Sunday, March 24, 2013

Traveling with a celebrity

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be Justin Beber or Nelson Mandela – where you can’t go anywhere without big crowds of adoring fans forming. I feel like this trip has given me a small insight how these celebrities experience fame. Sometimes I think that Brendon and I are just Oren’s entourage. Everywhere we go, people flock to our blue eyed, white skinned, bald little baby. And lucky for them, he appears to be a people person so he offers them big smiles and happily accepts being held by just about every stranger out there.

There are incredible benefits to this. Thais and Laotians love babies and the family structure is very important. This means that we are often elevated to a different level of traveler and perhaps given opportunities that the 20-somethings don’t get. For example: we have yet to have a meal out together where the wait staff don’t take our baby away to explore the kitchen or a random fountain so that we can eat uninterrupted. It also means the locals want to talk with us. They cross busy roads just to ask us about our baby. To facilitate interactions between us and the locals, I’ve learnt some Lao and Thai – enough to convey the most crucial information – “he’s a boy”, “6months old”, “his name is Oren”, “he’s [insert] tired, hungry, thirsty, hot”, “do you have children?” “he smiles a lot” and most importantly “peek-a-boo”.

Yes, that is a monk taking a picture of Oren.


We’re now in Laos and have been traveling for a little more than a month. I feel like we have really hit our groove. We’ve figured out how to get Oren to sleep just about everywhere which now make long days pretty feasible. Not only are we more relaxed than we’ve been in years, we have time to feel inspired and to reflect on what’s next for our family. It really is pretty luxurious.

  Napping on a picnic table by the Mekong and being put to sleep by a waterfall.

It really is somewhat ironic that we chose Laos - a country where malaria and dengue fever is endemic. It also happens to be the most heavily bombed place in the world. We forfeited the excellent health care system and first world amenities of Thailand (that convinced us to travel overseas with a baby in the first place) for the slow paced, luscious, ceremonial country of Laos.

A few days ago our celebrity baby celebrated his 6 months on the planet. We rented a scooter and took the back roads to an elephant orphanage. There, Oren got to meet a beautiful mamma elephant who used to work in the lumber industry. Stopped in a small village on the way back for some noodle soup and were swarmed by just about everyone that lived there (refer to above picture). Life is pretty good.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Traveling with Oren

It’s 40 degrees outside and I am in an air-conditioned hotel room waiting out Oren’s third nap of the day. It seems like a strangely normal routine now. We plan our activities around his two hours wakeful sessions. Like Cinderella though, if we miss the window and try to postpone his nap a little longer, what was once a happy friendly baby becomes a screaming, inconsolable mess. We think of him as a ticking bomb that if we do not diffuse in the allocated time - will blow up in our faces.

Anyway, all is calm right now. Daddy is out taking pictures in the beautiful evening light. We're in a town called Nong Khai and our guesthouse is perched on a hill overlooking the Mekong river. In about a week we will make the trip across the border into Laos but for now we are immersing ourselves in the slow paced lifestyle of this quaint river town. It’s amazing how much traveling has changed since either of us did our global tours ten years ago. The most obvious change of course is the fact that we have a baby and this has made our choice of accommodations and travel itineraries a little more civilized although perhaps pedestrian. We always choose rooms with ‘air con’ and hot water. We do not take bus trips any longer that 4 hours and we consider things like ‘health care’ when we choose our final destinations.

But the world has changed too. I used to carry around my Lonely Planet like a bible – the thought of seeking out accommodation without it was disconcerting! Now every single $17 hotel or guesthouse we've stayed in, I’ve found and booked online. I read through the countless reviews from tourists all over the world and we make the call based on their recommendations. It almost seems strange to remember my life before Back in the day (the early 2000s to be precise) I would have had to call to confirm or risk a room being available upon arrival. My impulse to call is still there but public payphones no longer exist. Like North America, phone booths are a symbol of the past and Thais all seem equipped with there very own cell phones. To top it off, the once prevalent internet cafes have gone the way of the dodo bird, as every guesthouse and hostel is connected and Wi-Fi is free and plentiful. Considering that it's only been 10 years since either of us has traveled overseas, it's hard to imagine how different it will be for Oren once he begins his own trek around this incredible world.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

We rented our home!...and I finally found some time to put up a post.

We rented our place. It all fell into place a couple of weeks ago when a lovely family from the UK contacted us to negotiate a three month stay. As of February 13th our little home will have new occupants. This means that we'll be overseas until mid-May.

I think we found a perfect match for our house. The Abrams Family includes Claude and Jaime and their two children Kobra and Zenchai. They have been travelling all across the globe since 2009 and have to date been to well over 40 countries. Leaving a traditional lifestyle behind, the family has been on a journey of discovery and adventure. When I was reading their blog to learn a little more about their family, I connected with a statement that Claude had written in his bio - "More precious than money is time." It's a simple statement that Claude used to articulate the reason he decided to quite a job as a magazine editor and take to the road with his family. After becoming a mother, the concept of time takes on a whole new level of importance which is perhaps why those words have been playing in my mind for weeks now.

The first thing that seems to happen with a baby is that time disappears. I don't quite know where it goes or when I'll get it back but it seems to have moved on to another household...probably one filled with single people. These days I am grateful if I find the time to complete two activities during a day. One of those usually involves a mandatory household chore like shopping. Fascinating, yes I know.

Interestingly enough, this change is juxtaposed with an equally new notion: the long night. Not since the all-nighters of my university degree have I experienced both 'closing time' (3am) and sunrise (6am) in one day. This is coupled with the sensation that time is almost at a standstill and the night will never #$#&'ing end!

A last aspect of time I've been thinking about has to do with our trip to Thailand. One of the things that often comes up when we do interviews is a question about how we've adapted to living in a small space. Brendon was the first to identify that our home has helped to reinforce a lifestyle that is heavy on experience and light on stuff. It's hard to own more than six towels when you have no place to put them. So instead of things, we've been able to save the money that we might have used to buy things and trade them in for activities outside of the house. (Brendon reiterated this point in a recent interview with CBC which aired in French on National Television.) This has meant mountain biking trips, walks by the ocean, delicious food etc. We're now just getting the chance to take this to the next level by carving out three months of sacred time together with Oren in Thailand.

While we do not yet have beautiful pictures of Thailand to share with you, we do have copious amounts of pictures of Oren who is, of course, the most beautiful baby in the world.

Most people say Oren looks like me. Over the holidays, we tried to bring out a little bit of Brendon by painting on some eyebrows.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

We're going to Thailand! (if we can rent our home...)

One of the things I worried a lot about before Oren was born was our finances. Even though we do get maternity leave here in Canada, there is a cap on how much the government pays you to stay at home with your baby. In my case, my income dropped by almost 70 per cent. To top it off, the Winter is Brendon's slow season. As a photographer, he makes most of his money in the summer months. So when it comes to money we are tight. We thought through a number of options, like picking up another job to supplement our income...but then we stumbled on Thailand. 

Acquaintances of ours had already paved the way for us. When their baby was 5 weeks old, they up and moved to the beautiful country for seven months. They wanted to take advantage of the precious maternity and paternity leave they both had access too. But finances were top of mind for them too. Oversees, they were able to live on a fraction of what was required at home. In fact they saved money. They also came away from the experience with a baby that at six months was 'diaper free' and could communicate through sign language! But I'll save those details for another blog post...

Now, there is only one hitch - we need to rent our home. So here's our pitch. Send this out far and wide to friends, family, colleagues, people on the street that might be interested.

Looking for a unique place to stay over the winter? Rent a fully furnished laneway house from January 1st to April 30th 2013. Located in the Dunbar neighbourhood, the little home is close to UBC, transit lines, shops and restaurants.

While we travel to Thailand for four months with our baby, you'll have access to the best in modern living. The one bedroom home has a living room, bathroom (with bath tub), bright kitchen and office nook. A large patio and balcony extend your enjoyment of a quaint backyard and quiet laneway.

The eco-friendly laneway house has received lots of media coverage from articles in the Globe and Mail to a feature a David Suzuki exploration of urban innovation.

For $1800 CND per month all of your utilities will be covered, furniture supplied and high speed internet provided.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

5 things Oren has taught us...

Oren is already seven weeks old. It is hard to believe almost two months have gone by since he was born. There have been some major milestones since the little guy rocked our world, and not only for him. For instance, I finally figured out how to get my pants on before noon. (Mind you, I secretly miss my foray into nakedness so in retrospect I’m not sure I would consider it progress.) 

Here is a sampling of some of the other things we have learnt over the last few weeks thanks to Oren:

     1. Babies own a lot of #%$!’ing stuff! I started to notice this before Oren was born. Just walk into any baby store and you’ll quickly feel as though you are depriving your child of all the necessities of life.  I was born in Africa and my mother tells me that for the first few years of life I slept in a drawer. Times have changed and, at least in North America, there is enormous pressure to get all the top of the line gizmos and gadgets. So while I was trying to sort out what I really needed for a baby, friends and family were helping us fill our small home with an endless supply of baby toys, swings, chairs and cloths. If we lived in a 3000 square foot home this might be doable but when you’re trying to squeeze everything into 750 square feet, one more pair of cut baby socks can really be an issue. We haven't completely figured this one out yet, so advice is welcome!

     2.   Babies are tough little buggers. I think it’s important for all the new parents out there to hear that. We were just so worried about hurting him either by holding him, strapping him in his car seat or laying him down to sleep. Our nerves were frayed even further as we were bombarded by warnings and safety regulations that were meant to keep Oren safe. In some ways, they made me long for the 1950s when everything was legal. Sure some of this is important but for us we just had to take much of it with a grain of salt.  Take for instance co-sleeping: the experts say it’s a no, no. That you might accidentally roll onto your baby or smother him/her with blankets. But for us sleeping with Oren is a Godsend. It means we can cuddle with him all night and rather that waking up to a screaming child in another room. I wake-up to a squirm, pop out my boob and we’re back to slumber heaven.

     3.    Thank God for family. We made the decision to build a laneway home in part anticipating that we would have a child and were excited about the possibility of having him/her benefiting from living close to grandparents. What we underestimated was what a benefit it would be to us. The first week we didn’t cook one meal as Barb and Roger prepared delicious food and walked it across the 20feet that separate our house and theirs. You know what I said earlier about putting my pants on? Couldn’t have done that without the help of grandparents. When we need a little time to catch up on house work or take a shower, Barb and Roger are only too happy to play with Oren.

     4.     Walmart and malls were made for parents. In the fourth week or Oren’s life Brendon and I decided to take a road trip to introduce our baby to my side of the family. I amazingly still have three grandparents living in Saskatchewan. My parents made the trek from Ottawa to meet us in the middle where all my relatives live.  It took us three days to drive there and as you can imagine, we had to stop several times to feed and let Oren stretch his little limbs. We stopped in towns like Meritt and Valemount to stretch and quickly realized the only place that was dry, warm and big enough to accommodate a good walk with a vigorous bounce was Walmart or the local mall. If only I could go back in time and share this development with my 24 year-old anti-establishment self. Oh, the horror.

     5.    Having a baby doesn’t make you more mature.  Before I had a kid, parents somehow seemed older and more mature. Well I’m here to tell you that in our case it seems to have done the opposite. We’ve regressed to plotting silly photo shoots, bouncing around the room to bad dance music or an endless supply of Raffi songs, and video taping what Oren will certainly deem as ‘lame moments’. But man oh man, is it fun.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Baby is home

Oren Kai Purdy was born at home, in our laneway house on September 21st at 5:09am. At 7lb 12ounces he was healthy, beautiful baby boy.

We had been considering a home birth for a while but didn't share our plans widely just in case Oren had other plans for his birth. There are a few reasons we wanted to have our little guy at home. First off, I didn't believe that I had a medical condition that needed treatment. I was just pregnant - a perfectly normal state of being that women all across the world experience. And because I wasn't sick nor did I fall into an 'at risk' category, it just felt strange to me to consider giving birth in a hospital

A second reason that swayed us towards a home birth was the comfort of being in our own space. I knew that labour was going to be intense and because our intention was to have a natural child birth free of interventions, comfort was going to be key. Being at home meant that we could create our own little sanctuary free of bright lights and full of good music. The fridge, bath and bed would all be nearby when we needed it, during and after birth.

If those weren't strong enough reasons to sway us, the professionalism and experience of our birth team was. Midwives are birthing specialists and have more experience delivering babies than most doctors. And our doula was an expert labour guide and pain management 'specialist'. 

Our birth story could not have unfolded more perfectly. Labour started at 10:30am on September 20th. I baked cinnamon buns and made a loaf of olive bread in anticipation of the little munchkin. Brendon got the birthing room ready for the new arrival. We went for a walk in the evening and even managed to sneak in a movie before things really got started at 11pm. Nancy the doula arrived soon after the contractions became more intense and was a Godsend for both Brendon and myself. Our team of midwives (and one family doctor) joined soon afterwards and helped me over the next few hours. Oren was born on our bed. Brendon was given the incredible role of ‘baby catcher’ and 20minutes after birth added ‘cord cutter’ to his list of accomplishments. I came out of the experience in awe of my body's birthing ability and in love with my new family. 

Thank you for all the love and support you've shared with us over the past few weeks. Looking forward to sharing more stories or our growing family in our small home.

Passing time during early labour...

Being born...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

One year and counting

It's our anniversary. It's hard to believe that already a year has passed since we first moved into our little home.

A lot has changed since then.
  • August: It was a full house with two renters (our friends) sharing the basement suite putting us up at a 6 person household. In various iterations, we've had a full house for almost the entire year.
  • November: I was elected to the Dunbar Residents Association and have been trying to find a way to bring a different perspective on housing to my official neighbourhood. 
  • December: Brendon and I got hitched in a very low key ceremony in Hawaii. Over the holidays we successfully celebrated our union with friends and family and then made a baby....
  • April: I was officially diagnosed with rhinorrhea - basically my nose muscles have swollen up as a result of pregnancy making me a very noisy sleeper. See snoring video below
  • May: We finished our landscaping of the backyard and laid out vegetable beds out front. It has become a veritable jungle of fresh vegetables that is overflowing with goodies on a daily basis.
  • June: We decided that we are going to try for a home birth - body, brain and baby willing. Hoping to do this as naturally as possible and part of what will relax me is being able to do this in the comfort of my own home.
Today, I woke up to the sound of my snoring. Brendon had recorded me in the middle of the night to try and impress upon me what a loud snorer I had become. This is one of the downfalls of living in a small space - there is nowhere for Brendon to go to escape my noisy sleep. I figure though that it's just training for the baby. Sorry hun.

Then, I googled my name to see if an article I had interviewed for would show up in today's paper. For those of you that read the National Post, check out Saturday's edition. You know it's a slow news cycle when a pregnant couple and their small house get on the front page. While I'm not totally thrilled with the wide angles depiction of my ever growing body, the article is an interesting exploration of whether or not size matters.