Name: Blake Cotton
Child(ren) name and age: Ellis (3) Stella (1)
Where are you from: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Favorite Thing/Memory about Fit4Mom: Joining back in January of 2016! Ellis was about 8 months old and there were a few other moms there with their little ones the exact same age as Ellis. We are all still Fit4Mommers and we are all still friends and so are our little ones. It was meant to be!
Favorite Exercise: Squats and cool down ;)
Favorite Mom-me time of the day: I love reading books with my little ones. I will never get sick of them bringing me books and climbing into my lap to read to them. Readers are Leaders!
What motivates you to exercise: My kids and the strong, encouraging women around me.
How has FIT4MOM changed your life? I have met some of the most amazing women that have become my momma tribe here in the city! Women that I can count on to support and encourage me. I love our growing tribe and how we always rally around each other. These are the days!
Piece of advice for new moms: Join FitforMom - do it! Stick with it! Give yourself grace at every workout because the fact that you showed up is a WIN! and lets face it- you can do anything for 30 more seconds because you are a mom!
The holidays are busy and it is sometimes hard to fit in a workout! Here are some of my favorite moves to get in a full body workout in under 30 minutes!
3 minute warm up
High Knees – 1 minute
Squats – 20 reps ( Add on alternating rear leg lifts the 2nd time through)
Plank – 1 minute
Speed Skaters – 1 minute
Bicep curls – 2o reps – all the way up, all the way down
Bicycles – 1 minute
Jumping Jacks – 1 minute
Seated row – 2o single reps, 20 pulsing reps
Bird Dogs – 1 minute
Stretch and SMILE!
It's Christmas morning. You're busy opening presents and enjoying taking in all the Christmas morning moments. You realize you don't have anything to take to your family/friend gathering! No need to panic! Grab some pretzels and a handful of that Christmas candy and follow the below recipe to create a new favorite.
It’s a recipe that I found when needing something easy given my busy Mom life. My daughter Zoë likes to help and my husband LOVES them!
Rolo Pretzel Delights
1 bag Snyder’s Snaps Pretzels
1 bag Rolos
Pecans or M & M’s
1.) Preheat oven to 250 degrees
2.) Line cookie sheet with parchment
3.) Place rows of pretzels on the cookie sheet and top with an unwrapped Rolo
4.) Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until Rolo begins to soften (gets shiny)
5.) Remove from oven and immediately top with a Pecan, M&M or another Pretzel, pushing the Rolo down.
Let cool and enjoy
The Weber Family Cookie Traditions
I love to bake and love to eat what I bake. The holidays are a perfect time to do both, hopefully more baking and sharing than baking and eating, but we can’t all be perfect. The first recipe, Thumbprints, has been in my life since I can remember. I no longer need the cookbook to make them, and have found out that like everything, they taste way better with butter than the margarine and shortening my mom’s 1980’s cookbook calls for.
The second recipe is new to our family traditions since my mom brought pre-made cookies to decorate to our second holiday celebration with my oldest 3 years ago. I’m pretty sure I am still cleaning up sprinkles from that decorating party today.
Finally, no cookie is complete without even more added sugar. My grandma taught me this icing when I was little with no recipe. Just dump and see. I tried to approximate for you, but it may take some trial and error to get right.
I hope you enjoy baking and making messes with your little ones as much as I do with mine. Standing on a chair baking with my Grandma, Mom, and now my babies; teaching my husband these recipes our first Christmas together; and passing out homemade cookies to our neighbors are some of my favorite holiday memories.
Baking Notes: I’m allergic to diary and my sister is gluten free. The Thumbprint cookies work really well with Bob’s Red Mill 1to1 Gluten Free Flour, just let them cool on the cookie sheet before moving them. Both recipes work well with Earth’s Best Soy Free Butter-Like spread (no need to soften). The sugar cookies taste the same with dairy free cream cheese (or sour cream in a pinch). For the icing I prefer almond milk, but any non-dairy milk would work just fine. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a homemade gluten free sugar cookie recipe that doesn’t fall apart, but the box mixes have always worked well for us!
Betty Crocker Cookbook c. 1980, with modifications
¼ C. packed brown sugar
½ C. butter, softened
1 egg, separated
½ t vanilla
1 C flour
¼ t salt
1 C chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 350F. Mix brown sugar, butter, egg yolk and vanilla. Mix in flour and salt just until dough holds together. Shape dough into 1 inch balls.
In a small bowl, beat egg white slightly. Dip each ball into egg white the roll in chopped walnuts. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet and press thumb deeply in the center of each cookie, creating a bowl-like shape. Bake until light brown, 8 to 9 minutes.
Immediately remove from cookie sheet, pressing thumb into each cookie again as needed to keep shape. Cool. Fill thumbprints with topping of your choice. Jelly is traditional. Chocolate ganache is delicious. The quick icing recipe included is the Weber favorite.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies if you can actually keep the little ones to 1 inch cookies!
Glazed Butter Cookies
The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, with better icing ;)
2 ½ C flour
¾ C sugar
¼ t salt
1 C butter, softened
2 T cream cheese
2 t vanilla
Mix flour, sugar, and salt at a low speed until combined. Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to mix until the mixture looks crubly and slightly wet, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Beat in cream cheese and vanilla until dough begins to form large clumps.
Knead dough into a large mass, about 1 to 3 turns. Divide into 2 pieces and shape into disks. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is firm, 30 - 60 minutes.
Heat oven to 375F. Work with one piece of dough at a time. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface to ⅛ inch thickness. Cut desired shapes with floured cookie cutters and place onto cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through.
Cool on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature. Ice with favorite icing, like the easy one included!
Makes about 3 dozen cutouts depending on size.
Easy Cookie Icing
Thanks to my no nonsense Grandmas!
2 C powdered sugar
4 T milk
Put powdered sugar into a small bowl. Mix in milk 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture reaches desired consistency. Color with food coloring in small batches.
Icing should be runny but firm enough to say on the cookie. Will slowly drop off a spoon to fill the Thumbprint Cookies and pipe through a small hole cut in a zip top bag to ice the sugar cookies.
Check out the then and now pictures!
The holidays are about balance. Check out the included bonus workout catered to holiday baking!
One of our favorite holiday traditions is our Christmas Countdown. I saved the girls’ baby socks and hung them on twine attached to a white canvas. Each sock contains a holiday-themed treat or activity. Treats are a piece of chocolate or little toy. Activities range from “make hot cocoa” to “visit zoo lights”. As the girls are getting older, we try to balance the amount of giving and receiving throughout the month. It’s a fun way to countdown to Christmas and the girls love peeking in the sock each morning! ️
One of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is to drive around looking at lights!! We celebrate Christmas in our home, and lights, both inside and out, are a huge part of the wonder and magic of our tradition. There are so many ways to experience bright, fun lights, and what I’ve discovered is that my kids are happy to see lights any time, any place. So our new tradition has become driving around our neighborhood almost every evening so see what festive decor our neighbors have come up with! This picture is their current favorite house.
Zoo lights are awesome, the Morton Arboretum’s Illuminations Show is incredible, but the simple wonder of neighborhood lights does the trick, and I’m so happy to see their faces light up with exclamations of excitement just as brightly as these twinklers here when they see them out the windows .
Name: Amanda Seibert
Child(ren) name and age: Elijah 2
Where are you from: I am a military brat that moved around a ton but I consider Pennsylvania home.
Favorite Thing/Memory about Fit4Mom: This is the first workout I have ever stuck with for more than 1 week. I actually LIKE working out now!! I also love that my son learns songs from Strides and loves to go play with the other kids. I love seeing him get out my exercise band to do his own workouts at home. :)
Favorite Exercise: I love any type of core workout, especially V sits.
Favorite Mom-me time of the day: My morning tea, devotion and day planning before my son wakes up. (I also love my Saturday morning Body Back time!!)
What motivates you to exercise: Knowing how hard I worked to get to this point, I can't stop now!
How has FIT4MOM changed your life? It actually made me a better mom that doesn't stress as much. I use to stress over what my toddler ate and if he was eating the right foods- ALL THE TIME! Since Body Back I now only eat healthy options and only offer him healthy food. And to my surprise he is following my example, he actually loves some raw vegetables! I also love how being "healthy" spilled into other parts of my life, I now floss daily, have more energy and am okay with saying "no" to things that are draining.
Piece of advice for new moms: Kuddos to you for working out! I wish I would have started exercising right away and not waited 2 years to lose the weight. Some days are exhausting (okay most day are exhausting) but lean on your village for emotional, mental or physical support. Your problem and issues are never "too small" to share with another mom! And ALWAYS make time for self-care: devotions, quiet time, caffeine or working out - whatever makes you happy and gives you energy!
By now you know that FIT4MOM Chicago is so much more than an exercise class. In addition to the multiple classes we offer, Our Village Playgroups are an amazing group of supportive moms. Of course, all great groups must have a leader!
Our Playgroup Captains are an integral part of our village. They not only are a welcoming face to our classes, they also plan monthly crafts, stay and plays, outside of class play dates and some amazing Mom's Nights. The village wouldn't be the village without them! So, let’s get to know these amazing mamas a little better. Let us introduce to you Holly, Christine, Bailey, Sarah, Megan, Katy and Erin. Please take the time to read further about their experiences as Playgroup Captains and don’t forget to let them know you appreciate all they do! Thanks ladies!
Side Note! You do NOT have to be a member of FIT4MOM to join the FIT4MOM Our Village Weekly Playgroup. All moms are welcome! This is a FREE group!
Name: Holly VanDalsen
Kiddos: Maximus VanDalsen
Favorite thing about Playgroup: My favorite thing about playgroup captain is crafts. Seeing the older kids being creative and being able to include our youngest of village babies is the best.
Favorite Mom’s Night Out (MNO): so hard to pick just one because each one has some top-notch memories. If you have not ever made it to a mom’s night out yet do it! The paddle boarding and dock restaurant MNO was a blast. Paddle boarding since I had never done it before was a blast. There is also something to be said about being outside on the beach at night with music and other moms, it was a blast. Excited for it to continue to be an annual MNO.
Favorite FIT4MOM Memory: My favorite fit4mom memory once again so hard to pick just one! Overall, I just am so thankful for the kindness and community of this village. My husband and I moved here in May and I knew exactly one person in Chicago. We have no family here and all of you have quickly become great friends and some my new family. I was a FIT4MOM member in Michigan before we moved and was confident knowing I would meet moms at the Chicago franchise but it exceeded more than I could have ever dreamed of. From the bottom of my heart I am so thankful for everyone in this village you mommas help make memories on the daily and I’m so blessed to know you all.
Name: Christine Mishoulam
Kiddos: Two sons Senna age 3 and Lucca 11 months
Favorite thing about Playgroup: My favorite thing about playgroup is no matter how bad of a morning I've had at home trying to get out the door, my mom friends and their kiddos always make me feel normal and appreciated.
Favorite Mom’s Night Out (MNO): I have unfortunately not been to as nearly as many as I would have liked...but any time involving drinks and time with my girlfriends is priceless.
Favorite FIT4MOM memory: One of my favorite memories of FIT4MOM is how easy it was to fit in and how welcoming the moms were. I realized early on once I started attending that I had struck gold and that I was going to survive being a stay at home mom. ;)
Name: Bailey Pindral
Kiddos: Isabela 22 months, Mackenzie 8 weeks
Favorite thing about Playgroup: Bringing together moms and making friends and watching all the kids interact together!
Favorite Mom's night out: Board and Brush
Favorite FIT4MOM memory: watching my daughter run up to her friends at Stroller Strides and give them a hug after being gone on maternity leave!
Name: Sarah Ward
Kiddos: Jimmy (age 21 mos)
Favorite thing about Playgroup: I love staying after class watching the kids learn and interact with each other as they grow.
Favorite Mom’s Night Out (MNO): I love all Mom's nights out! We need them and I always leave feeling closer to other moms and looking forward to the next night out!
Favorite FIT4MOM memory: Just after starting with Fit4mom Jimmy was diagnosed with food allergies, all the instructors and other moms were so wonderful and supportive. I really felt like part of the village.
Name: Megan Roeseler
Kiddos: Lura- 13 months
Favorite thing about Playgroup: I like watching the kids interact with each other. It is fun for my daughter to interact with kids her age, but also learn skills from the kids a bit older than her. I like that usually my daughter is worn out by the end and will nap much better afterwards!!!!
Favorite Mom’s Night Out (MNO): I like the Tuscan Wine bar or Goat Yoga!
Favorite FIT4MOM memory: I think my favorite memory is when I first joined back in January 2018 when my daughter was 3 months. I really needed an outlet and I found other mom's groups I've tried to be really judgmental and not welcoming, so I was pleasantly surprised how warm and welcome I felt entering into the village. I work part time too, so I really love getting to be able to do something for myself without feeling like I'm not spending enough time with my kid.
Name: Katy Bode
Kiddos: Bec Bode
Favorite thing about Playgroup: I love seeing the kiddos (and moms) smile with new activities. This summer’s water fun water party stay n' play & craft was one of my favorites. I love coordinating with the Instructors specialty class so that the Mom's get a special class and the kiddos get a coordinating special play time after. Our water party and craft was after a fun water class with baby pools, water drippers and making boats with some fun music playing. The kiddos were running around giggling, happy and wet and moms were happily chatting away and getting in on the fun :) The fire house play group was pretty great too, so many moms, dads and kids came out for it.
Favorite Mom’s Night Out (MNO): I don't think I can pick a favorite I look forward to our monthly MMO (Mom's Morning Out) Brunch that has been a hit. It is
so great to take a little bit out of the weekend for ourselves and enjoy some kid free time to chat.
Favorite FIT4MOM memory: During a Stroller Strides class a few days before Thanksgiving 2017 while doing squats and tickle toes Bec said his first word "Momma" and kept repeating it the rest of class. A moment I will never forget.
Name: Erin Kolbe
Kiddos: Kyler (8) Kennedy (3)
Favorite thing about Playgroup: My fav thing about the playgroup is watching the kiddos interact and the moms bond over the interactions. The unity it brings is incredible.
Favorite Mom’s Night Out (MNO): My fav MNO has been our mani/pedi nights. We have always had an amazing turn out. It’s so fun to watch the moms connect as women along with being moms. That support is just so important for us all.
Favorite FIT4MOM memory: My fav Fit4Mom memory is hard to place. I love when I have watched other moms connect and form friendships outside of class :-)
Name: Ali Otte
Child(ren) name and age: Ryan 7.5 months
Where are you from: Skokie
Favorite Thing/Memory about Fit4Mom: I love all things Fit4Mom from classes to after class play mini groups. But I think my favorite memory or thing about Fit4Mom would be MNO. I love getting together with all the moms. I loved going to the Warbler as well as the most recent night out at the Pump and Dump show and then going out afterwards. I also loved art and crafts for my first mothers day and Ryan made me a foot flower pot. It was her first art project so this will be saved for sure.
Favorite Exercise: Well anyone who knows me, knows push ups are my least favorite but when i'm with Nicole down by the lake of course doing bands and when I am with Amy I am always down for a dance moment.
Favorite Mom-me time of the day: After Ryan goes to bed, just laying in my bed watching my shows with some hot tea.
What motivates you to exercise: I'm very into sports and grew up always being active. I want my daughter to be the same way and for her to hopefully get the same feeling I got when I played sports.
How has FIT4MOM changed your life? It has introduced me to the most amazing women who I am so proud to call friends and some of them even family.
Piece of advice for new moms: Don't worry about not being in the best shape, this village is so helpful and uplifting that even if you come by yourself for the first time.. Which I did.. it will be so easy to make at least 1 friend but trust me you will come out with so many more than that. This is truly one aspiring, helpful and caring village.
Name: Lauren Schlesselman
Child(ren) name and age: JB age 11 months
Where are you from: Born and Raised in Chicago!
Favorite Thing/Memory about Fit4Mom: I love the beautiful setting of Evanston’s Lake Front! There is something so magical about bringing your baby to a gorgeous place! Add in new mom friends and a wonderful workout! Stroller Strides is the best!
Favorite Exercise: Tricep dips and pushups! They are hard and a total work in progress, but I always feel strong after!
Favorite Mom-me time of the day:
NAP time! I actually take a nap or rest when my baby naps! It’s been the best piece of advice that I have taken very seriously! We are down to one nap a day and on the go so much. So taking a moment every day to just take a deep breath or a snooze is amazing! Naps wont last forever! So I am taking advantage!!!
What motivates you to exercise: Keeping up with my baby and being a happier Mommy! Knowing my baby will benefit from socializing is the cherry on top!
How has FIT4MOM changed your life? I have lost almost 30lbs since starting Stroller Strides in May! I won a contest for a free Month and I have been hooked ever since! I had a hard time getting pregnant and staying pregnant so I was on partial bed rest for a long time! Going from resting and building a baby inside me to taking care of a newborn was a shock to my system! Add in baby health issues and it was a-lot of stress! Having a place to go every day where I could chat with other moms, get my health, strength and body back at my own pace has been the best!
Piece of advice for new moms: Less is more! If something doesn’t get done around the house its ok! If you can’t get out of the house that day- its ok! Your baby will never need you more than he or she does right now! Take advantage of every moment to bask in the beauty of what your love created! The laundry will wait (for a minute)!
(Before pics on the right... current pics on the left!!)
Name: Katy McCullough
Child(ren) name and age: Zoë, 9 months
Where are you from: Grand Rapids, MI
Favorite Thing/Memory about Fit4Mom: French Fry Fridays!
Favorite Exercise: Any exercise that allows me to tickle my sweet babe’s toes. She LOVES it!
Favorite Mom-me time of the day: A glass of wine at the end of a long day.
What motivates you to exercise: I exercise to be an example of a healthy and strong woman for my daughter.
How has FIT4MOM changed your life? FIT4MOM has helped me to be healthy and make time for myself, but more importantly has provided me with a community, a village. I’ve met so many amazing mamas who inspire and support me in all things which I am beyond grateful for!
Piece of advice for new moms: Be kind to yourself!
Teaches: Body Back (Mount Prospect and Glenview) and will start Stroller Strides in Mount Prospect once we are indoors this fall!
Hometown: Arlington Heights, IL
Mom to: Emme, 3 years old
How did you first get introduced to FIT4MOM/Stroller Strides?
My best friend had been attending for about a year when I joined and she had always encouraged me to try it out
What made you want to become an instructor?
After I had my daughter I needed something to give structure to my day and provide some adult interaction along with something I felt was helping me.
I found all of this in Stroller Strides and then later in Body Back once she got older.
I became an instructor because I wanted to be able to help other moms be able to get out, socialize, and learn from eachother all while getting a great workout and taking care of themselves.
What did you do before becoming an instructor?
I worked as a nurse practitioner specializing in liver disease.
What is your favorite part of instructing? Favorite song/exercise?
Helping others leave all their stress, frustration and worry from the day behind and leave feeling better physically and mentally.
Song/exercise- Old McDonald when the kids get to pick an animal paired up with wall sits and bicep curls.
What is your favorite non-kid workout song that gets you moving?
Remind me to Forget by Kygo & Miguel
Name: Kirsten LoRusso
Child(ren) name and age: Nicholas, 2 1/2
Where are you from: Mount Prospect, IL
Favorite Thing/Memory about Fit4Mom: When I work out with Fit4Mom, I get a great workout and my son gets to have fun at the park and play dates afterward. It’s a wonderful way to spend a morning!
Favorite Exercise: Squat/leg lift progression on the curb. Burns so good!
Favorite Mom-me time of the day: I joked with a friend once that I had to go back to work to have some time for myself - but it’s kind of true! I travel for work, and at some point during my trip I take the time to exercise, get a manicure, or simply enjoy not having dishes or laundry to do.
What motivates you to exercise: I want to be able to keep up with my son.
How has FIT4MOM changed your life? I met an amazing group of moms who I am inspired and supported by every time we work out. Going to Stroller Strides is always something I look forward to and, as busy as life can get, I never regret taking the time to go to class.
Piece of advice for new moms: Worry less, enjoy more.
Summer is here. You may be feeling a sense of relief from school activities and projects. Along with that relief, however, may come a sense of anxiety about how you will keep the children entertained so they don’t destroy your home or each other! 😉 Do not fret! We’ve asked our FIT4MOM Village for their top recommendations to keep the kiddos busy this summer and here is what we’ve come up with!
#1 - Splash pads - Sure to wear out the little ones! Kids love water and we’ve put together a list of our favorite splash pads!
Little Bear Park
Or check out this list of Chicago’s top Splash Pads! http://redtri.com/chicago/h2-oh-7-splash-pads-to-soak-up/
#2 - Stroller Strides – Well, of course! Get your workout in and bring your junior workout buddies along! First class is always free! See our full schedule and locations of FIT4MOM offerings here: https://chicago.fit4mom.com/
#3 – Zoo – From Lincoln Park to Brookfield, let’s just admit we enjoy the zoo as much as our kiddos! There are many places to check out animals in the Chicago area! See a list of some of the top recommendations here: https://www.mommynearest.com/edition/chicago/article/9-places-to-see-animals-in-the-chicago-area
Other animal loving suggestions:
Wildwood Nature Center – FREE! (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wildwoodnature-Center/110383722359221?fref=gc&dti=128426023975524&hc_location=ufi)
Wagner Farm (https://www.facebook.com/HistoricWF/ )
#4 - Lincoln Park petting zoo – Free!! Kids will really get a kick out of seeing and petting the farm animals! Check out more about Lincoln Park Farm in the Zoo here: https://www.lpzoo.org/exhibit/farm-zoo
And check out more petting zoos in the Chicago area here: http://redtri.com/chicago/barn-it-7-animal-farms-to-visit-now/
#5 - Botanic gardens – Beautiful! A neat experience for the kids all around! Admission is free (parking is not)!
Learn more about what’s in bloom at the Chicago Botanic Garden here: https://www.chicagobotanic.org/visit
#6 - Community pools – WATER! Again, nothing more fun in the summertime than swimming at the pool! Maybe you have a favorite local pool to visit. If not, check out this kid-friendly list of water-park style pools:
#7 - Picnic at your favorite playground – Pack the kids’ favorite sandwiches and snacks and head off to the park for a morning of fun and then back home for naptime!
#8 - Maggie Daley Park – Coolest. Place. Ever. Free admission! Some activities do have a fee. Learn more about this amazing park here: http://maggiedaleypark.com/
#9 - Morton Arboretum – So much going on! From music in the park to perfecting your gardening skills! There is an admission fee but so much to offer!
Learn more about the events and offerings at the Morton Arboretum here: http://www.mortonarb.org/
#10 - Adler Planetarium – The Planetarium is sure to wow the kids and be a seriously educational experience for all! A lot to offer for your curious astronomer!
Check out more about their programs and general information here: https://www.adlerplanetarium.org/#7pymLpUjxhKZlE3b.97
Some other suggestions from our Village mamas include:
Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview: http://www.kohlchildrensmuseum.org/
Exploratorium in Skokie: https://www.exploritorium.org/
Bison Bluff in Schaumburg: http://www.parkfun.com/facilities/spring-valley/bison's-bluff
Water taxi: https://www.chicagowatertaxi.com/
We hope you enjoy exploring these amazing Chicagoland experiences and hope they do the job of keeping the kids entertained this summer. Have a happy and safe summer from all of us at FIT4MOM Chicago!
Name: Shea Almendarez
Child(ren) name and age: Jackson, 10 1/2 months
Where are you from: I grew up in Park Ridge, IL
Favorite Thing/Memory about Fit4Mom: Favorite memory of Fit4Mom is either working out along Lake Michigan on beautiful, sunny days at Diversey or the Play date at Scooter’s ice cream and the park.
Favorite Exercise: I love squats, wall sits and bicep curls.
Favorite Mom-me time of the day: My favorite Mom-me time of the day is when I teach yoga (twice/week) or take a class myself or when I get a pedicure!
What motivates you to exercise: I’ve always been active and have loved exercising. I was an Irish dancer for 10 years, was on the dance team in high school, and have run 11 half marathons. Exercise makes me feel good!
How has FIT4MOM changed your life? Fit4M has introduced me to a “village” of moms that are now my community. I look forward to going to class everyday!!
Piece of advice for new moms: My advice for new moms is to try to relax and have fun with your baby!! They can pick up on your mood and will be happier if you are. Take care of yourself!