Wrapping it up

Hi. It’s been awhile, eh?  I don’t know what exactly to say.  It’s been a busy year, for sure, but I haven’t had that much to say, I guess.  But what the hell, let’s do a recap.

In January, we went to Banff for the weekend with friends.

In February, we went to Dallas.

In March, I went back to work after my year long mat leave.

In April, we mostly focuses on figuring out the new balance of work and daycare and life.  It went okay.

In May, we went to Toronto to visit my sister, who was spending a year back east doing her Master’s degree.  Jess also got to make cookies for the first time at Grandma’s house – she taste tested every single ingredient and loved it.

In June I went to Northern BC for a a 4 day work trip.  David was part of the a large wedding party for a close friend and wore the worst fitting tuxedo I’ve ever seen.

In July, we went to Heritage Park and the Stampede and had play dates and set up the inflatable pool in the backyard – Jess walked up to it, peed on the side and was over it.

In August, David’s sister came to town and J loved hanging out with Tia Eeerin.  We went to two family reunions on David’s side in a single weekend.  Two very different families – one with a zillion kids and one with 2.  A fun but exhausting weekend.  I also got to do an overnight trip to Northern Alberta with my favourite coworker and my mentor.

In September, we went to Northern Europe for 23 days and it was amazing.  Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Iceland. Jess was a dream – handling jet lag like a champ, eating everything and generally being adorable.  Highlights included the medieval walled town of Tallinn, Blue Lagoon hot springs in Iceland, the playgrounds every 3 blocks in Helsinki, Stockholm’s museums and the quiet backwoods of Denmark.

In October, my sister came to town and stayed for a month and J loved her Auntie Dorney.  We went to a local art festival and J was mesmerizeingly cute in her little hot pink fleece horse suit.

In November, I got laid off as part of a 1000 person layoff at work.  Luckily my severance was good.  It wasn’t unexpected, but I’d been loving my new role at work so it was disappointing.   I had until the end of the month to use up my health benefits, so I had 6 massages in a week and that was excellent.

In December, an ultrasound showed that I am pregnant with one healthy looking fetus and am due in June.  We’re pretty pleased.  Christmas was great, too.

All in all, a good year, and the problem with good years for me is that it leaves me nothing to write about.  So, tally ho, internet. Other than my usual year end meme tomorrow, I’m not sure what more I have to say in this space.  Nothing right now, at any rate.  Life is good and I am happy.  We have a plan for the wait period between now and and when the baby’s due – play SAHM most of the time, I have a lead on a part time job offer for 6 months, keep J in daycare 2 days a week from now until both kids go to daycare full time when I go back to work in 2015, because J has done SO WELL in daycare and I’m really not sure that I’m designed to be a full time SAHM anyway.  The layoff wasn’t ideally timed, but I’ve been so sick I have loved being able to take it easy and sleep.  The travel’s been amazing this year and I feel remarkably lucky.  2013 was a good year.  Here’s to a good 2014.

Life is good and I am happy.

Northern BC

Hey, so I went up to the deepest wilds of Northern BC for work recently.  First time being away from the baby, which was kind of weird but 100% fine.  It helped that we had out last nursing session 3 days earlier (the milk dried up, and she was cool with it, reaching for a sippy cup when she found nothing else to drink).  But really, it was bizarrely, totally fine to be away from the kid and the husband for 4 full days.  It was a worthwhile trip, too.  It’s one thing to learn about jointed tubing, and it’s another thing to stand on a drill floor 30 meters above the ground and see what the kelly floor looks like, and how the tubing gets there, you know?

It’s also just nice to get our of town for a few days.  We flew up in a small commercial plane – small enough that there were propellers, and at row 5, I was halfway to the back of the plane. Nice smooth ride up – just bunnyhopping north and westwards.

Whee!

Whee!

Then the three of us (I was traveling with two coworkers) got to ride in a 4 seater chopper, and because I begged, I got to sit in the front with the super hot Australian pilot.  (For some reason, in the bush, all the pilots are young Australian men?  No complaints.)

DOUBLE WHEE!

DOUBLE WHEE!

I wanted to be in the front for the views – the cute pilot was just a bonus.  It’s just so vast and empty, I can’t even tell you.  There are occasional thin strands of “roads”, trails at best, made by energy companies, used by 4x4s, and quickly reclaimed by nature.  Random rivers and lakes and creeks and oxbows and it’s like a geography lesson from above.

I was reading the most recent Game of Thrones book, and these isolated strands of white trees made me think of Godswoods and being north of the Wall. I am a nerd.

I was reading the most recent Game of Thrones book, and these isolated strands of white trees made me think of Godswoods and being north of the Wall. I am a nerd.

It’s really, really far north.  Camp’s about 58 degrees north, and the Arctic Circle starts at 66 degrees.  I was there a week before Solstice.  The sun officially set around 11:30, and rose again around 3:30.  It barely got dark.  I found it hard to sleep, because at 12:30, it was still almost bright enough out to read by.

This picture was taken around 11:30 at night.

This picture was taken around 11:30 at night.

It also screwed up my schedule, because when someone said “Let’s go bear hunting”, it made sense to go, because it looked like 7pm brightness out all evening.  Of course, it was actually 10 pm, but whatever, there were bears!

Baby bear!  Mama's hiding in the bushes.

Baby bear! Mama’s hiding in the bushes.

"Bear hunting" is when you slowly drive the 22 km to the main highway and count all the bears you see, from the safety of your pickup truck.

“Bear hunting” is when you slowly drive the 20 km to the main highway and count all the bears you see, from the safety of your pickup truck.  (This photo was taken at 11 pm.)

I saw 7 bears, and was thoroughly delighted.  I’ve seen bears many times before, but it’s still a novelty.  Even after taking the Bear Awareness course at work, and seeing videos of bears climbing trees and polar bear cubs covered in seal blood.  Bears are still neat!  (If, you know, super dangerous wild animals who under no circumstances ever should you attempt to pet.)

Just call me Brian, in my super hot borrowed coveralls.

Just call me Brian, in my super hot borrowed coveralls.

Seeing the site was great, getting to walk around unescorted was nice, getting the various companies to explain their processes to me was really helpful (and understanding at least 70% of what they were saying was even better!)…  The food was excellent, as is always the case in dry, remote camps.  (12 hour shifts, no booze, nothing to do but sleep and workout when not on site…  the food HAS to be good to keep people happy.)

Flying home was a clusterfuck of epic proportions, but at least I was on a mostly empty 737, and so got my own row for all three hops.  We were unfortunately grounded in Edmonton, due to lighting and tornadoes and shit.  By grounded, I mean trapped in a plane for three fucking hours, while the plane was pulled in to the hanger.  It was terrible.  The 6 of us left on the plane could have rented a car and driven home faster, especially once they found a mechanical problem, and then had to wait for 15 other planes to take off in front of us.  I was fine being away from the baby until then, and then I got twitchy and frustrated and really wanted to be home.  (I should have beaten D and J home from work, not got there just before bedtime.)  On the upside, I got to read 650 of the Dances with Dragons book, so that was nice.

It's a good thing I'm not a nervous flier, because the landing was like an intense roller coaster ride of bouncing and tilting.

It’s a good thing I’m not a nervous flier, because the landing was like an intense roller coaster ride of bouncing and tilting.

When I finally got home, I had D bring J up to the main floor so that she could see me walk back in the front door, after watching me leave a few days earlier.  She saw me coming up the walk and got frantic with excitement, and was pawing at the door while D unlocked it.  I scooped her up in a hug and she nuzzled right in, for a second.  And then refused to even so much as glance at me for the next thirty minutes.  Wouldn’t let go of me, but was so clearly, adorably punishing me for leaving by purposefully refusing to look at me.  It was cute.  We cuddled and talked and then I read her a few books and then she was fine.

I’m glad I went, I was glad to come home.  Which is all I ask of any trip ever, basically.  Just nice that this one didn’t, you know, cost me cash dollars like all my other trips do.  Also, bears!

Dallas

Dallas is pretty

Dallas is pretty

Oh, hey, I went to Dallas a while ago.  I think I forgot to mention that.

We got to walk on the field during out personal tour

We got to walk on the field during out personal tour

It was lovely.  A very, very relaxed week, where we had many naps and saw a bunch of things and mainly just enjoyed hanging out together, 24/10.  We had a nice hotel suite with a separate bedroom and living room, so David and I could hang out and drink and talk and play games and watch shows after J went to bed.  We went to: the zoo, the aquarium, the JFK site, the Sixth Floor Museum, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Doctor Pepper museum, a mammoth burial site, the Cowboys stadium, the Rangers field, a Stars-Flames game, an outlet mall, and the awesome Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  Which sounds like a lot, but that was spread over 10 days.  We also ate a bunch of good food, and had a long chatty lunch with Alyssa.  We enjoyed the hell out of the fact that you can buy booze in grocery stores and that fancy gastropubs have high chairs.  We also had many naps.  It was great.  (We’ll overlook the norovirus and subsequent puking in the parking lot of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.)  But all in all, a great relaxing trip.

JFK Memorial is lame

JFK Memorial is lame

PENGUINS!

PENGUINS!

SHARKS!

SHARKS!

There was an entire room of old Dr Pepper vending machines - surprisingly interesting

There was an entire room of old Dr Pepper vending machines – surprisingly interesting

Drinking Dr Pepper made by a soda jerk

Drinking Dr Pepper made by a soda jerk

Baby's first NHL game

Baby’s first NHL game

Baby lost interest in the 3rd period

Baby lost interest in the 3rd period

Cowboys Stadium is freaking massive

Cowboys Stadium is freaking massive

Happy baby loves barbeque

Happy baby loves barbeque

Mammoth burial site!  Nerdcation.

Mammoth burial site! We like to take nerd-cations.

Dinosaurs, oh my!

Dinosaurs, oh my!

I don’t think work-cation is a word

The child slept through the night, for the first time in longer than I can actually recall!  (She slept through for about 3 months there, and the regression happened around time of the weight plunge, but I’m very tired most of the time and no longer use the baby tracking app and simply don’t remember any more.)

Which is especially good news, as I’m planning going to site for work in the next month or so, and 2 nights is the shortest trip I can swing and get any value out of the trip.  (And there aren’t a ton of flight options in to the wilds of northern BC.)  I’m like, really really excited by this.  Not that I think sitting in an Atco trailer all day sounds like amazing, but on the other hand, sitting and watching a frac actually sounds pretty interesting, given that frac data is a huge part of my job.  And flying in tiny planes!  Am I the only person who wants to fly in a airplane with only a handful of seats and no bathrooms?  (Probably.)  And because they’re private planes, the security is giving your name to the guy with a clipboard.  And helicopters!  Helicopters are cool. And camp food! Camp food is good, you guys. All of our camps are dry (ie no booze or drugs) and so use generous portions of good food to keep people happy.  And I’m tying my trip in with at least one of my favourite coworkers, so we can hang out and that’ll be nice.  And hey, my ego can probably use getting hit on by dozens of men.  (Sad, but true.)  Hell, most of my vacations (which I love) revolved around food (which I love), planes (which I love), expensive hotel rooms (which I love, though usually expensive because they are nice, not because they’re super remote), hanging out with people I like (which I love) and doing something nerdy (which I love).  So if you can just, like, overlook the fact that I’ll be going practically to the Arctic Circle for work, this sounds like not a bad couple of days, to me.

Oh, right, yes, the leaving of the baby thing.  Well.  Please don’t revoke my mom card, but I’m kind of looking forwards to it.  I love my kid, obviously.  I like my kid.  But I’m finding that this toddler phase is, perhaps, not so much my forte.  And stepping out for a little work-cation sounds nice.  I’m sure I’ll miss her like crazy, and will of course have the daycare cam set up on a laptop.  But two days of grown up time, free from nursing and clinging and diapers? Right this day, that doesn’t sound like the worst week ever.

On Vacations

Dallas was a nice trip.  We saw a bunch, ate some good food, bought a few things, and had more than one family nap.  (I love family naps.)  It was a relaxing, enjoyable trip, and I’ll try and get a few pictures up eventually.  The funny thing is how people have reacted to our choice of destination.  We’ve both had variations on the following conversation a few times.

“But… Dallas?  Why?”  “Why not?”  “Oh, you must have friends down there?” “No.”  “Is the weather great or something?”  “Not really – I mean, there’s no snow, but it’s still hoodie weather.”  “So what are you going to do for 10 days?”  “The JFK stuff, for sure, and otherwise, we’ll find something to do.  It’s a big city – there’s always something to see.”  “You’re not making plans??”  “Nah, we’ll wing it – I’m sure it will work out!”

And it totally did.  I stand by the fact that you can find something to do for a week in just about every place, ever, if you make some effort.  It’s certainly easier in a town with an aquarium, a zoo, a half dozen museums and a presidential assassination site, but there’s always something.  (And the less there is that you need to see, the more naps you can have.)

As for the why Dallas and not somewhere else?  Well, that one’s a little bit funnier, at least to me.

We had always planned to take a vacation right before my mat leave ends, but we held off on deciding where until the NHL strike resolved.  It finally did, and my hockey-crazy husband put down Dallas and Miami as two options.  I added New Orleans to the list on the ‘domestic’ side, and Jamaica and Cuba on the tropical side.   We decided against Cuba due to the fact that everyone we talk to complains about the food, and after getting sick on our last resort trip, we weren’t eager to go through that again.  New Orleans fell off because the timing in regards to Mardi Gras wasn’t good – not that I wouldn’t like to see it, but not so much with an 11 month baby and trying to get a hotel at the last minute.  The only logical way for us to get to Miami is through Dallas, and added 4 hours to a flight day with a baby, which would have liveable but not awesome.  So the toss up became random city wander in Dallas versus a resort trip to Jamaica.  And we’d just done a resort trip, so Dallas it was!

The Wall of Map

The Wall of Map

Plus, and this is actually no small consideration, Dallas allowed us to get THREE pins on our giant map of the world that hangs in our dining room.  It’s 6 feet long.  And we use colour coded pins to show where I’ve gone (white), David’s gone (blue), we’ve gone (red) and us plus J have gone (orange).   It’s so nerdy, but I love it.  LOVE IT.  It also handily covers up a wall that the previous owners did some form of crappy finish on, so a giant map takes away from the faux-finish, which is a nice bonus.  But really, I just love looking at maps, and looking at all the places I’ve been, and getting a daily reminder of how much I like my life.  Which is a pretty good return on a $50 piece of paper!

It’s fun to look at, too.  When we have parties, you’ll always find someone looking at the map, often comparing stories with someone else.  It’s a good conversation piece.

This shows a lot of different trips

This shows a lot of different trips

It’s also fun to look at where we’ve been.  I’ve got furthest north (Fort Nelson in northern BC), furthest east (Oman) and furthest south (Costa Rica) covered.  David wins the west with Hawaii.  The Yucatan has three pins of three different colours all clustered together – a white one for the trip to Cozumel with my parents in high school, an orange one for our trip to Cancun last year, and a red one for Chitzen Itza, which we did without J.  I totally win the Pacific North West, due to road trips years ago, and David dominates Europe, due to a post-university 3 month trip.  Interestingly, there are only 3 pins for places we’ve both been but separately: Orlando, Toronto and London.

We may

We may use this as a suggestion list when trip planning…

I won’t lie to you – some of our vacations, like Dallas, are influenced by the empty spaces in the map.  Sure, we have to want to see them, but filling in that blank southern expanse of America was a consideration on our trip.  It certainly is why we took a day trip to Waco.  I mean, that and the Dr Pepper museum, of course.  Because you on vacation – why not drive 4 hours round trip to check out a museum, a mammoth burial site and get a pin for the wall?  (Oh, yeah, we’re fun to travel with.  It’s a good thing that we both enjoy this kind of ridiculousness.)

The only one worth going to is Oman

The only one worth going to is Oman

Man, I love going on vacations.  I know I’ve said this a bunch of times, but I really, really do.  And I am so pleased that we’ve managed to integrate J in to our vacation-life as smoothly as we have.  That’s one of my biggest fears about parenthood, proven wrong.

Vacation

So I feel that there’s a few posts I should write, but let’s start with this one, about our trip to Mexico in November.

David’s little sister met a local several years ago while on vacation with a girlfriend, and it was love.  Before too long, she’d quit her job and sublet her apartment, and moved to Cancun.  4 years after they met, they got married, and we went down to be at the wedding.  (I’m calling it a destination wedding, because every person but the bride, groom and best man had to travel to a resort in Mexico.  The groom’s family live in the D.F. and San Luis Potosí, the bride’s family in Alberta.  My mother in law argued the term, but I’m going with it.)

It wasn’t the best trip we’ve ever taken.

I’m going to sound really spoiled here, but I’ve, um, got used to staying at nicer places.  4 star resorts in Mexico, minimum.  Usually higher, if we can get a good sale.  And once at a “six star” resort in Oman that did it’s best to spoil me forever.  But still, a 3 star Mexican resort wasn’t… awesome.  Nothing terrible – and no one got sick from the food more than twice – but not great.  The food was institutional, the rooms small, the drinks weak, the pool freezing.  We spent as much on this trip than we did to a substantially nicer place in Cabo 10 months earlier, because my mother in law wanted to book it really early.   Jess didn’t do that well with naps or bed times.  Oh, and everyone but me spent the week falling down drunk, so I had full baby responsibility, all the time.

Not the best trip we’ve ever taken.

But that’s the bad stuff.   The good stuff was lovely.  Jess was an ace traveler.  Like, so ace that she didn’t cry at all on the flight down there – she yelled once, but that’s because the baby being held beside of wasn’t looking at her, and Jess wants to communicate with all the other babies.  As soon as the little girl looked over, Jess was happy.  She slept on the planes, and on the bus to the hotel, and in her stroller on walks around Cancun.  Jess loved the ocean, and the pool.

Baby's first ocean

Baby’s first ocean

My mother in law looked after Jess for a day so that David and his father and I could go to Chitzen Itza.  I have a degree that part-focused on Latin America, and so I’ve taken Mesoamerican archeology classes.  I’ve been to this part of Mexico twice, but had never managed to actual see this great UNESCO site.

Chitzen Itza

Chitzen Itza

It was totally wonderful.  We had a good tour guide and I learned a lot.

At the ruins

At the ruins

We also got to swim an a 150 feet deep cenote – a limestone pool that’s part of the underground river system.  It was full of blind fish.  Floating on my back with a huge depth below me and 100 feet of cave walls above me, and watching the sun light up the tree above?  Amazing.  Coolest swim I’ve ever had.

The only picture we have of the cenote - we were too busy swimming to remember pictures

The only picture we have of the cenote – we were too busy swimming to remember pictures

The wedding was … memorable, and the party that followed pretty epic.

The wedding party was a PARTY

The wedding party was a PARTY, and what’s a party without funny hats?

The tiredest, saddest, partied out baby

The tiredest, saddest, partied out baby

We left the resort five times – once for Chitzen Itza, once to go to a grocery store (my favourite thing to do on vacation, seriously), once to go to a newly opened Yucatan history museum (a busy place that only had 6 other north american types), once to go find better food for lunch, and one night David’s sister and husband took us to their favourite street side taco stand.   It was so, SO good.  Calgary has no Mexican food to speak of, so I rarely get it, but I do love it so.

It was a great test run for future trips.  We brought WAY more than we needed, to the point we had to send stuff home with David’s cousin because we were so over our baggage allowance.  We learned that we need a better umbrella stroller – our second hand one was so bad we abandoned it there.  We learned we needed new luggage – that we can no longer get away with a couple of large carry on bags.  (Disposable diapers, man.  You need so many and they take up so much room!)

We learned that we like to travel with out favourite little person, and that we take so, so many pictures of her adorable little face.

Cute baby

Cute baby

It wasn’t the best trip we’ve ever taken, but a underwhelming week at a resort in Mexico beats the hell out of a week in wintery Calgary, every single time.  Good enough!

Table for Three

Years ago, I was at a sushi restaurant with a friend, lingering over California rolls and talking.  The only other customers in the place came over to us as soon as they were seated.  They introduced themselves and then blew my mind.  “We’re sorry in advance – our son is 18 months old and this is the first time we’ve ever taken him to a restaurant, so we’re not sure how he’s going to do.  We’ll try our best but we hope he doesn’t ruin your evening.”  We just demurred and waved them off, and frankly, weren’t bothered by the kid at all.  I have no memory of how he behaved, so I’m sure it must have been okay.

A couple of years ago, I was out for dinner with my aunt, uncle, cousin, her fiance and my mother, at a Chinese restaurant.  We were having a great meal (these people are a riot), when the meal almost descended in to a riot.  (Well, a riot of a dozen middle class white people.)  At the next large round table was a gathering that included a baby, maybe 9 months old.  And this kid started screaming.  Now, we were all understanding about it and shrugged it off, because it was a baby.  15 MINUTES OF UNCEASING SCREAMS LATER, my cousin went over and politely asked them to try and quiet down the baby, because he was ruining out dining expedience.  In the 15 minutes of wailing, the child was fully ignored – just left sitting in his high chair screaming his face off.  As soon as Kim talked to them, someone picked him up and he stopped crying instantly. (Which, DUH.  Even before I had a kid I was aware that babies often cry for attention.)  However, it then descended in to chaos because they were mad that we had questioned their parenting style or whatever, and it ended up with the father of the baby threatening to go fight my 65 year old uncle in the parking lot. (The staff was horrified and had no idea what to do.) It was fucking insane, but funny as hell in hindsight.

These two moments really stand out in my head, in the file of Things Not To Do.  David and I talked a lot before the baby was born about how no way in hell were we going to be Those People.  The ones who never leave the house, or the ones who won’t control their child.

And we started right away.  David’s mother was in town a couple of weeks after Jess was born, and she took me (us) out for lunch at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant.  Now, fine, she was a tiny baby and slept the whole time, but still.  A few weeks later we were there again, with friends, and she was awake and being passed around for cuddles for most of the meal.  As soon as she became old enough to sit up in a high chair it became even easier.

Chiling in her high chair

Chilling in her high chair at a long family dinner in Mexico

We don’t go out all the time, but at least once a week, I’d say.  Maybe a quick Saturday lunch at 5 Guys with David, or lunch at an Indian buffet with a girlfriend, or dinner with David’s parents when they’re in town at somewhere super fancy like the Boston Pizza’s.  (HA!  But they seem to love it there.)   And mostly, she’s very well behaved, especially for a 9 month old baby.

I’m not saying that she’s never got fussy at a restaurant.  But if she does, we offer cheerios, and if those don’t work, she gets picked up and we play pass the baby as we take turns eating.  If she fully freaked out (hasn’t happened yet but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen tomorrow), the plan is for one of us to bolt with the child while the other gets the food wrapped up and the check paid.  Ideal, it is not, but we refuse to be the assholes in the restaurant with the screaming, ignored child.  We also do things to make our lives easier – we bring food for Jess, and cheerios, and toys.  We try to plan the time for just after she’s woken up from a nap, not just before she needs the next one.  We try, when possible, to go before or after the main rush.  We praise her good behaviour lavishly, and try our best to redirect her the rest of the time.  We tip well, and try not to make a mess.  (Actually, the only time she was ever really messy was at the Indian buffet and she’d tossed some rice on the floor.  My friend did her best to pick up most of it, and the staff seemed fine.  It may have helped that Jess was quiet and spent the meal flirting with the waiter…)

Dinner at the "nice" restaurant at our resort in Mexico

Dinner at the “nice” restaurant at our resort in Mexico

At any rate, so far, so good. Hopefully by training the kid since litterarly birth to behave well in restaurants, she’ll continue to do so.  Another “you’ll see” myth about what happens when you have kids, busted!