Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Home for the holidays

I've found holidays complicated and somewhat stressful as an adult. Navigating the family expectations does that to me. This year is the first, since B was born, that we will be here, at home, just the 4 of us for Christmas and B's birthday. I'm really looking forward to it, and already enjoying the lack of trying to plan and execute travel plans.

On the other hand, there is a lot of pressure, in trying to pull off our first at-home Christmas and try to establish some family traditions. I'm trying to keep it simple and focus on a few things that were meaningful to me as a child, that I'd like to pass on.

While the boys were away, I decorated the house---window box decorations, a new wreath, greenery and LED lights on the bannister, and our usual 4 foot artificial (ornament-filled for the first year) tree. Our closets are also bursting with presents, for Christmas and for B's birthday the next day---and more are on the way (Apparently B wrote a letter to Santa yesterday at school and asked for something I'd never heard him mention before. I spent quite a while trying to explain that Santa may not get exactly what he asked for...blah blah lots of kids, last minute request. then I caved and went on ama.zon and a dollhouse is on its way). I got a gingerbread house kit that I'll pull out on Christmas day, and some DVDs of classic TV specials.

These are all things I enjoy doing; there are no gifts for adults or really anyone else, no cards we are trying to send out (we usually send one out in January and have already taken the family pic for it), only giftcards for teachers, no batches of cookies to take anywhere or swap with anyone---none of that shopping and making and buying that we used to do until we realized we didn't have to and nobody cared.

B's having a party Saturday, at home, and Frozen-themed, per his request. I ordered a 1/4-sheet cake to pick up and bought figurines and blue powdered sugar snow to put on top, balloons & streamers are on their way, favors ready to go, and 3 Frozen-themed activities planned. We will order 3 large cheese pizzas. 10 kids are coming, plus their parents. I hope he'll have a blast; he's never had his friends over to our house before and has asked for it several times recently.

For his actual birthday, we'll do what we usually do for L---decorate the kitchen, blow up more balloons, and presents after breakfast. We'll make our own little cake. Hopefully the weather will be OK, because G bought him a new 2-wheeled scooter that we could go play with at the park. I got surprise tickets to a children's theater production for the evening & we'll get dinner after.

I want it to be special, 5 is a big birthday, and he's never spent it with just us before.

10 more days, and then I can breathe a sigh of relief! 


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Freedom

G's cousin's wedding was last weekend. We all went to stay with MIL for the many-day festivities. I came back two nights ago, ostensibly because I had to work, but really because one week is more than enough. G and the boys are still there until Sunday. Yes, that means 5 kid- and husband-free days at home for me. I was initially excited and full of plans for a super-productive time at work and home. But when it really began, I was despondent. I miss my little guys and my big guy. I'm not being productive in the least because I've come down with my THIRD URI/bronchitis/sinus-y thing in the past month. And I don't feel particularly free, as there is lingering anxiety from some conflicts with my MIL last weekend. And the laundry. I put away 2 loads we hadn't gotten to before we left, and have already laundered 3 more loads. And then there are all the sheets that the house cleaners changed today, at least 2 more loads of those. Ugh.

What I've done, other than than going to work and the basic necessities of self- and dog-care is catch up on reading & commenting on blogs and watching (for the first time) Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I have not turned on the stove or washed a plate or utensil, though the dishwasher is slowly filling with coffee cups and wine glasses. Tuesday night I picked up 2 slices of pizza for dinner. Yesterday, in a particularly pride-filled moment, I ate half a bag of Pirate's booty and 2 mini-Twix bars for dinner. Today I picked up a burrito bowl. Tomorrow and Saturday evening I have social engagements. I also need to do the weekly cooking for us on Sunday. That leaves Saturday to decorate for Christmas and plan & buy things for B's birthday party which is the following Saturday. I booked my first car-share car for Saturday AM and will have time to go to the craft store and the big red circle store which should take care of party/holiday supplies.

I saw my therapist today, for the first time in several weeks. It was the most productive session we've had, and I left feeling better instead of worse and perhaps...hopeful? Its freeing to think I can actually manage my anxiety and that I won't necessarily feel that heart racing/stomach clenching/lungs can't breathe feeling for hours/days EVERY time I get in a conflict with my MIL or husband or colleague.

Now back to the antics of Lorelie and Rory. How can they eat that crap every day and still be so skinny? How can she drink that much coffee and not have a hypertensive stroke? Why do they waste so much money on eating out and coffee out when they can't pay Rory's private school tuition? Why do they have a shiny new Jeep, again, given the lack of savings for tuition? All questions that will never be answered, I'm sure.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Easier?

At least 3 people have asked me recently if life has gotten easier as my kids are growing up. I initially answer a resounding "YES", but then feel the need to temper the enthusiasm with "but its still not easy, of course!"

B will be five in about 5 weeks. Over the past few months he's gotten infinitely more self-sufficient. He finally is out of pull-ups at night and hasn't had a single accident since late September. He can, and does, dress himself completely (including those pesky shirts he always had trouble getting over his head) and brushes his teeth by himself (though he still likes me to do it sometimes). He knows when he has to use the bathroom and takes himself there, not requiring frequent reminders or even forcing as he did not even a few months ago. He even started trying to clean himself up (this is HUGE, right?) He can get on his shoes and boots by himself and can don and ZIPPER his coat. When he's hungry, he eats, and understands what foods are healthy vs. treats and can monitor himself pretty well on that. He can tell us when he's feeling sick, and describe what's going on. He knows that when he's sick, he needs to nap and go to bed early, and does it without complaint. When he feels the need to throw up, he gets himself to the toilet. He can walk a mile or more at a good pace, and can go the 2.2 miles to school on his scooter at a brisk/too fast pace. He can order for himself at a restaurant, carries on conversations with his hair dresser, and can generally ask for what he needs from his teachers or other adults. He has also become way more social, and will fly off with his friends at a birthday party or the park without a backwards glance.

Of course, these are all little things, but its those little things that make getting out of the house or getting to bed just that bit easier.

B also still has tantrums about the silliest things. He hits & fights with his little brother constantly. He wants everything L has, and had tantrums and sulked for hours on L's birthday when he saw that L got gifts and he didn't. He is always distracted, so while he CAN get dressed by himself, many times we head upstairs to check on him after he's been gone for 5 minutes and he's lost in some game or song or daydream with his shirt half over his head.

L is just three, he needs hands-on help with pretty much everything, still wakes at night and comes upstairs most nights, pees through his pullup most nights requiring clothes/bed change, sucks his thumb constantly, subsists mostly on fruit, sugar and white carbohydrates, and can walk about 10 steps before "carry you!" begins. He usually starts most fights with B and goes straight for the face/hair pulling. He has gotten in trouble at daycare more than once for hitting, throwing toys or the like. At home, he refuses to clean up, despite threats of throwing toys away, time out, etc... He has daily potty accidents because he just won't stop what he's doing and/or is being stubborn about NOT NEEDING TO GO (as he goes, in his pants).

He is, however, now capable of entertaining himself for up to 15 minutes at a time, without needing me to be within 2 feet of him. This is also pretty helpful for trying to get stuff done around the house.

So yes, things get easier. But we haven't gotten to "easy" yet...does that even exist?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Amalgamation

I just finished reading Jojo Moyes's "Me Before You" which is probably the most depressing book I've read in recent memory. I finished it on a Friday night and it haunted me all weekend. I'd forget about it for a minute and then I'd remember again and my chest would tighten and tears prick my eyes all over again.

One line that really got me was uttered by the mother of a grown man, whose life did not turn out as expected or hoped. I no longer have the book (it disappeared back into the cloud when my library checkout ended), so I can't quote directly. The gist: When you look at your grown son, you don't see him solely as the man he is right now. You smell his sweet baby smell, feel his sticky toddler hand, hear his schoolboy jokes, and his rebellious teen years. It all blends together and you see all of it at once.

I'd counter that you don't have to wait for your children to be fully grown to witness this phenomenon. And I'd add that in addition to the past and the present, you also see the future selves of your children.

B still has tantrums that remind me all too vividly of him at 2-3 years old. He still plays with the tub animals and chews on his blankie, and has trouble using a fork. There is a lot of baby and toddler still there. But he also runs off with his friends without a backwards glance at birthday parties, and asks questions about planets and how the body works. He helps his brother learn how to share, and do puzzles, and get dressed. I see the smart, sensitive kid he's becoming.

L still needs frequent snuggles and sucks his thumb constantly. He needs his teeth brushed and his clothes changed and isn't 100% with the potty-training. He is still in frequent tantrum-mode (he's 3 after all). Definitely a lot of baby there. He also makes up funny dances and songs, and cracks us all up with his antics. I see the clever, light-hearted kid he's becoming, too.

I reminisce about the past, revel in the present, and very very much look forward to the future.

Friday, November 14, 2014

We were ON A BREAK

But I guess I never mentioned it? Took a break from the blog just to see how I felt. Missed it, now I'm back.

Things are good. Spending lots of time with G and the boys. Good and bad stuff going on at work. We all got sick and then I got sick again. Still in the cult of high intensity interval training and haven't missed a single Tues/Thurs 6AM workout. Gearing up for the pressure cooker of "the holidays". Reading some real page turners---just finished "Where'd you go Bernadette" and now devouring "Me Before You". Going to therapy and getting some ideas. Some work, some don't.

Realized that "date nights" involving sitters and dressing up and wining/dining are no longer my thing, nor do they do anything to really strengthen our marriage. What does help? Sitting on the couch and talking about our days after the kids are in bed. Laughing. Sharing our thoughts and feelings. Being thoughtful.  Letting many things go. Not letting certain things go.

Did I mention G was going to therapy? It has turned his attitude about parenting around 180 degrees. He says he is finally starting to truly appreciate on a day to day basis the wonder and privilege of raising these unique and amazing creatures. It shows in how he treats them, and talks about them, and handles the tough situations. In fact, he is helping ME cut back on some of my recent issues with frustration/yelling at L.

Our weekends have been ridiculously busy lately but so full of fun for the boys. I am wrung out and spent by Sunday evening, but can look back on the fun things we did (and the fridge stocked with home cooked food for the week, and the drawers stocked with clean clothes).

Be back soon.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bright Lines

I have often found Gretchen Rubin's blog to contain useful life advice---the kind of stuff that should be common sense, but unfortunately is not universally noticed and executed. One topic I've been considering lately is her categorization of abstainers vs. moderators, described here. I always considered myself a moderator, because the thought of never having french fries or chocolate or wine ever again was a horrific thought. What I didn't grasp, though, is that it doesn't have to french fries or chocolate or wine. These actually happen to be things I moderate pretty successfully and have no need to banish from my life. For things I really do want to rid my life of, abstaining may end up being the most effective strategy for me.

If I want to waste less time playing internet games or surfing time- and soul-sucking sites, I need to commit to never going there. Because once I'm there, its hard to limit to 5 minutes or 10 minutes or even 30 minutes sometimes. I don't download any games for myself on my phone. There are a few sites that I DO NOT check ever, even clicking over from another blog, because they have proven to be addictive. I recently re-started my rule to not use my phone while in bed (it is upstairs with me, because we don't have a land line, in case of emergencies). I check Facebook only on weekends.

For food related things, I prefer to concept of hard and fast or "bright line" rules (also discussed by Gretchen, here). I love food and food/drink are an important part of many experiences to me (travel, celebration, comfort). While some foods are definitely not as good for me as others, in the absence of any medical issues (which thankfully haven't come up), I do not see the need to NEVER eat any type of food that I like. When I find myself overindulging in something I prefer to eat less frequently, it helps to create rules around when I can and can't have that thing.

When I worked in the lab, there was ALWAYS some sort of home-made baked good in the kitchenette. There were several women who apparently stress-bake on a nightly basis and transferred it all onto their co-workers waistlines. As much as I wanted to avoid the unnecessary sugar and calories, it was hard when you are walking by and its 2 hours until lunch. So I did "no baked goods" months" pretty frequently to get back on track and then would allow myself one treat/week. It was easy to abstain for the month because I knew there would always be treats later. I don't have coffee or caffeinated tea after 10 am. I don't drink the night before a workout or run. We don't keep ice cream in the house, but can go to the ice cream shop and have it anytime (which works out to maybe once every few weeks during the summer). I only eat high-quality (expensive!) dark chocolate.

I've been doing the FODMAPS diet for IBS and I could (and will, later) write a whole post on it. Bottom line, I haven't found it terribly helpful in controlling my symptoms but I did notice that the gluten-free aspect of it has pretty much removed any temptation for spontaneous junk food & treats. I went to two social gatherings and couldn't eat a single thing there---which was fine, I had eaten at home---but typically I would eat at home and then help myself to a massive "snack". I walk right by the pastries set up for morning meetings, and leave the boxed sandwiches (which themselves are not bad, but the box always contains chips & cookies for good measure!) at the conference in favor of the salad I packed. No need to bargain with myself or justify or even feel deprived. "I can't have that" is a really useful thing to tell yourself and others. Of course, I don't intend to stay off gluten for the rest of my life. First, it isn't helping. And second, that would mean NEVER having mac n' cheese or pizza (two of my favorite foods) ever again (no I do not want to try the gluten-free varieties---it defeats MY purpose in this). What I AM planning to do, is eat gluten-free 95% of the time, with the option of having gluten-filled goodness for special occasions (pizza from our favorite place, which we get once a month or less, dinner out---again once a month or less, and while traveling---just to keep it easier). Bright-lines.

I'm trying to figure out how to use this strategy to limit my internet time---my last nemesis. I've tried setting daily time limits, I've tried restricting to certain times a day. Nothing has really stuck long term. Thoughts? (BTW, see Sarah's recent post for a similar topic).


Monday, October 13, 2014

TID (three times daily)

I've been trying to get in the habit of noticing and recording the good things in life...a "gratitude practice" if you will (and no, I will not, I cannot say those words out loud without laughing). In  January I started a one-line journal, where I briefly listed 3 memorable events from each day. I can't remember why, but I quit after about a month of that.

I decided to write in the journal again, and will jump-start the habit by writing my three things for this weekend (both days) here; this'll double as a weekend update. On a broader note, the "restart" I noted last weekend with the boys really did stick, and the past week and weekend were so much more relaxed and pleasant. I could finally let out the breath I didn't realize I'd been holding. Instead of 5 time outs a day, there was one for each kid all week. All the time I'd spent yelling/nagging has given way to praising for good behavior. It was actually...dare I say...easy (ish) to be with them.

Saturday
I had clinic in the morning, a fact that I was initially annoyed about. Once I was there, however, the frustration melted away as I immersed myself in the work. Listening, questioning, putting the mental puzzle together, educating, reassuring. I was doing good work and it was extremely satisfying.

I met the boys at B's friend's birthday party in a bowling alley. The kids had a blast. On my new diet, I couldn't eat any of the unnecessary food that was out there, which I consider a win. On the way home, we stopped by the new plaza in front of city hall, with water jets shooting out of the ground (not really a fountain---what do you call those?). B (who was cranky because he didn't want to leave the party & his friends) was calmed and mesmerized by the sight and sound of moving water, as was I.

G and B got off the bus early to run some errands and L & I went home to nap (he slept, I read blogs & such on my phone). They got home and came upstairs, which woke L up. We all went downstairs and the boys Skyped with grandma while I took the dog on a walk and then went to the liquor store (we were out of wine, and I wanted some). Instead of the little store in our 'hood, I went to the nice big one further away. They were having a wine tasting and I tried a few varieties before I realized the wine I was tasting was $50 a bottle and I had no intention of purchasing it. I got my $10-$15 bottles and walked home. It was a gray, chilly, drizzly day but I could still appreciate the fall-ness of the weather and the pleasant anticipation of returning home where it was warm and dry and full of laughter. I often dread returning home after getting some time to myself---because I usually return to chaos and shouting and mess, so this was a new and exciting sensation.

Sunday
We took the dog and the kids and went for a "hike" and picnic in the park. The boys had invented an imaginary pet, a baby unicorn named Mary. Mary had gotten away from us and was running through the trails and they had to catch her. I loved watching the boys and the dog scamper on ahead of us, happily chattering and laughing in the brisk cool day, stopping to gather rocks and sticks (boys) and sniff the ground (dog).

We got home and G took L for a haircut while B and I stayed home. I worked non-stop in the kitchen, getting our food-prep done for the week. B decided he wanted to help and we put on rousing "work music" and he helped me empty the cutlery and pack snacks and fruits for their lunches. He was so proud of helping, and it made the work less drudgery for me to have a companion.

The boys then settled in to watch a movie and I finally had a chance to shower and try on some clothes I had ordered on line. I got a few sweaters and tops from Boden, and to get a sense of the look, I tried them on with my winter pants (i.e. not cropped or ankle-length) that I haven't worn since last spring. The pants FELL OFF. Like, I put on the cream pants, and they were sagging and held up solely by my hip bones. Then I tried the black ones, and walked across the room to get another shirt to try on and they were at my ankles. I don't know if its the HIIT work-outs I've been doing for over 2 months (I basically only do 2 30-minute workouts a week, I haven't run in over a month but have visibly gained muscle and feel leaner) or the highly restrictive FODMAPS diet (that I've only been on for 2 weeks, and still allows for large servings of tortilla chips and brie) or something else but I've clearly lost some weight.

Now to bed, tomorrow begins a new week.