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Nicole Ludwig

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Walnut Grove PoolAnother lifetime ago, I decided to finally get around to completing my Water Safety Instructor Trainer (WSIT, for the uninitiated). I’d left recreation a year or two earlier because I was tired of people who argued over who gets to sit in front of the jets in the hot tub. When I explained to my mentor that I wanted to use the instructor trainer stuff as extra income, he laughed at me and said, “No you don’t. You’ll be back. You’re a lifer.”

I snarkily mentioned something about the pot calling the kettle black, and he said something to the effect of, “Well, at least *I* admit it.

I huffed and puffed and said to myself that I would be damned if I became a lifer.

Over the next 10 years or so, I slowly let a bunch of certifications expire: Lifesaving Instructor (Trainer), National Lifeguard Services (NLS) (Instructor), First Aid (Instructor) and really only kept up my Red Cross WSIT award, eventually becoming a Master Instructor Trainer (MIT) and gaining a reputation for being Really Good At This.

* * * * *

Earlier in the year, I burned out teaching these courses. Shannon was going through a really clingy phase, Darren was working every other Sunday and it was just too much for our family. I finished up the course I was teaching, bailed on a second that I’d originally agreed to and declared a year long hiatus on teaching, citing family reasons.

Back before Christmas, a client contacted me and begged me to teach a Water Safety Instructor course. I hemmed and hawed about it, sent them a quote, we did a bit of back and forth on how much I would be paid (read: double what I usually get paid), and away we went.

It was an excellent class – six very strong candidates. It was a crash course, which I usually abhor, but it was over quickly instead of having it spread out over five or seven weekends.

About day three, the candidates were in the water teaching their classes. I emerged onto the deck and surveyed what was going on. I walked under the waterslide and watched an NLS class practicing hand and whistle signals. I watched the instructor candidates. I saw lifeguards communicating with each other and dealing with the public.

And for an instant I missed it. I missed the noise, the light, the splashing – the helping people (except for the people hogging the jets in the hot tub. I still don’t miss that.)

In the next instant, I thought, “Oh crap. He was right.”

And then I realized I had a goal for the year: get my NLS certification back. I’m at the point where I’d have to take the course again, but I’m okay with that. Or rather, I will be okay when I get fit enough to do it.

Next up:  a swimcap and goggles purchase to practice swimming. Because there’s no way I’m swimming two or three times a week without them.

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NO, You’re Not, or Preschoolers and Attitude

The word “No” used to be kind of cute coming out of my preschooler’s mouth. I would ask her things like:

Do you like Stephen Harper? No!
Do you like Brussels sprouts)? No!
Does a bear poop in the woods? No!

And then she turned from a toddler with burgeoning language skills into a preschooler, with attitude.

Me: “Okay, kiddo, one story and then bedtime. I’m tired.”
Shannon: “No you’re not!”
Me: :facepalm:

And it’s this sort of exchange that has me arguing with a four year old on an almost daily basis. We had a chat about saying “No” to everything and she agreed to stop and think about it.

Me: “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding.”
Shannon: “Yes I can!”
Me: :headdesk:

So we read the Star Trek Book of Opposites  and had a talk about opposites and going along with what other people want sometimes, or a lot of the time, and not just saying the opposite of what the other person says just because she can. I wasn’t entirely sure it would work. Then, the other weekend:

Shannon: Can I have ice cream, please?
Me: After you finish your noodles.
Shannon: Grrrrrr. :blows a raspberry:
Me: :looks at her and raises an eyebrow:
Shannon: Can I have my noodles please? And sit at the table while you fold laundry?
Me: Of course.

So she sat there and scarfed down her noodles. And then she got her ice cream. Then she put play doh on the clean clothes.


(And yes, the Star Trek Book of Opposites is awesome. So is Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess).


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Walking in Parking Lots with Children

I am scared of walking in parking lots with Shannon. I don’t mind walking on sidewalks along busy highways or bypasses with her – at least there I can put myself between her and the cars.

When I first started my current job, I met a woman whose small son had been hit by a runaway shopping cart in a parking lot. Her son ended up with a brain injury, her marriage fell apart and instead of being the teacher she always wanted to be, she became an advocate for her son and people with brain injuries and hidden disabilities generally. Because of the shopping cart, her son had permanent brain damage and associated behavioural problems.

A friend of mine whose wife works with people with disabilities said it quite succinctly: “The sad part is, if he’d been hit by a car, ICBC would take care of him.”

And I am scared of parking lots with cars and shopping carts. Especially shopping carts.

* * * * *

One Friday, I was driving home and heard the news: a mother and her 2 year old son had been hit by a minivan in a mall parking lot in Pitt Meadows. I was horrified and tempted to stop off there on the way home – but the mother and son had long since been taken to hospital and I would just be in the way of police and others trying to figure out what happened.

She had a broken leg; her son had passed away, said the talking heads.

I went home and hugged Shannon and checked my Facebook to find that a few of my local friends had posted they were okay and thanking friends for calling.

* * * * *

Last week there was a candlelit vigil at Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge for the little boy. I didn’t go – I got home late and hadn’t slept well and was tired. I slept with Shannon in her bed (apparently I snore and have been keeping Darren awake).

I woke up every couple of hours and finally called it quits at 4am. I got up and made some coffee, did some online Christmas shopping, and for some reason started googling news articles about the accident.

The little boy’s name was Riddick.

* * * * *

Last year, I enrolled Shannon in a dance class because she loved dancing. I talked just about every week to one of the mothers there who had her daughter in the same class. I never learned her name but I did learn many things about her in the way that parents do when they chat to each other.

One day, she explained the origin of her kids’ names. She had wanted unusual names.

She named her daughter Temperance. Temperance was about a year older than Shannon and lost a tooth at their final recital.

I met most of her family there – her parents would attend and we would chat. Once or twice she brought her son along with her.

Her son’s name was Riddick.

* * * * *

 I hate walking in parking lots with Shannon, more than ever.



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Halloween Tales: The Fairy Princess and the Spider

Once upon a time there was a Fairy Princess who lived in the Realm of the Ridge of Maples with her mother, the Queen, and her father the Legionnaire. They lived in a smallish castle, connected to and surrounded by other smallish castles.

One day, shortly before the Celebration of Turkey Thanks, the Fairy Princess took a walk with the Legionnaire to fetch a message from the Posts of Canada baskets. The wizard and sorceress two castles down were out and about and decorating their castle for All Hallows’ Eve. They had hung black cobwebs from the garage overhang turrets, and into their bushes had placed the remains of those who had displeased them. The Wizard that lived there had enchanted the skulls so that they glowed with the power of light emitting diodes and let out howls of remorse.

The Fairy Princess went to see the All Hallows’ Eve decorations and approached a spider. When she got close to it, the spider leaped out at her! The Fairy Princess shrieked in fear so loudly that the Queen, who was at home enjoying a glass of wine mead, with all the windows and doors closed and two castles away, heard her shriek. “Well,” thought the Queen. “My Legionnaire will protect her!”

Shortly thereafter the Fairy Princess ran into the castle to find her mother. “Mother!” she said “The wizard and sorceress have a JUMPING SPIDER!”

“Oh?” said the Queen. “Did it bite you?”

“Nooooooo,” cried the Fairy Princess, crawling into her mother’s lap, thereby displacing the blog post scroll the Queen was writing. “But I was SCARED!”

When the Legionnaire entered, he was full of mirth woe. “The Wizard and Sorceress have an enchanted spider! When you pass by it, it jumps to protect the townhouse castle.”

The Fairy Princess buried her face in her mother’s breasts, seeking comfort. The Queen attempted to contain her tears of laughter distress.

At the next section of two days with no meetings, the Queen and the Queen Mother took the Fairy Princess to the dollar store market where she chose some decorations for All Hallows’ Eve and some new fairy wings.

Despite this, the Fairy Princess did not want to go visiting on all Hallows’ Eve. The morning of the big event, the Queen asked the Fairy Princess if she was going trick or treating. “No,” answered the Fairy Princess. “I just want to stay home and tell you when other little princes and princesses come to the door.”

“You don’t want to go get candy and treats?” asked the Queen in disbelief. “No,” said the fairy princess. “We have lots already.”

The Queen considered this a win.

Later that afternoon, the Fairy Princess’ Governess took her to the market for some trick and treating. She arrived with a bag of candy and treats and began sorting.

When the Queen arrived home and had fortified herself with some wine mead, the Fairy Princess disguised herself as a Dragon-Bumblebee-Fairy Princess and went adventuring to seek tricks and treats.

The Queen, the Fairy Princess and the Governess went to four neighbouring castles where everyone knew her and filled up her bag with treats again. On the way back to her castle, the Dragon Bumblebee Fairy Princess refused to walk past the Wizard and Sorceress’ castle. When she got past, she ran all the way home and slammed the castle gate behind her.

The end.

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The Things I Said I’d Never Do: Soccer Mom

Hugh Jackman without a shirt.

Hugh Jackman, Without a shirt. You’re welcome.

You know that column on your life list (or whatever you call it) that’s called “I will never, ever in a million years, ever do this even if they pay me lots and lots of money and Hugh Jackman without a shirt is there”?

One of those things in my column was “Team Sports” and more specifically “Soccer”. I am not a Team Sports person. I am a swimmer, an ice skater (or used to be), and a very infrequent runner. In fact, I’m not a fan of running, which is why “Soccer” was in the shirtless Hugh Jackman column.

That was, at least, until I got an email from my daughter’s soccer club saying they’d have to cancel her section because there was no head coach. And my daughter loves soccer. She actively misses it when she’s not playing and asks to go play soccer.

Apparently, my daughter’s potential disappointment overrides lots and lots of money and a shirtless Hugh Jackman.

Darren and I discussed it, and we decided that one of us should do it. The problem is that he often works Sundays and has to be there. And so I became a Soccer Coach.





Let me say the only things I know about soccer are that (1) you kick the ball with your foot; (2) you don’t use your hands, ever; and (3) Christine Sinclair rocks.

Christine Sinclair :o

Christine Sinclair – Photo Courtesy Frog Photography

I’ve been reassured that they have technical staff to provide ongoing training throughout however, I think I should be getting a little instruction.

They offer a Soccer Mom program to teach skills and tactics and rules. So I’ve signed up for it, Sunday evenings from 9 to 10.

Unfortunately Hugh Jackman, with or without a shirt, will likely not be there. But at least I’ll be able to keep up with the preschoolers. I hope.

Anyone want to join me? And what have you done for your kids, despite the lack of a shirtless Hugh Jackman and/or lots and lots of money?

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Fabulous Fridays – August 9, 2013


Things that are making my Friday fabulous:

  1. It’s Friday and it’s sunny!
  2. I’ve been taking an online learning course through work and it’s WAY overdue for a variety of reasons. I finished that course today.
  3. I have one week/five days of work left and then I’m on vacation! For three weeks!
  4. The Poptart has reached some sort of behavioural milestone (I hope) – she’s starting to use her words instead of whining and pointing. It takes some prompting, but she now realizes she’s more likely to get what she wants when she tells us or shows us.

What’s making your Friday fabulous?

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Keeping up with the Preschooler

My preschooler, the apple of my eye, the twinkle in my star (and sometimes the thorn in my side), is a Very Busy Person. In fact, she’ll tell you that.

Me: Okay, pumpkin, time to clean up your cars and then it’s shower time.

Shannon: In a minute, I’m too busy!

(True story).

She started walking at 10.5 months, and two weeks later walked around the entire Greater Vancouver Zoo. About a week after that, she forgot how to walk. She now runs, skips and dances everywhere.

Our solution to her boundless energy? Short of siphoning it off, bottling it and selling it (thereby becoming independently wealthy)? Lots and lots of outside time, especially during the summer when it’s hot and nice out.

Thrice a week, she’s at the water park. Twice a week she does activities at the rec centre – “Duck, Duck, Splash!” is her new favourite game. If she’s not at the waterpark, she’s in her blow up pool in the afternoon.

As someone who taught swimming for 20 years, I can tell you, there’s nothing like water to douse preschooler energy. After a late morning/early afternoon in the pool or at the water park, the Poptart is quite exhausted and will often just pass out on the sofa for a couple of hours.

The problem with this? It’s also exhausting to the parents. Particularly parents who have some extra weight to carry around.

Darren hopped on the bandwagon of fat loss and muscle gain in January. He’s down 40lbs or so and is starting to get lean.

I hopped on our new scale in January and didn’t like the number I saw. I’m down about 15 lbs but haven’t been motivated to do anything beyond that. I’m finding I just don’t have the focus. I started with the Isagenix system, which is okay, but worked for me for about 10lbs and that was it. Darren, on the other hand, can have two shakes and a large meal per day and drop 10lbs in a day (I exaggerate, but not by much). The Isagenix system includes two “super cleanse” days per week for the first two weeks, where all you get are “snacks!” (chalky crunchy things that are designed to give you some nutrients), water, and some sort of powdered drink that tastes better warm than cold. By the end of the first day, I had a raging headache. By the end of the second day, all I wanted to do was eat because my blood sugar was so damn low.

So partly because I am jealous of Darren, and partly because I want to keep up with my preschooler, I’ve hopped back on the weight loss and fitness bandwagon. I’m not actually concerned about weight loss, but want to firm up and wear a smaller size.

For me, it boils down to three aspects: accountability, nutrition and exercise.

Daily accountability has taken the form of a Jawbone UP! It’s a bracelet-like device that tracks your sleep and movement. It also tracks your nutrition and activity if you plug it into the app. Full review next week (not sponsored – I paid for it). Weekly accountability will be in the form of a blog post on Saturdays (which will also be a planned “cheat” day).

Nutrition: I’m starting with Dr. Oz’s two day cleanse. I know a lot of it is hype, but he has quite a few easy recipes with whole ingredients. And I tried his quinoa with prunes breakfast the other day and wasn’t hungry for most of the day. Although, because I forgot to get flax oil, I substituted ground flax and coconut oil instead.

Focused exercise at least three days per week. By focused, I mean a class or a video that gets my heart pumping and my body sweating. I have my own sandbag now (which Ivan kindly filled for me) and I can use that at home. I’ve also started the “You Are Your Own Gym” program, which teaches you to lift your own body weight as resistance exercise. I like those videos because it’s one guy, former military, and he’s actually working during the videos.

Unfocused exercise: Taking my preschooler for walk/run around the park after work as long as it’s still light out and not pouring rain. If it’s too late, we’ll go in the back yard and toss a ball around and blow bubbles. On weekends, we’ll go to the water park or swimming and splash around in the pool. I am determined to become the best role model I can for her. And I’m determined to keep up with her – at least sometimes.

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Fabulous Fridays – August 2, 2013

Fabulous Fridays



A new weekly installment: Fabulous Fridays – seeking to answer the question “What makes your Friday fabulous?”

1. I found my transit pass right where I had dropped it two days earlier. On Tuesday, I got off the West Coast Express and found my pass was missing. It had been clipped to my pocket but it was gone. I alerted West Coast Express and they said they’d call if it was found. In the meantime I could buy day passes and they would reimburse me. Two days later, I went to the same seat on the train again and found it jammed between the wall and the seat. It’s not really an issue, but because it’s an employer pass, it costs me $50 to replace it if I lose it. It’s now safely in my wallet rather than having it clipped to my clothing.

2. I have the house to myself this weekend. Darren has taken Shannon up to Kelowna to visit his parents for a few days. It’s my bi-yearly staycation. I’m taking the opportunity to do a cleanse. The cleanse starts tomorrow because Friday is pizza and wine night. I plan on reading a lot, shampooing the rug and purging Shannon’s toys. And maybe some laundry because they wouldn’t like it if I go to work naked.

3. The light at the end of the work tunnel has arrived, and it’s not a train. July has been horrendously busy at work – I haven’t seen it this busy in YEARS. I had my last meeting on yesterday and we’re done for the summer.

4. I have two more weeks of work and then I’m off for three weeks. Plans include taking Shannon to visit my parents, taking Shannon to the aquarium (because she wants to go so badly and see the Belugas), and taking Shannon to wherever she wants to go including horseback riding.

5. When I went on maternity leave, my coworkers threw me a baby shower and my present was a gift certificate to Spa Utopia. That was over four years ago and I still have not used it. On Sunday, I’ll be going to the spa.

Now it’s your turn. What’s making your Friday Fabulous?

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Pride (In the name of love)*

Rainbow Crosswalks in Vancouver by YVRBCBro

Rainbow Crosswalks in Vancouver by YVRBCBro

We work very hard to teach our daughter empathy and kindness. Both Darren and I are only children, often in the worst sense of the word. I personally work very hard to stop and think how other people might be feeling and think outside myself. I’m not perfect and I often slip up. And I find when I’m slipping up, the Universe or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever Power there may be has a way of bringing me back to reality.

The other day, I had the privilege to attend a Pride Week discussion. The panel included elected officials and prominent members of the LGBTQ community in Vancouver. Age ranges went from early 20s all the way up to seniors (whose ages I won’t mention because well, you never ask a lady her age).

All were asked to answer the question “What would you tell your 20 year old self?”

Aside from noting that she would tell her 20 year old self to stop sleeping with men, one panelist noted that she had become what, as 20 year old, she had sighed and rolled her eyes at when seeing feminist activists with their signs saying “Down with the Patriarchy” at university. Karma, she called it.

She said (and I am paraphrasing here – I am not so eloquent as her), that’s it’s not about tolerance – it’s about kindness and stopping to think and understand what people are actually advocating about.

To take it to another level, it’s a matter of showing some pride and love in the fact that we’re all in this together, and how we treat each other matters. How everyone should be afforded the same basic rights and be free to exercise those rights. How two men kissing, or two women kissing, or a man and a woman kissing in public are merely Public Displays of Affection.

Another woman on the panel – a First Nations woman who was one of the designers for the 2010 Olympic medals – mentioned that at some point, a random person on the street had come up to her and her girlfriend on the street as they were holding hands and said, “You look so happy. You should get married.”

And that is the crux of it. The right to marry, to be happy, to love who we love and show that love freely should be allowed to everyone.

And the fact is, rights is not a zero sum game: my rights as a straight, seemingly white, woman are not taken away because a gay woman has the right to love who she wants. In fact, I believe those rights are strengthened when they are afforded to everyone.

On the matter of Russia, they have taken this one step further by allowing officials to arrest and detain anyone suspected of being LGBTQ for two weeks. This demonstrates a clear step backwards in terms of Russia becoming a democracy in more than name only. The right to freedom of movement, and freedom from unlawful search and seizure are paramount in any democracy.

In the United States, the right for gay couples to marry has come under fire. Although the US Supreme Court has deemed it unconstitutional to prevent gay couples from marrying, there is still a large part of the population and elected officials who believe otherwise.

Both of these examples show a belief of rights being a zero sum game.

And while my four year old may not understand “rights” or “zero sum” (yet), she can understand kindness.

While I get a slap in the face to think beyond myself.

So this Pride week, and beyond, let’s show each other some kindness, some understanding and even some love.

*Title shamelessly borrowed from U2

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Water Safety Wednesdays: Blow-Up Pool Safety

For background information on Water Safety Wednesday, please go to this entry.

My kid loves the water. It’s only recently that she’s started putting her face under the water willingly (which irked me to no end because, hello? 20 plus years experience teaching swimming?).

A couple of years ago she got a blow-up pool from her grandparents as a present. She’d spend long summer days splashing until her lips turned purple. This most recent heatwave is no exception. Canada Day weekend, it was stinkin’ hot so we blew up the pool and put it out in the sun. We spent a few hours in it and then I noticed it was deflating. It held up enough for the weekend, but on Tuesday, I went and bought her a new blow up pool – this one big enough for all of us to sit in at the same time.


Water Safety Wednesday: Fun in the backyard

Blow-up pools are fun. You can sit on the edge and roll into them (so long as you don’t go head first because broken heads and broken necks are no fun):

Water Safety Wednesday: Fun in the backyard

















They also require adult supervision – kids can drown in as little as two inches of water, folks.















In Australia, apparently this particular pool is subject to fencing rules:
Water Safety Wednesday: Australian Pool Fencing Rules This pool isn’t subject to pool fencing rules in BC, but it raises a good point about the need for safety and supervision around ALL backyard pools. In fact in most areas, backyard pool fencing regulations are covered at the municipal level.

So if you’re looking into installing an in-ground or above-ground pool in your backyard, check into your local requirements.

If you’re like us and have a minimal backyard and make use of a blowup pool, please, for the love of whatever deity/spirit you believe in:
- Don’t leave the pool unattended

- Don’t leave the pool full overnight (not only will stagnant water attract bugs, but it’s a drowning hazard)

- DO watch your kids and others in the pool. Heck, get in and join them.

- DO watch your kids’ colour when they’re in there. Remember how when you were a kid you could stay out for hours in the snow? Kids don’t feel cold. If they’re starting to shiver, have goosebumps or their lips are turning purple, get them out and get them dry and warmed up.

- DO use sunscreen and sunglasses. Because the sunlight reflects off the water and comes down from overhead, it’s much easier to burn. Add a hat if you like.

If your child is burns easily, look for some UV rated clothing – you can get rashies and swim shorts/leggings in them.

What are your tips for safe, backyard summer fun?

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