Tag Archives: making books for kids to deal with emotions

Throwing the Book At It

It’s hard to write when you’re flooded with anxiety. Or even wading clumsily through a couple inches of it. If only there was some kind of pump. A mental wet-vac. A mop. Because let me tell you, insurance doesn’t cover it, and to say it’s messy is an understatement.

And it’s not just me. The whole house is on edge. Mike and I, we have our reasons. Unemployment–Mike’s, at present–being a huge one. Money. Dwindling. Savings. Plummeting. Confidence. Tanking.

Get-rich-quick ideas. Burgeoning.

Having said that, I still haven’t sold my wedding dress, or even completed the listing. So much for my little schemes.

Meanwhile, we need new glasses for Mike, repairs for the car, a garbage disposal, school tuition, flea medication. It’s cliche to say that such expenses bloom when it’s least convenient. Such wisdom, however, adds small comfort.

Then there are the insects. Not those around now–although we are having a strange influx of moths, whose corpses are smeared, like little silvery ghosts, on every wall in the house–but future ones. We’ve finally booked our summer trip to parts east, and my anticipatory bug-a-phobia is in full swing. Instead of looking forward with grateful excitement to a journey with stops in New Jersey, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nova Scotia, all I can think is: Deer flies. Ticks. Mosquitos. Repeat. Deer flies. Ticks. Mosquitos. Repeat.

I’ve googled how to prevent Lyme’s disease. Then stayed up ’til midnight learning how incurable it is.

I know. I have to get a grip. People have real problems. These don’t qualify. Much.

Except then there’s the cholesterol. That’s real. I just got diagnosed with high levels. So, supplements have been ordered, milkfats lowered (just shoot me), and desserts basically eradicated. Cheese–my dear friend, confidante, and snack therapist–has been given the boot. We can stay friends, but never again will we sleep in the same bed. And this is something to grieve, as far as I’m concerned. Like, Elizabeth Kubler Ross–the whole thing. I’ve said forever that I wanted to be buried in a block of Cracker Barrel. But no more. Bury me now in a rough case of rice crackers. That’s about all I’ll be eating from this point forward.

So the food thing is a drag. And there’s that mid-life crisis I referred to earlier. It’s still bustling about, wiping both hands on its well-used apron and chuckling as it bustles about the kitchen. You should have heard it snicker when I checked out “Eat to Live” from the library. Cackle, more like it. Fucking asshole. Let it eat oatmeal with chia seeds for breakfast every day. See how peppy it feels.

Finally, there’s MJ. Her anxieties are flowering like peonies at Trader Joe’s. She is worried–continuously–about pooping in the potty. She fretted  when we told her we were going to San Francisco for the weekend, then cried when it was time to come home. She dreaded the fireworks last night. Until she saw them. Then she laughed and clapped her hands like a mental patient. But until that moment? You’d have thought we were dragging her off to a firing squad.

Speaking of which–and I digress–the Eastsider ran a piece today about how to tell the difference between the sounds of firecrackers and those of gunshots. “Oh, good,” I thought. “I’ve always wondered. Now I’ll know.”

Four experts later, the consensus was: there’s no way to tell.

This is life right now. It’ll improve. Or it won’t. Either way, we’ll walk through our fears, large and small, and learn that most of them are unfounded. What choice do we have? To lock ourselves in the house and never emerge, subsisting only on delivered Thai food and bottled water? I’ve considered it. But just think of all that BPA. Plus, Myra-Jean doesn’t like spices.

So out we go into the world, with its bugs, stigmatisms, and unidentifiable explosions.

Myra-Jean makes books when she’s anxious. I’ve talked about it before. This week she’s made four. Every time they’ve worked. She’s been immediately calmed, and able to proceed with whatever it was that was frightening her. It’s a magical tool, and fun, too. If only it were so simple for us grownups.

Maybe it is. Perhaps it’s time to make a few for myself. The first one will be called “Jessica does not want to end up on intravenous antibiotics after being bitten by a deer tick.” The next: “Jessica does not know how to enjoy a plant-based diet.”

From there? The list goes on. And on. And on. The drawings should be fun.

The feelings behind them are not.

Book of the Day

And this will come as no surprise to anyone who read yesterday’s post, or the day before’s


And just FYI, page three says “it happens.” Not “shit.” We run a clean household here.

Book Smart

The philosophy Myra-Jean’s school follows is based, roughly, on empathy. I don’t feel like going into all the finer details–nor am I qualified to–but suffice it to say you never shame a child; bribing is discouraged; physical punishment is forbidden. There’s lots of “seeing,” “honoring,” and “celebrating.” There are no time outs, no praise or rewards; the phrase “good job” is frowned upon. It’s all kind of wacky, and before I had a kid I would’ve thought much of it was ridiculous. But I’ve come around to most of it. Although I have promised Myra-Jean a bucket of jelly beans if she poops on the potty before she turns four. I’m not proud of it, but there you are. Some things trump principles, and frequent crappy diapers are one of them.

One of the most helpful tricks we’ve learned through this approach is “book” making. The idea is: when your kid is having feelings that are dramatic or overwhelming, you sit down with them, make a small book out of folded paper, and encourage them to describe in it what’s happening, their feelings about it, and anything else they want to add–all of this in the third person. The most important thing is that the words are all theirs–you just take narration. Then you or they illustrate, depending on their wishes.

It sounds simplistic, but let me tell you, in the last nine months we’ve made a dozen or so of these books, and each one has wound us out of a spectacularly gnarly emotional breakdown. They have titles like: “Myra-Jean Doesn’t Want to Brush Her Teeth Herself,” “Myra-Jean Didn’t Like It When Matthew Pulled Her Hair and Punched Her Neck” and “Myra-Jean Doesn’t Want To Go On Vacation.” Then there’s the one that kills me every time: “Myra-Jean Woke Up and Called Mama and Daddy and they Did Not Come.” Ugh. It’s true. It was one time, OK? And no, we weren’t passed out drunk. Just really tired.

Still. The remorse! I guess I should write a book about that.

One of the parents at MJ’s school jokes that, when his daughter is eighteen, he will hand her the giant stack of books she has made over the years and tell her to bring them with her when she heads for therapy. “She’ll have everything she needs!” he added cheerfully. Sort of.

Anyway. Myra-Jean has had a cold for the last couple of days. This morning she didn’t want to take the homeopathic (and probably useless) medication we bought to help with her runny nose. We got stubborn about it. So did she. It turned into a fight.

Finally she and her dad made a book.

Here it is, for your reading pleasure. Be forewarned: it ends a little darkly.







(Yes, that last page says “we are lonely.” I told you it was dark.)

As for the medicine? I ended up sneaking it into her apple juice. Some times the old remedies still work the best.