Joseph, When I Think of 6…

I’ll think that this year went by too fast.

Maybe it’s that you’ve hit so many big moments, like losing your first tooth and learning to read.  The reading still amazes me because, unlike your sister, who sort of decoded over time, you just one day seemed to flip a switch and BAM!, started reading anything and everything you laid your eyes on.

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Mostly, you lay your eyes on every book that Mo Willems has ever written.

Maybe – – OK, most likely – – it’s that your brother is in the last throes of the terrible twos, ordering us all around all day long, yelling and tantrumming until our heads spin.  That sure makes time go by fast!

About a year ago you broke my nose at the playground.  Remember that?  You swung your head back as I was looking at your brother and when you hit me, you knocked me back over 15 feet!

And you still flip around the house dancing and jumping and landing, telling me, “See, I didn’t hurt myself!”

But now there is a stillness to you when you play with Legos, or hatch a plan with Molly to have dessert for breakfast.  A lot has changed.

What hasn’t changed is your big heart.  And your sweet disposition.  No matter what, whenever anyone asks how something is, your answer is always, “It’s the best!” I hope you never lose that.  And although I worry it might end up a little worse for wear, I am so happy to have a kid that wears his heart on his sleeve.

Happy 7th, you sweet little man.

 

 

 

 

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My Mushu Waiting to Line up

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Molly and I are running the Disney Frozen 5K this morning.  She picked the costumes so I am Mulan and she is Mushu. 

It’s early.  It’s freezing!  But we’re ready to run. 

On Making Meaning: My Favorite Post From This Last Year

Happy Thanksgiving!  As I sit here in my kitchen, waiting for my family to arrive from New York to start a new holiday season, I can’t help feeling a bit nostalgic.  Things are changing this year.  The Thanksgiving celebration on my side of the family has gotten smaller.  The location of the Christmas Eve gala on my husband’s side is moving to the next generation.  All of the grandchildren are out of diapers this year (thanks, JohnJohn)!  And the first of the grandkids is getting married in May.  Time marches on and torches are passed.

I wrote this piece about a year ago and still come back to it when I need a reminder of what is important.  I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and that you make lots of meaning this year!

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These are not stuffed mushrooms.  Well, they are.  And so good that I ate almost ½ a tray by myself.  But they are way more than bread, onions, mushrooms, garlic and spices.  For, you see, I helped make them with my sister-in-law for our Christmas Eve feast just as she has been making them to bring to Christmas Eve for over a decade.

She’s been making them so long that I don’t really remember Christmas Eve without them.  Just as my husband doesn’t remember Christmas Eve without at least seven fishes and dozens of family members of every age and sometimes friends coming together for the day.  Like so many other families, my husband’s big Italian family holds Christmas Eve as the most hallowed of days.  It is not just about the birth of Christ, although we are primarily a Catholic family.  And it is not because of the presents even if the presents are pretty fun.  And it is not really about seeing each other.  Most of us see each other pretty regularly.   It’s not even about food, although, admittedly, we do all love to eat.

OK.  It is about all those things.  But it is so much more than that.   I have learned since joining my husband’s family over 15 years ago, and especially since having my three children,  that it is really about the extra special effort that every single member of the family makes every single year to prioritize that time together and to hold it sacred above all else.  No matter what.

They make that day and that time mean something special because of all of the effort that goes into it. It’s  Nana and Grandpop, who start shopping for stocking stuffers for all 13 grandchildren in October, review and prepare menus in November, and set tables weeks ahead of time (OK, Mom, if you’re reading this, I know it is probably only a day or two ahead of time ;)).  It’s the aunts, who cull Christmas lists to get their “something special” for each child, one of whom manages to find matching pajamas in every size from 24-months up to men’s medium.  It’s the kids, who give up time on their “idevices” and really do try to look and behave their best for their elders, even if it means wearing a skirt instead of jeans.  It’s the fact that every person there is there on purpose to be together and they prepare for it and look forward to it all the year through.

Sometimes I worry that Christmas is too commercialized and that as a parent I am a puppet of the major kids companies targeting my children.  And sometimes I fret that I spoil my kids when we perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus even a little bit (we don’t really do it full tilt).  And then I think of those crab cakes.  And talking to my mother-in-law mid-December as she and my father-in-law are making pecan rolls, debating whether this year they are, in fact, the absolute best they ever made.

My mother-in-laws Christmas cookies. Said pecan roll, which was the best she ever made, on the left.

I picture each of us at our tables wearing a rainbow of paper crowns unfolded from their crackers, glasses aloft, mouthing “cent’anni” as my father-in-law leads the toast.

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My son, most definitely not listening to anything, not even Grandpop, but looking very cute in his crown.

I remember how it was at Christmas Eve dinner when my father-in-law shared the news with the whole clan that my husband and I were expecting our first baby and I can still hear the raucous cheers that followed.  I laugh at my son counting the kids and the stockings to see if they really match up as my daughter writes out each name in a neat list.  And I reminisce about how, when I first joined this merriment, the oldest of the grandchildren in this family were still in diapers.  Those babies are now in college.  And last year, as I watched my oldest niece stuffing mushrooms with my own daughter, it finally dawned on me.

Whether you believe in Jesus Christ or Santa Claus or someone else or nothing, it is up to each of us to make the Meaning in our lives.  And like every other good thing I am trying to teach my children, it takes work.  It takes effort.  We can do it alone but it is easier if you have other people to help you.  If you are lucky, like me, you find people who work as hard (or harder) than you to do it.  And if you are really, really, lucky, like me, those people will also happen to make a wicked stuffed mushroom.

 

Now Here’s Something to Really Be Grateful For…

 

It’s true.  We get knocked down but we get up again.  You’re never going to keep us down!

To see the video that inspired this message, click here.

 

Can You Guess Who Molly’s Superhero is?

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We participated in a Superhero themed 5K/1K fun run this weekend.  Our kids were asked to invite a buddy to run/walk with them.  Here is a mid-way shot of a cape Molly made for one of her heroes.

Can you guess who she is (Hint:  those are a stack of books)?  Thank you to our wonderful, encouraging, children’s librarian!  Eden Unger Bowditch says it best: “LIBRARIANS ARE HEROES! You are the gatekeepers who show us the maps to incredible journeys and fabulous adventures in the worlds of words.”

 

JohnJohn, When I Think of 2…

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I’m waking you up with Sonic The Hedgehog cupcakes, glad that Daddy takes off from work for all our birthdays, and that all five of us are together today.

I laugh at how Daddy, in trying to give you a more “grown up” name this year, came up with “Grape Juice Juicy JohnJohn”.  Seriously, (I’m looking at you, Molly and Joseph), I cannot believe that it caught on!

When I think of 2, JohnJohn, I’d ride the rails with you again.

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I’ll shake my head as I recall the Big Mahoff, and his villain counterpart, The Puker, whom we all still see pretty regularly.  As Aunt Susan says, “that John sure is a PIP!”

I will do the conga all over again with Molly and Joseph as we watch you march off into your new pre-school with Miss Suzie.  Then I will carry my heart in my throat the rest of the day after Suzie calls me to tell me that you threw up.  Thankfully, that only lasted two days.

I will pity poor Joseph, as I count how many times I made him play “Ninjas” or “Star Wars” or “Smash Bros.” with you this year.  He’s  so good to you.  He deserves how much you adore him.

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I am blown away all over again at how, at Grandpop’s birthday weekend, you informed EVERYONE you met that you were getting Power Ranger underwear and wouldn’t need diapers anymore.  I still can’t believe that after I found the undies in the clearance bin at the store the next day, even though they were a size 6, you put them on and never wore diapers again.

Gosh, I’ll miss the day I don’t overhear Molly turning into a horse as you “morph-forr” her with your Red Ranger Morpher.

I can smell that camel from here.  As I should.  We’ve spent a lot of time with (and money on) Good Old Benny!

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I’ll read Molly’s birthday card to you and wish I had a sister like her.

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I’ll hear you yelling at the top of your lungs “I JUST WANT TO SNUGGA YOU, MOMMY!”  I’ll try to be annoyed because you’re yelling it while I am trying to take my first pee alone in days, but it won’t work.  Truth is, I just want to snugga you too.

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I’ll stop to think how fast this is all going.  You three are best friends.  My birthday wish for you is that you always will be.

Happy birthday, Grape Juice!  We are all glad that you were born.

Molly, When I Think of 7…

I STILL laugh at the ridiculous dancing green bean, all elbows and knees and giggles, bopping across the floor after bath – – even though you don’t do it so often anymore.

I run the headcount with you before bed:  Bucky, Snookums, Mr. and Mrs. Chucklebottom, Bob, BlackLack, Sophie, Striped Bucky, Rudy, mini-Rudy…

I catch you on the couch.  In my bed.  At the table.  On the floor.  Walking across the lawn.  In the little nook you set up at Nana and Pop’s house.  Reading.  Always reading.

I am amazed that you figured out how to change the color of your Minecraft sword to the perfect hues of Pink and Orange Bucky.

I kind of get a tickle in my throat as I watch you march up to the children’s librarian with your notebook of ideas,  to ask whether you can start a book club this Fall.

I breathe deep watching you sing “Happy Birthday” to JohnJohn, even though it’s actually your birthday and your cake.  I know you wish for magic powers, but, you know, you already have them.

I run all those 5Ks with you all  over again, chatting about this and that, repeating “I am awesome.  I am awesome.  I am awesome.”

I hear Joseph’s laughter pealing throughout the house as you crack him up with “A Kooka Maraca Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Nana, A Kooka Maraca Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Nana…”

I trip over the power cords to one of your cousin’s laptops as I pass your Minecraft huddle.

I try to revel in your independence and be grateful for it instead of missing you,  as you march away from me to go to camp, without even a backward glance.

You are a joy, so poised and competent and interested in everything.

I love to watch you in the world.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Molly McGurkles!

 

Molly Running

 

On Running and my Beautiful Daughter

You may remember from some older posts that I am involved in a running challenge this year.  I am running 40K of races for my 4oth year and blogging about it with some friends at Girls Gone 40.

This week it was my turn to write about “why I run”.  I was so touched by the response to the piece.  After hearing from some other parents, I realized that the post belongs here too.  It is as much about being a Mom as it is about being a runner.

Happy Mother’s Day, all!

 

Why I Run

The first time I went for a run just to run, my father was dying of cancer.

Dad had been given 6 months to live and so in those hot, wet, summer months when I lived with him for weeks at a time, I took up running.

Running was simple. I didn’t think about it or plan for it. I had no goal. I certainly didn’t blog about it. I just laced up my sneakers one day, went out into the neighborhood and ran the streets, trying to catch my breath.

I didn’t do anything right. I stared at my feet. I clenched my fists. I held my arms tight up against my body. I didn’t even wear a sports bra on those early runs (I’m sorry, boobies).

But, I did it. I remember thinking, as my lungs burned and my feet ached, “I’m running because I can”.  My Dad couldn’t, that’s for sure.  I didn’t know what a mantra was but I repeated that mile after mile.

And I thought “Shit. This hurts.” Sometimes I cried through entire runs shedding grief and frustration. Those runs gave me big freedom and big choice, even if the choice was choosing pain that I could control.

After my Dad died, I grieved him by training for the Philadelphia Marathon. I needed something to look forward to and I needed time to think.   Why not?

During the marathon, at mile 16, I broke my foot (a stress fracture), but I finished.

I tried to run a half marathon about a year later but my foot still wasn’t right and I re-fractured it (but finished, again).  I fractured my foot a third time and realized I should maybe take a break from running.

Then I had kids. For the past 7+ years, I have been too exhausted and too afraid to run. I have gotten soft. And round.

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I BLAME YOU, BABY!

 

When Rachel suggested running 40K for her 40th year, I jumped on it because I irrationally thought that if I could get over the hump of starting, I’d be the runnergirl I was in my twenties again. I’d run because I could. I wouldn’t have to think about it. I would just do it. We’d do it together. And we’d turn my fear into fun, one race and one margarita at a time. Though never long and lean, in my mind, GirlsGone40 would give me the body and the endorphins of “runnergirl”, with the race bibs to prove it.

That’s a lot to put on running. I know. First I used her to comfort me in the worst loss of my life so far, and now I expect her to help me find my way back to a place I haven’t been in almost a decade!

When I started running again in October (and calorie counting, and trying to change other habits), instead of thinking “I’m running because I can”, I thought “I’m fast and fit and long and lean. I’m fast and fit and long and lean. I’m fast and fit and long and lean!” All I could think about was how I was going to “crush the miles” and get smaller.

Over and over, for the first 4 months of this challenge, even when I wasn’t exercising, it was all I could think about. That mantra, instead of motivating me on the treadmill, became a harsh trill in my ears the rest of the time, reminding me how I was failing because I wasn’t losing weight. I wasn’t getting even one size smaller.

Instead of lifting me up, my relationship with running became complicated. I mostly just felt bad about myself. And really embarrassed that at 39 I care so much about being “thin”.  I’m usually judging the fattists out there for being so judgmental. When did I switch teams?

Rachel was having a hard time getting motivated too and so I thought about letting the blog and the challenge go. In my mind, I had no good reason to run. Weight obsession is a small, small world. And I wanted to get back to my big, rich life. It was still pretty painful getting back into shape and the mental baggage was messing with my head.

Then Molly, my 7-year-old daughter, one day, asked to run the rest of my races with me, telling me her “goal was to run 20K before she turned 8”. How could I say no to that?

Molly doesn’t care about weight loss. She doesn’t care about being “fit.” She has no desire to change habits. Luckily, she has no losses to grieve. She does not care how long it takes her to run a mile or if she walks when she needs a break.

Molly runs for one reason: She just wants to be with me.

We’ve run three races together so far, a 5K, a 5-miler, and 4-miler.  Mother’s Day will be our fourth race.

When we are out there together on the course, or running laps around my house, Molly laughs. Sometimes she skips.  Or hops.  Or leaps.  And she chats about her dreams from last night. She imagines us winning our next race. She designs t-shirts to go with our matching running skirts. She plans entire meals to eat when we are finished. She chants quietly “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” Sometimes she switches it to “I am awesome. I am awesome. I awesome.”  In our last race two women overheard her and joined in.

Molly’s made running simple for me again.  It’s not about the miles.  Or the minutes.  Or the calories.  Or being fit.   Or whatever ridiculous expectations I started GG40 with.  I run because I can.

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