Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Titles // 2017

I had a great reading month. I slammed down a few books I'd wanted to read for awhile, finished quite a few kid read-alouds (and so many awesome picture books!), and generally enjoyed all of them. Here they are.

*Scary Close by Donald Miller - I've wanted to read this book for awhile. It's Blue Like Jazz author, Donald Miller's, newest book meeting of his (now) wife, Betsy. It was part mental-health memoir, part leaving-behind bachelorhood and working on healthy relationships in preparation for marriage. I don't know if that sounds interesting to you, but I really liked it. Out of the books of his I've read, it felt like his most vulnerable, honest, and open. This would make a great gift to a couple who are engaged, though it could be enjoyed by anybody. 

*Ancient Rome: How it Affects You Today by Richard Maybury - Reading this book (the third "Uncle Eric" book I've now read) is part of me intentionally searching out  more politically conservative and/or libertarian-leaning books to get others' points of view. This book was a very brief history of political Rome, and by the subtitle you can see, how it affects us today. Even the state lines being straight (as opposed to the Indigenous tribe areas being more geographic) is a Roman invention. I learned a lot from this and I'm going to continue to read the rest of the series when I can find them. 

*Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe - This book was borrowed from my local homeschool group's library. I have been toying with the idea of doing nature journals for awhile now, but for some reason, we've never tried them. This little 100+ page book was all about tips, ideas, etc. and has inspired me to finish some of our school year by starting one for each of us (well, the three of us), and see where the wind takes us!

*The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl - I'm not sure where I first heard of this book, but I had put it on hold (that, and another The Year of Living Danishly, which I have yet to get), and it was a very short and quick read, detailing 6 main principles that Danish people do while raising their kids, and how it's different from American parenting. I sort of rolled my eyes at one of them, because one can't just have zero discipline other than reframing a situation, and it doesn't go into detail about that...which is a huge part of parenting children. It was interesting, but I hope the next one (above) is better. 

*Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey - This is Bessey's second book, and it's also a bit of a spiritual memoir like her last. If the last one was an irritated rant, this one is much slower in pace, calmer in attitude, and just all around has a more mature and measured voice. Bessey lives in my area and I'd love to hear her speak. Not my favorite book, but I think it could meet a lot of people right where they are, especially if the background they grew up with gave them some Christian-ese baggage. 

*We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver - This is my book club book for early March, and I'm really glad I got a head-start on ordering it because it's long-for me. At first I didn't really like the structure; the entire book is letters written by Eva (the mom of Kevin from the title) to her spouse. I got sort of annoyed because "no one writes letters like this!", sort of like how "no one talks like this!" while watching the overgrown teenagers on Dawson's Creek.  This is not a book I'd ever pick up off the library shelf and that's just one of the many reasons I love book club--I read a lot of books outside of my normal picks. This book, however grim (the story is about a mother processing her sociopath son's murderous shooting spree-that's not a spoiler) uses stunning metaphor at just the perfect pivot points in the book to keep you intrigued. This book is meticulously clever and has a bit of a surprise ending. The subject matter is tough, though, so if you can't read gruesome, don't get involved. 

*Quidditch Through the Ages by J.K. Rowling - This was the last of the little mini-textbook series that I needed to read, that Rowling wrote after the Potter series finalized. This was just a fun little book (under 100 pages) with history of the wizard game, famous players' stories, etc. Nothing fancy, just a fun little dip back into one of my favorite 'worlds' in literature. Along with Quidditch are the two texts, Beedle the Bard, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (now a movie!), both their only little spin-offs that if you're a die-hard HP fan, you'll want to just take an afternoon and enjoy for old times' sake. 

Read Alouds

*The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis - This was the fourth book we read in the Narnia series, and the kids enjoyed bits and pieces of it, but it was probably their least favorite so far. Eustace, and a new character, his school-mate, Jill, fall into Narnia to find the missing Prince Rillian, son of beloved Narnian King Caspian (whom Eustace adventures with in the previous book). A lot of this story was just too slow for my two, but when there was action, they loved it. We've been practicing making predictions with plots and we did a lot of that in this book. The project we thought might be fun to accompany this book is making a 3D map of all the 'lands' they had to pass through until the end of the story...there's quite a few and they are all so different, it'd make a fun hands-on project. 

*Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure by Ann M. Martin and Annie Parnell - My kids have a deep love for the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, they get a (terribly ironic) kick out of the naughty children she 'cures' with common sense, natural consequences, and a bit of magic. Missy is Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's great niece, who is taking up the need in Little Spring Valley. They asked for this book over and over, though the chapters were long, the results were still funny. We'll keep an eye out for more Missy books, taking over for MacDonald's long-loved books. 

*Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry - I've wanted to read this book aloud for a long time. My best friend grew up with these stories and recommended them to me for the kids years ago. I've been patiently biding my time. When I saw the YA novel on the shelf at my local library, complete with original illustrations, I knew the time had come. My daughter loves horses, so I knew this beloved classic would be a hit! This is a great podcast about the history of the (real!) ponies of Assateauge Island National Seashore, and gave us great background for the story. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

17 in 2017

across the water is YVR airport in Richmond, behind me is Terra Nova natural playground

I have made a yearly list for at least the past few years* and I enjoy seeing the outcomes, or what one or two morphed into, and what just didn't interest me enough to continue. Now that it's mid-February, I need to get that 2017 list out in the open. A lot of these have to do with trips I'll be taking in 2017 and I'm super excited to check some fun things off my bucket list!

What do you want to do this year?!

1) Learn to make veggie pakora and crock-pot butter chicken

2) go to Portland with the family? 

3) visit Burnaby Village and ride the carousel!

4) hike in Joshua Tree National Park

5) go to the San Diego zoo

6) bike the kettle valley railway (Kelowna)

7) us GF tempura to make onion rings

8) buy a better swimsuit!

9) go to the summer Seattle Renegade Craft Fair

10) visit the Brittania Mine with the kids

11) see La La Land with Stefan 

12) [something with my mom's 60th birthday]

13) see friends in Alaska

14) read through the Narnia series with the kids

15) try surfing in Oceanside, CA?

16) go to the Richmond night market

17) ?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Anikka's 8th Birthday Interview

It's pretty much a lie that my daughter, my baby, is 8 today, but alas, so says the calendar and the time just keeps marching! Here is her yearly birthday interview. Happy Birthday, my sweet girl!

What is your favorite color? purple
Who are some of your friends? Kathryn, Isla, Ashlyn, Rachel, Lukka
What do you want to be when you grow up? a mom
What makes you happy? mom reading to us
What makes you sad? getting my feelings hurt

 What is your favorite animal? horses
What is your favorite book?  Time Pieces
What is your favorite thing to do with Mom?  spend time together
What is your favorite thing to do with Dad? spend time together
What is your favorite thing to do with Lukka?  play
What do you like to do with your friends? play, crafts, talk

What do you like to do outside?  play with Copper, play with Nya and Brody
Where do you like to go?  to the Great Escape, the library
What is your favorite food?  cucumber, sugar snaps, apple, shakes, chicken nuggets

What is your favorite drink? ginger ale
What is your favorite restaurant?  Big Al's
What is your favorite subject in school?  I don't know

 What is your favorite thing to watch?  My Little Pony
What is your favorite song to listen to or sing?  Let it Go (Frozen)
What is your favorite toy?  TC ("Top Cat", a stuffy cat)

 What is your favorite way to exercise? run around with Cop, bike rides, hiking
Anything else you'd like to say? I don't know

You can read Ani's 7th birthday interview HERE, 6th HERE, 5th HERE

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January Reads // 2017

*Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury -- Although I found this slim book in the LHEA (Langley Home Educator's Association) library to use for teaching kids economic principles, this is a subject I feel I know very little about, so I picked it up for myself. My kids are still young and really only understand money as gifts, and pay for chores. I know nothing about the history of economics, and although understand, generally, a few principles, I knew this would be a good primer. It was! I learned a lot from the 1-5 page chapters, easy-to-digest "Uncle Eric" book and went on a mission to read all of the ones I could find this year. See below for #2.

*The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp -- This book is Ann's long-awaited sophomore book, after 1,000 Gifts. Although I don't typically enjoy Ann's writing style, I find I struggle to slog through the flowery and repetitive language, I do love her content, which is what matters most to me anyway. This book was quite a bit more emotionally driven than her first book, but had a great message at it's core-God will use you in your brokenness. We have example after example and Ann shares deeply about her own individual and family tragedies, and how God used those things to empower her to minister to others. If you like Ann's popular blog (that raised over $1,000,000 for Syrian refugees!), you'll probably love it.

*Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown -- I have heard this book be recommended by so many bloggers and podcasters you'd think it was their personal manifesto. I can see why. This book is engaging, interesting, and it cuts the BS and I am generally always in need of this reminder that I can't do All. The. Things. Basically, have priorities, not 'maybes' (if they're maybes, they're "nos"), give your self a ton of margin, and be non-negotiable about it. I think most leaders-in any capacity-would get something out of this book. Worthwhile, anecdotal, and well-designed.

*Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi -- This is my book club's pick for February, and guys, I loved it. I read very few novels, so when I do, I want them to be powerful, and this one was. I am astounded that this is her first book, it is so well written, imaginative, and the details and structure fit the story like a glove. This story starts with two half-sisters in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and details the family trees of each woman as one is given in marriage to a British slaver, and the other is put on a slave ship and brought to America at the turn of the 18th century. It is quite graphic due to the content of the story, but it's written beautifully and I couldn't wait to get to the next character ('down' a branch in the family tree on either side). This author is only 26 (!!), I can't wait to see what she does throughout her life. Definitely a 4 star book.

*What Would Thomas Jefferson Think About This? by Richard J. Maybury -- This is the second "Uncle Eric" book I read this month, about the history of the founding father, Thomas Jefferson, and his ideals for the newly minted republic that he helped form. A large chunk of the (small) book was about language inferring Statist vs. 'Other Side', which I found really interesting. I think I chose an excellent time in my reading career to be reading this type of material, based on what's going on in American politics, while living in Canada, two drastically different worldviews, though day-to-day they look so similar. Good stuff.

*Wenjack by Joseph Boyden -- This short novella was a story about Chanie Wenjack, based on true events but written through the eyes of him and the forest animals watching over him as he escapes a residential school in Ontario, Canada in 1966. Although there is some controversy about Boyden since he released this book, I found the story so worthwhile, though the story is ultimately one of deep tragedy. I am trying to read quite a number of First Nations material to learn about the Indigenous peoples of where I now live. It is also required in BC schools to learn about First Nations peoples, and the kids and I did an extensive study in the Fall. If you have any other books in this vein that you can recommend leave them in the comments!

Monday, January 30, 2017

16 in 2016: What Happened and What Didn't

crisp January morning in Vancouver

Every year I make a little goal list of fun things I'd like to try; things I've never done, or just things I want to be intentional to make time for. They're fun (books read to the kids!), often simple (make an intimidating-to-me ethnic food), or they could be things that I've wanted to do, that with some strategic planning, will happen within the year(specific travel/outdoor goals). You can see my 15 in 2015 list HERE and then the final "What Happened, What Didn't" after the year was over. 

Here's my original 16 in 2016 list I made at the beginning of last January. I like to keep one or two lines blank, because I can't always think of everything by Jan 1!

1) We got a dog!! Copper joined our family in August and he's been a great addition. Although we're still working on his struggles with other dogs, he's such a happy guy. He's always ready to play, go on a hike, walk, or bike ride, has learned how to fetch a tennis ball (and boy does he love the chuck-it), plays tug of war, and sleeps in a little den Lukka made for him in his room. 

2) I did not end up making sweet treat hair clips, but I *did* have Ani and Lukka help me make pompom clips for their cousins' hair, which they enjoyed, and were very proud of. I'm calling that a success.

3)I did not make homemade jam. Still intimidated. Still don't want to get a food-borne illness because of my ineptitude. 

4)We went to Banff National Park, Calgary, and Canmore adn we LOVED it! I am so behind on sharing about our family's vacation. 

5) We read the entire Little House series, and by the end, I was ready to be DONE. It's a great series, but thank goodness for Cherry Jones' narration. 

6) I did not find a GOOD summer farmer's market. I found a decent one in Langley. It's small, but the produce was delicious and reasonably priced. I don't know that I'll find what I want outside of Vancouver. 

7) We hiked the Abby Grind very soon after that list was made!

8) We took the canoe to a new-to-us place, False Creek. I mean, we'd been there, but we'd never canoed there. It was a solid 5 mile canoe jaunt and it was great!

9) We didn't have a family date to The Secret Lives of Pets, but I did take the kids to it, and it was terrible! Ugh. 

10) I did not even get close to making everyone's Christmas gifts again. Laughable. 

11) I did not knit a hat, not a single one (!) for 25,000 toques. In fact, I haven't heard much from the movement within the last 9 months or so. I still haven't gotten my knitting mojo back.

12) I made mexican corn for our friends, but I did not get to the other four recipes. Sad!

13) I did get to explore Vancouver Island with my best friend! YAY!!!

14) Although I tried many times, I just didn't see those Northern Lights. Maybe next year? 

15) I did buy a ton of houseplants!

16) We did have a picnic each Summer month (June-Sept.) which was fun. And each one was in a different spot (a hike, canoe ride, beach, out of town)

Do you make a yearly list? What did you do that you're proud of in 2016?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

ARC Book Review: Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine by Caroline Starr Rose

Jasper, water, wool (keep reading to see how they relate!)

Awhile back, one of my favorite Young Adult and children's authors, Caroline Starr Rose, told her blog readers that her newest book, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine, was going to be coming out soon, and did anyone want to volunteer to read and review it?! Um, yes please**. I've been a fan of her writing since her first book, May B. came out, and then loved her sophomore book, Bluebirds, so I knew this third youth novel would be strong, even though it would be written in prose and not poetry like the first two. 

The story of Jasper, the young boy on the front cover, and his brother, Mel, starts in a sad, dilapidated home devoid of a mother and a father who is emotionally unavailable due to grief and alcoholism. The two young boys struggle to stay out of their father's way, and hear about the Klondike gold rush. With fool's luck, street smarts, and the brotherly relationship, together these boys go through a lot of trials for kids their age including being robbed, nearly frozen to death, often hungry, and in the middle of the Alaskan and British Columbia wilderness in wintertime. 

Jasper has heard of a few riddles where One-Eyed Riley has left a claim chock full of gold-enough to last someone a lifetime of riches-and he's desperate enough to go searching for it. The story has plenty of action and adventure, and is plot-driven and fast paced. It's about a time in history I knew very little about, and so it was interesting to read about, especially because now I'm geographically near a lot of those places! This book is young adult (YA) historical fiction at it's finest. 

I read this book in a few days over the Christmas break and I've decided to donate this book to my local homeschooling group's library. It'll come in handy to any of the families who want to read historical fiction to study BC history, and it fits right in with other great titles we have available. You can even enter a giveaway HERE to receive a journal if you pre-order Jasper by the release date (while supplies last). 

Do you (and/or your kids) like historical fiction? Do you think historical fiction has merit within an educational setting? 

**Please note that I received this book for a review, but all opinions are my own. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hopeful Books for 2017

Ani reading the Sibley while watching the ducks

If there's one thing I love about a new year, it's a new batch of titles I'm excited to read over the coming 12 months. My 2016 list was a bit full, and what I found out over the last two years-here's 2015's- (I think I was in denial in January last year), is that I need to start with a small list, because the book club books, new releases I can't wait for, and recommended books by my favorite people, podcasts, or magazines inevitably are the ones I read. I have so many awesome thrift store books-upwards of 20-that have been vying for my attention, so a lot of this list are those hopefuls. I average 60+ books a year, and if I have 30 on that list? Well, I can count on maybe 10 of those getting read. Maybe. 
This year I'm finally being realistic. Right now on my list are 2 that I'm currently reading and will finish by the end of the week. One is a book club pick that I'll be picking up in about 2 weeks, one is sitting, started, on my bedside table and 2 I'm super excited to read when they release this Spring. What I'm saying is, out of the 16 listed here (16! so paltry!), I have read, at least 7 of them by March. I want to keep my expectations low...only so I can be unfettered when I inevitably add All The Books. Happy Reading in 2017!

*The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
*Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard J. Maybury
*Essentialism by Greg McKeown
*Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
*The Irrational Season by Madeline L'Engle
*One Year Off by David Elliot Cohen
*Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
*Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
*Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
*The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
*Call the Midwife #2: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
*Lila by Marilynne Robinson
*Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
*Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott
*At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider
*The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel 

What are you excited to read this year? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My Top Ten Books in 2016

I've seen a few 'Top 10' book lists going around, so I'll play along. These are my favorite reads from 2016, not any particular order.  Over the next day or two I'll put out my 2017 hopefuls. ;) 

* Being Mortal by Atul Gawande 

*Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed 

*The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker 

*Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

*The Collapse of Parenting, Girls on the Edge, Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax (I'm looping these as 1, and they were all excellent!)

*Still Alice by Lisa Genova

*The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

*Bent Hope by Tim Huff 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

December Reads // 2016

*Modified by Caitlin Shetterly - This was a book I read a lengthy review about in Taproot magazine, and I thought it sounded really interesting. It's about GMOs, written from a journalistic and memoir point-of-view. The author developed an allergy from a protein sequence that is found in GMO plants, and went on a 5 year research journey that became this book. I also found it really fun to read because the entire first section (out of three) because a lot of it takes place in Nebraska, and Iowa. At one point, she is interviewing a scientist from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (my Alma mater!) at a diary store that is literally yards away from the arboretum where Stefan and I were married! This book is heavy with science terminology, controversy, and philosophy, which not only makes me love it, but hesitant to recommend to just anyone. A lot of people may not find the topic interesting enough, or the writing too heavy to get through.

*Upstream by Mary Oliver -Upstream is a short book of essays on writing and nature-what Oliver does best, and it didn't disappoint. I haven't read much of her prose, but what I have read I -gasp-didn't love, but when she writes about nature she's fully herself. A lot of these essays are also autobiographical. I'd love to read a biography about her someday, but my guess is she won't be the one writing it. One of my favorite essays was about where she called home for decades, Provincetown, and how the village has changed over the decades. If you're a Mary Oliver fan already, you'll enjoy it. If you've never heard of her, start with her poetry and fall in love first.

*Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine by Caroline Starr Rose - I received this ARC from the author to read early and review, and I quite liked this juvenile novel about the Klondike gold rush, the Canadian wilderness, and a team of young brothers who try to brave the cold and beat the odds. I won't give too much away, but I have always liked Rose's writing, and this is no different. I know my son will love to read this when he's a bit older, because it's full of history, adventure, and a spunky kid who is street smart and determined to get rich quick with gold! Because of the fast pace, it didn't take me long to read, and I enjoyed it.

*In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney - I first saw this book online somewhere; which isn't surprising, it's by the creator of Design*Sponge, and it's full of creatives/makers interviews. I love the concept of this book, I loved the photography, and the short interview style. I did not, however, appreciate that about 50% of the women came from only 2 states, and in those two states (New York, and California), mostly Brooklyn and central LA. There were a handful of women from other countries, but jeez, there are creative women the nation over, they skipped a vast majority of the the nation, and that lowered the bar for me, from a 4 to a 3 for effort.

*Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng - This is our January book club pick and I was early enough that I didn't have to wait long for the library. It's a short book, just under 300 pages, and a lot of emotion, heartache, tragedy, and numbness go on between those pages. It's beautifully written, and character-and-emotion-driven, but at times I felt I just wanted to get on with the plot. What actually happened? First we had to find out every family member's background leading up to the death of Lydia (not a spoiler, first page sentence), and I wasn't very patient about it. The writing was superb and for that I'd give Ng another go-around with a second book, Little Fires Everywhere, which will be coming out in 2017.

*Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham - As a die-hard GG fan (Gilmore Girls, for those of you under a TV rock), who has been watching since the pilot episode, this was obviously going to be a book I immediately put a hold on when I found out the publishing date. I think I may have been the very first person to get this book, actually, because I've been waiting on it no less than 3 months! This is a compilation of Lauren Graham's (who plays beloved mom roles on both GG and Parenthood) early years, school theater, Hollywood blips, and then her big two roles, both as single moms on the aforementioned show. The book actually reads just like she talks on Gilmore Girls, so right there you'll either love it or hate it. It's not as funny as Bossypants, but it's got that fun Lorelai junk-food, pug-t-shirt vibe, and it's just fun. I read it in 24 hours, but it's only 200 pages, so that's pretty short. I really wanted more dish on the GG series, less on paper towels and Southern Methodist University, and felt totally ripped by the minuscule Parenthood recap chapter.

Read Alouds with Kids
*The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis - This was the third book I've read aloud in the series with the kids this school year, and although I thought it drug a bit in the middle, it really picked up and had an absolutely lovely ending. I read these books in college in a different order (I'm currently reading them in publication order) and I remember thinking a lot of the stories were confusing and I didn't connect many dots. Reading them in the original publication way is much better, and the kids haven't been confused by the story line. I don't know why Lewis wanted to change the order, but I do think that his character, Reepicheep, is one of the finest animal characters in all of children's literature. Loved it!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

DPP 2016 // Day 22-24 + bonus

Day 22 - Kid library haul

Day 23 - Knitting like a madman to finish Christmas slippers

Day 24- Christmas jammies

Day 24 - Silent Night hymn at church's candlelight service

Day 25 - bonus-a boy and his dog, in his self-made cave

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

DPP 2016 // Days 15-21

Day 15 - morning reading

Day 16 - the babies cuddling after a morning hike in the snow

Day 17 - Copper pulling the kids on the snowboard

Day 18- Watching A Christmas Story

Day 19 - snow fort

Bonus shot (Days 20-21) Lu in the snow 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

DPP 2016 // Days 8-14

Day 1: Giving love to the giant farm dog

Day 2: our first peek of snow!

Day 3: Ani playing catch with snowballs + Copper

Day 4: potentially the only picture in 2016 of just us

Day 5/6: fort-building on Christmas break 

Day 7: cozy Christmas in the basement suite

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

DPP days 1-7

 Day 1 - playing in Blaine after some errands

Day 2 - knitting for my grandma

Day 3 - the paperwork for our  sponsored Compassion child 

Day 4 - Ani decorating the tree 

Day 5 - quiet hours while my kids are at co-op (!)

Day 6 - a gorgeous and chilly day for a walk, after nearly 2 months solid of rain and overcast

Day 7 - the goofball posing for me

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November Titles // 2016

via NPR

*The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - This debut novel from Diffenbaugh was one I heard recommended over and over again on my favorite podcast, What Should I Read Next? by Anne Bogel. When it became a book that my book club was going to read together, I jumped on it because I knew it'd be interesting. The main character has an uncanny gift with flowers and the meanings behind the bouquets she creates. This is a story about a little magic, and a little redemption. It was cute.

*Taproot Magazine: Preserve - I always include these because they are ad-free and over 100 pages and I read them cover to cover. This issue was all about preservation, from the story The Jelly Maker to how to care for a cast-iron pan. I always find this magazine incredibly beautiful from the illustrations, photographs, and words, and I don't get too many magazines anymore, but this is worth every penny of the $40 that comes 4X a year.

*Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet - This gorgeous children's biography was about Charlotte's Web author, E.B. White, and it was as expected from Sweet's work-practically perfect in every way.  Sweet's collage work is exquisite, and the story that follows White's childhood through the woods and the lake, then his adulthood at the farm, is just as I expected it to be from his detail of the Zuckerman's farm. I would hesitate to give this book to a young child, aside from just the expectation of perusing the pictures, because it is a fairly long biography. Her picture books are average size, around 30 pages, and easy for kids to understand. This one is a whopping 80+ page biography. My kids weren't interested in sitting down and listening to me read it aloud, and they weren't interested enough to read it themselves, though they did enjoy the pictures. I, however, would buy this for myself!

*Let's Pray Scripture! by Laurel Lafout - This book is written by a friend who goes to our church, who is a licensed chaplain, and has worked in mental health. It's a book that is half about prayer and praying, and half scriptural prayers written by her arranged by topic in alphabetical order. Each prayer that she has created for the reader has between 5-10 scripture references for deeper connection, and I've already used a few of the prayers as devotionals in group settings. Great work, Laurel! I can't wait to read your next book, and know this will be a useful reference on my shelf!

*Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate - This young adult novel is aimed at upper elementary, lower junior high readers, and I have a bit of an affinity for well-written YA novels. This sweet book, about a boy who is teetering on the edge of homelessness with his family, and how an imaginary friend who 'returns' to him to help him through this time, is both interesting, nostalgic, and encouraging. Although my two children never had imaginary friends, I will get this on audio for both my kids to listen to, as I think they'll not only enjoy the story, but get to hop inside someone else's shoes and develop a little empathy and perspective for something they've never gone through.

Read Aloud to Kids

Surprisingly, I didn't finish any novels this month, but I am thick in the middle of Mathematicians are People, Too (Vol 2), and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis. Both will be completed in December. We've read a lot of great picture books this month, though!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Join me for the December Photo Project 2016!

December Photo Project 2016

My friend, Rebecca, from View from the Prairie Box, has been doing the DPP for years. I've loved joining her each December because it makes me realize I just have to snap a photo or two of something I'm enjoying, engaged in, watching my children do, whatever, and I have these awesome memories of our Advent and Christmas time to look through. 

They don't have to be holiday related at all. Her friend Jenn, made this amazing Blue Room series last year (ack! I can't find it to link up to it, trust me it was epic), and I love following the facebook page to see how hundreds of people, all across the world, are now playing along. It's a pretty neat thing. 

Go here to sign up, play along on your blog, IG, or the facebook page, and enjoy! All photos can be tagged with #DPP2016. Easy peasy.

Monday, October 31, 2016

October Titles // 2016

Ani as Queen Lucy and Lukka as High King Peter, acting out Narnia. Poor King Ed!

*Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton - This is a memoir on marriage, and Doyle Melton's most recent book. I think I read this book in two sittings, it's so conversational. It starts with her younger years and through many addictions and destructive behaviors, became a mother and then endured a marital tragedy of the biggest magnitude. This story is R-A-W. It's sometimes hard to read in parts, and the reason I felt that way was because you might know someone in your life who mirrors Glennon's story and it's just heartbreaking. I don't agree with Glennon's Christian theology, but as a female author she stands on her own two feet with strength and resilience.

*Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling - With the movie coming out I knew I had to catch up on JK Rowling's new movie coming out based on this book, I knew I had to catch up! This was a fun little 'textbook' that Harry Potter and Ron Weasley had at Hogwarts, and it's basically an alphabetically encyclopedia of Beasts in the magical world. The movie will be based on the author of the textbook, and how he came across all these beasts. It should be excellent!

*The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling -  I can't believe I missed these little novelty books by Rowling but I caught up this month! This is a little rendition of non-muggle magical fairy tales and did not disappoint. Just like her Potter series, the virtuous characters come out on top. If you liked fairy tales as a kid and loved the Potter books as much as everyone else on the planet, this will probably be a fun 1-2 sitting read.

*Being Mortal by Atul Gawande - This book is very well written, researched, and anecdotal, but I read it too close to When Breath Becomes Air, which is also about the end of life stage. Mortal is about how our culture takes care of people who are elderly, facing end-of-life, or riddled with disease that needs massive medical intervention, and also the author's father facing his final days. It's very sad and real at times, but with research and human interest stories throughout that I think nearly anyone, at any stage in life, could get something out of it. If you aren't sobbing by the end you may be a robot.

*Taproot // Issue 19: Wander - I only post these magazines for two reasons. First, they are thick and without advertisements, so yes, I really am reading 100 pages of a magazine straight through. Secondly, because I want everyone who is mildly interested to know how much I love this magazine. It's quiet, it includes poetry, the most gorgeous artwork, illustrations, and photography, not to mention recipes, a kid's craft, and usually, some knitting to boot. This year's cover artist, Jessica Roux, is absolutely hitting it out of the park with the first three (I can't wait for next month's!) and I want a few of her prints for my home.

Read Aloud to Kids

*The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - This is my second time reading through Narnia, and this time around (the kids' first) we're going by original publication date. The kids LOVED this book (who doesn't) and have been making scene dioramas for school, which they've also enjoyed. I think it was the right choice to read them in this way, because it makes so much more sense than in the way I read them in college. This way flows much better, and immediately gives you action, great characters, and a Narnian imagination including meeting the four Pevensie children, Aslan, the White Witch, and a few other Narnian creatures that are important later on.

*Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis - Prince Caspian was the second story to take place in Narnia with the Pevensie children, and it was mostly about their journey to help overcome the Telemarines, a group not native to Narnia. There are new characters here, and although it's not nearly as action-based as LW&W, it certainly has interesting merits, including Aslan's interactions with the children. I'm looking forward to the next installment in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

*Sophie Mouse: The Clover Curse (#7) by Poppy Green - This cute little series I read aloud to Ani whenever a new one comes, and we enjoyed it in two sittings. The pictures are very cute, and nearly on every page, and the story is action-based, and very kid friendly, and can be finished in one to two long sittings. We'll probably read the entire series if the library gets them all (they are published in the UK).

Monday, October 24, 2016

Curriculum Picks for 2016-2017 (2nd & 4th grades)

 Lukka's new math text book- Beast Academy

I honestly meant to write this a solid two months ago when bouquets of newly sharpened pencils* were like stars in my eyes, but let's just cut to the chase-that back-to-school Great Expectations mumbo jumbo is over and we're eyeballs thick into the work of the year. So far, the past 6 weeks have been going pretty well, but talk to me at the beginning of February and I may have 4 pencils sticking out of my hair, glue hanging off the table in a hardened state, and tears of mania in my eyes. 

Besides my less than stellar blogging stats as of late, I do want to share our curriculum for the year, because I find those posts by other home schoolers both fun and helpful to me when I'm in a slump, need to switch, or just find something new to get the train up the hill (I'm looking at you, early May sunshine!). Here's what we've got for the kids:

Lukka is starting a new math program this year after 4 years of Singapore. We love Singapore, and if Beast Academy doesn't work out, we'll go back. But...I had to try a curriculum that I'd heard good things about (though it's so new most vendors don't even know about it) that has a full-color comic book for each textbook level.  Ani is working on Singapore 2B, having finished 2A in first grade. She's nearly half-way through it in just 6 weeks, so I don't doubt she'll move up to level 3 within the year. She's always been a math whiz. We also had the school buy us Say Cheese, a multiplication board game for extra practice. 

During Morning Time we usually do bible, handwriting, and a read-aloud (usually a chapter of a novel). We're still using the Ergermeier kid's bible, an Odyssey devotions based in Matthew, and  the Truth & Grace Memory Book 1 from my online friend Renee. Every once in awhile they'll watch something on our school-subscription of Right Now Media, which I love but barely find the time to get to. 
The kids have started using Handwriting without Tears; Ani doing level 1 printing and Lukka doing level 3 cursive, which he finds much easier than print.  For Language Arts, we're reading through the entire Narnia series in their originally published order, and we're 2 books down. Ani is still working steadily at one level per day on ReadingEggs.com and Lukka is now on Level 3 of Susan Barton remedial phonetic program. He is on an iep for dyslexia and has been since early Spring. More info on that soon. 

This year the kids are a part of a local co-op and that has been so wonderful. Lukka's class is learning about the Japanese Canadian internment during WWII, and taking learning camps (4-8 week focused programs that our school puts out) including Little Bits and Cubelets. Later in the year he'll be doing an awesome hands-on Space unit, and another term is unknown to me as of now. Ani's group (the group I teach with) are doing a Grammar/ Parts of Speech lapbook and also a Geography/Wonders of the World unit study, which has been not only so fun, but so full of great learning, too. Later she'll be doing a Private Eye (writing, nature study, art) unit and also a lapbook on nutrition. There is one other term unaccounted for that is unknown subject matter to me but another teacher is in charge of that!

As for social studies, this first term the kids are learning all about First Nations tribes of the Pacific side from BC up north through the Artic circle, including tribes like Haida, Coast Salish, Inuit, and more. We've been reading myths, learning about culture including art, tools, daily life and also about geography and food sources in their areas. One of two best books we've used (mostly all library resources) are A Native American Thought of It! Inventions and Technology and Keepers of the Animals, an anthology. The kids are creating lapbooks about what they find interesting in all our study. 

Right now, these are the things we've been using on a daily or weekly basis and have been enjoying. I haven't been focusing on Science this term but we'll get to it later. I like to divide Socials and Science into different terms so we can go deep with the subject matter and not feel rushed. What are your kids enjoying in their school year? 

*Always watch You've Got Mail in the Fall. It's a thing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 Hey all, my favorite blog reader is Bloglovin', and I thought I'd add it there for others to find. I know I'm not writing as regularly as I once had time for, but please believe me when I say I've got meaty blog posts just waiting for time to be worked on, including thoughts on homeschooling, dyslexia, our June vacation (!!!), my girls trip, a new co-op adventure, and more. If you'd like to follow along via bloglovin, just click the link at the top of this post. See you around, and for the non-negotiable last-day-of-the-month book reports!

Friday, September 30, 2016

September Titles (2016)

checking out my new amazon treat! 

Last month and this month were good to me in the book department. My time of watching TV voraciously (catching up with my 3 favorite shows once they're on netflix, and watching all of Parenthood in one summer) is over and I am back turning to books in every spare moment. Surprisingly, this month went to a lot of history all across Canada. Funny how one can find the right books at the right time. Lukka will be learning all about BC history this year in (home)school, so reading a few of these books were so helpful even from a homeschooling perspective, let alone enjoyable to read on their own. Here's my September reads:

*Vancouver Island Scoundrels, Eccentrics, and Originals by Stephen Ruttan - This quirky little book was one I had seen while on vacation on Vancouver Island and it seemed like a fun little history lesson, complete with photos, odd stories, and few pages (170+). I picked it up at our library and I thought it was so interesting. I know very little of the history of British Columbia, and this certainly was an entertaining intro. The stories were well-written and seeing the old pictures of people and places helped tremendously to add character and setting. I liked it so well I thought I'd write to the author and tell him we're planning on reading a bit of it aloud in our homeschool. This year Lukka has to learn about BC's history, and a number of these stories are a perfect fit.

*In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth & Reconciliation edited by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail - I really learned a lot from this anthology of essays from authors (both native and non-native) across Canada retelling experiences involving First Nations issues and people. Just this year in BC the ministry of education has begun to include much more First Nations curriculum/topics in every grade, signaling good things for reconciliation between First Nations people groups and the general population who may or may not know of the horrific pasts of many tribes. Of course, in thinking of my own country, I see Canada light-years ahead. Each essay in this book had a different tone, conflict, and theme and through all of those different sets of eyes I gained a lot of knowledge. I enjoyed it!

*Bent Hope by Tim Huff - This book is a collection of Toronto's street kids' stories told by the man who ministered to them. They are raw, tragic, and at times, horrifying, but sitting at the end of each chapter is a deep sincere love by the author that one day, these kids would know the love God has for them. It's both deeply troubling and deeply hopeful. A book like this is what needs to be shared in youth groups, and older children's lives along with frank discussions on things like abuse, cyclical problems like mental illness, financial and spiritual poverty, and solutions that honor the God who loves the 1 out of the 99 so much He goes looking for them. Thankful a friend of mine let me borrow this book, as I don't know I would have come across it otherwise.

*Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist - This is a book full of short essays that mostly center on the themes of peace, grace, slowing down life, and margin. I appreciated the encouragement Niequist offers but didn't find anything new or mind-blowing. Mostly, this is a quiet book that helps give you permission to do what you want with your life. If you're a woman, you may feel like you need permission to take care of yourself without feeling guilty. Shauna is trying to give you back that power. Though this is a quick read, and a gentle book, I didn't find it very fluid, and sometimes the sections didn't  feel that different, even though there were 5 or 6 of them. This could be a really lovely book for some, but it was a shoulder-shrugger for me.

*I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam - In this book, Vanderkam takes her 168 Hours log idea, presents it to high-earning women (over $100K/year), and maps out how they spend their time, and how they really do have it all, it just looks different than what you'd think. I sort of take issue with this idea because although I'm high on efficiency and productivity, I need a lot of down-time to rejuvenate, and I just didn't see much margin in these lives, though they are in powerful or interesting careers and are able to spend quality time with their kids. I hope at some point she decides to study women that feel more aligned to the average-"jo", those who make much less, single mothers, women who have children who have special needs, etc. This book feels too much like a niche book. A small, riche, non-margin niche. I appreciate what she's trying to do-to empower women to go for the big jobs AND the family, but honestly? It made me tired FOR these women. I'll take my simple life, one-income, and plenty of whitespace. I hate to say I think this book backfired for me.