Let Them Be Kids

In the past six months, Ontario universities have lost students who took their lives.  We can’t begin to wonder why or guess the circumstances.  But what we can do is find ways to improve.  We, the adults, we need to do better.

The stress that our youth face is no joke.  Ten years ago, as a teacher, I saw Grade 8 girls put so much pressure on themselves to get marks as close to 100% as possible that I worried that they might have a breakdown before they even got to high school; that was before the pressures of social media.  A few years later, I watched a parent criticize a Grade 8 son for his 80% average because “it isn’t good enough for the top universities.”  Yes, he was only in Grade 8.  And, as a parent, I have watched my son and his friends devour their books so that they can have the 90% averages needed for university entrance while accumulating hundreds of volunteer hours and working part-time.  I have read resumes of university students who make my own – a resume of someone who has been in workforce for over 30 years – look dull.

Today, without meaning to, we have put pressure on kids as young as 12 and 13 to start thinking about their career choices.  We expect our kids to be well-behaved, have high marks, play a sport or instrument (and often more than one), volunteer at school or in the community, and, if they are able, work at a part-time job.  Every parent wants his/her child to be the best, but is the best right for every single kid?  And when exactly do our kids get to be kids?

She believed she could, so she did.

I often feel that, as parents, we have lost touch with what really matters in our children’s lives.  We need to let kids play – not an organized soccer practice or robotics club kind of play, but completely unstructured “run around and be silly with your friends” kind of play.  Let them complain about being bored because kids can always find something to do; it may not be what we want them to do, but they’re making their own decisions and, if they get in trouble, so be it.  Let them face the consequences and help them to understand and accept those consequences.  It’s part of growing up.  So is failure.  By all means, we need to support our children at school so help them with their homework – if they ask for it – but don’t do it for them.  And if they don’t get the mark that everyone wanted on a test or assignment, let it go.  We need to stop helicoptering around our kids and rescuing them every time things don’t go they way we want.  We need to let them fail if we want them to succeed.  With our support and encouragement from their teachers and other adults in their lives, our kids will figure it out.

This is what builds resilience in our kids:  being independent, making their own mistakes, failing, and using each day to try something new.  Resilience is most definitely not gained from larger class sizes.  If that happens, we will have taken away time from the second-most important group of people who interact with our children: their teachers.   (And let’s be real about this: there are many kids who see their teachers more than their parents.)  Increasing class sizes increases the demands and the pressures that we are placing on our youth.  The failure that is bound to happen comes from our government’s decision to increase class  sizes and, since that decision is not our youth’s control, it is only going to lead to greater stress for our kids through high school and more urgent feelings from their parents who will feel an even greater need to hover around them, protect them and help them get through high school.

As mental health is becoming, if it is not already, a crisis among young adults, whether in the work force or at school, we – the parents, the teachers, the coaches  – must prepare our students for this step in their lives.  But we do that through the connections that we have for our youth, through our care and understanding of who they are and what they need to succeed.  We do not build resilience by creating larger class sizes where kids – yes, kids – become one of too many to teach and get to know.  But we can build resilience by letting kids be kids and enjoy their high school years.   We build resilience by spending time with them, guiding them and allowing them to see that they have our support, the support that they will carry into the  next stage of their lives.

Finding Inspiration

Like most runners, I finish a race and I either mark it for my ‘to race’ list next year or I consider it as a ‘maybe’.  With that decision come goals for improvement or goals to adjust my training.  This year, I think it’s safe to say that I don’t have any race goals; any winter or spring goals went out the window when I got my MRI results.  I can only hope that I will be running by summer and can plan for the fall.  But I am still able to work towards improvimg my training.

Since November, I have been consistent on my bike (albeit on my windtrainer) and, for the past three months, I have been hitting just under 400 miles each month.  Tammy the Hamstring is still not ready to plow through an interval workout, but she doesn’t complain about steady cycling.   In the past month, my average speed has increased and most rides are now 50 to 65 minutes.  That’s progress.

I am also seeing improvement at the yoga studio.  In October, just after tearing my tendon, my list of “can not’s” was huge.  As expected, any balance poses were impossible, as were crescent lunges and twists to either side.  Now, almost 5 months later, my balance is 90% there and I can almost  do a crescent lunge.  Each week, it seems, I watch the bar get a little higher.

As a runner, one of my greatest weaknesses is being comfortable.  Building distance and long runs were easy and I could do them week after week.  But changing things up and doing something different, like moving into the trails or adding tempos or intervals to my week, was a huge step out of my comfort zone.  Fortunately, I have fantastic training partners who made it easier for me to put away my hesitations and take me to where I needed to be.

Now, as a runner nor running, I find myself in that same vicious cycle again.  I am comfortable on the windtrainer and at the yoga studio and I am doing everything that I physically can.  But in the past month, I can feel that my metabolism has jumped, leaving me with this unexplainable need to do more.  The pool is calling me.

The issue is I am not a swimmer.  Years ago, living in a Toronto and during my life without kids, I was swimming.  I climbed into the pool 5 times a week: 3 afternoon distance swims and 2 inteval workouts at 6:00 a.m.  I was slow, but my strokes were good and I averaged 5 – 6 miles a week.  Becoming a mom changed all of that, and I haven’t swam a single length in years.  Getting back into the pool scares me.

On Thursday night, I drove up to Glen Eden with my 13 year old who has been teaching himself to snowboard for the past two winters.  He doesn’t want group lessons; he wants to work at his own pace and do what he wants as he feels ready.  This week, I watched him practise his jumps for the second time, proud that he has made this commitment to snowboarding and that he has done it all on his own.   As we drove home that night, he told me how scared he was before he started and, again, I felt proud, proud that he has pushed himself out of his comfort zone.

“You know you’re inspiring me, don’t you?” I asked.

How?” he asked.

“Because you are doing something that scares you.  You get out there, you do it, and you do it well.  You’re helping me realize that it’s going to take work for me to start swimming again, but I’ll be able to do it.  I just need to get back into the water and start.”  That’s when I made the decision to get in the water before the end of the month.

This morning, coincidentally, while going through a pile of papers, I found a quote by Stephen Hawkings that I had copied in the summer.

“And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.  It matters that you don’t just give up.”

For whatever reason, these words spoke to me many months ago and I wanted to make sure that I remembered them.  After finding them this morning, I’m taking it as a sign. Tomorrow, I will get into the pool, I will push myself out of my comfort zone and I will not give up.

 

 

Staying a Part of Your Teen’s Life

At the Toronto Christmas Market

One of the things that this injury has given me is extra time with my son. For years, during a typical school week, I would get home from work around 6:00 and head out the door to run. For the past few months, though, since I have been side-lined, I have been at home more, spending time with my recently minted teen and watching him become his own person.

When our kids are little, we spend time with them because we have to. They need us – all day long. So we do the things that we, the parents, want to do and and give them, the children, the experiences that we want them to have. Usually, these include going to parks, swimming lessons, and touristy things like visiting a museum or science centre. But as kids get older and become more independent, friendships become more important and, suddenly, they don’t need us around anymore.

I wasn’t ready for this change. My youngest has always been the child who needed me around. Now, he wants to spend time with his friends instead, either online or in real life, and understandably so. But, while he doesn’t realize it, he is still young and needs my guidance. I like being there for him; I want to be a part of his life a little bit longer.

A few weeks ago, it became obvious that he still wanted me to be a part of his life. On the weekend before his 13th birthday, while planning our schedule for the week ahead, as we always do, and I jokingly said, “Oh, look. Tuesday is open. Am I forgetting something?” To this, he smirked and replied, “I want to go see a movie.” After asking if he wanted to text a few friends to see if they could go, he replied, “Nope. I want to see Creed, and I want to go with my mommy. Just you and me.” Creed was one of the last movies on my to-see list. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather just go with friends?” I hoped. “Nope. Just you and me.” So, on his 13th birthday, we saw Creed, just like he wanted.

That’s when it hit me. If I want to stay a part of my teen’s life, I have to do the things that he wants to do, not the things that I want him to do. So, over the holidays, we went to an escape room and the Toronto Christmas Market with his friends, spent time at the indoor driving range, and snowboarded. Even though I don’t golf or snowboard or ski, I am quite happy to stand around and watch him grow and learn. I am even happier that he wants to do these things with me.

As I reflect on the past almost six months and feel sad about the times that I haven’t been able to run, I remind myself of how lucky I am to have this “gift” of time, time that I can invest in my youngest, time that belongs to my teen and me.

A Gentle Reminder

It’s been three years since my parents died and holidays are still tough, especially Christmas. Growing up, Christmas was extra special; my mom spent months planning and baking, we got dressed up for two family dinners (Christmas and Christmas Eve), sang songs and built memories to last a lifetime.

Fast forward a few decades to when I have been with Dave for more than 25 years and we have our own boys. Like most couples, we have created our own family traditions, which included spending time with my parents. Since their passing, it has just been the four of us on Christmas Day; my brothers spend Christmas with their in-laws and we get together later. This year, I needed my brothers to be a part of my Christmas Day.

As ridiculous as this may sound, my not being able to run has made this Christmas a difficult one. Year after year, I have always looked forward to the time off work and having a few decadent runs in the middle of the day; I have loved the challenge of making time to run on Christmas morning; I have been grateful for having the flexibility to run with my friends when it fits their schedules. This year, I didn’t have any of that. As much as I hoped that I would be running by Christmas, my shoes are still hanging in their cinch bag by the door.

This morning, I woke up at 7:30 and the house was still quiet. Zeda hadn’t asked me to go for a walk yet, and my two teeens were still sound asleeep. Christmas was different this year: no family, no running, and, now, no early wake-ups by my excited children. I was sad.

After walking and feeding Zeda, while waiting for her humans to wake up, I began to realize how lucky I was. Dave and the kids were all sound asleep. They weren’t driven by the need to wake up early to open their presents; they were happy. I stopped feeling sorry for myself.

I may not be able to run, but I have my health. I am injured; that’s it. I am not sick; I don’t have cancer; I’m not dying. I have my family: my husband, children and dog. We live in a well-built house, and we are safe and warm. This morning, they reminded me that we don’t have needs. They reminded me that life is good.

Focus on what you have, not what you want. Think about what lies ahead, not what you left behind. Keep dreaming and breathe because life is good.


Running and Parenting (and Finding My Poop Peeps)

Gastro-intestinal distress.  It’s a secret ailment that most runners share and, like childbirth, unless you have experienced it, you really don’t know what it is all about.  Well, for those of you who have been fortunate enough to escape the horrors of GI distress, running means that you are pounding your body’s weight into the ground, which also means that you’re shaking up the contents of your stomach.  The longer the distance you run, the more everything breaks apart.  As everything loosens, it easily passes through your intestinal tract and, sometimes, faster than expected, leaving runners desperately seeking a bathroom, porta-potty or tall grass.  If you aren’t careful, GI distress can be an absolute disaster.

When I run with friends, no one ever argues if someone needs a bathroom; we’ve all been in that situation.  And no one ever complains about the wait.  In fact, none of my friends really talk about GI distress at all – except Kelly-Lynne.  A few months ago, she complained about eating the wrong foods at work so, twenty-five minutes into our evening run, we had to stop for a bathroom.  This time, it was me who was waiting for her, which was so unusual that I teased her about it, and we somehow ended up talking about poop for the rest of the run.  By the time we finished, I asked, “Do you realize that we just spent the last 30 minutes talking about poop?  How many girls talk about poop?  That is unheard of!”  Finally, I had found a poop peep.

Years ago, my conversations about poop were limited to other moms who had to deal with the horrors of poopy diapers and poop that finds its way up a baby’s back and into every crevice of the body, places that I never would have imagined poop could crawl into until I had my own boys, poop that was so gross that Dave would jump to walk the dog on the coldest days of winter to avoid the dreaded diaper change.    But Kelly-Lynne is my first real poop peep, someone to share my greatest pre-race fears: not emptying my gut before the start, getting caught mid-race needing a porta-potty and wondering whether I can ‘hang on’ until the end.

Last night, Tammy the Hamstring derailed my plans to take my youngest and his three friends to the Blue Jays game.  I knew that Tammy wouldn’t want to sit at the game for 2 hours or more, and she would end up complaining about the train trip in and out of the city as well.  When Dave came to the rescue and agreed to take the boys, the other moms (Susan and Anna) were equally grateful and asked me to thank him.  “He still owes me,” I messaged.  “I’d rather take 4 boys to a baseball game than spend all those years changing poopy diapers.  He got off easy.”  Somehow the discussion changed to the joys of teen boys and plunging toilets of their superhuman feats bobbing inside.  Within minutes, I realized that I had found more poop peeps.

Susan and Anna are not just poop peeps, though.  They are peeps with strategies, mom hacks that are so brilliant that they make bathing a skunky dog with Vagisil seem banal, strategies that include using laxatives to break down the most frightening of exhibits or pouring Restoralax (and, yes, you can buy it in bulk at Costco) into the toilet bowl to loosen things.   A Restoralax/Gatorade concoction, they tell me, moves things along quite nicely.  Gatorade in the toilet?  Who knew?!

Everyone needs a poop peep, especially if you are a runner, a mom or a running mom.  My network feels complete but there is always room for more.

 

Marathon Training: It’s a Family Affair

When the boys were little, I always thought that I would have more time to myself as they got older.  I was so wrong.  Little did I realize that older boys mean more interests, busier lives, and later nights, which really means less time for me.

Circa 2008, the baby jogger days.

When the boys were little, they use to join me when I ran.  I often had one in the stroller and one on his bike.  On Sunday mornings, when I did my long run, my oldest would usually ride with me to keep me company and carry water and Gatorade.  When we finished, we would stop at the corner store and he would buy himself a chocolate bar.

But now my boys are 12 and 17.  They don’t want to run with me, they don’t want to ride with me while I run and they sure as heck don’t want to wake up with the birds on a weekend morning to keep me company during my long run.   During the past year, I have become comfortable with the loneliness of the long run.

This past weekend, as in many parts of North America, Southern Ontario has had another heatwave.  I’ve done a fairly good job of acclimatizing to the heat and I have learned to wake up really early on the days that I want to run for more than an hour.  With this weekend’s temperatures pushing into the 40’s, this weekend’s long run needed to be early.  However, both of my boys were involved in a soccer tournament, which meant early mornings, and my oldest had to work at his part-time job until 1:00 am on Sunday morning; I needed to be home early enough to make sure that everyone was up on time.  This meant that the only window I had to run was Sunday night, when the humidex was forecast at 36C.

On Sunday morning, Dave asked me what my plans to run were.  “Tonight,” I replied.  “I’m starting when it is hot but I’ll feel better as the sun goes down.”  After I narrowed down my start time to 6:30, Dave said that he would meet me at 8:15 after he finished his shift and ride with me during the tail end of my run.  So I sent him to work with 2 extra towels, a bottle of Gatorade, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes.

At 6:20, I drove to the soccer club, handed over the car key to my oldest and started my run from there.  I stopped at home, as planned, in the first half hour for my first water break.  Realizing how hot it really was, I also texted my oldest: Can you, please, try to meet me between 7:30 and 8:00 with water and Gatorade?  It is so hot…. and I named a 2K stretch of road where he could find me. I had no idea when he would be leaving work, nor did I know if he would just roll his eyes and shrug his shoulders, but I hoped that he would be a good son and help me out.

The kid can take pictures too! 8:10 pm and thirteen miles into my run.

At 7:50, I was losing hope.  I ran into Coronation Park to look for a water fountain but there were none.  “How can a large public park like this not have a water fountain?” I asked myself.  I was angry and, admittedly, getting a little nervous about going another 25 minutes without fluids.  “Slow down the pace,” I told myself.  “You’ll be fine.”  And I did.  Within a kilometre of leaving the park, I saw my car pass me and turn into Appleby College.  The kid came through; he greeted me with water and Gatorade, then happily headed back home.   Me, I happily continued towards the pier where I was going to meet Dave.

When I got there, I saw Dave’s car at the TOWARF building, where he volunteers with the town’s water rescue group, but he was nowhere in sight.  Thinking that he was just changing into cycling gear, I went into the station.  “He’s right out there,” I was told but I couldn’t see him.  “Right out there on the water, see.  They were called out at 7:55.”   Of course, they were.

Thumbs up for 19 solo miles in the heat.

So I left directions to let Dave know which way I was going and headed out alone, not what we had planned at all.  But the sun was down so it running wasn’t as tough as it had been an hour earlier.  Besides, I was still fueled with that half bottle of Gatorade and water.  By the time I got back to the pier, Dave and the rest of his crew were just docking their boat.

When I started my run, it was 29C (or 84F) with the humidex at 36C (or 97F).  By the time I finished almost 19 miles, the humidex had only dropped to 34C (or 93F).   I don’t think that I could have run that distance under those conditions on my own but my family’s support got me through it: Dave, who offered to ride with me at the end (it didn’t happen but the thought of it kept me going) and my son who dropped everything so that he could meet me just past the half way mark.    Even though my family is getting older and busier and spending their weekend mornings sleeping while I’m logging miles on the road, they really are still there and supporting my crazy ideas while I keep chasing my dreams.

Raising Runners – or not

A strong start.

Last week, my twelve year old and I took the Go Train to Toronto.  Initially, I had planned to spend the day alone, visit with a friend and wander aimlessly through downtown Toronto.  But the dude asked if he could come with me.  At first, I hesitated because it would mean that he would be taking the day off school (mine was a legitimate personal day), but he really hadn’t done much in class the week before other than play outside and watch movies.  And here, I had a twelve year old boy who wanted to spend his day with me – away from all distractions –  and I probably don’t have many days like that left, so I gave in.  Together, we headed downtown.

“Mom,” he asked while on the train, “Can we do the Runway Run again this year?”

The Three Amigos, Runway Run 2016

This came out of the blue.  The Runway Run is a 5K at the end of September on the Pearson International Airports tarmac.  We ran it a few years ago with two of his buddies and, for boys who love planes, it is a very cool event.  We ran past planes, had the option to go inside a few of them after, hung out in a hanger and, basically, just had a fun morning.  But my son didn’t run well; despite a good start, he started feeling sick and ended up walking/running the last half of 5K.  I thought he was going to be turned off running forever, and I was genuinely shocked when he asked if he could run this race again.

“Yes!  Let’s do it!”  Then, I realized it was just a few weeks before the Chicago Marathon and worried about my own goals so added, “I may not race it, but I’ll run it.”

“That’s okay,” he said.  “The boys and I want to do it again.”

We spent the afternoon walking through the downtown core.  We visited the OVO store, Drake’s flagship store on Dundas Street (which he had been itching to visit since fall) and bought one very expensive t-shirt.  We went through Trinity Bellwood Park and I had a lovely reminder that he is still a kid when he asked if we could stop to play at the climbers.  We walked back to Union Station, stopping at Harvey’s for a hotdog, fries and chocolate milkshake along the way.  Then, we went home.  That was our day: a total of 10 walking kilometres, a t-shirt, and a hotdog and fries.

On the train back home, I asked the question that had been on my mind all afternoon.  “Do you want to run through the summer?  I mean, do you want to train with other kids?”  My club, Toronto Olympic Club, has a fantastic program for juniors, and I have been hoping that, one day, one of my own boys would run with me there.

“No.”  My shoulders dropped.  “I’m not really interested in running.  I just do it for fun.  I play manhunt, capture the flag and soccer, and I know I’m fast.  But I also like basketball and scootering.  Don’t worry, Mom.  I’m going to stay active this summer.  I want to play outside.  I just don’t want to run with TOC.”

I felt deflated but proud at the same moment.  As much as I hope that my boys will also become runners, I was relieved to hear that this one would rather spend his summer outdoors than gaming or watching television.   And he does want to run; he just doesn’t want to commit to it and I am totally fine with that.

How can I be sure that I do have a runner in progress?   Before we got to Harvey’s, he complained, “Mom, I’m starving and my legs hurt.  I feel like I’ve run a marathon.”

Parenting done right.

 

Always On My Mind

Blue skies make the coldest days (-20 with the windchill) a little more bearable.

“Embrace The Cold” has become my theme for winter.  We all knew that these cold temperatures, the minus-something-stupid numbers that we have, were projected weeks, maybe even months, ago.  For those who are enthusiastic about skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and any other winter sport, the past few weeks have been perfect.  For me, the warm weather lover, it hasn’t been so great.  But it is obvious that Old Man Winter is not leaving anytime soon so I am trying not to complain; I am learning to #embracethecold.

So, like an idiot, I decided that this is the year for my 12 year old to learn to snowboard.  Over the past few years, we have gone to Glen Eden fewer times than I can count on one hand, mostly due to our being spoiled with the  warmer winters that runners love but snowboarders hate.   The dude loves being on the slopes and he is good at it, probably from spending hours and hours on his skateboard or scooter during the non-winter months.  My mommy senses tell me that he is going to want to spend time on the slopes in his teen years, and I would much rather have him learn when he is younger than take the chance that he’ll head to the hills, try to figure things out on his own and end up injured later.   Our goal is to get him out twice a week, more during a break or long weekend.  Lucky me, I get to stand around, watch and embrace the cold while he plays outdoors with a snowboard.

On Friday, when we were coming back from Glen Eden, I asked the dude how he felt he was progressing.  “Good,” he replied. “Mom, if you want to get good at something, you have to be thinking about it all the time.  I’m doing that.  When I am not there, I am going over things in my head again and again.”

That made perfect sense to me.  As a runner, I am always thinking about the run.  I plan my day around when I am going to run and I involve my family in my weekly plans so that it is a part of our week, not just mine.  Running is in my morning, afternoon and evening, in what I eat and drink, and how I sleep.  It is in my closet and on my nighttable.  For me, running is everywhere.  Whether or not my shoes are laced up, running is always on my mind.

-19C and he keeps going back for more!

I was a bit surprised by the insight that my twelve year old had. “To get good at something, you have to be thinking about it all the time.”  He has a passion and dedication  for snowboarding that I haven’t seen in anything else that he does.  He has had to sit in the snow and struggle with his bindings again and again until he could do it on his own, and he falls down and gets right back up – only to do it again.  I know that his winter on the slopes is what my running is to me.  And I know that if he wants to be successful, he does have to go back again and again.

Embracing the Cold

This morning, I headed outdoors for my morning run under cold but sunny skies.  Tonight, even though I am heading back to Glen Eden to stand around in the snow and watch him in the minus-something-stupid, I can embrace the cold.   After all, if this is teaching my kid commitment and tenacity while keeping him active, Old Man Winter can’t be all that bad.

 

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.