adoption · parenting

Good Enough Mom

Ever since Teddy was born, I’ve been planning out his Lifebook in my head.

A Lifebook is a keepsake often associated with adoption. When I worked as a social worker with children who were placed with foster families, one of the first things I did was to find out if they had a Lifebook, and create one for them if they didn’t already have one.

The simplest way to explain it is to call it a scrapbook – a book of photos, words, letters, mementos that tells the child’s life story. For children who are placed with foster families, the Lifebook can be a constant – something that follows them and tells their story, which is especially valuable if they don’t have an adult who is a constant in their life to help them to understand their experiences and their memories.

Teddy’s Lifebook would be a little different. It would basically be a book containing his origin story – a book explaining how we came to be a family. Tee and I have had beautiful plans for his Lifebook. I bought a navy blue braided photo album and farm-themed scrapbook paper. I started plotting out the words that we’d write on sticky notes. I ordered some baby photos from Shutterfly.

And then I stopped.

The thing is – I’m not great at scrapbooking. I enjoy it, in theory. I might even like it, if I were at some sort of scrapbooking party and could work on it while chatting with friends. But when I’m home on a Saturday afternoon, enjoying my two hours of down time while Teddy naps, the absolute LAST thing I want to do is make a freaking scrapbook.

Teddy loves being read to, and I am finding that my favorite way to prepare him for upcoming experiences is through books. We read books about adoption day, Christmas, the potty, mindfulness. It’s amazing to watch him make connections, to see how reading a book  about the potty has helped to prepare him for toilet training.

I knew Teddy would love reading his Lifebook – just a simple story, with pictures of him, me, and Tee, explaining how we came to be a family. And I kept feeling increasing pressure that I HAD to get this book made, so that Teddy could read it with us and start to understand his story. We tell him his adoption story regularly – we’re completely open and honest and joyful about how we came to be a family – but I knew that reading a book together repeatedly would be way more impactful for Teddy. Also, kids go through stages. Maybe in a year or so, Teddy won’t even be into books as much as he is today. (Hard to imagine, with me and Tee as his parents, but it could happen.)

So I felt super stressed and overwhelmed, and the Lifebook still wasn’t getting done.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I made a decision: I would make a not-that-great Lifebook.

I would do a sub-par job. I would half-ass it.

Someday, I would make a perfect Lifebook for Teddy. But today, I’d make one that was just good enough.

I picked a day, and I sat down that evening to look at websites. I flirted with a few websites that allow you to self-publish a simple children’s book, and then I abandoned them to use Shutterfly. I’ve created books on Shutterfly before – our adoption album, the one that was shown to prospective birth parents, was made on Shutterfly – and that would be the simplest path to take.

I uploaded a bunch of photos – that took basically an entire evening. The only photos I included were photos of me, Tee, and Teddy. If I included extended family or friends, I’d be worrying about balance and including everyone and where the hell is that one photo of Teddy with all his grandparents. NOPE. Not doing any of that. Keeping it simple.

The next evening, I put the photos in place and I typed out the text. I had Tee read it and she gave me some feedback. I proofread it one more time and ordered it.

DONE.

I felt amazing for days after I ordered the book. I was so excited for it to arrive, and I was relieved to have that stress off my shoulders.

That task had been on my to-do list for almost two years. All it took was me deciding that I would settled for “good enough,” and it got done.

And you know what? It’s more than good enough. It’s wonderful. Teddy loves looking at his baby pictures and sitting on my lap listening to the story – his story. 

I’m a recovering perfectionist, and it’s a relief when I give myself permission to do B+ work. Especially when it comes to parenting. Because it’s all about showing up. Admitting that you won’t be able to do any of it perfectly, and showing up anyway.

It’s hard. But worth it.

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parenting · self-care

This Is How You Remind Me #heart

When my son Teddy was a little younger than a year old, he had a pattern. He would start to fade out sometime between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. every evening. I’ve heard parents call this “the witching hour.”

When Teddy would get into that zone, one of two things would happen: either he would erupt into adorable (and often unprovoked) baby giggles, or he would start having back-to-back meltdowns in rapid succession.

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An interesting phenomenon would occur at this point: Teddy would forget his coping skills.

Yes, even though he was still a baby, Teddy definitely had coping skills. What I mean is – he had activities he could engage in that were reliably comforting and calming for him.  Like standing by the front door looking outside at the cat napping on the porch.  Like looking at a book of baby first words.  Like playing in one of ‘his’ kitchen cabinets.

However, when Teddy is exhausted and burnt out on the crazy baby life and not thinking straight, he forgets about all the things that help him feel better.

That’s where Mommy comes in to save the day.  I’d pull out his favorite baby book and turn it to the page with all the cars on it. I’d shake his little tambourine so he could pretend to dance. I’d scoop him up, carry him to the window, and point out the cat. Then I’d set him down beside the window, and he’d stare at the cat, smiling occasionally. Tantrum over. He didn’t even need me to sit by the window with him.

 

He just needed me to remind him of the things he can do to feel better when he’s struggling.

Oh, boy. Don’t we all need reminders sometimes?

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http://www.nunnovation.com/2018/02/28/self-care-luxury-necessity/

I constantly forget to do the things that help me to feel happy, healthy, and whole as a human being. I start to feel sluggish and it takes me days to realize it’s because I haven’t been running or eating healthy food. My monkey mind starts twisting and turning like crazy, and I forget that going to meetings or meditating or journalling helps me to get out of my head and back in the present moment.

Sometimes Tee or a good friend can remind me; I’m always grateful for that. Often, though, I wish I could remind myself. Sometimes, when I slow down and allow myself a little bit of Kerriann time, I’ll feel myself calming down and getting back to neutral. I daydream about writing messages to myself on giant post-its all around the house.  YOU NEED TO RUN. YOU NEED TO READ. YOU NEED TO WRITE. YOU NEED TO MEDITATE.

I’ll consider it.

For now, I’m grateful to have just finished a day that included reading, writing, a long run, and pancakes. Excellent self-care.

adoption · family · parenting

Be The Person You Want Your Kid To Look Up To #heart #body

So I have a son now.14812631-toys-teddy-bear-stock-vector-cartoon

I know – it’s incredible.  There are no words.

Life is very different.  And it’s causing me to think a lot about my habits.

Today, I had a TV show on in the background while I was feeding and burping my little teddy bear.  When we were done with snuggly second breakfast time, I noticed that his eyes kept travelling to the computer screen.  And as much as I love Jane The Virgin, I don’t want my infant son to be watching television.  And I definitely don’t want my teenaged son to watch as much TV as I’ve been watching lately.

There are so many bad habits I don’t want Teddy to learn from me: eating junk food, getting stresse13501638_1112395762154994_8178056772099331938_nd, binge-watching TV shows mindlessly.

And there are so many GOOD habits I want him to learn from me!  Exercise.  Healthy eating.  Mindful living.

Is it problematic if the only reason I get motivated to work on a habit is to
be a good role model for Teddy?  I don’t think so.  I think that any impetus to get motivated is a good one.

I’m the same person I was before Teddy came home.  The difference is that now I want to be better.  For him.  Which I imagine is what every parent wants.

I heard this said recently: “Your kids will never listen to what you say, but they can’t help but imitate who you are.”  I am definitely convinced that this is true.

balance · parenting

Routines & Rituals #heart #mind #soul

Teddy and I have a lovely morning routine.

He wakes up every day at six o’clock and I go into his room and start singing a Teddy-themed version of Steve Holy’s “Good Morning Beautiful.”  As soon as I start singing, he quiets down, even if he’s been chattering or crying; when he hears the opening words of the song, it’s as if his body relaxes and he knows that I’m about to turn on the light and scoop him up.  It’s both a comforting routine (a sequence of actions regularly followed) and a meaningful ritual (a ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed in a prescribed order).

For many years, I avoided the word routine.  I thought of routines as munduntitled-2ane, boring.

Now, I crave routines and rituals, and I feel a little unhinged when I don’t have them anchoring me to my center.

I noticed recently that I sometimes feel a little cranky on the weekends.  Right now, thanks to part-time maternity leave, every weekend is four days long.  And I notice that my crankiness is sometimes caused by my days having a lack of intention or purpose.  As much as I’d like to be free-flowing, wake up and just go where the wind blows – I don’t thrive when I wake up and just see what happens.  Doing that breeds anxiety and I start trying to numb or cover with non-helpful things.  (Chocolate, coffee, soda, TV, etc.)

But I also have a difficult time balancing between underplanning and overplanning.  I don’t want to have my day scheduled out in fifteen-minute increments – but I also don’t want to let valuable time slip by without making the most of it.  When I don’t plan at all, it feels like my life is happening unintentionally, and isn’t as eventful and enriching as it could be.

It’s tricky to manage that balance.

I think at the minimum, I can attempt a morning ritual – a few moments each morning for meditation and prayer.  If those involve reading or writing, that would be lovely, too. That kind of morning ritual has always been centering for me – writing morning pages, reading from one of my favorite meditative texts (Each Day A New Beginning), and perhaps drinking a cup of tea. (My love-hate relationship with coffee continues.)

I also have been considering my evening rituals.  (See here, where I talk about trying to adjust my bedtime rituals so that I wear actual pajamas and don’t listen to podcasts while falling asleep.)  Improving my sleep hygiene is always a goal.  And I have another secret vision, once my sleep has improved and I don’t fall into bed immediately after Teddy goes to sleep.  (Seriously, people – sometimes we’re talkin’ seven-thirty at night.)   I’d really like to have an after-dinner hour that’s devoted to music, reading, light housework, and talking with Tee about our days.  This is a very sweet and quaint ritual in my mind, but in order for it to be feasible, I need to start sleeping better at night.  Because some days, I have to go to bed at eight to make up for only getting three hours or sleep the night before.

It never quite feels like there’s enough – enough time with Teddy, enough energy to do everything I need and want to do.  The days feel so short.  My sense of “never enough” has lessened a little since my Radical Action of cutting down on my TV watching; that’s helped a lot.  But I’ve been thinking of other ways to help me dispel the myth of ‘not enough time.’

Lately, I’ve been having to press my reset button a LOT.  I’ve been brushing up on my self-compassion – taking self-compassion breaks, a la Kristen Neff.  I think that’s one more ritual that can really help me – taking a moment to stretch and and practice quiet self-compassion and just be before acting or doing.  (When in doubt, do nothing – How To Be KEM, item number five.)

The power of a ritual is that it’s an automatic signal for what’s about to occur.  My morning song tells Teddy it’s time to wake us.  Having a meditative morning time triggers a peaceful and calm s13427831_1202337843161612_6127423370670852233_ntart to my day.  Putting on my after-dinner hour playlist will be a trigger that it’s time to wind down for the night.

And for Teddy, he has songs that are sung throughout his day that help him to know what’s coming – “Me and My Teddy Bear” and the pie song at bedtime, the poop song (a KEM original) when he hasn’t pooped for a day, and a song my Nana used to sing to me (“A Bushel and A Peck”) when it’s time for smiles and baby boy giggles.

It’s so easy to give those things to my baby boy.  Now I just have to remember to give the same gifts to myself.

books + reading · parenting

#mind

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of books related to child development and parenting.  This is partly preparation for Our Baby coming home, and partly supplemental reading to assist me with my work.

I’m not really into writing book reviews.  But I do like mentioning books I’ve enjoyed.  So rather than summarizing them or giving them a rating, I’m going to list two or three of my favorite parts of each book:

Simplicity Parenting (Kim John Payne)The+value+of+routine+and+rhythm+for+babies.+Simplicity+parenting+quote.+CanDo+Kiddo

(I’ve referenced this book previously; it shares principles with the Waldorf School philosophy, and it’s all about keeping things simple and helping kids to live a life that is not too cluttered or overwhelming.)

My Favorite Takeways:  Sometimes, having fewer choices is simpler and less overwhelming.  Having a rhythm to your days (e.g., on Mondays, we visit the park, on Tuesdays, we bake bread together) helps to keep our kids’ lives predictable and easy-flowing.

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish)takeaways

My Favorite Takeaways: Teaching kids to solve problems rather than just punishing them when they misbehave.  AND teaching them to make amends!  (Do I want our kids to think “I did wrong and I am punished” when they do something I don’t like?  Or do I want them to think, “How can I make amends, and what can I do to keep from making this mistake again?”)

The Whole Brain Child (Daniel J. Siegel and Tine Payne Bryson)

This book talks a lot about brain science, particularly the different parts of the brain and how they work together.  I can never remember even the simplest components of brain science; however, after reading this, I think I am finally internalizing that the the Left Brain focuses on logic, analysis, and reasoning. The Left Brain likes thing to be in order and under control, and it loves organization and lists; the Right Brain focuses on creativity and feeling, and uses lots of intuition and nonverbal communication.601991_501815186542298_577522218_n

My Favorite Takeaways: When a child is in Right Brain mode – focused on emotion and feeling – you have to connect to them, right-brain-to-right-brain, before you can effectively introduce Left Brain logic to them.  When a child is throwing a tantrum because she feels you pay more attention to her little brother, it’s not effective to immediately counter this point with an argument about how much attention the child gets; it’s more effective to empathize, to connect nonverbally with the child (e.g., a comforting hug) before introducing Left Brain logic.