A Gift For You (GIVEAWAY for NY/NJers)

Or at least for one lucky family who lives in the New York/New Jersey area.  :)

It’s Christmas time and we’re all about giving, right? Well, last weekend our family was given the opportunity to go to the Liberty Science Center, which is just on the other side of the Holland Tunnel, in Jersey City. And now I’m giving all you local people the lowdown on it, as well as one lucky family 4 tickets to the center.

Because it’s Christmas! (And also because I have 4 tickets to give away!)

lscnerdsSo first, the lowdown. I know that New Yorkers like to kind of get a little snooty with New Jersey (all in good fun!), but it’s kind of hard with the Liberty Science Center. It makes our Brooklyn museums look so . . . small. In fact, our expectations were such that we planned to spend only a couple of hours there. It took us only a few moments to realize our mistake. Lots of floors with lots of cool things. Plan to spend the day.

Because of our lack of foresight, we ended up picking just a few things we wanted to see/do and giving ourselves a few minutes at each place. There were entire floors we didn’t touch. We had to pull our kids away more than once when they clearly could have been there for hours. (Give Manchild a Rubik’s Cube . . . .)

lscinfinityclimber3Some favorites:

The Touch Tunnel. I thought it would be a tunnel in which you touch different things. Just based on the name. I was wrong. It was a tunnel, and you did use your sense of touch. I ended up with a 25-pound monkey child riding on my back because she could not figure out what was going on, and Micah did the same for a 35-pound monkey child, while the 50-pound monkey child sped through the maze and made it look easy. We emerged on the other side feeling like we accomplished something. (Both Little Miss and Squish were all smiles at being able to see again.)

The Infinity Climber. This is a little hard to describe, so we have photos. Netting. Petal-like platforms. Three-stories above the floor. Maze-like. Winding and twisting. Everyone had a good time trying to find each other and stay together. There were lots of people climbing around and a few traffic jams, but we lived to tell the tale and agreed that it was pretty cool.lscinfinityclimber4Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset

Beyond The Rubik’s Cube. Puzzles puzzles puzzles! Pigs in Clover, 15, tangrams . . . and more. This is where we spent most of our time, and we barely made it beyond the entrance to the exhibit. I was kind of bummed that I had to supervise my kiddos and help them with their puzzles because I would have loved to explore the exhibit more deeply on my own. But then again, it was also super fun to see them go so deep into shapes and colors and fitting things together.

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Animals! On our way through Lower Manhattan as we drove to the museum Squish kindly informed us that he’s really into animals these days. (He was deflecting attention from his older brother who had just wowed us with an unexpected feat of deduction.) So I guess it was his lucky day when they pulled the snake and the tarantula and the hissing cockroach and the scorpion out of their boxes, eh?

But really, the kids were fascinated. As were Micah and I because WHO KNEW ALL SCORPIONS GLOW UNDER BLACK LIGHT?? Not us. Kind of blew our minds.

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We also spent a few moments observing the fish. There were lots of them, some of which were bigger than some of our children.

 

Regrets:

I really wanted to check out the guitar exhibit. And the surgical robot exhibit. And the communication exhibit (obviously).

Again, we were kicking ourselves for not planning to spend the whole day. Learn from us, people! Take your time!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Now . . . the LSC really wants to help you out over the Christmas break. They really want to you to be able to get your kids out of the apartment and give them something new to explore, some space to roam, some thing to obsess about for the next month or so. And so they gave me 4 tickets to give to one of you!

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If you want them, please leave a comment on this post by Dec. 24th (Christmas Eve!) at midnight (I know you’ll be awake!). Tell me what you love about New Jersey. (Mine is the views of Manhattan.) I’ll pick a winner and send you the tickets post-haste so you can have them on hand for that 2nd week of no school when you’re feeling claustrophobic and counting down the minutes until school starts again. (Or whenever you want over the next year or so: the tickets expire Jan. 31 2016.)

Just One Extra Mile

I still run. A couple of times a week, usually. The reason I mention it is because people have been asking. I suppose they are asking because I haven’t mentioned running here on this Mother Runner blog for a while. And the reason I haven’t mentioned it is because there hasn’t been anything to say. Running has been very ho-hum for me lately.

In the past, it has been a time for me to de-stress, to loosen up the mental and emotional knots I sometimes get tied in, to chase after inspiration or to let it stumble across my path. But for several months now it has just been something to do. I haven’t trained for any races or committed myself to run a certain number of miles or a specific pace. My focus has been elsewhere, and I’ve just wanted my running to be comfortable.

But then again, I don’t know where my focus has been. It feels as though a lot of my life has been in the same place as my running: comfortable. And while there is a big part of me that feels like that is exactly where I want to be right now—that I deserve a little bit of time to curl up and just be—there is that other part that is feeling anxious.

Anxious because I’m stressed about being comfortable. And I didn’t really realize it until today, when I was out running. I was trying to decide if I wanted to go an extra mile. Time was a little tight. Little Miss fell back asleep right after the boys went to school and took a long nap. We didn’t get out until almost lunchtime, and I had some other errands to run while we were out. Could I squeeze in one more mile and still make it to the store? Still have lunch and make it to pickup on time?

Almost as soon as I made the turn to take the longer route, it clicked for me. Suddenly this run was not ho-hum. Suddenly, I was living dangerously, running in uncharted territory. Suddenly, I had a challenge. And suddenly, I felt inspired. It all made sense.

Of course I haven’t been feeling motivated. Of course I haven’t been able to write like I used to. Of course my running has become so rote that I haven’t even seen anything worth photographing while I’ve been out lately. It’s because I’m not pushing. I’m not trying.

That little revelation led to a lovely afternoon in which not only did I push myself to shop and eat and shower and still get to pickup on time (this is me patting myself on the back), I also managed to daydream a bit and imagine what I could do and what I want to pursue when I’m ready to endure a little more discomfort—to challenge myself to see things with new eyes and to run in a slightly different direction.

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I’m not quite there yet, but I’m looking forward to getting there.

ps In case you are interested in the conversation I was part of on HuffPost Live (see previous post), here’s the link.

Talking Holiday Stress on HuffPost Live

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“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas . . . .”

Last year I wrote a piece for Babble about how I didn’t mind the busyness—and the stress—of Christmastime because, well, it’s important. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, a time of giving and traditions and being together as a family and making memories. But that wonder and those traditions and those memories come because a lot of people are working really hard to make them happen.

In my little family, Micah and I work really hard during the holidays to give our kids the opportunity to feel the magic, to make lasting memories, to serve and to give and to think of others. There have been times when the effort has been almost overwhelming, or when it has felt as though everything were falling apart, or that the world was intent on turning our best intentions into a mess of tantrums and frustration. (Mostly mine.)

But every year I continue to feel that it is worth it. It’s worth the late nights making gifts, the lines at the post office, the busy streets and bracing cold and dragging the kids along for the ride. I can see that my kids love it. They are learning and feeling that this is a special time of year, and that there is something magical about the fact that Christ was born, that He lived, that he loves them, and that they can learn to love and serve and give (and forgive) as He did.

Over time Micah and I have become more organized. We have established a rhythm of sorts. We have learned what is important and meaningful and what is just meaningless stress. We are still developing traditions and looking for opportunities to help our kids feel that magical feeling of giving, of sharing, of thinking of others—and of being loved and shared with and thought of.

Tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 5) at 12:30pm ET I’ll be joining a panel on HuffPost Live to talk about holiday stress and how to handle it and other such things. You can (I believe) view it here. The panel should last about 25 minutes, they tell me. I hope you are able to watch, and if you do, I hope you are able to excuse me if I make a fool of myself.  :)

River Rocks

I want to write a thousand or two words on this. I want to say everything about it and say it beautifully, the way the images are in my mind. But if I try to do that, I’ll never write anything and it will be just another thought that was laid to rest in the graveyard of good ideas. (My section of that particular plot has grown quite a bit this year. Sigh.)

Sometimes things happen. Sometimes they are little things, and sometimes not so little. And sometimes those little things make big changes in your life. Sometimes things you think will change everything actually change very little.

A few weeks ago, I listened to Terri Gross’s Fresh Air episode memorializing Tom Magliozzi, who with his brother Ray, did Car Talk on NPR for a long time. The brothers got started on Car Talk (or more accurately, on fixing cars) after Tom had a near miss with a semi-truck. He wasn’t even hit, but it was close and it shook him deeply. He quit his job, started living on unemployment, and was rethinking his life when Ray came in to help him figure things out. It was from that event—the near-miss—that they started their garage, which led to their radio show, which led to much advice and laughter and philosophizing—and a legacy worth celebrating.

It is hard to believe that they weren’t born into that life. They seemed like such naturals. But they did, in fact, have very different lives planned.

And then a rock tumbled into the river and turned it a completely different way.

The way that it turned was not direct. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t as if the rock fell in, blocked the way, and they looked around and said, “Oh, you’re right, we should be heading that way.” It was a slow process. It was gradually feeling things out and seeing what worked and what didn’t—where the good ground was and where they needed to adapt a bit more.

That adaptation led to uncharted territory that was, I’m sure, both beautiful and strange.

There have been times in my life when I have waited with eager anticipation to find out how my life would adapt to rocks and logs and that I have seen coming into my path. And there have been times when the ground I thought was solid was suddenly washed away, changing the course and the shape of my life abruptly and unexpectedly. I’ve been caught off-guard by how easily I, and others, adjust to what initially seemed to be life-altering events. And I’ve been equally surprised by how little things can force major changes.

I’ve wondered where and when those rocks will fall, that ground will erode, the logs will catch and hold and even looked ahead to see if I can see them coming. But I’ve rarely pondered the beauty they leave in their wake: the raging rapids, the slow and sinuous stream, the still ponds—serene and secretive, or the rolling falls dropping in powerful plumes, showering and spraying and misting, mystic and mysterious.

But even with that anticipation, and even trusting that those obstacles will lead to unimaginably beautiful places, the process of adaptation is uncomfortable, uncertain, undeniably distressing. Carving new ground is hard. Finding solid footing is fraught with potential failure. It can be disheartening and dizzying to feel things out, seek a new way, wade and wind and bounce against boulders.

Then again, beating the boulders, finding a way, moving and adapting and following through—that is where the beauty is made. That is where lives are changed and loves are claimed and new ground is discovered and legacies are built and shared.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

I know October ended, like, almost two weeks ago, but let’s be honest: October! I’m still recovering.

Birthdays! Halloween! School stuff! But we survived. We survived!

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And having survived, I am now moving slowly, seeing the world with new eyes, experiencing life with heightened sensation.

Or trying to, anyway.

At night, I lie with each of the kids before they go to sleep.

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Little Miss wants me to sing “Let It Go.” She’s starting to sing along with me and it is, perhaps, the cutest thing ever. I know I’ve never said anything like that in regard to my children, so you’ll take that very seriously.

Squish’s request is “On My Own.” From Les Mis. I don’t know it very well, but he doesn’t care. He helps me out and we patch together a passable version.

And Manchild takes me through one of his imagination games. “Pokemon Fun” or something. The past few nights we’ve made our way across the country from North Carolina to Hawaii, employing the powers of various wild animals. We dove into the lava flow in a special ship. We created a special filter and saved all the monk seals. Tonight, we flew in a special Pokeball all the way to ancient Egypt. I was a scarab beetle. I flew on the outside.

After school, we stay and play on the playground if the weather is good. At dinner, I read to them while they finish their food. And during the day, when Little Miss and I are out for a run or running errands, we’ll stop and watch the ducks at the pond or swing on the swings.

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I’m new to this. It feels a little weird. I’m not used to sitting still or sitting back. It’s a bit disorienting to not have a list of a million things to do before the end of the day. But then again. Weird is good. Disorienting is . . . reorienting. And slow is a welcome change of pace.

Right Here Waiting

I didn’t know when I started the month of sisterhood that my own sister would be leaving New York at the end of it. (Actually, she flies out tomorrow, but close enough.)
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Abby has been a life saver and a safety valve for us for the past 4 years. It’s been a blessing to know she’s only a hour away—that she can come watch our kids, that she’ll be here for birthdays, and even there to sit by on late night flights back home to Utah.

She was there twenty minutes after Little Miss was born to take the boys off our hands for the day. And then showed up regularly thereafter, through the phases and stages where Little Miss was first indifferent toward her, then terrified of her, and finally to the stage we’re in now, where we’ll hear, out of the blue, “I love Abby, too.”

Over the past month, since she told me it would be her last month as a New Yorker, I’ve wondered how we would survive without her. Who could we call on to watch our kids for free while we stayed out late? Who would our kids jump up and down and get all excited about when they heard the buzzer buzz? Who would be our constant, our connection to our families?

And certainly she could see that of all her nieces and nephews, the ones right here in New York were the best. I mean, obviously. Why would she ever want to leave?
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But of course it’s not about me. It’s not about my family. And it would be very selfish to trot out my kids and ask her how she could possibly leave those sweet little faces, as much as I wanted to. So I kept my mouth shut and thought instead about the wonderful things that await her on the other side of the country. Palm trees. Warm weather. Beaches for days. Another sister, complete with little family who could probably also use a free babysitter on occasion.

Oh, right. And a new job. New people. New opportunities. New friends. A chance to change the scene and see what she can do.

So tonight we said goodbye. We said good luck. We cried, we hugged, and then we reminded each other that we are still family and we’ll see each other in July.

Unless you change your mind, Abby. We’ll take you back anytime.

To My Sweat Sisters

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To Allison and April, who first showed me that running for fun was a thing.

To Diana, who challenged me to try it for myself and gave me something to aim for.

To Jen and Katrina and Ana who acted like it was no big thang to keep their legs moving for hours at a time—and took it for granted that I would learn to do it too.

To Christy and Suzie and Mara and Marin, who imparted more wisdom and strength to me on a handful of 3-milers than I had learned in the decade before I met them.

To Carrie, who put a marathon on my radar when it was the last thing I thought I could do.

To Shiloh and Valerie and Valerie and Heather and Elizabeth (and the menfolk, of course) for being my Ragnar team—where I learned, for real, that I could actually run.

To Abby, who inspired me with her determination to keep finish her first marathon, even when every part of her was saying, quite distinctly, “NO.”

To Becca, who is not ashamed to commiserate with me over the messy parts of running.IMG_5825

To Kathleen and Emily and Noelle, whose quick “Hi!” as we pass each other in the park often left me smiling for miles.

To Ashley, who keeps me running, even if it is only to see how many miles I can do in a month.

To Heather and Rachel, who took me in and cheered me on in Boston.

To Madison and Sharra, who made miles and miles in 20 degree weather not only manageable, but fun—and kept my mood high and bright all of last year’s long, cruel winter.

Ladies, if I had my druthers, every meeting between friends would include a run—a time and a place to move together, think together, to share a conversation or share the scenery in silence. It’s work, but it’s play, too. It knocks down walls and narrows your focus to what is right in front of you. It tunes you into the same wavelength and gives you an opportunity share laughter and tears without the awkwardness of eye contact. It can clear the air and cleanse your soul.

Wish we could meet up for a lap at Prospect Park tomorrow. But since we can’t, I’ll just say that I’m glad we’ve had a chance to share the road.

love,

lizzie.

Sisters Tell Stories

You know that the best part of any girls’ night is the loads and loads of stories that come spilling out of everyone’s mouths. One minute you’ll be laughing so hard you can’t breathe and then suddenly you’ll be crying for real as you make an emotional 180.

As much as I love hanging out with friends, cracking jokes and musing about nothing, it’s really in the storytelling that friends become sisters.
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Last night I listened as two wonderful sisters-from-church talked about their experience with divorce — shared their stories of heartache, loneliness, redemption, fulfillment. I knew these women before, had talked with them, had a sense of their strength and depth. But hearing their stories colored in the lines.

They talked about how much hearing other women’s stories helped them through their own difficulties. We have sisters all over the place, we just don’t know it until we hear their stories, or tell them ours.

“Story of my life!” and “I love that story!” one of my sisters-in-law always says.

Stories are our lives, and I hope that we love the stories we live, whether they are happy or sad, tearful or fearful. And I hope, too, that we share them with our sisters to strengthen and support them — to help them color in the lines of their own lives, of their own stories.

Sisters in Beauty

I get a little bit annoyed sometimes at how focused we are on beauty. I mean, can’t we go a little deeper than that? Can’t we get beyond appearances to the meat of who people actually are? But then again, I am as much a sucker as anybody for someone telling me I’m pretty or that they like what I’m wearing or that my hair looks nice.

As much as I hate to admit it, it matters. It really does.

And I got to see why yesterday when I went to Dove’s Self-Esteem Weekend kick-off. I listened to teenage girls from the Girl Scouts, from Girls Inc. and from The Boys and Girls Club talk about beauty and confidence and how they can influence each other to feel good about themselves. Dove’s focus this year is on your beauty legacy — how others feel about themselves because of you.

I know that I have a lot of responsibility for my kids (and for my daughter especially), but one of the things that stood out to me was the sisterhood of the whole endeavor. “Confident people encourage others” was one of the takeaways of the event. Once you get to a place where you are happy with yourself — with who you are and what you can do — you are not threatened by others. You can bring out the best in them because you recognize the best in you.

Too often girls (and women) are so catty because they feel like if anybody is pretty or smart or talented, it means they are less pretty or smart or talented. (Guilty as charged!) And we bring each other down when we could be moving up and beyond the basics and actually getting stuff done.

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And that, I suppose, is as good a reason as any to focus on beauty. Because maybe if we master it in ourselves, we can help our sisters find it in themselves. And then maybe we can relax a little bit and see what we really have to offer.

Sister Saviors: Guest Post by Livia Taylor

Babies babies babies. So much joy! So much pain! And so much we get to discover the hard way. But having sisters around to lead, guide, walk beside—and give the baby a bottle while we regain some sanity—can bring some order to the emotional/physical/mental chaos that is the postpartum period. Amiright? My friend Livia Taylor wrote up this story of how her little sister stepped up and saved the day (or many of them) after she had her second baby a few months ago. Thanks Livia!

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Being six years apart, my younger sister and I didn’t have much in common for a long time. I moved out for college by the time she may have been considered old enough to become my friend. There were a couple of sporadic visits over the years when I was across the country in school, but we didn’t connect very deeply.

She eventually moved to the same state as me to attend school herself, and we started seeing each other on major holidays, when I hosted family and friends at my home to celebrate. When my daughter was born, my sister spent the weekend at my house and helped me pull myself back together as I dealt with postpartum. The first week I was home from the hospital, my sister called me every day to make sure I was alright.

In the four years since my daughter was born, my relationship with my sister has grown into more than just sisterhood; we’re friends. She has since served a mission and done a study abroad while finishing up school, but her influence is often felt in our home even when she’s gone.

I had my son about four months ago, and I was very nervous throughout my whole pregnancy that I’d have a difficult postpartum again. My depression flares up when I’m sleep-deprived and hormonal after childbirth, and it was scary for me to consider having another when I knew he’d be born while my sister was out of the country.

But then my sister gave me the greatest gift; she sent me an email letting me know she was rescheduling her flights back to America so she could make a pit-stop at my house before finishing her summer vacation with our parents in Maine. She ended up staying four days, and it was such a relief to me to have her help while I recovered from the chaos of hosting my son’s blessing and my daughter’s fourth birthday that weekend. I couldn’t have “caught up” on sleep (all parents know that’s not really possible, but you know what I mean!) without her.

My sister will thaw breast milk without being asked and feed my baby while I sleep. She knows how to wrap him tightly and rock him until he’s ready for bed. She can negotiate with my feisty toddler and tolerate her tantrums without skipping a beat. She insists on babysitting so my husband and I can have a date every couple of months. She helps with meals when she stays at my house and cleans up without being asked. She has made it possible for me to cope with having two kids while struggling with managing my depression. Just when I think I can’t do it any longer, my sister will take a break from her life at school and visit me, giving me the boost I need to be a better mom and wife.

I’m so grateful that my relationship with my sister has evolved to this. Our family has been through so much that could have turned us against one another, and I consider it such a blessing we have become real friends. My sister is an example to me of hard work and selflessness, and I hope I can someday return the favor if she chooses to have a family of her own (hopefully by then my baby will be sleeping as well as my toddler so I’ll have the energy to do so :) ).

Also, I feel like I owe her for all the times I’ve borrowed her clothes without asking while she was out of the country.

photo credit Mary Oveson

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