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.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Birthday weekend and other updates

L turned 3 this weekend. He was pretty excited about having "my birthday" but we soon realized that "my birthday" in his mind translated to "birthday cake". So it was a frustrating and confusing day for him since the cake was planned for after dinner.  We also had some meltdowns from B who just couldn't get his mind around someone other than him getting attention and presents.

Sunday overall was a really nice day, and I know the boys had a good time. We didn't have a party for L, but we did attend a picnic from my work, where they played with lots of new kids of all ages and sampled everything from the dessert table. We had inadvertently accepted a dinner invitation with friends and when I called later to ask THEM to come over instead because it was L's birthday, she insisted we come over anyways and just bring a cake. So he did, and the kids had a fun, if late, night playing with their friends.

Saturday wasn't quite so good. It started off dismal and rainy, G and I had a fight that simmered most of the day, the boys were in particularly bad spirits and at one point 3/4 of us were crying. We decided to "reset" by having the boys watch an episode of Dora and promptly leaving the house for the library, park, and dinner out. It worked. We were all doing much better by the evening.

After being successfully (suspiciously easily) potty-trained for over 6 months, L has hit some major regression. We are cleaning the floor with bleach a LOT and ended up buying pull-ups for him to wear all weekend because ewww and also every trip to the toilet ends up with tantrums and screaming and it became too much. He did successfully poop in the toilet again last night & this morning....maybe we've reset that button too?

I actually feel better on the low FODMAPS diet. But I'm having a hard time feeding myself dinner. I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every weekday (and just graze during the weekends) so that is easy, but dinner is a problem. We've got a macaroni & cheese casserole to go in the oven for dinner tonight but I can't eat that. I've been eating a lot of tortilla chips, fish, rice, oranges, and eggs. Maybe I'll have eggs and potatoes for dinner tonight. I'm going to continue the strict diet for 2 full weeks (so until Sunday) and then start the re-introduction phase which basically means trying small doses of certain FODMAPS classes three times a week, sequentially, to figure out which classes are causative for my symptoms. I'm hoping I can re-introduce legumes at the least, and certain veggies. I can live without apples and peaches and I know I am lactose-intolerant.  Gluten-free would be difficult but allover much healthier for me. Not eating broccoli, onions, garlic, asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, and beans just means I am eating more rice and potatoes.

I had my first visit with a new (after that ill-fated attempt last fall) therapist last week. I really like her. She is lively and easy to talk to, not just staring at me with cow eyes to "go on, tell me more". I also know what I'm looking for and she was very upfront about her style, and the fact that she will check in regularly and not be offended if I tell her this isn't working out. The first visit was more introductory, and I also had to tell her a little bit about ALL The things that are causing me anxiety. It was quite a list and just having to talk about all that stuff left me pretty shaken up, but I figure that is expected. BONUS---she has a background in working with children and child psychology, so she can also offer some suggestions on the issues we are having with the kids.

When I came home from the appointment, G mentioned he had also made an appointment with a therapist, regarding his inability to deal with some of the kids' behavior. He saw the same therapist a couple of years ago about similar issues and it seemed helpful, I think he needs a tune-up. The funny thing is, the things his therapist told him? Were the exact same things I was telling him. He just needs to hear it from an outside source I guess.

Still working on limiting social media time. I've eliminated a few of the biggest time wasters for 2 weeks now, which is great. I'm trying now to see how I can limit overall daily social media use---maybe 40 minutes max per day (20 minutes AM, 20 minutes lunch). That leaves enough time to read and comment on most of my regular blogs. Other than writing here or working, I don't want to jump back on the computer or phone after dinner.

It is still very much a work in progress and I'd appreciate any tips for limiting blog-reading, etc.. (I use leechblock)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ups and Downs

Despite the recent challenges I've been chronicling here, life is overall pretty good. I like the fall season, so much more laid back and expectation-free than summer. The kids are infuriating a lot of the time, but there are glimpses of real sweetness speckled throughout the day where I am amazed by their personalities and their relationship together.

The other night bedtime took twice as long as usual because they wanted to race down the stairs, L on his belly super-fast, and B bumping along slowly on his bottom. Then they held hands and went "round and round" until L fell down (always L) and cried. Then got up and wanted to do it again. Then I told B he was getting a time out (for swinging L around so hard he hit his head on the bed frame), and they ran off and shut themselves in the time-out room together (all the while giggling and shrieking "TOGETHER!!!"). L told B he wanted to sleep with him in his bed and B's face lit up like nothing I've ever seen...only to become sobbing and crestfallen when L changed his mind and went into his own bed to sleep.

The other morning we were all late getting ready because when I mentioned that L's goal for the day was not to have any accidents (he'd been accident free for >6 months when suddenly  he's been having accidents of the gross variety every morning). B got into the idea of "goals" and we each had to list and write down, and review over and over our 7 goals for the day. There were 4 universal goals:
  • Keep underwear clean
  • Don't yell or hurt
  • Try hard and learn
  • Listen
B added the following: eat a proper dinner, behave during stories at night, and don't pee in bed at night. L just kept repeating "my goal is not to poop my pants". It was actually kind of sad.

My MIL was here for 2 weeks. That was stressful in many ways, but this time we planned ahead and took full advantage and got a night away on the full weekend she was here! We left Saturday after swimming/dance class and came back Sunday before dinner. It was SO NICE to not have any worries about the time and to have enough time to do fun things but also to simply walk around and talk. It was that talk that prodded me to a) call the doctor to get referrals for therapists for my anxiety and b) start working very tentatively on changing my work situation (its a 5 year plan right now, but even THINKING about the plan is such a huge relief, its re-energizing). 

Part of my visit to my doctor also involving a discussion on some long-standing health issues. She ordered some testing which has so far come back normal, and also suggested trying the FODMAPS diet which is a seemingly random list of things to avoid, including beans, wheat/barley/rye, and high-lactose dairy but also certain fruits & veggies.  Monday will be Day 1 of that. I've planned out my breakfast (fried egg + gluten-free waffle), lunch (salad with lettuce, red bell pepper, shredded carrots, olives, home-made balsamic vinaigrette, and toasted walnuts) and dinners (baked lemon caper fish with wild rice and kale; hard tacos with chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and cheddar cheese; quinoa with stir-fried tofu and veggies). My plan is to do it strictly for 2 weeks and see how I feel, and then add back in things I don't think are issues for me (onions and garlic, wheat, apples) one at a time and see how it goes. I know that a large part of my gut issues are related to anxiety, but just these past few months I've been having issues even outside of high stress times, and I think certain foods my be to blame (a lot of summer fruits are on the FODMAPS no-no list, and I've been eating TONS of those).

L's birthday is coming up and I'm waiting for accurate weather reports before we plan the weekend, but it will be low-key as befits a budding 3 year old who still needs long naps and lots of snuggle time. We are planning (already booked car and hotel) a trip for Thanksgiving just to get out of town and NOT visit family.  We are also planning our holiday travel, after waiting too long last year and ending up paying too much for horrible flights not on the days we wanted.

One of my best friends just moved away. I'm thankful I got to attend all of the many going away events held in her honor. I will really really  miss her, we had lots of deep talks over lunch or wine and weekend brunch and shopping trips---we joked that we were pretty much the same person, we had so much in common. I am super excited for her and a bit wistful for that exciting time in life---all in one year she's had a wedding, got a great job (faculty position straight out of a pretty short post-doc!) and a move to a brand-new exciting location. Its brought back memories of when G and I moved up here, knowing no one, sleeping on the floor until our stuff came in and exploring the neighborhoods. It was really a fun time in our relationship. We realized that if we treated the changes in our life now with the same sense of adventure, I think it'd serve to bring us closer together rather than tear us apart.

That's whats been going on around here these days.