Frontline Mom

Discovering Bike Trails With the Kids

September 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

We moved into our new home last November, so this summer was full of discoveries. Besides being introduced to many new places to eat or visit during date night, I discovered some great bike trails near our house. Just minutes away from our new home we found the trails of the Cook County Forest Preserve and they’re amazing. Along these local nature paths my family found terrific views, lovely single-track bridges to heighten our journey’s sense of adventure, and many little parks equipped with swing sets. These last were perfect for comfortable stopovers along the way.

With so much nature in easy reach, my family decided to invest in a trailer and in an attachable bike, just in case my oldest daughter, who’s four, thought the trailer wasn’t spacious enough. When we go out bicycling, we don’t ever really get very far, but my kids love the adventure, and I do too. Once the bike trailer has been properly deployed, my kids sometimes like to crowd in together in its tight quarters, but other times my daughter ventures onto the attachable bike. Regardless of the way they chose to travel, they have a great time on bike trips.

When you first start out biking with kids, all the gear can seem a little overwhelming. As both you and the children get the hang of getting on the bike and getting off it, the trips will become more comfortable. Something that’s crucial is explaining safety points to your kids. Convincing them of the importance of a helmet can take persistence, but don’t give up or put off the trip for another time. Getting your kids biking at an early age can get them passionate about it for life.

How do you enjoy biking with your children?

Early to Rise and Run – the Only Option

September 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Morning runs are the only option for me if I want to exercise. By the number of joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers I see each day in the early morning light, I know I’m not the only one facing the same predicament. Of course, while still in bed, I feel the pull of the desire to get in a few more winks of sleep. It’s a powerful pull, but what motivates me to push past it is the clear-eyed knowledge, even at just waking, that after work I’ll be too exhausted to keep up my regimen, no matter how much I try to convince myself that I’ll manage it.

After a full work day, my energy levels are down and I arrive home with a full appetite for dinner. I also want to spend this time with my two wonderful children and have an adult conversation with my spouse. I’ve come to accept that good thoughts of taking out the double-wide stroller after work only turn into excuses. Many such would-be outings have taught me my lesson.

When it’s not the weekend, working out means a 5:30 am wake-up call, but that also means getting what I’ve set out to do done. My tips? Let no one can tell you otherwise: there’s nothing like going to bed early for rising with the sun the next day. If you start working out regularly, you’ll notice that the impact of nutrition can become very pronounced while exercising. Keep a balanced diet and don’t skip meals because you’ll need the extra energy. By the same token, you’ll need to keep your body hydrated, so drink lots of water, not just before or after your workout, but throughout the whole day. Lastly, get your workout clothes ready the night before. Stumbling around looking around for socks or a shirt in the wee hours of the morning can get in the way of actually getting out the door.

Lastly, there are days when I only get in 10-15 minutes of exercise. Why bother, you ask? Even a little bit helps wake me up and keep in the groove. When I have limited time, I just turn up the pace a bit.

Do you have any tips of your own for getting up early and getting the workout in?

The End of Summer, Bummer!

September 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

It seems it was only a few weeks ago that I was feeling a bit short on summer clothes, but it’s already time to think about my long sleeves again! Labor Day, the symbolic end to the summer, has come and gone. Every year, saying sayonara to the warm weather makes me wistful because I live in the Midwest, where it gets super cold as early as October. It’s inevitable for such climatic conditions to demand that our outdoor pools close early, as most already have. However, this year we’re feeling a little extra special by association (and big time lucky!) because our neighbor invested in a heater for her pool. Everybody’s hoping this will be just the thing to prolong our summertime fun. In the meantime, the weather is still nice enough for regular strolls through the park and for games on the lawn.

Like so many other families enjoying days that remain before the cold sets in, we’ve been asking ourselves, individually and as a whole, if we’ve done everything we hoped to have done during the summer. It’s a fact that we ran out of time to go camping. We were sorry about that, but feel that for the most part we enjoyed this summer to its fullest. Thinking back, it was jam-packed with family activities. Some of the highlights included a movie night in the park, the Fourth of July parade, blueberry picking, multiple zoo visits, and several fun pool parties. In addition to hosting and preparing a number of BBQs at our own home, we also participated in a huge Block Party, where neighbors of all ages gathered. We shared dishes, bounced on the inflatable moon bounces, played Tug-o-War, amongst many other fun activities. In late September we we also enjoyed a visit from Grandma, which I blogged about in an earlier post.

I’m sure the fall and winter will provide their own rounds of fun and togetherness but nothing beats summer bonding.

Now that Labor Day has come and gone how were you able to make the most of your summer?

The End of the Space Shuttle: T-Minus Imagination for Children?

September 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

There’s nothing like rockets and space voyages to capture the imagination of children. Sadly, those voyages will become rarer in the near future. In July we witnessed the end of the Space Shuttle program at NASA. Officially introduced by Richard Nixon in 1972, the space fleet’s maiden trip to space didn’t happen until 1981. Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour were the five shuttles created for manned flights to space. The program came to the end with the last flight of Atlantis this summer.

One of my most vivid high school memories is of a late January morning in 1986. During an exam, our principal interrupted class to tell us about the first space shuttle disaster: the Challenger had exploded and disintegrated little over a minute after its takeoff. I remember being stunned, ready to watch television for hours on end. The shuttle – and the astronauts – – had before seemed invinceable to me. Less than two decades later, in 2003, I would relive that moment upon learning that the Columbia shuttle had exploded before landing. These tragedies reminded the world and I how many courageous people over decades put their own lives at risk to explore the next frontier.

Over the years the launch of the Shuttle seemed to become a bit of “business as usual.” Covered more as as second story than the lead one, it seems like space travel was something Americans had come to expect. Now, with the cancellation of the space program, it is hard to know what to expect next.

I am sad to see the end of the Shuttle program. Without it, what will keep children’s imaginations alive? Growing up I always wanted to be an astronomer, and when I was a bit older, an astronaut. One of my best vacations as an adult was exploring the Kennedy Space Center with my husband, who as young boy had also dreamed of space travel.

It bothers me to know that I am not sure when my own children will see another live space takeoff. Such viewings let you know, with your own two eyes, whether you’re five or forty-five, that it’s possible to leave this earth and come back. That’s an amazing concept.

I am proud to say the Space Program, with all of its success, and its tragedies, played an important part in my childhood development. It fueled my imagination, gave me great topics of conversation and inspired me to learn more. The program may technically be over, but it lives on in my memories in so many ways.

What are your memories of the Space Shuttle Program?

Baseball, a Season of Memories for Any Parent

September 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Each year, baseball season offers a ton of opportunities to create lasting memories of childhood, and that’s something that any Cubs or White Sox fan can agree on. Taking my kids to a game provides the perfect circumstances for a true bonding experience. As the 2011 season falls fast into its last stretch, it’s the perfect moment to open up room in the family’s busy schedule to get in some quality game-watching time, whether it’s your team that’s playing or not.

Many people associate taking the kids to the game as Dad’s work. In my family, while Dad is always a part of the fun, it is me who in the ringleader.

As an avid baseball fan today I remember very keenly those countless times I went with my family to watch the Yankees play. Of course in the seventies it seemed like the Yankees could only win – so I had little understanding of how my new favorite team, the Cubs, hasn’t won the title in one hundred years.

This year I will admit with the Cubs having the poorest of records, and our big move away from Wrigley, we encountered some insurmountable hurdles to our personal attendance stats, but next year is already here.

Here is my advice for enjoying the game with the little ones – and for creating a season of memories.

1) Expect it to only be partly about the game. It is the game, but also the cotton candy, the hot dogs, the 7th inning stretch – and the souveneers. If you are lucky you’ll see the best plays, but more likely than not you’ll miss a few because you are out buying hot dogs or taking your child for a pit stop. However annoying it might be to “miss” the game, remember, it is the overall experience that counts for the memories anyway!

2) Take the opportunity to introduce the children to the game and its heritage. Each time, point out a new position, the name of a player, or a baseball rule. The kids won’t absorb everything, but little by little, they begin to understand and appreciate the game for all its many nuances.

3) Enjoy the atmosphere. Most kids I know revel in the cheering and taunting that goes on throughout the game. Maybe it’s the loud singing in unison that fixes the experience so indelibly in the mind, but probably that’s only a part of it. Just remember though – sometimes the noise and crowd can be overwhelming to kids. When you sense this, squeeze them tight to ensure they feel safe. Of course, don’t forget to sing along and teach your child the lyrics as well.

When are you next taking your family out to the ballgame?

Remembering September 11th

September 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

September 11, 2011. Ten years later. Like so many I will never forget the day my world changed – the senseless loss of so many lives, the fear that ensued and the long term implications of an event that though it occurred a decade ago, in many ways seems like yesterday.

Since September 11th, I have moved back from living overseas with my husband, had two wonderful children, now four and 18 months, moved up in my career, bought my first home and all in all had a wonderful decade. Yet, like so many I never forget what happened on that dark day. The past few weeks I have read so many stories about children, parents, spouses, coworkers and others who lost their friends and loved ones..and how they have rebuilt their lives. Though ten years have passed, I still found myself tearing up and having at times to put down the newspaper or walk away from the computer. Their stories of strength and courage, while encouraging and enlightening, reminded me of what shouldn’t have to have been.

While watching TV the other night where CNN was airing footage of 9/11, my four year asked me “Mommy, why is New York City smoking up?” I honestly was speechless, not really knowing what to say, though saddened that I would need to explain this to her, just as my own Mom needed to tell me about other national tragedies she remembered like the assassination of JFK.

Like so many others, I remember where I was the moment the tragedy unfolded – and the emotions that transpired when the reality of what had happened set in. The morning of September 11th I arrived in Chicago O’Hare from Brazil (where I lived at the time) en route to Canada for a business trip. After a layover in the business lounge, I boarded my plane, jet lagged but otherwise just fine. Within moments of settling in on the plane, the men next to me started talking up how a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. I thought it was at first a small plane crash but soon the captain came on the speaker saying that it was unlikely we were going to take off and that we would need to deplane since our flight was going to be cancelled.

Then, the news hit – a second plane had hit the towers. A native New Yorker, who had spent many proud moments showing visitors to NYC the Towers, I could not even begin to imagine the tragedy unfolding but instinct had begun to set in. I started feeling the worse; a frequent traveler, I know they don’t shut airports down for an isolated, albeit tragic, accident. This was something larger – and my survival instinct kicked in. Get out of the airport, I thought, this can not be good! Could O’Hare be next? Are planes going to crash into Chicago? A mix of adrenaline and fear fueled to me take action.

As fast as I could, I retrieved my bags, took the L train downtown and checked into a hotel, with an insatiable desire to take in as much news as possible. There, from my hotel, I stayed, experiencing every emotion – fear, anger, sympathy, concern, helplessness. I finally got ahold of my husband in Brazil, who cried when he heard my voice. I also reached out to friends and family making sure they were out of harms way.

I was saddened to quickly learn that a former colleague was on the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center and relieved to find out that a college friend had escaped from Tower Two with minutes to spare. Another friend, who at the time worked along the Hudson River, told me about how he knew something horrible was about to happen when he saw a plane ominously flying low down the Hudson – “that for sure isn’t right..he told he coworker.” Another friend ran miles covered in soot before she realized she was safe. My mother, a schoolteacher the Bronx, worked to ensure the children, some of whom lost relatives in the tragedy, were safe. My brother, a nurse, stood by, like all first responders, to ensure that care could be provided to those in need.

Safe in a Chicago hotel, I was one of the lucky one, I’d have to say. Yet still, the emotions that September 11th unleashed for me – have lingered for the past decade. I remain inspired by the tenacity of the first responders, many of whom lost their lives, grateful to the people over Shanksville that fought back- “let’s roll”, saddened by my personal loss, angry by our national loss and fearful that terrorism will likely strike again. Most importantly though, I will never forget.

9/11/01 – “We Remember.” “I remember.”