Full (the good kind)

I chase these days with words, both arms waving, but they never turn around to see me scrambling after them. And I never catch up.

Just this morning, Dani said something terribly cute, and I can't remember it for the life of me. I do remember what it was Caed said at the same breakfast table. He asked me in between bites of strawberries if I could tell he was praying to God.

"Oh you are?" I said.
"Yes, and I asked Him if he really made everyone--like all the people--special."
"Did he answer you?"
"Uh huh. He said yes. I also asked him if he had a wife."
"He said no. But I'm not sure on this one. Why doesn't God have a wife?"

Well you see, son, God in is infinite wisdom....
No, on second thought, I think I'll let Jack Handey answer that one.


Every day this week I've intended to write, and every day this week, I've encountered something along the lines of this:
And so I bathe the dog instead of writing the blog. Priorities.

But I can't blame it completely on the dog.  We might have had one or twenty other things going on this week.


Full week.
Full heart.
And though I probably can't make a
Full comeback,
Though I can't catch up to chronicle the racing days,
though they've lapped me a dozen times over,

it's okay.
Because I'm pretty sure I still won.


How I'll disarm the days

It's Saturday. Soccer game, soccer game, lunch, karate. Wrap a present and grab clean socks, then off we all go to the roller rink for a 7 year old's birthday party.  Home at 5:04, oven on at 5:05, chicken nuggets and tator tots plopped on plates by 5:30. Only baths and brushing teeth and bedtime stories to go. Are we there yet?

See, this is why running 12 miles (all by myself! no one talking! no one whining!) sounds relaxing to me. It's all relative.

This is also why I'm standing my ground on one activity per season per kid. Soccer and karate overlapped a week only because of a rain make-up day. Otherwise, Saturday would have been a bit more deep breath calm and little less huff puff hurry.

It's amazing to me how easily the calendar can fill up and hold me hostage with its loaded days, the hurried hours packed in like bullets, cold time-ticking barrel pressed against my temple. That's no way to live. And it's no way to teach my kids to live. And even though today was crazy, I promise you and I promise them, this will be the exception. Not the rule.

With one no after another (to every-kind-of-camp-under-the-sun and you-name-it lessons and whatever else I'm told we need to do to keep-up-with-the-Jones'-kids), I'll disarm the days.  

Because summer? It will be about slowing down, sleeping in, picking strawberries, making jam, maybe the zoo and maybe the pool, definitely the beach and probably the playground.

We'll hunt for frogs, ride bikes, make s'mores, build forts, keep dirt forever lodged in fingernails.

We'll stay up too late reading books and get up too early to eat pancakes. We'll smell like chlorine and sunscreen for days at a time, and not once, never, not even a little bit, will we regret it.

Who's with me?


To see a shadow, this means sun

I don't know how it came to be, how I woke up perfectly fine and declined into a hot mess by lunchtime.

Caed crawled into my lap at 6:30, and I joked about how he barely fit anymore. He scrunched up his knobby knees and nestled his buzzed head under the crook of my neck. He told me he dreamed about apes and penguins, how he gave the penguin a banana, how the ape jumped on top of the school bus and asked if it was out of gasoline. His giggles shook my shoulders, and I saw a shadow on the wall of the two of us and the whiskers of the dog begging already for breakfast, and this is the way the day began. 

Bizarre dreams are the best comedy. And to see a shadow, this means sun.

So how did I get here, tears streaming?

I saw my son off to the bus. I took my daughter to preschool, and the dog too, for pet day.  It's hard for moments to hold anything but happiness when doggy tails wag and children squeal. And this is the way the day continued.

But then it came time to play Maine landlord, to make phone calls and pay bills and make arrangements. And it started to rain. I told myself it was raining in Maine too, but it didn't help. Because here we are weeks from summer, and here I am, far from home.

What I need is a new goal, I thought. It's just the let-down of having the half behind me. So I opened a new tab, started searching for another half to run, or maybe a full. Then another tab for maps. I could feasibly add a race in Dayton, Akron, or Erie. Chicago if I really wanted to push it. But no. Inside I'm a toddler banging fists and screaming, I only want to run in Portland! Freeport! Burlington! Boston! And I want to run again with my friends--the ones who pushed and inspired me, the ones to blame for this new found obsession love of distance running.

And it's much more than not being able to register for a race in New England. (It's always more, isn't it?) As summer approaches, so do memories of the past three. And I miss it all so much--the friends, the town beach, the wooded trails, the cliff walk, the rocky coast, the free concerts, the Needham ice cream, the lobster rolls, the big boot.  

It has nothing to do with whether I like it here in Ohio. (I do.) It has everything to do with how much I loved it there in Maine.

So I cried and called my friend. And then I opened yet another new tab, searched Maine vacation rentals. Even for just a week, surely there's a way for me to set foot on the soil of a New England summer? Where there's a will (to endure a 12 hour road trip with two kids and a dog), there's a way--straight across I-90, in case anyone's wondering.

It finally stopped raining here. And I stopped crying 15 minutes ago. I haven't seen the sun yet, but it's probably just a matter of time.


13.1 - Because I'm only half crazy

My post-race self portrait
You guys, I did it!! I finished my first half marathon! In 1:53:29!

I'm one bad mother runner, eh? (Sorry, saw that on a t-shirt and couldn't resist.)

And I have to confess, I'm totally hooked on this distance. The half is the first race I've run where I literally felt great the entire time. (Which in retrospect--and only in retrospect--makes me think I could have pushed myself a bit harder.)

The weather was perfect--for running, that is--overcast and misting. The course wasn't breathtakingly scenic, but it was relatively flat, with a nice downhill finish. I'm not sure it could have gone any better (especially in comparison to my first "attempt" at a half marathon). 

Larry asked me after I got home what I thought I'd try next--a full marathon, or maybe a faster half.  I told him I wasn't sure. Maybe a marathon (big, big maybe). Probably another half, and hopefully faster. But as for what's next, as in definitely? A Mojito, an oversized grilled cheese and fries, and two ibuprofin.


Mountaintop moments at sea level

Remember what I said about the valleys of motherhood, the thorny places we travel in between the mountaintop moments?

 On a morning like this one, you almost forget about those places.
Funny how most of my mountaintop moments show up at sea level.

(Or lake level--if there is such a thing. Erie may only be an understudy to the understudy to the understudy of the Atlantic, but she still gives a performance worth applauding.)


This one's for the moms who fake it until they make it

This one's for the moms who fake it until they make it.

The moms who trudge, not race, when the six year old cries out at 2:00 a.m. He can't sleep, needs a drink of water, and now he's scared. Will she cuddle? Just for a minute. And only that. Because sometimes even just a minute in the middle of the night feels like too much.

The moms who only grudgingly say yes, you can "help" when the four year old wants to empty the dishwasher and mix the pizza dough. The moms who don't delight when the flour spills everywhere, the measurements are off, and the forks rest where the spoons should be.

The moms who linger at the lunch table long enough to supervise the carrots' disappearance, then sneak off to the computer to read or write for five minutes. Just five minutes! Is that too much to ask?  Apparently it is.

This is for the moms who fiercely love--but don't always like--their children.

For those who know what a gift it is to stay home, spend time, soak in the early years, but don't always like the way that gift is wrapped--in dirty diapers and dishes, in isolated hours of simultaneously feeling like the loneliest girl on the planet and wanting just one moment of peace to herself.

This is for the moms who fake it until they make it.

You aren't alone.

You can be a good mother and not swoon every five seconds at the way your baby's head smells.

You can be a good mother and still jump at the first opportunity to run away for a few hours.

You can be a good mother and still be supremely annoyed when the toddler tosses squash from the highchair, the preschooler whines about the sandwich you served, and the second grader takes an-ever-loving day to grab his backpack and put on his coat.

You might not always feel that "mother's high", that surge of love, the what-I-wouldn't-do-for-these-children goosebumps. You might want to scream (frequently). You might want to hide (often). And you might want to give up entirely. 

But what separates you from a bad mother and makes you a good one is that you don't. You don't give up. You don't let how you feel at any particular moment dictate how you act (at least not every time). You muster up patience. You dig for perspective. And you keep on trying.

You keep on loving, feeding, bathing, hugging, training, cuddling, listening, even when--no, especially when--you don't feel like it. So that when those rare mother's high moments come, when those goosebumps finally rest on your arms--you know you've made it.

You've made it through those long and thorny valleys in between the mountain-top moments of motherhood. And if you can make it there, my friend, you can make it anywhere.

Happy Mother's Day to the moms who fake it until they make it. This one's for you.


In Which I Finally Have a Worthy Song Stuck in my Head

We rattle our cart from one end of the big box store (the place of which I do not speak) to the other in search of dog food. We pass the aisle of heavily promoted junk (the aisle upon which we dare not look), and a backpack catches my little girl's eye. "Look at dat pink 'parkly one!" she squeals. And before I can change the subject, her older brother interjects, "Oh, that's Hannah Montana. She's a singer on TV."

"Where did you hear about Hannah Montana?" I raise an eyebrow, ready to blame Disney on-demand for cross promoting to preschoolers.  (Never mind that my oldest is nearly two years past preschool. Denial, much?)

"At school. All the girls like her and sing her songs and stuff. I don't know why."

Neither do I. But I catch myself, tell myself to squash the judgy, holier-parent-than-thou monologue. After all, I am shopping at Walmart the big box store of which we do not speak. Not exactly an appropriate setting in which to look down upon society and tout my superior ways of simple and intentional living and parenting.

I pick over the slim choices for senior kibble while the kids wave their arms and shout for me to come see the hermit crab they spotted in the fish tank.

Am I seriously shopping at a store that sells hermit crabs, Hannah Montana back-packs and gluten-free Panda Puffs?

On the way to piano lessons, it still feels out of nowhere when Caed announces, "Morgan and Sophie went to a Hannah Montana concert. And Lydia even watched a Lady Gaga concert."

"Lady Gaga? What?"

"Yeah. What's Lady Gaga anyway? Is she a singer?"

I stumble over how to explain Lady Gaga to a six year old, and trip over words to end up saying very little. Yes, she's a singer. But most of her music isn't appropriate for kids--maybe not even for grown-ups. Just not the sort of words and messages we want to put in our ears and get in our heads.... yadda yadda yadda. 

Then the rest of the afternoon, I work awfully hard to get "Telephone" out of my head. (Sorry I cannot hear you / I'm kinda busy / k-kinda busy). The words hypocrite and double standard come to mind more than once as well.

At dinner, I relay to Larry the hard-to-believe claim that one of Caed's classmates watched a Lady Gaga concert. (Given Caed has come home saying Jimmy saw two real leprechauns in his yard and Joey has gone to Chuck E Cheese like, 500 times, and he's only 7!, I am wise enough to doubt the veracity of everything Caed reports.)

But it sparks good conversation, a chance to define what is meant by "pop music" and "pop culture". Larry explains that these shock artists and boy bands and teen idols will come and go and be forgotten (New Kids on the Block, anyone?), but there is art out there--beautiful, gorgeous art for the ears--that stands the test of time.

He googles Aaron Copland, and plays this piece for the kids.

"What does the music sound like to you? How does it make you feel?" Larry asks a minute or so into the piece.

"Like skipping around and butterflies and, like trees and baby birds." Caed responds.

"Like growing and green," I add, my eyes meeting those of our impromptu music teacher.

And in those moments, we forget all about Lady Gaga and gaudy pink backpacks and all the junk those around us try to pass off as art.  Sorry, Lady G, we cannot hear you--we're kinda busy.

We wave our arms like branches of trees and wands of conductors. The kids unwrap candy from their Easter stash and listen to the ageless art as the lemon drops melt sour, then sweet. It is here at this cluttered mess of a table that I feel like a commoner turned queen, like the dishes could wait for weeks, like there is finally a worthy melody stuck in my head. 

It is here that my heart sings.

*The names of the classmates have been changed to protect the innocent. :-)

Can you trust me when I say this isn't to bash Lady Gaga or pop culture or parents who allow more of it in their kids lives than I do in mine? And by no means do I plan on switching my running soundtrack on Pandora radio from Black Eyed Peas to Chopin.

I wrote this simply so I wouldn't forget what a sweet gift I found at the dinner table last night. I wrote this to remind myself to play a bit more of Beethoven and a bit less of Beyonce. I wrote this to encourage myself--and you--to teach our children the meaning of ageless art, to introduce them to the sort of beauty that far outshines the glitter of a thousand Hannah Montana backpacks.


In Which I Feed the Doldrums a Knuckle Sandwich

When you live in the land of eternal-rain, no one would blame you if you gave up on spring, if you stopped believing in daffodils and forgot entirely how to start the grill.

But I'm pretty sure you'd stay on the hook--rain or not--if you electrocuted--no matter how accidentally--a just-hatched baby bird and her about-to-hatch baby sister. Which is what I almost did when I turned on my porch light yesterday. And heaven help me if I nearly (though inadvertently!) fried some eggs.

But thank goodness, the little birds were fine, beaks and all, though the mother seemed none too pleased, and even less pleased when I climbed up the ladder with camera in hand. We of course kept enough distance to ensure mama bird would keep coming back.  Especially since playing foster mama to baby birds isn't exactly on my bucket list. I'd rather be the sort of proverbial early bird that drinks the coffee while it's hot, you know, as opposed to the literal kind that has to hunt for worms as penance for orphaning a pair of swallows.


For a solid week I've battled what Allen Ginsberg would call doldrums. Sometimes a spirit just sinks, like sand dunked mercilessly by a bullying tide. Sometimes the shoulders just sag and the spine scrunches impromptu, and who can figure out why?

I've been working slowly through Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, and I read this excerpt right in between mama bird tirades of my own (against bike races certain not to end well and mud splattered on the last pair of clean school pants). "But to give thanks is an action and rejoice is a verb and these are not mere pulsing emotions."

Then, in the same chapter, Ann posits that "theories and theology stillbirth unless they can take on some skin, breathe in the polluted air of this world, and make it happen." I nod my head, the one I just shook five minutes ago, frustration boiling as my babies squabbled. I know too well how to suffocate believing joy with anger, my entitled unbelief.

So back I go to naming gifts, the practice of thanks, the left uppercut power punch these doldrums deserve:

#207 Lone red tulip bursting on the soggy scene of my front yard
#208 Baby birds nesting in the lantern porch light
#209 Bicycles fixed, ready to ride
#210 "Mom, watch my bike riding trick. It will totally make you nervous."
#211 Zumba (the amount of fun I have is directly proportionate to how ridiculous I must look)
#212 Trader Joe's dark chocolate pretzel slims (nothing slim about them)
#213 "Sleeping in" until 6:15 today
#214 Caed "teaching Dani to read". "Let's start with the word ten. Now, sound it out like this...."
#215 Jelly beans
#216 Fat squirrels, keeping my old dog young (and thankfully staying juuuust out of her reach)

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