Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Where is my easy button?

Its one of those ultra-cold days where my face hurts. Thankfully I had a cancellation and a no-show (because no one apparently wants to leave their house and have their face hurt) so I'm drinking tea and catching up. I can't believe my last post was 13 days ago. I'll blame my annoying upper-to-lower respiratory illness that hit me right after the last post and is STILL lingering, but at least I'm starting to get my energy levels back to normal.

I'm still feeling a bit down in the dumps, despite the glitter and twinkle of the holidays and our impending trip. These things are still going on. And no matter how much I try to give myself a break on the other stuff, I just can't seem to catch one.

Example, that inspired the title of this post: Last Friday. End of a long week, time to relax and get some Fredagsmys going. I was just finishing up patient calls and about to start planning for the next week when I got a call from the aftercare that L had thrown up. So I leave immediately to pick the boys up, and L walks over to me and throws up again. We slowly make our way home and I decide that pizza and movie would be the way to go, and the boys were happy because they adore their screen time!

First of all, we couldn't find a movie they wanted to watch. So we decided they could watch some shows. B got to choose first and L went along with some insipid Mickey Clubhouse Christmas jamboree. Then 22 minutes later when it was L's turn to choose, it became an all out war, because B wouldn't agree to anything. And then there was shouting and hitting. And 20+ minutes of B stomping around, refusing to watch, refusing to do anything else, and refusing to get the hell away from the rest of us who were trying to relax and watch a show (L) or down some cocktails (G and I).

This scenario is repeated in our house over and over again every weekend. Another example: homework. Every day with the freaking homework. Do you know how hard it is to coax a surly kid with ADHD through nearly an hour of homework daily  (math sheet, science packet section, 20 minutes of reading + writing sentences about said reading)? Its fucking hard, especially when there is also another kid that needs to do his daily reading (its a 5 page beginner book but it takes him a while to sound out the words and he  likes to practice over and over which I am certainly trying to encourage). Oh and the daily shit-show that is dinner and making them eat their veggies and L to take his medicine. And that is BEFORE doing teeth and baths which they also complain about and fight through EVERY. SINGLE. TIME as if its brand new that yes they have to brush ALL their teeth every day and wash their bodies once in a while! So for fucks sake when Friday rolls around I just want them to watch a goddamn movie and leave me the fuck alone for 90 minutes.

Sigh. There is also more than the usual BS going on at work and I"m still having the back pain and can't do much to work out and I'm sure that is all contributing to my attitude. I have an appointment with the psychiatrist tomorrow where I was initially going to discuss weaning OFF the SSRI but now I"m thinking I may need something stronger. I better hit post before I start ranting again...

Friday, December 1, 2017

Happy December

I'm feeling very positive today. Its a new month, the weather is lovely, its Friday and we have fun stuff and downtime planned for the weekend. We have what feels like an extra-long holiday season ahead of us and I'm getting into the festive spirit. I did my monthly planning yesterday & also bought a 2018 planner (same Minimalist one, I like it).

Weekend plans:
Friday night: pizza and screen time for the kids. Give them the Lego advent calendar my parents bought them

Saturday: barre class in AM, karate belt ceremony (yellow for L, blue for B), take L to buy B's Birthday and Christmas gifts, date night!

Sunday: make/hang wreath and put lights outside (I bought a string of solar powered LED bulbs to put in the window boxes), take B to see Coco (L says it'll be "too scary" for him), make big pot of soup (suggestions welcome---last week it was a green lentil stew).

I do kind of want the work day to be done. Its only 3:30 but I've been laser focused for 7.5 hours and I'm feeling a bit done. But my schedule says otherwise so off I go to peruse some data and read some articles.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A glimpse of the elephant's ears...

(a little bit about what's on my mind these days)

I hinted at some work-related issues, and while I'm not going to go into detail here, I can share the gist of what's getting me down. On the research front, I had yet another grant rejection---this one on a proposal for which I was actually (despite all my best efforts to lower expectations!) becoming hopeful of receiving funding. It was a resubmission, was very tightly revised and I was actually quite proud of my work. It had moved on to the final round of review and I really started having HOPES and DREAMS and already had the IRB submitted and approved and then I got the rejection two weeks ago.

Beyond the initial sting, which I'm getting used to, I had the depressing realization that I've been working on getting funding on this particular area for SIX YEARS. Many many others have now surpassed me in this niche, which was BRAND NEW when I first started begging for others to take interest and let me explore. That thought is really sobering and is making me question my abilities to succeed in research at all. Enough so that I have completely zoned out and got nothing done for the past couple of weeks.

Of course, when the research part isn't quite working out, I usually console myself in envisioning a possible clinical career. But even this aspect of my job has been disappointing lately. I started working in a new area recently---something I was kind of excited about, joining a team of great people, working with a challenging population. But the reality is that I am all by myself on my days there, with >50% no shows, and patients that are indeed challenging but not necessarily rewarding to care for in this clinic. I feel like I'm unprepared, I've had no specific training in this area, and I have no one to really ask for help since I'm all alone. There are also lots of issues in how the program is run, and I was hoping to be involved in effecting change, but realized that there is a lot of administrative beyond-my-scope BS that is in the way of anything but the status quo.

So yeah, I'm not sure where I'm headed with any of this. I do know that the zoning out was not helping on a professional or personal level, since I then felt guilty and more depressed so I sat down this morning and made myself a very strict schedule for the day with 30 minute blocks and discrete tasks in several different arenas that I need to complete. When inspiration and motivation fail you, discipline and planning are the fall back.

This elephant has another ear that I'll give you a tiny glimpse into, as well. Things on the parenting front have also felt like constant failure and backsliding. I feel like I am failing as a parent. Like I am just not the right mother for this combination of very very challenging children, who need so much patience and acceptance and a form of guidance and nurturing that I haven't yet figured out how to provide for them. Despite my recent post, I've been over-reacting and making things bigger and way way worse. Evenings these days are so stressful and negative and full of nagging and sighing and yelling and then the guilt and zoning out once they go to bed.

A new month is here and that always fills me with optimism, no matter how artificial the "new start". I'm determined to do better. And now my "eat lunch/blog" time is up and I have to outline a paper.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Calling it...

OK. I admit to failure on the whole 30 posts in 30 days things. It was a noble attempt, and it did get me blogging more frequently so I guess it served its purpose even though I'll end up several posts shy of the goal.

The remainder of the long weekend was great. Low-key, because B got sick (and I've mentioned before how I might be terrible because I like my kids better when they are sick, right?) He just doesn't have the energy to be as big of a PITA as usual. We had an  unexpected date night (sitter who wasn't available became available and texted!) on Saturday, friends from out of town come for brunch on Sunday, got the Christmas decorations up, attended a birthday party, etc...

A lot of what's swirling through my mind these days is work-related, and I don't want to go there on the blog, so its hard for me to think of things to post. Its like a big huge elephant in the room is blocking my access to all the smaller more blog-appropriate animals (huh? OK I'll drop the analogy)

I have two evening outings this week, and planning something for next week and the week after. Its like feast or famine! For a whole month I was home every evening (and feeling blah about it) and now I feel like I won't be there for bedtime for a few days at a time...I actually canceled something I had planned on Thursday because 3 days in a row is a bit excessive even for someone who does like to socialize and avoid kids' bedtimes.

We got ranitidine for L yesterday (for what I strongly suspect is GERD) and he threw up immediately after taking it and refused to try again. I took it back to the pharmacy to have it flavored, but seriously, this stuff smells and tastes DISGUSTING. I'm not sure what to do...

Friday, November 24, 2017


This is the mantra I keep repeating to myself these days, mostly regarding my interactions with my children. But it also works well for work, marriage, extended family...

Outside of a few notable exceptions involving safety, there is nothing bad that will come for not reacting negatively to something my kids do or say. "Bad" (i.e. not what I want) behavior is not an emergency.  There is time to step away, take a breath, think it over, before yelling or criticizing.

The other part to this is to remind myself that they are not doing it TO ME, even when it really really feels like it (i.e. when L hits me and calls me stupid). They are just acting out their feelings in the ways that come naturally to them. 

I really committed to this yesterday, in a very intentional way, and it was immensely helpful. I let a lot roll of my back and it stopped the usual escalation. If left to their own devices, they will calm down and distract themselves with some activity or another and eventually behave differently. If, however, we keep criticizing and disciplining, there are more and more bad feelings all around.

Its not that we don't give consequences. I firmly believe in them. But 1) pick battles, 2) make it quick and unemotional i.e. you were throwing this toy so we are taking it. no you cannot have it back today. goodbye. and 3)move on myself (don't keep harping on it, or being grumpy, move on to the next activity).

All of this is easier said then done, and sometimes it just doesn't work, they keep acting out until I crack or the bad mood lasts all day. Its not perfect, but its a good intention to start with and for a back-up, there is wine.

Perfectly Pleasant

The wondrous joy of low expectations! Our Thanksgiving was actually quite a nice day, partly by design, partly by serendipity, and overall because I expected NOTHING.

I made sure we had the essential elements: active time, time outside, social time, screen time for the kids. We planned a fairly simple meal and I nagged gently reminded G to start the turkey early enough that we could have everything ready by 6pm.

Our Turkey Trot ended up being an outing with the boys' friend and his mom---we went "running" at a big park, racing from one area to another. Overall we got in 1 mile, quite interrupted, but I'm calling it "interval training". Bonus: my back felt great afterwards, so I am going to do 2 miles tomorrow.

The best/worst part? The kids became MONSTROUS at the end, all three hitting/grumpy/whiny. I let it roll of my back. I did not engage, I did not get angry, I did not get filled with despair that my children are terrible and our holiday is ruined. I laughed (which enraged them) and commiserated with my friend and moved on to the next thing.

Same friend also came over later with leftover pie and stayed for a beer. I don't usually like drinking in the afternoon, but I couldn't let her drink alone, so we had a really nice break in the day while the boys watched a movie. We will take them leftover turkey today.

Our meal came together nicely: G made a turkey (our first time) and it made the whole house smell amazing all day with all the butter and fresh herbs and citrus and beer involved. This was the one thing everyone enjoyed eating. We also had biscuits (fave for me and B), herbed rice (L's love), and roasted cauliflower (the kids put a tiny bit in their mouths). G and the boys made brownies from scratch in a complicated recipe involving a double boiler, and we had the aforementioned pie.

Since we don't do it often, it was actually special all sitting down together to eat the same thing. We went around the table saying what we were thankful for before we dug in. And then we did our usual routine, got the kids to bed, and G and I watched another episode of our show & I got to bed on time so that I could get up at 6AM to get ready, have coffee, walk dog, and be at work in time for clinic.

It helped immensely to stay off social media. Definitely need to institute that as a hard rule during holidays. No matter how nice your day is going, its hard not to compare to others. Its just...human.
We did stay in touch with family---we facetimed everyone we wanted to talk to.

I'm writing this during a cancellation+no-show break in the schedule. I may write another one if I have another no-show, I know I'm way behind if I want to get to 30 in the next 6 days (yikes!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

In Defense of the Meal Kit Delivery Services

I've been seeing a lot of hate about the meal kit delivery services around, and I get it...until I tried it I never understood the point. Its expensive & time-consuming & there is so much packaging!  But we've been trying them for about a year now, and I have to say, I find the occasional box to be a helpful addition to our dinner-cooking arsenal.

Most weeks we still use our tried and true strategy of batch-cooking a big meal on Sunday and eating it all week. Burrito bowls, chili, lasagna, curries, etc... work really well for this. But sometimes we get tired of eating the same recipes we've been having for years (and you really have to test the recipe a few times before you can agree to commit to a week of it!) Also, not everything works that well as leftovers (i.e. seafood). If you have to cook some portion of the meal fresh each night it doesn't end up saving time.

So once a month on average, I order a box with 3 meals that look good for the adults. G and I take turns making them that week, though I tend to make more, because I enjoy it, whereas he has a bit of undiagnosed ADD and has trouble following multi-step recipes. We will have the kids try a few bites (sometimes) from our meals, but they generally get easy kid-food on these weeks.

We've tried several so far (Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Marley Spoon, Terra's kitchen, and Plated) and my favorite is Plated. They have the best selection, easiest process to choose/order, and best tasting recipes. But these are all subjective attributes, so try them yourselves if interested, they all offer free/reduced kits for new customers.  There are many more out there that I just haven't tried.

What I like about the kits:
  • new and interesting recipes
  • learning new cooking techniques
  • portioned ingredients (no waste)
  • ingredients that are hard to find (i.e. would involve going to ethnic stores or multiple stores for one recipe)
  • eliminates mental energy needed for meal planning and then finding all the ingredients, and especially planning meals with overlapping ingredients to reduce waste because you cannot buy just one stalk of celery for example (but they will send you one in your kit!) 
The kits are not cheap. They are not for people on tight budgets. But I actually went this summer and bought the ingredients for 3 meals and I spent MORE than the price of a box. Organic, free range meat and exotic veggies and spices are not cheap.  I do purposefully choose more "bang for your buck" options so I feel like I am getting my money's worth----I avoid vegetarian meals and choose seafood for 1-2 meals.

They are not "easy" meals. Part of this is by design---I choose things that look challenging and fun to cook & eat. I can make "easy" meals on my own without step by step recipes! I enjoy cooking and learning new techniques that I can then translate to our own meals. Something about the fact that everything is portioned and packaged together, and the step by step instructions, make the whole process fun for me. You just grab the bag from the fridge, pull out the card for the recipe, and get started.

The one big con I have is the packaging. There is some waste. It is getting better, with more of the packaging recyclable or biodegradable, but still...there is cardboard and ice packs involved. Various services to vary somewhat on this, but not by much.

I totally get that its not for everyone, but its working for us right now. We had a yummy Plated dinner last night (cod cakes with creamy mustard sauce over arugula) and I'm looking forward to another one tonight (fish tacos with avocado sauce and crunchy slaw) and Friday (chicken chili rellenos)!