Moving and moving on

The house we’ve lived, loved & laughed in for the past 12 years has been painted, polished and staged with pots of fresh orchids. It’s almost unrecognizable. Gone is the clutter and 12 years of stuffed animals. Gone are the nicks in the drywall from countless hockey games in our foyer. Gone is the carpet with the red wine stain from that “adult toy” party and the blue Children’s Advil stain when my youngest son just couldn’t keep it down. In addition to new carpeting, we painted the house inside and out, and thanks to some pesky woodpeckers, replaced the roof. After just 4 frenetic weeks, we put our beloved family home on the market and crossed our fingers that it would sell. The market is slowing everyone warned us, hurry up so you don’t get caught holding two houses.

Our hard work paid off. We received an excellent offer the day we listed. But as relieved as we were to receive the offer, it was like finally deciding to have a family, getting pregnant on the first try and then being utterly overwhelmed at the irreversibility of that decision.

It’s a bit late now I realize, but I’m not ready to move. We’ve conceived and raised 3 kids here. Their heights are marked on a doorframe, which is now painted over in Benjamin Moore Satin Latex in Oxford White, but if I close my eyes I can still see each of them on their birthdays trying to stand as tall as possible while I marked the wall behind them with a Sharpie. Even Sharpies aren’t permanent after all. The dents in the drywall from wayward slap-shots have been filled in and painted. “The house looks new, you’d never know that 3 boys lived here!” my friends say, and my throat tightens.

I’m not ready to move. We’ve hosted innumerable birthdays, thanksgivings, wedding and baby showers and all kinds of celebrations here. Will Santa know where to find us?

The modern house we bought came fully furnished (the sellers are divorcing and wanted to take nothing), so my traditional furniture had to go. I’ve been selling it on Craigslist for 10-20 cents on the dollar to young families and people starting over. This will make the move easier, my friends assure me, but my house now resembles a bowling alley, with nary a chair, couch, or coffee table to stub a toe on. We eat sitting picnic-style on the hardwood floor surrounded by moving boxes marked, “Kitchen – Cookbooks” or “Rec Room – Games.” The house is nearly empty and still I’m not ready.

I’ve got 13 more days to get ready to transplant 12 years of roots. I think I’d better pack the kleenex last.

Love Lucie

Show Me The Bunny!

Last October, I joined Forma Athletics’ running group. The group is led by Dustin, who runs like a gazelle, but with a gorgeous smile and a nicer backside. Every M/W/F Dustin and our rag tag group of moms can be spotted sprinting down lanes, slogging up endless hills and pounding the pavement alongside the gorgeous north shore mountains. I’m usually in the back half of the pack, sweating like a pig, just trying to survive the workout.

In running with this group of mostly marathoners, I felt compelled to sign up for two half-marathons this year (since we were training towards them anyways) – the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon followed by the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon just 7 weeks later (which by the way, equals a marathon in my math books!). I’ve run 4 half-marathons before but it’s been 3-4 years since I’d logged more than the occasional 8K run, and I’ve never run 2 half-marathons in one year.

In March, my training became seriously hampered by my love of a good night out with my girlfriends and a weakness for white wine. So as is my nature, I began to downplay my time goal for the BMO half. I told my personal trainer Ainslie that my goal for the BMO half was simply “to feel good, in order to save my energy for a personal best at the Scotia half.” While I don’t like to admit this about myself, if I know I’m not going to be satisfied with my results (in anything), I tend to not try as hard, so that my “failing” can be blamed on lack of effort rather than lack of ability. Crazy and self-sabotaging, I agree.

And this is what Ainslie emailed back to me.

“Bullsh*t. Why wait for the next race to go hard?

I want you to giv’er sh*t!! You have trained a lot for this race and you
are not only ready to take it on and complete it – you are ready to add a
little pepper to your step. Sometimes it’s scary to go for it, believe me
I know!

It’s far more satisfying to give a full effort and feel like you ran your
best than to hold back on the throttle and wonder if you had more in the
tank. Believe me. I know you a little more than you may realize – you are
always the first one to say something’s impossible, then you’re also the
first person to conquer it and surprise yourself.

Find that 1:55 pace bunny and RIP it’s ears off!”

Ainslie is wise beyond her 26 years. She did not give me room to hide behind myself. She challenged me to be awesome and I went for it. It was a beautiful day for the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon and I ran my sturdy little legs off. I’ve never ran so far for so long and felt so good.

I drew energy from:
– the cheering crowds (what kind of people give up a Saturday sleep-in to cheer on strangers at 7AM? Angels, that’s who!),
– the gorgeousness of Vancouver on a sunny spring day,
– my kicking Coldplay infused playlist,
– the 10,000 runners themselves (some ran for loved ones lost, some ran with funny messages like, “If you can read this sign, I’m still ahead of you!” and “This is not sweat, it’s liquid AWESOME!” and still others ran simply because they can)
– and of course, my girls!

Inspired by Gabrielle Bernstein’s piece, “A Bit of Bragging Looks Good on You,” I’m proud to report I ran a 2:03:33!

Watch out Scotiabank Half-Marathon bunnies, I’ll be gunning for you!

Love Lucie

My Pet Peeve

As anyone with kids knows, every kid wants a pet. My eldest has been asking for a pet since he could say dog. I am allergic to cats and dogs, but that doesn’t bother him in the least. We gave him a goldfish when he was four and that appeased him for awhile. Until one morning a few months later, when he was found swimming sideways with just one slow moving fin. There my husband and I got a crash course in bereavement in children – they become inconsolable, wailing, flailing creatures that shed rivers of snot all over your new Lululemon hoodie. And we learned that this is definitely not the time to ask when he was last fed.

When it became clear that Fishy could not be resuscitated, we told CJ it was time to send Fishy off to Fish Heaven, but he started shrieking when we started to tip Fishy’s odorous bowl contents into the toilet. Pierced eardrums notwithstanding, we quickly agreed more decorum was needed to properly say good-bye to CJ’s beloved 2 month old pet fish. We drove to the beach, with CJ cradling Fishy’s bowl and floating remains on his lap, giant tears periodically plopping into the cloudy water. We parked and our little procession marched sombrely out to the pier. It was a suitably overcast day, Stan said a few lovely words about Fishy’s short but beautiful life and on CJ’s command, hurled him out to the sea (where he quickly became a snack for a Seagull but I digress). My normally stoic, rough and tumble boy lived on the edge of tears for the next week or so and most definitely did not want another fish to replace Fishy.

Now CJ’s two younger brothers have joined in on the fight – they are all begging/ demanding/ cajoling/ whining/ petitioning me for a dog. Or a cat. Something they can cuddle, which eliminates snakes, birds and all rodents (thank GOD!) from the running. They don’t care that CJ and I are allergic. It seems that every other day a different kid proudly struts around the schoolyard with the cutest puppy in his arms, while the other kids go green with envy. My kids want to strut like those kids. I want my kids to be those kids too, but I can’t be that mother. I can’t. My days of handling excrement are over. Plus those puppies get big in a matter of months and they really do get less cute. Every day I see hapless moms being dragged up and down these North Shore hills, yelling at their clearly hearing-impaired doggy to “stay.” I can see that dogs are just clumsy, rambunctious, adorable, loving toddlers that never grow up. So why would I voluntarily go back to sleepless nights, toilet training, having to hurry home to let the dog out, organizing dog-sitters and a daily crotch-sniff?

Call me selfish, call me mean (my kids do) but I’ve heard enough about Marley & Me to know that your giant, drooling, hairy toddler-esque dog shouldn’t predecease you. After Fishy, I know I just couldn’t handle it.

Love Lucie

Hanging with Friends is not enough, I’m coming home

Two days in isolation (except for Facebook and Hanging with Friends) in Whistler can do strange things to a girl. I feel like I’ve taken a vow of silence, leaving my thoughts to have a battle of wits in my head.

In between the fits and bursts of producing 5000 words these last 36 hours, I:

– ate cauliflower steak on the couch in front of the TV
– caught up on this season’s The Bachelor (get rid of Courtney Ben, she’s bad news!)
– drank so much coffee I couldn’t fall asleep for hours
– chain-snacked on gummy bears
– checked Facebook constantly
– got so bored that I cleaned the toilets

Reminding me that the best part of a business trip is coming home.

Love Lucie

Giddy ‘up!

I’m positively giddy today.

My hubby has seen the signs, picked up on my cues, perhaps even read my blog and given me two days of solitude at our cabin in Whistler, BC.

The view from my "office" today

He even called it, a “business” trip since I’m always complaining that he always gets to go on business trips and I have three essays on motherhood to complete by the end of this month. So while I write, he’s going to take care of it all – taking the kids to lessons, feeding them (takeout, I’m sure) and getting them to school on time. And me, well I have two delicious days.

Two days of not yelling at my children to hurry up/remember this/flush the damn toilet/I don’t know where your homework is. And two days of without the grumpy feelings that reverberate in both the yeller and the yell-ee. Two days where I can actually hear a pin drop – if there was anyone here to drop a pin, that is.

Two days of not being a short-order cook. I won’t be making lunches, snacks or dinners – I will not have to referee the best piece of chicken in a tug-of-war nor will I witness the vegetables being scorned and dumped into the trash. I have two days of eating what I want, when I want. In the cabin’s fridge, I have a nearly full bottle of pinot grigio, half a wheel of camembert and a giant head of cauliflower threatening to go bad. I’m actually looking forward to cauliflower steak with cheese sauce tonight and I have no one to complain about the off-gassing this inventive combination will inevitably produce.

For two days, I will not enter the laundry room. I will spend two days living in my pyjamas, taking writing breaks by singing along to all the sappy love songs on my iPod, unperturbed by that canned laugh track that follows the Suite Life of Zack & Cody around.

I have three essays due by the end of the month that could launch my nascent writing career and my husband has taken away all my excuses for not getting them done by giving me these two days.

I’m giddy over this gift of me-time, and I know that the reason I’m giddy is because I get my crazy beautiful life back in just two days. And I know that they’ll miss me, especially when looking for the peanut butter tomorrow, because I took the jar with me.

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, I promise to savour every delicious minute of it!

Love Lucie

Love, Sweat & Tears – Kindergarten at last

As anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows, we got royally jipped in terms of heat and sunlight hours this summer. The only thing that got me through this bipolar summer of 2011 was the fact that my youngest son was starting school full-time in September. In short, this is my princess year. This is to say that for the first time since Dec 2000, I have 6 hours a day to myself. Just me, my thoughts and I (plus a few breakfast dishes). Every weekday. For 37 weeks a year. Delicious.

There was just one thing standing in my way. Rookie moms.

Many of the sweet children in my son’s kindergarten class are first borns, or as I prefer to call them, guinea pigs. Being a veteran mom, I know from experience that saying that first goodbye cuts like a knife. Many a rookie stay-at-home mom’s secret fear is that our kids don’t actually need us and will head into the classroom with nary a backwards glance. And these kids, those sneaky devils, smell that fear in our hearts and use it to masterfully manipulate us. They wail, as if cued in a chorus, the moment the kindergarten teacher presents herself to steal our children. Veteran moms know that those first goodbyes need to be ripped off a band-aid, a quick kiss & a hug and they’re off to the land of learning. Some first-time moms however, do a Sally Fields, basking in the glory of “my kid really, really needs me” and joins the class for a kindergarten refresher.

After my first princess year drop off, I went running. As I ran, I vacillated between being joyous that I finally had “me” time and miserable that my baby was a fully competent and capable kindergarten kid. When I shared this with my husband later that evening, he thought it was time to see my therapist again.

On the third day of school, my son decided that he wanted his mommy to stay at school like all the others. So, he cried, clinging to my body, rubbing his luscious tears and dripping nose juices all over my new Lululemon pants. And being a veteran mom with my personal trainer waiting for me at the gym, I dragged him to his teacher so she could pull his little body off of me while I ran out the door. I was tough on the outside but inside, I was crying too, yet narcissistically reassured that he did actually want me to stay.

After a weekend at home, things got worse on Monday, as the other kids caught onto the crying game and more parents were being sucked into this loud emotional vortex. At her wits end, the kindergarten teacher had a chat with her little charges and announced that “mommies and daddies are no longer allowed in our classroom.” And so every day after that, my obedient son would stoically wait for the morning bell, his lower lip protruding, while tears would start to pool in his eyes. Feeling as though he was being betrayed by his own body, he would then stick his two fingers into his tear ducts (Three Stooges style) in an attempt to stop the flow. Pained, I would tell him that I could walk him into the classroom, but he would just shake his head and whisper “You’re not allowed”, and march down the corridor with the enthusiasm of a death row inmate. He was that good.

This push/pull on my heartstrings was causing me serious heartache. How was I to enjoy my Princess year if my Princes were not happy to give it to me? My older boys in Grades 3 and 5 didn’t want to be associated with me on the playground, but this was my baby, my parenting Mona Lisa. I couldn’t just leave him there with his fingers embedded in his eyeballs. What was I to do?

A dear friend recommended that we read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This is a lovely story about Chester Raccoon who doesn’t want to go to school, so his Momma plants a kiss on his hand to take with him to school so that he can feel her love whenever he needs it. We read it that night and the tears stopped immediately. I think we both realized that I was going to be okay and that he didn’t need to make me feel loved by crying. And I have his kiss on my hand for whenever I need it.

I’m baaaack!!
Love Princess Lucie

A Canucks fan is born

I fell into hockey like most Barbie loving girls of my generation, I had a mad crush on a boy who ate, drank and slept hockey. I found that the only way to register on his radar at all was to casually drop a comment about last night’s hockey game. This was 1981, when I was in Grade 8 and those Vancouver Canucks skated in those electric-orange Halloween-inspired costumes. I used to study those games, shushing my little sisters so that I would be able to recite some of Jim Robson’s insightful colour commentary or mimic Tiger Williams’ post goal antics the next day in Industrial Ed. I learned to distinguish the referee from the linesmen, the Blue Line from the Face-off Circle, and Richard Brodeur from Harold Snepts. While seeming to appreciate the conversation, the boy never did ask me out, but I transferred my crush onto Marc Crawford and along the way became a diehard Vancouver Canucks fan. The twelve year old franchise’s first-ever playoff run beyond the first round took them all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1982. Our beloved Canuckleheads surprised and pleased everyone, but much like new parents appreciating a toddler’s first steps, I don’t think anyone actually believed the Canucks were going to go all the way. And they didn’t.

Fast forward through high school and more heartbreaks on and off the ice. My sisters and I would watch the games, together if we were all home, alternating fervent prayer with pointing all 10 of our fingers at the screen to send the Canucks our energy when their plays seemed depleted. We developed mad crushes on a variety of hockey greats and argued over who was going to marry Trevor Linden.

In May 1994, I took a break from packing, having just finished grad school in London, Ontario to head to the Ceeps and watch a first round Game 7 between my Vancouver Canucks and their arch-rivals the Calgary Flames. I sat next to a classmate who was a diehard Calgary Flames fan. Just as my hockey knowledge had impressed the boys before him, I have to say it finally worked – we’ve been together ever since Calgary lost to Vancouver’s Bure/McLean that night. That magical playoff run also ended with an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. While the 1994 Canucks were a much more worthy team than the 1982 crew, the stronger New York Rangers were able to close out their 54 year Stanley Cup drought at our expense. Unfortunately, the fans expected more of our boys in blue this time and took out their Game 7 frustrations on the merchants of Robson Street. Carnage and mayhem ensued and beautiful Vancouver looked like sore losers.

You don’t need to know high level math to know that 2006 was supposed to be our year (1982/1994/2006) with 12 years between Cup Finals appearances. But we didn’t even make the playoffs that year. It was tough going for awhile for us diehard fans.

Add to that some Olympic sized karma – when Montreal hosted the Olympics in 1976, their Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1977. Similarly, when Calgary hosted the Olympics in 1988, the Flames won the Cup in 1989. As we all know, Vancouver hosted a fabulous Olympics just last year in 2010, do we really have to wonder who’ll be drinking out of the Stanley Cup this June?

As a mother to 3 young boys now, my love for the Canucks has necessarily mellowed as I can no longer be shouting profanities at the ref through the TV or passing along my zany superstitions but this year, this team cannot be beaten. The 40 year-old franchise and it’s loyal fans want, deserve and need the Cup. We’re the best team Vancouver has ever had the privilege of cheering for – we’ve got the President’s Trophy, the Art Ross winners Daniel & Henrik, the Jennings trophy, the Green Men, and Olympic Gold meal winner Luongo all on our team. Not to add to the pressure already on your big broad shoulders (Bieksa), but if not now, then when?

I’ll be one of the lucky 18,900 fans there cheering you on tonight. I’ll be in my lucky shirt, drinking my lucky drink, screaming at the top of my lungs, “We are all Canucks! Go Canucks Go!”

Love Lucie