I Am Completely Normal (or, The Case For Step-parents)

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I have never wanted to have children of my own.

There.

I’ve said it and I’m glad.

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Luigi and me!

Not human ones, anyhow.

I remember telling the dressing room of skaters my feelings about that as a kid.

It was one of those group discussions about how many kids each of us planned to have and I announced I would be having none.

That I would have to find a man who already had his own kids because he wasn’t getting them from me.

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Apparently I had things all figured out back then…

And it isn’t because I don’t like kids. That’s not it at all.

I love kids. They’re fun, they’re goofy, they like to play make-believe, they giggle freely, they like my stories, they like Rhonda, they like to watch me skate, they are full of wonder and, generally, they trust and believe openly.

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Harry and I back in the first version of my little vet clinic with the local pre-schoolers

I am completely comfortable around groups of kids regardless of whether I’m doing veterinary education or coaching figure skaters or hockey players.

I don’t break out in a sweat, I don’t have panic attacks, and I actually quite enjoy kids of all ages.

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Slightly blurry pic of a pic of our real wedding day with Gareth

So it was quite fortuitous that I met and married a man with all of the requirements.

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Same day, with Whitney

I had no expectations because, at 21, I had no friends dating older persons with their own kids.

None of my friends or siblings had any non-infant children of their own at that point so there was nobody to turn to for questions or suggestions.

I just winged it and tried to make our family as normal as possible.

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A long-ago blonde phase with Whitney & Gareth on our trip to Disney World

The kids even moved in with us in Watford City when Gareth was in grade 4 and Whitney was in grade 2.

At that point a few friends thought I was crazy (think I was 22 by then) but it never occurred to me that it was wrong.

Its not like Divorce was unheard of in the ’90s, its just that it didn’t happen much in the close-knit Doukhobor community and family I grew up in.

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Fyfe Family time on the outdoor ice rink in Watford City

So there was no reference point other than having 2 loving parents who wanted to make the best life possible for their kids.

Even if they weren’t my kids.

It has always helped that Alistair and his first wife had a fairly amicable divorce.

There was no throwing of cutlery or evil phone messages.

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Visiting the kids in Vancouver (with Rhonda)…

It may have helped that the ex lived in Vancouver, many miles and a country away. We have a mutual respect for one another, (particularly now that the kids are grown) and appreciate that we offered very different ‘mothering’ styles to the kids.

Maybe it also helped that I was so young- there are as many years between Alistair and I as with Gareth and I.

Which was fun when they were teens and we could sometimes sort of hang out.

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Camping trips with the kids & their friends

And listen to the same music and share our friends and learn to be a different but normal type of family and shop at Abercrombie together and be a part of each other’s lives as we were all growing and changing.

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Fyfe Life classic… Old Maid with Morgie!

And I can’t tell you how many of the kids’ friends I keep in good touch with via social media.

And some we even hang out with when we can.

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Morgan and I enjoying a great meal together in Bismarck a couple of years ago

And I think I am a very lucky woman to have the relationship I have with my now-adult stepkids.

They have never called me “Mom”. I was adamant about that because they already have a mother.

I was “Tan” back then and I’m “Tan” still.

Just because a person didn’t give birth to a child doesn’t mean they can not love them.

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Gareth’s high school grad with Whitney & I in Bismarck

Or be immensely proud of them and their achievements.

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Whitney’s high school grad a couple of years later in Vancouver

I have loved helping raise these 2 cool young people and I have so enjoyed watching Alistair raise them and care for them, too.

They aren’t my own children but I am his partner and I worry about his worries and I’m excited for his excitements.

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Proud Dad with Whitney’s hockey!

The main difference, which I had to remind the kids from time to time (like after the group of AAA hockey boys made a run on the Go Karts a living Hell for the owners of the place… AGAIN or the one prom night I won’t go into), was that I didn’t have that built-in ability to love them no matter what.

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Gareth, assuring me it wasn’t going to be like the summer before when we all almost got kicked off the course… (he was very, very wrong)…

When I used to say that I didn’t want kids I would get the typical responses:

“You will change your mind when you’re all grown up.”

“Once your friends start having kids you’ll feel differently.”

“You don’t mean that.”

But I did mean it.

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Me. Not wanting to have kids.

As years went by those comments turned bitter:

“You’re being selfish.”

“What’s wrong with you not wanting kids?”

“That isn’t normal.”

You know what, though? It IS normal for me.

I have always been career-driven and I knew, as a little girl, that children might get in the way of that.

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One of my careers

I also knew that I was extremely motivated to succeed- whether it was on the ice, with my textbooks, coaching, writing, slinging bling- whatever.

I moved away from home at the age of 12 to pursue skating at the highest level.

I graduated high school at 16 to get going on an education.

I moved by myself to Tokyo at 19 to make some money teaching English.

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Training & competing at as a high a level as I could dream. I couldn’t do that in my home town.

And deep down inside where you have a core that you know is your true self I knew that there was the slightest, teensiest possibility I could have a child who wouldn’t be like that.

And that would disappoint me.

And that would be wrong.

I knew that you shouldn’t ever be disappointed in your own child but there it was and I never, ever wanted to resent a child of my own.

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4th grade boys at their track meet in Watford City

So I didn’t mind that Alistair had his own kids. Heck, they could pee and eat on their own by the time I showed up so that was a huge bonus right there!

I took an active role in their parenting and have never felt like I missed out on anything.

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Whitney and I in Saskatoon, right around my vet school graduation!

And I absolutely love the young adults they have become and the journeys they have been on and we celebrate together in person or over a phone line or Facetime or we say goodbye to a group of animal companions that each and every one of us has loved on a sunny day with pink roses and we cry and hug together and laugh at shared memories and encourage one another’s dreams and we enjoy the good old days and the great ones now and the endless possibilities ahead.

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Whitney & I show-girling with the Luau men on Kauai

And I appreciate how truly lucky I am to have the relationships I do with these two.

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Vet school grad, 2005, Saskatoon

And I look forward to the times ahead… perhaps on a golf course or two…

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We are in the process of corrupting Whitney by making her a golf addict. We had both made par on her first day playing last month!

And its still fun to look back at where we all began.

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Hallowe’en, 1995, Watford City (goodness, there’s Rhonda again!)

And I know I am normal for me and you are normal for you.

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Whitney & Mulder a couple of years ago visiting us in Montana

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Gareth and the RX-7 for prom… (no, that’s not THE prom story…)

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Much younger Gareth and much younger Boomer back in Bismarck

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Lucky stepmom, (taken a few years ago in Vancouver)

Blirl-wind

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There is no other way to describe the past 4 weeks for me.

A whirlwind. A blur.

A blirlwind.

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Enjoying a real Canadian Caesar

In 4 weeks I have spent close to 50 hours on my ass driving or passengering. I’ve gone to British Columbia and back. I’ve gone to Bismarck and back. I’ve done several drives to Missoula and back.

UB and Loki did the big trips with me, charming every soul they met along the way.

Well, maybe not the new neighbor dogs in Bismarck just yet but they seem like nice dogs themselves.

I spent days in 3 time zones, attended 2 days of the Montana veterinary medical conference, played in a fun golf tournament as a last-minute sub and didn’t totally embarrass myself, made a Canada Day video with 2 of our ferrets that is worth friending me on facebook just to see and I even made my first birdie playing with Alistair here in Seeley Lake.

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Little girl last-minute subbing with the boys at a ridiculously fun golf tournament

We hosted friends from Australia on their own blirlwind vacation and did all-things-Montana in one day.

This includes:

Tanya’s Big Breakfast

Horseback Riding

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Ben, Cal on Jake, Alistair, Bax on Spyder and me

Shooting Pool

Exploring the back forest in Steve, our Ranger.

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Susan and Bax in Steve!!

Canoeing on and swimming in Salmon Lake.

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Lewis & Clark and friend?

More pool. More wine. More vodka.

Steak supper at the coolest steakhouse around.

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Tabitha and I at Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse!

Maybe a bit more wine.

And a great bonfire with toasted marshmallows to cap off the busiest of days.

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wrapping up the day Montana-style

The very next day was the trek to Bismarck with UB and Loki. As we crossed the state line the smoke from fires up in Canada’s Northwest Territory filled the skies.

The fires in Canada are pretty bad this year, owing to some drought-like conditions in the northern regions.

We are faring a bit better in Montana thanks to the late heavy rains we had in the spring.

Nobody in Montana complains much about late snow and rain.

Or, they might, but they don’t mean it.

We lived through the nation’s worst fire the first summer we moved here.

Where highways had tanks and National Guardsmen letting people in to check their homes and then get back out of the evacuation zone.

Where the smell of smoke permeated our homes, our clothes, our pets, our cars.

Where everything important was packed in bags and cat and dog crates lined every hallway in case we had to leave in an instant… we take fire season and its rules pretty seriously.

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Our Bismarck garden

Back in Bismarck I got to help tend our lovely little garden that my husband diligently plans each year.

The soil is amazing. Its rich and moist and almost black. It is life in a tangible form.

Something to be said about 10-year-old topsoil thanks to our beautiful herd there.

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Shilo, Fumie, their mom, Raven and Katie in Bismarck

We dined at some of our favorite restaurants and once again marveled at the growth and vibrancy of the capital city of one of the busiest states in the nation.

A new supermarket and impressive-looking high school are going up close to our farm in addition to a Bed, Bath & Beyond and rumors of a Costco.

Loki was exhausted after a couple of days of remembering things with her nose and ears. She ran around with a confidence ill-suited to a blind dog but UB, Gampy and I made sure to keep her in check.

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Loki snooze

The first step in my need for dental crowns occurred.

I haven’t had dental work done since I was a kid so it was a bit strange but it went well. My rubber tongue and slippery cheeks went away in time for us to hit the East 40 steakhouse that night.

Its odd to think that I’m at an age now where I might have things in my body that are fake.

Like these 2 temporary crowns.

They are the only fake things about me.

The only things that my DNA didn’t code for- things I didn’t begin my journey with.

Granted, I’m missing my tonsils but its not like they put fake ones in their place.

When did the warranty on my body start running out?

I didn’t have much time to ponder this as we were busy attending a beautiful outdoor wedding on the 12th of July.

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Lovely wedding party with the groom, Ben, waiting for his bride, Rebecca

It was a pretty hip, relaxed ceremony. The pastor told the congregation we all sounded like a “bunch of white people”. He was right so we chimed in with musical quotes he threw at us and all cheered as if we were at a hockey game.

Rebecca was radiant.

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Our good friend, Brad and his daughter Rebecca

I’ve known her since she was a little girl.

Her parents were part of the team that introduced Alistair and I back in 1994.

I coached young Rebecca and she was my Tinkerbell one season and we’ve watched her grow up into an outstanding young woman. She seems to have found an equally cool partner in Ben.

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Rebecca and Ben taking a moment to pose with me

It all came full-circle because the 12th of July is the day that Alistair and I eloped 18 years ago in Watford City.

Eighteen. Years.

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18 years ago… Gareth, Alistair and I

He was on call but they let him turn the pager off for 2 hours.

We got a couple of bouquets made for Whitney and I, arranged for our friend, Gretchen to take the kids for a couple of hours afterwards, called a friend in from the rodeo where her husband was the emcee and her daughter was barrel racing and we eloped.

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Whitney, Alistair and I when we eloped 18 years ago

18 years is something.

I can’t quite believe its been that long. Its been a crazy, fun, amazing, hilarious, love-filled journey.

I wasn’t a veterinarian then.

We didn’t play golf back then.

We had 2 cats, 1 dog and 1 ferret, as well as about 10 horses, not to mention 2 young kids.

It was wonderful to share our special, private day with Rebecca and Ben and their families.

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Our old friends, Star and Maggie

Rebecca’s parents now have Star and Maggie and we quickly visited them, too. Star was Alistair’s Arabian stallion when I first met him. Maggie is Star’s Pinto grand-daughter.

Full circle, once again.

I’m not a nostalgic person by nature but having this time right now and the most amazing of house/pet sitters in Lynn and Jessi and Carson, I was able to reconnect with special people.

Connecting in ways that facebook doesn’t allow… like a real hug from a real friend.

Merielle, Anna, Susan, Uncle Pete, Aunty Wendy, Brad, Janet, Rebecca, Dallas, Anne, Luba, Mom, Dad and Nan…. special people who shared their parents, partners and pets with me…. Edna, Mike, Angel, Chelsea, Chelsea’s mom, Porter, Peaches, Michael, Donna, Calypso, Ben, Cal, Bax and Tabitha.

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Susan and I… we spent one week together as teenagers at the Terry Fox Youth Center with Encounters with Canada and have been lifelong friends ever since.

A blirlwind.

But I’m back home and back on the golf course and I’ve watched Alistair leave once more for Bismarck.

By plane this time.

Which is as unnerving as watching him drive down the driveway.

For 7 years I’ve watched him leave, knowing I’ll see him again in 2 weeks.

But you never really know, right?

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Alistair, doing what we do

A passenger plane is shot down over the Ukraine and nobody is talking about it.

You never know.

The fact we appreciate the fleetingness of time, particularly as medical doctors, is maybe why we put so much attention on living in the Now.

We go to Hawaii, we get golf memberships, we buy Steve and Norman to make our adventures that much more fun.

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Making the most of each day. Double Arrow Golf Course

We enjoy big breakfasts and wonderful suppers and wine and scotch in the hot tub in the evening. We play with the animals and laugh and sing and make videos with them.

We get outside to ride, canoe, bonfire, hike or play golf as much as we can because you never really know.

Maybe that’s part of why we’re still able to laugh and love after 20 years together.

My marriage. My adventures. My life. My blirlwind.