Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Ben was 15 months old this week. Is he ever fun, oh man, you have no idea. Everything is clap-your-hands, laugh-out-loud hilarious, I-want-to-eat-him cute, he's-so-smart amazing. He's a fantastic child, a blessing, pure happiness.

He dances with abandon and my heart nearly explodes. He does the animal actions from Eric Carle's "From Head To Toe" and grins with all his might, his nose scrunching up, his chubby cheeks rising up like rosy little apples. His eyes sparkle. My heart, oh, my heart.

There have been stories in the news recently of child suicides due to depression and bullying. These stories are maybe the saddest things I have ever heard. I can't imagine how these children felt, and try as I might, I can't fathom the pit of despair their parents must be living, the worry and concern they felt as they watched their children suffer, as they tried to help them, tried to save them, and could do nothing to ease their pain.

I found today the blog of one of these kids. It was ripe with pain. My heart is so heavy right now. I wish someone could have made it better for him. I wish he didn't have to feel the words he was writing. I wish he was still alive.

And then I think of my fifteen month old son at home, and I despair that someday someone might try to snuff out the joyful part of him, tease him for wanting to dance with abandon, torment him for perhaps loving the "wrong" person. I see how he loves other kids, how he runs up to complete strangers and shares a toy. Sometimes they shrink away from his boldness and I panic; do they understand that he loves everyone? Are these kinds of interactions going to make him second-guess his friendly instincts? As he gets older, are these interactions going to become more and more obvious, more aggressive, until he is conditioned to not take joy in the company of others?

He has had no taste of meanness or bullying. He's been protected from cruelty but we can't keep him sheltered forever, even though I want to. He has no idea how awful humans can be to each other. He trusts everyone. It's a beautiful way to see the world, and I love watching him make his way. I hate the thought that he can't stay like this forever, because he's perfect.

Friday, August 12, 2011


We are in Hawaii! This is the first time we've left the continent since we got back from our Big Adventure in 2008, and even though we're technically still in the United States of America, it sure feels like we're on vacation.

Things are really different now. Where once there were two, there are now three. Where we used to throw our two rucksacks on our backs, we now drag three gigantic suitcases through the airport. Where we used to relax on flights, books and headphones in hand, we struggle awkwardly up and down the aisles, holding tiny hands as tiny feet stride back and forth for hours. We cram into airplane lavatories and struggle with a rickety change table, diaper bag, squirming baby, and dirty diaper, all at once. Ben hardly slept at all, the whole trip... so we didn't either. By the time we landed at Kona International Airport on Hawaii (The Big Island, which is also called Hawaii), we had been awake for over 18 hours, or more if you take into account the fact we only slept two hours the night before we left. Ben was giddy with fatigue and wouldn't sleep, but bouncedbouncedbouncedbounced from the second we left Toronto until we landed in Kona. (Okay, I lie. He slept for an hour. One. Hour.)

The good thing about extreme fatigue is that it allowed us to fall into bed pretty much the second we arrived at our temporary home, just after 6:00. This is key, because Ben was awake and ready to go at 4:00 am the next morning. Thanks to our early bedtime, we were ready to go... nowhere. Nothing was open and we hadn't eaten dinner the night before, so we had a late night/early morning snack of energy bars and M&M's. By 7:00 we could venture out for breakfast and supplies.

How do I describe Hawaii? This island, called "The Big Island", is (duh) the biggest of all of the Hawaiian islands. It's the only one that is still growing, as the volcano known as Kilauea continues to erupt, spilling lava down the countryside into the Pacific ocean. It's sparsely populated, and it's spectacular. Hawaii's volcanic history means the landscape scales from sandy beach to towering mountains in just a few miles. Bougainvillea, hibiscus, and plumeria line the streets and grow in parking lots and front yards. We're eating local white pineapples -- the sweetest pineapples I've ever eaten, local mangoes, local bananas, local papayas from the farmer's market. I'm in Kona coffee heaven, and macadamia nuts, though not falling from the trees, are certainly abundant.

This side of the island, the Kona side, the west side, is hot and sunny and dry, with black sand beaches, white sand beaches, green sand beaches, and lava rocks. The green turtles certainly love it! The east coast is wet and lush and full of gigantic trees and vines and plants with leaves the size of elephant ears. In the middle it's all grassy plans and undulating rolling hills, perfect for the grazing cattle residing there. And did I mention the live active volcano at the southern end?

The food is good, the landscape is amazing, and Ben is having a fabulous time. The first half hour his first time at the beach he sobbed and clung to us in fear; after a few minutes of quiet observation in his Daddy's arms, and he was splashing happily in the surf.

As I mentioned earlier, traveling with a little one is certainly a different experience for us. Massive quantities of luggage aside, it takes us much longer to do anything. We haven't been able to get out the door in less than two hours from wake-up on any day. We tend to eat "at home", and earlier than we might have otherwise. We spend our evenings in front of the television instead of out drinking in the local culture... and we're usually in bed before midnight.

That being said, watching our boy step hesitatingly onto sand for the first time, and seeing him grin, is better than any other adventures we could have planned.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

365 Days And A Brief Rant

Ben turned a year old a couple of weeks ago. He's amazing and adorable and I love him with all my heart, more than I ever possibly imagined I could love someone. When other moms told me about this I nodded enthusiastically and agreed, but I never really got it. I am completely enamoured.

I'm fortunate enough to have some extra vacation time, so even though Ben's first birthday has passed, I'm still at home with him. Thanks to a generous maternity leave policy, Canadian moms are entitled to a year off; thanks to a generous employer, I had a great "top up" which I now realize many women don't get when they take maternity leave. I mention all of this so you know that I understand my fortune, and appreciate it.

I thought it would be enough time, but it's not. I feel sick at the thought of going back to work. It's not that I don't enjoy my work or love my co-workers. I do. But I have this knot in my stomach when I think about leaving my Bento behind every day. And I'm angry and resentful and bitter that it has to be this way. I'm thankful that we have the best possible babysitters (grandmothers) but I wish it could be me. It's not fair that someone else gets to live the best part of my life, as someone else once put it. It's not fair that someone else gets to snuggle my baby, and watch him grow, and see all of the things that I should get to do, and the reason I say I should get to do them is because I AM HIS MOTHER and it's the natural order of things. All I can think about is the things I am going to miss, and the days that will fly by, and the fact that this little amazing person that I love so much is going to spend his days with someone else other than me.

I know it's good for him to see other people. (Hahaha, I guess we're not going to be exclusive anymore?) His dad says he would like to stay home with him too, and that he's been leaving every day since Ben was three weeks old. I say. It. is. not. the. same. Until he's been pregnant and given birth and nursed a baby and had that same baby reach for him in the middle of the night, curl his body towards him and tucked his little arm into his to fall asleep, he can't possibly know.

Only a mother can know.

It's the same way that only a mother can feel like this when she has to go back to work. And only other mothers can feel sympathy for her, because they've all felt the same way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

5/6 of a Year

(Photo by Joee Wong, JW Photography)

The first months with my baby have been positively wonderful. He's been happy, and easygoing, and for the most part, non-mobile. Up until recently he's been content on his little alphabet mat, tearing up the pieces (I call him "Godzilla"), playing with his toys and chewing on anything in reach. Many of his friends started to crawl long ago, but my little Bento was perfectly content to sit tall on the floor and just observe the world around him. I had time, so much time, to clear the breakfast dishes and wipe the floor around his booster while he cooed and burbled beside me. I could even make cupcakes and clean up afterwards.

This is when it starts to get hard, right? Because I now have a mobile baby. He doesn't crawl in the traditional sense. He kind of slithers along the floor, pulling his body along the floor with his arms. He glides forward, pivots, changes direction, rolls over, rolls back, and moves on. I'm tempted to attach a Swiffer cloth to his belly -- two birds, one stone, blah blah blah. And he's fast. For weeks I'd been saying "we really need to baby-proof this pla--" and before I could finish the sentence he was moving, headed for the electrical cord he glimpsed under a piece of furniture, or my decorative vase full of sticks and glass marbles. Awesome. We have stairs and no baby gate (if anyone can advise us how to install a gate so that fat cats still have access to both floors I'd love to hear it.)

When you nod "yes" to Ben he shakes his head "no" in return. He plays peek-a-boo, but hasn't figured out yet that you're supposed to hide behind something. He blows kisses but never when you ask for them. If you're lucky enough to be holding him and he wants something, he leans for it, if it's within arm's reach, or he points imperiously in that direction, fully expecting your obedience. He insists on self-feeding, squishing the ever-favourite avocado through his hair, using cream cheese as a facial mask, rubbing butternut squash on his pants. He claps every time he takes a spoonful of food. My laundry has increased threefold. He can pull himself to standing with a little help from the coffee table, or his Zany Zoo, or anyone who has hands. Splashing in the bath is a favourite pastime. In the mornings, I can lie in bed for 20 minutes and listen to him rolling around in his crib, talking to himself or to his stuffed animals, and it makes me smile. Then when I go to his room and open the door, he stops what he's doing, looks up at me, pauses -- and breaks into a grin. It's the best way to start each day.

As I said, in a lot of ways things are getting a lot harder, but they're also getting a lot better. I get to hang out every day with the most hilarious, charming, huggable dude you will ever meet.

And that is the truth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making Myself Beautiful aka Not Like I Woke Up 80 Times Last Night

I recently did a guest post at Toronto Beauty Reviews (hi Elaine!) and revealed another side of my personality -- the makeup and beauty product junkie. I'm serious. I have loved makeup since I was a little girl. Unfortunately, for many years, my motto was more-is-more, and so we have several unfortunate pictures of me wearing purple or red lipstick, inky eyeliner, and bright pink blush, all in one day. I used to sneak mascara to school and apply it in the bathroom and then wash it off as soon as I got home, before my mom saw me. And this was in grade five!

Over the years I grew to understand that nothing is better than the "you, only better" natural look -- thankfully. I still have a penchant for fake eyelashes and silver eyeshadow on special occasions, but for everyday, less really IS more. The biggest bonus to mastering the natural look is that it can be accomplished really, really quickly.

This brings me to my next point -- you all know by now that I'm a mom to a nine-month-old ball of rubber-legged joy. I don't have a lot of time in the morning. Makeup is an essential part of my daily routine (yes, I really am that vain), much like brushing my teeth or wearing pants. This means that I'm constantly trying to find ways to streamline my routine and make it even faster. I've got it nearly down to a science:

1. Concealer: YSL Touche Eclat

Nothing beats dark circles caused by multiple, MULTIPLE night wakings like a good concealer. And nothing gets me to try a product faster than it being described as a "makeup artist must-have". Touche Eclat (Radiant Touch) is easy to apply and does a great job of hiding undereye circles and other dark imperfections.

2. Foundation: Makeup For Ever Duo Mat

A two-in-one foundation/powder combo that is applied with a sponge, Duo Mat offers full coverage and good skin tone matching power. It stays matte all day, even though my skin is pretty oily.

3. Blush/Bronzer: Nars Orgasm/Laguna

Another makeup-artist must-have is the classic combination of Nars' legendary blush Orgasm and the equally great bronzer Laguna. Both are very flattering to most skin types, are not too glittery, and have great staying power. A little goes a long way.

4. Eyeshadow: L'Oreal One Sweep

So I realize that I just proclaimed my love for Bobbi Brown in my post at TO Beauty Reviews, so let me explain: I bought this L'Oreal One Sweep shadow and then the next day was talked into buying the BB stuff (I had gone for powder and foundation.) The one-sweep stuff is good for everyday wear. Its greatest strength is the one-step application, though the brush is weirdly shaped and thus fiddly to get used to (hint: application instructions are on the back of the box.) The palette for brown eyes (Natural look) is fine, not as rich or as pigmented as the Bobbi Brown shadows, and can look a little chalky, and creased a bit by the end of the day. Still -- one step! It's a great idea for the less experienced and the very, very exhausted.

5. Mascara: L'Oreal Extra Volume Collagen

Thanks to a super-lush brush and super-thick formulation, this mascara gives huge impact with only a few strokes (um, I still do three two coats.)

6. Eyeliner: Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner

This is a great eyeliner, but application requires a steady hand and lots of practice. With the right brush, you can create a very fine line, a thicker line, or a cat-eye swoop. Once it's on it's on, though, so work deliberately and work fast! It really stays put.

7. Lip gloss: Clinique Black Honey

You can throw this on in the car -- with or without a mirror. It's sheer and glossy and flattering to several skin tones.

And that's it! It looks like a lot of product but it takes me under five minutes. And I like to think it looks good. I hope. At the very least, I look more awake.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with my hair...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy Days

There are a few significant days that stand out in my life. Obviously, Ben's birth is the big one. There's our wedding day, the day we got engaged, my 30th birthday, the day I climbed a mountain...

This past Sunday, I got to watch/help my awesome cousin make macarons. That day is right up there with my other most wonderful days, for sure.

Macarons are a delicious French confection of epic proportions. People spend years on the quest for Macaron Perfection. They look simple enough -- almond meringue discs with a ganache or buttercream filling; I have read at least a dozen different recipes which are all pages long and intimidatingly complicated.

I have loved macarons for a long time but never had the courage to make them myself.

It was a long process. First, we had to go out in search of the ingredients: ground almonds (almond powder/almond flour), icing sugar, eggs, chocolate, and flavourings.(Only the Callebaut chocolate is here; each chunk is over a pound!)

Almond and icing sugar were sieved together and mixed.

The egg whites were beaten, and when ready, a hot sugar syrup was beaten into them. See how gloriously white and glossy the mixture is?

It was even more beautiful once tinted.

Awesome Cousin chose orange because the macarons were to be flavoured with Grand Marnier. Smart, isn't he?

Note the two mixers working so beautifully together:

Meanwhile, a dark chocolate ganache was created: dark Callebaut chocolate, whipping cream, orange zest, and Grand Marnier.

The almond/sugar mixture was tinted and combined with the meringue. This mixture was then piped onto parchment paper:

The discs needed to rest about 10-20 minutes to form a skin, and half were dusted with cocoa powder, just for fun. Then they were baked and cooled:

See the frilly "foot" on the bottom of each meringue? Part way through the baking of the first batch I asked, "Do they have feet?" and did a little dance at the affirmative answer. They're not macarons if they don't have feet!

Combined with the ganache filling and eaten:

They're a little uneven because I was permitted to pipe the rounds at one point. Actually, there were four of us in the kitchen; one chef and three "assistants"; any imperfect results are our fault. I point this out because some of the finished macarons are a bit heavy on the cocoa "dusting" (MOM!!!!)

They are so delicious. I still might never have the courage to make them myself. But my kitchen is always his for the borrowing, if he wants to make them there!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Booger Nights

Whew! What a week.

When I was 13, my mother enrolled me in synchronized swimming. One of the first things we had to do was train ourselves to hold our breath for a long, long time. After about a year of training, I could swim the entire length of the Junior Olympic-sized pool underwater, on one breath. By the time I had reached the end, my body would be fighting for a breath. My chest would heave involuntarily as my lungs spasmed, and when I reached the surface, I would gasp desperately for air. It felt so good to take in oxygen.

That's how I feel right now.

We are coming out of the longest week of my life. Little Bento has been sick, and it's been tough. I know that there are parents out there that have fared much, much worse than we have; after all, Ben had a mere cold, with some complications, nothing serious at all. I never questioned that he would survive, though I often doubted that I would. Still, for a new mom, it was hard, and I know that sooner or later, we're going to have to do it again.

He was feverish, and restless, and he couldn't breathe through his nose. His chest rattled every time he coughed, and he squirmed in my arms and pounded his head on my shoulder over and over again, so uncomfortable, so unhappy. He whined and moaned constantly, except when he was screaming. He dozed lightly, but couldn't sleep. Then he started to throw up. He didn't want to eat or drink. He would finally rest his head on my chest in exhaustion, and stare. That is how we spent the week: in the glider, or on the couch, or in my bed, with him sprawled across my body.

I would sit up when he cried and whisper in his ear: "Shh, shh, it's okay, momma's here, momma's here." "I'm here, baby, I'm here." It hit me: I had no freaking clue what I was doing. I told my baby it was going to be okay, so I had to make it okay. It was one of those defining moments for me, where I realized that I am someone's mother, and that this hard job was not one that I could pass on to someone else, or leave behind when it got too difficult. I had some help, thankfully, but the lion's share of fretting, and worrying, and soothing, fell to me.

What a monumental responsibility.

Today, for the first time in days, Ben smiled and giggled, and bounced on his toes when I held him upright. My baby is getting better.

I'm so glad this week is over.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lemon Drop

It's a new year and Ben is over six months old! He's truly in a renaissance phase right now, as he's laughing and babbling all day long, knocking down milestones left and right, learning and discovering with every passing second. It's exciting and fun, but I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't at all sad.

I'm beginning to understand what people mean when they say that motherhood is bittersweet. Every achievement, every new accomplishment, is another day away from my squishy newborn. Every first is the last time I'll see it as a first. His first Christmas -- gone. His first roll-over -- gone, too. The first smiles, the first laughs, they've come and gone and they were celebrated; there have been many smiles and laughs since then, and they all give me a kind of heart-stabbing joy, but they're not the same as the first. Even the pregnancy firsts -- the belly movements, to be sure, but also the swollen ankles, the stretch marks -- I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm sad that they're gone too. (Oh wait, the stretch marks are still there. Lucky me.) If I'm fortunate enough to be pregnant again some time, these same things won't be firsts anymore. They'll just be there.

We've already put a big box of clothes in storage. He no longer naps in his swing, and so it's been put away too. Before it went into storage, I turned it on one last time, and listened to the soothing music, and remembered the hot summer days when my tiny baby would swing away to the strains of tiny flutes and perhaps an accordion, with the faint creaking of the swing apparatus in the background. He was so small that his legs didn't even pass through the harness straps; we could strap him in, swaddle and all. I'd never heard that melody before we had this swing, and now I will never forget it.

He has been sleeping in his own room, in his crib, for over a month now. He used to sleep in our bed, and then he slept right next to me in his bassinet. I loved to hear his snoring next to me, and the sound of his fingernails scratching on the sides when he woke up. He moved into his room with no protest at all, and doesn't seem to miss us at all, even though I miss him like crazy.

These days he bounces in his Exersaucer. He bounces in his Jolly Jumper. He bounces at our Lullabies and Lap Rhymes class. He bounces when we read stories. He sits up and grabs things, scratches the mat with his fingernails to feel the texture. He's got two teeth. He eats (some) real food, throws the rest of it on the floor. He screams when he's frustrated, when he's angry, and when he's had Quite Enough. I put him in his crib to nap or for night time and when he wakes up he's on his stomach and has rotated 180 degrees. The other day he picked his Bumbo up off the floor and held it in the air over his head. Amazing.

He's charming and disarming, with a ready laugh and a quick smile. His eyes sparkle when he's happy, and he flirts with the ladies in the grocery line.

He also wakes up many, many times a night (as do I), pinches and bites me when he's nursing, and did I mention that he wakes up several times a night?

I wish I didn't have to go back to work, but I miss my friends. I want to spend every waking minute with my amazing son, but then again I like not wearing stretchy pants every day. Every day with Benjamin is a joy, but it would be nice to spend time with people that don't drool on me continuously.

Decisions, decisions.


A maternity leave in the depths of winter in Canada consists largely of outings where preparation for said outing is often longer than the outing. Boots, jacket, car seat, snow suit, tiny boots that tiny feet keep pushing off, tiny hat, tiny mitts, car seat straps, diaper bag, purse, blah.

On a recent outing, I browsed the housewares aisles in need of absolutely nothing, and came upon a particular item. It was a red cast iron pot, something I'd been vaguely desiring for a while. However, the clincher for me was the label: "Swiss Made". Well then! Swiss made, how could I go wrong? I threw it into the cart without a second thought.

This made me think of our travels in 2008, where we'd come upon random things labeled "Swiss" in countries that were definitely not anywhere near Switzerland i.e. Nepal, India, Vietnam. The Swiss Family Hotel in Nepal, the Swiss Bakery, the Swiss Bus, the Swiss Restaurant. Why the obsession with the Swiss? Well, my behaviour above is the reason, I suspect; the world knows that Switzerland's reputation is built on quality, quality, quality. The Swiss Family Hotel must be the best hotel-With-Bathrooms-As-Showers in all the land. The Swiss Bakery must have the best Cornflakes-Masquerading-as-Apple-Crumble in all of India. The Swiss Bus is the best Bus-With-Goats in the city. The Swiss Restaurant... you get the point.

We fell for it every time. And my pot is awesome, thank you very much.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Marshmallow Mother

I'm such a softie.

Ben's now four months old, and for the past three months he's refused to nap anywhere but in a sling, curled up next to my body. In some ways it's great, because I am relatively free to walk around and do a limited number of things, mostly involving eating. I can't/won't do anything involving hot substances, open flame, or sharp edges, so cooking is out, as is any housework other than half-assed vacuuming or light dusting, because I can't bend over. If he's to get a really good nap, though, I have to sit on my trusty yoga ball and bounce away for 45 minutes. It beats running up and down the hallway with an aggressive bounce in my step, which is the other alternative.

Most days I don't mind this. It's three or four extra cuddle sessions with my little man, with his face buried in my armpit and one hand looped around the front of my shirt. I know this is a phase, that it won't last, and that soon enough he'll be pushing me away after the briefest of hugs so he can go pick up worms and eat garbage. Some days, though, all I can think about is the cat fur on the couch, the cat fur on the floor, the cat fur everywhere, and how it sure would be fun and fulfilling to get rid of those cats the fur. Those days I think that if he would just let me put him down for his naps, I could get so much done. We could eat a meal that's not overdone/underdone, overspiced/underspiced, whatever. Lately all of the compliments BG pays me after dinner are from meals his mother's made for us. And I hate that when Ben's awake and happy is when I have to leave him to his own devices because that's the only time I can conquer the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking.

Some new-mom friends of mine have had great success teaching their babies to sleep on their own through various techniques; schedules, gradual transitions, routines, books. I commend them for their strength, bow down to their fabulousness. I am weak. Every night I tell myself, "Maybe tomorrow..." and then the day comes, and when Ben starts to rub his eyes and fuss, I slip him into the sling and he drifts off without any problem, and is snoring within seconds. It's so easy this way. Also, the cuddles. I bounce bounce bounce away, lower back aching, shoulder knotted from wearing the sling for a quarter of my waking hours, blogging.

Kind of like now.