I like to think that I’m really playful with my daughter. After working with other people’s children for a decade facilitating play and drama classes, I pictured myself being the kind of mom who gets on the floor and plays, you know?
The kind of mom who chases her little one on the playground pretending to be the monster that all the kids run from. The kind of mom who is happy to become a fairy princess with hot lava power anytime her child asks. Continue Reading
Daily naps? Oh, please. Who has time for that? Well, I will tell you that my stress levels got so high that I didn’t have time NOT to take them.
We ALL deserve daily naps because…
We’re f%@king tired. We don’t sleep well enough at night.
Depth of processing. We are taking in information at the speed of light. We are thinking 2 steps ahead of our kids. This is exhausting.
Our houses are cluttered. And that’s okay. It’s part of the deal. But it creates visual overwhelm. And we’d rather play with our kids than clean it up.
We make so many decisions. And decision fatigue is a real thing. Choosing how to respond to the 35 questions a minute wears us out.
We are constantly learning new skills. Each phase of parenting brings new issues to wrap our brains around. Perpetual learning curves take a ton of brain power.
We’re tracking other people’s needs as well as our own. Tuning in to the needs of those depending on us is draining. And it’s what makes us amazing.
Empathy. We feel what our kids are feeling. We model emotional language and coach them through the roller coaster of their hearts. It’s depleting.
We solve problems. In our homes, in our families, in our own lives…all day long.
We forget to feed ourselves. I’m talking food and non-food hungers. We forget to play enough, laugh enough, have enough sex, or take enough adventures. If we’re starving for the things we need, we don’t have enough energy.
We are overstimulated. By the sounds of cartoons and crying, kid songs and light up toys. Our phones are buzzing and our Facebook feed is blowing up. Our brains are fried.
So what do we do about it? For me, finding answers had a sense of urgency. When I’m exhausted, I’m irritated. When I’m tired, I’m yelling. When I’m overstimulated, I truly believe that mothering is too hard for me to do and I better find some way to quit. Not possible. But napping is.
Every day, for somewhere between 10 minutes and an hour, I put on sweatpants (if I’m not wearing them already), turn off all the lights and climb into bed. I turn off my phone. I ignore any mess or anything I have to do. I just close my eyes in the dark and breathe. I don’t usually fall asleep but I lie there and just let my brain relax. I enjoy the silence and the solitude. I truly, deeply rest. Even on days that feel too hard to do. And it’s changing my relationship to stress.
If my kid was too little to go to school, I’d nap during her naps. If she didn’t nap, I’d let the TV babysit her so I could. If I worked out of the house everyday, I’d curl up in my car in a sunshine patch and nap on a lunch break. On the weekends, I ask my wife and daughter to excuse me while I go nap and explain how I am not be interrupted.
Can you see where I’m going with this? Nap at any cost! That’s my fierce belief. Maybe you are not an introvert or as highly sensitive as I am. Maybe you are invigorated by all the stimulation, adrenaline, and multi-tasking. If that’s the case, please offer to take the kids of friend for an hour so they can nap.
Honestly, I value this time above all else because it makes me a saner, happier, more flexible, more playful, and more peaceful version of myself. Everyone in my family likes this version of me the best. They know Mama’s gotta have her naps. Go get yours!
Spring is trauma season at our house. This means that along with flowers blooming, spring vacations, and deep cleaning, we are also tending our daughter’s wounds. We’re immersed in self care and holding onto the bright spots. We’re reminding ourselves that all things move and change. This poetry series is my way of wrapping love around a challenging time and documenting our journey of building a family through adoption. Enjoy!
This conversation happened on a recent week day morning when the 3 of us were getting ready for school/work. I had just come out of the shower and Squirrel decided that this was the perfect time to share your observations of my body. Continue Reading
As you know from yesterday’s post, our family is traveling to Dallas to visit my family of origin for Thanksgiving. No, I am not from Texas, although my whole family lives there now. For better or for worse, I cannot claim Texas as home. I always feel the need to explain that.
Anyway, as I write this, we are taking up residence in row 13, seats D, E, and F – living our lives at 35,000 feet. You should see the amount of toys, snacks, reading materials, and media we have managed to fit into a few carry-on bags. On one hand, it seems ridiculous that we would need so much crap. Shouldn’t we be able to pass the time in simpler ways? On the other hand, to keep our daughter occupied, we pretty much engaged every single item we packed while sitting in traffic just to get to the airport. Short attention spans and squirrels go hand in hand.
Of all the crap stuffed into our bags, I am most excited about the personalized coloring book the Squirrel and I made together.
For Halloween this year, the Squirrel is going to be a cat. A “spy kitty,” to be exact. Yes, that means a cat who spies on people. How cool is that?
We bought the costume – one of the only age appropriate/not hyper-sexualized cat costumes for young girls – at the Halloween Super Store back in the beginning of October. She loves it and she can’t wait to premiere it this Saturday.
Last year, just weeks after the Squirrel coming to our home, we got her both an Elsa and an Ariel costume a few days before Halloween. She couldn’t decide which one to be so, she wore both.
A lot has changed in a year.
Imagine you had to choose between 2 costumes. In your mind, they are both great ideas. You love both the dresses. They both represent what you love most in the world. How do you decide which one to pick?
Now, imagine that this is your first Halloween in a new city. In a new home. You don’t know anyone else your age in the neighborhood, let alone what costumes they will be wearing. You have no idea who will open the door when you press the doorbell and yell “Trick or Treat!” And, you are not exactly sure they will be giving out the kind of candy you like. How do you pick a costume?
Finally – stick with me- imagine that, not only are you in a new city, you are in a whole new family. Everyone you have ever known is gone. You are being asked to accept two total strangers as your new parents. You have no sense of time and space and don’t know if you are coming or going. You are desperately trying to grab onto anything that you can feel some semblance of control over.
You don’t exactly remember what happened last Halloween and you can’t possibly imagine where you will be next Halloween. Now, how on earth do you choose a costume?
“a complex process that requires identifying alternatives, evaluating their probability and estimating their consequences”
Based on this definition, it is no wonder that both small and large decisions can allude most of us – especially us women and girls who struggle with perfectionism. Decision-making puts us in the position of having to choose the “right answer” when one rarely exists. When we are caught up in our own mess of wanting to appear flawless, please others, and avoid the challenging emotions associated with making mistakes, making a choice becomes an extremely difficult thing to do. Take that perfectionism and add a dose of trauma and you can become completely paralyzed.
It is no wonder that the Squirrel had to be a Disney Princess mash-up last year. I remember a time about a year ago when the 3 of us were in a café and we asked her to pick out the sweet treat she wanted. She couldn’t do it. She literally worked herself into such a terrible fit over a scone vs. a muffin that we had to leave the café.
What surprises me is how much has changed over the last year. Just the other day, we were all – once again – in a café. When it was time for the Squirrel to decide what she wanted to eat, she promptly replied, “A yogurt and a cinnamon roll. Oh, and one of these fruit snacks!”
“That’s too much. Just choose 2 things.”
“Okay. I’ll just have the yogurt and cinnamon roll then.”
On the surface, deciding to eat a cinnamon roll or be a spy kitty for Halloween may seem like no big deal. But, let’s all remember how complex a process decision-making is. It’s something all of our girls are practicing and struggling with. “I’ll have the cinnamon roll” should be greeted with celebration and encouragement. “Great! Way to go! Good job making that decision.”
I jumped for joy when the Squirrel chose her Halloween costume this year – and not just because I was completely ecstatic over such a creative, original, non-Disney-licensed choice. I was excited that she made a choice. Making this choice shows me that she is much more at peace than she was a year ago. Her brain has calmed down enough to identify alternatives, evaluate their probability and estimate their consequences. Her life is stable enough that she is beginning to trust that each choice is not her last choice. She is easing into the comfort of knowing who and where she is, that there is often no “right answer,” and that she has the power to explore, experiment, and try again.
Like I said, we bought the cat costume weeks ago. Now, she is beginning to waver on the “spy” part. “I think I just want to be a regular cat.” Ugh. My guess is that, as she is discovering what her friends’ costumes are, she is starting to feel embarrassed by her incredibly unique idea. We’ll see what happens. We still have a few days left.
7 Things to do this Summer to Care for Myself and Inspire my Daughter
I know, I know. The first day of summer isn’t for another week. But, let’s be honest, the official start of summer is when your kids get out of school and the whole energy of your house changes. The kids go to camp. You start to pack up for vacations. And, then, there is the Summer Bucket List. I’m sure you have one. It’s that list full of all of the things that you haven’t managed to get to the other 3 seasons of the year but (cross your fingers) swear you will get to in the summer. Summer has a magic to it. The air is different. Things slow down. Why not use this time to make all your dreams come true? You can do it. And I’m going to join you.
Around my house, the beginning of summer has a very specific energy. The magic also contains a special mix of stress, excitement, pride, overwhelm, lunacy, creativity, and sheer panic. Yes, it’s the start of Go Girls! Camp! This morning 90 girls showed up in Oakland and Berkeley expecting to have a good time. By the time the season ends in mid-August, over 450 girls will have made plays with us at our 5 Bay Area locations.
This isn’t just my first day of camp. Today also marks my first summer as a parent. As I navigate how to produce our biggest summer ever with a Squirrel in the house, I also have to figure out how to make some time for myself, have a little fun, and embrace the magic of the summer months. At the same time, I have an opportunity to model for my daughter the practices of summer self-care that may have a positive effect on her choices. I’m thinking, “why not do stuff this summer that will take care of me and inspire my daughter at the same time?” I mean, 450 Go Girls!?! I don’t have that much time. I might as well do a little multi-tasking with my self-care, right?
As a result, I have created a Summer Bucket List that I hope will inspire the Go Girl! in me, the Squirrel, and maybe even you. This summer, (cross my fingers), I will…
1. Make Something
The theme of our first session of camp, “Girls can…MAKE!,” conveniently and coincidentally aligns with the White House’s National Week of Making, a call to action to “lift up makers and builders and doers across the country” through Maker-related events and activities. I have a fear of and fascination with making anything at all. However, I believe that we all have it in us to make, to invent, to create something that has never existed before. My goal is to make something simple that challenges my fears this week, to have fun with all of the inevitable mistakes I will make, and to share this mini- adventure with the Squirrel.
2. Rock that Swimsuit…with no apologies
I hate the phrase “swimsuit-ready” when referring to women’s bodies. We all have bodies. If I want to swim or hang out by the pool or play in the sand or just dream of tropical destinations, then, by default, my body is ready for a swimsuit…no matter how many “extra pounds” (another phrase I hate) my body has. My body is always “swimsuit-read.” I will throw on my suit, no matter how many pieces it has, and enjoy it. I will celebrate my body in front of my daughter and make no excuses or lament about any other body I wish I had.
3. Read an out-of-your-world book
Melissa Harris-Perry (the mother of 2 daughters) is my spirit animal mainly because she seems so unafraid to share exactly what she feels/thinks with the whole world. And she does it in a kind and compassionate way. I wish all of us women could do that? Anyway, recently, when she noticed that the NYT’s summer reading recommendations had no authors of color on it, she had something to say about it. Have you seen this?
I am particularly drawn to the part where she recommends that we read a book by someone outside of our own culture. As Allison and I work to support the Squirrel with her reading this summer in preparation for first grade, I want to make sure that 1) She sees me reading for pleasure as much as possible – the goal being to reduce as much “do as I say, not as I do” kind of behavior – and 2) She sees me being curious about worlds outside of my own. The Squirrel has been fascinated by the Spanish language lately…a language I don’t speak at all. How cool would it be if she sees me reading a book by a Latina/o author that actually contains Spanish words and phrases? Maybe I can support her to continue her exploration as well.
4. Have a total veg-out/breakdown day and invite no one
The Squirrel is so busy all the time. “What are you doing, Momma?” and “What are we going to do next, Momma” are often-heard phrases around the Maxi Pad. It’s our continued challenge to teach her the importance of quiet, down time; how to enjoy spending time with herself and just herself. Despite the busy-ness of running camp, or perhaps because of it, I must remember to embrace the lazy-ness of the season. I must take at least a day or 2 where I do absolutely nothing of importance…all by myself. I’ll need, certainly, and she will need to see me doing it.
5. Make a new friend
In the fall, my daughter will start a new school. She has been going to a school far from our house and we decided to transfer her to the public school nearby so that she could make friends with the kids who live in our neighborhood. The Squirrel actually has no trace of social anxiety. She is that kid who will come up to your kid on the playground with absolutely no filter and the classic kid query, “Do you want to play?” Meeting new people is not her problem. Actually making and keepingfriends is where she struggles. I’m actually very good at this but haven’t ventured out into the new friend territory in quite awhile. I have a whole other bucket list of “folks I want to be friends with” – those people whom I really like/admire but only know casually. This summer is the perfect opportunity to dust off that list and get to work sharing with the Squirrel the steps of making a good friend.
6. Woman the Grill
Despite the fact that I throw an exceptional party, I tend to overcook meat – a fact I am a bit embarrassed by. And my tendency towards dry meat makes me fear the grill. But, here’s the thing, my mother-in-law bought us a brand new shiny gas grill this spring and I am obliged to bust it out this summer. My daughter has already seen me engage more than one man in helping me figure out how the grill works…I literally couldn’t turn the grill on without the help of my friend Steve…I can’t continue to let my grill-timidation (yes, it’s a word) get in the way of improving my meat-abilities (again…). And I especially can’t reinforce the stereotype that grilling is only the domain of men, especially not in a home full of women and a brand new shiny gas grill. I have a hankering for some pork chops this summer and nothing is gonna get in my way!
Isn’t the summertime made for dancing?
I used to dance all the time. I studied dance in my youth and danced my butt off socially when I was a younger adult. I rarely dance these days. And now I have a daughter who loves dancing. She dances while walking down the street. She had her first ballet class this spring and returning to class is all she can talk about. Summertime is made for dancing. This summer, I will grab the Squirrel, my new friends (and old ones) and create as many opportunities as possible dance the day and night away.
My last goal for the summer is to drink lots of lemonade. This has nothing to do with modeling exemplary Go Girls!-like behavior for my daughter. I just love lemonade. The Squirrel loves lemonade. And I wholeheartedly believe that summer is only summer with lots of lemonade.
Our good friends, Doug & Johnny, who gave us last week’s date night, have given us many gifts over the last 6 months. One of which was this amazing set of squirrels in honor of our own little Squirrel. Like a squirrel hoarding her nuts, I have kept these little cuties locked up tight. Mine! I didn’t want her to have them.
This morning, she found them. I told her, “Doug and Johnny saw them and were reminded of me. You know…how I like to call you “Squirrel” sometimes. She smiled. She loved that.
She played with them for sooooooo long. In fact, I left her with them to take my shower and, as I am coming out of the shower, I hear Allison’s voice say:
“No hitting. Hitting hurts. Please stop.”
“You two have to work on your relationship problems.”
“Even though you are hitting, you are still a good squirrel and I love you.”
She had entered into an imaginative play scenario where the two squirrels were fighting. Allison grabbed my stuffed elephant, Mai Tai, and made her the teacher, helping them work through the conflict. Not only did the Squirrel immediately take to these new toys, she was able to access that magical inner wisdom that kids get and use the squirrels to get to work playing through her own hitting issues at school.
Oh. My. God.
Well, I guess I may have to give up my squirrels to the Squirrel. They are clearly her power animal. At least I still have Mai Tai.
I was away all weekend leading workshops at the NCAOSA Mini-Conference in Carmel Valley, CA when the most incredible thing happened…
The Squirrel told me that she loved me.
In the beginning, I was afraid that she wasn’t going to attach to me at all. And now, just 6 months later, here she is…loving me. She told me over the phone as I was finishing my dinner and she was getting ready for bed.
“You’re coming home tomorrow, right Momma Lynn?” “Right, Baby. I’m very excited to come home so I can see you.” “I’m happy to see you too, Mommy!” “Okay, you go to bed now, Boo Boo. I love you.” “Good night. I love you.”
And there it is.
And when she and Allison picked me up from the rental car place in Oakland, the first thing she did was hand me this…
Yes, it is a heart. No, I did not upload the image backwards. “I LOVE MOMMY” is, in fact, what it says. Reinforcing that she meant what she had said the night before.
Today, I am exhausted from traveling, meeting 100 new people, and leading multiple theater workshops. I have spent the whole day in my pajamas. But I am completely nourished by this miraculous milestone. My daughter of 6 months loves me.