December 5, 2008

Yuletide 2008

Since our family has multiplied and spread out in the past few years like a bunch of doukhabours (no offence, doukhabours), it was decided a while ago that we would no longer try and get together for Christmas every single year, and just try to regroup every few years instead.

With mum, Jamie and Dina in Kamloops, Dina's parents up in Prince George, Kari and Matt living in England, and Kate and I being in Vancouver with her family being spread all over the place, the logistics just become too mind bending to try get "the core family" together Christmas.

undoubtedly, this happens to every family at some point. We all love to let the nostalgia of our childhood Christmases wash over us, remembering those times of the immediate family unit in the living room on Christmas morning. But the older we get, the harder it becomes to make this a reality as the definitions of 'immediate family' expand to include a cast of thousands.

None the less, this year it's time to try and get us all together again. We're headed up to Kamloops to spend the holidays at mum's house. Kari and Matt are flying in, and, despite Jamie having to work on Christmas day (the scheduled life of a firefighter...), he'll at least be around, too. The new additions to the melee this year are, of course, our Sacha and Jamie and Dina's latest arrival, Gabrielle. This will be Aria's 2nd Christmas, making her a seasoned pro.

The holidays this year will be, overall, very busy! Between the 20th of December and the 1st of January alone, we have: Kate's dad's 60th b-day, Sacha's Christening, Kate's Birthday, a Christmas eve party, Christmas day "stuff", our wedding anniversary, and a wedding.

in short, the tail end of 2008 will go by in a hurry. Rest assured, however, there will be ample opportunities to pause and be thankful for the year that has seen the arrival of our first-born, Good health being on our side for most of us, and successful battles for those who had to put up a fight against ill health, happiness, employment, travel, and lots of time with friends and family. This will be the first time that we've gathered for Christmas as a family without Dad, so that will be tough, but it needs to be done. At the end of the day, we'll still be able to pick up and keep dancing.

So, have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanzaa, a tip-top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan. All the best for your holidays, however you celebrate, and best wishes for 2009!

the Chases

November 10, 2008

Lest We Forget

Remembrance day, November 11th each year in Canada, is a time to reflect on the sacrifices that were made by men and women in the past wars of the last century.

Most specifically, of course, we think of World War One, and the gruesome images of close-combat trench warfare, poisonous gas clouds, and all that such a mode of combat entails. And, we think of World War Two, where war was elevated to a level of mechanization not seen before, and we think of the Holocaust and the millions lost in concentration camps. There are the Vietnam and Korean wars, too, that we must be mindful of when remembering the fallen. Though the number of lives lost in these conflicts was not as great as the first and second World Wars, the sacrifices made were no less significant.

I, as a Gen-X’er, consider myself to have a tangible connection to several of these conflicts. My parents are essentially the genealogical by-products of the end of WWII – The Baby Boomers. My mum, in particular, remembers growing up in her earliest years in post-war Britain and all that that held for her and her family. Her parents were a part of the war effort. My dad, born a few years later and in Canada, had a father – my grandfather – who was in the Canadian Navy and was deployed during Canada’s “forgotten war”, the Korean conflict which began in 1950. I remember, in 1996 after a trip to Halifax, I was showing my granddad some pictures I took of the naval vessels moored up in Halifax harbour. He laid his eyes on one photo of a Frigate.
“That’s the HMCS Sackville,” I remember him saying without blinking or pause. “Spent some time on her,” he said. The man knew his boats. And in that moment, I was connected to his past. The Sackville was a corvette class frigate built in the Second World War, and deployed in that conflict to accompany convoys and attack submarines. It was kept in service after the war, and that’s how my granddad came to know it, during his time in the service.

He passed away two years ago. My grandparents on my mom’s side have long since passed away. My own father is gone now, not that he was ever one to regale us with stories about his dad’s time in the service. The connections to that era are now frayed, to say the least.

My brother, though, spent some time as a reservist with the Rocky Mountain Rangers, and was deployed with the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Third Battalion for a sixth month tour in Bosnia, as part of the NATO stabilization forces deployed to that region after their civil war / war of aggression (the debate continues) was over. He was fortunate enough to occupy the region as a peacekeeper, and not to have to engage in conflict.

And I, a few years ago, took part in a Military Journalism program that allowed me some time in computer graphically-simulated battle zones, and some real time driving around in tanks and TLAVs. I don't think this qualifies as military service.

So the question is this: aside from being able to ask his uncle about what war might be like, where, in digging through the annals of my personal history, can I find a tangible connection for my own son, who as he grows older, will come to know of ugly things like war and why we ought to strive to avoid conflict?

There is the broader picture to look at, of course. We have WWII vets who still stand solemnly on Remembrance Day, and I can say “look son, these men fought so that you and I can be here today.”

I get that, but will he? How many years must past before the notion of old men fighting old wars becomes nought but pages in history texts? These vets won’t last forever, either. Their numbers grow fewer by the year. And what of WWI, the primary reason we recognize Remembrance Day on November 11th, which commemorates, as our generations know, the signing of an armistice peace accord at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month back in 1918. From this conflict, Canada has but one surviving veteran, and he, undoubtedly, will be gone before Sacha ever knows what they did for his freedom. The country has promised a state funeral for the last veteran to pass away. Even if Sacha was old enough to take in such a spectacle and understand it by the time it happens, this veteran has expressed no desire to be recognized in such a way. How very Canadian.

Long story short, how can I ask my son to Never Forget something to which I myself cannot literally remember, and to which he will have almost no connections?

The past will always be important, but perhaps the present should be more relevant to the next generation in learning why, as the literature says, War is Hell, and why it should be avoided. Sadly, there are plenty of other things going on in our world from which he can come to understand this brutal thing called war. War in Iraq, conflict in Afghanistan, etc.

I’ve read something along the lines that in the last century, there have only been 100 plus days of our collective global recorded history which do not show conflict. That’s pretty much only one day per year for the last hundred years where nobody is fighting about something. Christmas maybe? Who knows.

So, when Sacha will wear his poppy in the early days of November as we find it respectable to do in memory and thanks to those who have fallen for our freedom, perhaps that little red flower pinned to his lapel should stand for more than Flanders fields. It was bad enough when I, as a teenager, would stand in silence at my high school Remembrance Day assembly, only to hear people snickering. Even then, there were those who didn’t get it. I fear that by the time Sacha is in grade 12, he’ll have classmates who understand the true significance of that moment of reflective silence even less than those of my generation.

Perhaps that little poppy on his lapel needs to help him know more of Master Corporal Erin Doyle than it does to help him “remember” A/Lance-Corporal John Babcock. Does it dishonour the memory of the latter to think this way? I don't believe so.

One might hope that in learning about a soldier that his uncle Jamie knew, Sacha and all those like him will have a portal through which they might come to know of the sacrifices made by many men and women made today the world over, which in turn will also hopefully give Sacha and his contemporaries an appreciation for the courage that was showed by the brave ghosts of Canada’s past.

One way or another, it would be really nice if my son’s generation figured out ways which would mean no one would ever have to stand in silent remembrance of the violent sacrifices that they have made for peace. May it be so.

October 5, 2008

Sacha's furst moo-vee

Well, it's been about two months since I updated my blog. Turns out that raising a newborn is a fair whack of work. Who knew?!

Free time is generally a thing of the past, but we're having fun none the less.

It is not my intention to make all of my journal entries about the baby, but gosh darn it, that's all life has really been about lately, so for this post a least... more baby. I'll talk about renovations and landscaping and such in a future post :) here's a few bullet points in summary!

There has been lots going on in the last few months, actually.

- my 29th birthday has recently come and gone,

- I got a promotion at work,

- Kate, unfortunately, had to start going back to her job already, for a couple days
a week. The joys of self-employment means no real maternity leave.

- I, on the other hand, am only working a part-time schedule until Christmas, and get
to hang out at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Sacha, which is sweet.

- We've popped up to Kamloops and Whistler to visit at least once each, I think, and
we've been down to Seattle as well.

- Mom finished her chemotherapy a while back, and is recuperating nicely; she'll be
going back to teaching this month! way to go mom!

- The fall season is kicking into gear around here, and with it, the arrival of the
next baby in the family: My sister-in-law's number two --Gabrielle Hana Chase-- was
born on October 6th, so big congrats to Dina
and Jamie! can't wait to meet my new niece! The 6th, as it so happens, is Dina's
birthday too, so it's a momma - daughter birthday!!

- The three of us in this household, as well as my mum, headed down to Colorado Springs this past week, to be witness to my cousin's wedding over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. We had a chance while we were there to tool around in the springs (Garden of the Gods, Pike's Peak, etc), which was great. It's a beautiful area! pictures / videos to follow in a future post, perhaps :) What's more, we had ample time to hang out with extended family and show Sacha around to a few family faces he hasn't yet been able to meet, so that was fun.

And, finally, speaking of Sacha... if you didn't already see the premier screening of the movie on Facebook, here's a small sample of what we've been up to with the wee one, and what life has been like around here for the last while... forgive any editing glitches you might notice, we're new to this technology...

August 8, 2008

Staying Abreast of the Issues...

We all know a few ‘alternate’ terms for breasts. Boobs. Knockers. Mazungas. Cans. Headlights. Funbags. And, the less commonly known but perhaps most accurate: Milk Jugs.

The last few days, the local media and some national media has been covering the story of a woman who was in H & M department store with her husband, when she was asked by a store employee to stop breastfeeding her baby in the public space, and was given the option to move into a private nursing room set up within the confines of the store. The scene grew to involve a few store employees chattering to management, and trying to usher the woman into the feeding room.

Fast forward to a few days later, and more than a 100 women showed up at the same
H & M location to hold a nurse-in, and remind everyone that breastfeeding in public is not just a privilege: it is a human right. The right of a woman to breastfeed in public is enshrined by the B.C. Human Rights Commission, which states, "women who wish to breastfeed or express milk can do so while walking in stores."

And I am proud to say, at lunch hour yesterday, Kate and Sacha were in the thick of the nurse-in at the department store (six point five weeks old, and a social activist. atta boy!).

The mission of Kate and other women accomplished two things, I think. One, a public apology was issued by store management, and the national spokesperson concurred that what took place was in error, and that H&M do not, in fact, have policy against women feeding their babies in the store. So that was one victory. And second, the action stood to reassert what I mentioned above, that what the women were doing was their right.

Needless to say, the actions of the last few days have stirred as many controversial comments as they have supportive words. And I’m here to say that, as far as the former is concerned, I just do not understand, and see it to be a gross double-standard that is present in society.

We are a society—at least in North America, I would argue—that is obsessed with breasts. Why else would we have so many ridiculous names for a body part that, until utilized in child rearing, does absolutely nothing?

Our advertising is full of over sexualized images of breasts: Suffocated cleavage pouring out of tight fitting shirts in desparate attempts to breathe, shirt neck lines in a suicidal plunge toward the belly button, see-through peekabo sheer materials, and the list goes on.

So WHY, when given the opportunity to see a whole breast, pulled out in public for the purposes of breastfeeding, are people so appalled?

Is it because confident, self-assured women have all of a sudden taken the sex out of the breast and shown it to be what it’s actually for? Feeding children? The horror!

Is it because there’s some sort of breach of modesty? Surely not moreso than the lack of modesty present in today’s advertising campaigns, television shows, and movies.

Is it because we’re so used to media images of babies being bottle fed with formula that we forget that women into themselves are the only vessel for food that a baby needs at the start of its life? Don’t even get me started on the evils of the NestlĂ© Corporation!

I’m particularly surprised by the level of opposition that I’ve heard about public breastfeeding in my own office space, which is filled primarily with female lawyers. We’re taking highly educated people with a respect for the law, and they still think feeding in public is odd. I say that is, as much as anything, our overly-sexualized media culture at work, influencing their opinions.

And, back to the point of breastfeeding in public, there’s also the plain fact that some babies just won’t take a bottle. My own mother recently informed me, while we were discussing this very issue, that neither I, nor my older sister or brother, would have anything to do with a bottle. It was lait d’source, or nothing. When faced with that option in public, guess what? The headlights will get turned on whenever and wherever necessary, in order to cull the screaming fit that often precedes the need to feed.

In summary, I know that everyone is entitled to their opinion on this, and that’s fine, positive or negative towards the matter. I also know that lots of women are probably happy to find a quiet, out-of-the-way place to feed their babies if in a public space rather than be out in the open, and wonder what all this fuss is about.

I would suggest that many of those 100 or so women down at the H & M were those very types, more than willing to find a corner somewhere to breastfeed. But even they came out of the woodwork the other day, to ensure that people remember that when they decide to come out of the corner, or have no choice but to feed in a public space without cover, they have every right to do so.

Ladies, I say milk it for all it’s worth.

June 28, 2008


on the occasion of one week of Mr. Sacha James Chase's time on earth, and due to very popular demand, here is an abbreviated account of why our wee one was born on the bathroom floor last Sunday night...

First of all, if you ever thought that short labour equalled easy, you are half way right... but while we appreciate that there are those of you out here that have had 30 hour labours, two-day labours, 4-day long labours, labours as long as your full gestational period of nine months, etc., please be advised: we find it hard to believe that, since everything came on so quickly, and there was the real possible need to call 911, that Kate had a "walk in the park" birth process. we prefer the term "fast and intense", thank you :)

That being out of the way, on with the show!

Sunday, 8 PM:
Kate and I were sitting on our couch enjoying a nice summer's eve and a bowl of ice cream, noting that since the baby's due date was now three weeks away, we better be a little more on the ball about getting some prep work done. Naturally, Kate's water broke right about then.

Exciting, adrenalizing, yes. panicky? a bit. But, we have heard time and time again from our mid-wifery group and our doula, Jacquie Munro that when the water breaks, it really may not mean much. In fact, it could be days before one goes into labour. It's a common belief that when the water breaks, it's go time, but it's not always the case. You may rush to the hospital, just to have to wait around for three days before you actually give birth. Both doula and midwife have, a different points during Kate's pregnancy, made the point that part of their goals as caregivers is to minimize the amount of time the expectant parents have to spend in the hospital when it comes time for labouring.And so, we called our doula and our midwife to give them the heads up, and we tried calling our parents to keep them in the round. My mum is the only one available at the time, and she's very excited.

Sunday, 9 pm:
Kate is feeling a tiny bit "crampy"

Sunday, 10:15 PM:
Kate is feeling some pain, and wonders if she's just being a weenie. As hindsight will tell us, it was obviously quite the opposite. It's not everyone that passes contraction pain off as cramps. My wife has super-human pain tolerance!!

Sunday, 10:30'ish:
Kate has had a shower, and is now experiencing some intense labour. The doula and the midwife are made aware that things appear to be moving along.

Sunday, 10:56:
Kate is in PAIN! At this point, our Doula and our midwife are taken aback at the rapid progression (as per my phone conversations with the both of them, they can hear Kate howling in the background. "She sounds like THAT? I'm already getting dressed as we speak, and coming right over. DON'T LET HER PUSH!". We know baby is on its way, and Kate is working VERY hard not to push. Still not convinced within herself that she could already be in the second stage of labour and birth, Kate is going mental over the thought that this pain could last for hours on end before finally hitting the birthing stage. Once again, she's thinking she's a weenie.

At this point, Kate is on all floors on the bathroom floor, with next to no time between contractions, and certainly no opportunity to move elsewhere. Nellie the dog, in the meantime, sits on her mat outside the bathroom door, seemingly unfazed by this entire circus. Little does Nellie know, I'm under instructions to call 911 if Kate simply cannot hold of pushing any longer.

Sunday, 11:15 PM:

Both Jacquie, our doula, and Allison, our midwife, arrive at the house at the same time. Jacqie goes straight to Kate's head to help support her and keep her breathing. Allison, after a very quick physical check, announces that this baby will be born right here at home. Moments later, another midwife, Kat, arrives to give backup to Allison.
"Would you like to give birth in the bathroom, or some other room?" she asks Kate calmly.
"Here's fine!", responds Kate through gasps and gritted teeth. Allison still needs about ten minutes to get her gear set up, and Kate is still not allowed to push.

Sunday, 11:21 PM:
the phone rings. Unbelievably, I answer it, thinking it might be Kate's mum.
It is not.
It is my sister, who lives in England and she's heard from my mum that Kate's water has broken (clearly by now, that ship has long since sailed).
"Hello?!" I say, perhaps not in my calmest voice at this point.
"Oh F*@K!"
She says, "I didn't think you'd be here! I thought you'd be on your way to the hospital!"
"NO! We're Here! in the bathroom!"
"What?! F**K! S**T!"
"She's having the baby here! we couldn't get out!"
Kate interjects from the floor..."HANG UP THE PHONE!!!!"
"Gotta go, love you, bye!"
"F**K! Okay! Bye!"

Sunday, 11:25 PM:
Kate is allowed to push on her next contraction, and pretty much right away, the baby's head appears.
Sunday, 11:29 PM
One last push needed. Nellie runs downstairs, grabs a toy full of dog food, and comes back to the bathroom door to drop it. At that same moment, Sacha James Chase is brought into the world, fills his lungs with air, and lets out his first screams. Needless to say, we can't quite believe what's just happened. Neither can the bath mat underneath Kate, I'm sure of it. Within a minute, I've been set up to lean against the bathtub, a pillow in front of me, and Kate is leaned back into my arms, little Sacha is put on her chest to be skin on skin with his new mum for the first time, and we begin calling family to tell them the good news.

Fast forwarding a bit, Kate required a few stitches, thanks to Sacha's torpedo entrance into the world, and the job is done on our bed, to which we have now been moved.

Within an hour and a bit of the baby being born, we are both in our own bed, being served tea, toast and fruit slices by Jacquie. Within two hours, we are left alone to settle in with our newborn son. Within four hours, tired and still amazed, we are watching the sun rise on a world that God has changed for us completely and wonderfully.
Now THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you have a baby!!! obviously this is the short, PG version of events, and I will simply sum up the birth story by saying it was the most crazy amazing thing I've ever been a part of. I just pray it never happens quite like that again!!! The speed we can go for. The uncertainty we can do without.
So here we are a week later. We admit to being complete home birth converts, and unless our next child (a few years down the road at least, God willing) has complications, we will absolutely plan to have the baby here. We thought the exceptional care being given to us by our midwives and our doula leading up to this point was fantastic enough. The fact that we realized a drug-free, comfortable birth, in our home, even when there was a high level of uncertainty initially involved...well, it has put us right over the top. Why bother with a hospital, in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar nurses and other staff, where the chance of getting unnecessary medical intervention is just that much higher, when we can have it all happen safely in our own home, and be in our own bed an hour after the birth with a warm cup of tea and some sliced fruit and cheese. And hey, in this green era, think of how carbon neutral this birth was! we didn't burn fuel driving to the hospital, nor back of course. We didn't expend thousands of dollars of tax payer money by taking up a hospital bed space, and, since this baby came so early that we didn't even have time to by a few rounds of disposable diapers to supplement the cloth diapers we're using, we've had to start using the cloth right away! No garbage here! Uhhh... I digress...and okay, if a home birth ain't for you, at least get a midwife! They have four full years of training in obstetrics. rest assured, as qualified as your GP may be, he doesn't have nearly that much time dealing with birth! Birth is all a midwife knows and does. You can't go wrong! did I mentioned it's covered under the provincial medical services plan? Did I mention the first week after the birth they come to the house for near-daily follow up visits? And as for a doula...well... invaluable support, thank you so much Jacquie! you can easily put your trust in a woman who's not just witnessed, but who has been a part of, well over 700 births! there's more knowledge there than Carter has liver pills, to borrow an expression of my mothers...
Well, that's enough of our preachings. Oh, did I mention midwives, doulas, and home births good? great? got it? okay then, I'll shut up. Thanks to everyone for the flood of calls, emails, and well-wishes during this past amazing, hectic, tiring, fantastic week. We feel every one of the blessings you've sent on, and we are so grateful for them. As I think I've said a few times this week, it may take a village to raise a child, but knowing that the village truly cares is an amazing feeling.

Sacha is doing very well, eating like mad, sleeping like a rock, and generally being
a complete joy.

June 23, 2008

Dear Sacha James Chase,

First of all, welcome to all 6 lbs, 12 oz. of you. Your arrival is something we have been looking forward to for more than nine months. What’s more, you are finally the reality of something we dreamed about years ago. You arrived kicking and screaming on June 22nd, 2008 at 11:29 in the PM (delivered to us on our own bathroom floor, much to our great surprise,but that's another story) and while we won’t care much to put up with that kind of noise when you’re a bit older, rest assured the first time we heard it, it was the most incredible sound in all the world.

And what a world it is. Your mom and dad enjoy being here, but make no mistake; it’s no perfect place to be. People do pretty nasty things to one another sometimes. There’s guns and bombs that get used on our planet, and they hurt. People use words against each other, too, and those can hurt just the same as weapons. At times, you might think they hurt even worse.

There’s political strife all over the place. Starvation and poverty in parts of the world you’ve never heard of and may never go to. There’s poverty at home, too. We have disparity between rich and poor, obvious to the extreme just blocks away from where you were born. Our environment is increasingly at risk. We are all too reliant on machines that fill the air with fumes, too reliant on conveniences that fill our dumps with garbage that will outlast you a thousand, thousand times over. Old, white men control way too much of the world’s wealth and power. Men in general hold more wealth and power still.

There are all kinds of religions out there: one God, many Gods, no Gods… people have all sorts of opinions and beliefs, and sometimes they fight over them. Believe in one if you want, or not. Be sure to believe in yourself though, that’s important. As for what your parents believe? You’re a miracle, and miracles don’t come from nowhere.

Let’s talk sports for a second. There are all sorts of games to be played. We don’t need you to be a champion at any of them, but you have to have fun, and you have to play your whole life through. We’re pretty sure you need to at least try kayaking—it’s kind of in the family. Afterthought: if you want to be a champion at something, make sure it pays well, so that you can fund our retirement for us.

Your names: What’s in a name, Shakespeare mused (you’ll learn about that guy sometime down the road) Well, in your case, your first name we just liked the sound of. the second name, James, is pretty common on your dad's side of the family, but mostly, it is a tribute to the grandfather that you will only be able to know through spirit and story, but know him you will. We hope you possess many of his better qualities.

I don’t want to ramble on too long with this, so let me throw a whole bunch of things at you at once:

People will come and go from your life. Some will be your best friends, some will be friends that seem to come and go, some people won’t like you at all and you won’t like other people. The latter of these people will eventually go away, though, so don’t sweat it too much. Some people you will want to have with you, always, but they will go none the less. They might die, or they might move, and it hurts, but that’s just how it is. Some people will not leave physically, but they will leave emotionally. They might stop loving you, or you might stop loving them. And you know what? It’s all okay. Love is never a mistake, and whether you’re diving into it or falling out of it, it’s getting you to where you need to end up.

Oh, there are these other people. People we call ‘family’. Some are immediate, like us as your parents, others are extended. They are the best people and worst people all rolled into one. And unlike other people, they do not go away. We will leave it at that, and let you experience it for yourself (not to worry, kiddo, it’s pretty much all good!).

Random thoughts: Eat your vegetables, they're good for you. Buy Local if you can. Don't be afraid of dogs; they'll just smell your fear and bark at you. scraped knees hurt, but they heal, so feel free to get a little reckless now and again (not too much though!). Your mother brought you into this world drug-free. Return the favour by staying that way, or we'll ground you for life. Ask your mom for math and science homework help, ask your dad for finger painting and creative writing help.

alright, I'm rambling back on track.

The natural world around you is an incomprehensible wonder. No matter how emotionally wrecked you may be at some point, no matter how frustrated you may be with the way the world is being run, no matter how hopeless existence may seem at times, the right sunrise, sunset, or long gaze up at the stars on a clear night, can stop you in your tracks, and make you forget everything you ever hated about life.

You will pass through moments that are surreal, wonderful moments. It may be a mental stimulus that puts you there, or physical, or spiritual. It may be all those things at once. You may share it with other people around you, or you may have that moment all to yourself, and you will feel blessed to have it just for you. And yet, you wish you could share that moment with the entire world.

Seeing the arrival of your child into the world is perhaps one of those moments.

But now we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? We have a bit of time to get to know each other before that’s something that you’ll experience. For now, that surreal, wonderful moment belongs to us.

Love always,
Your new parents

May 21, 2008

Tales from Down South…

This is pretty lengthy, so if you only want to read some of it, it's packaged into handy individual stories! and of course, lotsa purdy pichtures to look at...

A room with a view… and a volume.

Ah, Mexico. Home of the Margarita, guacamole, siestas, swaying palm trees, sandy beaches, and all-inclusive resorts.

Kate and I took our last kick at the can to travel before the baby is due, escaping to Puerto Vallarta for a week at the Canto del Sol all-inclusive beach front hotel and tennis resort.
Despite Sunwing airlines getting us there an hour later than scheduled on a Sunday night, the passengers cheered and clapped as the plane landed on the tarmac.

We were shuttled to the resort, and the first thing that impressed upon us was the fact that it was loud. Very loud. It took us about three seconds to realize what we’d done. We booked a trip to Mexico the same week that Canadian Universities just let out for the spring. Whoops. Our room, as it turned out, was in the thick of the action, too. Despite a lovely view into the pool area, the balcony door pretty much opened onto the open-air lounge where the fore mentioned uni students were drinking aplenty, and singing even more.

Fast forward, we got a room switch after a near sleepless night, with a view of mountains, an open field and beaches and the rest of the week was blissful relaxation during the night!

Thanks to the hotel for making it happen! We’re pretty sure if it wasn’t for the switch, we were going to need a vacation after our vacation!
Donde est mi Mexicana el foodo?

We spent a few days on the resort, and a few days off doing other things. Eventually, you just kind of get tired of the repetitious buffet (don’t get me wrong, access to all you can eat, 24/7, is basically my idea of heaven… but it turns out even I have my limits). The saving grace to the buffet was the fact that each night has a different cultural theme, and that the hotel also had three a la carte restaurants, of which you as a guest could book into two. We chose to book into the Hacienda Santa Maria on the Wednesday night. The restaurant has the following description:

Canto del Sol’s very popular Mexican specialty restaurant serves delicious, Traditional and Regional Mexican cuisine in candlelight elegance with colonial ambiance.

Sounds good, we thought! The drawback to our chosen night, we realized, was the fact that we ended up booking in on the night that the buffet was slated for Mexican food. None the less, we thought a really nice sit-down Mexican food meal will be awfully nice, and probably classier fare than that which would be available in the buffet.

It was classier alright. Problem was, it was Italian.

We were seated in the Hacienda Santa Maria, and were handed an Italian restaurant menu. We looked around at others, who had the same puzzled expressions on their faces as we did.

We asked the waiter what the scoop was on the Italian menu in the Mexican restaurant. He matter-of-factly told us that the menu switches every other night, a fact that remains conspicuously absent from every step of finding out about, and booking into this restaurant.

But that’s just the thing about Mexico. It can be pretty laid back. At times, too much so perhaps.

Vallarta Misadventures?

We spent the next day out on the water. I had been down to PV several years ago with my then-girlfriend, and one of the highlights of that trip was the snorkelling excursion that we did with Vallarta Adventures, a company which offers a wide variety of day-trips to help you explore the region.

More than happy to experience this again, Kate and I booked in to a trip. We set out at 9:00 am (after being told by one source that the boat left at 8:30, another source 8:40…but show up at 8:00 am anyway…as I said, Mexico can be a little too laid back at times…) and arrived at the Marietas Islands around 11 a.m., eager to jump into the warm pacific and be surround by brightly coloured fish, and maybe catch sight of a turtle or Manta ray. As you'll see from the photos (if you link to the album at the end of this post…) we didn’t see anything beyond our outstretched hands, and even that was a fuzzy view.

Mother nature had other plans for us that day, sending a warm southern current into the bay and clouding up the normally clear waters to the point of having almost zero visibility.

Machines also had other plans for us. A loose cotter pin in the engine of our catamaran meant we got back on the board after an unsuccessful snorkel, and we couldn’t go anywhere.

Italian food in Mexican restaurants, zero visibility in prime snorkelling waters, stranded at sea… what was going on?!

Long story short, the boat got going, though slowly, and we were at least shuttled to a beautiful beach to catch some sun and play in the surf before our boat limped its way back to the marina. It was by no means a write-off of a day. As you can see from the following pic, the weather was perfect, and we did get to see some wildlife in the form of impressive fowl floating on the breezes.

We made it back to the resort in time for the buffet theme dinner of the day. And wouldn’t you know it… it was Italian night.

Son of a beach

Let’s discuss the beach. We ended up with a sandy stretch in front of the hotel where the waves lapped happily and we were able to swim in comfort, but it didn’t start out that way. We started out with rocks, and plenty of them. Which in itself wasn’t all that bad. It still constituted a beach. That all changed one morning, though, when the backhoe showed up to start moving the rocks out in order to regain a sandy beach. Any decent piece of equipment could probably have gotten the job done in a day. But this gutless little backhoe could barely carry its bucket load without a struggle, and would get stuck here and there, so he’d have to dump his load and start again. And, then there’s siesta. Can’t work during that, of course. Three days later, the yellow tape came down, and our little beach was ready for business!

We took advantage of the newly finished beach, and were glad for the fact that it was probably in the best shape that it had been in a while. I started asking staff on a daily basis if there would be a beach volleyball game if the beach was ready. The answer was usually yes, and the result—not surprisingly—was that a game never got played.

Viva Mexico!

See you later, Sayulita!

We also took a side-trip to Sayulita, a small town being hugged on the Western coast between the Sierra Madre Mountains where they dip down to meet up with a beautiful, long, white crescent beach perfect for surfing.

You can go there, rent a board and get a surf lesson, or just body surf and hang out on beach chairs, eat at the beach-front restaurants, or wander around in the idyllic little Mexican town. We didn’t surf, but did the rest, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
Kate was a little worried that the bus ride out of PV on a city bus might result in shaken baby charges against her, despite the peanut still being in utero. Something not commonly found on Mexican public transportation? Shocks. All part of the experience, however, and for 20 pesos (just under two bucks), the bus took us all the way from PV to Sayulita, about an hour and 20 minutes with traffic and stops. Not bad at all!

If we ever went back to Mexico with a larger group of family or friends, we think booking into a villa for a week around a place like Sayulita would be perfect!

Any takers?!
All in all…

Despite some of the foibles mentioned in the tales above, it was a great week. The sun was cooking up mid-30 degree days all week long, the swimming in the pool and the ocean was refreshing, we ate well, slept well, got to see some of the area, met some fun people, and got to recharge our batteries and have this one last trip to ourselves.

Here’s a couple of links that will take you to albums one and two which include lots more pictures from our trip! enjoy!
Hasta Luego!

May 5, 2008

Time to learn your ABC’s!

A is for ‘A relaxing beach vacation’ (okay, the system isn’t perfect, work with me here)
B is for ‘Babies’ (see that one works), and
C is for ‘Chemotherapy’,
D is for ‘Dad’, and as a bonus
E is for ‘Expecting’

So, A: Kate and I are just back from a week’s all-inclusive trip to Puerto Vallarta; a little place on the beach reasonably close to the town site. We ate, swam, ate more, swam more, and even managed to squeeze some other tourism into our week away. Once we get the photos up, I’ll make a longer entry about the trip, as there are some good stories to tell! Primarily, we were just trying to get away one last time before

B: the baby arrives! We’re just under 70 days away now from the official due date, and we’ve been doing lots to get ready for it. The nursery is pretty much done, save a new layer of flooring. We’ve got gear out the wazoo already. The crib, mobiles, two change tables, a Moses basket, a bouncy chair, a jolly jumper, a car seat, lots of clothes, blankets, toys… and I could go on. All we need now is the kid! And the peanut’s arrival is also reasonably timed to coincide with the end of

C: mom’s chemo treatments. At last update, we were still waiting for the mastectomy to happen. Well, that’s done, and she turned out to need chemo, and she’s in the throes of that experience as we speak. Eight treatments: one every two weeks for sixteen weeks, and a self-injected drug called Nuprogen for eight days somewhere in between the treatments.
So far, mom has been handling the effects of the chemo pretty well, and we're generally pretty pleased about that! Not that there is a good time to have to do chemo, but it was particularly unfortunate timing to have all this line up with

D: the one-year anniversary of dad’s passing, which we recognized over the weekend of April 12th. I went up to Kamloops to be with the family, and we made the trek down to dad’s spot on the bluffs (the dogs managed to behave themselves this time around). The weather that day was precisely the same as it was last year, which we thought was awfully fitting. I also had lots of time to hang out with our Niece, Aria, and the rest of the fam, too, which was nice! Kate couldn’t join me up in the ‘Loops, as she was working up in Whistler, and Jamie’s wife Dina didn’t make the trek out in the woods either, partly because she’s a bit tired right now since

E: she’s expecting again! Happily, our wee peanut will have a cousin very close in age, as Dina is carrying her second child; due in October!

F: Fantastic news, that is! Congrats to Dina and Jamie!!
G: uhh… I don’t actually have a G. I’m done now. But here are some cute photos of our niece that were taken when I was up in Kamloops for item D, just to wrap things up nicely for today! C you all later!

April 1, 2008

I JUST wanted a t-shirt...

...Was it too much to ask?

Since September, I’ve been playing in a Monday night intermediate co-ed volleyball league. Three leagues have gone by now. Fall, Winter, and Spring, which just wrapped up last night. We have a crude team name—Bumpin’ Ugly—but make no mistake, we’re a slick operation. And we have tons of fun.

And fun is the point. But eventually, at the end of each league when it comes down to playoff night, we tell ourselves “we want the t-shirt!” The shirts to which I refer can be awarded for two reasons.
1. You’re the bestest team and you beat everyone else.
2. You’re the funnerest team, and you get a t-shirt for simply having a good attitude.

Sadly, the opportunities to win six t-shirts have come and gone, and I’ve nothing to show for it. It’s quite unbelievable, really. Constantly at the top of our pool, we always manage to lose out on the finals. Last night, we rallied back from a 12 point deficit to tie it up and keep ourselves in the game, and then blew the last two services receptions. There went a shot at the title, and with it, my dreams of fresh-pressed 100 % cotton gently caressing my torso.

No worries though, we still had a fun points t-shirt coming! We’re always at the top of those standings! Oh no, wait. Some team drank their faces off at one of the sponsor pubs on the weekend, submitted their receipts during playoff night, and were awarded extra ‘funpoints’, and thus, the t-shirt.

I says pardon?

we're second place because someone out-drank us? what is this, high school? I mean, I’m used to playing second fiddle, don't get me wrong...I'm pretty used to losing. Okay, so there’s the American Nationals sprint race kayaking gold medal I won back when I was 16. But please… it was against Americans. It was too easy; they suck at everything (take a joke, my American friends, take a joke). Okay, I did come ninth in Canada at our own sprint nationals one year. But that just means I was dead last in the finals. Okay, there’s the tournament MVP awards… (from high school, >cough, sputter< ignore that part and pretend it wasn’t ten years ago)… and there’s all free goodies I win for being caller nine to the radio station...does this stuff count for anything?

In college volleyball, just when I was finally coming into my own, I cut off my fingers and there went what was likely to be my best performing season ever! The next year, when I was back in fighting shape and ready to play, I was not only playing, but was named team captain of my college team! And then the team folded before we even got started.

In a last ditch effort to play some high-level ball, I looked into the Canadian Paralympics volleyball program, now that I was an amputee and all. Turns out I couldn’t even cut off my own fingers to match up with any sort of high standard. My index is about a half-inch too long to be allowed on the squad!
…okay, now I know I’ve hit rock-bottom in the wallowing pool of self pity… complaining that I still have a functional digit on my hand? That’s pathetic.

Okay, okay, I’ll put this whole t-shirt thing into perspective. I have a whole drawer full of t-shirts. I don’t need another one, especially when others in our city would love to have at least that much. And, I’ve got enough money in the bank to let me pay to play in these leagues in the first place. And, I’m healthy enough (save a few knee issues...oi!) to be able to play volleyball and a lot of other games, even without fingers on one hand.

What’s more, I have a great lookin’, national champion kayakin’, rhodes scholar brain trust, good chef, caring and loving, doctor of a wife, who’s currently carrying in her belly what is the greatest accomplishment in my whole darn life; a baby.

Maybe I can teach that baby that having fun and doing your best is more important than winning, even though it’s nice to be on top of the podium now and again. What’s more, being able to afford a house in one of the most expensive cities in the country is a pretty amazing feat. And that having a great job like mine that you love to get up for everyday is worth every penny, no matter what they pay you. And that just being surrounded by people that love you makes for a winning team for your whole life, not just for a season.

At some point the kid will understand that what its dad is trying to say is that while he may consider himself the bridesmaid in a lot of life’s little sporting challenges, the big, important stuff makes him feel like a winner pretty much all the time.

And that’s worth more than a t-shirt any day of the week.

February 13, 2008

Cancer SUCKS

Life is at times a shipwreck, but during these times, we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. ~Voltaire

"cancer sucks" has played out as a theme on this blog before.

This past spring, it was my dad who lost his battle with colon cancer. In the Fall of ’06, it was Kate’s father-like figure Gord, who succumbed to a brief but valiant fight against a lymphoma. In the spring of ’06, it was my Granddad. Before that, it was Kate’s Grandmother. And that's just the past few years. I could go back further, or talk about other people I know dealing with the disease at the moment, if you like, but I think you get the picture.

In any case, it seems it’s now my moms' turn. Breast Cancer. British Columbia’s current catch phrase is ‘BC… the Best Place on Earth.’ Frankly, this is one BC we’d all like to stay the hell away from.

There is the particular sense about the situation that my mother is being kicked while she’s down; still mourning the loss of her husband, she’s now got to go through this garbage. One can’t help but look heavenward and say—either quietly to one’s self or out loud with fists shaking—ArE yOu SeRIouS?!

Luckily, mom has always taught us kids that though it may feel like it at times, God will never give us more than we can handle.

Listening to and watching mom in the past few weeks, I know she feels this within herself. She is approaching the situation with good humour and strength, determined that this will not bring her down. After all, she’s got a cruise boat to get on in June, and she’s got another grandkid arriving sometime in July, and she’ll be darned if she’s missing either.

And so, on February 19th, she’s going under the knife. She’s got the option of a lumpectomy, but she’s embraced the thought of a mastectomy instead.No sense giving the BC an increased chance to come back, and this way she wont need radiation. After surgery, she’ll have to wait for pathology results to see if any further chemo will be required. Hopefully doing away with the affected breast will take care of the problem, but if not…well, that’s a bridge that will be crossed if need be, but for now, we look to next week with optimism.

Really mom, this is only partly about letting others know so we can increase the prayer network for you. The main point is simply to say that in the face of all that you’ve faced in the past year, I am astounded at your continuing strength, and I am in awe of your ability to smile. You are simultaneously willing to play with the cards being dealt and conversely unwilling to put up with the crap the universe seems to be slinging in your direction. Dad is no doubt proud, as are we all, family and friends alike. You are an inspiration to us, and I only hope we can return the favour as you battle this cancer. Just keep singing in that lifeboat. We love you.

Some facts on breast cancer in Canada:

• One in nine women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, assuming she lives to age 80

• Every year approximately 18,000 Canadian women develop breast cancer (over 2,000/year in B.C.)

• The BC Cancer Agency and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation offer plenty of information and resources if you’re interested in learning more about breast cancer, or would like to donate to research.

February 1, 2008

Impending Arrivals

Well, it’s Groundhog Day once more. For those of you in other parts of the world who are scratching your head in question, Groundhog day—February 2nd—is some sort of pagan ritual whereby we divert what little faith we have in meteorological weather studies, and put it in the paws of a furry little creature, who shall predict for us whether or not we have six more weeks of winter, or if an early spring is on its way. If the little bugger sees its shadow, it gets scared and scuttles back into its den, and we’re in for more winter. No shadow? Bring on those daffodils.

Well, we have a groundhog of our own in the making, but it won’t be making an appearance until mid-July sometime, and it certainly won’t have the opportunity to go back to it’s den if it doesn’t like the outside world.

Its old news to some at this point, but if my note above is a bit too cryptic and you haven’t heard about it yet… KATE IS PREGNANT!!!!

We were well enough aware of the pregnancy back at the start of November, but we didn’t start telling people until Christmas time. Now, it’s week 18 and everything is going just fine! We’ve got a few more weeks until we have the detailed ultrasound, but we did get an advanced peek in week nine (Kate shocked herself while we were doing home renos, so we wanted to make sure the lil’ peanut was still alive! It was!) Here’s the image we got from that scan. Not much to look at (really not much.. if you click on it, you'll have a slightly better idea of what's baby and what's not...slightly...), so the next one will certainly be more exciting!

We’re both very excited, and Kate is through that nasty first trimester with all the nausea and low energy and ravenous appetite. As she put it, it hardly seems fair that one has to suffer through all of that before telling people about the pregnancy, when the one thing you want to do most is complain about it!

To answer the usual questions, Yes we have names picked out but won’t tell you what they are, and no, we don’t want to know what sex it is. Nor do we care. We just want it to be healthy! July 13th is the due date. Rest assured I’ll set up an appropriate Facebook group soon enough so everyone can pool the bets about weight / sex / due date / etc.

So there you have it! Not much of a secret these days, but to those of you who hadn’t known about it, we’re thrilled to be able to tell you! Kate is working away at what will be a fine looking baby blanket once completed, and we’ve otherwise started collecting hand-me-downs- from other recent parents.

Will keep this blog choc-a-bloc with updates as they are warranted!