Posts for Self-care Category

My Daughter Called Me Fat. Here is What I Said…

Go Girl!, Self-care - Allison Kenny - March 15, 2017

Photo credit: Mary Cressler, Vindulge

 

Fat. It’s the word I dreaded most of my life. The word I spent the most time thinking about, worrying about, planning around, crying over and nearly destroying my relationship to myself about. Like so many of us, I spent my time, my money and endless hours of energy on a decade worth of diets. Now that I’ve given up dieting, I can spend that same time, energy and money on things that matter to me more than what size my body is.

I’ve learned to eat intuitively. I’ve learned that sometimes my trauma takes over and it’s nearly impossible for me to notice if I’m hungry or full. I’ve learned to forgive myself for emotionally overeating. I’ve learned there are no bad foods. I’ve learned to enjoy eating as a source of pleasure. I’ve learned about lots of other things I get hungry for- play, intimacy, creativity, adventure and most often…solitutde. I’ve learned to appreciate and respect my body at every size. And since I have been sizes 8-16, I have a lot of practice with this.

For me, the fat is no longer a problem. I honestly believe I am gorgeous at any size. My doctor tells me I am in good health and I notice that if I’m managing my stress well, I feel good. I feel happy. I am grateful for what I have and what my body can do.

So when my daughter sweetly said to me one day, “Mommy, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but do you think you’re fat?” I took a deep breath. I smiled. After 8 years of disordered eating, chronic dieting, shame and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t control my body, I was prepared for this moment.

When I started the transition out of dieting and into claiming my life as a well-fed woman, I committed to self-love above everything else. I knew how to reflect that back to my daughter. My response came naturally, powerfully, easily. I scooped her into my arms and answered with confidence.

“Oh, baby, I’m so glad you asked. Yes, it’s true that my body has some extra fat. I like to call it my curves and I don’t mind it one bit. You know why? Because I believe all bodies are okay. I know I look beautiful just how I am. And I take good care of myself to stay healthy and strong. I love my arms that can pick you up and swing you around. My lap is strong enough to hold you. My soft belly is good for snuggling. I celebrate everything my body can do.” 

She accepted that. Sometimes she even tells me, “I love your big belly, Mama.” There are plenty of days I don’t love my big belly and self-doubt creeps back in. I hold onto this conversation as a reminder of what I know for sure to be true. I am just right as I am. Big belly and all.

More: Why My Daughter Eats Kale and Candy, Amaranth and Cheetos

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Why My Daughter Eats Kale and Candy, Amaranth and Cheetos

Self-care - Allison Kenny - March 1, 2017

There are no bad foods. That’s what my time recovering from many years of disordered eating has taught me. I spent most of my adulthood resisting more food items than I would eat. Not just gluten and sugar. Eventually meat, dairy, tomatoes, peppers, caffeine, and all processed foods were off the list as well. Restricting this way lead me to binge on these very forbidden foods. Over and over again. This binge-restrict cycle kept me so busy that my career, relationships and sense of freedom or agency took the back seat. My food issues were all-consuming.

When my wife and I decided to adopt a six-year-old girl, I knew that wanted her food journey to be easier. My hope for my her- and all of us who suffer with compulsive eating- would be to experience food as nourishing and pleasurable. After a decade of diets, a 12 step program and too many tears, I found Intuitive Eating and Rachel Cole. I slowly learned to trust my body and accept myself at any size. I put down perfectionism and picked up compassion.  I wanted to model this kind of body-trust for my new little girl and lay the foundation for her to love her own body…no matter what.

 

More: If Your Daughter Fears Being Fat

So, I read up on Ellen Satter’s how to’s and took charge of when and what my daughter ate. I let her stay in charge of how much. I kept her favorite foods in the rotation, including hot Cheetos, Cup-O-Noodles, and spaghetti with hot sauce. I added smoked tofu, homemade chicken strips, and kale salad. We made granola together. We went to the Farmer’s Market so she could taste everything. I asked her, “what would make you happy to eat this week?” before I put together the shopping list and I bought those things. We set the table together and often include candles, flowers and special dishes.

We say “play food” instead of “junk food” and talk about how some food is full of nutrition and other food is just for fun. They are all okay. I ask her to guess which vegetables I put into her egg pie or identify the fruits in our salad. Enjoying play food is never a reward or a consequence. A little bit is offered each day alongside the rest of the meal. She asks for another “sweet treat.” I say, “Of course! I can add some to your lunch tomorrow.” She can count on a sweet serving every single day. Every once & awhile, I give her unlimited sweets. We do this on a day when her brain and body are super regulated & strong. If any of us are eating too fast at the table, we remind each other to breathe. We talk about how the food tastes and how we made it. Other times, we go through a drive-through or eat cereal for dinner in front of the tv. On Valentine’s Day, we had so much fun decorating cookies together that I didn’t have enough energy to make dinner. We had cookies and frosting and yogurt and fruit for dinner.  All of this is okay.

So far, it doesn’t seem like my history of food rules or body shame is affecting my daughter. As she grows up and my healing deepens, I know things will evolve. But making my home a safe space to enjoy food was a big goal for me. So far…so good.

More: “My Mama Has a Big Butt That Jiggles”

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Special Therapy for a Special Kiddo

Self-care - Allison Kenny - February 8, 2017

My family has angels looking out for us. Last year, we were knee deep in a trauma cycle that made day to day life unbearable. My daughter had just been diagnosed with PTSD, which was a helpful label in that it gave context for the kinds of fits were seeing each day. I could relate to my daughter’s high levels of fear, looping thoughts and terrorizing moments of re-experiencing scary events. I have PTSD, too. My mental health was starting to suffer as I struggled to support my daughter to feel safe. With my nervous system on such high alert, I would resort to yelling or leave to take a walk when she needed me most. This was truly the best I could do. After months of this, though, I wasn’t sleeping well. Our family was exhausted and feeling at a total loss.

This is when the angels appeared. The thing about going through big challenges is that it forces us to be vulnerable. If you’re willing, this is a good time to accept help. Lots and lots of help. Our help came from a generous, loving friend who wanted to do something for us…something big. First, she recommended a wonderful, experienced therapist who had helped her family a lot. Once we were sure he was a good fit for us,  she insisted on paying for treatments. We took days to respond to her offer because it just seemed like more than we could accept. But we were in no place to refuse help. We allowed her to support our family in the way she could. We said yes to her gift and in return, we got Dr. Carl as an on-going part of our daughter’s therapeutic team.

My daughter loves going to see Dr. Carl. His office is in Berkeley, CA. The waiting room is full of toys that she can’t wait to play with. She loves his gentle spirit, his sense of humor, his love of animals. Each week, my daughter and Dr. Carl talk a little and laugh together. He helps her pick out a movie and adjusts the pillows in her chair so they are just right. In the winter, he even sets up a little space heater at her feet. She loves the royal treatment! She knows that she’s there to help her brain become more flexible and her heart to feel more calm.

After 40 years as a therapist, Dr. Carl Shames narrowed his specialty to neurofeedback. In this gentle, alternative therapy, kiddos or the grown-ups who love them wear sensors on their head while watching a movie. Meanwhile, their brainwave patterns are displayed on a computer screen and the therapist makes modifications to balance and stabilize brain activity. My daughter watches her favorite shows while these sensors do their thing and her whole body relaxes at the same time. It’s all about helping her brain regulate differently. Once in a while, she gets sleepy afterward. But she always feels better.

In the days that follow the neurofeedback treatment, our little “Squirrel” is more able to use her words. She sleeps better at night. Her tantrums are shorter and less intense. Dr. Carl has helped her with night terrors, with bedwetting, and now he’s working on the parts of the brain that will help her in school, improve her focus and allow her to better understand math. She looks forward to going every single time. She even asks to schedule an appointment if we haven’t gone in a while.

I know first hand how positive neurofeedback can be because I started seeing Dr. Carl myself. I so badly wanted to undo the cycle of my daughter’s PTSD triggering my own. I wanted to have more moments of joy together and less stress as a family. I knew how far we’d come when I was able to travel for a week alone with my daughter last summer. We went fishing, rode horses, practiced swimming, navigated airports, road trips, a cabin in the woods and visiting with extended family. We kept our loving connection the whole time. As an adoptive family, this is no small miracle. All of that excitement holds the potential for triggered, out of control behavior- from either of us! Instead, we made memories we can always keep.

I couldn’t be more grateful for these two angels in my life, Dr. Carl Shames and the friend who introduced me to him. Whether you are a Bay Area adoptive family or friends to one that you want to give a healing gift to, I can’t recommend Dr. Carl enough.

Carl Shames, Ph.D. received his doctorate in psychology in 1975. He has extensive experience as a psychologist in a variety of settings, including community clinics, hospitals, criminal justice agencies. He became interested in neurofeedback while searching for an alternative, holistic treatment for ADHD, depression and other mental health issues. His passion for this form of treatment lies in the transformation clients experience. He sees people relate to their friends & family in a more centered, genuine way and become themselves in a way they couldn’t before. 

“By the time they find me, most parents are at wits’ end having run around for years to various doctors and neuropsychologists and not really getting anywhere. I’m passionate about bringing neurofeedback to adoptive families in the Bay Area. In all my years as a therapist, I haven’t come across anything that works as well.”

 

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Taking Care of Myself Like I Take Care of My Daughter: Winter

Self-care - Allison Kenny - December 1, 2016

Alarm goes off and all

Beings pile into the big bed

Mama, Mommy, Roxie, Rufus

Heaven

 

Serious snuggling

Kisses and puppy games

A little morning light

Kitchen pajama dances

Cause all I want for Christmas is YOU

 

Nursing colds with hours and hours and hours in bed with books

Sipping tea from gold mugs on saucers

Sweet orange oil in her bath and mine

Smudge with sage and sweet grass and lavender

 

Let’s make posters about what we believe in, Mama

Give our money where it counts

Breathing in fear, breathing out safety

We’re all working hard to make sure the leaders we choose do what’s right, love

 

Smoothies with beets and pasta with bacon

Real wood in the fireplace

Hot water bottles

And so many twinkly lights

 

New running shoes for the Revolution

And daily walks, walks, walks

Family hugs inside a redwood grove

Can you feel the roots entwined under our feet?

 

Close friends close

Smiling at neighbors

Keeping the house clean, clean, clean

Early bedtime

Candles lit

 

Keep laughing, Mommy

I love it when you laugh

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All This Amazing Television is Turning Me Into a Depressed, Angry Mom

Go Girl!, Self-care - Allison Kenny - October 6, 2016

It’s true. I missed my daughter’s curiosity about the leaves changing outside, the sweetness in her voice when she asked to climb into my lap, or how confidently she took on math problems that usually overwhelm her. I was thinking about characters. From Netflix shows. That I binge-watch after she goes to bed. I’m not proud of this fact. But I’m admitting it here, dear friends on the internet, because I just realized something big. TV is sooo good right now! Shonda Rhimes is putting REAL people on television. She portrays complex, interesting women of all shapes and shades. Her narratives are so dynamic, she can fill a decade with new storylines. This means, that not only do we have incredibly fun social media platforms to play on, we also have better television to space out during. What a whirlwind of opportunity for a reality break when adulting just feels too hard.

During this current rough patch of parenting my child with special needs, I’ve been watching, tweeting, tagging, posting, clicking and swiping more than ever. And guess what I’ve noticed? My snarky-complainy-irritated self has taken center stage. Seriously, another part of me needs to grab the mic. My negative thinking, lethargy and stress has gone up, up, up. Along with my increase in screen time. Coincidence? Maybe. Probably. Hopefully.

But just to be sure, I’m taking a break. Not from screen time altogether. I’m writing this and posting it everywhere… obviously. I’m even snuggling up to my gorgeous wife and watching How to Get Away With Murder (Thank you Shonda!) on Thursday nights. But the unchecked nightly commitment to consuming television is on hold this month. A week into my tv break, I’m already feeling the difference. I’m going to bed early for one thing. Like 9:30pm early, which means it’s easy to get up before my daughter and stretch or meditate or whatever. Oh yeah…mindfulness. How bout drinking a little water since I’m up? And the self-care train is suddenly back in motion. My daughter is making me laugh again. I’m more willing to compromise. Be in the moment. Play.

I know my little girl gets super triggered by too much screen time. We help her by allowing limited time with screens everyday and encouraging lots of other ways to relax, stay regulated, and feel safe. But her time with tv is very limited (hello, hypocrisy!) and we look to Common Sense Media for insight about screen addiction versus problematic behaviors. Luckily, according to this article, my binging ways fall under the very-normal-American-in-2016-problematic-media-use and not technology addiction.

Here’s to finding my more present, happy and playful self while still loving me some Thursday nights!

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsensemedia.org.

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Curbside

Forever Family, Self-care - Allison Kenny - October 3, 2016

This morning was

Expected.

The refusal to get dressed

The screaming

The loud NO!

The “I don’t want to go to school”

Even the need to pack up her toothbrush, her glasses, her breakfast

The curbside drop-off

As she kicked and hollered

Puffy-eyed

Wild-hair

Snot everywhere

Shoes in a bag

Because she refused my help for an hour

My wife’s frustration

Totally expected

As she sat in the back seat

Bra-less

Her own feet bare

As she secured the seat belt again and again

For our angry daughter

PTSD fits

Are expected

After we get-a-way

for 2 days of

Self Care

Blue Waves

Crashing against the headland cliffs

11 hours of sleep

A night

Champagne picnic as the sun sets

So, it was expected

That today would be hard

The Homecoming

Turbulent.

It was Unexpected, though

When our daughter

Who had refused

Empathy

Support

Kindness

for an hour

Choosing to derail

and come undone instead

When this wild-animal-powerful-girl

Was lifted, kissed and placed

Gently on the grass

In front of her school

Curbside

It was Unexpected

To see the

4th grade Safety Monitor

Taking his duties

Very seriously.

He did not bat an eye

As we drove off

And she screamed.

We paused, of course

On the corner

To watch her put on her shoes

And go into school

Whether she wanted to or not

The 4th grade safety monitor

Held his post

Reliable

And helped my little girl

Find her glasses

Which she had thrown

In the Grass

 

 

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Parenting While Human, OR Things I Tell Myself When My Kid Throws a Fit in Public

Self-care - Allison Kenny - September 14, 2016

You know the moment. When your child’s eyes glaze over and they gear themselves up to throw an epic fit in Target…in the grocery store…at a friend’s house…on an airplane…and there you are: heat rising up the back of your neck, cheeks flushed and mind racing as all eyes turn on you. What’s she going to do? The adults nearby want to know. What’s Mommy gonna do? Your kid wants to know. What am I going to do? You want to know too.

These moments are the stuff mothering is made of. What happens next? For me, my thoughts turn quickly into action, so I’ve learned to pay attention to what I tell myself during tense parenting moments, especially when I’m in public.

Wanna know the things I say to myself when I’m embarrassed about my mothering in public? Check out the post I wrote for Rookie Moms  this week! So honored I got to be a guest writer on this awesome site and give an adoptive mama’s perspective.

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Taking Space

Self-care - Allison Kenny - August 26, 2016

It’s the first day in 14 without my

daughter

and my nervous system is

screaming

I find

Refuge

in a kelly green vintage shrug

My coat of armor as I

Enjoy the quiet absence

of Her questions

and the Luxury

of being my own

Lunch Date

 

10 of these 14 days felt so wonderfully

Yummy

with my little girl

but then I started

Drowning

without the

Alone Time

that is my

Oxygen

 

Parenting can be so

Suffocating

If we choke on our

Children’s Needs

and forget our own

 

Here’s to me

Remembering

my right to

Silence and Space

 

And won’t it feel good

to miss her

I cannot wait

to miss her

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10 Ways to Respond When Your Kid Disrespects You

Forever Family, Go Girl!, Self-care - Allison Kenny - August 22, 2016

Ever feel like a punching bag in your own home? When I’m faced with eye rolling, furniture kicking, hands over ears, screaming in my face or a disgusted tone of voice, I do my best to respond without throwing a tantrum myself…which is not easy for me. Here are the phrases I practice and use like a script to keep from throwing my daughter’s toys in the trash or cursing like a sailor.

“I wonder why you’re not listening to me…”

“I’m turning my ears right off to that.”

“I don’t listen when people talk to me that way.”

“Wow. You seem really angry. Please don’t take it out on me.”

“I’m sorry you’re mad, and stop.”

“I’m happy to listen when you’re calm.”

“I’m starting to get angry. I need some space to breathe and get calm.”

“I won’t listen when you’re yelling.”

“That was rude. Would you like a do-over?”

“Please try that again with a respectful voice.”

I want my daughter to feel powerful and know how to stand up against violence. But when she uses her power to yell, kick or fight back when I’m simply asking her brush her teeth, it’s a misuse of her power. I believe it’s my job to teach her how to treat me and others. I try to be super flexible in all other areas of my parenting, but this is a battle I will pick every time. She cannot disrespect her parents. Period.

How do you keep your girls strong and ready to fight for themselves while also keeping the peace and expecting respect?

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A Squirrel-Sized Breakthrough

Go Girl!, Self-care - Allison Kenny - May 13, 2016

Maybe it’s the scent of summer in the air: talk of Go Girls! Camp, family vacations, and lots of time in the pool. Sometimes with trauma, a season change is enough to snap us out of fight or flight.

Maybe it was Mothers’ Day. We created an altar to celebrate and integrate the idea that 4 different mothers all belong to our little Squirrel. Maybe this ritual healed some part of her.

Maybe it was meeting her sweet doppleganger—a 6 year old boy that our best friends are adopting. She got to feel competent—like, “I went through that,”—and access her big sister self. She got to feel part of a club of kids with gay parents; kids who have past lives no one really understands. “I think maybe he’s my new brother, Mommy,” she said.

Maybe it’s the neurofeedback sessions we started. When crazy levels reached an all time high, we decided extra nervous system support was the way to go. Twice a week we go together, getting side by side treatments in hopes that our bodies can find some sense of peace.

Maybe it’s taking a forced break from a friend who she’s been fighting with at school. Their dynamic went from intense to a little toxic and the school has been supporting them beautifully to take space. We navigated conversations with the other girl’s parents with respect and a mutual concern for their emotional safety.

Maybe it’s that Lynn & I didn’t give up. We cried and tried every single thing we could think of to help this little girl feel loved. Maybe after months of testing us, we finally convinced her that she is safe here. That we are not going anywhere. (Even though we fantasized about it…Mexico anyone?)

I have no idea which of these interventions helped shift the tide of panic in her little system. Maybe all of them wove together like the blankets my Mom made each of us when we were little.

All I know is that this morning there was laughing instead of screaming. Last night, there were kisses instead of thrown objects. All week was filled with love songs and imagined mermaid dance-offs. Pet names and giggling. Piggyback rides and birthday parties for her bunny. We have our daughter back. I don’t know how long we have before trauma steps in again and steals her away from us but my plan is to soak up every precious moment we get.

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