Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Day (Week) in the Life of those Homeschoolers

This post is part of a Simple Homeschool link-up. I enjoy reading the Simple Homeschool blog, and I love seeing a peek into how other families do it. Our days change not only from year to year, but even term-to-term. Right now we're in the 2nd of 3 terms and enrolled as homeschoolers with a distance learning (DL) school called Heritage Christian and we love it. Here's how we're spending our days this term. I'm doing a weekly overview because many days don't count as 'school days' for us. You'll see what I mean below.

3-D building structure with straws

Mondays are a big homeschooling day this term, because we have nowhere to be and nothing-aside from work- to do. We cram 2 days of school into 2 days a week, which means Monday we need to get through about 3-4 subjects in 4 hours (before lunch) and it's intense.
We do two days worth of math, reading/writing/spelling, a bit of French, and bible for two grades (Ani is in 1st grade, Lukka is in 3rd) and it works this term. The kids are generally pretty tired after such a thorough morning every Monday and after lunch are ready to have downtime in their rooms before calling it a day and having dinner and the evening with dad home.  We try to Skype with Stefan's parents this evening each week as well.
man pancakes

Tuesdays, from 9-3, the kids go to Abbotsford and do 'school' in a classroom with other homeschoolers that includes all the outcomes & 4 subjects: art, science, history/socials, and PE. It's also a fairly busy day for students and teachers alike, and my kids really enjoy this day. I drive roughly 90+ minutes there, back, and there and back, and because of the price we've decided to take a year off for next year, but it's been a great experience. This is my 'off' day, where I get the bulk of my own duties done at home, with an hour or two built in for whatever floats my boat. Yes, it's been wonderful and needed!

Ani and Lu make edible Christmas wreaths

Wednesday mornings this term, I've been co-leading a bible study with two other ladies from church and the kids get to bring their LEGOs, sometimes play with another homeschooled friend, hop back and forth to the nursery (where young children are watched) and get a snack or two before choosing to go back to LEGO/toys or stick around and watch a Veggie Tales DVD. I have no energy after the morning and after lunch it's quiet time for my kids. I need the downtime, and they've had all morning to play so they're usually pretty compatible, even though I haven't spent a whole bunch of 'time' with them these days.
Wednesday evenings we have dinner and head to a friend's house in Abbotsford (20 min drive each way) and have a family bible study. The kids love this because there are always really good snacks around, and they get to play Wii, which is a huge luxury for these two wishful gamers!

favorite reading nook
Thursdays are another intense school day, with two days worth of work done before 12. In fact, this day always feels tighter than Mondays (so I do our 'bigger' work days on Monday) simply because we have to be across town ready for the kids' 90 minute ice-skating lessons at 1, which means we need to leave by 12:30, which means they need to have eaten lunch by then! It's a bit crazy, but it only lasts for this term, the lessons and the school intensity. They love ice-skating and have improved dramatically just by taking these two sessions (one this winter, one last). Two weeks in a row, I'll also skate with them the full 90 minutes since I love the exercise and then every third week I take off and just read or listen to podcasts while they're going.
Thursday nights Ani and Lukka used to both have an activity at a local church from 6:40-8:15PM, but Lukka's has ended for the year. Ani loves GEMs and has enjoyed it a lot, even though the friend we signed up with isn't in her class.
Friday mornings around breakfast time we Skype with my mom, then the kids have a relaxing morning before needing to eat lunch and be at gymnastics at 2. I let the kids watch Netflix and library movies this day because frankly, we've all earned it! They've worked hard throughout the week and I'm one tired chauffer and teacher at that point. Not all our terms look like this, in fact, with the end of term 2, GEMs, Gymnastics, Ice-Skating, and Bible study will be done, and we'll go back to our few hours-a-day homeschooling routine, but there's always something fun to look forward to--whether a new class to try out, a field trip or playdate with friends, and of course, mom and dad's stuff on the calendar as well to add to it! It's busy, but we like it, and it's only the winter term that I pack so much with activities. It's often dark, overcast, and rainy here all winter long and we need 1) an excuse to leave the house and 2) a way to move and exercise, and a lot of our weekly activities do that for us!

Friday, February 5, 2016

8 Things Saving My Life in February

Ani and Lukka's ship, "The Bullfrog"
I've seen a few of these posts running around the internet, and I can definitely get behind this. Oh, February has hit, and it's longer this year. Normally January is the month out of the 12 that I dislike because it feels like nothing ever happens in January. I look forward to my daughter's birthday mid-February, and there's planning and gift-buying for her, which I enjoy. I know a lot of people dislike February because it's the last month of winter without the festivities and all of the gray rainy days, or the winter snowstorms. It's a good time for a "What's Saving My Life" type of post, wouldn't you agree? Here's my list:
1) Oranges. Oh my word, I cannot get enough of Ralph's navel oranges. I bought six because they looked so good, and then 3 days later went back for six more because the first batch was gone. Citrus in general is in season during January and February, which is perfect for all that vitamin C immunity-boosting. Did I mention I'm the only one in the house eating them?
2) The local Mexican Market. This place is so tiny I can't even find a website for it, but I recently came across, joy of joys!, a Mexican market stocked with delicious corn tortillas, and cans and cans of my favorite chilis I can't find in the stores here. I never knew how much I'd miss Mexican food until moving to a place with relatively few selections. I make my house recipe of pico de gallo weekly, and now knowing where a local place is to get real tortillas and cotija cheese makes me very, very happy.
3) Three library systems. I know. It's a little obnoxious to say I belong and use three library systems, but it's true. I still go to Blaine, WA frequently enough that I can easily pop over to the library, see one of my favorite librarians and hopefully some old friends, and all the American published books that I can't get in Canada. I also belong (and visit weekly) two local BC library systems.
4) Spilled Milk podcast. One of my favorite things about Thursdays when a new episode appears, I know that while I'm cooking, I'm going to be laughing my butt off with the shenanigans of Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenburg. I don't particularly enjoy cooking and/or baking, it's because of necessity that I do it. At least on Thursdays, I can be highly entertained with explicit and hilarious foodie content.
5) Parenthood. I might be the last 30-something to watch this show, but it has phenomenal writing and just the storyline I need right now. I love the show for its realness and I love watching one episode per quiet night after everyone has gone to sleep. This was, of course, the next logical step for Lauren Graham after playing one of my favorite TV characters of all time, Lorelai Gilmore, and yet I love (nearly) all the characters equally. Who's your favorite?
6) My Abbotsford bible study group. Because when nothing, and I mean nothing can get me to go out or do anything but read after it's dark at night here, I look forward to Wednesday nights every week. Quite a feat, since I'm a morning girl.
7) Fort-Making and Boat-Building. That photo up top is my kids' rendition of Mokie & Bik's Bullfrog, a ship from a novel that Lukka read aloud to me. I love his ingenuity in using what we have to recreate every part of the ship, and Ani's playful spirit to go along with whatever he's doing. Later, Ma & Pa Wilder's covered wagon was seen 'round these parts.
8) Emily P. Freeman's Monday Prayers. I think you may really enjoy these whether you consider yourself spiritual or not. They are salutations to start off the week quietly; in peace, wonder, confession, and worship, and I love every single one for different reasons.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Books Read (2016)

Richmond view, just to the right is the landing strip at YVR

 This month felt dry for me in a lot of ways. I think a lot of my downtime was taken up with things, stuff, and events. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't put something on my list if I didn't want it to be there, it just so happened that moreso for me in January than December, everything started happening that first week and hasn't stopped! I'm writing this on Tues, Jan. 26, in prepartation for the 31st, and this last week of the month is still just bursting at the seams. When I look back at my list, though, I'm reminded that I did take a lot of time-in bits and spurts-to get into some deep and a few academic books this month, and for that I'm grateful. Here's what I read in January:

*Satisfy My Thirsty Soul by Linda Dillow - I finished this in January, but read the bulk of it in December in preparation for my church's women's bible study. I'm going through it now a second time, week by week, in order to help faciliate a table, and I'm enjoying it more so in a week-by-week measure than I did the book in one big gulp. It's about what worship looks like in an individual and ordinary life. I don't know that I'd pick up another one of her books, but the thoughtful questions and practices in the back of the book meant for study are what makes this book richer.

*The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd - This book was fantastic, and there were times when I couldn't put it down (also, times when I could that felt a bit too 'filler' for me). It's the story of a rich white girl who grows up in luxury in the South, and the slave girl she's gifted at her 11th birthday. The turn of events in this story are at times surprising, and the intermixing of the voices (you only hear from 2 characters within the framework) was an excellent sylistic choice by Kidd. The story is loosely based on 2 sisters from long ago, and reading the notes in the back of the book are just as enjoyable as the story itself. I'd recommend this book to a lot of people; anyone who likes fiction. 

*The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeline L'Engle (Crosswicks #2) - This book was bittersweet, not only because of L'Engle's torn writing, but because how things are unfolding in my own family regarding my grandmother and her caregivers, her children. This book needs to be read with a box of tissues, and if you love truthful writing that carves it's niche in quiet, you'll love the Crosswicks series, part of L'Engle's memoirs from her time at her country home in Conneticut. This particular entry of the Crosswicks series, is about her own mother, her mother's life, influence, death, and memory. 

*The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey - This nonfiction read is about how our current parenting philopsophies of never letting our children fail is actually cripping them, adding stress and entitlement, and what we can do about it as parents, educators, and advocates.  We are overparenting, exhausting ourselves and inadvertently telling our kids 'they can't' by our behaviors, and we need to stop. I was recommended this book by a friend, and I really liked it, though I don't know that I'm the target audience for this book, as I am definitely part of the choir that already touts this information (i.e. your kid keep forgetting their lunch? a day of not having that lunch will be the #1 reminder from then on...). A lot of studies broken down to bits and enjoyable to read, I'd recommend this book to a parent who feels completely undone by the parenting responsibilities of their school-age child, and maybe highlight the appropriate chore list for junior...

*The Gift of Dyslexia by Ron Davis - This book is two things: an entry level guide walking the reader through dyslexic symptoms one by one in detailed fashion, and two, a solution manual to help with those symptoms through the Ron Davis program. I only read the first half, the informational half, because I didn't want to do all the exercises with my child. I am doing a lot of research on dyslexia currently because although it's been in the back of my mind for close to three years, this year is the first time a professional has said, 'yes, this might be why xyz happen, let's take a closer look and remedy it'. I found myself nodding my head to quite a bit of it, but I don't know that this is the best dyslexic book out there. It's written in an odd way, in my opinion, and although informative, I feel like I still need more information. 
*Money Making Mom by Crystal Paine - I've read all of Crystal's books and they are very accessible with great ideas and anecdotes interspersed throughout. This one focuses on creating your own business and the steps one has to take to do it. There's an entire chapter devoted to living generously, too, which is something maybe not every entrepreuner takes into account. Paine's story is pretty amazing and I feel she has some great practical advice, but in a lot of ways it does feel like chasing after the American dream with very little balance, rest, and downtime outside of making the money you either need or want. I have mixed feelings about this one, mostly because Paine is a Christian and her book feels very 'strive-y' and 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps-y' (yes, made those up right now) and not very much 'resting in God's grace for your daily bread(y). Just my opinion, though. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

16 in 2016: Hike the Abby Grind with the Family

Our badges of honor (i.e. very dirty bums)

Although it's been an extremely quiet month over here on the blog, I've been involved with a lot of behind the scenes work with school and church, and I'm proud to say that I've sneaked in a few bits  of my 16 in 2016 list!

Our family hiked the Abby Grind a few weeks back on a warm day that made for excellent mud, as you can see. The entire hike is called The Sumas Mountain Hike, and it's a long one, but a small version of that is locally known as the Grind because it's straight up the entire way.

 Although we all had warm enough clothing, we did not have the one item that we would have really benefitted from--shoe chains. Over 3/4 of the hike was completely covered in snow, ice, and muddy slush, and it was laughable just how ridiculous we probably looked slipping and sliding up and down the mountain. We will definitely be investing in these for all three of us (Stefan has some but for whatever reason didn't have them in the car) before we attempt another winter hike.

I love hiking in the winter for a few reasons. It's the perfect temperature (for me) when I am exercising, to be surrounded by cold, crisp air. Fifty degrees was always my favorite temperature to run in, because although I'm sweating with exertion, I don't feel hot. Let's not even talk about Nebraska summers and going back inside to escape the humidity before 10AM.  I also love finding snow up here in the mountains, because there is rarely-if ever- any snow in the lowermainland. It's just too mild to collect and stay, which is why it's always rainy. Finding and playing in the snow is something my kids remember from their earliest days and it helps me remember that it IS winter and there ARE seasonal changes out here.

This is a great hike for kids but I wouldn't take them if it's their first time hiking, or if they've never done a solid 5K. It's not a long hike by any means, but it's consistently steep and unexperienced kid hikers will wilt about 25 minutes in. We had to stop a few times on the way up for rests for them, but they did great and enjoyed the view and the snacks up top.

On the way down...we basically slid on our butts nearly the entire time. Well, maybe not Stefan, being as he's good at everything, but it made my smug black little heart happy when even he fell a few times. The photo above shows just how much we were on our tail ends, and if you look closely at my entire right side that I'm pointing toward the camera, you can see wet mud from butt to ankle. I took a slip and landed in probably the soppiest mud on the whole trail. Figures! We had fun, nonetheless, but realized that if we're going to continue being serious hikers with our kids, we need to invest in the right equipment.

Other 2016 List items I'm currently working on:

*I bought 1 cute houseplant, and have given Stefan an idea/photo (sort of, note quite) of what I want to have in my house (it includes a bit of carpentry, and two more plants)

*I'm just finishing up Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, as a read aloud to the kids. This is our second book in the Little House series! I'm hoping to have the collection read to them by the beginning of the summer.

*currently in the planning stages of a summer vacation with family to Banff National Park and Calgary, AB!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A New List for a New Year // 16 in 2016

 The 30 ft. pool at Lynn Canyon

The list that I've tried to come up with has been a little harder than in years past but as I let it sit and brew for a bit, I had plenty of fresh ideas. The yearly lists (you can see 15 in 2015, my 29 before 30  birthday list here, and 28 before 29 here) help me focus on small/big, personal/family/friend, and creative/mental goals I have in any given year. Sometimes they are silly and sometimes I get them done before even writing them down, as you'll see below. They are just things I want to try, things I want to do, or things I want to enjoy with others. Some are big Bucket/Lifetime goals (1 below!) but most are pretty small things that niggle the back of my mind and writing them down helps me attain them quicker than forgetting about it 3 times. 

16 in 2016

1) get a dog! (this didn't happen for various reasons last year, this year we're still considering it)

2) make 'sweet treat' hair clips for the girls*

3) make and can homemade jam

4) go to Banff  National Park and explore Calgary

5) read the "Little House" series to the kids

6) find a GOOD summer farmer's market (I miss the seasonal farmer's market and realized I had put very little thought and effort into finding one I like that is nearby...not this year!)

7) Hike the Abby Grind with the family

8) take the canoe to a new-to-us local lake

9) Family Date: The Secret Lives of Pets at the theater

10) make everyone's X-mas gifts again**

11) knit a hat for 25,000 Tuques

12) bake/cook 5 pinterest recipes: (Apple Pretzel Tart, Flourless Samosas, pineapple salad, mexican corn, peach cupcakes)

13) explore the Island with friends!

14) see the Northern Lights+

15) buy more hanging houseplants

16) 1 picnic per month: June / July / August / September

*this is the only item aside from getting a dog that I'm keeping for this year from last. I didn't get to it, but I think it still sounds fun/doable

**I got off the bandwagon the past few years. I want/need to plan ahead because I hate procrastinating and this past Christmas was stressful because I spent more money than ever before, had literally no plan, and didn't make anything. Never again!

+ Actual lifetime bucket list item!

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Book List

Thrift store scores and library books

Every year I find immense joy in curating a good yearly book list. Resolutions? Nah. I'll just stick with books. 2015 proved to have a fairly easy list (with more then 30 tacked on in my journal) and I read a good 80% of them. A few I looked for but couldn't find locally, and two I just recently found at the thrift store! I write a small list for the beginning of the year--around 30 books--because I almost always find tons of books throughout the year I want to read and add to the list. I end up reading about 60 books a year, and 30 is a good jumping off point. Here's the list!

*Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
*Stiff by Mary Roach
*All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
*What Alice Forgot Liane Moriarty
*Essentialism by Greg McKeown
*Imagine Childhood by Sarah Olmsted (H)
*Satisfy My Thirsty Soul by Linda Dillow - Bible study book
*Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
*Being Mortal by Atul Guwande
*Lila by Marilynne Robinson
*The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
*The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
*Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Sally Clarkson (1/2 way through) (H)
*The Summer of the Great-Grandmother (Crosswicks #2) by Madeline L'Engle
*Tender at the Bone by Ruth Riechl
*The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
*Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
*Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel
*The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey (H/P)
*Scary Close by Donald Miller
*An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
*Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson
*Things That Are by Amy Leach
*Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
*At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
*Shadows of the Workhouse (Call the Midwife #2) by Jennifer Worth
*Quite A Year for Plums by Bailey White
*The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
*Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson (H/P)
*Uncovering the Logic of English by Denise Eide (H)
*The Nightengale by Kristin Hannah

Of course I've already got a few more in my queue on pinterest, another way I love to keep track of books, but for now, these are the ones I'm really excited to read. The ones with an "H" behind them means they are for homeschool research. "P" is for parenting. 

Now, more importantly, what are you most excited to read in 2016?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

What I Read in December

Alright guys, settle down. Yes, I read a lot this month but I barely did anything else. The three of us were 'off' school from Dec. 8 and aside from two wonderful Christmas dinners with extended family, the holiday season was pretty slow for us. I spent this month of no extracurricular stuff on the couch reading nearly every night. It was delightful! Stay tuned, since I have 2016's reading list coming up soon.

*My Kitchen Year by Ruth Riechl - This half-memoir, half-cookbook was full of pretty color photographs from Riechl's year after Conde Naste shut down Gourmet, the magazine Riechl had been editor of for years. It's her year of grief over losing a job she loved, a year of confusion as she felt restless and like a wanderer, wondering what to do next, and of slow meals meant to satisfy herself and those closest to her, quiet in the sustenance of time and thought. It's a beautiful memoir, though I didn't have it long enough to try any recipes. Not as fun to read as Garlic & Sapphires, but good nonetheless.

*Why Not Me? Mindy Kahling - I can read these funny little pat-on-the-back books in two days, and I laugh pretty much through the whole thing. It's just like pt. 2 of her previous memoir, and if you liked that, you'll like this, too. This is a good vacation read, but I wouldn't suggest it for a book club read.

*The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks - This book was intense. I read everything of Brooks and this was her writing at it's best. It's the fictional story of King David from his boyhood through his death, and it was at least worth 4 stars. There are many places, however, where the writing and scenes are very graphic, including a rape/incestous part (which is taken from the Bible), and a disturbing relationship taken past verity. Out of any type of fiction, historical fiction is my favorite to read. As a student of the bible myself, I can admire the pains Brooks took with historically researching every gritty detail, but some license was a bit further than acceptable, in my opinion. It didn't stymie the enjoyment of the story, though.

*A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros - Again, another strong female writer that I'll read anything she comes out with, Sandra Cisneros wrote a collection of stories from her childhood to present day, and it was a relaxing read. If you're not familiar with her other books like House on Mango Street and Caramelo, a lot might be lost, but I loved it. Start with those other two first (Caramelo is one of my all-time favorites), and if you like those, then continue with this.

*Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein - Carrie Brownstein is one of two guitarists in the girl punk band Sleater-Kinney, and also the creator of Portlandia, the hilarious tv show about the strange city. This was a memoir of her upbringing and her time with Sleater-Kinney. I was a little surprised how there was only one or two sentences about Portlandia, but that's not the story she was telling. SK took a long hiatus and at the beginning of 2015 started performing together again. I listened to them in high school and was interested enough. Have no idea who Sleater-Kinney is or have no interest in grrrrl/punk rock of the early 2000s? Skip it.

*Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder - The 7th female book I've read this month (which doesn't surprise me), I found this book so interesting! It was an entire book about the month Sylvia Plath spent in NYC doing an internship for Mademoiselle magazine, back in 1953, just a few months before her first suicide attempt. The Bell Jar (by Plath) is the book I read that made me take more notice of language and how to twist and turn it to create beauty. I collect her books--even have a few of her children's books that are hard to come by --and this was a strong book backed up by hundreds of quotes and interviews from the women who were with her that month. Don't know who Plath is? Take a pass on this, and go read The Bell Jar or her book of poetry, Ariel instead

*Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi - This memoir is written by a devout Muslim who converted to Christianity after an intense few years studying the differences between Islam and Christianity. It is well-written and interesting throughout, and I found it to be a page-turner. I also learned a lot about Islam and about the differing beliefs between sects. I was gifted this book by a friend and I know the next person I'm going to loan it out to, who will also enjoy it.

*Taproot issues: SHELTER and  FOLK - I normally wouldn't include magazine reading in my monthly reviews, but Taproot issues are basically a small book that comes out quarterly and they are so. good if you enjoy reading about homesteading lifestyles, yurts and making your own sourdough starter, jam swaps and the like. Basically, this subscription that I read cover-to-cover every three months is my hippie side getting its cuddles and pacificist advocacy in words. Might not be for everybody!

Read Aloud to Kids:

*Miracle on 34th Street by Valetine Davies - I found this Christmas classic in our pile of stories that we only take out in the month of December, and thought they'd be ready to listen to it, now that reading novels aloud is old hat for them. They really enjoyed this story, but because it was written in the early 20th century, the language was a bit hard for Ani to follow. Lukka did famously, though, and of course both kids enjoyed the final few chapters. It was really great that we read it before watching the movie, and randomly, we were able to catch it on a local TV station while waiting for our car to get fixed! How perfectly timed.

*The Story Diva &; Flea by Mo Willems - This short YA book was read to within about 45 minutes, and it's a very cute story of a stray cat and a prim dog, taking place in Paris. My kids loved this story, and adults will find the circular tale and awesome illustrations very amusing as well. Interspersed throughout were a few French words and phrases, which this francophile loved as well. You know you're reading a good book when it's the same author as the Gerald & Piggie books...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

15 in 2015....What Happened, and What Didn't

view from Ft. Langley bridge of Brae Island's chapel

For many years I've set up some sort of a yearly list of things to do. They're sometimes small, sometimes big, sometimes silly, but always things I just want to make a little bit of space and thought to do and 'name it', if you will. I got 1/2 done on my 2015 list, but in my defense, I planned it around my birthday, which means I only gave myself 9 months in 2015, not 12. I'll have a new '16 in 2016' list soon, but for now, here's what happened, and what didn't. See the original list HERE

I'll start and link to what did actually happen:

I got professional family photos done, I wrote an actual Christmas letter and sent it to family, I *tried* turning Ani's bone & shell collection (it didn't look as great as it did in my head...) into artwork, hiked Deep Cove/Quarry Rock with my family, watched The Sound of Music with my kids, baked Confetti Cookies, and my 'intentionally left blank?', I did that too. I tried snorkeling

What didn't happen? 

I didn't get around to taking the family on a drive-in movie date. I actually researched our local option a number of times, but the summer viewings were just so late (9 or 10PM start time) and that just was too much of a detainer for our family. Maybe next year? or maybe when they're teens. 

I didn't sew a triangle skirt or headband. I thought about it a few times. I looked on pinterest a time or two. Not much else. 

I didn't make 'sweet treats' hairclips for Ani and my nieces but I am DEFINITELY putting this on the 2016 list. I thought about it a lot, often when we were nowhere near home. I still want to do this. I still think it'd be a really fun, easy, and adorable craft. 

We haven't got a dog...YET... stay tuned...

I didn't purchase or create driftwood art, but I did collect my driftwood. Step 1 done, but steps 2-4, not done. Sad face. I still love the style. 

I didn't purchase a Giving Key necklace because they went up a LOT in price. What gives, Giving Keys? The Canadian dollar being about 35% lower than the US dollar also made this a lower priority. If a necklace is $70, I have to pay $100? Nope. 

I didn't make a Calligraphy print for our home. I realized that our home is already getting full enough with prints/artwork, though I DID learn and practice Calligraphy, which was a huge step in the right direction. 

I didn't make a Ship&Shape inspired necklace. I have been on the lookout but haven't seen any store locally that sells beads that look similar to these, which is half the battle of making this craft. Harumph. 

So, even though I only did half this list, I still tried for others, which I define as successful, as well. I'm excited to start a new year, I always am. I find pleasure in 'naming' activities, experiences, or crafts I want to do by myself or with my family, and tracking them helps me enjoy them even more. (Gretchen Rubin would be so proud of me.) Blessings on your New Year as well! What will you try for in 2016?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Kith and Kin Sunprint Kit!

The contents of the Kith and Kin sun prints box*

For some reason, I tend to have a lot of luck in the giveaway department. I literally spend a total of 5-10 minutes a day entering giveaways that I find on instagram, blogs, facebook, what have you, and I have won quite a few of them. I was excited to win the Kith and Kin sun print craft box, because I knew my kids would be in heaven creating with it. 

It was around the time we'd be heading to Nebraska for a few weeks, so I had Kith & Kin ship it to my mom's house, so we could enjoy the contents there. Turns out we had relatively no free time outside of planned grandparent & friend activities, so I brought the box home with me to BC and we did it during the kids' school day as an art project. 

I don't know about you, but I love receiving Happy Mail...that'd be anything aside from bills or ads. The Kith & Kin sun print box was definitely happy mail. As you can see above, they include all the tools you'll need to create whatever monthly craft comes in your box (subscription or individual), along with notes, festive crinkly paper, and photographed detailed instructions (so helpful for my non-reader!). It was like opening up a birthday gift, and my girl got right to work once we had a sunny day.

Ani with her sun print paper, foliage, and a vinyl squirrel decal

Finding a sunny day, I found, was harder than anything--waiting for a day that was actually sunny instead of rainy and overcast as is much of our Fall and Winter out here in the West. That was hard for my daughter who had been admiring the contents of the box for a number of weeks, but finally the day came and she was overjoyed to learn a new craft. 

Sun prints are done on a specific type of paper, and when layered with acrylic cutouts (see photo above) and found objects, you can create your own scenes after the sun has exposed the scene for a certain amount of time. You then rinse the paper in a tray of water and watch the picture come to life before your eyes--sort of like a different way to do a Polaroid picture. Does anyone remember those? 
Included in the kit were about 12 papers and we used them sparingly because I knew Ani and Lukka would want to make more. They each made two and were really happy with their outcomes. In fact, they're on the fridge, still. We have enough leftover decals, papers, and other tools (white pen to draw on after it's been exposed) that we can do at least 8 more prints. Thank you Kith&Kin!

You can see more craftly delights on their Instagram feed !

Kith & Kin's intro video 

**All opinions expressed are my own. I received a free trial because of a giveaway, and am linking back/posting because we really enjoyed it. I am not being compensated for this post.

Friday, December 4, 2015

What I Read in November

my favorite view 5 minutes from my house

I am feeling quite behind already, having missed this post by 5 days, and not finding myself in this space quite often this Fall. Our family was sick from about the last week in October through the bare end of November, so while just about everyone had antibiotics, probiotics, vitamins, and plenty of fluids, we weren't up and about too much. That makes for some excellent days of reading, if I do say so myself. Here's what I enjoyed this month. What about you?
*Felicity by Mary Oliver -- One of my favorite poets had a new book out this past month and I obviously put it up for hold the minute I found out. This wasn't my favorite collection of her work, but certainly not the least. A good one-hour, shaped by beautiful words about the natural world. 

*Chasing Francis by Ian Cron -- I really enjoyed this one! I first found it via Tsh and it piqued my interest. I pinned it for later and recently came back to it on a whim. I am so glad I did. I actually thought I was getting into a memoir-ish/Assisi travel writing, but it was so much different. (Reading the blurb would have helped with that. Ahem.) It's a novel about a burned out Prostestant pastor who says "yes" to an invite in Italy from his Catholic -monk uncle and what he learns about his dwindling faith through the writings of and about St. Francis. It was an engaging, yet slow-breathing and catahartic read, and just what I wanted. 

*Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline -- This novel was borrowed out to me while I was in Nebraska by a friend who recommended it. I love historical fiction, but although this took me a good 50 pages to get into, I really loved it. It's about a girl who was sent on a train from NYC after her entire family died in a fire, and all the families she went through before finding a more permanent home, and the relationships she had left in the past. This is historical to the mid-north west, so if you're interested in history from Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and the like, you might really enjoy it. 

*Why Not Me? by Mindy Kahling -- Oh, Mindy. This two-day fluff book was just what I wanted to laugh at. Her second is even funnier than her first, and I laughed out loud many times. She just has a way putting experiences and feelings together to get them just right. There was nothing significantly interesting about this book, and honestly I don't remember the chapters much. I just remember that I laughed through it and would recommend it to my best girlfriends for their vacation read. 

*For the Love by Jen Hatmaker -- I wanted to like this book. Hatmaker has a fantastic way with words on social media (namely, her facebook stories are Hilarious) but this one just didn't do it for me. It wasn't cohesive, and most of the time I struggled to find the point in each chapter as it pertains to Christianity and her topic at hand. Mostly, I think she just wanted to write a book that was funny. It was, but I was a little confused at where she was going. 

Read Aloud to the Kids

*The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare -- Both of my kids really enjoyed this story, though I'd say it was about 2 years over my youngest's (age 6) head. This is the story about two young adult boys from different cultures-one Native American and one English settler-and all the things they learn from one another. I can see why this is on so many booklists! The movie, however, was not so great. 

*Out of Control by Wanda E. Brunstetter -- I didn't enjoy this book as much as my kids did. It was about a young German Amish girl who had very little self-control, and all the trouble she got into becasue of her impatience. I found this book too thick with miniscule details. It's a part of a series, though I don't know if we'd pick up the other ones, as I found it tedious to read aloud. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

15 in 2015: Get Professional Family Photos Done

Aren't these just beauties? My best friend, Emily, owner and founder of Topline Photography, does portraits, often with animals and their people. Or rather, people and their pets! She specializes in that niche and does phenomenal work because of her history at a vet clinic and present work training horses and their riders! 

As evidenced by the photos on my banner, we have not gotten family photos taken in three or more years! One thing I really wanted to do this year was get our family's photos updated, and I was so grateful Emily was able to squeeze in some time for us to do this. I've got over 50 beautiful photos just waiting on my hard drive for printing, framing, and book-making. I've got two impatient family members (surprisingly, not who you'd think) who hate having their picture taken and she took these and many more gorgeous photos in less than 20 minutes before they gave up and died a fiery Nebraska-heat death. Now that's great service! If you're local to the Lincoln-Omaha-surrounding areas, give her a call, but do it soon because she books up fast

Thank you, Emily, I love them!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remembrance Day/ Veterans' Day

Remembrance and Veterans' Day, a day to remember what our countries have been through to provide you with the freedom you have in this lifetime. Be thankful.

As always, some picturebooks to help children understand what this day is about:

*A Poppy is to Remember by Heather Patterson

*Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker (fantastic history lesson here about a well known bear)

*The Wall by Eve Bunting

*H is for Honor by Devin Scillian

*The Poppy Lady by Barbara Walsh

Monday, November 9, 2015

What I Watched in October (A TON of Good Movies!)

Even though I didn't read a lot in October, I certainly watched a LOT of good movies in October. I love all sorts of films and for whatever reason we seemed to hit a lot of the movies I've had on my list for awhile when we were in Nebraska. I loved almost all of them and wanted to share the links and plotlines with you in case you'd be interested, too. Those links will take you right to the trailers.

*The Drop Box (trailer above) - Break out the tissues and expect to have a sinus headache afterward, because this movie will slay you with all the feels. It's a documentary on a South Korean Pastor Lee Jong-rak and his wife who installed a box where infants could be left at any hour, and they would be taken care of, instead of disposed in an inhumane manner. The box normally 'rings' in the middle of the night, when young women feel they have no choice left. The family often receives disabled children, and throughout the last 6 years, they have helped place hundreds of children in safe families and have kept many disabled children themselves. This movie is exceptional. It is a picture of God's love for all in one of the most heartbreaking and tender films I've ever seen. Watch it and be amazed with how much God loves even the smallest and the 'least of these'.

*Cinderella - We watched Disney's new live production with some friends, dressed up, and had a tea-party! It was really fun to experience this movie that way, and the four kids had a blast. Cinderella is played by Lily James (Rose from Downton Abbey, a perfect choice!) and is surrounded by an all star cast including Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Stellan Starsgard. Although I think I prefer the animated version (it was a favorite movie of mine when I was a child), they did a lovely job creating the magic and the pomp! in this movie, which was fun to watch with my kids.

*Comet  (full movie link on youtube)- Comet was a movie Stefan and I watched when we were on our getaway, and we just watched it on Netflix on our laptop in the hotel when we wanted some downtime. We'd heard of it from a friend, and while Stefan really liked it, I thought it was okay. It's a fantastical love story between two people who really do belong together but can't figure it out until it's too late. It's about fate, the universe, selfishness, and desire. It was interesting enough to keep my attention during, but not one I'd watch again.

*The Martian - When I first heard of The Martian (the book), I knew I wanted to read it. When I found out it was going to be a huge blockbuster movie, I couldn't wait. I read it beforehand (and of course, like most, the book is WAY better than the movie) but I still really enjoyed the screen adaptation. I thought the actors for the crew were great choices, and they were almost exactly as I had imagined them (especially Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis) and although they omited one really big part in the movie that is climactic to the story, they did a really good job with the movie. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets stuck on Mars after a fluke accident involving his space crew, and he has to learn how to science his way to surviving on a lonely, desolate planet where nothing grows until NASA can figure out how to get him.

*Insurgent - This is the second movie in the Divergent series. I haven't read the books, and I don't have a desire to, but I really enjoy anti-utopian stories. I always have. I read Brave New World in high school and it was one of my favorite books for a long time! The two heroes of the Divergent movie, Tris and Four are on the run from the government and the leaders need Tris (a true Divergent) to unlock a box where the secrets of the past and future are held. The acting and dialogue aren't great in this series, but I enjoy the plot, and of course, I've seen two of them, I'm going to see the third and final installation. It's not a series I'd recommend to anyone. Did you like 1984? Did you like The Hunger Games? If yes, you'd like the Divergent series, if no, skip it.

*St. Vincent  - I can't remember if I watched St. Vincent right before our trip (which would have been late September) or right after we got back, but this movie practically deserves an entire post on it's own. It's fantastic. I have no idea why I started watching this, but Melissa McCarthy having a strong role and Bill Murray as the main character. I think I saw it at the library and had never even heard of the movie before, and after watching, I have no idea why. This movie is SO GOOD. It's about a single-mom who needs help with after-school care for her son, and she relies on her scruffy next-door-neighbor, Vincent (Murray). In the hours Vincent and Oliver spend together, they become good friends and have some pretty hilarious adventures that you'd never want your kids to have before the age of 18. Vincent helps Oliver in a number of ways, and throughout the movie you learn what kind of man this halfway drunk is, but I can't give anymore details away. Watch this with a box of kleenexes and assume you're going to do an all caps facebook post of how much all your friends should drop everything and WATCH THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. It's probably the best movie I've seen in 2015.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What I Read in October

Not the greatest photo quality, but one of our favorite places in town-the library

Well, November, how'd you get here so quickly and what did you do with your sister October? 

Last month we were gone for nearly 3 weeks traveling back to Nebraska to see family, friends, and church community we left there nearly three years ago. It was a wonderful trip. I've been trying to put together a photo-heavy post of our trip, but my ipad (yes, I'm the "weird tourist" who takes generally all photos on my ipad mini) is not forwarded them onto my computer for some reason, hence a grainy photo above that I took before we left. I spent nearly every waking moment talking with whomever was in my vicinity in Nebraska, so reading just did not happen until the 27 hour drive home. In the following two weeks left, I did manage to finish 4 books, though two of them were quite short. Enjoy!

*Psychedelic Shits by Kurtis James (i.e. my brother-in-law!) - When my BIL posted his poetry book cover on Instagram I promptly replied I wanted a copy for my Christmas present. Since he flew in for our October family time he was able to give me one and I knew there'd be some gems in there. I've been given gifts in the past in the form of his poetry and if read aloud it would really resonate in a SLAM event. I enjoyed the read, though psychedelic shits is an apt name, there were some poems I had no genre for and some I smiled throughout, like "o hair, o hair". Congrats, Kurtis! What an accomplishment. 

*More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell - This little apologetics book was a really refreshing read, one that I could do well with quarterly or biannually. It was published in 1977 and is still completely relevant today with clear and concise arguments for the historical data that proves Christ was a real figure who is still impacting lives today, 2,000 years later. I thought this tiny book would be a great book to pass on to someone who has a lot of questions about this Jesus guy and all the logistical hangups one has about Christianity. It's a quick read, but it's meaty. 

*Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy - I first heard of Lucy Grealy and her memoir by way of Ann Patchett's memoir of her friendship with Lucy, Truth and Beauty. That memoir is beautifully written and terribly tragic. It's about Ann and Lucy and their growing into their twenties and their writerly words before Lucy's untimely death. Lucy's memoir is about growing up with cancer and a facial deformity caused by her illness. She is a fantastic writer, though her words throughout are so very painful and raw. It's a beautiful book and I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't recommend reading Autiobiography of a Face along with Truth and Beauty; it's just too heavy to read side by side.

*Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert - I had no expectations for this book except that I really, really wanted to read it and knew I'd soak it up within a few days. I was right. This book was really inspiring, though some reviews I've read called it basically "woo-woo hippie magic fairy dust" type of writing, I really enjoyed it and wouldn't mind reading it again some day. It's about the Big Magic of finding your creative self, and doing it. Gilbert's creativity just happens to be writing, but she's speaking to all people as creatives, and letting the Big Magic happen. Speaking of Ann Patchett, there's a great anecdote with her in it! I get some sort of weird joy knowing that her and Brene Brown are good friends, and support each other in real life, and reading their newest books back to back was sort of fun in a cocktail party type of way. 

Read Alouds with Kids:
*Beatrix Potter's The World of Peter Rabbit (books 1-12) - These minature and fairly nostalgic books published in 1902 and thereafter still have quite a hold on children these days, as seen from my two kids, aged 6 and 8. I tried reading these small books to my kids earlier in their lives and it just didn't go well. The words and context too much for them, but at this age? It was jolly good fun for all of us! They loved the ornery rabbits and the hilarious stories about hedgehogs, mice, a fox and silly geese, and the illustrations just can't be beat. I found my pristine box set at a used bookstore years ago for a mere $20, and I admit I would have paid double. These books are some of my all-time favorite childhood stories and Potter's tales have had a trickle-down effect on children's literature ever since. 

Tip: If your kids loved the Peter Rabbit et al books, they might love the 25 minute episode series on youtube found here; nine episodes included. My kids have seen them all and really enjoyed them!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What I Read in September

Third Beach selfie

I'm away from home right now visiting friends and family, but I would never miss a Book Report at the end of the month! I may have to update this when I get back, though, because who knows how far I'll get into my plane-ride book!

*Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman -- I've waited many months for Emily's new book, Simply Tuesday, and I really enjoyed it. I read it in two days, and I read her books just like I read her blog, Chatting at the Sky, slowly and while savoring. This 4th nonfiction book of hers talks about why she chooses to hush instead of hustle, and why her soul needs the Tuesdays to breathe--the regular, ordinary, and small. This book is lovely and I enjoyed it, but I won't keep it. I'm passing it on to a friend who I hope will enjoy it as well.

*The Martian by Andy Weir -- This book is a science/space nerd's dream come true. It's a fiction book written mostly in diary entry form, of a man who is stuck alone on Mars, and his struggle to survive. I can't give too much away but it is such a popular book it's becoming a movie with Matt Damon playing the main character, Mark Watney! I finished the last half of the book in ONE DAY because of the action and the story that happens. The science behind Weir's book got a few things right says NASA and the best quote for this book comes from one of the first few pages, "I'm gonna' have to science the shit outta' this thing". Read it.

*Rising Strong by Brene Brown -- I was blown away by this one. I felt the way I felt when I first discovered Brene's first two books (Daring Greatly was, in my opinion, a summary of all her material beforehand), and I learned a LOT and thought a LOT about what this new information implied in my life. I wanted to highlight it throughout. I wanted to share a lot of it while reading. That's a mark of a good book. I highly recommend this book, but do think you need to read at least some of her books or know her work beforehand, or a lot of it might not make sense. Excellent read.

*Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesteron -- I don't think it's an exaggeration to say this was the most confusing book I've ever read by a 'father of the faith'. I don't know if it was a mood I was in (it was one of my study books-books I choose to intentionally go slowly through, over the course of a month or so), but my word, I barely caught anything from this book. It was full of cultural references that were before my time, twisty-turny sentences that left me at the bottom of a dark rabbit hole, and flowery language throughout. Honestly, I may never pick up another book by Chesteron because of it.

*Taproot: WILD -- I consider this front-to-back reading to be likened to a small novella because of the length of this quarterly magazine, so I'm counting it here. This issue was all about wild things, from sea turtle rescue, foraging for food in the woods, an accidental overnighter on an Appalacian Trail hostel, etc. I enjoy this magazine and just renewed my (ad-free!) subscription for another year. If you love stories about homesteading, naturalist essays, and hippie-type DIYs you'll like it, if not, leave it at the Whole Foods checkout.

Read-Alouds with the Kids

*The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo - I often tell people Kate DiCamillo is my spirit animal. If I could write like anyone, it'd be her. Go here to see a full length review of her young adult novel.

*The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson -- This short book (120+ pages) was a classic Newberry Honor book from 1989, but set in roughly the 1940s Paris. It's a story about a hobo named Armand who gives away his heart to three poor'starlings' (children) somewhat against his will while their mother works all day. He finds them under 'his' bridge and although he tries to shoo them away-literally and figuratively-he can't help it, he must take care of these children, and find them a more permanent home. You'll need tissues for the last chapter.

*A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman -- This is a very short book that I found via Sonlight's amazing book lists (by age/grade), and we read it as an extended 'breakfast' read. The type is big, the pages are full of beautiful pictures, and the story has a great theme. The main character, Pong Lo, is a humble peasant who, through his cleverness, cheerful spirit, and incredible work ethic, becomes the most powerful man in China. Both my kids couldn't wait to get to the ending to see what was going to happen!

Monday, September 28, 2015

We'll Be Back After This Brief Interruption....

Handmade cards with monoprints and papercuts

My family is traveling out of the country for the next three weeks, might I interest you in the backlog of children's literature gems on my other blog, The Well-Read Sleepy-Head? Or maybe a backlog of homeschooling posts around here? I'll be publishing my September Reads at the end of the month, but aside from that, see you after the Canadian Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Links

The Port Mann bridge on a beautiful day with minimal traffic!

I haven't done a batch of links in a long time, but I had to share a few of these gems before we leave for our long trip. Enjoy!

*Spilled Milk is quickly becoming my favorite kitchen companion podcast. The foodie non-married couple are the perfect pairing with meal prep, especially because I laugh out loud throughout. 

*A tiered cheese wheel for entertaining...brilliant! Those Brits think of everything...

*This is a great list for easy/kid-friendly hikes around Vancouver, if you ever find yourself visiting this magical city!

*want to watch those wonderful BBC Masterpiece shows when they air in the UK? There's a way!

*These famous DIY sisters are finally writing a cookbook

*I couldn't believe this amazing hunting/conservation story via Radiolab.

*I just finished The Martian novel and can't.even.wait. to watch the movie on the big screen with friends!

*As silly as it is, I might have teared up at this. The time will soon happen when I can share one of my favorite children's series with my own kids. 

*Yes. 100% yes. #IntrovertForever

*I may have found the perfect (affordable) riding boot.  ((please fit my calves, please fit my calves...))

*If you listen closely, you'll hear Lukka asking a related question on his favorite science podcast for kids, Brains On!