What I’m Into: Spring 2017

blossoms edited

climber edited

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

passionflower watercolour(Still obsessed with watercolours.)

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

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

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

Audiobooks

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

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

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

Children’s Read-Aloud Chapter Books

spiderwick

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

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

Children’s Picture Booksharry potter book

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

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

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

spring books 1

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

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

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

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

spring picture books 2

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

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

Movies and Television

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

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

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What I’m Into: March 2017

March continued to involve very little sleep, but at least I watched some quality movies in those midnight hours (when the toddler wasn’t screaming.) (I instagrammed them, by the way. P.S. you should follow me there!)

pride and prejudice bbc

We went on a mini-vacation to Michigan to visit a museum and do some shopping, and most of all, to get some sleep. (Felix stayed with grandparents, God bless them.) It was very refreshing.

museum

snow

It wasn’t exactly the two-week Florida trip we’d originally been planning, but it was something.

Well, here’s what I’ve been into!

Audiobooks

audiobooks

A Man Called OveFrederik Backman. A completely heartwarming story from a Swedish blogger. Ove may be the most endearing grumpy old man you’ve ever met. You will fall in love with every single character. I cried both sad and happy tears. The writing is vibrant and lovely. I already think it might be one of the best books I read in 2017. (And the narrator is great.)

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern. A delight for those who love magical stories. Two young magicians are forced into a lifelong duel of magic they don’t fully understand, and the setting for the competition is a mysterious traveling circus. And what happens when the opponents, who must battle to the death, fall in love with one another? The descriptions of the magical circus are breathtaking and riveting. The audiobook is read by the talented Jim Dale, famous for his narration of the Harry Potter series.

KultiMariana Zapata. I listened to the audiobook after Leigh Kramer’s glowing recommendation. I enjoy the occasional romance story! It was kind of fun to try a subject matter I don’t usually go for — it follows the story of a female soccer player, whose childhood idol becomes her coach. Turns out, I’m more old-fashioned than I thought, because the explicit sex scene at the end completely ruined it for me. I swear I grimaced through the whole ten-minute scene. I might have even said, “EWWWWWWWWWWW” out loud, more than once. This from a happily married woman of almost twelve years.

Children’s Picture Books

picture books about art

This month I decided to focus on books about art. (I got most of my ideas from this list.)

Ish – Peter H. Reynolds. Ramon’s older brother makes fun of his drawing, so Ramon gives up drawing . . . until his little sister helps him see the beauty in a drawing of a vase that’s “vase-ish.” A sweet story about the beauty of the artistic process.

The Dot – Peter H. Reynolds. About a little girls who thinks she can’t draw until her teacher encourages her to draw a dot. Her creativity is ignited and we learn that anyone can be an artist.

Art & Max – David Wiesner. This one is a feast for the eyes and a ton of fun. Things go awry when Max has his own take on what it means to “paint his friend.”

Frederick – Leo Lionni. Frederick the mouse teaches us the real value of art.

Children’s Read-Aloud Chapter Books

oz

The Wizard of Oz – Frank L Baum. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU REMEMBER FROM THE CREEPY MOVIE. If you have any negative preconceived ideas about this book based on the film, let me assure you it is nothing like it. (I repeat: Oz is NOT a shudder-inducing hellscape populated by overacting old men in costumes and little people in bad wigs.) Get this edition with the gorgeous cover art to help you get a fresh perspective. I’m so glad I gave this book a try despite my misgivings. It is completely charming. Lydia is loving it. The characters are lovable and the story is exciting. (However, it does contain some bloodless violence. The Tin Woodman is handy with his axe.)

Movies

Beauty and the Beast. I took Lydia to the theaters to see the new live-action remake. LOVED IT. It was visually stunning and everything my grown-up six-year-old heart would have wished.

Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC version). Can you believe I had NEVER EVER seen this version of P&P? I borrowed it from our library and watched it in segments during Felix’s middle-of-the-night wakings. I thought it might be boring (Five hours of idle upper-class Brits standing around and talking!) but I found it utterly delightful. Heart-eyes for young Colin Firth! You have to seriously suspend your belief to imagine that Jane is the town beauty, though. (P.S. I still like the 2005 Kiera Knighty version the best, SUE ME.)

Pete’s Dragon – saw this with the famjam. It was enjoyable for everyone. Heartwarming, good music, impressive visuals.

What have you been into?

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What I’m Into: February 2017

crying CollageMy life right now

Remember when Felix used to wake up to play for two hours every night?

Yeah. We now refer to those as “the good old day.” His wake-up time can now be anytime between 11:30pm and 5am. The duration is typically three to four hours. He plays, drinks anywhere from one-half to three bottles, and throws a couple of tantrums. Every night.

I’M NOT COMPLAINING, YOU’RE COMPLAINING.

All right, so I’m also just a little grumpy because we were supposed to go to Florida for two weeks and then that fell through. So we planned a mini-vacation to Detroit and then that also fell through. We’ve hardly left our home to go anywhere but the hospital in the last three years but THAT’S OKAY, EVERYTHING IS FINE, I’M NOT COMPLAINING, I’M A SELF-ACTUALIZED HUMAN ADULT AND I MEDITATE AND I HAVE A FRIEND IN JESUS.

And if I reflect back, there were plenty of good things that happened on February. Like the following:

syrupTapping the maple tree to collect sap…

syrup boilingBoiling it down into syrup…

muddy walkA few days warm enough (IN FEBRUARY!) to walk barefoot . . .

forest schoolGoing to the forest school drop-in . . .

libraryAnd our local library finally opening after an eight-month strike!!!

Anyway, none of this is what you came here for! You would like my book and movie recommendations for the month! Right? So here’s what I’ve been into!

Books

Movement Matters – Katy Bowman. You guys probably know by now I’m a huge fan of Katy Bowman. I’m a devoted podcast listener and I’ve gushed about her other books. Movement Matters is paradigm-shifting collection of essays exploring the consequences of our sedentary culture. She puts forward the daring idea that we could improve our health, the environment, and our communities if we would just move more. It will probably take me years to make any kind of progress in this area because it’s just so counter-cultural, but I definitely want to move in that direction.

Audiobooks

I’m just gonna say once again that I THANK GOD for audiobooks and Overdrive. I’m going on year five of no sleep (on account of children who don’t know what nighttime is for), and these technologies have allowed me consume WAAAY more books than I’d ever be able to read with my eyeballs in this season of life. I listen while I cook dinner, scrub the bathtub, and sweep the floors. It’s amazing.

(These books would all be equally great in text form; I just happened to receive them as audiobooks.)

Bossypants – Tina Fey. This lady makes me laugh out loud. She is brilliant and delightfully self-deprecating. I always enjoy hearing the story of how folks like her get where they are. And hearing about how she became Sarah Palin’s double was a treat.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson. Another woman who can make me laugh until I cry. This is The Bloggess’ second memoir. Her discussion of mental illness is both needed and weirdly hysterical. She is a strange, strange, wonderful human being. (Major language warning. I’ve never hard anyone use the word vagina as much as Lawson does.)

Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye. A complete delight. If you’re a fan of Jane Eyre, I think you’ll get a kick out of this novel. It follows a young Victorian orphan girl who, like Jane Eyre, goes to an awful boarding school and later becomes a governess. She’s clever and brave and self-aware. And also? A murderer. With a heart of gold, of course. (She only kills horrible men.) From the start she’s aware of her similarities with the famous fictional heroine. I promise, it’s better than it sounds. It reads like an authentically 19th-century novel and all of the characters are stunningly three-dimensional.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell. I listened to this one just to see what the fuss was about. It was cute, and it’s clear that Rowell has a vivid memory of what it feels to be like a teenager. She conveyed all those feelings of first love fabulously. I enjoy a good romance every so often but I only thought this one was okay. (Don’t hate me, Rowell fans.) (Again, lots of salty language.)

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari. I checked this one out mostly because I’m a Parks and Recreation fan (He’s the actor who played Tom Haverford). This book completely surprised me: it’s more of a sociological study on romance in today’s technological world than a humour book. He wrote it with an actual sociologist, and they conducted actual research projects, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups all over the world. It was insightful and informative and surprisingly hilarious. I think hearing Ansari read it himself was a huge bonus. He’s got a unique way of expressing things and made comical asides to us lazy audiobook listeners. (Warning: very explicit language.)

Television

DRAGONS: RACE TO THE EDGE HAS A NEW SEASON ON NETFLIX!!! Okay, ostensibly this is Lydia’s show. She is obsessed with it. But I finally gave up all pretenses of just “overhearing” the episodes she was watching and started to sit down to watch with her. SO SO GOOD. I laugh out loud multiple times during every episode. I find the twins genuinely funny and I have a soft spot for villain-turned-good-guy Dagur. Hiccup and Astrid (“Hicstrid”) are ADORABLE. I love that the main character has a disability. I love that all the nonverbal dragons have distinct personalities. And I still haven’t gotten tired of the whole Vikings-riding-dragons conceit. It’s the best. Warning: this is definitely a show written for older kids. There is a surprising amount of violence (of the face-punching kind) if that kind of thing bothers you. (I don’t mind, despite the fact that I’m a pacifist.) Lydia’s four-year-old cousin found it so scary she cried. And this season finally introduces a romantic subplot that I LOVED but Lydia HATED. (She covers her eyes and yells every time they kiss.)

Movies

Arrival. Oh my goodness. If you enjoy a good ugly cry, this movie is for you. (I personally DO NOT. I started bawling five minutes in. I cannot handle stories that center around the loss of a child.) I can’t deny that it was stunning and surprising and original. Brilliant sci-fi storytelling at its best. But oh, my poor heart.

That’s it for now! What have you been into?

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What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Here in the northern hemisphere, we’re at the halfway point of the suckiest season: WINTER. It’s cold, it’s gray, and going outside requires fifteen minutes of prep.

I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy to talk about the things that are saving our lives right now. These are the things helping me get through the season of blah.

My Diffuser

diffuser and essential oils

When I’m feeling gloomy, running a few drops of essential oil in my diffuser helps pick me up. DoTerra’s Elevation is always a solid choice for the blahs. Other times I drop in some wintergreen+grapefruit (smells like bubblegum!), or rosemary+lemongrass+clove (surprisingly energizing). Or any number of oils, really, depending on my needs. I mean, look at that ridiculous collection I have to choose from.

(And I know! Look at that incredible essential oils and diffuser holder my husband made! Isn’t he amazing?)

(P.S., though I’m not a die-hard fan of DoTerra in general, I have to say their diffuser is fantastic. I’ve smelled the work of other, cheaper diffusers at other people’s houses, and so far, none throw their scent as far as this one.)

Iced Coffee

iced coffee

Yes, iced coffee, even in winter. (I just don’t care for warm beverages. But I like that caffeine kick in the afternoon after a sleepless night with the Boy.)

I used to think I only like cold-brew iced coffee, but recently Ben started making extra coffee in his fancy-ass coffee maker with his fancy-ass (fresh-roasted, fresh-ground organic) beans, and putting it in the fridge for me. It’s just as good. I add a ton of raw cream and two tablespoons of maple syrup and ooh-la-la. Liquid cheer.

Charles Trenet

Okay, this a weird one, I know. Charles Trenet is a French jazz singer from the 1930’s-1950’s, which is not my typical style. But we recently saw the movie The Little Prince (which is spectacular, by the way), and I was all like, I want to listen to what that old man is listening to. So I did some googling and discovered Charles Trenet.

Listening to him makes me feel like I’m strolling through Parisian flower gardens in spring. Try it! (And I don’t mean sit down and listen to the album, but play it in the background while you work. It might put a little bounce in your step. Or however the saying goes.)

Grandparents Who Babysit

Parenting is exhausting at the best of times. Parenting a special-needs kid night and day — while trying to homeschool the other — can be enough to crush your spirit. Thankfully, I have two sets of grandparents living nearby who can watch the kids for a day every so often. It is so refreshing to spend some time just being a woman. With interests and hobbies and a personality.

Knitting

knitting

Every so often, it feels good to make something. Just for fun. I love having a knitting project on the go that I can just pick up and work on for a few minutes here and there.

Right now I’m working on a simple lap blanket made from chunky wool I “inherited” from a friend’s grandmother. I love using big needles and yarn because it knits up so quickly and I feel like I’m making progress. Plus I thought it would add some “hygge” to my home. (Check it out on Ravelry.)

Book Club

I recently re-joined the Book Club I helped found in 2009, and man, does it feel good to sit down with other nerds and talk about books. Technically, we are currently discussing Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (one of my favourite reads of 2016), but we always end up being side-tracked with talk of our favourite fantasy and sci-fi novels, which we’ve all read. It’s the best.

How about you? What’s saving your life right now?

What I’m Into: Winter 2016/2017

Ugh, you guys. I know. I’ve been a horrible blogger. I don’t have any excuses, except that it’s 80% this guy’s fault.

felix(Sorry about the crappy picture — I’m working from a laptop in a hotel room without my camera.)

He has decided recently that daytime and nighttime are basically interchangeable. Each day is made up of a period of light and a period of darkness and sleep has nothing to do with either.  So if you have any complaints about the way I am conducting my life, take it up with him. My body still hasn’t adjusted to his routine after two years.

Anyway, I thought it was time I shared some of the stuff I’ve been loving over the last few months. Because even though my day-to-day life has been kind of blech (curse you, Canadian winters!!!). . . I’ve been into some really awesome stuff!

Books

Audiobooks have continued to save my life. I still don’t really get a chance to sit down and read physical books these days, but I can listen to audiobooks while I cook dinner or supervise Felix’s nighttime play sessions.

Cinder; Scarlet; Cress; Winter (aka The Lunar Series) by Marissa Meyer; Read by Rebecca Soler. Ignore the cheesy-looking covers of these books and have an open mind. This series was a ton of fun. If you enjoy young adult dystopian sci-fi, this series is for you! Each book is very loosely based on a fairy tale (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White), but set in the future (and some of it in outer space). Cinder is a cyborg and her only friend is an artificially-intelligent android, for example. Cress is a computer engineer and hacker working from a satellite orbiting the earth. Very addictive. Impressive world-building. And Rebecca Soler’s narrating is perfection.

Dead Cold; The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny; read by Adam Sims. If you enjoy a good murder mystery, Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series is on point. (The aforementioned are Books 2 and 3). Lovable characters, thrilling plots, deep exploration of human nature. I am amazed by the depth of Penny’s characters. (If listening to the audiobook, ONLY accept versions read by Adam Sims, who is spectacular. Ralph Cosham, by contrast, is just AWFUL. I returned my copy to Audible after hearing him read the first chapter.)

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. This memoir is Glennon’s second book and it is just phenomenal. It’s a brutally honest retelling of her life story, with a focus on her marriage’s sudden tragic implosion a few years ago, and the difficult path of healing. The book tenderly and bravely explores sex, love, marriage, God, family, and faith. I found her story of self-discovery gripping and inspiring.

Children’s Read-Aloud Chapter Books

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. We picked up this book from the library since Lydia enjoyed the movies and now the show (more below) so very much. Turns out, the movie is only very very loosely based on the original book. In the book, all Vikings already own and train dragons, which are hardly bigger than macaws. Hiccup just does it a little more nicely. Toothless isn’t even particularly interesting. It was an enjoyable read, but one of those rare instances where the movie is actually better (i.e. more interesting, more exciting, more . . . logical) than the book. Or maybe that was just us.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Oh, what joy it is to read my childhood favourites to my daughter! There are few things that bring me more pleasure. At 5, I think Lydia’s a bit young to get full enjoyment out of these books, but she’s been eager to hear each chapter every night before bed. And I love getting to revisit magical Narnia.

Television

Stranger Things (A Netflix Original Series). I’d been wanting to watch this highly-acclaimed show for quite some time, but didn’t have an opportunity until Felix kindly gave me a chance to watch them by myself in the middle of the night. HOLY CRAP!!! This show was one of the most terrifying but also MOST INCREDIBLE tv shows I’ve ever seen!

The story begins with a sweet, geeky adolescent boy vanishing from his small Indiana town, but things quickly become paranormal. The storytelling is so skillful that I immediately fell in love with all the main characters. It is at times heartwarming, and other times downright frightening. I was gasping and covering my eyes and occasionally tearing up. WATCH IT WATCH IT WATCH IT. (P.S. I’ve never seen any of the 1980’s sci-fi movies that allegedly evokes so much nostalgia for many viewers, but that didn’t limit my enjoyment at all.)

Dragons: Race to the EdgedragonsOkay, this one is actually for the kids. Lydia started watching it after we watched the How to Train Your Dragon movies. This Netflix Original Series is a spin-off of the movies. It takes place in the years between the first and second movie, and features all of the same characters. It is so good, you guys! I’m constantly wanting to sit down and watch it with her. The animation is great, the stories are compelling, and the jokes are genuinely funny. The girls kick ass, and the main character (Hiccup, who is now a young man) leads with cleverness, intuition, and compassion rather than brute masculinity. In fact I’m developing quite the crush on him. Is it okay for me to have a crush on a fictional, animated twenty-year-old Viking? Never mind, don’t answer that. P.S. I can now accurately identify a gronkel, nadder, monstrous nightmare, thunderdrum, deathsong, and quaken, and feel unreasonably proud of that fact.

Note: the intended audience for this show is probably more the 8-12-year range, but Lydia (5) still gets a lot out of it.

Sherlock Season 4. THIS IS THE GREATEST SHOW TO HAVE EVER GRACED TELEVISION AMEN. Holy crap you guys. I CANNOT STOP SHOUTING ABOUT SHERLOCK SEASON 4. The first three seasons were the best thing I had ever seen in my life and SEASON 4 OUTDID THEM ALL. I shouted. I gasped. I jumped out of my seat. I laughed out loud and punched the arm of the couch. I grabbed Felix by the shoulders (it was the middle of the night and we were all alone in the basement) and yelled “THIS IS THE BEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN!”* I don’t think I will say anything else though because then I might never stop and then I might ruin it for you. If you haven’t watched it yet WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? (Oh, right. You might not be able to access it. We got our episodes from Pirate Bay.)

*Felix, not understanding language or most human emotions, was somehow not moved by any of this.

And that’s it for now. SO MUCH GOOD STUFF!

What I’m Into: October 2016

fall

pumpkins

geese

spielgaben

When I look at these photos, I realize what a blessed month we had.

I still struggle with anxiety, especially concerning Felix’s complicated health and his and developmental delays and the infinite appointments that come with them; but when I take a moment to reflect on the beautiful moments, I have to admit I’ve been unspeakably blessed.

It’s still such a treat to be able to take him out into the world and expose him to all the things he missed during his first 18 months. We’ve had gorgeous weather and are surrounded by such wonderful people. It’s been divine. And I’m still working through therapy.

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

Audiobooks

audiobook - ready player one

YOU GUUUUUUUUUUUYS. I JUST DISCOVERED AUDIOBOOKS. And it has changed my life.

(Audiobooks were always out of my reach because I didn’t have a device on which to play them. My smartphone was super-old and didn’t have space for apps. But when Lydia smashed it, I had to upgrade. Since then I’ve been maniacally downloading ALL THE APPS, including Overdrive. So now I can borrow audiobooks from the library FOR FREE. And now I can read books WHILE GETTING WORK DONE. It’s . . . it’s miraculous, you guys. I haven’t been able to read fiction for the last five years because I can’t simultaneously take care of my children. I want to cry, I’m so happy.)

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; read by Wil Wheaton.

This is the first audiobook I tried. Modern Mrs. Darcy had recommended it. It was so awesome, you guys. The story is a ton of fun and Wil Wheaton does a spectacular job reading it. I don’t know a thing about video games or 80’s pop culture so most of the references were lost on me, but I was hooked by the charming characters and thrilling plot, set in a fascinating dystopian future. I took my dang phone with me everywhere I went for two solid days until it was done. It was a blast. And it has a happy, hopeful ending. (P.S. I laughed out loud when the protagonist/narrator makes a reference to Wil Wheaton as an “old geezer” and the future president of the OASIS. The irony was too good.)

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan.

We’re big Gaffigan fans around here, so I jumped at the chance to hear him read his first book. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and I enjoyed hearing about his life with five kids in New York City. You can tell he adores his children but of course they drive him crazy. I found his essays relatable, amusing, and even inspiring. He’s a good guy.

Still Life: Chief Inspector Gamache Book 1 by Louise Penny; Read by Adam Sims. Gah! I’ve always been a fan of the murder mystery genre. The first book in this series is everything I could have hoped for. A brilliant, lovable detective; deep musings on what it means to be human; a charming but vibrant community; and a thrilling mystery. The plot was exciting and well-paced. And the reader was phenomenal. I can’t wait to read book 2.

Children’s Read-Aloud Chapter Books

Since our libraries have been closed for the last four months, I gave in and bought some kids’ books at the bookstore. I was fortunate to hit on a couple of winners:

children's book - bfg and pippi longstocking

The BFG by Roald Dahl. Lydia’s a hard sell when it comes to chapter books unless they feature fairies or princesses, but I managed to lure her into this classic by watching the trailer for the movie. (Which looks pretty sweet, by the way. I can’t wait to watch it.) Anyway, she ended up loving it, just as I did as a kid. She was amused by the Big Friendly Giant’s silly, bumbling language; she got a kick out of the slapstick humour (the giants fighting in their sleep slew her); and she loved to talk about frobscottle and whizzpopping — a.k.a. farting — with anyone who would listen. It’s an exciting story (though a bit scary — children get eaten) with some complex characters and lots of impressive imagery.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. This fun collection of stories about a crazy girl who lives without parents and is strong enough to pick up grown men was an immediate success with my five-year-old. She laughed out loud at many of Pippi’s antics. I love that the girl is brave, goofy, confident, and totally herself. I honestly appreciated a story wherein a child tries school and decides it’s not for her. (School is always presented in books as this wonderful learning environment and I worry Lydia will think she’s missing out.)

Children’s Picture Books

Bones: Skeletons and How They Work by Steve Jenkins. Lydia’s been really into skeletons lately, so I knew this one would be a bit hit. Steve Jenkins makes beautiful books, we always love them. It features some life-sized bones, lots of different animal skulls, and tons of interesting facts about bones. She was delighted by the fold-out pages depicting the life-sized 200 ribs of a python. When we closed back cover the first time, she breathed out, “That was a really good book.”

Movies and Television

Since our children both sleep so little and are so disruptive when awake, we haven’t had a chance to watch much in the last year.

We gave the 1984 film Splash a try. I saw it listed on a “Top 20 Rom-Coms of All Time” kind of list and it stars Tom Hanks.  It was recently added to Netflix in Canada. I thought Lydia might enjoy the mermaid element. I expected it to be silly and fun.

It was completely stupid on every possible level.  Oh my gosh. Did people not have brains in the 80s? I feel embarrassed just thinking about it. A total waste of our time.

That’s what I’ve been into! How about you? Any audiobook recommendations?

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What I’m Into, Podcast Edition (Fall 2016)

my favourite podcastsImage credit

Do you enjoy podcasts? Until recently I didn’t really even know what they were or why I’d want to listen to them. I didn’t even know where to find them. (Hint: you can listen to them on iTunes, straight from your laptop if you have one.)

With a very talkative 5-year-old homeschooler always around, quiet time is a premium in our home.  Why would I want to hear more talking? But somehow I stumbled upon Katy Bowman’s podcast on Nutritious Movement a few months ago and was completely smitten. I could learn stuff while folding laundry and kneading bread? It wasn’t long before I’d discovered the magic of podcasts.

Because there is hardly a moment in my life that’s not already filled up with spoken words, I’m very particular about the podcasts I listen to. I quickly get impatient with podcasts that feature women chit-chatting about their lives and things they like. I have enough chit-chat in my life. I want to learn things. Like a big old nerd. All right?

Here are a couple I’ve come to love.

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert.

I went completely gaga for Gilbert’s recent book, Big Magic, a few months ago. (See my review here.) Her podcast is every bit as inspiring. In each show, she talks to a regular human being who is struggling with a creative project, whether that’s in dance, poetry, writing, comedy, etc. Then she talks to a successful artist in the same field for ideas and inspiration. Finally, she goes back to the original person a few months later to see how they’re doing. The combined wisdom of Gilbert and her co-conspiring expert never fail to fill me with encouragement and a sense of awe and excitement about being human.

Shalom in the City with Osheta Moore.

If you want to make the world a better place, you have got to listen to Osheta’s podcast.

Osheta is one of the best sort of people. She is genuinely passionate about reconciliation between individuals and communities, and she is humble, patient, and generous. Now, I’ve been following Osheta’s blog for a few years now. She’s a great blogger, but she is a phenomenal podcast host. She is a natural. She was made for podcasting. She has such a warm, loving voice. She asks insightful questions. She makes me want to be a better person.

In each episode, she talks with a “shalom sista” — a woman she feels is working to bring shalom to a broken world in her own unique way. Every woman she has interviewed has been inspiring, knowledgeable, and wise. They have talked about issues like human trafficking, living in a neurodiverse community, and caring for the environment. I come away from each podcast feeling encouraged and inspired.

Katy Says with Katy Bowman.

Katy Bowman is the biomechanist who has been rocking my world for a while now (and, as I mentioned above, was my gateway to podcasts). She’s the author of the Nutritious Movement blog, as well as the books Whole Body Barefoot and Move Your DNA, which I looooooved. In fact, I recently wrote this about her work:

Bowman is majestically articulate and engaging, able to explain complex and foreign concepts in easy-to-understand terms. She’s funny and memorable, too. And her ideas are revolutionary and exciting. Some of the most interesting highlights for me have been:

-the difference between exercise and movement (and how we need more of the latter in our lives)

-the difference between fitness and health (“fit” people can be just as susceptible to illness and injury as anyone)

-her radical suggestion that you don’t have to add exercise to your busy schedule. Just change the ways you move in your everyday life to become stronger, more capable and less prone to injury. In a word, healthier.

Katy Bowman is the reason I spent this last weekend walking barefoot in the woods carrying my toddler in my arms (instead of, say, on my back.) I still have so far to go, but I am constantly being inspired to move more and move better.

The Robcast with Rob Bell.

I used to be a big fan of Rob Bell’s — when he was the pastor at Mars Hill and was constantly putting out popular books and videos — until he kind of just disappeared, and I forgot about him. Just recently I discovered he’s been podcasting for quite some time.

I think he’s better than ever. He interviews the most amazing people and has such invigorating conversations. Some of my favourites have included Richard Rohr, Pete Rollins, and Elizabeth Gilbert. These folks make me fall in love with God all over again. I appreciate Rob’s easy, relaxed style, too. And there are no frills in his podcasts. No ads, no sponsors, not even any intro music to suck up my valuable time. He just launches in with his signature, “Hi, friends!” I love it.

Yesterladies with Heather and Dayna.

I might be a little biased because the hosts of this podcast are two close friends of mine. But I deeply enjoy learning about different women from history, from the most successful pirate of all time (who happened to be female) to Canada’s beloved L.M. Montgomery. I particularly enjoyed the history of the bikini. Who knew it was such an explosive history? It’s a fun, easy, lighthearted way to brush up on my history from two wildly intelligent and articulate women while I cook dinner. It never ceases to make me a little prouder to be a woman.

What are some of your favourite podcasts?? Please share!

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What I’m Into: September 2016

beach

I didn’t write a What I’m Into Post for the last two months because I wasn’t into much.

I’ve been so busy with appointments with Felix, grappling with more and more diagnoses, struggling against depression, and, to make matters worse, our libraries have been closed due to a labour disruption. For over three months. Yeah. It sucks. That has meant very little reading and very few movies for us.

We went to the thrift store a couple of times and took home armfuls of mediocre children’s books. We’ve also had to rent movies from the local movie rental store (Yes! We still have on of those in our town!).

Homeschooling is going just fine.  Lydia is enjoying tap dance lessons. I started seeing a therapist. Which is good, but it’s yet another thing to schedule in.

So today’s post is brief. But I figured I’d share the couple of things I enjoyed this month.

Books

books sep 2016

How Children Learn by John Holt. For those who aren’t familiar, this book is one of the original classics in unschooling. In it, the author recounts his many years of personal observations of children, both in their homes and in classrooms. The intro was a little hard to get through, but after that it was a fun and inspiring read. I love John Holt. He strikes me as one of the nicest people who ever lived. He has profound respect for children and it shows in the way he interacts with them. I loved the experience of sitting at his feet and soaking up his wisdom.

Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer by Richard Rohr. After hearing Rob Bell’s breathtakingly awesome interview with Rohr on his podcast, I decided that what my life needed more of was a 75-year-old Franciscan priest. I’ll read a few pages before bed each night to help ground me. I can’t wait to be old and wise like Richard Rohr.

Movies

Man Up – I was eager to give this movie a try when I saw it featured two of my favourite actors, Simon Pegg and Lake Bell. Their characters meet when Pegg mistakes Bell for his blind date and she decides to go with it. This movie is WEIRD and HILARIOUS and I LOVED it. Pegg is adorable and Bell is just brilliant. Their performances knocked my socks off. Ben and I both laughed so hard when we weren’t groaning in pain from the awkwardness. I’m still thinking about it weeks later.

Anne of Green Gables – I’ve been interested in watching this movie since I read the book last year in the hospital and was surprised by how much I loved it. Can you believe I’d never read or seen the book or movie?! Megan Followes is perfectly charming. But I have to admit I found the movie a teeny bit boring. (Please don’t hate me! It seems like everybody on the internet loves it!!). It didn’t help that both kids whined and complained through the whole thing. (We watched it in three parts.) I’m kinda looking forward to the newer movie versions coming out to see how they compare.

That’s about it for now! Hope you are enjoying fall.

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What I’m Into: June 2016

laundry

Happy Canada Day, friends!

I have never been more grateful to be a Canadian. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the way my government and community cared for us during Felix’s hospitalization. And while I watch in horror as xenophobia and hatred grip so many other parts of the world, I am so comforted that my home country has continued to be a welcoming place for immigrants from all over the world.

(And I kind of love that our biggest political scandal of the year was when our Prime Minister accidentally elbowed a woman in the House of Commons, and he spent the next week apologizing profusely at every opportunity. #soCanadian)

We live in an amazing country. I am so, so fortunate.

Anyway, June has been pretty okay. The warm weather and long days fill my heart with joy. Felix’s health continues to be good, but we continue to deal with some sleeping, eating, and developmental issues which exert constant stress on my mama heart.

asleep(Asleep in his favourite place)

Also: Ben and I are a twelve days into a Whole30. We both have a couple of minor healthy issues we would like to improve upon, and we thought it was worth giving it a try. I’m really impressed Ben has been able to hold up. It hasn’t been a big deal. It’s just a ton of work, keeping on top of all those vegetables.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been into!

Books

whole 30 cookbooksAm I allowed to talk about cookbooks? These two have been my constant companions over the last two weeks as I’ve been preparing and cooking for our Whole30.

Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s cookbook is indispensable for the program — it’s full of tips and ideas for getting through the Whole30, plus it’s loaded with simple, delicious, customizable recipes. Lots of pictures, too.

Nom Nom Paleo has been great, too. It’s a beautiful book all around. Lots of mouthwatering recipes accompanied by full-page photos, and the cartoons add a charming touch. Tam’s writing style is fun and entertaining, and really inspires you to get in the kitchen. But the recipes are time-consuming. I feel like cooking this way has to be a full-time job.

booksBefore starting the Whole30, I also read the Hartwigs’ first book on the subject, It Starts with Food. This book explains the reasoning behind the Whole30 in a really accessible way. I read a new book on food and nutrition nearly every month, and I still managed to learn quite a bit from this one.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. This is a wonderfully practical book on how to talk with children in a respectful way that encourages two-way communication. I am delighted with the new tools and inspiration I’ve gained to engage with my children better and build a stronger relationship. And I actually really appreciated the cheesy cartoons that help illustrate what this kind of conversation looks like. Highly recommend.

Children’s Books

children's books

I was thrilled to find three smart, fun books that everyone enjoyed and that were (for a change of pace) completely gender-neutral. No glittery princesses here!

Press Here – Herve Tullet. This fun, interactive book got lots of play. Over and over again, Lydia delighted in following the instructions on the pages to make the dots do different things (knowing full well that it was all in fun). It was neat to see her so thoroughly enjoy engaging with painted dots on a plain white page.

The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak. I’m not exaggerating: this book is a work of genius. Lydia howls with laughter when I read it. (And I’m not a particularly comical reader.) Not only is the premise brilliant — this book makes the grown-up reading it say ridiculous things against her will — but Novak knows his audience amazingly well: he knows just the right words to make little people giggle. “Blueberry pizza,” “Boo Boo Butt” and “BADOONGY-FACE” crack Lydia up every time. The varied fonts and colours of the text subtly direct the reader how to deliver the lines.  I haven’t heard of a kid who wasn’t tickled by this book.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. When I first showed Lydia the cover of this book she announced, “I’m not interested in that.” I told her we’d give it a try. After reading it once she declared, “This is my favourite book!” and requested a re-read the following two nights.

Each of Duncan’s crayons gets a full page to express its frustrations about how it is used. Gray complains that he gets tired colouring such huge animals like elephants and hippos. Pink complains that it never gets used at all except by Duncan’s little sister. It’s full of personality and charm. And Duncan’s final drawing is a delightful work of art.

apple-pip princessApple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray. I still can’t pass up a good princess when I find one, knowing Lydia will love it.  This lovely, original fairy tale features three sisters who are instructed to demonstrate their skills so their father, the king, can decide which is most fit to be the next ruler. The youngest, unsurprisingly, makes the greatest impression through her selflessness and dedication to her community and the environment. The illustrations are opulent, the story is lively and well-paced, and I love seeing women of colour represented as competent, interesting, complex humans who are perfectly suited to rule the land. Five stars.

Movies

Of course we went and saw Finding Dory opening weekend (with Lydia). By now you probably know me well enough to know I love just about everything Disney/Pixar puts out. Finding Dory was no exception. Full of laughs and nonsense, it was also heart-wrenching at times. It was a visual wonder, and Ellen Degeneres voiced the lovable fish brilliantly. Also, young Dory is the most adorable thing to come out of the Pixar lab since Boo from Monsters Inc.

Ben and I watched Edge of Tomorrow on Netflix and let me tell you, it was neat. I love a smart action sci-fi movie, and I was riveted to the end.

We also watched The Martian, which was a thrilling, heartwarming, feel-good flick we both enjoyed thoroughly.

All right, that’s about it for now! Hope you’re having a lovely summer!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

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I Will Blog Again When I Am Able to Sleep at Night Again.

I promise. I miss you guys and I miss this space.

But right now too much of my time and energy are gobbled up by sitting around in the dark with a cranky toddler at 3am.

In the meantime, know that I am savoring our gorgeous summer weather and being at home with my two healthy children.

Life is good.

summer 2016

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