From Bar to Barre: Balancing Aging, Parenthood, Work Schedules and a Consistent Exercise Routine

Living in NYC definitely has it’s perks. One in particular is the amount of walking that is required. Most of my time living here I have been able to get away without going to the gym regularly because my daily commute was my gym.  The walking always seemed to be enough and a run or class here or there was just an extra bonus. I have also been able to eat whatever I want (within reason) and spent many evenings out at bars with friends enjoying my fair share of adult beverages.

At my company holiday party 2 years ago, a co-worker made a comment to me that at the time I blew off. After returning to the table with a full plate of second helpings of everything at the buffet she said, “Wow Val! I remember when I could eat like that. Then I hit my 30s.” This was two months before my 30th birthday, so naturally my reply was, “Well then, I better take advantage of the two months I have left.”

I really didn’t take what she said seriously though, and I thought, It’ll be different for me. I was kind of right. Nothing really changed when I turned thirty. Thirty-one on the other hand was another story. Not long after my 31st birthday I realized that Winter had taken it’s toll on my body, and I accepted that I could no longer eat or drink whatever I wanted and still survive on just walking.

Not only am I a binge runner, but I am a binge exerciser in general. It’s always easier to get going during the summer when it’s not freezing or pitch black outside when I have to leave the apartment for a class.  If I am able to get a good routine in place, I can go weeks working out 3, 4, even 5 days a week. I always feel amazing when I can stick to a regular exercise plan, but it seems that after awhile I always go back to making excuses for why I can’t get my butt moving.

Having a kid definitely does not make sticking to an exercise routine any easier. The guilt that comes with leaving all the getting ready and commuting responsibilities with Tyson so that I can take a morning barre class or evening yoga class is sometimes too much to handle. Especially during the Rangers season when his schedule is so busy.

However, after Memorial Day, with the unofficial start of summer upon us, I decided I had to get over the guilt and figure something out. Running on my lunch break everyday was not motivating enough, but I had taken a couple barre classes last summer and really enjoyed them. So I went to Tyson with a routine I thought was fair and hoped that we could make it work. For the past six weeks this has been my workout schedule:

Monday: 30-40 minute Lunch Break Run
Tuesday: 55 minute Core Barre Class
Wednesday: 55 minute Total Barre Class and 30 minute Swim Class with Qwynn
Thursday: 55 minute Barre Assets Class or 60 minute Yoga Class
Friday: 30-40 minute Lunch Break Run

I’m not perfect every week (summer is busy!), but I usually get at least three of the days in. It definitely takes sacrifices from all parties involved. On Tuesday I work the 10 AM shift, and drop Qwynn off as soon as school opens at 8 AM to make it to my 8:30 AM barre class. This makes it possible for Tyson and I to still commute together, but it also makes all of our days much longer, leaving the house by 7 AM and not getting home until close to 7:30 PM.  Tyson very generously commutes with Qwynn by himself on Wednesday mornings and I meet him at the YMCA for Qwynn’s 9 AM swim class after my 7:30 AM Barre class. On Thursday evenings he commutes again by himself to allow me to take my evening yoga class.

I am definitely nervous about Fall and Winter coming because it means colder weather, less sunlight and new and busier schedules. I am really hoping that my new found love for barre (seriously you should try it if you haven’t yet) will keep me motivated to continue going to class even when it is dark, cold and there is half a foot of snow on the ground.

As hard as it is to manage all of our schedules and to get myself up earlier than I technically have to get up in the morning, I never regret doing it. Even the times I have had one too many glasses of wine the night before 😉 and just want to stay in bed curled up next to Tyson, I remind myself how much better I’ll feel if I sweat it out. And I always do. No matter what, I always feel better when I say yes to a workout.


Valerie Anne

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad FLOATIES


A couple weeks ago I was in the kitchen cutting up the strawberries Qwynn had so eagerly reminded me I had promised she could have after dinner, when I heard shouts of excitement coming from the bathroom. “It’s bath time! Yay bath time!”

I smiled and sighed. She was back. Finally!

Qwynn has loved her baths pretty much since she was born. I had read somewhere that you shouldn’t shield a baby’s eyes and face from the water when you bathe them because they need to learn how to blink it out. I thought it was an interesting approach and we decided to try it.

Once her umbilical cord fell off and we were able to give her a real bath, we gave it a go. We used to set her baby tub on the counter so she was able to see in the mirror. She loved this! When we poured the water over her head, we smiled as big as we possibly could and laughed like it was the most fun thing ever! Once she blinked the water out and saw us in the mirror, she gave us a huge smile back and has been loving her baths ever since.

That is until a few months ago when Qwynn discovered floaties – the horrifying and evil specks of lint, fuzz and dirt floating in the bath water around her.

Tyson ended up becoming the “bath time parent” when Qwynn was only a few months old. They seemed to have a lot of fun and I thought it was a great opportunity for them to spend time together since Qwynn doesn’t get to see him every night during the hockey season. One day I heard Tyson and Qwynn talking about floaties. From then on bath time changed. Qwynn started refusing to get in the water and would cry, “No floaties!”

Fortunately, Tyson quickly figured out a routine where they would scoop up all the floaties with a cup and dump them in the sink before Qwynn would get in the tub. This worked for a couple weeks, but one day she got in the tub after they had removed all the floaties, and started freaking out because she saw one. She just about jumped right out of the tub. Tyson realized it was lint from her socks that had been stuck in between her toes. He tried to explain to her where these floaties were coming from and reassure her that they would definitely not hurt her, but she wasn’t having it at all.

For about two weeks after this, bath time became a team effort for Tyson and I. There were a ton of tears and it was a fight just to get Qwynn to stand in the bath, let alone sit down in the floatie infested water. None of her usual bath toys helped distract her, but then I remembered I had purchased some foam numbers from the Target Dollar Spot the week before and decided it was worth a shot.


Qwynn stood in the tub without crying the whole entire bath time. Although initially a fight and still a refusal to sit, the next couple of baths had less and less tears.


The next bath night I was by myself because Tyson had to work a game. I decided Qwynn had to start sitting in the bath again. In my profession you have to have a high tolerance for crying. You have to understand that it’s okay for kids to cry. So I found my backbone and told Qwynn she had to sit in the bath. She had to learn to share the bath with floaties. She just had to. So, I made her.

She of course fought me tooth and nail and there were lots and lots of tears, but I was eventually able to talk her through it. I explained that she had to sit in the tub because otherwise the floor would get all wet. I continued to reassure her that the floaties were harmless and it was okay that they were in the bath tub. And I kept bringing her attention back to the foam numbers and how cool it was that they stuck to the bathtub wall. The power of distraction is absolutely wonderful.

After that night, things slowly started getting better. We went from very few tears to no tears at all. Tyson no longer needed my help and him and Qwynn got their bonding time back. A few weeks ago, I even heard giggles and belly laughs. It was magical!

She still points out the floaties now and then, but we just say it’s ok and move on.  Last week she even asked us to take a bath. It was truly an amazing feeling!

What irrational fears have your kids had?


Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

This is definitely a weekend meal if you have to make the chicken, but it can also be a quick mid-week option if you have the chicken already made. Plus you can play with the ratios of the filling however it fits your needs, using less chicken and more spinach if you prefer more veggies. This chicken is also great for quesadillas, nachos, or pasta dishes, so stock up!

Crockpot Shredded Chicken

1 lb. chicken breasts
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced or chopped
1-2 cups chicken stock/broth
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

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Place all ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for about 8 hours or until chicken is tender. Use two forks to shred the chicken and strain excess liquid. Use in the enchilada recipe below, or in another favorite recipe!


Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

1/2 lb. shredded chicken
10 oz. frozen or fresh spinach
8 oz. cream cheese
8 medium sized wheat tortillas
1 bottle TJ’s red enchilada sauce
6-8 oz. shredded cheese (Mexican blend and/or pepper jack)

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Thaw frozen spinach or slightly sautée fresh spinach in a medium skillet. Add cream cheese and heat on low until melted. Stir in shredded chicken.


Pour a couple tablespoons of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish.


Warm tortillas slightly in the microwave and then roll equal parts of the mixture into each tortilla and place seam down into the glass baking dish.


Pour the shredded cheese and remaining enchilada sauce over top.


Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes at 325 degrees.


We usually have these enchiladas with brown rice, but I needed something a little quicker, so we had it with TJ’s frozen Quinoa Duo with Vegetable Melange.


I actually liked it better than the brown rice because the sweet potato in the quinoa complimented the spiciness of the enchilada sauce really nicely. And the extra veggies are always a plus!!

Valerie Anne