Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I Might Be a Hoarder

I blame it on my mother.

(Sorry, Mom!)

My mother almost never threw anything away. Socks with holes were mended. Broken dishes were glued. Ripped books were taped. Bits of wire, ribbon ends, random buttons, wood scraps, and countless other things were all saved. 

Waste not, want not.

My mother was raised to be extremely frugal, to save, reuse, and repurpose as much as possible. This is wonderful in so many ways. But it also made it so that growing up, we had a ridiculous amount of stuff, because nothing was disposed of.

In preparing for our move, I may have not had to confront these same tendencies in myself.

Hubster and I spent the weekend packing up things in our basement. We sorted things into three categories.

There was the "definitely keeping" category, containing items that we know we will use again and are willing to pay to have moved across the country.

There was the "yard sale/donate" category, full of items that were perfectly good, but we didn't need anymore.

Last, there was the "trash" category, which should have been obvious.

Putting things in the keep pile was easy for me. Yes, I need my full frame back packing gear! Yes, I need to keep these winter boots! Yes, I need to keep all these books!

When it came time to put things in the other piles, it was a little bit harder...Fine! It was really hard.  And also embarrassing.

I realized that I hoard boxes. Piles and piles of boxes. Old shoe boxes, empty Amazon boxes, small little gift boxes. You never know when you'll need a box to ship something cross country or to wrap a Christmas present in.

All the boxes that couldn't be used to pack things into for the move went in the trash pile (actually, the recycle pile, because that's the right thing to do.)

I realize that I hoard glass bottles. Several boxes of empty glass bottles and jars. Old jam jars, sauce jars, pickle jars, all thoroughly washed and labels removed with their lids attached. I blame Pinterest for making me thing I was going to upcycle all these jars into darling storage solutions for Q-tips and  and crayons. 

All the jars also went to recycling.

Apparently, I also hoard bags. Several boxes of bags. The boys' old school back packs, work bags with hospital logos on them, diaper bags. I have no justification for this one. I can't think of a single reason I thought we might eventually need 30 plus old bags.

Most were still just fine and were cleaned in preparation for a yard sale. The others with broken zipper and ripped straps and shredded pockets were tossed.

Each time we found a box of more items that I had been hoarding away, I became more and more embarrassed. It was painful, sorting through all those things, trying to go back through the justifications I had to store them in the first place.

It was also very cathartic. Seeing our basement empty, letting go of so much stuff that we didn't need (or even want), was extremely rewarding. Almost freeing in a way.

My goal is that when we move into our next home, the only things we bring into the house are things we actually use. I don't need things sitting away in storage for the possibility of using them someday.

I might still be a hoarder, but I'm going to try to be a hoarder of good memories and clean rooms, instead of boxes and jars and bags.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day Gifts

Each year for Mother's Day, I ask for the exact same thing.

Extra sleep, to not do any cooking, to not do any dishes/laundry, and a walk in my favorite park.

Between our often hectic schedules, it hasn't always been possible to accommodate all those things. My family is getting pretty good at it, though. Most years, I sleep in, Hubster takes care of meals and dishes.

And we always get our walk in.

While we wandered through the woods under gray skies, the air heavy with the promise of rain, I thought more about what I hoped I gave to my children, more than any gift I would get that day.

We hunted Jack-in-the-pulpits and named off different wild flowers, while I thought about what I hoped I would pass on to them. 

We ran thunderously across bridges and dropped sticks and rocks in the small creeks, and I thought about what they might remember me by.

I hope that I give my children a love of nature. I want them to enjoy wide open, empty spaces, the feel of wind and sun on their skins, and the sound of bird song, insect harmonies, and even silence. I want them to admire fragile, green growing things. I want them to feel awe under canopies of trees and breathlessness at views from mountain tops. I want them to feel protective of nature and what it has to offer.

I hope I give my children kindness. I want them to cheer for the underdog, advocate for the downtrodden, empathize with the battles others are fighting. I want them to hold doors and speak kindly.

I hope I give my children knowledge and the desire for education. I want them to lose themselves in books. I want them to realize that learning is life long, from our family's bird and plant identification books to our random Internet searches (that range from how tall was Napoleon and the origins of Mother's Day), there is always so much to learn. I want them to know that education can open nearly any door and pave nearly any path.

I hope I give my children a strong sense of family. I want them to know to much I love them, that I'm always in their corner. I want them to know how hard we've worked to make this family what it is. I want them to remember our little traditions and our big traditions. 

I hope that my children will remember me for those things, for my love of just getting out there, of always wanted to learn more, of how much I really loved them.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Random Act of Kindness

Less than a mile from our home is a large nature preserve that is crisscrossed with walking trails that weave through old hardwood forests and restored patches of prairie and across arched bridges that span shallow creeks.

We walk through there frequently as a family, birdwatching or looking for (but never picking) wildflowers, or usually just disturbing other people with our wild children.

Several years ago, in early fall, I was walking through this park with my children, and we had done quite the walk. It started drizzling, with the threat of heavier rain to come. We were quite far from our car, so I hoisted then 5-year-old Monkey onto my shoulders, with 9-year-old Bug next to me, and we jogged  back to the parking lot. After I buckled my boys into their car seats and hopped in the car myself, I noticed that the small backpack I had, containing snacks and water bottles, had unzipped a little during our hasty retreat from the weather. I quickly did inventory to realize that the one thing that had fallen out was my camera.

At this point, it was raining steadily. I became very upset, thinking of my camera sitting along a trail somewhere, getting drenched. The memory drive in that camera had photos of preschool graduation and Monkey's first day of kindergarten and our summer memories on it. Even if the camera was ruined, I had to find it and save that memory card. I called Hubster and he drove over to the park. We waited for the rain to subside a little and then started combing the trail system.

We retraced my steps. We asked anyone who passed us. No one had seen my camera.  I shed tears, but as it became dark, we ultimately had to leave empty handed.

We didn't make it back to the park the rest of the fall.  I bought a new camera.  There was nothing else to do about it.

The following spring, as the days became longer, the warmer weather beckoned us outside and back to the trails of the nature preserve.

When we got to the parking lot, my boys slipped out of the car and ran all over the trail head, climbing up on the small walls of the information shelter at the park entrance, while I packed up water and fruit snacks in a small (more secure) backpack. As I was gathering things up, Monkey ran up to me.

"Mom!  There's a picture of us on the bulletin board! Come look!"

I followed him over to the small shelter, and there, next to the trail maps and posters warning of invasive plant species, was hanging a picture of my children.

Seeing that picture gave me the strangest, almost out of body experience. Why was there a picture of my children, smiling out at me from the deck in my backyard? What was it doing here? Who had been able to get this picture? 

I snatched the photo quickly off the bulletin board.

On the back of the photo, handwritten, was a small message.

"I found a camera along the trail. It was starting to rain, so I picked it up so it wouldn't get ruined. Pictures of these boys were on the memory card. If this is your camera, please call..."

I quickly called the number, knowing that it had been over 6 months since I had lost that camera, and who would keep a lost camera that long.

The person who answered told me that yes, they still had the camera! Also amazingly enough, they lived only one block away from me.  They had hoped that the only person who would take down the photo would be the family of the children; who else would remove it and look at the back?

We did our walk, and then stopped by the kind stranger's house to pick up my camera, still fully functional and still containing the previous summer's memories.

I was blown away by that individual's kindness. They could have easily just left the camera there to become soaked in the rain. They could have picked it up and left it in the shelter, with the hope that it would be found. But they went above and beyond to make sure that camera, along with all the sentimental photographs, made it's way home to me.

The Weekly Round-Up

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Currently: Spring Edition

Current Book

I'm trying to do a better job of actually reading. I completely book binged after I finished all of my board exams last year, but haven't read much for the last several months. 

I've taken some friends' recommendations and am reading Liane Moriarty. Big Little Lies was the only one available at the Library, but I want to read them all. I'm only a quarter of the way through the book, but so intrigued.

Current Drink

Water. I've started keeping track of how much water I'm drinking, and it is not nearly enough. So now, I'm pretty much exclusively a water drinker, with cucumber, lime, or lemon slices added. Except on weekend nights. Then I shake it up with a gin cocktail. I'm kind of obsessed with gin lately.

Current Song

"Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon
"Black Sun" by Death Cab for Cutie

Also, I'm counting "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift, because I sing this at my boys every time they get upset. Which may or may not help.

Current Wish List

I want to be done with this move. I want our movers settled. I want our home financing to go through. I want the packing to be done. I want to just get settled and be done with this.

Current Needs

Oh, a couple million dollars would be nice.

Current TV Shows

I have completely caught up on Game of Thrones and love it. And by love it, I mean get so anxious during each episode, I have a hard time watching.

We are also watching Outlander, which I just can't help but love.


Bug and I watch Doctor Who together. And we've started watching The Wonder Years as a family.

Current Movies

I have watched several movies lately, and been so disappointed. I don't have enough time to watch bad movies! I usually use Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB to screen out really awful ones, and try to only watch highly rated and well reviewed movies.  But Noah was terrible.  John Wick was awful. Elysium was too uncomfortable and upsetting. I just haven't been able to pick anything good lately.

Current Outfit

Hospital issued maroon scrubs. Compression stockings and New Balance shoes. I'm rocking fashion lately.

Current Indulgences

Time on Facebook. I've joined a couple medical groups and I'm just obsessed with reading about people's interesting cases and practices.

Current Excitement

I'm planning our summer road trip and am so excited to take my family to see brand new things.

Current Mood

Tired, slightly stressed, with a touch of apathy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring Arrival

Despite logic and science and everything else, each year I remained convinced that winter will never end. There is a part of me that remains sure that June and July will roll around and temperatures will still be below freezing, frost will still be forming on the windows, and I'll be walking into work swaddled in down coats and multiple scarves.

Even as spring progresses, each time there is a small dip in the temperatures back towards freezing or there is a random spring snow flurry, I want to shout out, "See, I knew winter would last forever."

Which is why, every year, when the season fully transitions to spring, I'm in amazement.  I feel in awe of the warm weather that allows us to run around without jackets. Each blooming tree and sprouting bulb excites me. I'm ecstatic over the return of robins and butterflies and budding branches. 

I want to run around, photographing each and every single flower. I want to turn cartwheels in the new grass. I want to loudly proclaim that spring is here...

Wait, I actually do all those things.

Most places I've lived before, spring is a transient period, a gradual warming from the coldness of winter to the sweltering of summer. 

Spring in the Midwest is prolonged and substantial, an almost cleanly delineated event. It's negative twenty degrees outside and then suddenly, it's not. The world is full of flowers and sunshine and balmy breezy days. Then, just as suddenly, the days are hot and humid and full of cicadas and fireflies and it's summer. 

But between the frigid gray of winter and the lazy heat of summer, there is spring, bright and full and beautiful. 

Each year I doubt and each year I'm wrong.

I'm so happy to be wrong.  Spring is here.

Monday, April 27, 2015


When it comes to baby books, I'm the stereotypical parent. My oldest had a beautiful baby book, all the pictures and page layouts carefully done, all the details meticulously documented. That went clear until he was two.

Then I started medical school, a few years later, had another baby, then residency, then another baby. That was pretty much the end of that. Not a single picture has been  put in a photo album for 10 years.

I don't really regret it, because there are tons of pictures. Those pictures play as a slide show as our computer's screen saver, and we look at them all the time. And I keep telling myself I'll get around to those baby books...eventually...when no one is a baby anymore.

The one thing I do regret is that I don't write down all their little conversations and silly quotes. I love those so much and no matter how I try to remember, I end up forgetting.


Overheard in the back seat of the minivan:

Monkey: I hate this song.
Bug: You hate most songs. You only like maybe 5 songs. If it isn't one of those 5 songs, you hate it.
Monkey: Well...I'm thinking of adding a sixth.


Overheard in the backyard, while boys were setting up croquet set:

Duck (swinging the croquet mallet down on the the wicket): Hi, ho, hi, ho...(in his best Dumbo impression of the workers setting up the tent.)


After calling him multiple times to come up to the table for dinner:

Monkey: Mom, do you know what would better? If you said, 'Get up to the table, Buster!'


Checking out books at the library, suggesting different books and genres he might like:

Bug: Yeah, Mom, I already know that graphic novels and dystopian literature is. I'm not in elementary school anymore.


After our house was staged to be put on the market:

Bug: I hope our house sells fast.
Me: Why? I thought you didn't want to move.
Bug: I hate keeping it this clean. And I hate all the art work.


This morning, getting Duck out of his crib:

Duck (big, beaming smile): It's a beautiful day! I slept so good!


This was a little bit ago, but still too cute to not write down:

Monkey: Mom, why would anyone live in New Hampster?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Getting Fit(Bit)

I've mentioned in the past that I've struggled with my self image. Like so many other women, I've looked in the mirror and stood on the scale and been incredibly dissatisfied with what I saw.

I started running a couple years ago, and fell in love with it (which is something I definitely thought I would never say.) I started with Couch to 5K followed by Couch to 10K. Last fall, I ran my first 10K. Physically, it was one of the harder things I've ever done. Mentally, it was amazing! (Although based on how hard it was for me, it made me seriously rethink my life goals of running a half or full marathon.)

As much as I loved running, I always did feel a little discouraged that I didn't lose any weight.  Not a single pound. I felt like I was putting in all those miles to just barely maintain where I was. I told myself that the number on the scale and the size of my jeans didn't matter (because it honestly doesn't). I told myself that I was in better shape than I had been in years. My resting heart rate was lower. My stamina and energy were better.  I could keep up with my boys (and sometimes even out do them). Those were the things that really mattered.

But still, never seeing the number on the scale change was discouraging. Before having children, I was extremely thin, sometimes bordering on underweight. Pregnancy changed my body in ways I never anticipated. My metabolism ground to a screeching halt. I never regained my pre-pregnancy size, hanging on to 20 plus pounds with each pregnancy. My BMI went from normal to overweight. The last couple years, my BMI hovered just under obese. I was trying to eat healthy and exercise regularly, and just felt that I wasn't getting the results I had hoped.

My family has always been very supportive of my attempts to be healthy (and I always try to keep the conversations about being healthier, not about being skinnier and losing weight or feeling fat.) For my birthday this year, Hubster bought me a FitBit Charge HR. 

I'm sure most of you know about FitBit. It's a super fancy pedometer. The Charge HR also counts stairs, calories, and continuously measures heart rate. It also keeps track of sleep.  After a few days, I realized that in between my runs, I wasn't being nearly as active as I thought I was. So I started walking into work each day, instead of riding the shuttle from the parking lot. I started taking the stairs everywhere. I haven't been in an elevator since I started wearing the FitBit. It's motivated me to take more walks, run around the back yard with my boys, take extra laps around the operating rooms at work, and do whatever it takes to get my 10,000 steps and 10 flights of stairs each day.   It also has really helped motivate me to not skip my runs. I love those days when I get my steps in by 10 am, and everything else is bonus!

Also, being able to connect with other FitBit wearers and add that competitive edge has helped as well.

My resting heart rate, which was already fairly good, has gotten better, going from 65-68 to 60-62.

After talking to some friends, I also decided to try the app MyFitnessPal, to do some calorie counting. It was enlightening. And by enlightening, I mean a shock, slap in the face type of enlightening.

I felt like I was eating pretty healthy. And I was. I was just eating about double what I should. I remember the first two days of counting calories, and I was shocked by how much I was eating. I never felt like I was over eating, I never felt stuffed after meals, and I was eating fewer servings than the rest of my family. But for me, it was still over eating. Once I realized that, it was very easy to cut back. I still have pizza and ice cream and candy and bacon. But I just eat one slice of pizza and just one actually serving size of ice cream. I reach towards healthy, more protein based snacks. I'm not eating a specialized diet, I'm eating what the rest of my family is. I'm just eating a more appropriate amount.

The calorie counting was hard at first, but it's gotten so easy now (especially since I've added our favorite recipes to MyFitnessPal.) There are days when I go over, but most days I have a good feel for how much I can eat. By deciding to not eat off the plate of cookies at work, it means I can have a cocktail with Hubster that evening while we watch Outlander.

Between these two things, I'm not just feeling great, I'm losing weight. For the first time in years, I'm actually seeing the number on the scale drop. There is no more jumping up and down to get my jeans on.

So far, I'm down 10 pounds. My BMI has dropped two points, headed back towards a normal, healthy BMI.

I know it's not just about the numbers. There are so many reasons to take care of ourselves, to eat healthy and exercise regularly. But it's so nice to get that reward for taking care of myself.

Now, I just have to figure out what to do about my sleep. I've always known that I haven't slept well, and now I have the FitBit to prove it.