Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Fall is coming. (I know Megan is rolling her eyes right now, but let's face it - tomorrow it's September!) We had a few days off this week and decided to make the most of them by getting ready for some activities that are starting up over the next few weeks.

This fall, Liam and Mallory will both be participating in two activities. (And in the process, I think I just might lose my mind, but that's the subject of another blog post!) After spending two years taking skating lessons, Liam is going to try hockey, which I think for his age group should really be called "Skating just got easier because now you can support yourself on your stick". It will be interesting to see how he can handle being on skates while being covered in so much protective gear, especially since he hasn't been on skates since last April.

He will also be swimming and thankfully, his summer lessons advanced him enough that he can now join a 5:30 p.m. weeknight lesson group. We think this will be easier than the Saturday mornings we were doing last year, but to be honest - the hockey association still hasn't told us the dates and times of his hockey practices/games. So for all we know, the two will conflict.
Mallory is extremely excited to be starting dance lessons, though I am not sure what will happen when she realizes that 'lessons' does not mean 'run around like a banshee doing whatever you want'. We have enrolled her in a ballet/tap combo class that starts in a few weeks. She has been talking about it all summer long. I am glad that she is jazzed about the dance class, because she still firmly refuses to be signed up for more swimming lessons, despite having loved taking them in our own back yard. Part of me wishes she would get back in the water but really - she has been a little fish this summer, and I'm sure she will be for every summer from now on. If she doesn't want to swim over the fall/winter, then so be it. This also makes things a bit easier on us because she will also start skating lessons later in September and frankly, I think two activities for a three year old is more than enough.

So now we have the fun of dance on Tuesdays, skating on Wednesdays, swimming on Thursdays, and oh yes - two hockey events per week, still TBD. If I can make it to April while maintaining this schedule without losing my mind, I will consider it a job well done.

We took advantage of a vacation day today by going our separate ways. Chad took Liam out to stock him up on the hockey gear required, and I took Mallory to the local dance outfitters to buy her some tap shoes and ballet shoes. Mallory was very enamoured with the trip and loves clicking around in the tap shoes in particular. I think Liam was only enamoured by how funny he looked walking around in his jock and nothing else, with his butt cheeks hanging out. He is turning into such a little boy - bawdy humour seems to be his favourite kind.We spent the rest of the day floating around in the pool. This might be our last kick at the can for 2010 - we are trying to soak in every last minute of it.

P.S. Can I put up my Halloween decorations now???

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bulldog Try-a-Tri 2010

By virtue of me writing this, you know that I didn't drown in Lake Erie on Saturday. (I was pretty freaked out back in July when a guy drowned during the Philadelphia Triathlon, and even though they had 20 lifeguard boats out on the course, nobody saw a thing.)

Nope, I didn't drown, though swimming a competitive mass-start race left me feeling like I was inside a washing machine. Anyway, let me backtrack and tell the story of the day in pictures. Chad took some really awesome shots that day and I am very indebted to him for managing to both wrangle the kids (who I understand were somewhat uncooperative) AND do the record-keeping he knows I am so fond of.
We got to the race venue (Rondeau Park) a little later than planned. My bike tires refused to inflate properly and we made an impromptu pit stop at our local bike shop for an emergency fill. Once that was taken care of, we booted it out to the park only to find that we had to take the long way around to the race start due to traffic-control road closures. I was among the last to pick up my race kit and rack my bike. The good news is that, having never racked a bike before, I could at least see how it was done! The other good news was that unlike last year, when (I heard) there was a 'good end' of transition and a 'bad end' of transition, they levelled the playing field this year by changing the transition route. This meant I didn't have an immediate disadvantage over the people who were there ahead of me. I had just enough time to rack up and do a quick walk-through of the transition area to make sure I knew where the swim in, bike out, bike in and run out areas were before it was time for the athlete's meeting.Now, to say that I was nervous about this race is a major understatement. I don't do well under pressure. For those of you who don't know, I had jaw problems several years ago that required mouth guards that I chewed right through when under duress and eventually required surgery. It might speak to how I have been feeling this past week to let you know that I haven't had a full range of motion in my jaw since about Tuesday. I could tell that I have been clenching at night again and it's made chewing and even smiling painful for the past few days. (Thus the goofy look in some of these pictures.)The swim was a mass start and the women set out 5 minutes after the men did. You'll notice that the water was blessedly calmer than last weekend, and also quite warm. (Unfortunately, the air temperature was pretty warm, too. The sun was fully out and it was an afternoon start time... i.e. not exactly the coolest part of the day.) We waded out quite a ways until the water was waist-deep. That's where the race officially began.I honestly thought I was going to do better at the swim than I did. I was prepared for the kicks and elbows and I knew I could handily cover the distance. I also figured I had probably trained more than most people for this leg of the race. But my heart rate was through the roof before the gun even went off and I never did settle into a rhythm. On top of that, about half of the course was shallow enough to touch bottom, and most of the women ran it. I wound up doing some of that too, though all I think it did was wind me before I got out of the water. Also, there was that pesky run back in to shore to contend with. I came out of the water about a minute slower than I can do the same distance in the pool, which I didn't think was bad. But I was 51st overall (out of 81 people) and 20th out of 43 women who finished (there were a few DNFs. Not sure whether they got fished out of the water, or what.)Hey, look! That's my arm in the air! I'm doing some actual swimming!We came into shore as a huge pack. There was not much difference between first and last place on the swim leg. At this point in the race I don't look like I am doing too well... some of these people in front of me don't look like very strong competition. But I'm behind them!I kept looking at this woman and thinking, catch her! Catch her! And she kept pulling away!
The run up the beach and into transition was long. Well, it seemed long. I felt exhausted. Overall this race exhausted me a lot more than I thought it would. I have been training for much longer distances, but the stress of it being a race environment really took its toll on me. Anyway, I think I transitioned really well. I zipped in, got on my race belt, shoes, helmet and sunglasses, unracked my bike and took off pretty quickly. No wasted time there.
I had a strategy for the bike. I was going to ride at a pace a teeny bit less than I had timed myself on the course at Rondeau before, and then slow down during the last stretch to catch my breath a bit for the run. But when the race was underway, my brain was mush. I wasn't thinking. I forgot to drink. I wasn't checking my time and was pretty sure that I messed up the splits on my watch. It was a very out-of-body type experience where I was just going through the motions. It was also a different bike course than the one I'd trained on... so much for being prepared.
But overall, it went well. According to the race results I was 11/81 on the bike, 4/43 women. I was definitely happy with that when I saw it when the results came out after the race ended. But while I was on the course, I felt like I was doing terribly. It felt like more of a struggle than I expected it to.Into T2 where I dropped off my bike (at the wrong spot - whoops! Luckily this race was small and informal enough that it didn't matter) and took off on the run... there I go...By this time, I was really convinced that my goal time was out the window. My goal in this race was to do it in 50 minutes. I came to that number by looking at results from the past few years and also taking the numbers for my best swim, bike and run, adding in a few extra minutes for transition, and voila. By the end of the summer I was thinking I might have a teeny tiny outside chance of breaking 45. But I was still in the water when I gave up on that idea. I knew I wasn't executing my strategy and my goal became just to finish. The run was also a big struggle (and I was terribly hot and dehydrated by then) and I was in a pretty negative mindset while on the course. There was no clock at the finish line, so I came across the finish line and told Chad I didn't think I'd beaten 50 minutes. but I didn't really know. I was thinking I finished in 51 and some change. I was pretty at peace with that; I kept thinking it was a huge learning experience and goodness knows I will try some things differently at Lakeside. (Like, remembering to think, for one.)Big (painful) smile at the finish though... I was sooo glad to be done.We strolled back over to the transition area to pack up my things and then went back to the main area because they made an announcement to say that results were being posted.I just about keeled over when I saw the results. I finished in 41:48, which put me in 21st overall, 6th woman to finish and 2nd in my age group!So with that, we had to stick around long enough for me to collect my hardware.My little shadow wanted to follow me everywhere and crept up on my while I was accepting. (I'm surprised that Chad was able to keep her off the course during the race!)I love my dogtag finisher's medal. Don't be surprised if you see me passing it off as jewelry sometime!With that, we made a trip to the museum so Mallory could get a new rubber snake (Captain chewed the head off the one she got last week), then stopped for ice cream as my appetite had suddenly returned, and finally headed for home. I was pretty sore by the end of the day. It took a bit to kick in, but it came with a vengeance!Part of me is dreading Lakeside (oh, to swim inside a washing machine again!) but part of me is already looking forward to it. For the Bulldog race, I had a goal time and felt the pressure of it being my first race. I knew the course and knew I had to go hard to do well on such a short course. For Lakeside, it's a much longer distance and I am doing it just to do it. I don't have a goal time. I know that it's much hillier than Rondeau and I am prepared to be a lot slower. I know that it's a much more competitive field and I am prepared to be a lot closer to the back of the pack. For now though, I am going to get a day or two of rest in, before heading into the home stretch.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It ain't over... is it?

I guess the universe has a way of evening things out, because while we were gloating back in May over being in the pool so early - Chad had figured we wouldn't be in once before school let out in June - we haven't been in for more than a week now, and there is really not any major heat on the horizon to change that. The weekend should be somewhat warmer and we'll see how quickly that affects the water temperature. We have flocks of geese flying overhead, leaves and yellowing and dropping, it's dark by 8 p.m. - you name it, the signs of autumn are here.

It doesn't help assuage that careening-toward-fall feeling any that we bought Liam's new school backpack almost a month before his first day of school. But the flier came out with them in it, he decided which one he wanted and that was that. You don't bide your time in the retail world in a small town. Once they are gone, they're gone - tough luck if you missed out.

We have a few days off this week and next while Cindy takes some vacation time. Hoping for some nice weather, a few hot days and a few more summer hurrahs. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take the kids over to Cone and Shake Shop for dessert. We have to squeeze in the ice cream while we can.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The grand finale

Liam played his last soccer game on Saturday morning. For the last time, he and Chad went down to the field early so the kids could practise dribbling and warm up. Mallory and I schlepped down at the last minute, weighed down with lawn chairs and camera bags and snacks and our sun umbrella. On this last Saturday of the year, we didn't need the umbrella. Well, we did, but only to keep our heads dry. This was the first rainy game of the season.
When we first signed Liam up for soccer I figured that Mallory and I would go watch his first game but that after that, Mallory's attention would wane and soon enough we'd be going our separate ways on Saturday mornings. Not so. Mallory has been a very willing spectator all summer long. Of course, this is mostly due to The Snack Bag. She fishes around in my bags for a snack the minute her chair is set up and she continues to nosh for the entire ninety-minute game. Here she is simultaneously eating the goldfish crackers I packed for her, and the cereal bar I packed for myself (so much for that).
And she is none too shy about horning in on the players' halftime snacks, too. Luckily there are almost always enough Freezies to go around. (This is when I learned never to attend a game without a good supply of Wet Wipes.)
After the game was the awards ceremony, where Liam received not one but two medals... one for participating in the league, and the other from Tim Horton's for being on a Timbits team. I felt bad for the non-Timbits players who just had the bad luck to be sponsored by the other corporations. Try explaining to a bunch of five-year-olds why your kid got an extra medal and they didn't. It doesn't go over well.
A partial team photo after the awards presentation. (These guys were the only ones I could see through the crowd.)
Liam was not very willing, after all of that, to pose for yet another photo for me.
And Mallory didn't want to be left out. So here's one of Liam and his biggest fan.

Friday, August 20, 2010

TRI-ing not to panic

OK, bad pun. :)

My first triathlon is the Bulldog Triathlon out at Rondeau Provincial Park on August 28th. I have been there (at the park) three times in the past month or so in an attempt to practise my open water swimming. I only made it into the water one day out of three. Here is a shot of Liam in the waves today: OK, so they are huge, right? And while I can swim happily for quite some time in the pool... and I can swim over to the island at Lake of Two Rivers in Algonquin no problem... I cannot swim in surf like this. I mean, is this a lake or is this the ocean?

If the water is rough on race day, the triathlon turns into a duathlon, and I will be majorly disappointed. I am not interested in a duathlon. I have not trained for a duathlon. If this turns out to be the case, then I will be so, SO glad I registered for "Ontario's Last Triathlon of the Season", the Lakeside Triathlon which is in September. I want to finish the year as a triathlete, dammit! The lake at Lakeside is much smaller (man-made?) and not prone to rough water like this.

(I hear it is a bit mucky and muddy, though, and to be quite honest, murky lakes are a bit of a phobia of mine. But this is all about pushing my comfort zone, so BRING IT! Except no leeches, please.)

Then again... the question is, how rough is too rough? Maybe I am mistaken in thinking that this was too rough. Out past the breakers, the water was calmer today; but I wasn't willing to risk heading out there on my own. On race day, if the race runs, I will at least attempt it. There will be support boats/lifeguards on the course if worst comes to worst.

With regards to Jenn's comment... I committed myself to this event back in the spring, and since then it seems like the popularity of the event is exploding. Or perhaps I'm just more in tune with it because it interests me. There have been numerous times this summer when I have heard something, turned to Chad and said, "This just makes it look like I am jumping on the bandwagon!" When Ali Edwards publicly declared that she was doing one... when Lance Armstrong said he would race at Ironman Kona next year... when Runner's World ran a feature this summer about runners jumping into triathlon... these things all made me feel like I was very on-trend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Coming out of the closet

Back at the start of the summer, when I posted our to-do list, there was one item I intentionally left off. It was an item Chad had added and I wasn't totally comfortable declaring it to the world.

12. Cheer on mom during her first triathlon.

I have wanted to do a triathlon for a long time. I used to be a sporty person, back in that was-I-only-dreaming-that? phase of my life called Before Kids. It seemed reasonable at one time. But I have slowly been losing that part of myself over the past little while. And my faith in myself slid right along with it. Last year, I said I was going to do it... but obviously, I had trouble with the follow-through. So when I said I was really going to do it this year, I wasn't all that sure that it would actually happen.

Nonetheless, I started an official 'training' program (one I made up, but one with the triathlon as the end goal.) And as I began it, something happened. I started training for the triathlon... and I liked it. It quickly went from being something that I felt like I should be doing, something that I was going through the motions of doing and something that I was doing to ensure that I didn't make a fool of myself on race day... to something I looked forward to every single day. Something I was doing because it was (gasp!) fun.

The swimming was definitely my weakest discipline. I swam laps in university for a bit, mostly because the pool was close by and the hours were convenient, but I have never really swum since then. After paddling around our own back yard pool in circles, I realized that a kidney-shaped home pool was not the place to practise distance swimming. So I started going to the pool in Blenheim for the morning open swims. I bought some goggles and swim cap... a new swimsuit... and finally a pool pass (both so that I didn't have to search for loonies and twonies at 5:30 a.m. each time I wanted to go, and also to commit myself to getting out there). I worked my way up to where I am now, able to swim 1.5 km straight before booting it back home in time for the kids to wake up and for us to start the process of getting out the door to work.

I started biking on my old mountain bike. The 14 km loop I often do took me 49 minutes the first time I timed myself on it in the spring. I am now down to 31 minutes. I got down to 36 minutes on my own, just by keeping at it. I had put my name down on the wait list for a used road bike at our local bike shop, but was planning to muddle through with the mountain bike for as long as it took. And then, partway through the summer, Chad surprised me by researching and buying me a road bike... a really wonderful, supportive gesture on his part, and one that has made me faster yet.

Running... well, I have been running for years. But I think I was burning out on it, and my interest was waning along with my mileage. Now that I am running less, I am enjoying it more. I hadn't run more than 5 km at a time for years, and now I am doing twice that much. And looking forward to it every single time.

By no means am I fast at any one of these pursuits. That's the bane of being a triathlete, I suppose: jack of all trades, master of none. If I were running, I could be fitting in 6 runs per week. Instead, I am fitting in 2 swims, 2 bikes and 2 runs, more or less. Not enough to make me really speedy at any of them, but all that I have time for. But I can do them, and I can do them back-to-back, and most importantly, I really enjoy them.

I am doing that triathlon I have been talking about for so long in a few weeks. And a few weeks after that, I am (eek!) doing another one that is twice as far. Because I feel ready for it. And because I am not ready for this athletic summer of mine to end.

So that's where I am right now. Why the house is perhaps more disheveled than usual, why I am in bed so much earlier at night and why I've had less and less time lately for other pursuits... but also why I am happier, more energetic, healthier, and really enjoying re-capturing a big part of who I was before things got complicated with work, kids and the day-to-day minutiae that is life.

Wish me luck in a couple of weeks... my nerves are really humming right now, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Soccer and swimming

(Liam doesn't like his goggles on too tight... can you tell?)

Tonight, we had our last swimming lesson of the summer, and on Saturday we will have our last soccer game. I don't know what I'm going to take pictures of anymore. It is ridiculous just how much fun I think it is to take action shots during soccer games and swimming lessons.
When Mallory quit her swimming lessons at the Y, did you ever think you would see her doing a kneeling dive? It's crazy. Liam has moved up 4 classes according to the equivalency chart that we got from Erin. I'm not sure that I'm confident to register him that much further ahead in September, but he is definitely a much stronger swimmer than he once was.
I don't know that he is a much stronger soccer player than he was at the start of the summer, but he definitely enjoys it. (And as long as I keep packing the snacks, Mallory still enjoys spectating.)
I love the rainbow effect of all the soccer photos, week after week after week.If I find out who the pushy green kid is though, I'll give him a talking to. Sometimes it's hard to bite your lip on the sidelines and not put the little thugs on the field in their place.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lucky that she's cute

I had a few things planned for today, but many of them went out the window when Mallory came into our room shortly before 3 a.m. "I'm wet!" she wailed. Sure enough, she had soaked her bed. We changed out her sheets, pillowcases, pajamas and a few stuffed animals to boot. And then... she was wide awake. She didn't want to go back to sleep. All told, she was up until shortly after 5 a.m., and there was nothing I could do to get her back to bed - not lying in her bed with her, not cuddling her in the rocking chair, and not finally caving in and letting her come into our bed with us. (She just tossed and turned for an hour.) My alarm was initially set for 5:30 but there was no way, when she finally did doze off, that I was going to be up for the day at 3 a.m. So I slept in.

As aggravating as this was, and as dog-tired as I was all day, it all melted away when she pulled out the cute stops tonight. I had to pick something up at the post office and asked if anyone wanted to go with me. She was playing with her baby doll at the time. Always my little errand-running helper, she immediately jumped up and told me that she would come with me. However, there was one condition. She went and found Chad and asked him if he would baby-sit her doll, and she gave him specific instructions on how to deal with the baby. (If she bit or scratched Chad, he was to call Mallory on the phone; but if she was good then she could stay up until we got home.) When we came home, Chad and Liam were outside, and Chad got a pouty earful from Mallory for having abandoned the baby in the house.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Peter Pan

Proving just how delinquent I've been in posting, this event took place a week ago today. So much for my timeliness! Anyway... every year I do some volunteer work for the Stratford Festival, and in exchange I receive a pair of free tickets to a show. In the past Chad and I have gone (I think we sat through Romeo and Juliet one year, which I don't really recall Chad enjoying!), but for the past several years (i.e. Since Having Kids) we've found other homes for the tickets.This year, the Festival is putting on a production of Peter Pan as part of the lineup. And when I heard that it was suitable for ages 4 and up, I decided to take Liam to see it. I was a bit worried about how he would fare during a 2.5 hour show. And there were parts that were over his head, since the costumes were Victorian and the English accents confused him a little. But, he's familiar with the story, which helped a lot. And the special effects were amazing. I am not going to lie; sitting there with my little guy, watching the Darling children fly through the air in front of us... I got all lumpy-throated for a moment. Toy Story is wonderful, but it's even better to be able to share parts of my own childhood with the kids.Of course, a summer trip to Stratford wouldn't be complete without two things. First up: a paddle boat ride around Lake Victoria. I took Liam and my dad took Mallory. We shelled out the extra money to buy a bag of corn to feed the ducks and swans who, upon seeing the little brown bag in our hands, swarmed our boats. They only sell paddle boat rentals in one-hour time increments, and half an hour was plenty long enough for us. So we have credits left over for our next trip up.And of course we finished our day off with a caramel apple from Rocky Mountain. The trip wouldn't have been complete without it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's funner in the summer...

(well, that was close enough to a rhyme..)

...and that's why I haven't been spending very much time indoors/in front of the screen lately. More to come soon.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Crossed off our list

Before our trip to Algonquin, we crossed another item off our summer to-do list. We finished reading Charlotte's Web as our bedtime story. This is the first chapter book I have read to the kids and it was a big hit, despite the scarce illustrations and the need to remember the finer plot points from night to night. Tonight we saw a spider building a web outside the window as we were reading (the selection du jour was "Olivia Saves the Circus") and we discussed whether her name might be Charlotte and whether we might wake up to find "Some Pig" written across the pane.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Big fish

As you may or may not remember, we had a battle of the wills with Mallory last spring with regards to swimming lessons. To make a long story short, we signed her up for them, she loved them the first week, and then she spent the next three weeks refusing to go in the water. Eventually we quit the lessons and got a refund for the remainder of the session. Score: Mallory 1, Mom and Dad 0.Liam's swimming lessons also ended when soccer began back in late May/early June. Since then we have done lots of casual swimming but no formal lessons. Mallory seems to love being in the pool... when it's on her own terms. One day recently, Chad came across an ad that a lifeguard posted on the bulletin board at work. She was offering private lessons in your own back yard. Chad thought it sounded like a good idea and I agreed that the worst that could happen was that Mallory would refuse to do it again and Liam would get the benefit of two weeks' worth of private lessons. Sure enough, when we told Mallory that the lifeguard was coming, she let us know in no uncertain terms that she was not interested. I told her that she didn't have to swim, but that she was expected to put on her swimsuit and sit outside with us, and that she wouldn't be allowed to go in the pool until after the lesson was over if she wasn't going to follow along with it.Lifeguard Erin came that first day and began the lesson by asking for some pool rules. Mallory, who at this point still insisted that she was not going to participate, started hollering out "No peeing or pooping in the pool!" from across the pavement while Liam took his shy-boy time warming up to her. Then Mallory came over and offered to show Erin some of her jumps. When Erin said no jumps but that she would love to see Mallory's back float, Mallory was in the water in a flash. She just couldn't hold out any longer.The kids have now had three 1/2 hour lessons with Erin. Liam has swum the entire length of the pool, deep end and all, unassisted; he's retrieved diving toys from the bottom of the deep end; and he is learning how to cannonball and swim on his back. Mallory has learned how to bob, swim with her face in the water, and do front and back floats. (She also went unintentionally under for a minute when in her excitement, she bounced herself right off the shallow-end steps while Erin was at the other end of the pool with Liam. Luckily we were all watching and scooped her out again.) Cindy took the kids to the Jaycee Pool yesterday and remarked on how different Mallory is in the water compared to the last time she saw her. Seeing that we have come all this way and we still have 7 lessons left... I would say it's money very well spent (and very little money at that; ten lessons for Mallory at the Y were $80, and 10 semiprivate lessons for Liam and Mallory together are $100). Given the tragic stories in the headlines these days about accidental drownings, it's nice to see the kids picking up such an important life skill. When it comes to the battle of the wills with Mallory, I would say the score is now tied.