Thursday, January 16, 2020

book report / 2019 faves.

I read 55 books in 2019 and these were my seven faves:

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens / I don't know what to say except that this lives up to all the hype. I had a tiny issue with one small part of the plot, but overall, loved it. Couldn't put it down!

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid / I wouldn't have chosen this book based on the description but I decided to read it because I kept seeing rave reviews. Well, here's another rave review! I loved the format, the themes, the characters. It's hard to remember Daisy Jones & The Six aren't a real band!

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 was the first in a series.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott / I loved this! Probably in large part because my son is seven months old and my daughter is two years old and so much of what Anne wrote resonated with me. If you're a mom, I think you will like this. You might also like this even if you're not a mom because Anne's writing is so good. (I listened to this one and the narration was great.)

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane / This book was a journey in the best way possible. I felt like I had been holding my breath the entire time I was reading it and when I finished, I could breathe again. The writing, wow. I wish I had highlighted so many things, but honestly, I would have highlighted A LOT. If you like complicated characters and books about family, read this. I want to read it again.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco / I really liked this and before I was even halfway done, had already recommended it to a friend. Part memoir, part advice, you should read this if you're interested in the White House, Obama, politics, or succeeding in your career/life. I can't wait to read Mastromonaco's newest book.

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan / A love letter not only to the author's mother, but to all mothers. This was a fantastic memoir. I think I would have liked it even before becoming a mom, but now that I am one, I loved it. When Kelly began telling about her nannying job, I thought, 'Where is she going with this?' It was perfect. I laughed and I teared up multiple times. (P.S. I listened to it and loved the way Kelly did her mother's voice.)

What were your fave reads in 2019?

P.S. If you want to follow along, I keep track of my reading (books I've read and books I want to read) on Goodreads and I also share a mini-review on my Instagram stories each time I finish a book.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

christmas cookies!

In last year's Christmas package, my mom sent Christmas cookie cutters, red and green sprinkles, and the recipe for the cookies we made every Christmas while I was growing up (and sometimes Valentine's Day and Easter, too). Her hope was that Mabel and I could do the same. I was excited and loved the idea, but was too fresh out of the first trimester to commit. Next year, I thought.

This year, I didn't have pregnancy as an excuse, and while I thought of using the "I Have a Toddler and Baby and Am So Tired" excuse, I decided not to. Mabel will love it, I thought. She's always "baking" with her play dough. Mostly "happy birthdays" (cakes), but I figured cookies would be acceptable too.

So Friday night I took apple sauce out of the freezer to thaw (That's right, we had homemade apple sauce on hand; let me be smug for a second.) (Tony made it with Mabel months ago with the Instant Pot that I was so excited to get and it's the only time it's been used. Not so smug now, am I?) to serve as our egg substitute. (Mabel can eat baked goods with egg now, but I didn't want to risk her handling dough with raw egg. If she had a reaction, that would put a definite damper on the Christmas cheer.)

I have to be honest, I woke up Saturday morning feeling a bit of dread. I didn't want to bake cookies with my two-year-old. But I also did want to so as I nursed Clarke, I asked Tony if he could please check the apple sauce to see if it had thawed so we could make C-O-O-K-I-E-S. (We're at the stage of parenting where we need to spell things we don't want Mabel to know). Well... Mabel came running over with a big smile, "Mabel apple sauce make cookies!!!"

I looked at Tony, "You told her!" He swore he didn't. "You must have mentioned it!" He swore he didn't. "She didn't ask to eat the apple sauce and you told her she couldn't because we were going to make cookies with it?" He shook his head emphatically and swore he didn't. And that is how we found out that Mabel knows how to spell "cookies."

I put Clarke down for his nap, chose a Christmas playlist, and got out the butter and the sugar. After a brief argument with Tony about whether to double the recipe or not and if we really needed that much sugar and butter, and telling Mabel, It's butter, NOT cheese, and no you can't have a bite!, we got to work.


It was fun!

I'm proud of myself for how much fun we had and that I didn't stress about the mess or about Mabel playing with the dough or dumping a bunch of sprinkles everywhere. She made her own cookies, sans cookie cutters, and I let her bake them and that is how we ended up with a burnt cookie that looked like a snail (I should have taken a picture) and a blob of brown dough (red and green sprinkles don't mix well).

Mabel was proud of herself too and we delivered cookies to her friend Lucia and Auntie Jo. She proudly carried a container of cookies to school on Monday to share with all her classmates. She insisted that I sit and eat a cookie with her after school, her friend Quinn happily ate one and stole another, and she's already asking to make cookies again.

I don't like sugar cookies very much, but I'm excited to make them now! Mom/Grandma, I think we're going to need some Easter cookie cutters.

Friday, December 13, 2019

happy friday!

When I think back on the last two weeks, "happy" is not the first word that comes to mind. Mabel, Clarke, and I were sick with bad colds. And then Mabel and I got hit with a stomach bug. (New Parenthood Level unlocked: Cleaning up after and caring for your child who just vomited everywhere.) (Oh, and have I mentioned we only have a tiny washer and no dryer?) And then Tony got hit with the stomach bug. And Clarke and I still have a cold.

All of this on top of some self-esteem issues, some other issues (vague much?) and the general day-to-day difficulties of parenting a toddler and a baby and just being a human in this world.

But when I thought about writing this post, I thought, 'Surely there must be something happy from this week.' And of course there is:

+ I got to watch my little duck in her winter concert. She sang two songs, one of which was "5 Little Ducks" and although she wasn't her usual energetic, enthusiastic self (stage fright or was her body already preparing to ruin my duvet several hours later?), she was so cute.

+ Smiles from Clarke—always, but especially as he nurses.

+ Being introduced to a new fave Christmas song.

+ A living room dance party to "Jingle Bells" with Mabel and Auntie Jo. (I want to remember that Mabel cried when I played the Frank Sinatra version :)

+ Auntie Jo coming last minute to take care of Clarke when Mabel and I were both sick.

+ FaceTime date with Cara.

+ A student from last year giving me homemade fudge.

+ A pasta + wine + hot chocolate + Christmas movie date with Auntie Jo. (Post-stomach issues, obviously.)

+ Cuddling with T and watching Modern Family. 

And this list could grow longer, I'm sure. So let this be your reminder to look for the positives, and also your permission to wallow for a bit if needed. I sure have. Warm blankets and tea help.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

let it be christmas.

Let it be Christmas everywhere
In the hearts of all people
Both near and afar
Christmas everywhere
Feel the love of the season where ever you are
On the small country roads
Lined with green mistletoe
Big city streets where a thousand lights glow

Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let every heart sing let every bell ring
The story of hope and joy and peace
And let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year
Let it be Christmas
Christmas everywhere

Let it be Christmas everywhere
With the gold and silver, the green and the red
Christmas everywhere
In the smiles of all children asleep in their beds
In the eyes of young babies their first fallen snow
Elderly's memories that never grow old...


A friend shared her Christmas playlist with me and this song was on it. As I walked to Starbucks this morning, I had tears in my eyes as I listened to it. I'm still listening to it on repeat as I write this.

The lyrics really speak to me. (Cheesy? Maybe, but true? Definitely.)

Christmas was hard for me growing up because as exciting and magic-filled as it was, there were also elements of anger and fear. I'm trying to change that for my kids. Year-round, not just at Christmastime.

Clarke slept through his first snow, but he doesn't know, so his second (or third or fourth) can be his first. And I'm sure he and Mabel will both be asleep in their beds with smiles.

And just yesterday I got a card from Fran, my Grampy George's wife. I cried because she thought of me and my family, and because it's the first year that my Grampy didn't write it and address it himself in his familiar calligraphy. I hope he has a happy Christmas even though it's his first in a nursing home.

Anyway, enough rambling from me. Let it be Christmas wherever you are.

P.S. My first Christmas abroad and the song that got me through.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


I took Mabel to see Elf this past weekend. The excitement started a few weeks ago when we bought her ticket. She pointed at every poster she saw—"Elf!"—and would tell anyone who was around that she was going to see it. 

Yes, I did buy her these elf PJs specially for the show.

She insisted Dìdì wear his elf outfit too, even though he wasn't going with us. I was surprised and impressed that she remembered he had one; she'd only seen it once weeks ago. (It's probably a good thing she insisted Clarke wear it because I don't think it will fit him by Christmas.)

She insisted on bringing a toilet paper roll. *shrug emoji*

She was pumped that she was dressed like Buddy the Elf. (But didn't love the attention that she got from everyone because of it.) Before we went into the theatre, she was smiling so big and seemed about to burst from the energy. She said, "Mama, I'm so scared!" 

"I think you mean you're so excited?" 

"Yes, Mama! Excited!"

I thought Mabel would want to sit on my lap, but at first she sat in her own seat. I actually liked that better because then I could more easily watch her reactions. When the show began, her eyes were so wide! She bopped along to the music, swinging back and forth, "snapping" her fingers. When the lights changed colours, her eyes grew so big and her mouth formed an O—"Wow!"

I wasn't sure if she would be able to sit through the whole show but she did a great job! It was about an hour long and when it was almost done she asked to go home but I assured her she would see Santa and "Elf" one more time. She loved the parts with them in it, but the parts with "regular" people she found a little boring. 

We said hi to Auntie Jo after the show. (She's one of the StageCats directors.)

After the show we went out to the lobby so Mabel could see Santa and Buddy. She didn't want a photo with Santa, but she said hi. She worked up her courage to get a photo with Buddy though! She was happy to show her that she was dressed like her :) 

And she brought a candy cane home—her first!

I'm so excited to be making memories with my little girl. Especially Christmas memories. I think this is one of my favourite parts of parenthood.

(And I just realized that I didn't get any photos of me with Mabel. *face palm emoji*)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

happy halloween!

Celebrating Halloween with a two-year-old is a lot of fun.

I collect holiday books and stash them away most of the year; we pulled out our Halloween books a week or so ago. Mabel asks to read a "Haddoween book!" every day, usually more than one. One of her favourites is If You're Spooky and You Know It, probably because she loves to sing and dance.

We don't have many Halloween decorations, but she loves the ones we do have and points to them, "Haddoween!"

Mabel was a hamburger (like last year) and Clarke was a hot dog.

We practiced saying "trick or treat" and "thank you" all last week, but when we went trick or treating in our apartment building on the weekend, Mabel was pretty shy and wouldn't say either at first. Half the time, she'd put her bucket in front of the person and then hide behind me. About halfway through, she started whispering, "Thank you." The only person she said "trick or treat" to was Auntie Jo. Mabel also gave her a spontaneous hug, which was so sweet.

Clarke only made it through two floors before Tony had to take him home.

I talked to Mabel before we went trick or treating about the fact that she might not be able to eat all of the candy because some might hurt her (I meant choking, but didn't say that). She understood because we've talked about it before. At the apartments that had multiple candy choices, Mabel would give me a look that seemed to say, "Mama, what can I have?" and I'd help her choose a safe treat. At the apartments that only had "unsafe" treats, sometimes we would skip it or she would take one and say, "Mama, Baba eat!"

As we walked through the hallways, several times Mabel held up her pumpkin and asked, "Go home, eat, right?" I'd confirm, "Right!" and she would give me a big smile. She also held the pumpkin up a few times and said, "Mabel, Mama, Baba eat. No Dìdì." (She wasn't being mean; we've drilled into her that he only eats Mama's milk, lest she try to give him food.)

When we got home, Mabel pulled all of the treats out of her bucket one by one, separating them into two piles, "Mama, Baba eat; Mabel eat." The ones she wasn't sure about, she'd ask me, "Mabel's?" She never got upset when I said she couldn't eat something. A couple of times, she pulled a treat out and said, "Wow!"

I let her eat as much as she wanted then (which ended up being a couple small chocolate bars and some popping candy) and she's eaten one candy a day since then when she gets home from school.

I already can't wait until next year. (And Christmas! I can't wait for Christmas!)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

i'm forgetting.

Clarke was 12 days old here and Mabel was freshly 2 years old.

I said I would blog and I haven't but I want to, I do, I promise, but I've been busy. Busy holding my baby and reading books with my toddler and cuddling her whenever she will let me. Also, it feels so overwhelming. I am overwhelmed by the task of How to Document My Children's Lives—these fleeting moments that are so hard and so special. I don't want to forget any of it, but I am.

I'm forgetting what it's like to have a newborn flailing in my arms, their arms and legs all jerky and spastic.

I'm forgetting what a newborn sounds like—SO LOUD! Much louder than you'd think. Farts and burps that sound like a grown man's. Heavy breathing that stops and starts and is so nerve-wracking for a first-time mom (and sometimes a second-time mom, too).

I'm forgetting what "nip-lash" feels like, when the baby is so full and content and goes from happily, sleepily, hungrily sucking to pulling away from the nipple while still having it firmly in their mouth. With a twist of their neck and a resounding smack! when the nipple is released—"nip lash."

There's more I'm forgetting, I know there is, but as I sit here, I, well, I forget what I'm forgetting.

I'll remember it though, when the baby does something, like babbles up to me and blows spit bubbles, I'll think, I remember this! Your sister did this! It will all come back to me and I'll feel sad that I forgot what that early baby talk sounds like and I will promise myself that I will remember, I won't forget this time. And I'll think, I should write this down, take a video, burn it into my memory so I won't forget.

But inevitably, I will.
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