Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Reads (2016) and Movies

April hopefuls; only three actually made it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Aloud with the Kids:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hikes with Kids: Elk Mountain. Almost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12:01PM Still in the sand πŸ‘‹πŸ»#goplayoutside #adayinthelife #ftlangley#nofilter

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

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

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hikes with Kids: Buntzen Lake near Port Moody

 a sunny view of the wraparound cove at Buntzen Lake

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

 almost halfway view

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

stopping for me to snap a shot of the trail

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

Monday, April 4, 2016

16 in 2016: Updates on Year-long Goals

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

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

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

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

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