Category Archives: activities

What a Parent Will Do for a Kid

As the work week is rolling to its close, I’ve been thinking about our plans for the weekend. A hair cut and color are a must. And I might squeeze in my fingers, toes, and eyebrows, if the line isn’t too long. (One of the drawbacks of scheduling maintenance on Saturdays.) The gym is a must; I’ve been way too lazy this week. A birthday party for one of the kids at daycare is a possibility. And then there’s harambe.

I first found out about harambe when a dad posted on the neighborhood new parents list serve, asking if parents would be interested in supporting some music and dance classes for kids at a local, dare I say alternative or independent, performing arts space called Bloombars. Of course parents jumped all over it. In fact, response was so positive that management added a Saturday class (and now possibly two!).

So, my husband and I took the kid to try it out last weekend.

Harambe is a Swahili word that supposedly means come together. And come together did parents and kids of the neighborhood that Saturday. Stroller parking was limited both upstairs and out front. (There’s something cute about watching dads lock up strollers on the bike rack.) Pillow seating on the floor also was scarce, so we picked out spots on the wooden pews that lined opposite sides of the room. It was starting to feel like a very strange episode of Modern Family, only we weren’t family.

Then Baba walked in. A giant black man with dreads past his butt and an island accident, he certainly made an impression. He sat down on the stage, grabbed a couple of bongo-type drums, and distributed a bunch of the other instruments–tambourines, bells, percussion stick things, and even something that looked like a gourd with beads wrapped around it that made a pretty cool sound when you shook it. Oh, and there was an electric keyboard on the stage, which I thought was totally out of place–at first.

As he gathered the “scholars”–that’s what he called the children (love it!)–he told the parents to not worry about their kids doing their own things because it would all work out somehow. This was totally reassuring to me because my kid had made a beeline to the keyboard and was banging–very loudly and sometimes with his foot–on it as Baba was talking. But Baba kept on smiling and got the show on the road.

Turns out harambe is not a spectator sport for parents. Not only is clapping and instrument playing a must, but so is singing. And dancing. And generally circling around the room. If I’m totally honest, I felt awkward because I didn’t know the words to many of the songs. Part of me also was totally on edge, as I was waiting for our kid to smash some other kid with a tambourine or something as I was in a conga line on the opposite side of the room. But I was rolling with it because watching this diverse group of kids get into the music–or not, as was the case for a few–was hilarious.

But it was totally fun and with the $7 donation, which is why I’m so planning on going again this weekend. And our kid loved it. I don’t think there was an instrument he didn’t have his paws on at some point and he only stopped jumping to pound on the keyboard from time to time.

However, I would be kidding myself if I didn’t say that at a certain point as I was walk-walk-jump-jump-running-running around the room with all the other parents that I wondered if any of my long-time friends would even recognize me anymore. I mean, I barely recognized my husband as the group headed into the so-called “welcome song.”

As the title might suggest, it’s a song where everyone is introduced. I can’t exactly remember the words, but I do know that there’s one part of the song where everyone claps and sings, “Welcome, so-and-so, welcome so-and-so,” and then there’s some line about that person becoming a new friend. There must’ve been 15 parents (at least in the room) and we did them all. Just when I thought the pain would stop, we did all the kids’ names, too.

But there was something both hilarious and heartwarming about this whole motley crew of parents, stomping around a room for the pure entertainment of their children. These people were probably lawyers and lobbyists, contractors and managers–true professional types–and yet they could’ve cared less about how cool, smart, or rich they looked at that point in time. Because the truth be told, we all looked like idiots. And it was awesome.

 

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Yet Another Reason Crayola Rocks

I have always loved everything Crayola. I still get excited just looking at the yellow and green box. It seems so full of fun and possibilities. A crayon is so much more than a crayon–it’s a train or a monster or a pony. And a marker? It’s an underwater adventure or a snowy day or a siege on a castle. But as a parent, there are new things I appreciate in the genius that is Crayola.

First, washable markers and crayons. What my mom wouldn’t give to have those bad boys transported back in time. I’m pretty sure the first time I saw my mom’s head spin around out was when she realized my latest masterpiece had bled through the construction paper, leaving a connect-the-dots version on her butcher block kitchen table. You can still see some of the marks 30 years later.

But today, I realized something else totally awesome about Crayola–markers can be trilingual. Sorry the picture’s not better; I clearly have done a number on my camera phone:

I’m not sure how I missed this before. Maybe it’s new? Or maybe I didn’t have kids the last time I really worked in the marker medium. But either way, I’m loving it now. Maybe teaching my kid colors in three languages just got a little easier.

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My First Stroller Derby

One of my summertime projects has been to get back into running. See, I signed up to run the Army Ten Miler this fall with a group of mommies like me who have wee ones and soldier husbands. Our team is called the “Military Mommas” and to motivate us through those 10 undoubtably painful miles, we’re raising money to support the Fisher House Foundation, which provides housing for military family members while their soldiers undergo medical treatment. (Click here if you’d like to donate.) While the charitable fundraising is helping pump me up for the run, it’s not doing the work for me, so I decided to sign up for the Save the River 5K last week as a fun way to log some miles.

This particular 5K is a little event–about 300 participants–and anything but competitive. It’s one of those small-town events where it’s ok to walk, kids and grandparents are totally invited to participate, and strollers are more than welcome on the course. I used to be a runner, but it’s been a good five years and change since I could last call myself one, so this low-key event was so my speed (or lack thereof). Given the baby-friendly set up, I decided to take the wee one along for the run and fun.

I run with baby and the buggy from time to time, but this was my first baby-in-tow race and I definitely learned a few things about being a mom on the run:

  1. Learn to be loud. Chances are you’re not going to be the first up at the starting line–stroller pushers tend to wind up near the back of the herd–so find your stride becomes first about just finding a clear path. You don’t realize how much extra room you need to maneuver when you’ve got your front traversing wheel locked into a stationary position for a better ride, so moving through the crowd becomes a little more difficult, especially when the people ahead of you are doing their own thing. Many thanks to my friend Eva who was clearly a good 30 seconds faster than I and was alerting people to watch out behind them that a stroller was coming through as she passed them. I actually heard someone call her a bitch for doing it–mostly because she passed them, I think–but I thought she rocked because as much as I wished my Baby Trend Jogger had a horn, it didn’t. And god knows I didn’t have enough breath left to do my own shouting–on your left!
  2. Don’t run alone. Misery definitely loves company, so I count myself lucky enough to have a couple of friends do the race with me because I think I can officially say it would have been rough to do it alone. Somewhere into mile 2, I know I definitely looked at my friend Lesley and said, “This sucks.” But having a running partner (or two or three) was a lot of fun, too. I know as Lesley and I came into the last half mile we decided to pick up the pace and as we were sprinting toward the finish, our heavy breathing was definitely punctuated from time to time with encouraging words to each other like, “We can do this.”
  3. Water breaks are for sissies. There were two water stations along the course. I wasn’t thirsty when I ran past the first one, but when I saw the second I was dying for something at least sort of cool. I let go of the stroller handle to grab a cup and as soon as I did I realized that there was no way this water thing was going to happen unless I stopped. Not only was water splashing out of the cup, but I felt like I could barely steer the stroller. And seriously, stopping was not an option because I was never going to get the baby rig going again if I did. Next time around I’ll definitely have a water bottle with a squirt top stuffed into the cup holder.
  4. You’ll make insta-friends. When you’re working a stroller at one of these races, you automatically start picking out other stroller runners and kind of naturally gravitate toward each other. I had seen two mommies with their strollers before the race that sort of caught my eye, mainly because they had the same stroller as I did, their babies looked to be about the same age as mine, and they looked like they could tear up some asphalt with three wheels. (Turns out one was a half marathoner and the other was a triathaloner.) As I headed into mile 3, I saw the two of them up ahead of me. They got hung up at the water station, so I ended up passing them. But after the race, the two mommies wheeled over to me to congratulate me on my finish. I was kind of blown away–my face was too red to have made my finish look easy–but I thought it was really cool of them. Turns out we had more than just the strollers in common–their husbands too are military–so it was a fun way to meet some new people.
  5. It’s more fun that you think it’ll be. I set out with no goal other than to finish. But just being with the crowd on a nice day on the River turned out to be quite a bit of motivation. I ended up finishing in the top quartile–if you want to check out the rankings, you can find them here–despite what during my running heydey would’ve been an embarassing time. But out of all the fun runs I’ve done over the years, I definitely won’t forget this one because it felt awesome to hear someone yell, “You’re the first stroller!” as I ran over the finish line. Of course I would’ve felt even better about my final results had there a 1 minute handicap, but it was enough to know I at least finished in front of the only dad I saw with a stoller at the start line.

So, it was a lot of fun and just what I needed to help me get a little closer to be ready for the big 10 mile trudge in the fall. Many thanks again to my running buddies–definitely couldn’t have done it without you–and to Save the River for organizing such an awesome event. Definitely signing up for the stroller division next year!

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