Part of the struggle of finding care is the feeling that NO ONE is good enough. And that’s true. No one is ME. But I know the childcare we find is serving an essential role of helping ME become the BEST ME and BEST MOM I can be. Having a nanny has enabled me the freedom to pursue my career goals and the work-home balance helps me be more present and engaged with my kids on my days off. Also, I have learned through the last six years of having a nanny, that my children do not have limited love to give. In fact, they thrive on attaching to and loving another person in their lives. I especially value this as we live in an area where we don’t have family close by. My daughters’ confidence grows when they feel loved by more people in their lives and our nannies have provided an essential source of this love and attention. And while no nanny replaces me, I’ve also learned that our nannies often have more energy and creativity than I do! In fact, I think our nannies are often nicer and less stressed than I am. They are able to give more one-on-one attention than I can because they aren’t trying to juggle a million things at once. Seeing my children excited to greet our new nanny in the morning, allows me to leave for work knowing that Hailee and Cami will be enriched and loved throughout the day. And nothing matters more to me than my girls’ well-being!
To continue, or perhaps conclude, the drama regarding Hailee’s education plan, we decided to move forward with first grade.
We aren’t sure we made the right decision. We aren’t sure there is a right decision. We ultimately decided to move forward with first grade after meeting with someone from our neighborhood who is an education specialist. We told her about Hailee and about our concerns. We talked for an hour. What tipped the scales toward first grade, for me, was this part of the conversation: She asked me, “Have any teachers expressed concern about Hailee moving forward?” I told her no. And she responded, “Then you need to stop treating Hailee like she is a concern.”
Further, while we’ve been making this decision (or avoiding it) I’ve been reading the book, The Conscious Parent. This book really helped me untangle all the pieces of this dilemma that were my own stories and my own needs and really, have nothing to do with Hailee.
“When you parent, it’s crucial that you realize you aren’t raising a ‘mini me,’ but a spirit throbbing with its own signature…Instead of meeting the needs of our children, we tend to project our own ideas and expectations onto them. Even when we have the best intentions…most of us unwittingly fall into the trap of imposing our agenda on them…We each enter the parenting journey with visions of what it will be. For the most part these visions are fantasies. We hold beliefs, values, and assumptions we have never examined…Based on our unexamined worldview, we unknowingly lay down rigid expectations of how our children ought to express themselves…For instance, if we are super-successful at what we do, we are likely to expect our children to be super-successful also…If we were an academic wizard in school, we tend to carry a torch for our children to be brilliant…We want what we consider to be the ‘best’ for our children, but in seeking to bring this about, we can easily forget that the most important issue is their right to be their own person and lead their own life in accord with their unique spirit.” (p. 2-3).
I realized through reading this book that so much of my fears and worries for Hailee are my own stories that I am projecting on her. I recognized that I have an egoistic need for Hailee to excel in school. I want her to be at the top of her class and show promise. I want to be that parent who complains how bored my child is in school because she isn’t being challenged enough. I want her to stand out as a leader. I want her to have confidence and love learning. Those aren’t necessarily bad wishes for Hailee. But they are MY wishes, not hers.
It wasn’t until I began to see this story I was projecting on Hailee that I realized my own history wasn’t full of academic prowess. I certainly didn’t show promise when I was Hailee’s age. I was held back a grade. And when I eventually was put in classes with my same-aged peers (sixth grade), I wasn’t in any advanced classes by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, in high school, I didn’t take any AP classes and VERY FEW honors classes. I got good grades but nothing that stood out. In fact I remember failing freshman honors English. I also didn’t do stellar on the ACT. I did “fine.” If my dad hadn’t petitioned the Dean of Admissions at Brigham Young University to let me in, it’s quite possible I wouldn’t have been admitted to BYU.
It wasn’t until college that I began to excel academically. It took until college for me to find that side of myself that really, intrinsically, valued learning and thinking. Why am I expecting my 6 year old to do what I only began to do at 18?
“We are inpatient to maximize our children’s potential…When we teach our children that their success in life is dependent on their performance, childhood becomes geared toward the future instead of being experienced simply as childhood…There is little presence, little time to savor the extraordinary in the ordinary…Although it’s natural to want our children to excel, this is preferably never at the expense of failing to revel in their ordinariness. When we deny our children’s ordinariness, we teach them to be enthralled only by the exaggerations of life. They come to believe that only the grand and the fabulous are to be noticed and applauded…In contrast, when our children learn to value the ordinary, they learn to inhabit life itself. They appreciate their body, their mind, the pleasure of sharing a smile, and the privilege of relating to others.” (p. 155-157).
After I recognized this, I realized that one of my desires for putting Hailee in Kindergarten at Challenger would be so she could excel academically. Dropping this fantasy allowed me to warm up to the idea of public school first grade.
In first grade, I anticipate Hailee will be very “ordinary.” And I want to honor that. I want Hailee to have a childhood where she can be whoever she is: learning and growing and maturing at her own pace.
While I have made good movement toward letting go of my egoistic need for Hailee to excel, I still worry about her being behind academically. And she is struggling right now, as she learns to read. She “doesn’t like reading. Not one bit.” It’s like pulling teeth to get her to read each night and often the experience involves whining and tears, on her part, and deep breathing to remain calm, on my part. I want her to have the freedom to learn and grow at her own pace, but yet, the pace of her class and of her peer’s learning is accelerating beyond her.
I know she will learn to read. I know one day it will “click.” But I worry that in the process Hailee, who already struggles with confidence, will become even more insecure and doubt herself and her abilities.
I also worry about Hailee’s ability to make friends. Hailee is young, both in age and maturity. She is very friendly and outgoing, but already this school year she has experienced some social rejection. A boy in her class told her to go to the back of the line because he didn’t want to stand by her. An older girl, who Hailee considered a friend, didn’t let her sit by her on the school bus. And someone called her “Shawn the sheep,” which may or may not have been name-calling but Hailee felt really hurt. Her first grade teacher says that Hailee is quiet in class and that she doesn’t see her really interacting with other kids very much. Hailee has told me she plays alone at recess, but “has fun playing alone.” All of Hailee’s best friends are all together in another class and I worry that Hailee is slowly going to be ostracized, unintentionally, from that group of friends.
It’s hard when you see how amazing your own child is and just want everyone around you to love her as well! I want her to feel accepted, loved, and wanted by her peers. This is where I still have doubts about her being in first grade. She might fit in better with peers in Kindergarten.
I am trying to relinquish my own stories and needs and embrace Hailee, as she is, but the protective mama bear in me is on high alert. I know, being a therapist, as well as carrying my own scars, that social acceptance is vital and rejection can carry life long consequences. Hailee has such a light and I will do everything in my power to keep her little light burning.
While I can’t control Hailee’s environment and I can’t protect her from all of life’s hurts, what I can do is, “mirror [her] inherent wholeness, out of which [she] will manifest who [she] is becoming. By mirroring [her] wholeness, [I] help [her] realize that who [she is] here and now is already [her] greatest achievement.” (p.168).
Seriously though, there is something about Cami turning two that makes me realize she really is no longer a baby! There is something sad about that for me. And there is also so much that is so enjoyable about her right now that it compensates for the sadness.
Cami is the biggest snuggle bug. I love how much she cuddles and gallops (literally gallops people) into my arms whenever she sees me. She’s a jealous snuggler too. If Hailee and I are snuggling, Cami crawls right in and, depending on her mood, may try to push Hailee out. If Hailee comes to snuggle when Cami and I are already cuddling, Cami will make disapproving noises and may even try to smack Hailee away.
While Cami finds herself competing with Hailee for attention, as well as turns playing with toys, eating food, playing Ipad, etc, and this can frustrate her at times (often); overall she worships Hailee and will follow her everywhere. Really in the last few months, Cami and Hailee have begun playing together all the time. I love how Hailee will often invite Cami to play with her, either in a fort, in her room, to color, or to play hide and seek. More mornings than not, the girls won’t even ask to watch TV because they are entertained playing together in their playroom.
Cami has been a little slower to pick up words and sentences but Chad and I both feel in the last few months, she has added tons of new words to her vocabulary. Her favorite word continues to be “Nom nom” indicating almost anything edible and yummy. She has also begun to use two word sentences on occasion (e.g. “Want please,” which sounds like “Whan Ease.”) Also, for some reason she didn’t really pick up the word “no” and who would complain about that, right? Instead of no, Cami would always say, “Uh-uh” and shake her head. Well, the last couple weeks, “No!” has become used quite frequently in Cami’s exclamations. The first time she said, “No!” was upon arrival to a swim lesson.
This summer we put Cami in swim lessons, just like we did with Hailee at the same age. Unlike Hailee, who took to swimming like a literal fish to water, Cami, is much less enamored. We have had five lessons and each lesson is full of loud tears for a full 15 minutes. It’s so hard to watch as a mother! But she also loves the pool…when it’s not her lesson. She is always asking to go to the “pool” and loves playing in the water.
I think her lessons traumatized her when they began dunking her underwater the first lesson. I’m hoping over time, the tears will end at swim lessons…because I’m sticking to my guns and my kids MUST become water safe as soon as they are able-sorry Cami, one result you have to deal with from your parent’s losing a baby.
We went on a family vacation last month, for a week, to Oregon and California. During this trip, Cami learned how to climb out of her crib! This began a whole new stage of sleep training that for weeks felt like Cami was really training US and not vice versa. It was horrible. We tried any technique that seemed to work…and ultimately realized we were not being strategic or consistent and that Cami was winning the war. During this time, Hailee was the only one of us not sleep deprived.
It seems like we literally just got Hailee out of our bed (again)(for good) and now we have Cami crawling in at all hours of the night. And we are exhausted from fighting her back to sleep so we often give in…only to get kicked and rolled on for the remainder of the night! Finally, we got a solution from our friends who had the same problem and this solution has actually gotten us some traction. The solution? The CHAIR (ominous music). We brought up a carseat and put it next to Cami’s crib. So when we put Cami down at night, we inform her that she will have to go in the carseat if she gets out of her crib. Then, when Cami almost immediately hops out of the crib when we leave the room, we inform her she made a sad choice and we strap her in the carseat for three to five minutes. She does NOT like this AT ALL and I also hate putting her in it because she’s so tired and sad. After three to five minutes we lovingly unstrap her, hug her, and put her back in the crib, informing her again, that if she gets out, she will have to go in THE CHAIR (dum dum dum). There were a couple nights we had to do this over and over and over. But finally, (fingers crossed) the last week or so, we haven’t had to use the carseat at all. We still have the problem of her waking up at weird hours and climbing into our bed…but we’ll take one victory at a time! At least now we can all go to bed at a pretty consistent and decent hour.
Besides the nighttime drama, Cami just brings so much joy into our lives. I am loving each day as Cami grows and I see more and more of her personality emerge. Yes, she is entering the terrible twos, but she is also entering such a fun stage of life full of adventure, learning, fun, and always lots of snuggles!
In less than a month, our rainbow turns two. It’s about right now that people start wondering (or have been wondering for awhile) but start asking out loud, if we are planning on having more kids. Just this week I’ve been asked that question three different times. And if I’m being honest, it’s been on my mind for the last six months or so, as well.
I’ll cut to the chase and add details as I go. Chad and I are 100% UNSURE if we are having more kids at this point. We are literally on the fence about it. For a couple months this question troubled me a lot. For some reason I felt I needed to DECIDE! Cami IS turning 2 and I am over 33 years old! I don’t have many good child-bearing years left in me. But then I realized (therapy helped) that the pressure of having to decide was only causing anxiety and decreasing clarity. So Chad and I decided that we would deliberately NOT decide for awhile.
And that is where we are right now: consciously NOT deciding to have or not have another baby.
Whenever one of us brings the topic up, the other seems to take the opposing view. If I say, “I think I might be done,” Chad will say that he doesn’t think we are done. If I say, “I think I might want another baby,” Chad will say, “I’d have to really think about that.” So there is no direction or consensus. And that’s fine. Without any pressure to come to a conclusion, we get to live more in the present with our daughters and evaluate the needs of our family, as it stands right now.
One thing Chad and I have realized this last year, since having a toddler Cami roaming the house in addition to a spunky Hailee, is that PARENTING IS HARD. I honestly feel like having one child is a CAKE WALK compared to two. And I HEAR having three increases the difficulty exponentially. This year, as parents, has stretched us, challenged us, and driven us to the limits of our sanity. I’m not going to say we’ve been miserable. In fact we’ve mostly felt the opposite. We’ve been good AND it’s been incredibly hard. I don’t think we have particularly hard children. I also don’t think we have the easiest children either.
Cami is a pure delight and a great little toddler. BUT she is, by definition, a toddler, and lives up to that reputation.
Hailee has always been emotional and struggles with emotion regulation. We as parents have struggled, in turn, how to help Hailee regulate her emotions. This is challenging and draining.
But if that were all, I think we’d be inclined to have more kids. Because these two we have here with us, are pretty amazing.
It’s the effects of having lost our son Charlie that mostly interfere with our desire to have more kids. I honestly cannot adequately describe the TOLL losing a baby takes on your body and soul. We live with constant fear (I’m not exaggerating) of losing another one of our children, because we KNOW how easily and quickly that could happen. When I think of having another baby, I feel overwhelmed thinking, “It’s hard enough to keep these two alive!”
There is this quote I put in Hailee’s baby book that says, “Having a child is to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” When you are a parent, you feel and are, vulnerable. I think all parents feels this vulnerability. And I think most parents are cocooned within this cozy layer of naivete. Bad things happen, but to OTHER PEOPLE. I know I was that way before we lost Charlie. I can never be that blissfully ignorant again.
As a result, our experience as parents now includes pain. I don’t mean that to sound dramatic. It’s not. It’s our reality. Parenting is hard, period. It’s even HARDER with a thick layer of trauma, grief, and FEAR plastered on.
That first year of Cami’s life was HONESTLY about KEEPING HER ALIVE. It was beautiful and full of sweet memories but the primary objective was: Get Cami past the SIDS risk. It was almost as hard as surviving the first year after Charlie died. The anxiety was horrible. The trauma memories that flooded us that year were so painful. The sleep deprivation was barely survivable. Our marriage really suffered as all else took a backseat to keeping Cami alive. We really were slightly crazy that year.
This year we’ve regained some semblance of sanity and are beginning to live again. But this living feels tenuous, always lined with fear. We are trying to be brave and as a result we are creating some awesome memories as a family. And I feel like it’s the first time in YEARS that I’ve been able to take a deep (albeit tentative) breath.
As we are finally getting our feet back under us, it’s hard to want to rip that ground away with adding more vulnerability and fear in the form of another family member. Plus, my pregnancies have all included some significant complication, and if history were to hold true, the vulnerability begins at conception!
Also, as a personal rant. I have always wanted three kids. And three kids I have! I HATE that I don’t get to have all three of them here. I also hate that I don’t get credit for having three kids. People see me and I think they see a mother of two, not three. That’s hard on me. It makes me sad.
Anyway, I could go on as I have more to say but that enough musing for now on this topic.
Hailee officially turned six last week! We had a couple different celebrations for her! The first celebration was her birthday party! While I briefly fantasized about hosting a darling (pirate themed-per Hailee’s request) birthday party at our house, replete with activities and decorations pulled from Pintrest, I ultimately remembered how much LESS stressful destination parties are! Even if they are a bit more expensive. This year, Hailee wanted to have her birthday party at Airborne Trampoline Arena: a giant trampoline warehouse. We had quite the showing of little friends for Hailee, given that she is in two schools! We also had important adults in Hailee’s life attend the party: Her Baba was in town, Zee and Wendy, Erica, and the moms of some of her bestees, like Ruki and Sarah all participated in the celebration. I loved watching my little social butterfly play with every friend that came to her party. Hailee had an absolutely wonderful time! And all the kids enjoyed themselves too, even though there was a bloody nose and a head injury, and ultimately lots of whining for slurpees, for which we doled out extra money as slurpees weren’t included in the party package. Overall, the party was an amazing success!
Finally, on the day of Hailee’s ACTUAL birthday, with all these celebrations done, Chad and I took Hailee out for a special parent-Hailee date. We got a sitter for Cami and asked Hailee where she would like to go. No surprise here: the pool!
And FINALLY, for scrapbooking purposes, I interviewed Hailee on her birthday. I love this and hope to make it an annual tradition. Here are Hailee’s answers to twenty questions:
- Favorite color: pink
- Favorite toy: Little Live Bird that sings when you pet it and repeats what you say
- Favorite fruit: apples because they are so juicy
- Favorite TV show: Little Charmers
- Favorite thing to eat for lunch: Romen Noodles
- Favorite outfit: Any summer clothing (she’ll try to wear it year round). Definitely NOT her Challenger uniform.
- Favorite game: hide and seek
- Favorite snack: strawberries
- Favorite animal: Unicorn (Please never stop believing in Unicorns Hailee!)
- Favorite song: Elsa song-Let it Go
- Favorite book: Fancy Nancy
- Best friend: Grace Packer
- Favorite cereal: Lucky Charms
- Favorite thing to do outside: ride my scooter
- Favorite drink: water
- Favorite holiday: summer
- Take to bed with you: stuffed animals
- Favorite thing to eat for breakfast: cereal
- Favorite place to eat out: Noodles and Co
- What do you want to be when you grow up: Teacher
At six, Hailee continues to bring so much light and joy into our life! She plays so well with her little sister and her teachers at school comment on how wonderful Hailee is to have in the classroom. One of her teachers told me that Hailee is a reason she loves teaching and that one day, randomly, Hailee hugged her and said, “thank you for teaching us.” Another teacher told me that she took down our Christmas card just a couple weeks ago because she loved having a photo of Hailee up in her house!
While Hailee is amazing at school, she can be very naughty at home. She challenges us as parents and I find myself turning to parenting books for help. We have recently made subtle but important changes and are already seeing a great difference in our little girl (e.g. consistent bed time, consistent consequences for not listening or acting out-having to go to bed 15 minutes early for each infraction, consistent falling asleep and staying in her own bed, and more concerted effort on our parts to praise her for positive behavior). Overall, Hailee is a GOOD girl with a BIG heart. She is emotional, feeling deeply both the highs and lows of daily experience. She is resilient and bounces back quickly and is passionate about all she does. She is a social butterfly, making friends wherever she goes. She hugs, kisses, and just loves with abandon! I am so grateful to have had the last six years raising and loving on Hailee! Happy sixth birthday Hailee!
Last week we went to lunch with another parent and friends from Hailee’s Challenger Pre-K class. While at lunch, the mom told me, “Vivian (Hailee’s friend) came home from school last week and said, ‘Mom, Rider is in love with Hailee!’ and then I was talking to the mom of another boy in the class and she said her son told her the same thing: ‘Rider is in love with Hailee!'”
This was NEWS to me! Hailee has never talked about Rider at all! But to be honest, Hailee doesn’t like to talk about school much, period. It’s like pulling teeth to get her to say more than how she felt about her day, which is usually a rendition of “good,” “great,” or “awesome.” The only other things she likes to talk to me about are recess and if she acquired any injuries on the tire swing.
So after the lunch date with these friends, when I had Hailee in the car, I asked her about Rider. Hailee got a silly grin on her face and said, “He is in love with me and I am in love with him.” !!!!
I asked Hailee what it is she think Rider loves about her and she said, “He loves how I push him on the tire swing. I have a special trick to make him spin fast and go up and down.” And then I asked Hailee what she loves about Rider and she responded after thinking for a second, “His curly hair.”
Aww, young love! So cute!
I asked Hailee how come she hadn’t told me about Rider and she said, “I was worried you would tell me I couldn’t love him because I’m too young.” Huh? I am pretty sure I would never say that…but that does sound like something her dad would say. Either way I tried to share in Hailee’s enthusiasm to help her continue to open up to me about her first little beau!
The next day Hailee told me that she and Rider kissed! Blink, blink! Now, at this point, I might have gotten ready to have a talk about age-appropriate behavior with boyfriends, but Hailee clarified, “on our cheeks.” Oh, ok phew.
Hailee’s birthday party is this week and Rider’s RSVP is a “maybe.” I’m hoping I get to meet this little boyfriend and watch him and Hailee play together. Cute five-year-old puppy love. Who doesn’t find that adorable!?! If only it could always stay this innocent…
The Southern Utah Half Marathon began with waking up at 5am to load onto a sticky elementary school bus where we were shuttled to a starting line and relieved ourselves in mass portapotties, then shivered and jumped around waiting for the race to start only to begin running as thick raindrops started to splatter our faces. What about that doesn’t sound fun?!
Luckily the rain only lasted for about the first two miles of the race. And when it was raining, I actually didn’t mind because I love the smell of rain on asphalt! And, because it rained, the race was nice and cool the whole way! I know I was getting an awesome workout, but I honestly didn’t feel sweat anywhere except on my forehead, under my visor! It was the perfect temperature for running a half marathon!
Chad and I ran together for 10.5 of the 13.1 miles. I was honestly surprised he ran with me and so glad he did. We had a really nice time jogging through some amazing red rock scenery! The path was seriously so pretty as it winded along the Virgin River in St. George. We were surrounded by beautiful red rocks and greenery, and sometimes sleepy cows. We saw hawks looking for breakfast and little birds flying in and out of mud nests snuggled in the red rocks. Besides the awesome scenery, the race was all downhill! The air smelled so nice and clean! OH, and it was easier to breathe, being at a much lower elevation than Salt Lake City.It was the perfect first half marathon!
Chad and I also loved looking at all the people running with us. It was pure people-watching-entertainment. People of all different shapes, sizes, ages, and backgrounds were loping along the trail (we saw a girl as young as 10 and a man at least 70). I spent the last four months training by myself for this race and suddenly I felt this camaraderie with all these other people who had done the same; and here we were, together at last!
As we ran, I felt so happy! I was having so much fun!
At about mile 8 my knee started screaming at me and I felt a little worried I wouldn’t be able to run through it. (Downhill is apparently super hard on knees and I had developed runner’s knee problems as a result of my training). I had anticipated this could happen and so I slowed down for about a mile and tried to stretch and just keep going. Gratefully, my knee stopped screaming and resorted to quietly complaining, which allowed me to push through it and even increase my speed. At the end of the race, I was running 8:30 min/miles!
I finished the race in two hours and six minutes, averaging 9:41 min/miles. Not too shabby! Chad finished just about two minutes ahead of me. I was super proud of myself as I sprinted across the finish line! I felt elated and was surprised that I physically felt really good! Except that I wanted to throw up because I ran the last mile so fast. I had to concentrate to not throw up on the little twelve-year-old boy who put a medal around my neck. But the nausea passed pretty quickly and I just couldn’t wipe my stupid grin off my face!
I ran this race with zero expectations and only the wish to cross the finish line! This was so fun, I think I’ll definitely do it again! Chad and I are already talking about when to run another half-marthon and what time we want to shoot for (we both want to see if we can run it under 2 hours the next time).
My mom came down to St. George with us to cheer us on and she was great company on the four hour car ride from and to SLC. (Thanks Mom!) When we got home, I felt exhausted, but was excited to see my girls! They seemed less enthused to see me, however, as I guess they were having a grand-ol-time with our babysitter. I was slightly hurt by their rebuffs of my affection, but grateful that their lackluster greeting is implicit permission for more overnight get-aways!
So, in conclusion, this was a really FUN experience, a great achievement, and awesome date with my favorite person. Now to set a new goal…
But perhaps I’ll wait until after I get the results from the biopsy of my thyroid tomorrow to set that goal…I’ll give an update when I know if I have thyroid cancer or not. Right now I’m still riding the high of this awesome 13.1 mile fun run!
Yesterday we passed Charlie’s three year angelversary. This year’s angelversary felt different. The last two angelversaries, I’ve had this frenetic energy and need to fill up the day with activities to make it “meaningful.” While my desire to pass the day in a meaningful way, was authentic, I think it also signified serious avoidance and a need to do whatever I had to in order to survive the day emotionally.
This year our house was plagued by an awful cold. Every single one of us has been mowed down by this chest and sinus infection. When I first became sick, I had an internal tantrum, screaming, “Seriously?! Of all weeks?! I do not need this!” Then, I thought about a mantra one of my friends told me a long time ago (I’m sure I’ll paraphrase it wrong): Believe that everything that happens to me is for my ultimate well-being. Great idea in theory; harder to apply in reality. But I decided to apply this mantra to being sick. So I stopped fighting and reframed the sickness as an opportunity to be present and mindful. I abandoned any ideas to fill Charlie’s day with activities.
Instead we mostly spent a quiet day spent at home. And I think that was perfect for us. Despite being sick, I didn’t feel the frenetic energy or need to make the angelversary into an event in order to mark it and survive it. It felt good to just be quiet and reflect.
Emotionally the day was sad and of course I cried. But this sadness felt different from before. It wasn’t a suffocating, dark sadness. It was just plain, unadulterated sad. And the difference felt really nice. I think it feels easier because I’m in a place where I’m ok and I knew the day would pass and I’d continue to be ok. It’s not like the early days of grief when grief waves bowl you over and leave you panicked, stricken and gasping for air. Either the waves aren’t as big anymore or I’ve developed muscles to remain standing when the waves strike, or both.
So I felt I was in a place where I could just be with whatever presented itself to me that day. And the day wasn’t bad. I enjoyed the quiet and welcomed whatever feelings I needed to experience. In many ways, yesterday was peaceful.
We had a family picnic with Charlie and sent balloons to heaven.
Three years later it’s amazing to reflect on where we’ve come. In one way, I don’t think I felt the frenetic energy about this day because I no longer need this day to mark Charlie’s life or passing. I feel I have internalized him into my very being. I really do carry him with me, always. He informs my intentions, motivations, desires, beliefs, and spirituality. I may come across as normal now, but I’m not normal. I’m in a good place but I am irrevocably changed. And I’m glad for that change. I still feel pain, anger, confusion, and sadness and have more grief work to do. But I also hug my children more fiercely, I live more intentionally, I see beauty more profoundly, I experience gratitude more easily, I breathe more deeply, and experience the world with different eyes. I am grateful that Charlie gave me that gift.
Everyone needs a personal retreat every now and then. My personal retreat comes each February, often on the week of my birthday. I start looking forward to attending the American Group Psychological Association conference many months before and miss it almost as soon as I step off the airplane back in SLC. Chad is so awesome to make every effort possible to accommodate my absence for this week. Bonus for him: no birthday celebration or present obligations!
AGPA is a 5 day conference and is held in really cool locations across the nation. Often those locations are in the frigid northeast so I was delighted when I learned this year’s AGPA would be in lovely San Francisco!
This year did not disappoint! In fact, it exceeded my expectations. I didn’t go to AGPA thinking, “I’m going to work on x,y,and z” but rather just an openness for the experience of it. And the personal work I ended up doing surprised me and was super powerful! Some of it involved grief work but most of it involved interpersonal struggles and the connections and feedback I received in my institute was perfect; exactly what I needed.
One of the most memorable moments of the conference, however, came outside the conference. One morning, one of my colleagues invited me and others in our group to ditch our morning workshops and spend three hours meditating in a zazenkai session at the famous San Francisco Zen Center.
Only three of us ended being able to take the morning off to do this excursion. Ironically, the workshop I ditched was “intro to mindfulness.” I decided a crash course would be more beneficial. And I was RIGHT! I honestly don’t think I can describe in a way that would give it justice, exactly what it was like to meditate for three straight hours! It was powerful and awesome. The session was led by a legit Buddhist monk (robes, shaved head, gong, bare feet, and all). We alternated doing silent sitting meditation for thirty minutes and then ten minutes of silent walking meditation (imagine walking at a tenth of the speed you normally walk to get an idea of what walking meditation entails). We repeated this over and over for three hours. I can’t summarize the experience because each “episode” of meditation was different for me (I almost fell asleep in one of them). I noticed I have a very active mind and it required a lot of attention to stay present. But the effort was worth it. After the zazenkai, I felt physically like I had just had a massage and that I had this invisible, light, warm blanket around me. I felt blissfully tired and hesitant to re-join reality. Definitely going to try to find a place in SLC to do similar meditation work!
Other highlights of the week included hopping a cable car and touring the city with one of my friends from grad school and favorite people: Jenn Alonso!
The food this trip was also a highlight! I drool just thinking of some of the yummy meals I shared in the company of good friends!
I also fell in love with the Uber app which rewarded me and my friends with the opportunity to see this at sunset:
Our Uber driver was super accommodating.
I also got to meet my therapy HERO this week: Irvin Yalom!
You might call him the God of Group Psychotherapy. He came and gave a plenary speech at the conference and then signed books afterwards. When I met him I said, “Would it be creepy if I told you, you changed my life?” He smiled and said, “No that sounds very nice.” Seriously this man influences my therapeutic work every day! I spent so many hours in grad school watching his group therapy training videos and reading the bible of group therapy books: The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (it’s highlighted more than my scriptures). He’s written lots of books but my favorite of his, as well as my favorite therapy-reference is, The Gift of Therapy.
Oh, I also got to see a talk by Phillip Zimbardo, another God in the field of psychology (think Stanford Prison study). But I left his talk half way through to have a wonderful sushi dinner with one of my all-time besties: Robin!
And finally, AGPA wouldn’t be AGPA without the DANCE!
How often as adults do we get opportunities to Get our Groove on outside of sleezy club scenes (which who would ever frequent once married and outside their twenties?)? Yeah, um, never. This is my yearly dance therapy. This dance is a voyeuristic delight as people between 22 and 85, of a variety of ethnicities and sexual orientations, are all unabashadly throwing their bodies around in dance-like-movements to a live band singing a wicked rendition of “Love Shack”! It’s SO GRIN-PLASTERED-TO-FACE AWESOME!
The downsides of this six day retreat included a lovely sinus infection (that didn’t impede me too much with the aid of medications) and missing some good friends who couldn’t attend this year’s conference. But it was great to connect more with my colleagues/friends, as well as meet some new and amazing people. Hopefully next year some of those peeps I missed will be able to come and complete the experience!
I just LOVE AGPA! What a highlight of my year and a bonus that I get over 1/2 my required CEs from this indulgent retreat! Just the medicine I needed this time of year!
PS I did not wear that flannel shirt each day of the conference! In fact I was dressed quite professionally during the conference but threw on jeans and the comfy flannel for excursions and the like!
It sure has taken me forever but life can be distracting sometimes! I’m not done decorating the nursery but one wall is finally finished!
I also finished one project with Charlie’s clothes. Well, actually I didn’t do it personally, but sent some of his clothes to a special woman who makes special things with them:
These bears were ready for us on Christmas eve! Which was perfect because we wanted them to be Christmas presents to ourselves, Hailee, Cami, the grandmas, and our old nanny, Mel. I remember in the earlier days after losing Charlie I went into his nursery and pulled out his clothes one by one and just sobbed. I remember how sad it was that they were just limp, lifeless clothes. I was so desperate to hold him in some form that I put one of his onesies on my original Charlie bear and slept with the bear like that for awhile. Now that special onesie has been lovingly made into the shape of a bear that I can squeeze and hold and love on! These bears are such a treasure and each outfit was chosen for a specific reason with a specific memory attached! Thank you Heidi Hamilton for the idea!
I have more Charlie clothes and another project in mind for them, but that will come in time. Life is sure busy, and I am grateful to be in a space where I want to be more present in it with my little family.