Friday, July 31, 2015

Pre-Weekend Woes

So my MIL is here, which means we have childcare help. We have nothing lined up for this weekend. We actually did the laundry Wed-Thurs night and went grocery shopping last night, so the major chores are done. B is in the midst of an awful summer cold so we haven't planned any outings. The kids will probably just do their coloring/puzzles/books/movies thing which she can supervise (she's had that at home the past few days while we're at work, anyways). I was wondering how to spend this unusual luxury of free time.

My first thought was that G and I could have a day date. We looked into options. There is an exhibit at the art museum that looks interesting but the tickets are pricey! Its too hot to just wander around outside. A movie? We saw the only two movies we wanted to see on our vacation. Go out for lunch or drinks? Money. Calories. Often when grandparents visit we just like to go out and run errands together, but we went to the grocery store last night & ran a bunch of errands with L last weekend. There really isn't anywhere we need to go except maybe to drop off some stuff at the Goodwill and that is hardly a date.

Then G decided that maybe he'll just spend the time working on a wood-working project at home (his new hobby, its pretty useful actually---current projects include a shelving thing for the garden and a bed for L).  So I'll be on my own. I am really struggling to figure out how to spend the time. In the past, I'd use a free chunk of weekend time to go shopping, ban. Or to go get a pedicure---I stopped doing that because $ (and its so easy to just paint my own toes, its kind of silly). I do need to color my hair (I do it myself with drugstore hair color) but that isn't really fun, and it takes about 45 minutes. I don't really have any local friends I can meet up with (all of my few friends have their own families and kids and vacations going on). I almost signed up for a barre class Sunday morning but then realized that paying $23/class on top of $100+/month we already pay for the gym seems stupid, so I'll just go to the usual classes at the Y.

I'll work out each morning at the gym as per my usual routine. I'm not reading any books right now. I'm kind of burnt out on reading, I go through cycles of reading a ton and then taking a break, and its a break time. I'm sure I could find work to do, but ugh. 

I think a lot of the "woe" is coming from the restrictions I've placed on our spending. Prior to that, we probably would've just done the art museum, or went out in the afternoon to a wine bar or something. I think we are going to end up going out for dinner Saturday night because its just getting too blah to sit and shovel down leftover Indian food with the MIL every single night.      

Any brilliant ideas for fun, free things to do on a day date? What would you do with 3 hours of free time on a weekend?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

THAT word again

The comments on my last post made me realize that maybe I wasn't clear. I do not in any way think spending time on the internet or Facebook or playing computer games is inherently bad. I think if you find those activities fun/relaxing/rewarding then there is absolutely no problem. I also find them relaxing and rewarding---at times. When I get on Facebook to see pictures of my cousin's wedding in India that there was no way I could attend, and get to see faces of so many relatives I haven't seen in over 10 years---that is kind of cool! Looking through my sister's monthly photo dumps of my niece and nephew is heart-warming! Getting on my Buy Nothing group and snagging something I needed or finding a taker for something I'm trying to get out of our house is super productive! I'm not actually planning on quitting FB because I find it overall more useful than it is harmful. I'm certainly not quitting "the internet" because I find blogging and reading/connecting with other bloggers to be a really good source of support and connection. 

What is different between what I just described enjoying, and what I really want to stop doing is the intention behind the activity. Now I know this is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days (like the word "un-blowuppable"*) and I do tend to hate on those things (see also "mindfulness") but I can't think of another word that really gets to my point.  It is one thing if you are purposefully (purpose could be a good synonym for intention? motive?) choosing to spend your free time checking on blogs, participating in a FB group, or playing a game on your iPad. Its quite another when you actually planned to do something else (even if that "something else" was sleep) but for some reason you started scrolling and couldn't stop and then that time is gone. Or you were playing with your kids and OMG they are taking forever decided which truck is the mommy and which is the daddy and lets just check FB and 10 minutes later its "Mommy! Look at ME!" and oh well, its time to go to work now anyways, so much for using the mornings well.

Or (and this is what happens to me), you remembered something stressful that happened and eek, its making me anxious, and I do NOT LIKE to feel anxious---must forget about, must distract, must disconnect----oooh GOMI. aaaahhh. that's better. Oh, look at the time! Has it really been that long? And you never dealt with the stressful thing or figured out a way to not be so anxious about it and the next time that thing comes up you are back at square one. The whole reason I started going to therapy was that I didn't think distraction/numbing/disconnecting was a super-healthy or sustainable way to deal with anxiety in the long term. I wanted to learn how to face my fears head on and also how to talk myself down when that chest-tightening/going to throw up feeling first starts to comes on.

I specified "in the long term" because I think that if something is short-lived, YES, you do what you can to get through it. And when you're in the moment, like I said before, maybe playing a little 248 or clicking some link-bait, if it releases the pressure, is probably a good outlet. But its not a "treatment" or "cure" for anxiety, which is why I'm trying to limit that specific use.

Now that I've muddled the picture completely...

*Homer Simpson

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


There was an interesting back and forth on SHU's blog yesterday about whether or not spending time on blogs/internetting (apparently this is not a word?) is an OK coping mechanism. I've been working on reducing my on-line time wasting for years now, so obviously I think its a problem. I kind of figured everyone would agree. Surprisingly, the dissent came from my therapist!

I mentioned that one of the ways I deal with my anxiety is zoning out on blogs or internet sites like Facebook or that-which-won't-be-named. And that I wanted to work on better coping mechanisms. Her response was: "But what's so bad about that?". I was sort of surprised by that answer until I thought about it. She deals with people with all sorts of mental health issues---that come with maladaptive and dangerous coping mechanisms like substance abuse, eating disorders or self-harming. Spending 30 minutes on GOMI (OK, I named it) trying to make myself feel better by comparing my life to vapid food bloggers doesn't really rate as unhealthy in that world.

But that doesn't really mean its good FOR ME. I don't have a ton of free time these days. There are lots of things I'd like to do with my time, some of which may actually do more to actually HELP my anxiety, rather than just cover it up for a while. I've been wanting to try meditation for over a year, but haven't "gotten around to it" (its not a priority). I want to harvest and dry the herbs from my garden, hunt for new recipes, write more here, plan some date nights, clear out my closets...hell, if I don't have the energy to do productive stuff, there are many books I want to read and TV shows I want to watch!

And that's just in the evenings. There are also those days when something or the other gets in my head and I get a bit worked up and I need to take the edge off and I waste 20-30 minutes of my precious work day faffing around on sites I don't even enjoy. I have planned breaks that I use to write here, and comment on your blogs, but some days, I go above that allotted time and scroll Facebook yet again or see what's new in the forums. Even when I can't do the deep thinking work because I'm too tired or stressed, there are literally hundreds of tasks I could cross of my list that would actually make me feel energized and positive rather than more stressed and down on myself.

I've decided that there are indeed certain situations---where I'm stuck somewhere with nothing else to do, and feeling stressed and anxious and not wanting to lash out at anyone or say something I'll regret (some moments at my MIL's house come to mind!) that scrolling through FB or reading something stupid for 10-15 minutes will calm me down enough to move on. It IS a better coping mechanism than yelling at my husband or drinking too much (things I may have done on occasion...). But for everyday life, I need to give it up (yet again, seriously, how many times do I have to try before it sticks? I was doing so well for a while this winter! I guess its like anything else, just keep swimming). I did manage to completely give up playing any kind of games on my phone, and I've never gone back, so I am capable of change!

Oh, and just to add it on here...I'm also trying to cut down on my drinking. That was another thing that's crept up over the past couple of months. During the winter I quit drinking on weekdays and was doing really well with that, but somehow fell back into a nightly glass of wine which sometimes became 2 glasses, and sometimes a third on the weekends. This one is not in any way related to stress, it just And then it became a habit. Like, kids are in bed, pour glass of wine, finish glass, pour a little more. This seems to be another area that I keep trying and failing to change in my life and I'm pretty sure everyone will agree (including my therapist) that this is an unhealthy habit!

So: no more internetting outside of planned breaks and not on time sucking forums of any kind. No alcohol on weeknights unless I'm out with others.

What do you do to relieve stress? How many times do you need to quit something before it sticks?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bringing Vacation Home

I know the title is stupid, but bear with me...I've got thoughts to share. We've been on several vacations this year, and most were pleasant and relaxing (as they should be!). Our last trip wasn't quite as much fun, but it had its moments. The best part was the 4 days we had afterwards when B stayed behind with MIL and we had just L at home. It was so refreshing! We went to work but it was like a staycation in many ways. We didn't really cook, we went out the park in the evening, had ice cream, hung out with neighbors, and generally had a stress-free time. L is just a much more easy-going, up-for-anything kid than his brother who is...intense. I mean, Saturday we took L to the hardware store and he had a BLAST running up and down the aisles "what is this? Ooh, when I grow up can I use drill bits? Why do we never buy PVC piping? Can you buy me some one day? Is daddy going to use galvanized screws to build something? Will it be for ME? Can I help?". He was game for several other errands after that, too, just chatted to himself in the carseat, tried to "help" in the stores, grabbing things and running them over to the person with the cart, and then falling asleep on the way home. There was 99% less whining and 100% less sulking, "I'm bored" and general sighing and grunting going on. I'm sure part of his great behavior was getting both of our full attention, and the fact that we tried pretty hard to make it fun & special for him, since he was missing out on MAJOR spoiling by grandmother and did miss his brother (the cutest thing ever was when they "talked" to each other on the phone. omg.)

The good thing about taking a break for the everyday is the perspective it brings. When I'm in the midst of it, I just can't see it. Stepping back made me realize how exhausting and un-fun our routine can be for all of us. The activities, the to-dos, the careful counting of every penny we spend, calorie we (I) eat, etc... Its a whole lot of "shoulds" and "can't"s and it can be demoralizing after a while.  I've been thinking about is how to incorporate more of the relaxed, vacation-feeling into our everyday lives. Its difficult, because the choices we made for our everyday lives were not made on a whim but firmly based on values and priorities we've thought through---changing those things would end up compromising or changing some of those priorities. But maybe we do need to shake things up.

1) Food. For the love of god, the food procuring, making, eating, cleaning up after. We know its better for our budget and our health to make food from home for most meals. We have systems down, we are efficient, but it still takes a lot of time & physical/mental energy to keep all of us fed with "growing food" for the minors and "no-growing food" for the adults in the family! Add the calorie counting and recording I was doing and food took up a large portion of my mental space. It goes directly against our financial and health goals, but eating out more often would relieve a HUGE burden. I'm not sure how to reconcile this---I know families that eat out all weekend and then do home cooked food all week, and vice versa. Maybe we can just plan to take a "food vacation" once every couple of months, get take-out and cafeteria lunches & come back refreshed? The kids OFTEN ask to go to the park or library in the evening and we can't because we have to figure out dinner & get them fed before bedtime and I HATE that. Yes, even simple meals take time to get on the table and into picky mouths.  Once in a while we've gone to the park and just gotten deli sandwiches nearby and its amazing. Maybe doing that once or twice a week?

2) Activities. B is doing karate twice a week, after school and sometimes also on Saturday AM. Initially it was a GOOD thing, to get us out of our go to school/work-come home routine in the winter, but now its another tiring to-do. We're always running late and rushing and then coming home late & tired and hungry (well, I am anyways, B eats a small meal before). Also, we initially planned for B to eat dinner before but now he's eating TWO dinners, so it saves no time at all, and by the time he gets home & has dinner, its bedtime & he never fails to have a tantrum because he "didn't get time to play". We are signed up (and pre-paid) through September but aren't going to renew (it won't be convenient from his KG, anyways) and I've decided to limit activities in the warm months & ramp them up in the cold months (opposite of what I used to do, since it was so hard to get toddlers dressed to go out in the winter).

3) Weekends. We do a lot on the weekends. I'm always finding and planning activities for us to do because I go a little nuts staying at home.  These things are ostensibly fun, but of course, fun with small kids is also tiring and then at the end of it all there is very little unstructured time for the boys to play together or make up games. I know unstructured play is important and good for kids (and my kids are asking for it more, by refusing to go out or, worse, refusing to go to bed!), and especially after B starts "real school" and aftercare, I want to make sure they have enough of it in their weekends. Not sure how to schedule this---one day each weekend to stay home? Half a day? One weekend a month? Or most likely just play it by ear and see what the kids (and us) seem to need.

4) The "shoulds". This is my issue. I just can't relax until everything is done, and there is always something to be done! Its hard for me to just sit and watch the kids play (or play with them) for more than a few minutes, or even just do something for myself unless I've planned it out or am too exhausted to be productive. I'm constantly working on this problem, and I've gotten WAY better, but even though I am sitting or playing with the kids in body, my mind is often elsewhere. My brain just runs through the list and calendar I keep in my head (they are copies of the actual ones I keep, I DO write things down!)---home, work, kids, dog, others---making sure I haven't forgotten to buy a wedding present or schedule a dentist appointment (two things I need to do today!) I just need some of G's attitude, where he can stop in the middle of whatever to have a beer and build a lego castle (usually while I give him the stink eye because DUDE you didn't finish the dishes!), to rub off on me.

5) Time. I am so anal about bedtime and mealtimes. I need to let it go, at least on the weekends. The boys aren't babies anymore, sometimes when they stay up late, they sleep in! Or they nap the next day or go to bed earlier. I feel like I am constantly watching the clock planning the next thing that needs to happen (this ties in a LOT to #1, 2 and 3. Oh and #4, too). Are we going to the park? When did they last eat. Must pack snacks and drinks. When did they last use the bathroom? Uh oh, L is due to "go" soon, better wait til that happens. OK its 5 pm. If I start dinner now, it'll be ready, they can eat and then play and then have time for bath and stories. Or maybe I should just give them a bath. Or wait, are we having pasta? No, they'll need to bathe after that. Whose turn for stories tonight---G? He will read the long book so we actually have to start stories earlier. So if I start dinner, G needs to do the dog walk. And go pick up xyz from the store. Commence nagging G to stop playing legos (we really likes playing legos) and take dog on walk. Etc...

6) (last one I promise) One on one time. Again, we started doing a lot of this when B first started karate. We took turns taking him on Saturday AM and then spending most of the day with him while the other one hung out with L. It was fun to do new things with the kids and also to reconnect at the end of the day. Not sure how that ended, but it did and I'd like to re-instate that. (and maybe engineer more opportunities for one or the other to stay with grandma again! it was great! but probably won't happen until next summer, since B starts KG).

I wrote this down so I won't forget, and we'll see how it goes!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Our trip, in numbers

  • Number of days: 8
  • Anxiety-fueled meltdowns I had: 2 (one the day before we left, another 5 days into the trip)
  • Fights with G: 2 
  • Fights with MIL: 0
  • Movies watched: 3---Inside Out (kids' choice), Jurassic World (G's choice) and Trainwreck (My choice). The latter two were at my favorite movie theater on earth, with beer & bar food
  • Friends seen: 1 (take out at their house after they put their 1-year old twins to bed)
  • Hours worked: 0.5
  • Hours "worked" while zoning out on blogs: 4.5 
  • Gym visits: 3
  • Trips to the pool: 3
  • Trips with the boys' scooters that we hauled in our suitcases: 1
  • Average Degrees (F): 100 Range 97-103 (without heat index)
  • Rain Days: 0
  • Glasses of Wine consumed: er....too many. it was borderline problematic. 
  • Movies watched by kids at home: again, too many. MIL likes the screentime.
  • Number of us that returned home: 3
  • % better it is with just the one (easy going) kid: 200

Monday, July 13, 2015

Three Good Things

We leave tomorrow for a much-dreaded 8-day trip to MIL-land. I won't go into the details of why I dread it, just take my word for it. Its an obligation and we survive. But when I'm using my precious vacation days, I certainly want to do more than "survive". I know from experience that its pointless to really plan or look forward to anything specific in our time there. She has plans for us, but they are vaguely formed and only in her own head---trying to get anything articulated ahead of time, or to plan our own outings around the family obligations is an exercise in (even more) frustration.

But just like any other times in life, nothing is every "all good" or "all bad". We all know even the "perfect" days probably harbor a tantrum or raised voice or frustrated sigh. And something I've finally learned in the past few years is that even the worst days have a glimmer of laughter, contentment, or satisfaction. The key is noticing and focusing on those moments, and using that to help carry you through the rough patches.

So I'm making a vow, with all of you to hold me accountable, that I'm going to notice and record three good things from every day of our trip. I'm packing a tiny notebook to jot them down at the end of each day, or as I go along. I suspect it will be a mix of moments with the kids (who will have a good time, which is one reason we go), time alone with G, and hopefully some me-time relaxation (reading, exercise).

I'll have my laptop with me, and I hope to post during the trip. Back to wrapping up work.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

How we do it 2015: Chores

A few years ago, I wrote a series of posts about our household routines, and I figure its time for an update. The discussion of how couples divvy up household chores is endlessly fascinating to me, so I'll start with that one. Future topics include: food, childcare, and "me time".

First off, let me say that I am super lucky in two regards. 1) My husband is in every way an equal partner in domestic chores and 2) We can afford to, and we did, hire house cleaners. There is still a LOT to be done, though and this is how we do it.


First off, to get a sense of what we have to clean, we have a 3 story + finished & unfinished basement row house with a back patio and a 3rd-floor deck. 1800 sq feet. 2.5 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms.

The house cleaners come every other week (they are working on my house this very moment). They do bathrooms, kitchen, dusting and cleaning all the floors (all hardwood that they wet mop with a swiffer, plus 2 rugs that they vacuum). They also change the sheets on the beds if we lay new sheets out for them. We provide all the cleaners, mops, brushes, and rags/paper towels for them. They do an OK job. I think I would do a better job with the bathrooms (there is some gunk in the shower and on the bottom of the toilet that I would've cleaned) and the kitchen never looks as clean as it is every evening after we clean it but I would never dust every 2 weeks.

In between, we vacuum the downstairs at least twice (more often in the summer, when the dog sheds like crazy) and may touch up the downstairs bathroom if we have people over.

Every single day we clean the kitchen.  This means: clean stove & counters, put dishes in dishwasher or wash them, wash dog bowl, clean table/chairs/bench and sweep. We do this after breakfast and dinner (except we skip sweeping in the morning). G usually cleans up breakfast because he cooks and eats it, whereas I grab something to do and often head to work earlier. If I am going in later, I will clean so he can shower and then we all leave together. After dinner we take turns, one of us does baths/bed with the kids and the other cleans the kitchen. The kitchen cleaning sometimes takes 5-10 minutes, and I can get it done while the kids are still finishing up. Or it can take 45 minutes and I am still cleaning when they are done with bath and stories. Depends on what we ate and how many pots and pans are there, whether I also need to make lunches for the next day, if the kids ate at the table vs. outside, etc...

We don't do much "pick up". We used to, but I convinced G there was no point. Toys just sit out there, the kids room is a mess. G & I put our stuff away from when we're done with it so its not too bad. Once every few weeks I'll notice a bunch of stuff piling on the table and will go put it away but there is no schedule for that. If we get a bee in our bonnet to unclutter we do it then and there; its completely random. I come home first so I get the mail and deal with it immediately---shred, recycle, or file (mostly recycle). Whoever is on kitchen duty Sunday night takes the trash out.


This used to be 100% my domain but we are splitting it now, thankfully! There is no sorting, except for towels and cleaning rags which go in hot water. We put loads in either when we note the hamper is full (G does not seem to note this ever) or on the weekend. We probably do 6 loads/week. Putting it away is our nemesis and clean laundry may sit in baskets for days. The kids laundry I divide up and give them to shove in their bins (they like doing this). One of us will put ours away at some point. We don't iron. I take care of my hand washing infrequently. We handle our own dry cleaning on the way to work (I dry clean maybe 3 items/year).

Procuring items

We do our big shop at TJs on Saturday usually. We take turns doing this, based on who feels like it. Its a 1 mile walk, so if I want exercise, I'll volunteer. I often take a kid with me as an excuse to have the stroller to put the bags in! It takes about 1.5 hours door to putting food away and closing fridge door. Mid-week, G will take the boys to WF at least once to restock on things (its on their way home). I walk by the pharmacy on the way home so I'll get anything we need there. Everything else is purchased online. G currently holds all of our subscribe and save items on his account. For one-off things, whoever thinks of it orders it. If its me, I'll put it on a list and get to it during a lull at work or later that night. If its G, he'll go right to his phone, ignore me talking to him, and work on it (yes, it annoys me). Oh, the dog stuff---G goes to the local store to buy dog food and treats because we get 40 lb bags.

Invisible Work

This topic comes up a lot, related to men and women and work-life balance. This "invisible work" that women tend to do---like scheduling appointments, remembering birthdays, etc... I do all the medical/dental appt scheduling (but we trade off taking them, based on schedule), I sign up the kids for activities (I research them and sign them up), I did the after care for next year and will probably do the summer camps. I remember birthdays and send cards, I RSVP to kid parties & get the gifts. I even remind G to get flowers for his mother for mother's day. I come up with the ideas for vacations, research costs and then present them. I found all our sitters and I schedule them. I sign up for rewards credit cards and cancel them on the right date. I learned a LOT about financial stuff this year and helped sort a lot of stuff out for us. So I could feel pretty put upon about how I shoulder the bigger burden in this category.

But the thing about this "invisible work" is that you only notice it if you're doing it. And there are apparently all these things G is doing that I had no idea were happening. He changes out the filters every 3 months and the batteries on things every 6 months (and remembers to buy the filters/batteries). He cleans the gutters, gets the HVAC system checked, oils/tightens (or whatever it is that needs doing) the stroller frame/tires and replaces flats (it happens). He cuts the boys nails, I have NEVER done it. I knew he did it, but not that often! He also cuts the dog's claws, brushes her fur and her teeth. He books the dogsitter, and stays on top of dog food. He fixes little things around the house when I'm asleep at night, like 2 fans that weren't working that now are! He fixes ALL technical issues that come up in the house. He refinanced our mortgage this spring; just decided to do it, called around and made it happen (I signed stuff and showed up for the closing). He researches any appliance or tech purchase, and also spends time researching/learning how to do home maintenance.

Reading over this section, it seems we fell right in with traditional gender roles, but whatever. 

Overall, I'd say we average 50/50 when it comes to chores. Sometimes one or the other of us will have more energy (honestly, its usually G) and gives the other a break. We have never formally discussed it, we always divided the chores and continued to do so after kids came along (aside from the times when I was pregnant and sick and I did maybe 10% and he picked up the slack). If one of is away---for a night or for a week, the other takes over everything as best we can. We do discuss whether to outsource something or whether something even NEEDS to be done, but we have not yet needed to have long discussions or arguments about chores.

Oh, there is whining and complaining. Its not all sunshine and roses. And from my viewpoint, the bad attitude seems to be coming more from his end than mine (though sometimes I'll sigh and mope around as I clean the kitchen at the end of a long weekend day, I admit it). I'd really like to fire the house cleaners and get my $200/month back, but G refuses (we clean our kitchen anyways, changing sheets is not a big deal, I can clean bathrooms and he could mop every other week for an hour and who the hell dusts?) I'd also like to NOT clean the kitchen every damn morning when we're rushing to get to work but he insists on  making eggs for breakfast (and spilling some, invariably, on the counter and getting salt all over the stove and...). And we would both LOVE to train the boys to take over at least some of the cleaning over the next few years (wipe down table? dust?).

Right now, its working OK and this is an area I think we've got covered.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Searching for the motivation

I was always intrigued by the idea that understanding myself and what drives me could positively impact my productivity, relationships, and overall happiness. There are so many different ways to categorize yourself, and a slew of online tests you can take to see what neat little box you fit in. Except I never felt that I quite fit in any of the assigned boxes. Every time I took the Myers Briggs test, for example, I got slightly different results. Some things were clear---I'm an introvert. But sometimes I got N and other times I got S, etc... And none of the descriptions of the types seemed exactly right to me.

Because I've been interested in adapting good habits, I was fascinated by Gretchen Rubin's "four tendencies" that purport to explain why people keep or don't keep habits and what strategies can help them. When thinking about how I work, I notice that I respond quickly to emails and requests, but tend to push aside the big-picture career-building stuff. I assumed, thus, that I was an "Obliger", described by Rubin as one who "meets outer expectations and resists inner expectations". But then again---I have kept a steady exercise habit for years, with no outside motivator, and there are definitely requests I get from others that I completely ignore---if ignoring it has no negative consequences for me. I figured it was yet another example of me not finding myself in any of the categories and not quite fitting in anywhere.

Then I took the quiz (linked above) and read more about the other types. It was a big Aha!-type moment for me to realize that I am not an Obliger at all, but a Questioner ("resists outer expectations, meets inner expectations"). Questioners also "question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations". YES!!!

I do things when they make I see the rationale behind doing them and/or when there is a clear benefit to myself to doing them. Funny, because I'm sure G could've told me that in 2 seconds. I question EVERYTHING and will not do it until he gives me a reason that makes sense to me (he's always trying to get me to do things "his way" and I am SOOO resistant unless he outlines tangible benefits or evidence). Examples: throw away food after x days (I don't). use 409 vs. water to clean counters (only when they are greasy), fold the kids clothes to put in bins (never!) Tip 20% every time we go out to eat (I do), walk on the inside of the sidewalk when we are walking together (constant struggle, I don't see the point yet). 

As a naturally conflict averse person, who gets major anxiety around interpersonal conflict in general, "avoids conflicts" is a HUGE benefit to me and I do almost anything to achieve that goal. I think this, in part, is what made me think I was an Obliger. But I don't meet all outer obligations. I'll definitely skip required things if they are useless and no one would notice that I'm missing (a question on the quiz). I do not actually put my own needs below those of others; I'm not a martyr (a typical Obliger trait). Having an "accountability partner" was never helpful for me (the standard Obliger strategy, I tried it last summer) because I didn't really care what she thought about my lack of writing 1 hour/day (and I knew she didn't care one fig).

At work, I respond to requests from others because 1) if I don't, they'll keep bugging me which is annoying and 2) my quick reply can get things moving, whether its for a patient or a colleague. I see the rationale and the benefit to me is the avoidance of more requests. I exercise because I know I feel good afterwards and I like feeling strong. Oh, and so I can eat more. In fact, I get myself out of bed at 5:30 by reminding myself of how great I feel afterwards, both mentally & physically. I usually go to bed early because I feel much better with sufficient sleep and can be more productive, patient, and healthier (I crave all kinds of things when sleep deprived!). I follow rules that make sense, and bend the ones that don't.

I'm just figuring out how to use this tendency to work on habits I've had trouble building. I need to convince myself that the activity is worthwhile. Its better if the benefit is more immediate and specific, not a vague "good for your career and promotion in 7 years" deal. Recently I've had several opportunities to talk about my work with others in and out of my institution. Truthfully? It was FUN. I loved talking about what I've done and what I want to do. I want to build collaborations and have more data to talk about. Just the act of discussing things with people has fired me up to really get moving on even the most tedious aspects of my job. When I'm floundering, I picture myself a year from now, presenting the findings to interested people and it actually helps. Its amazing to me, because I've been so blah about my work for a couple of years now, and I had no idea how to fix it.

The other area I'm trying (and still failing) to use this approach is with my eating habits. I think I just don't believe that avoiding xyz foods is necessarily better. And I don't get those miraculous bursts of energy from "clean eating" that others seem to get. I feel...the same...only hungry & deprived. And weight loss for me has been pretty arbitrary---I lost weight last fall/winter eating without watching my diet, and gained it back eating the exact same things as far as I know. When I was having issues with IBS last summer, I did the FODMAPs diet. Avoiding certain foods really helped, and I've never gone back (chick peas in my salad, stone fruits, cherries, apples---I miss them, but not enough to endure painful cramps for hours). I know that if I found some way that avoiding cheese puffs, fancy cheese and booze tangibly improved my current life, I could do it. Until then, the momentary pleasure wins out. Of course the answer is to never bring those items home. Last night G proudly brought home a 6 pack of fancy beers and a wedge of manchego.

Do you know your tendency? Does it help you make better habits? Tips for not eating that cheese and drinking that beer?

Monday, July 6, 2015


After a few weeks spilling over with fun and excitement, we all heard a big THUD as we landed back into reality this morning.  We went to my sister's Saturday, celebrated the 4th of July, and were back on the road Sunday AM to sit on the highway for hours like the suckers we are. We did get off the highway and made it home eventually, not without a puking incident.

I am exhausted, even after 9 hours of sleep last night (I crashed soon after the kids did!). I had a well-planned to do list and great intentions, but things are moving slooowwwlllyyy in my head.

We did enjoy the rest of our time away from the kids. Thursday night we went out to dinner at a lovely Greek BYOB where we sat in the most charming courtyard full of flowers and birds and fireflies. The service was slow and relaxing; when it started raining we all just got a bit wet, until the waiter came and opened a little overhang and we moved our tables under it and continued eating. I probably ate and drank too much (reminder---do not order the fried cheese appetizer), but I slept it off. Friday morning I checked out the "barre body" class at the gym---whoo! I loved it, though my legs hated me! Then G & I went for a bike ride. I wanted to see if I could handle a bike commute so we drove to my work. I was initially terrified, since its been about 9 years since I've gotten on my bike, and I've never driven down city streets before. I got the hang of it, and after a couple more practice rides I think I'll be ready to do it! It'll save me about 20-30 minutes/day in commuting.

We weren't sure how to spend the rest of Friday. G wanted to watch a movie at home, but then we decided that was boring. We couldn't go watch a movie, because of timing with dog-walking and picking up the car rental. We decided to go have a drink somewhere and turned around after 2 blocks because neither of us really felt like it. So we came home and worked on a (wait for it...geek alert) 1000 piece puzzle and had beer. It was relaxing! We picked up the car, got groceries, picked up Chipotle and got back to our puzzle. By the time we left Saturday morning, we had done 90% of the puzzle!

Friday was relaxing and fun, but it was also when I really started to miss the kids. It was actually quite nice (amazing!!!) on the work days, to not have to swing directly into the second shift of cooking/cleaning/childcare. But on the entire day off, there were periods where I wanted to spend time with them.

The kids were happy to see us Saturday. Apparently they had a blast, behaved remarkably well, and never asked for us, not once. They certainly were saving up some tantrums for us because the "perfect behavior" ended within 10 minutes of us setting foot in the house. G and L napped after lunch while I "caught up" with B---he was telling me stories of the past few days, some of which made zero sense, but were based in some version of reality. We spent the fourth with my sister and her family, my parents, and some of my sister's friends who came over. We had too much food, lots of watermelon, smores, pie, ice cream, beer & wine, and fireworks on the driveway. We kept the kids up until 9:30, for the "big fireworks" that were supposed to start at 9:15 (and that you can see from the sunporch), but they never came and we put the cranks to bed, thinking it was canceled for the weather. Of course, they started at 10PM and various loud booms continued 'til after midnight, which meant no sleep for me.

So. It was nice without the kids, and nice to see them again, too. I guess having all that time reminded me of why we decided to have kids in the first place...because we wanted to share our lives with little people full of wonder and weirdness.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

72 hours of a different life

My parents took my kids to my sister's house yesterday morning. G and I are kid-free until we go get them on Saturday. Whoo hoo?

I was worried sick while they were driving on the highway. I made my parents text me every hour. We've gotten lots of texts and pictures of the boys playing with their cousins. We skyped last night and it was chaos. My poor sister! (but not really, they sent their kids over to our house last summer, for 4 nights). I miss them---their energy, curiosity, cuteness and snuggles. But I'm enjoying this break, too! 

What have we done so far:
Wednesday: Work. Come home and take dog on walk together. Extend the walk to neighborhood wine bar and have drink and some snacks, sitting outside. Come home and collapse because its hot outside. Eat leftovers. Try to come up with something to do together, acknowledging that I had a headache. Decide to do our own thing. G watches loud, high-body-count, action movie and has bourbon and nuts. I watch 2 episodes of Gilmore Girls and have 2 glasses of wine and mainline almost an entire large bag of pirate's booty.
Thursday: Turn off alarm at 5:30 and miss workout. Get up at 6:45. G and I take dog on 3.5 mile run. Struggle---I haven't run in 6 months---but manage to keep up (G is very tall and I am short. it takes 2 of my steps to match one of his). Go to work.

And here I am! I'm hoping to leave early today, since G's work lets out at 3pm. I may meet him at a bar where he's going with colleagues for happy hour. We want to go out to dinner, but haven't picked a place yet. Tomorrow is a day off from work. We are planning to dust off our bikes and haul them up from the basement to try them out (its been about 8 years since I've ridden my bike; I was going to sell it and then decided that a bike commute would save me time). There is a barre class mid-day at the gym I also want to try out. We'll probably eat out for dinner again.

Saturday morning we leave bright and early to drive 3-4 hours to my sister's place to reunite with the boys and hang out at their neighborhood 4th parade & picnic. And then fireworks (if it doesn't rain)!

Happy 4th of July!