Children’s Book in Progress

Slowly but surely, I’ve been writing and illustrating a children’s book over the past year when I find the time. When my kids see me working on it, they gather around and draw alongside me or watch and offer to pose as my references (which melts me)..Back when I decided I wanted children, I knew I still had many artistic adventures ahead of me, but my call toward motherhood was just as strong and certain, so I made it my goal to combine these two parts of myself. My kids are almost 4 now and I’m catching more and more frequent glimpses of the “mommy artist “ life I had envisioned. Each glimpse gets a little bit less tired, less sidetracked, less fleeting, and more hopeful, and that’s how I know I’m on the right track. Aiming to have this project in the hands of an agent in the not so distant future.

Yours Truly,

Brittni

P.S. Follow me on instagram @laquibrit

Spring Makeover

Hi there.

We did not mean to be away so long, but we are glad you are here!  This spring we have a new title and a fresh perspective- on creativity, motherhood, and life in general. We’ve got projects in the works too; I have a book coming out this fall titled The Uncluttered Mother (more on this soon!) and Brittni is working on a children’s book (more from her later!)

I’ve got some creative goals and projects in the works, and my 55th birthday is bearing down on me, so I’ve been doing a conscious clean sweep of all the things I no longer want to give time or energy to.  

Here is my list of What I No Longer Have Time For:

Procrastination (“Do it, don’t deny itis a phrase my husband coined many years ago when teaching our youngest daughter to be consistent in brushing and flossing her teeth every night. After that, it became our household catch-all when faced with any less-than-thrilling task.)

Excuses

Foods (and drinks) that don’t fuel me

Disempowering thoughts (seriously, our thoughts will make or break us)

Self-doubt

And here is my list of What I Do Have Time For:

Creative Goals (and the bold action they require, but more often the small, consistent steps)

Love

Joy

Mystery

Simplicity

Beauty

Believing in & encouraging others

What about you? What are you giving your precious time and energy to this spring? I hope those choices reveal how amazing you really are.  

Yours Truly,

Dana

Relevance

In the midst of a pandemic I get my first book contract and let the cognitive dissonance settle in.  I am elated!  It is meaningless! By the time the book is published, will the words I’ve written even matter?  In a world full of sickness and chaos, is art even relevant?

My husband and I go away to celebrate our 33rd anniversary.  He is reluctant in these times, but I’ve found us a private spot on Cape Cod, we pack a bag, some food, and we go.  On the drive down I am describing the adorable guest house I have secured for us. I am happy to escape the everydayness of our lives, the news, the impertinence of my writing.  It is called the Sweetest Little Suite, I tell him.

It has probably been renamed The Covid Cabin, he quips.

Don’t make me laugh, I say. There is nowhere to pee.

I know the state of the country, the world for God’s sake, is not funny right now.  It is dark and uncertain, but we need to laugh when we can because the crying will come too, if not for ourselves, for others.

It is freakishly warm for the middle of November, but we don’t see anyone else at the seashore except for maybe a few people sitting so far down the beach they are like large grains of sand, their movement almost imperceptible.

It starts off as a dare, me tempting my husband to jump into the crashing waves, and it ends with both of us running into the ocean, going under.  He disappears first and when he pops up he is shouting for me to hurry before the next wave drags me violently across the sand.  Shrieking, I dive in, my timing more a reflex of panic than any kind of strategy.

When you’ve been married this long, there aren’t many firsts you haven’t met; first home, first child, first move, job loss, illness. We’ve had them all.  But this- today- swimming in the ocean  in the middle of fall- for our November anniversary- this is a new first.

I emerge from the cold, invigorated. The sun warms my skin as it creates glitter across the water.  The reflection is spectacular; there is so much light.  I am insignificant, but at the same time connected to the brilliance of God’s creativity.

Fully present, mind and body in harmony, I take it all in. I see and feel the ocean, the world, as the most amazing work of art.

In this moment, the art is everything.

~ Dana

Your Sensitive Child

There are many things parents can do to nurture and encourage highly sensitive kids, but I think the most important task is to love and accept them as they are. There is unspoken pressure on parents to coax sensitive, quiet or cautious kids into being more assertive, outgoing or bold at a very young age. Sometimes the pressure is put on the parents by themselves.  They know how outgoing and funny their child can be at home and they are eager for the wider world to know her as well. Or they fear that if their child isn’t speaking up and joining in now, then they will be left behind in life.

But this hurry-up-and-be-braver-louder-friendlier approach will simply backfire if it feels like criticism to the child. A child who feels comfortable about who she is right now even if that means a little scared, a lot cautious or simply reflective and observant in certain situations, will grow to be confident and kind.

The best essay I’ve ever read on this subject  Stop Worrying About Your Sensitive Child  was written by Janet  Lansbury, author of No Bad Kids. Having been a sensitive child herself, Lansbury remembers what attitudes did her more harm than good. Spoiler: Having parents who saw her sensitivity as a flaw that made her fragile was not helpful.

By not worrying about your sensitive child, Lansbury is not suggesting throwing them to the wolves, so to speak.  Sensitive kids often need extra time, encouragement and warmth, and those who receive that can turn into the most amazing adults.  What she is suggesting is to remember that your child’s temperament may be his greatest gift;  even if the world is yelling too loudly to notice this, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. When your child knows in his heart that you trust that he is exactly who he is meant to be, he will blossom beyond your wildest predictions.

~ Dana

 

A Morning in the Life of a Quarantwin Mom

IMG_20200331_1133196:45 Everyone gets up. Hubby gets dressed, I do not. I want to fit in my half hour exercise routine at some point this morning before I get dressed.. 

7:00 The twins watch Magic School Bus while hubby and I hustle around emptying the dishwasher, prepping the kids’ breakfast, prepping our own breakfast, feeding the dog, making tea.

7:30 Hubby eats breakfast and does the dishes. I drink my smoothie while trying to get the twins to stay in their chairs long enough to eat a few bites. If they don’t, they will be HANGRY.

7:45 Hubby goes upstairs to his office to start his work day after wishing me luck, which he knows I’ll need. The requests from the twins start flying my way. “Mommy hide and seek? Mommy read book? Mommy play?” We decide on reading a few books together. Then I tell them to play together while I deal with our laundry situation. And yes it is a situation. I only have to pause 13 times to help someone with potty, booboo, tie this, open that, can’t find this, she took my bear, and OH NO THERE’S A STRAW IN MY WATER CUP!!!”

8:45 It’s still a little too cold to go outside. Now would be a good time for me to exercise, but the twins are getting crankier by the minute, so I decide to do a craft with them instead. We make toilet paper roll monsters (I feel like there’s a good metaphor in here somewhere?). It eats up a good chunk of time and they love every second of it until the very end when one twin starts crying because she wants to make grass for her monster and I tell them we’re all done with this craft for now but we can bring the monsters outside later to play in the real grass. Of course the other twin catches on to the grass concern and they follow through with a level 6 out of 10 meltdown for me. As 2 ½ year olds, they are starting to master these morning meltdowns.

9:45 I manage to calm them down and I play with them for a bit before sneaking away to get dinner in the crockpot just in case I don’t get a chance later. I breathe a sigh of relief as I listen to them playing happily together while I cook. Now that their playgroup and library story time are no longer options- now that there is a pandemic – we stay home.  

10:15 It’s starting to warm up outside. Maybe instead of my indoor exercise routine, I’ll bring the girls for a walk in the stroller and then we’ll play outside… But all at once, the grocery delivery arrives, both twins are asking for a snack, and my phone is ringing. I give the girls a baggy of nuts even though I know I should have given them this snack earlier because now it’s too close to lunch time. Then I head out to the garage to bring in the groceries. The phone call is forgotten.

10:45 By the time I’m done, they’re getting tired. It’s too late to go outside because it’ll take us at least half an hour just to get dressed and ready to go out and then it’ll be almost nap time. We’ll go outside after nap, at which point some neighborhood kids will be outside too, and I will continue my struggle to explain to my toddlers why they cannot play with their friends.  I give them some carrots and toast to top off their snack-lunch and sit with them while we talk about what kinds of bugs we might find outside later. They’re obsessed with bugs at the moment.

11:00 We clean up and head upstairs. They’re cranky and ready for an early nap and so am I.

One twin goes potty, the other refuses via meltdown. This one’s an 8 out of 10 and she wins. I lose. Hubby is in the middle of a meeting; otherwise he would have come in to help me and we may have won. We go to their bedroom and read a few books. One at a time, I pick them up and say goodnight to the pictures on the wall, the windows, the giraffe that stands on their dresser, the fairy ornaments that hang from the ceiling… As I’m about to place the twin who just had the potty meltdown into her crib, she says she has to go potty. We all walk back to the bathroom. Several minutes later, they are both finally in their cribs.

12:00 I walk downstairs and collapse on the couch. I hear chatting coming from their bedroom. It’s fine, I think, they’ll fall asleep. But alas the chatting turns into crying.

12:15 I go back upstairs. Someone now has to poop. We all go back to the bathroom. One poops while the other gallops up and down the hallway. What happened to their tiredness?? Post-poop, we all go back into the bedroom and we repeat the goodnight routine. “Goodnight giraffe, goodnight window, goodnight painting, goodnight, fairy”… and then again with the other twin. My arms, wrists, and upper back have a constant mild ache from all of the daily lifting.

00100lrPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200331090103888_COVER12:45 They are both in their cribs – maybe going to sleep, maybe not. I am on the couch. Recharging for the afternoon is higher on my priority list than the morning exercise routine I never got to. This is not hard, I think to myself. Having a Covid 19 diagnosis is hard. Being a medical professional during this terrifying pandemic is hard. Losing your job and not knowing when your stimulus check is coming is hard. Having to work from home and homeschool teenagers at the same time is hard. This is not hard. But sometimes it kind of is.

~ Brittni

#30 days

 

20160706_112252#30 days left (minimum) of social distancing here in Massachusetts! How about you? Here are some fun/inspiring/challenging 30-day ideas for #athome:

Delicious:  30 plant based power bowl recipes

Gentle:  30 days of yoga

Challenging:    30 days of daily burn workouts

Inspiring:  30 days to declutter your home    

Informative: The Alcohol Experiment audio   &  30 days to interrupt your pattern

Let us know if you try any of these or other 30-day challenges! We have the power to raise the consciousness of the planet by raising our own, one good choice at a time. #stayhome  #stayhealthy 

The Silver Lining in Sensitivities

pexels-photo-1099680My oldest daughter and coauthor of this blog, Brittni,  was recently ruminating over her inability to consume anything but the cleanest substances without suffering some pretty significant consequences.  Any caffeine, even if consumed first thing in the morning, will keep her from sleeping that night. A single alcoholic drink in the evening has the same effect. Gluten, sugar, and even dairy and meat have a noticeable effect on her energy levels and mood. She is intolerant to many medications. The list of sensitivities could- and did- go on.

You are the luckiest, I’ve said to her more than once.

Essentially you are forced to have a clean diet and live such a healthy lifestyle.  You cannot skimp on your self-care without some real suffering. So you have the opportunity to be the pinnacle of health and well-being!

Of course, I do sympathize too, especially on the caffeine front. She has two toddlers. I cannot imagine having gone through the toddler stage without my morning coffee.

And I also know what it is like to be sensitive to substances.  A glass of wine or an extra pour of coffee can send my heart racing these days. Consuming sugar(my nemesis) or white flour products make me want to take a nap.  But I am not as sensitive to such substances, or to the loss of sleep they may cause.

Recently, I heard of a new book, a memoir, called We are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life.  It is written by Laura McKowen, a woman who struggled with  alcohol dependency.  I immediately fell in love with her title and delved into the book, interested to learn about all the ways she thrived when she gave up her vice. And she is indeed thriving, but holy high balls, she takes the reader through some devastating sh** before she reaches the lucky part.

Still, in the end, she is lucky and amazing and makes some very valid points about the rest of us, too okay or functional or distracted to even contemplate giving up our diversion, whatever that is for us. Instead of thriving, we may be chugging along in mediocracy.

So for all you sensitive types, who cannot tolerate whatever it is that you cannot tolerate – noise or stress or alcohol or sugar or negativity or whatever your poison is- chances are it’s something that isn’t really great for anyone.  But you, my delicate flower, the orchid, the canary in a coal mine, your rock -bottom of tolerance is always right there forcing you to course-correct with your next breath, with the beating of your wild, tender heart.

You are the luckiest.

HALF THE CHILD Author Event

Please join us for a book discussion on Saturday, April 27th

1:00pm to 3:30pm at the Holliston, MA public library

752 Washington Street, Holliston, MA

Questions?  You can email Dana:  danalaq@gmail.com

*RSVP helpful but not required

HALF THE CHILD takes place over four consecutive summers in the lives of Michael Mullen and his son Benjamin, who ages from 2½ to 5½. The novel chronicles the separation, divorce, custody battle, and abduction that threaten to tear apart father and son. For Mike, an air traffic controller at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the cost of asserting his rights as a father and Ben’s rights as a son continues to escalate and negatively affects Mike’s career, education, financial state, friendships, romantic life, physical health, and emotional well-being. Yet he steadfastly refuses to consider a life that consists of him living apart from Ben. Ultimately, they will write their own love story. HALF THE CHILD was a semi-finalist in both the James Jones First Novel Competition and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition.

William J. McGee is a journalist, teacher, and consumer advocate. He also is the author of ATTENTION ALL PASSENGERS, a nonfiction exposé of the airline industry. He lives in Connecticut.

Why I Won’t Be Dressing My Twins in Halloween Costumes This Year

jonathan-talbert-530599-unsplashI adore fall. I’m your classic pumpkin-loving, sweater-wearing, apple-picking New England gal. Minus, unfortunately, the pumpkin-spice lattes. I can’t stomach the sugar or caffeine in those suckers, much to my dismay. But lattes aside, fall is my season. I was born in the fall. My husband was born in the fall. Our twins were born in the fall (okay they were born TWO days before the first day of fall, which I’m counting as fall) and I expect they’ll grow up to love pumpkins and wear sweaters and pick apples.

Yet, despite all of this, I have no plans to dress my 13-month-old twins in costume for Halloween tonight. Not because I don’t love Halloween (I was one of those annoying kids who dressed up and went trick or treating well into my early teens). But rather because finding/making/buying costumes for my toddlers, who are not old enough to remotely comprehend what Halloween is, just did not make it onto my list of priorities this year. Yes, I have a list. And everything on it is either important to me, important to my family, or otherwise important to someone or something that matters.

Keeping the kids healthy and happy? Important.  Grocery shopping? Important.  Family time? Important. Paying the bills? Important.  Date nights with my husband now and then to keep our marriage from being eaten alive by the fine art of parenting twins? Important.  Sleep, exercise, occasionally eating something other than the crust off my girls’ peanut butter toast? Important.  Voting? Important.  Laundry? Semi-important.  My super awesome seasonal pumpkin-carving job that I absolutely LOVE? Important.

Scrambling to dress my girls in costume for the sake of some cute photos? Not important.

“But they’re twiiiiinsssss!!!!” I know. That actually just makes it much more difficult and less appealing to dress them up. Twice the effort, twice the price, and almost zero chance of getting a single decent photo in which both of them are looking at the camera, let alone smiling. And then what? I’ve spent valuable time (and precious, limited energy) doing something they will forget by the time they wake up the next morning and that I will remember simply as a stressful couple of days of neglecting my own needs for the sake of a few lousy pictures.

I had a moment of mildly reconsidering this decision and even searched around for child-friendly Halloween events that might make dressing up a little more worth it, but all events are taking place either after their bedtime or during their nap time and let me tell you – Almost nothing is worth getting in the way of either of those.

So bring on fall in all of its beauty and splendor, but I’ll pass on Halloween this year. My girls will be in bed at their usual 6:30pm bedtime and I won’t be far behind.

~ Brittni

2 Ways to Calm a Highly Sensitive Nervous System

20141010_100545 lake pic turning leavesA Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is someone with the genetic trait of high sensory processing sensitivity. HSPs make up about 15% of the population, and have uncommonly sensitive nervous systems.

To me, the theory that many children who have attention deficit disorder are HSPs whose brains are trying to cope with the onslaught of sensory input, makes a whole lot of sense but is a topic for another blog post.

When the volume is turned up on the already very stimulating world, what is a highly sensitive person to do for relief? As you can imagine, or as you know if you are an HSP, this sensory overload can be overwhelming.

Here are my two broad and general tricks-of-the-trait, none of these ideas invented by yours truly, but rather adopted as habits that I’ve been naturally drawn to for their positive effects:

  1. Limit substances that negatively alter your nervous system. This includes caffeine which HSPs tend to be very sensitive to. Hello stimulant. If I have too much coffee, my heart beats out of my chest, I become anxious, irritable and generally want to jump out of my own skin. And by too much, I mean more than a cup or cup and a half in a day. Many HSPs need to avoid caffeine altogether.  As I understand it, alcohol is both a stimulant and a depressant, so you get to be anxious and depressed if you consume enough of it.  Unfortunately, many HSPs overuse alcohol as a way to numb their central nervous systems and obviously this can lead to much bigger problems over time. Personally, I just feel bad if I consume more than one or two drinks; the brain fog that sets in almost immediately, the feeling of poison in my body, the tiredness to follow.  And I always feel better and clearer with none. The same goes for junk food.
  1. Increase activities that calm your nervous system. Exercise, yoga, meditation, time in nature ( or any quiet time). Highly sensitive people can enjoy stimulating environments such as weddings or parties, but we just crave less of it, and need to recharge in silence more often. After a certain number of hours, if I am in a noisy, chaotic or otherwise stimulating environment, I will find myself “checking out”. I’ve hit a wall. I cannot take in any more. And if my physical space is very limited (think a crowded bus or a concert, for instance), my tolerance level drops significantly.

 

There are many gifts to sensitivity, yet another topic for a new post.  But these gifts cannot be realized unless we are tuned in to our bodies, our feelings, our own needs. And when we do tune in and honor our unique temperament, not only are we living with more integrity and peace, but we also have more to offer this noisy, beautiful world.

~ Dana