Doing stuff with a baby


Hey, we can’t all live in Seattle, where Puget Sound is ten minutes off the freeway, islands are quick ferry trip away, mountain rivers are accessible after an easy hike, and camping at the seashore is an easy weekend activity. Sorry Midwesterners (oh, and we don’t have mosquitoes either. Not to rub it in). Anyways, if you don’t live on the coast or are too lazy to leave the city you’ve still got some water-based options. Since swimming pools are passé, most cities are creating splash parks, kiddie pools and fountains. Grab your plastic watering toy and head out.

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Splash Parks

Avoid if:

  • You have small toddlers who don’t like to be splashed or knocked over: Splash parks are a bit rambunctious. My little ones and I tend to find the smallest spout and hang out there, but even that can get over-run pretty quickly.

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  • You prefer to do your splashing in the morning or evening: Most parks keep afternoon hours, and some have an off period during the middle of the day.
  • You have one kid who loves water and another who loves swings: Most splash parks are part of a larger playground. This is part of the appeal for my kiddos – we start at the swings, dig in the sandbox, and then cool off at the splash pad. However one of my kids isn’t old enough to voice her opinion yet so things may be more complicated next summer.

Go if:

  • You’ve just bought your kid an arsenal of water guns.
  • You are in charge of your children and all of the friends. They’ll be somewhat contained at a splash park and you won’t have to worry about anyone drowning.

North acres

Check out:

  • Willis Tucker Park: Technically in Snohomish, but it’s north of the valley behind Silver Firs. There is also a sandbox, covered picnic tables, a playground with a rope jungle gym, trails, off leash dog park, playfields, a community center and a farmer’s market on Friday evenings in the summer.
  • North Acres: This is a good one for keeping watch over a bunch of kids because the splash park is in a little bowl and parents perch on the grassy hills above, stadium style. This park also has trails and two playgrounds – one for toddlers and one for older kids.

Small fountains

Ballard Commons

Avoid if:

  • You have older children, as these are pretty lame according to the kindergarten and above set.
  • You actually want to play in the water as well.

Go if:

  • You are headed somewhere else and you don’t want the kids to get totally soaked.

Check out:

Wading Pools

Avoid if:

  • You have a little one still crawling. The bottom is usually concrete. Plus my little one would have happily crawled in over her head if we let her.

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Go if:

  • You want to get in the water and cool off too, but you don’t want to wear a bathing suit.
  • You like water! I’ve seen toddlers, young kids, and pre-teens all have fun at these little wading pools.

Check out:

  • Wallingford Playfield: The pool has a shallow (think 2 inches) and “deep” (less than a foot) end. Playfields and a playground are part of the park.
  • Green Lake Wading Pool: By far my favorite place! Tons of grassy areas next to the pool are shady, so it’s great for a picnic on a hot day. It’s also great if you have a tiny baby who can snooze in the shade while the other one plays in the sun.

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Typically if you have a 2,000 mile road trip ahead of you, I would recommend making it further than 150 mile on day one. Unless you have a baby with you and there happens to be a cute town 150 miles away and you were still packing up your house until three o’clock even though you’d planned on being done by 9am at the latest.

However short that first day was, it set a good precedent for the rest of our Denver-San Francisco-Seattle trip. This wasn’t my first road trip with the baby, so I headed off already armed with my own traveling-solo-with-a-baby tips:

Don’t book ahead: Normally, it’s good to plan stops ahead of time. This allows you to book the best hotels online, search for fun restaurants and activities, and ensure that don’t inadvertently leave twenty hours of driving for the last day. But if you are traveling with an infant, you need some flexibility. Go ahead and make tentative plans (five hours of driving a day worked best for us) but definitely don’t book anything ahead of time. Suppose that the baby falls asleep right before you reach your planned destination for the night – you’re not going to want to waste that precious quiet time by waking up the kid to check into a hotel. Keep your foot on the accelerator and make it to the next town before nap time is over. On the flip side, be prepared to cut the driving short if that scream from the backseat isn’t going to end anytime soon.

When traveling from Denver to San Jose, I hit my intended destination about the half the time, stopping in Steamboat Springs as planned, just outside of Heber City (instead of Salt Lake City), Battle Mountain (past the intended Elko, Nevada), Reno, and then San Jose. After a week-long stop in the Bay Area, I managed to make it to Seattle in two days instead of the planned three to four, stopping for the night in Weed, CA.

Motels, not hotels: Even if you have a limitless budget (as most single parents do, you know), it is still a way better idea to stay in motels rather that hotels. If you stay at a hotel, than getting to your parked car involves traipsing down a hallway, past an office, and maybe even (heaven forbid) up or down an elevator. The genius motel design involves parking your car RIGHT OUTSIDE the door to your room. Even if you try to pack everything you and the baby will need in one bag (see tip below), you will fail at this task and be very happy that the car is right outside. I once had to wake up Aubrey so I could go get my contact solution from my car. Terrible.

In Steamboat Springs I stayed at the lovely Rabbit Ears Motel. It was much nicer than may hotels that I’ve frequented – pricier too, this being Steamboat Springs. Rabbit Ears is perfectly located, right on the edge of downtown, across from Old Town Hot Springs (the motel has discounted tickets, if you plan on going) and next to the river.

Rabbit Ears Motel
One hotel bag: It’s impossible to pack everything you’ll need for the night in one bag. Good luck.
Swimming and Fitness clubs: Stopping at every 24hour Fitness club on route was my best road-tripping discovery. I was worried about staying in shape while traveling because my jogging stroller didn’t fit in my car and even if it had I didn’t really want to take Aubrey out of her car-seat only to strap her into a stroller. So I mapped out all the 24hour fitness clubs and stopped at all of them. Since I pay for the all-month childcare (which is good nationwide), I could pull into a club and workout for two hours while Aubrey crawled around and checked out all the new toys. This was not only my key to staying in shape, but it was a perfect car break for the baby. She’d be ready for her second nap after all that playtime. Just be sure to double check the kid’s club/daycare hours. I stopped at the Salt Lake City club only to discover the daycare was closed Sundays.

Small towns are not known for having nationwide fitness clubs, but often they still have a YMCA or rec center with babysitting available. At Steamboat Springs I spent two hours swimming at the Old Town Hot Springs. I kept Aubrey with me (she loves swimming!), but there is a daycare option there during the daytime.

Old Town Hot Springs

Picnics, not restaurants: Again, crawling time is important. When you stop to eat at a restaurant your kid is subjected to being strapped into yet another seat. Pack a lunch and bring a big blanket. Most little towns have parks that are a lot nicer than rest areas.

Picnic at Hot Sulpher Springs

 

Think twice before camping: I had thrown my tent and sleeping bag in the trunk of my car more out of habit with any real plans to use them, but in the Wasatch foothills, I thought I had the perfect time to use them. We were twenty miles outside Heber City and there was no hope of reaching town with my eardrums still intact. Aubrey was DONE. I saw a camping sign with an arrow pointing to Strawberry Reservoir and made a quick left turn.

At first I thought that I had made a good decision. There were tons of families camping nearby. There was a general store selling ice cream and snacks that would work for my dinner. Aubrey loved crawling around in the tent, and nighttime temperatures for the nearby Salt Lake City were in the 60’s. However, temperatures dipped much lower in the mountains. At ten I changed Aubrey into her warmest pajamas, and at eleven I just decided to hold her for the night. Since infants aren’t supposed to sleep with blankets, camping even in slightly cold weather is tough. Also I was kind of cold but I didn’t want to go get an extra blanket in the car for fear of waking up Aubrey. To make matters worse, I felt bad when she woke up in the middle of the night crying because I’m sure all the other campers heard us. That’ll be my last camping experience for the year.

Camping

Have AAA roadside assistance: I would never survive without AAA. They’ve given me new batteries, unlocked my car (AAA guy: “What store are you in front of?” Me: “Um…the liquor store.”), and they have come especially in handy the numerous times I’ve needed a new tire. Miraculously, I haven’t needed a new tire in six months (a record!) and the last time one went out I was with two friends, one of whom (Fix-It-Tom) could actually change a tire! However, I usually travel alone, so until the baby learns how to change a tire I’ll keep my AAA membership.

Jogging StrollerYesterday, being Mother’s Day, was a day in which moms point out all the things that they do for which they receive no recognition or monetary compensation. So in the spirit of being fair, today I want to give a little shout out to my seven-month old, who also does a lot of work around here. One of her daily tasks is to turn me into a better runner. Her methods are quite sneaky, yet she prevails. Being a mother HAS made me a better runner. Here’s how:

 

Faster:

Last week I needed to get in a five mile run. I had slacked off the previous two days and it was critical that I complete the five miles THAT DAY. However I got stuck at work later than anticipated and by the time I started the run I realized that I would need to pick my daughter up from the nanny’s in 45 minutes. Cutting the run short (again) was not an option, and neither was picking up the baby late. So I had no choice but to pick up the pace. If I was childless I would have jogged at an easy 11 minute pace, what my high school coach used to call “junk miles.” But instead I ran the five miles at a (slightly) more respectable 9 minute mile pace.

Thanks kid!

Likewise, if I have Aubrey with me in her jogging stroller and she starts fussing a mile away from home, that last mile is going to be a very speedy one because I want to get home before the whining turns into a full on scream.

If you do NOT have a baby, here are some other suggestions to help you run faster:

  • Tear a hole in your running pants in your crotch area. This hole will get increasingly larger as you run and you’ll want to get home as quickly as possible to minimize time spent in public.  I discovered this trick at the oh-so-crowded New Orleans Half Marathon.
  • Zombie fitness app: I heard this NPR story about “Zombies, RUN!”  It’s a downloadable fitness app wherein you are tasked with accomplishing different necessary jobs in a post-apocalyptic world before the zombies get you.

Stronger:

Being a single mom you have less time to do things. It becomes necessary so combine chores. So last week on my run downtown I had to stop at Tattered Cover to pick up a couple magazines, Office Depot to get a box of golf pencils, and a grocery store to collect a thing of baby formula. With each stop my load got increasingly heavier. These purchases served as running weights for my last two miles. I DO realize that those specific items really don’t weigh that much, so on my next run I’ll need to pick up a gallon of milk and a box of diapers to increase my running-with-weights time. This reminds me of a cross country task wherein we were placed in teams to run to Safeway and buy a watermelon. The winning team was deduced based on some complicated calculations that rewarded you for completing the run quickly and having the heaviest watermelon.

Also: The baby isn’t that heavy yet, but her car seat, stroller, and other paraphernalia are. Lugging her stuff around on a daily basis is good for the biceps and triceps.

Cross-Training:

  • Hiking: Now done with a 20 lb. backpack.
Aubrey's first hike at Red Rocks

Aubrey’s first hike at Red Rocks

  • Squats: If Aubrey is fussy, nothing will calm her down faster than when I pick her up and do a quick set of squats. She’s even been known to start crying again when the squats are completed, thus encouraging me to do another set. She particularly likes the move wherein you squat, hold for a few seconds, and then get back up. Perhaps she has a career as a future Body Pump instructor.
  • Sit-ups. Nothing is more hilarious to Aubrey than witnessing me do a set of sit-ups. After each sit up she laughs and expectantly waits for me to do another one. It’s like the abs version of peek-a-boo.
  • Gym class productivity: I have to admit I used to cheat a little bit at Group Exercise classes at my neighborhood 24hour fitness. I would “stretch” during the planks and roll my eyes apathetically as the instructor chirped that we should triple our warm up weight for the next exercise. I am now proud to say that I cheat no longer. Because an hour long class represents an hour away from Aubrey, I need to make it worth my while. No more skipping reps or skimping on the weight.

Healthy Eating:

Baby FoodSince I’m chopping, steaming, pureeing organic vegetables for Aubrey, I figure that I might as well eat some too. Turns out I like squash. Who knew?!? Not only am I eating more vegetables as side dishes, but I am also throwing her veggie purees in my pasta sauces making them healthier.

Also, I have less time to make cookies.

 

So there you have it, having a baby will totally make you a faster, stronger, healthier runner. I’m fairly confident that Runner’s World Magazine will immediately contact me to write a feature article on this very scientific and well researched training method.

 Happy running people!

First race with babyI can finally run again!!! My daughter turned six months today, which means I can officially run with her in a jogging stroller without worrying about giving her shaken baby syndrome. Likewise, I can resume going to the gym as childcare is available for those exactly half a year old (and not a day sooner, as I discovered when I tried to sign her up yesterday).

Aubrey and I celebrated her half birthday by participating in the Hippity Hop Easter Trot 5k. As you can probably guess from the name of the race, this was a family friendly event. There were tons of kids running around on a search for Easter eggs prior to the race. The race itself featured a small army of oversized jogging strollers.

It wasn’t the most competitive run I’ve ever participated in. I spend the first mile cautiously jogging along, worrying simultaneously that my kid was too hot and that I’d accidently run into someone’s heel. Luckily Aubrey babbled happily for the 3.1 miles and I was fully enjoying my runners high by the end of the race, despite an embarrassing finish time that I’m not going to admit to on this blog.

The race was well organized. To me this means that there was a loudspeaker with music at the start/finish, ample parking (on the street), mile markers were obvious, results (via timing chip) were posted immediately, and there was good food at the finish. Yay breakfast burritos! It was not the most gorgeous run I’ve done in my life, but Denver’s Central Park was a nice enough venue.

Central Park, Denver

Central Park is in Stapleton, the area of Denver with a lot of new fancy sub-division houses (oh, that area). It is northeast of downtown, off of Martin Luther King Blvd and Central Park Blvd. Take the Quebec exit south off of I-70 and head east on MLK for a couple of miles. The park has a huge play area for kids including a big climbing rock that my brother would have loved when he was five. There are lots of good sledding hills too.

Subdivision heaven

Playground

Upon returning home I went on a shopping spree. My website of choice was my beloved www.runningintheusa.com. I am excited for the next few months!

April 6th: Jackalope 5K race in Laramie, WY. I emailed the race director who quickly responded in the affirmative that I could indeed run with a jogging stroller. Get ready Aubrey!

April 20th: 4-H Fun Run in Holdredge, NE. This is still a maybe, dependent on their stroller rules because I doubt I can convince anyone to travel to Holdredge with me. My affection for small town races is n0t shared by many.

May 27th: BoulderBOULDER 10K in Boulder, CO. I need to find a babysitter for this one because the huge race (50,000 participants, 90+ waves) doesn’t allow strollers. Family members: this would be an excellent weekend to visit.

June 17th: San Francisco Half Marathon. A fabulous coincidence: Aubrey’s Las Vegas dwelling father is originally from Oakland, and he’s anxious for her to meet his family that still lives there. He is a HUGE Oakland A’s fan, whereas I live and die for the Mariners. Naturally we made sure that Aubrey’s first trip to The Bay would be when the M’s are in town. (Bonus: this is also father’s day weekend) Last week I discovered that the SF Marathon would be held that same weekend. YAY!!! My best friend Denise is coming up for the weekend to and we’re doing the first half of the marathon. (She’d be in shape for the full…but I will most definitely NOT be).

June 29th: Ellsworth Wisconsin Cheese Curd run (10K? 8M?) This is another happy coincidence. My family will be celebrating my grandma’s 90th birthday the EXACT SAME weekend as the cheese curd festival. And man, do I love my cheese curds.

Fresh cheese curds

Sometime in August or September: A FULL MARATHON. I’m not sure where I’ll be living/working so I can’t commit to a specific one yet. Stay tuned

So I haven’t really been running in a while…or blogging, some have noticed. I have, however, made time to make and eat a batch of cookies every weekend. Good thing I have my priorities straight.

Cookies!

I’ve been justifying this procrastination by telling myself that it is pointless to buy a jogging stroller until my infant could sit up in it. Yes, there are car seat adapters, but they are like $50 and not the point. Luckily for my cookie-loving thighs, I found a deal I couldn’t pass up on a used jogging stroller, which has a feature in which your child to lie down or sit in a half-reclining position.

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There is conflicting information on what age kiddos should be before riding in jogging strollers sans car seats, so check with your pediatrician. The going wisdom is to wait until they can hold up their heads and take it slow and smooth. I did not come across this information until writing this blog (aka, AFTER running with my little one), so I think I just found my excuse to put things off for another month, as Aubrey is just now holding up her head.

Anyways, yesterday was fifty and sunny and I was blissfully unaware of safety regulations (I’m a terrible mom…I know, I know), so I found my long-tucked-away running clothes and went for a jog. For the record, baby’s head was stable, I chose a well paved trail, and only ran two miles.  

Of course, like all things you dread and delay for no good reason, the run wasn’t bad. Neither was indulging in my favorite post workout activity: getting on run in the usa (my favorite website ever!), and searching for half marathons in cool destinations. While eating cookies.

Reasons why jogging strollers are great:

  • You can bring all kinds of stuff with you while running: Water bottle, car keys, phone with a run-tracker app, camera, and…oh yeah! A baby.
  • A smooth ride: Make that a DRASTICALLY smoother ride. I worry about shaken baby syndrome while WALKING Aubrey in her regular stroller. In the jogging stroller she promptly fell asleep and things seemed exceptionally stable.
  • Fitting in: If you, like me, live in the Denver suburbs, practically everyone out running is a mom with a jogging stroller. I’m almost part of the club. Now all I need is a dog. And expensive running clothes. And a husband with a beard.
  • If your kid starts crying, you have a good excuse to stop running. I was hoping that Aubrey would start fussing as I was heading up the steep hill halfway through that arduous two mile run. But noooo, she kept sleeping. I guess there are some drawbacks to having the world’s most perfect child.

Reasons why jogging strollers are not great:

  • They are freaking expensive. I recommend finding a used one. There should be several popping up on Craigslist in the next few months as all the people who bought New Year’s resolution workout stuff give up on their fitness goals. My stroller was a steal at $40. At least I thought it was a steal until I saw the $30 garage sale sticker on it that the lady I bought it from apparently forgot to remove. Oh well.

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  • Storage: Due to the tri-tire design, jogging strollers can fold up in half, but not flat. This means that the stroller doesn’t fit in the trunk of my car. It has to hang out in the backseat, next to my daughter’s car seat, which makes me nervous. There is also no place in my house for the ginormous contraption, so I have to store it outside. I’ll let you know how it weathers in a few months…unless someone steals it first.

Folded Stroller

  • Tethers are necessary – you don’t want that stroller to go flying if you trip or accidently let go of the handle. This can happen more easily when you are running than when you’re walking.

Happy running! If you are without child and want a running buddy who will carry your water-bottle, look me up if you are in Denver. We’ll go on a non-crying, non-bumpy two mile run in the Mile High ‘burbs. For the record, I have a seven-year old Baby Trend stroller. If you are cooler than me, you might want to go with the BOB Revolution or Joovy Zoom.