Tuesday, December 22, 2009


'Tis the season for frozen noses, tingly toes, and tongues stuck to frozen poles. Yes, my three-year-old had to test that tongue-pole idea on a perfect single-digit day. Fortunately, my eyes were on her and I yelled and so it was just a quick meeting of tongue and pole outside the elementary school. Fortunately, she was not stuck there so I didn't have to go to the cafeteria for boiling water. And it was too cold for outdoor recess so no kids witnessed this phenomenon.

No, we just walked home (luckily close by) with a shocked little kid wondering why her tongue was bleeding. I searched the old toddler books under "tongue" and found nothing and resorted to the Internet for the cold compress cure. I also checked in with my sister, who's a nurse, and learned that my niece (also a second child) had tried the pole trick as a youngster. I've also since learned that my mother-in-law stuck her tongue on a bridge rail as a child thanks to coaxing from an older sister.

So, watch your young kids on the playground (lots of good metal there) and ask friends and family for their tongue tales. You may be surprised to find how many kids have been stuck to a cold pole.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Annual Christmas Tree Excursion

Yesterday, we carried out our annual Christmas tree search. It didn't feel like winter or look like winter, but none of us minded.

I stuffed the girls' hats and mittens in my pockets and we hiked up a forest service trail in snow boots, just in case. We hiked up and up alongside a river and all the evergreens were small and crowded. I was thankful for the walk, though, as I ran 10 miles in the morning and didn't stretch afterwards.

Before long Tom and Ava were out of sight up ahead and I could only hope that Tom wouldn't find a tree and cut it down before I could weigh in on his choice. I tried to explain this predicament to slow-moving Julia, but she was more interested in the bow and arrow she had created by crossing two sticks.

My worries were eased when Ava and Daddy and our dog, Abby, came into sight heading down the trail treeless. Then, we had a new worry of not yet having a tree. Should we get in the car and head to another national forest location or would that use up too much time since it was afternoon and we only had so much daylight?

To Ava's delight, Daddy decided that the potential Christmas trees looked better across the river. When we got down near our car, Ava joined him for a river crossing. Luckily for me, they were in view of where we had parked the car as Julia decided to park herself in the car with the graham cracker bag and with her boots and socks off.

Eventually, Tom hollered for me to check out a tree and luck would have it that it was a good one -- "the best one we've had in a long time," we both declared. He was able to drag it through the woods a bit and then across the road where there were culverts, avoiding a river crossing and a wet tree. Ava joined Julia for graham crackers while Tom and I tied the tree to the roof. Then I put our bright orange national forest service tree permit around the base -- proof that (for five bucks) we could legally cut and drag this tree from the forest.

I did forget to bring the camera for our tree excursion, but here's our good 'ole Charlie Brown tree in the living room. The girls helped decorate this year, but they were in their underwear so that picture will be saved for the family photo album.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Training With Kids

I'm breaking from my usual blog post to share a few fitness-related things I'm connected to.

1. Diana Whitney wrote an extensive article on "Training With Kids" that cites my book:

"An excellent resource for how to include kids in exercise is Heidi Hill’s book Fit Family: The Infant, Toddler, and Preschool Years." The article originally ran in Faster Skier magazine and is reprinted in the current issue of Vermont Sports at http://www.vtsports.com/articles/training-kids. (Scroll to the bottom of the Latest Articles section.)

2. My "Nordic Family" column is now running in Cross Country Skier magazine. The magazine is published October through February. Subscribe at: http://www.crosscountryskier.com/ for only $12.

3. I will be giving a clinic on ways to get your family fit on December 6 at the open house for The Confluence Center in Montpelier, Vermont. This is a unique fitness center specializing in functional fitness, which is described on their website, www.theconfluencevt.org , as such: "The Confluence provides low-tech equipment to support adults, youth and children in their pursuit of strength and conditioning for a specific sport or the achievement of basic physical fitness goals."

And that's all for now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beyond Babies

Our Friday out-to-dinner nights have been ruined this year by the fact that both girls have a full day of school on Friday and are too wiped out to handle restaurant etiquette at the the end of a long day.

Last week, we made an attempt to go out anyway and we had to turn the car around en route because of bad behaviors by the kids, well, mostly by a know-it-all kindergartner who was telling everyone what to do, kicking the back of my seat, and shouting that no one could look at her.

This week, we opted for a Thursday night out and for dinner right downtown so that we could walk from our house in the village.

One of the best fitness feats this year has been my three-year-old daughter's willingness to walk downtown. She was a jogging stroller gal for quite a while, which was a nuisance in the drawn-out stage of wanting to be in and out. And last year, when we just attempted a walk with her, she always ended up in my arms or on Tom's shoulders.

Now, that Julia is an official preschooler (two days a week), she is acting older. She is proud to walk and run and skip and jump. She is showing some stamina. So, tonight we basically ran down to dinner, trekking about a half a mile.

The kids were well-behaved and had a chance to greet a little baby in an infant car seat as we were finishing up our meal. Tom was telling the parents and our kids how he remembered when our kids were that size. Now that baby was cute and quiet and content. But I didn't go over and greet her. I reveled in the fact that I'm beyond that stage. I have two walkers. And away we went, holding hands, walking and even counting stars because preschoolers can count, too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jogger for Sale

It looked like the perfect family outing: a father, mother, two young daughters, and a border collie all out exercising together -- our fit family. Tom ran with Abby, our dog, I pushed Julia in the jogger, and Ava rode her bike; she just upgraded to one with gears.

The first mile was great. The air was cool but not cold. We waved to friends heading home from work and school. And then Julia squirmed in the jogger and tried to break free of her harness.

Tom convinced Julia to ride longer by suggesting that she could get out and run through the paths in the cemetery. Once we reached the cemetery, Julia was happily running until she decided to climb on the gravestones! I launched into a discussion about respect, but kept it short realizing that we had another mile to go and we had to get Julia back IN the jogger.

Just before we reached Main Street, a dog start chasing us. Tom yelled at the dog to go home and instead the dog ran into the street. Fortunately, a pedestrian offered to help with the dog and Julia actually sat still in her seat, entertained by the pandemonium.

Somehow, we made it home without any more mishaps, but now it is clear that we have another jogger for sale.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hike for Health

I've been sick for eleven days. Yes, I've had some ups and downs. But I've been so tired from head and chest congestion that I've had a lot of down time, especially lying on the couch. My daughters asked me to play London Bridge and I suggested that I should sit on the couch so I wouldn't be too tall when really I was too tired to stand up.

The resting is really not that easy with kids around so I decided it was time to fight the fatigue and get the kids tired instead. We got the family up and out on Sunday morning for a fall foliage hike up Mt. Ellen, the northern base of Sugarbush Mountain Resort. (Thankfully, the foliage lift rides that were advertised were not happening as we headed up right near the chair lift.)

Julia began moving at her usual snail's pace so I had to motivate her to find Daddy and Ava at pole number 5, 7, 9, and so on. We decided that pole #12, at the base of the next big climb, would be the lucky spot for a Hershey's Miniature. And we snacked on the next chair lift.

Then we ran down another trail. We like to say that Julia"can smell the barn" like an animal heading home. She almost always has energy for the return trip.

As for me, my energy plummeted at dinner and I started getting chills. So I slept by the fire, just like our dog. That amused the girls. Then, I went to the doctor -- something I hadn't done in a couple of years. I'm on an antibiotic for a sinus infection and on the way to recovery.

Sometimes it takes a little fresh air to get you going, for better or worse, but at least going.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Army Adventure

The girls pretended to be Jack and Annie (from the Magic Treehouse series) as we embarked on an afternoon adventure. Our destination: the army building. We've been seeing the Reserve soldiers walking around town and the girls wanted to know where they were coming from. So, when Ava asked yesterday, "Are we just going to stay home and do something boring?", I let her know that we had a mission. We were going on a trek to check out the local Army National Guard base, a.k.a. the Army building.

The girls found their own little backpacks. Julia filled hers with snacks. Ava put in some snacks as well as a notebook and two red crayons so she could "study" the building, as Jack would study something. We took our dog, Abby, and pretended that she was "Peanut," the mouse in the book that leads the way.

From our house, we quickly got onto a trail that linked to the dead end road of our destination. Even I was intrigued by a road that I'd never been on in my town though I pass by it almost daily. The road was probably a quarter mile long with a slight upgrade. We could see the open gate to the Army building in the distance. Soon, we could see the brick facade. As we got closer a dark sedan passed us filled with men in fatigues. When we got really close, a tank left the gates. What an adventure.

The actual building was not spectacular. Ava, however, took out her notebook and crayon and drew the building -- a rough sketch. Then she wrote down her clues: "Brick Red" so that she would remember the building. Mission accomplished. We saw the Army building and documented it.

We stopped on the way back to snack and hit a bit of slump when Julia wanted to take the sidewalk home rather than the trail and kept running away and crying and then whining to be carried. Next time I'll bring along some more exciting snacks to keep up Julia's stamina. In the meantime, we're thinking about next Tuesday's adventure.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Race Repeats

"I'll race you to the little hill," said Ava.
"Okay," I said, and we raced with Julia a pace or two behind.
Ava and I tied after running from the porch steps to the little hill in our back yard.

"Let's do it again," said Ava.
"Okay," I said.
We had pretty much the same result.

"Let's go again," said Ava.
"I'm getting tired," I said.
"You can time me," she said. "Start counting."
"I'm not going to count, but I do have my stop watch."

Ava ran. "Five seconds," I yelled.
Then, Julia ran. "Seven seconds."
"Your turn, Mommy," said Ava. "I'll do the watch for you."
"Six seconds," she yelled.

We continued taking turns running and timing for a good fifteen minutes. It was an impromptu sprint session. I never liked sprints in high school, but backyard sprints with young kids is a little less competitive. Although, when Julia started running in circles before getting to the hill, she did get reprimanded, but not from me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pooh Sticks

Our last hike didn't start out how we had anticipated. We had great plans of hiking a kid-friendly trail at Elmore State Park and we'd been eyeing the lookout tower gleaming in the sun as we approached the mountain from the back side. We told the girls about the incredible view from the tower and to be careful climbing up the many stairs to the tower's top.

When we pulled into the check-in booth at the park, the attendant asked for our dog's rabies tags. Well, our dog doesn't wear her tags since they fall off when she does her crazy swimming in the lake. We'd simply call the vet as the shots were up-to-date. Only it was Sunday. No fire tower today girls.

Surprisingly, no one complained. We left the park and ventured off to find another hike. I had lived in the area in my single days and vaguely remembered a hike nearby. I asked for directions at the gas station and we were on our way.

By the time we got to this trail head, it was approaching lunch time. Julia got into the snacks and water bottle in her backpack about three steps up the trail. Rather than work our way up to a summit, we opted to follow a snowmobile trail. We went out a half hour and turned around and came back. The terrain was easy, we had the trail to ourselves, and our dog enjoyed jumping in and out of the stream without her dog tags.

The girls decided to play "Pooh Sticks," a game they learned from there favorite story, where you simply drop your sticks from one side of the bridge and see whose gets downstream on the other side of the bridge first. With less worry about how far we were going, we could afford a little more time for entertainment.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hiking with Kids

With fall in the air, the girls and I got out for our first hike of the season. In fact, it was Julia's first mountain hike. Last year, we went on walks on flat terrain since we were beyond the backpack but still in "carry me" mode.

On Monday morning, we were invited to join other families for a hike as many of the preschools hadn't started yet and many kindergarteners were off on that day. Kids are always motivated by other kids, so I figured this was a good day to break in Julia.

Well, there were more kids than I had anticipated -- 12 in all, I think, and six grown-ups. The kids weren't off and running because there were too many rocks and roots, but they moved along. There were rock cairns to check out and the kids added their own rocks to the high piles. A tee pee was a great attraction. The boys tried to keep the girls out, but weren't successful as shown here.

The group naturally spread out with older kids cruising along and younger kids needing encouragement to keep on. I was going to leave Julia and the group of younger, slower kids to go check on the older kids, but Julia didn't like the idea, saying "I want to come, momma." She got a spring in her step and we steadily climbed a series of rock stairs to a scenic vista where the lead groups were waiting and snacking. That was our turnaround point for the day, a little shy of the summit, but we didn't care. We had a great view and we knew we still had to get back down. 

On the descent, Julia complained of tired feet and legs and wanted to be carried, of course. So I pulled out a Startburst candy that I had saved for this occasion. If I had thrown the wrappers down, I would have made a trail of pink, and orange, and yellow. I did get frustrated when she stopped to pick the candy out of her teeth -- as if we weren't going slowly enough -- but I remembered that this is part of the experience. You stop and go a lot with kids.

We were the last in the pack so we didn't have to share our candy. Another time, I would pack some kind of snack that I could share as you tend to have a group of kids right near you. Also, I had Ava's snacks and she was up with other kids and parents so I'll have her wear her own little pack now. I admit that my family was a little bit out of hiking practice. Walks and hikes are not the same in terms of the preparation and motivation needed. We're definitely eager to hit the trails again, especially on a day that Daddy can join us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jumping on the Bed

In "Fit Family" I talk about being creative with family exercise. Well, here's a new take on that. 

My three year old  just got a new mattress and box spring and as we were taking the old ones out of the house to the garage the kids asked if they could jump on them. For once, my husband and I gave the okay to jumping on the bed, not realizing that we had created  a make-shift trampoline in the back yard. 

The kids get sweaty pretty fast from jumping and have to take water  breaks. I've taken a few bounces myself and it's pretty fun. We start at the back steps, jump on the mattress, take a few high hops, and do a twist and dismount onto the grass combining gymnastics and half-pipe moves (not really, but we try).

The "trampoline" gets stored on the back porch every night and will be out of here when we get to the dump run on the weekend. Then we'll be back to more traditional forms of fitness.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Water Babes

August is slipping away, as it always does, and I've yet to write a blog entry! 

Here's where my fit family has been:

in the pool (shown here) or in the lake or reservoir.

It's been weeks since we've been on bikes or on a hike. We're capitalizing on the weather and getting in the water. Ava has been swimming through my legs underwater, making some major headway since her swimming lessons last month and Julia stays in the water right with her sister. I've been supporting Julia while she "swims" without her lifejacket.

It's amazing what constant practice does for skill level and confidence. I wish that my older daughter practiced her violin as much as she has been practicing swim skills. I guess I've got to help make it a habit and make it fun by playing games -- the key components of our water time.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Triathlon Get-Away Weekend

My life has been like a triathlon lately so I'm just sitting down to report on last weekend's actual event. It was my third annual Danskin Triathlon, a sprint series. This one takes place in Webster, MA. The best part of the event is gathering with family -- sisters, partners, nieces. Over 2,000 women compete and usually I am the last in my family to start since the younger ages are placed in later wave starts. This year my niece had a late wave and I was able to see her finish. No matter how great or horrible your race is, the finish is awesome and watching someone come down the chute and through the finish is awesome, too.

It is important to note that this is my one weekend away from my kids. I relish that since I stay home with my kids and see them A LOT. My mother-in-law commented that someday this would probably be an event that I took my kids and husband to. I replied quickly (perhaps too quickly) that I would not be taking the rest of the family. I spent a half hour just trying to find my niece in that crowd! Safety aside, I think that every mother deserves one weekend away from her kids.  A triathlon is a breeze compared to parenting and the sense of accomplishment comes in a matter of hours rather than years.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Swim Lesson Season

This morning my three year old suggested that the whole family should go to swim lessons. And so we did. The lessons are only for kids, so Tom and I weren't taking lessons, too (though I could use one as prep for my triathlon next weekend), but we watched proudly from the other side of the fence surrounding the pool. 

Both kids are in the same class, a level one introductory swim class that follows the guidelines of the American Red Cross. Ava took the same class last year at age four and I figured it couldn't hurt to enroll Julia at age three as she would have her older sister for company.

On day 1, Julia hardly entered the pool and Ava later complained that the lesson wasn't that fun because the other kids were all boys. On day 2, I had no expectations for Julia and decided that I'd pull her out altogether if she didn't go in. Well, Daddy took her that day and reported that she was the first in and last out of the pool. Ava was happy to have her sister in the water. 

Today, day 5 of 10, was the first hot day all week and the girls took to the water eagerly. Ava fetched rings, actually dipping her face underwater for the retrieval and Julia walked around with her foam noodle, proudly making it to the line rope marking the beginning of the next class. The girls payed attention to their instructor, looked out for each other, and had a great time. It was a proud day for my family -- at least for 45 minutes. I'll take what I can get.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Race Report and Vacation Prep

It's now been a week since our "Fourth of July" road race. Yes, we celebrated early here and I've yet to report that Ava managed fine on her own. She ran a 9:49 mile right alongside her friend and just behind another friend and her mom. 

Ava looked a bit winded at the end (she's the one in back below), but claimed that the race was easy. We're dealing with a little attitude combined with new-found confidence. Sometimes it's hard to know when to call her on it.

Now, we're off on vacation. It will be the first time that we take bikes along with us and we'll be leaving the jogger behind. We'll be swimming in the lake in New Hampshire and walking the beaches of Maine. The girls will bike in some parks while we run. I'm hoping to get in some training for the Danskin Triathlon at the end of the month. I also have to wrap-up my column for Cross Country Skier Magazine as the deadline is this month. Gotta love thinking about snow in July. Let's just hope we don't get some. Rain and 60s seems to be the New England forecast these days!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pre-Race Jitters

I have the pre-race jitters and I'm not even racing tomorrow. Nope, my five-year-old is the racer and she'll be competing in a mile race that she ran last year. She's such a confident, veteran runner that she has asked that I not go with her this time.

As a parent, my mind floods with some worries and expectations -- I hope she doesn't start too fast and blow up, I hope her shoe lace doesn't come untied, will she be disappointed if her friends finish before her? 

I know that my concerns are foolish. There are many other parents who will be running and can offer support and this little girl loves to run. So, I'm trying to calm myself and get prepared early (race clothes out, change of clothes, food and water for after). Little sister and I will be at the finish line with our camera ready for action shots.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bike Rodeo

We have an annual Kids' Fest in my town that has the usual attractions for young kids: bubble blowing, bouncy house, face painting, kids' music... Another big draw is the bike rodeo. 

No, it is not as wild as it sounds. Kids aren't doing crazy tricks on their bikes. Instead, they are being led in an orderly fashion through a course marked on a designated parking lot. Kids have to stop at the cross walk (indicated by chalk markings) and walk their bikes. They weave through cones and go over a ramp at fast or slow speeds depending on their ability and adventure quest. 

Children on tricycles, training wheels and middle-school show offs all got something out of this event (even FREE helmets) thanks to our local Wheels Around Waterbury and Wayne A. Sourdiff Safety Foundation. We'll be there again next year.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Flying High

Naturally, I'm always thinking of ways to get our family out and be fit. By chance and circumstance a new activity came to mind this weekend: kite flying. 

On Saturday afternoon, we were all ready to take our first trip to the reservoir for some swim fun when in rolled the storm clouds. Luckily, I had just bought the girls kites in the morning so with the wind whipping we had a quick fall back activity.

After some basic kite assembly, we took to the nearby playground. Luckily, we had one parent for each child to help get the kites flying. Ava caught on quickly and became somewhat independent. Julia's string kept letting go and soon her Nemo fish was swimming high in the sky. Eventually Ava's fairies and Julia's fish crossed paths and some untangling was required. 

The girls were laughing and running back and forth to keep the kites soaring. I was surprised by how much running they got in. The exercise was an unexpected benefit. Tom and I didn't run too much, but we enjoyed the nostalgia of the activity. Of course, the girls are begging to fly kites again and we haven't had any wind. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Exercise Playgroup

It's physical. It's social. Exercise playgroup gives parents a chance to get out and exercise while other parents watch the children. Often, the kids simply play in someone's backyard or at the park. This week, however, one of the girls in our group suggested that all the kids go for a run. And so we did, once all the moms had a chance to get in their own jaunt.

I quickly took on the lead runner role dashing down the sidewalk with the five and six year olds. I let them know our stopping destination was the red fire hydrant at the end of the road so they had a sense of where we were going and it was in sight -- a good destination. 

My three year old wailed because I was so far ahead of her, so some carrying and consoling was needed for the return run and another mom quickly jumped in as the lead runner. We had a 2 year old, 3 year old, 4 and 5 year olds and even an infant in a front carrier along on our run/walk. 

We covered about a 1/2 mile and we didn't call it a race. The kids went out for a run just like their moms did. Active parents are great role models for kids and acting on a kid's interest in being active, too, is powerful stuff.

I just found a website about kids' running that is hosted by Runner's World at http://www.kidsrunning.com/. I'm going to check it out for ideas.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The You-Go-I-Go Thing

Most parents of young children fit in their training sessions by doing the you-go-I-go thing. I learned of the term after interviewing a triathlete about how he fit in his training while also raising kids ages 2, 4, and 6.  While this dad participates in many fitness activities with his own kids, he certainly isn't taking them out on the bike for hours or swimming laps with them.

In my family, when we're not out on a family fitness adventure, Tom and I are swapping training time while the other parent is on kid duty. This may be the most practical way to get in exercise, but it isn't always the most fun.

Thanks to a holiday weekend in the presence of my extended family, my husband and I actually ran together this weekend while our niece had a tea party with our girls. As soon as we saw that tea set come out and heard that juice and cookies would be served, we ran. 

Now, my husband and I don't run the same pace. I have to run fast and he has to slow down, but it works out. We get to talk, to not talk, and when we're done, we're both psyched to have our exercise completed. And our kids got plenty of exercise, too, without us -- playing ball, riding bikes, walking, and running with their older cousins. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Exercise for Parent and Child

A mom just conveyed this common dilemma to me:

You go out with your bike trailer and get a great workout hauling your little kid around, especially up the hills. Then, you get home and want to relax and your passenger is full of energy. What's the solution?

Let your child(ren) out to run around or bike around on their own after your ride. I even announce that this is the plan ahead of time so my kids have something to look forward to. A one year old will be happy just running around the yard. A two year old might be able to pedal around on a tricycle or trike, and a three year old could be on training wheels or on a no-pedal bike. The idea is to let kids get exercise just like you. You might need 45 minutes and they might need five or twenty-five, depending on the age and ability of the child, and on the day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tracking Your Exercising and Eating Habits

If you're looking for a way for your family to exercise more and eat healthier, try tracking your activities on a daily basis with a focus on these goals. We did this with our preschooler, Ava, thanks to her participation in the Governor’s Fit and Healthy Kids Winter Challenge, "Stretch Your Limits." 

The program encourages school age children to exercise more, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, and turn off the TV by tracking their activities on a chart for six weeks. (We just celebrated Ava's participation in the program this week with a ceremony on the statehouse lawn.)

Since Ava can't write much yet, I filled in her chart but she was the doer. The daily tracking made me more aware of some of our habits. Though Ava got in a variety of fitness activities (cross country skiing, yoga, dance, walking), getting in lots of different fruits and vegetables was more of a challenge. The chart was on the refrigerator so we looked at it often and the days that were blank stood out. I know that other parents were motivated by the chart as well. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Active Reward

As a reward for putting the 50th sticker on their Following Directions Chart, my girls could choose to do anything they wanted (well, within reason). They decided on riding bikes on the playground. I was surprised. I was sure they would think of some adventure for candy or chocolate or ice cream. Bike riding. Wow. What a great choice.

So, off we went to the playground today. (I should mention that our elementary school has a natural playground so the trees and boulders and hillside are the basis for play.) Ava was enticed by a swerving gravel path. She saw a boy go cruising down it last year and I said that she'd have to wait until she got her training wheels off to give it a go. Today was the day that Ava got to do her free wheeling and she was pretty confident, except on a few of the sharp turns. 

Her little sister brought out the old tricycle for the event since her training wheels can't handle the gravel.

The actual riding took about five minutes. No, this was not an exercise outing, it was an act of accomplishment. These girls tried out something new. Instead of our parking lot practice sessions, there were some new elements combined together: a slope, sharp turns, and gravel. Once they could say that they did it, they ditched the bikes and climbed a tree.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Modeling Behavior

My five year old's attire today includes: a running shirt, running sneakers, an antique dress, and decorative tights. The outfit clashes horribly, but that doesn't matter to me today. I know that she is a runner today. She dressed the part (for her) and she is running all over the place, racing down the halls and across the yard.

Her little sister is running in her sneaks, too, but they were moving too fast to get them in the same picture.

From the time the girls were early toddlers (they're now 3 and 5), they would dress up like their parents donning running sneakers, ski boots or bike helmets. They looked silly wearing our active wear, but now they have their own. They're even competing in fun runs and lollipop ski events. They're growing up so quickly and being active with their mom and dad is a natural habit now.

So, the next time your little one grabs for your cycling shoes or your daypack, let him or her do some modeling. That's what modeling behavior is all about.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wagon Ride

I grew up in the era of the little red wagon. So, it was with some nostalgia that my kids hopped into Grammy's wagon today for a ride/walk. Who needs a fancy jogging stroller when you've got a wagon that can be used in the yard and on the street? Well, a parent who wants to cruise along and have a child (or two) buckled in.

Yes, the jogger has made life easier for parents, but kids sure have a good time in a wagon. My kids took turns pulling each other and then got out and raced Grammy while I pulled an empty wagon. When they got tired, they hopped back in. 

The best thing about this particular wagon is that it is actually a garden cart. It has big, off road wheels and a base that will never rust in the rain. And when the kids get too big for a ride, it can collect leaves instead of dust.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Moms' Run

I ran twelve miles this morning with five other ladies, four of whom are moms. The non-mom has to put up with a lot of kid talk and parental venting.  The run is part of our schedule. On Sunday morning, from 7:30-9:30 am, we run and we talk. Someone else watches the kids, usually a spouse, but occasionally a teenager who lives nearby and is willing to rise early.

The roads are quiet on a Sunday morning, so we can run two abreast or three abreast and be part of a giant conversation or carry on several discussions. The pace is moderate, about 8:30 minute miles, so it is easy to talk and run. We switch who we are next to when someone stops for a pee break, to tie a shoe, or when a passing car squeezes us to single file and changes our formation. 

I had been on a five-month hiatus from these ladies' runs after taking the winter off to cross-country ski and today was my first day back. My legs felt great and I was eager to rejoin this comraderie. As much as I love exercising with my kids, I recognize the importance of getting in my own exercise and getting a break from parenting for a couple of hours.

And in the afternoon, Ava had her own chance to exercise and socialize while biking with a friend while the dads ran alongside. As for Julia, she had a rest day, initiating her own afternoon nap on the porch. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stretching Session

Ava and I spent nearly an hour stretching together this morning. Sounds boring, I know. And surprising that a five-year-old would be interested for so long. But our stretching session was an active show-and-tell.  I showed her a stretch from my yoga core class, which we both performed. Then, she showed me a stretch from her pre-primary ballet class. We arched our backs like a cat, wagged our "tail," and rested in Child's Pose. We rocked back and forth on our spine, which Ava called "rocking chair," and tried several balancing poses.

When I went out for a run on my own later, up a long, steep hill, I felt great. Nice and loose. 

Stretching is often one of those things that I don't get to often enough and my tight limbs pay. With young kids in the house, I usually dread stretching because I become a human jungle gym. Today was different. My older daughter taught me stretches.  I told her that maybe she could be a dance or yoga instructor someday, that is when she isn't busy being a doctor, cheerleader, or President of the United States.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bike Chase

It's hard to believe that I now have a three year old and a five year old. We celebrated birthday #3 for Julia on the weekend. Sometimes she seems like a baby still, sucking that thumb and holding her blankie, but she has bumped up to the preschooler category and is gaining some independence.

I admit that I report most often on Ava's fitness endeavors... she is older and so is the first to bike and ski and hike and dance. She also has tremendous focus and so picks up skills due to a lot of practicing and determination. But I think that little sister, Julia, may possess the natural talent. The trick with her is keeping her interested.

I had a lucky breakthrough with Julia the other day. It wasn't intentional. Ava was flying around an empty parking lot on her bike and I was trying to get Julia to focus on her steering. She wasn't interested. She kept going in circles. Then she'd hop off and run around and hop back on the bike. She started biking right at me. I was about to yell at her when instead I ran. Julia was in gleeful hysterics. Chase down mommy. What a great game. I swerved this way and that and sure enough Julia kept right up, steering perfectly. 

Sometimes it takes some fun and games to get those not-so-focused kids going.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A First for Everything

I've been dreaming about it for five years and it happened today. We have a child that can ride her bike while we run. Admittedly, it wasn't all smooth sailing. It was more like a parade. Tom was out front pushing Julia in the jogger and Ava was either on his heels or trying to close the gap. I was the rear patrol, sprinting or jogging in place to maintain my place in line. 

Our new biker has learned how to finesse the bumpy sidewalks and to stop at multiple road crossings. I'm sure that our parking-lot training sessions will seem boring soon, though littler sister needs them for some steering practice with the training wheels.

So, I didn't get a picture of this big occasion as we were on the run, of course. But we did come home and get right into another activity -- greenhouse gardening. It's our first attempt at starter plants from seeds. I didn't even have a chance to change out of my running clothes before the rest of the family "dug in" to the project. What you'll see is a bunch of peet cups that look to me like mini chocolate muffins. There is also a cover that forms the so-called greenhouse. Let's hope that little hands stay out of there and that something sprouts. Thumbs are only green around here when they've been into markers and paint!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Balancing Act

When the weekend rolls around, my family expects to get in some type of family exercise. But sometimes, a perfectly good day gets away from us. Take this past Saturday. The weather was gorgeous, the sun was out, the sap was flowing, and we were mattress shopping. A morning excursion turned into a full-day affair. We traveled around central Vermont going in and out of one furniture store after another. And when we (the parents) finally found the perfect mattress that put us into immediate nap mode, we began eyeing bed frames. 

The girls were fairly well behaved and were mesmerized by the large show rooms. But when Julia decided to bounce on one bed and caterpulted into the air, we knew it was time to call it quits. So we hit a newly built playground and let the girls go crazy on the twirly slides, climbing walls, and swings. I was pretty much a spectator but the fresh air pulled me out of my mattress slumber. As for Tom, he got a quick walk in to the nearby grocery store. 

And the next day, we took the girls out on their bikes even though we woke up to snow. We had made a promise, after all. And so it is in family life, balancing everyone's wants and needs. But, because of that long bed-shopping adventure, the girls think they need bunk beds!

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Season, New Sports

 In one week I've gone from watching a confident five-year-old snow plow down the ski trails to seeing that same kid wobble on her two-wheel bike and tip over into a mud patch. 'Tis the change of seasons here in Vermont. I'm not naive enough to think that winter is actually over, but I'm anxious to get my running legs back and to get my girls ready to bike without giving me a heart attack watching them swerve all over the road. 

Bring on 50 degree weather and dry roads and we're back to biking. Well, the girls are. Me, I'm just aching from bending over giving them a "starting push." The stress of watching the bike and rider careen along ahead of me is bad for the back and exacerbates the tightness. The sidewalks with all the slopes and cracks aren't exactly conducive to a new bike rider either.

We're probably going to need a few more parking lot training sessions like this one before I let Ava bike alongside me on a run.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2nd Annual Cabin Trek

In case the snow disappears this week, we squeezed in our second annual cabin trek on Saturday. The 5K uphill trek to the cabin takes a while with the family. The trip back down (5K again) takes no time if you can stay on your feet.

The weather was perfect for being outdoors with kids -- 4o degrees and sunny. But we did hit a challenge early on. Our pulk broke. The duct tape fix would last no longer. Luckily we hadn't hit the hills yet. Tom did the problem solving and headed back to the Nordic center to borrow a pulk available for rental. Ava and I forged on. Up and up and up. 

Ava did get a reprieve on one particularly steep section of trail thanks to a rope tow harness that Tom devised last year. Last year Ava used the tow quite a bit for the cabin trek, but this year, just for one section.

Aside from the cabin treats (banana bread for Ava, a brownie for Julia and supposedly me, and a sandwich for mom and dad), the best part was the descent. Ava has just learned to snowplow so my heart rate was much more tame seeing her controlled downhill technique. Julia got to ski between Daddy's legs and was happy for the attention. I was so warm that I could take pictures with my gloves off.

And now that we've wrapped up that notorious ski trek, I'm ready for spring!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Just The Two of Us

When you have more than one child, taking just one of them somewhere is a luxury. There's no opportunity for sibling squabbles and you get to experience  one-on-one parent/child interaction.

So it was that I went skiing yesterday with just Ava during Julia's nap time. We skied side by side in the tracks and talked about Pooh Bear, about friends and relatives, and how it would be a good idea if we went into the lodge after to warm up with hot cocoa by the fire. 

Ava showed off her snow plow on occasion, a skill that she is fortunately acquiring rather than screaming "track" on the downhills as she has in the past. And we did a nice loop without having to drag little sister along protesting in the pulk.

We topped the outing off by playing checkers in the lodge according to our own rules. Sometimes, I wish that I could be five again.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Exercising with Grown-ups

It's school vacation week and I've had the luxury of running and skiing with friends while someone else has watched my kids. The sitters have included my sister, my dad, and my husband, who doesn't have to teach this week.

The bonus of having an exercise companion means that we get to talk about, well, all the good and bad things about our kids is a given, but we also talk about work, about the economy, about issues in the community, and whether or not the new hairdresser in town is worth going to. When you try to have these discussions with kids around, they get started but come to a quick halt when a child falls on the pavement and needs a Band Aid or when your child says "Excuse me" so many times that you've forgotten what you were talking about anyways.

It's true that exercising with a friend or two requires more planning to match schedules and to arrange for child care, but I'm up for that challenge.



Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Stud

My husband is in demand by a small group of ladies in town for his "stud service" or that is what he likes to call it. The ladies are my running friends and my husband is winterizing their sneakers. 

Somehow, there has been a buzz this winter about screw shoes, which use small sheet rock screws inserted into sneaker soles to provide traction on hard packed snow and ice. All you need is a screw driver and some screws and a pair of sneakers that you will dedicate to winter running.

I usually take the winter off from running and instead cross country ski, but this season I have been running once or twice a week as I am able to sneak in a quick run while a friend watches my kiddo. My new stud shoes have a subtle grab on the roads. My running buddy says that she prefers these homemade jobs to YakTrax for running in town on a little hard pack snow. 

Here is a photo of my converted sneakers as well as instructions by runner Matt Carpenter, which were featured recently on the Runner's World web site.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Scavenger-Hunt Ski

Julia had the best ski of her almost-three-year-old life today. She had some incentive to ski thanks to a clever little scavenger-hunt course. Each fun find was spaced far enough to get your curiousity going and just out of sight, too, to keep the momentum going.  

I started by holding onto Julia's hand, but she quickly told me that she could ski on her own. She was smiling and chatty and moved along steadily in the tracks until she saw a prize bucket and crossed over to collect her ware. Among the things that she tucked in her pockets: a wooden bunny to decorate; a rubber ducky; a clementine; sheep's skin (for cleaning skis); and a Kit Kat bar, purposely saved for last. The grand prize, which was passed out to the little participants, was a coupon for a free maple creemie (Vermont's version of soft serve ice cream). We're used to eating them in the summer so it was a treat today to almost eliminate the roll of drips down the kids' chins.

Ava got an ice cream on-the-house, too, after completing her lollipop race, which was about .8K. She fell down at a bottleneck on the first turn but recovered and had a strong finish. Most importantly, she enjoyed skiing with a bunch of other kids her age.

Now Tom wasn't happy with his race performance and I never got in the ski that I anticipated, but this was the kids day to shine and they sure did.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

'Fit Family' Gets Good Press

Tom came home from the Craftsbury Marathon today with a couple of publications that featured "Fit Family." Yippee. His race goodie bag had the current issue of Cross Country Skier Magazine and "Fit Family" is in the New Stuff/Books section -- top right-hand corner of the page with a nice summary. I looked on the magazine's website, but couldn't find a link to the write-up. The issue (December 2008) has a cool cover with an impressionist painting of a skier. 

Vermont Sports' February issue also looks at "Fit Family" via a Reader Athlete profile of me. The interviewer, Sky Barsch, asked some great questions. 

And, Tom finished 2nd in his 25K race. So, lots of good news from Craftsbury today. 

The girls and I tried getting out on skis on the nearby tracks today, but Ava's skis weren't fast enough (she claimed), the wind was in Julia's face, and a rest day seemed the best answer for us. Technically, we were on skis, but I'm not chalking it up as a ski day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beyond Skiing

It's obvious. My family is obsessed with cross-country skiing. On the weekends, we ski first then do other things. But we do sled and romp around in the snow, climbing huge snow banks, for instance. 

These activities are a workout, too. For little legs bundled in snowpants to go up and down a hill a gazillion times is tiring. For me to chase the sled is a workout, too.

Since Ava had been getting snow down her boots a lot while trekking through the snow, we just bought some new boots. (We went shopping for them AFTER skiing on the weekend.) She is trying out some Kamuk boots that have a rubber exterior but are more pliable than rain boots. (See photo below).

So far so good for comfort, secure fit, and warmth. And we're happy to support our neighboring country, O Canada. We're so close that we get CBC as part of our basic cable package. So when we're all tired out from outdoor exercise, we come in to watch some downhill ski racing on CBC. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Seven Days Newspaper Features 'Fit Family'

The Jan. 21 issue of Seven Days has a great write-up on family fitness that features my book. 

"As Waterbury’s Heidi Hill writes in her new book, Fit Family: The Infant, Toddler, and Preschool Years, families can learn to exercise with their kids, almost as soon as they arrive in this world."

Link to the story at:

Also, check out the entire issue, which focuses on Health and Fitness at http://www.7dvt.com/.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

'I Don't Do Yoga'

It had to happen sometime. My five-year-old daughter, who eagerly tries new types of fitness, put her foot down about yoga class: "I do ballet, not yoga," she informed me. I signed us up anyway as both girls and I could go and it is just a four-session class.

I didn't get into a battle with Ava and was prepared for anything on the first class. I let her wear her dance leotard and didn't get on her case when she wasn't trying the poses. Yes, she was just lying on her mat rather than doing all the poses, but she was listening and she wasn't disruptive. (Meanwhile, Julia was on my back while I was doing poses, but she wasn't disruptive either.)

Once the "Let's Go Swimming" music came on, Ava roused a bit, swimming like a fish in the water. Recognizing the music from last year's creative dance class helped, too.

My assessment: I believe in having kids try many types of fitness, even when they resist. If Ava doesn't want to try another yoga class, I won't insist. Who knows, maybe this will be Julia's thing. She is proudly practicing Downward Dog all by herself at home though she calls it "Underdog."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Birthday Party Mayhem

I survived another birthday party. Number 5. I wish I could say that I look forward to the parties, the pretty cake, the pinata, the frolicking kids, but I don't. I get anxious and breathe a big sigh of relief when it is over for a whole year.

I have to admit that this one went well. Winter birthday parties can be a big challenge with rambunctious kids running around in your house for two hours. So, we planned a sledding party. I checked the extended forecast as intently as I did prior to my wedding. I was crossing my fingers for a fair weather day and I got it. Perfect snow conditions, too. 

There were a couple of minor sledding collisions, but no injuries. Then we went inside for cake. It was adorable, yummy, and I didn't make it. The smile on my five-year-old girl was unforgettable.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Perfect Ski

I decided to be selfless today -- choosing to ski with my family instead of ski by myself. The sun was out, the kicking was good, and the temp was decent, just a slight breeze and a temp close to 20 degrees F. 

We convinced Julia to ride in the pulk though I'd sworn those days were done. It's our only solution for all getting out together now. Ava kicked up a sizable hill and then came the excitement -- the ride down, where she passed several grownups, and shouted "Track, Track, Trackkkk!" Fortunately, there were no collisions. Yup, we're going to have to give some instruction on getting out of those tracks.

Julia got her turn on skis after -- hopping into the tracks with her strap-on skis, which we reverted to for convenience. Yup, these are the days that make up for those not-so-great days. Hallelujah!