Your Sensitive Child

There are many things parents can do to nurture and encourage highly sensitive kids, but I think the most important task is to love and accept them as they are. There is unspoken pressure on parents to coax sensitive, quiet or cautious kids into being more assertive, outgoing or bold at a very young age. Sometimes the pressure is put on the parents by themselves.  They know how outgoing and funny their child can be at home and they are eager for the wider world to know her as well. Or they fear that if their child isn’t speaking up and joining in now, then they will be left behind in life.

But this hurry-up-and-be-braver-louder-friendlier approach will simply backfire if it feels like criticism to the child. A child who feels comfortable about who she is right now even if that means a little scared, a lot cautious or simply reflective and observant in certain situations, will grow to be confident and kind.

The best essay I’ve ever read on this subject  Stop Worrying About Your Sensitive Child  was written by Janet  Lansbury, author of No Bad Kids. Having been a sensitive child herself, Lansbury remembers what attitudes did her more harm than good. Spoiler: Having parents who saw her sensitivity as a flaw that made her fragile was not helpful.

By not worrying about your sensitive child, Lansbury is not suggesting throwing them to the wolves, so to speak.  Sensitive kids often need extra time, encouragement and warmth, and those who receive that can turn into the most amazing adults.  What she is suggesting is to remember that your child’s temperament may be his greatest gift;  even if the world is yelling too loudly to notice this, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. When your child knows in his heart that you trust that he is exactly who he is meant to be, he will blossom beyond your wildest predictions.

~ Dana

 

A Morning in the Life of a Quarantwin Mom

IMG_20200331_1133196:45 Everyone gets up. Hubby gets dressed, I do not. I want to fit in my half hour exercise routine at some point this morning before I get dressed.. 

7:00 The twins watch Magic School Bus while hubby and I hustle around emptying the dishwasher, prepping the kids’ breakfast, prepping our own breakfast, feeding the dog, making tea.

7:30 Hubby eats breakfast and does the dishes. I drink my smoothie while trying to get the twins to stay in their chairs long enough to eat a few bites. If they don’t, they will be HANGRY.

7:45 Hubby goes upstairs to his office to start his work day after wishing me luck, which he knows I’ll need. The requests from the twins start flying my way. “Mommy hide and seek? Mommy read book? Mommy play?” We decide on reading a few books together. Then I tell them to play together while I deal with our laundry situation. And yes it is a situation. I only have to pause 13 times to help someone with potty, booboo, tie this, open that, can’t find this, she took my bear, and OH NO THERE’S A STRAW IN MY WATER CUP!!!”

8:45 It’s still a little too cold to go outside. Now would be a good time for me to exercise, but the twins are getting crankier by the minute, so I decide to do a craft with them instead. We make toilet paper roll monsters (I feel like there’s a good metaphor in here somewhere?). It eats up a good chunk of time and they love every second of it until the very end when one twin starts crying because she wants to make grass for her monster and I tell them we’re all done with this craft for now but we can bring the monsters outside later to play in the real grass. Of course the other twin catches on to the grass concern and they follow through with a level 6 out of 10 meltdown for me. As 2 ½ year olds, they are starting to master these morning meltdowns.

9:45 I manage to calm them down and I play with them for a bit before sneaking away to get dinner in the crockpot just in case I don’t get a chance later. I breathe a sigh of relief as I listen to them playing happily together while I cook. Now that their playgroup and library story time are no longer options- now that there is a pandemic – we stay home.  

10:15 It’s starting to warm up outside. Maybe instead of my indoor exercise routine, I’ll bring the girls for a walk in the stroller and then we’ll play outside… But all at once, the grocery delivery arrives, both twins are asking for a snack, and my phone is ringing. I give the girls a baggy of nuts even though I know I should have given them this snack earlier because now it’s too close to lunch time. Then I head out to the garage to bring in the groceries. The phone call is forgotten.

10:45 By the time I’m done, they’re getting tired. It’s too late to go outside because it’ll take us at least half an hour just to get dressed and ready to go out and then it’ll be almost nap time. We’ll go outside after nap, at which point some neighborhood kids will be outside too, and I will continue my struggle to explain to my toddlers why they cannot play with their friends.  I give them some carrots and toast to top off their snack-lunch and sit with them while we talk about what kinds of bugs we might find outside later. They’re obsessed with bugs at the moment.

11:00 We clean up and head upstairs. They’re cranky and ready for an early nap and so am I.

One twin goes potty, the other refuses via meltdown. This one’s an 8 out of 10 and she wins. I lose. Hubby is in the middle of a meeting; otherwise he would have come in to help me and we may have won. We go to their bedroom and read a few books. One at a time, I pick them up and say goodnight to the pictures on the wall, the windows, the giraffe that stands on their dresser, the fairy ornaments that hang from the ceiling… As I’m about to place the twin who just had the potty meltdown into her crib, she says she has to go potty. We all walk back to the bathroom. Several minutes later, they are both finally in their cribs.

12:00 I walk downstairs and collapse on the couch. I hear chatting coming from their bedroom. It’s fine, I think, they’ll fall asleep. But alas the chatting turns into crying.

12:15 I go back upstairs. Someone now has to poop. We all go back to the bathroom. One poops while the other gallops up and down the hallway. What happened to their tiredness?? Post-poop, we all go back into the bedroom and we repeat the goodnight routine. “Goodnight giraffe, goodnight window, goodnight painting, goodnight, fairy”… and then again with the other twin. My arms, wrists, and upper back have a constant mild ache from all of the daily lifting.

00100lrPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200331090103888_COVER12:45 They are both in their cribs – maybe going to sleep, maybe not. I am on the couch. Recharging for the afternoon is higher on my priority list than the morning exercise routine I never got to. This is not hard, I think to myself. Having a Covid 19 diagnosis is hard. Being a medical professional during this terrifying pandemic is hard. Losing your job and not knowing when your stimulus check is coming is hard. Having to work from home and homeschool teenagers at the same time is hard. This is not hard. But sometimes it kind of is.

~ Brittni

#30 days

 

20160706_112252#30 days left (minimum) of social distancing here in Massachusetts! How about you? Here are some fun/inspiring/challenging 30-day ideas for #athome:

Delicious:  30 plant based power bowl recipes

Gentle:  30 days of yoga

Challenging:    30 days of daily burn workouts

Inspiring:  30 days to declutter your home    

Informative: The Alcohol Experiment audio   &  30 days to interrupt your pattern

Let us know if you try any of these or other 30-day challenges! We have the power to raise the consciousness of the planet by raising our own, one good choice at a time. #stayhome  #stayhealthy 

The Silver Lining in Sensitivities

pexels-photo-1099680My oldest daughter and coauthor of this blog, Brittni,  was recently ruminating over her inability to consume anything but the cleanest substances without suffering some pretty significant consequences.  Any caffeine, even if consumed first thing in the morning, will keep her from sleeping that night. A single alcoholic drink in the evening has the same effect. Gluten, sugar, and even dairy and meat have a noticeable effect on her energy levels and mood. She is intolerant to many medications. The list of sensitivities could- and did- go on.

You are the luckiest, I’ve said to her more than once.

Essentially you are forced to have a clean diet and live such a healthy lifestyle.  You cannot skimp on your self-care without some real suffering. So you have the opportunity to be the pinnacle of health and well-being!

Of course, I do sympathize too, especially on the caffeine front. She has two toddlers. I cannot imagine having gone through the toddler stage without my morning coffee.

And I also know what it is like to be sensitive to substances.  A glass of wine or an extra pour of coffee can send my heart racing these days. Consuming sugar(my nemesis) or white flour products make me want to take a nap.  But I am not as sensitive to such substances, or to the loss of sleep they may cause.

Recently, I heard of a new book, a memoir, called We are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life.  It is written by Laura McKowen, a woman who struggled with  alcohol dependency.  I immediately fell in love with her title and delved into the book, interested to learn about all the ways she thrived when she gave up her vice. And she is indeed thriving, but holy high balls, she takes the reader through some devastating sh** before she reaches the lucky part.

Still, in the end, she is lucky and amazing and makes some very valid points about the rest of us, too okay or functional or distracted to even contemplate giving up our diversion, whatever that is for us. Instead of thriving, we may be chugging along in mediocracy.

So for all you sensitive types, who cannot tolerate whatever it is that you cannot tolerate – noise or stress or alcohol or sugar or negativity or whatever your poison is- chances are it’s something that isn’t really great for anyone.  But you, my delicate flower, the orchid, the canary in a coal mine, your rock -bottom of tolerance is always right there forcing you to course-correct with your next breath, with the beating of your wild, tender heart.

You are the luckiest.

Where’d You Go, Creativity?

21897 cropped lake pic
It is no accident that I am writing about the challenge of carving out a creative life when it’s been about six months since I’ve written anything here.

Why is it so challenging to carve out a creative life that stays consistent?

Allow me to state the obvious:  Creative projects are often  solo pursuits in which we have to give ourselves permission, accountability, boundaries around our time and the will to keep going when it is just so easy to let it go among everything else competing for our time and attention.

And in addition to a creative life requiring time to create, it also requires time to just be. Writers and other creatives need alone time like they need air and water.  So if we need quiet time to prime the pump and quiet time to create, and we live in a time that practically insists – or at least expects – us to be hyper focused on the outside world, much more so than on our inner selves,  then of course it takes more than a little effort to protect a creative life.

Essentially though, I know I am capable of doing better, of doing more. Life is full of choices and I think I am running out of excuses.

Recently, I saw the movie Where’d You Go, Bernadette, based on the bestselling novel. Bernadette, so far removed from her former artistic career, has become anxious, destructive and unhappy.

It’s not so difficult to imagine a bout of writer’s block that goes on far too long resulting in my own demise. Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but the longer I leave a written book gathering dust, an essay unwritten, or new ideas to die on the vine, the more intimidating it feels to crack open the door to the work. It’s as though I cannot bear to face what I have neglected.

Good things, life affirming things, happen during a creative spell that are hard to replicate. When engaged in a creative pursuit, we are in the flow of a higher consciousness. In the act of creation we feel energized,  joyful, at peace, and expanded.

We don’t think and feel in the same way. Those neural networks our survival thinking had wired are turned off …we see new possibilities. We are now quantum observers of a new destiny. And that release heals the body and frees the mind”.

 ­- Dr. Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.

In short, we are better when we are creating! We are happier, calmer and freer. Who doesn’t want that, for themselves and every creative person they love?

***

I could write about how to fight the good fight and maintain consistency in creativity, but clearly after such a dry spell, I am not the one to give such advice. Besides, it’s been spelled out already in some fabulous books such as The War of Art and Big Magic.

But speaking of magic, I occasionally get some good insights in my dreams and recently I awoke with these words in my head:  Just do a little bit each day.  The message was that simple and that clear.

So there you have it. This was my little bit for today.

HALF THE CHILD Author Event

Please join us for a book discussion on Saturday, April 27th

1:00pm to 3:30pm at the Holliston, MA public library

752 Washington Street, Holliston, MA

Questions?  You can email Dana:  danalaq@gmail.com

*RSVP helpful but not required

HALF THE CHILD takes place over four consecutive summers in the lives of Michael Mullen and his son Benjamin, who ages from 2½ to 5½. The novel chronicles the separation, divorce, custody battle, and abduction that threaten to tear apart father and son. For Mike, an air traffic controller at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the cost of asserting his rights as a father and Ben’s rights as a son continues to escalate and negatively affects Mike’s career, education, financial state, friendships, romantic life, physical health, and emotional well-being. Yet he steadfastly refuses to consider a life that consists of him living apart from Ben. Ultimately, they will write their own love story. HALF THE CHILD was a semi-finalist in both the James Jones First Novel Competition and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition.

William J. McGee is a journalist, teacher, and consumer advocate. He also is the author of ATTENTION ALL PASSENGERS, a nonfiction exposé of the airline industry. He lives in Connecticut.

Empty Cup: When Motherhood Runneth Over

I’m tired. Burnt out if you will. I almost followed that up with a list of disclaimers about how I know there are a zillion people in this world that are way more exhausted than I am and have every reason to be burnt out and who would probably (understandably) label me as whiny and privileged. But I  honestly don’t have it in me right now to appropriately excuse myself of my whiny and privileged tone, so please bear with me as I get this off my chest.

147261My twins are 16 months old. They are my only children. They have been sleeping through the night for eight months. They nap every day. My parents live in the next town over and give me a generous amount of help. Technically, I should not be tired.  I should be full of life and energy. But for whatever reason, I am not. I am a stay at home mom and I love my job. Truly. Deep down I love it. But my God it is a lot of work.

Before I had kids, I was dancing professionally and working as a freelance visual artist as well. I was an avid gym-goer, a consistent maker of healthy meals, a keeper of the house and a doer of fun things with my husband, sisters, or friends.  I was a reader of books and a follower of news. A lover of the outdoors and an appreciator of the arts.

And then baby fever hit hard. My husband and I put it off for a little while, but when the time came, we were both ready and there was no denying it any longer. One baby was the immediate plan. We eventually maybe wanted a second, but we’d decide about that later. I told myself it wouldn’t be unrealistic to be a stay at home mom of one baby and still be able to consistently fit in some of my own art or dancing, or at least something of my own.

Of course it was not one baby, but two (surprise!), and now I can’t imagine it being just one. But wow. Since the day they were born, I have been slipping away from myself. Not in a way that I think I’ll never come back. I will. But right now – who I am today – is almost unrecognizable to me. I’m still “me” of course, but I’m temporarily (I hope) wilted. My entire existence is spent loving my babies and I don’t know how to leave some for myself.

I do get breaks during the week from my parents, and my load is lightened by my husband on the weekends. But even time “off” is spent catching up on daily tasks I’ve fallen behind on. And even when I find myself with free time – or choose to ignore the chores for a bit – I’m too bone-tired to muster up any creativity or stamina to even want to do anything I used to do.  

Who is this person? This can’t possibly be me…but it is and I sometimes get so discouraged by my own lack of energy that I send myself into a downward spiral of negativity and self-criticism that leads to an even deeper slump.

During the full throes of the day – when I’m in full mom-mode, I’m rarely faded and droopy.  I love these kids and I love raising them and I love doing all the fun mom things. We play and dance and read and go outside. I feed them healthy foods and keep them on a good nap schedule and bring them to playgroups. I often find myself blissfully lost in the moment, laughing so hard at their adorable silliness that tears roll down my face, or dancing so enthusiastically to “Old McDonald Had a Farm” that I end up winded. I of course have plenty of parenting-fails and plenty of days when I just don’t live up to my expectations as a mother. But when the good and the bad days are averaged out, I’d say I’m a pretty darn good mom.

As for taking care of myself, I do have some days that I make myself a nice healthy lunch, or use my girls’ naptime to exercise in my living room, or work on a long-forgotten art project after they go to bed. But overall – when averaged out – I do a pretty crappy job of taking care of myself. I like the idea of self-care. I want to feel good. But when the day is over and my beloved little monsters are in bed and I finally have a moment to myself, I have nothing left. I give myself away day after day and I just don’t have anything left over.

This lack of leftover gusto could be due to the physical stamina it takes to get through a day with twins; the double-carry, the double chase in public places, the double diaper changes, double meltdowns, double sicknesses, double doctor appointments, double…everything. Or it could be that I am an introvert in every sense of the word and after a day full of interaction – be it only with two tiny humans – I am simply drained.  Or it could that I need eight hours of sleep in order to feel rested and I don’t always get that because sometimes sick or teething toddlers = night wakings. Or it could be that I’m worrying myself into exhaustion. I worry a fair amount, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a normal mom thing to do.

Whatever the underlying cause may be, I am – in a word – tired.  I hurt. I’m dragging. I’m not fully myself. I also recognize the fact that my girls won’t be this little forever and this feeling will most likely pass. In the meantime, I would love to start bringing back small pieces of my old self. I don’t think that can mean daily trips to the gym or big blocks of time spent working on my art just yet. But maybe trying to make myself a yummy healthy lunch more days than not would be a good start. I have unwittingly set my self-care bar quite low over the past 16 months, so almost anything would be a good start. And burnt out as I may be, these babies are worth every bit of exhaustion.

~ Brittni

We Traveled With Two Toddlers and Survived

144838 (1)I returned home Monday evening with my husband (Jim) and our girls after a four-day trip to visit Jim’s family in North Carolina. The logistics of this trip were fairly simple by general traveling standards; a short, direct flight, a quiet air b&b to ourselves just five minutes from the family members we were there to visit, a spacious rental car with two rental car seats, two portable cribs waiting for us when we got there, lent to us by Jim’s brother, two generous rides from my mom to and from the airport at the start and end of the trip…
Yet there is no amount of simplicity or convenience that could have made traveling with 15-month-old twins easy. It was far easier than it could have been, definitely. And for that I am extremely grateful. But not easy.
I’ll spare you the full list of details, but in short, this four-day endeavor required a lot of planning, teamwork, and a solid sense of humor, and I am proud to say that Jim and I somehow managed all three.
Of course we had our moments (namely fruit pouches being accidentally squirted all over the seat of the rental car, our kids refusing to ride in their wagon for a 2+ mile walk, and a double meltdown at the airport (during which the parent -to -toddler ratio felt far too low). Thankfully, these fleeting moments were outweighed by the joy of spending time with family and by the sense of accomplishment of having survived our first plane-travel as a family of four.
Overall, it was successful, fun, and well worth it. It filled my travel quota for the foreseeable future though because when it comes to being a full-time parent of twin toddlers, there really is no place like home.
~Brittni

The Wolf at the Door

“The world breaks everyone, and then some become strong at the broken places.”

 -Earnest Hemingway

 

October 31

My husband receives a call from the doctor who has his biopsy results. The small lump at his jawline is not uncommon- the doctor has been optimistic up until now – cavalier even- but it turns out that his is not benign at all. It is a rare cancer of the parotid gland.

We are about to find out that getting a cancer diagnosis causes one to enter the stages of grief. First stop: denial.  How can this be?  He is healthy.  His medical reports have always been perfect. He is active, a young fifty-five and never felt better.   

***

I’ve forgotten all about Halloween and now it’s getting dark, the time that little ones will start showing up at our door, looking for treats. We have no candy and are in no mood for visitors. We turn out most of the lights and sit in the near-dark living room, allowing this new reality to sit with us.  We’ve kept the trick-or-treaters at bay, but we are not alone. There is a wolf at the door, and it is Cancer.

I call our daughters and deliver the news.

My husband is very concerned about disrupting mine and the girls’ lives. Always confident, capable and available, he feels he is failing us with this new and shocking title: cancer patient.  Usually such a logical man, this makes little sense. Of course he did not choose this, no one does, and all we care about is him getting better. But the love and protection he has always given us, above and beyond what is expected, is one of the things I love about him. And now I want to protect him, to cure him, to save him. I am simultaneously aware of my inner strength and my mortal limitations.
November 8

It is our 31st wedding anniversary and also the day of my husband’s surgery. The surgeon removes the tumor as well as many lymph nodes in his neck. The doctors call it a neck dissection, but my husband prefers to call it a neck fillet. Even in his current state, he maintains a bit of his sense of humor. I am relieved.  The past week has been emotionally rough to say the least, but we find reasons to laugh too.

 

November 22 

We follow through on our plans to host Thanksgiving dinner at our home.  It is a day of family and food and also of forgetting, for a few minutes at a time, that we are awaiting the next day’s pathology report.
November 23

 We stop at the second floor of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. We are fortunate to be just an hour drive away from such a reputable treatment center. We ride the elevator to the second floor.  “Welcome to the land of the fucked”, my husband says as he looks around.

The oncologist is young, impeccably groomed and impossibly thin. He’s also friendly and kind but maintains the necessary level of detachment.  He delivers the pathology report. It has been a successful surgery. No facial nerves were damaged.  But cancer was found in one of the thirty-one lymph nodes that were removed. We discuss treatment options.
November 25

I gather books and food; I read and cook and freeze and clean. My husband makes calls and fills out paperwork. He deals with insurance details and prepares for his leave of absence from work. He is a pilot and I wonder if the radiation from the cockpit has contributed to this misfortune. Friendly skies my ass.  I make a mental note to research this.

We update the people closest to us. We are grateful for their kindness, and for the resources that we have to get through this great challenge as best we can.

 

December 14

Treatment begins. There will be six weeks of daily radiotherapy plus weekly chemotherapy. We have had every discussion, imagined every scenario, asked every question.

The technician brings me back to the room with my husband so I can see the radiotherapy equipment. They place the custom-made mask on his face and lay him down on the table. A giant machine looms above, like something out of Star Trek. The technician is explaining things to me, being both thoughtful and clinical, just like the oncologist.  I glance over at the table again, at my husband strapped down now, and my eyes start to fill. I silently demand of myself not to cry before I look back at the man who has been giving me the low- down on radiation. I cannot make his job harder, I think.  I cannot make any of this any harder.

 

December 25

Our daughters, sons-in-law and baby granddaughters are all gathered at our home. We are genuinely happy, our hearts full. My husband has a few days off from treatment, which feels like a gift.
January 1

One more month of treatment.  It will get progressively more painful from here, affecting his teeth, his mouth, his swallowing. I was made for hard things, but watching a loved one suffer is not one of them. I want to curl up in the fetal position at the thought of his pain, but mostly because of the shadow of uncertainty that Cancer has cast upon his life. I gather my strength though, doing my best to stay in each moment. I recall the words of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now: “Whatever your present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

Cancer arrived at the end of 2018, unannounced and unwelcome, an intruder in our lives. With all the love and strength and hope we can muster, along with all that modern medicine can offer, I believe we will send Cancer away. I picture my husband and myself, our amazing family, thoughtful friends, and the team of medical personnel, leaning on the door, all of us with all our might. We lock the door.

I believe the new year will bring healing, life, and glorious days.  I will welcome those moments, those days, eagerly, as if I had chosen them. God knows I have.

 

– Dana Laquidara