Friday, November 28, 2008

Get behind me santa!

The title of this blog is the song title for one of my favorite Christmas tunes off of the Sufjan Stevens Christmas Album boxset. We unfortunatley left our copy in Canada and I miss it so much, but will soon be reunited with it. If anyone is looking for a good Christmas album, this is it!


The time has come at last, we’re packing up our bags and will be flying out of Brissy on Thursday morning. Apart from the fact that Tim will be defending his PhD thesis, it’s full-on party time! As in a let’s meet Edie party! The very best kind. She tells me that she’s dying to meet everyone.

So, I think that our house might be on a Jehovah’s Witness target list. They’ve been faithfully dropping by (and when I say ‘they’, I mean numerous people, and different from the other visits leading us to believe that it’s not a coordinated effort) and making our lives interesting. Almost since we got here I’ve been dreading Tuesdays a little bit just because they usually show up on that day. It wasn’t so bad when I was pregnant, but now that we have Edie running around, the dread is more strongly felt as energy is just so precious. But I just can’t answer their questions in good conscience without drawing myself into further discussion. I try everytime, and everytime I fail. I was thoroughly impressed with my husband back when Edie was probably 6 weeks old or so and I, having opened the door to the visitors and having been again unwillingly engaged in deeper conversation, was wishing I could just go to sleep. In mid-conversation Tim came out from the kitchen and nicely told them that I needed some rest while firmly pushing them out of the doorway. I had hearts in my eyes for Tim that day. Meanwhile, last week I was feeding Edie out in our rocker in the front porch and I heard a knock at the door, I was closest so I answered the door, and it was a new batch asking if we were interested in the Bible. Tim swooped in again and told them yes, we were interested in the Bible, and also that we’d take a look at the literature and again gently shooed them out the door. It was after I sat down again that I realized that I hadn’t pulled up the strap to the dress that I was wearing (that I had lowered to breastfeed) and thus, for that entire visit my right side was ‘exposed’, but thankfully I had my undergarments fastened. I wonder if they’ll come back.

A lot has been happening on the Edie front in the cuteness department. CBA code red now has people running for their shelters. She giggles and smiles probably 75% of the time that she’s awake and she really melts Tim’s heart when he comes through the door after work. It’s so incredible to see her grow and develop. I’ve been attending a new parents group on Fridays and it’s been good for both Edie and I. Edie gets to gaze at and interact with other babies and I get to talk to people. At first I thought that the group was a bad idea because it’s tough not to compare your child to all of the others when they’re all roughly the same age, and in our group, happen to be mostly girls. I found that it brought out the monster in all of us…I didn’t like myself in that setting. But at the 2nd meeting things settled down and I actually found that for the most part I would hang out with these women even if we didn’t have children. We’re going to keep meeting up in the new year. That’s exciting as with having been pregnant and then having Edie, social time for making friends in Australia hasn’t been high on the priority list. I must say that I’m starting to feel human again, more like old Laura, which is nice. Old Laura plus new Edie is a fun combination.

So, I know that everyone is talking about the economy being in shambles, but I really hadn’t fully appreciated what that meant until recently. We’ve made friends with a girl here through EWB who is terrific. She’s passionate, driven and just really refreshing to hang out with. She’s been involved with some big EWB projects that are developing with indigenous groups in Australia and has been talking for a while about leaving her stable government job (which she doesn’t really like anyway) to start working in another job which would more directly involve working with indigenous peoples in an educational function. It’s something that’s been a bit of a dream for her and we’ve been talking a lot about it. We’ve been meaning to meet up over the past month but it hasn’t happened, but I was in touch with her last weekend and asked how the job situation was. She answered that she’s thinking that she’d better stay with the government job on account of the economy. I think my heart broke a little because if there is anyone who should be in a job where she thrives, it should be her but she won’t take the chance in these uncertain days, understandably. It got me thinking about something that Tim mentioned in one of his blog entries about how our generation thinks that things should be improving as we get older, i.e. financial stability, job satisfaction, etc. I’d add that our generation (or at least me) feels deep down that we are also entitled to choose a career path and should be able to be what we want to be without being limited by anything (especially money). This entitlement I’m starting to see as the enormous luxury that it is. Choice is actually quite extravagant, and in our case, I believe may be an illusion that we’ve come to accept as reality because we’ve really never lived through grand-scale economic hardship (i.e., more than me feeling the pinch). I think it’s becoming obvious that when people stop spending money, people start losing jobs. So, how long will it be before Tim and I discover that our research isn’t top of the list of priorities in slim times? Budget cuts hit research hard. But it’s not just us. The guy next door owns a construction company. What happens when people stop building because they can’t afford it? And so on. It’s becoming so plain to see just how reliant we are on this economic system, and it scares me a lot. Oy. Enough economics talk. There’s sure to be too much more to come on this front.

On the fun front, we purchased a car a couple of weeks ago. It’s a ’92 Corolla (manual) and runs like a dream. It’s also probably the most popular model in Brisbane. There are replicates everywhere, and actually our landlord drives one, his is a ‘93. Having a car definitely helps out with the entertaining Edie department. Last weekend we took her to the coast to watch wind surfers which we never could have done without a car. We also were able to attend a birthday party for one of our Kiwi friends. Edie loved it! She got to watch kids break open a piniata, and eat cake and jump on a trampoline. She actually got in on the trampoline action with Tim (see photo). This week I’ve been trying to teach her about airplanes. With our longest flight on the way home being 14 hours from Sydney to Vancouver, we’re wondering if we’re going to be the couple that everyone hates because their baby won’t keep quiet. We’ll see. It seems that over the past year I’ve thought more than ever that we’re just crazy…or perhaps just keeping life interesting...I hope that’s what people on the plane with us think.

We won’t be posting again until we return back in January, so until then, have a great, great Christmas season. For us, the cost of going home and all of the huge changes in our lives over the past year has forced us to forget about spending on presents, etc. this season. It’s pretty refreshing actually. I, more than ever before, am simply craving the company of family and friends.

We can’t wait to see you all!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lots to Talk About

It's been a busy week and a half, so I'll try to bring everyone up to speed on recent developments in the lives of Tim, Laura and Edie. Some of you may be wondering how we are dealing with the pressures of child-rearing while far away from home, and if we've reached the breaking point yet. Well the other night there was a moment when I thought Laura may have found the end of her tether. It was the middle of the night, probably around 3:00 a.m. Edie was awake for her 2nd feed since we went to bed, and both of us were low on sleep and energy. Laura finished feeding Edie and rocked her to sleep, leaving her in her crib. I was dozing at the time and didn't notice when Laura left the bedroom. A few minutes later I woke and realized Laura was not in bed (where she should have been since Edie was fast asleep and it was the middle of the night). I got up and checked the office - not there. I checked the bathroom - not there. All the lights were out. I was starting to think that perhaps I would find her sobbing uncontrollably in the kitchen when I came across her in the living the dark..........munching on a peanut butter and jam sandwich that I had made for her earlier in the day. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to parenthood!

On the weekend I spent my first nights away since Edie's birth. I flew north to Cairns to attend the Mitchell River Indigenous Forum. This meeting was a chance for all of the different language groups that have traditional ownership over the land in the catchment to come out, meet us, and tell us what they would like us to work on in terms of environmental and socioeconomic issues. It was a fantastic experience. It was held at a campground with bunkhouses, which were shared between us and the local people. There were about 70 Aboriginal people and half as many children. We had only about a dozen in our own team so it was nice to be in the minority for once. We presented our work (15 minutes to talk without any of the usual visual aids such as powerpoint) and took some heat from a few of the younger individuals who believed we were undervaluing traditional knowledge and overvaluing white scientific knowledge. Point taken. Overall they were pleased with what they heard from us so we now have a foundation on which to build as we continue our work trying to understand ecological and cultural processes in tropical rivers of Australia. I've written in this space before about Kowanyama, the community located near the mouth of the river. Well recently some UN people were there doing some filming for a feature on Aboriginal perspectives on climate change. Luckily the video is available online. Check it out! In it you'll see some footage of Kowanyama as well as shots of the Rangers (Philip, Stanley, and Anzac) with whom we work when we are there.

I also found out this week that I'll be receiving funding to do some supplemental research. It's my first ever research grant, and I'm going to use it to determine if mercury is an issue in the Mitchell River. There's plenty of gold mining in one of the tributaries of the river, and gold mining causes mercury pollution in places ranging from the Amazon to northern New Brunswick. Since Kowanyama sits downstream from where the gold mining takes place, there is concern that the traditional diet consumed by the community (including fishes such as barramundi and river sharks) could be leading to unsafe levels for human health. So I am going to test some of the fish for mercury. Hopefully it will turn out to not be a problem. A nightmare scenario would involve me having to recommend avoidance of certain elements of the traditional diet, since our Western diet does not generally agree with Aboriginal people.

Given the amount of work remaining to be done (by our research team) in northern Australia, Laura and I are considering moving up there. We've enjoyed our time in Brisbane, but there are several reasons why a move north would be a good idea. The place we are targeting is a village called Kuranda, west of Cairns, about 1700 km north of Brisbane. I would try to describe it here but it might be better just to click on this link. It'll tell you everything you need to know. Needless to say, it might make visiting us even more desirable, hint hint. Hard to argue against an area where the Great Barrier Reef meets World Heritage Rainforest.

One other note before I go. There is a new feature in google maps called street view, where you can move a cursor over the map and be shown an image of the street. They've achieved this by sending a crew around in a vehicle with a camera mounted on top, recording still shots along the way. Because this has been done in Australia (not yet in Canada though apparently coming soon) you can actually go online and view our current house and street. Just go to google maps and type in 29 Yarranabbe St, QLD. Then click the "street view" icon at the top right. Viola. You can even rotate around for a 360 view. Pretty cool stuff, but apparently it has the privacy police up in arms. Some people were photographed in compromising positions during the drive-by, so you can actually request that your property be taken out of service if you don't want billions of people to, for example, be able to see you passed out drunk on your front lawn. Keep an eye out for it Canada in '09.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

And there was great rejoicing

So, I know it's not my week to post, and I'm not going to say much, but I'm so excited and Tim is away and it's too late to call family...Edie's passport arrived today!!!

We're REALLY going home. Legally and everything! YAHOO!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hello friends,

Can it be November already? When I stop and think about how much has changed in one short year, I’m floored. At this point last year we had no idea that we would have a child on our hands, and it might have been the furthest thing from our minds. And since then we’ve packed up a house, said goodbye to our friends and families, changed jobs and continents, lived out a pregnancy and had an Edie here in Australia. It’s crazy to think that when we get back to Canada in December that I’ll look pretty much the same as I did when I left back in February…But that I was almost 30 pounds heavier in between February and now. And just so much is different. Life has definitely been happening at a whirlwind pace for Tim and I, and Edie now. Actually, I had a thought the other day that I have no recollection of any events in September or October (other than Edie’s arrival). None whatsoever. What a weird and incredible time in our lives.

For those interested, Edie tipped the scales on Saturday at 5 Kg. That’s a whopping 11 lbs. She’s also 59 cm long. We’re so proud of her! Not that she’s had much choice in the matter, but she’s growing so well. She also had her 2 month immunization shots today. Ouch! She didn’t take to the needles very well but compared to my tumultuous history with needle getting (a few freakout sessions of my own), she handled it like a pro. She seems to be sleeping it off at the moment.

On Saturday we also participated in a community-wide shading initiative where the council arranged for volunteers to plant young trees along the streets in our neighborhood. The council already had holes dug and the trees ready to go in the ground, so we all went around with shovels to put the trees in during the early hours this morning. It was fun! And quick. There were a lot of people who showed up to plant so in the end it became a bit of a race to find trees that weren’t planted yet. We got a message notifying us about the event in the mail this week and we’re glad that we got out to it. The trees will be maintained by property owners and it seems that this type of event has been quite successful in the past. The people we spoke with told us that there is generally a 5-10% mortality rate. Given the heat here and the poor soil conditions generally, that’s a great success rate. We were surprised to find that as we made our way back to our house, some land owners had already removed some trees. I’ll admit that it angered me to see this, but I’m not a landowner, and don’t know the motives were for doing such a thing. Because it was an event planned by the Council, I’m sure that the by-laws are such that the Council can plant trees at the roadside (I’ve looked into the by-laws and I get the sense that the “frontage” on property here is 3 m, although that information is buried in heaps of legal mumbo-jumbo so I’m not completely certain…I also learned that no person shall expectorate OR emit any nasal discharge onto the footway of any street in the city). Either way. Taking the trees out seems…sad. The event was supposed to be a community building event, so the tree-removers would have missed out on that aspect, and more trees just seems like a good idea. Especially for shade here in hot, hot Australia.

Speaking of heat, summer is here. Full-on. Il fait chaud mes amis! Guns n’ Roses would find no cold November rain here in the Southern hemisphere. How are we handling it? Well, the AC has been on this week and there’s been lots of hanging out in the knickers (Aussie-speak for gitch). It’s a bit brutal for Edie and I because it means that walks are pretty much out of the question unless we go first thing or at the end of the day. This makes for a long day of sweating it out inside the house. Once we have a car on our hands I’m hoping we’ll have a bit more flexibility in that respect. I’m glad that we’ll be in Canada for December. Apparently that’s the hottest month here, but I’m sure that January and February will be up there as well. A common thing to do here is to celebrate Christmas in July so that people can roast their turkey and ham in their ovens and not die of heat-stroke. Right now the oven being on adds so much extra heat to an already too hot house. I’ll say that I’m very happy that I was pregnant during the winter here, summer would have been unbearable. But it’s nice to see the summer leaves, flowers and animals back out. Apparently Brisbane is known for the abundance of Jacaranda trees which bear a purple flower at this time of year. They are everywhere and are so pretty to look at. The gekos are back as well. Yay! We missed seeing them around. It also rains more frequently in this season, which is nice to break up the humidity. We’re having a cracker (Aussie-speak for a good thunder storm) right now.

I was asked this week what I do when I see someone on the street begging for change (money change, we do have friends that hit the street begging for social change, just to differentiate) and it got me thinking. The first thing I thought was that I usually either mentally or physically check my pockets to see if I do have change, and if I do I usually hand it over. I must say that I’m a bigger sucker for people that are playing music (especially the harmonica, particularly old men). It made me think though, of how many conversations I’ve had about this topic with people, and how many different ways that people respond to begging or panhandling in general. I think that it’s safe to say that the big reason for being hesitant to give money to people who are asking for it on the street is how that person will spend it. I guess there is also the feeling that if I’ve earned my money, I shouldn’t be asked to give it to others, but I’ll leave that one alone for the moment. Tim and I have had a number of heated discussions about what responsibility lies with giving a panhandler money. I think that my feelings lean more towards the idea that if I give money to someone, it’s not up to me as to how that money is spent as the small amount of change won’t greatly change their situation (assuming that the person earning a living this way due to battling addictions or not being able to hold a stable job for other reasons). Tim has argued that it is. The classic argument for this one is “I won’t give it to this guy/girl because they’re just going to go spend it on alcohol or drugs, etc. instead of food”. I understand this to a point, but by not giving the money and simply passing by, I’m not solving any problems for that person either. It’s not helping them to not get alcohol or drugs by some other means, or to kick their addictions. Then again, my giving them change doesn’t solve any problems either. I guess I feel like it just makes their day a little easier since I’m not addressing the larger problem…But that’s a guess on my part. I have a friend from undergrad who I witnessed take a beggar to McDonalds to purchase a meal instead of handing him change. It’s an interesting way to get around the way that people spend their money thing, but again, doesn’t get to helping out with the reasons that the person is panhandling anyway.

Getting to know the people who are asking for money is probably the best bet…But it takes time and not everyone is comfortable with this approach. It is definitely one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done though. Actually, getting to know people is generally always rewarding to me in some way, no matter who they are. But that’s me. I don’t have to look very far to see that we’re not all people people. While on the subject of poverty though, the Homeless World Cup is being held in Melbourne in December. Homeless World Cup, you ask? Yup. 56 countries have national representation at this tournament this year. Teams are made up of the homeless and unemployed and most countries have both a women and a mens team. These teams train throughout the year and for a lot of the players, this training is one of the only sources of stability in life. Since soccer is so easy to pick up, and requires minimal equipment, and is so well known worldwide, it makes getting players out easy as well. If Tim and I were here in December, we’d definitely be trying to figure out how to get there. The most recent spectator numbers for this tournament is over 50,000 fans, which is pretty remarkable given that the whole thing only started in 2003.

Well, to sign off on this one, in the spirit of a favorite movie of ours, I give you Edie’s top 10 tunes of the first 9 weeks of extrauterine existence.

10. Pop Goes the World – Men Without Hats
9. Burn Baby Burn – Bruce Cockburn
8. Grade 9 – Bare Naked Ladies (they called me Eddie!)
7. Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes – Paul Simon
6. Wondering Where the Lions Are – Bruce Cockburn
5. Louisiana Man – Charlie Pride
4. Cold Heartbreaker – Petunia and the Loons
3. Kiss an Angel Good Morning – Charlie Pride
2. Doggie Bounce - Crazy Dogggz
1. Just a Bum – Greg Brown

Edie has also learned how to vocalize this week, so she can actually communicate without crying, which is lovely. She has what we call CBA’s, which are code-name for cute baby alerts, and the scale ranges from code yellow (some smiling) to code red (smiles and full-on baby talk). It’s true, we really are “those parents”. The kind I used to make fun of.

We can’t wait to get home. Love to all until then!


Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

I came to the realization today that few, if any, of our posts since we arrived here have been about music. This despite the fact that both of us have a healthy appreciation for it, and one of us (that would be Laura) can actually play it. So, from the guy who once created an all-time top 250 song list, this post is going to be about music.

I've been thinking about what kind of music Edie is going to listen to when she gets older. Each generation tends to stray from the musical leanings of the one prior. That's how we go from The Beatles, to Led Zeppelin, to Guns n' Roses, to Pearl Jam, and so on. Each set of parents sneers at their children's music (as well as their haircuts). I must admit, I don't enjoy the current crop of bands that are popular with teens (Linkin Park comes to mind), but no doubt they resonate the same way G n' R did for us. Normally children will slowly learn to appreciate their parent's music as they get older. That is, if their parents have any taste in music! So, assuming that Laura and I have taste in music (and remember I define taste here simply as a preference of one type of music over another; I have always argued that I'll take bad taste over no taste any day), we might expect Edie to one day listen to Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes, the McGarrigles, and, I daresay, even Bruce Springsteen. Here's to hoping. For now, she's getting a healthy dose of Dan Zanes, Greg Brown, and (gulp) Charlie Pride.

One of the things we enjoyed a lot pre-Edie (we'll call this prEdie for short) was going to folk shows in Fredericton and other northeast destinations such as Portland and Portsmouth. Recently we made a vow to try and re-discover that fun, so I purchased tickets for Laura and our neighbour Nikki to go see Martha Wainwright when she is in town next month. Derek (Nikki's husband) and I will be on child-care duty that night. Also, we just got word that Leonard Cohen has added an Australian leg to his world tour that kicked off in Fredericton in the spring. Since we just missed out on that show, it'll be sweet retribution when we see him here in Brisbane in February. The bonus is that a great Australian artist, Paul Kelly, will be opening for him.

Another good Aussie act that we've discovered here is Angus and Julia Stone. They're a good singer-songwriter pair, and are starting to gain popularity here and in England. But the best find for me so far has been Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a blind Aboriginal artist from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Gurrumul grew up in a landscape that is very similar to the places where I work when I go in the field, and his connection to country comes through strongly in his songs. Normally I don't enjoy songs that are sung in other languages, because I like to know the lyrics, but this is certainly an exception. You can really feel the 40,000 years of oral tradition being channeled through his music. Think about how strongly we identify with our own hometowns. Why is that? It comes from forming memories there, having family and friends there, and carrying on the legacy that our parents, grandparents, and in some cases great-grandparents forged in that town. Now imagine that your family history stretched back thousands of generations in that same part of the world. Add the fact that your life depended on that land; whether the rains were good, and fish and game were plentiful. Then throw in the passing of stories about that land from mother to daughter, and father to son, and you have this Aboriginal culture that is more tied to the land (with the exception of Africans) than any other in the world. Imagining the land getting taken from them simply breaks your heart.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Life as an opportunist

Hello friends,

Edie is sleeping for longer than expected which means that I have some time to write/eat/shower/put laundry name it, I've pounced on the opportunity to do it as she slumbers.

Another week and…actually, for me, all weeks are kind of the same. Yesterday while having tea with our neighbors (yes, there is actually a standard tea-time here and we do partake occasionally), we were discussing life as new parents and both Nikki (the other mother) and I have definitely felt like there have been weeks that our lives were like the movie Groundhog Day. I’m sure every parent has felt it. Feed, change, settle, repeat over 24 hours. Nonetheless, Edie, Tim and I are happy and healthy and looking forward to a nice trip home in December.

Again, since my life revolves around feeding, changing nappies (that’s Aussie-speak for diapers) and calming storms in the wee one, there’s not a lot that I’ll talk about that isn’t influenced by Edie. She likes it that way. Actually, I’m not sure whether this is common in all children, I suspect not but I may be wrong, Edie is the sweetest, most pleasant baby EVER when she’s in the company of other people. You know, some babies are just unpleasant all the time (we’ve all seen them and felt bad for mom or dad)…With Edie, it’s just with us. Maybe that’s a good thing come to think of it…I certainly caused my parents embarrassment in front of other people with my cranky moods as a child, teenager and adult. But it’s hard not to tell people when they’re cooing over how well-behaved she is, just how manipulative she seems when she’s wailing in her crib until you pick her up, and then starts wailing again when she’s put back down…And then works her way into our bed (most of the time on top of one of us) because we’re just too tired to keep playing that game in the middle of the night. I realize that she is only 7 weeks old now, and probably hasn’t mastered the art of consciously manipulating people, but I have to keep reminding myself of that. Good thing she’s cute.

So, you may or may not be wondering about how our experiment in public transport has been going. I’m going to tell you about it anyway. For those who don’t know, when we decided to move to Australia, we had this great idea that because we were going to be living in a huge city, that we should be able to get by without having to buy a car by using the public transit system. We were both sick of the amount of driving that we were doing in Canada anyway. Of course at the time we had no idea that we would have a child on our hands so soon, or at all for that matter. But, given our stubborn nature, we decided to see if we could still hack it out with public transportation even though we’d found out that we’d have a baby with us 8 months after we arrived in Australia. Our reasoning originally was because we shouldn’t need a car in a city this size, it has since become a financial incentive for us as well…Losing an income and gaining a child hits the bankbook eventually. Thankfully there is a good bus system here and equally as thankfully, we have met friends with cars. For almost 2 months we had access to a car lent to us by our friend Peter while he was away overseas, and thankfully that was during the time that Edie stormed her way into this realm. We had to give that car back eventually, so we’ve been without for the past 5 weeks. Having had that car we realized that we should probably have one even if it just sat in our garage for the most part. It’d just good to have it as a backup in case of an emergency or if a bus decides not to show up (which happened to me twice in this past week). SO, reluctantly, we’ve contacted a guy who deals second hand cars and is on the lookout for what we want.

The nice thing is that used cars here can be super-duper old and still be in great shape due to the no winter factor. Our friend Peter (who’s car we’d borrowed) is driving an ’89 Toyota Corolla which is in great shape still. So that’s exactly what we’re looking for. What is also nice is that there are copious amounts of used Toyotas out there for very reasonable prices. I’ve been told that people are not allowed to own new cars for longer than 5 years in Japan and so lots of these 5 year old cars are exported to other countries. Apparently lots end up here. If you watched any street in Brisbane for 10 minutes you would be guarenteed to see at least 1 white Camry or Corolla pass by. So, in a short while our experiment in public transport will have come to an end with our purchase of a car. I’m sure it will be parked for much longer than it will be driven. I like the fact that Edie has already spent way more time in a bus than she has in a car. We’re working on keeping her ecological footprint small…That long-haul flight in December not taken into consideration. Actually, if you take a look at Jay’s blog (Tim’s brother…The Freeway to Serfdom…always an interesting read) he talked recently about a study which showed that people that would consider themselves “Green Idealists” are more likely to take long-haul flights which are absolutely terrible for the environment in terms of carbon emissions. I guess we’d like to think that we’d not label ourselves at all, let alone with a pretentious title like “Green Idealist” and we generally don’t buy into propaganda out there of which there is scads in terms of environmental issues of the day, but we do care about being good to the earth…And we’re taking one of the longest long-haul flights possible in about a month. And we’ve already done it once. So there you have it. That study is probably bang-on. It’s taking me a while to digest that one. Jay is a great source of brain-food. Check him out.

So, with the trip coming up we’ve been scrambling like mad to get Edie’s documentation up-to-date as infants cannot travel without a passport any longer, nor can they just be added to parents’ passports like they once could. It’s been a titch stressful. In order to get a passport for Edie, we need a Canadian proof of citizenship (because we’re not yet permanent residents in Australia), in order to get a proof of citizenship, we need her birth registration which we received last week. So, tomorrow we file our application for proof of citizenship and her passport application crossing our fingers that we’ll get everything back before we’re supposed to leave (the 4th of December). For normal Canadian passport applications being filed from Australia it’s supposed to take 15 working days, which is cutting everything pretty close. Thankfully they do make consideration of the fact that we already have our tickets purchased and our dates of travel, etc. But it certainly makes us aware of just how much control the government has over us. We can’t just travel at our own whim despite the fact that we shelled out cash for our not-so-cheap tickets already. And the whole thing about infants needing a passport...There are so many reasons why I’d consider that at the very least, entirely ridiculous. She changes in looks from day to day and even by the time her passport is actually processed theoretically her eye color could even be different. But her picture is awfully cute and we really just want to get home with all 3 of us for Christmas, so we’re sucking it up this time.

So in order to get pictures for her citizenship papers and passport we had to take her to a special studio which could meet the requirements for the picture specifications. I took her on Wednesday (huge bus trip) and ended up spending the afternoon in a shopping mall waiting for the pictures to be developed and stamped. I did discover the “parent’s room” at the mall which is like an oasis in the desert…Couches, TV, a microwave, no people…That was a bonus. Eventually I got the pictures and came home. I had to print Edie’s name on the back of the citizenship photos and neglected to tell Tim that the ink needed to dry before they were put away. He put them into a folder while they were still wet and I almost cried when I saw that there was ink all over one of the pictures the next day. So, on Saturday we had to go back to the studio. This time Edie wouldn’t wake up for the photographers, so again, it was a couple of hours before we were able to get out of there. But we got it all in the end. Everything will be sent to the Consulate tomorrow. If you’re the praying type, if you could plead on our behalf we’d appreciate it. If you’re not, we’ll take whatever you’ve got for making things beyond your control happen in your favour.

Edie’s hair has been falling out lately, especially in the sideburns region and at the back. She’s still got a nice thick strip of long hair on the bottom though. Kind of like the seasoned professor who’s got no hair on top but is clinging to the youthfulness of the long wavy stuff that still grows on the bottom. Now, let’s think of who that might be in, say, 15 years…Edie has also learned how to poo in the last week. We had it good there for about 5 weeks of no poo at all, which is common in breastfed babies. But she’s making up for it now. Thankfully we’ve made the transition to using cloth nappies which, with a biodegradable liner, work really well to contain poopies. They’re also so much cheaper to use than nappies. The really nice thing about cloth (that I’ve noticed) is that you can make them fit the baby, which I found really frustrating about disposables. Edie has a small rump and a large belly (pear-shaped, we like to call her, which is also Aussie-speak for a situation gone bad), the disposables never did quite fit right. So we’re all a bit happier I think.

And I think I’ll end things there but treat you to a few more pictures. I know that’s what you really want to see anyway! Edie is calling.

Love to everyone, can’t wait to see you in December!


Saturday, October 18, 2008

News and notes from the sleep-deprived

Hopefully our two-week hiatus hasn't dropped our readership after the major boost brought on by our superstar daughter. Those of you still surfing by for a read will find that I am not going to focus this post on the trials and tribulations of parenthood. Rest assured that it is going as well as we could hope, and Edie is looking forward to meeting her family and Canadian friends when we come home for a visit at Christmas. That's provided Canada Customs allows her into the country - getting a passport in time is a bit questionable at the moment. If you get a phone call saying that the only way you can see Edie is by visiting her in a quarantine room at the Vancouver airport, you'll know why.

So it's been back to business for me this past week. I've slowly been increasing my time back at the office, even though I can be just about as productive (sometimes more so) when working at home. Although grinding up fish tissues in our front room seems a bit weird. I've been able to get a few papers written which is always nice. Under normal circumstances, I would be in northern Australia right now for our “late dry season” sampling; we have a crew of people up there right now braving 35 degree temperatures every day. Instead, I'm sitting this one out and planning for a big wet season trip in January. Part of the challenge in working in the north during the wet is that there is water everywhere (see pictures at the bottom of this page) - hence you have to helicopter or boat in to the river to do your sampling. Driving in just isn’t an option. So we are planning on chartering a vessel that will sail down from Aurukun or Pormpurraw (two small Aboriginal communities north of Kowanyama) into the Mitchell River, and anchor there for a week while we make forays out onto the floodplain. I’ve been told that we can expect plenty of mosquitoes, extreme heat and humidity, angry crocodiles, and everything that lives on land (e.g. snakes and other crawly things) to be wanting to be on the few patches of dry ground that are available. So that’s what I have to look forward to after a cold December at home.

I must admit that I paid little attention to the recent federal election back home, just enough to realize that nerdy professors (as I hope to be some day) don’t make for good politicians. Kind of reminds me of the Simpsons episode when the intelligentsia (the Mensa crowd) are given the reigns to govern and they make a big mess of it. The Dubyas of the world will always defeat the Al Gores, and the Tanker Malleys will always beat the Harold Fleigers. When people’s brains hang over the room like a cloud, they open the door for someone with a little more charm to connect with the people. Does this mean that Stephen Harper has charm? That might be a bit of a stretch, but I think it is fair to say that he could more easily have a conversation with the average voter out there. So that’s how it is. I am happy for the academics to sit in a corner and grumble about the “popular guy” who has all the power. Seems more natural that way.

The global economic crisis is being felt here as it is everywhere, with plenty of people under mortgage and rent stress, stock market volatility, and growing numbers of families requiring assistance of food banks and other support networks. Australia’s banks, however, are apparently better positioned than those in most countries and hence are expected to be able to weather the credit storm. Perhaps we’ll be hiding out here a little longer than we anticipated! Believe it or not, but the Australian government has no national debt. Read that again – no national debt. Compare this with America’s debt of 10.3 trillion, and Canada’s debt of 450 billion. (Note: this refers to government debt only, not debt in the private sector owed to foreign interests, which turns out to be quite high in Australia). I was shocked when I heard of Australia’s lack of government debt, but apparently prudent spending over the years and the strength of the country’s export market has meant that they have been able to avoid the temptation to overspend. It’s still too early to judge whether their social programs are suffering greatly from it; after all, we were just given amazing (free) care at a public hospital for Edie’s birth. Granted, from what I have read, support for seniors and the unemployed is pretty weak here, so perhaps things aren’t as rosy as they might seem. I will say this though, there is a fully endorsed two-tier health care system here, and I don’t believe the quality of the public system suffers as a result.

These current economic times, combined with our recent life experiences and the book I just finished (The Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle) have really got me thinking about family, finances and happiness. In the book, Doyle paints a brilliant picture of 1980s Dublin through the family of Jimmy Rabbitte. Jimmy loses his job, bums around on the dole (pogey as we would call it) for awhile, before finally partnering up with his buddy on a chip wagon. The make decent money for awhile but their friendship suffers as a result. The book is written in several short segments (no chapters), and many of the sections come and go without ever getting resolved. For example, Jimmy listens to his daughter, who had earlier had a child without a father, crying inside her room. He wants to go in, but hesitates at the door and eventually leaves. We never find out why she was crying, but she reappears in other places in the book seemingly in good spirits. There is no happy ending to the book, but it isn't sad either. It just kind of ends. And I think that's the way our lives are these days. Not always getting better, but not bad either, and filled with plenty of enjoyable moments. Our generation was raised on the "American Dream" idea, that there was always going to be improvements to our livelihoods - more money, more opportunities. And to a great degree that is true. We have opportunities our parents never had, including financial stability. But I think we are all starting to realize that there are limitations, and perhaps there isn't always something brighter around the bend. What that means is we need to appreciate the moments of joy when they arrive, much like Jimmy Rabbitte enjoys a pint with his friends, a win by Ireland in the World Cup tournament, or a walk with his granddaughter.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Rantings and rambling from Oz - Laura style

Hello friends,

Well, Edie has been extrauterine for a month today. It’s been a great month at the same time as it’s been probably the most trying month of my life. Anyone who’s had children will know exactly what I’m talking about and there are probably a few out there who would be qualified to tell me “I told you so”. I was speaking with my sister yesterday and she mentioned that she wished that she could be here to witness Tim and I “do this” (“this” being raising a daughter)…Were she here she would definitely have lots of entertainment with the clown-show that we’re running. The most entertaining aspect I think would be how little Edie has succeeded in mastering the battle of the wills. Both Tim and I would consider ourselves strong-willed and determined people, willing to put up a fight. We have totally met our match, if not our superior. For instance, at the moment I am writing this blog entry with one hand while Edie is sleeping on my lap because she will not stay asleep anywhere else right now and the kicker is that this morning if she’s not sleeping, she’s crying. This is because (we suspect) that she’s overtired as nothing else has been able to calm the storm other than sleep on my lap. This is hilarious in itself because when I was a child I required a lot of sleep and if I didn’t get what I needed I was a crank (not much has changed there). If anyone were brave enough to point out the fact that I was cranky because I was overtired they would have heard “I AM NOT TIRED” in my tantrum voice, if not worse (i.e. a bite or a pinch).

Either way, I think that Edie’s got the edge on us in determination. It may be because she’s got that youthful energy that we’re lacking bigtime right now, or maybe it’s evolutionary somehow- a new generation with a new drive? I’m sure that I gave my parents a run for their money when I was pint-sized…and longer perhaps. I just can’t imagine what it would have been like to deal with me and 3 other children. Newfound respect for Mom amd Dad is being gained everyday.

With this month has come lots and lots of time for contemplation and reflection on life. While meeting the needs of Edie we usually have our hands tied up with her and are left with no other alternative than to exercise our brains as they are all that’s left free. So I’ve been thinking a lot about what to write about this week. I haven’t really left the house except to go for walks with the Edster, so there are no real events to speak of, so my thoughts are next on the list. There’s your warning, you can stop reading here and I wouldn’t be terribly offended. Another warning, I tend to ramble and rant if you didn’t already know. See earlier offer to stop reading here.

I’ve been thinking about zoos, kind of…All sparked by a conversation that I had with my supervisor when I was still working prior to Edie. I walked into her office one day and she was shaking her head because a student had come into her office and told her that she wanted to study zoology because she wanted to be a zoo keeper or work in zoo. Obviously the student had made the logical, yet incorrect, connection that the study of zoology was the study of zoos or at least the necessary pathway to get into zookeeping. Apparently my supervisor gets this at least once a year when new students are coming to the university to have tours and such prior to deciding where to invest either their parents’ money or the governments’ money in their undergraduate education. Of course I laughed at the idea that students might think that there are enough jobs in zookeeping that an entire branch of science might be devoted to it…Oh the academic superiority that we (I) can feel over such people. It’s such a stupid game and here are a few reasons why (I could list many, many more). 1) In my first year of my undergraduate degree I didn’t know what botany was until I got through my first botany lecture. 2) Zoology actually happened to be the second lowest mark that I made in my entire undergraduate degree as a close runner-up to calculus. 3) When I really stop and think about it, I had no clue about the wider fields of biology at all prior to going to university, I still only vaguely know anything about the fields that I had little interest in (i.e. botany!). I guess in my late night thoughts recently I’ve been able to see just how futile it is to feel good about being in a better informed position than someone else with less experience, because in my case I could easily have been that student in my supervisors office. And I have been that student in many other situations when I ended up looking like an idiot. Ahh, late night thoughts. They’re good at revealing our humanness. As a side note, the thing I remember the most about my zoology class was sitting next to my friend Mark, who, although for the most part spent lectures talking to me, still managed to pull off great grades in that class. It was always so frustrating. Perhaps he’ll be a zookeeper someday. I think he’d be a good one.

I’m reading a book right now by Peter Singer and Jim Mason called The Ethics of What We Eat. I picked it up in the local library because I remembered the authors from a bioethics class that I took in undergrad. It’s an interesting read. In a brief summary, the authors state that if we really knew how our food was being produced we’d think and choose differently what we ate, and the fact that many people do know how food is produced and continue to consume it reveals a sad state of morality in our society. The authors border on casting judgement on people for making food choices based on economics and painting farmers as evil villains, but you’ve heard it all before- factory farming is replacing the family farm and there are consequences. This book outlines these consequences in the way that only animal rights activists can. And for that reason I find myself feeling the need to keep reading, but also to take it all with a grain of salt. It’s so easy to make a case for anything these days and I feel like my own upbringing has had more influence on my eating choices than any book has.

So, as I’m explaining the concept of this book and perhaps revealing that I think that certain types of food production can be considered unethical (I can’t bring myself to purchase chicken), my brother is in the process of buying a chicken farm. Chicken farms have been under scrutiny by animal rights groups quite strongly since the 70’s as again, fewer and fewer farms are growing chickens non-intensively. If anyone has ever had the chance to walk into a barn containing chickens grown intensively (i.e. thousands of chickens in cages stacked on top of one another), you’d know without a doubt that there were serious problems with how our chicken is produced. I don’t know anyone who could walk away from seeing this type of farming and not question at what expense we are getting cheap chicken. But there are so many other ways to look at the situation and how things have gotten to where good people (like my brother) are getting into the business of mass production of animals where animal rights are in question. For that matter, I’ve worked in the aquaculture industry for the past 6 years, another form of intensive farming under scrutiny from many groups for animal welfare and environmental impacts. So how are both my brother and I sleeping at night? I can’t speak for my brother, but this is my take.

We grew up on a small dairy farm in rural Nova Scotia. We milked roughly 40-60 head of dairy cattle and had other animals that each of us took care of, chickens, sheep, pigs, dogs and cats. It was strictly a family operation and the farm was originally purchased from my mother’s parents back when Mom and Dad were just starting out as a married couple with 2 kids back in the late 70’s. Every animal in our barn was named and was considered a being with a personality and with the right to be cared for properly. For the kids, productivity of the animals wasn’t even really a thought, but in retrospect it was apparent to us all along that having happy and well cared-for animals was very important for the business. I suppose that made them more productive and hence, profitable in the long run, but I think that our parents were more concerned that living beings deserved to be cared for properly. My parents were forced to sell the farm in ’97 as it couldn’t pay for itself any longer. And although we children would like to have taken the farm over or started a new one as adults, there is no way to do that in eastern Canada without having the ability to invest millions in a farm large enough to sustain itself economically by remaining competitive. This trend of going big or going home is apparent across North America, here in Australia too. I personally think that things went downhill once the North American Free Trade Agreement was put into place, but there were probably warning signs before that ever happened. Either way, large-scale, generally intensive farming is now what is typically required to remain in business for farmers in Canada. There is no way that a person running a large-scale operation can care for animals the way that one could in a smaller operation. So young and ambitious people like my brother don’t have much of an option in terms of how they’re going to survive if they should choose to farm, nor how well the animals are treated in the end. I suppose the poultry operation that he’s purchasing will offset the cost of the dairy production that he would like to continue with (he’s got a small herd of which he takes great care). I take solace in the fact that if there were a person who could farm chickens well and thoughtfully, even under intensive conditions, it would be my brother. It still won’t make me buy chicken though.

As for my aquaculture work, the same type of thing has happened with the commercial fishery in eastern Canada where fishermen have had to diversify into other operations to remain financially afloat. Over the years the general trend in aquaculture has also been go big or go home. So people are going big in order to survive.

It seems like as consumers we’ve bought into the idea that food should be cheap, and I believe that this creates a force which drives the food production industry to more intensive, integrated and large-scale operations. And ordinary people run these operations, whether they are the Bert Racoons of this world or the Cyril Sneers. Enough of this rant.

So we’ve discovered a lot of things about babies that we didn’t know prior to the arrival of Miss Edie. Here are a couple of them:

- Going for a walk with the baby sounds like a nice relaxing thing to do. It was only when we strapped Edie into the stroller for the first time that we started to feel a little apprehensive about the fact that we’d just strapped our offspring into a stroller that meets “Australian standards” but that really is not much more than a fabric box on wheels with a flimsy harness. Not only that, you push the thing in front of you, so it seems that it would be most likely the first thing to be hit if someone in a car wasn’t paying attention. And sidewalks here were definitely not built for today’s stroller. And then there is the issue of roads with no sidewalks of which there are a number around here. We’re getting better about it all, but I didn’t anticipate the number of scenarios that would be running through our heads on a simple thing like a walk. Edie likes going for walks though. An instant sleeping pill

- Babies can’t read. I’ll admit that I knew that they couldn’t, but my expectations were maybe off when I thought that our infant would like to be read to. I’ve had to scale back on Dr.Suess and the Nursery Rhymes and increase the “Rooby Roo’s Book of Friends” readings. Rooby Roo is a bit more colourful and has some sound effects. But the content is weak. Our compromise is a book called “One Lucky Duck”, although I still think that she prefers Rooby. Given that she is a month old, I can be patient with the content thing. The Chronicles of Narnia can wait until next month.

- Breastfeeding, although better for baby and mom, is cheaper, etc., etc. than formula, is hard work. I find it toughest on my head as Edie is very particular about just how she is fed, and it changes all of the time. If she’s not happy with how things are being done she lets us know by a freakout session. You can imagine how much fun that is in the middle of the night (not my finest moments in motherhood).

- As tough as breastfeeding can be, the boob can solve almost any and every problem in Edie’s world. If it can’t, a diaper change can.

- Babies make funny noises. When Edie is waking up especially, it sounds like what we imagine a baby elephant might sound like. Grunts, snorts, smacks, yawns, farts, burps, growls…Pretty much all of the unpleasant sounds associated with sleeping (especially as one gets older) are concentrated in her wakeup routine. But it’s so awfully cute.

- Babies re-establish their cuteness on a daily basis. That is, at a 3am feeding session freakout her cuteness is questionable. And then when daylight rolls around and she flashes those big blue peepers, we melt all over again even though she sounds rather like a hungry pig at the trough.

And that is that. It’s the end of the day now and Edie is asleep for the moment. We miss home like crazy these days so we’re really looking forward to December and the trip back. Hope everyone is well and taking care.

Love to all,


Friday, September 26, 2008

If Edie were a fish...

She would be called a strong-necked mullet. The former describing her surprising ability to hold her head up and the latter referring to her fine hair-do. She was born with a sweet mullet, with an occasional mohawk that is very much in the style of the Australian teenage boy. She may have inherited it from her mother, who was known to sport a shorty-longback in her not-so-distant youth. Of course, I am not in a very good position to make fun of anyone's hair. Everyone who meets Edie here says "she has more hair than you do!" Har de har.

Three weeks in, it seems as though we are settling into a pretty good routine. Edie gets a bath from her Dad every couple of days, and Laura reads Dr. Seuss books to her every day (see pic at right). She's only three weeks old but she's reading at a 5-week level! Basically that involves grunting and jerking and staring at whatever shiny object has caught her attention. She is starting to follow us with her eyes though.

The visitors are slowly getting up the nerve to drop by. Our friend Joyce, who makes delicious curry puffs and spring rolls that we buy every week at the market, came by with her daughter Amy. She very kindly brought us some curry dishes that we've been enjoying - since taking the time to cook is not at the top of our priority list right now.

We occasionally are venturing out of the house with Edie in tow, but most trips have been functional, like going to the police station to get fingerprints for our permanent residency application. Otherwise we stick around the house. The Rugby League finals (playoffs) have been on for the last few weeks which has kept me plenty entertained. Brisbane got beat out by Melbourne last Friday night on a last minute try after one of their players knocked-on (fumbled) 20 metres out from their line. All they had to do was run out the clock. The crowd of 52,000 was stunned, as well as the Brisbane players who were poised for a huge upset of the defending champions. You can see amateur footage of the last couple of minutes here (Brisbane are in maroon, Melbourne in white). Definitely one of the most shocking last minute losses I've seen in real time.

I'm working from home as much as possible, writing up papers from my PhD, which is now officially in the examination stage. That means I'll be home to defend it in December, so the whole family is coming along. We've booked our tickets, and will attempt to make a 14 hour flight across the Pacific without getting killed by our fellow passengers for having a cranky baby. That'll be followed by a Westjet flight from Vancouver to Moncton. Let's just hope Miss Edie is a good flyer. Otherwise, it's going to be a rough couple of days.

All for now. Take care everyone.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New kind of normal for the Jardine family

Hello my friends,

Well, as you might have suspected, life has changed dramatically for us in the past 2 weeks...Understatement of the century. For one thing, I’m able to sit and write this entry while keeping an eye on our beautiful Edie who is entertaining herself on the living room floor. I could honestly just sit and watch her here for the rest of my life. My next door neighbour who just had her first baby about 4 months ago has talked a lot about how priorities change once a baby comes into the picture. She was so right that as soon as we met little Edie, most things that I deemed important fell way off the scale. I’m feeling quite primal in that my main priorities are to feed and shelter our little one. I like it way more then I thought I would, which is surprising, and nice. Just a couple of days before we went in to hospital to have a baby, our kitchen clock, which Tim proudly bought for 2 dollars when we got here, stopped working. In the rush of everything happening at that time, we haven’t replaced it. And I think that it’s kind of neat that right now we have no clue how much time is passing, and no real concept of what time of day it is even, and that we’re ok with that. If any of you have known either Tim or I for any amount of time, you’d know that we like to be on top of things like time (despite the fact that I’m perpetually late, I always know how late I am). So this shuffling of priorities is kind of refreshing.

So, I thought that I would give you an update on where things are at with us, and also a little bit of my perspective of how things went down with this whole delivery and how they are going now. Then again, Tim was much more aware of what was going on during the actual delivery than I was, but there were a few funny moments that I remember that I think that you might enjoy reading about. We’re aware that this blog wasn’t created only to talk about our newborn, rather, we wanted to keep people up to date on our lives in Australia, so we’re working on trying to keep a balance. Despite the fact that we’re over the moon over Edie we realize that there are other things to talk about as well. Just not today.

So, the few days before Edie was born were a busy, busy time for us. She was supposed to come on the 2nd of September and when she didn’t, and I was still feeling good, I figured that it was time to wrap up all of the still loose ends that I hadn’t have the chance to before. So I cooked, baked some cookies (came in handy once I did go into labour), finished up some files for work and submitted a manuscript for publication from my Masters work, which I had been sitting on for way too long. All in all, the delayed labour was the drive that I needed to get that stuff done. Actually, the manuscript was submitted late Thursday night and I went into labour on Friday. Am I ever glad that I don’t have that hanging over my head any longer. I don’t know if I’d ever have gotten around to it if I had waited until after Edie was here.

Like Tim said in his last posting, that Friday at noon he got the call that he’d been waiting for for weeks prior; me telling him to get home because things were moving along. He was actually pretty funny all of that week. Everyday he’d have everything packed up in the morning to go to work and he’d leave to go catch the bus. And everyday he came back through the door about 5 minutes later and said that he’d work from home. I think that Friday was actually the only day he actually got to his office, which is a bit ironic as it was the day that I called him home.

When he got home we decided that in order to pass time and to move labour along, that we’d go for a walk. Contractions were bearable at that point, but I definitely knew that we’d be having this baby soon. We took a drive out to Toohey Forest and had a nice little stroll where we were able to birdwatch a bit and in general, relax. We then decided to pick up a few odds and ends that we’d be needing from the shops and headed home. We popped in the movie “The Castle”, which is the only movie we have here and is also a new favourite of mine, and relaxed for a while longer. As time progressed, contractions were getting more intense and closer together and by the time that 8pm rolled around, my water had broken and our midwife told us to get to the hospital.

My idea of what labour would be like was based on the copious amounts of books, websites, and literature that I’d read, on our prenatal classes, and on the experiences of others. I knew that it would probably be long (first timers on average have 12-15 hour labours), and I knew it would probably be painful (why have the option of pain relief if it weren’t). I had tips coming out of my ears from other women who’d done the whole labour thing, I stayed active up until labour and even practiced breathing and relaxation techniques just to try and prepare for what I expected. Tim and I had decided that we knew we wanted to have a natural birth with as little drug intervention as possible and had written up a plan so that our midwives and doctors knew what we wanted. I thought that if we went in to it with the idea that it was possible to get through this naturally and had prepared to do so, that we would be able to.

Basically, my idea of what labour would be like was off by a thousand miles. Without retelling what Tim has already told, contractions were coming hard and fast for hours. I initially was able to breathe my way through them but by the time 6 hours had passed (i.e. 2am) I was getting worn out and I also thought that I was closer to delivery than I was (in the end it was another 7 hours away). I think all of us (Tim, the midwife and I) were thinking that things were progressing faster than they were, i.e. that dilation was occurring, but in reality labour was progressing quite slowly. Just imagine that you’re running a 10km race and start sprinting for the finish line at the 5km mark. You’d be an idiot to do that. You’d wear yourself out. That’s how I felt at about 4am…Like I’d been sprinting to this finish-line that I thought was way closer than it really was. I was just beat. It was about that time that the midwife started to see my blood pressure rise and the obstetricians started lurking. The sun was also starting to rise which also stressed me out because it meant that I’d been there for way longer than I wanted and expected to be. Oh ya, to top things off, I vomited intensely for the entire night, that basically threw all relaxation techniques out of the window.

In the meantime, Tim was trying to support me as much as he could. Poor guy. Neither of us are night people, so it was rotten for both of us to be awake all night plus deal with labour. He tried hard to be supportive, but it seemed that when he thought that he should, for example, rub my back, it was usually the last thing that I wanted him to do. And if he then decided to back off, I’d be irritated that he wasn’t closer. I think I had a cool enough head to not freak out at him, but there are parts of the night that I don’t remember all that well. One thing I do remember well was the one time that Tim went for one of the many snacks that we had packed for labour. He decided to open up a package of fig newtons. I hate fig newtons, Tim loves them. Unfortunately for him, when he decided to open the package I was just beginning another contraction. He was opposite me on the bed and all I could hear was the rattling of the plastic on these fig newtons. I don’t know if it was just because I was in the middle of a contraction, but he seemed to be rattling that package forever. So at some point during that contraction I snapped at him and told/yelled at him to just wait on trying to get into the package. Again, poor guy. He put the newtons away and didn’t eat another snack the entire night. I’m glad that we can now laugh about it.

Around 5am the obstetrician came by and told us that they’d have to do something to bring down my blood pressure. In the end we decided that an epidural would be the best method, and I was weak from the night of labour so I thought it might help. But it was another hour and a half before they would actually get around to attempting to give it. And, as Tim said, as they were prepping to give the epidural, I started seeing double and then completely blacked out. From that point on I can only take other peoples’ word for what happened because my head was not in the game. All I know is that when I came to there were people everywhere and they were yelling at me to push. I remember pushing twice or three times and then Tim came over to kiss me and tell me that we had a little baby girl. So the last hour of labour is really a blank for me although I didn’t feel any pain at all despite the fact that I had had no pain relief (good ol’ endorphins).

One thing that we really appreciated was the fact that with all of these people involved, almost everyone followed up with us at some point in our stay in hospital. Some had to, but most just wanted to make sure that we were ok and made a point to see us on their own time. It was interesting to hear things from their perspectives. Apparently I kept them entertained.

Anyway, following that whole drama, I was admitted to ICU for monitoring over the next 24 hours to ensure that no more seizures occurred. During that time baby Edie was admitted to the special care nursery (a premie nursery- Edie was a giant in there). We were able to get her breastfeeding right away which turned out to be very important as it took her almost 4 days to wake up enough to feed again without the aid of a feeding tube inserted into her nose. I had lost enough blood during delivery that I was told that I would need a transfusion if I showed any signs of distress, but was able to convince the specialists that I was fine with the help of iron suppliments. I had so many wires and needles stuck to and sticking in me at one point that I told Tim that if someone had walked into my room and told me that they were going to have to break my leg, I would have responded by telling them that it was fine but that I wouldn’t be able to watch them do it. So all in all, with Edie’s slow feeding start and my recovery, we were in the hospital for 8 nights (they let Tim and I go home on Thursday night but we had to go back for Friday and Saturday night). We’re sick of hospitals although they took amazing care of us at the Mater.

So we’re home now. It’s only been 5 nights of being here but we’re figuring things out. Edie sleeps a lot and eats a lot. She’s not too fussy unless she’s got wind, but we’re figuring out how to deal with that as time goes by. She’s very, very entertaining and is usually ok to just lie on the floor and coo away. She’s pretty predictable with feeding times and I tend to be very aware when they should be anyway (mother nature pulls through again). Edie loves her dad. I call him the snake charmer because she seems to melt in his arms. I, on the other hand, think that Edie might look upon me as a 2L bottle of milk on legs. Either way, we’re glad that there are 2 of us looking after her. She’s altogether beautiful with her strawberry blonde locks, long fingers and long feet…it’s just hard to believe how much you can love someone in such a short time. Life is good in the Jardine household.

To wrap up, I’ll have to just say that we’ve been overwhelmed with the inflow of congratulations and well wishes to us…Thanks everyone, we appreciate it. Hopefully we’ll be able to find the time in the near future to get back to you. But if not, know that we’re missing our friends and family so much these days. We hope to see you soon.

Love to everyone,


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sweet Relief

It's a girl!

Edie Lillian Jardine, born at 8:43 a.m. Saturday September 6th, weighing a solid 8 pounds 4 ounces. Technically you could say she was born on September 5th (Friday night in Canada), so I guess we'll have to celebrate separate Canadian and Aussie birthdays.

Mom and baby are both doing well, but the labour didn't go through without a bit of a scare. If you are interested in the details, read on. If not, enjoy the pics at the right!

Here's a timeline of how things transpired for us.

Friday 12:00 (noon): Laura calls me home from work as labour has officially begun - mild contractions plus "the show"

Fri afternoon: contractions getting stronger but she's still able to move around - we go for a couple of walks

6:00 pm: things are advancing, we get out the warm towels and she has a bit of lay-down to conserve energy

8:00 pm: the water breaks, it's go time!

8:30 pm: we arrive at hospital, contractions are 3-4 minutes apart, she is admitted directly to the birthing suite

9:00 pm: 1st checkup - she is dilated to 3 cm and right on track, mid-wife seems pleased

1:00 a.m.: 2nd checkup - she is dilated to 6 cm, again on schedule; the midwife was in and out the whole time, but for the most part it was quiet in the birthing suite

5:00 a.m.: 3rd checkup - and this where things start to go astray; Laura is only dilated to 7 cm (1 cm gain in 4 hours), indicating a slowing of progress; also her blood pressure has crept up

6:00 a.m.: an epidural is recommended by the obstetrician; this will ease the pain of contractions as well as reducing Laura's blood pressure. We are initially resistant because we were hoping for a drug-free birth, but in consultation with the mid-wife (who had been with us since we got to the hospital), we decide it is the best way forward.

7:00 a.m.: still no epidural as staff changeover is occurring, we lose the midwife in exchange for a new one; we are both getting frustrated and Laura is tired

7:30 a.m.: Here is where the drama occurred; as the anethestist is washing up to give the epidural, Laura has a seizure, a result of pre-eclampsia (which has now become eclampsia and was causing the high blood pressure). The mid-wife hits the alarm button and all heck breaks loose. Laura is convulsing uncontrollably as staff (15 in total) spill into the room, unwillingly transforming my life into a scene from ER. By far the scariest moment of my life. The seizure passes and staff deliver magnesium sulfate to drop the blood pressure. Baby's heart rate jumped during the seizure but stabilized quickly. I am a blubbering mess in the corner of the room.

8:00 a.m.: Laura is slowly coming back to reality, we collectively coax her into resuming her pushing.

8:30 a.m.: Laura is fully back, even with her sense of humor starting to show through, she's putting all she's got into the pushing

8:43 a.m.: With the help of incredible hospital staff, a vacuum, forceps, and Laura's Herculean strength, she delivers our beautiful daughter.

So that's how it all unfolded. Laura is recovering and should be out of the hospital in a couple of days. And I changed my 1st diaper. Oh, and coincidentally, today (Sept 7th) is Father's Day in Australia, so I just made it!

Lots of love to all, we'll talk soon.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

It’s good to have friends

*Warning* – this post contains what some might refer to as “sentimental tacky crap” (to quote Jack Black from our favourite movie “High Fidelity”).

When we made the decision to move to Australia, we realized that we would be leaving behind plenty of good people, both family and friends. Laura and I have been surrounded by fun, caring groups of individuals since we were young. These groups ranged from sports teams to co-workers, childhood friends to university friends, and fellow EWBers to soup kitchen volunteers, just to name a few.

As the time of our leaving drew closer, both Laura and I got very emotional. She was able to link it to her pregnancy hormones, I had no excuse. We would lie awake and wonder if we were making the right decision. Just before Christmas CBC Radio was running a Charity drive and when they joyously announced the final tally – something like $60,000 – I found myself leaking fluid around the eyes. We were a collective mess, and the wonderful going-away parties and well-wishes we were given only served to heighten the emotions. I never fully expressed how much that meant to us, even though there were plenty of opportunities.

And then we left. We made the journey from there to here. Life was such a whirlwind for six months that the time for reflection was limited and our feelings of sadness slowly passed. Just read our old posts and you’ll see how that comes across. It was a roller coaster ride but we slowly established a routine. So we’re good now. It’s only been in the last week or so that things have really slowed down, as we watch the minutes tick by waiting for the Goob to arrive, that my thoughts have returned to the importance of friends in our lives.

The friends that we’ve made here are an eclectic mix to say the least. Perhaps not surprisingly, we have more friends here who are foreigners than those who are Aussies. I guess there’s something about having no roots that forces you to find others who are in the same boat. Our friends here hail from all corners of the globe. Probably the people we spend the most time with are a couple who arrived around the same time as us – Lisa from New Zealand and Mike from the Netherlands – and their three kids Brennan, Gemma and Kaine. We’ve leaned on them considerably for company and moving furniture (and vice versa). That’s not to say the locals have totally ignored us. We’ve been completely embraced by the crowd at the Salvation Army and the 29 so-called “surrogate grannies” in the Women’s Home League there. They’ve thrown a baby shower for Laura and the folks at Sunday services have made us welcome since day 1 (hence our willingness to participate in the talent show Laura spoke about last week). People at work have also been excellent. Though we don’t tend to hang out with them due to mutually busy schedules, there have been numerous offers of help should we need it over the next few weeks. And it doesn’t end there. We’ve been given a car to drive from our friend Peter (a Canadian from Surrey, B.C., who is proud of his “Surrey-ness”), baby gear from our next door neighbours Derek and Nikki (from England), and just yesterday lettuce from Marcia across the street, a true-blue Aussie who has a daughter-in-law and grand-daughter that lived in Fredericton a few years back.

So with all this kindness shown to us as we navigate our way through parental planning in a strange land, my advice to you is this. If you’ve lived in your community for a long time and feel comfortable there (as though it is home), take the time to befriend someone from overseas who might not quite fit in as well as you do. Offer them something that seems trivial to you (like lettuce!) You might just well make a difference in their lives. It certainly has for us. Also, it’s time I said it. If you are still reading this blog six months after we started it, obviously you are a friend; know that you are important to us and we think of you often. Despite the fact that I am an introvert and usually prefer a quiet night at home with a good book to the company of others, it’s hard for me to imagine living a life in isolation from family and friends. That’s why this move in unlikely to be permanent, unless of course we can convince you all to move here.

Ps - The next post you see will most certainly be post-baby (the due date is Tuesday), so keep an eye out for news and pics.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Teenage Pregnancy, 'Roo Kebabs, High-Class State Fairs and the Olympics

Howdy Doo?

Hey Everyone. Apologies for my tardiness. Again, the delay is not due to Goob entering our terrestrial realm, more just a busy schedule and a need for frequent naps, and not being able to sit down for too long lest my feet become pin-cushions. I think that aside from the 30 lb bump that I’ve been carrying around the middle, and my bellybutton (that Tim tells me resembles the end of a hotdog), my feet are the most unrecognizable part of me these days. They’re so wide and flat and generally manly looking. I tried to paint the toenails so that they looked less like my dad’s feet, but I could only reach one, and that was only for a short time. I can’t see them for the most part, so it’s not so bad I guess. I just hope they go back to normal once this is all overwith, along with the rest of me.

So, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Lots of really unexpected fun came our way. I’ll try to relay it all as best I can, but my memory is some fuzzy these days.

To start off, Tim and I were in a talent show. Wha-what? Yes. You read correctly. A background: I don’t know how many would remember that Tim and I have been going to a Salvation Army church that we checked out when we first got here. It’s been fun. They’re a pretty geriatric group, but they have a lot of heart and generally are amazing people. As an example, we’ve got a 68 year old friend with 2 artificial hips that will be biking across Australia soon to fundraise for programs. He loves to bike and loves to help people (a seriously genuine love of people & biking), so he’s attempting a 4,075km ride from Perth to Sydney…He’s planning on doing it in 26 days (with 5 of those being rest days). He’s a piece of work that one. He reminds me of my dad a lot. Always with a smile on ready to be friendly to anyone. Anyhow, that was a big aside. The talent show. Because people are so genuinely nice and good, it’s difficult to say no to them. So when someone came up with the idea of a mens vs. ladies talent show, Tim and I got roped in when we were asked to participate. I still think I got roped in further, but Tim had to sing (albeit in a group), which is a pretty huge for him. I ended up having to act in a skit written by an old lady who asked me to take on this role 2 nights before the show. The idea was clever, but I’ll say that the execution left a bit to be desired in the world of acting. First of all, I was supposed to be a teenage daughter…I don’t know if they noticed how ironic it was that I was in a church play acting the role of a teenager while being 36 weeks pregnant. I ended up cracking up about halfway through…Lost it. The main character was the lady who’d written the skit and she was just so serious about it all, serious while being dressed up in a hideous purple dress and with a ratty wig bobbing around throwing out misplaced lines everywhere…Anyway, I think entertainment was what won us points on that one, it was actually pretty fun. The women beat the men and I slept in until 2:30 the next day. I get wiped out by everything these days. In retrospect, we both had fun despite being pushed well outside of our respective comfort zones.

Secondly, we had our 2nd Canadian visitor this past week, Kelly Munkittrick was visiting Australia for the SETAC conference in Sydney. He came up to Brisbane the week following to meet with researchers at the Australian Rivers Institute and give a lecture here at Griffith University. He’s on Tim’s committee and is someone we knew from Canada, so we were excited to meet up with him while he was here. We picked him up on Saturday morning and headed to the West End of the city for breakfast (hippy central but amazing variety of excellent food). I got to revisit my old quest for finding the best eggs benny on the planet which I’d given up on long ago when I considered how my arteries might be feeling about my love for hollandaise sauce. Either way, the eggs benny dish that I had on Saturday morning was a little higher than middle of the pack I’d say. Kelly and Tim both opted for the international flavored breakfasts, Tim with the Canadian (your standard greasy spoon breakfast with the addition of a side of maple syrup) and Kelly with the Australian (your typical greasy spoon breakfast with the addition of a stewed tomato)??? Once we were finished up, we took Kelly for a tour of the city…mostly due to the lack of directions that we had for getting back to our place. Kelly got the first-hand experience of what it’s like to drive with Tim and I when I have to navigate. I hate navigating. I always get frustrated and Tim keeps driving which makes me more frustrated. And you might say that I’m easily frustrated these days. But we did see a lot of the city. We took Kelly up to the top of Mount Gravatt (for which our suburb is named after) and were surprised to see a skywriter spelling out the words “Sorry Ranga” across a clear blue sky. We half expected to see a write-up in the paper about it, given the quality of the local rag, but haven’t seen anything yet. It’s more fun to think about what it could have meant anyway or what the writer was sorry for (or the person paying the skywriter). We were hoping that the message would be a little more general so that Kelly might think that we had done it for him. But ‘Ranga’ threw everything off.

Kelly was back at our place on Monday night for some ‘Roo kebabs that we’d promised him. It was a fun night. Perhaps there aren’t that many people reading this that know Kelly but my landa, he’s some kind of story teller. He and Tim got into the sauce a bit and the stories were rolling…I can’t remember having laughed as hard as I did that night in a very, very long time…Well, the talent show was a laugh as well, but not the same kind. We realized after Kelly left our house that night that he had no idea where to tell the cab to go to get back to his place and the cab drivers here are awfully good at not knowing where anything is in this city and charging crazy amounts to get you there…So we hope that he got back safe and sound. He was supposed to be heading to Melbourne the next day, we haven’t heard otherwise so hopefully everything went smoothly. Otherwise, we’re most likely going to be a part of the next hilarious story that he’s telling others some crazy night.

The third fun thing that we got ourselves into this past week was an eye opening trip to the horse races. So, I’ll set the scene a bit. Every year in Brisbane there is a state fair called the Ekka (short for Exhibition, of course), it lasts about a week and a half and there is a state holiday in the middle of the last week that it’s in town so that everyone will go out to it. Apparently everyone and their dog go to the Ekka on this day, but Tim and I both grew up in rural towns where the novelty of the state fair is rather lost on us. So for the public holiday I must say that I was looking forward to resting. However, some of Tim’s colleagues at work thought that it would be fun to attend the horse races that day, which were a part of the Ekka, and invited us along. We’re usually pretty good at saying no to that kind of stuff if we don’t want to go (which I didn’t…Let’s just say that even putting real clothes on these days is a task and a half), but Tim thought that it would be a good experience. So, that morning I reluctantly threw on some jeans and a sweater, Tim threw on some nicer clothes and we both laughed off the fact that the people that we’d be meeting up with at the races were wearing crazy Kentucky Derby hats. We innocently thought that they’d be the outliers in the crowd. It was a state fair, not a real high society event, right? Wrong! Our first clue should have been the bus ride to the racetrack. Tim and I were some of the first people on the bus which eventually came to contain the most fashionable young people on the planet. We’re talking prom dresses and suits. And not just some people, ALL OF THEM. Eye candy galore on both sides. At first it was quite entertaining, I guess that was probably because I thought that there definitely were other people dressed like us, but as we got closer to the raceway, there were just more and more and more very well-dressed people, everywhere. We kept asking ourselves where all these fashionable people came from, and what did they look like normally. Seriously. Fake tans, fake nails, fake hair, low-cut dresses, pinstriped suits, diamond pinkies, diamond earrings, stilettos…As we got our tickets and went inside, it was madness. So I know and admit that I exaggerate sometimes. But there was not ONE person I saw there that wasn’t dressed up to the pinnacle of fashion (minus myself, and less-so Tim), and we were in a crowd of 30,000 people (at a state fair???). It turns out that this event would be the equivalent of attending a prom if you were in high school or perhaps a high-class wedding if you were beyond the high school stage…Or maybe a classy ball. This crowd was a 20-something crowd and they were beautiful…and messy. And they just got messier as the day went on. So where there were 29,998 beautiful people dressed to the nines when we got there, when we left let’s just say the beautiful part was wearing off, as it usually does when you mix beauty with copious amounts of alcohol. I might have even started to recognize certain people that I knew just because the heels were off, the suit shirts untucked, the high hair and hats having lost their positions upon the heads of girls who’s heaps of makeup was also wearing off by mid-afternoon. And most were more than tippy. It really was like leaving a party at night and realizing that while most people came looking great, the act could only be carried on for so long…but we were leaving this “party” in the middle of the day where you could actually witness the melt-down. Yikes. It was very surreal. We never did find our friends who invited us there, and for the most part we were uncomfortable (large crowds + materialism + general crudeness and boisterous behaviour is not generally our bag), but it was interesting. And the horse racing part was great. This was no Fredericton Raceway and it wasn’t harness racing. It was full on jockey on horse riding. Really fun to watch. I’ve never been sure why this was the case, but my mom gets a little weepy whenever she sees marching bands and horses. Sadly I found myself getting a little teary myself when watching the horses race by. What’s with that? How could that possibly be genetic? I just made sure that I occupied my time by snapping pictures so that I could concentrate on something other than the fact that I felt like I was going to cry whenever looking at the beautiful horses. So weird.

All in all, I’m not sure that we’d do the races during Ekka again (I’m actually quite sure of that), but it was a day we won’t soon forget…I still can’t get my head around how such an event takes place a)during the day and b)at a state fair. Fun times in Australia.

Finally, I have to mention the Olympics. Tim and I have had a long-standing disagreement as to whether it’s better to be on a winning team or on a team that tries hard but isn’t at the top of the pack. He’s all about being on the winning team, while I believe that being on a not-as-good team is better for character development, which I think is more important than winning. My argument breaks down here as the Olympics are incredibly amazing to watch when Australians are ripping world records apart and are just racking up the medals. We don’t hear much about Canada, but Canada never really does that well on the Olympic scene. I feel like a heel saying that, somehow less Canadian, but it was just not as fun to watch when your country chokes at sporting events so often. In the book “A Land Down Under” by Bill Bryson, he talks a bit about how Australia has to be the most athletic continent on the planet. Given that the population is rather small compared to many other countries, on a world scale, they rip other countries apart in terms of the success of their athletes. Just think about how many people live in China (1,321,851,888 est. July 2007) or the US (301,139,947 est. July 2007) compared to Australia (20,434,176 est. July 2007) and the fact that Australia ranks 6th on the planet in the medal rankings for the Beijing Olympics right now. I think that Mr. Bryson links it up to Australia’s criminal history…I think it’s a cultural thing. It’s sunny all year round here and generally people like to be outside for the entire year & lots of people have lots of $. In Canada we’re just not that lucky. Maybe that’s why the Winter Olympics tend to be more successful for the Canadians.

I still root for Canada whenever I get the chance, but it is pretty amazing to watch an Olympic event and see your country smash the competition. And not only country, but state, city and suburb. Here’s a fact for you, 9 of Australia’s Olympic athletes are from Brisbane this year. And historically, and up until now, 20 Olympic athletes have come from Griffith University. It’s nuts! In the Brisbane Times yesterday it was reported:

“If Queensland was a country, it would have been sitting sixth on the Olympic medal tally as of 6pm last night…The rest of Australia would be in 23rd spot”…Of course, later on it mentions that if Michael Phelps were a country he’d be in 7th spot right now.

Interesting stuff, this whole move to Australia.

In other news, Tim got buzzed by angry territorial bird yesterday while walking down the street. He wasn’t sure what kind it was but brother, it was mad. When it first dove at Tim he was able to duck away, but when he turned around to look back thinking that he was in the clear, he got another dive bomb that he had to dodge. I wish I had been there to see it. From a distance of course.

That’s all for this week. In general, I’d like it if we had some baby news for you for next week. We’ve got 3 more weeks to go technically, but I’m kind of tired of being pregnant. I suppose I won’t be any less tired after the Goob is born, but maybe it’ll be easier to get around. Here’s hoping. And I simply can’t wait until I can wear pants that don’t have an elastic waist (or jeans that I can button once again). And fitting my feet into normal sized shoes will also be nice. And meeting our wee one will be the best part. Not having a little bum stretching my belly to the max from the inside will also be refreshing.

Love to everyone, keep in touch. Laura