Monday, February 5, 2018

Underdogs!

While I still maintain that our country's obsession with professional sports is kinda stupid, watching the game last night was seriously good fun. Our friends came over with their 3 boys and even B, who repeated all day that he didn't like football and was not going to watch the game, got really really into it, and admitted that he was wrong. I was worried that he would be grumpy and hang out alone in his room, but he piled on the couch with the other boys and there was only one incident that earned him a brief time out (and he actually apologized, sincerely, after!) It helped that it was a really really, heart-pounding, nail-biting close game. We let the boys stay up and watch the whole thing (they changed into PJs and did teeth at halftime). And when it ended? We all ran upstairs for our shoes and coats and joined the entire city making their way to Broad street! G and I decided it was a once in a lifetime event and did not want to miss it, so we walked over, saw the fun, and then came home and put the kids to bed (they fell asleep within minutes) and I put myself to bed while G cleaned up (he had already planned to work from home to take L to an appointment mid-day while I had 8 AM clinic patients, so it only seemed fair).

The winning started well before the game, though. G and I spent a lot of the day in the kitchen, and it was raining outside, and we are still limiting screen time, so the kids got BORED. They complained and whined and fought and came to announce every few minutes that there was NOTHING TO DO. So I gave them chores. And they did them. They fake complained "ugh, ANOTHER job, this is job number 862 today" but they did clean their rooms, and gathered up library books, and emptied the trashcans and everything else I asked of them. And then they suddenly achieved this rarely seen nirvana of creative joint play, all on their own! They were really secretive and then surprised us with the grand opening of "B and L's restaurant, everything your heart desires" and took our orders and made us food out of construction paper and tape and crayons and were so so into it, it was absolutely adorable. All it took was hours of whining and some boredom.

I realize writing this that most people may consider this all routine and unimpressive behavior for their kids, but my kids are usually just so so unwilling to play together and B is so literal and unimaginative and they usually fight every. single. thing...it just felt really nice to have kids acting like normal kids. Its also nice to be reminded that I actually do love children, in general, and specifically my own, and that there was a reason we wanted so badly to be parents and its all not a complete slog. The reward, its rare, but sweet.

We are all  exhausted today and no one will be winning anything tonight because I anticipate tired, whiny kids but we have leftover party food, and I'm planning early bedtimes for all of us.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Superb Owl

Its been a pretty good week. B has been pretty independent with his homework, which is good because L is suddenly OVER his reading practice. It took us nearly 20 minutes, with lots of redirection, for him to read his 75 word book yesterday. I had a mid-week friend date which is always a nice break. I've been doing really well with my healthy habits.

Weekend plans are not that set yet. I am going to a post-work barre class this evening because I have clinic tomorrow AM (we take turns doing this, so I only do it a few times/year). The boys will probably make waffles and play legos. The afternoon---I have to figure out what we can do. Its going to be cold. Baking? Science museum? We are going to watch a family movie in the evening.

Sunday we are having another family over to watch the game. G planned what seems to me to be a complicated menu. So he will cook it (he smartly shopped last night so we do have chicken wings and chili ingredients).  I'll go to the gym in the morning and then take the kids to the park for at least 30 minutes to blow off some steam. And take care of regular Sunday stuff which isn't fun but has to be done. And then the game! I don't care about football in the least, but its hard to not get swept up in the excitement. Plus, eating & drinking things and hanging with friends is something I DO care about.

Standard weekend reminder to myself: stay off your phone! 


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

See ya January...and thoughts from data mining my gratitude journal

Something about a blank new month page in my planner fills me with glee. A whole blank month to plan and fill with things...an hour in, of course, most days were filled in with already planned and scheduled events (clinic sessions, appointments) but I do have some blank days to work with so I texted the sitter for date nights, booked some barre classes, and sent various messages and emails to friends to schedule outings.

I've been fairly consistent with my "3 good things" journal lately. Every night I write down a minimum of 3 things that made me happy that day. Some days its a struggle. But I dig deep. Its actually one of those "line a day" 5 year journals, and I got it in 2013, so if I had done this consistently, I would have a really nice record of the past 5 years, but alas. I started and stopped many times over the past few years (I think I missed 2014-2015 altogether).

I was looking over my entries from January 2018 and 2016 (the last year I actually filled out January) and patterns started to emerge. Looking over what MADE me happy gave me insight into what will MAKE me happy! (duh). There were certain things that came up over and over which I assume are my "secret to a happy life"

Meaningful work: feeling like I really helped someone, or had an insight into a research question. Not necessarily being super-productive and getting things done, but those flashes you sometimes get that make you feel lucky to be doing this. This is a great reminder to "Find the Why" in what I do with most of my waking hours

Creating things: mostly food. But I had a short lived stint a couple years ago of learning to sew. Gardening. I need to do these things more often (but probably not with food, because...I want my clothes to fit).

Challenging exercise: Gives me  a high and ups my confidence. If I accomplish nothing else, the morning workout is still an achievement

Engrossing Stories: books, mostly, but also some really good shows we've watched. If I'm still thinking and feeling the story after I've closed the book or finished the episode, it often makes the list.

Noticing beauty: A beautiful sunrise, freshly fallen snow, L's dimples, really really good food

Connecting: with friends, my kids, husband

Calm: I'm always working on doing better with keeping my cool and my patience, and I specifically wrote down challenging episodes at home in which I managed my emotions and turned things around

As I fill up February, I'm making a point to block out time for all of this.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Hopeful

Things seem to going a bit better (crosses fingers, throws salt, knocks wood...). B really seems to be working hard at turning his mood around instead of getting stuck deeper and deeper into perpetual despair. L is still a wildcard, but he has his moments of being fun & curious & snuggly, and then there are the moments of demon-child that are so so ridiculously bad they are almost, sometimes, funny.

We actually had a good weekend. Another nice weather day on Saturday and I took B for errands and both kids to the park. Sunday rained but turned out...not terrible. We did watch a movie. I got my workouts in, cooked yummy stuff (African peanut stew from OhSheGlows, so so so good), had social time (playdate, talked to other mom), and overall felt like it was too short and not ready for Monday!

I finished one of my favorite books in a long time: Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. I actually listened to this---my first audiobook---and it was still completely engrossing and I was sad for it to end. I will definitely consider autdiobooks more often.  I don't have another amazing book lined up. I gave up on "What Happened", and I'm sort of making my way through "One in a Million Boy" which I bought at some point for a dollar, but its not at all what I expected and I'm finding it hard to follow for some reason, and its impossible to go back and "remind yourself" on an ebook.


G is taking B to social skills, so I will get L and read with him and maybe play a bit before making our Plated meal (shrimp tacos..yum!). Its my turn to read stories and we are more than halfway through "A Wrinkle in Time". The kids are loving it, and we are all looking forward to the movie which seems badass (at least the casting). Weekday evenings are mostly a grind, I'm trying to convince myself this will all be fun! And not exhausting and involve me counting down every minute until I can go to sleep.



Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Weekend Update

The weekend was great. The much warmer weather certainly helped. We basically did do most of the things I had planned with the addition of the Women's March on Saturday and a long park play date with friends on Sunday.

I ended up making this soup and it was amazing

The screen time stuff was nbd. I think because we were just going back to how things were before this recent free-for-all?

The kids on the other hand? Still jerks. Oh well.

I finished "Year of Yes". The beginning was so awful I was about to give up, but it got better and while I don't necessarily think it was worth reading (was for my book club, which is tomorrow, so I wanted to finish), and I'm sort of annoyed I spent $1.99 on it because I almost never buy books, she did make some good points. I've never watched even a single minute of any of her shows so a lot of the references were lost on me, but she seems like a smart, funny, and kind woman. Much  more relatable than, for example, Gretchen Rubin in "Better than Before" which I also read recently.

It was rainy and gross this morning but the sun just came out! I better get cracking so I can leave work before its dark again. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Winter Weekends

I mentioned this weekend would be challenging in terms of trying to keep the kids off screens, so I wanted to set at least a very loose plan to make sure we got done what we needed to and also had time to spend together.

Friday pm: pizza + wine. kids play on own or board games. Kids need baths. My turn for stories. G and I may watch one episode of Black Mirror.

Saturday AM: I go to gym, do back PT, and shower. G makes waffles with kids.
Saturday PM: I take boys to library while G starts cleaning/decluttering in basement (contractor coming back Monday to put in new floors and we have to move everything). Park after if weather OK otherwise home to read books. Facetime with  both sets grandparents. Indoor activity that I would be in charge of: either baking or "science kit". G goes to grocery store and makes dinner.

Sunday AM: I go to gym, shower. G may go to gym after me.
Sunday PM: I make soup (my turn to cook for our neighborhood "soup group") while G figures out what to do with the kids. Chores: lunches, laundry, more basement decluttering, etc... we will split up depending on who feels like chores and who wants to wrangle kids.  Late afternoon I need to go get my eyebrows done and return something to a store (and get out of the house!) Need to be home by 5 for soup pick up. Simple dinner. Showers and books for boys.

Reminders: put phone AWAY
get out of house even if I don't feel like it when I can
keep trying to set up a play date for Sat or Sun afternoon.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Scream Time

For the longest time, we did an excellent job minimizing our kids' screen time. Then the grandparents came and fucked it up.

Until this fall, our kids basically had the privilege of a movie on Sundays. If they really did not behave well during the weekend, we would take it away. It was a nice chance for us to get stuff done and/or get a break for about 90 minutes. We've been having these "Sunday afternoon movies" for years. We started with the 90 minute Disney/Pixar films we owned, and then transitioned to 3-4 episodes of shows they liked on Netflix. 

A couple of years ago we first got an iPad, and we then started occasionally letting them have 15-20 minutes of games on the weekend. More recently I had tied the iPad time to chores. When they put their laundry away, they could have the iPad. They had to take turns, and when the timer went off, the time was up, no negotiations. 

Sure they asked for more. They were always asking for our phones, tried to wheedle us into more iPad time or to have a movie on Saturday AND Sunday, or to watch one more show. But the rules were set. There was never TV or games on weekdays and they never even asked.

We don't have a television set, and movies/shows. are generally watched in the basement on our screen, or on a laptop or iPad upstairs. 

Then my parents bought the boys Kindle Fires. They bought them a couple years ago for my sister's kids but I told them we didn't want them. Then B & L realized that their cousins had them, and started their attack on grandma and grandpa. Finally I relented.  Now they got 1 hour of kindle time on each weekend day when/if they finished chores and nothing else was planned. They could play games, read books, or listen to music.

In preparation for our trip, I changed the settings to allow them to access videos to download for the flight. And I turned off the time restrictions. And for 3 weeks they basically had unlimited screen time every single day. Even when they went back to school, MIL gave them the kindles as soon as they came home & finished homework and they played until we got home and made them put it away. On the 2 snow days, they  probably were on those damn things for 13 hours straight. 

Additionally, since our basement is being fixed, we had the laptop set up hooked up to speakers in the living room and MIL would frequently watch her shows on it when the kids were awake so they would crowd around to watch, and then demand their own shows which she always gave in to. 

I took the Kindles away on Monday and told them they were not getting them back until January, and then only if they showed some improvement in behavior between now and then. I also made G put the speakers and laptop away.

I don't in any way think the screen time caused the bad behavior, because it started well before. But I do know that it is impossible to connect with them when they are absorbed in their screens, and I am coming around to the "Peaceful Parenting" mantra that connection is necessary for teaching and modeling good behavior and values. 

Of course, it goes both ways. I have my own obsession with my Kindle (or more accurately, the app on my phone) and I know that putting my phone and books away is also part of this solution. I know my kids behave better when I give them my full attention. Its just a vicious cycle---they act badly, I retreat to my phone, they act worse...Then I lose my shit and let them watch a show so that I can have a break. 

Screen time was our biggest bribing tactic...but it also didn't really work. I just kept giving them second and third chances to "earn" the time back because I needed them glued to their screens so I didn't have to deal with their behavior and wants and needs for a while. 

We may still do family movie night on Friday, because I think sitting together and watching the same thing is a whole different situation then each kid watching their own thing on their own device, and even the two kids watching together and G and I using the time to talk is somewhat better. 

The rest of the weekend will be challenging. We have no set plans and its winter. I know they will ask a million times, and I will have to say "no" each time. We will have to be engaged and creative in keeping them occupied. I am going to make G sit down to plan the weekend at least loosely tonight so that we don't lose our shit and cave. Library, indoor swimming, baking something, board games, books, legos. We will have to find a way to get through the days...and thankfully there is always wine.