Homemade Self-care Products

When we are feeling the most stressed and at our wit’s end, some easy quick self-care can be just the trick to bring us down to earth. And taking care of ourselves doesn’t have to be expensive and even creating self-care products can be soothing if you are a slightly crafty type (and even if you aren’t). These homemade self-care products allow you to make your own calming comfort products for face, body and hair. Also, you can pick some of the smells and other materials to make them the best for you.

A pretty jar can make having the lotion even more fun!

Homemade Lotion
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 oz. Beeswax
5 drops essential oil fragrance of your choice
Supplies: double boiler, bowl, hand mixer, clean jar for storing

In a double boiler, heat up coconut oil and beeswax. When completely melted, add the essential oil. Next, pour into bowl and wait until cooled. Then, using hand mixer, whip the lotion until it is the consistency of…lotion. This is how the coconut oil keeps whipped at room temperature. Homemade lotion doesn’t last as long as manufactured; it will be good for about two months.

Vanilla Olive Oil Body Scrub
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 cups Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Vanilla extract or your favorite essential oil
Supplies: bowl, spoon, airtight container

Mix together sugars. Then, add olive oil. Last, mix in honey and vanilla or fragrance. Store in airtight container. Some notes: this is NOT a face scrub; body only. If it’s too coarse, you can use regular brown sugar instead of Turbinado. The olive oil will settle so you’ll need to stir it and if you want a more liquid consistency you can add more oil after it’s packaged.

Jelly sized mason jars are perfect for storing!

Homemade Bath Salts
2 cups coarse sea salt
1 cup Epsom salt
1/3 cup baking soda
Essential oil of choice
Food coloring
Supplies: bowl, container with stopper or airtight container

In a bowl, combine the sea salt, Epsom salt and baking soda. Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil and combine. Next, add food coloring to get the color you’d like. Store in container. Sea salt is an exfoliate, Epsom salts soothe and fight inflammation. Baking soda softens water.

These can also make great gifts for other stressed out friends or family members with the holidays coming up. But this is the time for you. Now, I’m off to make some body scrub…enjoy!

Until next time,

Shannon

It’s Always Better When You Take A Walk!

Many times in the middle of a heated battle with August I have wanted to run away. Or he HAS run away. When he gets anxious or stressed he knows the best outlet for those feelings is to run around the house. To quite literally run around the outside of the house until he’s able to burn off the energy created by that anxiety. The change created in his demeanor and physical body posture is incredible. Doctors and scientists and veterinarians will tell you the same thing. It’s always better when you take a walk!

An article on the Healthline website found studies that indicate that walking between 15 and 30 minutes a day can:

  • Burn Calories
  • Lower Blood Sugar
  • Strengthen the Heart
  • Ease Joint Pain
  • Boost Immune Function
  • Boost Your Energy
  • Improve Mood (BINGO!!)
  • Extend Your Life
  • Tone Your Legs
  • Promote Creative Thinking

You can read details about each of these benefits and the studies here. But what is it about walking that is so helpful for our mood? Well, depending on the situation, it might just be that we’re finally alone, out of the house and away from the chaos that is our day-to-day lives! But it’s more than that, right? Because sometimes we can’t walk that way. Sometimes we’re walking on a treadmill or a track at a gym full of people. So there’s still noise and activity.

I will have to walk a long time to get all the great thoughts I need!

And sometimes we don’t walk alone. We walk with a partner, friend, dog. I know when I walk with my dog, Mia, the walk is the one she wants to take, not necessarily the path I want to travel! Occasionally even a walk with our RAD kiddo can be self-care if everyone is in the right head space.

August and I took at walk on the greenway behind my house in North Carolina around dusk one evening. I don’t remember the time of year but it’s almost always copperhead season. And we came upon one on the path. I walked around it and kept going. August froze. I could not get him to go around the snake. He was petrified. I told him to go around on the backside like I did and the snake wouldn’t even care. He wasn’t having it. It became quite apparent that I wasn’t going to convince him so I came back over to his side and we went back the way we came.

This article focuses only on how walking can improve your mood. Now one of the things I didn’t think about that it suggests is to find a walking partner you can vent to. I’m not so sure that is a good idea because I’m more of a relax and release kind of walking but I bet if I was venting to someone as I walked I’d cover a lot of miles! If you try this, please let me know!

However you choose to make walking a part of your self-care, do it. Even 15 minutes a day to get up from your desk chair, get out of your car, get off of the couch, whatever can make such a difference. And if you’re worrying about losing productivity, get and audiobook to listen to. But try hard not to. Focus on breathing and just being. I promise that will be productive enough.

Until next time,

Shannon

Music Hath Charms…

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

It’s possible that this quote jumped out at me because I got two new kittens over the weekend but it was true for me before! And it also struck me because I am always fascinated by the bond between music and mental health and science. For example:

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ― Albert Einstein

The ability of music to affect our bodies, our mind, our moods is well-documented. This article lists 10 ways, some of which were surprising to me. There is even a whole bunch of conspiracy theorists who discuss the way in which music was written to brainwash people back in the early part of the 20th century based on harmonic frequency. I’m not going there…

But I did want to talk about how much music can help with mindfulness and calm for both you, your child and your relationship. From my own experience. 

When we knew we were going to adopt August, before we went to Russia, I enlisted the help of my friend Susan to make a mix tape. Yes I’m that old and yes it was that long ago. There were plenty of lullaby CDs out at that time but I didn’t want sappy baby songs or traditional lullabies. For one, he was already three. And for another, I was going to have to be able to endure them as well! So I collected beautiful music from my favorite artists. You’d be amazed at how many contemporary artists have written lullabies! She got to work putting together a full cassette of all my choices which was ready when we got home. I thought for sure it would send him drifting into La-la-land by song two. 

You know what kids with RAD and ADHD don’t do? That’s right. Sleep. They don’t sleep. That cassette would play one side, then the other, then the first side again and he’d still be awake. I’d have fallen asleep and woken up one or two times lying next to him. But at least I liked the music! 

We did bond over the songs though. He loved the tape and we sang the songs and others every night and he would pick ones that he liked for me to sing. Before he got more English proficient, the singing was a nice bridge between Russian and English. As he got older, we’d talk about music and his tastes and mine diverged greatly. But I tried to keep an interest and let him tell me about the artists he liked because it was a connection we could maintain because I loved  music too, even if it wasn’t the same style. Music is music, even if the style is different.

I use music now in lots of ways, as probably many of you do:

  • Stress relief
  • Background noise when cooking or cleaning
  • Ambiance for entertaining
  • Motivation for yard work or working out
  • Keep me alert while driving

And each of these occasions requires a different kind of music sometimes. For me actually not completely. My go-to music since I was six years old has been Simon & Garfunkel. My parents had the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album and one of those stereos that looked like a piece of furniture and I played it constantly till I had it memorized. They have been my favorite every since and actually work for me in all those categories. But I will switch it up on occasion. 

I have friends who love heavy metal. I am not a fan but that’s their jam for working out or house cleaning but I can’t get around it. They love it and I suppose it would keep me awake while driving! 

But here’s the thing, the science behind this says that it doesn’t have to be Barry Manilow to be calming. Check out this article to see how music can be beneficial no matter what kind it is! 

I will be posting some of my favorite music videos (expect it to weigh heavily on the Simon & Garfunkel) in the Resources section. Please share some of your stories of how music has worked for you personally or in your relationship with your RAD kiddo. 

Until next time,

Shannon

Getting Outside and Your Mental Health

When I was little I was a  nerd. A book worm. I played piano and I loved puzzles. I wasn’t what you would have called an “outdoor-sy” type kid. But I had this spot in a weird tree-bush in my back yard that I loved to climb up and sit. I could nestle there and read or sing or dream or spy on the cute boy next door. And there I found comfort and peace. 

I also loved to go camping which we did fairly regularly. Food tasted better cooked outside for some reason. I loved fishing and I loved ice skating on outdoor ponds while my dad went ice fishing. Maybe I was more of an outdoor type than I thought!

August at a state park near our house whacking at things with sticks!

August is a HUGE outdoor kid. He loves being outside and it immediately calms him. I remember once the psychiatrist asking what his favorite thing to do was and his father replying, “Go outside and whack at things with sticks.” And that was pretty true. He’d stay outside for hours even by himself and never seem bored.

When he was having a hard time he’d say, “Mom I need to go run around the house.” And he would literally run around the outside of the house. And when he came in he would be a different kiddo. Calm, collected, ready to listen. It was like the outside exorcised whatever demons had hold of him. Nothing outside ever scared him. Except snakes. That child is deathly afraid of snakes!

A picture I took of a hummingbird at one of my feeders.

What is it about being outdoors that has the power to ease our minds and quiet our hearts? There are sounds and smells and sights outside that have a mesmerizing effect.

I have four hummingbird feeders next to my backdoor. I live in what used to be my grandparent’s house and my grandmother put them there so I have continued to keep them there and filled because hummingbirds return to the same locations year after year. Every year I fill them in late April and wait. And I am overjoyed when I see them arrive usually in early to mid-May. They are so tiny and so fragile and to watch them furiously flap their wings and hover over the feeders to eat is amazing. Hummingbirds also fight for position and will swoop down at each other and perch on my clothesline and wait their turn. I can feel myself get calmer and more centered in the few minutes I stop to watch them. They have no idea how much they help me.

You don’t have to believe my anecdotes to know the value of the outdoors to your mental health. This article discusses several ways that being outside can be good for reducing stress levels, boosting mood, helping with anxiety and more. And MentalFloss, one of my personal favorites for information, lists not only mental but also physical benefits (more than just exercise) of getting outside. Read about those here.

Sunset one night in my backyard.

The days are getting longer. Depending on where you are reading this, summer starts in just a few days. Take every chance you can, with or without kids, to get outside and enjoy the free therapy of the outdoors. Work as a family in the yard planting flowers, take the dog for a walk, take yourself for a walk, just sit in a chair at sunset and listen to the night wake up. You will be amazed at the results.

Until next time,

Shannon

What is Self-care?

My house is falling apart. I don’t mean figuratively. My house is literally falling apart. It started last month with the water heater. Annoying but a typical home repair issue. But it took a month to get it fixed. The day it got done…and I mean THE DAY…one of my garage door openers stopped working. It’s still broken. Since then, the water pressure in my kitchen sink has slowed to a crawl.  There’s a leak in the drain of the upstairs bathroom sink AND that faucet sprays water everywhere. The A/C condensate pump is making a loud noise (just got that replaced last year). And there’s a broken window on the back porch.

Oh and did I tell you I have 15 or so relatives coming for the July 4th weekend?

Now I didn’t explain this looking for a pity party…though if you’re hosting I like Merlots and dark chocolate! But in the world of parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, we’d call this Tuesday. It’s Spring Break right now so maybe there might be the idea that things are calmer but the morning may have started with the raging because you picked blue socks for them to wear instead of yellow. Or the plan for the day is a trip to the zoo instead of the pool. Or that camp they were begging all year to go to they now refuse to attend. Or it’s yet another battle over taking medication. It could be something very minor to you but it has become a catastrophe to them.

If you manage to handle that crisis, your day has just gotten started. Maybe you have a 9-5 job to get to. Already stressed and frazzled, you have to pretend to waltz in like you got a full night’s sleep, woke to birds singing and a calm quiet cup of coffee while you leisurely read the morning paper before you got ready and came on into work, ready to hit the ground running. 

Maybe you are at home with your littles (which we all know does NOT mean you don’t work!) and you’re trying to do some housework while they play outside until you hear the screaming. Which is about five minutes in. You rush outside, mediate whatever issue has arisen and go back to your chores. Lather, rinse repeat. Every five minutes for an hour until you realize this is accomplishing nothing and you surrender and get ready to head to the zoo.

Now an outing with a RAD kiddo can be like trying to nail jello to a tree. Their impulsive nature and fearlessness will always lead them to wander off or try things that scare you. It’s hard to remember in those moments that it’s not them really; it’s how RAD has them wired. You run after them and shout cautionary demands all day until you can’t put together a coherent sentence. 

Back home, you may or may not attempt a family dinner after this kind of a day. Bless your heart if you do. Because you still have bedtime to get through. and RAD kiddos are not sleepers. If you get them down without a double digit number of attempts, take the win. 

So with a day like this, where yesterday looked pretty much the same and tomorrow is likely to be a repeat, what can you possibly do for self-care? How can you keep your head above water, your sanity intact, your willingness to get up tomorrow and do it all over again preserved, when every day is chaos and stress?

Well, in my case, I painted. Not pictures, I’m about as creative as a rock. But I have wanted to finish painting my stairs and upstairs hallway and landing which I started two years ago and yesterday I got on it. I don’t know how to fix an A/C unit or a garage door or a leaky sink. And I don’t have the money to do all of it at once anyway. But I had the paint and the time so I painted. And the satisfaction of seeing some progress on that project that I’d put off for so long felt so good. Seeing that one spot of my house looking complete and pretty helped me feel calm and relaxed for just a little while.

So here are my tips for self-care, not big grandiose ideas like massages and manicures (though definitely do those things every chance you get) but little ideas for self-preservation:

  • Do a thing, anything. Wash a dish; even one. Put away one piece of clean clothing.
  • Do another thing, anything. Wash a second dish. Hang up a jacket. Fold a towel.
  • Breathe. Inhale for four counts. Exhale for four counts. Do it as many times as you can until the screaming starts again.
  • If your children are old enough, go in your room and lock the door. Lie down on your bed. Laugh. Cry. Scream into a pillow. But have some kind of large loud emotional response to your day for two minutes.
  • Keep a joke book in your purse. Bad jokes. When things with the kids are getting tense pull it out and read some. People cannot be angry with each other when they are laughing together. DO NOT use your phone for this purpose.
  • At the end of the day, write down (or if you’re not a journaling-type), think about 3-5 things you are grateful for.

We deserve combat pay. I firmly believe that. We have the invisible-and some visible-scars to prove it. But we persevere because of our intense love of these also deeply scarred sweet children of ours. We cannot protect them without protecting ourselves.

Until next time,

Shannon

Vacations with RAD Kiddos

So you have a sweet, adorable boy of let’s say, six. And while he’s charming and fun and hilarious and lovable in so many ways, he’s also prone to impulsive actions. Like he’ll push any button that he sees. And he grabs at things. And he can’t figure out “inside voice”. He doesn’t like transitions, so making him pack up or stop a movie or move is an ordeal. In addition, he’s got a quick temper which doesn’t mean he just gets angry. He rages. Red-faced, screaming, hitting, cursing, throwing things fits if things don’t happen like he wants. And you can’t calm him down because he won’t let you. He blames you for not giving him what he wants and doesn’t trust you. Let’s get in an economy middle seat with 200 other passengers for a four-hour plane ride.

Maybe you decide to drive instead.

Now this same child is also fearless. Since he doesn’t trust you, he also doesn’t feel like he needs you. Except for money which he wants all the time for everything because he does feel that his love can be bought. Which is the source of constant conflict even with an 8-year-old. Because he’s super smart and manipulative and sometimes if his love is for sale, you’re buying if it’s the only way it can happen because you’re so desperate for it. Then you try and be the good parent and instill some values and say “no” so the conflicting signals aren’t helpful and you’re back at square one. But the fearless, control-freak child isn’t phased and he’s just as strong-willed as ever and could carry on whether you’re there or not. Except for the money. Let’s take this child to Disney World.

Maybe we’ll just go to the pool.

Yes, of course what I have just described was my own story. And the trips didn’t go quite as horribly as I described but they had their moments. The plane trip was heading home from visiting back East when we lived in Oregon. We flew out of Indianapolis and it involved a short hop to Chicago then a long flight to Portland. We got stuck on the tarmac in Indy for over an hour on a small-ish commuter plane. My younger son was not quite two so we were waiting as long as possible to pay for a seat for him but he was a big boy and a walker. We weren’t all seated together so he wanted to walk back to his Dad and August and while doing so fell and busted open his lip. Blood dripping down his sweatshirt. When we finally got to Chicago, we’d missed our connection and had to wait for the next flight which we weren’t sure we could get on. We were wait-listed. So we had two small children, one with blood on his shirt. August, because he didn’t like transitions, peed in his pants twice. And because I’m the ever-hopeful mother, all his meds were carefully stored in our checked luggage. We even tried to go get them from the baggage guys. He was the one guy who assured us we’d get home that night.

Disney was after we’d moved back East. We were smart enough to drive! We went to the park every day plus the other parks. We blew it out! And everyone got tired, and cranky. And then it started. The boys fought. Their dad got mad at the fighting. I got mad at that. August has an endless amount of energy and when we all ran out of steam he was so mad that we couldn’t keep up. His brother didn’t like the big rides and August got mad that those weren’t the only ones we rode. It was all about him. And then trying to keep up with him. He didn’t understand how scary it was there. His fearlessness was terrifying because he didn’t need us around (except for the aforementioned money). He did want company on the big rides which was nice but honestly he would have be OK either way.

The points of these stories is that vacations with RAD kiddos can be rough. So you need to consider what they are capable of and more importantly what you are capable of. Here are the best tips I can share:

  • Be Realistic: You know what you can manage. And you know what they can manage. And they may be seeing all their friends going off to Disney but if that’s not going to create a good memory for your family, don’t set yourself up for failure.
  • Keep It Simple: Even if you do go to Disney, you can do it in a way that minimizes the stimulus and chaos. You don’t have to do all the parks. You don’t have to go every day. You don’t have to go all day every day. Make sure you are taking your child’s issues into account when you are planning your vacations so that things like transitions, medication times, schedules stay as close to normal as possible. This makes for the best possible outcome.
  • Invite Extended Family: Ok, for some of you I might have said the thing that would make your vacation horrific! But, there is also the “many hands make light work” philosophy. Especially if you have other children. Asking grandma to come along so that she can take the other children to the zoo one day while you take the RAD kiddo to the pool can help everyone have a good time.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Make sure you are keeping yourself healthy. Mentally, physically, spiritually. Remember you are taking yourself out of your comfortable space as well when you go on vacation. Take some quiet time to read or meditate, bring essential oils or candles, whatever will keep you calm and centered during this hectic time.

I’d love to hear your ideas for how to handle successful vacations with your RAD kiddos or your funny travel tales!

Until next time,

Shannon

Summer Reading List

So yesterday we talked about how to get your children to keep the learning going all summer long. You know what is one of the best ways to keep them interested in learning? Modeling the behavior you want to see. And that’s never more true than with reading. There are so many ways to encourage your children to be better, more informed readers by reading yourself. So to help with that, I’ve put together a list of some of my and my friends-courtesy of Goodreads favorite books of the moment to get your summer reading habit started off right!

  • Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
    This book won’t be for everyone. Amazon describes it as “A heart-wrenching, eye-opening, and giggle-inducing memoir about what it’s like to grow up not sure if you’re (a) a boy, (b) a girl, (c) something in between, or (d) all of the above.” And the New York Times compares Jacob with the likes of David Sedaris and Mindy Kaling. It’s profane and blunt so if you have weak sensibilities it might not be for you. I put this one first because I’ve known Jacob for years and they are one of the most amazing people I know. You want to get to know them too.
  • Do It Scared: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Adversity, and Create a Life You Love by Ruth Soukup
    I’m not suggesting that you do work over the summer. This book isn’t work. Though it does rPerfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.equire some thinking and maybe getting out of your comfort zone more than a little bit. But the summer is always a good time for reflection and that is a lot of what this book is about. If you have always wanted to start something new or are stuck in something old that just isn’t fulfilling anymore, this book is for you. If you need to understand why you have taken that step to make your big dream a reality, this book is for you. This blog is my big dream and reality is scary, let me tell you! But it’s better than not pursing that dream at all.
  • Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
    “Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.” – Goodreads
    I like this book because it is set in North Carolina and because it deals with childhood trauma. Two things I know a lot about!
  • Bless Your Heart Tramp: And Other Southern Endearments by Celia Rivenbark
    I have read absolutely everything Celia Rivenbark has written. She is hands down hilarious. And this one is the best. If you want an inside trace on the perfect eccentricities of being perfectly Southern, this is give you all you need to know. From why the word snow make a family of four buy eight gallons of milk and 12 loaves of bread to many more secrets revealed. It will have you laughing out loud at the beach!

So this will give you a good start on your lazy summer days while maybe actually getting some motivation to make some change for good! Have an enjoyable cozy reading time!

Until next time,

Shannon

It's Spring…Maybe

The last few days (except for Saturday when it SNOWED) have been as close to Spring as we’ve seen here in the Midwest so I’m gonna call it. It’s Spring. I’ve been in touch with the guy who tills my big garden and I’m starting seeds this weekend and my clematis vines are sprouting so those are the signs I needed. Oh, and the sweet kids next door left a daffodil on my back steps (I think it might have been one of mine but nevertheless…). In honor of Spring, this is the beginning of a Wednesday series on Spring Cleaning. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this is one of the, “Those who can’t blog about it” ones. I haven’t by far done all of these things, nor do I expect I will get to all of them. But writing them down makes me want to get them all on a to-do list. And you’ll see that many of them can be done with VERY active RAD kiddos so they are a nice way to get the family involved. But there are some that are just for you, for your sanity, so make sure you focus on those as well. And that’s where we start.

Spring Clean Your Mind written by Margaret Townsend Take a minute to think about what’s supporting your body right now-the chair or the sofa you’re sitting on and the ground below your feet. Much of the time, we use more energy than we need to hold our bodies up. Learning to really sink into physical support can calm nerves, soothe emotions, and relax the mind. First, become aware of your feet against the floor. Place them in a comfortable, natural spot and press them into the ground a bit to feel your leg muscles tighten. Then let those muscles relax completely, allowing the floor to hold up your legs and feet. Next, notice your back against the chair. Tense up your shoulders for a couple of seconds, then release them. Notice the parts of your back that are in contact with the chair. You don’t have to hold up those muscles right now. Breathe comfortably and give in to gravity, letting the chair support you. Allow your body to feel held for a moment. Take time to enjoy that feeling. Become aware of what else changes when you simply let the chair and the ground hold you up. You might feel a softening in the belly, hips, and breath. Also notice what you may be “holding up” that doesn’t need holding. Your jaw, for instance. What happens if you soften it? Luxuriate in the support that is right here, right now. Spend a minute or two experiencing it, breathing naturally-falling into gravity and letting the effort drop away.

vernal-equinox-happy-spring-day

 
Use this as often as you need to calm your body and clear your brain. Till next time, Shannon  ]]>