Thursday, August 20, 2015
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Well, now I'm a SAHM and I can tell you two things: it is both WONDERFUL and CHALLENGING. And I found something odd has happened. My mommy guilt has shifted...it used to be that I felt guilty about NOT being home...and now I feel guilty that I'm not GOOD enough for them at home.
Does anyone else feel this way? Some days I feel like I did it right. I limited their screen time, got everyone some exercise, had some healthy food, did some art projects, practiced some speech with my son and reading with my daughter and gave each kid some individual attention, cleaned the house and did all the laundry. But, that certainly doesn't all happen every day. I have to moderate my guilt with the realization that I can't do it all.
But there have been some big benefits to staying home with my kids:
I can design their activities however I want....and skip a swim lesson or dance class whenever we feel like it.
I have the flexibility to just be present with my kids.
We have the time to work on that Summer Wish List I wrote about before. (here)
I am relaxed enough to have some spontaneity....like chasing a rainbow or visiting grandma's house or hunting for the perfect snow cone.
I have time for the holidays/birthdays/BBQs/etc. that I used to miss when working.
The main challenges:
Not having enough time to fill my own bucket. (I would love more time to myself, more time to exercise, and to find some kind of career outlet.)
Dealing with sibling fighting.
Balancing the right amount of activities with boredom (I feel like they need to sit with boredom in order to figure out how to self-soothe, use imagination, and get comfortable with down time.)
Limiting screen time!
Overall, it's been a fun and active summer, but I think we are all ready for a regular school schedule.
I hope you all enjoy the last few weeks of summer 2015!
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
This was the prompt:
You are ____."
I had to think about this for a few days. It was hard to know where to start! Writing a letter to myself felt very awkward, since I had never done it before.
Once I got started, I wondered how to write it. Should it be funny? Serious? Detailed? Superficial? Deep? (Keeping in mind that I had to read this letter to other people.)
After a few drafts I figured out what felt best: honest, brief, serious.
I have been pondering some questions since doing this exercise. Why was it so hard to speak kindly to myself? Why did it feel so awkward to be positive? Wouldn't I be kind, positive and encouraging to my friends? So why can't I be those things to myself?
Why is it so easy to be negative?
Why is our default self talk so negative?
Perhaps your inner self talk is naturally positive. How great! But do a simple Google search about negative self talk and you see plenty of results. I think many of us (mainly women) have some negative chatter in our head.
I read that this negative self talk can come from our childhood. Perhaps we were told we weren't good enough by a parent, teacher, or friend. I don't recall, personally, having this done to me. So where did it come from? I think we are all "pre-set" for a certain amount of anxiety. I would consider myself to be on the higher end of the anxiety scale. That anxiety and self-criticism usually serves as motivation to move forward, to make needed changes. But many times, the critic is just there, without any specific purpose. Why does the phrase "I'm so stupid" keep popping into my head, even though I know I am not stupid? Is it based on past failures? Fear of the future? Has it been ingrained because being self-deprecating is a "relatable" characteristic?
I guess I don't know for sure why the self-criticism is there. But since having to write that love letter, I want to make sure I reduce the criticism and boost the positivity. Here's a good article on some steps YOU can take to do the same. Thinking positive
Not only do I want to help myself, but I want to do whatever I can to help my kids. Would I ever want them to think poorly of themselves, feel stupid, unnoticed, or unlovable? Another article on the Huff Post mentioned that we, as parents, become our kids' inner voice. That statement is huge. How I talk to my kids now, becomes their own inner voice for the rest of their lives. I can influence whether it is a positive one or a harsh one, simply by choosing my words carefully. It is such an important reminder to teach/show children kindness, resilience and determination. Link is here.
What would you include in your letter? Is it easy to write? Try to silence the inner critic with positivity and see what happens. Can you change that voice over time? I'll check back with you on this in a future post!
Friday, June 12, 2015
BUT the summer can be challenging for those of us with spirited/active/high-needs kids, or kids with sensory problems, or kids who just thrive on a regular schedule. Our family definitely falls into this category. This means some intense fun, but also, some intense anger and exhaustion. Perhaps you parents out there can sympathize here?
We all need a little un-structured time to rest our brains and bodies after a busy school year. There is no doubt of that. But I am working on finding some kind of structure to our days so we don't all drive each other bonkers. There will be an inevitable amount of craziness, boredom, exhaustion, fighting, screaming, etc. But I am trying not to dwell on these parts because of their inevitability. The one thing I can control (somewhat) is the schedule.
This is what I've come up with so far:
Swimming lessons. My daughter is emerging in her swim skills and my son has zero skills (but loves the water). My 3-year-old has never had lessons before and so far, he is really engaged.
Reading. We have some trips to the library planned and read a little bit every day. I would rather spend money on books than toys that will just accumulate in our house and rarely get used!
Exercise. How important for little ones as well as adults! My daughter is enrolled in cheer and tumbling classes. We have been hiking around our house and riding bikes/scooters. I find that the kids usually complain if I say we are going outside for exercise, but they usually take to it as soon as we get started. Surprisingly, they enjoy a kids yoga dvd I found so we can do that on those hotter days to stay indoors.
Art. I bought supplies at our local arts and crafts store to do some kind of project each day. Stamps, finger paint, water colors, card-making, play doh, air-dry clay, chalkboards, mask design-just to name a few.
Academics. Kind of a funny term to use during the summer I guess! We have collected many puzzles, letter and number activities for my pre-schooler. I have to find ways to fit in speech and language development for him without making it seem like work! For my new 1st grader, we are going to work on math skills (in a fun way), word games (bananagrams or scrabble anyone?), and keeping a journal of our summer activities.
To top it all off, we have a Summer Wish List. It is a collective list that the whole family adds to.
Here are some things on our list:
Make an ice cream sundae bar
Watch a movie outdoors
Rent a boat on the lake
Make lots of s'mores
Go to a water park
Do you have a summer wish list? It's fun to keep a running list of things the family wants to do. My daughter suggested we write down each idea on a small piece of paper and put them all in a jar. Then, one day we pull out an idea and it's our surprise activity for the day. I am not certain if I can deal with that kind of spontaneity but I will work on it!
On a final note: we are returning to one of our favorite spots later this summer (San Diego) and can't wait! Here are some pics from a few years ago.
|Seaworld with Emily (3)|
|Ben (10 months) on the beach with grandma|
Thursday, May 14, 2015
When he first started calling her Mimi, she would whip her head around to see if anyone else witnessed this remarkable voice coming from her brother’s mouth. “MOM! BEN SAID MIMI!!” She often turns to him and says, “Awwwwww, you said my name.” She has been waiting so long for affirmation of her brother’s desire to play with her and be with her and, simply, to just say her name. She has been patiently waiting over three years and it is amazing how important just saying a name can be. Seeing her pure delight in a simple word made me realize that she has felt loss, too. If I didn’t realize it before, I realize it now: words matter.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
“Time goes by so fast. Enjoy it while it lasts!"
Ben's most pressing issue now is called "childhood apraxia of speech," or apraxia.
It is like having a 1-year-old trapped in a (big) 3-year-old's body.
He can't get his words out, despite knowing much of what is said to and around him. He has a neurological speech disorder. There is a disconnect in signals between the brain and the motor movements of the mouth. Ben is not stubborn or lazy or "just a boy" or "letting his sister talk for him," like many people like to advise me. This is not something just outgrown with time.
We made a difficult choice recently to start over with a new speech therapist and to increase therapy to 3 days per week. These sessions are often very hard for Ben and result in screaming and tears. He uses picture communication cards and a dedicated speech Ipad. We also have Ben enrolled in the school district's special education program, where he gets speech therapy as well as physical and occupational therapies.
Living with apraxia is very difficult and a constant battle for me to keep pushing Ben beyond his comfort level in order to get progress. But not pushing TOO hard so as to create frustration and low self esteem. Life is obviously difficult for Ben, who just wants to communicate and play like every other kid. Having an apraxic brother is hard on big sis, who just wants to play with a normal kid. I am Ben's interpreter and the kids' referee. I am the 'mender of fences' and keep things as peaceful as possible. It is exhausting on a whole new level-even more so than residency call nights and ER night shifts! Probably because it is an unrelenting stress, with no days off.
I hope to be able to report more progress in the upcoming months...we are already starting to see some improving verbal skills as a result of our new therapist and ongoing commitment to his development. But I wanted to share about apraxia and spread the words about speech and language delays!
Sunday, March 22, 2015
This photo has been moving around the internet quickly. Apparently it is an emergency room doctor in Southern California, taking a moment to grieve after losing a young patient. The public has really taken an interest in this, highlighting the difficult job of emergency room doctors, EMTs and nurses who deal with this kind of heartbreak everyday. (Maybe every other day. Maybe a few times per month. Just depends.)
A picture says a thousand words...and this one says it all.
I know what this doctor is feeling here because I have been there too. I remember those tearful moments in bathrooms, call rooms, empty ambulance bays, and at home. You don't get the time or luxury to properly grieve and talk about your feelings. Nobody talks about this. It is just assumed with the job.
You don't have the time to deal with it because you must return to a busy ER, filled to capacity with needy patients, and a large staff you must lead until the end of your shift.
You don't have the luxury to grieve because usually your thoughts after a death are, "I have so much paperwork to do." "I have to tell the family." "Did I make a mistake?" "Did I document my actions and reasoning well enough so I don't get sued?"
And so over time, you have to find coping mechanisms to get you from day-to-day. There is a desensitization that occurs when you see horrific things, over and over and over again. You become cynical and flippant. You throw your empathy overboard because it is extra weight on a sinking ship that must keep floating until the end of your shift....and until the end of your career. Death becomes commonplace.
Are doctors provided any kind of tools to deal with death? Courses, seminars or counseling? Not really. It is an on the job adaptation. I've seen a lot of after hour adaptations as well. Alcohol, substance abuse, risky behavior, etc. I've read about the rates of physician suicide in the US (400 physicians per year) and realize that our coping mechanisms just aren't good enough.
I am glad this doctor took a time-out. I re-posted the picture because the subject is anonymous and it is done at a respectful distance. I hope it gives people some perspective about what ER staff have to deal with. I also hope doctors see it and remember that grieving is normal and necessary.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
No one is "happy" during residency. It is the most challenging (and perhaps demoralizing) time during a physician's training. The hours are long and the work is intense. You know it will be difficult but you also know that it will be over in a few years. I told myself I would happy after residency and would just have to stick with it. But a nagging voice in my head told me it wasn't just a tough residency that made me unhappy. Perhaps I chose the wrong program or wrong specialty. Maybe I should have taken time off. I still am not sure where exactly things went wrong.
I often think about the characteristics that help physicians get through so much school, through residency, and beyond. One of the key characteristics physicians have is the ability to delay gratification. We put so much time into our education because we know (think) it will be worth it in the end. We delay marriage, kids, and life in general so we can get through it. We also delay happiness, which can be very harmful and establish maladaptive living patterns.
And if we are so good at delaying happiness, will it actually ever set-in and happen? Or do we get so good at putting it off, that it remains elusive?
I saw my chance at happiness crumbling as I tearfully handed over my new baby to grandma so I could work a week of night shifts. I saw it crumbling when I missed out on those early milestones. I saw it crumbling as I heard those tears of protest as I left the door for work again...and again. It's the saga that many working moms understand. But it affected me deeply. I was supposed to be happy with this bundle of joy (that I desperately wanted) but I felt like I was even farther from my happiness goal. The puzzle pieces just weren't fitting. Even after residency was over, I knew I was out of place but wasn't sure where I was supposed to be.
When you get used to putting off your happiness, and delaying gratification, I think it sets up a neural network that is HARD to reverse. By the age of 30, I was used to putting in a lot of work in the present in order to get payouts later. I didn't live in the moment. In fact, living in the moment is still a very difficult concept for my brain. I kept thinking that "someday" we would be happy. "Someday" we would go on vacations. "Someday" I could write. "Someday" I would take care of myself. "Someday" I would enjoy my kids. "Someday" I would have less stress.
But when you keep postponing until someday, it might never happen. I was so glad I had my daughter when I did and realized I needed to move in a new direction. It took a few years after residency, but I was fed up with thinking and planning for someday and never enjoying the journey. I was tired of asking, "how many miserable years do I have to put in to get some good years out?" Quitting clinical medicine was my eventual answer, made very clear after having a second child whose medical and special needs continue to overwhelm me. My career remains on the back-burner and I want to find a way to use my medical knowledge to help people. But my family needs me now, and I need them.
|Me and baby E|
Friday, February 6, 2015
Thursday, January 15, 2015
How Medicine Has Changed Me
Since the age of 22 I have been entrenched in medicine-went right from college to medical school and residency. The formative years of my 20s have been busy dissecting bodies, studying dense medical textbooks, giving case presentations, rounding, taking call, eating bad cafeteria food, searching Up To Date, and learning how to adapt to different classes/teams/attendings/colleagues every month. I also took A LOT of tests. Looking back now 4 years post-residency, I am simply not sure how I did it!
Medicine has changed me in ways that could be viewed as “good” and “bad.” Medicine has given me more empathy; it has showed me the importance of compassion and hope; it has made me a better listener; it has given me confidence and the strength to be vocal; it has given me a career to be proud of. Medicine has also given me my husband! (We met, married, and couples matched in medical school.) It has shown me the value of wonderful friends and family, which many people do not have. It is a privilege to help people in their times of need and share intimate details of their lives. I trained in emergency medicine and have a valuable breadth of medical knowledge from excellent training. The knowledge helps me daily both on the job and off.
On the flip side, medicine has changed me in some negative ways. I am more judgmental-there is a need for quick (instantaneous) decisions when talking to a patient in the ER. I am cynical-while practicing medicine is considered a privilege, it is also a burden, and we usually see people at their worst. I take frustration out on my family because I know they will always be there (I hope). Medicine has been consuming and I have missed out on a lot of experiences….like family birthdays, funerals, weddings, parties, leisure, travel, holidays, and such. These missed experiences have caused me to be resentful and bitter at times.
I am not sure about you, but I feel like one of the most important things medicine has done is make me a better mom! I have 2 young kids and am grateful everyday for my medical knowledge. I know how to observe, study and treat my kids. I also know where to look for the answers I need for them. This medical knowledge helped immeasurably with my son’s near-death from kidney failure when he was 2 weeks old and all the subsequent care he has needed. Some mommy physicians complain that they “just know too much”....but I would never trade in that knowledge for ignorance.
No field or career can only have positive impacts on a person, and overall, I am proud and grateful to be a physician. Being a ‘mommy’ physician is an even bigger badge of honor in my mind. There have been a lot of challenges/walls/ceilings to break through….and a huge inner struggle to conquer the mommy guilt and “just keep swimming….” (Thanks, Dory.) Time out of training has brought more clarity with this issue and the compromises needed to make work and life, work. I wish all of you luck with making medicine work, as well.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
He has been sleeping through the night AND falling asleep on his own for about 6 weeks now. He has never done this before! You might be wondering, WHAT have you been doing these past 3 years??? Most people get their babies to sleep between 6-12 months old, it seems. I have tried:
- The obvious stuff, with consistent routine, cry-it-out straight up and cry-it-out from a distance, sleeping near, with, on, over, and around him
- Black out shades
- External window shades for cooling
- Bedtime music cd (clinically proven to induce sleep)
- Cooling or heating fan, humidifier if ill, white noise air purifier nightly
- Various visual sleep clocks
- Various sized beds-crib, twin, and now, full size bed
- Soft, cool sheets
- Room is sensory sensitive, no toys, only stuffed animals and books, minimal plain décor without stimulating patterns
- Light lavender scent on pillow
- PJs without tags, soft
- Several types/sizes of weighted blankets
- Occupational therapy techniques of joint compressions and brushing
- Chiropractic treatment
- In-home sleep consultant x2-Sleep Sense program (interesting stuff, check it out if you are having problems)
- Surgery = ear tubes
- Developmental pediatrician evaluation
- Medications: tylenol, melatonin, reflux medication, benadryl, homeopathic options and finally a prescription sleep aid
We were about to sign up for another surgery (tonsil removal for possible sleep apnea), but then we tried a method a sleep medicine physician suggested. How he knew this would work-I will never know.
He gave me a prescription to go away for a week and let someone else take care of Ben's bedtime routine and evening wake-ups.
I thought I was dreaming (since sleep-walking and daydreaming were a normal thing) when he said I HAD to be out of the picture. That would be amazing, right? Somehow he knew that Ben needed to separate from me and rely on his own self-soothing to get to sleep.
He gave me a list of rules that included I disappear when the bedtime routine begins. Some other loving caregiver must get him ready for bed, have a meticulous routine, and put him to bed at night while he is still awake. That person had to leave the room so he could learn to fall asleep on his own. If he got up, that person was to be a "robot" and say "back to bed, night night, I love you, " and walk him back to his room.
Now I swore I had tried this before, sometime during the previous 2,000+ nights before. But I was MOM. And he was relentless and knew how to wear me down, so it just didn't work.
But we paid our babysitter to help for a few nights with this new routine and wouldn't you know...it actually worked! And it has worked ever since.
I can now put him to bed without a fuss. But sometimes he tries to trick me and he pats the bed near him as if to say, "sleep here tonight?" I kiss his cheek, tell him I can't, and he looks away in the distance like he's thinking, "I know, but I just had to try this once." It really has been life-changing for me. As you saw in that prior post, lack of sleep was really affecting me on many levels.
Sleep is SO important-for kids and adults alike. Many illnesses have been linked to improper amount of sleep, like obesity and heart disease. It is important to build good sleep habits as children and I HOPE/PRAY that our streak continues. I think this specific routine worked specifically at my son's age for a few reasons-he was emotionally ready, physically ready (not having so much thirst at night), and mentally ready (knew that mom would still be there in the morning).
Preserving my family's sleep time will always be a #1 priority in my house. To keep us all at our best, ready to learn, and ready to tackle daily stress. My kids will know that being really tired or 'staying up all night' is not a badge of honor! Their bedtimes will be changed accordingly if I hear this...
Sunday, January 4, 2015
Perhaps these are idealistic as well, but they are notions that I want to be more aware of. I have posted them as a reminder to slow down and take notice. There are already "awesome," "amazing," and "magical" moments taking place every day, if we take the time to notice them.