Category Archives: Health & Fitness

Have Kids, Will…Climb Trees

Earlier last month, I felt the urge for a change of scenery and sought a place to take my family for the weekend.  Loving all things related to food,  I found a food truck festival that was taking place in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.  In fact, it was the inaugural Pocono Food Truck Festival at Shawnee Mountain Resort.  The idea of eating a variety of delicacies out in the crisp mountain air turned into a fun-filled weekend of so much more.

The festival offered about 15 different types of food that ranged from tacos to Pad Thai to authentic Belgian waffles (my favorite).  As far as festivals go, it was small, but a lot of fun for the afternoon.  They also hosted a motor cross show, which was something new to me.  With heavy metal music blaring, two young guys on dirt bikes launched themselves into the air from a huge, inflatable ramp, and defied gravity by doing tricks with their bodies, then landing on the other half of the ramp.  It was amazing!

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Naturally, my boys were in awe…especially when one of the performers announced he was going to do the “stripper pose” while in the air.  Imaginations were on fire, I’m sure.

Another activity offered was a monster truck ride along the slope side of the mountain.   I embraced my inner redneck as we climbed into the huge beast of a truck.   The ride was bumpy and bouncy, and included an insane number of  donuts.  It was a lot of fun, but I got out of it feeling a little like I had been on one of the time machine rides at a carnival…nauseous and giddy at the same time.

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When I had been online to purchase the tickets for this festival, I had also signed myself up for a little 5K that was being held at Shawnee Mountain.  Apparently, it’s an annual run that normally takes place in the small town of Barrett, PA, but because Eric Frein (the cop killing survivalist) was still on the loose, the race was moved to Shawnee.  I ran that on Sunday morning, hoping to burn off a small portion of the 50,000 calories I had ingested the day before.  It was an okay little race, despite the cold morning and double loop course through the parking lot.  What can I say, I’m a wimp about the weather and I like good scenery.  I did get a nice scarecrow shirt, though, and I do understand the situation was not ideal with a crazy man lurking in the woods nearby.

But, for the piece de resistance, we went to the Pocono TreeVentures ropes course and zip line headquarters.  This place was incredible!  For a family of six, whose children range in age from 7 to 17, it was the best!  There are very few places that can accommodate all of our ages and stages at one time, in one place.  This did.  We all enjoyed the whole process of harnessing and unharnessing to get ourselves across the canopy layer of trees, which were dressed in all their glorious fall colors.

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For the record, I am not a fan of heights and have an unreasonable fear of falling.  However, the security of the harnesses really helped to quell my fears and allowed me to enjoy the whole experience.  Even when my youngest, dubbed “a feather” by the staff, got stuck in the middle of a very long zip line (because he wasn’t heavy enough to maintain momentum), I was fully confident in his safety.

It was a really fun weekend and made me want to keep climbing trees.

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Have Kids, Will…Flee From Deer!

My husband has always had a knack for getting into scrapes involving animals. In fact, sometime around 1992, he was the first person on the Delmarva Peninsula to require rabies treatment after he had a run-in with a rabid raccoon during a party at a friend’s farm. When he was in middle school, he claims a deer came out of a thicket of honeysuckle, proceeded to single him out, and chased him across a field until he threw a motorcycle helmet at its head, causing it to turn and leave him alone. From that day on, he has always been afraid of deer, which I have always found incredibly funny. Who in the world is afraid of deer? I would tease. You better watch out, Bambi might sense you’re here and come charging out after you! Well, ha-ha, the joke is now on me.

My relationship with deer changed a few years ago, and not for the better. It all started when I was going for a run early one fall morning. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the wildlife around my neighborhood, especially on those early morning runs. Sometimes there are red foxes romping through the fields. Occasionally wild turkeys will make their way across the road, shuffling from one section of the woods to another, gobbling softly as I pass. Deer almost always make an appearance and will usually run off when they see or hear me coming. This one particular morning, however, in the crisp cool dawn, a male deer saw me and stood stock still as I approached. As I was running in its general direction, I was admiring the majesty of the great, antlered creature and thinking it would leap off into the woods any minute. But it didn’t. Instead, as I got closer, it clip-clopped toward me. Then, it started pawing at the ground and snorting the way angry bulls do in cartoons. It even lowered its head and tossed its antlers in my direction. Oh my God, I thought, I’m going to be impaled by a deer and no one is awake to help me! Completely losing my cool, I started leaping up in the air, clapping my hands, and shouting, “Shoo, deer!  Shoo!”   It didn’t budge and I think it may have even inched closer toward me. Feeling completely defenseless and absolutely ridiculous, I decided to turn back and run the other way, checking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t being stalked by the very confident, now terrifying, animal.

This seems like it should be an odd, isolated incident, but it has happened twice since then!  Just recently, I was on my bike–MY BIKE–and a deer started charging toward me.  What the hell is this?  Did I absorb some bad animal karma from my husband?  Deer aren’t supposed to chase people!  They’re supposed to look pretty and remind us of why we love nature.  My sons have volunteered some creative solutions to this zombie-apocalyptic-like epidemic, such as strapping a shotgun to my back while I run, or carrying a machete and chopping off any offending deer’s head, or better yet, taking one of my children with me so HE can shoot any deer threatening poor, old Mommy while she runs.  Really, what do people do in areas of the country where bears or mountain lions are threats?  I can’t imagine having a true predator coming after me because, frankly, these damn deer are scary enough.  For now, I’m being totally chicken and just running away as fast as I can, hoping the deer aren’t going to chase me down and eat me.  I guess the upside is my sprints are getting faster!

Have Kids, Will…BodyPump

Have you heard of this exercise class, BodyPump?  It’s a weight lifting class that incorporates a lot of repetitions with a barbell that is loaded and unloaded with the appropriate amount of weight for each part of the body, and it’s all done to pop music that ranges from totally obnoxious to mildly palatable.   Apparently, it’s based out of Australia, where everyone is fit and relaxed, so it must work, right?  The class is offered in hour-long segments pretty frequently at my local YMCA.  While I’ve tried going to all the different sessions (not in one day), each of them is always crowded–Monday evenings: crowded, Tuesday mornings: crowded, Saturday mornings: you guessed it.  The classes are especially well-attended now that kids are home from college and it’s swimsuit season.  I guess they have all that beer and pizza to burn off over the summer.  Anyway, it’s a great workout and can be tailored to suit one’s personal abilities.  I like that about any kind of exercise–where the new mom can work out next to the marathoner, whose next to the retiree.  We’re all in it together.  Or are we?

Like I said, the classes are becoming more and more crowded, with rows of people and all their equipment dotted throughout the room.  What’s funny to observe now, with the college students, retirees, and people like me–moms who are desperate to maintain some sense of fitness and mental stability–is everyone eyeing each other up before the doors swing open.  We’re like a pack of half-mad dogs sniffing each other out before going in for the kill–we know there’s fresh meat on the other side of the door, but only enough space for some of us to tear away at it.  Whose getting in first?  Whose the weakest of the pack?The doors open, and whoosh, we all pour in, halting polite conversations that were previously taking place in the hallway, teeth bared.

There is a frenzy at the weight wall.  We can’t gamble with our preferred weight sizes, so we grab them all and stack them in our arms, risking broken toes and strained backs, to quickly throw them on the floor where we think we’ll squeeze in.  We’re supposed to start with a warm up, but getting our weight plates all at once is more important…”Back off, old lady, I have a pool party to go to tonight!”

The instructor is already using her Madonna headset microphone to tell people to “Move up!  Squeeze in!”  We look from side to side.  There’s no more room.  But wait!  Two more people are coming in.  They get stuck with the worst spot in the room–right in front of the instructor.  Serves them right.

We perform our hour of intense physical purgatory, do some obligatory stretching, and put our equipment away at a much slower pace, with the hair on the backs of our necks once again smoothed and relaxed.  As we’re doing so, the next wave of eager exercisers enter the room, eyes wild and elbows out.  They’re in it to win it.  I’m ready for a shower and a beer.  I earned it.



Have Kids, Will…Run!


When I first started running, I absolutely hated it but couldn’t deny how great I felt afterward.  Once I overcame the feeling of having cement blocks for feet,  I was hooked–as in, I now get antsy and itchy feeling if I don’t run at least three days a week.  For me, the trick to running is to carve that time out of the day and to do it without my kids.  I know there are plenty of people out there who run with their children, or run alongside them while they ride bikes or scooters or something.  I’ve tried that.  My kids are cut from an all-or-nothing cloth, which means if I’m not giving them my undivided attention when we’re out together, all hell breaks loose.  Plus, when I go for a run I like to keep going and develop my pace without stopping to look at pine cones and dog poop along the way.

Running has become a cathartic activity for me, whether I’m going three miles or thirteen.  And even though I’m not willing to share that particular time with my children, it does make me a kinder, more patient mother when I return.  Those miles help me to pound out frustrations, think through problems, or simply meditate.  Yes, you can meditate while running!  The solitude lets me turn inward without interruption, while also improving my health (see, aren’t mothers always multitasking?).

I just finished my third half-marathon last weekend and have signed up for two more.  It really is addictive!  Sometimes I run with friends who are also mothers and we talk about our children, husbands, and life.  It gives us a chance to log in some slow, easy miles together while we catch up on each other’s lives–more multitasking!  When I get home I feel recharged, and my kids enjoy seeing what kind of goodies I’ve brought back from the races.  We won’t get awarded any medals for being moms, and that’s okay, but it is a lot of fun to show our kids that moms can win medals.