Category: taking notes (page 1 of 23)

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. 

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.

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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.

A Different Kind of Watchfulness

I haven’t changed a diaper in weeks. In my mind, this was always a long way off. Diapers were, I suppose, the last vestige of babyhood, and my babies were never going to grow up. We were never really bottle people. Sippy cups were always short-lived. Cribs and highchairs became superfluous long ago. But diapers were eternal.

Until a few weeks ago when Little Miss refused to wear one any more and very suddenly developed the motivation to use the toilet.
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She’s not perfect at it, of course. We still have to watch her, still have to look for the potty dance and be in tune with her liquid input/output ratio. We’re not always great at reading the signs, which is why the other night, when she woke up with the strangest cry I thought she just wanted me to lie down and cuddle with her for a minute. It wasn’t until we were both lying in a puddle that I realized that cuddling was not her most urgent need.

But really, I’m not here to talk about pee.

It’s more about the watchfulness. Watching for Little Miss’s dance, listening for her distress, yes. But her particular milestone is probably the most obvious thing to watch for these days. Her needs are still so physical, her emotions roll around on the floor and jump upandupandupandup. There’s no hiding them, and it’s easier to address them.

The boys, however, are growing too. I no longer feel like I need to watch them so closely on the train platforms. I don’t always need to hold their hands as we cross streets. They spend so much time at school and then do homework and read and eat dinner and go to bed, it almost feels as though I don’t need to watch them at all.
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But then again. They are away from me so much of the day. There is so much I don’t see or hear about. It’s not so much that I don’t need to watch them as much as it is that I need to watch them differently. It’s not their physical safety that preoccupies me like it did when they were younger and more impulsive. They—especially Manchild—are old enough to hide their feelings, to downplay the things that are most important, to feel it keenly if I don’t attend or respond as they’d hoped.

So I try to watch for the subtle smiles and blushes of pleasure, the quick blinking of downcast eyes, the dragging feet or involuntary bouncing. Their emotions don’t always roll and roil, bubble up and spill over like they used to. But that is, I believe, because they are felt more deeply. To not see them, or acknowledge them, would be to draw a curtain between us, one that could blind me and prevent me from warning my kids of dangers I could have protected them from—dangers that could leave scrapes and scars and bruises and burns that no one, not even they, can see.

They’re such good kids. I say that often, because it is true and because I want them to know it and because I need to remind myself of it. But I hope that by saying it so much I don’t let it become a shield or blinder against more urgent issues—and leave us all lying in a puddle of shame and regret.(null)

Staring into the Storm

I stood in line to get into Trader Joe’s today. Yes, just to get in. I didn’t mind so much. It felt very festive, almost like Christmas. I chatted with the girl in front of me while we stood out there in the cold, and we wished each other well once it was our turn to raid the pantry, so to speak.

I headed over to the hardware store after that to see if there were any sleds available. People practically jumped up to get door for me and my big fat stroller, and no one griped about how clumsily I handled the sled and stroller as I paid and headed out. Again, that festive feeling.

And as we waited on crowded train platforms and stood on crowded trains, everyone seemed so relaxed. Like they were among friends, not strangers, like everyone was moving together.

I guess that’s what happens when we’re all facing the same direction—staring down the storm, hoping for the best, waiting for the trial to pass.

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Some Predictions for 2015, Inspired by an Albino Squirrel

I saw this squirrel on my run the other day and decided it was a good omen for the year. I’m feeling particularly confident about that, which is why I decided to go ahead and look into the future to see what this year will bring . . . . IMG_0205.JPG

I predict that in 2015 I will eat more chocolate than I did in 2014. That’s the hope, anyway.

I predict that my kids will have real bedding by the end of the year. You know: two sheets+quilt+pillows+pillowcases. I also predict that they will be completely puzzled and have no idea what to do with them.

I predict more cake baking in my kitchen.

I predict that some of those cakes will actually look good. (But only after lots and lots of practice.)

I predict that I will still be really bad at getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

I predict Manchild will lose 5 teeth. And begin to look more like the grown up he already is on the inside.
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I predict more difficult conversations with the kids. Some brought on by happenings around the world. Some by our own family and individual trials and triumphs. They may never be easy to talk about, but talking them out will be easier—and better—than keeping them in.

There will be goodbyes in 2015. Some of them welcome (like Manchild’s baby teeth). Some less so. How many of our Brooklyn friends will be elsewhere a year from now? After The Great Exodus of 2014, it feels like we don’t have many left to lose.

There will be hellos as well. Lots, I hope. Big, important ones.

Squish will maintain his rightful place as cutest kid in the class into his first grade year. He will also ease up on his “I only play with girls” rule.

Some things that have worked for a long time will no longer work. Some things that have worked for a long time will still work, but we will change them anyway. Just for something new. Like, maybe, our breakfast menu.

Speaking of food/cooking, I predict that I will build upon the success of 2014 and become even better at vegetables.

The kids will get to color in a new state on their “States I’ve Been To” map. (But first they should probably color in all the ones they’ve already been to.)

Running will make a comeback as a source of inspiration/place of peace for me—and it will continue to be the thing that always makes me feel like I accomplished something—even if the rest of the day is a mess of frustration, dead ends, and unfinished (and probably unstarted) business.

There will be more music in our house this year. (It’s bound to happen: we have a e-piano now.)

There will be more dancing, too.
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Our downstairs neighbors will have more reasons to complain, but we’ll be too busy having pillow fights and jumping off beds to care. (Okay, probably not, actually, but can I just pretend for a minute?)

There will lots of trying. Some failing. Some trying again. And some letting go and moving on.

“Let It Go” will still be on heavy rotation at our house. Always and forever. After all, Little Miss has claimed it as her own.

I will learn to let go of some of the hopes and dreams, some of the emotions and possessions I’ve been holding onto for a long time. And while I will probably pine for the “ghost ship” I could have been on long into the future, I hope that, for the most part, I see that the ship I’m on is pretty great.

Because it is. I can see that pretty clearly from right here.

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.

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.

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