Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Measure of a (Wo)man

There was a fascinating "Note to self" podcast early in the archives about the downside to the use of health-tracking technology. About how logging and seeing every step you take, calorie you eat, water you sip, minutes you sleep can make you anxious and hyper-focused on yourself. I definitely experienced this with calorie tracking, as you may remember from several years ago. I found myself really anxious about going over on any given day, and putting way too much of my self-worth on whether I was "good" or "bad" about staying in my calorie goals (and the app makes it easy to assign value judgements by putting you in the green & giving you happy faces, vs. red & exclamation marks!!!!). I was also running running running without any focus on speed or form, just to get a bigger calorie buffer into my day. My perfectionism came out full on, too, the thought of "incomplete data" when I just could not remember every bite I put on my mouth at a potluck, or had not even a ballpark idea of the ingredients or calorie count of some concoction I imbibed drove my CRAZY. I had to stop.

After a couple years of having it sit in a drawer, I pulled out my old fitbit zip in January and replaced the battery and worse it almost daily. I did it only because I signed onto an app that would import data and then award you points that ultimately translated to $$$. A friend of mine told me about it and I figured free money was reason enough to pin the tiny thing to my waistband or bra step. It took me 6 months to get $10, so its not a get-rich-quick scheme. When the battery died yet again in July I put it back in the drawer. The fitbit NEVER motivated me to walk more, maybe because I know I walk plenty most days and if I don't hit my goal by the end of the day, something in my routine was off enough that it would take way too long to do enough pacing around my house to get there.

The perfectionism thing I noticed with MyFitnessPal extends to spending tracking as well. We had a bit of a snafu that ended up with an overdrawn bank account and scrounging our house for cash for pizza last week (long story, it was a good reminder not to slack on keeping an eye on our bank balance and transferring from emergency fund when needed instead of planning to do it "later"). Said snafu had us updating all our Mint passwords and deciding to go back to YNAB. Notice I said "us". G said, "sure, sounds like a good idea" and then promptly never logged a thing unless I reminded him of it. I logged my few meager purchases for 3 days and when I didn't notice the groceries he brought or the packages that came from Amazon, I started getting all twitchy about the incomplete data. I had two options: remind him (i.e. nag) to do it, or let it go. I chose the latter. I'm keeping a close eye on our bills and balances, but we are NOT going back to logging every purchase. If G ever decides he wants to be consistent with it, I'm on board, but I CANNOT keep reminding him daily or, worse, just looking at bills and ATM withdrawals and trying to piece together his spending FOR HIM to enter into YNAB, which is what I was doing for many months before.

There was an episode on the "Happier" podcast where someone mentioned that YNAB similarly made him nuts because of this intrinsic NEED to account for every single penny and he had to quit, and I was so happy to hear I'm not alone in this lunacy. I don't know if it is the scientist in me or what, but if I am collecting data, I want it to be as complete & accurate as possible! How can you begin to make sense of estimates & guesstimates and days of blanks? What conclusions do you draw from that? I think some would argue that some data is better than no data, and "perfect is the enemy..." etc... but I can't get my brain on board with that.

Things I do track currently: water intake (because I sometimes forget to drink enough & then don't feel well), meditation (just a yes or no, so I remember to do it every day), and my plank challenge (again, yes or no, and I try to do it 3X a week, on non-gym days...I'm up to SIX MINUTES). Yes, sometimes I'm chugging water to meet my goal, but there isn't really much of a downside to this. Maybe forcing myself to meditate at night when I'm falling asleep (sometimes I just completely forget during the day!) isn't necessary, but I like seeing that streak (85 days!). Those things are actually more of a to-do-list then really getting into hard numbers and data, so they don't lead to that sort of hyper-focus and anxiety.  I sometimes write down what I've eaten in my planner for a week or two at a time, to make sure I'm not fooling myself with excess snacks or letting my lunch "creep up" (I sometimes start adding more items just to use up excess fruits or because we bought something I wanted to try, for example).

Anyone else let a tracking app make you crazy, or am I truly neurotic? (actually don't answer that second part!)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Itchy and Scratchy Show

They fight and fight and fight and fight and fight...


You get it.

Seriously the boys are in a phase of wanting to be together constantly but then annoying each other, ultimately leading to physical violence and tears and shouting and MOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!

We try to keep them apart but they just gravitate back together. L is like a mosquito, he follows B around and irks and pesters until B lashes out. And B is bigger & stronger. And L is a drama queen.

When they aren't fighting, they are egging each other on to annoy US in inventive and ever-more-irritating ways. Again, L is the mischief-maker, trying to get rule-follower B to go along with his nonsense. Which he does, because he is seven and full of energy and that little-kid-wildness. 

One on one, they are fun, but together they are truly a PITA these days. I am a little worried about leaving G alone for 4 days, I'm leaving Friday straight after AM clinic to visit friends, and won't be back until right after bedtime Monday (I am so excited, I can't wait!). I advised him to go against his instinct and make lots of plans, so they aren't at home too much.

In other news, I am really into bingeing podcasts. I like starting at the very very beginning and listening to every single episode in order. I just finished both Happier, and Happier in Hollywood, and I'm sad, because I loved them both. I know I can listen to a new episode each week, but that style of listening doesn't appeal to me, so I think I'll wait for a whole bunch to pile up and binge again. I'm now on "Note to Self" which is quite good so far. Any podcast recommendations for similar styles?

Also, we are planning on winter break trip. We booked flights already but need to figure out what we are going to do. Anyone live in/near or traveled to San Diego in December and have thoughts for us? (don't tell me any stories about horrible rain, I realized the whole "rainy season" thing AFTER I booked the flights). It'll be the 4 of us (boys 6 and 8 at the time) and my MIL and we will have 5 full days (not counting the 2 travel days). We are doing 2 days at Legoland, but not sure about the other 3 days.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nolite te Bastardes...


I can't believe I never gushed & raved about how much I love love LOVED the Hulu series "The Handmaid's Tale". The book is amazing...and touches almost a little to close to home given the state of the world these days. But the way they brought the story to life...the acting, the scenery, the music...really enhanced the story. I actually literally binge-watched the whole thing in one day and then sort of regretted not stretching it out to really savor (but the kids were coming back and I knew I'd never get this kind of chance to just immerse myself in something so fully again).

This weekend was not great. The one socializing plan we did have, we canceled due to massive thunderstorms Saturday evening, so we didn't really see other people. I've realized lately that all of us do better with some socialization each weekend. The boys have been fighting CONSTANTLY lately, and L has really been pushing boundaries. Of course, us parents don't react as calmly and logically as we'd like every time and overall nobody was really happy or relaxed. On Saturday night I completely forgot to take my P@xil, and I woke up at 5AM Sunday morning, brain racing, unable to go back to sleep. Even though I took it right away, I went through a mini-withdrawal for most of the day and was not in the mood for adventures so we mostly stayed home.

Its G's birthday today. I made most of the components of the strawberry shortcake he asked for yesterday, so I just have to whip cream and assemble tonight. I did have the boys make cards yesterday, which took up a few hours of time, as they got really creative with it. We are going out tonight, for a very very casual dinner.

If I try to think on the positive side, I can say this weekend did include the following: 2 workouts for me, a woodworking class for B & coffee shop adventure for L & G, park trips, reading 2 chapters of "The Prisoner of Azkaban" out loud, me reading a big chunk of my current (very long) book, a great dinner I made on Friday night, a successful baking project, and creative pursuits for the boys. Oh, and G and I watched "Arrival" Friday night (it was $0.99 on iTunes) which was excellent. And of course, Game of Thrones last night.

My samples are probably done thawing on ice so I better go aliquot. Did I ever mention that my research tech left and I'm all alone until I can hire someone else? And how much it sucks? I have to figure out how to print labels today, something I haven't done in years and years. Everything just takes me FOREVER to figure out, the learning curve is steep.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Five Weeks of Summer

Its actually closer to 4 weeks by now. The amount of time we had in between the boys getting back from their time with cousins/grandparents and us all going to visit MIL (and leave them with her for a couple weeks). I didn't account for the 4 days I'm going to be away on a solo trip visiting friends. So yeah, its short.

I'm trying to plan our weekends to include our summer fun items. Also trying very very hard to say YES to things. I've been playing hours of games with B because he keeps asking, and I know he'll be out of the Phase 10 phase soon enough (that's how he rolls, serial monogamy with obsessions), even when I really really want to just chill out or get started on dinner after work.  We are trying to loosen up on bedtime and treats (but not screen time, because it messes with their heads and makes them crazy). I've thought about doing more stuff in the evenings but its really just so hot, and I'm so tired by the time we get home, that I just want to sit around.

I'm still having that vacation-brain where I don't WANT to work, even though I want to HAVE WORKED. Its taking all kinds of tricks (internet blockers, pomodoro timers, changing locations, giving myself little rewards) to get done what i need to get done. I am coming in early since I have to pick B up by 5 at camp, which is at least taking advantage of my morning clarity.

Hope everyone is having a taste of summer!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


The weekend was OK. The kids were really really challenging and I don't think either of us was quite up for the challenge. We did have pizza on Sunday, we went to a neighborhood place and actually sat outside in the gorgeous weather enjoying prosecco and pizza. On Saturday after the park we stopped to get lunch and I had a vegan tahina-based Turkish coffee milkshake which was so so so so good (I can't drink milk so I haven't had a milkshake in decades). So maybe THAT was the highlight.

Despite the bewildering "food should be boring" statement, which I've decided is just not for me, you guys really should listen to that podcast. I keep finding myself thinking about some of the ideas, not for food at all, but for general coping. I don't mind taking what I can from a resource and leaving the rest, and there was a lot of wisdom there that I suspect would be useful to anyone.

On the (long-ignored) advice from our therapist, we started behavior charts for the boys. They get checks for avoiding bad behaviors/executing good behaviors. I tried to keep it simple but it ended up having way too many rows because I was trying to cover EVERYTHING. And that is a lot. No hitting, no bad words, do chores without complaining, etc... G made a joke that we needed one for ourselves and I made those last night. Mine has 3 items: No yelling/mean talk, No junk food after dinner, and Put phone away. Of course I have several other things I am working on, but I track those on an app on my phone (meditate, exercise, go to bed by 10, avoid alcohol, avoid certain foods, etc...).  Sunday I got zero checks, but Monday I hit all 3.

I haven't quite figured out all the details for the charts. What do the boys get when they get x number of checks? Right now I told them it was related to screen time on the weekend (they lost their screen time last weekend, so we never did watch the HP movie), which is their most coveted prize. Last time I bribed them (to stop bedtime shenanigans), I got them books after x number of nights. That was pretty straightforward, and it worked. I have a feeling this may go the way of the "marble system" or "pennies in a cup" we had in the past. They were excited and motivated initially, and then just didn't care anymore and we ended up ditching it. I dunno. My sister has been using her marble jars for YEARS with her kids and they still want to earn them...but my kids are very different from hers.

We are also working on anger/frustration and rigidity with B with his group social skills therapist. We talk about "being bendy" (flexible) and try to place events correctly on the "big deal-o-meter" so that every little slight and injustice is not the end of the world (or of our family's peace). Man this stuff is so so hard. Definitely not an innate skillset for me, but I'm learning as I go. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Back Into It

For such a short week, Friday took a surprisingly long time to come, didn't it?

Our kids are back, the 4th is over, we are back into the grind of camp and daycare and activities and cooking dinner and not drinking every night.

I've been listening to a very interesting podcast and thinking I need to work on my relationship with food. It called "Weight Loss for Busy Physicians" but has practically nothing to do with physicians and is actually applicable to a lot more than weight loss. She talks about stress and coping and basically CBT (changing your thinking so that you can change your emotions, your outcomes, and your results).

One thing she said that I'm still trying to wrap my head around is this: "Make your food boring, and your life exciting".  My first thoughts: "Wait, what? But food is often the ONLY excitement, and reliable source of enjoyment, in my day!" Which, when said out loud, definitely sounds a bit sad and like a person who needs to make some changes in their life. Even when I'm eating exceedingly healthy foods, I still look forward to eating way too much.

To illustrate, I have been considering our weekend activities. Sunday we are going "hiking" (walking on trails in a woodsy park) which may or may not involve whining for snacks and hitting each other with large sticks, and hopefully will not result in us bringing home more ticks. I also told the boys I'd watch Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with them, and we would get pizza. Its supposed to be nice out, so probably some more park time, and the boys are super into playing Phase 10 (B) and Uno (L) so certainly we will be busting those cards out. Plus the usual chores. Of all of those things, I have to say, the only one I can say for 100% will be enjoyable is...the pizza.  I mean, I can't control weather and wildlife and moods and behaviors of children. And I don't want to stake my expectations too high on any of those things, because disappointment is sure to follow. Food is just such a constant.

If you've figured this whole thing out, help is welcome.