Monthly Archives: November 2011

Slave to the machine(s)

I am a slave to the machine.

Two of them, in fact.

The first weighs over 200 pounds, has a voracious appetite for BTUs, and sits squarely in my living room.

The second is considerable smaller, migrates from room to room, and is showing signs of age.

Thing One:

Thing two:

"Geeze, Mom, why won't Dad get me some more bread?"

The wood stove heats our house completely and thoroughly. It is our only source of heat, aside from the 3-ft baseboard heater in the baby’s room. (Wood heat and electric heat do not go well together, There is always one source that is too hot, another that is too cold, and one tired mama getting out of bed to adjust the electric thermostat and/or baby’s blankets at night. If I had my time back, that heater would never have been installed). This is the second second-hand wood stove we’ve had in 18 months. Believe it or not, the one pictured above is actually in better shape than the one we shipped out.

The wood stove demands constant attention and fuel. This time of year, I’m prone to mysterious bruises that come from carrying in wood. (True story: the specialist I saw last week to assess my carpel tunnel was surprised by the strength in my arms. Yeah, it’s strength acquired from a particular condition called Being the Sole Adult Responsible for Keeping the Fire Burning.) I’ve written before about the shocking amount of wood we need to last the winter. I’m a slave to the beast.

The other machine is my seven-year-old Dell laptop. I lost my old computer to a Halifax thief seven years ago, and this is the one the insurance company replaced it with. It weighs about as much as a good-sized junk of wood and will soon pass for an antique, but that’s not what keeps me in thrall. The laptop serves as Sylvia’s contact-point with her father, and Travis’ window into his own home from 6000km away. When the time zones and work schedules align to have us all online at the same time, all work stops when we hear the familiar Skype “doo DOO Doo” ringer.

Gratuitous baby picture. That is all.

In other news, I have a birthday next week, and I actually had to take out a calculator to figure out how old I’ll be. Hasn’t anyone invented a age-less machine yet?

A cow and a codfish walked into a bar…

When I was pregnant with Sylvia, it was nice to have someone around who knew a thing or two about pregnancy and birth. Fortunately, Travis was that someone. Unfortunately, the only births he had tended to were bovine in nature. He had hauled dozens of slimy newborn calves, feet-first, into the world. He had timed a whole herd of cow menstrual cycles, and he was intimately familiar with the nine-month gestation period of cattle. Of course, his cows didn’t demand foot rubs or have crying fits in bookstore parking lots, but at least he knew something about the process.

Good thing I was aware of this from the start. Otherwise I may have been offended when my father-in-law, upon learning his first grandchild was due in April, nodded knowingly and said “calving time.”

The pregnant-cow comparison continued throughout my pregnancy. I didn’t care. I was truly thankful to have a partner as knowledgeable as he was. That is, until the delivery itself.

The first few minutes after Sylvia was born were full of laughter and tears and life-changing moments, no different than in any other case room on any other day. That is, until Travis made this observation. Then vocalized it.

“It smells just like a cow giving birth.”

Now if that’s not the first thing you want to hear after you deliver your first baby, I don’t know what is. You know how OB nurses claim nothing shocks them? Well both of mine were speechless.

***

That’s a story I’ve been trying to put into words for a while. I tell it a lot at dinner parties and to pregnant acquaintances, but it’s more than a funny anecdote.

It sums up how Travis and I have such different sets of experiences that brought us each here to this tiny house, mere meters from the Atlantic ocean.

When I left Newfoundland at 17, I was going to travel the world and compete at the Olympics. While I have an impressive number of stamps in my passport and degrees in both journalism and French, my speed skates haven’t been sharpened in years.

Travis is a long, long way from cattle ranching, having traded his branding irons for Newfoundland residency. Seven years ago, he bucked the trend of Atlantic Canadians going west to work by moving TO Newfoundland.

How ironic we’ve now joined the ranks of families separated by a long-distance paycheque. Yet how fitting. I’m only following a long line of female relatives who’ve watched their husbands leave on schooners, oil tankers and airplanes.

In this wireless world, our rural home is not so isolated as it might have been just 15 years ago. We’re lucky to have this digital connection to each other and the global parenting community, but the Internet doesn’t carry in wood or fix the well when the water lines freeze. These are the realities of rural life that we still contend with every day, alongside diapers and naps and toddler playtime.

For every hour I spend online, I spend an equal amount of time on housekeeping chores that wouldn’t exist if we lived in Paris, St. John’s, or Calgary. Parenting might be different in other locals, but I’m sure it’s not any easier. It’s difficult to explain why we choose – choose! – to make our life here when so many are leaving, but when all you want are good food, a warm house and a happy family, you can make a life anywhere.


***
I’ve been trying to define the parameters of this blog for a while. The original intentions of The Sheds Project don’t quite cut it anymore, but I’m sticking with The Sheds handle because our woodshed is our lifeline, and an integral part of rural-Newfoundland living. This particular post is an application for a freelance writing gig with Today’s Parent magazine. I’d like to add my voice to the broader Canadian parenting experience as I live it here in our tiny house by the vast, vast sea.

I’d like to direct you to three of my favourite posts:

A paddle on Indian Arm is the account of a somewhat idyllic day in the life…

I have an oil lamp and I’m not afraid to use it sums up a few things you need to know before buying that century-old home in outport Newfoundland. No really, take it from me.

From the trenches. What happens when all the lifelines that connect you to the outside world are cut off in one fell swoop. Or at least one really, really bad rainstorm.

Redemption

Sylvia saves a starfish

"All done"

Thankfully, toddlers have impressively short memories.

Outdoor mama fail

Cold baby is cold. And pissed off.

It was so cold this morning, but so deceptively sunny! We set out to do Fox Island and Skerwink, but the wind was bitter. Sylvia soon let me know she was NOT happy.

This is how we made it back to the car, baby wailing all the way:

I'm not smiling. I'm grimacing.

She was wearing a wool base layer, but I obviously didn’t have enough clothes on her. She cried for a full hour until her hands and toes thawed out. The guilt! I has it.

Why I insisted on a natural birth (it’s not what you think!)

I saw a doctor yesterday, trying to determine the source of numbness in my arms. It’s likely carpal tunnel presenting a little unusually, but it’s enough to drive me crazy.

“No typing,” the doctor said.

I laughed.

“No typing for more than 30 minutes at a time,” he amended.

I laughed again.

“Computers are the bane of humanity,” he concluded.

Well I can partially agree with that.

Anyway, they will do a nerve test and then there’s surgery, but I’m into Avoiding Surgery, if you know what I mean. See, I have this aversion to needles…

The day before yesterday, I went to give blood.

The mobile collection team was in town. I missed it two months ago, so I made a point to get there on my lunch hour.

Aren’t the blood-collecting people all just so gosh-darned friendly? And thankful? You walk in, and it’s all “Hi! Thanks for coming!” You get called in to answer questions about your sordid past and they say, “Thanks for coming, have a seat!” Then you get to the bloodletting chair and they say, “Thanks for coming in today, left or right arm?”

As I see it, all that thanks could stem from one of two reasons:

1. They want to somehow make up for the fact they made you relive your sordid past, and now they’re going to stick you with a needle and suck your blood.
2. They really truly appreciate you being there, because the demand for blood and platelets always outpaces the donations.

And I’m pretty sure it’s a lot more of the latter.

So I go, even though I’m not down with needles. No, not at all. (There’s a reason I turned down an epidural, and it wasn’t martyrdom*.)

But this time, I came prepared! I brought a book, a scarf to shield my eyes from the whole operation, and a real can-do attitude.

The can-do did do me for two minutes and 25 seconds. Then I passed out. Like I do.

Let me be clear: It’s not the blood, it’s the needles. Blood fascinates me. Needles mess with my head.

So while the nurses flip my chair back, apply cold compresses to my neck and wrap a tourniquet around the hole in my arm, I can’t stop apologizing. “I’m so sorry! I don’t want to be a waste of time! Did you get enough to use? I’m so sorry!”

Because I know my measly 285 grams of blood was not worth their time and effort to tend to me and bring me juice. All that time could have been better spent taking blood from other people who would have remained conscious while delivering a full pint. Each time I convince myself THIS is the time I’m not going to faint, and each time I never make it to the finish.

Why do I put myself (and them) through it? Because you see, I know there’s always a demand for blood. I’m healthy. Why shouldn‘t I donate?

I explain my conflicting interests to the bloodsuckers each time, invariably as I come to from my swoon, and they all say the same thing. “Thanks so much for trying! Thanks for coming!” And then they gently excuse me from every having to come back.

Now I just have to excuse myself.

In the meantime, if you’re healthy and have 15 minutes to spare, drop by a blood collection clinic. The cookies are tasty, the juice is plentiful, and the staff are the friendliest bunch of people you’ll ever want to meet coming at you with a 17-gauge needle. (Just looking that up gave me the heebie jeebies).

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*Let me tell you a true story about refusing an IV port while I was in labour. No really, I did.
Me: “No.”
Nurse: “You might need it.”
Me: “I don’t need it NOW, so keep it away from me!”
Nurse: “But if you need it, we’ll have to put it in.”
Me: “If I NEED it, I’ll deal with it. Until then, you do NOT want to have to deal with me in labour, AND me with an IV port.”(Seriously – a couple of years ago ER nurses in the very same hospital had to hold me down to administer antibiotic for an advanced case of strep throat).
Nurse: “Well we’ll see what the doctor says about that.”
… doctor arrives…
Nurse(to obstetrician): “She says she doesn’t want an IV port.”
Doctor (to me): “You might need it.”
Me: If NEED it, I’ll get it. I don’t need it now, so I’m not getting it now.
Doctor: But you MIGHT.
Me: LET’S CROSS THAT BRIDGE IF WE COME TO IT!

…The bridge never came.

Later, after Sylvia was born all healthy and slimy, the OB says, “We have to put you on a petocin drip”
Me: “Why?”
OB: “You’re stomach is not hardening up fast enough.”
(See, after delivery your womb should contract again, firming up the belly. If it’s soft, it could be a sign of internal hemorrhaging).
Me: “Is there any other option?”
OB: “I’ll give you one hour to contract, or else the nurse will have to hook you up.” (He says, on his way back to the gym. No, really.)
Me: Ok, one hour.

… one hour later, my belly is doing just fine on its own. See how my fear of needles twice spared me from unnecessary intervention?

And all this from the only OB in a hospital where the C-section rate is over 42 per cent! That’s nearly THREE TIMES the recommendation of the World Health Organization! Interestingly, the doc I saw yesterday noted that the inflated C-section rate is not only due to a scalpel-happy obstetrician, but women are requesting them more because they want to avoid the pain of labour. So let’s talk about our prenatal education a little bit.

Wow this turned into a little post-within-a-post! If you leave with one thing, let it be this: give blood! They could really use your donation, and your nerve.

Eat, play, imbibe

We’ve been away, doing Very Important Things.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Scallop and pesto / Scallop and Ginger-lime-thyme jelly / Scallop and squashberry jelly

So you see, I’ve been far too tipsy full busy picking apples to update. We’re back online now though. Hooray for summer weather in November!

My baby climbs rocks, scales mountains

I now know exactly how my parents probably felt every time I scaled a tree, cliff, fence, swing set, etc...

Our most recent hike was a jaunt to the King’s Cove lighthouse, one of our go-to hikes when people are visiting from away. It is an easy walk to the main attraction (the lighthouse) but the return trip can be as short or as long as you’d like to make it. And the cliffs and rocks nearby just beg to be explored every time we go.

There’s a reason we always go off the beaten path in King’s Cove. There are caves. Somewhere. According to the local lore we’ve gathered, they are “as big as a Parish hall.” We know they haven’t been visited in decades, and their entrance was obscured by stone and brush even then. Our trips to King’s Cove always take a while, but so far they’ve been disappointingly cave-free.

Someday, we will find them.

(Or at least have a lot of fun trying.)

The trail suffered some damage at the hands of Hurricane Igor last year, which makes for a bit of a bumpy ride for any Chariot passengers. The first part of the trail (to the lighthouse and back) is still passable, even if your charming guests brought no footwear beyond wedge sandals or flip flops to Newfoundland.

(On this recent hike we had the pleasure to be joined by another adventuring family, and sensible shoes were worn by all. Got to get in shape for ski season which is right around the corner! You had better believe it.)