Meet the [blogger]: The Yellow Canoe

Meet the [blogger]: The Yellow Canoe

I don’t know about you, but I always wanted to be the kind of parent who’s stories were often met with a, “that’s crazy”or a stunned silence. Before having children, my husband and I were both avid travellers, and active in our recreational time. He grew up practicing kickboxing, I played rugby. He did a biking tour of Europe solo and I rode on my University Equestrian team. We both loved camping and hiking and he would soon introduce me to his passion, canoeing. We had both spent time working in different parts of the world and we spent our honeymoon travelling around Central America for 35 days. We knew that when we had children we wanted to add them to our lifestyle not change it to make them fit. As teachers we have the luxury of regular breaks and a long summer vacation which we fill with as many experiences as is humanly possible.

I started blogging after having my second child. We regularly shared stories of our adventures with friends and colleagues and a few friends started encouraging me to write our stories and share them online. I have always dreamed of being a writer but felt extremely nervous to take the plunge and invite other people, friends and strangers, to read my work. Writing has alway felt deeply personal to me and I wasn’t sure how I would handle negative feedback or worse, no feedback at all. But when my daughter was born and our family travel and adventure plans continued to grow I made myself start writing. I have always wanted to raise brave, compassionate, independent children and I knew I would have to lead the way. With a year of maternity leave to look forward to I had the time and the ability I just needed the nerve.

I gave myself time every Monday morning to write. I worked on my novel and when I got stuck I blogged. I wanted to share our family’s adventures with other families like ours. I wanted to swap stories with people who were already exploring the world and the wild with their little ones and encourage other people who were eager to try some adventuring with their kids but weren’t sure how to start or whether there would be support for their decision. I also wanted something to hold me accountable to my kids, something external to push me to say yes to crazy two week roadtrips to Alaska, or flying the entire family to Asia, or back-country canoeing with infants. Everytime I write an entry I am reminded why we choose to make travel and outdoor adventure a top priority.

The Yellow Canoe focusses mostly on our family adventures, from outdoor pursuits, to international travel, to resorts to stay-cations and local treasures. I try to share advice on safety, enjoyability and travel parenting tips through the narrative of our journeys. I believe so strongly in the power of travel of all sorts to strengthen children’s ability to think critically, creatively and compassionately, to be able to recognize problems and care enough to find solutions, to expand vocabulary and unite families through shared experiences. I was excited when Kelly, at “Reckies Raising Kids” asked me to guest blog. I feel honestly thrilled that my small readership is expanding and I am able to share our stories and maybe inspire another family to get out there and have epic family adventures, safely and most of the time sanely.

Visit me at ‘The Yellow Canoe’ for stories of an everyday family doing their best to fill their lives and lives of thier children with wonder!

Meet the [blogger] launch + zucchini pancakes!

Meet the [blogger] launch + zucchini pancakes!

We are home…for one week!

Last week, we split our time away between our favourite cottage at Pigeon Lake Resort and with of our favourite families in my childhood hometown, Whitby.  We got home Sunday afternoon in time for me to race over to my baseball game and for Super Dad to go skydiving with friends.  Never a dull moment for an O’Rourke!

The madness continues as we spend this week unpacking, washing and repacking for a two week camping and road trip out to Nova Scotia.  We are counting the sleeps with Clyde in anticipation of our upcoming adventure and while we are all stretched a little thin in preparation, we are all very excited about what lies ahead.

When we’re home in between trips this summer, we try to soak up as much time with the grandparents as we can.  Yesterday morning, Grandma and Grandpa rolled in on their motorcycle to surprise the boys for breakfast.  I whipped up one of our favourite summer recipes and we sat together smiling and laughing while we all ate peacefully.  Read: the adults exchanged a few words with one another between toddler meltdowns and there weren’t enough pancakes to go around…but HEY!  such is this beautifully chaotic stage of life and we enjoyed every minute of it.

If you have ever grown zucchini in your garden – or know someone that does – you have probably been swimming in this delicious vegetable at one time or another.  We love zucchini grilled on the bbq or sliced like noodles but the recipe we use on repeat all summer long is these Zucchini Bread Pancakes.  It may seem odd to be shredding zucchini first thing in the morning but don’t knock em’ t’ill you try em’ – and when you try em’ and love em’, dig up some carrots and try these pancakes next!

While we’re travelling to Canada’s East coast next week, I’ll be launching the start of my ‘Meet the [blogger]’ series!  In this series of guest posts, I’ll be introducing other amazing bloggers that are also writing about raising their families with a love of the outdoors, adventure, recreation and travel.

Stop by next Wednesday morning to meet Alison from The Yellow Canoe!

 

Summertime packing list

Summertime packing list

Leading up to our East coast camping trip in a few weeks, I’m sharing a summer packing list today for our family of four – two adults, one toddler (3) and one baby (10mo).  We are spending this week at our ‘home away from home’ in Bobcaygeon so I took the opportunity to document the packing process.  Included below is a check list of what we’ve packed for one week away and some notes on our must have’s.  We are travelling in a Toyota Matrix hatchback so I’ve also included a few things that I had initially set out to bring but that didn’t make the cut.

This is a year for celebrating in Bobcaygeon, Ontario.  Not only did our week at the cottage align with Kawartha Dairy’s 80th birthday party but this summer also marks our 25th year of spending one or more weeks at Pigeon Lake Resort.  Most of you know that ice cream is a daily indulgence for me so I was pretty excited for my family and I to be amongst fellow ice cream enthusiasts at the festivities.  We ate cones, got our faces painted and won dancing competitions all despite a sprinkling of rain.

Though it’s not technically ‘our’ cottage at Pigeon Lake Resort, it certainly feels like our home away from home.  It was a particularly special year for me knowing that I was Clyde’s age when I started coming here and that some of my favourite traditions go back for as long as I can remember.  Be on the lookout for a full update of our time here this week including what traditions I decided to start passing on.  If you can’t wait any longer, you can read about our time here on the Family Day long weekend this past February!

I know that none of us are ready to be talking snowsuits and boots so I’ll get back to warm weather packing while the sun is shining and the water is flowing!

Summertime packing list for one toddler (3) and one baby (10mo)…

Suitcase (one for each):
1 x shorts for every day
1 x t-shirt for every day
2 x long sleeve shirts
1 x hoodie
1 x sweat pants
1 x jeans
1 x pair of socks
1 x diaper for every night
1 x pajamas for every night

Shoes:
Crocs
Keens/Water shoes
Running shoes
Sandals

Beach bag:
2 x bathing suits per person
1 x towel per person
1 x goggles per person
1 x water shoes per person
1 x sun/water hat per person
Puddle jumper/Life jacket
Sunscreen
Bug spray

Bath & Bedtime:
1 x muslin sleep sac
1 x blankie per person
3-4 x books
Bath mat
Bath soap
Toothbrush + toothpaste
Medicine (Tylenol, After Bite, Benadryl, Band-Aids)
Pea pod

Mealtime:
Lobster chair
Ezpz mat
Yumbox
Wow cups

Outdoor gear:
Folding beach blanket
Playyard
Balance bike + helmet
Shovels & buckets
Favourite toys (balls, bubbles, mini sticks, activity table)

Carriers
Toddler scc
Baby ssc
Ring sling
Woven wrap(s)

Extras
Diapers
Wipes
Snacks (raisins, crackers, cashews)
Extra angel dear blankie for both
Note: if travelling with a baby that’s of Jolly Jumper age, this is a must-have for me when travelling

Travel bag (toddler)
iPad with shows downloaded from Netflix & Endless Alphabet
Headphones
Yumbox
Wow cup
Colour wonder
Magnets or stickers
Picture book

Travel bag (baby)
Yumbox
Wow cup
Diaper
Wipes
Extra outfit
Receiving blanket
Favourite toy
New toy
Fabric book that makes noise

Summertime packing must-have’s…

Crocs.  I was never a fan of crocs for myself and I honestly never thought they’d wind up on a ‘must-have’ list of mine but they are perfect in so many ways for a toddler at a campsite or cottage.  What I love most about them is that they are a close toed shoe that can be worn in and out of the water and that he can slip on and off himself.  They’re not ideal for climbing on the park because the soles can be slippery but the band across his heel at the back make it doable in a pinch.  I bought two pairs at Costco for around $20 each – one black and one blue so that I can coordinate with his outfit.

Sun/Water hat.  Our sun hats from Sunday Afternoons are a summertime staple – for me and the kids!  They are UPF 50, water repellant, adjustable for years of wearing and guaranteed for life.  They are lightweight, comfortable and protect their head, neck and shoulders from the sun.  My boys wear the adventure hat.  It costs around $50 and when ordered from their website arrives in 24-48 hours.  I wear the Bahama hat.  Having never normally worn a hat in the summer, I was surprised by how quickly this became a must-have for me.  It’s comfortable, stylish and it feels good knowing that I’m protecting my head, neck and face from the sun.

Puddle Jumper.  The puddle jumper is essentially a comfortable life jacket – not too bulky for wearing on the dock but plenty supportive for my 3yo to swim independently.

Yumbox.  I picked up a Yumbox second hand without knowing what kind of unicorn I had stumbled on.  First of all, it is the perfect travelling lunch/snack container and second of all, I haven’t seen another one second hand since!  They are pricey new (around $40ea) but after months of browsing for another one second hand, we asked for one for Clyde’s birthday and bought two others ourselves.  The Yumbox is a bento style lunch box that compartmentalizes food so you can pack yogurt and crackers next to one another without any concerns of leaking.  We have two 4-tray Yumboxes for Super Dad and I and two 6-tray Yumboxes for the boys.  For all the days that we spend at the park, splash pad, campsite, cottage or beach this summer, we have been grateful for an easy and yummy way to eat on the go.

Pea pod (or) Play yard.  I am a big fan of the Pea pod.  It was one of the first items on my registry when I was pregnant with Clyde and we have used it endlessly since his arrival.  I use it in the place of a pack ’n play and/or as a spot for a shady nap at the park or the beach.  This summer, I also picked up the Summer Infant Pop ’n Play with a canopy for shade.  Jude is at the age where all he wants to do is eat sand so having a place to put him down without direct supervision is a huge relief.  It also makes a great spot for he and Clyde to eat their lunches without worrying about them dropping it in the sand (this we learned the hard way).

Didn’t make the cut…

Stroller. I recently sized down in strollers from the Baby Jogger City Select to the Britax B-Agile. There are features that I miss about the City Select (maneuverability and storage to name a few) but the easy to fold, 17lb compact B-Agile has won me over considering how rarely I reach for a stroller.  We very rarely travel with a stroller and when packing beach tents and bikes, it’s the first thing to go. Enter: babywearing!

Pea pod for the beach.  We are big fans of the pea pod.  I have one baby size that I use instead of a pack n’ play when we travel.  I also picked up one toddler size for Clyde but he would prefer to sleep

Scooter.  Clyde just got a scooter for his birthday so we were excited to pack it for him!  In the end, we decided on his balance bike because it would be better on the gravel roads and dirt trails at the cottage.

Pillows.  I love my pillow and bring it with me everywhere.  I often try to pack pillows for everyone in my family but if we run out of room, I just bring their pillow cases and use what is provided for us.

I have pretty well got the hang of the ‘what’ to pack and am now working on perfecting the ‘how’ to pack.  This time I used a combination of duffle bags, small bins and collapsible laundry baskets.  We were able to fit all of the essentials and it’s handy having a laundry basket that I can dump into a washing machine when I get home but I’m still not sure it’s the perfect solution.

Please share any tips or favourite pieces of luggage when you travel!  We still have lots of road trips to pack for this summer and I hope to improve the process each time.

Flashback to Vancouver as a family of three!

Flashback to Vancouver as a family of three!

We have so much to celebrate in my family this week.

First up, my big boy is three today!  I feel like I should be saying that I can’t believe it but I really can and I’m so excited for three.

This is a picture of my Clyde in all his glory – covered in dirt, face painted like Spiderman, the remnants of marshmallow on his lips, and all alongside his best buddy, Henry.  These past three years have been some of the greatest for me and my heart swells with pride for this boy.  He is full of joy and adventure – brave and strong.  He loves hugs and kisses just like his Mommy and he cares for his little brother more than I could have hoped for.  Happy birthday, my sweet Clyde, we love you!

Also newsworthy is that this week marks the start of an 8-week family summer vacation!  Super Dad is taking the last eight weeks of parental leave and I am using a combination of leave/vacation so we can be home together with the boys for July and August.  Our plans include soaking up time with one another and as much sunshine as we can handle.  If you’re looking for us this summer, we will be at a beach, a park, a splash pad or a cottage and I couldn’t be more excited about all of it.

One of the highlights of this time off together is our upcoming camping and road trip to the East Coast of Canada.  Super Dad and I have always shared a love of travel and we knew when we started a family that we hoped to pass on this love to our kids.  Given that it’s Clyde’s birthday today and with our upcoming trip to the East coast, it seemed fitting to share about our first trip together back when we were a new family of three and discovering the West coast!

After Clyde was born, the question was not if we would travel but instead where and when. The draw of maternity leave and our infant flying for free seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. We decided on a trip to the West Coast of Canada in the fall of that year. I have family that lives in Mission and on Victoria Island so our accommodations would be looked after and we would have access to a car or drives to public transit.

At just shy of 3 months, Clyde boarded his first flight with Air Canada en route to Vancouver, British Columbia.  The flight went without a hitch and my uncle met us at the airport upon our arrival. On our way to their home, we stopped for groceries and a few necessities we chose not to pack like diapers. We spent our first four nights at my aunt and uncle’s house travelling around Mission and a day trip into Vancouver. We had the basement to ourselves and my family borrowed a pack and play for us so as far as free accommodations go, we were living well! Being hosted by friends or family is the cadillac for inexpensive travel. It provides a home base for all of your travel gear, a full kitchen for food storage and meal prep and a live-in tour guide to point out all the best things to do and ways to get there. Bonus if you can coordinate ahead of time for access to things like pack-and-plays, car seats, vehicle access etc.

My uncle worked the morning of our first full day so we took the time to unpack, adjust to the time change and walk around the neighborhood. We came across a beautiful hiking trail that led to a park complete with a restaurant for lunch. A must-have for both of us when travelling is a good pair of walking shoes as we rely heavily on the “heel-toe express” to get us around. It’s free and it’s great exercise to counter balance all of the amazing food we want to eat. One of the many great things about Vancouver is the access to beautiful green space for parks, hiking trails and mountains. We borrowed a stretchy Moby wrap from a friend at home so that we could explore hands free and not feel limited to walking paths and trails that accommodated a stroller. This was my first real experience with baby wearing and sparked a love for a whole other journey that we are still enjoying with both of the boys. In the afternoon, we drove out to Harrison Springs and went for a swim at the community pool. Home for sushi dinner and a visit with my cousin and his girlfriend.

The next morning we got dropped off at the train station nearby so that we could travel into Vancouver. Using public transit to get into a downtown area is not only cost effective but also skips the part of dealing with traffic and parking. With that said, it does mean you have to be flexible with your time to accommodate for late or missed busses/trains and pack for a full day of touring with no “home base.”  Our day in Vancouver was amazing. Fall is such a nice time to travel with little ones because it’s warm enough for a light layer but not too hot that we’re looking for shade and reapplying sunscreen every few hours. We walked along the sea wall, shopped the Granville Island Market, toured Olympic village and perused the downtown streets and shops. Everything was (relatively) within walking distance and I was breastfeeding so we took a break every few hours at a street market, a local craft brewery and a great patio to nurse and refuel ourselves. We typically walk anywhere from 8-15kms/day so stopping at great restaurants is of high priority.

It was part of our plan to visit with family on Victoria Island and see the sights but our timing didn’t line up and they were out of town while we were there. We were so fortunate that a friend of theirs rents a cottage on Pender Island and they generously offered it to us for a few days in the middle of our trip. We took a ferry over from Vancouver and hitch hiked our way around this small island to the cottage. Yes, we hitch hiked with our infant. To be fair, we had been told ahead of time that “car sharing” is a popular way to get around so it didn’t seem like a far stretch to put our thumbs out once we were off the ferry. We travelled with our Peg Perego car seat that we bought mainly for its easy install so popping it in and out of vehicles was a breeze. The cottage was adorable and the perfect hiatus for our new family to spend a few quiet days truly by ourselves. We walked around the island, car shared, hiked a mountain, ate lots of food but mostly stuck around the cottage and spent some time relaxing with the most adorable travel companion. We had picked up a small gift for the owner of the cottage earlier that week at the Granville market so at the end of our time, we left it with a card and car shared back to the ferry.

My uncle picked us up again and we spent the afternoon with family that lived near the ferry port. They have a gorgeous house on the water so we walked along the beach to a park and enjoyed some time with my young cousins climbing, swinging and sliding. Clyde was named after his great grandpa on this side of my family so it was truly a treat to spend the afternoon and evening together introducing the newest addition to the O’Neal clan.

We had two full days left of our trip and lots on the agenda. With my uncle, we biked to a nearby beach to do some fishing then to a local winery for some samples. My uncle works in forestry so he drove us up one of the forestry roads to the top of a mountain. The views were incredible and we even experienced a Sasquatch sighting! Our last full day we spent in Vancouver to see Canada Place, totem poles and met up with an old friend who works at the Vancouver aquarium!

After ten days, our hearts were full and the rest of us was tired and ready for home. We had an amazing experience on our first big trip with our little.

Check in next week for long overdue packing lists including some of our travel and day trip favourites for babies and toddlers.

Nova Scotia, here we come!

Nova Scotia, here we come!

With the onset of every summer, camping is always on the list of things we would like to do more of in the coming year.  We live in Canada – a country filled with beautiful provincial parks and campgrounds that offer an inexpensive way to travel and ‘disconnect’ in a very family friendly environment.  Most years, we spend the month of June talking about how we can just ‘jump in the car’ after work on a Friday and zip up to a beautiful campsite for a weekend in the woods.  Then, as most summers go, labour day weekend is upon us and we have yet to pitch a tent.

Why is that??

Well, for starters, camping takes an inordinate amount of planning.  While it’s true that we could jump in the car and arrive at a beautiful, woodsy destination within the hour, it takes much more time and planning to assemble and pack all of the necessary gear for a temporary (and successful) ‘outdoor home away from home.’

Toss in the dynamic of one or more young kids and the thought of camping can seem like more work than it’s worth.

Let me assure you, it is worth it and this year we are finally living up to our mission to do more camping.

We will be spending the first half of August driving from Ottawa, Ontario to stay with friends in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  We are travelling with friends and have campsites booked along the way in Quebec City, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  Between us, there will be four adults and five boys ranging in age from 11 months to 8 years.

 

Our crews have camped together before including a stay at Pigeon Hollows in Bobcaygeon when the kid count was down to four boys – the youngest two having just celebrated their first birthdays.  Our Clyde is on the left.  He is now counting the sleeps to his third birthday and was our only baby at the time.  On the right is Clyde’s best buddy, Henry.  We celebrated Henry’s third birthday in May of this year and he is the youngest of three boys.  I don’t imagine we’ll be squeezing them into a swing for a picture this summer but it may be fun to try!

We are big fans of travelling with friends or family.  We can share accommodations, share costs, share supplies and share the load of planning.  If there are kids on the trip, travelling with friends is an added bonus of free entertainment making it more fun for everyone (most of the time).

Getting the planning underway for a two-week drive and camping trip is a daunting task.  Once both families committed to the trip, we considered that a win and spent a few weeks riding on the coat tails of just knowing we were going.  Finally, one Saturday evening we sent the kids to the basement, got out our laptops and made some real plans.

It took much less time than we anticipated for the trip to come together.  Once we established travel dates, it was just a matter of looking at the map and picking well rated camp sites along the way.  We are fortunate and so excited to be spending a few days with mutual friends in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  It will be a welcomed break to have access to a house and we will be eager for a tour guide to show us around.

With only a few weeks left until our departure, we are now working away at a spreadsheet that will include travel details, packing lists and a meal plan.

This past weekend, our families celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday together in the woods.  We savoured the access to a cabin and running water but set up the tents and air mattresses to make sure everything was in order…and apparently to start laying out some ground rules about no shoes or food in the tent…and no jumping on the mattress…and no pushing on the tent walls…and no wrestling in the tent…and stop tripping on the door…

Why are we doing this again?  Oh yes… for these sweet memories:

Please feel free to send along camping tips, car activities, destination suggestions, or just words of encouragement.  We may need to look back on those at certain points of the trip.

Nova Scotia, here we come!

 

9 months in, 9 months out: life with two!

9 months in, 9 months out: life with two!

A few weeks ago, my Mom came over to help me recreate the pictures that we took on the day that my youngest was born.  In the first set of pictures, I was in the early stages of labour on the afternoon of Jude’s due date and he was born at 1:19am the next morning at home. In the next set of pictures, now 9 months old, I held Jude up in the place of my belly to capture 9 months ‘in’ and 9 months ‘out’.

Reminiscing about that day got me thinking about how differently I feel as a Mom today than I did only 9 months ago.

Rest assured, I’m still permanently tired and eager for advice but I’m also more confident in my own decisions and my heart is more full than ever before.  It’s a pleasant surprise to be feeling this way given the emotional roller coaster that was ‘expecting my second baby.’

A roller coaster ride that included questions like…

How can I possibly love another person as much as I love my first baby?  Are Mom’s and Dad’s everywhere secretly withholding the truth about loving their first child more than any other?  Do all of the clocks in my house suddenly slow down with the addition of another person to care for?

We opted to find out the gender of our second and the news of expecting another boy brought on even more questions…

Will it feel like I just did ‘all of this’ in raising another baby boy?

I recently came across a post on one of our local Facebook Mom groups from a fellow Mom asking for insights into life as a family of four (or more) and reading the responses reassured me that I wasn’t alone in having ridden this roller coaster.

For us, the fourth trimester was hard.

Super Dad and I were falling asleep at any given moment at all hours of the day and trying hard to be compassionate with one another.  We blew through the freezer meals I had prepared before Jude’s arrival and small mountains of laundry were piling up throughout the house.

Slowly but surely as time passed, we began to feel our feet under us again and looking back on our time so far, there are a few key things that have us working like a well-oiled machine today – as ‘well-oiled’ as a family can be with an almost 1 and almost 3 year old that is…

I found a deep love for baby wearing and had sweet Jude in a wrap when he was just days old so we could keep up with big brother.  (Cringing now at the sloppy wrap job but hey, we made it through the fog!)

After having followed a regimented schedule with Clyde, I said goodbye to sleep training for Jude and have never felt more relaxed.  It always seemed more a priority to keep Clyde busy and entertained and Jude always happily came along for the ride.  On the days we were home, he caught up on his sleep with nice long naps but otherwise he slept whenever he got the chance throughout the day and I did my best to follow a loose sleep, eat, play routine.

Find friends with toddlers!  Somehow, having three or more kids around is suddenly easier than one or two.  Fellow toddlers keep each other entertained so you can have a minute alone with the baby.  We hosted a casual drop-in through the winter months and otherwise met up with Moms and toddlers for play dates as much as we could.

If possible, keep your oldest in part-time day care.  Clyde continued with his home daycare two days each week and it was a good thing for all of us.  On the first of these two days, I made the most of my mat leave and put my feet up while Jude caught up on his sleep.  On the second day, we normally spent the day in town running errands – because all of the sudden running errands with only one dependent is easy as pie.

Clyde is spending his last day at daycare tomorrow before staying home for the summer.  Super Dad is sharing some of my maternity leave and I am using some vacation to spend July and August at home as a family.  We are so looking forward to this time and already have some great plans made.  It’s hard to believe that when Clyde goes back in the fall, his little brother will be in tow!

How is it that Winter feels like it drags on forever and summer goes by in a flash?  Chalk it up to another of life’s mysteries I guess…

See you again next week!  I’m finally sharing some details about our camping trip to PEI and Nova Scotia this summer!  Here’s a little preview of what our preparation looks like so far… tent city in the basement!

 

Mama’s Half Marathon – That’s a wrap!

Mama’s Half Marathon – That’s a wrap!

I did it!  This is me coming up to the finish line of the Ottawa Race Weekend half marathon with a finishing time of 2:25.  It wasn’t the performance I envisioned for myself but if this ‘Mama’s Half Marathon’ journey taught me nothing else, it helped me to expect the unexpected when pursuing an active lifestyle with small kids.

Ten weeks ago, I very hesitantly set out on a journey to train for and complete a half marathon with my husband.  If you were with me during that first post, you may recall that I admitted to hoping the race would sell out before I could register and that my first attempt at a training run was not a success.

My hesitancy was not for lack of desire to exercise routinely or to run.  Pursuing an active lifestyle via sport and exercise has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember.  No, my hesitancy came from a feeling of already having too much on my plate as a Mom to a 6mo and 2.5yo.

I wear an Apple Watch (because I’m an Apple geek like that) and one of its features is that it tracks your minutes of exercise and calories burned.  There would be many evenings that I would flop onto the couch post-kids’ bedtime feeling completely drained only to see on my watch that I had only achieved a small percentage of those daily goals.  Where would I find the time or the energy to start running again?

Once again, reaffirming my extrinsic motivation, hubby signed us both up for the race and slowly but surely I started finding the time in my day to run little bits here and there.

If you followed me on my journey, you already know that it was far from a textbook training regime but I thoroughly enjoyed documenting my progress – and lack of progress – each week on the blog.  It was amazing to see my desire to exercise intentionally increase and even more so to see the boys adapt to Super Dad and I going for a run and working out throughout the week.

MHM Week 1: 9 Weeks until race day
MHM Week 2: Training plan + tips for running
MHM Week 3: Training eats + Why we don’t feed our kids dessert
MHM Week 4: Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy marriage
MHM Week 5: Running while pregnant
MHM Week 6: Race weekend logistics
MHM Week 7: What’s your motivation?
MHM Week 8: A full circle journey to race week

Race day itself was very much a reflection of my journey to get there.  It required the help of family, the encouragement of one another and friends, the proper motivation and just enough grace to handle the unexpected.

 

 

Race weekend started for us when we dropped off the boys at their grandparents house for a sleepover on Saturday afternoon.  They agreed to bring the boys down and through the crowds to meet us after the race the next day.  From their house, we ran some errands and then snuck in a ‘date night’ dinner on the patio of our favourite restaurant.  We made our way home to pack our bags for the race and get a full night’s sleep.

Our race started at 9am on Sunday morning so we were up and out the door by 7:30am to meet with friends and ride the bus together to the start line.

We made it just in time to power walk to the start area, squeeze into a coral and start our race.

I was off to a great start, pacing a full 30 seconds faster than my training runs.  I was anticipating this to be the case with all of the excitement and the crowds so my quiet goal of finishing sub 2:04 (a previous personal best) was pushing me along.

Nearing the 10km mark is where things started to go downhill for me.

It was a hot day – the first truly warm day we had had in weeks – so I was untrained to sustain a decent pace in the heat.  Being the competitive person that I am, I figured this was the case for most participants and pressed on as best I could.  The race was well organized with mist stations and lots of water so it was manageable – but not ideal.

Despite having previously blogged about training around the same time of day as your race, my long runs were always in the mid-late afternoon.  It coincided with Jude’s second nap and was a good time of day for his grandparents to watch him.  I realized mid-race that I would normally have had breakfast and lunch prior to a long run which didn’t leave me wanting for any running snacks.  Now part way through a morning half marathon, my piece of toast with almond butter wasn’t doing a great job of sustaining me.

After my long training runs, I noticed that my knee was sore for a day or two.  Even after my last few short runs, it started to bother me in the same spot.  I attributed this to my need for new runners and figured I would put up with it for the race, deal with the sore knee in my recovery and pursue new shoes for my next event.  Ever so faintly in the back of my mind were the words ‘listen to your body’ but I figured I had come this far…  Sure enough, at the 15km mark, my knee wasn’t having any more of me running on it and I was brought to a halt.  I called my Mom and we talked on the phone while I alternated hobbling and speed-hobbling for the remaining 6kms.

In hindsight, the relaxin hormone may have also contributed to my sore knee.  Training for this race as a nursing Mom had never given me any trouble but race day was not so fortunate.  I pumped while I ate my toast in the morning but with it being a rush to get out the door, I was still pretty full leaving the house and wouldn’t be seeing Jude for another four hours.  Sure enough, while on the phone with my Mom during the race, we were discussing what was more uncomfortable – my knee or my overbearing need to nurse.

Despite all of this, I pressed on and was proud and relieved to run (read speed hobble) across the finish line.  I did it!

A few quick things to consider for future races:
– Give myself more time to relax and pump before leaving the house;
– If Super Dad and I are both running a long distance race, I will consider arranging childcare for overnights pre and post race…nursing, snuggling and changing diapers can wait one more day;
– Invest in new shoes at the start of training and consider a shorter distance if pregnant or nursing;
– Always avoid the stroller in large crowds – once again, it was baby wearing for the win!

Thank you again for following me on this journey.  I am proud to have participated in Ottawa Race Weekend and to have accomplished my goal!  I would love to hear about what you’re working towards and your tips or tricks to make race day a success with a young family.

Next week we are switching gears entirely to embark on a new family adventure – be sure to check in and see what we’re up to!

the Saturday Sprint

the Saturday Sprint

Milestones, milestones, milestones!  I feel like this is my life chant right now.  With an almost three year old and an almost one year old, we are witnessing so many exciting changes every day.

Specifically this week, Clyde nearly brought me to tears after breakfast one morning as he walked into the kitchen looking very ‘school ready.’  He had gotten his backpack and filled it with a variety of cooking utensils and then took it down the hall to his room.  A few minutes later he came back having picked out his clothes, gotten himself dressed and strapped his bag on his back.  Clyde still has one more year until I really need to shed some tears about him going to school but for a second it was as if we were already there.  A full year early and I was already overflowing with a mix of emotions – namely pride but also a wee bit sad.  Amidst the busy days, it’s moments like this that quite literally stop me in my tracks and remind me to soak it all in.  […and for those that are wondering, he did finally let me close the button on his pants hours later as we were leaving the house!]

Another source of great pride for Super Dad and I is to watch Clyde as a big brother.  Like all parents, since finding out that we were expecting a new baby, we talked to Clyde about how great it will be to have a sibling.  Now that Jude’s here, we talk to Clyde about taking care of his little brother and how they will be each other’s best friend.  I’d like to think that we are the ‘parent sibling whisperers’ but I know that we can’t take full credit for how great he is as a brother.  From the very moment he met him and still today, he is Jude’s biggest fan (next to me, of course) and we couldn’t be more proud.  […and for this reason, it seems only fitting that Jude should wear a sweater that says ‘Clyde’s Cool’ haha!]

That brings me to Jude, my sweet little baby. This boy has two new teeth coming through on the top – so close that his gums are basically a light shade of pink.  He’s recently started crawling on all fours (reverting to the army crawl when he’s really in a hurry) and pulling himself to standing when he can get a good grip.  This skill still catches me by surprise when I turn around to see him up on his feet.  Please nobody mention the “w” word because I’m nowhere near ready.

Having a second baby had me feeling a little nervous in the beginning that I wouldn’t have the same time nor the love that I did with my first.  When I found out that we were expecting another boy, those feelings intensified as I was sure that it would feel like I had ‘just done all of this’ having already ‘raised’ a boy.

Now almost nine months into being a boy Mom x 2 and I feel like a changed woman.  It is my greatest joy to be raising these two blonde, blue eyed beauties and while there’s no doubting that they’re brothers, they are already so different in every way.  This love train is moving full steam ahead through each and every wonderful milestone.

Mama’s Half Marathon – A full circle journey to race week

Mama’s Half Marathon – A full circle journey to race week

…and just like that, nine weeks have passed and race week is upon us.

While I would love to continue the tradition of starting with a training update, I sadly have nothing to report.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  Adam and I completed one 3.8km outdoor run together on his birthday last week.  Not exactly the kind of progress one hopes to be making in the pre half-marathon taper but hear me out.

When I look back at my calendar from the week, it was certainly not for lack of trying that I didn’t accomplish many training runs.  My days were full of chasing a balance bike, walking endlessly alongside the most beautiful tulips and climbing various structures and trees at parks across the city.

Adam and I had our sights set on one more short run and one last long run over the long weekend.

You see, my birthday gift to Adam was the ‘gift of time.’  I arranged for both of the boys to have a sleepover at my Mom’s – packed their bags and met her on Saturday at the market.  She graciously agreed to keep them until Sunday afternoon leaving us ample time for a nice evening run, an uninterrupted sleep (say, what?) and a long run in the morning.  (Thanks, Mom!)

If you weren’t with me when I started this half marathon journey, you may be wondering what could have possibly got in the way of such a well thought out plan?

The rest of you know what’s coming.

Motherhood!  The most unpredictable and slightly comical journey of life.

You better believe by 5pm on Saturday, I was bed ridden with all possible flu symptoms and a diagnosis of mastitis.  Bring it on!

For the remainder of the long weekend, sitting upright felt like a challenge never mind attempting one last 18km jog.

As I sat down to write my final race post, I looked back on my notes for what I had planned:

– share our meal plan leading up to race day
– share about what a taper is and what our running schedule is
– talk about race kit pickup and final race day logistics

…but to be honest, I have none of that planned out.

I can’t help but think about how my ‘Mama’s Half Marathon’ journey has truly come full circle – from having to search my toddler’s hiding spots for the treadmill key in week one to nursing my infant endlessly to heal the mastitis in week nine.

Registering for and accomplishing a race day of any kind is a major feat and I’m here to tell you not to get hung up on the details.

The great news is, I am proud to say that I am feeling prepared and excited for race day – a drastic change from the ‘me’ that hoped the race would sell out before I could register.

I noticed changes in my body and am feeling comfortable in my summer clothes.

I found far more opportunities to run with and without my family than I expected.  Even better than that, we learned that Clyde really enjoyed running alongside us and he is going to participate in the 100m Tot Trot at the upcoming Kanata Race Day!

My desire to be intentional about exercising throughout the week was refreshed and I am excited to continue running.  Adam and I are also signed up for Kanata Race Day and I am looking very forward to doing my first 5k with my sister!

For now, I’m off to read the e-mail I got last week about my race kit and confirm with the grandparents that they can still take the boys for a sleepover on ‘race eve.’

Thank you so much for following along on my journey so far.  I’m looking very forward to reporting back next week about how it all went and sharing about what’s coming up next for our family!

I’ll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with exercise – gasp!