4 Months and Counting

24 07 2017

I need to preface this post by saying that I actually wrote it about 4 months ago.  Life is different ~ absolutely better ~ and it has either gotten easier or I have just adjusted to the new norm of 6am being a sleep in day (but to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I slept until 6am).

 I re-read my post today and it still holds true to exactly what I was feeling back then (not some distorted sleep deprived reality) when I wrote it in the wee hours of the morning many months ago.  

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I think it’s time to take a detour (hopefully brief) from all of the typical travel blog posts and talk about a new adventure that I have been experiencing: motherhood.

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I have to say, the transition from ‘mother-to-be’ to ‘new mom’ has been a rocky one.  Perhaps it is because I loved being pregnant – I was definitely one of the lucky ones – I felt great 90% of the pregnancy, it didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to, and apparently I ‘glowed’.

To be honest, sometimes I still mourn the loss of that role and sometimes I feel a twinge of jealousy when I see a pregnant woman walking down the street, or when I heard that Beyonce was pregnant with twins!  There is just something magical about the potential of being pregnant.  You read up on all of the crazy things that are happening to and inside of your body, you spend hours looking over baby name lists and you plan and visualize exactly how you want your labour and delivery experience to be.

What you don’t realize and what you can’t understand when you’re pregnant for the first time, even when people tell it to you, is that you have very little control over how your baby comes into this world.  Right up until two days before my babies were born, I knew that I was going to have December babies, we would call our doula over to the house when I went into labour, of course it would be during the evening/night and then we would make our way to the hospital…and then the rest of what would happen was always kind of blurry, I just knew what kind of beginning I wanted to have, with little thought to the end I guess.

Since crossing that invisible line of ‘mother-to-be’ to ‘new mom’ I have realized that that is the key to my emotional turmoil.  I am a very good student, and I studied up on everything I could get my hands on about twin pregnancies and then, when the babies finally did make their appearance (in November!) and opposite in almost every way that I had imagined, all of my studying and everything that I had learned had no use anymore.  All of a sudden I was in a new school, with a different set of rules, and I was behind.

As I walked slowly through the waiting room at my OB’s office six days after having my twin girls, I felt like my world had shifted.  The last time I walked through the front door of that waiting room, seven days prior, I never left, and instead was wheeled out the back entrance to the hospital.  I looked around the room at all of the other woman in various stages of pregnancy, and I just thought…’you don’t even know!’  And I know that that’s not fair to say since not all of these women were going through their first pregnancy, but I truly felt like I was in that room, no longer a naïve ‘mother-to-be’ but someone who knew something that you can’t know until you know – and it had changed me forever.

All of a sudden I have these two new little bosses in town.

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And they are in control of my life like no parent, teacher or employer ever has been.  They control when I sleep, when I eat, and even when I go to the bathroom.  They often make me question the last time I brushed my teeth or washed my hair….and laundry….if it wasn’t pooped on, it probably isn’t getting done.  Perhaps the most maddening part of this new super-controlled lifestyle, is that there is no rhyme or reason, no set schedule that you can wrap your head around and make sense of.  You just have to simply get used to eating cold food, drinking cold tea, taking 15 minute cat naps and holding it.  And some days you just lower your expectations and don’t even try to eat, sleep or go to the bathroom…and on those days, well….inevitably emotional breakdowns take place.

I would like to say, ‘it gets better every day’, but sometimes it doesn’t.  I think I could possibly say, ‘it gets better every week’, because sometimes it did, but I can definitely say that ‘it gets better every month’.  Those first few weeks were full of tears and a lot of confusion.  I literally cried over ‘spilled milk’.  Our ‘solid as a rock’ relationship took on some blows.  I felt desperate to make sense of these two new babies in our lives and try not to question their presence and long for life (and the freedom) pre-babies.  So I spent a lot of time reading articles/blogs and buying things on amazon that I thought would help some aspect of our new way of life: swaddle pods with velcro, a second rock n’ play, a second bjorn bouncer, a bottle washing brush, clothes that the babies would actually fit, more clothes because we already outgrew the other ones, and the list continues.  I read an article that said you should disconnect your credit card from your amazon account when you have a baby….I can see their point.

I walked into our two month pediatrician appointment asking about sleep training schedules and I think I surprised our doctor when I told her I had just read a sleep training book for twins.  When I think about how busy my days are now, at almost 4 months post-baby, I don’t know when I found the time to read a book.  But, then I realized, it was because I wasn’t sleeping.  You can get a lot of things done when you’re not sleeping.  Until you can’t get anything done because you’re not sleeping.  Now I am getting ready for bed at 7:30pm.

During my pregnancy and during the first few weeks/months as a new mom, what I have wanted more than anything in this world….was for someone to give me a definitive answer.  Just tell me what to do, and I will do it!  Breastfeeding.  Pumping.  Formula supplementing.  Sleep training.  Dealing with crying babies.  What I now realize, is that when it comes to pregnancy, labour and delivery, breastfeeding, babies in general, is that the most common answer you will hear is, ‘it depends’.  And what am I supposed to do with that??!

We have made it to four months with twin girls.  Sometimes I still cry when I look at their faces (out of love now, and not sleep deprivation…ok sometimes sleep deprivation).  I often want (and sometimes give in) to turn on the light at night and watch them sleep.  They watch me from across the room with their big eyes.  They give me wide mouth Buddha baby grins.  They light up and sing along to the ABC song.  I could watch Nathan playing with them forever.  And I can’t believe how they have their grandparents and aunts and uncles (and the rest of the family) wrapped around their little fingers.

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Needless to say, my life is forever changed.





You Want to What?

26 01 2016

What do you do when a 16 year old, who has had his driver’s license for 3 months, wants to do some off-roading in the Arizona/California desert?

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You get in the back seat…

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Of another car!!!  I definitely did not need a front row seat this time.  An experience best left to Dad and Grandpa.

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And followed at a safe distance away…

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I did however enjoy the great rock art created in the desert (by some fellow Canadians!).

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And quite enjoyed the new friends we made.

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Family Time on Orcas Island

25 07 2015

It was pretty tough to top our amazing time on San Juan Island.  Orcas. Alpacas. Crab Mac & Cheese….

But as we rolled our suitcases up the deck at Friday Harbor Marina, a little wet from the unexpected rain shower we experienced overnight, we were determined to make our experience on Orcas Island every bit as memorable.

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Now that we had checked ‘See Orca Whales’ off of our list, there wasn’t as much pressure to stand outside in the drizzly grey weather.  But I still found a few reasons to stay outside on the deck.  With the marina layer laying low, the trip from Friday Harbor to Orcas Island took on a mystical feel.

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And although we didn’t see any whales during our trip, perhaps we saw an even more unusual sight.  A bald eagle swimming.

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With giant breaststrokes, we watched it swim towards the shore.  I’m not sure why it was in the water, but it didn’t seem to be struggling.  Perhaps it had caught something in its talons that it wasn’t willing to give up, something worth a few wet feathers.

Before we knew it, the 50 minute ride from San Juan Island to Orcas Island was complete and we were approaching Orcas Village, with its crown jewel – The Orcas Hotel
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The Orcas Hotel first opened its doors to guests in 1904 and has kept its Victorian heritage charm.  And this would be our destination for the night…

But first, we had a few adventures to take on:

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East Sound was our first stop.  Jerry was determined to enjoy a few tasty treats at Brown Bear Baking. And who am I to prevent him from his wish!

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We strolled the streets, shopped the shops and got down to the nitty gritty on the beach.

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And then off to Deer Harbor to enjoy an afternoon sail with Captain Ward and his sailboat Aura.

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We may not have been the best sailing companions, since Nathan and I were juggling 2 phones and work calls, but he treated us well and took us out for a beautiful sail where we saw harbor seals and enjoyed our time out on the water.

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From on the water to 2,409 feet above sea level, within an hour of stepping off the boat, we were gazing at the panoramic views at Mt. Constitution, the highest point on the San Juan Islands.

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It was beautiful and we just had to take advantage of the views for a family photo.  We did pack the tripod, so I guess we should at least take it out of its bag once…

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But then we got a little crazy.  The timer was set, there was running involved.  We didn’t always make it, but the end result was everyone was smiling, because we were laughing so hard and also amazed that I made it down the rocks each time without falling on my face!

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Finally, we made it to the stone observation tower, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936.  The tower offered panoramic views of the surrounding islands, the Cascade Mountains and even over to Canada!

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As we made our way back down to sea level, we got a little distracted by these moss covered cement stumps – all that remained from some old guard rails it looked like.

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And of course, we saw just a few deer on our way out – since it was prime dinner time.

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After dinner at Madrona Bar & Grill in East Sound, we eased our way back to The Orcas Hotel.  And there it was, awaiting our arrival.

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A great place to end our day on Orcas Island, and a wonderful way to complete our family vacation in the San Juan Islands!





Non-Manditory Family Time

3 06 2015

I am sure it is the same with other siblings, but it has taken almost 30 years before my younger brother and older sister and I have truly bonded to each other.  No longer are we forced to spend time with each other by living in the same house, or by being squished three kids in the backseat on family vacations or because we just happened to see each other at school.  Now, as my younger brother approaches 30,  the three of us live in three different cities: Vancouver, BC, Seattle, WA and Houston, TX  – we have finally come to the point of leaning into each other.  We share our stories and want to know updates.  We send a flurry of cat photos back and forth to each other, since we have all ended up with a cat(s) of our own – which I secretly feel is a competition we play to see who has the cutest, most personable cat.  We each have a different answer…go figure. We ask for help, we share our successes and we actually look forward to seeing each other.  I’m sure our parents are happy to see that their children have finally, after almost 30 years, figured out how to do more than just tolerate each other because we have to.

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This year is the first year since we lived together in our family home that we have all seen each other more than twice a year.  I guess that’s what happens when you scatter in all directions after high school, and then even further after University, and then when conflicting significant other familial responsibilities come into play, well, we would be lucky if we saw each other at all during the year.

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So we’ve come together and during my trip to Vancouver we bonded over all you can eat sushi, spring rolls and pho, calamari and bellinis, ketchup and salt and vinegar chips.  Perhaps we have realized that our deep bond is through food…and cats.

I left Vancouver, speeding away on an Amtrak train back to Seattle, feeling like we’ve made peace with our little trio, which, as a middle child who’s role is the peacemaker, made me feel pretty good about how we’ve all grown up.

My train ride photos: From Vancouver BC to Seattle, WA

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The “White Rock” of White Rock, BC

 

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Sister Slave & Task Master

15 07 2014

When I was at Newark Airport I received a call from my sister.

“Make sure you check out the bathrooms at the airport!”

Not the typical demand one would normally get from their sister while on their way for a visit.  Well, the true reason for my visit to Geneva this time was to help my sister, and her two cats, move from Geneva, Switzerland to Houston, Texas.

Now, somehow we didn’t take any photos of our day (or the craziness that led up to that day) but take a few minutes to think about this.

Imagine this:

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Moosh

And This:

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Oliver

Being stuffed into carriers, taken from their home of 2 years, bundled into a cab with 6 suitcases (one freaked out Mom and one calm and composed Aunt), and surviving 20 hours of International travel.  It’s enough to make a regular person a little crazy, much less two cats who have no idea what the hell is going on.  Plus, they don’t understand when you tell them to ‘plug your nose and blow’ to pop their ears!

Now let’s back up a few days.  After Nicki and I enjoyed pastries and pastas, bottles of champagne and pretty much eating and drinking everything that was left in their apartment we had to get down to the serious business of getting her and her 2 cats packed up and ready to travel.

I kept telling people that I was going to be a Cat Companion (what a sweet gig right?), well it turns out I was really there to be a Sister Slave and also Task Master.  I watched my sister pack and unpack and repack her suitcases, move things from one side of the room to the other, from one room to the other, and keep adding things to her list, but never crossing them off.  Pretty soon I had to put my foot down.  STOP.  You need to start crossing things off this list.  What’s next?  What do we have to do today?  We can’t keep putting that off until tomorrow, we’re running out of tomorrows!

Luckily, the apartment was being packed up by professional movers, so we didn’t have to deal with the 150+ boxes that ended up being packed up and sent off the balcony to the waiting moving truck on the street.  But because we had to be in the apartment while the movers were there, we ended up being cooped up in a single room with the cats so they couldn’t escape.  It wasn’t too bad when I hung out with the cats in the master bedroom, reading and lazing away the day.  But when we moved to an empty shell of a room, sitting on an air mattress next to a portable litter box….well, things started to become a little more real (and kind of depressing).

And then came the ‘Cat Chores’ and this is where the Sister Slave comes into play.  I didn’t realize that when I showed up it meant that I had to do all of the crappy jobs.  I had to clean and disinfect the litter locker, clean out the litter box (daily), chase the cats around the apartment spraying them with dry shampoo and anti-allergen cream.  ‘Make sure you massage it in everywhere Traci – especially their butt’ – what?? I didn’t sign up for this.

And then there was the silent screaming…  We had to take both cats to the vet a couple days before we flew out and although just 2 blocks away from the house, Moosh (the grey tabby) was so terrified he started shaking and silent screaming (panting) and Oliver (the orange tabby) wouldn’t stop meowing.  Needless to say, the vet prescribed some Xanax to calm their nerves – supposed to last 8 hours a dose.  Supposed to. 

Travel Day FINALLY arrives:

4:00AM: Wake Up Time

6:00AM: Corral the cats and force Xanax pills down their throats and then watch Moosh foam at the mouth and drool all over the floor, before stuffing them both in their carriers.  (Here’s hoping the foaming stops before TSA has to look at him).

6:15AM: Cab arrives and the driver looks concerned as he looks at us –  two people, two cats, two lap top bags and six suitcases – and then looks at his wagon.

7:00AM: We’ve managed to wrangle our suitcases onto 2 carts and each have a cat.  And then Nicki puts Moosh’s carrier on the top of her cart……and he falls off.  Whoops

8:00AM: We’re in the gate waiting to board the flight and Oliver sits quietly in his carrier.  The drugs have calmed Moosh enough that he isn’t terrified out of his mind and actually knows what is happening and so he’s turning in circles, meowing and trying to claw his way out – yep this is much better than a silent cat.

9:30AM: We are finally on the plane.  Cat carriers under the seat and settled in for a 9 hour flight to Newark.  And the drugs seem to be wearing off of Oliver and he starts meowing, and meowing and meowing.  And if you know orange cats you know how vocal they can be – good thing we brought a pillow case to muffle the sound.

10AM – 12PM EST/6PM (Geneva Time):  Cats are meowing.  The drugs wore off within the first hour of the flight.  There’s attempts to claw and chew out of the carriers.  Nicki keeps prodding me and telling me I have to watch the cats.  I keep telling her that they need to learn how to self-soothe.  And there are multiple times I’m asked to check and see if they peed, smell their butts, soothe them and take them to the lavatory to let them stretch their legs.

12:30PM (EST)/6:30PM (Geneva Time):  We made it off the plane and I made it through Customs.  Nicki and the cats have to be ushered downstairs to be processed back into the country so I leave her with her two cats and suitcase, to go collect our other 4 suitcases before they need to be rechecked into the next flight.

1:00PM/7:00PM:  The last 4 suitcases to come down the chute are ours. I have 5 suitcases stacked on 2 carts and sit down to wait.  And then I get a call from Nicki’s husband – apparently she got released outside of the baggage claim area and can’t come back through.  I’m on my own with two carts and the line up to exit through customs is growing by the second.  Picture me running down the line with one cart, parking it, then running back for the second cart and running it to the back of the line and leaving the first cart on the floor until the line catches up with it.  Trying to figure out how to push these two carts at the same time, I make a friend who offers to push one of my carts.  Low and behold, 1 person + 5 suitcases = Agricultural Check!  I’m about to move these carts over when my sister comes running out from nowhere, waving her hands, ‘that’s my sister, those are my bags!’ – no cats in sight…. Now we both get ushered to the Agricultural check and she says to the officer, ‘Remember me?  Remember me?  These are my bags, this is my sister!’  I looked at him doubtfully and asked, ‘Do you remember her?’  A couple of questions later he tells us to turn around and exit (and we hear grumbling from people behind us about how we managed to talk ourselves out of the X-ray).

1:30PM/7:30PM:  So we’re home free.  We take refuge in a family bathroom and release the cats from their carriers.  Moosh is starving and can barely wait for me to get some food out of my bag.  The drugs have made Oliver mean and he keeps hissing and swatting at Moosh.  Nicki lays out a pee pad and sprinkles cat litter on it, hoping to encourage potty time before our next flight.  No such luck – so she starts spraying this Feliway spray in and around the carriers to prevent territory marking.  All we need to do is go through security one more time, get on another flight and then 4 hours until we arrive in Houston.  No problem.

2:00PM/8:00PM:  Cats out of the carriers and carried through security.  No problem.  Hands swiped and tested since we’re traveling with animals.  No problem.  Oh wait, Nicki has a problem.  The cats and I are released and Nicki has to be patted down and analyzed.  So we set up camp on a bench, I do a little work, the cats get a little napping time in, and then a TSA officer comes up to me and says, ‘your sister wanted me to tell you that she’s tested positive twice for bomb making chemicals, so we have to call in a specialist.  It’s going to take a while.’  Ooookkayyy.   30 minutes later she’s released, and the culprit was most likely the Feliway Spray that she has been spraying everywhere for days.

3:00PM/9PM:  Another dose of Xanax forced down and on our way to board.  BEEEP.  What?  Your seats have been
changed, no animals allowed on that row, so you’re sitting in different rows now.  
Initial moment of panic is easily remedied and the man sitting next to me in the middle seat didn’t take too much convincing to move into an aisle seat.  Too bad the man sitting on the aisle looked at us and said, ‘I’m allergic to cats….’  ‘just kidding!’  Settled with both cats sleeping.  What?  Is this what it feels like not to be traveling with two needy cats (or kids?)  We made it until an hour before the flight ended before the meowing, clawing and biting started up again.

6:00PM CST/1AM:  We arrive in Houston and the humidity in the air is as thick as molasses as we leave the plane.  Yuck.  But this time, all we need to do is make a Family Bathroom pit stop, pick up our bags and we’re out of here!  The end is so close.  Perhaps we lost our focus a little bit.  Got a little cocky.  As I’m texting our terminal info, Nicki puts Oliver’s carrier on top of her rolley carry-on and goes to get carts.  And down goes Oliver.  Another cat dropped by their Mama.

7:30PM CST/2:30AM:  We made it home!!  The cats have been released from their carriers for good after 20 hours of travel. Oliver is still hissing at Moosh, but other than that they don’t seem to be too traumatized from the day’s events.

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Moosh finally getting the space he needs

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Oliver sleeping off the drugs

10PM CST/7AM:  Bed Time.  Finally.  After 27 hours of being awake and dealing with (and dropping) traumatized, meowing cats, feeling for wet pee pads, being covered in fur, tested (and stopped) for bomb chemicals, the day is finally over.  One Sister and Two Cats have been moved 5200+ miles.

Success!  Just one more 4 hour flight back to Seattle for me and we’ll call that Sister Favour Complete!

 

 





Just Another Day in the Neighbourhood

11 07 2014

It is crazy how things can become familiar so quickly.

A few months ago I hadn’t done any International travel in almost 10 years, and now four months later I’m jetting back off to Geneva, Switzerland.

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Newark Airport with NYC in the background

The all day/all night flights can’t faze me anymore and after leaving Seattle in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday and arriving in Geneva early Sunday morning, I arrived bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  Although I napped my way through a 6 hour flight to Newark, during my 8 hour flight to Geneva I’m not so sure there was a lot of sleeping done – more of a haze I think.  Well my haze must have been exactly what I needed because I was raring to go with a walk along Lac Leman, morning cappuccinos and pastries and a sunny afternoon into sunset into late night of eating and drinking champagne on the balcony.

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Quiet Sunday morning streets on Rue de Rive

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Sunday Sister Moment

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My first trip to Geneva I felt like I was in another world.  I dreamt of french phrases and so day and night I was swimming in a world that I couldn’t quite understand.  I struggled to keep my eyes open at night and I woke up at 3AM almost every morning.  It was a slight understatement that I wasn’t adjusting to the time change very well.

I don’t know if it’s because the streets, the restaurants, the apartment were all familiar to me now, but it felt like I was just in another neighborhood at home.  Crazily enough I didn’t experience any jet lag and could truly enjoy the day to its fullest – and stayed up way later than I would normally have at home (possibly because my sister and I discovered ‘Orange is the New Black’…).  The french didn’t phase me as much as before and most of the time I didn’t even really hear it around me – or at least take notice of it.  And all of that french dreaming from last time did me well and hammered those french phrases into my head so that when it was time to order ‘un boîte de huit macarons’ – it was right there at the tip of my tongue.

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Laduree Macarons

We allowed ourselves one full day of Geneva Sightseeing before we had to get down to work.  So we packed in a train ride along the Lac Leman lakefront, a trolley ride through Old Town Geneva, and a boat ride along the Lake to see Geneva from another perspective.

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Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) waterfront

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L’horloge Fleurie

As we rode through Old Townmy favourite part of Geneva, I came to realize that the last time I visited I did a fantastic job of sightseeing!  And also reminded myself how much I love old towns and window shutters.

 

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Our boat ride was a little breezy, but so great to be out on the water.  The asian tourists didn’t seem to have the same feeling as we did – they spent the first half of the boat ride taking selfies and the second half they all fell asleep!  Ok, well I can’t really complain about them taking selfies…..


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But to fall asleep??!!!  They missed out on a great hour (seriously it was only an hour and they couldn’t stay awake) on the water.

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Thanks for a great day of sightseeing Geneva!  If only you had had Jet d’Eau standing proud – it’s a good thing I took so many photos last time.

 

 





I Miss You Vancouver!

12 05 2014

When you catch it from its good side, it’s hard not to fall in love with Vancouver, and really hard not to reminisce on the great times you’ve had there and think about all the summer patio moments you’re going to miss.  But again, you have it catch it from its good side.  The previous times we’ve visited this year it’s been grey, rainy and made you want to get home and curl up under the blankets (even if those blankets are 3 hours away).  But Vancouver when it’s sunny?

Ohhhh…  It’s hard to drag yourself away.

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Lost Lagoon – Stanley Park

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Spring goslings

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Brother & Sister Time!

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Spring Buttercups

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Nesting Trumpeter Swan

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Balancing Turtles

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Lost Lagoon – Stanley Park

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Vancouver Skyline from Lost Lagoon

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Second Beach Views

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Nature’s Art Gallery

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Balancing Rocks