This quote popped up in my social media a few days ago and when I read it, I realized that I felt like it was pointing an imaginary digital finger right at me.
In a newsflash to absolutely no one, parenting is tough and relentless. Good days, bad days, great days, terrible days and everything in between.
No matter the phase you find yourself in, be it the newborn, the terrible twos (uh, hello terrible threes!), it can feel like it’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done. Each phase is hard, different and challenging in its own unique and all consuming way.
I look at my friends with younger ones and don’t really find myself missing those days (except for the cuddles). I see friends who are now happy empty nesters, who seem to be relishing their new found freedom (what do they do with their time, I wonder?)
Meanwhile, my foreseeable future is entrenched in the tween/teen phase and let me tell you…
I was not prepared for how challenging I’m finding this particular phase. Whoa.
Maybe because I’m a control freak and seemingly suddenly this house now holds 4 very distinct and vocal personalities that don’t always mesh?
Maybe it’s because I set unrealistic expectations, do a crappy job of voicing them and then am annoyed when these aren’t met?
Maybe it’s because – and here’s where my irrational voice really takes over – time is flying and what if I’ve messed them up and it’s too late and they are moving out too soon!
Maybe because I try to draw on my own experiences as a teen… but the realization that my upbringing could not have been more different than theirs dawns on me (catholic boarding school, anyone?) and, well, kinda flailing around in the dark over here!
Fellow parents, how often have you gone to bed at night hoping you haven’t ruined your offspring? Asking for a friend.
I’m grateful to my parents for granting us so much freedom (even though at the time we were probably desperate for more); that much I can pat myself on the back for passing along to our trio. But as for the rest, it’s a steep learning curve for me, and the kids. It feels like we’re in the same class, together! I hope we pass the final.
I’m trying to take little steps back from time to time and try to take a view of the bigger picture ahead. Forcing these little people out of their own comfort zones and into the mold of my expectations isn’t working. I’d never let anyone do that to me, so why should I expect them to let me do it to them?
Trying being the operative word, up there.
The point of this post? None, really. Except to hope that someone will tell me that the next phase is easier?
I did a pretty deplorable job this year, keeping this thing up to speed. Every time I’d start to write, I’d get about 3-4 lines down and the- ooh something shiny over there! And voila! Another unfinished draft post added to the list of topics I started to write about but couldn’t quite finish.
So, mostly for myself, I thought I’d smash 365 days worth of thoughts/events/recaps/listicles into one year-end post. That way, I figure I’ll have something tangible to look back on for 2019… rather than all those judgy, unfinished drafts staring back at me, waiting to be tackled.
(editor’s note: I will delete them in 2020. Clean slate!)
These past few years, I’ve tried to give myself a vague goal of planning something fun each month. I’ve learned that I love having something – big or small – to look forward to. Some of these are clearly a little more look forward-to worthy than others. I can’t truly remember what 2017 or 2018 ended up looking like, hence me forcing myself to commit it to … the screen. I debated about posting this. While proof-reading, it really drove home how lucky I am. I felt this vague need to apologize for all the fun (or at least, I consider it fun) stuff I get to do. But then, I’d be apologizing for living my life. And that’s silly.
Please be forewarned that this post will read alternately like:
A very poorly edited travel blog;
A scented journal written by a 12 year-old in sparkly pen (wink, wink @bopstardom)
Utter nonsense to anyone but myself. Which I’m completely fine with. ‘Tis my domain, after all.
So, without further ado, here’s a peak inside my very own memory lane.
I really thought I’d kick off January with a bang. I think I succeeded… but not in the very best way.
Things turned around when we hit the beach. I relished the time with the kids somewhere that saw them really just act like kids, and less like small humans trying to be too cool to be with mom. We read books, built sandcastles, ate fish and checked off one “touristy” thing a day. I get in trouble for saying that “holidays with kids is just parenting except somewhere hot” and yet… it felt different. In a good way.
The sunrise attempt that failed
I like to say there’s nothing redeeming about February (sorry Brad). It’s dark, it’s cold and incomplete. It feels like spring is far away, and winter has only just really set in.
But, there’s a silver lining! It also kicks off the race season. In 2019, the First Half was unseasonably cold but I got to run it with the 2 running partners I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since we started these runs with 1 shared gel 17 years ago…
I also travelled to Montreal for my dad’s 80th (!) birthday and what would end up being my final trip to Tampa (foreshadowing)…
2 big deals… my first born turned 13 #ohmygodihaveateenagernow. He’s taught me a lot about the world and myself, he knows how to push my every last button, he’s almost taller than I am and… I love him to bits and hope that one day he will read this and blush.
Then, I ran my first Ultra! It was snowy and sunny and not what I expected in any way. I had no expectations and 50k is a long way to go on your own 2 feet. I can say that I am proud that I actually pulled it off.
March was topped it off with a visit to what triathletes affectionately call the “Dirty-T” to ride some trails that are really all just out to get you, with 2 of my favourite people. I learned lots of new things about Phish and the Grateful Dead and yet I’m still here to tell the tale. I’m also plotting my return.
Up, and up, and up….
And then it was hard to get up.
Rocks and pokey plants abound
My groundhog day event that also kind of lets me be a tourist in my own little hamlet. It was my 4th or 5th… maybe 6th? Whistler Cup.
And then we wrapped that up and moved right along to…
The first work trip of the season was a dream. Great company (hi, work husband!), amazing country and, really, I could go on and on about the coffee. I won’t, I’ll spare you.
I think my favourite thing about travelling somewhere completely different is how quickly we are able to adapt to being out of our element. Day 1? Fish out of water. Day 4? I feel local, ask me a question as a test. On my way to catch my flight home? Oh, I live here now, sí.
You know when you find those colleagues who make you laugh for absolutely no good reason? Find those colleagues and hang on tight.
Just doing my job. NBD.
Another year, Another cup
An overlap with April really, since I didn’t get back from Spain (literally and jet-laggy) till mid-May.
Problem solved by a quick mission to the Sunshine Coast and reintegrating into real life with my people. The kind of getaway that only involves plans insofar as “what will we ride today?” and “is there any more coffee?”
Then I broke a few ribs (whoops!) and didn’t finish a mountain bike race that I started.
We could do this for hours…
And this, too.
The pace seems to change in June. We’re all anxious for school to be done (each of us for our own reasons). The calendar gets a bit busier and a little less predictable. The days get blissfully longer and warmer. Events and work ramp up.
The flip of the calendar also meant the start of triathlon season! Xtri Whistler was a great return to dirt – I highly recommend it!
And Will, my aforementioned teenager “graduated” from his elementary school.
There aren’t a lot of kids anymore who get to experience their formative school days with the same tight-knit group of pals for 7 years. I hope that one day, they will realize how lucky they are. Living is a small town has many perks; I consider this to be one of them.
Whistler X Triathlon
He blames me for the discrepancy.
For the last 6 years, July has been a lycra-clad, sleepless, spreadsheet-hell blur. Ironman Canada would trump all, I’d work a ton and essentially let my children parent me/themselves and rely on everyone in my world to help in any way they could.
Sidebar: my friends are truly incredible and know how to make me laugh in the best possible and also most inappropriate ways.
This year was no different, but it came with the added twist that this was to be the race’s final iteration in Whistler.
It was… bittersweet. That’s it for now on that.
That’s all she wrote
Final race morning
A fitting end
The greatest part of August is that we challenge ourselves to cram 8 weeks of summer into the remaining 3.5 weeks before the return to class.
We spend a lot of time at the lakes while baking in the Pemberton heat… we bike… we do a whole lot of nothing (in fact, my most favourite day last summer was an afternoon spent on the deck with the kids and their friends, during which we did exactly nothing. Absolutely glorious).
I capped it off but a European adventure that melted into September. We have (dangerously) cracked the seal on racing in Europe (foreshadowing on September)…
The Euro Redemption tour of 2019 started with some lost luggage and delayed flights (my travel mojo follows me closely), a visit with one of my oldest and greatest friends, exploring the countryside on two-wheels and rekindling my love affair with rosé.
From there is was a work trip to one of the prettiest and also priciest (!) spots over there. Trains! Chocolate! Tiny hotel rooms! Belly laughs! Police escorts (long story)!
To kick off Europe!
Sticking to my day job
France is awesome.
Hence the escort…
Cut off my access to the bakery
I like to be juvenile and pretend that September is my birthday month (because it is). What better way to celebrate a birthday than racing a World Championships in the south of France with your twin? Yeah, I pretty much nailed my birthday month.
The race itself wasn’t a performance of a lifetime. But it was memorable for the venue, the company and the experience. Say what you will about triathlon and its odd little community, it has brought me fantastic opportunities and introduced me to my closest friends.
Plus, I got to come home to some spectacular trail runs with my village.
We went to Kona and it was ridiculous. In a good way! Sun. Coffee. Bikes. Underwear. Volunteering. A fake wedding. All things triathlon. Will we top this in 2020? It’s gonna be tough but I am willing to work for it.
ALSO! Anja ran her first 10 k trail run which was both awesome and adorable.
I can’t believe we did this.
Here come the bride(s)
Proud mom moment.
November is like February’s ugly red-headed step child. Seriously. Out here, it’s dark and gloomy. Kids are tired. I’m tired. I scour the internet for last-minute get aways.
I pretty much nailed it this year… a restorative girls trip to Montreal with a surprise detour to New York. To watch Anja wander, wide-eyed and amazed, through the crush of NYC was so worth it.
Tip: make sure your life includes people who are there for you, not matter what. The kind of people with who you can reconnect after not seeing each other for a year or so and it feels like no time has passed. Everyone needs people like that.
Happy Holidays, y’all…
While this journal entry was completely self-indulgent, writing this made me realize that I really do lead a charmed life. I have my share of tough bits and heartache (don’t we all?) My highs are high and my lows are low – just like everyone else out there. I’m not unique, or exceptional in this way. I am learning to be grateful for all of it.
Most importantly, I am surrounded by people who know how to pick me up if I am down, whom I can lean on when I need to and I’m learning to ask for help (sometimes. This is a work in progress). I’ve got a great “modern family”, who alternately make me laugh and make me crazy and because of that, my sense of humour remains intact through it all.
7 years ago, on a sunny fall day that was meant for being outside, soaking in the last bits of summer, mum died.
I write about this and her every year on this day; mostly it’s so that I can contemplate and remember. Gives me a good excuse to cry, and be sad, but also grateful. The posts get a little easier to write because everything is less acute. They get harder to write, for the same reason.
Maybe 7 years is a good time to end these? I don’t know yet.
I recently had the chance to visit with an old friend who ended up knowing mum well, when he and I became friends. We talked about our time together and laughed so hard at shared our memories – in which mum played a starring role, front and centre. We were an inseparable (and unlikely) trio, my friends and I, but for whatever reason, Mum tolerated (appreciated?) our ridiculousness with an eye roll and a glass of wine.
I love hearing these stories, which perhaps time has distorted a little bit, because they make me laugh so hard that the best kind of tears stream down my face.
She definitely had an impact.
I miss her less a little less for me, but more for my kids. Anja doesn’t remember her, but she knows the stories. The boys have vague memories that I hope they hold on to. We do talk about Omi quite a lot, still. They are getting old enough now that I can tell them the stories about when Mum (me) would do stupid teenage things that would make Omi so mad.
They absolutely love those stories. Which is a good thing, because I’ve got a lot of them saved up.
I think of her most when I am doing something with the kids that is so different than any of the things she and I would have done together. The kids are so active and I try hard to be a part of all they do. I can hear her in the back of my mind, fretting because someone might get hurt and asking me “when are you going to grow up”? But I’m not, really: that’s my way of parenting. It reminds me of how different I was/am to her.
Reading books together on the deck? I look down and my hand rests on my lap exactly the way I remember hers doing. I am my mother.
One arbitrary day on a calendar can stir up so many emotions. Today, I’ll hug my people a little tighter. Tell them I love them a few more times than usual. Send them a few excessive ❤️ emojis. Because I still can.
I know that blogging is pretty much dead. And that’s fine. But every once in a while, I feel the need to tell a funny (at least, it’s funny now) story.
Last week, the kids and I flew to Hawaii for our long awaited trip. It was their Christmas present and I was proud of myself for 1) keeping it a secret from them for as long as I did and 2) scoring sweet airfare on a seat sale.
Anyway. We were all really excited to leave, and in a fit of organization, everyone was packed and ready the night before we flew, even though our flight wasn’t till 6pm the following day.
I got up early to meet Jen for a run before anyone woke up. It was snowing heavily and I decided to check in for the flight over coffee.
WTF? I was barely awake and the message on the screen didn’t register. Until it did: passport expired.
How did I miss this? No matter, I did.
I immediately call Jay in a complete panic (though I’m not sure why, it’s not like he could magically make her passport valid).
He calms me for a second, reassuring me that she can travel on her Nexus.
Except, not saved.
Her Nexus is with him. In Las Vegas.
Kick everyone out of bed, c’mon kids, the holiday starts at the passport office!
Fast forward a frantic jostling, throwing whatever in the van, who needs showers, who cares, let’s go! We arrive at the office at 9:30. The man at the door assures me that all will be well, yes ma’am, just go get the photo taken and we’ll be ready for you.
Except. Not ready.
All of Service Canada’s computers are down nationwide and there is literally not one thing they can do to help.
(There are tears, at this point. Actually, there were tears earlier, too).
I’m told to go to the airport and beg.
I, wouldn’t you know, am not above begging. Off we go.
At the airport, I head straight to the Nexus office, hoping that they can help in any way. The lady at the desk is exceptionally friendly, offering hope.
Except. There is no hope.
Government shutdown in the USA means there are no American agents to help.
Off we go to the check in desk to commence begging.
Meanwhile, after 47 phone calls, Jay is at a FedEx desk overnighting the precious nexus card.
At the check in, I get precisely nowhere. And not only do I get nowhere, I discover that those magical tickets I was so proud of? Well, those suckers are non-refundable and non-changeable.
Cue more tears. I’m frustrated and I just can’t help it. Anja’s not exactly thrilled, either. Had it been just me, whatever. But the children.
Are pretty damned resilient and good natured, actually.
At this point, the guilt mingled with the feeling of utter stupidity is making me literally nauseous. It doesn’t matter how many times I get told that this happens every day, all over the airport! It’s not the end of the world! It’s not a big deal! I feel like a big ol’ failure.
The ladies at the counter are so lovely and kind, but can do little more than take my credit card and rebook us on new tickets for the next night.
We group hug (me and the kids, not me and the ticket ladies). The kids sweetly go get me a coffee (they know what makes their mama tick). We ponder what to do with our 24 hours in Vancouver.
The rest of the day was a continuous series of mini-misadventures and misfires. One of those days where you can literally do nothing right. I could not wait to go to bed and be done with it. We got to spend time with the cousins, so there is always an upside.
Fast forward 7 days… we’re safely and successfully checked in to the flght home tomorrow. The expired passport is a distant memory. We have crushed our tourist game and loved our time together, bickering siblings and all.
It’s a day off here, and I’ve just returned from a light trail run with Will. This exact time last week, I was lying on an airport floor, with swollen legs and and tired eyes.
I think my legs felt better on that airport floor than they do today. That’s normal, right?
I’m not much for race reports these days, but I figure 1 marathon every 9 year gets itself a nod.
It was not quiet.
The biggest packet pick up ever
Nick + Steph’s 5K!
Highlights(in no particular order…)
It’s New York City! Duh.
Surprising my brother with the arrival of his best friend – see, we *can* keep secrets!
The food. Oh, the food. All of it.
Cheering Nick + Steph in their 20,000+ runners 5k!
Citibikes. These things made getting around easy and oh, so fun. Dangerously fun.
Spending good times with my brother and sister-in-law, who ran the marathon in her imagination and crushed it.
On that note, Stephanie wearing my medal and reaping the rewards that came with it (champagne, anyone?) made those 42.4kms completely worth it.
The noise. The endless, ceaseless noise that I both loved and made me appreciate my quiet country home all the more.
Sitting around on Staten Island, 3 hours before my start or so, watching the German runners enjoy a lung-expanding cigarette, pre-race.
Despite the aforementioned 3 hours, almost missing my start. I blame Janet.
All of those completely random moments and encounters that happen when you take a trip and make zero plans (with the exception, in this case, of running a marathon).
Seeing my crew out on the race course – being able to pick them out of a crowd of literally 1 million people for a high five? Amazing. Bobby, you’re an amazing guide.
Getting stuck on the other side of Central Park post-race turned out to be a highlight, too. 1 friendly cop + 1 citybike + 1 foil blanket made for a highly entertaining bike ride on tired legs.
Parking that same bike and walking into the restaurant to cheers from my friends, which led to cheers from everyone. It was both embarrassing and awesome. Because, come on.
The feeling that everyone in this enormous city is behind this event.
I’ve probably left out 47 highlights that I’ll remember at 3am.
Police escort to Lady Liberty
Pemberton takes NYC
I can smell the finish line…
I think we were singing…
Wine from the hotel 💙
The race itself, the raison d’être for this whirlwind trip, was unexpectedly, well… amazing. I came into it with low expectations, that’s for sure. I wanted to beat my pregnant time of ’09 (4:14 or so?), and have fun.
Before we even started, I think I had the fun portion pretty dialled. My training had been minimalist (that’s a nice term for short AF), but I got to the start line with no aches and pains, and a plan to eat a lot. That was it.
My train of thought for the entire duration of the race was summed up as: “Hmm. This feels too easy. Should I be worried? This pace seems fast. But it doesn’t hurt. So, now what? Ok. Eat. I’ll eat. High fives to that guy, that kid, that granny. I still feel good. WTF is going on? Am I going to hit the wall? If I hit a wall, Liz is going to roll her eyes so hard. Shiiit.”
And on and on these thoughts swirled. Yet, I never hit that infamous marathon wall. I ran under a banner at mile 22 that literally said “THIS IS THE WALL”… and, nothing. In fact, I kind of sped up. I guess I just wanted to be done and savour that beer.
I crossed the line with a big smile, a time of 3:35 and a feeling of ‘mission accomplished’.
Getting sick when we got to NYC sucked. But I think it sucked more for my friends because I guess I could sleep through all my own snoring and also, Sudafed got me to that start line.
That’s literally the only lowlight.
I won’t run another (road) marathon for a long while, I don’t think. This one has my heart, for sure.
So, on that note. Boston 2020, what’s your city bike situation like?
I start to hold my breath at the end of August until September 10th passes. When the anniversary of my mother’s death finally comes, I exhale bit by bit and sink into grief that still, 6 years on, can bubble to the surface unexpectedly.
Good or bad, I’ve created a bit of tradition for myself by writing about this time in our lives every year on this date. I make myself re-read old posts, I look at pictures. I dwell.
This year, I won’t be surrounded by my 3 little pillars of support. I’ll be across the world, meeting new people, taking on new challenges. I can only imagine how excited Mum would’ve been for me, how anxious she’d have been for news of my travels (I think I’ve inherited a little bit of her travel nerves). Yesterday, as I dozed for hours on the plane, I could think of little else but her. I was consumed by memories, drifting in and out of dreams that felt all too real. I woke up more than once in tears.
There’s so little I can say about how much I still miss her. How often I think of her.
But as more time passes, there are days where she doesn’t cross my mind. I hate admitting that. Maybe that’s where that stupid saying “time heals all” comes from. One’s ability to move on from the really hard things. I don’t want to forget. The thought of those fading memories is terrifying. What makes me saddest is that she can’t be with us as our family grows and evolves, knowing how proud she would have been. She was a true matriarch.
I will forever be grateful for the time we spent together before she died, but there are so many things I wish I’d told her before she left us. Things I wish I’d asked her. Taken more pictures. It may be one of the only things I regret in my life.
Mum, know that we are doing our very best to honour your memory. Today and every day.
It’s about 2:30 in the afternoon. It’s smokey out, but beyond that, the weather is pretty summer perfect right now.
I’m on the deck. I’ve been here since I crawled out of bed.
Anja is brushing the dog’s teeth, and just gave the cat a bath.
Rory is attaching zip ties to his bike to make it sound obnoxious.
Not really sure where Will got to.
Every once in a while, they come and check on me.
“Whatcha doing, Mum?”
“Are you bored?”
They wander away, I continue my boredom.
It’s pretty great.
July went by in the blink of an eye.
School let out/Canada Day/Denmark/Summer camp(s)/Ironman.
That literally encompasses the month. There was nothing else. Which is why I’m milking this August boredom for all it’s worth.
Super sad to be leaving us
These guys, too.
And then this…
Then finally this.
Before the crazy…
My most favourite finish line ever
Oh yeah. August doubles as fat camp (I get it, I’m not fat. But I’m not fit, either). So between books and hammock swings, I’ve returned to some riding, some running. Swimming can wait (beyond the mid-ride, sweltering, I’m-gonna-die-if-I-don’t-jump-in-right-now swims).
There are races to race, adventures to go on, things to eat.
School’s done for the year in 3 days, 3 hours and a few minutes. I can assure you that I’m not the only one in this house who’s counting down.
Man alive, we are tired.
I can’t really put my finger on it, but it seems like the past few weeks have had a bigger impact on all of us than in years past. Will crosses out days on his calendar. Anja asks every day “how many more days”? Rory quietly goes about just being done, already.
Personally, I can’t wait to take a break from the endless cycle of lunches, homework, and the constant back and forth that essentially sums up life with 3 active, school aged kids.
It kind of feels like we’re all just keeping it together thanks to spit and grit. And band aids. A hell of a lot of bandaids.
These past few days, parenting has been boiled down to nothing more than managing emotions – including my own.
I’ll probably be eating my words in about a week from now… But until then, bring on the sleep ins, heat waves and evenings at the lake.
It’s easier to manage emotions when they involve popsicles and sunscreen. Mine included.
How many times in the past few weeks have I cracked open the laptop with the intention of writing something mildly insightful? Plenty. How many times have I gotten distracted by something shiny and left the page open, untouched? Also plenty.
But it’s Monday morning… 9:22am. I’m caffeinated, have been up for hours and would like to continue to ignore the inbox and to-do list and the piles of laundry for a few more minutes. So here I am. Staring at a blinking cursor and wondering what to write about.
Frighteningly, we’re halfway into 2018. In January, I stated my intentions for upcoming year. I’m not one for looking back and looking inwards. But hey, why not see how it’s all going?
More outside -> So far, yes. Spring and summer make me want to be outside always.
Less inside -> See above. And we cancelled cable TV.
More water -> This could use some work.
Less booze -> Yes. Mostly. With a few exceptions.
More extrovert -> Pretty much no. Getting outside of my happy little circle of people is proving tough for me.
Less introvert -> But I’m trying.
More together -> Not as much as I’d like.
Less apart -> But that’s why there are phones. Hi, Lynn!
More yes -> Yes! It’s fun when you can say yes when a no is expected.
Less no -> And it’s scary (see above, #5).
(But sometimes) more no -> I gave a big NO last week. Hard yet liberating.
(and sometimes) less yes -> Learning that the answers don’t need to be instant.
More bravery -> Sometimes, I can surprise even myself.
Less fear -> The older I get, the more I am learning to be less scared. Imagine how fearless I’ll be at 86?
More simplicity -> With objects, this is easy. With people…
Less complexity -> People are complex. Very, very complex.
More doing -> 100%
Less wishing -> But I’ll never stop wishing.
And with that, I shall wish away Juneuary…
❤️ no number for this one.
9. 5. 7. 17.
6. We unite.
Above, a visual recap of sorts of life since January.
It’s currently 6:18pm. It’s still light out, and miraculously not raining. Spring has been slow in coming. I’m answering emails from the comfort of the couch, glass of wine in hand. All I can hear is screaming kids on the trampoline.
It’s blissful, in its own weird way.
I love this time of year if simply for the fact that the kids just instantly drop everything the minute they come in the door to go back outside (I mean this, literally. Daily, I trip over backpacks and shoes when I come in the door and have to yell “PICK YOUR STUFF UP!”)
Neck breaking hazards aside, it’s liberating. No one asks for TV or whines about boredom. The backyard collects extra kids for trampoline time but just as quickly empties when a game of street-wide manhunt starts.
Every once in a while it goes eerily quiet… it takes me a few moments to notice the change. If I peer over the deck railing, it’s usually to find that the boys have scattered, and there are a few girls sitting on the trampoline, quietly talking about who knows what. I retreat as I don’t want to intrude whatever little world they’ve created.
It’s evenings like this that make me appreciate, even more than usual, the community that is created by small town living.