Fun Friday: L.A.F.F.S.

You guys have read a few times about how tough mornings are for the girls and I - my PTSD symptoms, anxiety, and generally horrifying morning personality tend to not combine all that smoothly with my daughters' high-energy, high-chatter, super-busy ADHD morning personalities.

They have a hard time getting up, getting dressed, getting moving, staying focused. I have a hard time dealing with all of those things, because being late a major trigger for my anxiety. I tend to have a running mental schedule of the order of events in my head, and deviating from that stresses me out because then we'll be late. Not that the world will end or anything, but because being late defies the logic behind keeping a schedule - and my anxiety doesn't care that Eden is 8 years old and hopelessly unfocused until 30 minutes after her morning meds kick in.

But when we're late getting up despite my best efforts (I even get myself up early so I can mentally prepare for the whirlwind of mornings with the girls), it makes us late getting dressed. And then we're late starting breakfast, which is one of Eden's biggest struggles. She's never been a "good" eater, and has always been more than a little picky, so mealtime is a hassle for us. With Josephine, I could just let her skip meals, knowing she would eat when she got hungry enough. Not so with Eden - as proven by her comorbid "short stature" and "failure to thrive" diagnoses. Mealtime is a battle I can't lose with her - so we fight this battle daily.

Which of course means that despite my setting plenty of time for her to tiptoe and pick through her breakfast, we're always late finishing. Which makes us late to do her hair, and get her meds (can't do them before breakfast or they'll kick in and then she really won't eat), and put on coats, and get out the door.

Which, most mornings, puts us heading out for the elementary school a scant few moments before school actually starts - thank goodness we live pretty close. The problem is, we also live close to a middle school and a high school, all of which tend have quite a lot of traffic all at the same time. Inconveniently, this is the time when we're in the van most mornings, sitting at the stop sign at the exit to our little neighborhood, with the minutes ticking by on the clock and only sporadic gaps in the traffic.

Other factors make each little bit of this worse in ways that I can't change just yet, so the girls and I muddle through as best we can, with moments of calm motherly coaching mixed liberally with moments of the kind of shouting mom I swore I'd never become.

It's actually not uncommon for me to be a totally frazzled mess by the time I make that first stop and send Eden off to class, always with an "I love you, have a good day, be good." This is sometimes offered with a smile - and it is sometimes uttered through teeth clenched so hard it's a miracle they don't snap off.

Occasionally, I drop Eden off to school with my face steadfastly held forward - with frustrated and anxious tears dripping down my face even as my heart celebrates the blissful inattention that keeps my frustration from injuring her super-sensitive "marshmallow" heart. She never seems to notice on the days when I cry silently all the way to her school; she just chatters happily away in the backseat, oblivious.

Josephine has ADHD too, but is much better able to cope with it (and significantly less oblivious these days) - and while I despise the fact that I can no longer hide my struggles from her increasingly observant watchfulness, I'm proud of the compassionate person she's growing up to be. One day last week, after a particularly rough morning with Eden, Joey waited quietly in the backseat until Eden was out of the van - and as we drove off on the way to the middle school, she said softly, "She'll grow into it, Mom. I did."

I love that she gets it - that our particular relationship lets her see her mother as a human with human struggles. I love that our relationship lets her look back and see her own growth too, because around this same age level, she and I had similar difficulties. And I love that seeing my relationship with her grow and change and become what it has gives me hope for my bond with Eden - hope that we'll come through the testing phase and find our way to friends.

In the meantime, while Eden walks off blissfully into school each morning with hardly a clue or a care as to the stress left in her wake, Josephine and I are left sitting in the stress, both of us struggling with it and looking for a way to get the day back on track.

And that's where L.A.F.F.S. comes in.

One of my favorite ways to lighten a tense morning and get Joey sent off to school in good spirits is to try and surprise her with the most ridiculous advice I can think of. I've kept a running list of suggestions, and have even asked for people to send them to me on Facebook. So far, the ones to get the best reactions out of her have been:
  • "Don't talk to strangers." (This was the first one, to which she responded with a surprised eye roll, an embarrassed, "Duh, Mom," and a more enthusiastic than usual slam of the van door.)
  • "Don't eat yellow snow." (To which she answered, with an extremely disgusted face, "Uugh!!")
  • "Don't get pregnant!" (This got an amused eye roll, as it came the first Monday after the weekend when she told me one of her 14 year old friends is actually the mother of a 2 year old boy.)
  • "Don't spit into the wind." (This one stuck with her for a while apparently - it was several days later when she randomly asked me what it meant. Explaining got me my usual, "Uugh!")
  • "Be a smart feller - not a fart smeller!" (My grandfather used to actually say variations of this, so I loved that Joey thought it was so funny. She walked away from the van shaking her head and laughing at me that day.)

When I was younger, my older brother and I used to play a game we just called "laughs." I don't remember playing it during the time of our mother's second marriage, when things were so bad that I barely remember much of anything at all - but I do remember playing it in the few years afterward, when things had settled down (in some ways) for our family and we were no longer being brutalized physically. I don't know how the game started, or what made him decide to play it with me so often, but looking back, playing "laughs" with my brother is one of the best memories of my childhood.

It's easy to play - you just laugh.
There wasn't usually a joke or funny stunt or anything, either. My brother would literally just sit there and think of something funny, until he started laughing. He had a really wild, contagious laugh, and he was, in a lot of ways, my childhood hero - I couldn't listen to him laughing like that without laughing too. So I would laugh at him laughing, without even knowing what he was laughing at. I suspect then he would laugh at me, crazily laughing at nothing, and the cycle would continue for a while until we both subsided with streaming eyes and aching bellies.

I still do this, although not often on purpose and not nearly as often with my brother - but it happens anytime my cousin Dana and I are together and one of us gets amused about something. All it takes is a second of eye contact, the hint of a smirk, and we're off. When we were little, we actually used to get sent away from the dinner table for laughing like maniacs, so common were our private jokes. These days, it doesn't even have to be in person - it works on the phone, too.

So ... What's the one got to do with the other?
Well, I've been nursing an idea for a while now, and I think I'm ready to move on it. Those of you who follow me on Patreon (and if you don't ... are you nuts? You're totally missing out!) will know that I post all kinds of stuff there, from story chapters to poetry to podcasts - and even PhLogs, which are sort of like my Patron-exclusive version of a lovechild between snapchat and journaling. The rewards I offer on there are all set at different subscription levels (think Netflix - but me instead, which is better) so you can choose what you put in as well as what you take out. The PhLogs are mostly just for fun, but the story chapters are being compiled into novels as they are completed, the poetry will be compiled also, and the podcasts will eventually become my first non-fiction book.

But I'm getting ready to add L.A.F.F.S. to the $2 tier - and I'll be sharing one L.A.F.F.S. tidbit every Friday starting today! These L.A.F.F.S. will be compiled into a book too, and my Patrons will be the first people I go to when I need new ideas or feedback on the ideas I've already come up with. Patrons will also, of course, be the first to receive updates about the progress of all these projects too, so if that's something you think you'd be into, come on over and check it out!

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I'd love to have your L.A.F.F.S. suggestions, too - leave them in the comments below and I'll try them out on Joey in the next few days! Who knows, they might even make it into the book!

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