A couple of summers ago, I participated in a mountain bike clinic in Eagle, Colorado. As a novice rider who hadn’t been on anything but a bike with a basket for basically all of time, I learned five important lessons that day and one that even made me a better mom.
1. You're gonna need a better bike
If you think you’re going to zip up that first hill (what’s a little hill, right?) on a 10-speed or a hardtail from 2000, think again. Bikes have changed a lot in a couple of decades and while the bells and whistles (like disc breaks or suspension) might seem superfluous to those of us who remember tearing up the asphalt on our banana seat Schwinns with the rainbow streamers, they aren’t. Mountain biking is not the same as taking hot laps around the neighborhood or cruising paved rollers in your floppy hat to the farmers market. Yes, it’s biking, but it’s also on a mountain. A mountain. There are rocks and roots and death traps around every hairpin turn. And like a car, you want a bike that can handle that shit. You wouldn’t take a Fiat off roading. Same with bikes. Moral of the story? If you want to give mountain biking a try, either throw down on a good bike (and say goodbye to whatever you were saving for your kid’s college) or demo one that makes you feel like the confident and courageous bike-riding beast you are.
2. Shoes are just as important as your bike
One option is to lock your feet into your bike using cycling shoes and look like a cow slowly being tipped over when you can't clip out. The other option is to ride on flat pedals and use a flat, rigid shoe with some grip so you don’t fly over your handlebars as you dive down the descent. There's a lot going on during the downhill. You're standing up, weight balanced, holding on for dear life as the fat on the back of your arms knocks around like a fistful of marbles in a martini shaker. You contemplate your life choices. You wonder if a mountain lion is just giving you a head start. At the very least, you vow to work more on your triceps at the gym. Trust me, you don't need to worry about your feet coming off the pedals as well. For those reasons, I like my Five Tens. Whatever you decide, one thing I know is that your mountain biking shoes shouldn’t double as your gym sneakers. That would kind of be like skiing in jeans.
3. Mountain biking can get dirty
And I’m not talking about the thin layer of dust you’ll have lingering on your skin after a long ride or the sweat that’ll soak your sports bra. As our pack of wonderful women cranked up an incline, our coach Alison would periodically yell out cues like, “Go anal!” or “Boobs to Tubes!” to get us in the right position for the effort. Since saying, “get your butt back against the tip of your seat and your chest down towards the handlebars” is too much of a mouthful mid-mountain, our instructions were brief, but effective. I’m sure any passerbyers who could hear Alison’s orders thought we were in the adult entertainment industry and not just a bunch of middle-aged women huffing our way up a hill.
4. Bike shorts are meant to be worn without undies
While the old ones had the tendency to feel like diaper with a load, the new ones are quite sleek and meant to fit snug. Layering them with your favorite cotton skivvies causes chafing. Plus, no one wears the liners on their own, so with a loose pair of shorts on top, it doesn’t really feel like you’re going commando. Believe me, you won’t want to be picking a wedgie while your wheel is just inches from a 20 foot drop off. I’m partial to the Zoic Navaeh Shorts and Liner, which, by the way, I WON at the clinic.
5. You’ll do it, hate it, then do it again
As a glutton for punishment, I’ve made myself learn a lot of new things in my later years. I was in my 20s when I first strapped on a snowboard. Ten years later, after I’d caught an edge for the last time, I learned to ski. I was 33 and couldn’t keep up with the 3-year-olds. As a grown-up woman, I’ve learned to kayak, paddle board, cross-country ski, hike a 14er, and mountain bike. Am I good at any of these things? No. I’m mostly terrible. I crash and I bleed and I’ve cried (and there was one particular tantrum I threw on the side of Vail Mountain that almost caused a divorce). But I do these things because I want Skinny Jeans to see me fall, get up, and try again. Because if I don’t, she won’t. And that’s enough for me to, literally, get back in the saddle.
To the moms who allow themselves to be uncertain, to hold onto a hand as it reaches to drag you off the ground. To the moms who get it wrong on the first (or seventh) try. To the moms who can’t keep up, gasp for air as they clutch their lungs. To all the moms who brush off the dirt and the doubt, the guilt and the guessing.
I know it doesn't feel cute.
I know it feels like you won't make it to the next turn, to the top, to tomorrow.
But this is temporary.
The burning in your legs, like the baby you're holding, the child you're consoling, the teen you're fighting, won't last.
And while the descent will allow you to regain your breath, it will never be as rewarding as climbing to the top.
This adventure fits: Women looking for a boost of confidence and who aren’t afraid of a skinned elbow or two.
What to do:
Skiing, biking, rafting, and fishing camps for "real women and girls who want to focus on skiing and/or biking and not filet mignon and yoga." Participants learn from hand-picked coaches who are champions in their respective sports and certified either nationally or by Rippin Chix. "Be prepared for some foul language and loads of funny terminology. We train our coaches in our baby step methodologies, which enables even the most timid gal to conquer her fears."
COLORADO MAMAS: Check out the Eagle Outside Festival June 1-4 where you can demo a bike and take a Rippin Chix Skills and/or Singletrack Camp. I've demoed bikes and have taken both the skills and singletrack camps--totally worth it! When you're done riding, be sure to hit up the Bonfire Block Party on June 1 and 2 with 9 bands, 2 stages, Bonfire beer, food vendors, and a bike valet--everything you need to forget about the aches and bruises from your ride.
And, in case you missed it, last week I was over at BLUNTmoms talking about food allergies.
Ah, adventures in parenting!
Some adventures don’t take you to tropical places where tiny umbrellas top tumblers filled with frozen booze and the sand gets stuck in the sides of your suitcase. Some adventures we don’t seek; instead, they come straight at us, like a frightening game of chicken. Sometimes, the bullet you are trying to dodge, the one headed straight for your heart, is parenthood. And it can be hardcore AF.
Seriously, if there was a party to celebrate badassery, parenthood would be the guest of honor, carelessly blowing smoke rings and waving a giant middle finger while all the other so-called daredevils held its beer.
For some of us, it’s simply the adventure of parenthood itself, the exhilarating highs and the stomach-dropping lows, like a roller-coaster you willingly get on--hands up, smiling for the camera--but midway though makes you so dizzy you can't wait for it to end. For some, it’s the curve balls thrown at the last minute, the snap of a bone, the projectile vomit, the, “He did what on the playground?”
And, for others, the adventure takes place in what feels like a whole different planet--the sterile, curtain-drawn sections of the ER or stuffy waiting rooms with shitty magazines. These types adventures last long after the initial jolt and well into the descent. They hide like a snake burrowing just inches under the soil where you step; a reminder that you'll never again casually hop from one rock to the other.
For me, this adventure has to do with food allergies, something I’d once known nothing of but now desperately seek to understand. And while this adventure has taken us to hospitals and specialists and pharmacies, it’s also taken me, as a mom, to peaks (e.g., finding an egg-free cookie recipe that actually works at high altitude) and valleys (jamming an epi-pen into a small thigh) and all the detours of annoyance and anger and advocacy in between.
For the mamas who take these special adventures with me, who wind around this kind of hairpin turn, I share my thoughts about having a child with food allergies at Blunt Moms and hope to help others understand why this adventure is no joke. My apologies in advance if it's, well, pretty blunt.
Moms are supposed to love a lot of things. It starts with pregnancy when every annoyance/ache/ailment must be gently swaddled in readily available euphemisms.
No, I’m not drenched in sweat from lugging around an extra 50 pounds all day. I’m a glowing goddess.
No, that’s not indigestion. That’s the miracle of life bubbling up inside me.
No, those aren’t stretch marks. Those are the brush strokes of an artist creating a masterpiece.
Then, we are supposed to love having a newborn. The sleepless nights (we are bonding!). The sore boobs (it’s what’s best!). The miniature diapers filled with mustard-colored poop (look how cute!).
For a brief moment, during the toddler years, we are allowed to push the rose-colored glasses up next to the messy buns on top of our heads and take a breather from the lovefest. As our sweet babies turn into tantrum-throwing tyrants, we trade in our terms of endearment for jokes and jabs that all revolve around their notorious reputation.
Talk about the Terrible Twos!
Looks like you’ve got a threenager on your hands!
To be fair, if people were talking that kind of trash about me behind my back, I’d act like an asshole, too.
Then, maybe to make up for the previous years, we double-down just before kindergarten.
My baby is growing up so fast!
Or, the ultimate: One day you'll put them down and never pick them up again.
But, above all else, above the love of the first macaroni necklace made for Mother’s Day, above the Anne Gedde-inspired photos of our sleeping newborns made to look like acorns or peas or contortionists, above our affinity for high-waisted yoga pants and sensible shoes, every mom must love Disney.
And, damn, do they.
A trip to Disney starts out like a fairy tale romance. There's first the nostalgia; the memory of dancing alongside a thick-glassed television set as Sleeping Beauty looped on the brand-new VCR and mom made spinach dip in a pumpernickel bread bowl. Then, there's the music. How every lyric from “Kiss the Girl” can be accessed on autopilot, played on repeat like the soundtrack for a dinner by candlelight. There's the slightly disturbing fantasy of finding a prince or, in my case, a Beast to love. And there's our own first visits to Disney. The excitement. The magic. Whatever it is, this love runs so deep that moms everywhere take to planning a trip to Disney like they do a wedding.
They book the trip years in advance, create spreadsheets to compare hotels, and scour the internet for deals on everything from meal plans to Mickey Mouse ears. They meticulously plot out the rides, maximizing every moment, eliminating those that are too scary or too babyish. They coordinate the outfits with clever quotes screen printed in glitter across the chest. Disney Dad. Mama Mouse. Park Hop Til You Drop. They make reservations at the Castle for tea and appointments at the salon for tiaras. They download the app. They order the bands. They pack the signature book with the matching pen. And they do this all while humming "It’s a Small World" as if nothing at all could ever go wrong and their planning and packing will be rewarded with real-life pixie dust that will erase the ear infection/flu/hand foot and mouth disease that has plagued the household and, come hell or high water, catapult everyone to a Whole New World.
But I don’t love Disney.
There. I said it.
Don’t get me wrong. Moms who do are nothing short of saints. I, however, tend to find myself on the other end of the spectrum. I wanted nothing to do with that 90-year-old mouse with the perma-grin and freakishly large hands, but since Skinny Jeans was going through a mad princess phase (thanks Frozen), I knew I couldn’t avoid Disney forever. So, when I was first exposed to the world of Disney as a parent, I didn't choose the wedding, I chose to elope and booked a cruise instead.
Here’s the deal: There are no shortages of places you can go to find tons of information on a Disney Cruise. There are even travel agents who specifically deal with this type of thing. I’m not going to pretend I know much of anything about sailing the high seas or character greetings or whatever the hell that app is where you're supposed to sign up to stand in lines for the rides. There are people who literally live for this stuff. I am not one of those people, so I completely understand if this is where you stop reading and go find someone credible.
But, if you're still with me, here's what I will share:
The top 10 things I learned from my experience as a lazy, anti-Disney, sort-of-terrified of boats mom on a Disney Cruise ship with a preschooler
10. Click to Book
For me, there was no obsessing or planning when it came to booking this trip. I just took a wad of money, threw it at my computer screen, clicked on a few things and--viola!--my Disney Cruise was booked. I did all my booking through Costco so I could get a $250 gift card and buy all the enormous tubs of cheeseballs I wanted. I figured that if I was going to allow that marketing monster of a mouse to feed on my soul for six days out on the open seas, I was going to need something to fill it back up when I got home, and cheeseballs seemed like they would do the trick. In a few quick clicks, I booked a stateroom that came with shows, themed deck parties, character experiences, all meals, snacks, beverages (except alcohol), and the youth clubs. Excursions were extra. And there was other crap you could buy, but we didn’t.
9. Five Nights is More Than Enough
We booked a 5-night Western Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Wonder, a 83,000-ton vessel with 875 staterooms and 11 decks. We departed from Miami and docked in Cozumel and Disney’s own island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay, before heading back to Miami. This was plenty of time to spend out at sea (read: stuck on the ship envisioning how it will all go down like the Titanic and how not even one single guy on the ship looks like Leo) and to do the gimmicky stuff at the ports. While we had fun on land (especially when we could get away from everyone on the ship), I quickly realized that this type of cruise is not a cultural experience, unless you count it as a study in over-indulgent Americana. You won’t have enough time to truly explore the places where the ship docks or immerse yourself in local life, but that’s not really the point of a cruise, is it?
8. Get a Room with a View
We opted for an ocean view room that had a large porthole window. Sleeping 3 with 214 sq. feet, it was surprisingly big from what I’d heard staterooms could be. On one side, there was a pull-out couch in a little living room section with a flat-screen and, on the other, a queen-sized bed. A heavy curtain separated the two, which was great for when Skinny Jeans wanted to nap on the couch and we wanted to drink, I mean, relax in bed. The bathroom was tiny (and perpetually smelled like pee) but we had plenty of storage space for all of our stuff. (An actual tip: I brought an over the door shoe organizer to hang in the closet to put things like sunglasses, sunscreen, flip flops, etc.)
7. You’ll Eat With Strangers
You’re going to be assigned a location and seating for dinner every night. We were paired with another family of three. They were lovely. We were lucky. I’m sure some pairings don’t quite work out that way, so be prepared to dread dinner and play some serious rock-paper-scissors with your spouse to see who has to sit by Dad Jokes or the extra enthusiastic Mouse Mom. I will say that the food at dinner was always great and Disney does a dynamite job at accommodating for food allergies (an added adventure when traveling with Skinny Jeans and Peter).
6. The Kids Club is Legit
This will be one of the main reasons you book a Disney Cruise, and it does not disappoint. At the first sign of bulking, a cast member is there to engage with your child and get them interested in something fun. And, for parents, there are portable phones on the ship that allow the kids club to call with any issues. There was even a night when Belle from Beauty and the Beast came to the club and read the kids a bedtime story. Skinny Jeans still talks about how cool that was.
5. Castaway Cay Reminded Me of The Truman Show
After the captain of our ship made several attempts to dock in the choppy waters (and I again pictured the ship sinking and everyone drowning or being eaten by sharks), we finally got to Castaway Cay, Disney’s own island in the Bahamas. Void of anything authentic, it felt a lot like being on a movie set. Even weirder was that every person we met on the island also worked on the ship, except only they wore Hawaiian shirts on the island. Dying to stretch our legs a bit, Peter and I ran a very cheesy 5k while Skinny Jeans went to the sandy kids club. Since it was somewhat cold and windy, we didn’t venture into the ocean. We basically just walked around, ate BBQ, and wondered who was watching us on T.V.
4. Swimming with Dolphins is Will Make You Feel Like a Horrible Human but You’ll Do It Anyway
As the droves of people from our ship took buses out to the beautiful Chankanaab National Reef Park, I hated knowing the dolphins would be forced to perform, day after day, from one obnoxious tourist to the next at the nearby Dolphin Discovery. I felt horrible knowing that those big, beautiful animals were confined to just a slice of the vast ocean purely for our entertainment. I almost cancelled the reservation twice. And yet...it was a highlight of our adventure. Besides, Skinny Jeans got to get up close to a majestic creature, connect to nature, and build a deep appreciation for wildlife that she will likely one day take and use to chain herself to trees and protest zoos, so we’re even.
3. Alcohol Not Included
Make no mistake: this is not a booze cruise. If you want alcohol to drown out the ongoing Disney soundtrack playing at every turn, you’re going to need to buy it. So, even though you can stuff your face all day long with Disney delights and unlimited refills of sugary soda, plan to throw down on a few cocktails.
2. Swim with Caution
We were warned that the pools on the ship would be minuscule, so I wasn’t shocked to see that they were approximately the size of my dining room table. As sun-screened children poured into the shallow waters, barely enough room to kick or splash, I watched the liquid turn from clear to cloudy in a matter of minutes. Periodically, the pools were drained and refilled with fresh water. Once the kids' pool was drained for an unknown reason (my money’s on poop) and another time it was drained because someone dropped glass. While we tried our hardest to pull Skinny Jeans away from the murky mess, she ended up bopping around, waist-deep, on more than one occasion. While I don’t have concrete proof, I’m pretty sure the pool was the reason Skinny Jeans spent the last day on the ship in the medical center and sent home with a bottle of penicillin.
1. Your Kids Will Love It
No one has it dialed in for kids more than Disney. With every squirt of ketchup made into a Mickey Mouse head for children to dip, every Broadway-caliber show sure to dazzle, and every activity to entertain even the grumpiest of kids, Disney does it right. The service is second to none, and the people pretend to like your kids no matter what God-awful thing they're doing. Our dinner servers even went as far as to bring our last night's 5-course meal to our room when Skinny Jeans was too sick to leave. Love it or hate it, you can’t argue with the fact that your kids are guaranteed a good time. And, thus, the vicious cycle of Disney love will live on.
This place fits: Families looking for an introduction to Disney without all the hassle.
Where to Stay: Prior to the cruise, we stayed at the Hotel Colonnade Coral Gables, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Coral Gables. Our cruise ship was Disney’s Wonder
Where to Eat: Everywhere. You can literally eat everywhere.
What to Do:
On the ship, we met the characters from Frozen, attended the pirate themed deck party, and went to all the evening shows. With movie theaters, dance clubs, and a menu of activities to choose from each day, you'll never run out of things to do.
In Cozumel, we did the Dolphin Discovery at Chankanaab National Reef Park. After hanging with the dolphins, we explored the park, met some seals and crocadlies, and did a little snorkeling.
At Castaway Cay, we ran the 5k, explored the entire island by foot, and lounged around the beach.
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