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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Running through summer.

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From technorati.com

Running. Fitness. Goals. Not me, generally. However, this past spring I took on a bunch of new fitness goals. Why not? The pockets of time I possess need to be filled with something. My casual saunter through life needed a bit of direction. My mother thinks I should rest. “You’ll wear yourself out!” she says. To be fair, being on the petite side she was always afraid I was sicker than other people or not strong enough to compete or would get hurt. Becoming a parent I realized, those are her issues. I was not sicker than other children. I kept up with those bigger than me. I even played field hockey and was a decent wing player. So, I reassure her I am fine and head out the door to run 5K after my wee ones are tucked into bed.

Others applaud me on. Mr. L encourages me and does not bat an eye when I tell him I am heading out to run, again. He has learned to back off the coaching. At first he gently nudged me to get my yoga, nap-loving, television show catch-up butt out the door. He would email me work-out plans and sign me up for races I could not hope to finish. He would frown when another chocolate cookie was popped into my mouth after dinner with a sarcastic comment. We both quickly learned although well intentioned, him being my coach would not work. I appreciate his input and ask him for opinions but his way and my way of welcoming fitness into our lives are different journeys.

After all, he did it about a year ago. He went on a fitness life change-over that I am extremely proud. He changed his eating habits and how he spent his free time. I love looking at my buff husband and glad he has found something of his own besides family and work.  However, I am one of those people who just has to figure out her own way. The kids take up a lot of my energy and I am generally exhausted at night. When I took on my journey to a more fitter Mama, I had ease myself into a routine that I felt comfortable with and celebrate the smaller milestones. I am not trying to lose weight. There are no apparent health reasons for me to get moving. It is a lifestyle choice to welcome regular physical activity and fitness into our lives and our children’s lives.

Life is also full of schedules, (other peoples) that interfere with my own. Being the main caretaker of house, home and well, our lives, there were some weeks if I got out to the gym or for a run it was an amazing feat of creative scheduling. But I kept plugging along, ignoring that little voice telling me “why bother?” June was crazy with end of year activities, school wrap-up, planning and packing for our family trip. I ran on the beach in Israel. Loved the camederie of seeing other runners sweating in the blazing heat at eight am. One of my favorite, personal memories of our trip is going for a run and then spontaneously going for a swim (yes, in my running clothes) in the choppy waves of the blue Mediterrenean to cool off. I was by myself and felt wonderful, powerful even as droplets ran down my legs walking back to our apartment. But in that moment I felt for the first time that I could do this. I could reach my fitness goals and maybe even learn to like it.

Upon our return home life slowly returned to normal. The kids were driving me crazy and we were all suffering from jet lag. But I kept going out even when my body was up at 4 am, I would be out by 6 am running by Lake Ontario seeing the sun rise knowing I have my first 5K run this Thursday so had to “ramp up” my training. I had forgotten how beautiful Ontario can be in the summer.

Sun rise over Lake Ontario

Sun rise over Lake Ontario

Four days until my first race of the summer. I have run the course twice, bettering my time by shaving four minutes off the total 5K. I can finally see the improvement Mr. L and others have told me about. My lungs do not burn and my legs keep pumping. Will I ever learn to love running? Who knows. But I can say, I have learned to appreciate it.

Dancing around the maypole.

“The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.

Beneath the apple blossoms
I go a wintry way,
For love that smiled in April
Is false to me in May.”
–  Sara Teasdale, May

Has spring actually finally arrived in my little piece of Southwestern Ontario? Within less than five days all the spring flowers have bloomed, the trees are budding, birds are chirping happily building nests and my children are running for the warmth of the sunshine like butterflies eagerly awaiting the warm temperatures. It has been a long wait this year, but with confidence I think we can state, it is spring!

A person can feel their mood lifting with the onset of constant sun. This week is the longest stretch we have had consistently warmer temperatures and sunshine in a few months. I can already feel my whole being sigh with relief and my house is welcoming the open windows.

Last weekend we packed up the family for an hour long trip to a very close friend’s house. R and S are like family to us and we lament that they live so far. Last year we started an annual family sleepover tradition all having young kids still requiring parental supervision where the adults can enjoy some drinks out on the threadbare patios and the kids can giggle and do well, kid-stuff. The girls bunked with their little girl and Jacob bunked with us. It was glorious. The first real taste of a warm spring. A nice change to our little pocket of Ontario where we left gray skies and lower temperatures down by Lake Ontario.

Beauty in the sun.

Beauty in the sun.

This week my two girls have been obsessed with fairy houses and have been diligently writing note after note hoping for the fairies to visit. Currently our playset in our backyard is being turned into a fairy playhouse. Some of my cherished moments are of hearing them playing in harmony instead of the petty bickering that inevitable arises when there are multiple children in a family. I have learned the art this past month of taking a step back and firmly encouraging them to work it out themselves. A constant phrase is, “Is this an emergency? Have you tried to work out? Talk to your sister about it.” A phrase I hear echoed in the classroom and it is with hope I leave them to it turning back to a household chore or chasing a little man who has decided to empty a bag of rice chips all over the kitchen floor.

With spring also comes the reality of taking stock of the winter damage to your property. Gardening, washing windows, finally putting away the winter gear. We also realized that our stone steps although lovely to look at have loosened and sloped to such an extent that measures need to be taken to rebuild or replace them. Add it to the project list. Do they every truly end?

After sneaking away in early April to a writer’s retreat and a renewed dedication to finish a fiction project I am working on, I spent last month forgoing other activities (including this blog) to re-focus myself on finishing a project in the pockets of time I am able to grasp in between family life. A routine has been set-up and to my delight, a fiction novel has developed and I am nearing the last quarter of the story. I can see the finish line!

Now I cannot pretend a lot of hard work is in store as I re-write and edit but the story will be complete which is an accomplishment for this newbie writer and busy mom. On top of that,  I also implemented a new fitness training routine to help prepare for some goals later this summer and truthfully, am feeling stronger each time I pull myself to the gym and leave feeling that natural high that comes after a good work-out.

So what is in store for May? Outside time with the kids. Baseball season starts next week for the girls so I will be trekking to fields across the 401 highway in between spring concerts at school and packing for a big family trip in June. Fitness is on my mind this month. Now that I have a base routine in place, it is time to amp it up and with that figure out how to include the kids.

What are your plans for May?

My dance around the maypole continues.

Parenting Milestones

My path has not been determined. I shall have more experiences and pass many more milestones.

Agnetha Faltskog

A windy April has flown the days by quicker than I imagined. As we still wait for warm weather to appear, our little household is winding down winter activities and there will be a brief lull that I will welcome with open arms. No more running around Monday nights to get the girls ready for skating as tonight marks the last class. Thank goodness too. The girls’ skates are a touch on the small side. Elizabeth (who has never been fond of skating although to give her credit plugs along knowing she is behind others younger than her) has given up and I have become the Mom who is cringing on the bleachers watching my eldest child hang off her instructor or clinging to the side wall. Finding anything to do but the skating drills the rest of her class is doing. Audrey actually seems to be gaining more confidence in skating and although her little shuffles are still cautious, she is precise in her moves and attempting all the drills. But, I think even she will appreciate the break and this mom will gladly take their certificates, pat them on the back for making it through another term of skating and put it aside until next winter. After all, baseball season starts in three weeks and there will be a whole new set of challenges to face for my two girls.

Jacob only knows he is not going skating and watches each week sadly out the front window as we leave. Upon our return home he keeps repeating, “I skate when I three?” To which I respond by kissing his cute little fingers and nod yes, next winter Mommy will take him skating. I am sure he will also appreciate the break of having a babysitter every Monday afternoon and some much needed quality time with his sisters. One benefit of being a mom of three or more, hopefully one of your brood will embrace some of the sports and activities you try so hard to diligently expose them to.

Knowing that each child has their own unique strengths and challenges, Mr. L and I always believed that there are a set of skills necessary as part of childhood. We do not expect Olympic athletes. But we do strongly encourage our kids to learn the basics of some sports and skills in the hopes they will have fun, get some exercise and maybe learn to find their hobbies/passions that will stay with them through life. These markers of childhood are plentiful. Riding a bike, learning to skate, (after all we do live in Canada where cold weather is dominant most of the year). Learning to ski. Swimming on their own with no life jacket and water safety. Along with other non-sport skills like reading, learning the basics to playing an instrument and how to tie shoe-laces, it is our job to help teach them these things. We do our best in our busy household, sometimes taking things upon ourselves and often taking advantage of the wonderful community programs available to help us.

However, the time it takes to do this with three or more, well anyone who has tried with one child, multiply that times three, especially if you have kids all within a similar age range without the benefit of having older children to model the behaviours or help younger siblings. It is a lot of work for two people. I applaud those families that are single-parent families going through these parenting milestones.  Most days I feel I am not doing enough or teaching them quick enough.

Through the last year or so, I have learned to take help when offered. Often, trying to teach your children yourself just does not work well for various reasons. You need infinite patience that is truthfully sometimes hard to attain after arguing about homework with a seven-year old or falling asleep because your toddler was up at four am demanding that Mommy sleep in his room. You also need time. Time taken away from all the other things you have to manage in your life.

So it is with a great amount of pride and relief when I saw my eldest girl teaching her younger brother his colours. She patiently spent a half hour taking different coloured-crayons out of our huge assortment of pencils/pencil crayons/crayons/markers Ziploc bag and having him repeat each colour to her. It was with little surprise that shortly after that, my two-year old could rattle off correctly nearly every primary colour. Check that off my parenting list!

It was also with gratitude I said, “Yes!!” when my mother and step-father asked if they could get the girls their new big girl bikes for their birthdays. Being February babies, they waited until this past weekend and picked up two very excited girls. Elizabeth had already started on a bike when she turned five. Rejecting the tricycle, she went straight to a bright blue two-wheeler with streamers and training wheels. With a little hard work she managed to take-off and enjoyed leisurely riding around the neighbourhood.

On one of the rare warmer days earlier this spring, she hopped on the blue bike. Right away we noticed how much she had grown since last summer. It was time for the next bike size. Her younger sister then attempted to get on Elizabeth’s old bike but the clunky monster was hard for her to pedal and she was easily frustrated. We hoped by getting her a brand new bike of her own, it would encourage her to keep pedaling.

After a lunch out with the grandparents, they arrived banging on our front door asking me to come outside with Jacob. Jacob ran to get his tricycle, desperate to keep up with his sisters, whom to my delight hopped on their shiny new bikes and took off down the sidewalk only pedaling back when I yelled, “Helmets!!”

“Audrey is doing it!” I exclaimed feeling excited at seeing my younger daughter pedal her first bike.

“She kept riding it in the store until she got it!” Responded my mom. Somewhere in my mind, I knew the excursion to buy bikes with their grandparents worked better for my girls than if I had taken them. I can picture myself distractedly trying to get them on the bikes to size them while chasing a toddler through the store and the inevitable whining as each tried to get my attention. Instead, they were excited and proud to show their grandparents what they could do and my mom and step-dad were infinitely more patient with them than I could have been this spring. A win-win for my girls.

An impromptu walk/ride around the block was next and even after a couple of falls and firm encouragement to get back on their bikes and keep going, both girls did not care their hands were freezing on the chilly April afternoon. They simply rode their bikes while their little brother took it all in watching them pedal their two-wheelers.

As I look ahead with excitement to warmer temperatures and the winding down of activities, I will try to remember the joy and happiness I could sense from my kids doing the simple things. The couple of times we went skating this year and my older daughter just glided in the softly falling snow without the demands of lessons. Riding their bikes on a sunny afternoon or  colouring together at our kitchen table. I will take these moments and try to remember that even if it takes a bit of time and sometimes frustration, it is well worth it to help them learn these life lessons.

Next step. Removing the training wheels on a a seven-year old’s bike. The teaching never stops.

New things to do – finding time.

January 17, 2013

Large snowflakes are lazily drifting off and on all day. It is as if the sky cannot decide whether to completely open and save us from the frozen brown ground since the rain last week or is just teasing us with a winter kiss, reminding us how snowflakes can be magical.

Jacob and I were having a lazy day at home. Well, not lazy in the sense that I’ve managed to get a lot of domestic chores done and there is only a handful of presents left to find places for. Jacob was having so much fun during our “time to get the dusters out games” peppered in between with story times or an impromptu dance party, that he refused to leave for our tykes yoga class. An epic battle of coats and boots later, we were late. As we entered the class, I then had to chase him down as he proceeded to grab the lunch bag carefully hidden underneath my coat, yelling, “Hungry!” I caved and we sat outside the class while he happily smushed pieces of ham into his little mouth gripping the plastic container in case I dare suggest we put it away until after the class.

Finally his little tummy stopped grumbling enough to participate in half the class and I realized how unrealistic my expectations were having our third child be able to eat on the go. When we signed up for this class I was a little wary of the 1145 am start time knowing he runs like a clock at meal times, but figured we would try it. Mental note:  planning an earlier lunch with snack afterwards may ensure we have a good time at our class.

Today, I will be interviewing a potential babysitter in between bus pick-ups

When interviewing candidates, I ask all the standard questions, request references and confirm hourly rate. But my real test are the kids. How do they interact with them and how do my kids respond to them? I will hire a babysitter who essentially ignores me and plays or talks to my kids rather than one who just kind of waits for the kids to come to them. That means their focus is on the kids, where it should be.

Some interview questions are standard such as, asking about family background and their experiences. I also like to try to get a sense of how comfortable they are with handling three or more. A lot of babysitters are not experienced in the juggling of three or more children under the age of six. Some days Mr. L even admits he can’t handle it.

We will see how it goes today.

January 18, 2013

My first Zumba class in a long time and  I am feeling great! After a rush to get the three kids to their destinations, I drove to the health club Mr. L and I joined this past fall and which I’m lucky to make it to once a week, for a Friday morning class.

Hip-grinding music with a room full of generally uncoordinated people trying to shake all they got not caring who sees and something that gets my heart race up. I’m all in. I arrive a little late but after a few seconds, start shimmying to the latin beats along with the other women in the room and am so glad I dragged my tired self here this morning.

ZUMBA

ZUMBA

Last night (as in many nights) I went to bed way too late getting sucked into reality television after my brain felt strangely alert from writing. Of course, I get hungry so have a snack at nearly midnight and then I need to read before I go to sleep to relax. Being an avid reader, books are piled throughout our house and currently I am near the pinnacle of the latest Kate Morton book, The Secret Keeper. The part where you need to know what happens next! It is only when Mr. L pleads with me to turn the light off do I reluctantly put the book down to get some sleep. There is no way on these nights that I can wake up earlier than the kids so it is always a bit of a rush to get them and myself ready. I am actually stopping myself right now from just bailing on everything to go and finish it. But I don’t.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Back to exercise. Mr. L has been on a huge “get healthy and fit regiment” since last spring. I try to be as supportive as I can. I buy all the special foods he only eats and try not to make anything too unhealthy. After all, less carbs never hurt anyone. It has simplified our eating quite a bit as I focus on protein and vegetables for our meals and throw in homemade pizzas or Mommy’s mac n cheese to keep the kids happy. Currently he is into bodybuilding and I must say, he looks fabulous! He is trim and toned with more energy and it gives him a hugely needed personal area of his life to release any stress.

I am innately lazy. Although I love Zumba because it’s fun, I dread weight lifting, don’t see the point of running but will go to a yoga class any day of the week. Yoga helps with building strength, stretching out the most sore areas on a Mom, neck/back/shoulders and at the end I get to take a nap. In the fall, Mr. L, wanting to share his newfound hobby, put together an exercise routine to help me with all the areas I don’t want to do but realized I have to at least start. The older and more creaky I become, the more it becomes clear I need to take better care of myself physically. I got into the routine for about six weeks. It was nice to have the reprieve from the house and he really tried to be home at an earlier time so I could get to the gym. I do not like working out at home. I have no discipline and truthfully, the kids always find me and need something. So to work out I have to leave the house, but most days during the week I can’t leave until nearly 8 pm and truthfully, my energy level for anything physical when I know I have to come home and still make lunches, pack knapsacks and get all ready for the next day is very, very low.

Six weeks passed and then we had a vacation away. I was not feeling well and then the holidays were upon us and it all went out the window. Up until now I have not been motivated to get back on track. Even after a holiday of eating and little physical activity.

But, a friend of mine is really trying to get back in shape after the birth of her second baby and needs a goal. She asked me to sign up and do a “Tri-Tri” with her. What is a “Tri-Tri?” Well, it’s just as it sounds. It’s a sample of what a triathlon would be with reduced kilometers and meters in running, biking and swimming. A goal – why not I figured. It would give me a new experience this year.