Dan’s birthday – 23 of 100

The days are going by fast – and I’m finding it hard to keep up. One pictures long leisurely hours of writing while the boy naps, but there are trips to prepare for, interruptions by unexpected roofers, sickness, laundry, etc. Tomorrow we leave for San Francisco. Oh my.

This past weekend was Dan’s birthday and I don’t ever want to forget it. We drove to Jasper – James Henry Jasper’s namesake – on Friday. This weekend was everything I love about being married to Dan: lucking into a great place to stay, 5 o’clock beers followed by wine with an incredibly delicious dinner, outdoor adventure and now, the added bonus of having our little bean in tow for it all.

DSCF4157

Happy birthday to my one and only

I booked us little Otentiks – essentially heated canvas tents – or what we call ‘glamping’.  But upon arrival, we were told that our particular Otentik did not have heat. And that they’d refund us if we found a place to stay. It was going to get down to freezing that night. Friends, I used to be into roughing it. But these days, I have nothing to prove. I tried to stay positive and point out all the clothes I had bought for James, the cozy fire we could make outside. We ran around to the hardware store to see if we could find a heater, we even bought emergency candles – but the thought of a candle providing any kind of heat in our huge posh canvas tent (where I could see by breath by 4 p.m.) was laughable. We lit all the candles in the Otentik and got on the phone pronto. A last minute cancellation scored us a little cabin with a full kitchen and fireplace (Becker’s Chalets, for anyone headed to Jasper) – boom!

DSCF4134

Post snow storm at Maligne Lake

On Dan’s birthday, we walked the shore of Maligne Lake to a fishing spot. When we got there, a snow storm blew in so James and I hustled back to the lodge to warm up while Dan cast a line. After the storm blew over, we sat in the sun and chatted with tourists from all over the world.

DSCF4119

Hiking around Maligne Lake

We made fondue. We ate tiramisu for dessert. We drank port. We watched Pitch Perfect 2.

On Sunday, we drove up to the base of Mount Edith Cavell for a glorious hike around Cavell Meadows. We tramped through snow and it was just cold enough that the trail was not overly crowded. James slept like a dream.

DSCF4192

Nothing like a landscape that makes you feel small

DSCF4241

I love so many things about Dan. I love the way he has taught me to hold other people in my mind and always be on the lookout for things that make them happy. Like, how in the line at the grocery store I threw in two Coffee Crisp bars for him because I knew he’d love them. He’s always looking for those little things.

I love his enthusiasm and sweet love for James. He’s shown up in every way possible as a father. I can see James’ face light up every time he sees Dan. They giggle so much when they are together.

DSCF4129

These two! ❤

And there is something magic that happens when Dan and I hit the road together. We plan just enough to leave room for some unexpected adventure. There’s something so invigorating about sharing a LOVE for doing the same thing – whatever that is. Some people love to golf. Some people love to eat fancy dinners together. Dan and I love to be outside and explore and discover places. It’s a bottomless trove of wonder.

DSCF4211

On our drive back on the Icefields Parkway, we both marveled at how lucky we feel to have lived where we do – something we never planned. We never ever would have been able to explore the Canadian Rockies in the way that we have on a week-long visit.

DSCF4263

Driving the Icefields Parkway.

There are so many unknowns about our future. Not knowing used to drive me a little mad. But I feel so much more at peace with it now – with Dan by my side – my partner in crime, my adventure buddy, my lover. I love where we are right now. And the future. The future is open.

Confession – 22 of 100

I want to be sure we’re all clear about something: It’s not all sexy new jeans and high flying adventure over here. For every beautiful hike, there have been about a hundred loads of laundry and dishwasher loads and diaper genie bags to empty. Our house is tiny. Attempts to maintain sanity involve picking crap up off the crap-collecting surfaces that abound in our house – again and again and again. We take out all the toys. We put them back. We take them out. We put them back. Etc. It is a constant and never-ending battle against clutter.

We had to throw in the towel twice on planned outdoor adventures. First, to Lake O’Hara because of thunderstorms. Then to Waterton Lakes National Park because the Washington forest fire smoke rendered our air quality high risk. O’Hara resulted in a re-route to Glacier National Park. Waterton meant we were housebound in Calgary for the weekend. We are learning to be flexible. And we are learning that sometimes, you just have to surrender.

IMG_3976

Our hike to Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park. You want to know what kept us all night after we cancelled our trip to Lake O’Hara because of thunderstorms? If you guessed thunderstorms, you are correct. If you guessed a random Oakridge Boys-type band across the river playing into the wee hours of the night, you are also correct. If you guessed fear of the black bear that had been spotted at our campsite that very morning, you are also correct! Good guessing everyone.

And amidst the day-to-day of maternity leave, I sometimes feel like I am failing miserably at what I am doing here with my son. I feel like I have looked at my phone and checked Instagram an unhealthy number of times. I long for someone to text me. I daydream about living closer to family so I’d have some company. I fantasize about all the things I could be doing: long treks in the wilderness, crazy festivals, saving the world, etc. I become certain that James is bored to death of me, that I haven’t engaged enough with him, that he’s probably going to miss all of his milestones and it will be all my fault – Shouldn’t he be crawling by now? Standing by now? Walking? Talking? Counting?

IMG_2906

James had no trouble meeting the looking-extremely-cute-in-cuddly-bear-suit milestone.

We just introduced solids and I’m certain I’m doing it all wrong. My sister-in-law/mother of three told me to hold off on the fruits. “Once they taste sweet, they want nothing else,” she warned. Well lemme tell ya, it’s been a bonzana of strawberries and bananas. I told a friend I’m sure I’m dooming him to a life of bad eating habits and certain obesity. I was only being slightly hyperbolic.

IMG_3132

Strawberries. Everywhere.

And even in the areas I feel I’ve made headway – naps, for example – I’m becoming a bit of a fanatic. Last Saturday shaped up to be a sunny beacon of a day. We shipped out early for a hike to an alpine lake. James slept almost the whole drive there. As  we arrived, I was calculating naps in my head: but now he won’t nap on the hike up! Even if he does, and he sleeps on the way down, he won’t sleep on the car ride back! Ok crazy woman. Slow down. Just relax.

He did scream for a substantial part of the drive home. But do you know what? (and this is really going to shock you): we were all just fine.

IMG_3108

The trail down from Chester Lake.

I had lofty dreams about being a cool laid-back mom. (People I know corroborated these fanciful notions!) The other night we were going to bed and Dan teased me about my nap mania: “You could relax a little, you know?” I nodded. I could indeed relax a little. Then he said: “But I get it. You’re his mom.”

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? I’m his mom. I feel James in my bones. Sometimes it makes me a smooshy loving momma bear. And sometimes it makes me a little neurotic.

We all dream about the kind of parents we’re going to be: totally cool and laid back and yet somehow disciplined enough to raise perfect healthy, smart, interesting children who prefer organic wood toys to iPhones. (Thank you Buzz Feed, for pointing out 17 things people are 100% sure about until they have kids – “When my kids get tired they’ll go to bed. It’s not rocket science.”- ha!)

But of course the reality is messier than that. I’m still learning who I am as a mother. I am learning to let go of what I thought would be and accept what is. I expect this will be a lifelong process.

Shoebox – 21 of 100

I’ve had this post sort of hanging out in my drafts for a while. When would be a good time to post it? There’s not really a good time.

We talk about pregnancy loss in much harder-to-find, quieter places than we do healthy pregnancy and babies. But now that my friends and I are trying for and having kids, loss has become an abundant part of our journey-to-parenthood stories. More friends of mine than not have been through it in some way or another. What’s strange is that it still feels so lonely. I mean, we all wait three months to tell people that we’re pregnant so that if we lose the baby – what? We keep it to ourselves? That seems to be the message, doesn’t it? I understand we don’t necessarily want to grieve publicly, but I’m still sort of baffled that our culture seems to dictate that we endure these losses so…quietly. Do you know what I mean?

Dan and I were on our way to the airport when it occurred to me that maybe I was a little bit late. The night before had been Dan’s birthday and I had guzzled wine like nobody’s business.

When we arrived in Minnesota–we were there for my sister’s engagement party–I made up some lame excuse to go the grocery store and bought a fancy digital pregnancy test. I didn’t even tell Dan. It just seemed too crazy. I COULDN’T be pregnant. This was the month we absolutely no-way no-how could get pregnant because it would mean missing my sister’s wedding.

But there was this one time on our living room couch.

So I got out of the shower, peed on the stick and paced around my parents’ guest bedroom after putting on my pretty blue dress waiting the two minutes until it flashed there plain as day: PREGNANT. No lines. No plus signs. This fancy test spelled it right out for me.

A series of F-bombs bleeped silently across my lips. I threw the test into an empty shoebox–please don’t ask me why–and then went upstairs to join my parents and Dan went downstairs to get ready.

When I went back downstairs to grab something Dan looked at me with wild eyes.

“Are you pregnant?!”

“How did you know?!”

“I found this in the shoebox!” He showed me the unmistakable PREGNANT.

“Maddy’s wedding,” I kept saying. “This is so exciting,” Dan kept saying.

It was going to such a funny story – how Dan found the pregnancy test in the shoebox. But we lost the pregnancy a few weeks later. And we lost the pregnancy after that too.

After the second miscarriage I cried in bed for days and then I cried everywhere, unpredictably. I would have to abandon my spot in line at the coffee shop, huddle in the bathroom stall and wait for the tears to clear. Silently at work, staring at my computer screen.

I bought a beautiful but totally impractical skirt-black with gold thread flowers in the shape of a bell-that made me look so skinny. I didn’t want to be skinny. I wore the skirt for about five minutes that Christmas before changing into jeans. That was two years ago- and I haven’t worn it since. I feel so sad when I see it in my closet, but I can’t bear to give it up.

When I was home for Christmas, my mom was going through her friends’ Christmas cards and showing them to us. “X just had their second baby, remember him? And Y is pregnant. And Z is due next summer.” The names seemed to go on and on. I should have been happy for them all. I wanted to be. In my rational head, I was. But I had to leave the room and lean against the back of a chair to stop the room from spinning and catch my breath.

Sometimes it felt like the world was hurling babies at me like rocks. (Even Carrie Mathison was pregnant on Homeland that season. I mean with her insane stress levels and vodka-guzzling habit? I know, I know, It’s a TV show, as Dan always points out to me when I tell him I’m scared/worried/stressed out by things like Saul Berenson’s hostage exchange. And how awful of me to think of little babies like this. It just makes it all worse. Feeling as sad as you have ever felt. So raw, undone and lonely. Feeling like your particular loss doesn’t merit your grief. That your lowly thoughts are ugly, selfish, pathetic things. I knew that there were just as many women out there dealing with loss, infertility and a host of other tough situations. That many of those new moms had been through their sorrows. But like I said at the beginning, it’s only the happy healthy pictures we put on Christmas cards.)

So anyway, the shoebox story is not really one we tell.

When you start looking, there are many women writing about pregnancy loss. Some pieces I have found particularly moving: Un-bearing by Mira Ptacin, Thanksgiving in Mongolia by Ariel Levy, my friend Jennifer Massoni Pardini’s blog. Jenn also has an extensive list of resources and reading about pregnancy loss and grief. Also, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken.

My new jeans (and thoughts on body after baby) – 20 of 100

Last week, I went out an bought a very expensive pair of jeans.

These jeans are beautiful and make my ass look amazing.

IMG_2984

Hell yes, I love these jeans!

I haven’t spent a good chunk of change on jeans in… well, I honestly can’t remember. The last pair of jeans I bought in 2013, right before I started my job at Stampede, and they cost $60. You get what you pay for, amiright?

I think it’s important that moms (and all women for that matter!) treat themselves a little bit (or a lot) when it comes to feeling good about the way we look.

Our bodies go through incredible transformations in pregnancy. Of course when you look at a pregnant woman, you think – god she looks amazing! And it is the most beautiful thing. Truly (love this A Beautiful Body photography project). But when it’s you’re own body, things can be different.

For the most part, I did ok with it. But I had my moments. Throwing clothes all over the bed. Feeling defeated when I realized I’d land in the upper echelons of ‘normal’ weight gain. Seeing the weight creep into my face.

DSCF3046

Many angles of this picture were taken until Dan got it just right enough for me to feel comfortable with the way I looked.

I had some pretty serious body image issues in my teens and twenties (who didn’t) I’ve worked hard to negotiate my relationship to my body – and I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. I exercise to be healthy, not to be skinny. I love to cook and tasty healthy food – and always have a bag of potato chips on hand that I’ll indulge in guilt free when the time is right.

But it’s hard after you have a baby. I mean now you have this seven pound bundle of flesh in your arms and there’s still a whole lot more pounds of flesh left on your own self. What the heck?

DSCF3011

Here’s one I feel way less comfortable with.

And it’s not just the weight gain. Your most precious parts have been stretched, possibly torn. There are stitches in places. You are battered and bruised. Your breasts become tender milk machines.

I remember soon after James was born – my milk came in and my boobs were totally engorged. My midwife told me that cabbage leaves could help so I was getting into bed, with my wobbly belly, sore hoo hoo, swollen breasts covered in cold cabbage leaves. Dan was like, “Sky, you smell like saurkraut.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I laughed, but I definitely thought: This is the least sexy I have ever been.

So believe me when people told me I looked great, I did not care if they were just saying it to be nice or if they meant it – it meant so much to me to hear that. So note to everyone: Just tell all women they look great.

Meghan J. Ward blogs about being an adventurous parent and she has a great post about how it took her two years to recovery her vitality after giving birth. I also love her post about her post-body baby – especially this part about getting over feeling betrayed by her body: I remembered I had just had a baby. I carried her for 40 long weeks, awaited her arrival through 28 hours of back labour, birthed her little body, and now nurse her for hours each day to help her grow. How silly (no, shameful!) of me to think my body had betrayed me. On the contrary, it had served me better than ever before.

We’re doing nothing short of giving life here. Let us not forget.

At six months post-baby, my body is far from perfect (believe me, I love these jeans as much for what they hide as for what they highlight). But if I wait around for a perfect body, I’ll be waiting forever. It is perfectly what it is.

So I bought these jeans. I practically skipped home with them in my bag, James strapped to my chest. I feel amazing in them. I feel amazing about feeling amazing. Sometimes, I said to Dan, money can by happiness.

So, ladies, consider this your invitation to go out and treat yo selves!