Archive for April 2007

ten months and finding your feet (II)

I think you might have taken your first steps today after dinner. It all comes down to what a first step actually is. You’re standing for brief periods on your own, taking your hands away and holding your arms out for balance. Now you’ve added taking a step forward before rebalancing yourself and standing again. Then you reach out for Daddy with a big smile, and we cheer you on. It’s not walking, and standing is still a new skill that you don’t have too much confidence in yet – but we’re almost there. Wow.

Ten months – you know what would be cool? If you decided to sleep for ten hours in a row in honour of being ten months. That might mean getting up at 5:50 am instead of 4:50 am. It’d be way more fun to sleep until then too because Mummy and Daddy wont be so bleery-eyed and cranky. Go go go is easier when it’s actually early morning instead of the middle of the night.

Aside from the fact that you get up so early that Nana and Papa’s internal clocks still haven’t recovered from the holiday, you’ve been a great boy this month. We had the best vacation and you were so good-spirited through everything. That’s pretty impressive considering you got two teeth that week. In fact I think it’s safe to say that your personality, especially your laidback enjoyment of life is a mirror image of your father’s. You two boys keep me on my toes and make sure that we have lots of smiles.


I can hear you and Daddy upstairs splashing in the bathtub and I bet your toes are all wrinkly by now… time for me to come and dry you off! Happy ten months Duncan!

A week in the Lakes

The old adage about travelling, bring half the clothes and twice the money, doesn’t hold true with a baby. Bring as many baby clothes as you can stuff in the bag! Because they’ll use them all.

We started the trip at 6am, leaving Aberdeen with a sleepy but fed baby. He slept all the way past Glasgow, which was good as we hadn’t realized that nothing would be open for such a long part of our trip. After our last driving vacation, we were worried about travelling too far in the car, but things went very smoothly and we actually had to kill time before arriving at the apartment just after lunch. Seeing my parents again after three months was a huge treat, and watching Duncan take to them was fantastic.

The week was mostly spent just sucking up the atmosphere and unwinding, with our big touristy activity being a visit to Blackwell House, which was stunning. Taking turns to tour the house (because touring anything with a wriggling worm in your arms is less than ideal) meant we could all take the time to let the house soak in.

I still have a hard time with the concept of class. It seems unreal that some people could have enough money to build homes like Blackwell. I ‘get’ how different salaries lead to different buying power, but I just can’t fathom the upper end of the scale, where inherited money (or huge city bonuses in the financial sector) propel some into lifestyles that seem like fantasy. Most of the castles and mansions you see support my confusion. The scales and styles are so unreal that it’s impossible to imagine yourself living there. But this house (which as my mother said “was a house she’d love to visit”, as she, like me, could never fathom being wealthy enough to own it) seemed very livable. And many of the gorgeous features, especially the tiled fireplaces, were so perfect that they would be scale-downable. Papa’s planning to redo the fireplace in my parent’s living room and I know he took some careful mental notes.

Other holiday highlights included walking, eating well deserved pub lunches, and having lazy mornings (that still started at 5:30 am – Duncan’s internal clock is cruel sometimes). Saying too much about the walking seems superfluous after the pictures – we realize we were extremely lucky with the weather. Cory did catch a strange flu bug while we were away, so our plans to leave Duncan with Nana and Papa for a day to do a real hike never materialized, but even our little walks were inspiring.

My only disappointment with the Lakes, which is really just a quibble, was the shopping. Endless outdoor equipment stores are fine, if a tad boring and repetitive, but it was the lack of shops selling original things, whether pottery, art, crafts, or just random oddities that disappointed. Surely there’s got to be a market there for more than Peter Rabbit tourist tat and fleece jumpers? Cory and I had a lovely ‘date’ exploring Grasmere by ourselves without me buying more than a couple of books, which was not my plan. (As we were eating lunch, I realized I felt like we were incognito – no one in the restaurant knew that I was Duncan’s mother. So much of my off-work identity is tied up in motherhood that to be without D felt almost sneaky.)

Our last day of the trip was in Carlisle, where I (once again, Cory rolls his eyes whenever this happens) fell in love with the medieval city centre. The guildhouse museum and cathedral are enhanting places and the pedestrian areas were completely charming. I’m very bad at falling in love with wherever I am at the moment and wanting to move there – and since we’d low expectations of Carlisle, it hit me hard. It was Nana’s 49th birthday, or something like that, so we celebrated with a pizza lunch and then spent the rest of the time trying not to be sad – the only bad part of the whole trip was saying goodbye at the end.

(photos: Buttermere Lake & packing for the trip).
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Lake District

We were all hiking around Buttermere Lake when my dad commented to Cory about how wild the scenery was. Cory disagreed, as without the sheep and the farms the Lake District would look nothing like it does, it’s a very managed landscape. (Although they both agreed on the excellence of the view).

That got me thinking about what words we use to describe landscapes. We’re used to wild after years on the Pacific coast, but wild isn’t synonymous with beauty. The gorgeous farms with stone homes, the green fields with wavy stone walls stretching up the fells, the windy roads that make impossibly sharp turns around improbably situated farms – it’s all beautiful and more so for the interaction between human and landscape over centuries.

There’s a bit of a myth that beauty is found only in rare inaccesible sites. I hear a lot about the beauty of the west coast of Scotland, but no one talks about the gorgeous low-lying hills near Aberdeen. I think sometimes we don’t take the time to look around at what’s close by, focusing all our energies on the far away. Maybe it’s a sign of the times, in our satisfaction-now culture where we rarely stop to appreciate what we have. But every time we go for a bike ride and look out across the fields I do. I appreciate the gorgeous clean air, the lambs (not as new looking as a few weeks ago), and the mossy walls bordering patches of forest. The lake district is a little grander, more rugged, more awe, and we loved it as well.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for countryside, because it all looks good to me.

Duncan and I have had the flu this week but are recovering finally. I will update the site more often I promise… We are working very hard though on learning to stand (and have the forehead bumps to prove it), exploring the garden, and reading home improvement magazines (guilty pleasure – I know it’s rubbish!).
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family vacations and 96 minutes

We’ve been away enjoying ourselves for the past week in the lake district on the most relaxing family vacation one can imagine with a nine month old. The secret? Grandparents! Of course perfect weather, pub lunches, and amazing walks don’t hurt either. Duncan has come home completed spoiled and Cory and I are feeling pretty great too. Going to work this morning wasn’t easy!

I think a lot about what we’re doing raising our kid so far from our families. I grew up with my Nana and Bompa just ten minutes down the road – close enough that my brother and I tried to cross country ski there one snow day. They were always around, always there for hugs and adventures, teaching us to dive in their swimming pool or coming to school concerts. How can I put a value on that? Something I loved that my kid wont have?

We were driving home to Aberdeen after saying goodbye to my parents when I realized something important though. The 40 hour work week. Here it’s a reality, in Vancouver it was eight hours short of normal. Cory worked 400 hours of unpaid overtime one (typical) year. That’s 96 minutes a day or one working day a week extra that Cory has to spend with his son. (And from what I hear, the kind of tenure track faculty position I’d be shooting for has the same sort of hours. Sure there’s other jobs in Canada that are more family-friendly, but that’s not something you think about at the end of high school when you decide on a university course.) Those 96 minutes make me feel a lot better about our choices, about where we live, and about the priorities we’ve set.

And it makes family vacations even more special! I’ve got literally hundreds of photos to go through before I can get together a set to post here so I’ll save the details for later. Highlights included watching my father crawl around on his hands and knees to play hide-and-seek with Duncan, watching Nana share her enthusiasm for reading with D, and eating breakfast in a lovely cafe without a baby/toddler in tow.
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