Wednesday, May 02, 2018

a look back at 2017.

Sharing this in May isn't too bad when you consider the fact that I didn't share my look back at 2016 until August. (It's really important to me to have this record, even if it's shared a few months late.)

Also, can I point out that although Mabel wasn't born until the end of May 2017, this recap could alternatively be called "The Mabel Show" or "The Year of Mabel."

1. What did you do in 2017 that you'd never done before?
Ate pomelo. Flew over the Alps. Subscribed to Spotify. Gave birth. Breastfed. And a whole bunch of other stuff related to being a first-time mom.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions and will you make any for this year?
I didn't make a new year's resolution for 2017. I kind of made resolutions for 2018: 1) Drink more water. 2) No more unnecessary "haha" and "lol" in messages.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Me! And so did a bunch of friends and acquaintances.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
Malta! (I should write a proper recap post.)

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
Sleep, but it doesn't look like that's gonna happen any time soon.

7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
May 25 because it's Mabel's birthday.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I almost said: Having a natural birth with no meds. But then I realized, this isn't the biggest achievement. I'm proud that I followed my intuition and stayed strong for myself while I was in the hospital. Doctors and midwives and nurses told me that it wasn't my water that broke when it was, one of them pressured me to get an epidural even though I had made it clear I wanted to try not to get one, and more... I was my biggest advocate during labour and birth and since, and THAT is my biggest achievement. (I'm also proud that Mabel is thriving and happy, and that I've exclusively breastfed her.)

9. What was your biggest failure?
Same as the last four years: Getting caught up in the little things. Gossip, small arguments turned into small fights, overthinking everything. When will I learn? 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I'm on a two-year pretty healthy streak! Knock on wood! I am never this healthy! I'm guessing not being with 25 germ-carrying kiddos every day is helpful ;)

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Anything that has made our lives easier. We have someone come and clean for us once a week and someone who cooks for us twice a week. And coffee.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Probably food and drinks, and from that, probably eating out and ordering in, and coffees. I go for walks to get coffee often.

13. What did you get really excited about?
Mabel! (I think this was probably obvious.)

14. What song will always remind you of 2017?
"I Choose You" by Sara Bareilles because for a long period of time, it was the only thing that was guaranteed to calm Mabel down when she got inexplicably fussy. (Fun fact: It was also the song I walked down the aisle to.)

15. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder? Thinner or fatter? Richer or poorer?
Happier in some ways, sadder in others. Thinner because I'm not pregnant. Hmm I think probably neither; we haven't saved much, but we haven't spent much.

16. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Same as last year and the year before: Enjoying the moment.

17. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Same as last year and the year before: Worrying, always. (Guys, I'm sensing a pattern.)

18. How did you spend Christmas?
In Malta with Tony and Mabel and Alanna! We watched all the Jaws movies and ate delicious vegan food.

19. What was your favourite TV program?
I don't think I got into any new TV shows, but kept up with old faves: The Crown, This Is Us, and Grey's Anatomy.

Edit: Stranger Things! How could I forget Stranger Things?!

20. What were your favourite books of the year?
From looking at Goodreads, I know that I read 52 books in 2017 and my faves were The Book Thief, Great with Child, Dreamland Burning, A Piece of the World, and Beartown.

21. What were your favourite films of the year?
I'm sure I watched movies in 2017 and I'm sure some of them were great, but I don't remember them. Is there a website to keep track of this like I keep track of books on Goodreads?

22. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
I turned 28 and my birthday was so simple and so perfect: I spent the day with Mabel, we went out for lunch with Tony, Melissa came over for dinner and we ordered food and played Super Nintendo. The weekend after my birthday I went out for brunch with friends and had many desserts!

23. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Less worrying and more sleep.

24. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
2017 was for maternity clothes and anything nursing-friendly.

25. What kept you sane?
Sometimes Tony, sometimes friends, fellow moms, and time alone.

26. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.
You know more than you think you do. Also, sleep can make a lot of things better.

P.S. A look back at 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.

Friday, April 27, 2018

happy friday!

I am all about screenshots from videos lately.

Just like the photo above, this week was blurry but happy. (Possible title for the memoir I'm sure I'll never write? Or maybe I should change the name of the blog.)

+ The AQI was good enough this week that we got to go out more often than we had to stay in.

+ We went for many walks (and I drank many coffees).

+ I ate ice cream twice.

+ I spent 3 evenings with friends.

+ Mabel waves goodbye and gives high fives pretty consistently now.

+ It's shorts season! (For adults and babies! I've been waiting all winter to see more of Mabel's chunky thighs.)

Honestly, there were a few low moments this week but overall, I just have a positive vibe right now. Here's hoping it lasts, *fingers crossed emoji* (Does anyone else think in emojis sometimes? Please tell me I'm not the only one.)

What made you happy this week?

Friday, April 20, 2018

happy friday!

Another blurry week has gone by! I had to think pretty hard to remember happy things from this week, but it's not as bad as it sounds; I'd have to think pretty hard to remember the not-so-happy things, too.

+ Mabel is becoming more mobile each day. If I plop her somewhere and try to do something quickly in another room (we have a small apartment), I look over to see she's followed me by crawling on her belly. She's adorable.

+ We got a care package from my mom! Mabel went straight for her rice crackers and I've eaten a few Cadbury Creme Eggs. Perhaps even happier: I still have a Caramilk egg, Mini Eggs, M&Ms, and Swedish Berries in a drawer.

+ I finished 2 books this week. I'd recommend this one if you're looking for an easy read, and this one if you're in a book club (or if you'd want to discuss it with me!).

+ Just as I was finishing my last read, Sing, Uburied, Sing became available from my library holds. Excited to start it tonight!

+ Trading Spaces is back! I watched the first two episodes and although it's not as good as I remember, the nostalgia it makes me feel is kinda nice. And seeing other people be creative inspires me.

+ A quick coffee and playdate with friends today helped pull me back from the edge of despair. Sounds dramatic, but it's true. This week has not been kind to us in the AQI department and being cooped up in an apartment is not for the faint of heart. (Being woken up an average of every 2 hours for months is also not so fun.)

+ A surprise croissant from T!

+ Honestly, the fact that I've been posting more to Instagram, this is my second blog post this week, and I have plans for more posts in the near-future is making me pretty happy, too. It's been a long time since I've felt any desire to write or share.

What made you happy this week?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

book report / recent faves.

I haven't shared a book report since July's and I've read 33 books since then. I don't really think you need to read about all of those, especially since there were a few I didn't really enjoy, so I decided I'd share some of my favourites. (If you do want to see a list of all the books I read, including the duds, you can visit my Goodreads account.)

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict / I read this quickly and found it fascinating to learn about Mileva Marić, Albert Einstein's first wife. Of course, this novel is fiction, but it was so interesting and led me down a Wikipedia wormhole after I finished. It reminded me of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead / I found myself reading this late into the night when I should have been sleeping which says something, especially as a mom to a baby who wakes up multiple times each night. The underground railroad as a literal railroad is an intriguing concept and I wish I was back in my university or high school English classes to discuss it and the characters.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay / I'd seen this recommended by several people online and decided to read it because I trust those people's recommendations. I didn't think I'd have anything in common with the author (although that's one of the main reasons I read memoirs, is to learn about people who are different than me), but as I listened (I usually use Audible to listen to non-fiction books), I found myself thinking that we had similar ways of thinking about some things. I'd recommend this to every woman I know (and men, too, if they're willing to read it). It's about more than food; as people, we can be hungry for so many things.

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand / This is one of my fave Elin Hilderbrand novels that I've read and I've read most of them. I think what made it extra interesting was that it was set in Nantucket AND Martha's Vineyard and the story mainly centred on identical twin sisters. It was a fun read, as all of her novels are, and perfect for the coming summer!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie / This is one of my fave YA novels I've read recently. It made me laugh, but it also made me feel sad, and I ended up reflecting on my own prejudiced thoughts (it's hard to admit that) I have towards Native Americans. I think everyone should read this, but it would be especially great for anyone who has a reservation in their community and anyone who wants a starting point to reflect and discuss stereotypes, history, and causation.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman / At first glance, this book seems to be all about hockey—the team, the players, the club, the culture—but it's about so much more than that, too. I really, really liked it. I fell in love with the characters and felt invested in the town. I was so glad when I realized this is the first in a series; I can't wait for the next to be translated. I'll be adding the rest of Backman's books to my to-read list. (Trigger warning: The plot includes rape.)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple / Such a fun read! Told from the daughter's point of view and through a compilation of emails, faxes, and other documents, it was interesting—in the best way possible! Can't wait to read Semple's other novels.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio / This should be required reading for everyone (especially middle schoolers) because 1) it contains lessons everyone should learn and 2) it's a fantastic story. I don't always love young adult novels now that I'm an old(er) adult, but I loved this.

Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman / I loved this book! I only wish I had read it while I was still pregnant with Mabel or at least before she was 4 months so we could have done "le pause" with her (oh well, next baby ;) Seriously though, it has some great tips, funny anecdotes, and I didn't feel "preached at" or "lectured to." I listened to it on audiobook and I think that added something to my enjoyment with the reader's French accents and kid voices.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood / Woah. Intense and beautiful and everything I thought I had definite opinions on are a little upside down after reading this. The only reason I'm not giving 5 stars is because of one part of the plot but overall, excellent book.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas / Fantastic book and should be considered a "must read" for young adults and "old" adults. It definitely didn't feel like a 400+ page book; I zoomed through it.

11/22/63 by Stephen King / History and time travel made for a fascinating story! I like King's writing style too; I found it to be straightforward but captivating. It took me awhile to finish because it's long, but I looked forward to jumping back into the book every chance I got.

What have you been reading lately?

P.S. More book reports here.

Friday, April 13, 2018

happy friday!

On Fridays, if you ask me how my week was, I'll probably give you a blank look and say, "Um... it was good... I think... I don't really remember... it was a blur!" My days are repetitive: Wake up, shower (or not), feed Mabel (breastmilk and then solids), play with her, put her down for a nap, eat breakfast myself... you get the picture. Each day can feel loooong, but the weeks are fast. They definitely have pockets of happiness though (and honestly, isn't there a bundle of happiness in boring, long days? I know there might come a time when I will ache for days like that).

Here's some of what made me happy this week:

+ Cooking a simple, quick, delicious dinner of asparagus and salmon for my family.

+ Taking myself on a "date." (I got a black tea latte from Starbucks and then wandered through a few stores, window shopping and buying shoes for Mabel. She's ten and a half months old but wearing size 3-6 month shoes.)

+ The first lilac sighting (and smelling) of spring 2018!

+ Spotting wrapped purple flowers in a man's bicycle basket as he cycled by.

+ Listening to two of my fave podcasts. (I really need to write an update to this post.)

+ Playing outside with Mabel in the sunshine for almost 2 hours one afternoon this week (and her baba leaving work a bit early to join us).

+ Being a passenger on Melissa's scooter for the first time. (Why did we wait so long?! From now on, we scoot everywhere!)

+ Eating at Ramo. (Greek flatbread + white wine, thumbs up emoji)

+ Meeting Makayla, the newest CISB baby!

+ Plans to have a date night with T tonight! Our first since Mabel was born!(!!!!)

I know that as soon as I hit publish, I'll think of many more things that made me happy, and isn't that happy in itself? What made you happy this week?

Friday, March 02, 2018

back to work.

Mabel at 4 months old. Photo: Kandise Brown

Yesterday was my first day back at work since Mabel was born and I have so many feelings and thoughts about it. But let me back up a bit first and tell you how lucky I am.

I work at a Canadian school in Beijing and as part of my contract, they follow Canada's maternity leave policy, so I am entitled to a year off. Mabel was born last year with 3 weeks of school left, and on my intended return date this year, there would also be 3 weeks left. Instead of working those 3 weeks full time, my principal proposed that I work 1 day/week for the rest of the school year beginning yesterday. Yes, it means leaving Mabel 3 months earlier, but only 1 day a week! And I can come home at lunch to nurse her (our apartment is on the school campus)! And I was home by 3:45! Lucky!


I still cried 4x yesterday though.

The first was as I was walking to school and a colleague asked how I was and I said, "I'm okay" and then started to cry. I tried not to, but it couldn't be helped. Thankfully that person handled the potentially awkward walk to school with grace and made me feel better about my crying.

Then I cried when the teacher I was supplying for asked how I was.

I don't remember the third time I cried, but I know it happened.

And then I cried when I got home from work at the end of the day and saw Mabel, who smiled so big and threw her arms up in the air when I walked in the door, as if to say, "Yay! You're back!"


When T and I got home yesterday for lunch (we take the same lunch break), Mabel was excited to see me but it was clear that it was only for my boobs and the milk they contain. When she was done eating, she only had eyes for her baba, just like every other day when he comes home for lunch. I was like, "Hey kid, I was gone all morning, too! What am I, chopped liver?"

It hurt a bit that she didn't seem to care, but I was also glad about it. Obviously our time apart isn't bothering her too much. And I guess that's been her lunchtime routine almost every day from the time she was two weeks old: Baba comes home! Yay!


I forgot how exhausting teaching can be. I forgot how fun it can be. I forgot how much I love "my kiddos"—even when they're students I just met for the first time.

I didn't know how exhausting teaching can be when you're still waking up through the night with a baby. I didn't know how hard it can be to feed your baby and pump and feed yourself on a lunch break. I didn't know how I'd feel leaving my baby to teach other people's babies.


I applaud—standing ovation level applaud!—all of you moms who have had or will have to return to work when your baby is a few weeks or a few months old. I know if I had to I would, because moms specialize in doing what needs to be done, but man, it would be HARD (understatement).
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