Sunday, August 17, 2014

Relax and refresh

I remember writing up a whole list of things to do with unexpected bits of time. And yet I always do the same thing---play around on my phone. Whether its 15 minutes or an hour, I generally waste any breaks I get with this unfulfilling unsatisfying activity. And then I feel like my whole weekend was drudgery, because I never took advantage of the free time to fit in something that actual enhanced my life and was memorable. I decided to re-think the list and add to it. I'm then going to print it out and keep it somewhere (taped to my phone?) so I can remind myself, when I find myself with 30 minutes to myself, that I do have time to do things, I just need to do them. Some of these things may be considered "chores" but if they are relaxing/enjoyable to me (or at least more enjoyable than refereeing the wrestling match going on 24/7 in our house...)

  • Read book
  • Read New Yorker
  • Watch episode of TV show
  • Listen to music
  • Sit on deck 
  • Nap (put phone away and get in bed!)
  • Clean out drawers
  • Iron (with TV/music)
  • Pull weeds from container garden/sidewalk (I find it soothing)
  • Run an errand for me 
  • Paint nails
  • Dye hair
  • Plan a more complicated or new meal (find recipe, make shopping list)
  • Plan a night out
  • Look into vacation/travel options
  • Go for a walk or run
  • Exercise---crunches, planks, push-ups
  • Try on make-up (I never wear it because I don't know how and want to practice)
  • Do one step of a sewing project (find tutorial, measure fabric, cut, iron, pin, sew)
  • Plan out work week
  • Work
  • Call a friend
  • Write a blog post
  • Comment on blogs (not just skim on phone)
 What do you do if you get an unexpected hour to yourself?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Frivolity

I really love clothes and shopping. There I said it. Maybe a grown woman with children and an important career and responsibilities should be above such frivolities, but buying and wearing nice clothes makes me happy.

In the past two years I've completely revamped my entire wardrobe. All my pants, shirts, and most of the dresses in my closet were bought in 2013 or 2014. Now I don't fret when I have a week of call coming up---I know I have at least 7 hospital-appropriate outfits ready to go. I don't have to "save" my more professional outfits for important meetings or lectures, because almost all of my work clothes fit that category now. I also have a selection of practical and comfortable weekend-wear and a couple of nicer things for the occasional evening out.

Having clothes that fit and flatter has been extremely helpful  in coming to terms with my changed body. When my clothes were tight or clingy, I just felt so aware of my poochy belly. With more structured tops, and larger sizes, my clothes skim my body, hide the pooch and erase it from my memory. I even got higher waisted swim bottoms, that cover the whole situation up so I don't have to feel self-conscious when I accompany L to swim lessons. Everything fits. I don't have to deal with the frustration of pulling on my favorite skirt or dress and realizing it no longer zips or buttons. No more muffin tops or straining seams creating discomfort and distractions.

This is huge for me. I went through a long phase of really hating my body, grieving the body I used to have, and seriously contemplating saving up for plastic surgery. That loathing is completely gone. Maybe it was time that did the trick, but I really do think the clothes are part of it.

I rarely pay full price for anything. I like when the whole store has a sale (i.e. 50% of everything) rather than shopping the sales racks for leftovers (I wear a popular size that tends to be sold out); also when items are on sale, they may be "final sale" and thus non-returnable. No way. I made myself a budget this year and I've been adding every purchase to my spreadsheet. It was hard to  figure out what to cap my budget at---what is a reasonable amount to spend on clothes?

Where do I shop?
  • Ann Taylor Loft (though I've recently cut them out, the quality has recently become terrible. I had two sweaters get runs & holes after only 1-2 washes this winter. I ordered some summer clothes recently that ALL went back because the fabric was so thin/cheap/wrinkly). Also, their vanity sizing is the worst I've seen. Only when they have the 50% of everything sales.
  • Boden (somewhat pricy, but generally good quality, and excellent return policy); one drawback is that their clothes run really long, so if they don't have a petite option (and they often don't) I have to skip it. And I'm not that short (I'm 5'3" and have a short torso but longer legs. I often can't do petite pants/skirts/dresses in certain stores, since they are too short). The only skirts that work from Boden are called "mini-skirts" and they hit right to my knees. The biggest sales they have are 30% off.
  • Gap (their fitted button downs are awesome and I have a cute shirt-dress from there) 
  • J Crew Factory (I only order from them when I'm about to travel somewhere that has a store, since we do not have one in the city; I often have to return their stuff since I haven't quite got a handle on the sizing). Only with 50% of everything sales. 
  •  I still have a lot of Old Navy, and H&M stuff, but I'm definitely steering away from the super-cheap side, unless its something trendy I want to try out (I have a few pairs of bright-colored Old Navy Rockstar jeans, and 2 pairs of the Diva pants, which fit pretty much like the J Crew Minnies for $15 vs. $90).
  • Most of my pants are the Express Editor, though I own and like nothing else from that store. They are ridiculously long and only come in one length, but I get them hemmed.
  • EShakti, an online-only store, has amazing dresses that all include POCKETS (I have a whole rant about pockets, and how the lack thereof in women's clothes is most certainly an oppressive tool of the patriarchy, but I'll leave that for another day...). There return policy isn't great, I was  lucky I picked a size that seems to fit me perfectly. You can customize the dresses for an extra fee but I've never done that. Also awesome, you put your height in so it isn't too short/long and you can control the length of the dress (i.e. put a taller height in so you get a below the knee height in an "over the knee" dress)
  • Surprisingly, I've found 2 amazing dresses from Land's End of all places (though please, for the love, stay away from the pants...while they are trying hard to make their line younger and more fashion-forward, the pants are still marketed to the 60+ set)
  • I've tried to find something I liked at Anthropologie but I just...can't. Lots of things look cute from afar, and then you find some wacky detail that makes it completely unwearable (cute top, oh, its completely backless). I really do like some of their dresses, but they are WAY too pricey for something that is so unconventional you can't pull off wearing it every week. 
  • I have a big shopping cart full of dresses from ModCloth. My sister tells me they are good quality and flattering. I haven't pulled the trigger yet. 
Anywhere new I should try? Where do you guys shop for work clothes or fun clothes?

Monday, August 11, 2014

I run so I can...run

Have you seen that disgusting slogan "I run so I can eat". It is emblazoned on T-shirts and headbands, usually in pink, always marketed to women. I once saw it on a blog, on a headband, on a 5-year old girls head. Gross.

L is my wild one. Usually he is devilishly mischievous, but sometimes he can be quite feral. All of us have the bite marks to prove it. He also tends to...get away from us. I've lost him several times, once for about 10 minutes in a very busy children's museum (with multiple openings to the outside). He had gone up to the another floor. I've also had numerous occasions where I've had to sprint after him to keep him from obliviously laughing, looking back, and running into traffic.

I always catch him. I'm sure the adrenaline would power anyone long enough to catch their fleeing child, but I'm never more grateful for my training than these occasions. I am glad I am in good shape so I can run after my kids. Or the bus, train, plane, etc... The dog when she gets spooked and pulls free.

There are loads of reasons to exercise. I am mostly driven by the amazing high I get pushing my body to its max, and my love of personal challenges of any sort. I also will admit to wanting to look and feel my best in my physical body. But I also like being able to do things in everyday life. The more I run, the faster and further I can walk without breaking a sweat. I can take the stairs and not waste time waiting for our incredibly slow elevators. I want to increase my upper body strength so I don't huff and puff when I have to replace the huge water jug on the water cooler at work, and can push the stroller with one arm and hold the dog's leash or groceries in the other (I am envious that G can do this, its a feat of lower arm strength).

For months I've been aiming to run 3 times a week---two short runs on the weekdays (3-4 miles) plus a longer weekend run (6-8 miles). I'm actually going to cut out the weekday runs and do a class at the gym with a friend that works on total body strength. Its a 30 minutes class twice a week in the early AM and we decided to commit for the month. We went last Tuesday and were SO SORE we actually had to skip Thursday, but will be back this week. My cardiovascular fitness and endurance are good enough for me, and I can continue to keep that up with walking and stairs and maybe a long run if the weather is nice on the weekends. I am woefully lacking in upper body strength, and even my legs are uneven, since running doesn't necessarily work everything. I'm hoping the class will motivate me to work on strength (I have a hard time motivating myself, and tend to half-ass anything I try to do on my own).

We'll see how it goes. Regardless, I'll eat.

Friday, August 8, 2014

At the end of the day

Perspective. Its important in all facets of life and I'm working on keeping some semblance of it and using it to guide my decisions, both big and small.

I keep asking myself "at the end of the day, will this matter?" With "end of the day" being shorthand for some near or distant point in the future. While I don't always take the time or energy to think things through, its definitely a quick and easy exercise to keep me focused on longer terms goals, whether in work or family life. 

At the end of the day does it matter if we go to this 3-year old birthday party that is complicated to fit into our schedule? No

At the end of the day, will the last 15 minutes of my day be better spent returning a patient phone call (about normal lab results, which technically we have 48 hours to deal with) or filling in a few references on this paper? The phone call might actually lead to some relief for someone!

At the end of the day, do I want my boys to be neat and tidy? No, but I want them to be kind. Discipline for the hitting, not the messes.

At the end of the day, will skipping this workout (because I"m still sore from the last one), undermine my fitness goals? No. But injuring myself by running with  poor form due to sore muscles might.

At the end of the day, do I really care if I do one extra chore than G, or he does one extra bedtime for the boys? No, it'll all even out in the end, though we try to keep it fair.
At the end of the day, is it better to get this data into a top-rate journal or get it out quickly? (in this instance) quickly, we've been sitting on it for too long

 You get the point.

By the way, I know I've been drifting in and out of this space. I've been trying to keep to a regular posting schedule but I can't seem to make it happen. But, at the end of the day, does it really matter?



Thursday, July 31, 2014

I don't actually like cake

I worked from home today. I was freakishly productive and got all ahead of myself, so I'm using my commute time to write a quick post!

I love the feeling of being productive and knocking things off the list. I wish the appeal of that feeling motivated me to be this way everyday, but laziness does tend to set in.

So. Remember how I was all gung ho about calorie counting and fit-bitting and trying to lose 10 pounds? I quit. It was crazy making, and without any pressing health reason to quickly lose that weight, I had no incentive to deal with that level of anxiety. It just didn't feel natural and started twisting my generally healthy mindset towards diet and exercise into a weird, calorie deficit focused one.  I would go on super long runs and then try to eat as little as possible so I could see that huge negative calorie recording on my log. I would go get the kids after work (which means leaving work a little bit early), not because I wanted to see them, but because I wanted the calorie deficit that came from the 3 additional miles of walking.

Also, counting calories for every single morsel I put in my mouth took a fair amount of time and brain space. If you really are actively trying to lose a lot of weight, then maybe your brain is already focused on that, and this can be a great tool---particularly for the many people who have NO IDEA how many calories they are eating on a daily basis (that includes myself). It was helpful to get a sense of how many calories are in the foods I generally eat, and to know how full I feel after various caloric intakes---it helps me plan better what to eat for what level of hunger or activity. I made a few small changes based on my charting---eliminating foods I don't really care for that I was eating for ease and happened to have loads more calories than I suspected (wheat crackers & peanut butter are the two I remember), and eating more of things that I love that had less calories than I thought (certain fruits & veggies, hummus, corn tortillas/taco shells).

I still wear my fitbit, though I stopped (just this week, and initially by accident) wearing it when I run or exercise. The point was to try to increase the steps I get in daily activity, so seeing the steps pile up from a morning run (and then stay at the same level all day) was deceiving. I sit most of the day at work and I want to try to change that by motivating myself to get up every hour or so---seeing the lower step count is more likely to do that.

What I really want isn't to maximize calorie deficit so I can lose weight over the next two months. What I want is to make healthy choices...for life. I want it to be intuitive, and easy, and a good model for my kids---not stopping during dinner to obsessively check & record. To move throughout the day, not pace in my room at night so I can reach some arbitrarily set goal (really, where did the 10K steps come from? I'm too lazy to look it up right now, I'm sure there were studies). I want to get to this state (great post by nicoleandmaggie and even better comments) where I know I'm doing what makes me feel the best.

Of course I don't always make the right choices. My body occasionally (more often than I want to admit...) tells me it wants a metric ton of cheese or Pirate's booty and sometimes, I listen. All in moderation, I guess.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Alas, more cake

G brought home a suspicious white box yesterday. Leftover cake that his supervisor brought for him and was shared at their weekly meeting. The kids, for once, didn't whine for a treat after dinner, so we didn't offer it to them. I asked G what I should do with it, and he thought the boys might have it the  next day. Expect I already told B he was "NOT getting a treat tomorrow", so we each ate a bit (I didn't like it) and threw the rest out.

That brings me to the real point of this post. I was prodding B to put away his paints and start getting ready for bed, so he hit me and said "you're stupid". I lost it and grabbed anything I could out of the air, thus the "NOT getting a treat...".

Both boys have been driving us crazy lately with two major issues: 1) aggression---hitting/scratching/biting/kicking either each other or me & throwing things (forks, paintbrushes, toys) and 2) constant whining and demanding of "treats" (desserts, movies, stories, new toys, "a surprise"). 

I realize that the bad outcomes come from a combination of their behavior and our response, which is based on lots of underlying factors. We have discussed, identified, and actively work to reduce & avoid the "triggers" that usually result in yelling & such. But sometimes it really is the kids fault. I'm sort of joking, but what I mean is that sometimes their behavior is THAT atrocious that anyone would agree it needs to be redirected, and we do NOT have a good strategy for how to productively discipline them.

We are not consistent with any discipline technique, nor have we found one that seems to actually work on any of those behaviors. We have tried the following:

-1-2-3 Magic: doesn't work. I often get to "3", and then what? yeah.
-Time outs: traumatic for everyone, because we have to physically restrain them to get them to stay in the spot. And then they cry constantly and when they get out, lash out even more.
-Consequences: some make sense and work---if they fight over or throw a toy, said toy is taken away until the next day. others are more arbitrary---no ice cream, no movie, no stories if you hit your brother again, etc... And if not immediate (i.e. no treat tomorrow), involves remembering, and both being on the same page. Also brings up yesterday's bad memories into today.
-"Marks": this started two weeks ago, where an infarction earned the kid a "mark" on the white board. 5 marks=some consequence. Again, the consequences are often arbitrary, and not consistent. Sometimes they were in a hitting/hurting frenzy and earned all their marks by 7:15AM. THEN what?
-Talking it out: I've read and re-read "how to talk so your kids will listen..." and I try really hard to work with B with short talks about why what he did might be wrong and hurtful and how to prevent him from reacting that way again. L is too little to get it. I much prefer to go this route, but again, it doesn't WORK necessarily, and shouldn't there be SOME consequence? (maybe not, I really have no idea what I'm doing here)

I hate having to enforce punishments. HATE it. I want the atmosphere in the house to be peaceful and fun, not heavy and stern. But I also do NOT want to be "that parent" who lets their kid run roughshod over them and everyone else with no adverse consequences. It is absolutely not OK for B to hit me or call me stupid, or to shove his little brother onto the ground. How do I get him to think before he reacts? And its annoying when they act like spoiled brats expecting something "special" several times a day every day. How do I get them to show some gratitude and respect?

I know a lot of my readers have younger kids and aren't at this stage. I know at least one whose kids are perfect and thus never had this stage. For the rest of you, what have you found that works in redirecting/preventing the above behaviors?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Less Cake

It happened again. It really is hard to get started when you aren't in the habit, and that goes for just about everything in life. I keep trying to get on a posting schedule but haven't found one that fits.

Have had a very busy past couple of weeks. The past week alone included two weddings (one out of town that I got to travel to---alone!) and G's 40th birthday. Now I'm exhausted from the planning, traveling, revelry and cake. My body just seems to be rebelling from 2 weeks of poor sleep (insomnia + late nights) and I CANNOT get up in the morning. Which means I can't work out. Which means I'm tired and draggy all day. Its a vicious cycle.

I need to re-instate healthy habits. Starting with: sleep, exercise, food/drink (i.e. eat better, drink more water and less booze). Also get on top of the household things that fall to hell when you're busy having fun (laundry, food prep, errands).

Summer is halfway over and we still have done very few of the things on our Summer Fun list. The weekends just go really fast! And to be honest, the kids have been driving us NUTS with their behavior, making the thought of planning & executing outings (in which there is a high possibility of general misery) less enticing. I will write more specifics (and ask for advice) on this matter soon.

This weekend we did the following: Saturday AM swim class (I took both kids while G went to the gym), grandparent Skype sessions, grocery store trip (I went to the store with B on his scooter while G & L did a quick park trip and loooonng nap), about an hour looking up dinosaur and animal facts with B (and Siri, aka "the lady in the phone"), and then water-painting for the boys while G & I prepped for the sitter and barely got ready in time to RUN (literally, it was about a mile way) to the wedding (we had a blast, danced the night evening away!). Sunday I took the boys to the park/spray ground  while G shopped & cooked, we had lunch, and then went to the pool at the Y, getting home just in time for friends to come over for a casual impromptu dinner. 

I have plans to meet a friend early tomorrow at the gym. And there are zero occasions this week involving cake or booze. So I think I'll get back into the swing of things soon. Here's to a new week.