Sunday, January 03, 2016

Road to Rio!

Lowell and his blind ambition had a spectacular 2015... and I don't envision that slowing down for 2016!

My blogging presence has been sporadic at best, and I haven't even documented the results of Lowell and Mark's spontaneous trip to the National Track Cycling Championships in Milton (near Toronto) in OCTOBER. For shame! I shall now remedy that. As I was not even there, consider this my foray into the world of journalism...

For starters- a Mark-and-Lowell selfie. I frequently present Lowell with selfie challenges, and he always delivers. Like, for example, when I requested a selfie with his look-alike-urologist, and he did it... directly following a vasectomy consult. Not awkward, not awkward at all. Anyhoo, this time was no different. I requested selfies, and he sent them.

Mark & Lowell en route to TO...

The boys gearing up to race...

Photo cred: Higuchi Photos.
Selfie cred: Mark. haha.
They participated in two races: the Kilo and the Pursuit. The Kilo was first. It's a 1,000 metre time trial. From standing start to finish, their time was 1:11... five seconds behind the winners, and a respectable third place finish. HELLO BRONZE MEDAL! This was the first time Lowell experienced the "track hack" (a crazy, lingering, blood-tasting cough following intense physical exertion... sounds fun).

Photo cred: Higuchi Photos.
Lowell & Mark don't match because they didn't have time to acquire coordinated jerseys, and also they don't have corporate sponsorship yet... interested?! ;)
The Pursuit was the following day.  The Pursuit is a 4,000-metre (16-lap) race. With blood in their lungs, and screaming quads, they finished in 4:57.... and scored another bronze medal! Flying around a 250-metre track at over 50km/hr proved exhilarating but also challenging. Mark's job was to keep that huge lug of a bike straight and as close to the bottom of the track as possible (despite crazy G-forces), and Lowell's job was to pedal smoothly and not move at all (to prevent crashing).

Photo cred: Higuchi Photos. Boy am I glad Mr. Higuchi was there to capture shots like this... I LOVE this picture!

Two bronze medals! Not too shabby considering Mark and Lowell MET two weeks before the races... Lowell's first true velodrome experience, and the first time Mark plopped his derriere on a tandem. The nubes surely shook things up a bit. I'm willing to bet that the french guys who scored gold and silver cycled right out of the womb... did you SEE those quads? Incredible.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Lowell attended a Paralympic scouting event at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. The timing was perfect in that we were just on our way home from LA when it was going on. Not so perfect, however, because we had been up since 3am, and were running on no exercise and a diet of McDonalds two to four times a day. Still, Lowell was Lowell. He put his mind to the task, and he performed. The organizers were particularly impressed with his power, and following advice from his coach, Stephen, this ultimately led to the decision to shift his focus to track and road cycling (from triathlon), and push for Rio. As in, the Rio De Janeiro Paralympics 2016 (!!!!!!!!!).

Mark is on board, a training plan is in place, an appropriate bike has nearly been purchased, and the boys are on the road to Rio! Because competing in the Paralympics is based on points- and the boys have not had the opportunity to receive points- it's not a surefire thing that they'll make it. However, there are a couple of major races coming up, and if they can do what I know they CAN do... then Rio is a distinct possibility!

Have I mentioned that Lowell is 50lbs lighter than he was a year and a half ago? Talk about setting a goal and sticking to it! The first year that I piloted the tandem for Ride for a Reason (summer 2014), he was literally twice my weight. That made for some tricky piloting.

Photo cred: Shelley Coffey.
The next time (summer 2015), he had already dropped about 40lbs and I could definitely tell... my piloting task became easier!

Photo cred: Shelley Coffey
He has now lost a total of 50lbs AND 17% BODY FAT.... and I might have to kill him if he gets any closer to my weight. Kidding kidding- he doesn't want to lose more mass because mass = power. He just wants the mass to be muscle and not fat. And if I do say so myself (from my completely unbiased wifey perspective), he is looking mighty fine. Sexy beast. *ahem* so anyhoo...

The new tandem that has been (almost) purchased is a used bike that was custom made. The previous owner is a retired competitor, and the measurements just happen to be perfect. What a fortuitous way to save a few (thousand) bucks! There are still many costs ahead, however. Another tandem (as they hope to pursue both road AND track cycling for Rio), proper training equipment, and registrations/flights/accommodations for races for Lowell, Mark, and let's face it... me (hahaha kidding.... sort of).

I know Lowell better than anyone, and I truly believe that he can do anything he puts his mind to... sight or no sight. He's the most determined man I've ever met. He's leading a crazy life with bizarre/amazing opportunities, and I'm just thrilled to be along for the ride. If you want to join me on the journey of supporting Lowell and Mark on the road to Rio, financial support is always an option! He'll be setting up a fancy pants website soon enough, but you can still donate now if you so desire (including corporate sponsorships in exchange for advertising). HERE.

Or you can email money transfer to save fees associated with that fundraising campaign (3%). But still... no pressure. ;)

What will you get out of it? Wellllllll.... nothing. haha. Other than feeling like you are part of his inspirational journey, and obvious BRAGGING RIGHTS! If Lowell and Mark make it to Rio, YOU HELPED GET THEM THERE!! If not Rio, then all funds will be very useful as he sets his sights on Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. THANK YOU!

I'm confident that one of these days, my heart will actually pump right out of my chest with pride!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Disneyland success; Ellen fail.

Surely you remember Grandmere and Poppy- our Kiwi parental figures... they're pretty hard to forget. Well, they invited us to meet them at Disneyland, so... HELLO DISNEYLAND!

Flight day. Of course the woman with the blind husband and two toddlers was selected for extra security screening... but all was well, and the flight was a success. It was Stefan's first flight with his very own seat (and both boys were very proud of that fact). My laptop was loaded with Paw Patrol, and there were plenty of snacks and activities stuffed in our carry-ons. We also had some stuff along for the kids. heheh.

Exchanging selfie text kisses with Nana pre-flight.

After reuniting with Grandmere and Poppy, we made our first of many trips to McDonald's (seriously... we ate there 2-4 times a day for the remainder of the trip). Proximity, price, speed, and caffeine, you guys... that's what brought us there. The processed quality is what motivated us to return repeatedly.

The boys took one look at their bunk beds, and immediately fell in love with our hotel.

The plan for our first full day was to attend a taping of Ellen. In anticipation of this trip, we checked the website obsessively until we were able to apply to attend. We did so immediately... but never heard back (*tear*). Out of desperation for what would undoubtedly be the experience of a lifetime, we emailed, phoned, and then joined the large line at the Warner Brothers lot.

But first we made the obligatory McCafe drive-thru stop. (Sidenote: I was the one responsible for carting these three generations around California. I'm proud (and SO RELIEVED) that I did so successfully.)

We joined hoards of others lined up for Ellen (it was her 2000th episode- taping on Veteran's Day!!). This is me all "I'm gonna say this is not looking hopeful..."

But we were still optimistic...

We were turned away, but all was not lost. While waiting in line, I was facing the parkade (the opposite direction that the rest of the crowd was facing), and I SAW PORTIA! Well, I'm pretty sure I saw Portia. There's a chance it wasn't her, but in my mind IT TOTALLY WAS. When she looked at me through her suave aviators, my jaw went slack and my mouth was incapable of forming words. Seeing Ellen's wife (or at least thinking that I saw her) is the closest thing to seeing Ellen, no? I think so.

The plan was that Lowell would have stayed back with the boys (who, by the way, totally know Ellen and were thrilled to see her photo everywhere "LOOK! It's ELLEN!") but Fraser still felt the disappointment. Clearly...

When we got home, I did myself the disservice of watching the episode that we would have been at. JENNIFER ANISTON WAS THERE! And Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, and Kerry Washington... AND EVERYONE IN THE AUDIENCE GOT AN APPLE WATCH! Lowell and I just about shed actual tears watching what we missed.

Anyhoo. Since Ellen was a bust (I'm still wiping the tears), we thought we'd take in a few other classic LA sights. We drove Rodeo Drive (ritzy!) and took a stroll down the Walk of Fame. Rather a trashy jaunt with irritating tour guides, but an experience to be sure.

Triple fisting the Starbucks!
Poppy's star (as his name is James)!
The walk was peppered with characters (superman, spiderman, minnie...). The boys enjoyed seeing them from afar, but close-up was another matter.

Superman started whipping out his poses RIGHT BESIDE ME, so I threw him a bone and smiled. Grandmere snapped this photo from several feet away, then superman promptly turned to me with his hand out and stated "I pose for tips." Smarmy smarm.

As we left, spiderman was across the street chatting with two women dressed as prostitute cops (I really have no idea what/who they were, but that's the only way I can think to describe their black leather thongy/bikini/police hat look), and Fraser- who didn't even notice the scantily clad women- kept waving, hollering, and interrupting their super important conversation "BYE SPIDERMAN!" haha.

When we got back to our hotel, we went to the PIRATE SHIP WATERPARK.

We didn't get a clear shot of the pirate ship part, so this is from the website. It's not clear either... but doesn't it at least look fun?!

Swimming in my clothes was not a planned event. Fraser- who's used to wearing a life jacket in my parents' hot tub where he can touch the bottom- confidently bee-lined it to the hot tub and leapt in. Thankfully, I was right there to hop in and scoop him up- clothes and all. Then I just continued to swim with them on.

There was a pool at the hotel too. Also very popular with the boys.

Another fun part of the hotel was the giant chair... obviously.

In my defence, I am wearing shorts... they're just pulled weird and look suspiciously like undies.
And finally... DISNEYLAND!

All ready to go in their new Lightning McQueen shades (and Olaf undies) courtesy of Auntie Shareen!

He's got the model pout down.

We're in the gates... and don't the boys appear thrilled?

They looked more excited to be at Ellen. I'm just saying...
It was definitely a function over fashion type of day.
Minnie was the first character the boys spotted, and they frantically waved "HI MINNIE! HI MINNIE!" Mickey was the first lucky character to actually MEET us.

Lowell was at City Hall learning about the benefits for people with disabilities (which, by the way, we were SO grateful for as it essentially eliminated line waits for us), but Lowell rejoined us just as Mickey finished his meet-and-greet session. I called to Mickey, "Lowell just missed you, and IT'S HIS BIRTHDAY!" Then all of Lowell's dreams came true...

Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh were Fraser's fave, and Stefan's favourites were Tigger and Winnie the Pooh.

Fraser had the same routine with each character. He wound up and gave them a huge high five, posed for a picture, then gave them a hug.

Stefan was scared of Eeyore, but Fraser nuzzled right in.

The boys were allowed to pick one souvenir each, and after playing with this little gal and her bubble gun while waiting to meet Pluto, it was a done deal. All we purchased at Disneyland were the $12 bubble guns and ridiculously overpriced corndogs... and I'm cool with that.

Those suckers rivalled the boys for size, and they were super healthy... a nice complement to our McDonald's diet.

Pluto was pretty cute... as was all of Mickey's Toontown. It would be kind of great if all communities were so bubbly, quaint, and idyllic.

Classic photobomb by Grandmere!
The first ride we went on  was the most grown-up and scary... Splash Mountain! Grandmere held all our stuff while we went. She was quietly agreeable/compliant about it. haha.

Although Fraser's face emanates pure terror, he insists it was his favourite ride. The enjoyment that kid gets out of adrenaline rushes terrifies me...

Poppy got soaked AND lost his hat on Splash Mountain... which is likely why the boys enjoyed it so much. That's the first (and possibly only) thing they will tell you about Disneyland! That, and the fact that Poppy replaced his lost hat with an awesome new Mickey hat.

Soaked... and no hat!
Other rides we enjoyed were The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan's Flight, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, It's a Small World, and the Mark Twain Riverboat.

Note Poppy's new Mickey hat!
The Winnie adventure was probably the most tame ride ever invented in the history of the universe. That's possibly why Grandmere looked legitimately embarrassed (I didn't think it was possible) when Lowell and I screamed and hollered as though it was the scariest thing ever. haha. We like to keep people on their toes. Later Fraser commented, "You were scared of the Winnie the Pooh ride, mommy.... I saw your face. But I was fine!"
Stefan was Daddy's boy at Disneyland. Always rushing for Lowell's hand... so cute. 
Stefan requested that Grandmere hold his other hand! Up until then, he had been a tad stand-offish (only wanting mom & dad)... can you tell that Grandmere was pleased?
The Mark Twain Riverboat thingie.

The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. We were just ignoring the fact that diarrhea somehow appeared in Stefan's pants about two minutes before entering the enclosed tube for 15 minutes with 30 strangers.
The stroller parking areas were amusing to me... and also very well used.

The train that goes around the perimeter of the park was pretty cool too.

The bubble guns came in really handy while we waited for the parade to begin!

Pre-Disneyland, the only three characters that the boys expressed interest in were Olaf, Lighting McQueen, and Mater. Probably because the only movie they've seen (besides Curious George) is Cars (they don't do well with plot lines and bad guys), and Stef has an Olaf stuffie. They planned to "pick Olaf's nose" and "have a conversation with Lightning McQueen." We felt kinda bad that the Cars and Frozen characters weren't even part of main Disneyland (they're part of California Adventure which would have been an additional cost that we opted out of). The final event of the day was the light parade. It was amazing, and the boys got to see Lightning McQueen and Olaf! When people told me that they became emotional entering Disneyland, I knew that wouldn't be me. However, witnessing the boys' sheer elation when they spotted Olaf, admittedly made me a little teary-eyed. But just a little. ;)

Worst picture EVER... extra points if you even spot
Olaf amongst the blur!
Ten hours straight with no naps, no real breaks, and only processed crap for food... the boys did amazingly well.

Fraser and Stefan loved Disneyland, but they LOVE LOVE LOVED the hotel. Whenever we were out, they pleaded "can we go back to our hotel now?" While at the hotel, Fraser commented, "I love it here- I never want to leave." Then very dramatically added, "I want to stay TILL WE ALL DIE!" Even when we were at Disneyland (the happiest place on earth, in case you hadn't heard), I was outlining the afternoon of events and ended with "and then we'll go back to our hotel." Fraser absolutely lit up, "Our HOTEL?! We get to go back to OUR HOTEL?!" Well I'm so glad we spent so much money on Disneyland. Next time, perhaps we book a room at the local Holiday Inn.

Day three was Lowell's birthday! We had yet another McDonald's meal (why change a good thing?) then headed to Newport to beach it up. It was Stefan's first time at the ocean!

Stefan always insists on wearing his hat super low like that. Or he wears it sideways/backwards and says, "I a punk!"
Speaking of BABES...
Hi Grandmere and Poppy!
The sand dune called the boys' names.

Classic Lowell...

Like father, like sons...

Grandmere was holding our camera for a sec, and when I caught her taking selfies with it, I grabbed my phone as fast as humanly possible and captured shots of her snapping selfies. Classic Grandmere... classic.

My shot.
Her shot.
My shot.
Her shot.
Her shot again.
My shot.
Her shot.

Her shot again.
And Poppy sitting there so innocently observing.
 Hahahaha! Please don't kill me for posting those, Grandmere.

After some beachy playground time (where Lowell and Poppy released their inner children) and a Mexican Fiesta, we finished the day at the Pirate Ship waterpark... and McDonald's (you expected someplace else?)

It was early to bed as we woke up at 3am to catch our flight home. The boys stayed awake from 3am until we were in our van at the Calgary airport around 11am. We hadn't even left the parkade by the time they were both sound asleep. Before heading home, Lowell attended a Paralympic scouting event at Canada Olympic Park...because of course he did... but that's a story for another day. ;)

Thanks for the fun times, Grandmere and Poppy... we look forward to a do-over of the Ellen experience with you!