Friday, October 2, 2015

Back to school

We are still trying to get used to the new routines around B's kindergarten. Specific challenges: 1) being there on time 2) B needing to be responsible for his food and other stuff (i.e. the teacher won't put his raincoat on him, or dole out his snacks in the proper order that we want them to be in)  3) Our only source of information about school being from B, since we can't just talk to the teacher everyday 4) Homework that has to be done  and 5) random days off.  Like all parents everywhere, we'll figure it out, but its a bit stressful right now. I also have to adjust to a totally different evening routine. Instead of coming home alone, walking the dog, processing mail, and prepping dinner before everyone else got home, now I pick B up from after-care on my way home. We walk the dog together, and then I have to nag him to do his homework & help him with it while I prep dinner (The mail has not been processed in days). I like having time with him one on one, but I do miss alone time to decompress before the evening rush!

Its rainy & cold here. We had to cancel L's outdoor party for tomorrow. Its tentatively scheduled for Sunday. It'll still be cold & windy but hopefully no rain. I really don't want everyone in our house, I have no activities planned (since it was planned to be a park party). Fingers crossed. Its usually so lovely this time of year, but then again, it is hurricane season, so I should've been more prepared!

We have tickets to a concert tonight of all things. A band I don't particularly like but G loves. We went to see them on one of our first dates so when he asked if I wanted to go, I agreed. And it was not on a weeknight, so it seemed OK. Also that was 2 months ago. Everything seems "fun" 2 months prior to actually having to wear pants and go out! But its cold & rainy and the concert starts at 8 but the main act won't be until after 10. Friday nights are for drinking wine and watching TV shows on my laptop, in my PJs.  I really really want to just bring my Kindle and sneak into a corner somewhere until the band comes on, but I assume that's wrong?

As for the October goals, I've already: spent 5 minutes on GOMI, spent 20 minutes looking at graphic Ts, and did not look at the meditation app yesterday. So...not off to a great start, but still motivated!

I really need more "fun money" so I can buy the planner I want. That monthly allowance goes really really fast somehow. I already spent $50 on a knife-skills class I'm taking mid-month and accidentally ordered a book on Amazon 1-click that I can't return for $5. And since we changed the party to Sunday, I had to exchange tickets I had bought for the children's theater on Sunday and this place (as opposed to the place we had a subscription to last year) charges $4/ticket to exchange! so there went $67 and its only the 2nd day of the month! I have a happy hour planned 2 weeks from now, those usually end up being $25. And there will inevitably be 1-2 lunches I need to buy, or occasions where I want to buy the kids a snack or treat. I upped the allowance from $80 in January, to $100 soon after, and more recently (since we're spending way less on groceries) $120. But I never ever have left over. The plan was to save up excess allowance money for clothes, but at this rate, those boots aren't happening, not to mention the bras, jeans, T shirts and slacks I need want. And my umbrella & lunch bag were both recently lost/stolen and need replacing. Urgh.

Alright, break over. Any allowance advice? Concert advice? How do you handle homework with your kids?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Scrambled eggs

My brain feels like scrambled eggs these days. I just can't FOCUS. It takes all kinds of tools and tricks to stay on task, even with pretty interesting & important work in front of me. Hell, I haven't even been able to formulate a coherent blog post that isn't a stack of disjointed thoughts. I can read fiction. I just can't read a journal article in its entirety or finish anything in one sitting.

I'm sleeping OK---enough hours, mostly uninterrupted (except when its not). I just had a vacation in which I allowed myself to relax (very little work, slept in, lazed around) though the kids were nuts and it wasn't exactly relaxing most of the time. I've been sticking with my routines for exercise, eating, sleeping, quiet time, etc... that I need to function.

I wonder if its the inevitable effect of spending so much time flitting from click-bait article to facebook post to blog post to another article. This inability to go deep and stay there. I'm sure there is research on this topic. I'm also sure I don't need to spend 45 minutes down that rabbit hole right now!

I've decided to make some goals for the month, inspired by SHU. All these goals are based around the central theme of improving focus.
  • Download mediation app and use daily (any recs for free/low cost apps?)
  • Stay off all internet forums
  • NO online shopping (after 9 months of having no desire to buy new clothes, I suddenly have a growing mental list of things I want, and I'm distracting myself "window shopping" for the future)
  • Read journal articles in paper form, away from computer. 
  • Planning/outlining on paper, in notebook 
  • Phone away after dinner and on weekends
  • Use pomodoro method for work: 25 minutes on-task, 5 minute break X 5 and then a 25 minute break. These breaks will be the only internet time during the workday (though can also be used for other tasks like budgeting or phone calls or to take a quick walk)
  • No internet while eating any meal, even at work (OK to munch fruits/veggies for a snack while working!). I like the idea of eating more mindfully, and using that time as a real mental and physical break. If nothing else my eyes need a rest!
I'm considering whether music might be helpful while I'm writing. I used to actually get a lot done with the low-volume buzz of noises in the lab (though the less-frequent bursts of laughter/squealing drove me nuts). My office is pretty quiet, but I can hear the guy who sits in the middle of our suite making phone calls 3 days a week (its his job, soliciting donations) or people coming in to make copies or faxes. Maybe I'll bring in some headphones tomorrow.

OK, time for 25 minutes of revising aims.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Dropped B off for his first day of KG this morning. I was shockingly near tears, as was G. He's gone to daycare every day for over 5 years, but this was different. They just---followed the teacher in all of a sudden and we didn't really get a goodbye. He's been so excited about for weeks now. All the teary parents were taken to the library for coffee and pastries and reassuring words from the administration. I know its going to be good but I'm worried about how he's adjusting. I initially thought I'd pick him up at dismissal but I also want to see how aftercare goes (see below) and we only have a few days this month, so I think I'll let him go and pick him up early-ish from there.  Poor L wanted to go to KG too and was being grumpy too.

Two of the moms I met at drop-off had negative reviews on the aftercare place I had chosen based on reviews by two other moms I met earlier in the year. It was about the director and how the place is run (slipshod). We'll see how it goes. Its not set in stone and we can always move him. They also recently expanded/moved so the overall director may not be the one in charge day-to-day of our location.
We're still trying to make use of some of our evenings while we still have light. I'll miss our city adventures when we have to start heading straight home because its dark & freezing. I need some ideas for things we can do at home that are not: dinner/nagging or chores.

So excited about seeing some really good friends next week. There is a crazy event happening in our city and everything is being shut down (including schools and even clinic) for several days so we decided to go visit my family. G & I are taking a road trip to visit a few friends in the middle, since 7 days in our small town with my parents & kids is really boring. On past visits I basically spent hours on end playing iphone games & internetting, so this will be an improvement.

Work. Ugh. Deadline coming up & can't concentrate. It will get done, it always does, right?

I'm going strong on my no-booze-at-home weekdays pact. its been about 6 weeks now! I don't even feel like a glass of wine. It helps that I've been really tired and just want to go to bed after I get the kids down (and they aren't down until 9ish).

I'm obsessed with the BuyNothing group on facebook. I've given a ton of stuff to someone that WANTS it (mostly kid stuff) and gotten some useful stuff, too (a box fan, kids books, pots for plants, colored pens for making lists/planning, an unopened brand new moisturizer, cleaning products). this involves making a post with a picture and then doing a little messaging to set up a pick up with the person who responds. The group is supposed to be "hyper-local" so its restricted to our immediate 'hood which makes the exchange easy to set up and is supposed to facilitate meeting & getting to know your neighbors. I actually met a couple that we are trying to get together with this weekend.

I also made $110 this week selling used baby stuff, and have a few more things up for grabs. If its in great condition and a big item, I just post it on the local moms group and see if I get hits. Most things sell quickly. I take any offer. You just write a post, no pictures necessary, so its easy. This money goes back into "kids, misc" category in our budget.

L has changed a LOT lately. His language has completely exploded but he still says some things adorably wrong. Like "gumbrella" or "for a lot of times" to mean "for a long time". He still uses "yesterday" to mean any time in the near or distant past and "tomorrow" to mean any time in the future. "Girl" is pronounced "guh-lurl". We saw our neighbor the other day and he just talked up a storm throwing out his entire life story "I get pizza and movie day at school on Fridays and my favorite movie is Lego Movie, no Toy Story, no Lion King, and I do swimming again on Saturday but last Saturday daddy brought B's swimming suit and it was too big and my birfday is OCTOBER FIFTH but its Monday so we are celebrating on Saturday or Sunday if it rains".

We've planned L's party and already got stuff together. for once, we are ON IT. Superhero party at the park. I got capes from Etsy for each kid. This part was pricey, I got $120 worth of capes ($6 a pop) but a much better favor than cheap dollar store crap. G designed these awesome invites (cartoon L in a batman cape with his signature lumpy socks & gray shoes) & had them printed & cut them himself. Gave them out today. We got rings to put on cupcakes we'll get from a grocery store, and pick up pizzas. Yay! I wish both boys had warm(ish) weather birthdays so we could just do this for every party.

Nine months into my clothes/shoes shopping ban, I am actually wanting to buy something new. I really want these boots for winter---they would transition from outdoor to indoor instead of wearing my ugly snow boots & having to bring nicer shoes for work:

I also suddenly need new sports bras (I feel bouncy when I run/jump) and have needed regular bras for years.  My drawer has a mishmash of bras 5-15 years old in sizes 32A (actually just threw these out, from med school marathon running days) to 36E (pregnancy). I assume my current size is somewhere in between (34B or C?) and only have a few left in this size.

I don't know where to get sports bras. The ones I have right now are random brands from Target that worked perfectly for about 3 years and now feel stretched out. I bought a new one from Old Navy that just isn't as supportive as I need.

I also would love some cute tops for weekend-wear. I've got tons of work-appropriate stuff & a few hang out at home tops but not much that is fun/cute for dates or outings. 

What's going on with you guys? If you are average in the chest area & run/work-out, where have you gotten the best value (best quality for the price) sports bras?

Friday, September 4, 2015


Our kids have been obsessed with watermelon this summer. We've bought one practically every week started  July 1st. Lately it feels like each weekly watermelon may be the last. We've spent many evenings sitting on the front steps,  big juicy slices in hand, letting the juice drip down our chins. Watermelon, ripe juicy peaches, popsicles, ice cream...its like summer is made for sweet drippy yumminess. And we've been taking big bites, ignoring the mess and the heat.

Even I've been digging in. Despite my tendency to want to eat my watermelon in small neat cubes with a fork, I decided the last few weeks to just dive into summer.  We're in vacation mode. I'm trying so hard, and sometimes succeeding, at turning off that constant clock in my head.

We've had lots of late nights. City adventures. "Dinner" consisting of  bars found in the bottom of bags, street-vendor soft pretzels, and ice cream.   Last week we had the amusement park field trip, a library trip, picnic in the park, and a splash park. This week L and I went to one park while G & B ended up at city hall with happy hour (for him) and a water sculpture/splash play (for B). L was jealous so we went back last night, and G & I had drinks while the boys ran through the fountain, split a huge sandwich, and ran around some more until the sun came down (so early! its happening already...). Then we went home & ate ice cream.

I loved this post, about a different kind of summer. I feel like we are on the cusp of this. Things are just a tiny bit easier. I see the possibility of the next few years ahead of us and simultaneously see the loss coming soon after.

The kids have a 4 day weekend. G & the boys are on some adventures right now, while I'm at work. Tomorrow we take an overnight trip to TheBigCity. We're taking a bus there late-morning, staying with G's cousins, and bus back Sunday evening. I don't want to worry about time, money, or food while we're there. I want to enjoy our last days of summer, before we jump into B's kindergarden and my grand deadlines and the ever shorter and chillier days.

The berry season, the watermelon season, the summer of parenting...its all so short.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Little Miss Perfect?

I never considered myself a perfectionist. I am the queen of "good enough" when it comes to work products, house cleaning, etc... (ask  my husband). I'll put in the 50% of the work to get to 90% done quickly, maybe add another 5% (if I have time) and move on. Some call it half-assedness.  I call it efficiency. Its how I get everything done and still have time for my family, exercise, hobbies, and sleep.

My therapist disagrees and thinks I do indeed hold myself to very high standards and get anxious at my inability to meet them. I was skeptical for a while. But thinking through how weird I've gotten with the budget thing...which by the way is exactly how I got weird with the calorie counting thing...which is similar to recurring patterns of similar behavior throughout my life...I had a thought.

I don't know if its called "perfectionism" or something else, but its about control. When other things in my life get out of control, I seize on small areas that I can manipulate. And I get a lot of satisfaction from "winning" at these things. Staying in my calorie count, saving $100 off my grocery bill, logging 20K steps a day...little boost to self-esteem that helps motivate me in meeting bigger goals.

There is a huge undercurrent of stress in my professional life right now, with uncertain funding, and papers rejected, and experiments disproving hypotheses. I'm not sure what's going to happen to me next July when my current funding runs out. I don't actually want to talk about this, but its a background. This situation is in many ways out of my control. Yes, I'm trying to write grants, papers, modify experiments, find new areas to focus on...but whether or not its going to work? I can't say with any certainty. I recall feeling this way during our infertility and way before that when all (I mean ALL) my friends were pairing up and I wondered if I'd ever meet a partner or be the 5th (7th, 9th, 11th, 19th...seriously ALL my friends) wheel forever. 

So I turn back to the things that I can modify. And when it works---when I'm meeting my standards of frugality or nutrition or fitness, I feel good about myself & can translate that into productivity and creative thinking. But when it backfires---when I slip up and eat something "bad" (ugh) or my pants are tight or we go over budget---I feel deflated, unworthy, like a failure. And THAT translates to wanting to give up, what's the point, I'm never going to succeed, etc...

Areas that I think I tend towards this perfectionism/control include but are not limited to: money, food, fitness, body image (I could write a whole post about this, I thought I was over it but I'm decidedly not), parenting (not yelling, feeding healthy foods, no screen time, planning activities, etc...) and even my attitude (this is the one my therapist picked up on---I get down on myself for being negative/ungrateful/pessimistic/etc...). I rotate through one or two of these and get really hung up on them for a while, and then I get exhausted, give up, and move on through the cycle.

I like holding myself to high standards---it motivates me to improve--but I also realize that I need to keep things in perspective. Spending $50 more on a self-imposed budget shouldn't lead to self-flagellation (or worse, husband-abuse) nor should 200 extra calories. My kids get over it if I yell at them, and an extra movie or ice cream won't doom them to childhood obesity. And my body...well, absent some serious plastic surgery, the wrinkly belly pooch is here to stay.

Is this really perfectionism or something else? Isn't it normal? If not, is the answer something sappy like "be kind to myself" or "give myself grace" (ugh).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Letting it go

The weather has been truly lovely this week, and we're trying to take advantage of it. G & I are both getting over being sick, so our energy isn't at 100%, making some of our outings a little more exhausting than fun, but we've made some nice memories.

We went on the annual daycare trip to a nearby amusement park. B is old enough to truly enjoy the rides & water fun. Everything was "Again! Again!" and the enthusiasm was contagious. L was still scared by a lot of the stuff---his expression at the end of the roller coaster (a really basic, made-for-kids short one) was of utter betrayal. "did you have fun L? wasn't that cool?" "---" (silence, with a look that read "why did you do this to me?! I thought you loved me?!". B had that same expression his first time on the trip, 2 years ago, so I recognized it instantly.

The only thing that marred the trip was my anxiety over spending money on over-priced unhealthy treats throughout the afternoon, when we had perfectly nice grapes, carrots, and cheese puffs left over in our back pack. My feelings that afternoon actually led me to write my last post; I composed it in my head on the bus ride home as I sighed and shrugged and snapped at my family.  It was one of the many instances when the act of writing and thinking through my feelings to get them down, as well as the interactions in the comments, clarified and maybe even changed my thinking on the issue. Why fret over a few dollars and ruin a perfectly nice day? That is not the point. Not the point of budgeting, not the point of frugality, and not the point of life.

Yesterday, G called me at 5:15 pm stating the kids are complaining about being starving even though they just ate the last of their snacks. He wanted me to meet him for some food somewhere. I braced myself for the spendy suggestion, but he actually decided we could get prepared food from the grocery store and have a picnic. Great idea! I brought toys & a picnic blanket & water and he brought a huge spread of chicken salad, fried chicken, 2 kinds of pasta salad, cheese, veggies, fruit. We all ate and then played frisbee for over 30 minutes in the almost-chilly evening. It was amazing. Yes, we spent more than we would've eating at home (I had defrosted some fish and we had some bread and salad stuff to eat with it) but we would've had so much less fun. The kids are already asking to do it again TONIGHT but we do have to eat that fish.

Last weekend I went to the gym while G took the boys to the park for over 2 hours. I came home & showered and relaxed. It was a nice morning. It was also hot out, and a couple of hours after the breakfast, so everyone was thirsty and hungry at the park so they went to a coffee shop and had food & drinks and then spent more time at the park. They came home happy and tired. And I fretted over the $10 spent at the coffee shop.  I mean, what were his choices? Listen to them complain about being hungry & tired and haul them home? Or say "You're hungry? So am I! Lets go get something and then we can play some more". (Yes, there is the option C, my favorite option, which is never to go anywhere without a stash of snacks and water, but I realize not everyone thinks 2---or 3 or 4---steps ahead of every decision, and as I mentioned before, its mentally exhausting to do that)

In terms of the snacks on the way home or taxi rides---I try to remind myself that G makes this 2 mile trip in snow & rain & heat & sickness and in health ten times a week. Its easy for me to say I would always walk or take the bus &  never give into whining for snacks when I don't have to deal with it. Its not every day or even several time a week. Maybe it averages out to once a week? Let it go.

This weekend is set up to be anxiety-provoking, money wise. The fifth weekend in the month, with little to nothing left in most budget categories. We do have some free fun planned---a birthday party, swimming, a park trip. But my goal is to not get upset about minor spending. We only have 3 more weekends of summer. I'm going to let it go.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dribs and Drabs

Edited because I hit post instead of save...

Money, again. And how it just sort of slips out of our pockets in exchange for mundane little goods & services. My angst over wasting spending money this way is leading to some marital strife and a fair amount of personal stress.

I'm not going to go over the details of who spent what where, but in general, my husband definitely has a looser hold on the purse-strings. Specifically, he not only tolerates, but seems to find pleasure in buying little treats and snacks for the kids (and himself, on occasion) and is not averse to taking taxis/uber instead of waiting for the bus or walking. And this behavior does not appear to be impacted by how far we happen to be over budget in the given categories for these purchases.

This makes my twitchy. I get annoyed. I start to fret. I get snappy and grumpy. I say fine in a voice that is not fine.

I think I set reasonable amounts in our categories, if I increase them, I have to take money from elsewhere---there isn't "extra" sitting around. Those $5 and $10 add up, and leave nothing to show for it. Sure they stop the whining, maybe prevent 15-20 minutes of boredom or discomfort, but at the end of the day they are forgotten. If we didn't spend those dribs and drabs we'd have a good amount for something memorable---dinner out (delicious food for all of us and no cooking or cleaning!) or a new bike (hours/days/months of fun, exercise and fresh air).

And its not just the budget and the numbers, its the philosophy behind it. I can't bring my kids home from school without them asking for chocolate milk from Starbucks like daddy gets them, or "why can't we just take a taxi" when the bus doesn't come right away or they get slightly tired/bored. I'm OK with being the bad guy here, I tell them "no" and "because I don't think its a good way to spend money/you have to learn to be a little hungry once in a while/you'll never get stronger if you don't push yourself!" (OK that all sounds mean but the latter two we are seriously working on with B & L respectively, B is STARVING every 1-2 hours---how will he handle school? and L walks 10 feet before sitting himself down on the sidewalk and refusing to go further---he's four and objectively healthy, we are not keeping him in the stroller forever).

Its not a hardship to spend 15 minutes on a breezy sunny summer evening to chat about the day and wait for the bus. Its not a hardship to not stop for a snack on the way home from school when there is a healthy delicious dinner ready to go. You don't need to buy snacks at a coffee shop every time you go to the park! They are conditioned to these things because they have gotten them so frequently. Its hedonic adaptation for the pre-school set.

Overall I just want us to live within our means and build some financial security, and pass those values on to our kids. Its not that G doesn't share those values. I just think he is less into the frugality/stoicism/delayed gratification mindset than I am. I actually (perversely?) like the satisfaction that I sucked it up and didn't cave to a little hunger, fatigue, whining and kept that money in my pocket. Whereas he is more apt to pay for convenience and not have to deal with the stress or discomfort.

I'm struggling to find a way to deal with this without increasing marital tension and personal anxiety. I'm tired of feeling like the nag. Maybe I've drunk too much frugal-living Kool Aid? More likely I've always been frugal and averse to certain spending patterns that I consider wasteful, and now that we're tracking our spending, I'm noticing it more. I guess "wasteful" is a subjective judgement. One person's wasteful is another's "worth it". Considering the fact that we aren't in debt, have a nice emergency fund, are saving for retirement, and don't spend on big stuff, maybe I need to let it go.