Monday, January 6, 2014

Setting the Foundation

First: thank you all so much. The advice, empathy, and conversation on my last post was invaluable. It felt like a group of friends sitting around a table with drinks in hand, telling our stories, commiserating, and helping each other out.

So I've been thinking about resolutions for 2014. I've considering doing monthly ones, Happiness Project-style. Or doing multiple "Intentions" in parallel like I tried in 2012. Instead I've decided to layer my resolutions for this year. I'm starting by building the foundation.

Last time, I identified 6 areas of life I wanted to focus on, but this time I'm sticking to just 3. The three things that form the absolute core of my life, which also happen to be the areas I really think I can do better: marriage, parenting, and career. If these things aren't going well, there is no point trying to add more to my life. So I want to spend the first few months of the year really trying to form (and break) some key habits that should make those parts of life work more smoothly. Once I achieve that, I'll move on to the next (yet to be determined) steps.

I am aware that I didn't include "health" or "personal time" this year. Because the habits I set on those 2 years ago have stuck around and I don't currently feel the need to reinvent the wheel. I'm exercising 3-4 times a week, both running and strength training. I plan to run the 10-miler again this spring. I eat fairly well and have completely stopped snacking. I'm drinking my 2 liters of water every work day. I'm getting as much sleep as I can given inevitable interruptions like hacking coughs, insomnia, and 2-year olds. I think I read 30 books last year, and I've already read 1.5 this year. I'm blogging. I go to most book club meetings. I occasionally have outings with friends. I might add more specific goals about those areas in the future, but now is the time to work on the foundation.

These are the specific steps I've decided to take:


  • Weekly night (we picked Friday) to talk and hang out (no TV or movies). If something comes up on Friday, we need to immediately pick another day and put it on the calendar. 
  • Make a list of movies to watch and watch one with G twice a month
  • Once a month date night out. 4 times a year to do something other than eat/drink (i.e. orchestra, museum, play, concert)
  • *Do not say "nothing" when asked what's wrong. If I'm not ready to talk about it, just say that. 
  • Real hug every morning and night (better than the perfunctory peck on the lips we generally do)
  • *Do not roll eyes at G (I got this from "Happier at Home" that I'm in the middle of right now. Apparently very alienating and clearly very infuriating to be the recipient) 
*specific to Ana

  • Do not yell
  • Special breakfasts (also from "Happier at Home") for holidays
  • Pick up kids twice a week from school 
  • Continue participation in daycare Parents' Board (my kids spend a combined 80+ hours in that school...I want some say in how things are run!)
  • Start one class for B in addition to swimming (gymnastics, soccer?) this year
  • Read/learn about 4-year old development 
Career (more general things I need to do, not specific career goals, which I'm working on as well)
  • Make plans for each week BEFORE Monday AM (use paper and pen as on-line systems have been failing me lately)
  • Re-initiate regular meetings with research mentors
  • Set specific times of day for checking email and EMR/patient messages
  • Identify and employ strategies for limiting time-wasting on the internet (blocking software, accountability partner?)
  • Track time at work (5 days) every 8 weeks to note progress (must be HONEST in tracking)

I'll start with these steps, and will update every 2 weeks into how I'm doing on each of them to hold myself accountable. As always, any advice is welcome (what planner should I get? Any good books on 4-year olds?), since I assume some of you have conquered many of these yourself.


  1. Sounds like great plans!

    Rolling eyes is the #1 predictor of divorce in long-term relationship studies, so an excellent thing to stop doing. (That and other signs of contempt.)

    My kids are so different that standard child development books didn't help. I have some good recommendations for gifted kids though, if you think that might be something they've got. They seemed to better match what we were going through. Other popular books we can't vouch for are "How to talk so your children will listen" which we never got around to getting and "Raising your spirited child," which we didn't need for DC1 because ze isn't spirited so long as ze gets in some mental and physical exercise each day.

    1. Gretchen Rubin mentions that research on eye-rolling in the book, which is what struck me. I have "how to talk..." and its good for all ages. I don't think we are dealing with "gifted", but definitely "sensitive"

    2. You never know. Sensitive and gifted are correlated, and you're a professional in a tough field-- it's quite possible your kids are a standard deviation or two above average as well. The gifted pages are pretty good if you want to do one of those quick checks. Also there's a lot of talk about excitabilities and sensitivities on the pages because of the correlation between giftedness and sensitivity. Though, of course, gifteness is a syndrome, not a disease.

    3. Thanks for the info. Realize I don't really know what "gifted"means even though I was labeled as such as a child. I figured it meant "smart enough to be bored in school"

    4. I know gifted seems like a dirty word in a lot of parenting communities (because bragging), but it's a real thing that can cause actual problems. My son is an angel if he's getting enough stimulation and a terror if he isn't. I care about that and his (and my daughter's) happiness more than I care about people talking behind my back about what a bitch I am. And if you were diagnosed gifted, chances are your kids are too. It's a different world from the regular parenting books dealing with intense sensitive kids who don't sleep a whole lot (though not all gifted kids show all symptoms and not all symptoms lead to gifted etc.). I dunno, we have a lot of related conversation on this topic under our "gifted" tag on the blog.

  2. Holy mother of god you do a lot of stuff.

    I agree, don't roll your eyes. When my husband does this to me, it makes me want to punch him. (He's much better about it than he used to be.)

    Now, if only I could stop procrastinating on the internet so much!

    1. Really? What part seems like a lot? I'm honestly curious, because I think I do nothing other than work, occasional outings with friends (maybe 10 times a YEAR) and once every 2 months book club (plus I've been to the parents board meetings twice in a 4 month period). We get a sitter and go out roughly once a month (this just started last summer).

    2. I think it was the 30 books and participation on your daycare board that seemed like a lot to me.

    3. The books just...happen. usually because I can't sleep at night. I'll read 2 a week when i'm in those phases and then not read anything for a while. the parent board thing is new. Lets see how it goes. So far it hasn't involved any actual WORK.

  3. ahghgh i think i lost my comment! i was just going to say that i definitely recommend a paper planner. my faves: erin condren life planner (pricey but i am addicteddddd), exaclair space 24.

    i really like the concrete and specific nature of your goals -- i am realizing that some of mine are a little nebulous (like, i'm not sure if i'm successful or not).

    1. Thanks for the planner recs. I want something simple to write (and cross off!) to-do items off. I use google calendar for actual meetings etc... since I can synch with G.

    2. And yes, I was specifically trying for measurable things that I can check Yes or No. Otherwise it simply doesn't happen.

  4. What a great list! I might have to steal some of the marriage ones - especially the eye rolling one (I've done that since I was a kid and can't drop it).

    I'm currently reading The Learning Brain by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Uta Frith. It's actually meant for educators, but it was recommended to me by an educational neuroscientist. It's a good way to get insight into why kids of certain ages do the things they do!

  5. I am just so impressed by how much you already do (my children go to no classes, I read no books, I don't exercise, have no outings...) and by the fact that previous attempts to change led to CHANGE. I don't know if you appreciate how amazing that is. Behavior change is really, really hard.

    It's really a beautiful set of things. Some have been on lists before and fallen off, like real hugs...The eye rolling thing freaks me out a little. My husband does that occasionally. Does that mean he will divorce me?

    I use Basecamp, which is project management software. It's really hard for me to keep track of the to-do items on all my different projects and since a lot of them have collaborators or research assistants, it's priceless to be able to efficiently interface with those people. This is total overkill for what you asked about, but the part that has really made it worthwhile is that I can print a list of all the to do items for all projects. I do this every few days and always on Friday afternoons, then highlight the ones with the most pressing due dates or that I want to get to for whatever reason, and that's where I start when I come in in the morning. It's a funky online + paper combo. This stuff is all so specific to different people, though, and things that sound useless when someone tells you about them might be awesome, while things that sound awesome turn out to be useless...Good times.

  6. Just putting it all in writing makes it obvious that you do more than you think you do. Sure, there are areas that could use improving, but where there's a will, there is a way to break a habit or at least remould a bad one into something well, improved. :-)
    Best of luck, dear friend. You seem to be very determined, and you have chosen the most direct way to approach your problems. You had success in health and me time areas, you will succeed in the rest of them as well. I sincerely have no doubt, and I am not patronising or derisive, I honestly believe you will succeed.

  7. Wow, you definitely DO a lot of stuff. I'm not working now, and have less stuff on my parenting list than you :)

    We limit to one class per kid at a time because all the shuffling to/fro and coordination is crazymaking for me (not including preschool). (I have a very low tolerance for busy, though.) One of the classes is a weekend one so either of us can take her.

    Development books I like are the Ames & Ilg series by age. Super dated as far as cultural references (Mom does everything, Dad isn't expected to do anything, etc) but spot on in terms of what's age appropriate. The 3yo one was a saving grace for us. Also, these books are short and easy to read :)

    Good luck!

  8. These are great. I especially like making plans for the week before Monday. I just interviewed someone who does temp placements and she told me people always call her for temps on Monday. Um, did you not see there was going to be a big project coming next week? Did it just magically appear? If you'd called on Thurs or Fri the temp would be there dealing with the work overload on Monday. Anyway, all that is to say that people don't think about it and it is an excellent idea!