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.
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.
These are the encouraging words I mutter to myself, as I dig around for some warm running clothes. It’s 5:34pm, dark and foggy out. The last thing I want to do is go for a run.
I always seem to think ‘challenges’ of most sorts are a great idea, and for the first few days I am so gung ho: Give up sugar? Yes! for about 31 hours. Plank Challenge! Yes! Until… meh.
So when the Run Rudolph Run popped up on Facebook, of course I was all over it. The basic premise is that you pick some variation of a run streak that lasts between December 1 to the 24th (hence the festive title). We bandied about some different ones but I eventually settled on “Consistent Rudolph”, committing to running 5kms daily for the duration. Easy!
Narrator’s voice over: “she thought it would be easy. It wasn’t”
I tossed the Run Rudolph Run calendar I’d printed on the kitchen counter, only to have Will scoop it up and ask what it was. I explained and he immediately replied that he wanted to join me in the challenge.
I agreed. I like company. Besides, I was 99% certain that after 3 days, we’d throw in the antlers.
Fast forward to day 12 of the challenge. We’re still going strong. And no thanks to me, that’s for damn sure. I wanted to quit by day 3. I’ve suggested to Will that we take days off and use the make up days. I’ve proposed that he skip the run on swim club days. Basically, I’ve tried to be a terrible influence.
It hasn’t worked. He’s 100% in.
I’ve never run so many consecutive days in down jackets and mitts, in the dark by the light of weak headlamp.
But Rudolph comes with an unexpected gift: every single time we set out, it ends up being my favourite 30 minutes of the day because my eldest child opens up to me. It’s as though the movement of his feet loosens his tongue and he’s off. We talk about school, friends, politics, running, christmas lists, what he wants to be when he grows up. For those 30 minutes, all barriers come down and nothing seems off limits. We aren’t mom and son for that time; we’re just 2 people sharing a run and a good chat.
A small part of me wishes Rudolph could go on forever.
The kids had a swim meet this weekend. It wasn’t their first, but it was their favourite to date. Shorter distances, candy at the finish lines, fun atmosphere.
In the car there, they all admitted to feeling nervous butterflies, and I stayed quiet and let them talk through it… “once you jump in, it gets easier and I’m not nervous anymore.”
I spend the meet wandering the deck and cheering. I’ve discovered that I cannot stand the screeching sound of my cheer voice, and want to tell myself to shut up. But I love cheering on my kids, so I don’t.
The kids don’t win – not by a long shot. But I’m proud of the fact that this doesn’t seem to bother them. This doesn’t mean they aren’t trying their hardest; they are, for the most part. Often times, they come over to me, dripping and smiling, and say “I didn’t come last! Can I have a snack?”
As we drove home, Will asked if we could start swimming together, before school. He wants to improve and hit some qualifying times, move up to the next level.
Here’s where walking the fine line comes in.
Of course I’ll take him swimming. I’ll impart what little swim knowledge I have (it’s easy to repeat what I’ve been told for years. Easier than actually doing it, anyway).
How to help him improve without becoming *that* parent? I am loathe to step on coaches toes. Where does giving the odd tip end and become fake coaching? Do I seek out a few extra coaching sessions, or is that “buying speed?” I want to encourage but not be overbearing. Am I unconsciously pushing them to do something just because I like it? Or do they actually want to it? If they quit, is it my fault? My brain is melting.
Clearly, I am overthinking this in a big way.
Parents out there, what say you? How do you handle your kids competitive endeavours?
Maybe I’ll give it some more thought during today’s swim practice.
I’m on the deck, trying to see Mt. Currie through the blanket of smoke that has settled in the Valley. It’s a few days post-Ironman, and I’m now recovered enough to be antsy, already looking forward to what’s next. Go figure.
Safe to say that the month of July was a total blur and revolved entirely around triathlon and children. I suppose that isn’t unusual for me, but it was intense.
The kids have shown me just how patient and awesome they can be. My mom game certainly wasn’t on point, so they were left to fend for themselves. A lot. But they handled it just fine. It helps that it meant eating out a few nights a week and a few nights of pancakes for dinner, too.
We did prioritize some days of summer fun, though. If not, I think we’d all have gone bonkers.
How we roll.
I still crush them up. But down? …
And then this happened.
I also raced a few times. So that was neat.
X-Terra Victoria was a bust, race-wise, but a total win, fun-wise. Swanky resort, pool time with the kids and some quality time with friends.
Squamish triathlon was a super fun return to grass-roots racing. Good vibe, nice people, and a good way to kick off the next few weeks of crazy.
And we’re off!
She could teach me a thing or 2.
And so could he…
I successfully race directed an IRONMAN. I still kind of can’t believe it. It was hard and scary and awesome. And really, really tiring. Our crew at BCC live made me look good and captured my “why”. Sometimes, I find it hard to explain why I like to do what I do. I think this offers a good glimpse.
I consider myself fortunate to work with a group of people who are not only talented and relentlessly hard workers but also fun, kind and great to be around. And they put up with my dumb jokes.
Love these guys
DD going above and beyond
This gave me heart palpitations
And now somehow it’s August.
I predict that it will be more of the same. Triathlon and kids. With more play and some work. And hopefully, with a little less intensity.
Last night was a fairly low point in my young parenting career.
It had been a long few days of go-go-go. I haven’t been sleeping much, so by the time the bickering had reached an all-time high on the drive home, my patience, not to mention nerves, were shot.
I slammed the car onto the side of the road and unleashed. I was done and they could walk home, as far as I was concerned.
No, I didn’t make them walk 34kms home. I’m not a total monster.
We drove home in silence.
Me, seething and full of regret, knowing I’d overreacted but too stubborn and angry to apologize.
Them, well, who knows what they were thinking.
As I lay in bed that night, all I could think was “but, what if that outburst is all they will remember of the day?”
When I can’t sleep, the but, what ifs bounce around my brain like pinballs.
I want to let all 3 kids have all the freedom I feel they can handle.
But, what if all they remember is me not being by their side, somehow missing out?
I’m finding that one of the hardest parts of single parenting is not having that partner to bounce all your thoughts regarding these humans you are responsible for off of 24/7. On your own, the littlest things can take up an abnormal about of brain space.
There’s no question that I feel like we’re a team, me and the kids. A unit. When I’m away from them, I don’t feel whole.
But, what if that’s too much pressure for them?
The eldest is (was? he seems to have tapered off) on a “health kick”. He claims to be on a diet; he does a mini-workout that he saw on YouTube and has been biking every day.
I ask him why and what prompted him. His response is that he “wants a six pack and to be a faster runner and biker.”
A big part of me is proud of him for making healthy choices.
But, what if this is because of a negative example I’m setting? That time I teasingly poked his little belly? All those times we joke about my “jelly bum”… How many times have I told him that I love him just the way he is?
I want them to have the summer of their dreams. To have the freedom to make their own choices, to make mistakes, to skin their knees, build forts, embrace boredom, ride their bikes, live on popsicles.
But, what if it’s not enough?
I don’t believe in helicopter parenting. I want them to make smart choices and be accountable for their actions.
But, what if they aren’t? What if, by giving them these inches, they are taking yards?
But, what if, you never know, it all turns out ok?
I was reminded of this fact when the alarm went off at 5:10am today. I groaned, cursed my sport of choice and went to the pool.
(Nevertheless, she persisted. Ha!)
Of the 3 sports that make up the rather odd one that is triathlon, swimming is, in my opinion, just the vehicle that gets me to the other two.
My dad will tell you all about how I used to scratch the shit out of my mom during toddler swim time. To this day, I still can’t open my eyes under water, making for some interesting swim meets in the lake as a kid (goggles? Who the hell wore goggles?!) The only reason I learned to properly swim in was to start triathlon.
(And also to feed my addiction to cute bikinis.)
Anyway. All this to say that getting into the pool always feels a little like a chore, the workouts always a little daunting.
The boys joined the Whistler Swim Club about 8 weeks ago. I had made a deal: they had to try it for one session. They were wary of my expectations (were there races? What if it’s super hard? What if we’re slow?! Like you!)
I told them I wasn’t expecting mini-Michael Phelps’. I was merely hoping for them to learn how not to drown.
And here we are, 2 months later. No only do they know how to “not drown”, Will can sort of butterfly (I cannot), Rory like to swim backstroke because “I can breathe during that one, and they say things like “I had to go on the red top”.
I mean, c’mon. That’s cute, right?
As for me, I time workouts to happen during their practices and I struggle through my swim sessions a little less, mostly because I find it fun to spy on my kids underwater, and to share an even playing field. They do their thing in their lane, I do my thing in mine.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.