, but I thrived in an academic setting, which is where I spent the first 24 years of my life.

But that’s not the kind of person I was seeing reflected in my Instagram feed the other day.

My feed isn’t full of thoughts and words, like you would expect from a “thinker.” Instead, these days it’s mostly full of pictures of stuff I’ve made: bread I’ve baked. Hats I’ve crocheted. Artwork I’ve painted.

“Looks like I’m more of a maker,” I thought to myself for the first time.

Hmmm.

In recent years, my focus has shifted away from reading, writing, and thinking, to mastering new skills. Baking. Cooking. Painting. Knitting. That kind of thing.

I no longer read to learn new information nearly as much I do to learn new skills. And often, I find that watching videos is a more efficient way to learn these things than reading books. So I do a lot more of that.

In the last three years alone I have picked up crocheting, knitting, watercolor painting and sourdough baking. Before that it was gardening, preserving, cooking and blogging.

What changed?

Well, I graduated from university, for starters. When I stopped being a professional student I started to recognize the value of learning some life skills.

And shortly after that, I had a baby. I had to learn some additional new skills; and my brain got so worn out by the demands of caregiving that I couldn’t think like I used to. But in those early years of mothering I still devoured books and information, and spent a lot of time reflecting and writing.

And then I had a medically complex child who spent his first year in the hospital and everything came apart. Including my brain.

What exactly happened? What encouraged this shift from thinking to making?

Thinking became too difficult.

Having two kids in my care who never slept and who constantly needed my attention put a special strain on my mental capacities. I just didn’t have the brain space to think much anymore beyond what was immediately necessary for all our survival.

Making stuff is a bit easier on the brain, somehow.

basic sourdough boule recipe

Thinking became too painful.

Since the trauma of Felix’s hospitalization, and my family’s separation, displacement, and isolation, almost all thinking triggers pain. My brain became a stew of sadness and anxiety. To this day I have to carefully guard my thoughts at every turn to keep me from turning into a useless puddle of grief and worry.

Making and doing is much less painful.

Nobody gets hurt when I create.

I needed more beauty in my life.

Especially in the dull monotony of hospital life, I started to really notice what a difference beauty made in my life. The gorgeously-decorated Christmas trees in the halls of the pediatric ward somehow allowed me to take a deep breath and relax for just a moment. The carefully-tended flower beds at the Ronald McDonald House made me feel loved and cared for.

This need for beauty has carried on. I wanted not only to witness beauty, but to participate in it.

I get a feeling of peace and calm when I pull elegant loaves of artisan bread out of the oven. I love to lay beautiful liquid colours down on paper and watch flowers pop out of the flat whiteness. It energizes me. It brings me joy when everything else feels like crap.

watercolour lily

I needed to feel in control of parts of my life, when everything else  felt completely chaotic.

Ever since Felix was born, my life has felt largely out of my control. We weren’t able to pursue any of the parenting choices we wanted to make for him, from breastfeeding to co-sleeping and elimination communication. Doctors made all the decisions about how to treat him, how to feed him, and who could even see him. For several weeks, we didn’t even know if he would live.

I have felt so completely helpless in the face of his suffering and pain.

So it feels good to be able to pick out a ball of yarn in the colour of my choice, select a pattern, and knit a sweater, just the way I want it. At least I have control over this one little thing.

knitted pink pixie bonnet

I needed to feel productive, when I realized there was so little I could actually do to help my son.

This is kind of an extension of the first. When I couldn’t do anything else, I could knit my son a hat. When I can’t figure out why everyone in my family is so miserable, I can bake them some bread.

I can’t always solve my own or anyone else’s problems, but I can create something beautiful. That’s something, at least.

How about you? Have you experienced anything like this? Can you relate?

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Why I’m Not Writing a Book Right Now

hand writing

I recently received one of the most exciting emails of my life. One that I’ve been dreaming of since I was a child. (I mean, I’d never heard of email back then, but the essence of the dream was the same.)

It was from a publisher. A real, legitimate publisher, who has published books I have read and loved. They were interested in potentially working with me on a book.

You guys. I have wanted to be a published author since before I can remember. Books have always been my life, and I have always longed to be a part of that world. It’s the reason I started blogging in the first place, way back in 2009. The end goal was a book deal.

This is every dream come true. It’s the thing I’ve wanted to most in my life for the longest time.

I had to tell that that sadly, writing a book just isn’t going to work for me right now.

But why??? Why would I say something like that??? Why would I turn down my dream????

I haven’t given up on my dream; I’m just acknowledging that now isn’t the time for it. In case you’re wondering, here are a few of the reasons why I had to put that dream on hold.

I don’t feel I have any wisdom to share.

I used to think I had something to share with the world. That was before my universe fell apart, when I gave birth to a medically complex child, and I realized I knew nothing about anything.

It’s been three years now and I still don’t feel like I’ve learned anything.

I’m still at the stage of the journey where I’m shaking my fist at the universe, muttering, “This is bullshit.”

My soul feel shrunken and shrivelled. It barely made it through that difficult first year, and hasn’t really had a chance to heal. So far, I don’t think my trials have made me any stronger or wiser.

Here’s the honest truth, you guys. I’m bitter. I’m scared. I’m worried. I’m busy and stressed out. I’m jealous. I’m resentful. I’m so lost and confused. More than I’ve ever been.

Three years into this journey and I’m so full of unresolved trauma and grief.

I still suffer from such debilitating envy that I’ve unfollowed almost anyone on social media who has two or more healthy children. I envy both their fertility and their ability to produce children without disabilities or life-threatening diseases. It’s so unfair!! This isn’t the life I wanted!!

I want to be that mom who can say in all sincerity, “I wouldn’t change anything about our story.” But at this point in my life, it’s just not true. I would change a bunch of things.

That doesn’t sound like someone who is ready to write a book.

I’m not ready to process my trauma.

You might think that writing would be therapeutic, that getting all my thoughts and feelings out on paper might help me process my trauma and grief. And you might be right.

I just don’t think I have the fortitude to do that right now.

Just writing this post has put me through the ringer. I pretty much sobbed through the whole thing. Talking about my feelings is draining. After this I’m going to fix myself an iced coffee and watch funny Youtube videos to recuperate.

I’m too damn busy and tired all the time.

This is honestly probably the biggest barrier.

Felix still doesn’t sleep through the night most nights. So I am always sleep-deprived.

Even though he’s three years old his needs are still those of an infant — we have to feed, bathe, diaper, and carry him everywhere. He’s still non-verbal and not walking, so he needs a lot of help navigating his world. He uses hearing aids and orthotics.

And the appointments! The bane of my existence. Clinic visits. Audiology. Speech therapy. Physiotherapy. Occupational therapy. I am constantly scheduling and going to appointments. Phone calls and emails are always cluttering up my to-do list. Most of those appointments involve experts giving me additional to-do lists. As an introvert, this is incredibly draining.

So yeah. I can’t add “write a book” to the demands of my life right now.

But maybe someday.

What I’m Into: October 2017

baby boy knitted cardigan

dog

boots

fritters

It’s so helpful for me to reflect on each month and think about the good things I did/read/made. It always makes me feel grateful. October wasn’t all apple fritters and pumpkin patches, but it did have a little bit of these things, and I guess that made it a pretty good month.

Here’s what I’ve been into.

Books

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I probably would have enjoyed this book more if I’d ever watched any of the TV shows written by the author (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, etc). But without that background, I still found the book thought-provoking and inspiring. She lives a very, very different life from me (e.g. unmarried by choice; successful career woman; etc); but I could still see myself in some aspects of her personality, especially her natural tendency to say no to things in favour of hiding at home alone. So I was encouraged by her story of learning to say yes to the things that scared her, and how that changed her life. She’s a very talented and engaging storyteller.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, narrated by Elijah Wood. I enjoyed the audio version of Tom Sawyer so much last month that I decided to listen to Elijah Wood reading Huck Finn. Unlike the first book, I’d never read this one, deeming it unreadable as a child, on account of the Southern U.S. dialect used throughout the entire narrative. (I’d have an easier time reading Middle English.) So I had no idea what was going to happen. At one point I actually yelled out loud, “No, Huck! Don’t do it!!”

And let me tell you, Wood’s narration is a treat. He nails that southern accent, as well as all the different voices and dialects of the sundry characters, bringing the whole thing to life. And just like the earlier book, this one is freaking hilarious! I was guffawing through the whole thing. Huck is such a charming little liar. I cheered aloud when he decides he’d rather go to hell than give up Jim.

The treatment of race is troubling, of course — I really don’t think this book is appropriate for children.  It is painful to hear the n-word used so much (well, at all). But I learned so much about what was happening in the U.S. in the 1800’s (so long ago, and yet so recent!), something I honestly haven’t read about extensively as a Canadian.

(P.S. Did you know Elijah Wood actually played Huck Finn in a 1993 Disney film version? I so want to track it down! He looks adorable in the trailer!) (P.P.S. You can get the audio version for only $1.99 if you buy the kindle version for $.99. What a deal!)

book

The Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny. I love this series so much and the fifth novel did not disappoint. All our favourite characters are there, and the murder is dark and weird and intriguing. Penny’s writing is beautiful as always, and probes deeply into the human psyche. This book is the first in the series to introduce ambiguity at the end (Did Gamache arrest the right person??), and is also the first one that would not be great as a stand-alone novel (it has to be read in the context of the rest of the series. A lot of the subplot details would seem irrelevant and uninteresting to a first-time reader). (Note: if you get the audio version, MAKE SURE you get Adam Sims, not Ralph Cosham. The first is a magician; the latter is a disgrace.)

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I read this one aloud to Lydia, but it’s another classic I’d never read before myself. I’ve since learned that the translation I have is not the best one, and I wonder how different the experience might have been with a better translation.

Parts of it are breathtakingly beautiful; but for the most part I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. I’d seen the movie and thought it was absolutely spectacular; the book kind of disappointed. Also, the dark and ambiguous ending didn’t seem quite appropriate for a six-year-old.

Television

OH MY GOODNESS STRANGER THINGS SEASON 2!!!!!!

We watched the whole season over the course of the first weekend it was released,* and I am still speechless. Those child actors blow me away. I love everybody so much. The storytelling is fantastic. Just . . . wow.

Either you’ve already seen it too or you have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’ll just leave it at that.

*(The weather was garbage)

Knitting

knitted baby cardigan

I knitted a sweater! It took me approximately one zillion hours. It’s by far the most complicated thing I’ve knitted so far. Knitting involves a lot of math and counting, you guys! But it was a fun challenge and I’m delighted by the finished results. Look at those sweet wooden buttons!

baby boy sweater

I knitted it for a dear friend who was going to have a baby, and finished the day he was born! Honestly, though, the baby was just an excuse to knit something that excited me.

Oh, and I knitted another pixie bonnet for another little friend, who just had a birthday.

knitted pink pixie bonnet

I got Felix to model it.

pink pixie bonnet

If  you’re into this kind of thing, you can get all the details on these project on Raverly.

…Aaaaand that’s a wrap for this month.

Hope you had a good one!

*As usual, linking up with Leigh Kramer.

*Post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting the site!

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4 Products to Help You Create Less Waste On the Go

products to help create less waste on the go

I’ve been committed to creating less waste and caring for the environment for a number of years. But until recently, I’ve mostly been concerned with the things I use within my own home. I use cloth diapers and cloth napkins, and cook from scratch as much as possible, for example. This makes sense, because I spend most of my time at home.

Recently, however, I realized how much unnecessary waste I was creating during those times when I am out of the house.  How often when I cleaned out the family car wasn’t I tossing out paper cups, plastic straws and lids, and even plastic cutlery? I think I’d always just kind of felt like this stuff was inevitable when you left the house, especially with kids.

I think I started to become more aware of what I was doing when I began following some fantastic Zero Waste gurus on Instagram.

One of my favourites is Be Zero. She shares inspiration, information, and practical tips to reduce waste. You should definitely go follow her right now.

But anyway, through her posts, I realized that in order to create less waste, I probably needed to be intentional in buying a few quality products to take the place of disposable products.

The most common form of waste found around the world is single-use plastics,” she explains in a recent post. “BPA-free plastic or not, plastics still pose risks to our health – both body & ecosystems.

One of the easiest steps anyone can take to disengage from our disposable culture,” she argues, “is to bring your own – cup, utensil, napkin, bag, straw, or container.”

Reusable water bottles and bags are pretty obvious and becoming more mainstream, which is awesome. I’ve been doing both for years, and you probably have, too. But some of the other stuff takes a little extra thought and creativity.

So I recently used some of my Amazon commission earnings to purchase some carefully-selected items to help me reduce my waste when I’m on the go. Here’s what I bought, how I use them, and why I love them.

Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I make a small commission. Otherwise, no one is paying me to review these items. I just bought them and enjoyed them, and wanted to share!

Beeswax Wrap

abeego beeswax wrap -- great for picnics

I’ve been wanting to give beeswax wrap a try for years, and finally used up some of my Amazon gift card money to buy one.

It’s just cotton fabric coated with beeswax. it’s foldable and slightly tacky, so it stays in place when you wrap it around your food.

I bought a “giant”-sized Abeego to try out, and now I plan on buying several more in smaller sizes. (Or maybe I’ll buy another large one and cut it to smaller sizes. I haven’t decided yet.) I absolutely love it!

First of all, it keeps things wonderfully moist and fresh, a lot like plastic wrap. But it also happens to be beautiful to look at, it’s reusable, it’s safe for food, and it smells amazing. Everyone in the family loves catching a wiff of that lovely honey smell when it’s covering something out on the counter.

The giant size is good for covering half a watermelon, a casserole dish, or a loaf of artisanal bread. I’ve also used it to wrap sandwiches for a picnic (as in the photo above).

beeswax wrap for cut watermelon

I still want some smaller sizes to cover things like halved avocadoes and tomatoes in the fridge, and for snacks and individual sandwiches on the go.

After using it, just wipe it off with a damp washcloth, let it dry, fold it up, and stick it back in a drawer for use. I love how compact it is when not in use.

(P.S. I’m not exclusively loyal to Abeego or anything. There are lots of great options out there. BUT, if you’re in Canada, you can order direct from their site and get free shipping! That’s not an affiliate link, I’m just excited!)

Collapsible Silicone Container

collapsible silicone container

I hate to waste leftovers. But I also hate taking food home in styrofoam. This posed a problem every time I ate out and wanted to take home my leftovers.

Other zero-waste gurus advocate taking along containers made of steel or glass when you eat out, but that just seemed impractical and bulky to me. Plus, I can’t be trusted to always remember to grab something like that before heading out to a restaurant. I’m usually already carrying a diaper bag and whatnot else. And sometimes we eat out on the fly after appointments in the city.

I decided I wanted a container that I could keep in my purse at all times, so that it was always ready for the job. Something lightweight and collapsible would be ideal.

I found just the thing available on Amazon.

This set of three Kuuk containers allows me to keep one in my purse, one in our car and one in Ben’s work van. For $13! Now we never have an excuse to use styrofoam.

(The one in my purse holds my straw and spork when not in use. More on them below.)

zero-waste solutions on the go

I love how slim it is when collapsed. (Roughly the size of a thin hardcover book, but lighter.) And there’s more than enough room to hold a generous portion of leftovers when opened up.

I recently used my container to take home some delicious chicken shawarma after a night out with Ben. I was so glad to have the container ready!

It may not be as eco-friendly as steel or glass, but it’s a huge step up from single-use styrofoam!

Metal Spork

stainless steel spork - make less waste

A reusable spork is handy because it’s able to serve you, whether you’re chowing soup, noodles, rice, or salad!

I happened to get this titanium one for $10, which comes with a bottle opener. It’s probably overkill.  There are lots of more economical options.

Stainless Steel Straw

stainless steel straw

Single-use plastic straws are so completely dumb when you think about it. What a waste of plastic!

Technically, you usually don’t even need to use a straw. People drink straight out of cups all the time. But I understand that they’re helpful if you’re drinking while in a vehicle or otherwise on the move.

So in the those cases, a stainless steel straw is a great solution.

When you’re in a restaurant, you probably don’t need a straw at all. You could just ask your server not to give you a straw, and drink from your cup the old-fashioned way. I’ve done this lots of times.

But having a reusable straw with you even in a restaurant can be nice for two reasons: (1) so your server can physically see that you don’t need a straw (because s/he might otherwise forget your request), and (2) it makes everything you drink feel fancy. See? Being eco-friendly doesn’t have to make you feel deprived!

I got a set of a bunch of stainless steel straws of varying size and shape. Most will stay home and be used by the family.

But I have one tucked in my collapsible container to be used when I’m out and about, and another in the family car, for spur-of-the moment drive-thru iced coffees. (Confession: I have yet to work up the nerve to ask if they’ll put it in a reusable cup. Usually I just make my own and take it along in a jar.)

Other Great Items to Bring With You

Just a reminder that you can take the following things with you when you go out to reduce the waste you create:

These reusable products have all been a pleasure to use. I hope you find some awesome zero-waste solutions, too!

Any additional suggestions/recommendations?

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What I’m Into: September 2017

apples edited

knitting edited

nature journaling

I cannot complain about our September.

We had summer weather for most of it, which is my favourite.

Lydia and I got really into some schoolish stuff, which was a lot of fun. Nature journaling has turned out to be a big hit. We have learned so much, and enjoyed it immensely! And she can’t get enough of history. We had to take books on Ancient Egypt out of the library so she could dig deeper into pyramids and mummies. Fun!

And I did some knitting! Oh my goodness I love knitting. I’ll share some finished products at the end.

But first of all, some of the usual things I’ve been into!

(Quick note: You can see what I’m up to on a day-to-day basis on Instagram, my most-loved social media platform these days. There you’ll see lots of unschooling stuff, as well as my crafty and kitchen adventures.)

Books

books - september

(Once again, these are all audiobooks.)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. This novel won the 2017 Newbery Award, was recommended to me by my discerning sister, and was on sale for a couple of dollars. So I bought it.

It is wonderful. It involves a poetry-reciting swamp monster, a tiny dragon who thinks he’s gigantic, and a kindly old witch who accidentally enmagics an abandoned baby girl by feeding her moonlight. As the girl grows up under the kind witch’s care, her magic becomes increasingly dangerous, and the witch has to make some difficult decisions. It’s a refreshingly original fairy tale with unusual protagonists, full of both whimsy and solemnity. I will happily pass it along to Lydia when she’s a bit older (maybe 10-ish). (Note: I didn’t really care for the narrator. I’d recommend reading the print version.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, read by Nick Offerman. I was assigned this book way back in grade seven, so I was familiar with all the major plot points of the story. But as a kid I never particularly cared for the book . . . as a female Canadian goody-goody, I could not relate to the protagonist at all, and the humour completely went over my head. But reading it as an adult . . . it is laugh-out-loud hilarious! Only now do I understand why Twain is considered a world-class humourist. And I could listen to Ron Swanson read to me all day. (*Also as an adult, the racism infused into the culture now really makes me shudder.) (Currently available on Audible for ONE DOLLAR. Go listen to it.)

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick. I enjoy celebrity memoires if the author is funny and smart. This one fits the bill. Kendrick is likeable and self-deprecating, and a very witty writer. It’s always fun to see behind the scenes of things like awards shows and big-budget movies. Not a life-changer, but an enjoyable five hours. Warning: contains plenty of drugs, sex and swearing.

Children’s Read-Aloud Chapter Books

children's chapter books

The Light Princess by George Macdonald. I fell in love with this delightful little book back in university. It was my pleasure to read it aloud to Lydia. It’s whimsical and profound at the same time.

Most of the symbolism and wordplay probably went over her head, but embedded within this silly fairy tale about a princess who has no gravity (in every sense of the word) is a message about self-sacrifice and the value of the full spectrum of human emotion. I hope to read it over and over again through the years.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. This one was pretty good. Plucky heroine, magical castle, acts of courage. Lydia liked it. I kind of felt like the author doesn’t really know how kingdoms or bad guys work? Still a decent read.

Children’s Picture Books

wild child

Wild Child by Jeanne Willis. I bought this book on the recommendation of Sara from Happiness in Here. I love it so much. It is spectacular in every way.

First of all, it captures the essence of childhood and embodies the spirit of unschooling. If you believe in the wisdom of wildness, you will love this book. The narrator of the story is “the last wild child,” because all of the other children have been captured by grown-ups and made to wear shoes and go to school: “They took all their wisdom and wildness away. That’s why there are none in the forests today.” But by the end of the story, we discover there is at least one other wild child out there . . .

Second, the illustrations are phenomenally gorgeous. Lydia has made copies of all the beautiful pictures and pored over all the lovely details.

I constantly come across children’s books that assume school is necessary and good. This is the first one that seems to question it, and it feels so refreshing and impish.

Unfortunately, this book doesn’t seem to be available anywhere right now, but keep your eyes open for it, or check your library!

Knitting

knitted pixie bonnet

The knitting bug hit me the second we got some cooler weather. I just HAD TO KNIT. And I knew what I wanted to make: a pixie bonnet for Felix. I found this pattern via Ravelry, which I thought was perfect for my skill level.

I LOOOVE the finished product.

But unfortunately it ended up a little big for Felix. Oh well. Lydia can wear it for now (still super cute!), and he’ll grow into it eventually.

knitted pixie bonnet(It was actually really hot that day — like 30C or 86F — but I paid her in candy to model the bonnet with a jacket on. For realism’s sake.)

Now I need to make more! (You can find me on Ravelry here, if you’re so inclined.)

So that’s what I’ve been into! How about you?

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

*Linking up, as usual, with Leigh Kramer. Join me there?

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What I Learned This Summer

sidewalk chalk

I’m a couple days late, since summer technically ended last Wednesday. But I love Emily Freeman’s idea of sharing things you’ve learned over the last season, so I thought I’d join in.

Here are three things I learned this summer.

1. You really can trust kids to do things when they’re ready.

I’m a firm believer in letting kids do things when they’re ready . . . in theory. That’s part of the reason we’re choosing to unschool. But sometimes that idea is harder to put into practice.

Several months ago, I noticed that Lydia was starting to sprout her first new adult teeth (the bottom front ones) . . . behind her baby teeth. This surprised me, because we’d been checking on those baby teeth for any wiggliness since she turned five. They still weren’t loose at all. But the adult ones were ready to move in, regardless of what the baby teeth were doing.

I wasn’t too alarmed, since mine had done the exact same when I was five. But I’d had my not-loose baby teeth removed by a dentist, and I thought maybe she’d have to have the same thing done with hers.

I was getting ready to make an appointment for her when her baby teeth started to get the teeniest bit wiggly. Hmm. I hesitated. At the same time, I talked to my cousin (who’s a dental assistant), and she told me she sees the exact phenomenon in their office all the time, and it’s no big deal — eventually, when the baby teeth come out, the adult ones move right into place. (I don’t know if this is true of other teeth in the mouth, but the ones at the very front kind of get pushed forward by the tongue). So I waited a little longer.

Eventually, her baby teeth started to get more and more wiggly. But Lydia would not let anyone touch them. I believe in bodily autonomy, even for the youngest children,  so I let it go. I didn’t believe her teeth were in any trouble.

I was personally pretty scarred from the experience of losing my own teeth. My dad would tie strong threads around my loose teeth and yank them out. Sometimes it took several tries. It was terrifying. I still shudder at the thought.

{Question: Why are we so anxious to get kids’ teeth out as soon as absolutely possible?}

I didn’t want to do the same to Lydia. Her teeth belong to her. She gets to decide what happens to them.

Soon the adult teeth were fully in place, with the tiny little baby ones still hanging on but slowly getting looser and getting pushed further forward.

loose teethHere’s a nice image to haunt your dreams. You’re welcome.

It looked pretty gross, honestly. She now had a double row of teeth in the front, and the baby ones were turning greyish and looking dead and dangly. Everyone wanted them out so bad . . . except for Lydia.

We bribed. We reasoned. We asked really nicely. But she didn’t want us to touch them and she wasn’t ready to pull them herself.

This went on for two whole weeks past the time we thought they should really come out. I wanted so badly to reach over and just pluck them out. It would have been so easy! But I restrained myself. It’s her body, I reminded myself. She’ll pull them when she’s ready.

And finally, one day while she was eating a carrot, the first one came out. Thank goodness! And she was so proud of herself!

The next one came out the next day. She easily pulled it out herself.

Now she has two beautiful, straight, white adult teeth, without having the damaging experience of having someone barge in and yank out her teeth against her will. As a bonus, she never had to have any gaps in her mouth.

Sometimes you have to have patience and trust that your kids know what they’re doing.

{Note: I’m still trying to follow my own advice when it comes to Felix reaching his milestones on his own time, with varying levels of success.}

2. You can hone your skills just by watching other people.

passionflower watercolour

Earlier in the year, I decided to learn how to paint with watercolours. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years.

I watched a ton of YouTube videos. I bought new paints, brushes, and paper. And I practiced. I got pretty good. It was so, so fun and fulfilling.

But I didn’t get to practice nearly as much as I would have liked. I’m just not at a stage in my life where I can often get out a bunch of art materials, spread them across a table, and work to my heart’s content.

But I was passionate about learning. So I kept watching tutorials. Lots and lots of them. I watched while I fed the baby or washed the dishes. While I chopped vegetables or mixed meatballs for dinner, I watched other people play with colours and create masterpieces. I watched them lay down glazes and demonstrate techniques.

And to my surprise, when I did get the chance to pull out my paints, I was better at it than I was before I watched the videos.

Simple watching experts paint for hours on end made me a better painter myself, even when I’d had little chance to practice.

Neat.

3. I can buy underwear online.

underwear

This felt like a revelation.

First of all, you need to know that Canadians don’t enjoy all the same online shopping options you Americans do. We don’t have all the same businesses, and shipping costs here are insane. (I’ve done quite a bit of shipping in the U.S. so I know that the price differences are dramatic). Free shipping is almost unheard-of. So I’ve never even considered doing things like Stitch Fix. Online clothes shopping is mostly unaffordable and unrealistic.

And honestly, I’m not really even interested in buying my clothes online. I don’t mind shopping for clothes, and only need to do it every couple of years.

But underwear. What a pain!

The underwear available at our local Wal-Mart are all garbage quality and mostly hideous granny panties. So: no.

My favourite underwear come from LaSenza, a flashy lingerie store at the mall (an hour away) that makes me feel very uncomfortable, plastered wall-to-wall with ginormous posters of almost-naked women. It’s located right next to the food court, so everyone can watch you examine underpants while they eat their Cinnabons. When panties go on sale, they’re offered in huge bins right in the front doorway, and you have to sift through piles of lacy thongs to get to the comfy cotton hipsters (the only cut/style I buy). I always dread it.

One day I groaned to Ben, I wish I could just buy my underwear online. And then I thought, Well, why the heck not? I searched for the La Senza website, and before I knew it, had six pairs of clearance-priced underwear in my cart for less than $30. Shipping cost $4. They arrived three days later.

Hooray! No pawing through piles of panties in front of families eating fake Chinese food! This is the only way I’m doing it from now on.

And that’s it for now! What cool things did you learn this summer?

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Our Homeschool Plans for 2017/2018 (For First Grade)

nature journal

The school year started last week around these parts, but in our family that doesn’t mean much (since we mostly still unschool. I’ve written about our approach to education here). But the cooling September air did have me thinking more consciously about learning, and I decided to add a few resources to our learning environment.

Here are a couple of things we’re planning on using to enhance Lydia’s learning in the year ahead, divided roughly by subject, though of course learning doesn’t happen all chopped up in real life.

Language

Lydia specifically requested that we not do reading lessons this year (we tried for a while last year), and I’m respecting that. We’re in no hurry to start reading, and I want her to always love reading and learning, so I’m not going to push it.

Instead, the plan is just to read lots of books together. We live in walking distance of the library, and plan to make weekly visits. By listening to me read aloud from quality books, she’ll absorb new vocabulary, grammar, style, etc. Hearing good stories and good writing read aloud will equip her for when she decides she’s ready to read on her own, and will hopefully inspire a lifelong love of books. That’s all I care about right now.

History

story of the world

Tying into the above: I borrowed a copy of The Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times from a homeschooling veteran to read aloud. I plan to read a chapter to her every so often during Felix’s naps. So far we’ve only read a few chapters, but she’s already hooked (and so am I!). She begs me to read more, and perks up anytime she hears the word “history.”

As the title suggests, history is written as a narrative, starting with the first nomads, in a simple way that a first-grader can understand. (I understand that as the books move forward in time they also get more advanced, aging with the children.) Hearing history as a story makes in both more engaging and memorable.

(The stories are also available as audiobooks, but so far Lydia doesn’t care for audiobooks. Plus, I like to be able to stop and talk about what we’re reading while it’s happening.)

I personally didn’t get exposed to a lot of this material until I was in university. I was given dismembered chunks of history over the years, and I didn’t know how any of them fit together until adulthood. (I know heaps of adults who today couldn’t tell you whether the Middle Ages or Renaissance came first). I am PSYCHED at this chance to provide her with a skeleton of history at a young age, on which she can hang all future history lessons, and know how it all fits together.

If the rest of the book turns out to be as great as the opening chapters, I’m definitely going to continue with the rest of the series!

Science and Art

exploring nature with children - nature journaling

I think these two subjects combine beautifully in the form of nature journaling. Lydia already loves both drawing and nature, so I’m excited to start nature journaling together.

I purchased the ebook Exploring Nature With Children and two sketchbooks — one for each of us. The plan is to take regular nature walks, focusing on different themes each week as outlined in the book, and then journal about what we find in our sketchbooks.

Math

Life of Fred Math

We’re borrowing a copy of the first Life of Fred book. We haven’t started it yet, and we’ll see what happens. So far she has rejected it on account of how ugly the illustrations are, and I can’t say I blame her. It doesn’t look very inspiring. But I’ve heard great things about it, so we’ll give it a try.

Otherwise, I hope to revive an interest in her Spielgaben set from last year, which hasn’t seen much play in the last couple of months.

Nature Appreciation and Socializing

We also enrolled Lydia in the local forest school, where she will enjoy a half-day of nature education each week. There, she will hopefully get a chance to befriend and play with some other kids apart from me.

We are also involved in a growing local homeschool group, where the plan is to gather weekly, just to play and socialize. I am so excited for this, since our group was very small last year. Yay for new homeschoolers!

* * *

Otherwise, I don’t have any plans — just faith that she will learn plenty of things from everyday life. We’ll cook and bake together, go to the park and beach, hopefully visit some museums . . . and let her natural desire to learn lead the way.

What I’m Into: August 2017

tomato salad

eclipseAugust was good to us.

It was mostly slow and relaxed, with fewer appointments than usual. We stayed home quite a bit, with plenty of play dates for Lydia. We went to the zoo one day and we watched the eclipse (we had about 85% coverage here in southern Ontario).

All in all, a good month. And here are some of the things I enjoyed.

Books

audiobooks

(Once again, I “read” all of these in audiobook form. I do not have time to sit down and read with my eyeballs, but I sure got a lot of books under my belt this month by listening to them while I worked!)

Wonder – R. J. Polacio. I bought this best-selling children’s book on Audible when it was on sale for a few dollars. It’s absolutely beautiful and I highly recommend it. It tells the story of a nine-year-old boy who was born with severe facial deformities, and who is starting school for the first time in his life. We get to hear the story from a number of different perspectives, including Auggie himself, his big sister, his new friends, and even his sister’s friend. As the mother of an atypical boy myself, my heart especially went out to his parents. It’s moving, heart-wrenching, and important.

I Am Malala Malala Yousafzai. I’m trying to read more diverse books, and I love Malala’s example as a brave, compassionate, peacemaking Muslim girl. You probably already know that she’s the girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban, to keep her for speaking out for girls’ education in Pakistan; this book provides the background story of her childhood, and then covers her recovery from the near-fatal injury and how the world responded. The story is beautifully written, with lovely and moving descriptions of her homeland; and Malala’s (and her father’s) incredible courage in the face of danger and persecution is awe-inspiring.

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie. Okay. Wow. I did not know Agatha Christie was so dark. Judging from her name, I thought she wrote books for old ladies. Holy smokes was I wrong. This was one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read! And did you know it’s the seventh best-selling books of all time?!?! In any language?!?!

Okay, let’s take a step back. The book starts kind of slow as all the characters are introduced. Ten people have been invited to a lonely mansion on an island, but the mysterious host fails to arrive. Soon, we learn that every guest has a dark secret in their past. Then, they start to die, one by one . . . It is terrifying and suspenseful and macabre and unlike anything I’ve read before. The audiobook is narrated by the talented Dan Stevens, whom I gushed about a few months ago. If you like a dark and thrilling murder mystery, this might be a great fall/October read.

Daughter of Smoke and BoneLaini Taylor. I always gotta round out my monthly reading with at least one YA fantasy novel. This one is unique and fascinating in some ways, but conventional and predictable in others. The forbidden love story, for example, totally made me roll my eyes. (I’m not easily impressed by romance, and Akiva is kind of an unconvincing love interest. Enough with the brooding!). But the story of a young artist being raised by devils and being sent to fetch teeth from collectors all over the world intrigued me immensely. The book is chock-full of mystery and magic and danger and creepy characters. It’s the first book in a trilogy, though, and we’ll see if I continue.

I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual – Luvvie Ajayi. I’ve been following Luvvie on social media for a while, and I love her for her humour and insight into politics and pop culture. So I finally decided to buy her bestselling book, which she narrates herself in her delightful, energetic voice. The very first sentence starts, “One day, I was minding everyone’s business, scrolling through my Facebook news feed. . .” and I knew I had landed on a winner. It’s both laugh-out-loud funny (especially the chapter on cosmetic surgery), and also poignant and sobering (like when she talks about privilege and race). Good stuff here. But also: language warning.

Prodigy – Marie Lu. I decided to go ahead and try book 2 of the Legend trilogy, and I was surprised to find that I liked it better than the first! (Which I talked about here). Again, the love story left me unimpressed, but when the characters find they have to grapple with some complicated political issues, I was pulled in. Who’s telling the truth? Who’s lying? Will assassinating the young new elector primo bring the revolution the country needs, or will it only allow a greater threat to take power? I’m actually looking forward to reading the next one, though I couldn’t care less whether Day and June end up together. (Although, of course they will. Because YA dystopian fiction.)

Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming. I know, I know. Why on earth do we need ANOTHER Spiderman movie? The reason is because finally, someone has made a good one! While I’ve felt pretty meh about all previous Spiderman movies (and I love superhero movies), this one had me cheering and laughing and squeezing Lydia’s hand with excitement. (Oh yeah, she saw it and loved it, too). Perhaps the greatest feature of this version is the casting: Tom Holland is the perfect (adorably geeky) Peter Parker. His enthusiastic, nerdy friend friend Ned is the best. They’re actually believable high school kids. It’s funny and heartwarming and moving and fun. Everything about it is great. It got a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!

Lego Batman Movie. (Rented). Someone described this movie as the Batman movie you didn’t know you needed, and I agree with that assessment. It’s funny and irreverent, poking fun at Batman and the whole superhero phenomenon. The premise is hilarious: The Joker is disappointed to learn that Batman doesn’t feel their relationship is exclusive, so he summons all the super-villains (from other franchises) to help him destroy Gotham. It’s completely delightful to see a Lego Voldemort, Sauron, and Agent Smith in this world. It’s just a ton of fun.

And that’s it for now! What have you been into?

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What I’m Into: July 2017

splash pad 1

July was a no-sleep month.

After a month of sleeping through the night pretty consistently, Felix decided, “You know what would be cool? Trying that night/day switcheroo thing again.” So he’d just wake up at 3am and hang out for 3-4 hours every night.

Good times.

We didn’t really do anything or go anywhere special this month, either, except appointments for Felix. We were mostly too exhausted and zoned-out, and our usual babysitters were often on vacation.

We tried seeing a movie at the drive-in theater as a family, but the mosquitoes descended in clouds and we fled after ten minutes, scratching and swatting all the way home.

But hey! Look how much Felix enjoys being in water!

splash pad 2

splash pad 3

lake

He friggin’ LOVES it!

So July wasn’t all bad.

Anyway, here are a few things I enjoyed.

Books

Eye of the World

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (audiobook). This is the first book in the The Wheel of Time series. If you love The Lord of the Rings but wish it wasn’t such a sausage party, you might love The Wheel of Time. Eight characters (men and women) must set out on a quest to save the world from an evil force that wants to destroy it. It’s got everything for lover of epic fantasy: there are ageless evil lords who want your soul; long journeys through wilderness on horseback, with terrifying creatures on your heels; beautiful magical ladies; and an honest, humble shepherd with a secret destiny and as the protagonist. It’s over 700 pages long (which translates to more than 30 hours on audiobook), and the first of 14 (even longer) novels, if you want to go all in on a massive, immersive series that will take you years to finish. But the first book concludes nicely enough if you want to just give it a whirl.

born a crime

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (audiobook). A fantastic read. Those of you who have watched Trevor Noah on The Daily Show already know he’s smart, funny, eloquent, and charming, but it turns out, he’s got a hella fascinating life story, too. He grew up in South African during and immediately after Apartheid. To make things especially interesting, he was born to mixed parents at a time when it was illegal for races to mix (hence the title). He’s a terrific story-teller, and his childhood is filled with wild moments, from his mom throwing him out of a moving car to him accidentally burning down a White family’s house. His reflections of race and racism are illuminating and nuanced. I admire and respect him more than ever. He does a terrific job narrating his book, too — his voices and accents are on point. I dare you not to love him by the end of it.

Kids’ Books

Toys Go Out series

Toys Go Out, Toy Dance Party, and Toys Come Home – Emily Jenkins and Paul O Zelinsky. We’ve read these before, but they were so good they merited a re-read. These three books tell the stories of StingRay, Lumphy, and Plastic, three toys who live in the Little Girl’s room. It has some similarities with Toy Story, but manages to feel completely fresh and unique. It’s hilarious, clever, and imaginative. The toys all have distinct, lovable personalities — you feel like you know them personally within the first few pages. The characters deepen and grow over the course of the books. Five stars. These are the best books I’ve read to Lydia so far, and my number one recommendation for parents looking for read-alouds for their 4-6-year-olds.

No TV or Movies on account of the No-Sleep-or-Babysitters thing.

And that’s what I’ve been into. How about you?

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(Super Quick and Easy) Thai-Inspired Chicken Noodle Soup

Thai chicken noodle soup. Have dinner on the table in less than half an hour!

I spend way too much time in the kitchen.

For reasons I don’t fully understand myself, I’m addicted to recipes that have way too many fancy ingredients and way too many steps. I can’t help myself. It’s a problem. I hate how much time I spend in my kitchen, but I just can’t stop.

What many people might consider comfort food, I tend to find boring. No casseroles or pasta for me. I’m always hankering for something exotic, with lots of different textures and aromas and spices.

This is one of those unique recipes that feels really fancy and exotic but only takes a few minutes to whip up. It only has a few ingredients, and most of them can be found in your pantry/fridge/freezer at any given time. (Or at least, they are in mine. I always have homemade chicken broth, coconut milk, and fish sauce on hand.)

It’s also very nourishing, made with simple, wholesome ingredients. It’s loaded with good fats, vitamins and minerals. It’s filling, too.

I adore the balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy flavours of Thai cuisine. This recipe takes the basic template of boring chicken noodle soup and bumps it up to *spectacular.*

It features a rich, savoury broth turned magical with dreamy, creamy coconut milk. The fish sauce creates depth by adding sumptuous umami flavour. You can adjust the heat to your liking with red pepper flakes.

thai fish sauceMmmm… umami.

It will taste like you simmered it on the stove for hours. You can serve it to your guests and they will all be impressed. Or just toss it t0gether for your family on a random weeknight.

Go make this delicious soup! It will be ready in less than 30 minutes.

Disclaimer: I am not even close to being Thai. I have not even been to Thailand. So I apologize to actual Thai cooks who are probably rolling their eyes at my attempt to imitate their rich cuisine. Thank you for your wonderful gift of fish sauce to the world.

Recipe: Thai-Inspired Chicken Noodle Soup

thai chicken noodle soup

Ingredients

  • 8 oz rice stick noodles (about 225g, or half a package)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts, rinsed (optional)

Method

First, soften the noodles. You don’t want to actually cook them, because they will quickly turn to mush in the hot soup. Just place them in a heat-safe bowl with hot water from the tap, to soak while you make the rest of the soup. Set aside.

rice stick noodles soaking

Meanwhile, melt coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add chicken stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer.

Add chicken and let it gently poach in the simmering broth, about 5 minutes. (Poaching gives you much more tender chicken than sauteeing, and is ideal for soups. #protip)

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and/or more red pepper.

At this point, your noodles should be flexible and soft, but not cooked. A little firmer than al dente. Drain the water. The noodles will finish cooking in the hot broth in your individual bowls, kind of like how the beef in Vietnamese pho cooks in your bowl.

To serve: Place a serving of noodles in each bowl, add desired amount of bean sprouts (if using), then ladle hot soup over it. Give the noodles a minute to finish cooking. Sprinkle generously with cilantro. Add another dash of red pepper flakes if you’re that kind of person.

Listen to your kid complain, “I hate it! It’s horrible! I thought you were making pad Thai!” and then eat it anyway.

Tada! Dinner on the table in less than half an hour.

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