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What exactly does a Supermom look like?

Does she get up at 5:30 to run every day, keep her house tidy, drive various kids to their various activities, and always have a home-cooked dinner waiting for Superdad when he gets home from thwarting evil-doers? Does she keep the house running like clockwork with chore charts and schedules and happy-face stickers?

Does Supermom ever have a runny nose or groan at the current state of the household toilets? Can a Supermom have big feet or gray hair? Does she ever lose her patience?

I thought about Supermom a lot as I was lying on the couch this weekend.

Normally, I’d rather pluck out my eyelashes than passively watch the kids play video games. But in this instance, I was sick—so sick I couldn’t even follow the weak plot. Who was Mario trying to save? And why did he keep turning into Bowser, when they were mortal enemies?

I drifted in and out of my catatonic state, feeling very much like I’d been run over by a truck.

Where was Supermom? Last week, she was here, running with the stars and cooking pot roasts. And now, she was lethargic, on the couch, and letting the kids zombify their brains via Nintendo.

I did no laundry, accomplished no chores, laughed at the thought of washing windows, failed to tick a single box on my ‘to-do’ list. All I managed to do was sleep and self-medicate.

I drifted off as Mario was trying not to get impaled on a spiked floor. When I woke up, two stuffed animals were cuddling next to me.

Out of their tender, loving hearts, two different children had each left something for my comfort.

It occurred to me that maybe being a Supermom has nothing to do with my valiant actions, but everything to do with my day-to-day, humdrum interactions.

I hate being sick. But because of it, I witnessed such an outpouring of affection from my kids, it was almost worth it. Katie made me pudding; Noah drew a picture; William gave me concerned, sympathetic hugs; and Libby scampered about with her doctor kit, periodically taking my temperature (after I sterilized the thermometer, recalling it had been in multiple armpits).

So, where was Supermom this weekend?

She wasn’t scrubbing floors or organizing closets or even playing in the sunshine with the kids.

She was lying on the couch, being loved.

And sometimes, that’s exactly where a Supermom can truly find herself.

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Contrary to popular belief, there are enough hours in the day; you just have to know where to find them.

A while back, a friend of mine encouraged me to get up before the sunrise, chickens and children to run. The theory is that you can have glorious alone time before anyone needs anything from you.

This is also the same friend who got me into long-distance running, so I know her advice (while it usually sounds outrageous to most people) pretty much always helps me in my metamorphosis into SuperMom a decent sort of woman.

Thus, when my electronic birds gently began chirping last week at 5 am, I got up and immediately made the decision to crawl back under my cozy down comforter ASAP.

But when I actually stumbled into the bathroom, I looked through the window on our slanted ceiling/wall and noticed the moon illuminating my running trail and billions of stars all around.

The Franconian countryside had become a strange, new world.

I quietly laced up my shoes and snuck out the door.

The trail was the same (the same tractor ruts, chunky rocks, looming trees, and fields in various stages of growth and harvest), but the entire experience was exhilarating.

Everything looks different; and every scary story you’ve ever heard comes flitting through your mind as you run in the dark (especially past corn fields).

Sounds are amplified and sometimes terrifying (such as the lone car that came barreling over the hill or the hawks that swooped over my head as I ran down the lane of plum trees).

There are creatures slinking around in the fields at night, and they all sound BIG and FAST—at least, bigger and faster than you. Those could be deer, or dinosaurs, or bunny rabbits out there—you have no way of telling!

The good thing about running in the dark: scary sounds make you run faster.

One problem with running with the stars is that you tend to look skyward a lot, which isn’t actually that safe to do on a darkened path.

And instead of hill repeats, you find yourself stopping at the top of the hill, tipping your head back as far as it will go.

In fact, you may consider lying down in the grass to soak in the view, until you remember how wet and muddy it is.

Though running in the dark is seductive, it’s also a hard habit to establish.

The October issue of “Runner’s World” has a good article on becoming an early morning runner. So, armed with sure-fire strategies and inspiration to run before sunrise, I set my alarm for 6:00 am.

The problem with this noble act was that I knew it was not enough time for a good run. I ignored this tidbit of knowledge and justified my action by reminding myself that I need 7 hours of sleep a night.

However, at 5 am, I felt three distinct taps on my shoulder.

I started awake, sputtering, “What is it, Libby?” before my eyes even opened. I expected to see the dark little shadow hovering over me, explaining about hypothetical mosquitos or phantom spiders, but there was no one. My husband appeared to be sleeping, and even the dog was silent in his kennel.

It must’ve been some kind of muscle spasm, but I could not get back to sleep. I tried to ignore the clock, but by 5:15, I knew I had to get up and at least look out the window.

There were stars.

Billions of them.

I added a headlamp and a blinky tail light to my ensemble.

It was another glorious pre-dawn morning. The countryside belonged to me (and to one other person, again barreling over the hill, who must drive to work AWFULLY early every day).

I made my way off the main road and turned off my lamp to let my eyes take in the ambient light that transforms the familiar landscape into a mysterious new place.

As I turned down the final trail to home, the sliver of a moon was hanging on the horizon in a pale strip of coral sky.

I finished my run and had a cup of coffee as dawn broke the spell over lovely, magical Franconia.