Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Goals

Happy first day of summer! B had his kindergarten graduation today...so cute! Still a few more days of school---we start & end school late here compared to the rest of the country, it seems. We spent an extra-extra-hot and sunny father's day at a baseball game with friends. It may have been ill-advised. Or maybe my mid-day beer was ill-advised. In any case, I had a terrible headache when we got home and poor G had to read the boys stories & clean up the entire kitchen.

I like the idea of making "summer" a little different for all of us, even though only 1/4 of us will actually be spending his days in a different way the next few months. So I decided to come up with a few individual and family goals. I'm keeping it super simple here, it is summer after all! We go on vacation later this week and then we'll head into July 4th, so I consider "summer" the 9 weeks between July 4th and Labor Day.

Self-care: get anxiety treated, one barre class/week, take 1-2 "personal days" off for doctor/dentist appointments/catching up/relaxing

Work: 1 grant, 1 paper, 1 IRB submission

Family: visit every sprayground in town, fruit picking at local farm once (we missed strawberry season unfortunately, but maybe peaches?), at least one weeknight outing/week (nothing fancy---picnic at park, library, ice cream)

Special goals for B's first "real summer":
-Reading challenge: I'm going to give him a small notebook to record every book he reads. For every 25 books he gets a special treat (he reads picture books, so that's not very many). I actually want him to get comfortable reading longer "chapter" books, too, so we'll modify this later in the summer.
-Chores: will work with him to come up with 3 things he can do around the house (ideas on what a very uncoordinated and scatter-brained 6 year old can do?)
-Allowance: going to start an allowance and teaching about money. Starting with the basics of identifying the coins (he's still iffy on nickels vs. quarters) and practicing math, discussing how much common things cost, try saving for a small toy. 

Enjoy this (extra long) day!




Friday, June 17, 2016

Mosquitos

A post-title with a clever double meaning! #1: SHU's reference to "Mosquito Mind"--that all-to-familiar state of being constantly interrupted and without focus and #2: all the time I wasted researching mosquito repellent and shopping for it on Amazon prime only to realize that 30% DEET cannot be air-shipped and will take 4-5 business days to arrive (we leave for Zika-infested-vacation-spot in 4 business days).

Indeed, I have so MUCH I want to write about, vent about, discuss...and yet I can't seem to be able to sit down and formulate a coherent and complete post. I have fallen to the lowest standard of picking the THREE most important work tasks for the day and getting them done ASAP so if the rest of the day goes to hell at least I am moving ahead in my major projects.

I've been struggling a bit...and not just with focus. I had a thought this morning---that perhaps I have internalized a double-standard re: mental health. I can be as scientific, rationale, empathetic, and supportive as anybody you will ever meet when it comes to the mental health issues of EVERYONE IN THE WORLD EXCEPT ME. I would NEVER say or think the things I say and think to myself. I would never tell someone else that this daily weight of anxiety & sadness I've been carrying for over a month now is only caused by "being too negative" and "not trying hard enough" and "not being grateful for what I have" and all manner of bootstrap/self/pull style nonsense.

I did make (and attend!) a first appointment with a new therapist earlier this week. But there was a lot to cover and we only had an hour. We didn't get very deep. And then we are going on vacation next week so it'll be a couple of weeks before I can go back. I think the first 2-3 visits may be "getting to know you" type affairs, before I can feel it actually start to be helpful. I did tell her that I'd like to try a few different mind/mood changing techniques for a few weeks but if I don't feel it helping, I'd like to meet with the provider that prescribes medication.

I just can't get excited or motivated about anything. I do things, and I do feel some satisfaction at getting them done, and some level of enjoyment at seeing other people enjoy them but...something is just not there. I'm not even excited about our vacation. Not at all. Just another list of things to do to prepare and then a LOT of trying to gear myself up to deal with the frustrations and lowered expectations of traveling with my children. Who have been in rare form lately, just...chock full & brimming over with negativity and whining and anger and bad manners.

Anyways. I've only done 2 of my 3 things today so back to work.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday Musings

The weekend was actually quite nice. There was shockingly no traffic on the way down, nor on the way back. G surprised us all with a little gizmo that hangs off the headrest to hold an ipad---so the boys happily (and quietly) watched movies the whole way with their headphones on. We could actually TALK and THINK and RELAX. Total game changer for long drives.

It was really relaxing to not have to do anything all day on Saturday. No cooking, no cleaning, no errands, no laundry...even minimal child-wrangling, since they all ran off in a pack and played on their own. I finished up the book I was reading (I ADORED it) and read a whole 'nother one, too (OK). It was crazy hot, and we spent a LOT of time outside, so we were all worn out.

We got back early afternoon yesterday and made our way through the usual Sunday activities. Neither of us was in the mood to cook dinner, so we got a pizza. L was so exhausted he fell asleep at the dinner table, and then went up to "wait for stories" and didn't wake up again until 5 AM (when he came to ask G to scratch his back and complain about his blanket being "wrong"). He then fell asleep again until nearly 8; neither parent could go back to bed.

G went to the gym, and I made the mistake of staying in bed and reading the news. And then it was really hard to motivate to do anything. I KNEW about the news yesterday but made a point not to read too much graphic detail because I know it would make me depressed & anxious & angry & hopeless. Indeed, I feel all of those things. Sigh. Deep breath (yes, I've contacted my congress people, etc...I do it EVERY TIME...I'm getting sick of nothing changing. I can feel the apathy creeping in...sigh. deep breath again).

B was asking me whether he'd be going to the aftercare place next year and I told him no (total clusterf of chaos and incompetence on the part of the owner/director), and he got really really excited "so you are going to pick me up from school?!". Ugh. "No, I can't because I'm still at work when you get off school, but we will find something better".

I spent a lot of time brainstorming ways I COULD pick him up from school, at least one or two days a week. It would involve split shifts, early mornings, and a LOT of self-discipline on my part. I know that being at work 8-9 consecutive hours a day offers me a nice luxurious buffer---I truly get 6-7 hours of REAL THINKING work done (the rest of time is ideally spent on miscellaneous non-thinking-required work and realistically sometimes on non-work work). It would be great for him, though, he really needs some time after school to decompress and be on his own. If I picked him up at 3, we came home and ate snacks and did homework by 3:30 and still have a couple of hours before dinner to go to the park or play legos or read books or just BE A KID instead of being forced into activities he doesn't enjoy with kids he doesn't want to hang out with. Not that there isn't value to that once in a while---and sometimes he is super excited about playing tag with the big kids or whatever, but...its a lot, every day.

Once every other week I do pick him up from school to take him to his social skills therapy (we switch off) and he is so different on those afternoons then he is when I get him from after care at 5:30 most days. At 3 pm he is talkative, curious, inquisitive---we've talked about race (he has been obsessed with skin color and was telling me each of his friends and the color of their skin and we had to talk about why maybe we shouldn't mention skin color or any other physical characteristic as the first attribute of someone), the presidential election (very complicated discussion here...), suburban vs. urban living and the pros/cons of each, etc... By 5:30 he is sullen, complaining, stuffing his face with snacks & granola bars and answering ever question with "nothing" "fine" "i don't know" "i forgot".

What I didn't realize, going into the school year, is that going from a full day of school to aftercare from 8:30-5:30 is VERY different from being in daycare 8:30-5:30. At daycare, even at the preK level, they have naptime/downtime (B hasn't napped since age 3, but he lay on his mat quietly or looked at books while the others slept), they go outside multiple times a day, and more importantly, the bulk of their time involves free play. When picking him up, we could find B digging in the sand table by himself or in a corner looking at a book, or running at full tilt outside with his friends--he was able to meet his own needs for solitude, soothing, and working out his energy.

Anyways. Just some thoughts and ramblings.


Friday, June 10, 2016

In the Background

I've got a handful of half-written posts this week but nothing that I actually was motivated enough to polish & post. That pretty much summarizes my life these days---good intentions, robustly diving in, and then half-hearted efforts, lack of focus, and utter inability to actually see anything through to completion. I've gotten half-written manuscripts and Aims pages and many many emails in "draft", a to-do list for both work & home that keeps getting longer and longer, laundry done but never put away, scarves & hats & gloves on the floor with the swimsuits and sunglasses, piles taller than my kids of things to "give away" that have been sitting in our bedroom for months.

I just feel really tired of pretty much everything. I want to lie on a beach, alone, for a few days (weeks?) and read books & listen to the waves & not have to do or be anything.

But since that isn't happening, I did what I do. I made yet another list. Only this one has only really easy satisfying tasks and I am working my way through them. Expense reports and purchase orders to get in before the end of the "year", plane tickets to buy, phone calls to make & emails to send, meetings to set up. Its a start.  I already feel better.

We are leaving work early today to drive 4+ hours in heavy traffic to visit my sister. My kids are over the moon excited to see their cousins again. Its also a break from having to plan & execute any weekend activities to keep the kids (and us!) occupied and distracted from whining. On the other hand, I have no idea when we are going to manage to grocery shop & food prep & make lunches & do laundry and all the other weekend tasks that we usually spread throughout Saturday & Sunday. Its just going to be a late Sunday night, I suppose.

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I just spent over an hour on the phone with the school psychologist (and I wonder why I can't complete anything...). She asked me if I "had a few minutes to chat" and then proceeded to complete two different very long parent questionnaires with me (both of which I had filled out previously, for another provider) re: B. She told me she had read over his report from the hospital evaluation, but at the end of the interview she did not know that he had received the ADHD diagnosis in addition to ASD. She kept asking me "what do you want from the school? What are your concerns? Do you want an IEP? What changes do you want to see on the IEP" and I finally had to be blunt and say I had no idea, I'm not the educational specialist, we were recommended to set up an IEP but we don't know how to go about it, and we requesting the school evaluation so that you can help us! FFS woman! I told her to also speak to the KG teachers who worked with him all year to see what THEY thought would be helpful for him in the actual classroom, because, again, my only time in a KG classroom was 35 years ago when I was in KG. She sounded actually quite young & inexperienced. I'm trying not to hold that against her, because you have to start somewhere, but....

OK deep breath. And now back to the list. Or lunch. Actually, yes, lets make that lunch. 



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Shimmer

After weeks of cool, rainy, dreary weather, we had a sudden heat wave last week. It went from gray and 50 degrees to sunny and 90 degrees seemingly overnight. The sun was so bright, and the heat so intense, it felt like everything was hazy & shimmering before my eyes.

Or maybe that was all the white wine I consumed?

Birthday week was as lovely as I could've imagined it. I took my actual birthday off, and spent the day wandering around town, shopping (FINALLY found a bathing suit), lunching & toasting with a best friend. We had a family dinner out, complete with guacamole & margaritas.  I did go to work Friday, but met some more friends for good wine, food, and conversations afterwards. I took the boys on weekend adventures, involving ice cream & water play. G and I had a date night and ate an amazing meal.

Turning 40 was pretty awesome. I recommend it.

There may be 3 more weeks until school ends and our family vacation begins, but summer feels like its already here. There is a watermelon sitting on the kitchen counter, and water guns strewn about in the backyard. The smell of sunscreen, the feel of heat on bare legs, the soothing hum of the air conditioner lulling me to sleep at night....I forgot how much I love this time. I need to remember to savor it, because it always goes so fast. 


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Persona

Nicoleandmaggie had a recent post about the difference between your blog persona and real life. I didn't have much to say, because I figured that since I am just "being myself" here, and not trying to concoct a personality (or sell a "brand"), that my blog persona is pretty identical to me in real life. Simply a more eloquent version of myself (with less cursing). Of course, a lot more self-focused---it is my personal blog, and I have no right to tell others' stories. But, overall, pretty similar.

But recent comments on my posts have made me rethink this. In fact, I'm starting to think that my online persona skews a bit....how do I put it....miserable cow

I read through a few random posts and while its certainly my voice, there does seem to something missing. I can't really describe it...something light? And strangely, I even think the image I'm projecting in people's heads probably looks a lot different than I do in real life (I've been told that, from a couple of bloggers I've met, actually). With the few bloggers I read that don't post photos, I definitely do create an image in my head of what they look like (and where they are geographically, when they don't say), and I bet I'm way off on some of you!

I'm definitely way less serious in real life. Funnier (if you know me in real life and disagree, just let me have my delusions). I write about all the "rules" I create for myself but I rebel against them on the regular, because damn I love cheese puffs, and cocktails, and shopping. I'm not going to describe my physical appearance, because that is weird when you aren't 7 years old.

Sure, I sometimes yell at my kids and snip at my husband. You would too, given the nonsense that goes on at my house sometimes (OMG bedtime). I'm not a freaking saint! And I don't naturally enjoy noise and chaos. I get anxious sometimes. I'm not naturally inclined towards uncertainty. And I'm extremely averse to conflict. Things I have recognized in myself and am working on, because I know life could be paradoxically more calm and also more exciting if I was open to more risk and failure. 

I work out my problems on this page. Tangled jumbles of thoughts & feelings become more manageable when I get them out of my head, separate them, and examine them in the light. Its therapeutic. I do tend to focus on the negative here, for sure, because the rest of my life is devoted to noticing and appreciating the good parts. Also, y'all give good advice. I like the feedback, and the complicated discussions. I like cutting past the pleasantries and diving into the depths with my friends, and I can get that here.

Anyways, just something I've been pondering the past couple of days. 

Do you think your online persona reflects the real you?


Monday, May 23, 2016

All You Need

Thanks for the thoughtful & truthful comments on the last post. I did take them to heart, and I discussed the situation with my primary doctor this morning, and she ended up recommending that I go back to therapy and take time out of my day to journal. Not the focus-on-the-bright-side gratitude journal I like to do before bed, but the get--the-hard-stuff-out therapy-substitute type (NOT to be done right before bed!) that she thinks will help me get the negative thoughts/feelings out of my brain/body and allow me to relax and sleep. I agreed to try it. She's a good doctor, with lots of professional and life experience, and mentioned specifically that she treats a lot of physicians with anxiety, and my case is not atypical for (her words) high-achieving women in the middle of career/parenting/marriage/family pressures. I trust her judgement completely. She also prescribed more Ambien, because damn if it doesn't work like a charm on those days that I need it.

After a rough week of work, last weekend was exactly what I needed, like a soothing balm to my tired and troubled soul. I feel relaxed and content today, even though I'm typing this from the kitchen table in between trying (and failing) to revise grant sections while a presumably "sick" B keeps asking for snacks and entertainment. It honestly could've been a terrible weekend. It rained nearly constantly. I was sick, and exhausted. I didn't work out at all (I haven't worked out for a full week). We spent a lot of time at home. And yet...I felt so completely surrounded by love, and laughter. It was restorative.  I'm recording it here for my memory.

It started Friday evening, with G and I enjoying some wine in the backyard while the kids jumped around eating popsicles. We got Thai take-out, and caught up on our weeks as well as some TV shows---it was our first time hanging out together the whole crazy week. Saturday morning G made blueberry pancakes for the boys. We got ready and met L's friend & parents at the children's museum. The parents were really cool, low-key, and we had good conversations. The boys ran around and had a blast and exhausted themselves. We came home and I helped the boys make rock sugar candy (well, ok, I did most of it). We have jars of supersaturated and brightly colored sugar solution with our sticks suspended in them, waiting for the candy to form. 

L wanted, as usual, to "play with me", so we sat for over an hour, going through the Highlights magazines we got as a gift and never seem to open. He got really into doing each activity. It was especially sweet, because I never see that focused and intent side of my energetic little guy. He leaned against me, excitedly pointing out the differences and the silly things. Then I went to the grocery store and walked home with 40 lbs on groceries on my shoulders, in the rain, and I LOVED IT. It was such a challenge and workout! Leftover yummy thai for dinner, and G and I watched a silly feel-good movie.

Sunday night I slept terribly and woke with an awful headache at 5:30 and couldn't get back to sleep until 7. G got up with the boys and I grabbed an extra hour of sleep. I had my coffee, took some pain meds, and took the dog on an extra long walk, letting the cool air & the medicine work its magic. When I got home the boys were excitedly working on a birthday card for me. They were SO SO proud of their creation (its a secret, though, not until my birthday!), that I can't wait to see it! Later I took the boys to the park while G did some chores, and then he took them to the market so I could rest. I got to lie in bed and read my book (Kate Morton's "the Lake House"...its so so good) while the sun came out and streamed into our room. Heavenly.

The boys were bursting with excitement when they got home, not just from the sugar high of the ice creams they ate, but because they picked out cheeses and crackers for me, "to make you happy!". They got their weekly "swimming pool bath" which they take together in our big jacuzzi tub (that usually is a dog-washing tub or a spot for our clothes-drying-rack, because I'm not a bath person). They had their screen time, while G and I enjoyed the cheeses and crackers with wine. Then they came up and discovered their hidden champagne tastes and suddenly they wanted no part of pasta and only wanted to polish off the expensive crackers and wedge of manchego  and cured meats for dinner. L apparently got a cheese high and had us uncontrollably laughing as he danced & pranced & made faces (he's definitely a clown, and he lives for our laughs).

We weren't in the mood for a real dinner after the cheese plate, but hungry after the boys went down (the less said about bedtime the better...its gotten out of hand), so I made us a pile of tater tots with cheese and a spicy sour cream sauce. PERFECT food for watching Game of Thrones (OMG that episode was intense! HOLD THE DOOR).

This morning B was coughing and sneezing and looked terrible so we decided to keep him home. It was easily figured out that G would stay home the first half, while I had my doctor appointment & some meetings at work, and then I would come home. I took L to school. We walked to the bus stop in the warm sunny morning. He laid his head on me as we rode, one thumb in mouth, the other hand holding mine, as we looked out the window to the beautiful blooming springtime city. I got a text from G saying B looked better, and from my friend planning a birthday lunch & shopping trip. I still have the headache, and sore throat, and exhaustion, but I haven't felt so perfectly at peace & connected in a long long time. A great start to birthday week.