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).

Monday, August 14, 2017

a look back at 2016.

This is definitely the latest that I've ever written one of these, but I figured I'd rather have the record 7 months late than none at all. So here it is, a look back at 2016... in August 2017:

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?
Made the switch to natural skincare, cosmetic, and cleaning products—including deodorant! Went to an ice and snow festival. Won $2000! Used eyebrow products. Took a cooking class, and then another. Curled my hair with a straightener. Traveled on a sleeper train and saw the terracotta warriors. Celebrated our wedding anniversary. Went to a Pride parade and visited Peggy's Cove. Got pregnant.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions and will you make any for this year?
I didn't make a resolution for 2016, other than telling T I want to be more intentional. And that's something I'm still working on and probably always will be. I want to be more intentional about how I spend my time, what I eat, what I say, everything really.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Haha I almost said, Me! But then I realized it's 2017 now and I'm writing about 2016. See what happens when you put something off for so long. So the answer is, I don't think anyone close to me gave birth in 2016, but I might be forgetting. Sorry if I am!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?
South Korea! (We were supposed to go to Sri Lanka for Christmas but last year's heart problem + being pregnant meant no traveling. Womp womp.)

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
More chill. I can always use more chill.

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
October 19 because I found out I was pregnant. October 21 because we saw the little appleseed for the first time and it became real!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
See, I almost said having a baby, but again—we're talking about 2016, not 2017. So let's go with getting pregnant.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Same as the last 3 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?
2016 is actually the healthiest I've ever been! Chalk it up to prenatal vitamins?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
At first I couldn't think of anything and then I remembered we paid to upgrade my insurance to cover maternity, just in case. Phew. Yup, best thing we spent our money on.

12. Where did most of your money go?
I can tell you that because I've kept up a budgeting app since 2016! Most of our money was spent on eating out (that includes ordering in). And wow, the amount we spent is sobering. Embarrassing to say, but I hadn't realized it until now. Definitely something we should look at.

13. What did you get really excited about?
Having a baby!

14. What song will always remind you of 2016?
I can't think of any, which makes me a little sad because I love music.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder? Thinner or fatter? Richer or poorer?
Happier because I have a baby, but also, being a mom is hard so...  Fatter because baby. Richer—thank God for insurance.

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

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

18. How did you spend Christmas?
With T, in our apartment in Beijing. It was cozy and our first time spending Christmas at home, just the two of us.

19. What was your favourite TV program?
I didn't watch a lot of TV this year—I'm behind even on my usual faves—but I fell in love with This Is Us and The Crown. T and I also started watching an oldie but a goodie: Mad About You. (This is what made me think of the name Mabel.)

20. What were your favourite books of the year?
From looking at Goodreads, I know that I read 57 books in 2016 and my faves were To Kill a Mockingbird, The Nightingale, and Secrets of a Charmed Life.

21. What were your favourite films of the year?
I'm sure I watched movies in 2016 and I'm sure some of them were great, but I don't remember them. Let's blame that on the baby, too? Baby brain is a thing, guys! (But also, it's August 2017 now so...)

22. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
Oh man, I was 7 or 8 weeks pregnant, but no one knew and I was so sick and never wanted to eat anything but T forced me to go to dinner with friends anyway, where I barely ate anything and drank ginger ale and left my own birthday dinner early. But I'm glad I went haha. I turned 27.

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

24. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
I do not have a personal fashion concept. And again, almost said maternity clothes, but I didn't need those until 2017. This is why you should fill these things out in January and not August. Ooh, but I just remembered I bought a romper in summer 2016 and loved it!

25. What kept you sane?
Tony, Melissa, my Nan, and surprisingly, social media. Well, some people on social media. I was intentional about that.

26. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
If you're able to, buy insurance. Also, worrying doesn't help anything, so just don't. (I probably still will.)

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