Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Canada... THANK YOU.

Cool mom thing... or not so cool mom thing.. having a baby has made me thankful for so many things that used to be so easily overlooked:

Waking up and leaving the house within five minutes from start to exit.
Pressing the snooze button 
Alone time with Dada.. formerly known as my husband.

It's officially over. My maternity leave that is. Well, it's technically been over for a while now, but I extended it past the government allotted and funded time, until I found the right reason to move on with life. (More on that in another post)

I got a bill in the mail from the hospital shortly after I had Pavel. I had expected this, as I knew it having a private room was an upgrade. 


It cost me $7 to have a baby.. with a private room.

To us Canadians, that's normal, even pricey! Health care is free! To my American friends though.. I feel for you. 

Could you imagine having to save enough money to have a baby? Could you imagine getting let go from your job right before you're about to give birth, losing your insurance and being stuck with a hospital bill in the thousands? Like, 20-30 thousand dollars? Not me. I can barely save enough for the next pair of shoes I want to splurge on. 

Thank you Canada. Thank you.

When Pavel was in my tummy, at our 20 week ultrasound, we discovered he had some kidney abnormalities. It was scary to say the least, but we had the most unbelievable health care from a number of different hospitals and clinics in the city.

At the Stollery Hospital

I must have had at least ten ultrasounds during my pregnancy and Pavel had a few after he was born. I had visits with perinatal urologists. I can't name the pieces of equipment that treated Pavel when he was just a month old, but they were big.. and fancy.. and free.

Out of all the things I needed to worry about bringing a new little person into this world, how I was going to pay for his health and give him the best start possible, was not one. 

I am so grateful. 

In Alberta, it is the law that your employer must hold your position for you (or one similar with the same pay) for one year after you have a baby. 

At first I was annoyed when I read this on the Service Canada website:

'The basic benefit rate is 55% of your average insured earnings up to a yearly maximum insurable amount of $43,200. This means you can receive a maximum payment of $457 per week.'

$457/week! Before taxes! What a joke!

About half way into the year, my mindset changed a little. I couldn't help but feel overwhelmingly thankful to receive approximately $1600/month for doing 'nothing'.

For free. For having a baby.. I am being paid to enjoy my time, with my baby. 


I am legally being given a year of free time to spend with my baby, while my job is on hold waiting for me, and I'm getting PAID all at the same time. And when I have this baby, it doesn't matter if I forget my wallet at home. 

Do you know how lucky we are? 

I found myself wanting to write Canada a thank-you letter. I'm not sure how to do this exactly, is it the same as writing Santa your Christmas wish list?

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thanks Canada, times 1,000,000, for allowing me to enjoy the Best. Year. of my Life.


 Pavel this week:

He won't stop talking.. ever! I think he got this from his mom. He says:
- Dada
- Hi
- Ball (this was his first word)
- Nummy nummy nummy - when he's hungry or is eating
- Buba - his bottle

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Big Move...

Cool mom thing.. or not so cool mom thing..

I've got nothing. Sometimes that happens.

Pavel's first birthday is November 11. Wow. I can't believe it's coming so soon!! I have so much to say about the last year.. more than I already have believe it or not. So over the next little while, I'll be sharing a bit more than usual! (So sorry about the blog slacking.. but it takes me time to think through my topic choices!!)

When I was 23, I bought myself a new condo. Well, I bought the contract to a condo that was going to be built. It was my first place. 700 square feet, the perfect amount of space.. and right smack downtown. Gorgeous location. I was very proud of my first home purchase.
From the day I signed that document, I was told I'd have to wait approximately 1 year for possession.

 Ha. Ha. Ha.

To make a really long, annoying story straight - don't ever buy a home with Abbey Lane Homes.. and it took us three years to move in.


Sheldon and I moved in 9 months after we were married and five months later, I was pregnant.

It makes sense that the story I'm about to share is not uncommon. In fact, I think it's more common than not that people get pregnant, and end up moving to a bigger place... right before the baby comes.

We hummed and hawed over moving out of the condo or making it work in a small space.

'People in New York City do it all the time!!'

In the end, we made the tough decision to find something else, even though we loved the space we waited so long for, and did want more time to enjoy it (yes, we should have thought this through more when we decided to pull the goalie!... ewe.. I can't believe I just typed that and am not going to erase it.).

The hunt began. Okay, it wasn't really a hunt. We went to the neighbourhood we wanted, visited some developers, and basically bought the only thing that had a possession date before baby P was to arrive.

We bought a property floor plan unseen. It was a spec home that was the developer's base model. We couldn't pick or change a thing.

To me it really wasn't a big deal.. you're having a baby, life is really changing.. worry about making it look how you want a few months or years down the road, once you're settled.. Right?

Well, no. Not if you know my husband. When he moves in, he needs everything done, ASAP.. including blinds and buying a new broom for the garage! It's annoying! It's expensive! But.. it's pretty awesome too.

We received possession of our new place on October 20th last year. I was due on November 2nd.

I would just like to stop an interject right now and let you know that for the last two moves (into our condo, and into our current home... when I was 9 months pregnant!!), my husband has been away on business. Is he for real? 9 months pregnant and I'M the one moving everything and coordinating the tradespeople?
Thank goodness for moms.. wow, was I ever lucky she was there to help out every step of the way. For the next move, Sheldon has been informed that he is sending my mom and I away to the beach for a week.

Sorry, I digress... We move in on the 20th.. baby coming November 2nd.. in 8 days, we completely transformed our 'base model, lino carpet, laminate counter top... ' home, into basically a brand new place.

We replaced:
- The lino flooring on the main level
- The upstairs carpet
- The lino upstairs in the bathrooms
- The appliances
- The cabinetry
- Kitchen counters
- Kitchen back splash
- The fireplace
- The closet organizers.

May I just say, being pregnant and renovating an entire home may seem like a crazy idea.. and yes, some days it was stressful.. but we had everything done on time. No one showed up late, no one forgot parts or tried to cancel on their install last minute.. in fact, the closet guys tried to reschedule and this was my response..
'I'm going to have this baby any second and if I don't have these closet organizers put in I'm not going to be able to unpack (insert tears), the only thing I want to do is unpack my baby's clothes (more tears.. not fake ones either.. hormones) and now I'm going to have to wait till.... '

They were there later that day. And I know what you're thinking, but I was not rude to anyone.. I just think they were scared the baby was going to pop out in front of them!

Because it's our year anniversary of living here.. and because I just wrapped filming a new show I'm hosting called Show Home Parade, where I got to learn design tips in 30 different how homes across the city... I thought I'd share some before and after shots. Enjoy!

Kitchen Before:

Kitchen During:

Concrete counter tops. Took 5 people to carry that slab in the house!
We love them!!

 Kitchen After:

Ah... the two toned kitchen.. You'll have to watch Show Home Parade for my take on these.

Livingroom Before: 

Livingroom During:

We used wide plank distressed hardwood. It's great because it doesn't show nicks and scratches!

Love our concrete fireplace!!
Living Room After:

Pavel's Room Before:
The carpet looks decent in this picture, but believe me, it wasn't.

Pavel's Room After:
We have a queen bed in here in case you want to come visit!!

Our Closet Before:

Our Closet After: 

Best money I've ever spent is putting in closet organizers.

We used Compartment Closets for these and they were nearly 50% cheaper than California Closets.

And because I'm a proud wife.. here is some of Sheldon's most recent artwork. Everything in our house (except one) was created by him. He was inspired to do some painting after Pavel was born.. something he hadn't done since college.

This is of a campground near my mother's cottage in the Gaspe. 

I think he just liked this picture from a magazine.

I remember the first night we stayed in our new home. I fell asleep listening to wolves howling in the farmer's field near by. Quite the contrast from the lights of the cityscape, sirens and traffic noise I listened to just the night before. It felt like we had moved to a whole new world... turns out.. we had.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's the People that you Meet...

Cool mom thing... or not so cool mom thing.. I've taught Pavel my dance moves.
Correction - I've very PROUDLY taught Pavel my dance moves. He's got the booty shake down, the pursed lip look (the just ate something sour face), and no rhythm. 
That's my boy.

I've got what I call my life theme song. It's weird actually. It shows up all over the place, totally random. A few years in Cabo San Lucas, it drove by blaring out of the car of some locals. Shopping in Glasgow, Scotland, it played a techno version in a department store. Walking along the beach of La Serena, Chile, showed up on an old CD on my discman (yup, discman). 

One of my favorite times was when I was 19 and alone living in Hong Kong. I was on a train going through the countryside on my way back from mainland China, looking out the window at the rice fields. I was scared, sad, and lonely, clutching onto my teddy bear that my brother had given me for Christmas the year before. The song starts piping through the train and it was weirdly comforting... that memory is forever in my mind. 

I've been very fortunate to meet a ton of interesting people in my life. A few months back, I was having coffee with one of these people, and he asked me what my dream job would be. 

My instant reaction was Oprah.
I thought about it for a second and changed my mind.. 
'Nope, Lisa Ling'

I love to talk and I love stories. I love a good story teller. I'm that person who will talk to random strangers in the grocery store.. and I love to people watch.

Have you ever driven past someone and wondered what was going on in their world today? 

Working at HelpTV, we did a number of shows on drug education. I interviewed a mom from a suburb of Edmonton. Her family is middle class. Her kids play sports and are good students. Both mom and dad are active in the family life.
To me, it seems like some of the simple ingredients for a healthy, successful family, but one day her son never came home. They started noticing something was different.
He ended up getting involved in drugs and was addicted to methamphetamine.  He got lost on the streets.
Believe me when I tell you mom and dad tried everything to help him.
When I had met her, they were a number of years deep into her son's addiction and he had been in and out of rehab, awaiting another turn, in another facility. At this point, as she told her story, she seemed numb to the details, but was still managing to continue along with her life. In fact, she had started an organization to help other families in similar situations as her and this was keeping her going.

Admirable. Scary. Sad.

This story still haunts me. 

I told you how my dad got married back in August. It was a great party, such a perfect day.  Maybe I get my story telling from my dad, because he's got a number of doozies. 50 years working in the oilfield will do that to you. I've heard for years stories about his friends, their hunting days, and traveling all over the world together on the hunt for liquid black gold.

Bob the Welder. Never just Bob, always Bob the Welder. He was there and he rushed over to me to say hi. We had both heard so much about each other. A few beers into the evening, BtW sits down and starts talking.
Turns out BtW, (who is about 6'5, with a white beard and hair, wearing a flannel shirt and a fur hunting hat my dad borrowed to him for the night) is a hermit. He loves to be alone and he loves nature.

He owns a little piece of trap land up by Fort Mac that is so remote, you can only access it by airplane or some sort of weird boat like you see on the opening of CSI Miami. He's got himself set up with a nice cabin with all the fixings, including Internet. (He only uses it to check his email to see if he's being called to work somewhere.)
He feels so strongly and comforted when he's in the wilderness alone, when he gets a message telling him it's time to leave his peaceful oasis, he cries.
After years of spending all his free time up there, I guess you could say he's become one with nature. He has a pet mole (or something small and creepy like it) who runs up his arm and down the other, and has a little attitude problem if BtW stops feeding him treats.
One day BtW was on his riding lawn mower cutting the grass on the airstrip. He could feel someone watching him. It was a familiar glare. He turns around and sees a full grown timber wolf about 15 feet away from him. Just sitting there watching him, curious and finally confident enough to come out of the woods and meet his friend, Bob the Welder.

Sheldon's grandfather Ken passed away on October 1st at the age of 81. Sheldon was close to him, and I was lucky enough to get to know him on a regular basis over the last five years.
Oh, Grandpa. How we loved your brush cut and your tan slacks with matching shirt and cardigan sweater that you wore almost every time you left the house.

If you knew Grandpa, I think you would agree with me that in his younger years, he was a cool guy. Very confident, attractive, great sense of humor and a real family man.
In the years I knew Grandpa, he became my number one fan. He never missed an episode of HelpTV. He would follow up with me on topic questions, and get annoyed if we ever aired reruns. At our wedding, Grandpa insisted on saying a few words, and put in a plug to our guests to watch my show.. even told them what time and what channel.

If there is a thought that would sum up what Grandpa's lasting memory will be for me, that is the love he had for his wife.
Granny passed away a number of years before I came into the picture, from Parkinson's... but I don't think she ever left his side.  I got to know her through the stories Grandpa told, from her paintings that still hung on their condo walls, and from the pictures he kept.
Not a family gathering went by without Granny being included in some way.

The love for your wife... it was the greatest lesson that Sheldon learned from his beloved Grandpa.

We got a call in the middle of the night about a week before Grandpa passed to come say good-bye. Sheldon and I packed up Pavel and went to the hospital.
Oh Grandpa, I can still remember the look in your eyes and how the first thing you said as we walked into the room was - Hi Pavel! We are so lucky he got to know you, even for a short time.

Driving home a few hours later, we shared some of our favorite memories of Grandpa... the radio playing in the background.

At 2:19 am.... my theme song took centre stage.

Beautiful Day, by U2.

It's like it knew I needed it.

As sad as it is for us to lose Grandpa, I know he is happy now.

My heaven is one big dance party.. and Grandpa and Granny are still dancing the night away.

We love you so much.


My little Pavel is 11 months old! He's such a great walker.. pretty much running now. Loves to talk.. just like mama!

Three words to sum up this little guy:
- Funny
- Flirty
- Determined

Sheldon freaked out last night because Pavel picked up his hockey stick and started passing the ball to dada with it. My life is over.

His favorite toys are the accessories to the vacuum cleaner... funny guy.