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

What I’m Into: April 2016

painting

April was emotionally taxing. (I won’t get into it here, but it involved many blessings and victories and also SO MUCH PUKE. From everyone, but especially from me. So much puke, you guys. There were illnesses, a surgery, and ongoing explorations of different therapies and treatments. Lots of good stuff, but like I said, it’s been taxing.)

The weather has mostly sucked, too.

To deal with all of these, I read a lot of books and created some art.

Here you go.

(PS: I REALLY WANT TO BLOG. I really, really do. I just have not had the time or energy. I have so many drafts of posts started that I’m itching to finish. I just . . . can’t right now. I will get back into the swing of things. I just need to not be cleaning up toddler diarrhea at 2 am every morning. It will happen.)

Books

books

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. READ THIS BOOK, YOU GUYS. It’s spectacular. It totally lives up to the hype. This book vibrates with life. I haven’t been this excited to be a human in a long time.

Gut And Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia by Natasha Campbell-McBride. Somehow I managed to devour this dense tome in two or three days. It has given me so much hope. I am anxious to start Felix on this dietary program as soon as possible. His poor gut has been completely massacred during his short time on earth so far. I’ve heard some really inspiring testimonials that fill me with hope for healing.

Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement by Katie Bowman. I’ve been obsessed with Bowman’s blog and podcast the last few months and finally decided to buy the book. It’s fantastic. 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.

Children’s Read-Aloud Books

 

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White. I think I’m alone here but I thought this book (by the author of Charlotte’s Web) was stupid. (Lydia liked it well enough. I guess that’s what’s important).  It starts like a realistic nature story, but quickly becomes an absurd tale of a swan who goes to (human) school and learns to read, write, and play the trumpet to make up for the fact that he has no voice. And in the end he “donates” some of his children to a zoo to pay off a debt. WHAAAAAAT. Also, it’s so long it took us a whole month to finish.

Picture Books

children's books - april

Imogene’s Antlers by David Small. Lydia’s favourite this month. (She’s four.) She weirdly loves stories about children who inexplicably wake up with bizarre changes to their bodies. (Others in this category include George Shrinks and A Bad Case of Stripes.)

Snow White by Paul Heins and Trina Schart Hyman. Absolutely captivating illustrations to a powerful classic. (Read ahead of time, though, and be prepared to maybe change the words to the very last page, wherein the evil queen — without any foreshadowing — is given a pair of red-hot iron shoes she must wear as she dances to her death. ?! The punishment is as morbid and arbitrary as it is unexpected.)

The Wild Swans by Amy Ehrlich and Susan Jeffers. The most beautiful illustrations you will ever see. A very interesting fairy tale, too, which has the fortune of never having been Disneyfied. (Warning: this and the above stories are very anti-feminist, with kings who decide to marry the beautiful maidens with almost no indication of any volition on the woman’s part. I still liked ’em.)

Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story by Tomie dePaulo. A familiar old tale gets new life in this Mexican setting. Everything about it is lovely. There’s lots of Spanish mixed in which adds to the atmosphere but was tricky to read out loud since I don’t know the language at all.

* * *

We didn’t really watch any TV or movies this month.

And that’s what I’ve been into!

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What I’m Into: March 2016

crocusesI briefly explored where I’ve been emotionally in my previous post, so in this one I’m just going to jump into the books, movies and more that we’ve been enjoying.

(But can I just say this real quick? YOU GUYS. I am just so unbelievably blessed. I have read all your comments and messages and though I can’t respond to them all, know that I have wept tears of joy over your kindness and generosity. I can’t believe what a wonderful community has gathered around my little family. Thank you, thank you, thank you.)

Books

I need to stop requesting books from the library that have a waiting list, because I can’t possibly read a whole book before it has to be returned when I’m only reading in five-minute snatches on the toilet. And that is just my life right now.

I read half of Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life (Gretchen Rubin) before having to bring it back to the library. I think I liked it. I may never know.

Kids’ Picture Books

fancy nancy: a review

Fancy Nancy (Jane O’Connor) — this monumental series is perfect for little girls (ages 4+) who love all things fancy: glitter, ballgowns, and accessories. I’m surprised how much I like Fancy Nancy — she’s a funny, smart, imaginative, and relatable character with an impressive vocabulary who happens to also love glitz and glamour. Lydia is already using words like “indelible” and “furious” in her everyday language, thanks to Miss Nancy. The illustrations are great, too — they’re detailed, clever, and often very funny. We keep going back to the library for more of these books. (Fortunately, there are tons of them. We haven’t come across a bad one yet.)

actual size - review

Actual Size (Steve Jenkins) – I love Steve Jenkins’ beautiful artwork. His collage style produces unique and interesting texture. This particular book was so intriguing as it gives you a glimpse of the actual sizes of things — from the enormous atlas moth (“often mistaken for a bird”) to the tiny dwarf goby. Lydia ate up the animals facts, and we enjoyed comparing the size of the ostrich egg to the familiar chicken’s egg.

Read-Aloud Chapter Books

Toys Come Home: Being the Early Experiences of an Intelligent Stingray, a Brave Buffalo, and a Brand-New Someone Called Plastic (Emily Jenkins) — this is the delightful prequel to the fabulous Toys Go Out Trilogy. It was fun to get the story of how all the lovable toys came to live with the Little Girl, and to get a better understanding of what makes them come to life. Heartwarming, smart, and a page-turner. 5/5 stars for the whole series. (P.S. the author and illustrator put together a picture book, too. It’s good as a standalone book, but a delightful experience for those already familiar with the characters.)

Because of Winn-Dixie: review

Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo) — this lovely book was a little mature for my four-year-old, but she could totally understand the whole story. (There are just some darker themes in it — I had to skip the chapter wherein Miss Franny Block describes her great-grandfather’s war experience. You also hear of a child’s death and a woman’s past with alcoholism.) It’s a beautiful, sad story with an admirable young female protagonist, and it tenderly explores love, family and friendship. I would recommend it for older children, maybe 7+.

Movies

I took Lydia to see her first movie in the theatre — Zootopia. It is absolutely stunning in every way. WATCH IT WATCH IT WATCH IT. Very funny, very smart, visually delightful, and with an incredible message of inclusivity. Lydia (4) was a little (a lot) scared during a scene near the end (when a beloved character appears to be “going savage”), but otherwise, it was a great experience for both of us. (Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 99% rating!)

That’s it for now!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

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What I’m Into: February 2016

siblings in the snowLydia and Felix’s relationship, summed up in one photo

February was . . . well, February. Dreary and long. But even the longest, dreariest months are still tinged with joy and hope after the year we’ve been through. (Last February is when we found out Felix had CMV and when we came the closest to losing him.) So I can’t complain.

Snow, cloudy skies, icy wind. Storybooks, baby milestones, sleepless nights, unlocked preschooler imagination. It was… February.

Books

I read a narrative this month, you guys! Not just educational books all the time!

Mennonite in Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen.

Janzen’s memoir is hilarious and fascinating. But the story is very scattered, and I had trouble connecting with the narrator, who clearly thinks she’s better than everyone else, especially those who embrace their Mennonite faith and heritage (unlike her. She completely rejected her faith and community as a young adult). She says flat-out that Mennonite men are un-dateable because they “gross her out.” Classy, Rhoda.

I found myself riveted and amused by the parts where she talks about her childhood (her mom is the best), but not really interested in her mainstream, secular, academic adulthood wherein she makes so many poor relationship choices. I’ll take my hardworking, devoted Mennonite husband and old-fashioned values, thanks.

Kids’ Books: Princess Edition Part 2

You guys made so many awesome suggestions after last month’s princess-themed book list, I ended up taking a bunch of new princess books out of the library for Lydia (age 4) this month. Lots of good stuff here!

hamster princess

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon. This unique book is kind of a mix between a traditional novel and a graphic novel. It was fun and exciting for Lydia. Older readers will be amused by how the author plays with fairy tale conventions, though these were lost on my four-year-old. Harriet is cursed a la Sleeping Beauty as a baby; but as she grows up, Harriet discovers an interesting advantage to her curse and exploits it, which allows her to fight ogre cats and go on adventures. Harriet is a great role model and all-around interesting character. She’s a princess I can get behind.

princess books part 2

Princess are Not Quitters! by Kate Lum. These tenacious, enterprising princesses learn some valuable life lessons when they decide to take on their servants’ jobs for a day (just for fun). Lydia enjoys poring over the super-detailed and silly illustrations, and I’m happy to read her  an interesting story about princesses who do more than sit around looking pretty.

Rapunzel by Rachel Isadora. This lovely picture book sets the classic fairy tale in Africa. The text doesn’t change a thing from the familiar European version, yet it feels completely at home in Africa, highlighting just how universal this fairy tale is. I was thrilled to be able to present Lydia with another princess of colour, and she loved it. The illustrations are beautiful and timeless.

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton. Hilarious, adorable, smart and unexpected, Lydia and I both loved this one. Who doesn’t love a chubby, cuddly, and flatulent little pony? Even when what you really wanted was a big, strong warhorse?

The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke. Here’s another princess who uses cunning and skill to take her destiny into her own hands.  I love that this charming, engaging, feminist tale doesn’t paint men as evil or stupid — just sometimes mistaken. And some are worth marrying, too (eventually, on your own terms.)

Kids’ Chapter Books

I am LOVING reading chapter books to Lydia before bed.

toy dance party

Toy Dance Party: Being the Further Adventures of a Bossyboots Stingray, a Courageous Buffalo, & a Hopeful Round Someone Called Plastic by Emily Jenkins. The delightful sequel to Toys Go Out is every bit as hilarious, unique, and exciting as the first. The lovable characters are so real you feel like you know them within the first few pages. This story is so engaging that when I went to take the photo for this post, I ended up reading ahead, just because I was so curious what was going to happen next. A big win. Can’t wait to read the next one.

Television

We haven’t been watching much TV for Lent. (The positive influence this has had on Lydia has been astonishing). Ben and I have kept up with Big Bang Theory and Brooklyn Nine-nine. That’s it.

Movies

The only movie I recall watching was Tomorrowland on Netflix. It was a little disappointing, considering the trailer was so amazing.

That’s about it! I would love to explore more stuff but Felix decided he hates sleep again so I have no energy.

What have you been into?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

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