the art of being a woman

In a world where so much of who you are seems to be wrapped up in the external – in accomplishments, in appearance, in possessions – it is immensely refreshing for my soul to be reminded of what true beauty is.

Growing up, I had subscriptions to your typical teenage girl magazines – Seventeen, YM…I cut pictures out of them to make collages – collages full of photoshopped women, advertised beauty products, and the like. I’m happy to say our subscriptions have grown up since then. We now welcome Kingston Life and Spacing into our home, in addition to my professional magazines. About a year ago, my husband introduced me to a magazine called Darling. I was moved by its mission and intrigued by the way it distinguished between eight female personas. I promptly subscribed to their online content, and I will admit it is probably the only feed that I read in its entirety.

I’m someone who has often found her worth in achievements and in an ability to get things done. This has served me well on a number of occasions. However, it has also left me utterly devastated more than a few times.

At church today, our speaker touched on the reality of our brokenness as people and our deep need for healing and restoration. I was challenged to consider the reign that God has (or doesn’t have) over all aspects of my life, and I couldn’t help but be convicted of the fact that I have yet to allow him to make an indelible mark on my life. When people see me, do they see someone whose life has been transformed by Christ? Sadly, I don’t know that they do.

All of this brings me to the ideas of identity, worth, and beauty. What does it mean to be a woman, and to live well? Undoubtedly, all women are unique, with different aspirations, different values, different needs. However, I believe there is a certain something that we should all be striving for, to live life on earth with purpose and meaning that extends beyond just the here and now. As a mother, every day I am learning to understand and accept the changes that have occurred in me (mentally and physically) since taking on this new role. I have some seemingly abrupt new ambitions. I have a slate of new responsibilities. And simultaneously, I have a new image of myself to either accept reluctantly or work hard to reform.

In short, it’s a tough act to balance.

And so, I am thankful for the care and thoughtfulness that goes into a magazine like Darling. For curating content that inspires and uplifts and is authentic. In an attempt to foster what I think is a very healthy mindset, I’ve ordered the most recent issue of Darling and I can’t wait to receive it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 5.17.11 PM

11.

This was one of those weeks during which I was reminded of God’s sovereignty and goodness in our lives.

week11

Andy had his 2-month check-up (a little late, yes…) on Wednesday, and this big boy is in the 97th percentile for weight! At our appointment, our doctor had trouble getting his red reflex, which is a test they do to make sure that optically everything is okay with your baby. She told us not to worry, and referred us to the ophthalmology department at one of our local hospitals. Worst case scenario? He has something called retinoblastoma and he will need surgery to remove his eye.

Naturally, that’s one of the last things you want to hear from your physician.

It’s times like this that we are so thankful for the people around us who support us, encourage us, and most importantly, pray for us. We sent messages and emails out right away to let our small groups know the situation. This was at around 11 am. God works in amazing ways, including placing great friends in our life (including one who is a resident in the ophthalmology department!), and by 1 pm, we were seeing the paediatric specialist at the hospital. We praise God that Andy is indeed okay, and at the same time, we are also reminded of the inevitability of one day having heartbreaking circumstances to deal with.

While I was waiting for the ophthalmologist, I got talking in the waiting room with a couple from Brockville whose daughter was born quite premature. She was 3 months old and had just been released from NICU. For the last few months, they had been staying at Almost Home, a local charitable organization that provides “a place of comfort and respite for families whose children are receiving medical treatment in Kingston area hospitals”. My heart goes out to families in that position, and I’m going to find out more about the organization so that I can nominate it at our next 100+ Women Who Care meeting.

Beyond this, Andy is sleeping for about a 6-hour stretch at night, which is marvelous for me :) I finally get a chance to rest in the evening and do things, like write this blog post. And read. I love reading. I went a little crazy last night and requested about a dozen books from the OCT library. I’m looking forward to receiving them.

On the note of PD, this is the last week of a MOOC that I’m taking. I completed the assignment and posted it for feedback on a discussion thread…but didn’t submit it. Super fail. Especially because that process is worth 45% of my grade. I was seriously bummed on Monday (like super grumpy and angry at myself), but I attempted to right my wrongs by submitting my final assignment for another MOOC that I’m taking (which ends next week) about 5 days early.

I’m also beginning to plan for our trip to Nashville (should we rent a car?). Suggestions for restaurants to try and places to visit would be much appreciated.

10.

It has been a whirlwind since we returned from Houston, to say the least. Sunday night, shortly after we landed, Andy’s grandparents hosted a 2-month banquet for him (it’s a Chinese tradition that you hold either a 1-month banquet or a 100-day banquet, but I guess we just decided to aim for something kinda in the middle). The next morning, we drove back to Kingston, eagerly anticipating a return to our routine.

So much for that routine.

Maybe it was all the excitement, but Andy’s sleep was completely out of whack. The first night we were back wasn’t too bad, but that was followed by a night of him waking every 45 minutes, then a night of him waking every 15-20 minutes. I relented in the end and just had him sleep with me. Thankfully, he slept like a baby last night, returning to his 2 am and 5 am middle of the night feeds. Maybe the poor little guy just needed more sleep.

IMG_0339

Today for our family time we headed downtown to Chez Piggy for lunch. It’s been a while since Kelvin and I have been there together (though we frequent their sister restaurant, Pan Chancho, quite a lot), so we thought that that, coupled with them releasing a new spring/summer menu, would be reason enough to visit. As usual, it did not disappoint. I had the open-faced oxtail gravy burger (yes, the gravy really tasted like oxtail), and Kelvin had the Reuben, which he told our waitress was the best Reuben he had ever had.

Andy woke up near the end of our meal, but he was calm enough (sorta) to give us a chance to head over to Minotaur. We’ve been hanging on to two gift certificates from the store (one dating back to 2011…) and we’ve had our eye on these Uncle Goose blocks for a while, so we picked them up.

(photo via pilot&capt.)

In other news, the May flies are now fully grown and an actual menace. They significantly decreased the enjoyment of our little stroll at Lemoine Point on Wednesday, and are causing us to move elsewhere for our walks, at least until the end of June. On the flip side, Kelvin was singlehandedly responsible for destroying at least a colony and a half of May flies on his way to Bath for his softball game last night. The front of our car looks atrocious covered with them.

Travel: Houston

I had never been to Texas before this trip. To be honest, we never had any reason to go. But now that we have, let me tell you – we really like Houston. Not on the same level that we like San Francisco, mind you, but let’s say that I would have no problem recommending a visit. Yes, the city is incredibly large and spread out (with very strange zoning laws I might add), but it is full of great things to do, places to see, and eateries to satisfy the largest range of palates.

STAY

When Kelvin and I travel in North America, we generally stay at an SPG property. I will have my part-time travel agent license for a few more months (random, I know) and Starwood Pro always offers amazing rates for us to try different Starwood hotels, so we tend to stick with them. Growing up, my family opted for more Best Western/Sleep Inn-esque accommodations. You know, the ones you would look through the CAA book to find (all my sister and I cared about was whether or not there was a pool). Alas, that will not be the case for Andy.

This time around, we opted to stay at the Westin Houston Downtown, which is SPG’s only property within downtown Houston. It’s a classic Westin, complete with that SPG scent that we have come to know and love. We don’t frequent hotel lobby bars, but this hotel had a nice one, if you’re into that. The workout room is small, but well-equipped, and despite being in the basement, I felt really comfortable spending some time there alone. Instead of packing our travel crib, we opted to use one of the hotel cribs. It was clean, safe, and Andy liked it. Kelvin had some trouble adjusting to Andy being in the same room, but by the second night he (Kelvin) was fine. We always look for accessibility wherever we stay, and this hotel was within a very comfortable walking distance of public transit. (photo cred below to trip advisor)

Westin Houston Downtown / 1520 Texas Avenue, Houston / website

PLAY

Though we weren’t in Houston for a very long time, we jammed a heck of a lot of activities in. Not far from our hotel was Discovery Green. This awesome 12-acre park downtown had a ton of programming, and we had a chance to check out the Discovery Green Flea (which unfortunately had items not exactly to our taste) and the Parks and Rec Marathon. Armed with a s’more grilled cheese for me and a gouda jam grilled cheese for Kelvin from The Golden Grill, with Andy asleep in our carrier, we lounged in the grass and watched one full episode. Perhaps if we weren’t staying at the airport hotel that night and didn’t have a 7:40 am flight the next day, we would have stayed for longer :)

IMG_0320

Another nearby attraction was Minute Maid Park. We had no intention of watching a game here, but due to a series of fortunate events involving a Blue Jays cap and scalpers (don’t worry, we actually bought our tickets at the box office. our seats were legit), we found ourselves at the Astros vs. Jays game Thursday night. It was awesome.

IMG_0270

The rest of the things we saw were a short light rail ride away in the Museum District. Our first stop was the Houston Zoo, touted as one of the top 10 zoos in America. I must agree – it was pretty awesome. Highlights? The elephant complex and the area co-habitated by the giraffes, zebras, and ostriches. We opted to not bring the stroller with us, so Andy was in the carrier the whole time. Needless to say, he got hot real fast. Thank goodness for the “chill zones” – yes, they were actually designated as such on the zoo map – throughout the zoo, which we sought out for much needed respite every 30 minutes or so. For $14 (general admission is $16, but we got $2 off with our metro cards), this attraction was well worth it. What’s better than $2 off? Free! If you happen to be in Houston on the first Tuesday of the month between September and May, admission is comped. Alas, we were not.

IMG_0239

But not to worry, we did get our share of free admissions. Thursdays seem to be a hot day for free admission. From 2-5, the Houston Museum of Natural Science opened its doors free of charge (to the permanent collection only), and we spent a few hours there, 45 minutes of which was spent breastfeeding in a dimly lit corner by the washrooms. HMNS advertises itself as one of the most attended museums in the US, but I’m not sure I would necessarily pay to visit it. Their Ancient Egypt exhibit is extensive, their palaeontology collection is impressive, and they do have a funky chemistry section in the basement, but I think I just don’t have the patience for that sort of museum.

What I DO have patience for are interactive museums. In that regard, the Children’s Museum of Houston truly did not disappoint. I can totally see why it was voted the No. 1 Children’s Museum in America. There were so many exhibits there that even Kelvin and I were excited to participate in, and as a teacher, I really appreciate the way that each space was meant for children to really explore and learn. They have this section called Kidtropolis (very clearly sponsored by Bank of America) in which each kid gets an allowance to use in navigating this little city complete with a bank, grocery store, stock exchange, clinic, and more! They also have a dedicated makerspace for tinkering, testing, and experimenting, as well as a whole area for tots on the second floor. At 2 months, Andy was still too young to really make good use of the space (save for this one section in which you could sit and listen to lullabies), but if he had been able to grasp things (and if he had been awake), I would have been very comfortable spending a good amount of time with him in the tot zone.

IMG_0255

IMG_0261

Here’s a short clip of what Kelvin learned.

Last but not least, you can’t visit Houston without spending a bit of time in Hermann Park (especially if you look at how many of the attractions below are actually around or in Hermann Park). We would have loved to catch an outdoor concert at the Miller Outdoor Theatre, but alas, our schedule did not allow for it. However, we did have lunch there at Pinewood Cafe and rode the 20-minute long train ride ($3.25 pp). Good times.

IMG_0237

Children’s Museum of Houston / 1500 Binz Street, Houston / website
Discovery Green
 / 1500 McKinney Street, Houston / website
Hermann Park / 1700 Hermann Park Drive, Houston / website
Houston Museum of Natural Science
/ 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston / website
Houston Zoo
 / 6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston / website
Minute Maid Park / 501 Crawford Street, Houston / website

DINE

Hands down one of the most important thing of all when we travel – good food. Prior to any trip, I tend to spend (a long) time scouring websites and urbanspoon and yelp to figure out where we should eat. This trip was no exception. I’m happy to report that almost all of the places we visited were home runs.

The very first night, we ate at Pondicheri in Upper Kirby. The thalis (their rendition of a sampling platter) were good to get a sense of what they offer, but nothing to write home about. What was delicious were their goat samosas, though perhaps a bit steep in price, at $9 for 2. The filling was moist and everything was well-integrated. Also, they have a bake lab there (who doesn’t love baked goods?) and we had an absolutely delicious coconut mint cookie. Funny story – we actually just needed change for our bus fare back downtown, but we got this sweet surprise in return!

Breakfast was a real winner on this trip. The first day we ate at Honeymoon Cafe and Bar, an offshoot of Boomtown Coffee. Their breakfast menu is limited to four selections, but that’s really all you need. Kelvin got the soft-scrambled eggs on rye and I got the breakfast BLT. Can you believe I had never had a BLT before this? What can I say? I don’t really like beefsteak tomatoes. Luckily, this BLT was amazing. The bacon was perfectly crispy, and the tomato was warm. I inhaled it (as gracefully as I could with a child strapped to me) and may or may not decide to leave that as my one and only BLT experience.

IMG_0221

The next morning, we ventured down to what seemed like an industrial area, to a surprisingly large restaurant called Weights + Measures. This place came as a recommendation from a blog that we follow, which had the coolest vibe. One section of the restaurant and bar looked like it was straight out of the 1950s, while the main seating area had a warm, but modern feel.

IMG_0284

I ordered one of the most scrumptious breakfast sandwiches I have ever eaten – with peanut butter, nutella, bacon, bananas and egg. I must say, I was skeptical of the restaurant’s decision to marry a classic nutella toast sandwich with regular savoury breakfast foods, but it totally worked. Plus it looked really pretty. Kelvin got the mushroom toast egg sandwich after reading in Houstonia that it was one of the best breakfast sandwiches in Houston. It was equally delicious as my sandwich, but much more savoury.

IMG_0288

At the end of the meal, our bill came in a cassette tape holder (is that what you call them?). So retro. What a great use for something that is virtually obsolete. Throwback to when I had cassette tapes. I still remember the track list on my Spice Girls tape. Third song was “Too much” – my favourite. Good times.

IMG_0291

Before heading out to catch our bus, we couldn’t help but stop in at their bake shop, Slow Dough, to try a few things. Lately, I have developed a penchant for the pain au chocolat at Pan Chancho back home, so naturally that’s what I got. Even though I waited for a while to eat it, it was still heavenly. Flaky, chocolatey goodness and everything that a pain au chocolat should be.

IMG_0285

In the same vicinity is this little place called Tacos A Go Go. A half service little hole-in-the-wall, this place dished out the best chips and salsa we’ve had in a while. Our dinner cost us just over $20 and it was fully satisfying. We got a smattering of tacos so we could try a whole bunch. The carne guisada tacos were flavourful, but the winner for me hands down was pork guisada taco. The spice and kick was on point, and the corn tortillas were as they should be. I also tried the grilled fish, but that was a no for me – I’ve definitely had much better fish tacos than the one I had there.

IMG_0266

IMG_0265

Of course, you can’t travel to Texas and leave without having some good ‘ol BBQ. The evening before we left, we consumed a delicious cornucopia of meats and sides at Goode Company on Kirby. Kelvin’s cousin (whose little guy is only 3 days older than  Andy) and husband live in the Houston area, so it was really nice to be able to share this meal with them. Following their lead, we ordered a two meat dinner (with sausage and ribs) as well as a stuffed potato with brisket. The food was delicious. Plus they have a sweet outdoor eating area with picnic tables that gave us a chance to experience that Houston humidity one last time before returning to temperate Ontario :)

There are still numerous places that we would like to try in Houston, including the steakhouse that was right next door to the Westin, but that will have to wait for another trip!

Goode Co. BBQ / 5109 Kirby Drive, Houston / websiteGoode Company Barbeque on Urbanspoon
Honeymoon Cafe and Bar / 300 Main Street, Houston / website /The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar on Urbanspoon
Pondicheri Cafe / 2800 Kirby Drive, Houston / website / Pondicheri on Urbanspoon
Tacos A Go Go / 3704 Main Street, Houston / website / Tacos a Go-Go on Urbanspoon
Weights + Measures / 2808 Caroline Street / websiteWeights + Measures on Urbanspoon

We also spent a day or so out in Katy for Kelvin’s work conference which, coupled with terrible weather, was just a smidge above blasé. We went and walked Katy Mills the first night we got in, and left feeling quite a bit more depressed than when we entered. It is in serious need of a facelift and some better stock in their clothing stores. Needless to say, we will not be returning to Katy in the future if we can avoid it. Thankfully, the trip to Katy didn’t end on a sour note. We had an awesome driver – Ernesto – who brought us from the Westin to Katy, and he returned to bring us to pick up our rental car. A pretty young guy, he is from Cancun and training to be a commercial pilot. Something about him made us feel completely comfortable. If you’re ever in Houston and need a taxi, let us know and we can point you his way :)

Final tip for those of you travelling with kiddos – if you can manage it, bring your own car seat when you’re travelling and anticipate being in a car for more than just one or two trips. We had a bit of a hassle trying to get the one we rented with our car to feel secure, plus it tacked on another 30 minutes logistically because we had to wait of the personnel to get it, among other things. I think Andy would have much preferred his usual seat.

Anyways, our next planned trip is to Tennessee this July, so the itinerary planning has most definitely begun. Until next time!

9.

Hello from hot and humid Houston! Kelvin is off at his work meeting, and Andy and I are just resting at the hotel. Yesterday was jam-packed, so the downtime is much appreciated. Plus it gives me time to make sure I’m all caught up on the courses that I’m taking.

A lot of firsts for Andy this week – his first long car ride (to Toronto), his first plane ride, his first time using his passport, and even his first baseball game! We have learned a ton this week about travelling with a little one and how it changes the way that we travel. Case in point, thinking that we could drive from Kingston to Toronto in 2.5 hours – big mistake. We didn’t even make it to Napanee before his wailing cued us to the fact that he might be hungry. Thus began a 45 minute pit stop.

IMG_0295

One definite plus of having a baby while travelling – people love talking to you! And of course they always like to ask/guess what his age is. Estimates have ranged from 2 weeks (come on, he is totally larger than a 2 week old baby) to 4 months. I’m still terrible at guessing age, so usually I just straight up ask.

I’m not going to say too much about Houston here as the plan is to do an actual post on Houston, but if you are travelling with young kids, I would definitely recommend checking out the Children’s Museum of Houston. We went there yesterday (they have free admission from 5-8 every Thursday!) and were honestly blown away. There is so much to do there (for children from about 4 months on) and if we lived in Houston, I think we would definitely be there quite often. Also, go see the Astros play at Minute Maid Park. We ended up at a game yesterday rather serendipitously and it was honestly thrilling. What is it about sporting events, loud noises and really bright lights that make me feel like part of something bigger?

IMG_0273

Well, only two more nights here for us, then a night in Toronto (during which we will host Andy’s 2 month-banquet…yes, it’s a thing…hard to explain) before heading back to Kingston. Perhaps we will catch some Victoria Day festivities upon our return.

Happy Mother’s Day 

It’s surreal to me to think that I’m a mother. I’ve had 25 years worth of Mother’s Days – Sundays of giving my mother handmade cards and crafts (some much better than others, I must admit), of brunches and dinners. All these years, I never really thought about the other 364 days a year that my mom continued to be a loving mother without recognition. 

Now that Andy is around, my mother (and MIL) are grandmothers. And there’s nothing that makes them happier than seeing their little grandson’s smiling mug. To celebrate, I decided to make them a little something to keep that little mug closer, which also happens to provide a good place to rest their own (coffee) mugs. All the tutorials I found online essentially brought me back to this post by Darkroom and Dearly, so I followed those instructions to create the Polaroid coasters for my mom and mother in law. 

  
We made them each a set of 5 (and ended up with a set for ourselves too as we accounted for potential mistakes) and they turned out quite nicely! The 4×4 ceramic tiles I got at Home Depot along with the little felt pads to put on the bottom. I was too cheap to actually spend money on mod podge, so I went to the dollar store (where I got the sponge brush) and picked up a bottle of glue, which I proceeded to water down at home (2 parts glue to 1 part water).

The whole process was very straightforward. I used sandpaper to scuff up the tiles just a tiny bit, then wiped the dust off with a tissue. I printed the pictures at Costco, cut them down to size, put the glue substance on the back of them, and pasted them onto the tiles. I used Kelvin’s old Target debit card (which we sadly will no longer need) and ran it over the photo to get extra glue out and so the photo would adhere better to the tile. I let it dry for quite a while and then proceeded to put another layer of glue/water over the whole tile. Let dry. Another coat. People had mentioned that they were able to see streaks from the mod podge, but perhaps it was because we simply used glue/water, we didn’t find them that prominent. What’s more, when we used the acrylic spray, any streaks we did have  disappeared. 

So all that was well and good. We let them dry and then brought them outside onto the deck for a coating of clear acrylic spray. Between coat 1 and 2, I heard a little patter on the window. In a panic, I rushed down to the main floor. “Please don’t be rain,” I thought to myself. It was rain. Kelvin was super helpful and bolted outside to collect up the coasters. I had a little pity party for myself as I wiped the beads of rain off the now somewhat sticky coasters. After spending time (unsuccessfully) googling the effects of getting water on such projects, I brought them outside again (under the porch this time – why didn’t I do this the first time) for a second coat. When they were dry, I added the felt pads at the bottom, and all was well. 

 

Last thing – we packaged them up nicely with twine and a homemade tag. Happy Mother’s Day!

8.

We are closing in on two months!

It seems we have completely skipped spring, and have moved straight from winter to summer. No matter! It means Andy gets to rock some pretty cute shorts (or no bottoms at all) :) Daily temperatures in the 20s are preparing us for Houston, but we are lucky to have some semblance of a breeze here. Thinking that will not be the case in Houston.

...or no bottoms at all

Lots of fun for us this week. We went to mom and baby yoga this morning, which was a new experience. Not so much actual yoga haha (I mean, I did do a few folds…) but it was definitely nice to meet some new moms (and to see some other mom friends again!). Thinking I will be back! I also returned to the regular gym this week. Felt like I was going to pass out during power step and discovered that I have almost zero core right now -__- Hoping this postnatal workout will also assist in some way to get me back in shape.

So, we have moved up again in diaper size. Hoping that will reduce the blowouts. According to our scale at home he is closing in on 14 lbs. What a kid. Glad that we have other friends who are expecting so we can pass along the diapers that he has already outgrown!

Last but not least, my sister loves making videos. They are awesome. Here’s one of Andy and his antics.

7.

I feel like we are soon hitting the point where it’s weird to count Andy’s age by weeks, and instead we should make the transition to months. That being said, this week was marked with a number of other milestones as well.

IMG_0087

First off, we said goodbye to our wonderful midwife, and are now under the care of my family doctor. Going with a midwife during this pregnancy was probably the best decision we made. One of the major reasons we decided to look into midwifery was the postpartum care. I’ve been prone to ups and downs in mood, and figured I was a pretty strong candidate for postpartum issues, so the post-pregnancy follow up was key for us. Our midwife came to see us every other day for the first week or so, and she was always on-call. More than one phone call was made to her with me in tears as I struggled with this whole breastfeeding thing. I will not hesitate to go with a midwife again when we have our next child – maybe they’ll even assign us to the same midwife!

Second, we got Andy’s passport today. Timely, since we are heading on our first family vacation to Houston in less than two weeks. I’ve never been to Texas before, so I am definitely looking forward to it. Something that I like to do before we travel is spend some time on google maps getting a lay of the land. I must say, it has been quite difficult doing this with Houston – it’s so big! I’ve also been checking the forecast every day, and so far it is looking like we will be greeted by thunderstorms. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some nicer weather so we can enjoy all the outdoorsy places that Houston has to offer, including Hermann Park and the Houston Zoo.

Lastly, I can’t believe it’s May already. Lots to look forward to this month. Here are a few things:

  • Jane’s Walks (for Jane Jacobs) are happening this weekend, and I’m looking forward to checking out the local walk at Barriefield tomorrow.
  • Sunday I have book club and we are discussing The Fault in Our Stars (I have much to say about this book…)
  • Google for Education is hosting an online conference next weekend that I am excited to participate in. Woohoo for technology and how it makes PD so accessible!
  • The Tett Centre is hosting their Arts Expo that same weekend and I am looking forward to picking up some local handmade goodies!