December 18, 2010

All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth...

Early morning, Sunday December 19. The weather outside is stable, but inside, it’s perhaps anything but. I’m flitting back and forth from the house to the car, trying to jigsaw a ridiculous amount of luggage into the vehicle in advance of setting out for our two weeks vacation, all the while leaving enough room for the kids (of course) as well as the dog. Luggage with two kids is bad enough, but throw Christmas presents in to the mix… well, you get the picture.

Inside, Kate is attempting to calm our near inconsolable eight month old. Heidi is apoplectic —she’s chosen the last 24 hour period to start cutting her first tooth, and here we are trying to organize departure for a four hour car trip to Kamloops to spend a few of the holiday days with family. I dread a repeat performance. Sacha wants to be strapped in to the car, despite departures being a ways off yet. His wish is granted, but predictably, he turns to demanding that mummy and Heidi and Nellie get in the car now, and that daddy will drive. Not mummy. She sit in passenger seat. Yeah, yeah, we get it. All I can think about is when we leave for Kamloops and head up to Whistler where we'll spend Christmas.

Eventually, though, the melee dies down. We are all in the car and the luggage, by some small Christmas Miracle has also all made it in, and we are away.

And ain’t that just what the holidays are about.

People coming and going, family mashed together. Travel plans that try to include everyone, no matter the distance between. Way too much food, and weather that may or may not be what you want it to be.

But we love it all anyway, and we do it year after year.

And this year, I have the added pleasure of watching my two and a half year old come in to some of the realizations of what Christmas involves, like Santa Claus, and what the season is all about--the Reason for the Season, in fact--“Baby Jeeeeesus!”

It has reignited some of the magic of the season for me this year. I hope that this Holiday season, amongst the madness of travel and shopping and gatherings and stuffing your face, you get some genuine quality time out, to slow down either on your own or with your family, big or small. I hope you have the chance to reflect on what the past year has brought you and what the new year has in store, and be thankful for what you have and what it all means.

And so, if you don't feel Christmassy enough yet, perhaps the annual ‘Elf Yourself’ video, this year featuring our newest arrival, Heidi, will help, and as well, a little video Christmas card from the family.

Many blessings for a Merry Christmas and happy new year from Stu, Kate, Sacha, Heidi [and Nellie]

October 1, 2010

General updation

Updation. Its my new word. Embrace it.

Fall, my friends, is upon us. Of all the seasons, I find fall to be the most vain of them all.
Sure, it wants you to look at it, no question about that.
“You there! Look at all of my glorious colours! I’ll even give you sunshine! I’m gorgeous!”
But inevitably, the more into you get, the colder and more distant it becomes. Such a tease. Just enough sunny days to remind you of the summer gone by, but the falling leaves become the finger wagging in your face saying ‘ah-ah, don’t touch.’ It is a unique season in this sense. Summer’s all ‘Booyow! I brought the heat, you bring the party! Let’s do this!’ and Spring is all ‘check out these blossoms! You KNOW good things are on the way!’, and winter, while cold and wet/snowy and at times miserable, is at least up front and unapologetic. It’s like the Eeyore of the weather world.

Okay, enough of my personifications of the seasons. Just had to get that off my chest. We had a busy summer, but not much vacation to speak of. Just some long weekends here and there. Lots going on around the house. A wicked productive veggie garden (as evidenced by photos) kept us well fed, and Sacha was always willing to help weed (read: pull productive plants out of the garden) or pick beans (read: pull productive leaves off of plants).

He’s a rockin’ little two year old with a serious dose of class clown personality that keeps us on the go from before sun up to after sundown most days of the week.

Heidi continued to grow like aforementioned weed, but we’ve opted to let her do that rather than pluck her. She’s a happy drooly fatty fatty fat fat now, engaged in her world and smiling away and cooing. Awesome change from the extended period of newborn-ness that we were forced to go through due to her prematurity. Kate is back to work part time and our nanny now has both kids on those days, so it’s good that Heidi is in a stable place where she can live without mum for a few days a week.

Given the kids and all that’s involved, we haven’t bitten off much in the way of house renos, but as you’ll see from the photos, we have been chewing away at things over the months. The plumbing job and a counter replacement actually happened mere days before heidi’s arrival, and we’re glad we got that out of the way. As you can particularly see from the pipe, we needed to do the plumbing at the very least >shudder< The fence was a summer project, which needed doing as it was fully falling over, and as much as anything the project was spurred on by a formal reprimand from the city, which indicated to us that our greenery was too fulsome, and now spilled out on to the sidewalks, thus inhibiting pedestrian access, thus in violation of city bylaws.

Yeah, we became that house. Ghetto.

The result of our project was a great new fence that has major curb appeal, and way less greenery to deal with. Not to say we didn’t like lots of flowers and bushy things, but really, with two kids and that hyperactive dog of ours, we’re barely able to keep up with mowing the lawn, let alone weeding and pruning.

So that’s where we’re at these days. Life is straightforward(ish) for us at the moment, which is nice. Other highlights of the summer included a slough of family and friend weddings, some great weekends up at Whistler, in Victoria, and in Kamloops.

Maybe something more substantive to talk about next month. In the meantime, here’s some more photos. If you’ll excuse me, the sun is out. I’m going to go enjoy it while it lasts. Oh no wait, it's gone. SO like you, Fall. So.Like.You.
this one comes courtesy of my talented sister in law Dina!
more tomatoes!
pumpkin patch

bye for now!

August 25, 2010

She's not so bad, after all....

To my big sister Kari,

Names, taunting, hair pulling, scratching, screaming fits. These are just a few common characteristics of sibling relationships in their early years.

The relations between you and I were of no different a sort when we were younger, either. I, the youngest of the three Chase kids carried a sense of entitlement (unconscious at the time of course), knowing my two older sibs had been there and done it all by the time I got to doing whatever it might have been. There was an ease there, perhaps, the road before me paved by my brother and sister. Which likely made me a brat towards both of you at times when I thought I ought to get something for myself. Turn on the water works, and there you have it. Younger child perceived as being picked on by older sibs got his way a lot of the time.

And as for you, my sister, the dreaded middle child. Classic symptoms of being the centre of a sibling trio include feelings of disassociation, of being ingnored, being passed over at every opportunity. One is also acutely aware that you were the girl sandwiched between two boys. All of it amounted to you being relegated to the middle bump seat in the family station wagon, each and every road trip (in fairness, you ARE the shortest). While “being ignored” by parents usually meant that Jamie would draw the fire from dad when he started yelling rather than you, it also meant that you maybe worked a little harder in life to make yourself known to the rest of the world; be a little bit of an independent soul.

Fast forward many years, and sibling rivalries sort themselves out. We’re all friends now, and we've all found our own ways in the world. But you, asserting that independence, that originality, found yourself doing science degrees while your brothers were both in some form of journalism school. You found yourself running campus dorms while your brothers lived together on the other side of town. Never one to be satisfied to do what some other girls do, you involved yourself in sports teams, took the lead on social activities like directing theatre, and continued to refuse to eat vegetables. Whatever the circumstance, you have never been afraid to be “out there”, and you have never been worried about what others might think about your goings-on.

Your sense of family has never waivered, despite perhaps feeling like the black sheep or different from us (these, may I remind you, are your words in past, not mine). When I lost my fingers, you took on a motherly role with me, kissing me on the forehead when ever we parted. This is something we still do now, a decade later. Going back further, the teacher in you—which you are now professionally, and a damn fine one I have no doubt—helped me wade through the murky waters of a university bio mechanics course >shudder. Dr. Moyls<. This was no easy feat; I do not take well to direct peer tutoring. Yet you applied an easy hand that led my arts-minded brain through physical principles and ultimately to a B in the course. I don’t think it’s every sibling that could do that, and I still thank you to this day for it.

Back to more recent days: You, not satisfied to stay a course, moved to England to see what life might be like for you there. Family brought you back time and time again--for illnesses, weddings, funerals, births.

But ultimately, the mother country has claimed you, and it brings us to a very special day, and I’m coming to that. But first, a little more about you.

As a younger brother, I have spent most of my life looking down on you physically, but up to you for all the positives that make up who you are.

I remember, once, when you came home from a day at elementary school, with a note from some so called ‘friends’ that wrote to you to say that they didn’t want to be your friend anymore. I remember your tears, and the pain you exhibited.

I remember Jamie and I playing our boy games that we kept you out of.

I remember the times your clumsiness took hold of you in very public places.

I remember you jumping through hoops to try and be a police officer in Calgary, and how disappointed you were when they ultimately decided you were too nice to be a cop (YOU will remember the relief your family felt as this put a lid on our visions of you shooting your foot off with a service revolver).

I remember you triumphing over medical issue after medical issue... after medical issue...

But with these and other such pains in life, I remember moreso the ways in which you chose—and do choose—to rise above it all. To continue being true to yourself and taking negative experiences whenever they occur and using them to make you a stronger person. And you did it all without building up walls around you, for you are loving and kind and caring and compassionate. You have always been wise enough to look at bad things in life and say to yourself ‘this does not have to be who I am’.

And, there, over in England, you found someone who sees those things in you and does not just admire those things and appreciate them, but who loves them and wants to be with you and those characteristics for the rest of his life. Smart man.

Black sheep as you are, you are the last of the three of us sibs to be married (this is moot, I just HAD to point it out! Ha!). And today, I am so proud to be your little brother, playing witness to this beautiful, strong, intelligent, amazing sister of mine who will be swept down the aisle on the arm of her big brother. perhaps keep the other arm out for dad, too, as you know he will be there, and he will also be so proud.

Marriage is not necessarily something that says ‘I am complete now.’ You are complete with or without your partner. Rather, it is a recognition by someone else of just how complete you are. You have always been complete, Kari, whether I as a brother have ever had the guts to say it or not. And I’m so happy for you that Matt recognizes it, and that this week you become partners for life. that is so SO cool.

You’re the best sister a little brother could want. Congratulations to you on your wedding day.

All my love,
Your little brother Stu

July 20, 2010

A big stinky problem

I have said to myself lately that life is a bit like Groundhog Day, the Bill Murray movie from 1990 something in which the main character lives the same day, over and over again. So it has felt like in my world. Get up too early, entertain Sacha for a while, go to work, entertain sacha some more, bathe him, put him to bed, clean up the kitchen, bounce baby when not demanding food but cranky none the less, cuddle said baby when she allows for it. Go to bed myself. Rinse and repeat.

Okay, so there’s more to it that that of course, but as a general theme, perhaps you get my point.

The routine was bucked today, however.

The tale begins in the dead of night, with Sacha waking and waling on about something…

1:17 am, and I’m on duty. It is my task to get in there where necessary and bring him down out of the stratosphere.

99 times out of 100, sacha doesn’t just wake up. He wakes up terrified or totally pissed off about something, and the scene does not deescalate without intervention. Without intervention he resorts to smashing his forehead against the crib railing, or throws himself over the top; that sort of scene. As I say, it’s my role to go in and manage the situation. Highly not fair to make Kate do it--she already has mandatory wakeups to feed Heidi.

Anyway, Mr. Sacha repeated the wakeup process a few times in the night. Pepper in wakeups for feeding from Ms. Heidi, and one dog desperate to go outside at some ungodly hour (o’dark stupid in army terms), and we had a night of little sleep well on the go.

4:17 am: Nellie is dying to get outside, again.

I plod bleary eyed down the stairs, grumbling something under my breath, and expunge said K-9 from the abode.

I sit at the computer to keep myself awake, waiting for Nellie to come back after dealing with her “Business”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll readily get up and let the dog out any time, rather than have her vomit on the carpet or do whatever she’s gotta do. And she always asks to go out; we never wake up to surpises on the living room floor, which is a blessing I suppose.

4:23 am: I hear a sound that I haven’t heard before. It was a combination of a hissing cat-like sound and a shriek; in my head, I immediately think ‘I really hope that’s a racoon trying to claw my dog’s face off, or maybe we have zombies in the garden, because if it isn’t either, it must be a


I fly out the front door and on to the porch to look down the side of the house and into the backyard. I do so just in time enough to see Nellie come wheeling around the corner with her tail between her legs, up the steps, and past me into the house. I then see the offending pepe le pew scamper deeper into the backyard.

It’s all too late by the time the smell hit me. Nellie has already charged upstairs, burying her face into our bedroom floor and the foot of our bed in a vain attempt to shake off the smell. Shoo’d out of the room, she comes downstairs to bury her face into her beanbag chair bed. Kate is up by now; inexplicably but blissfully having managed to escape the upstairs mayhem of Nellie’s intrusion with neither child waking up.

4:30 a.m.: We corral Nellie in the kitchen, not letting her go near a carpet or any soft surface for fear she’ll rub off more oil.

4:32 a.m. or so rolls around ,and I set to work cleaning the dog with baking Soda and dish soap, the best materials available at the moment.

4:38 am.: Heidi Awaketh.

It’s down to just me and smelly Nellie and a bucket of warm soapy water. We are banished to the front porch to complete the work. Nellie wants to go back in the yard to find the skunk again. Duh? she promptly - while soaking wet, plows her face into a dirt patch at the back of the yard to, once again, get rid of the smell. now she's stinky and dirty.

5:07, Sacha Awaketh.

I am in the middle of mopping up the kitchen floor with some lovely smelling orange oil. It masks the stench to a small degree. Kate has already managed to strip the bed and the beanbag chair is now in the garbage (she’s been wanting to throw it out for years. The mop job must now be abandoned to attend to (screaming) Sacha.

fast forward a few hours to 7:23 a.m.:

Relative calm has returned. Nellie still reeks. She, Sacha and I are in the backyard. Nellie is fixating on the stairs down from the back porch. Sacha is off in the corner of the yard, remaining motionless and not letting me come near him as he fills his diaper in secret.

Nellie creeps toward the stairs, and then I hear a ‘pfffft’ and the dog runs away again.

Pepe is holed up under the porch, and is sending off stinky warning shots at anything that comes too close. The air becomes acrid and pungent once again. I sound the alarm to Kate.

7:25 a.m. Sacha is still at a safe distance, still working on disposing of yesterday’s meals.

I throw a few rocks under the stairs, just to make sure we’re focussing on the right area. More ‘pffft’ and more stench.

7:35: I knock on the basement suite window, rather than the door, which is right next to the stairs. Occupants are advised to exit through our upstairs door rather than risking exiting the suite next to the stairs and being forced to run a gauntlet.

7:45: Sacha has been coaxed out of the corner of the yard and now wants to go up the back steps to get back in the house. He’s already two steps up. Thankfully no movement from under the steps. We ask sacha to come back down in a panicky voice.

I’m normally heading for the bus to work by now, but not today.

7:46 a.m.: Negotiations fail, and I’m forced to advance on the staircase and whisk Sacha to safety. He’s not happy about the decision and starts to cry about it. Heidi is crying about it, too. Nellie is being shoo’ed away from the staircase, again.

8:00 a.m.: Sacha’s Crayola crayons are used to draw an uncannily accurate portrait of the offending skunk, which is stuck to our side gate as a warning to any potential visitors. See photo:

8:15 a.m.: Sacha’s diaper has been changed, and I leave Kate with the two year old, the three month old, and a stinky dog which we’ve now barricaded on the front porch, allowing her access to neither the yard, nor the house.

8:16 a.m.: I walk away from the house, en route tot eh bus, feeling somewhat guilty that I get to escape the scene.


Pepe is resident under the porch. Exterminators will not 'off' the beasts, as it turns out, allowing only for the installation of an exit-only mechanism over their entry hole to their hideout. Meaning once the skunk has left their safehouse, they will not be able to return and they'll reestablish themselves somewhere else and make someone else miserable for a while.

In any case, the pest control folks won’t be able to make it to the house until tomorrow. SPCA offers some solutions, but their key word is ‘patience’. Dammit.

We’ll be watching our step until we get rid of Pepe, and, we have no guarantees that Nellie won’t have another encounter, particularly since she seems keen on a rematch.

As of time of publication, Kate is at home, and is still sane. The dog has been shampooed with some sort of concoction that seems to be working, with no guarantees she won't get skunked again before this creature vacates our property. Stuart is wanting to go back to Groundhog Day.

June 21, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

Don't let the title fool you. I hate pomp and circumstance

How odd then that a few Fridays ago, I found myself a part of a convocation platform party, head to toe in regalia, filing past onlookers and graduands attending one of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s convocation ceremonies.

This behaviour, I assure you, is vastly out of character.

13 years ago, right about now, I begrudgingly sat through three hours of my high school graduation ceremony. I didn’t want to be there; didn’t see the point. But, the parents obviously wanted me to walk across that stage, so I did. About 650 of us, piled into the local hockey arena (how very Kamloops!). Sitting beside me, Heather Challenger, a friend at least to natter away with and one row in front of me, Craig Black, and Eric Brewer (good old alphabetical seating) passing a Nintendo GameBoy back and forth, over whose shoulders I could look to take my mind of the drudgery of this event. My diploma sits either in a binder or a shoebox. I’m not sure where.

Nine years ago, right about now, I begrudgingly filed my way in to my Langara College graduation ceremony. I didn’t want to be there, either. I believe I was pressured into attending by my mum, dad, sister, and girlfriend. My diploma is not in a shoe box, it has been upgraded to a portfolio binder so I can prove to employers that I have the credential.

And four years ago, right about now… I was flying home from a vacation in Turkey. Ha! you thought I was gonna say I was at a grad. Nope. I skipped my next graduation, this time from…Kwantlen. In Spring 2006, I put my foot down and said I would not be pressured into doing something I had zero desire to do. The Turkey trip didn’t actually conflict with the convocation ceremony; though I believe that is the excuse I used with classmates to keep them off my case.

So why then, was I standing up there last week, shaking the new graduates’ hands just after the hands of the school dean, the university chancellor, and the university president? Do I belong there?

It was last year, right about now, when I got a call from Kwantlen asking if I would consider being a board member for the Alumni Association. After some initial discussions with the exec director from the office of advancement, I decided to put my name forward.

My experience at Kwantlen was, after all, a rewarding and engaging one, and after I left the school I have returned on several occasions to speak with students in the PR program about what I got out of the school and how that has translated into my real world experience. As well, I’ve had prospective students ‘interview’ me about Kwantlen and life thereafter as they consider the school for themselves. As such, when the idea of being a board member for the alum association came up, I decided to go for it. I was brought on to the board, and now I’m Vice-Chair of the thing.

So, I stood there at grad in my role as Vice-Chair of the Alumni Association of Kwantlen Polytechnic University and greeted each grad and welcomed them to the alumni association of which they are now a part (ooh, and I gave them some gifties, too.)

From this perspective, the experience of a convocation ceremony was very different for me. Yes, I had to march in the processional to Edward Elgar’s March #1 of pomp and circumstance. Terribly cliché.

But beyond that, I enjoyed the perspective of watching the experience of others. And this is not to say I have not watched others before. Much as I hate grad ceremonies, I appreciate that they are important to others as milestone markers. But that still doesn’t explain why I was there.

In a world where the University of British Columbia has just raised the minimum grade point average required for entry to an ‘A’ across the board, I think it was in a comment that was made during the Kwantlen president’s remarks to the graduating class that rings true to me. He said that kwantlen does not believe that exclusivity is a requirement for excellence.

And that speaks to simple folk like me. I was never top of my class, but at times a decent student none the less. Never good enough to make it into a ‘big’ school, however. But I was able to get into Kwantlen, and now I have a university degree that in no way do I believe came with a sacrifice in quality of education. The program size was small, so lots of personal attentions with faculty whom I still keep in touch with four years after grad. It is a teaching school, not a research school, which means faculty pay attention to you, and not their next journal article. And by the end of it I won two scholarships; one a small monetary sum that bought a few text books, the other a fully paid opportunity for further study through a short certificate program at the University of Calgary (this was not part of Kwantlen, but I applied at the encouragement and with the assistance of the faculty at Kwantlen, thus, I owe them thanks!).

No one that shook my hand on Friday knew me (save a few PR students crossing the stage), or my story. But I am sure there are many who crossed the stage with a similar tale. So that’s why I was there. To celebrate an educational institute that is concerned with being accessible to its community, and just as concerned with making sure its students succeed. It worked for me, and I trust it has worked for the class of 2010 as well. Congrats to all of you.

I’m not about to frame my degrees or anything, but if asked to attend convocation again, I’ll happily stand up to shake some more hands.

May 19, 2010

Heidi's home!

For whatever reason, our kids just like to show up early and in speedy, dramatic fashion.

Back on April 14th, it took 3.5 hours from Kate waking up in the morning, thinking something was up, to the arrival a screaming pink baby.

Much like an entry I did just after Sacha was born, we have to stress the point that “fast” birth does not equate to “easy” birth. We’ve gotten our fair share of comments along the lines of “oh man, another baby that only took three hours of labour to deliver? You’re so lucky!”

Yeah, and the three weeks in hospital that followed that were a real cake walk. Not.

So, here we are and Heidi is over a month old now, and home with us, thank God. We’ve been debriefing ourselves on the situation over and over again, and we can admit it at this point: having your baby show up quite as early as this is terrifying. The morning of April 14th was a scary emotional rollercoaster, somewhat devoid of the joy that comes along with having your baby brought into the world. It was very fast, it came with a major sense of unease, and to say the least, heart wrenching to have your baby, just minutes old, whisked away from you. Tubes in her nose. Morphine, antibiotics, Tubes in her throat, Intravenous lines in her hand. Heel prick blood sample after heel prick blood sample. Incubators cutting you off from being able to have skin-to-skin contact. All this on a four pound little person just born.

This could not have been further from the quiet home birth scenario we envisioned for our second child. An hour after sacha was born, we were in our own bed with tea and toast. An hour after Heidi was born, Kate was in a recovery room, and I was with Heidi in a busy intensive care unit, alarm bells ringing, nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists and x-ray technicians, not to mention other sick babies and stressed out parents.

But it is the other stressed out parents in this scenario that make us realize the good fortune of heidi’s arrival, early though it was.

Heidi, at 32 weeks gestation, only had a little bit of growing left to do. We live ten minutes from the hospital, and we have a great support network in town. Many other parents in the Neonatal ICU are from North of God knows where, babies born at 24 weeks with open hearts and collapsed lungs, weighing a pound or only a little more. Some of the parents we met had been there for months, and were living in their camper in the hospital parking lot, with not much prospect of going home any time soon.

Heidi was transferred out of B.C. Children’s Hospital after five days since she was doing so well. We were moved out to the Burnaby hospital’s Neonatal ICU, where the pace is slower and there are less babies present. Another 14 days, and we were on our way home.

We’re happy to report that Heidi is doing very well, gaining weight daily (somewhere in the neighbourhood of 6 lbs, 8 oz. at this point). She’s five weeks old now, and feeling quite solid, thank you very much!

Sacha is adjusting as well as can be hoped for, though he is compensating for the
situation by getting up way too early every morning, which just adds to the sleep deprivation that comes free of charge with most every newborn.

We've all managed to get out for a few family outings, which is exciting and maybe just a little nerve wracking at the same time (what? we have to wrangle TWO of these little peole now? ack)

So, I know that what most people really want is pictures, so here you go. hope the few images peppered throughout have satisfied you a little!

Lastly, just a huge thanks to everyone for thoughts, prayers, and assistance (especially the assistance!) during the last month. With so much time spent at the hospital and a needy dog and two-year-old still to attend to, the many helping hands did a yeoman’s service in keeping our household sane. Blessings on all of you!

April 14, 2010

Dear Heidi Chase...

First of all, welcome to all four and a half pounds of you. You may seem small, but already, you seem bigger than life. Your arrival is something we have been looking forward to, this goes without saying. You are the reality of something we have, until today, only dreamed about.

But it sure was a surprise that you showed up when you did.

Congratulations. You upstaged your brother. At 9:30 in the morning on April 14th 2010, you arrived. In a state of hurried panic on the part of your parents, you arrived even when we were saying aloud to ourselves that ‘now is not your time.’ You had other ideas, and indeed, there was no stopping your entrance. What’s more, you showed up in a hospital, which was not the plan. You were supposed to be born comfortably at home eight weeks from now. But, what should we expect. It was your brother’s plan to be born at a hospital, but he was born at home, early. So, go figure; we respect your right for independent thought and action.

Gestationally speaking, let it be know that you decided it was showtime at 32 weeks. This, for the record, is more than just a tad early. Your brother Sacha…he was a ‘tad’ early at 37 weeks. You, our adorable little beauty with your velvety soft skin and crop of dark hair, are ‘way’ early. But, as an Aries—a Ram, no less—it would seem that you needed to have it your way.

The prospects of what your astrological sign may make you both thrills and horrifies. Gung-ho and enthusiastic; fearless as the gods (yahoo!), but an ego and lack of pragmatism to boot (uh-oh).

But the better parts of your sign make you an ideal candidate for what you’re dealing with right now.

Your tiny cries haven’t been heard by many ears yet, nor will they for a few weeks perhaps, until you’re allowed to come out of the hospital. We’ve got to get you up to speed on a few things you weren’t prepared for, like how those lungs work, and how to eat food. You’ve got a few tubes in you at the moment, but don’t worry about those. You’ve got the grit to take care of that situation.

By being born under Aries, being courageous and forceful, you will forge your way ahead in this. With this new endeavor called ‘life’ undertaken, you’ve got the goods to make it through a tough few days and you’ll come out shining.

Now, this may sound like we’re hinting at something very dire, but it’s really not that bad. You just need a kick start, and then you’ll be fine. You're in great shape, especially compared to some of your roommates. Always count your blessings, little Heidi, remeber that. Really, we as your parents just don’t want to see you connected to monitors, and we want to hold you. Soon enough. And then you’ll start discovering what this life is all about.

As we told Sacha when he was born, this is a great world to be a part of. People care, most of the time, and don’t be afraid to let them in to raise you up when you need the help, just like your doctors and nurses are doing for you now.

Life can be like that, you know. Just when you think things are awful and frightening, you get surrounded and carried to a better place. May you know the comfort of rescue when it’s needed and it comes, and may you know the feeling that comes from being some else’s rescuer, too.

And while we’re on the subject of rescue, maybe we can just ask you to make sure you do some good in this world. On little scales, on big scales, whatever. Just do things that make you happy and proud of yourself. Oh, but the same comment applies to you as what we told Sacha on the day he arrived: if you want to be a champion at something, make sure it pays well, so that you can fund our retirement for us.

Lets talk about your names for a second. Heidi: there is no significance; it’s just a great name and we know you'll wear it well. Ballem, on the other hand, is more significant. It is your mother’s maiden name. It comes from your Grandy’s side of the family. If it brings to you what it has to others who carry the name, then we can be fairly sure you’ll be brilliant, charming and attractive. Which reminds your father… he’s going to go out and buy a new Louisville Slugger right now, for use in scaring off potential suitors when you get to your teenage years…

So anyway, it’s hard to say where to go with all of this. Need it be said aloud, your arrival today was about as big a surprise as we could’ve imagined. There is joy at your arrival mixed with a melancholy for not yet being able to hold you and seeing you hooked up to machines. The day was melancholic to begin with, which you might later understand: April 14th is the day your Granddad lost his battle to cancer, three years before you were born, so the fact that you chose to show up on just this date…well, lets just say there is a whole ‘nother circle of life conversation that could be had over this whole affair.

But we don’t need to focus on the death side of things today, now that we have your new life. Your joyful life, just begun and soon to flourish. And we can’t wait to watch it happen before our eyes. Early as your arrival may have been, we are so glad you’re here.

Love always,
Your parents

April 8, 2010

A trip to the dump

Over the Easter weekend, Kate, Sacha and I headed on up to Kamloops to spend time at mum’s house. The usual visitations took place, Church on Sunday and a big family visit were in the mix as well. Also, mum asked me if I would be willing to make a ‘dump run’ for her.

One of Kamloops’ dumps is conveniently located quite nearby to the house, so, with an uninsured trailer it’s not a problem to fill up a load and transport your garbage without getting pulled over for your use of a fall-apart trailer with non-functioning taillights and an out-of-date license plate.

This particular weekend, mum asked if I would go into the backyard and empty out the root cellar space that’s under our mudroom. Translation: get rid of a bunch of crap that dad had stored under there for years for no reason.

The task was a trip down memory lane, both for the stuff that was revealed and because of the fact that the guy who put most of the junk there--my dad--has been gone for three years now, coming up almost to the day.

This photo shows a pile of miscellany, no doubt about it. But it's also a patchwork quilt of family history.

The door used to serve as the exit into our backyard; it was scratched to bits by successive generations of impatient family dogs. Why dad kept it is somewhat of a mystery, but my brother now plans to use the windowed portion of the door to create a mirrored wall hanging.

The yellow buoy came out of Shumway Lake, the location of my many years of sprint kayak training sessions and race weekends. It was adopted into our home (who knows why in the first place), and quickly became a giant dog toy for the then-family pooch, Rump. Rump would grab the thick rope that was attached to it and swing it around in circles like a hammer toss. Hilarious to witness, I assure you.

The swing—homemade, with chains that would pinch your hands if you weren’t careful—used to be attached to a lower limb of one of our two tall pine trees in the backyard. Luckily, childhood disappeared before the trees succumbed to an early death, thanks to Pine Beetle infestation. To have been a kid and witnessed not only the loss of your favourite climbing tree, but also the swing attached to it, would’ve been nothing short of devastating. I could go on about the tree as I think about it; climbing to the top of its great heights in swaying winds. That was a time before my fear of heights kicked in and a time before a parent would be criticized for letting their little kids climb 80 feet into the air, untethered and unsupervised.

The GT snowracer. The property of my brother and sister; a joint purchase that I said I wasn’t interested in. Truth be told, I was perhaps foolish to pass up the investment and I may or may not have had pangs of regret as I watched them scoot down snow covered hills with such speed and control.
Jamie made sure to remind me at every opportune moment that I was not party to ownership of said sled, and thus best keep my hands off of it, which I did with surprising restraint given the impetuous nature of my age at that time.

The big white thing: a rooftop car carrier. This carrier sat atop our Chevy Lumina van for innumerable Chase family trips; the car packed with three kids, two parents, some luggage and often one family dog, and the rooftop carrier took all the rest. It's last trip was to attach it to Kate's Toyota Echo, however. The tiny car had in it: me, Kate, My sister, and Matt, her now-fiance-then-boyfriend, and nellie the dog. The Eggshell, as the carrier was known, was strapped on the roof. Tiny car, huge carrier, ridiculous image. We were using the Duffy lake road to access Whistler, from Kamloops. a few too many switchback corners at speed, and we all heard it: "pop pop pop pop woooosh" as all four straps gave up on their vain attempts to cling to the Echo's roofrack, and the carrier shot off the side of the car. Thankfully, it came to rest in a ditch, rather than the raging river we had just crossed over. small blessings. the carrier was retired permanently after that weekend, but not thrown out until now.

And the last item in the photo: a testament to the scavenger who was my father. This red and white striped tarp is actually an awning from a KFC store. Undoubtedly, when one of his stores was under a renovation phase, he probably asked “what’s going to happen with that awning tarp?” and when someone said it was going to be tossed out, he said “you’re kidding?! Well, I’ll take it off your hands”… and it was promptly folded up and stored under the house, never to be used. A heavy duty, quality tarp is indeed what it is. Could be used for all sorts of things, and now that it has been revealed, maybe it will be.

Not pictured here are a myriad of other items one might wonder why anyone would keep, but dad did anyway:

• Two saw horses, so rickety and broken down you wouldn’t dare use them for fear of serious bodily harm while operating a saw as they collapsed underneath your project being held up by them at the time.

• A collection of metal poles used to hoist our old canvas tent trailer into position. The tent trailer is long gone, I can’t imagine why the poles would not have gone with it.

• My old basketball rim, once attached to the roof of the garage; I booked a lot of hours out front of the house, practicing to be a high school basketball star (editors note: Stu was NEVER, even remotely, a high school basketball star). it was so bent and broken where it used to attach to the garage that one would have to do some welding to get it back into shape. I had no idea that it had been saved, and as much fun as it was to reveal it, it was added to the scrap metal pile for delivery to the dump.

So, with the trailer all loaded up with “stuff”, I hitched it to mum’s car and retraced the path of one of dad’s favourite weekend activities: a drive to the dump.

The recycling section of the dump has been closed recently; some woman tripped, split her face open and sued the city, so they can’t have a “used” section any more. One of dad’s favourite things to do at the dump—whether in the used section or straight out of the trash heap—was to rummage for stuff to bring home after he’d dropped off his own crap. I can’t say for sure, but he probably bought home more than he took on more than one occasion. I sure do miss that…but at least the root cellar is finally cleared out.

April 14th marks the third anniversary of the passing of Jim Chase. We miss you dad.

March 1, 2010

Olympics, come and gone

Well, it’s all over. Years and years of planning, all leading up to the last 17 days which have just come and gone.

Monday, March 1st felt a bit like the hung-over morning after a one night stand. On the one hand, the city had a glow about it that won’t soon fade. On the other hand, it’s kinda like the world arrived, romanced us, then used up the city and ran out before the sun came up. I had to arrive early to work that morning; my final shift in the BC International Media Centre where I spent 24 of the 28 days in February.

The revellers from the Men's Gold medal hockey game had moved on by the time I got to work; even those that managed to parlay Canada’s Storybook overtime goal celebrations into post-closing ceremonies shenanigans had at least found an alley way or door enclosure to pass out in at that point.

But the litter on the street on Monday will not be a lasting memory from the past month.

The images I will take with me are of a nation cheering in the streets and at Olympic venues, unabashed in its love for itself and pride for its athletes.
I will remember being up close to our athletes mere hours after their wins, as they would look down at the medal around their neck, the pride of victory on their face.

I will remember the hoots and hollers of tourists as they flew across Robson Square on a Zip Line ride that they waited six hours in line to get on, and all the families that came down to Robson Square to partake in all sorts of activities.

I will remember the national anthem, ringing out in the streets in impromtu chorus day after day.

I will remember trading pins with media from around the world, little old ladies I met on the street, colleagues, and excited kids.

I will remember a city that did not sleep for more than two weeks.
I will remember gathering with friends--hockey fans and non-hockey fans--to watch the big games.

I will remember cherry blossoms showing themselves to the world in the middle of a Canadian “winter”, where sunny skies and moonrises over the downtown core took place everynight for the better part of a week--no small feat in Rainy Vancouver.

I will remember feeling so fortunate to have been live and in the flesh when our athletes achieved their goals and had the best days of their lives.

and everyone will remember Joannie Rochette, who achieved one of the biggest goals of her life amidst some of the worst days of her life. And Kate can say she was there to see it happen.

I will remember politicians proudly donning our maple leaf rather than the usual suits; a nice change of pace if you ask me.

And Lastly,I take with me the sense that, as john Furlong noted in his speech at the closing ceremonies, perhaps now the world knows who we are as Canadians. I hope that vancouverites keep with them the lesson that it is in fact okay to say ‘hi’ to strangers on the street, as they have been dong for the last few weeks. It has been awfully nice for the city to lose any pretention it had before!

I hope that as the Paralympics comes through town in two weeks from now, we can show the world that we can do all of this not once, but twice, and that our spirit as Canadians will endure to the world even beyond that. GO CANADA!

oh, and n case you missed it, here's a whole bunch more photos in high speed ;)