24.

Biggest news of the week – Andy is sleeping through the night! Like true, 10 or 11-hour sleeps. And this came after two nights of pretty atrocious sleeping, so it was particularly amazing. I credit the softness of the fleece blanket we laid down over top of his sheets for this change.

Come to think of it, our sweet boy has been particularly sweet lately. He tries to talk to us often and has been doing this funny thing where he sucks on his lip and it makes a smacking sound. Kelvin really likes it when he clamps down on his gums in a way that flattens out his jaw. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it’s super cute. He actually does it a lot when he’s eating. Maybe it’s his way of keeping the spoon in his mouth.

Unlike last week, this week was jam-packed. My sister and mom came up to watch Andy (so thankful!) so that I could get a few things done. He was so good with them. They took a lot of pictures of him. Like this one.

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I had mentioned earlier that I joined the board at our local library. On Tuesday, I travelled with my fellow board members to see some of the branches. I loved driving through Frontenac, taking in the scenery, and meeting the staff and patrons who frequent the library out this way. The rural branches are typically smaller than the urban branches, but I am encouraged to know that the residents in these neighbourhoods have access to all the same wonderful holdings I have. I also got to see a lot of the elementary schools that are in the northern part of the school district that I work for. What a treat!

The next day, I presented for the very first time at a conference organized by our school board. It was a little nerve-wracking, but a really great experience. I’ve been using this app called Notability for virtually all my organization needs at school. It’s the one app I feel like I can really get behind and champion, and so I did! The folks at Ginger Labs were super helpful and even gave me some access codes so my participants could try it for free :) Best thing about that day? I won half a day of release time for future tech learning!

On the homefront, we are looking for a new rug for our living space. We recently ordered this rug for our dining area, and are keeping our eyes open for a thicker, more colourful rug for the living room.

Also, some amazing videos from around the inter web: Ikea puns and Raising Robot Babies

On Identity and Motherhood

I just finished reading Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe. I found myself relating strongly to her qualms about typical North American parenting, and I read in awe of some of the things French children were able to do. There’s much that I appreciate about the way the French raise their kids (or at least, as it is portrayed in this book), including:

  • being calm
  • giving their children space for exploration
  • the idea of “cadre” or framework – clear boundaries, but almost limitless freedom within those boundaries
  • observing more before responding
  • treating their children as capable individuals that don’t need to be coddled

One thing that I found particularly interesting was the view that mothers have about themselves, their identity, and their relationships with others after their children are born. Typically in North America, lives stop and worlds begin revolving around our little bundles of joy. This is not the case in France. Mothers recognize that they have a new role, but that role does not supersede everything else in life. They still need to spend time with their partners. They still need to relax with their friends. And they’re allowed to have other interests.

When Kelvin and I found out we were expecting (and come to think of it, even before that), we made a concerted effort and commitment to raising our little guy as part of our life, not as the only part of our life. We continued going to small group. We took our little guy with us when we travelled. We ate in restaurants. Did it always go smoothly? Absolutely not. There were many moments of frustration. Like the time Andy screamed his head off while we were deep inside a Macy’s in New York. Flustered, I virtually ran to the closest entrance, not entirely sure of where said entrance was, a look on my face that said “Get out of my way, or else…”. I was bickering with Kelvin, and muttering under my breath, “We are going back to the hotel NOW. This was a terrible idea.” The minute we were outside, I scanned frantically for a place to nurse him. Our best option was a folding chair on the sidewalk facing 34th Street. No matter – it worked, and he calmed down. Despite these little blips, I like to think that our choices will make it easier for us to continue to do things that matter to us and that bring us joy with him around.

Now that we’re almost 6 months into Andy’s earthly life, I can honestly say that it has been so wonderful to have had this perspective. I had set out a few goals for myself for this year off, and save for my “learn to sew” goal, I am doing pretty well. I am still the person I was before I had Andy, but with more efficiency, a better perspective and empathy for other new moms, and of course, an absolutely amazing little guy with whom I can share my life and my passions. And as he gets older, he will undoubtedly develop his own passions and perspectives, which I hope he will share with me.

I won’t go into detail about what the book says about a woman’s body and what it’s expected to be able to do shortly after birth. In this respect, I am far, far, far off the map. Like way on the North American side of the spectrum. I ate copious amounts of chocolate after giving birth. I regretted it after, but alas, the damage had already been done.

Lastly, two thoughtful links I came across this week before I wrap this post up: Amanda Palmer’s open letter and Macklemore and Growing Up

23.

This has been one of my least productive weeks so far. Perhaps I need to move my goal calendar over from the old house…

The heat and humidity has kept us mostly indoors this week, save for that one morning we went out for an hour-long walk in our neighbourhood and returned essentially dripping with sweat. That day, I realized how great having interior access to the garage is. I rolled the stroller into the garage and took my time transferring things back into the house. Then I had a huge glass of water.

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I continue to think that Andy quite likes it here. Or maybe he is completely oblivious and just likes playing with the same things that he’s always had. He’s developed quite a penchant for this pillow (see picture). Whenever we come down to the living room he needs to sit with it and pat it with his little hands.

This place is starting to feel more like home. In fact, this morning, inspired by this house tour on A Cup of Jo, Kelvin started spouting off all the things he wants to do in our home. Like paint the whole main floor ultra pure white (we do love our walls ultra pure white). And add subway tile. And open shelving. The list gets longer with each passing day.

Moving on.

Yesterday, we headed to our local library – if you have read any handful of posts from this blog you will know that it is one of my favourite places – for a puppet show extravaganza. Andy thoroughly enjoyed this, his eyes fixated on the bright little stage in the otherwise dark room. On our way out, the puppet animals were available for hugs (one of the stories they portrayed was “Who wants a hug?”) and Andy took a liking to the little bear. It was the only puppet he reached out to touch.

In the evening, despite the torrential downpour, we headed to Lake Ontario Park for Loving Spoonful’s annual Food Fiesta. Got myself a brisket sammie from The Big Smoke Food Truck. It was pretty delicious. I’d been meaning to check them out for quite some time.

On the topic of food, I’ve been off the new recipe ball for the past month or so, but this week we tried a few via Budget Bytes – this one for corn and zucchini tacos which we really loved, and this one for spinach ricotta pasta which was insanely dry. Maybe I used the wrong type of ricotta. Maybe the gas stove is making me want to cook more?

Also, something I’m really excited for: the first in a guest blogger series that I’m doing for our local conservation authority. I do find the bio description a little comical, though. Catherine is a Kingston resident, popular blogger, and mom. I don’t think I’ve ever introduced myself in that way before.

Anyways, next week is a busy one, and also happens to be the last week of August (WHAT). Fall is coming.

Thoughts on Getting Around with a Child

I’ve been meaning to do a post on our carriers and strollers and just never got around to it. Andy is now 5 months old, and he has definitely had his share of travelling. He has been on a total of eight planes, about a dozen cars and taxis, two boats, a train, and public transit in three separate cities. My parents keep talking about how they make carting a child around so easy now, and I would have to agree. It’s also a whole lot more comfortable.

Now, Kelvin is a big a researcher. He is the one who combs through reviews and comments before we make any of our big purchases. I am very thankful to him for that, because I am not that diligent. When he strongly recommends something, I know that it’s because he has weighed out endless other options and has decided this was the best one. Before I go on, let me add a disclaimer that this is what works best for us, our body types, and our lifestyle. Others may vehemently oppose.

CarrierTula Baby Carrier

Four words. We love the carrier. It’s so great for quick jaunts and Andy loves it. It’s a must when we travel, and we will continue to bring it with us even when we bring our travel stroller. When he was little, he would fall asleep in it in an instant. He still does sleep in it, but now he stays awake much longer in it due to his general curiosity with the world.

The sunshade helps to keep his head in place when he falls asleep, and it also does its intended task of protecting his little face from rays. The pocket in the front is home to his hat and my iPhone.

There was a short time about two months ago where the carrier was a little frustrating, though. He was too big for his little feet to be in the carrier comfortably in the froggy position, but he was too small to be able to comfortably pop his little legs out. I spent more time than I should have looking at proper carrier baby positions, convinced that I was screwing up his feet. Thankfully, we got through it, and now his little feet stick out the sides. It’s super cute.

Upon looking at the Tula website, I think the prices have dropped a little bit since we bought our carrier. Plus they have added some more cute prints. I think one of the biggest reasons Kelvin voted for this carrier over the other one we were trying was for aesthetic reasons.

Also, my parents both like the Tula. When they came to visit last week, they put him in it often and went for strolls around the neighbourhood.

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CarseatChicco Keyfit 30

I must admit, not as much research and testing went into this purchase, but we are happy with it nonetheless. It is middle of the pack in most areas – price, features, weight. It’s functional, the base is easy to install in the car (ridiculously easy), and Andy falls asleep in it all the time. In fact, he is asleep in it right now. He nodded off in the car, in the 3 minutes it takes to get from the library to our home. Taking him out of the car seat when sleeping often results in him waking up, so I opt to leave him in there and just watch him sleep in the bucket.

His little feet will soon pop over the edge of the bucket, and we removed the bottom infant insert ages ago, but the infant head rest we’ve kept in place. We should probably wash that…

Also, it took me a few months to discover that underneath the canopy is an additional pop-out canopy that provides extra sun protection. For those first few months I looked with envy on other baby seats that had huge, convertible canopies. That was silly of me.

It fits into our stroller well, and I would say a good percentage of our photos from Andy’s first month were taken in this carseat.

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Day-to-day StrollerBumbleride Indie

So our original intention was to get the Indie 4, but when we got to the store in Ottawa, we both gravitated towards the Indie. The biggest reason was so that I could take it out with me on the trails when I wanted to go for a walk. I continue to be thankful for this decision, because I have seen many a four-wheeled stroller struggle its way through trails and streets, while this bad boy trucks through snow and ice. It is by no means a Maserati-level stroller, but it’s also not a typical travel system that you can get at Walmart. At this point in the game, I have mastered the art of getting it out of our car and ready for Andy with one hand, all while holding him in the other. I cannot, however, fold it down with one hand.

There’s a lot of care put into the simplicity of the design, but also some really thoughtful features. I love that we can recline it all the way (more than once, I have used it as a change table when no such table could be found) and that it has a little peekaboo flap so I can see him when he’s sitting inside. It’s also lighter than some of the jogging strollers I’ve carried, so that was a huge plus for me. The storage underneath is fantastic and we use it mostly for our carrier and library books. The cupholder, though spartan, does its job. Don’t think about putting your phone in there, though. I assure you it will fall out.

When Andy is older and we, God-willing, have another child, our plan is to get the mini board attachment so he can ride along while his little brother/sister sits in the front.

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Our stroller and our carseat, even though now we mostly just put him in without the carseat.

Travel StrollerMaclaren Mark II

Ah yes, our impulse buy. Our “it is way too hot to have him in the carrier” buy. I gave my two cents about this stroller in this post, and I stand by my opinion that it was the best decision. When you’re buying a travel stroller, you are not necessarily looking for bells and whistles. What you’re looking for is weight and ease of use. The Mark II wins in both of these. Hands down. Sometimes I take Andy out in this stroller just because it’s so easy to. When we head to Europe and Asia later on this year and next year, we will be bringing this with us. Because it would be foolish of us not to.

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22.

Writing this post from our new home (!!) at 1 in the morning. On my phone. It’s been a busy week to say the least. 

As of this week, Andy is officially five months old! Where did the time go? We’ve commented multiple times on how little time has actually passed, but how it feels as if he’s been with us forever. Earlier today I was looking at my Facebook timeline (which I rarely do) and found a picture of him when he was just a few weeks old. I can’t believe he has grown so much since then. I mean, look at this mischievous guy!

  

He continues to chat up a storm, and his little personality is really shining through. He loves it when people talk to him and  hates to be left out of anything – conversations, mealtime, get-togethers… With my family in town, this means that he has been heading to bed later because he’s just so excited! This also expedited our need to add the baby set to his Tripp Trapp, which Kelvin and my dad did last night, so that he can sit at the table with us now. His curiosity continues to grow, and I love watching him stare intently at new things :)

One great thing about us moving to a bigger place is that Andy has a much bigger room. We had some trouble with configurations earlier, what with outlets and vents and windows and all, but I think we’ve settled on a nice arrangement. It’s also been great having our own ensuite. And a walk-in closet. And a study that’s a little bit removed from the rest of the living space. What luxury!

One thing that wasn’t so great was the physical act of moving. Now I know why people hate it! And also why people hire movers! My parents continue to remind me that we had a ridiculously easy move (I mean, 3/4 of our furniture is still over at the old house), but I still stand by my statement that moving is a pain. We rented a U-haul and did the heavy lifting ourselves. And by we I mean mostly Kelvin and my dad. I need to get to the gym more. My strength level on a scale of 1-10 is maybe a 3.5. Subpar at best. 

So I won’t go into detail about our U-haul experience, but here are five things I learned:

  1. Always check the vans before you leave the lot
  2. Insurance is $15 but there is a $150 deductible if they notice any damage
  3. Diligence is not a forte at this establishment
  4. Driving a large vehicle is both frightening and exhilarating 
  5. The 9′ cargo vans do not fit a queen size mattress vertically (it fits diagonally, making it somewhat awkward to fit everything else in)

This would have been a really great place to insert a picture of me driving this van. Alas, we neglected to take one. 

Our new house is mostly in order now. We have half a box left to unpack, and then the moving continues of all those random little things that are still over at our place. 

Good sense tells me I should sleep, so I will leave it here. Good night!

Reading and Writing

I’ve never thought of myself as a writer. And once I reached university, I became acutely aware not only of my lack of writing prowess, but also of how unread I was. At 16, I had not read The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird, or anything by Maya Angelou. Not to say that those are symbols of a well-read adolescent, but rather, that they often came up in “literary” conversations, to which I had nothing of value to contribute.

Growing up, I read a lot. But in my formative preteen years, no one told me I should seek out more than the few YA fiction series that I gravitated towards. My interest in fiction waned and I turned to non-fiction. Left alone to my own devices, I sought out books on architecture and home design, because those were what interested me. I brought home books with titles like Prefab Today and Japanese Small Homes that were full of floor plans. I would sketch them in my little notebook and then draw out what I imagined they would look like in 3-D. I owe much of my visual/spatial abilities to this exercise. 

Now, almost a decade later, maternity leave has given me the gift of being able to read more. And to write more. I am enriched by what others have learned and have captured in words. I, in turn, also have the time and space to attempt to do the same. Or at least attempt to. I may never be as eloquent or complex as some of my friends who have already honed their craft for years and years, but what I have learned thus far from reading Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is that writing, like any art form, is a craft that requires practice. I’m sure that I will pen a significant amount of truly atrocious writing (the majority of it unfinished), and only rarely will I write something I feel moderately comfortable sharing, but alas, this is a necessary part of the process.

And so I return to where I started. I’ve never thought of myself as a writer, but perhaps with some trial and error, and through studying and writing with others, I’ll begin to see myself in a new light.

Ithaca!

This past weekend we went to Ithaca to celebrate the start of a friend’s marriage. It was a beautiful, simple, and completely fitting wedding with a delicious, communal meal. We were surrounded by the best bounty upstate New York has to offer (quite literally, as the wedding took place at a farm) and unparalleled company. Kelvin and I are always thankful for opportunities like these, which inevitably will become rarer and rarer as more of our friends begin new family units.


We’d only been to Ithaca once before, about a year prior to this visit, and it was every bit as beautiful as we remembered. Last time, we walked the gorges, canoed to the farmers market, and ventured out to Taughannock Falls State Park to name a few. This time, we explored the new Ithaca Commons, visited the market twice (again), and enjoyed the AirBnB that we rented.

I think Ithaca holds a very nostalgic place in my mind. A “this is how towns should be” sort of nostalgia, with its ethos of stewardship and sustainability, where intellect and action coexist. Though small, it sets an example for many much larger cities.

Maybe part of it is that I see a lot of Kingston in Ithaca (or perhaps vice versa?), and I have come to love so much of what Kingston stands for. Either way, it made for a wonderfully relaxing weekend away from home.

21.

So the big news this week…we are moving!! Due to a series of timely events, our little family will be calling a new (but also familiar) place home. The official move date is next Saturday, so we are really excited!

It’s surreal sometimes to think about all that’s changed in our little home and with our family in just under four years. I came across this old picture from March of 2012 – documenting one of our first attempts at personalizing this house (with some handmade art). This was before we got a nicer lamp, a lighter sofa cover, brighter pillows, and before we repainted our dining room!

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Even though we love travelling, it’s been so nice to once again be at home. Andy thinks so too. He is talking constantly now, and the number of videos that I’ve been taking of him has increased dramatically now that he does more interesting things. He is also beginning to develop an understanding of musical instruments (or so I think). I was singing and playing guitar for him the other day, and he would look at the hand that was strumming, then the hand that was chording, then my mouth. It was really cute seeing him do that. Have huge aspirations for him on the musical front haha.

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I’m going to keep this post short as I still have to finish packing. We are heading down to New York state to attend a wedding this weekend (for which all three of us are super stoked and excited for!!) and I must capitalize on the fact that Andy is napping right now!

I will leave you with two things:
1) Earlier this week, I watched Tig on Netflix. Highly recommended.
2) Here’s Part 1 of a series of guest posts I’ll be doing!

Nashville: Part 3

When I was little, I was a little obsessive with keeping track of everything I did on vacation. In fact, the trip Kelvin and I took to Boston last year was the first time I didn’t write in a journal. Now that I am trying to recount our vacation, I am seeing how valuable those journals were (and we only got back from our trip last week)!

I’ve shared about our trip to Nashville in Part 1 and Part 2, and now here is Part 3.

After a few days of hanging out closer to the Gaylord Opryland (and a visit to Opry Mills essentially right next door), we headed back downtown for one more day. One thing we really enjoyed about taking the bus downtown was knowing that when it pulled up, Billy would be in the driver seat. Even though we only took that bus 3 times, we felt this strange connection to Billy (maybe it had something to do with the 45 minute bus breakdown on day 1). On the day we went to the supermarket, he told us he’d be looking out for us on the return trip! The bus also had regulars, like the lady who was always there on our 9:45 pick up, chatting it up with Billy, a towel slung over her left shoulder.

Our first stop was Cumberland Park (accessible via the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge). Nashville is seriously upping its waterfront game, and if Andy was just a little bit older, he would have LOVED this place.

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Seriously, it was like all of Nashville’s children knew to come here. There was this busy splash pad area, beside which was an astroturf wonderland called The Hollows. For children who preferred not to get wet, there was a bouldering wall and little play area. There were definitely some preteens and teenagers there enjoying the park alongside these little rascals. And let’s be honest, I totally wanted to play too. Now there is the mark of a well-designed park. Fun for all ages!

Afterwards, we headed back across the river to have lunch at Pinewood Social. If I were to ever start a business, I would want it to be like this place. Part hangout, part bar, part restaurant, part bowling alley, this place was the best.

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I had a grilled cheese that was out of this world, and Andy had some respite from the beating sun.

Because of some roadwork, our bus ride to the Ryman took quite a while (just you wait, we really hit a homerun today with the Nashville tourist spots!). A friend had suggested that we check the Ryman out, so we did, and it was such a fascinating thing to be able to hear about its glory days, neglect, and revival. I had read online about the 11-minute “show” that played before the self-guided tour, and it did not disappoint! We didn’t stay too long here, though, as we wanted to get a rest in at the park.

So we were headed to the West End on the bus (3 or 5 will get you to Centennial Park, where as the 7 will take you down 21st Ave south of Vanderbilt campus) when we passed by the Frist Centre. Yet another spot on our must-see list! We had originally intended to come down again the next day, but then I thought “Oh, why not just see it today” (I’m very glad we did, as we ended up staying at the hotel the next day). We hopped off the bus, walked the long block back to the centre, and got our tickets. Now, we had opted not to bring the stroller with us, so Andy had been chilling (really, cooking) in the carrier the entire trip. but this place provided strollers for free. WHAT. It was the best thing ever. We explored Italian Fashion and postcards and contemporary art. They also have this awesome section called ArtQuest where you get to make your own art. There were a ton of kiddos in there, though, so I opted not to create art this time around.

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I really did not want to leave the Frist, due in large part to this stroller, but alas, it was time to go. We caught the bus again and headed to Centennial Park. This was the site of the 1897 Expo, and home to the world’s only full-size replica of the Parthenon. Random, yes, but still quite an amazing sight. Andy and I took a little stroll around the park, then settled down for a nice rest. Two things that were nice around the park: (1) These oversized swings dotted the park for people to sit on; and (2) Plaques along the trail explained the history of the park. I’m all about merging recreation and learning :)IMG_1388We hung out at the park for a good 2 hours probably. Then we walked through Vanderbilt campus and ended up in a line for Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. This too came recommended by a friend, and Kelvin said it was some of the best (if not the best) fried chicken he had ever had. It was thoroughly enjoyable. Just so you know – counter service, expect a line.

The next day was our last full day in Nashville, topped off with Kelvin’s work gala dinner. Then an early morning flight to our next destination (for Kelvin’s true vacation): New York City!

Some links

It’s already August (what!), and the heat has all but swallowed me whole. It makes me really wish there was a giant Slip ‘n Slide down Princess. Um, this should totally happen.

Also, when we were in NYC last week, we went to this deceptively large Italian market called Eataly, and I really want to go on one of their tours. Maybe when Andy is older he will enjoy this.

I didn’t get a chance to go to Brooklyn on this past trip, but a friend and I are going to take part in the Sketchbook Project. I attempted a year or two ago, but alas never actually finished my sketchbook. Accountability for the win this time!!