Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ready to go

The new blog is up and running. If you want the address, send me a quick email to kwok.jaclynATgmail.com and I'll be happy to send the link.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Blank Slate

I've decided to delete this blog.

It's not what I'd originally intended it to be, nor is it what I'd like it to be. It's lacking focus and direction, and I think it's time to just start over.

I'm going to take a couple of weeks off, and then I'll be launching a new blog. If you would like to read the new blog, feel free to email me at kwokDOTjaclynATgmailDOTcom and I'd be happy to share the new address with you when there's something for you to read.

I'd like to thank those of you who have read my meager offerings and taken the time to comment. It's meant a lot to me to have you visit me here, and I hope that my new blog will have more to offer.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Seven Quick Things

No, I'm not really doing the Seven Quick Takes this week. Why? Well, if I call it that, then I feel obligated to formally take part by putting my link on Conversion Diary. And I don't wanna. So you're getting things instead of takes. (I'm going to just go ahead and assume nobody really cares either way.)

So here goes.

1. Since Simon celebrated his very first half-birthday a few days ago, I couldn't help but make him half a cake. But of course it wasn't really for him, since he's way too young to eat it. But his father, sister and I all enjoyed it on his behalf.

2. On Wednesday evening, I went out. Me. By myself. Alone. No kids. No husband. Just me. Sure, I met up with a girlfriend for coffee, but I went out by myself. As far as I can recall, this has not happened since Simon's birth six months ago. It felt good.

3. However, I arrived home (about 50 minutes later than I'd intended to) only to discover that both kids were awake. Simon had been up for about an hour, and Norah hadn't actually gone to sleep at all. This is highly unusual behaviour for both of them. Francis was a little frazzled, as this meant he hadn't even started his lesson plans at this point (it was nearly 10pm). Long story short, Simon conked out around 11pm, while his big sister managed to hold out until 12:30pm before finally dozing off. (She wasn't even upset - she was just lying in her bed, telling herself a story which involved Elmo and Pocoyo eating a great deal of ice cream. Her story was interrupted by occasional demands of reassurance that at least one of her parents were close by.)

4. Come Thursday morning, I was rough. I got out of bed and thought, "Man. I feel like a zombie." Then I logged in to Facebook (a.k.a. Crackbook) and saw that another mother on my list had declared in her status: "So-and-so is tired. She feels like a zomby!" Ugh. A friend had commented saying, "That's normal. Us mommy's feel like zomby's a lot." I logged out at that point and made some coffee.

5. My instinct on days when I feel like garbage is to let Norah watch waaaay too many episodes of Pocoyo, and drink waaaay too much caffeine. I made up my mind just after breakfast that I was going to have a better day than that, and I think I succeeded. Photographic evidence:
Norah helped me by finger-painting some homemade Christmas wrapping paper.
I made a double batch (2 dozen) homemade tortillas to go with the chicken tacos I made in the slow cooker for supper.

And I made a wreath out of wrapping paper that I could have just used instead of getting Norah to make some for me... Oops. But I'm pretty sure her grandparents would rather have Norah's creation than Ikea paper any day.
After all of that, I still managed to pack up Simon and get to a women's potluck supper, socialize for a while, then head back home in time for band practice at 8pm. Whew!

6. I chipped a tooth today. No, that's not quite accurate, actually. Today, part of my tooth fell off. I'm not kidding. I was eating lunch (leftover chicken tacos, very soft) and I suddenly bit into something hard. I discovered moments later that the hard thing was actually part of one of my bicuspids which, apparently, had decided to vacate the premises. Am I an old woman? Am I really falling apart already? I get lots of calcium, so I'm not really sure what this is about. I booked a dentist appointment for Tuesday so I can hopefully get to the root of the problem. (Get it? Root? Tooth? Hahaha.... Sorry.)
7. My sister sent me this link, and I've been using it to compile ideas for our family's very first Advent calendar. I'd thought about doing one last year, but the exhaustion was overwhelming. Norah was 10 months old and had just started sleeping more than an hour at a time at night, I was three and a half months pregnant, and we were still getting settled in our new home. This year I have two (generally) champion sleepers, I'm not pregnant (despite rumors to the contrary) and our home is as settled as it will ever be. I'm so looking forward to initiating new family traditions! Even though we'll have to transport the calendar to Halifax when we head out in the middle of December, it will be a wonderful part of our family's preparations for Christmas.
I am so very grateful it's Friday. I'm looking forward to some much-needed R & R this weekend - I hope you all get the same.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What happened?

Where's my little eight-pound baby? I swear, I just brought him home from the hospital a week or two ago. Have you seen him? He looks like this:He was just here! I only took my eyes off him for a moment, and when I looked back my wriggly little newborn was gone, and there's a 20+ pound, six month old baby in his place!

And this kid, well. He laughs:
He "runs":
He hovers when he's feeling kooky:
And he has the most sparkly eyes I've ever seen on a little boy:
Come to think of it, as much as I miss that helpless little bundle, I'm really very fond of this new big boy, too. He sits up all by himself. He loves to look at books and chew the toys on his exersaucer. He loves his Jolly Jumper (obviously!) and "big boy food". Veggies, fruits, rice cereal and even Baby Mum-Mums! But most of all he loves his mommy and daddy and his big sister. He always has kisses and giggles to share, and loves a good cuddle.

I know I need to let my babies grow up, but it's at milestones like this - half a year! - that I can't help but think time is passing too quickly. I guess it's a good reminder to enjoy every minute of every different stage - and to not get too bogged-down when the current stage is a little more challenging. It won't last forever!
Happy half-birthday, sweet Simon. I love you!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Because I always show you my cakes

There's not much to this post, other than photos - just a warning. It turns out that the cake Francis had booked for me has been cancelled. Apparently the birthday girl's father really wants to make her a cake this year. The mother is skeptical, but willing to let him try. On the upside, she does want me to make a bunch of elaborate cookies to give out as the party favors.
So, in order to cheer myself up, I whipped up a big ol' batch of modeling chocolate and made a swan. Then I made another swan. Followed by a couple of teddy bears, and a pair of starfish for good measure.
Sound random?
Well it was in the beginning. But then I decided they'd make great cake toppers. They're a little on the small side though, so I figured I'd go with mini cakes. Mini cakes are really just jumbo cupcakes, but with a whole lot more detailed decorating than you'd normally find on a cupcake. And so I present to you, my mini cakes:

The swan that started it all. I just thought a swan would be fun to shape - they're just so darned graceful. That one swan turned into a pair of "Swan Lake" cakes.
What's a lake without a lily pad? Nothing, I tell you. So I made a couple of water lilies out of some fondant I had leftover from another project I did last week.

I liked the way my "A Day at the Beach" mini cakes turned out. The graham cracker crumbs worked rather well as sand, and I just happen to like starfish. They remind me of that cliche story about the man who comes across hundreds of starfish washed up on the shore, and begins to throw them back into the water, one at a time. Another man sees what he's doing, and asks him why he's bothering to do it. "There are too many of them," he says. "It won't make a difference." The first man picks up a starfish, and before he throws it into the water he says, "It makes a difference to this one."
See? Wouldn't you throw this little guy back into the buttercream ocean? Or maybe you'd just eat him. He tastes a lot like a Tootsie Roll.
Finally, a pair of "Teddy Bears' Picnic" cakes. I think these could be cute for a kid's birthday party.
While I enjoyed all the modeling chocolate work, I also really enjoyed making the fondant pieces. And the teeny tiny food was the most fun of all. The apples are about the size of a pea, and if you look closely, you can see I even inserted a little chocolate stem. I tend to get a little obsessive about these things.

Now I have to touch up the photos (sorry, you just get the raw versions) and then add them to my website. Then, I have to start figuring out how to go about these "under the sea" themed cookies I have to make for this client. (I just really enjoy using that word!)

P.S. In case you've never seen this blog, my goal is to never end up here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I was sitting on the living room floor around 8pm last night, nursing Simon and enjoying the breeze coming in the window. Francis was outside mowing the lawn, and the rapid clicking of our push mower was the only sound I could hear, except for one or two cars driving past the house. It was quiet and lovely and sleepy and perfect.

And then...

"Mr. Kwok!! Mr. Kwok, is that you?"

Huh? That voice. It was so... adolescent.

"Guys, that's Mr. Kwok, behind the bushes!"

Is this actually happening?
"Hey Mr. Kwok! Are you mowing?"

No, definitely not happening. Oh wait, yes it is. Dang.

"Chit chat, yadda yadda, blah blah blah..."

I peeked out the window, and there were at least half a dozen teenagers in our driveway. I say at least because it was quite dark, but I counted six for sure. I'm fairly certain there were more, however. They stuck around for about five minutes, just shooting the breeze with my husband.

Now here's what I'm wondering: There are only about two weeks left until these kids go back to school (they start late here - the 8th). In what universe do teenagers go out of their way to chat with a teacher during the last two weeks of their precious summer vacation? I cannot imagine ever, ever, ever having done that in my youth. I cannot imagine even having the nerve to walk onto my teacher's property and strike up a casual conversation at any time.

So are things really so different now than they were 17 years ago? Or are things just so different here in our funny little village?

Or perhaps the difference is that I never had a teacher like Mr. Kwok. A.K.A. Mr. K-walk. The teacher who showed off his mad break-dancing, guitar-playing, song-writing and singing skills all in the same school talent show.

The guy who let his students style his hair and then take this picture while practicing for yearbook shots:

Okay, so maybe I would have walked into his driveway...

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Lord, I am not worthy"

It's my favourite part of the Mass. Gets me every time. We echo those centuries-old words when we pray, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

For a long time, I pondered exactly what word it is He would say. It's not like an "abracadabra" kind of magic word, I know. I assume it's probably The Word. You know, the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Word who was there in the beginning, who was with God and who is God. That makes sense to the logical part of my brain.

But the emotional, sentimental part of my brain thinks of it a different way. I think of the story of Easter, when Mary Magdalene didn't recognize the resurrected Jesus. She addressed him as the gardner at first, and only saw who he truly was when he spoke her name. She hears him say, "Mary" and immediately she knows him. For me, during Mass, that is the word that is spoken to heal me - Jaclyn.

I bet you're wondering why I bring this up.

If you read my last post, you know that Francis was out of town for a couple of days, and I was on my own with a toddler and a newborn. Thursday morning was great. Thursday afternoon was even better. As of 6pm on Thursday, it all went downhill. Fast.

Come Norah's bedime on Friday, I was done. Spent. Finished. Gonzo. I had nothing left to give, after getting only four hours of broken sleep on Thursday night, and having a rough day with two exceptionally cranky kids all day Friday. So when Norah threw a tantrum as I put her in bed, I wasn't in the best state to deal with it.

She was in her bed, crying. Simon was in my arms, crying. And I was sitting on the floor outside Norah's (open) bedroom door, crying. And trying to reason with her through my tears. She wasn't having any of it. Finally I gave in, and took Simon into her room, where the two of us sat on a chair and waited for her to fall asleep. At this point, I was feeling like an utter failure as a mother. I know that most of that was irrational, post-partum stuff. But that's how I felt. So I prayed.

I told God how unworthy I felt to be given the enormous blessing of raising these two (and any future) children. Desperately and completely unworthy. They're so perfect, so wonderful - and I'm so broken and flawed. I can't possibly be worthy to be their mother.

And then a song came on. We always have a CD playing in Norah's room while she sleeps - it helps to drown out the noise from the rest of the house, and having worship music playing while one sleeps is lovely. So it's Matt Redman in Norah's room, and one of the songs on this particular CD is called - get this - "You're Worthy".

Now obviously Mr. Redman wasn't singing about me. He was singing to the One who is truly worthy. And that's when it hit me:

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive these children. But only say the word, and I shall be healed."

And so He who is worthy has spoken the word - or the Word - and I am healed. I may not be worthy by my own merit, but He has made me so. And for that, I praise Him!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A funny thing happened on our way to having a baby...

Well, not just on the way to the hospital, but there were many funny moments, many ups and downs, during the past five days. So here comes the birth story!

On Monday I went to see my OB, and we had planned that she'd do a stretch and sweep at that appointment. She informed me she couldn't even reach my cervix, let alone tell if a S&S was possible. "Sorry," she said, "but it doesn't look like anything will be happening any time soon." HA!

At about 6am on Tuesday morning, my contractions started. They were sporadic and varying in intensity all day, but around supper time they started to pick up speed. Francis and I decided that while it may not actually be labour (though I was fairly confident it was), that we should head to the hospital to get checked just in case. Because of my previous caesarian birth, I was at risk of uterine rupture, so we felt it was prudent to not wait too long.

We arrived at the hospital around 9:30, and went to triage at labour & delivery. My contractions were every 3 minutes at this point, and lasting around a minute. I was pretty sure this was the real deal. They hooked me up to the monitors to keep track of Simon's heart rate and my contractions. This meant I had to lie on the bed for two hours. As any woman who has gone through childbirth will attest, lying down is definitely not the ideal way to labour! At this point, my contractions got much, much stronger, and I was nearly beside myself.

(A little elaboration here: I had severe back labour with Norah, as she was posterior. That was painful. This time however, all day I kept describing my contractions to my mother and Francis as "not normal". They hurt in a strange spot. Explanation to follow.)

So lying on the table, I was close to throwing up at several times, simply because of the pain. I couldn't believe how much worse it was than when I was in labour the first time. Thankfully, after two hours of this, I had dilated another 1.5cm, and went from 50% to 95% effaced. It was announced that I was, indeed, in labour. We began the process of getting admitted, and were in our room by 1 am.

Now regarding pain medication: With Norah, my plan was to go as long as I possibly could without asking for an epidural. I made it about 27-28 hours before I received my epi. This time, I had made up my mind that I most certainly would get the epidural, as soon as I was able to. Why? Well, if things went wrong quickly and I needed and emergency caesarian birth, I'd be ready to go. Without the epidural, they would have put me under general anaesthetic, and I refused to allow the possibility of being unconscious when my baby was born!

So I got the epidural around 1:40, and tried to get some sleep. At 2:30, they decided my contractions weren't strong enough to progress my labour, so the decision was made to break my water. Back to sleep I went. At 4 am, my doctor checked me and informed me of the bad news: in three hours, I'd dilated only about 1cm.

Pros and cons were tossed about, and Francis and I agreed that it was best to just head to the OR. Better to do it before things turned ugly. I was prepped for surgery, and wheeled down endless corridors.
Simon was born at 5:38am. It was very different than last time - much more relaxed in the OR. Everyone was chatty and jovial, and I wasn't nearly so exhausted. (Plus this time I didn't have to watch the whole thing in the reflection of the OR lights!) Because there was no meconium in the amniotic fluid (like last time) the actual delivery was less scary, too. They delivered his head first, and after some preliminary suctioning, I got to hear my baby cry! Then they completed the delivery, and took him to clean him up. Nobody announced the baby's gender, so Francis was invited to go around and see for himself. As soon as I heard him laugh, I knew I was right - it was a boy! I'd thought so all along.
When they brought him to meet me, I cried. I was so overjoyed! He was perfect and beautiful and perfect, and... well... perfect. We had had two possible boy names chosen, and wanted to wait until we met the baby before choosing the right one. The moment we laid eyes on him, we knew he was Simon.

(Choosing Peter as his second name may sound like a serious Biblical reference, but really it's actually more coincidental. It was decided long ago that Baby #2's second name would be one of Francis' parents' names.)

This is when the shenanigans began. First, his birth weight. He was measured at 21" long, and 6lbs 8oz. That would make for one very long and skinny baby! This mistake wouldn't be confirmed until his 24 hour weigh-in, when the scale registered 7lbs 9oz! (Details in a future post.)
This was the time for me to learn interesting things about my anatomy. Apparently, I have a heart-shaped uterus, and my OB determined during the surgery that this is likely the reason why both Simon and Norah were posterior and refused to descend and engage in my pelvis - causing both labours to stall, resulting in the caesarian births. The second thing I learned cleared up a lot of confusion. Remember I mentioned the very strange contractions? It would seem that when I healed from Norah's delivery, the scar tissue from my uterus formed adhesions with my abdominal wall. That explains the extra-intense pain, and the strange location of the main pain of my contractions. It's unlikely I would have been able to endure that for a natural child birth, even if I hadn't already decided to request an epidural!

Next came the Big Fat Delay. Simon and Francis went off to the nursery, where they could enjoy an hour of skin-to-skin contact time. I, on the other hand, was wheeled of to the reovery room to practice lifting my knees. The doctor assured me that since it was the middle of the night and the recovery room would be empty, Francis and Simon would be able to join me.

Well, I waited patiently. When Norah was born, she was brought to me after her skin-to-skin time to initiate breastfeeding - I was expecting the same thing this time. After close to two hours, my OB came in to give me the news. Simon was breathing very quickly, and wasn't allowed to leave the maternity ward. She assured me that his vitals were fine, and his O2 saturation was fine. They weren't entirely sure why his breathing was abnormal, but their best guess was that it would self-correct after he was able to breastfeed. Yet they wouldn't bring him to me, nor would they allow me to go to my room to see him. In fact, between the moment he was born and the next time I saw him, nearly three and a half hours passed! (I'm very grateful that I didn't find out until much later that he also has a heart murmur.) I knew I couldn't leave until I was able to lift my knees about 6" off the bed. It seemed to take forever - at first I couldn't budge! After learning about the breathing concerns, I was more determined than ever to get those knees up. I've never worked so hard at anything in my life! I finally discovered that if I cheated a little, I could do it. Lifting my knees straight up didn't work, but if I turned my knees outward, I could bend them outward and then fling my knees upward. I did it a hundred times or more, until the recovery room nurse was satisfied. I was grateful my jello legs cooperated.

Finally, the long-awaited moment arrived, and Simon and I were reunited. Three and a half hours of separation is a very long time right after nine months of 24/7 contact! Simon took to breastfeeding immediately, and for that I'm immensely grateful. He's a very happy baby, and I'm sure he'll be a good sleeper eventually. For now, he much prefers to sleep in Mommy's arms or on Mommy's chest. I'm happy to oblige!
The story doesn't end here, but it's long, so I'll continue it in another post. (Or two. Or maybe three.) Stay tuned for exciting stories like "Blasting the Billi", "Oh, What a Night! Coming home from the hospital" and my favourite: "Norah Has a Brother".
Thanks for reading. And thanks for all your prayers and well-wishes. Simon, Norah, Francis and I are feeling well-loved and supported!

I'm in love...

...with a very handsome man. His name is Simon Peter (Chinese name still undecided) Kwok.

I'll post more when I get time. Check back in about 18-20 years.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Food Friday

Okay, confession time.

I'm a little... um... odd, when it comes to baking and serving guests. Just a little.

In the last weeks of my pregnancy with Norah, I had that time-honoured nesting instinct kick in. But where many women channel that energy into a good deep-clean of their house, or stocking their freezer with pasta sauces and frozen casseroles, my energies went into something a little less practical.

You guessed it. Baking.

By the time I'd finished, my freezer was packed with cookies. Sure, there were some meal-related things in there, but those were mostly prepared by Francis and my mother. My contribution was laden with sugar and real butter. I won't bother to tell you exactly how many cookies and squares I put in there, but let's just say I was well into triple digits...

And why did I feel the need to do this, you ask? Follow, if you can, my twisted, hormonal logic:
"When the baby is born, people are going to want to come over and visit to meet him/her. If people come over, I have to serve them something. I'm not okay with putting out a plate of Mr. Christie's finest. But I'm also not likely to have the energy to bake with a newborn to look after. Therefore, I should bake now."

As if people would care what I put out, or even if I put out anything! But one cannot rationalize with a woman preparing to give birth. It's just not possible.

I still like to serve fresh, homemade baked goods when people come over, but I don't always have a lot of energy or a lot of notice. So I've come up with a few things that I can make in a hurry, with a few simple things that I can have on-hand in my freezer at all times. Here's the first:

Berry Galette*
*A "galette" is really just a free-form tart. It just sounds fancier!

You will need these things from your freezer:
Ready-made pastry. Makes everything easier! (Confession #2: I've never made pastry from scratch. Never ever.) Just let it come to room temperature (only takes about 15 minutes) before you try to handle it. By the way, try to get the "deep dish" variety. It just works better.

Of course you can substitute any kind of frozen fruit here, it just so happens that my favourite is the mixed berries. And don't be afraid to buy the no-name version - I'm not hugely brand-loyal when it comes to frozen fruit.

The Cool Whip, of course, can be considered optional. But I like to garnish, so for me it's mandatory. Plus - it's pretty yummy.

Now you just need a few standard things from your fridge/pantry:
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp unsalted butter (margarine is fine too, if that's what you have)

Mix the first 4 ingredients with 3 cups of berries. Take the pastry out of the aluminum pie plate, and place it, more or less flattened-out, in the middle of a cookie sheet.Pile the berry mixture in the middle of the pastry, and dot with the butter/margarine. Now comes the fun part! Fold the pastry over the berries, overlapping the folds and leaving the berries visible in the centre. (Optional: you can brush the pastry a mixture of an egg whisked with 2 tbsp of water to help with the browning). Bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 375, until golden brown. Allow it to cool for 20 minutes before cutting into it (this helps it to thicken).

Trust me, it tastes as yummy as it looks!

If you choose to skip the Cool Whip, you can always dust the galette with a little icing sugar. It's also very tasty if you swap the Cool Whip for vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. (My problem is that ice cream isn't as likely to survive in my freezer!)

Try it out. You won't be disappointed!

*Next week: Chocolate Trifle, also with simple things from your freezer!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sticks and stones

You know how it goes:
"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words will never hurt me."

Not true, my friend. Not true.

I remember my mother (and father, and aunts, and teachers, and, and, and...) repeating this to me/us when I was little. Whenever my brother would call me poo-poo-face, or whenever I ended up at the business end of some new fat joke at school. I know it was always said with the best of intentions, but it just ended up making me feel like I shouldn't be as upset as I was. And frankly, I'm pretty sure that at least most of the time, I had every reason to be upset!

So why bring this up now?

An anniversary looms on the horizon. Not the happy kind, either. Francis and I got engaged on Christmas Eve of 2005. In the spring of 2006, right after Francis got his acceptance to the B.Ed. program, my parents (well, Mom really) put an engagement announcement in the local newspaper.

This is the photo that ran with the announcement. Weren't we cute?

Not long after it was published, I received a card in my mailbox at work. The announcement had included the name of the parish where I worked in Orleans. The envelope was addressed to:
Jaclyn Gannon
c/o Divine Infant Parish
Orleans, ON

That's it. No address, no postal code and no return address. I thought it was a little odd, so I checked the postmark, and saw that it had come through the post office not too far from my parents' neighbourhood.

I opened the envelope, and took out a pretty flowered note card. Inside held a message written in lovely, somewhat old-fashioned penmanship. The note began by congratulating me on getting engaged. How sweet! I thought. Yeah, right...

It went on to say that the sender (who signed the note only as "A Grandmother"), was sure that my decision to marry "outside my race" must be a huge disappointment to my parents and my grandmother, because she was certain that they had "raised me better than that". She went on to tell me that such unions never last, and I should go find a "nice white boy" to marry instead. She insisted I should spare myself the future divorce, by getting out while I still could.

Reading this, standing in the parish office, my jaw was dropping lower and lower. The secretary and another staff member (both ladies I was very close with) were watching me with some concern. They could tell something was wrong. But it wasn't until I read the next part - the part that reduced me instantly to tears - that they swooped in and took the card away. (After reading it themselves, it went instantly into the shredder.)

The "grandmother" told me I was being selfish. She said I obviously hadn't considered the future of my poor children, who would "bear the mark of my sin" because they'd be bi-racial (except she said "mixed").

My sin? My sin? Marrying a good, honest, loving, faith-filled man is a sin? Just because he happens to be Chinese? For some reason, this woman was raised to believe that God has a problem with people marrying someone of a different ethnic background. Even though she seemed to be somewhat familiar with my family (identifying my grandmother), she clearly doesn't actually know my family. If she did, she'd know my parents and grandmother would never have a problem with my choice of spouse based on race. Not just because they're not racist, but because my father himself is the son of a bi-racial man. My dad is one quarter black - his paternal grandfather was a black man who married a white woman.

I've had many (and I do mean many!) strangers stop me on the street, in stores, in church, just to tell me how beautiful they think Norah is. In fact, it happened 3 times in 2 days last week. Nobody has ever stopped me to tell me that they could see the "mark of my sin" in her.

I still feel the sting of those words in that card. Not because I believe a word of it, but because it saddens me that racism still exists. It upsets me to think that Norah may someday personally encounter someone who thinks that way. Growing up white in a predominantly white area, I'd never experienced racism like that on a personal level before this. It changed me. It made me aware of the need to continue to pray for people's views to be changed - for hearts to be changed. I can't hate the woman who sent that note, because I'm sure she honestly believed she was doing the right thing. And, more importantly, because intolerance can never be healed with more hatred.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sarcasm is not becoming

Is it pregnancy itself that makes me more sarcastic than usual? Or is it the exceptional number of sarcasm-causing comments that I get while being pregnant? I prefer to think it's the latter, though my husband may disagree.

What is it with people that makes them think a woman's body/child-spacing/future is fair game once she gets pregnant? Don't people (other women, other mothers, especially) realize that the hormones and sleeplessness that go hand-in-hand with gestating a human make one less able and willing to receive such insensitive comments with grace? Honestly...

*The following comments are all actual things that have been said to me over the past seven months - and more than once.

"Wow, Jaclyn! You're HUGE!" Yeah, you too!

"Two under two, eh? You're going to have your hands full!" Really? Hadn't thought of that. I was thinking it would get easier the more kids I had.

"Pregnant AGAIN? You do know what causes this, right?" No, care to explain it to me?

"Wow, you're actually going to eat THAT? (Pointing at whatever evil brownie/cookie/peanut product I happen to be holding.) I guess you're not too worried about your baby!" Baby? No, I only worry about my taste buds.

"Are you really going to drink that coffee?" Yes, but don't worry - I made it good and "Irish".

"So you'll be done after this one, right?" Done talking to you? Quite likely.

"You're planning to have more? Have you considered the cost of university educations?" Yes. But it's okay. We plan to encourage all our children to drop out of high school and spend their lives flipping burgers or maybe cleaning people's windshields for spare change.

"Do you know what you're having?" Well, we hope it's a baby, but you never know - could be a small kitchen appliance.

Just for the record, I've never actually said any of those responses out loud. Usually I just smile and bite my tongue, or say something nice and polite. At least I only have about eight and a half weeks left. Oh, but then it's "You still have 2 months left? Where are you going to put the rest of it!" I'll tell you where I'd like to put it...

See? I'm sarcastic and NOT NICE!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Food Friday

This isn't a typical Food Friday post, because it's not about something that I made. Rather, my sister got me hooked on a baking blog, and I just have to share!

I absolutely love to bake cakes. And even more than baking, I love to decorate cakes! So ever since Jenna pointed out this blog to me, I've been hooked.

In particular, I love her cake pops. She mixes crumbled cake with icing, rolls it into a ball, puts it on a stick, and then decorates it.

Yup, they're all edible!

If you love baked goods, even if you don't make them yourself, just check out Bakerella. The photos of the stuff she comes up with will make you drool all over your keyboard. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Decision time

I thought I had healed, both physically and emotionally, from my experience of having a casesarian section when Norah was born. Over the past five or six weeks, I've come to realize that I was somewhat mistaken on both counts. I was out one evening with five other women from our parish, three of whom are young mothers as well. We were discussing our labour and delivery experiences, and one woman, even after hearing what I went through, and even though she'd had a rather easy experience said, "I'm scared of going through labour again! I wish I could just ask to have a c-section!" It was probably one of my greatest moments of self-control. I continued to sit in my seat and smile politely, when all I wanted to do was run crying from the coffee shop.

Why would anyone choose such an experience if it weren't necessary? Why would one want to be numbed from the ribs down, have her arms strapped down straight out by her sides, have a sheet draped in front of her face, and be totally cut off and disassociated from the birth of her child? Every time I watch "A Baby Story" and the woman ends up having a c-section, I end up in tears. I know I certainly never want to repeat that experience.

And yet, that is what I have chosen to do.

If you've read my older posts, you know that recently my OB offered me the option of attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian). I was overjoyed at the prospect of being able to fulfill my dream of actually pushing out my baby. Actually, the way I explained it to Francis was "to actually give birth, not just have a baby taken out of me". So, like with just about everything else in my life, I sat down and started researching the pros and cons of each option.

There are risks involved with both c-sections and VBACs. And those risks are not insignificant. For example, with a c-section (which is major abdominal surgery):
- The maternal death rate is twice as high for elective c/s as for vaginal birth
- Babies delivered by c/s have an increased risk of respiratory problems.
- Serious complications for women undergoing c/s include infection (up to 30% of women acquire one postpartum), haemorrhage, blood transfusions, bladder and bowel injury, heart and lung complications, blood clots in the legs, anesthesia complications, possible scar tissue adhesions, the ability to establish breastfeeding is reduced, and possible hysterectomy (both in current and future pregnancies)
- In subsequent pregnancies, women with a prior c/s have higher rates of secondary infertility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and serious placental abnormalities.

See? Scary stuff. Believe me, I don't take any of that lightly. But here's the difference: with a VBAC, the biggest risks are to the baby, whereas the risks with the c-section are primarly to the mother's well-being.

The most significant risk in attempting a VBAC is uterine rupture. Sure, it's my uterus that would rupture, but it's my baby whose life would be on the line. Best case scenario - oxygen-deprivation related problems like cerebral palsy. Worst case scenario - baby would die. Because of the extreme pain I've been experiencing at the site of my internal stitches, I worry that this may be an indication that I'd be at higher risk for complications during labour and delivery, should I attempt a VBAC.

As a woman, I have strong preferences about the kind of birth I would like to experience, and nowhere in those preferences will you find "c-section". But as a mother, I know that it is my job to do what is best and safest for my baby regardless of my preferences. And isn't that, really, what so much of motherhood is about? Dying to ourselves, dying to our preferences, to do what our children need.

I'd prefer not to change poopy diapers. But I do, and I do it with love. I'd prefer not to let my dinner get cold while I try (often in vain) to find something that will suit Norah's tastes of the day. But I do, and I do it with love. By the time I was using my third kind of antibiotics and was bleeding nearly constantly, I would have prefered to stop breastfeeding. But I kept going, and I did it with love.

I'd prefer not to give up my hopes and dreams of being able to push my baby into the world. But it's safer for my child, so that's what I'll do.

And I hope I'll be able to do it with love.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Just have to say:

I love my kid!
Norah's a huge fan of bathtime, but not a fan of having her hair washed. She has a bath every night before bed, but we tend to only wash her hair once or maybe twice a week. It just seems mean to make her so angry during what is otherwise a very enjoyable bedtime routine. Usually, after having her head lathered and rinsed, she's completely ticked off until she's cuddled up with one of us in the rocking chair for her lullaby and blessing. Last night, however, she bounced back very quickly, and was downright cheery in spite of her wet hair. Francis took the opportunity to do a little "styling" with the towel. She's such a good sport!
Oh, and if you're wondering why the soother looks a little orange, that's due to her insisting on having it right after taking a big mouthful of sweet potatoes. It's not quite as stained today, but it looked pretty gross last night!

Monday, March 2, 2009

"The best laid plans...

... of mice and men, often go awry." (Rest in peace, Mr. Clancey.)

It seems to be common (and perfectly acceptable) to ask a pregnant woman whether or not her pregnancy was "planned". I've been asked this both by people who know we practice NFP, and those who don't, those who are advocates of the method, and those who give it no more credit than the "rythm method". From people within our circle who understand and appreciate NFP, I suppose it's to be expected, as so many couples we know who use it have had "surprise" first babies. I find it's even more common from those who don't know about or understand NFP with this pregnancy - as if people couldn't possibly believe that we'd actually be okay with having two kids under 16 months apart. But regardless of who does the asking, every time it comes up it seems as though people are expecting either "yes" or "no". But the way I see it, there's really a third option.

This is my third pregnancy. I had an early miscarriage the first time we conceived, then (by God's grace) Norah was conceived two weeks later. Both of these pregnancies were, in fact, "planned". When Francis and I got married, we knew that we would prefer to have a little bit of time alone together before we got pregnant. We had a few things we wanted to check off our to-do list first - I'm not talking about touring the south of France here. Our list consisted of things like "buy life insurance". About 8 months into our marriage, we decided it was "time" to try to get pregnant, and we were very blessed to conceive in the first month. After we lost that baby, we wanted to try again right away, and were blessed with Norah.
So we had our "plans", and things seemed to work out exactly according to those plans. But when we declared our marriage vows and promised to be open to life and welcome children from God, we meant it. Had we conceived earlier, it of course would have been different from our plans, but a welcome blessing nonetheless.

So isn't that the third option? This baby in my womb was neither specifically planned nor unplanned. Once Norah was about 5 months old I really felt ready to embrace the possibility of another pregnancy, but my cycle was still not quite regular. We decided we wanted to just let "nature take its course" - in other words, be open to God's plan for our family. Just a couple of months later, we were thrilled to find out Norah would be a big sister.

Earlier today I was watching a video with Norah on one of my favourite blogs, and it made me smile. I so look forward to the beautiful craziness of a house full of little ones and the extra heaps of love they bring with them.

My two babies!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Simple Pleasures

Last night I had an especially good sleep. We had just put fresh, clean sheets on the bed, and I had just finished a nice, longer-than-usual shower and donned my coziest pjs, fresh from the clean laundry basket. Slipping into bed was heavenly.

Of course all this was not so much luxury as it was necessity. Norah woke up extra early yesterday, then wanted to cuddle in bed with me after Francis had fed her breakfast. She fell asleep for nearly an hour, and I was happy to have the extra time to doze. At a little after 8am, I woke to hear her coughing, then - before I could react - she vomitted all over herself, me (including my hair!), and the bed. We started our day with a mother-daughter sponge bath, because I find lifting 24lbs in and out of the tub tricky with my big belly.

She spent most of the day clearly under the weather. She was extra affectionate (some days I call it "clingy") and took an extra nap. It was low-key but tiring in a funny way, so come bed time, I was grateful for the extra cozy & comfy sleeping arrangements.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Like My Belly

I've never been thin. I'm certainly not tall. And I've never fit into society's definition of beauty, though I don't consider myself to be obese, "too" short, or unattractive. My whole life I've struggled with body-image issues, and much of my youth was wasted on self-esteem crises. As I grow older I find I'm growing in my self-acceptance, and my view of my physical self is being healed. I'm pleased that I'm maturing in this respect (and of course the unconditional love of my husband is very helpful).
When I'm pregnant, however, it's a totally different story. When my belly swells as baby grows, I can't help but feel beautiful. I guess it's a result of feeling fulfilled in my femininity.

When I'm pregnant my skin clears up, my hair gets shinier and more manageable, my nails break less, and my eyes change colour ever-so slightly. So far, through a pregnancy and a half, I've been spared stretch marks (surprising, since I have many faded ones as a result of puberty). And I just plain love pregnant bellies.

My body, of course, has not come through pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood un-scarred. The scar from my c-section is, superficially speaking, ugly. It's purple-ish/red and raised in several places (a result of it opening a week and a half after Norah was born). My breasts bear many scars from a horrible early breastfeeding experience and subsequent infections in the cracks. And, of course, I didn't get to my pre-pregnancy weight until getting pregnant a second time, when horrible "morning" sickness caused me to lose 14 pounds.

But I wear my scars (and even the extra pounds) as a badge of honour - a testament to what my body has done for the sake of my family. I love the look of my large belly, especially towards the end of my pregnancy with Norah when she ran out of space and my belly looked like it had corners.

Whenever I see pregnant women in the mall, the grocery store, church or anywhere else, I just want to affirm them on their beauty. In our weight/body-obsessed culture I know it's easy for many women to feel less attractive as their body changes. I just wish every woman, every mother, could know how gorgeous the pregnant body is on every level.

(This picture was taken just 30 days before Norah was born. I wanted to have something to celebrate the way I felt about my pregnancy, so Francis set up his camera on a tripod and set the timer. I love the way it turned out.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


My birthday girl, when she was just 1 day old -
How can my baby be one year old? Didn't I just bring seven and a half pounds of squirmy cuteness home from the hospital a month or two ago? Who is this twenty-three and a half bound beauty walking around my basement, delighting me with unsolicited kisses and hugs?
Starting on Saturday evening around 7pm, I started playing "One year ago right now...", mostly talking to myself, but also to anyone who had the dubious fortune of being in the same room. It started with "One year ago right now, we went out for wings with Francis' co-workers. I ordered the HOT honey-garlic, in hopes the spicy food would help bring on labour." Two hours later: "One year ago right now, my contractions started, but they weren't that bad." I even woke up around 2am on Sunday and thought to myself: "One year ago right now my contractions got too bad for me to sleep any more." This continued until 3:37pm on Monday: "One year ago right now, Norah was born!" I'm sure this got on Francis' and my mother's nerves, but they humoured me nicely.
Norah's birthday was on Monday, but we held her first birthday party on Sunday afternoon. We had somewhere between 20 and 25 people (family and close friends) in attendance. The birthday girl was not quite herself, as she was battling a case of bronchiolitis AND an ear infection. So if you're wondering why she doesn't look too thrilled in the picture, that's why.

The FOUR of us Kwoks at Norah's party -
Considering how miserable she must have felt, she did very well at the party. She was in a good mood the whole time, and other than having NO interest in eating cake or ripping wrapping paper, she was pretty close to perfect.
Norah's birthday cake -

This is the princess castle cake I made for the party. Well, to be clear, my mother baked the cake and cupcakes, and I just decorated. I whispered to Norah, "I had fun making this, but don't expect one every year!" It took me close to an hour and a half, mostly because constructing and icing the towers was a longer process than I'd expected. Mom also made golden pig cookies (which required some explanation for the non-Asian guests) to honour the fact that Norah was born in the year of the Golden Pig - very auspicious in the Chinese culture. I wish I'd gotten a photo of them, but I was too busy eating them!

Of course Norah's first birthday also happened to fall on Chinese New Year, so my mother in law took Norah, my mother and me out for Dim Sum, then over to one of the schools she works in to introduce us (well, mostly Norah) to some of her co-workers. When Francis got home, we sat down to a lovely dinner (courtesy, again, of my mother) of homemade chicken soup and fergosa. It was a wonderful way to spend the anniversary of my firstborn's birth - and, more selfishly, the anniversary of the day I became a mother. That's a day I wouldn't trade for the world!