Body Back

A few friends who follow me on Instagram requested I write a review of Body Back, a program I have been doing through my local Fit4Mom chapter.  It’s a boot camp and meal plan program that meets twice a week for classes and then there is a lot of support during the program. The best part for me is the meal journaling you can do, with instructor feedback.  It’s very helpful to me to know that somebody else is going to be reading what I’m recording, because it helps me make better choices.

It’s also helpful to me to know that somebody else is going to see whether I’m exercising.  Knowing that I need to either put something in the exercise block or leave it blank spurs me to actually do a DVD or a workout or go to a class or walk somewhere I might otherwise drive.

There is a meal plan that comes with the program, and the meal plans are a little bit dated – they recommend low fat cheese, etc. but the portion sizes and the meal suggestions are still pretty good.  It’s a tough program to do if you have to cook for an entire family, which is why the journaling support is so helpful – I don’t worry as much about adhering strictly to the meal plan if I just write down what I’m eating.

There is also a BodyBack DVD. As workout DVDs go, it’s annoying but tolerable and it’s 3 total body workouts and 3 abs workouts. The abs workouts are great and they are only 10 minutes. The total body workouts are also really good workouts and they are only 20ish minutes.  There are modifications on the DVDs as well so its good for a lot of levels.  They work well in a small space (I have about 5 feet by 8 feet in my living room) and you can modify the jumping if you live in an apartment.

You also get a resistance band, since most workouts just involve your band and a mat.  My class is also great – our instructors are fantastic women who are super creative and always come up with interesting workouts. Most classes are either a circuit, a traveling class (where we do four stations around the park), a stationary class with things like runs out from the setup spot, or a “novelty” style class like partner workouts or tabata.  Most of it is bodyweight exercises or it uses a resistance band.

In comparison to my old New Rules of Lifting for Women or Stronglifts 5×5 workouts, Body Back doesn’t feel like it focuses as much on strength training as say, doing squats with a 135 lb barbel.  But right now, where I am in my life and my exercising, this is what I need.  First of all, I need the core help.  My core was wrecked after having a baby.  Building it back up has been hard.  Secondly, I need the cardio.  When I was biking to work and running around the courthouse all day, I was good with just strength training at the gym. But my life now is so much more sedentary – 2 hours a day in the car, etc. so I really need the cadio aspects of these workouts, and the workouts do a great job of picking cardio exercises that are also strength or core exercises (burpees, plank jacks, push ups, etc.)  And most importantly, I need the exercise that I’m doing to be at a regularly scheduled time, walking distance from my house, with people that I like and want to see on a weekly basis.

I think the most important part of any exercise program is to be reminded that your body is so much more than how it looks.  That it is capable of doing amazing, awesome things, and that you should feed it good food that makes you feel good.  Which I really, really, really like about this program.  I didn’t lose as much weight on the last round as I had hoped for, but I developed new and better habits and I’m working towards getting myself to a happy place, both weight and exercise-wise, where I feel like I am strong, capable, and ready for any kind of challenge I want to embark on.

This review is unsolicited and uncompensated.  If you want to check out whether there is a Body Back program near you, you can go to their website for more info.

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A few thoughts

My queer friends have expressed sadness at the lack of posts, and outrage, and public anger by their straight allies in the wake of Orlando.  If you haven’t called or texted your friends in the LGBT community to see how they are doing, it’s not too late.  Just do it.  Just ask if they are okay. They will appreciate it.

I try to process the shooting and I can’t. I hear things on the radio and they make me deeply sad.  My daughter was sick all week and while normally her toddler-y illnesses enrage me because of the time spent away from work, and the increased whining from a small human, this week I minded less than usual.  We went to stroller strides and the art museum and the splash park and simply focused on the things that are beautiful and wonderful and interesting to a 20-month old.  And I think about how hard it is to be raising a child right now, and to be raising a daughter.  And I try not to think about the fact that I will have to send her to school and to the movies and that she may go dancing at clubs and all of those activities, done in America, increase the chance that she will die at gunpoint.

A friend shared this poem and it helped me start to feel the mission of the collective parental subconscious.

clfcpjjwmaq-qli

And so let us together raise small humans, whatever role you want to play in that, to believe that the world could be beautiful and that they could make it so.

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Parenting Crow I Have Eaten

Parenting, much like pregnancy, is a super humbling experience.  And I think the more judgmental we were pre-kids, the more likely you are to have charming and humbling experiences where you realize that the distance between how you thought things would be and how they actually are is just a gulf of experiences you hadn’t had yet.  These are mine.

  • Sleep.  I was soooo judgmental of parents who didn’t sleep train and then whined about not getting enough sleep.  I’m still pretty judgmental about some aspects of this, like your kid should have a consistent bedtime, and you should do cry it out if you have to, but sleep training did. not. work. on my kid.  I mean, it did eventually, but it was a 7-8 month process.  We tried really hard.  Hours and hours and hours of cry it out. Much googling. Many books.  It really sucked for awhile. Eventually things got better.  But I saw a friend recently and her 20 month old wakes up 3 nights a week at least.  My coworker’s 2.5 year old doesn’t sleep through the night. I no longer assume the parent is doing anything wrong.
  • Eating. I was a really picky eater growing up and I was like, “picky eaters are made, not born, so I will feed my kid all the things and she will eat them.” Ha. My child eats like, four things, and that’s it.  I cater to her a lot more than I planned to.  We still offer her everything that we are eating, but we also offer her one thing she likes so that she will actually eat something.  (Because it turns out that if she’s not hungry, she sleeps better, and I would rather have to cater to a picky eater than never sleep.)  I also find that catering to her tastes helps me to be much more relaxed about mealtime and less likely to turn it into a power struggle.  But I will definitely be that mom sneaking vegetables into her kid’s meals.
  • Licensed Characters. My child right now hates all shoes but her ridiculous gold Mary Janes with a pink flower on them, and it’s summer, and I want to go to the splash park. And Stride Rite girl’s shoes shrink when they get wet! So she owns a pair of crocs and a pair of navy blue sandals, which she will wear, but only with socks, so I think they rub her feet.  So I’m searching for possible other sandals that do not cost a million dollars and my child likes fish, and I saw Finding Dory shoes and was like, hmmmm I wonder if she would wear these since they have fish on them! And getting dressed is such a battle right now unless I offer her one of her two Octopus shirts and then she gets very excited and wears that.  So I can see why parents, worn and exhausted by the work of parenting a toddler, lean into their kid’s obsession and buy them batman shirts or whatever because it is so much easier than fighting with them every day.  A lot of licensed stuff is still poorly made and overpriced so right now I’m holding out, but I get it now.
  • Girly Clothes.  I planned to dress my kid exclusively in gender neutral stuff and try to avoid the gendered clothing and boxing her into everything being pink and ruffly.  Except I shop a lot from the girl’s section of the store. And I grumble about there being too much pink and I don’t buy her a lot of pink, but she wears much girlier clothes than I ever planned on.  And she still ends up with a lot of pink, because other people buy it for her or that is the only color that something comes in. (Her bike helmet is pink because literally all they had at the store was pink and we needed one ASAP.)  This season I bought her a ton of clothes from the thrift store that were mostly t-shirts that were very gender neutral, and the reality that I’m realizing this season (our first summer with a walking kid) is that “boy’s” clothing is more practical. I buy her mostly “boys” swim gear because it covers more than girl’s bathing suits, and boy’s shorts are longer and better for sliding.  I don’t want her to be unable to go down the slide because she’s wearing a skirt. But the rest of her clothes are flowers and ruffles and glitter.  For some reason it feels very unfeminist of me to dress her in a way that conforms to gender norms.  But I also don’t really want to use my kid to make a point to society about clothing and colors and assumptions.

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Traveling with a Baby/Toddler

We have done long and short trips with our daughter at most ages/stages since she was 8 weeks old.  We took her to Cozumel last week and as I was stressing out about the babysitting at our hotel, my coworker said to me, “I can’t believe you’re not more stressed about about traveling with her. That is all I would be worrying about.” And I kinda shrugged and was like…well, I pretty much know how it’s going to go.  Which is and isn’t true, because every time we have traveled with our child we have traveled with a different child than the last time.  But my parents are also extremely high maintenance people who moved to Germany with my sister when she was a baby and traveled all over the world with two small children and I refuse to admit that they were somehow more capable than I am.  Plus, getting used to travel with my child is the only way I get to go anywhere.  And so, we go.

A friend asked me recently about traveling with her daughter at nine months or at a year. They both present their own challenges. So I thought I would sort of round up how traveling went with different ages and what trips we did.

8 Weeks: I will never travel with an 8 week old again. This was, I think, the worst vacation I have been on. We went to Florida, we were all getting over the flu, we didn’t know ourselves as parents or our daughter well enough and had no routine.  We packed too much and too little stuff, and she basically cried the entire time unless we managed to get her to sleep, which was a huge challenge.  Plus, we forgot the sunshade for the stroller, she kept getting really hot, she was too little for most sunscreens, she couldn’t sit in a high chair, it was just a disaster.  I would avoid a huge temperature shift for a baby this young, for a lot of reasons. We brought our stability ball for this trip, which felt ridiculous but also totally necessary, and it was totally necessary.

5 Months: This was mostly a good age to travel except I was overly stressed about napping.  Look, your kid may not nap well on vacation and if they nap in the stroller or carrier, just lean into it for the trip and worry about their nap schedule when you get home.  She decided she hated her carseat halfway through the first 2 hour drive and then screamed in it for the entire rest of the trip which included a 4 hour drive.  This was the first trip where we splurged and bought her her own seat, since we were going to England on an overnight flight and wanted some hope of sleeping on the plane. It turned out to not be necessary, and she slept better when I was holding her and nursing her anyway. We spent a lot of time at people’s houses on this trip, but we didn’t want to haul a ton of toys for her. I think if we had been willing to spend a bit of money on new/appropriate toys, this trip would have gone better. At this age, she loved hanging out in her bouncer and her baby gym. We thought she would be willing to hang out in her carseat with some Lamaze toys clipped to it but she was not interested.  I can’t remember if we owned our GoPod at this age, but we should have brought it because it would have been handy. I wish we had just brought something foldable like this because she was very close to sitting up and liked sitting up and looking around at that age. Plus, having a place where she could hang out and look around quietly would have been so nice at my grandmother-in-law’s houses.  Jet lag wound up not being an issue at all on this trip because she had been having such a hard time sleeping anyway.  We also brought the Merlin suit on this trip, since we were using it at this time.  I would recommend maybe weaning off the Merlin suit before a big trip to England because washing those things in the UK and then hanging them to dry is a lengthy process.  We also brought less clothing on this trip generally because we would have the ability to do laundry, but I wish we had brought more because we wound up with a lot of clothes being still slightly damp from drying in the airing cupboard in England in March.  We did just bring footed sleepers on this trip and that wound up being great except that in all the pictures she’s wearing footed sleepers and she’s at an age where those are a bit goofy on her. But we didn’t have to bring socks, so it was still the right choice.

8 Months: We did a group house in the Poconos with some friends at 8 months and a family trip to Lancaster, then stayed at my cousin’s beach house at 9 months. This was a challenging age because she was crawling and so the houses needed to be babyproofed, but she wasn’t super mobile yet so could be relatively easily contained.  The one house with a lot of breakables was pretty much a nightmare, particularly for the day I was there solo.  This was a great age for our Summer Infant Pop and Play, which I highly recommend to anyone traveling with a mobile infant.  (In Lancaster, I made my Dad go buy one from the local Babies R Us because my daughter kept trying to pull up on glass vases.)  We were on a 2 nap schedule at 8 months, and she wouldn’t just stay asleep in the carseat, which made planning things a little hard, but often with group trips we would be up at 7 and she would nap at 9, and nobody else was really ready to get going before 10 or 11 and then we would do the second nap in the car or carrier, so it was manageable.

9 Months: At 9 months, she was fully cruising and close to walking.  This was the most difficult age to travel with.  Partly because we went to Seneca Falls to go wine tasting and hiking in gorges and going to wineries with a cruising/crawling baby who wants to pull all the wine bottles and displays down on herself is kind of the worst.  She also was at an age where she needed to be really physically tired to nap but couldn’t safely run around a playground, so it was definitely a struggle.  This is the age for which a trip to an indoor playspace or a kids museum is kind of perfect and a little bit necessary.  She also went through a phase of hating high chairs, which made going out to dinner pretty challenging. She also refused to eat most food.  I think we realized later she was getting a couple of teeth. We also realized eventually, after getting some good advice, that most children eat poorly on trips. We’ve leaned into this a bit and just pack a ton of extra pouches and assume she will eat mostly junk when we travel.

14 Months: At 14 months, we went to Florida again.  This was when traveling actually started to get easier again – she was walking, she was signing so we knew when she wanted milk or food, she had consolidated to one nap, she could entertain herself with toys for a decent amount of time, and she was really interested in anything new. Our flight got delayed 5 hours, which was extremely challenging but we just let her run around the airport and followed her around. We were traveling with a lot of family, so there were tons of people around to help keep her active and happy.  I actually weaned on this trip and it wound up being okay because we were spending so much time together that she didn’t lose her mind every time I walked into the room and ask to nurse.  This was the first trip where she was taking cow’s milk and it was partly very convenient because I didn’t have to pump at all, but we also routinely would leave our house without bottles because we had never needed to be that organized/prepared before.  I came down with severe food poisoning right before we traveled and so the whole flight home was me feeling like I might die and my daughter refusing to sit with nobody else but me because she sensed I was sick and needed to be comforted.

15 Months: At 15 months, we went to California. This was the longest flight we were going to do with a very awake baby, since neither time we were flying was naptime.  We drove to the airport that was an hour from our house and she threw up on the way there. She was getting over a respiratory virus and a stomach bug was going around, so we wound up renting a hotel room for a day and postponing our flight to that evening. It was actually perfect – our flight took off right around bedtime and I wore her in the carrier and paced up and down until she fell asleep.  We got super lucky and had an empty seat next to us so when she fell asleep we just draped her across the middle of the plane and she slept the whole rest of the flight.  This was the first trip where we hired a babysitter and it made a huge difference in how much we enjoyed the trip – we went wine tasting without a toddler, and we went to the San Jose Tech museum which is great for older kids but not with a tiny kid.  Otherwise, we tried to focus mostly on kid-friendly activities like Happy Hollow and the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Fortunately our friends that we were visiting are fellow museum and animal lovers, so they really enjoyed some of our kid-friendly plans. The flight home was a little rough – she napped for maybe an hour of the 4 hour flight – and the rest of the time we needed to entertain her and we just hadn’t brought enough toys. We ended up breaking out the iPad for the last hour of the trip and playing a game called “baby bubbles” in which you tap bubbles and they pop. For some reason I feel better about this type of screen time than watching TV?

19 Months – We went to Cozumel at 19 months. We flew into Cancun and took the ADO bus and the ferry to get to Cozumel. I think that while flying direct is usually my preference, I would rather change planes and fly directly into Cozumel because schlepping to a public bus and then a ferry is a giant PITA.  We brought dive gear so we were bringing two huge bags.  We could have paid for a private transfer, but for some reason that seemed harder to me.  We didn’t bring a carseat on this trip, since we weren’t renting a car.  We did end up taking a few taxis, and just held her on our laps. I know there are a lot of parents who refuse to do this because it is extremely unsafe, but we decided the number of times we were taking cabs was minimal and hauling a carseat was just really unimaginable.  We hired a hotel babysitter so we could go diving. We also hired a woman I found a recommendation for on TripAdvisor and in the future we will hire her because she was fantastic.  This was actually a great age to travel with, other than we were going through some separation anxiety and some sleep regression.  But she’s talking and able to express preferences and you can use things like, “do you want to go to the pool? Then put on your swim suit.” in order to get them out of the house.  A lot of places didn’t have high chairs, which was hard, but fortunately 18/19 months with a very tall baby is sort of the age where you can sit them on a regular chair and feed them food.  The flights there and back were also not at all at naptime, so she was completely wired, which was pretty tough, but I was much better prepared this time and had picked up a bunch of fun dollar section toys to entertain her with.  Gel window clings will give you many tens of minutes of fun on a plane.  We also used regular stickers and some coloring toys and then just some new toys she hadn’t played with before. Again, we broke out the iPad for the last hour of the flight.  She was perfectly happy to play with the bubbles game, watch videos of herself, and play the “create a scene” sticker app that I had downloaded awhile ago.  I hadn’t had a chance to download any actual shows to the iPad before we left, but that wound up being fine. She also entertained herself with my kindle for a long time and seemed very into trying to change the font size? I told myself this wasn’t screentime.

So those are my thoughts on flying/traveling with a child of various ages.  I think everyone’s experience varies a ton, and it’s really hard to plan for whether your child will be crawling or walking at 11 or 12 months, but I also think travel is a lot more doable than some people think it is. It’s more a matter of knowing how to roll with the age you are traveling with. My 8 week old was completely uninterested in an aquarium, my 19 month old loves it.  I’m excited now that she is at an age where she enjoys doing things, because while it means that there are sometimes things we can’t do because they won’t be interesting to her or age-appropriate, unlike when she was tiny and portable, it is so much fun watching her discover the world and experience new things.  Plus, I finally have an excuse to do things that would be totally weird if we were childfree, like going to ride miniature trains.

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First Half After Baby

On Sunday I crossed the finish line at my 8th half, the first one I’ve run since I was pregnant a little over two years ago.  Even without the setback of my foot injury in January, it was a tough road to running this race.  The furthest I had run until March was 6.2 miles in a very difficult 10k last September.  And running long distances just hurt for the first year after having a baby, and I really started to feel like getting back to half marathons and long races would be impossible. But I signed up for my first half anyway, since races motivate me to train and because I wanted to at least try and see how it went and see whether it was achievable.  My husband and my sister also ran it, which was nice because my sister and I were able to stay together for most of the race, and I’m honestly not sure that I would have been able to get through the whole thing on my own.

I get asked a lot why I race. Not why I run, people seem to understand that weight loss and not wanting to die of a heart attack and wanting to be in shape are all valid reasons to exercise and that running is the cheapest method of achieving that. But why do I pay money, wake up really early, and join a thousand strangers to compete in a sport that I will never ever win?

Races are a chance to learn more about myself, to challenge myself and push myself and try to achieve things that I haven’t done before.  All of the things I doubt about myself, all of the mean things I say to myself, all the mean things I ever said to myself, those all disappear on race day.  I focus on myself and what I can achieve and putting one foot ahead of the other.

So what did I learn on Sunday? That muscle memory is powerful.  That my friend E is right, that what matters the most in race training is just time on your feet – I did a lot of walking to train because my running ability was limited.  I learned that physical therapy is amazing.  I learned that running a half marathon is still possible.

Sunday was also mother’s day. And what I found myself thinking about, after my sister and I had separated and I was alone with my thoughts, is what my body has been through since my last half.  My last half was Rock and Roll DC in 2014 and I was fortunate that excessive cardio was the only thing to quell my morning sickness.  Pregnancy finally feels like a distant and uncomfortable memory.  And while I was in it, I had a hard time getting past the discomfort to a place where I could appreciate my body and what it was doing.  But for nearly two years, I grew and nourished and sustained another person who is amazing and that is amazing. And I thought that I would be able to focus on that while I was in it.  And I wasn’t, and that was disappointing to me.  And somehow now, or more specifically, during Miles 11-13, I was able to focus more on how huge motherhood is, and how much I appreciate my body, not just for its ability to grow and sustain an entire whole other human being, but for its ability to allow me to lift her and carry her and jump up and down when she commands me to.  I took a moment to thank my thighs and hips, which frankly, I have recently been berating for still not fitting into my pre-pregnancy clothes. My legs and feet, in particular, had done some very serious work to recover from my injury, and I appreciate them for it.

I didn’t set any PRs.  I did come in well under my 2:30 goal, and mostly I met my goal of finishing, but also, the most important part about crossing the finish line is that the me who crosses the finish line gets to rub my accomplishment in the face of past-me who was full of doubt. Because as every amateur athlete knows, the greatest competition is with yourself.

 

 

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And then it’s March.

And then March is nearly over.

I’ve been continuing in PT, continuing to hope to make my goal of running a half-marathon on May 7th, continuing to go to the gym at my office a few times a week.  I’m trying for daily workouts but like all routines, it does eventually start to fall apart.  My husband started running in the mornings so two days a week, I’m watching the kiddo and trying to get us out the door.  I got assigned a ton of new cases in the last week.  Old cases have come back with crazy new problems.  Life goes on, basically, and exercise is often the first thing to go.  Lately, I’ve been fighting really hard to hold on to my new routine and my new habits.

I don’t talk much about work here but work has been challenging lately.  A heavy caseload and a lot of different kinds of cases.  We’ve been short staffed since last fall, and have only finally just hired a new person, with four more vacancies yet to be filled.  I’m struggling not to let my workload interrupt my routine because I know that when I feel like I don’t have time to exercise is when I need to the most.  I get more done, am more focused, and have more capacity for my clients when I’m feeling good.

I hit my two year therapy anniversary this month.  My therapist and I talked about how much progress I’ve made and how much work I have left.  There isn’t really an “end” in sight, but I have goals and I am working towards them and I am in such a better place than I was an anxious puddle sitting in that office two years ago.  I talk openly about therapy at work, with my family, and with my friends.  The more open we all are about our need for mental health help, the better off we will be.

I read this article recently and I talk about it with my therapist.   Self care is important for me, but I hadn’t made the connection that I was basically coming home empty after a full day of caring for other people, social working them, and dealing with their problems.  So I would lose patience with my kid and didn’t have anything left for her, let alone my poor spouse at the end of a long day when all I wanted to do was sit on the couch, not deal with the dishes or our house or anything else.  So I’ve been working on radical self care.  What are the practices I’m stepping up?

  1. Exercise (duh). Particularly my Fit4Moms group where I get to be social about my exercise.
  2. Books on tape. I’ve been listening to audiobooks on my commute constantly and I feel like I’ve been able to tap into my imagination more and have been really excited about books and reading, which has been hard for me. It also gives me space to switch gears really fully after a long day.
  3. Therapy. At one point last year my therapist asked me what kind of self care I was doing (my kid wasn’t sleeping, I was working a lot, I was eating poorly and generally a mess) and I told him, “I come here once a week.” He has a pretty good poker face and he looked horrified.
  4. Mindfulness. I’ve started doing deep breathing exercises when things get to be too much.  It’s hokey but it’s helpful.

Anyone else engaging in radical self care? What do you do?

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Status Report

It is so very easy to forget, I think because sweatpants and the couch are so comfortable, how much better I feel when I exercise.  How much more bearable it is to wade into the trenches and try to fight for my clients, when I’ve been able to get my heart rate up or my arms and legs pumping.  How much better I am at my job when I feel better about myself.  How confident I feel when I know I can do a push up or ten.

And so, over a full week into my new diet and exercise program, I’m making the gym and healthy snacks and drinking more water happen.  As if by magic, my caseload, while still overwhelming, seems manageable and I’m better able to focus at work.  I’m no longer getting into work early, since I’m going to the gym, but when I come in at 9 or 9:30, I’m ready to take on the day.

I’m also making progress at PT and yesterday I got to run on an anti-gravity treadmill.  It was awesome.  They put me in it and had me run on 75% of my body weight.  It felt really good.  My foot was sore later but did better with stretching. I’m supposed to add in calf raises this week, so I’ve been doing them after workouts and when brushing my teeth.

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