Sometimes I feel sad that I don’t make any money.

sourdough bread

I’m doing something different today: I just opened up my laptop and wrote what was on my mind, and am publishing it with minimal editing. Even though I recently said I prefer works that are heavily edited. Hey, it’s my blog, I can break my own rules. Sometimes it feels good to just share my feelings, knowing that some of you will be able to relate. I’m not asking for sympathy or advice or — heaven forbid — money. I just felt like being honest about my feelings.

This morning I woke up sad that I don’t make any money.

It doesn’t happen often. I understand how I got here, and it’s largely by choice. I chose to get a degree in the humanities, knowing full well that it wouldn’t make me marketable. I chose to stay home with my kids and to educate them myself. I chose to nurture skills that aren’t traditionally profitable: cooking, homemaking, writing, painting, fiber arts. I recently added to my Instagram profile description — with a tiny hint of pride — “Maker of zero dollars.”

In fact, I’ve spent most of my adult life actively resisting a capitalist-centered life, favouring self-sufficiency and time with family over earning an income. I would rather learn to DIY everything than work at a job to pay for those same things. “Our home is a unit of production, not consumption!” my husband and I routinely remind ourselves.

And for the most part, I’m happy with my life choices. I believe that my work is meaningful and important. I don’t feel especially deprived most of the time: on my husband’s small income, we can afford to cover all our basic needs, plus a little extra to cover my hobbies (i.e. blogging, painting and knitting), the occasional dinner out, and clothes that I feel good in.

So it’s not that I wish I had more money — not really. I just sometimes crave the validation that an income would provide.

Sometimes I long for the knowledge that someone out there values my labour enough to want to give me money for it. Possibly even — and this is totally wild — a living wage. Like, I can’t even fathom the thought of someone wanting to give me enough money that we were officially living above the poverty line. How luxurious that seems!

Can you imagine walking around, knowing that your skills, time, and effort are worth actual money? Like, that your labour is so coveted that an employer or a client would be willing to part with actual cash in exchange for it? Man. What a dream. I can hardly even picture it. And I know some people get to experience that feeling, and sometimes I feel just a little bit resentful.

At my last three jobs, I was paid minimum wage, and even then I felt like a burden on my employers. Like I was barely worth the amount of money they were dishing out. Like they’d replace me in a heartbeat if they could just find someone else willing to drive out to their remote location and do the work.

I have been working SO HARD my entire life. I worked so hard to get straight A’s in high school while working on weekends to support my family. I worked so hard to get straight A’s in university while paying for my own tuition plus room and board. I worked so hard at my first minimum-wage jobs. And I have worked harder than ever, around the clock, as a mother. I don’t feel like I’ve had adequate leisure time since I was in elementary school.

And sometimes I just can’t believe that all this hard work has not resulted in any kind of capital. I am 33 years old with a master’s degree and I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to make enough money to pay for my own root canal.

I bet a lot of you can relate, especially if you are a millennial mother or an artist. It is hard to find someone willing to pay us for our work. We are expected to provide so much of our labour for free.

I’m not even sure I want any other life. But in a capitalist society, where our value comes from how much we earn and spend, sometimes it just feels sucky to not make any money.

Related: a few years ago I wrote about post entitled, “I Am Rich,” about how my family is rich in other resources.

I Think I Want to be a Disability Advocate (But I Have a Lot of Work to Do)

josh-appel-423804-unsplashPhoto by Josh Appel on Unsplash

(Trigger warning: I express some really ableist shit early on. It embodies previous attitudes that I’m working to dismantle.)

As longtime readers know, I don’t get pregnant easily. So when we were ready to start having kids, I had months (and months and months) to think about what I did and didn’t want in life.

I begged God to give me children. But I always had one caveat: But please don’t give me a disabled child. If I’m going to get a disabled child, I’d rather just stay childless. I was thinking of autism in particular, because my husband has autistic relatives; but I objected to any really serious disability.

I didn’t fully realize just how horrifically ableist I was.

My first child was born 29 months later, perfectly healthy. I was able to be the hippie mom I’d dreamed of being: I breastfed, I co-slept, I baby-wore. Motherhood was everything I hoped it would be and more.

It took another 19 months of trying to get pregnant with my second. My prayer was the same throughout: Just let me have another healthy and normal child.

As you also know, things did not go as planned the second time around.

Not only was my second child quickly diagnosed with a life-threatening disease that had him hospitalized for most of his first year, but he showed signs early on of having developmental disabilities.

He was late to hold up his head. Late to smile. Very late to roll over. Very very late to sit up on his own.

Not only was I in constant anxiety about his health in his first year, I was in agony over the thought of having to mother a disabled child.

I hoped and prayed that he would eventually catch up with his peers. Maybe it was just the extended hospitalization and isolation that was holding him back. I researched and hoped and prayed that we could find a treatment. Maybe with the right diet and therapies, we could fix him.

At the very least, I hoped that his disabilities would turn out to be “mild” — maybe he’d learn things a little slower than his peers, but he’d basically be able to live a “normal” life — he’d still be able to make same-aged friends, take swimming lessons, learn to ride a bike, etc.

But as he got older, his delays only became more and more pronounced. He slipped further and further and further behind his peers.

The day he turned three, I wept. We didn’t even throw him a birthday party. The truth was now completely undeniable. At three years old he was still nowhere near walking; he showed no evidence of understanding speech (much less being able to speak); and he still relied primarily on infant formula for nourishment.

He was never going to be “normal.”

The thing I had most dreaded had become my reality.

I knew even then that my thoughts and feelings were horrible. I vaguely understood that my attitude betrayed some very deep and hideous ableism. I didn’t value a disabled child the same way I valued an abled child.

I knew I had a lot of work to do to become the mother that my son deserved.

But that shit is hard, and I was so tired. I had already lived through the trial of keeping him alive through SCID. Now I had to begin a whole new journey of learning how to parent a disabled child?

I felt like I just couldn’t get a break.

Again: I did not realize how incredibly ableist I was.

:::

I had always resisted the idea of being a disability advocate.

I realize that it took an incredible amount of privilege and entitlement to be able to avoid it. Disabled people obviously don’t have that luxury. I just didn’t care enough.

Disability advocacy just seemed too . . . depressing. And . . . unglamourous.

Racial justice and poverty advocacy at least seemed to have a bit of hipster trendyness to it. But anything having to do with disability seemed like an unequivocal bummer.

But around the time that my son turned three and I spent his birthday sobbing, I realized that I was going to have to come to terms with a few things. Now that disability was obviously an unavoidable part of my life, I knew I needed to change some things.

I needed to change myself.

From the get-go, I knew two things for certain:

  • I knew I needed to start by listening to actual disabled people. I needed to better understand their experiences, to learn how to respectfully talk about disability, etc.
  • If I did talk publicly about disability, I did not want to be another beleaguered “disability mom,” adding to the noise.

Too much of what I was coming across online from “disability moms” (most often “autism moms”) I instinctively KNEW was harmful. I knew this because when I read it, I felt nothing but fear and horror and dread. Oh shit, is that my future? was my emotional response.

No. These were not the emotions I wanted to elicit when talking about my son.

If I was going to write about disabilities, it was not going to be about how difficult and stressful it is to parent a disabled child. I knew instinctively that this only further stigmatized disability, perpetuating fear among abled folks and self-hatred among disabled folks.

We need to center disabled people, not their caregivers.

Yes, it can be challenging to care for a disabled child; but ultimately the caregivers still have levels of privilege that their children do not.

“Disability moms” are not the vulnerable ones. Disabled folks are. Their voices are the ones that matter, not ours.

Writing about disability will remain tricky for me because I am a caregiver, speaking from a place of unrecognized privilege.

I’m scared of making things worse by saying the wrong things. Yet I do not want to remain silent about something that is increasingly important to me.

I cannot pretend to be a victim. I must not act like I’m marginalized because I have a disabled child.

I feel compelled to share my journey as I work towards being less ableist, but I worry that I will do it poorly and do more damage.

I am going to do my best.

So far, I have taken the tiniest little step forward by trying to fill my social media feeds with the voices of disabled writers. (I am trying to do the same with people of colour, LGBTQ+ folks, etc). I am starting to learn.

As I move forward, I want to get a few things out of the way.

To the disabled community, I want to say: I am SO SORRY for the ways I’ve failed to be an ally, for the ways I’ve perpetuated ableism, and I want to work towards anti-ableism. I may need correction at times. I know I will still make mistakes. I will do my best to learn from you.

To my dear, sweet Felix, who may never be able to understand any of this in words: I am SO SORRY I was so wrong about you. I was so wrong to fear having you in my life. You are an incredible blessing to me and I hope I never stop learning from you.

felix happy

A Very Quick Thanks

morvanic-lee-355170-unsplashPhoto by Morvanic Lee on Unsplash

Dearest readers:

Wow. I was stunned by the encouragement I got after my last post. You really showed up to let me know you’re still here!

When I wrote that post, I honestly thought there weren’t many people out there still reading, who would really notice or care if I quit. Believe it or not, the average post takes me about four hours to complete (between drafting, writing, editing, formatting photos, etc), and I worried I was wasting my time.

Since the comments sections of blogs don’t generally see much action these days, and Facebook doesn’t want anyone to see what I share unless I give them *the cash money,* I often felt like I was writing into the void.

I SO SO appreciate all of you who spoke up to let me know you still care! I got so many surprising words of encouragement in the comments section of the post, on Facebook, and via email. I started out trying to respond to each comment individually but soon became overwhelmed. So I thought I’d send out one big, general THANK YOU. I read every comment and treasured every one.

I have a couple of hard posts in the works right now, and your encouragement gave me the burst of energy I needed to keep moving forward.

Thanks, friends. I guess I’ll keep posting here, even if it’s only every couple of months. I am so incredibly grateful for this wonderful online community. You people are the absolute best.

If Blogging is Dying, What is a Blogger To Do?

sidewalk chalkI have self-identified as a writer ever since I was six years old, when my first-grade teacher told me I was one.

During my elementary school years, I wrote stories. During my university years, I wrote academic papers. And in my mid-twenties, I started blogging.

By my late twenties, I felt like I was finally getting some momentum with my writing. I thought I might be heading towards a career as a writer. I thought I knew what direction I was taking, and could see a possible book in my future.

Then Felix was born. And everything fell apart, including my identity.

Our family has slowly been putting our lives back together since then. But my identity has been a bit harder to piece back together.

Who am I, now that being a “crunchy mom” isn’t central to my identity? And how can I call myself a writer when I can only manage to publish a blog post once every couple of months?

And while I’ve been struggling to figure out where blogging fits into my life, I’ve seen the blogging world change so much that I hardly recognize it.

Many people are saying that blogging (in the form I know and love) is dying. And I worry that it’s true. And I’m not sure where to take it from here.

Many of my old blogging peers have shifted to new formats: email newsletters, podcasts, book deals. (SO MANY BOOK DEALS.)

I can’t seem to find my place with any of these new and different platforms. They all seem to involve learning about and buying all new hardware and software . . . I just don’t think I’m in a place to go in any of these new directions.

The following is mostly just for me to sort out my own thoughts and feelings. But if you feel like coming along for the ride, here goes:

1. Email Newsletters

I’m sorry, but. . . I just cannot get on board with this format. I would like to. It’s the most like blogging. I just . . . hate it.

The main problem is: in my brain, email is for business. My email account is where I go to get notifications from my library that my books are due, or from Amazon that a package has shipped, or to set an appointment with a therapist. It is not for reading about how my friend’s week is going. I’m sorry! That’s just not the mindset I’m in when I open up my email.

(How about you?? Is this just a weird thing about me that I need to get over?)

I have optimistically signed up for a few newsletters from people I love and adore, and . . . I always just delete them when they pop up in my email, until I finally unsubscribe. They just don’t belong in my email inbox!

When I want to know how my bloggy friends are doing, I go to their websites, or to social media (Facebook* and Instagram). And I still keep up with blogs via Feedly like an old person.

Email and blogs just don’t mix in my mind.

(I can’t be the only person who feels this way. Am I?)

*I have used less and less Facebook in recent years since they decided to be stupid with their algorithms and make it almost impossible for blog and business pages to get seen unless the owner “boosts” their posts (with cash). It’s so incredibly lame.

2. Instagram

I’ve noticed some people writing short essays as their Instagram captions as a sort of alternative to blogging. But I just don’t feel there’s enough space here to really delve deeply into a subject. You can maybe introduce an idea, but you can’t go much further than that. Plus, the type is way too tiny, and it’s difficult to create paragraphs.

I tend to skim over long blocks of tiny text on Instragram.

I go to Instagram for the pretty pictures (especially of knitting and bread).

3. Podcasting

It seems that all the bloggers who started around the same time as me (or earlier) now have a podcast. So far, I’m not totally sold on the medium. For one, I’ve always preferred writing over talking. I’m a writer. I’m in love with the written word.

And second, I’m more of an essay girl than a conversation girl. I prefer to consume works that are stylized and edited rather than “authentic.” I personally listen to only one podcasts devotedly (The Liturgists); most others are too chatty for me. If I wanted to hear women chatting I would call up my girlfriends.

Plus I would have to learn a LOT of new technology to go this route, and I don’t know how I would even start.

4. Youtube/Vlogging

This shares many of the problems that podcasting has, including the tech issue — I have no freaking idea how it even works. Plus I have very blinky eyes that would be very distracting. (I’m serious. It’s a problem.)

5. Books

Writing a book has always been the dream and the goal. But not only do I not have a publisher, I don’t even have a book in me right now. The experience of Felix’s extended hospitalization hollowed me out so that I don’t know who I am or what I believe anymore. I wrote a whole post on why I’m not writing a book last year.

So I still dream of writing a book someday; but it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

***

So what do you think? Do you think blogging actually is dying?

What’s your favourite way to consume content?

Is there a form of sharing content that I’m missing from my list?

Should I just get over myself and pursue one of the forms I’m discussed above? Am I totally wrong about them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Our Second Year of Unschooling, In Review

homeschooling

The end of June marks the end of the school year for Canadians.

If Lydia would have been in traditional school, she’d be finishing up first grade right now. As most of you know, we unschool, so we just live life and learn along the way, allowing her to follow her interests and facilitating her education by providing a rich learning environment.

I thought I’d take some time to reflect on what we did over the last school year. I’ve divided things up into rough subject categories, though of course learning doesn’t happen like that in real life. (I did the same thing last year, if you’d like to read what we did during her “kindergarten” year).

We continued to mostly avoid anything particularly “academic,” since she simply wasn’t interested in it, and because my research has led me to feel it’s unnecessary at best (and harmful at worst) to push academics before the age of seven. We’ll see what we do next year.

(Psst: You can follow our homeschooling adventures on a regular basis by following my Instagram account. If you’re not interested in seeing my knitting/homesteading/sourdough-baking posts, the hashtag #quiringhomeschool will take you directly to all my homeschooling posts.)

Social Skills

homeschool group

I like to cover this one first, since this topic is one that folks seem to worry about most when it comes to homeschooled kids.

Lydia typically spent at least four days a week with at least one other kid besides her baby brother. Mondays were spent at her grandma’s with her younger boy cousin; Tuesdays and Wednesdays were shared with her best girl friend; and Friday mornings were spent with our large and diverse homeschool group. The kids got a chance to swim at the beach, play at different parks, and visit back yards and farms.

She also went to forest school and swim lessons at various times throughout the year. We went on a ton of field trips with our homeschool group, and did a Valentine’s Day exchange in February. I am so thrilled with the group we’ve found this year, I couldn’t ask for better.

Field Trips

field trip pioneers

Speaking of field trips: I felt like these outings were terrific both for learning opportunities and to nurture a general sense of community.

We went to a pioneer homestead on multiple occasions to learn about how life was lived over a hundred years ago. We went to a local marsh to learn about wetland habitats. We visited the local Historical Aircraft Association to see and learn about WWII planes. Again: I am SO, SO GRATEFUL for our homeschooling community this year!

Math

Math mostly took the form of everyday addition and subtraction. It was mostly explored orally, in response to real-life scenarios. (This is a fancy way of saying that when numbers came up in real life, we worked through problems aloud.) We briefly visited the concept of multiplication a few times, and I bribed her with chewing gum to fill out a 1-100 chart, just to prove to both of us that she could do it.

We also spent a few hours on the Khan Academy website, just to learn about written formulas. I feel we probably caught up on a full year’s-worth of lessons in about three combined hours. It helped me feel more relaxed about her math situation. She didn’t love it, though, so I kept it to a minimum.

One resource she loved was the book Amazing Visual Math. She spent a lot of time poring over the geometric shapes and movable charts. I highly recommend it. I think it will be very educational when she can read.

Language and Literacy

Lydia was still not really interested in learning to read this year, which is fine.

However, I must mention that one week in May, I got her to try the free educational computer game Teach Your Monster to Read, and she played obsessively for about three days. The progress she made was astronomical. She went from barely being able to name the sounds of individual letters to being able to read short sentences in less than 48 hours. Demonstrating, once again, that learning does not naturally happen in a linear or evenly-paced fashion. Most kids can probably learn in a few hours or days — when they’re ready and self-motivated — what they would traditionally be taught over the span of weeks or months in school.

But even though she didn’t want reading lessons, that doesn’t mean her literacy education was completely ignored! We spent lots of time reading chapter books aloud. In this way she learned things like vocabulary, sentence structure, and story structure; and most importantly, she is learning to love stories and language.

Some of our favourite read-alouds this year included:

(Notice a theme here? While she can appreciate more realistic stories like The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street or the Ramona and Beezus books, she definitely has more passion for fantasy. Just like her parents.)

Visual Art

art museum

Lydia is a natural-born artist, so I don’t need to do much here but make sure she’s stocked with supplies. She literally spends hours every day drawing.

We loved two books that I highly recommend: The Art Book for Children and Get Into Art: People. Both books introduce kids to influential artists in an accessible way. She can now recognize the works of Picasso or Arcimboldo thanks to these books, and they’ve inspired her to try new methods and materials.

Science

daphnia microsope(This is a daphnia under a miscroscope)

Our microscope got lots of use this year (I wrote a whole post about it a few months ago). We especially enjoyed looking at bacteria and fungus colonies; microscopic pond creatures; and snowflakes.

We did a bit of nature journaling during the warmer months.

I set up some science demonstrations, like creating sugar crystals, and using red cabbage juice to test pH levels (so cool! I wrote about it here!) She was inspired to try some of her own science experiments.

Music

Ummm . . . we listened obsessively to The Greatest Showman soundtrack? And she watched hours and hours of Lindsey Stirling’s videos on Youtube?

Whenever I brought up any kind of voice or dance lessons, she would say, “I don’t need lessons. I’m already amazing!”

She recently became interested in playing the xylophone, and was very proud when she taught herself to play Twinkle Twinkle on it.

Even though she’s already an “amazing” dancer, I’m thinking about signing her up for tap lessons in the fall.

History

museum jars

We read and really enjoyed the first half of The Story of the World, where we covered early nomadic cultures, through the Egyptian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires. She particularly enjoyed learning about the Egyptians, and was excited to see the Egyptian displays the the Detroit Institute of Arts.

(In this photo she is sticking out her tongue because she knows what gets stored in canopic jars!)

Physical Education

yoga

In the warmer months, she got lots of time playing unsupervised in the back yard, swinging and climbing. We also walk as a family regularly to the library, local restaurants, etc.

During winter she really enjoyed Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube.

Well, I think that covers all the big stuff!

Thanks for sticking around, and I wish you a relaxing summer!

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Becoming Peculiar!

5 Things I Learned This Spring

Hi, friends! I’m joining with Emily P. Freeman and sharing a few things I learned this spring. I know there were many more things, but Felix hasn’t really let me sleep for the last two months and my brain is not totally functioning. Here are the things I could remember!

1. Red cabbage has magical properties!

red cabbage - natural dye

(I’m not talking about medicinal qualities, but fascinating scientific qualities!)

I learned this when we used red cabbage to dye our Easter eggs. Turns out, red cabbage (and the purple liquid you can boil out of it) change colour when introduced to different pH levels. Acids turn it a bright magenta; bases turn it a gorgeous turquoise. It’s quite stunning to witness.

red cabbage dye(These three glasses all contain cooked red cabbage liquid, but vinegar has been added to the cup on the far left and baking soda has been added to the cup on the far right. Magic!)

In fact, you can even make your own pH strips by soaking strips of coffee filters in the purple cabbage liquid and letting it dry. Then drip vinegar or baking soda onto the strips, and watch it change colour right before your eyes!

pH strips from reb cabbage(Both of these strips have been soaked in red cabbage water and dried, turning them purple. Then we dropped a few drops of vinegar [left] and baking soda water [right] onto the ends of bottom strip, creating these beautiful colours!)

We also had fun making little bowls of liquid change from one colour to the other and then back again, feeling like wizards in Potions class. (Check out this video I shared on Instagram to see it in action).

2. Knitting cables is not that hard!

knitting cables

I know they look fancy, but it turns out, cables are simple. If you know how to knit and purl, you can do cables, easy peasy. All you need is a cable needle to hold a few stitches to the front every so often, and the magic happens. I’m so glad I gave it a try!

If you’re a newbie knitter looking for a simple beginner cable pattern, I highly recommend this free one from Tin Can Knits.

3. Blocking covers over a multitude of sins.

blocking

Sorry that this is another knitting one, but I’ll make it quick.

“Blocking” refers to the very last step in knitting and crocheting, where you take your finished piece and shape it. There are a few ways to do it, but typically it involves soaking the piece in water, squeezing it out, and then stretching it into its proper shape and laying it flat to dry, generally held in place with pins.

Some people treat this step as optional, but I keep being surprised how important it is. I increasingly believe you should block absolutely everything. Not only does it make your piece look more tidy and professional, but you can adjust the size and shape. It helps to hide or even fix imperfections, too.

When I finished my first cabled hat, it was a little snug and tall, and many of my stitches were uneven. I was a bit disappointed. But during blocking I was able to stretch out the brim and flatten out the top, and as it dried the stitches evened out, to create a really nice-fitting, professional-looking piece! Another win for blocking!

blog

4. There’s such a thing as Messenger Lite.

I am eternally running out of space on my phone. (A natural consequence of always buying used/outdated phones). I am always needing to delete apps so that I can update the more important ones, which is a pain. (And I only use a handful of apps, mostly for listening to audiobooks and podcasts.)

When I had put off updating Facebook Messenger long enough that it no longer worked, I somehow discovered that there’s a “Lite” version that takes up much less space (and offers way less nonsense, like face filters and Facebook stories. Who even uses those??). I installed it and it works great, and I didn’t even have to delete the Weather Channel app from my phone.

5. Selfies get WAY more likes on Instagram.

sad selfie

I didn’t set out to figure out how to get more likes on Instagram. I just happened to post a few selfies within a short period of time, and I noticed the pattern (one that Laura Tremaine once described, but I hadn’t at that point experienced). Posts that include my face typically get way more attention than the rest!

And interestingly, the worse I look in them, the more positive the reaction (ha!). Okay, that’s not entirely true. I think folks just appreciate seeing an honest version of the people they follow on social media. One of my more popular posts is of my disheveled face and hair after a rough night. Another is the one I posted above, where I talk about my crappy Mother’s Day. BUT, folks also seem to like the nice ones, too, as long as it has an interesting caption.

So, selfie away! Your friends and followers want to see your face. Even (or especially) when it’s not perfectly polished and filtered.

That’s it for today! What interesting facts did you learn this season?

Spring Knitting and Crocheting (2018)

spring knitting

Here’s a philosophical question for you? What’s the point of having skills in the internet age unless you’re going to show them off to the online world?

Since I have a blog, I thought I’d share what I’ve been knitting and crocheting over the last couple of months. Please indulge me, because I love seeing other people’s finished crafts!

Most of these are wintery items, and that’s partly because we didn’t actually get real spring weather here in Canada until halfway through April. Knitting was a cheering activity when I was feeling miserable and cooped-up.

Fingerless Mittens

fingerless mitts malabrigo

Info on Ravelry here. Pattern from this book.

After I knitted Lydia a pair, a friend requested a pair as well. I ordered my first boutique yarn for the job — Malabrigo Arroyo, in the colourway Vaa — and it was positively dr-e-a-m-y to work with. Photos cannot capture the beauty of this marvelous hand-dyed yarn. The subtle variations of green — from emerald to lime to olive to aqua — shimmer like jewels in sunlight. I am completely in love.

Adult-Sized Fox Hatfox hat blog

sly fox hat adult

Info on Raverly here. Free pattern here.

After I crocheted Lydia a Sly Fox Hat, my little sister admired it so much I decided to make her an adult-sized version. (The original pattern doesn’t include an adult version, but offers some suggestions.) It took a couple of tries to get one big enough, but I finally managed it and I’m quite pleased with the finished product.

Chunky Cabled Hats

easy cabled hat

cabled hat red

Info on Ravelry here. Free Pattern here.

I really wanted to learn how to do cables, and I conveniently realized I didn’t have a nice winter hat for myself, so I bought some chunky merino yarn and knit myself a Northward hat. I added a faux fur pompom to make it super on-trend. (Because as you know, I am sooooooo trendy. Evidence: I am still writing on a blog in 2018.)

Then I knit one for my middle sister, so she wouldn’t feel left out of the homemade hat club.

Whimsy Pixie Bonnet

whimsy pixie bonnet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

….And finally, another pixie bonnet. Details on Ravelry here.

For some reason I just LOOOOVE this silhouette on young kids.

I had “inherited” some hand-spun, hand-dyed, fingering-weight alpaca wool from a friend’s grandma, and I didn’t know what to do with for the longest time. But I knew it was a really expensive, high-quality yarn that I didn’t want to go to waste. I finally landed on this pattern. I adore it. I’m a very slow knitter so it took me forever but it was worth it. And I finally had to learn how to make I-cord, and I’m a fan.

Juniper Bonnet

juniper bonnet flat

juniper bonnet

Details on Ravelry here. Pattern here. Okay, okay, one last thing. I participated in an Instagram knit-along and knit this lovely little bonnet. It was my first time knitting lace and it was a real challenge at first. But I’m delighted by the result!

Okay, that’s everything! Dang, I just realized how many new skills I learned over the course of the season. My kids definitely don’t need this much knitted headwear but I just love tackling new challenges.

Thanks for sticking around! And I always enjoy seeing/hearing about what you’re making!

What I’m Into: April 2018

geese blogGuys! It finally stopped snowing! I could not be happier about the arrival of spring.

We’ve been really busy with homeschool field trips this month and it’s been great! I’ve also continued to do an unreasonable amount of knitting, but I’m going to save that for another post. (You can keep up with all my shenanigans on Instagram.)

Right now, I’m just going to get to my lists.

I haven’t written one of these posts in several months and I have read so many good books in that time . . . but I decided that if I was going to cover books retroactively, I would never get to them all. So I’m just picking up with what I read this month.

Books

The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever – Jamie Wright. I have been waiting for Jamie’s book to come out for a while and it was everything I hoped it would be. Hilarious, gutsy, insightful, relatable, inspiring, and somehow full of wisdom, even though it doesn’t take itself too seriously. She shares her early spiritual formation as a “Jew-ish” girl, who later drops out of school and gets pregnant at 17, and eventually becomes a good Christian missionary with her husband and three kids. The bulk of the story covers her five years in Costa Rica, as she gradually becomes disillusioned with the whole missionary industry. I loved finally getting a behind-the-scenes look at Jamie’s life, and how she became “the very worst missionary.” It’s such an important book and a complete delight to read. I highly, highly recommend it, whether you’re super-churchy or totally not. Be forewarned, though: she likes her swears.

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr. I finally got around to reading this Pulitzer-prize winning novel. If you need a reminder of why war is bad, here’s another one! (Okay, that’s probably not fair . . . it’s just that I’ve read three newish books set during WWII in the last few months, and it’s starting to bum me out. How are humans so horrible?!) It’s an achingly beautiful story, written with resplendent prose. There are two main story arcs: the story of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who escapes with her father to her reclusive Uncle’s house in Brittany; and that of Werner, an orphaned German boy who gets trained by the Nazi army to find the senders of illegal radio transmissions. Eventually, their stories beautifully and tragically converge. There’s also a fantasy element in the story, as Marie-Laure is unwittingly carrying a diamond believed to hold supernatural powers.

For The Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker. This is such an encouraging book for the tired Christian woman. Jen is funny, warm, and soothing. Part entertainment, part pep-talk, this book is like comfort food for the soul. It’s not particularly challenging or illuminating, as I know Jen can be, but it was just what I needed when dragging myself through the grey days of endless diaper changes and temper tantrums.

Mosquitoland – David Arnold. This was my YA pick of the month. It was fine. A quirky, slightly mentally-ill teenager decides to run away from her dad and step-mom to go save her mom, who she finds out is sick on the other side of the country. Along the way she meets a lively and interesting cast of characters who join in her adventure. I can imagine young girls (and guys) really relating to her struggles and aspirations.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas. (Okay, I squeezed in another YA book.) This is such a powerful and important book, you guys. I think it offers invaluable insight into the Black Lives Matter movement, and should be required reading for anyone who doesn’t “get” the movement. But in addition to that, it’s just a good book.

I’ll admit that when the narrator’s friend gets shot by a cop in the very first chapter, I was worried I was reading a book that was going to end up a utilitarian “Topics in Race and Law Enforcement” type of story. But as I continued I discovered a beautiful, rich story with believable, complicated characters. Starr is a relatable, authentic narrator, and her family and friends and neighbours feel like real people. If you’re white, it will open your eyes. Highly recommend.

TV Shows

The Good Place (Netflix, season 1). This show is stupid and wonderful. The lovable Kristen Bell has died and found herself in the afterlife — in The Good Place, where everything and everyone are perfect. The only problem: there’s been a mistake, and she’s not supposed to be there, because she’s actually a terrible person. Can she become good enough to fit in before everyone catches on? It’s kooky and irreverent and hilarious, and full of plot surprises. The twist in the last episode caught me completely by surprise and now I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the next season.

Movies

We finally saw The Greatest Showman as a family. And guys: I know it’s all kinds of problematic. But we LOVED it. It’s just so joyful and fun and spectacular. Why don’t people wear coattails and top hats anymore?? And how is Hugh Jackman still so sprightly when he’s almost 50??

Okay, it’s kind of dumb that the movie starts with an epic, celebratory musical number. And it’s dumb that the opera singer never sings any opera. And I’ve heard that real-life P.T. Barnum was not a particularly good person. But it was still a complete delight and I don’t care what you say. We’ve been listening to the soundtrack nonstop.

*Post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!*

*As always, linking up with Leigh Kramer!*

Five Things I Learned This Winter (2017-2018)

Whoops! Guys! I didn’t realize I’d missed the boat on sharing what I’d learned this winter!

Because around here, it still looks like this:

lydia at point

Winter is still in full swing, but we’re getting close to the end now.

(Emily Freeman hosts a linkup every quarter, where we can share the things we’ve learned in the last season. I’m too late to join the official party, which happened at the end of February, but here’s my list anyway!)

Here are five things I learned this winter!

1. You can take photos of what you see through a microscope.

snowflakes through a microscope

I discovered this by chance: I was in awe of the snowflakes I was looking at, wishing I could permanently capture their fragile beauty, when I thought I’d try to snap a picture with my phone camera. I wasn’t very optimistic, so I was surprised to find that it worked! I tried again with my “good” camera, just on auto, and was amazed by the results!

(I also learned that in order to look at snowflakes through a microscope, you have to thoroughly chill all your instruments, and do all your viewing outside, because snowflakes will melt in an instant if anything is even room temperature. It’s actually quite a tricky process. I wrote all about it here.)

2. I’m too much of a pedant to fully appreciate most contemporary YA fantasy fiction.

Ever since I first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in fifth grade, I’ve been a devoted fan of children’s fantasy. But starting in university, I haven’t have much time for leisure reading, and fantasy kind of lost its place in my life for several years.

I’ve recently picked up fiction reading again, thanks to audiobooks. But unfortunately, I’m finding myself a little too critical when it comes to fantasy. I’m constantly like, “Wait a second — if these faery cultures have been separated for hundreds of years, wouldn’t their dialects have diverged so much that they’d have difficulty understanding each other?” or “Wait, how do they have access to foreign imports like silk? What is international trade like in this country?” Anachronisms and linguistic inconsistencies jump out at me, making it hard to suspend my disbelief.

I want all my fantasy worlds to be as meticulously thought-out as Tolkein’s Middle Earth. But it turns out, most contemporary fantasy isn’t written by elderly linguistics scholars who have been obsessing over their imaginary worlds for several decades.

Bummer.

3. Different Crafts are for Different Seasons.

knitting blog

I’ve written before that I’ve become obsessed with picking up new skills in recent years.

But I felt kind of ashamed when I completely dropped knitting and crocheting over the summer, in favour of watercolour painting. Maybe I wasn’t a real fiber-crafter after all?

But then winter hit, and I found myself drawn to knitting and crocheting again, and completely dropped watercolour painting. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I stick to a craft?

Suddenly it dawned on me that maybe my pull to different crafts is simply cyclical, based on the seasons. I’m not fickle; certain crafts just lend themselves to different seasons.

In winter, we don’t have enough sunlight for watercolour painting. There’s only a tiny window of opportunity every day for working with colour, and I just can’t catch it while mothering small children. Luckily, knitting can be done anytime of day, even by lamplight.

And knitting in summer just isn’t appealing because I don’t want to hold wool in my lap when I’m hot and sweaty.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’ll pick up watercolours again in a few months.

4. Spending a few weeks in a warmer climate in the winter is the absolute best thing ever.

beach

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than I was in Florida this February. As long as we can afford it, I want to make this happen more often. (Hooray for homeschooling and working from home to make this possible!)

5. But winter can be quite beautiful here too, if you just know where to look.

We’ve made a few trips to Point Pelee National Park this winter — a park situated on a small peninsula of land that juts into Lake Erie. The wind blows lake water over the trees and freezes it there, turning them into absolutely stunning sculptures. It’s breathtaking. Take a look at the pictures we took just yesterday!

Point Pelee National Park 1

Piont Pelee

point pelee frozenAnd that’s all I’ve got time for today!

Anything special you learned this winter that you’d like to share?

Do you gravitate to different crafts during different seasons, too?

Any recommendations for really well-thought-out fantasy fictions?

Our Trip to Florida and Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Harry Potter World family

splash pad

Hi friends! Last month, our family went on our first family trip with Felix . . . to Florida! I thought I’d share it with you, like we did in the olden days of blogging. Not trying to sell anything — just wanted to share our experience for the fun of it.

The last three years since Felix’s birth have been rough for our family. There were times along the way I didn’t think we’d ever experience happiness again. From hospitalization to isolation to ongoing disabilities, we’ve had to face challenge after challenge.

Our ten days in Florida were some of the happiest in my recent years.

I’m a Canadian girl who has always loathed winter, so this was really exciting for me. Sunshine in February! We’d been planning the trip for almost two years already (we’d wanted to go last year, but it fell through due to health insurance troubles for Felix and his “pre-existing condition.”)

At last we made it!

The flight was a bit challenging, since takeoff and landing scared and confused Felix, who screamed through the whole thing; but otherwise things went quite smoothly.

We had lovely weather through it all. Here’s what we did!

Airbnb Home

Florida Airbnb

We spent most of our time living in someone’s home through Arbnb. We didn’t have much for plans, we just wanted to be living somewhere without snow. We got a cozy little house just 15 minutes away from the ocean, 30 minutes away from Orlando.

I cooked most of our meals. We usually went out to a park or the beach in the morning, then came home for lunch and naps/resting. I liked to spend this time knitting on the front porch and listening to an audiobook. Then we did another little outing (ice cream, groceries, park) in the evening.

beach

beach

Harry Potter World

Hogwarts Express

Honeydukes

The main event was one day spent at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was absolutely incredible! But if you’re considering a trip, here are a few basic pointers I have for you now.

1. It is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E.

ButterbeerI know you already knew that, but if you’ve never been, I don’t think you understand how expensive.

There are actually two Harry Potter Parks at Universal — Hodgsmeade, in Islands of Adventure, and Diagon Alley, in Universal Studios. If you want to see both parts, and ride the Hogwarts Express between them (and trust me, you do), you have to buy a park-to-park ticket. For us, it came to over $200 CAD per person for one day. That lets you on all the rides, but does not include food or anything. Yowsa.

All the food and merchandise inside the park is crazy expensive (obviously). A frozen butterbeer is $7.50. A single measley kabob from a stand (outside Hogsmeade) is $15. An interactive wand is $50, a Hogwarts scarf is $40, and an adult-sized robe is over $100. (We didn’t buy any of these things, but borrowed from friends.) Prepare to empty your wallet.

butterbeer

2. Harry Potter World is not a place for toddlers. Don’t take yours there. Luckily, my parents joined us in Florida for a few days and were able to watch Felix that day. He would have been a nightmare to take into the park. It’s crowded and busy and has nothing for really young kids.

Honestly, I now feel even Lydia (6) was a little young to fully enjoy the experience. The rides turned out to be a little too intense for her. She found the fire-breathing dragon on top of Gringotts terrifying. And since she’s only read the first three books, there was some stuff she didn’t understand. I’d recommend it for kids 10+.

3. Definitely only go during off season. We went during the first weeks of February, and that was perfect. In the morning, the streets were maneuverable, and the lines for rides were only about 20 minutes long. By afternoon is was quite crowded and we left for less busy parts of Universal. I can’t imagine how it must be during peak season. I’ve heard the wait lines for the rides can be 2hrs+. I think it would be unbearable.

Gringotts

Firebolt

All that being said, we had a ton of fun. The rides are thrilling. The inside of Hogwarts castle is magical. I love the attention to detail in every corner of the park. There’s a boggart moving around inside a chest in Borgin & Burkes, for example. You can hear Moaning Myrtle’s complaining in the bathrooms. Stuff like that. And the butterbeer really is to die for.

The highlight for me was Gringotts Bank, and the Escape from Gringotts ride. The animatronic goblins are incredible. The talking portraits on the walls and wizard newspaper clippings on the desk are just too perfect. And the ride was terrifying in the best way.

Bahama Bay Resort

pool

Lastly, we spent a couple of days at a resort. It was also lovely, because of the access to pools and splash pads. We still cooked our own meals here, though. It was divine to eat them out on the porch.

We also went orange picking at a nearby citrus grove, which was really fun.

orange picking

And there you have it — a quick recap of our trip.

I definitely hope to do something similar for future winters!

Have you ever been to Harry Potter World? What did you think of it?

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