Archive for May 2011


May 30, 2011

A view from Cape Spear, most easterly point of North America.

My almost 7-year-old daughter learned to braid hair recently. A friend at school taught her. My 4-year-old son, who usually sits to pee, proudly announced the other day that a buddy at preschool showed him how to hang his parts over the toilet bowl to urinate (adorable, since he’s only just now tall enough to do so, my short-legged little man). I was dreading the day he’d start doing this, concerned it would only mean more mess for me to deal with. Instead, it’s given him more independence. He no longer calls on me every time he needs to relieve himself. My daughter now does her own hair in the morning. Which leads me to wonder, if I were homeschooling my kids, where on earth would they learn some of the more practical ways of the world?

As for bigger milestones, we finally reached the doozy two weeks ago when our Thompson house sold. Horray! And now, less than two weeks later, we’ve bought one. Only a few more weeks before we can really, truly start settling in here in St. John’s.

My husband was away last week. My parents were here to visit and help me out (thank goodness for the grandparents! Not only did they aid me in finding the house and playing chauffeur to the kids, but they tidied the million piles of papers, clothes and toys that I never seem to get around to organizing). So my husband made the biggest purchase of his life without even seeing the property. How’s that for marital trust?

When hubby got back into town, we still had one night with my parents here. I was dying to experience George Street – most pubs per square foot, I think they say, of any street in North America – sans kids, adult style. So I punched in the bags under my eyes (not sleeping much anyways, baby is ruling the roost at nighttime, and I figure we’ll wait to get into our house before I make any more half-hearted attempts at sleep training) and we headed out.

George Street is a hop skip and a jump (or a stumble) from where we’re staying. We wandered past Kelly’s Pub, where there’s always live music. It looked so quiet in there I thought I might fall asleep. We headed past Dooley’s with it’s dozen or so pool tables, all empty. Then there was O’Reilly’s, which seemed to be just filling up, as were a few of the other bars and pubs.

And then we came to the Martini Bar, where a rowdy group of people were out on the deck singing their hearts out to the music over the speakers, glasses raised in the air. Okay, no live, local music, but this place was happenin’, and I was looking for a bit of entertainment. “This is it,” I said, smiling, and we headed up the stairs, jostling past the rowdies to get to the bar.

Turns out the men were all Welsh rugby players (funny that I at first mistook their dialect for that of the locals). They’d been drinking since noon. No, since 5 am on Friday. They were reprimanded for swinging from the overhead lights, and scolded for wrestling full beers to the floor. But it wasn’t until half of them started taking off shirts, pants, and stripping right down to the buck – undies ‘n all – that they were kicked out. They got dressed and left, not with tails between their legs, but singing merrily to the young bartenders, “You’ve lost that loving feeling….”

My son and I at Cape Spear, the edge of the world.

So George Street is rowdy, even on a Sunday night before the summer is really underway. I love this city!


To Do. Repeat. Everything twice.

May 4, 2011

I’m treading water in the space between what pulls me down (chores, disciplining children, loneliness of having no close friends yet in the city we now call home) and what lifts me up (a threshold to cross where every day is a new adventure).

There’s nice enough people here in St. John’s. I see some other moms, and fewer dads, at the playgroups I frequent with my two sons while my daughter is at school. There’s one on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Newfoundland Sports Centre, it’s free, and the gym is MASSIVE. My wild child can run until his cheeks are flaming red, kicking and throwing balls, flipping over mats, crawling through tunnels. Several times a week I pack the baby on my back, push the stroller for the wild one (in case he ever tires), and visit various parks perched on the hills of St. John’s. I talk to people in grocery stores. At the library.

Still, I can’t help but think back to our last three moves and know that by this time, two months into it, I had at least one new best friend. Other than my husband, whose job is more demanding than ever, I find I’m very much on my own in a strange and colourful place with no close bonds yet formed.

I despise the sound of myself complaining. And so I focus my attention towards lighter facts. Like the fact that we have a doorframe next to the kitchen table where we can put the baby in his jolly jumper (one of the things we thought to pack ourselves, hence saving it from storage). The floor there is uneven, so we stuff pillows and a blanket over the knobby threshold and he bounces and squeals with delight, part of our family dinners. My kids may not have the huge backyard with play set we had at our old house in Thompson, but wherever we walk in this city, they climb, roll, balance on fences and retaining walls, and stretch their muscles in ways they never did in the flat lands we moved from.

After six weeks, we finally and officially became residents of Newfoundland. We got our driver’s licenses and MCP (medical care plan) cards for this province. Our vehicles registered. Our insurance, bills and mail organized. Sort of.

Let me know if you’ve experienced this before, because I really hope it’s not just us: having to do EVERY SINGLE THING TWICE. Go to City Hall to get a parking permit. Fail to bring one piece of paper with my name and new address on it (because I didn’t have one yet), go home, go back another day with all relevant information. Go to the vehicle registration office, they can’t get in touch with some official or other on their end, have to return another day to finish that process. Pick up forms for MCP, they are the wrong ones. Take the correct forms to the office that the website stated to go to in the Confederation Building, turns out it’s not the right place at all. Start all over again. This time, make a few phone calls (which takes at least an hour on hold) to discover that the office to get the MCP cards is actually located downtown.

The day I did finally get our MCP cards, I also got my driver’s license. It was a Friday. I could hardly believe that I’d finally have my new ID. Of course, both those things had already been attempted previously, but still, to accomplish two things in one day, all three kids in tow, it was amazing.

My husband and I celebrated with a bottle of wine and cheval noire, it’s our new favourite beer out here, Black Horse (not really called by the French name but that’s what we’ve been jokingly calling it, in honour of our daughter whose ability to translate half her English vocabulary into the other official language is growing at a surprisingly fast pace). Then we got a cold.

The weeks have been tinged with drama and drudgery. I am both amused and frustrated by the contents of this furnished rental: six ladles, four colanders, numerous pots with no lids and lids with no pots, and not a single potato peeler (I finally bought one).

And so, eight weeks after moving here, we (well actually, I) evicted us from this grand old home and embarked on a house hunt. Again. After looking at some other rentals, I got nervous.

This week, I changed my mind. I think we’ll stay put, maybe attempt to get a few more things out of storage. I know some gals who call it a “woman’s prerogative” to change her mind over and over again. I call it one of the fairer sex’s many curses. I think I slip into a bit of a depression every time I change my mind, then change it back again. What a drain of energy. I’d rather think of it as exploring all my options. All little too thoroughly.

I am grateful for the chance to live here in Newfoundland, a place I realize we may never have visited just as a vacation destination (it’s certainly not a cheap place to get to. It’s also, we realize now, the most expensive place we’ve ever lived. Everything does have to get here by ship, and apparently NL doesn’t have its own cows, because milk, for one, costs twice what it does anywhere else we’ve lived). I don’t mean to complain, really I don’t. But in keeping with the main theme of my blog, on relocation, I just want to be very very clear: moving is never easy. More to the point: being displaced is a nightmare. But we find things to enjoy along the way.

We explored some of the East Coast Trail over Easter weekend. WOW. Stunning. And we visited the lighthouse at Ferryland on a bluebird day. There’s so much hiking out here, and our family is at a stage where we can enjoy these things together, the kids running all over the craggy, moss and heather-covered rocks, the baby in a backpack.

I’m also discovering some of the most amazing writers. I’m reading Lisa Moore’s February, and I’m absolutely blown away by this haunting, touching story. This is Moore’s fictitious tale based on the very real, horrible tragedy that happened off the coast of NL in 1982 when the Ocean Ranger rig sank into the frigid depths of the Atlantic, killing all 84 people who were stationed on it that Valentine’s evening. Perhaps it is my choice of novel, but I’m starting to think that one thing that characterizes Newfoundlanders is sadness. I don’t know how anyone who is from here, could not have been touched in some way by at least one of the many many tragedies that has occurred here. Tidal waves, severe storms, and countless instances of lives being lost at sea. I can see why so many people here have a true love hate relationship with the ocean that surrounds them.

I joined the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador, WANL, and I’m really looking forward to tapping into that group. It seems to be a very strong, active organization here at the most eastern tip of Canada. And perhaps as I do get to meet and know other people here, I will find the humour, and not just the sadness, that I know lives here too.