Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finish Line

I am no longer an intern.

I have been chanting, screaming, and singing these words ever since I left the hospital today. I called my mom to tell her. I shouted it as I walked through the door at home.

And then I did a happy dance.


The first year of residency is done. Who would have imagined, one year ago, I would have actually made it to this point? Especially since last year, I thought I would die from nervousness.

I'm still undecided as to whether this has been the shortest year of my life or the longest. Maybe both.

It's been a difficult year, as I shared here, and here, and here, and here, and...okay, I think that's enough sharing of the front lines of burnout and despair.

But I've also learned so much. Some of them very practical, such as treatment of new atrial fibrillation and management of hyponatremia. Some of them more personal. It's been a year of carrying most of the load and being at the bottom of the food chain. It's been a year of tears and of complete indifference. It's been a year of many downs and the occasional up.

Whatever it has been, it almost doesn't matter. Because it's over. I start in the operating room tomorrow. Back to what I (hopefully) love to do.

I would like to think that the last year has provided me with a confidence boost. But since I'm as nervous about tomorrow, the official start of my anesthesia training, as I was to begin residency, that may not be the case.

I'm ready to close this chapter of my life and move on to writing the next. I hope to only look back with a small attitude of disdain and a huge sense of relief.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Memory of Flowers

Every time I see agapanthus, I'm reminded of my childhood in Southern California. They are not the state flower, or even a very tropical flower. But I remember them in our home there.

(Not my photo. Thank you Internet)

I have strong memories associated with flowers. Lilies of the valley remind my of my grandmother's home in Nevada and the times I spent hiding under her red-leafed Japanese maple. Hydrangeas conjure memories of my senior trip to Vancouver Island. Lilacs remind me of Mother's Day and our white brick home in Utah.

Here in Iowa, it is day lilies. Particularly orange day lilies.

They line the streets, encircle the mailboxes, and apparently grow wild along the country roads.

No matter where the rest of my life's journey takes me, when I see an orange day lily, I will remember Iowa.

Go visit Leigh vs Laundry for The Happiness Project and post a photo of something that makes you wildly happy.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Dressed Up

I have developed a new love. One that may actually be healthy for me, as it doesn't involve anything with butter, cream cheese, or marshmallows. One that allows me to show the feminine side I try to cultivate in my house full of boys. One that shows my softer, romantic side.

I've started wearing skirts.

Previously, I was a skirt-hater. A livid, staunch skirt-hater. I hated how fussy they seems (as I always thought before I needed pantyhose and a slip.) I hated how confining they felt. I hated that I had to be a little more careful in them, as to avoid giving the public a free show. They felt like the worst thing in the world to be chasing two little boys down the aisle of Walmart in. I hated that they were either skimming the floor (making me trip over them) or above my knees, exposing my most disliked body parts.

I had not worn a skirt voluntarily for years.

Last December, we were invited to a formal Christmas party. And due to the previous skirt-hate, which was also dress-hate, I had nothing formal adult holiday gathering appropriate. I didn't own a "little black dress." I didn't even own a giant tent shaped dress. I had nothing. So I swallowed my angst and went out to buy a simple black skirt to go with an absolutely fabulous Ann Taylor blouse that I adore. One that didn't scream nunnery or street walker.

When I came downstairs dressed in my skirt, ready for the party, I actually thought I looked kind of cute.

But it was my boys reaction that cliched everything.

They were speechless. Bug and Monkey didn't remember ever seeing me in a dress. Their shock quickly changed to delight as they clamored about pretty I was. Monkey was darling as he squealed, "Spin around, Mommy! Dance with me! Dance with Bug! Dance with Daddy! Dance with my dog!!"

Since that time, I've developed my own little love affair with skirts. I can admit that I was wrong. I've come to realize that skirts are easy to wear, casual as well as dressy. And I can still tackle a three year old and strap him into a shopping cart while wearing a khaki skirt as I can wearing jeans.

I'm enjoying my new fashion love...

...And the look on Hubster's face when he saw me in the dress I got for our anniversary.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Today you are eight.

And I love you more each day. Which is strange, since you stole my entire heart the first time I held you.

I love your funny smiles.

I love your protectiveness of your little brother.

I love your indecision. Because it reminds me of myself.

I love the calics in your hair. The ones that cause anxiety for anyone cutting your hair.

I love how your hair gets blonder and your skin gets tanner all summer. That does not remind me of myself.

I love your creativity.

I love your blue eyes and your giant pupils.

I love your ears that stick out, just a little. A trait you get from my grandmother. One that I'm afraid you will hate later in life.

I love the gentleness in you. Your carefulness.

I love your go-with-the-flow attitude. It reminds me of your daddy.

I love the budding environmentalist and conservationist I see in you.

I love your freckles.

I love your long eye lashes.

I love the sponge for knowledge that you are. Your delight in learning. You just can't get enough.

I love that you're my son.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Celebration Success

Once again, our house feels oddly quiet, the quiet that happens after a huge crowd has been there and now left.

We had Bug's home birthday party today.

In many ways, it was a total success. And in many ways, it was a fantastic learning opportunity for Hubster and me.

Bug's newest interest is magic. Each library trip yields a new magic book. So we did a magic theme. We had magic wands and top hats for the guests.

Hubster performed a few magic tricks. Then the kids took turns learning and performing some of their own.

I made Bug a magic 8 ball cake (my little play on the magic theme and him turning 8.)

We had lemon-lime soda with red ice cubes, which fascinated all the kids. We handed out Pop-Rocks, playing cards, and glow sticks.

It was a lot of fun.

It was also very loud and boisterous. We had a few issues with "crowd control." (I'm actually surprised how many times I had a tell a few of the kids to stop screaming at the top of their lungs or to stop stabbing each other with magic wands.) There were some difficulties getting some children to stop wrestling with each other and participate in games. It wasn't quite the smoothly organized, picturesque party I had created in my head.

But I had anticipated the craziness. And I surprised myself by not stressing out at all, which is very uncharacteristic of me. The kids were all laughing and playing nicely in the yard when they were picked up by their parents. Bug had a fantastic time, which is what matters.

Now tell me, doesn't that look like a kid having a great time?

On a side note, thank you all for all your support and encouragement as I attempted to host a "simple" home birthday party. We are trying to create reasonable expectations in our children and to avoid extravagance. But we love our kids and we want to celebrate with them.

I think we pulled off a successful home birthday. I bought wooden dowels from Walmart and painted them to look like magic wands. Hubster and I made top hats out of black poster board.
Between the decorations (streamers, balloons), favors (wands, top hats that doubles as favor bags, playing cards, Pop-Cards, glow bracelets, small puzzles), and food (watermelon, cheese, crackers, mini hot-dogs, cake, ice cream) we spent about $35 total for this party. (Not including gifts for Bug.) Making the hats involved more effort than I had anticipated (and after all the work, they were just slightly too small to fit on the kids' heads! Urg!) But I'm proud of us. And all your encouragement made me realize how great all of you are!

So yes, it was successful. But I think next year, we'll have a much smaller affair.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Celebration Expectations

Bug has been invited to a lot of birthday parties over the last year. And I noticed something.

All these parties were held at swimming pools, or rec centers, or other places that were rented out. Kids went swimming, or bowling, or golfing, or a variety of other activities. Bug came home with impressive party favors.

It felt that the parties were huge, elaborate affairs. And mostly expensive ones.

It was the same way in Utah. The couple parties we attended for his school friends were just as big.

What happened to the birthday parties that I went to as a little girl? We went over to a friend's house, played silly games, sang "Happy Birthday" and ate cake. When we were older, a birthday party involved a sleep over.

But renting out a skating rink? Hiring a magician? Catering?

These were not my experience with birthday parties as a child. And that's what I'm talking about here. Birthday parties for 6, 7, and 8 year old children.

Bug's birthday is this weekend. I'm feeling a lot of pressure (mostly from myself, obviously) to live up to the expectations he may have about what a birthday party is. He's mentioned how great so-and-so's birthday was, or the fun things they did at this party. And even though our budget is tight as a single income family, I'll admit it. I was tempted.

But that's not what we're doing. Hubster and I talked to Bug and we told him that we will give him a wonderful party. And that's what we are going to do.

At our house. No clowns, no catering, no special order cakes.

We've invited his classmates and some other friends. We're going to serve a cake that I make, with simple food we buy. We're going to play games. We're going to keep it simple.

But we are going to have a great time. We've got a great theme. We've got fantastic ideas for decorations and party favors. It's going to be a lot of fun. The expression on Bug's face when he sees the things for the party confirms this.

Because it's about celebrating the child, celebrating the moment. Not about breaking the bank.

What about you? Have you noticed that parties just seem to get bigger all the time? Or is it just me? Am I being reasonable, or just cheap? Anyone else feeling pressure from unrealistic expectations? I would love some input!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lessons from Last Week

Last week was not just a week of busyness and activities, but one of realizations and lessons that I've actually learned over the last year, but only realized in the last seven days.

*My mother is an amazing woman. I don't know how she does what she does. I need to thank her for everything more often than I do.

*Hubster has really become my best friend over the last year. We've had to depend on each other so much. We've grown closer than ever. I'm thankful I have him.

*A lot of people eat a lot of food. Exponentially more than a few people.

*My family will always love me, accept me, and support me. Sometimes I give them too little credit. And when I do that, they come through and surprise me and bring me to tears.

*Sometimes, things just break of their own accord.

*Some people change less than you would think in a year. Some people change more.

*When it comes to family, one year and 1200 miles doesn't really change anything. Other than the excitement of seeing each other, it may have well been down the street and two days later in terms of comfort.

Visit Leigh vs Laundry for The Happiness Project and post a photo of something that makes you as happy as these flower photos make me!


Monday, June 21, 2010

One Crazy Week

My family left back for Utah yesterday morning. Our house feels very still and empty, in a way it never felt before they visited.

They are probably still traveling as I write this, since they ran into some nasty weather in Nebraska yesterday, complete with large hailstones, once of which cracked my mom's windshield. It seems the Midwest was determined not to let them leave unscathed. Although I had thought they saw their fair share of impressive Midwestern storms. We had quite a few while they were here.

Things were crazy while they were here. I admire my mom more than I ever have. It was stressful to feed, clothe, do laundry for, and clean up after that many people. And my mom does it I have no idea how she does it.

A few things were broken. A shelf in the living room, a shelf in the fridge, a laundry hamper, some clips on the toy cabinet. The dryer, which I had mentioned previously, that broke of it's own accord the first day they arrived, was replace an hour later. Thank you, Craigslist! Although, today, three more things broke (mirror, closet rod, and cup)...just for the pure pleasure of it, apparently.

But I enjoyed them so much. And we did so many fun things. I've already mentioned the boating. That was only the beginning.

I got to show them an Iowa farmer's market. We left with bags loaded with fresh herbs, asparagus, tomatoes, and kohlrabi.

We spent a day exploring Kalona, an Amish community.

Amish horse and buggy

We stopped at a cheese factory, and left with over 10 variety of cheeses (which is a good thing, since we depleted them of all their samples.) We enjoyed all the affordable bulk items and locally made items at the Amish store.

Stringtown Grocery: Amish store in Kalona, IA.
No lights: the store is lit by natural light
or gas lights when they need them

That night, Hubster and I went out with my parents to celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary. We had amazing food. And I got to hear stories of their wedding and anniversary that I hadn't heard before. It was an amazing evening away with each other (and away from kids.)

The next day, we spent shopping and exploring at the Amana Colonies, a historic German village full of old buildings, antique stores, and beautiful shops.

Now those are cute kids

Storm coming in behind shops in Amana Colonies

Hubster and Bug with my mom and three of my sisters

The next day, we drove to historic Nauvoo, a historical village established by members of the early LDS church. Regardless of religious beliefs, it is an amazing place to visit. The building and the temple are beautiful.

Nauvoo Temple

Some historic buiding in Nauvoo...I don't remember which.
There were a lot.

My boys loved learning how shoes were made and newspapers were printed in the mid 1800s. And they love old-fashioned candy as well.

Mississippi River

We also found time to celebrate my brother B's and Bug's birthday (a little bit early, but done so we could celebrate together.)

Bug and my brother, B.
Happy 21st Birthday, bro!
A glimpse at the craziness

It was a fun, activity packed week. And even with the craziness that comes with a large family, it passed way too fast. I found myself on Sunday morning, tears in my eyes waving good-bye to my family, Jack Johnson (our gift to my dad for Father's Day) blaring from my dad's car.

I'm so glad I had the chance to share our home with my family, and to show them the many places in Iowa we have come to love.

I'm going to miss them. I guess I do have a good reason to go back to Utah and visit.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

From My Dad

My mother is one of my very best friends (Hubster would be the other.) I love my mom, I confide in her, she's one of my favorite people to spend time with. When 1200 miles aren't separating us.

But I am so much like my dad.

I'm not even talking about the whole "we're both doctors" thing.

My personality is so much like his. My tendency to get into long discussions, my desire to be right, my stubbornness, my philosophical side. That comes from my dad.

My love of carbs and dairy, my love of chasing the boys around and tickling them, and my love of a campfire. That comes from my dad.

My anger over injustice, my tendency to bite of more than I can chew, my ability to get lost in a book. That comes from my dad.

We've had our moments. We've disagreed. We've argued. We've fought. But we understand each other.

He scared off boyfriends. He rigidly enforced curfew. He wouldn't let me outside the house with blue hair. He took me camping. He makes perfect popcorn. He understood my struggles during medical school and residency. He loves his grandsons.

So many of my strengths and my weaknesses come from my dad.

Thanks. And Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

By means of an introduction

Wow! That's about all I have to say.

Last night, I checked a few e-mails, read a few blogs, you know...the usually way I waste, um, spend time on the Internet.

Today, I woke up with 12 new followers and a chock-full email inbox.

I was confused? What on earth had happened. And that's when I realized I had been featured, along with three other amazing bloggers on SITs Friday Potluck!

SITs (Or The Secret is in the Sauce), as I'm sure most of you know, created by Tiffany and Heather, is a site dedicated to supporting women bloggers. I've met so many people and found amazing blogs through that community.

And today, I personally got to be the recipient of that support. Today, I was able to find out what the recognition and support of SITs can do. And how it can make you feel.

As in, squealing and going happy dances in your pajamas and telling the kids that breakfast will be awhile.

So, although I know you stopped by to check out the awesomeness that is The Hunger Games, my love of the book, and why you should be running out right now to read it, if you are knew to The Katherine Wheel, I thought I'd do a little introduction.

I'm Katherine, of The Katherine Wheel, the crazy, busy, (usually) happy cycle of my life. I'm a twenty-something mother of two of the most beautiful boys in creation (and, no, I'm not biased.)

But my story is just a bit deeper and more complicated than that (aren't ours all that way?)...

I'm married to Hubster, who is my best friend and has supported me through an intense and on-going journey. In fact, we just celebrated our nine year wedding anniversary!

I'm a anesthesiology resident, just finishing up my first year of training. I graduated medical school at the end of 2008. Just making it through medical school, while being a mom and Hubster working full time and going to school part time was an adventure all it's own. But in 2009, I "matched" into an anesthesia program in Iowa. So, almost exactly one year ago, I packed up my family, and left nearly everything I knew behind in Utah, and drove 1200 miles across the country to start yet another adventure. Hubster left behind a great job to become, for the time being, a stay-at-home-day.

I'm not going to lie...there have been some dark moments. Being an intern can be brutal. Being away from family has been tough. But we're creating a new life for ourselves, and loving almost every moment of it.

If our lives weren't complicated enough, Hubster just submitted his application for dental school. So, if things go well, and he's accepted (which I have almost no doubt) we start the process of final exams, unpredictable clinical schedules, and student debt all over again. But I'm so proud, so excited, and so glad to support him that I wouldn't change a thing.

And there are the boys! Bug, 7-nearly-8 years old, is quiet, smart, and just a little bit sassy. Monkey, 3 years old, is default happy, energetic, and stubborn as anything. I am fiercely protective and wildly in love with those boys!

And as for me...well, I love being a mom more than anything. I love a good book and waking up with sunlight coming through my window. I love home renovation and nature walks. I am passionate about my family, healthy marriages, and health care. I eat more carbs than I should and exercise less than I should. I have issues with guilt and my age. I indulge in reality television and young adult fiction. I collect quotes and old school papers.

And I'm excited you're here!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Ever since my family showed up, safe and only fairly frazzled from the long drive from Utah, it has been raining.

Thank you very much, Iowa weather, for your cooperation with this vacation. Instead of doing your best to make this a great time and show off your beautiful side, you instead arrange things so that 15 people get to be stuck inside my house, with torrential downpour outside!

The first day was, well, the kind of day you expect when your normally 4 person home now houses 15 people. I was at work all day and Hubster was at home, responsible to feeding and entertaining everyone. When I arrived home, Hubster had the look on his face I'd been worried about seeing.

Let's see, the first day...the toilet clogged, a shelf was pulled off the wall, and our dryer broke. Okay, the dryer may have broken all on it's own, but the timing is uncanny.

The last several days have been stressful. I've forgotten just how big my family is.

But was perfect. Because, finally! The sun came out.

And the adventures began.

My sister M and brother B

We went to our favorite lake, rented boats, swan, built sand castles, got sunburned, laughed, and enjoyed each other.

On the lake!
We had to rent two boats because we just were too many people for one.

Bug wanted to steer the boat on his own.
He was NOT happy with any attempts to help!

Yes, things are crazy, busy, and quite a bit dirtier...But I wouldn't trade these people for all the smaller, quieter, cleaner families in the world!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Yum

Happiness is...

Sharing my favorite places with my family...

And finding raspberries is bonus!

Stop by and visit Leigh at Leigh vs. Laundry, and join in The Happiness Project by posting a photo of something that makes you blissfully happy!


Friday, June 11, 2010

On Family

You guys, I am so excited I can barely breathe.

My big Utah packing up tomorrow morning and making the drive across three states to come and spend a week with us in Iowa! I've even arranged to be able to take some vacation while they are here!

I haven't seen anyone in my family for one year. The last time I saw a family member was June 14th, 2009 when I watched my mom and little brother, who had helped us move and work on our house, board the train for Utah.

I haven't talked much about my family coming...well, because I was worried they wouldn't. There is a lot of people, and trying to get that many schedules to work out can be next to impossible. And then there might have been car problems, or financial problems, or health problems...a million different things that kept them from coming.

And I wanted to see them so much. While I've already mentioned that I'm not "homesick" for Utah in the least, I am desperately "family-sick." The idea that they might not come was so horrifically depressing, that I've just gone into my emotional protection state, where I try not to think about things too much, or want them to much, or plan for them too much, because then, just maybe, if things don't work out, well, I hadn't thought about it that much, so maybe it won't hurt as much.

But, come on, who am I kidding? I've been geeked for this for over a month! I've thought about what foods I want to cook for them, where I want to take them, about all the great changes we've made to the house (and, oh, we've made even more! I'll share those soon.)

I've talked to both my mom and dad tonight. And they are definitely coming. They are all coming. (Okay, not all. My "eldest" sister (my sister who is the oldest, but still younger than me...does that make sense?) and her two darling kids are not coming. Sniff*)

So, I think it's finally safe to be excited. And to share the news with you all! So when you get slammed with a million posts next week about a variety of Iowa adventures, you'll know what hit you.

There's something else I'd like to share. Since it's been a year since I've seen my family, I want to share the poem that my dad read to me at my going-away party last year. It touched me. I read it often.


On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
for they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let out bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

~Kahlil Gibran

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bird Watcher

Every night that I take overnight call at the hospital, I call home just before bedtime to tuck the boys in bed. I ask how their day was, what they are doing right now, and if they have brushed their teeth. Monkey usually just yells and runs away from the phone, refusing to talk. If I can get him on the phone, he is usually silent, apparently answering all my questions with nods and shakes of his head.

Bug, on the other hand, will ramble on about what he did in school, what art project he is working on, how good he did on Wii Sports (shame on you, games before homework. I'm on to you and your "nice parent" ways.)

By far, the best conversation bedtime conversation with Bug happened a few weeks ago. I could hear him in the background, "Let me talk to Mom! Let me talk to Mom!" When he finally got the phone, I found out what was causing all the excitement.

"Mom, you'll never guess what I saw today! A male brown-headed cowbird. The only parasitic bird in Iowa! In our own backyard!"

That's right. My seven-year old is a bird-watcher. A fairly fanatic one at that.

When we first moved to Iowa, we noticed a lot of new birds. And I had no idea what they were. So, for his seventh birthday, Grandma got Bug a bird book. Thanks, Mom! Because that book has become Bug's favorite past time.

He pours over the book during the day, reading all about the seasons the birds are in Iowa, how big they are, the differences between male and female, what type of nests they make. The book accompanies him on walks, hikes around the lake, and nearly every car ride. The book is pretty well worn at this point. When he sees a bird, he instantly looks it up, checks it off the list, and tells us all about it. It's not uncommon to hear him shout from the kitchen, "Hurry. There's a white breasted nuthatch on the porch!" But it's not enough to just say, oh, look! A cardinal or a gold finch, or a blackbird.

No, he is must more methodical. He reports his bird watching success in the same manner that he told me on the phone. A male American gold finch. A female northern cardinal. A male red-wing blackbird. He does get a little frustrated with blue jays and common grackles, because the males and females look the same. He gets around this by saying "Come look at the male or female blue jay. Oh, there he or she goes." Lately, he has decided that doing the birds' full name is not quite enough. He's now working on the Latin names (which is extremely amusing.)

We've seen a lot of birds: Egrets, blue herons, bald eagles, barred owls, cardinals, grackles, blue jays, hummingbirds, nuthatches, swallows, woodpeckers, gold finches, wild turkeys, and even a vulture.

But Bug still has his eye on the prize. He has made a list of "Birds I Want to See The Most." Birds that made the list include the Baltimore oriole, the yellow warbler, and the rose-breasted grosbeak. But the most coveted bird sighting of all would be the scarlet tanager, a bird only found in Iowa for a couple months each year. Bug mentions at least every other day that he wants to see this bird.

So far, no luck. But we'll be on the look out all summer.