Our Tween/Teen – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: Our Tween/Teen

A super interesting summer camp I learned about yesterday.

July 27, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

This is my emotional journal through burn out, climate grief, and the difficulties of being a middle-manager MD mother. This is me documenting what it’s like to be on the other-side. I’m happy these days and that happiness is important to me and the earth. It’s only by knowing myself and trying to know people and understand them, that I can try to nudge them to help me save the earth.


July 16, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I never knew Mr. Plastic Picker’s surname has a Chinese and Vietnamese equivalent. Per Wikipedia “It derives from the Chinese character 尹 also used for the Chinese surname Yǐn and Doãn in Vietnam.” My surname is the most common surname in Vietnam. I’m attached to it and did not change it. But it doesn’t carry the gravitas and responsibility that my husband has for his surname. My husband is the only son of the only son. Therefore our eldest son is the only son of the only son of the only son – in a family and culture that is still patriarchal.


Dinner made by our now teen daughter.

July 11, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I don’t talk about physician burn-out as much anymore. But as I get further from needing to talk about it, my own teen daughter brings it up here and there. I never realized how close we were to the other alternate reality of if I had not decided enough was enough – it was time to pick up trash and go to the beach. Then it was that decision a few months ago when everything was honestly fine with middle management and Assistant Boss, but I decided I wanted more time to work on climate work and spend time with family. I decided 5 years was enough of Assistant Boss, and as quietly as I could left without burning any bridges.

We are having a slow summer. It’s that beautiful time that I know will be gone in a moment, when both of our young people are here at home and still dependent on us. Our son is studying for his drivers permit and at 17, still has to ask for a ride. He’ll be driving soon enough and I’m happy to keep this one connection still strong between him and the adults in the house. Our daughter has friends that are traveling throughout the world, and she is here having a slow summer of mornings in the ceramics studio, afternoons practicing volleyball, reading and keeping herself busy. And I am still miraculously one of the people she still wants to be with.

So yesterday afternoon Mr. Plastic Picker had to again work extra shifts in the hospital, because that is what happens in his department. He’s still in the thick of middle management and surviving because I’ve decided I need to focus on him. I dropped our son off at a friend’s house for one of an endless stream of teenage summer get-togethers. They are seniors now and hanging out at the mall, beach, and doing innocent things like taking pictures with their shirts off and reenacting Lord of the Flies around a La Jolla backyard propane fire pit. I know because our son is close enough to us to text us some pictures, that his sister playfully threatens to keep as backup blackmail evidence. It’s a beautiful glimpse into a Southern California Suburban childhood that we wanted when we left Cambridge and our dreams of Harvard academic careers.

But after dropping off our son at his friend’s house, my now 14-year-old daughter was feeling restless with our relatively quiet weekend and wanted to DO SOMETHING. So I said, let’s keep the earth in mind and do something relatively close to where we are. We headed to Balboa Park and it was 430pm on a Sunday afternoon. We’ve been there before perhaps 6 months ago at 430pm on a Sunday afternoon, and I think it’s my favorite time to go there. There is parking as the days visitors are leaving. You can see the remaining stragglers who are still grasping the last moments of their well-planned weekend. There were couples sitting outside coffee shops that had already closed. There were families speaking Korean on skate boards around the plaza. New fancy restaurants were closed that were so fancy, that I cannot believe this is the same town I grew up in. I had forgotten my wallet and we only could find $5 in the car, and that is all we had. Only having $5 and knowing that we wanted only to drive as far as my electric hybrid car would take us but still remaining on the electric powered mileage part, had us wandering around the park on foot as San Diegans and tourists ended their day in Balboa Park.

As we walked hand in hand, and she was chatting her thoughts and I daydreamed about her future – she told me again what makes me sometimes sad but at the end grateful. I remember mommy when you were so busy, and angry sometimes. You would yell at us at times in the car, and I remember seeing a book on the table called “Stop Physician Burn Out.” And then you went to the beach and started picking up trash and you were happier. And in the context of her telling me this, she wanders into her volleyball tryouts and her new work-out strength regimen and how she realizes the running part she can stop at 30 minutes. She wants to concentrate on getting more touches into her volleyball regimen. I don’t comment on her body purposefully as I’ve seen too many mothers do this, and the downstream consequences of focusing on body image. And she talks about food in a beautiful way. We had just $5 and we bought a $4 ice cream. She wanted most of it, and she made sure we both had a good simple dinner at home which she cooked. And she mentioned off-hand that she realizes among the beauty tips on facial care that she is watching and the new hair cut she is planning and the new wardrobe that she is dreaming of, that at dinner it’s important to just add some tomatoes and fruit and it makes her body feel better and full.

That is the reality I live in. And I realize that the alternate reality was frightening closer than I imagined. Children especially teen girls need attention from their mothers. Tangential thoughts of your local litter picking pediatrician. It was a very nice weekend with only $5 to spend.

Another Instasgram Donation – one tree per follower

May 22, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s 820AM and Sunday morning. The two teenagers are fast asleep. Mr. Plastic Picker had worked 3 extra overtime shifts Saturday, and then within the last 20 minutes of his shift (which he did telemedicine from home) was called into the hospital to do an urgent procedure. This kind of put a wrench into our plans as a family to have dinner. He was slightly annoyed and had to throw on scrubs and leave the house. We were planning on going to UTC in La Jolla for some window-shopping and dinner. The teenagers watched another English period drama episode they are watching together, and I waved him off standing in the front yard as he drove off in his old trusty Prius. When you are a young doctor newly getting paid to save people’s lives, the paging and the immediacy and the hero-worship can be thrilling and addictive. But for us well into middle-age and having been doing this competently for over 15 some would say 20 years, it gets old. It gets old – really fast.


Many years ago.

May 12, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I am so proud of this kid. A blurred image of him from our time in DC. I was a research fellow back them at the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program. I was working in an endocrine lab, but really just looking at surveys and spreadsheets all day. It was a magical year where I was getting a very small stipend that hardly paid for his preschool. We were hemorrhaging money that year, as Mr. Plastic Picker was finishing Musculoskeletal Radiology fellowship up in Boston, and was commuting to DC weekends to see us. We had a small apartment behind NIH, that was the shabbiness place that we had ever lived in. You could hear the neighbors running the bath. We think they were running a laundry service out of their apartment. It was furnished with IKEA furniture that didn’t withstand our young family. The apartment was semi-subsidized by NIH – but not really. It wasn’t that affordable either especially on my research stipend, but I could walk right into work as the back entrance of NIH abutted the grounds.


April 15, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

We are back after one of the most unexpected vacations we’ve ever had. We were supposed to be in Hawaii staying at a family home, but ended up in San Francisco because of a once in a lifetime Oregon snowstorm that closed the I-5 up to our farm.

Let me explain. Our daughter was in Alaska on a once-in-a-lifetime school trip and she was exposed to COVID-19 by very close contacts. Even though we technically could have traveled and she had tested negative on day 3 after exposure and not ill and Hawaii stopped checking, we did not travel to Hawaii. The decision to not fly to Hawaii is because it was the right thing to do. We worried about being stuck in Hawaii if someone in the family became sick. We worried about having to take care of her, being an ex-preemie and formerly more sick when she was younger, out of state. We worried even just having to miss work, even though we both haven’t used any of our COVID time alloted by the state and the HMO, because we are health professionals who if we get sick – have large ripple effects on our patients. We try to avoid having to do that for our fellow physicians. If everyone did this, the whole system would run better – but that’s a discussion for later. We called a close friend for advice, and appreciated her listening to us. In the end, we made the decision that was right for our family which was to take a road trip. In the end our daughter did not end up getting COVID, and no matter what we are grateful for at least that.


April 10, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’ve been thinking about the power of speech, the power of words and the power of voice lately. When babies are born, a good measure of how healthy they are is the volume of their cry. If a baby comes out into the world crying and screaming, then things are working. The lungs are working. The heart is working, and usually the APGAR scores (the measure at birth of how healthy they are) are high.

Our daughter the last few weeks has composed several spoken word poems that simply amazed me. I’m not one to give credit where credit is not due. I think I’m relatively objective when evaluated my own children’s writing. She was good both the composition of the poem and the deliver. She was very very good.


Montage picture I sent AAP National.

April 4, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s Monday morning at 632am, and I’m sitting at the kitchen table that has been thrice handed down. It’s my mother-in-law this morning instead of my father-in-law, as she is boiling something on the stove. The blue light of the fire on the kitchen range is something that defines my morning. It’s either lemon tea, porridge or water for their coffee that is the focus of the first fire. At some point we will need to get an induction stovetop as it does not make climate sense to burn methane (natural gas), but it’s on our to-do list. The parents-in-law are getting their COVID 2nd booster today. My mother-in-law told me, and I had heard from Mr. Plastic Picker already. Eventhough I already knew, I have learned to be quieter and listen to her and nod. Ask her a short question to make sure I knew that she knew I cared.

It’s a quiet weekend because the vibrant energy of our daughter is out of state, on a once-in-a-lifetime for most children school trip to Alaska. We try to raise her the way we were raised, without too much emphasis on material things. But both her parents are doctors, and her little private school enabled me to be a working mother and figure out motherhood and taking care of other people’s children. She’s turned out well, and is a credit to herself and her family. For her the once-in-a-lifetime trip for most children is still special, and she appreciates these opportunities that she is given.

I’m smiling this morning, but smiling more quietly. I’m smiling mostly for a close friend whose eldest has been accepted and going to UC Berkeley. Many friendships that start at work are complicated, because the practice of medicine is complicated. My relationship with this friend is complicated. But my joy for this family and this child is so true, and I’m soaring with them that this particular child was able to do it – and overcome obstacle after obstacle thrown in her way and her family’s way. Life is unfair. We are all fighting for equity, but we are not there yet. But this is 100% a win for the world but more importantly, I’m thinking of just my friend and her pride and her mothering and her doctoring. I write too much for most to notice, but if you are reading this – know that you are one of the people I most admire in the world. And I am happy for you and your baby.

And I’m smiling today for my babies too. All my babies. My own children, the oldest who is asleep and will be driven to school for only another month or so before he gets his own car. I’m smiling for the little children in my practice, as my heart is wide open now – to play and to laugh and to smile with them in clinic. I’m smiling for the earth. And I’m smiling mostly for myself and another mommy doctor, because it’s really hard to raise kids when you are tasked with taking care of other people’s children. And somehow via different paths, we figured it out. Both of us. All of us.

Let’s figure out together how to take care of now the earth.

Avatar of a defiant person, defiants teenagers. Just half kidding!

February 3, 2022

by drplasticpicker

I’m not an easy person. I realize that. I’ve calmed down now in my still youthful early-mid forties. I thought it was being a Crimson University graduate, but Dr. Dear Friend summed it up well. She said I can intimidate people. I honestly can’t help it. It’s not where I went to school, but who I am. I tend to like to get things done. Despite my being more centered and holistic, I am ultimately a goal-driven and project-oriented person. It may be an artificial sense of completion, but I like to tick things off my check list. Number of bags of trash. Number of vaccine quality projects done. Another super interesting place to give a presentation.

Realizing my need to complete tasks is part of my own internal make-up, I have now created earth-tasks that I am hyperfocused on. My current earth-projects are the Rewild Mission Bay work and getting the AAP California State Government Affairs Expert Committee on Environmental Health and Climate Change off and running. Oh and helping our premed advocacy interns onto their journey to medical school.

It makes me not such a popular person at times. That’s okay. It’s never been important to me, popularity. I’d rather be impactful and effective.

But I’m here on the blog today to remind all our readers (and thank you for your continued presence) that it’s okay and actually necessary for all of us do-gooders out there to also take care of your financial house and parent your children. And honestly the last few weeks that has been my focus. I am in the middle of two large real estate transactions, and one came in pretty close to deadline. If I had not gotten that done, it would have cost me thousands in capital gains taxes. We are also in the process of doing a property exchange on a rental condo in Imperial Beach. It’s really nice. My mother called me and asked me why I hadn’t called her, and I told you – I was busy with loan applications! The interest rates are going up mommy! She understood.

Last night, I also had to do something that needed to be done. I can only be Dr. Plastic Picker if my teenage children are on the straight and narrow. They are definitely on the straight and narrow, and generally very good children. But there was a minor issue with one of them and it needed to be dealt with at dinner as a family. In our family if you vere on a questionable path, it’s not just you that is affected – it’s our entire family. That includes your father Mr. Plastic Picker, your mother Dr. Plastic Picker, your grandparents, your sibling, your puppy and your two bunnies. The entire family weighed in and said “that is not acceptable behavior.” Well actually it was mostly me Dr. Plastic Picker that said in a very calm and measured voice “I received an email from school, and we have discussed it. You will email your teacher and apologize for yourself and on behalf of your entire family.” In the end it was such a minor minor infraction, and honestly the teacher dropped the ball as well for not dealing with this in class. And society has become so permissive that for a majority of people it would not seem like a big deal. But again, for my children and for me – I expect more from my children. It’s hard to be my child. All that parenting and that concern 100% comes with strings. It comes with ancestral strings and expectations, that how you act reflects upon me and your entire family. With that, I was a super strict parent yesterday.

But that was how my father was with me. He was happy go-lucky with other people’s children, but very strict with us at home. And that is how I am in general with our children regarding public behavior. So take care of your financial house and make sure your children are doing okay. You are the only one who will take care of those two things. And then if there is extra time, yes – please help us avert the climate crisis!

I have no idea what this is. And it’s not necessarily this child or the other child that was reprimanded last night. It’s nice to be vague on the blog.
Gelato in Little Italy last night.

January 23, 2022

by drplasticpicker

I’m up at my regular blogging time now. It’s been a while. It’s pitch dark outside and the house is quiet. I have my matcha green tea soy latte in a Yeti Tumbler, a gift from the former regional chief of pediatrics for participating in a gun safety pilot program. It’s a long weekend for the kids and they have Monday off, and I somehow managed to remember to take that day off too. The Yeti Tumbler keeps my morning matcha green tea at the right temperature for longer, and there is some sweetness with some sugar – but much less than I used to drink with coffee.