On my team and in my corner.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. I suppose life is alway a little windy, but the last 30 days have vanished in a flash. Mixing training, work, racing away from home, jumping straight into a fairly big event, hiding/denying a cold and trying to find some quality time with my people  has led me to a big giant exhale…

… sitting on an airport floor, waiting to board an oversold flight to Baku, Azerbaijan.

This is totally one of those “it seemed like a great idea at the time” situations. I didn’t give much thought to the quick turnaround this adventure would require, but hey, here we are.

I kissed the kiddos goodbye as they left for school, and reminded them that I’d see them in 4 weeks or so. I was surprised and a little relieved that it was without a sense of dread and trepidation. There were no tears, no drama.

Don’t get me wrong: I miss them already with an ache that is physical. It’s hard to explain. I know from experience that it will fade a little but then come back with a vengeance just before I get home to them.

It was easier this time because, ironically, we feel like a little team and my little teammates totally have my back. When I’m in the thick of it, distracted by deadlines, obligations and work stuff, it makes me realize what a bunch of independent little humans we have raised, and how grateful I am for it. They don’t put up a fuss, it seems they know that they need to cut me some slack just when I need it most.

They get it. This is the life they know, and while it certainly isn’t perfect, it works for all of us.

The next few weeks will be filled with ridiculous text messages from Will, FaceTime homework sessions, rambling calls with Anja, breathless messages from Rory telling of his latest feat followed by I Love Yous and I Miss Yous and I’ll see You Soons.

This my team, they are totally in my corner, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gauntlet thrown

We in the ‘Blog Squad’ shuffled the cards this week and each chose to answer one of the questions put forth to other squad writers in last week’s round robin. Jen got assigned this one and when I read it I was all “ooh! ooh! I have an answer for that one!”

The question is:

Who would you like to see attempt an ironman and why?

I didn’t have to think long about this one, the answer popped into my brain immediately:

My brother, Alex.

You see, Alex is a cyclist through and through. He works in the bike industry. He’s actually a pretty good runner. I think he knows how to swim, sort of.

You'd barely need to buy any gear.
You’d barely need to buy any gear.

He is also the first to line up and mock me for my triathlon tendencies.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I, too, mock myself for my triathlon tendencies. And I even poke fun at the sport in general. However, having been in the sport for too many years now, I feel like I have earned the right at this self-deprecation because I have toed the line at many a race and have actually completed an Ironman.

He, however, has not. Not even a sprint.

Therefore, I firmly believe that in order to keep making fun of me, he needs to earn this privilege. Once completed, I am going to give him free rein to say whatever he wants.

So, what say you, Alexandre?

Pick a race. I’ll even give you a head start.

Read the rest of the round robin questions in the coming days:

Erin, Jen, Liz, Caitlin, Elizabeth Laurel and Hailey.

When Mama gets a man cold

I spent the first day of 2017 in bed with what can only be described as a Man Cold. Feverish, sniffly, tired, general malaise. What a way to kick off the year! I felt sorry for myself and thus relied on the kids to take care of themselves (foreshadowing: the kitchen is something else this morning).

Anyway. As I lay there is some kind of fever delirium, I mentally went through the various stages of Mama’s Man Cold (MMC).

Sidebar: I came up with a gazillion ideas as I lay there in a fog. None of which I can remember today. 

Step 1. The Inkling

December 31 started off like any other day. A bit tired, maybe. That’s not all that unusual. But as the day wore on, I knew. That feeling at the back of your throat… the deepening fatigue… uh oh.

By the time we were expected at friends for NYE, I was clutching a box of tissues and celebrating with peppermint tea. Woo.

Step 2. Denial

Me at 8:30pm: “If I just take this Nyquil and go to bed early, I’ll be right as rain in the morning.”

Total fallacy.

Step 3. Resistance

We had big plans to ski fresh tracks on New Years Day. We were going to kick of 2017 with bacon and a full day of skiing. Up dark and early, I told myself I was ok. I packed my Tylenol and a box of tissues. I got this, right?

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By 10am, I feebly told the kids we were going home. Mama couldn’t hack it. Also, my eyes were watering so badly I couldn’t see #safetyfirst.

Step 4. Acceptance

Fine. I’m sick. Once home, I crawled into bed and let the kids fend for themselves. One of those days when you lie in bed floating in and out of sleep, but still with an ear towards what is happening in the rest of the house (are they fighting? eating? breaking things?) I don’t venture downstairs, knowing I’m better off in bed and that they are ok. Somewhat.

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Step 5. Recruitment

The dog never leaves my side, and a few times the kids check on me. Actually, it’s more like they can’t figure out what’s going on. They are wary: they stand at the door and wonder why I’m just a lump in bed: “Are you going to get up… at all?” They can’t seem to get used to the idea that I’m not hovering nearby. Eventually, they come close enough to sit on the bed with me. Anja makes me toast. I have helpers.

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I sleep for 14 hours.

Step 6. Recovery

Mama’s version of the man cold cannot extend past 24hours. The house and children may not survive. I get up, get dressed and face the day, still clutching my box of tissues.

On the bright side, at least I got my annual MMC over with early this year.

 

2016: Facts, favourites and fails

I love a good challenge. Tell me do something, I likely will shrug and be non-committal. Challenge me to do the exact same thing? Well, it’s on. Also, I left it to the last possible day, because I like to live life on the edge.

A few of us decided to recap 2016 and share it (hence, the challenge). I’ve been trying to come up with 16 distinct events to write about for 2016… and it would appear my brain has taken 2016 and smushed it all into one big memory. Nevertheless, I’ll try to break it down. In no particular order. With the assistance of photos. Like that book report you try to write for the book you didn’t really read.

16. Mistakes

I made a lot of mistakes in 2016. And in 2015. And 2014… you get the drift. I suspect I’ll make many more in 2017 – but the beauty is that I like to think that I learn a little something from these mistakes. And I try not to make the same one twice. We’ll call this one a #fact.

15. Friendships

They make my world go ’round. From the day-to-day folks who keep me sane, to those I’ve forged with like-minded people from afar, I hope that 2017 will build on 2016. Total #favourite.

14. Challenges

I’m not afraid of setting myself up for failure; it feels like I do it on a daily basis! But the older I get, the more willing I am to try. So 2016 was filled with challenges big and small, some of which I accomplished, many (many!) of which I failed. I could call this a #fail but that’s ok because I’ll just keep up on 2017.

13. Texas

Mysteriously, I started and ended the triathlon race season in Texas. It wasn’t planned that way. I learned a lot from those trips – from racing semi-unprepared, to travelling solo, to setting goals. I’m really excited to see what 2017 brings for racing. From joining Coeur Sports, to more travel to new places, it’s looking good so far. We’ll call this a #favourite/#fail (only because I didn’t quite hit the benchmarks I’d set myself. That’s what 2017 is for).

12. Invictus

A last-minute invite to work on one of the most inspiring projects ever. I learned a lot. I got to work with old friends and make new ones. I cracked under pressure but pulled it together. I met some ginger guy that everyone knows? I didn’t sleep much. I laughed really, really, really hard. A most definite #favourite.

11. Home

Home looks and feels different these days. As parents, we finally chose to live apart and, lo and behold, the kids have adapted (as I was told repeatedly that they would). I could say something trite like “that’s a post for another day”, but it’s not, because it’s really no one’s business. When I hear things like “the kids come from a broken home”, I can tell you that you are wrong: it’s not broken. It’s fixed in a way that works for us. It’s neither a #favourite nor a #fail, it’s a #fact and a work in progress.

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10. Kona

I witnessed the triathlon Super Bowl first hand (and also from the back of a motorcycle). It was an eye-opener for sure and I’ll be back, maybe as early as 2017! I just need someone I like to qualify so that I can go cheer/support/heckle #favourite.

9. Werk Werk Werk Werk Werk

I got a few new jobs this year. Some small, some dauntingly big. All I can say is that I love what I do and I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by people willing to take a chance on me #favourite.

8. La Belle Province

My favourite trip of the year was the one that took the kids and I back to Québec. Friend time, family time. A lot of time saying “Kids! This is where I used to *blahblahblah*”. It was pretty perfect #favourite.

7. Will

He’s 10 now. Beats me how that happened. I put a lot of pressure on that kid as the eldest (I’ll work on that). Most of the time, he steps up. He’s a normal, happy kid who still manages to surprise me. And dammit, he’s almost as tall as me #favourite.

6. Rory

My little Linus. He’s coming into his own as the kid who is both gentle and emotional but also? Doesn’t give a f#$%. Prototypical middle child. And the only one who doesn’t need to be reminded eleventy billion times to do something #favourite

5. Anja

My shadow. My girly tomboy. Life isn’t easy with 2 older brothers. She sails through, knocking on doors to find someone to play with. Fearless and funny, she only stops talking when she’s asleep #favourite

4. Adventures

I love that I don’t need much to call it an adventure. Weekend in city, lounging on Liz’s couch and riding bikes? Adventure. Hike in the rain with kids? Adventure. Putting up tents in some crazy prairie storm in Saskatoon? Adventure. I hope 2017 is FILLED with adventure #favourite

3. The world

As the kids get older, a lot of our conversations revolve around what we hear on the news, see on the TV, influence us from the outside. It’s fascinating and also a little terrifying (#trump!) But as I watch them absorb it all, I hope that their curiosity is piqued by things beyond their immediate borders. I can only hope that 2017 brings… hope #fact #fail #favourite

2. My health

I made an effort in 2016 to take better care of myself. It’s a never ending roller coaster, really. But the bottom line is, I am hella healthy. Can I do better? Obviously. Will I try? Yes. Will I fail? Probably. Will that stop me? No #fact.

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1. All of it

I struggled to come up with 16 distinct “bests” of 2016. My life isn’t full of crazy highs and brutal lows. It’s up and down, for sure. But isn’t everyones? As I look back on 2016, I can see that I am surrounded by friends who love me (and keep me in line), kids who challenge me (and most days, love me), I live a life that is, quite frankly, luxurious by most standards. 2016 was really hard is some ways, really easy and fun in others.

Just like I think 2017 will be.

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4: Missing the little things.

When I was 14 or 15, my uncle Frans came to spend Christmas with my family on our farm. He was a complete novelty to us, this big Dutch sport and candy loving uncle of ours. We opened our presents on December 24 as was our tradition, and I asked my uncle to tell me all the names of the things we were opening in Dutch and I’d parrot them back to him.

I announced that I was going to learn Dutch and his response was “Don’t. It’s a useless language.”

I was a dumb teenager and needless to say, learning Dutch was a passing whim that never evolved beyond learning swear words.

And it’s also something I regret.

My aunt Maud, uncle Frans, Mum in Holland.
My aunt Maud, uncle Frans, Mum in Holland.

When Mum died, we spent a few days going through her stuff, sorting, donating and sharing. We found a box of old letters that she had written to her mum when she was a new mother and beyond. They are all in Dutch, in her somewhat illegible hand. Maybe when my Omi died, mum went there to sort her things, too? I can’t remember. Somehow, she ended up with this box that her Mother saved and that we found buried under stuff.

About 6 months ago, Dad relinquished this box to me. When I got it, I scoured the internet for an over-priced Dutch/English dictionary and began to chip away at what I could. It isn’t easy: Mum writes in a shorthand that she and my Omi shared (much like all mother-daughters, I think). Sometimes, I can’t even decipher the words. I had these grand plans of sitting down one afternoon and powering through, but that’s just silly.

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So I take it bit by bit. When I have a bit of time, I take a letter (generally undated, but I can sort of guess when it was written based on the contents) and I work out what I can. It’s not precise science. But it’s a glimpse into a lifetime of raising children and living her life and sharing it with her Mum.

I have a folder in my inbox full of emails between Mum and myself. I still can’t bring myself to read them. It’s still too hard.

Sometimes, the Letters Project makes me extra sad and I put the letters aside for weeks. Other times, I tackle it like an assignment. But above all, it makes me long so much for the little things we used to share as mother-daughter. I miss her notes, her advice, her scoffs. I miss getting emails title “Alo Smotje”… our own shorthand, untranslatable.

September used to be my favourite month. Birthdays, Labour day, renewals, autumn… That’s no longer the case. I think September kind of sucks.

“Oh my God, I’m becoming my mother!”

Don’t I wish.

I’m noticing more and more that we share traits. I am a worrier, like she was. Sometimes, I will look down and notice that my hands rest in the same position hers did. I sip my wine like she did. But I don’t have an ounce of the strength she did. I don’t know how she did it.

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The kids and I talk about Omi quite a lot. Will remembers her, Anja claims to. I think they carry more the idea of her than the actual memories. My job is to keep those ideas alive, to share stories and my own memories.

4 years now. 4 years since I (we) lost my guide. 4 years during which our family has grown around her memory and her missing presence. 4 years since much of our family life was dictated by cancer. We don’t talk about her too often. When we do, we always share a laugh and a smile. I still wait for the sadness and the longing to fade. It’s not as acute; it’s more of a fuzzy outline to my day-to-day life that comes and goes. And yet, sometimes it can still completely take my breath away.

Maybe one day, I will finish the letters. Maybe one day, I will be able to share them. Will they be on interest to anyone else? Probably not. But it’s a tangible link to someone I miss so very much. My own guidebook, if you will. A glimpse into a life I miss being a part of. More memories and ideas to share with my children. A salve for the regret I feel at not having taken the time to delve deeper when she was alive. I take comfort in knowing the words and stories are there for me and my family.

I can’t be possible that it’s been 4 years.

Mam, I miss you.

Smotje xo.

 

Project 2016

“Hey, do you guys want t–”

No.”

“Kids! Let’s go to this pl–”

“No.”

And my personal fave:

“Try this.”

“No! I don’t like it.”

“Have you ever had/done/seen/read/tasted/tried it before?”

“No.”

I don’t know about you fellow parents out there, but this is the basic chorus in this house. They seem to be genetically programmed to want to stay home and inside their wee comfort zones. I suppose, on the one hand, that that’s fine. On the other, dudes, it’s a great big world out there and there’s lots to see!

To that end, I’m trying to make 2016 the Year of Yes.

Some days, it goes swimmingly: we are all on board and totally keen to tackle something new. For example: Will joined the basketball team at school. Rory tried ski jumping. Anja agreed to have her hair tied back every day (see, it doesn’t need to be anything major… just, something new and different).

Other days, like today, it’s hard for me to drive this little project forward because I’m feeling overwhelmed by work and life, it’s raining and it just feels easier to stay home and do our same old, same old. And that’s ok, too.

Regardless, I love that we have a challenge that everyone in the house can participate in. That said… it’s still January. Maybe I should revisit this post in June and see where we are at?

Yes, I will.

 

 

My 12 days of Christmas

Or is it 13? Or 11? Who can tell, these days. School’s out, I take some time off work  and then all of a sudden I have no concept of what day of the week it is. It’s kind of neat.

It’s a white Christmas here and what a difference snow makes. Everything’s just that much brighter. The kids are easily convinced to go outside. And running in the snow? Waaaay more fun that running in the rain.

Needless to say, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of wrapping things up (literally and figuratively), getting into the swing of winter and thinking about the end of 2015 by starting to make plans and hatch ideas for 2016.

Since my brain also seems to be on Christmas holiday, I’ll leave you with a photo wrap of the last few weeks.

Merry Christmas!