Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Beauty for Spring Break

This week is Blaine Public School's Spring Break, and although we have continued to homeschool (best time to continue is when there are no outside activities going on!), we have finished up early every morning to enjoy some solid time with friends playing outside and exploring together. This was Tuesday, when we drove to Bellingham with some friends, and took a 1.3 mile hike to Teddy Bear Cove, and the kids played for hours while the moms basked in the sunshine and beauty of the area. What an awesome spot! 
There was even a large boulder area that the kids loved exploring, and we barely saw them except for water every 30 minutes or so, and a few bites of their picnic lunch in between running and climbing. The only unfortunate thing about these pictures is I don't have a panoramic lens, because you just simply can't capture the beauty of a surrounding area with little snapshots. Water, beach, rocks, and trees. It's just breathtaking. The sunshine did all of us so much good.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March Reads and Recommends

a sunny afternoon at Semiahmoo marina

March was sort of a weird month for me. The first week was just diffusing from our crazy February, catching our breath. The rest of it was going here and there, regular scheduling amidst some fun like a work party and a day off to go sledding. The reading was regular though, and the tradition of carrying a book where ever I go paid off. I snuck in snippets on long drives, during quiet times and bed times, and thanks to daylight savings and dark mornings, a lot before my kids even woke up. 

*Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider- I had avidly awaited this book for months...perhaps closer to a year. There was a lot of hype in blogland because Tsh owns The Art of Simple (previously Simple Mom) so opinions were high and my expectations were high. Tsh's brand is lovely and her reflections on travel are more of what I want to read. This book was broken into sections and each one had a great quote to start. I enjoyed this book-part memoir, part simple living manifesto-but I cursed my high expectations because they always give me an impossible adoration no one can live up to, which happened here. It was a really great book and I enjoyed it. I loved lazing on the couch and reading about her experiences as an ex-pat and an on-again-off-again homeschooler. I would recommend it to anyone who loves travel writing, and I'd suggest this is an easy breezy beach read with great subject matter - even better if you've just dabbled with the idea of simple living or traveling with kids and want to know more.

*I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron- Oh goodness, this book. I saw this at the library, and on a whim picked it up. I always have a book on hold at the library each week and I know generally what my next two or three will be. When I saw Ephron's name on the cover, I thought back to a time when a friend of mine told me about her books, and I connected the dots with who she was. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know she was the amazing woman behind some of my favorite rom-coms, like When Harry Met Sally, and You've Got Mail, until she passed away not too long ago. She was of the Boomer generation, though, and I'm glad that other well-educated readers also didn't know this tidbit (i.e. her name linking to these movies) so, I quickly got over it, packed the book into my checkout bag and didn't look back. I. Loved. This. Book. Then I wrote about it on facebook. Then I vowed to read all her other books in my lifetime. How much more of a review do you want? (Okay, this book is funny, interesting, short, sometimes sad and praiseworthy.)

*Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth- I'm pretty sure I've used at least three if not more platforms of social media to sing the praises of BBC's Call the Midwife, the television series. This book was a Christmas gift to me, and one that I will keep on my bookshelves permanently (that is a big deal!). Not only that, but I plan to buy the other two. Big. I know. That's how much I love this series, and especially, the book. This memoir by Jennifer Worth is number one out of three, and it was much more tragic, grittier, and in-depth than the television show has been. There isn't nearly as much character development (after all, that's the main reason the show is so good--all the characters are wonderful) but the stories of the women are more dramatic than they are portrayed on television. Because so many of the stories are truly tragic, this book actually took an emotional toll on me. I couldn't read anything depressing for a few weeks. I would sometimes only read about 20 pages a sitting, because of the harsh reality these women lived through, and I just couldn't read about it and then jump up to affectionately embrace my lively children, and settle in with plenty of food around the table in a warm house. If memoirs or historical pieces are your thing, you should really read this. I rarely give 5 stars, but this one deserves it. Worth's writing is excellent, her memory crystal clear, and the women are unforgettable. 

*Ghost Girl by Amy Gerstler- I have owned this book of poetry by Gerstler for nine or ten years and hadn't read it. In fact, I'd wager I have about 25 books on my bookshelf that I've never read. I plan to, I got them for free, or someone gave them to me and I just shrugged my shoulders and thought, 'some day'. Last year I was very brutal with my bookshelf --my solitary one, if something comes in, something goes out -- and anything that's left is just plain lucky. I decided to read this book because I was looking for an intermediate. Nothing to heavy or long, just to get me through a week. This book was slightly creepy and the cover art matched exquisitely with the poems found inside. The themes of death, quiet, illness, etc. are found beneath the covers, and more than once Stefan remarked, "what's with that book?" because the cover made him uncomfortable. 

*May B by Caroline Starr Rose- Look at me, another young adult fiction! I feel like I'm turning a corner, and I'm finding a lot of YA fiction I want to read. What's going on? I don't even read fiction that much, but this book was so good. It's a unique turn on historical fiction for a younger crowd, because the entire book is written in verse. It's the story of May B and how she is left alone over a harsh winter as a young girl in pioneer times, and her strength and grit to survive. This book isn't hard to read and is quite short because of the verse instead of full page spreads, but it's a very good story, and the pages fly by. I had first heard of this book from a homeschool blog, and I thought it sounded interesting. I got over myself (and the YA label) and decided to read it over a weekend. I cut my reading teeth on the young adult historical fiction Dear America series, so this fit like an old pair of beloved slippers. 

*Humans Of New York by Brandon Stanton- If you ever decide to read one 'coffee table book' in your lifetime, this would be an excellent choice. This book is Stanton's tangible publishing of his beautiful and intriguing website of the same name. He takes a photograph of people (he's visually documenting the people of NYC by taking their photograph) and asks one of his standard questions. The marriage of the photo and the words together is truly a work of art, and one that I couldn't put down! A coffee table book, can you imagine?! If you like his blog, you will love HONY, the book. 

*current read: Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton- I really wanted to finish this before March. As of tonight (March 30th) I have 50+ pages left. I won't make it. It'll appear on my list next month. 

What did you read that you loved this past month? A favorite blog post? Re-reading your favorite book from high school? Leave it in the comments!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What is that button?...And what the heck is the Appalachian Trail?

There is a new button on the blog to the left o this post, called Beyond Our Boundaries. This button will take you to the site of a family that will be documenting their thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Yes, they are taking their kids! Renee, the creator and writer for FIMBY (Fun In My BackYard) is gearing up as over the next few days to start their trip south, to come back up north again come Fall. The Tougas family is a homeschooling family with pre-teen and teenaged children who are outdoor adventurers. A lot of what FIMBY is, is about outdoor adventure and freedom living.

While they are hiking the trail,  from Georgia up through Maine, they are documenting their family's journey with a streaming series of episodes. The first two are already up, and for kickstarter participants who gave a certain level and above (that'd be me, if you couldn't guess already), and running for viewing. That's where internet friends come in. I'm hosting this button on the blog so if you think something like that might be interesting to yourself, or for your family to watch, I'm happy to show you the access page. For the disclaimer, there is a percentage of kickback for affiliates (that's also me) if you purchase through my link, but honestly, even before I found that out, I would have put the button on anyway, free of charge. I love what these guys are doing.

If you're remotely intrigued by this adventure, I'd like you to take a look at this list of who this series is for. There are different levels of subscription and frankly, mine was the cheapest version, but I still get to sit back and watch. This list is taken with permission from FIMBY's blog:

Who is this video series for?

  • Homeschoolers. This is family homeschool project, featuring real homeschool kids having an amazing adventure and working with their parents to produce a video series. Kids feature big in this project. And homeschooling is what allows us the freedom to explore and adventure together.
  • Families seeking outdoor inspiration. Everyone knows, or at least I hope they do, that spending lots of time outdoors and being physically active is a healthier way to live. This series will inspire you to pursue physical activity outdoors. And it will specifically help your family figure out the how-tos of hiking and backpacking.
  • People wanting to live intentional and adventurous lives. Yes, this is a series about backpacking, but it's so much more than that. It's about thinking outside the box (together), pushing beyond the boundaries of how families are expected to live. Be ready to challenge your assumptions because we're leaving normal behind.
  • Simple living enthusiasts. We are living six months in woods, carrying everything we need on our backs, and sleeping in tents. Talk about the ultimate family downsizing. What do people - mothers, fathers, teens, children really need to live well and enjoy life? Follow the series to find out.
  • People who like good stories. At the heart of this project is a story about a family going through challenges and incredible experiences together. Whether you are interested in hiking or not, you will want to be a part of this adventure.

This series is for YOU.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

28 Before 29...what *actually* happened

Taken while hiking in the fall at Campbell Valley in Langley. This was my Canadian version of the " I HEART NY " meme. 

For the last number of years I have stolen Sarah Von's awesome idea to create a list of fun things to do before my next birthday (scroll down, bottom right on her site), and I love the intentionality it gives me. I'm rarely bored. There are times when I'm in between books and projects that I feel restless, but when I write down a tangible list of activities I want to try, places I want to explore, or items I want to make, the anxiety of boredom fizzles away and I have a goal.

In the words of my son's favorite show, Phineas & Ferb, "Ferb, I know what we're gonna' do today!"

Most years I follow through with over half. Other years, like this year, I'm closer to target. It's all fun and games, so it's not something to beat myself up over if I don't reach All The Things, it's just a way I can track what I learned, tried, and experienced in the past year.

I had a great list this year because it was our first full year living in Washington state, with plenty of places to explore here and north of the border. Tack on a family or two vacation, and we had a lot of fun experiences to look forward to and enjoy. I finished 20 of those 28, and the 21st is still ongoing. Hey! Learning to skateboard 10 years too late is a little taxing!

 The highlights of this year were going sailing, walking on the Capilano suspension bridge, trying fish and chips, learning to fishtail Ani's hair, riding on a ferry, going to a concert (Ani Difranco in Vancouver!), seeing the tulips, and biking around Stanley Park.

What didn't make my year were these:

* Watch "Of Gods and Men". This was year two. I think I'm giving up on it.

* Make a maxi skirt for myself. This might be year two, as well. I have designs drawn. My machine has made so many kids clothes this year, but I have still chickened out using up lots of fabric for myself.

*Sew a turban headband. I still want to follow through on this. My latest sewing kick has just recently come back, but my machine's in the shop right now.

* Buy a new camera! I'm rethinking this, mostly because I can't imagine hauling a huge, amazing, expensive camera every time we go outside and play (and get really dirty). Since technology has come along way in the past 5 years, I'm considering buying an awesome -but-mini camera. Right now my camera money is going to Portland!

*Make a set of napkins & tablecloth. This idea just bored me when I looked at it. No motivation.

*Get a bouquet of flowers at Seattle's Pike Place Market. We never have made it down to Seattle, but our day is coming (with Amtrak! stay tuned...). It seems a little silly to me that our only time in Seattle in the past 365 days, when we live two hours away, was to stop at Chipotle on our way home from Nebraska.

*Make chocolate-chip meringues a la Giada. This is (hopefully) happening today. I have all the ingredients, and nothing on the calendar!

 /// Stay tuned 29 Before 30 is coming up soon! ///

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Day Trip to Mt. Baker

Last Friday Stefan was able to take a day off and we had planned to go sledding on Mt. Baker. That's the huge mountain that we're facing. It was a near 2 hour drive and the kids immediately got onto this ledge after hopping out of the car. That's me trying to wrangle them up, and slowly ease them down the dirty snow. On the other side of this (don't read grandmas) was a HUGE drop.

We were only there for about two hours, but Lukka could have stayed all day. Ani only did three runs, and I don't blame her. The first run down with Lukka, her, and me she got sprayed in the face the whole way down. It took her nearly an hour to go down again!

If you can see towards the top right of the photo above, there is blue, blue sky poking through.

The only time I happened to pick up the camera to take some shots was in between sled trips down, and back up, and it was during a three minute spurt of overcast. It would become bright blue and gorgeously sunny, then back to overcast with sleet within minutes. Then it would stop and repeat. The whole time!

There were just a few other families on the hill, and in fact the reason you don't see any skiers or snowboarders in these photos is because this is actually over a frozen lake. There are no 'runs' right here, it's the free part. Our kids have never snowboarded, skied, and I have a lousy track record myself. Stefan brought the snowboard and had a few runs. I think he had a lot of fun. It's been nearly 10 years since he's been on one! There aren't too many mountains in Nebraska....

I tried the snowboard on but chickened out going down the hill, I just kept remembering that time in high school, when I was never more black, blue, and defeated with a sport in all my life! We own one, though, and we live close to the mountains, and gosh darn it! I'm going to learn if even if me makes me cry and look like a fool.
Speaking of foolish, just walking on top of the snow would sometimes land you thigh-deep in a snow-hole. I practically had to army crawl out of one, and thought I'd really lost my shoe in another!

There were two other families, one from Texas, and one from Florida, who had never seen snow. I know it's common, but how is that possible? What kind of world would it be without snow? I can't imagine. I love being so close to all types of climates, though I do not miss -at all- the heat and humidity in the summer. I'm actually looking forward to summer this year. The last time I did that I was probably 11 and could stay home by myself, and had a pool pass.

After two hours, it had started snowing fairly hard and the kids' hair was soaked. It was too hot for a lot of layers, but I knew we needed to get inside, get warm, and come down the mountain before it got dark. We hopped over to the lodge for a bathroom break and some warm french fries to share, and then left. We hadn't been to the famous Edaleen Dairy before so I talked Stefan into stopping before we got home for a little delicious ice cream.

It was such a fun way to squeeze in a little family day-cation. The kids already want to go back. I'd like to try my hand at cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing (again) and when I have no more excuses left, snowboarding. I just have to get over my fear of breaking a major bone and looking embarrassingly silly in the process.
We live in a great environment to enjoy the outdoors year round. There is no excuse not to go outside and play when this is practically in our backyard.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hashtag Links

A breath of sunny, fresh air. 

Spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest, and even though this sunny canoe picture is from last August, I wanted to look at it again. It has been sunny and in the 50s the last few days. "Practically perfect!",  as Mary Poppins would say. I haven't done a list of links in ages. I miss doing these consistently, because I'm always reading and wanting to share things I'm learning about online. Facebook is only half-good for shares, because too much sharing gets you facebook fatigue. Believe me, I have it. And anyway, a sunny water + evergreen picture is much better than a silly victorian postcard meme, right?

*The TED talks 2014 winner, Charmian Gooch, co-founder of organization Global Witness, gives a compelling talk about what corruption looks like on a global scale. Fascinating. Sidenote: I had to look at her name four times to spell it correctly.

*Weaving is coming back, ya'll. Potholder looms, bulky 70's door 'curtains', and the like, and I have had this beautiful kid DIY woven wall hanging link up on my browser for at least three weeks. All you need is some yarn and a cereal box.

*This quilt and wall color are the perfect pink.

*I loved finding a great interview with the woman who helped her daughter create unique paper dresses on one of my favorite education blogs.

*This On Being interview with artist Ann Hamilton was one of the best in awhile. Ann's work is stunning and you should check it out here.

*My sister-in-law is quickly becoming a master woodworker. She has an adorable little etsy shop that she changes seasonally. Look at this awesome handmade pegboard. I want one!

*You guys, Skillshare.

*We're in the middle of planning a few trips this summer. A canoe/camping trip and another down to Oregon. Here's a great map that shows all the national parks along the way. Stefan wants to go ride the dunes. I am so up for that.

*We're watching our way through all the Academy and Oscar winners and recently loved RUSH, Dallas Buyers Club, and The Place Beyond the Pines, and Captain Phillips. I don't even know if I could choose a favorite. No wonder they all won. Three out of those four are true stories.

*My favorite show, Call the Midwife, stars in 18 days!

*Nickel Creek, with a mandolin player and music-makers, took a too-long hiatus and will be back with their newest cd in April. SQUEEE!

*This woman's inside-out coat is amazing. She is one of the most talented knitters I've ever come across.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Racerback tank for a birthday baby

 I had a deadline to sew and send this little tank top. I love making gifts for others--especially kids--because they're quick and not usually big critics. I have a niece who just turned one a few days after Ani's birthday, and I made her this DOLI racerback tank top for the upcoming summer. Hence the blinding neon colors. 

I saw this adorable LouBeeClothing pattern on pinterest about a year ago, and quickly pinned it to my Make Do and Mend pin board, where all my future craft projects (a bit unrealistic, I know, but I'm a dreamer) go until I can get to them. Awhile back, I had won an Ottobre giveaway, and gained a ton of beautiful jersey knit prints, this fruit pattern included. The ribbing, too, was a gift in their package, and I really enjoyed working with it. I don't think I've ever seen ribbing in the fabric store, or at least I had never been on the lookout for it.

I've made just a few pieces of children's clothing, and this was my first time making a jersey knit item. The stretchiness wasn't as scary, though I did make quite a few mistakes. I still enjoyed the process and am happy with how it turned out. For someone who is useful with an interlock machine, this might look incredibly handmade. That's okay. It was my first project, and for forgetting to swap out my needle for a ballpoint needle, it turned out better than was expected. I hope it holds up for my niece.

The pattern is designed to leave big gaping armholes for airflow and a longer back than the front. The size was for 12-18 months. This little one will be 18 months (or thereabouts) in the summer, so hopefully she'll stay cool in the Nebraska humidity when she wears it. I will say, it's a tad cuter than the pictures allow. I was on a time crunch and I am just not used to that darn iphone yet. 

What is the last handmade gift you created, or received?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Christmas Knit // Lu's "Fisherman"

In showing Ani's sweater dress this past month, I totally forgot about Lu's Christmas sweater. In the back of my mind I knew I hadn't shown it, but I think it got overshadowed in the THANK GOODNESS I'M DONE feeling I had once Ani's dress was off the needles. 

I had originally pinned this as a possible knit for Lu way back in 2012. Pinterest is really helpful for me in that way. It's the place where I put everything (and I'm stingy with pins and 'favorites') that I want to remember for future projects. Once I'm ready to tackle, I just scan through and aha! there it is. 

This sweater is called The Fisherman Pullover. I love that name. It's so perfect that I started it in a town with a fishing industry. It's not a free pattern, but I believe it was about $5 when I bought it. This is such a quick and easy knit, the charge was definitely worth it. I'd like to make another one in the future for a family member. 

This cozy sweater was knit with bulky yarn and was a really fun project. If you can't tell from the pictures, I'll let you in on a little secret: I knit this so fast, that I didn't even notice how long it was until I started the ribbing on the main body. All of a sudden I noticed I had knit close to 3 inches too long! I shrug it up on Lukka and he really doesn't mind the length. Since the arms had to match, they are quite long, too. Ah well, I just roll up the cuffs.   

The yarn I used was from and I believe it was the Brava Bulky Yarn in Brindle. I don't have any of the tags, and like always, I bought too much. I believe I have enough for another sweater! When the price of an entire (washable) wool sweater is less than $20, the work is worth the cost. I have found knitpicks to have great everyday prices and unbeatable sales for good, quality yarn. 

My kids still really enjoy wearing the clothes I make them, and that makes me happy. Both find the sweaters I make them to be incredibly warm, and so they are often tossed on when we're outside for a hike, or playing outside without a coat. I have some ideas for this year's knits, but I am rethinking the sweaters for 2014. I'd like to have them done by Christmas this year, at any rate!

Friday, February 28, 2014

February Book Titles

A February mid-morning in Blaine

I had a great reading month, even though our February has been busier than the last 11 months on record. I chalk it up to 2 poetry books, small in page numbers, and one excellent book I couldn't put down. The rest were finished because they were half-started already, and I took snippets of time here and there where I could, mostly in my bed early morning before the kids were awake. It's my best time of the day. 

*Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman was a book I had wanted to read for about a year. I went to a really interesting homeschool conference talk titled something like What Motivates Children? by a woman who talked a lot of statistics and scientific data about the topic, and most of the references were from this book. I looked at my list and decided I wanted to read it this month. It was a really fascinating look at new scientific findings about how Americans parent (and why) and how most of it is not working to benefit the child(ren) or the family unit as a whole. Each chapter was broken up as it's own essay, all of them very different topics such as: teenage lying, racism, motivation, and early childhood testing. The authors made these findings accessible to the reader and it read very much like a conversation over coffee, which I appreciate. I'd recommend this book to anyone who interacts or parents children. 

*Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds brought me back to my English major days reading poetry as a regular practice. Whenever I pick up poetry books, and I have already picked up three this year (!), I remember why I love to read the genre. The satisfaction of a small book paired with emotion through language is just something I love to savor in my free time. Poetry helps me see the world, bits and pieces, under a microscope with the senses magnified a thousand times. Stag's Leap was a memoir book of poetry about Olds' divorce. She'd been married for decades, and this book openly told the story of her last days with her husband on the brink of separation, to years later reflecting, and still missing, his presence. It's a book that is as vulnerable as lyrical, and I found myself blushing at times because of the frankness with which she lets us peer into her very emotional heartache and growth. You want to know if it's good? She won 2013's Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for it. 

*Incarnadine by Mary Szybist was a really interesting read, though I don't know if I fully grasped the whole of it. The poems were all over the place, but the reason I wanted to read this was because it won 2013's National Book Award for Poetry, and I love reading the winners of this award--in all genres. She was a new-to-me poet, and for the most part, I really enjoyed this book. I especially loved the graphic (and by that I mean it was in the shape of a sunburst) poem about God. It was shaped in a circular manner, with qualities radiating from the center. I'll be honest and say a lot of the poems I did not 'get' nor understand how they fit with the topic of incarnation-the theme of the book, but I still enjoyed it. I'd recommend this book to people who love poetry, have a literature-based understanding of the Bible, and like cleverness; her book is filled with it. 

*The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a young adult novel. I feel I need to preface it that way, mostly because I want to tell you I never read this genre. Ever. Well, okay, not since Harry Potter, anyway. I wanted to add this to my list for two reasons: a) John Green was on the cover of my favorite magazine, Mental Floss, a few months back and b) everyone told me this story was really good. Well, people, I'm just another drop in the bucket of that ocean of voices, because this book was so well done. It has romance, tragedy, comedy, and mundane mixed in, creating something beautiful. The story is about two teenagers, both with terminal cancer, who fall in love, and go on an adventure together (like, a literal one, across the big pond). You'll need a box of tissues, and you'll read it really fast. It's a great book, worth the acclaim. I'd recommend this to just about anyone, from someone who might read one or two books a year, to a bibliophile. 

*The Right to Write by Julia Cameron is a book I will literally finish up this morning, right after this publishes. Every morning I wake up at 6, as Stefan leaves, and have to myself two glorious hours of bible study, writing practice, email checking and blog reading. It's quiet. My kids are still asleep and I have self-discipline not to oversleep and actually do the work. Morning is my best time of day, and the quiet ensures I can sift through my thoughts, instead of half-shouting, half-grunting fragmented sentences like I do throughout the day when I'm communicating with my kids. The Right to Write is a nonfiction book about writing, and with every chapter/topic, Julia gives the reader specific directions and writing prompts. She is most well known for her work The Artist's Way, and although I have that one on my list for this year, too, I'll be starting Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird next for my writing practice because, well, Anne. 

   This book has been with me since November (maybe?) as I've been reading and writing through 5 chapters a week, and the chapters are very short, like, 3-7 pages a piece. The time frame for, max, 21 pages a week in a 316 pg book are a few months. I've really enjoyed her work, and I feel like she is nothing but encouraging throughout. She caught me with her introduction hook, when she tells us about a fantasy she has about getting into heaven:

"St. Peter has out his questionnaire, he asks me The Big Question, "What did you do that we should let you in?"
     "I convinced people they should write," I tell him. The great gates swing open." (p. xvii)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In which I reflect about the past year...

 Today we've been living in Blaine for one year. We moved into our place exactly 365 days ago, even though we left Lincoln on February 18th, 2013. Outside of a 3 week stint in Europe, 3 weeks and 1 day was the longest I'd ever been away from family, and from my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. The first month was a really odd feeling. We were on vacation and living our life!

We're still living our life, but we feel a little less vacation-y and a little more real world-y lately (car fix,  school field trips! grocery shopping...) and it's winter, grey, and raining, and consistent sunshine is still months away. The snow here is a one-day thing. The clear days are breathtaking. 

We went into this cross-country move with very realistic expectations. We knew we'd miss our family and friends most of all, we questioned the work atmosphere Stefan was leaving (meaning, if he'd find another great job that suited him as well as his in Lincoln did), and we knew babysitting was going to be an issue that we'd have to grin and bear.

In living life, we all deal with unexpected (they really all should be expected, by now) thrown in for good measure like illness, financial ups and downs, loneliness and 'funks'. These are not to be outed as worse than the actual exploration and wonder, gratitude, friendship, and purpose we have here, but this month it would certainly seem like the former is looming larger than the latter. Months, even seasons, can seem that way. I'm happy to call a spade a spade and note my gratitude to the Big Guy when I see it--this winter has been unseasonably sunny and clear, and for that I am grateful. I don't dislike the rain (not by a long-shot), but getting out in fresh, sunshiny air improves my mood. Always. I've relied heavily on that.

I've gotten a sense of the culture here (I'm workin' on things being more laid back) and Stefan is back to enjoying it, we've seen so much beauty in our little 50 mile radius area, and we've pressed into the task of getting to know others in our small community even though we'll finish up our Blaine residency in just a few short months. By summertime, we'll most likely be gone, across the northern border.

 I'm incredibly grateful for our small community church, the women's bible study, the homeschool wonder that is Home Connections, and the generosity of the people we've gotten to know. I've enjoyed seeing my hometown friends, both back in NE, and down in WA, with so much depth, satisfaction, and genuine love it's hard to even articulate.

I've learned quite a bit about myself in this year, and I wonder if I've always learned things about myself, but I haven't articulated it within the boundary of A Big Change because I didn't feel there were any.

However, there is always big changes in our lives. Our lives are constantly in motion. We see hindsight. We are ever going forward, leaving places, ideals, thoughts, goals, or even relationships behind. This is a good practice, reflecting. Our culture doesn't even create margin, let alone time for reflection on family life and individual changes, and growth, but we need it. 

One of these learned points, is that I now know I can't live more than 30 minutes away from a big(ger) city, and I love living an hour away (or two hours, in the opposite direction) of a Really Big City. Vancouver to the north, Seattle to the south, Blaine is a quiet little town that sees a lot of Canadians for cheap, stopover gas, and perhaps the 10-gallon milk shopping trips.  Here in town I can walk just about anywhere, and I often see at least one person I know while out. It's a relaxed pace, and I can get anything I need in Blaine. If it isn't in Blaine, I can get it within 25 minutes by hopping on the freeway and exiting to Bellingham.  Any longer of a drive than that, I'd rarely go to the 'city', any shorter than that, the pace would make me itch and get road rage. I still have a dream of living on property. Space, I like, being away from convenience, not so much.

I've also learned (already knew, really, but this year reiterated it loudly) is that being outdoors invigorates me like nothing else. I need time outside, and when I don't get it, even for a week, I suffer. My relationships suffer. This is scientifically true, the vitamin D thing and all, but it is emotionally true. Getting outdoors is actually part of a holistic healing pie for depression, ADHD, and more. I'm not afraid of rain, and we go out in it, but I notice that I'm more likely to be the initiator of outdoor adventures if it's sunny outside. I know now that I need to initiate it no matter what

Another thing I've also learned, through this past year, that living in one country and working in another is quite possibly one of the most financially obtuse things to do and I do not do well with financial risk.  Exchange rates, higher taxes without benefit, insurance on both sides of the line, all very aggravating things. The most discouraging part of the whole situation is just watching your family's hard earned money literally disappear once it crosses from a Canadian to an American bank. Even though we're righthere in terms of our life's trajectory and what we've been working towards, I can say this part of it is morally discouraging. We haven't had a year like this in...well...years. I don't get a thrill from risk, in fact, I get a stomachache that won't go away. 

I've also learned that even though my personality is firmly planted in Definitive Introvert, I have found the months lonely, missed my close friends acutely, and met with God more in those quiet spaces than I probably ever have in the any stretch of time. He meets the wallflower, the shouldered- pride keeper, the confused oversharer, the directionless parent, and the overstimulated tantrum thrower when they need Him. (For clarification, yes, those are all me. Flattering, I know.) He freely gives companionship, humility, relationship, perseverance, and peacefulness along with grace, and a new sunrise. We all need community. I have missed greatly what I took for granted for years back in the Midwest, but I will be given communion with One every step, every change, every stress of the way. For that lesson, I am truly grateful. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Birthday Interview // 5

What is your name? Ani! You already know that. 
What is your favorite color? Blue
Who are some of your friends? Ana, Danielle, Tessyn, Odie, Lucy, Sophie, Emma
What do you want to be when you grow up? A dance teacher
What makes you happy? When I got my two ponies, the ones whose hair you can brush

What's your favorite animal? Horse
What is your favorite book? I love every book!
What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy? make crafts
What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy? play games on his iphone
What is your favorite thing to do with Lukka? forts

What do you like to do with your friends? play barbies and stuff
What do you like to do outside? nothing
Where do you like to go? Big Al's
What is your favorite food? chicken nuggets and crispy crowns
What is your favorite drink? milk

What is your favorite thing to watch? Phineas & Ferb
What is your favorite song to sing? Shrek (the soundtrack, she sings along in quiet time to the cd)
What is your favorite toy? my dolly

*This interview was inspired by B's birthday interview series. 
**All photos taken by Ani (and her brother). 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Home / School / Life magazine + giveaway!

I have a giveaway to offer today! It's a year-long subscription to the digital magazine Home/School/Life, an up and coming resource for homeschoolers, afterschoolers, teachers, and parents. I know I'm personally looking forward to this, like a breath of homeschool conference air at my fingertips, and without the high cost. 

This online magazine looks to inspire you and the children in your life by providing project ideas, field trip locales, book recommendations (my personal favorite), and along with great homeschooling resources like curriculum, grade level, and subject advice. 

Anyone can enter by commenting on this post until Friday, February 21st. I'll use the random number generator and will contact you by email (please leave your email address in the comment box) to get you hooked up!