Author: lizzie (page 1 of 97)

Homegirl

horseandcartSomeone called me homegirl last week. Not that I’m not the “homegirl” type, but, well, it surprised me a bit. Turns out this guy sees me a lot, riding my bike with my kids. He was telling another cyclist how “homegirl here picks up her kids from school every day. Every single day!”

I may have blushed a little.

I do pick up my kids every single day. And I often do it on my bike. The bike that seats five people. An open-air minivan on two wheels. A clown car of sorts. It’s a novelty, a monstrosity, and a life line.

Physically, it is pretty draining. Not so much now as when I first started riding, and even less since I stopped counting the miles and anticipating the hard parts. Now I just go. I just do it and don’t think about how hard it is. Thinking about how hard it is makes it harder. A lot harder.

But the thing is, putting myself out there—in the arena—working for every meter up the bridge and on the roads, I get a lot of support. Mostly, “Whoa!” and “Supermom!” and “That’s amazing!” and “You’re my hero!” and “Strong mama!” and things like that. I get thumbs ups as well. And once, someone even pushed the back of the bike to give me an extra boost. I appreciated the thought even if it did take me by surprise. And then there are the photos. Lots of photos. Sometimes people ask. Sometimes they just take it. Sometimes they try to be covert about it. It makes me smile, even if I am dripping with sweat and looking like a mess.

It’s been a couple of years since I got any negativity. There was the guy who sped past me on the Manhattan Bridge, questioning my sanity for putting my kids in danger like that. He didn’t love it when I asked him where his helmet was. Touche. And then there was the guy who, as he was driving by, creeped into the bike lane, so he could get close enough to tell me that what I was doing was dangerous. Ugh. HE WAS THE DANGER!!!!

The comments, the give and take, the sharing of our lives on the open road: it’s one of the things I love about living in the city. We can’t hide. We don’t hide. We hardly even have our own space. We share all kinds of things with everyone around us.hudsonbikes

We share our thumping bumping and jumping with the neighbors downstairs.

We share our yelling and crying and music and laughing with the rest of the hallway.

We share our “backyard” with everyone else who hangs out in Prospect Park.

We share our travels with anyone who happens to be in the same train at the same time.

We share our quirks with all those people who think that 4 kids on a bike is just the nuttiest/greatest/weirdest/craziest thing they’ve ever seen.

And with that sharing comes connection. We see each other. We talk. We listen. We hear. We smile and nod and we are aware of each other.

It isn’t always easy to do. I still get nervous about what people are going to say to me. I wonder if I’ll get a comment that will fill my bucket or drain it. (And to be honest, sometimes, even the most well-meaning, supportive people are annoying on days when I just want to be left alone. Because, I’m actually working here. As much as it looks like a clown car, we are not messing around. We’ve got places to go and people to meet.)

Sometimes I think about what it would be like to hide. In a car. With tinted windows. To be the anonymous driver.

Sometimes I wonder about a backyard. To watch the kids play from the kitchen window. To not make a production about getting out the bikes and the balls and the jump ropes. To send the kids outside when I need some space and to know they’re still contained and protected.

More often these days I imagine our future home. I see peonies and rose bushes, a wraparound porch, fruit trees in the backyard, and a vegetable garden where vegetables can grow big and strong.

By the time we get there, our kids may have already grown big and strong. Big because that is what kids do, and strong (I hope) because of how much we have given and received as we have lived our lives out in the open of the big city.oliverbikes

We don’t really have a “home”—just a small apartment we rent—nor do we have a lot of family support close by. Instead we make ourselves at home here in this city and rely on our friends and neighbors and strangers for support. It’s a bit risky, but I feel dividends. A little support from my fellow New Yorkers is as good as cold hard cash any day of the week.

So I guess I am someone’s “homegirl.” Maybe a lot of people’s. And I appreciate that we can be at home here in this city together, riding bikes and looking out for each other. Every single day.

I’m Making Everyone Happy

I’m not really making everyone happy. Not right now, immediately. I don’t really think I can. Happiness is so complicated, sometimes unpredictable, and subjective. Right?

So, how to even approach it?

It takes a long time to grow into happiness. To realize that it is not getting everything you want. Happiness takes sacrifice. Happiness is selflessness and fearlessness. It’s finding joy in difficult circumstances. It’s gratitude and giving.thelastbeachday

Am I right?

So that’s why we encourage our kiddos to work hard and take pride in their accomplishments. Even if that accomplishment is putting away 5,305 stuffed animals before bedtime.

We do things that are uncomfortable. Push our limits so that we know where they are. Limits like riding 30 miles on a bike when we are 5 years old.

We take a bite of food that is unfamiliar, and then a couple more just to be 100% sure we don’t like it before we give up. And we never spit it back out.

We do things to help people. Even if it means sitting out in the hot hot sun selling cookies to passersby on a holiday when we could be at the beach.

bakesaleAre we having fun yet? Are we happy? We’re happy, right?

 

Right?

 

Then why are we whining?

Okay, fine. I get it. It takes a while to learn. Happiness is a choice we get to make every hour of every day. Even in the hardest of times. Even when dinner contains ginger and/or curry powder. It doesn’t feel like it, but you actually do have a choice.

(They are usually not happy to hear that.)
So no, I’m not making everyone happy. Not right now.

Because I can’t. It’s impossible. I can lead these little ponies to water, but I cannot make them drink.

prayingboyAnd then one day this summer we came home from somewhere and needed some cold refreshment. Little Miss took charge, opened the freezer, pulled out the freeze pops and exclaimed (for real, it was a real exclamation), “I’m making everyone happy!”

And I thought, Oh my goodness, she’s right! Maybe I’m over-thinking this. Maybe I just need to throw them a bone, a cookie, a popsicle every now and then. Maybe that wouldn’t derail anyone’s life. 

Maybe I can make everyone happy. Just a little bit. Now . . . and forever.theyloveeachother

 

One Thing Is Needful

Everyone in my church gets a chance to speak and preach from the pulpit and I took my turn last Sunday. I chose to speak about holiness, which is not something I usually think much about but felt like I should explore a bit more. This is what I came up with, and the things I want to remember when I feel like there is too much and that I am not enough. 

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I’ve found that one of the of the benefits of living in New York City is that we get to live in relatively small spaces. Small spaces mean that there is less to clean. They mean we can be very close to the people we live with. And they also mean that we are constantly having to decide what belongs in our space and what does not. At least we do in my apartment. Do we really need to hold on to all of these books? What clothes do we no longer need in our drawers and closets? Are there toys that are broken, paperwork that is useless, tools that we no longer need?

We are constantly editing our lives and getting rid of the junk. And, at least in my family, we try to do the same with our time. Do we really need to go to this activity? What can we give or gain by adding this event to our calendars? We do our best to keep our space and our schedule free from clutter that would make our lives messy.

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It is an attempt to keep ourselves unburdened, to not carry more than we are capable of, and to be able to focus on the things that are the most important to us. We try, in this way, to live in the world but not to be of the world. We try to make our home a place of peace and cleanliness and our lives focused on things that bring us and others joy.

In our small and meager way we are trying to create a holy place and live holy lives.

To be honest, in the past when I have thought about holiness, my eyes have glazed over and my mind has skipped ahead to the next part. But this last conference, Sister Carol McConkie gave a talk on holiness that piqued my interest and left me thinking that this was something I needed to be more aware of.I discovered that in Old Testament times, to be holy meant that something was set apart for a sacred purpose. It could be a space, like a temple, or it could be a person, who had a special job or responsibility. The difference between the holy and the common—in Old Testament times, between Jehovah and the heathen—was personal character. Jehovah had a greater moral character than the heathen, and by emulating Him, people could become holy as well.

The Israelites attempted to legislate holiness, creating the Law of Holiness, which you can read about in Leviticus 17-26, but the attempt failed as the people became more concerned about following the letter of the law rather than allowing the law to change their spirits. Holiness has to come from within. To be a moral people, to have our character be like God’s, we have to choose to set apart our space and our lives for sacred, Godly, purposes.

Obviously, this is isn’t easy. And it’s a choice we have to make often—sometimes many times a day. In D&C 20: 31-34 we read: And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength. But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God; Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also.

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Sometimes I feel as though all I want is to serve God and I’m trying SO HARD. I am anxiously engaged in doing what I have felt is His will for me. (Emphasis on anxious.) And I am very much aware of the many ways I am falling short. This is particularly true as I try to be a good mom. I know that I am not good enough for my children. I cannot do everything that I want to do for them. I worry about them constantly, worry about whether I can keep them safe and if I can give them the resources they need to live in this world.

It is easy when I am feeling overwhelmed to want a checklist, a list of right and wrong behaviors that I can rely on to give me the result I want. Am I reading my scriptures? Check. Saying my prayers? Check. Serving in my calling? Check. Reaching out to others? Check. Then my kids are going to be okay, right?

But if I do those behaviors just to do them, just to check the box so I can get the blessing, I have not really taken myself out of the world. I am not truly holy. I am more concerned with the letter of the law than with the spirit of it.

Last month, the church held a Face to Face event for the youth. Elder Holland and President Eyring answered questions from the youth about challenges they are facing and how they can live the gospel more fully. A couple of the things they said that really stuck out to me was that if we really want to benefit from reading the scriptures, we need to read until we feel the spirit. And if we really want to benefit from praying, we need to give God the respect of pulling Him—or ourselves—aside for the conversation and giving Him adequate time to answer.

We need to follow the spirit, not just the letter.

This also can sound overwhelming. At least to me it did. But in her talk, Sister McConkie reminded me that in our attempt to set ourselves apart and follow Christ and become like God, we sometimes over complicate things.

She told the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42: Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

One thing is needful. That is the part I keep coming back to. So when I feel that it is impossible for me to simplify my life any more without neglecting my responsibilities: One thing is needful.

When I cannot reconcile the great expectations God has for me with my great weaknesses and failings? One thing is needful.

When I feel that I am not good enough for my children or my husband or friends: One thing is needful.

When I am cumbered and careful and troubled: One thing is needful.

And then I check to see if, in my heart, I am kneeling at the feet of the Lord and learning from him through sincere prayer, focused study of his word, and heartfelt service to my fellowmen.

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And if I am truly doing those things, not just to check things off the list, but with my might, mind, and strength, I find that, in this case and as paradoxical as it seems, I am not trying to get rid of things, but I am filled with more. As the hymn says:

More holiness give me, More strivings within,More patience in suff’ring,More sorrow for sin, More faith in my Savior, More sense of his care, More joy in his service, More purpose in prayer.

More gratitude give me, More trust in the Lord, More pride in his glory,More hope in his word, More tears for his sorrows, More pain at his grief, More meekness in trial, More praise for relief.

More purity give me, More strength to o’ercome, More freedom from earth-stains, More longing for home. More fit for the kingdom, More used would I be, More blessed and holy—

More, Savior, like thee.

Bend, Don’t Break

I almost maybe sort of broke my foot in December. Though I was never formally diagnosed, I’m pretty sure I had a stress fracture. Cue lots of thinking about not stressing. And not breaking.

Bend.

Don’t break.

Be flexible.

Let go.

*****

notquittingSo when Manchild was struggling with his piano piece, dragging his feet about practicing, threatening to quit . . . we said: Better to quit the piece than quit piano. 

(And for the past few weeks, the new piece has been music to all of our ears.)

When it takes me 3 months to put together a podcast episode that I’m sure I could do in a month if, you know, all went well . . . well, it takes the time it takes.

Bend, don’t break.

And when I get halfway through a recipe and realize a key ingredient is past its prime. Pivot. Don’t even blink. Just turn. Dinner surprise!

Hopefully a good surprise.

*****

hardthings

There’s always a crack. Always an imperfection. Always something not quite right. Stressing seems like a good way to break it in pieces. Keeping it together . . . that’s where the challenge is. That’s where the adventure is. That’s where the fun is.

That’s where I want to be.

 

Is It All Downhill From Here?

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It ‘s all so strange to think that the baby was only a few weeks old last April when I signed up to run a marathon in mid-November. At the time I thought it would be a miracle if I was able to do much training, but the race was downhill so I hoped that gravity would help out where the baby left me unprepared. I just wanted to do a marathon again, to run a big race and to remember what it was like. I last ran the Boston Marathon in 2014, and while it doesn’t seem so long ago when I type it out, it felt like ages ago—a different life. I had lost myself and I hoped that running a marathon would help me feel more like myself again.

And so it’s also strange to think that I feel like I hardly know the person who ran down the mountain on Saturday, who ran 26.2 miles more than 5 minutes faster than I ever thought I could. I had such low expectations for this race going into it. I didn’t really make any goals except to get to the finish line. But then things didn’t go as I expected. thegirlsatthemarathon

The first surprise was that the baby was very kind to me through training. He’s been my only baby who has slept through the night at all before 10 months. So for the first couple of months of training last summer, I was getting enough sleep to be able to run before Micah went to work. When school started, I could run with Little Miss and the baby later in the morning. So, to my great surprise, training was not the fiasco I had imagined. And while I didn’t nail every workout, I did almost all of them. My training plan worked well for me—it seemed to be the ideal balance of work and rest with the speed and strength days in all the right order and spaced just right.*

As race day came I felt strong and well-trained—but still, I had no idea what to expect from my training and my body. I didn’t know if I’d done enough downhill running for a race that was essentially down a mountain. One nice thing was that my sister and a good friend were running the race as well. Abby takes a much different approach to running and training than I do. She said that she fully intended to take the full amount of time allotted to her—6 hours 6 minutes, or 14 minute miles. And Madison was so dedicated to her goal of running her fastest marathon. When the race started I just kept telling myself that I needed to run my race and not be concerned about what anybody else was doing. Because some people were there for the scenery and some people were there for the speed.girlsatthestart

With my last marathon, I wrote happy thoughts on my arms to keep me inspired and distracted (if need be) throughout the race. I did the same this time and tried to focus on one thought per mile.  It was another good reminder that I needed to run my own race, feel my own body, and not worry about what everybody else was doing. Which was great because around mile 8 or 9 I found out that I was running much faster than I had anticipated and that the crowd I was with was hoping to finish much faster than I thought I could. At first I was sure I had gone out too fast and that I would burn out before I got much farther. But I took stock and discovered that I felt fine, good even. Some minor cramps in my legs that passed as I kept running. And soon after the halfway mark, I was able to leave the crowd who were hoping to break 3:10.

meandabsTo be honest, I didn’t know how I was doing, what my pace was. I just kept going and hoping that each cramp in my legs would pass, and they did. Through each aid station I took a few gulps of water and poured the rest of the cup on my legs, especially where they felt tight. Each time, it worked like a charm—the cramps eased. At least until the last 4-5 miles when everything hurt, but I was pretty sure I could make it anyway.

So when I turned the final corner, with 1/10th of a mile left and saw that I was going to finish in 3 hours 8 minutes, I was shocked. It was such a surprise. It was so far beyond what I ever thought I would be capable of that it still seems unreal. And I still feel like I don’t know what to do with it. Accept it as the best I’ll ever do? Figure it as a fluke of a downhill race? See if I can match it on a flat course?

But then there is this: I wanted this race to be a way for me to come back to who and what I was before I got pregnant and then lost the pregnancy and myself. And I feel like in some way it is a way of giving me hope that not only can I get back to being me, I can be  stronger and faster—and more and better.

As for Abby, she didn’t take quite the whole time. But she did come dancing down the final straightaway before the finish line chute in style while my other sisters and brother-in-law cheered her on. She ran her own race—and didn’t walk a step.

abbydances

*If you are curious, my plan was something like this: a shorter (4-6 mile) run and strength training on Monday, an easy 6-10 mile run on Tuesday, speed training on Wednesday (alternating hill repeats, 30-45 minute tempo runs, and 800 meter intervals each week), rest on Thursday, a 6-10 mile pace run on Friday, and an easy long (8-20mile) run on Saturday, with another rest day Sunday.

The Long Con

We were waiting for the train the other day when Little Miss informed me that her baby brother was one of her favorite people. I told her that he’s one of my favorite people too, along with her and Manchild and Squish and their dad. It turns out that there is a lot of overlap in our list of favorite people. But unlike my list, hers doesn’t have any girls on it. Just boys. Three brothers and a dad.

I didn’t make the list, she said, because she doesn’t like to go running with me. And I know that. But I’m over half way through my current marathon training cycle (race day: November 12th, near LA) and some of my weekday runs are too long for me to finish before the boys have to go to school. So she rides along and keeps the baby company as I do laps around the park. She sometimes takes books or toys or snacks. Last run, it was sunny and in the low 70s. She had a cheese stick and a hard boiled egg and she took a nap for a couple of miles. And for this I am not one of her favorite people.

I was a little surprised that she didn’t also mention the reading. She can read now, though it is slow going. She needs practice, so when we have story time I have her read to me. It has just been in the past week or two that she has really made a lot of progress and one day last week as I was searching for a book on the bookshelf, she was standing next to me and saw one with “Boy” in the title. She read it and I, being somewhat surprised, praised her effusively and sincerely. I was hit in the face several times for my troubles.

So she dislikes that I make her read, too. And that is probably another reason why I am not one of her favorite people.

(If pressed, she might also add to the list the fact that I strongly encourage her to eat her breakfast, but I don’t press.)

Honestly, aside from the baby—who does bite the hand that feeds him but also looks so longingly at me when we are more than a few feet away from each other that I forgive him every time—I don’t think I am a favorite with any of the kids.

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When I tell Manchild that I am the best mom he’s ever had, he’ll point out that I’m also the worst mom he’s ever had. And Squish will think carefully before coming to the conclusion that Dad is actually superior in just about every way. When Micah bemoans the fact that the baby doesn’t give him the time of day, I remind him that I get them for the first two years, and then I become chopped liver.

But that’s fine by me. I’m not competing with Micah for favorite parent, and I am grateful that they think their dad is the best because he is.

More than that, however, I’m willing to sacrifice being the favorite for a few years—or even a couple of decades—in the hope that my patience and persistence in simply being there will pay off and in 20 years or so, with a little more wisdom and perspective, the kids will be able to say, My mom was always there for me.

When I got out of school, there she was, waiting outside the door.

She sat through my piano lessons and got me to practice better.

Every morning when I woke up, she was there, asking me how I slept.

When I came home from a friend’s house, there she was with a glass of milk and a listening ear.

She waited outside my door until I was ready to talk.

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At the school there is another mom, quite a few years older than me, whose son is a year or two older than Manchild. She loves to see our little family and often brings treats from the dollar store to share with the kids. She moved to New York from Bangladesh 20 years ago. One day last year, after I had carried sleeping Little Miss from the train station while wearing the baby in a wrap, she sat and talked to me as we waited for the kids to be dismissed.
“Your children,” she said, “they will be like flowers in a garden. They will surround you, they will be beautiful surrounding you, when they grow. Right now it is hard, but you are always there. You are always with them, and when they grow, they will be beautiful around you.”

It was a message I needed to hear on a day when I was worn down physically and emotionally, wondering if I just make my own life harder than it needs to be. A reminder that really, I just need to be there, available, attentive.

I am always there, I am always with them. Sometimes I am invisible to them and they don’t see me picking up their dirty clothes or packing up their backpacks or scheduling their appointments. Sometimes I am the punching bag, the scapegoat, the reason they hate reading and playing the piano. Sometimes I am annoyingly cheerful—laughing while the rest of them are crying in the elevator. (And if you have never been in an elevator with 4 crying children I highly recommend it. It’s an unworldly kind of music.)

But there I always am. I see when they are hurt or confused or excited or sad. I am aware of the stresses and the struggles and the joys and the anticipations. I can tell when they need a break and when they need a push, when they need a treat and when they need a nap. I’m willing to listen to the rambling recaps of the book they read or the movie they watched or the game they played at school. I am also willing to be pushed or yelled at or pinched or ignored without reacting in kind. (Though with a good talking to later, when tempers have cooled.)

As time goes on, if my game plays out right, as they look back on the story of their lives they’ll see things they didn’t see before and understand in a new way. And they’ll realize, I hope, that Mom was always there. And while it was annoying and weird and startling and embarrassing at the time, well . . . *fingers crossed* it worked.

Mom isn’t so bad. She’s actually not the worst. In fact, she may even be one of my favorite people. Because she listens. She won’t react. She’ll always be there.

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When Time Stands Still

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The kids were running around in the yard, making up games, chasing each other, tossing their stuffed animals into the air and catching them. It was overcast, but warm. The sky gray, the trees green, the air slightly thick with humidity. Micah and I watched them from chairs near the fire pit and felt the moment settle into our brains, find a cozy place, and relax.

This. This was it. This was what we want, and wanted, and hope for forever and ever. Our kids, together. Laughing, playing in the great outdoors. The sun setting, the fireflies beginning to warm up. No schedule to keep, no people to please. Space to spread out, space enough that you have to yell to be heard but you don’t have to worry about bothering the neighbors, about getting yelled back at for being too loud.

And even while the moment made a home in our heads, it was an invader, an anomaly—something out of the ordinary. It is true that summer nights with just the right temperature and just the right amount of freedom (no work, no obligations the next day) are somewhat rare. But ours would normally be spent in the park with a hundred other families, or on our balcony with only the puny green trees across the street and our mini garden growing in planter boxes giving the illusion of “nature.”

*****

Months ago, before our little baby was born, I sat chatting with my midwife about . . . life. About how, with all of the possibilities, we somehow find something to do and we do it. She said she thought it was a wonder that people aren’t just paralyzed by all the other things they could be doing at any given moment. Important things, fun things, “life’s work” kinds of things and “life’s play” kinds of things. Somehow we make decisions and we move forward, leaving all the others behind in the box with barely a backward glance.

It doesn’t feel like a choice most of the time. We have obligations, expectations, other people depending on us. Our choice seems made for us. We’ve put ourselves on a track through our choices and if they have been good choices, and we have been lucky, the track we are on is beautiful and comfortable and challenging and we rarely think that maybe there could be another one that is better.

But occasionally we get a view of one that seems like it might be better. It might be easier. It might lead to somewhere more interesting. And then we have to wonder how we got to here.

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*****

The days and the years slide by quickly now. It’s hard not to think that there are “only” nine more summers before Manchild will likely be leaving home and stepping into his own life. Our life will probably change a lot before then, and after then as well. He’ll be part of those changes, but they may not all be part of him.

Will he remember the perfect summer nights? The ones where we lost time, shed space, and just were? Where we gazed at the stars, searched for the fireflies, chased the tiny pinpricks of light and saw them swell so that we knew how small we were?

Will he hear the laughter and remember the warmth of the night air in years to come?

How did we get to this place? Where spacious summer nights were a special treat to be enjoyed only once or twice a year? Did we do the right thing? Are we doing the right thing?

*****

I got off track. I forgot about the people. The brave people we see, we know, we are inspired by everyday—people who are doing hard things and trying new things and working hard and doing good work. The strangers who give us kind words—words of advice and encouragement—and helping hands.

I forgot about the resourcefulness. The challenges. The determination it takes to figure out how to live here. The puzzles to be solved and accepted and lived with every day.

I forgot about how we get to absorb that energy, and put it back into the world with our own stamp on it. How strangers smile at the kids playing together on the train. How they are happy—or at least willing—to give up a seat for us. We get to serve in little ways, and we get that service back as well.

And even if it feels crowded sometimes, and even if there is never enough time, and even when it seems like there is too much to see and do and hear and feel, it is a blessing to be able to see and hear and feel so much.

And also. When we step back and step away—far away—into the green, gray night, thick with humidity and the sound of children playing . . . time stands still. And maybe it doesn’t matter so much that this is a rare occurrence—that we only get to spread our arms this wide and run this fast a few times a year.

Because when time stands still, a moment is all you need.

Crazy Tough

The other day I got on the train with my entourage, as I often do.

There were not enough seats available, as there never are.

But a couple of hipster guys in the corner saw us huddled around a pole and had mercy. They stood up and insisted we take their seats. My three walking children immediately sat down, while I stood swaying with the baby wrapped to my chest.

The hipsters took over our pole and chatted quietly a few feet away—quietly, but loud enough for a mom straining to hear to pick up on it.

“That’s a lot of kids,” one said. The other quickly agreed.

They kept talking. “I saw this mom on the bus the other day. She had two kids, and then she had these huge bags on each shoulder. They just stuck out behind her. It was amazing.”

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They went on like that for  while. Talking about these crazy moms they’d seen. Or these tough moms. I’m not sure which. They seemed to be in awe both about the fact that people still have children these days when there are so many other things you could do with your life, and that moms are so crazy/tough.

Carrying crying kids on public transportation. Wearing babies and bags on their shoulders and maneuvering like its no big thing. Answering question after question after question with zen-like patience and wisdom.

And I couldn’t help but think of the moms I know who are so tough. Who have been through so much. Who get up day after day to do a hard job over and over and over again. And who, so often, are given guff about it.

Put a hat on that baby. 

Shut that kid up.

Watch it lady!

The withering stares and rolled eyes on the airplanes and checkout lines. The barely disguised disgust that you would take children out in public. And the blame if anything happens to go wrong.

Bad mom.

But really, it takes a lot of toughness to take two small kids on an airplane by yourself. A lot of strength to hold two kids’ hands, with another strapped to your body, with grocery bags hanging from each shoulder. A lot of courage to watch your heart scoot out ahead of you on the street, hoping the kid remembers what she’s been taught and stops at the corner.

Those are the things I was thinking of as I eavesdropped on the hipsters standing a few feet away. I thought I sensed some admiration in their voices about the work that mothers do.

I hope I did.

 

The World Keeps Spinning

I know there are big things going on the world. Things that make no sense. Things that are making us all feel a little uncertain about the sanity of our neighbors and countrymen. Things that make us wonder what century we are living in. Things that make us feel small, and things that make us feel big. And maybe, just maybe, it feels like the world has stopped spinning. Or is slowing down while we all stand, mouths agape and off balance.

It’s a mad mad mad mad world. Right?fastfriendsBut here, in our little world, it’s just little things. Little things that let us know that the world is, indeed, still spinning. At it’s normal pace, at least. Maybe a little faster.

In our little world we are learning (and stressing about) how to write 5-paragraph essays and to cite evidence from the text.toothlessoliverWe are losing teeth and feeling pretty pumped about it.

We’re excited about our first gymnastics classes and about sleeping in cardboard boxes.

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And we’re learning to breathe, learning to blink, learning to not freak out when not in direct contact with another human being.

That kind of thing.

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Our newest little person arrived on March 10th at 5:28am. We’re pretty sure he’s the handsomest baby boy we’ve seen in years.

(All biases duly acknowledged.)

And while the world in general seems to be off its rocker, we’re happy to rock our baby to sleep and call it a day.

 

(I’ve had this post in my drafts for a few weeks . . . and just got around to posting it. #newbornlyfe)

Take Care Of Yourself

I have a serious question for you all: What does it mean to take care of yourself? What does that look like to you?

I ask because . . . well, because I was on the train recently and had a delightful interaction with a lady who seemed happy to see a hugely pregnant woman and her 3 children. This is a rare thing to come by—someone who seems genuinely excited, and not just half congratulatory and half questioning my sanity—and so I listened to her. And she, in approximately 30 seconds (as we were about to transfer trains) told me how she has 8 kids, including a set of twins, that they are all grown now, and that it was a wonderful wonderful thing. She was happy for me. I could see her reliving her own young motherhood days in her mind, and it was a place she had enjoyed being.

I thanked her profusely as we scurried out the train doors so we could scurry to the waiting train on the other platform, and she called out, “Be sure to take care of yourself. You take better care of them if you take care of yourself.”

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I’ve heard that before, and I’ve believed it. But I’ve also kind of ignored it. I tend to think that I take pretty good care of myself. I have hobbies. I have ambitions. I pursue them. I shower nearly every day and I often put on foundation and curl my eyelashes (though I save the mascara for special occasions). I prioritize running and I make food that I want to eat—even if it doesn’t necessarily appeal to the younger generation’s palate. I have friends that I connect with regularly. We get together and we talk about all kinds of things—not just about our kids.

So yeah. I’m taking care of myself, right?

Or maybe not? I’m not sure. Because there have definitely been times recently that I’ve thought, “I’ve got to get out of here.” Or, “Something needs to change.” Or, “Today I’m going to do something that I really want to do. Just for me.” And then I think and think and think and think and . . . there’s nothing. I don’t know what I really want to do. I don’t know what would make my heart sing and my soul feel free.

I feel like I should want to go shopping. Get something new to wear—something that I actually picked out for myself because I liked it and I liked the way it looked on me. Or that maybe I should treat myself to a scoop or two of ice cream from Ample Hills that I don’t have to share. Or maybe sit and read a book all day.

But I don’t actually want to do those things any more than anything else. (Maybe because I do also have ambitions and ice cream and new clothes don’t necessarily get me any closer to achieving them.)

One time, I thought maybe I would hop on a bus with my laptop and some books and find a hotel room or an Airbnb for a couple of days. If nothing else, that seemed like a good way for me to tune everything else out long enough to figure out what I really did want and need to take care of myself.

But then I didn’t do it and eventually all my big emotions and whatever else blew over and I forgot about it . . . so maybe I didn’t really need to do that to take care of myself?

Sigh.

Generally speaking, I am a low maintenance person. At least I think I am. I don’t need a lot of attention, and in some ways it feels better to be ignored, or at least not constantly needing something. But I have plants that are supposedly low maintenance as well and they have nearly died from neglect. Even though I see them and I remember them and I water them at least every couple of weeks.

The point being that maybe I don’t know how to take care of things that are low maintenance. Maybe I don’t know how to take care of myself. And maybe one day, I’m going wake up to discover that I’m half dead and in desperate need of . . . something else, something more.

I just don’t know what that might be.

Which is why I’m asking you: What does it mean to you to take care of yourself?

 

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