PENINSULA WOMAN: Fusings busy life as fitness instructor, mother and wife

JOYCE — Mikki and Maizie Reidel agree: We have a very loud family.

They’re loud and they know how to work and play hard. Mikki, also known as Mom to Maizie, 13, and Zane, 3, is a fitness instructor who doesn’t fit the typical mold. While many aerobics teachers quit after five or so years, Mikki Reidel has led step, dance, yoga and more at the Olympic Peninsula YMCA in Port Angeles for 18 years.

And Reidel, at 44, leads by example at home. And maybe a little bit by necessity: She recruits Maizie as partner when practicing new yoga poses or dance moves.

And then there’s Zane, more often known as Zaney, the son Reidel and her husband, Darin, adopted from Ethiopia in fall 2008.

“He’s my real workout,” Reidel says. “He is incredibly busy . . . I’ve got [a son] who has my personality: high energy, intense, opinionated.”

Zaney keeps both his parents and his sister on their toes, gamboling around the family’s Rocky Road Farm west of Port Angeles.

This is way out west, “in the boonies,” as Reidel says. “I love it here; 20 years ago, I would never have thought I’d say that,” but for her family, farm life fits.

On pastures with a view of the Olympic Mountains graze three llamas, three sheep, two goats, two miniature horses, six ducks and two geese; fish swim in the pond while two dogs romp and birds, wild and domestic, sing.

On any given Sunday, Reidel and her kids are doing farm chores, cleaning house and then going to bed early. She, Maizie and Zane rise at 5 a.m. most weekdays — and at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, her busiest day at the Y. That’s when she teaches a Zumba-inspired — as in aerobics with world-music flavors — dance class at 7 a.m. and a spinning, or supercharged stationary-bike, class at 9:15 a.m.

Not that the other days are sedentary. Reidel teaches up to 10 group fitness sessions per week, including a step-kickboxing combination class at 9:15 a.m. followed by yoga at 10:30 a.m. Mondays; step aerobics and then yoga again Wednesday mornings, spinning Thursdays and Zumba-style dance on Friday mornings. When she can, Maizie joins the class, to execute the dance moves she learned at home.

“Since I’m her child, she makes me practice with her,” Maizie says. “It’s fun,” though, when she gets in there with the 50 or so participants in her mom’s dance classes.

And even at 7 a.m., Reidel radiates good humor. If she missteps, she jokes that it’s her “first mistake ever.” When her students line up several yards away from her, she reassures them that she showered that morning.

And when it comes to cueing the next moves, “I’m good at yelling, since I have children,” she proclaims.

In aerobics instruction, as in life, you can’t take yourself too seriously, Reidel believes.

That attitude has made her classes some of the most popular at the Y. She packs the studio with people who can’t wait to put on their “jingle skirts,” Middle Eastern dance-inspired scarves with noisy “coins” sewn on.

Popular instructor

Reidel “has a strong following,” says Kyle Cronk, CEO of the YMCA. “She is fantastic.”

But this instructor wasn’t always the confident sprite. When she first began teaching step aerobics — on homemade wooden benches, since the Y didn’t yet have the funds for the special plastic steps other health clubs were using — she was consumed by nervousness.

“She used to get sick to her stomach,” remembers Michele Hayman, director of Health and Well-being at the Y. The two women have known each other for about two decades now; Hayman says she has watched Reidel become “one of the best around.”

As an instructor, “she’s really intuitive. She understands body mechanics well enough to give modifications,” for each dance move, so each participant can do what’s best for his or her physique.

“She’s an amazing choreographer,” Hayman adds.

Reidel makes it look easy — by practicing each three- or four-minute song in her repertoire for oh, at least a couple of hours at home before introducing it at the studio.

Now as then, the people who come to Reidel’s classes find her gusto infectious — and they send the enthusiasm right back at her. In her first step classes in 1993, several women wore T-shirts emblazoned with “Go, Mikki, Go,” in an effort to allay her nerves. It helped, Reidel recalls.

Then, shortly before Maizie was born in 1998, the women gave her a baby shower. Some of the same women held a second baby shower 10 years later when the Reidel family brought Zane home.

Zane and his big sister are a frequent sight in the Y’s hallways and gym; members have watched him grow from a babe in arms to blustery toddler.

Reidel was raised in Port Angeles by her grandparents, the late George and Geneva Jones.

She met Darin Reidel, the man who would become her husband, when she was just 20 and working at a tanning salon called Sun Break.

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to have children” at first, she remembers. But then, as she and Darin entered their later 20s, they felt something was missing. The Reidels welcomed Maizie in April 1998.

Reidel also remembers seeing pictures — for years — of Ethiopian children needing adoptive families in the Sunday Peninsula Daily News. Adoption Advocates International, an agency based in Port Angeles, provided 
those pictures.

The Reidels completed foster-parent training after they decided they were ready for another child. But for a year afterward, they were not matched with a foster child, so they thought perhaps that wasn’t their path.

In hopes of adopting a little boy, they began working with Adoption Advocates; in May 2008, the agency sent them a picture of a baby who had been abandoned behind a police station in an Ethiopian town.

He was to become their son. Zane Adam Reidel landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Oct. 4, 2008, after a five-month wait that “felt like forever,” Reidel recalls.

In a kind of symmetry common in Port Angeles, the Adoption Advocates staff member who escorted Zane from an orphanage in Addis Ababa to Sea-Tac was someone Reidel knew from the YMCA: yoga instructor Brooke Cole. Cole worked at both the Y and Adoption Advocates before relocating to Bellingham last year.

The adoption process had taken 13 months — and “I would do it again, if I had a bigger house,” Reidel says, watching her daughter pull her son around the backyard in a big red tub.

Reidel adds that she’s felt well-supported by her family and friends — and by the community of Port Angeles — as she and Darin raise their children.

“I wondered if I would hear any negativity” about international adoption, she says. “I heard none.”

Reidel is thinking about bringing Zane to the Challenger Sports soccer camp this summer; Maizie is an avid soccer player, and Darin serves as president of the Port Angeles youth soccer club.

But Reidel, ironically, has never been into competitive sports. In high school, she detested the running and the games that dominated physical education. She remembers asking her friend, Michele Hayman, “Why would you want to exercise?”

That was before Reidel discovered group dance aerobics. It was a matter of finding a noncompetitive, not-too-serious activity, she says. And even today, Reidel laughs heartily about the clothes she and her fellow aerobics enthusiasts wore: huge T-shirts, skinny bike shorts, scrunched-up leg warmers and terrycloth headbands.

For anyone who wants to get into fitness, Reidel has four words of advice: Find what you like.

Whether it’s soccer or Zumba or spinning, choose the exercise that feels fun for you, and don’t compare yourself with the others in the class.

These days, the Reidels’ lives include soccer, Mom’s classes at the Y, Dad’s job at PepsiCo, all the farm chores — and now the addition of their first exchange student, 17-year-old Renan Presti Escribano from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He arrived in August and will stay till June; this August, the family will welcome Marie, a German exchange student who will stay for a year.

Hosting a foreign student “has turned out to be a very good experience,” Reidel says.

On this Mother’s Day, Reidel and her family will trek over to Bellevue to visit Darin’s mother, Charlene Haubrich. She’s retired after working as the hostess at the Bushwhacker restaurant in Port Angeles for some 25 years.

“She is a wonderful woman,” Reidel says. “We don’t get to see her enough.”

As for how Reidel manages to fit all of the facets of her life together: “I have to be very organized . . . I’m a drill sergeant,” she jokes, pausing just long enough for a quick glass of water in her spotless kitchen.

Last summer, though, the family did delete something.

“Right before Renan came, we got rid of the TV. Now we read a lot, and stream movies from Net­flix,” on occasion, Reidel says. And “I love the library,” in Port Angeles.

As for that old cable television, “we haven’t missed it,” she says. “We stay busy.”

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