A Chance to Chip In for Felix

Hi everyone,

Susanne Froese and Heather Greene writing here. We’re Kathleen’s sister and friend, respectively. We’d like to lovingly hack Becoming Peculiar for a moment, if you don’t mind.

As faithful (and wonderful!) followers, you’re likely aware of the Quiring family’s situation at the moment: their infant son Felix is hospitalized in London, Ontario, where has been diagnosed with SCID. Kathleen has provided more detail in her earlier posts. They’ve found out that none of the immediate family are bone marrow matches, so a transplant is out. Enzyme treatments have been started, which is positive, but it’s only a short-term solution. Ben and Kathy are now considering multiple long-term options, which involve varying levels of risk.

In the background at home, we’ve been collecting donations, cooking to-go meals, planning a fundraiser, and generally marveling at the huge, immediate, and overwhelmingly loving response to Felix’s situation. Not coming from Kathleen’s tight-knit Mennonite community myself (this is Heather writing), I’ve been blown away by the generosity of Kathleen’s family and community, and that includes you folk. We were sure you would want to hear if there were further opportunities to help, so we’re posting the following crowd funding link, where you can contribute financially if you’re able. The website is helpfelix.com. It accepts any currency through PayPal or credit card. If you have any issues with it, let us know and we’ll see if we can help.

If you’re a local follower and are able to support the Quirings in person, our fundraiser is Saturday, January 31st in Leamington, Ontario (Leamington Evangelical Mennonite Mission Church at 1430 Deer Run Road). There will be a pasta dinner, bake sale, auction, kids activities, and live musical entertainment. Doors open at 5pm and admission is by donation. The event poster is below.

Your continued prayers and good vibes have been such, such a blessing. I’ve been texting with Kathleen sporadically, and in one conversation she mentioned that she could actually FEEL the power of everyone’s prayers working. Now that’s support, people!

I also wanted to thank you personally for being such a wonderful community for one of my closest friends. Kathleen and I live an hour apart, and now that we’re not chumming it up in university classes every week (which was years ago now…*sniff sniff*), we don’t see each other nearly as much as we’d like. Babies, renovations, marking dozens and dozens of research essays, making organic tooth powder from egg shells…you know the stuff that keeps us all busy. Knowing that she has friends like you in, to borrow her word, “the blogosphere”, is a comfort to my heart. You keep her company and add joy to her day when I (and our other friends) sometimes can’t. I love all of your comments and jokes and recipes and opinions. You guys rock. Kathleen is a pretty quiet person in “real” life, and the vibrant, lively and supportive community here on Becoming Peculiar is a testament to her writing, her heart, and to all of you. Thank you, again, for making my friend your friend too.

Susanne joins me in thanking you for being with her through this painful season.

Heather & Susanne


Felix poster

It’s Okay If You Don’t Want to Read This (And a Few Notes on the Future of This Blog)


So obviously this blog has taken a dramatic turn since Felix’s diagnosis last month. I suspect I won’t be sharing healthy recipes or tips for natural living for quite some time, if ever again. The events of the last eight weeks have kind of rattled my entire life, and I have no idea where it’s going to go from here.

But I can’t stop writing. Writing is how I process my own thoughts and how I cope. And I’ve decided to continue sharing some of my writing here on the blog, even though it is completely different from what readers have come to expect from Becoming Peculiar. I want to do this for a number of reasons:

  • In part, because I draw hope from the possibility that someone else going through similar things will get encouragement. Like I said in my last post, it’s important to find fellow sufferers and to not suffer alone. This is one way I’m reaching out.
  • To keep family and friends updated. (Facebook alone doesn’t always cut it.) Since we’re currently living in the hospital two hours away from home, this is one way to stay connected to everyone back home.
  • For myself, as a record of my trials. I hope that someday, when all this is over, I can look back and draw strength from knowing that with the love and support of my community, I made it through. I hope that I will be able to see that God was present through all of it, even when I felt abandoned. (Because honestly, most days I feel like God is a total and complete jerk and that there is no meaning to any of this. I’m hoping someday I will feel differently.)

After thinking it over, I am planning to post quite frequently, though my posts will not be nearly as edited and polished as they used to be. I just don’t have the time to edit everything. I’ll share stuff as I write it. It will probably be clumsy and weird at times, with fewer pictures, and zero “pinnable” graphics. It might even be kind of blasphemous at times, and I’m sorry about that. But it will be honest and heartfelt.

And on that note, I also want to add the following:

It’s TOTALLY OKAY if you don’t want to read it.

I’m sorry that most of what I share will probably be rather depressing.  I understand that my blog has become kind of a bummer.

Back when my life was perfect (read: every day of my life until December 2, 2014), I could not and would not read stories of real-life heartbreak.

I refused to read stories about children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, or from families that had experienced loss. I just couldn’t bear it. It was too much sadness. And they reminded me that my own life’s perfection could be threatened at any moment. I didn’t want to think about that. It made me sick to my stomach.

In my blog roll, if anything too sad popped up, I would intentionally skip over it. Sorry, grieving family. I can’t deal with your sadness.

But now that I’m living it, I can’t read anything else. I can hardly stand to read stuff from happy, healthy families. I struggle too much with the envy, and the feeling that they have no clue.  I mostly just want to hear from other families going through similar turmoil. Because if they can make it through, maybe I can too.

So if you’re in the happy camp, I don’t blame you one bit for skipping the sad posts I share here. Seriously. That was me eight short weeks ago. I totally get it. Don’t feel guilty or weird about it.

And if you do still choose to read them: bless you. You are stronger and kinder than I ever was.

Quick Announcement: I’m a Contributor to Red and Honey!

red_and_honey_bannerHello, dear friends!

I just have a moment, but I wanted to pop in to let you in on some exciting news (if you haven’t heard already): I am an official Red and Honey Contributor! (See my introduction to the community here).

When Beth first brought up the idea of becoming a regular contributor, I was over the moon. I’ve been a devoted Red and Honey reader for a long time. Beth is just so real and lovable, and her posts are simultaneously amusing and informative. I love how she balances serious research with personal stories and heartfelt feelings. I think I was first drawn in by her clay and coconut oil toothpaste recipe (the only toothpaste our family has used for almost a year. It’s a winner, you guys). Check it out and you’ll see what I mean: so informative, but also  down-to-earth and enjoyable to read.

Anyhow, I’ll be contributing my words once a month. I’m excited by the chance to engage with a wider audience of like-minded folks. I feel like I fit right in: we’re all there to learn from each other about living thoughtfully and responsibly, sharing ideas about frugality, natural living, and caring for each other and the planet.

I only hope I can live up to awesome reputation Beth and the other contributors have built!

If you don’t already, I highly recommend you follow Red and Honey on Facebook, and be sure to add the blog to your reader so you don’t miss a post! If you’re into the things I’m into (which you must be, otherwise why would you be here?), you are sure to love Red and Honey.

See you there soon!

Meet the Spouse (And Introduce Yours!)

meet the spouse

Hey there, bloggy friends! So I had this idea.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about writing a post introducing my husband.

I read a lot of blogs written by married women, and every now and then their husbands make short appearances in their stories. Their kids show up all the time, getting regular photos and full stories. But the husbands rarely get much stage time. I’ve found myself wishing I knew more about these men who obviously play such huge roles in my online friends’ lives. I feel like I know the bloggers themselves so well, but I hardly know a thing about their partners!

That’s when I decided I should introduce you all to the love of my life and the father of my darling daughter.

And I wanted to invite you to do the same. I figured, What better month to share stories about our spouses than February?

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE it, dear friends, if you’d consider sharing something about your husband (or wife!). In my next post (when I introduce my husband), I’d love it if you shared something in the comments, or shared the link to your own blog post. If you write a blog post of your own, feel free to use the birdie image I put together (Just save the above photo to your desktop and upload it to your post. Or not. It’s up to you).

(If I figure out how to use a Linky Tool, and if it seems worth it, I might make a carnival out of it. Whee!)

What do you think? Are you with me?

Here are a few questions for inspiration:

(Note: I’m using the masculine pronoun, because I know most of you are women; but if you’re a guy blogger, you’re equally invited to share about your wife!)

  • What’s his personality like?
  • What does he do for work?
  • What are the qualities that made you fall in love with him?
  • What makes him a good fit for you now?
  • What are some of your favourite qualities in your spouse?
  • What are some of his hobbies/interests?
  • How long have you been together? How old were you when you met? How have you both changed since then?
  • What’s his family background like, and how does it differ from your own? What do these differences bring to your relationship?
  • What are your favourite activities to do together?

Feel free to use or scrap these questions as you please.

Will you join me? It’ll be fun!

Image Source

Shampoo Bar Winners! (Also: Giveaways Are Fun!)

shampoo bar 002

Hi Folks! Just a quick note to announce the winners of the shampoo bar giveaway: Emily W and Ryann! Wooo! I used random.org to select two random numbers from the comments. Thanks for playing, everyone!

(I’ve emailed the winners, and am waiting for mailing addresses so I can send them off).

I learned two things from this giveaway.

(1) Folks are still surprisingly enthusiastic about winning things, even when I’ve offered only a so-so review. I was afraid that my “I wasn’t completely dazzled” review would result in a lot less interest. I was wrong! You still wanted to give it a try!

(2) Giving away stuff is fun! I loved hearing from people who wanted to give my handmade soap a try. I’m so excited to pack them up and head for the post office to send them off. I only wished I had more to give away!

From now on, whenever I make anything to review for the blog, I’m going to make an extra or two, just to give away. Just for fun.

I hope everyone is having an excellent weekend.  Love you all!

What I’m Into: November 2012

babywearing ergoSo I’m totally ripping off people like Megan from SortaCrunchy in starting up a monthly “What I’m Into” series. And it’s not even the beginning/end of the month. But I love to get updates on what my favourite bloggers are reading/watching/listening to; so I thought I’d share some of my own recent faves.  In case you’re interested. I want to work one in each month. It’ll be fun!


Like a good White Person, I’ve begun to feverishly read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables in anticipation of the movie next month. Can you believe I have a Master’s degree in English literature and I’ve never read Les Mis? (My excuse is that it’s not originally an English work.) I’ve never even seen the musical or any other film adaptation, so I’m coming to the story as a complete newbie. I’m only a few chapters into it but I’m already totally sucked in. (Oh Cosette; poor little Cosette!)

I’m also re-reading Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three, since Lydia’s just entering the phase of life when Montessorians really start to stress practical life activities (i.e. 15 months). I have mixed feelings about the Montessori approach in general, or at least these authors’ interpretation of it; but I’m totally in favour of the whole Practical Life thing. It just really resonates with me.

As a consequence, Ben and I are trying to creatively arrange our home so Lydia can do more things for herself, from washing her hands to changing her clothes.

My book club is still reading When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself, which is challenging me in all sorts of wonderful ways. An excellent resource for folks who want desperately to help people  in need but who are concerned about doing more harm than good.

And I am LOVING the current edition of Conspire Magazine, with its focus on power and empowerment. But I always love Conspire.


We don’t have normal TV in our house, so we can’t ever sit down and just flip through channels. But Ben and I are regular viewers of The Office, New Girl, and Big Bang Theory, which we watch on sketchy websites with troubling pop-ups. (You might not know this about me, but I’m a huge comedy fan. I like to laugh. And oh my goodness, Schmidt, Nick and Jess. They make me howl.)

Thanks to Sarah Bessey, who kept talking it up, Ben and I have also recently gotten hooked on BBC’s Sherlock (via Netflix). We’ve just finished the first season (which is only three mind-blowing episodes), and it took all my willpower to sit down and write tonight rather than go start up season two.


First, I’ll begin by saying what I’m NOT listening to: CHRISTMAS MUSIC. There is not enough good Christmas music out there to merit two full months of hearing it. Instead, we’ll probably start turning on the jingly bells after December 1st, which is when the tree will go up. One month of Christmas festivities strikes me as reasonable. No more than that.

Otherwise, there’s not much to report in terms of music. I’ve kind of forgotten that it exists, to be honest. Like the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, I’m loving the new Mumford and Sons album, but that’s so unoriginal that it hardly feels worth mentioning.


I’ve mentioned her before, but I just want to re-emphasize how much I’m loving Dr. Markham at AhaParenting. I LOVE her parenting advice. Her writing is so accessible, but so full of wisdom. A recent post that I found superb was The Cure for Whining. So practical; such a beautiful and loving way to deal with such a dreadful problem.

I also really appreciated Michele’s recent post on babywearing, where she offers incredibly detailed stories and tips from her personal experiences. I am now so pumped to try a woven wrap with my next baby.


Haven’t seen anything worth mentioning lately. But I am crazy-excited about The Hobbit next month (who isn’t?); and I think I’m crazy-excited about Les Miserables, too (decision on feelings pending the completion of the book. I’m scared it’s going to be too sad and I’m just going to bawl through the whole thing. It’s called The Miserable Ones, for goodness sake.)

Well, that’s it for now!

How about you? What are you into this month? And can anyone please tell me whether Les Mis is going to be one big cry-fest, or can I look forward to some joy? Be aware that you’re talking to the girl who sobbed during the last scene of The Little Mermaid when she was five, and threw The Mill on the Floss  across the room at its conclusion because it was too sad.)

Checking In: Autumn

autumn familyHi folks! I’m just writing in to say that I’ve been wandering through these last few days with my head lost in autumn, and I only just realized it today.

I’ve been enjoying myself — having coffee with friends; making DIY Christmas gifts with my mom; pillaging thrift shops; learning how to make Lydia laugh until she cries — and also occasionally moping around, complaining about the gray skies and Lydia’s nighttime escapades.

I’ve just been living life.

Which means I’ve been forgetting about the Internet. Whoops.

I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, I hope you’re all doing well and getting geared up for the holidays. This is the first year in many that I’m actually feeling excited about Christmas.

I hope to talk to you all soon. Thanks so much for the delightfully engaging conversation last week. You guys seriously rock. I have the best readers ever.

Lots of love.


P.S. I got new glasses.  I feel like I now have permission to be as nerdy as the Spirit leads me to be. Everyone will be like, “Well, she’s wearing wayfarers . . . “

Harvest Season

It’s still harvest season around here. Which means I’m BUSY.

I love it. I’ve always wanted to live in harmony with the seasons. I’ve always loved the thought of planting in the spring, tending in the summer, harvesting and preserving in the fall, and turning inward in the winter. It’s how our ancestors have lived since the beginning of time.

I recently read (and LOVED) Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation, which got me really revved up for preserving this autumn. (Seriously: read this book. She’s a wonderful writer and so full of wisdom. I loved her Jewish faith-infused perspective on the Welcome Table as well). But my enthusiasm for food storage and preservation has meant putting my art on the back burner for a bit (And never before has the back burner been a more apt metaphor).

In the last week or so, I’ve canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and pasta sauce. I’ve chopped and frozen sweet peppers and grated more zucchini for the freezer, too.

I helped butcher three pigs with my parents, my sister, my aunt and my uncle. We made smoked sausage, bacon, ham, liverwurst, and an assortment of Mennonite breakfast delicacies I don’t know the English words for. (Do you remember the “cracklings” described in one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? We call it griven, and eat it for breakfast with homemade bread and strawberry jam. It’s kind of like ground-up bacon, except instead of being cured with smoke, is made through a process of slow simmering and stirring in a big cauldron of bubbling lard. It’s to die for.) We also cut pork chops and loin roasts and stew pieces.

After all the cutting, grinding, stuffing, smoking, frying and packaging, which took an entire day, I then had to spend an evening organizing and inventorying my freezers. Which was sorely needed after all the fruits and veggies I recently started storing in there.

In the upcoming weeks, I plan to do more tomato-canning with my mom, before taking care of the squash and the rest of the peppers in the garden. I’m probably forgetting something. Oh, I also want to dry and store all my fresh herbs.

I want so badly to be a farmer as well as a writer and a present parent. But it’s HARD to do it all.

I mentioned on Facebook that all the tomato-canning was making me an impatient mother, and I hate that. And my writing life is almost nonexistent right now.

I’m trying to make peace with the fact that different seasons will require different emphases on these different aspects of my life.

Right now, my time must be devoted primarily to the garden and the kitchen. It will change yet.

I’ll get back to writing more frequently soon.

Are you doing any harvesting or preserving this fall?

Image courtesy of photon_de.


mother baby beach swimming

It’s been a busy week around here, with harvest and preserving season in full swing. Peaches, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, potatoes, onions and squash. I’ve been butchering chickens with my mom, freezing and dehydrating and fermenting fruits and vegetables. Next week I plan to devote a day to tomato canning. It’s also our anniversary this weekend, followed quickly by Lydia’s first birthday.

And then there’s the matter of getting to the beach as many times as possible before the summer is completely over.

So I’m pressing pause on the blog for just a moment.

Be back soon, with my final thoughts on Unconditional Parenting!

What are you doing with your last weeks of summer? (If indeed you are in the northern hemisphere, enjoying the last weeks of summer)

Blogging with a Mobile Baby (A Quick Update)

baby girl dress

Tuesdays and Thursdays are Kick Over Furniture Days here at the Quiring household.

[If you’re curious, Mondays are Meal-Planning/Grocery/Food-Prep Days; Wednesdays are Gardening and Preserving Days; Fridays are Organizing and Targeted Deep-Cleaning Days; and Saturdays are Housecleaning Days.]

Well, officially, Tuesdays and Thursdays are supposed to be Writing Days, but that’s not quite how they’ve been turning out lately. Lately, I spend so much time pulling gross things out of Lydia’s mouth, prying sharp objects out of her hands, whisking garbage cans away from her searching hands, rescuing her from the edge of the stairs, holding her over the potty, comforting her after tumbles and head-bumps, changing wet diapers, wiping down high chairs, washing my hands, and begging her to sleep so I can get some writing done, that at some point I end up wildly frustrated and start kicking over chairs and throwing notebooks.

It’s not pretty.

I do all of those other things with Lydia every other day of the week as well, but somehow things don’t end up quite as ugly on those days. None of those other activities — cleaning, cooking, etc — require the uninterrupted concentration that writing requires.

Constant interruptions are just part of life with a mobile baby, I’m learning. And I can deal with that on an ordinary day. But on a day when I’m trying to create? I don’t handle it so well.

Lydia at ten months is easily double the work she was at three months. She barely naps, is drawn to all the grossest and most dangerous objects in the house, can crawl with lightning speed, can open drawers and cabinets, and (most annoyingly) can reach the computer mouse and keyboard while I try to type.

She can also reach into the toilet (yay, splashing!) and can climb into the open dishwasher (yay, knives!). She loves to eat dog food and paper.

I hate that on Tuesdays and Thursdays I can’t be fully present to my baby. I’m irritable and distracted.

At the same time, I hate that I have close to thirty drafts of blog posts in my notebooks, and not enough uninterrupted time to turn them into complete posts. The way things currently run, a single post takes up to five hours to complete. I just can’t manage it these days.

All this is to say: blogging might be a little spotty for a while until I can figure something out with the munchkin. I’m hoping to make arrangements with the grandmas a few times a week so I can keep my butt in the chair and actually do some writing.

I must add that Lydia is also double the fun she was at three months. When I take her to the grocery store, she makes so many people smile that I feel like I’m doing an act of community service by taking her with me. And at the end of every trip I feel kind of bad that I’m the one who gets to take her home for unlimited kisses and snuggles. Why should I get her all to myself all day?

Anyhow, thanks for sticking with me, and I hope to be around more in the near future!

If you do creative work and have had a mobile baby, how did you manage? Please, tell me! I’m begging you!

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