Monday, May 23, 2016

Cooked as Curriculum: History, Science, Health, Geography, and Politics

As the kids start to get older I'm putting a lot of energy into finding excellent resources to teach my kids that are affordable and interesting outside of picture books. Cooked, a 4-part series by Michael Pollan on Netflix, is one of those resources. 

As an American in Canada, I sometimes feel a bit snobbish turning my nose down at the options found here. My pitiful, first-world-problem attitude of 'there's nothing on this Netflix'! led me to this series, which I'd never pick in a million years if I could watch Parenthood, Nashville, and New Girl back to back. Such is life, and I'm glad, because watching this--a show I was only marginally interested in--became a full supply of conversation between myself and my kids when we watched all four parts together. 

I own one of Michael Pollan's foodie books, but I haven't read it yet. This documentary series is four parts named after elements used in or with cooking: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. I will say, the first part of the Fire episode was fairly boring; both my kids and I loosing interest, but the other three were so fascinating.  
As my kids and I were watching these episodes together, so many questions about history, food culture, farming and more came to the surface. We could just hit pause for a few minutes while we had a brief discussion about it (or lengthy-I think 20 minutes was our longest) and then go back to watching more. 

Now, how does one use these as home school or after-school curriculum? Well here are a few ideas:

*Conversations:  Honestly, the best way to use this series is to talk with your kids about what you're all learning. Our conversations with my kids being ages 7 & 8 included topics like the following: poverty & obesity, fast food vs. home cooking, moderation, historically who cooks in different cultures, and how we can use food as activism (i.e. shopping locally from farmers, with in season produce, local meat and dairy sources). Conversations may not be qualifiers for a letter grade, but they are valuable learning tools and shouldn't be discounted. 

*Research: A child might get really hooked on one of the topics mentioned in Cooked, just like I was fascinated with the bacteria/mold that created perfect French cheese in the nunnery! If your kid wants to know more about x, y, or z, why not guide them to the kid search engine,, and let them have at it. This search engine filters for kids, so no risk in letting them tool around looking for more information about their interests. Do you see a project in their future? 

*Cooking:  This one is very obvious. Get in the kitchen and cook with your kids! Bake bread (air), have them help you make veggie kabobs on the bbq now that it's summer (fire), do an easy cheese experiment (earth), and show your kids how to independently make pasta with boiling (water). 

*Presentation or Science Experiment: Test your science knowledge with what types of chemical reactions are found when ingredients are heated up or mixed together. I know my son is especially fascinated with science topics and The Science of Cooking book/cookbook might be a great resource for those who want to try their theories in the kitchen. Many homeschooling families favor presentations (a la science fair or classical conversations) and this series has a plethora of ideas and information to elicit some sort of presentation project!

*Family Food Traditions: Celebrating within your own family and ethnic food traditions are important not only for unity and memories, but paired with this series can mean even more to your kids after they learn the whys behind the kinds of foods that are always on the holiday table! "This is where we're from, so we celebrate with these" ties them to a background that is bigger than themselves. Food traditions are unique and important all around the globe. 

*Mapping: This series goes all over the globe to identify seasonal foods (creating, growing, or raising) and a fun idea would be to write down every country they visit and map it, alongside what they're making for dinner. A few examples from the show would be: Morocco, France, India, New Zealand, and United States. There are a lot more. 

In my best homeschooling days, I can pinpoint where so many of these resources could be endlessly inspiring for projects, activities, and learning opportunities (on my worst I'm checking what school we're closest to!), but this was definitely a 'great homeschooling day' for us, when we found this series. I hope you and your kids enjoy it as much as we did!

***These all cover subjects such as socials + geography (people, family systems, places, season/local food grown), health/career(cooking, work choices), science (processes within cooking including air, water, fire, earth as natural resources, chemical reactions, plants & animals as food, ecosystems and weather), and math (recipe following including time, measurements, multiplication). ****

Monday, May 9, 2016

Eating in the Middle by Andie Mitchell, a Review

Andie's cookbook, Eating in the Middle, open to the Banana Bread donuts with maple cinnamin cream cheese frosting

I don't often do single-book reviews because I save them for a monthly series, but this cookbook, Andie Mitchell's Eating in the Middle, deserves a spotlight. I first heard about Andie via my friend Meg and her blog, and I promptly read Andie's memoir (the cover grabbed me) and then placed her cookbook on hold at the library. I'm so glad I did, and I'm already in line again because there were a number of recipes I just didn't have time for in the blip of two weeks that I had it in my kitchen.

I made a number of her recipes, including the delicious donuts (seriously, read that description), a flavorful Asian chicken salad, some breakfast muffins that had pineapple, carrot, raisins, and coconut in them, and a batch of different brussel sprouts. The only 'dud' for our family was the Brussel sprouts, and only because of the cheese added. The recipe was not only visually appealing, but delicious, and I should have listened to my intuition when it was telling me to skip the blue cheese. The original recipe calls for gorgonzola, which is a type of blue cheese, and after three failed stops, I just bought regular blue cheese, and I used a very small amount, less than the recipe called for. It was just too strong of a flavor for us. 

The other recipes, however, were gobbled up within 24 hours, easy. These donuts, made gluten-free, were so delicious I've had a request to make the again, and that was trying them without the icing on the (which was delicious and leveled them up from 'good' to 'decadent'). I can't wait to get the book again from the library, potentially ordering it soon from Amazon, and making a few more delectable recipes. In the meantime, I have her blog to keep my tummy full. 

The photos in the book are gorgeous, and Aran Goyoga, from the anthropologie-esque gluten-free foodie blog, Canelle et Vanille. Seriously, that woman charges thousands of dollars for food styling photography workshops around the globes and they are always full. She knows what she's doing. An excellent photographer and a picture on nearly ever page is a MUST for a cookbook. I won't even remotely consider getting it at the library, let alone buying it, if that's not the case. 

Have you seen this cookbook or tried any recipes from Andie's blog? Do tell your favorites!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Reads (2016) and Movies

April hopefuls; only three actually made it

I finished a lot of great books this month, one or two slogs, and found a new favorite author. It's been a great book month. Our family watched quite a few good movies this month so I'm adding those here, too.

*Girls on the Edge by Dr. Leonard Sax -- Last month I raved about Boys Adrift, also by Dr. Sax, and I couldn't wait to read his take on the other gender side. I didn't find this book as eye-opening (maybe because I am a girl?) but there is still valuable information here for parents, teachers, and caregivers. I fully plan to read The Collapse of Parenting, his newest book, when it finally comes to me at the library (I've been waiting for months, and it's now in transit). The thing I love about Dr. Sax's writing is that it takes huge ideas based on science, and shuffles them alongside anecdotes so the reader-who may or may not have any medical/scientific knowledge base- and explains them in an accessible manner. 

*Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach -- This book was so good. I read it in about 36 hours, and it's such an important book for Christians, specifically, to read, though anyone would enjoy it. It's a spiritual memoir about a boy who was raised by two moms and a gay dad, was brought up in the gay rights community, became a Christian, then a pastor. It's controversial and people within the church, I feel, have a hard time discussing this topic. Often people err on the side of leniency, or inconsideration, and this book qualifies the opposites of both. Read and discuss it with your tweens, teens, and family members. 

* The Age of Miracles by Karen Walker Thompson -- I loved this YA novel! I heard about it from the What Should I Read Next? podcast hosted by Anne Bogel of the MMD blog, and it sounded like a book I'd be interested in reading. I was right, it was fascinating. It's a story about the slowing of the earth, and how that effects everything on earth, including relationships, migration and animal behavior, the atmosphere, and time. The writing is beautiful, and although the story is abut a tween girl, I really enjoyed it because I love reading dystopian stories. Consider this as "dystopian-lite". I'd definitely read another book by Walker Thompson. 

*The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr -- This book has hit me from so many angles, but as much as I love reading memoir, this book about memoirs, was a bit of a slog for me. When a book takes me more than two weeks to finish (heaven forbid if I have to renew it from the library at week 3!), I know it's not a book I'm usually enjoying. I wanted to get through this book because I found the writing excellent (!), and the bibliography in the back to be one of the best I've seen. I have so many new memoirs on my book list to read from this book, just didn't hit the mark for me. Chapters gushing about a favorite writer of Karr's, I just didn't enjoy it as some might. It felt more like a book that should be on a college syllabus. 

*Caught up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson -- This book is about the value of reading excellent literature to the kids in your life, and although the topic is something I fully buy into, I also found this book to be a bust, even clocking in at only 125 pages. The writing is very flowery and like constantly reading a bulls-eye: you have to read around and around and around until you finally get to the point. I like the topic, wouldn't probably pass on the book.

*Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson -- I heard about this award-winning YA verse novel from the What Should I Read Next? podcast, as well, and I loved it. The poetry is beautiful and the plot (a memoir of childhood) moves at a great pace and is very interesting. This would be an excellent book to listen to on audio and/or add to a poetry/civil rights unit for school. If you like verse novels, add it!

Read Aloud with the Kids:

*By the Shores of Silver Lake  by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- This is the story of Laura's family when Pa works with the railroad crew as a store shop keeper. It's the 5th in the series and was a very 'happy' and interesting book, with something wild always happening out on the prairie. My kids really loved this book, as Laura is still getting herself into a pickle every once in awhile and they laugh out loud at what she impulsively gets herself into.


*Creed -- If you love the Rocky series (like me!) then you'll probably enjoy it. If you didn't like any of the Rocky movies, skip it. It's the story of Apollo's son who trains under the Italian Stallion. 

*Mockingjay Pt. 2 -- I really enjoyed The Hunger Games series although I didn't find this wrap-up to be quite as good as a few of the other movies. I think this series is very clever in terms of imagination, but I honestly couldn't remember a lot of what was in the movie and how it related to the book. I think I was annoying Stefan when I kept saying, "jeez, I don't remember this part AT ALL". 

*Amy -- This was a really well-done documentary on jazz and pop singer, Amy Winehouse, who died a few years ago when her heart stopped in her flat. It's the story of her well before she became famous, and the demons that followed her trail after she began to make it big. It's a sad story because Amy had one of the most beautiful jazz voices in the last 25 years, and she had so much potential. 

*Cooked by Michael Pollan -- Not to give too much away, but I'm going to write a separate blog post about using this as homeschool curriculum. Although there wasn't too much new information, I really enjoyed watching this four-part series with my kids. We had great discussions after each episode, and aside from the first part being incredibly boring, the last 3 made up for it. 

*A Bear's Story -- My kids really enjoyed this BBC production of a story about a bear cub. It's a kid documentary, and great for animal lovers. The narration is not quite there (that really can make or break a movie like this, right?) and a bit cheesy in part, but for a short, and slow-paced movie about a cute cub, your nature lovers will enjoy it. 

*The Peanuts Movie -- I wasn't impressed with this movie, though my kids thought it was funny. I admit I didn't watch all of it, but the parts I saw I felt like they scrapped everything from the famous Peanuts movies of the past, and pasted them together. I'm quite glad I didn't spend the money in the theaters!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hikes with Kids (and Dogs!) : Lower Falls on Golden Ears / Alouette Lake

 a beautiful rainbow captured in the spray of the glacial runoff...see that tiny crazy person in orange?!

Alright, so this 'hike' is basically a nature path with stunning views (see below!) but it's still about 3 miles, and we took the kids, so we're going to stick with Hikes With Kids. :) We went on this hike the other day to get out of the house on a beautiful day even though it was afternoon, and we have a couple dogs staying with us for a few weeks while their owners are on holiday. Stefan and I knew that although the dogs are older, they'd still be able to do this hike well, the kids would be able to 'walk' them (they love walking them!) and we could get outside in the sunshine and exercise for awhile.

You may remember this view from when we did it about 10 months ago, but what a huge difference a seasonal change brings! The glacial runoff is in full force right now in the early Spring, and late last summer, the same area was basically a trickle and shallow pool that you could walk across to the other side! Incredible.

one of the prettiest views in all of BC on the Lower Falls trail at Alouette Lake

This is a great hike for any type of ability, and it comes with a view like this ^. Isn't that just as pretty as a postcard? So many people like to go down to this area to swim in the summer, but in early April, with the snowmelt icing the water, we only saw one brave soul!

At the top of the falls, there is a small area (not shown) to sit on rocks and catch some sun, eat a small snack, and take some photos before heading back down the trail. The water is gushing so fast and it is so powerful, that one slip if you were near the water could easily be your last. While we were there this time, there was an overeager dog, owner unseen, jumping around and slipped. Our family did not witness it but the people next to us screamed and luckily! he somehow found his footing, jumped back up and ran up the trail to a safer area. 
I'm glad it was a happy ending, but it's a good lesson to my kids that nature is powerful and not a force to reckon with-it's not tame and the power can easily overtake you. I'm thankful the dog was not harmed, but I know people die getting too close, jumping too close to rocks, or swimming too deep every's why they post signs! Please be careful out there. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hikes with Kids: Elk Mountain. Almost.

Well, as if the title weren't clear, we were unable to complete this hike but we will conquer it at some point!

Elk Mountain is quite a bit outside of Chiliwack in the boonies. You go past the city, past the last neighborhood, and a solid 10 miles through the mountain farms before getting to the lower edge of the trail. This view above was taken on our way down the dirt road just a short ways from the parking area to start the trail! What a view already, huh?! It was too gorgeous not to snap, and I'm glad I did because I didn't get any other photos....hopefully when we've ascended the mountain I'll have another one or two to add.

This hike is definitely off the beaten path but that doesn't stop it from being popular. When we arrived in the afternoon at the trail head (our first mistake-not going in the morning!) there were at least 20 cars parked. The trail is 7km round trip (just under 5 miles) and is heavy on the ascent, so we knew it'd be harder than Buntzen lake, though just a little less distance-wise. Distance doesn't necessarily mean anything, though, it's all about how steep it is because that slows you down, and let me say, this was a steep hike! We were on this hike for about 90 minutes going up, and then about 40 on the way down, if that tells you anything! I felt like I was on a stair stepper most of the way.

The reasons we did not decide to get to the end felt logical at the time: 

1) It was getting dark in the woods because of cloud covering, and even though the sun wasn't setting for another two hours, I felt a little uncomfortable trying to get down that steep of a trail if it got any darker...with kids
2) It was extremely cold the further up we went and my son was unprepared clothing-wise wearing just a t-shirt and shorts. If he would have packed even a long-sleeved t-shirt or a hoodie to put over top, this wouldn't have been a factor, but because of the cloud-covering we were producing sweat and having goose-bumps...not a good thing, especially for kids!
3) I was tired from the day and I'm at my peak (see what I did there?) for hikes during morning; I didn't have my normal energy
4) Stefan was battling a cold and didn't feel great

Looking back, I think we could have pressed on, but we probably made a good decision for that day. I am a huge gut-truster and my gut was telling me to turn around, so we did. I hate not finishing something, it leaves a bit of a sour feeling. It's unsatisfying to quit half-way though the reasons for turning around were good ones and I'm sure we'll head back soon.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Day in the Life // Instagram Play-by-Play

A few weeks ago I decided to play along with Ali Edwards on instagram (here I am!) with her own version of a Day in the's my captured scenes from about 6AM-8PM including original post captions.

6AM and there's a (reading) party in my bed. Mornings are for quiet, reading, bible study, and scrolling through my favourite online haunts for an hour before an hour of exercise (T/Th: spinning, M/F hiit video) and showering. Kids are up and at em at 8! (Playing along with @aliedwards#adayinthelife today, let's see if I can remember after this one.) what are you up to today?

8:08AM like clockwork, everyone's waiting for their breakfast, even the teddies, while I'm stuck on NPR tiny desk artists and stretching (drying out) before a late shower. Tuesday's = oatmeal.#adayinthelife

10:12AM and we're out running errands before hitting the beach on this glorious morning! Favorite errand: library. Obvs. #adayinthelife

10:40AM Next stop, picking up free-range eggs at the goat/duck farm a block away. They were out already, Dangit! Gotta' be quick since the layers are just getting going again and not producing as much as mid-summer. #ftlangley#adayinthelife

10:59AM the start to our hour at the #fraserriver beach in #ftlangley to soak up some wonderful sunshine, read a book (me) and play in the sand (them). Delightful!#springbreak #goplayoutside#adayinthelife

12:01PM Still in the sand 👋🏻#goplayoutside #adayinthelife #ftlangley#nofilter

1:45PM started our 5th Little House book, By the Shores of Silver Creek, and all three of us are crying by the end of the second chapter. Is there another portion of children's literature dedicated to a beloved dog as this one, for dear old Jack? I haven't read one yet. 😿😿#littlehouseontheprairie #adayinthelife#readaloudrevival

2-4:30PM ahh quiet time! Chores like laundry, dishes, taking out the compost (😦), catching up on email and finishing bible study prep for tomorrow.#adayinthelife #geterdone

7:38PM #starwars viewing before bed because #springbreak . I forgot to take the camera to the ball field where him and I played catch and the kids played in the dirt, our trip to Mickey Ds to get the three of them ice cream cones, and then our haphazard dinner because Whatevs. This is my last shot for #adayinthelife with@aliedwards since the rest is bedtime/reading/movie time and we are boring and go to bed early, but it was fun!#goplayoutside

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hikes with Kids: Buntzen Lake near Port Moody

 a sunny view of the wraparound cove at Buntzen Lake

Last weekend we went on a hike that we learned about from my kids' babysitter. She belongs to an active family and so I knew anything she recommended we could do as well. She said Buntzen Lake was a great hike, and she was right, I loved this hike!

 almost halfway view

This hike is a wraparound lake hike, and for at least half of it, you're very close to the water. There are times when the trail meanders into the forested area and you can't even see the large lake. There is a small suspension bridge, outhouses at the half-way mark (along with a rest area with benches and picnic tables), and the views were great. We went for a morning hike and were done by 2. I believe it took it 3 1/2 hours, plus a thirty minute stop for lunch at the half-way mark.
 Lukka looking at the lake from early on 
It's a 5 mile hike (8km) and we were all tired afterward. There is an overall ascent of 100 m but it took us 1.5 hours less than the hike site said, and any ability I believe could hike this relatively flat hike. It's an intermediate, I believe only because of the length, though perhaps some of the incline could be troublesome with those who have a heart condition. There aren't very many of them, though, and they're often met with a bridge and a small waterfall nearby. :) 

stopping for me to snap a shot of the trail

I loved this hike and would definitely do it again. It was maybe a 40 minute drive and we had a cool morning with a sunny afternoon, when it started getting really busy. I think everyone was in a great mood because it was one of the first really sunny days we've had in awhile, too! I prefer the longer hikes, but if they're too high/steep, they have to be shorter for the kids' sake. I felt like the 3 1/2 hours of hiking up, down, and on flat terrain gave me an excellent workout, enjoyable enough to talk to my family nearly the whole time (one fo the main reasons I love to hike--bonding with the family), and beautiful scenery throughout!

Monday, April 4, 2016

16 in 2016: Updates on Year-long Goals

Although I don't have more than one item crossed off on my 16 in 2016 goal list, I am working on a few more at the same time, and this post is to document the in-between. 

One of my goals was to travel to Banff National Park and see Calgary (and who am I kidding? ride horses like in Heartland). We're heading out that way in mid-June for a family vacation with my mom and stepdad as well. We'll stay two days and nights in Banff where hikes and nature will be prime priorities, and then just under a week in Calgary before we drive back and the 'rents fly home. We've got our places booked thanks to airbnb, and we've got tons of things to do and places to explore thanks to the great tips I got on facebook. Are you familiar with those areas? Leave me a comment with the best places to eat or family-friendly things to do.

Another goal I have is to explore Vancouver island. I've been to Victoria perhaps 3 cumulative days before and never anywhere else. Two of my friends are meeting me up at YVR this summer and we're hitting the ferry to explore the island! It's a great time to come to Canada because our dollar is quite low, so they were willing to say this year is BC year. What better way to accomplish a fun goal than with some of your best friends? I'm counting down the days!

Reading through the Laura Ingalls Wilder books has been great so far. Out of nine books, we've read through book four (just started 5, "By the Shores of Silver Lake") since Christmas. At this rate, I hope to be finished with them by mid-June, when school ends. That shouldn't be too hard, the first 4 are the bulkiest. It's a six-month commitment, but it's been a fun one to do with the kids.

I've also bought or received a few more (living) plants for our home! I bought a really nice plant from IKEA where even the plants are just a few dollars. I have no idea what it is because it didn't come with a tag, it's not on their website, and it's not shown above. There are a good 30 leaves and it reaches about 6 inches high. It's funny that it was a 'goal' because now that I received two as gifts (an African violet and an Easter lily), I feel like I only need to purchase one more (a nice hanging plant) and that goal will be finished! I found a great local spot that was new-to-me that I've scouted out a beautiful hanging plant for a reasonable price but they are almost never open, so I'll keep trying.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Reads (2016)

a cozy night by the fire reading

I read a lot of great stuff in March! Here's the list: 

*Still Alice by Lisa Genova - I loved this book. It's about a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early-onset, progressive Alzheimers.  It has everything I like in a novel: relationships, direct description (no slogging through flowery prose here), an amazing plot, well-executed writing, and a sweet ending. I would definitely read anything else Genova has written or writes in the future, and I appreciated her structure and her terse description. This book helped me understand the disease so much more than I knew. When doctors or professionals write books and stay within their field of knowledge, it does so much for a book, and this one is in that category (she has a Harvard degree in neuroscience). Four bright stars, and I'm watching the movie soon!

*Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison -- I read this memoir by former playboy bunny girlfriend in about 24 hours, but not because it was overly enticing (nothing surprising here, folks) but because it was very readable and I was rooting for Holly and wanted to see how she changed her life, i.e. leaving the Playboy mansion. Some of the details of the grounds and house, the company, and the routines were interesting to read about, but really it's Holly's story of her control by "Hef", cat fights with the other girls, and becoming a whole person again. This book is not about the sex, if you're looking for that go read The Happy Hooker, but I love memoirs and when I saw this at Chapters I knew I wanted to read it. When I saw it on my library's shelf, I snagged it and knew it'd be a quick read. Three stars for content, and an extra for Holly's courage.

*Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax -- This nonfiction book should be top priority in getting ahold of if you still have young boys or men at home, or if your kids are having kids! It's that important. There are five 'factors' that Dr. Sax writes about in this book that show why our current batch of boys seem lazy, unmotivated, and directionless, and it's fascinating. Sax writes books that are very easy to understand, with plenty of examples from his profession to illustrate his points. He backs up everything with research and now that I've read two of his four books and regarded both highly, I put the other two on hold. 

*At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier -- Have you read Girl With the Pearl Earring or listened to Chevalier's TED talk? She is one of my favorite historical fiction writers because she chooses an object-usually just one object- and obsesses about it, researches it until it's completely wrung out, and then writes a book around it. Her writing has taken a turn in the last few books from famous historical paintings to now Americana items such as quilts, and in her newest, apple varieties. This book is lovely to read, but it's more vulgar and graphic than her others. Not that that's a bad thing-it goes well with the story and must be told that way, but if you're queasy, I'd give a hard think if you want to continue. If you don't get the stomach churnings from readings (I don't, I have to see it to feel sick, which is why I've never understood why people WATCH surgeries being performed. Weirdos.), than you're fine. You'll like it. 

*Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel -- This book was probably my least favorite this month, even though I love dystopian/futuristic fiction. It was a page-turner, and with short chapters and jumping around from character to character, the book went fast, but I didn't think it was excellent by any means. The story is about a flu that depletes the vast majority of the world, and the people who are surviving in the aftermath. The stories come together in interesting yet predictable ways, and a few of the subplots were what held my attention. I give it 3 stars and a shrug of the shoulders.

*The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham - We all have different quirks as it comes to the topics we like to learn about, research, or dig deeper into, and the Holy Spirit is one of those for me. The bible says little about Him, but being as He is a person of the trinity, I am always wanting to know more about Him. I was mentioning to a friend recently that I hadn't read any good books on the Holy Spirit, and she suggested a title that I'd never a very famous Christian author and evangelist-Billy Graham. I've never read anything by him, but out of all the books I've read on the Holy Spirit, this has been the best so far. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

3 Year Post Move: Reflections from Another Country

view of beautiful Vancouver from Science World, even in dense clouds

The clouds are starting to give way to clearer skies, some of the flowers have started blooming, and the birds are out chirping. It's much easier to have a better mood when Spring is arriving- no matter where you're living! I have to admit there is no where else I'd rather be in the late Spring and Summer as Beautiful British Columbia. Although I know I'll crave a good thunder and lightning storm in early Summer (and I won't get it), and I'll say around mid-August, "just ONE day of rain for a change, please!", the weather is mild, the humidity is non-existant, the beach is calling, and the view of the clear skies over purply- gray mountains is breath-taking.

As of February 24th, we've been living in the Pacific Northwest for three years. Pretty soon, Ani will have spent the same amount of her childhood here as in her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, which is a surprising thought. We've lived in three cities, and two countries during that short time, and we're approaching the 1 year mark of our home in Fort Langley (early April), which has gone by fast.

This is the first year since our move where I've felt a bit more stable, because there are no future moves on the horizon, we're solidly planted in a church, home group, and family bible study with friends, our kids have their own friends and aren't struggling with that anymore, and we're just living life. Aside from taxes (don't get me going about our still outstanding tax fiascos! I need my adrenaline for other things), we have nothing 'outstanding'. There are no more administrative issues to change or switch over. Fees have been paid their dues. We're on regular schedule with all bills. Things you just don't think about when you move, are drastically harder when you switch countries.

Something I've noticed is that a lot of my personal interests and hobbies have fallen by the wayside for the quiet and physical rest of reading. While I love my once-a-month dabbling with Called to Create, I'm still not ready to pursue any other craft or art endeavors because of the mental capacities that have been on high alert these last few years. I'm sure I'll be motivated to do something art related in the future, but as for now, the closet-full of art supplies go unused. I just don't have the energy yet.

I didn't envision myself being so drained by a move, and although I'm pretty good at navel-gazing, I underestimated just how a slightly different culture and a drastically different landscape (metaphorically speaking) can mentally take out of someone. These last three years looking back have been similar to the years when I had babies and I'd zone out at the wall for an hour just to absorb the quiet and let my brain catch up to the newness.

I've also realized that not only have I always valued travel, I have had three years to explore one of the most beautiful areas in the world-the Pacific Northwest of the USA and of Canada, and I've barely scratched the surface. I have an incredibly opportunity to go up north and down south--literally 1,000 miles in either direction and that's just staying on the coast. Amazing! I fully plan to put that to use. I value travel, but I also have to make it happen. I am not content to stay within my 100 mile radius for the entire year.

Other things that have been hard are the things I knew would be the hardest before we even moved: not seeing and enjoying family and close friendships that I was accustomed to. That's still hard, three years later, and I've made it a point to see my best friends whenever I can afford it. I treasure those times, and I value prioritizing times with friends even with 1800 miles between us. We regularly skype with grandparents and try to get them out here (or us out there) as often as is financially feasible.

I daydream and 'miss' things only because they were comfortable, and I have plenty in that category: I miss powerful thunder storms that I could watch from a window or my porch, and my eyes resting on a vast expanse of sky. I miss knowing where I'm going every time I drive, not having to put effort into remembering how to get back home. I miss parking lots that have multiple ways out of them (for the love, BC, get it together!) and I miss empty isles in stores, because I still always feel like I'm in everyone's way. I miss people being friendly and acknowledging you with a slight head nod or a smile-something that only really happens I've noticed the further East you go. I miss not feeling pressured to be a dual income family.  I miss a different type of humor.  I miss driving to my friends' houses, seeing their kids, our church in Lincoln, and cheap groceries. I miss free parking. I miss good tomatoes.

I do not miss: expensive medical bills and infuriating phone calls with insurance companies who never want to pay out. I do not miss scorching summers where you go outside after a shower and you're immediately prickling with new sweat and smell. I do not miss the bugs. I do not miss camping in 100 degree weather. I do not miss seeing people I know everywhere-especially when some of them are people I'd like to avoid! I do not miss football, game day parking, or Husker red one iota. I do not miss passive aggressive and poor drivers. I do not miss being an eight-hour drive from mountains. I do not miss the bootstrap and severe individuality mentality nor  Midwestern Moralism. I do not miss getting the bird when I've legally merged.

I am slowly getting used to our new life, one that I had imagined for years but could never piece together the details of what exactly it would be like. I miss my friends, and I'm making good new ones. We are investing in our neighbors, our homeschooling and church peers, and that feels purposeful and right. Three years down, although riddled with mental and physical fatigue including stress and weight gain, I can say that I'm coming out on top for the most part. After five, ten years will I even feel the and to write out my reflections and the things I miss/don't miss about my previous life? Maybe 10, maybe not, but probably-definitely at year 5. Year 3? I still feel like a baby here. I'm still asking questions that people assume I should know, but I'm needing maps less frequently. I don't have anxiety (much) about driving into Vancouver with just my kids, and I (generally) know how to squeeze our food budget. I'm still pretty tired, but I'm waking up to stretch.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hikes with Kids: Mount Thom in Chilliwack

view from the top of Mount Thom

A few weekends ago we knew the clouds would part (at least for a little while) on a Saturday morning and I practically ran the family out of the house to get a hike in. We haven't been hiking in the last few months due to rain, family obligations, or just general laziness, but this was a hike that promised to be both quick and yet challenging, and it lived up to that

Mount Thom is in Chilliwack which was a 35 minute drive for us each way because there was very little traffic. The site notes say that it only climbs 375 m in elevation, which I was surprised by, because that hike was, with the exception of maybe 2-3 small slopes, a very vertical climb. Maybe I was just huffing and puffing because we hadn't been out for awhile. It was a busy trail even though we left very early in the morning, but when we were descending the mountain around 11AM, there were probably 70+ people going up, so going early was better!

trying to find Cultus Lake from the top

This hike took our family roughly 2 hours- 1.5 hours climbing up and then we literally ran the entire way down in 30 minutes. I sometimes find the descent on a vertical climb to be a bit harder just because I'm more hesitant. I feel like I'm going to fall easier. I'm just old! However, on this run down the mountain, my knee that hurt back when I was a teenager and playing a lot of sports, starting hurting again. I hadn't felt that pain in over 10 years, so I quickly slowed my pace and iced my knee for a solid 2 hours back home. I haven't felt it since that day, but it did make me realize how foolish that probably was without any sort of training, and a long climb right before!

Ani loved this hike and she ran almost the entire way up the trail as well. We often had to call her name because we couldn't see her! Lukka, as usual, doesn't ever want to go on hikes, but when he's there, he enjoys himself immensely. There's a great view at the top of Mount Thom and you can see Cultus Lake--and it looks very small from up there. Parking in the neighborhood is a bit odd, and some of the jobsites are quite dirty right next to the trail, and a lot of dog-poop bags were left around on the trail, even though there were trash cans at the entrance, making it probably one of the more dirty trails we've been on. I don't know if I'd go back to this hike quickly, it was challenging and a great excuse to exercise while having fun, but it wasn't my favorite trail. Crowded and a bit dirty, I'd rather explore other areas before coming back to it

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Links

Fort Langley river houses

* Currently trying to cook my way through this delicious (and I mean delicious) cookbook.
*Every Tuesday on my 20ish minute drive back, I'm listening to my favorite reader match-make books with others on her new podcast!
*The newest obsession of mine in expensive children's clothes that I'll never buy. Could it be they'll take over my love affair with Tea? That plaid top with snaps!
*When I seriously need a good laugh about this year's election...
*Every prayer and hopeful thing she writes, but this week, this one.
*I just caught up on the first season of Invisibilia, and I'm hooked. You've got a few more months before they start season 2, plenty of time for those hour-long episodes.
*My kids are starting a coding subscription and I'm super excited for it to be a part of our curriculum next year!
*Can. Not. Wait. (Summer 2016)
*Rise of the Robots from NOVA is on our weekend queue for the kids.
*About to start this book. Have you read it?
*Do you like travel? Are you a foodie? My free way of doing both.
*Gorgeous jewelry (and then, I find out it was made by a now-deceased French man in the 20s. Go figure)
*I'm not a player, either. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

February Books Read (2016)

flowers from a stand in Fort Langley

 From the last couple of months' very vigorous reading schedule, February took a slow and savor flavor. I read these books slowly, or put them down for awhile and came back to them (with the exception of one) and enjoyed them immensely, moreso than I thought I would. Have you read any of these?
*Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford - I don't know what made me pick up a copy of this book, since I didn't particularly love Hands Free Mama, the first book by Stafford of similar nature, but I really enjoyed this book. Maybe it was the sophomore effort and the writing was just a bit more laid back or maybe it's because this was the time for this information (yes, books find you at certain times) and I was ready to receive it, but this was a title I savored this month. Although I consider myself a nearly-recovered perfectionist (thanks to 11 years with my wonderfully balanced husband), I do struggle with engaging in media and technology at inopportune times when I'm with my kids, and this book was a lovely reminder that I have later for those things, but not the years with my kids little and at home.
*It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell - I saw this memoir on my friend Meg's blog, and the review she did resonated with me. I instantly put it on my hold list at the library and within two or three days, read it in full. It's a quick book-just over 200 pages. The writing is lovely and you find yourself really rooting for Andie. I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves a quick memoir, and specifically, if you have a weight or body issue/sensitivity. I loved the title right off the bat.
*If it Wasn't for the Lighthouse by Bill Ridgeway - I was handed this book by the wife of Bill, Irene Ridgeway, who is a retired missionary who attends my Wednesday night bible study. This is the life story of her husband's (and a little bit of her) time as a child through his time as a missionary in Ecuador. It's a quick little book, and I fully enjoyed it. This book is an example of why everyone should be writing their own memoir, because you never know the amazing stories of the person sitting next to you!
*The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom - This was a book club pick and it was what I'd called 'fast fiction'. High drama and lots of continual action, I read this book in about three days (I also had a deadline--I had to pass it on to someone else before book club) and although it was a bit long, I did enjoy it. I had just finished reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd and they could be sister books. The narration is done in the same way and the stories are very similar. It's a book about slavery in the South near civil war time, and the tragedy and hope that arises from the individual characters. I didn't love it, but didn't hate it, either.
*The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Eide - This was the second book I read about dyslexia in the past 60 days because I'm doing research on the topic. One of my kids has a lot of red flags for dyslexia and although has not yet been formerly diagnosed, the school I'm enrolled with is taking it seriously enough to start him on a different curriculum that will aid phonetics-which is the area he struggles with. This book isn't exactly pleasure reading, but it had enough anecdotes and interesting information regarding how dyslexic people learn (strengths vs. weaknesses) to keep me interested.