When Being Tough Can Be Cool

Night riding: be visible.

A few weeks ago, my son ended up hanging out at a friend’s house longer than planned, which was fine until he had to ride his bike home.  “Can you pick me up?”

“No, but I’ll bring lights for your bike.”  When I got there, he argued that it would be much easier to put his bike in the car, but I wanted him to ride his bike home.  He flat out refused the head and tail lights so I went to Plan B:  drive home behind him so that traffic would see my headlights on him.

The dude knows how I feel about bicycle safety.  I complain every time we drive by someone who rides without a helmet, through stop signs, doesn’t have a light…  Since that night when he was mortally embarrassed by Mom’s driving home behind him, he has been careful to get home before dark.

Until today.  He and a group of friends were out, lost track of time and were near busy-ish streets.  One mom and I realized that they would be riding home in the dark and started texting.

Mom: I might just head over and pick them up.

Me: There are too many bikes (5).  Some of them still need to ride.

Mom: Yup.

Me: I have headlights.  I’ll meet you down there.

I had four lights.  One came from the Energizer Night Race a few years ago, another from the Trek or Treat Race, and two others were won as prizes.  Fortunately, one of the boys had a headlight on his bike so we actually would end up with each kid being visible, as long as there wasn’t a battle about lights not being cool.

I was slow getting out of the house (after all, I did have to make sure that the batteries were working) and, when I got there, my son must have known what was coming because he ran to me and asked me to wait in the car.

“Um, no, I have lights so you boys can ride home.”

The youngest in the group ran up to me.  “Can I, please, have a light so that I can ride home with them?”  My guy gave in and I looked at the older boys.  “Here’s a headlight for you,” I said, starting with one whom I recognized as a former student of my own school.

“No, it’s okay.”

“All the cool kids have them,” I sang.

Supernova Lights – by Road ID.

“Okay,” he laughed as he took one.  The fourth boy followed.  Then, I clipped the Road ID  Supernova lights onto the backs of the two youngest.

“Wow!  You’re the cool mom!” I was told.

Energizer headlights and Supernova (Road ID)

Success! Within minutes, I went from being told to wait in my car to being respected as the cool mom.  They took off, I followed, and when I saw how visible the posse was, I drove ahead to meet them at the house.

One of the boys, clearly visible on a dark street.

And I might have spied on them, just to make sure that they were still wearing them, and everyone was.  No one complained when they handed them back.  Instead, they thanked me and reminded me that I was cool.

 

Keeping Ticks Away

Tick Repellants – Chemical and Natural

While ticks have been common in southern climates, they are still fairly new to those of us in Ontario.  I’ve always been a bit worried about them but, until this year, ticks simply haven’t been a huge problem.  At the beginning of March, that changed.

One night I was playing with Zeda and noticed something on her head.  It was like a giant disgusting pimple that wiggled back and forth when I touched it; I just wanted to squeeze it but I thought I would end up with blood everywhere.  Then I imagined some tiny creature with appendages everywhere slowly crawling out and I screamed for my husband.

“Dave, there is something gross on Zeda’s head!  I don’t know what it is but she needs to see a vet tomorrow!”

Dave didn’t even look.  He simply trusted my panicked tone and took her in the next morning.  To our surprise, Zeda won the first tick of the year award, a fully engorged tick – at the beginning of March, in Ontario.  This was unheard of.  Now it was an unseasonably warm winter but even our vet was surprised.  He removed the tick, bagged it to send it away for testing, and gave us Zeda’s tick meds.  I knew that we would have to do something more to be proactive about preventing ticks this summer.

My boys are old enough that they can handle manufactured sprays which contain Deet, but those contain chemicals.  My oldest, who is often on the soccer field at night, complains that everyone pulls out bug spray after dark; he can see a haze over the soccer field and it is hard to breathe.  So, once in a while, something like Muskoil is okay, but I thought it wise to try a bug/tick spray that was more natural.

So I went back to Dr. Google, who gave me a recipe for a natural repellent last summer.  All I could remember was it had water, vinegar and essential oils.  After some searching, I found it and started concocting what my boys call “Mom’s Witches’ Brew.”  All I have to do is mix up the following ingredients in a bottle.

Mom’s Witches Brew:

2 cups of vinegar (Yes, this sounds like a lot but the scents from the Essential Oils cover the smell of vinegar.)

  1 cup of water

Secret Ingredients: DoTerra’s Essential Oils

Essential Oils (I use DoTerra brand): 10-15 drops of Peppermint, 10-15 drops of Eucalyptus, 7-10 drops of Lavendar.  (There are other EO’s that are recommended, such as Lemongrass and Geranium, and I am going to try those in my next batch.)

I make a new mixture every two weeks and keep it in a spray bottle.  Zeda gets sprayed every morning (this is in addition to her monthly tick meds), I spray my shoes when I head out for a run and everywhere else if I am heading into the trails.   Even my boys don’t complain, but if left to their own devices (like on a recent school overnight trip in a wooded area), they prefer Muskoil.

This is really quick and easy to make.  I may get laughed at by the men-folk at home when I brew my magic potion, but it is doing its job of keeping us safe.

 

 

 

 

Return of the short shorts

Last year, I wrote about my then 10 year old son, who exploded when I started to head to a yoga class wearing these shorts.  He threw out all sorts of comments from “Mom, your shorts need to be longer!” to “You’re too old to wear shorts like that!” Since then, like a 16 year old, I have had to sneak out of the house when I plan to wear my short shorts.

This week, I was able to use his uber-conservative, overprotective side to my advantage when he went to meet some friends at the park.  About 30 minutes later, I asked my husband whether he rode his bike.  “Yup,” he answered.  “Well, his helmet is sitting right here,” I complained.

So I did what any good mother would do.  I walked the dog down to the park to make sure that he got there safely.  But I also wore shorts, not my shorty shorts that he hates, but my slightly too large shorts that hang on my hips.  And I also wore a top that was just slightly too short so there just might have been a teeny bit of mid-riff showing.  I was barely in eyesight when the kid bolted in my direction.

“Hi, Mom!” he called as he approached me.  “What are you doing here?”

“I’m walking Zeda.  Where’s your helmet?”

“Oh….it’s home.  Can you walk the other way?”

“Well, I walked here to make sure that you got here safely.”

“Oh…”

“And if you ever leave home again without your helmet, I will walk to meet you again.  And each time, I will wear less and less because seeing my skin is nothing compared to seeing your brains all over the sidewalk.”

“Okay, I get it,” he laughed.  “Now can you walk the other way?”

That kid better not ever forget his helmet again.

Soccer vs Marathon

Mom - soccer coachWhen I decided to coach my son’s soccer team, I looked at the dates carefully as coaching is a 14 week commitment and it’s twice a week.  I knew that the spring would be difficult as I had other things going on; from June through the rest of the summer, I have more flexibility with my time.  My only real need in terms of coaching was making sure that my obligations to the team were over before I would be running the Quebec City Marathon, my marathon of choice for the fall.  I diligently counted the weeks of soccer from start to finish and – perfect!  Soccer ends the week before Quebec.

I don’t need to marathon in the fall.  I BQ’d in Chicago last October and I plan to run Boston.  My goals in and out of a fall marathon are to build a stronger mileage base and improve my BQ time.  Running in August makes perfect sense as I won’t have to deal with high mileage during the craziness of back to school and registration for Boston is at the beginning of September.  The Quebec City Marathon, which has been on my bucket list for years and years, is August 28th.

Hubby and I started to plan a mini-holiday to Quebec City and the province with the boys, possibly travelling into the maritimes.  We looked into accommodations.  Training was going well.  Then, one evening, when going over the snack schedule for soccer, I thought twice.

“Um….why is Festival Day on the 27th?” I wondered. soccer named balls Looking again, I saw that we are scheduled to play on the week before Quebec City.  How is that possible?  I went back to the calendar and counted 14 weeks again.  “The last week ends on the 20th!  I don’t get it!”   I looked at the calendar again, carefully.  The players have a week off at the beginning of August!  Why didn’t I realize that?  Ugh!  There is no way that I can coach on the 27th and get to Quebec City on time to pick up my race kit.  Even if we play the first game and I fly, timing would be dicey.

I contemplated not going to the last two games of the season, our weekly game and the Festival Day event.   But I always teach my boys that when you make a commitment to do something, you follow through with it to the end. Volunteer work is no different.  I made a commitment to my team and the soccer club that I would coach the boys for the season.  Had the marathon date been in the middle of the season, I might take off a game.  But at the end of the season, it’s a different story.  It would look like I quit or gave up on the team.  How can I not coach for almost 4 months and, then, not be at their final game?  Even if some of the boys don’t see it that way, what kind of message am I sending them?  Is it okay for a  coach to miss the final game and your trophy day?  Not really.  So, I am not going to run Quebec City.  As I often tell other running friends when they have their own race conflicts, there is always another marathon.

Mom - team running skirts
Toughing it out in the heat during Marathon Training. Note the soccer field behind me.

So now the hunt for a fall marathon begins and there are only two conditions; it has to be in Canada, and it needs to be before the end of October.  I’ve narrowed it down to Run Victoria (B.C.), Scotiabank Toronto, and Prince Edward Island.  Before the end of July, I hope to have worked through the logistics and will register.  Meanwhile, my training continues as I work towards building my base and bettering my BQ time.

 

 

Pokémon Stop!

I love the outdoors.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I run on the coldest days of Canadian winter and in the ridiculous heat of the summer.  I’ll do whatever it takes to help my kids find their way outdoors, even if it means wandering around aimlessly while they are kicking around soccer balls at the park or shooting hoops on the street, because they would rather be playing outside.   And I think it is great when my friends and co-workers begin a fitness regime that takes them for walks or runs into the trails.

Pokemon2When the Pokémon Go app came out, you would think that I would have been excited about that.  After all, it is designed to get people off the couch and exploring the world. Last week, kids came to school, tired but proud of how much they walked the day before while looking for Pokémon.  “If it gets kids outside and moving,” many friends said, “it’s a good thing.” In that sense, it is.  The intention is to walk and hunt for Pokémon while paying attention to your surroundings.  Instead, within a week of its launch, the media  released numerous stories surrounding accidents and harm that are a result of the app’s users not being careful.

pokemon4
Playing It Safe: on the sidewalk while searching for Pokémon.

 

Technology is to be respected and using it while mobile does not give it the respect it deserves.  In the same way that it is illegal to text and drive, kids (and adults) need to use sound judgement when playing the game.  I, personally, have already seen 3 Pokémon incidents: (1) a grade 8 student, who was walking down the hall at school while looking for eggs to hatch, walked into another student, dropped his phone and watched the screen crack; (2) a neighbour held his phone while riding his bike, dropped it and lost control of his bike when he went up a bump on the curb that he didn’t see, admittedly because he was looking for Pokémon; (3) while running yesterday, I saw a group of 10 boys without helmets on their bikes, eyes on screens and calling out Pokémon hunting-like calls, while riding oblivious to traffic on a busy road: stupidity at its best.

But kids aren’t stupid. They are smart enough to find what they seem to believe are “safer” and “more efficient” ways to catch Pokémon, but they still aren’t respecting the technology in their hands.  Today, one mom told me that she saw one boy riding with his phone taped to his handlebars.  Another described a scene that takes the search for Pokémon and egg-hatching to a new level; she saw a group of 9 year olds at the park on motorized scooters, going crazy fast without helmets, and obviously looking for Pokémon.   It has no longer become a “whatever it takes to get kids outside” game, but a “whatever it takes to collect Pokémon.”  My own 15 year told me about the hack that a group of 14 year olds shared with him, a way to change your settings so that you can sit on your couch and capture Pokémon without even having to go outdoors.  Perhaps this group of kids actually has the right idea.  Yes, it is a hack and we all know that hacking is wrong.  But these kids aren’t wandering streets, unaware of what is going on around them, and they are playing from the safety of their own homes.

What this game really needs is a common sense upload, perhaps one which can hatch from a Pokémon egg because it would be priceless.  Until the developers come up with one, my kids aren’t really interested in playing and I’ll be following them around aimlessly while they chase soccer balls and shoot hoops.soccer pic10

 

 

 

 

Who Wears Short Shorts?

For the past few months, I have been struggling with my shorts, not running or athletic shorts, but casual day to day shorts.  I can wear them to school, running errands, around the house….They are a very practical piece of clothing for me.  But as styles are getting shorter and tighter, I have struggled to find shorts that (1) I like, (2) fit the budget and (3) aren’t too tight or too short, but don’t make my legs look like sticks.  And they get double points if I can find a pair that are light and comfortable enough that I can wear them while playing soccer with my boys.  It has become the impossible task.

On the weekend, I made one last attempt to find one – just one – pair of shorts.  After combing through several shops, I gave up, went home and pulled out my yoga shorts.  Now these aren’t true yoga shorts because my prudish husband does not like it when I wear anything tight (which, on another note, makes wearing running tights in the winter rather interesting).

IMG_1119
Me in the blue shorts at Masters Ontario’s Cross-Country Championships in 2013.

These are actually running shorts, which I wore for cross-country but have since crossed the threshold to the yoga studio.  I ran into a friend wearing the same style at the grocery store, I have seen moms wearing them at their kids’ events, and many girls are wearing them at school because they don’t violate dress code.  Maybe, just maybe, I can wear these casually.

On Tuesday, I put them on when I got home from school.  They aren’t too short; my butt is covered.  In fact, the backs of the 50+ year old thighs are hiding well under them too.  They aren’t tight; Dave won’t complain.  They’re stylish.  “I’m good to go,’ I thought, and I headed to the kitchen.

“Ooo, look at Mom in her shorty shorts!” the littlest dude called out.

“They aren’t that short, are they?”

“No, they’re okay.  Wait!  You aren’t wearing those to soccer practice are you?”

“Ummm….”

“Mom, you are NOT wearing those shorty shorts to soccer!  You need to change!”

“I hate my other shorts.  I feel like an old lady in them.”

“Mom, let’s think about your age. Your other shorts are just fine.”Short shorts - front

I’m glad that I’m his mother, not his daughter.   It seems that my son has inherited the “prude” gene and I am still on the hunt for a pair of shorts.  Maybe I should buy a pair of shorty shorts and wear those around.  Then, no one will complain when I wear these.

A Good Problem to Have

I didn’t plan on becoming a soccer mom.  When my boys were younger – well, before they were even born – I imagined them becoming hockey players.  I would get them up in the morning and give them a bowl of oatmeal before Dad would take them to their 6:00 practices, and I would cheer loudly for them during games.  But this never happened.  Even then, at no point in my early parenting years, did I ever think that I would become a soccer mom.

When the boys turned 4, each was registered in the Timbits house league, practically a right of passage in town.   All of their friends played; I mean, ALL of their friends.  But as they got older, and their interests changed, they both walked away from soccer and got into other things.

Somewhere between chasing 4 year old Timbit players and going to High School, the oldest looked into working as a referee.  At the end of his grade 8 year, he took his first qualification course, CPR and First Aid, and he spent that summer getting himself to as many fields as he could so that he could work.  And he was good at it.  My 13 year old could control the field and the parents surrounding it – no easy feat- and that success propelled him to continue reffing during the following school year and summer.

soccer named ballsFast forward to the fall of 2015.  The Littlest Dude (TLD), entering Grade 5, decided that he wanted to play soccer.  Since the club was short of coaches and I was going to be there anyway, I decided to coach his team.  Within weeks, it became obvious that TLD was committed to the sport.  We registered him for another season, and I agreed to coach again.  When the Summer League opened, TLD wanted to play again – but he wanted more than a weekly house league; he wanted to play in the developmental program, which runs twice a week.

This year, it seems, I have officially become a soccer mom.  I am often helping my oldest with travel to his games or back home, since games can end late.  As TLD’s coach, I am committed to working with his team two nights a week.  And now, as he has eyes on trying out for Rep soccer in the next year, I find myself spending almost every afternoon taking him to a field, at his request, so that he can practise shots and play with his friends.  In an average week, I am making an average of 11 trips to any of the different soccer fields in town.

Honestly, I don’t know how this happened.  As a parent, I introduced my boys to different activities, hopeful that they would find one that they liked and would stick with it.  When they were younger, I told them, “It doesn’t matter to me what you do, but whatever you do, do it well.”   My oldest son chose music – played the piano, sang in a choir, played percussion in the band – and he was good, really good, in all.   He took swimming lessons and he ran cross-country, but that was really the extent of his interest in sport; his throwing himself into the world of soccer was a bit of a shock.  He refs, helps coach his school’s Senior team (grade 11 and 12) and mentors new referees.  My youngest?  He loves athletics but he never had any real desire to get involved in any kind of competitive sport.  Out of nowhere, something clicked; he constantly wants to play and, like so many boys his age, he wants to be one of the best. Soccer cleats

I like to think that my own racing and training have somehow rubbed off on my boys.   They have seen me throw myself into my running – especially during marathon season – and chase my own goals.  Secretly, I have been hoping that they would follow my footsteps, especially since they didn’t follow Dad’s path to the rink.  But they haven’t.  For whatever reason, at different points in their lives, both of them simply seemed to wake up one morning and throw themselves into soccer.  And they do it well.

Spending my time taking them from one field to another is a good problem to have.

 

Keeping Up With the Boys

CR - ClimbIn December 2014, I took my sons to Climbers Rock in Burlington to try some indoor climbing.  The oldest dude had done some at school, earned his certificate to belay and was keen to keep at it.  My youngest was a natural; watching him go up and down the walls reminded me of Batman scaling city towers and, then, jumping down.  Me: I’m afraid of heights so I spent countless hours watching the two of them climb together.  But the more I sat there and the more I saw others harness in and reach for the top, the more I realized that I should be able to as well.

We stopped climbing when I broke my jaw, started again when I was cleared to resume activities, then stopped again when my parents died.  For whatever reason, we never went back.  The three of us never discussed why we weren’t going, but I often found myself thinking about it.

Fast forward to December 2015.  I wasn’t running due to a tight SI joint and was tired of just spinning and yoga.  The dudes were bored and needed to get more activity in their lives.  We talked about heading back to Climbers Rock and it wasn’t long before the dudes were literally driving me up the wall.

CR - walltopiaDuring the past two months, I have realized what a fabulous form of cross-training this is for me.   First, it is a great way to strengthen my feet and counteract all of the pounding I do to them when I run.  When climbing, my feet are constantly stretching; I can tell that they get stronger.  The day after every climb, I almost feel as though I’ve had a foot massage.  Climbing also supplements the yoga work that I have been doing to strengthen my core and it helps me to really stretch out my legs and back.  I love the feeling of waking up back muscles that I haven’t used in a while.

The best part of climbing, though, is I can do it with the boys.  One night, the Littlest Dude climbs better than all of us and, another night, I can climb tougher walls than the dudes.  We’re at approximately the same ability level right now and that will change. But we will still be able to do it together and, when we aren’t climbing, we’ll continue to  watch and support each other.  It is a great family activity.

CR - trySo once a week, we are committed to going to Climbers Rock.   Getting one busy mom, a working teen and an active 10 year old to find time to do this together can be a challenge but we do and happily get out of the house.  Hubs: he is happy to have the house to himself.

And my fear of heights?  Well, I am still working on that.  But I am reaching for the top and make it up there.  I just don’t look down.

 

Back to Basics

Christmas 2015 - treeThis is the first Christmas that I am no longer the child.  We lost my parents in the spring and, for the first year in a long time, my brothers and I did not spend Christmas together.  So this year, Christmas was on me.  It was my year to establish some new traditions while keeping the old.  This is a mothering role that I wasn’t quite ready for and there is a lot of pressure in doing it right.  So I did what felt natural; I took my family back to basics.

We started our holiday prep on Sunday.  That is late for most families but both of our dudes have birthdays in the 3 weeks before; we wanted to respect those and not blend them with the rest of the Christmas season.  We were also so busy with choir, school concerts and events, and report cards that I didn’t really have time to focus on anything Christmas.  So Sunday was the planned day to put up our tree.

We have always gone to a local church to purchase one from the Boy Scouts of Canada, where we have always able to find a beautiful tree from Nova Scotia, but I wanted to try something different.  This year we decided that we would go to Merry Farms where we could cut our own.  At the last minute, the littlest dude resisted making the trip out of town and complained most of the car ride but, once we got to Merry Farms, he was the one who had the most fun.  The two dudes laughed and giggled, took turns pulling each other on the wagon and ran around looking for the perfect tree.  After that, they picked out a new ornament for the tree and shared a large chocolate chip cookie.   The day was a success and a new memory for us.

This year, the boys had big ticket items on their lists – electronics and expensive.  Christmas 2015 - toilet plungerI have always followed 3 criteria for purchasing a gift: something that the other person wants; something that you aren’t really buying for you; something that is affordable.  Their “wishes” did not fit the bill but this toilet plunger  for my husband did as he always complains about our old one.  It also had the benefit of being completely unexpected – and it raised loads of laughter on Christmas morning.

For my husband and boys, I had ideas which were much different than their dreams of gadgets and electronics.  It was going to be a year free of technology- not even an iTunes card; it was a year of gifts which brought the family together and would help them grow rather than send them to their quiet spots where they did their own thing.  Santa and I respected their interests – sports, cooking, and play – and they found real toys, games, books, magazines and cooking appliances (“Oh!  A rice cooker!  It will do the work for me!”) under the tree.   Everyone has happy; there wasn’t one complaint and the house was filled with laughter in the afternoon.C

Laughter cutting down our tree; giggles while playing Monopoly or during Nerf gun battles; hysterics about a toilet plunger carefully wrapped and placed under the tree.  These are the sounds of togetherness, the joy of being with family, and the feelings that will stay with us for many Christmases to come.

 

 

Travelling to the Start Line

Chicago - elevatorTwo weeks later, I am finally ready to write about the Chicago Marathon.  It was not my best race and it has taken me some time to accept that.  But, without a doubt, it is the best marathon course that I have run.  Even when my legs were tightening and I watched my pace get slower and slower, I kept thinking about how much I want to return next year.

For me, I had two goals in Chicago: getting to the starting line and, then, crossing the finish line.  I didn’t have a time goal; I had a hope but nothing tangible.  Getting to the start line was my way of challenging myself over the summer to get back into running shape, and I did.  I felt stronger and healthier than I had in years.   With my running history of not racing well at crowded events (I dnf’d in Boston in 2012, the year of the heat wave, and I had trouble coping with the crowds at the Scotiabank Half in 2013 but managed to run a 1:34 PB.), I wanted to test my mental toughness – to prove to myself that I am capable of running a big event and not dnf.  For that reason, I trained to cover the distance.  I was going to finish – no matter what.

On Friday after school, Dave, the dudes and I began what became 9 hours of driving (including a long wait at the border) to Chicago.  We bunked down for night in Jackson, Illinois, which kept us (well, me specifically) from getting too cramped from the long drive.  The next day, we arrived at the Chicago Hilton, the official marathon hotel, at 1:30.  I would have loved to have had a nap and an easy run but I had to pick up my race kit.  Chicago - expo So the two dudes caught the shuttle bus to the expo, did our part to stimulate the American economy and got back to our hotel by 5:30.

By then, my headache – unusual for me- and feelings of nausea had started.  The stress of travelling and dragging the boys to the expo had obviously caught up with me.   I hoped that the nausea was just unnoticed hunger and a good meal would be the cure.   While the dudes and I were at the expo, Dave, who had wanted to go out for dinner, screened the downtown core for potential restaurants but I suggested eating at the hotel.  “Why not?” I asked.  “Everyone staying here is involved in the marathon tomorrow so all of the dining areas are offering pasta specials.   And it is probably going to end up costing us just as much as going out somewhere, we don’t have the hassle of leaving, and there is no stress from looking for the right place and waiting for a table.”  It was the best decision of the day.  Dave and I had the pasta buffet (He supported me by eating pre-spectating carbs) and the boys ate burgers and fries.

Dinner did cure my nausea so I think I was just hungry, but my head was still pounding.  I took the boys to the pool and watched them splash and giggle.  An hour later, we headed back to our room.  It was close to 9:30 and I had just enough time to get my gear organized before hitting the pillow.

By 10:00, I had taken 2 Tylenol, crawled into bed and feel asleep instantly.   In less than 12 hours, I would be around Mile 16.

Tomorrow’s post: The Marathon.