My thing

This week, for the first time in about two years, we stayed home from “boom boom room” or “cry at the Y,” the fun, chaotic parent-child boot camp class at our local YMCA that has defined my mornings since H was a newborn.

It started about a month ago: As soon as we walked in to the gym, he shook his head, no, and said: “No. All done. Home!” I ignored the request. After all, he’s 2, so “no” is basically the background music of my day. But boy, did he ever mean it. He clung to my leg the whole class, and I eventually picked him up, doing squats, lunges and planks with him in my arms or on my back (talk about extra resistance!).

The trend continued: He kept protesting. I kept ignoring his protests, thinking: But we do this every morning! This is the way I get exercise with a toddler, and how he gets social interaction. And there are tricycles! And balls! What’s not to love for a kid? We tried the Y’s daycare, but that proved to be an even less popular option.

After a few weeks of clinging, one morning last week, he started exploring the gym, like he used to do. Finally! I thought. He climbed up to the first level of the bleachers, and I walked over in case he needed help getting back down. Then, I saw her. The 3- or 4-year-old girl sitting higher up on the bleachers, scowling at my son. Before I could run over, she put both hands on my son’s chest and pushed him off the bleachers. Thankfully, he only fell a short distance. But in an instant, I saw it: My attachment to the class was clouding my vision so much that I couldn’t see his perspective. The happy madness that he used to love now felt scary, and made exploring feel unsafe. The class, which was supposed to be fun, had become burdensome for both of us.

Here is the irony: When I first brought H to the class in his infant carseat in 2016, I was having a hard time letting go of my last “thing”—the long, leisurely yoga classes I’d taken before H was born. Then, too, my attachment to what I thought was my thing didn’t let me see that the boot camp was a great way to meet new friends and spend time with my son.

The weather in Saratoga Springs has been heavenly, springlike but cool, perfect for running. So on Monday, I strapped Henry into the baby jogger and ran around town with him. We stopped at every construction site, and I stretched or did push-ups as he admired the excavators and lifts. Oh, I thought. This could totally be our new thing.

This, too, will change. But hopefully, the next time our lives shift, I’ll be clear enough to go with the flow, embracing whatever comes next.

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Race report: Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot

He was happy at the start line. We have the picture to prove it.

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H at the start of the Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot in Saratoga Springs, NY.

We have no finish-line photos. If we did, you’d see a screaming toddler tearing off his mittens despite being freezing; a mama still wearing her toddler’s Elmo hat, which she put on in an unsuccessful bid to distract him; and a dada sprinting for the finish after the mama told him: “Open it up and finish this [expletive.]”
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The whole family at the start of the Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot in Saratoga Springs, NY. The toddler is already skeptical that this is a good idea.

Let me back up. H and I ran a race together a couple months ago. He had so much fun, I wondered if I should find a 5K for us to run together every weekend.

But it is very cold outside now, and I have an outdoor-loving, mitten-hating kid. I also have a kid who (apparently) strongly dislikes the weather shield for his running stroller. I will spare you the play-by-play, but will simply tell you that my race at the the 16th Annual Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot consisted of one mile of jogging while singing “The Wheels on the Bus;” half a mile of walking while holding a cold, sad toddler (dada pushed the stroller alongside us); and a mile of flat-out sprinting to just END it already.

Everyone recovered after warming up and taking a nice, long nap. After H fell asleep for his well-deserved rest, I told my husband that I felt like a selfish jerk for dragging H along for the race. He reminded me of one of my favorite family mottos: “Mama, Dada and H are people who try things.” That was true before the race, and true now. Not that we’ll be trying a jingle bell 5K anytime soon …

I wanted to share this here because in running, parenting and life, it can’t all be puppies and unicorns, right?  Have you ever had a race like this? Share your horror story below.

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How does your garden grow?

The metaphors for life are endless: You reap what you sow. Better soil yields better plants. Many things are out of your control—including both unhappy and happy surprises (the eternally disappointing bell pepper plants, the sunflowers that bloomed late and unexpectedly thrived).

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I garden because I want to be reminded of all of this. I want to spend an afternoon getting dirty, sweaty and tired in the chilly, early days of spring so I can harvest a lazy summer dinner in the steamy days of summer. I want to spend the whole winter planning and the whole spring planting so that I can enjoy what feels like a healthy-living hack all summer.

I want to be surprised at the beauty of a squash blossom, and I want the reminder that nothing is permanent—not the long, cold winter and not the bountiful harvest.

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Do you garden? If so, how did your garden grow this year?

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H’s first race: The Saratoga Springs Palio 5K

H didn’t immediately love the running stroller.

When we received it as a Christmas gift, we immediately headed out for a family run, only to turn around a few minutes into it with a very unhappy baby and disappointed parents.

A little time (and the purchase of a snack tray for the stroller) has worked wonders, and H now happily tags along for short runs. I figured it was time to try a 5K. Not for time, because I am less of a serious runner these days and more of a snack administrator and toddler soother. Just for fun. I was curious to see if H would enjoy the crowds and spectators and atmosphere and post-race snacks as much as I did.

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Me and H running the Palio 5K in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Sept. 17. Too bad we didn’t have any fun.

And did he ever! H spent the Palio 5K in Saratoga Springs on Sept. 17 kicking his legs, smiling, and waving to our fellow runners on the streets of this lovely course through Saratoga Springs. It was also the most fun I’ve ever had running, hands down. What a relief to be freed of the burden of obsessing over your pace! What a joy to focus on the experience rather than the clock!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn’t my worst-ever time, either, albeit not a PR. Something magical happens when we prepare for a race, then detach from our need to achieve a certain result.

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Post-race, eating alll the finish-line snacks. 

The best part was seeing H proudly clasp the race medal and nosh on post-race snacks once we crossed the finish line. We stayed to cheer on a friend running the half-marathon with her son, who is a senior in high school. As I watched H clap along with the other cheering spectators, and point to runners rounding the corner to Congress Park, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d started a little family tradition.

How did you introduce your kids to running? Did the habit stick?

 

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Babe in the woods: How to hike with a toddler

“The baby in the forest goes ‘wah, wah, wah,’ all through the woods,” I sing.

We are five minutes in to a hike. I am singing a song with my own lyrics set to the tune of “The Wheels of the Bus.” H, now 14 months old, stops shrieking for a moment and sings along: La, la, la. We laugh. Soon, he begins shrieking again. I offer a cracker. I place another dangly toy on the hiking pack he’s riding in. I get ready to dig out the Ergo, in case he’ll be more amenable to the soft carrier. I wonder if this hike is really worth it.
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H and Dada hiking to Owl’s Head in Keene, N.Y.

Now that H is mobile, he has become less amenable to spending time in the hiking pack. As outdoor-loving people looking to raise an outdoor-loving kid, this leaves us scratching our heads to figure out how best to introduce the woods to a kid who’s barely walking.

To be clear, we’re not trying to raise the second baby to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (though the first baby’s journey is fun to watch from afar). In the example above, our goal was to make it less than a mile, to a pond that happens to be on the way to one of New York’s 46ers.

The following tactics have helped: Making sure he is physically comfortable (layers to accommodate weather changes, nothing poking or pinching). Snacks (our hikes are fueled by halved grapes and Ritz crackers). Toys on the top of the pack. Singing (we have LOTS of verses of “The Baby in the Forest.”)

But you know what helps the most? Letting go of any agenda we have to actually hike.

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Who wants to sit in a pack when you can scoot around on the rocks?

It turns out, we already have an outdoors-loving kid. He just prefers to experience the woods in an up-close-and-personal manner, by getting the heck out of the pack and throwing leaves and pine needles like confetti; splashing in streams and brooks; touching the moss growing on trailside rocks; and zig-zagging up and down the trail at his own speed. We’ve started letting him do just that after about 10 minutes of hiking in the pack. Because really, the goal isn’t to raise a kid who summits high peaks so much as it’s to raise a kid who loves and appreciates his world.

When we return to the trailhead, we see a family of fit-looking people getting ready to launch their own peak attempt.

“Nice singing,” says the dad, smiling. I explain that the singing is a necessary ingredient in a shriek-free hike. The dad points to his teenage son.

“When he was little, we went to Colorado and tried to hike with him in a pack like that,” he says. “We thought we’d do these great hikes. He only wanted to throw rocks in the stream.”

How wonderful to see that one little rock-thrower grew into mom and dad’s hiking buddy! I watch them embark on their hike feeling optimistic about the future—and also feeling pretty certain that they miss the throwing-rocks-in-a-stream days now and then.

Have you hiked with a toddler? How did you make the experience more fun?

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How to stay healthy (and sane) with a new baby

 An essential truth of parenting: All of the sappiest parenting cliches are true. The one that most hits home right now, as my precious baby boy’s first birthday grows smaller in the rearview mirror: It goes by quickly.
Really and truly, it feels as though only a few weeks have passed since his six-month birthday. Before any more time slips away, I want to give praise to a few of the groups, activities and resources that have made the time more joyful and companionable.

Hike It Baby

As my husband’s paternity leave came to a close last summer, I found myself frantically searching for baby-appropriate outings to keep us occupied, socialized and sane. “There’s a group called ‘Hike it Baby,'” I told my husband with glee. “Can you believe how perfect that is?” It’s just what it sounds like: Parents hiking with babies and toddlers, sometimes at a toddler’s pace, other times at an adults-wearing-babies-and-toddlers pace. It’s been a great way to make friends, as there’s some serious bonding that happens when someone helps you calm a melting-down newborn in the middle of the woods.

 

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Our very first Hike it Baby outing. It’s hard to believe he was ever this tiny!

I always imagined I’d hike with H, but our outings to the places we’d hiked previously—longer, steeper treks an hour or more away from home—don’t even seem worth the effort these days. Hike it Baby has taught me that you don’t need to ascend a peak or drive far away to feel the restorative effects of the outdoors. I’ve learned all sorts of new treks within a 10-minute drive of my front door, with gentle enough terrain that my now-toddler (sniff, sniff) can stroll with ease. Now, the only trick is getting him to wear shoes …

Parent Boot Camp

One morning when H was two months old, I couldn’t do anything to soothe him. He wasn’t hungry, didn’t have a diaper situation, didn’t want to nap—he seemingly just wanted to cry. “Let’s go cry at the Y,” I told him. We went to the Saratoga Springs YMCA‘s Parent Boot Camp class, which I’d previously worried might be too loud and chaotic, what with the loud music, the toddlers running around and riding tricycles and the older kids climbing up the walls (sometimes literally). We went—and he fell asleep in his stroller! As he grew older, he loved staying awake and watching the big kids run around, and now, he scoots around the room on his butt, on the hunt for basketballs to push around. His mornings actually seem a little bit less happy when he doesn’t get that stimulation.
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He likes to try to push mama’s weights around the floor.

And me! Not only do I get a great workout without having to put H in the Y’s daycare; I get a village of other parents trying their best to stay healthy and strong while raising tiny, adorable, exhausting little people. I’ve gotten some of the best nuggets of parenting wisdom while running laps around the gym and talking about teething or nap transitions or whatever stage we’re in. And I get the wonderful, necessary feeling that we’re all in this parenting thing together.
By the way, the name “Cry at the Y” stuck. These days, we’re more likely to call it “Boom Boom Room”—as in, “I think he’s cranky because he didn’t hear his Boom Boom Room music today.”

Talking a walk

This is so simple, I almost don’t want to include it. And yet, it is so magical, I feel like I have to. We have been taking long, restorative walks since one week after H got home, and it remains the go-to option for soothing him when he’s teething, sick or generally feeling out of sorts. Just as he misses the stimulation of the Y when we miss our boot-camp class, it seems like he misses the fresh air when we don’t get a healthy dose of it early in the day. Is it more tiring for me than sitting him down in front of a screen? Yes. Does it leave us *both* feeling like someone pressed the “reset” button by the time we come home? Also yes.
If you’re currently raising tiny, adorable, exhausting people (it’s the best kind of tired, but man, am I tired at the end of every day!), I’d love to hear the groups and activities that make up your world. And if you’re looking for tips for getting dinner on the table during *any* busy season of life, check out my food-writer friend Whitney’s recent post on the topic—her recipe for nights when the sky is falling looks delicious!

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200-hour yoga-teacher training: Lessons learned

 

The day after my graduation from yoga-teacher training in May 2016, I jotted down some notes about lessons learned. The next day, I was admitted to the hospital with preeclampsia, and I remained there until I delivered my son on June 1, 2016. The notes fell to the wayside, but the lessons did not, and I wanted to share some of the ones with the most staying power here.

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Graduation day with my teacher, May 2016.

If you think yoga is about handstands or stretching, you’re missing the best part. There’s nothing wrong with going to yoga to get a stretch or a workout or a yoga butt. But if you’ve gone to yoga for one of these reasons, you’ve probably noticed that you leave feeling a little bit more lighthearted and relaxed, or maybe even blissful. Part of the joy of getting serious about yoga is admitting that it was really never about the handstands or stretches, but has always been about connecting with the body, the breath and the wisest version of yourself. And when you go in with the intention of connecting with your highest power or wisest self? Man, do things get good!

There’s no such thing as “perfect” alignment of a pose. Our posture clinics were led by two 1,000-hour certified yoga teachers who have trained in numerous schools of yoga, including yoga therapeutics. This means they’ve trained with people who see the only expression of Warrior I as with a narrow stance, a sealed back heel, with the hips completely square. They’ve also trained with people who have hurt their hips after years of forcing their bodies into that position, because it didn’t serve their particular anatomy. The fact is, the poses are all pretty modern—created for Indian boys in the 1800s—and are not, as I’d imagined, written in stone next to the Ganges River. It was fascinating to learn how differently all of our bodies are built, and to try to build the “perfect” pose for our particular bodies—which in itself could be a lifelong journey.

I will spend the rest of my life trying to perfect my downward facing dog. When a friend of mine went through her own yoga-teacher training several years ago, I remember her saying that she was obsessed with working on her mountain pose. That’s the one in which you’re basically just standing up. I get what she meant now. You can spend hours trying to activate and then soften each muscle in your body to best express any pose. And even when you feel like you’ve got it all just right, you breathe, and it all changes, and you must activate it again. This is actually the best part—realizing that there is no such thing as being “balanced,” but only the never-ending act of balancing.

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My fellow graduates.

We’re all hungry for authenticity and community, and we get there through vulnerability. We were all attracted to our teacher, Kim Beekman, because of the community she creates through her willingness to be vulnerable with her classes. During our training, we created the same sense of community for ourselves. I learned that yoga isn’t about learning physical skills, such as balancing or stretching—it is a stripping away of the things that we falsely believe define us, like our jobs, our clothes, our resumes and our bodies. And we begin to strip all of that stuff away by getting real with each other about our fears and our feelings of inadequacy and all the other feelings we think are unique to us. (They’re not).

Yoga teachers, I’d love to know: What’s the most important lesson you learned during your teacher-training?

 

 

 

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