Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Look, I found it! There's Wisconsin!

A little bit less than a week ago, after two 16 hour car rides and an Ironman, Mum, Dad, Lilly and I all returned safely and soundly from Wisconsin.  As nice as it was to be away, Mum and Dad breathed a pretty loud sigh of relief to drop me off in Stamford, where I was no longer their responsibility should the baby arrive.  I too, was relieved to be home, although I didn't think this baby would arrive 3 weeks early.

It was a fantastic road trip--Lilly's first road trip over 6 hours--and I have to say that the drives there and back were some of my favorite parts of the week.  We took Dad's truck (even a week later, Lilly still asks to go for a ride in Papa's truck), and I was sprawled out in the back seat with pillows, blankets and my trusty backseat companion, Lilly.  Dad drove and Mum directed...and did quite a bit of knitting along the endless highways.  We split the drive up into two days each way, stopping to spend the night in Toledo, Ohio.  Or, as Lilly calls it, "Opio".  She now asks to go back to Opio frequently, although I really can't imagine why.  We spent our time there in a hotel, rest stops and on the highway.  Nothing that exciting, but apparently it stuck with her.  The drives were hysterical.  Between Dad's stories and hypothetical situations and Lilly's constant narration of the trip, there was little silence on the road.  Except when Lilly was sleeping.  And when Lilly slept, we all enjoyed the hours of silence.

We learned about the "Move Over America Law" when an Indiana State Trooper pulled us over and lectured us for a good half hour about the importance of the law, which apparently is a law in every state but Hawaii and DC.  Who knew?  He let Dad off with a warning.  I think it might have had something to do with the Australian accents, a woman knitting in the front seat, a 2 year old asking constant questions about the policeman and a pregnant woman in the back.  Dad made sure to follow the law closely for the rest of the drive and has educated everyone he has come into contact with since then about the law.  

Lilly perfected her ability to ask "Whyyyyyyyy?" in almost any situation.  She spent hours reading a variety of books, although her preference when given the choice was to read her princess book--a gift from the girls next door that is more popular than I could possibly have imagined.  In particular, Lilly became enamored with Tarzan, who for some reason, she calls "Johan".  I have no idea why, as she's perfectly capable of saying Tarzan.  She'll actually correct me when given the chance...something along the lines of, "No, Mummy, not Tarzan...Johan."  So, she became an expert on the story of Johan.  We had the same conversation about Tarzan about a dozen times.  It went like this:

Lilly:  Why is Johan nuny nuny Mummy?
Me:  Because he lives in the jungle.
Lilly:  Why does Johan live in the jungle?
Me:  I'm not sure why.  (I didn't want to tell her his parents were killed so he was raised by the apes).
Lilly:  Why is Johan wearing undies?
(after we all stopped laughing...every never got less funny!)
Me:  Because everyone wears undies.
Lilly:  What is Johan saying?
Me:  (I made my best Tarzan noise, complete with chest pounding)
Lilly:  Whyyyyy?
Me: Because Tarzan is happy.
Lilly:  Whyyy?
Me:  Because he lives in the jungle with Jane and the monkeys.
Lilly:  He's nuny nuny Mummy?


You can see how we would go around and around in circles.  Sometimes Mum and Dad would chime in but eventually, the only way out was to change the subject...or stop for a bathroom break, which were very frequent indeed.  Lilly learned to go straight to the "big bathroom" (aka the handicapped stall), so we could both fit.  She learned to recognize the Dunkin Donuts logo and to ask for a pink donut with Halloween sprinkles, which she would eat off one by one, followed by the frosting, leaving only the bottom of the donut which she so kindly offered to Papa every time.

We listened to music, which Lilly expressed her opinions on.  She often asked who was singing.  While we were listening to Mozart, Lilly told Dad, "I no want to listen to Wolfgang, Papa.  I want to listen to Prince Ali."  Prince Ali, from Aladdin, is currently her favorite song.  She and Jim sing it together every night and Lilly knows more of the words than I do.  I hear her singing it to herself (rather loudly) before nap time most days.  While we put on the Disney playlist once in the car (at the end of our first day driving, when we'd been in the car for 11 hours), Lilly spent most of her time telling Dad what music of his she preferred.  When she didn't like something, we'd say, "If you don't like it, you don't have to listen to it," to which she responded, "okay" and sat there looking out the window.  Here is a snippet of Lilly singing Prince Ali in the car.  You have to know the song really well to understand anything other than "Prince Ali."  And I think Lilly takes after Jim.  She makes up the words when she doesn't know them!

Lilly is generally very good in the car on trips, but I had no idea how the 16 hour drive each way would go.  I have to say that this was one of those times when I was extremely proud of her.  There was no crying or whining.  She was happy to read, look out the window, have snacks, take naps, talk and talk and talk, and do it all over again.  She made the trip entertaining and fun for all of us.  We drove well past her bed time and ate at restaurants when it was way too late for her, but she was happy.  She slept on a toddler aero bed in our hotel room, and loved it.  We kept telling her we were going on an expedition to Wisconsin, and every time we got in the truck she was just as excited as the first.  Mum and Dad chatted and sang with her, and we all enjoyed the drives much more than we thought.

Here are some of the pictures I sent to Jim while we were on the road.  They're a pretty good recap of our time in the car.

Wearing Papa's hat

My lopsided (huge!) stomach.

Lilly's aero bed, next to my pull out couch bed, next to Mum and Dad's bed.  We were nice and cozy in Toledo, OH.

While the time in the car was memorable, the real reason for going all the way to Madison in the first place was for the Ironman.  While some of us spent two days in the car getting there, others flew in with about 4 hours of total travel time.  Mum, Dad, Lilly and I arrived in Wisconsin on Wednesday afternoon.  Jim and Brogan flew in on Thursday morning, and Joseph and Liana flew in on Friday.  Similarly, they all flew out after the race, and we (well, really Dad and Jim) packed up the truck for the two day journey home.  There may have been a little bit of bitterness; when Jim mentioned that he had a crying two year old on the flight, Dad looked like he was about to punch him, and said he hoped that nothing awful happened, like running out of pretzels or something equally catastrophic.

When we arrived at the house, Lilly pointed to the house and said, "Look, I found it!  There's Wisconsin!"  And from then on, she referred to the house as Wisconsin.  Once again, like all the Ironman houses we've stayed at, this one had its quirks.  Describing them won't do them justice.  Mum and Dad's pictures and some of the ones from my phone will.   (I lost my camera charger so have NO pictures from this trip...)  It had a beautiful balcony and was right on a lake, so we all enjoyed the time there and spent the majority of it outside.  These are the lead up pictures to the race.

Lilly claimed this full size bed as hers.  Lucky Brogan, her roommate who is at least 6'3", slept in a twin bed.  Lilly was obsessed with Brogan and woke up in the morning, would walk over to his bed and ask him to read her princess book to her :)

Mum's personal favorite.  On our first night there, Mum was lying on the floor with tears pouring down her face because she was laughing so hard after discovering this!

Lilly and Gigi sitting on "the beach," as Lilly called it.  Lilly quickly learned that she was only allowed to go to "the beach" with a grownup.

Playing with her new buddy, Brogan, at the park.

"Brogan, why do you have a kangaroo (tattoo) on your leg?  I no have a kangaroo on my leg?"

There's something not quite right about this picture!

And I officially lost Jim to the world of triathlete fashion.  Shaved legs, compression socks and shorts.  I sent this picture to Ellie with a plea for help, as she is disgusted by the fashion, or lack thereof, at an Ironman.

Lilly and "Wiana," as she calls Liana, on an expedition because Liana is a grown up.

Gigi, Liana and Lilly, hanging out on "the beach"

Loved her morning bagel and cream cheese!

Off to test out their bikes

Helping get the transition bags ready.

And of course, the reason we were there...Race Day.

Joseph wrote about what it was like to race in Wisconsin here.  He also has some great blogs leading up to the race.  I loved reading about race day from Joseph's point of view.  In particular, his description of Mum on race day is perfect.  I read it a few times and every time, loved it more, because it describes Mum and all that she does so beautifully.  We spent the week missing Edward and Ellie.  It felt strange to have all the boys racing an Ironman and for Edward not to be there.  I know it was hard for Edward not to be there.  We talked to him daily and he wrote a letter to the athletes that made me cry (I've cried more in the past few weeks than usual, and I'm blaming it on the pregnancy!)  And Ellie is the most fun spectator to have with you during the long spectating day, so she was sorely missed on the course, by athletes and spectators alike.

As I said, the emotions for me on race day were running high.  Hearing the cannon go off. Mike Reilly's voice and U2's Beautiful Day playing, as the athletes started swimming made me burst into tears.  I thought of Jim out there with the other 2799 athletes.  I knew how much time he put into training for this race.  I thought of him fighting to find space to swim, getting kicked and punched until the field of athletes spreads out.  I heard this little voice next to me yelling, "Go Daddy!" over and over again.  Not only was I cheering for my husband, who I love more today than when we first started dating almost 11 years ago.  But I was cheering for a Dad, who along with my Dad is the best Dad I know.  And I couldn't help but cry.

These are the only videos I have from race day.  And they're ones that we'll keep forever.  I meant to get video of them all as they passed by, but it turned out that being nine months pregnant and looking after a toddler proved to be quite the job.  I couldn't manage the flip video as well.

I wish I had captured Lilly's face as she was cheering.  She thought the man in the kayak was Jim, so she wondered why he wasn't going anywhere!  Lilly was so excited to cheer and to "see" Jim out there.

Joseph's recap of the race sums up most of the day.  It was a tough race for everyone--especially Dad.  When I learned from Mum that she'd seen Dad come into T2 and that he could no longer keep any liquids or food down, I did what I do well these days and burst into tears.  It's one of those things that doesn't seem fair to me.  Dad loves this sport more than anyone I know.  He puts so much time and effort into his training and epitomizes everything great about triathlons.  He's raced them from the very beginning, and even as these Ironman races get more and more extravagant, Dad remembers what they're all about.  He doesn't set out to break records; he sets out to enjoy himself and have a great race.  So it doesn't seem fair that someone who loves the sport so much encounters insurmountable obstacles like this on race day.  Dad handled this as he handles all situations--with integrity, and with nothing but supportive family by his side.  I know there are many more races in Dad's future, and I'll be there cheering.  

While we were out on the course, Lilly and I met up with Butter, a good friend from BC who Lilly now talks about daily.  Butter spent the day on the course with us and I wouldn't have survived without him.  He played with Lilly, and we spent lots of time chatting while we waited for the athletes.  Butter kept checking to make sure that Lilly and I were both okay and just made the day more fun overall.  Sarah and Ross were out on the course too, and it was fun to see familiar faces and cheer with them on the bike course.  Lilly was thrilled to see her Aunt Ween, Ross and of course, Blue the dog.  Lilly and I took a cheering break in the middle of the day to go back to the house and rest, and then came back out onto the course to cheer during the run.  We saw everyone out there, and as it was a hot day, we got to chat with everyone racing as they came by.  They were more than happy to stop and catch up for a few minutes before starting the run again.  Lilly loved seeing Brogan, Dad and Jim out on the bike and run courses, but for some reason, she didn't react too well to Joef.  I think it may have been the spikey hair...or the the beard...or his entire outfit.  I'm not too sure.  Either way, she backed away from him and protected her apple until she was sure he was safely out of sight.

We saw Jim many times on the run course and were there when he finished, after what was a long, hot day of racing.  I couldn't have been prouder of Jim and what he accomplished out there on what I know was a difficult day.  Every time we saw him, he smiled, gave us both kisses, and went on his way.  He was in great spirits after he finished.  It meant a lot to me that Lilly see her Dad accomplish what he did that Sunday.  She's seen him come home from countless hours of training, and even though I don't think she'll remember Ironman Wisconsin, I'll always remember hearing her cheer for Jim at the start, and seeing her face light up every time she saw him on the course.  She even offered to share her smoothie with him on the run, and Lilly doesn't often share smoothies.  She loves her Dad, and I love my husband.  Jim made us both proud that day.  When it was all over, we gave him hugs and Lilly promptly fell asleep in her stroller.  We sat by the finish line until close to midnight while Jim and I chatted and laughed and he filled me in on the race day details that you only experience by being out on the course.  And so ended Ironman Wisconsin 2011.

Our amazing little spectator, proud of her dad and sleeping by the finish line.

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