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!

Taking it all in

I came across this post today about one mother’s tendency to wish her baby grew up faster. I am definitely guilty of this. Even while on our trip to Europe, I found myself dreaming about what travel would be like once Kelvin and I were on our own again.

In particular, this quote stood out:

When my daughter was under 6 months old, I found myself wishing for time to speed up, for things to get easier, to have a little more predictability. And once that mantra was in my head, it stayed put. Hurry up and crawl, hurry up and walk, hurry up and talk, hurry up and wean. Anything to make it a little less difficult, more interesting, less time-consuming.

Andy is still young enough that I’m not looking back and regretting the moments I missed. I am thankful for this reminder.

Here’s to making the most of his childhood and soaking it in. Every single day of it.

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

18.

Our once lazy little munchkin is starting to take initiative! He is actively grabbing for things now, and he has been going to town on some of his cloth books. I am starting to think that it’s time to move him up to more interesting toys – things that will encourage his exploration more. Maybe things that move? Or things that make noise? Perhaps he will like my recorder.

IMG_1074

He’s also turning into quite the chatty kiddo, especially in the mornings. I have absolutely no idea what he’s saying, but I do try to affirm his vocalizations with the odd “Oh yeah?” and “Mm hmm”. Should I be doing more to encourage this behaviour?

He falls asleep quite easily now at night, often in really strange positions. Earlier this week, he slowly made his way out of view of the monitor. We found him at the foot of the crib, perpendicular to where he was, with his little feet barely inside the crib. Last night, he managed to rotate 45 degrees and fell asleep clinging on to one of the crib slats with his right hand and with one little foot sticking out. Part of me really wants to take pictures of this, but his room is pretty dark, and I have zero desire to wake our munchkin up with a flash.

Today, for the second time since Andy was born, we left him with grandma and grandpa so that Kelvin and I could go out on our own. We headed to nearby Gananoque for the matinee performance of Pirates of Penzance at the Thousand Islands Playhouse. We absolutely love this little playhouse (I mean, you can dock your boat there and watch the show…how sweet is that? Now if only we had a boat…and a license…) and always enjoy the time that we spend there. This show (which closed today) was particularly special, because the Artistic Director adapted it to take place in the Thousand Islands!

IMG_1086

We are heading off on Monday for 10 days in the US so packing really needs to begin. Alas, Andy has outgrown almost all of his shorts, and we need to buy new ones and do laundry before I can really think about packing. This will be our longest stretch away with the little guy. Keeping my fingers crossed that it will all be okay, and that we will last without doing laundry!

And an update from my end – success was had with both the library board and the Awesome Kingston grant! I anticipate my first board meeting in September, and our edcamp team now has money to work with through the July micro-grant from the Awesome Kingston trustees. Yippee!

On the flip side, I also had a mini meltdown this week due to a deep dissatisfaction with my current fitness level. I had been deluded to think that I was doing okay, when truth be told, I was eating like crap and not working out remotely enough. Motherhood is not all rainbows and lollipops, I’ll have you know. Part of this meltdown involved a run at 12:30 am, after which I did not stretch, and for which I am now paying the price. Hotheadedness never pays. Anyways, my in-laws are thankfully coming with us on this trip, so grandpa is available for short babysitting sessions when gym visits need to happen. I am infinitely grateful for them.

And now, to clean my main floor…

17.

Despite being sick all week, Andy has been such a trooper. His hacking cough and ridiculously congested nose haven’t kept him up too much at night (so thankful for this!) but he is a little bit more lethargic than his usual self. We’ve spent the week in Toronto and will be attending some weddings this weekend, so he’s had quite a busy schedule! Though it’s always nice to be away, it’s also made me realize just how much I enjoy being at home in Kingston :) Also, I realized that I never want to have a sick child when I’m away from Kelvin.

IMG_0979

One thing that I miss so much about living here (other than Sun Sing See) is having a piano. We can’t fit a piano into our current home due to lack of wall space, but it’s definitely something I hope Andy will come to love. We made sure to get lots of piano time in this week. At this point, I think Andy is just ambivalent towards it.

IMG_0963

When we went to the doctor’s on Monday, we weighed this little guy, and he is sitting at a whopping 17 lb 4 oz. What a little chunker! But as much as we rag on him for being so chubby, we love that he’s as sturdy as he is. He’s starting to really push the limits of his travel crib, though. We have the mini version, and I think Kelvin is seriously considering getting the full-size. We shall see.

IMG_0969-1As motherhood becomes more real to me (sometimes I look at myself holding Andy in the mirror and I can’t fathom that he is actually our child, and not just a baby that I’ve borrowed from someone to play with…) I find myself seeking out blogs written by mothers. This week, I stumbled upon Chriselle Lim’s blog, and I was so touched by her candidness with the ins and outs of her pregnancy and the first few weeks. I will never be as chic as her, but I can definitely appreciate what she is doing and how she is balancing her work responsibilities with her motherly duties.

Two pieces of exciting news on my end:

1) I had mentioned two weeks ago that I had sent out some applications. Well, on the community front, my name was forwarded on to City Council for recommendation to our local library board! I absolutely love our library and what they’re doing (which I talk about briefly in this post) and am so excited for the possibility of being part of the team that sets its strategic vision for the next few years! There is talk of a new branch being built in a neighbourhood that is dear to my heart, so what a wonderful time to be involved! (On the professional front, I didn’t get the position that I applied for, but a new position has opened up which I think is much better suited for me, and I will be applying for it before it closes at the end of August!)

2) I am planning an edcamp in Kingston this fall and I recently applied for a micro grant through Awesome Kingston (so many applications lately, it seems). I heard from them today and we’ve been invited to pitch at their next pitch party! It’ll be happening in just under a week (Thursday at 7 at the Marine Museum) and if we are successful, we will get $1000 for our project. I’ve been following Awesome Kingston for quite a while and have wanted to plan something wonderful that they can feel proud to back. I hope this is that something wonderful :)

And last but not least, for something random: I want to pick up some sweet leggings from this Toronto-based company.

A Wife of Noble Character

I sometimes think of myself as a frenetic busybody who can merely aspire to a slower, more intentional life. True, I have uncharacteristic moments of thoughtful introspection. But it seems most of the time I am going at least 10 km/h above the speed limit (25 if we’re on the highway). Today, aided by some wise words in Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I had an uncharacteristic aha! moment – a recognition that despite being on maternity leave, I am still thinking of myself as a worker first and a mother second.

Twitter chats. Courses. Reading. It seems I am moderately addicted to the accumulation of knowledge. Some might think of this as a good thing. But then I thought back to my time with Andy last night. It was somewhere between 7 pm and 8 pm (I know this, because I was trying to engage with both him and #engsschat). When I looked at him and talked with him, he gave me the biggest smiles. At the same time, I noticed he kept looking at the computer screen whenever I tried to type with one hand while holding something else in the other as a distraction. “What’s going on over there,” he must have been thinking, “and how come they’re more interesting than me?”

Now, I don’t want this post to come off as a “woe is me for being a terrible person” post, because I recognize that learning to incorporate a new area of identity is always difficult. But I do want to share a few of my inner thoughts.

Naturally, I gravitated towards Proverbs 31, the quintessential passage that all Christian wives tend to pick apart, analyze, and compare themselves to. I remember the first time reading it after I had gotten engaged. “Dang, this woman has totally got it together,” I thought to myself, “Is this even possible?” (It is, by the way – I am lucky to have met some amazing women who live out this passage). And though I would be lying if I said I’m not sometimes envious of these women, their togetherness, and their humility, I also try to remind myself to be gracious when it comes to my own shortcomings.

So here it is – Proverbs 31…with a few of my own thoughts.

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.

I am blessed in that I have an amazingly supportive husband. If you were to ask Kelvin whether he has full confidence in me, he would probably say yes, but this is possibly more a reflection of his good leadership than my inherent ability.

She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.

Not on good days. Not when she’s had a full night’s rest. ALL days. What about those days when I bring nothing at all?

She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.

Diligent and connected. Aspiring to this.

She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.

Okay, this is one I struggle with constantly. In the mornings, I have reverted to sleeping in again with Andy while he’s in our bed. Perhaps going to bed before 12:30 might help with this. Also need to do a better job – a much better job – of the whole providing food for my family. Having charcuterie plates for dinner are nice every so often, but not when they become the norm because I’m too lazy to get groceries and actually put some forethought into what we’re having for dinner.

She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

Again with the diligence. And this woman is a savvy investor! When we were going through pre-marital counselling, we both said that I would deal with the finances. This has not turned out to be the case. Kelvin handles our investments, financing, and most of our credit cards, while I merely pay for some of our home utilities and one or two credit cards.

She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.

I do work hard most of the time. But this accounts for only 2 lines out of 43.

She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

This woman is seriously hardworking. And has the home economics down.

She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.

Beyond just giving money to charity, this woman actually takes matters into her own hands and advocates for the marginalized. I am so often wrapped up in my own life that I do not give pause to issues that I really should care about.

When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

I need to learn to sew.

Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

In my actions, I need to consider also how this affects Kelvin’s reputation. He is really building something amazing with work and I need to support him in those things.

She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.

Again with the sewing.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

This is perhaps the tallest order. Strength. Dignity. Foresight. Wisdom. Self-control. A combination of things that you don’t find in every 20-something. And these are things that take time to nurture.

She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:

Though Andy is not old enough at this age to be able to “call me blessed”, I do hope that we have a really good relationship as he gets older. I want him to trust me, to know that he is loved, and to see me as someone who is an example to him – a good example. And this definitely starts with me spending more quality time with him. And sharing the things that are on my heart, and that I’m passionate about.

“Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

And here’s the kicker. Fear of the Lord. My time spent with the spiritual disciplines is lacklustre, and I know that until this improves, my soul is not rich soil for the working of the Spirit, and thus I am not effective in the doing of God’s good works.

All this to say that I am reminded once again of how much more I have to strive for, but also how I am encouraged, knowing that I serve a gracious God who gives us new opportunities each day to draw near to Him.

15.

Yesterday night was brutal.

Andy is closing in on 4 months, so I thought it might be a good time to ease our way into sleep training. And just for the record, when it comes to sleep training, there is no such thing as ease. We put him down without much difficulty around 9, but after he awoke at 12:30 (for a feed, which I guess was okay because we were just heading to bed), he would not go back down. For some reason, I thought “Hmm, let’s see if crying it out will work”. I let him cry for 5 minutes, then as the method instructs, I headed in to reassure him for a brief time before leaving him to cry again. I was supposed to wait for 10 minutes as my next interval before heading in to reassure him, but at 8 minutes I could not take it anymore. I went in, attempted to calm him from a distance, then promptly picked him up to comfort him.

How foolish of me.

He calmed down right away. No damage done. And so I gently placed him back in his crib and headed back to bed. Of course, before I even left his room, he was wailing again. “Stay strong, Catherine” I told myself. I turned the sound off on our video monitor, and waited for him to calm down. Just before the 5 minute mark, he put himself to sleep.

Sadly, this did not last.

About forty minutes later, he started screaming again. I made it to 5 minutes, went in to reassure him, but again could not make it to the 10 minute mark. In my frustration, even though it was close to 2 in the morning and Kelvin was asleep, I threw a little fit in our room and tried to drown out his crying by placing the pillow over my head while kicking (and screaming). After a declaration of “I can’t take this anymore!” I picked up my pillow, the monitor, and my phone, and headed to the basement. “Perhaps if the crying was not as piercing, my willpower would be stronger” I thought. I set my alarm for 15 minutes and tried to sleep until the next “checkpoint”. For those of you who are wondering, yes, I could still hear him from the basement. But thankfully, no, I did not need to head back upstairs. He fell asleep about a minute before my alarm was due to go off.

But alas, as is the case each morning, all is well in the world, as my sweet boy once again returns.

DSCF0918

As for mommy (because for some reason, now that I have a child, I refer to myself in third person all the time), this was a big week. I sent in some applications (more on this next week) that have the potential to dramatically change both my professional and social/community life and am eager to hear back. I also spent some time working on a wedding program for some good friends of ours. Matching their invitation stylistically was a big jump for me, as their entire suite is much more delicate than my work normally is. But as is often the case, these are the things that help you to grow and develop. Diversity is the spice of life. And for that I am very thankful.

Now for some things from around the internet.

I’ll be heading to Hong Kong in February for this conference. I won a free ticket through a twitter chat that I frequently participate in, and registration finally opened!

We need more beautiful learning spaces in Canada. Like the ones created by this firm in Japan (link to their Facebook, not their site…since their site is in Japanese).

Love the mandate of this website.

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