April 24, 2014

Five things you should know about Pure Barre

A week ago, I took my first Pure Barre class. That may seem unremarkable, but here are some fun facts about me that you may not know:
  • Sporty is not a term anyone would ever use to describe me. I am an indoor girl, and I am a lazy one at that. Give me an hour of free time and I will spend it reading on the couch.
  • I am a quitter. I dislike things that I don't immediately pick up. This is why I learned to drive at the ripe old age of 28.
  • I'm out of shape and overweight. Surprise! This is why 90 percent of the pictures on my blog are of my kids (that, and they're really cute). It also means that not only do I really, really need more exercise, it means I really, really don't feel like strolling into a gym filled with fit, sporty people watching and judging. 
As with many things, I'm behind the trend on barre classes. Pure Barre has been around for years, and a few months ago a studio opened just a few minutes from our house. If, like me, you are also behind the times and have no idea what a barre class is, allow me to fill you in. Barre classes offer a low-impact, high intensity full body workout working with a handful of props, including a ballet barre.

I've been working with a wellness coach for the past seven weeks, and I've been very halfheartedly working out on my own at home. This has unsurprisingly led to halfhearted results. My coach challenged me to find a class or gym I'd be willing to try...and when I drove past the Pure Barre studio near our house, I thought, "how about that?"

I had no idea what I was in for - or that I'd be hooked on it. I came home from my first class so pumped that I signed up for a 30 day unlimited class package for new clients, and I signed up for another class the next day. I marched into that second class ready to lift, tone and burn (the Pure Barre mantra) and feeling a little smug that I was hardly sore at all after my first class.

The morning after that second class? I woke up so sore and with a pain so deep and low in my abdomen that I briefly worried that my appendix might have burst. I was about to consult Dr. Google when I realized that I had a second deep, intense pain...on the other side. I didn't need an emergency appendectomy, I'd just awakened long-forgotten lower ab muscles. I took the weekend off and the soreness subsided...and I headed back to the studio for more.

Tonight I take my fifth Pure Barre class, and in honor of my first week of classes, here are five things I think you should know about Pure Barre:

1. Anyone can do Pure Barre. In five classes, I've seen a range of ages and body types. If I can make it through a class after so many years of sedentary living, so can you.

2. Breaks are built into the class. Long, long ago when I was in college, I used to do aerobics classes with my roommates. In every single class, all of the stretching and cooling down happened at the very end of class. In a Pure Barre class, stretching happens throughout the class. Just as I'm feeling like my legs are going to collapse and send me into a heap on the floor, it's time to stretch out sore muscles before moving on to something else. These stretching breaks have helped me push through and keep going

3. You'll be working too hard to worry. Remember when I said I didn't want to walk into a gym with eyes on me? In a Pure Barre class, you and everyone else will be working too hard to pay much attention to what others are doing. Are my leg lifts as high as the next woman's? Probably not, but I'm too busy trying to keep going to notice - and that's been a huge motivator as I come back again and again.

4. Modifications are allowed and encouraged. Back in my aerobics days more than a decade ago, it was always obvious when someone wasn't doing the moves the same way the teacher was. In Pure Barre, the instructors not only call out modifications as they go but also encourage students to set their weights aside and focus on form.

5. All you need are socks. Aside from the price of the classes, Pure Barre doesn't require much of an investment. The studio provides the mat, ball, weights, and stretchy bands you'll use in class. All you need are a pair of socks with grippies on the bottom (which you can conveniently buy right in the studio).

April 22, 2014

Siblings at school

Today both kids headed back to school after a weeklong spring break. Tuesdays are the only day brother and sister both have school, and in the months since A switched preschools to join her brother it has been a sweet and unexpected bonus to see them seek each other out during the day.

A has a habit of peeking her head in the door of D's classroom every time she passes by, and she seeks out reasons to visit him (I have a hunch her requests to visit the bathroom are double on Tuesdays). Today she poked her head in and handed me a sheet of paper. 

I made this for Peanut, she said as she turned to head back down the hall. It's a scribble because he likes to scribble. 

Not to be outdone, D once ran down the hall and into his sister's classroom. When I caught up to him, he had helped himself to a toy off the shelf and was doing his best to blend in with the big kids.

When we are lucky, they get a few overlapping minutes on the playground. Today A and D's classes headed outside at the same time, and brother and sister spent all of their shared recess together, running in the grass and playing in the sandbox. 

In five weeks, these sweet shared preschool days will end with this school year. Despite D's insistence that he is five and needs to go to "kinner-garn" too, A will be getting on the school bus without him next year. Brother and sister won't share a school again until D is in kindergarten and A is in third grade. 

Next year is full of unknowns and new territory. How will A fare in kindergarten? What will D do with his big sister gone all day? How long will it take for me to stop stressing  about the school bus? For now, though, we have pictures slipped through classroom doors and little feet sneaking down the hall. 

I'll take it, and so will they.

April 17, 2014

Catch the Moment 365: Week 16

101/365: First grilling night of the year!

102/365: Love.

103/365: Doughnuts and pajamas.

104/365: Mind blown by this little outdoor train.

105/365: Gloomy day brightened by these colorful paddle boats.

106/365: Ice on the slides at the playground...we are not having the springiest of spring breaks. 

107/365: Striking a pose!

As always, thank you to our hosts: Simply Stavish, Nurse Loves Farmer, and 

Little kid, big style: Ba Ba Bling Tees

In our house, personal sense of style emerges at age two. That's the age that A let me know she didn't like jeans and wouldn't ever be wearing them again, and not long after he turned two D started making his own sartorial wishes known. As long as it's weather-appropriate and not a special occasion (or picture day), we try to give them pretty free range to choose their own outfits. I recognize that what I like isn't always what they like, and I try to shop with their preferences in mind.

Last summer, I got to know a fantastic clothing company with styles that appeal to kids and adults alike - Ba Ba Bling Baby. I did a review of their soft, stylish tees for The DC Moms, and the shirts quickly became favorites for both A and D.

Ba Ba Bling Baby's owner and designer Sarah Warner brings hip, vintage-inspired design to her line of 100 percent cotton tees available in baby sizes 0-18 months and toddler sizes 2-6. All of her designs are hand-drawn and ready to make a statement - headphones for the little music lover in your life, or friendship necklace tees for the littlest set of best friends.

Sarah was kind enough to send us a little preview of Ba Ba Bling's fall line. Because A and D are so vocal in their opinions about clothes, I'm always a little worried when I show them something new. If A likes an outfit, she wants to put it on immediately - and this shirt went right on out of the package.

She loves what she calls the "flower pattern" on the pocket (it's really leopard, but she doesn't want to hear it).

D has taken to rejecting any shirt he deems to be not a "big boy shirt," and the definition of big boy shirt seems to vary depending on his mood. Fortunately, this shirt regularly makes it onto the list of approved clothing.

He calls it his coloring shirt, and it's perfect for a boy who is ready to color from the moment he wakes up in the morning until it's time for bed.

Looking for a new twist on sibling shirts? Ba Ba Bling has some fun choices, including big and little sis necklace tees. If you're ready to add some style to your little one's wardrobe, check them out!

Disclosure: I received the shirts pictured above in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

April 15, 2014

Just doodle it

A is full of questions that don't always have easy answers.

What would happen if we didn't have any blood in us?

What makes things in a forest catch on fire? 

Why do some people do littering?

Tonight at dinner I mentioned that we need to make a visit to the National Museum of Natural History before the dinosaur hall closes for five long years. A nodded in agreement, and then her face turned thoughtful.

Which dinosaur turned into an elephant? she wondered aloud.

Well. That's a good question, and it's what we get for trying to explain evolution  on previous museum trips. I replied that I didn't know, but perhaps we could find a scientist to ask at the museum. 

A smiled at me. No, mommy. You can just doodle it!

It's always nice to realize they're paying attention, even when it's to something as simple as using Google to answer the four hundredth question of the day.

April 13, 2014

There's a book for that: helping kids voice their feelings

It's been a long time since I've mentioned the struggle A had adjusting to her new school. I underestimated the depth of her feelings about making a change, and it was so hard to see her hurting and lashing out and know that we'd put her in that situation - but we were also pretty certain that we'd made the right change for her and hoped there might be a way to help her settle in.

In what is a very typically me fashion, I turned to the internet and searched for books to help my girl. If there's a problem, my brain insists there must be a book out there that can fix it. I am someone who as a high school freshman learning to play tennis bought books about tennis in the hopes of becoming a star athlete (it's probably completely unnecessary to mention that this didn't work).

Unlike tennis, this time there was a book that made a difference: Cool Down and Work Through Anger by Cheri J. Meiners M.Ed. It does a beautiful job putting big feelings into kid-friendly words and pictures. We read it daily before school for weeks, and I think it gave A words for some of the things she was feeling - and validation that it was okay to be furious at times (but definitely not okay to punch your way out of a horrible day.)

Two months later it's rare for me to hear from A's teacher - and more importantly, she's coming home proud to tell us what a great day she had. When she's upset, she's having an easier time putting it into words. Last month, I sat down with her teacher for parent-teacher conferences and I almost teared up hearing how much progress our girl has made in this school since mid-December. The only regret I have now is that we didn't make the move sooner.

If you have a child in your life who's struggling with big feelings, I can't recommend this book enough.

April 10, 2014

Cooking up an oxymoron: chicken pot pie casserole

A few weeks ago, we welcomed a beautiful and teeny tiny niece to our family. When it was time to bring the kids over to meet their new cousin, I asked my brother-in-law what we could bring them for dinner. His reply? Oh, a healthy casserole would be great. 

And while I said, "great!" on the phone, in my head I thought: healthy casserole is really an oxymoron. Casseroles are many things...creamy, cheesy, comforting, but not so much healthy. But what if there was a way to make a (moderately) healthier casserole?

Enter the chicken pot pie casserole. Take out the butter, the cream, and the pastry from the pot pie you know and love and swap in olive oil, milk, and a little pasta. Still creamy and comforting, but not quite so heavy...and still delicious.


Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

4 carrots
4 celery stalks
1 medium yellow onion (or half a large one)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/2 pound pasta of your choice, cooked according to directions on package
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the carrots, celery, and onion into small dice. Slice your mushrooms

Put a large pan on the stove over medium heat, then add in the oil. Add the vegetables and saute until the vegetables soften, about three or four minutes.

Add the chicken (I used about half a rotisserie chicken) and stir to combine with the vegetables. Add in the flour and cook for a minute or two, stirring gently to combine.

Pour in the chicken broth and milk. Stir constantly for three or four minutes to combine and thoroughly mix in with the flour. Watch as magic gravy begins to appear! Turn the heat to low and let this cook for about five minutes as the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you're using a rotisserie chicken like I did, be sure to taste BEFORE you add in additional seasonings!

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package - and err on the side of al dente! I used radiatore, but any cut pasta will do.

Pour your cooked and drained pasta into a casserole dish. Add the vegetable/chicken/sauce mixture and stir to combine. Pop it in the oven for 20-25 minutes and marvel at what a clever cook you are.