What a Ride!

Wow ... it has been over six months since my last post and well, that's because Jenn & Ben went back South!! Yup, after almost three marvelous years in Calgary, we decided to move back home to Nashville. (Which was always the plan, but we didn't expect to love life in Canada so much, or for the decision to be so difficult!) Since my first ever blog post was a "by the numbers," I offer up another numbers list for all those who are like me, and want to see things come full circle!

8,000 - miles put on our car for road trips alone
3 - number of apartments we rented in as many years in Calgary
116 - number of blog posts
1 - visits it took to the Canadian Rockies for those mountains to steal our hearts
2 - times I bit the dust on an icy sidewalk
1 - number of highly embarrassing ski-lift misses
1 - number of times I successfully got on the ski-lift while simultaneously knocking Ben out

Oh, I could go on, but these are some of my favorite numbers! As we reach a point of becoming settled in Nashville, I am finally beginning to process all that's happened in the past few years. What a ride it has been and how lucky I feel to have experienced the amazing lifestyle and people and scenery of Alberta. I get heart pangs still when I see photos of the Rockies, or piles of snow, or a grassy plain with a turquoise river cutting through it.

But the people of Calgary are definitely what I miss most. Over our last few months there, we spent lots of time with friends (here we are at the Danish lunch we hosted in our condo):

And then we enjoyed a final long weekend at the mountains:

  I can't wait to take Max back year after year to visit his birth-place and share with him this part of our lives that is so deeply ingrained in both me and Ben's hearts and minds. I will never forget the killer view from the last place we lived (a huge positive that came out of our mothball fiasco, which you can read about here.)

And yet, we're also overjoyed to be back in Tennessee with family and close friends, to be settling into life here with a renewed interest in exploring and making the most of all this area has to offer - which is a lot!

I'm sure I will use this blog as a dumping ground for a few more reflections on Canada, and maybe eventually set up a new one for the family goings-on and home projects/updates happening here in Nashville these days! Thanks for reading!


Four Weekends and a Baby

I have been a terrible blogger lately! I suppose that a growth-spurting, teething, super active six month old will do that.

These days I am feeling exhausted and incredibly grateful and full of love, in almost equal measure!

And yesterday I realized that we have three weekends left in Calgary - maybe four if we decide to travel after Memorial Day weekend. Holy cow, where did the time go?! I have been busy plotting social outings with friends and trying to pencil in time for a few more days in the mountains ... and slowly adding coffee back into my life, after completely nixing caffeine during the pregnancy and the first several months of Max's life. I really don't know how I survived for so long without it!

Easter table, with balcony doors open to our beloved view!
We had a fabulous Easter in Calgary, just the three of us - it was a lovely spring day (albeit followed by piles of snow the next day), complete with a stroll around the neighborhood, a big brunch, and Max's first taste of solid food. I love our view of the city, and the fact that on a nice day we can throw open our doors and windows for a nice crisp breeze minus the bugs waiting for us back in Tennessee!

Max found the bowl much more interesting than the rice cereal it contained!

There is a lot that I'll miss about our second home north of the border. Yes, it really does feel like a second home now, and I sure hope we can make plenty of trips back to show Max where he was born - and if Ben has anything to say about, to teach Max to ski in the Canadian Rockies!!


April Snow

While it was at first disheartening to watch a snow storm overtake Calgary at the beginning of April, how can I really complain when this is the view I got to wake up to on a beautiful Sunday morning?

And who knows how many more days I'll have like this, with piles of fresh, fluffy snow, sunshine and blue skies?

We headed off to the dog park and walked around with Max in his carrier while Bosco went romping through the snow, one of his favorite things to do these days! All in all it was a nice weekend. By today, the snow is melting throughout the city and Calgary is finally seeing some hope of springtime!


Would you like a burger with those fries?

As our time in Calgary nears an end (we move back to Nashville at the end of May!), Ben and I are realizing there are a few things we still need to do before leaving this amazing little corner of the world.

Today was a snowy, slushy, windy day that looked like this:

Beautiful to look at, but not so inviting for a nice spring stroll! So to pass our Saturday afternoon, we headed to Home Depot to scope out ideas for our newly purchased home in Nashville (more on that later!!). We quickly realized that close to Home Depot was Calgary's most beloved diner, Peters' Drive-In. What better time to check this must-do off the list?

Peters' Drive-In is an old-school institution: cash-only, and nothing on the menu but hamburgers in an array of sizes, hotdogs and ice cream concoctions. The only snag? Ummm... I'm mostly vegetarian - haven't had a hamburger in nearly three years!!

Our orders were simple : double cheeseburger and vanilla shake for Ben, and (gasp!) I decided to order a single cheeseburger and chocolate shake, and give the ol' burger a whirl. I was in the mood to live on the edge after eating half a ribeye last night.

We thought the logical choice was to share a large order of fries, since we were both hungry and we don't often treat ourselves to such a grease fest! As we pulled up to the window to retrieve our gluttonous treats, the cashier was giving us an odd look as she said the fries would take another minute longer. Why, you may be wondering?

Well, here is what our large order of fries looked like:

Yes, that is a huge paper sack filled (and I mean FILLED) with fries!! After getting over our initial shock and several minutes of laughing hysterically, we commenced hamburger eating. It was a big moment for me, and I was pretty scared:

But I forged ahead and I can't lie - I finished off this entire burger which, in the photo looks about as big as my head. And yes, I enjoyed it, although I doubt this will be a regular thing for me any time soon ... so don't get too excited, you veggie nay-sayers!

Oh, and in case anybody is wondering, sweet Max was napping in the backseat, oblivious to the hamburger and french fry mayhem occurring up front!



For some reason I am totally in love with this photo. During me and Max's two-week trip to Nashville, we had a couple of amazingly warm and sunny days, and for the first time my sweet boy got to feel grass under his bare feet. Makes me grin every time I think about it!

Our return to Calgary last night was a bit of a shock to the senses - going from 70 degrees and sunny to about -4 and windy! As excited as I am to return to Nashville in a few short months for good, I think I am equally excited about spending time with friends and making the most of our remaining weeks in Calgary, which is coming to an end ever so quickly!


A Valentine's Surprise?

I just realized that Max's birthday is EXACTLY nine months after Valentine's Day! Do what you will with that tidbit :)

Ok, ok, if you must know, I'm sure our sweet boy was not conceived on Valentine's (I was at the Olympics in Vancouver while Ben was hard at work in Calgary), but it sure would have been cool if we could say he was!

I hope everybody had a great Valentine's - ours was low key as per usual, with Ben in the middle of busy season, but sweet nonetheless with our new little Valentine :)

He and I are off to Nashville shortly and can't wait for all of our friends and family to meet Mr. Max!

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What Canada Has that the US Doesn't

This image is the perfect example of the American ideal that "doing it all" makes you a strong woman. Most countries don't expect women to have two full-time jobs at once ...

When Max hit the 12-week mark a few days ago, it occurred to me that at home in the US, I would be expected to go back to work now. As a Canadian resident though, I still have nine months of leave ahead of me.

Max woke up every two to three hours all night long until he was basically 11 weeks old. By 12 weeks I was finally beginning to feel physically, mentally and emotionally stronger and more rested, but I still have a long way to go. Working by day and caring for a demanding baby by night would be utterly exhausting, and that is an understatement.

The bonding process with my sweet boy is continuing steadily, but we are still getting to know one another. Max only recently began smiling, and I am finally figuring out how to read his cues. Go back to work at this crucial stage? I can't even imagine it! But that is what any working woman in America is faced with, and to me this is heartbreaking.

This article from 2007 points out that the US is one of only FIVE industrialized countries in the world that offers no form of paid maternity benefits. http://www.inc.com/news/articles/200702/family.html

US maternity policies in general are non-existent, making it one of the worst places in the world for new moms. A handful of states and companies offer some financial benefits for six weeks, to select groups of women - but even these programs are not exclusively for parents, but are filed under disability programs! Being a parent is not a disability!

Everybody suffers in this scenario - newborn babies need a loving parent who knows them and cares for them. They thrive best on breastmilk for at least six months. Not only does going back to work early make this a huge challenge, but more support should also be available to women who struggle with breastfeeding. There were several times that I might have given up on it without Canada's amazing (free) public health care system that allowed me to make multiple visits to lactation consultants when things got really tough.

Moms who have the chance to establish a strong bond with their babies and can regularly breastfeed are at lower risk for postpartum depression. Families that build strong relationships from babyhood have a better chance at stability and happiness as they grow.

Many of the problems in the US today - childhood obesity, generally unhealthy lifestyles - could be helped if we just invested more time and energy as a country into our children and families. Parenting is hard work, and we need to help each other out in raising our country's future citizens.

At least Obama's new health care plan ensures women will be able to pump breastmilk while at work: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41249239/ns/business-careers/  This is a small victory, but we really need to see more action! This was one of the major considerations for Ben and I when determining whether we would move back to the US or not, but most people do not have a choice.


Young Love

It's almost Valentine's Day, which has me thinking about the new love in my life. He's blond, blue-eyed, a Canadian... and has no teeth. But before I reveal who this studly dude is, here's a by-the-numbers look at how my life has changed since this guy came into it:

Average Hours of sleep per night: 6
Nursing sessions per day: 10 or more
Diapers changed daily: 7 or more
Length of showers: 5 minutes
Time to savor a meal: 6 minutes
Eating food while it's still hot: statistically impossible
Time spent getting myself + my guy out of the house: 30 minutes
Daily outfit changes due to spit-up or other bodily misfires: 2 (me) and 3 (my man)

Number of smiles it takes from my guy to make any challenges feel like insanely awesome blessings:

Yes, you guessed it, baby Max is my newest Valentine! In spite of all the huge changes, it honestly feels like he's been in me and Ben's lives forever. I really can't imagine life any other way now! Happy early Valentines to everybody!


Speaking of Photos

There are TONS more of them (and video - that's right, we can get high-tech!) on our private Shutterfly photo page.

Just send me a message asking for the password, then hop on over using this link: http://maxsondean.shutterfly.com/