Review: Eden’s Garden Essential Oils – Delicious New Synergy Blends

Eden's Garden essential oils - synergy blends

One of my most commented-upon blog posts of all time is one I wrote almost two years ago, entitled Why I Quit DoTerra (And What I’m Doing Instead). I still get comments at least weekly on that post. People have got opinions on essential oils!

(And why wouldn’t they? There is a lot of money to be made in essential oils these days! And absolutely anyone can sell them. So there are regular women all over the continent who have stakes in what I think about DoTerra or other MLM essential oil companies.*)

Anyway, in that post I explained why I was using Eden’s Garden essential oils instead of any big-name MLM brand. Eden’s Garden had no idea I was writing the post. I just wanted to share my experiences with them so far.

But I guess they took notice a few months ago, because Eden’s Garden emailed me and asked me if I’d like to review their newest line of Synergy blends.

I said, Heck yes I would! Free essential oils, and all I have to do in return is tell you folks about them? I was all in.

So now I’ve had them for a couple of months, and it’s time I told you what I think of them!

(Again, I’m not getting paid to talk about them. I just got some free products in exchange for an honest review. This is not the case for most people telling you about essential oils.)

A Note on How I Use Essential Oils

diffuser fearless

I use essential oils primarily in a diffuser as aromatherapy. However, I have no training whatsoever in aromatherapy, so I am not an expert. I use oils primarily to promote feelings like calm and peace, or to uplift and energize. I have not been diagnosed with any mental illnesses, but I feel sad and worried almost all the time, and have been using essential oils as one of the tools to manage these feelings. (I tried therapy but that is e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e.)

I also use essential oils in things like deodorant and as insect repellent, and for making household products smell nice (since we buy absolutely everything unscented). I like them. They make me happy.

I do not claim that essential oils can cure any diseases or illnesses. I have not tried them in that capacity. As of now, I have no idea whether they are capable of doing such things.

For that reason, I don’t have any super-duper strong feelings about which essential oil company has the *absolute most therapeutic* properties. There has been much debate about this matter in the comments of my previous post. In my experience, and from my understanding, Eden’s Garden sells excellent-quality, 100% pure essential oils that meet the highest measurable standards (…along with plenty of other companies). It helps that they are not paying me or anyone else to tell you that they are. That really boosts their credibility, in my opinion.

Why I Love Eden’s Garden

In addition to offering pure, high-quality oils, Eden’s Garden happens to have lots of other great things going for them, including:

  • affordable prices (generally 40-60% less than DoTerra)
  • a super-simple retail model: just buy what you want directly from the website
  • tons of selection: currently, they sell 135 single oils and 58 synergy blends
  • a variety of sizes to choose from, making them more affordable
  • excellent customer service

All of these qualities have made me a happy customer in the past. (I explore these qualities more deeply in my other post.)

Review of Eden’s Garden’s 18 New Synergy Blends

Eden's Garden essential oils synergy blends

I want to start by saying that I have been loooooooving these new synergy blends. I’ve been using them almost every day — mostly in my diffuser — and they delight my heart.

When I first opened up each bottle and took my first sniff, I was struck by how absolutely gorgeous each one smelled. Well, except maybe Repel, their insect repellent, but you can only make that smell so good.

I didn’t realize this at first, but all of EG’s 18 new synergy blends correspond with DoTerra blends. Eden’s Garden actually has a handy comparison chart to help you out if you’re looking for something specific. Super handy if you already know you want a particular DoTerra blend, but would like to try EG’s version!

(I have personally bought and loved a few DoTerra blends — namely, Serenity and Elevation — and the corresponding EG oils — Tranquility and Shine — smell identical to me. Completely indistinguishable. So I know where I will be getting my replacements from in the future!)

Another thing I want to note is that with all of these blends, it only takes 1-3 drops in my diffuser to fill my whole first floor with their scent. They are as potent as they are lovely.

Anyway.

Since I think it would be tedious to describe every single oil, I will just focus on my absolute favourites.

For Cleansing:

aroma fresh from Eden's Garden

Aroma Fresh. This is possibly my very favourite blend. It gets used the most often. Delightfully fresh and clean, this one is a great deodorizer and purifier. It’s basically all the clean smells you love in one, including citrus and pine. After one particularly bad diaper catastrophe with the toddler, I diffused this blend, and the stink was gone in minutes. The scent that replaced it was so fresh, sweet, and invigorating, I have been in love ever since.

For Calm and Relaxation:

soothing essential oils

These three blends are the ones I reach for when I am seeking peace and calm. They are all great for meditation and yoga. I diffuse them when I’m feeling anxious or jittery.

Fearless. Calming and woodsy, this one is particularly soothing.

Worry Less. I especially like this one before bed, to help calm anxious thoughts.

Be Still. The most gorgeous, ethereal smell. This is what I imagine heaven smells like.

Awake and Aware. I think this one is inaccurately named. It’s more soothing than energizing. It’s floral, earthy, and wonderful. I consider this my “chill out” blend. Great for promoting focus and concentration.

For Energy and Vitality:

Eden's Garden synergy blends

These are two of my favourites when I need to re-energize. I tend to reach for them during the afternoon slump, when I need to get my butt out of the chair and get moving. They are usually accompanied by a homemade iced coffee.

Shine. DoTerra’s Elevation has always been a favourite, and this blend is pretty much its twin. Floral, citrusy, and sweet, it always makes me happy.

Good Morning. Minty, sweet, invigorating, and fresh. A great way to start the day when you’re feeling sluggish.

A Few Others:

Gal Pal is a dumb name for an lovely blend that offers hormonal support. It contains several oils known to help balance hormones, like clary sage and vitex. Plus it smells amazing. I diffuse this one when I’m PMS-ing, and I think it helps. It at least helps me feel less murderous.

Allure is wonderfully feminine and delightful-smelling. Makes a great perfume.

Deep Breath really helped us all sleep at night when we all caught a weird summer cold and got all congested.

Repel – I added a few drops to my homemade insect repellant, along with citronella, peppermint, and eucalyptus, and it worked amazingly well while we were hiking in mosquito-infested forests.

___

So these were my favourites, but honestly, I love them all. As my life changes, I’m sure my needs will change, and I might find myself reaching for some of the others more often. For example, I haven’t had much use for Guardian, the germ-fighting blend, at this time of year. And I’ve never been much into massages, but maybe I’ll make more use of Circu-Touch in the future. (<–another dumb name, by the way. They should have run the names by me before selling them.)

*Again, I want to reiterate that I have no problem with DoTerra or MLM companies. I just tend to be suspicious of some of the salespeople’s claims, since they have a financial interest. And I’d rather shop in the more straightforward fashion that Eden’s Garden offers.

How about you? Are you already a die-hard fan of a certain essential oil supplier?

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What I’m Into: June 2017

sourdough bread boule

waterfall vacation

watercolour lily

renaissance festival

June was a pretty fantastic month.

Every winter I start to wonder if I will ever feel happiness again, and then eventually June comes around to right all wrongs. Warm weather, fresh produce, vacations and outings. If only every month could be June.

As you can see from the photos above, in the last month I:

  • finally learned to master sourdough bread;
  • went on my first kid-free vacation with Ben, where we hiked through rugged forests and climbed down cliffs in the rain to see waterfalls;
  • finished my first watercolour commission;
  • attended a Renaissance Festival with my siblings and daughter. It was a blast!

However, the kids’ usual babysitters (aka the grandparents) have been busy, too, so I have not had time to work on this post until now. So it’s going to be quick: just the books I read this month!

Books

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (audiobook, read by Dan Stevens). I love a good detective story, but this was my first romp with Hercule Poirot (Why?!). It was delightful! It plays with all the conventions of murder mysteries, and still managed to completely surprise me. Also, I have to highlight Dan Stevens’ (<–Yes, him! The Beast!) amazing performance. He does all the accents flawlessly (there are both men and women from numerous countries in this book, and he nails all of them.) The story is thrilling and clever and just so much fun. I will definitely read more. (P.S. Turns out, there is going to be a star-studded movie version starring Kenneth Branah in November. Yes, please!)

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (audiobook). I listened to Graham’s memoir recently, and I was so impressed by her writing I thought I’d give her novel a try. I really enjoyed it! Graham is a truly talented author. It tells a somewhat autobiographical story of a young woman trying to become an actress in the 90’s. It’s not particularly original or exciting, but it’s funny and engaging, and I found myself rooting for the likeable protagonist.

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card. Sci-fi at its best! And I actually got to read this one with my eyeballs! (Because I was on vacation without the kids!). I picked it up because I really loved Ender’s Game when I read it a few years ago. This story takes place parallel to that novel, but from Bean’s perspective, delving deep into his origin story. It’s pretty dark, especially in the beginning when Bean starts out as a starving street kid, using his brains to survive. But it’s every bit as gripping, unique, and thought-provoking as the first. I devoured it, and shed tears of happiness at the end.

Legend by Marie Lu (audiobook). I’m a long-time fan of YA dystopian novels. This one was pretty run-of-the-mill, though. Two teens prodigies (who also happen to be remarkably good-looking), raised to be enemies, are thrust together in a time of crisis and discover they must work together against evil powers! They fall in love after about eighteen minutes. It has a total cliffhanger ending, but I was kinda like, “Meh. Maybe I’ll get to it yet.”

* * *

Okay! Unfortunately I think that’s it for now! Felix’s nap is almost over. Hope you’re having a great summer, and I hope to see you again soon.

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I’m Still Here . . . Just Not Blogging

sidewalk chalkYou know that magical time of day, when your kids are all in bed and you get a couple of hours to yourself, either to relax with your spouse or knock out a couple of items from your to-do list?

Yeah? Is that a part of your reality?

If so, GOOD FOR FRIGGIN’ YOU.

That is not a part of our reality, nor has it ever been. If we are awake, you can bet our kids are awake. If we are asleep, there’s still a pretty good chance our kids are awake.

Our kids don’t sleep. So the only time I can blog is if the grandparents are able to offer free childcare. (I don’t really make a substantial income from blogging, so it has to happen at zero cost.)

And if the grandparents are either on vacation or working extra hours at their jobs, that means blogging (or reading or art or hobbies or fun) doesn’t happen.

So! I have a couple of months-worth of blog posts I fully intend to write, but it might be a while before my hands can hit these keys for any extended period of time.

I hope you are enjoying your summer (or winter, you southern hemisphere folks!), and I hope to be back here . . . eventually.

Why I Love My Earth Runners: A Review

earth runners

A couple of years ago, the makers of Earth Runners contacted me and asked if I’d like to try a pair of their minimalist sandals for review. I said Yes, please! I’m embarrassed that it has taken me this long to finally share my review, only because my blog took a back seat in my life due to my son’s high needs. But on the positive side, I’ve had two full years to try them out. I know these sandals and I know that I love them!

Note: I received a free pair, but otherwise, I get nothing if you buy from them. I just think Earth Runners are an awesome product and I want to tell you about them! P.S. I chose the Circadian style, which has the thinnest sole.

Minimalist Sandals: The Second Best Option to Barefoot

earth runners review - minimalist sandals

As longtime readers know, I’m a passionate barefooter. As soon as the temperatures here in Canada are above freezing, you can see me traipsing about without shoes. I believe shoes are (for the most part) unnecessary at best, and harmful at worst. (I’ve written before about why I don’t wear shoes. Wellness Mama has a pretty great article on the benefits of going barefoot, too.)

But occasionally it’s good to wear shoes.

And at those times, I typically reach for my Earth Runners.

Honestly, my primary reasons for wearing shoes are (1) protection from the cold in winter, and (2) to keep people out of my business when I’m in stores and restaurants. (I used to enter public buildings barefoot all the time but got tired of being asked to leave just because I wasn’t wearing shoes.)

Granted, the sandals can’t really help with the first. I have to wear waterproof, insulated boots during our Canadian winters. (In these situations, I look for boots with the flattest soles. Even a one-inch heel can negatively affect your gait.)

But they’re fabulous the rest of the year, especially when I’m in public places.

Why I Love My Earth RunnersEarth Runners review - minimalist sandals

  • They look awesome. Their appearance is unobtrusive and mainstream enough that they don’t draw attention (No one’s like, “WHAT ARE THOSE? Those aren’t regular sandals!”), but they’re stylish and unique enough that I get compliments from my friends. And they go with everything. Casual or semi-dressy. I’m equally comfortable wearing them to the grocery store, on a hike, to church, or on date night.
  • They’re durable. They’re not your cheapo flip-flops made by slaves overseas that only last one season. They’re handmade in the USA. They are well-made and sturdy. You can hardly see any wear on mine after two years. All of the parts are strong and well-assembled.
  • They’re so comfortable. The design of the straps keeps them so secure that they never chafe. The piece that goes between your toes is flat and smooth. Unlike flip-flops, they don’t require an adjustment period in the spring when I first start wearing them. I just slip them on and go. No weird rubbing. No awkward change in my gait pattern to keep them on.
  • They’re as close to going barefoot as I can get. The thin, flexible sole allows my feet to experience the terrain and still move all my foot bones (unlike regular shoes, which immobilize your feet, essentially casting them). The wide toe area allows for proper toe spread. They even contain copper discs in the sole which allow your feet to “ground” with the earth, if that’s something that matters to you.earth runners - minimalist sandals
  • Easy Sizing: If you’re reluctant to buy shoes online because you’re worried about sizing, Earth Runners has an awesome system for finding you the perfect size. They nailed my size exactly.

I still go barefoot more often than not, of course.

If you’re a fellow barefooter, here are the times when I’ve found it helpful to own a pair of minimalist sandals:

  • In the early spring, when transitioning from winter footwear to going shoeless. My feet naturally get more sensitive over the winter when I spend most of my time indoors. It takes a few weeks to adjust to rough outdoor surfaces and colder temperatures in the spring. My Earth Runners are perfect for this.
  • On trips, when I’ll be going in and out of a lot of stores/restaurants/museums. (Normally, if I’m just going into one store, I carry a pair of flip-flops I’ll slip on just before entering, but that’s a pain if I’m going in and out a lot. Better to just keep my pair of Earth Runners on.)
  • When doing yard work. They’re helpful when I need to use a shovel, which are not barefoot-friendly, or when I mow the lawn and I don’t want my soles to be stained green.

So there you go. Whether you’re a full-time barefooter or you just want a healthier alternative to shoes, I love and highly recommend Earth Runners!

P.S. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of going barefoot from an actual expert, and would like information on how to safely transition to minimal footwear, I highly recommend the book Whole Body Barefoot by Katy Bowman. If you’ve been wearing conventional shoes your whole life you may need to transition carefully in order to avoid injury.

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Our First Year of Unschooling, in Review

our first year of unschooling

The school year is winding down for kids in Canada.

Not that Lydia — now almost six — would know. We spent the year “unschooling.”

At the start of the school year (i.e. last September), I thought I might implement daily lessons or at least set aside special time for schoolish stuff every day. That lasted about a month.

I guess I could see that Lydia was learning plenty without my interference. She also started to really resist my attempts to instruct her on things. And since I really, truly believe that children learn best when they’re driven by their own interests, and that they can learn everything they need without formal instruction, I just let it go. At least for another year.

So we just continued to live life, the way we had for her first four years.

We had fun, we read piles of books, and I answered her questions or helped her find solutions when she came to me with them. And she learned and learned and learned.

We didn’t try to slice learning up into different “subjects,” but as I reflect on our past year, I feel we covered a pretty good range.

Here’s a bit of a recap of our first year of unschooling.

(Note on photos: most of these were taken with my cheap Android inside our darkish house during the darkish Canadian months of Sept-May. Apologies about the quality.)

Socializing

I know this is a big concern for a lot of people, and the reason many parents send their kids to school. I felt we got a great amount of socializing in without school.

Since we didn’t have to be anywhere in particular most days, we had lots of chances to just hang out with friends in the mornings and afternoons. We got together with a few other homeschooling families when we got the chance. We went to the park, met at the petting zoo, and went for walks in the forest. We visited the apple orchard and the pumpkin patch in the fall. Lydia and I stopped in at the local forest school a couple of times, too.

friends

picnic

forest school

One of the coolest things was that I was able to exchange weekly babysitting services with another homeschooling friend, meaning that twice a week, Lydia got to spend a whole day with a friend. They’re becoming like sisters (including the squabbling.)

dressup

Literacy

harry potter

To my surprise (and admittedly, dismay — I majored in literature for six years), Lydia showed little interest in learning to read and write this year. I tried a few lessons from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but she just wouldn’t have it.

So I didn’t push it. Dutch kids aren’t taught to read and write until about age seven, yet they scored at the top of educational achievement and participation in the latest UNICEF study. Waldorf schools do the same. So I’m not too worried. When she wants to learn, I’m sure she’ll pick it up no problem.

Sometimes she would want to write a note to a friend or label a drawing and would ask me how to spell it out. To her annoyance I just helped her sound it out until she had something readable. She knows what letters make what sounds, for the most part.

We also played with her moveable alphabet, figuring out how to spell names from her latest media obsession.

moveable alphabet - how to train your dragon

moveable alphabet - tmnt

Most of all, we read books. Stacks and stacks of picture books. We visited the library almost weekly. Before bed, I always read a few chapters aloud from a novel.

library(bringing home the library haul)

Eventually I know she’ll want to do it on her own, but for now I’m cherishing reading aloud to her.

Math

We learned a lot about geometry by playing with our Spielgaben set. We went through the learning guide that came with it, and she really enjoyed it.

spielgaben - symmetry game(playing with symmetry)

pyramid

geometry pizza - spielgabengeometry pizza

She enjoys counting and doing basic adding and subtracting, just in everyday life. She was so proud the first time she counted to 100 by herself.

We also went through a few Bedtime Math books, which she loved.

Science

microscope

Science has been one of Lydia’s favourite subjects this year, though she doesn’t know that. She just knows she likes books about bones, bodies, plants, and animals.

I also bought her a microscope which was a big hit (We got this one, and are completely delighted with it. A great price for a fantastic piece of equipment). We spent hours poring over slides and specimens. We were surprised by the appearances of kitchen ingredients and different fabrics under the microscope. And we were amazed the see the microsopic creatures swimming around in a single drop of pond water.

We went to a museum in the middle of the week when it was nice and empty.

museum

Art

art

Painting and drawing have been a huge part of Lydia’s life since she first picked up a crayon, and this year was no different.

I went through an obsessive phase learning about watercolours, and she watched every Youtube video with me that she could.

painting with watercolours

Time in Nature

mushrooms

This kind of falls under science, but I thought I’d make it a separate category.

Skipping the classroom meant we had plenty of time to spend outside. We took lots of walks around the neighbourhood and nature parks, looking at plants and animals. That was really important to me.

Practical Life

Staying home also meant lots of time to help out around the house. Since mornings weren’t rushed, she was able to make her bed and put away her laundry every day. She enjoyed helping in the kitchen, too.

dough

cooking

I think that covers most of it!

I didn’t spend a minute regretting our choice to unschool, or wishing we had done anything differently. I’m looking forward to many more years of learning together!

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How to Make Sun Prints

How to make sun prints. Fun summer activity for kids!

Hi friends! Lydia and I recently did a fun, inexpensive, outdoorsy+artsy activity that I thought I’d share about: making sun prints. It was pretty cool!

sunprint kit

You can buy a little Sunprint Paper Kit for about $6.50 USD on Amazon. That’s the one we got, anyway. It’s the 4×4-inch kit, and it has 12 sheets of sun print paper in it. Somehow I was surprised how tiny the squares were. You can only fit, like, one maple leaf on a square. It ended up looking awesome, though, when you put them all together. I discovered you can get much bigger kits, too — in the future it would be fun to try this kit that contains 8×10-inch sheets (i.e. closer to the size of standard printer paper), for about $12.50.

Anyway, here’s how it works:

First, gather your materials and take them outside. (You need pretty bright, direct sunshine to get a crisp image.) All you need is your Sunprint kit and a small square/rectangular dish of water to rinse your prints. Plus the things you want to print, of course.

Next, collect some objects you’d like to make prints of. I decided we should stick with items from nature (leaves, flowers, seeds, etc), but you could just as easily use household items with distinctive shapes (toys, keys, etc). They had to be small, though, to fit on the 4×4 sheets. Flat objects work best, but you can use 3-dimensional objects, too (for example, we did a pine branch.)

nature items

(These are the items we used, after we were done with them. That’s why they’re wilty.)

Time to make your prints! You have to make them one at a time, because the kit only includes one acrylic cover.

Lay down a sheet of print paper. It starts out blue. Lay your item on top, and then cover with the acrylic sheet that comes in the kit.

making sunprints: fern 1

Tip: we made sure to keep our materials in the shadows our bodies cast as we prepared them.

The acrylic sheet keeps the item from moving around. You can print 3D items (e.g. the pine branch) without the cover, but when possible (e.g. with flat object like leaves), the acrylic sheet really helps.

Anyway, let it sit in the sun for about one minute, until the blue turns almost white.

fern2

Then remove the cover and the item. It now looks like this:

making sunprints: fern 3

Cool! But the magic isn’t over yet: quickly rinse your new sun print in water. For about another minute.

making sunprints: fern 4

making sun print - rinsing

Now lay it flat to dry in the shade. Be amazed as the colours reverse: the background goes back to blue, and the silhouette of the object turns white! Whaaaat? #science

fern7

Over the next few hours, the blue will deepen to a deep, rich indigo.

 

making sunprints: fern

Some other items we tried were maple keys, an English ivy leaf, a pine branch, a Japanese maple leaf, and a stem of bleeding heart blooms.

sun prints - maple keys

making sun prints

They looked so pretty together that I decided to frame them. I already had a floating frame that was just perfect for this.

Lydia wants this up in her room. I agree that it will look awesome! What a lovely piece of artwork!

sun prints framed

(PS trying to take a photo of something so shiny and reflective is HARD!)

There you go! Give it a try and tell me how it goes!

Disclaimer: post contains affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I get a tiny commission. Thanks for your support!

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What I’m Into: Spring 2017

blossoms edited

climber edited

sensory table edited(The only way we can get him to eat vegetables: dehydrate them and serve them in his sensory table.)

passionflower watercolour(Still obsessed with watercolours.)

Our lives have gotten so much better since the weather started warming up and the days started getting longer. It’s hard to go outside in the winter when one of your kids can’t walk, but since the snow melted we are spending as much time in the back yard as we can.

I wrote a few weeks ago about all the stuff I’ve been making; here’s a recap of some of the stuff I’ve been consuming.

Admittedly, most of it is kids’ stuff, but it has enriched my life nevertheless.

Audiobooks

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham. This is a great read for any Gilmore Girls fan. It’s fun to get a behind-the-scenes look at both the original series and the Netflix reboot. Graham is smarter and funnier than you might suspect. Her writing proved so impressive that I might actually give her novel a try.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy; read by Maggie Gyllenhaal. The first word I would use to describe this book is “long.” Holy crap, this book is long. It took 35 hours to listen to. (Most audiobooks I listen to are between 7-12.) But the next word I would use would be . . . probing? Geez, I’m having a hard time putting it into words. I really wished I had a book club to discuss this profound work with. Tolstoy has the ability to dissect human nature and see the soul. I definitely feel it was worth the investment of time, even if it meant sitting through hours of conversations about 19th-century Russian agriculture. And it took quite a while to figure out all those Russian names. But it’s not for no reason that this book has been called one of the best novels of all time. The characters are astonishingly three-dimensional. Levin, Kitty, Anna, and Oblonsky all feel like real people. (Not Vronsky, though. That guy’s just a jackass.) I was moved to be a better and more courageous human being as I witnessed Levin’s spiritual journey and Anna’s tragic spiral. If you’re looking for a classic, give it a try!

A word on the narration: I would rate Gylenhaal’s performance as “meh.” It was fine. Nothing spectacular.

Children’s Read-Aloud Chapter Books

spiderwick

Lydia (age 5) is ALL about the fantasy right now and I LOVE it.

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. We read the first two books in the series and enjoyed them both. The authors are masters of atmosphere. The fabulous illustrations add a lot to the experience. Lydia grew immediately attached to all the characters and we can’t wait to find out what will happen next. They are very short and packed with adventure. They definitely have to be read in order, as each book only feels like a short part of the whole story.

Children’s Picture Booksharry potter book

First, I need to talk about the illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I got it for Lydia for Easter (it was literally her only gift). It is absolutely breathtaking. It’s the whole text of the novel, with gorgeous, full-colour illustrations on almost every page. It’s normally very expensive — about $50 in Canada — but I got it on sale on Amazon for $35, I think because the second book was recently released.

Anyway, we’ve been re-reading the book together and the illustrations add a wonderful new dimension to the experience. It has helped ward off further begging to read the third book (Sorry! Five is just too young!). Lydia has pored over these images for hours. I feel it was totally worth the investment.

Anyway, The following books are our library favourites in the last two months. They’re all beautiful, interesting, and moving. I got a lot of these suggestions from The Read-Aloud Revival’s Favourite Books Lists for April and May. Those monthly lists are an awesome guide for finding quality, seasonal picture books.

spring books 1

The Easter Egg by Jan Brett. Jan Brett’s books are always gorgeous, with tons of detail to explore. Hoppi the Bunny (<– that name is the only stupid thing about this book) inadvertently fulfills his dream to become the Easter Bunny’s helper when he makes a big sacrifice for a fallen egg.

The Country Bunny by DuBose Heyward and Marjorie Flack. You guys. What a completely charming book. The BEST nonreligious Easter books I’ve read. A (brown) mother rabbit fulfills her dream of becoming an Easter Bunny, and ends up being the fastest, kindest, bravest Easter Bunny of all. It’s cute and inspiring and full of surprises. Published in 1939! With a surprisingly feminist message! Now I want to train my kids to keep house so I can pursue my dreams like Mother Cottontail.

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small. A lovely story about a tenacious little girl who improves her community and her uncle’s world by growing flowers in unexpected places.

An Egg is Quiet and A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. These are the kinds of books that will help kids fall in love with nature. Both of these books are stunning to look at and poetic in their language, slipping in a ton of memorable information about elements of the natural world. Highly recommend.

spring picture books 2

When the Root Children Wake Up by Audrey Wood and Ned Bittinger. Again, gorgeous illustrations and mesmerizing text. The four seasons are brought to life through mythical beings engaging with the natural world. If you’re fond of Waldorf education and philosophy you will adore this book.

Mossy by Jan Brett. Again, this is Brett at her finest. I can’t stop looking at these illustrations! Mossy the Turtle grows a garden on her shell, which draws the attention of a (woman — yay!) scientist who decides to put her in a museum so others can enjoy her beauty. The scientist’s niece helps her find a better solution when she realizes Mossy isn’t happy in her new home. A lovely story to help encourage respect and appreciation for nature and wild animals.

Movies and Television

Our children don’t sleep, so we don’t have time for this nonsense. Sounds fun, though!

And that’s what I’ve been into so far this spring! How about you?

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April in Review: A Month of Making

making

I don’t know what it was about April, but I was seized with a need to MAKE STUFF WITH MY HANDS.

Beautiful stuff. Practical stuff. Fun stuff. I just had to do it.

Writing was not in the program.

So in lieu of a proper blog post, here’s a gallery of the things I made, or had Ben make, during the month of April.

I don’t even know how we did it, honestly, on so little sleep and with so little free time. Or why. Except to somehow hang to our humanity in the midst of continuous existential crises?

Anyway, here’s what we’ve been up to.

First, a painting that my mom commissioned for her living room wall. She paid me in free babysitting, the best currency.

painting

tree

Then there was the wooden Waldorf rainbow stacker that I had Ben cut out in his shop. I helped sand it and then painted it with food colouring diluted with rubbing alcohol. As a late Easter present for Felix.

rainbow

I then got the urge to break out my sewing machine and finally make that canvas teepee/tent I’ve been wanting to make for the kids. I followed a pattern I bought from Etsy.

teepeeLydia and a friend enjoying a snack in front of their chalk “bonfire.”

I was also recently overcome with a passionate desire to learn how to paint with watercolours. I’ve been obsessively watching tutorials on Youtube whenever I feed Felix. I dream about it at night and take out stacks of books from the library for inspiration. I think I’ve already spent $200 in materials.

watercolor paintingMe and Lydia taking over the kitchen table with our artwork.

watercolours

poppy

And lastly: I asked Ben to make Felix a Pikler triangle to practice his climbing.

Felix’s gross motor development kind of plateaued last year despite continued physiotherapy and the use of orthotics, and I’ve been trying to think of ways we can add to his environment to encourage his development. I came across the idea of the Pikler triangle from someone on Instagram — it’s fairly common (or at least recognized) in Montessori and RIE circles.  Anyway, my amazing husband whipped one up in an afternoon, just by looking at a few pictures online. (He’s a carpenter by profession, if you didn’t know.) Felix immediately took to it and has been getting some awesome practice in.

pickler traingle - Montessori

(P.S. isn’t his hat adorable? We put it on him to help him keep in his hearing aids.)

Anyway, if you wonder where I’ve been or why I haven’t been blogging, this is part of the reason. I’ve been busy making stuff.

That, and I’m struggling to understand who I am in the world and the purpose of my existence. My life feels like a mess and I’m stumbling through it aimlessly, wondering what it’s all for and how we can find meaning and happiness.

You know, that kind of stuff.

(Turns out, it takes a really, really long time to process a child’s near-death experience and continued special needs. Right now, my spiritual journey seems to be taking me through arts and crafts as a form of coping and healing. I’m trying to follow the prompting of the Spirit and see where it takes me.)

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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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