Spider Boy and Bean Revisited

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I took a hiatus from blogging this past year for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was postpartum depression, but perhaps the greatest reason has to do with the constant learning curve of being a Stay-At-Home-Mom. New to this job last May, I had this idea in the back of my head that I would master it like I had mastered all of the for-pay jobs I’d held over the years. Those of you who have been parents a lot longer than I have are probably laughing now. Yes, I really was that naive. Even if my boys weren’t the spirited bundles of energy they are, all children are constantly changing in those early years of life, constantly reinventing themselves and discovering the people they will ultimately become. That means as parents we need to be constantly shifting our expectations and perspective, all while creating a sense of consistency that will provide our children the necessary support they require to thrive through this process. When you’re doing this 24/7, well, let’s just say that the only thing you can “master” is surrendering any idea that you’re in control of anything, or that any one day will bear any resemblance to another.

As I was contemplating a return to blogging, I thought about how the names Spider Boy (now 3.5) and Bean (now 20 months) no longer seem to apply. But once again, I realized it was because I was comparing their current iterations to who they were when those names came in to being. After shifting my perspective, I discovered that they’re still a great fit, even if it’s for dramatically different reasons. Spider Boy has turned into a grand storyteller, spinning intricate webs of fantasy in which he attempts to entrap us all. Bean has turned into a climbing vine, always in search of the highest point in any room, the highest available shelf, the highest slide on the playground, reaching for the sun. The one thing that remains the same in all of this is that these boys are my greatest teachers, my greatest inspiration, my greatest gifts. I am truly blessed. Namaste.

The Guest House

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Show of hands — how many people think Rumi makes for good bedtime reading? As I was reading “The Guest House” to Bean last night as part of our bedtime ritual, I had to wonder — am I the only Mum who reads Sufi mystics to her baby before bed? When Spider Boy was wee, I would be reading him these meaningless books that didn’t even rhyme and he would be enraptured. I wondered if he would know the difference if I swapped out the standard fare for something with a little more substance and flare. By the time I asked this question, he was already really into the pictures and starting to get into the stories, so I was a little late. But I am starting early with Bean, curious about the result, and tempted to go so far as to create illustrations to go along with some of these mystical writings to elongate the process. I love the idea of my 18-month-old reciting Hāfez alongside Sandra Boynton.

“The Guest House” seems especially appropriate, as its subject is in complete alignment with the experience of a baby or small child. I’m reminded of quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Our little ones were oh-so-recently pure spirit, and they are having to adjust to the human experience. This learning to be human is hard, full of challenges that begin with the physical and only get more complex as they become emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. But, as Rumi points out, these challenges are gifts, if we can learn to embrace them.

Who knows how the experiment will end. In the meantime, at least I get to be reminded of some wisdom as I tuck my own little gift into bed each night. Namaste.

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This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

Surrender

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This is not the post I expected to be my first of 2012. As 2011 came to a close, I was gathering my thoughts and taking notes around setting my intention for the year. I’m not big on “resolutions” — much like “diets,” they seem to be things that you take on temporarily, and I am much more about lasting change. But there are a variety of occasions that naturally lend themselves towards a fresh start, and the new year is certainly one of them. 2012 is a year of power, and I envisioned kicking it off with some visioning and goal setting, perhaps a burning bowl ritual or a cleanse, really starting the year off on the right foot.

Best laid plans. This year is definitely confirming my belief that it is a year of power, but not in the grounded and flowing way I was expecting. It has been much more like wading out into the ocean and getting knocked down by a wave, standing back up again just to be knocked flat by another wave. And another. And another. And another. There was a Friday night mid-January when I was standing in my kitchen sobbing hysterically, frantic with how overwhelmed I was, with how much my life appeared to be spiraling out of control. Something broke in me that night, something that made me realize that no, truly, I am not going to get it all done. In fact, I’m not going to come even close to getting it all done. And some days that will well and truly suck. But most of the time it will genuinely be okay. It was a moment of surrender, and man, did it ever feel good.

Surrender can be a frightening concept. It leaves us feeling so vulnerable, so raw, so exposed, so powerless. But there is incredible power in surrender, in letting go, in getting out of the way. I find myself often believing the fallacy that I am somehow in control, which when you consider that I live with a toddler, a baby, and a husband is rather humorous. But when I let go, I allow myself to be carried along by the flow. And perhaps more importantly, I allow myself to step more fully into the moment and savor what it is that life is offering up for me right now.

Three stomach flus, one flu flu, and countless other ailments and challenges later, I look back over the last two months and recognize that there was a shift that needed to take place for me. A shift away from “holding it all together” to “going with the flow.” A shift from needing to get it all done to handling whatever is right in front of me. A shift from needing to be anything approaching perfect to just showing up as the best me I can muster in the moment. And some days it works better than others — it is definitely a work in progress, as with everything else in my life. But somewhere in the midst of this chaos, I have found some peace.  I am truly grateful for this path that I am walking through this life. It isn’t always easy, but it always brings me the gifts that I need. I have never been more clear about what my priorities are, about what is truly important, about what I have to be grateful for, about how blessed I am. So thank you 2012 for your ocean of power. I surrender. Namaste.

Love~n~Hugs

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“Remember that you don’t choose love; love chooses you. . . . Feel the way it fills you to overflowing then reach out and give it away.” ~ Kent Nerburn

The other night, I was home alone with both boys at bedtime — while this becomes a little less daunting with each passing week, it still has its challenges. I can easily get caught up in worrying about how I’m going to get Bean down to sleep, planning out how I’m going to juggle everything, needing things to go a certain way. Anyone with a toddler (or heck, another human being) at home can probably guess how well that goes. But Spider Boy is one of my great teachers, and this night, as with so many nights, he granted me the gift of the present moment.

Spider Boy’s bedtime routine goes something like read a book, change into an overnight diapers and pajamas, read a second book, say good night to the lights, and then, since he’s moved into his toddler bed, your guess is as good as mine, but eventually he falls asleep. When it’s just me, I nurse Bean while I read (if he’ll let me) and let him hang out in the toddler bed or on the reading bed (i.e. the queen bed that’s in Spider Boy’s room) while I get Spider Boy into his nighttime attire. At 5.5 months, Bean gets more mobile every day, so this arrangement makes me nervous and I tend to have half my attention on each boy during this process, much to Spider Boy’s chagrin. He often shows his frustration by attempting to do something he knows will get my attention (i.e. climb up onto the changing table and dance), but if one or both of us is at the aware end of the spectrum, he simply asks for my love. On this particular night, during a not-unusual pajama struggle, I laughed in an attempt to diffuse my own frustration and shift the energy in the room, then leaned over and gave him a big hug and a kiss. He thought this was funny and asked for another big hug. We both laughed, and he asked for another hug. We both laughed some more, and he asked for another hug. I lost track somewhere around 30 hugs as we were both giggling and my abs were sore from bending over the bed to give him his hugs and kisses. Bean watched us with his beatific smile while chewing on a blanket (I may change his name to Cloth Boy), and I sent up a silent prayer of gratitude for the love and joy of this moment.

See, Spider Boy is smart — he has figured out that love is something Mum is always willing to give. And I guess he comes by those smarts honestly, because I have figured out that I have an infinite supply of love available with which I can feed his need. Of course, we stumbled across this knowledge by accident one day when Bean was just a couple of months old and the three of us were at the grocery store. Bean had fallen asleep in the car, so he was still in his carseat in the back of the cart, and Spider Boy was sitting up in the cart’s seat. The novelty of being at the store had worn off and he was getting antsy, so he was turning around and playing with Bean’s blanket, trying to get him to wake up. I tried asking him to stop and asked him not to wake his brother, but he insisted that he needed his brother to be awake. I took a deep breath, and guessing what this behavior probably meant, I tried a different tack, asking him if he just needed some attention, and if he wanted a hug. He thought about it for a moment, then reached out his arms. I leaned in, gave him a big hug, and told him I would always stop to give him a hug, he just had to ask.

It was a slow trip through the store that day with stops for at least eight more hugs, but all three of us left happy. Bean got his much-needed newborn rest; Spider Boy got the attention he was craving; and I learned that love really can shift behavior. It’s a point I reiterate to him frequently, and I practice what I preach, literally dropping everything for hugs. Does Spider Boy use this to delay eating/getting dressed/climbing into the car/going to bed/etc.? Sure, although not as much as you might expect. Do I mind? No way. Because I love him, and he knows it. And nothing is more important than that. Namaste.

Working mama

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The phrase “working mother” is redundant.
~ Jane Sellman

I’ve been back to work officially one month today. I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a rough month. There’s always so much to do and rarely enough hours in the day to scratch the surface, let alone feel like I’m accomplishing anything or getting to spend enough quality time with the boys. But it’s a work in progress, with each new day an opportunity for me to cull out what isn’t working and try something new that might.

What’s working includes focusing on the positives. The first time I went out to lunch with a few coworkers, I was holding a somewhat messy sandwich and I just took a moment to savor being able to eat slow(ish), with both hands. As busy as work can get, if I need to pay a bill, it only takes a minute to write out the check and walk it over to the mail drop — a task (or series of tasks, really — where are those stamps again?) that could have taken most of a morning when I was at home. The regularity of the routine has Spider Boy back to enjoying daycare — when I dropped the boys off yesterday morning he was happily anticipating getting to play with his friends all day — and he is relishing getting to spend more one-on-one time with Grandma again. And Bean has had a developmental boom that I know is due in part to interaction with children at a variety of developmental levels.

What’s working also includes a combination of shifting my perspective and truly staying present to the moment. Most Sundays, I take the boys grocery shopping — what felt like a chore when I was on leave now feels like a fun way for us to spend time together. Spider Boy and I talk and hug our way through the store, and I get to experience how he interacts with the other customers (strangers are most certainly just friends he hasn’t met yet). My husband and I have found new ways to connect with each other, whether it’s talking (hands-free!) on our morning commutes or doing our chores in the same room during naps. Sleep deprivation may leave me fuzzy, but that’s just an opportunity for me to let go of needing to be completely on top of everything, and having Bean wake up to nurse in the night feels like an opportunity for us to snuggle close.

And then there’s the work itself. Returning from maternity leave gives me the opportunity to ask how I want to spend my time. Sure, every job has a series of tasks that need to be accomplished in order to say you’re doing the job. But every job also has an opportunity for you to ask who am *I* in this job and how do I choose to show up? I choose to have my work be an extension of my Work, which means I choose to encourage people to live their lives more fully. When I was asked recently what people in my position do, the words I jotted down were: empowering, facilitating, mentoring, mediating, problem-solving. I would probably also add “healing” in the sense that I try to shine my light of positive opportunity into areas that might otherwise appear dark and see what shifts.

There is always room for improvement. I have my moments of feeling frazzled and emotional and exhausted and wondering how I’m going to get through the next five minutes let alone the rest of the week. But I am taking it one day at a time, taking every day as a practice, taking every moment as a new opportunity. And nothing, but nothing, beats the pure joy that runs through my being when Spider Boy comes running in at the end of the day yelling “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” as he throws himself into my arms, and then watching little Bean’s face light up when he sees me. I am truly, madly, deeply blessed. Namaste.

Spider Boy speaks baby

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The Doctor: It’s okay, she’s still all yours. And really you should call her mummy, not big milk thing.
Amy: Okay, what are you doing?
The Doctor: I speak baby.
Amy: No you don’t.
The Doctor: I speak everything. Don’t I, Melody Pond? {straightening his bow tie} No it’s not. It’s cool.
~ from Doctor Who, Series 6, Espisode 7, “A Good Man Goes To War” 

Spider Boy speaks baby. I discovered it over the weekend, although if I had been paying closer attention I’m sure I would have noticed it sooner. It’s one of the joys of having a very verbal two-year-old — I get to see the inner workings of his brain. Here are three examples from Sunday:

Example 1: Spider Boy, Bean and I were all hanging out in the living room. Spider Boy was working on a jigsaw puzzle while Bean and I were playing on the playmat. Bean was getting progressively fussier, which seemed a little out of character to me. I was talking to him, saying out loud whatever I was thinking, which was mostly wondering what it was he needed. Spider Boy finally stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said, “He’s thirsty.” I kind of startled and asked him to repeat himself, and he said, in that “Duh!” way he gets from time to time, “Bean is thirsty,” and then he went back to his puzzle. I shrugged and figured it couldn’t hurt to offer Bean some milk, and sure enough, he latched in a somewhat superficial way, drinking a little lazily in a way that was sure to get him only foremilk (more water, less substance), and then he pulled off and was back to his normal, happy self.

Example 2: When we got home from running errands, I unloaded the groceries first, then Bean, then Spider Boy. As we’re slowly making our way into the house, we could hear Bean starting to cry. I nudged Spider Boy, asking him if we could move a little more quickly because Bean was crying. He paused and said, “He wants us to come inside.” I said, “Okay then, let’s help him out and go inside.” Sure enough, Bean stopped crying once he could see we were both in the room with him.

Example 3: Bean was napping while Spider Boy and I were eating lunch. He woke up crying, so my husband went in to get him. His cries only intensified, and Spider Boy and I talked a little about how Bean was crying. Spider Boy said, “He’s crying because he wanted YOU to come get him,” pointing at me. I thought about it for a minute, then went into Bean’s room. Sure enough, he stopped crying as soon as he saw me.

It is fascinating to me how much we have to learn from our children — this time my lesson is about how to really listen to what is being said beneath the words. Spider Boy and Bean were communicating at a level that transcended words. I know I’m capable of it myself, but most of the time that communication gets lost in the fog of words, or in my lack of confidence that I’m really understanding what is needed. I know now I have a translator at least, but it’s a skill I’d really like to further cultivate so that it’s at the forefront of how I listen to people. In the meantime, I remain grateful for these little light beings for showing me the way. Namaste.

How “Spider Boy” got his nickname

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Last spring, when Spider Boy was about 20 months old, I was hanging out with him in the master bedroom. He walked over to the bathroom door jamb and pretended to grab something off of it. When I asked him what it was, he said, “A spider,” with a look that said, “Duh!” From there he went on to pick imaginary spiders off of any and all available surfaces — walls, comforters, chairs, the front steps, the car, my shirt, my (ahem) hair. In the beginning all black, they began to take on colors — first red, then yellow and orange, and slowly working up to blue and green and purple.

Spiders began to seep into all segments of our lives. The bedtime routine now ends with him being given spiders from different aspects of his day (from his friends at daycare or music class, from the park, from family members, from his loveys). When he first arrives at someone’s house, he’ll often stop outside of the threshold, squat, and pick up two spiders, one in each hand. If he’s feeling insecure, he’ll run out of the room saying, “I forgot something!” If you ask him what, he’ll tell you “Spiders!” as he grabs a few and brings them back inside.

He doesn’t just receive spiders, he also gives them. He will pepper his dad’s beard with spiders while they’re reading stories in bed. Often as I’m leaving his room at night, he’ll toss one last spider to me as I go out the door. He feeds us spiders when we’re all sitting on the couch. When we’re at our favorite restaurant and he’s flirting with the wait staff, he’ll (somewhat shyly) offer them spiders. When I’m upset, he’ll ask, “Mommy, do you need a spider?” And when his brother is crying, he’ll give Bean a spider; frequently a yellow one.

This is where it gets interesting. Because Bean usually *stops* crying after he receives a spider. What started out as a game, a fun exploration of imagination, suddenly seems like something else. Suddenly, it strikes me that Spider Boy has created a way to give and receive energy. I start to wonder if he has intuitively stepped into the realm of Reiki and has found a way that works for him to transmit and receive Reiki energy. I wonder if the color of the spider corresponds to the chakra it will most directly effect. I wonder if what is imaginary to me is just because I can’t see it, and if the world is full of colored energy that he’s just scooping up and calling “spider.”

While it could all be a coincidence, I’m not one to believe in coincidences. And so far, he has shown himself to be an intuitive and prescient not-so-little guy. It’s a new world we live in, and I believe the children of today were born to follow their sixth sense. Spider Boy and Bean are two of my greatest teachers in life. They are definitely seeing the world through fresh eyes, and I suspect it is my job to follow their lead, to open my eyes and find a new way to interpret the data that is flowing through me.

And so, spiders. Two can play that game. I now infuse my spiders with all of the love and Reiki I can muster, and throw in extras for good measure, because really, you can never have too much of an eight-legged good thing. Namaste.