Monday, August 29, 2011

Because You're Ugly

So when I married into Brent's family I was all kinds of happy, they seemed like nice people and they welcomed me in and jeepers, how bad could they be when they raised this near perfect son I was about to throw away my youth on marry?  But they had this horrifying flaw that threw me for a loop ALL the time: they joked about EVERYTHING.  Nothing was serious, you never knew exactly where you stood or what they were really thinking behind all that poking fun, and every occasion was grounds for roasting everyone else.
Where I grew up, you always explained the punchline and you always doubled back on a joke at someone else's expense.  You wouldn't want someone to think that you were SERIOUS when you said because I hate your guts when they asked why you weren't passing the salt.
Where Brent grew up, explaining punchlines and doubling back were cardinal sins.
You can see how this could create some discomfort.
There were people who, at our wedding, had speeches prepared which were honest and heartfelt and serious, and didn't share those speeches because the tone of the entire reception was so filled with humour that it just didn't feel cool to break the rhythm and get all serious on us....
[And afterwards I was a bit like, it was fun and all and we sure laughed a lot but nobody said anything NICE about us....which is hilarious from this perspective because I understand the Vose humour so much better now: nothing says unconditional love and acceptance like a good, solid joke at your expense when it comes to the Voses]

I mean, this is a family where people have been sending other people postcards from around the world in different languages for thirty years and nobody knows who they are from or how they are managing to make this happen, and in which my mother in law last year recieved an anonymous gift in the mail which contained the most bejewelled but floss thong I have ever seen in my life, and nobody owned up. Because nobody would: THIS IS A CARDINAL SIN.

I also have worked in a very male work environment for almost ten years, and even though there are now 50% women graduating from paramedic school, all us women who feed into the ambulance service are quickly immersed and versed in How To Keep Our Man Pants On: ie, if you're not a man you damn well better act like one but not in any way like a dyke and for GOD'S SAKE DON'T FUCKING CRY. I'm quite comfortable immersed in that environment, sensitive though I may be, because really, what you see is what you get with men and boys and its just so. much. simpler.  Men, however, have similar views of humour as the Vose Family: EVERYTHING IS FODDER FOR JOKES and NEVER DOUBLE BACK.

My mom grew up in an almost all female family, maybe that's where the double back tell the punchline style of humour came from: don't get me wrong, the Smiths and the Resides laugh ALL the time and are hysterical~one of the reasons Brent and I get along so well despite both being oldest children is because we have solid senses of humour that we learned from both sets of parents.  The Smiths are really good at that dry humour that slaps you in the back of the head and mocks people something fierce, and the Resides are schooled in self deprication and ridiculously good memory recall for historical family events or individual weaknesses.  But there are limits, and you always pat each other on the back at the end of the day to make sure everyone knows you still love them and think they're wonderful.

Resides: back pat.
Voses: no back pat.
Smiths: if you're the subject of the joke you're not in the room, so back patting isn't necessary.
Work environment: show emotional weakness at your own risk.

All of this factored into last week when my mom posted something on facebook to the extend of: Why Is No One Commenting On This Photo Of Me [I can't actually remember what it said]?  To which I replied:
Because you're ugly.

When I wrote it I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes, because it was so utterly funny and so obviously the opposite of true or acceptable that it had to be obvious I was joking, right?

But then I got the facebook silent treatment and my Aunt Lynne was all
You're not letting Melissa get away with that, are you?!!!
And my mom was all
And today she was like,
Melissa you can't say that to another woman.

OOPS!  At first I thought, well what, did you think I was SERIOUS?!!  And then I realized I hadn't gone BACK and said WAITAMINNIT, FB SILENT TREATMENT, YOU KNOW I WAS JOKING RIGHT?!  When I didn't get jibed back.  This is totally something I would say to my mom's face and expect to get smacked across the shoulder for, and snicker and be done with, but I forgot to make sure she smacked me across the shoulder on cyberspace.

Fortunately she wasn't actually mad.  But it reminded me of how ten years of immersion in male work culture and nine years immersion in Vose family humour (not to mention eight years of little boy poop smack fart you're ugly humour in MY OWN HOUSEHOLD) have changed how I joke around, and how I should pay a little more attention to remembering to do it Reside style when I'm poking fun at my mom.
I think, in fact, that it is the little boys in my own household who have changed my sense of humour the most.  Living with four males (five if you count the dog, who farts like a man) just makes you grow tougher skin, until finally you're a crocodile with steel leather for skin and a propensity for dishing it out Like A Man.

Sorry, mom.  I'll watch my potty mouth a bit closer from here on in.

See?  My mom's a very pretty woman:

Oops, I meant to post this picture:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Inside Scoop

on life as a crazy person.  Thanks, Heather (and Caryn, because I hadn't gotten around to in awhile)


Across the world the most dangerous place for a woman to be is in her own home.

-Jennifer deGroot

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Clothing Edition

Some heirloom dresses which have been waiting in closets
for me to have girl babies....getting dusty....until...

Pretty tulips

Hand smocking by nana, worn by Melissa and Megan (my sister)

Detailing on bonnet

The suspicious look, with toes

This tutu is no heirloom, but isn't she kick ass pretty?
My aunt Bonnie sent this one

Now THIS dress is heirloom; my mom wore this in 1952


With Great Uncle Leonard: who's the heirloom in this photo?

I came home from the hospital in this nightgown
when I was an infant, and it was hand embroidered
by my mom


I just read a blog post on camping with toddlers that I enjoyed, especially her description of chasing her toddler down the road repeatedly~ah yes, fond memories.  Lots of work, lots of fun.  Especially this time when I went camping alone with two toddlers!  But I had to laugh when at the end of her post she recommends not going camping until your kids are two years old.  HA!  The first time Ayden went camping with us he was 3 months old.  The first time Matthew went camping with us he was 21 months old.  The first time Riley went camping with us he was 10 months old (being born in August ensured he didn't camp the first summer he was alive).  And the first time Amarys went camping she was 4 months old.  I love camping with babies!  The fresh air wears them out so the sleep well, the entertainment is free, and the housework is all sitting at home out of my reach.

 I think, though, it's all in how you approach camping with babies.  Someone recently was asking us whether we bring our playpen when we go camping, and she was so confused as to how exactly we sleep in a tent without a playpen.  Like, sleeping separately is so fundamentally important as to cause you major inconvenience and stress (and perhaps not going camping at all) trying to figure out how to make it possible in a tent in the woods?  The solution is cosleeping.  I will readily admit that tent cosleeping makes me nervous, because there are siblings and blankets and sleeping bags with strings in them everywhere, but there are ways to make it safe and comfortable for everyone, and then if they wake up in the night it is easy for them to feel that you are right there.  I don't recommend sleeping separately from your kids when camping at all, because any night wakings inevitably involve fear and screaming, several zippers and some stumbling around in the dark to settle them.
I mean, when they're teenagers you can get them their own tent.  But small kids, not so much.
Infants are prone to losing body heat quickly, so sleeping under the crook of your arm is the perfect spot for them to stay warm and be subconsciously monitored through the night.  And if they wake up?  Whip out a breast.  Perhaps this is the key to successful camping with babies under the age of two; if you have to get up at night and warm up a bottle it would be pretty frickin not worth the work.  [The woman who posted don't camp til your kids are two bottle fed because she adopted so you can see how it would make things seem impossibly hard].  Seriously, camping with my babies is easier than camping with my three year old because the baby needs revolve around close contact with my body.

Glow sticks help, too, illuminating the tent just enough to stave off midnight freakouts but not enough to keep anyone awake.  And definitely not dangerous or expensive.

If we can camp in one tent with six people ages 35, 33, 8, 6, 3, and 5 months, you can camp, too.  And even have fun.

Last week we went camping with our young families group at church.  It was supposed to be two nights, and Sunday was gorgeous and HOT, and we had a good time cooking hot dogs and marshmallows, and talking around the campfire late at night.  But at about 3 o'clock in the morning it started to rain, and it rained and it rained and it rained....forget babies being inconvenient, frickin RAIN is inconvenient!!  We managed to fit in an hour and a half hike with garbage bag rain jackets and a group of about 15 people (troupers!) before we tossed in the towel and packed our wet gear in the van and went home.  Of course the next day dawned clear and hot again.  Eyeroll.  Humid as a humidifier though.  Yikes!

Amarys just scared herself with her own fart.  Life is hilarious.

One of Those Days...

Partway through today I decided to give myself a break.  Today I was not as patient and positive and calm as I like to be with the kids, and especially my 'handful' child, but I realized that the older he gets, and the more experienced I become, the fewer and fewer the days like today.  Which wasn't awful, by any means, but there was this niggling voice reprimanding me all day (until the 'partway' part, then I just told it to shut up) for less than stellar parenting.  Mainly, I wasn't connected to him.  I was a bit 'yell-y mom.'  I didn't look him in the eye a whole lot, and there were only a few times after dinner where we had nice, relaxed, reciprocal interactions.  But dang, we've come really, really far.  And so today will just have to be one of those days where it's okay to just let it be what it is and start fresh again tomorrow.

Brent has been on holidays almost continuously for a month now, and today was his first day back at work.  Which sucks, because I miss him and we're an awesome team, and we have way more fun when the six of us are all together than when one of us is gone for the day.  It also sucked because I had 40 pounds of tomatoes that needed canning TODAY.  In fact they needed it yesterday but I pushed them back a day because I wanted to enjoy Brent's company while he was still around.  Not that he's gone when he's working, like a six month navy stint or something, but a 12 hour workday plus commute is pretty long.  So, I canned tomatoes while caring for all the needs and refereeing all the fights of four small children at eleventy billion degrees (30) and sixty hundred percent humidity (100) in my kitchen.  At one point Amarys was sitting on the counter in her bumbo seat, crying so hard there was snot running down to her chin, and Riley was lying at my feet whining about something, and Matthew was screaming while Ayden was pounding on him, and I was midstep in my canning at a non stoppable moment.

Some days, I wonder what the hell I'm thinking?

But it wasn't really that bad.  [which sounds hilariously untrue, but it isn't!]  That was the worst moment of all.  I had asked the boys to choose a movie to watch while I canned, and I had a pile of toys and several chair options for Amarys so I could keep her happy while I worked, but things kind of devolved at a moment where I just couldn't stop what I was doing so it got a bit hairy for a few minutes.  WILD TIMES in the Vose household, I tell you.  When I finally got to pick my girl up, she was all
What were you thinking, bitch?!  Oh, but you're nice to snuggle with, and you're going to offer me BREASTmilk, well then in that case maybe I like you a little, no maybe quite a lot, and maybe I'll drift off to sleep in two minutes flat and oh, I love youuuuuuu.....
Riley was a quick fix with a snack and the older boys I separated because they really just need to learn to take some time apart from each other to help them not fight so much, and better enjoy the time when they're together.
Matthew said to me this afternoon,
Mommy, when Ayden and I grow up, we're going to be best buds.  And we're going to live together in the same house.
Ayden, who are you going to marry?  I want to see if I like her.  And Ayden?  We have to live in Victoria so you can work at the Bug Zoo.  We should have a big house in Victoria and we can live there together with our wives and lots of kids.
Wow that kid is hysterical.  And so sweet.  We're going to be best buds.  Yeah, especially if you learn that drop kicking objects into Ayden's face isn't a popular way to get his attention while he's reading.

I also had to drive to South Langley to pick up our dog [who still has no home.  Or manners.  Anyone know anyone who wants a dog who isn't good with kids?  Free to a good home!] and swipe some flyers from the rural newspaper boxes down that direction, and on my way all three younger kids fell asleep.

The day before yesterday Brent took the three boys to the PNE in Vancouver for their annual Fair Day~I hate carnivals and fairs so I refuse to go but the boys think its fabulous and it is now a tradition for them. Bonus: I get the day off.  Except for whatever baby happens to be hanging off my hip (or tit, depending on how you look at it).  So they usually leave the house around 10 a.m. and don't get back until 1 a.m.  They leave when the park closes at midnight.  They are the last ones on the rides.  The lights shut down as they get off.  They are diehards.  You can appreciate how tired this makes them in subsequent days, so I'm pretty sure the scrapping and whining and crying are a direct result of the PNE.  So cute.  So annoying.

I paid for my day off today, I tell you.  Four crabby children (Amarys is teething) and forty pounds of ripe tomatoes.  But I made it!  Forty pounds canned and only one jar busted: $27 and some hard work, and we're set for the winter for tomatoes.  Awesome!  Next week is pasta sauce and blueberry picking/freezing (we already filled our deep freeze half full of strawberries and raspberries), and the week after that is applesauce canning, and we will be stocked for winter.  I have made strawberry, raspberry, cherry cinnamon clove, and apricot jams this year.  The apricot jam just might be the best thing of 2011; we'll have to see.  Cherry cinnamon clove is generally popular  =)

Oops, my last three jars are in the canner and I think I heard another one explode on me.  Le sigh.  What a waste of time, money, a jar, and tomatoes.  Grrrrrr....

Yeah, so My Handful lied to me today, so he won't be going to his friend's birthday party on Sunday.  He's pretty upset about that but he has a dishonest streak, which obviously isn't okay.  I am constantly second guessing myself; I want to be firm but not harsh, create boundaries without squelching emotional connectedness, and let him play freely without harrassing or injuring other people...It's a tall order, and I don't often feel like, YES!  I got that one right! with this child.  You can explain til you're blue in the face but unless it costs him something, there's very little buy-in.  He's my wild card.  My crazy eight.  The one who will blow all your cherished parenting philosophies out of the water, and streeeeeech you a mile long and a millimeter thin, and at the end of the day, catch a wasp in a cup for his little brother and squeeze you so hard you fart and yell
over his shoulder as he runs away.

Actually only in the last few months has he started initiating verbal affection with us, for the first time ever.  He will spontaneously say he loves us, and give us hugs, and give out compliments.  I think his verbal skills have finally reached the point where he can articulate his feelings on a deep and spontaneous level, and Amarys has really brought out a soft side in him so his feelings are closer to the surface.  It's remarkable.  Miraculous.  So, so surprising.

Ah, Matthew.  You with the surprises, always.  Wrapped in exasperating paper.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Aggressive Gendering

You guys know I have strong feelings about gender stereotyping.  I've hated it for as long as I can remember.  What exactly is it I hate so much?  It ultimately boils down to dimensionality.  In all things I am attracted to depth and complexity; I would rather study an onion than a leaf, for example.  I prefer paintings and books and dance pieces and movies which are layered and rich enough that one look at it is not enough to grasp the entire meaning.  People are pretty complex, and I hate it when it is assumed that who I am is discernible at a glance.
I don't assume that about people.  That's a lie and you know it.  I do assume I can sum up others by appearance all the time, and self correct constantly because I believe with such ferocity that it is wrong.  Not just unfair, but unethical.  Clearly, if I assume that because a child is a girl it is a waste of effort to educate her, this has moral implications that go exactly opposite to my value system, and I fail to see how less damaging instances of two dimensionality are any less wrong.
I know boys and girls are different.  But I think our culture goes pretty far in teaching us how to be different, on top of our already differentness.  This bothers me, because it limits us by creating a two dimensional expectation which others have and we fulfill, rather than learning about ourselves on a deep level and expecting others to approach us in much the same way, with healthy respect for our complexity.
With this in mind, I sometimes dress my babies in non gender specific clothing.  Because babies are cute, and don't have to be strictly pink and blue all the time.  When they are older they will learn fairly quickly what's expected of them, I don't need to stuff them in a box with arbitrary boy/girl characteristics from the minute they are born.
I've discovered that people don't like this.  I've had four or five people half jokingly chide me for dressing Amarys in ambiguous clothing so they 'can't tell' if she's a boy or a girl.  So they have to *gasp* ASK (and often when they ask they choose to guess, wrongly, which creates a bit of embarrassment, which contributes to the chiding, of course).  I'm a bit exasperated by this, because I don't want to be chided.  I want people to see Amarys for who she is, not what she sports between her legs, but more than that I don't really see what the big deal is.  I'm not keeping it a secret like that couple back east whose baby's sex is a big secret from the world and whose name is ambiguous, and who rustled up this big emotional reaction from people sometime this past year.  Why do people care so much that they react so strongly?  I'm the one who should choose whether or not to be offended that people can't tell she's a girl. I'm not offended.  I've never been one to correct people when they guess wrong, which they often do with babies because, well, their looks are pretty homogenous.  Someone did guess boy today when Amarys was sitting in a shopping cart wearing a bright pink dress; there's no accounting for blindness, I guess (or cross cultural differences in colour genderization, which is likely to blame for today's incident).  "He's so cute!"
"Why thank you!"
She doesn't know the difference.  And I don't mind.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that, good natured though it is, it kind of ruffles my feathers when people get their feathers ruffled by my nonchalance regarding Amarys' gender.  I'm her mom, and I don't care, and I think it's good for Amarys to grow up in a family where sometimes she's just a kid, rather than a boy or a girl, you know what I mean?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What's Awesome About 8

Amber on did this cool post on "What's Awesome About Six and a Half," and I loved it so much I'm copying it (with credits).

What's awesome about Ayden being 8?

-Reading together on the couch
-Independence as far as dressing, bathing, toileting, seat belt buckling, and even some wisdom in choices, such as peeking outside to see the weather before choosing clothing (though not always-some ridiculous hot days he comes out dressed in long sleeves and jeans and black socks and we're like, I'm sweating in my eyeballs just looking at you, dude)
-HELP which is HELPFUL and more often than not, cheerful.  Such as, fetching diapers or wipes, short stints of babyminding while I'm caring for toddlers, making dinner, or showering.  Whew, this cannot be overstated.  He is HELPFUL!
-reasonable.  Like yesterday he was so angry he started pounding on his brother (not so reasonable) but after his time out on the bathroom stool we chatted about how said brother's personality is a bit....intense....and as such is sometimes frustrating.  But we also need to keep our anger expression non violent because brother #3 will treat baby #4 the way he sees brother #1 treat brother #2.  He got it.  And he put it into practice immediately.
-FUNNY.  His jokes are funnier and funnier as time goes by.  And his vocabulary increases.  He reminds me of Anne of Green Gables in that he's always using these enormous words he's read in books, most of the time with the correct pronunciation, and it seems weird coming from a little kid.  He's learning the subtleties of word play, although he's not above a good potty joke either.
-Shockingly tall.  He stretches from one end of his bed to the other...
-Another set of eyes to notice ripe blueberries in the garden, spiders on the garage wall, and traffic flow and toddler trajectories.  Awesome.

What's Awesome About 6 Going on 7

Matthew is nearly seven.  What's so great about Matthew being almost seven?

-Self monitoring.  Helpful, since he has always been a morning person and for years required strict supervision.  Now he helps himself to cereal and plays with lego while awaiting his other 5 night owl, sleeper inner family members to wake up.
-Chatter.  Some of it is actually interesting!  He pays attention to EVerything, and talks about all of it, so sometimes we miss interesting bits in a fog of telephone pole counting and litter counts.  But he has quite a few interesting bits to note, such as motorcycles with airbrushed flames, or scaredy squirrel book plots.
-Taking life less seriously.  Matthew is this mixture of sensitive, perceptive, and wildly energetic.  He no longer faints when he's upset, he can talk about his feelings, and he generally doesn't act like the sky is falling when we're mad at him.  Which is success, in my books.
-Emotional intelligence developing at warp speed, and his ability to empathize, which I think is greatly enhanced by his:
-Relationship with his sister; this has brought out a softness in him I've not yet encountered.  When he was a toddler I had to watch him like a hawk when there was a baby in the room because he always wanted to stick his fingers in their eyes.  Now he's finely attuned to Amarys' every move, mood, and state of being, and his adoration for her has changed the way he approaches the world.  So cool.
-Mr. Personality.
[those last four were always there; but they are more enjoyable with someone who is nearly seven and no longer falls apart when he misses a nap]
Seriously, the older this kid gets the WAY more fun it is to be his parent; his personality is so strong that the force of it combined with the work of caring for a small child made the younger years lots of uphill struggle, but as he emerges its more personality and less work.  SO GREAT.  Seriously.  You have no idea (unless you're close to me, and then you do).
I remember the first week of kindergarten I dropped him off and watched him run in and hang up his backpack, plunk down at circle time, and raise his hand to answer a question, and it suddenly hit me hard that we made it.  He was five, he was at school, he was a socially well adjusted happy kid who fit into kindergarten well, and I laid my head on the window and sobbed.  Sobbed.  Talk about a marathon run.  Another few heartbeats and he will graduate high school and I'll be all He's all grown up.  And he even uses a napkin.

What's Awesome About Three

What's so awesome about Riley being "FREE"?
-potty trained
-eats independently
-articulates when he needs help
-so transparently cute when he tries to manipulate us
-entertains himself for up to 15 minutes at a time
-understands enough to follow directions, including complex ones like grab me the stuff sack for this sleeping bag, and hand me that big pot for cooking corn on the cob
-can wait for short periods of time to have his needs met
-Three year olds get so EXCITED about everything; life is AMAZING and blueberries are AMAZING and jumping on the trampoline for the fourth time today is the BEST IDEA YOU'VE EVER HAD!!!
-Still small enough to snuggle lots

What's Awesome About Five Months Old

I love having a five month old.  This pretty much sums it up: old enough to have gotten used to life, but too young to be mobile.  One of my favourite stages.
-sitting alone makes for longer minutes of self entertainment
-totally enthralled with her brothers
-stays where I put her for the most part
-snuggles, and cuddles, and loves to be carried
-still exclusively breastfed.  I love looking at my chunky thighed, roly poly babies and knowing that my body made all of it.  It is fun to feed them real food, but it is also pretty empowering to have grown and fed them entirely with my body.
-self discovery.  It is mind blowing to go back to square one, every time, with every baby, and watch them discover themselves, the world, their family, and all the wonders of having toes and preferences and fingernails.
-delicious, wonderful, amazing, fragrant, smooth, soft, warm, butternut candy skin.  Baby soft skin.
-She sleeps like a miracle.  Still.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Photogs, Family Edition

Vose kids


Family photo (serious edition)

(Goofy edition)

White Rock beach day

Big enough to sit at the table for family meals
(and very proud of herself)

These two have a remarkable relationship;
reciprocal adoration

I put Ammi down on the rug for a minute, and
when I came back she was profoundly asleep

Friday, August 19, 2011

Almost Famous

Check for my photo here! Despite appearances, all four of my kids are in that picture  =)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Nursing in the Nursery?

So this past Sunday I had an interesting experience.  I'm not great at responding intelligently when people are inappropriate in public, so I wasn't that coherent in the moment, but I am considering writing a letter to our church regarding breastfeeding as a result of this incident.  And I will hand deliver a copy of that letter to the woman who was volunteering in the nursery that day (I know her face but not her name).

Our oldest three attend Sunday School each Sunday.  They love it, and although Riley sometimes requests that we stay in his preschool class with him, and had a long transition feeling comfortable staying alone, for the most part he is now very comfortable there and enjoys his friends and activities.  Amarys is, in my opinion, too young to be left in the nursery, but also in my opinion, too vocal to sit with us in the sanctuary.  She's a talker.  So for the past three or four weeks we have kept her with us during the singing portion of church when it doesn't matter much how talkative she is, and dropped her off in the nursery during the sermon portion (about half an hour).  She loves the nursery, because she's big into toys, and she's very sociable so as long as someone will play with her while she's there, she's happy.  Our nursery has a main volunteer and two teenage helpers, and only a few babies, so there are plenty of people to play with her.  Main point: she's happy.  We can listen to the sermon in peace.  It works.

Now, I'm a public breastfeeder.  I do it all the time, including in the sanctuary at church if the need arises, because I believe that breastfeeding is a normal, nurturing human behaviour that our culture has mixed feelings about because of hypersexualization of the breast and a limited exposure to breastfeeding as normal and healthy.  The law agrees with me: in Canada women have the legal right to breastfeed in any public or private place and the law specifically states that asking a woman to cover up or move locations while breastfeeding is discrimination and a violation of her human rights.  I also believe strongly that it is healthy for children and adults to see women breastfeeding, because it desensitizes adults and exposes all people to the nonsexual functioning breast.  Nursing in public also helps other women breastfeed their babies, because the more they see it done, the more normal it will seem to them, and the more likely they will see HOW it is done and encounter fewer problems.  If we don't see how its done how can we learn to do it well and effectively?  If shame and breastfeeding are mixed together success will be less likely.

I also breastfeed in public because my daughter gets hungry and her food is attached to my chest.

I recently saved a link to this amazing post on the issue of covering up while breastfeeding, which I think is the best, most rational, and most comprehensive article on this subject that I've ever read.  Being a 'Breastfeeding Counsellor' (which is a title being phased out but which is recognized) and a lactivist, I've read a lot of articles on breastfeeding.  If you only ever read ONE, this post is the one to read.  Here is the link to that post in full, and here are some very good points she noted:

  What’s so wrong about requiring a nursing mother to just cover up, to show some modesty or discretion?
  1. The law is on the side of the nursing mother. There is no legal obligation for her to cover.  In my state, the law reads, “A woman may breast feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.”
  2. The nursing mother has no greater moral obligation to appease the bystander than the bystander has to appease the nursing mother. And it follows that the discomfort of the bystander does not have greater importance than the discomfort of the nursing dyad.
  3. Discretion

    This wasn't discreet enough for some because her head wasn't covered
     is subjective and means different things to different people, ensuring that it is impossible to mandate.  It can mean anything from covering the nipple to covering all flesh to covering the entire baby.  Whose definition of discretion should be used? The nursing mother should cover to the level that SHE is comfortable with. That choice is up to her and nobody else.
  4. Discretion is often used as an excuse when the real problem is with breastfeeding itself. Mothers have been told not to breastfeed their babies in public even when completely covered by a blanket, or otherwise not showing any skin (such as in my case).  It’s not just that those people don’t want to see you breastfeeding, they don’t even want to know you are breastfeeding.
  5. Many mothers who are trying to be discreet feel that using a cover draws MORE attention to themselves. It says “Hey! Look at me! I’m nursing under here!” If a mother just casually lifts her shirt, she is likely to draw less attention to herself.
  6. Covers can be impractical.  Many babies refuse to be covered and will just pull a cover off anyway. When my baby was little, I wanted to be able to see her and check on her latch.  In the middle of July, in the heat wave we’ve been having, it is too warm to be covering baby’s head unnecessarily anyway.
  7. Modesty refers to “Behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency”.  To say that a breastfeeding mother is not modest, says that breastfeeding itself is inherently improper or indecent. When strangers, particularly those with some kind of authority, tell a nursing mother to cover up, they are attaching a negative stigma to breastfeeding. They are implying that there is something dirty, shameful, or wrong about it.
  8. Fear of nursing in public is one reason many women cite for weaning early or choosing not to breastfeed at all. In order for breastfeeding to become normalized in our society, we need to remove the stigma that says that breastfeeding is improper.
  9. Bottle-feeding should not be socially preferred over breastfeeding.  My wish is that breastfeeding mothers be able to feel comfortable feeding their babies in any place, and with as much “discretion,” as would a bottle feeding mother.  Suggesting that a nursing mother needs to cover up while a bottle-feeding mother would not, implies that bottle-feeding is more appropriate than breastfeeding.
  10. It is good for society to see uncovered breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding needs to be seen in order for it to be normalized compared to bottle-feeding.  We also need to see examples of breastfeeding in order to learn it ourselves because we learn by seeing it modeled. I believe that a major reason why mothers today have so many more problems with breastfeeding than they have historically is because they have had little exposure to breastfeeding.

(I really hope she doesn't mind my copying a large quote from her post~please visit her site itself, Lactation Narration, for the full article and access to all the links she took the time and effort to embed in her article!  She has a lot of other well written articles, resources, and links as well)

In particular I appreciate her statement that modesty is subjective, and her examples that some people don't even want to be able to see the baby's head while nursing.  I am not opposed to women covering up while nursing, or removing themselves to a quiet or private place to do so: I think that whatever makes a woman comfortable enough to breastfeed, that is what is right for her to do.  I think those nursing covers, while popular, are a bit ridiculous: you cover yourself up with a black and white cow print three foot by three foot square piece of fabric (which looks like a giant adult bib) and you think it draws less attention than just lifting your shirt??  But I'm not opposed to women using them if it makes them feel more comfortable!  Some of us are comfortable in bikinis and some are comfortable in a one piece bathing suit and shorts (and some are more comfortable in something from Wholesome Wear, courtesy of 19 Kids and Counting, lol), and all of us are wonderful and beautiful and fully within our rights to wear what makes us comfortable.  
I guess I'm a bikini nurser.

So this past Sunday I put Amarys in the nursery and sat down to listen to the sermon.  Near the end my nursery pager went off, so I went to see what was the matter.  Amarys is teething so she's nasty cranky, and church is, of course, smack in the middle of naptime, so I figured either she was tired or had a dirty diaper, or she just needed me because her mouth hurt.  The nursery volunteer said,
"She's okay, she's just hungry."
"Okay!" I knew she wasn't hungry.  I fed her just before we left for church and it had only been an hour and a half (at five months she can go up to 4 hours, but generally prefers to eat every 3 hours).
"Do you have a bottle for her?"
Me, sort of indignant,
"No, she's breastfed."
"Ohhhhh, do you want to go into one of the pastor's offices or something to feed her in private, then?"
********angry crickets********

(i borrowed the crickets from Cinco De Mommy, she's funny)

Okay, SINCE WHEN is the church....where the babies are cared for by women volunteers and female teenagers, the WRONG PLACE TO NURSE MY BABY?!?!!!  I was SO MAD I was sputtering.  I gathered up my stuff and left for fear of tarnishing this woman's experience of breastfeeding and lactivism for the rest of her life.  Or simply punching her in the face.

#1, Amarys wasn't hungry.  She was tired and her mouth hurt.
#2, If she were hungry, I'm comfortable nursing her in the sanctuary
#3, If I weren't comfortable nursing her in church itself, the nursery is the logical place to go
#4, If she offers this to every nursing momma those women will get the message that nursing is dirty, and should be done in absolute privacy and with maximum inconvenience for everyone (can you imagine the kerfuffle if you had to find a private office every time, notify the owner or users of the office, and shut the door and cover the window in the door and try to get comfy in an office chair?  Good grief, no wonder women find breastfeeding a pain in the butt)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Three Years Old

Riley is three.
My baby is three.
The delicious 10 pounder with chubby cheeks who never cried when he was a baby is a full fledged toddler.
Passionate about backhoes, tractors, excavators, and the colour pink.

He's no longer My VBAC Baby, but rather a blonde boy with a buzz cut and a mind of his own.

Riley is three!  He labouriously arranges his fingers to indicate his age, and then points them in your direction,
"Me already FREE!"  He started the day out right: 15 minute nursing session, then blackberry honey on toast.  He still likes his mommy milk, but we're tapering off.  One day soon, he will be done.  If asked sometimes he will say he will stop having milkies when he is eight, like Ayden, and sometimes he will say when he is three.  He runs, jumps, somersaults, climbs, rides his scooter, and throws anything very well, in general with lots of motivation to keep up with his two big brothers.  Said big brothers have been known to cower in a corner of the playroom while being whalloped with Light Sabres on more than one occasion.  Riley still has a lisp, still calls the dog "Hymen" and socks "hocks," but we've been working on 's' in a low pressure, off key way and he's getting there.  He can do some middle and nearly all final 's' sounds, but his initial 's' is all 'h.'

His pre reading skills are excellent.  He follows storylines, will pretend to sound out words by following text with his finger and talking about the story, and pretends to write his name.  He is also a very good artist.  His representations of people are pretty remarkable, and he loves to draw ovals.  Oval over oval over oval, and then pronounces them 'hircles.'  He can make a triangle with his fingers, and recognize a circle and a square.  He loves to draw, paint, and colour.
He is of course decidedly independent, with cries of "ME DO IT MINEHELF" ringing through the house day and night....three is the new two: I've always found three years old to be much more terrible than two years old, myself: the tantrums and cries for independence are louder, stronger, and longer.  But Riley is a remarkably easy going kid, so even these are pretty calm as far as three year olds go.  He's a good negotiator: "How about I brush mine teeth, then have lollipop?  No?  How about I brush mine teeth, you brush your teeth, and we both have lollipop?"  This can go on ad infinitum.

He is a sweetheart and very empathetic.  He's also very affectionate, and will throw his arms around people he loves, and spontaneously tell us he loves us.  There's not much on earth more rewarding that toddler love.  Because you know they just aren't pretending it.
His favourite colours are purple and pink.  He loves his pink Zhu-Zhu pet, chose purple with sparkles for his TV tray, and specifically requested pink and purple balloons, and a pink and purple heart shaped cake for his third birthday.  Enjoying our kids for exactly who they are, we celebrate his love of pink.  We don't believe in strict gender stereotypes and have tried to raise our kids to feel free to explore who they are and what they like without boxing them in.  So, a pink and purple heart shaped cake it is!!  And of course he's just as enamoured with his John Deere tractor gift as with his purple sparkly TV table.  ♥

Cars Movie and toys
Matchbox cars, especially vehicles with trailers
His entire extended family
Helping cook, clean, garden, and care for his little sister
Zhu-Zhu pets
Hex Bugs
Food of all kinds

Car trips
Changes in routine especially pertaining to bedtime
Brushing his teeth

We love you, Riley Baby.  ♥

"My 120 pound journey." Cool stuff. And my 3rd favorite song of all time which doesn't hurt the video, super inspiring. =)

I gotta go for a run.


Do you remember 2.5 years ago when I posted that I had lost my wedding and engagement rings?  We pulled the house and car apart, and gave up all hope of them turning up after we moved to our new house.  So sad.
Today Brent gave me my real anniversary gift, which wasn't ready in time for our anniversary:
He replaced the engagement ring.

YES!  It's good to be married again.  Or engaged, I guess.  One thing at a time.
It's beautiful, better than last time because I know how much I've missed it over the last two and a half years!!!

I'll post a photo tomorrow.

(Tomorrow is Riley's birthday.  He is three can you believe it?  I still call him 'Baby' all the time, and here he is picking my nose with his toes while nursing....and too long for my lap anymore....I hate when they grow up)

Friday, August 12, 2011

9 Years

August 10th was our wedding anniversary.  (As opposed to our dating anniversary, which we don't 'celebrate' but which we usually remark upon every February).  To celebrate this year, we took the train to Portland for three days, just the two of us and our tagalong, Amarys.  The boys stayed at Camp GrammaGrampa, along with the dog, and came home scruffy, oversugared, and underslept, but very, very happy.
Early Tuesday we got up in the wet, misty sort of thing that is summer morning in a rain forestey area, rushed around with suitcases and baby wipes and train tickets, and drove across the border to Bellingham WA and caught the train.  It was a gorgeous six hour train ride to Portland, and then we had plenty of time left in the day to take a taxi (on what we later discovered was quite a roundabout route, $$$) to our hotel and explore the city a bit.  We walked downtown and hit the mall just by chance, because we wanted to get out of the heat, or the wind, or something, and found this funky shop with cool gifts for the boys and an amazing purse for me (handmade in Nepal, very original, very cool).
I cut my hair last week.  I was tired of trying to look like a hippie and only really pulling off the mennonite look.  Nothing against mennos, it just isn't the style I was going for... Anyways, I'm revamping my wardrobe one item at a time to reflect a style I used to have and melt it together with who I am now, and hopefully come out the other end with a better sense of how to represent myself to the world with my clothes.  I have used clothes as a mode of artistic self expression for many years and kind of dropped that when I got fat had Ayden and generally had less than no money to spend on myself, and ballooned up and down with pregnancies.  Portland was the perfect city to start the revamping.
Well, I started the revamp with a haircut.  But Portland was the place for clothes.
Portland. Is. So. Cool.  It is totally my style!  I had only been there a very few times before and never the kind of trip where you go and stay.  Like where Portland is the destination.  There were funky people everywhere, very eclectic, and neat little shops on every street, generally calm traffic and minimal road rage or really anyone rage, anywhere.  There were parks and town squares and art EVERYWHERE.  Transplant Portland North about 8 hours and its my dream city to live in.  There were all kinds of people from all walks of life and the only franchise I laid eyes on in three days was Safeway.  AWESOME.

That night we ate at the hotel for dinner, and it was yummy, and Amarys charmed everyone (I do mean everyone), and we had delicious food and crashed early because we hit the road early.

Next morning we ate breakfast at Starbucks and did you know, in Portland they take your name and write it on your drink?  Like, instead of tallextrahotdecafextrafoamlatte, it's Melissa?  Yes, thank you.  I love your city.
We then walked to Powell's.  I've heard of this extravegantly lovely bookstore before, I mean, I live in Canada, not the darkest recesses of the North Pole, but I wasn't sure what the big deal was.  And I was a little afraid of it, to be honest.  I have a hard time with deciding what kind of cheese to put on my pizza, and which main artery to take into Vancouver, let alone an entire square city block of BOOKS.  My favourite thing in the world, after my kids and my hubby and quite possibly dark chocolate and lemon merengue pie, is reading.  So an entire city block of books is enticing; I just wasn't convinced I wouldn't drown in the hundred thousand million titles book store of the century.
Instead, I felt like I had come home.  Millions upon millions of books, and I loved every second of the two hours we were in there.  They even have a rare book room: there was a book in there that was:
It cost $11, 5000.  Eleven thousand.  Five hundred.  DOLLARS.  So stinkin cool.  I can't even remember what it was about or who it was by, but it was in remarkable shape and still uncut (they bound books in those days with the pages folded like an accordian, and when you read the book you cut the pages with a knife).  Wow.

We each bought six books and because Powell's stocks tons of used books as well as new, we only spent $60.  I think I may even have gotten seven in the end, because I found a second hand copy of The No Cry Sleep Solution for $5.  All the rest of my pics were fiction, except one by Anne Lamott, whose nonfiction I love.  I got one of her novels and one of her non fiction books.  Actually, TWO, so I must have gotten eight books?  Jeepers.  I have been hunting for a copy of her Operating Instructions, a journal of her sons first year of life, for years, and almost no one sells it anymore, but here they had about twelve copies.

We left all drunk on cheap books.
We then ate at a brewery which I forgot the name of, but was the best food available in North America, I wager.  Then we walked to Keen's, a shoe store whose sandals we swear by, and whose original store and warehouse are located in Portland.  We just thought we'd wander in and browse, and then we came out $160 poorer.  But gosh darn it we had funky shoes.
Yay for overtime.
Financing anniversary trips for years to come.

We wandered the streets for awhile more, discovering that lots of parks means lots of people, some musicians, some panhandlers, lots of kids in fountains, artists with large beautiful canvases strolling down the sidewalk, ballerinas discussing choreography with fellow dancers on the tram, and just general neat people watching opportunities.  All public transit is free within the downtown core: which means we discovered that our trip back to Union Station at the end of our visit was free and only took 12 minutes by tram, as opposed to costing $7 and taking half an hour by taxi.
Anyways, that day was our anniversary for reals and we headed back to the hotel for a rest and to feed Mrs. Distractability before we went for dinner.  There was a free concert on Main Street that night but when we arrived it must have been intermission or something and nothing was happening except a couple hundred people making small talk and shifting around in their seats.  So we left.

We ate dinner at another brewery which was a deep disappointment foodwise, but we managed to pack away a bunch of mediocre food with smiles on our faces.
Amarys expressed her profound dismay at being alive, and in a restaurant.

Then when we returned to the hotel she expressed dismay at being in the hotel.  So Brent walked her around the block in the Bjorn for an hour and I fell deeply asleep.  I guess all that walking wore me right out!  Brent tucked Amarys in under my arm and went across the street with his book and ordered some wine, and enjoyed the cool evening.  I'm sure he would rather have enjoyed me, but he didn't complain.  As I snored away our anniversary.  How romantic.

The following morning we ate at Starbucks again and the guy behind the till remembered us!  From the day before.  Then he even spelled my name correctly on my drink and I told him we just might need to bring him home with us.  He sort of laughed like you would at a stalker or something.
Then we hit MY favourite, always, with the new city visiting, the Art Museum.  There were floors and floors of contemporary, modern, and post 60s art (those are separate genres), which are three of my favourite genres, and it was blissful.  BLISSful.
It was funny, there was this one statue that was of a fat man sitting on a stool, slumped over in his work clothes, titled "Dishwasher."  And it was so lifelike, it was creepy.  Both of us did not like that statue, because it really felt alive.
I've been in countless rooms with countless dead people, and they never feel alive.  It has always surprised me how quickly a person goes from alive and human to dead and remarkably more like an object in the room than a living, breathing person.  There is this quality to live humans that commands our acknowledgment and attention, if in small part, to their humanness, almost an awareness of each others' souls.  How else can I describe the contrast between being in the presence of someone alive, and then, sometimes with the same person, dead, and when they are dead they are a lifeless object?  Not in a disrespectful way, because running through my mind is all the years of love and work and sex and laundry and children and lonely nights and gardening and eating and television and stubbed toes that made up that person's beautiful original unique ephemeral life.  I just think it is life, the presence of a spirit, which makes us aware of each other as people rather than objects.
This statue felt alive.
It was wild.
And it wasn't alive, like a Happening or performance art or something; I checked.
I hated it.
Which I loved.

There was also a Rothko, several Picassos, a piece titled 'Five Words in Orange Neon' which were exactly that, some amazing glass post modern pieces, and no work by my two ultimate favourites, Giacometti

and Pollock.

Sadly there were no pieces by these two, but I saw a Giacometti in Washington DC at the Museum of Modern Art so I've experienced that joy before.  Art is always better in person.

We ate lunch and hopped on the tram to Union Station and the Amtrack, and read our wonderful new books all the way home.  What a trip.  So awesome.
Portland loves its art!  We also picked out the house we want to live in, should we move to Portland (we're forever choosing homes in unlikely places).  Its a converted brick warehouse on a quiet street a block from the park.  We ♥ Portland.

And we have no pictures.  We forgot our camera.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Breech Birth Series Link Up

Em Butrin, a bloggy friend of mine and mom to two of the cutest babies around, shared her breech and VBAC stories with us on Mothers of Change.  Check it out!
Thanks for sharing with us, Em.  You're awesome.
(Leave Em some comment love if you've got time!)

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Brent always works nights when things are happening around here.


To preface this story, I will say that I stayed up until 2 a.m. last night.  And got up at 8.  So I'm a bit tired.

There was some good stuff this evening.  I harvested seven zucchini from my garden and fried them up as zoosticks for dinner!  DEEEEEEElicious!  I also had the kids pick a bowl full of peas, which are now ripe, and some lettuce for the burgers.  I made hamburgers with fresh basil, parsley, and cilantro in them, as well as shallots: all from my garden!!  They were so yummy.  I also made homemade french fries and corn on the cob.  I'm amazing.  There was so much food my tummy was bursting and the kids couldn't even eat half the fries!  =)  And it was fantastic to pick the peas from the garden, eat them, and return the pods to the compost in our backyard.  Those peas didn't travel one inch by vehicle, and were as amazingly delicious as fresh peas always are.  And the zoosticks?  To die for.  Better than White Spot.  (the trick is to add grated parmesean cheese to the breadcrumbs before frying).

Of course this was a preparation intense meal, on a HOT August day in our humid climate, so by the time it was ready I was Grouchy Bear.  We sat outside to eat and literally got chased inside by wasps.  ARGH!  It was SO HOT inside because its summer but also because the oven and stove had been on for my fancy meal preparations.  There were over a dozen wasps hassling us though, so there was not really much chance of nobody getting stung, or anybody focusing on their food, or everyone not starting to cry.  Sweating inside really was the better alternative.

So after dinner the kids are screaming and chasing each other  sharing sweetly and devising ways to incorporate world peace with eradicating poverty while I do the dishes and sweat my ass off.  Between them, Matthew and Ayden remove Amarys' diaper, and she promptly poops everywhere.  She screams blue murder because her butt didn't agree with my mom's laundry detergent on her cloth diapers and she now sports a beet red rash that hurts when she poops, so I abandoned my dishes and my ass sweat (oh no, I took that with me) and gave her a special bath with apple cider vinegar to help soothe her bum.  While I was bathing her, my older kids were trying their darndest to kill each other, and Riley streaks past me yelling

And it's running down his leg, plop, plop onto his feet and the bath mat and the bath toys and, and, and....
I wrestle off his shitty underwear and he slides onto the toilet backwards and the backs of his legs are covered in poop so now there is shit EVERYWHERE.  Toilet lid, seat, bowl, floor, me, him, the stool, and the wall.
O. M. G.
Baby still in the tub!  Crying because it stinks!  Older children still frantically attempting to establish WW III before mommy intervenes or the neighbours call the cops.  Sweat still pouring down my ass crack.

I so did not sign up for this.

This was not what I was envisioning when that nurse plunked Ayden in my arms after my cesarean eight years ago.
This was not what I bargained for when we flew to Thailand to scoop Matthew into our family.
This was not what I was aiming for with my first VBAC.
Nor my second.

And that, my friends, is parenthood.



Ayden prefers the hot tub to the pool, even on a really hot day.  So the other day I teased him,

Me: Ayden, you're a chickenshit.  Go in the pool!

Ayden: Yeah I know.  But being a chicken is safer!

Me: You sound like Scaredy Squirrel!

Ayden: [palms up, arms outstretched] Does he ever die?

Birch Jean Smith

Birch, my brother's first baby, sweeter than all the rest ♥

This entire last week was seriously eventful.  Friday morning my mom called me, in dire straights.  She had driven my dad to UBC for knee replacement surgery and managed to get food poisoning the night before.  She was stuck in her camper in the UBC hospital parking lot, cramped in her tiny three inch by three inch camper toilet, sick as a dog.  My dad has had numerous other joint replacement/repair surgeries and my mom is always by his side as his personal nurse (which is a cute throwback: they met when my dad was my mom's patient, many moons ago) to mitigate his hospital stays.  This time she was too sick to help him, and needed me to drive down and help her out.  

Complicating this story was the fact that my brother's fiancee, Morgan, was very pregnant with their first baby, and my mom was lined up to be their labour support.  In Vernon.  Six hours drive from UBC hospital.  Guess who went into labour Friday morning as my dad was wheeled into surgery and my mom was stuck in a camper toilet?  Uh-huh.  It was the perfect shitstorm.  
Brent and I drove to UBC (about an hour's drive).  Mom and I derived a plan for Amarys and I to drive her truck/camper and her home to Vernon, where I could fill in as labour support if needed, or if my mom was feeling well enough, she could be labour support.  Brent would visit my dad each day, and I would fly back home on Saturday to visit my dad and to pick him up when he was discharged and drive him home.
We figured there was a really good chance Morgan would have her baby in time for my mom to rest up and drive down to pick my dad up herself, if she managed to recover from the food poisoning in time.
Boy, did we figure wrong.

First, my dad wound up in surgery three hours longer than scheduled because the surgeon opened up his leg and discovered what he described as 'the most complicated knee replacement I've ever done.'  My dad had an old crush injury from a mule riding accident over ten years ago: he was stepped on my a frantic mule weighing over 800 lbs and refused to get medical treatment or an x-ray of his femur.  Well, the surgeon took photos because there was a clearly visible hoofprint embedded in my dad's femur.  

Meanwhile we're trucking it back to Vernon where Morgan's labouring along with contractions every five minutes and regular.  My mom slept for four hours and I stayed up to support Morgan, who labours mostly in private.  She was the easiest doula client I've ever had  =)  
Morgan, Chad, and their *first* baby, 'Tracker,' the dog who has
no idea what's about to happen to his spoiled ass
Then my mom got up and I slept for four hours, expecting to wake up and have everyone be gone to the hospital with the midwife, but instead she was still at 4 or 5 minutes, slow and steady.  I flew home that afternoon and she was 5 cm dilated, tired, still 4 or 5 minutes apart, coping well, slow and steady.  Yikes!  Long labour!  All that night.  All the next day.  
She hit trouble at around 7 cm and couldn't seem to manage to dilate beyond that, and late Sunday her contractions started petering out and she was exhausted.  It took my mom, the midwife, and my brother over an hour to convince her to accept an epidural and oxytocin (she wanted a natural birth, but even more she wanted to stay miles away from that epidural needle!), but after 3 days of labour and stalled at 7 cm, it was time for a new approach.

Amarys on her first plane ride (West Jet gave me a seat
for her for free, isn't that awesome?), Saturday afternoon.
Clearly bummed to have missed the grand baby finale.

The epidural did the trick as far as dilation: she hit '9 1/2' cm~just a rim left, and then soon after that was fully dilated.  But the baby just didn't cope well with the oxytocin; long heart decelerations, meconium (baby poop; sign of distress), scalp blood gases not good, and then deflexed her head and turned asynclitic after an entire labour of good positioning!  After labouring three days and several hours of epidural and oxytocin this baby just wasn't coming without surgery.  So, into the operating room they went, and out she came!
Isn't she gorgeous?  Nobody can figure out who
she looks like, but secretly I think she looks like me

My dad had some post surgery complications that were beyond my scope and expertise, so my sister booked a day off work (she's a nurse) and drove over from Victoria to take care of him on Sunday.  He was discharged Monday and the plan was for me to pick him up with my four kids and my van and drive him home.  It wasn't forecasted to be the most comfortable trip in the world for a man four days out of major surgery, but it was doable!  BUT then Sunday night my Uncle Greg (my dad's brother) called and offered to drive the 3 hour trip from his house to UBC, pick up my dad, and drive the 6 hour trip from UBC to my parents' place, and then drive the 4 hour trip back home.  Props to my Uncle, that's quite the marathon trip and totally wonderful for everyone involved, but especially my dad.
My kids were pumped to meet baby Birch, and my van was already packed, so I decided to drive up anyways on Monday.

Amarys, Birch, and myself

OMG, you poor girl....what a crazy rash of cousins...

Morgan and Birch

It was a long haul, but congrats and love to my bro and his family ♥