We were lazy our first morning at Dave’s mom’s home.  The kids played and watched television while we continued to clean and organize.  We can’t thank Peggy enough for the use of her home.  It felt SO good to be clean and do laundry!  D’Arcy took the van to a garage to vacuum all the sand, cereal, crumbs, dirt, etc. out of it.  We ate and headed out to Signal Hill after lunch.

As we were driving through downtown, D’Arcy had the radio on 97.5FM and I heard a familiar voice.  Is that Chris Batstone, I wondered?  It turned out that he was the radio personality!  (Are they still called DJ’s on the radio?)  Chris & I go back to the early 1980’s when we met and became close at various functions put on by the Nova Scotia Choral Federation.  I haven’t seen Chris since 1990, but he is on my Facebook.  It’s too bad we didn’t get a chance to visit in person, but the timing didn’t work out.

Signal Hill gave us a beautiful view of St. John’s and we climbed to the top of the tower.  There were two geocaches that we were searching for.  One had specific instructions that we were to take our photo on the Duke of York Observation Platform with St. John’s harbour in the background and our GPS had to be visable.  We had much discussion about which platform was the Duke of York Observation platform.  We hiked one of the trails down to the cannons and buildings and then back around.  We found a second cache on our way back up the hill.  Sandy called at that point and I asked her if she was up to joining us at the barbeque which Shelley, one of my university friends had planned for us.  She wasn’t feeling well at all, so I offered to take Nate along with us so that she could possibly sleep.

St. John's Harbour

The failed geocache photo - the harbour had to be showing in the background, but we were too polite to ask the stranger to re-take the photo. (You had to stand on a bench to get the harbour in!) A whole family photo nonetheless!

Fun among siblings - I think Olivia was the instigator of this fit of laughter!

Trying to recreate the "Louisbourg photo" of 2007 - we didn't quite manage it!

The scenery was amazing!

We picked Nate up and went to Shelley’s.  She has two little boys, Patrick who is 5, and Gabriel who will turn one at the end of the month.  The kids had a wonderful time playing together while Shelley & I got caught up.  We figured that it had probably been 16 years since we’d seen one another.  We had a feast of hamburgers, hotdogs and salads. Shelley had done a fantastic job of accommodating Olivia’s allergies and even sent us home with some safe gingersnaps.

With Gabriel

The girls with Gabriel. Nate, Patrick, and our boys were all busy playing in the playroom or outside, so I don't have any photos of them!

We went back to our home-away-from-home and Sandy & Dave came over to visit for the evening.  It felt good to get lots of newborn baby snuggles in and by the end of the evening we all had held her. Brianna was very good for being passed around so much!  Olivia and Nate were both exhausted and had one of their first real squabbles over a toy chair set.  When the Pearces left, the girls went up to bed and the boys and I played crib while we decided what to do during our last few days of vacation.

Nate, checking out Olivia's headphones on the way home. Does he look tired?

Sandy, opening the outfit that Ginna knit for Brianna

D'Arcy holds Brianna under Olivia's watchful eye.

Dave, Evan & Alex playing crib while a very tired Nate looks on.

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Terra Nova Fun!

August 9, 2011

We arrived at Terra Nova at about 5:30 p.m., slightly behind schedule.  Once we got into the town, we realized that the directions to Krista & Stefan’s cabin were on my phone which had no service.  We stopped at a convenience store to ask if the clerk might happen to know them.  The clerk didn’t, but said that we should go to the top of the “sand pit”, which was where the best cell phone service was located.  We went up there and called them and it turned out we were only a minute away.

We came in, got settled and the kids all began playing together.  Krista & Stefan got supper started and D’Arcy went back up to the sand pit to call the St. Pierre tour company.  It turned out that the passport had not been delivered, and the mail doesn’t come in until after the boat leaves on Monday.  We decided it makes the most sense to continue our trip to St. John’s next and then go to St. Pierre at the end of the week, before setting sail to go back to Nova Scotia.

Playing cards

We had tacos for supper, a meal which all ten of us devoured happily! Thank you Krista & Stefan for coming up with something to eat that was safe and loved by all!!  After supper, we sat down and realized how exhausted we were.  D’Arcy was falling asleep, so Krista & Stefan told him to go lie down in Gabriel’s room for a bit.  They told me that they realized we were tired and that they wouldn’t normally ask us to go out, but they had something planned for us.

We woke D’Arcy after about a half-an-hour and went to their friends’ cabin.  Tracy & Wade had a house full of family.  The kids all played with their girls who were 13, 11 and 10 while we visited inside.  Krista & Tracy disappeared for a little bit, and D’Arcy went outside to check on the kids.  Olivia was just on her way in to find us.  She was happy to play inside with their dog, Razor, a cock-a-poo with an insatiable desire to catch balls.

The next thing we knew, out came Tracy & Wade with the (semi- frozen) head of a HUGE cod that Krista had caught earlier in the week, a so’wester and some Newfoundland Screech.  They then began to make us honorary Newfoundlanders by “Screeching us In”.  We had to wear the hat, and when Wade asked us if we were honorary Newfoundlanders, we had to say, “Yes I is me old cock – and long may your big jib draw!”  Then we had to kiss the cod fish and take a shot of Screech.  I was wishing at that point that I got to drink the Screech first!!  Both D’Arcy & I did it, and then it was Wade’s sister-in-law Ana who was visiting from Calgary’s turn.  After that, each of our boys performed the whole ritual, and the girls just drank the “Screech” (Purity Syrup for all of them!) There was no way they were going to kiss that fish! It was great fun and we were happy that we had come back out, despite being tired.

D'Arcy, kissing the cod

Alex, looking hesitant...

Evan was next.

The girls with their "Screech" - no way they were going to kiss a fish!

The whole family of honorary Newfoundlanders!

Back at Krista & Stefan’s cabin, we got the air mattresses and sleeping backs set up and went to bed after midnight.  Sarah slept with Lily and the rest of us slept in the living room.  D’Arcy got up early and went for a run, but the rest of us slept until 9:35 a.m.  We had a light breakfast of cereal and yogurt and then got ready to go to the community hall for the Terra Nova Day celebrations.

Usually the celebrations are held outside, but because it was so cold and wet, they held it in Eddie Eastman Hall.  He hails from Terra Nova and both of his Junos are on display at the Hall.  The volunteers had games set up for the kids like bowling, golf, hit the balloon with the dart, a fishing pond, bean bag toss, etc.  Each game was 50 cents to play and the kids were given a Dollar Store Prize at each one. What a fun way to spend the morning!  We had lunch there as well – hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, and smoked meat sandwiches.  A meal and drink was just $2 each!  We played a couple more games after lunch and then went back to the cabin to get a few things ready for supper before heading back out for the afternoon.

One of Eddie Eastman's Junos.

We came all the way to Newfoundland for Montreal smoked meat!

Our first stop in Terra Nova Park was at Ochre Hill, where we set out to climb to the top of the fire tower.  We got about two flights up and froze.  I had visions of the girls falling through the open risers and led them back down.  D’Arcy got up another flight further than I did, but it was windy and he also quickly made his way back down.  Stefan took our boys and went up the fire tower as far as they could go.  Alex froze at one point, but I have to give him credit – when Evan and Stefan kept climbing, he went too.  The views were spectacular, I’m sure.  (They were even from the second flight!)  We continued along the trail and set the cameras up on timers to try to get a group photo with the ten of us.  We were amazed at how well it turned out and had some laughs as D’Arcy & Stefan tried to scramble down the rocks before the timer went off!

The fire watch tower

The view from the second landing!

Olivia, Gabriel, Lily & Sarah - do you think Olivia's having fun?

Checking out the view with a little help!

The two families together

After Ochre Hill, we drove to the Information Centre to warm up and play in the touch tank.  Krista works at the park, so she was a wonderful tour guide!  The biology teacher in D’Arcy came out and he was teaching the kids all kinds of information about the sea creatures.  They had a lot of fun exploring – Olivia picked up a starfish and Alex was even brave enough to pick up a crab!  The park staff put on a video for the kids of Buddy Washisname and the Other Fellows exploring Terra Nova Park and searching for Moose.  We spent some time at the playground and then went on another hike with a GPS which told the story of people who had worked the land at the site of the park in the early 1900’s.  They were loggers & ran sawmills, but fished all summer.

The real iceburgs were too far north, so we haven't seen any

Touch Tank

Alex and the crab

The biology teacher emerges

Sarah the acrobat

The boys

Poor Olivia - not having any fun at all!

We decided we still had time and energy to fit in one more short hike, so we drove to a trail which ran along a brook to a waterfall.  It was a trail that Krista had hiked in September to assess damage from Hurricane Igor.  Everywhere we’ve been in the past few days, we’ve seen signs of the destruction and rebuilding from the Hurricane.  There are new culverts being built everywhere!

The waterfall was beautiful and we took the opportunity to get a few more photos taken.  The kids loved throwing rocks into the water and we found some moose droppings!  We still haven’t seen an actual moose yet though.

Some of the trees down from Hurricane Igor

With Krista

Playing at the water's edge

Fast friends!

The only sign of moose so far!

We noticed the bear warning on our way out...

We went back and the girls played outside on the trampoline while the boys played Uno with Gabriel.  When the boys joined the girls on the trampoline, the arguments started and the trampoline time was over.   Tracy, Wade & their girls arrived, bringing traditional Newfoundland “cooked dinner” (Salt beef, carrots, turnip, cabbage & potatoes) complete with Peas Pudding!  It was delicious – and safe for Olivia!!

Deep frying the turkey

Trampoline fun!

After supper, the adults sat around the table talking & laughing while the kids played and did crafts.  Evan, Alex & Wade played a game of crib together and the boys both skunked him!  Apparently Stefan will be bringing this up many times in the future…  Olivia ended up falling asleep in the midst of the chaos and the rest of the kids watched a movie while Olivia slept on Alex’s lap.

The infamous crib game!

Crafts!

Safe & cozy with Alex

It was close to midnight again when everyone finally got to bed, but what a fun day.  The kids love hiking and exploring outside.  Evan declared the day to be “awesome”.  The Muellers are very easy to be around and we enjoyed meeting and getting to know their friends as well.

Our final morning in Terra Nova, we got up after nine again.  Krista & Stefan made breakfast of strawberries & yogurt, toast, potato wedges, bacon and fried bologna while we got the van packed up.  After breakfast we went outside to plant the trees that we had picked up the day before at Terra Nova Days.  Olivia had a meltdown when we allowed Alex to help her dig her hole.  We were certainly seeing signs of late-night hangover from her!  We got photos of the kids with the trees and we’ll look forward to seeing how big they are the next time we are able to return. We said our goodbyes with hugs all around.  Hopefully they will be coming back to Nova Scotia next summer to meet their new niece or nephew and we’ll get to see them then.

Planting trees

We set off just before noon and went to find one of the geocaches hidden in Terra Nova.  We were hardly out of the yard when Olivia asked if she could take a nap.  We gave the kids the option of staying in the car if they were too tired to go, but they all jumped at the opportunity.  We hiked across a bridge and about a kilometre down a trail.  We went out onto a beach and realized we were on the wrong side of the water.  The girls, again, occupied themselves by throwing rocks into the water while the boys searched through the bushes.  By the time we went around to join them, the boys had already found the cache!  We took a Canada Flag lapel pin and left the glass traffic light and another business card – wondering if we can write the trip off as an advertising expense now?! Evan ran all the way back to the van while the girls took turns getting piggy-backed by their father.  Olivia announced that she needed to go to the bathroom, so we took the quick trip back to Krista & Stefan’s, knowing that the next gas station was quite a distance away.  After all, they did tell us that we were welcome to come back at any time!

Exploring parts of Newfoundland we might not have otherwise seen!

We had more hugs, got a bag of strawberries for the road, and said our goodbyes before heading out towards St. John’s and our next adventures!

Busy Worrying

April 1, 2010

It’s been hard to post & update lately, as I’ve been too consumed with worry to make anything sound interesting.

I’m worried about my friend Kate & her emotional state.  She has every right to be angry and desperate and right now she is. The future of her toes is still in question. She has been moved from the hospital to rehab, but is still at the top-most level of hospital care in the rehab facility.  This means?  An inflexible policy of No Babies Allowed.  Period.  She will not get to see her newborn son Isaac (who will be a month old on Monday) until she is released to go home.  I spoke with her on the phone for the first time on Tuesday and although she understands this rule on an intellectual level, it broke my heart when she told me, “I would not know him if I passed him on the street.”

Heartbreaking.

I can’t help but worry about her.

On Monday, we woke up to the news of the Moscow suicide bombings.  My childhood sweetheart, Jeff – or Joe as he is affectionately known in this house, lives in Moscow with his wife & daughter and travels that Metro line to his office each day.  Thank heavens for the technology of Facebook and time-zones.  When we heard the news, we were able to log on and receive the update that yes, it was his line, but he was okay.  In his own words, “I was walking into Frunzenskaya station on my way one stop to Park Kultury, where I transfer–when I met a huge wave of people pushing out in the other direction. Glad I stopped for that Starbucks before getting on the metro after all.”

That was too close for comfort, what a frightening & unpredictable world we are bringing our children up in!

The state of tourism in this province seems to be falling apart! We’ve lost the ferry to the States, this town lost the opportunity to have an outsider come invest in our economy, the Hector in Pictou has been closed, Keltic Lodge is scaling back its operations and B&B’s are closing all over the place.  By the time the economy turns back around, we won’t have the infrastructure left to support tourism.

The current government just does not seem to “get it” that Tourism is an economic generator.

I find this so frustrating!

On top of that, Evan has been having a tough time at school again since March Break, another B&B operator – a mentor – has had his leg amputated below the knee due to the flare-up of a circulatory problem, and D’Arcy is still trying to get that Thesis finished up.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get everything we want to get done finished before guest season starts. (Next week!!)

Not much fun material in all that, especially since it’s all out of my control!

Another hurdle conquered!

March 18, 2010

This has been an exhausting week.  Emotionally, we have been wrung-out with worry over our friend Kate.  Physically, we have spent the week cleaning out both our attic and our basement.  And when I say cleaning, I mean cleaning.

I found a bag containing the wrapping paper & bows from my bridal shower in the basement.  That means I’ve moved that particular bag of garbage – sentimental garbage, but garbage nonetheless – to four different homes!  We found papers that each of us had written in university!  (D’Arcy was finishing his first degree when I was finishing Jr. High, so you can imagine how long those have been hanging around!)

To say that this spring cleaning was long overdue is an understatement!

Also on the agenda this week was a dentist appointment for Evan.  His last appointment resulted in disaster, so I was nervous about taking him back.  We did make some arrangements ahead of time so that it would go easier:  his hygiene appointment was with our dentist, Dr. Mike, Evan was able to take his own toothpaste rather than use the gritty polish that makes him gag, and he asked if I would sit in the room with him.  We talked about the appointment ahead of time and I tried to reassure him that if he needed a break, he could just tell Dr. Mike and he would stop.

He was reluctant, but stoic, and did everything he was told.  Dr. Mike had also been at the Brier the same day we were, so they talked about that a bit first to break the ice.  Also, I remembered from years ago when Mike & I were in school together, that tomorrow is his birthday and we had a great laugh that I remembered after all these years!  Evan thought that was funny.

Mike looked in his mouth and saw all of Evan’s missing teeth and announced, “This won’t take me very long – I don’t have much to work on!”  That made Evan smile too!

They got through the whole appointment with no problems and even took x-rays!  I was so relieved, but even more so, I was so proud of Evan for facing and conquering his fear!

We got through the appointment and went shopping for some clothes for Evan to wear curling.

While there, I received a text from Willem that he was giving Kate back her phone.  I could feel free to text, but please don’t call (in case she’s sleeping).  She woke up on Tuesday and had her breathing tube removed yesterday.  Now she’s awake and knows what happened to her.  Willem posted on her blog earlier this week: ” The official diagnosis was sepsis caused by a type A strep infection. Necrotizing fasciitis devastated her reproductive system requiring a complete hysterectomy as well as removal of infected tissue in her abdominal wall. Luckily, it seems that the infection was contained and did not impact any of the nearby organs.”

She is upright and lucid, but still exhausted as her body heals.  It is my understanding that she is still in the ICU and will continue to be hospitalized for weeks as opposed to days.  However, when I checked my phone tonight, I had a text.

From Kate.

It said:  “Next time I think I’ll just start with a bad hangnail instead of going straight for the big guns when I want attn. xo”

Music to my ears!!

Baby Isaac went home yesterday and is reported to be thriving.  I’m so happy that I can get updates from Kate herself now because something tells me Willem has his hands full!

Best news all week!

March 13, 2010

I’ve had a few texts tonight from Willem, updating us on Kate’s health.  He sounds better than I’ve heard him sound since last weekend.  We had the first glimmer of hope on Thursday when he was told that there was no new infection and she wasn’t any worse.  Last night’s update said that her numbers were trending better and skin tone was improving, but it would still be a long road to recovery.

This morning we heard that she had a good night and that they were planning to start weaning her off some medications to see how her body would react.

I kept busy all day and held my breath while waiting for news.

Tonight, Willem sent us the text we had been waiting for:  “So much to be positive about today. Kate is showing improvement in every area. The Drs. are very encouraged and so are we. Time to stop mourning and look forward to her recovery!!”

Deep breaths!

I got two more texts after that with other details.  They will be waking her up slowly over a number of days.  She was 95% sedated today and was responding to touch & voices with a flutter of her eyelids or a twitch of her finger.  Something to be positive about!

He told us that the doctors do not expect her to have any brain damage.

More deep breaths!

It is too early to tell what permanent damage she will have, and they know she has a long, hard road ahead of her.  There has been talk of a need for physical therapy, but I’m not clear what for. She remains on a ventilator in the Surgical ICU, but everyone is hopeful for the first time this week.

And as for this precious boy?

He’s doing well and they expect he will be coming home in a few days!

Our friend Kate

March 11, 2010

I’ve had no words this week.  I was ecstatic to learn that our friend Kate had a beautiful baby boy named Isaac last Friday night.  We texted back & forth with details & she sent photos.  She told me that she expected to be home on Monday, but that Isaac, born more than four weeks early, would probably be  staying some extra time to get his breathing stabilized.  The last message I got from her (at bedtime on Saturday) said that she had gotten to hold him for the first time! D’Arcy sent her husband Willem a text on Sunday, joking that he trusted the birth of Isaac had taken Willem’s mind of the results off the Canada/US Olympic Hockey game!

Willem sent a happy, joking text back.

She sent me the following photo:

Newborn baby Isaac with proud Mommy, Kate

Fast forward to Tuesday when we learned that she was in surgery because of a massive infection.

What?

I’ve felt conflicted about writing out her story here because it’s not really my story to tell, but Kate is really to credit for getting me started with this blog. She’s been blogging for years and helped me set ours up.  Whenever I have a technical question, she is the person I ask.  Kate is not afraid to let it all hang out, (she’s a psychologist, she doesn’t bottle things up!) and I’m sure she will tell her story as soon as she can.  In the meantime, I’m hoping this will help me process it all.

She’s been unconscious since Tuesday.

She’s had a major life-changing surgery to get rid of the source of the infection.

She has sepsis.

She had a second surgery last night to see if any of her other organs had infection.

She had a third surgery this morning because her abdomen was red and they needed to investigate.

The bacteria causing the infection has now been identified as Group A Streptooccus.

She is VERY sick.

In the meantime baby Isaac is in the Special Care Nursery of a different hospital, battling jaundice & other effects of being born at 35 ish weeks gestation.  No word on when he’ll be released.

Our two families have a number of connections.  Their daughter Emily is the same age as Alex.  Kate & I both had miscarriages around the same time and went on to get pregnant and support one another while having Jacob & Sarah three months apart.  Willem & D’Arcy both teach and have been studying for the past number of years, not to mention they share a love of sports and beer…  Although they live outside of Boston now, they came and stayed with us back in 2007, and it was with them that we stayed and visited on our way to Disney World in 2008.  Kate & I connect nearly everyday either through the computer or by text (the only people I ever text are Kate & D’Arcy) and I was among the very first to know about this much wanted pregnancy.

How did I find out?  She texted me a photo of her pregnancy test in the summer which I received while at Evan’s baseball game!

I had an infection in my uterus after the birth of Olivia which sent me back into hospital on  IV antibiotics and pain killers.  At that time, she rallied with some mutual friends and sent food and gift certificates for groceries.  It was so helpful and we were touched.

I only have one photo of the two of us together, taken during their visit here in 2007.  It seems as I look back at the photos that we felt visiting and taking photos of our children together was more important than getting photos of ourselves…

Kate, Annie & Olivia (and Sarah in the background) June 2007

I feel so helpless being here, but know that their family & friends are supporting them.  Willem has been thoughtful enough to send us updates by text as soon as he gets them himself.  He is sounding exhausted and desperate today.  It has been a whirlwind week for him and he is being torn in so many different directions.  From what I’ve heard, Emily & Jacob are coping fairly well so far, just knowing that “Mommy is in the hospital”.  Willem has been keeping their routine as normal as possible and Kate’s mom has arrived to help out.  Her dad lives close by and has been back & forth everyday and her sisters are arriving to help out through March Break next week.

At this point, we wait.  We don’t know how long they intend to keep her unconscious so that her body can regroup.   We don’t know if the antibiotics are working.

The update tonight was that there was no change.  We’re all trying to be positive and remember that at least she’s not worse.

Willem posted the following photo on Kate’s blog last night and called the post “No Words”.  It was taken during Kate & Isaac’s first snuggle together on Saturday.  I pray that they will all be snuggling together again soon to make up for lost time!

"No Words"



Superbowl Weekend

February 7, 2010

f you’re looking for football in this post, you won’t find it.  Well, the game is on in the background, but the kids are all sound asleep, D’Arcy is marking, I’m interneting and we had roast beef, potatoes & vegetables for supper rather than nachos & chicken wings.

In the real sports news, Team Fitzner-LeBlanc won the mens Provincial Curling Championship today!  We knew them when…  Our nephew, Chris, curled with that team until he moved to Calgary last year and they always stay with us when they are curling in this area.  Like this tournament, they have never been defeated when they slept here, so we’re thinking that we’ll offer them some rooms during the upcoming Brier. When Evan was four, they went to the Nationals as Juniors and won the bronze.  Evan watched them on tv and got hooked on the sport; as a result, he now has a goal to go to the Olympics as a curler, so we’ll watch to see how dedicated he is to practicing…

We’ve had a busy weekend.  After curling on Friday, we all (all six of us) went to Martha & Stephane’s for dinner.  They do not have a peanut free home, and this was the first time Olivia had been there since her diagnosis when she was 10 months old.  (Everything went fine, so they should watch out because we may be coming over for Stephane’s scallops all the time!)  Martha had made sure that the kitchen was extra clean and we brought along safe ham and dessert (cupcakes for the kids and pies for the grown-ups).

When we first got there, I handed over a gift my father had given me to present to Martha; a drawing of Martha & Chloe from a photo taken at Sarah’s birthday.  There were a few tears shed…

Martha & Chloe

We made pizzas for the kids and then Chef Steph took over the kitchen and made Coquilles St. Jacques for the grown ups.  Let’s just say I cleaned my plate.  (I would have licked it, had it been socially acceptable.  I love scallops!  The kids got along great (save for one moment when a very tired Sarah couldn’t wait 30 seconds for her turn on the wii and the fact that Olivia just wasn’t used to being “out” since she usually is left with my parents…)

Thank you to Martha for sending along all the Polly Pockets which necessitated an overhaul of our toy closet this morning!  Not that it wasn’t long overdue…  Congrautlations Phinn on the new toys you are about to score!  Chloe is going to be coming over soon to give me a tutorial on how the Pollys work.

(The following photos are from my phone; I forgot to take my camera:)

The boys

Chloe's lost teeth

The girls

Every party needs some rhythmic gymnastics!

Sarah & Olivia get their first look at an "American Girl" catelog

Chef Steph

The boys work on a puzzle

Chef Steph is a good sport!

Mart & Darce

Steph, getting his sleeping baby fix

The rest of the weekend was taken up with basketball, a free-throw competition, grocery shopping, a play with Ginna & Beanah for the kids, Thesis Meeting, Family Games Night, Sunday School, Mass, Choirs for Comfort, Cookie baking, Skating, etc…  We’ll look forward to the school week for a break!  ;-P