Relax, Recharge, Release: What to do When You Need a Break

Being the best parent you can be takes both physical and emotional energy! While it’s easy to forget about your own needs when you’re taking care of your kids, it’s important to recharge your batteries so you don’t become burned out. With that said, here are three ways to nurture your own mind, body and spirit.

Mind: Join a Book Club or Other Social Circle in Your Community


Bloggers getting crazy!

Joining a local book club is not only a great way to feed your mind with knowledge but also the perfect place to meet other people in your community.  If you’re into sports or games, consider joining a softball or a bowling league in your area. I like to meet friends for trivia nights with my husband, and I am a member of the Tampa Bay Bloggers. We get together for fun events all around town.

According to Happify Daily:

  • Strong friendships are as good for your health as quitting smoking and are better for it than exercising or maintaining a healthy weight.
  • People are 12 times likelier to feel happy when they spend at least six hours per day with family and friends.
  • Doubling your group of friends has the same impact on your well-being as a 50 percent increase to your income.

While connecting with people online can also be beneficial, the point here is to get out of your house and away from your children – as much as you love them. Schedule some time at least once each month to cultivate your friendships.

Body: Set a Physical Goal and Arrange Your Life Around Achieving It


At the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation “One Step Closer To The Cure” 5K with my friend Shannon, a survivor.

While you might think running after your kids substitutes for daily exercise – and it certainly might feel like it – it’s important that you invest at least 30 minutes per day during the week on conditioning your body. Eating healthy and staying in shape should remain a priority so later you can chase after your grandkids. Whether you’re aiming to increase your daily steps or training for a marathon, come up with a physical goal and create a daily exercise routine to help you accomplish it.

A healthy daily exercise routine will:

  • Prevent weight gain and help with weight loss
  • Combat harmful health conditions and diseases.
  • Improve mood, boost energy and promote deeper sleep cycles

Spirit: Practice Daily Meditation and Weekly Yoga

Have you tried aerial yoga?

Have you tried aerial yoga?

Relaxing your mind for as little as five minutes per day through the act of meditation has countless physical and mental health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, an improved immune system and decreased anxiety. A great intro to meditation is simply catching yourself at moments throughout the day when you can pause and think, “This is my breath going in, this is my breath going out” for three breaths – while at a red light, or while waiting for the next thing on the computer to load. My husband likes the meditation app Headspace, which gives you 10-minute mindfulness sequences.

When attempting to meditate:

  • Sit with your back straight in a comfortable chair or lie on a blanket in the grass if being in nature is your jive
  • Close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling naturally.
  • Focus your attention on your breath, your body’s movement and a mantra.

To complement your daily meditation sessions, which can help you rest and relax in a chaotic moment, consider enrolling in a weekly yoga class to strengthen your muscles, improve your flexibility, relief stress, and detoxify your mind and body – or find a yoga class on Youtube that you enjoy. I like Sequence Wiz for recuperation and relaxation, or Sadie Nardini for a power workout.

Take care of yourself this holiday season, and make it a priority all the time!


Flying over Leeds Castle


Get in the trees!

When our family ventured to London last June, we researched fun things to do with TEENS beforehand. Traveling with older teenagers is not like traveling with tiny children – but they aren’t quite like traveling with a set of contemporaries either.

adventure-GoApefamilyOne of the fun adventures my husband stumbled across online was Go Ape, a tree-top adventure that lets you “get in touch with your inner Tarzan.”

Their course includes a high ropes course adventure with a zip line at the end of each challenge. Our family had done a ropes course at Dollywood, but certainly not in treetops near a castle! And it did not include ziplining. (After only three years, Dollywood removed the two-acre Adventure Mountain multi-level rope course, so don’t go looking for it now…)

While at Dollywood, I found myself gripping the ropes tighter than I thought I would, getting a little stressed about falling despite the harness and safety wire. It was still an enjoyable trip, though, so when Brian recommended taking a train to Kent for the day and trying the Go Ape course, followed by a castle tour and hedge maze large enough to actually get a little lost in, we were all really excited about it.

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

We prepped by reading their website. The text and photos promised breathtaking views of the beautiful area surrounding Leeds Castle (near Maidstone), and “obstacles that will get the hairs on the back of neck bristling”. It also said the high ropes courses were approximately 40 feet above the forest floor and zip wires were over 800 feet in length – and my favorite part “leap off our Tarzan Swing and tackle our crossings whilst enjoying some of Britain’s most breathtaking scenery“.

Gorgeous castle grounds

Gorgeous castle grounds

raffi apeAlso thanks to the website, we knew how to get there, how early to arrive before our scheduled flight time, and what to wear – something you don’t mind getting grubby that covers your stomach and an emergency rain jacket. Appropriate close-toed footwear with soles with good grips – no sandals or slip-off shoes. Long hair should be tied back. And they recommended gloves, so I grabbed a pair of those $1 stretchy Target gloves for each of us. (I was the only one who wore them. I thought they were to avoid rope burn, but they were really to prepare for bad weather – and we had GORGEOUS weather!)

You can bring scaredy-cat friends who don’t want to participate to enjoy the forest grounds and take photos for you. You can also bring little ones: the Tree Top Junior Adventure includes up to an hour of exploring the tree tops for 6 – 12 year olds to enjoy.

We arrived right on time, locked up our belongings, signed insurance waivers, and got fit into our safety harnesses.

Brian steps into his safety harness

Brian steps into his safety harness

An adventure begins with a safety briefing. There was a group of teens there celebrating a friend’s birthday, and we had our safety talk together. That was nice, because you could see the information repeated a few times so it would sink in despite your excitement.

Then there are a couple of easy obstacles to try near the start, so the safety person can make sure you are doing them correctly, and so someone can back out if they are too uncomfortable.

Then you are led by signs through the forest from obstacle to obstacle, climbing at the start of each one, and meeting the ground after each one with a fun zipline down!

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

All of us enjoying the course

All of us enjoying the course

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD2 wanted me to take photos and videos of her throughout the course, but my hands were shakey from the height and from gripping so hard, and I was worried I would drop her iPhone! That didn’t stop her from making her own videos and taking selfies up high in the treetops without fear.

teen happy on ropes course

At one point my nervousness got the best of me. I ziplined down to the ground and took photos for a few minutes, and then finished up the course with the rest of the family. I just needed to feel solid ground for a few minutes, and my daughters applauded me when I stuck with it and climbed back up! #gotMyBack

Here are some more visuals of our tree-top Go Ape adventure:

teen on Go Ape ropes course

“I’m so glad we did this instead of Harry Potter, mom!”




At the end we all received certificates of completion, as a memento to the fun you just survived. Just a short walk from the course is Leeds Castle, known as the Queen’s Castle and “the loveliest castle in the world“, where we planned to have a picnic lunch.

Enjoying the walk to the castle

My family walking to Leeds Castle on a gorgeous summer day in the UK

With peacocks roaming and sheep wandering, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten away from it all! I loved much of the art inside the castle as well.

castle1 IMG_2333 castlegrounds3 IMG_2336 castlegrounds IMG_2331

Outside the castle an animal show geared towards young children was going on. We went into the hedge maze while many of the other guests are occupied. It’s NOT an easy maze.


couple in hedge maze near leeds castle

The maze ends in the center, where you take steps down to an underground grotto!

Grotto near Leeds castle

In the grotto

On our way back to the meet the shuttle to our train, we spotted pre-wedding photos happening on the castle grounds. The castle was closing as the wedding caterer arrived.

wedding at leeds castle, kent, uk

This was certainly one of the best days of our London vacation in the summer of 2015! We had active time and passive time, we worked individually and as a team, we got exercise and enjoyed the amazing beauty around us. If you take a family trip nearby, I recommend a day trip to Kent, Leeds Castle and the GoApe treetop zipline adventure for sure!


Spring Break part 2 – Hotel Fitness Room Workout

I started day 2 of spring break in Mobile, AL, at the fitness center.

Best gym reading material, and free headphones!

Best gym reading material, and free headphones!

After a brief treadmill warm up, I decided to take advantage of the weights and do a full upper body workout.

Bench presses with your shoulders on a ball makes you use your core to keep your hips lifted

Bench presses with your shoulders on a ball makes you use your core to keep your hips lifted. I did tell them their balls were a bit flat.

Incline presses with dumbells

Incline presses with dumbells

dumbell rows on a ball forces you to use your core for balance.

dumbell rows on a ball forces you to use your core for balance.

Lateral Raises on one leg work shoulders, core and balance (I used both arms when I wasn't holding the camera)

Lateral Raises on one leg work shoulders, core and balance (I used both arms at the same time when I wasn’t holding the camera)

Forearm curls (alternate) to build up strength for aerial yoga and avoid carpal tunnel

Forearm curls (alternate) to build up strength for aerial yoga and avoid carpal tunnel. Be sure to roll your wrist all the way out. You’ll know when the dumbell rests in your fingers and not on your palm.

Alternate bicep curls

Alternate bicep curls

Alternate tricep extension

Alternate tricep extension

stationary lunges with hand weights

stationary lunges with hand weights

Don't forget to stretch your upper body...

Don’t forget to stretch your upper body…

... and your lower body

… and your lower body. Coach Brian after his cross-train on the stationary bike

I finished up with crunches and oblique crunches on the ball with one leg on the wall.

I finished up with crunches and oblique crunches on the ball with one leg on the wall.

And a plank.

And a plank. Poor form while holding the camera.

oh, and Banana Soufflé Pancakes with Baldwin County berries & local praline crisp for 3 of us

Then really finish things off with Banana Soufflé Pancakes with Baldwin County berries & local praline crisp for 3 of us

Hotel carpet reminded me of the imaginarium

On the way back to the room I noticed the hotel carpet reminded me of the imaginarium

I also heard the Renaissance hotel that was next door to our Renaissance hotel had a ladies only underground pool! But I did not venture out to find out. Instead we hit the road for New Orleans…


Running amuck at the Dirty Girl Mud Run Tampa

IMG_20130209_094318There was a lot of running going on this past weekend!

Saturday I had a 5:20am wake up call to meet Caroline and Jackie to drive up to Dade City, outside of Tampa, Florida, for the Dirty Girl Mud Run 5k Obstacle Course. We had a group called the Dirty Bloggers made up of women from Tampa Bay Bloggers and Tampa Bay Lady Bloggers.


My gear checklist

Friday night I was laying out my clothes for the race, my clothes for after the race, everything I needed with me – and my DD1 decided to open up. She was telling me about school, her boyfriend, her hair – talk talk talk. Which was GREAT until 11:05pm rolled around and I had to tell her I had to get in bed so I could have a good race the next day. Luckily she is a runner, and completely understood.

Around 11:30pm Brian came to bed. Then “beep beep” – his computer told us he had an email. It was outside our bedroom door, closer to my side of the bed.
“You’re going to go mute that, right?” I asked.
“I guess so, ” he said, and reluctantly got up.

Which is when he tripped on the laptop cord and bashed his heel and yelled an obscenity through the house – so not like him. But he had a half marathon the day after my race, so he went to ice his foot. But left the light on outside our room and the door open. (How many wives would do that to their runner husbands?) But he gets a free-pass because he was hurt.

Me early in the AM

Me – early in the AM

I managed to doze off, heard the alarm, turned it off, and fell back asleep. Luckily, the race angles were watching over me and 7 minutes later I woke up on my own and had no recollection of the alarm having previously gone off. I went through my getting ready and triple checking routine, hit the potty one more time, and drove to meet C&J.

I’ve known Caroline for a little while, but had never met Jackie. Conversation in the car was easy and all over the place. We had a good time, but also noticed fog creeping in and the temperature dropping as we got further into the middle of nowhere. It had been 75 degrees lately, and here it was about 46 degrees.

The Dirty Girl Mud Run was being held on a ranch called Little Everglades. Jackie had been there for the Tough Mudder. I have never done a mud run. Because it was February, I knew the mud and water could be cold. And I knew people who had ingested mud at a race and got ill. Ecoli type stuff. So when the bloggers were first approached about covering the race on our blogs in exchange for free entry, I said I would come as the team photographer and take pics of everyone along the course. This way I could skip the mud, still run, and hang out with everyone. Plus, we all know bloggers need photos NOW, not next week.

Foggy morning!

Foggy morning!

Dirty Girl thought that was a great idea. I think their great idea is reserving 250 entries for cancer survivors to run free! I hear that proceeds from the event benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

The event was ladies only. It is a 5K distance with 11 fun-filled obstacles. There were inflatables, mud, water, walls, ropes, tubes and more. Our group was the first wave of the day (clean shower area!) and we were going to go as slow as our slowest team mate. Everyone helped each other and waited for each other. After each obstacle I would sprint ahead and wait with a camera and try to get photos of the whole Dirty Blogger group on each obstacle.

From the minute I arrived everything went smoothly – they seemed so much more organized than The Color Run, my last 5k volunteer event. We got race # bibs, T-shirts and cute Dirty Girl necklaces instead of medals.


As it neared our start time, Dirty Girl got us warmed up with 2 Zumba instructors. While the others danced, I ran ahead about 1/4 miles to be ready to take photos. And then they were off!


They ran right through a barn with horse stalls first off. Luckily it was empty, but it reminded us for the rest of the day that this was really a ranch. There was POOP everywhere! Like, huge piles next to huge piles. That was the only bad part of the whole day though.


The bloggers ran, walked, climbed, rang bells, got stuck in the muck, and I got photos of it all! And at the end, we crossed the finish line in 3 smaller groups, and posed for photos in one large group. The whole 5k was about FUN FUN FUN. Even as we were grossed out, we were giggling at the same time.

Bondi Bands sponsors my husband’s run club, Digital Running. So I was able to get all of the Bloggers matching Bondi Bands. These rock for keeping mud out of your ears and hair out of your face! And the fabric is backed with sweat-wicking material. If you ever need a Bondi Band coupon code, just check Digital Running (right side of this page).

(Click images to view them larger…)


Jenny brought us pink shoelaces (these aren’t my feet)


Near the start


The first obstacle – everyone said this was harder than it looks



They thought they were sliding into a mud pit but the blue barrier blocked them.


After getting muddy, wading through this pond cleaned everyone off


But there there was another mud pit. Margarita (L) got stuck


Jenny practices her Karate Kid moves


Bounce house anyone?


That’s one Dirty Blogger!


How low can you go, Denise?


Good for our legs?


A hill in Florida??!


That’s Meghann getting all Catherine Zeta Jones in the gold tutu


The wall looked much more daunting from further away


people said this hurt their shins. Margarita decided to ROLL across – good idea!


Someone said this was the most terrifying. There was a bell to ring at the top.


high knees like football studs


Crossing the finish line!


All the Dirty Bloggers:

Margarita, Mary, ?, Jessica, Meghann, Nicole, Genna, Caitlyn, Jenny, Lydia, Denise, Jackie, Me, Caroline

One of the bloggers who was there with us, Jenny, wrote a post with tips for a mud run. Her list is great! You should check it out, here.

#plankaday in the gas station after the race

#plankaday in the gas station after the race

The next day was the Rock ‘n’ Roll St Petersburg Mini Marathon (5k) and Half Marathon. My husband and daughter were signed up to run the Half Marathon together. This was DD1’s first HM. She trained all summer in the heat, the poor dear. She had some back pain the week before, but felt good the week of the race. She watched what she ate and tried to get extra sleep. She also had a back massage on Wed. and took an aerial yoga class the day before the race to lengthen her spine.

Meanwhile, I signed up to volunteer with the Running for Brews crew. They were handing out M&Ms and Gummi Bears to runners going by. I wanted the camaraderie, but I thought the food was kind of weird, so I brought pom poms instead. Lora and I wore matching green Digital Running shirts and green tutus to cheer. She made some glittery signs. And Alice’s yoga teacher, Tara, came to cheer with us just to see Alice – super sweet!

I jumped up and down for quite some time...

I jumped up and down for quite some time…

As it turned out, there was a very enthusiastic crowd at the Running for Brews area, and I knew a few of them. Everyone I knew who ran the 5k or HM said we were the most spirited volunteer area, and seeing us at mile 11 perked them up. During the 5k I jumped on the course twice with friends to take them to the next street corner and chat a bit.

Then I started getting worried for DD1. When she has a bad run, she starts to T-Rex her arms, tilt her neck uncomfortably, and eventually cry. It pains me to see it. And I SO did NOT want her to go by looking all scrunched up and out of her element. Her goal was 2:00 and she was going to run with the 2 hour pace group, so I prepared myself to look for that sign.

First we saw the lead male… soon thereafter I saw Jessica Crate. Then Brian came by. Then the 1:45 pace group went by. Then his friend Katie ran by and high-fived me so hard my hand stung! I thought I still had ten minutes, but suddenly – there was Alice! First she smiled, then she stuck her tongue out KISS style and gave a double thumbs up! I got a photo, Tara got a photo, and the photographer next to me got a photo. She looked relaxed and comfy and like she was having fun. I was so happy for her!!


Lots of other people I knew ran by, and I cheered for them all. Until it hit about 2:30 and I was anxious to know how Alice did and how she was feeling. Plus I had to drive her home before I could hit the Running for Brews after party.

Father daughter finish line fun

Father daughter finish line fun

Lora and I went with a few friends to the finish line and texted Alice. There I saw more people who I knew, who I didn’t even know had run the race! It was just starting to get really hot, and the finishers were guzzling chocolate milk and Gatorade. Eventually I met up with Brian and Alice. They were both feeling great. He ran a 1:33, his 2nd fastest HM and Alice ran a 1:50!! She said she was near starting corral C and the 2:00 pacer was in the back of corral D, and she didn’t want to fall back to him, so she ran her own race and tried to keep the 2 hour people behind her. It worked!

Lora and I took Alice for food and dropped her off at home. She wanted a sub heavy on the meat, extra Gatorade, and the ability to eat and sleep at the same time. Lora had promised Brian Cheetos, so she got him a bag of those. She bought mimosa ingredients, and I bought strawberries for the party.

The after party was full of mostly HM runners. Luckily the cute apartment complex where it was located had a pool and a hot tub. So people ate, drank, swam, dunked their legs, and shared running stories. We talked about Ragnar and compression socks and Lora’s broken toe. It was a beautiful Florida day!


When it came time to walk back to our car near the race start, Brian said he wanted to hold my hand and stroll through downtown – so we did. Then we drove home to return to parenthood.

You may know I am also taking part in the Love My Abs challenge this month. So that night although my feet were tired I decided to plank till I couldn’t anymore and then finish with some crunches. I ended up sticking a 4 minute plank!! I truly amazed myself!

I love that fitness allows me to see results that I can only thank myself for 🙂

Before falling into bed, I saw a link for this race on Facebook:

Would you run nude? I would not! I don’t think I’d want to watch all that bouncing about on anyone.


February Challenge = #lovemyabs

As you may know, I spent January completing a Barre Fitness Challenge. I have 2 classes left on Mon and Tues, and then I’ll have some photos and measurements for you. The owner was running out of brochures, and I said I would trade her some graphic design and my friend Tanya is trading some photography – so we can keep working out there and they can have a brochure that looks better than toast.

Meanwhile… my Feb. Challenge is “Love My Abs” put together by fellow Tampa Bay Bloggers members Jenny from Metamorfit and Denise from RunDMT.

The challenge starts with 100 reps of anything for your abs for the first week of Feb. and increases by 20 reps each week, like so:
Week 1: 2/1-2/7 = 100 reps
Week 2: 2/8-2/14 = 120 reps
Week 3: 2/15-2/21 = 140 reps
Week 4: 2/22- 2/28 = 160 reps

Anyone can join – just click the link above to find the Challenge on Facebook, and if you have any trouble leave a comment and I’ll help you out.

It’s hard for me to count my ab reps. I do a lot of core work in barre class and at yoga, but it’s not something I count. I have an instructor telling me what to do, and I follow instructions. The first question I asked Jenny was, “What about planks?” and the group decided one-minute plank = 25 crunches. But again, I don’t time my planks in barre class. We plank, then turn to one side and bring our arms over our heads and drop our hips for a few reps, then back to plank, then one leg plank, then other side plank… am I supposed to keep watching the clock?

And then after barre class yesterday I went to aerial yoga with Alice again. I actually tried some plank-to-pike moves in the swing and some hanging upside down crunches all the way up to my knees. But just a few here and there to play with how it felt in the swing.

I’ve decided to assume one barre class counts as a completed day. If a yoga class includes boat, crunches or planks; I’ll count that too. And on my off days I’ll have to roll out a mat on the living room floor and just go for it, like I did on Friday.

Prizes will be given to those participants that actively post/tweet/instagram their progress using the hastag #lovemyabs. I’ve been posting on the Facebook page, so now I’ll have to start more Instagram action.

Aerial Yoga class #2 with Alice was great. We had a class of 7 and we hung upside down like Spiderman – with our feet in the air in cobblers post – or butterfly – and our heads towards the ground. It was quite obvious that Alice was not only having glorious fun, but had already progressed from last week. It’s also obvious where her back is injured from the car crash. She has a convex point on the lower left side that the teacher and I both noticed while she was in downward dog.

Lora also joined us.


From left to right: Me, Alice, Lora in the front row1 3 4Not only is this class freeing and an amazing way to create space in your hips, back and neck, but the teacher is pure goodness. She’s super sweet and kind, full of guidance and makes you feel like you can do anything.

After aerial yoga we went back to FitLife Foods. We got a turkey chili size medium and a chicken gyro to go and split them at home with an orange and a starfruit. We enjoyed lunch together at the dining room table and she caught me up on life with her girl drama and new boyfriend, who she thinks is the sweetest guy ever.

I made a mommy faux-pas yesterday. My little one looked bummed on the couch, so I texted a fellow mom and asked her to have her daughter call my daughter to hear a friendly voice. But the girl called and said, “your mom said to call you.” Fail… I made my apologies and said she just looked bummed and I thought girlfriend time would clear that up. She was upset with me for butting in for about 45 minutes, but when she ended up shoe shopping with the friend who called that cleared things up.

While she was with her friend, I dropped Alice off at a sleepover, returned my library books, and hit Target for bananas and peanut butter. They have the cheapest bananas near me and the biggest jars of natural peanut butter.

We made a mixed grill for dinner last night. Wendy is debating trying a gluten free diet – more on that another time – so we went with shrimp (her favorite) and Johnsonville Chipotle Monterey Jack Cheese Chicken Sausage skewered on the grill. I made some brown rice and had Brian throw some carrots and green peppers on the grill.

While busy in the kitchen, I started putting together a chili to have for lunch the next couple of days. It involved a lot of leftovers, along with a can of black beans, a chopped onion and green pepper and a small can of green chilis.

After dinner, Wendy went in her room for the evening to do her art and online life, and I spent time with Brian. There was chocolate cake involved – and HE is the one who has been craving it the last 2 weeks.

Lots of my friends ran the Best Damn Race yesterday, and many PR’ed. I hear the course was great, the swag bag was great, the beer was good, the shirts were iffy, and the 45 degree temp was an unexpected bonus. I hope next week’s races are just as much fun for everyone – and that’s in part selfish because I will be there.

And today it is on to grocery shopping, and possibly visiting the local flea market for the first time. I hope your Sunday is a great one!