Monday, July 27, 2015

Barre So Hard

As I mentioned in the last post, I'm back to teaching barre at Urban Yoga, the place where barre began for me back in 2012. I'm just subbing for now, but I've been subbing a LOT, 3-4x per week since the end of June. I'm hoping for a permanent spot on the schedule when fall rolls around, but until then I'll just keep popping in randomly on nights and weekends when the other teachers can't make it.

I need this

To support this second career of mine, I've purchased a few new pieces of workout clothing. After observing my full leggings drawer I decided I was done expanding my wardrobe, but then I went to hot yoga Saturday morning (omg do NOT do that when it's 102 degrees outside and you haven't been in months; I didn't cool down until Sunday afternoon) and found this amazing pair of pants, in my size, on clearance and knew they had to be mine. After making them my focus object for the whole 80 minutes of class, I bought them while dripping sweat in the front lobby.

Aren't they beautiful?

I wore them to teach on Sunday. But now I'm seriously done. Barre teaching is only barely profitable once you start using that 15% Lululemon discount and keep downloading new songs to jazz up your class playlists. Speaking of, I have two new favorites- they're slow and smooth and make my counting slower in class, providing a beautiful background to the curse words people are muttering at me under their breath. I love them: "Be Together" by Major Lazer feat. Wild Belle and "Showstopper" by Brandon & Leah. Soooo good.

Lately I've been getting lots of questions about barre class from friends and blog readers. So while I've addressed some of them directly, I thought I'd have a brief FAQ session here for some of the most repeated inquiries.

(1) What is Barre?

Barre, pronounced "bar," is many things and can vary quite a bit between studios. Put simply it's a combination of pilates, cardio, strength training, ballet-inspired isometric moves, and stretching, incorporating light hand weights, floor work, and a ballet barre. It's low impact- there isn't a lot of jumping or any running or jarring movements, but it's highly effective. You tone muscles you never knew you had (plus all the ones you did) and stretch them out as you go, creating long lean muscles you start to see in just a few weeks. Your heart rate does get up (at least in my class, though I add some cardio in the warm-up to make that happen), my legs still shake just about every class, and you're probably going to sweat, but it's all calm and controlled (form is everything) and set to music.

I absolutely love it. I've always enjoyed group classes and I love that I get to feel dance-y while following very specific instruction. I tried Nia once and it was so stressful for me to just have free form movement on the floor with lots of other people around me that I still feel my heart rate rise anytime I think about it. I'm a lawyer. I like rules. I also love music and ballet movies and getting really toned legs.

my set list

(2) Is it for me?

Yes! If you're interested, barre is for everyone! So far, just in the 40 or so classes that I've taught, I've had students as young as 18 and as old as 70. I've had women who were 8 months pregnant those dealing with a variety of injuries. I've had former ballerinas who rock it and people who are brand new to working out and need to take frequent breaks. Sometimes a brand new person has great body awareness and never needs a single adjustment and sometimes a person who comes every week still needs me to pull up a hip or tap their back to remind them to tuck just about every class. All of these things are totally normal in any random class and everyone else is too focused on their own leg shaking to care that you keep putting yours down or that you can't get your leg off the ground in pretzel. Just give it a try, you'll be coached during every movement along the way and you'll feel so good when you're done!

(3) What does it do for you? When will I see results?

This also varies among studios and teachers. All of them will strengthen and lengthen your muscles. One of my favorite things about barre is that you stretch each muscle group right after you work it, so your muscles are still warm and you have no excuse not to do the stretching (I was terrible about skipping stretching when it was at the end of a class). The music is still going, the teacher is still talking, it's an important integrated part of the workout. I noticed my flexibility increasing in two weeks. I found my triceps within the first month. When I started going again 6 weeks after I had Cora, I was 5 lbs. below my pre-baby weight when I went back to work 6 more weeks later. Plenty of that is diet and metabolism of course, but barre was my only form of exercise and I went 5x a week. And more important, I loved that it made me feel strong even while I was still finding myself in my body again. And feeling strong made me eat better and make other good choices too, even when my skinny jeans felt far away.

Which is an unwieldy way of saying, it's an effective workout. My thighs each lost 2 inches in circumference, my hips lost another 2.5. I dropped a jeans size and I'm much stronger than I was before. Classes vary in their intensity and if you're embarking on a full fitness routine, you may need to mix in some cardio like running, spinning, or interval training, but barre is a workout and a great one at that.

best hamstring move in the whole world

(4) What should I bring/wear to my first class?

Again, it varies, of course. At my studio we have a wood floor, so we use yoga mats for the warm-up, abs, cool-down, and any other floor work. Many studios work this way, though some provide mats for you (we always have extras you can use), and others have carpeted floors that don't use mats at all. We exercise barefoot, but some studios require socks. So if you're starting at a new place, check their website to see if they tell you what to bring and don't be worried if you show up and are the only person with a mat or without socks. I'm a pretty experienced bar goer and if I went to a new studio I'd be in the same position. No one thinks anything of it.

For clothing, form-fitting items are best because it really helps the instructor to see and correct your form. A huge part of barre is keeping your pelvis tucked so you back is straight and your booty isn't sticking out giving you a curve in your lower spine and putting stress on your lower back. I can usually tell, but I can tell better if you aren't in an oversized t-shirt. That said, wear what makes you feel comfortable. Most women will be in capris or leggings (I prefer leggings myself) and workout tops (I love a light support built-in bra workout tank), but I've seen everything from tennis skirts to running shorts to form-fitted jersey pants.

(5) What else should I expect?

Lots of instruction, an emphasis on form, and lots of repetition of small movements with big movements mixed in between. You'll warm up, and then usually move to arms and upper body work (generally with light weights; don't let those 1-pounders fool you, I get everyone in my class to reach failure and put them down at some point), and then legwork at the barre, and then back to the mat for abs and cool-down. Other studios mix up the order, but you'll get direction all along the way.

Your legs will probably shake. Your standing leg is going to hurt as much as the one moving. Stretching is going to feel so good it's going to hurt. If you feel pain, stop whatever you're doing and talk to the instructor. You should be getting close to your edge (i.e., I can't do this lift one more time because my leg is no longer accepting signals from my brain), but you should not actually hurt. Listen to where your instructor says you should be feeling a movement, if you aren't feeling it in that spot you're risking injury and/or probably doing it in a way that makes it easier. I can't tell you how many times I've tapped someone's knee up or down to get it into position and the person exclaims "OH!!". I love that moment.

You'll learn some ballet terms. Again, it depends on the instructor, but I cue the foot and arm positions using 1st, 2nd, 5th, etc. You'll also hear passe, releve, arabesque, tendu, plie, and others. Just follow the instructor, you'll be able to learn them quickly.

(6) Can I do it at home?

Yes and no. I really highly recommend you go to a class or two to get some of the basic form down before doing it yourself at home. It's little movements, but you can hurt yourself if you do something incorrectly over and over again. But if you don't have a class near you, I do have some barre videos I've recommended in the past. I haven't updated my stock in a long time, but any of the instructors on that list have a bunch of options and all would be great. You don't get the advantage of the barre to really isolate certain muscle groups or do certain classic moves (chair, some of the hip work, etc.), but they're great workouts and it's certainly cheaper and easier to do it at home.

One move I used to do standing at the kitchen counter when I first started going to class (because it made my legs feel so good) is a great little look into how barre works. Stand with your feet together, inseam touching, shoulders down, chest proud, back straight, pelvis tucked in. One straight line. Lift your heels up and down, keeping your weight spread evenly across the balls of your feet, sending your head up towards the ceiling and straight back down. Pop up and down a few times (or 100), never letting your heels touch the floor.

Then, with your feet up in releve (so your heels up; weight on the balls of your feet), sink your hips down, sending your knees out front, while your back stays perfect straight: shoulders over hips over heels. Pulse here lots of times. Hold low for 8. Pulse up and down again 16 times. The set continues, but by know your legs are probably shaking and you can feel your quads getting stronger. Then you stretch them, then you do more.

I freaking love it.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Barre has seriously changed my life. That would have been true for whatever fitness routine I fell in love with, but barre is the one for me. It's brought me yoga, vastly increased flexibility, a smaller, stronger body, and better sleeping.

It's also brought me great music. Keeping an ear out for songs to play in class has been so fun. Here's the playlist for the class I taught on Sunday, with my very favorite songs of the moment in bold:

Sunday's Playlist (80 minute class)

I Don't Like It, I Love It - Flo Rida
King - Years & Years
Somebody Loves You - Betty Who
Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield

Budapest - George Ezra
Ex's & Oh's - Elle King
Bulletproof - La Roux

Geranimo - Sheppard

Showstopper - Brandon & Leah
Back Home - Andy Grammer
Worth It - Fifth Harmony
Hold My Hand - Jess Glynne
Canned Heat - Jamiroquai
Be Together (feat. Wild Belle) - Major Lazer
Ain't It Fun - Paramore
Talking Body - Tove Lo

Abs (I love all of these)
Four Five Seconds - Rachel Potter
Fight Song - Rachel Platten
I Bet My Life - Imagine Dragons
Peace - O.A.R.

Cool Down
Photograph - Ed Sheeran
Middle Ground - Mark Wilkinson
Magic - Coldplay
Wild Horses - Natasha Bedingfield

Most of these are great for running too. Let me know if you have any other favorites!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

And this is why we ate 6 lbs. of lasagna

Hello! I've started four posts in the last week.

The first was to commemorate our regional/city champs swim meet in which James, Landon, and Claire all competed and enjoyed victories of various sorts. James dominated his events and I must admit, it still thrills me to my toes to watch him race.

It's always fun to watch people who are good at what they do, but as a former swimmer who is married to the current swimmer in question, his form and speed and power and technique and... well, I practically have to fan myself after each race.

And Landon won his 25 yard fly and got second in his 25 yard free, qualifying for state in both events! He is so very good and so very Landon-chill about the whole thing.

Clairebear dropped 3 seconds in her 25 back and won her heat! She added the same amount of time in her free, but we don't need to talk about that. She is as consistent in her confidence as she is erratic in her performance, but she was the youngest swimmer entered in the meet and we're so proud of her for swimming this season.

Following directions and working hard for sustained intervals are not her two favorite things, so her 3x per week practice attendance earns a medal in our book!

Also, in classic Claire fashion, when we were packing to head to the meet at 6:00 in the morning, she told me cheerfully and matter-of-factly "don't worry mom, I packed my mirror so I can see my lipstick."

She does not own lipstick, but she has taught Cora the importance of always having your purse.

Corabunny was a trooper, but man, the two sessions nearly killed us both (boys and girls events were split into a.m./p.m. which was awesome last year when we only had a boy swimming; it was less awesome this year when we had a mix).

The one downside to watching your sexy husband do his sexy swimming in the pool while you're in the bleachers is that it means he's not sitting next to you sexily flexing his arms while holding your heavy baby. Cora duty was all me and we were both pretty freaking over it by the time the meet ended at 3 p.m.

And by "over it" I mean grumpy and tired with a sprained/broken/permanently aching right arm from holding a million pound toddler who does NOT want to get down and does NOT want to read books and does NOT want to be held by anyone who is not mommy even though mommy has useless tiny hips that can't hold anything and is so right-side dominant her left arm is little more than an accessory for balance while walking, so she uses her right arm to hold up all million pounds of toddler for hours and hours and hours. My right bicep still hurts. Don't touch it.

Ooh, other highlight, we acted like total rookies and failed to pack an extra outfit for the only partially domesticated toddler and THEN ordered her spaghetti and meatballs at lunch (ugh why??), so she was covered in tomato sauce and we still had many hours of swim meet to go, so we swung through a Children's Place between lunch and the pool and redressed her in the finest of clearance items.

Honestly the meet was super fun, it really only devolved at the end, and we have enjoyed this year's round of summer league so very much. So much so we're even doing what we vowed we wouldn't and packing up the family and driving to College Station next weekend for the state meet. As luck would have it, both James and Landon's events are in the same session on Saturday morning, so we only have to commit 6 hours to the whole affair and my parents are going to drive over and watch so it won't be me on my own in the stands again. And then we'll go to the lake afterward for the rest of the weekend. This time we'll pack extra clothes for Cora.

After that we'll have 2 weeks until our Jamaica trip which is blowing my mind. I booked that vacation approximately 9 months ago now we're at 25 days until departure. I took the big kids school supply shopping after work yesterday because we get back the Friday before school starts and it was very exciting for me to have two kids picking out spirals and composition notebooks. On the way out Claire expressed some concern that she might not know how to "do Kindergarten," but before I could respond Landon assured her that "that's why you go to Kindergarten, so you can learn how to do it." And that's pretty much exactly right, plus it's an excuse to buy some adorable navy blue jumpers and pink spiral notebooks.

I can't remember if I ever posted this, but I'm back to teaching at my original barre studio, Urban Yoga, and I'm loving it. I don't have a regular class yet (I've been promised one in the fall), so I'm just subbing, but between vacations and summer colds and other conflicts, I've been subbing 3-4 classes a week! I'm adding new moves and new music and am so grateful to share my love for barre with more students. I am also grateful to continue receiving my Lululemon fitness instructor discount. Teaching barre is satisfying on many levels.

Tonight I was out of ideas and ingredients for dinner when I remembered a giant 6 lb. meat lasagna we'd bought from Costco a few weeks ago and stuck in the freezer. Hooray I thought, dinner tonight and leftovers for James and the kids for lunch tomorrow. But no, no, no. We ate ALL SIX POUNDS of lasagna. The teenage years are going to be terribly expensive.

And finally, a funny story from Sunday. Landon's baseball glove has been such a huge hit that James took the big kids to Academy Sunday at lunchtime to buy a mitt for Claire, plus a bat and a few plastic balls for practice. I ran errands later that afternoon and came home to find all 12 balls scattered about the front yard and two sweaty kids running in circles after each other with the bat and two mitts piled in the middle and when Claire saw me she stopped her running and exclaimed, "MOMMY! We're playing BASKETBALL!"

Maybe we'll sign her up for that next.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Baby Landon turned 8 yesterday. And I know it's mostly in my head, but I swear he looks older. I was looking at pictures of him from our Steamboat trip in Thanksgiving and he seems so much longer and leaner now, his face so much less round and full. His feet are enormous, his arms are incredibly long (he proudly informed us he has the longest wingspan at his zoo camp, just like the vulture), and he's all muscle and bone.


He remains his uniquely sweet and generous self. He adores Cora and would genuinely love for us to have five more babies.

He is animal-obsessed, an avid-reader, and a super fast swimmer and runner. He is very smart and does incredibly well in school, but doesn't seem all that impressed by or even interested in his grades. We think that's great, but it's so the opposite of me it's hard to wrap my brain around (much like Claire's creative color choices and patterns in her art). I think one of the most fun parts of parenting, besides discovering how deeply you can love and seeing how hugely someone can love you, is seeing aspects of yourself appear completely different in someone else.

from his school project's folder

He's in zoo camp this week and in HEAVEN. The first day I picked him up he was talking so fast he kept interrupting himself to yell "Mom. MOM! Oh and THEN" before moving on to the next topic. If you live anywhere near Fort Worth, I HIGHLY recommend it. What an amazing experience it has been for him.

Mid-week birthdays are always a little crazy, especially for our summer babies because James is so busy (he literally works from 7 a.m. until midnight every day during the week) and the kids are all spread out at camps with different pick-ups and drop-offs and there's swim team thrown in the mix, so add a Wednesday birthday that needs a cake and other special preparations and a lot of planning will be involved.

Not that our birthdays are fancy, we have traditions that are as simple as they are sacred- the birthday dino/pig at breakfast. A donut with dad before school/camp. A dinner of their choice followed by their dessert.

Don't worry; Cora was not forced to share in the dessert

Except they had morning swim practice, so James ran out to get the donuts while the kids were swimming so they could eat them at the picnic table at the pool. And Landon requested my homemade carrot cake and then immediately backed away saying "oh well that one is a lot of work, so we can just get a cookie cake," so OF COURSE I made the carrot cake. I baked the cake itself Tuesday evening while making dinner for the kids and writing out new choreography for then barre class I was subbing at 7. Then I made the cream chesee frosting after I taught and ate the leftover icing for dinner out of the bowl in the sink while pretending I was going to turn on the water and stop at any minute. This is my life.

It's pretty grand.

Landon also really wanted to order Pizza Hut (gag), despite our gentle encouragement of ordering from any of our amazing local Fort Worth pizza establishments. His best friend told him Pizza Hut is awesome ("and they bring it to your house mom!!"), so Pizza Hut it was. Then, after eating a bite, he admitted, "this is maybe not my favorite." We of course all then acted like our pieces were delicious and Landon decided maybe his was too. Luckily he also requested watermelon, which was perfectly ripe, and you can't go wrong with this carrot cake.

He was thrilled with his gifts- a walkie talkie set from Papa and Gigi, an animal planet set from his godparents, a check from his great-grandparents, and a baseball glove and ball from us.

Everything was his favorite, and we immediately adjourned to the front yard for some catch.

Claire in her neon maxi dress and shades, Cora in jammies and pink cowboy boots, the boys actually playing catch. A slight breeze, temps finally below the 100+ of the day... it was really lovely.

Happy Birthday Lanman, there really couldn't be a better big brother and leader of our party pack!

I don't love that you insist on getting older, but I do love watching you grow and change and seeing everything you do along the way!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sushi, Swim Meets, and Safari Splashing

This weekend turned into something of a Fort Worth staycation and it was wonderful. It began with a trip to our favorite sushi happy hour on Friday. I worked from home in my jammies all day and James was at the pool, so we rushed around getting the big kids from far away outdoor adventure camp (which they have LOVED), and getting Cora (who I temporarily forgot wasn't also at far away outdoor adventure camp, but rather in the opposite direction entirely), but we'd upgraded our ensembles and were sitting at a table ordering everything off the $5 sushi menu by 6 p.m.

I was super happy about this and made James take a selfie with me to prove it. Blow drying my hair doesn't happen very often, so we need to commemorate this stuff. I was also really happy about my cucumber saketini. I will order any beverage with cucumber in it, and when it's happy hour, I will order two.

We ate all the sushi and just chatted and enjoyed the hell out of being with each other and without James's laptop or our beloved children.

round 3!

We've been going on more date nights this summer. I think they've just been a natural (and necessary) counter to how INSANE James's schedule has been lately (two companies; he now owns and is running every detail of two companies, I do not recommend this). Usually we get many hours together every night after the kids go to bed at 8, but now his laptop gets most of that time, so I have to woo him away with sushi, a babysitter, and blow dried hair as often as possible.

Not that I really have to woo him, but I enjoy the process.

We finished the evening with a bottle of champagne and three episodes of Mr. Robot and it was perfection.

~ ~ ~

On Saturday, we had an afternoon swim meet on the schedule. I'd planned to take the kids to the Y in the morning so I could run while James coached (yes I've been running, it's weird and awesome), but detoured through a Starbucks and headed to our favorite park instead. I have no regrets.

When James got home we made Cora miss her nap (third baby!) so we could drive to Southlake to watch the kiddos compete in a blessedly indoor swim meet.

Landon was entered in the 50 free for the first time (two lengths of the pool rather than the usual one) and Claire was in the 25 fly (also a first, and the youngest swimmer by two years in the event) and they both did SO great! Landon continues his undefeated streak in all his events and Claire was adorable in her tiny suit in that big pool and made it all the way across with her fly, something she was IMMENSELY proud of. That girl is one little fire ball of confidence when it comes to her swimming and I love it.

James decided to enter the meet (they have adult events in our league), and his swimmers were SO excited that he got nervous and then all pink in the face when the whole stands started cheering for him. It was adorable.


He was amazing of course, swimming a 50 fly that was only 0.1 seconds off his college splits. I hadn't seen him race since we lived in Austin and thoroughly enjoyed watching him speed through the water. And, amidst the jokes from other moms in the stands, thoroughly enjoyed knowing that he was coming home with me after ;).

hot man on deck

The meet lasted for 6 hours- with my three little summer leaguers competing in a total of 9 events. Cora and I cheered and ate a box of mini Nilla Wafers. She was honestly amazing given that she missed a nap and had to entertain herself in the bleachers the whole time. Though I did pack her purse, a necklace, and a plastic cell phone- what more could she possibly need? And she really does love cheering on her big sibs (and daddy!) and claps after every race.

When the meet ended at 6:30 I desperately needed french fries and a margarita, so I put those two things into yelp and found a restaurant five miles away that promised delicious versions of both. And oh did it deliver! Carne Asada Fries were new to me (french fries + fajita steak, topped with queso, served with sour cream and guacamole) but they need to become a regular fixture in my life. And always served with a frozen prickly pear margarita. I had a burger too, but I really should have just ordered more queso-steak-guacamole-fries.

All our children were asleep 3 minutes into the drive home. It was a great day.

~ ~ ~

On Sunday we woke up and decided we hadn't spent quite enough time around water, so we headed to the new Safari Splash park that just opened up at our fabulous (and fabulously close!) Fort Worth Zoo. We arrived just before opening and were the first ones in the park. Landon immediately went down every slide and didn't stop until we left at 11.

Claire tried a big slide, cut her finger, and retired immediately. We got her back on a few of the smaller ones, but she mostly lounged on a chaise with her sunglasses and appeared to be having an excellent time.

Cora eyed all the squirt toys suspiciously before graduating to vigorously patting a small alligator sprinkler.

James went down all the slides and his 200+ lbs. of mass had him FLYING off the ends and nearly taking out two safety gates and several small children. It was pretty great.

Cora decided she was ready for her nap 2 hours early and Claire was very concerned about the waterproofing powers of her bandaid, so we left after an hour, but for a $16 investment and a 5 minute drive from home, it was perfect. And we've learned that when we take Landon to a water park for his birthday, we can probably leave the girls with a sitter.

Post-waterpark activities included grocery shopping, laundry, teaching barre (yay! I've taught 4 classes in the last 8 days; subbing in summertime is the best), and Cora taking a 4 hour nap. Our neighbors have their 7 and 9-year-old grandchildren visiting from California for a month, so we had them over to swim at 3. Landon couldn't believe they lived in the place where all our best fruit comes from and had a lot of questions about the vegetation. James went to swim and when he got home I had all the stuff ready to make dinner but just couldn't bear to actually do it. So we decided to continue with our theme for the weekend and headed out to Torchy's for tacos and margaritas. It was an excellent decision.

I really needed this family, fun, and restaurant-filled weekend. Now just 34 days to go until our real vacation. Can't wait!