Monday, September 29, 2008

Errands as Exercise

I'm a big proponent of getting exercise in when you're doing errands. I'm lucky to live within walking distance of downtown so I can take my kids on foot, on bike, or in a jogging stroller to do errands. Sometimes, when I think I'll just do a quick trip and take the car, the kids will say, "Can't we walk?" and I usually say, "Yes" as it is hard to deny that request.

This morning, my preschooler walked and my toddler rode in the jogger to dance class. I used to take the car because I worried that my kids would be too pokey to get to class on time. Now, I just leave extra early and we usually arrive early. I love parking my jogger next to another jogger and maybe a bike, knowing that other families are also leaving the car at home. After class, my toddler usually wants to walk, which is great. I do have her ride for a bit so that I can get across a few busy spots, but then she is free to run with her sister.

Today, I made the mistake of letting Julia wear her older sister's boots. Julia has a shoe fetish and going against her choice of footwear often means a battle -- one I wasn't willing to fight today. The result was that Julia was tripping all over the place, including on the sidewalk where she skinned her knee a little. I made a mental note to rethink the footwear next time for my rider/walker. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Going on a Leaf Hunt

Today, I thought that I would combine work and play (exercise) by dropping off my books at the Trapp Family Lodge Nordic Center/Gift Shop and then going on a trail hike with my girls. Well I forgot the books, but my girls found some discounted toys in the gift shop -- a bonus for them as there are usually only skis and chairs in that area in the winter time. 

We quickly hit the trails, bringing our border collie along with us. The whole gang was excited to be out roaming the trails that we usually visit in winter with cross-country skis on.

We stopped at the first trailside bench, not too far in, to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, some fruit, and water. The minute my toddler swallowed her last bite, she was running down the trail. She is usually the one to say, "I can't walk. My legs hurt." My preschooler was a little upset that I made her finish off her last couple of bites, but abided then fled.

We soon hit a section of trail that was sprinkled with colored leaves. The girls were excited. The leaves haven't changed so much down where we are in the village over. Ava suggested that we go on a leaf hunt and we all started gathering our favorite picks from the ground. Ava had a whole bouquet of leaves and Julia figured out that she could just tuck them into my pack rather than carry them. 

The next thing to entertain the girls was animal scat or in their terminology, "poop." Yup, for a young kid poop is about the best topic out there. We saw lots of it as horse and carriage rides operate on this trail. We also saw droppings from a fox or a raccoon. I took an educated guess and figured that offering a couple of animals would get my girls curiousity going.

After we crested a long uphill, my toddler asked to go in the pack that I had been wearing. I was so proud of how far she had come and figure that this might be the mode for her, which is to have her walk a ways and then get into the pack. My older daughter always wanted to walk and we wanted to get in some miles first, so she rode first and then we let her out near the end of our hikes. It interests me how as parents you really have to figure out what makes each child tick.

We continued up a steep hill to a chapel hidden in the woods. We had never been there on our skis so the girls were fascinated. Julia wanted to get out of the pack and I quickly unloaded her from my sweaty back. When it was time to head back down, Julia was eager to be on foot and to be the leader, something her older sister always brags about from preschool. Well, I had never seen that toddler be so proud to be going down a trail on her own. And luckily her older sister was a good sport (with some guidance from me) and took the back position despite her competitive personality.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Dog Walk

Today at a Coffee Talk about "Fit Family" I was asked for ideas on how to fit in some quick exercise for kids at the end of a school day. I suggested dancing around the house with good music, which is a great workout (just try it), and also incorporating a short bike ride or walk into some errands downtown. 

This afternoon, I realized what I forgot to mention earlier -- the dog walk. Now, I happen to know that the person who asked the question does not have a dog, so she'll have to find a reason to get the kids outdoors. My mother always said that I needed to get "fresh air" and that wasn't all that enticing.

So here's how our "dog walk" works:

At about 3:30 p.m. my kids are at each other. One has just returned home from school and is full of energy, but a little tired, and the other is just waking from a nap (hopefully). The girls are pushing or purposefully taking the other person's toys or snack and I become the mediator. So I say, "It's time to walk Abby (our dog)."

The girls know this is the routine and get shoes on and to the door more quickly than usual. I leash Abby until we get across the street, where she can roam free. When we hit the field, the girls go crazy. They want to jump, run, play tag, do ring-around-the-rosey. Then we do a little hike through the woods and run down the hill. 

Today, we saw a worm, a really long one, and the girls inspected it, quickly picked it up, and placed it back in the grass gently at my request. They were fascinated and had to tell Daddy all about the worm later. Okay, so this part isn't exercise, but it is part of the process of getting outdoors, inspecting your surroundings, and moving around.

After our "dog walk," which lasted about 30 minutes, we went back to our yard and played hide-and-seek and tag and on the swing for another half hour. 

My point: If you run around, playing with your kids (instead of watching them), you understand why they want to take their sweatshirts off. Your body is working and getting warm. Exercising with kids doesn't have to be fancy or take a long time. And playing makes exercise fun. That was a great point made by another person at today's talk. More on that topic later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yoga Core

Tonight, I went to my second yoga class -- Yoga Core, open level. I was running late (because of a miscommunication with my husband, who had to be home to watch the kids) and when I got to the studio the lights were off.  I could hear the instructor's soothing voice settling the class in to yoga mode. I was ready to head back home, rather than interrupt class, when out came the instructor. She invited me in and gave me her mat. The class was packed. I felt thankful and ashamed. 

The class was amazing. An hour of working the core muscles. Last week, my muscles hurt two days after class, a sure sign that I don't work my core. The other great benefits -- stretching, breathing, improving my posture, and an hour away from my kids at the dinner hour! I'm also getting over my yoga phobia, because in a core class you don't have to link flows, something I have trouble remembering how to do.

The class ends with relaxation, focusing on your whole body. I could feel my shoulders relax and my jaw loosen. At the end, in seated position, we took a moment to think of something we were grateful for on that day. For me, it was the instructor, who welcomed me when she didn't have to. Then as I walked home, slowly, I was thankful for having an hour to be conscious of the connection between my mind and body. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fit Family in the News

"Fit Family" was featured in an article called "Family Fitness starts with the very young," which ran in the Outdoors section of the Sunday Times Argus and Rutland Herald on Sept. 14. 

Here's what Linda Freeman wrote about the book:
"Look no farther for the perfect guide to family pursuits in our state — or anywhere. This is a gem. Far more than a how-to book, (though chock full of excellent "how-to") or a tour guide, or a play-with-the-kids cheer, this attractive volume thoroughly presents a wide variety of family-friendly activities such as hiking, biking, paddling, skiing (both Alpine and Nordic), camping, and swimming — not just dragging the kids along, but involving them in the effort and the fun."

See the full article at:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Food, The Old-Fashioned Way

Yesterday I finally got around to making pickles. Twelve cukes had been staring me down for a few days and I had to get to them before the fruit flies swarmed all over the kitchen. I've followed the tradition of making Violette's bread and butter pickles for several years now. Violette, now 98, is my husband's grandmother and he raves about how whenever he finished mowing Gram's lawn as a teenager she'd fry him up a hamburger and bring a jar of pickles up from the basement. They are sliced thin and you pile them on with a fork.

Making Gram's pickles is not something I involve my girls in yet, other than helping to pick the cukes. (This year's garden wasn't so fruitful, so the cukes came from another local garden that had a surplus.) The glass jars, the steaming water, and the bubbling apple cider vinegar aren't a great combo for cooking with kids. 

This year, I saved the pickling for my toddler's naptime and unfortunately she didn't nap. I had salted the cukes overnight so I was committed and my crazy girl Julia was getting into things left and right. I finished moments before I had to pick up Ava from preschool.

Okay, it might not have been the canning experience that I wanted -- where I'm mindful of the process and taking pride in doing what generations before me have done. But at least the pickles taste good and will last us through the winter.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Taking Your Kids to Your Race

On Labor Day weekend, my husband and I both competed in a 5K running race. The entry fee was cheap, the race wasn't too far away, and the mother of our babysitter was running, so we thought why not have the babysitter come along and watch our kids during the race.

I probably should have passed the kids off on the sitter once we hit registration, but I felt that I needed to make sure they were settled in. We tried to find a playground away from the downtown fair that was taking place, but we didn't find one.

I decided, with some conscious effort, to relax and let our great babysitter do her job and I went for a warm-up with my husband. It was nice to be out on the road with him and without a baby jogger for a change. 

The race course was an up-and-back so I saw my husband go flying by on the homestretch while I slogged out to the turnaround. 5Ks aren't my favorite races, I like longer distances, but I was glad that I participated and I even got an age group prize.

My daughters were delighted to watch the finish, high up on a hillside with their babysitter. They were safe and content. Would I take them along again for a race? Yes, as I think that it is good for them to see what a race is all about and as my older daughter could participate in the mile race another year. But, I wouldn't take them all the time, as it adds to logistics, and I'm not sure I like too many races anyways being the less competitive parent in the family.