Our Tween/Teen – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: Our Tween/Teen

A year afterwards.

October 14, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I never would have predicted a year after our daughter’s first homecoming and a year after our son was homecoming king, that this is where life would have ended up. It’s been a gloriously slow year of emails and events and blogging and climate work, and that it’s seemed slow and I have so many specific memories of the in between is wonderful.

It’s 4:47am and I’m up at my normal blogging time and my father-in-law is puttering around the kitchen. I wanted to send an email to a friend, but I am learning boundaries and my children call it a para-social relationships – so I’m up on the blog typing to you rather than someone else. This is better and I’m letting nature takes it’s course in that timeline. But it feels good to be together with our family. My parents-in-law are healthy. Our son is now in his freshman year at Berkeley. We told him most of his life to not play too many video games, but he is up at Berkley playing UC Berkeley sanctioned videogames? Actually socializing and on two e-sports leagues/clubs and on their social media team. He is taking his classes seriously and did well on his midterms thus far. So we are happy.

And the little one? She had a wonderful homecoming. I call it the “low key” and “WHATEVER???!!!” homecoming. I tell her often, you don’t want to peak in high school. You want to peak when you become attorney general, our a federal prosecutor or a supreme court justice. She had a great evening and a much more typical homecoming fun yesterday. She worked the Asian Student Union booth selling ramen cups and eggrolls. She was so adorable with the pretty junior friends, and they did not realize that all the boys were flocking around them (many of them Asian) to buy eggrolls and ramen cups from the pretty girls. I just walked up and down the carnival walkway and would peak in on them. They were so cute. Our family donated the eggrolls to the club. Then she jetted to help her good friend do her makeup for homecoming court, and her friend looked radiant. It was about the friend yesterday, and putting her focus on her friends and not herself is so important for her development. And then she jetted to the Speech Team booth and had so much fun making cotton candy. She said her cotton candy skills were so much better than a particular junior friend, and there was an 8-year-old that was enraptured with her cotton candy making skills. I didn’t actually see much of her, other than glimpses here and there as she was running off with friends. At some point she was walking with two of her tall friends who are boys and blond, and I thought back to another particular boy who is tall and not blond from our past – and I had some thoughts of potential futures. But I tucked those ruminating thoughts away, because I know she was just walking with friends. But I hope that particular character doesn’t wait too long to pop up again in our lives. Who knows? Sometimes I still think of her life as a kdrama. But she was so happy yesterday.

I had an odd interaction with a person who called me her ex-niece, and I had to text my parents and family about that one. That one was really weird, but there is a long history behind that story that has to do with money, divorce, and a lot of bitterness that has nothing to do with my generation. I told my daughter to absolutely stay away from that particular person and family, even though we are related technically. I mentioned it to some mommy friends and they said “that sounds like crazy rich Asians!” And I didn’t say details but in all honestly it is. Our money is hard earned from our doctoring, but some other people – hmmmmm. Let’s just say money and wealth definitely in this case does not equal morality. But I was mostly happy seeing and chatting and catching up with mommy friends. I heard snippets of people having gotten divorced that I had not known, and I didn’t pry and I was just sad for those families that are more complicated now.

But me? Dr. Plastic Picker? I try to keep my life simple. It was just fun being a parent at homecoming of a happy and content and less self-centered but still very pretty 15-year-old at her second homecoming. She had fun and she wanted to hear about my homecoming experience as well. And tonight we will take out the dress that she loved and put on the heels that she bought a year ago, and she’ll curl her hair with her new curtain bangs. It makes sense to wear the same dress, because she loves that dress and we already have it. We are trying to be low key this year. And this 15-year-old is really sassy, the one I have. She’s in her “WHATEVER???!!!” stage which I honestly absolutely love more than the super sweet and wide-eyed 14-year-old that was waiting for her prince charming to come.

To the unknown other protagonist in our storyline, the longer you wait to show up – the prettier and more awesome she gets. But I’m sure whoever you are , you are becoming even more awesome. Some of these kdramas are 200 episodes! And honestly those of the family-oriented happy ending ones are worth it.

But in the meantime, the world needs to be saved and I’m honestly keeping that at the center of what I do. I have to discuss with a beloved family who wants to help with the federal lawsuit for Our Children’s Trust and the AMICUS brief that we’ll be helping with. I had to get my $5K back from our HMO for the H3SD summit. Since we won a bunch of prizes, it is a good time to remind them. And then we have to start writing two papers to help our premed students get into medical school. And I still have a few items to send to finish our taxes. Oh! And my friend Dr. F and I need to draw up a business plan for our art studio! I’m really excited about the art studio in North Park!

I’m going to try to get to the beach in an hour or so. It’s been a while since I headed there and it’s always the right place for me to go.

It was actually just a stairwell but one of the coolest stairwells I’ve seen. BAMPFA

October 10, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

How are things going for your family? Are you well? Is everyone loved and being cared for? If I’m your pediatrician, I am back in the large HMO office today and will try to do my best to do my job. You know this historic strike? Do you think it’s manufactured chaos by the powers that be on both sides? It’s kind of like the government shutdowns, I think. The people who are not creative? They have to create this manufactured chaos like war, government shut downs and strikes to make themselves relevant. All those emails that are being sent around the HMO. I know they need to be sent, but I find them all boring. This is a situation that has been created by some people, some forces – and let’s deal with the foundational issues.

Okay. I don’t know where that came from?

But I choose to do my job and show up when I’m supposed to. I know society is this dance, between tugging powers. But the creative class (and that includes a lot of small business folks) I think are the solution. If you create and if you think out of the box, you know that awesomeness and the rewards on this earth aren’t a zero sum game. As my daughter and I often tell each other, there is not just one awesome pie! You can continue to make more awesome pie! And that is what our extended family is doing. We are continuing to make more awesome pie!

Three steps art studio in North Park? In the works. Oregon tree farm and some sort of retreat and wilderness center? In the works! Solar powered tree house with composting toilet that can Air BnB for a lot a night? Started! Meditation retreat somewhere in East County that can be rented as a wilderness event center? 100% it’s going to happen. And empowering a bunch of premeds to do the work that actual attendings should be doing? Hey it’s happening and they are getting into medical school doing the work that needs to be done, and not the manufactured chaos that is happening now.

And our family? We are doing well. A lot of the next generation were gathered together last night in a beautiful setting in a home designed and built by someone brilliant, and I looked at those handsome faces and my daughter’s beautiful profile – and I know we have all done a good job. Our family continues to buck the system, and to realize to not let the powers that be dictate how we think. In the end if you know fundamentally that joy and happiness is family and the food and traditions that go back centuries and togetherness and your ancestors, than the cacophony of emails and the endless chaos of the news cycle seems kind of silly. We each have to play our role in society, and I am doing my part. Just ramblings this morning.

Okay, have to mock up the website with two young people who need a small project for H3SD and hoping that the Scripps Oceanographic Institute agrees to house it on their website or at least a link! I slept last night and turned off my phone. I also did some yoga. Sleep and yoga and a bit of matcha this morning? Yeah. Life is starting off well this morning.

Creme Puffs, 3rd batch was filled with laughter.

September 17, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m not sure exactly what happened when I started going to be beach most days and listening to the cadence of the waves on our shore. When I started picking up trash along the beach, I kind of started listening to myself and listening to the universe more. I started listening to my patients, my family and began to understand. I used to read a lot as a young girl, and now I don’t actually read for pleasure that much. I like to write out my thoughts, and I like to think. I like to feel.

And two Fridays ago, things were so odd in clinic. I felt like the universe was a bit off that day. It was somewhat the weather, and I think I was slightly dehydrated – and I was literally walking into clinic a bit off balance. All the children I saw that day, their issues and treatment plans were a bit unusual as well – but it all worked out and I healed that day and the adjusted minor things about my routine that day and the world came back in balance.

Do you feel that sometimes? Like something happens and perhaps something you did, and then everything tilts a bit? You feel like a change was made? I get that feeling more often these days. I used to feel so sure of things, that I was on the right path. And I know at the end of each day I’m on the right path, but during the day sometimes I have to listen to myself, the earth and the universe a bit more to make sure I’m doing the right things or feeling the right way.

I feel it more often after I know I’ve done an impactful thing for climate, or met another person that is the link in this climate work. It’s a more unsettling feeling, but powerful. I literally feel that sometimes an act, or a chance encounter, or a thought – can change the course of where we are heading. And that is a good thing, because where we are heading projected to the amount of global heating is not good.

Friday was an epic climate day and it’s all explained on Instagram reels. I spoke at the NEXUS panel on building electrification, and the talk landed well. I prepped for the talk by listening again to my friend Christine James’s webinar on building electrification. I made sure to look my part and put on primer and concealer and brushed my hair extra long to give it some volume. My daughter and being on the news more, has taught me that optics are really important. I think the active listening and the panel went well, because of the authentic open hearts that were there. Climate work can be intense, because what we are doing – everything is at stake.

But mostly this morning I need to finish a presentation, and do some finance stuff. Our son is home for a brief visit and it has been so wonderful peeking in on him sleeping in his own bed. But his place now is up at UC Berkeley to figure out himself at college. He’s had a good adjustment and today was really more for us than him. I think he knew he needed to see him, and his father is so happy to have him back in the house. We spent all day together yesterday. He got his flu shot. He got breakfast with his father. We went roller skating at Skate World, and had dinner at a Korean restaurant with his grandparents. We laughed a lot and his sister wore mascara for the first time. Well, maybe not the first time- but one of the first times. She is not allowed to wear it usually, but she did yesterday and she was very cute. I won’t post it here since you can see it on Instagram. She is so adorable.

Who knows what will happen with the climate? I know I’m doing what I can and what I can, is actually sometimes even amazes me. But I know I’m one of thousands of pediatricians who can do the same. That gives me hope for sure. Oh, and the adorable 15-year-old with the fluttering eyelashes ? She made creme puffs and they were delicious. There are some people who don’t like sweet things. But most people do. Most people like creme puffs. It’s not a deal breaker though. LOL.

Our son at UC Berkeley’s VSA intro meeting.

September 14, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I honestly don’t know what I’ve been doing? I think it’s too much climate work. We’ve had so many big wins that sometimes I get overwhelmed with it all. It gets addictive and I need to stop at some point, and remember that I am a real human being and not a super eco-avatar. Its not so much the blog, since here I just type out my thoughts. It’s more on Instagram when I put things to REELS and everything is so much more dramatic when there is music put to it. I’ve been on and off crying watching the REELS I’ve been making of the climate work, my daughter and my son and our lives. It is reality, but then it’s not. Then I just watched half an episode of a new kdrama, and OMG it’s too melodramatic. The step-sister just ran over the protagonist (who is of course the innocent and dutiful and smart and quiet and beautiful Korean girl) to prevent her from embracing her childhood love. So essentially the sister committed manslaughter for a boy who has been overseas for the last 10 years? Is that even believable? Really I had to turn it off. No boy (even if he owns an amusement park and is chaebol) is not worth that. And honestly, the boy in this kdrama wasn’t even that good looking. The girls were much prettier.

So it’s the afternoon but really I never blog in the afternoon. But here I am blogging at 336pm. I need to stop being so melodramatic. I was asked to speak at a California wide state webinar on leaded aviation fuel pollution project, and talk about a paper we published about a year ago. And then we are organizing our own webinar for that same week on leaded pollution of school drinking water for San Diego. Both are part of International Lead Pollution Week that is sponsored by the WHO. (let me take this opportunity to register our talk. Okay I registered the talk on the WHO website, and this is the second time! So I hope it goes through!) I learned that our HMO is phasing out gas leaf blowers (which is HUGE) after a flurry of emails from physicians in our group who were concerned. I sent an organizing email about the first post-H3SD summit meeting we are having tomorrow and bought a $300 surveymonkey subscription to get everyone’s input, since I couldn’t figure out google forms. Google forms and google docs are so complicated for people over 40! So far we’ve gotten a few more RSVPs for the planning meeting, but only 1 surveymonkey response. We shall see.

Anyway, the big thing I need to do in the next two hours is get our SDPCA/AAPCA3 September newsletter out. And then also prep Dr. Melissa Campbell’s and my presentation for the AAP CA3 School Health Conference. It’s just a 30 minute talk so it should be pretty easy as half of the slides are done already. But I wanted to jot down some thoughts this afternoon. It’s always good to come back to the blog. I both get very creative, and also very grounded.

I honestly don’t know why I’m being so dramatic about my daughter’s life. The girl hasn’t even had one date (and she’s not allowed to) nor even had a crush! She is too busy with speech team and her academics right now. I think it’s just that she’s such a good girl, that I wanted her to have some fun and excitement. But honestly, when your are 15 years of age and a pretty and smart girl – maybe boring is best. That’s what I am wishing for us this sophomore year. BORING BORING BORING. No more melodrama for me. Sometimes I know I’m half crazy living in my imaginary world. But guess what???!!! The melodrama was good because my real life husband and former college boyfriend (and indeed only boyfriend I’ve ever had) now is paying more attention to my daughter and myself. He is taking us to Book of Mormon, and planning out date night for his two special girls. See, we don’t need any boys because we have Mr. Plastic Picker. And its for the best because he needs to stop working so much.

I think this picture is super funny. He doesn’t do that when I hug him, because I’m the wife. The daughter that is melodramatic like me? Well. You can’t make up that expression. LOL.
My son not having sex for the first time I’m sure, because he had COVID and was quarantined in his triple.

August 27, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

This has been a topic I’ve been thinking of for the last year. It’s natural for me since we got our son off to college at UC Berkeley successfully and we are still navigating with our 15-year-old daughter the joys and pangs of being a teenage girl in our modern society. I’m also a pediatrician for now almost 20 years, and I’ve given “the talk” to more teens than I can imagine that come in and out of my clinic exam rooms. But when your own children are around the same age and going through the same, it hits differently. And honestly I counsel my children and my patients completely differently than when I was a younger pediatrician with just infants in my own house. Sex, consent, intimate partner violence, gender issues – all of it isn’t as pressing when you are changing diapers at your own home. But when you have two awesome teenagers yourself and a pretty 15-year-old girl at home – sex very much is in the back of our minds as parents.

For the first time ever, I had a teenager just having entered high school ask me after hemming and hawing for a bit “When do you think I should have sex? Beginning of high school? End of high school?” I was very proud of this said teenager for having asked me this question. We connected because this teenager had begun watching Kdramas and we just chatted about popular titles. Kdramas are so popular now beyond the Asian-American community, and I think a good thing mostly for representation of a more diverse cast of heroes and heroines. So with that connection, this teenager was brave to ask me this question and I am not the primary pediatrician. This was a chance visit with a doctor that said teenager will never see again.

I usually ask the teens what they know from school and reading themselves. I ask them if they know about birth control and different forms, so I don’t have to repeat myself. I ask them if they know how common chlamydia. I go over the numbers and how it’s easier to test now, just urine and blood for all the STDs. We used to do cervical swabs and urethral swabs, and I assure them it’s so much easier now whenever they need us to test them. I talk about planned parenthood, and confidentiality and that I’m here to not judge and be a resource for them. I give them all the information and I’m so comfortable doing it. I use funny stories from my own life, to make it more relatable to them. I’m honest with my own patients about my own life and decisions, to hope to be an example to keep them safe in loving relationships. I tell them I met my boyfriend when I was a freshman in college, and we were friends and dated after a year of being friends. So between 19 and 24 (when we were married during medical school), we had lived in the same dorm buildings and at some point “things happened.” I told them I got on birth control for acne initially and to regulate my period because I was so stressed as a Harvard freshman that I didn’t have my period, but at some point the birth control was there for birth control because I wanted to have children at the time I decided. I emphasize that as young teens for the girls that they are very fertile, and I joke around that “a boy will walk by you and you’ll become pregnant!” which is not true. But that I do have several cases where I’m not sure if there was actual vaginal penetration and I think I may have had 2 cases in my career, where the young boy ejaculated somewhere very close to the girl and the young teen girl got pregnant. In both cases, the two young teens actually did love each other and the families decided to keep the babies. Those children are healthy, but I tell them – gosh that was really hard for those kids and one was an AP Chemistry student too. So be careful, it can happen to you!

From the CDC

But what I told this patient and what I’ve told my own children and all the children that are thinking about sex or may have sex or are hanging out in the teenage social media mileau that have oversexualized everything is this:

You deserve to be loved. Whether that be after you are married or before, you 100% deserve to be loved. That you want to be close with someone you care for sexually is very natural. And whenever you make that decision, I am here for you as a pediatrician not to judge but to make sure you are safe. But sex is not just sex, it’s such a beautiful thing that should be shared with someone who cares for you. It’s like anything you do for the first time, if you kind of do it “right” initially – like brushing your teeth or flossing – you do it better forever after and there won’t be as many issues later on. It’s such a private thing, that try to have some privacy and comfort. My own children I hope they will wait, but I told my son who is in college, use a credit card and get a hotel room or call your uncle for advice if you are embarrassed to talk to us. And that’s it. You deserve to be loved in every way, and isn’t love such a beautiful thing?

For my own daughter, I’ve told her the same. Her own pediatrician actually gave her a very different talk in the privacy of a confidential visit. But my daughter is very open with me, and told me afterwards the broad strokes of that talk. I so appreciate the different pediatric perspective but that talk was very different.

But for my own daughter and the patients I’ve had since they were young, I add a wistful little ending. The beauty is in the waiting. The perfect boy, he becomes your husband (Mr. Plastic Picker) and a wonderful partner. But enjoy today however old you are. 14, 15, 16, 17, and maybe even 18. 19. The beauty is in the anticipation, the waiting, the yearning.

And again for my own daughter, I told her honestly you are so busy right now. You have to continue develop your sense of self – emotionally, professionally and physically. And having a boy (or girl or whatever gender of the person that you love) there with his opinions , no matter how wonderful he is, complicates things. It’s about you now. And girl, you got so much awesome stuff going on!

But the summer she goes off to college and I’m not there to keep an eagle eye on things? 100% she’s getting a nexplanon placed (long term implantable birth control). I’m a romantic, but I’m not stupid. LOL. And that’s my story and I’m sticking with it! Have a wonderful rest of your weekend from your local litter picking pediatrician. I’m going to the beach to pick up trash this morning, and I’ll be with my teenager this afternoon getting curtain bangs so she can look cute for herself. She’s super excited about the curtain bangs!

Maybe something like this?

Organizer and teaching my daughter how to organize.

August 18, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Has it been almost a week? I’m sitting at our kitchen table and it’s 8:40am. I slept so deeply last night. I could have put myself back in to work in clinic today but it’s been such an emotional roller coaster sending our oldest to college that I kept my vacation day to be a mom. Our baby (who is a moody but very pretty 15-year-old) has her first JV Volleyball game this season. So I’m going to watch her game and listen to her 15-yo ramblings. She’s a really accomplished and intelligent and creative 15 -year-old, but sometimes she says nonsense. And as we get deeper into 15 and I’m firmly at 45, the nonsense is more pronounced. Boyfriend? No! Instagram? No! Curtain bangs? Maybe. Earrings? We did that! Boyfriend? No! I’m joking of course, she’s not asking for a boyfriend. But for any normal pretty 15-year-old who is a she and likes hes, they are in the background always. Especially when your oldest brother goes off to UC Berkeley and 50% of the freshamn class are Asian, and you are put smack in the middle of a lot of good-looking tall Asian boys. There was a point in the hotel lobby we were in the elevator and there were two very tall good looking Korean freshman, who smiled at her. I swear the girl was going to have a seizure! LOL. They were too tall though at that height it gets ridiculous because the girl is only 5’4″. It was probably too much for her. But you should have seen her dancing around the hotel room afterwards posing in front of the mirror. When you get noticed by some tall boys, it really does something to you (or her). It was all fun to watch.

But we are back now in San Diego and in her safe little world, where the 15-year-old boys are a bit less overwhelming and distinctly annoying to her because she knows them. I like this world. I like being mother to a sassy 15-year-old girl, who think actual boys kind of smell at this point. I’ve done a 180 and trying to dissuade her from going to any dances. I can’t take the drama anymore, and the real heartache.

But what I really loved was knowing the H3SD San Diego’s Heat and Human Health inaugural summit was made into reality. It was a beautiful day. I hope to those that went or were involved, that you felt it too? It was such an overwhelming sense of love and caring. I know it fundamentally affected all of the members of our family who attended and helped, including our nieces from New York. We talked about important issues in a beautiful setting at UC San Diego Medical School with good food, and most importantly with the most beautiful hearts I can imagine. It had to be volunteer. It had to be through these personal connections and not one organization leading the way. It was a coalition, but really a coalition of families and friends and doctors and academics. The authenticity was palpable.

I’ve mostly been on Instagram making reels of our oldest son’s journey to UC Berkeley, which was an 8 hour drive. The move-in was relatively simple. Boys are easier that way. He had four big IKEA blue rectangular bags and that was it. We helped him make his bed with the ubiquitous mattress topper that everyone has, and tucked in the extra-long twin sheets that Mr. Plastic Picker ordered on amazon. He had his cat anime plushie and the green cylinder pillow he has flipped around since he was little, almost in a nervous habit. It’s amazing to watch him do it. You can tell his emotions depending on the complexity of the trajectory of this pillow. You can only find them at the Korean market. He has three and brought two up to Berkeley. The extra one is safely tucked at home in his bedroom.

But I think he is probably doing okay. I didn’t expect the emotional cycling during his leaving home and arriving at Berkeley. Sadness and parting. Tears and goodbyes. A little bit of anxiety and excitement. Amazement and joy. And now a sense of stability and settling into this new reality for our entire family. I’m sitting across from his seat at the kitchen table and it feels empty. I’m like every mother and I break out into tears once in a while. I don’t let him know, because he’s being a good boy and up at school and grateful for the opportunities he will have at Berkeley. My older brother said we raised a good boy, and I know he is. I had him talk to each of his uncles before he left, to get some words of advice. My younger brother will stop by to see him in a few weeks. I’ll be up at Berkeley too, to check in on him. We won’t hover, but we’ll be there to remind him that he is part of a loving and caring community.

And he was there too at H3SD Summit. I emailed my friends this paragraph which I believe in my heart.

We were saying goodbye to our son, and realizing that the time he spent tabling at the summit and the interactions he had (especially getting to meet Adam Aron and now working with him a bit even though he’s up at berkeley) fundamentally affected him.  I have lots of funny stories about getting getting a freshman off to college from a parents standpoint. He’s in a triple. The three boys (thank goodness) all don’t smoke/drink nor vape. I’m relieved. But then made ground riules about how to signal each other if they bring girls over and they’ll vacate the premises quickly (LOL my son was intrigued but is just starting to think about dating now, it just never happpened in high school I think too small of a student body).  But as I have the normal worries of a mom (he forgot to brush his teeth the first night LOL), I know that the work we did envelopes all of our children in this blanket of security that loving and caring adults are doing the right thing. As I was cautioning him about Raves and drugs, I know he listens to me a bit more because of the wonderful adults that have surrounding him doing climate work.

I usually end my emails with “Green hugs and thank you for being my friends!” And yes thank you for also being my virtual and real friends! Thank you for letting me share my journey. H3SD was filled with an overwhelming sense of love, and it was fun! It was exhausting but fun and most importantly impactful. We will definitely do it again next year. What will it look like? I don’t know. It’s really the collective we who will figure it out. I just know it will be likely mid to late August at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and I’ll get to hang out with all my San Diego climate friends especially Dr. Luis Castellanos again. And I hope all my other friends come back if they are free. And we bring along new friends who are good-looking and want to help save the earth. And the secret is when you are happy and you have a good heart and do good, the joy and beauty just shines through you. It’s true. When you see that beauty, you can’t unsee it. I see you. And gosh darn it, I’ll never forget all those real genuine smiles during the summit.

My not-so-sweet teen.

August 5, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

To my daughter. I love you dearly. I made this reel of you and it’s mostly so I can watch it again and again. I love it because you are my daughter. I didn’t let you know but I know you have an Instagram account that you can look at other accounts, so if you see this and tell me to take it down than I will. I don’t think I’m that important that there are that many people reading. The most important thing is that I love you and I think you are smart and pretty and fundamentally good. The judgements of others, you know our family doesn’t really care. For some reason sharing our journey I know is helping the earth. Our family is lucky and showing others the beauty of family, and goodness and that a family like ours cares for others and for climate – I think is part of our responsibility. We have been so blessed and to those that much is given, much is expected.

With that, WOW! You are definitely 15 and not 14 anymore. I love that and expected that, but I’ll miss my sweet fourteen year old that agreed to go to homecoming with a boy from a nice family. I know the 15-year-old you now won’t take any of my mommy-nonsense. I’m looking forward to watching the 15-year-old you from the sidelines. Please be kind to me though, and remember sometimes I’m going to make missteps. But I love you and you have big emotions at this age, and sometimes you still need hugs from me. Keep on eye-rolling as much as you want, and I don’t mind you slamming things once in a while. But I am going to remind you once in a while to tone it down a bit.

You and your father are so similar. And I’m glad we all got over summer chem together. All that drama, and you ended up with still fantastic marks. Your father also had a mini-meltdown over summer chemistry. As did many other parents and students this summer. It was definitely not the summer that we expected, but I think neither was 14 the year we expected. But it was a beautiful year and the summer, although it seems like it was so “lame” now, we’ll remember with fondness years later.

I am so lucky to be here with you for this year of being 15-years-of-age. To live every day to the fullest and to be present, is the most we can ask. Keep on dreaming and keep on expecting more of the world and others. That you expect a lot of me is okay too. I expect a lot of myself as well. I love you so much, my #bossgirl and all the funny hashtags I use about you. It’s just my perception of how I understand your childhood. And really I hope you don’t see this because you are 100% not supposed to be on Instagram. And you are 100% not allowed to have a boyfriend. But we did let you get your ears pierced. You got to go rollerblading this summer. We went shopping a bunch of times. And last night you got to look cute at the movie theatre and I 100% saw you smile and happy when a group of cute boys noticed you. But yes, you are allowed to look and smile but no talking to them in real life or on social media. I got your number, and I’m keeping you on the straight and narrow! Your mommy is a pediatrician.

Inspiring carrots.

July 6, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m not sure why but I find these carrots very inspiring. I’m not sure why they grew the way they grew, but they are so interesting. They are 100% organic and taste better than any store bought carrot I’ve ever eaten. Each new carrot that comes out of the garden, is really a marvel. My mother-in-law planted them in containers and we have many more to go.

Our son turned 18 and it’s the summer before he is off to college at UC Berkeley. He’s really proud of himself for how he did on the one AP test that he really cared about. He showed me his reaction video when he got his score back, and it’s in the field of study that he is considering. His good friend called him from the Serengetti to let him know the scores were in. Who knows what time it was in Africa? But back here in San Diego in the downstairs room that has been filled with his childhood memories, he celebrated by taking a reaction video for himself. I was so proud of him, just like his first words and his first steps or the first time he made a friend at school. He’s learning how to drive albeit later than the rest of his friends. He made straight As his last trimester, and we realized that without the stress of actually worrying about getting into college – he performed better and was more joyful. We know he is well prepared for college, and more importantly he has stumbled here academically and recovered. So he’s already learned those lessons, that I did not learn until well into my training.

And there are other children that have turned 18 as well. Their 18 has been very different, and they are some of my patients. Someone who only the medical team knows and her mother knows, she turned 18 as well. Hers was a very different childhood. She never walked nor talked. She came in a few times a year, and more commonly in the winter for aspiration pneumonias. She had specialists and not friends. She had G tubes and tracheostomy sites and not AP test. But she also had a mother that watched over her as carefully and diligently as I watched over my son. Her mother protected her. Her mother made sure she was always well dressed. Her mother advocated for her.

So many 18 year olds in clinic these days, or maybe I’m just noticing them more because my son turned 18. I was happy to see an 18 year old in clinic whose parents have worked so incredibly hard to give her the same opportunities that my son has. When children are born, it’s not an equal playing field. Some are born with more opportunities as others. That my son earned his spot fairly in the system and is attending the same prestigious UC system as many of my patients, is a point of pride for me. None of these children are perfect, but they are each really amazing and loving. Society works better when the children of all classes mix, an that there is mobility within the social structure.

But mostly I’m grateful that I raised a caring young man who has empathy and compassion. Many of the other 18 year olds going to college have that same empathy. There are the other 18 years old that have such a different future, where their parents have to file conservatorship paperwork because they are special needs children. But they are all 18 year olds. Jumbled in my mind. Diverse, none perfect, and all very organic and real. None were store-bought. That is what the diversity of life is supposed to be like. I’ll never enjoy a perfect store bought carrot as much as the ones that come from our garden.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings.

Plastic Picker parents and plastic picker child #1.

June 4, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It was a big day for our entire family yesterday. For my real-life friends you’ve seen it on Facebook, all those senior moments that led up to graduation. Knowing that I’m his only mother has given me permission to take a break from climate work to do all those things that only I can do. Mr. Plastic Picker and I rushed around in the morning to Costco (had to split a hot dog) and then to Vons (to try to find graduation flowers). I was looking for a graduation lei, but we ended up with a small cute graduation sloth (that is his spirit animal) and flowers. My brother’s family ended up making us this amazing folded money lei instead that was truly unique. And then making sure I dyed my hair. Making sure we saved seats ahead for the ceremony, the reservations for dinner at Liberty Station. And even for next week, we are having a party at our house and getting the cleaning company to do a deep clean and ordering the food and sending the evite to those we consider close family friends. All those moments, only I can do and he wants to be celebrated. And it’s made me take care of myself, because I’ve always been his (and his sister’s) mommy first.

I am usually snapping pictures but yesterday I was just experiencing, and letting others snap the photos. I was just experiencing it all. The breeze was gentle and cool. The sunshades were majestic and appreciated. The colors vibrant. The happiness of the day and sadness of the upcoming parting of ways palpable. I sat at later that night at dinner with our extended family and just looked and gazed. I looked at my parents face multiple times as my father was laughing and saving his grandson’s number of his phone. I gazed at my own son’s face, as he was enjoying both sides of the table that he sat at the center. I gazed at the face of my daughter too often, as she was glowing in the center of her male cousins and her brother. She’s pretty and her prettiest is more evident when she’s the only girl. I gazed at my mother-in-law and father-in-law, as they sat in their fancy clothes eating American food, which they haven’t in a long while. I gazed at my husband and I pinched his cheeks, and then my mother-in-law pinched my father-in-laws cheeks in jest at the same time.

Yesterday was mostly about family and they realized how important the oldest and only son of the only son of the only son is to our family. He’s been this beautiful group project that we’ve all contributed and he’s turned out to be such a wonderful human being. I’m not sure if I’m really going to cry. I’ve certainly been teary eyed. But for my oldest after he was born, I had this great sense of responsibility. The feeling is very different than for our daughter. For him, I felt a heavy weight knowing I needed to raise him well. And I did. We all did.

He will have a wonderful two months off, of hanging out with friends and camping with best friends. He will clean his room. And we will enjoy these two months together before we launch him off to college this fall. There is not much time because his school starts the earliest of the UC campuses. But I wanted to thank the blog’s readership. This has been my emotional journey on these pages, and I needed to tell you that today I just feel relief. I feel relief that he had the graduation that he had. He grew up within a caring school and family community, and he’s a great human being. And I’m 100% going to wear Cal Mom gear unapologetically for the rest of my life – because I deserve it and I’m proud of him and himself. No senioritis. Had the highest grades he’s gotten in high school the last trimester, and graduated with honor roll. And he took his AP tests seriously and prepared and we are pretty sure passed, hopefully with a decent score. The most important thing to his father and me, is that he respected his school and respected the sacrifices his grandparents and parents have made for him to attend and graduate from his particular school. And that gratitude to me, is worth more than any accolades or name brand university. He’s grateful. And I’m incredibly grateful for that. The Prom King? The Homecoming Court? Now that was just cool!

My heart.

May 6, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s been on epic climate almost 2 weeks now. I haven’t been present as much on the blog to update the readership. I’ll update you now but mostly wanted to let you know that one of the main characters in my life turns 15 this month.

Our final version of the climate divestment paper was accepted to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. I helped substantially with those edits and am in the middle of the authorship group, and incredibly grateful to have contributed to the writing of the paper. I was able to secure an interview session with Contemporary Pediatrics for our lead author to amplify the message of our paper. I initially thought we would have to write a commentary, so I’m relieved this will be an interview and I actually don’t need to do anything further. This paper helped me further understanding divestment work, and it will help with the overall movement to have this paper with important names on it to distribute to our friends on the front-lines advocating for divestment as child advocacy as climate change affects children’s health.

I also received a big award which I’m not allowed to share on social media but I don’t think this blog counts? I’m really honored to receive it. There is going to be a fancy reception and I’m getting a trophy! A real engraved trophy! Thank you to the American Academy of Pediatrics CA3 – San Diego and Imperial Counties for nominating me.

But it seems really simple and a bit selfish. One of the biggest reason I am working so hard to fight climate change, is that I want the above teenager to have a livable planet. I want her and her brother not to have to deal with as catastrophic heat waves that are predicted right now. I want to have grandchildren that can remain in San Diego, or at least not have to migrate too far. I want to hold my grandchildren and watch them, and it not to be that hot. I want this for them and myself, and for all our children and grandchildren.

And most of my time these days is organizing the epic San Diego Heat and Human Health Summit. I’m making lots of noise with my climate friends, to draw attention to the health effects of deadly heat waves. We need all hands on deck. And I think it’s working. Can you believe it? Its working. And honestly it began with a burned out pediatrician who almost left medicine because I was stressed and sad, and I found happiness on the beach picking up trash.

If you know me in real life and want to help with this summit, let me know! It’s going to be epic and filled with beautiful people who are so good and joyful, that it just shines when they walk in the room. Trust me. I see it! I see it in all of you. So to the being who has brought me 15 years of joy. I love you so very much. And this weekend, we will spend it together just our family.