I'm a stalker

Don't ask questions.


Humbug Brazil

Apparently everyone knows that getting a visa to visit Brazil is exceptionally cumbersome and expensive (hundreds of HowTos and travel forums on on the interwebs with often conflicting information make that crystal clear). Apparently Brazil has intentionally made it difficult as a way to get back at the USA for making 'their visa process so cumbersome and expensive for Brazilians ("Take THAT America!").

Apparently it's made my morning stressful and I'm still mad about it.

Lessons learned:

One. If you want to save the $150+ in agency fees, you've got to get to a Brazilian Consulate in person. I'm lucky to have a brother in the area willing to step in and help out with an in-person appointment, between nine and noon in downtown San Francisco. I also got the "in-person or by an immediate family member" discount. Porter's fee was $20 extra for the convenience.

Two. If you're coming and leaving the country on a normal schedule, you should be fine. If you're planning on arriving or departing overland, on a whim, as the wind carries you, good luck. We sent our confirmed travel plans into the country as well as a signed statement of when and where we are planning on exiting (Jan 8 from Iguazu Falls). No dice. We spent an extra hour this morning investigating ways to prove we were leaving he country without actually booking a ticket (can't book bus tickets online. Air tickets cost a million dollars), all while Brent patiently waited, presumably on the corner in front of the consulate. In the rain. Ultimately, we sent our confirmed itinerary home from Santiago and that worked. Go figure. Next time, I will send any and every piece of documentation I can scrounge up. It seems it all depends on the person who reviews the packet. Some look at hotel reservations, some intended routes. Load up the info and hope you get someone who believes the mottled together proof you have.

Three. It's Brazil and it's worth it. That's how they get you!


Fall in Florida

Kelsie thinks that she needs me to maintain sanity.  Not so. I need her.

So when SEA-FLL was only $250 RT, I went.

There was lots of reading (on the way to school), crafts (snow globe painting with materials so "toxic" a mask was required), hand games (Down by the banks of the hanky panky where the bull frogs jump from bank to banky...), talent shows on the playground stage, and fist pumps (just with Saylor), and hanging out.


My girls
 And arm rides of course!
this photo makes me smile

Iron Madness; or the triathlete in the wild

Iron Man Canada was grrrrreat.

I've seen Porter in Tri mode, and I've see other triathletes doing their Tri thing. But I was just giddy at the sight of it all; of THEM- all in one place, hopped up on pre-race excitement, and a few weeks of tapering (normal levels of energy input and output) that would get anyone into a good mood. 

Triathletes are a friendly by nature; I think among the most pleasant brands of athletes. They enjoy similar exercise-induced endorphins as other competitive athletes, and save aggression for race day like others do for game day. But there's something else. It's like they know they'll be spending 8-17 hours in pure misery pretty soon, so they might as well kick back and enjoy life while they're dry and walking. So they're friendly and jovial to strangers and competitors. It might also have something to do with compression socks. 

Our first day in Penticton, it was like spotting zebra. It's not every group of male friends that trades leg-shaving secrets, openly discusses calorie consumption, and shamelessly shows of lots of leg (no complaints here. There are some great legs out there).

"Porter! There's another guy carting around his race wheel!" 

"Look! A group of SEVEN all in VISORS!" 

By race day, it wasn't even worth spotting anymore. I tried my best to look the part. I had tons of hilarious pictures too, on my phone that got broked in the water. (But got replaced! Thank you Microsoft Store!!)

Still, if I learned anything, it's that triathletes love their workout gear. I remember after I finally got my wedding dress, I tried it on like once a week, just to indulge in how perfect it was, even with my wet hair and a polka-dotted bra. It must be a similar feeling about tech shirts and running shorts, except with flashy brands on them that make you feel sponsored. No matter that you're just moseying around the race Expo or the tiny town, maybe you'll need to sprint later or something. You just never know, right? Better wear a sports bra and the extra light weight running shoes. I don't know that it's a vanity thing. It's not like there's not over a 1000 other athletes also wandering around with perfect legs and toned arms. (Nothing like over 1000 athletes with perfectly toned arms and legs to make a petitey like me feel like I needs to get moving already) Spandex, lycra, breathable everything is just... comfortable. Like slippers.

You know what can't be comfortable?

Body suits. Wet suits. Full Body wet suits.  Doesn't matter how toned your butt is, slip into a rubber tire and your butt looks like this:

Seriously, this woman weighs 85 pounds. Lumpy butt, lumpy thighs, even her shoulder blades look overweight.

It's not til the end you get to show it off:
Cute Butt Bratten, coming down the home stretch.
The worst part of Iron Man Canada: Fences.

Not a roped off area in certain corners, 10 foot high fences that corralled racers and blocked off viewers, not only from racers but from regular routes through town. Multiple times I ran from one area where I saw Porter to another area where I thought he might see me, and was THWARTED but the damn fences, making a maze where sidewalks should be. 

 They're not climbable either. I tried.

The waiting was not nearly as bad/long/boring as I thought it would be. My parents and  Porter's parents were there to join me this time. Trish, it turns out, is an absolute blast to watch with. She's got an equal interest in finding Porterman at the most opportune times and places, and has years more experience navigating the nuances of transition and athlete-sighting. She's also unabashed at shouting his name and waving her arms, running from place to place. In the morning, Trish, my mom and I placed ourselves where we thought we'd see him coming out of the water. We did ultimately catch up, fences be damned, for a classic Porter wave, as graceful as is possible when you're tiptoeing out in bike shoes somehow still sprinting even with a block of plastic under his arch, guiding a bicycle one-handed. It might actually be a pretty fun event to watch- some sort of bike shoe sprint. It's like a gazelle, in spandex. 
On the way out
On the way in
We spent most of the bike and run time lounging, making signs, and sidewalk chalking the main drag in and out of the transition area. I'll never try sidewalk chalk again, what a waste of time. You can't even see it and there's always that last bit when you end up scraping your fingers against the pavement trying to use it up. No, signs are where it's at.

We also unsuccessfully tried to find pie. Apparently the best pie around, up in a residential area above town. i also went with my parents to the hotel they stayed at, the Barona Beach Resort, where they had the owner's suite right on the beach because my dad knows the guy and sent him to Mexico once. P and I got to stay there that night. All the time, I'd turned into this compulsive race wife, checking Iron Man online for Porter to cross bike check points. My Kilometers to Miles math kept me guessing, and worried when he didn't hit checkpoints at the pace he'd told me. But it turns out no one's got updated past the first one, so he was really right on pace.

The swim was smokin' (57 minutes). The bike was right on schedule (5:23. Yes Five and a HALF hours. And that's fast). The run didn't go so hot. I knew it when we past the estimated time and I got worried of course that Porter was dead along the way. He wasn't, just had some leg cramping that took a bite out of the middle of the run, and he finished still in 14th place (out of like 350) in his age group and also really fast overall. But he wasn't too happy with the run.

I had to literally run ALL the way around Penticton to get to him, my Iron Man, all tired and falling to pieces after giving 100+% to his passion. When I finally found him, he just collapsed onto me with a "I'm so grateful for you." followed by "It hurt so much."

How sweet is that? I love this guy.

Of course 2 minutes later it was as if he had just rolled out of bed. Ravenously hungry and smiling about the whole  thing. 

Iron is in his blood I swear. 

Kayakerackin' 2012

We knew at the close of last year's trip that it would be a tough one to beat. Perfect weather and whales just don't happen every day, you know, no matter what Seattle whale-watching brochures try to make you think. It rains here. And the whales are onto us.  

So this year went big: 3 days. 7 boats. 2 uninhabited islands only accessible by our 7 boats (and a small handful of other kayaks, sailboats, and motor boats). And to up the whale ante, we went to them (last year apparently they came to us). Straight to the source of everything Orca: the San Juan Islands.
"I'm 'a get'chu whales!''
Porter scored for us a homestay with the mom of a friend's girlfriend, Kay, who took us in a fed us probably the most visually appealing (and a contender for among the most delicious) meals I've ever had. Fresh caught shrimp grilled and spicy; fruit salad and green salad, both vibrant and bright; and crusty bread.
Don't drool on your keyboard
We knew day one would be ambitious, but I should have guessed by Porter's nonchalant reference to the challenge and what seemed at the time to be random emphasis on how important hard work is in building character that ambitious for Porter is just near soul-crushing for everyone else. And by everyone else, I mostly mean me, because there was more than one moment when, paddling against the tide in the vast valley between Mt. Constitution and Mt. Lummi when I truly considered floating back to Anacortes. Most of the miles we covered that day were actually pretty easy, it was just the final 6 where a slow tide pulled backward and the vastness of the water and tinyness of the boat mixed so that you just couldn't tell how much progress you we making. I just kept watching the three speed demons ahead of me, who have much more willpower than I, promising myself that if they could hit the beach, I could hit the beach. Also hoping that the two behind me were not too far behind. And cursing Porter for showing no fatigue. 'Don't talk to me. Just don't leave me paddling alone here, because I just might give up. And cry.'

We did make it. All of us (Trent and Maria made and extra lap on accident) and we spent 3 pm onward lounging on the sandy, sun baked beach on Clark Island drying out our bones and delighting in the fact that we weren't dead or drowned or suffering permanent emotional damage from the day.

And I've never seen a more glorious moonrise.

Sunday was Porter's birthday, an event I worried far too much about in preparation for the weekend. If there's anything P could want for his birthday it would be nothing more than enjoying nature, boats, and physical challenge with good friends. Or boat shoes. I gave him Necco wafers before breakfast, decorated his kayak for him to see in the morning, and had a small sentimental gift and a breakfast cookie with birthday candles for him to blow out (send from his thoughtful mom via Tiftin).

I'll call wilderness birthday a success. I'm just now realizing that his birthday will fall on Labor Day weekend almost 50% of the time, so it may not be the last wilderness birthday.
Rockin' the spray skirt
Birthday King
Festooned vessel
Our Sunday paddle was short and relatively mellow, except for a precarious stretch in the middle where I had a very short panic attack when two currents converged nearby and seemed to chase me down. Cypress Island's lakes were far too reedy for swimming but my arms certainly appreciated the change of pace and my legs and butt the exercise.

Monday morning was by far my favorite. A foggy morning blocked out all the islands but the closest mini-rocks, making for an almost seamless flow of pure white sky into silky gray water like GLASS. 

We paddled as a group for once, for the first part of the morning. 7 flecks of bright yellow and red and blue with paddles and birds making the only waves. Who knew the ocean could be so still.

The fog burned off after about an hour and we shot (seriously, the current make it so FAST!) across the channel back to Anacortes. Next year: Vancouver Island!
Tiftin, Trent, Maria, Russ, Porter, Kami, Jill


Name Change

I got a new license today. I usually have a compulsive desire to renew on my birthday for some reason, maybe so I know when the thing will expire. But today I got officially tagged with the name with which I've been getting used to introducing myself for the last almost 6 months: my married name.

Crazy, right?

Strange to think I've got a whole new set of initials now. A whole new signature. The one I'll sign on forms and checks and homework assignments of kids who share my last name. Not the one I grew up with - that one just got bumped a slot over to my up-til-now empty space for a middle name - but this new one. My... Husband's name. My family name. I got my social security card and passport a month or so ago, I guess, so according to the United States of America I've been a Bratten for a month or more, but this is the last change of my official documents, and the most frequently used and seen.

 I got a great photo, if I do say so. I've never understood why people complain about I'd photos where they have a bad outfit or greasy hair. A slurred smile or half winky eyes, sure, that's annoying, but it's not like you don't know there's a photo involved the day you go in. Expect a wait, expect an annoying fee, expect to have your photo taken. So plan time, outfit, and makeup accordingly.

Anyway, I'm happy with the name change. Very happy. I got all butterflied when they called my number. Not like wedding day butterflies, necessarily, but that same sense of peace and excitement that comes with good life changes. We're starting our family unit and the name is all part of it. Happy Bratten here.