Musings on life as a mother of three, racing, running with kids and all the beautiful lessons I'm learning along the way.
Author: Caitlin Jacobsen
Mama of three, distance runner, competitive 5K-Marathon distance racer, plant-based diet advocate, dreamer.
I live in Woodland Hills, CA with my wonderful scientist/engineer husband and three beautiful, healthy children. I love all things running, healthy eating and cooking, neuroscience research, parenting and child development, mountain trails, the beach, dark restaurants, falling asleep to a good movie with a good friend.
Most mornings before the kids wake, before the chaos and wildness of another adventurous day ensues, I sneak out of my bed, pull on spandex materials of various shapes and lace up my shoes. I run off into the woods, chasing the sunrise, dreaming of the day ahead. I need this peaceful start. It gets me through.
Today, though, when little pitter pattering feet ran down our hardwood hallway and found their way into my bed at 5:30am, with Daddy snoring at my side, I knew that it would be hard to sneak away.
“Isaac, do you want to go see the sunrise?” I whispered as I pulled back his curly blonde locks to sweetly kiss his ears.
“Yes, let me go get dressed!” he emphatically whispered back. Little feet went dashing down the stairs. MInutes later, we were off under the moonlit skies.
He silently sat in our yellow stroller as we crested the top of dirt Mulholland. The tiniest bit of majestic orange glitter peeked out from behind the mountains. Another five minutes down the quiet dirt road and we reached the top. I leaned over to see the innocent smile spread across his face in pure joy.
“Happy Sunrise, Mama!”
How time changes things, I thought.
We grow, mature, learn what is really important in this life, what makes us happy, what we need to get through. Just a few years ago and I would have fought hard for my morning alone time, protecting and savoring those 25 minutes of solitude. Not today, though. Finally I am learning that these days go too quickly. Soon he’ll be off to school, with friends, much too large for the stroller, sleeping until noon and have no interest in sharing the sunrise with his Mama.
This morning I ran, like many other mornings, with the sky sobbed. Twinkling lights danced a waltz, coyotes howled and I thought, “What will we tell the children?”
How will we explain the hatred, the bigotry, the prejudice?
How will we rise up, be like the mountain I climb, strong and fortuitous yet peaceful and gentle?
Thirty minutes and 4 miles later I was left to think that we will. We will. We will tell the children what they need to hear, what they need to rise up, not to shelter them but to fill them with hope and promise, for they are the hope and promise we need. We will teach them that they are strong, SHE is strong, she can be anything, anyone, everyone. We will show them, with our legs, our spirits our actions that women are powerful.
Just as our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers did for us and theirs did for them, we will press on. We will raise them right, assuring they know that justice and freedom are worth fighting for and that we will not surrender.
The sky continued to cry. The coyote howled and back to the real world. We need saving.
It has been over a year since I have last posted here. For anyone still listening, thank you. If it’s just me, then I need this.
Time has flown by, kids have grown and life keeps on pressing. Also, I have been happy – like really, truly happy. I tend to write when I am not feeling so rosy, when my heart is ripping at the seems, red and blue seeping together and bleeding all over this messy life. Today, I find myself drippy. I need an outlet and my shins are begging for a day off.
I ran my 2nd 50K this past Saturday, just 4 days ago and I now find myself sitting here with the post-ultramarathon blues. It’s a thing. Google it, if you don’t believe me. Back in October of 2014 I first goggled “post-marathon blues” when I was stuck in this funk for days that my typically positive self just could not shake. So anyway, today I find myself on the couch at 10:10am snuggling a sick scrawny little 7-year old who had to miss her school walk-a-thon today due to the flu. In a 7-year old’s world, this is a big deal. She has the blues, too. Poor girl cried and cried all morning, trying to convince herself and her Mama that she was well enough to do it. I took her temperature and let her try. A mere 30 minutes after school drop-off and my phone rang with the news that “Your kid has a fever and isn’t feeling well.” So that is how we landed back here at 10am.
I am never sitting at 10am, never really sitting any time during the days anymore. If I’m not playing with crazy 3-year olds at preschool then I’m running in the mountains or to school pick-ups or gymnastics classes or Trader Joe’s to stock up on food to keep this family moving. But not today. Today, I sit here with my heart like grape gum on the ground (to borrow words from Jewel).
The 50K is done, all the months of mental and physical preparation are through and I only finished 4th. 4th place is a total bummer – just 1 step from the podium. I try to remind myself that this was only my 2nd ultra (classified as any race over the marathon distance), but that hardly helps. Then I research the names of the top 3 female runners on Strava, Facebook and other social media stalking sites with the time I should be using to study. I discover these women are beasts, serious top-caliber athletes from all over the west coast. They run professionally, coach ultra runners and have competed and won top championship races. They are legit.
I place my hand back over a 7-year old protruding shoulder, rub it deeply and sigh. A sip of coffee and life will be okay. Time to plan the next training cycle..
“Show me how pretty the world is.. Cause I want something a little bit louder.. “
The words come in loud through the speakers of my minivan. Four kids sit in the rear seats. Ten years ago, the same words bleared through speakers of a crowded bar. I was in my boyfriend’s arms jumping to the beat in a hip spot, The Troubador, listening to Matt Nathanson sing his heart out. “Show me how pretty the world is.. tonight.” The words play on, tugging at my heart like the strings on a violin.
“I never thought that I could be who I am I never thought that I could see where I was I never thought that all this was wasn’t me I always thought all this was could never be..”
I never thought this would be me. I never thought that I could be who I am, this girl, this mother of three wild and beautiful children. I laugh as I type “girl,” still 31 and I call myself girl. My husband corrects me saying, “You are 31 years old, you are not a girl. You are a lady or a woman or ‘Mam or surely something other than a girl.” Not in this moment, though. In this moment I am 19 again, carefree and in love. I blink and in this moment I am 31, happy and in love but of a different degree.
I have learned that love is more than that feeling of your boyfriend’s arms holding you tightly in a loud bar, more than the music touching you and feeling a connection, more than saying “I do” and seeing sparks fly.
Love is watching him rock your baby to sleep, hearing him whisper secrets in her ear and watching the ensuing smile spread across her precious face. Love is lullabies sung late at night to calm her five year old fears, arms wrapped around each other in bed, holding each other tight before dawn, before the alarm sounds and it is all over or it is all about to begin. Sometimes it is hard to tell which one is happening. Life and love, they are always ending and beginning and circling and weaving us throughout this life.
Love is bigger now, stronger, more. The sparks don’t fly as freely. There are kids and arguments, parenting disagreements and issues and he hasn’t slept through the night in days and neither has he and our house is dirty, I am dirty. I run too much, he works too much. There is not enough “me time” or “us time” or time. It all flies by with such rapidity while the hands barely move. Time ticks on. Ten years and three kids later, I hear these words in a different light.
Three layers of sweat from three multiple runs and one good hike today coat my body in a sticky mess where bugs come to die. The sink is full of dirty dishes hovering in cold water, begging to be cleansed. Wet sopping clothes await my arrival downstairs in the washer. They have surely turned mildewy hours earlier after patiently and silently giving up on me. I can smell them from the floor above. Wait, maybe that is me. Either way, life is dirty. It is hard, it is messy but then the sparks fly, a song brings you back and just like that you remember to see how pretty the world is.. because it really is freaking pretty.
Today we ran, we played hard at the park with friends and neighbors and dogs and about 50 tennis balls. We took a trip to the Discovery Cube, raced cars, learned about friction and wind and storms and weathering it out. Then afternoon came and I ran again but this time in a hard, punishing way just to feel something a little bit louder.
We hiked, late into the night, saw the sunset, watched children climb on steep cliffs and jagged rocks, cringed and held our breath as they joyously rushed back down to earth, back to their Mamas.
“Show me how pretty the world is, ’cause you’re brilliant when you try.” Kids show us in every movement, with every natural sway of their body on a mountain trail. They show us the beauty, remind us to live, to really live, to quit acting like we are adults and grown-ups rather than girls and boys just trying to see the beauty, trying to feel the sparks, the warm embrace of our first crush.
Long ago, many years before I became a mother, I dreamt of moments like these..
This is what I envisioned motherhood to be. Kids playing happily, peacefully, quietly while I lied on the bed in the children’s room reading books. Today I am doing it.
It has been a long time coming. Heck, I have not finished a book of my own choosing in a solid 6 years. I miss it. I am a reader, a writer, a lover of words. Our tiny home is full of bookshelves, either built into the walls or scattered about – at least one in each room, holding hundreds of books. The books used to be mine, now they are theirs. My children are now the readers, the writers, the choosers of books, the lovers of words. I smile proudly thinking this is one of the best things I have passed on to them, or taught them — to cherish the written word.
Today, at 2:22pm, I find myself living a waking dream. I am lying on my 3 year old son’s bed, watching him and his 6 year old sister play silently. Quiet, calming music plays in the background, echoing throughout the peaceful home. One is asleep upstairs, the wild one. All is well. I stretch my tired legs out in front of me and smile as I flip the pages of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” I am full. I am satisfied. I am happy. Just yesterday I ran a 3 minute personal record (“PR” in runner’s terms), to finish 10th female overall in a half-marathon. It ended on the beach, with my kids playing wildly in the sand. There was a playground. There were the best of friends, teammates, cheering me on, supporting me and loving me. Summer vacation is just days away. The sun is hot and air still cool. Life is pretty darn good in this moment.
“I am writing I love you to Mama. It is for your birthday and for you. I am writing it just for you. I love you, Mama,” comes from his little mouth as he scribbles with a yellow No. 2 pencil across a recycled florescent green 8×11 inch paper.
I am in a dream. I know this will pass, may never happen again. As I said, it has been a long time coming. I roughed the storm, payed my time, shouted too many times, cried in desperation after too many sleepless nights. Now, they are six and five and three and at night, we sleep. In the morning, the sun calls me to wake. I run with the dogs.
Now 2:32pm and he is screaming. The moment has passed, she is awake. Three kids are crying. It is gone. Just like that.. but I now, someday, maybe in another hour, or week or year, it will come again. I hold on. I keep going for moments like this. I keep dreaming…
I am a mother, a runner, 31 years old, a teacher, a wife, a wild, loving, free being.
“I believe that imagination is more important than knowledge —
That myth is more potent than history.
That dreams are more powerful than facts —
That hope always triumphs over experience —
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
— Robert Fulghum, 2003, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
I think of this quote often. If you’re not doing what you absolutely love doing, what makes your heart soar, what makes your entire being explode with joy, then stop doing it and find your true purpose. What is my true purpose?
Heck, I don’t know! Well, that’s what this whole life thing is about, right? These years we have here, they’re for finding that purpose, for exploring, creating, searching, sharing, loving. Live with passion and you will find it.
While I may not have discovered my true purpose yet, I do know what I love. I love running, I love kids, I love playing, I love teaching and exploring and watching little minds unfold and discover and be amazed. Today, I started teaching and it was just such a happy day. This Monday, January 4th marked my very first day as a preschool teacher. I ran my two littles to preschool, dropped them on the playground with kisses and hugs and watched them sprint full speed to the tricycles, giggling with excitement. I turned the short corner and entered my classroom where I would soon greet eight 2-year-olds. Together we would play, explore, learn, paint, make messes, laugh, cuddle, read.
The four hours with these little kids flew by and left me amazed and filled with passion. That’s what it’s all about. Then I picked up my own two children from their own classrooms, re-loaded them into the double Bob and ran our way home, smiling and sharing stories from our day.
We kept the storytelling going at home, and spent the afternoon painting sunsets, talking about beauty and passion. The kids have been a bit obsessed with sunsets lately. The pink sky leaves them speechless, they appreciate the simple and stunning beauty that can be found by simply.. looking up. So at 4:00pm, the “magic hour” for our Los Angeles sky, I loaded up the stroller with a 4 and 2 year old, tied two dogs to various parts of my body, laced up running shoes for an eager 6 year old and ran up to the trail to simply look up. Looking up, it never disappoints. Tonight, the sunset did not either.
Find your purpose, love what you do and be happy. Life is too short for anything else. Chase the sunsets, take pictures, watch kids run, run with them. Look up.
Need a good laugh today? A reminder that life is tough for everyone and we all have bad days. Yep, no Supermom here. Keep on looking! I try my best, but somedays I’m still just covered in horse crap.
It started on Tuesday. All three kids were at school for the morning and I needed a mental pick-me-up, a self-convincing that I was a distance runner. It may sound silly to you that I had doubts, but they creep in, those demons that tell you you’re not good enough, you’re not legit, you’re not …
It had been just over a month since I had completed a good solid long run, which to me equals 18 miles or more. I had one goal to accomplish Tuesday morning between 9am-12 noon — to run as many miles as I could. I covered about 20 in the mountains and felt great. Definitely tired, fatigued and in need of some extra coffee that afternoon to get me through homework and babysitting and dinner and cleaning and all the daily chores of a mother of three littles. Anyway, I still felt pretty good.
Then 9pm rolled around and I was toast. Just as I collapsed in bed, I heard strange noises. It was choking — a sound no one ever wants to hear, let alone a tired Mama. I tiptoed into the kid’s room to see which one it was (all three share a room so it’s tricky to detect who is making little sounds in the night). It was Cesia, my middle daughter, and she was covered in vomit.
That was only the beginning. For the next four hours, she alternated vomiting and running to the toilet for the other end while I alternated changing her sheets and clothes and bathing her in the middle of the night with soothing, calming and helping her get back to sleep.
Needless to say, Wednesday morning the sun rose and I was feeling pretty beat. I hardly slept at all and my body was in serious need of rest and recovery post-20 miler. Ah well, I’d get it eventually. Wednesday night went okay and all seemed just fine. Then Thursday all were back at school and I completed my speed workout for the week. I felt pretty shitty, my legs filling with lactic acid during the 2 mile warm-up (never a good sign!). Ah well, I completed it and right on pace and went on with my day, just waiting for bedtime. Then bedtime came and.. more choking, the crying and sobbing. Who could it be now?
I dashed to the kid’s room last night to find my littlest, my soon-to-be-three year old Isaac just completely covered head to toe in puddles of dinner, and lunch and everything else he had shoved into his little 30 lb body over the course of the day. Another night came and went with nary a wink. I slept cuddled up with him in our bed, quieting his shaking body and bathing him twice in the middle of the night.
Friday morning and gosh, I’m just ready to sleep. My body is off, my legs achy and tired, my stomach upset but I’m not sure whether it’s mental paranoia over getting this stomach bug myself or just a result of sheer exhaustion. Time will surely tell.
Dogs are driving me crazy, kids feisty despite their little sleep this week and I just need to run. It all takes so much effort sometimes. It’s ridiculous but somehow the loading and packing of snacks and kids and dogs and water and poop bags all to go for a quick 4 miler takes longer than the 4 miler itself! In fact it nearly always does. There’s no “quick-out-the-door” with kids, it always just takes freaking forever. I’m losing patience by the second and just want my feet to be gliding over dirt.
Alas, we are all packed, buckled, tied on and ready to run! Things are good, life is good, I am slowly finding my happiness and peace underneath all the vomit and germs that are covering me. Then Clover (our older, supposed-to-be-better-behaved, dog), takes off down a steep single track and won’t come back. No listening to me, just complete and utter ignoring my commands and treats and pleads. I’m just about to lose it when I hear her collar jingling towards us. Ah, she’s back. Time to go home, I’m so tired and my annoyance level is increasing again. I grab her to find my hands instantly covered in.. ugh, gross, what is that? Horse-crap. More horse-crap. She rolled her entire body in horse poop and is now just freaking disgusting and I’m covered in horse crap and all I wanted was a nice relaxing run.
Oh well, we’ll try again another day. Just one of those days. Part of the game. I’m so freaking tired, and still all I want is to go out for a nice, peaceful quiet run. Tomorrow is Saturday, perhaps I’ll negotiate for some morning alone time before sunrise. Happy Friday all and hope you got a laugh out of this one! Somedays are just not so easy. Hoping tomorrow is…
And some glimpses of hope and beauty from our run this morning.. before the horse-crap.
Exactly five years ago to date, I completed my Masters Degree in Physiological Science from UCLA. I spent five hours running around campus on December 10, 2010 with my first and only at the time, Adara, in a little umbrella stroller retrieving signatures and stamps all to file my thesis. For two years prior to December 10, 2010, I studied upper level graduate courses in Neuroscience learning about Neural Development, fly physiology as a model for human brain deterioration, learning and behavior and conducted my thesis experiment over a course of 24 months intaking data as a paid Staff Research Assistant in a very successful lab at UCLA headed by Dr. Robert Bilder. Looking back now as a mother of three, sitting here typing with two dogs at my feet, a kitchen sink full of dishes, art projects galore and adorned in dirty running clothes, it was all very fancy. Even the title of my thesis was quite fancy: “Impulsivity as a Multidimensional Construct in Smoking Behavior.”
Needless to say, I have not employed proper use of my thesis, long-time study of addiction and impulsivity nor upper level courses in Neurscience and Physiology in the past five years. But how could I? I have been busy raising children. It was a choice, as is everything in life. On December 10, 2010, after filing my thesis and receiving my final stamp of approval to graduate with a Master’s Degree, I stepped out of the workforce and out of the education system.
I was done. I had children to raise, a family to care for and so much to do.
Today, on December 10, 2015, I re-enter the workforce, re-enter the education system. With three kids, plus one additional child I care for 2 days/week, two dogs, a husband starting his own business and a handful of marathon and distance trail races I hope to be competitive in over the next couple of months, I will once again become a “work-outside-the-home plus full time Mama.”
I am thrilled. I am scared, nervous and unsure exactly how all the pieces will fit together, but I know they will. Long hours are ahead. It may mean running at 4am or 8pm, more squeezing, more maneuvering. I am already fatigued and exhausted, but that’s okay. I’m happy and my heart is full.
After winter break, I will begin teaching preschool at the local nursery school in which my own children attend. We have been there since Adara was 1 and began Mommy & Me in January of 2010. It is such a loving, nurturing place full of well-educated, intelligent and inspiring teachers, mothers, fathers, families and staff. And that is why I ultimately decided to re-enter the work force.
Nearly two weeks ago, horrific events filled our newsfeed and our country as yet another shooting occurred. This one hit closer to home. It occurred closer to home — in San Bernadino County, just miles from where I attended college. That evening, as my heart wept for the victims, the families involved and for all the children growing up in a world where shootings were becoming commonplace, I find myself asking, “What can I do?” “How can I make this world a better place?” Just then, a friend sent me this:
This, I can do this. I was moved, inspired. In that moment, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I can love, I can share that love with my own family but still I can do more and I feel called to do more — I can share it with children as a teacher.
As our Pastor said at church this past Sunday, “It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to fail a child.” Let us not be that village. My children and myself have been so blessed to be surrounded by loving, caring people who support and inspire them to do more, to give more. Now it is my time to give more, to teach and love more children, to spread the message that we are all special, important and loved.
Happy Post-Thanksgiving! It was a wonderful holiday, memorable 3rd Annual Downtown LA Turkey Trot for our family and all around amazing day of thanks. A few of my absolute favorite moments from the day:
Listening to my 2-year-old son say repeatedly in his cute little voice, “I sanksul sor my Mama, I sanksul sor my Daddy, I sanksul sor my . . . ” and really feeling like they GOT the message, understood the holiday and truly felt thanks for this wonderful life.
Listening to my 4-year-old daughter shout, “Go, Daddy, Go!” repeatedly during the final half mile of the Turkey Trot where I joined them after finishing the race myself. (Daddy was a bit slower than Mama again this year as he took on the role of pushing the triple stroller so I could go run my heart out.. another thing for which I am thankful).
Watching neighborhood kids play hide-and-seek into the dark on Thanksgiving night post-dinner while adults sat huddled together sipping on delicious adult beverages and sharing stories, memories and laughs.
And now onto running talk…
2015 was a year of transformation of sorts for me as a runner. It was the first year of my running career (which has spanned over 16 years now) where I transitioned to a true long distance runner, a marathoner. I ran just one full marathon in 2015 – the Mountains2Beach Marathon in Ojai back in May, in 3:12. I never imagined I could run that fast for 26.2 miles. I dreamt it, I fought for it, I trained my butt off for it, but still I didn’t know I had it within me. Running so “fast” (for me, it’s all relative, I know), was very empowering and built a lot of confidence within.
Over the next few months I went on to win some trail races, run PR’s and really just have a blast playing in the mountains with my kids, my dogs and my own two legs. Running continues to be the ultimate expression of play for me. I seek it for calm, peace and strength. In fact, I have been running consistently more (hence leading to higher mileage, averaging 60/week) for many months more. Running makes me happy.
With all the long distance running, however, I have definitely noticed that over the past several months or year perhaps, my speed was dwindling. I have always had a strong finishing kick, until this past Fall. Running XC with my team, the New Basin Blues, I just didn’t feel any true speed or fast muscle twitching going on. It was as if all this running had sapped the kick, the freshness out of my legs. They say “Hills are speed work in disguise” and man do I run a lot of hills, but still all this mountain running has left me feeling sluggish when it comes to that final kick.
Overall, my fitness is near it’s peak. On Thanksgiving I ran 21:33 over a 3.6 mile course with some decent hills thrown in it, which means my average pace was 6:00 flat/mile and my 5K time was between 18:30-18:40. That’s actually quite fast for me, so I can’t really say I feel slow. But I did lack a finishing kick.
In the next month and then new year ahead, one of my goals is to really work on my speed again, while training for the L.A. Marathon. How can I possibly squeeze in even more running amidst this busy life of child-raising and puppy training and everything else that consumes me? That is always the question running through my brain. How can I squeeze in more?
Yesterday I took the kids up to the grassy field, a short hike from our house with an old run down playground and some dumped/recycled play houses neighbors put up there when their kids had outgrown them. My kids love it up there. It’s wild, it’s free and they can behave just the same — wild and free. As I stood there watching them happily play in their own imaginary world as 6, 4, and 2 year olds, I realized there was absolutely nothing they needed from me. Heck, really they just wanted space, freedom and quiet to carry out pretend play.
It was beautiful. I watched and listened for some time, then I ran. It occurred to me that I could do some 100 m uphill sprints while they played. They would be in my plain sight all the while and I could get something done. C’mon, I’m a busy Mama, I always need to be “getting something done!” And so for the next 30 minutes or so, I engaged in my own sort of play: 20 x 100m sprints, all-out, with jog/walk recoveries on the way down.
It was awesome! The kids played while I tried to chase my dwindling speed, pulling it out of my fibers, from deep down within, remembering what it felt like to be fast, to be young. As we walked back home from play-time yesterday morning, our hearts were all smiling. Play will do that to you. Kids will do that to you. Running will do that to you. For all three, I am so thankful.
In less than 12 weeks, I’ll be running my 3rd marathon and 1st LA Marathon. Running has saved my life in so many ways and has always been my greatest passion.
In order to make the experience more meaningful and to give back, share my passion and enable young girls to experience the same love and appreciation I have for the sport, I have decided to run this marathon as a fundraiser for Girls on the Run Los Angeles. My goal is to raise $750.
100% of your donation goes directly towards scholarships for girls to participate in Girls on the Run across LA county. Every amount counts, no matter how small and I would be forever grateful for your support. Thanks! (Please click link below to donate).