Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Little Christmas

This year for Christmas, I was determined to scale back.

Every time I would walk by the Christmas section at the store, I would be tempted to break with this goal. Oh, look, more lights! We could hang them around the windows and house trim. Oh, look, clear glass ornaments! The boys and I could decorate them! Oh, look, more ornaments! I could make ornament garlands!

I could make my own wrapping paper!  I could make snow globes! I could give handmade gifts to everyone!

Pinterest and Facebook and the entire world seem to be conspiring against me, making me feel like I need to do more, do nicer, more elaborate things all the time.

But then, I remember how tired and busy and hectic things have been. I would try to remember the things I really wanted to do with my kids: read Christmas stories, play games, have pillow fights, eat cookies

My boys don't care if the cookies are hand painted to look like the 12 days of Christmas. They just want to bake something with me that they can eat later, and preferably has sprinkles on it.

Keeping all this in mind, Christmas was smaller this year. There were not as many lights hung. There were fewer Christmas activities. But it was every bit as magical.

Hubster and I were a little worried, because the other thing we had decided to scale back on was gifts.

We had decided to go with a primarily toy-free Christmas. Our children don't need any more toys. They don't play with all the toys they have. We struggle to store and clean up the ones they do play with. The last thing we need are more things they won't play with, we don't have room for, and we have to clean up after. Also, I'm tired of giving into all the commercialism of the season. I don't want to buy BeyBlades just because that's what everyone else is buying. 

Doing a toy free Christmas mandates getting the grandparents involved, because we didn't want to be the parents that didn't give toys, only to have Grandma and Grandpa send awesome, battery requiring noise makers.

This Christmas, there were fewer packages under the tree. Those packages contained books, clothes, board games, flannel sheets, silly slippers, family movies, musical instruments. Yes, Bug and Monkey both got a Lego kit that they had asked for, so there were some toys. But we are to the point where Legos are almost a lifestyle.

Our boys are also getting older. With Bug being 11 and Monkey being 7, I worried that Christmas has lost some of its excitement.

So combine everything: the slimmed down decorations, the trimmed down pile of gifts, and the perpetual growing of my children, I worried about how this Christmas would go.

Like usual, my worrying was fruitless. The boys woke up at 4:30 am and descending upon their stockings, delighting over the treats and puzzles and Star Wars band-aids. They woke us up at 6:30, desperate to begin opening gifts.

Instead of trying to control the wrapping paper and freaking out that things were getting messy, I just let the wrapping paper and bows and ribbons pile up around us, while the boys exclaimed and jumped up and down and hugged everyone with each gift.

There was not one look of disappointment. There was still just as much magic.

Part of what made this work is that in all our scaling back, in all our simplifying, we didn't leave out the important things. We didn't omit traditions.  We still picked our tree from the local tree farm. We still had an evening decorating the tree (this year, I left it totally up to the boys and didn't move a single decoration, except the ones that fell off). We still made paper snowflakes and opening a gift on Christmas eve. There was still monkey bread from Christmas breakfast and our traditional Christmas dinner, eaten in pajamas.

What the scaling back resulted in was not a devaluing of Christmas; it was not an attempt to diminish the importance of the holiday and our time as a family.  What it really was was a chance for us to focus on what really matters: tradition, joy, and each other.

 How grateful I am that little Christmases can be wonderful Christmases.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Expectation Management

In anesthesia, some of the most difficult cases to do are sedation cases, ones we call “monitored anesthesia care” or “MAC.” This isn’t because of challenging physiology or surgical considerations, but because the patient is awake. When the patient goes completely off to sleep, under general anesthesia, the focus can be on pharmacology, physiology, and pathology.          

Once the patient is “awake,” the focus changes. (“Awake” is used in quotes because the anesthesia provider considers the patient awake, even if the combination of medications given for sedation make the patient unable to remember their time in the operating room.)  In these cases, it becomes about the patient’s experience: ensuring that they are comfortable, warm, not nervous, anxious, or in pain.

In order to achieve a good experience for the patient, it is very important to do expectation management. If the patient thinks that they are going to hear nothing, see nothing, and remember nothing during their sedation case, no matter how smoothly the procedure goes, the patient will be upset with the outcome. That’s why I always am very clear about what are realistic expectations are. Patients can experience the exact same thing: the one that knows what to expect, and has a realistic picture, will always be happier.

That’s what I’m trying to do in my own life.  Expectation management.

I'm hoping that creating realistic expectations for myself will make me happier.

It’s hard. I carry about this image of myself. An unrealistic one, but a consistent one.

My house can be perfect, clean, organized, and beautiful. My children will be happy, well behaved, involved in activities, enjoying plenty of quality time with me.  My job will be fulfilling, and I can advance and excel professionally and academically. My meals will all be homemade, healthy, well balanced, filled with organic, local, and varied ingredients. My marriage will be fairy tale, romantic, perfectly balanced, and always supportive. My free time will be plentiful.  I will exercise regularly.  I will read widely. I will be involved in my community.  I will blog, do art projects, write letters, call my family regularly, be a good friend, develop new talents, be politically active.

Basically, that I can be perfect, can do everything and anything. I know it’s not realistic, but for some bizarre reason, I keep thinking that if I try hard enough, I can be that elusive, mythical Super Mom. That all I have to do is try hard enough, wake up early enough, drink enough coffee, stay up late enough...

Okay, I know that I can’t really. I already know that I can’t do everything, and even if I could, I couldn’t do it perfectly. But the knowledge that perfection is unattainable doesn’t ever seem to stop me from trying.

I’ve been packing more and more into each day, trying to make sure we have homemade meals together as a family, that I keep my house clean, that I’m doing a good job at work. Each day, it seems like I’m able to succeed less and less of the image in my head, that even as the daily to-do lists grow longer, I’m able to do less of them. The harder I work, the less happy I’m becoming.

I’m trying to do everything my working male colleagues are doing: maintain full time hours, be a good educator, stay on top of new developments in my field. I’m also trying to do everything a stay at home mom does: homemade meals, enriching activities, tidy home.

And suddenly, I can’t do any of it.

So I’m going back to expectation management. Sometimes, my house will be dirty. There will be laundry that gets worn before it makes it out of the dryer. The table will be covered in enough crumbs that sweeping it off makes more sense than wiping it off. The family room floor will be an unnavigable wilderness of Legos and Hotwheel cars. Sometimes, dinner won’t be handmade. There will be delivery pizza and frozen meals and failed crockpot adventures. Sometimes, I won’t want to spend time with my children.  There will be times I tuck them in bed early, and watch a show off the DVR with a bowl of ice cream.  Sometimes, I won’t be the best doctor I can be, so I’ll call in sick so that I can focus on things at home.

Sometimes, I’m not going to be perfect. And I’ve got to learn to be okay with that.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our Fall, In Snippets and iPhone Pictures

The days continue to tumble over each other, barely allowing me to come up for air. I keep telling myself that I'm going to stop being busy, that I'm going to stop living each day at this neck break speed, but I can't seem to find the breaks.

That doesn't mean our days are not enjoyable. Even in the hectic pace, we find time for beauty, for fun, and for each other.

Each of these moments deserves its own post; each one of these events should be celebrated. But alas, there's that busy rearing its head again: there is no time for that. There is only time share glimpses. Hopefully, these glimpses allow me to at least capture and hang onto the amazing moments we had this fall.

This fall, Bug and I ran a 5K together. Well, kinda. Bug kicked my butt and finished over three minutes ahead of me.

This fall, Bug competed in his first chess tournament.  He won second place in his age group!

This fall, Monkey joined Boy Scouts. Now we are shoulders deep in outdoor activities and pinewood derby cars and Monkey is delighted by this.

This fall, Hubster and I started a babysitting exchange with some good friends. This has allowed us to go on regular dates with each other. We both really need this.

This fall, there was Halloween and dressing up. Monkey was a ninja. Bug was the Headless Horseman.  They wanted to be "scary." What happened to the cute little costumes?

This fall, we made huge leaf piles and played in the leaves. 

This fall, I ran a 7 mile cross country race in sub-zero temperature. It was awesome and I can't wait to do it again next year.

This fall, we traveled back to Utah and had Thanksgiving with my entire family. This was the first holiday spent with family in over 5 years.

This fall, the boys rode horses for the first time.


Maybe I'll eventually figure out this whole taking life slowly thing. And when I do, I may find time to go back and further elaborate on each of this fall events. Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just be enjoying whatever our winter brings.