Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Belonging, part 2, Showing Up

I'm home with a sick B today. He is watching his second movie on the ipad----which is the only way I"m getting any work done since he is feeling better & quite chatty once the medicine brought his fever down. The good side---I had already taken the day off to chaperone his class trip to the zoo. The bad side---well, yeah. We were both looking really forward to it (I was SO interested to see the dynamic with the kids that I only hear hints of from him), and he bounded out of bed saying "I'm fine" but we could barely here him through the croaking, stuffy  nose and constant cough, and his fever was 101.4 so back to bed it was.

A highlight of the past weekend was the fundraiser for B's school which was on Saturday night. We got a sitter, I got to wear a fun dress & jewelry, and drink unlimited wine, eat salted caramel cookies,  dance to cheesy pop music, and participate in a silent auction, which I always more fun then I remember. We went home with everything I was bidding on, but that was not the real win. 

I realized during the event that I really knew a LOT of people there! No we didn't come with a big group of friends, and there were some awkward moments when G & I realized we were sort of alone, but most of the time we were chatting and mingling. I knew several people from my workout class at the Y, a couple of ladies from the new neighborhood barre studio I had been to twice, people I had exchanged multiple items with on BuyNothing, some women from my neighborhood book group, other parents & PTA members, and owners of local businesses we frequent.

Last week we had our monthly book club meeting, and I realize how comfortable I feel with this crowd, whereas the first meeting 9 months ago I was awkward and quiet, this time we were all laughing, pouring wine, and closed out the diner. I went to the gym twice & the barre studio once, and I chatted with several people. I finally got (after many texts on my part) a lunch with a best friend. I stayed after clinic to have a long chat about some ongoing work-place issues with a couple of co-workers, and got some good perspective to take to my meeting later that week.

I was talking to G about this topic in the week---he was mentioning how he wanted to make more friends, that aside from work he didn't hang out with many people, and I told him that he just had to start joining things (so he is going to assistant coach the T-ball team L is starting next month).  I just started going to things, and going again and again, and over time, people go from strangers to acquaintances to friends. While I still wish I had more people I could consider close friends, I have to think of friendship during this phase of adulthood as a long game. I just have to keep showing up.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happenings

Lots of bullets since its been a while...
  • Snow day today! It really did snow overnight, but now its raining, and the whole thing is the consistency of a slushy. No sledding or snow-men making in our future. 
  • OMG our dog has some GI illness and its terrible. She thinks rugs=grass=good place to "go". We threw away some bath mats and will need to replace our living room rug. She doesn't bark so we have to be looking at her all day/night to notice her subtle clues, which is obviously not possible. 
  • I tried Trunk Club. I was initially disappointed because the one item I LOVED was way way too $$$ to justify ($250 for a pair of designer jeans, they were magical, really, but not worth the price of a plane ticket!), but I tried things on again and showed them to G and stuff grew on me. I ended up keeping:  a cute date-night top that is crisp striped cotton with bell sleeves and the "cold shoulder" look (way way cuter than it sounds), white jean jacket, one-button black blazer (I can never find blazers that fit so I don't own any), and a striped tank. It is NOT budget-friendly, but I definitely got interesting and well-made things I'd never pick on my own. Way better than StitchFix, which is somewhat cheaper but has crappy quality generic clothing.
  • We are still seeing the family therapist and getting a lot of good insight into B's diagnosis and what we need to accept about him vs. work on. That is huge. HUGE. Its so awesome to hear "well, kids with ASD are very rigid about food, B's actually doing way better than most. that's probably not the battle you want to fight", etc...  I promise I'll do a whole post about what we've learned someday soon.
  • I got elected Secretary of our HSA (home school association, like PTA). I did run unopposed... Our main goal for the remainder of the year is to streamline the process for getting clearance for volunteering at the school and circulating volunteer opportunities to parents. I think a lot of people want to help, but don't know how. I know I was in that boat, but not everyone is going to jump into the deep end and join the HSA board to figure it out!
  • I read Trevor Noah's autobiography "Born a Crime" which was really really interesting, for book club. Highly recommend. I learned so much about South Africa that I shamefully  never knew. I borrowed the book from someone, but I probably should've listened to the audiobook,  I was reading it aloud in my head in his adorable accent the whole time.
  • DST threw us for a loop, especially B and me, the two of us that have trouble falling asleep at the best of times. 
  • I went to one of those "paint with wine" places for a local doctor-mom meet up and it was surprisingly fun! My painting turned out really cute (my children were super impressed) and it was better to have an activity instead of awkward mingling with me standing near the food/drink table and eating/drinking too much out of nervousness. I really liked some of the women I met, too. I think we were a self-selected bunch of city-living, laid-back types. I'd love to do it again.
  • I am not succeeding in losing the p@xil-weight, even with the major changes I made: no snacks during the day, no eating after dinner, no alcohol Sun-Thurs. It did prevent FURTHER weight gain, but its not coming off. Ten pounds directly on my abdomen is super annoying because even my freaking pajama pants feel tight, not to mention anything else! I may seriously have to restart low carb because I'm not ready to stop the p@xil yet. I don't want to lose another summer.  Anyways the psychiatrist is on maternity leave.
  • We had a $200 gift certificate to a restaurant group (from a school fundraiser silent auction) that expired Saturday night that we'd forgotten about so we had a super-indulgent Saturday evening dinner with the kids. We tried multiple small plates & drinks, sitting in this dark lounge area in the back so that the kids could do their own thing. 
  • I registered L for KG last week. OMG! How is this possible? And yet, I'm also super excited for having both kids at the same place again. It'll really streamline our morning and evening routines and give both of us a break (right now, I do drop-off/pick-up of B, and G takes & brings home L)
  • I got sucked back into FB and its no good. Too much scrolling. I can't leave completely because there really are a lot of things I'm a part of that really enhance my life (my workout class updates, book club, a political activism group my friend founded, the local doctor-mom group that hosted the event, buy nothing, school friend-of group that does events/fundraisers) that are unfortunately ONLY on FB. But I need to figure out a system whereby I can keep track of events & news re: those groups without getting sucked into scrolling mindlessly and getting sucked into the rabbit-hole of clicking links.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Happy Families

On Sunday night I was thinking about our weekend, mostly glad it was behind us. The kids were SO very challenging and I was mentally and emotionally exhausted, and I lost my patience with them and had it out with my husband. Yet...it was also the kind of weekend that would make others jealous if I decided to upload pictures & quotes to f@cebook. We spent lots of time outside in beautiful weather, got in some awesome exercise, had social activities, productive days at home, and cozy family times. My takeaway from this mental exercise is basically that the activities you do are only a small part of how enjoyable you find any particular stretch of time. The majority of it is all in the attitude---of yourself and those around you.

G and I are in a rough patch, mostly over parenting techniques. The same thing we've been disagreeing on for years, on and off. When the kids are particularly challenging, it brews back up. In short, B is not the only one in our family who may need some help managing big angry feelings. I honestly don't think we can make much headway with B until we get ourselves under control. G needs to a) acknowledge the problem, b) accept help/advice and c) do the hard work of making changes---the trying and failing and re-routing and trying again and failing again etc... maybe forever. 

Its weird to me when people are not introspective and don't spend time daily on self-reflection. Those practices are so ingrained in me, I think they are a fundamental part of my personality. I think (about myself) therefore I am (myself).  I told G to consider setting aside some time each day to THINK. He's constantly got his headphones on, with music, podcasts, etc.. I'd go nuts without some time to process each day and formally or informally work through issues, decide on courses of action, rearrange priorities, talk myself off the ledge or back onto the wagon. I do it in my head, in my journal, here on this blog...I just need to work things out and get my head straight so I can be my best.

Can people learn to self-reflect? Is it something you can "pick up" if you've never been in the habit? Or do certain people require OTHER PEOPLE to work things through (friends/spouse/therapist)? Or rely on tools to remind them or force them to think through certain things (is there an app for that)? How else do people change their behaviors/improve themselves?





Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Not so fast...

Says life, to all my big plans...

So we tried "family dinner" last night and it was mostly a disaster. Lots of time dealing with whiny kids and "I don't like this" etc... ugh. And we met with the therapist yesterday who mentioned that food was probably not a good battle to pick with ASD kids---they have lots of sensitivities and aversions and its better to just feed them something they like and get on with life. But I can't completely let this go, so I'm going to take a hybrid approach of offering one thing that the kids will actually reliably eat at the meal along with the more adventurous/less preferred option that they are required to TRY.

Yesterday I made breaded fish---the only reason we bought the fish was because B ASKED FOR IT last week. And suddenly "I hate this, its yucky, I never said I wanted it, I want pasta". Ugh. But we persevered and between bites of fish and toasted bread, they somehow were full. One major problem is that the kids are hungry when we are on our way home at 5-5:30 and they eat bars or snacks and thus aren't quite as ravenous as I am by dinner time. You may think its a simple enough solution to just skip the snacks but then I will insist that you come get our kids home every evening because NOPE. We are pushing dinner as late as we can for  now and our plan for next year is that I'll be in charge of pick ups and get them home earlier for dinner.

I'm not ready to write too much yet about what we are learning from the therapist because we haven't really implemented her strategies. But overall its been simultaneously validating and depressing to realize that yes, my child is challenging and annoying, and will likely remain that way forever. We are starting to come to terms with the fact that we need to consider his diagnosis as a kind of disability that makes it incredibly hard for him to NOT be annoying, because he is lacking a lot of the intuitive social cues that you would use to fit in and be pleasant. Its something we are probably always going to have to work on, and try to remember, that things that some "easy" for us are really hard for him. He's bright and physically healthy so its hard to come to terms with him just not being able to naturally do certain things.

I'll switch topics because I can't really write about this as eloquently as I'd like, and I'm sorry if that came across harsh or mean. Obviously we love him and want the best for him and are trying everything we can to be good parents to him. But its not easy sometimes to be around him.

We did have a really good discussion about what our priorities should be, and she DID agree with me so yes, we are going to step back and focus on managing emotions for now, and some aspects of independence, but not so much on table manners, or neatness. We have 2 weeks before our next session and I'm hoping to put into practice a few of her suggestions so that we can report back on what does/doesn't work.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lately

We had a fantastic long weekend, I felt refreshed and ready to hit the ground running early this morning. We drove down to visit my sister, and while the drive down was...eventful (poor B gets very car sick), the weekend was tons of fun. We took advantage of the 70+ degree weather and spent Saturday at a playground and Sunday at a winery having a picnic lunch and a lovely bottle of red.

Got back yesterday afternoon and sped through our chores, prepped for the week, and made dinner before I collapsed into bed at 8:30 (I slept really poorly on my sister's awful guest room double bed). We are doing our last planned week of meal kit delivery for a while, so I'll post my reviews and comparisons on that next week.

Things on the agenda for the next few weeks/months

 1) meal planning & trying (yet again) for family dinner (i.e. everyone eating the same thing at the same time). We've been slacking on that a LOT and the whole meal-for-2-delivery has thrown us  completely out of the habit of all eating together. I've been cooking almost nightly---for G & I. And then the kids get some leftovers or pasta or breakfast-for-dinner whenever they are hungry for it. What I want to try is to cook one big meal on Sundays that will last about 3 days and is a family favorite (something the kids will willingly eat), try something more adventurous for 1 night, and then another one-off meal that is the kid's choice. Friday/Saturday we either do prepared meals, take-out, or pizza. Things I am hoping will help: involve kids in menu planning, discuss ahead of the time the expectations to eat together and stay at the table, plan fun conversations or some sort of ritual we can look forward to. If all else fails, bribery for the kids, wine for the adults.
2) delegating chores to kids. Believe it or not, this is an assignment for my faculty development course---to choose something to delegate and experiment with it & report back. We did time tracking to figure out the tasks that were taking our time that we could consider delegating, and I realized I spend 30 minutes each Sunday sorting & putting away the kids laundry. So I ordered separate small canvas laundry bags for each kid, and we will do "laundry lessons" this weekend. Again, we will discuss expectations, try to make it fun, or bribery.
3)We are still working with the therapist. She met with B last week and they came up with a "anger plan" involving a kitchen timer and a "mad bag"---we got the timer but haven't assembled any items into a bag yet. He is supposed to go to his room, set the timer for 7 minutes, and play with items in his bag that are carefully chosen to be distracting & calming. Today G & I are going and I asked her if we could spend some time on resolving some...differences...we have on parenting. G has a tendency to make EVERYTHING into a big deal and I really think we need to pick our battles. He is really really uptight about issues of cleanliness (hand washing, getting toothpaste all over the bathroom---and I mean ALL OVER, atrocious table manners) which are, yes, annoying & gross, but I don't think should be a priority. Mostly I think he is wrong and I want her to tell him so (if I'm being brutally honest), but if she's able to make me see where he ISN'T wrong, I'm willing to listen.
4)Gearing up for spring and summer. We signed the kids both up for swimming. L will do t-ball and B is doing soccer, both at the local park. We need to register for summer camp. I ordered a batch of summer clothes for B. I also ordered seeds and think I may need to plant them soon because this weather is whack!

Anyway, as you can probably tell from my post, I am finally NOT SICK anymore, and loving having a normal amount of energy to use for planning. I hope to be back this week!

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Sum of Its Parts

Sarah's post had me thinking...what's missing from my life? Do I want/need more time in a day? Honestly, I'm currently in a phase where I'm feeling OK with my allocation of time and energy and feeling positive about what I'm fitting into my life. Would I like more time? Sure! I regularly wish I needed less sleep, so I could spend more time with G, or read more, or get up early enough to meditate each morning. There are endless lists of things I'd love to do with an extra hour or two in each day.

But those hours aren't there, so I compromise. I read for a little while on weeknights before I go to bed, which means I'm not hanging out with G---so on weekends, I stay up later & put aside the book. I exercise 4 days a week, and sleep in the other days so I stay fit AND well rested. I have been leaving work 10 minutes later to fit in a short meditation before I pick up B and begin the evening routine (which is often the most stressful part of my day, so I need the zen!)

I've also been trying to take a bigger picture view of life. Its not about what I do or don't do in any given day or week. Maybe today I didn't work out or meditate and spent too many minutes on my phone. This past week I haven't read or spend one on one time with anyone in my family. I may think I'm failing at my explicitly stated goals. But take a step back and look wider and the perspective is much different---this MONTH I've mediated 90% of days, had 3 one on one dates with each kid AND my husband, read 2 amazing books, and exercised 12 times.

I've actually been using the "monthly" page on my planner to visualize this better. I put in entries for events/plans to make sure we have overall the right amount of activities and white space, and I went back and color coded days I worked out/meditated/etc... so I can see the picture as a whole and assess more accurately how I'm meeting my personal goals.  I want to figure out a similar strategy for looking at my work progress---not just what I crossed off my list each day, but at the end of the month, how many hours did I spend on major projects vs. minor tasks, what % of time was truly on research vs. clinical vs. administrative (this is super important because it should be in line with my job description and if not I need to discuss with my chief).

I think a lot of us are perfectionists, and high achievers to boot. We want to use every minute wisely and cram as much into each day as we can. Its hard to let that go.  I have to remind myself that my life goals are NOT to be productive every minute but to do meaningful work that makes the world better and make my family and friends feel loved and be as healthy and present as I can so that I can do those things.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Sick Day That Was

Guys, I really hate to be whiny but seriously, I got sick AGAIN last weekend. And because I hadn't yet fully recovered from the last virus that knocked me out, this one really had me down for the count...I was useless for most of Sunday and Monday. I stayed home from work yesterday, which is really really rare. Thankfully I had no patients or meetings or super urgent deadlines, so I did a bare minimum of answering emails in between laying in bed trying to breathe.

So yeah. There hasn't been much to SAVOR lately and I haven't even been able to BREATHE. So much for jumping back into the groove of exercise, etc... My whole "wake up early and write for an hour" thing certainly didn't happen, and I broke my streak of meditating, too.

The silver lining is that the kids are actually not sick...yet...and nor was G, so he could pick up the slack. The bad news is that I really do suck at "relaxing", when there is stuff hanging over my head to do. My mind was antsy and wanting to get up and go, despite my body firmly resisting. My body eventually won for a couple of days, but this morning I just flat out decided I needed to be back in the game, so I downed my sudafed and tylenol & came to work, crossing things off my to-do list and feeling much less overwhelmed.

Its a short day, because I have to go pick B up and take him to therapy. I'm not sure how much time she'll talk to him vs. me vs. both of us, so I'm bringing my laptop and some work. And then we have the "evening gauntlet" (walk dog, make dinner, make lunches for tomorrow, bathe kids, clean kitchen, get stuff ready for tomorrow) so I'm sure I'll run out of steam at 8pm as usual and fall asleep in a child's bed, then crawl up to my own.

Here's hoping you all have stronger immune systems then mine this winter!