8 Things I Learned This Summer

I’m taking a cue from Emily P. Freeman and sharing what I learned over the last season.

(I’m increasingly a fan of this type of post. Join me in reflecting on what I’ve learned over the last three months!)

1. I am AMAZING when I’m able to sleep.

20180813_143916_resizedJust taking a nap at 7am, like a normal person

During the month of July, Felix beat his all-time record by sleeping through about 80% of the nights. And I couldn’t believe the difference in myself. For the first time in almost four years I was

  • productive!
  • creative!
  • patient!
  • optimistic!
  • efficient!

By August he’d gone back to his old shenanigans of sleeping through about 0% of the nights, and I hate everyone and everything. It’s a struggle to keep everyone fed and clothed. It makes me wonder how much more I would accomplish in life if I was consistently able to sleep at night. We may never know.

(I wrote almost this whole post in July.)

2. All about broody hens and hatching chicks.
broody hen

In late May we noticed that one of our four laying hens wouldn’t leave her nest. We were worried she was sick. But when we went to take a look at her, she growled and pecked at us. Since I grew up around chickens, I was pretty sure I knew what was going on: we had our first broody hen.

(For those not familiar with chicken husbandry, “going broody” is what a hen does when she wants to hatch chicks. Normally, she’ll just lay her daily egg in one of the nests and then go on with her day, scratching and pecking the ground with her gal pals. Many hens go their whole lives satisfied with this arrangement. But sometimes a hen will decide she wants babies. She will stop eating and drinking and just stay in her nest, growing her clutch of eggs and acting aggressive towards intruders, with the intent to hatch out a little flock of chicks.)

Since we don’t have any roosters in our flock, our girl was unfortunately wasting her time with infertile eggs. We could have tried to “break” her of her broodiness, but we decided to try to set her up with some fertile eggs and see if she could hatch some.

We created a safe, comfortable nest for her and put a dozen eggs from my parents’ co-ed flock in it, setting her on top. (We did this at night, when chickens basically let you do anything you want to them.)

sitting hen

She sat there for 22 days, only leaving her nest once a day to eat, drink, and take a quick dust bath.

Just when we thought we weren’t going to see any chicks, we heard some peeping. Over the next 24 hours, we got six baby chicks! (Of the remaining eggs, two died in the process of hatching. The rest were duds.)

chicks(If you look closely, you can see two chicks peeking out from under her.)

It was a wonderful experience. It has been so fun watching our hen turn into a mama, protectively guiding her chicks all over the run, showing them where to find food. It’s been a treat!

mother hen and chicks

3. I guess I prefer loose and flowy clothes now?

clothes collage

For the last number of years, my “uniform” has been skinny jeans and a button-down shirt. My closet was almost exclusively filled with these items. Lots of navy blue, kelly green, and stripes. It made things easy. I could look put-together with minimal effort. (I don’t do layers and I don’t do accessories. I am truly a minimalist when it comes to getting dressed.)

But this year I got money from both sets of parents for my birthday, and I decided to go on a shopping trip for clothes — my old jeans and shirts were all several years old, and looked worn out. And I came back with soft pants and loose, flowy tops. Florals and neutrals and deep reds. (Still lots of stripes).

Wait, when did that happen? I wondered. I hadn’t made a conscious decision to recreate my wardrobe. These were just the things that felt “me” right now.

4. That Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is considered the first science fiction novel.

I read and studied this book three times during my undergraduate in literature, and I don’t think anyone ever told me this tidbit. It took watching this short history of sci-fi to realize it.

I was a bit embarrassed to realize I hadn’t known this fact, as I consider myself a fan of sci-fi and fantasy literature. I decided I needed to brush up on my sci-fi history, and watched this whole fascinating series.

5. A backyard sandbox is a pretty zen place even for an adult.

sandbox

We recently designed and built a sandbox in the back yard for Felix, who looooves the sensory experience of sand. We’ve been spending a lot more time in our back yard as a family as a result.

And you know what? Sitting in and playing with sand is actually quite soothing, even for me. It’s very grounding. Just digging and raking around the sand absent-mindedly is a great way to unwind at the end of a busy day. I highly recommend it.

6. What a Snoezelen Room is.

snoezelen

snoezelen room 2

The children’s center Felix attends for therapy recently added a Snoezelen room, and his OT has taken him in there for a few sessions. I’d never heard of one before, so in addition to experiencing it firsthand, I did some research online.

It’s pretty great, and Felix adores it. It’s pronounced “snooze-lin” (it was developed in the Netherlands), and it’s a controlled multisensory environment for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Its use is meant to be self-directed, and is used both to stimulate and soothe, using lighting effects, color, sounds, music, scents, etc.

From my experience, they’re generally padded and darkened, with different sources of soothing lights, music, and other sensory tools. The room Felix enjoys has a ball pit filled with transparent balls and glowing lights; a sensory board; a tall bubble tube; and fiber optic lights. There are vibrating pads to lay on, and you can turn on classical music and calming projector scenes. He absolutely loves it. I’m considering recreating a similar environment in our own basement.

7. How to do fair isle knitting!

This one is just a brag. I’m very proud to have added this skill to my repertoire. I can now do literally anything in knitting.

fair isle

8. All about monarch butterflies.

monarch life cycle collageWe got some monarch eggs and caterpillars from my sister, and got to watch the whole life cycle several times over. It was an incredible experience! I feel like a monarch expert now! (I wrote a whole post about this.)

***

That’s probably more than you wanted to read! Thanks for sticking through it! What did you learn this season?

Raising Monarch Butterflies: Our Experience

holding monarch butterfly

This year we had an awesome opportunity to watch the monarch caterpillar life cycle, when my sister found some eggs and caterpillars on the milkweed plants in her back yard and offered to let us have a few.

We got to watch each stage a number of times over, so we didn’t miss a thing. I thought I’d share a few pictures of our magical experience, just for fun!

Egg Stage

This is how a our monarch eggs first looked under a microscope:

monarch egg 1

After a few days, the egg turned dark, and under the microscope I was amazed that I could see the unborn caterpillar squirming around inside the transparent shell! A darkened egg is a sign that it’s about to hatch.

monarch egg 2

To get a sense of the size, you can see the egg as a tiny black dot on this piece of leaf:

egg3

Later that day, we saw the caterpillar just out of its shell:

monarch caterpillar just hatchedSo cool!

Larva Stage

Over the next two weeks the caterpillars grew and grew and grew, doubling in size almost every day:

monarch caterpillarsWhenever I was out in the car, I was constantly pulling over to pick fresh milkweed from the ditches to feed my hungry brood of caterpillars.

As they grow, monarch caterpillars shed their skins four times during this stage. I never got to witness the molting, but I did see a caterpillar shortly after it lost its skin.

molting

We could tell a caterpillar was getting ready to pupate when it started to spend a lot of time on the lid of its home. It was looking for a place to make its chrysalis! We knew the deal was sealed when it started to make a silk button to hang from (seen below, circled).

monarch caterpillar silk buttonThen it would attach its rear end to the button and hang upside down in a J-shape.

monarch caterpillar pupatingIt would hang like this for over 12 hours, hardly moving. Beneath the skin, crazy changes were happening.

When the hanging caterpillar started to get a bit more active, we knew the transformation was close at hand.

Pupa Stage

The actual change to a chrysalis takes less than two minutes after the skin first splits, so you have to watch long and carefully if you want to catch it. I started to notice that the skin begins to pulsate just before that happened. I got to witness this magical event three times, with lots of obsessive watching.

monarch pupating

The skin cracks along the back, and the caterpillar “unzips” its skin by doing its “pupa dance,” revealing the wet green chrysalis underneath. It dries and hardens over the next hour or so. By the next day, it looks like a magical jewel.

monarch chrysalis

It’s hard to believe there’s something alive in what looks like a hanging jade stone. Then all of a sudden, after about 10 days, it starts to darken, and by nighttime the chrysalis is transparent, revealing the wing patterns inside.

monarch chrysalis clear

Adult Stage!

The next morning, the butterfly emerges! It starts with damp, crumpled, wings, that quickly dry and flatten out.

monarch butterfly eclosing

adult monarch

After about two hours –when it starts pumping its wings — it’s ready to climb onto your hand. This was my favourite part. It felt incredible to have this delicate little insect walk along my hand.

We learned that you can quite easily distinguish between the sexes by looking at the wing patterns.

The male monarch has dark spots on its hind wings:

male monarch

The female has darker, thicker veins on its wings, and the spots are absent:

female monarchAfter I had fully appreciated the butterfly’s beauty, I let it walk onto a flower (they feed off of nectar).

monarch on flower

One morning we found a dead monarch butterfly in our yard that had been killed by a predator. We took the opportunity to look at its wings under a microscope (we have this one). It was so interesting to see the scales.

butterfly microscope

monarch wings under microscope

butterfly wings under miscroscope

There you have it! I highly recommend it as a wonderful learning experience!

If you live in Canada or the Northern US, you can start looking for eggs or caterpillars on milkweed plants in mid-July. I found them surprisingly abundant and easy to find this year — almost every time I grabbed some milkweed to feed my caterpillars, I found another stowaway or two, until I was swimming in caterpillars and had to give a bunch away.

Just last night, we found a black swallowtail caterpillar, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things are different.

Thanks for joining me on this little adventure!

Posts I’d love to write if only I had the chance to sleep at night

snails on a boat(A gratuitous picture of snails on a toy boat. You’re welcome.)

This is a list of titles of blog posts I’ve been wanting to explore, but currently do not have the mental capacity or time to actually write. For some of them, I’ve gotten as far as sketching out a rough draft. That’s about it.

Blame the a three-year-old who has got his nights and days mixed up again.

If one of these titles REALLLLLLY stands out to a number of readers, I might make it a priority if we ever get back to a normal sleep schedule.

: : :

Why We Homeschool

When Virtues Turn Out to Be Privileges (e.g. things like spontaneity; having a sophisticated palate; being able to live zero-waste; etc)

Why We Stopped Going to Church (And Don’t Miss It or Feel Guilty About It, Not Even a Tiny Bit)

How Having a Disabled Child Has Brought Me Closer to Jesus

How I’m Getting Schooled by Twitter / Twitter is Making Me a Better Person

Let’s Talk About Ableism and Capitalism

In Defense of Picky Eaters

Why Are We Drawn to Alternative Healing Practices? + My Journey To and Away From the Crunchy Community

Our Favourite Read-Alouds for 4-6-Year-Olds

: : :

Hope you’re having a restful, low-pain summer!

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?

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?

What I’m Into: December 2017

Point Pelee National Park

museum jars

snowflakes in a microscopeI am not a fan of winter.

And after spending one Christmas in the hospital with my very sick newborn son, living in a different city from my three-year-old daughter, the Christmas season has never felt quite as magical as it once did. I can take it or leave it. I actually spent Christmas day inexplicably, murderously angry at the universe. Grief is weird.

But we had some good times this December. One of the highlights for me was taking Lydia to the Detroit Institute of Arts and seeing the Ancient Egypt exhibit after having studied Egypt in our homeschool. And looking at snowflakes through a microscope. There is still magic around me; it’s just hard to find sometimes.

I’m a little late posting this, but here are the books and movies I enjoyed this month.

Books

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. This was an interesting experience: Woodson tells the story of her childhood, growing up as a black girl in South Carolina and New York during the 1960s and 1970s, in verse. It’s autobiography and poetry in one. It’s also the story of a girl discovering her vocation as a writer. Lovely and powerful.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Another fantasy novel featuring an ass-kicking human heroine who falls in love with a dangerous, magical being. It was exciting and well-paced, but I never fell in love with any of the characters or completely bought the whole Faery world of Prythian.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This was a very moving, powerful, and challenging read. This book is written a letter from the author to his adolescent son, and we get to listen in as he advises him on how to grow up in America with a black body. He tells his own life story and explores his awakening to the issues of race in his country. His writing is incredibly eloquent and his reflections are thought-provoking.

Movies

The Holiday

(The first three are older movies that I’d never seen before that everyone else in the world has already seen and formed a strong opinion about. I rented them and watched with Felix in the middle of the night. I want to have opinions, too.)

The Holiday – The Cameron Diaz/Jude Law story is meh (DON’T SLEEP WITH STRANGERS, GUYS), but Kate Winslet and Jack Black are ADORABLE. I never would have expected Jack Black to be a believable love interest in a rom-com, but he is surprisingly winsome.

Love Actually – Okay, I know this may be divisive, but I found this movie to be utter crap. I mean, it is filled with amazing actors, and I was absorbed throughout the film; but as the credits rolled, I couldn’t help feeling like I had wasted my time. And then I read this review (Ahem – major language warning) and thought, EXACTLY. “Colin Firth falls in ‘love’ with Aurelia at first sight, establishing Love Actually‘s central moral lesson: The less a woman talks, the more lovable she is.” In a movie that’s supposedly all about love, we don’t see anyone actually get to know each other. Most couples don’t have a single actual conversation before “falling in love.” The only couple with an actual relationship gets a sad ending. Thumbs down, guys.

Little Women – I’ve been meaning to watch this film since 2014 when I first read the book. It was good. Um, surprisingly, that’s about all I have to say. (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully appreciate these 20+year-old movies.)

Colossal – Okay. This movie is weird. It doesn’t fit neatly into any genre — it’s a mix of science fiction, horror, comedy, thriller, and romance. I had no idea what to expect from one minute to the next. But I was riveted, the acting is amazing, and it had a surprisingly satisfying ending. I’d say give it a try!

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What I’m Into: November 2017

tree in november

November wasn’t my best month. It’s a dreary month here in Ontario, and Felix hasn’t let us sleep in weeks.

Here is a photo that basically sums it up my feelings about this month: (Mom, avert your eyes)

mug

Plus, it’s Felix’s birth month, which is really triggering. Everything reminds me of that horrific first year.

All the more reason to seek out beauty when I can! Also, look how happy and adorable my kids look on his birthday.

Felix's birthday

(The quality of the photo is crap because IT’S NOVEMBER AND WE HAVEN’T SEEN THE FREAKING SUN IN A MONTH WHY DOES THIS MONTH EVEN EXIST)

Anyway, here are a few things I enjoyed this month.

(Audio)Books

The Princess Bride by William Goldman; read by Rob Reiner. My family didn’t have a VCR growing up, so I never saw the classic films of the 80’s and 90’s that all my peers talk about so fondly, including this one. (I saw The Princess Bride for the first time when Felix was in the hospital. I saw E.T. for the first time this last summer.) That being said, this audiobook version was refreshingly witty and fun, and only 6 hours long.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson. This book was surprisingly fantastic, especially the first and last parts. (The middle you could honestly probably skip, but the first and final chapters are worth the ticket price alone.) The book is a “guide to suffering, and how to do it well.” He encourages you to ask yourself, “What pain do you want in your life?” I really appreciated how it helped me reframe pain and suffering, and helps you to figure out what in life is worth giving f*cks about. (I promise this is by far the sweariest post in the history of this blog.)

Children’s Picture Books

picture books november

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson; Illustrated by¬† Barbara McClintock. This is the first book of poetry that has captured Lydia’s imagination. We loved reading a few poems out loud every night before bed, and she even spontaneously memorized a short poem she thought was funny. The poems are so evocative of childhood magic. A few poems made me cringe in terms of their Victorian ethno- and androcentrism, but overall it’s a lovely collection. There are lots of illustrated versions out there — some probably more beautiful than this one — but this one is still quite charming, and at least attempts to show some diversity.

Imagine a City by Elise Hurst. This book feels like a timeless classic (I would have guessed from the 60’s or 70’s), but was actually just published in 2014. The illustrations are gorgeous, full of magical detail. You can look at them over and over again and find something new and amusing every time — flying fish weaving between gargoyles and rabbits reading the newspaper. It has a Narnian feel to it, if that’s a selling point. I happened to pick it up off the library shelf and immediately fell in love.

Children’s Read-Aloud Chapter Books

chapter books

Astrid’s Dragon by Karen Christian. The author actually sent me this book to share with Lydia, no strings attached. It’s a sweet little story about a plucky little girl and a slightly incompetent but well-intentioned dragon who causes mischief in the kingdom, which they must work together to resolve. Lydia was immediately struck by the charming illustrations (as was I!) and the appealing subject matter. I now think it would make a better early reader than a read-aloud — we finished it in two sittings — but it was still an enjoyable read. I’m sure she’ll return to on her own when she finally decides that learning to read is worth her time.

Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park. If you’re not familiar with this book series, they’re narrated by a hilarious, precocious and slightly hyperactive kindergartner/first-grader as she experiences such firsts as starting school, losing a tooth, and getting a baby brother. We tried these books about a year ago, and Lydia (then 5) just didn’t get the humour. This year we decided to give them another try and she has been delighted. They’re meant to be read by children themselves, so they’re very quick as a read-aloud — generally only taking about two or three nights — but we got a whole stack from her aunties so we’re going through a bunch of them at bedtime.

Poppy by Avi. This is an exciting (perhaps a little scary and violent) story about a brave mouse who must confront the terrifying owl who rules the woods for the sake of her family. The despotic ruler turns out to be different than she had believed, as well as her family’s lifelong enemy, the porcupine. We both enjoyed the story.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle. This book was a bit mature for a six-year-old (the main protagonist is in high school, for example), but she still found it riveting. It was fun for me to revisit a childhood favourite — perhaps the the first book to get me hooked on science fiction. Kamazotz and IT were still as terrifying as ever.

Movies

thor ragnarok

Thor Ragnarok – I’m an unapologetic Marvel fan and I don’t care what you say about it. However, the earlier Thor movies were by far my least favourite of the franchise. I found them boring and uninspired. But Thor Ragnarok is now my absolute favourite Marvel movie so far! I was stunned by how laugh-out-loud hilarious it was! I was busting a gut in the theater. The dialogue is witty and full of unexpected humour. Visually, it’s unlike any of its predecessors — colourful and exuberant. I loved every minute of it.

I came home from the theater and did some research, and found out why it was so fresh and funny: it was directed by New Zealand director Taika Waititi. He directed such quirky New Zealand comedies as the Flight of the Concords TV series and The Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I’ve been raving about it to all my superhero-averse friends ever since.

Crochet

sly fox hat crochet

I’ve done a fair amount of knitting over the last few months, so I decided to switch to crochet, mostly to keep up my skills. One night when I was up with Felix I started to hook this sly fox hat for Lydia. I’m quite pleased with the finished product! I like how it snugly covers the ears. (Details on Ravelry.)

Next up, I’m working on a textured cactus pillow!

That’s about it! Hope your month was better than mine. What have you enjoyed this month?

P. S. Follow me on Instagram to get more of my complaining, book recommendations, and crafty crafting!

*Linking up with Leigh Kramer, as usual.

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Why I’m Not Writing a Book Right Now

hand writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not ready to process my trauma.

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

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

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

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

This is honestly probably the biggest barrier.

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

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

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

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

But maybe someday.

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