52.

I can’t believe it’s been an entire year. Our little guy has grown from a mere peanut to a full-on toddler. He laughs heartily, claps enthusiastically, and is curious about everything around him. He always tries to engage the people around him, luring them in with smiles and funny expressions. 

  
He has quite a few favourites these days. His favourite toys are his stuffies and his blocks. He doesn’t really like reading. Food wise, he loves peas, noodles, tofu, bananas, bread, and cheese. He enjoys going outside, climbing stairs, and watching the neighbours’ dogs play in the backyard. 

   

He also has quite a few things that he dislikes. Wearing hats. The end of meals. Getting strapped in his car seat. 

We celebrated his first birthday today with our immediate family, and I will hopefully get the post done by tomorrow. It’s been fun documenting Andy’s weeks on this blog, so here’s to 52 weeks of noticing big and little things about Andy. 

Happy birthday, little bug!

  

A Brief History of Community Building

I was fiddling around on YouTube just now and rediscovered some videos that I made a few years ago during a Culture Days weekend. That got me thinking…

First, a bit of background. Culture Days was actually one of the catalysts that led me to stay in Kingston for good (the main catalyst was Kelvin). It was 2011 and my burgeoning love for community building inspired me to organize a Culture Days event here in town called KINGSTON THROUGH MY LENS. It was essentially a 10-day, city-wide photo project that aimed to visually share community stories. That year, I also sat on the first Kingston Culture Days planning committee. It was great fun.

Fast forward one year, and I decided to participate in Culture Days once again. I was in the midst of planning our wedding at that time, so I wanted to take on something a little more low-key. Enter: THE HAPPY POST PROJECT. My goal was to collect a whole whack of post-its with things that make people happy written on them, and to then display them at my favourite west end park in Kingston. The day before the installation, I did a full-day bike blitz where I biked around the west end and asked people to write down what made them happy. I filmed a series of videos to document the day. I also live tweeted the whole event using #HappyPostYGK. Reading through those tweets gave me great joy.

This past September, after a few years away from organizing community initiatives, I spearheaded the development of EDCAMP KINGSTON, which is/will be an annual unconference around education in our city.

Kelvin mentioned this morning that I have an “entrepreneurial spirit”. And I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for my parents both being civil servants, I very well may have picked a more entrepreneurial route in life than teaching (though I did say that even within education, there is plenty of room for exploring uncharted territory). I inherited from my father a love for the city, and this has resulted in a tendency for me to develop random community projects.

Recently, I was listening to Episode 21 of THE SIMPLE SHOW, which featured this amazing community movement called NEIGHBOR’S TABLE. I’ve decided that I’m going to do a rendition of this in my own neighbourhood. I’m fairly inept on the cooking and hospitality front, so it’s going to be a much simpler version, but I’m really looking forward to it nonetheless. I’ve shared the idea with some of my neighbours already, and I can’t wait until the warmer weather to get my dinner organized. I have high hopes for this little initiative!

51.

This has probably been the best week ever. As in Andy’s best week since he was born. And I’m pretty sure this is all thanks to his sleep sack.

We’ve had this sleep sack for a while. It was given to us by a friend who was done having kids. Andy kept busting out the top of it (those snaps), so I decided to see one side permanently shut. It worked like magic (except for that one night I needed to go in and help him since he managed to squeeze out from just the one unsewn side…) and his overall demeanour during the day has seen a similar transformation. He is even more agreeable than he was before, and my in-laws have commented on how it’s so nice to see him every morning when I drop him off at their house.   

  
So what had Andy been up to at home? Well, he’s been crawling under the dining table a lot. And learning how to get off his rocking horse. A large portion of his day now is spent climbing up and down stairs. Oh, and he tends to walk on all fours like an ape. 

  
He also has an insatiable appetite. We went to Panera today for lunch after church and he had a whole kids meal. Plus some of my soup. And he wanted more. Thank goodness we have a Costco membership. 

  
A little story about Andy: since the beginning of 2016, we’ve had some trouble with Andy being clingy and not wanting to go to the nursery at church. We’ve been working on getting him used to it and just leaving him with the nice people even if he protests. Today when we went to pick him up, the ladies told us that Andy was being really sweet. There was another little boy in there who was having a hard time being away from his mom, and Andy was clearly feeling a little distressed over it. In an attempt to comfort the boy, Andy brought toys over to him and even patted him on the back. Knowing that Andy is starting to feel empathy for other kids just melts my heart!

Commuting

My commute to work used to be 10 minutes by car. Now, it takes me about 35 minutes. If this were the GTA, 35 minutes would be merely peanuts. But in the Kingston area, 35 minutes often means you’re in a whole other world.

There are definitely pros and cons to this arrangement. Let me outline a few of them.

Pro: I get to listen to podcasts.
This was probably the thing that excited me most about my longer commute. I am terribly behind in my podcast queue and this has helped.

Con: The gas.
I used to fill up maybe twice a month. Now I fill up about twice a week.

Pro: The drive is scenic.
About 15 minutes of my drive is in town/on the highway. The remaining 20 minutes is straight up a county road until I get to my school. I slow down exactly two times, as I pass through two small towns. Only one of those towns requires me to stop at a stop sign.

Con: I get sleepy sometimes.
35 minutes is not an insignificant amount of time. One morning, I was really tired driving in, and to make sure I made it to school alive, I had to stop at a country store to pick up a shot of caffeine. I found it in the form of a Starbucks frappucino drink. It was mostly sugar.

It’s only been two weeks, but the drive is starting to grow on me. I find myself becoming more familiar with the landmarks I pass, and I’m starting to be able to list off the roads that come and go.  I pass the same black Q5 on my way to and from work (they head in the opposite direction), and occasionally I find myself right behind my colleagues who are also driving from town. I look forward to driving up the hill to the school parking lot and to walking down the hall to my little corner of the school. This is my new normal.

Random aside: we have the most amazing schoolyard.

50.

So I am happy to report that, for the most part, Andy is back to his old self. He still has a bit of mending to do when it comes to his tummy and his sleep, but he is happy again and crawling/climbing up a storm!

  

He has developed a few new skills this week, namely learning how to clap, and how to play single notes on the keyboard. There is still much full-hand banging on the keys, but every so often, he will stop and delicately tap a key with his index finger. It is often a black key. 

He is pulling himself down from virtually everything now, including our sofa and our bed, and we have to have our eye on him all the time. He has grown probably two inches (my mother in law says that this happens whenever kids pass the international date line?) and I think that makes this a lot easier. On the flip side, he can now reach even more of the things that he shouldn’t be getting into, and he can’t stand up under certain furniture pieces anymore. 

His first birthday is just a mere two weeks away, so planning has begun for that!

Thoughts on returning to work

Man, that one year of maternity leave flew by.

Though I was mentally ready to return to work, I think emotionally (leaving my sick child) and physically (jet lagged), I was not. I’ve moved into a new position, so I’m teaching kindergarten in a rural school about 35 min from where we live. Due to inclement weather, I was only at work 3 out of 5 days last week. Plus, the woman whose role I’m taking over is still around until March Break. It’s close to being the most ideal situation possible. 

Teaching kindergarten is quite different from being up with the intermediates. My time is spent doing different things, and my attention is and responses need to be sensitive to different needs.  I’m thinking about sound skills and blends and things I haven’t had to think of too much over the last few years. It’s really very refreshing. 

With Andy’s erratic sleep schedule and a higher than usual number of evening commitments, I haven’t had much time to really rest, but it is amazing to see what a difference this is already when it comes to work/life balance. I’m planning more holistically and tying all the subjects into themes, and I know that I’m going to love what the rest of this year has in store. 

49.

So I might as well be frank. Andy started to get sick during the tail end of our trip. And jet lag coupled with my return to work has not been kind to him. 

We had a good time in Hong Kong, and I think Andy enjoyed the hustle and bustle, but this return home was too stark a contrast. The flight back definitely had its low points, and we probably should have tried to come home earlier. Andy is in his first week of full on “daycare” and I am trying to stay awake on the drive home from work. Not always the safest. 

Hoping that this all passes soon enough. Not sure how long I can survive with the minute amount of sleep that I’m getting.

  

Hong Kong Top 5

So our Asian adventures have come to an end. Though I’m very happy to be home, I’m also feeling an inkling of sadness over having left the city of Hong Kong. Admittedly, Kelvin and I have both grumbled at one thing (people walking really slowly because they’re on their phones) or another (a general lack of service at regular restaurants), but there are also things that we really enjoyed about our time in Hong Kong. We loved the ease of transit and travel and the extensive underground and overground passageways. We marvelled at the baby changing facilities at some of the larger malls. We really liked our brief but wondrous car ride from Mong Kok back to Wan Chai. Beyond seeing friends and eating good food, these were the top 5 highlights from our time in Asia’s world city. 

  

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens 
Albany Road, Central, Hong Kong

Though known for its in fathomable density, Hong Kong actually boasts a fair number of parks. One such park that we really enjoyed was the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Set on a hill just south of the Central MTR station, this little gem is home to a variety of birds and primates, including a family of orangutans! 

Visions 2050: Lifestyle and the City
Kowloon Park, Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

We stumbled upon this completely at random. After lunch at Australian Dairy Company, we decided to walk through Kowloon Park to get to Harbour City. I’m drawn to all things related to urban design and architecture, so naturally the signage for this exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre piqued my interest. It was a small-ish but truly fascinating exhibit looking at all facets of life in Hong Kong’s past, present, and future. Through a whole slew of different media, individuals depicted the Hong Kong they know and the Hong Kong they envision. I could have spent double the amount of time there, but alas crying babies are not conducive to leisurely perusing. 

  

Hiking on Lamma Island

Kelvin’s one request for the Hong Kong portion of this trip was that he wanted to do a hike. We decided to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a slower-paced excursion on Lamma Island. We took the ferry from Central to Yung Shue Wan and embarked on a morning-long walk across the island. We saw beaches, pavilions, and even visited Hong Kong’s only wind turbine. There were very steep sections but also some very flat, scenic ones. We ended up at Sok Kwu Wan, where we ate our lunch of Chinese bakery foods before heading on the ferry for home.  

  
Hong Kong Museum of History

Museums are always a great option for us when we are travelling. What’s even better – this place provides free admission on Wednesdays! We loved learning about the history of Hong Kong from virtually the beginning of time until present day. It was amazing to see the quality of some of the exhibits! The Museum of Science is also right next door, which we will hopefully get to next time. 

Star Ferry

Last but not least, we loved taking the Star Ferry. Riding it at night allowed us to see Hong Kong in all its brightness and glory. Plus it made for such an easy (and cost-effective) trip from TST back to our hotel. 

We stayed at the Novotel Century Hong Kong the whole 6 nights we were there, as we did when we last went to Hong Kong. Kelvin is very fond of their breakfast (especially the pancake making machine) and we all love the location. If and when we return to Hong Kong, we will likely stay there again. 

  

48.

A quick post from a fast-paced city. 

We’ve been in Asia virtually since my last weekly Andy update and it has been a blast. Adjusting to the time change was rough for Andy (and subsequently brutal for us), but he’s gotten into a good rhythm now. If we happen to be out when he is due to head to bed, he just falls asleep in the carrier.

He’s been a huge hit with our extended relatives – especially his great-grandparents in Manila! They love that he eats a lot, and they laugh every time he refuses his sippy cup. Andy has definitely been showered with some serious love over the past few days. His appetite has kept up with ours (at times surpassing it) and we are so thankful he remains healthy and happy on our travels. 

  
Despite a busy schedule, we have managed to have some family downtime every day. Andy is hilarious during these times, probably because he gets to stretch his legs and feels uninhibited. He can act a little loopy during these moments, rolling around the bed and giggling heartily at he strangest things. 

  
We will be in Hong Kong for the next week, and he will be meeting my grandparents tomorrow. Here’s to more fun!

Candid Manila

Though this is only my second time to the Philippines, there’s something very special about coming here. Kelvin’s grandparents live in Manila, in what I think of as a Chinese-Filipino fortress in the heart of the slum district, in the same complex as virtually all his extended family. It’s home for us whenever we come here.    

 If someone were to ask us to describe what we like when we travel, we’d say a combination of good food, interesting sights, and modern amenities. We don’t travel to developing countries often, but when we do, I’ll be honest, we get a pretty sterilized version of the place. We stick to “safe” neighbourhoods and westernized environments. One thing I love about visiting Manila is that this is not the case. We get to live more like locals. We still see things at an arm’s length, from the comfort of an air-conditioned, chauffeured vehicle, but if you look out the window, you are hit with the stark reality of what life looks like for many others.

  
The squatter district we pass most often is not far from the compound, opposite the ports. Laundry hangs outside homes of scrap metal, cardboard and fabric. Garbage spills out its sides, and scantily clad (and sometimes naked) children run in groups along the streets. Waterways are littered with trash and little streetside shacks serve as the barangay’s eateries, pharmacies, and local hangouts. 

  

Transportation is comprised of a mix of cars, taxis, rickshaws and jeepneys. Traffic here makes gridlock in North America look like a breeze, and rules of the road don’t really exist. When you’re stopped, people come up to the cars and tap on the windows to sell you things. 

  

But perhaps the most distinct qualities of all in Manila are its colourful neighbourhoods and its sense of community. Taking pictures here are a joy, as the city is saturated in technicolor and life oozes from its every pore. People fill the streets. Children gather around makeshift basketball nets. Women give each other pedicures on the sidewalks. And even abroad, there’s an unmistakeable sense of comradery between fellow Filipinos. It’s a warm place in every sense of the word. 

  
There are many places in Metro Manila that we have yet to visit, but now that I’ve been here twice, I think I have a better general lay of the land. With a population of more than the entire country of Canada, it’s no small city, but we are slowly carving out a sense of place in this wonderful urban jungle. 

The Grit and Glamour of Air Travel

When you think about it, it’s unbelievable the distances that we can travel nowadays. Places that even a few generations ago seemed inconceivably far can now be reached by spending a handful of hours in a floating metal tube. But air travel isn’t all pretty – especially when you’ve been cooped up for 16+ hours. Here were some of the nice and not-so-nice moments from our recent flights.

Glamour: LOUNGE access complete with hot shower facilities, laksa and sesame balls. And lots of Andy-friendly food as pictured below. 

  

Grit: the state of once-clean bathrooms by the end of a direct YYZ > HKG flight


Glamour:
the baby set-up on Cathay Pacific, complete with bassinet, diaper care package, and baby food set (now if only Andy would actually sleep in the bassinet)  
  

Grit: questionable airline food. Especially when you see where it comes from in the galleys. 

Glamour: personal entertainment devices and catching up on fairly recent releases

Grit: having those same entertainment devices about 10 inches from your face because the person in front of you has reclined back so far

On the whole, our flight from Toronto to Hong Kong was quite smooth. Andy didn’t sleep all that much, but he was in really good spirits still. And I sat beside a really nice couple from Niagara who are chicken farmers and had a connecting 10-hour flight to Auckland prior to getting on a cruise. They were the best.

47.

These weekly posts are getting later and later! Is this an omen for what is to come when I return to work?…

Anyways, things are buzzing around here as we prepare for our upcoming trip to Asia (!) and my subsequent return to work. Andy is doing more full days at my in-laws’ place in preparation and he is having a blast. Sometimes I think he has more fun there than he does at home. He also learns so much there. This week he learned to climb down the stairs backward. I would post a picture, but alas all I have are videos. 

Perhaps it’s the result of me taking an overload of pictures of Andy in his first few months, but I’m finding that I capture the little every day moments less and less. I did snap this one of Andy refusing to wear the hat I had just purchased for him. Kelvin was adamant that Andy get his own hat. This fitted Blue Jays cap seemed appropriate. Andy begs to differ. (Note the loaner stroller he’s in that they provided at the mall. It was honestly such an amazing service – I had left the stroller at home and was seriously contemplating driving home to get it)

  

On the food front, we’ve vowed to always have tortillas in the house. For peanut butter and banana roll ups. They are the bomb. For everyone.