Mama’s collecting rocks

Yesterday’s visit to Proulx Farm, which was only a few steps from Orleans and a 30-minute drive east of downtown Ottawa.

Every year, the farm is transformed into an autumn- and Halloween-themed playground. It really is an enjoyable experience for families, couples, or individuals — everyone, really! There’s just so much to see and explore.

We appreciated how vast and open, yet how well-organized, the farm and its activity set-up was. The tractor wagon ride was our favourite activity. It was actually a long ride around the farm — not just a quick tour — that encouraged us to observe all the Halloween decorations and animated hay bales along the way. The hay bales were so impressive in their creativity. I loved the ox and the cow. We were also introduced to a haunted Halloween house, which, although Keaton was hesitant to enter at first, by the end of it, enjoyed so much, he exclaimed, “Oh, nice!”

We also loved that the tractor driver was able to drop us off at our desired activity. We got off at the pumpkin patch along with another family. They’d left right away, perhaps because the hike to the field was patchy and full of tall grass and dirt. So, we were on our own and enjoyed all the quiet and solitude in the world. There weren’t many pumpkins at the patch, unfortunately, but the experience was still a treat. Keaton chose one he liked. Shortly after, another tractor wagon came to pick us up along the way. (We never saw the other family after this experience, and I do wonder if they’d gone to the maze after the pumpkin patch… and if they indeed got lost and never made it out.)

There was also an abundance of activities for kids to enjoy at the farm: animal petting, mazes, bouncy castles, face painting, treehouses and playgrounds, you name it. Keaton didn’t want to get his face painted this time around. We were bummed because he was so cute when he was a tiger the very first time he got his face painted. (Oh well.) We also liked that there were many picnic tables to have snacks and lunch, and they also sold hot dogs and burgers.

We’d spent a whopping four plus hours at the farm — Keaton fell asleep hard in the car when we left — and prior to leaving, we grabbed some more pumpkins for the home. There were so many varieties of pumpkins of different shapes, colours, and sizes. Of course, it was bright and sunny and the leaves were still green, but if it’d been a cloudy, crispy sweater weather kind of day, with orange and red tones in the trees, it would’ve made for the perfect autumn scene.

The cow train and the old lady

This weekend, we visited another farm/orchard: Cannamore Orchard, which was about a 40-minute drive from Ottawa’s centre core. It was a spontaneous trip with our family and Kong-Ma, and we all had a good, but tiring, time. I think my mom has taken a liking to farm visits lately. She’s been smiling so much and laughing heartily, too.

The orchard’s opening time was at 10AM, and as we were driving into the parking lot, we were surprised to see just how busy it was already. We were a bit saddened that all the wagons and carts had been taken; we were hoping to grab one to head out to the pumpkin patch. Yet the busy morning made all the sense in the world. After all, it was a sunny Saturday morning, probably the only sunny day in the week before a weeklong prediction of heavy rain. And, it’s the season for farms and pumpkin patches.

After we bought our tickets, we headed out to explore. The orchard was wonderfully vast and expansive. We walked by the apple orchard, which was already nearing its last moments of the season, for apples were scarce or have already fallen on the ground. Nevertheless, it was a lovely sight that reminded us of our own apple-picking experience from just a few weeks ago. (We were lucky to have gone apple-picking at the very start of the season, when apples were plentiful on trees.) We then ventured on and enjoyed a quiet and secluded walk into the deep woods and open fields.

But soon after, a question arose, “Where are we and where are the Family Fun Day activities?” Lost, we decided to walk back, and that’s when we stumbled upon the tractor wagon driver, who was already starting his early wagon ride of the day, with only one family seated. We waved to inquire if we could hop on, and he happily stopped to collect us. The tractor wagon ride was a calming experience. Since we were one of the only ones riding, it felt private and secluded. I loved feeling the crisp autumn wind on my face and hair most of all. Keaton and Mama also enjoyed their apples during the ride. It was a cute sight to watch Keaton sitting on daddy’s lap and biting his big, luscious apple (which he later dropped).

The driver dropped us off next to the lobby, where all the Family Fun Day activities were, and that’s when we experienced an a-ha moment, because it’s exactly what we were looking for at the start. (We walked in the opposite direction and ended up elsewhere on the farm.) There were many activities for kids to enjoy: a playground with toys, pedal cars, a cow train, mazes, and even chickens and horses. Keaton had a blast at the playground, which, funnily enough, was where all the families were gathered. Parents and caregivers all shared a common thematic desire: fun for the kids and a moment of survival and peace. When I looked around and saw the chaos of everyday parent life, I can say that my sense of belonging grew incrementally.

I think the funnest experience for all of us was the cow train. Luckily, we hopped on at an earlier time, so we were able to beat the long lineups. It was adorable that all the cows had names. I didn’t know that they were all different sizes, so I coincidentally chose a small one that left me no leg room, and boy, did I hope throughout the long ride that I wouldn’t go into labour with all the bumps! While Keaton sat on daddy’s lap in their cow train compartment, Kong-Ma had their individual compartments. For two elderly people, they sure had an anxious but good time! The comical moment of the experience was when the cow train driver almost left with my mom stuck in the train; she was the last to get off and he hadn’t noticed. We all had to yell for him to stop. In retrospect, we all laughed, especially my mom.

After much time back at the playground, we decided it was time to go. We missed the pumpkin patch, unfortunately, because afternoon had already crept up and none of us had eaten, Keaton hadn’t napped, and we were all fatigued. What we did instead was have Keaton choose a pumpkin from the display of pre-picked pumpkins in front of the lobby — he chose a perfect one — and got him a lollipop that he’d been asking for since seeing a little boy holding and eating one at the playground.

Life as we know it always has its clumsy moments, for when we returned to the car, again, we had to grapple with invading wasps. It was a funny sight for Keaton. He just watched his daddy flailing left and right like a crazy person, and I’m sure that at that moment, he thought his daddy was indeed crazy. What else is new in our family? We’ve all gone haywire.

Mums n’ Pumpkins

It really is becoming our ritual to visit a farm every weekend. This morning, we visited another one: Millers’ Farm & Market. It’s now September, so I have all the excuse in the world to dream of autumn and brightly coloured pumpkins and seasonal offerings.

Even if today felt like a beaming hot summer day — and I’ve been hoping dearly for crisp cloudy days to hasten their presence — it didn’t stop me from feeling all the autumn vibes. Just the sight of colourful pumpkins, gourds, and squashes, as well as beautiful fall mums at this farm, was enough to satisfy my soulful autumn craving.

There were so many brightly coloured pumpkins and veggie friends! Keaton had a fun time pulling the wagon around and choosing all the pumpkins to his heart’s desire.

Our wagon is complete! Keaton’s choices for today featured pumpkins, gourds, and different coloured fall mums. It was endearing to watch him voyage around the farm with the wagon, pulling it himself and asking help from daddy when needed, and choosing all the pumpkins and flowers. I’m proud of him for making such beautiful choices, especially the mums. He picked them out and put them in the wagon himself.

There were also rabbits and chickens at the farm. My heart melted watching my little guy be so gentle and loving with the animals. He loved these rabbits. I, myself, have been wanting to adopt a Holland Lop bunny lately (since I was a kid, in fact). It’s just about convincing my husband at this point.

Mums from the farm in our backyard! They now add colour and life to our outdoor abode.

The white pumpkin from the farm, a new addition to our fireplace mantel. Do you spot Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas? We’d recently bought this neat Halloween newspaper plaque decor in honour of one of our favourite Halloween films.

Another one of Keaton’s pumpkins. This one is sitting on our TV stand. Besides choosing his pumpkins, he also chose where to place them in the home. I appreciate my little helper and all his initiative.

At this rate, I think that by the end of October we’ll have visited countless farms and adopted so many pumpkins, our home itself will have become a pumpkin patch.

“Sheeep, heeere, yum yummm!”

I did a little something: I pulled out my fall decorations, as well as some Halloween ones, prior to September. It’s my happy time and place. It’s also been raining and much cooler these days, so the theme was quite fitting. Seeing the autumn details around the home makes me feel cozy and warm, and ready to embrace the changing season and cold sweater weather — and cuddle weather, too. 

I’ve been loving our new fall- and Halloween-themed Snoopy mugs. Drinking coffee from them in the morning brings me an insurmountable amount of joy. Snoopy’s my all-time favourite comic strip character. He’s cute, he’s sassy, he’s a dreamer, he’s unapologetically resilient, he’s comical, he’s a cookie monster, he’s a romantic, he’s a shit-disturber. He’s wholesome. 

Speaking of an autumn feel, we’ve been visiting many farms lately — we seem to be on a roll. The first one we visited was just at the end of August, when Keaton’s grandmother, Nana, visited. We went to Saunders Farm. There were plenty of activities and play structures for kids to entertain themselves with, as well as ample of space for them to run loose, which was a major plus for Keaton to release all his energy. 

We all really enjoyed the tractor wagon ride. Keaton looked uncertain when he first sat down in the wagon, even if he was excited to go on it. It took a moment — as soon as the wagon started going — for him to find comfort and fun in the ride. He liked it so much that we did it twice! I, too, found the experience both fun and soothing. My husband said he hadn’t seen me smile this much in a long time. It’s true that I was very happy that day. A beautiful day with loved ones and my kid smiling, and experiencing a wagon ride that I’ve always wanted to try as a kid, was enough to set my heart ablaze with happiness. 

But of course my parental bliss didn’t last long. Shortly after, our hearts sank at the farm’s infamous maze. Keaton had slipped away during our quest. Our little dude is so fast and wild, he slipped away from underneath the trees. It wasn’t out of mean-spiritedness or because he’s rambunctious; it’s because he just wanted to play and for us to chase him. He was having fun being playful; but for us parents and adults, our hearts skipped a beat when he ran off laughing. Luckily, Nana caught up with him quickly. Oh boy, do we ever consider leashing our little guy! Alas, that was our crazy adventure of the day. 

I loved the Halloween decorations at the gift shop. Oranges and blacks, gnomes and ghosts, pumpkins and scarecrows — I was already in the Halloween mood. I can’t wait to be back at this farm for pumpkin season. If summertime is already a sweet sight, imagine when the leaves start to transform into yellow, orange, red, and brown hues, and when the weather is more crisp and pumpkin season is here. This farm would transform into an oasis of autumn!

The next treat we had the pleasure of indulging in was apple-picking at an orchard. We took my parents with us, too. Because we were at the peak of apple-picking season, there were plenty of apples to pick from trees. It was a magical sight. The orchard blossomed with so many apples that I could easily picture how romantic it would be to have a wedding or family photoshoot there.

Of course, with a toddler — a strong-willed and spirited one — outings are never easy. Keaton fussed the entire time we were there because he wanted to see a tractor; he wasn’t entertained by the orchard. I felt my heart swell with hopelessness as I looked around and saw other parents calmly strolling around with their easygoing kids. I’d really hoped for a nice family moment; we rarely have these moments in our lives because our son has never been an easy one. Babies and toddlers who are able to just accompany their parents? Completely foreign to us. We can’t deny how it kills our souls sometimes. Yet, difficult as he is, we love our little dude just the same. He’s wildly aware and intelligent, and we’re very proud of who he is.

The other challenging part of our experience were the wasps. It’s wasp season so we’d been visited by many buzzing guests, who were attracted to our apples and to our very existence — alas, sweetness was everywhere. They even followed us all the way back to the parking lot and our car. It was like a comedic horror movie featuring our clumsy family of five, who were trying to escape a zombie raid. What an experience that day was. It had its flaws, but I was still very grateful for the moments we shared as a family.

It was an especially special day because it was my parents’ first outing with us — the first time they really got to do an activity in their lives. And I say this with a heavy heart. My mom really enjoyed the apple-picking experience; she picked the whole bag while we were losing our heads with our kiddo. My dad also enjoyed taking photos. As for Keaton, he, too, enjoyed climbing the ladder to pick the apples, as well as eating the orchard’s infamous churros. While they weren’t the best as people had claimed — perhaps we’d received a bad batch — the experience was worthwhile. 

The next farm we went to was The Log Farm, which was conveniently located in the city centre compared to all the other farms. I felt guilty for having almost overlooked this farm. At first, it looked rather unassuming online; I didn’t think there would be much to see or do. Their advertisement was modest, too. But, I’m very glad that we decided to spontaneously visit it, because it turned out to be the best farm ever. 

We really enjoyed the walk from the parking lot to the farm itself. We walked along a trail that took us through the woods, which felt like a hike in nature. I could see early on that my parents were enjoying the experience already. My mother, for an old lady, sure walked fast — as if excited to explore more.

I appreciated how low-key and humble the farm was. It was cozy, modest, well-loved and neat, and it didn’t boast. This farm was started by a family in the 1800’s; and until today, I could still feel the spirit of love, hard work, and dedication as I walked peacefully around the fields. A picturesque sight to behold, that’s for sure. 

If the apple-picking experience was a fail for Keaton, then this farm the next day far more than made up for it. Our little fellow was insanely smitten with his visit here. There were doll houses for kids, swings, a sandbox with an abundance of truck and car toys, tractor vehicles to ride, sensory tables, and many more! Keaton enjoyed it so much he would’ve stayed here all day if he could. 

There was also a tractor wagon ride, which he’d wildly sought for at the apple orchard. And here, he finally got it. It’s funny, though, because while he was so intent on riding the tractor wagon, as soon as he got on it, as with his experience at Saunders Farm, he became rather uncertain and shy. It took a few moments until he’d relax again. As for my parents, oh boy, did they ever smile and laugh! My mom made a new friend on the wagon ride: a beautiful baby girl, who kept smiling and waving back at her. The ride was lovely; we interacted quite a bit with other families. It felt communal. We all shared a sense of belonging. 

There were also many cute animals on the farm: chickens, cows, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, alpacas, you name it. The animals were beautiful and plump; they looked healthy and happy. Keaton asked to feed the goats. It was so adorable when he called out, “Sheeep! Heeere! Yum, yummm!” Of course there’s always that one sassy goat with attitude. The one in the photo is the one that grabbed the whole cone from Keaton’s hand. It was so funny.

We loved walking along scarecrow lane. Perhaps other visitors didn’t notice the hidden path, but we did; and because we were the only ones, it was ever so peaceful. We enjoyed looking for hidden scarecrows along the path. I could tell how much my parents enjoyed this farm and experience most of all. I hadn’t seen them smile and laugh, and let loose so much, in ages. 

My parents are very old now, and because of old age, health and anxiety issues, and, recently, COVID-19, they’ve naturally been homebound for many years. In fact, they haven’t experienced much of the fun side of life since immigrating to Canada in 1980. Now, it’s our turn to drive them around and show them the world and life, just as they’d shown us as children. That being said, we’ll definitely be back at this farm, as well as explore other farms, for pumpkin season and for the holiday Christmas markets. A different feeling and vibe, I can’t wait.

Home sweet home

Dear Readers,

It’s been some time since I’ve popped in, but I have some lovely news to share: we bought a home and are expecting our second Mini Potato, who’s due this coming festive December.

Now that we’ve settled into our new home, life feels vastly different from what we’ve known beforehand. Sometimes, everything still feels surreal. It’s a big world of a difference transitioning from renting a high-rise apartment unit, to owning a house where we have our own entrance, appliances, and backyard. How freeing it is to not have to share laundry appliances or to tip-toe around others in shared entrances or elevators. I was wrought with anxiety at the height of the pandemic; the extra mental gymnastics involved when sharing common spaces with others was taxing. There was also very little privacy.

It feels ever so sweet to be in a home — our home. Yet I’ll always be grateful for having lived in a high rise apartment, especially as a family with a toddler. There were undoubtedly more challenges in daily life, but that’s why the experience was ever more rewarding: we’d experienced adversity and growth before tasting sweet victory. Not only has the experience brought us closer together as a family and strengthened us, but it has also taught Keaton to be appreciative of all the things he already did have: a roof, food, safety, a family, and all the basics of life that aren’t always granted.

Memories of the first week we settled into our old apartment

Emotionally, I still miss our old apartment. I remember us settling there as a family over a year ago, when we just moved to Ottawa. It was quite heartwarming; after all, I was back in my hometown after years away, and I was reunited with my parents, whom I missed dearly and worried about immensely during the pandemic. I also recall being so excited to decorate our little space and make it homey and inviting. But the sweetest memory and journey of all, was witnessing Keaton’s growth and integration into his new city.

In over one year, he’s grown a whole lot — from babyhood to toddlerhood. I loved watching his bond with his Kong-Ma grow into unwavering love and friendship. Moreover, although all the park time for us parents was depressing — it was a pandemic and we didn’t have a car, so there wasn’t anywhere we could really go, except for the same old parks — I really appreciated watching our son’s growth there nevertheless, especially how he learned to relate to his immediate environment and social surroundings. For a little dude who’s never attended daycare or group settings, I’m very proud of him for his kindness and deep capacity for compassion.

I’m equally proud of my husband and I for overcoming numerous obstacles. From becoming first-time parents in the midst of a pandemic, to losing family members and lacking support, to facing financial struggles and the uncertainty of work, to living in a small apartment with no balcony or fresh air, to having no car for even the most practical of purposes, to dealing with months of constant dynamite construction right outside our window, to experiencing floods inside our bedroom, to having a high-energy toddler that never gave us a moment of respite, to handling inconsiderate folks on a daily basis. Every detail added up. The constant crippling stress and anxiety weighed heavily on our hearts and lives. Within me lived a constant turbulence of both rage and sadness. 

The process of searching for a home while my husband worked, of communicating with our mortgage lender and real estate agent, of preparing documents, of corresponding with our lawyer, and of making all financial decisions — while pregnant and with a toddler — was mentally and physically debilitating on top of everything. But we made it. We did our parts, held on to each other, trekked forward, and utilized any support we could get — I deeply appreciate my parents for all their help in take caring of our little one during challenging moments — and here we are, with a house of our own and even a car, too. 

Yet, I can’t say that I feel overwhelming joy and happiness being in our new home. It feels more like a deep relief, and more than anything, I feel immense gratitude mixed with a lot of sadness. I’m happy, yes, but now that we’ve made it, I feel rather exhausted — as if I can finally fall down on the floor and let myself slither into a deep sleep of a thousand years. As I look back, I can’t believe how we survived everything in the past few years, when it was much easier and more tempting to break. But human beings are resilient. We’re resilient. Even our son is resilient.

Snack time featuring banana bread with ‘mammay’
Having fun playing with his toys in his own room

Kids are adaptable and they’re able to appreciate the little things in life, whereas us adults are often stuck in our somersaulting patterns of thoughts that we create for ourselves. What I do see now, is how much happier Keaton is in his new home. There’s no baggage like the ones we adults carry. He has his own room, a backyard to play in — for me, it’s a dream come true, especially during summer days when I have no energy to take him to the park — and many rooms and nooks and crannies to explore. He’s even getting more exercise with all the stairs in the home. (I’m breaking my hip, on the other hand.)

It’s still always so sweet and comical to drive by our old apartment. Keaton would often say, “No dis! No dis!” Now that he has his own room and knows of a better life, he doesn’t want to return. I don’t blame him. I understand him completely. But I’d still tell him to say thank you and to wave bye bye as we’re passing; and he does just that, because he understands. My husband and I would often joke that our son has lived through all the craziness of life, whereas our daughter will be born into princesshood. We laugh about it, but for us, it’s important to instill character and integrity in our kids, and to teach them to appreciate all the little things.

I’m fond of our new and current home. It’s a perfect humble size for our little growing family. I love that now, Keaton has ample of space to run in and a backyard where he can play with his trucks and toys or simply watch birds and squirrels. I remember feeling emotional the first morning I sat outside with a coffee. Just birds chirping and a light breeze sweeping my cheeks. It was a stark contrast to our apartment days wrought with blasting and construction. This was freedom to me: peace and quiet. They were basic human needs and soul nourishing food that not everyone is privileged to have in this world. And I hold this knowledge closely to heart.

Now that we’re in our new home, I also feel the motivation to take better care of our space. I’ve been loving my plants; they add so much colour and life to our home. Perhaps it’s my OCD or my mama nesting urges, but I also feel deeply that cleaning and organizing our space frequently helps me de-stress and relax. Home is both a family space and a spiritual realm for me. I must take care of it, nourish it, and love it, just like I would my own.

RAWR, it’s baby tiger!

We experienced an insanely cute and proud moment this past weekend: Keaton had his first face painting experience ever, and he was the most adorable baby tiger!

(The kids’ face painting program and festivities were in homage of the Italian Festival that was happening last weekend.)

Excited for Keaton’s first face painting and bouncy castle experience — when I showed him photos of what face painting was, he, too, was looking forward to it — we arrived on site at the event early on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong that the bouncy castles and rides were postponed. Instead, Keaton spent an adventurous morning exerting his energy at the nearby playground and playing alongside other kids, whose parents also waited patiently for the weather to be more forgiving. Alas, the wind persisted, so we informed our little man that nap time was nearing and we’d have to go home, but that after his nap we’d try the festivities again.

By the time Keaton had woken up from his nap, it was already late in the afternoon. But he woke up with the motivation and eagerness to continue on with his day, and excitedly helped us get him ready to go have his face painted and explore. It was a sweet and heavenly moment for us dishevelled and raccoon-eyed parents, as it’s customary for our little guy to scream our building down when it’s time to get ready.

As the weather gods had it, when we arrived on scene, the bouncy castles were still sleeping sheepishly flat on the grass — the wind hadn’t subsided. Nevertheless, face painting was our goal. The lineup wasn’t too long, but lo and behold, I had waited for almost two hours. I even laughed with the mom behind me and joked that we could’ve napped during the whole wait time. Luckily, the organizers and volunteers had bocce ball and colouring books to keep the kids busy, which Keaton and his daddy had spent much of the time enjoying.

Keaton loved bocce ball, or rather, his own version of it. He had the idea of rolling the balls one by one along the wooden panels. When the awesome volunteer saw his plans, she immediately jumped in to help him achieve his vision and helped him line the wooden planels and pop them at an angle so that he could roll the balls down. I could see she was amused as she watched him concocting his master engineering plans.

Our little guy has always been very curious, inventive, and idea-oriented, and loves to problem-solve. Thus, seeing him orchestrate a whole setup with the help of a perceptive and eager adult, was very heartwarming. Other kids also came to play alongside him. They, too, were fascinated; and I had the pleasure of helping out and showing them how to set everything up.

We were surprised that Keaton hadn’t grown too fussy after waiting for almost two hours to get his face painted. (Thankfully, he’d found and created his own entertainment!) When it was finally his turn, my husband and I expected him to sit for a few seconds and perhaps fuss or cry or run off after the first few paint strokes. After all, he’s a highly energetic little man that never sits still. But to our surprise and amazement, he sat still the whole way through! He was good at listening to instructions, too, such as when our lovely artist asked him to move forward on the chair or lift his chin. We could tell he was a bit shy, but very determined to see it through at the same time. Perhaps the feeling of the brushes was relaxing for him, like an ASMR effect. Who knew!

One thing’s for sure: my husband and I were flabbergasted. He was the youngest face painting client of all, and was so patient. We were deeply proud. We also felt a sense of love and community when other parents and kids gathered close to watch him get his face painted. He was just so good and cute! He was the first baby tiger, and everyone’s hearts melted. Especially ours.

Events in our lives have been challenging, and everything is far from OK, but these raw and sweet moments in life are what sustain us and give us joy and hope. I’m very grateful for our talented face painter, who had a magical effect on children. Keaton felt safe in her presence. As for us parents, she brought immense joy and endless smiles to our lives from this one beautiful exchange. We loved when she showed him his face in the mirror. We could tell how proud she was of her work, and how happy she was for him to see his tiger-esque self.

At first, Keaton was a bit reserved and uncertain to see himself in the mirror. But soonafter, he adopted his new identity with pride. When it came time for a bath, he was also very accepting that it was time to let go of his face paint. He thus looked in the mirror and waved, and said, “Bye bye, Roar!” Then, he proceeded to wash off the paint himself in the bath, like a big kid. I think our hearts swelled with warmth and pride all weekend.

Cheers to our little tiger, whom we trust, and will guide, to roar through life and all adversity to become the best version of himself. We love you, Keaton.

2 and double the birthdays

Keaton turned 2 recently! Though, I think he must think it’s his birthday every day, since for days past, we’ve been showering him with incessant birthday love — and happily so!

I’m so glad to say that after two years of pandemic stagnancy, we finally gathered with my brother and his family. Keaton has finally met his uncle, auntie, and two cousins. They, in turn, have finally been able to physically visit us and hug and hold our little man — all unmasked. I’ve been missing my brother and his family for so long, especially my nieces. It hurts to think that the last time the girls saw Keaton was the night that he’d arrived home from the hospital. Now, seeing how much they’ve grown makes me so proud of them. They’ve grown so beautifully, intelligently, and kindly.

When my parents (Kong-Ma) and Auntie Mel Mel, Keaton’s BFFs, arrived at our place, he was ecstatic. But when he saw my brother and his family, of course he cried. He didn’t know them. It was at once a funny, cute, and sad sight to see him crying when we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him. To him, there were strange faces cheering him on. We felt for him and all his fears and uncertainty. We felt for everyone at that moment, too. Two years is a lot of lost time. But it didn’t take long. Shortly after warming up, Keaton was already playing with his uncle on the floor with his gifted toolbox and trucks. He also developed a deep liking to his older cousin, who he proceeded to playing with all night.

Keaton loves trucks. He’s loved them his whole existence — he even knows the names of different types of vehicles and trucks — so for his second birthday, we decided on a truck/vehicle theme. My husband and I decorated the apartment with banners and balloons the night prior to the celebration, when Keaton was deep asleep. It brought back nostalgic memories of us decorating for his first birthday in our old apartment in Verdun, which I miss immensely. And now, our little dude’s already two.

I love the custom cake topper most of all. I had it customized and handmade by a talented Etsy seller, who breathes life and love into her creations. She brought my vision and all the details to life, and it turned out perfect. I’m so thankful for her effort and work. It’s become the centrepiece of Keaton’s birthday.

The cake was a lovely lemon raspberry flavour. It was light and fluffy, with a hint of citrus lemon and raspberry tartness that were beautifully enrobed with sweet buttercream. Heaven galore!

Keaton’s second cake, on his actual birthday. A fun funfetti vibe!

After we celebrated Keaton’s birthday with my family over the weekend — it was the ideal time for everyone to drive down, as the adults and kids were on break — of course we also celebrated his birthday on his actual birthday. This time, it was just our little family plus my parents, his Kong-Ma.

Keaton’s a lucky little guy. He got two birthday celebrations, two cakes, twice the gifts, and double the love and blessings! But it was just right and perfect. He’s so wonderful; he deserves all the love and more.

I’ve been anxious for a long time leading up to Keaton’s birthday. There had already been cancellations in the past due to the pandemic and restrictions, and each time, my heart broke. I crossed my fingers and toes that everything would be OK for our little guy’s birthday this time.

After two years, I’m so, so grateful that after all this time and uncertainty, it was a success story for everyone to finally meet. For my parents who are getting older by the day, I could understand and empathize with how joyous they must’ve felt to see all their kids and grandkids together, gathered under one roof for a full celebration of love. My family, my parents, my sister, my brother and his family — all of us together — I couldn’t ask for a more happy time in my life.


Happy Birthday to my sweet baby boy, who’s a source of happiness and refuge for so many of us. I love your sensitivity and compassion; I love that you’re a resilient problem-solver; I love that you possess a moral and ethical compass, and that you do right by others; and I love that now, we can reason and communicate with you. Your love for trucks and “meh meh” is the cutest thing of all. We’ll try to keep your long curly hair strand for as long as possible, OK? Don’t let daddy convince you otherwise. – Mommy

Meuh-Meuh-Meuh to the New Year

Our Christmas was a Christmas of three: daddy, mommy, and Keaton. It was another Christmas in isolation; after all, the Omicron variant had shockingly started ripping across the country, and at a very fast rate. So to be safe this year, our families and us decided to celebrate in our own respective bubbles. It was a sad time for everyone. One or even two Christmases in isolation isn’t so bad for us youngsters, but for my parents and all the elderly, lost time in isolation is lost time. The future is uncertain.

Last year, we had a low key Christmas, but it was also very heartwarming because my sister (Auntie Mel Mel) joined us. Keaton had his BFF there, so it was an exciting moment for him. I fondly remember him opening his Fisher Price car gift — his very first car. He crawled towards the neatly wrapped box — a large one at that — and with a smile, knew that it was his gift and began tugging at the paper. We missed our parents of course, but we were still hopeful that next year would be normal again — that we’d all be able to reunite for the holidays. Yet who would’ve thought that this pandemic would last for almost two years?

This year, as we’ve reached a level of acceptance and normalcy in our lives — there’s no way but to co-exist with COVID-19 — we decided to reunite with my whole family. After all, we’ve all been careful and vigilant throughout this whole ordeal, and all adults and kids are vaccinated — except for Keaton, who doesn’t go to daycare anyway. As a pandemic baby, Keaton hasn’t socialized or travelled much at all, so I was really looking forward for him to finally meet his cousins after almost two years, and their new doggie addition, Snow. I miss my nieces tremendously. But plans fell through because at this point, the Omicron variant had began transmitting at a very rapid rate, and everywhere. On top of that, we all succumbed to a raging cold. Even if it wasn’t COVID-19, we all felt it was safer to remain home and not spread more viruses around than necessary.

I think the most heartbreaking moment was Christmas Eve. My sister had driven over two hours to drop off gifts for her nephew. Seeing her show up at our door, only to leave with a visibly tearful “Merry Christmas” — no hugs or kisses — was shattering to me. I felt myself tearful when I saw all the beautifully wrapped gifts for Keaton, the Blues Clues chair, and even the Christmas clothes she’d washed for him to wear on Christmas Day. There was heartbreak in knowing that as Keaton was napping, his auntie, his favourite person in the whole world, showed up — but she couldn’t see or kiss him, nor would he know that she was there.

“I think it’s best that Keaton doesn’t see me,” my sister said. “He might feel sad that I leave right away.”

When Keaton woke up and saw all the gifts under the tree — Santa did arrive this year, or rather Auntie Mel Mel — he grew fascinated. I let him open one gift that night, and he was very good and patient when I told him that he’d have to wait to open it on daddy’s break. When he finally opened his gift and saw the handyman toolbox kit that we’d bought him, he got really excited. It was perfect for him because he’s always been enamoured with tools and “fixing” the wheels on his trucks. It was a beautiful sight to see my husband showing him how to use the tools, and him following his daddy’s instructions.

On Christmas morning, when it was time to open gifts, we video-called my parents and also took videos for my sister to watch later. Keaton had numerous gifts — all so very fun and meaningful at the same time. He was so stimulated, that he even refused to nap that day. I loved watching him opening his gifts and seeing the excitement on his face. Yet I can’t soften the truth: I still felt a deep-rooted sadness within me that wouldn’t go away. There was the sadness in knowing that my sister and parents were respectively alone, and that the moment could’ve been so much sweeter if everyone had been present. Keaton could’ve actually given his grandparents and auntie kisses for all the gifts. I, in turn, could’ve witnessed their smiles at that very moment.

Sure, Keaton was amused with all the gifts and toys. But I could see in my son that he was also sad. I’m aware he knew that Auntie Mel Mel had dropped by. Yes, I mentioned it to him; but more importantly, he felt her presence. He’s always been an intelligent and sensitive young fellow, who’s in touch with his emotions and surroundings. It’s no surprise, then, that he felt a deeper sadness than meets the superficial eye. I, myself, couldn’t bear to see the Christmas tree after Christmas was over. Even though I grew up keeping the tree up way beyond New Year’s — I’ve always loved seeing it longer than necessary — these past two Christmases I couldn’t. I felt too depressed to see it knowing that it was a sad Christmas. I told him Keaton to say “thank you” and “bye bye” to the tree — he waved with gratitude — and proceeded to taking everything down.


New Year’s Eve was better already. We all healed from our colds — my parents included — so we had my parents over. It was a very simple and low key evening. I was in my pyjamas and bath robe all night. Perhaps in an alternate reality, I would’ve put effort into looking cute for the night, but in all frankness, I couldn’t mask the turmoil that boiled within me, and a bathrobe and pyjamas paid honest tribute to that — and I liked that a lot. We also didn’t have champagne on hand, so we just ordered a bottle of white wine instead from UberEats. After my parents left at around 10PM, I knocked out shortly after. I felt like an old granny. Even old grannies do better than me, let’s be real.

Keaton also slipped and fell — so hard, that his teeth cut his upper lip what looks to be almost in two. Blood was gushing, but to his and our relief, after holding a cold and wet cloth to his lip and rotating cloths religiously, the blood stopped. My poor little guy’s upper lip was very swollen. Overall, though, he’s been doing OK and hasn’t been bothered by his little bobo. He’s also been breastfeeding well and eating well. I was afraid it would be a nightmarish scenario where he wouldn’t be able to eat anything.

Keaton loves the playground at the farm. I do, too! There’s even a mini train and barn that kids can enter and enjoy.
It was a comical and endearing sight to see the farm workers walk these donkeys to their enclosure here; it took quite a while for them to make it! One of the donkeys was very playful and almost cinematic to observe.
I love that all the cows had names. In the other barn, we also saw the names of the calves’ parents. There was a calf that was born on Christmas Day, and he was the most handsome little dude ever!
We stood here watching the tractor transport the hay on the wagon. I think it was one of Keaton’s favourite moments, if not the favourite moment.

New Year’s Day was much better already. I was at a better place mentally and emotionally. Maybe it’s because Christmas was over. We took Keaton to the farm, and luckily, the weather was very mild for a winter day, so we were able to spend a few hours outside enjoying the animals and the playground. Our little guy had a good time. It was magical for him to go from watching farm tractor videos in the morning, to actually showing up at a farm and seeing tractors in live action. It’s his second time visiting the farm, and I appreciate that it’s within walking distance of our abode. One thing I appreciate about this city is, even though it’s a car kind of city, there’s still a lot of nature and parks that abound.

It’s difficult having a toddler, or kids in general, during a pandemic. Social experiences, activities, and adventures have become more limited. Apartment living and being without a car has also presented us with additional challenges. Yet for my husband and I, we try our best to give our son as many experiences as we can possibly muster. No matter the circumstances — rain or heavy snow — we’d walk our son in the stroller to our destination, even if it was an hour’s walk away. We’ve taken him to Christmas markets, museums, malls — many places on foot. There was no other way. Public transportation is unreliable and risky with COVID-19, so walking was the answer. Yet I have no complaints. I’ve spent most of my life walking for hours on end, even until my ankles bled, so naturally, I have a lovely appreciation for it.

As a parent to a toddler during this crazy period, making decisions is always difficult. While we make decisions based on our values and priorities, which, in essence, is our son’s health and well-being, we’ll still never know if these were the right or wrong decisions. We know that Keaton longs for connection with other children — it pains us to no end — and even if he’ll most likely be OK if he caught COVID-19, we’re still unaware of the long-term repercussions of the virus on his health. Is it worth the risk? Not for us. Every parent has their own risk threshold that they’re willing to adhere to — us included. I don’t think many of us know what the fuck we’re doing throughout all of this mess. There’s got to be some kind of cost-benefit analysis, and something’s always got to give. But we’re all trying our best to do the right thing for our families. My only regret in my life right now, is that I wish I were able to be a happier, healthier mother for my son. I’m beaten down.

Salt & pepper shake

Keaton’s fun and imaginary play these days is centred on his new kitchen. I’m very glad that we decided to invest in this kitchen, because it gives him something to do these long, cold winter days, that doesn’t have to do with him watching “meh meh” or TV shows. It’s also very rewarding to see him exercising his imagination and engaging in pretend play. While his nose is a running faucet these days — momma here is sick with an unforgiving cold, too — he’s content with his kitchen.

The cutest moment is when the three of us are playing together and he serves up food for us. He loves adding salt and pepper to his dishes; he’ll even make the “chhh chhh” sound when he shakes them. The microwave is his favourite, though, and he’ll ask me to put oven mitts on him (actually his winter mitts). He’ll also make the “beep beep beep” sound. I’ve noticed that he finds it more enticing when daddy makes kitchen sounds and serves up food; he’ll try to emulate it. It makes all the sense in the world because he’s always observing what his daddy does in day-to-day life!

Building blocks!

Our little guy is highly energetic and easily distracted — I know most toddlers are — but Keaton has always been extraordinary in his extremes. He’s very aware, loving, gentle, perceptive, and kind; but he’s also very demanding and strong-willed. He’s always been a difficult baby — very high needs and hyperactive. I find myself defeated and beaten down most days, and not knowing how to entertain him. While I take him to the park, sometimes twice a day, even in the coldest of winters — we’re always the only crazy ones there — it’s always been challenging to entertain him at home. He’s never been interested in his toys or painting or crafts, or in the activities that I actively set up for him (I appreciate all the online tools that parents have put out there).

One day, as he was napping, I searched online for some DIY toddler activities and stumbled upon poking spaghetti or pipe cleaners in a colander and “pom pom whisk,” two of which are great fine motor skill activities for a toddler. But instead of pulling out the pom poms one by one or threading the spaghetti or pipe cleaners into the colander individually, he took the smart and easy way out: he continuously banged the whisk against the floor and table, which prompted all the pom poms to fly out faster and more efficiently, and he turned the colander right side up and just deposited the whole batch of spaghetti in it, rather than threading them into the holes. I was at a loss for words and just laughed. Clearly, my child wasn’t one to waste time; he had smarts and a will of his own nature.

But another day, I had this crazy idea to buy him blocks — shoutout to Dollarama for a well-spent $4 — and lo and behold, it’s become one of his new favourite activities. My husband has been raving about what a great idea it was. That’s when I know I’m beat tired: little obvious details surpassed me completely. How could I have not thought of blocks before? It’s a fantastic toy for him, of course, because he always loves stacking and organizing objects; and now, seeing him so concentrated makes my heart elated. He’s thinking, he’s analyzing, he’s focusing, he’s learning. Win! It warms my heart to see him sit and build blocks; he looks like a little boy.

Today, I tried teaching him the alphabet and lined the letters with their respective cards. Instead of being interested in the colourful line of alphabet letters that I set up for him, his imagination instructed him otherwise: it was to be used as a trail for his vehicles! Momma here laughed out loud. Again, my son is a contrarian and always has his own agenda. Frankly, I respect that. I love his independent and stubborn streak. He’s a visionary, and I admire that about him very much.

Our Christmas tree is very dynamic, if I may say, because it’s constantly changing appearances and identities. That’s what happens when a toddler is constantly removing ornaments and stealing candy canes!

I’m sad to say that Christmas is only a few days away, and there are so many activities that I hadn’t had the time and opportunity to experience. In fact, days scurried on by so fast that it’s hard to believe that while it’s my favourite time of the year, it hardly feels like it. This year is the saddest holiday season thus far for me, and I’m sure many people out there share this sentiment. For me, it’s the financial strain; it’s the lack of time and resources, and the constant exhaustion; it’s missing family and social connections; it’s the stress of not being able to feel free and in control in my own living environment. Oh, and hey Omicron, you raging, sexy beast. I’m giving you a shoutout, too!

Yet my husband and I take full responsibility for where we are now in our lives, and the current circumstances that encase us. There are certain moments when we feel like we’ve failed our son — when we wish we could’ve done better. It’s an uncomfortable experience, and we don’t shy away from the realities of our shortcomings. But what I’m proud of — and I say this loud and clear — is that in the midst of all the tidal waves, we’ve still created a home and safe space for our son. We make do with what we have, and in the best ways possible. Our Christmas tree is a symbolic representation of our lives: there’s beauty, there’s hope, and there’s love and joy.

When I quickly assess our apartment, of course I’m reminded of the constant discomfort and anxiety. There’s the structural inadequacies of the unit and the building at large, the neighbours downstairs whose noise levels prohibit us from even hearing our own thoughts, and the inconsiderate maskless folks who believe that the Sun revolves around their sorry asses. Yet, my heart is full and grateful. We have what we need and we’re cozy. My husband’s proud that I’ve transformed our abode into a warm, fun, and inviting place. I love Keaton’s play space most of all. Seeing his Nana’s paintings on the wall, his house and the stickers that adorn it, and his kitchen and food truck — they all make me feel happy and blessed. And I know that Keaton feels this way, too.

Blogmas: Mwuah, Rudolpho

Here’s our Christmas tree! It will be our first Christmas here at the apartment, and adding a festive tree adorned with sentimental ornaments and lights really makes our abode cozy and warm. We did resort to moving all the candy canes to the upper half of the tree, though, because Keaton will grab them and run off into the sunset otherwise! If not by reaching up for them himself, then with the swift movement of his sassy broom.

This year will be extra fun because Keaton is now a bit older, so he’ll be able to enjoy Christmas and have a better understanding of the festivity. When we put up the tree, he even helped us put up the ornaments. But he didn’t want to do it himself. He just wanted to hand the ornaments to us, and demand where they go with unswerving knowing and conviction. I have a feeling that by the time Christmas rolls around, the tree will either be naked and the ornaments missing, or it will have gone through many identity crises thanks to Keaton.

This doggie or “meh meh” ornament is special — it makes me smile so much — because it’s Keaton’s first ornament, which he chose himself. When his daddy showed him the display of ornaments at the Nutcracker store and pointed to them one by one, he made a sound to gesture that this was the one he wanted.

The doggie is a West Highland Terrier. When I look at it, it looks just right — as if it really is Keaton’s doggie and buddy. It looks and feels like his personality, and he knows it.

My husband, Bruno, and I also have our annual special ornament for Christmas, and this year we chose this Jack Skellington and Sally ornament, which symbolizes the early days of our dates — the sweet cusp between Halloween and Christmas — and the fruits of our relationship.

My husband and I are renowned elves. It seems that every year we spread the Christmas cheer by putting up a tree in someone’s house, who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered. This time, we chalked up my parents’ holiday spirit and brought this tree — once in my work office — over to their home.

When we began setting up the tree and decorations, my parents’ faces lit up with joy. Mom even went to the basement to take out my childhood ornaments and other decor. Dad himself helped put up the ornaments — I could see that he was at peace. They really enjoyed this moment of shared family tradition — this time with their grandson. It had also been a long time since they put up a tree, probably since their children were living with them.

We also gifted them this special mouse ornament because it symbolizes Keaton, their grandson.

Besides putting up Christmas trees and decorations, another fun part about the holiday season is taking out Christmas mugs. These are two new ones that we recently added to our collection. With their Christmas-y nature, they make coffee ever more tasty and soul-satisfying! (Or bitter, if you’re a morning coffee Grinch.)

A cute-as-a-button gingerbread cookie from the Christmas Market! I told my husband that my ultimate goal this year is to find and eat a classic gingerbreadman cookie that’s been decorated, and here it is! Keaton also had his own cookie that day at the market. It was so heartwarming that he ate his gingerbread cookie as he was holding my hand and walking around.

The next evening, my husband and I returned to the Christmas Market. While the day before we’d done a family trip there with our son, we also wanted to have our own date night there, especially after dark when the fairy lights begin romancing our souls. It was a cold night, but oh so beautiful. The music, the smiles, and the celebration — I felt happy. For the first time in a long time since Keaton’s birth, my Love and I had a date (thank you to Kong-Ma), and I felt like myself again. I also couldn’t help but start dancing to the music, too.

Today, we also adopted Rudolpho, our new reindeer friend, from our local Christmas Farmer’s Market. Keaton loves him with such sweet gentleness. When he arrives home, he’d greet his new buddy with a hug and a kiss. It warms my heart to no end!