"Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

I know I said "blog like no one is reading" but it's nice to know these people are

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dispatches from a Parallel Universe

Racing Buddies

Sometimes it feels like we really do live in another world and not just because we have four foot snow drifts surrounding the house and people get around on snowmobiles in town. (I know that doesn't help to dispel any stereotypical images you south of the border may have of the Great White North but where I live it really is true for four months of the year) I feel this way because we inhabit this strange little planet of parents of ski racers. Most of you might be familiar with skiing the way normal people enjoy it where you take a holiday and go to a fabulous resort like Vail or Whistler or even somewhere closer like Killington or Sugar Loaf but we in southern Ontario only have what is geologically known as the Niagara Escarpment to conquer on boards. It is a ridge that runs from Niagara Falls to the top of the Bruce Peninsula between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay and due to the two bodies of water and cold air masses from the Arctic we get a lot of snow dumped on us with great regularity. The height of this ridge you ask? Well, at its peak it is about 900 feet. Yes, that's feet, not metres even though we in Canada converted to the metric system sometime in the 70's but because it sounds even punier in metres we still refer to our mountain in feet. Along the escarpment there is one public ski resort grandly called Blue Mountain and then there are five other places to ski but only if you are a member or guest. These ski hills are private clubs much like a golf or country club. It's great if you were lucky enough to be born into a family that were already members thanks to the foresight of your parents or grandparents and which makes you, as we like to call it, a member of the L.S.P. or Lucky Sperm Club. Otherwise if you want to bypass the long lift lines and various yahoos and yetis careening down the slopes at the public hills you have to pony up quite a swack of cash. My family, as you might have gathered is a member of the L.S.C. on both sides as my Other Half and I met as teenagers at our club. Our children are able to ski four out of seven days a week and as my cousin says, "the first run is really expensive and the rest are all free." We get our money'sworth out of our membership especially now that we live up here and can head over to the hills whenever the school is closed and the roads are open.

But back to the parallel universe. What do we do on these short little hills day after day, week after week, all winter long? Well, once you graduate from the snowplow to french fries and can get on and off the chairlifts by yourself (about age 4 for my boys) you start to race. At age 7 they become Nancy Greeners (named after a famous Canadian skier from the 60's) and they train all weekend and compete four or five times a season. As for the parents, if you aren't a weekend warrior and stuff your middle-aged body into a downhill suit to hurl yourself down a race course trying to recapture your youth then you drive from ski club to ski club with your little racers and stand at the bottom of the hill cheering them on for the 35 seconds or so that it takes to make it through the course. You might even strap on a pair of skis yourself and carry their coats because at these speeds the racers don't want any excess drag on their aerodynamically-designed bodies. They would rather freeze their little patooties off than wear a coat while racing. At age 11 they are allowed to put on downhill suits and subject themselves to the beginnings of low self esteem if they don't have the body of ... well ... of an 11 year old boy. Woe to the kids, boys and girls who have a few pounds of baby fat still clinging to their frames while their friends are all spindly arms and legs.

My Other Half - The Sherpa

The thing about ski racing, unlike hockey or soccer, is that it is all about you. Number One Son is a goalie on his hockey team and he is never as upset about losing a game six - nothing as he is about not placing in the top 10 in a ski race. He can slough off a losing streak because he knows it's not all his fault but when it is just him at the top of the hill and he doesn't beat his time in the second run (they get two chances on the course) he is inconsolable. So I tell myself that this is all character building and that doing both team and individual sports is going to help them later in life and I truly think it will but it doesn't make it any easier when you are trying to comfort a 10 year old who has just fallen halfway down the course and has bruised his ego more than anything else. Or managing the expectations of an 8 year old who is faster than most of the 9 and 19 years olds (his brother included) and is beginning to become one of those cocky kids who you swore yours would never be.

So in this parallel universe that we inhabit from December to March that no one in the world, other than a few hundred other crazy parents understand, where we spend thousands of dollars on equipment that the kids out grown every year and hours on homework trying to keep the kids caught up because of all the school they miss for training and hours consoling disappointed children who don't make it to the Provincial Championships because they had a bad fall in a critical race, it is sometimes hard to remember that outside this bubble other people ski for enjoyment, a few days a year. They go to resorts and enjoy the apres ski as much as the skiing itself and then don' spend their evenings sharpening and waxing six pairs of skis.

I love the fact that my sons are outside getting lots of fresh air and exercise but sometimes I wonder what we are doing this all for. I certainly don't think that ski racer is a viable career path. Most people can't name a single alpine racer except maybe during the Winter Olympics and any sponsorship deals they might get only pay for their equipment. Shaun White is the exception but he is a snowboarder not a ski racer. So why are we doing this again? Well, it is what my husband did as a kid (I, on the other hand, carried coats for the racers in the hopes of getting noticed so I guess that worked since he did marry me) and they will form life long friendships since the kids they hang out with every weekend will, for the most part, grow up and raise their children at the club. There really is a certain comfort and continuity in recognizing the last names of your children's friends. My boys are third and fourth generation members at our club and I know that if they get into trouble someone will recognize their names and tell me about it. This gives me that omnipotent parental power which freaks every kid out when we know what they have bee
n up to practically before they do it.

Number Two Son waiting for his turn

So despite the crazed mothers who let their kids miss far too much school so that they can get the edge over their competitors and the gear head fathers who buy their 8 year old the latest and greatest equipment and are found waxing skis at the top of the hill even though it won't make a hundredth of a second difference in a 50 pound kid's time, I will continue to support my boys as long as they want to do this, as long as they are having fun and making friends and learning those life lessons. I will be at the bottom of the hill to wipe away the tears and high five them after a great run and I will toast them with a very large glass of wine whether they make the podium or finish dead last 'cause in any universe, parallel or otherwise, that's what good parents do.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Does anyone know how to be in three places at once?

Here are a few of the reasons that I will neither be blogging or reading for the next few days. These aren't excuses, just a snapshot of my life right now which I know so many of you will understand and raise your glass of wine in solidarity with me as mothers of far too active, but not over-programmed boys. There is no such thing as over programming of boys since if you dare to let them sit around too long, much like over-ripe fruit, they start to stink and attract flies.

Friday - boys have already left for the ski hill with my Other Half. Numbers Two and Three are training and Number One has a race. Then we get home in time to tune skis for tomorrow's races while Number One is at the arena for hockey practice.

Saturday - Number Two and I go to one hill for a race while Numbers One & Three go to our club for training. All reconvene at the end of the day to tune skis (again), take Number One skating with his ski team, Number Three has a party and then we dump them all with my sister so my Other Half & I can enjoy a rare kid-free party at friends!

Sunday - Number Three goes to another club for a race, then all are back to our club for the afternoon and all race, on three different courses on three different hills which requires the two of us to be in three places at once. The upside of this is that the dog finally gets a decent walk from one hill to another. Then Number Three has another party and Number One has hockey practice and a relief map of Alberta showing the mountains and plains made out of dough to finish.

Love winter but can't wait to be able to sleep in past 7am sometime in April.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sort of Stuck in a Rut - Part Two

I'm glad I spilled my January blahs all over this blog last week. It helped and I have made some headway, on the list, at least. I got the kids to move the woodpile so we can get at it more easily which means we can make a fire in hopes that we might sit and relax in front of one someday. Of course, I had to bribe them but I wasn't going to make them go back to school after their dentist appointment anyway. And today I cleaned out the dry sink in the kitchen which used to be the arts and craft cupboard but now that the boys aren't really into crafts it holds paper and stuff for school projects. Great timing as Number One Son has a big project due in two days (guess all that time off school for skiing and volleyball finally caught up with him) I also organized the shelves by my desk and it only took two trips to the hardware store. At first I thought I could attach shelves inside the old cabinet but mismeasured, of course and had to take everything back. But while there the second time I found stackable shelves meant for shoes and decided they would work in the cabinet just as well. They only had two and I might need a couple more but assembling them was a heck of a lot easier than trying to drill holes for shelves in a space that's hard to access since it is in a corner behind my desk. It's not perfect but a whole lot better than before and I've got a big basket of electronic odds and sods shoved underneath where no one can see or get at it so I'll probably forget what's there. Sorry, once again I forgot to take before and after photos so you'll have to trust me on all this.

I did go snow shoeing on Saturday and skied albeit, briefly as the temperatures have been sub-Arctic for the past four days. But the temperatures are supposed to be returning to a more normal range for us in the Great White North which means I have no excuse not to get out riding my horse and walking the dog. But this week is a short one as Thursday is my Other Half's birthday and I have booked us off to ski or shoe shoe in the morning and then massages at the Scandinave Spa in the afternoon! My in-laws are coming up to take the whole family out for dinner that night meaning I won't even have to cook and then we are all skiing together on Friday. So, as January comes to a close, things are looking up. But I am going to keep working on the To Do List which, if I post it for all to see, might have a better chance of getting done by spring.

Next up:
  1. Replace the desk in the upstairs hall with the bookshelf from Griffen's room. (He doesn't need a desk)
  2. Put up the shelves and hang the TV in the basement.
  3. Print out pictures and put them in the frames I bought for the basement
  4. Put up shelves in Ben's room.
  5. Get some regular exercise - snow shoe every weekend, walk River daily, Yoga or Pilates
  6. Purge cookbooks and get recipes on computer organized
  7. Hang a light over my desk (a cool one like these)
  8. Start putting together yearly photo albums and get them printed (this is so easy and cheap now, there's no excuse not to. I've already set aside the best photos from 2010)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Still Stuck in a Rut - Part One

I have no passion, no goal, no bucket list. I react to life, I am not proactive. I organize and schedule and arrange my families lives but I do nothing of my own. My husband followed his passion and we moved here. I work with friends who followed their passions and started a cheese shop but I have done none of this myself. I have a horse but I can't muster the passion to ride him very often because it take times away from my family. I ski but it gets boring very quickly. I don't exercise regularly. I cook but in spurts. We don't entertain. I don't have To Do Lists which I can tackle around the house although there are a million things that I could be doing. I know I feel better when I do try to get something done but I can't kick start myself into doing anything. I went snow shoeing and felt great, once. I don't walk the dog, I don't volunteer. I eat, I watch TV, I barely even read anymore. I haven't been blogging and when I do, truly, no one is reading.

I know its January and this is when I usually feel this way but I don't even suffer from great bouts of depression that might require counselling. I don't have dramatic breakdowns or spectacular meltdowns. I fight with my kids, yell at them and make myself and them promises every day that it won't happen again. And it does, day after day. And they are not bad kids, they are so good. Good at school, good in sports but I can't even be passionate about that, pushing them to do better, being one of those parents who expects their kids to make it to the Olympics.

I love my husband and we do experience passion together every once in a while which I know is normal for two people who have been together for over 25 years, I think we do okay in that department.

I love design, reading about what other people are doing on a shoe string, seeing pictures of what a difference a can of white paint can make. I hate the clutter in my house. I hate the bathrooms. I want room for my books where I can see them. I hate that we started fixing up the basement for the boys and then stopped and I haven't finished because my husband has no time and I can't seem to do it myself.

I need to make a list for each week and do at least one thing on it. So here goes:
  1. Clean out the dry sink
  2. Organize the shelves by my desk so I can get at them
  3. Replace the desk in the upstairs hall with the bookshelf from Griffen's room. (He doesn't need a desk)
  4. Put up the shelves and hang the TV in the basement.
  5. Print out pictures and put them in the frames I bought for the basement
  6. Put up shelves in Ben's room.
  7. Move the woodpile (get kids to help)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This is the hard part

My father called this morning to tell me about a conversation he had had with Number Two Son yesterday. My Dad and Number Two have a very special bond and therefore he has been privy to many secrets but this was one he felt he had to share and break the grandparent/grandson confidence. Of course, it was something I already knew about all too well. Number Two has been bullied by the same child since we moved here four years ago. It seems to ebb and flow but we have already had one conversation this year with the teacher which resulted in all the Grade Five boys having a meeting with the teacher to talk about the situation. The school has a very strict anti-bullying policy and they spend alot of time discussing the issue. But there is a real herd mentality amongst these Millennium babies, one that we have not experienced with our older son's group. Number Two and his friends are very aware of what and who is cool, they worry about clothes and hair and what they are doing and how they look doing it. They are all on facebook and because I monitor our son's friends closely I have already had to intervene in one on-line relationship with a girl who he sees only on weekends at the ski hill but who had invented an entire relationship with him including multiple break-ups and reconciliations, all posted on her Wall.

The bullying at school takes the form of teasing and put downs said to other kids about my son. But it has escalated to spitting on clothes such as his sweatshirt and laughing at him when he unknowingly puts it on. Number Two cares deeply about what other people think (don't we all?) and although I have tried to tell tell him that he is smart, cute and good at so many things, only what his peers say really matters at age 10. The herd mentality rears its ugly head and everyone in the class would rather go along with the bullying than risk being singled out themselves, my son included.

We are having another meeting with his teacher who unfortunately Number Two does not seem to like very much and I have talked to one of the Behavioural Specialists at the school who is a close friend who I thought he might be willing to talk to. Now I wonder whether I should call the parent of the bully whom I know (it is a very small town, of course) and ask her if she has heard anything about what's going on from her son? Will that backfire in my face? It might. Would I want to know if one of my sons was a bully? Yes, but having tried this route with another parent about an issue with another child, I know how different one's perspective can be regarding their own child. No one wants to think that their son or daughter is anything other than a kind and caring person. I don't believe that these kids are bad, they are just behaving in a very Lord of the Flies way. A leader emerges from the group and whether he or she guides the group in a positive or negative way determines what happens to characters like "Piggy."

I want my son to know we are doing something to help him but I also know know he is super sensitive and I want him to be able to stand up for himself and not care quite so much about what other people say and do. I have never been an over-protective mother, I like my kids to figure stuff out for themselves and learn the skills they will need to survive in life. But I hate seeing any one of them being hurt.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Grandfather of the Year

Yes, I know we are only two weeks into 2011 but I would like to nominate my Dad for the Grandfather of the Year Award right now because I don't think there is anyone out there who will top him.

Thank god for my Dad. I have always know that he was special to me and the boys and to my Other Half but this weekend he went above and beyond the call of duty. He is a grandfather extraordinaire.

It all started on Wednesday night at about 10:30pm as I was talking to my Other Half. He was staying in the city for 10 days during the boat show and I was about turn out the lights when I heard something. I hung up abruptly and ran out to find Number Three Son emptying the contents of his stomach somewhere between the hall and the bathroom. He had tried to make it to the toilet, he really did, but there was no point in getting there now since we'd have to wade through his dinner of spaghetti and meat sauce which now coated every surface. I lifted him right into the tub and went in search of my decontamination kit. Set him back into bed with a bucket and towel nearby and went in search of stray bits of pasta which had somehow found their was into every corner of the upstairs landing, coupled with bits of tomato and peppers. I may never eat Italian again.

The poor guys threw up every hour that night even though there was nothing left in him by 1am. He is such a trouper - just rolls over to be sick then rolls back to sleep. In the morning I settled him with the bucket and towels in my bed to watch TV and got Number Two Son up for school expecting a fight as Number One was staying at a friend's house and would be missing school to ski for three days while training for a race. But Number Two surprised me and got up and ate a little breakfast then, while I was checking on his brother, I heard him say, "Mum, I'm going to be sick." And so it began. They were both down for the count. I kept them separated at first but then I was going crazy running up and down the stairs so I gave up and put them both in my bed with their buckets. Number Three was exhausted but over the vomiting. Number Two continued and they both had it coming out both ends at one point (and we wonder why people shake their heads at the whole "Mommy Blogger" phenomenon?) I continued to load and unload the washing machine all day and scoured every surface the boys had come into contact with.

By Thursday night both had calmed down and I actually got a good night sleep. Friday morning everyone (sans Number One who I had told to stay put at his friend's so as not to enter the Plague House) was up and seemed to be okay. I tried to convince them to stay at home but as it was a P.D. Day there was no way they were going to miss out on skiing. We headed to the hill and as I ran back and forth between race courses we seemed to be back on track until it was time to go home. The boys (Two & Three) wanted to go to their grandfather's house to hang out while I went to a memorial service for a friend's father, Number One was still AWOL and apparently going paint balling. So we headed to my Dad's where I decided to have a bath and relax with a copy of People magazine. About 20 minutes later I knew something was wrong. I had openly defied the gods and said, whenever anyone asked how I was doing, "I'm a mother, I don't get sick."
I left my Dad in charge and made a dash for home where the rest of the night disappeared in a haze of fevered runs to the bathroom. The worst part about hanging over the toilet in this situation is you can't even make any promises that you'll never drink again. And no one deserves this after spending 24 hours cleaning up after sick kids.

But back to my Dad, as my sister said, "He woke up Saturday morning with purpose." He had the three boys Friday night, got them up and to the ski hill the next day, took them their lunch, cheered Number Two on from the bottom of the race course, took Number Three over to a friend's for a play date, came home and helped Number One sharpen and wax his skis. Brought me ginger ale and magazines and kept them for a second night.

But to top it all off, Number Two decided to sleep over at a friend's house and in the middle of the night felt sick again and ended up being driven to my Dad's. As the mother who took him home said, "Waking anyone up in the middle of the night to bring home their child is bad enough but bringing him home to his 70 year old grandfather's? Let's just say, if it was anyone other than your Dad he would have had to tough it out." So my Dad continued on, got the other two up this morning and to the hill in time for Number One Son's race, drove number Two home to me and then will go back to the hill in time to get Number One to his hockey game this afternoon.

Late tonight their father will be home and I'm not sure whether I will tell him what has been going on (he still doesn't read this) because I know he will feel so guilty for being away through it all. There aren't very many women I know who can call on their fathers for this kind of support. Last weekend he drove three hours to watch Number One's hockey game and standing at the bottom of a ski hill to watch a 45 second race is tough on him in particular as he has Peripheral Neuropathy which is an incredibly painful condition and makes walking and standing hell. The physical pain is bad enough but my Dad climbed Everest and wrote a book and gives speeches about his experience so it is even harder on him to admit that he is becoming more and more disabled by it.

My Mum, who is also wonderful but lives an hour and a half away would have come to help but would probably have thrown up her hands at the ski/hockey schedule and said they should all just stay home and watch TV. (That's one of the reasons why I never excelled in competitive sports. Well, that and lack of talent.)

So I hope we are through the worst of this bug and that my Other Half and Number One Son won't succumb. I have disinfected, laundered and even thrown out some clothes which I couldn't bear to put in the wash. We are normally a very healthy family, my boys never miss school because they are sick. My only wish after all this is that my Dad doesn't get hit with it but he swears he hasn't thrown up since his fraternity days in the early 1960's.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Maybe I just need to shake things up a bit

In between loads of laundry and emptying barf buckets for Numbers Two and Three Sons I took a moment to wander over to Lulu's blog which I have only recently discovered. It is so pretty and stylish but what I like most about it is the way she writes. Literally. She writes sort of in a stream of consciousness that runs down the page like a waterfall. The way it looks make you take notice and the words she uses to describe her addiction to paint or the January blahs is wonderful.

So maybe I need to shake things up over here. I have mostly been posting photos and haven't sat down to write anything lately. Well, to be honest, I haven't written much since last summer. I was beginning to fear the blogging muse had left the building permanently but maybe it just checked out for a while to give me time to think about what I want to do with this space. I have been reading more design blogs lately and still visit my old favourites - Harried Mom, Kyran at her new spot, Planting Dandelions, as well as Nesting Place and Hooked on Houses, to name just a few.

But maybe the way to go is the stream of consciousness method, sort of like Random Tuesday every day. Most of the creative writing books and classes I have read and taken advise you to sit down and just write. Every day. Whatever pops into your head. I have a lot less time these days. Hockey, volleyball, ski and boat show seasons are in full swing which means I'm on my own running from school to rink to hill at least four days a week. And I am working two days a week from 10am to 6pm. My Other Half is away and while my Dad is a Super Hero when it comes to looking after his grandsons my biggest fear is that one of them will be left somewhere, waiting to be picked up and I will have forgotten to put him on the schedule. I now have four different calendars going. One on the fridge, one at my desk, one on my phone and another on my computer. Overkill? Perhaps, but it is the only way to keep all the balls in the air.

So rather than trying to sit down and plan out a post and then abandon it halfway through because it's not going the way I think it should, I will just write. And I'll still post pictures and hockey game scores and ski race results, in case anyone is interested.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Years Resolution (sort of)

My Dad and the Group of Seven

I know I have been a terrible blogger these last few months and despite my few and far between postings I still managed to have finally made it up and over 100 followers, a personal goal of mine set a while ago after hovering at 99 for what seemed like years.

And while I am not making any promises about regular postings, I will attempt to be more reliable for those who do stop by every once in a while - in between getting kids to the ski hill, hockey rink and work during these cold, dark days of winter while my husband is away hitting the boat show circuit across the Northeast.

So, in the interests of bringing a little sunshine into everyone's day here are a few photos from our family trip to Naples, FL for Christmas. It was a special one organized by my Dad and the first time all seven cousins had been together since the youngest was born a year and a half ago. We lucked out on the weather, it warmed up the day we arrived stayed that way until we left.

The whole famdamily

Snorkelling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (not John Mellencamp, as I kept referring to it) in Key Largo (I hope my brother will send me more of his underwater photos, especially the one of the kids chasing a 5 foot Black Tipped Reef Shark!

They came to bury PJ and to praise him.

Number Two Son spent hours practising skim boarding
(Here he has lost the board)

They kayak and yak, yaked.

They were the Alligator Hunters
(100's of them were out soaking up the rays after the cold weather)

They went in the Gulf which was not very warm, even by Canadian standards.

More photos to follow one of these days.
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