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Two years ago, I began a blog about my journey from couch potato to marathon runner.
Though I wanted to keep the blog purely about health, I found funny things, like my kids, kept creeping in. Because at the core, whether I’m keeping the couch warm on a daily basis or getting my Merrells routinely muddy, I’m still a mom.
I’ve come to realize that not a single component of the mother/writer/runner amalgam can be extracted without making the other elements weaker.
Looking back through my blog, it’s apparent I haven’t met all of my health goals (I can barely hold myself in plank position for 30 seconds before falling in a quivering heap, let alone do an actual push-up), but I am much healthier than I was two marathons ago.
I’m not worried about the fact that I still have many items on my “goal” list because it gives me more to strive towards. And I’m the kind of person who always needs some goal or project to keep me from the fuzzy warm blanket of lethargy.
“Auf die Dauer,” is the German equivalent of “In the Long Run,” which is especially fitting for my life as a mother/writer/runner living in Germany.
Everything we do (or fail to do) has an impact in the long run.
It is finding the importance in each of the hundreds of little daily events, which will lead to something greater. Whether it is plugging away on a languishing manuscript, taking 5 minutes to let my teenager vent, or running a few miles, each step gets me closer to the goal.
It is a new year, and I have a lot of goals: some old, some new.
While I still hold fast to the Auf die Dauer philosophy, I’ve decided to start a new blog. It will be the same me…just a different name.
Auf Gehts, Mama! will contain more about my life as a world-schooling, noveling, solar-powered, running mama, who is encouraged and motivated (often literally) by her children, and who also happens to live in an incredible (often literally) place in the world.
So join me in the new year at AufGehtsMama.com
Our fingers were frozen, and our toes were frozen, but a Christkindlesmarkt just isn’t authentic unless it is bitterly cold.
Besides, you could be digging a ditch with Libby and still have fun.
Right on the heels of the Katie•Mommy Day was a Libby•Mama Day. I don’t exactly know why the girls have each chosen a different diminutive for me, but I’m just thankful neither refer to me as “mother,” which for some strange reason, conjures the image of someone who beats you with kitchen utensils.
Libby and I arrived at Rothenburg painfully early, mainly to avoid the combative parking arena; and thus we found ourselves walking around the quiet town, waiting for the market to open.
Libby is eight years-old, but she still gets excited about those colorful rides that do nothing more than go round in a circle.
As the man took the tarp from the carousal, Libby plotted which critter she would ride first. Soon, we had purchased four tokens, and Libby was on the unicorn, lifting her feet so they wouldn’t drag on the ground. She had a bit of trouble in the frog car too: with her knees nearly to her chin, she could hardly unfold and get out by herself.
When our hands were sufficiently numb, we went to our favorite restaurant, by the clock tower. The waiter lit a candle for the two of us, and we ordered coffee and hot chocolate to warm our fingers and souls.
Libby was delighted when her cocoa was served to her on a ‘silver’ platter. She said it was the first time EVER—and it makes me happy that it happened while I was with her.
We enjoyed our lunch, and she enjoyed having a captive audience. She says she wants to be a doctor someday, and if she does follow that line of work, I know she’ll be awarded the “Best Bedside Manner” prize. Libby’s charm and cheerful nature could probably heal most people without the use of medicine.
Walking through the market, we picked up a few Christmas presents for the other kids, and then we spied the nut stand. If you’ve never been to Germany, then you may not have heard about candied nuts they have here. Though they’re not laced with anything stronger than cinnamon, they are highly addictive, and should come with warning labels.
As Libby was deciding which nuts she would choose, she suddenly spied the chocolate-covered apples. We usually shy away from foods that have the potential for disaster, but in this case, as an ‘only-child’ for a day, Libby got her wish: her first chocolate covered apple E-V-E-R.
Surprisingly, it did not end up all over her face, hands, forehead, or ponytail, nor on her seat in the car.
We strolled in the shadows of the medieval walls, non-sticky hand in non-sticky hand, simply enjoying each other’s company.
The fourth child is perhaps the luckiest, because when she comes along, parents finally figure out how fleeting and precious time really is.
It is nearly Christmas, but my best gifts have already been given to me.
My mother used to tell me, “I hope when you have children, you have one JUST. LIKE. YOU!” and she didn’t seem to mean it as a compliment.
How unfair! I couldn’t help it that I was a stubborn, self-willed, independent child—it’s just how I was born, or maybe it was my parents’ fault for not raising me better. Right?
Fast forward to my second born.
She was the first little princess born to me, and subsequently she got her way a lot. She was opinionated from birth, whimsical, and when she was old enough, she loved to bend the rules in order to torment her legalistic older brother.
People who know my lovely eldest daughter can’t quite believe some of the stories about her early years, which include many temper tantrums. She was strong-willed, independent and…well…a lot like me.
I won’t say she’s just like me—her strengths, such as mathematics and music—were always my weaknesses. She bakes and cooks and sews. And every friend is a sister to her. She also has the most tender heart I’ve ever seen, and she wears it right on her sleeve.
And yet, she has a toughness about her that allows her to do things like dissect cow organs and pick up dead moles in the garden without cringing. Of all the kids in the world who want to grow up to be veterinarians, I see in her the type of person who can actually accomplish it.
Yet despite our differences, we are incredibly similar, which means my own behavior reverberates in her life. While there are things that crop up which make me wonder, “Where did THAT come from?” there are also things I can pinpoint the origin exactly—and it’s a little too close for comfort.
The difficult part of having a child who has your temperament is that you are quicker to lose patience. It seems like it should be the opposite: that because you have felt similar things, you should be MORE patient.
But what actually happens is that because you have a good gauge of what’s going on inside that child’s head, you want to ‘encourage’ her to get over it more quickly. It’s almost as if you expect that child to have come preprogrammed with the trials you went through by fire.
Now, I find myself looking eye-to-eye with my daughter, who also borrows my shoes. She is a young lady—beautiful inside and out, which is kind of a scary thing (especially when I catch guys looking at her–which makes me want to check for loopholes in that whole “thou shalt not kill” commandment). And I constantly have to be on guard to keep our relationship safe. It is a valuable thing.
Katie and I recently went to a Christmas market together by ourselves. It was drizzling with the kind of rain that leaves you with a chill you can’t shake. Yet, we were both cheerful—happy just to be together doing something fun.
And sometimes the drizzly cold days make the memories warmer.
It was Katie’s year to pick out the Christmas tree. So we went through the aisles, discussing the varieties available. In the end, Katie chose a ‘surprise’ tree: meaning one that was already wrapped up (as most of them are here), so we didn’t know exactly what it would look like.
It was by far the heaviest tree I’ve ever crammed into the Honda, and I was afraid it wouldn’t quite fit. But we wedged it between the seats (bending the top branch like an uppercase ‘C’) and eventually managed to get it set up at home without breaking the tree stand. It turns out, Katie had picked the biggest, fattest tree I’ve ever seen in Franconia. It is gorgeous.
I love making these kinds of memories. When it’s just Kate and I, I can more easily catch glimpses of the woman she will become.
Once, she was my little princess, but someday, I know I will count her as one of my very best friends.
I can already envision her texting me between appointments with her furry patients, writing: “Meet me at Starbucks!” God willing, I’ll be there, chatting with her over coffee.
The woman who marries my son Noah will have a life filled with the type of love that can (literally) knock you off your feet.
But for now, I am the lucky woman who has his heart; and I love that when we go out, he still reaches for my hand.
Noah is sweet, gregarious, smart, renowned for his giggle-fits and bad jokes (the two often go together); he is musically talented in a scary sort of way, he loves the theater and singing opera in the shower; and he is my only child who not only enjoys running with Mom but whose goal it is to run a marathon with Mom someday.
Noah and I went out together alone on Saturday. We arrived at the Christmas Market before the booths were open, so naturally, we found a coffee shop to pass the time. Noah was thrilled to have a Coke at 9:30 a.m. and vastly amused by our table, which had coffee beans under its glass top.
I wanted to capture the moment by snapping a self-portrait, and with typical Noah-flair, he wrapped his arms around my neck and planted a big, wet smooch on my cheek as the shutter clicked.
Noah does nothing halfway.
His life is either glorious or devastating. His room is either an IKEA showroom or a garbage dump. His siblings are either his best friends or his worst enemies.
There is a distinct lack of middle ground with this kid, which calls for a bit of ingenuity as a parent and diplomatic skills that could qualify me for work in an embassy somewhere.
In a sense, I am an ambassador to my children, bridging the cultural gaps between the State of Adulthood and that Independent Territory of Children.
This is not to say I have to give in to their demands, after all, I wouldn’t want to feed them Swedish Fish for lunch and Mac-n-Cheese for dinner every night. But I can value their young lives and show respect for their opinions (even when I think they’re wrong). And although I am still a work in progress, I can show them what I think adulthood should look like and admit it when I fail.
The love of my children is one of the most precious things in my life. And when you have an all-or-nothing child, the stakes become critically high.
I can’t imagine this house without his infectious laughter or facing the day without his bear hugs. I am the love of his tender nine year-old life.
In my thirty-eight years, it is the best gift I could possibly have received.
His love is worth giving my all.
I was sitting next to a soft-spoken young man on the train.
He was considerate, offering me a book to read, and had that unique brand of humor that can make me laugh in almost any situation.
The conductor checked my ticket and then asked for his. He looked up at her wide-eyed—he had no ticket.
He’s my son, I explained in German, he is on my ticket.
She double-checked, and sure enough, two seats had been reserved. This is his last year of riding free on Deutschebahn.
My oldest doesn’t complain and he rarely asks for things, so when he requested a day alone together, there’s no way (aside from heart-removal surgery) I could say no.
Despite a wearying schedule and all the housework and chores and mountains I could move via the computer, my son and I took the day off.
I do not consider it time lost but a worthy investment.
With four children in our family, being out with him alone is a rare occurrence, as one of us is usually tending the rest of the crew.
So we made the most of it: riding the train to Nuernberg, exploring the Christmas market, sipping a leisurely latte (for me) at Starbucks, and rounding out the day with lunch at a restaurant where food does not come in a box or bag.
It struck me that day just how much he has grown up, and how little time we actually have left before he’s filling out college applications.
My heart misses him already.
I have to say, however, that traveling with William now is much easier than it used to be.
I will never forget the energy (enough to power a nuclear facility), the planning (enough to design a nuclear facility), and the real-life, dripping-from-your-brow sweat (enough to build a nuclear facility with your bare hands) involved in traveling with youngsters.
During that train ride, I sat in awe of this handsome young man in the Italian leather jacket, who no longer needed Cherrie-O’s doled out one-by-one for amusement, and who could not only entertain himself by reading a battered edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but who brought an extra book—just in case his mom wanted something to read.
But before the high tide of adulthood rushes in and overtakes these placid days, I will relish each moment of his young adulthood, and savor those rich memories we have built together.
I have no fear about my son’s future—he will go far in life, even if I’m not there to buy his train tickets.
My plate is full of great things: Super-sized portions of field trips, a side of piano lessons, and heaps of delicious art classes, during which, Mama goes for coffee (and sometimes ice cream) with her friends.
Still, it’s a lot more than I’m used to. And to top it off, my skinny jeans are getting uncomfortable to wear (must be all that ice cream during art lessons) making it apparent I need to increase my weekly mileage. Oh yes, and I’m teaching writing seminars for the homeschool kids. And I’m going to write a novel this month. Plus there’s that little thing called homeschooling, where I’m SUPPOSED to be the teacher.
I love my life and the opportunities the kids and I have, but I wonder how I’ll get everything done.
The real problem is that for the past couple of months, most of our activities are an hour away. There’s no real solution or way around it, so I find myself spending 8 to 10 hours driving a week, and if you look closely at my kitchen floor and bathroom toilets, you’ll see the cost of the commute.
But here’s the thing: I can stay home and have a perfectly clean house, or I can provide valuable learning opportunities (and fun socialization) for my kids. There’s really no choice to be made–our lives are richer because of the activities and because of the people we get to be with while we’re doing cool things.
All of this means that in the next month, I have to be extremely dedicated to using my time wisely.
So, if you don’t see many funny quips on my Facebook page, don’t be alarmed. If I don’t answer emails right away, don’t call the Red Cross–I’m still here!
And though I will be driving way too much, I’ll also be running (before sunrise), writing (any chance I can get), living, laughing, drinking too much coffee, and loving my family.
All it takes is dedication.
But my house probably won’t pass a white glove test any time soon.
Having four kids isn’t really that hard.
Sure, the first six years are a blur of keeping little people clean, fed and safe, but by the time the oldest is eight and the youngest is out of diapers, things start becoming much easier. And that’s why I’m always caught off guard when well-meaning people give me sympathy about my motherhood status–as if by having four children, my life is somehow four times more difficult than the average woman. Yes, having four little ones IS difficult, but now that my oldest can legally babysit and everyone cleans the house, my job feels downright easy.
The challenges I face now, as a mother, are much different and more subtle. While I do have time to shower and get dressed every day (a luxury in those early years), I have to carve out time with each of my kids, to make sure we’re not growing apart. As they become more independent, it’s more important than ever that our hearts remain close.
A while ago, a friend of mine posted a question on her blog regarding the number of children a Christian family should have (biblically speaking, that is). There were many different answers to that question, and I remember feeling somewhat defensive–that a matter so personal was between the husband & wife & God only. And maybe it is, to a certain extent. I mean, certainly, we weren’t all meant to have 20 kids. Were we?
God did not design each family in exactly the same way, though as Christians, we use the same Operations Manual.
Some women are much better mothers because they work outside the home. And when I spend 30 hours or more a week marathon training, those hours out of the home help me to be more patient, kind and level-headed.
When I was a young mom, I thought my life was so full, I couldn’t add more to it without something breaking (like my sanity). But now that I will soon be the mom of two teenagers, life seems too easy. I look at my children and wish there were more of them, tearing through the house, making silly jokes, painting masterpieces.
Why did we stop with only four?
People used to tell me that the years when my children were little were the best years of my life. And I used to wonder at that, feeling acutely the exhaustion from never having a good night’s sleep, and the demoralization of rarely eating a hot meal.
A child’s first steps and first words are incredible, but I can’t honestly say those early years are the best. Each stage of life has rich rewards. Yes, the chubby little hands around your neck and sticky kisses are priceless moments, but what about the late-night laughter with your teen? Or discussing dreams and wishes as you make dinner together? And what about that magical moment when you realize you count your child as one of your best friends?
Each year is the best year of your life. Recognize it. Live it. And share it with your kids.
It’s not that hard to do.
I didn’t know I was stressed until my husband tactfully encouraged me to go for a run.
The day was sunny, and the countryside was relatively quiet, but running wasn’t on the LIST for the day.
The dreaded LIST.
Dirty windows, dirty laundry, dirty floors…most things on the LIST needed soap and water, in one form or another. I HAD to get it done.
Because I thought it should all be done.
In reality, nobody else cared about the LIST. Sure windows are supposed to be clear, and not tinted with farm dust and kid-smudges.
But the children had clean clothes to wear, and as for the floor, well, nobody is crawling around on it anymore except for the dog, and he LIKES it dirty.
The stress of the LIST must’ve crept out over coffee somehow. Maybe it was the way I helpfully advised my husband as he made omelets for the six of us.
“Don’t use that pan.”
“You have the heat too high.”
“Can you use real eggs?”
“The heat is too high!”
“They’re not as fluffy as I make them.”
“You need more patience.”
“I told you the heat was too high.”
I don’t think I said “Thank you,” even once.
No wonder he suggested I go for a run.
Okay, so maybe he was just trying to get rid of me, but then he said something really nice.
He told the kids that when their mother goes for a run, all her stress bubbles just float away.
And I could just picture it: me running through the lovely Franconian countryside, a trail of muddy stress bubbles rising up from my head, or my heart, or wherever they hide, and dissipating far above in the atmosphere, where they couldn’t hurt anybody.
As for the LIST, it still has three items on it, but those things will be crossed off, one at a time, just after I go for a run.
I wonder how many of you have lost someone to cancer.
I used to hear the word and think abstractly of the tragedy of it, but real feelings and emotions never surfaced from the deep.
That changed with the loss of my Aunt Kathy, who was one of my best friends.
Now, when I hear the word, my heart is pained in a way it never was before. It aches for the families who have a vacancy at the dinner table; a birthday to honor but no more candles to light; or a Christmas stocking, hanging empty from the mantle.
My heart breaks for the friend who can never again pick up the phone and hear the voice of that one person who can lift her spirits, or just allow her to vent until they laugh or cry or both. Emails float unanswered into cyberspace, and Facebook turns into a memorial wall. Deep conversations become soliloquies and long walks solo events.
Behind every pink (or blue or teal or white…) ribbon is a wounded heart. Every 5k or race for awareness is filled not with participants, but with battle-scarred people, doing what they can to bring about a cure.
The worst adjectives in the English language cannot begin to describe cancer. And words cannot do justice to my hatred for it, nor can they scratch the surface of my sorrow over it.
Even in this world, where absolutes are frowned upon, I think I can safely say that cancer is an evil thing.
And until war is waged upon that most virulent, most capricious killer, there will continue to be too many empty places at our tables and in our hearts.
and Richard Wellman…