What I’m Into: March 2017

March continued to involve very little sleep, but at least I watched some quality movies in those midnight hours (when the toddler wasn’t screaming.) (I instagrammed them, by the way. P.S. you should follow me there!)

pride and prejudice bbc

We went on a mini-vacation to Michigan to visit a museum and do some shopping, and most of all, to get some sleep. (Felix stayed with grandparents, God bless them.) It was very refreshing.

museum

snow

It wasn’t exactly the two-week Florida trip we’d originally been planning, but it was something.

Well, here’s what I’ve been into!

Audiobooks

audiobooks

A Man Called OveFrederik Backman. A completely heartwarming story from a Swedish blogger. Ove may be the most endearing grumpy old man you’ve ever met. You will fall in love with every single character. I cried both sad and happy tears. The writing is vibrant and lovely. I already think it might be one of the best books I read in 2017. (And the narrator is great.)

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern. A delight for those who love magical stories. Two young magicians are forced into a lifelong duel of magic they don’t fully understand, and the setting for the competition is a mysterious traveling circus. And what happens when the opponents, who must battle to the death, fall in love with one another? The descriptions of the magical circus are breathtaking and riveting. The audiobook is read by the talented Jim Dale, famous for his narration of the Harry Potter series.

KultiMariana Zapata. I listened to the audiobook after Leigh Kramer’s glowing recommendation. I enjoy the occasional romance story! It was kind of fun to try a subject matter I don’t usually go for — it follows the story of a female soccer player, whose childhood idol becomes her coach. Turns out, I’m more old-fashioned than I thought, because the explicit sex scene at the end completely ruined it for me. I swear I grimaced through the whole ten-minute scene. I might have even said, “EWWWWWWWWWWW” out loud, more than once. This from a happily married woman of almost twelve years.

Children’s Picture Books

picture books about art

This month I decided to focus on books about art. (I got most of my ideas from this list.)

Ish – Peter H. Reynolds. Ramon’s older brother makes fun of his drawing, so Ramon gives up drawing . . . until his little sister helps him see the beauty in a drawing of a vase that’s “vase-ish.” A sweet story about the beauty of the artistic process.

The Dot – Peter H. Reynolds. About a little girls who thinks she can’t draw until her teacher encourages her to draw a dot. Her creativity is ignited and we learn that anyone can be an artist.

Art & Max – David Wiesner. This one is a feast for the eyes and a ton of fun. Things go awry when Max has his own take on what it means to “paint his friend.”

Frederick – Leo Lionni. Frederick the mouse teaches us the real value of art.

Children’s Read-Aloud Chapter Books

oz

The Wizard of Oz – Frank L Baum. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU REMEMBER FROM THE CREEPY MOVIE. If you have any negative preconceived ideas about this book based on the film, let me assure you it is nothing like it. (I repeat: Oz is NOT a shudder-inducing hellscape populated by overacting old men in costumes and little people in bad wigs.) Get this edition with the gorgeous cover art to help you get a fresh perspective. I’m so glad I gave this book a try despite my misgivings. It is completely charming. Lydia is loving it. The characters are lovable and the story is exciting. (However, it does contain some bloodless violence. The Tin Woodman is handy with his axe.)

Movies

Beauty and the Beast. I took Lydia to the theaters to see the new live-action remake. LOVED IT. It was visually stunning and everything my grown-up six-year-old heart would have wished.

Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC version). Can you believe I had NEVER EVER seen this version of P&P? I borrowed it from our library and watched it in segments during Felix’s middle-of-the-night wakings. I thought it might be boring (Five hours of idle upper-class Brits standing around and talking!) but I found it utterly delightful. Heart-eyes for young Colin Firth! You have to seriously suspend your belief to imagine that Jane is the town beauty, though. (P.S. I still like the 2005 Kiera Knighty version the best, SUE ME.)

Pete’s Dragon – saw this with the famjam. It was enjoyable for everyone. Heartwarming, good music, impressive visuals.

What have you been into?

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Why the LGBT community might not feel loved by Christians

Why the LGBT community might not feel loved by ChristiansPhoto credit

Note: I consider myself a recent but very imperfect LGBTQ ally and also a Christian. So if I say things that are hurtful or incorrect to those who belong to either/both camps, I apologize in advance. And I’m aware that there are affirming churches out there, so I’m not talking about them when I say LGBTQ people might not feel loved by “Christians.” I’m talking about those individuals and groups that express the attitude I’m describing below.

As many of you are probably aware, there has been much debate and discussion around the new Beauty and the Beast movie in the Christian community. Much of it has to do with the inclusion of what the director has called an “exclusively gay moment,” and whether or not parents should let their children watch it.

This post is not about that. (But I will say that I took my daughter to see the movie, IT WAS DELIGHTFUL, and that any hints towards homosexuality were very, very subtle.)

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about was something I read in one of those well-circulated articles by a Christian mom debating the merits of the movie.

Overall, the article is a very thoughtful, kind and gentle reflection on the kinds of things we want to share with our children. She doesn’t tell us whether or not we should watch the movie with our kids, — in fact, she seems unsure herself — only that we ought to be thoughtful about such decisions.

Here’s the part that stood out to me, though, and made me pause. It comes at the end of the post:

…if you are one of my gay friends, and you read this and heard me hating you or disrespecting you or looking down on you, hear me now: I love you. I love you more than you think I do. I pray for you – not to not be gay. I pray you have a good day, that your kids are protected and grow up kind and strong. I pray you are happy and loved. I pray you’ll know Jesus in an intimate and amazing way. I pray you’ll know His love for you. [Italics in original]

Outwardly, this seems like a very loving and respectful sentiment. She loves gay people! She wishes them well! She doesn’t even want to change their sexuality! Who could object to that? I’ve heard this sentiment repeated over and over by many wonderful, caring Christians, and it sounds really loving.

But something didn’t sit right with me, and it took a couple of seconds to figure it out.

The part that bothered me was this: “I pray you’ll know Jesus in an intimate and amazing way. I pray you’ll know His love for you.”

Future tense.

The author seems to assume the gay reader doesn’t already know Jesus in an intimate way, or already know Jesus’ love for them.

The author appears to assume that the gay reader isn’t already a Christian.

That’s what bothered me. How can she possibly know that they aren’t already Christians? Maybe the gay reader already feels perfectly aligned and in tune with God, in a perfect, loving relationship.

It seems really presumptuous to assume that because the person is gay, that necessarily means they are not already a Christian. Maybe that person has a different interpretation of Scripture which allows them to feel they are already in good standing with God . . . while still being gay. Heck, maybe they’re better Christians than the author!

After reading this passage, reiterating a sentiment I’ve heard a hundred times and even shared myself in the past, I couldn’t help thinking that LGBTQ people will always feel unloved and unwelcome by the church as long as we believe you can’t be gay and Christian at the same time.

(Of course I can’t speak for how gay people feel, as I’m not one of them. But when I imagine myself in a situation where the dominant group thought it was impossible for me to be one of them on account of my sexuality, I think this is how I would feel. I’ve heard from LGBTQ people expressing similar feelings.)

This isn’t about the author specifically, but about all Christians who say they love gay people but believe they are living in sin. I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m just saying I’m not surprised if gay people aren’t flocking to their doors for church invitations.

If you think it’s impossible to be gay and also be in a good relationship with Jesus, I suspect you will never feel like a completely safe person for an LGBTQ person to be around.

I couldn’t help but think that if I was one of the author’s gay friends, I still wouldn’t really feel loved or accepted, no matter how nicely she told me she loved me. Because she doesn’t think I’m in a good relationship with Jesus!

It made me think of how insulted I feel when an evangelist comes to my door and starts trying to convert me to their particular brand of Christianity without learning a thing about me first. I’m already a Christian! I want to tell them. How do you know I need saving? How do you know I shouldn’t be teaching you about spirituality??

It reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago. Some friends were talking about Ellen Degeneres and her show, and how much she amuses us. Ellen is one funny lady! Then one friend piped up, “Too bad she’s going to hell.” And everyone nodded sadly in agreement.

Wait, what? I thought. How do we know anything about Ellen’s soul and her eternal destination? We’ve never even met her in person! And even if we had, how much do we really know about a person’s relationship with God? How can we possibly know if someone is “going to hell”? Who are we to say we know such a thing? But it’s fairly common among many Christian circles to assume that people living “the gay lifestyle” ( <– a really problematic phrase, BTW) are destined for hell unless they change something dramatic.

Again, if I was gay, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable hanging around people who “knew” I was going to hell. I wouldn’t feel loved. I would feel judged. Even if everyone was polite and friendly.

If you do believe being gay or being in a homosexual relationship is a sin, I am not trying to argue with you. I think it’s your right to believe that. I know it’s possible to hold that belief and be perfectly civil to people who disagree with you. We can live in harmony and hold different beliefs. I’m just saying, don’t be surprised or confused if gay people don’t really want to be around you or listen to you.

Would you want to be around someone who thought you were living in sin and going to hell? Even if they repeatedly told you they loved you?? I just don’t think I would. I would want to seek out people who thought I was their complete equal in Christ.

That’s all I’m trying to say here. You may think you love gay people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they feel it.

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DIY Natural Mineral Makeup Liquid Foundation (Only 3 Ingredients!)

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Those who know me know that over the years, I’ve transitioned to non-toxic home and body care products. I make my own deodorant and toothpaste, I wash my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar, and I moisturize with natural oils. I clean most of my home with baking soda, vinegar, and elbow grease.

One thing that took longer to change up was makeup. Yes, the best thing to do would be to give up makeup entirely. I am not a high-maintenance girl, and I wish I could do that; but man, I have the worst skin. I have had terrible acne since I was 11 and it is not letting up at all in my thirties.

I . . . I don’t want to talk about it. It really bums me out. Suffice it to say, I’m really self-conscious about my skin and I feel better with a bit of makeup.

I tried a few commercial brands of less-toxic makeup, but they were very expensive, the ingredients were still kind of sketchy, and they didn’t work as well. Making my own makeup just seemed too hard. How would I get the right shade for my skin? How could I get homemade mascara to not run?

The first thing I changed in my makeup kit was my eyeliner. I started making my own eyeliner out of activated charcoal. That was super-easy and inexpensive, and also really effective.

But the rest? It stayed the same for years. I’d been buying the exact same CoverGirl liquid powder foundation for the last 13 years. (I’m from the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it camp on just about everything.)

I live in a small Canadian town, so I don’t have access to a lot of local shops making small batches of homemade lotions and makeup. And shipping is bonkers is expensive here. Buying makeup online is risky because you can’t test it out. What’s a girl to do?

Mineral Makeup: Almost Right?

 

Finally, a few years ago, I got a chance to try mineral makeup, which I’d been wanting to try for years.

Mineral makeup uses minerals such as iron oxides, talc, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide, which are ground and milled into tiny particles to create makeup. It sits on the skin rather than being absorbed into it, making it safer. It’s free of parabens, chemical dyes, and perfumes, and are healthy for all skin types. Many brands even claim to nourish the skin rather than damage it.

But real mineral makeup always comes in a loose powdered form. One of the main reasons is because the ingredients that turn makeup into a liquid are generally the most toxic ones.

Basically, you need harsh ingredients to create a liquid makeup that won’t go bad.

Microbes thrive in water, so liquid formulations must include some kind of preservative. If you don’t want nasty preservatives in your makeup, you can’t have it in a liquid form.

So I gave powdered mineral makeup a good try. I watched all the YouTube videos on how to apply it and bought the fancy kabuki brush.

Brush, brush, brush, brush, brush, I went. And then brush, brush, brush, brush, brush some more. (Mineral makeup is hardcore, you guys. So much brushing.)

I couldn’t get it to work for me.

Like I said, I have really crappy skin: I have constant acne, and it’s always simultaneously dry, too. Powder always looks cakey on me, and it takes a ton of it to cover all my blemishes.

Mineral makeup is expensive. And I’m lazy. I can’t be brushing powder all over my face for ten minutes every day.

I wanted the natural-ness of mineral makeup, but the creamy texture of my favourite CoverGirl liquid powder foundation. But none of the toxic ingredients necessary for a commercial liquid makeup.

It was time to turn my powdered mineral makeup into a DIY liquid foundation.

(So in case it wasn’t clear yet: my DIY recipe uses pre-purchased mineral makeup powder. This is not one of those recipes that uses cinnamon and cocoa powder to provide colour. So you will have to go out and find a good mineral makeup that matches your skin tone to follow this recipe.)

MY DIY Liquid Powder Foundation

homemade liquid makeup

I realized that if I wanted to make my own liquid makeup, I would need to make it in small batches to prevent contamination and growth of microbes.

And if I needed to make it frequently, the recipe needed a minimum of ingredients to make it quick and easy.

One DIY recipe I came across online demands that you make a small batch every single day to prevent the growth of mould. Sheesh! I’m not that concerned about contamination. So I make a batch that lasts me about a month. I figure that most makeup you pick up from the drugstore shelf is probably already a month old by the time it gets into your shopping cart, so I’m at least doing better than that.

That same recipe claims to have only “two ingredients,” but one of the ingredients is a homemade lotion consisting of five other ingredients. So . . . no thanks. I wanted something quicker and easier.

After experimenting with a few different natural oils and butters, and playing with the proportions, I found one that made me happy. Just plain shea butter was too thick and pastey, so I added skin-friendly jojoba oil to thin it and add some slip. You may want to play around with it, too, in order to control the amount of coverage it offers and how thick you like it.

Okay, so now you’re wondering, Does it work? How does it look?

Here are my before and after pictures. I am being very vulnerable showing you my untouched, blemish-riddled “before” picture, so be nice. I really hope this isn’t the image that gets pinned. (I did not retouch these photos at all.)

homemade liquid mineral makeup

So maybe I don’t look like a model in a shampoo commercial, but I feel a lot more confident leaving the house looking like the “after” than the “before.”

(P.S. the homemade eyeliner recipe can be found here.)

The Recipe

This creates a thick, creamy foundation similar to CoverGirl’s Ultimate Finish Liquid Powder. It’s not pourable at room temperature. It can also work as a concealer.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp shea butter
  • 1/2 tsp jojoba oil
  • 1 tsp loose powder mineral makeup*

*I buy mine from a small store in London, Ontario. I’ve heard good things about Jane Iredale and Bare Minerals, available at Sephora. I’ve also purchased a decent mineral makeup from the Body Shop.

Tools:

  • double boiler (I just put a ceramic bowl over a small pot of boiling water)
  • small container (I use a Tupperware pill box)
  • makeup sponge

Place three ingredients in double boiler, and warm just until shea butter is melted. Then stir well. Scrape it into a small container and allow it to cool.

Apply to skin using a good-quality makeup sponge.

That’s it! I make a batch about every 6 weeks, but then, as a stay-at-home mom I rarely apply it.

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A Note on Future Felix Updates

Hello, dear friends!

I recently wrote an update on Felix’s latest big change: hearing aids. And while I wrote it, I found myself reflecting on how much I want to share about Felix’s life from now on.

When Felix was first diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and we found ourselves living in the hospital, I needed you. I needed you to know what we were going through. I needed you to pray for our family. And you all needed to know what was going on, too. I couldn’t just leave you hanging while we embarked on one of the most difficult journeys of our lives.

You supported our family financially, emotionally, and spiritually as we sat at our sick child’s bedside, separated from our daughter and miles from our home. You encouraged us as we traveled across the continent to get a life-saving experimental treatment for him.

And I continued to provide regular, detailed updates as he miraculously improved.

Now that Felix is two years old and doing well, I’m starting to become more aware of how his story is becoming less my story and more his own.

I want to respect him as his own person with his own future. And that’s why I think that from now on, I will be sharing less about his growth and development in this public space. I will probably share fewer close-up pictures, too, than I have been sharing.

You can be sure that I will let you all know if anything really dramatic changes in his health. But otherwise, I think most of the details will stay in our family.

I’ll continue to share about some of our family experiences, which will involve both kids, of course. And my monthly What I’m Into posts will likely often involve my kids’ interests, just because I love sharing the things we’re loving together.

I still haven’t 100% figured out how this will work, but I just wanted to let you know I intend to keep Felix’s life a little more private from now on.

I am so grateful for all the ways you’ve supported our family over the years. You people are the best. Thank you so much for your ongoing support.

What I’m Into: February 2017

crying CollageMy life right now

Remember when Felix used to wake up to play for two hours every night?

Yeah. We now refer to those as “the good old day.” His wake-up time can now be anytime between 11:30pm and 5am. The duration is typically three to four hours. He plays, drinks anywhere from one-half to three bottles, and throws a couple of tantrums. Every night.

I’M NOT COMPLAINING, YOU’RE COMPLAINING.

All right, so I’m also just a little grumpy because we were supposed to go to Florida for two weeks and then that fell through. So we planned a mini-vacation to Detroit and then that also fell through. We’ve hardly left our home to go anywhere but the hospital in the last three years but THAT’S OKAY, EVERYTHING IS FINE, I’M NOT COMPLAINING, I’M A SELF-ACTUALIZED HUMAN ADULT AND I MEDITATE AND I HAVE A FRIEND IN JESUS.

And if I reflect back, there were plenty of good things that happened on February. Like the following:

syrupTapping the maple tree to collect sap…

syrup boilingBoiling it down into syrup…

muddy walkA few days warm enough (IN FEBRUARY!) to walk barefoot . . .

forest schoolGoing to the forest school drop-in . . .

libraryAnd our local library finally opening after an eight-month strike!!!

Anyway, none of this is what you came here for! You would like my book and movie recommendations for the month! Right? So here’s what I’ve been into!

Books

Movement Matters – Katy Bowman. You guys probably know by now I’m a huge fan of Katy Bowman. I’m a devoted podcast listener and I’ve gushed about her other books. Movement Matters is paradigm-shifting collection of essays exploring the consequences of our sedentary culture. She puts forward the daring idea that we could improve our health, the environment, and our communities if we would just move more. It will probably take me years to make any kind of progress in this area because it’s just so counter-cultural, but I definitely want to move in that direction.

Audiobooks

I’m just gonna say once again that I THANK GOD for audiobooks and Overdrive. I’m going on year five of no sleep (on account of children who don’t know what nighttime is for), and these technologies have allowed me consume WAAAY more books than I’d ever be able to read with my eyeballs in this season of life. I listen while I cook dinner, scrub the bathtub, and sweep the floors. It’s amazing.

(These books would all be equally great in text form; I just happened to receive them as audiobooks.)

Bossypants – Tina Fey. This lady makes me laugh out loud. She is brilliant and delightfully self-deprecating. I always enjoy hearing the story of how folks like her get where they are. And hearing about how she became Sarah Palin’s double was a treat.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson. Another woman who can make me laugh until I cry. This is The Bloggess’ second memoir. Her discussion of mental illness is both needed and weirdly hysterical. She is a strange, strange, wonderful human being. (Major language warning. I’ve never hard anyone use the word vagina as much as Lawson does.)

Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye. A complete delight. If you’re a fan of Jane Eyre, I think you’ll get a kick out of this novel. It follows a young Victorian orphan girl who, like Jane Eyre, goes to an awful boarding school and later becomes a governess. She’s clever and brave and self-aware. And also? A murderer. With a heart of gold, of course. (She only kills horrible men.) From the start she’s aware of her similarities with the famous fictional heroine. I promise, it’s better than it sounds. It reads like an authentically 19th-century novel and all of the characters are stunningly three-dimensional.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell. I listened to this one just to see what the fuss was about. It was cute, and it’s clear that Rowell has a vivid memory of what it feels to be like a teenager. She conveyed all those feelings of first love fabulously. I enjoy a good romance every so often but I only thought this one was okay. (Don’t hate me, Rowell fans.) (Again, lots of salty language.)

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari. I checked this one out mostly because I’m a Parks and Recreation fan (He’s the actor who played Tom Haverford). This book completely surprised me: it’s more of a sociological study on romance in today’s technological world than a humour book. He wrote it with an actual sociologist, and they conducted actual research projects, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups all over the world. It was insightful and informative and surprisingly hilarious. I think hearing Ansari read it himself was a huge bonus. He’s got a unique way of expressing things and made comical asides to us lazy audiobook listeners. (Warning: very explicit language.)

Television

DRAGONS: RACE TO THE EDGE HAS A NEW SEASON ON NETFLIX!!! Okay, ostensibly this is Lydia’s show. She is obsessed with it. But I finally gave up all pretenses of just “overhearing” the episodes she was watching and started to sit down to watch with her. SO SO GOOD. I laugh out loud multiple times during every episode. I find the twins genuinely funny and I have a soft spot for villain-turned-good-guy Dagur. Hiccup and Astrid (“Hicstrid”) are ADORABLE. I love that the main character has a disability. I love that all the nonverbal dragons have distinct personalities. And I still haven’t gotten tired of the whole Vikings-riding-dragons conceit. It’s the best. Warning: this is definitely a show written for older kids. There is a surprising amount of violence (of the face-punching kind) if that kind of thing bothers you. (I don’t mind, despite the fact that I’m a pacifist.) Lydia’s four-year-old cousin found it so scary she cried. And this season finally introduces a romantic subplot that I LOVED but Lydia HATED. (She covers her eyes and yells every time they kiss.)

Movies

Arrival. Oh my goodness. If you enjoy a good ugly cry, this movie is for you. (I personally DO NOT. I started bawling five minutes in. I cannot handle stories that center around the loss of a child.) I can’t deny that it was stunning and surprising and original. Brilliant sci-fi storytelling at its best. But oh, my poor heart.

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

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

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Felix Has Hearing Aids!

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Hi friends! I thought I’d just give you a quick update on Felix.

Last week, he got hearing aids!

Yup, that’s plural. Both ears.

toddler hearing aids

How cute are they? We went with Spiderman colours since Felix is basically a comic-book superhero by now (he’s genetically modified and technologically enhanced.)

We got confirmation last month that Felix has moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears. It was an absurdly long process, but we were finally able to get him the hearing aids he needs to hear his world.

We had begun to suspect hearing loss back in the summer, when Felix was nearing two and still wasn’t saying any words. He wasn’t really even babbling. He mostly growled. He didn’t seem to show much interest in human faces, either. So we actually suspected autism more than anything, but thought a hearing test was in order. (More on the autism thing later.)

He had a couple of initial hearing tests done by an audiologist which suggested a strong possibility of hearing loss. But it’s really hard to tell on such young children. We repeated the test twice more with similar results. We were pretty sure he had hearing loss, but it was hard to determine the level. Felix hated the tests, screaming through most of them and constantly tugging on the headphones.

Finally, in December, Felix went in for what is called a sedated ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response) Test. He was put under general anesthetic so the doctor could to measures the hearing nerve’s response to sounds. This way we could get a much more accurate idea of what he can actually hear.

Felix’s Hearing Loss

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Due to the Christmas holidays and some miscommunication, it took almost a month to get the results. But as I said above, we finally learned that Felix has moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears. The level of hearing loss increases with frequency. In other words, the higher the pitch, the less he can hear. Felix can hear low sounds at an almost normal level (think: machinery, thunder, a chair being dragged along the floor); but the frequencies found in normal conversational speech are generally out of his hearing range. He can hear vowels and a few consonants, but sounds like f, p, h, s, etc are out of his hearing range. (So in his own name, he can only hear s muffled ee-li). Birdsong, the rustling of wind in the leaves . . . totally out of range.

In fact, the audiologist who programmed Felix’s hearing aids let us get a sense of what Felix can and cannot hear. She was able to plug the numbers from the ABR into a machine and play back different sounds as Felix would hear them. It brought tears to my eyes. A regular conversation between two people in the room was almost completely inaudible. Just some muffled murmurs.

All this time, Felix has been missing almost everything we’ve been saying. And for the first year of his life, our faces were mostly covered by masks, too. No wonder he’s had no interest in human speech. He’s had very little exposure to it.

(Interesting side note: in the late fall, Felix was assigned a specialist teacher of the deaf who visits our home. She told us that many children with undiagnosed hearing loss are misdiagnosed with autism. These children tend to “check out” and lose interest in a lot of human interaction since it makes so little sense to them. So much of what we do depends on hearing! While autism might still play a role in Felix’s behaviour, we now at least have a partial explanation for why he behaves the way he does. We’ll likely go a year with the hearing aids before pursuing a diagnosis for other neurological issues, if still relevant at that time.)

Another neat fact: when a child with hearing loss gets hearing aids or cochlear implants, the experts speak of the child’s “listening age.” Felix is two years old, but his “listening age” is only one week old. He’s only a newborn in hearing!

The Challenges of Hearing Aids on Babies

1. Felix cries every time we put them in. He hates anyone touching his ears. And he’s had so many negative experiences with being held down while we do terrible things to his body, I can’t blame him.

2. He also yanks them out quite frequently. But we’re having pretty good success by putting a special, snug-fitting, mesh bonnet over his hearing aids. It’s kinda cute.

bonnet

3. Hearing aids give off feedback (i.e. high-pitched squealing) any time they are covered or improperly inserted. Or out of his ears. So they squeal every time he puts the side of his face against my chest, every time he puts his hands over his ears, or any time he loosens them from his ear in any way. It’s very annoying. The only positive side is that if he pulls one out, I can immediately hear it and go fix the situation.

4. There is no off switch. To turn them off, you have to pull the battery hatch open. And the battery hatch has a lock on it so he can’t take out the battery and accidentally swallow it (which is very dangerous). It can only be opened with a special tool. We always have to have that special tool on hand. So when the hearing aids come out (either on purpose or by accident) and start screaming, we have to scramble to find the tool and pop open the battery hatch to shut it up.

FAQ’s

How did Felix react when he first got his hearing aids put in and heard sounds for the first time?

Well . . . that moment was complicated by the fact that he hates having people touch his ears. He screamed and bucked as we tried to wrestle them in. Then he cried for a while as I comforted him.

And then he smiled as he looked around at his new world.

Has anything in his behaviour or vocalization changed yet?

Not really. For the first day, he seemed to be listening a bit more intently to different sounds. But overall, no. He’s still growling, still mostly ignoring us when we talk to him. But it’s only been a week.

My guess is that these new sounds are all still completely chaotic and meaningless to him, so he’s mostly ignoring them. It will take time for his brain to organize what he’s hearing into anything meaningful.

He has also been a bit grumpier and needier in the last week, but his audiologist and teacher told us to expect that. Now that he’s getting all this new sensory input, his brain has to work a lot harder and it’s very tiring and overwhelming at times.

Does he slowly ease into hearing with the aids, or does it all happen at once?

(That was my question, anyway). It happens all at once. Full volume. All day (if possible). A big, sudden change for him.

Did you have to pay for them?

Nope! Another opportunity to thank Canada for being an amazing country. Felix qualifies for special coverage due to the nature of his various disabilities, so the whole kit and caboodle was paid for by our government. Which is amazing, because those high-tech devices are thousands of dollars each, and came with a bunch of additional equipment. Thank-you, Canada!

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Easy DIY Orange Candles (Cheap! Eco-Friendly! All-Natural! Fun!)

How to make a candle out of an orange. A fun, cheap, easy, eco-friendly DIY!Here’s a neat little craft/activity you and your family might enjoy: turn an orange into a candle (with stuff you already have in your house)!

We love having a candle burning while we eat our dinner, especially during the dark winter evenings. I typically burn my own homemade tallow-and-beeswax candles — it’s important that my candles are clean, natural, and unscented, especially around food.

But this DIY orange candle was a fun little twist. The orange rind acts as a bowl to hold the oil, and the orange’s “central column” (which you have to keep intact) acts as the wick.

We first tried this on little tangerines, and they burned for hours and hours! They have a slightly citrusy scent, which is delightful.

All you need for these homemade candles are:

  • an orange (or other citrus fruit. So far we’ve found that tangerines and clementines work better than large navel oranges)
  • some cooking oil (I used olive)
  • a knife
  • a lighter or match

Optional:

  • it really helps to work over a napkin, because it gets pretty messy.
  • a spoon is helpful to loosen the fruit from the peel.

how to make a candle out of an orange and olive oil

Okay, here’s what you do.

1. Using a small knife, cut just the skin of the orange around the equator.

Is that actually what it’s called? Like, if the stem and navel are the north and soul poles, you’d cut around the equator. But not all the way through; just the peel. Here’s a picture of what I mean:

cutting an orange to make a diy candle

(Yeah, I’m a leftie — sorry.)

2. Loosen the orange peel from the fruit.

A spoon is really helpful for this step. Stick the tip under the rind and slide it around the perimeter of the orange to separate the rind from the fruit.

making an orange candle

(Whoa, what a crappy photo! Did I go partially blind for a second? I don’t know what happened there. Oh, well; it still gives you the right idea.)

If you don’t have a spoon, you can do it with just your fingers, but it will be messier.

3. Go ahead and cut the orange in half now, all the way through.

diy orange candle

(My little helper was eager to do this part.)

4. Now scoop out the fruit from both halves, being careful to keep the orange’s “central column” attached.

orange candle diy

(I totally had to google what that part of the orange is called. You know what I mean. That white, fibrous column that runs through the orange, stem to navel.)

diy orange candle

Now you have two candle bowls with wicks!

Go ahead and eat the fruit while you’re at it. Vitamin C!

5. Fill the orange halves with cooking oil, making sure to get some on the wick.

diy orange candle with olive oil

I used olive oil. I think just about any oil would work: vegetable, canola, peanut . . . whatever you have on hand.

Just leave a little bit of the wick sticking out.

6. Light it up!

diy orange candle -- light the middle

Note: be sure to place your orange candle on a ceramic or glass (or other heat-safe) dish before lighting. It can get very hot when it gets down to the bottom and could burn your table. I don’t want to be responsible for any house fires!

Lighting might take a few minutes, especially if you use a large orange with a really wet, fleshy column. (Yeah . . . sorry if that sounded perverted. I noticed it too.) Be patient and keep trying. The wick needs to be soaked in oil.

As I said above, I found the little tangerines and clementines worked the best and easiest, while the big navel orange gave me some trouble. (I could only get one half to light, in fact.)

And there you go! Your homemade, all-natural candle!

make a candle out of an orange

Keep an eye on your candle and keep adding oil as the level burns down, and it will keep going for hours. My first tangerine candles burned for over 4 hours! Jury’s still out on the navel orange. We’ve lit it every evening for the last 3 days and it’s still going strong.

Have fun!

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What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Here in the northern hemisphere, we’re at the halfway point of the suckiest season: WINTER. It’s cold, it’s gray, and going outside requires fifteen minutes of prep.

I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy to talk about the things that are saving our lives right now. These are the things helping me get through the season of blah.

My Diffuser

diffuser and essential oils

When I’m feeling gloomy, running a few drops of essential oil in my diffuser helps pick me up. DoTerra’s Elevation is always a solid choice for the blahs. Other times I drop in some wintergreen+grapefruit (smells like bubblegum!), or rosemary+lemongrass+clove (surprisingly energizing). Or any number of oils, really, depending on my needs. I mean, look at that ridiculous collection I have to choose from.

(And I know! Look at that incredible essential oils and diffuser holder my husband made! Isn’t he amazing?)

(P.S., though I’m not a die-hard fan of DoTerra in general, I have to say their diffuser is fantastic. I’ve smelled the work of other, cheaper diffusers at other people’s houses, and so far, none throw their scent as far as this one.)

Iced Coffee

iced coffee

Yes, iced coffee, even in winter. (I just don’t care for warm beverages. But I like that caffeine kick in the afternoon after a sleepless night with the Boy.)

I used to think I only like cold-brew iced coffee, but recently Ben started making extra coffee in his fancy-ass coffee maker with his fancy-ass (fresh-roasted, fresh-ground organic) beans, and putting it in the fridge for me. It’s just as good. I add a ton of raw cream and two tablespoons of maple syrup and ooh-la-la. Liquid cheer.

Charles Trenet

Okay, this a weird one, I know. Charles Trenet is a French jazz singer from the 1930’s-1950’s, which is not my typical style. But we recently saw the movie The Little Prince (which is spectacular, by the way), and I was all like, I want to listen to what that old man is listening to. So I did some googling and discovered Charles Trenet.

Listening to him makes me feel like I’m strolling through Parisian flower gardens in spring. Try it! (And I don’t mean sit down and listen to the album, but play it in the background while you work. It might put a little bounce in your step. Or however the saying goes.)

Grandparents Who Babysit

Parenting is exhausting at the best of times. Parenting a special-needs kid night and day — while trying to homeschool the other — can be enough to crush your spirit. Thankfully, I have two sets of grandparents living nearby who can watch the kids for a day every so often. It is so refreshing to spend some time just being a woman. With interests and hobbies and a personality.

Knitting

knitting

Every so often, it feels good to make something. Just for fun. I love having a knitting project on the go that I can just pick up and work on for a few minutes here and there.

Right now I’m working on a simple lap blanket made from chunky wool I “inherited” from a friend’s grandmother. I love using big needles and yarn because it knits up so quickly and I feel like I’m making progress. Plus I thought it would add some “hygge” to my home. (Check it out on Ravelry.)

Book Club

I recently re-joined the Book Club I helped found in 2009, and man, does it feel good to sit down with other nerds and talk about books. Technically, we are currently discussing Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (one of my favourite reads of 2016), but we always end up being side-tracked with talk of our favourite fantasy and sci-fi novels, which we’ve all read. It’s the best.

How about you? What’s saving your life right now?

What I’m Into: Winter 2016/2017

Ugh, you guys. I know. I’ve been a horrible blogger. I don’t have any excuses, except that it’s 80% this guy’s fault.

felix(Sorry about the crappy picture — I’m working from a laptop in a hotel room without my camera.)

He has decided recently that daytime and nighttime are basically interchangeable. Each day is made up of a period of light and a period of darkness and sleep has nothing to do with either.  So if you have any complaints about the way I am conducting my life, take it up with him. My body still hasn’t adjusted to his routine after two years.

Anyway, I thought it was time I shared some of the stuff I’ve been loving over the last few months. Because even though my day-to-day life has been kind of blech (curse you, Canadian winters!!!). . . I’ve been into some really awesome stuff!

Books

Audiobooks have continued to save my life. I still don’t really get a chance to sit down and read physical books these days, but I can listen to audiobooks while I cook dinner or supervise Felix’s nighttime play sessions.

Cinder; Scarlet; Cress; Winter (aka The Lunar Series) by Marissa Meyer; Read by Rebecca Soler. Ignore the cheesy-looking covers of these books and have an open mind. This series was a ton of fun. If you enjoy young adult dystopian sci-fi, this series is for you! Each book is very loosely based on a fairy tale (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White), but set in the future (and some of it in outer space). Cinder is a cyborg and her only friend is an artificially-intelligent android, for example. Cress is a computer engineer and hacker working from a satellite orbiting the earth. Very addictive. Impressive world-building. And Rebecca Soler’s narrating is perfection.

Dead Cold; The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny; read by Adam Sims. If you enjoy a good murder mystery, Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series is on point. (The aforementioned are Books 2 and 3). Lovable characters, thrilling plots, deep exploration of human nature. I am amazed by the depth of Penny’s characters. (If listening to the audiobook, ONLY accept versions read by Adam Sims, who is spectacular. Ralph Cosham, by contrast, is just AWFUL. I returned my copy to Audible after hearing him read the first chapter.)

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. This memoir is Glennon’s second book and it is just phenomenal. It’s a brutally honest retelling of her life story, with a focus on her marriage’s sudden tragic implosion a few years ago, and the difficult path of healing. The book tenderly and bravely explores sex, love, marriage, God, family, and faith. I found her story of self-discovery gripping and inspiring.

Children’s Read-Aloud Chapter Books

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. We picked up this book from the library since Lydia enjoyed the movies and now the show (more below) so very much. Turns out, the movie is only very very loosely based on the original book. In the book, all Vikings already own and train dragons, which are hardly bigger than macaws. Hiccup just does it a little more nicely. Toothless isn’t even particularly interesting. It was an enjoyable read, but one of those rare instances where the movie is actually better (i.e. more interesting, more exciting, more . . . logical) than the book. Or maybe that was just us.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Oh, what joy it is to read my childhood favourites to my daughter! There are few things that bring me more pleasure. At 5, I think Lydia’s a bit young to get full enjoyment out of these books, but she’s been eager to hear each chapter every night before bed. And I love getting to revisit magical Narnia.

Television

Stranger Things (A Netflix Original Series). I’d been wanting to watch this highly-acclaimed show for quite some time, but didn’t have an opportunity until Felix kindly gave me a chance to watch them by myself in the middle of the night. HOLY CRAP!!! This show was one of the most terrifying but also MOST INCREDIBLE tv shows I’ve ever seen!

The story begins with a sweet, geeky adolescent boy vanishing from his small Indiana town, but things quickly become paranormal. The storytelling is so skillful that I immediately fell in love with all the main characters. It is at times heartwarming, and other times downright frightening. I was gasping and covering my eyes and occasionally tearing up. WATCH IT WATCH IT WATCH IT. (P.S. I’ve never seen any of the 1980’s sci-fi movies that allegedly evokes so much nostalgia for many viewers, but that didn’t limit my enjoyment at all.)

Dragons: Race to the EdgedragonsOkay, this one is actually for the kids. Lydia started watching it after we watched the How to Train Your Dragon movies. This Netflix Original Series is a spin-off of the movies. It takes place in the years between the first and second movie, and features all of the same characters. It is so good, you guys! I’m constantly wanting to sit down and watch it with her. The animation is great, the stories are compelling, and the jokes are genuinely funny. The girls kick ass, and the main character (Hiccup, who is now a young man) leads with cleverness, intuition, and compassion rather than brute masculinity. In fact I’m developing quite the crush on him. Is it okay for me to have a crush on a fictional, animated twenty-year-old Viking? Never mind, don’t answer that. P.S. I can now accurately identify a gronkel, nadder, monstrous nightmare, thunderdrum, deathsong, and quaken, and feel unreasonably proud of that fact.

Note: the intended audience for this show is probably more the 8-12-year range, but Lydia (5) still gets a lot out of it.

Sherlock Season 4. THIS IS THE GREATEST SHOW TO HAVE EVER GRACED TELEVISION AMEN. Holy crap you guys. I CANNOT STOP SHOUTING ABOUT SHERLOCK SEASON 4. The first three seasons were the best thing I had ever seen in my life and SEASON 4 OUTDID THEM ALL. I shouted. I gasped. I jumped out of my seat. I laughed out loud and punched the arm of the couch. I grabbed Felix by the shoulders (it was the middle of the night and we were all alone in the basement) and yelled “THIS IS THE BEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN!”* I don’t think I will say anything else though because then I might never stop and then I might ruin it for you. If you haven’t watched it yet WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? (Oh, right. You might not be able to access it. We got our episodes from Pirate Bay.)

*Felix, not understanding language or most human emotions, was somehow not moved by any of this.

And that’s it for now. SO MUCH GOOD STUFF!

Felix is Two!

Last week we celebrated Felix’s second birthday.

It was a short, sweet and quiet celebration, just at home as a family. But it offered some time to reflect on how far he’s come in the last year.

I felt bittersweet about the arrival of his birthday. Now that he’s two, it feels more glaring that he’s so behind in his development — he still can’t walk, can’t talk, and has disordered eating because of all those months of tube-feeding. We’ve recently learned that he can’t really hear, either, so we are working towards getting him hearing aids with the hopes that we will see progress with his speech.

But goodness, we’ve come a long way. Last year he was still in strict isolation and was still hooked up to continuous IV. He had a central line in his chest and was still on strong oral medications. He couldn’t sit up on his own or crawl. He had never been kissed, had never had a bath. He had never seen the outdoors beyond our back yard, had never seen another child.

In the past few months he has gone everywhere with us: to the park, the mall, the beach, to friends’ houses. He has weekly days out with both grandma and oma. He splashes in the bathtub for almost an hour every day, just delighting in being surrounded by water. He’s chewed on sticks and gotten his hands dirty in the mud. He gets smothered in kisses constantly, by his adoring big sister and mama.birthday kisses

Felix continues to be an absolute, complete and utter delight. He’s the snuggliest little snuggle bug you ever did meet. He loves to explore new places and new toys (even if he does it all on hands and knees). He loves being tickled, and will pull our hands to his face to get more tickles when we stop. And did I mention he loves the water? Bath tubs, swimming pools, the lake, you name it.

We are unspeakably blessed to have him in our family. His life is a miracle and we are in constant awe of that.

I just want to thank you all again for supporting us through prayer, friendship, and financial support over the last two years. We will never stop feeling grateful.

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