Fitness for Cringey Moms and Grumpy Teens

by Abby on March 26, 2020

Man, what a rollercoaster, huh? One minute we’re all, “This is an adventure! We’ll make waffles and watch movies!” And the next we’re wailing into our weighted blankets about how we’ll pay the bills or force our teens to do algebra for the next 2 months. Yep, as of yesterday, they’ve closed schools here in MD through the end of April. 

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

We’ve all cycled through our individual meltdowns in my house over the past several days. No sooner did I decide to start this blog back up than I broke it. Something about incompatible PHP code, outdated plugins, blah, blah, blah. Hours and hours of back and forth with tech support in another time zone and it’s finally fixed. And, honestly, chatting with the web hosting guys is the only support and adult interaction I’ve had in days – I’ll take it!

I’m trying to keep my spirits up with daily exercise. Much like meditation, it’s become a habit for me and I feel out of sorts if I don’t do it for a few days. Pre-quarantine, I was used to going to the gym at least 5 times a week for a yoga class, a strength-training session, or a run on the treadmill. Now, walking up and down the stairs to the laundry room is about the only cardio I get. 

Thankfully, there’s a ton of free fitness videos online. My gym sent out a link to Les Mills group exercise classes on demand. So far I’ve done barre with a couple of statuesque beauties on a surfboard (?) in the middle of a fjord (??) in New Zealand. (“Hey Siri, do they have fjords in New Zealand?” They do! Now it’s a workout AND a homeschooling lesson!)

Les Mills barre workout

This is my 11yo son’s idea of a workout:

That balance board was a good purchase. You can also do planks on it. I have a pic of my 13yo doing one but I am FORBIDDEN to post it. Now you know one of the reasons I stopped blogging. Teens ruin everything. J/K! LOL. 

Speaking of teens, I took my kids out for a hike when the sun came out the other day. And by took I mean forced. And by forced I mean threatened. Literally the only power I have over the teen is threatening to take his phone away. #ParentingConfessions

So there we were, on our forced march through the wilderness, silently cursing each other’s existence. We didn’t see another soul. Or any interesting animals. But we did find a weird-looking plant that looked like coronavirus spores. Anyone know what this is? 

weird plant that looks like coronavirus spores

By the time we got home I needed some virtual yoga on the beach in Costa Rica. 

I’ve also tried the Les Mills SH’BAM dance-type class, which my 11yo declared “Cringey.” It’s super-empowering to model a healthy lifestyle for your children. 

What are you all doing to keep moving during this stressful time? 


Thoughts on Anxiety at 3 a.m.

by Abby on March 22, 2020

Two nights in a row now, I’ve woken up at 3 a.m. Why is it always 3 a.m.? It’s like my body has its own internal anxiety alarm clock. Time to wake up and obsess over every bad thing that could possibly happen! 

This is particularly distressing to me because I am a big sleeper. I need my sleep. Can’t function without it. In fact, one of the things I obsess over at 3 a.m. is how tired and sluggish I’m going to be the next day if I can’t fall back asleep. I won’t be able to do my work… I won’t have the energy to manage the kids… The day will be ruined… Which in turn makes me MORE anxious and restless. It’s a whole thing. 

I know I’m not the only one suffering from anxiety right now. It’s all I hear and see lately—how scared and anxious people are about this virus, their health, their loved ones, their jobs. 

If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t done as much self-help and therapy as I have and hasn’t gotten the memo: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU if you are experiencing anxiety, now or ever. (Or fear. Or anger. Or any other “negative” emotion. I know! This blew my mind, too.)

Anxiety is not a bad thing. In fact, the very first sentence in the Medical News Today article, What to know about anxiety is: “Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion.”

Anxiety is what alerts us to potential dangers and compels us to take wise action—say, looking both ways before we cross a street so we don’t get hit by a car. Or studying for a test so we won’t fail. 

I feel like it’s important to underscore that anxiety in our current circumstances is NORMAL. And even healthy, in that if anxiety keeps you at home and compels you to keep washing your hands, that’s a good thing, right?  

But if it’s normal and healthy, then why does it feel so BAD?! Well, first of all, let’s recognize that many of us are feeling higher than usual levels of anxiety. I mean, last week I woke up in a panic that I’d forgotten to put out the recycling. I can never remember if pickup is on Mon. or Weds!

Whereas this week I’m doing deep-dives into Instagram stories discussing whether COVID-19 can live on Amazon boxes and what type of face masks are effective. (Only N95s, apparently. Not this rainbow LED one R. wore for Halloween.)

Anxiety becomes a problem when it starts to interfere with daily function, according to the American Psychological Association. The APA describes a person with anxiety disorder as “having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.” Nothing that will kill you, but here’s the other problem with anxiety: for many people, the bad feelings are so intolerable that they will do unhealthy things to make them go away. 

My youngest child was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety a few years ago, and I can still remember the pediatrician’s exact words to me: “If you don’t get a handle on this now, he will find ways to self-medicate when he gets older.” Addiction runs in our family. Alcoholism has ruined the lives and relationships of too many people I know. I was not going to mess around with my son. 

The doctor emphasized that there is no quick-fix solution, no single pill or therapy that eliminates anxiety for good. And boy was she right. But I will save the details of our medical “journey” for another time. For now, I will focus on some of the coping skills I’m trying to learn myself and teach my son. 

Breathe. Have you ever caught yourself unconsciously holding your breath? We all do it. At bedtime, my son will often say, “I feel scared for no reason.” I’ll listen to his chest and his heart is pounding. Granted, this is often because he’s just been doing backflips on his mattress. But in his body, it feels like fear.

I encourage him to take deep breaths using the 4-7-8 technique: breathe in for a count of 4, hold it for 7, exhale for 8. Here’s a video for kids that shows how to do it. If he’s too impatient for that, we do this much shorter technique I learned from a kindergarten teacher: “Smell a flower, blow out a candle.” Repeat several times.

Feel your feelings. Um, obviously. Don’t we all just do this naturally? No. No, we do not. Most of us are so uncomfortable feeling anything unpleasant that we will do anything to avoid it or numb it. But before you guzzle a glass of shiraz or scream at your mom (depending on your age), know that the average bad feeling lasts a few seconds. That’s it. It will pass. It will not kill you. 

Here’s the best tutorial I’ve seen on how to actually do this:

How to Feel Your Feelings, by @EmilyOnLife

Meditate. This is a hard sell, I know. For adults and kids alike. I posted this on Instagram the other day. I hope you can read it. If not, go here

Last night at 3 a.m., I downloaded the free Insight Timer meditation app, listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on “Facing Fear With Compassion,” Tara Brach’s talk, “Facing Pandemic Fears with an Awake Heart,” and then some soothing music. I eventually fell asleep. I could function today. Anyway, it’s the weekend. I think? 

Anyone else out there battling 3 a.m. anxiety? I’d love to hear what’s helped you. 


How to Make Jell-O, and other Life Skills

March 19, 2020

So here we are, Day … oh, who knows? With schools closed and everything shut down, the days are all blurring together and each 24-hour period feels like 3 days. In some ways, though, our new reality is not that different for me. There are lots of jokes flying around the freelance/work-at-home community like this:  […]

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Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus

March 16, 2020

Hello readers, old and new! I haven’t been writing regularly on this blog for a few years, for a variety of reasons. But I’ve decided to start again, at least for the next little while. This is a historic time we’re living through, and it feels important to document it in my own words.  In […]

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Revisiting the Nutcracker

December 3, 2019

Here’s a look back at one of my favorite holiday posts. Ah, memories! Fritz could be my kid! I was thrilled to have this realization during one of my many, many viewings of The Nutcracker. I love The Nutcracker—the music, the dancing, the costumes. I am lucky enough to have seen it performed professionally several […]

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The Homeless Man at Breakfast

December 7, 2017

“Enough with the homeless man! Sit down and eat your yogurt parfait!” You know your parenting has gone awry if you find yourself hissing these words at your 8yo son in Panera, as I did one recent Saturday morning. Let me explain. Our family had decided to go out to breakfast. A rare occurrence, since […]

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Playing with Dolphins

October 20, 2017

It’s not every day I find myself on a standup paddleboard in warm, turquoise waters. But one morning last week, that’s exactly where I was, three days into a girls’ trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida. The trip could not have been better timed, stress-wise or weather-wise. I pushed for the paddleboards, having done […]

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Tweet Me, Text Me, Teach Me: Back-to-School in 2017

September 15, 2017

Back-to-school time is more stressful than the holidays, a mammogram, and an extended visit with the in-laws COMBINED for most moms I know. My September breakdowns have been well-documented here. The unfortunate fundraiser meltdown of 2011. The carpool catastrophes. The scavenger-hunt supply lists, the endless forms to fill out. I was hoping to breeze through […]

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Back-to-School Reflections

September 6, 2017

I am not the mom who cried at preschool graduation, or on the first day of kindergarten. Most years I greet the start of the school year with relief and celebration. (Whew! The summer ran me ragged. Let the teachers take over!) This year was different. This morning I dropped off a third-grader and a […]

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Notes from a Writers’ Conference

May 9, 2017

This past weekend I did something shockingly out of the ordinary: I went to a writers’ conference! In New York City! Without my family in tow! There was a time I considered myself a professional writer first, and a pretzel server/baseball uniform washer/carpool driver second. Those times have changed. It took a whole lotta effort […]

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