fragility vs. robustness

Violet’s first time on a beach, we were surfing at Cox Bay. During a trade-off from Aaron to me, we set her down on a blanket amongst the driftwood, hoping the structure previously built would provide some shelter from the wind and sun.

It didn’t. The wind blew through cracks between the driftwood, soon covering Violet in the sand it carried. “Brush it off your face”, I thought. Before realizing that of course, she won’t. “Sit up, shelter yourself!” But she can’t. She stays where we put her.

I picked her up and tried brushing the sand off but with my wet hands, it was pretty futile. Holding her against my wetsuit, I was soaking her sleeper, only making matters worse. “There’s sand in her ears!” My mind was plagued with worry of an ear infection.

Then I thought ahead to a few years from now. Violet will be walking, exploring, going where she pleases and will get COVERED in sand, I’m sure. We may even bury her in it.

v on the beach

three on tour

We did it: successfully went on a bike tour with Violet. Hopefully the first of many.

Our friends James and Verena invited us to join them for two nights on Saturna Island and one on Maine Island. Both islands are pretty small, the bigger of the two, Saturna, being around 10km long. It made for pretty low commitment touring. If Violet became a handful, we were never far from camp or our next location.

The real challenge was all the extra weight we had to haul to our first campsite at Narvaez Bay, a wilderness campsite with no water or fresh water sources nearby (from information available, the only “public” water on the island is at the general store). On top of the Chariot, Violet, and all her accessories, we were loaded with 16L of water for two nights.

Fully loaded bikes on the ferry

Oh, and our new family-sized tent and a third thermarest for Violet. Twelve pounds but every pound worth the comfort afforded by the extra space.

Narvaez Bay campsite

The good thing is that we were only fully loaded on the way to the campsite the first day, back to the ferry terminal after the second night, and then to and from the campground on Maine Island, which was only a few kilometres from the ferry terminal. The rest of the time we rode with an afternoon’s worth of lunch, snacks, water and diapers.

The Salsa crew

The other good thing (for me) was that Aaron towed the Chariot for most of the trip. I took my turn after we set up camp on Maine. The hills that day, and our short ride to the ferry terminal the next morning, made me fully appreciate Aaron’s efforts. On the flats (or downhill, of course), it’s remarkably manageable to tow the Chariot on a fully loaded bike. But once you’re going uphill…

At least the Gulf Islands’ hills, while constant and sometimes killer steep, are never too long. Sometimes, the undulating road is a fun rollercoaster of downhills that give you enough momentum to ride the following uphills. They also lead you to beautiful places, surprisingly serene for their proximity to two large cities.

Narvaez Bay

Highlights were the deer on Saturna, so tame I can’t imagine they have any predators.

The tame deer

Aaron spotted two Pileated Woodpeckers, close enough for a good look but not close enough for a photo.

And Verena, James and Cassia found a tree frog tucked in the bark of the douglas fir around which our Maine Island campground’s outdoor shower was built.

A tree frog

The whole trip went so well, I can’t think of any “lessons” learned for next time. We had already learned from others that when touring with a baby, they may dictate your schedule and keep distances shorter. Duly noted. We made an effort to ride while Violet napped, and break when she needed attention. If not asleep, she spent much time looking out the Chariot window, watching the world speed by, and provided encouragement for us to pedal fast up the hills.

I'll be a cyclist when I grow up

finally, summer

June flew by the other side of our front window where we watched it from the couch. On the longest day of the year, I went to bed when the sun was still high and got out hours after everyone else had already gone to work. It proved to be a good strategy for getting adequate sleep. But sleep being in broken segments, every day was still a bit of a daze.

I wanted to write about the newborn experience: the challenges, the victories, how each day was spent. Seems like no one can really tell you about it. Then, as I went through it myself and failed to get any words down, I understood why it’s such a lost time.

My brain was mush. I thought about my baby, watched two seasons of Girls and was ecstatic the day I sewed a button onto a knitting project started months before. One button. Eventually the newness wore off and I became a dog sitting at the door whining to go outside.

They advise you wait 6 weeks after birth before exercising again but I was going crazy after 4. Settling on a five-week break, I went for my first postpartum run in early July and it felt glorious. I carefully ran a slow 3 kilometres and came back sweaty, glowing and full of hope of some semblance of a summer.

Since then we’ve had highs and lows with a steady trend of getting the hang of things. Low: a failed walk around Lighthouse Park with a inconsolable Violet. High: my first road ride. Low: Violet, inconsolable during an attempt to spend a lovely afternoon in the park. High: our first family bike ride on the LSCR. We are learning to weave Violet’s needs into our favourite activities which get modified for shorter times and distances, but they are often more intense and have a fun new-ness to them.

Cycling the LSCR

Last week we nervously went on a “test camp”. We decided on car camping near Squamish where, if it turned out to be hellish, it wouldn’t be a far drive back to the comfort of our own beds. The trip (mostly) worked out! Regular camping chores were a bit more a juggle with a baby in the mix, but once we were settled in for the evening, it was nice to spend time together without the distractions that surround us at home. Violet was content for the most part and it filled me with glee to see her engrossed by the forest canopy.

Violet's First Camp Trip

The trip was not without its lessons, all of them related to our sleeping arrangements. We had foolishly assumed that Violet would be a small addition to our 2-person tent, completely forgetting that unless tightly swaddled (unfortunately not a safe option when co-sleeping), babies take up an area three times their own size with their flailing arms and kicking legs. These movements, combined with a lack of friction between her fleece sleepsack and the thermarest, had Violet swimming around me throughout the night. It was a restless one though oddly, the thing that kept me going the next day was memory of her 6am dance party, with a grin on her face to melt my heart. We have since purchased a family-sized tent and next time, Violet gets her own thermarest.

Sleeping Violet

Having survived the night, after breakfast, a nap, a second breakfast and multiple changings, we set off to hike Sigurd Creek, a favourite trail of Aaron’s. Walking through lush forest, parts of it old growth, I decided that if, for some reason, I wasn’t able to do anything else for the remainder of August and September, I would still have had a summer and a wonderful one at that.

The Big Tree