This sponsored blog by the YMCA focuses on healthy living, healthy outlooks, and healthy challenges parents face on a daily basis. These women are regular moms, just like you, who are working to balance activities and obligations, lessons and love – while setting good examples for their children.
Name: Sara L.
Kids: Evan (22), Georgia (3.5), Parker (2)
Parenting style: Inconsistent
Favorite family activities: Crafts, movie night, field trips to the zoo and the park
Hobbies/Interests: Shopping at Target, solo trips to the coffee shop, Real Housewives of_______
Best known for: Inappropriate sense of humor at all the wrong times
Name: Jessica H.
Kids: Elijah (9), Ruby (6), Gideon (3)
Parenting style: Evolving. I use logic when I can, bribes when they’re needed, and unconditional love always.
Favorite family activities: Having fun. Whether it’s the grocery store or the park – it’s more fun when we’re silly.
Hobbies/Interests: Anything creative
Best known for: Saying exactly what I think. (I win some and lose some this way.)
Name: Lisa T.
Kids: Lauren (13), Leah (11), Sydney (7)
Parenting style: Perfect balance of structure and chaos.
Favorite family activities: kid’s sports (playing and cheering), cooking with the kids, family game and movie nights
Hobbies/Interests: Cooking, nutrition, yoga, crochet
Best known for: Healthy, home-cooked meals and brown-bag lunches.
I’m a few workouts into my training for the Run Like a Mother 5K in May. (Back story here.) I can’t really call it training because there is no plan other than to get on my shoes, get to the Y and run. (Okay…jog.) I’m not sure yet about pacing or warm ups or how many miles is a K, but what I do know is that I started. And I feel pretty darn okay.
I downloaded an embarrassing amount of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj for a woman my age, but the rhythm and youthful grrrrl power makes me feel strong and makes me want to keep going through to another song.
I love to people-watch as I run. The Y is such a melting pot of kids, families, adults and seniors. The moms hustle in with their kids, towels and swimsuits in tow ready for swim lessons. Little girls in tutus head downstairs for ballet class. Friends meet up in the lobby, ready to tackle a cycling or group exercise class together. Seniors stretch and chat, staying active and social well into the decades. People of all shapes and sizes show up to learn something new, be active, and hopefully get a little healthier.
This has helped so much in the early stages of my training. Even though I’ve been to the Y many times before, it was usually for work or to take my kids to class. When I walked in to work out I felt like an awkward 6th grader again. Were my clothes right? Which is the right treadmill? And how to I turn the stupid thing on? Can EVERYONE tell I don’t know what I’m doing? Ridiculous, I know.
Then I noticed that 1) no one was looking at me (should’ve remembered that from 6th grade), and 2) everyone around me was at differing stages of ability. But we were all there doing something. I was doing something. I’m certainly not putting myself in the athlete category, and I’m pretty certain that there was a 70-year-old woman on the track who could’ve lapped me, but I started. And it feels good.
It's been cold enough for long enough now that I swear my house has shrunk to half its normal size. My kids are bickering (incessantly) with each other one minute, running wild the next, and leaving a trail of destruction and chaos in their wake. Also, the "b-word" has reared its ugly head. The b-word, my friends, is likely not what you're thinking – although it's a "naughty" word in our house nonetheless. The b-word is "bored." I loathe that word – almost as much as I long to have enough time to waste becoming it.
A couple years ago, I instituted a 25 cent penalty for each utterance of the word. My kids are young enough that this is quite a serious penalty – so I was happy when it took barely more than a dollar's worth of fines for the word to be eradicated from our vocabulary. Until just recently, with my youngest the offender.
This has been the longest of winters with the strangest of weather for us. Not really enough snow to be fun, often too cold to play outside if there is, and a sloppy mess in between. We've also been plagued by more than our fair share of illness (strep, pink eye, colds, flus, more pink eye…you get the picture), so we've been a bit self-quarantined more than our liking. But in between our contagiousness, we've found a winter boredom buster for the whole, entire family. Yes, the whole 39-year span of us. (Insert triumphant trumpet noises here.)
If you've never been to Passport to Play at your local Y, and you have kids who like to play, and better yet, your kids have parents who like to play – you have to check it out. Not a Y member, you say? Not a problem, I say (and, well, so does the Y, which is the important part). It's full of fun games, sorted by age groups, and changes each week. Anything from red-light, green-light to dodge ball to family basketball. Led by friendly gym-teacher-like instructors, children and parents run and laugh and play. And this time of year, having a wide-open space to run (without being dressed like that kid in the Christmas Story) is a big, fat luxury. Add most definitely, a b-word buster.
Schedule and locations below – hope to see you there!
South Shore YMCA, 6:00-7:30pm
Northside YMCA, 6:00-7:30pm
Tri-County YMCA, 6:00-7:30pm
“Ugh. I just feel so old.”
My husband and I say that to each other on a regular basis. Creaking our way out of bed in the morning or out of breath after a quick game of chase with the kids, we just feel old. Much older than we should.
I’m smart enough to know the formula for feeling better: put good food in your body and get your body moving. I am fully aware that the amount of muffins and pasta and Malbec I’m putting in my body is not good for me. The pristine condition of my workout shoes is a bright yellow reminder that no one – neither my shoes nor my body - is getting a workout.
My husband recently went for a routine physical and shared his woes with the doctor. “You have to get some aerobic exercise,” said the doc. “It’s as simple as that.”
So we set out to make an exercise plan. How would we balance our schedules to fit in a workout without being away from home/the kids too much? We both had a million excuses and my yellow shoes are still staring at me from the shoe rack.
We both belong to the Y. It’s open before the sun comes up and closes well after the kids go to bed. Seven days a week. They have babysitting for the kids and more cardio machines and exercise classes than we could possibly use. So what are we waiting for? Why is it so hard to get started?
As fate would have it, fellow Y blogger, Jessica, mentioned to a few friends that she was going to try the Run Like a Mother 5K (info here) and wondered if a few of us would join her. She, like me, hates running and admits that she isn’t very good.
For those who run a 5K as a warm up…good for you. That’s awesome. But I have never liked running and always feel like I’m about to trip with every step. My inner dialogue goes something like this, “Am I going too fast? Too slow? Do I look weird? Why I am getting this cramp in my side? Are my cheeks really flushed? Because I feel like a tomato.”
I knew, though, that this was the perfect motivation to get me off of the proverbial couch and doing SOMETHING. It’s on Mother’s Day; it’s all about women and families; and there’s a training program involved. And the fact that Jessica and others will be there struggling together and supporting each other made it very appealing to me.
I started to get really excited about the idea that I would run a 5K (again – a BIG deal for me) before I turn 40 this fall. Have I donned my workout shoes yet? Not quite. Will I? Yes. I’ll fight it every sluggish step of the way, but I’m excited to get started and see what kind of progress this old body will make.
I know I date myself when I say I remember the “good ‘ol days,” when you needed to talk to someone, you picked up the phone and called. And, if they weren’t home, you had to – gasp – call them back. These days, most everyone is reachable anytime, anywhere. No matter what the age, eyes are on a screen, fingers are on a keypad, and ears are plugged into headphones.
This Christmas, my second grader asked for an iPod touch (which she didn’t get). When we told her we felt she was too young, she proceeded to name off all of the kids in her class who already have pods or pads of some sort, and all of the reasons she needed one.
My older daughters do have iPods, and the oldest, a phone with texting and internet capabilities. I felt I was keeping a decent eye on what types of sites they were visiting and whom they were texting until I recently attended a presentation entitled, “The Dark Side of the Internet,” presented by a police detective who sets up internet stings to catch predators. It was eye opening as well as terrifying. Little did I know about the sites and chat rooms that are meant for children who predators prey upon. I was oblivious to the “meet up sites” that use tracking software on phones to help track and meet others also using the site – and guess who’s using those sites as well? Then I heard the stories about young people who take photos and videos to send to their girlfriend or boyfriend of the moment, that years later end up on websites exploiting them. And that when they are linked to someone on internet gaming, it could be a predator playing as their opponent. Predators use these “kid friendly” sites to meet, gain the trust of, meet up with, and potentially harm, children.
When I first told my daughters about the presentation I was attending, my oldest was furious, stating, “I know you don’t trust me!” To which I calmly replied, “no, I don’t trust everyone else. My number one job as a parent is to keep you safe.” Their father and I decided we needed to sit them down and share some of the information we had learned, as we felt it important that they know why we need to monitor what they are doing and to whom they are communicating.
It’s great when the young generation can maneuver these items, as technology will play a big part in their future, yet what part of childhood is being sacrificed? “Virtual reality” gives kids permission to detach from the family, and often from reality. Consequences don’t seem to cross their minds. People “say” things more easily to each other when it is typed into a text or chat room than if they were speaking face-to-face, although the feelings and potential to hurt others is just as real.
I urge parents to get educated about the sites that target kids, and know what your children and teens are up to. I recently had to contact a mother about texts being sent between her child and my daughter (because I read my teen’s texts), to which she replied, “but she doesn’t have a phone just an iPod,” not knowing that “there’s an app for that!”
Set a time for technology, and a time for family. It’s helpful to keep computers in public family areas, not in bedrooms, and set restrictions on other more “mobile” devices. We’ve set a turn-in rule at our house, where all phones and iPods are dropped on dad’s dresser before turning in for the night. We learned this the hard way after finding our teen texting under the covers after hours!
Most importantly, encourage real family and friend face-time over “facetime.” Unplug and head to the YMCA as a family for some good old-fashioned social networking with the Passport to Play program, open gym, or family pool time. And pre-teen and teen—aged girls will love the fun of “Girls Night Out.” Check your local Y or http://www.ymcacmke.org for program offerings and times.
As a parent, you’re filled with so much angst, worry, doubt and second-guessing. It’s automatic, I think, when you’re entirely responsible for another person’s life. Did I dress them warmly enough? Are they sick enough to go to the doctor – or urgent care? Have I fed them chicken nuggets too many times this week – even if they’re the “all-natural” ones? Yada, yada, yada.
But – I know I’m doing at least something right. My kids like vegetables. Genuinely like them. Even prefer them (sometimes) to other goodies. When I bring home sugar snap peas, it’s like Christmas. No kidding. Whooping and hollering and rejoicing. A couple weeks ago, at the farmers’ market, the kids begged for carrots. (Well, in all honesty, they also begged for apple doughnuts, too.) My three-year old walked around carrying a carrot in one hand and doughnut in the other, absolutely delighted. And guess which one he actually finished? Yup. The carrot.
Now, don’t get me wrong. While I may sound boastful – my intention is really to share my disbelief. I was raised on processed foods – hamburger meals in a box, mock chicken legs, beefaroni and San Francisco treats. There is a warm place in my heart for these delicious, sodium-filled foods. I have a mother who hates most veggies. Yet, I have grown to love many of them (which shocks her, actually), and even had a stint as a vegetarian. But the fact that my kids delight in them, quite frankly, baffles and awes me. It’s almost like I’m withholding a secret – that vegetables are good for them – and thus, they should (or could) protest rather than exult. On the other hand, I’m super proud of them. And of myself. For skirting the fact that what I’m feeding them is good for them.
We’re a relatively healthy family. No major issues, for which we are extremely grateful. My kids have inherited a history of high-blood pressure, however – so those sodium rich convenience foods that I have a life-long love for are off the table. Literally. Unfortunately – and fortunately. My kids are active, they like playing sports and climbing trees. We own video games, but our house is not consumed by them. We belong to the Y. It’s one of their favorite places to go (and I would tell you that regardless of being a “Y blogger” or not).
On the other hand, they bicker with each other, taunt and tease. They compete for attention, and all the other things three siblings tend to do. But this time of year – I greatly prefer to count my blessings. And today, it’s that I’ve successfully “tricked” my kids into liking vegetables.
Parker (2) is a climber and can pretty much figure out any kind of baby-proofing device on the market. Georgia (almost 4) is a talker. The house is filled with questions, answers, sassy responses, negotiating, and general endless chatter. Some days – like most moms of young kids – the noise, clutter and constant vigilance is exhausting.
And then I got smacked in the face with a bit of perspective. That always seems to happen when I am at my most frustrated.
This last summer, I volunteered with the YMCA as a “buddy” for their Miracle League of Milwaukee. The league, played on a custom-designed field, allows all children to play organized baseball, regardless of ability. The kids dress in uniforms, make plays in the field, have at-bats and round the bases. Buddies help the players on and off the field in whatever way each player needs.
The severity of need differs from player to player. Some do just fine on their own with a little coaching and reminding of which direction to run the bases. Other players require very hands-on assistance in holding and swinging the bat and wheeling from base-to-base.
The atmosphere of the game is upbeat with sounds of ballpark music, a play-by-play announcer, and lots of cheers from parents and buddies – a stark contrast from my quiet, reflective ride home.
I thought about chatty Georgia and climber Parker. And then I thought about how some of these parents – the parents of the children with the most severe needs – will never hear their child utter one word. They will never see their child take a step, let alone climb. They will never dream of the day their child is potty trained or goes off to college or who they will marry. Their exhaustion comes from endless doctor visits and around-the-clock caretaking. Their vigilance is infinite.
While it makes me incredibly guilty for the frustration over my day-to-day parenting challenges, and sad for what will never be, I was reminded of the joy on so many players’ faces when they hit the ball off the tee and reached first base and later scored. The excitement of hearing their favorite song on the speaker or applause when their name was called. And I was incredibly moved by the older siblings – children themselves – who stood by the side of their player and made sure he or she was cared for in the way only they knew how.
On the Miracle Field, they are the stars. The metaphorical and literal playing field is level. On the Miracle Field, they aren’t special needs kids, they are first basemen and outfielders, batters and winners.
It was a humbling experience for me, and one that provided perspective for my own situation. When I think of those games and players, I have a renewed sense of patience for our noise and clutter. I am mindful of being grateful for our challenges and appreciative for what I have. Like so many of the players, I try to find the joy in the simple things that make life so great.