Post-Race Round Up

It is hard to believe but autumn is upon us! The first official day today and the weather has gone from balmy humidity to crisp fall air in a microsecond. All I am thankful for is that I finished my first mini Tri race last weekend when it was cool but not crisp outside!

Yes, I finally reached my own personal fitness goal. The race was swam, cycled and ran last Sunday at Lakeside, Ontario organized by MultiSport Canada. A four-hundred meter swim, ten kilometer bike and two-and-a-half kilometer run all in one shot. I reached deep into my own stubborn nature and pushed my training the last two weeks getting ready determined not to let my first race intimidate me. How do you train with three small kids? In truth, pockets of time are so precious that more and more thought goes into how I spend any time I can carve out for myself. This race took precedence over everything else. I had committed to it and was determined to finish it. I went swimming at night after I had kissed my babies good night at a local health club. I ran in the dark the last couple of weeks. I cycled on the weekends as Mr. L napped during a mandatory quiet time in our house.

We managed to fit it in my training and Mr. L was supportive, for the most part. I tried to run anywhere I could. My little guy, still at home with me most of the week, would jog with me to the park his cute little laugh echoing down the quiet streets once the older kids went back to school. At times it was tough to fit in training. Family events, a friend who needed a shoulder for support, Mr. L’s insanely busy schedule. They all took precedence over the training because for me, my training does come second. It is as important, but being flexible and creative organizing my time was paramount. I had to be okay if my Sunday morning planned run was delayed because we decided at the last-minute to squeeze in one more family outing. I still did it, just later that day.

Two out of three kids with me at starting line.

Two out of three kids with me at starting line.

Race day came. I plunged into crisp lake temperatures on a gray day as my family looked on cheering. I ignored the weeds at the bottom of the lake and used whatever stroke felt right swimming to the  finish line praying I would not have to pull the cap off and wave down one of the nearby aides. I shook off the stiff fingers as I pulled socks over wet feet and tried to do up the laces on my shoes ignoring the others bypassing me in transition as I stumbled over what shirt to pull over my wet bathing suit. I groaned but kept pedalling up the rolling hills of the Ontario countryside cursing myself for only road bike training on the flat and safe streets by Lake Ontario. I threw my bike onto the rack and hit the pavement during the run ignoring my feet that had gone numb from the cages on my bike and let my legs do their job. And I finished, not last and not feeling like a truck hit me. My family was at the finish line cheering me on as I sped up and I felt great. Great for finishing and then cold. Asking for a sweater to pull over my quickly cooling body, my sister-in-law asked, “Wasn’t that fun?”

Finish Line. Photo by Zoomphoto Inc.

Finish Line. Photo by Mike Cheliak My Sports Shooter

Fun? No. No it wasn’t. Challenging. Satisfying. Absolutely. I had set a goal and accomplished it. But fun? It was not the first word that came to mind. My hip hurt, a residual post-pregnancy ache that will probably haunt me whatever I decide to do next for the rest of my life. I was tired. I was cold. I was hungry. It was absolutely nice to see all the encouragement from my family, the other racers and the great spirit of camaraderie at the event, but for me, fun? Not really.

A week post-race where I indulged in massage, chiropractic care, a facial and even a new pair of running shoes (Hot pink Saucony pair much lighter weight than my old clunkers. This alone is new behaviour!) where my only exercise was chasing my kids and a couple of much-missed yoga classes (something had to give during training and it was yoga which I desperately missed), my hip is still aching. I got some writing done for my new class I started as well a couple of weeks ago with my new free time. However, as much as I resist, the fitness mama has been born. My body used to the regular activity and exercise craves a run down by the lake or a few laps in the pool. Even a quick bike ride. Something that gets my body moving. I know something has shifted, slightly, when yesterday morning during the girl’s tennis lessons, instead of hiding drinking another cup of coffee typing on my laptop, I asked Mr. L if he wanted to play tennis instead. I needed to move.  To help my hip, I have to balance light running with training to give it a chance to rest but my body is starting to scream…no! Get out before it snows. This alone is a new outlook for this parent who craves a good nap, warm bed and good book.

So what is the lesson learned from this experience? Do it. If you’re thinking about it, go for it. It may be fun, challenging or a goal but whatever your reason, if you want to do it, you can.  If I can find time to train for a mini tri, you can find time if that is what you want to do. I did this as a goal and truthfully, to get my behind moving knowing I needed a bigger goal than “let’s go to the gym” to reach for helping create what is I hope a regular lifestyle choice for me that includes some fitness. The biggest question people have asked me this past week, “Are you going to do it again?”

Without hesitation I answer, “Yes. I want to better my swim in open water.” Even six months ago, I had no idea I would say something like that and mean it. Than I usually add, “And maybe have some fun next time.” Because, at the end of the day, if you cannot find the fun in what you are doing, what is the point?

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Ode to Potty Training

If you awaken upon gray Sunday morning puttering down the stairs until that first cup of coffee is ready relishing in the slower pace where the whole family can stay in their pyjamas a little while longer. If you wave a hand towards your children allowing them to watch a few morning cartoons after they gobble down a bowl of cereal leaving droplets of milk across the kitchen table and you do not rush to wipe it up. If you decide to snooze on the couch for five (okay twenty) minutes keeping one eye partially open in order to ensure your kids do not fight over the remote control. If you have your own slow routine on Sunday morning where for a few precious hours you cocoon yourself and your family inside your home then you are part of our group. The people who survived the first week of back-to-school. We are those tired souls who looked forward to Sunday morning all week. The one day where we did not have to remind our children to lace up their shoes, close their water bottles and put on a pair of tight leggings because yes, it is cool outside. There are no planned activities. Today there are no tennis lessons or swimming classes. However, with three or more children and one potty training that blissful quiet turns into a frenzy of activity in a heartbeat.

Mr. L had vacated the premises quite early for a planned bike race so it was just us, until Jacob had to deal with potty training. Yes, potty training is underway at our house. Having gone through this twice before (albeit it with girls) I was not sure what to expect when potty training a boy. I heard lots of tips and words of advice.

“They take longer.”

“Sit them backwards on the toilet so they get used to seeing that view of the toilet.”

“Just put a pull-up diaper on when battling with #2.”

“It’s easier with boys, they can go anywhere.”

“Have the Dad do it. Boys need to learn from boys.”

I did a bit of reading and a lot of listening. Then proceeded to just go with what I know. Potty training in three-ish days. Leading up to “Potty Day” we talked a lot about going potty. Jacob followed everyone into the bathroom to observe. He repeated the steps. I set up the various potty stations around the house complete with stacks of books. Put wipes, extra training underwear and pull up diapers at every potty location. The Potty Book Set complete with Henry, his little potty, DVD and book arrived a few weeks prior and I spent every day sitting Jacob in front of the television to watch Henry learn to go potty and then we would read the book. So when “Potty Day” arrived, we took his sisters to camp (this was last week of summer) and spent ten minutes saying bye-bye to diapers and being introduced to the potty. In our house, Smarties work very well as an incentive the first few weeks. I worry about weaning them off the Smarties later. I grit my teeth, told myself to look ahead to diaper free days and we commenced.

Jacob first potty day.

Jacob first potty day.

What I know from past experience:

1. You cannot make a toddler sit on a potty until they are ready.

2. Have bleach on hand for accidents.

3. #2 always takes longer than #1 for most children.

4. Celebrate the small victories.

5. Don’t get frustrated and repeat to yourself, “No more diapers. No more diapers.”

6. Do not make appointments or plans. You will be housebound for three-five days.

I had not realized, potty training with three kids at home is hard. When I trained Elizabeth, I had a part-time nanny to help and Audrey was a baby so staying homebound was much, much easier. With Audrey, I had a full-time nanny and Elizabeth was at full-day kindergarten so lots of support. This time, I am at home. Alone during the week/day. With three kids. The upside was that the girls took it upon themselves to help and applaud their little brother of course, requesting the same treat when we successfully hit the potty. They were both at camp the first crucial week. (You know that week where you decide if you are pushing your little one early and need to take a step back or progress is made and you forge ahead?) So I did get that important one on one time for a bit. I remember sitting on stools reading books with a toddler or a magazine of my own while we “waited.” It is a little trickier when you have two other kiddies running around. This time around, sometimes I sit scrolling through my iPhone and other times I tell Jacob, “just sit still, Mommy has to check on sisters. Don’t move!” praying he does not follow me.

Boys are different from girls. You have to teach them to keep a certain body part pointed down and repeat, “It is not a toy. Don’t touch!” He is excellent at the routine and never forgets to wash his hands. He also likes to help flush it all away and I have to admit, seeing a two and a half-year old boy clap and wave, “Bye-Bye Pee!” is darn cute. Being the end of summer, he is running around naked a lot or just in training underwear. The girls have gotten used to seeing his bare bum in sight.

Boys like to emulate other boys. His second day of full-day preschool last week, he stood up to go pee and now refuses to sit on the potty. So I hold his hands to steady him, got little stools so he can reach the toilet and secretly applaud my good fortune.  I have scored now that he learned how to do number one so fast lessening the number of times in a day I need to clean a potty.

Number two is taking a bit longer, and the girls are getting frustrated when on the weekend we cannot get up and leave because I know he needs thirty-ish minutes to dance around before he finally sits on the potty. I also learned last week that being a mom of three or more, you sometimes forget your last child is only two and a half meaning back-up clothes and wipes are a necessity. An impromptu park visit is cut short when we have to run home to change clothes and the girls just have to deal with that reality.

But we make progress. The girls have learned it’s best to let me spend time with Jacob so we can get on with our days. The older kids also help the younger ones which is really great. One day, I found all three of them reading in the bathroom. One on the potty. One on the toilet and one just hanging out. Our powder room on the main floor has become the communal bathroom for all sexes and ages of the kids. Thank goodness Mr. L and I are lucky enough to have our own bathroom! Also, when you ask them if they have to go. They say yes but want to try later because they are busy playing. Do not believe them. This has always resulted in an accident.

Yet, I see it in the distance. A flicker of light wherein my life will not revolve around potty times and diapers. No more cleaning training underwear in bleach or holding a little bare-bummed toddlers in front of me as I speed race towards the closest bathroom. Hearing my voice pleading with older children to be patient, he must go potty before we leave!! That flicker of light will grow and how I will celebrate.

“Bye-Bye Diapers. I am through with you!” (From The Potty Book)

Back-to-school – a Mom’s perspective

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Oscar Wilde

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It has happened. In the days leading up to back-to-school, I saw my elder girl, Elizabeth, getting anxious. My ever forgetful, grass-stained knee absent minded professor type of kid had turned into a girl beneath my very eyes. She grew taller and thinner. Her front teeth have grown in giving her face a slightly older look. She is brushing her hair and picking out skirts to wear every day. Although still young enough to try and fit her doe-like limbs into my lap, the rolling of the eyes have started. “Mooommm…I know!” A shrill whine will unleash as I ask her to please remember to pick up her pyjamas off the floor, again.

It became so clear to me that she was on the cusp between young child and girlhood when we went shopping for back-to-school outfits. I had decided to make it a girls-only affair, leaving Mr. L with Jacob and taking Elizabeth and Audrey with me. Elizabeth made a beeline for the dresses at The Children’s Place. Snatching four of them off the rack she proceeded to twirl each of them to see which one would win.

Audrey, being five and a half years old, stood back unsure of where to go. Seeing Elizabeth muttering to herself, I took Audrey over to some sparkly skirts and asked her to pick her favourite. Still overwhelmed by the choice, I picked a few and told her to pick one. Asking her what kind of top she wanted, she deferred to my judgement and we found a some practical t-shirts that she could mix-and-match with other outfits. She told me to stop for a minute and asked to look at them. My thoughtful younger girl was matching colours in her head having an obsession with wearing clothes that are matched to precision. Leaving her I returned to my seven and a half year old who was preening herself in front of a mirror holding up one dress, then another as she tried to strike a variety of model-like poses. At least it was narrowed down to two dresses for this performance.

Sighing, I had to wonder what this year ahead held in store for her. I am the type of Mom who prefers jeans, nice tops and shoes or lululemon wear. I have been known to wear some funky outfits and like to dress up like any other woman, but I do not get heart palpitations over shopping.

“Mom,” Elizabeth turned around. “Can I try these both on? I just have to see which one twirls the best while wearing it.”

“No honey,” I said looking at the time and knowing I still needed to find Jacob a few items and wanted to hit the nearby shoe store in our short time. “I am sure both will fit, you can decide from here. We don’t have much time.”

Then I heard it. “But MOM!! I just have to. PLEASE?? I have to know which twirls the best!” The beginning of my oldest daughter reaching that point where I changed from the Mom who wears the golden crown and knows best, to the Mom who has no idea what her life is like if she does not try on both dresses. I was and am not ready for it.

“No,” I repeated more firmly knowing I would have to hold my breath and hold fast in my decisions from now on. “You have a couple more minutes to decide and then we are leaving.”

Turning around, I went back to Audrey who had made a decision and I took her with me to grab a new shirt and pants for the little guy. Turning back towards the mirror, Elizabeth was gone. As my heart stopped, I saw her heading towards the change rooms, a determined look on her face. With a big breath, I caught her by the arm and said to her quietly but very, very firmly, “I said no. What are you doing?”

“But I just HAVE TO!” she whined. “It’s right here, I’ll be just a minute.” Snatching both dresses I took them back to the rack. Following me, she realized I meant business. “Fine, I will decide right now.” She grabbed the blue flowery one. “But you do think it twirls the best don’t you?”

Sighing again as we walked to the cashier, making a quick stop at the headbands, (On a side note; headbands are the new Beanie Boos in our house. We have tons that were never worn until a few weeks ago and then all of sudden, every outfit has to have a matching headband.) I paid for our back-to-school outfits and headed to the van. Turning out of the parking lot onto the street it started. The girls asked why we weren’t going to the shoe store. I told them we had taken too long to decide on their outfits and ran out of time. You would think their pet dog died. Sentences were thrown my way. They could not POSSIBLY go to school without new knapsacks (and their old ones though a bit worn are fine) Elizabeth needed a new pair of sparkly Sketcher shoes. Would I like it if all the kids laughed at them because their knapsacks had holes in them? I bit my tongue and told them, “We are going home and I may take you out again when you learn to appreciate the clothes we just bought.”

In truth, I was exhausted from going to one store and my patience had grown very thin. It was also pretty close to the time we needed to be back for dinner and I needed a break.

Both girls were sent to their room for yelling at me in the van and ceasing to whine upon a couple of warnings. Their clothes were confiscated. After a while a contrite Elizabeth came downstairs, “We’re sorry. Can we have our clothes back now? I’ll listen better when we go to a store.”

“I’ll think about it.” I told her giving her a hug.

The first day of school came and went. Yes, their new outfits were worn and the dress twirled beautifully. Their headbands admired by all. I smiled picking Elizabeth up from the bus on the first day of school as she came off the bus, typically dishevelled with items being carried and her new knapsack open. She had grass stains on her pants.

“Mom, I’m sorry. We were playing in the grass and it just happened.” She looked nervous looking up at me and I knew that although I get glimpses of the girl that is blossoming with all the good and not so good that may come along, she is still a little kid, my little kid.

“It’s okay,” I told her carrying her heavy knapsack then watching as she followed her brother and sister as they ran down the sun-filled sidewalk to our house yelling like angry fairies and giggling.

After all, they were just clothes.