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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Etiquette Tips for Babies

A very good friend of mine is welcoming her third baby this winter and several friends have welcomed new babies into their families. I'm thrilled for them and I'm also thrilled to offer the one thing all new parents just love: advice. But this advice isn't for you Mommy and Daddy, it's for your New Arrival. 

As a new parent, we have access to numerous experts online, in books and magazines to help us navigate the needs of our newborn. But what help is available for new babies? How do they learn the proper behavior and etiquette for this wide, wonderful world? Here are a few tips on the basics of baby etiquette that will help in even the toughest social situation.

Interpersonal relations – Things like eye contact and personal space are two key aspects of interpersonal relationships. But what rules apply to babies? 

  • Let’s say you’re at a power lunch and your dining companions are boring you. Feel free to look away and completely ignore what they are saying. You can even fall asleep! If they still don’t get the hint, crying at the top of your lungs is a failsafe method to getting their butts out of their chairs and catering to your every need. 
  • The same rule applies to personal space: it's your way or the highway. If someone gets too close, you can swat, push, punch and squirm to get away. This is also encouraged if the person has bad breath, isn’t holding you correctly, or just isn’t Mommy or Daddy. Don’t worry; it’s not rude to scream really loud in this situation. Go with your instincts.

Mealtimes - There are numerous rules regarding polite dining, and one should eventually learn which one is the salad fork and how to operate the oyster tongs. But as a baby, your rules are slightly different. 

  • If a meal is taking too long to prepare, shouting, yelling and banging your hands on any surface are appropriate ways to communicate your displeasure. Intense wailing that turns your face fire engine red is a good way to ask, “Pardon me, but is it almost ready? I’m quite famished.”
  • During meals, don’t be too shy to pass gas, burp, urinate, or release your bowels as loud as humanly possible. Enjoy yourself, Baby! Relax! Don’t worry about the proximity of others to your rear end and just fire away. It’s a special compliment to the chef to belch after eating. 
  • Here’s a hint when you feel spit-up is imminent: smiling as the liquid mess dribbles down your chin and on to your new clothes is a sure way to avoid any embarrassment. Your hosts will laugh and may even join in the fun!

Here are a few other miscellaneous points of etiquette to keep in mind:

  • When others are talking, and it’s not about you, do your best to get their attention. Again, crying is a useful tool; don’t hesitate to reach for those higher decibels.
  • Grabbing at people is a fine way to remind others you are there. Go for mouths, hair and eyes. If a man is holding you and he just doesn’t seem to notice you, chest hair is your best target.
  • While not in vogue for most adults, urinating or pooping on others is generally ok for you, Baby. Again, follow this up with a charming smile, and if possible add a heart-melting “ah-goo” or giggle and you won’t have to worry about being burned in the society column of the newspaper. 

Baby etiquette isn't all that tricky. Honestly, behavior that would get other people locked up or at least permanently shunned is all the fashion for Babies in the Know.  Every family is different and you may have to ad-lib on a few occasions, but these tips should help make your social debut absolutely unforgettable!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pittsburgh Great Race and Racing in 2014

Last year at this time my foot was in a boot and it was hard for me to even walk around. But this year I'm celebrating a very decent time at the Great Race and feeling good about upcoming events. For the Great Race, I wasn't quite sure what my pace would be. I decided to be conservative and aim to go under 55:00 and expected I'd maintain a pace of 8:45.

It was a gorgeous morning and even though I thought the race started at 9:00am (but it didn't start until 9:30am) I realized I was moving along faster than my goal pace at the 5K. I decided to hold it and push it as long as I could and finished in 51:31! It was satisfying to be faster than my goal but also a little irritating to be that close to going under 50:00.

But really I'm thrilled with this race. And as I looked back over my racing calendar I realized this has been a big year for me! I've completed the most amount of races I've done since my "return" to racing in 2011. I completed a total of six events this year and my calendar was a nice mix of old favorites and some new events. I also had my first DNF, which was a very uncomfortable new experience. But my year of racing isn't over yet: I still have the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon waiting for me October 18.

I use Athlinks to keep track of my race results and compare them from year to year. It's so wonderful to have a website do this work for me.

I'm already thinking about my 2015 calendar.

In January, I know I want to repeat the JCC Indoor Triathlon. I even invited Charlie Batch to try it with me this year.

In February I really want to do the Running out of Our Mines 5K.

March is open, but April will always belong to the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.

I've formed a relay team for the DSG Pittsburgh Marathon in May and I'll do Riverview 5K in June. Will I ever go under 25 in that race?

July was a busy month for me this year in racing, so I will have to make some choices. If I'm swimming again I'd like to do the YMCA Butler Tri but I was thinking I could do the Sweet Sprint with my kids! At least the older ones.

August might be tricky, because I know my husband really wants to do the Run Around the Square, and I'll be ramping up for the Presque Isle Marathon in September.

I'll have to see how I feel after that race but I'd love to squeeze in some fun 5Ks in October, November and December.

When it comes to racing do you like to go big? Or go often?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Loneliness of the Heart Rate Monitor Runner

At the end of a long (very long) and chilly (very chilly) and rainy (very rainy!) run, a V of geese passed overhead. I watched them speed across the sky, the lead goose cutting through the air, the trailing gooses drafting off the others.

The V moved away and then I heard the solitary honking of a goose without a V, struggling to journey on it's own, no fellow geese to help.

I see you, solitary goose. I am you. I am a Heart Rate Monitor Runner.

Running with a heart rate monitor is the ultimate in personal training. Every workout is attuned to the precise fitness level of the runner. I only run as fast as I'm supposed to based on my heart rate zones. It's incredible because it's like no workout is wasted.

It's also pretty darn lonely.

I love running and everything it helps me do in life. I love my coach and all the support she offers. She's the one who encouraged me to get back into wearing a heart rate monitor. (I got my first heart rate monitor back in around fourteen years ago when my husband gave it to me camouflaged as fanny pack.)

But I also like running with people. I like to chat! My high school and college running friends can confirm this. And it's often easier to run with friends. But not when you're a Heart Rate Monitor Runner.

I can't blow off a workout that my coach has given me and just run with someone else. My literal,  somewhat obsessive personality makes it really difficult for me to say, "I'm supposed to do an easy zone 2 run, but my friend needs to run at a pace that puts me in zone 3. Oh well, I'll just run in zone 3."

I'm too rigid about following instructions to deviate! I don't have any room in my running to just run with a friend. It's kind of a bummer. And I have such a busy schedule I don't feel I can waste a chance to run by not having it contribute in some way to my goals. And these zone 2 runs are really paying off, I believe. I'm really able to give it my all during speed work sessions because I've recovered on my easy days.

Recently I saw a post from a friend on Facebook that talked about the glory of a "naked trail run." Not that kind! She ran without her Garmin, no music, no watch. Just the trail and a run. It sounds nice, but it also freaks me out!

Last month I had a chance to run the roads near my high school. Back then I never wore a heart rate monitor, and I wasn't exactly a leader on the team. I practiced every day but the practices were designed for the whole team, probably some of them weren't 'right' for me at the time. Maybe I ran them 'wrong.' But I had a lot of fun. I chatted with my friends, loved the socializing and felt good about myself.

I don't get a lot of socializing via running anymore, but my workouts are more focused, more useful in helping me achieve personal goals. I get my socializing in other ways, and I do talk to other moms and women who run, but there's a lot of comparison and a bit of tension.

So if you see me out of the roads, me and my Garmin chugging along, join me for a mile. Chat with me, or listen to my chatter if you don't mind it. I can talk a lot when I'm running in Zone 2. If my pace is too slow or you need to do speed work I will wish you luck and watch you speed away. But don't be freaked if I honk, because I'm just a lonely goose on a journey.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Make Mom Friends (Hint: Get to The Mom Con!)

I love being a mom. Most of the time it's incredible, with some definite tough spots. You know what else is tough? Making mom friends. There are so many chances for me to bring up my opinions on a topic important to moms and offend someone.
  • I have mom friends who don't vaccinate their kids and mine get every shot offered.
  • My kids love almost all kinds of meats and I have mom friends who are serious vegans.
  • I take my kids to CCD, and I have a mom friends who tell their kids God doesn't exist.
  • I have mom friends who give their kids smartphones and tablets of their own and my kids have strict time limits on screen devices.
  • I have mom friends who adamantly only breastfeed and other mom friends who wouldn't even try breastfeeding.
  • I have mom friends who believe spanking is discipline and other mom friends who literally never run out of patience or yell at their kids. 
  • I have mom friends who delight in homeschooling and unschooling, ones who rage against Common Core and other mom friends who don't make their kids finish homework. 
  • I volunteer for a Moms Demand Action and ask if there are guns in homes when my children are invited for playdates while other moms take their kids hunting!
Do you see the mine field I'm walking here? 

Despite these potential obstacles, I still feel like I need mom friends. And that's why I'm going to The Mom Con. 

The Mom Con is happening right in Pittsburgh, PA on November 14 and 15 at Pittsburgh Marriott North.
I've already attended one pre-event meet up of moms who will be at The Mom Con and I'm thrilled to be involved. There are all kinds of moms in the world. But I'm the kind of mom who likes to model the behavior I expect from my children, and one thing I expect us all to do is treat others with respect even if we disagree. I also like to model understanding where people are coming from and how to have a thoughtful conversation with someone who has different opinions.

This is what The Mom Con is all about. Read this description:
"The Mom Con is a day to get inspired by our speakers, empowered with new ideas, and connect with each other in real life. It’s a place for creative + motivated moms to be who they really are."
Interested? Start following them on Twitter and Facebook to get event updates.

There is a definite gap in friendship with many of the mom friends I've made. It's so hard to navigate these relationships. I've even broken-up with mom friends! But I also know I won't learn anything about myself or about others if I stay at home, head buried in the sand, making snarky comments on Twitter. It's important to meet other moms, to try and see their perspective. 

There are some things I won't ever tolerate, like moms who smoke around their kids, letting my kids go to a home where there are guns, and parents who actively perpetuate racism and sexism. 
But there are things I can learn more about, like homeschooling and food choices. There are going to be lots of moms sharing their unique perspectives at The Mom Con and I'm really excited to attend with an open mind and learn new things. I also look forward to making some new friends.

What about you? Do you want to make some new friends, be inspired and empowered? Good! You can join me at The Mom Con at a discount by registering with the code momcon5off. Or you can enter to win two free tickets by entering the Rafflecopter giveaway below! 
This content has been sponsored by the Mom Con.  However, all opinions remain my own.  #momswhorock #themomcon

Friday, September 26, 2014

Try It: $20,000 Pumpkin Applesauce

For the love of pumpkin. It's fall! And we're going pumpkin crazy in America. And my friend Ali  makes some crazy-good pumpkin applesauce.

How good? Ask her 8-year old son.

"This applesauce is so good, you should charge people $20,000 just to smell it!" he advised.

Sure, apples, cinnamon and pumpkin make an appealing aroma. But how does it taste?

"They should pay $80,000 to taste it," her son said.

This recipe is a winner. Luckily she is nice and shared some with us and luckily I am nice enough to share her recipe with you! (She accepts cash, checks and money orders.)

From Ali:
"September is my favorite month in Pittsburgh.  The weather!  Elizabeth’s birthday!  Apple-picking!  Corn mazes! The return of Pumpkin Spice Lattes!  Wait, what’s that you say?  I can’t drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes anymore?   What’s a pumpkin-loving, vegan-leaning mother to do? In my quest to embrace fall without a PSL in hand, I took my kids on an apple-picking adventure to Simmons Farm.  We pulled into the farm’s entrance and drove (and drove) on the back road — and by road I mean narrow dirt path — until we came to the apple orchard.  As we parked on a steep grassy cliff I second-guessed both my plans and my parking brake. Luckily, this story has a happy ending marked by a safe return home and a bushel of handpicked Empire, Braeburn, Golden Delicious and Gala apples.
Back home, I found myself surrounded by too many delicious apples and still craving something pumpkin.  I decided dust off my slow cooker and make something special, healthy and, most importantly, pumpkin-y to share with my family and friends."

Pumpkin Applesauce (modified from this recipe

Prep time:  20 min
Cook time:  6-8 hours
Serves:  Depends on how much you eat!

9-10 medium, peeled, cored, and sliced.  (I prefer to use this handy tool)
1 – 1 ½ Tbsp ground cinnamon
juice of 1 lemon or orange
½ cup water
15 oz can pure pumpkin puree
1 – 1 ½ Tbsp vanilla
¼ cup brown sugar

Add all ingredients to the Crock Pot.
Cover and cook on low (or if your crock pot is like mine, setting it on “keep warm suffices) for 6-8 hours.
Optional: With a potato masher or hand blender, mash/puree the soft apples to desired consistency. Allow applesauce to cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator. Serve warm or chilled.
$20,000 Pumpkin Applesauce!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Try It: BattleFrog Pittsburgh Giveaway

I have another giveaway that is perfect for anyone who wants to really adopt the "Try It and You May!" mindset and it's called Battlefrog!

Yep, it's an obstacle race.

Obstacle races are tough and they test your overall fitness and they are really worth doing. But if you're not interested in doing one right now, why not think about giving your kids a chance? Battlefrog is a great opportunity for your young ones to tackle some obstacles and build their confidence. My kids love watching shows on television where people conquer difficult obstacles. They are then inspired to challenge themselves physically when they play outside and they are so thrilled when they do things like cross the monkey bars alone. This kind of physical victory helps them tackle other tough things, too!

Here's the info:

For the truly indomitable, BattleFrog comes to Western Pennsylvania September 27th, 2014 with an incomparable course. SEAL frogman are famous for operating under water, but this course puts you under ground. Covering 650 acres of steeps and terraces, gorges and river bottoms, the Mines & Meadows Resort includes miles of limestone and coal mines that add a unique subterranean twist to our ever unpredictable challenges. 
BattleFrog, a fun and competitive new obstacle course race (OCR) series founded and designed by Navy SEALs. The event will provide challenges for both veteran OCR racers and newcomers alike, will feature three unique courses, a series of SEAL themed demonstrations and activities, and a festival atmosphere that promises to be fun for the entire family.
The folks at Battlefrog have given me on free entry to give away to someone who wants to tackle this course. The Rafflecopter entry form is at the bottom of the post. It's easy to enter, but this race won't be.

But tackling tough stuff is good for us.

So what are you waiting for? Inspire yourself.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 15, 2014

Travel with Kids to Spain - Art and Culture

Back in June, our family traveled to Spain and gathered an amazing set of experiences. I had the chance to break out my rusty Spanish. Of course, since it was American high school and college Spanish, it didn't quite fit with Andalusian Spanish. And I had no experience with Catalan, the language of Barcelona. But that didn't stop me from trying and learning. Those are two big priorities in my life and I hope my kids adopt those as priorities, too!

I asked a good friend how to help me say "try it" in Spanish and he said:

La traduccion de "try it" depende del context. Por ejemplo, si esta hablando de comidas, you would say something like "pruebalo." Si se trata de alguna "action," decis "intentalo" o "atrevete." Podes usar words de encouragement como "vamos" or "dale," por ejemplo: "vamos, atrévete."
You can read about the food we tried and loved during our trip, but this post is about the art, culture, and history we experienced on our journeys. The castles of Spain, like this castillo in Malaga, are so different from the Irish and German castles we have visited on other trips. The boys enjoyed climbing all over and imagining armies attacking. While we visited this castle, music from a brass band drifted up to us from the bull ring in the city below. The cafe at this castillo was truly excellent, too. 

We rented a minivan and traveled easily around the south of Spain. We took a long drive (over an hour) from Malaga to visit El Torcal, a natural park featuring an incredible limestone landscape. We took a longer hike than we intended but we have some excellent memories looking for the Robot and being found by a fox, un zorro, during the hot, spectacular hike.

The roads were so easily to travel. They were wide, well-marked and well-lit. The landscape looked incredibly Californian, but the road signs reminded us we were in a different part of the world. We explored the options of day trips to visit Northern Africa, but felt the trips would be really tiring on our younger children.

Instead of day trips to North Africa, we took day trips around Andalucia. One trip took us to Granada, the city that Queen Isabella described as "jewels scattered on a hill" and compared to the seeds of a pomegranate. During lunch, I felt this little piece of graffiti captured a great message for our whole family.

In Granada, we were lucky to secure a time slot to visit the Nasri Palace in the Alhambra. The boys were prepared for this experience - well-fed and warned - so we had a much better time here than on some other museum trips. The Courtyard of Lions was a real point of interest as were the elaborate geometrical designs in even the most hidden spaces of the palace.

We were in Spain at the start of the World Cup, and it was everywhere. On televisions, news, in hotels, shops - everywhere. The boys loved it, and frankly so did we. The country of Spain didn't love it so much when their team was knocked out early. Awkward!

Despite Spain losing so early, our boys were still soccer crazy and were so eager to collect a variety of player kits and balls everywhere we went. We made sure to find some open space for them to run around and imagine they were the stars of the World Cup. Here you see Neymar facing off against Ronaldo on the grassy lawn of a university near our hotel in Barcelona.

The architecture of Barcelona was a serious highlight to our trip, and I could post more photos than you'd ever want to see. But I'm just going to share this tantalizing image from our visit to Gaudi's Casa Batllo in Barcelona. The House of Bones, as it's often nicknamed, is in a high end part of town and worth a visit. We took a chance with this visit, we weren't sure our boys would be able to behave and they weren't sure they wanted to take the house tour, but we decided to try it! We told them "Vamos, atrĂ©vete!" And it was worth it. Each boy got an audio tour set and they loved winding their way through the incredible rooms and listening to the detailed descriptions of how the walls, windows, door, stair rails - just everything! - was designed so precisely. We found mushrooms, bones, mollusks, dragons and waves incorporated into every aspect of the house. The boys were also inspired by Gaudi's innovative cooling and lighting techniques.  Our middle son was a bit miffed that only Dad got the super fancy visual tour that included a mini-tablet to carry around and view the house as it looked when it was a home.

Since the boys were so engaged learning about Gaudi's Casa Batllo, we decided to take them to the Joan Miro Foundation museum and do the audio tours there, too! Though the boys hadn't behaved very well during our visit to Picasso's museum in Malaga, we thought perhaps they were ready for Miro. And they were, mostly. Miro's work is so colorful and there are some huge pieces to view. The audio tour here included small movies on the device to help explain the creation of some of the pieces and they loved the video that came along with "The Navigator's Hope." Could it be our children were experiencing a love of art? Certainly the description of Miro's "The Caress of a Bird" caught their attention. Perhaps it was the soccer ball used to represent a woman's buttocks or a toilet seat as her chest, but they certainly remembered this piece of Catalan culture.

Not all of our museum visits were this easy. Our trip to the Picasso museum in Malaga had some behavior troubles and I think the boys were tired and hungry. But even though they weren't at their best, we realized they were absorbing something during every visit. Take a look at this doodle by my middle son, titled "Animals Everywhere." I can see an influence!