Nothing to report this week…

foggy morning sunshine
This week feels a bit like I’ve been walking through a fog. Hopefully the sunlight burns it all off soon…

Nothing has changed for a week

I’ve been going about my routines as though everything is perfectly normal. For the most part, it has been. I had thought that, by now, I would have received various calls I’ve been waiting for: from the surgeon to book my next biopsy, or from the CT department to move my scan up a bit, and so on. But I haven’t heard anything. This entire week has been radio silence from the health care side of things, and I’ve been going to work, coming home, making dinner, picking up the kids from daycare, doing laundry… all those perfectly normal, routine things that make up everyday life.

The difference from actual normalcy and this holding pattern I’ve been in shows itself when, every so often, the word cancer floats to the top of my consciousness. “Oh, hey, yeah, I have cancer,” and my stomach tightens a bit and I feel my heart beating a bit faster and I have to pause a moment to acknowledge the thought, give it a place in my mind, and continue doing whatever it is that I’m doing.

When I think about it, the sentence “I have cancer” never feels quite accurate. It’s not like having a cold. I didn’t catch this thing by having someone sneeze on me, or getting a bad blood transfusion. It’s my own cells trying to put in extra hours when they really should just relax. “I have cancer” doesn’t cover that. But I haven’t yet figured out a phrase to reflect the reality better that doesn’t sound vague and inaccurate.

So I’m carrying on with my life through occasional hiccups that make me stop in my tracks for a few seconds. I have my CT scan on Tuesday, since it never got moved closer. I’ll have surgery sometime soon. Chemo will start in November sometime I think. Nothing much has changed.

Slow cooker macaroni and cheese recipe

I’ve been planning to make some sort of slow cooker mac & cheese for a couple of weeks now, but didn’t get around to it until today. When I mentioned this on Facebook, I got numerous requests for the recipe, assuming it turned out well. All I did for the recipe was surf a bunch of different google results for ‘slow cooker macaroni and cheese’ until I had a vague idea of the ingredients needed, bought them from memory (vaguely) and hoped I could piece something together.

I went with the basic mac & cheese, rather than doing anything interesting with it, for two reasons. One, my daughter is a picky eater and I wanted to feed this to her, and two, I wanted to make sure I had a good base recipe to start from before I started doing fun things. This is your plain, ordinary, super-awesome macaroni and cheese.

In the future, I would consider adding peas, cauliflower, or other veggies that complement cheese, as well as bacon, sausage, or chicken breast pieces. I’d also happily mix up the cheeses — either different types of cheddar, or a blend of cheddar, gouda, mozzarella, and whatever other cheeses I had lying around the house. Because I usually have them lying around the house. I’m not kidding. If I wasn’t cooking for a picky four-year-old, I’d add some pepper during the cooking process too. I’d also add some sour cream or cream cheese to see how that affected the texture and flavour.

Slow cooker Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:
Half of a 900 gram box of macaroni noodles
1 tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil if you prefer)
1 can (370 ml) evaporated milk
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
About 4 cups of shredded cheese (I used extra old cheddar, and probably closer to 5 cups by the time I was done shredding)
1/2 cup of melted butter

Here’s how I prepared it:

Cook your macaroni noodles prior to putting them in the slow cooker. I may try cooking them in the slow cooker at some point, but I think the amount of liquid in the recipe would need to be increased.
Pour the cooked noodles into the slow cooker. Add about a tablespoon of oil. I used olive oil.
It’s a can of evaporated milk! I bought the stuff that was on sale.
Add the evaporated milk with one hand while attempting to take an in-focus photo with your SLR with the other. Or skip the photo-taking step. Your call.
Add the non-evaporated milk, again using the same one-handed technique for effective photo-taking.
Stir, stir, stir. Add the salt and stir some more.
Take a break from adding ingredients to the crock pot and attend to the cranky infant. If you don’t have a cranky infant to attend to, please feel free to borrow mine. As a secondary option, you can also attend to a bored four year old. I have one of those you can borrow too.
My mom worked at the Kraft cheese factory when I was a kid. My fondness for Cracker Barrel Extra Old Cheddar is a part of my history. This was my cheese of choice for this recipe, but for a creamier, less sharp final product you may want to go with a milder cheese.
Pour the shredded cheddar in to the mix and stir well.
Mmmm. Melted butter. Finally, pour in the melted butter and stir. I never claimed this was a low-fat recipe.
Let it all simmer in your slow cooker for 3-4 hours on low. Stir occasionally.
Serve topped with pepper and some shredded cheese to be extra classy — and enjoy.
Other people’s children approve of this recipe. Ignore the yellow light. Oh crap you’re looking at it now that I mentioned it.
My own child approves of this recipe. And she’s the picky one.

Watching someone become a person…

Lyra walking in Burrard Inlet
Lyra walking in Burrard Inlet

Every parent will tell you when you first have a baby to cherish every moment, because it goes by so quickly. You’ll hear it so many times that you’ll get sick of hearing about it, because you get it already.

Except I don’t think I actually did get it. I do now, or I’m starting to, but I still don’t want to tell new parents what they’ve been told a hundred times already, even if it’s true. It does go by quickly – far more quickly than you realize, until you look at the little person who used to be a baby, and notice that she’s suddenly outgrown those jeans that used to be unimaginably large, and that she’s got tastes and feelings about everything she sees and does, and is entirely willing to tell you all about it when she used to just take it all in without voicing an opinion at all.

It’s the becoming that really intrigues me when I watch Lyra, the similarities with either me or her father, and the differences. She has always been her own person, and it would be hopeless to try and form her into something she isn’t. She likes what she likes, and hates what she hates, and has full-blown emotions that she doesn’t know how to handle yet. We’re all discovering who she is along with her, and it’s probably the most interesting journey I’ve ever been on.

I don’t remember becoming who I was as a child. I remember when I became who I was as an adult – once I was finished school and off in the real world, I spent a long time trying to figure that out. I’d love it if she had a sense of that sooner than I did, and I’ll do my best to help her figure that out, but ultimately she will be who she is and will keep becoming herself forever.

Just like I am.

Lyra is almost three now and is becoming a feisty, independent, imaginative, mischievous imp. Embedded in that, though, she still considers most things very seriously before she acts, and is generous and empathetic for a 2.5-year-old.

I’m her mother; I’m bound to think the world of her, so of course I believe that she’s pretty much awesome. Every day I get to spend with her, discovering the world’s simplest complexities, feels like the best day yet, just like every age she reaches feels like the best age she’s ever been.

I don’t understand how it can be like this, but watching her become a person just keeps getting better and better. I can’t imagine it being better than it is now; but I felt the same way six months ago, a year ago, two years ago, and it kept getting better.

Soon enough she will turn three, and I’ll marvel at how fast the time has gone by since the sunny summer morning Adam and I walked to the hospital for her birth day. Newborn became baby became toddler became pre-schooler, and every second of it is full of wonder – for her and for me. It can’t possibly get any better.

And every time I say it can’t possibly get any better, it does.

Am I dreaming?

A dream I once hadI may have dreamed this scene at some point. When I first took the picture, the moment had that other-worldly memory to it, like it had happened before.

I also know it’s a common scene played out in movies and television all the time – the dream of a child just at the edge of your perception, running away from you, and the feeling that it’s vitally important for you to catch her, to keep up, to see where she’s going or protect her from harm. It’s almost archetypal.

But there I was, following my daughter as she ran through Park & Tilford Garden ahead of me, wondering if I had done this before in a dream, and if it would happen again. I’m glad to have captured the moment and the memory in a photo.

It’s not just a phone

I’ve been taking photos – a lot of photos – with my cellphone. The SLR snob in me is a bit annoyed, but the practical side of me has to face facts: with a 2 and a half year old in my life, carrying around ten pounds of camera gear just isn’t an option the way it used to be.

Last year I got a new Android Nexus One to replace my ancient cellphone. It’s nearly as powerful as my 5 year old laptop, and I’ve discovered that with a good camera app (namely, Vignette for Android) it’s a pretty powerful photographic tool. I’ve captured some shots with this phone that I’m very happy with… even proud of.

These are a few of my favourites:

It’s not so friendly, if you ask me…

I turned the last corner on a lovely walk from my home to the mall down the road and saw this building and its inviting sign. Behind the run-down fence covered in mildew and rust was the least appealing series of row houses that I had seen in a long time…. I felt sad for the people who lived behind that fence.

Friendship Place

Wading in the shallows at Rocky Point, Port Moody

My daughter, Lyra, is almost fearless. A warm autumn day and clear skies brought us out for a walk at Rocky Point park in Port Moody, where we discovered a ramp down to the water. In seconds she had waded in far enough to fill up her rubber boots, but she didn’t care – splashing around made her happy. When she’s happy, I’m happy. I’m glad I got a photo of this moment.

Wading in the shallows at rocky point

Kitsilano sunshine in spring

On my lunch break at the David Suzuki Foundation, when the weather is nice, my team will get sandwiches from the local Safeway and sit in the grass behind the store to eat them. Third Avenue is a piece of what makes Kitsilano beautiful – overhanging trees that throw dappled shadows on the road in the early spring, cherry blossom snow for that brief time in April when they’re blooming and magical, and on the occasional Vancouver snowfall they shine like the mountains themselves. It seems to me that this is sometimes overlooked next to Kitsilano’s more obvious charms – the beach and its view of the city and mountains, the shopping, the culture. This simple overhang of tree branches is my favourite thing about Kits.

My lunch spot behind Safeway in Kitsilano

The Olympic rush subsides

I like watching the Olympic sporting events. This is the first time I’ve lived in the host city for the Olympics and been able to experience them in such a direct way.

That isn’t to say that I bought tickets and went out to the events. I didn’t. There’s no room in my budget right now for that sort of thing, so I watched what I could (which was a lot) from the comfort of my own living room. Every workday, though, I was on a bus heading through the chaos. The mornings were fine — better than fine, even, since so many people were afraid to commute downtown the roads and buses were practically empty. The evenings on my way home were busier, sometimes excessively, but the atmosphere was one of celebration and friendliness, so I never really minded being a little late getting home.

Vancouver 2010 by night

I love watching the sports on tv, though. Women’s downhill, with so many wipeouts at such high speeds, reinforced my longtime fear of getting back on skis. (I fell when I was sixteen and terrified myself, and haven’t been skiing since.) Curling (yes, curling) had some crazy tense moments. Seeing the men’s moguls gold medal win was exciting. Watching the women’s gold medal game made me want to get out and join a team, even though I can’t even stand up on hockey skates. And today’s Canada-USA men’s hockey game was so intense and stressful and amazing to watch that I can’t really express it appropriately. It was maybe the best hockey game I’ve ever watched, and the winning moment felt like a triumph for the country somehow, and an amazing end to the whole show. Let’s not discuss the actual closing ceremonies (except that part where they raised the fourth pillar and let Catriona Le May Doan light it with her torch properly. That was classy. Oh yeah and Neil Young, I like him too.)

Considering I live in the host city, I didn’t really get out to many events. The logistics of navigating downtown with a toddler who wants to walk everywhere herself in those crowds was just too overwhelming to contemplate, and going without the family (which I did for one whirlwind night, and took photos of,) just wasn’t as satisfying somehow. There was certainly no chance we could get into the multi-hour lineups for some of the venues with Lyra to contend with, and in some ways that was a disappointing thing to come to terms with. In the end, though, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I don’t feel like I needed to get out to those events to be able to say that I was here during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I definitely don’t feel like I missed out because I have a kid and didn’t do my best to work around that fact. If it had really mattered that much to me, I would have made it happen.

Now that the games are over, the city will revert back to its normal self. I think some folks might have MegaPartyWhiplash after this. It’s definitely going to be strange to NOT have the games hanging over our heads all the time… I sometimes feel like that’s all people have talked about since I moved here. Now that it’s over, we get to enjoy the aftermath, which is probably not going to be very pretty. But hey, the highway to Whistler looks good now, and we got a new Skytrain line to the airport, so yay us. I can’t imagine what the longterm financial costs will be. Oh well, it’s not like I could afford a house here anyway.

But right now, after the games have ended and we’re all reeling from various victories and stories of winning against all the odds and so on, things feel pretty good. It was a fun ride, Vancouver, and thanks for coming out to play with the world for a couple of weeks.

Vancouver 2010 by night

Ontario Photos & update

The trip to Ontario ended over a week ago, but I haven’t given you an update yet. I shall now provide you with said update, alongside a few photos I took while in Toronto and New Liskeard.

To begin with, here is a link to all of the photos on my Flickr page.

The flight went quite well. We were up at 40,000 feet for much of the trip to Toronto, and while Adam had a lot of trouble with his ears, Lyra was perfectly happy. She spent much of the trip crawling between Adam’s & my laps, and looking around all the weird new stuff. She napped in my lap for part of it as well, and the take-off and landing didn’t bother her at all. Adam’s ears didn’t pop for a week.

Adam’s mother & Aunt met us at the airport in Toronto, and there was much fussing over Lyra. We went to Adam’s grandmother’s home and there was more fussing over Lyra. She loved how much space there was in the living room there, and crawled around for hours. Bedtime was late (Toronto time) but about right in Vancouver terms.

Asleep on the floor

Our first full day in Toronto was mother’s day, so after Lyra’s morning nap (which she took on the floor) we headed to Adam’s Aunt’s house to have a huge brunch with a bunch of his family members. There was much fussing over Lyra. At one point, she got put into a broken umbrella stroller which threatened to collapse at any moment so that Adam’s grandmother could take her for a walk down the street. We deemed the stroller unfit, named it the crushing stroller, and rescued Lyra from its clutches, only to have another stroller acquired for the purpose of taking her for a walk down the street. It was all incredibly amusing somehow. We rounded out the evening with a Mother’s Day dinner at Spring Rolls on Eglinton at Yonge. It was tasty.

The next day was Monday, and we headed in to Toronto proper to visit High Park. We had warned friends in advance that our Toronto visitation times were limited, and they would have to meet us there if they wanted to see us. Fortunately, a bunch of people were able to join us at the High Park zoo & playground. It was a nice afternoon outside.

At the Zoo

Lyra & her mommy
(photo by Brian Tao, who borrowed my camera to take a few shots)

The next morning we took the long drive to New Liskeard. We took our time, stopping whenever Lyra needed a break from the confines of her car seat, and it ended up only taking us a half hour or so longer than usual to do the drive (about six hours or so, I guess.) It was a lovely, sunny day, and Lyra was once again a superstar considering she was confined to a harness for most of the time.

Our visit to New Liskeard has become a mess of randomness in my brain. I have no clue what we did on what days, but I know that we stopped in to see Paul & Jenn at Chat Noir Books (where they make a fine cup of coffee,) and we spent a lot of time with Adam’s mom & dad, handing one of them Lyra at every opportunity. Also, we got poutine at least twice. There’s nothing like poutine close to the Quebec border.

We did go to North Bay for a day, as a nice excursion. We spent an hour or so hanging out in a park by the lake, and Lyra crawled around in the grass with her Grandmother (Bubby-T.)

Crawling in the grass

She also went to check out the beach with her Daddy.

Shadows

Beaches make baby Lyras ROAR:

ROAR!

Grass and sunlight make baby Lyras turn into anime characters:

Smiling at the sunlight

We also went to at least two Barbeque parties – it was the May 2-4 weekend, after all – and Lyra got to meet a couple of other babies and have social engagements with them:

Maddy & Lyra

Nearing the end of our time up in New Liskeard, we took a drive down to Temagami. Adam and his dad decided to take the boat (newly put back in the water after the winter) from the Marina down to where it gets parked at Loon Lodge on Lake Temagami. They needed someone to pick them up at Loon Lodge, so Lyra and I took the Murano from the town of Temagami down the access road to the lake. When we arrived, we were informed that Adam & David had had to turn back due to excessive winds – if they had pressed on, it would have taken them another two hours to reach me. Lyra and I walked back up the trail to the Murano (sweet car to drive down Temagami access road!) and drove the half hour trip back to the Town so we could pick up the boys.

It was actually more fun than perhaps it seems it would be. Adam was pleased to get out on the lake in a boat, I was pleased to spend at least a bit of time at Loon Lodge (although no loon burgers were acquired… and no, they’re not made of loons…) and the drive was really quite nice. I didn’t see any m00se, however.

We also took a trip out to the Elk Lake Eco Centre for lunch on one of our last days there. It snowed that day. The lodge was quite nice, however, even with the snow.

Did I mention it snowed?

I’d have to say that the trip was a success. Lyra was a Rock Star the whole time – she traveled well on the plane, she traveled well in the car, and she was so good the whole time. We have an awesomely mellow and happy baby, and we are lucky to have her.

The only really negative things I have to say about the trip are that Adam caught a nasty cold which he promptly gave to me, and we were both miserable for a good part of the trip due to a sore throat/cough type thing; and that next time I really want to spend more time in Toronto, seeing Toronto sites that we haven’t visited in a while, like the ROM and the AGO and most especially Canada’s Wonderland.

Good times!

Photo Meme thing

Oooh something to force me to use the camera!

Ask me to take a picture of any aspect of my life that you’re interested in – it can be anything from the house I live in to my favorite shoes. Leave your choice here as a comment, and I will reciprocate by taking the pictures and posting them as an entry. That way you get to know a little bit about my life, if you’re remotely interested in it.

Lyra and Abima


Lyra and Abima, originally uploaded by Jenny Lee Silver.

This was yesterday – Lyra can sit up on her own now (if we set her there – she’s not able to go from lying down to sitting yet, although she tries.) She even sticks out her arms to balance herself if she feels like she’s going over, which is new in the past couple of days.

If she falls over backwards it’s funny. If she falls over forwards she gets annoyed. If she falls over forwards and bonks her nose on something hard (like, say, the floor) she cries for ten seconds and then is fine.

Abima is Lyra’s Ugly Doll. She gives Abima the exact same reaction she gives to Dayle and Sera – excited squealing and screaming accompanied by extensive grasping and flailing of hands. She loves her Abima, and she loves her kitties.