One of the biggest problems I’ve had the last six weeks is fitting in exercise. Normally, I have no trouble getting in at least 30 minutes a day. It’s part of my regular schedule – karate class three times a week, yoga once or twice a week, weight lifting and cardio twice a week, etc., etc. It’s easy to do when I’ve signed up for a class and paid for it out of pocket. And since childcare is provided at most of these activities, I can usually just go do my thing without having to worry about a little rug rat tagging along, constantly asking “Are you done yet?”
Unfortunately, my obstetrician put the kibosh on my normal activities for the first six weeks post partum. My body needed time to recover from labor and pregnancy, he said. What he didn’t mention was that while my body was recovering, my brain was going to explode from the lack of stress relief. Apparently he thought I’d be able to relax and take it easy while constantly breastfeeding an infant and simultaneously chasing a three-year-old around the house.
So I’ve been looking for ways to exercise while being saddled with two kids. It’s not easy. I’ve been trying to walk on a daily basis, pushing Cassie in the jog stroller and wearing Sam in a Baby Bjorn front pack as I zip through the neighborhood, but that has its draw backs. For starters, it’s too damn hot to wear the front pack with a heat-producing infant in it. And second, it’s been raining here a lot lately. Walking around with a screaming baby strapped to myself while pushing a cranky wet preschooler in a stroller doesn’t do much to relieve any stress, although it does provide exercise.
So for rainy days I tried riding our stationary bike. Problem is I have to keep Cassie entertained while I do it. Otherwise, she’ll crawl up under the pedals and get herself kicked in the head, so she ends up screaming bloody murder. That’s a real no-win scenario for me.
As a last resort, I turned to my small selection of DVDs collecting dust in one of my bookcases. Unfortunately, Cassie seems to think the purpose of any DVD is to watch it for sheer entertainment value. She refuses to get up and participate. The last thing I want is to turn my kid into a little couch potato, so every time I do an exercise DVD, I tell Cass she either has to exercise with me or go play in another room. As you can imagine, this has led to more than a few arguments. Cassie starts out promising that she’ll do the DVD, only to stop and plunk her butt down in front of the TV after two minutes of marching around. When I tell her to get moving or go to her room, the whining kicks in big time. She can’t do the exercises, it’s too hard, can she just watch me do it, can she play in the room while I exercise, etc., etc… The whole scenario ends up with her in time out and me fuming as I try to get back into my workout. All of this does nothing to relieve any stress I’ve been feeling, and in fact only increases it.
Then on Thursday I had a moment of inspiration. It was raining outside again, and Cassie was busy dancing around the living room to one of her Wiggles CDs. I knew if I turned off the CD to play an aerobics DVD, she’d howl and then plunk herself down to watch rather than work out with me. What to do? While I pondered the question, I noticed that Cass was actually working up a sweat dancing to “The Big Red Car” song. Hmmm. If she could work up a sweat while dancing, why couldn’t I?
I decided to try it. I turned on my heart rate monitor, to see how much of a workout I was getting and I joined Cassie on the floor. I’m happy to report that after twenty minutes of shaking my groove thing to toddler tunes, I got my heart rate up as high as 130 beats per minutes and ended up with sweat pouring down my face.
Ah ha! Now I had a way to burn calories and involve Cassie too. Even better, Sam seemed fascinated by the music and the dancing. She never made a peep during the entire twenty minutes we were jumping about the living room. I could do this!
“Mommy! We’re dancing! We dance like the pirate girls!” Cassie shouted as we finished up another song on the DVD. That’s when I recalled the Scottish dancers we had seen the weekend before at the Mariner’s Museum. They had performed as part of a pirate festival held that day and Cassie had been entranced. She’d obviously been paying good attention too, because as we danced to the Wiggles music, she started performing some of the dance steps to a Highland jig.
That was my second “Ah ha!” moment. If Cassie liked Celtic music and dance, I didn’t have to limit myself to dancing to kiddie tunes. I took Cassie to our local Borders the next day and picked out an instructional DVD on Irish step dancing. The cover blurb assured me that I too could dance like Michael What’s-his-face in River Dance. Pleased with this idea, I headed to the cash register, day dreaming about jigging my way to a jiggle-free behind. Then a little hand tugged on my sleeve.
“Mommy, what’s this?”
Cassie held up a DVD that showed several little girls dressed in tutus skipping around on a hardwood floor. I read the cover – Baby Ballet: Includes ballet, jazz and tap lessons.
“That’s a dance video for little girls, sweetie.”
“I want to be a ballet girl, Mommy. Please?” she asked, staring at me with huge blue eyes.
How could I resist? I got her the DVD. As soon as we got home, though, I realized I was in trouble. The little girls on the cover of the DVD had tutus, so Cassie decided she needed one too. Fortunately, one of her dress up costumes has a tutu-like skirt, so I convinced her to wear that. Then Cassie demanded ballet slippers. Again, she had a pair of Tinkerbelle slippers that looked close enough to satisfy her. She wanted tights too, but considering that it’s 101 degrees in the shade right now, I convinced her she could do without.
Appropriately attired, Cassie set herself up in the living room while I popped the DVD in. She spent the next twenty minutes following along with a quartet of little girls who danced and glided their way through a series of ballet moves. Cassie did more galumphing than gliding, clogging her way along with so much characteristic three-year-old enthusiasm that I nearly hurt myself from laughing. She was dancing though, and as soon as she was done, she was tired enough to take a nap without any fuss. I had it made, I thought. Little did I realize I had created a monster.
That evening, Michael and I had plans to go out. Our babysitter Megan showed up at 6 PM. Cassie was eager to show Megan her new dance moves. Before heading out the door, I set up the DVD and told Megan Cassie could dance as long as she liked. Four hours later, Michael and I came home and found Cassie dancing along to the DVD. Megan was swaying along with the baby in her arms, looking slightly dazed.
“Wow, she decided to do the DVD again?” I asked.
“We never turned it off,” Megan replied. “Cassie’s been at it the entire time. She did the tap lesson and the jazz lesson a few times too. I think she has them all memorized by now.”
Needless to say, I made Michael give Megan an extra $5 for extreme hardship pay.
Ever since then, it’s been nothing but Baby Ballet. Cassie can’t stop dancing, unless I pop in my Irish step dance DVD. We tried that one yesterday and much to my disgust, I found that I can’t follow the damned thing, much less expect Cassie to do so. Oh, I could probably do it with a year’s worth of lessons under my belt and a couple of jog bras holding the Grand Tetons firmly in place on my chest, but that’s the only way I could do it. So there’s another fitness DVD that gets to collect dust on my shelf.
I did accomplish one thing in all this, which is to get Cassie up and moving. Now if only I could find some way to get me some exercise, we’ll all be doing just fine. Hmmm. Maybe we should try swing dancing?