Friday, October 31, 2014

The Halloween post, here it is Halloween. The truth is folks, I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this holiday these days. It comes from being an allergy mom, I know this, but it is what it is.

Here's what I love:
- I love that my oldest boy enjoys dressing up and pretending. He didn't always so this is a measure of his growth that I'm pleased with.
- I love that the holiday gives me a good excuse to put on a costume for Zumba. It's fun to do and makes me happy, but it also seems to delight those around me too.
- The Teal Pumpkin Project. A new initiative where a pumpkin painted teal represents a house offering non-food items as Halloween treats.

Here's what I hate:
- Having to go to the elementary school for the class party (this is true of Christmas and Valentine's too, to be fair to Halloween...). And I do -have- to go. At least right now. When my older son is in third grade he'll be old enough to handle the food situation without my supervision. But for now, I have to be there making sure he's not given anything he can't eat by well-meaning "room moms". Why don't I like being there? It's crowded with tons of parents and noisy as all get out. I have to bring the younger one with me to the school and he needs to be in a stroller or he'll make mischief. The problem is that it's so difficult to get a stroller through the jam-packed hallways to the classroom, which by the way is also jam-packed and not just with people but chairs and desks. So upon reaching the classroom, there's not a great place to park the stroller. Before I even get into the building though, there's rarely a good place to park for anyone who doesn't show up 20 minutes early (at least!). The school's lot fills up fast. As does the lot across the street at the early childhood building leaving the stadium lot the next nearest place. And when I say "near", it's relative. Within walking distance? Yeah, it's not bad...unless it's raining and you can't hurry or rush because have to push your younger son in a stroller while balancing a bakery box filled with two dozen cupcakes!
- The weather. It seems like every year the weather is either cold, wet, or a combination of both, making outdoor events a miserable experience.
- Wading into the fray at Party City to get my older boy a costume. This didn't happen this year, thank goodness! Last year though...*shudders* Picture it: there I am in the Party City store three days before Halloween jockeying for a spot to view the costume wall amongst a group of other desperate parents shopping at the last minute....struggling to get the attention of the lone clerk manning the costume center...finally getting my turn to ask her for "an Iron Man, size small"...only to find out from a voice on the other side of a walky-talky that they only have the Deluxe Iron Man left in size small. Seriously? You know what the difference between regular and deluxe was? It was colored gold instead of yellow and cost $15 more. Yeah... Why did I put myself through all of that? Because I love my boy. Even when he assures me over and over that he doesn't want to dress up for Halloween and that I should definitely -not- buy him a costume that year, only to have him tell me the exact opposite while we were waiting for his morning bus three days before Halloween. This year, I asked him during the second week of school what costume he wanted so as not to repeat that awful experience. I've had a Bumblebee costume (that's Transformers for those of you not in the know...) ready to go since September and I got an amazing price on it since it was clearanced from last year. And the best part? I bought it online so I didn't have to set foot in the store.

Alright, mommy-rant over.

Last Halloween was the first time I decided to wear a costume to Zumba. Since last year was such a good experience and I got such a positive reaction from my classmates, I decided to dress up again! I mean, why not, right? The only thing was...I needed a new costume. Last year, I dressed up as Wonder Woman. I wasn't really sure what I was going to do this year though, until I was shopping in Wal-Mart way back in July and walked past a PJ's display. There on the rack was a black racerback tank top with a big old Batman symbol on the front. It was the last one, it was on sale and it was in my size. Sold! Frankly, I'm amazed there wasn't a giant neon lit arrow over it saying "Here is your costume!". You know what goes really with a black Batman tank? A yellow tutu. Lucky for me, Oriental Trading Company set up a section of their website as a "spirit shop" this year and started selling adult-sized tutus in practically every color of the rainbow. I simply bided my time, waited for a "free shipping on any size order" code, and the bought myself a couple of tutus, one yellow and one red. Of course Bry asks me, "What's the red one for?" to which I replied, "It's to match the Superman tank top I'm planning to have by next Halloween." Heh. 
By the way, my Wonder Woman costume wasn't a one-time thing. Last year, I only needed one costume because I only went to Jae's class Halloween week. This year, I still did that, but I also taught my own class. Two classes = two costumes! I made a change to this one from last year. I ditched the gold bangles...those things bent and broke way too easily, and I added a gold sequined headband. Would you believe I found that headband in Dollar Tree? It came in a 2-pack that cost me $1. The other one is pink, I just haven't found something to wear with it. Yet!

So, was I the only one in Jae's class dressed up? Yeah. But people smiled which made me happy, and the lady whose spot is directly behind mine said she thought my tutu was "so cute".

And was I the only one among my own class who dressed up? Actually no, but I sent them email in advance to tell them that if they dressed in something, anything they were comfortable with, that was in the "spirit of the season", they'd get a treat. I told them to be creative and festive and that it could be something as simple as wearing a bracelet or a hair tie, or even just the color orange (I didn't want anyone to feel like they had to spend anything).

***Side note: I teach in a church, so I was very careful how I phrased my email. I did -not- say wear Halloween stuff. And I did -not- use the term "trick or treat". I wanted to be fun, and yet respectful of anyone who might not celebrate this particular holiday.***

It was a lot of fun and they enjoyed pulling a treat out of my pumpkin bag. What was the treat? I gave away bracelets!
You weren't expecting me to say candy were you? The last time I ordered from, I made a point to buy a set of silicon bracelets that were on sale; individually, each bracelet cost me less than a $1. The thing with Zumbawear is this: it's expensive and, unless one has the instructor discount or is just a die-hard Zumba-freak (a-hem...), regular class-goers won't/don't/can't buy it. But that doesn't mean they don't wish they could. So, as treats go, these were a huge hit. I let them dig through the bag and said they should pick whatever color they felt spoke to them. And you know what was one of the best parts about offering bracelets?

Best advice: Halloween doesn't have to be all about the sugar. Try handing out some alternatives this year. Allergy parents will thank you. So will the childhood obesity epidemic for that matter...

Monday, September 15, 2014

The food allergy reaction

I mentioned in my last post that my father and stepmother came to visit me in August. The last night of their stay, we ate out for dinner as a family at the Mongolian BBQ. At the restaurant, I allowed our son to take something off the ingredient buffet that he ultimately had an allergic reaction to. It was a veggie patty and I mistakenly assumed that it was just vegetables. When Bry pointed out that sometimes those are held together with egg depending on the brand, I asked the waitress for the ingredients.
Contains: Soy, Egg, Wheat, and Milk ingredients
Now, as an allergy mom, I am very used to checking ingredients and reading labels. Why I didn't this time, why I wasn't more cautious, I can't say. This whole incident is something that I've beaten myself up for quite a bit in the last couple weeks. Our boy ate three bites of his dinner and and pushed it aside. His face got flushed and he started saying that he wanted to go home. He started vomiting right there at our table inside of 15 minutes of eating that third bite of dinner. The waitress and manager were understandably scared, but I assured them none of it was anyone's fault but mine. We all left the restaurant as quickly as possible to get him home so that we could give him some allergy medication; he threw up again twice more after we got him home. This reaction happened on a Friday. On Monday afternoon, we were in the allergist's office getting a prescription for an Epi-Pen and ordering some blood tests (to update his chart from two years ago). I've written about having a food allergic child in the past, and in that post I said, "Finding out what allergies your child has in a doctor's office is not nearly as distressing as finding out by accident." We learned about his egg allergy in the office so we had no idea just how violently he'd react until this incident.

Why an Epi-Pen? Our son did not go into anaphylaxis, which is what an epinephrin auto-injector is meant to help control. On the night of the incident, after we'd gotten home and gotten some Benadryl into our boy, I called my friend Taty; she's an allergy mom too and we support each other. When I told her what had happened, and described the reaction, the first thing she asked me was whether or not I was going to get him an Epi-Pen.
I had thought about it, but then again, he's never had airway issues before... She told me that just because he's never reacted with airway symptoms in the past, doesn't mean it may not someday happen. So when I talked to the allergist the following week, he agreed that an Epi-Pen would probably be a good idea. We were prescribed an Epi-Pen Jr. 2-Pack with each auto-injector containing 0.15mg of epinephrin (the adult version, with a yellow label, holds twice as much). One of the two-pack is at our son's school in the office and the other I keep at home or carry in my bag as needed. I debated pretty hard the issue of keeping the Epi-Pen in the school's office versus having our boy self-carry, but ultimately I decided that 1st grade might be a little young for self-carry. If he had a contact allergy, meaning that skin contact would cause a reaction, I might have reconsidered. His reactions are ingestion-only, meaning that he actually has to eat the offending food in order become symptomatic.

Epi-Pen's are not cheap, but frankly I think they are worth it. I would rather pay for them and never have to use them rather than need them and wish I had bought them. In the Mongolian BBQ restaurant, I had nothing. The waitress who had been serving us offered to see if there was any Benadryl and went into the staff area to check if anyone had anything we could use, but they didn't. We had to drive almost 20 minutes to get back home for some Benadryl. If I'd had my head on straight at the time, I'd have told Bry to drive to the nearest Rite Aid, CVS, or Walgreen's instead. The feeling of facing an emergency and being so unprepared is one of the worst.
Not a valid coupon
In addition to the Epi-Pen, I now carry children's Benadryl tabs that dissolve on the tongue. So, after telling my friend Taty the update on the getting the prescription for an Epi-Pen, she told me where to look for a coupon that will cover the co-pay, making the whole thing cost $0. Well, it will if you have prescription insurance that deals in co-pays. Ours unfortunately is not that kind. We have a health savings account from which we pay for everything medical, from doctor's bills to prescriptions to OTC medications. Which means in my case, the coupon was good for $100 off the total cost. Hey, $100 is nothing to scoff at, and I'd prefer having the discount to not having it...but another way of phrasing it might have been to say, "33% off your prescription". I know right? I wasn't kidding when I said they aren't cheap. I'll say again: I would rather pay for them and never have to use them rather than need them and wish I bought them. And I'll add: What price do you put on peace of mind?

I'd love to say that this was the only food allergy issue we had this summer, but it wasn't. Bry brought home fresh peaches from the local farmers' market one Saturday and later that night our son says to me, "Mommy, I can tell I ate too many peaches because my tongue feels soft." With that statement, he had my immediate and undivided attention.
Source: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)
I've done a lot of food allergy reading since he was originally diagnosed, and one of the things that's stuck in my mind all this time is a list of ways a child might describe an allergic reaction. From looking at the list on the left, you can see that our son described his reaction almost verbatim. The first thought in my mind was, "Oh no! Not another one!". A food allergy to peaches? Fruit allergies are actually more common than people realize, but the answer in our case was OAS - Oral Allergy Syndrome. I did some reading online about it, after talking to the allergist. It's like a food allergy, but not nearly as serious. An OAS reaction will only ever be to a fruit or vegetable, so nothing like eggs or milk. An OAS reaction will only occur in the mouth, so no hives, gastrointestinal discomfort, or airway issues. An OAS reaction is only to the raw version of the fruit or vegetable, but once the food is cooked, the reaction will not occur. Apparently, the OAS reaction is the body's own heat breaking down the proteins in the fruit or vegetable which is why eating them raw is the problem. Cooking the fruit or vegetable breaks down the proteins during the cooking process instead. If I were to take the peaches from the farm market and bake them into a cobbler, he could eat that. If I were to buy pasteurized peach juice, he could drink that. But I don't have time for cobblers and I don't buy juice, and as of this summer, I no longer buy peaches (or plums, or nectarines, or apricots just to be safe). I think what annoyed me the most about this OAS development, is that I had to update our son's med-alert bracelet...after having just bought a brand new one for him two months earlier.

After dealing with two separate food allergy issues for our oldest son this summer, I made an appointment with our allergist for our youngest son as a new patient. His appointment isn't until October. I had put off making him an appointment all this time, even knowing food allergies run in our family, just because he's so young; he's only just 2.5yrs old now. Skin testing is...uncomfortable at best, and little kids just don't understand why their back has been pricked 24 times over. I've wanted to spare him this as long as possible, but after this summer, I just don't want any more surprises. I feel like it's very important that we know what all our youngest is and isn't allergic to.

Best advice: If you deal with food allergies and don't already carry some kind of medication for it regularly, start. This Zumbamommy learned a hard lesson this summer.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The long hiatus (or what I did this summer) - Part 2

Originally, I had intended for my high-top shoes to be part of my "what I did in August post", but somehow, when I started writing about them, it just got longer and longer and the next thing I knew, it was its -own- post. The Zumbamommy got carried away talking about dance shoes? *gasp* Someone alert the media! No...? Buying high-tops was certainly not the only thing I did in August, just one of the highlights. Hey, I may not be a "let's go shoe shopping!" kind of gal and I may not give a flying fig about Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik (<-- did I even spell that right?), but when it comes to dance shoes...let's just say Bry wasn't totally out of line with that crack about a dedicated shoe rack.

- I went to a Zumbathon for Relay For Life: I love a Zumbathon in general. I mean, who doesn't? One would have to work really hard to -not- have a good time. This particular Zumbathon was one that Jae and Rae did together. Two hours of that? Just show me where to sign up! Beyond that, Relay For Life is a great cause. At the end of the Zumbathon, there was a drawing for prizes and I won a really nice travel mug and a new bracelet. One I didn't already have. The orange bracelet says "Feel The Music" on it. It's part of Zumba's Aztec Collection of clothing. Just one of three (yes, I said three!) clothing lines that I missed blogging about during my time off. There were other colors to choose from, but I thought the orange/pink one was the brightest and the prettiest.
***Side Note: You didn't miss much with the Aztec Collection, I'll be honest. Too many pastels! The bracelet you're looking at is actually something of an oddball from that line.***
This new travel mug is the one I now use specifically for coffee on the occasions I'm in the mood. I'm a bit of tea snob, so my other really good travel mug is only for tea. I learned the hard way almost three years ago, that if I put coffee into that one, it leaves a residue that doesn't go away until it's been through the dishwasher at least five times; a residue that leaves a terrible aftertaste. Want to take a guess at how long it's been since I've made coffee to go? Heh.

- I found a new practice partner: I've written before about having a practice partner - a friend who has agreed to come over to my house periodically to be my guinea pig test subject choreography previewer, so that I can try out the new stuff I'm working on before introducing it to my class. Doing this helps me not freak out (and we all know I'm prone to freak outs) over whether or not something is going to completely bomb because I couldn't teach it well. If you're wondering what happened to my previous practice partner Rae-Mae, she and her family moved 20 minutes further away from my house in order to be closer to her husband's job. My new practice partner is Kat. She drives my older son's bus, and she went to high school with my brother-in-law and his wife. We got to be friends and when I asked her if she would be interested in doing Zumba with me in my basement, the answer was an enthusiastic yes.

- My dad and stepmom came to visit me: They usually come once a year in August to celebrate my birthday with me and this year was no exception. Like last year, we did a lot of day trips to various attractions and points of interest around Grand Rapids, even one in Kalamazoo. I did a whole series of posts last August about the places we went last year so I'm not going to go into a lot of depth about the individual days and our sightseeing this year. I will say this: My stepmom came to my Zumba class and got to see me teach. I'm not sure she had all that great a time though. My teaching style is apparently quite different from what she's used to experiencing where she lives in Quebec. I was disappointed, because I want everyone who comes to my class to have fun and just enjoy themselves. But I do know what the reality is: that my style truly won't appeal to everyone. I myself have taken classes with different teachers here and there, once or twice, over the years whose styles were not my personal preference, so I understood where she was coming from.

- We missed my friend's wedding: My good friend Tay, writer of the blog A Fresh Coat Of Paint, and I go back as far as 9th grade. When she got engaged many months ago to her long-time boyfriend, Bry and I started making plans to visit Toronto and celebrate their marriage. Alas, t'was not be. The day before we were supposed leave I started feeling sick - sore throat, and just a general feeling of being run down. We were still waffling as to whether or not I'd wake up in the morning feeling well enough to go, when our oldest promptly threw up. And so our trip was over before it had even begun. We called my father-in-law to tell him and his wife not to come to our house to watch the boys since we weren't actually going anywhere after all. That's right, Bry and I were supposed to get a weekend to ourselves. Disappointing? Absolutely, but the silver lining was that we'd paid the up-charge on the hotel reservation in order to get the cancellation insurance (don't stay home without it!). In the week that followed, the rest of the family eventually went down for the count by turns. As our oldest and I started feeling better, our youngest got sick followed a couple days later by Bry. The whole thing couldn't have been timed worse.

Best advice:
1) Coffee flavored tea tastes absoloutly dreadful - avoid this at all costs. *shudders*
2) Always always always get the cancellation insurance.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The high-top dance sneakers

I spent the first couple of weeks of August doing the back-to-school shopping marathon. It's best to break that down into several different day's worth of trips, I've found. That's based on my experience from last year. In any event, I went to just about every second-hand shop within a 30 mile radius to look for fall clothing for my boys.

***Side Note: Also my niece-to-be! Auntie Zumbamommy is going to have a niece, bring on the ruffles and bows!***

I shop second-hand for my boys a lot. Boys are rough on clothes. My oldest put holes in three different pairs of jeans (all the same size) over the course of the last school year. I'd much rather pay $3.99 for a second-hand pair than $14.99 for something new from the mall. It's just more cost-effective! Well, it was in one of these second-hand shops that I noticed something neon over on the shoe rack. You all know, dear readers, that neon is like a homing beacon to this crazy Zumba girl. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a pair of DC Rebound's. They looked barely worn, the tread was practically out-of-the-box new, and there weren't any scuff marks on the outsides of the shoes. Although it was clear that the previous owner had worn them outside.

I looked at the label on the inside...size 10? Hrmm. But I figured I had nothing to lose by trying them on. And hey, guess what, they fit just fine! What gave me pause, and why I haven't ever bought high-tops before, is that I'm only 5'3" and I was worried that a short girl like me would look ridiculous in shoes like that because they are so bulky. Yes, you did the math right, I am 5'3" and can wear a size 10. Mostly I'm between a size 8.5-9.5 depending on the brand; at least I used to be before I had kids and my feet spread. Oh the joys of motherhood! Heh.

Back to the shoes, I checked the price and for $7.99 I decided I'd give them a shot and risk looking a bit silly. I washed them and they looked brand new. In fact, when I went to wash them, I discovered that the previous wearer had used an insert. I pulled that out and realized that the original insole was still in place but had no imprint; it felt like they'd never been worn. The only thing that could make these shoes better was getting rid of the ugly grey laces...but because they are high-tops, the laces need to be 72" (which is longer than I am tall! grr...) which are lot longer than regular shoelaces. Searching, I discovered that the standard length for roller skates is 72" and from there it was easy to find -neon- roller skate laces. In case you're wondering, one shoe now has a green lace and the other a pink lace. You can see from the picture that I bought three colors of laces because I wasn't sure what I'd like the best. And actually, even after they came, I still couldn't decide. So, when in doubt, get a second opinion - the green/pink combo was Jae's idea. Credit where credit is due!

Want to know what Bry said to me when I brought these home? No, it wasn't, "-More- dance sneakers?!" for which I thank him very much. It was, "Those are going to support your ankle much better than your other pair." He read my expression and noted the shock, "Isn't that why you bought them...?" he asked me. I said, "No, I didn't even think of that. I bought them because they're neon dance sneakers for only $7.99!" After that, there may have been a comment or two from him about how I should buy a shoe rack for our mudroom just to contain the various pairs of dance sneakers...

The first night I wore these out to Rae's class, my ankle felt the best it had during and after class since before I'd re-sprained it. Rae noticed them and thought they were neat. When I told her that they were really supporting my ankle well, she asked, "Isn't that why you bought them...?"

Best advice: If you're in the market for something, try a second-hand shop. One, you never know what you're going to find in there one day to the next. Two, you save a lot of money. On, DC Rebound's start at $21.00 and go up from there. The pair I bought for only $7.99 is currently selling on Amazon for $48.95.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The long hiatus (or what I did this summer) - Part 1

Well folks, I'm back after a long break for the summer. I'll admit it, I didn't originally plan to take such a long more or less just happened. A big part of it was having both kids at home full time again. I didn't realize just how spoiled I was from Sept.-May until school ended. Having two kids at home, it felt like I was the "mommy-police", having to mediate some argument or dispute every five minutes (that's not an exaggeration, it was literally five minutes between disagreements most days...) over toys, play space/personal space, or what cartoon was going to be watched on the TV. Since I could barely focus on folding laundry or doing dishes in those short intervals, I figured it was a pointless endeavor to try to sit and write. At first, I kept meaning to "get around to it" on weekends when Bry wasn't working and could be my parent-policing partner, but as the time kept passing, I eventually just accepted that I was taking the summer off. At least from blogging at any rate, I taught my class through summer and I sure as certain -went- to class through the summer.

- I taught through the summer: Bry convinced me I should teach Zumba through the summer when back in May my original plan had been to take the summer off. I was reluctant, fearing that everyone would be too busy to come despite their best intentions. My students are also members of my church and I know that church attendance drops from June-Aug. But with a little encouragement from Bry and a little advice from Jae, I decided to go ahead and hold class. Bry has been my biggest supporter from the very first Zumba class. He understands how important it is to me and respects that. I in turn, value and respect his opinion and if he seemed to think teaching over the summer would be good for me, I was willing to give it a shot. So deciding to teach, I of course went to Jae for advice. She said, "If you're going to do this, get them to pre-pay you." Did I mention she's really smart? It was a great idea. Pre-paying for the summer meant that they would lose the money they paid if they didn't show up for class, and losing money is a pretty good motivator. I asked in May who'd be interested in sticking out the summer with me and I had two of my people bow out almost immediately for work reasons and personal reasons respectively. The others though were game, but they were concerned about paying for each week knowing that there would be some weeks when they just couldn't make it. I didn't want to have anyone pay for something they knew for certain they weren't going to use, so I had everyone who wanted to do the summer write down which weeks in which months they already knew AT THAT TIME would be weeks they'd miss class. To be clear, it was for dates they already had plans for. Not for "Oh something suddenly came up in the middle of the summer." Because I have a smaller class, it wasn't too hard for me to look at everyone's dates, calculate how many out of the 13 weeks they thought they'd make it and then multiply that by $5. And, strangely enough, it turned out that every one of them told me June 17th was a bad night for them. So I just didn't hold class that week - make that 12 weeks of summer... Heh. Bottom line is that per class, everyone pre-paid the same price, just that some pre-paid for more classes than others.
To sweeten the pot a little, I offered two guest passes to everyone who pre-paid me. I'd love to say that this helped me get more people to my class and expanded my numbers. Alas, only one person was able to co-opt convince a friend to come. Once. Everyone else tried so hard. I'll give them that, they tried. The problem was, that everyone they asked said no. The reasons given varied, but they all had the same theme of "Zumba is too hard". Sigh. The one guest who did come to my class enjoyed it very much and said she liked my style, so that was gratifying. 
***Side Note: If you're wondering about my guest passes, I made them using a stick-on label template and printed them myself to stick to the backs of my business cards. If you can't see it well, under the Zumba logo is the church's logo and next to that are blanks for me to write in the dates it's valid, as well as the date it gets used.***

- I took over the lobby of the church: Our church is a building with specific zones for heating and cooling. Great for cost efficiency! Not so great for holding a Zumba class. Turning on a zone doesn't mean instant heat or AC. It takes the system close to 45 minutes to get to whatever temperature has been set. Needless to say, if we need the AC for a 6:30pm Zumba class, it's best to get it started at 5:30 but that wasn't always the case unfortunately. So I requested, and was given, a box fan to set up in my little room to at least keep the air flowing. By the first week of June, one fan wasn't even close to being enough keep us all from overheating. For that second week, I had every intention of bringing a box fan from home in the hopes that two would do the job, but I forgot. So it was executive decision time! The lobby of the church is a wide open space with a very high ceiling. It was unused, but best of all it was cool. So I set my sound system up on the coffee bar and we got to dancing. This arrangement worked well by and large. I had to cancel class three times, once for a church outreach program, and twice for a potluck supper/book club. I have my fingers crossed that I'll be able to keep the lobby from now on, but there's the possibility I'll have to move the class back upstairs. Time will tell!

- I took a Zumba-Step class: The week in June that I was forced to cancel class, I decided would be a great opportunity to try out something brand new. Zumba launched Zumba Step earlier this year, and the local Jammer (remember her from my Jam post?) went and got the license to teach the format. I've never done a step class before. The popularity of step aerobics pre-dates me just a bit. By the time I was in my later teens, its time had mostly passed. So Z-Step was a new and interesting experience for me; only the second specialty class (after Z-Toning) I've taken. I can say this about it: it really makes your brain work hard.
Or at least mine felt like it was working double time - for the teacher's choreography that I wasn't necessarily familiar with, and for working with the step which I definitely wasn't familiar with. But, I can now say that I have done salsa on and off a step. Also cumbia, merengue, and reggaeton. I enjoyed the experience, but I wouldn't make my usual class.

- I did Rae's summer session at Bowens Mills: Last year I affectionately dubbed the session "summer camp". I still felt that way this year, it was the same class I took last summer. Same place, same time, same night, same carpool with Jae...even the same spot on the floor! The first night I got there, I was actually solo (Jae had to miss class the first two weeks) and when I approached what had been my spot last year, there was already a lady standing in it. Hrmm. Okay, I wasn't going to be a diva about it, I simply took the spot directly behind her. But before class even started, she turned around and got a look at me. I smiled at her all, "hi there, nice night for Zumba!" and for some reason I cannot fathom, two minutes later she picked up her stuff and move to the back row on the opposite side of the room. After blinking a few times I shrugged and moved my stuff over and took back my spot. Actually, It was my spot -and- Jae's. I made sure to stand in the middle between so that nobody would try to stand next to me on my right. Yeah yeah...that might have been a bit diva-ish. But hey, friends don't let friends' spots on the floor get stolen.

- I re-sprained that ankle: That about says it all doesn't it? Oh I was so mad at myself and I felt like such an idiot too. If you're a newer reader, and haven't gone back into the archive at all, I sprained my ankle in the spring of 2013 and I wrote two posts about it which can be found here and here. The floor at Bowens is made up of concrete slabs and the outside edge of one of my cross-trainers caught the crack between two of these slabs and I rolled it pretty hard. I was showing this piece of choreography I'd done to Rae and Jae one night after class and for some reason that I no longer remember, I thought it would be fine if I changed out of my dance shoes first. Had I been wearing my dance shoes, it probably wouldn't have happened; my Zumba Flex's are a lot narrower than the cross-trainers I had on. And you know what else? The spot on the floor where I was demonstrating this song, was not MY spot. Had I been in my spot, it probably wouldn't have happened; my spot on that floor is next to a crack too and yet I have a sixth sense as to where the crack is and how to avoid it. The minute I rolled my ankle, I heard Jae and Rae both gasp and go "Oooh!". I stood there for a few seconds, not because I'd rolled my ankle, but because I was listening for the beat so I could pick up the song again and keep going; all the while underneath the music, I could hear them asking me if I was okay, but they both sounded like they were at the other end of a tunnel. Yes, I know how crazy all that sounds...and the truth is, by the time the music got to a point where I knew I could pick up my choreography, my brain and my body were on the same page and telling me to sit myself down. So I did, and I sat there for a few minutes with my eyes closed, rubbing my ankle trying to dampen down the pain, and also silently congratulating myself for not having said some curse word in front of Rae's 9yr old son who was there that night.
When the foggy tunnel feeling went away, I stood up and asked Rae if she could restart the music and I finished what I'd set out to do. Rae and Jae, being the good friends they are, made attempts at talking me out of trying again. But I, freak that I am, had a score to settle with that floor. In the three weeks that followed, I went to class, I taught my class, and that was it. I didn't practice and in the evenings after my boys were in bed, I'd sit around with my leg propped up with an ice pack. I was pleased and pleasantly surprised to see that my ankle bounced back fairly quickly. I'll admit, it was probably the amount of rest it got in between classes.

Best advice: Don't spread yourself too thin. Had I tried to keep up with my blog over the summer, my posts would have suffered no doubt, but I know I would have spent most of the summer frustrated and irritated with trying to write yet not getting anything done. The break was what I needed and I'm glad I took it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The terrible two's...again...and 10 ways music can help

I know I've been absent from my blog for the last month. Not because I wanted to be... But y'all? Life happens. So what major life change happened a month ago? The youngest turned two! Fair warning dear readers, this is at least half-way to being a mommy post. When the oldest one turned two, the terrible phase started at 26 months and lasted for about 30 days. I talked about that time in my life in a previous post.

In some ways, these terrible two's are easier to handle because I have experience with this from dealing with the older one. In other ways, the younger one makes this soooo much more difficult. His personality has always been noticeably independent (which is a nicer way of saying belligerent and uncooperative). And he's loud! He is so loud. At least when the oldest was this age, I -knew- the reason why he was screaming. This one though, seems to scream for no reason. Or at least no reason that I, as a grown-up, can fathom. And did I mention that he's loud? Like banshee loud? So, who out there can write a blog post with a two year old screaming in their ear? If you raised your hand, then bully for you friend. But the Zumbamommy? Not so much. Here it is the long weekend though, and with Bry off work, I figure I should have enough uninterrupted time in the next three days to actually get a post done.

The terrible two's are not pretty. This time through, I'm not letting this boy run roughshod over me. The newest policy in our house, as of this week, is: "If you want to scream, you may do so in your own room." This works actually. He's always been a kid who appreciates time alone so he'll happily sit in his crib with some toys and books and lovies and entertain himself for as much as 25 minutes. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping and praying that his two's phase will be as short lived as his older brother's was. If not, then perhaps I should consider investing in stock in Bayer Aspirin.

Want to know what else I do when I have a headache? I will frequently put on some reggaeton music and turn it way up. I know that may sound counter-intuitive, but doing it just seems to make my brain relax. I thought I was just being my typical weird self until I came across a re-post on Facebook that was originally from Men's Fitness.

If you want click through the whole slide show, and read all the descriptions, just click the picture. Otherwise, here's the list:
1) Change your mood.
2) Feel connected.
3) Form a biographical marker.
4) Overcome insomnia.
5) Reduce stress.
6) Increase the focus of your workout.
7) Work through feelings.
8) Improve your brain chemistry.
9) Sharpen the senses.
10) Improve your attention span.

Looking at this list, I'm pretty I'm using No.5 when I have these "mommy headaches". Then again, it could be No.1, or No.8...or maybe some combination of all three. Isn't music amazing? I've also used No.4, just not for myself. When our youngest was an infant, he had trouble sleeping once we moved him into his own room. Through some trial and error, I discovered that if I played the Putumayo Dreamland CD on repeat all through nap times and all night long, he'd sleep soundly and deeply. So maybe in a way, I actually was using No.4 for me because when the baby sleeps soundly, the household sleeps soundly. Heh.

I have definitely used others on this list. For example No.6. Is there a more boring workout than a treadmill? No, no there is not. At least to me...sorry treadmill lovers. Music makes it a lot better though, and I found that (in my pre-Zumba days) I was able to extend my workouts by as much as 20 minutes. Or how about No.3, I hate the optometrist. And by hate, what I really mean is HATE!! Anything having to do with the eye makes me squeamish, but during this most recent visit, I put my ear-buds in, put my Zumba music on, and kept the volume low enough that I could here anything the eye doctor was saying. But also loud enough to take my mind away to somewhere much Zumba class... For me, it's impossible to be stressed out at Zumba and listening to my music reminds me of that; it reminds me of it well enough to stop me from hyperventilating during the eye exam. So. Not. Kidding.

These days, all my MP3's are on my phone and my phone (and a pair of ear-buds) goes everywhere with me. Long gone are the days of my phone laying forgotten at the bottom of my bag for a day and a half. I am "that girl" who is rarely more than an arm's-length away from her smartphone. Sure, I use it to check social media and stay connected with friends, but that's all secondary to having my music ready and on-hand at a moment's notice.

Best advice: Find a safe and healthy way to alleviate stress while your kid is going through a "terrible phase". It will save your sanity! There is no trying to make peace with a two year old. No truces, no cease-fire's...this is war people, and the "enemy" is unrelenting! Heh, kidding...mostly...

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Bolder Band - Part 2

My new red Bolder Band arrived last Friday. I was so excited to try it out but I didn't want to "waste it" on a practice session because then it's in the laundry and I can't show it off until I do a load of Zumba clothes. Yes, we have a hamper specifically marked "Zumba" in the closet; lights, darks, Zumba. So I saved the headband deciding that I'd wear it to teach my class on Tuesday night. When I pulled it out of the envelope it arrived in, I immediately checked to see if it would match my red cargoes like I'd hoped.
Sure enough, I was right. Which means the color swatches on Bolder Band's website are very accurate. At the right is my new headband and the tag it came with. I really liked their tags when I saw a picture and I was excited to get one to keep. Plus, this one is pink! The way I have the headband positioned in the picture is actually backwards. I did it that was so that the label would show but when I wear it, that's the part that goes under the hair. How did it work?

It worked great! It held my glasses on with no problem which is the primary reason why I bought it. It's tight enough to stay put, yet not so tight as to give me a headache. That does happen to me. I actually own four headbands by Goodie that came in a set. Impossible to try on ahead of time the way they were packaged, so this has nothing to do with Goodie's product. But the first time I went to wear one I took it off after 15 minutes because it was too tight and gave me a pounding headache. Not what I needed an hour before heading off to class! That was the first and last time... But I digress. The Bolder Band size chart and their little instructional video on how to measure your head were very clear and made it easy to figure out your size correctly.

I like the material too, it's smooth and soft. It's also moisture-wicking, so it's designed to keep sweat out of your face. I believe that it probably will do that job. Sweating on the head like that is not typically an issue for me except during the hottest period of the summer. I sweat in whole host of other places first. Meh, comes with the territory I guess.

Speaking of sweat, this is the after picture from Tuesday night. I meant to have Bry take a picture of me before I left but I forgot. So the sweaty after picture will have to do! In a way though, that's better because you can see that my headband is still on my head and my hair isn't sticking out. So, bottom line: this headband does the job it's supposed to do, it's stylish in it's own sporty way, and it wasn't especially expensive even with shipping. Would I buy another one down the road? Absolutely.

Headband aside, Tuesday night was special. Jae came to to see me teach my class. Nerve-wracking? Maybe just a wee bit. But she's smart and she knows me well, and knows I'm prone to having "freak-outs", so she told me a month in advance that she was going to come my class. That gave me a month to get over myself and calm down about it. When I'm too tense I start making mistakes all over the place. Definitely not something I want to have happen in front of -the- person who's taught me 2/3 of everything I know about dancing, Zumba, and teaching Zumba to others. She reminded me that I just needed to relax and let go so that I could have a good time. I'm glad she decided to come. It's a good feeling
to have the support of a friend who knows how to diffuse your freak-outs. Heh. And we really did have fun, but then that's no surprise, we always do and the where's, why's, and how's are pretty much just details.

Best advice: "There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them." --Vicki Baum

Monday, April 21, 2014

The experience of shoe shopping with a kindegartener

www.payless.comOn Saturday we made a trip to the mall as a family. Bry said he wanted to look for some new shoes for himself at Payless, so I said, "Great! We'll all go because S needs new shoes too." I love Payless. For one thing, you typically do pay less for shoes than you would elsewhere. For another, all of the shoes they sell are completely synthetic unless specifically marked otherwise. That is great for the busy vegan who doesn't want to have to look inside every single shoe to check the materials. Beyond the time factor, let me tell you that it chafes to see a pair of shoes you really like only to have to pass because they turn out to have a leather component. Disappointment eliminated at Payless! Hooray!

So, shopping for shoes with a kindergartener... What is it about a shoe store that makes it this magical place where all shoes fit properly and everything is perfectly perfect? Apparently when you're five and a half, shoes that "feel great" in the store, "just feel so bad" when you get them home three hours later. Why Universe, why...? I did everything right! I asked the clerk to measure his foot. I made him try on both shoes of both pairs. I had him walk around in them for a little bit; again, both pairs. I don't know, maybe it's just part of him being five. But the end result is that I wound up taking both pairs back to the store today. To a different location actually so that the mall clerks wouldn't think I'm insane. The clerks in the plaza were really nice and helpful. "Did you want to exchange them, or just return them?" Hrmm, well I had planned to just return them and wait for a time when the boy wasn't in school so we could try again...but her question reminded me of something Bry had said to me Saturday evening, "Whatever size they measure his foot at, next time just buy a half size bigger."

**Side Note: I love love love my left-brained husband and his logic!**

Exchange them I did, and I got lucky in that the plaza location had both pairs in a half-size up. When the boy got home from school, he tried them on. He said, of the black/blue/green pair: "They feel good. For real. I'm not joking." Good to know. Joking? Really son, really? Sigh... And of the black/red/silver pair: "They feel okay on the outside [of the foot] but not on the inside." Also good to know. My plan at this point is to call the plaza location back tomorrow, and find out if they have a second pair of the black/blue/green shoes in his size. If they don't, they'll call other locations for me until they find what I'm looking for. Here's hoping I don't have to go back to the mall for this... Heh.

What have I learned from shoe shopping with a kindergartener?
1) Having him try shoes on at home produces a different analysis on his part than having him try them on in the store.
2) Always have more than one pair of the current size shoes on hand - one to wear, one to wash.
3) Just say NO to shoes that light up because you can't -ever- put them in a washing machine.

Now, I didn't warn you, dear readers, that this was going to be a "mommy post" up at the top. And that's because it's not. Well, at least not entirely... The mommy portion of the post has ended and the Zumba portion shall now commence!

As my family and I were waiting in line to check out at the Payless, here's the display I saw built into their cash desk. Notice anything?
This crazy Zumba girl be like, "Whoohoo, neon shoelaces!" Or sparkly ones, or colored zebra print's all good. Scanning the selection, my brain immediately began matching what's for sale, to the stuff I already own. What caught my eye are the bright blue sparkly ones. They are hiding behind a pink pair and a silver pair on the right, next to where the black and navy laces start.
Here's a close up view. They are a $1.99 and come in 4/5 hole and 5/6 hole lengths. At that price, they were worth taking a chance on. Although I was pretty certain they were going to match a certain pair of Pumas I had at home. And I was right!
The Puma Soleil's come with shoelaces intended to match the shoe. I mean white on white does match, and they made the end-tabs (does anyone out there know what the actual name is?) on the shoelaces coordinate with the color of the stripes. But the effect is kind of blah. I don't know why I never thought of changing the shoelaces before. It seems like a no-brainer now...
The fact is, I've never really care for the original Puma laces. They are ribbon-style which means they are very thin and flat. They are also somewhat slippery. I wouldn't dare wear them without double knotting and even then they've been known to come undone in the middle of the middle of a song. In fact, that happened last Wednesday night. I was in a rush to get out to class and this particular pair of shoes was handy so I just tossed them into my satchel. Part way through a song, I felt something under my shoe and when I briefly glanced down at my foot, I saw that it was my shoelace. This wasn't the first time this has happened, but I have a feeling, that with the new pair, it's no longer going to be an issue. The texture of the blue shoelaces leads me to believe that they will stay knotted quite well.

Best advice: New shoelaces are a cheap and easy way to change the look of your shoes. I kick myself for not figuring this out sooner. Do you folks know how many pairs of this style of shoe I've gone through in plain white/grey before I "went crazy" and bought a white/blue pair? Four! They would have looked so much better with any one of those colored pairs of shoelaces... Sigh, live and learn.

I am neither affiliated with, endorsed by, or compensated by Payless Shoesource -- Simply a shopper with an opinion!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The new phone

So I got a new cell phone. The Nokia 1020. It's a Windows phone. I know most people get all excited about upgrading...but am I the only one out there who sees it as nothing more than a necessary chore? Transferring everything from the old phone to the new phone is taking more time than I really would like it to take. Things are formatted in a slightly different way. Not so different as to be completely new and foreign, but different enough that I need to actually work at reorganizing everything. I'm glad I chose the longest time period on the contract because I really can't imagine doing this again in 12 months...or even 18!

My old phone is two years old, but truthfully, I only have two major issues with it.
1) The battery life seems to get shorter every few months
2) No one is making apps for my model of Windows phone any more. Not that there were tons to begin with...Windows phones have historically not seen the same kind of app love that iPhones and Androids do. But hey, at least it's not as bad as Blackberry! Oh snap! Heh. This is my old phone. The phone itself is actually turquoise, but I bought a pink case for it because I thought that would match my Zumba sticker so much better. Remember when I said that Zumba makes the best clothing tags ever? Remember how I said I keep them in a stash? Anyone want to guess where the sticker came from? If you guessed that it peels right off the tag, you'd be right.

I got this phone while I was still pregnant with our youngest son. The day I found out we were having a second boy, I posted that to Facebook right there in the doctor's office with it. It came to the hospital with me when I went into labor. I used it to time my contractions, and to take photos of our new arrival. After we brought him home, it was my "lifeline" to the outside world during that early time when it's all sleep, eat, diaper change, sleep some more. This phone has gone with me on outings and day trips with my family. It's gone to our older son's preschool and school and commemorated the occasions with photos of parties and events. I took it with me the day I went to B1 and got my license for Zumba. It has all (and by that I mean ALL) my music on it, I take it with me every time I go out to teach my class and I use it when I practice. This phone is how I read my library books. It keeps my calendar organized, and every phone number and address I have is in there.

The new phone will have all that (eventually...when I finally get it all transferred), and be able do everything my old one could do - only better and faster. But it won't ever be the one that was with me when our youngest son was born. It won't ever be the one that went to B1 with me. There have been times over the past week where I have wished that I'd simply bought a brand new battery for the old phone. The text chime doesn't seem to chime as loud on the new one, none of my ringtones are right on the new one, and all the playlists I created for Zumba, that worked so well on my old phone, show up as empty folders on the new one... But okay, okay...all that can be fixed, I just need to take the time and I'm about 2/3 of the way there. I know it kind of sounds like I hate the phone, but I really don't. It has some features to it that do like. It's slightly bigger while at the same time being lighter. It came with a handy wrist strap. It comes with more built-in apps than the old one did and most of the apps I have installed on the old phone can be easily reinstalled on the new one. The Nokia 1020's major claim to fame is the nearly-professional grade camera built in. It is a very very nice camera, but because it's bigger, it's left me trying to puzzle out where oh where to put my Zumba sticker!

Well, what I know is that I need to figure out this phone and finish messing around with it before next Tuesday night when I have to go teach my class again. I'm in a very small minority of Zumba people NOT using iTunes with an i-Something, and it's times like this that almost make me want to go get an iPod...almost. I'll get it done this weekend so that I have time to make sure it's working properly. The last thing I want is to get to class and not have music. I can't imagine a worse Zumba disaster. Knock on wood.

Best advice: Sometimes, to solve the problem, you just need to get a little creative.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The trip to Marshall's

It's spring break week for us, with our oldest son home from school. It's also been the week where the weather has finally FINALLY warmed up. Last weekend, it warmed up enough that our boy wanted to change into a short sleeved t-shirt. Going up with him to his room to find him one, I discovered that I only have two t-shirts in his current size. Two. Oh boy, I guess the Zumbamommy dropped the ball on this one. I blame the winter. This winter just seemed to go on and on and I thought the warmer weather would never get here. Usually I am prepared well in advance for the great spring closet shift from long sleeves to short sleeves, but not this year. So it's been a bit of a scramble this week, shopping for size six shirts...and some long sleeved shirts in size seven just for good measure... Hey, fall will be here before we know it and I don't want to be caught of guard again.

On Thursday, while our youngest son was napping, I took our oldest out to shop for shirts. We went to TJ Maxx and Marshall's. I managed to find one shirt at TJ Maxx that he liked and zero at Marshall's. Sigh. Marshall's was a wasted trip you say? Well...not entirely... Because I found some great stuff for me!
Hooray Marshall's! It was a happy little thrill seeing the very best tag in the whole world dangling off a tank top right there in an actual store. I grabbed one of everything that I thought would actually fit me and made haste to the changing room.

Store clerk: How many?
Me: Um...nine...

I wasn't sure the plastic number cards they give out even went up that high. I thought for sure she'd have me leave some of the shirts at the desk and come back for them... But no, she hands me a card with a nine on it and points me towards an open changing room. Great! Well okay then. I went through all of it and wound up buying three.
The minute I saw this one, I knew I was going to buy it. It's indigo and I just happen to have a pair of indigo cargo capris. If I hadn't already been trying on some others, I wouldn't have bothered trying this one on, I was that confident. It was the only one they had too, like it was just waiting for me to show up and take it home. Add to that, the fact that it was Thursday, a night I was going out to Rae's class, -and- a night that I had already planned to wear my indigo capris. I basically got this tank top home and put it on ten minutes after walking in the door. Up on the left, you can see the Marshall's tag: $12.99 (compare at $24.00). About half price, not bad at all.

As for the other two shirts...
I don't know what any of the "official Zumba names" are of any of these shirts. They are all from previous lines of clothing rather than the current line. But that's not surprising, Marshall's (and its affiliates) are
known for selling surplus inventory at discount prices. These were the same price as the tank top too, which I thought was pretty reasonable. Yes...these are t-shirts and not tank tops...but then I didn't buy them for actual Zumba class, so much as for every-day wear. I have those two 3/4 sleeved shirts I bought at my B1 and they have seen a lot of use this winter. A lot.

Friend: Oh, cool Zumba shirt. Do you have class tonight?
Me: Nope.

These two short sleeved ones are going to be perfect for the summer. The only thing that could have possibly made this trip to Marshall's any better would have been finding cargoes hanging on the rack. No pants of any kind to be found...and believe me I checked and double checked.

So, if you have a Marshall's near you, and you're in the market for some Zumba clothes, it might be worth going to have a look. As for TJ Maxx (or Winners for the Canadians), I'm not sure. I didn't see any Zumba clothes in TJ Maxx when I was there this week, but they are owned by the same people so one never can tell I suppose...

Best advice:

I am neither affiliated with, endorsed by, or compensated by Marshall's or Zumba(r) -- Simply a shopper with an opinion!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Bolder Band - Part 1

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning when I stumbled across this:
My sister-in-law had apparently discovered a new kind of sporty headband. Interestingly enough, this popped up on her FB page not too long after she posted a status update about her first day of CrossFit... Anyways, ever since I started teaching my Zumba class, I am all about the sporty headband. I have several Zumba brand headbands of the soft cloth variety. These work really well for holding my glasses (which need to wear or I can't see my students well enough) in place while I teach. And because they are Zwear headbands, they also match a decent portion of my existing Zumba wardrobe. just can't have too many. Am I right, or am I right? Besides, I'm sure you took note of the fact that I said "a decent portion" rather than "all".

So I'm sure dear readers that you can all see where this is going... Of course I went to their site! I needed to find the answers to some questions I had. Such as...
1) How much do they cost?
2) What size(s) do they have? Or is it a one-size type product?
And maybe most importantly...
3) What colors do they come in? And do they sell neon?

And here's what I learned:
1) They cost $14.99 before shipping and taxes. They are made in Colorado and shipped from there. There's also a code you can get, if you give them your email address, that lets you add a free wrist lanyard to your order with any purchase of $9.99 or more.
2)  They had this handy chart on their site. The asterisks are to indicate that those sizes would be a custom order. With the chart was a short little video on how to measure your head to know which size to order. Incidentally, I'm a regular.

And the answer to number three...
3) Lots and lots of colors! Patterns and solids and brights and metallics... Even a couple of guy-friendly patterns and colors (BroBands). Neons?

But there is hope. Almost as soon as I started browsing their site, a little chat window popped up with a message that said: "Hi! This is a real person. Let me know if I can help you." Hrmm... Okay then. I'll admit I was a little suspicious but that's my nature I guess. I would rather walk three blocks than use valet parking.... But it really -was- a real person, who ultimately turned out to be very helpful. I had to ask, will there be neon and when. He said he thought neon was coming. There are pictures of some neon headbands on one of their Pinterest Boards that he believes might be a preview. I suppose I'll just have to keep checking back...oh the hardship... Heh.

In the meantime though... I bought a solid red one!
There were a lot of cool prints and other solid colors, but I gravitated to the red one because I own red cargoes that are the hardest thing ever to match with accessories and shirts. The last time I wore the red cargoes to teach my class, I wound up using a black crocheted headband. It was the only thing that even remotely matched, but because it's crocheted, my glasses poked through the holes and I really didn't like that. The elastic part of that headband also digs in to my scalp a little bit and because it's a fashion piece, it's pretty lightweight and not really designed for vigorous activity; I haven't worn my Party Hearty's to teach in since. So, I am really excited for this headband (and my free wrist lanyard) to arrive in 6-8 days. That will be in plenty of time for me to try it out before I take a break from teaching for the summer. I do, I'll post a review of it...yeah, that would be the eventual Part 2 of this post. Bolder Band's motto is: "Stays put so you don't have to". Nice...and check it, their tags are almost as good as Zumba's.

Best advice: When you find something red (or whatever color applies to you...) that will coordinate with your odd-ball cargoes (or whatever piece of clothing applies to you...), jump on it! And then do a little salsa (or whatever dance you like best...) on it for good measure. This is the second time in as many months that this has happened to me. The last time, it was a fold-over elastic hair Hallmark of all places.

I am neither affiliated with, endorsed by, or compensated by Bolder Bands -- Simply a shopper with an opinion!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The songs from the ZIN month (and one week) later...

If you read my Jam posts, you may recall that one week post-Jam I was struggling with a few things. It was making me downright cranky actually. So, it's been almost exactly a month since I wrote my second Jam post and things are...better. By quite a bit. So, where am I at exactly? The salsaton - I can't use the salsaton at all unfortunately because I can't get a clean (un-remixed) version from Amazon MP3. I don't know if iTunes even has one, since I don't have an account. This is where being a Windows Phone/Zune user gets tricky sometimes. It's too bad too, because I like the choreography for it.

As it turns out, there actually IS a clean and un-remixed version of the salsaton on iTunes! Jae checked and told me so. Darn it Amazon! Just...darn it all. Knowing this doesn't help me though because I still can't get it. Even if I opened an account and bought it, I don't have a device that will play it. Sigh. Not mention that even if I -did- manage to get my hands on a copy, it's been over a month since I've heard the song, much less done the choreography. I don't remember it well any more. The cumbia - This one isn't smooth at all. I can at least get through it...kinda... My timing is way off on the machete part (which in turn throws me off for other parts) and this just drives me nuts because the Jammer made a special point to tell us what to be listening for in the music as the cue for us to start that part. The worst thing is that I actually can hear it, I'm just hesitating because I second guess myself, and then I miss it. Grr. I'm my own worst enemy sometimes, and I need to stop over-thinking it.

I'm still not getting the machete. Well, I am in practice though... It's funny how "dancing" in your car at stoplight (car-eography!) works differently than dancing for real. I really need to work on this one more but it's taken a backseat to the other three songs. I'll say this though, that much at least has paid off.

3) Moviendo Caderas by Yandel (feat. Daddy Yankee) - I'm not precisely sure what style this one classifies as. It's the one I remember the best. I've got this one head and shoulders above the others. When I realized that last night, I flipped it and started working on it leading with my left side. I've got a couple transitions to smooth out and I need to work out how I'm going to cue it, but it's nearly good to go. Which is way more than I can say for any of the others.

Moviendo Caderas is still the one I know the best, left -and- right. It's just about class-ready and I've got this debate going on in my head as to whether or not I'll introduce it to my class in the six weeks I have left, or just save it for September.

4) The reggaeton - Probably the simplest one of the five, it only has three varying parts and they repeat in the same order each time. Easy-peasy right? My timing is off on this one too, but I know it's because I'm practically tripping over my feet. This song has a sassy little walk up (forward travel), and the feet crossing over were messing me up and then I was backing up leading with the wrong foot which messed up the next part. This one will come. I have a feeling that the next time I work on this one, I'll have it back to where I had it at the Jam last week. was right about the reggaeton. The next time I practiced it, I got it back, sassy walk and all. With this one, it helped to enlist a second set of eyes...well feet maybe is more accurate... I did this one with Jae because I wanted her opinion. She had it down in about five minutes. No...I'm not -that- good a teacher. She's just -that- good. But talking it through with someone really helped and listening to the voice of experience did too. And hey, I stopped tripping over my own feet! Jae had told me, when I asked her, that she would probably teach it facing away from the class. We both agreed that people would likely catch on to the sassy walk much easier that way. The next time I practiced it though, I tried reversing the whole thing and leading with the left just because there are parts of that song that I think need to be taught leading left so that my class can see me. After three times through attempts, it just was not working. So I stopped and reevaluated, and instead of spiraling down into one of my freak-outs (be proud of me!), I decided to try something different. I started on the left and when I got to the part where the sassy walk starts, I turned around and lead with the right. When the chorus started again, I flipped back to leading with the left. Best of both, and it worked! The transition is just long enough. I ran through it that way twice and that's definitely how I'm going to teach it when the time comes. And the debate goes on... Do I introduce this to my class before the summer, or not? Hrmm...

5) The tropipop - Holy smokes, this one kicked my butt all over the place. If anyone had seen me down in my basement working on this one last night, they would have probably thought I'd never done the song before. It's not just an issue of timing either, it's me reading the notes and going, "Wait...what?" There's one piece I know I forgot completely, that spot is blank so I did the move right before it extra long. I restarted the song three times, and each time I had to pause and redo chunks of it here and there. I never actually did get all the way through it because I was starting to get pretty frustrated with myself.

As for the last song... It's fixed (mostly), but I'll admit to having had help. First though, I eventually figured out why this one, above any of the others, was such a source of great frustration for me. About a week prior to the Jam, the Jammer sent out a song survey by email inquiring about the songs on Mega Mixes 38 and 39 (and a few extra songs that weren't on either CD). She wanted to know the following: Which ones were we already using, which ones did we love, and which ones did we hate. When I answered the questions, I voted -for- this one, hoping we would do it, because I really liked the song itself.

***Side Note: I also voted for Moviendo Caderas. The other three songs that made it to the list were ones I didn't vote for at all because I was good either way.***

So the bottom line was this: After 3.75 hours of essentially mainlining Zumba, I couldn't actually do one of the two songs that I had specifically voted for. Frustrating? Yes indeedy! So what's a girl to do? Vent to someone who understands. Expressing my growing irritation with this song to Jae, she tells me: "Don't worry. It'll come." Okay, if she believes that, then I will too. Plus, hearing that diffused the freak out I was having. What also helped me get this song under control was that by this point, Rae had introduced it to her own class. Which meant I could ask Jae questions like: "What's the little piece in the middle of the calypso part? I'm totally blanking on it." And she could answer with: "It's arms like Say Na only smaller." Boom! Memory jogged. 
Coincidentally...are there such things? I really really wonder sometimes... "Coincidentally", circumstances, like my church cancelling my own class for that one week, worked out so that I actually got to go to Rae's class. Handy that, because I got to see what the tropipop song looked like all over again, -and- what it looked like put through the "Rae filter". After two times with her in her class, suddenly practicing it on my own didn't seem quite so scary. And this week? I got it. I. Got. It. Not only did I get all the way through that song from start to finish several times, I even flipped that sucker to the left! I was so happy. There's one transition in the middle that isn't smooth yet, but I kicked this song's butt this week. Jae was right all along, it did come...well, with a little help from my friends.

Best advice: "Don't worry. It'll come." Repeat as necessary!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The birthday outing

It's hard to believe the school year is nearly over. I was counting the weeks left before my Zumba class is done for the summer, there are only six weeks left (not counting spring break week in April or Memorial Day week in May). Where did the time go? And it seems like it was only yesterday I was putting our older son on the bus for the first time and sending him off to kindergarten and now he's almost done and about to become a first grader. Didn't he only -just- become a kindergartener? Fair warning dear readers, this one is a "mommy post".

Watching our son make the transition from preschooler to kindergartener, I'll admit I worried. Just a bit. I knew he was ready academically and emotionally. Socially though? In preschool he had a couple of friends who'd come into 4's preschool with him from his 3's class and while registering him for kindergarten, he asked me if he could be in a kindergarten class with the two of them. The answer unfortunately was no. It was really hard for me to disappoint him, but there was really nothing I could do. The preschool building is for kids from anywhere in the district, but once students start kindergarten, they are (most of the time) assigned the school closet to them geographically. There are five different elementary schools in our district. Further, each school has between three and four kindergarten classes. Even if he wound up at the same school with one or both of his friends, it was a crap-shoot as to whether or not he'd be in the same class. Explaining the kindergarten admissions process to a four year old is difficult at best, but he took it better than I thought he would. In the fall, at kindergarten orientation, I realized that not one of the students who'd been in 4's preschool with him would be in his kindergarten class. Not one. I worried about him starting a new class in a new school not knowing anyone. As it turns out, I didn't need to. In fairly short order, I began hearing tales of recess and choice-time all involving the same three boys. That's the beauty of children, at this age new friendships seem to form so easily and naturally. Our son seemed to talk the most about one classmate in particular, E. He and E share a love of Lego and all things superhero. E's mom and I met for the first time at the school's Halloween party. Turns out, she'd been regaled with the same stories of their exploits. We exchanged information and spoke about getting the boys together for a play-date. Getting to know E and his mom better has been a real treat. E is a lovely boy and his mom is someone I can see myself being friends with. I realized that our son has good judgement when making friends and I'll admit that knowing that makes me feel pretty good.

S and E - in the photo booth
Last month, E turned six. His mom asked me if our son could go with their family to see The Lego Movie at the theater. That's apparently what E wanted to do to celebrate his birthday. He got to choose one friend to invite and he chose our boy. I'll admit that made me feel pretty good too, but it also gave me pause. For one thing, this would be only the second time, not counting school, that our son has been away by himself (the one other time was when he slept over at Grandpa's while I was in the hospital delivering our younger son). For another, it meant letting go and trusting another parent with his dietary needs. As an allergy mom, let me tell you that is not easy and I think without the issue of the food allergies, I would hardly worry at all.

E's mom was very understanding, accepting, and willing to listen though. She asked what fast food type restaurants (if any) were options for lunch. I told her Subway, and she asked me to please write down exactly what was safe for her to order for our son. Which I did, and gave her the paper to take with her. She called part way through the afternoon to ask what kinds of candy (if any) he could eat at the theater. She also said that the Subway where they were eating was next to a grocery store and she she could easily run in there for something if I didn't think she'd be able to buy any of the theater's offerings; I suggested dried fruit and she bought him a box of craisins from the store. Our son came home full of happiness and excitement. He had a wonderful afternoon with his buddy E. I was thrilled by how well it had all gone. The older he gets, the more opportunities like this one will present themselves. I suppose I'd best get used it.

Best advice: If your kid has food allergies, educate them. Teach them to be their own advocate. It will pay off, and you'll gain some piece of mind as a parent.