Posts for self-care

25 Things I Learned as a Special Needs Mom

Forever Family, Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - April 12, 2017

  1. Every milestone is worth celebrating. It doesn’t matter how small.
  2. Perfect is not real.
  3. Sometimes, my self-care is THE most important thing.
  4. Take the long view. Big picture is everything.
  5. This, too, shall pass. It always does.
  6. Humor goes a long way.
  7. Be responsible for the energy I bring into a room.
  8. Be gentle.
  9. Notice what my face is doing.
  10. I get to be human. I get to be human. I get to be human.
  11. Forgive myself.
  12. Forgive my kid.
  13. Other kids and families might do things differently not better, not “normal” just different.
  14. Advocate for my kid with persistence, patience, and love.
  15. Saying no is really important.
  16. Saying yes is really important.
  17. Get on the floor and play.
  18. I’m not in control of, well…barely anything.
  19. People act out when they are afraid.
  20. I act out when I am afraid.
  21. People stare. Smile back.
  22. I am a superhero.
  23. My kid is working as hard as I am.
  24. Hold onto joy every time it shows up.
  25. Get help.
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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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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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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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How We Celebrated a Big Anniversary on a Little Budget

Gay Parenting, Love Wins, Uncategorized - Allison Kenny - June 29, 2016

If you don’t know already, Oakland is one of the priciest places to live in the country. As mampreneurs, my wife and I have had to get real about our spending since bringing our little Squirrel home. I looked to other mommy bloggers for inspiration about living an abundant life on a budget and came across some great stuff by Amiyrah on her blog, 4 Hats and Frugal. After watching her video on creating a family budget and reading some posts on 64 dollar grocery bills, I was ready to help our family shift some things…especially while living in the Bay Area!

But…a 10 year anniversary is very special thing. It only comes round…well, every 10 years. So what if we couldn’t afford the Hawaiin vacation I dreamt of? What COULD we do, given the income we have TODAY? Well, one of our favorite things of all time is to hole up in a nice hotel and eat a fancy picnic. For this anniversary, our “hotel” was a super clean house and gorgeous bunch of flowers my sister gave us to celebrate. We gave ourselves a $50 dinner budget and chose to spend it at Whole Foods, instead of our usual Trader Joe’s.

Fresh flowers + clean house + Whole Foods= ABUNDANCE IMG_2322

We hurried to pick out our all time favorite decadent cheese and some good wine. We rushed to get home in time for the massage therapists who were coming by. That’s right. Our “at home Hawaii” included side by side massages in our living room. Who knew you could book this the day before? Turns out Soothe is the Uber of massage therapy. Yes please!

IMG_2330

I’m aware that spending $200 on massages and $50 on a picnic is not considered a low cost night to most folks. BUT let’s be honest- a trip to Hawaii would have been 2-5K so I’d say we did pretty good. Plus, we chose this budget, based on Amiyrah’s fabulously frugal advice. Our new family budget has us spending 5% of our monthly income on entertainment and another 5% on personal expenses (aka massages!). This is after giving away 10% every month, saving another 10% and paying all our bills.

IMG_2321

It felt so good to know we were being choiceful and smart about the cash we earn AND got to celebrate our marriage according to our values- beauty, self care, fancy cheese…oh and FUN.

Do you think my wife of 10 years busted out the kareoke machine and insisted that we sing all the love songs that were played at our wedding? Oh yes. Yes she did.

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