Suck It Up, September

How is September over?

Every month, I am surprised that it’s time for this post. And every month, I’m astonished at just how mediocre I am at keeping up on the things I want to do (except the cooking part). Can you imagine how bad I would be if I didn’t make them a priority and keep track of it?

I guess that’s a lesson in and of itself.

Anyhow, without further ado, here’s what I wanted to work on this year:

1) Take family and personal health seriously.

What does that look like? I want to:

a) Cook at least 5 meals a week.

As always, I’m doing well in this. Not because I enjoy it, but because I know it costs an arm and a leg to eat out with all my tiny humans. My kids complain that they prefer the weekends when Hapa Papa prepares them boxed mac and cheese (they FINALLY like it!), nuggets, and frozen pizza. I don’t let them eat that during the week because I know Hapa Papa is stuck with the kids for large swathes of time and that’s what he knows how to make.

I still can’t believe that we used to eat that stuff almost every other day. And now, I make lunch and dinner almost every day and it’s reasonable tasty and nutritious. We do eat leftovers now, too because I have finally managed to make larger serving sizes. However, the kids also complain mightily about that, too.

Too bad, kiddos. If we have food leftover, you’re going to eat it.

Oh, wait. Just realized that we have more leftovers now because Hapa Papa brings me dinner from his work every week night. Ha! I guess I haven’t improved as much as I thought!

b) Be active once a week.

I have started walking Glow Worm to and from preschool at least once a week so I guess that’s technically being active. WHOOO!

c) Wash face and brush teeth twice daily.

Sigh. I am slipping. I’m pretty good about washing my face in the morning and slathering on the sunscreen, but I’m getting less and less consistent with washing my face at night. But this is a good reminder to do so again.

d) Take vitamins and supplements.

I have been slacking on this, too. Really, it’s because one of the supplements I take uses the casings that smell like prenatal vitamins and it’s AWFUL. It makes me want to barf and my hand smells like it for hours afterwards and it’s really awful.

The rest of the stuff is fine, but I just can’t get past the smell of the one that is disgusting.

But I am exhausted and not feeling energized so I know I need to take my supplements more often. Plus, HOLLOW BONES.

e) Go to sleep when the kids sleep 4x a week.

I did okay on this. What happens now is that I am really energized to write and do blog stuff or stay up reading, and that kills several nights in a row until I’m so exhausted that I collapse when I put Sasquatch to sleep.

So, meh.

f) No texting while driving.

Meh. I am better but not great. WHY IS IT SO HARD???

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously.

I’ve done okay on this. Although now that I think about it, I definitely could do better. I am behind on a few things.

My English books in my office.

HOWEVER, I did move the bookshelves from our closets into the new office and moved all my English books there. I also had Guavarama come and reorganize my Chinese book shelves now that Fleur brought over a lot of my books that she was storing for me as Bebe was making her way through them.

Plus, my kids destroyed some parts of our house and I called the handyman the same day and he came to fix it! And he’s the one who moved my shelves from the closets to the office and bolted them to the wall. I also finally remembered to add a window screen to the kids’ room.

My Chinese books finally sorted again! Fleur still has a bunch of my books but we left some space for them.

Oooh! And I finally bought better sheets and a duvet and duvet covers and washed them! Yay to no more microfiber sheets for the full bed because it traps heat and Gamera keeps getting headaches.

I also angry purged and the kids’ toys and finally lugged the 6+ garbage bags of clothes to the donation center. I even semi-sorted my kitchen table.

Hmmm. I guess I adulted more than I thought. WHOOOO!

3) Write.

I did really well on this again although I always wish for more time despite my not maximizing it. Plus, I got lots of ideas churning around in my head that I’m excited about.

Now, I just have to write even more.

Alright, that’s it for me this month. How are you doing on your resolutions? Is 2017 living up to what you thought it would be?

What Do I Really Want?

I know I say it a lot, but it bears repeating. How is time flying by so fast? And why does it always seem as if I am treading water and accomplishing nothing?

I know it’s not true. And yet, it always seems as if my ambition outpaces my willingness to work (and work hard). I could blame the children, but let’s be brutally honest. I highly doubt I would be busy working hard on my ambitions even if I were without family obligations.

I mean, seriously. What did I do before I had kids?

Nothing. A fat lot of nothing.

One could argue that it was the forced break from things that having children required that finally shook me out of my farce of being a financial advisor. And then, even a few more years of being a SAHM that made me really consider what I wanted to do.

Would I actually spend all day writing and hustling after paying gigs if I were unencumbered by my kids? Or would I do what I always did? Fritter away all this precious time with the usual suspects?

I have my money on me pissing away my time like I always did. Because although past performance does not always predict future performance, it’s a good indicator.

Is this what a mid-life crisis looks like? Albeit, a bland, milquetoast, non-explody kind that doesn’t detonate an H-bomb in the midst of my family life?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not UN-happy. I am pretty OK with the way things are going.

But is that all we are made for? To be OK with things? To be floating along on the river of our life in an inner tube of contentedness?

Not that there is anything wrong with contentedness.

In fact, I thought I was content with my life until this moment. That is not true.

The absence of unhappiness is not the presence of happiness. And as I was about to write, “the absence of discontent is not the presence of contentedness,” I had to stop because I realized that I am discontent.

I have been discontent for a long time. Perhaps for always.

Discontent doesn’t mean that I’m not happy. I am often happy. I am even content with most areas of my life.

I AM MAKING NO SENSE.

I feel disintegrated. Scattered.

I have been going to my therapist for two years now. Maybe three? And yet it always seems to circle back with what Dr. T mentioned that first appointment. She thought I was in there to speak to her about my identity – and I laughed at her.

But it’s so true.

Who am I and what do I want? And once I figure that out, will I do what I can to get it?

I am afraid to want so many things.

I feel as if I just started going after what I want – and instead of being satisfied, it opened up a giant maw. A gaping mouth. A hole in my soul demanding to be fed.

More.

More.

Always, more.

That’s why Roxane Gay’s book, (affiliate link) Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, struck such a chord inside me. She hungered for so many things.

I hunger for so many things.

I feel greedy. Ungrateful.

I feel as if I am just like my father. Always grasping. Always lusting. Always leaving.

Always.

Always.

Always.

But that’s the lie, right?

That’s The Lie.

It’s okay to want things. It’s okay to pursue things. It’s okay to hunger. To want.

It is okay. And it is human.

It is in the how of things where it can go awry.

How do I fill this hunger? How do I fill these wants? And do I fill these wants? Or do I do what I always have and shove them down, deep down, burying them in the minutiae of daily life?

For me, I am choosing to be different than I have been.

I know.

I seem to be constantly choosing this. Constantly blogging about this.

It seems as if I will always be stuck.

Always.

I tell myself that changing directions in life is not a one and done.

It’s like changing directions in a large battleship cruiser at full speed. You can’t just make a sharp turn and then expect to be in a different direction. First, you have to decelerate to a safe speed and then turn, slowly, and then re-accelerate.

Making change in life is not just ONE decision to change your life. It is a constant series of small decisions. Seemingly insignificant decisions.

Do I go to sleep early or stay up late to work? If I stay up late to work, will I actually work or will I Facebook or watch TV or read or goof off? If I will actually waste time instead, am I okay with that or should I just go to sleep instead?

Do I stay at home and work or do I leave the house? If I stay at home, am I okay with my children constantly interrupting me? If I leave, am I okay with spending money or burning through the time with commuting? In all instances, am I going to actually work or am I going to procrastinate even more?

A million little choices.

Our dreams are made or broken from a million little choices.

I Cut My Kids’ Screen Time and This is What Happened

Ok. I apologize for the click-baity title but honestly, I think we are all allowed one or two of these every year as a writer.

Anyway.

Look. We all know I’m a terribly mediocre parent.

Despite the fact that I homeschool my two older children, I really don’t do much with the kids and let them watch a LOT of iPad because that’s easier than actually dealing with them. It’s especially more convenient when I’m trying to put Sasquatch down for a nap and I don’t want the other three to run amok and be assholes and scream and interrupt me and come into the room and piss me off because FFS YOU KNOW THE BABY IS TRYING TO NAP —

Deep Breaths.

At any rate, you get the idea. My kids got upwards of 4-5 hours a day on the ipad, XBox, TV, phone, etc. I mean, you name it, THEY WERE ON IT.

And despite me not really noticing that my kids were more asshole-ish than usual (many of my friends have told me their kids become steadily assholier the more screen time they have), I’m sure all that screen time was not good for their brains or their eyes.

Ahhhh… Their eyes.

Here is the real reason why I cut back on their screen time.

Last year, Cookie Monster (7.5) and Gamera (5.75) both had to get glasses and they have to wear them when on iPads or reading or doing homework. I was bummed but not surprised because GENETICS, but other than making them wear their glasses, I did not change their behavior.

Why?

BECAUSE I’M MEDIOCRE AS FUCK AS WELL AS LAZY, OK?

And even though I have an optometrist friend who REFUSES to let her kids have ANY screen time due to her legitimate fears of their vision going bad – I mean, she deals with BLIND PEOPLE (literally) for her JOB – I STILL did nothing.

Because WHY WOULD I CHANGE MY BEHAVIOR at much cost to my convenience?

Well, after we came back from Taiwan (where my kids were ALWAYS on the iPad) and we ran into some of our friends again, I found out that they had DRASTICALLY cut out almost ALL screen time and were down to thirty minutes a day.

I almost barfed at the forced interactions with my children this would enable.

But the reason they cut down the screen time so much was because their nine year old son’s vision jumped from -100 to -400 in less than a year. LESS THAN A YEAR.

In case you need this in layman’s terms, THAT IS REALLY BAD.

And this scared me.

I spent the better part of my childhood mostly blind, wearing huge coke bottle glasses, hating any sports participation due to fear of getting my face smashed in by a ball, dealing with sweat and glasses (the WORST), having no peripheral vision (making sports REALLY difficult), hating swimming because I couldn’t see, and hating the outside because of the glare from the sun.

Though I had LASIK 17 years ago (OMG, SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO), I still have to wear glasses because I ruined my eyes again staring at computer screens and the iPhone in the dark. I mean, it’s nowhere NEAR as horrible (I was -925) but COME ON.

At any rate, I drastically cut down my kids’ screen time down to approximately 30 minutes on the iPad and then whatever TV I happen to watch (which isn’t very often).

Here’s what happened:

1) The kids rebelled. They’re still rebelling, a little bit.

Ok. The rebellion is a bit overstated. But they aren’t particularly happy about the restricted screen time – especially Glow Worm. Mostly because that is how I placated this child – with the iPad, his third parent. (I mean, YouTube taught him all his numbers, his letters, his colors, nursery rhymes and songs, and a ton of other things parents are actually supposed to teach their children.)

But I can deal with their grumbling because the longer I keep it up, the less they grumble. (And truthfully, I do give in to their grumbling a smidge – so that’s why I say APPROXIMATELY 30 minutes. What can I say? I’M WEAK.)

2) The kids are actually playing.

I mean, I know it’s super obvious. And I should have remembered that I have done this before. (Last year around this time, actually.)

But really! The children are actually playing. With our toys. With each other. With the baby.

And they’re funny. And fun.

I mean, they would occasionally play like this anyway, but it’s now for many hours every day now instead of every now and then.

For instance, the other day, the kids spent over an hour setting up several theaters of war between army men, dinosaurs, animals, and other toys. Then, Cookie Monster was busy fighting the battles. Gamera was selling concession stand snacks to the observers (Batman and Superman were watching from the doll house roof). Glow Worm was alternately playing waiter and grunt. Sasquatch was roaming the field randomly destroying things.

They have also played shockingly realistic live action MinecraftPlants vs. Zombies, and American Ninja Warrior. Sadly, it all involves beating the shit out of each other with their Minecraft foam swords and axes. And fists.

They are coloring and drawing and cutting and pasting stuff.

They’re playing with newly made play dough. (See? I can occasionally be fun.)

They have even brought out the board games to play with each other (and fight with each other).

They have spent an entire afternoon pushing Sasquatch around in a laundry basket up and down the upstairs hallway and then lifting him up like it’s a litter and calling him the king. (It is as cute as it sounds.)

They have also pushed him around in the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe (and at high speeds!) and included Sasquatch in all their shenanigans as they pretended to work in a drive-thru restaurant and judged each other’s cooking.

They are having the childhood I imagined them having.

3) They go to bed much easier.

I mean, I knew all about that blue light nonsense interfering with their sleep sensors or whatever, but I never really did much about it. I just assumed my kids were dicks at bedtime because kids are dicks at bedtimes.

NOPE.

They’re not perfect. But I’ll take this relatively painless bedtime over the hell on earth it used to be.

4) Taking care of Sasquatch is much easier because now, the kids aren’t on the iPad so they are playing with each other and with him.

He’s like their own live doll.

5) I keep forgetting (more like actively not doing) a lot of their homeschooling because they’re having such a good time playing with one another. I feel like a jerk interrupting.

6) They are speaking more Chinese to each other.

OMG THEY ARE SPEAKING MORE CHINESE TO EACH OTHER.

Totally an unexpected side benefit!!

Even though I told the kids they could only watch Chinese videos on the iPad, I know they didn’t always do so. (In fact, they rarely did so.) And I didn’t enforce the rule because I was lazy. So simply by cutting down the iPad to 30ish minutes a day drastically cut down their English exposure.

Don’t get me wrong. They still mostly play together in English. But I swear, they played with each other for at least an hour in Chinese the other day. Yes, yes. There was also English mixed in, but OMG THEY PLAYED TOGETHER IN CHINESE. AND I DID NOT HAVE TO MAKE THEM!

7) In addition, Cookie Monster has actually picked up BOOKS when he’s bored and VOLUNTARILY read Chinese books. (Don’t get too excited – he can only read Chinese. He can’t read English.)

8) But most importantly, I realized that the kids don’t really get bored. Oh, sure. They will ask for the iPad or TV or whatever, and for awhile, I felt guilty that they weren’t getting in their favorite games to get better. But then, I came to my senses.

I SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT NOT LETTING MY KIDS PLAY AS MUCH VIDEO GAMES.

So now, I’m over it. And though they keep asking for the screen, they also aren’t really suffering over not having it.

I don’t know why I am always so worried that they’re not going to have fun without an iPad in front of their faces. I know in my brain that it’s ridiculous to have this worry. But nevertheless, I do.

It’s dumb.

And I really hope that I can stick to my guns and not get lazy and forget all about how awesome they are when they’re not zombies (unless, of course, they’re pretending to be zombies).

Do you severely restrict your children’s screen time? How is that working for your family? Let me know in the comments.