Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Subscription Boxes as Homeschool Curriculum

Ani painting her first diarama

The subscription service business sector is exploding the online retail market. You can now buy toys, pet products, clothing, stationary, beauty products, eco-cleaning supplies, and even organic snacks all in monthly packages with excellent branding. While print magazines are slowly fading away, a new type of subscription purchasing is taking place in droves--for those who are too busy or depleted to run one more errand (hand raised here), you can get a fun surprise on your doorstep for a decent price. These are excellent as curriculum because all the work of planning and gathering has been done for you! Now it's just up to the child to execute and enjoy the process. 

I have tried a few subscription services as either birthday gifts or a trial run for homeschooling, and let me tell you there are some awesome businesses going up! I want to highlight a few of them for you that can be used as homeschooling curriculum for elementary grade kids. With each I'll let you know if I, myself, have tried it, will try it in the future, or if I know someone who has tried it, or none of the above. 

Little Passports -- Little Passports is a geography adventure covering a country each month and has three age groups to choose from.This is one of the first educational subscriptions I'd heard of--years ago-- and it's a reigning champion. I have a friend who has tried it and really loves it. It looks like a great way to explore the world without leaving your home. Plane tickets are expensive these days! Included are imaginary play items like a boarding pass and letter from pen pals Sophia and Sam, links to online games and crafts.

Pley -- I have tried this subscription service (when it was called Pleygo) and LOVED it. It works just like netflix--you pay for the 'level' you want (in this case, which type of LEGO sets you'd like to receive), the kids play for however long they want and then send the LEGO set back to get another in the mail. If you choose to keep a particular set, you just notify Pley online and the next one in your queue ships out! Suitable for kids 3+.

Animal Trackers -- This is a new one to me. I hadn't heard of it before researching educational boxes for this post, but it looks like it could be really fun for PreK-2nd graders who love animals. Each month is a new animal to learn about and 'track' and if your son or daughter is a huge Wild Kratts fan, this may be right up their ally. 

Raddish -- This subscription box is for the mini baker and wee chef in the family. This branding and packaging is excellent. It really is a beautiful box (I'm not going to lie, it makes a difference to me) and comes with recipes, shopping lists, a craft or activity, a Raddish patch for each month and online extension activities. Okay, so the food doesn't come with, but I am considering this for next year's Health curriculum for Ani, who loves participating in the kitchen. Suitable for kids 5+.

Groovy Lab in a Box -- This is a science related experiment kit that looks really great. The branding is similar to Mental Floss, so already my interest is piqued. I have not tried this but I am going to get a small subscription for Lukka to try out next Fall. I know he'll love it, and we'll compare it to our experience with Tinker Crate. It looks like you get a lot of items for experiments, but my hesitation is that most of these items are things you'd already have around the home. The interesting thing is that there are more than 1 activity per box, thus making the subscription last longer each month.

History Unboxed -- This is a new-to-me subscription kit that I saw on SimpleHomeschool.net, a blog I read online that has introduced me to many a good resource and I trust their opinion of educational materials. It looks like this is a brand-new service, because they only have a few to choose from, and all of them are about cultures from long ago. I am interested to know more about this one for our homeschool curriculum (history sometimes being the hardest to come up with excellent lessons, for me anyway), but I want to wait a bit so I can see that they have more than just three or four ancient cultures to choose from. 

Green Kid Crafts* -- This is another reigning champion of subscription boxes for kids. I've heard about this one for years though have never followed through on getting a box to try out. I find that I have so many art supplies at home, I don't need any more that a subscription kit could offer, but I know that many parents or child-care givers don't want to accumulate the amount that we have, either! This is a great option for the kid who loves to craft. 

Tinker Crate -- Tinker Crate is a STEM-related educational subscription and it is awesome! We had a 3-month subscription that turned into a 4 monther because of a snafu and miscommunication. It wasn't the easiest for my school, HCOS, to get a subscription for my son, nor for us to get in touch with TC about the issue, but once we made contact they gave us a free month to rectify, which I appreciated. TC is a branch of KiwiCrate, which is another popular crafty subscription. They also have Koala Crate (PreK) and Doodle Crate (9-16yo). I often call my son "the Tinker" and so this box was perfect for him. He loved getting this every month and didn't need my help at all to figure the projects out. They come with a blueprint, a Tinker Zine (great info and more projects related to monthly topic with at-home items), all the materials, which I found to be top-notch quality, and an online video tutorial if you can't figure it out. Suitable for kids 7 or 8+. 


Love the idea of a subscription service for your kids' enjoyment or homeschool curriculum but didn't find the type of activity they're into? Check here for a large listing (also includes clothing and toy subscription services). 

*The GKC website seems to be down, the link isn't broken. Check back in a day or too if you're interested.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Biggest 'Con' to Homeschooling

 Lukka building a fort at Ft. Langley

I suppose I can start out with throwing out any old 'cons', or reasons against homeschooling to really get you curious. Does she hate teaching math? Does she think her kids will be weird? (Nope.) Does she find the homework battle exhausting? Is she secretly insecure in her ability to school all grade levels and subjects? 

Really, I could care less about these questions. The main 'con' of homeschooling, the one that stays the same year after year, when the 'pro' list gets bigger year after year, is this: I have to be with my kids all day. 

I once heard a panel of women speak who all made different educational choices for their kids, and what I remember the most from that 60 minute segment was what one lady, the homeschooler, said. She laughed and remarked, "I have to be with my kids all day, and I get to be with my kids all day". 

Sit there for awhile. Read it again if you have to.

I have to be with my kids all day, and I get to be with my kids all day.

The biggest con is also one of the biggest pros. How's that for a simple answer? 

Ani doing an experiment with magnets

What, exactly, does that mean? It means that I get to be with my kids all day--see them learn how to read, enjoy their excitement and surprise with a science experiment, snuggle with them out in the backyard on the deck swing while I read a really great book in the morning while the sun is shining and we've got nowhere to be, and scoot them outside for hours of playtime when they're feeling off, bored, or restless. 

Those, if you haven't guessed, are the "get tos". I get to enjoy those things with my kids, and I'm not naive. As parents we really get under 18 years with our kids in our house and as homeschoolers that's mine to soak up and make memories with. 

It also means that I have to be with my kids all day. There are no day care centers for elementary-aged kids, because they are required to be in school. Everything I do outside of the home is just a tad harder since I've got kids I have to lug with me. Everywhere I go takes just a little bit longer because you can't get the same amount done with one person that you could get with three (well, unless those three all drive and you split them up, heaven help me I can't wait!) because the province we live in (and my guess, the state you live in) have rules about when kids are lawfully allowed to stay at home alone. 

I have to be with them everyday. Everywhere, and everything we do, we do together, for better or worse. Have to.
Ani figuring out which pelt belong(ed) to which animal

The other thing is that I'm an individual, with a complete personality, interests, and skill set aside from taking care of my children, and being around them 24/7 can be incredibly draining. Caring for children (or other family members who need constant care) is a job, and although I don't think it's usually physically taxing, it is mentally and sometimes emotionally unnerving. The opportunity for you to become your worst self is sort of always out there, on the table. 

I don't want to sugar coat homeschooling, though sometimes I get the sense that people think our homeschooling path is puppy dogs and rainbows. I don't think homeschooling is as hard as some people make it out to be in their minds, but I also would not try to debate with someone to homeschool who simply doesn't want to. That would be foolish. I get the not-wanting to. It's the biggest con; in fact the only con that reoccurs fairly often throughout our homeschool year. 

I sometimes fantasize about dropping my kids off at school for a week, just so I could catch my breath for 30 hours and give myself an opportunity to miss them! I know I'm not the only homeschooler who thinks that (I'd even go so far as to say that fantasy is somewhat common, especially in February!). 

So how does one come to terms with that tension of getting to be with your kids all day, and having to be with your kids all day? 

Lukka working on his first diorama

For our family, it looks like a regular routine, with a long quiet time built into every day. When your kids are babies and toddlers, they need naps. I'd argue that when they're older, they need downtime, too, just not in the form of a nap. You guys, it's work to instill a regular quiet time in your day. It's got to be a non-negotiable and you've got to make it consistent or it just won't work with any reliability. I honestly do not know how homeschoolers with young children make it work every day without implementing a quiet time of some sort. 

I have seen amazing creativity come out of their quiet times, and I've seen restfulness happen after a crazy morning together. This is (mostly) how our kids have learned to read as well, and learned to love books. There is imaginary play, and self-entertaining and creative projects to start, study, and engage with. 

I am 100% certain that if we did not have a quiet time in our days, where everyone is separated from each other for a period of 2.5 hours, I wouldn't make it as a homeschooler. I cringe just thinking about interacting with my kids (the having to) every minute of every day from morning until night with no end in sight. Each day, I get a breather. The whole 'oxygen mask on yourself before anyone else' thing. 

I do get time to myself. In fact, 150 minutes, exactly. I use it wisely, even if that means taking an hour to watch three Mindy episodes. It's just that sometimes, some days, it never feels like enough. Yesterday was like that. Other days will be like that. It doesn't mean I should put my kids in school, because I can't hack it.

 It just means that some days, in whatever your job is, you're going to have bad days where you wish you could be doing something else. It's the same with homeschooling. The biggest con can also be the biggest pro. My pro list for homeschooling grows every year. We're finishing up three years, and right now, I can't imagine doing anything else. The con list has always stayed the same, and if you're a list-maker, those are some pretty good odds.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ft. Langley Living Museum

dressing up and getting the scowls right

Last week we didn't have much to do with our history curriculum as we're finishing up the year and I'm tired of the kids' text book we've been reading from, frankly. Instead, I declared the afternoon a field trip and we were going to check out our local town's national historic site, Fort Langley

Wow! What a gem. I had no idea that this living museum would be as large, interesting, and completely child-friendly as it was. While we were there a pack of 5th graders (?) from a local French-immersion school was also there, and we loved getting to stand in at their presentations (all in French, of course!) as well as taking off on our own, with the audio wand as our guide through the 24 buildings, rooms, and sites of the first fur-trading location this far west from the Hudson Bay Company.

Lukka sitting at the letter writing desk

There were people milling about on this slow Monday afternoon, workers in period dress and able to answer any questions. I found out later that the entire site is okay to touch, unfortunately, scolding my kids unnecessarily for putting their hands on all the things. Next time I'll know better and let them touch away. That is the best kind of museum--the artifacts begged to be held and felt!

The top three pictures are from 'the big house', where a wealthy family lived, where important decisions were made, where gold was weighed, etc. The bottom picture is from the actual fur-trading building, full of various animal pelts, packaged cubes (you can see mid-line in the photo--they're huge and heavy!), and the beautiful wool blankets that the HBC was known for at the time, and still is!

Ani keeping warm by the fire in the family room

When purchasing tickets and selecting an audio wand, I chose one for the three of us, but realistically, it didn't work as great as I thought it would. The kids got frustrated that they couldn't hear very well, since it's really made for one person, and I felt if I would have purchased one for each, they would enjoyed the audio portion so much more, and learned a bit more about it rather than me trying to listen with one or both of them and recapping their "what? what did they say?"

The audio wand tells 24 stories, historical importance and individual's stories from the time they spent there. There were children who told of growing up in the fort, and men and women's journey's all the way from Hawaii! It told of the shipbuilder's family and why the specific river boat (one on site) was made to hold all the weight while still being able to ford the rapids. It was fascinating and very well done. 

Ani exploring various animal pelts

This is the kind of tour I like to go on, and that my kids love to explore. There haven't been as many opportunities for these types of field trips, simply because I don't know what's out there or available until someone tells me or I happen on it on my own. The Fort Langley Historical Site, though, is a gem and should be given a full afternoon. The cashier told us we'd need a bit over an hour, we were there for three and I was begging my kids to leave because I hadn't had lunch yet and was starving!

Living museums are great opportunities to instill a Love of Learning in your home, and if you give kids time to explore, and the ability to touch and receive information in an engaging way, you and they will retain so much more. Just don't forget to bring some snacks...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Homeschool Recap // Term Three

Ani holding up her "Rubens" portrait (using only dark colors)

February is known as burn-out month in homeschooling circles, and for good reason up here in British Columbia. It's grey, overcast, and rainy for weeks (months) on end and things get restless inside; cabin-fever rampant. Now that we've been over that hump for some time, our days are going, well, fabulously. Of course, the daily sunshine helps. Hello park time!

The way that schools run up here is on a trimester system, only they don't even call it trimesters, but three terms. I've always gone by semesters or quarters, but I like this way better. We see our support teacher* three times in the year for formal portfolio presentations, and keep in contact with her and the school over the whole year. The thing I tried differently at the change-over of the third term, though, has been what has made all the difference. 

Reading from The Green Ember and pretending to have a hurt foot like Picket the rabbit

I noticed that the core subjects (bible, reading, writing, and math) were always necessary as first-thing-in-the-morning subjects, and I still continue those right off the hop, starting with bible and and our read aloud while the kids are eating breakfast. We get these four things, both kids, done within an hour, and the next thing I've changed is this: block scheduling for the other four subjects of science, history, art, and French.

What does it mean for a homeschooler to block schedule? Just that in our four days a week of homeschooling, we use the second hour to roll through a week's worth of activities in one subject per day, maximizing the kids' flow and interest in what we're learning, as opposed to trying to do 10 minutes or so per subject each day. Yes, we take Fridays off for skyping with my mom, bi-weekly reporting to our teacher, and sometimes cross-border errands., 

Lukka's "Rubens" project, portrait of me :) 

What does this practically look like? Well, take science for example. A week's worth of activities involve reading an entire chapter, doing all the workbook pages affiliated with that chapter, watching some Brain Pop Jr. videos about the topic (we love these and wholeheartedly recommend the subscription), and doing a number of experiments, often with charts, drawings with labels, or some other form of documentation.

If you think back to your school days, normally all of this is broken up into a number of days, and sticking with the same chapter for weeks on end. I find that we are all better accustomed to this style of subject-tackling than what I was doing previously--doing 10 minutes here and there, every day. I hated it. I felt like I was rushing the kids through everything and they could never really 'sit' with the material, learn it well by hands-on activities and artful productions, and just generally dishing out anxiety instead of love of learning. 

Lukka working on his science experiments and collecting data

Honestly, I don't know why I didn't think of this before. It has really changed the way my kids approach school, and approach each subject. There are some subjects (I'm looking at you, French) that my kids grumble about, but when they are IN the subject matter for a solid 40 minutes of activities, including Duolingo app time, listening to French music, watching a youtube lesson, and doing a project with vocab, they don't totally hate it. We can really dig into the topic.

Term three is going exceptionally well for us, but we also only have about a month left of school, maybe less (the poor kids go to school out here until nearly the end of June! We don't.), and I know attitudes won't always be this chipper. More than likely we'll have to rearrange things again when something isn't working for our family and it doesn't make logical sense, but for now, this solution has really solved a lot of problems of efficiency, flow, retention, and lack of interest. We'll stick with it into the next school year as well. Success!

What is working right now in your homeschool? Is there a program or system that you really love and want to share? Leave it in the comments!

*support teachers are part of every distance learning school in British Columbia. I'll post soon on the way they do things up here, it's brilliant and we love it!

Friday, May 8, 2015

15 in 2015 // A New List for A New Year

sunset rainbow on Crescent Beach trail in White Rock, BC

My last birthday list didn't go so well. It was alright, but I only finished about half, and since I like my goal lists to be realistic, this felt like a bit of a failure to only hit half when I've usually been closer to 60-75% success. Some people like to be wild with their goals, making them huge in their minds, and hitting a fraction of them is a big success, but I'm not that way. Too realistic, I guess, though I don't want to complicate my relationship with what are supposed to be fun and intentional challenges and ways to focus my time throughout a year.

This year I decided to change the amount to something a bit more realistic, '15 in 2015'. I was a bit overwhelmed at the hugeness of some of my challenges last year, even though I was very inspired when I thought about them and wrote them down. This list is a bit more pragmatic, but every item still sounds very fun to me. Some are family-oriented, some are individually minded, a majority creative in some aspect. Some are things that I've put off but want to actually do this year (I'm looking at you, Christmas newsletter). To the list!

1) Take the family on a drive-in movie date

2) Get professional family photos done in the Fall (good thing I've got a best friend who is a photographer!)

3)Turn Ani's bone & shell collection into a shadowbox piece

4) Sew a triangle skirt and headbands

5) Make 'sweet treat' hair clips for Ani & nieces inspired by Hello Shisho

6) Get a dog!!

7) Make calligraphy art (favorite quote) for the home

8) Purchase Anna Koenig (or create inspired by) drift wood installation

9) Hike Deep Cove with family

10) Own and donate to "The Giving Keys"

11) Watch The Sound of Music with the kids

12) Make a necklace(s) inspired by Ship & Shape's Dull Diamond series

13)  Write (and send!) a Christmas newsletter to friends and family

14)  Bake: vanilla bean Confetti Cookies by Joy the Baker (book--Handmade Decadence)

15)

*15 left blank. I'm still ruminating. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

29 Before 30...What Actually Happened

it's what's for lunch

Every year around my birthday I do a list in which I write down the most random activities that I'd like to try, complete, or enjoy in the coming year. I rarely get to all of them. In fact, I don't think I've ever gotten to all of them, but I don't like to waste my time, and trying new experiences can be both frightening and exciting. 

This year, however, was a bit of a bust. You can see my 'before', or the 29 Before 30 list HERE, before reading what actually happened with me over the course of 2014. I'll just tell you right now, I missed quite a few opportunities for doing the list, but I also did a LOT over the same year, including moving twice (ugh, I know), one of which was international, and the 'switching over all the things' was actually a 12 week nightmare. I gave myself a lot of grace this year for not finishing, and honestly, there aren't too many things I'd like to re-add to the new list I'll post next time. I'm just plain uninspired to try them now that a year has passed. 

I did not: 
*go snowshoe-ing (I brought it up a few times, it was always shot down by other family members. Bah-humbug)
*explore a new National Park...instead I just explored all the new cities to me in the lower mainland, which sort of makes this one moot
*get a piece published in a kids' publication (don't ask)
*make a My Little Pony costume via Cakies (the overwhelm sets in just looking at these things)
*make homemade bubbles, but I did think about it once or twice. Hah.
*make a collection photo out of collected rocks (but I did think about rather having a shadowbox instead of photos)
*try skateboarding...again
*make a Beci Orphin-inspired embroidery piece, but I wish I had
*make a Moroccan tassle necklace, but I wish I had 
*make a fabric triangle pom scarf via Muita Ihania (but I did make some fabric cuts before scrapping the idea)
*go through Replenish slowly, though to my credit, I requested the library buy this book over 3 months ago and they STILL haven't gotten it! I don't feel like I can be held accountable for that!
*put family photos in my locket, like I wanted
*make a knitted Katniss cowl, but I did buy a pattern

Looking back, of the 29 Things I set out to do, I literally finished half, and didn't finish half. Not too bad for having a pretty chaotic and somewhat draining year. I don't like setting really unrealistic goals for myself, so although getting half of these accomplished feels great, it does NOT feel great to see the other half unmet. I realize they are supposed to be fun, but this time around I think I'll set something a bit more realistic, like "15 in 2015" or something, Look for that next time!

What was the biggest, or most exciting thing you accomplished for or by yourself in the last year? 

Friday, May 1, 2015

What I Read in April

A pretty view of the Semiahmoo marina in Blaine, WA, along the trail. You can see Mt. Baker (covered in snow) in the middle, on the far right. 


I didn't end up reading a lot of books this month. We moved, in fact, to a new city in the lower mainland. When I took a small break, I didn't realize that I'd need a number of months off before I got my blogging juice back, but I now have a lot of ideas for blog posts and I'm excited to share a lot of the photos I've been taking since then. I'm on instagram, too, and it's quickly becoming my favorite social media site.

Onward and upward to the books!

*Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Riechl // This was a fantastic read. It's a 'foodie memoir' by one of the New York Times' food critics and it was so fun to read. Riechl used to dress up in different costumes while reviewing a restaurant, so she'd get the full feel and service given to any Joe Schmoe who came in, giving her a very unbiased opinion about what she was working on. She included not only the character-choosing side of things, but the reviews (including stars) she put out after eating at each restaurant 3-5 times. Her description of food is so impressive, as well. As a former chef, I was amazed that she knew what all the dishes--including a vast array of ethnic dishes--were, how they were prepared, and more importantly, what they were supposed to taste like. I read this with a friend as a book club choice, and it did not disappoint. Not too many recipes included, but if you like foodie memoirs, you'll savor this one. (See what I did there?)

*All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior // This is a cultural study book where the main premise is about how children affect the people who have them, instead of looking at how certain parenting gives children a certain outcome. It was wildly interesting, and I found myself nodding along to so much of the first two or so chapters. To be honest, that's where most of the agreement stopped. This book is heavy on the interviews, and I just had a hard time with what some of the parents are letting their kids do, or get away with, that it sort of tainted my reading. It's like the parents were in some sort of suspended adulthood themselves, wringing their hands over their inability to guide their kids. I had a hard time with the women interviewed and their inability to calmly communicate their feelings toward their spouses and children, as well. The main point? Kids are hard. Parenting can sometimes be the worst. It can also bring incredible amounts of joy and fulfillment, and satisfaction.

That's it. Two! I moved. And I also tried to read a MASSIVE FICTION book which is hard enough for me already, but I'm going to get through it. I found out it's going to be a BBC Masterpiece show and I am excited that I'll know the story beforehand.

Reading with the kids in April:

*More Stories from Grandma's Attic (#2) by Arleta Richardson // We love this series and have all four books. We'll finish up the last two after our current read aloud. I love the short chapters, the thoughtful conversation between generations, and the funny and true stories. Similar to Little House on the Prairie, without all the description and death.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He is Risen!

The Darkest Night (Maundy Thursday)



The Sun Stops Shining (Good Friday)



God's Wonderful Surprise (Easter Sunday)



For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17"For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.…
John 3:16

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What I Read in March


Well, whether I'm on a blogging break or not, I can't help but share the books I read every month; this month being a good one for reading. I'm also going to start including the novels I read aloud to the kids every month as well to help keep track of them. Some of them are classics and some of them are simple chapter book series that they enjoy. I generally have a running list of 1-2 books I want to read them in advance, so we're never without a book per week. Sometimes, like the current book, we take longer than a week to finish it, but that's generally the amount of time to finish a novel since I read it while they eat breakfast and lunch. Library picture-books are saved for bedtime and on their own reading during quiet time.

My books

*Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler /  I finished this book in March and although I loved the packaging of the book (color! shiny! random sectional pictures of Amy in drag!), the prose itself was a solid 3 out of 5. Not a bad mark, certainly, but not a great one. Her lists were my favorite part, but the whole thing felt very disjointed and hard to follow, like a book on ADD. I don't know much about Poehler, but I do know I really want to start watching Parks & Rec.

*Blue Horses by Mary Oliver / When I listened to the interview between Oliver and Tippett on NPR's On Being, I heard mention a new book of poetry that I hadn't heard of before, so I tracked it down and read it in one sitting. I really loved some of these poems, and some of them I found confusing in the series. It was like Oliver, who now lives in Florida after a lifetime in Provincetown, has changed her voice with the changing of her location. Some of the poems felt strained, an awkward growing pains from a new place, while some were like she was standing back on the New England coast, waiting to disappear into the trees for the day.

*The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion / This novel was an entertaining and quirky three day read that I'm pretty sure I am the last person on the planet to get into. I rarely read fiction so I want to make sure I will love it before I start it. I'm looking forward to the movie and just at my local Indigo bookstore last night, noticed the second in the series (what? series?) is already out: The Rosie Effect. I thought the ending that could have been an entire chapter was crammed into about a page and a half, and other than that, a great story to get lost into.

*Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham / Well. Hmm. What to say about this one. The creator of the HBO series Girls, which I have yet to see, wrote a memoir and it is...not for everyone. I'd say a good many people tried to steer me away from this book, but with one comment--the fact that it's like reading a female David Sedaris (and then seeing his name cooing its praises on the back cover) sealed the deal that I needed to read it. The first section is all about Sex and there are some pretty ridiculous stories thrown in your face right away. I laughed out loud a few times reading this whole book, but I wished Dunham would have tactfully placed this section perhaps, third or fourth, not straightaway in your face, coloring the rest of the book. Some of these stories are good for a laugh, and some are downright dangerous, embarrassing, irresponsible and gag-inducing. Proceed at your own expense after being warned!

(edit)*Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner / I love to follow along with InCourage's Bloom Book Club every Spring and Fall, and even though I'd seen this book all over blog-land, I wasn't going to read it until I found out it was the book chosen for the weekly virtual book club and video series, so I caved. I generally don't read time management books but oddly enough I've read two now so far this year. Aside from Fringe Hours I read 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam, though I liked Fringe Hours better. It seemed a fresh perspective on getting more time for oneself, and a few more ideas and helpful websites that I didn't have in my arsenal before.

Family Read Alouds

*A Whale Tale by Frieda Wishinsky / This story is a Canadian Flyer series, which is similar to The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne. I love having these short novels available as a home-schooler who knows virtually nothing about Canadian history. These stories take two kids, Emily and Matt, back in time via a sled with a maple leaf on it (not kidding), to places and times when Canadian history takes place. This particular book is about a Pacific Northwestern First Nations people group holding a potlatch and going whale hunting.

*A Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon / This novel is illustrated by Garth Williams (Little House series and E.B. White's books, for reference) and I hate to say it but those pictures were the best part of this story. This book comes in the curriculum core for 2nd graders from one of my favorite homeschooling curricula providers, Sonlight. Their book lists are incomparable but this was a total miss for me. I mean, the writing was well done, but the story itself was boring and very slow. It's a sweet tale of friendship, but (yawn) there are plenty out there that are better.

*Lost in the Snow by Frieda Wishinsky / This is another Canadian Flyer series, about  the habitants and seigneurs who lived in New France.

*The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (still reading) / If you choose to read this classic, please get the 100th Anniversary edition with all the original illustrations. They are fantastic, on nearly every page, and really bring the story alive. My kids are loving this book and I'm enjoying reading it for the first time. A lot of what is in the novel is not represented in the classic film (surprise) which means cutting things from novels to screen happened even with the first color picture. This is a long novel if you're reading it to kids (250+ pages) so take it one chapter a day. We'll finish it more than likely at the end of next week.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring Break

Crescent Beach at sunset

This week is the last week of my kids' winter programs, and the first week of our Spring break. The schools here go by trimesters, and we just recently finished our second trimester & portfolio time. As homeschoolers enrolled with a distance learning school that we love, we've been hitting it hard since the first week after New Year's with the books and have been full on with 6 programs a week including drive time from here to there. It's been really fun, and a great use of our time, to pack our schedule during the winter and as we're just getting to know new people. The kids looked forward to every single day because there was something fun (or maybe 2!) to engage in. 

For the last few weeks or so, I've been thinking of pulling back here some to reignite some of the interests that I like to write about. I've felt pretty uninspired, but I think it's just because in my personal life has been full. Good, but full, with choosing rest at the end of the day rather than editing photos, drafting possible lists for post ideas and then completing said posts. This year is the year I want to update this rusty old blog (8 years!) and get it all dolled up. First, though, I need and want to have fresh energy and passion and the best idea to get that, from anything, is a little space. 

I'll have a post up today at my children's literature review site, The Well-Read Sleepy-Head, and I'll continue with those weekly Thursday posts. 

For awhile here, it'll be crickets, but I haven't stayed away permanently in these past 8 years and I have no intention of leaving this blog behind. I do, however, need a bit of cold water in my face and a new view, if you know what I mean. Best to you.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What I Read in February

Crescent Beach trail in White Rock 

*The Dip by Seth Godin This book was so tiny! I was surprised when I got it via paperbackswap and it's basically a novella. Well, a non-fiction one. A 70+ pager. I used to follow Seth's inspiring and interesting (and minimalist in the best sense) blog and I had wanted to read a book written by him. This one was on my PBS list and it became available (for free) so I snagged it up. I think I read it in one sitting and it was entertaining. It was about when to know if you need to quit, and when you need to keep waiting on the uphill slope because you're soclose and nearlythere. My recommendation? This would be an excellent gift for a recent high school or college grad. It's applicable to everyone, but I'd narrow it down even more.

*A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle Well. This book was simply charming in every sense of the word. I was waiting no-so-patiently for my holds at the library and knew it'd be a week or two (or three!) before I got the first one, and I remember finding this little gem at the local Salvation Army for $1. I am so glad I bought it because I have two people already who I want to pass it on to. This is a memoir of Mayle's and his wife's first year, broken up by chapters of each month, of their year renovating an old villa in Provence, in France. The writing is top-notch. The descriptions of the food would make Julia Child salivate, and the descriptions of people and places in this rural (yet during the summer touristy) place are parfait! It was great fun to read in dreary and rainy winter, where I was transported to sunny vineyards and quirky neighborhood bistros. Loved it.

Currently Reading:

*Yes, Please by Amy Poehler Although I'm technically one day late, I'll probably finish Miss Poehler's book today, since I only have 100 pages left and it's a fast one. In this memoir Amy talks about all the places she's lived and worked doing improv before hitting Saturday Night Live, growing up in a great family, and spreading hilarious tips and tricks about all things life. I don't know much about her but I'm really enjoying her book. Any book that I am laughing out loud in the preface is usually going down in my book as a good read. Usually only David Sedaris gets that kind of credit, but this has had me laughing out loud a lot. She's lewd, anxious, and cusses a lot, but she seems to have a heart of gold as well. I waited for three months (!) for this book and I'll have it done in 3 days tops. She's in high demand. Wouldn't recommend this to people who get offended by language, drug or sexual content and the like, but I'm having some good laughs myself.

*A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L'Engle  This is the first of 3 of the Crosswicks Journals, nonfiction letters (of sorts) written by L'Engle telling, I presume, part of her life's story, part of her stories' lives, and part spiritual memoir in all of it. I'll leave more of a review when I finish it!

What did you read recently that you loved? Leave it in the comments!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Author Event in Downtown Vancouver, and a Tiny Humblebrag


Last weekend we spent a delightful Saturday in downtown Vancouver for a few reasons:

1) If we ever go to Vancouver, a Lemonade stop is mandatory.
2) I wanted to go to the meet-up of Simple Bites blog author Aimee Wimbush-Bourque, to celebrate her new book Brown Eggs and Jam Jars.
3) ...and, if it's going to be sunny in February, we're going to Stanley Park.


When I originally asked Stefan if we could make a trip into the city for the cookbook jam (see what I did there?), he said sure, and even though we don't ever celebrate Valentine's Day, I felt pretty loved that he'd take me there even though he had no interest whatsoever, and would have to watch the kids while I was at the event. 

The cookbook was the one item I was going to ask him for for my birthday the following month, so I convinced him to get it one month early so I could have it signed at the event. The book is beautiful and full of so many good things besides the delicious recipes, like essays on how to talk to kids about where meat comes from, camping/picnic/daytrip food advice, and delightful hand-drawn illustrations by the author's father. Of course, I wouldn't buy a cookbook if it wasn't full of pictures, and Aimee's styling is so beautiful. If you're like me and need a regular jolt of in-the-kitchen inspiration for dinnertime, follow her instagram photos. They're all gems and give just that. 


We don't go into Vancouver often, maybe 5-7 times a year, mostly to visit relatives. It's a beautiful city, but my favorite place is on the outskirts; a small peninsula that has a seawall, numerous beaches, walking and biking trails, large parks with jungle gyms, totems and other historical representations, and tons and tons of trees and green space: Stanley Park. 

There really isn't a bad view in the entire park, and you may feel like a tourist snapping photos and exclaiming at every angle, "can you just look at that view!" because I certainly still feel this way.  Don't be surprised if you can't get it to look the same as what you see, with the curves of the land, the city-scape, the mountains and islands in the background, the trees! It's so pretty. This winter has been mild and we've had a lot of sunshine. Nearly an entire week of sunshine so far, which is very rare (or so I'm told). Vancouver was showing off, and we took full advantage while the kids played barefoot in the sand.
Now...who's coming up for a visit?! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Birthday Interview for My Girl! SIX!

Ani doing her sticker books at the beach

What is your favorite color? Purple
Who are some of your friends? too many to count, I can't keep track of them!
What do you want to be when you grow up? Other than a dance teacher, I'd have to think about it
What makes you happy? toys, books, movies, stickers, crafts, and I don't know what else!

Ani trying her first taste of bubble tea (she thought it was gross)

What is your favorite animal? cat and dog and panda
What is your favorite book? the comic My Little Pony
What is your favorite thing to do with Mom? Read books!
What is your favorite thing to do with Dad? go to Tim Hortons
What is your favorite thing to do with Lukka? I think, like, LEGO, and stuff
What do you like to do with your friends? play with My Little Ponies and talk with them

Ani with her birthday brownie cupcakes, cream cheese frosting and rainbow sprinkles

What do you like to do outside? make a snowman
Where do you like to go? To the park, the library and going on hikes and walks
What is your favorite food? Cereal and muffins
What is your favorite drink? Milk and water

Ani ready to play in her birthday 'party dress' this morning

What is your favorite thing to watch? My Little Pony!!!
What is your favorite song to listen to or sing? Let it Go and Frozen the disc (I think she means all the songs on the cd)
What is your favorite toy? Twilight Sparkle (My Little Pony)

You can see Ani's 5th year interview here.

Friday, February 6, 2015

29 Before 30: Take Ani Out on a Gluten-free Girl Date

enjoying a peanut-butter chocolate bar from Wendel's in Ft. Langley

My 29 Before 30 list still has another two months on it, but I've really slacked this year. One item I knew would make it was "take my girl out for a gluten-free cupcake date". Out here there are enough gluten-free bakeries and shops to find and explore, and it just so happened I found one that I'd first heard of at the Vancouver Gluten-Free Expo, right near where we had to drop Lukka off for a class. Perfect!

They didn't have cupcakes, so we got the next best thing: a chocolate peanut butter bar. This gluten-free bakery shared space with a bookstore in a historic part of the lower mainland that had beautiful scenery and adorable little store fronts along the main street. We visited Wendel's around 1:45 and it was still packed with the lunch crowd. The cafe is very tight quarters but all the employees shuffling around us were apologetic and very nice. We found a great spot outside on the sunny day and enjoyed our bar together.

Ani loved spending the hour and a half together, and I'm thankful I get two more of these days with her while Lukka is in his class. She was happy to walk down the main street, wanting me to stop and read the historical information signs that dot the sidewalk every few store lengths. She wanted to check out the bookstore, too, and sat quietly reading in the kid's nook while I got to nose around myself. We were two little book-loving introverts with happy hearts, and a chocolate peanut-butter cherry on top. Next time I'm taking her to a little cafe on the same street that sells bubble tea!

***
The yearly list is just a way for me to write down things I want to do and be intentional with my time. Sometimes a lot of them get checked off, sometimes not, but there is no excuse for boredom in my book. There's too many places to explore, too many new experiences to try, and too many gluten-free cupcake shops to scout out! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What's Saving My Sanity, Sick Edition


Two sickies on a couch, to be followed by me on the floor
  • Playing Slamwich, horizontally.
  • Ditto Orchard, and having the kids hand me the pieces I'm accumulating.
  • This free Transformers app, for him
  • Our rolling luggage, which the kids have made into a bed, curled up into, and take turns giving each other 'rides'. The things they come up with when TV and computers aren't an option (when I've lost my ever-lovin' mind trying to yell with my nonexistent voice about the whininess of wanting to watch more TV)
  • intermittent naps on the couch while they watch movies from the library. The first day or two, when none of us got off the couch (all 3 of us sick with the flu!). Can't really do that with babies unless they're sleeping, but a 7 & 5 year old? Totally can.
  • Finishing a really good book, laying down.
  • Cheerios, goldfish, popcorn and anything reachable and non-dairy. All the energy, people. It's really okay for them (and myself) to subsist on snacks for 5 days if it's The Best You Can Do.
  • Costco-sized toilet paper packages. I've gone through three rolls in the past four days...FOR MY NOSE (gross, guys).
  • Chapstick (non-medicated) rubbed profusely around my nose after every nose-blow. Seriously guys, no pain! (tip: if you rub a peppermint infused chapstick underneath your nose, you will help drain the stuffiness so you can breathe! Magic.)
  • Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Thank goodness for Gilmore Girls, who have entertained me for over ten cumulative hours this week.

Monday, February 2, 2015

What I Read in January

Ani's "family of hearts"

I didn't read much in January but that wasn't for lack of trying. I finished a book right out the shoot of the new year and then spent the rest of the 31/2 weeks on another. It was heavy but good, and if it weren't for my self-imposed "one chapter a day" rule, I might not have finished it, but I'm glad I did. 

All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam was the second book I'd read by her and although I thought it was interesting, it just wasn't that practical for me. She has great tips, tricks, and common sense logic around the topic of money but frankly I knew all of it. There wasn't anything glaringly obvious that I'd missed and so while I found her interviews and anecdotes fun to read, I didn't get much out of this book. I think her time-management book, 168 Hours, is a better rec. for most people.

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller was the other book I finished in January. With a title like that, obviously this is going to be a heavy-topic book, and it was. But it was also so, so good. I'm really glad I read it, and at times, forced myself to get through it. I wrote down a lot of quotes from this book, things that I believe have been true in my own life and that I want to grab on and take with me whenever the next hill arises. 
I originally wanted to read this when I first heard it coming out and that it had a well-received review by Joni Eareckson Tada. It kept popping up all over the place, and after a solid 18 months of hit after hit, I felt it would  be helpful to read it.  I did the right thing waiting until after I felt that period in our lives was on the mend, I don't know that I could have read the book while going through it. This book talks about everything from apologetics and theology to fleshing out the book of Job and what Hope is. We never have words for people we know whom have suffered deep hits in their life, but I feel Keller does bring a bit of comfort through his words here.

Next up: finishing Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, followed by Yes, Please by Amy Pohler. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Links

Fort to Fort Trail in Ft. Langley, BC on a beautiful January day

Another month, another batch of awesome links. I found some great education, science, and art links this time around. Enjoy! 

*40 Creatives and Their Workpaces -- I love how simple so many of them are: just a desk, a window, and inspiring books and visuals surround most.

*This coat. If it actually came in my size I wouldn't think twice about the impulse buy. 

*This article is amazing and slightly concerning. Why can't we have these in North America?

*These global photos are interesting, beautiful, and at times, shocking: screen-use around the world.

* This Amazon Warehouse article was hilarious. I love the quote here, "The amount of stand-up life-size Justin Biebers I saw was unnecessary...” 

*We don't have any plans to travel aside from seeing family this year, but if we were going on an extended camping or backpacking trip, this Scrubba wash bag, and this portable clothesline would be my top two items to invest in. 

*I'd really like to see this documentary at some point. 

*Just a fun bit of kid's lit humor: "Issues with The Goodnight Moon Bedroom". 

*This is the most gracious and well-balanced thing I've read re: Disney Measles situation. 

*Loving this arty and nature-y vibe of this instagramer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Rule of Threes

Costco aftermath

This is what my kitchen looks like for at least an hour after a Costco trip. I haul in everything after an exhausting journey through the busiest store (seemingly) in this country and I just can't do a dang thing more. For an hour. While I get a breather. And eat some obligatory reward chocolate.
Eventually I'll get to those piles and everything will be put in it's proper place, but usually it stays like this for that necessary hour. 

                                                                          ***
I don't think I'm alone in sensing that our culture has gone hog-wild with unrealistic expectations in just about every department, and I want to tell my friends, and anyone else who will listen, that we can only do so much in a day.
 My husband once told me a friend of his pondered the busy-ness of our modern lives and said something to the effect of, "God gives us just enough time in the day to do only the things we need to do." My response? "Well of course a man said that!" I really was only half joking.

All humor aside, since becoming a parent, I have felt more expectations than I ever had in my combined 22 years before that. We all feel pressure to have a neat and tidy house, dinner on the table (and healthy! just the 'healthy' options tire me out), neat and tidy and calm, obedient children, endlessly participate in said children's academic and extracurricular lives, have a great marriage that is always given an ample amount of attention, keep in touch with friends on a regular basis, and obviously have a pinterest-worthy hobby or two or five. Sometimes, I have a hard time figuring out what's not only realistic, but what my own expectations are of myself, or if I'm tag-teaming on other people's priorities just because we all know what everyone else is doing (thanks internet).

When my kids were toddlers and they are only interested in a specific toy, book, or activity for less than 5 minutes each, your house is essentially ruined for what feels like a decade. For me, realistically, it was chaotic for 5 years, only because I have two children. The more children, the more you can up those years of your house looking like it was the setting for Twister. This is when the Rule of Threes came to me. Probably when I was blankly staring at a wall for an hour in silence when they napped, trying to figure how to get my bone-tired bum off the couch and start the next thing that needed prepped to keep the house running like a well-oiled, clean machine. 

The Rule of Threes is simply this: you can have one main thing happen well in a house where children also live. Those three 'things' are the following: 
a) dinner made and ready to eat
b) a clean house
c) happy, calm children engaging with mom.

Honestly. That's it. It's realistic to have one of those things happen every evening around witching hour dinner time. It's superhuman to have two of them done by the time my husband walks in the door. If all three are happening at the same time? You should look for bodies, because mommy has gone loco and you walked into Crazytown. She will take out her suppressed rage on you when the kids are tucked in, so best just scoot her out the door with a $20 and kiss her goodbye for the evening. 

Sure, I've had enough 'twofer' days in my time, and it eases up a bit when the kids are old enough to actually engage in meaningful chores like prepping dinner, vacuuming, cleaning  bathrooms, etc., but often when two of those things are happening, I'm about ready to spontaneously combust. It's just not worth my adrenal gland shrinkage and my husband walking into a warzone. 

Plus, the house is dirty 10 minutes later anyway. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

#TheCreativityClub


The internet is like my most hated best friend. I mean, I don't really have one of those, but the information and activities overwhelm and excite me. I get bogged down with all that I'm consuming and communicating, yet I need it to stay connected to those I love. Artists, writers, cooks, and makers of all types inspire me from my living room but turning out creativity of my own is a challenge because of all that said consuming. 

I don't often join in online challenges, link-ups, or courses, but Elsie Marley of KCW fame is like my pretend cooler, older sister and I couldn't help myself when she came up with #TheCreativityClub. I had to join. Her ideas are so off-the-wall, like this awesome one, and I spontaneously commented an, "I'm in!" and here I was, in an online club. 


The internet is for the most part pretty anonymous unless you sign your name and you're someone famous (and even then, it's iffy), so if I hated the first week or never got around to it, who cares, right? I had thought about this assignment on and off all week. I was stewing and percolating and just like any sort of random burst of creative energy, I came up with it early Monday morning, the day it was due. I was writing my Morning Pages and this sentence showed up and I knew I liked it right after my pen dotted the period at the end.

The washi tape writing was great for a quote, since I don't know how to make any type of lettering look remotely professional over a photograph, or draw on photoshop, so I knew it was going to have to be handmade with some sort of textile or something. The little post-it was just a cute afterthought, but it goes well with the sentiment. I can't wait to see what next week's assignment is.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Movies in the Queue for 2015



Our family has a penchant for movie watching. We all have our favorites and the genres we're normally attracted to (him: action and strong hero/epic theme, me: drama with class acting, honesty and redemptive stories, true stories), and although often when we sit down to watch it's something he wants to watch, I do throw in my trump card from time to time. Funny enough, almost every single movie I choose, we both end up liking, though I can't say the same for his choices....!

I keep a running list of movies (along with books) that I want to try to see every year. I hit between 50-75% of them, and I end up liking nearly all of them. This month I even crossed off a movie my friends have been bugging me to see for ages: The Princess Bride. I'm not sure how I escaped my childhood without seeing it, but it might have been the last cult classic of it's time that I wasn't familiar with. Of course I liked it! Here's what else I want to watch in 2015; click on the links for youtube trailers.

I'm really excited to see these movies, and I knocked a lot off my list in 2014. What are you excited to see this year? What movie are you rooting for to win Best Film of the Year? (My nod is going to Boyhood or Theory of Everything.)