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Behold, the Underminer!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Grief: guest post by Heather Cosby

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


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.

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.)

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