Is a terrible idea… or at least I thought it would be.
I made a comment a month ago out of the blue “well if you want the best crew around, Tag and I are free” which was met with silence, not even a laugh. A couple of days later I got a text “were you serious about crewing me for Tahoe”
Not even a question mark, I hate a lack of punctuation (insert joke about how I use too much punctuation).
That’s all I had in an answer… was I serious? I don’t think I even knew.
I read (aka listened to) Shanda Rhimes “Year of Yes” and made a mental note to say yes to any and all adventures that came my way. I have so many things I make excuses to not do, so many adventures I put on the back burner because I find something more pertinent to do, so now I’m saying yes to anything I can… 200 miles of crewing a man I barely speak to sounded like an adventure.
You see, we broke up when I was 5 months pregnant, and it was bad. He was out of my life in the blink of an eye, out of my kids lives, and I was out of the community I had helped him create. Taggart was born and there have been 2 1/2 years of trying to work together with 2 steps forward and 3 back. We aren’t friends. I have an Ex-husband who I consider a friend. Anything I need he would do his best to be there for. We talk and I don’t even feel uncomfortable around him. It is wonderful for the kids to be able to go on vacation with all their important adults (step-mom included) and while I want that for Tag as well, for 3 years it has seemed nearly impossible.
Cue me sitting on a plane next to my toddler, with his sleeping father across the row… I’m really doing this, and it really started with him sleeping the entire flight while I entertain a toddler…
Here’s where I don’t know how to say things… it was just uneventful. I asked no questions before hand so really just trusted he had everything taken care of, which would have been totally out of character for me in our relationship. My biggest wonder, and the most frequently asked question, one room or two. One. We walked in and it hit me, we are sharing a room. Two beds, one room. This man I don’t speak to about anything other then our son and I are sleeping in the same room…. and it’s almost not weird? Well it is weird to hear those sleeping sounds people make when you haven’t been there for them in 3 years. That may stir up some memories… just maybe…
Taggart “I have a Mommy and a Daddy!”
ok….everything is ok…
“Mommy did you go to the bathroom to change so I don’t see your butt?”
“No buddy, I went to the bathroom to change so Daddy didn’t see my butt”
Over the next 64 hours I drove around the mountains, slept in a car, gave food and gear to my ex, all with a 2 1/2 year old in tow… and it wasn’t bad. It was long, I didn’t get enough sleep, but it was fun in a weird way.
Watching my ex jump as I woke him up from his nap and my face was the first thing he saw was a huge highlight. Who wants to see their ex’s face 142 miles into a race? I’ve crewed him many times and have watched him break down. I’ve had to help put the pieces back together and send him on his way again, I never saw that man out there. He struggled, it wasn’t easy, but he always looked strong to me. (ok even I cringed typing that, but it’s true..)
It was not the adventure I thought it would be at all. I didn’t get some crazy awesome ridiculous story out of the weekend. There wasn’t any intense fights to write about. It was just, normal. Or however normal crewing someone for 200 miles can be…
These days I’m begining to notice I am a terrible “activities mom”
I often don’t stay and watch- I have stuff to do.
I don’t try and fix them- That’s the coaches job.
When I am there I’m usually doing something else- Life
In the middle of my amazing busy day I stopped to grab food and headed to the barn to pick up my rider. As I dilly-dallied walking in I found it odd my daughter’s horse was in the walker already…
Two parents looking extremely upset “Did Teagan call you??”
Me, looking very confused “nope”
And they precede to tell me about her terrible fall. My response “Im sure she’s fine”. The horror on their faces in response to my casualness is indescribable.
Que Teagan walking up, me looking at her clearly broken arm, and calling her dad to get her into the doctor right away.
At no point did I look concerned, because I really wasn’t. Maybe it’s having 6 kids, maybe it’s being a mom for 15 years now, maybe it’s just how I handle life. It was broken, there wasn’t anything we could do about that in the moment, and life keeps moving.
It’s awful that she had to break her arm. In reality it’s bound to happen and we can be thankful it’s just a broken arm this time.
So what did this lesson teach me? My daughter knows me too well and clearly felt calling me to let me know she was injured would not make me drive any faster…
Because a broken arm shouldn’t stop you from kayaking….
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ‘em over with care.
About some you will say “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener out there
in the wide open air.
“Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss
This part of the book struck me the other night as Tayer and I sat down and read together before he went off to bed. I have always really liked this book, but I realized when we were reading together that it must have been a while since we read it last. So many of the words seemed to leave their printed form and interweave themselves into my mind. To say that the road ahead for me and my people, my kids and Sabrina, my soon to be ex-wife, is yet to be seen is an understatement. The road, in so many ways, does not even exist. Being that I have only seen “not-so-good” streets laid before me, at Dr. Seuss would say, it is time to head out of town.
In about six week, the lease to our rental house is going to end. Our plans, at that point, are pretty well laid out for the summer. Essentially, my people and I will be heading up the mountain west with over a month in Silverton, CO and returning down the Pacific Coast to return to Arizona in August.
In many ways, I grew up being taught the “right way” to do things. Money and stability were emphasized as a way to define happiness, or at least contentment. College and a good job were what I needed to attain. All this while, I had a solid example of how to fly in the face of this and do just fine. My dad is one of the most successful people I know personally and he has rarely done anything according to convention. My path is beginning to eerily resemble his in a lot of ways. We both had kids early. We both worked for other people until our late twenties, and then encountered the overwhelming urge to move beyond that dependence. I am not saying that this is in any way a bad thing. There are many things that I saw him encounter that I learned from and hope to avoid myself. This profound example of how I could approach life has started in motion a paradigm shift in the way I view family, relationships, career, and personal fulfillment.
About two years ago today, I was working two jobs at probably 60 hours a week and attending graduate school full time to try to give my family everything they deserved. It destroyed my marriage and left my family’s future in doubt. Today, working a full day, where I couldn’t drop my kids off at school, pick them up, or both, is unfathomable. It’s worse than that. Truthfully, the idea causes me pain. There is a trade-off, of course. Trying to figure out how to financially support your family is extraordinarily challenging in the realm of marginal employment. My ultimate goal is to be able to have a means of being productive, generating income, that allows be to still be a daily part of my children’s lives in a meaningful way.
A new friend in my life recently asked me what I want to be when I grow up. The answer came to me in a flash. When I grow up, I want to be… Happy. This may have been subconsciously influenced by a John Lennon quote that I remember reading at some point.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Honestly, I don’t care what I am when I grow up. It just needs to be something that allows me to have more of a life outside of work than at work. I hope it is something that I can point to as having left the world in a better place than when I found it. Part of what I have realized, though, is that being a father to my kids is one of the most profound things that I can do in my life. Even if I don’t amount to anything in the professional sense, as long as I did something that allowed me to be there for them and raise them in the best way that I can, then that is all I can ask for. For once, I feel like I am beginning to truly understand life.
So now, as we trail-blaze into the uncharted, I find myself excited, scared, hopeful, and introspective. I do not know if this social experiment will work. I do know that many memories will be made, and that all of the best parts of my childhood memories are about the places I went, the people that were there, and the things that I did. They were never about the possessions that I held.
So, with that, I go forward with some reassurance that, at the very least, it will be opener out there, in the wide open air.
Alright friends, here is the deal. Sabrina skipped town for five days. We can’t leave you all without some kind of entertainment for that long. You know what they say about idle hands… or minds? Anyway, my hope is to entertain you all with musings about the trials and tribulations of temporary single dad-hood. You will laugh, you might cry, and hopefully we will all make it through. Here we go!
Sabrina left yesterday morning for the airport. I had some last minute productive things I needed to take care of that precluded the involvement of small people, so we split up right out of the gate. Sabrina had a physical therapy appointment early, so I took off with the crew to drop Tajh and Tea off at school and then head back to the house. As soon as Sabrina got back from her appointment, I split to take care of my last minute stuff. Shortly after, Sabrina went and dropped the little three off at their speech/OT place and then came back home to finish packing and head to the airport. I raced through my stuff and then headed up to pick up the previously mentioned little three and then to pick Tea up from school, since she had a half-day. Then we came home and Tay and I got some of his schoolwork done.
It was about this time that I remembered that I had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for Tajh and Tea to get their PE physicals done for school. This was, of course, not taking into consideration that I might be doing with this with the whole crew. We still went, of course. #GluttonForPunishment
Just kidding they were totally fine
The appointment went fine. I will take a quick second here to step up on my soapbox about something that I experience in the life of a vegan parent of vegan kids. I have been questioned, occasionally aggressively, about the feasibility of keeping kids healthy on a vegan diet. Since I have some numbers at my fingertips, let chat for a second. My kids, as many of you know, are all very active. Tajh and Tea swim and ultra-run. Tayer is basically doing cross-fit the entirety of his waking hours. Tennyson dances, tumbles, runs, and sings enough to make an LMFAO backup dancer exhausted. Tru… well, at the moment Tru is kind of, well,… a baby, so… moving on. Tajh and Teagan’s vision is phenomenal. Tajh is in the 75th percentile for height and the 25th for weight. Teagan is in the 50th percentile for height and the 25th for weight. Given that these statistical charts are built on the population as a whole, of which we hear often is a little on the hefty side, I am happy to see them on the low end for weight compared to average or taller height. Next was the hemoglobin (finger-prick) test. Surprise, not anemic, who’s shocked? Not me. Maybe that is because I see the fist-fulls of spinach and fruit that go into the drink that they have every morning.
That spinach layer is packed in there too. It was coming out of the top of the Vitamix, but we had to make room for berries.
Why spinach? Because, Popeye knew what he was doing.
Tea, scrambling up Camelback Mountain on the Cholla side. On a vegan diet, no less!
But wherever will they get their protein??? Pshhh…
Anyway, that pretty much wraps up the eventful parts of yesterday for the magnificent seven (with one on hiatus). Stay tuned for the adventures of… The Children’s Museum! The Zoo! Cleaning the house! Teagan’s music performance at school! Don’t miss it.
As soon as Sabrina’s plan to be gone this week firmed up, my mind started racing with the possibilities of what we could do with this newfound time. Parenting solo can be a lot of challenging things, but there can be a flipside. Honestly, I find it refreshing. You are left with kind of a clean slate of possibilities. When you are left with one less adult to contribute, you are also left with one less adult to provide input. For me, this allows for a more kid-focused day. Tayer and I sat down right away and discussed all of the things he wanted to do, all of the things I needed him to do (e.g. school work and helping around the house), and all of the other stuff that had to fit into our days, like picking up his big siblings from school. We came up with a rough plan. Here is how it has gone so far.
The Children’s Museum
Last Saturday, before we knew that it wasn’t going to be just me and Tayer, the two of us started researching Cultural Passes through the Scottsdale Library. It had been a while since we had taken advantage of this great program. Years, in fact. Basically the way it works is you check out an admission for two from the library that is good for seven days, to a number of different cultural attractions around the Valley. Last Saturday, Tay, the big two and I went to a branch half-way to Fountain Hills, waited in line before they opened, which turned out to be pointless since no one else did, and checked out a pass for two to the Phoenix Children’s Museum. Tayer has been crazy excited to go since. Luckily, he did not balk at the idea of it not ending up being just him and me. He was excited to go with his younger siblings. So, on Thursday, we did some cleaning in the morning, at breakfast, got the big two off to school, got a few lessons done of Tay’s school-work, packed everyone up, grabbed some snacks and headed off to the museum. When we got there, however, we saw a dreaded sight…
Yay for marginally supervised children…
Determined not to let the fun of our day be hampered by the hundreds of marginally supervised school children, we parked, and headed into the museum.
Good times were had. Here are a few highlights.
That is one cute kid.
It will be awesome when some of them are old enough to drive the rest of them around.
Not like this, though…
Tru: “Dad, the ground changes here. This substrate isn’t suitable for me to walk on.”
Overall, the trip was way more hectic than we would have liked with the school groups there. That being said, all three little peeps had a great time. Tay definitely did amazingly well and then his self-regulation kicked in when he said, alright Dad, I am ready to go. We got to see and play in all of the important areas of the museum, and then we took leave of that place! We went home for a bit, went and picked up the big two, headed up to an appointment, and then we were back home for dinner, books, and bed. Phew!
The Phoenix Zoo
In what initially seemed to be a horrifying second act to the school field trip nonsense of the Children’s Museum from the day before, as we were pulling into the zoo, three school buses pulled in right behind us. Tayer fully yelled out: “Oh great!”. Fortunately for us, the number of field-trippers was limited, and we were able to enjoy a pretty slow day at the zoo. Since I am a volunteer there, we get to participate in all of the extras, e.g. safari train, stingray bay, etc. for free. Overall we had a great time.
Kind of like dinner-time at home…
This picture was taken seconds before I was hit in the side of the face by raw shrimp that the volunteers were throwing into the exhibit. As a vegan, this literally added insult to injury.
Kickin’ back on the train ride. Tru having more snacks. All that walking around the zoo left him famished… errr…
After we left the zoo, we headed over to pick Tajh up from school, then moved on to pick up Teagan shortly after. Then we stopped by Sprouts on the way home to pick up pizza supplies for our regularly scheduled Friday evening pizza party! ‘Til next time!
Zane Grey is the first real ultra that I can say makes me feel an ultra-runner. I don’t say this to minimize the 50k, or the experience of running 50 miles on a flat, timed course. I say that because it was the first ultra that I had to register for months in advance. I say that because it is Zane Grey and there is over 10,000’ of ascent over large sections of exposed, technical trail in the late April heat. This was the first ultra that I spent any real time or effort training for, though my training wasn’t even close to where I wanted it to be. Despite this, I am happy with my finish, and I am very happy with how the race felt overall. Now I don’t shirk the label ultra-runner.
Zane Grey was a first in another way. This race was the first time that my girlfriend, who shall be referred to as Eilei, and my exie, Sabrina, have a) met and b) spent a significant amount of time together. The good news is I still have a girlfriend and an exie!
A few weeks before the race, I very unconvincingly asked Eilei if she would be interested in coming to Zane to help, watch, and just be there to hang out. I used convincing arguments like, “it will probably be really boring”, and “you won’t really know anyone there”. At this point, anyone would have said thanks but no thanks. Eilei instead asked if she could think about it for a little while and would get back to me. I hadn’t even dropped the bombshell that she would be spending the day with Sabrina, driving from the start to the finish, stopping at the aid stations to crew me.
I ended up filling her in on how everything would work, and being the awesome girlfriend that she is, she said she would love to be there. This ended up working out great. I saw her at Washington Park, the Fish Hatchery, See Canyon, and of course, the finish. It was really cool to be running a race like this for the first time and having Eilei there to experience it with me. After the race, we hung out for a while, ate some delicious food provided by the Aravaipa crew, watched a bunch of people finish, and then went to a Thai place in Payson for dinner before heading to the hotel. In the morning, we headed to a breakfast place and then back to town to call the whole thing to an end. Thank you Eilei for being there! You made my weekend!
Eilei and Me
At this point, I want to thank the incomparable Sabrina for helping this race turn out so well for me. She reminded me, not at all ambiguously, that this race needs to be run in two parts. The first half of the race is all about getting ahead of the game in nutrition and hydration and running a smart to not toast out too early. The second half is where a properly executed first half pays dividends. This was the case for me entirely. The second half of Zane felt great. So much so that I ended up passing about five people in the last four miles of the race. When the splits came out, I was surprised to see that I had run the 8th fastest leg for the finish leg of the race out of the whole field. Thank you Sabrina, you are an amazing coach!
As for my training for the race, I only went on two significant runs in the month leading up to Zane. The first was the Crown King Scramble 50k. My strategy at this race was to take the later start, an hour after Sabrina and another friend started the race. My plan was to go out with the leaders as blow up trying to catch the ladies as fast as possible. The strategy worked flawlessly. I went out fast with the lead pack. There were two guys that I had heard would be there that both run low two-hour marathons who took the lead immediately putting distance on the rest of the pack. As the rest of the front group spread out, I found myself going back and forth for third with a couple of guys around miles 4 to 8. I ended up catching the girls at mile 10, thank the lord, and paced them in to an 8:30 finish for me, 9:30 for them. When I caught the girls, I was absolutely toasted from going out so fast. Good training? Who knows? Time on your feet, right?
Sabrina, Me, and Kimberly. The most awesome trio out that day!
The next significant run was about 10 days out from Zane. I went on trail 100 in Phoenix Mountain Preserve and got about 20 miles in. I also devastated my last pair of trail shoes that weren’t already wrecked. This left me seriously questioning what my shoe choice would be for Zane, given that it is recognized as being one of the more rugged races out there, and the only shoe that I had really found overall success in was the NB 310, which no one sells. Anyway, the point being, I was not at all happy with my training going into the race. I wanted to do more leading up to several weeks before the race, but I just couldn’t pull it off with different things going on.
Back to shoes. I like the NB 1010’s! Hopefully the upper and outsole is a little more substantial in V2. These are the shoes I wrecked in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.
Shoe wrecking care of trail 100 in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.
I called around some shoes stores trying to find an alternative. I went into a store that shall remain nameless and they did all kinds of weird foot scanning, blah, blah, nonsense and set me up with a couple of pairs of shoes that were ridiculous. I ended up at another store that had a couple of pairs of the NB 110’s on the sale rack for $45. I decided to just go for it and hope for the best. The shoes worked out great! I am going to pick up a few pairs to take this summer. I tear them up a little fast, but overall, I like the feel.
So that is how Zane Grey went. I feel great having done well. I feel better about Cascade Crest 100 in a few months, which will be my first 100 mile race. It will take a ton of training over the summer, which will be awesome, since our summer adventure places us in some of the coolest training ground there are! Colorado, here we come!
As a vegan dad, I get asked a lot what we eat. I decided that I should throw a recipe out there that we used tonight for dinner! We got home around six, Sabrina was already out the door, and we didn’t have anything really ready for dinner. I decided to go with this tried and true recipe. It is super straight-forward and very popular with the kids.
Here it is!
Vegan Broccoli Mashed Potatoes:
Three heads of broccoli, broken down into smaller florets
10 medium sized potatoes
3-4 tbs Olive oil or vegan butter/margarine
1/3 cup (ish) Soy Milk (I used unsweetened, but plain works fine too)
Salt/Pepper to taste
Garlic salt (optional)
So, boil a big pot of water, and throw in the peeled, cubed potatoes. Wait a couple of minutes to give that a head start and then add broccoli florets (I actually peel and use the stalk as well to minimize waste). Boil for 10 or so minutes until the potatoes crumble easily when pressed against the side of the pot with a spoon/fork. Drain and return to the cooking pot. Mash the whole thing up until it reaches lumpy mashed potato consistency. Stir in olive oil/vegan butter, soy milk, and salt/pepper. You can reduce some of the plain salt and add garlic salt to give it some additional flavor. Serve it up!
I wrote a few posts over a month ago now on how things went while Sabrina was out of town. Truth be told, the kids and I are totally self reliant without her, as she is without me. Part of co-parenting is being able to do the whole bags of tricks. Maybe not everything as well as the other parent, but nothing can be off the table for either of us to handle. So, today is father’s day and I am going to wrap up some thoughts from when Sabrina was gone and also muse on fatherhood in general.
While Sabrina was gone, the kids and I decided to hit up the train park for their Sunday evening concert in the park. This was a great time as usual. We packed up our food and blanket and headed for the concert. It was a decent band. Unfortunately, I missed Rock Lobster, our favorite train park concert a couple weeks later when I was out of town. We ate, the kids played and we danced. About half-way through the concert, an older gentleman smelling strongly of booze approached me from behind where I was sitting and rested his hand heavily on my shoulder. He very gruffly asked me where my “Woman” was. I simply responded that it was just me and the kids, preferring not to try to explain my complex family structure to Captain Morgan over live music. Then he asked: “Are these all yours?” waiving at the kids sitting on the blanket in front of me. I responded: “Yes, they are.” Responding with a look of shock, more of telling a drunken frat-boy that his favorite Mexican food place was closed for the night, than of actual intrigue at a dad with his five kids, he then said: “Even that one?!” pointing at my daughter Tennyson. Aside for those of you who don’t know, Tennyson is my little girl that we adopted whose biological mother/father are Mexican. To this I responded: “Yes, especially her. Have a good night.” He mumbled something unintelligible as he walked back to his place on the grass. Both Sabrina and I have experienced things like this through our journey as foster/adoptive parents. I mostly didn’t give this guy any notice since none of the kids had heard the conversation over the band. The kicker with this guy came, though, when he came back a second, and third time! The second time, he came back and tried to offer me money: “You know, to buy something for the kids.” I found this incredibly bizarre and refused. The third time he came back after the concert was over to tell me that he was impressed by me, even though: “You know, you’re kind of a hippie.” I wouldn’t normally take offence at this either, but as he said this, he reached out and touched my hair. Holy creep-me-the-fuck-out batman. We left, I am still left unsettled by my interaction with drunken old dude that has no concept of personal boundaries.
The take home from this interaction of you sanitize all of the creepy drunkenness from the interaction is that it is still apparently odd for people to see a dad out with his kids. Maybe it is the five kids thing. Either way, I get distinctly different reactions from people than 1) I observe moms with the same number of kids getting, or 2) I get when I am out with Sabrina and the kids. I find this hard to comprehend sometimes. My dad was around a lot. He is self-employed and while he wasn’t always available 100% of the time, he was there before and after school and on weekends when my brother and I were with him. It isn’t abnormal for me to have a dad around all the time. Aside from this, I like being around my kids. I like doing it daily and in meaningful chunks of time. That is largely the reason that I am in it with this whole social experiment that we have going on. The idea of being that divorced dad that sees his kids one evening a week and every other weekend simply extinguishes any flame of meaning that my life holds. I would never allow that to happen.
So, today is Father’s Day. In Ouray, the kids and I got to run around while Sabrina got some blogging done in town. We went to the ice-park which was cool, and I am sure 100 times cooler in winter when it is in use! We hiked along the Ouray circumference trail for a bit and then we headed into town to peruse the shops. We grabbed some oranges from the van to snack on and walked from store to store. We bought some postcard to send to loved ones back home (in Phoenix, just to clarify on account of the voluntary homelessness thing at the moment). Throughout the day, I got lots of comments about how well-behaved the kids are and how I must have my hands full (I do not feel this way at all, especially since, at one point in our fostering journey, we had eight kids). As we were about done, we let Sabrina know that we were back at the van, whipping up some quick food for the kids before we made the drive back to Silverton. She finished up her blog for today and then we were off!
My Awesome Little People!
Tajh looking down into the canyon from the rim of the ice park
Tea taking pictures!
This place was AWESOME!
I enjoyed Father’s Day. My kids mean the world to me. Almost every decision I make in life today is filtered through the lens of being a dad. I feel very strongly today, though, that it is not they who owe thanks to me. I owe thanks to them. In fact, I owe almost everything of meaning in my life to my kids. Thank you guys, you are the best little people a dad could ever ask for.
I have this thing with always trying to make every trip as epic as possible. I need to go all the places, do all the things, and end up stressed about not doing enough… Having a 2-year-old is a great reminder to just slow it down. On a recent Mommy and Me trip so southern California we took the toddler pace and had a blast! With one big trek up a snow covered San Jacinto Peak and a lot of tiny hikes on tiny legs we had a great time connecting with each other and taking things slow.