Posts for mindfulness

How I Told My Daughter That She Has Special Needs

Forever Family, Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - January 25, 2017

We are sitting at the dining room table for yet another teary session of math homework. She has used up all her focusing tools- chewing gum, lighting a peppermint candle, choosing which problem to start with…nothing is helping. Then I see the light in her eyes change. They grow dark and serious in that intense way I know so well. She is fighting for truth.

“Mom, why can the kids around me do math but I can’t? I learn it but I can’t remember it. The other kids remember. Why, mom? It doesn’t make any sense.” There is shame in these words. And desperation.

I’m not planning to have this conversation today. I didn’t wake up knowing that I would be called on to deliver this news in a way she can digest it. My wife and I are still digesting it ourselves.

We go through periods of intense grief and even anger about her special needs. Spending time with other people’s kids can trigger it. After a morning babysitting my dear friend’s toddler, I spend the afternoon sobbing. This three-year-old has social skills that are more advanced than my eight-year-old. We travel to Texas to visit cousins and breathe through frustration as my daughter’s anxiety and hypervigilance exhaust everyone in the house. We go to IEP meeting after meeting and are overwhelmed by how many professionals are engaged each week in supporting my kiddo’s learning. After weeks of her violent PTSD fits, we refocus on caring for ourselves so that my daughter’s needs don’t take over our entire lives.

More like this: Even though My Wife & I Get Away, Our Daughter Makes Us Pay

But here she is, asking for the truth. So, I share with her what gets me through my moments of fear and grief and doubt and anger. I share with her the truth about her resilience.

“I’m telling you the truth. Are you listening? Do you remember how you were born very tiny and that you came out early? One thing that happens when babies are born early is that their brains don’t get enough time to develop. This is not the baby’s fault! This is nobody’s fault. It happens to many babies who are born early. It means your brain has worked extra hard to develop and grow ever since you were born. And guess what? Your brain is doing very well. Very very well. That’s because you have a powerful quality in you. You are FIERCE. That means you are somebody who doesn’t give up. Even as a teeny little baby, you were so fierce that you fought to live. You fought to grow. And now, you are fighting to learn math. It is harder for you. You are right about that. But working hard and not giving up are wonderful qualities to have. You also have mama’s who love you and teachers to help when things feel hard. You are not alone.”

I hadn’t researched what to say. I hadn’t prepared for this question. I just opened my heart up and felt around for what she needed to hear. Of course what really happened is that I said the words I needed to hear.

I think healing the dissonance between our fantasy of parenting and the truth of it will be a long road for my wife and I. But moments to ignite our empathy and focus on our daughter’s amazing gifts help. They help a lot.

More Like This: Dear Kids At School

I’m different and that’s awesome

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I can’t take my kid with special needs to the Women’s March. Here’s what I Can Do…

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - January 20, 2017

A month ago, my best friend called me and we sobbed. We both felt despair that the man running for President of our country admitted to groping women without their consent.

Today, he moved into the White House and 600 groups of women all over the world are marching in protest. My friend and I were determined to take action in some way. But marching with our young daughters (mine with special needs), felt like more than we could take on. My daughter is highly sensitive to crowds, to yelling, to cold, to other people’s emotions. Participating in the Women’s March would likely trigger a trauma response and days of violent fits. But this is a moment in history we don’t want to miss. I want to look back on this time and know for sure that I was intentional and conscious. I want to model a balance between self-care and activism for my little girl.

My friend and I knew that if we got our families together, we could come up with something meaningful to do even if we had to stay home. So, my BFF packed up her little girl and is making her trek to my house in Oakland right this minute. I think we came up with a pretty great plan for our Go Girls!

Read more about it on the Spotlight: Girls blog….

 

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25 Ways I’ve Been Healing Since November 8th

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - December 20, 2016

So many of us were traumatized by the election. For me, it started during the debates and culminated on election night. That’s when I noticed that I left my body completely. It’s taken me weeks to come on back. Remember that my body is home. And that if I’m not present, I can’t show up in the world the way I want to. So, for what feels like the millionth time, I’m pressing the re-set button. I’m taking good care and putting my own healing at the forefront so I can be the kind of mother I want to be. So I can show up as an artist, a writer, a participant in my life. For me, the slow and sometimes painful path back to myself looks like this…

1. Noticing my impulse to check out and numb with food and tv. “Wow, I must be really scared. It’s feeling super hard to stay in the moment.”
2. Allowing myself to check out a little bit with food and tv.
3. Setting up weekly hikes with a friend to feel my feet on the ground and remember how big the Universe is.
4. Scheduling regular bodywork to help me stay in my body.
5. Buying new sneakers to “train for the Revolution.” I’m quoting my friend Ed here.
6. Setting my alarm 45 minutes earlier so I can have quiet space to myself before my daughter wakes up. Doing whatever the hell I want in those 45 minutes.
7. Holding my dogs. A lot. And putting sweaters on them. ‘Cause cute heals.
8. Singing Christmas Carols at the top of my lungs.
9. Dancing with my daughter. In the kitchen. In our pajamas.
10. Letting myself cry. Or feel rage. Hopelessness. Confusion. Fear.
11. Limiting my media intake. Remembering I can “stay safe in my imagination” and manage triggers.
12. Making art. Like scribbly, messy, kid art.
13. Putting my hand on my heart in the shower. Being gentle with myself.
14. Interrupting my critical voice and talking sweetly instead. Calling myself “love.”
15. Using sweet orange essential oil.
16. Watching 13th – 15 minutes at a time.
17. Reading spiritual, feminist literature that inspires me.
18. Deep cleaning my house.
19. Praying. Meditating. Breathing.
20. Kissing my daughter more.
21. Kissing my wife more.
22. Making sure the people in my life know how grateful I am for them.
23. Making food that feels good.
24. Staying present for my wife and listen to her story, her grief, her rage as a woman of color without trying to fix.
25. Channeling my anger and fear about the state of the world into being a girl advocate.

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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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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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Get Your Girl…Go Squirrel!

Go Girl!, Media - Allison Kenny - July 10, 2016

In her kindergarten and 1st grade year, my little girl was always bringing home these 10 page paperback early readers with just a few words to a page. The featured cats and monkeys with lots of repeat phrases to make reading fun and accessible. As I sat with her each afternoon to practice her reading, I listened to storylines that were bland (ahem…hella boring) and thought, “I can do better than that.”

What are the words I want my daughter to read in the precious moments she’s reading for the very first time? As her critical thinking skills are just starting to develop, what characters do I want her to examine? What concepts do I hope she’ll dig into and ask questions about?

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It did not take long for me to generate a set of 9 simple stories that star a powerful girl (ahem…Squirrel) with the courage to learn from her mistakes. Are these stories about my daughter? YES. They are a celebration of all the things she has had the courage to learn since coming home to us. But our daughter is not the Squirrel in the story. Our daughter is one of the featured Go Girls cheering Squirrel on. Look for the girl with glasses. She helps Squirrel remember how to be a good friend, how to stay flexible, how to manage big feelings and how to love herself just as she is. These are the values I have for our girl. They all match up to the Go Girls! Culture Code and are reinforced in our summer camp.

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My daughter and her friends love coloring in these books. Christy Booth’s illustrations are so darling, that I can’t help but join in and color right along with them. Christy is an expressive arts therapist and captures the emotional life of children through simple shape and design in a way I didn’t know was possible.  Saturday mornings at our house look like each of the 3 Go Squirrel Coloring Books out with every colored pencil in the house. Mama Lynn, Squirrel and I each take book, drink tea and color…a sweet time I’ll always remember.

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I hope you love these books as much I loved making them. Order one book or all 3. Color with your kids- I’d love to know how it goes.

 

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6 Ways to Welcome an Adopted Child into Your Extended Family

Forever Family, Foster/Adoption, Parenting - Allison Kenny - June 7, 2016

So, last week we packed up our little Squirrel and hit the road. By now, we were old pro’s at traveling together and navigating the potential stress of hectic airports. She had her stuffy. Lollypop in her mouth. Mama Lynn’s hand. Special snacks in tow. We were ready. What I was not ready for was how beautifully, generously, and authentically my AZ family would embrace her when we arrived. Here are 6 things they did to make my girl feel like their girl…even if they aren’t related by blood. Continue Reading

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