Thirteen children call me “Mom." Your confusion is understandable when I tell you, from the age of 15, I didn’t think I could have children. Short story… Seven infertility surgeries and LOTS of medication later, I did have a child. I knew if things didn’t happen on their own, I’d adopt. I did everything up to invitro fertilization which I felt was not an option for me. I grew up surrounded by dysfunction, so offering my home for foster care and adopting children within social services touched an empathetic chord for me. I was one of those children. For nine years I was licensed as a foster parent and feel blessed my life was touched by the children that came through my home. I was ultimately able to get pregnant without additional “help” a total of seven times. The last pregnancy ended in the miscarriage of twins at 19 weeks resulting in 3 more surgeries including a hysterectomy. Yes, it was trying to say the least, but I believe in a bigger plan and to count the blessings I have. I was 33 at that point and felt contentedly done with that chapter in my life.
I was blessed to be able to stay home with my children for 12 years – less than I hoped for but worth everything I might have “given up." I home schooled for years, made my own baby food, breastfed for 11 years (not consecutively) and had my babies at home with a midwife. In the end, the children I am Mommy to consist of 4 biological, 2 step children (don’t tell them that though!), 4 adopted, two foster children that lucky for me never left but couldn’t be adopted and one foreign exchange student from Germany who has never stopped being my daughter. From a scared 15 year old at my first OB/GYN appointment to a 42 year old woman with the equivalent of a football team living in my home, I have grown considerably.
Many things have motivated me to stay in physical (and mental) shape. Being raised by addict parents taught me a lot about what I didn’t want. I graduated high school a year early. At the tender age of 17, I went on my own to figure out this thing we call life. My first concern was to not perpetuate the cycle of my parents. To stay healthy and age gracefully. Sure, vanity and shallowness are fantastic motivators, but I also wanted to have fun with my children. Staying active during and in between pregnancies allowed me to keep up, keep sane and never get discouraged. Having exercise equipment in my home when the children were small was a huge help. So were using videos during naps and a gym that would accommodate my volume of children. Fitness competitions motivated me for a few years, as well as access to an amazing trainer. One thing that has always been part of my life is running. Inexpensive, portable and done in nearly any weather, running not only keeps me in good physical shape, but gives me a chance for my head to clear. It’s time to think, problem solve and plan. It's time for me.
"But it's the truth: For an overstressed, overtired, overextended mother, there are few other sensations that rival a delicious run. Once the sweat starts running down my temples, I daydream, analyze, smile, wonder, channel something cosmic. I feel alive and, perhaps most importantly, like myself again." From the book: Run Like a Mother.
All that’s necessary is a pair of my current favorite running shoes and a supportive sports bra. I run with the kids to encourage them and distract myself. The comments from them while riding their bikes next to me keep me motivated, “Dude, Mom. Your butt jiggles when you run.” Another one of my favorites, “Mommy are you running to get your abs back?” Running is a place where I can be the diva I am, while at the same time it’s perfectly natural to snot rocket, pee outside, sweat profusely and swear. I can run on bike paths, the road (which, when there’s no traffic, I’ll be the one running down the middle…) or trails. I allow my kids to map out routes driven by their buses to mix things up. I’m not afraid to get lost. I’m strong. I’m confident. I’m embracing being the woman that I am. Being on a running team has made a huge difference. Huge. The team brings out my best and works on my worst. I’m proud to have “Endurance Reno” plastered on everything from my running gear to my vehicles. There are times it feels refreshing to relinquish control. Being my own coach was fine – to a point. Having a team with me and a coach behind me has given me the structure and drive – not to mention support – to push myself more, to achieve more. To stay focused, balanced, cared for and to offer that to my fellow teammates. It has allowed me to be better than I am on my own.
Now that my children have gotten older – four are out of the house and my youngest is ten – many of them have started running. Ten of the thirteen have completed at least a 5K. My husband and children have tolerated my breaks to take a run, knowing I’m a better person when I return. Chris (my husband) runs with me sometimes, which I love. We eat healthier than many of our friends’ families and I’m thankful the kids are learning how important that is. Nature's Bakery makes it easy to have healthy, all natural snacks available not only while I’m running, but at home. My kids run at least one race a year and volunteer in at least one race. It’s bound us more closely as a family, and has instilled in my children the value of staying healthy and active.