A Teeny, Tiny Update

Black-eyed Pea

I just wanted to let you, my dear friends and readers, know that after nineteen months of waiting, hoping and praying, I have a teeny tiny human growing inside of me — about the size of a black-eyed pea, I’m told. (Well, the internet said blueberry, but I didn’t have any of those.)

I understand that it’s customary to wait until the end of the first trimester to announce a pregnancy, but to be honest I don’t really understand that. I think it has to do with the higher risk of miscarriage within the first trimester; but if I did miscarry I would tell you about that either way.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you now because I can already foresee that it’s likely to get quiet around here over the next few weeks (or months). My bean-sized cargo has already all but flattened me. I have lost all enthusiasm for anything but sleep and Vietnamese pho. (We are fortunate enough to live within walking distance from a little Vietnamese restaurant that makes the best pho of my life. And for the last two days it’s been nearly the only thing I can eat.)

For a season, writing has been bumped down the priority list after survival. And when I have the energy, reading to my two-year-old, who doesn’t understand why I’m always laying on the couch these days.

As most of you know, having another child has been our heart’s desire for quite a long time. I’m only seven weeks along, so it’s still really early and I’m trying not to get ahead of myself too much. I’m still saying “If we have a baby in November . . . ” We’re excited but trying to tread gently.

I want to thank you all so much for your support and prayers. I know many of you have been praying for our family — particularly in regards to another addition — and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We’re both excited and terrified of where this may take us.

Blessings to you and yours.

What I’m Into: March 2014

maple syrupfinished maple syrup

This winter SERIOUSLY WON’T END.

I thought this image was apt:

I think we had approximately two nice days this month, and for all the rest we had to bundle up in snow pants, winter coats, mittens and hats to go outside.(Not that we went outside much. I’m too bitter most of the time so we just stay inside and sulk).

The couple of sunny days we had, however, were great for maple syrup (see photos above). (Every year, we tap our big maple tree out front and boil down the sap to get a couple of quarts of syrup. So far, we’ve gotten maybe seven cups of syrup. It’s hard to keep track because we keep using it up as we get it.)

We went to the beach one Sunday morning to collect stones for a project, and there was so much snow that even though the path to the beach was gated off, the three of us easily walked right over it — the snow pile reached to the top of the gate.

story stones(This is what we used the stones for: story stones. Fun, right?!)

Here’s hoping that April will finally bring that long-awaited sunshine, warmth, and greenery.

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been into.

Books

WomanCode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source – Alisa Vitti

I have mixed feelings about this one.

On the one hand, I really appreciate a lot of the information in this book, especially the bits and pieces that have helped add to my understanding of my fertility issues. I’m always adding pieces to the puzzle, and this book contributed in some interesting ways.

There’s some great advice, and I’m really excited about her idea of syncing our lives with our cycles — i.e. understanding and embracing the phases of our feminine cycles, and working with them to flourish. It sounds beautiful and productive.

I guess I just wasn’t crazy about the whole “Follow my five-step program and your life will be GLORIOUS!!!!” approach. I’ve been inundated with this kind of talk from self-help books for years and it immediately makes me wary.

But if you can look past that, and don’t mind skimming here and there, I think this books has some valuable stuff to say about improving hormonal health and getting in tune with your body to enhance balance and energy.

Children’s Books

After a few rather mediocre library hauls, I finally made a list of book recommendations from people I trust and ended up with a pretty sweet haul of library books for the munchkin.

children's books: Little Pea and Little Hoot
Little Hoot and Little Pea – Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace. These books are adorable in every way. Lydia doesn’t quite get the humor (Little Hoot wants to go to bed but his parents say he has to stay up and play; Little Pea doesn’t want to eat his candy but his parents won’t let him eat his spinach until he’s done); but she still loves them. And I don’t hate re-reading them twelve times a day, so that’s a bonus.

Chilren's books

These books are all better as bedtime stories (as opposed to bathroom/reading nook books), since they’re longer and the illustrations are more detailed, inviting a more lingering gaze.

Make Way for Ducklings – Robert McCloskey — beautiful, classic illustrations; charming story. Lydia loves to shout “Qua-a-ack!” every now and then throughout the day just to catch me off guard.

Blueberries for Sal – Robert McCloskey — I don’t know why I’m so drawn to these classic, black-and-white illustrations. All I can say is this author didn’t win half a dozen Caldecott Medals and Honors for nothing. This cozy story about a toddler and a little bear getting their mothers mixed up on blueberry hill delights my daughter every time.

Stellaluna – Jannell Cannon — absolutely delightful. Stellaluna found her way into my heart upon the very first reading. So I don’t even mind that Lydia has chosen this book as her bedtime story every night for the last week.

Llama Llama Red Pajama- Anna Dewdney — the rhymes in this book are fun to read and easy for little ones to memorize, so everyone can join in. And I chuckle every time we get to the page where Mama Llama leaps from the phone and races to her screaming baby llama — almost losing her pearls on the way — just to find him sitting quietly on his bed. Hilarious.

The Story of Ferdinand -  Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson — Of course this pacifist loves this charming classic tale about the gentle, nonconformist bull who wouldn’t fight in the bullfights. And happily, my daughter loves it too.

Music

We’re going through another Walk Off the Earth phase in our family. I can’t get enough of their upbeat melodies and creative videos. Their music videos on Youtube are all Lydia wants to see.

Our favourite videos include Gang of Rhythm – Car Loop Version (so friggin awesome!!!), Royals, and Material Girl. And we all adore their newest video for Happy (featuring Parachute):

 

Television

Big Bang Theory and Parks and Rec remain staples in our weekly viewing cycle. But I cannot WAIT until it’s warm out and we’re too busy visiting the beach and taking long strolls around the neighbourhood to watch TV.

We’ve also continued to work our way through Freaks and Geeks. I just love Bill so much. I pretty much just watch it for him.

Since we don’t want to watch violent stuff in front of Lydia and since she still only goes to bed when we do, we have to save Firefly for Sunday afternoons during her naps. So it’s very slow-going. So far, it’s not quite the life-changing experience folks have led me to believe it will be, but I’m not giving up yet — we’ve only made it to episode 4 so far. (Does it get significantly better?)

Movies

Shut up. We didn’t see a single movie this month. We still haven’t seen Frozen or Lego Movie, which apparently are the best movies ever. What is wrong with us.

And that was our month in a nutshell. What have you been into? Have you had nicer weather? If so, I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT.

As usual, Linking up with Leigh Kramer!

Disclaimer: Post contains affiliate links.

Homemade Bathtub Paint

Homemade Bathtub Paint Recipe

Friends: I have a majillion post ideas and drafts floating around right now. But illness, temporarily-out-of-service babysitters (read: grandmas) and general busyness have prevented them from getting finished.

I had an hour tonight, so I thought I’d quickly share something awesome I recently discovered: homemade bathtub paint! It’s very easy, cheap, and fun! And you probably already have all the ingredients on hand.

homemade bathtub paint

I found this recipe from The Artful Parent via Pinterest. We gave it a try and loved it (and I took a few mediocre photos to show you. You’re welcome.) It’s not often that Pinterest translates into real life so easily.

Bathtub Paint Recipe:

  • 1/2 Cup of Cornstarch
  • 1/2 Cup of Water
  • 1 Cup of Dish or Hand Soap
  • Dye/food coloring

(I used an unscented, uncoloured dish soap made by Nature Clean. I also used a gel food colouring — you can usually find it at a bulk foods store — which gave it the wonderful bright colour. I also love the stuff for making brilliant homemade play-dough. Regular food colouring would work just fine, though, and apparently tempera paint is an option too.)

Dissolve corn starch into cold water. Gently heat in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Add the dish soap and stir until blended. Remove from heat.

You can then separate your paint into as many different colours as you want and dye each one with the food colouring. Store in an airtight container.

homemade bathtub paint

I decided to try three colours — red, blue, and yellow — and put them into these half-pint wide-mouth mason jars (I love these guys. I use them for everything). I thought the weight of the glass would be helpful for keeping the paints  in place on the edge of the bathtub. I just needed a tiny bit of the gel food colouring to give it that intense hue — maybe 1/8 of a teaspoon of each colour, which was PLENTY.

When it came to bath time, to further secure the paints in place, I cut a rectangle of shelf liner to lay down on the bathtub edge before setting down the jars. They never budged. (Side note: that shelf liner stuff is handy for all kinds of things. You can get a roll from the dollar store — it’s so cheap. I originally bought it for this project.)

bathtub paint

She had to paint everything in sight.

When your munchkin is done, the paint just rinses off. If you let it stay on a while and it dries, you might need to scrub a little, but it will wash right off.

Have you made anything like this? Any other favourite bath-time activities?

What I’m Into: January 2014 (The Sherlock and Toilet Paper Edition)

SHERLOCK SHERLOCK SHERLOCK SHERLOCK.

Yeah I was into other stuff too but SHERLOCK.

That is what I was INTO. January was essentially Sherlock Month in this house.

Sherlock is the BEST THING I’ve EVER WATCHED, you guys.

(Now, that might not be saying much, since I have watched exactly eight TV shows in the last eight years [three of which I abandoned after the second season because they were either too depressing or too sex-obsessed]; but the level of passion I feel for this show exceeds the rest by so much that I’m confident it would be the best if I’d watched 80 TV shows.)

It might also help to know that I have adored the Sherlock Holmes character since I first watched The Great Mouse Detective in 1991 at the age of six. I was so enamored with the eccentric genius that I became a mouse in my imaginary world (named Olivia, naturally) and married him at least a dozen times over the next three years.

So it’s no great surprise that I’m completely taken with this newest incarnation of Doyle’s famous sociopathic sleuth. It helps that the writing is superb, the characters are brilliant and the acting is unexcelled. Altogether, the show is magnificent. Just magnificent.

The final episode of season 2 blew me away last year. Martin Freeman’s performance — first in the therapist’s office and then at the grave — just knocked my socks off. Unforgettable. And that cliffhanger ending! How unbelievably brilliant and cruel! The wait was torture! This was me, for an entire year:

So you can bet I pretty much lost my mind when I discovered I could watch the new episode a few weeks early online. And it did NOT disappoint. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. Freeman and Cumberbatch (aka John and Sherlock) have earned a permanent place together in my heart.

Ben and I re-watched the first two seasons, and then went on to see the rest of season 3. Episode 2 — The Sign of Three — was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve seen in my life.

Our Sherlock-viewing got so out of hand that Lydia started making deductions (Sniffing her half-eaten apple: “Must be an apple, John!”) and re-named her doll and kangaroo Sherlock and John. Confirming that Sherlock is, in fact, a girl’s name. (Folks who have seen His Last Vow will get the reference.)

renamed toysLydia, with Sherlock and John.

I think what I love MOST about this show is the running theme of the value of friendship. This is such an unexplored topic in Western media. It is so rare to see such an in-depth exploration of male friendship. You never hear the word love applied to any non-romantic relationship (outside of family), but especially between two men. This show dares to go there. And when it involved a character who generally fails to care about anyone? ALL THE FEELS.

ANYWAY. I could talk about Sherlock all day (I PRETTY MUCH DO ALREADY) but I’ll move on.

Books

I picked up The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss mostly because I spend so freaking much time in the kitchen, and I was hoping this book might offer some tips on how to cut down on cooking time without sacrificing quality and variety.

It didn’t offer that, but it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. Ferriss is an odd and interesting human being. And I learned a few nifty tips along the way.

I also read the wonderful Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard farming and home skills for self-sufficient living (Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskins), which is inspiring, very comprehensive, and surprisingly funny. Thanks to this book, Ben and I have decided that we are most definitely getting backyard chickens this spring. I’m also very interesting in possibly getting a couple of goats someday — the authors make it sound very doable and totally awesome. I also want to get back into soap-making and try some of their delightful recipes.

Children’s Books

We found this Can You See What I See? book at the thrift store, and we bought it mostly for Ben (he loves that kind of thing), but it’s turned out to be awesome for Lydia, too. (It’s a picture puzzle book, kind of like Where’s Waldo, but with photographs). She just loves to pore over the detailed photos. It’s made for older kids, so she might not be able to find everything in the list on the sidebar; but it’s proven to be a fun book to explore together. We take turns saying, “Can you find the ___?” It’s excellent for building vocabulary, and practicing paying attention to detail. We love it.

Music

Ben got the Bastille album Bad Blood for Christmas, and I can’t believe how much I love it. I listened to it almost every day for the first couple of weeks.

(I don’t know how to talk about music, so I’ll leave it at that.)

In Other News . . .

interview

I’m famous  for not using toilet paper.

If you missed it on my Facebook page, I was interviewed not once, but TWICE this week . . . on the subject of reusable toilet paper.

Out of the blue, I got a tweet from someone from HuffPost Live, wondering if I’d be interested in talking about my experience without toilet paper. Since I’m insane, I agreed.

If you’re interested, you can watch the HuffPost Live interview here.

I wasn’t aware of it, but the next day Salon.com did a feature on that interview. My blog traffic went through the roof and I had no idea why.

Two days later, someone from AM640 called me and asked if I’d like to do a live radio interview for the Jeff McArthur show as well. And I said, Sure, why not? I’ve already crossed so many lines, talking publicly about my private bathroom behaviour.

That radio interview can be found here.

I can honestly say I never expected to become a spokesperson for cloth toilet paper. It’s quite bizarre. Please tell me this isn’t going to be my claim to fame.

So that was my month in a nutshell! Tell me: what have you been into?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer! Go find more music, books, movies and TV shows to enjoy!

*Disclaimer: post contains affiliate links.

Ten Random and Weird Facts About Yours Truly

silly

(This gem of a photo was taken by accident when I asked my husband to take some outfit pictures. Even though it’s totally overexposed and decidedly ridiculous, It ended up kinda being my favourite.)

A zillion years ago, I was tagged in one of those things where you’re supposed to share 10 random facts about yourself on your blog. I was in the midst of a really busy season at the time and didn’t get the chance to write the post. But after that, I kept a running list of things I *would* include in such a list, if ever the opportunity arose again.

Well, I finally just decided to turn that list into a post, just for fun, and forget about the right opportunity.

Here are ten random, weird, pointless, silly facts about Yours Truly.

  • I don’t like coffee. Or tea. Or any other hot beverage, for that matter. I just don’t get it. I don’t need a drug addiction, thanks. And for me, the whole point of drinking a beverage is to cool off your mouth. Why would you put a hot liquid in your mouth? Especially in the morning, when your mouth is the warmest and yuckiest? Like I said: I just don’t get it.
  • I’m left-handed.
  • I’ve never had my ears (or any other part of my body) pierced. For the first twenty years of my life, it was because I wasn’t allowed. (Conservative Mennonites are opposed to all jewelry, but especially that which requires altering the body). And after that — i.e., after I got married and moved out of the house — I just never found a compelling enough reason to do it. Then I would have to buy earrings. Who has time and money for that?
  • In fact, I still don’t really wear jewelry at all. I never got in the habit. I have a couple of 7-year-old $10 necklaces that I bust out for events like weddings. When my ($500) wedding ring broke, I started wearing a plain band of steel that my father-in-law made out of a piece of pipe, which just happened to fit my ring finger perfectly. I have been wearing it for five years now. It’s so much more comfortable!
  • I routinely get mistaken for a man on the phone. I’m totally used to picking up the phone, saying, “Hello?” and hearing, “Hi — Ben?” When I worked in publishing, I got, “Hi — Dan?” Even my own father mistook me for my husband once. And once, after talking to one of Ben’s clients on the phone, the client’s son called and said, “Can I talk to the guy my dad was just talking to?”
  • I have all my wisdom teeth. At first, I kept them because I didn’t have dental coverage and couldn’t afford to get them pulled. And then I discovered that they were just fine just the way they were. And, well, we still don’t have coverage. Besides: why fix something that ain’t broke? When I developed cavities in a few of them, I just got them filled.
  • My most embarrassing moment: I once announced to an entire 500+ congregation that a woman was dead. She wasn’t. (Background story: I used to act as “host” at our church’s Sunday morning services, welcoming people and doing announcements, offering an opening prayer, etc. One Sunday before the service, a bunch of people came to me at once and gave me a bunch of last-minute details on a few new announcements. In all the commotion, someone told me something about an elderly woman in the congregation, and I got the details a little wrong.  After my announcement, the pastor had to come up and assure the congregation, “Mrs. Reimer did not DIE. She broke her HIP.” Needless to say, I resigned from my post shortly thereafter.)
  • I didn’t see a movie in theater until I was 13. Again, I wasn’t allowed before then. My first movie was How the Grinch Stole Christmas (The Jim Carrey version). The theater was packed, and we had to sit right up in the front row with our necks craned up. I was underwhelmed by the experience.
  • I write in a journal (by hand) every single night. I have been doing this since 1996 (at age 11), though I started writing periodically in 1992 (at age 7). I have 24 full journals. My very first entry reads, “J and D [my cousins] came over and we collered. And then we played tachtag and got swety.” (March 8, 1992). I use the word “swety” no fewer than four times in the first four entries.
  • I started working to help support the family when I was 11. My family picked green beans for some extra income that summer. I continued to do manual labour jobs every summer from then on. (When we talk about working “on the field” in our family, we mean working on a literal field. With plants growing on it.) 75% of our earnings went to the family; the other 25%, we kids could keep to spend on clothes, eating out with our friends, etc. In addition to beans, we picked tomatoes, peppers, and apples, and we detasseled corn. When I was 13 I packed tomatoes and cucumbers, and throughout high school and university I picked mushrooms at a mushroom farm on weekends and during the summer. I got my first non-manual-labour job when I was 20, when I worked as a research assistant for a professor. To say that I have had enough of working with produce would be an understatement.

Aren’t you glad you know these things about me? If you have a blog, I would be tickled if you made a similar list and shared it. If not: feel free to tell me one weird thing about yourself that I probably don’t know.

What I’m Into: December 2013

Advent wreath

snow angels

snow man

shoveling snow

December was a mixed bag for me.

On the one hand, there were sunny snow days spent outside, and time with friends and family. Moments of heaven.

On the other, I spent a lot of time feeling intensely depressed about our inability to grow our family. I had really been hoping to be pregnant by the end of the year. (Well, I had really been hoping to be pregnant by August; but I was hoping at the very least by the end of the year.) I got confirmation on Christmas morning that I wasn’t pregnant (and probably won’t be any time soon), and spent the day grieving the absence of the child who was never to be.

Merry and bright and all that jazz.

2014 is going to be a tough year for me. Six of my close friends are pregnant and will be having babies in the time I’d been hoping to be welcoming our own little addition. This number could grow at a moment’s notice — I have the world’s most fertile group of friends, and am bracing myself for a 100% pregnancy rate by the end of the year (myself excluded).  I’ll be attending baby showers and bringing meals to new mamas all spring. Everybody on Facebook, Instagram, and my blog reader is pregnant. EVERYBODY. (Not joking: I took a Facebook break while writing this post and saw ANOTHER new pregnancy announcement. This has become an almost daily occurrence.)

Infertility is such a lonely experience.

I’m trying to focus on my blessings. I’ve got such a fabulous little family. I love them to death. We’ll make lots of memories together, just the three of us.

And you know, Jesus and all that.

Here are some of the little things I’ve been enjoying.

Books

Not much time for reading this month.

I did pick up The Complete Tightwad Gazette (Amy Dacyczyn) from the library. At first it annoyed me that there’s no organizing principle and not even a table of contents — you have to read the whole thing, front to back, in the hopes of finding something useful. But then I figured it’s kind of like Pinterest, but with everything devoted to frugality — you can casually scroll through and see if anything strikes your fancy.

I noticed that pretty much everything the author suggests, my Mom already does. Turns out “tightwad” and “Mennonite” are fairly synonymous. I didn’t realize what a great education in thriftyness I got  growing up.

Children’s Books

Everyone Poops

Everyone Poops (Taro Gomi) – I picked up this classic from a thrift store for a dollar. Totally worth it. Every family member finds it amusing. And it’s a biology lesson!

My only complaint is that only male humans are featured, suggesting that everyone except girls poops.

Chloe (Peter McCarty) – I love everything about this book from the library. The illustrations are quirky and absolutely gorgeous. I totally endorse the moral of the story (using your imagination is more fun than watching TV). I love the extensive list of the family’s favourite foods (six kinds of vegetables, plus noodles. Why, in most kids’ books, do children always hate greens? Why do we need to keep telling kids that vegetables are gross?). And I love that all the siblings share a bed in the final scene — it’s so cozy and sweet.

Chloe - Peter McCarty

Music

You have to have seen the Pentatonix Little Drummer Boy video on Facebook. I think at least two dozen of my friends shared it. And for good reason: it’s breathtaking.

So we purchased the album (PTXmas) and pretty much listened to it every day of Advent. All the songs are great, although Little Drummer Boy and Carol of the Bells are by far my favourite. It’s earned a permanent spot on our Christmas rotation (which says a lot — I’m hard to impress when it comes to Christmas music).

Movies

Wizard of Oz — Continuing the Classic Movie Night tradition we started last month, we chose this one because Lydia adores the Over the Rainbow scene. This turned out to be the only scene worth watching. I give the movie a solid “Meh.” I now see why people describe it as creepy and weird. A least now I’ll get the pop culture references: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and you’re little dog, too!”

Sound of Music — this one was a winner. We all loved it. I can’t believe I always assumed it was boring! Okay, maybe some parts were boring. But it was mostly charming, and the final scenes with the Nazis were really intense! Lydia asks to watch “Doe a Deer” several times a day, and is memorizing all the songs.

Catching Fire — This. Movie. WOW.

A rare visit to the theatre for us, this one was very hard to watch. I trembled and/or cried through the entire thing. I feel like I’m watching a true story, because in a way, I am. It’s the human story, which has played out again and again and is still happening. (I’m just glad I didn’t read the book, because I don’t think I could have endured that intensity of emotion over several days.)

Despite how hard it was to watch, I thought it was absolutely stunning. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing. Incredible story-telling. So much TRUTH.

Warm Bodies — we rented this when Ben was sick and my mom took Lydia. Thumbs up. There are some swears and a few really gruesome scenes, but it’s delightfully unique and surprisingly funny. Just don’t think too hard because a lot of it doesn’t make much sense.

How about you? What have you been into?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Meaning if you click through and buy something, I get a tiny commission. Thanks for supporting Becoming Peculiar!

Pausing for Advent

gold christmas tree(Yup, our Christmas tree is gold. Cuz we’re super-classy.)

Hello, dear friends,

I’m just writing to let you know that things will probably be a little quiet around here for the remainder of the Advent season.

I would love to say it’s because I’m in the midst of some deeply spiritual practices and things, but honestly it has more to do with practical limitations and a busy schedule. My Mom hasn’t been able to watch Lydia the last couple of weeks, which hasn’t allowed me much time to reflect and write. I’m hosting a few Christmas gatherings with friends. Things like that.

This last week I had to spend an entire day just Being Sad about the absence of a second child in our family. Being Sad is exhausting, you guys. I could hardly do anything else all day.

Then on Wednesday my blog imploded. I dunno, it had something to do with a theme failure and an encounter with the White Screen of Death. I spent most of today (Thursday) talking to tech support people, trying frantically to explain what was wrong. I was doing the writerly equivalent of making wild hand gestures until someone made sense of what I was saying and went in and fixed it. Thank God for computer nerds. (And I mean that as a genuine compliment to people who are good with computers.)

Now I really, really don’t want to look at another computer screen for the rest of the week.

But life with my family is lovely, and I have wonderful friends and am in good health. I just need to take a little break from the Internet for a space.

You’re probably busy with holiday festivities as well, anyway.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

What I’m Into: November 2013

lydia in trees

feet in leaves(*Sigh.* I can’t believe this was only three weeks ago. Now it’s all hats, mittens, scarves, boots, and pre-warming the car.)

Well, I’m about ready for winter to be over. I’ve had enough cold for one year, thanks. This sucks.

Oh? We have to do this for another three months?

Frig.

At least we are entering an absolutely wonderful phase with Lydia. Two years old is a blast, you guys. I’m not even joking. Sure, there are still half-hour crying spells because I didn’t wrap the baby in the blanket right (“You do it WROOOOOONG!”), but all in all, I’m really enjoying this age. Everything that comes out of her mouth is hilarious, and she’s learning to play independently for long stretches of time while I go about my business. It’s really nice. Taking her into stores is no longer a circus show; she can put on her own socks and shoes; and did I mention she’s hilarious?

(Ben: Lydia, do you want to eat some breakfast?

Lydia: No thank you. I’m busy picking my nose.)

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been into.

Books

I read Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (McKinley, Seay, Holder), but honestly, I think I got just as much out of watching this 2-minute video on Youtube. (It’s definitely worth a watch, if you’ve never seen it. Absolutely brilliant and inspiring.)

I tried The Phantom Tollbooth (Juster), because I love YA fiction and someone recommended it, but just couldn’t get into it. Too much like Alice in Wonderland. I don’t get much pleasure out of riddles and wordplay. Please don’t take away my literature degrees. They were a lot of work.

But my Big Awesome Read of the Month was Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B Rosenberg. (I actually read an older edition, where the subtitle is “A Language of Compassion,” but want to purchase this new one.)

I believe this book is essential reading for anyone who is committed to peacemaking and radical nonviolence. Heck, I’d say its essential reading for anyone who wants a better world than the one we have now. I wholeheartedly believe that if everyone used the principles in this book, we could make the world a more peaceful place.

I have long believed that nonviolence encompasses much more than not killing people. You can be violent with your words, body language, gestures . . . even your attitude. I have even witnessed as well-meaning folks, who are also committed to peace, conveyed their messages of love with rudeness and condescension. I KNOW I have been guilty of this myself. We need to be peaceful with every fiber of our being if we want to see change. And the most important tool, Rosenberg suggests, is empathy.

Rosenberg offers the tools to communicate empathically and peacefully, which can help defuse conflict and make space for connection.

Communicating in the way he suggests is hard. It takes effort and practice and piles of self-discipline. Sometimes I just wanna say what’s on my mind without thinking it through. But it is soooo worth it. I need to practice this every day. Read this book and find the means to foster greater peace within yourself and within relationships — whether that’s with your family, your coworkers, or your neighbours.

(Random observation: I just noticed that a LOT of my favourite reads over the last year were written by Jewish authors. Sharon Astyk; Jenny Rosenstrach; and now, Marshall Rosenberg. I feel like there were others I’m forgetting. Interesting.)

Children’s Books

We’ve been through a bunch of new books this month, thanks to multiple trips to the library.

I discovered that I’m not a fan of Curious George. The original books, written by H. A. Rey (their original author), have some content I find ideologically problematic. And the new ones, written by Lord-knows-who (seriously: they don’t even list an author anywhere in the book, not even the copyright page) are so twaddly they make me squeamish. There might be some good ones out there, but so far I haven’t been impressed.

But one excellent book that stood out this month is Wilfred to the Rescue (Stories from Brambly Hedge) by Alan McDonald (illustrated by Lizzie Sanders).

wilfred to the rescue (MacDonald & Sanders)It’s inspired by the Brambly Hedge stories of Jill Barklam  from the 1980s. This particular story follows three rodent families after a flood destroys the Vole family’s home. While the kids are playing outside, the youngest one goes missing, and the older three have to find her.

It’s charming and quaint, and the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. Little Sissy Vole is utterly adorable, I can’t get enough of her. I love their old-timey dialect (“Mind you look after Sissy!”) and the overall cozy feel of the book.

Oh, and Lydia loves it, too. I guess that’s important.

We also enjoyed Alice The Fairy (available as an audio book — score!) by David Shannon. Alice is such an amusing (and clever!) character, the story is delightful, and Shannon’s artistic style is unique and appealing.

Movies

Thanks to the cold weather (and Lydia being a bit older), we’ve been watching a lot more movies lately. Since she still doesn’t go to bed any earlier than 10:30, whatever we watch, she has to watch, too. So we have to be selective.

We watched The Croods because my mom bought it. It  was good. Funny, heartwarming, and visually stunning; but not especially original or touching. Also not ideal fare for toddlers (ACTION! ACTION! LIGHTS! COLOURS! FLASHING!). In fact, there were so many instances of characters falling/swooping/flying that the only thing Lydia took away from it was, “I want to fly away, just like the Tiger Mom!” (The lead character is wearing tiger-striped clothes. It makes sense in her mind.)

We randomly watched Teen Wolf one night (the 1985 film starring Michael J. Fox — I’d never seen it), which was fun but also mostly ridiculous. The last half with the dagdum basketball game just DRAAAAAGGED.

Our best movie choice was Singin’ in the Rain (1952). None of us had ever seen it, except for a few tap-dancing clips that I showed Lydia on YouTube (and that she adored.) To our surprise, we all enjoyed it. And I had no major qualms with my two-year-old watching it with us — the way they filmed movies back then is a lot less manic and overstimulating. Ben and I decided that we’d make Classic Movie Night a more regular occurrence in our house.

In The Kitchen

Pumpkins!

I finally took our decorative pumpkins (pictured in this post) inside, took out the seeds (to dry and plant next year — I want more!), and roasted and pureed the flesh. I’ve been making all kinds of delicious pumpkin food: from bacon, mushroom and pumpkin risotto to this scrumptious chocolate chip pumpkin bread. (The author highlights that this recipe is low in sugar. I reduced the white sugar by an additional half a cup AND used plain yogurt instead of vanilla, and it’s still plenty sweet.)

That’s what I’ve been into. How about you? Any other classic movies to recommend?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer. This marks one year of What I’m Into. Crazy!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Meaning if you click and buy something, I get a tiny commission. Thanks for supporting Becoming Peculiar!

Remembering C.S. Lewis, On the 50th Anniversary of His Death

C. S. Lewis' grave(Visiting Lewis’ grave. Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, Oxford. 2008)

For most of my young adulthood, my bedtime prayers always began thus:

Thank you God for my wonderful husband, a loving family, great friends, and C. S. Lewis.

To this day, Lewis has had more influence on my spiritual life than any other person. Without question, he’s the most influential person I’ve never met. (In fact, he was dead before my parents were even born.)

When I struggle with doubts about God’s goodness or even his existence, Lewis is among the first people I turn to. In fact, the argument that usually wins me back over is, “But Lewis believed in Him. He has to be real . . . and good.”

I can’t explain my deep, enduring attachment to this dead Irish Oxford don.

I once noted in my journal that any time I seemed to have a visionary moment — to connect with the Divine on some level — Lewis invariably appeared in those visions somehow. He wasn’t the source, but was always somehow present, sort of like a guardian spirit or genius. I wondered whether it were possible for humans to be related on a spiritual level — to have kinship ties to other souls, kind of like how earthly brothers and sisters share DNA . . . except their connection isn’t biological. I wondered whether, in the next life, Lewis would recognize me as his sister the way I seemed to recognize him as a spiritual brother. We just seemed to understand each other, like we’d come from the same place somehow — we intuitively understood the same language. I hoped he would.

I was first introduced to Lewis when I was in the fifth grade, when our class read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I was completely taken with Narnia, and excitedly sought out the rest of the chronicles from the school library. I remember discovering all seven hard-cover books in a row on the shelf and the ensuing exhilaration. I was completely unaware of the religious themes in the stories — I was just smitten with the land and the characters.

I began reading his other work when I was in university — at a time when I really needed spiritual support. After being blown away by The Great Divorce, I began reading everything else I could get my hands on — from Mere Christianity to the Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces, and even his letters. My soul feasted upon his stunning imagery, quick wit, and breathtaking wisdom.

bookshelf(My C. S. Lewis shelf)

Everything Lewis wrote heaves with life. I have never encountered anything like it. It doesn’t matter the genre — fantasy novel, essay, sermon, lecture; for me, every word sparkles with freshness.

When I was in England for an academic conference several years ago, I made sure we spent a couple of days in Oxford to visit Magdalen College (where he was a fellow for thirty years), and to walk down Addison’s Walk, where Tolkein and Dyson talked to him about Christianity before his conversion.

New Building, Magdalen CollegeThe New Building, Magdalen College, Oxford

Addisons Walk, Magdalen CollegeAddison’s Walk, Magdalen College, Oxford

We toured his home, The Kilns; we walked the grounds of his church; and saw his grave, where I surprised myself by bursting into tears. The Holy Spirit resided in this body, I thought. I felt it more palpably there, standing over the place where his body lay, than I ever had with anyone else.

kilnsThe Kilns. Headington Quarry, Oxford

Holy Trinity Church, OxfordHoly Trinity Church. Headington Quarry, Oxford

While in London, we visited Westminster Abbey, lingering at Poet’s Corner, where so many of my heroes are buried or commemorated. I distinctly remember thinking, Lewis belongs here. He made an enormous contribution to English literature with his Narnia stories — he ought to be remembered amongst other literary giants like Wordsworth and Dickens.

I never thought I’d actually see the day when Lewis would be officially recognized at Westminster Abbey, but it has come. Today, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Westminster Abbey will be unveiling a memorial stone to Lewis in Poets’ Corner – joining the likes of Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot and Chaucer as writers buried or commemorated there.

Of course, I won’t be anywhere near the memorial service while it happens, and it’s even doubtful I’ll ever see the memorial stone in my lifetime. But my heart is glad that this beloved writer, thinker, and apologist is getting recognition for his incredible contributions to English literature.

I confess I haven’t read him much in the last couple of years. By now I’ve read all of his well-known works and much of his lesser-known stuff, as well as numerous biographies and books about his writing. (I read Alister McGrath’s brand-new biography, C. S. Lewis: A Life, earlier this year. It was wonderful.) I haven’t given him as much attention in the last few years as I have in earlier eras of my life.

But my affection hasn’t wavered. His books are old friends I haven’t visited in a while, but I know I’ll visit them again.

And I still thank God for the opportunity to have witnessed such beauty.

* * *

Read more about Lewis’ popularity 50 years after his death: C. S. Lewis, 50 Years On by Greg Garrett (Huffington Post)

“It is, literally, the year of C. S. Lewis. Fifty years since his death, on Nov. 22, 1963 — yes, he died the same day as Kennedy and Aldous Huxley — he is more influential than ever.”

Any other Lewis fans out there? What’s your favourite book? Please share!

(Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. Which means if you click on them and buy something, I get a tiny commission. Thanks for supporting Becoming Peculiar!)

What I’m Into: October 2013

pinecones

grapes

garden produce

Ahhh, October. This month was a billion kajillion times better than last month.

Lydia’s sleep has been consistently beautiful since we night-weaned her at the beginning of the month. I can’t say whether night-weaning caused her to sleep better, but I’m sure there’s a correlation between the two. Anyway, she’s actually been sleeping in her own room for the last two weeks, and the transition was completely natural and stress-free. She usually joins us in our bed in the early morning to sleep for an hour or two, and those cuddles are just precious.

Thank you, Jesus, for restful nights.

We had our annual hog-harvest earlier this month, and I’m still dragging piles of produce home from my parents’ garden every time I stop by there. Lydia and I have had some lovely autumn walks, picking wild grapes along the old railroad track by our house. So it’s been good.

And here’s what I’ve been into:

Books

First of all, I had the great pleasure of editing a friend’s book for publication. My good friend Susie Boldt wrote a page-turner of a YA paranormal novel, entitled Meet Me at the Killing Tree, which she is preparing for self-publication. Not only was the story thrilling and the plot compelling, but I was reminded how very much I enjoy copy-editing. (I LOVE taking an early draft of someone else’s work and combing through it for typos and punctuation errors, making it spotless. I really need to get into that line of work, I think.)

Otherwise, it was mostly parenting books. I promise that after this month I will move on to a wider range of topics.

I mentioned this book in my night-weaning post, but I had to highlight it again. This book was instrumental in helping Lydia sleep better. It’s a lovely book, full of wonderful, gentle ideas to help everyone get some rest.

I want to point out that the title is somewhat misleading: it doesn’t offer a single solution for sleep problems. Instead, it offers a grand selection of solutions, tips, and ideas for improving sleep. That’s one of the things I loved about this book.

Moreover, Pantley is warm and understanding and full of experience, so I found her so encouraging and instantly trustworthy.

I’ve been a fan of Dr. Markham and her Aha! Parenting website for a while, so I just had to check out her new book when I spotted it at our library. It totally lived up to my high expectations.

I don’t know Markham’s religious background, but her teachings are just SO JESUS. Her main lessons? Always choose love. Work on yourself before trying to work on your child. Recognize that you are part of the problem. And my favourite: You can make the world a better place by learning to regulate yourself — by cultivating patience, kindness, compassion, etc. Doesn’t that sound like our Lord?

This book is intensely practical. While Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting first opened my eyes to the idea non-punitive parenting, Markham helps you put that into practice by offering tips and game plans. (Lots of bullet-point lists. That may or may not be your thing.) Definitely a book for my personal library.

Children’s Books

audio book

You guys: AUDIO BOOKS!! They’re the answer to everything!!

I wrote last month about raising a low-media toddler. We still aren’t doing TV or movies for Lydia, but found a fantastic compromise when I decided to try some book-and-CD combos from the library. BIG HIT!! I can still get some of that precious alone time here and there that TV offers without the troubling impact of screens on such a young, developing brain.

In the above photo she’s enjoying Bear Snores On (Karma Wilson), which is a charming story with beautiful illustrations and fabulously lyrical words. Lydia can recite the entire thing by heart. Love it.

She has also really enjoyed Curious George Takes a Job (H. A. Rey), which is cute and fun and a whole 15 minutes long. The only problem is that Lydia gets really upset and cries out every time they get to the part where George breaks his leg (Oh 1950s children’s lit). She gets over it though.

Movies

We spontaneously decided to re-watch Beauty and the Beast as a family one night. What a FABULOUS MOVIE. Such a moving story. The characters, the music. GASTON. (“I’m especially good at expectorating…”). So much to love. Just goes to show that you don’t need fancy technology and special effects to tell a memorable story. Twenty-one years later, this is still one of the loveliest movies ever.

We also rented Oblivion (yes, on DVD, from a movie-rental store) one evening when my mom offered to take Lydia. Interesting premise, lots of surprises, nifty plot twists, impressive special effects. But it still felt kind of hollow and I felt mostly sad at the end. I don’t think I was supposed to.

TV

Still enjoying Parks and Rec.

And I don’t know what it is, but we’re finding this season of Big Bang Theory to be one of the funniest yet. Every episode is full of laughs. I just LOVE Stuart and get excited every time he gets included in a scene. Anyone else with me?

In the Kitchen

kombucha

So I went a little overboard making kombucha. I just love the stuff so much and I was eager to try so many different flavours. I’ve now figured out that about 1 1/2 gallons a week is plenty (not three), and my favourite flavour is raspberry-ginger. (I’m hoping to write a post on how I make kombucha, BTW).

Also: these:

jalepeno poppers

My parents’ garden still has piles of jalepenos on the plants, so I took the opportunity to make jalapeno poppers: just halve and seed; fill with cream cheese; top with crispy bacon; and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Holy yum.

I’ve also been making lots of this roasted eggplant spread with the last of the eggplants from the garden. So simple and absolutely delicious. We use it on toasty baguette slices.

Thanks for listening! What have YOU been into this month?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Meaning if you click through and buy something, you help support this site!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...