Monday, November 5, 2012

Back to the Future

 My original intent for this blog was to give my friends and family in Canada a glimpse into our new daily life in Glasgow, and to have some record of our experience living in a new country and culture. Now having returned to Canada, and after a long period of separation from Aaron this spring and summer while he finished his studies and began his job search, I'm now offering my friends in Scotland a glimpse into our Canadian life, and updating our friends and family on both this and that side of the pond on the newest exploits of our children and ourselves.
It is November already and we had our first snowfall three weeks ago. When Gil woke up and looked out the window, he said with mild concern that he saw dust blowing through the air. His tone changed when I got up too and said: "Actually that's snow."  It was coming down in fat flakes and melting before it hit the ground, but over the course of the day as it continued harder, it started to stick and then he could inspect for individual and uniquely shaped snowflakes. That was the first snow.
Since then, before Halloween in fact, we had more, and the day after Halloween we had a huge dump.  So we swapped the stroller for a sled and are bundled up to three times our normal size, as we continue to attempt the impossible: to live in Edmonton without a car.  Granted we cheat somewhat, in that we have very hospitable parents/grandparents that live nearby, who graciously take us to the Superstore for a fortnightly giant shop.  But meantime we try to get by within walking distance: to the Farmer's Market every weekend, to Gil's preschool, to the Army and Navy on Whyte Avenue for family winter wear and socks, to Earth's General Store, to Mill Creek Ravine and the playground (though it is too cold to play now, much to Magda's dismay), to the space where I am leading my weekly drama group for home-schoolers, even to the University where Aaron and I have picked up some work as Standardized Patients for the medical school. And our walks most often take us to Nana and Pappi's house for lunch, dinner and play.
The bus takes us downtown to the library, the Citadel Theatre where there is a great indoor space to walk about with lots of plants (can't quite compare to the Kibble Palace though - no fish, or lemon trees...) and to Alberta College where we go weekly to our Nursing Women's Choir with our new awesome choir director who picks great music that we and the kids enjoy.
I was out on our balcony tonight over looking the wide alley behind our apartment building, as it was warm enough to enjoy a bit of fresh air, and as I looked down towards the view over the river valley and the lights of downtown, I was aware that I am feeling a strange kind of familiarity here. Its the deep familiarity of the neighborhood I grew up in, where my childhood took place, but that was so long ago and I am here with my own children now. I wish it was a more comforting feeling, but instead it feels strange, like living the memories of someone else, or maybe having woken up from a long dream or a long sleep (15 years) and finding that the trees around you have grown taller.
Or maybe being here again makes me feel a bit like who I used to be, and I don't feel like that person anymore. Or maybe its the fact that my kids are three and one and a half, and I've forgotten who I am anyway.
Go back to sleep and keep dreaming. 
Or at least go have some Ruffles All Dressed chips and ginger ale with your husband. (Ack, I'm saying chips again already... Gil still insists they are called crisps.)

(Pictures from Gil's Halloween Hullabaloo at his nursery school.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nursing and singing

Tonight was the debut performance of The Edmonton Nursing Women's Choir. Myself and eight other mums sang while wearing and (in a few cases) breastfeeding our babies, at a wine-tasting fundraiser for a human milk bank depot in Edmonton. The fundraiser was a great success and raised both awareness and money to create the depot in an Edmonton hospital. It was also a unique experience for me tonight to perform with my daughter and do a little bit towards normalizing breastfeeding in public. And then afterwards we got to have some really good cheese together too! Magda enjoyed the aptly named mild Prima Donna. A grand debut!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Typing tiny in the darkness

A new iPod has enabled communication somewhat by providing the ability to type while nursing my daughter back to sleep, though it cannot give me more hours in the day which is what would be truly required to catch everyone up on the latest and craziest chapter in our lives. We, that being me and my two kids are currently in Edmonton Alberta, staying with grandparents for the summer, while Aaron completes his PhD and searches for a job...anywhere. That's a crude summary of a much more detailed situation that I hope to expand on, but my posts are always filled with the best intentions, so let us hope for more, while facing the reality that I am typing on a tiny keypad in the dark. Hmmm, it appears to be one of those nights that Gil has decided to sleep with his head at the bottom of the bed. "...and to all a good night."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Comeback

Where do I begin to catch up?

The fear of the blank page and trying to fill it with over a year's worth of life events have kept me away from picking up where I left off, not to mention the demands of daily life and the disappearance of any free time to myself. I actually so rarely have a moment that is not filled with meeting the demands of toddler, baby and general family upkeep that when such a moment comes along, I find myself standing lost in the middle of the living room, or poking around in the fridge for some kind of treat like an oatcake and cheese or a bit of chocolate, not really knowing what else I could do for myself in a small space of alone time. It's hard to settle down with a book or start painting your toenails when you know the cry for the boob could come at any second.
But here I am with just such a moment, and instead of launch into an epic blog entry that will tackle all the events of the past year and a half, or promise any upcoming episodes that I will unlikely be able to provide for another half decade, let me just say that today was another trip to Edinburgh.

Me, my dad, mom, my aunt Ellen and my TWO children now, Gilbert and baby Magda, all went to Edinburgh and visited the Royal Mile from top to bottom, and had good weather despite the forecast. As Gil ran and climbed and tumbled with my mom all over the grounds of the Scottish parliament, I fed Magda and watched the slow moving line of people climbing up Salisbury Crags thinking that I've been wanting to do that climb since we moved to Scotland almost three years ago. However, every time I've been to Edinburgh in the past three years, I've been pregnant or pushing a pram. But next time I go, we will climb.

Photo - Magda and Pappi

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Scottish tradition

I just can't start writing without acknowledging the fact that I have been away from the blog for six months. I don't know how it happened or where that time has gone. I didn't think it had been THAT long... yikes. Makes sense though considering the past nine and a half months have been the fastest I have ever experienced, even though every day is taken up with virtually the same things - preparing food, feeding, nursing, wiping, cuddling, playing, singing, rocking, walking, carrying, lifting, hoisting, comforting, washing, drying, cleaning, picking things up, putting things away, and going for coffee with other mums. And every free mental micro-moment that is not taken up with all those things, I am preparing for the class that I started teaching each Thursday. It's an intro Acting class through the University of Strathclyde's Centre for Lifelong Learning via the Strathclyde Theatre Group/Ramshorn Theatre. More on that later ... (I know. Promises, promises...)
So, all the above introduction is just to lay the scene for my daily life in which this post's true topic was a lovely and humbling moment.
I was just coming out of the Co-Op grocery store this afternoon, passing a man who sometimes stands outside selling The Big Issue magazine (the UK homeless publication), when he called out to me despite my having just guiltily declined to buy a copy. I was pushing Gil in his stroller and the man approached us with a coin asking if he could perform "the Scottish tradition". He touched the 20p piece to each of Gil's cheeks, wishing him health, wealth and prosperity, and tucked the coin into the pram, saying that it was meant for his piggy bank. He then said (and I wish I didn't still have to struggle to understand a true Glaswegian) either that Gil would hopefully not have to sell The Big Issue, OR that he hoped Gil would be one to buy the Big Issue in the future. I'm not sure which. Although I suppose they both amount to the same wish.
But I do know that I walked away thoroughly humbled, moved and finally understanding a similar incident that had happened when Gil was not even a month old. My mom and I were walking with him in the city centre and a young woman (who seemed perhaps somewhat synthetically happy, but genuine nonetheless) came up to us, looked in the pram and touched Gil's hand, obviously in love with him. Then she ran over to her boyfriend for something and came back with some change that she tucked in the lining of the pram, wished us well and skipped off. My mom and I were a little bewildered as we had no idea this was a custom, though we guessed it must be. But now I have confirmation.
It is a lovely gesture and I have to say that I'm humbled by the fact that both strangers who have bestowed this tradition on us appeared to have been able to ill afford it. Gil now has a very special 20p piece to hang on to.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Day that Changed our Life

We are in the heart of autumn here. I have to say the weather has been beautiful. Many blue skies with puffy white clouds and the low-angled autumnal sun that you get in northern climes catching you in the side of the face. Also there's that crisp clear air that you can enjoy when you're bundled up, even if the tip of your nose gets cold.
Do I sound contented? Happy, even? I have to say, I am. I was told ages ago that it would take me about 6 months to a year to settle in and, though at the time that was not comforting, it was true, and I do feel settled now. And it's a good feeling.

Before I jump back in time to begin the first installment of "The great catch up on the summer", I have to just mention something I saw today, that if I had had any doubt that I was in Scotland would have cleared that right up. I was walking up the pedestrian mall Buchanan Street and there was a little tent booth set up. Looked like free samples of something, so of course I wandered over to see, and, lo and behold, it was a taste test, not of colas or breakfast cereal, but of potatoes.
Different kinds of potatoes.
I love it.
Someone said to me the other day that in Scotland "yer meat and two veg" is a steak with some mashed potatoes and some boiled potatoes.

Now the catch up begins.

So think back, waaaaaaayyyy back to May 18 of this year. That was my due date.
I don't know what you were doing, but I was having contractions. All day.

I woke up at 3:30am on the 18th, with intermittent cramping in my back wrapping around to the front to my abdomen. I was very excited. I lay there for about a half hour and then got up because I couldn't sleep anymore, partly from excitement and partly from discomfort. I sat up at the computer, and played some Word Twist on Facebook while timing my contractions which were coming between 10-15 minutes apart. "Wow," I thought, "this is really happening. The curry we had last night is working! Who knows how long it will be before they are down to 5 minutes apart which is when we should be going to hospital. I should wake Aaron up." So I went back into the bedroom and said to my sleepy husband: "I'm in labour."

Little did either of us know that I would be "in labour" (ie. having contractions of varying lengths and strengths) for the next 42 hours. Yes, all that day I tried to relax and carry on with daily life, which was hard because although the contractions weren't all that strong (compared to what was coming) it was impossible to get comfortable and I was having to focus and breathe my way through them - Aaron was already helping me out with the massage techniques we had learned and practiced - and then there was the anticipation, which we had already spread across the pond by calling the Grandparents-in-waiting sometime that day to let them know things were underway. So, it was with some disappointment and resignation that we went to bed, after watching a movie that was supposed to be a distraction but was so terrible it was just annoying ("Shoot em up" - very disappointing and weird). I didn't sleep much beyond an hour or two before getting up again to hang out in the living room on my hands and knees, the only position I had any relief in. I remember thinking "If only I could sleep like this..."

By ten o'clock the next morning, I called the hospital hoping they would tell me to come in even though the contractions were still only 7-10 minutes apart. They were definitely stronger and I was getting tired having hardly slept for two days. The midwife at the Southern General Hospital encouraged me to stay home longer. And by 1pm, I phoned again to say I was coming, regardless. Our friends John and Vibeka drove us to the hospital with our big bag. Terribly exciting! And even though I had a couple of contractions in the car, I was keeping my cool, breathing and squeezing Aaron's left hand while he massaged my lower back with his right.
When we got to the hospital, they kissed us and wished us well, and we made our way to the labour ward. We didn't wait long before we were taken into the triage area, where one of the midwives checked me out, and told us, with a sympathetic tone that I was only 2.5 cm dilated. A ways to go to get to 10. I couldn't believe it or do much to hide my disappointment as I was getting so tired. She counseled us that if we wanted to avoid any possible "interventions" - some kind of "augmentation" to speed things along - that we were better off to go back home and continue labouring there. I could hardly face another car ride, but, when she said that if we stayed at the hospital and I hadn't progressed into full labour by 8pm Aaron would have to then leave and get called back when I was fully dilated (!!!), we called a cab.

This is the point at which my memory gets really fuzzy. I know that we got back to our flat around 3pm. Someone had suggested that walking around would help - "Go for a walk..." - so we walked down into the ravine by the Kelvin river (my favorite spot) and climbed the bank up the the Botanical Gardens, and walked back along Great Western road. All this took over an hour and I had to stop several times for some pretty hefty contractions. I remember hanging onto wrought-iron fences both along the river and along the road with a ferocious grip, trying to focus and puffing out determined breaths. Then I remember being back at home alternating between being in the shower, on hands and knees and hanging over our bed for an hour and a half or so before my water finally broke. Yay! Now we had to go to the hospital, and surely this was what they call "established labour". Surely to God...

We got back into a cab with a very friendly and reassuring driver, who joked with us asking us to please not give birth in his cab, and who expressed some mild but genuine alarm upon hearing that my contractions were 3 minutes apart. He got us there safe and sound and swiftly, and as we made our way back to the labour ward, the reality of our situation - that this was finally it, the moment I had been imagining for months was finally upon me - hit me. I had to work hard to keep my focus and not get swept away by the huge wave of mixed emotions welling up inside me while we waited for what seemed to me like a long time in the waiting room before getting into triage again.
Now something that is important to remember, I think, if you are in labour or with someone in labour, is that when you are in transit (ie. getting to the hospital) your contractions slow down. I read this. Its as if your body knows you aren't in a safe place yet to deliver. And so, though my contractions had been 3 minutes apart when we left, they were now back at around 7. Back in triage, the midwife attending to me, going on the simple fact that I was at 7 mins, told me not to be disappointed if I wasn't much further dilated, like 4cm or something. I didn't believe that, but by this point I wasn't sure if I really didn't or I just didn't want to. However when she did her exam, I heard her say to Aaron: "Oh. Do you want to see the head?"
Only seconds after that, I had my first "transition" contraction - the ones that are really painful - and I finally understood just what has so many women screaming for drugs. I had, all along, actually been planning and hoping for a water birth. I picked the Southern General Hospital partly because it had a birthing pool. But when I was told the baby had passed meconium and could be in distress, meaning I couldn't use the pool, I couldn't have cared less. They moved me to the labour room, I started pushing and in less than two hours he was out.
At 11:45pm on May 19.

Of course there was a lot more to those two hours than that, but my memory of it is compressed and dreamlike. I do remember thinking right before he was born that I didn't know if I was going to have the energy to keep going, but then I thought that not having the energy was just not an option. That may have been the moment I really became a mother; that moment you freely accept that it is never just going to be about you ever again. As for other details of those two hours, I think they have been burned into Aaron's memory as he had an equally visceral though quite different perspective than I did. You can ask him.
I do have to say that the midwives who helped us deliver were fantastic. Gentle, calm, encouraging, accommodating and respectful of my wishes (I didn't want to be on my back), they offered Aaron the chance to cut the cord, which he did, and when it was all over, they brought me tea and toast. The best meal I ever had.

We had a good hour and a half then, mostly alone, with our little bundle. Our minds were exploding and bodies exhausted (Aaron had a couple of bruised knuckles from when I had unknowingly ground his hand into the bed-frame, and his right arm which had massaged my lower back almost constantly for nine hours must have been quivering), and we finally met the someone we had been aching to meet for months, and possibly years. We just couldn't get enough of looking. It was a quiet, extraordinary time that certainly is the closest I've ever come to what it must feel like to land on the moon.

Upcoming posts: Continuing with the catch up - Gil's first days, Family visits and summer events, but also Our Day at Loch Lomond and other more recent updates

Monday, September 14, 2009


Several people have told me that September is one of the more beautiful months for Glasgow, and this past weekend has certainly won me to that opinion. Bright sunshine combined with a fresh breeze, smells of new mown grass and fallen leaves. Today those smells were overpowered by the malty, burned toast smell of the Tennents brewery, which must be working over time to produce enough lager to meet the needs of all the Uni and college students during "freshers week".
The past four days of sunshine have made my daily walks with our little sprog especially enjoyable, and have allowed me to venture a little further and longer, prompting me to seek out open sunny spaces to walk, like along the Forth/Clyde canal, instead of under the treed canopy beside the Kelvin.
The "sprog" (or "the wee bairn") is pushing four months now - hard to believe - and is heart-meltingly adorable, says his mother and father, especially when he laughs, smiles, sighs, sticks his tongue out, sucks his toes, and sleeps.
There is so much to catch up on, blogwise, from the past four months that I have decided to do it in short little entries that won't seem so daunting to me. Especially since life has changed so much, as they say it does when you have kids. Daily life and life in general. "Changing priorities ahead." There just isn't as much time as there used to be to write, to read, to talk on the phone, to play games, to plan theatrical productions, whereas there is lots of time for feeding the baby, washing nappies, playing peek-a-boo, singing the "Capitol I" song, taking walks in the park so the baby will nap - a kind of enforced outdoor exercise and relaxation time. Yes, life has changed.