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. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Growing revolution

It's been just over six months since this munchkin first started growing in my belly. And as my body has expanded to accommodate the little baby, so too has our home become the incubator of another type of growth.

A couple of weeks ago after a long and rewarding process, Brendon and I finished our landscaping. We struggled with what to fill our garden with but in the end settled on a combination of fruiting plants and trees intermixed with flowers and shrubs. We may have bitten off more than we can chew between the espalier pear tree, plum tree, apple tree, rhubarb, blueberries and strawberries...especially since Brendon and I have yet to successfully keep a house plant alive....

But as much as our backyard is a source of great pride, I'm even more excited to tell you about our guerrilla gardening project that appears to have taken off.

In front of Barb and Rogers house is a sidewalk. In front of the sidewalk is about 12 feet of manicured lawn owned by the City. At the end of the lawn is the neighbourhood street. This lawn gets some of the best sun - the kind of sun you need to grow great vegetables. So with the leadership of my inlaws, Roger built us two beds and filled them with soil, Barbara planted and cared for dozens of seedlings and I helped plant them all in May.

What started as our own little ghetto project has taken on a life of its own as two additional homes have joined in on the fun. First our neighbours Simon, Kelly and their little girl Avalon set up two beds and are already harvesting vegetables from it. Secondly, our neighbours across the street showed us all up by building 4 beautiful beds overlaid on river stone. Can't wait to see who's next.

Oh...if you are in the neighbourhood and need some lettuce, please help yourself. we're swimming in it right now.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tiny package for small home

Avocados are one of my favourite fruits and this week they've taken on an even more special meaning. They represent the size of the little baby I'm carrying inside. Yes, we're pregnant - 16 weeks along now! For those who are doing the math this basically means that we had a great celebration over New Year's and wasted no time between our wedding and the new pro-creation stage. 

Both Brendon and I are really excited and we can't wait to welcome the little muchkin into our lives and our small home. Our mind is racing with things we need to figure out over the next few months like, "Where will be put the baby...and it's stuff?" and "Can we have a home birth?", but for now we're trying to focus on the same things that everyone seems to be occupied with these days (no, not hockey) - gardening. 

While earlier posts would have you believe that we were complete disasters at this, we've had some recent successes that make me hope that I do in fact have a nurturing side. (I always knew Brendon did.) That grass that we planted back in October - while still shabby, is starting to fill in. 

This shot from above makes you realize that there is still much to be desired but...

When you take a look at it lying down on your stomach... it looks fabulous!

I've started growing sunflowers in our bay window and too my glee, they've begun to sprout!

Brendon finished our first landscaped scene, he planted baboo intermixed with some beautiful black grasses, and then build a rock garden in front of the planter box. This is on our laneway side and so is our first contribution to beautifying the road.

Lastly, I took a trip to a suburban gardener last weekend. Mike, a retired man and passionate gardener started using his front and back yard to grow perrenials. He sells them from his home four times a year. I loved the concept of someone using their own garden is such an innovative way and couldn't resist getting out to see him. I wasn't disappointed and left with 2 blueberry plants, some rubharb and a bunch of grasses. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I grew up Catholic so I’m familiar with guilt. But over the last two decades I’ve managed to un-school myself from living up to an unrealistic ideal. Unfortunately its been creeping back up recently for something I had not predicted – our landscaping.

We started this process back in November when we seeded the grass. I should remind you that only in Vancouver can you plant things as Winter is coming and still expect them to grow. While we don’t have a luscious green garden, we do have the beginnings of a lawn - be it patchy and balding... But other than that we have nothing. No shrubs, no trees, no rooftop garden, no grasses, no fruiting plants and no flowers. As a result we also don’t have birds or bees or any of the other fabulous critters that make up a healthy eco-system, not to mention an inspiring melodic backdrop while sipping coffee.

Instead we have a big wide patio full of paving stones and a wide stone path taking over even more potential green space. We also have a lot of (very high quality) dirt. This is my nightmare. I knew that we would lose green space when we build the house but I thought that we’d replace it quickly enough that nature would be reintroduced on the ground floor as well as on our roof.

My guilt is probably compounded by the fact that at the David Suzuki Foundation we do a lot of research on the value that nature provides for people like us living is cities. Access to nature, whether though sitting in a garden, walking through a park or even just being able to see greenery from a window has profound impacts on our health. Greener environments:

  • Nurture psychologically and physically healthier populations,
  • Reduce stress levels and improve well-being overall,
  • Enhance recovery from surgery,
  • Enable higher levels of physical activity,
  •  Improve immune system functioning,
  • Reduce rates of childhood obesity,
  • Help diabetics achieve healthier blood glucose levels,
  • Improve independent living skills in seniors, and
  • Facilitate pollinators like birds and bees that are responsible for 1/3 of the food we see in the fridge. 
…and that’s just to name a few.

So I have good reason to feel guilty! But now especially, as the crocuses begin to bloom in Vancouver, Brendon and I have got to figure out how we can bring nature back to this beautiful piece of land. We miss it and we owe it to ourselves and Mother Nature to bring it back. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter and Family

We’ve just come through the season of family. Every second year Brendon and I make the trek out East to Ottawa to spend time with my family. I come from a big crew - three younger sisters plus mom and dad. This year we were able to get three of the daughters together while the one remaining spent her fourth Christmas in Taiwan. We rented a cabin in Quebec about an hour away from Ottawa and miles away from the frantic energy that literally consumes many holiday festivities. With only one relatively small sister fight (somehow pulling hair is still a choice weapon at 33) the whole experience can be considered a great success.

With our souls’ a little replenished from our immersion in nature and family, we took off to Val David in the Laurentians to visit friends. As many of our closest peeps have begun to have kids it’s amazing how quickly and often our conversations begin to turn towards family, and not just of the nuclear sort but the importance and conundrum of grandparents.

Some of our friends with children have moved across the country to buy homes close to their parents. Others make the weekend trips to visit family regularly so their kids get to grow-up with grandparents. But one of our friends did what we did...though in typical Quebec-country style.

Monique and Ian have built a home in his parent’s backyard which consists of a couple of acres of beautiful boreal forest. Their two children now have a short nature walk to their grandparent’s house. Their own home is a beautiful combination of modern architecture and rustic cottage appeal. They’ve salvaged and bargained for everything inside the home. From the kitchen cabinets made from the drawers of an old dresser to the interior siding of the living room covered in the wood from an old barn. It’s inspiring seeing other couples making similar choices to ourselves, choosing not only to build their own eco-friendly homes but to do so near family as well.

I wish we could say we had pictures to share, but we got so distracted by our excitement that we forgot to take even one. I’m hoping Ian and Monique will see this post and send us lovely photos so we can share. Instead, here are four of our wedding photos hot off the presses!