I am not getting a kick out of this

I’m officially at a halfway point.

Somewhere between 16 and 20 weeks, according to all the pregnancy information available to me, I should be able to feel the baby move.

Now, according to that same information, those movements, to me, might be hard to discern as baby movements. They’ve been described as feeling like a butterfly fluttering, gas bubbles, popcorn popping, and a fly landing. So who knows what I’m actually supposed to expect?

What I do know is that I’m now at 18 weeks and I haven’t felt anything. Or, I haven’t known that I’ve felt anything.

I don’t like this – not one bit. I’m not worried about the baby’s well-being – in fact, I’ve been fortunate to not really have any anxieties in that department. I just don’t like the feeling of being in the bottom half of the class, so to speak. I’m on the second string of the sports team. The best I can do is a C grade. My baby quotient is now below 100.

I really, really like doing well – even better if I can be the best. So this non-punch to the uterus is really a punch to the ego.

But maybe this isn’t about me and my abilities. Maybe this is a lesson in motherhood. Maybe I need to let LP (Little Parasite) do things its way on its own timeline and love it no matter what. Maybe.

Or maybe I need to get working on my stern voice: “You start kicking your mother or else!”

There will be a polar bear down the street

Before my husband left for police college, he made sure I had in my possession a stuffed polar bear to keep me company in bed at night and to get me used to what I might expect in Cochrane – from what our Internet research has shown, polar bears are kind of a big deal up there.

For starters, the town is the southern terminus of the Polar Bear Express, the train that runs north to Moosonee, which is oh-so-close to James Bay.

And apparently, when you take the road into Cochrane, you’ll be greeted by a large fibreglass statue of a polar bear named Chimo, the town’s mascot, who stands outside the tourism information hut.

But it seems that the star polar bear in Cochrane is Ganuk, the only ursine resident at the town’s Polar Bear Habitat.

Definitely an attraction (From the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat website)

Definitely an attraction
(From the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat website)

The centre opened in 2004 as the world’s only habitat dedicated exclusively to polar bears. The original bears were moved back to the Toronto Zoo, but Ganuk, who was born in captivity in Quebec in 2009, has been living at the habitat since 2012.

According to the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat’s website, Ganuk is still growing and weighs about 740 lbs (although I suspect this is old information, since the site says he’ll be full mature at 5 or 6, so this spring or next, and at that point he’ll weight around 1,000 lbs). His diet consists of a lot of fruit, fish, and ‘polar bear chow’ (I wonder if my dogs would like that), and that his favourite is peanut butter. In the winter, area hunters tend to donate leftover meat and bones from moose carcases, which Ganuk seems to enjoy, too.

From the site: “He also likes carrots once in a while but is not too keen on eating them everyday. We think that his taste buds are still developing as he is growing and he will eventually eat his vegetables like a big boy one day.”

Incredible.

I’m really excited to meet Ganuk, whose name I’m still not sure I’m pronouncing properly. One of the features of the habitat is a side-by-side bear-and-human wading pool, separated only by a sheet of sturdy glass (and hopefully several degrees Celsius in water temperature) that allows visitors to have the impression of swimming alongside the bear.

Oh, hi Ganuk! (From the Town of Cochrane website)

Oh, hi Ganuk!
(From the Town of Cochrane website)

I grew up going to a children’s farm in my home town on a weekly bases, but we never had any animals as powerful or dangerous as a polar bear. We regularly had horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, chickens – you know, regular farm animals. And occasionally, a baby goat would escape its wooden pen and nudge you with its head until you relented and surrendered whatever was in your bag, but that was about as hazardous as it got.

I have vague recollections of seeing a polar bear in a zoo when I was much younger, but that would have been from afar and before I had any real appreciation for the animals’ majesty.

So the idea of having the chance to regularly be inches away from Ganuk – season passes are available for what seems like an outrageously reasonably price – is simply thrilling.

Even more exciting is the fact that the centre seems to be accepting volunteers on an ongoing basis. I have a background in biology and writing, I’m technically bilingual, and I’m not afraid of offensive odours. In short, I’m ready to sign up to to anything at the centre – lead visitors on a tour, design information booklets, and, hopefully, scoop bear poop.

(Of course, in the very possible situation where I meet a brown bear in the course of my regular business while living in Cochrane, ‘exciting’ might be lower on my list of adjectives to describe the situation.)

Until we meet Ganuk, though, I’ve got a miniature, fuzzy version to keep me company.

Meet Ganukshuk: The -suk or -shuk ending in Inuktitut means 'substitute,' so he is, nominally, my Ganuk stand-in.

Meet Ganukshuk: The -suk or -shuk ending in Inuktitut means ‘substitute,’ so he is, nominally, my Ganuk stand-in.

I might not learn a whole lot from my little Ganukshuk, but at least I know for sure that polar bears like to cuddle.

One is the hungriest number

Having another person to cook for is, for me, a lot like watching a comedy show with someone else. Alone, I barely muster a guffaw or giggle at even the funniest shows, but with another person there, it feels more comfortable to allow a chuckle to rumble from my belly. Sharing the humour with someone else helps bring it to life so much that I’ve been known to slap my knee on occasion in response to a televised joke.

Sometimes, I even laugh at the Big Bang Theory.

In the same way, cooking for or with another person simply enriches the experience. Instead of concerning myself with how long something might take to bake or whether there’s any possible way that feta is still good, all of a sudden, things like aroma, texture, and colour are on my radar.

During my six years of post-secondary education, I learned to cook for myself. More specifically, I learned one really delicious way to season chicken and relied on that to carry me through most meal situations. Most of my other learning involved microwave oven settings, adding more butter and less milk than recommended to Kraft Dinner, finicky can openers, and the tedious boiling/frying timing involved with frozen perogies.

Really, I learned enough to get by, but realistically, I learned only enough to get by – after all, I was just cooking for one.

When my husband and I started dating, I somehow weaseled my way into cooking with him most nights. It started with those college standards – chicken fingers, Kraft Dinner, and perogies, because that’s what he had in the house – but eventually, I decided I wanted to start impressing him with my culinary abilities.

This of course meant I had to develop culinary abilities.

I started small. One day, I paired one of my deliciously seasoned chicken breasts with the same packaged rice and frozen broccoli we’d been eating. Another day, we did chicken fingers, but I tried my hand at garlicky mashed potatoes instead of heating frozen french fries as a side dish. Eventually, I worked my way up to lasagnas, soups, multiple courses, and foods that I had never even tried before. And my morale was really boosted along the way because my husband will eat anything and enjoy it – I couldn’t fail!

By the time we were married, I was confidently cooking ‘real’ food most nights of the week – so often, in fact, that my husband requested that we have semi-occasional ‘not real’ food nights where we could indulge on the old standards that we both admittedly loved.

So when I found out he was going to be away most nights of the week for several months, I didn’t give my food habits too much thought. At this point, I’m a reasonably good cook and I have reasonably good habits. No point in changing, right?

One petite problem – I forgot that cooking for myself is boring.

As a result, I’ve had more bowls of prepackaged soup in the last month than I had in all of 2013. That mixed frozen broccoli and cauliflower is becoming much more accessible if I don’t want to eat the same vegetable every day for a week to avoid throwing anything out. And, for the first time in probably two years, I had a can of Zoodles for lunch (it was delicious).

I look forward to the aromas and textures and colours that come along with cooking for my husband on weekends, but I just can’t seem to muster the same energy when it’s just for me.

So, if anyone is looking for some ‘real food’ on a weeknight in the next few months, stop on by and motivate me to cook. Just give me a couple days’ notice first so I can get groceries.

Otherwise, you’ll get soup, frozen vegetables, and Zoodles.

Less-than-rousing browsing

In the same way that I’d rather read while smelling newsprint and dirtying my fingertips with cheap ink, I would rather shop in an environment with buzzing fluorescent lights and the vague yet ever-present musk of old person.

Of course, I have found that in some circumstances, shopping online can save time, money, or sanity, and I’m not completely shut off to the idea. But mostly, I prefer to browse online – you know, getting an idea of what products are available before heading into the physical building.

Browsing online has become a whole new form of fantastic, because how do you look for a house in a community nearly 1,000 kilometres away if not for the Internet?

Since we found out we’re moving to Cochrane, we’ve been on real estate websites repeatedly, trying to get an idea of what’s available in the town and at what cost. From our first browse, things looked promising – there were a handful of houses that, from pictures and overly enthusiastic descriptions written in ALL CAPS, would perfectly suit our needs and our budget.

WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?!

WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?!

On second, third, and fourth looks, my impression stayed the same.

That was probably because the houses stayed the same – all 31 of them in the Greater Cochrane Area. In the six weeks that we’ve been browsing online, I haven’t notice any changes in the houses we’ve been looking at.  The reality is starting to sink in that perhaps we’re no longer looking at houses similar to those we’ll be looking at when we’re ready to move, but instead we’re looking at the exact houses that just might become our home.

All of a sudden, we’re no longer browsing, but instead shopping online, and the whole experience seems less appealing.

I want to open the cupboards and feel the carpet and run my fingers over the counter tops and take a deep whiff of the back yard. I want to shout nonsense words to try the acoustics of each room and test out the angles for spying on neighbours and make sure that the basement doesn’t seem haunted. I might even want to give the toilet a test run (is that allowed while house shopping?). In short, I want a tangible house shopping experience.

We’re hoping that we might be able to do everything in one weekend – visit the town, become familiar with its burgeoning subdivisions, and get a chance to visit each of the houses that interests us. It all sounds less tangible when you add in the 20 hours of driving that would be required.

Oh, and it wasn’t that tangible to start with.

For now, the best we’re going to be able to do is to look from afar, imagining the smells, sounds and feelings that go along with each house from the carefully manicured photographs that are provided to us.

This basement just screams 'definitely not haunted,' for example.

This basement just screams ‘definitely not haunted,’ for example.

I’m sure it will be close to the same thing, right? Right!?