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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.

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.

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.


My Girl

She and I, well, we fight. She points at me from across the room and says, “Don’t talk. Don’t talk, Mommy. Don’t. Talk.”

I tell her I’m not saying anything, but she gives me a look, or yells all the louder, “DON’T TAAAALLLKKKKK!!!”

She likes her space. And she’ll tell me that, too, just like that: “Get out of my space!” or, “No, Mommy, sit over there!”

Sometimes, she will look me straight in the eye as she does exactly what I told her not to do. Classic.

And it’s happened more than once that she has run the length of the subway car, with me hot on her heels, saying, “No Mommy, stay over there! I don’t like you!”Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

It is, most of the time, hilarious. I have to keep myself from smiling or laughing out loud. I have to remind myself that this is real, that she isn’t joking, that she is sincerely upset. But when our arguments are about things like our hard-and-fast rule about wearing underwear at the dinner table, or whether or not she can have a potty treat, it is probably about as endearing as it is exasperating. How can I be truly mad at her when she’s buck naked and/or stuffing forbidden chocolate in her mouth?

But it’s hard not to imagine what this will look like in 10 years or so, when stakes are higher, when emotions are higher, when I can’t distract her and win her heart back with a couple of chocolate chips or gather her in my arms and kiss her little face and hold her until we are playing instead of fighting.

That prospect scares me. Just a little bit. I worry that I’ll get tired of fighting, that she’ll find her own space that I don’t even know about, that I won’t be able to keep up as she runs away. I worry that it is starting right now and that she really means it when she tells me to not talk and to sit over there.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetThen again. At the end of the day, when she’s tired and just can’t sleep and she’s lying on the floor in front of her door, her voice echoing out from the gap, who is she calling for?

“Mommy! Mommy! Mama Heiselt! I need you. I need you Mommy.”

When she’s fallen off a chair for the third time this week, who does she reach for?

“Mommy! Mooooommmmmmyyyyyyy!”

And what do I hear when Micah comes to her rescue in the middle of the night after she has wet the bed and is naked and crying, waiting for someone to help her find some new jammas?


And that’s how I know that even though we fight, and she yells, and she tells me that she doesn’t like me, she is also looking to me to teach her how to be—that for all the cries to “Get out of my space!” she really wants me close.

She sits on the counter and finds a way to help me cook dinner. She hands me my mascara after my shower (and insists I brush some on her lashes too). She climbs into my lap at dinner time, and story time, and nap time and  prayer time. She is usually the first to recommend that maybe we should have just a small taste of chocolate.

She’s my girl. I’m holding on tight. And I’m staying right here.Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

The Complexities of Holding Hands with a 7-Year-Old

We were getting off the train. It was a couple of months ago. It’s crazy, after school sometimes. So many people. My kids trying to wiggle their little bums into any exposed piece of bench, no matter how narrow the space between passengers. Me, trying to listen, trying to see, trying to make sure my dreamer (Manchild) and my slowpoke (Squish) and my Little-Miss-Contrary all get on before the doors close, and trying to make sure my little people don’t annoy any/all of the other passengers.

Can I be forgiven, then, for almost missing our stop? It was a frazzled moment when I stuck my hands out to my kids sitting on the bench and said, “Hands! Let’s go!” And it was another frazzled moment when Manchild was the first to grab my hand and I said, “Not you!” and dropped his hand and grabbed his sister’s. She was, after all, the one I was most worried about getting lost in the crowd.

We did make it out of the train on time, but boy oh boy if I didn’t make an enemy of my eldest child in the process. Manchild was not happy. All, “Humph!”s and teary eyes as we made our way up the staircases and the escalator to wait for the next train. And as we got on the train. And off at our stop. And down the ramp and across the street to our building. And up the elevator. And into our apartment.

“I didn’t mean I didn’t want to hold your hand!” I told him as we made our winding way to our apartment. “I knew I could trust you to get off the train!” I told him. I went on and on about how he’s more responsible, he listens better, he knows the stops. Plus, I only have two hands! The other kids, they might get lost if they’re not holding on to me.

He didn’t buy it. Or maybe he did, but it didn’t ease the hurt of having his mom throw his hand back in his face like a dirty rag. My guts were sufficiently wrenched when the frazzle-panic died down and I realized what I’d done.

I’d forgotten that he’s still a kid. That he still needs closeness. That even if he is inquisitive and precocious and determined to be independent, he still needs help tightening the elastics on his adjustable-waist pants.

He may always be in his head, where he morphs stuffed animals into magical creatures and flies around in inventions powered by magnets and laughs loudly as he relives the favorite parts of the comic strip books he doesn’t understand. And I don’t get to go there with him. But even while he’s soaring through the clouds in his imagination, physically he still needs my hand to hold onto. He’ll let go when he’s ready.


(And until then I’ll have to work on growing a third hand.)

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.
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.
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.

Make It Last All Year

Sometimes, the Muppets say it best:

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset

It’s in the singing of a street corner choir.
It’s going home and getting warm by the fire.
It’s true, where ever you find love, it feels like Christmas.

A cup of kindness that we share with another.
A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother.
In all the places you find love, it feels like Christmas .

It is the season of the heart,
A special time of caring,
The ways of love made clear.
It is the season of the spirit,
The message if we hear it
Is ‘Make it last all year.’ 

-It Feels Like Christmas from A Muppet Christmas Carol

I really hope you find a little bit of Christmas today and every day, all year long. Merry merry Christmas to all of you.

A Gift For You (GIVEAWAY for NY/NJers)

UPDATE: lucky number 7! Melissa Jeppesen and her boys are the lucky winners! Thanks for shining a new light on New Jersey for me, friends!

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

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

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

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

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

lscinfinityclimber3Some favorites:

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

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

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


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

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


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



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

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

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


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

Just One Extra Mile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Holiday Stress on HuffPost Live


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

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

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

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

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

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

River Rocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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