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Davis Mountains State Park

My husband and I have made a few trips out to West Texas before we had kids. We camped at Big Bend National Park and made stops in Alpine and Marfa. The terrain to the west with its deserts and mountains makes us feel like we’re in a completely different state compared to the mostly flat plains of North Texas and rolling hills of Central Texas. One place that had been on our bucket list was the McDonald Observatory near Ft. Davis.

Over the holidays, we picked a free weekend in January and planned a drive out west. Unfortunately, the weather was really cloudy and threatening rain, so the Star Party became an indoor affair, which was still fascinating and educational. We did manage to see Venus through the clouds, which looks like a very bright star with the naked eye.

Most evenings, I’m rushing from dinner to teaching yoga to running last-minute errands, and I rarely look beyond what’s directly in front of me. I miss the stars every night. I forget how vast and beautiful the sky is at night. Our visit to the McDonald Observatory reminded me to look up and soak in that moment of feeling both small and yet interconnected within our universe.

Since we were all the way out west, we found some time in our schedule for a morning of hiking at Davis Mountains State Park. Some friends had visited there before, so I knew our visit came with high recommendations.

Hiking is one of my favorite moving meditations, and the views aren’t too shabby either. The cloudy weather made for a cool, breezy hike. We decided on the Indian Lodge Trail for its vistas, as recommended by the Park Ranger. The trailhead from Indian Lodge took us up a nice incline, and only 50 meters in, the views were already pretty spectacular. Of course, hiking with a 5-year-old and 2.5-year-old, we needed to prepare for frequent stops and occasional whining.

My younger one complained of “losing” all his energy 10 minutes into the hike, so he stayed with my husband on a rock to eat snacks while I continued on with my older son. Bringing walkie talkies was one of our more brilliant ideas as it allowed us to stay in contact without any cell reception.

Up and up and up we went. The trail runs along the edge of the state park, and we walked along a fence on our way to the top. Once we reached the peak, we took in the brisk breeze that cooled our skin and perspiration. The Big Kid placed a stone on top of a cairn to mark his achievement.

The descent was a little more tricky, with slippery switchbacks and loose rock, but the Big Kid managed the whole way down on his own. We had a few moments of almost-freaking-out, but we took slow, steady breaths and slow, steady steps to get us to the bottom. I was so proud of my little hiker! In the mean time, Bear Shark and my husband found a playground at the other end of the trail and waited for us to finish.

We took in a few more views by car and mentally marked other trails to tackle for the future. Perhaps the little one will be ready to handle a night of camping by our next visit!

One of our goals as a family this year is to visit more state parks and national parks. We are eyeing Arkansas for our next big road trip, and Hot Springs National Park is on our list. Lucky for us, there are a number of free admission days for National Parks. The next one is February 20 (President’s Day)!

With the state of our nation, I feel a strong urgency to visit what we can in case budgets are slashed and national park land is sold off for profit. Grrr!

If you need some ideas for which national park to visit, check out this handy infographic by Cotopaxi. They’ve graciously offered 20% off any purchase for my readers, using the discount code REDBOOK20. A percentage of every sale is donated to organizations that promote worldwide health. Go find a park near you this weekend and take advantage of free admission on the 20th!

My Peak Challenge 2017

If you’ve seen me at ABP in the mornings before class or if you’ve seen my Instagram & Twitter accounts, then I’ve probably told you about My Peak Challenge. It’s part workout/nutrition and part charity, all started by Sam Heughan, aka Jamie Fraser of the Outlander TV series. Go figure it would take a celeb with a huge heart to motivate me enough for this lifestyle change.

Side plank, here we go. #mpc2017

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Like for a lot of adults, working and family consumed all of my energy, leaving little time to take care of myself. As I heard from many of my yoga teacher friends before I went down the path of teaching, there isn’t much time left for personal practice. My stress may be lower, but my physical fitness hasn’t improved. My food choices may be more conscious (feeding kids forces me to look at labels), but I haven’t been eating at max optimization.

So enter My Peak Challenge. MPC has me thinking differently about the content of my food intake. I’m even logging meals through the FitBit app, something I have been very resistant to do since it’s a PITA. It helps me see how I’m always over-doing the carbs and not eating enough protein. I’m at the gym early. I’m having fun playing on the rower and ski erg. I still suck at push-ups and am skurred of kettle bells (I will ask Matt for tips!), but having a laid out program and encouragement from so many other Peakers makes it easy to stay on track.

5 rounds of 500 m on the rower. Pooped. 😓💪🏽@mypeakchallenge #mpc2017

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I’ve run into my yoga students in the workout room, and I’m a disgusting sweaty mess when I see them. They encourage me too, as many of them are in WAY better physical shape than I am.

Part of MPC is setting a “peak” or goal for September. It doesn’t have to be physical, but some Peakers are aiming for a big climb or a 5K/10K/half marathon. I don’t know if I’ve decided what my peak will be. I don’t have any ONE thing I’m trying to accomplish. I’m more of a progress person, so for now, I’m planning different hikes at local parks. We went out to West Texas a few weeks ago and hiked at the Davis Mountains (I’ll blog about that soon), and I’m hoping we have an opportunity to go back and hike a longer trail.

If you want to follow my progress (or keep me accountable!), find me on Instagram and Twitter @findingdrishti. I’ll drop an update at the end of Month 2 as well. If you want to join the program at mpc2017.com, know that 50% of the cost benefits Bloodwise for cancer research.

Working mom dilemma: Nap time

Fell off the NaBloPoMo wagon. It’s Day 22, and reminiscent to Day 15, we’re still on this no-sleep train. Let’s talk about naps, shall we?

The guilt of missing so many of my kids’ precious moments in their earlier years is a very real thing about being a working mom. I had many moments right after maternity leave, trying to process whether I was working to pay for daycare or if the cost of daycare was the only way to remain in the workforce. For many working moms, the cost of daycare nearly eclipses their take-home income, and it doesn’t make financial sense to stay in their jobs.

When I transitioned out of my 9-to-5, we pulled Bear Shark out of full-time daycare to save money. He was also at a really great easy age, and being home with him felt like I was making up for all the lost time I didn’t get to have with the Big Kid. I treasure those early pre-walking/talking months. I was finally getting some one-on-one time with Bear Shark and really enjoying his big milestones and development.

Now that I’m teaching yoga as a full-time (+/-) gig, we have Bear Shark in childcare 4 days a week. But holy hell, that one day a week that it’s just me and him… There’s always a battle at nap time.

Whatever tricks are up childcare providers’ sleeves, they always manage to get kids to take a nap consistently. I remember having to pick up the Big Kid early when he was around 2 or 3, and the whole room was dark and quiet with all kids napping on their mats. It was magic. Nap time in our household on the weekends is a semi-mess. We try to run them into the ground earlier in the day, and we try to time an early afternoon car ride home in hopes that it will lull them into sleep without us having to do the hard work. On the weekends, it helps with more people. The husband and I can tag team or the Big Kid will patiently sing songs to his little brother.

When it’s just me and Bear Shark, I want to tear out my hair. I don’t know how to get my kid to nap! Our mornings are busy. He goes to swim class. We run our errands. He’s looking sleepy in the car. Pull him out of the car and BAM! Wide awake again. Fill his belly up. Talk about how it’s important to have some quiet resting time, and he nods along like he understands. Keep the room dark and quiet and soothing. Pat him on his back. He can’t lie still. Flipping and flopping this way and that. “I need water.” “Fold my blankie.” 2 hours go by, and he’s still no where near taking a nap. I give in. He finds a 3rd, 4th, 5th wind and dumps every toy out of every bin. I close myself off in my room and count the minutes down until my husband and big brother get home.

Of course, it’s right around dinner time that he finally realizes how damn tired he is, and he crashes. Hard. We have to wake him to eat. The rest of the night is off schedule. Late bed time. Middle of the night wake up. We’re chugging coffee in a desperate attempt to be awake enough to drive in the morning. I look forward to sending him back to childcare, and I drag my tired butt to work.

There’s no break. There’s barely any time to catch a breath. And while it may seem melodramatic, I feel like I’m dying. This is just ONE DAY in my week, and the effects reverberate through the other six.

Working mamas out there, how are you surviving when you have to put your kid down for a nap?

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Thoughts on the safety pin

If you haven’t heard about why people are wearing safety pins out in public, let me point you here first. (By the way, if you have Amazon Prime, you can get a 6-month free trial of The Washington Post in digital form. After that, it’s $3.99 a month.)

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether the safety pin is truly support for those under attack or merely a symbolic gesture. The question has been raised whether someone wearing a safety pin is really willing to stand up to attackers when push comes to shove. I think we all have in mind how we would like to respond in a scenario. In my head, I’m coming out swinging with insults and ready to lay down a good tongue lashing. In reality, I, like many others when faced with an IRL situation, would freeze for a moment as I realize that this is actually happening, then make my fastest escape.

If you are a white majority ally, you may not know how you will react when you see someone being attacked. There’s a really great illustration floating around about what to do (ignore the aggressor, sit with the victim and engage them in normal conversation, stay with them until the aggressor leaves). But most of you will also freeze up or be at a loss for words. That’s ok. You’re human. But if you find yourself freezing/shying away, use that as a learning experience.

On one of the Facebook groups I’m on, a white ally was verbally attacked in public for wearing a safety pin. She was rightfully very shaken by the attack even though other allies stood up for her. Later in the day, she came back to share that she had a few realizations from the experience. She was a wreck the whole day because of it, and she realized it was because she had never seen that type of anger or hate from a complete stranger based on her appearance (the mere presence of a safety pin). She realized how her privilege had afforded her insulation from such attacks.

Here is my response to her (and I’m leaving out her direct quotes):

i’m sorry that you had this experience. at the same time, i think you hit on something very important [with your realizations].

hold on to this discomfort and take it in because this will help you become more compassionate for disenfranchised groups who can’t remove their skin/religion/sexuality the way you can with a safety pin. you had a taste of what the rest of us experience on the regular. and you’ll be stronger for the next time it happens. stay with it. stay strong.

This discomfort that you and I and anyone who wants to be an ally feels when we are under attack is in a way a good thing. It is a time for deep exploration and transformation. It forces us to grow in ways we didn’t know we could. It’s what you do with your discomfort that counts.

Most people run away from discomfort. I see it all the time in yoga classes. Fidgeting, checking the clock, peeking around. Being asked to sit still with your own thoughts and breathe – that’s uncomfortable for many. Being asked to stay in chair pose a few extra breaths while your thighs are burning is uncomfortable. But it also demands both physical and mental strength, and you won’t know your own strength until it’s tested in uncomfortable ways.

To those who are questioning whether to keep their safety pins on or not, I say stay with it. Commit to the work and to the discomfort and to the growth. Commit to what it is intended to mean, that you are someone that can be counted on to stand beside us and to listen to and learn from us. Don’t take it off just because it got hard. Like I said in my response, those of us in minority groups can’t take off our skin. If you want the safety pin to mean something, then make it mean something with your actions and with your compassion.

When you can get really comfortable with being uncomfortable, your potential for growth is limitless.

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When they don’t sleep

I must’ve blocked the challenging parts of this 2-3 age with the Big Kid because I was so focused on Baby Bear Shark. We weren’t sleeping then anyway, but it’s different with a newborn who can be nursed back to sleep. These days, we’re dealing with negotiation, refusal, ignoring requests, being scared of the dark and working themselves into such a tizzy that they can’t catch their breath. The no sleep thing is amplified when both are fighting it.

I have no control over how much sleep I get at night. That was a hard pill to swallow, entering into parenthood. I’ve crashed at 8 along with the kids, but sleep is too choppy to feel functional the next day. I’ve been on this up and down cycle of coffee and melatonin to survive. This can’t be healthy.

We’ve moved their bedtime up to get ahead of the meltdown (and daylight savings has helped a little on the front end but not so much with staying asleep or sleeping past… gulp… 5:30), and we’ve gotten more rigid about bedtime routine. The chore chart I created has helped the Big Kid a lot to set expectations of behavior as well as a reward system. I haven’t quite figured out what motivates Bear Shark though.

The husband and I have to tag in and out. We’re out of energy and patience for the day. We’re trying different strategies and tactics. We’re bribing them. We’re threatening them. We’re ignoring them. We split them up. We let them sleep together. Music. No music. Night lights. No lights. Wake up clock. For F’s sake, getting kids to sleep is pure torture.

The other stuff is easier to handle. Hitting and biting? We can talk about appropriate behavior. Not sharing toys? We can implement a fair system or redirect attention to another toy. Begging for TV time? We can let them “earn” time as a reward. But sleep refusal? SHOOT ME.

This has to be a phase, right? I don’t know how long the phase will last, but my mom told me that I didn’t figure out the sleep thing consistently until I was 5. Sheesh. Sorry, Mom. Maybe this is karma coming back to bite me in the ass.

Three things are keeping me from wanting to throw my kids away at night.

  1. Not always so. Everything in life is in transition, and this will change too. I need to hold on to the impermanence of life. I use this as a mantra.
  2. Compassion. Instead of getting mad at them, I’m trying to show them more patience, love and compassion. (Fake it til you make it is also a great way to change my own attitude!) I don’t remember what it’s like to feel scared of the dark, but I can try and come from a place of understanding instead of anger.
  3. Calm, cooling breaths. I do these with my kids for both our benefits. When they’re wigging out mid-tantrum, we work on taking deep breaths together and then blowing them out. I mentioned the trick of blowing out candles to get them to take a bigger breath. Lately, we’ve been having blowing wars at each other’s face. That seems to work better with the little one.

Of course, when it seems all is lost and the tantrums seem to hit a point of no return, sometimes they just crash. We deal with the aftermath of getting off schedule, but for a few quiet moments, we have to enjoy the calm.

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Road Trip 2016: Albuquerque & White Sands

We had half a day in Albuquerque before heading south, so we wanted something a little less time-intensive. Since we have a Family Premier membership to the Thinkery in Austin, we could get in to reciprocal science museums for free, and we found the National Museum of Nuclear Science on the list.

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It wasn’t a very large museum, but the display of missiles, jets and bombers were pretty impressive to walk around. At the same time, it was awe-inspiring to see the range and devastating power contained in these missiles.

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The science side of my brain was like, “COOOL,” while the self-preservation side of my brain was like, “Oh, crap. That’s horrifying.”

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Inside were a number of hands-on exhibits. I think my husband and I were more interested in them than the kids. 😉 Since we got there right as the museum opened, we had plenty of time to explore and play without bumping into any crowds.

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Our final national parks stop on the trip was White Sands National Monument. We battled strong winds the full length of New Mexico to get south, which made driving a little tricky when you’re trying to drive a straight line at 80 mph. The park is near White Sands Missile Range, and there’s really no telling when they’ll be testing, which can close the roads for an hour or so. Thankfully, no testing was happening as we approached the park.

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Our first stop in the visitor center was to buy a sand sled. They don’t rent them out per se, but you can sell the sled back at $3 less than what you paid.

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The wind was still blowing strong when we got into the park. The white gypsum sand seemed to come out of no where compared to the surrounding terrain. So even though it looks like you’re in a bit of a snow storm, it certainly didn’t FEEL like snow. More like repeated ant bites as sand pelted our legs.

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We had to get strategic about which way to park the car so that sand didn’t immediately blow into the car when we opened the doors. Perhaps long pants would’ve been a better option. The Big Kid wasn’t interested in sledding with me. Both hid in the car the rest of our visit.

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By the way, sand sledding is not as easy as it may seem. We even bought a little cube of wax, but it didn’t amount to much. We’ll have to go back on a less windy day and seriously wax the sled for a smoother ride.

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And that’s it, folks. We stayed in Las Cruces (another 35 minutes from White Sands) our final night, and then made an early exit to drive all the way back to Austin, passing through El Paso and Marfa.

5 days total on the road. We survived long drives, getting two kids to sleep each night in different hotels and got to enjoy a massive cavern, cool mountain air, deserts and sand dunes. We’re talking about road tripping again in 2017, maybe heading east this time. Send us any suggestions! We want to fill up our National Parks Passports and see a bit more of our great and diverse country.

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