Writer’s note: This is semi-running related, it’s about the power of dog poo and my littlest Mountain Kid.

The leaves were brown and a little soggy from the recent snow. I stepped in to get a piece of wood I cut off for a construction project (putting a wall around an undersized window) and started to get back to work.

As I walked into the building, I thought, why does the hardwood floor feel so mushy. Then I looked down, both of my shoes had dog poop overflowing on the soles. 

I spent a good five minutes doing the best I could to clean my shoes off without soaking them, after all, I still had to wear them to get home and finish my repairs. And all I could think of what how this was a perfect example of how my day has been.

About six hours later, I came home. I had stunk up several stores while Cheistmas shopping and couldn’t justify buying an entire outfit due to the waste and yuckiness I endured while doing the home repairs.

The first kid to welcome me is the reason why I’m trying so hard to get those repairs done. He gave me a hug instead of commenting on my stinkiness. Despite how bad things seem, he always knows how to lift the mood. Except when he fights with his siblings, but that’s another story.

Mountain Kid 3 at a few hours old.

Mountain Kid 3 and I are lucky to alive as we get ready to celebrate his sixth year of life. While I was in labor, both of our blood pressures dropped to dangerous levels. The doctor made some phone calls to the operating room for an emergency c-section. But with the help of a few special tools and some encouragement, ML3 was born healthy, save  the temporary cone head and squished nose. Turns out he was upside down.

He’s not like my other kids. They look like miniature versions of me, while he takes after his dad. He’s a super active kid, while they are more subdued. He wants to do everything, while his older siblings often want to play it safe. He laughs at fear. 

Back in 2012, I started trying to get back into shape because of him. I couldn’t keep up with him when he was by himself, even more so when his other siblings were home. He feeds off their energy, getting more worked up when they do. If they went on the dangerous-for-toddlers slide, he, at that point still a toddler, was right behind them. 

We often worked out together when he was younger. He was my  weight for push ups or bench presses on the floor. He would sit on my stomach and count my crunches. He would run around the playground, and I would chase him.

But now, he’s in school. My workout buddy is off doing his own thing, usually with his siblings. I kind of miss it.

School has been chalkenging. MK3 is a great kid, but he had difficulty with school. He wants to play and is behind all the weird standards imposed by the education system. He is catching up, but at times he has a set back and gets frustrated. It affects everything he does that day.

Getting frustrated seemed to be a common trend in our family as of late. Problems at work are often compounded by the fact that we have to adjust our workouts to winter weather. If we can’t fit our workouts in, we feel behind in terms of training. Or the kids are crazy because they can’t go outside and won’t do their chores without putting up a fight. These are just a few things that make your stress rise. 

Then you have to deal with Santa and his elves coming to visit. And maybe some relatives. 

I admit it’s affected me. All this stuff is happening, and sometimes it gets hard to figure out which task needs to be dealt with and what can wait for another time.

Sometimes it’s not just stress and being overwhelmed that gets us. It’s keeping up with the cool kids. You see someone you want to be like and you get sucked into their orbit, trying to please and/or copying them as best as possible.

But like MK3; if you try to be like everyone else, you’ll be unhappy or fail. He’s happiest when he can do things his way, in his own time.

MK3 doing things his way at the 2016 Deckers Creek Half Marathon in Morgantown, WV.

For example; my kids and I volunteered at a race finish line. They handed out medals and water bottles while we waited for Mountain Papa to finish. I tried to keep my kids in certain areas so I could see them and so they didn’t get destroyed by the race finishers. Of course, MK3 wanted to do his own thing. As much as I tried to rein him in, the more cranky and upset we both became.

True I could have asserted my authority, but then everyone, included the older kids, would have been unhappy. So we used a buddy system, having an older sibling with him with the other acted as the supplier, handing them water bottles or medals. MK3 was a friend of every runner and walker he meet once I let him be himself. It ended up being a pretty awesome time.

So as an adult, how can a Mountain Mama get out of a stress-induced rut? I have enlisted help. I signed up for a 12-day challenge that started this week. Each day builds on the day before it. So for day three, for example, I’ll do the new activity for that day, plus what I did on days one and two. We have to post every day that we’ve done the tasks or we get kicked out. I need that accountability from the outside, a non-family member who gets my goals.

The challenge and life in general also forced me to refocus on my why. Why am I getting frustrated? What was the original goal and where am I in terms of reaching the goal? 

And in many ways, I let the poo — distractions, need to conform to expectations, etc. — determine my actions. Instead of cleaning it off and readjusting, I let the smell get to me. I let the mushiness, feel normal when I knew it wasn’t.

 Like today, despite running and rucking 8 miles, I still felt compelled to get our house ready for Santa. Santa won’t be here for a few days, so why push some rowdy kids to clean? Because I focused on something other than my family and it’s true needs. I also was running high on endorphins, and usually feel the need to do a lot before my high bottoms out.

Rest and regrouping are good things. Hugs and listening to your youngest kid explain why he cut hair to keep it out of the way when he wears his snow goggles. Laugh, don’t judge because hair grows back.

The haircut.

And let him eat the cookies and listen as he tells you of his plan to smuggle a few to his Wii-playing older siblings.

Quadruple chocolate cookies were cooked in muffin tins for conformity.

Have courage, be brave to be true to yourself. MK3 has more of all of that than I have in my little finger.

Running resumed recently. I ran in the snow and did an 8-mile run/ruck to do some errands. I’m glad to be back out there. Even though it’s cold.

My footprints on fresh snow. I love that kind of run.