Never Gets Old

We are home from our 3 week summer vacation to the west—land of mountains and space and infernal temperatures without the infernal humidity.

poolkidAlso, land of lightning. Not that we don’t see lightning here in Brooklyn, but as we drove from northern Utah to southern Arizona we could see, from the safety of our rental car, lightning storms practically surrounding us. And each strike was cause for oohs and aahs, for a bit of disappointment from those who missed it, for hope that the next would be bigger and brighter than the last.

It never got old.

And neither did hearing the kids wow over it.

It got me thinking, of course, about all the lightning strikes we get in life—the things that we can, at times, anticipate and look forward to and that are fresh and surprising and awesome every single time. They leave you feeling both big and small, both full of life and love—and wanting more.

triman

My brother finished his first triathlon while we were in Utah. We cheered him on through the finish.

Things like a baby laughing.

Or seeing your child’s excitement about her birthday.

Watching a little boy stand and stare in awe as a freight train grumbles by.

Or the first snowfall of winter and the sight of the first blossoms of spring.

Witnessing an act of kindness among strangers.

Receiving encouragement from a stranger.

The feeling, at the end of a run, that you did something today.

Watching someone do something hard, and struggle, and succeed.

Creating something—anything—that is beautiful.

hugthewallWhat did I miss? What are those moments that fill you with wonder and awe every time they happen?

Iceberg Ahead

I knew when I started Cocoon that it would be bigger than I expected. I knew that no matter how much I thought about it and researched and learned before I started, there would be things that I didn’t know until I stumbled across them weeks and months into the project. I knew that I should give myself a generous amount of time to figure these things out—and then plan for it to take even longer for it to be ready to launch.

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But knowing all those things doesn’t make it any less daunting when I continue to discover the depth and breadth of this project I’m tackling. And honestly, although I’d love to say that the reason I haven’t been checking in here on MotherRunner as frequently as I’d like is because I’m working tirelessly and diligently on Cocoon, the truth is that I have been more or less staring uncomprehendingly at the many facets of the project that keep revealing themselves, unsure what I should be doing right now.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one working on it. It seems like everywhere I turn someone more talented and knowledgable than I has been willing to step in and help. We have an actual team working on this thing now. And yet it is still going to be at least a couple of months before we are ready to launch. (That’s the beauty of an all-volunteer workforce who are on vacation for parts of the next two months.)

Also thankfully, I’ve been here before. We’ve all been here before. We start something new and it is hard. The first time we put on running shoes specifically to go running. That time we came home with a tiny little person who the world, apparently, expected us to keep alive. When we took up a hobby to wile away those nap time hours and it sprouted and grew into something we never expected.

It was hard. We were bad at it. We didn’t know what we were doing. But then we learned. And we got better. And it got easier.

Even knowing that, it’s still hard to push through. It’s hard to imagine that things will get easier. It’s hard to feel like I am neglecting this blog—and my writing in general. I remember, not so very long ago, how amazed I was at what I could do when I had to. I looked at busy days as a particularly delicious challenge and relished the feeling of accomplishment when I got to the end. I loved that feeling of stretching and discovering. And I still do. But right now I need to be more focused. I can’t think too much about all the other things I wish I were doing.

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So I’m asking for your patience and understanding. I hope you’ll check in and see how Cocoon is coming along. I hope you’ll stay tuned for updates. And I hope you’ll still be here when things get easier and I can do more of the things I love to do.

 

PS Micah has been working much more diligently than I have been on the website. It’s still a work in progress and not all of it is functional, but it’s there.  You can check it out and sign up for the newsletter if you want. Or follow us on Instagram: @cocoonstories.

And After 17.4 Miles, I’m a Person Again

arielandflounder

The fantasy I’ve had since age 5 came true at Exchange 32 on Saturday morning when, for one brief moment, I got to be Ariel.

I know that I’m not really a real person to my kids. Not yet. They can’t really fathom my life outside of cooking and cleaning and telling them their shirts are on backward. Certainly they see me talking to other people, but my conversations hold little interest for them. They know I like to run and to write and—according to the Mother’s Day book Squish’s made—to read Green Eggs and Ham, which is all true enough, but I don’t think they understand that I like to do those things as a person and not necessarily as a mom. (And yes, I’ve learned a lot from Dr. Seuss’s writing style through multiple readings of his masterworks.) It is more amusing than anything to me at this point. I assume they will slowly realize that Mom is a person too as they grow up.

But sometimes I don’t feel like a real person to me either. And that is a problem. One that needs to be fixed. Possibly by not being the mom for a day or so and instead running around Cape Cod with vans full of other people seeking the thrill of handing off a slap bracelet at 1am to their teammate, then collapsing on the floor of the local high school gym for 3 hours of poor sleep before getting back in the van for the next leg of the relay race.

capecodcanal

Only good things come from running by still waters.

At least that is what I did last weekend in running the Ragnar Relay around Cape Cod as part of the Chowdah Legs team. It’s been over a year since I ran a race, which is probably a real shame. I know I was pretty burned out last year after running Boston, but I didn’t know that I would take such a long time away from the racing scene. It was good to be back. Micah and I joined some neighbors and friends and friends of neighbors and neighbors of friends of friends to cover the 192 miles from Hull, MA to Provincetown. And what a good time it was.

It was fun to run without a stroller. It was great to push myself to go fast again. It was awesome to be silly/crazy/stupid/brave enough to run through the mist at 1am. And you know I loved to count how many people I passed (or, in the parlance, “killed”) as I ran my legs of the race. (More than 20 over 3 legs, in case you were curious.)

chowdahlegs

Chowdah Legs Van 2. BFFs. Or at least for the 29 hours we were stuck in a van together.

And of course sitting in a van with 4 or 5 other sweaty, anxious, excited runners for more than 24 hours is always a good time, too. Instant friends forever, obviously.

Our team did a darn good job, coming in 10 minutes ahead of our projected time. It’s always a good feeling to defy expectations, right? We crossed the line together, had some chowder and then went back to our people and beds and showers at the beach house, where my kids were busy playing in the sand and not knowing or caring that their parents just spent a day running and laughing and napping and talking and driving with their pals simply because that is what brings them joy as human beings.

They’ll figure it out some day. And when they do—and can put their shirts on forward the first time—I’ll let them run on my relay team.

Cocoon: Stories of Gestation

Ugh. Life. Somehow it always gets in the way of what I really want do be doing, which is to sit and swap stories over chocolate chip cookies and milk. Or maybe a plate of nachos. There really isn’t enough time for that, IMHO. 

But I’m working on it. Maybe not so much the chocolate chip cookies part as the swapping stories part because that’s what my new project is about: telling stories. And I mean really telling them. With voices. Your voices. Which I (and my best gal pal Val, aka Valerie Best) will record, and then edit, and then share. Via podcast. 

It’s called Cocoon: Stories of Gestation. And those are the kind of stories we’ll be gathering and spreading—stories of pregnancy, of change, of growing and becoming something new and different. The focus is on the figurative gestational year, from deciding to pursue this parenthood thing (or from discovering the pregnancy, if that came first) to the shock and awe of holding that screaming newborn in your arms. Anything that happens during that time is fair game: from things like crazy cravings and fashion snafus and naming issues to heavier stuff like infertility, birth trauma, and loss. 

Basically, it’s all about this transitional time. What you, as moms and dads (or hopeful moms and dads, or would-have-been moms and dads), made of that strange and sensitive time—and what it made of you. 

So that’s what it is. And as we are working toward launch date (still TBD), we were hoping to get a bit of insight from all ya’ll. We’ve been working with the talented Linsey Laidlaw to come with up the look of Cocoon. She’s done some excellent work that we are really excited about, and we thought we’d ask you which one you are most excited about. Check out them out and let me know which one looks more, to you, like the Cocoon described above. What do you see? What speaks to you? Why? I can’t wait to hear. 

   

 

Leave No Man Behind

Competition is inevitable. And it is true that we have encouraged it. “Who can get their pajamas on first?” and other such nonsense. You know, for our mental health, if not the health of their relationship. (Priorities!)

But you know, sometimes it backfires. Like when Squish ends up in tears every afternoon on the way home from school because his legs are not as long as his brothers and he comes in second in their daily race down the ramp. (Little Miss is just happy being able to run at all.) 

We’ve tried to encourage Manchild to go easy on his brother, to ease up and let him win every now and then. See how nice it feels to make someone else feel good? Even better than winning! (He didn’t buy it.)

Last week, though, suddenly and strangely, something shifted. Suddenly I’m hearing: “Partners?” “Partners!” I’m hearing them cheer each other on. I’m hearing teamwork. 

And I’m seeing this:   

   

Holding hands. Climbing the slide together. Leaving no man behind.

This development struck me especially hard last weekend when I heard a story about a couple of brothers who got themselves in a tight spot climbing a cliff and life was literally on the line. Micah and I couldn’t breathe for a few moments while we imagined our own offspring in the place of those boys. Gah! What would they do? Would one of them fall to his death? Would the other have to watch his brother die?

And suddenly, it seemed as though we could, perhaps, do a little better at encouraging cooperation instead of competition. We’re not in this to beat each other or come in first, right? Even if we do our best, isn’t it better to finish together than to be alone at the line? (Well, maybe not in an actual race, but you know, in life.)

The question now, then, is how to keep it going. Make sure we’re on the same team. A six-legged race, with each of us tied to the other. The victory is not in winning, but in learning to run together, to pick each other up when we inevitably stumble, and, eventually, to make it to the finish line in tact. 

All the Pretty Princesses

One of my sisters went through a phase in which she was not, as we had all been led to believe, Sarah, but was instead “101 Dalmatians” or sometimes “Little Bear” or possibly “Baby Rabbit.” It was never the same from day to day or even hour to hour. Two-year-olds are like that.

Including my two-year-old. She is (of course) a princess, a girl, NOT a sister, NOT a toddler, a bird, a kitten, a magic magic princess, a baby, NOT a baby and possibly several other things that are currently slipping my mind. 

My instinct is to tell her that she’s not a princess but to just go with everything else, for the fun and/or truthfulness of it. (Clearly some of these are easier to just go with than others . . . .)

On further thought, however, why not a princess? My hesitation is, obviously, that she wants to wear a pretty dress all day and tell people what to do. And also that every other little girl wants to be a princess and since my little girl is special, she can’t be like every other little girl and hence, cannot be a princess. 

But then again, her princesses are different from my princesses. (Her princesses are also different from all the other girls’ princesses, because my princess, er, daughter, is special.) My princesses were the sitting in the tower waiting to be rescued type. Her princesses are as follows: There’s Little Miss Princess (of Little Miss books fame), who tries (with mediocre results) to help people. (Having never been forced to do anything on her own, she makes a mess of a shopping trip for Mr. Bump, who broke his leg, and finds that if nothing else, she’s good at giving orders—even if it is over the phone, for pizza.)

Also, Princess Nausicaa. It is true that she might not remember much from Squish’s Nausicaa obsession of summer 2014, and yet it is possible that something stuck. Princess Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind flies around on a glider through the Toxic Jungle trying to find ways to save her people from its spread. She defends her dying father, negotiates with invaders, and eventually sacrifices herself to the insects. (Don’t worry, she’s a Christ figure. She gets resurrected. Oops, my bad. SPOILER ALERT!)

And then Princess/Queen Elsa. She has powers! She . . . has powers! So there’s that. No waiting in the tower, exactly. But, well, whatever. 

Now that I think of it, however, I’m not convinced that my little girl actually knows what a princess is. It sounds nice. People respond to it. I respond to it: “You’re a princess? Since when?” 

“Wednesday.”

So she doesn’t know what a princess is. It’s a girl. A special girl. She wants to be special. She is special. She climbs and she races and she knows where the chocolate is and when to offer her mom some. She knows her style: pajamas, leggings, kitty nightgowns, monster underwear. She is determined to learn to cook, if only so she has first dibs on all the batter/dough in the bowl.  

So I guess it is up to me to teach her what a princess is and what a princess does. Which is this: climbing and racing. Finding the best chocolate and sharing it with her favorite people. Knowing her season and making it work. And, like a good little witch

  testing her brew before serving her guests.

 Don’t tell her, but she’s my favorite little princess.

ps More on my new project later. If you’re curious.

For A Cause

Way back in January I read “Marathon Woman” by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with a bib. She was basically attacked and nearly kicked out of the race for her efforts, but went on to run it—and other marathons—many more times and then to promote women’s running for the rest of her life. Encouraging women to run, and showing them that they could, was (and is) her life’s work. 

Seems pretty awesome, right? To have a cause, a vision, a focus for all your efforts as a human being? I admit to being slightly jealous.  At the time I read it, I was going through a little crisis of my own and none of my favorite things—running, writing, mothering—felt very inspired or inspiring. After several years of paddling along just fine, writing about my life and my loves, running races, and feeling the sweet soreness and strength of all of those things, I was dead in the water. 

Writer’s block, runner’s low, mama’s blues. 

 

I had hoped that this is what I would do forever, on one scale or another. Run and raise my kids and write about it. I loved doing that, and love it still. I plan to do it for a long time. But I have come to accept that I can’t be as productive as I want to be all the time. I can’t always be inspired. I can’t always be improving. Sometimes I just have to be.

It’s been hard to let those things go, to not see the music and magic in my mundane life raising these kiddos and to not be sharing those things here and elsewhere as often as I can. I miss that very, very much. (Though I admit that it has been nice to make the effort to actually be a part of the action, rather than just observing it: playing video games and ignoring the dishes is something I could maybe get used to. Assuming I don’t always and forever come in last place in MarioKart.) 

However, in the fallow field of my mind and heart a new plant has taken root. A new idea is springing up that I am excited about. I have a great vision for it and I think that it can and (I hope) will be something beautiful and inspiring and even healing. 

That’s just a fancy way of saying that I have a new project I’m working on. It is different and bigger and, I think, more important than anything I have ever imagined up before. And I am excited to share it with you.  

 

For now I just wanted to let you know that I have what I believe to be “a cause.” And it feels pretty good. 

More to come.

Behold, the Underminer!

“Who’s on your list of best friends?” I asked Little Miss a few weeks ago. We were just joking around. It was all in good fun. She walked over to the entertainment cupboard, pulled out Super Mario Galaxy and showed me all of her best friends: lumas of vaious colors, Princess Peach, and Mario himself.

I wasn’t quite satisfied. “Who else? Anyone else on your list of best friends?” And as I awaited her answer, I heard the ridiculousness of the situation. And also the stupidity. 

List of best friends? Is that what I wanted to teach my daughter? To make lists of people she likes? And then what about the rest? They don’t matter? (Not that we don’t all have several of those lists in our lives . . . .)

But seriously. I sense some self-sabotage going on here. “We love everyone! We are kind to everyone!” I say because I want to raise kids who are kind and loving and accepting. And then I say, “Yeah, but what I really want to know is: who are your favorites? Am I one of them? (Please please please please?)”

It kind of reminds me of that time I took Squish to the doctor and he got some shots. Back at home I asked him to tell Micah how brave he had been. Tears ensued. Accompanied by the explanation: “But I wasn’t brave! I cried!”

He seemed unconvinced by our insistence that bravery and tears are not mutually exclusive. And upon further reflection, I could think of half a dozen reasons why he might think that. Starting with every time he falls and we exclaim, “Be brave! Don’t cry!”

Gah. 

I’m super careful not to talk bad about my body, I try to keep an open conversation about all kinds of important but uncomfortable topics, I make a sometimes Herculean effort to do good deeds. 

But now I have to wonder: in what ways have I/will I/do I undermine my carefully considered plans in unguarded moments? It’s a shame I won’t know until I hear myself begging my two-year old to tell tell me that I am as cool as  Mario and Princess Peach. 



Sometimes You’re the Kite, Sometimes You’re the Anchor

It’s really not fair. Anyone can see that.

It’s not fair that Micah gets to go to work each day, that it matters what he wears or if he has bedhead. It’s not fair that he gets to sit in meetings where he shares ideas and people listen, that they appreciate his expertise, that they will take his advice.

He doesn’t live his life with a capricious and mischievous two-year-old as a constant companion, a little being who can turn a simple trip to the grocery store into an epic battle of wills. He can have insightful conversations with the people he spends his days with. He doesn’t have to remind his co-workers 7 times in a hour to sit and do their work, or revoke various privileges when they once again lose focus and start chasing each other and fighting over a stuffed monkey.

It must be nice, I think, to be compensated and appreciated. To be able to be promoted. To switch jobs if necessary.
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But then again, it’s really not fair and anyone can see that.

It’s not fair that I can wear my pjs all day and it would be totally appropriate. It’s not fair that I can sit and watch “Clifford The Big Red Dog” in the name of quality bonding time. It’s not fair that I can write whatever I want and work on whatever projects interest me the most.

I don’t have to worry about making enough money to take care of the family. I don’t have to set my own ideas aside or refashion my creative impulses to fit somebody else’s vision. I don’t have the pressure of so many deadlines or the worry of what could happen if I didn’t make them.

And I’m sure he thinks it must be nice to have the best hours of the day open to whatever I want: a run in the park, a get-together with friends, a lazy day of reading and playing make-believe.

Sometimes it feels like I am the anchor to Micah’s kite, letting him soar up above the trees where he can see spectacular views and feel the rush of the wind in his hair. It feels like I’m stuck on the ground, nothing to see, nothing to do but watch and wonder what it’s like up there.

But other times, I feel like I am the kite: flying, diving, tossed about. Beautiful views, yes, and exhilarating speed. But a bit unsteady and unsure. It must be nice, I think, to be on solid ground and surrounded by people and things, to be able to sit and relax for a bit, instead of always being pushed around.

The truth is that sometimes I am the kite, and sometimes I’m the anchor. And sometimes Micah is the anchor and sometimes he’s the kite. Sometimes we are a little bit of both. And sometimes it feels like we are both caught in the tree, tangled and trapped without any feet on the ground or any heads in the sky.

But that is the price of marriage and family and love and life. And it’s boring and it’s crazy and it’s a drag and it’s a party. And I’ll take it any day of the week. (null)

Good Grief: guest post by Heather Cosby

A few months ago, my friend Heather posted some thoughts on her blog about grief and motherhood. It really resonated with me and over several weeks the topic kept finding its way into my conversations with other friends. I finally asked Heather if she wouldn’t mind sharing it here on MotherRunner, and she graciously agreed. Without further ado, here’s Heather.

heatherbaby

As I sat nursing my baby, Emily, this morning, I saw my phone sitting on the ottoman at my feet. I thought of a funny text I could send to my husband, Sam, but I knew if I picked up my phone I’d end up fiddling around on it till Emily was done eating. Knowing this was one of my rare moments of peace during the day with my son at preschool, I resisted and instead shut my eyes and tried to focus on the weight and warmth of Emily’s body against mine, her hand brushing my skin, her contented little mmm’s as she ate.

Eventually, my thoughts turned to my son, Levi, as they often had lately. We always seemed to be battling one another and we were both exhausted by it. And though I was trying not to wrestle with his formidable will, the other ways I tried to connect with and motivate him weren’t working, so we almost always resorted to threats to get things done. This of course left him feeling angry and me feeling guilty.

Though recently, I had started reading, “Parenting Without Power Struggles” by Susan Stiffelman and it gave me plenty of parenting wisdom to ponder on this quiet morning. Stiffelman suggests that at times when your child won’t be getting his way, you should approach them as if they were grieving. After all, they’re experiencing a loss of something important to them. As she detailed the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression or sadness, and acceptance—I realized these were exactly the emotions and tactics my son was experiencing several times a day.


levi copyOur job as parents, Stiffelman says, is to walk our children through those emotions more quickly and as allies. That way they then come to accept the situation on their own, without our forcing it on them. Instead of wading through the refusals, bargaining, yelling, running away, whining, crying, and resentfully cooperating, you give your child the freedom to mourn their loss. You’re on their side as you tell them how sorry you are to see them sad, and they feel supported as they come to understand they’re not going to get their way. So far, it had worked with Levi. He finally felt like someone was listening to him, and I was more compassionate towards him as I saw him grieving.

My thoughts then slid, as thoughts do, to what my life would look like in the context of grief. In the past several years I’ve dealt with anger, depression, and nearly constant change. I thought maybe moving too often—seven times in eight years—was the source of pain, but I’ve loved the adventure. I’ve seriously considered going back to school or work, but when it came down to it, I knew I would regret not staying home when the kids were small and we had the resources to make it possible. I’ve struggled with medications and injuries. But in the last year and a half, all that has gone away and I still get flashes of deep sadness or feeling adrift or feeling like something is missing.

As I sat with my eyes closed, snuggling my tiny baby, I finally asked myself, “Is there something you’re grieving or mourning?” Without knowing how, it was like a weight was removed from my heart. It’s not that I don’t love my life or my family. It’s not that I regret the choices I’ve made, because when I look back they really are indicative of my true desires. It’s that as a young woman I had expectations for my life and myself that have not been realized, and I am mourning them.

I had expected to be more involved in my community through a career or intense volunteering. I had thought running would always be a part of my life. I thought I’d be as healthy as I’d ever been. I thought I’d be an energetic and creative mother. I thought I’d have new friendships as deep and lasting as my old ones had been. I thought I’d be the person others needed rather than needing other people so often.emilyandlevi copy

In the same way that it was hard to say goodbye to my grandmother and grandfather who I loved and admired deeply and who gave me hope, I was finding it hard to say goodbye to the woman I thought I would be, a woman who is strong and smart and fit and kind and capable and seems to be all of those things all of the time. I’m mourning the loss of her possibility.

Realizing this, that I had seen the long, slow fading of a remarkable woman who had long been my companion, tears came to my eyes. I was filled with compassion for myself. I sometimes feel so torn inside and feeling like there’s no reason for it just adds to the pain and shame of it. But stepping back and seeing myself in grief and mourning lets me be kinder and gentler. It lets me sit with the pain, quietly, and let myself say goodbye again, as many times as I need to.

When I was baptized into my church, I promised God I would be “willing to mourn with those that mourn… and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” We are able to do this because each of us knows sorrow in our own way. Life never happens the way we expect, and when that woman who seems to be all the things we want to be holds our hand, or cries with us, or sits in silence with us, we know that she too has mourned her own losses and dreams.

Somehow, through that sisterhood, and through our quiet hours grieving with and comforting our own broken selves, we are slowly reborn. As we say goodbye to the person we thought we’d become, the person we are becomes more real, more true. Like a new child, we are small, fragile, and tender, but the weight of our hands and the warmth of our touch are undeniable.

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