Cocoon Stories: Launched and Loaded with Good Stuff

We launched my podcast a few weeks ago. It was a close one. We almost delayed on that first episode. But then we decided that it was our deadline, what we had was good, we could tinker forever or we could put it out in the world and learn from our audience and our mistakes.

Thankfully, we’ve had a really great response so far. Lots of people saying nice things, sharing the podcast, telling their friends.


Ellen and Ben sing and play “Cou Cou,” our theme song.

I published it on a Wednesday afternoon as I sat in our relatively quiet apartment. (Maybe the kids were playing in their bedroom?) There were no fireworks, no handshakes or hugs or backslapping congratulations. It was just me waiting for someone to notice what I’d done. But that takes a while when you are waiting for feedback about a 40 minute podcast. People have to find time to listen. Then they have to actually listen.

After about 2 hours, I got tired of waiting and texted my sisters so they could reassure me that efforts had not fallen on deaf ears. And then the feedback started trickling in. They loved it. Other people loved it. Everyone was excited to hear more.

And suddenly, Valerie and I realized how much we still have to do. Newsletter and social media and outreach and responding to our new fans. (If that is actually what they are.)
newandnoteworthyWe have 3 episodes posted now, and several more in various stages of production and planning. We are getting reviewed and rated and featured on the iTunes “New and Noteworthy” page for Kids and Family podcasts.

We are thrilled and excited and relieved . . . and working hard to keep it up.


p.s. If you’ve had a chance to listen, we’d love to hear your feedback. Shoot us a note on our website, or (even better) leave a review on our iTunes page.

How I Met My Mentor

We moved to Brooklyn eight years ago. Manchild was about 4 months old. I was starting grad school at NYU. The program I had been accepted into was an interdisciplinary program and was not what I had planned to do. In fact, I only applied to it after NYU rejected me from the journalism program. However, they had helpfully recommended that I apply to this other program just a few weeks later. I was accepted into it, and promptly turned down two other journalism programs because I knew that New York was really where I wanted to be. I planned to fill my elective hours with journalism classes—assuming I could find a teacher that would let a non-journalism student into his class.


So I did some research. I looked at the intro-to-reporting classes. And I googled the professors. One of them stuck out to me. He had a daughter who shared my named. I sensed an in. So I emailed him. I asked him if I, as an interdisciplinary student with an interest in journalism, could take his class. And I held my breath and waited.

Within a day or two he responded. Sure, why not? was the gist of it. I showed up on the first day of class to find Tim, a somewhat rough and gruff guy who had all the softness of an eggshell. (I know several of my classmates felt like they were walking on eggshells whenever he addressed them . . . .) But I surprised myself by not being intimidated. My pathetic attempt at a news story was the first he critiqued in front of the class and I didn’t even cry when the first paragraph was deemed too long and too wordy and too academic. Actually, I felt . . . grateful. I knew I wasn’t any good. That’s why I was there. To get better. And I appreciated that Tim didn’t bother to sugar coat anything.

I didn’t love being called out and put on the spot, of course, and I also put a lot of pressure on myself to not let my status as a new mom be an excuse for me. So I worked hard. I completed my assignments on time and I stepped out of my comfort zone even more to pitch some of my student work to real newspapers.

By the end of the semester, Tim was asking what I was doing in a silly interdisciplinary program and I was telling him I didn’t really know. He told the head of the journalism program that I was in the wrong place. The head agreed, and let me reapply and be accepted into the journalism program.

The next semester I was a full-time student there, in the second half of Tim’s intro-to-reporting class. I would say that the rest is history, but Tim has continued to mentor and encourage me, even though my career has been mostly fits and starts since I graduated. In fact, it’s often Tim’s voice I hear in my head when I am feeling a little skittish or timid about taking a step forward.
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There have been times when I’ve wondered if I really should have gone to grad school. I’m willing to bet that not a lot of journalists have a graduate degree. But I’m sure I couldn’t have found a mentor like Tim without going to school, and without his encouragement, I’m not sure I would have done anything or gotten anywhere.

So cheers to Tim.

(Photos are from Tim’s lake house. He’s kind enough to invite us out every year.)

Simple Summer with Big Steps

In the mornings, we often go out. We ride bikes, stop at a playground, kick a ball around. And in the afternoon, we play and build and invent and imagine in the air conditioned comfort of our apartment. It’s simple and nice and pure and pretty much perfect—even though it fights a little bit against my idea of what summer should be. I mean, shouldn’t we be camping? Shouldn’t we be at the beach all day every day? Shouldn’t we be traveling and seeing the world?


But then again. Shouldn’t we be climbing trees (or playground structures, as the case may be)? Shouldn’t we be creating ziplines for our stuffed animals in our bedroom? Shouldn’t we be reading all the Magic Treehouse books and then imagining that we get to play soccer at bottom of the tallest oak tree in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania? Shouldn’t we be wearing capes as we run around the park with our friends?


Yes. Yes we should.

I worry sometimes about these city kids I’m raising. No trees of our own to scamper up, no backyard to build forts in. Playground rules state that I can’t even send them there by themselves. In some ways, I feel like the gatekeeper of their childhood adventures—which seems to squash the very idea of childhood adventures just a bit. But despite that, childhood seems to be finding a way. It may not be as far flung or un-accompanied as some other childhoods, but it’s happening. They are making their own adventures, learning to do handstands and cartwheels and to ride their bikes with one hand.


What more could a mom ask for? Especially this mom, this summer. To see them experimenting and taking risks, trying new things and making adjustments as I am on the cusp of launching my podcast—doing the exact same thing on a completely different level—well, it’s pretty great. It gives me a little courage.

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After all, we’re all learning with what we have—and maybe what we have isn’t the ideal. We’re all just making it up as we go along. And maybe we start these new endeavors a little awkwardly, a little unsure, a little cautiously. But I’ve seen Manchild go from hardly being able to scootch halfway up a pole to making it look easy to adding little challenges to himself in just a matter of weeks. I’ve seen Squish “accidentally” learn to ride his bike one-handed. And I’ve also seen Little Miss climb a little too high and need a little bit of help getting down without getting hurt.


So if, in this new podcasting endeavor, we (meaning my team) are a little bit awkward and clunky at first, it’s fine. If we have a few hiccups, I’m not worried. And if we happen to get ourselves in too deep, I’m trusting our audience to bear with us while we figure things out.

I am really, really, really happy and excited about that we have done so far. I’m proud to put things out into the world. But I also know that we’re going to get better at it. We may be climbing playground structures now, but we have our eyes on bigger things.


ps You can listen to the Cocoon Stories trailer at the website, or on iTunes. Take a listen, share, and subscribe!

Never Gets Old

We are home from our 3 week summer vacation to the west—land of mountains and space and infernal temperatures without the infernal humidity.

poolkidAlso, land of lightning. Not that we don’t see lightning here in Brooklyn, but as we drove from northern Utah to southern Arizona we could see, from the safety of our rental car, lightning storms practically surrounding us. And each strike was cause for oohs and aahs, for a bit of disappointment from those who missed it, for hope that the next would be bigger and brighter than the last.

It never got old.

And neither did hearing the kids wow over it.

It got me thinking, of course, about all the lightning strikes we get in life—the things that we can, at times, anticipate and look forward to and that are fresh and surprising and awesome every single time. They leave you feeling both big and small, both full of life and love—and wanting more.


My brother finished his first triathlon while we were in Utah. We cheered him on through the finish.

Things like a baby laughing.

Or seeing your child’s excitement about her birthday.

Watching a little boy stand and stare in awe as a freight train grumbles by.

Or the first snowfall of winter and the sight of the first blossoms of spring.

Witnessing an act of kindness among strangers.

Receiving encouragement from a stranger.

The feeling, at the end of a run, that you did something today.

Watching someone do something hard, and struggle, and succeed.

Creating something—anything—that is beautiful.

hugthewallWhat did I miss? What are those moments that fill you with wonder and awe every time they happen?

Iceberg Ahead

I knew when I started Cocoon that it would be bigger than I expected. I knew that no matter how much I thought about it and researched and learned before I started, there would be things that I didn’t know until I stumbled across them weeks and months into the project. I knew that I should give myself a generous amount of time to figure these things out—and then plan for it to take even longer for it to be ready to launch.


But knowing all those things doesn’t make it any less daunting when I continue to discover the depth and breadth of this project I’m tackling. And honestly, although I’d love to say that the reason I haven’t been checking in here on MotherRunner as frequently as I’d like is because I’m working tirelessly and diligently on Cocoon, the truth is that I have been more or less staring uncomprehendingly at the many facets of the project that keep revealing themselves, unsure what I should be doing right now.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one working on it. It seems like everywhere I turn someone more talented and knowledgable than I has been willing to step in and help. We have an actual team working on this thing now. And yet it is still going to be at least a couple of months before we are ready to launch. (That’s the beauty of an all-volunteer workforce who are on vacation for parts of the next two months.)

Also thankfully, I’ve been here before. We’ve all been here before. We start something new and it is hard. The first time we put on running shoes specifically to go running. That time we came home with a tiny little person who the world, apparently, expected us to keep alive. When we took up a hobby to wile away those nap time hours and it sprouted and grew into something we never expected.

It was hard. We were bad at it. We didn’t know what we were doing. But then we learned. And we got better. And it got easier.

Even knowing that, it’s still hard to push through. It’s hard to imagine that things will get easier. It’s hard to feel like I am neglecting this blog—and my writing in general. I remember, not so very long ago, how amazed I was at what I could do when I had to. I looked at busy days as a particularly delicious challenge and relished the feeling of accomplishment when I got to the end. I loved that feeling of stretching and discovering. And I still do. But right now I need to be more focused. I can’t think too much about all the other things I wish I were doing.


So I’m asking for your patience and understanding. I hope you’ll check in and see how Cocoon is coming along. I hope you’ll stay tuned for updates. And I hope you’ll still be here when things get easier and I can do more of the things I love to do.


PS Micah has been working much more diligently than I have been on the website. It’s still a work in progress and not all of it is functional, but it’s there.  You can check it out and sign up for the newsletter if you want. Or follow us on Instagram: @cocoonstories.

And After 17.4 Miles, I’m a Person Again


The fantasy I’ve had since age 5 came true at Exchange 32 on Saturday morning when, for one brief moment, I got to be Ariel.

I know that I’m not really a real person to my kids. Not yet. They can’t really fathom my life outside of cooking and cleaning and telling them their shirts are on backward. Certainly they see me talking to other people, but my conversations hold little interest for them. They know I like to run and to write and—according to the Mother’s Day book Squish’s made—to read Green Eggs and Ham, which is all true enough, but I don’t think they understand that I like to do those things as a person and not necessarily as a mom. (And yes, I’ve learned a lot from Dr. Seuss’s writing style through multiple readings of his masterworks.) It is more amusing than anything to me at this point. I assume they will slowly realize that Mom is a person too as they grow up.

But sometimes I don’t feel like a real person to me either. And that is a problem. One that needs to be fixed. Possibly by not being the mom for a day or so and instead running around Cape Cod with vans full of other people seeking the thrill of handing off a slap bracelet at 1am to their teammate, then collapsing on the floor of the local high school gym for 3 hours of poor sleep before getting back in the van for the next leg of the relay race.


Only good things come from running by still waters.

At least that is what I did last weekend in running the Ragnar Relay around Cape Cod as part of the Chowdah Legs team. It’s been over a year since I ran a race, which is probably a real shame. I know I was pretty burned out last year after running Boston, but I didn’t know that I would take such a long time away from the racing scene. It was good to be back. Micah and I joined some neighbors and friends and friends of neighbors and neighbors of friends of friends to cover the 192 miles from Hull, MA to Provincetown. And what a good time it was.

It was fun to run without a stroller. It was great to push myself to go fast again. It was awesome to be silly/crazy/stupid/brave enough to run through the mist at 1am. And you know I loved to count how many people I passed (or, in the parlance, “killed”) as I ran my legs of the race. (More than 20 over 3 legs, in case you were curious.)


Chowdah Legs Van 2. BFFs. Or at least for the 29 hours we were stuck in a van together.

And of course sitting in a van with 4 or 5 other sweaty, anxious, excited runners for more than 24 hours is always a good time, too. Instant friends forever, obviously.

Our team did a darn good job, coming in 10 minutes ahead of our projected time. It’s always a good feeling to defy expectations, right? We crossed the line together, had some chowder and then went back to our people and beds and showers at the beach house, where my kids were busy playing in the sand and not knowing or caring that their parents just spent a day running and laughing and napping and talking and driving with their pals simply because that is what brings them joy as human beings.

They’ll figure it out some day. And when they do—and can put their shirts on forward the first time—I’ll let them run on my relay team.

Cocoon: Stories of Gestation

Ugh. Life. Somehow it always gets in the way of what I really want do be doing, which is to sit and swap stories over chocolate chip cookies and milk. Or maybe a plate of nachos. There really isn’t enough time for that, IMHO. 

But I’m working on it. Maybe not so much the chocolate chip cookies part as the swapping stories part because that’s what my new project is about: telling stories. And I mean really telling them. With voices. Your voices. Which I (and my best gal pal Val, aka Valerie Best) will record, and then edit, and then share. Via podcast. 

It’s called Cocoon: Stories of Gestation. And those are the kind of stories we’ll be gathering and spreading—stories of pregnancy, of change, of growing and becoming something new and different. The focus is on the figurative gestational year, from deciding to pursue this parenthood thing (or from discovering the pregnancy, if that came first) to the shock and awe of holding that screaming newborn in your arms. Anything that happens during that time is fair game: from things like crazy cravings and fashion snafus and naming issues to heavier stuff like infertility, birth trauma, and loss. 

Basically, it’s all about this transitional time. What you, as moms and dads (or hopeful moms and dads, or would-have-been moms and dads), made of that strange and sensitive time—and what it made of you. 

So that’s what it is. And as we are working toward launch date (still TBD), we were hoping to get a bit of insight from all ya’ll. We’ve been working with the talented Linsey Laidlaw to come with up the look of Cocoon. She’s done some excellent work that we are really excited about, and we thought we’d ask you which one you are most excited about. Check out them out and let me know which one looks more, to you, like the Cocoon described above. What do you see? What speaks to you? Why? I can’t wait to hear. 



Leave No Man Behind

Competition is inevitable. And it is true that we have encouraged it. “Who can get their pajamas on first?” and other such nonsense. You know, for our mental health, if not the health of their relationship. (Priorities!)

But you know, sometimes it backfires. Like when Squish ends up in tears every afternoon on the way home from school because his legs are not as long as his brothers and he comes in second in their daily race down the ramp. (Little Miss is just happy being able to run at all.) 

We’ve tried to encourage Manchild to go easy on his brother, to ease up and let him win every now and then. See how nice it feels to make someone else feel good? Even better than winning! (He didn’t buy it.)

Last week, though, suddenly and strangely, something shifted. Suddenly I’m hearing: “Partners?” “Partners!” I’m hearing them cheer each other on. I’m hearing teamwork. 

And I’m seeing this:   


Holding hands. Climbing the slide together. Leaving no man behind.

This development struck me especially hard last weekend when I heard a story about a couple of brothers who got themselves in a tight spot climbing a cliff and life was literally on the line. Micah and I couldn’t breathe for a few moments while we imagined our own offspring in the place of those boys. Gah! What would they do? Would one of them fall to his death? Would the other have to watch his brother die?

And suddenly, it seemed as though we could, perhaps, do a little better at encouraging cooperation instead of competition. We’re not in this to beat each other or come in first, right? Even if we do our best, isn’t it better to finish together than to be alone at the line? (Well, maybe not in an actual race, but you know, in life.)

The question now, then, is how to keep it going. Make sure we’re on the same team. A six-legged race, with each of us tied to the other. The victory is not in winning, but in learning to run together, to pick each other up when we inevitably stumble, and, eventually, to make it to the finish line in tact. 

All the Pretty Princesses

One of my sisters went through a phase in which she was not, as we had all been led to believe, Sarah, but was instead “101 Dalmatians” or sometimes “Little Bear” or possibly “Baby Rabbit.” It was never the same from day to day or even hour to hour. Two-year-olds are like that.

Including my two-year-old. She is (of course) a princess, a girl, NOT a sister, NOT a toddler, a bird, a kitten, a magic magic princess, a baby, NOT a baby and possibly several other things that are currently slipping my mind. 

My instinct is to tell her that she’s not a princess but to just go with everything else, for the fun and/or truthfulness of it. (Clearly some of these are easier to just go with than others . . . .)

On further thought, however, why not a princess? My hesitation is, obviously, that she wants to wear a pretty dress all day and tell people what to do. And also that every other little girl wants to be a princess and since my little girl is special, she can’t be like every other little girl and hence, cannot be a princess. 

But then again, her princesses are different from my princesses. (Her princesses are also different from all the other girls’ princesses, because my princess, er, daughter, is special.) My princesses were the sitting in the tower waiting to be rescued type. Her princesses are as follows: There’s Little Miss Princess (of Little Miss books fame), who tries (with mediocre results) to help people. (Having never been forced to do anything on her own, she makes a mess of a shopping trip for Mr. Bump, who broke his leg, and finds that if nothing else, she’s good at giving orders—even if it is over the phone, for pizza.)

Also, Princess Nausicaa. It is true that she might not remember much from Squish’s Nausicaa obsession of summer 2014, and yet it is possible that something stuck. Princess Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind flies around on a glider through the Toxic Jungle trying to find ways to save her people from its spread. She defends her dying father, negotiates with invaders, and eventually sacrifices herself to the insects. (Don’t worry, she’s a Christ figure. She gets resurrected. Oops, my bad. SPOILER ALERT!)

And then Princess/Queen Elsa. She has powers! She . . . has powers! So there’s that. No waiting in the tower, exactly. But, well, whatever. 

Now that I think of it, however, I’m not convinced that my little girl actually knows what a princess is. It sounds nice. People respond to it. I respond to it: “You’re a princess? Since when?” 


So she doesn’t know what a princess is. It’s a girl. A special girl. She wants to be special. She is special. She climbs and she races and she knows where the chocolate is and when to offer her mom some. She knows her style: pajamas, leggings, kitty nightgowns, monster underwear. She is determined to learn to cook, if only so she has first dibs on all the batter/dough in the bowl.  

So I guess it is up to me to teach her what a princess is and what a princess does. Which is this: climbing and racing. Finding the best chocolate and sharing it with her favorite people. Knowing her season and making it work. And, like a good little witch

  testing her brew before serving her guests.

 Don’t tell her, but she’s my favorite little princess.

ps More on my new project later. If you’re curious.

For A Cause

Way back in January I read “Marathon Woman” by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with a bib. She was basically attacked and nearly kicked out of the race for her efforts, but went on to run it—and other marathons—many more times and then to promote women’s running for the rest of her life. Encouraging women to run, and showing them that they could, was (and is) her life’s work. 

Seems pretty awesome, right? To have a cause, a vision, a focus for all your efforts as a human being? I admit to being slightly jealous.  At the time I read it, I was going through a little crisis of my own and none of my favorite things—running, writing, mothering—felt very inspired or inspiring. After several years of paddling along just fine, writing about my life and my loves, running races, and feeling the sweet soreness and strength of all of those things, I was dead in the water. 

Writer’s block, runner’s low, mama’s blues. 


I had hoped that this is what I would do forever, on one scale or another. Run and raise my kids and write about it. I loved doing that, and love it still. I plan to do it for a long time. But I have come to accept that I can’t be as productive as I want to be all the time. I can’t always be inspired. I can’t always be improving. Sometimes I just have to be.

It’s been hard to let those things go, to not see the music and magic in my mundane life raising these kiddos and to not be sharing those things here and elsewhere as often as I can. I miss that very, very much. (Though I admit that it has been nice to make the effort to actually be a part of the action, rather than just observing it: playing video games and ignoring the dishes is something I could maybe get used to. Assuming I don’t always and forever come in last place in MarioKart.) 

However, in the fallow field of my mind and heart a new plant has taken root. A new idea is springing up that I am excited about. I have a great vision for it and I think that it can and (I hope) will be something beautiful and inspiring and even healing. 

That’s just a fancy way of saying that I have a new project I’m working on. It is different and bigger and, I think, more important than anything I have ever imagined up before. And I am excited to share it with you.  


For now I just wanted to let you know that I have what I believe to be “a cause.” And it feels pretty good. 

More to come.

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