How Did I Become a Soccer Mom?

For the past 2 weeks, I have been hopping around from one blog to another and have enjoyed meeting new people.  Today is my spotlight day so I am going to start off telling you a bit about me.

Chicago - expoChasing My Dreams – Setting goals and going after them makes me happy.  After my long layoff this year, I still ran the Chicago Marathon and BQ’d.  When I was still on the course, I set one of my goals for 2016: to marathon in the spring and improve my time for a better corral start.

Yummy – My favorite food is chocolate.  I’m pretty good about staying away from it.  Being lactose intolerant helps.  But when I do my own baking and I know that foods are “safe” to eat, I have to really watch that I don’t eat all of the chocolate chip cookies.

Nerd – I am such a math nerd.  I love looking and analyzing data, especially when it involves running.  It’s a good think I teach math.

Toenails – I have ugly toenails – really ugly.  Running has not been kind to my feet at all.

Hot – I love hot weather runs.  I love to sweat.  I hate all of the winter laundry.  Summer laundry is so much easier.

Ice – After last January, ice terrifies me.  When I fell, I broke my jaw in four places. cropped-pw-near-trail.jpg I was off work for weeks and was forced to stay away from exercise of any kind for weeks and weeks.  Even downward dog was dangerous for me to do!  I’m not sure how I’ll deal with running this winter yet but I should know soon.

Asthma – I developed asthma when I was in my late 20’s.  For a while, it stopped me from running.  I tried and tried, but I had asthma attacks that simply wouldn’t let me run.  I go fed up and took asthma by the horns.  Over a few years, I learned to run with it, even in the winter, and can now race as a top Masters athlete in Ontario.

I am a Grade 6 and 7 teacher and, from one day to the next, each of my students has something special that makes them stand out, something that makes them shine.  It could be a passion for a sport, a favorite hobby that they love to talk about and share, or a general excitement that they bring to class.  That enthusiasm makes their eyes shine and makes even the toughest kid smile;  it defines who they are.

Ten Miler - finishMy enthusiasm for fitness and an active lifestyle makes me who I am.  Fortunately, the digital age is still fairly young so I can’t post any pictures from the Richard Simmons’ era, when I was bitten by the aerobic bug that eventually led to me teaching aerobics.  In the 90’s, I needed more of an adrenalin rush so I turned to running and general fitness training – and I haven’t looked back.   Today, if you were to ask someone about me, they would most definitely use the word “runner” in the first two sentences.

In the past 25 years, my running has only been halted three times.  The first was when I developed asthma – induced by cold and exercise (not great for a Canadian runner)  but I spent several years learning how to run with it.   I also stopped running when I was pregnant (my boys are now 9 and 14)  as I really didn’t enjoy running while pregnant .  So I turned to cross-training – mostly stationary cycling and the stairmaster.   My most recent hiatus was this past winter when I broke my jaw while running and, then, had to deal with the deaths of both parents in the spring.    After every “rest” period, whether forced or self-inflicted, I could not wait to get back to the roads.

So it has always shocked me that my own boys have not been into sports.  My husband is an avid hockey player, cyclist, tennis player and occasional runner.  Me:  I run competitively (competitive enough to claim the Canadian 50-54 title for the 8K distance).   We dreamed about raising superkids with both fast-twitch  and slow-twitch fibres, coming from his speed and my endurance.  Nope!

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The Littlest Dude (at 4), ready to go.

Over the years, we encouraged both to participate in sports but they showed a combination of low skills and an even lower interest.  They came to races with me, cheered me on, and would race the odd Kids’ event.  We’d see glimmers of potential and a bit more enthusiasm, but the boys kept going back to the things they loved: music and lego.

We couldn’t push them.  I wasn’t going to be “that parent” who dragged a screaming child to a swimming lesson or soccer game.  But I could plan my training with them in it.  I would throw one into a baby jogger or drag them out on their bikes when I ran long.  We talked running around the house a lot but, still, there was no real interest.  All I could do was hope that they would eventually realize what they were missing.

At the beginning of August, like every other August, the two Dudes and I talked about what sports they could get involved with this year.  To my surprise, they both said soccer.  My oldest has been refereeing for the past year and has taken an interest in the game as a player.  My youngest is either following his lead or was bitten by the soccer bug when we watched the PanAm Games.  Either way, it didn’t matter; they wanted to play soccer.  Soccer cleats

At the end of the month, I opened an email: “Coaches Needed for U11 Boys.”  Hmmm…. We had a quick family meeting, a few days to digest the decision and I was suddenly coaching the Littlest Dude’s team.    So now, a typical weekend for us includes one U11 game, one U15 game, a few games to referee and a load of soccer laundry.  This week, Soccer Mom also organized a practice for the team.  It looks like the boys aren’t the only ones bitten by the soccer bug.

“Where are my soccer socks?”  “Can you wash my ref jersey?”  “Who do we play this week?”  Soccer has quickly become part of the regular language in our house.  The boys are excited about it.  They smile when they talk about it.  Soccer: it defines who they are.PanAm Green Screen Andrew

 

 

 

 

On Coaching Kids

IMG_2035I’ve coached kids for years, so many years now that my first cross-country team is now grown up, starting their own families and looking for ways to get their own children involved in sport.  As a young teacher, I did it all: cross-country, volleyball, basketball, and track.  Now that I am more experienced and in a large school with other teachers who have their own set of expertise, I can focus on what I know best: running and track.

When my own children were young, I coached their soccer teams.   It didn’t take long, though, for them to walk away from the sport.  My oldest was a music guy; my youngest simply didn’t have the maturity or mindset to play a team sport.  It didn’t make sense to force them to play so our family went on a soccer hiatus as they became more involved in other sports.   This year, both are playing soccer again.  The Littlest Dude, 10 years old, asked me to coach his team.  My oldest shut down that idea.

Whether as a teacher or a parent, I coach because I want to.  I don’t keep track of how many hours I have put into selecting and organizing teams, corresponding with parents, running practices and competing; nor do I worry about the unexpected costs that can be incurred, such as buying relay batons for track or gloves for our soccer team’s goalie.  The excitement that kids bring to each practice or game and the occasional thank you (yes, thank you’s are far and few between) make it worthwhile.  I can’t imagine working with kids in a sport setting not being a part of my life.

Sadly, that is now taking place in my work life.  In Ontario, elementary teachers are currently in a Work to Rule situation.  We have been without a contract since September 2014, and our union and the provincial government continue to negotiate.   Among the issues the union is standing up against are increased class sizes and significantly reduced support in Special Education.  In order to show concern to the government, teachers have gradually walked away from tasks which are not assigned parts of our jobs, but have come to be expected.  This past Wednesday, all extra-curricular activities have been added to the list.  The government’s response was a threat to reduce teachers’ pay.

Like many other teachers I know, I already miss spending time in extra-curriculars, be it a team, an art club or an outreach group.  Docking our pay, though, is not the solution.  In fact, exactly how do you take money from someone for not coaching a team that they volunteer to run?  How do you remove pay from a volunteer?  As a parent, I completely understand the frustration that others have over the cessation of extra-curricular activities but it would be far more frustrating to see my 10 year old child in a class with over 30 students.  How could I possibly expect any teacher, regardless of youth or experience, to be able to manage a class effectively, plan, teach, assess, and report accurately?  Add in all other expectations, such as coaching and other many demands of the job, and our education system will certainly lose strong teachers; it will fall apart.

What we need is not threatening language or complaints. Public support and respectful negotiations are a must.  Understanding is essential.  Once those are in place, things will settle and we can slowly re-establish the public education system in Ontario.

Disclaimer:  The views and opinions above are solely my own.  They have not been endorsed by others.

The Waiting Game

And and Rob SwimWhen I was growing up, I was raised on stories of how my uncle taught himself to swim in a creek not far from his house and how both of my parents learned to swim as adults.  One of my fondest pool memories is clinging to my dad’s back while he did the crawl across a pool.  My least favorite memory is falling off a sailboat with my dad into a river and, being a young swimmer (but in a life jacket), struggling to hold onto him while he kept pushing me away while trying to secure the boat so that we could get back in it; he told me on the way back to shore and many times that night that he was watching me and that the life jacket would keep me afloat.

That memory continues to haunt me and, even as I write this, I can feel many of those same emotions that I had almost 50 years ago.  Swimming is a life skill.  That’s why my parents made sure that my brothers and I learned to swim, why Ontario has a Swim to Survive program for every grade 3 student in the province, and why I have put both of my boys in swimming lessons.

My oldest son loves the water and always has.  He loved going to his weekly lessons, listened to what he had to work on and improved to become a strong swimmer.   I was certain that his little brother would follow his steps; how wrong I was!

The Littlest Dude started lessons when he was three years old.  For the first year, he was fine.  Then one Sunday afternoon, in the middle of a lesson, he had a meltdown – not a typical 4 year old meltdown but a full-fledged “I need my mom” panic attack.  For the last few weeks of that session, we had anxiety about going into the pool, tears once he finally got in and screaming until we were told “Don’t bring him back until he is ready.”

And it has taken years for him to be ready.  We have gone swimming at the Rec Centre and public pools but, for whatever reason, I simply have not been able to get the Littlest Dude back to swimming lessons.   He cried and lost sleep over the grade 3 Swim to Survive program but he was able to get through it; I think peer pressure helped with that.  This year, now that he is almost 10 (so a lot more mature, right?  Ha!), I was hopeful that he would be ready to start swim lessons again.

Andrew - Swim A
The Littlest Dude at his swim assessment.

On the first week of holidays, I took him to see a local swim school.  The Littlest Dude seemed to like it and agreed to an assessment so that he could take lessons through the summer.  On the day of the assessment, panic set in; I could not get him out of the house.  I called the swim school and apologized.  Then, I proceeded to tell The Littlest Dude that he was not allowed to go swimming anywhere, even with me, all summer unless he was taking swimming lessons.

And I meant it.  I struggled with the heat wave and other days with high temperatures and he didn’t ask if we could go to a pool;  he knew.  Last week, we had what has become a regular discussion: “We need to teach you how to swim this summer.”  We were running out of time as we didn’t have the earlier potential of 8 weeks of lessons ahead of us; we had just two.  I knew that if I didn’t get him in the water before the end of August, the chances of his taking lessons over the fall and winter were next to none.

“Okay,” he agreed.  “Can we do them next week?”

Andrew - barbecue swim
Permission granted. Now that he is taking lessons again, he can hang out with his brother in the water.

Within 24 hours, everything was in place.  He had done his assessment and registered for two weeks of swimming lessons.  The bribes were in place: a day of zip-lining for finishing Week One and a trip to Wonderland at the end of the session.  What he doesn’t know is that I had planned both as summer activities anyway but was waiting until the timing seemed right.  Without a doubt, the timing is now right!  We also discussed organizing fall swimming lessons at the end of the first week and he is already thinking that Thursday nights will be best for both of our schedules.

Every afternoon, I give The Littlest Dude a 30 minute warning before we have to leave the house for his lesson.  Once we get there, I give him the 5 minute, 3 minute and 1 minute warning so that he can make that last minute trip to the bathroom and, every single time, he waits until the very last minute.   And every single time, I take a deep breath, often more, and remind myself that this is okay.  He is taking swim lessons; he is learning; he is finally ready.

 

The Race to the Buses

This month, it has been obvious that my boys live a runner’s life.  Ironically, though, they don’t run.  I wish they did as both have a beautiful stride and my youngest has natural speed.   At times, I think they are ready to jump into the running scene and, then, they pull back.  I think that they are intimidated by seeing me train and race; I think they worry that they have to put in the same dedication and effort, and come home with the same kind of results.  When I questioned both, and separately on this, their replies were “no”.  But deep down, I think that they are simply intimidated, believing that they need to follow my footsteps, race and race well.  One day, they will be ready; meanwhile, I’m not pushing it.

Canada Day - Andrew and Mom
Eating Tasty Tatters, one of the day’s highlights for The Littlest Dude.

I saw the excitement that running brings to The Littlest Dude on Canada Day when we headed to Bronte Harbour to watch the evening fireworks.   When we heard that there were only 4 shuttle buses to take everyone – hundreds of spectators – back to the parking lot with our cars, the two of us knew what that meant.  It was going to be a race to the buses.   As soon as the final applause started, we were on our feet and running.  Follow me!  Stay on the outside of the crowd!  Run next to the teenagers (since they wouldn’t be rushing home so it was a section that wasn’t moving)!   All of my race-start strategies came through, and The Littlest Dude instinctly knew what to do.   And we made it; we were on one of the first four buses to leave the harbour.

PanAm Flags and Tents
Tim Horton’s Stadium, Hamilton, Ontario

This past week, we faced the craziness of shuttle buses again when we left the soccer field in Hamilton, where we were watching PanAm Soccer.  This time, it was the fourteen year old who sensed what had to be done.  In the last few minutes of the game, he looked at us and said, “When the game whistle goes, we have to run.”  And he was right.  Unlike the hundreds of people at Bronte, we were leaving the stadium at the same time as thousands of other soccer fans.  The two boys are smaller than I am so they could weave their way through the crowd inside the stadium more easily than I.  Once we were outside, though, the starting horn sounded in our minds and we raced to the shuttles.   I heard my youngest coach his older brother “Stay on the outside of the crowd.  It’s faster.”  I watched them jump curbs and hurdle trash lying on the ground, and I hoped that they wouldn’t bump into anyone.  We made it to the buses quickly, which got us to the GO station with 40 minutes to spare.  It made us wonder why we rushed out of the stadium but we had fun doing it, so much fun that we raced out of the stadium the same way on the other two nights that we were there.

Each night ( at Bronte Harbour or Tim Horton Stadium), my boys proved to me that they can run.  They have speed and they can manoeuvre.   For them, running is fun.  But, for whatever reason, they aren’t ready to make a commitment to Cross-Country or Track and Field.  And I’m just fine waiting for it to happen because, once they do, they are going to be awesome!

 

 

The Challenge of Change

Like most kids, my 9 year old is often keen to try something new.  But he also loses interest very quickly.   If I am lucky enough that he does stay interested, it is usually due to sameness of the activity – whether it be the structure of the same day and time, the routines surrounding it, or the “no surprise” approach.

Last week, after we started riding our bikes in the mornings, I completely expected him to be bored within days.  He isn’t.  Without even thinking about it, I have managed build consistency around our cycling and that has kept him motivated.   We ride in the morning; he picks the route; we always plan to add a bit more distance each time.  Consistency.

This week, I have been trying desperately to get him to do something different.  “Let’s ride north this time,” I suggested.  “Nope, I’m good,” he replied. “I’ve got a route planned.”  And he did – the same route as the one before but a little bit longer.  Last night, I almost tasted a mommy victory when I got him to ride with me while I headed out with my running club, somewhere different and farther.  At first, everything seemed fine but, once he realized it wasn’t just me he’d be riding with, he walked away.

Tonight, I changed my approach.  I gave him incentive.  “I’m going for a run into the trails and I need you to come with me.  I want to take some pictures in Sixteen Mile Creek so I need you to carry my phone.  That’s right.  I told my kid that he could carry my phone around with him – on his bike.  The coolness factor overpowered him.  “Wait, can I watch the end of this show?  It’s only 13 more minutes.”  Sold!  I had a cycling photographer.

Sixteen Mile Creek - bottom hillKnowing that he prefers trails to roads, we started on a gravel path for the first 2K.  Sure enough, within those first 2K, he was bored.  But as soon as we got into the trail system, the adventure began.  We had the challenge of hills, the beauty of green space, and the excitement of being alone to pull us deeper and deeper into the system.   When one hill became too difficult to ride, I walked up his bike while he found places to climb and take pictures, pictures that I didn’t really need other than to make his presence feel valued.  Four kilometres into the our ride/run, we decided to take a slightly longer route as it would be less hilly and an easier ride home.

It wasn’t long before we realized we were lost, and another adventure began.   We worked our way out of the trail system and navigated back to familiar streets.  Again, he pulled out my phone to take pictures.  This time, he tried his hand at action shots.

Postmaster RunWhen we got home, he asked if he could ride with me again.  He has goals: to ride downhill, to ride part of the way up the big hill, and to learn to take some cool pictures.  To me, that sounds like time well spent together.

Keeping Fit in the Family

Last week’s task in the job-jar was a simple one: tune up my mountain bike.  When we lived in Toronto, in our life without cars and kids, I rode it all the time, challenging myself to log 20 commuting miles a day.   Now that we are living in the suburbs, as active as we are, my mountain bike has been neglected.   This summer, though, feeling commitment-free, I decided that it was time to clean off the dust that had settled on its handlebars and spend some active time with my 9 year old.

Tuesday was our first ride.  I got dressed – cycling shorts, jersey, gloves, helmet and sunglasses.  “Mom!  You need to go change.  You can’t wear that!”  When I asked why I couldn’t wear my cycling gear (after all, we were cycling), his response was simple.  “You look too bikey.”

“Too bikey.”  Wow.  That was definitely a new one.  After much discussion and a huge sigh, I reappeared in my jean shorts and t-shirt, not quite as excited as I was before.  “Okay, that’s better.  But do you need to wear gloves?”  “Yes,” I insisted.  “I’m older and my hands get numb if I don’t.”  This time, I won.

mountain bikes

The two of us headed out for what I expected to be a 10K ride.  We got as far as his school when he was ready to turn back.  “Really, that took all of 3 minutes?”  “But, Mom, I’m just getting started.  I don’t want to do too much too soon.  I have to get use to it.”  After some more negotiating and agreeing on riding an extra kilometre, we arrived at our driveway in what seemed like minutes later.   My son was feeling quite accomplished; he had gone out for a bike ride with his mom.  Me, I was feeling a huge let-down; we rode just under 3K.

Before we got inside, though, I realized out great that ride was.  Yes, we only rode 3K… but we rode 3K together- and without stopping.  That was our starting point.  I realized that this was not about me; it was about teaching my son to ride his bike -for his fitness, for our pleasure, and to teach him the rules of the road.   I needed to build on his success and find a way to motivate him.   “Next time,” I said as we went inside, “let’s try to go a little bit further.  Let’s ride a little bit longer every time we go out.”

This morning, my 9 year old rushed into the kitchen.  “Mom!  When are we going for our bike ride?”  Today, there were no negotiations; I knew what to wear.  And guess what?  We rode 5K!

 

 

Work, work, work

That’s what the past week has been for me: work, work and more of it. Somehow I’ve managed to keep the boys clean, fed and happy, but my fitness has been lacking.

Mind you, not all of this is due to work. Monday was a planned recovery day from Sunday’s race. On Tuesday, I did plan to run late but hubby got home at 10:30 and, for me, that’s too late to go out. Wednesday night we had ran, ran and more of it; my shoes would have taken days to dry out if I ran. Last night, I finally got a run in. So, of all the weeks for work to throw off my balance, this was, I suppose, a good one.

As you can imagine, after not running (or cycling) for 3 days, I was more than antsy to get out last night. It was 7:15 by the time the boys and I headed in for the night, and withdrawal symptoms were setting in. I was shaking, I was hearing voices (Hurry, get your stuff on. Don’t answer the phone; they’ll leave a message), and panic set in (the skies were dark and thunderstorms were predicted). Nothing could stand in the way of my run until….

“Mom, I want to come with you!” called Number Two.

“Then, be quick. Get your shoes on and go to the bathroom.” I knew he was likely to fall asleep in the jogger at this time so the bathroom trip was a must. Well, Number Two knew I wasn’t messing around with time; he was ready faster than I was.

“Wait! I want to come too!” yelled my oldest.

This was a surprise as, recently, he has been bailing on my runs.

“Really?” I questionned.

“Yeah, gym class failed today. I didn’t do anything. I need exercise.”

Ah, music to my ears. I gave him the same shoes and bathroom message and we got out and back – just in time to avoid the big drops of rain.

So, the pressure of work is off and the pressure from not running has dissipated. Does anyone else feel this way about missing a few days of working out? For me, that deadly number is 3; I just can’t go three days in a row without something. Yup, I’m a junkie.

Coming up: 5K Race on June 6th; 10K Race on June 8th
Yes, there is method (and reason) to my madness

15 and 12

I’m not talking miles here, and I’m not writing about kilometres either. It’s about push-ups, full-body, nose-to-the ground push-ups. Years ago, when I taught aerobics, I did them all the time. Once I got into running, I did 5 sets of 8 every other day – until the boys arrived. I was able to get back into that regime after #1 but with #2, my dedication went down and never came back up.

One day last summer, I glanced in the mirror and realized that my upper body was surprisingly in really good shape. I could only attribute that to being a mom as I was constantly picking up my youngest cling-on: at day-care drop-offs, through a parking lot, from the kitchen to bath…. Looking back, the list seems endless. Other times, I worked on my upper body by pushing my 35 pounder in the baby jogger. At the end of the summer, I panicked about needing to develop some upper body strength over the winter as my baby jogger days seemed to be coming to an end. The need to get back to push-ups and dips was becoming obvious. But, life got in the way and that never happened.

Yesterday, when #2 was in his jogger for the first time in a few months, I honestly didn’t notice him being any harder to push than last year, even running into the wind. So, it looks like I may have another full season of baby jogger/core/strength training ahead of me, and that is great.

However, tonight, while on my windtrainer, #2 happily bounced in to “be alone”. He sat down behind me and quietly read his new Superhero books. Well, he must have sent me some of his superpower love because after stretching, I looked at him and announced, “I’m going to do something I haven’t done in years. Do you want to watch?”

And, then, it happened. I went down and back up 15 times – not all of the way down, mind you, but respectably, flat back, tummy in, arms-doing-the-work down. I rested and did 12 more. Now, I’m not sure how impressed #2 was but he rewarded me with a plastic pancake and syrup from his kitchen. Life continues to be good.