The Tale of a Girl and Her Shoes

Once upon a time, there was a girl. OK, a woman. She was almost 30, but she still thought of herself as a girl.

One day that girl received a card. A real card in a stamped envelope. A 30th birthday card from her college roommate. A card that encouraged her to make this a year of taking chances and pushing limits. And she put that card away in a drawer, but the girl took that message to heart.

Because she was struggling.

So immersed and in love with her two little boys that they had become her identity.

Lonely and missing her husband, who worked two jobs so she could be home with their kids.

Shaken by the news that her father had cancer.

So she bought her first pair of running shoes. Which, for her, was taking a very big chance. Because the girl was an athlete, but never a runner.

Those shoes were good to her. Together the girl and her shoes jogged through the neighborhood. They ran before dawn because the girl was aware of the extra weight she carried from having birthed two children. She preferred the cover of darkness to hide a body that she was ashamed of.

She didn’t find running fun. But the girl stuck with it.

She remembered the card and its message she’d taken to heart. She said to the shoes, “Today we are pushing limits and heading out of the neighborhood!” So they did. And it was hard. Leaving the neighborhood had seemed like an impossible goal, but she’d believed that she could do it, and she did.

She looked in the mirror after that run and saw the girl looking back at her…not just the Mom. And she sparkled just a little bit.

When she came home from her runs to find goldfish crackers ground into the carpet and permanent marker on the walls, she shrugged. The girl slipped off her running shoes. She embraced her babies and said, “It’s OK. Mommy’s here.” And it was OK. Because the running made little things like crumbs and stains seem like they weren’t such a big deal after all.

One day her brother joined her for a run. And that felt like a big deal. Because he had run marathons, and she had only just left the neighborhood. She wondered why he would want to run with her when he could run so much farther and faster on his own.

But it soon became clear. The laughter. The companionship. The consistency. The encouragement. The trust. The vulnerability. They shared it all. While the rest of the town lie sleeping in their beds, the girl and her brother cemented their friendship as running partners.

One day her brother encouraged the girl to register for a 10 mile race. That idea scared her, but she thought of the birthday card. This was her year for taking chances! And she liked that feeling of sparkling. She was feeling more and more like the girl and not just the Mom. And, it may sound crazy, but that made her a better Mom. A patient Mom. A happy Mom.

The girl and her brother trained all summer for that race. On race day, they decorated their shirts with the words, “Every step is for you, Dad.” And their father, whose body was fatigued from having the cancer burned out of it, looked humbly at them through blue eyes that shone bright with tears of pride.

The girl was very excited about the race. She’d bought a brand new pair of shorts for the occasion! Shorts that she’d never run in before.

One mile in, the girl realized her mistake. “These shorts are hurting my legs,” she told her brother. Two miles in, her legs began bleeding. Three miles in, the girl said, “Five is all I have today.” She walked off the course at the five mile point while her brother ran on to finish alone. When the girl saw the letters DNF next to her name after the race, she immediately vowed that there would be another race.

Then she tossed those stupid shorts into the trash where they belonged.

There would be another race. But there would be no brand new shorts.

Before another race, there was another baby. A third boy, and the happiest of her children.

His smile warmed the girl to her toes. But carrying that boy had been hard on the girl. She waited until he was six weeks old before she laced up her running shoes. So enormous were her boobs that she needed three bras…yes, three!…worn one on top of the other, to get through that run. And it hurt. And the girl cried as she ran. She cried for the pain. For deep in her uterus it hurt. She cried for how much fitness she’d lost through that pregnancy. She cried for the pounds, all sixty of them, that she’d gained. She cried for the effort it took to run with those pounds on a frame not designed to carry so much weight. She cried because, as much as she tried to deny it, the girl was suffering from postpartum depression. She felt dull and hopeless…like she would never sparkle again.

To keep the walls from closing in on her, the girl put her faith in those shoes and continued to run. She ran through the pain. She ran through the tears. She believed if she kept running, maybe she wouldn’t feel so burdened. The girl was so many things to so many people. All she wanted was to feel just a touch lighter. “Really, is that so much to ask?” the girl wondered.

When the third boy was five months old, the girl’s brother said, “I’m going to run that 10 mile race again.” Her brother-in-law said, “I’m going to join you.” And the girl remembered the card that still sat in a drawer. It had been several years since she’d first opened that card, but its message had remained her companion. She felt tired, heavy, and overwhelmed. Not at all ready to push her limits. The girl said, “I don’t think I’m ready, but I’d like to give it a try.”

She’d graduated from running with three bras to running with only two bras. The girl strapped on those bras and slipped into the most comfortable shorts she owned, old ones that she’d run in many times before, and she joined her brother and brother-in-law at the start. They ran slowly. And they stuck together. After five miles, her brother turned to the girl and said, “Five is as far as I go today.” And it was he who walked off the course that race. The girl looked at her brother-in-law, whom she loved. Even without the running, theirs was such an easy friendship. “I’m going for it. Are you coming?” he asked. And the girl felt OK. So she continued to run.

The brother-in-law stayed with the girl for three more miles. Three very slow and painful miles. He regaled her with stories to keep her spirits up. But the girl was falling apart and holding him back. So she thanked him for getting her this far and urged him to run his race. And off he went.

By then it was only the girl and her shoes. The girl said to the shoes, “No matter what, we are not walking!” And those shoes were good to the girl. Which was no easy feat. Because the girl and her shoes were running on sand! The girl wanted to quit, but the shoes propelled her forward. Everything hurt, inside and out. So the girl thought of things that made her heart sing…the ocean beside her, the angelic faces of her children while they slept, how protected she felt in the arms of her husband, the outside shower she would take after the race, and the cold beer she would enjoy before bed.

And the girl found the resolve to cross that finish line. Accompanied only by her running shoes.  Who hadn’t stopped to walk even once.

The girl bid the ocean good night. She planted soft kisses on her children’s heads as they slept. She savored the heat of the shower on her aching muscles. She found she was too exhausted for that beer after all. She crawled into the arms of her husband with a smile on her face. The girl had felt the shift. The weight was lifting. She knew it wouldn’t be long before she began to sparkle again.

Years went by, and would you believe that girl went and had another baby?

Yep…a boy! Her fourth.

And when the girl was 39, she found herself struggling again. “I think it’s time,” the girl thought, “to take another chance.” And the girl and her running shoes landed in a city far from home on a relay team with a group of runners. Runners who were different from the girl, yet mostly the same. All girls. Girls who’d known joy, pain, fear, frustration, and the aching exhaustion of sleepless nights. They were kindred spirits. A resilient group. For they were all Moms. Special Moms. The kind of Moms who celebrate and support one another. The girl and her teammates got very fancy for the occasion and donned pink tutus. The girl couldn’t forget about her beloved shoes, which’d always been so good to her, so she tied glow rings to their laces to match her tutu. And the girl delighted in every minute of their adventure.

DC or Bust

DC or Bust

It was on this team that the girl befriended a woman…a Pixie of sorts. The Pixie was the tiniest woman the girl had ever met. But her size didn’t fool the girl. For as small as her frame was, the girl recognized that the Pixie had a spirit as tall as the biggest evergreen and a heart as warm as the sunniest August day. Color, hope, quirkiness, kindness…the Pixie was a rare and beautiful collage of them all.  As the sun set on the first day they’d spent together, the girl sat on the grass and watched as the Pixie strung lights through her tutu. The girl smiled as she thought, “Now her skirt glows as bright as her spirit.”

The Pixie sat down and looked earnestly at the girl. “Sweet girl, I see your struggle,” the Pixie said,”and the struggle is in your head. I promise, if you lead with your heart, it will never steer you wrong.” And the girl felt released. Like all at once like she might laugh and cry. And the Pixie’s advice has since become a mantra for the girl.

When she came home from that race to find dishes in the sink and laundry that needed folding, she shrugged. The girl slipped off her running shoes. She embraced her children and said, “It’s OK. Mom’s here.” And it was OK. Because the running made little things like dishes and laundry seem like they weren’t such a big deal after all.

Nearly ten years have passed since the girl opened that card. A card that encouraged her to push limits. A card that prompted her to take chances. A card that led her to take a chance on her very first pair of running shoes.

In that time, the girl has run alongside women who have imprinted themselves on the fabric of her heart. From soul stirring laughter to confidences that will never be broken, the girl and these women share moments that will endear them forever.

The girl, this lucky girl, has known the unparalleled thrill of running alongside her son. And she was nearly blinded by how brightly he shines.

The girl has experienced more life in those shoes than she’d ever imagined possible. She’s nurtured her spirit. She’s abandoned judgment. She’s found love for herself when she thought she’d given it all away. She’s forgiven herself for the times she’s been too weak to muster strength. The girl celebrates her body, worn and weathered from growing and sustaining life, for the beautiful and unique gift that it is.

She is inspired by the people she’s met on her journey.

She feels grateful for all she’s accomplished with her feet in these treasured shoes.

For in these shoes, the girl slayed her dragons.


There is a girl. OK a woman. She is almost 40, but she still thinks of herself as a girl.

She’s not afraid to take chances.

She’s likely to push limits.

More often than not, she leads with her heart.

The girl is a runner.

Some days she sparkles.

And everyone deserves a chance to sparkle, don’t they?

The girl is not upset that she’ll soon be 40.

Maybe, just maybe, she’ll receive a card. A real card in a stamped envelope. A 40th birthday card from her college roommate.

The girl can’t wait to read what it says.

Disclaimer: The girl does not endorse running in the same pair of shoes for thousands of miles. For the sake of the story, and out of respect for her first pair of running shoes, she didn’t introduce a new pair in this essay. In real life, she replaces her running shoes every 400 miles. Or whenever she can afford it. Because feeding four boys gets expensive. 

This Is Childhood

“You’re going to want to write it down. All of it.”

My friend, a mother herself, smiled knowingly as she presented the journal she’d fashioned from an old marble copybook. It bumped my pregnant belly as she handed it to me. Everything bumped my belly in my ninth month of pregnancy.

She turned out to be right. I spent hours hunched over that journal during my oldest son’s first year of life. When I flip through its pages now, it’s a testimonial both of his growth and of my transition–emotional and anxious–to mother. Is he OK? Am I OK? Am I doing any of this right?    

When my second son was born, the journal was store bought and smaller in scale. The entries were just as fraught with emotion. They hinted at a growing maternal confidence. But they were documented much less frequently. He seems OK. Are we OK? Am I doing more right than wrong?

In the haze after my third son arrived, I scribbled down the details, “9lbs 2 oz, 23 ½ inches,” ripped the note off its pad and slapped it on top of his brothers’ journals on my nightstand. That’s the closest I came to a journal entry with him.

And, no. My fourth son didn’t even get the impersonal stats on a loose-leaf sheet.

Over time, I have accumulated a stack of sticky notes. Here is what they say:

“Paw-crits = paw-prints“

“Fun-quints = footprints”

“Ge-go = here you go”

“What o’clock is it = what time is it”

“Ya got crumbs = Do you need to shave”

“Leepeet = syrup”

“Lasterday = yesterday or any day before today”

All phrases coined by my kids at different ages. Journal-worthy. Indelible.

Individually, each captures a moment in time.

Together, it feels as though they are all that is left of my favorite years with my babies.

They belong in a journal.

Soon I will have one.

This Is Childhood

This Is Childhood

This is Childhood contains heartfelt essays about every year of the first decade of childhood. It provides writing prompts for those times when the words need some coaxing.

I finally took the time to write about my sweet third born. He was the inspiration for the book’s Age Six. I’m so proud to be a part of this collection and have my words sandwiched among those of so many beautiful writers.

This is Childhood is a perfect gift for Mother’s Day.

Somebody please tell my husband;-)

Because I still want to write it down. All of it.

God on High, Once is Enough

Imagine a Mom. A Mom with a deep crease in her forehead and saggy boobs.

You know.

A Regular Mom.

Imagine that Regular Mom has a husband and four sons. The poor girl is substantially outnumbered. No wonder that crease is so deep. So many boys. So little meaningful conversation. That Regular Mom with the deep crease and the saggy boobs longs to get the lowdown from her boys after school every day. How was that brownie I put in your lunch? Who did you sit with? Were your friends kind to you? Did you laugh today? What made you laugh?

But pfffft. Those boys of hers aren’t wired for chit chat. They come home from school, dump their bags precariously in the entryway where Regular Mom will trip on them, load their pockets with cheeseballs and head straight for the trampoline to beat the piss out of one another. So Regular Mom…that saint of a woman…heads into the kitchen to prepare seventeen different dishes that will be consumed by five males in the span of three minutes. She turns on Howard Stern–at least he’ll talk to her–and hopes that tonight’s dinner conversation does not include any sound, smell, or mention of flatulence. Just this once.

Regular Mom has a tough pill to swallow every March. Her kids have THE LONGEST SPRING BREAK EVER. Eleven days off from school.

In a row.

And that includes the weekends because oh yes they do so fucking count.

Many months ago, she researched what it would cost to fly that sizable family out to Arizona to visit her sister for a portion of that eleven day nut punch. A quick Google search showed that it costs too many American dollars to put six winter-weary butts on a plane headed West in the month of March.

Regular Mom’s parents don’t like shoveling snow, so they spend the cold winter months in Florida. Regular Mom did a quick Google search on the price of flights to Florida, and it turns out it costs too many American dollars to fly six people there in March too.

“Son of a motherless goat,” she said, “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle before I do another eleven day staycation with crowd.”

Her offspring wouldn’t know a dinner conversation that didn’t include the word “fart” if it came up and bit them on their gassy little asses, but Regular Mom still wanted to connect with each and every one of her sons.

So she Googled the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge.

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Here is what she learned.

It costs $500 to:

  • frolic about in an indoor water park in ankle deep water that is arguably 50% urine from the bladders of other people’s kids,

  • spend the night in a smaller bed than she’s used to in one room that will sleep her entire family,

  • wrestle on a bathing suit unexpectedly three months earlier than she usually dreads doing, and

  • leave exhausted with the high likelihood of plantar warts in her near future.

So she said to her husband, “WHAT KIND OF A RACKET IS THIS?”

But Regular Mom’s husband said, “Think of our third son. That boy loves being in the water more than anything. Picture the look of excitement on his face when we tell him we’re going. It’s well worth the price of admission merely to see the happiness in his eyes.”

And Regular Mom thought her husband made a good point. Boy #3 is a patient soul with an infectious smile and a pure heart. So she confirmed the overnight arrangements with the vision of her elated third born son’s face in her mind’s eye. And a twitch in her actual eye from the exorbitant price of admission.

Regular Mom bought several pairs of new goggles on the sly. She crept up the stairs into the frigid, dark attic–a space not fit for a full grown adult which forces her to navigate all the clothing bins on her knees–to locate and launder the bathing suits. She packed the overnight bags surreptitiously. So great was her anticipation of her third son’s excitement, that she smiled and chuckled aloud as she prepared for their surprise overnight trip.

And when the time came to share the news with their four sons of the trip to the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge, Regular Mom and her husband assembled the children at the table.

“Please guess where we are taking you.”

“Lolly and Poppy’s New Jersey beach house.”


“Lolly and Poppy’s Florida beach house.”




“Why not Arizona? I want to go to Arizona. You said we would go to Arizona one day.”

“Stop complaining. Keep guessing.”

“The Oreland Swim Club.”

“No, but close.”

“I don’t have any more guesses.

…This is a stupid game.

…Can’t you just tell us already?

…Can I watch a show?”

“OK, boys, Dad and I are taking you to…”

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he reached out and squeezed her hand. They smiled because a moment like this–when you make an announcement that elicits pure joy in the people you love so fiercely and completely–this is what makes all of the sleepless nights and the backtalk and the bad pre-teen Disney shows and the vomiting on fresh sheets at 2AM worth it. This is the moment.

“We are taking you to…


Regular Mom craned her neck around her youngest son and looked expectantly at her third son, the sweetheart of the bunch, the boy whose smile warms her all the way to her toes.

“What?” he stammered, “WHAT?!”

“Yes!” Regular Mom nodded and clapped. “Great Wolf Lodge! The indoor water park! What do you think?!”

And her third son yelled, “I’M NOT GOING IN THE WATER! AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” And then he covered his crestfallen face with his hands, laid his head on the table, and proceeded to cry. Hysterically.

Not the happy tears.

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he looked back at her. And there was no need to speak. Because they were both thinking the same thing.

This, unfortunately, is what parenting is about.

Parenting is thinking you’ve got it so perfectly right…only to discover you couldn’t have been more wrong.

Parenting is the illusion of a whole lotta YES…and the reality of OH, HELL NO.

Not just one NO.

A series of NO’s.

NO’s that get progressively louder and borderline violent.

Welcome to parenthood! Jump in, the water’s great! We’re swimming in somebody else’s pee, but honestly. It couldn’t be better. Embrace the unpredictability!

They dried the tears of their third born son, hurried the children into the car just as the snow began falling, and drove North towards their destination. What should have been a ninety minute drive became ninety minute drive + sixty additional tense minutes. Because four kids.

They checked into the hotel. Donned their bathing suits. Scarfed down Uncrustables. Distributed goggles. And down to the water park the six of them schlepped.

When they were finally together as a family in the pool–before the lifeguard whistled at the oldest son for pulling the second born under water, and before the other lifeguard whistled at the youngest for taking a running leap into the pool and cannon-balling his tiny muscular frame onto the heads and necks of unsuspecting strangers, and before Regular Mom threatened her husband that if he dared to take one more picture she would rip that expensive lens off his camera and send it down the party slide in an oversized raft–Regular Mom and her husband shared a smile. They were surrounded by their children…no one crying, no one in trouble, no one demanding a snack, no one having to poop…and life was good.

Regular Mom stood contentedly in four feet of disturbingly warm water, waiting for her youngest son to launch himself into her arms, when she felt a tap on her leg underwater. She turned to find her third son breaking the surface of the pool.

“Hi, Mom,” he smiled.

“Hi, sweetheart,” she smiled back. Her smile grew bigger as she noticed his goggles weren’t properly suctioned. His eyes were swimming in little pools of water behind those goggles.

“Sorry I was in a bad mood about coming to Great Wolf Lodge, Mom,” he said quietly.

“That’s OK, buddy.”

“I thought we were going to the Lego Store, Mom. I really just wanted to go to the Lego Store. But this is fun.”

“I’m glad you’re having a good time,” What a precious boy.

“Mom, can I ask you a question?”

“Absolutely, buddy.”

He looked over both his shoulders, swam up almost on top of her and asked, “Mom, would you sacrifice yourself for me?”

What’s that now?

Regular Mom chewed on the inside of her mouth to avoid smiling, “Without hesitation.”

“Does that mean yes or no?”

“That means yes. And twice on Sunday’s,” she nodded, as she kissed his wet forehead.

“Twice on Sunday’s? What is that, Mom?”

“It means yes. I would sacrifice myself for you,” it took all her effort to keep a straight face. Especially with the chlorine rolling directly into her eyes.

He nodded his head. Looked over his shoulders once again. Emptied his goggles, dove under water, and swam off without so much as a glance back at Regular Mom.

Sacrifice myself? She wondered what he could possibly be talking about when her reverie was broken by her youngest son’s wet, flying body. Which struck her square on the side of the head.

“You were supposed to catch me!” he spat the words at her. Along with some pool water for good measure.

Once she regained her faculties and was no longer seeing two, three, and four of her children…oh, wait, that’s how many kids she actually has…she swam over to her husband.

“I don’t know what #3 has planned, but he just swam up to me like the Loch Ness fucking Monster and asked me if I would sacrifice myself for him.”

Her husband raised his eyebrows and nodded his head, “Really?” he asked. “That’s interesting. Because he asked me earlier if I know anyone who had fallen into a ravine and survived.”

Hang on, what?

“Let’s keep our eye on that kid,” Regular Mom said.

“And let’s not make plans to visit the Grand Canyon anytime soon.”

“Good call,” Regular Mom agreed.

Regular Mom, her husband, and sons enjoyed hours at the indoor water park. They stayed until well after their two younger sons’ bedtimes. They stayed until Regular Mom could feel the sting of chlorine on her eyeballs when she wasn’t even in the pool. She worried maybe the fine people of Great Wolf Lodge were vaporizing the chlorine and pumping it into the air supply to compensate for all of the peeing in the pools, and that’s when she gave her family the high sign. They trudged up the four flights of stairs to their room, and decided on sleeping arrangements.

The younger two, who were exhausted, would share the pullout sofa bed since it sat on the opposite side of a partitioned wall and offered a modicum of privacy and quiet.

The oldest boy announced, “I’m not sleeping with my other brother,” and both Regular Mom and her husband groaned.

Because that meant one of them had to share a bed with that action.

Non-stop kicking. Sideways sleeping. Talking in his sleep. Walking in his sleep. Night terrors. Hogging of covers. That’s what it’s like to share a bed with their second born son. He is a beacon of light during the day. And the angel of death in slumber.

“Fine. I’ll sleep with him,” Regular Mom’s husband grumbled. The light went out in his eyes as the gravity of the night ahead of him sunk in.

It had been a long time since Regular Mom had slept in the same bed with her oldest son. When he flopped on the bed as far away from her as possible without rolling onto the floor, she was reminded of how much he’d grown and how twelve year old boys pretty much altogether suck.

She smiled at him and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoon with you.”

He rolled his eyes, and replied, “As usual I don’t know what you’re talking about, but don’t touch me, old lady,” and then he flipped his head so she wouldn’t breathe on his face.

Regular Mom doesn’t pray very often. But, lying in an overpriced room with her family, sharing an undersized bed with her oldest son got her thinking. These are the people I love most in the world. They are my reason. Every day.

And Regular Mom was overcome with emotion.

Mostly that emotion was dread.

She lay next to her firstborn son–whose voice is deeper, whose shoulders are broader, whose feet are as big as his grandfather’s, whose upper lip is covered in peach fuzz, whose hormones are raging–and Regular Mom prayed.

“God on high, Hear my prayer. In my need, you have always been there. He is young. He’s afraid. Let him rest. Heaven blessed.”

It was just like Jean Val jean singing over Marius in Les Miserables.

Except it was nothing like that.

Because, it was night two of her period.

The night her uterus bleeds with the vengeance of five uteruses.


So her prayer went more like this:

Dear Patron Saint of Heavy Periods,

Please hear and answer my prayer. My son is 12 years old. It’s an uncomfortable age. That was a particularly awkward year for me. I remember flashes of sequins and a favorite pair of fluorescent striped corduroys.  Please, PLEASE do not let me bleed all over these white sheets.  I have nowhere to hide. If I leak, if my oldest child wakes in a pool of his mother’s uterine lining, he will be scarred for life. More scarred than I was by that awful haircut I had at 12 years old. And I’m still carrying that around.

So, um, Amen?  

Regular Mom only slept about 45 minutes total that night, so scared was she that she would bleed all over the shared bed and damage her son irrevocably.

So she lay awake all night long.

And early the next morning, when she shimmied her way out of bed, she smiled. It had been a perfect, leak-free, sleepless night. Her 12 year old son’s delicate psyche would remain intact. At least until the next family vacation.

Regular Mom’s husband had already left the reservation to take pictures get her a Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why's my coffee so cold?

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why’s my coffee so cold?

She made mental notes about the day ahead. There was packing to do and breakfast to make and hours more fun to be had. But for now, she would let her boys sleep.

Regular Mom crept over to peek around the partition at her two younger sons, who were just stirring.

“Mom, can you lay with us?” whispered the third son.

They made space for her between them, and she slipped under the sheets and wrapped her arms around her third and fourth babies.

“Mom, what o’clock is it?” asked the youngest.

“It’s still dark outside,” she whispered. “That means it’s the perfect o’clock for you to lay with Mommy.”

“Mom, are we gonna come here again? To Great Wolf Lodge?” asked her third son.

Regular Mom replied, “Well, we’re going to have fun at the waterpark again today. But I don’t know if we’ll come back after that. For our family, I think visiting Great Wolf Lodge once is probably enough.”

The two boys snuggled up against her, she kissed the tops of their heads and whispered, “This is the best part of my day.”

Her third son reached his arms around her neck and gave her an unexpected hug. He gazed up at her with that face that melts her heart and said,  “Mom, does that mean we can go to the Lego Store tomorrow? Because I really only wanted to go to the Lego Store this spring break.”


And that, my friends, is what spring break looks like in the life of a Regular Mom.

Just add nine more days.