The Essence

Living and growing a family in the North awards you with a real and tangible connection to the land. As a mother of 5 and as a home baker and wannabe chef, it is this connection that seeps into everything - motherhood, food, harvesting, and experiencing the very heartbeat of the bit of earth that sustains us.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Camping in (near) Kluane

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This summer, we have set aside one week a month for camping trips. Our June trip was scheduled for Kathleen Lake, in Kluane National Park. We have always wanted to camp there, it is a beautiful location with a lake full of record size trout. We travelled to Haines Junction to meet up with our friends who were coming with us, and T.J went to the Visitor Centre to buy our federal fishing and camping permits.

Camping in the Yukon is cheap. We buy a $50.00 camping permit every year that allows up to camp in any territorial campground all summer. The campgrounds are generally well kept, clean, with stocked wood piles and majestic views. Because Kathleen Lake is in Kluane National Park, though, we can't go there with our Territorial camping permit. We can't fish there, either, with our Territorial licenses. So off to the visitor centre T.J went, to buy our weekend permits. A season federal fishing license is $10 per day or $35.00 for the season per person. Kids under 14 can fish for free in the Yukon, but not at Kathleen Lake. They had to buy permits, too. Camping was $17 per night. We couldn't believe it! It was going to cost us about $140.00 in fishing licenses and almost $100 to camp for 5 nights.

Across and up the road a bit from Kathleen Lake is Desdeash (sp?) Lake. There is a territorial campsite there, and great fishing for Lake Trout and Northern Pike. It sits out on a point, and tends to be pretty windy, but at least that keeps the bugs away. We spent 4 nights there, and then travelled back to Haines Junction to camp for 2 nights at Pine Lake, because the kids really wanted to go tubing and Desdeash was too rough. Pine Lake has a nice sandy beach and a great dock for launching oneself into the water.

We had a great time catching up with great friends, and look forward to July's camping week at Congdon Creek Campground on Kluane Lake. Its also a Territorial Campground, just outside the park, so it won't cost us an arm and a leg to spend some time there.

Federal Government, Yukoners should be able to enjoy our National Park with our Territorial camping and fishing permits!!

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Hornet Horror

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Today we went down to the school park to play. They have one of those old big toy climbing structures with all the holes in the wood that make great places for hornets and wasps to build nests.

I have always had a deeply rooted, irrational fear of flying insects. I have never even been bitten or stung by a wasp, deerfly, or spruce beetle, but I imagine that it would be such excruciating pain that I might not live through it.

This fear is totally misunderstood and mocked by T.J, and he gets extremely annoyed when we sit around our nice outdoor patio set for barbecued chicken and a murderous bee swoops in. I am up screaming, madly waving my arms while I make a quick exit off the deck into the safety of the dining room. T.J believes I am a poor influence on our children, as they are usually up as fast as I am, grabbing their dinner plates to seek refuge with me indoors, leaving him to eat alone with the bugs. T.J loves to play with this fear of mine, it must have a name, like flyingbugaphobia or something, and he occasionally will pick up a spruce beetle by it's antennae or a deer fly off the window pane and pretend to fling it at me. He knows that if he actually flung it at me, he would be sleeping in a tent on the lawn.

So today, at the park with the kids, I went above and beyond, I truly put my children before myself without a thought for my own safety. Lydia was climbing up the big toy, and put her fingers right into a nest of wasps. I was in the field picking wild strawberries, and heard her start to yell. I looked up and saw her waving her arms, getting more frantic by the second. She was really freaking now, as the first wasp stuck her with his torturous weapon, and I contemplated just for a second about running in the other direction.

But then my mommy instinct kicked in, and I hurried over, ran up the slide, grabbed her by the arms and took a flying leap onto the ground. I picked her up, at arms length, of course, in case there were any wasps stuck to her that would then climb over onto me, and ran like hell across the field to safety. I had 4 other children with me, who watched these proceedings with mouths gaped open until they heard me screaming at them "RUN!! RUN TO HEATHER!" They all came as fast as their legs would carry them, starting to cry at their caregivers breathless soothing, "Its OK, kids, its OK." Lydia was stung 3 times, she was brave and amazingly alive. I resisted the urge to rush her into the ER.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sneaky Marker Girl

This is what happens when June gets into the markers.


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Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Lydia!

On May 31st, 2005 at 6:02am Lydia Thora Jayne was born to us in Whitehorse. She had lots of black hair, so different from Emily and Dustin who are red heads!

Today is Lydia's 5th birthday, here she is waiting for Mommy to bring her gifts into the living room:

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She was a little excited!

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Blowing out 5 candles:

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And showing us that she is now "a whole hand old"!

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Lydia has been asking for her own pet for a few years now, and yesterday I had a lapse in judgement and bought her a guinea pig from a family that had baby ones. She named him Stripes and he actually has made a great little pet for her! His is very tame and is used to kids (the family we got him from has 4) and he makes cute noises and likes to run around on the grass. He eats lots of veggies, too, so Liddie likes to collect carrot and beet tops from the garden and picks dandelion greens to give him, too. Welcome to the family, Stripes!

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Frances May Long

One of our very favorite camping spots is Frances Lake. This gem in the wilderness lies between Watson Lake and Ross River on the Robert Campbell Highway. On some maps, you will find a marker labelled, "Hudson Bay Trading Post", because there once was one there. There isn't much of it left, and it is off the lake so you would have to hunt around and have some GPS coordinates to find it. This was our view from our camper for 4 whole days:

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Could it get better than this?

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We absolutly love it here. The ice melts here about 3 days before May long weekend, and the fish are hungry!

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Lydia caught a lake trout!

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And die hard Dustin was up at first light and up till it got dark (which is about midnight this time of year) with his rod in the lake.

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Thank goodness the Ristau family joined us, because they brought June's best bud, Emma, and the girls played together all weekend. They spent hours throwing rocks into the water. June calls the rocks her money. Too bad that couldn't come true!

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I bought these strollers in the sale bin at Walmart for 5 bucks each, best deal by far this year. The girls walked their babies all around the campground.

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Our Auntie Yo Yo came camping with us too, and she's so smart, she brought bubbles!

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The second morning, we were sitting around the campfire with our morning coffee's and watched this caribou swim across the lake.

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June had fun throwing sticks for the dog.

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Emily liked throwing rocks, too. The rocks were a hit!

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Our girls relaxed in the hammock.

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And Lydia barely took her favorite "cap" off the whole time. I like that she calls it her cap.

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I think I'm going to put this picture on our wall. When Dustin was younger, he loved those "Where's Waldo" books.

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When we go to Francis Lake, something always goes wrong. Once the bearings went on the trailer, once we forgot diapers, once we got so close to a head on collision that our side mirror hit the oncoming truck. This time, TJ was obsessed with the tires. I guess he had reason to worry, because 2 hours into the drive on our way there, the rear tire blew. So on our way home when the other rear tire went flat, his eyeballs just about popped right out! Lydia asked, "Mommy, why is Daddy kicking that tree?"

Thank goodness for Sat phones. We were able to contact the Conservation Officer in Ross, and she brought several tires that she scavenged from around town for us to try. After 6 hours sitting on the side of the road with 4 kids and 2 dogs we were ready to be rescued. I wonder what disaster awaits us when we go back for Labour Day weekend?!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday June!

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O.K so this post is late, it has been sitting in my draft folder since the 6th of May. I have been having problems with my photo uploader and my computer and so have been mentally boycotting my blog posts because I'm frusterated. Why can't things be easier?

My sweet little June bug turned two years old, and just like every mother, I go back to the hours of her birth on this day, the 6th of May, to recount every delicious detail that was hers.

Two years ago today I got up at 6am so that I could shower and shave my legs and paint my toenails and make sure I looked fabulous in front of the doctor and nurses who would see me at both my best and my worst. Maybe looking fabulous would make things less painful, or more glamorous, or maybe it would make it look like I had things together. I had been in Whitehorse waiting to deliver this baby for 5 weeks and my patience ran out, my determination to wait things out the natural way was traded in for cervadil.

T.J had requalifications this day, the 6th of May, that he really couldn't skip out on, he was instructing and people were counting on him to be there. So the plan took shape - he was going to get me settled in at the hospital, then he was going to leave to teach his course with his cell phone turned up loud strapped onto his belt. Cell phones work on Grey Mountain don't they?! Cervadil doesn't kick in right away, does it?

I did get settled into my bed on the maternity ward at about 9am, the straps of the monitor across my belly and the cervadil working its magic. I was reading "The Birth House". Things started slowly kicking into gear after lunch. I spent the afternoon breathing, staying peaceful, sitting on the excercise ball, reading some more. After 3 babies, 3 births, I was O.K with being alone, I was sure of myself, I was calm. I quietly prepared for what was to come. It was a powerful feeling, being there in the quiet of the room with my soon to be born baby.

At about 4 T.J returned, and helped me into the shower. The excersise ball I was sitting on sat right on top of the drain and the nurse came in to let us know the hospital room was flooding.

At 5 Gramma, my sister Megan and our kids showed up and decided they had enough time to go for supper. We had decided to let our kids participate in the birth of their newest sibling, and they all wanted to be there. Also around this time the nurse came in and told us there was a photographer in the maternity ward that was doing some kind of promotional thing for the hospital and she thought it would be so great to get some real footage of a woman in labour. The nurse took one look at me moaning and groaning with my still wet hair and my makeup from the morning long worn off and said she would tell the photographer not a chance!

At 6:30 Gramma and the crew came back and I was almost ready to push. Lydia took one look at me and had to wait out in the hall with Auntie Megan. She must have got over her fear pretty quickly, because I could hear her chanting, "go mommy go, go mommy go!" Emily really wanted to be in the room but fear and uncertainty won over and she settled for still in the room, but behind the curtain so that all I could see of her were her legs from the knee down. Dustin wanted to be there,too, he came right up by my head but then promptly turned around and stared at the wall. As June's head was crowning and I gave one last wail he ran from the room. June was born at 7:02 delivered into her Gramma's hands. She was blue all over and pooped right into my hand as I held her. It was special to have everyone there, as soon as she cried everyone came in, all the kids wanted to hold her right away. The day afterwards, the photographer pursued, and I let her in to take some pictures of our new family of six. They are up in the entrance of the hospital, and also in some brochures and on the website. And that's June's story.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

GNO

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I coordinate a girls only youth group in Faro called Girls Night Out. (GNO)
We meet every week on Wednesday nights. There are 27 past and present members of GNO, and we have a lot of fun together. Working with these incredible young women brings me great satisfaction and joy. They are amazing individuals who have passionate, funny, thoughtful, brilliant personalities. These girls have potential that reaches as far as the eye can see, they can do anything and make real, palatable change to our world. I am so proud to be their friend and confidant, to be a person in their lives that believes in them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sleep Talk

T.J has always been a bit of a sleep talker. When we were younger (I recently turned 33, so now I think I feel I'm justified to say "when I was younger") he would have whole hilarious conversations with me while he was sleeping. I won't embarrass him too much by telling all his sleeptalking stories on blogger, but this mornings conversation with Lydia is exempt! Somewhere around 4am, Lydia came into our room and made her way around to TJ's side of the bed. Her father is much more sympathetic to her middle of the night needs than her Mom. The conversation went like this:

Lydia: "Daddy, I'm thirsty, I need a drink of water."
Daddy: "Well you can go to hell".
Lydia: "What? Daddy, I want a drink".
Daddy: "It's way too bright outside".
Lydia: "Daddy? Daddy? DADDY I need a drink!"

Lydia as they are walking out of the room: "Daddy, you're silly".

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2610 Randle Road


This morning, I woke at 5:30am, with tears soaking my pillow. I had been dreaming, and the choked sound of my sobs woke me up. In my dream, my parents were trying to drag me out of my grandparents house so that the new family could move in. They had called the police.

Last night, I received the phone call that I knew was coming, but was still not prepared for. My father sold my late grandparents home, the home he grew up in, the beach house, my Departure Bay. The papers were signed, there is no going back, the finality of it all is sinking in, sinking down into my toes with heart wrenching, hand wringing, head shaking disbelief.

Part of me is telling myself to get a hold of it, to be reasonable, to be realistic, after all it is just a house, four walls, a building, nothing that really matters in the end.

But the soul of me, the heart of me, the real me, knows that 2610 Randle Road is not just a house, not just a place, it lives and breathes and is a part of me that is dying. My family moved around as I was growing up, so my grandparents home on the waterfront of Vancouver Island where I spent my summers is where I put my roots down. There is something about sleeping in the same bedroom your father slept in as a boy, something about opening a dresser drawer and finding treasures he placed there years ago. There is a deep attachment that develops to a home with your history inside it, with the knowing that you are in the same rooms that held family conversations and events going back 50 years. There is something about watching your children running down the sand bars just as their grandfather did as a little boy.

My Papa took his final breath last August, just after he shook his finger at my father, saying with his eyes, "You take care of my Departure Bay!" Things are always more complicated, though, when faced with financial and family realities, with worldly responsibilities and commitments. Unfortunately, there is no one in our family who has stepped up with a million dollars to save our beach house from being sold to strangers, to the stealer's of my special place. Playing the Lotto Super Max every Friday for the past 6 months hasn't payed off. When I think of money playing the vital role in this unbearable outcome, I am angry and ashamed and embarrassed that we didn't find a way, that we didn't fight harder, that someone didn't find a solution and a way to keep the house. Because it isn't worth a million dollars, it is worth so much more. There is no price tag high enough. Papa, I am so, so sorry.

What I want to do is to get on the plane tomorrow, pull into the driveway, walk up the steps and feed the fish in the pond. I want to step into the hall and inhale the sweet essence that makes memories dance in my head. I want to walk through the kitchen of apple pies and out through the screen covered with butterfly stickers to keep us from walking smack into it. Into the sunroom onto the deck, I want to calm myself with the sea and the gulls and the boats, letting the salty breeze engulf me. Then I want to chain myself to the railing. I want to scream and yell and let my parents call the police to take me away. Dreams are sometimes, after all, premonitions of things to come.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Icefishing

Today we packed up the truck and went out to the lake for some icefishing. It was warm and sunny, and we all returned home with suntanned faces. We skidooed down the lake to find a good spot, and T.J got busy drilling holes. He likes to drill lots of holes, because he says then there is a greater chance of actually catching a fish.



Lydia helped to set up her and June's camp chairs. Except she likes to sit in one and use the other one to store all her food in.
June was O.K with that, she spent her time laying on her tummy on the ice, licking snow.


Of course, no icefishing trip would be complete without hotdogs! Someone left an old washer drum out there for a firepit, so we started our fire in there.





Dustin had fun, and we all had a good laugh, while he tried out the snowshoes!

The kids had a blast on the freedom of the lake on the skidoos. They could go around and around all day!



I was trying out the "action shot" settings on my camera, and got this shot of T.J's dumb dog, Scout, trying to pounce on me.

We had a great day hanging out as a family, until June fell into one of the holes and got soaking wet! T.J and I piled on a skidoo and quickly whizzed back to the truck to get her wet snowsuit and boots off. Good thing we weren't too far away!