Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat!

This year is the first year we took the boys trick-or-treating door to door.

Blaise, the dragon, and Roman, the sheriff

Back in Salt Lake City, it was always so cold by the time Halloween rolled around that the thought of being outside for a moment, not alone a prolonged period of time, was unwelcome. Not to mention there may or may not be snow to contend with. Also, we lived in an apartment complex, which turns out to be a terrible place to trick-or-treat. The last several years, we took the boys to the mall near our house to trick-or-treat there. No cold weather, no wind, no worry about strange houses.

This year, however, we decided to introduce the boys to the real thing. We met up with some family friends and drove to a nice suburban neighborhood.

I initially thought the boys would love it. Turns out traditional trick-or-treating takes a little getting used to. Roman was very hesitant to go up to the doors. All the decorations "scared" him. (He would like to say for the record nothing he saw actually scared him. Just saying.) And he got cold fairly quickly.

Blaise on the other hand, would have nothing to do with it. Even in his ridiculously cute dragon costume, he refused to participate. He cried most of the evening, insisted on being held, and was glad to head back to the car. (And I'll admit, there was a little relief on our side as well. Blaise is 3, and not small for his age.)

So it wasn't exactly the joyous occasion that childhood memories are made of.

On the other hand, they are currently sitting on the family room floor, screeching for joy over their payload and comparing candy buckets. All thoughts of being cold, scared, or overly tired are gone. Maybe this is what the good memories are made of.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Other than the occasional tantrum and evidence of sugar withdrawal, this will be the scariest part of our holiday. Enjoy yours!

(Compliments of the amazingly talented Hubster)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two Options

Everyone can be an optimist when things are easy.

Okay, not everyone. Hubster is proof of that. I'll comment on what a beautiful day it is, and he will respond with something about how hot it will get, or how it won't last, or something else entirely pessimistic.

But it is easier to be optimistic when things are going the way they "should." When the boys are well-behaved, the cars both work, the weather is beautiful, and work is enjoyable.

This month has been none of those things. This month has pushed my ability to be optimistic to it's very edge.

My work this month has been more demanding than anything I have done previously. The people I am working with are some of the most difficult personalities I have ever encountered. My hours have been some of the longest I have ever put in, leaving when it's dark, coming home when it's dark practically every day.

The boys have reacted to my longer hours and other changes in their schedules by fighting more with each other. Monkey has had some regression in terms of sleeping and potty training. A lot of work around the house has fallen to Hubster, including the task of coping with the unwelcome changes in the boys' behavior. So Hubster has been a little more grumpy as well.

I've been so exhausted that my temper has been shorter, my desire to help cook and clean at home as been less. I come home and fall asleep shortly after, leaving little time to play with the boys (and even less time to blog.)

I dread going to work, mostly because of the people I'm currently working with.

I feel like I have every reason to fall into a pity party. There are days when I would just like to stomp my foot, and yell, and give up.

But I haven't.

I'm not saying that I haven't been grumpy. I'm not saying I haven't cried several times on my way home from work.

But I can't give up. I have to keep plodding on. And I have two ways I can do it. I can either cry, or I can laugh.

I'm doing my best to go with option 2.

And would you like to here something good about this month?

It's almost over.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's the Great Pumpkin!

Halloween is less than one week away.

My family didn't celebrate Halloween when I was growing up. I do remember, once, dressing up and going door to door with my parents. I was three, maybe four years old, little enough to still need a car-seat. And I was wearing enormous pink rabbit ears that prevented me from sitting up straight in the car, because they kept hitting the ceiling.

That was the last time we celebrated Halloween. We did have Harvest Parties, and fall get-togethers, but no trick-or-treating, jack-o-lanterns, or scary movies. Looking back, I don't think I really cared (even though I'm sure my mom will beg to differ, since I'm sure we cried about not getting candy.)

However, we have chosen to not continue that practice with our boys.

First of all, it is just too much dang fun to dress them up. They are the cutest things ever and thinking about putting them in bee, and cowboy, and firefighter costumes is too much fun for me to pass up.

It's not really about the candy. Especially since I was going through a cupboard last week and found a still quarter-full bag of last year's Trick-or-Treat candy. What can I say? We're good at rationing.

The thing that truly makes me excited about Halloween is the pumpkin carving.

For those of you who know us, you know that this is a VERY big deal. We love our pumpkin carving. It borders on obsession. Finding the perfect pumpkin, with a nice flat surface. Finding the perfect stencil.

And since Halloween is less than one week away, it is that time of year.

(Check out here and here and here for previous years' pumpkins.)

First, Roman's pumpkin. He picked out the pattern and transferred it to the pumpkin himself. And then because I'm still that kind of mom, I cut it out for him. This, despite the fact he thought 7 years old is perfectly old enough to be handling knives (funny how it is not old enough to make your own bed.)

Next, my pumpkin. Yes, I did a Twilight pumpkin. I know, I know.

Like always, Keith's pumpkin is the very best. Okay, technically, this is Blaise's pumpkin, since he requested the picture. But, like always, Keith did all the work. And absolutely amazing work it is.

I'm going to send a picture of the pumpkin to the guy who created the stencil.

Keith has yet to do "his" pumpkin. He's got the pattern, but between helping all the rest of us, his pumpkin, somehow, always ends up being the last one done. I'm sure that it, like the rest of his work, will be amazing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Strange, that less than half way through fall, it feels like it is already over.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Autumn Joy

Nothing says impromptu photos shoot like a mild October day and a huge pile of leaves.

Those smiles and blue eyes make my heart crumble and make every day worth it.

I think the reason I've been able to stay so positive over the last couple very difficult months is that I know every day, I'm coming home to this.

Some of these photos just may end up (after a little Photoshop work on some unwashed faces) on our Christmas cards this year. We'll have to see.

Where we come from

I spent most of middle school and high school dreaming about attending an Ivy League school.

Of the onslaught of college recruiting material that arrived during the early fall of my senior year, the most treasured and poured over where pamphlets from Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Stanford. (Okay, I know Stanford isn't technically Ivy League. But's Stanford.)

I kept those particular recruiting packets long after I accepted my full-ride scholarship to the local state university.

I graduated Summa Cum Laude from my local state university, with the highest GPA earned by a female in the college of science. And I dreamed of attending medical school at UCSF, Mayo, or John Hopkins.

I applied to one medical school, and enthusiastically accepted a spot at a state medical school.

I worked hard during medical school and graduated with honors and Alpha Omega Alpha (or AOA, the national medical school honor society.) I had spent all of medical school picturing myself attending residency at Stanford (yep, there it is again), Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Mass General, or Mayo.

And then I matched into my top choice at a state program in the Midwest.

The decisions I made, compared to the ones I dreamed about, were made after weighing what was best for our family. There were times that I felt deeply disappointed. I had worked so hard, and had the ability to attend undergraduate, medical school, or residency at some of the biggest, most prestigious schools and programs in the country. But, for the good of my family (and ultimately even for the good of myself) I chose to attend less well known, more affordable state schools.

I wonder...does it really matter?

I attended public high school. I did not attend a rigourous, private, college prep school. But I still managed to get a full ride scholarship to a respected school. A state school, yes, but a good one.

I attended a state medical school. Many of my classmates had done their undergraduate at Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech, Yale, and Princeton. Those classmates had attended prestigious private programs while I had attended a state school. (And yes, I have on multiple occasions seen people say "state school" with a air of disgust or as a joke of mediocroty.) And yet, we had arrived at the same place in our lives.

I attended a state medical school, and now I attend residency along side individuals who trained at Brown, Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, and UCSF. They did go to the prestigious programs. And yet, here we are, at the same point in our lives.

I never attended any of the places that filled my academic dreams as a teenager. And yet, here I am, the initials MD behind my name.

Does it really matter where we come from?

I don't want to belittle the experience of attending an Ivy League university. The culture and surrounding probably run deep and inspire.

But in the end, does it really matter?

Because in the end, where we go depends more on who we are then where we come from.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Not Me! Monday

I do NOT have moments where I freak out and forget all my medical training when something happens to the boys.

Roman DID NOT swallow a penny and my first thought was NOT to take him straight to the ER for an x-ray. I would realize they would have me watch him, see if it passes, and bring him in at the first sign of abdominal pain.

Blaise DID NOT develop a new rash on his cheeks. My first thought was NOT some horrific illness or rare manistation of swine flu. I DID NOT think about calling his pediatrician. It is a rash, and I've seen hundreds. Once I calmed down, I DID NOT realize it DID NOT look perfectly benign and is most likely a mild flare of his eczema due to the drier conditions in our home now that the furnace is on.

I would never panic and have my first thought be to call a REAL doctor. I DO NOT keep forgetting that I am a real doctor. Nope. I would never do that.

My cardiology rotation is completely NOT terrifying me. I have NOT ONCE badgered Keith to get his 34 year old self into his doctor to get started on a statin for cholesterol. He DOES NOT have a family history of heart disease that scare me to death. I DO NOT think about him everytime I admit another 40-something year old male with a heart attack. I NEVER image myself a widow at an early age. I will NOT keep pestering him until he goes in and does it. And I do NOT bring up the whole daily aspirin thing on a daily basis. I would always wait and let his doctor do proper blood testing and make a decision based on rational and not the terror of ending up alone prematurely. And I don't badger my husband. Nope. Never.

I have NOT been so tired that I have just dumped the last several loads of laundry onto my bedroom floor. My family is NOT looking for their daily clothes in huge piles of laundry. Nope, not me. I always put the laundry away immediately, no matter how bad the call night has been. Just the same way I do the dishes and NEVER set the table using all of Blaise's IKEA plastic utensils because there was not any clean silverware. I would NEVER get let the dishes go that long.

Or would I?

Our house is NOT completely over run with lady bugs. Or Japanese beetles. Or what every you call them. I DID NOT get home from work two hours late to find our living room floor covered in dead ladybugs. Keith would NEVER go on a bug killing spree. And we obviously would have contacted a exterminator a long time before it got this bad. We're on top of things like that.

And after a long weekend of call in the cardiac ICU, I did NOT forget that today was Monday until I read Gina's blog. I did NOT let Roman stay up almost an hour past his bedtime because I DID NOT think that since I have a day off tomorrow, that it was the weekend. I always know what day of the week it is. Don't you?

Join MckMama and the rest of us who HAVE NOT done anything this week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A is for...Yummy

Blaise and I were sitting in our family room, doing an alphabet puzzle and practicing letters.

He already can count to twenty (except for sixteen) and he can recognize his numbers, colors, and shapes. So now we are doing letters.

Our exchange went like this: (Blaise's response to my prompts in italics)

This is D. D is for... Silly duck!

L. L is for... Green leaf!

W. W is for... Big whale!

R. R is for...Him (Pointing to Roman)

This is A. A is for... Yummy apple.

N. N is for... Bird's nest!

And B. What's B for? ME!

I think we need just a little more practice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Day Late

Happy Birthday, Keith!

Okay, Keith's birthday was yesterday, but that didn't make the French Silk pie from Village Inn any less delicious.

Roman and Blaise, applying the homemade touch to Keith's favorite dessert

Oh, I love my family of boys!

Keith is now 34. Normally, people don't like having their age plastered all over the internet. But since he won't stop going on about how old he is, I'm going to go ahead and share it.

He is truly an amazing person, and when I tell people about him, I'm not sure they get a clear picture of who he really is.

Keith is a double math and physics major. Before going the "traditional" college route, he spent a semester at ITT Tech. (Quote unquote traditional, because really, how traditional is completing two degrees over eight years, while raising two children, supporting your wife through medical school, and maintaining a full time job. Like I said, this man is amazing!) He reads calculus and physics books for his nighttime reading. He loves circuits and has a multimeter/voltmeter that he uses to figure out just why the light in the car stopped working. He spent the last several years to research and development for a dental product company. He now wants to go to dental school.

All of this is 100% true. But if this were all you knew of Keith, you'd barely know him.

Keith loves 80s movies and music. He laughs until he is close to crying over Tom and Jerry. He obsesses over football statistics, and then sulks for days if his team, where real or fantasy, does not do well. He would be perfectly content to live for days off Mountain Dew and cold pizza. He knows how to build a house and fix a car. His check book is always perfectly balanced, but he never puts his socks away.

All this is true too. And yet, there is still so much more to him.

He is an amazing husband. I've said it before. He has supported me when I'm sure everyone else would have given up. He loves our boys with a passion and never ceases to amaze me with his patience.

Happy Birthday, Keith.

I'm so glad I have the opportunity to celebrate another one with you.

No Right Time

I come from a large family.

And when I say large, I mean "could have our own TLC show" type of large.

I'm the oldest of 10.

Yep, two whole handfuls of children. 12 of us all together, once you remember to count the parents.

I'll give you a while to take that it.


There are some downsides to being in a big family. There never seems to be enough space forever one. Never quite enough money for everything. And occasionally not enough time.

But the challenges never beat out the joys of having a large family. There are always enough people for board games (just sometimes no enough pieces, and then you improvise. I'll been the top hat, you be the shoe, and you can be rubber frog.) Happy birthday sounds so much better when sung by an entire choir (except when the choir consists of a couple of teenage boys, and then you just take what you get.) And there are enough for two teams in soccer, baseball, or basketball. And with that many birthdays, most of the year is spent in celebration. I always had the largest cheering section at all three of my graduations.

Most importantly, we always had friends. I'm not implying we always got along. Some sibling rivalries were more obvious and intense than others. I had siblings I always fought with and siblings I never fought with. But we never felt lonely.

I love my huge, crowded, loud, talented, chaotic, supportive, drama-inclined family.

But one of the strange things about growing up in a large family is the mind set that starts to set in. We felt bad for children in small families that only had one or two siblings. Or, heaven forbid, no siblings!

I grew up viewing parents who had one, two, or three children as selfish. They valued their time, money, and leisure more then their children. Career or pleasure topped the priority list above family. Small families were created by horrid people who valued peace and quiet more than they valued providing siblings and friends for their children.

I was determined to never be selfish. I was going to have a half dozen of my own children and create as many happy family memories as I had growing up.

(Remember, I was young, and like many very young people was prone to black and white images and a slight inability to view things for others point of view.)

I realized very soon after Bug was born that I was never going to have a huge family. I seemed to lack the pulled togetherness, resourcefulness, and patience of my own mother.

I love my two boys with a fierce, mother tiger like love. I am intensely proud of them, and nearly worship them.

But I came to realize that I was not cut out to be a leader of a very large flock.

And this is where it gets difficult.

I would really, really like another child. Monkey is three. And I can start to feel the baby hunger set in. I haven't felt that, well, since we decided to get pregnant with Monkey. Even when Monkey was two years old, I could hold other peoples newborns, cuddle and coo at them, and not feel one twinge of envy or baby hunger. But since Monkey is now mostly done throwing fits in the grocery store, nearly sleeping through the night, and for all intents and purpose potty trained, my brain has starting letting those TV commercials with wrinkly babies get to me.

Hubster and I have started talking about what our schedules look like over the next couple years, trying to get a good idea about when would be a good time to have another baby.

But I'm looking at 50-80 hour work weeks for the next four years, laden with overnight call at the hospital. Hubster is just finishing up some last minute requirements for his application to dental school.

If we were to have another baby in the next four to five years, that baby would spend a lot of time the same way Bug and Monkey have spent the previous four years. In daycare.

And then we ask ourselves...who's being selfish now?

Is it more selfish to continue with our plans for our careers and future and be content with our two boys? Or at least postpone baby number three four years until I am done with residency, have a stable job with some control over my schedule.? (That would make Bug 12 and Monkey 8 before we had baby #3, just to do some math.)

Or is it more selfish to give into the baby hunger and the theoretical chance of a much wanted girl (who would be just as wanted if they were a boy, just to make that clear) when they would be raised 8-10 hours a day by someone else? Just because we want another baby and would love her (or him) passionately and intensely, could we provide what is best?

Bug and Monkey are turning into well adjusted little boys, who play well with each other and others. Bug does amazing in school. They love each other and know that they are loved. They have done this even with years attending daycare behind them and in front of them. So I'm not saying daycare ruins children, or damages childhood.

But is it best?

When people ask why we decided to have children while still in medical school, we always replied: There is no right time to have children. There will always be reasons to postpone, put it off, delay it. There is no right time.

But maybe there is a wrong time.

I'm not exactly sure what time it is now.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This Week and Next...

This week, I...

-finally got a day off after working 13 days in a row.

-switched from services from Surgical Intensive Care Unit to Cardiology Intensive Care Unit. Intern year is like having a new job every month. I don't do anything long enough to feel comfortable.

-went 48 hours without sleeping.

-then slept for 13 hours straight.

-got a new couch for our family room. After all, two months of watching TV on the floor is enough.

-make cookies with Roman and Blaise.

Every post must have pictures, so today, you get cookies.

-Placed a Swan-Ganz catheter, a catheter that measures pressures in a patient's right heart and pulmonary arteries, for the first time. A completely awesome procedure!

-Went pumpkin picking. And forgot my camera.

-Got the heater/cooler/windows/fan fixed in my car, just in time for weather to turn cold. Okay, Keith did this one.

-Watched snow fall from the window of a patient's room

-Balanced my checkbook.

-Yelled at the TV during a college football game.

-Make mashed cauliflower, which made the boys throw up at the table. I thought it tasted fine.

-Fell in love with my boys all over again.

This coming week, I plan on...

-Raking leaves.

-Celebrating Keith's birthday (two days late, because I am on call on his birthday. Boo.)

-Buying Keith a book for his birthday, and then hurry and read it.

-Carving pumpkins.

-Calling my sister.

-Going for a walk in the fall leaves. If it warms up just a little.

-Missing college football due to taking call on a Saturday.

-Considering opening my cardiology tutorial CD.

-Submitting a receipt for a ridiculously expensive textbook to hopefully get reimbursed.

-Kissing my boys after they fall asleep every night I am home.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Not all who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien

I have done little wandering in my life. The majority of my life has been a straight path, one foot in front of the other, to a predetermined destination.

I've done little wandering. But I've spent a great deal of time feeling lost.

I used to feel so swept up by my life. That somewhere, long ago, I made a turn, a decision, chose a path. And everything else has just been the next step, the next logical decision. The steps felt so close together that I never got a good chance to look at them. Once I got on the path, for a time, everything stopped feeling like a choice.

During medical school, I kept thinking that I ended up there because it was the logical thing to do after college. Residency loomed ahead, like the next logical thing after medical school. My life felt like dominoes, falling one by one. Inevitable. And out of my control.

I felt like Frodo. Frodo made the decision to take the ring. But was anything after that really a choice?

There had been so little wandering.

I went straight from high school to college. Straight from college to medical school. The straight path, while not easy and exhausting most of the time, was still easier than veering from it. Deciding between the unhappiness looming in front of me or the fear of the unknown off the path was nearly impossible.

I felt afraid to be happy.

I ended up going to residency.

Which I guess means that there has still been little wandering.

But this is different. The crushing unhappiness I foresaw in front of me is gone, as if I came through a fog.

I could have not gone to residency. No one made me (besides the $200,000 worth of student debt. But other than that, no one made me.) I could have graduated medical school, and then done something different...stayed at home, graduate school, teaching. We talked about all those options.

And maybe that's why this is so different. It was actually a choice.

So there may still not be a lot of wandering. But I am also no longer lost.

Fall at the Lake

With the cold nights and mostly rainy days, every moment of sun is to be enjoyed.

We took advantage of the last sunny moment to walk around the lake. I had seen the lake trail when we had gone to the lake to swim or boat, and instantly wanted to explore it. So, the clouds broke, the sun shone, and we were gone.

One of my favorite things about living in Utah was our close proximity to the canyons and the fact that I could take the boys any afternoon and go for an adventure. We hiked all the time. There were times when finding a child-friendly trail was a challenge, but it never stopped us from exploring. I had worried when we moved to Iowa that there wouldn't be as many outdoor opportunities. But the lake trail now makes the third amazing nature trail that we have found.

The trail was just a little bit longer than I had anticipated, since we went the entire length, from the beach to the "waterfall." The boys were looking just a little worn by the time we completed the round trip.

But it was the most wonderful way to enjoy fall and the increasingly rare sunshine.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ugly Shoes

When Hubster and I first started dating, I loved everything about him. His humor, his honesty, his work ethic, the way he treated his mother.

Okay, I loved nearly everything about him.

He did own a gray and blue plaid shirt and a hideous pair of black loafers. Both of which he wore a little too regularly. Sometimes together.

I'm sure someone out there is going to shout, or at least think to themselves: Shallow! How could any one let clothes even be an issue?

I didn't. Obviously, they weren't that big of an issue, because I've been happily married to the man for 8 years.

But, seriously, if you could have seen these shoes and shirt, you would understand.

During the first year of our marriage, the black, now holey loafers, and plaid, now stained, shirt, somehow "disappeared." There is still no telling, even to this day, exactly what happened to them.

That shirt was not the only shirt to get lost, misplaced, or removed from the closet. Sometimes, Hubster knew. Sometimes he didn't. I justified the removal of holey T-shirts, lumpy sweaters, and strange patterned button up shirts with the fact that I replaced them with new, nice shirts. Gap, Eddie Bauer, and Express. Clothes any guy should love.

It took me two years to realize exactly what was going on. I was madly in love with Hubster. While not perfect, he was an amazing husband, and then father. He never complained. He never yelled, he worked hard, and whenever someone needed help, he never said no. Even with all that, I was falling into the trap that so many women do.

The hope we can change our husband.

Women who marry abusive men, who think if only they love the man enough, he will learn to be kind and gentle. Women who marry party boys, positive they can "domesticate" them. Women who marry workaholics, convinced that this is only a phase, that that someday, when they are successful, there will be time for children.

It also happens in the littler things. A woman wants her husband to be a reader of classic novels, or a travel enthusiast, or cooking show watcher. Women, who marry men with ugly clothes and think they can turn them into J. Crew models.

It took me a while to realize that I was trying to change Hubster into someone he wasn't. He was always going to be more comfortable in a pair of jeans and a old T-shirt than he ever was in a pair of khakis and a button up shirt with the sleeves rolled part way up. Fashion was never, ever going to be a big deal to him. I could have kept pushing. I could end up like the woman I knew who bought all her husband's clothes and laid them out for him each morning, because it was that important to her.

Or I could realize that I loved the person Hubster already was.

And that included his overly casual fashion (seriously...I've had to tell him that jeans were not appropriate for a wedding.) He continues to be one of the best people I know.

Even if he is still missing one pair of loafers.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

On the move

Last week, it was Parent's Night at Bug's school. We love his school. The walls are painted floor to ceiling with brightly colored murals done by the children. The classrooms are everything you could imagine for an elementary school.

Near the front door, there is a bulletin board labels "Welcome to our new students." There are only five pictures on the bulletin board. Two children from schools across town. Two siblings from Michigan. And Bug, from Salt Lake City. Only five new children in the entire school (not counting the kindergartners, obviously.)

Talking to our neighbors, I initially got the feeling that people here stayed put longer than anything I was used to. All our neighbors sent their children to the same elementary school, the same high school, and still live here now that the children are in college.

Then I realized there is nothing strange about them.

There is something strange about me.

When people ask me where I'm from, I say Salt Lake City (or Utah, depending on how familiar they are with the geography). I didn't always have a good answer for that question.

I attended four different elementary schools, not including a year of private school, and two years of home schooling. In addition, I attending one junior high and two high schools. The longest I have ever lived at one address was five years. And that happened once. I have 16 moves under my belt with my family by the time I was 18 and moved out on my own, only to start the process over again.

After a life where moving vans and cardboard boxes are as routine as the beginning of the school year, the whole thing begins to develop a sense of normalcy.

Hubster and I have moved 7 times in our 8 years of marriage.

Sometimes it takes stepping onto solid ground to realize how much the boat was rocking. Our home feels steady. For the first time, we feel like we've reached port. And only in the looking back, have we come to realize how rough the ride has been.

We plan on staying put for a while. Bug, and maybe even Monkey, will complete the elementary school at one school.

I'm not going to make any promises that we will be able to put forever. There may be moves that mandate school changes. And I'm sure that those will provoke the same tantrums and tears that I put up every single move. But I am determined that those disruptions will be few and far between.

Because it feels good to be still.