Winter camping

Before the weekend, Josh and I discussed a few ideas of things we can do together–just the two of us. Somehow he had his mind set on camping. Don’t get me wrong, I love camping too. But in December, while it’s rainy and dark? Not on the top of my list of fun things to do.

I got home from work on Friday, fully expecting to discuss with him what else we can do this weekend, given the wind warning and rain. As soon as I opened the door, he came running with his sleeping bag in tow, excitedly asked, “Are we going camping now?”

“Uh, baby, it’s raining out and there’s a wind warning in effect. Do you want to do something else this weekend?”

“No, I want to go camping.”

Okay…then. Since I did ask that in the form of a question, leaving the choice to him, I can’t then turnaround to say no. I packed up a few things and got ready to go camping. I have had a long week and was feeling very tired. I really did not want to go camping.

While waiting for the elevator, Josh looked up at me with bright eyes, and said, “Mommy, I have been waiting so long to spend some time with you.  You were away in Vienna with Daddy and Phoenix with Savanna. I am so excited we’re going camping!”

Well, that put an end to my self-pity about how tired I was feeling. Who knows how many more years I have left with my son wanting to go camping with me?

We drove down to Birch Bay State Park. It was pitch black and raining hard when we got there. We had our choice of campsites, as there were only 3 other campers in an area with over 30 sites. We settled in for the night listening to the wind outside, while we were safety tucked inside the van with electricity and a propane-powered furnace. Josh taught me how to make origami squids, we read a couple of chapters of Captain Underpants,  ate some potato chips and drank hot tea. By 9 pm, my eyelids were getting heavy. Josh was still too wound up to sleep. I gave up and went to sleep, while he stayed up a little longer to make more origami.

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On Saturday, we woke up to a clear day with no rain. It was cold outside, but the furnace (and my many layers of clothing, and my sub-zero sleeping bag) had kept me pretty warm.

We ate breakfast, and went for a long walk. Josh loves looking for broken crab shells and interesting rocks at the beach, so we did just that. We got some coffee and hot chocolate at the coffee shop, and walked back to the campsite talking about random things. We talked about how much we love camping, and made plans to do this more often.

While waiting for our lunch to cook, I looked back and see Josh throwing sticks around, climbing onto the picnic table and jumping off. There was no one else around, so I let him be. Then he was fixated on stripping the bark off a broken tree branch. The air was cool and fresh. I was loving being outdoors, and being with Josh. There was no TV, no phone, no work, and no rush to go somewhere. It was so good for the soul.

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Josh turns eight

Josh is turning eight tomorrow. It is bittersweet for me that he is growing so fast. I absolutely love it that we can go for a bike ride together, bomb down the ski hill together, and he teaches me how to reach the bottom of the dive tank. We can have a conversation about what is important versus what is urgent. We can have our coffee date and chat each other’s ears off, or say nothing at all.

This year, Josh has picked up a new obsession with books. We are constantly taking detours so he can go through the little free libraries in the neighbourhood. Even when we go camping, he is picking up books to read in the tent. He loves writing down notes about sharks, dinosaurs, and whatever animals he reads about.

This summer while we were in Penticton for me to ride the fondo, Josh signed up to ride in the kids picolofondo. We missed his age category’s time slot, but he decided he will ride with the bigger kids category. He peddled his little legs out in the back of the pack, still smiling lap after lap. He also decided he will try the kids races at the cyclocross events. He did all four races we went to. Our conversations were never about the winning or losing, but about the new things he has learned. He has already planned out what races he wants to do next year, and how we’re going to ride a big section of the Kettle Valley Rail trail together in the summer.

When we have our before-bed chat each night, he is always keen to tell me about his insights, and never fails to ask me for my thoughts as well. If he is already awake in the morning when I leave for work, he will drop whatever he is doing to hold the door open for me so I can wheel my bike out easily. He will run down the hall to get the elevator for me, and gives me a hug and kiss.

Josh lives at the speed of light, and I am constantly trying to catch up to him. He learns and grows so fast, and I always feel a little out of breath trying to figure out what is going on next. He is curious, and would ask me a million questions about everything. He loves nature. He has been talking for a year now about how he can’t wait to learn to scuba dive so he can see all the sea creatures up close.

Josh, happy birthday. I wish you all the joy and knowledge and love and adventures in the world.

 

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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?