The looks of love

By the looks of things on social media, the love was flowing this Valentine’s Day. And, to my delight, Love (let’s capitalize it, shall we?) looked different for everyone.

It wasn’t just flowers, a hot date or a perfect marriage on display. As seen on Instagram and Facebook, which have been known to dampen one’s enthusiasm about one’s own life on occasion but valiantly took the high road yesterday, Love included kids, pets, lovers, friends, parents, grandparents, sports, self and more. I was struck by the outpouring of self-love, friend-love and love of what is, whatever that was. At least in my feeds, I didn’t see a single person lamenting Valentine’s Day, regardless of their lot in Love. But I saw a whole lot of nurturing of varying kinds.

I have more than a couple friends who kicked it alone, and relished it, more power to ‘em. Others partied. Others worked. Others traveled. Others cuddled up with partners, kids and/or dogs. One friend unexpectedly ended up apart from her loved ones and surmised that God was her Valentine this year. “If you want to come over for a glass of wine,” she invited. “God and I will be here just hanging out. We’d love to have you.”

I’m a girl who loves quirky twists as much as I love Love itself, so seeing my friends stake their own claims on a day filled with all kinds of weird expectations kinda ruled.

For me, Love included a yoga class and long shower, pretty flowers from Brian and pink buttercream, sincere conversations and hugs, Thai takeout and family snuggles. After dark, as I drifted to sleep way too early with my arms around two boys who dampened my chest with drool, I thought, This doesn’t look like a traditional mass-market, gender-normative Valentine’s Day, but it’s kinda perfect.

It was a major scene at the store Friday. Kip wanted to pick out some jewelry for me. Charlie wanted to as well. I politely refused. They raised hell. "I just want to get my mommy someping as beautiful as she is, ok?!" Kip cried. "Wet me just pick someping beautiful out for you!" It was loud. I almost cried, too. He selected this bedazzling bracelet and Charlie chose the earrings and necklace. "The two little owls are me and Kip," he said. "And the big owl is you. You can wear these and think of us, all together."

It was a major scene at the store Friday. Kip wanted to pick out some jewelry for me. Charlie wanted to as well. I politely refused. They raised hell. “I just want to get my mommy someping as beautiful as she is, ok?!” Kip cried. “Wet me just pick someping beautiful out for you!” It was loud. I almost cried, too. I pointed him to the clearance rack. He selected some glittery Halloween earrings and this bedazzling bracelet and Charlie chose the earrings and necklace. “The two little owls are me and Kip,” he said. “And the big owl is you. You can wear these and think of us, all together.”

The scene of the sweetest Valentine's Day party ever, at the home of my pal, Lyz, who has found favor in heaven for welcoming five extra boys and their mamas into her very pretty house and arming them with frosting and sprinkles.

The scene of the sweetest Valentine’s Day party ever, at the home of my pal, Lyz, who has found favor in heaven for welcoming five extra boys and their mamas into her very pretty house and arming them with frosting and sprinkles.

We did a little family cupcake decorating.

We did a little family cupcake decorating on the big day. As you can see, Quinn men take their cupcakes very seriously.

No such thing as too many toppings.

No such thing as too many toppings.

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Pat yourself on the back

It’s January, the month when everything that fell under the soft, twinkly haze of the holidays is cast in the glaring light of the New Year, and acting all prickly. I’ve spoken with more than a handful of friends who are having a tough week, mostly regarding work, specifically, so I think it’s time to unveil Charlie’s latest invention: The back-patting machine.

Maybe what we all need no matter our career lot is a little encouragement right now, so here goes… You’re awesome.  Don’t waste any more energy doubting yourself. Whatever it is, it doesn’t define you. Listen, learn and do your thing. Be you. Get some rest. Take good care of yourself. Because you’re darn good at providing care, and only the best will do for you. Have some fun today. Fun is good for you. You are good. So good. Everything is going to fall into place. You can do it, no matter what “it” is. You got it goin’ on. Love yourself. I love you. You’re awesome.

Now go ahead and pat yourself on the back, you magnificent thing, you.

This is a Boy Scout (note the neckerchief) wearing a helmet with a robotic arm, the sole purpose of which is to pat your back. Well done!

This is a Boy Scout (note the neckerchief) wearing a helmet with a robotic arm, the sole purpose of which is to pat your back. I say well done! (pencil sketch by Charlie.)

Cool things I did while burning up with enterovirus this Thanksgiving

Over my Thanksgiving holiday, I was so sick I did a bunch of stuff I never ever do:

I shivered with a high fever for two days.

I lolled in satin pajamas and a fluffy robe for three days.

No mascara. No lipgloss. (No photos.)

I reluctantly uninvited our Thanksgiving dinner guests.

I left the kids alone with tablets because I was too lethargic to do otherwise.

This was way more our holiday weekend reality than I'm proud to state openly.

This was way more our holiday weekend reality than I’m proud to state openly. They were giddy about my negligence.

I took two steams, heady with eucalyptus, with the kids.

I backed out of birthday drinks for one of my favorite friends.

I skipped yoga.

I sat, no, reclined a lot. On couches, on kitchen stools, on chairs, my bed.

I bought only like three things at Whole Foods.

I had one serving of Thanksgiving dinner—I haven’t skipped seconds since I was about 7.

I mainlined essential oils in little capsules (doTerra flu bomb) and inhaled apple brandy fumes from an oak barrel like it was my job.

I didn’t have a drop of anything fermented all weekend, unless you count apple cider vinegar in water.

I offered minimal coaching as Brian strung the lights on the Christmas tree. (he totally nailed it without my “help,” btw.)

Charlie picked the tree this year, Brian strung the lights, Kip showed heartwarming enthusiasm for decorating the tree and I vacuumed an obscene amount of pine needles.

Charlie picked the tree this year, Brian strung the lights, Kip showed heartwarming enthusiasm for decorating the tree and I vacuumed an obscene amount of pine needles.

I took naps.

I watched the movie Chef twice. And, when Charlie woke up coughing in his own feverish state one night, I let him watch it with us.

Which leads me to why being crazy sick over my favorite holiday wasn’t the worst thing in the world…

After the movie, Charlie and I sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch in the dark, feet up, devouring the Seattle segment of Dave Grohl’s documentary series, Foo Fighters Sonic Highways. Just the day before while driving, the boys and I had discussed Dave Grohl, the grunge sound and various artists of the genre, which was new to both boys but somehow irresistible to them, so Charlie was ripe for this documentary. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have let my six year old digest that many f-bombs and images of head-banging in one sitting. He was completely rapt (a new style of music? angry guitar riffs? mosh pits?!?!) and fascinated with the artistic freedom of the likes of Grohl, Kurt Cobain, Motherlovebone, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, etc.

As a practice, I try not to expect my boys to love the same stuff I do because I want them to feel free to like what they like, not compelled to succumb to Mommy’s tastes, but I discovered my kid can geek the rock out about music. (cue the hallelujah.) If I hadn’t been sick and weak and stricken with a rare 102-degree fever, I never would’ve let my ritual 7-o-clocker stay up that late with me. But we bonded like thieves over this documentary in our dark living room till almost 11 p.m. So, all thanks to the enterovirus, which made its way decisively through our house in five days, Charlie and I have at least one blissful Thanksgiving memory and a possible lifetime of shared music nerd-dom.

Final night of our couch-tv-movie-tablet bender, and it looks like we're almost out of the woods.

Final night of our couch-tv-movie-tablet bender. Here’s hoping we’re out of the woods.

New heights of connectedness (i just love trampoline puns)

Thumbs up for jumping

Thumbs up for jumping. This is what joy looks like for us.

My boys were off school Friday and because physical activity is their love language, we went to a giant warehouse filled with trampolines. We call these sorts of outings “Mommy-Charlie-Kippy Time” and, on this day, we were going to make it count.

“Are you going to jump, too?” the woman behind the counter asked me.

“I totally am,” I replied, maybe too enthusiastically. She raised an eyebrow and gave me a free wristband.

We walked extra fast to the shoe cubbies, removed coats and gloves and boots and socks, and then the three of us, holding hands, skipped up the stairs to the 6 & under section.

Getting ready to play

Getting ready to play

We were all so excited. Mommy-Charlie-Kippy Time translation: We party.

We started jumping. Charlie threw balls at my torso and cackled. I chased Kip and he guffawed. We had the space mostly to ourselves, so we went all out. Big, arms-flapping-in-the-air jumps. Spins in midair. Pink cheeks. A neverending game of dodge ball. Belly laughs. Funny faces. Ninja kicks. Lots and lots of ninja kicks.

Jumping!

Jumping!

I was the only parent jumping like a kid and, weeell, I admit it felt a little funny. Most of the other moms and dads sat on the bench with their phones and their Starbucks, a role I myself have nailed many a time. But not this time. I made the decision to engage in a major way with my sons, to meet them where they were and to relish the time with them.

I got a few glares. I got a few stares. It seemed to help when I jumped with my back to the gallery. (Looking back, I kinda can’t believe I subjected those moms, dads and nannies to all that full-frontal jumping for as long as I did. Poor souls.)

Kip catches air.

Kip catches air.

I considered bowing out and telling the boys I was going to hit the sidelines with the rest of the parents, but it’d been a while since my teeth got so dry from smiling that my lips stuck to them. How long do you have to smile before your teeth go bone dry, I wonder? All I know is that, in one hour of jumping, I smiled that long a lot of times.

So I kept jumping. Because my kids were giddy. And because they couldn’t get enough of leading me to the far corner to show me their trick jumps. And because, together, we were experiencing mega pleasurable depths of joy and connection.

And so, despite my assumption that bouncing tatas were not a fan favorite among moms in Lululemon, I kept on ninja kicking with my kiddos. And, before long, a bunch of other kids were ninja kicking all around us. The glow on all their amazing little faces—and particulary on Charlie and Kip’s—as they looked to see if I saw their kicks made me smile even bigger.

Soon the jump fest came to an end and, as we were tying shoelaces and zipping up jackets, Charlie said something that made all my embarrassment and potentially offensive jumping completely worthwhile:

“Mommy, this is the best day I’ve ever had,” he said, grinning. “I’m going to remember this time today with you for the rest of my life.”

After that, we took our Mommy-Charlie-Kippy date out for chili cheese fries. Definitely the best day ever.

Chili cheese fries.

Chili cheese fries.

A bedtime meditation for sensory kids

I finally made friends with soundcloud and updated this post with a recording of the bedtime meditation I play for my kiddos every night. It helps Charlie and Kip–and sometimes even Brian, me or the occasional babysitter–to clear the energy of the day and prepare our bodies for a beautiful night’s sleep. I created this guided meditation for my own sweet sensory kids, but meditation of any kind, especially at bedtime, is for everyone. May all in your home sleep peacefully tonight.

emily en route

Image

For those who don’t already know, I have two sons, one of whom is an official sensory kid, the other unofficial. While heightened intuition, innate wisdom and emotional sensitivity are grand gifts in today’s world, parenting sensory kids like my little guys can be a nail-biting ride.

Throughout the course of a day, these kids absorb a lot. By “a lot,” I mean they take in all surrounding sounds, smells, sights, touch, tastes, energies and even other people’s emotional frequencies. In other words, their level of perception can get a bit like that of Robert Downey, Jr., as Sherlock Holmes. At the end of the day, if I’m lucky, their little nervous systems may have processed all this input effectively. However, after a long day of school and/or the stimulation of daily life as a city kid, it’s more likely they’re amped to high heaven.

So, before they go to…

View original post 1,103 more words

Field trip!

First graders descend the stairs to the bus.

First graders descend the stairs to the bus.

The last time I remember riding a yellow school bus was coming home from a fraternity party in college. Fifteen or so years ago. Me, hazy and giggly, wearing a skimpy fake fur dress my date had made for me; feet muddy from dancing barefoot; hair wet and curling from beer rain; trying to shake from my memory the dirty-dirty song the girls had been instructed to memorize while pre-partying together before the guys arrived. (Thanks, men of DU. I still know all the words). And, of course, my date, who had turned the dance floor into a slip-n-slide an hour earlier and was still wearing his Viking helmet, probably passing out on my shoulder. Aside: Hard to tell from this story, but that guy was—and is—so great. One of my faves.

Today I rode a yellow school bus again. Aaaand, it was a bit different. This was my date, and I was chaperoning his class field trip:

Pulling up to the Chicago History Musuem.

Charlie looks on as we arrive at the Chicago History Museum.

Incidentally, it’d been even longer since I’d been on a field trip. I was excited. We went to the Chicago History Museum and I had five kids in my stead. We called ourselves Team Awesome. Some highlights:

This is most of Team Awesome. They could not stop hugging each other. First graders heap themselves in piles like puppies every chance they get.

This is most of Team Awesome. They could not stop hugging each other. The affection is constant and so sweet. First graders heap themselves in piles like puppies every chance they get. With no awkwardness between them–when does that change?

-Riding on the bus next to Charlie, both of us radiating joy that we were having this experience together. We sat so, so close and smiled the whole way there. We had some fun conversations, and then we didn’t…

Him: What else do you want to talk about, Mommy?”

Me: I don’t really feel the need to talk. I’m just enjoying being with you right now.

Him: (smiling) Me, too, Mommy.

-Six children clobbering me with hugs at once. I almost fell over. So much love. My heart smiled.

This girl always makes my day. Today she offered up that she likes hanging around me because I'm loving and nice and fun. I mean, come on. How can you have a bad day after hearing that? Hugs all around!

This girl always makes my day. Today she offered up that she likes hanging around me because I’m loving and nice and fun. I mean, come on. How can you have a bad day after hearing that? Hugs all around!

-One of my best girls shared her peanut butter sandwich with me.

This little missy just glows. No wonder Charlie likes lunching with her. First-grade friendship is so pure and so smiley.

This little missy just glows. No wonder Charlie likes lunching with her. First-grade friendship is so pure and so smiley.

-I noticed one of the kids in my group had been in the bathroom a long time. When I went in to check on her, I found her dabbing her soaking wet hair with a paper towel. “I like having wet hair,” she told me. “It’s easier to comb and it looks so pretty.”

-A couple other moms were as excited as I was to be on the field trip, so we took a selfie.

-When faced with a giant, empty ballroom, some kids will dance and other kids will race. Both groups will be loud and probably get yelled at by a docent or security guard. I lost all control over them after about 1.5 hours.

-Charlie surprised me by staying close to me, listening exceptionally well and keeping his hands to himself almost all day. Until the fiddle music started and he kicked his buddy’s shin doing an exuberant jig.

-In the sensory room of the museum, there’s a kid-sized hot dog bun in which the kids can lie down, be the hotdog and have their friends put Chicago-style toppings on them. It’s only a matter of time before the boys spike onion pieces on their friends’ faces and the girls whack boys with the pickle spear.

Bosom buddies in a bun, Chicago-style. (Moments later, three girls jumped on top of them, to a chorus of boy-voiced groans.)

Bosom buddies in a bun, Chicago-style. (Moments later, three girls jumped on top of them, to a chorus of boy-voiced groans.)

It may be a while before I get to chaperone a field trip again, which is probably all right because today was every bit as exhausting as it was energizing. Ready for a long nap…much like I was after the last school-bus ride I remember.

Impulse control is for everybody

You can be anyone and still face temptation to knock down the Jenga tower.

Impulses take many forms and have varying degrees of consequence, but you can be anyone and still face temptation to knock down the Jenga tower.

The start of another school year—a massive transition period in our family—inevitably marks the start of my six-year-old sensory kid’s battle with impulse control.

If you’re not familiar with the term “impulse control” as it relates to children with Sensory Processing Disorder (oh, and to everyone else on the planet) allow me to explain with a haiku:

I want to do this.

But I probably shouldn’t.

I’m doing it now!!!!

Most of us can admit to having issues around impulse control from time to time—we all have our triggers and weaknesses—and transitions are Charlie’s kryptonite.

Autumn, when we remove our toes from the sand and plant them in school shoes, generally brings the crazy. For all of us, yes, but my sensory kid feels it bigger and harder. When settling into a new routine, something happens in his brain that seems to wear down his nerves, making him just a little more raw than normal, a little unhinged.

Fall is a big departure from this. We go from dirt, sweat, sand and sun on our skin to covering up with lace-up shoes and school uniforms. Summer girl that I am, I come a little unhinged at the thought, too, so I can't fault Charlie for doing the same.

Fall is a big departure from this. We go from dirt, sweat, sand and sun on our skin to covering up with lace-up shoes and school uniforms. Summer girl that I am, I come a little unhinged at the thought, too, so I can’t fault Charlie for doing the same.

Sometimes transition behaviors surface predictably—flying off the handle at home when he doesn’t get his way. And other times, they are a wild card. Take, for example, the following tale.

“Mommy, Mrs. G says she needs to have a conversation with you,” a macabre Charlie informed me after school a few weeks ago.

I soon learned he had snapped the erasers off of a whole lot of classroom pencils.

“I kept finding all these erasers all over the place,” Mrs. G. explained. “And, finally, I realized what was going on. He wasn’t alone—there were others involved—but it appears Charlie was the main one. I already talked with him about it, I could tell he felt bad and he had a great day otherwise, so I don’t want him to get in trouble, but sometimes it helps to let the parents know so we can nip certain behavior in the bud.”

If only I knew how. My kid loves to break stuff. Even on a good day, he’s a destructobot. Charlie lives for the snap of a twig, the dismantling of a prized toy, the rip of paper, the cracking of plastic, the feel of his brother’s skin pinching between his fingertips, the energy released when one thing is made into two, the power of breaking something unbreakable with his own bare hands….

He knows it’s wrong, but he has a hell of a time stopping himself. It’s a daily challenge at home and, while he usually can keep himself together at school, during times of transition, he struggles with impulse control outside of home as well.

“Um, Andy inspired me to do it,” Charlie explains when I question him on the ride home. “But he just did one pencil. …And then I just sorta did a whole bunch more.”

“Hmm…I think I can see how that happened,” I say. “But you knew it was destructive, right? So why do you think you did it anyway?”

“I don’t know…I thought it was funny at first. And then I just couldn’t stop myself,” he says, the words tumbling rapidly from his mouth like boiling water.

“You know, Charlie, Mommy knows what that’s like. I’ve had this same problem before,” I say, trying to soothe him. “Sometimes there are things Mommy reeeeeally wants to do, but they’re not a very good idea, so I have to stop myself.”

Thankfully, I walked away from this vintage romper. But, don't worry, I sure did get the one-piece pantsuit in the background. I think I might be Zool for Halloween. (Aside: I snapped this special selfie for Kellie, who encouraged me in my hunt for an age-appropriate romper this summer. Unfortunately, I never found one and am yet uncertain of their existence.)

Thankfully, I stopped myself from this vintage romper. But, don’t worry, I now own the plum silk jumpsuit in the background. I might be Zool for Halloween. (Aside: I snapped this special selfie for Kellie, who steadfastly encouraged me in my hunt for an age-appropriate romper this summer and courageously gave me the thumbs down on more than one dressing room snapshot.) Unfortunately, I never found my mythical romper and am unconvinced of its existence.

“What do you mean? Why are they not a good idea?” he asks. (Also not a good idea: speaking about myself in the third person. He’s six. It’s time for pronouns.)

“Wellllll,” I draw out a pause long enough to gather the right words. “Sometimes I realize that things I want to do may have consequences that aren’t good for me or for people I care about. So I’ve had to try to stop myself from doing them.”

“Was it hard for you, Mommy?” he asks.

“Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes, no,” I say. “It depends on what it is. Sometimes, it’s easy. But other times, it’s reeeeeeally hard to stop myself.”

He regards me quizzically.

“This drive to do stuff and learning to decide when you need to stop yourself is something you may face your entire life,” I admit.

“My whole life?!” He’s incredulous, like, this simply cannot be. It can’t be.

“Yep. That’s why I want us to come up with tools for you to start learning how to do it while you’re young,” I say, deeply wishing I could tell him from experience that it would get easier.

Lookie here. It's a gelato party! Tip of the iceberg as far as my impulses are concerned.

Lookie here. It’s a gelato party! Tip of the iceberg as far as my impulses are concerned.

We immediately begin workshopping ideas for how he can stop himself from acting on potentially negative impulses. It’s not a perfect list, but if you’re looking for tools—for your sensory kid, or for your perfectly grown-up self—here’s what we came up with:

Sensory Kid tricks for interrupting an impulse

  • Get a cup of ice from the freezer and throw ice cubes off the back steps. Hard.
  • Thrash around on your bed punching the pillow till you get it all out.
  • Sing a song…an actual song, or a made-up song about the feelings you’re having.
  • Count to 10 and then think again about what it is you want to do.
  • Grab some sticks outside and break them into pieces.
  • Listen to heavy metal on Pandora and headbang till you feel better.
  • Tell the person you’re with how you’re feeling. Give the feeling words. (i.e., “I am so frustrated! I am really mad at you! I don’t like this at all! I reeeeeally want that! I feel impatient!” etc.)
  • Ask Archangel Michael to help. (Charlie’s selection. You could personally ask for any kind of divine intervention. Some ideas: your higher self, God, the Universe, your angels, Jesus, Mary, Goddess, Allah, your guides, your guru, a deceased grandma, the spirit of your favorite dead pet, etc. Whatever works!)
  • Take three deep, slow breaths.
  • Step outside and listen. Pick out as many sounds as you can.
  • Go stand next to a tree. Hug it, even.
  • Pet the dogs.
  • Ask for more divine intervention.
  • Rub some salt between your hands, take an Epsom salt bath or get in the tub and rub salt scrub on your feet (grainy textures sometimes help to take you out of the impulse and into the present moment.)
  • Go for hugs. The big, lingering, strong, don’t-let-go-till-you-feel-better variety.