Kristine Willis Weizberg is a true mover and shaker. Not only has she danced, performed, taught and co-led community-based outreach projects throughout the United States and in over seven countries, she now travels full-time with her husband Reuven, a percussionist with The Lion King tour. As veteran road warriors, they’ve raised their daughters Liliana (6) and Ariela (2) in 74 cities, over the course of seven years — and counting.
The first time we met, The Lion King had opened that evening in New Orleans, and I was the newbie on the tour. Kristine had just returned from a maternity leave, and her weeks-old baby was snuggled into a carseat, dozing amidst the brass band and strobe-lit dance floor at the opening night party on Bourbon Street. This mama was proud, glowing, and a ball of energy. I was in awe of her ability to rally so quickly after birthing a second child. Soon, I’d come to learn that the vibrant, dynamic Kristine Weizberg rarely missed a party, and was often the one who closed it out.
Various cities, North America
Occupation: Mama and Traveler
As a full-time traveling mama, you must be honing this amazing ability to improvise with your kids in various environments. What “extra” mama challenges do you face, day to day?
I’ve experienced motherhood in an unorthodox way from the beginning. Reuven joined the The Lion King North American Tour when I was seven months pregnant and we left our home in New York City when Liliana was just two and a half weeks old.
Of course, there are the typical milestones that every parent experiences. But things get interesting when your newborn spits up all over the rental couch. Or as an inexperienced new mother, you carry your naked baby to the kitchen sink to give her a bath and she spurts yellow poo all over the white carpet of the apartment rental. Or when you try to intercept your crawler from ingesting crumbs or even dog hair left by previous occupants. When you have the excitement of moving into a gorgeous rental house with a spiral staircase, only to realize that you will somehow have to prevent your adventurous, newly-walking toddler from scaling the outside of the stairs and plummeting 3 stories down. Or having to launder sheets at 2 am because the rental only provided one set of sheets and your child was sick to her stomach that night. Also, potty training on an overnight 20 hour drive is an adventure in itself. We can laugh, now… but phew!
Would you recommend this intense travel to other mamas?
While it’s certainly not for every mama, for me, the tremendous benefits certainly outweigh all of that insanity. My kids have lived in more states in their little lives than most people see in a lifetime. They have observed wild moose and bear in Alaska, played with whales and dolphins in Hawaii, awoken to a sunrise over the Grand Canyon, witnessed the magic of Mass Ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, shared a private party with the Big Boss Mickey Mouse, and chatted with the legendary Carol Burnett. It’s surreal and I’m not sure they understand how unique and special this all is. It’s oddly normal to them. This is the only life they have known.
What’s been your best mama moment so far?
That first moment of holding each of my daughters is difficult to describe. Seeing the tears in Reu’s eyes and the overwhelming joy that we shared with the birth of our first daughter rocked my world. I was convinced that nothing could top that. However, witnessing the excitement and pride that Liliana had when she became a big sister reduced me to a teary puddle. She helped name her, which continues to make me well up when I think about it. She wanted to name her baby sister “I Love You,” because she loved her so much. “What would we do if we had to call her for dinner?” we asked. “‘I Love You, please come here!’ That would just be too long!” Luckily, Liliana agreed. We gave Ariela the middle name “Love” instead. Seeing Liliana cradling her baby sister and lightly kissing her head continues to be one of my absolute favorite memories.
What’s your best piece of advice for mamas with young kids?
Take time to do something that makes you feel alive and centered, apart from your little ones. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a major event. I personally turn to exercise to rejuvenate myself. Even a short walk can help to regroup and refocus. I find that I am much more patient, present, and ready to enjoy the wild ride that awaits me when I return.
The thing that surprised me most about motherhood was:
How wonderful and terrifying it could be simultaneously. If I’m being truly honest, I’m also surprised that I would rather be with my family than do absolutely anything else in the world. No contest. I used to live and breathe to dance and have a career, now I live and breathe for my children. Even though I am going gray from all of their antics, these girls bring me more joy than I could have ever imagined.
When I put the sweatpants away and throw on some heels! A shower helps, too. Yoga and Zumba are my go-to pick-me ups and confidence boosters. It’s challenging to find classes on the road, but the search is always worth it! I danced during both of my pregnancies and I think that it helped to empower me both physically and emotionally. It was extremely cathartic. There’s nothing like being a 9 months pregnant mama in a Zumba class! You certainly make a lot of friends.
What’s the toughest challenge that motherhood has brought on?
I think the thing that I still struggle with (and I think so many women do) is the change in my body and career. The transition from dancer to full-time mama was not a smooth one for me. I went from rehearsing 12 or more hours a week, teaching group fitness 10 hours a week, and continuing a separate workout regime on top of that, to taking prenatal yoga and walking a lot. To say I went through a transformation both physically and mentally is an understatement. I think it’s incredible when an athlete or dancer is able to continue their previous training and sustain a career. For me that wasn’t the case; partly because of our lifestyle, but also because of the time and commitment I know it takes to maintain this working vessel that would draw me away from time with my kids.
You were a group fitness instructor and personal trainer. What would you tell yourself to motivate you, post-pregnancy?
I would remind myself that I am a much happier person when I am physically active. It just takes a lot more planning and the constant reminder that I am doing “enough” and that I am “enough.” Also, if I made and birthed nearly nine pound babies, I can certainly do a few burpees and push-ups!
What are some of your favorite baby products?
How do you and your husband best work together on things like homeschooling?
Fortunately Reu’s schedule is pretty free (as he just works at night during Lion King shows), and we both participate equally in decision making. We feel really in it together, and that’s the key. When Liliana started homeschooling, both of us actually had to take an individual style assessment test, which opened our eyes. We found out that Reu and I are completely opposite in the way we approach teaching and analyze things. Liliana and I are exactly the same in this regard. So during school time, when she and I start to butt heads, it doesn’t take long for Reu to step in and take over. On the other hand, I have success teaching things through movement. My daughter’s a very visual and kinesthetic learner.
Speaking of movement, you seem to have boundless energy. Does the rest of your family love dance too?
Dancing is a remedy for almost any situation in our family. Bored? Living room dance concert! Trouble concentrating in school? Get up and dance! Waiting in line? Do a dance! Happy? Let’s dance! In a funk? You’d better dance! Can’t make it to the park? Ok. We’ll dance! We have ‘naked bath time’ dances. We have ‘setting the table’ dances. We have ‘clean-up your room’ dances. A recent family day filled with whining and tantrums was transformed with an unabashed, passionate, twirling dance with my girls on a windy beach. Dance always saves the day!
Because you’re in new cities constantly without extended family, daycare, or regular school, you spend morning to night with your kids. Does this ever seem overwhelming?
Our family spends so much time together that a friend once quipped, “Wow! You must really like each other!” Yes. We actually do. We obviously have our times of tension (remember that 20 hour drive?) and sometimes I need to steal moments of quiet. We also do share this road life with other loving and supportive families who help to ease the feelings of isolation and disorder, and gives us a sense of community. But our family functions best when we work as a team and travel as a unit through this crazy and wonderful adventure.
Photo credits: Christopher Duggan, Reuven Weizberg