Monday, October 25, 2010

My experience travelling with the kids

I have a few backlogged blog posts...things I wanted to write about but didn't get a chance to do before we left for Austin, Texas -- where we didn't have Internet in our hotel. Honestly, what hotel doesn't have Internet, these days? So I wrote in Word in the evenings, and am posting now.

Until Sunday (Oct. 17), we’d never flown anywhere with both kids. When Austin was 18 months, we flew to Fredericton for a weekend but we knew that that wouldn’t prepare us for this experience. For starters, the ratio of adults to kids on that flight was 2 to 1 and secondly, it was only a two-hour flight.

The flight to Austin, Texas, with both kids was to be a six-hour travel-time trip. But the day started much earlier than that, because goodness knows, the process at the Toronto airport can take awhile when you’re travelling by yourself – when you’re travelling with 2 kids, 2 suitcases, 2 car seats, 1 stroller and 5 carry-ons, (hey, we were going for an entire week afterall), we figured it would take a long while.

So here’s how the day went:
- Step 1: park the car and take the LINK train from the garage to the terminal.
- Step 2: stand in line to check in because the airline wouldn’t let us check in online the night before because the only seats left on the flight are in the exit aisle and you can’t sit in the exit aisle with kids.
- Step 3: drag all the bags, car seats and carry-ons through customs.
- Step 4: clear customs and put the suitcases on one conveyer belt and the car seats on another
- Step 5: wait in another long line to go through security while bribing the now screaming 2-year-old with promises that she'll get Smarties as soon as this line is done.
- Step 6: get to the gate and instead of waiting 1 hour for the flight, wait 2 hours because the flight is delayed.
- Step 7: Fly to Minneapolis while the woman in front of me repeatedly turns around and glares because my 2-year-old is loud (yes, she was talking loudly, but she was talking and singing – not screaming and not kicking the chair in front of her) Entertain 2-year-old for the entire 2-hour flight.
- Step 8: Instead of having 1 hour and 21 minutes to change planes in Minneapolis, dash across the airport because there's only about 25 minutes until takeoff while dragging two kids (and a stroller and 5 carry-ons)
- Step 9: Make the next flight and get through the next 2 and a half hours by bribing the kids with TV.
- Step 10: Get off the plane, get bags, find rental car company, rent car, go to car, install car seats in car and finally get a map and figure out where the heck you have to go (and tip the porter that was kind enough to help with some of the process).
- Step 11: Drive to hotel while 2-year-old screams from the backseat because it’s been 11 hours since we left home and she hasn’t napped.
- Step 12: Find hotel and realize that said 2-year-old has passed out from exhaustion.
- Step 13: Check in to hotel, move stuff upstairs, wake 2-year-old and find nearest McDonalds for dinner.

In all, it was a really long day – as travelling always is – but considering what we dragged the kids through, it was a good day. And for the most part, they were both really good.

Now we just have to reverse the entire process on the way home. But this time we were stupid enough to book a late afternoon flight, so not only will Alex not nap but she’ll also be up unbelievably late. Maybe if we’re lucky, she’ll pass out from exhaustion.

Racing Day

Saturday morning (Oct. 16) was racing day. Once again this year, I was crazy enough sign up to run the 10K Zoo Run. And I say crazy, because really, running 10K is a crazy idea.

But this year, I actually had fun.

I really only started seriously training for racing day 7 weeks ago – although, since April, I’d been going out about 3 or 4 times a month and running 4 to 6 km, so I wasn’t completely out of shape or practice. But, for the record, until Saturday, the last time I ran a full 10K was Oct. 17, 2009 – last year’s Zoo Run. In my 7 weeks of training, I never pushed past 9km.

Regardless, I was ready. After a 9K run earlier this week, my only thoughts upon completion was ‘bring it on’. Whereas in the days leading up to last year’s run, I was terrified and wondering why the hell I thought I could do such a crazy thing.

So, on Saturday, October 16, 2010, I ran 10K at the Toronto Zoo in 1:14:58 – about 45 seconds faster than last year. To be honest, when I first thought of running again, I had hoped to be able to do it faster than that, but considering I was on crutches a mere 9 months ago, I’m pretty damn pleased with myself.

Even though I was ready and pumped to run, I was still nervous when I woke up Saturday morning. And the fact that there was traffic along Morningside getting into the zoo didn’t make things easier. Parking was such a nightmare, that I had to jump out of the car partway to the lot and briskly walk to the starting gate while Ryan parked, just to ensure I’d make it for start time. Problem was, I still had to go to the bathroom when I got there and as I was lining up, 8:30 came and went.

No worries though, the starting gate stays open for 10 minutes after gun time and when I was done, I just hustled over and started running (with all the other late comers). It put me in a weird frame of mind when I started though, not to be with the pack of runners – and for the first kilometre or so, I kept thinking that I had to catch up until I finally remembered that the only person I was racing against was myself.

So once I got into a better mindset, I just enjoyed the run and before I knew it, I had passed the 3km mark – which was where I had planned to take a short walking break. My plan had been to stop at 3, 6 and 8. But suddenly I found myself somewhere past 3k. So I took a short walking break and then carried on.

As I rounded 5k, my cheering squad was yelling ‘go mommy go’ from the sidelines, giving me a much needed lift. Although I was still feeling good, it’s usually around the 4.5K to 6K point that I really tire out before getting a second wind. And then I just got into the zone and kept going – reaching 7K before stopping again for a drink and to fix my shoe. There was no point stopping anymore with less than 3km left, so I just pushed through it, not ever considering that I wouldn’t be able to do it. And about 100 metres from the finish line, my cheering squad was yelling as loud as they could.

One thing’s for sure…I forgot how hilly the zoo is. It was a different course this year than last year, and although I’m sure it didn’t make much of difference, I felt like I was almost always going up. Every time I ran to the top of one small hill, there was a bigger one a little ways down the way.

But after feeling so good about that race, I’m looking forward to the next one already. Because there will be another one. Next year, I’m looking at the Yonge Street one in May (the one I wanted to do this year before I ended up on crutches). And thankfully, it’s all downhill.

Monday, October 04, 2010

How does (my) garden grow?

The gardening season has officially ended for me. I say that in writing, but in reality I haven't yet had a chance to pull the plants out of the ground. Knowing how busy the next few weeks are going to be -- they'll probably sit for a least two or three (or four) more weeks.

In all, I have to say it was a pretty good growing season and, unlike last year, my little garden didn't turn into a jungle. (Although I did forget to take pictures of it in its glory so you'll just have to take my word for it.) But as I went on and on about in previous posts, my zucchinni plant really tried to take over.

It was big. It was plentiful and it tried to choke out everything in its path. Throughout much of July and August, I was begging and pleading with people to take a monster-sized zuchinni off my hands. And when I couldn't get rid of any more, I cooked and baked with it. And when I got tired of that, I shredded up what was left and tossed it in my freezer (all 24 cups of it). So we'll still be eating zuchinni for months to come; meaning my family should be wary because you never know where some zuchinni will crop up.

After being a big, plentiful plant for almost two months, I opened the curtains one morning, looked out the window and discovered that the entire plant had collapsed. There it was, lying dead in the garden -- with zuchinnis still growing on it and everything. I have no idea how it happened, but I wasn't overly sad to see it go.

It's demise meant my tomatoes had a fighting chance. Until that time, my four tomato plants (1 of which was a grape tomato plant) weren't doing badly, but they weren't doing great. They had produced enough tomatoes for one small batch of tomato sauce and one batch of salsa. The grape tomato plant hadn't done much, which is the one that surprised me the most because last year it grew like a weed and produced more little tomatoes than one family could possibly eat.

So in hopes of a warm September, I pulled the now-dead zucchini plant out of the ground and gave my tomato plants as much space as I could. The bottom half of each plant had seen better days but suddenly they started growing up and sprouting new tomotoes. In the end, I got a few more tomatoes out of each one -- although they're rather small and some had to be picked while still green to save them from this week's cold weather. But they'll do -- I'll toss them in with the basket of tomatoes I bought at the market to make more salsa.

And now that's it all done, the lessons I've learned this year are not to plant zucchini unless I really, really want it; raspberry bushes try to take over, even though they produce an incredible amount of fruit and when all else fails, buy tomatoes for salsa and sauce at the market.