Big boy haircut and a rawr-some 3!

Keaton will be turning a big-boy-three in just a few dodos; and this past weekend, we celebrated his milestone.

Lately, he’s been heavily invested in dinosaurs, so for this year’s birthday, I transformed his obsession into a rawr-some party to remember, with plenty of dino pals as invitees.

He knew he was going to be the centre of attention going into his birthday weekend; after all, he’d just received a big boy haircut — bye bye bowl cut — and he’d been hearing us talk about all the excitement surrounding his cake and balloons, and his family’s visit.

On this full day of celebration, my heart ached less. I felt grateful seeing my little chou grow so big. With his new haircut, he looked unrecognizable — he looked like a big kid! How handsome he is. And more importantly, how principled and honourable he’s grown to be, with so much love in his heart. His thirst for adventure is limitless. We’re so proud of him.

This is a little boy with so much depth. He was indeed over the moon with the dinosaur-themed birthday and birthday cake, and with all the cool gifts he’d received. But most of all, he deeply appreciated the simplicity and power of love and connection. The greatest gift to him, at the depths of it all, was really his family’s visit.

He’d been missing his aunts, uncle, and cousins greatly, even Snow, his doggie BFF, who’s a comical match to his hyperactivity. Watching the two- and four-legged troublemakers chase each other around was hilarious, for they kept each other entertained.

I could tell how safe and at peace he felt with everyone, and how healing it was to be surrounded by his family: he was able to play calmly with his toys and exist amongst everyone without a fuss, which isn’t characteristic of him on a regular day at home.

Keaton may be hyperactive and need constant stimulation and novelty, which includes expelling his energy regularly, but more than that, there was something much deeper that we always knew: he craved social interaction and friends. Many variables made it so that he doesn’t have many playmates — we feel a lot of guilt — but we try the best we could, with what we have, to give him such opportunities.

It was heartbreaking for him to learn that everyone was leaving when it felt like they’d just arrived. He sat on the stairs and for the first time, with his new haircut, he looked like an older boy, rather than a toddler, who was sad. It was both a beautiful and a sad sight to behold.

We reassured him that his aunts, uncle, and cousins would meet him again. Days, weeks, and months feel like an eternity to a kid. But the next reunion will be ever so sweet. Hopefully soon.

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

The “Bruno’s birthday”

My husband turned a handsome and much loved 39 last week. When I asked him what scones he wanted for his birthday breakfast, he didn’t hesitate: he wanted matcha chocolate chip scones, and only matcha chocolate chip scones.

I had no idea when I baked matcha scones for the first time that they’d turn out to be his all-time favourite flavour. After all, he’s never been much of a matcha ninja like me — at least not self-confessed. But was I ever pleasantly surprised and happy that my BFF was just as excited as I was.

Since I bake matcha scones regularly, for my husband’s birthday I added sprinkles to the scones to give them a joyful touch. I even named them the “Bruno’s birthday” scone — a signature look and flavour in honour of my love’s birthday. They turned out so delicious and super cute and fun. He ate three in one go right after they popped out of the oven!

Scones weren’t the only nom noms that my husband had requested for his birthday. He’d also requested a red velvet cheesecake. I’ve baked cheesecakes before, but never have I baked anything red velvet, so I felt quite intimidated.

“Gods of gluttony, please guide my poor soul!” I prayed.

Clueless as I was about how to deliver this cake — I’m very well-versed in eating it, though — since my love requested it, I knew I had to deliver his birthday wish and put a smile on his face.

The sprinkles bled a little when I put the cake in the fridge overnight, but the swirls they created reminded me of the galaxy.

There were so many variations of red velvet cheesecake scattering the internet that I didn’t know which one to choose. I ended up going with a recipe that was tailored for mini cheesecakes, and had many burning questions tickling my tired brain in the midst of baking.

“Do I bake it in the oven for twice as long since I’m baking a whole cake? Is the red velvet portion supposed to be soft and cake-y, or dense and fudgy?” I had no idea; I was just going to wing it.

In the end, the cake turned out a wee over-baked but successful overall. I’d never baked with cocoa or used food colouring, or even thought about attempting anything red velvet, so I was quite happy.

Here’s the recipe I used for the red velvet cheesecake:

Note to my husband: I’m sorry, my love, the day turned out less than ideal. But for what it’s worth, I hope you enjoyed the sweet treats, our son’s delighted joy, and know that you are so loved and appreciated. Happy birthday many times over.

Petit bout de chou is twelve

Keaton turned a tiger-esque One!

“If people ask how old he is, we’ll just say he’s twelve,” we both laughed.

There’s a joke my husband and I share about our son: he’s not a baby, he’s a pre-teen. Not only does he sport the physique, but he’s already sassy enough to be one. Oh, how he asserts his individuality and independence. As for us, R.I.P. We’re exhausted — just picture old dishevelled alley raccoons with missing hair on their tails from a street brawl. We’ve got dark under eye circles and we’re pitifully half-baked, but are we ever happy and appreciative.

Parenthood is a comical and mercurial thing. How being miserably depleted of any remaining mental faculty can co-exist proudly with butter-like feelings of immense joy and satisfaction, is a mystery to me. It’s like being slapped upside the head repeatedly yet still finding yourself smiling and wildly whispering, “Yes… yes…give me more.” It damn hurts, who wants that? Let’s be real: parents are nuts. We’re nuts. And I love it.

It’s surreal to think that one year has passed since our son’s birth. Between motherhood, debilitating fatigue, and my suspected depression — and, an unpitying pandemic — there’s a feeling of having lost my awareness of time. There’s a sense of amnesia I experience where every day feels strangely different yet familiarly the same — when each day rolls out into the next unscathed. Life has been far from normal — our identities, core values, characters, relationships tested through it all — but when I look at our son and see how happy and vibrant he is, I know that everything is worth it and as it should be.

Keaton is now a tiger-esque One, and it’s been a real treat to watch him grow and thrive. I adore how obsessively analytical and perceptive he is; how stealthily and quickly he prances like a tiger; and how his soul emanates compassion and sensitivity. When I look at him, I know that he’s truly ours. There’s much I’d like to write about him here — I wish the world knew and witnessed just how wondrous he is — but at the same time, I wish to reserve him for the private recesses of my heart. There’s a certain injustice in attempting to paint a portrait of him — I feel as though I’m doing him a disservice. My goal as his mother isn’t to try to convey to the world who he is; rather, it’s to provide him with the necessary tools and guidance that will enable him to reveal himself to the world, on his own terms, in due time.

Yet that’s our catch-22, and the most emotionally-charged part of our current experience. It wasn’t the isolation and lack of support throughout the pandemic, nor the crippling fatigue of caring for a baby. It wasn’t the mastitis that felt like razors to my breasts, and that provoked cries of agony. It wasn’t even the emotional trauma of motherhood — the other side of the coin that’s rarely discussed. If you harbour wounds, and are aware of it, you know that something unexpected happens when you have your first baby: unresolved and repressed pains surface. The journey to motherhood is all-encompassing: sweet and joyful, and also dark and traumatic. Yet there’s no healing time between diapers, meals, and laundry.

Nevertheless, none of that could’ve weakened my knees in the grand scheme of things. I was the child of parents who’d survived a genocide and forced labour, and who’d lost children in the process. I was also the child who was fearful of the sound of roaring thunder, but when my father told me that bombs were twenty times louder and scarier during the war, grew to understand that fear was a state of mind. And thus was my mantra from a young and ripe age: if my parents had survived the worst of life, there was nothing in this world that I wouldn’t be able to overcome. My silhouette was my own to meet and greet over many times, under different circumstances, no matter how menacing it may appear.

As a mother now, however, I realized the following: I may be unyielding and resilient as an individual, but as a mother I was vulnerable. I had something to lose that was beyond myself, just as I had something to love that was beyond myself. Keaton was that whom I loved beyond myself, and therein lies my deepest heartache: we were never able to share him — our greatest pride and joy — with our families and the rest of the world since he was born. He was our first baby, our first love. Yet no one was able to see and experience him as we had. The pleasure of sharing our first bundle of joy would’ve been just as paramount as acquiring support from loved ones in times of distress, and through it all, I felt robbed of my most natural need.

Many of us had been struggling in some way, shape, or form. Throughout my transition to motherhood, I realized just how much I needed my family and support network — to feel their reassuring touch and warmth. And I knew that throughout this pandemic, they needed us just as much. When I look at our parents who’d lived difficult lives and are old and vulnerable, I come to feel ever more that time is indeed of the essence and that every moment counts. Life doesn’t wait for anyone, especially not when you’ve reached old age — and more so when you’re a real victim of COVID-19. In one year of our lives — the young and healthy — life has remained relatively stable. In one year of our elderly parents’ lives, whether they’ll ever see their grandson is a gamble in a spec of time.

Yet I could no longer wish for a world that wasn’t — that was unbearable, and insanity to say the least. The only way out was through. And that was to make amends with the current situation of our lives and to accept without reservation that being happy and grateful was a matter of adapting to the present moment, and to the ever-evolving whims of life. All of life was, after all, but perception, attunement, and a comedic and lighthearted dance with the cosmic forces of nature and humanity’s collective psyche — if one so chooses. There’s immense power and healing in yielding. Keaton’s birthday became one of the happiest memories of my life, because I willed it to be. And so it was.

His chalkboard of milestones

Keaton’s first birthday was the climatic point of my pride and joy, and this post, so heavily charged, pays honour to it. His birthday, and the elated happiness I felt, wouldn’t have been what it was without the past and current context of our lives. It was at once a celebration of him and a testament of our resilience and strength as a cohesive unit and family. One year later, I was still breastfeeding my son — a point of pride because I’ve lived through much pain without help or support at a time when the world fell into a state of chaos. My husband and I also became all the wiser and stronger, and our son grew beautifully into our beloved kindred spirit. As my husband would say, “We’ve struggled, but we’re doing something right.”

Thank you to my dearest husband for all of his love and support. For loving me gently and kindly at a time when I didn’t have the strength. For his utmost patience and dedication as a father and a family gentleman. For the smiles and laughter he’s brought to Keaton and me.

I’ll always remember Keaton’s first birthday, even if he most likely won’t remember it himself, much less babyhood in a pandemic. The day was ever so sweet. He immediately noticed the “Happy Birthday” banner on the wall of his play space as soon as we walked into the room in the wee hours of the morning — the curtains still hiding the morning light outside. I could tell that he was observing the banner intently, and the cutest part was that he kept smiling while looking at it. It’s as if he knew that a surprise was awaiting him later that day. I couldn’t wait for him to see the kitchen — the real birthday setting. Yet when we walked in, rather than react with surprise and excitement, he quietly analyzed and assessed his surroundings.

The afternoon was young, and Keaton was in a good mood throughout the day. (Phew, such sweet relief for an anxious event planner like mommy.) Auntie Mel Mel arrived at the scene like Santa Claus at a birthday party — bags and boxes of gifts weighing her down as she walked up the stairs to our apartment. I was just as surprised as Keaton when we witnessed fun orange and green helium balloons slowly emerging from the bag that sheltered them — the colours paying homage to our jungle theme, and orange to his spirited personality. In fact, I joined my son in sheer excitement and clapped like a happy seal. (I’m a big kid, I must admit. And I have no shame.)

Peek-a-boo flavour: red velvet with cream cheese

My favourite token of his jungle-themed birthday was his custom cake. Since we often refer to him as a baby tiger, due to his fearless and determined nature mixed with a sassy tint of stubbornness and charm, I asked the cake decorator to create a baby tiger fondant as the centerpiece to symbolize him. It looked so stinkin’ cute. We even kept the tiger fondant in the freezer, with the intention of showing it to him in the years to come. Funnily, his grandparents really had a kick watching him eat his birthday cake slowly but surely on video. As with everything he does, even eating his cake was done with careful tact and calculation.

The heartwarming part of it all, was that in spite of the pandemic and lockdown measures, our loved ones and those that mattered most to us got to be present — we celebrated Keaton’s birthday virtually. When it came time to singing “Happy Birthday” and cutting the cake, we video-called our parents and siblings, and while I comically thought we’d lose one or two along the way — imagine old parents using technology — the event was much more smooth-sailing than I’d anticipated. I couldn’t be happier than seeing Keaton studying the screens, curious of his grandparents’ many facial expressions, even if he didn’t really understand who they were or what they were communicating, only that they were cheering for him. There was something honest and beautiful in that moment: his grandparents felt his presence, just as he felt theirs.

That was his first birthday in quarantine: fun, thematic, and fit for a little guy with a big personality. Even if the world was imperfect and his grandparents and relatives couldn’t be there in person, we were blessed because we still had technology. Our parents had the opportunity to see him smile and laugh, which was enough to equip them with courage and strength. As for us, we were surrounded by love and support. Keaton is so deeply loved, and seeing him burst with laugher on his birthday while delighting in the sight of all the decor and treats, was all I needed.

Blueberry cheesecake for a 36th


My boyfriend turned 36 a few days ago, and for his birthday, I baked him his favourite: blueberry cheesecake. From the moment I learned that cheesecake was his tummy’s go-to (which was during the beginning of our ‘courtship’), I made a note in my agenda reminding myself to surprise him with this delectable and diabolic goodness.

Living together and working similar schedules makes planning surprises a slippery slope. What was intended to be a surprise for him turned out to be somewhat of a team project. We field-tripped to the grocery store together, and with me shyly grabbing cream cheese and graham crackers and hippity-hopping around the aisles looking for blueberries, he knew: I was baking him blueberry cheesecake. (Hello, inevitable!) I must say, kudos to him for being able to withstand not devouring it before the day of celebration, even though it was the ultimate temptress.

This occasion actually marked my first time baking cheesecake, and we were both wildly impressed. My boyfriend even continued having some over the following days for breakfast and dessert. I did overbake it a little though, and overload on the jam which overpowered the fine taste of the cheesecake itself. (Little notes for next time.)

My face is no longer mine. My cheeks have become ever so swollen — so much so, that I could be identified as a chipmunk who’s hiding nuts in its cheeks. Reason being? I ate too much cheesecake, friends.


2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs
2 cups frozen blueberries
1/3 cup blueberry jam


1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Combine crumbs, 4 tablespoons sugar, and butter. Pat mixture into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan.
2. Mash cream cheese until soft and creamy. Slowly mix in sour cream, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla and flour. Beat in eggs one at a time.
3. Pour mix into crumb-lined pan. Bake in oven for 1 hour or until firm.
4. Let cool, then melt blueberry jam over cake and add frozen blueberries.

See original recipe here: