suburban siberia

transitioning from Los Angeles back to Edmonton

Month: January, 2017

Days to Spare

I’m upset. Upset because the year is done. I feel gutted and overwhelmed. I go back to work next week and Jasper starts daycare the day after next.

Even though I am really excited to have some moments to think about work again in a full time capacity. Even though I am sensing that I would like more than a few hours break from Jasper. Even though the work environment I am returning to will welcome my transition. The idea of the year ending and Jasper going to daycare leaves me feeling helpless and terrified.

But looking back, putting the emotions aside I am incredibly proud of the year. I did exactly what I hoped to do – put Jasper in the front and my career on the side. But in addition to having the time to focus on my baby my career expanded in more ways than I imagined and I was able to incorporate him every step of the way. I was awarded a public art commission 10 days after Jasper was born, the Art Collective I am apart of flourished quicker than I had anticipated, Jasper and I travelled across Canada west to east several times over, I was shortlisted for another public art proposal (which in the end I wasn’t selected for but grateful for the experience nonetheless), Jasper and I went on an artist residency in Banff for 5 weeks with the help of some incredibly supportive family and friends, and had the best Christmas and New Years possible. It really was wonderful. But I guess that’s just it. It was going so well. I miss architecture of course, but running my own schedule, taking time to reflect as an artist, and taking Jasper to the majority of my many meetings was a pleasant surprise and I revelled in it all.

People are so kind to babies – especially in the meetings we attended and in all of our travels. It feels indulgent to write but people made me feel special, talented and invigorated through the attention and care they showed Jasper. I felt free to love him. And I noticed the discussions in those meetings often became more about the future because he was there, a reminder of what’s to come. It was deeply rewarding.

Before Jasper came I was often fearful or timid of making decisions. Though because my time became a valuable resource I’ve found that the shortness of it allowed me to be more succinct. And to be honest, giving birth to him in the first place allowed me to see what I could accomplish. I was incredibly afraid of that moment and what would happen after he arrived. But when I think back to the delivery room and the hours after I feel nothing but empowerment and bliss. It was remarkable. So why would I be so afraid of the next few months when everything has been nothing short of amazing so far? I wish I knew the answer. The emotion right now is hard to bare and it’s difficult to not hold Jasper tight every moment of the day (and night). I’m lucky – deeply  blessed. I’m sure that everything will go well, but the anticipation of it all is really getting to me.

One year mark

Jasper is 51 weeks old. One week shy of being a one year old. I did it. And so did Jasper and so did Levi. Every time I was feeling conflicted about things I kept telling myself to give it the year and then see. And so now it’s almost time. But as I’ve mentioned before I’m ridiculously sentimental and hang on to things a bit too long. So I think I’ve been building this moment up probably too much. When I think about the year with him it feels like it has been the longest and shortest year of my life. When I think about discrete moments it is there but is also a bit foggy at the edges (probably from the lack of sleep or lost in my endless attempts to multitask). And when I think about Levi and I bringing Jasper home from the hospital it feels not that long ago. It makes me think of when other parents say that the days are long but the years are short. And then I begin to feel fear about the years passing by too quickly and then I’m back to feeling overwhelmed and emotional about how to hold on to the moment. And then I move on. It’s a cycle.

The last few months for Jasper and I have been pretty active. With traveling across the country and an artist residency that I just finished up it’s been hard to keep track of his big moments. In the beginning I wrote every little detail down. And then after he turned 6 months I let it go. If I felt like recording something I did, but if things got busy I tried not to get upset about it. Not once have I asked my mom what the first thing I ate was. Or the first babbling sound I made, or at how many days old did I first smile. I’ve seen my mom waffle on these kind of details like when exactly I first walked and I am certain I will do the same. The whole idea about recording is overwhelming to me. I’m a bit too thorough with those kind of things and once it becomes all consuming I begin to back away from it and then the job is left uncompleted. So I’ve decided to just take a photo or video if possible and just move on with my day. It’s been a lot easier for me since I decided to do that.

Jasper has two top teeth, two bottom teeth, and two more bottom ones on the way. He now says mamamammamama and sometimes mom as well as dadadadadad and dad. But wether he knows those names belong to Levi and I, I am not entirely certain but he at least says the words which feels pretty great. He signs some things like more and milk. And now he is walking. Just one week from his birthday. I was so worried that he would walk early because of how quickly he did everything else. He has been couch surfing for months and then finally near the end of November he began taking a step or two. On Christmas morning we let him try a walker that Levi’s cousin gave us and just like that he was able to easily cruise around with it. So I wasn’t sure if it really counted. But now finally he is walking unassisted. It’s pretty adorable and amazing to watch him take those steps.

There is one thing about having a child that I find strange. My relentless enthusiasm, curiosity and obsession with him. When he’s not around I look at pictures and videos of him. When talking with others I find it impossible not to bring him up. But I’m never made to feel weird about it. In fact it seems sometimes that this kind of behaviour is almost expected or encouraged. There are countless blogs, advice columns, articles and books geared towards children that it seems like an easy thing to put energy into. Of course I have found this year to be incredibly challenging and understand why there are so many resources but on the other hand I doubt that anyone would find my fanaticism with architecture or my artwork as charming. And so while I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the support with raising Jasper, it’s just something I think about sometimes.

The one thing I still haven’t been able to get on top of is my work in tandem with caring for Jasper. He goes to bed by 8 pm but I’m usually exhausted by then and have forgotten so many pressing things unless I write them down. That leaves the morning but I like to sleep as much as possible until he wakes up and then it’s cramming things in while he’s napping. Or sometimes I start work at 5 am before he gets up between 7 and 8 and then I’m out of sorts for most of the day. So I just haven’t figured it out yet. Also I’m still ridiculously late for everything. I was a late person before and now some days it’s just out of hand. I’m not trying to complain about everything but really, these are the things I am most worried about right now. I guess it’s because I am returning to work full time in February and I’m not sure how it’s all going to work. I have a bit of how this could work when I did an artist residency at the Banff Centre for five weeks in November. I had some great friends come and help take care of him during the day and a lot of evenings but I was not always the most organized with my time. My friends were amazing and I was thankful for them but I felt I just couldn’t get it together. Although perhaps I am too ambitious in what I want to get done and I’ve just got to make concessions. Maybe it’s not that my time management is bad, it’s just that I try to do too many things in that moment and that I’ve got to make some decisions on what’s really important to achieve. On top of that Jasper was always changing each day. I never know what he is going to be like that day. Honestly I feel like I’m searching for a crystal ball any time I have to anticipate what he will be like or what will happen that day. For example in Banff for two long weeks he reverted to sleeping like a newborn and screamed to be comforted and breastfed every 2 hours (and some times every hour) in the night time which was a whole kind of new hell. So sometimes it seems like I’ve really got this, but most days I feel like I’ve just started this journey and nothing is figured out. A teacher from grad school gave me advice when Jasper was first born. She said sometimes she’s a great mom, and other times she’s great at her career. But never has she been great at both at the same time and that’s just life. It sounds strange but it’s comforting to remember that every now and then.

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9.5 month mark – beginning

-Jasper is now almost one year. I didn’t post this entry because I was so full of emotion when I wrote this. But now that I’ve had some distance from it I think it’s ok –

It has been about 9 1/2 months since Jasper was born. This year has been incredibly precious and now that I am on the tail end of my maternity leave I find myself transitioning to the idea of not seeing him for hours on end every day. It is heart crushing. I am dreading it. While I am certain it will be a mix of both good and bad it is obviously inevitable.

Years ago if you asked me if I was going to have children I immediately said no. If you asked me two years ago, I would have said maybe. If you asked me a year ago I would have said possibly, but I’m not sure why. I think all of my hesitancy in having a child was mostly about giving up my dependence. A baby was something  that I thought would be permanent and Levi and I knew it would divide or take over our lives in a much more certain way – making us more reliable and responsible, something we never thought we wanted to be. I suppose what I am really trying to say is that I didn’t know it would be Jasper that I would give birth to. If I knew it would be this little button I’m not sure I would have been so afraid. He really is the best. I’m not sure what he will grow up to be like, who most he will take after. But none of those things matter to me in this moment. What matters to me most is the ability to hold him for moments at a time freezing the deep feeling of love that I have for him. Exploring every sound, shape and movement, watching him discover and repeat the discovery until it makes more sense to him. It’s like learning what the beginning of life is like and in that way it seems that no rules that I have abided by make sense any more. As he learns to make sounds I have also taken on new words into my vocabulary. My baby. My son. The longer he is in this world, the more I realize life for me has started over and for that I am increasingly thankful. This deep emotion has been giving, kind and generous. I am awestruck and when I return to work I am worried all of these things will quickly diminish. Of coarse that is likely not the case.

I have enjoyed this time. I am so glad that I still have almost three months left of it. In a few years I suspect this will all be a blur – but I bet it will be the sweetest, kindest and most generous blur in my lifetime.

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9 month mark – increments of time

-Jasper is about to turn one. I wrote a few entries but never published them. After reading them over I have decided to publish some of them. This entry is from when he was 9 months old –

Jasper is about to turn nine months old. Things have steadily become easier. Easier compared to when he was first born that is. My life is now measured in 1.5 hour increments. He wakes up for 1.5 hours, goes to sleep for 1.5 hours, is up for 1.5 hours and then sleeps for 1.5 hours. After the second nap it drifts and if I get in a third nap I consider it a win. But he also now reliably goes to sleep between 8 pm and 8 am (mixed in with one or two nursing visits to keep him going till the morning). I still don’t really get any work done until he goes to bed and I am exhausted once we get there, but because he is this little body of energy I have to spend my entire day acting as a play ground for him to crawl all over to keep him occupied. His is crawling. Not yet walking, but if you hold him up with your hands he will walk. He has been doing this since he was 7 months old. I thought for sure he would be walking by now but it’s interesting to see how much coordination it really takes. One week he masters standing and sitting unassisted and how each week he tries to stand on his own unassisted. It’s the small wonders of how hard walking actually is. I suppose I must take walking for granted. I get up so easily and transport myself where ever I like. I get why he wants to be carried everywhere and the vantage point he gets in my arms. Not only does it feel great to carry him (even though it can be tiring after a while) I’m sure he feels the benefits too. While I love seeing him interact with others it’s incredibly comforting when he only wants to be in my arms and is not satisfied until it happens. I am his world and he is mine. It might not be like this forever but I’m going to relish it until then.

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6 month mark – family dependence

-Jasper is now almost a year old. I wrote a few entries during the year but never posted them online. This is post from when he was 6 moths old –

Being a mom is hard.

I heard one of the new moms say that in my ‘moms group’ a few months ago, a group I became apart of after Jasper was born. I thought to myself. Sure it’s hard. But so is everything else. But today, that statement felt true. How am I to be a sustaining individual that tries my best to be happy, healthy, positive and genuine (while at the same time eat healthy, be on time, not procrastinate and be accountable) and then raise an entirely separate individual that I just met who happened to come from my body only six months ago and raise them to have similar aspirations, as well as provide an environment that allows them to eat, sleep and speak, grow and learn?

Listening is also hard. Being is hard. Breathing in hard. And vice versa. Listening can be easy, being can be easy and breathing can be easy.  Nothing is simple, and nothing is complicated at the same time. It’s what you need it to be for when you want it to be. When I’m feeling unsorted like this I usually turn to my mom. I love my mom and the support she provides. Do we get along all the time? No. Do I think she’s a bit crazy? Yes. But she is always the person I go to when something is wrong. So who’s really the crazy one? I hope despite the environment that I provide Jasper, I am one of the first person’s he tries to call when he’s troubled. And I hope I can supply careful, non judgemental advice the way my mom tries to when he’s going through something.

Today my baby boy is 6 months old. It really has gone by fast. The first three months were a blur and felt long but also short. Time has really changed for me since I became pregnant. This type of growth is entirely new to me and I’m sure will continuously evolve. I was speaking to my therapist a week ago about my grief over the feeling of Jasper constantly changing and my sadness in the shortness of each phase. But then she explained that I am the constant and he is the changing matter. That actually helped.

The idea of Jasper’s existence is still new to me. And it was something that was much on my mind as I watched the fires in Fort McMurray through the media outlets. I’m home most days so I found it hard not to become obsessed. I don’t live there, and neither does my immediate family. But I have family history there and I wondered if it was also going to extinguish like some of the unfortunate parts of the city have. One of my distant cousins unfortunately lost her house in the fire, but my great aunt and uncle’s house remained intact including the fridge and freezer even after the power outage. The gravesite my family was buried in was untouched even though five feet beyond the fence the trees and houses were consumed by flames. And the land that my great grandmother, great uncles and great aunts grew up on didn’t burn either, which has been bought up by developers. When we visited this summer my aunt walked with us towards the Snye we visited the land and it was built up all around with condos. That small section of the block that my family grew up on was the only part that was untouched by development. Even the raspberry bush that my mom and aunts, uncles, grandma, great uncle and aunts, and great grandma and grandpa use to pick from was still there, right along the sidewalk where people who now live in the new condos could also pick from. I chose to believe this was profound.

My family went up a week after they opened the city up after the fires to help pack up my Great Aunt’s house. As I watched my grandma pack up her sister’s and nieces belongings (who have now both passed) I watched carefully to see what she would salvage. When I came up to help a few weeks ago I had no idea that I was going to come home with objects of my own that contained their memory. I scanned through pages of trapping guides, receipts from the fur that my great aunt trapped and sold off, knick knacks of fish (because my second cousin loved to fish) and religious iconography, and native crafts that belonged to people that I share a blood line with. Life is hard. But so is sifting through all these items that represented a life that no longer existed. Aunty gave me my great aunts china. It is beautiful. I have china, but not like this. The edges of the gold bleed from time and the floral pattern is ornate. I look forward to having dinner at my table with these pieces and hope Jasper and my numerous nieces and nephews are a part of that, moving the memory on.

Below are photos of Jasper in Levi’s original baby clothes. My husband’s mother lovingly kept them all this time. Even though their house also caught fire and they lost near everything when Levi was in elementary, these clothes survived. While 30 + years is not really that long ago, it was at the start of my husband and my existence so it is special to us. I have placed Jasper in all of these clothes and photographed him at every angle in them. But now that Jasper has nearly grown out of all of them I have carefully folded them back up so that they can have another life with another family member. Being a mom is hard, but I have learned that being without family is harder so for that I feel incredibly lucky.

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one week old

IMG_1912.jpegthree weeks old

IMG_2988.jpegeight weeks old

IMG_3834.jpegeleven weeks old

IMG_4074.jpegtwelve weeks old

IMG_5324.jpegfour months old

IMG_5737.jpegfour months and two weeks old