The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the tag “tennis”

Advice for a New Mother

Joyce, my cousin, has always been full of good advice. She and I used to be pen pals when we were kids, (remember “pen pals”, where you actually wrote a letter to someone that lived in a neighbouring town and they would write back and the whole thing would take a couple of weeks?). She helped me through awkwardness in adolescence, was an excellent sounding board about boys and the resulting trouble, and what I could expect in college life.

Her kids are older than mine be a few years and stages in life. One particular family gathering a few moons ago, Joyce and I got to talking about parenthood. I was blabbering about the conflict within me, so grateful and happy to be a mom, but I missed things that JB & I used to do before to having kids. Would we ever hike or mountain bike or play tennis again? Those activities and the resulting enjoyment seemed so far in the rear view mirror. And being relatively new to this whole parenting thing, I was not sure I saw them again on the horizon. Joyce pointed to her kids, then preteens, and said – no, guaranteed – that we would do all those things again and more. She explained how they would be different, as they would become family activities, and added that we may even find new adventures due to our kids’ interests. She told me not to worry. I had trusted her with so much in the past, I trusted these words as well.

Fast forward to this summer. Jaybird and I signed up for two runs this year. All three kids are signed up for various tennis, rock climbing, hockey and mountain biking activities. They are pursuing their own interests, but joining us in some of ours, which makes me happy.

Color Me RAD! was one of the events Jaybird and I signed up for this summer. It is a 5k event. I guess you could call it a “run” or a “race” but really, we walked about half the course and definitely did not race. We had a ball. If I may say so, we were a vision dressed in our white t-shirts, old shoes and blue tutus. I have never worn a tutu while running before. Frankly, I had a conversation with a friend while on a long run about how I just don’t really get the whole tutu thing. In this case, however, Jaybird had noted the tutus were cute and asked if we should wear matching outfits. How could I say no?

We walked and ran the course, getting color-bombed and painted while laughing through the whole thing. Jaybird said she wished our entire family had signed up, as she thought the boys would have enjoyed the event. We crossed the finish line, painted, dirty and feeling awesome. We hung around for a bit, dancing, throwing paint at each other and taking pictures. I made sure to tell her that I love that she enjoys doing these events with me, because I have a blast with her. She nodded and hugged me.

This summer I have my kids to thank for getting me back on the tennis court. I have run two events with my daughter. We have hiked, biked and walked many trails. My husband and I are getting back to activities we enjoyed before we had kids. Joyce was right, we are getting back to all those things we so enjoyed as a couple. She was also right in that the activities are a little different, enriched, as our children are with us and enjoying the activities as well. New adventures await as they grow and it is exciting to see everyone growing in confidence to take them on.



Three Bikes and a Pair of Running Shoes

When I was a kid my parents worked opposite shifts so either my dad or my mom was always home.  During my formative years, (I guess.. when are your formative years, anyway?), my mom worked primarily night shift and dad worked second shift.  This left a bit of the taking care of my brother and I to my dad during the day.  Enter my dad’s group of friends that play tennis together.  They play almost every day, weather permitting, either singles or doubles, depending upon who is available to play.  As an aside, we used to (respectfully, of course) refer to this group as our own town’s little United Nations.  I think only a couple of the guys Dad hung out with were actually natural-born US citizens.  As a kid watching them play tennis I probably heard swear words in at least five different languages.  Too bad I was not paying closer attention.

Anyway, in the summer my brother and I would hang out with friends, go to the neighborhood pool, keeping close to home.  When it came time for Dad to meet up with his buddies for some tennis, he had a few choices.  He could not play, (unthinkable), find a sitter (also unthinkable, he’s too cheap), or take my brother and I along.  So, you guessed it.  We spent many a summer afternoon tagging along with Dad while he played tennis.  They usually played on courts that were built into a hill, with a huge, tall cement wall on one side.  Dad would instruct us to take our own racquets and ball, hit the ball against the wall and stay out-of-the-way of the grown-ups.

Why am I writing about this?

As noted in many of my posts and a category on this very blog, I am a runner.  I am also a mother of three school age kids that are on summer break.  Temporarily gone are the days when I could do my midday run alone while they attend school.  What’s a running momma to do?  I need to run for reasons such as stress relief, stay healthy, eat ice cream, you know the rest.  I also want to run a fall race, so to stop training after a successful spring marathon was unthinkable.  This is when I recalled those summers of my childhood and hitting a tennis ball against a cement wall.

I told the kids to get on their bikes.  I explained that since they are not quite old enough to be left home alone, even if it’s for a half hour so I can get in a quick run, they are going to have to come with me.  Knowing that I get rather crabby when not able to exercise regularly, they agreed.  Also, I was pretty clear in that they had no choice in the matter.  If my father is reading this post, this is time when he throws up his hands and says two things to my mom.  First, “It really was not a big deal to take them to the tennis courts.” And, “Why am I always right?”

Our first ride/run was a little bumpy.  They were nervous about the trail onto which I was leading them, the hills we were encountering and how far we were going to stray from home.  It seemed that I was constantly reassuring them throughout the first part of the ride/run that I knew exactly where we were and would not take them farther than they could handle.  The first was absolutely true but the latter entered gray area, seeing this was our first try at this. About half way into the ride/run, they pointed like a pack of hounds seeking a fox.  “PARK!”  They asked if they could stop and play for a bit at this new, glorious neighborhood playground we encountered.  I agreed, but only for a few minutes.

Turning up the trail and heading for home, we came upon a couple of cyclists.  “Start them young!” one shouted.  I nodded.  When we got home there were icey-pops and watermelon for everyone.  It was a nice little run for me, they got to be outside and the kids have a new appreciation for the freedom their bikes provide.  All asked if we could do it again tomorrow.  Win!

So, what have we learned?  Yes, my dad is right sometimes and did my brother and I a favor by taking us to the tennis courts each and every day during the summers of our youth.  Yes, you can be a mom with three kids home for the summer and still keep some resemblance to your fitness routine.  Finally, children like to be outside and enjoy exercise, especially when you, their parent, do it with them.  It also helps if there is a little bribery in the form of cool snacks upon the return home.

Happy Fathers Day

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. 

~Clarence Budington Kelland

My dad is full of advice but mostly just lives his life honorably and allows us to watch.  He is a lover of sports, tennis especially.  He once met the father of a certain Williams sisters while watch the French Open and commended him on the match Serena had just finished.  “Serena played a hell of a match today” he said, “You must be very proud of your daughters.”  Mr. Williams confirmed that he is, in fact, proud of his daughters and thanked him for the kind words.

My dad is not much of a yeller.  I always knew I was in trouble (which was a lot)  when he would cross his arms, shake his head and mumble, “this shit has to cease, Erika.”

Other “fun” things Dad has said over the years..

“der schtops and der schtops.”

“You own nothing in this house. It is my house and I will look through any pockets and any drawers and any closets whenever I see fit. This is not a democracy.”

On my wedding day we were preparing to enter the church.  I looked inside and saw the church was full.  I got nervous that I would trip or something and said to him, “wow, there are a lot of people here.”  His encouraging words back to me were accompanied by a pat on the arm, “you invited a lot of people, honey, let’s go.”

We had many arguments over the years about this and that, I was a teenager once upon a time, after all.  The constant was always that he was there.  Dad was there when I played tennis matches and skied and had piano recitals..  always quiet.  Not creepy quiet, but encouraging quiet.  He would nod in approval or gesture a hint on how to do something better.

As I said above, he is not much of a yeller, but he was (and continues to be) a huge cheerleader for me.  It is true that a father makes a huge difference in the lives of their daughters.  Mine did so quietly, affirming my good decisions and catching me when I made bad ones.  He does not tell me how to live, he merely provides a good example by living well.

Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there.  Especially mine.

Roland Garros, Mom and Me

Due to the French Open championships this weekend, it seems timely to come to terms with something that has been on my mind for a while.  It happened years ago, February 2004, in fact, when I left JB with two children to go to Paris with my mom, her sister and friend.

We play tennis is my family.  While other girls may have had posters of Scott Baio or John Stamos in their rooms, (its was the 8os, no doubt), I had pictures of Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Gabriela Sabatini.  As a result, it only seemed natural to visit Roland Garros while in Paris.

Let’s back up..  as I noted in a previous post, (click <HERE> ), one of the most dangerous things my mother can say is, “I’ve been thinking…” because it usually means that we are getting on plane and going somewhere.  Okay, so maybe not dangerous, really, as I have benefited a few times from her, um, thoughts.. but you get the idea.  So she calls me in the winter of 2003-04 and says she found a super great deal to go to Paris for five days and wants to know if I will go with her.  Her sister and friend may be in as well.  I ask JB if he minds flying solo for a few days while I skip about Paris, eating crepes and drinking wine.  He agrees.  WOOT!

I had never been to France and did not (do not) speak French, so I bought some CDs to learn some basics of conversational French.  I listened and learned while commuting to work and felt like I could reasonably get along in Paris.  At least, I knew how to ask for directions, greet people and read a map.  A little nugget for all those traveling to France – learn some French.  Be polite.  It goes along way.

So anyway, about a week before we set off on out little adventure, Mid became sick.  Actually, alot sick with RSV.  Any parent knows of which I speak.  It’s a respiratory virus that you can’t treat with antibiotics.  Mid, then all of 7ish months old, sat and wheezed.  He had a fever.  I was nervous about leaving the country.  I took him to our (totally awesome) pediatrician.  He made the diagnosis and gave me the treatment plan.  I asked, feeling all sorts of mom-guilt, “I have a trip planned to Paris in a few days.  Should I still go?  Will he be OKay?”  SO MUCH GUILT.  Assured by the physician that Mid would be over this wheezing, feverish yuckiness within a week, I pressed on with the planning.

The day arrived for us to leave Chicago and head to Paris.  I felt guilty.  I had never left my children for this long and although I know that JB is perfectly capable of caring for our children on his own, I was afraid I would simply miss them too much.  My mom continually offered me an out.  I did not have to go, she understood, she is a mother, too.. all that.  We boarded the plane in Chicago.  I looked out the window.  The plane backed away from the jetway.  I started to cry.  “It’s too late,” Mom said, “we are on our way.  JB is going to be fine.  You planned for every minute of every day.  He is a good father.”  I nodded.

So, to Paris.  We had a blast.  We did almost the whole city in five days.  Notre Dame, River boat on the Seine, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Basilique du Sacre’-Coeur (highly recommend, feels like you are getting hugged by Jesus Himself), Moulin Rouge, Bastille, a bunch of other museums, a little art fair along the streets of Ernest Hemingway in Montparnasse..

And then Roland Garros, the site for the French Open tennis tournament.

“Do you think we can just walk on to the grounds?”

“Of course,” replied Mom.  The gate was open so we wandered in.  The site was much smaller than I had imagined.  I had goosebumps. I was standing on the very ground where tennis greats have walked, played, won championships.. it was almost too much.  We walked up to the entrance for Centre Court.  It was just.. open.  There was no gate, no lock, it was just open.  The court was not set up and you could tell they were doing some construction.  Nevertheless, we walked toward the entrance.

A delightful British woman came out of nowhere and greeted us.  Or, more likely that she came out of the offices located on the right, but I didn’t see the offices until later.  We were totally busted.  I mumbled to Mom that no way we were going to be able to walk on to Centre Court.  She mumbled back, “nobody is scared of a grey haired woman, just let me talk with her.”  This made me a little nervous, as I am pretty sure that she offered me up to a French Police Officer in order to get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe as it was closing just the day before, but I went with it.

A couple of minutes later we were standing the middle of Centre Court at Roland Garros.  Are you kidding me?  The net was not up and there was construction equipment stuff in the stands, but I did not care.  I stood with my eyes closed.  I imagined a crowd and Chris, Martina, Gabby and I playing doubles.  So cool.  The British woman returned and let us know that we would need to get back to the public areas.  As we left, I lifted my arms to the roaring crowd empty stands and smiled.

We returned to the United States tired and pleased with our trip.  I had a couple of bottles of wine with me a little Eiffel Tower I bought at the street art fair.  All was well on the home front as well.  Mid was over RSV without implications and Girl had barely noticed I was gone.  JB took a much-deserved nap.  I went through pictures with my daughter and showed her the stuff I had bought for her.  Someday I hope to take the kids to Paris and show them the Champs-Elysees and all that is the grandeur of Paris.  Especially Roland Garros.

So there.  My last post was about how I have lied to my kids to get them to eat healthier.  Today I tell you about the time I left the country when my baby boy was sick (and he will someday remind me, to be sure).  I am glad that is out in the open.

Guilt?  What guilt?


I received tweet from Jim at letting me know that he had awarded me the Kreativ Blogger.  WOOT!  It totally made my day, because I was having trouble getting motivated to write a post for the week.  Then, BAM! an award, a mention, a subject!  Jim is a good fella.

In any case, “the rulez” in accepting this award are that I need to post 10 things about myself that you may not already know, and that I will tag 6 bloggers in the post.  I am working on the 10 things, (will most likely have to call my mom), and tag the bloggers I can think of, because I really only know of a couple.  If you have read this blog before now, you know I am rather new here.

1. Most of my followers are family or friends of my mom.  I am not sure what this says about me.  When we told folks we were moving they said to keep in touch, but I am too lazy busy to get with each of them individually and have too much to say for Facebook, so blogging seemed like a nice way to let folks know what we are up to. And, apparently my mom has alot of friends and talks alot.  In any case, I appreciate all of you!

2. When I was much younger, all I wanted out of life was two great danes and a BMW.  To go even further, I bet a good friend $50 that I would not be married until after the age of 40, because I did not want any husband to expect me to have children.  How did all that turn out?  I married one year after graduating college, have a great husband, three wonderful kids, drive a minivan (that is NOT a BMW) and the thought of cleaning up after a dog… well, let’s just say I don’t see any pets in our future.

3. I am a feminist.  Many women’s issues are big hot buttons for me and I have not yet decided if I will post about them here.  See #1.

4. I did not change my name when I married.  At the time, I was militantly against it and JB did not care either way.  After our second child was born I thought about it, but two things held me back.  First, JB questioned why after so many years I would do it, because who really gives a shit, its just a name, and, second, it costs, like, $150 or something if you don’t do it right away.  So, still thinking that it is a silly tradition and being cheap, I kept my original name.

5. I used to do volunteer work for Planned Parenthood.  Not alot, a few times I made phone calls to donors and once handed out condoms at a Bonnie Raitt concert.  We got to meet Bonnie Raitt afterward.  She was wicked cool.  Bruce Hornsby had opened for her that night and although I did not get to meet him backstage, I did meet his parents.  Nice people.

6. When I was a kid and the other girls were frothing over David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, John Stamos or whoever, I wanted to be Jane Pauley.  To me, she was IT.  Successful, smart, the whole package.

7. Perhaps not a surprise because of #6, two of my favorite movies are Working Girl (Sigourney Weaver and Melanie Griffith) and Baby Boom (Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard).  True, Melanie Griffith’s character takes down the bitch character that Sigourney Weaver plays, but I really like the bitch.  And I was seriously pissed when Melanie Griffith “did it” with Harrison Ford.  Cheapened the victory for me.

8. I tear up.  Alot.  Over all kinds of things.  Certain songs, when I finish a marathon, when reading posts about friends and family that are battling cancer, all kinds of stuff.  Remember that song “Bringing You Home” by Don Henley?  Its about the birth of his daughter.  It came out when I was pregnant with my daughter.  When painting the entryway to our house (at the time) it came on the radio and I bawled like a baby right in front of the open front door,  The neighbors must of thought I was nuts.

9. I started running a few years ago after seeing a poster for the Chicago Marathon.  At the time I was on the home stretch to finish my MBA and was seeking for “what to do next”.  JB and I were in Chicago to see Wicked, (highly recommend), I saw the poster, turned to him and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to run a marathon?”  He replied, “Sure”.  To be honest, I don’t think he thought I would actually do it.  Next thing we know I am training for my third marathon in as many years.

10. Back in the day, I played tennis with my dad.  Like almost every day.  My dad has only a couple of speeds.  We kid that if he is not moving he will fall asleep.  Actually, this is not only kidding, and I have the pictures to prove it. Another thing about Dad.  Not only did he play tennis with my brother and I whenever we wanted, he drove school bus for many of our sports activities.  I played alot of tennis back in the day and it was nice to have him courtside.

Whew!  Therapy session is over.. So the second part of “the rulez” is that I reveal the blogs that I like reading and provide links to each. (Right?)

For running – I like a few, but here are two –  and  For politics and family all rolled into one, I like  For family, I love, her humor and ability to turn everyday events into a cute/sensitive/meaningful story is always a good read.  For travel, I like  I regularly read many blogs, just cannot think of them on the spot.  There are so many good ones..  Of course, I also read religiously.

So thank you, Jim, for bestowing this award upon me.  I will work to live up to it.

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