Sebastian’s gift

It was two years ago to the day that my “mommy group” gathered at my country home with our babies for a long-awaited getaway together. It was a weekend full of fun and laughter. But all that changed in a blink of an eye. This is an article I wrote shortly after that fateful weekend and I thought it would be worth sharing on this day. Thank you to Berit and Sebastian for letting me share this story.

Sebastian’s gift

When I heard the woman screaming for help, I did not hesitate – this time. I flew from the checkout where I had been waiting in line with my groceries and ran to her, quickly realizing she had a baby in distress. This was my moment, and I knew exactly what to do.

Flashback three months, to what was the most frightening experience of my life. My three girlfriends and I had finally gathered at my remote country home with our young babies in arms. We had anticipated this baby weekend getaway for months and were so happy to finally be there.

The kids were precious in their brand new little rubber boots, and we moms spent most of our time laughing. The morning of the incident, we had all gathered at the kitchen table for our breakfast. Jodi, a bartender in her early years, mixed us some amazing Caesars and we joked that somebody had better stay sober in case we had to drive to the hospital.

L-R  Selena, Alessia, Cal and Sebastian ready for a country walk the day before we called 911.


Selena, Alessia, Cal and Sebastian ready for a country walk the day before we called 911.

Ha, ha. Little did we know that half an hour later, we would be placing a 911 call and doing exactly that.

Seventeen-month-old Sebastian had run a fever that morning. He felt hot, but not so hot that we felt the need to take his temperature. He went down for his morning nap and slept well. Upon awakening, he still felt warm but was his precious little self otherwise, and we thought nothing of it. We were gathered in a group watching a video on someone’s iPhone when his mother, who had been holding him at the time, realized something was wrong.

Those were her exact words. “Something’s wrong. CALL 911! CALL 911!!!”

We were all so shocked at the suddenness of it. Sebastian had gone stiff in his mother’s arms. He was unresponsive, frothing at the mouth and was turning blue. Two of us scrambled for our phones and managed to place the emergency call while his mother ran to the living room and watched in horror as our friend performed CPR on his little body.

He’s dying, his mother was screaming. Those screams I will never, ever forget. It was absolutely terrifying.

After what felt like an eternity (but was actually only a minute or two) Sebastian’s breathing became regular, and he was in recovery. We didn’t know it at the time, but he had just come through his first febrile seizure.

Flash forward to the grocery store. It was definitely my moment. I grabbed the baby from the screaming mother and recognized immediately what was happening, thanks to the Sebastian experience. The 911 call was placed and I was able to establish very quickly that, despite being blue in colour, his heart was beating and as I held him, I could feel him taking little breaths. I placed him immediately into the recovery position, and eventually, he came out of his seizure and his body relaxed.

The entire time I calmly reassured the mother, who was absolutely terrified, that he was going to be alright.

When the ambulance arrived and I left the grocery store 15 minutes later, I sat in my car and cried. I thought of little Sebastian, and how the horror of that day at my country home had changed my life – all of our lives, in fact. The universe had made me witness something so frightening, but in doing so had provided me with the gift of knowledge. I marvelled at how I was somehow meant to be at that grocery store, at that moment, if only to save a mother from thinking that her baby was dying. That was Sebastian’s gift to me, and my gift to her.

Years have passed since that moms-and-babes getaway, but what happened that weekend has stayed with each of us. The experience left us raw, but it brought our friendship even closer. We made taking a first aid course a priority (as should we all!) and feel better prepared for the unexpected in general.

berit

Sebastian and Berit, by Christophe Strube, summer 2013

Sebastian recently celebrated his third birthday.  He has continued to seizure periodically over the years but is a happy and healthy little boy who will eventually grow out of these frightening spells entirely. His mommy might have a few extra grey hairs, but hey, when you’re that beautiful, who’s counting? ;)

I have included some information about febrile seizures below. It is my belief that all paediatricians should be screening for this. It only takes a second to explain, and it could save a new parent from experiencing that terror of thinking their baby is dying.

According to Epilepsy Ontario, febrile seizures (febrile, meaning “feverish”) are a virtually harmless medical incident experienced by three to four per cent of children, usually boys, between the ages of three months and five years. While they can be frightening, febrile seizures usually end without treatment and don’t cause any other health problems. Having one doesn’t mean that a child will have epilepsy or brain damage. But, they can be terrifying to witness. Your baby’s body will stiffen, his eyes will roll upward and his head and limbs will be jerky. Often the child will froth at the mouth and can turn blue. These seizures are caused by a sudden spike in body temperature, in fevers generally above 38.3 degrees Celsius. Children are vulnerable to these seizures because of their developing brain, but other factors like a history of febrile seizures in the family will make them more susceptible. In Sebastian’s case, after his first seizure they discovered that his father had experienced febrile seizures as a child.

 

Here are some helpful tips :

  • If this is your child’s first seizure, call 911. Stay as calm as you can. Most febrile seizures last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.
  • Place your child on a flat surface on his side in the recovery position. Do not move him unless he is in danger or near something dangerous. Do not restrain him.
  • Contrary to popular belief, you can’t swallow your tongue during a seizure. Wipe away any vomit or saliva outside his mouth, but do not put anything between his teeth. The mother at the grocery store was trying to pour water in her child’s mouth. This is NOT a good idea. Do not attempt to put anything in his mouth.
  • When the seizure stops, keep your child on his side in the recovery position.
  • After the seizure he will be sleepy. Allow him to rest and gradually wake him.
  • Research from Aboutkidshealth.ca, says that there is a 25 percent chance that if one child has a febrile seizure so will their younger sibling. Talk to your child’s paediatrician if you have any questions or concerns.

Hobby Farm- phase two: Goats

After much hammering, sawing and sweeping, the back corner of our barn has been transformed into a cosy pen for our two latest residents.

Beginning stages of building the stall.

Beginning stages of building the stall.

All done!

All done!

Meet Stella and Beulah. Named respectfully after two great-grandmothers.

Stella and Beulah

Stella and Beulah

Our 7 week old “kids” arrived last week from my friend Robin’s farm. Robin is a local farmer and paramedic who I went to school with from Kindergarten right through high school. When these two little twin girls were born she texted me that they should be mine. I, of course, could not agree more!

The cats are having a difficult time accepting that the pen was not being built for their pleasure, and that there are now creatures in their universe that they are unable to kill or intimidate. It’s quite funny to watch them face-off. The goats are unfazed.

George and Tom meeting the goats

George and Tom meeting the goats

Phase One: chickens, has gone smoothly. The “ladies” aren’t as eager for their kisses anymore, but endure them nonetheless. They are fully grown now and quite beautiful. Check out this picture of Henrietta (who is not typically welcomed into the house but snuck in  by one of the girls)! They will be laying for us by the end of summer.

Henrietta

Henrietta

Now, it’s time to find some work clothes. I can’t be mucking out pens in my summer dresses and sandals!

Or, can I?

The country drop-in

Fresh farm eggs, a hand-made wooden stool, an apple pie still hot from the oven, a basket of organic vegetables just pulled from the ground, and a jar of local honey.

These are just a few examples of the welcome gifts presented to my family by neighbours when we moved here. In the early frenzied days of unpacking and settling in, there would be a knock on the door and a neighbour would be standing there, with a beautiful, welcoming gift in hand. So quintessentially country! Again and again, we were struck by their kindness.

Local harvest from a neighbour

Local harvest from a neighbour

There is often little to no warning when suddenly there is someone standing at the door. It’s a bit unnerving, actually; when you think you’re alone and then suddenly, you’re not. But these country drop-ins have become a regular part of my new life in the country.

In the city, visits were always orchestrated and well planned. People don’t drop-in. The closest I ever came to a drop-in there was a last minute phone call to get together. I’m not sure why that is. But in the country, drop-ins are prevalent. My city friends will often ask me things like “what do you do up there?” and “aren’t you bored?” “I’m not sure,” I’ll reply.

The truth is, I’ve never been busier, or more social. In fact, country living is exhausting! A friend of mine on Facebook once joked that he had to return to the city to relax. Now I know what he means. Considering I live in the middle of nowhere it may seem surprising, but I have people around me all of the time!

We learned very quickly (and the hard way) that you must always be prepared for unexpected visitors in the country. I have eluded in previous blog posts of our nudist approach to this place when we first bought the property. We believed that there was safety in our seclusion here and would often shed it all, just because we could. One particularly hot day, Rob was buck naked attending to some repairs outside the barn while I held the ladder (yes, I know…) when Great Grandma decided to “drop-in.”

Fortunately he was able to don his clothing again before Grandma noticed him and had a heart attack! Another time, my sister and I were sunbathing in all our topless beauty when my roofer decided to “drop-in” for some details. We scrambled for our clothes but not before he and his wife got a good look. She refused to get out of the truck. Oh well.

I can only hope that in some way, she will be forever altered by what she witnessed that day.

The early days-Daddy and Cal enjoying a carefree stroll through the orchard

The early days-Daddy and Cal enjoying a carefree stroll through the orchard

Now, though, things are different. Now that we appreciate how suddenly and unexpectedly the drop-in can occur. I am rarely in a state of undress here, just in case. And there is a part of me that is at the ready for the infamous drop-in at all times. And the truth is I love it!

These little impromptu visits are gems in my day. Just yesterday a huge red pickup truck pulled in my lane and an equally huge man and his wife jumped out to introduce themselves. Turns out they had been previous owners of the property and had some gifts for us. They had found hand written and signed tax receipts from the original owners (the Mulvihills-read about their story of survival and loss in the ‘about’ section on my homepage) dating back to 1874 stuffed into the original chinking of our home. They had them framed and wanted to pass them on to us.

I invited them in and, when my neighbours on the twelfth also dropped by, it was a party in the making! Our harvest table is often surrounded by visitors; young and old, family and friends old and new. It has served as a platform for laughter and tears, dreams and the occasional meltdown. And more often than not, it has been brought to life in the spirit of the country drop-in.

Enough already!

I recently read an article dealing with ageing. Despite the many clichés, it really hit home with me.

I’ve reached an age where I find myself looking at my body critically. I’m falling into all the traps. I catch myself pulling my face back, searching my reflection for my younger self.  I check out my backside in the mirror, wondering where my ass went (oh, there it is – above the back of my knees) and my boobs. Well….

My hair is greying at an alarming rate. The sleep creases on my face and chest when I wake up in the morning seem to linger for hours, refusing to let go. The lines around my mouth are particularly troubling.

I could go on and on. And sadly, my inner voice does.

Having spent over 20 years working in an industry that celebrates beauty certainly hasn’t helped. I won’t elaborate on that belaboured topic, but one can well imagine how that would affect a person living and working in that world for so long. Ageing as a woman is stressful enough, but ageing as a model has its unique set of challenges.

Despite all of this, I have been careful to promote a healthy view on ageing. I try to lead by example with my children. I remind them that, in my opinion, beauty is a virtue, not an asset. I don’t wear makeup, and my hair is worn in a ponytail more often than not.

I have always felt my true beauty was my personality – something I was fine with believing until my physical beauty began to fade. Have I been lying to myself all these years? Maybe I believed beauty wasn’t important to me because I was beautiful.

Looking at my reflection now, and not loving what I see, does that make me a hypocrite? Why do I feel compelled to judge myself like this? I guess in a way, I’m disappointed in myself. I need to snap out of it; I know better. Enough already!

Ageing is a privilege. I have known way too many people whose lives ended too soon, people who would have given anything to see their ageing faces looking back at them in a mirror. Lives cut short. If only they could experience the feeling of having survived another year.

It certainly puts things into perspective, and it makes my superficial complaints seem so childish and selfish.

Moving forward, my goal will be to embrace the passing years and all that comes with them. I should be proud: these changes are the battle scars that tell the story of who I am. And it’s a wonderful story. My lips have kissed away booboos, been kissed in friendship and in passion and brushed thousands of cheeks. My “ass” has flown 35,000 feet above the earth more times than I can count. It has sat in trains, theatres, on park benches, hospital beds, and oceans – plus the occasional photocopier, “back in the day.” My breasts have felt the tenderness of early pregnancy and the pain of breastfeeding. They have nourished and comforted three babies.

And my wrinkles? These lines on my face form the landscape of a life fully lived. They speak of years of laughter and happiness. This face has been held between the hands of lovers and caressed by the tender hands of my children. And sadness, loss and strife?  Those lines are there too. Without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Baby love

Baby love

It’s a good reminder that time doesn’t really take away. Rather, it gives. It helps you write the chapters of your life. Yes, it’s a wonderful story. And it is not finished yet. It’s time to look in the mirror with pride.

Who is with me?

Bugs

I love bugs. I do. Except for flies and mosquitos.

Inner-city living will present you with bugs, of course. The odd fly or bumblebee might find its way into your home. An evening stroll or drink on a patio might entice a stray mosquito, but rarely. But the country? Country living finds you surrounded, hounded and plagued. And like the racoons, these country bugs mean business.

I remember visiting my cousins’ farmhouse when I was a child and marvelling at how easily the family coexisted with the flies. Flies were everywhere: on the table, on the walls, on your face…suspended and motionless in the green Jell-O mould….

My cousins were oblivious to them; unfazed by these little creatures that I knew, even back then, were born of feces.

Now these farm flies have become my problem. What to do? I’ve been asking my neighbours about their strategies and was expecting some age-old magic cures passed along from generations of farm living, but to no avail. Short of hanging fly tape all over my house, or spraying my home with pesticide (which I’m not about to do), I’m going to have to learn to be at one with the flies. Something I’m not willing to accept.

Then there are the mosquitos. Sweet jeezus, the mosquitos! In my effort to maintain a healthy, functioning nervous system in my body and in those of my children, I’ve opted to forgo the DEET in favour of a more natural alternative. I have tried everything from dabbing vanilla extract to my pressure points (was sceptical-and no, I’m not crazy) to rubbing lavender leaves all over my body, but these approaches were not effective.

However, I have found a concoction that seems to be working!

I Googled homemade bug repellent recipes, and this one from Wellness Mama caught my eye.

My take on it was similar but I did make a few changes. And please note: This will sting if you get it in any cuts, and watch your eyes!

Here’s my recipe:

Fill spray bottle (I used 16 ounce bottle that I found for 2$ in the bbq section of my local grocery store) 1/2 full with cooled, boiled water

Add witch hazel to fill almost to the top

Add 1 tsp glycerin

60 drops (give or take) of essential oils. I used a mixture of

Clove, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree Oil, Peppermint and Rosemary

Shake well and voila!

Bug Off

Bug Off

It smells amazing, and misted on your body, it’s quite refreshing on a hot day. You must SHAKE WELL before use and I re-apply it every time I go out the door. It won’t damage your clothes, and it can go in your hair, too. I even sprayed my dog (don’t use it on your cats because they’ll lick it and I don’t know if it would hurt them).

My daughter and I applied some and took a stroll through the trees – not a single bite. We fed the chickens – no bites. We did cartwheels and sat on the grass. I cracked my hip joints, but only got one bite on my upper inner thigh (where I hadn’t sprayed). It was incredible! I haven’t been able to stroll around my property and enjoy it like this in weeks because of these pests. This is a big deal!

As for the flies. I’m still working on that one. Fortunately, we don’t eat Jell-O.

 

The ‘Licker Store’

Cal and tantrum. Circa 2012

Cal and tantrum. Circa 2012

Looking back, I can see the humour in this. But at the time, I was mortified.

We’ve all experienced the grocery store melt-down at least once, either as the parent of the kid who is freaking out, or as the bystander having to listen to it. Whichever your vantage point, it is always irritating and sometimes extremely embarrassing. I was lucky that my daughters would rarely tantrum in public. But when they did, I had the anonymity of city dwelling to shelter me. All the faces that would look and judge were the faces of strangers, so I really didn’t care what they thought.

In a small community that cloak of anonymity drops, and you can feel a bit naked without it, let me assure you.

My son is getting to the age now where he tries to take me on intellectually, and sadly, often wins. “Why did you do that?” I will ask. “Because, I did that,” he will reply.

We’ll hold eye contact for a few seconds, until I look away in defeat. It’s hard to argue with that logic.

For many parents of young children, the trip to the grocery store can be stressful. It’s hard to keep the toddler strapped into the cart while trying to be a smart-shopper, and letting them out is simply not a wise option. The outing is often preceded with bribes and in some cases outright threats. Two things that, in my righteous pre-parenting days, I thought I would never do.

But threats and bribes have become two of the most effective tools in my parenting arsenal.

And so it was that I found myself at the local grocery store along with my mother and my son when Cal convinced me he could walk instead of riding in the cart. I was feeling generous and decided to allow it, but I warned him that if he ran off or touched things, he would find himself back in the cart.

Seconds later, he ran off and touched things. I wrestled him back into the cart. He was furious. I could see it happening; I could see his little brain trying to find just the right words to let me know the depth of his rage and disappointment. And then, he found them. Perfect in their simplicity. And, with a voice radiating decibels only achieved by infant vocal chords, yelled:

 

“YOU HAVE A VAGINA, AND IT’S DISGUSTING!”

 

I could see all the heads in my vicinity turning towards me in perfectly-timed synchronicity. I am grateful for the gene that separates me from the violent creature I could be. Instead of doing what I wanted to do, I calmly exited the store.

But, I had to swallow my pride and return a few days later. It’s my local grocery store after all, and there aren’t many up here. And so with as much dignity as I could muster, I returned, with my son in tow.

Now, remember my good friends “threat” and “bribe?” Well, they made an appearance in the car on the way. I promised Cal that if he behaved well and stayed in his cart at the grocery store, we would go to the liquor store on the way home. I know that sounds crazy, but here’s the thing: they give him suckers when he goes there. Little rewards for good behaviour. Now, I must explain something important here. He refers to suckers as “lickers.”

I suppose it’s because whenever his big sisters had suckers and he was too small to have his own, they would offer him “licks.” And so, “suckers” became “lickers.”

The irony here is that he calls the “Liquor Store” the “Licker Store.”

Cute, right?

Jump back to the grocery store. Cal has decided to be a jerk, and so I told him no licker store….

For the next 20 minutes, at the top of his lungs, he hollered:

“I WANT TO GO TO THE LICKER STORE! I WANT TO GO TO THE LICKER STORE! I WANT TO GO TO THE LICKER STORE!”

Sometimes, you just have to laugh. And after trying to explain to the lady at the check-out that he meant suckers, while she just looked at me blankly, I saw it for what it was: a fantastic story of the trials of parenting. And, of course my revenge will be sweet….

I get to teach him about the birds and the bees. And, vaginas.

 

And speaking of vaginas, check out this fabulous muff. “L’Origine du monde” by Gustave Courbet, 1866. I got to see the original hanging at the Musée D’Orsay three years ago in Paris. Beautiful.

 "L'Origine du monde" by Gustave Courbet, 1866.

“L’Origine du monde” by Gustave Courbet, 1866.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobby farm – phase 1: Chicken Update

 

The "ladies" in the orchard.

The “ladies” in the orchard.

Well, despite the odds of being raised by novices in a house full of cats, our “ladies” as we like to call them, have grown into healthy and obnoxiously lovable creatures.

We nearly signed our divorce papers trying to assemble the pre-fab chicken coop. I’d like to go back to the Co-op and slap the pimple-faced kid behind the counter for telling me it only takes about 20 minutes to put together! I suppose if the morons who “pre-fabed” it knew their way around a measuring tape and how to use a level, it might have only taken 20 minutes. And that’s a big “might.”

Assembling the chicken coop from hell.

Assembling the chicken coop from hell.

It looks OK, but I’m thinking a raccoon would have no trouble unlocking it. We’ll have to do something about that. Raccoons in the country are a species unlike their city cousins. City raccoons are so dignified in comparison. These country guys? They will eat a dog.

So, the ladies are now able to graze free-range style in the orchard by day, and will be cooped up at night in the outdoor coop. They adjusted well to the transition. They even joined us for our picnic the other day, running over for scraps and hugs!

At the picnic.

At the picnic.

Rob was not impressed.