Get Pumped

I go to the gym every chance I can get. Please don’t hate me.

It’s not so I can fit into these skintight pants (after all, my skintight pants are not designed to be skintight — it’s just that I love eating and hate the next size up!) or impress people with my big guns. It’s so that I can be clean and sane.

“I don’t know how you find time to go to the gym with three kids,” other moms often tell me. Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! How the heck else am I supposed to get a shower?

Now for people without kids, I suppose the 15 minutes of dressing and packing for the gym might be a hassle. It might be inconvenient to spend an hour working out and follow that up with a shower in a crowded, sometimes dirty locker room. But consider how inconvenient, crowded and dirty your shower would be with three kids in it. Yeah.

Don’t get me wrong; there is a place for screaming and pooping in the shower. It’s called Labor and Delivery. It should not be one’s daily ritual. Imagine, fellow moms, applying mascara and blow-drying your hair undisturbed by the tugging, whining and brazen lipstick banditry of your little ones. Imagine, if you will, an hour of time in which you are moving your body without 35-pound barnacles encumbering your limbs, in which you are free to wander in thought without interruptions of “Make Jamesy stop lookin’ at me!” or “I’m so bored, Mommy,” or “Mommy, can we get Timbits?” (Timbits are my great weakness because they are cheap and delicious, and this question is always launched after a stressful day but before I have eaten. My children are very crafty.)

Once we’ve gotten the kids packed up and driven to the gym and dropped off in the playroom, that 90 minutes of workout and shower is an oasis in a day filled with chaos and noise. Treadmill time isn’t just exercise for my body; it’s a chance for my mind to put aside, for a few moments, the list of reasons (kept at the ready constantly) that we are not stopping for Timbits or going to EnergyPlex today. For that half-hour, I can focus on exactly how we’re going to get through the rest of the day on time and with all the equipment we need.

Weights are a time to problem-solve. Whether it’s what to do for Halloween costumes or how to get my hands on a few thou to fly to my brother’s wedding, a little pec flying and leg pressing usually helps me push through life’s little problems. (Also, being deep in thought helps me avoid seeing my back fat and bat wings in the omnipresent mirrors.)

Using my awesome mommy powers (you know, the same ones that allow me to see what my mischievous daughter is doing from two flights down, and to carry four times my body weight in kid stuff at any given time), I have managed to distill all my hygiene and beauty needs into a short half-hour. I shampoo on odd days and shave on even days, and I have to say that I don’t look awful for someone who has 15 minutes to apply makeup, blowdry and style her hair. And that is 15 minutes that you can bet I wouldn’t be getting if I showered at home. (At least not without lipstick on the walls and a baby stuck in the toilet.)

Yeah, the gym keeps me in good shape considering my three fairly-recently-born children and my amazing ability to make chips and Timbits vanish in mere seconds. I will tell you that I don’t mind seeing my triceps and obliques. But will you ever see me attending a weight-loss seminar at the Lulu store with the Stepford spinners? Probably not. “Eating clean” is all fine and well, but my fitness regimen is driven more by actually being clean.

And now that I’ve answered the question of why I go to the gym and however do I find time for it (HA!), I have a few questions for the other moms:

1.) How do you NOT have time for a kid-free shower?

2.) Do you get a shower? How do you get a shower? Why can’t I get a shower without driving 20 minutes to my gym??!

Bag of Tricks

Four years ago, when I was still a new mom, I had the most perfectly organized diaper bag imaginable. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place.

I had a miniature tin of diaper cream, a tube of lanolin that remained unopened until the day I rediscovered it last year, an adorable nursing-pad cozy which was replenished before each time I left the house, at least a day’s worth of diapers (just in case a grocery-shopping trip somehow turned into an overnight stay), a backup outfit, a backup backup outfit, and a pair of pajamas because heaven forbid my child should sleep in her clothes! There was also an emergency can of formula and an empty bottle in case the bottle of expressed milk ran out and I was run over by a truck, because that happens all the time and one wouldn’t want the baby to go hungry while the paramedics ran out for formula.

Of course, once Maddux was on solids, I always had a tin of Gerber puffs, several Mum-Mums and often a fresh banana squirrelled away in the side of the bag farthest away from the diapers. I had bottom wipes and face wipes in appropriate sections of the bag. And in one of the front pockets, a giant bottle of sanitizer stood at the ready.

A year passed, and the diaper count went from 12 to five. Once my second child was born, it was five diapers apiece. Things were squashed and moved around so that I could accommodate both my emergency bottle and formula and a sippy cup and a container of cheddar bunnies (which was wont to burst open and fill my once-tidy bag with delightful orangey crumbs).

The emergency pajamas were jettisoned to make room for a onesie and sleeper for James (now out of luck should he soil his outfit — he’d have to wear jammies to the market). At some point, Maddux’ spare outfit was pared down to a spare pair of pants.

The bottom wipes and face wipes were used with such abandon that they frequently ran out, resulting in the occasional face being swiped with a Pampers wipe and bottoms occasionally being washed with antibacterial Wet Ones. The fresh bananas were occasionally allowed to become not-so-fresh. And while there was a place for everything, not everything was in its place.

And then. Then I had a third baby. Like a once-austere neighborhood that’s crumbled over time and been overrun by porch furniture and vandals, my diaper bag has gone to the dogs. There are still five baby diapers in there. Somewhere. The last one I pulled out had to be shaken free of mystery crumbs. My attempts to pack Pull-Ups for James are usually hampered by the fact that the diaper bag is full of Happy Toy packaging and empty-but-for-crumbs sandwich bags and won’t zip shut. I wind up putting his Pull-Ups on top of the diaper bag, fully intending to clean the bag out at a traffic light, but instead forgetting about them and leaving them in some dusty corner of the car while I go wherever I’m going (where, invariably, James will poop himself).

I still have clothes for each kid. There’s a 3-month shirt (no sign of the matching pants) for my burly 1-year-old, a hoodie for James that might possibly fit Thomas, and until last week there was a pair of girls’ Pull-Ups in the size that fit Maddux when she was 2. (Please, please do not ask what happened to those Pull-Ups. I plead the fifth. A mother does what she has to when her 2-year-old poops his pants at the gym and refuses to wear a baby diaper.)

There are no wipes. Anywhere. My magical bag, which used to proffer anything and everything a mom could want, has turned on me and now swallows package after package of both bottom-cleaners and Wet Ones quite indiscriminately. What are they used for? No one knows, but Thomas was recently cleaned using a brown paper towel and water.

The sanitizer is a hot commodity when one has three kids, so it is saved only for those special occasions when I can actually, with the naked eye, see germs writhing on their hands. There is no formula, no bottle, no sippy cup. Perishable food has been verboten since the Sandwich Debacle of ’08 (we’re not sure if the sandwich itself was from ’08, but that’s when it was discovered). If ever we found ourselves stranded on the side of the road in the country and needed food, we would have to choose between a dusty, unsealed bag of pecans (always a great choice for the under-3 crowd, right?) and the inch or so of aforementioned mystery crumbs. I’m sure that when the cavalry arrived, they would find us shaking out those wadded-up “clean” diapers into our open mouths, trying to figure out whether the crumbs were from Cheerios, Gerber puffs or the Sandwich of Questionable Origins.

And they would click their tongues disapprovingly and think to themselves, “If only she knew how to pack a diaper bag!”