Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Money Dumb

When it comes to money and finances, I am an idiot. I used to believe I was "good with money" because I was cheap frugal and saved a ton. It was pretty easy to do when I was single and had limited expenses, and pretty much everyone I knew was in a similar situation. I've been thinking a lot about our finances recently. This post is pretty long, but it is helping me work through this in my head and I'm hoping to create external accountability for my goals.

Despite the upward swing in my discretionary spending lately, though, I still don't spend that much money. I shop at pretty middle-of-the-road retailers and always wait for sales, I'm not blowing $100s ($1000s?) on designer bags or shoes. Its hard to spend THAT MUCH at Ann Taylor Loft when they are always having 50% everything sales. I bring my lunch to work every day. We eat at restaurants maybe 2-3 times a month, and get take-out similarly 1-2 times a month. I have no expensive hobbies (my hobby is reading books that I get free from the library) and I'm not into gadgets or home decor. I get my haircut twice a year, color it at home with drugstore kits, and paint my own nails if I'm in the mood. I'll get my eyebrows waxed every couple of months or before an event ($12). I have virtually no social life, other than book club meetings rotating at member's houses every couple of months and an occasional 1-2 glasses of wine out with a friend (maybe twice a year we get around to it). We don't travel except to visit relatives, so the only cost involved is airfare. I work out at the Y where we have a family membership or I run outside with my dog.

Where I tend to spend on clothes/shoes, G buys lots of media (movies and music). Mostly cheap/used, but sometimes new. I don't know what it all adds up to, since its "Amazon" on the credit card bill. He also tends towards new and expensive hobbies every few years. Currently its woodworking. He bought a ton or equipment and tools this year on that. If he continues, and gets good enough to build some stuff for our house (or even for it to be a fulfilling lifelong hobby) it would be worthwhile. Other than those (admittedly pretty big) things, he doesn't spend much else.

We don't spend a ton on our kids, either. They are in a fairly low cost daycare (for the area). We are members of the Y and do swimming classes for a modest cost. They each will pick one other activity this year. This year was the first time I actually bought toys for the boys---in the past we had so much stuff from relatives we didn't need too---now that they are older and have specific interests, I'm trying to encourage those. We get most books from the library, but I'll buy one hardcover book every few months to add to our library. L wears B's hand-me-downs unless they've fallen apart---basically this means he gets new pants & shoes every year. B gets new clothes for each season (i.e. he got 5T winter clothes recently, and will get 5T summer clothes in 6 months)---these are ALL from Old Navy with 30-40% off or Children's Place. Tops generally $3-8, bottoms $8-15. He needs new shoes every 6 months. We don't skimp on shoes, usually $35-50. No impulse clothes purchases have ever occurred for the boys!

We don't have: a car, cable, landline phone.

There are some areas I'm sure PF bloggers would tell us we could do better on:
  • Our grocery bills are pretty high. There really aren't low cost options nearby so we either shop at TJs, WF, or delivery (which is also expensive). I don't skimp on groceries, mostly because we eat most meals at home and we send all the boys' food to daycare (they don't provide meals or snacks). We go through a LOT of fruit and vegetables every week which is pricey. We don't eat much meat. I sometimes buy fancy cheese so we can have a "date night" in. We drink wine/beer/liquor at home which some might consider an unnecessary expense (vs. water).
  • We have contracts and data plans on our (3 year old) smartphones (vs cheaper pre-paid options).
  • We have a dog, with the resultant expenses (boarding when we're away being the biggest, also she had surgery recently and whoa!)
  • We have a house cleaner come every other week.
So where is the "dumb" factor coming in? A few major things:

1) I have a huge pile of money in a savings account and in CDs. I haven't invested it. It is doing nothing for us earning <0.5% interest.
2) This is a big one and I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I think we got suckered into buying more life insurance (and I also have longterm disability insurance) than we need. A LOT of our paychecks gets direct deposited into these things. I've had the LTD insurance for about 7 years, and we've had the life insurance for 5 years. I don't know how to figure out if its "too much" or not.
3) I thought I was putting 15% into my 401K. Turns out I wasn't. I just realized this last month and upped it from 5% to 10% with plans to go to 15% when things smooth out after the holidays.
4) I have no idea how my Roth IRA, traditional IRA, 403b (from residency employer) or current 401K are invested.
5) I do stupid things with credit cards, like getting new airline cards to get the sign up bonus, but then forget to spend the requisite amount to GET the bonus, and then forget to cancel before the year's annual fee is due (this just happened).
6) Last year (2013) I completely forgot to submit receipts for our dependent care FSA and we lost $1800. LOST IT.

 What I want to do about these issues in 2015:
1) Invest all but $10K emergency fund. Where, how, I dunno. Deadline April.
2) Figure out and possibly decrease our life and LTD  policies. Again, not sure how. Anyone know who could tell us the answer to this? Deadline March.
3) Obviously, increase 401K contribution to 15% next month. Deadline Janaury.
4) Get together all my accounts, figure out where they are invested, and change those choices if it makes sense to change them (though I first need to learn what the best choice is!)  Deadline May.
5) If I decide to get new credit cards for incentives, put dates and actions to do into my calendar. I actually successfully did this with the United Credit Card. I got the card, put in my calendar to charge $1000 (and what to charge it on and when) in my calendar, and did it. I also put in the calendar to look for the bonus miles and when to call if they aren't there. And the date I need to cancel the card to avoid the annual fee. Ongoing.
6) This was added to my calendar, as well. I actually already submitted 3 months daycare bills already, which covers the entire academic year FSA maximum (its ridiculous, isn't it?) Ongoing.

Help me:
Investing books or guides?
Guides for how much life insurance one needs? (or how to figure this out). Guides for how to GET OUT of a life insurance policy, or reduce it, while minimizing penalties?

I want to be money smart by 2016.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Getting Off the Treadmill

No, this post isn't about exercise. It's about hedonic adaptation, otherwise known as lifestyle inflation. Like the sucker I never thought I'd become, I've let it creep up on me. I am spending way more money on certain things today than I would have even 5 years ago simply because I've gotten used to it. And because, of course, "I can". That last phrase is in quotes because its not completely true. No I'm not in any kind of debt. We are putting the recommended amount into our retirement accounts, and have a pretty hefty emergency fund. But we could be saving a lot more, donating a lot more to charity or even spending that money on something really meaningful for our family.

One thing I've been working on in therapy is identifying and trying to change some of my less healthy coping mechanisms. Wasting time on the internet, indulgent food and drinks, playing games on the phone---all of these I was well aware of, and I've written before about working on modifying those habits. What only recently occurred to me (in part, thanks to N sharing her struggles) was how I used on-line shopping as a way to cheer myself up when I'm feeling sad, anxious, or simply bored. This is what goes on in my head:

I've had a crappy day, ugh, and I'm on call this weekend, and G and I had a fight and...OOH sparkly shoes! Do they have my size? YES! Ooh, that's a bit steep. But its OK, I work hard and I haven't bought anything in so long. Do I need sparkly heels? Where will I wear them? Oh, I'll wear them to holiday parties! You don't have  any holiday parties, Ana. Whatever, maybe next year!

Its a not-so-cheap thrill to browse the sites, fill my cart, and hit "purchase". But the thrill isn't over yet! I can track my package, get excited when its delivered, and then look forward to opening it and trying things on and planning when and where I will wear them. And that's it. That's pretty much where the thrill ends. Then the dress joins the closet with all the other dresses to make its way into the rotation. The shoes get jammed in with all the other shoes, and in honesty may not be worn until I predict a pretty slow day given my fear of tearing up my feet in new, untested shoes.

In retrospect, I've given in to the idea of "retail therapy" for many years. But where it used to be a $3 bottle of nail polish or a $5 purse at Target that cheered me up, now the stakes are much higher.  I kept a budget in 2014 of how much I was spending on myself. I'm sure its a lot more than some people spend, and a lot less than others. But for me it seemed excessive. To say I am embarrassed at the total is an understatement. I am mortified. Yes, I needed some new things that actually fit my body, but no one needs that much. Yes, I like fashion and creating outfits and choosing something confidence-boosting to wear in the morning. But "fashion" is not a priority in my life. It is not a core value. It is not something I should be spending that much money on.

Recently I've gotten sucked into the world of personal finance blogs (I blame nicoleandmaggie). The blogs I really enjoy and find inspiring are not about tips on how to save money or get the highest yield on your investments (though those things are important and I'd like to learn about and start investing this year). What inspires me is the mindset, the focus on the true sources of happiness and the single-minded drive to achieve a life filled with those things. The maturity and self-knowledge that lead people to put all their money and energy towards creating their ideal life, without the distractions of "ooh pretty shiny!" getting in the way.

I am putting a stop to this right now. I was thinking of an all-out shopping ban, but decided instead to give myself an allowance. If I want anything non-essential for myself, it comes out of the allowance. This includes everything: clothes, lunch out at work, pedicures, a new phone case (mine is broken), books.  I've limited this exercise to myself only*---G can handle himself, and I don't actually overspend on the kids. I buy only the essential clothes for them to avoid doing laundry for up to a week, and we have already declared that NO toys or activities will be bought for the next 6 months as we work our way through the Christmas/birthday excess (our closets are STILL stuffed with things that we decided not to give them right away).

I haven't decided yet on the amount of the allowance. I honestly don't know what a reasonable amount should be---$100/month? Thoughts?

*The one other area I wanted to address was restaurant meals---again, we are spending more and more and it is taking more and more to get the same feeling of indulgence and luxury from a dinner out. I will write more about this in a separate post about date nights.

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


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


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


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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Add and Subtract

In trying to clarify the bigger picture of what I want my life to look like in 1, 2, 5, 10 years, I am also noticing some small changes I want to make. Notably, there are things I want LESS of and things I want MORE of; there are also, obviously, some things that are just right.

Things I want to reduce:
  •  Internet consumption (I use this word specifically to refer to "surfing" or reading things that are not impacting or influencing my life; reading and commenting on your blogs is different, as is using the internet as a source to learn or get ideas) 
  • Alcohol (I've actually done this, spurred by a nasty stomach bug 2 weeks ago...I just don't WANT the wine with dinner anymore, though I will want/have some if I'm out or being social)
  • Multi-tasking 
  • Procrastination
  • TV (I don't watch a lot, but for a while it was how G & I spent most of our limited time together)
Things I want to increase:
  • Spending time connecting with people I like (this includes my husband!)
  • Sleep
  • Making things (cooking, baking, gardening, sewing, painting---something---I'm not crafty and the final product will not be Pinterest-worthy, but I've recently realized that it is really soothing to work with my hands and occupy my brain with something other than work and worries)
  • Daydreaming---this seems strange, but I want my mind to wander when I'm waiting instead of immediately reaching for my phone. I've forgotten how to just BE with myself, its so easy to just pull out the phone and distract myself.
Things that are good and I hope to continue:
  • Reading
  • Writing here---I thought about shutting down the blog, as I way to reduce Internet time, but turns out I spend minimal time here. A few posts a week, a little back-and-forth on comments. THIS is not what is sucking my life away.
  • Exercise. I'm currently loving my high-intensity group workouts. LOVE. It is so f=ing hard that I can't even think for the 30 minutes I'm in the class. I want to continue going to 2-3 classes/week with a short run on the weekends doing intervals. 
  • Time with kids. I get a lot of time with my boys despite working full time. We have mornings, evenings and weekends to hang out. I don't want more and I don't want less.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Getting at the root

Thanks for your comments on the last post. I actually agree with Sarah, that I need to think clearly about what I want and may need to make big changes to achieve that. Defining what I want is harder than it seems. It involves a level of honesty with myself that is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Out of necessity to get through the day, and a misguided idea that happiness could be created solely through a positive attitude, I've gotten used to covering up what I really want and feel and there are a lot of layers there.

One of the unifying themes I see in my life is the inability to be where I am, to focus and fully experience my life---whether at work or at home. I am so averse to feeling anything slightly uncomfortable that I quickly distract myself from any anxious or sad feelings. The behaviors that I really want to change are all responses to anxiety.

I have begun to waste a LOT of time on unfulfilling internet sites, online shopping, and stupid games on my phone. As soon as I feel a tiny flicker of anxiety, I pull my phone out of my pocket, or pop open the browser on my computer to just spend a few minutes (which obviously never lasts JUST a few minutes) until the feeling passes. The more I need to get done, of course, the more anxious I get, the more time I waste, the more anxious I feel, the more I need to distract....its an addiction of sorts.

 Before I can get anywhere, I need to figure out a healthier, sustainable way of dealing with my anxiety. I've tried visualization techniques, breathing, meditation---I can't seem to get anything to stick on my own so I know I need help. My recent experience with trying to find a therapist simply by searching through the listings on my insurance website was so frustrating and time-consuming that I'm getting help with that, too. I have an appointment tomorrow AM with my primary care doctor, and I strongly believe she will have some good referrals (because she is incredibly experienced and smart, and always seems to have the right suggestions).

Friday, September 19, 2014


I haven't written in a while. There are lots of reasons for this, most of which I'll ignore right now. But one is that I'm tired of writing the same problems and the same hopeful solutions over and over again.

I snap at my kids. I'm unfocused at work. I could use more connection with my spouse. I need a new hobby. I waste too much time on the internet. I could eat healthier and lose a few pounds. I need more friends.

If you go through my archives you will see these themes repeated over and over and over. And my posts are always full of potential solutions. And I try them. I really do. I  have the best of intentions. And isn't that what life is? Trying to be better, day after day? In the trying is the living, right?


The constant trying and not getting anywhere is failure. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how hard I try, if I can't make tangible changes. My kids don't care that I try not to yell at them. My superiors at work certainly don't care that I am thinking up new strategies for productivity. My husband doesn't care that I plan to be communicative and loving. And my body doesn't care how much I think about eating better and research the pros and cons of various diets.

All the plans and thoughts and strategies in my head are worthless if not executed. Its the results that matter...the actual PRODUCT that leaves your head and actually impacts others and the world.

I don't know what the answer is, but I suspect it involves getting out of my head and back onto the ground. I need to stop trying so hard and just start doing. How do I change this about myself? I have no idea. Even at my busiest or my happiest, I always seem to make time for analysis and over thinking. I want to try to lead, if not an unexamined, at the very least a less examined life.

And to actually get somewhere on this path instead of running in circles.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tangled Snakes

I've been so ANGRY these past few days. I feel like a snarling swarming pit of vipers. I just can't control my temper. I am trying to do all the things they say to do (and they're right! they usually work) to calm down---sleep more, exercise, take time to myself. Sure, I'm fine while I'm taking a walk by myself, but as soon as I enter the house, someone does something and I. Just. Snap.

I've had bouts of this recently. I haven't been tracking it, so I don't know, but it may be related to my birth control?

Its at work and at home. I feel like I'm constantly NEEDED. Even at night, L will eventually come upstairs and cry in my ear until I get up and scoop him into bed. These nights, its been both of them, with summer colds. Needing noses wiped, comfort, water for coughs and sore throats. I used to really like tending to them when they are sick---its so satisfying to be such a comfort. But this week it just drives me up the wall. First thing in the morning, no matter how early I wake up, someone---or everyone---is up. Needing things. I rarely shower alone, or use the bathroom alone (or if I am technically alone, someone is pounding on the door or crying loudly outside). The pages, texts, emails, URGENT red flagged messages. Fires to put out because someone did not do their job so now its my job. Ruffled feathers to soothe. I won't start in on the work of running the household, so cliche.

I'm annoyed, frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted, and several times each evening I allow myself a brief fantasy of running away and spending 48-72 hours with no one needing anything from me.

We are going to the beach this weekend with my family. A whole week with 6 adults (including the very adults that have made me crazy my whole life, and whose presence instantly transports me back to my bratty snarky pre-teen days) and 4 little kids with snot and bottoms needing wiping, and constant snacks & entertainment needing administering.

Lets hope I don't hurt someone.

(whew, that was quite a rant, but it felt pretty good to get it out of my system).

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


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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Off season

I think I'm mystified by all this "ode to summer" hoopla going around the internet because summer is not exactly my favorite season. My kids aren't in school yet, granted, so the calendar and schedule is the same for us year-round. Work is, if anything, busier for me in the summer. Grants are due, budgets ending, trainees are new and require additional supervision, and all our conferences happen to occur in May and June.

I grew up in the south and pretty much spent my whole life in climates that hit 80 degrees in March and didn't let up until November. "Hot" is not a novelty to me, nor something to get excited about. It is to be tolerated and avoided as much as possible. Oddly, all that living in the heat never really got me acclimated to it, I tend to wilt in the heat, feeling lethargic and headachey. When the temperature gets above 90, I want to be in indoors, lounging somewhere with cold air blowing on my face. I like going to the pool, but its not exactly relaxing or exhilarating to get us all dressed and sun-screened up and trudge over to the pool only for the boys to be tired & hungry 30 minutes later. The mosquitos invade the backyard, and no amount of "reminding" the boys to CLOSE THE DOOR when they go in and out can keep all the flies out of the kitchen.  I wear my cute summer clothes, sweat right through them, and then cover them up when I walk into our frigid building at work.

Its certainly not all bad. I like the late sunsets, I am still delighted as a child over fireflies, thoughts of ice cream & geleto keep me going. I am very much looking forward to our beach trip with my family at the end of summer...I would live at the beach if I could, but so far haven't been able to make that happen (and G is not keen, so its not really in our long-term plan).  A glass of chilled white wine & some fresh grilled vegetables make a perfect summer dinner. 

I'm sure I'll be more positive tomorrow. I'm exhausted today. L started crawling out of his crib a couple of weeks ago so we took the side off and every. single. night. he marches himself into our room at some ungodly hour and pokes & paws at me until he can get himself back to sleep. Last night was one of the worst.

On the cuteness front, B told us that he woke up in the middle of the night and saw that L wasn't in his crib and got really sad that he was gone away forever. So he  went to sleep again, and had a dream that he and L were together again, playing, and he was happy. Then he woke up in the morning, saw L playing with his crayons, and hit him because "I was happy he was there but he's not supposed to touch my things".

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Fun?

No, I don't intend to make this once-a-month posting a habit, but its been a busy few weeks. Also, I realized just how much time I was spending on the internet and decided to take a few days off completely from reading blogs (sorry I haven't been commenting, I've got a huge backlog to get through this weekend!)

I don't usually succumb to FOMO (fear-of-missing-out), but it really hit me after the 4th, seeing on blogs and facebook feeds all the awesome "essence of summer" things people are doing---all the pool time, beach vacays, family reunions, fireworks, picnics, parades. We did...nothing. We stayed in town, skipped the parade because it was drizzly and planning to storm (though it never did), skipped the fireworks because its crazy crowded and the fireworks don't go off until after 11pm, skipped the public pool because I walked by and saw the line outside... Basically we had a very ordinary, but not at all relaxing (because the kids were REALLY something else those 3 days) weekend. Lots of meltdowns, time-outs, yelling, and outings gone awry.

I've been on service all week with brand spanking new fellows (trainees in my subspecialty, straight out of residency) and its been challenging in good & bad ways. I do like clinical work and teaching, but even after a week I get tired of some of the b.s. consults we get and all the nonsense scutwork that is involved (even though I don't have to do the scutwork anymore, it pains me to have to tell the fellows to do it).

After all that calorie counting, I didn't lose a single ounce, but I did make some changes to my diet that hopefully will---over the long run---have positive consequences for my health. I'm still using my FitBit.  I realize that I get 10K steps on very ordinary days when I'm not trying to get more steps. 15K on consults or when I pick up the kids or run in the morning. 20-30K on weekends if I go for long runs and we have some major walking outing---though my lowest count ever was last Sunday when I got 7K because I went nowhere except about a mile to (a very heavy) brunch.

I've been reading a LOT. Maybe I'll do a post about recent books I read.

Hmmm, my work phone has been suspiciously quiet, I better investigate what's going on...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Drizzle on

Its been drizzling all week. Cloudy and humid, randomly raining off and on throughout the day. It hasn't gotten me down!

So far June has been amazing. Even with L being sick (it was hand-food-mouth; we kept him home for 2 days but he went back yesterday, to "quarantine" with 3 other kids that are recovering), and the rain, and a ton of work deadlines, things have overall been….fun.

We had two great weekends in a row and are planning a third (the rain should stop by Friday night). I've been feeling better about myself with all the clean eating and exercise I'm getting. And most importantly to the general mood in the house, the boys are in a good place (except L right now, still cranky as hell, but we know its because he's sick and can coddle him a bit). The mornings and evenings are not complete battle zones. We've been staying up a bit later, and sleeping in (except L and one unlucky parent each day). Enjoying what we can of the weather when it permits.

The boys are eating lots of ice cream, as they should. Also lots of peaches, berries, pineapple, and plums. The soundtrack from Frozen is heard nonstop, either on the stereo or directly from the boys' mouths. Too much Sesame Street has been watched. The house is a complete disaster and we have no plans to remedy that.

G and I are in a good place. Some nights we hang out together, watch TV or just have a drink and talk. Some nights we do our own things. Last night we watched old videos from when B was a toddler and it made us cry. I feel like we're a team again, and friends, and that makes all the difference.

I don't know what the point of this post is. I just opened a page and started writing. Writing this has made my heart feel full and happy. Maybe I just needed some sunshine on a cloudy week.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bits of Fit

It was a lovely, extremely busy weekend. I had a lovely 6 mile run and went to a friend's bridal tea Saturday, we all went for a LONG hike Sunday, and we managed to get all our chores done, too. We were exhausted but I like to think it was a good exhausted. I was ready to hit the ground running at work today, but life had other plans, and L developed a rash last night that was consistent with hand-foot-mouth (its been going around the kids' school). He was afebrile, but clingy and itchy, and wouldn't be put down, so we are taking turns holding him while the other goes to work. 

Weight loss related bits:
  • I started wearing my FitBit on Friday. I was hoping I'd get to the recommended 10K steps. Turns out, I walk a LOT. I didn't run or work out Friday and I easily got 15K. Saturday and Sunday were 20K each. Today will be lower since I'm spending half the day sitting on the couch holding a toddler, but overall, I think I can safely say my weight gain is not due to inactivity. 
  • I also synced the FitBit to MFP and I get EXTRA CALORIES for the walking I do.
  • Pretty much everything has more calories than I expected. A peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat >400 Kcal. On small slice of swiss=110 Kcal. One slice of pizza with black olives >400 Kcal. Six stoneground wheat crackers=180 Kcal. 
  • I did manage to stay within 100KCal of my goal (which varied, based on activity level) each day. Yesterday I had about 100 Kcal left, even after the 2nd glass of wine.  
  • I really want to put the FitBit on B for a day. I think he'd easily get to 50K, he DOES NOT stop moving. Yesterday, after the two hour hike during which he ran back and forth, climbed, jumped etc.. the entire time, he came home and proceeded to run back and forth our house and jump from chair to table to chair in the backyard, belting out Frozen songs. I finally got him to bed at 8 and heard him kicking the wall for about an hour. 
I'm OK with going over my daily caloric allotment. I would like to lose a few pounds, but I'm OK with it going extremely slowly. The more important goal was really to become more aware of what and how I'm eating and exercising and to make sure I'm doing the right things for long-term health. I absolutely was eating too much. I had NO IDEA how many calories were in things I routinely ate and considered "pretty healthy". I have no intention to stop eating pizza or any other treat, but I will definitely keep it to 2 slices. I bought tons of different greens for having salads with our dinners so that we eat less of the main, higher calorie dish. I almost grabbed a cookie in clinic today, but looked at the calories (it wasn't even home made!) and ate my pineapple instead (and it was SO JUICY and good!). 

I've also been trying to keep up my activity---I walked the dog around another block to try to bolster my steps this morning (and then realized I wasn't wearing my FitBit, durrr!), I mustered up the motivation to do my push-ups/planks while L watched home videos on my phone, I paced while reading blogs on my phone the other night because I was at 19800 and I really wanted to get to 20K (but last night I gave up at 19700 because I was beat).

If you have any concerns about your weight or are simply curious about what you're eating, I HIGHLY recommend tracking your calories for a week or two. Its really fascinating and pretty easy to do, since you can search the app for calorie counts others have entered, and easily google most other things.  I also think pretty much everyone should try a pedometer for a week or so too. I love how the two integrate my information and update in real time. Technology!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Calorie Deficit

MFP initially told me I need 1200-ish net calories per day for a "sedentary" job and to lose 10 lb in 20 weeks. After lunch, I only had 300 calories left, despite eating only coffee+Kind bar for breakfast and salad/fruit for lunch. So I freaked out. Then I changed my settings to a "lightly active" job and a goal of losing 7 lb in 14 weeks (0.5 lb/week). That gave me 1400 net calories. By the end of the day, I was over by only 70 calories. I ate 1800 calories yesterday, I bet I used to eat 2000-2200. I didn't burn many calories, since I did strength training instead of cardio. Just my walking commute and dog walking.

I've decided that if I'm within 100 calories of my net calorie goal, than I'm doing OK. I was hungry at 2 times during the day---4-6 pm before dinner, and 10pm right before bed. I did have an afternoon snack of some fruit, but I think I need more fruit. In the winter I used to eat ginormous apples and oranges, and now I'm eating little berries and peaches, which are much less filling. I had a 9pm snack of cereal and milk which helped a lot. I could've eaten another bowl but didn't. 

The best thing about tracking calories is that I am mindful about snacking. I measured out my cereal and milk instead of heaping up a huge bowl (and then refilling). It also immediately changed my view of my nightly wine/beer from a necessity to a treat. I did have a glass of wine with dinner, but did NOT have another glass later in the evening. I was hungry and decided the cereal would be way more satisfying for the same amount of calories. Of course, in the past, I would've had both. I think drinking may be a contributor to a lot of 30-something women's mild weight gain. We think we are doing well by avoiding ice cream and candy bars, but a beer in the evening (any beer worth drinking anyways) or a couple of glasses of wine is setting us back at least 200 calories. 

Some of the comments here and on other blogs are making me consider my motivation for doing this. It really is NOT vanity. That ship sailed 2.5 years ago when my ab muscles separated irreparably and while it took me some time (2 years), I have gotten over the fact that my body will never look the way I want it to look again. I could lose 20 pounds (and be technically underweight) and I would still have the poochy, wrinkly stomach. I will never be a size 2 again, my hip bones are wider then they were pre-babies, as is my ribcage (also my feet, I've gained a full shoe size). 

My weight right now is technically healthy, but its 10 pounds up from where it was before. And I gain my weight exclusively in my abdomen, which is neither healthy nor attractive. If I gained it all over, I'd actually be ecstatic, I'd love to not have chicken arms and legs and to have plumper cheeks/cleavage/butt. I know I'll look and feel better at a slightly lower weight and I also know that eating better/less is good for my long-term health and my energy levels. 

So, yeah, these ten pounds may look like "vanity pounds" to some, but I don't want to wait until those ten turn to twenty or more and become "health risk pounds". 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Creep

Moving away from the career-angst topics for a bit.

I need to lose some weight. 10 pounds, specifically. They've just crept on over the past few years and I want them gone. More importantly, I don't want any more to join them. The reason is simple, I eat too much. I've always been lucky enough to eat like a teenage boy and stay slim, but those days are over and I need to adjust. My mother is not overweight at all , is quite active, eats extremely healthy and has developed mild type 2 diabetes in her 60s. Her cholesterol has been high since her 40s. So my genes are not in my favor. Also I have PCOS, which raises my risks for those things in itself.

G has also put on 10-15 pounds over the past few years. He's got 9 inches on me, so it doesn't really show as much as mine! He started tracking his calories in a smartphone app (you know the one) recently, and I signed up and started today. Its a pain to remember to log every bite, and I know some of the calories allotted to certain foods are unlikely to be accurate. I also don't like how it shows you "net calories" by subtracting your output (calories burned, based on the exercise you input) from your intake. I want to know the GROSS calories I need to stay under to lose 0.5 lb/week (what I put in for my goal), not the NET. Mostly because the "calories burned" estimates are even more likely to be overestimated. Both food and exercise calories are input by users into the system, and you can choose from those or create your own. I have NO idea how I would go about accurately calculating out how many calories I burned in my 30 minute strength training circuit.

And eating out makes it near-impossible to be accurate. We went for dinner last week and G got a chicken salad sandwich. This restaurant does not offer calorie information, and no one had input an estimate. There were 20+ different types of chicken salad sandwich you could choose from, ranging from 300-1000 calories each. He went for a high calorie version because they sandwich was HUGE and mayo-rich, but who knows?

The upside, though, is that regardless of accuracy, the very act of having to add every morsel that enters your mouth into the app creates more mindful eating. G definitely thinks he's snacking less at night, to avoid the shame-add of 4 servings of Thai Chili Cashews or 6 servings of Pirate's booty. Just today, I reached for some fruit when I got hungry after dinner, rather than settling in with a bag of tortilla chips.

I've got a few more tricks I'm working on, too:
1) Record what I eat (as above)
2) Get comfortable with being hungry. I cannot stand to be hungry at all, so I eat. I tell myself I "need" to eat because I'm hungry, but clearly my body has just gotten used to more food than it needs---the weight gain is the proof of that. I've been trying to power through the afternoon and evening hunger pangs until I get used to it. Unfortunately, I do get headaches when I get hungry, and its hard to be productive and patient and all that, but I know its temporary (I've done this before, when I got used to MAJOR breastfeeding-induced snacking that continued long after I weaned).
3) Track my steps. I got myself a FitBit in JANUARY and haven't opened it yet. Its time.
4) Exercise for health. I've been going on nice leisurely 3 mile runs for my exercise, because its pleasant to be out in the spring and see the flowers blooming and the river gleaming. But I'm not burning a whole lot of calories nor am I getting faster or stronger doing the same thing 3-4 times a week. I re-started strength training and calisthenics (push-ups, planks) once a week. I also need to switch up my cardio work-outs, maybe add intervals and speed work, consider swimming or classes at the Y (which will look more appealing when it gets hotter out there). I know exercise isn't going to help me lose weight (because I eat too much), but it will help me gain more muscle and look better/more toned.
5) Sit less at work. I need to start taking more frequent breaks to get up and move. I try to be efficient about things that require me leaving my desk, but its probably better for my body AND concentration to get up every hour or so.

Apparently I need a net of 1200 calories per day (remember, this is calories in-calories out, not total calories) to lose 10 lbs in 20 weeks. I'm curious to see how far off I am and a little apprehensive of what deliciousness I'll have to cut out of my life. But you do what you have to do.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rekindling the Fire?

No this isn't about marriage. Its about burn out. A couple of months ago, a friend forwarded me an article about burn out. I didn't even need to read the article, the title alone put into words what I've been feeling for a while now. I am completely and totally burnt out on work.

Of COURSE I'm burnt out. I've been working full tilt for so many years--by necessity, by desire, by sheer stubbornness of the "I will never give up" variety. 100+ hours a week at the absolute worst (yes I DID track my time) and 50-60 at the best (yup, tracking). And I just…don't care anymore. Well, no, I DO care, but I don't care that much. I do the things that other people are counting on me to do, but I'm struggling mightily to do the things that are sheerly for my own career advancement. Getting 40 hours of real work in a week is worthy of a gold star.

One cure to burn out is to switch things up---try a different type of work, or a different setting. But after thinking seriously about how I'd feel in a more clinical role, I don't think that's the answer. Why? The thought of that filled me with utter dread. No not fear of change, just hating the idea of seeing patients day in and out, charting, dealing with authorizations and appeals, and taking call.

Its more of an "I need a break" than an "I'm DONE". I don't want a change of job. I want a change of attitude. I want to feel engaged and driven again because I'm in the perfect position to use that drive to push forward a really rewarding career. And it IS rewarding. I love my clinical work and teaching trainees, I love the clinical projects I'm starting up, I love my focused little bench work and I really really love how I can combine all three on a daily basis. Its like part of my brain is excited and ready to dive in, but there is a stronger, more primitive side that wants to zone out for a month or so. But since I can't do that, I just hobble along, half in/half out and half-assed. I'm trying to keep things from falling apart until I can jump all in again.

I'm holding out hope that the fire will eventually start to smolder again. Is that possible? Anyone been through this and come out the other side without a major life overhaul?

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Fifth Dimension

There's a lot of talk about time these days: making the most of it, or "managing" it to cram more into each of your hours. I know I have the minutes and hours to achieve everything I'd like to in my life, that's not the issue. My issue is energy: physical, mental, and even emotional.

Am I just lazier than others, that seem to be able to work at full tilt 40+ hours a week, take care of their home and families and marriage and friendships and health and and and and… Because I'm struggling to give even the 3 basic foundations of my life the attention they need right now. I wish I could think of a good analogy, but basically the more I give to my marriage and kids, the less there is for my career, or vice versa. I've been putting a lot of effort into improving my relationship with G, and I've been spending a lot of time building bonds with my kids…and my work is decling. For the past couple of years I've been charging ahead at work, and by default, giving a lot of attention and energy to my young kids…and my marriage stagnated.

While I may have reserves of time, I use 100% or more of my energy to get through each day. So when I try to make my life richer or fuller by adding something, that energy has to come from somewhere. And these days its been work. Which is fine in the short term, I'm incredibly lucky to have that flexibility, but will quickly start to become problematic when the publications aren't piling up.

I've tried really hard to strip down what isn't important. I'm trying to take care of myself to optimize the energy I do have, but it really is a zero sum game. Maybe I need some uppers.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I'll see you in the oatmeal

I always say goodnight to my kids like this: "Goodnight, I love you, I'll see you in the morning". The "morning" part was obviously a joke for many months, we all knew I'd be seeing them multiple times before morning. When L finally started talking, he liked to jump in and sing-song the "mor...ning" part. One night I was telling him how I'd see him when he woke up and we'd go downstairs and eat oatmeal (which he demands immediately upon arising every morning). So when I said goodnight to him, he substituted "oatmeal" for "morning". (Well, actually he says "annam", which is his own made-up word for "oatmeal") And now that's our thing.

Its been our thing for at least a few months now but I'm sure the days are numbered. In fact, he already switched from "annam" to "oa-mee" and now to perfectly enunciated "oat-meal".

I miss "annam".

I've been struck lately by how fleeting it all is, how impermanent. As much as I look forward to seeing what new and amazing thing is next, I can't help feel a bit wistful for what is already behind us. All the little jokes and rituals---they come and go so quickly that I sometimes never get a chance to savor the sweetness.

Lately I really feel like time is speeding up. Wasn't it just winter? I remember counting down for spring, checking the weather report every day for warmer temperatures and a minute each day of more sunlight. And now spring is more than halfway over? Summer will come and go. L will turn three this fall. THREE. Not a baby anymore at three.

B is four and a half. We have a year and a half before kindergarten. That sounds like a lot, but I know its not. And I've heard it over and over from friends and colleagues that things get infinitely more complicated when you have a kid in school. Our leisurely mornings and unplanned evenings are not going to last forever. Weekends where the kids want to be with us and only us, also limited.

I say this again and again, but I really want to step back from the busyness and enjoy our summer. G and I talked a couple of weeks ago about moving a lot of our weekend chores to the weeknights. Instead of the two of us watching TV while the kids slept, we could get our stuff done and have a chance to relax or have adventures all together on the weekends. I'd like to start implementing that this weekend, its supposed to be a lovely one. We also discussed making a summer fun list---I was shocked that G actually suggested this, its not his way to plan things or to even be excited about any family activities---and I'm going to start on that tonight.

And its not just about the kids. Maybe it came from having another birthday (I'm 38 + 3 days old now, will tell the tale of the horrible birthday another time), but I feel like I've entered another stage in life and I'm ready to embrace it. I want to spend my time and energy a lot more intentionally because I know its not infinite. More on that to come, but I definitely know what I want to weed out of my life, and am considering what (if anything) I want to add in.

I've got about 10 posts lined up, and I'm planning to write a lot more regularly over the next few weeks. So I'll see you all in the...