The Hug Team

Have you ever used one of those shopping carts that has a pole attached, so it can’t leave the store, and failed to notice this important detail, until you tried to exit—while in a rush—and it crashed against the top of the door, causing you to go flying backwards? This has happened to me more than once, most recently, last week.  “Ma’am, you can’t go outside with that cart,” said the security guard in a commanding voice after my pole dramatically hit the doorframe. As if I still hadn’t realized my mistake at that point. No, pretty sure the moment I crashed into the doorway with an embarrassing clang and a jolt to my system, I realized immediately just how dumb I was, thank you very much.

“One of the most difficult human challenges is finding a truthful way to live within limits, whether these limits are imposed by our own fallibility, the needs of others, or societal dictates.” -Sandra Buechler from her book, Still Practicing.  I came across this quote the other day and it stuck with me.  It reminds me of how, sometimes, I feel the rush of life’s energy through my veins—so electrifying and clear—like a dog with its head out the window, sensing all that exciting animal and human activity, salivating over those fresh, nonintoxicating smells of aliveness, the earth.  During these moments, I feel closest to understanding the interconnectedness of it all, the universe, love. It is thrilling and expanding, and it feels like I will never come down.  Until I do. With a jolt. “Ma’am, you can’t go outside with that cart.” And suddenly, the universe is telling me, slow the fuck down, there are limits, pain, fallibility.  (And, of course, it’s not really about the grocery cart incident.) Often despair follows this and some existential questioning. Why bother when there’s always the inevitable crash, that acute awareness of tragedy and pain, death—the ultimate human limit.  And I see myself hating those setbacks, fighting against them, feeling angry, because, how dare I must suffer this way and can’t fly so high.  And, who suddenly took away my goddamn wings? No one.  It’s just life’s limits—boundaries that are real—boxes that shape a human life.  When I came across this quote, it felt nice to have some language around all this.  It was like being offered a hot bowl of soup when you have a cold.  It didn’t solve anything, but it did provide some nourishment, and maybe beginnings of a little joy returning—like a drop of fuel, starting to fill my tank for when it came time for soaring again.

I watch my oldest son, J, in his fantasy world.  Almost daily, he shares a running story plot about a monster called “the Lull” and its “Evil Biker Gang.” He says that he and a group called “the Hug Team” are constantly thinking of creative ways to outsmart “the Lull.” It’s interesting to me that this story he authors for himself, appears to take up a significant percentage of his waking thoughts.  And in this fantasy play, he creates powers for himself that are, of course, beyond his literal capacity.  So perhaps this is his way of dealing with that challenge of living within human limits in a way that feels truthful and free.

My toddler, C, points to pictures and tries rolling the words around his mouth: “motorcycle” “dump truck” “bath time.”  He has a clear desire to join the world of language, to be able to express himself, to be initiated into the club of communicating human beings. It is pretty mind blowing to witness this process, to really listen, and watch him making his way over this significant bridge.  “Kisses” “Ball” “Spoon” “Baby sleeping” “I don’t want that.”  C has learned that some words or phrases he says will elicit hysterical laughter from his big brother, like when he points to his own little backside and says matter-of-factly “big butt.” He seems to keep these phrases highlighted in his mind to be pulled out at critical times.

The other night, my husband showed me a YouTube clip of Noam Chomsky that went along with my latest wonderings about limits.  Chomsky argues that even the most free-thinking artists and poets are still creating inside some sort of structure or limits. And that this frame is what makes a poem so beautiful and differentiates it from free association.  It makes me wonder that if we didn’t have those limits of life (impeding death, illness, pain) would we operate in some sort of free association living? And what would that look like—a meaningless jumble of disjointed activities, unending maniacal euphoria? And that’s one of the reasons I love my husband so much, and why I would be so alone without him. He can join me in my weird thoughts and understand that I need complexity to keep on living. And I think he needs it too.  Maybe we all do.  And at the same time, what we need can also be so very, very simple.  Like he can hold me late at night when I’m crying. Or we can share a belly laugh, which is a type of freedom, when C thoughtfully points his pudgy finger in the air announces, “booger.”

J's art

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Hold you

“Do spiders eat gingerbread?” J wanted to know the other day.  He said he was thinking about that because of a song from camp. Yes, this is the first year he is now old enough to be at a “summer camp.”  It’s located at a regional park nearby where he spends his day among kids and nice counselors and the trees, making forts and doing science projects.  He comes home covered in dirt and smiling with that little gap where he’s missing his two front baby teeth. The campers go swimming once a week and this involves the highly complicated task of bringing his swim stuff, changing into them, and then changing back into his dry clothes afterwards.  He often talks about a friend he made at camp and how they swap funny scenes they remember from Inspector Gadget.  He sometimes breaks out into a special dance where he gleefully swings his little arms by his hips.  He is so big now but also still so little, which makes me feel a strange sensation, like salty tears are falling somewhere in a small, lonely spot—but also slivers of strength and meaning connecting me to a vast, beautiful ocean.

Meanwhile, little brother, C, is determined to get his shirt on without mom’s help and says, “I do it! Self!” He sings The Wheels on the Bus, rides a scooter, and when he doesn’t approve of a new food, he says definitively, “I don’t like it!”  He loves his blanky, which he often wraps around himself like a bathrobe and drags it around the floor behind him.  At dinner time, he insists that Blanky has a spot at the table, next to his plate.  He started preschool where he glues macaroni to the letter “Y” and has a teacher who smiles warmly and seems to genuinely enjoy him.  He says, “Hold you!” when he wants to be held.  I love bundling him up in Blanky and kissing his soft, sweet hair.  He likes to be tickled and wrestle with daddy.  His laughter makes a sound that radiates light and seems to oxygenate the fibers of my body.  I feel like I just birthed him, yet at the same time, each day has added to a sensation of him being him in this world, separate from me, clearing his own path away and towards where he needs to be in this mysterious universe.

Another part of this update is that we moved.  We are thrilled about our new location as we are now much closer to family and old friends and it makes sense for my husband’s job and mine too. But even the happiest of moves still must involve some form of craziness, right? And so, of course, the other day I went accidentally plunging my car the wrong way over a line of tire spikes.  Let yourself really imagine that one for a second.  Because, who actually does that? Thankfully, it did not turn out too bad.  I realized my idiotness as I was doing it, made a cool swerve move and only managed to gouge one tire completely flat. But still. There was definitely a moment when I thought all was ruined.

Thankfully, the same week, a dear friend brought me to a workshop for shamanic healing breathwork, which I never knew existed. My favorite part was when we all closed our eyes and danced on our yoga mats to this wild drumming music.  I felt so free and uninhibited and only slightly embarrassed when I opened my eyes and realized I had somehow, in my enthusiastic and awkward dancing, turned a full 180 degrees and had been unknowingly facing the folks behind me!  Good God!  Oh well, I laughed at myself and turned back around and got back to dancing and even cried a little bit, in a good way, at the very end. I would recommend this for everyone.

Lastly, this month my husband and I are celebrating twelve years of marriage.  We got engaged in our early twenties, three months after we met, so neither of us really knew what we were in for.  But, somehow we did understand something that maybe cannot be explained in words or made logical but pulls two souls together in a combination that just feels right, like they were always there. So, our anniversary feels special but also not, because I feel like togetherness is something that cannot be measured or counted in any reasonable way.  For example, the other morning something happened that has never occurred in the more than four-thousand mornings we have shared together.  That day, upon waking, we happened to be facing each other in the bed, heads perfectly aligned, our noses nearly touching, when our eyelids snapped open at the exact same moment.  Therefore, the very first thing I saw, upon journeying from dreamland and into this concrete world, was his deep brown eyes waking up from wherever he was, straight into mine.  It was the best thing ever, and I would take that moment over one million anniversary dinners.

So we will celebrate, but nothing big.  I will keep shamanic breathing and dancing.  I’ll try to drive a little better.  Togetherness with my husband will continue to unfold with surprises.  My kids will keep growing faster than I could ever imagine, the speed of life both terrifying and thrilling.  I will hold on to the handrails when I need steadiness.  But I will also let go, once in a while, and feel the rush and risk with my hands in the air, letting myself feel empowered and brave, facing fears, my body able to brace those wild turns, feeling all the energy of that painful but beautiful earth below that keeps on living.


C’s macaroni art.

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Cake and ice cream

“Cake?” It’s what C says first thing in the morning when he walks into our bedroom. “Cream?” And apparently he would like ice cream with that. What a funny way to wake up. First of all, I cannot believe C is now walking into our bedroom in the morning, because that’s how grown up he is now; and second of all, was he dreaming about cake and ice cream or does he really think this would make a good breakfast? He reenacted this scene several mornings in a row, maybe reinforced by our startled laughter each time. It was an improvement as previous mornings he would just stand at the edge of our bed and yell “eat!” in a frustrated voice until we woke up. At least cake and ice cream shows a little more creativity on his part.

Two-year-olds are definitely full of themselves, in a good way, and I think wanting cake and ice cream for breakfast is an example of healthy narcissism. Narcissism definitely gets a bad wrap, and I used to recoil at the word, but I’ve been thinking about it different lately, from the lens of depth psychology, in that only by embracing our natural narcissistic tendencies by being honest with ourselves that they are there, can we let go of defenses and be our full, loving selves. So I would say that me writing this blog is like eating cake and ice cream for breakfast, my inner soul craving some sense of indulgence, need for the spotlight, specialness. So I indulge and my soul feels honored, heard, celebrated.

Speaking of spotlight, J had an end of the year sing-a-long, and I definitely cried watching him up on stage with his class singing “you are my sunshine.” It was a lullaby my mom used to sing to me, and so I think anyone would have done the same if they were in my shoes. Plus, singing with hand gestures is just not his thing, but the fact that he was really trying hard made it beautiful to watch. At the end of the year, we were given a report card and he had good marks which made me feel proud, and we also got a letter from the school nurse saying he is red-green colorblind, which made me feel even more proud, for some reason, and in love with him, because it’s one of those quirky things that make up who he is.

When J asks “why do I have to go to school if I don’t want to?” I realize that I have that part of me too – that asks why do I have to do anything if I don’t want to – and that it’s important to recognize when this shadow part also shows up. Because I think if I deny it’s there, all that energy to hide from it can become exhausting and block making true contact with myself and others. I love the term radical acceptance (Tara Brach) in which we don’t necessarily agree or accept in a submissive way or shirk responsibility to make positive changes if we can, but we can surrender to fighting imperfections in ourselves and life, which we have no control over, in order to free up our energy and heart space to have more authentic contact with others and the present moment.

So that’s what’s new with us and my healthy narcissism believes there are readers out there who care and will enjoy hearing about it. And I hope that my own quirkiness or humor that I’m still discovering and letting out into the light will connect with yours.

J writes, “In summer, I will have a lollipop.”

Posted in childhood, Depth psychology, growing up, james hillman, jungian psychology, kindergarten, motherhood, parenting, psychology, Radical acceptance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Love tickets

“I wish I were zero years old so I didn’t have to know that happened,” J said when he learned about the Titanic, bringing home a picture book about it from the school library. The two of us were drinking hot chocolates together in a nice, cozy coffee shop because I was trying to do something good, and then suddenly we were reading about people freezing to death in the Atlantic Ocean and I’m thinking oh my god this outing has suddenly become more emotional work than I ever thought it would be, and that is parenting exactly.

We have crossed so many new bridges this year in kindergarten. Not only does J have his own backpack for the first time, with his own things in it, but he can get it on himself. Who knew such a task could be so acrobatic—this is how it went the first month—with a serious look on his face that said “I got this,” he would carefully put on the first strap and then his entire body would erupt into a wild-man-whipping-maneuver, flinging the pack up into the air where it bonked around for way too long, nearly knocking himself in the head, until he could finally reach it with the other hand and was able to safely secure the damn thing onto his other shoulder. Watching these early attempts, I experienced a strange sensation of fighting back tears while also the urge to laugh.

His younger brother, C, is now two years old, so I should probably not refer to him as “Baby C” anymore. He was probably no longer a baby the moment we were at grandma’s and I went to get him from his nap and found him somehow standing outside his travel crib, saying “uh-oh!” I secretly cried when, shortly after, I gave away that fold-up crib, marking the end of an era. C loves to play ball with dad and goes to toddler gymnastics with me, where he appears to experience pure bliss through the simple act of jumping around for forty-five minutes on different bouncy surfaces. It’s contagious and as a witness, I often feel giddy and happy inside. The first time C had ice cream, afterwards, he pointed to his empty bowl and said, “more brrrr!” When it was warmer out, he liked to pick tomatoes from the garden, carefully place them on the cement and then before anyone could stop him, stomp on them with his bare foot. Gross. Understandably almost everything he does makes J laugh.

The first week of kindergarten, J developed blisters on his hands from the monkey bars, and now, almost springtime, they have hardened into calluses. He knows true things about the world that make him sad. He colors little red hearts, cuts them out, and hands one to me, saying it’s a “love ticket.”  I try and remind myself I’ve been “love-ticketed” and this helps to recharge emotional drain, my own rawness around parenthood, my fear of wanting to do it right, and I am able to have some moments of peace, to settle into the uncertain muck and beauty of life that expands us.Love tickets

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Growing down

The other day I found my shoe hanging from the door (see picture below), which made me laugh out loud because it had been one of those days—the kind where you jam a toe on the baby gate so hard it immediately turns purple and then somehow that same toe keeps getting stepped on by your five-year-old, then rolled over by your own grocery cart, with your toddler in it, as your five-year-old asks for cereal, with chocolate in it, and you say “no” and you curse yourself for wearing flip flops and being so clumsy and believe deeply in that moment that your toe will never, ever, in this life, actually heal.  But of course it does, and somehow, we just do.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the image of an upside down tree, and what it means to “grow down,” my spirit grasping for something on this earth to take hold of, the idea that we start life with something in us from another world and eventually learn how to grow down, be grounded in the earth and become part of this world (from The Soul’s Code, by James Hillman, a Jungian psychologist.  At least I think this is what he’s been talking about, or else my mind just wandered off into a very weird place). I like daydreaming about his idea of the acorn theory, an energy pattern directing us from inside, something that has its own dimension that is somehow not on either side of the “nature versus nurture” debate of who we are and how we became that way.  And for some reason, this feels good to think about, like when I’m hiking alone or laying on my yoga mat listening to Pearl Jam a little too loud on my headphones. It’s a spacious feeling.

Lately, J has been asking me, “what is a party boat?” and “can we get one?” His little soul is definitely interested in learning how to have some fun here. He also gets a kick out of waking up before anyone else in the family so he can color and eat cereal and listen to his favorite music (Trolls soundtrack) without being bothered. Meanwhile, Baby C’s idea of a party is taking out all the shoes from the bin by the door, dragging them around by their laces, and then hanging them in ways I didn’t know was possible (the surprise shoe hanging from the door was his doing). He also enjoys dropping a wooden spoon off the top of the stairs while saying “uh-oh” and running down the sidewalk as fast as he can while shouting gleefully. Maybe these are examples of their little souls finding pleasure and excitement in this earth somehow, directed by an inner something, rooting down.

So I’ll keep thinking about my upside down tree, especially when there’s pain or constriction, in or around me, my spirit settling down, into, seeking out so it can do what it demands to do. I’ll continue to find my own version of a party boat or a shoelace trick, to ponder meaning, laugh, connect with others—family and friends and strangers who are also here settling in.




Posted in carl jung, Childbirth, childhood, growing up, james hillman, jungian psychology, mom blog, nature versus nurture, parenting, psychology, the soul's code, toddler, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The clovers

“The weekend is only two days?!” J asked during his second week of kindergarten. Yes, he was slowly but surely entering into the realities of our world. This made my heart hurt and so I said, “Yes, it’s two full days,” as if to convince him, and myself, that it all really wasn’t so bad. “Humph,” he said, angrily. “Then when I grow up, I’m going to be a T-Rex!”

I thought about this later—about what growing up to be this particular extinct dinosaur might mean for him—and I thought, maybe, if you were a T-Rex, you were so powerful you didn’t have to abide by any adult rules, including the calendar, and that perhaps he was holding onto this so he did not quite have to swallow the realities, all at once, of existing in the adult world as it is and having no control over so many things.

On J’s first morning of kindergarten, he cried and held onto my leg and would not let me go. His little eyes scanned the unfamiliar room, and he said “Don’t leave me here, I hate this place!” I felt a sensation of being crushed, his sadness like a boulder on my back, pinning me to the ground. I tried to reassure him with hugs and kisses but began to feel panic growing inside as other parents eventually all left the room and my child still would not let me go.  In that moment, I felt so all alone, like I had missed something—some sort of critical information on how to do this, because clearly, J was not sitting nicely in his chair, ready to begin like almost everybody else, and so, in my panicked mind, a little voice (that I am not proud of) squeaked, what was wrong with us? Thankfully, J’s teacher knew what to do, and so the second the little guy allowed a tiny sliver of space between our two bodies, she snuck in and gently turned his shoulders to his seat and he resigned and I left. When I got back to my car, I finally let my own tears out, even though I knew he would be okay. It was just hard sometimes—experiencing his sadness and fear, and on top of that, feeling different.  I knew this was an unreasonable thought, even as I was thinking it, because, of course, everyone is different—at some time, in some way—and that certainly wasn’t wrong, and for God’s sake, I knew it was okay to cry on the first day of kindergarten. And yet…my heart still did what it does, and that is—it feels what it feels, sometimes despite some very good logic.

When I picked up J from school, I waited with the other parents as his class appeared, following the teacher in a neat little row like a trail of ducklings, all in matching hats they had made to celebrate the big first day. J happened to be walking at the front of the line, a serious look on his face. When he saw me, he ran over for a hug and then, very carefully, he opened up his little hand to show me that inside he held, so lovingly, a tiny, green clover. “There are so many clovers here!” He said, and his face lit up with so much joy that the earth wobbled a little bit for me suddenly.

And so, looking back on that day I thought about time spent surviving, working, doing chores, being away from loved ones, the world’s realities of pain and injustice and sorrow and fear that can feel paralyzing to me at times, silencing. And yet, somehow, these little clovers did appear. Which reminded me of the other evening…we were snuggling goodnight and J said excitedly, “Did you know the sky is blue ghost?” he smiled and explained to me that was why we could not touch it and neither could skyscrapers. And I thought, how beautiful.  And I felt, there was, somehow, joy in that, in the strangeness of it all—imagining the sky as this blue ghost all around us, and popping up at our feet these unexpected clovers.

J’s second homework assignment in kindergarten – self-portrait.
Posted in Childbirth, childhood, first day kindergarten, growing up, kindergarten, kindergarten homework, mom blog, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Where to go from here

The morning after election day, I find Baby C standing up in his crib for the very first time—I am so shocked to come into the room and find him upright in his little blue sleep sack, tiny hands gripping the side of the crib, body teetering on legs that appear to be so awkwardly planted, hollering out with what seems to be, Where the hell do I go from here? I answer him, Into my arms, and reach down and pick him up.  It is an incredibly strange day, and this moment contrasts so deeply with the devastation I feel over the election, this moment so removed, so tiny, so beautifully significant for my son’s little being, for my being, for this baby to somehow pull himself up to standing, for the very first time, on this particular day, perhaps despite of—or because of—or in absolutely no relation to—all of the energy and division and emotion that is happening in the world right now.

I am jolted back into my own life, into my own strange bubble that I am so privileged to have, so removed from it all—my existence of day-to-day living and working and trying to raise decent human beings.  I stop checking Facebook and take a break from it all, because it is all just so sad.  I focus my energy on my little ones who, at least consciously, know nothing about what the world is experiencing—J (who is almost five now) watches the movie Shrek and wants to know what is true love?  At bedtime he says, “Mommy, I true love you.”  He wants to know if space has walls and how do you build a pirate ship.

I feel nervous that I do not know how to answer all of his questions, so finally, I spend a Saturday afternoon meeting with a Parent Coach, a seasoned mama and grandma, who runs her own business meeting with moms like me who have a lot of questions.  When I meet her at her office, I can immediately tell she is a kind woman who wants to help.  She can tell that I am worn down from the world right now and asks me to write a list of activities that are “self-care,” which mean that they recharge me and make me feel good.  Strangely, the first thing that comes to my mind includes eating breakfast in my backyard, alone.  I realize how weird and maybe even pathetic this sounds and that I need some normal-person items on the list, like going out to the movies with friends.

The Parent Couch reassures me that I am still getting used to life as a parent of two kids.  It feels like a relief to hear someone say that out loud, but also such an incredibly stupid thing to feel overwhelmed about, especially considering all that is happening in the world right now.  Even though it feels absolutely ridiculous to give the following topic any air time whatsoever, I tell her anyway about my boys’ preschool Halloween parade—that Baby C was the only one without a costume and also happened to be missing a sock that day; and that I had not realized J’s skeleton costume was at least two sizes too small until I saw him from behind during the middle of the parade, the poor little guy with the biggest wedgie I have ever seen.

Then this wise woman tells me that the fact that I made it to the parade in the first place, on a work day, was amazing, and she says this in a way like she really means it.  I agree with her and start feeling better about myself and remember that I also took J to a Lego workshop at the library earlier in the week, which was a very special time just me and him, and that afterwards, back at the house, we cut out little pumpkins out of orange construction paper together—which also made us both happy—and that during that silly parade, even though Baby C was the only participant without a costume and likely had one very cold foot, he seemed to enjoy himself—literally smiling the entire time.

So, having sorted some of this out momentarily, I guess everything is okay, for the most part, in my own little bubble, but there is still so much suffering and injustice for so much of the world and in the grand scheme of things.  This makes it hard to write, hard to laugh, hard stay focused.  I take the boys to the playground and watch J climb up the slide and dangle from the monkey bars and declare himself Spiderman.  I let Baby C swirl his chubby little hands around in the sandbox and grab excitedly at piles of dead leaves and try to put sticks in his mouth.  Their worlds are so small, like mine, and I am just like them—sifting through that sand with my hands, trying to make sense of it all.

world from space with lights.jpg

Posted in childhood, growing up, holidays, holidays with kids, mom blog, motherhood, parent coach, parenting, Postpartum highs and lows, toddler, Uncategorized, working mom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments