Savanna turns six

Every year, I am surprised by how fast time has gone, and how fast the the kids grow. I’m always caught off guard a little when it’s time for their birthday. You’d think I’ve gotten some practice and would know better by now. But no, I’m still in shock that Savanna is turning six.

This past year, Savanna made some really significant strides. For the last 2 years, she has repeated the exact same swimming class over and over and over and over and over. She refused to put her face in the water. I want her to do this at her own pace. A few months ago, one day she just did it. At her own will. Then all of a sudden her swimming progressed at the speed of light. The other day she offered to teach me how to swim. I think that day is coming very soon.

Also, since she has entered the elementary school system, she has been very shy and reserved in class. You can barely hear her. She never spoke up. But this year, she has just gotten out of her shell. She puts up her hand to ask questions and answer questions. She participates. She speaks up. She gives direction.

Even though she is small, she has great endurance. She can hike and walk far. She can ski all day without feeling tired. She ended last season without needing any assistance down very long green runs at Whistler, even some easy blue runs. I can’t wait to see how she will progress this season.

Our favorite thing to do together include playing Spot It, Zingo, or Uno, or go for a walk and get coffee. She is so good at finding something interesting to do or look at, anywhere we go. She never complains about being bored. She adapts to her environment quickly. When we went ice fishing last winter, she spent hours playing in the snow in freezing cold temperature. On a long drive, she’ll hum quietly the entire time.

When she decided she wanted to enter the iRide bike races at cyclocross events, she didn’t care that she is still riding with training wheels when all the other kids are riding 2-wheels. She pedaled her little heart out, picked up her bike after a fall, and continued. I don’t give a rats ass that she rides with training wheels. Her grit and her determination make me just burst with pride.

Happy birthday, Savanna. I wish you a year full of new adventures and discoveries.

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Update on Vienna

Sorry for the delay on posting an update. I excel at procrastinating.

I survived Vienna. There was no spontaneously self-combustion.

The time difference between Vienna and Vancouver made it very difficult to speak with the kids while we were away. While I missed them like crazy, I only spoke with them once.

I was busy with meetings, tours, and events. While I was in meetings, Cliff rolled out of bed late, eat a leisurely breakfast buffet, and walked the streets of Vienna searching for apple strudel. It was a whirlwind week of activities, and little sleep.

Cliff and I also rented road bikes and went riding outside the city a few times. I’m not a big fan of the busy city, but really enjoyed the mountain roads and countryside outside of Vienna.

When the gala at the AGM ended, we hopped on a flight a few hours later. The minute I got to hold both kids in my arms, I felt like life was complete again.

I certainly do not enjoy being away from the kids. They were totally fine. They missed us, and missed being driven around. But they were fine.Would I do this again? I wouldn’t mind going away with Cliff for a weekend, but certainly would not choose to be away for this length of time again in the next few years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying the coop

freak out

For the last 8 years, we have never really left the kids overnight.

Let me clarify. We have left the kids with my parents in Taiwan for 4 nights last year, and Cliff and I went on a cycling trip. But we were never more than a 3-hour drive away from them. So while that was a huge step for us, it felt like we were close by enough that we can be there right away if needed.

The rest of the time, the kids have either had both of us there, or one of us there, every single night. This is partly because we just don’t have any family members to help if we wanted to get away, and partly because no other opportunities have come up for it.

Next week though, I have to attend our firm’s AGM in Vienna for a whole week. No big deal, I’ve been away this long before at conferences. The twist is, this year, all the spouses are invited to the AGM. I’ve been to Vienna and a few other cities in Europe before, but Cliff has never been. So we had a choice. Either Cliff stays home with the kids while I go to Vienna, or he comes with me and we leave the kids at home. After much discussion, we are now going to Vienna together, and his mom has agreed to watch the kids for us.

I tend to get into a lot of details describing my freak-out when I’m freaking out over something. Like this trip. Leaving the kids for this many days, being in a totally opposite \time zone, and being this far away for the first time–I’m not ready for this.

Let’s be honest, I think the kids will miss me, but they’ll be fine. They will have school everyday, they have their swimming lessons, they will be sleeping in their own bed, and they will be with someone who loves them to the moon and back.

Me, however, will be royally freaking out. I will not be coming home to them every night, I will not get to snuggle and kiss them goodnight, or nag them to pick up the damn Lego. The scariest part is, I will turn around and see Cliff–the only other soul on earth who I trust the kids with–right there with me, without the kids in tow! My little brain can’t even process what this is going to feel like!!!!

Itti is probably reading this and rolling her eyes. Yes, I’m sure “it’ll be fine”. And maybe it will be fine. But right now it does not feel fine. Right now it feels scary. Unfamiliar. Risky. Stupid even. There is absolutely no logic in how I am feeling.

We leave in a few days. I will report back if I survive this.

A week in Kelowna

In 2015, we took the family to Kelowna for the first time and the kids had a blast. We have returned pretty much annually ever since. The kids love picking fruits, going to the beach, and visiting various farms. This year Josh and I also biked the Myra Canyon portion of the Kettle Valley Rail.

We’ve been back in town for a week now, and we’re still enjoying the fruits we picked from Kelowna. We eat them fresh, make smoothies, make popsicles, and make kombucha with them.

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Water slide

Josh and I went swimming on the weekend. It’s partly to have some “mommy and Josh” time, and partly getting me more comfortable in the water.

We were merrily going along, trying different stroke in the pool, playing games in the water, and having a good time. Half way down the 50 metre lane, where the pool is the deepest, Josh notices a slide on the side of the pool. His eyes lit up.

“Mommy, I want to try the slide!”

“Sure, go ahead.”

The slide was maybe only 6 feet high, and the bottom of the slide was maybe a foot above the water. I knew Josh can handle it. He quickly climbed out of the pool, up the ladder, and came down like a cannon ball. Splash! He surfaced with a big smile on his face a few seconds later. (This whole time I’m clinging onto the edge of the pool for dear life.)

“Mommy, I want to do it again!”

“Sure.”

This time, he wanted to come down without his goggles. Splash! He surfaced again with a smile. I was so proud of him. He is such a great swimmer, and so brave.

Then, he asked me the deadly question.

“Mommy, do you want to try the slide?”

Instantly, I thought about 100 reasons I could give him why I should not try the slide, ranging from my ass is too big for the narrow slide, to I’m too full from lunch. Oh, I know, how about I’d rather not die?

It took me maybe eternity to answer him with a whisper, “No, I’m too scared.”

You read that right. I’m 41 years old and too scared to come down a kids’ water slide. I am much happier to jump out of an airplane, or bungee jump off a bridge, ride a motorcycle solo across North America, or hike up Kilimanjaro. But no, no water slide into a swimming pool.

Let me just take a second to remind you the fact that I am struggling to learn to swim. Each time I have my lesson or go practice swimming, I drink so much pool water that I can taste the chlorine in my mouth all day. Choking on water half way down a lane and then panicking to grab the pool edge is my specialty. To willingly go down a steep slide, and throwing myself into the deep end of the pool is just asking for trouble.

With all the wisdom he has accumulated in his 7 years, 2 months, and 14 days of life, Josh said in the most gentle and non-judgmental voice, “Remember last time you were scared of that tree run at Whistler? You tried it, you had fun and liked it. Maybe you will like the slide too if you tried it.”

Bam!

May this moment always serve to remind me that despite my irrational fears and parental failings, Josh is turning out pretty freaking awesome.

Sigh. “You’re right,” I said.

I climbed out of the pool, up the ladder, sat at the top of the slide, hoped I don’t drown in front of my kid. I cursed the “setting an example for your child” thing. I took a deep breath, pinched my nose hard, and slid down towards my death. Splash!

I recall lots and lots of bubbles, then I surfaced. OMG, I survived! Somehow I did not die. In fact, I had so much fun that I did it two more times.

Josh, one day when you’re old enough for swear words and scarcasm, I’ll let you read my blog. I want you to know that when I finally conquer my fear of water, you are a large part of that process, and I will always be grateful for that January Saturday afternoon when you encouraged me to try the slide.

Swimming

Me and Josh at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre

Swimming 2

Guess which one of us the better swimmer?

The fear of water

26154995_1582172691873309_7902964687652782080_n(1)Water is my nemesis.

My mom put Grant and I in swimming lessons when we were kids. She had a lifetime of regret for not learning to swim, so she made sure her kids learned to swim. (BTW, my mom did eventually learn to swim as an adult. More on this later.)

As a kid, I learned breast stroke and stopped there. It was good enough. In any event, I didn’t love swimming. I didn’t love anything that required practice. Like the piano. Anyway, Grant and I probably spent more time splashing around than actually swimming. All this took place in a swimming pool at a fancy health club where my dad had a membership. I did enjoy the cool water on hot summer days, and ate countless sandwiches at the poolside restaurant.

For the next 10-12 years, I was never required to swim. Since I didn’t love it, I don’t tend to want to go swimming.

I’ll spare you the details on how I almost drowned in a lake when I was 20, because, you know, my mom will read this and freak out.

My fear of water kept me away from water for the next 20 years. I could swim laps (with badly done breast stroke) in a pool if I know I can reach out and grab the edge of the pool and be able to see the bottom. But I never went swimming. Why would I? The fear-induced shiver each time I get in the water is just too much for me to handle.

I decided that this needs to change.

I was inspired by a small human–Josh.┬áIt’s not just his capability of swimming that inspires me; it’s his comfort level in the water. When we went swimming with whale sharks in the middle of the ocean in Mexico, he jumped into the water without hesitation. When his mask/snorkel fell off and he sucked in some water, he was not fazed at all. He got the guide to help put his mask/snorkel back on, blew the water out of his nose, and just went on his merry way to see the whale sharks.

Pride oozed out of my pores, and I was so inspired to be more like him.

I was inspired by another person–my mom. As a child, she was traumatized by old school jackass gym teachers and never learned to swim properly. When she saw Grant and I learn to swim, she was inspired to learn as well. So in her 40’s, she took lessons and learned to swim, and swam a lot in the following years.

I was also inspired by a bunch of strangers. When I did that duathlon race (run-bike-run) last summer, I longingly looked into the swimming pool at the athletes who were on the swimming leg of the triathlon. I was envious of their abilities, even if they were slow swimmers. I thought to myself, maybe one day. Maybe one day I will overcome the impossible, and learn to swim. Maybe one day I will be able to swim well enough to participate in a triathlon. Maybe one day.

The one day started last week. I signed up for 5 private lessons, and committed to going for 5 swims on my own. In 5 weeks (10 times in the water), if I make absolutely no improvement, I will concede defeat and remain a land animal forever. I am really hoping that I will make some improvements, regardless of how slight.

I’ll report back in 5 weeks on how I’m doing. Fingers crossed!

A moment in time

*Warning: very long post with many bad selfies*

About a year and a half ago, I set out to lose 15 lbs. I had no desire to be skinny; I just wanted to be less chubby. I figured 15 lbs is do-able.

 

Somewhere in this process, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can learn a new trick. I learned that it’s not just about the weight. I learned that I will always be learning. And I learned that health and fitness is a journey, not a destination.

Fat Angela

I have so few photos of myself, so I stole this from Sherry. This is taken in June 2016 when we were in Morocco. It was after this trip that I decided I needed a change.

Fat Angela 2

I was having the time of my life. The kids were growing bigger, my career was stable, I was having fun traveling and skiing. It’s not like I looked myself in the mirror everyday and hated my life.

I can learn a new trick

For 15 months, I kept a detailed record of everything I ate and every exercise I performed. I weighed how many grams of chicken breast I was eating, and used a heart rate monitor for every workout for an accurate count of calories burnt. I used a combination of Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app to help me track everything. Everyday I aimed for a caloric deficit. I had to do this. You know how people say, “Listen to your body”? I can’t. I can’t listen to my body, because I can’t hear it.

I remember years ago, one time I had lunch with my BFF Karen. She ordered a burger, as did I. (Karen, I think that may have been the first and last time I saw you eat a burger!) I wolfed my burger down whole, barely listening to what she was saying. By the time I looked up to take a breath, she had set half her burger down. She was done. No longer hungry. She left half her burger and never ate the rest of it.

I was amazed. How does she do that? If there’s food on my plate, I finish it. That’s just how it is. But this woman did not finish her food!!!!

The difference is, Karen listened to her body. I, on the other hand, only know to eat whatever is put in front of me, and eat it quickly. She controlled her food. My food controlled me.

Anyway, Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app tell me how many calories I have left for the day. The more I exercised, the more I could eat. Otherwise, 1200 calories is all I get for the day. I did not have to “listen to my body”, since I could not hear it anyway.

After diligently tracking everything I ate for 15 months, I was finally getting the hang of it. I was starting to get a feel of what I should eat and how much. I was finally starting to hear a whisper of a voice when I am satiated. I learned that I can be trained to listen to my body.

Less Fat Angela

Doing the P90X3 agility workout in November 2016. 6 am everyday was my “me time” in the gym. 20 lbs down.

It’s not just about the weight

I started with a goal to lose weight. I was 40, and have a less-than-perfect family health history of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular conditions, cancer, etc. My heart valve doesn’t close completely. I sit on my butt all day at a stressful job. It’s only a matter of time before shitty health problems took over my life.

I look at these two small human beings that I am beyond blessed to have, and damn, I want to be here for a good long time to embarrass them and watch them grow.

The first thing I did was increase my running volume, and starting spin classes at a studio. I often run early in the morning, and come home as the kids are just waking up. Savanna got savvy quickly to check if I was sweaty before she would give me a morning kiss. I loved that the first thing they see in the morning is mommy coming home from a run.

Then I started following some workouts from Beachbody, streamed over the internet. The kids sometimes watched me go through Fix Extreme or P90X3. Then one day, they joined me during my workout. Now if I work out at home, I’m bound to have one of them jump in with me.

When I bought a road bike and started cycling more, Josh told me he is crazy about cycling and he wanted to ride everyday with me. He is always asking how many kilometres we have done, so he can do just a bit more to beat his last record.

I learned that it’s not all just about losing weight. It’s about influencing my kids through action to live an active life, and do better than yesterday.

Josh working out

Josh doing Fix Extreme workout with me.

Josh cycling

One of many bike rides with Josh.

back

May 2017. 25 lbs down. Lots of strength training in the gym, before the cycling addiction started.

The learning never stops

When I first started with working out regularly, I ate a very high protein, low fat, and low carb diet. I cut out all rice, bread, pasta, and noodles. The only carbs I would eat is a small amount of fruit, and baked sweet potato. Mostly I ate a lot of chicken breast and low fat cottage cheese. No avocado, no nuts, very little cooking oil–the fat content scared me.

That worked, along with the workouts. Weight came off. I was happy.

Then I started cycling. Then I was told to eat carbs on long rides.

Wait, what? Carbs? Isn’t that bad for me?

I learned that on a long ride, I need carbs that will quickly convert to energy. If all I eat is protein, I won’t be able to handle a long ride. Well, damn, ok, I’ll eat some carbs.

That worked. I was still losing weight.

I read 6 different books on sports nutrition, from one end of the spectrum (body building) to the other end (vegan Ironman racing). I got 6 difference sets of advice.

I learned that the sport you train for may dictate some of what you eat. I learned that I need to eat a balanced diet to keep the rest of me happy. Mostly, I learned that I will never stop learning about the theories and sciences of what works and what does not.

Books

How much of what am I eating today?

Angela running

September 2017. Going for a run while on a business trip.

It’s a journey

When I lost the 15 lbs I set out to lose, I was happy. I was having so much fun with my workout routine, I just continued.

Today, I don’t feel like “I’m done”. I feel like I am just beginning to learn certain sports, and there are so many other things I want to learn. I took a cycling clinic last summer, and met some incredible women who inspire me to ride more, ride faster, run, and try different sports. I joined a bunch of rides with a local bike shop and met some kickass ladies who eats hills for breakfast and run at speeds I can only dream of. I just signed up for swimming again, because damn it, I’m gonna learn this!

When I signed up for the 122 km Whistler fondo 7 months ago, I thought to myself, “If I can do this, I can do anything.” That’s how huge and unreachable the fondo was to me. And guess what? I did it.

So what else is so huge and unreachable for me today? Maybe I can do that a few months from now. Who knows?

Angela dressed

November 2017. 32 lbs down.

Today is just a moment in time in my journey. I wanted to document these thoughts, because some days are harder than others to be motivated. Like this morning when I had to get my butt out of bed for a run–that was brutal. But then tomorrow morning I scheduled myself to ride my bike on the rollers, which I am really looking forward to!