Wednesday, June 21, 2017

this made me...



cry, feel grateful that Mabel is my daughter, and feel grateful for Kate, who shared this song with me when Mabel was born.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

may book report.


I guess May was a month of mostly non-fiction for me, which makes sense because I usually listen to non-fiction books and actually read fiction, and May was busy what with work and getting ready for a baby (lucky we got things ready since Mabel came 2 and a half weeks early!), so I obviously had less time for reading but more time for listening. (Holy, run-on sentence.)

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West / I listened to this from Audible and it's read by West. I always love when a book is read by the author; I think it adds another layer to the experience. I enjoyed this collection of essays, ranging from fat-shaming to rape jokes to internet trolls. I've seen some criticism that West is just another white woman adding her voice to feminism, but I don't think that discounts her writing or the book's merit. It's on us to seek and hear diverse voices.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi / I'd wanted to read this for awhile but had been hesitating because I didn't know if I could handle it seeing as how I was pregnant and a little more emotional than usual. I'm so glad I finally listened to it. It was beautifully written and I found it made me reflective, but not overly sad (until the epilogue written by Paul's wife, Lucy Kalanithi; I couldn't listen in the morning while getting ready for work or I knew I'd be a weepy mess in front of my students). Being a surgeon and a patient, and combining a love for science and literature, Paul offers a unique perspective of life and death.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight / A quick, refreshing read. (Actually, I listened to it.) A lot of the examples given didn't apply to me, but I did like the reminders to stop caring what other people think of you and that it's possible to "not give a f*ck" without being an a**shole. Since listening, I've found myself thinking, 'nope, this is not worth any f*cks' about things in my life and I think it's helped me to let things go and focus more on what's actually important. (Note: Obviously this book—especially the audio version—isn't for you if you have a problem with profanity.)

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel / I don't know what to say other than I LOVED this book. As a teacher, as a mom-to-be, as a human. If you are any of the above, you should read it. There wasn't a lot of action, but the plot was still interesting and I can't decide which I loved more, the characters or the writing.

What have you read and loved (or not loved) lately?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

a new normal.

I guess I'm writing this blog post out of order. It probably should be 1) a birth announcement! 2) Mabel's birth story and then 3) this post. Oh well. I haven't blogged regularly for months so who am I to follow "rules" now.


Mabel is almost 3 weeks old and Tony and I are adjusting to our new normal. (Which, from what I'm told, we will continuously be doing because apparently babies change a lot ;)

As part of my contract with my school, and following Canada's guidelines, I have a year off for maternity leave. (!!!) And following Chinese law, Tony had 2 weeks off.

He went back to work yesterday and so far (ha! 2 days in!), so good. We miss him, sure, but I think I can say for certain that he misses Mabel more. He's messaged me a few times each day asking how Mabel and I are doing and when I reply we're good, I usually try to send a photo or video, to which he replies with heart eyes emojis.* I love seeing this guy be a dad. (Also, we're lucky; we live right beside the school so T gets to come home for lunch and if we need him, he could pop over pretty much anytime.)


I'm not setting high expectations for myself, something I need to continuously remind myself of, which I think will probably be key to not feeling overwhelmed or like I'm a lazy butthead. Yesterday I did 2 loads of laundry (almost—Tony hung them to dry and they're still hanging on the drying racks as I type this), showered (but did not do my hair or make-up and I got dressed in PJs), responded to a few emails, and drank almost an entire cup of coffee. Today, I responded to an email, filled out a form for work, and am drinking my first cup of coffee at 3:40PM.**

When people (mostly Chinese, but a lot of "foreigners" too) find out that I'll be home with Mabel by myself for the year, they gasp and look shocked. Some ask, in disbelief and/or with concern, "You're going to do it all by yourself?"and some come right out and tell me, "You can't! It's impossible!" To the Chinese people, I assure them that it's fairly common of us "Western" moms to stay home alone. And to my fellow foreigners, I assure them that we'll get help when and if we need it.***

I realize I'm just rambling here, but I hope you don't mind because I really would like to get back to blogging regularly, and until I get back into the habit of writing and Mabel (and therefore we) develop more regular sleep patterns, I have a feeling my posts will all be at least somewhat ramble-y. It's just part of my new normal.


Other things that are normal now:

A drying rack almost always up and filled with baby clothes and blankets.

A tube of nipple cream on the coffee table.

A "boppy" pillow on the couch.

Wearing only "nursing-friendly" clothes.

Wearing breast pads 24/7. (Leaking is real, my friends).

A baby rocker in the middle of the living room.

Small piles of clutter everywhere.

Continuously making trips to the garbage can in the stairwell with a dirty diaper.

Getting used to doing things one-handed.

T and I taking turns eating meals.

Eating lukewarm or cold food.

Responding to invitations with, "It depends on the baby." (Also, "It depends on the air quality.")

Taking lots of photos.

Keeping count of wet and dirty diapers.

Lowering my expectations and need for "perfection."

*I received one of these check-in messages while writing this post. Insert my own heart-eye emoji here, because he is the best dad and husband. 

**Of course, this is all in addition to breastfeeding, changing diapers, cleaning spit-up, and cuddling.  

***We do have someone who comes to clean our apartment and do laundry once a week. We've had this in place for years though, and will continue to, until we need to hire someone full-time to look after Mabel when I go back to work. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

april book report.


I read 7 books in April (if you count listening to an audiobook and a book I started in January)! I think it's partly because I haven't been watching any TV really, and partly because I'm subconsciously trying to read as much as possible before baby girl comes. Here's what I read and what I thought:

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch / I'd seen this reviewed and recommended by many people online and most of them said something along the lines of, "Even if you don't like science fiction, you will love this book!" They were right. I was hooked right away and had such a hard time putting it down each night to go to sleep. I want everyone to read it so we can talk about it.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak / I tried reading this a long time ago and just couldn't get into the writing style. After hearing nothing but good things over the years, I decided to try again and I'm so glad I did. I fell in love with all of the characters—Liesel, Papa, Rudy, Max, and even Death. I laughed and I cried. I laughed and cried some more. I would recommend this book to anyone.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah / I listened to this through Audible and it was narrated by the author. So glad that I listened to this one! (I listen to most non-fiction books.) The stories he told were funny, heartbreaking, and eye-opening and hearing them told by Noah himself made them that much better I think. He used different voices for different people; his voice for himself as a child—hilarious! One morning as I was listening, my husband asked me, "Is this fiction or non-fiction?" Turns out, he had been listening too and couldn't believe when I said that it was a memoir!

Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand / I'm always a fan of Hilderbrand's novels. This one was fun, although sad at times, and well-written. Loved the premise, the characters, and the way the story developed. I hope there's a sequel someday; I want to know more about everyone!

Expecting Better by Emily Oster / Loved this book because it felt like a no-nonsense, fresh perspective on pregnancy and all the advice people (professionals and not) love to give. I'm sure I'll reference this as I make decisions for the remainder of my pregnancy and the birth, and I'll definitely keep it so I can flip through it again next time. (The only reason that it took me so long to get through it was because I was reading other books at the same time and only picked this up once in awhile.)

Wreckage by Emily Bleeker / About a plane crash and being stranded on an island. Kind of interesting, but also predictable. Quick read. (If you don't mind reading about plane crashes, I'd recommend In the Unlikely Event. I've also heard great things about Before the Fall; I have it on hold through the library.)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding / Somehow I made it through my entire school career without reading this classic. I knew the premise and always understood pop culture references to it, but thought it was time I read it. I didn't love it, didn't even really like it that much, and was left wondering, 'Am I missing something?'

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What have you read and loved lately?

P.S. My last book report was from July, but I've read a lot since then (25 books in 2017 so far!). You can see my star ratings on Goodreads, if you're interested. And more book reports here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

what I want to remember: chinese new year 2017.












It makes me laugh that I thought this was "big"—at 21 weeks. (Also, Bellabands—I have one each in black and white—were godsends for a looong time.)



In keeping with the "what I want to remember theme," here is what I want to remember from Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) this year: 

Going out for burgers at Dicos with our niece and nephew. 

Xiao Yu stealing my french fries.

All of us eating ice cream sundaes. 

How good the fries and fountain coke tasted. 

Going out with them again to a "western" restaurant that kind of sucked but it was fun anyway.

The two of them eating more food than both of us. 

Playing Crazy Eights with Xiao Xuan and T. 

Teaching T's mom how to play Crazy Eights. 

Eating Dicos again with Xiao Xuan while T went to a family dinner without me. 

Watching T, his dad, and Xiao Xuan play cards.

Chinese New Year's Eve meal. 

Telling T's parents that they are a great example, and so are his brother and wife, and that I'm honoured to be a Zhang. 

Taking family photos. (I was pleasantly surprised that everyone happily agreed!)

Eating pomelo for the first time. 

Every time after that that T peeled pomelo for me. (I have not been able to eat enough citrus fruit since being pregnant.)

Afternoon naps. 

Sitting in T's parents' bedroom before going to bed and talking. 

T's mom telling me, "Speak Chinese!" and Xiao Xuan telling her, "She is!" 

Eating crispy rice. 

T's cousin remembering my name after 2 years later and only meeting once. 

Skipping 3 family dinners. 

T feeling the baby move. 

Playing Crazy Eight countdown with T. 

P.S. Chinese New Year 2014, 2015, 2016.
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