The Best of 2015

After having read this post by a blogger I follow, I thought it fitting to follow suit and reflect on the top 15 things/moments/experiences of 2015. Some of these were huge things, others more mundane, but altogether these made my year.

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Our first visit to the Tett and the Isabel. These were actually two separate occasions, but they’re in the same complex and together make up Kingston’s newest creativity hub. We went to watch the KSO play at the Isabel in February, then attended the Tett grand opening this May. I still can’t believe we have such amazing spaces in our city.

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Andy’s birth this March. Hands down the biggest event of the year. This little guy has changed our life forever, and we could not be more thankful for him.

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Having my poem featured on GOODJust for fun, I participated in a little poetry challenge online. I wrote an acrostic poem on parenthood.

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Winning a ticket to the 21CLI conference in Hong Kong via #whatisschool. For the last year or so I’ve been really into twitter chats as part of my own professional development. I’m really excited to attend this conference in February 2016.

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Watching the Jays vs. the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Kelvin had a work meeting down in Houston this May, so we made it a family affair. How we came to actually attend this game was pretty random, but it was definitely one of the most memorable, electric experiences of the year.

The Live Sent sermon series. We are blessed with an amazing pastoral team at our church, and this sermon series really challenged us to think about the vision of our church and how we are to go about our daily lives missionally as people of faith.

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Witnessing the marriages of some of our good friends. It is a joy to share life with those around us, and it was an absolute honour for us to have had the opportunity this year to see so many of our friends commit to serving and loving each other for the rest of their lives. These weddings took us far and wide, from within Canada, to the States, and even to Spain.

Joining the KFPL board. I talk about our local library system a lot. I absolutely love what they’re doing. I’ve always enjoyed taking on new roles, and this is one that I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s only been a few months and already I’m learning so much about governance and about the shifting role of libraries today.

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Moving into our new house. This August, we ventured to the edge of suburbia for a little more breathing room. It’s been an adjustment, but we are settling in nicely and really loving making the space our own.

Planning my very first Edcamp here in Kingston. Ever since attending my first edcamp in 2011, I’ve been wanting to host one here in town. With the time off from work, I was finally able to get it done! Hoping this will become a yearly event.

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Our trip to Europe. I could probably fill a top 15 list from this trip alone, but hands down this was one of our favourite vacations yet. There’s something other-worldly about Europe that is so hard to replicate here in North America. We spent time in Spain and in England, and though they couldn’t have been more different, we enjoyed them both.

Discovering podcasts. I know podcasts have been around for a long time, but I just started listening to them this fall. Now I can’t stop. I listen to them all the time. Here are some faves.

Reading Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavour. This book has really broadened my understanding of what it means to integrate faith and work. I’ve loved the discussions that have come out of this, and I cannot wait to finish it with our small group.

Finally subscribing to Darling. This was one of my treats to myself on Black Friday. I fully support the mandate of Darling and I am so happy that  it now comes to my mailbox every 3 months. Pages and pages of goodness that truly feed my soul.

Netflix with Kelvin after Andy goes to sleep. One of my favourite times of day (other then going to sleep) is when Kelvin and I get to hang out, cook dinner, eat, and watch a show together. We’ve worked our way through lots, including Selling New York and Worst Cooks of America.

And there you have it – the Top 15 of 2015. Here’s to reflecting on an amazing year, and looking forward to the next one!

41.

Week 41. Not only did this week mark Andy’s first Christmas, but Andy, who was one week overdue, has officially been in the world longer than he was in the womb. Here’s a flashback to nine months ago!

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It was a bit of a tough week for us. We ventured down to Toronto again this week to spend time with some extended family. I mentioned in our last weekly update that Andy had a fever. It continued to get worse while we were away, spiking at over 40.5 degrees one night. That was scary. The heat came with a side of irritability and general discontentment, and we found ourselves not knowing what fussiness was due to him being sick and what fussiness was just him being naughty. That made responding to his cries and screams really tricky.

As we wrap up the year and start thinking about 2016, I find myself reflecting on the past nine and a half months, and how fortunate I am to be where I am.

Let me explain.

To the best of my knowledge, all working women in Canada, myself included, have access to paid parental leave. For me, the first eighteen days of this was spent resting at home, nesting, and getting ready for Andy’s impending arrival (I hadn’t counted on him being late). Following that, I have had the opportunity to spend time at home with my son, playing, eating, learning, and sleeping. Many of these days were physically and emotionally taxing, but what energy I did have, I was able to spend on taking care of my growing child.

If I were living south of the border, this would be a very different story.

I’ve had both friends and family expect their first child this year in the US, and the story they tell of their first year is vastly different. On forums and blogs, I’ve read a fair bit about what leave is like for working mothers in America. Then I watched this TED talk.

It is absurd to me that a global superpower like the US is not providing paid leave for parents, and that women – women who are trying to recover from the trauma of childbirth, learn how to care for an infant, and juggle a new emotional landscape – are feeling like they need to return to work before they are ready. For the sake of parents and children across America, something needs to change.

Merry Christmas

For the third year in a row, we find ourselves celebrating Christmas away from home. As much as it is nice to explore new (and some not so new) places, there’s really no place like home. Thinking we will spend Christmas 2016 in Kingston :)

 Over the last few days, we’ve wandered the Eaton Centre on more than one occasion, and it struck us just how stressful of a time this can be for so many. Amidst dinner obligations, presents, and blowout sales, we often forget that the first Christmas was rung in with very little fanfare. On a quiet night, with makeshift accommodation and the humble presence of few, our Saviour Jesus Christ was born. And he continued to live a life of humility despite all that happened around him. 

Kelvin and I find ourselves experiencing a similarly quiet evening tonight. Having enjoyed an early dinner with my extended family, and having put Andy to bed, we now have a few hours of downtime before we ourselves head to sleep. 

And so, from our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas :)

Manhattan Unfurled

Quite a number of years ago, I discovered Manhattan Unfurled in our local independent book store. Created by Matteo Pericoli, it is an accordion book with a pen and ink drawn skyline of both the east side and west side of Manhattan. At the time, I couldn’t justify paying $45 for the book. As luck would have it, I found it available for a deep discount when I was perusing at Chapters the other day. 

 
Kelvin and I love New York, and I’ve always loved architecture and illustration. This book captures all of that. Paul Goldberger writes a wonderful essay that is included with the book, which really encapsulates the essence of the drawing and what it communicates. Above the product itself, what I am most amazed at is the painstaking effort it took Percoli to travel the length of that island, sketching the big and small details he saw along the shores. He has since undertaken other similar endeavours, and I’m definitely going to look into some of his other works!

  

40.

I write to you from our cozy bed – so late in the week that it’s actually the next week – where I am joined by not one, but two sick boys! Andy has a fever, which may or may not be a side effect of his teething (it’s been bothering him on and off this week) and Kelvin is fighting a stomach bug. Both of them are currently asleep. Needless to say, the canker sore that has been pestering me the last few days is the small fry in this bigger picture. 

  
We are getting really close to the tipping point at which Andy has spent more time out of the womb than in it. It’s been a pretty eventful week for us, full of ups and downs and some big decisions (like deciding not to put Andy into full time daycare until after the summer), but we are really looking forward to the next two weeks where we will be able to just hang out as a family more. 

Andy has been spending more time with his paternal grandparents, so that has freed me up to tackle some of the household chores and projects that have been pushed to the back burner. Like sending out our annual Christmas update. And cleaning those pesky bathrooms. 

  
Our little monkey continues to discover new things about the world. He really likes to stand on his tip toes now and we often find him crawling under and around things…and hanging out on the carpet under the dining room table. 

With only two months left in my maternity leave, it’s time to start prepping for my return to work. Unlike at the start of my leave, I’ve taken a pretty big step back from professional reading (except for blogs) and Twitter chats over the last few months, but it’s time to get back into the groove. I have followed educator and design thinking advocate John Spencer for quite some time now, and he recently launched the Creative Classroom Academy, so I’m looking forward to completing some courses on there (starting with the Genius Hour course). I’m excited but also a little apprehensive for what school/home integration will look like now that Andy is here, but here’s hoping this new perspective will make me both a better teacher and a better mother. 

We head to Toronto again tomorrow for some family adventures. Hoping our sick little clan is feeling more up to it tomorrow!

Tourists in Toronto

While Kelvin jetted off to Miami for 40 hours this past weekend, Andy and I had a chance to hang out with family and also see a few things in Toronto. Here are some shots from our escapades. 

   
Our original plan was to head to Riverdale Farm, but we drove by Evergreen Brickworks and decided to stop in there instead. It was quite quiet there, being a weekday, but the weather was gorgeous and we had no problem whiling away an hour. I’ve always really loved Evergreen’s mandate and we even considered doing or wedding there! (Alas the space wasn’t quite large enough for what we wanted) 

 
They’ve got a nice little trail and park behind the buildings and we walked around the quarry and ponds and up to lookout point. The nice lady at the information desk gave us a map of the trails in the Lower Don and we definitely want to explore that more in the future…perhaps on bike??

We then drove down to the Toronto Christmas Market! I’ve never been before so I was really excited to check it out. Perhaps it was my lacklustre bratwurst, or perhaps it was because I was too enthralled in conversation with a new friend that I was meeting for the first time IRL, but I didn’t find the market itself to really be that amazing. We were there on a weekday, so it was free, but I definitely don’t think I’d pay the $5 admission fee to bump shoulders with throngs of people on the weekend. I did have some pretty delicious smores donuts though from Uncle Betty’s Donuts. 

 
The next day we drove downtown again to do a bit of hopping around to fairs. We first visited the Foodie Holiday Pop-Up at Artscae Sandbox. We were only there briefly, but we had lots of samples and picked up some amaretti for my mother-in-law. Next we drove over to West Queen West for City of Craft, which was definitely one of the most amazing craft fairs I’ve ever been to. They had such a range of amazing artisans there and I wanted to buy so much. Like all the prints. From everywhere. After a short stop in to a presentation centre directly opposite where I parked (I am such a sucker for these!! I used to make up excuses to go and get floor plans when I was little so that I could fill them with furniture and dream about living there…) we stopped in to one last fair at the Gladstone, and then we were on our way. 

Not too shabby for just a quick jaunt in the city, I think. I’m heading to Toronto at the end of January for a conference sans-Andy and I am ridiculously excited for my one free evening. Weighing out options of what to do. 

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If you look at the wall beside Andy’s change pad, you will see a number of curved marks on the wall. No, Andy has not developed his fine motor to the point where he can draw on the wall. Rather, he has a tendency to drag small toys along the wall while getting his diaper changed. Why are we giving him toys while he is getting his diaper changed? It is one of the only ways to stop him from flipping over and sitting up when getting changed. Alternative solutions would be greatly appreciated…

So the motoring continues, and we’ve found that we are spending more and more time playing on the main floor.  We have zero gates up on the main floor and three step/flights of stairs for Andy to choose from. We also have a square teak coffee table. Search for an ottoman has commenced. 
  
Weather was pretty nice this week so we were able to get out and about on walks. Part of me is hoping for a white Christmas, but the larger part of me is hoping it stays mild. 

Near the end of the week, Kelvin had a work meeting in Miami so we drove out to Toronto with him and spent some time being tourists in the GTA. More on that in a later post. 

As we draw to the close of 2015, I find myself thinking more about the new year. This has always traditionally been my time to consider goals for the upcoming year, and I’m also pondering what single word to use to encapsulate my direction for 2016. I’m populating my 2016 moleskine agenda with more nitty gritty now, and am looking forward to transitioning over fully in two weeks!

Last but not least, first episode of season 2 of Serial is out. We listened to it. And then we spent a long time googling Bowe Bergdahl. Looking forward to next week. 

How not to hang art in your home

Kelvin and I love hanging art. We think it adds something personal to our home. We buy prints whenever we can on vacation. We have a weakness for local art. 

Last night, we decided to hang these prints, which I have talked about before. Normally we have no problem with hanging art. We frame whatever it is we have, wire it up, check for studs, and bring out the drill. We’ve hung a series of prints before, but this one was a little different, as we decided to position them heading up our staircase. 

  
We were pleased with the end result, but let me tell you – though there are three pictures up, there are definitely more than three holes in the wall. 

Here are some tips we should have heeded:

  1. After you mark out where you’ll be drilling, make sure you double check whether or not there is a stud. If you drill assuming that it’s drywall, you will find you have a hole much larger than is useful. 
  2. It is also helpful to use the right drill bit. I am seriously contemplating using nail polish to demarcate which bits are used for which nail sizes. 
  3. If you find yourself using a drywall screw, make sure that your nail corresponds with the right drywall screw. If you use too small of a nail, it’s not that big of a deal, just move up a size. But if you use too big of a nail, it gets caught and then your attempt to jam it into the drywall screw with brute force will result in a very large, almost shameful hole.

  
Thankfully, there was some room for error.  However, this would not be the case if we were doing something like a gallery wall. Thus, I am seriously reconsidering our idea of doing a gallery wall. 

38.

This post is coming a little later than usual, but it’s been busy! And can you believe it is already December? Where has this year gone? 

Last Sunday, we went to one of our favourite local restaurants for some lunch with friends, and we ordered from the kids’ menu for the first time for Andy! He had a cheese omelette and he loved it. 1/4 of it ended up in his mouth, another 1/4 ended up on the floor, and the remaining half was boxed up for consumption at home. The photo below of Andy was taken by one of or friends visiting from out of town!

  

We have been trying some new things with Andy sleepwise. We had a few brutal nights this week and eventually I cracked and asked one of my mom friends for some advice. She lent me The Sleepeasy Solution, which I’ve been reading through and we’ve been trying to be a little bit more consistent with Andy’s bedtime routine. It has helped! And today for the first time, Kelvin was the one to put him to bed, with a bottle. It is a little crazy to think that for the last (close to) 9 months, I have been nursing Andy and to sleep every single night. I don’t know that I’ve ever done anything as consistently as that…He didn’t drink as much as expected so I’m not surprised that he needed a top up just now, but we will see whether this lasts him through the rest of the night!

Thursday was a particularly social day for him, with a walk and two play dates. It’s been so nice to have other families in the neighbourhood that we can visit just by walking. This bodes well for sending Andy to play with the neighbourhood children in the future! 

  
As for us, we spent a fairly sizeable portion of our evening tonight trying new configurations in our living room, just to realize that the one we had originally was the only one that made sense. Maybe that’s why we did it…

We also put up some more art and have plans to put our Canadianist posts (printed by our friend Vince over at Everlovin’ Press) along our stairwell. Here they are hanging out on the landing waiting to be hung. 

  
Reading update – I have around 6 books on the go right now. Terrible idea. I wish there was a way to keep my name in the reservation queue at the library but to let a few people go ahead of me. 

Podcast update – been trying some more shows, including radiolab, invisibilia, cbc radio (both spark and the current), slate’s working, and bbc world service documentaries

Other life update – I am officially caught up with our Project Life binder. It is glorious to have that up to date. Scrapbooking for the lazy person. Highly recommended :)