Spring Adventuring: One Stroller, Two Small Children, and a Whole Lot of Snacks
April 29, 2019
86 pounds. That’s how much my double jogging stroller (plus my toddler and baby) weighs. That’s not counting water bottles and snacks, diaper bag supplies, and extra layers of clothing. And yet, one fine spring morning, not so very long ago, I decided it would be a good idea to load up said stroller, plus a backpack full of gear, and head out for a roughly 20km adventure along the walking trails of my city into a local provincial park and then back again. Think I’m crazy? Let me explain…
Why this Adventure?
Back before I had children, I used to run. I used to run a lot. I never set any speed records. There was actually this humiliating time where I was running around a trail system in a park and an 80-something-year-old-man speed-walking lapped me not once but twice! But, nevertheless, I still would run. (Note: many people refer to this activity as “jogging”, but that is much less cool and hard-core sounding. Just think, who would you be more impressed by? Someone who said “I’m a jogger” or someone who was “a runner”?) With pride, I can say that I have completed four half-marathons; none in particularly impressive times, but all with a smile on my face at the end (and not a blister in sight!). But then came pregnancy, and I very quickly realized I was not one of those Amazon women who run all the way up until labour. I settled back to a nice brisk walk, and there I have pretty much remained, aside from a few months of running between babies. Running or walking, however, getting outside and moving is a priority for me.
I never used to be like that. As a child, I was a clutz with no hand-eye coordination and two left feet. Aside from riding my bike and taking swimming lessons, I didn’t do much to stay fit. In my teenage years, it really started to show. Finally, when I was 15, I decided to do something about it. My amazing dad joined me, and we signed up for a learn to run clinic with the Running Room. He had a bad hip and a bad knee, and he could run better than I could. Middle-aged women who were three times larger than I was could run faster and with less huffing and puffing than I could. When I started, I couldn’t even run for two minutes without getting winded. Then and there, I vowed that I would never let myself be in such poor shape again, and that if I ever had children I would strive to set them an example to follow rather than one to avoid.
According to the Government of Canada, obesity rates for children in Canada have nearly tripled in the last 30 years. In my pre-mom life as a registered nurse, I saw first-hand the negative effects of too much sitting and too little moving. My husband and I want to train our kids right from babyhood to be good stewards of their bodies, and unless we are total hypocrites, it has to start with us. I can’t expect my children to eat well and exercise if I tell them to do so while I’m sitting on the couch with a bag of chips (although I do love a good potato chip!). As part of our family culture, we want to have the habit of being active, where physical exercise is just a part of our family’s daily rhythm. That’s not to say we’re great at this, it is definitely still a work-in-progress! In the winter especially, I struggle to not just sit around all day and eat cookies. But we have a goal that we’re reaching for. And so, that brings us back to me and my 86 lb. stroller…
The Actual Adventure…
The morning began well. We all powered through a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs (complete with Thrive mushrooms and Thrive green onions), and then my toddler waved goodbye as Daddy headed off to work while I packed up the snack bag. Thrive Cashew Chew Snackies for Mommy; check mark. Thrive Beet Fruit Crisps Snackies for all three of us; check mark. Toddler sweet and savoury munchie mixes (see my recipes page for these!); check mark! If our adventure did not succeed, it would not be for lack of sustenance!
I quickly double-checked the forecast: a projected high of 19 degrees and no snow or rain in sight. This was our day. This was the moment we had been waiting for. The tires on my jogging stroller were all pumped up and ready to rumble. Both of my children were put through the Mommy assembly line and emerged with fresh diapers, adventure-suitable clothes instead of pajamas, jackets, and hats. I even remembered to charge up my Fitbit so I would receive full stepping credit for my day’s efforts. I buckled my progeny into the stroller, stuffed my pared-down diaper bag under my baby’s feet, and tucked them in with a light blanket to cut the spring morning chill. Like a herd of turtles, we were off!
Our chosen route began with a short trek through our neighbourhood to reach a multi-use path that leads through an off-leash dog park area. My toddler is always beyond thrilled if we happen to chance upon a dog, calling out “pet puppy! pet puppy!” from the stroller, and then, as we keep walking, somewhat sadly amending it to “pet puppy… later”. We powered through the park, crossed at the lights on the one and only major street intersecting our walk, and carried on towards the river. The seniors drop-in centre in the area was advertising “fish and chips social today!” and we could already smell the preparations wafting towards us on the spring breeze. Nevertheless, we continued on walking along the riverside trail in the direction of the city limits and the provincial park. It was then that the train of our adventure derailed.
At one point along our route, the trail passes under a railway bridge before running along the river behind an industrial area on the edge of the city and then connecting in to the trail system of the provincial park. This point under the railway bridge is one of the lowest points along the trail. So low, in fact, that it is quite close to the river. Unless it is early spring… then, as my kids and I discovered, the trail no longer runs close to the river, it runs underneath it! Our adventure came to a screeching halt. A warning sign stated the obvious: Trail Closed Due to Flooding. Unless we felt like switching to a canoe trip, our wilderness exploration would have to be postponed.
The most immediate suggestion for a Plan B came straight from my toddler. “Get out…push stroller!” she piped up. And so, she pushed her baby brother back to a T-intersection on the trail where I steered her to take a right turn into our new plan for the day. A green space was before us, with lots of things to explore! Small rocks, clumps of mud, spruce and pine cones, all were picked up and thoroughly examined and discussed. Further up, there was a city park with a large picnic area, fire pits, and a playground. While my baby snored soundly in the stroller, my toddler very bravely climbed up to the top to go down the slide. For the first time, she agreed to try out the swing set., resulting in much gleeful shouting of “Whee! whee!”. The playground was definitely a hit! It was even the old-fashioned kind with real sand to fill up your shoes.
As if on cue, right around 12:00 my little man woke up and vocalized his desire for lunch. We rolled up to one of the picnic tables and I spread out my backpack full of delights. My toddler, beyond thrilled to be sitting on her own bench of the picnic table like a big girl, dove right into her bowl of munchies, chasing down each handful with a gulp of water so big she needed to catch her breath afterwards. I balanced my baby on my knee, feeding him little bites of cheese and Snackies every time he opened his mouth, just like a baby bird. For me: one of my favourite Thrive products, Chicken Salad from Thrive’s To Go product line. With everything in one handy pouch, all you need to do is add a bit of water from your water bottle, wait a few minutes, and then dive in! It’s the perfect protein-rich hiking lunch, with no worrying about food spilling or spoiling in your backpack. A package of chicken salad spooned onto some multi-grain crackers, and you are good to hike all day!
Once we were all sufficiently refuelled, it was time to head home again for the ever-so-important afternoon nap time. I chose an alternate route home, a trail running parallel to the train tracks, just on the off-chance we might have the thrill of witnessing the passage of a choo-choo-train. No such good fortune met us, however. We also made sure to look carefully at the fire hall as we walked by; nothing makes a good day a great day like seeing a fire truck getting washed. Again, however, it was not to be (“Fire truck sleeping!” according to my toddler). Soon, we were home again, and both my little people settled down for their naps, tired out from the fresh air and exploration. No day of adventure would be complete without a post-adventure smoothie, however, to rehydrate after nap time and bridge the interminable gap between lunch and dinner. Check out my recipes page again to see one of my family’s favourite concoctions!
I’ve learned, especially, since having children, that sometimes even the best of plans need to be scrapped and a new plan invented on the fly. Exercise used to be a simple matter of heading off to the gym or out for a run after work. Add two little people two-and-under, however, and a body that carried those two little people, and suddenly things aren’t so straightforward anymore. As someone who was creative enough with the excuses pre-children, now I find my list of reasons to indefinitely postpone a workout is practically limitless. I need to remind myself of my why, remind myself that staying fit will benefit me in my motherhood, helping me power through nights of broken sleep with my baby and still have energy to chase my toddler around during the days. Getting out and moving will help my mood, giving me that endorphin boost to help me remember to be kind and thoughtful towards my husband even at the end of a long day. Knowing I pushed a really heavy stroller up a bunch of hills makes the fact that I still have a postpartum muffin top in my skinny jeans just a little more bearable. More than all of that, though, is the knowledge that my body is not my own, I was created for a purpose and entrusted with a stewardship, and I want to be faithful in that. So even though some days my grand plans of adventure are rendered impossible by circumstances beyond my control, I’ll just carry on, looking for the choo-choo trains and firetrucks of life, and running up and down my stairs doing laundry to reach my Fitbit step goal!