Thursday, September 30, 2010

Confidence Boost

While our boys are rambunctious enough in our home, outside of it, they tend to be quiet, reserved children. I am always surprised to see my talkative Bug turn mum around non-family members and my bouncy Monkey stand still and silent when he's dropped off at preschool.

Bug especially has been limited by this reserve. It goes beyond just shyness and actually borders on a cautious, almost timid approach to life. Not only has it made making friends difficult, but he is hesitant to try anything new. It can be food, an activity, a book.

Often, I've been concerned that his attitude has stemmed from lack of confidence. It was painful last year, to watch him slowly plod off to school, mostly likely dreading another day with the unknown.

This summer, however, saw a change in Bug. I've seen his confidence and his willingness to explore new things grow.

When we were in Chicago, he was close to panicked about going up to the 103 floor of the Willis (Sears) Tower. Initially, when we got up there, he was hesitant to look out windows. And as far as the ledge (the suspended glass viewing box)? He wouldn't even consider going out on it. At first. After we'd been up there a while, he decided he would indeed go out, first with Hubster, then with me, and then, by himself.

He then surprised, not just us, but everyone else by us, by lying down and staring face down at the street 103 stories below him.

He recently succeeding in climbing the tree in our front yard, an activity previously met with near terror. He scaled up nearly to the top, and managed to get down (nearly) by himself. He was glowing with happiness and what I suspect was pride the rest of the day.

Who would have thought that a boost into a tree would lead to a boost of confidence?

I can see that growing confidence in nearly every aspect. In his new eagerness to talk, in his new friendships at school.

Now, when he walks to school, it is with head up and a steady stride. Definitely in the right direction.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Talk in the anesthesia resident lounge is random. It varies between griping about our work, talking about our families, debating on which Pandora station to listen to, and arguing about which temperature the thermostat is set at. It's loud, comfortable, and fun.

The talk the other day turned to blogging. One resident mentioned that his wife blogged. I instantly was interested. Another resident asked what his wife's blog was about. This struck me as odd, because I rarely think of blogs being "about" anything. They are about the person who writes them. They are stories, chronicles, and narratives about the life of the writer. There may be the food blog, the book blog, the fashion blog, but in general blogs are life blogs. At least the ones I read.

Anyway, back to the point...

The resident replied that now that they had kids, his wife's blog was just like any mommy blog, a collection of cute pictures and stories about family outings. And then he said, "She used to actually write things. Before we had kids. I liked it when she did that."

Instantly, I got on my high horse. I thought to myself, well, I have kids and I don't have a typical mommy blog. I still write real things. I was feeling slightly smug and superior, thinking of how I hadn't succumbed to being a boring "mommy blog."

Then I looked back over my archive.

And that's when the truth dawned on me.

I'm another mommy blogger. Almost all my posts for the last several months have been about cute pictures of my boys and synopses of our family activities.

Not that there is anything wrong with being a mommy blogger. The majority of blogs that I read are mommy bloggers. We have children, we love them, we want to share. There is nothing wrong with that.

There are many bloggers who describe themselves as aspiring writers. They blog as their creative outlet, as a way to hopefully be discovered. I'm not an aspiring writer, in the sense that I don't have any burning desire to write a novel or publish anything. But I do like to write. I actually completely overhauled my blog at the beginning of the year so that I could stop having just a mommy blog, and start having a "real" blog.

But what do you get? Apple orchards, family vacation, camping trips, and birthday parties. There is nothing wrong with those things, but I had hoped to share so much more.

I did start blogging to chronicle my life, and that is still extremely important to me. I find it is so much easier to capture moments and memories when I'm not limited by the size or number of pages in a photo album. I can narrate to my heart's content. I can involve you in the narrative. Now that I'm blogging less, the time I do have to blog I feel is spent trying to catch up on our activities.

I'm not sure why this bothers me. It's silly really. Mommy blogs are real blogs. Some of the best blogs out there are plain old mommy blogs. Mommy blogs that still manage to have plenty of content and heart and thought. I'm happy to have a mommy blog. But I still feel that too often, I'm leaving things out. Hubster and I have discussions over the dinner table about politics, environmentalism, responsibility, societal pressures on women, health care reform, organized religion, pop culture influences on our children...and none of that ends up here.

I guess the point is that it's hard to face up to your own hypocrisy. I've felt like there was something different about my blogging, but really, I'm a mommy who is frazzled, like most moms, and ridiculously in love with her kids, like most moms. And that's just fine with me.

But this realization does make me what to start writing more and to branch out just a bit. Whether my schedule and my bravery allow for that, well, we'll just have to see.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


There cannot be a more iconic autumn activity than apple picking.

It's one that has gone from first time memories to family tradition. This time, made so much better by sharing it with my mother as well.

Grandma and boys. I love this picture!

We missed Honey Crisp season somehow. It was here, and then suddenly it was gone before I had a chance to fill up on their sweet deliciousness. Although I am disappointed about missing out on my favorite apple, there was still plenty of goodness to be picked.

Jonathan apples

The branches were loaded with Honey Gold, Jonathan, and Song of September. (And I even strolled down the rows of harvested Honey Crisp trees and found a few last ones hiding.)

Honey Gold apples

It was truly amazing how fast we filled our baskets with 20 pounds of apples.

Almost equally amazing is that now, a few days later, those apples are gone (although Monkey did leave one on the porch for the last two nights for "da raccoons to eat to get weady for winter." And both apples were gone in the morning. Either lucky raccoons or very strong chipmunks.)

"What? I'm sure nothing of the sort happened!"
Monkey, in all his dirty glory!

Bug was not so keen on picking the apples this year, since last year he was told that picking meant eating. Although he was happy enough to run through the orchard and carry baskets.

Family, outdoors, bonding, apples...the perfect activity.

The fact that the day ending with apple crisp doesn't hurt either. Even if the Honey Crisps are gone.

How about you? Any favorite fall activities? Or more importantly, any favorite type of apple?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Where The Road Leads

While I love lazy days at home, hanging out in my pajamas, reading, watching movies, or napping, I'm definitely happiest when I'm on the go. I love exploring, going new places, whether it's a new city, a new restaurant, or just a new place to stroll in the evenings.

It's probably from all those times growing up, no money for "real family outings," our parents would load all of us into the car and just drive. We explored the coast while we lived there, and then the hills of Eastern California, and then the mountain ranges of Utah. Sometimes it involved camping, but most the time it was simply steering the car onto a road we'd never been on before and seeing where it lead.

Hubster is not really a fan of this type of outing. The only way he really puts up with all my exploring is if I can tell him where we are actually going.

I'll have to hand it to him, though. In the past, there was resisting and groaning and rolling of eyes. Now, when he sees me clasp my hands and say, "Do you know where I want to go?" now, he just asks, "Where?" I think it must be the crazed light I get in my eyes when I say this.

Even Hubster admits, we've had some great adventures. We've discovered fabulous new places. So, this weekend, when I said, "Do you know what I want to do today?" he just smiled and said, "Where are we going today?"

And that is how we ended up spending a slightly rainy, misty day at Maquoketa Caves.

It was one of those days, full of the sound of rain, the falling of leaves, the beauty of nature and fall.

It was one of those perfect days, the ones that you spend time trying to recreate, but just can't quite get it right the second time.

Every path lead to something more beautiful. Each staircase begged me to climb it.

In the end, it was our soaking jackets and cold feet that brought our exploring to an end.

I think that's what keeps me going, what draws me out on new paths. Those days. The ones full of adventure. The ones where I see the delight in my children's faces as they feel for themselves the thrill of discovering what is just around that bend in the road.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Windy City Adventures

It has been a busy week. So busy that the only way I'm going to catch up on all the things we did is if we just stop doing things for a few weeks.

And I'm exhausted from my week of vacation. Not in a way that I want to go back to work, but in a way that I want another week of vacation.

We did make it to Chicago. And it was fabulous. Everyone had told us it was going to be, but it was so much better than I had thought.

We had so many plans...aquarium, museums, city, restaurants, beach. With only three days, we were pushing it just a little bit. we managed to fit it all in without completely overdoing ourselves. And each day could be its own post, but I'm combining the entire trip into a single lengthy post, so bear with me as I gush about our Windy City adventures.

We had planned on buying the CityPass, because it seemed like the affordable way to get all four of us into all the attractions we wanted without bankrupting us. But Chicago has other plans.

Our first day, we showed up at the Museum of Science and Industry (yes, my boys were more excited about this than anything else. They still say it was their favorite thing. We're a weird family.) When we went to buy our tickets, we were told it was a free day at the museum. So we decided to buy the CityPass at the next museum.

The Museum of Science and Industry was amazing. From the storm room where they made mini tornadoes, tsunamis, and avalanches to the huge model trains, it had my boys happy for hours. It was hard to get them to leave.

The next day, we went to the Field Museum.

And again, we were told it was free admission, courtesy of Target.

While the boys loves the exhibits about animals and dinosaurs, they weren't too sure about the Ancient Egyptian exhibit with the mummies. They latched onto Hubster and myself out of fear. My hand lost all feeling about half way through.

After lunch (of Chicago hot dogs, of course!), we went to the Shedd Aquarium. And, you guess was free. It's like we planned it, or something (which we didn't. I'm not nearly that pulled together. Although we did pay extra for the "extra" exhibits at the aquarium...after all, they had beluga whales!)

While the boys may have liked dinosaurs and trains best, this was my favorite place.

The only attraction we ended up paying full price for was our trip to the top of the Sears-now-Willis Tower. Which was worth every cent.

A new foot shot!

All our friends are always talking about how wonderful the restaurants are in Chicago, and the selection. While going to an actual "nice" restaurant is still out of the question with Bug and Monkey in tow, we did decide to take them to RainForest Cafe.

With the jungle theme, we thought they would love it. Um, not so much. Bug was terrified of the animatronic animals and the "thunder storms." Monkey was so overwhelmed by the noise and surroundings that he didn't eat. It was probably sensory overload at the end of a long day.

Our last day, (after picking up my mom from the airport! Yeah! She has spent the whole week with us!) we went to Lincoln Park Zoo. Now, in the west at least, the idea of a free city zoo is just unheard of. When I heard the Lincoln Park Zoo was free, I was first surprised, and second, sceptical. How good can a free zoo be?

My favorite picture of the trip

Well, pretty great, it turns out. It was such a great way to spend the last day in the city.

For me, the biggest surprise of the entire trip was Lake Michigan. With the third largest city in the U.S. on it's shores, I was expecting a smelly, dirty, ugly lake. Not the case. The water was beautiful, the beaches clean. We spent every evening of our three day trip at the lake, watching the boys splash in the waves, picking up sea glass, and relaxing.

Chicago is an amazing city. A city that feels cleaner and safer than I expected. One that feels like the people who live there take care of and are proud of.

Like Hubster said, "If you could get past the traffic and the parking and the noise, Chicago would be a great place to live." So basically, if we can get past the 12 million people living there...

We had a great trip...but I'll take quiet and small town most days...with a little city life now and then.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Small Town Boys

I never thought of myself as a small-town girl. As a child, we usually lived in fairly rural areas. My parents loved the space, the quiet, the nature. It may have just been the rebel in me, but I was sure that when I grew up, I was not going to continue that. I was going to be a city girl.

But boy, after a year in a small town, I must say that it's grown on me.

And my boys are definitely small town boys.

We had to make a trip up to the larger city north of us to get Hubster's suit. It's not huge by any means, only 130,000 in populations. Despite that fact, my boys instantly became quiet and big-eyed. "Look at all the buildings." "Wow, there are so many cars!"

It's my vacation this week, so as you read this, my family and I will be on our way to Chicago. It's only a few hours away. But I'm pretty sure for this now small-town family, it will feel a world away.

We've got some busy days planned. Skyscrapers, museums, zoos, aquariums.

But the thing that I'm most excited for is to see my boys' faces when that skyline comes in view.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Perfectly Suited

It's not a big secret. Hubster is a laid-back, casual guy.

However, his dental school interview is less than a week away. To say he is stressing about this would be an understatement. He's obsessively going over interview questions, researching common topics, and going over answers.

But having good DAT scores, a good GPA, and being prepared for the interview isn't enough.

You gotta look the part.

I have seen Hubster wear a suit three times in my life. When we were dating, and he took me to a nice restaurant. When we got married. When we had a small open house for our wedding for his friends and family in Montana.

That's it.

Three times in the past 10+ years. And all within a year of each other. If you noticed, the last time was right after we got married. 9 years ago.

To be complete fair, he did pull out his suit about 3 years ago to wear it to a formal outing, only to find that his boyish figure, well, wasn't quite what it had been. And that's when he confessed that it was actually an old suit of his dad's.

Like I said, Hubster's a pretty casual guy.

But casual isn't going to cut it for professional interview.

So Hubster took a deep breath and went and got a suit. A real suit. A modern suit that hadn't been previously own. A suit that was tailored for him.

Of course, you can't just have a suit. One needs a shirt, a tie, and shoes. A real shirt, tie, and shoes.

Which, yes, Hubster was also lacking.

Once again, to be fair, he does have several ties. Ones that have Slinkies and cartoon Tasmanian devils on them.

But now he is completely prepared. He's perfectly suited.

He actually is surprised by how much he likes it.

And, damn, he looks good.

I could get used to this.

Friday, September 10, 2010

About Time

Since we're already 3/4 the way through this year (ack!), it's probably about time I went and revisited my goals for the year. I'm ashamed to say it, it's been several months since I've looked them over.

I'm worried that I've been about as diligent in meeting those goals as I have been about posting about them. Meaning, not so much.

But here we go...finally. If you're at all curious how I had been doing, check out March/April, and February. Before the bandwagon's fuel pump went out and the thing overheated and ended up a graffitied pile of junk on the freeway. Anywhoo..

My 2010 To-Do List: The May/June/July/August/September Version

-Lose 5 pounds by May 1st, then another 5 pounds by September 1st.

Well. Obviously both dates in this goal have passed. The weight, not so much. At least, I doubt it. I'm not 100% sure, because I actually haven't stood on a scale since, um, spring. But the way my clothes fit, I'm pretty sure some of those pounds are still with me.

Fine. If I'm going to be completely honest, I actually haven't even exercised regularly since mid-June. My family came, my anesthesia training started, I had a meltdown. I know. Excuses, excuses, excuses. I do want to get back on track with this. I want to lose the weight. More importantly, I want to be healthier.

-Be able to touch my toes.
Totally can do this one. Not as easily as I would like. But completely legit. Knees straight and everything. Touch and hold. Check!

-Get my passport.
Nope. Pathetic.

-Date night with Hubster once a month. 3/12
January: Nope. February: Yes! March:yes. April: No. May: Yes. June: Yes-ish. July: No. August: Not really. September: Well, the month's not over.
The last real date we had was for our anniversary. In May. It was an absolutely amazing night out. Beyond fabulous. We've acquired a baby-sitter twice since then. Once in June for a company work party (That's kind of like a date. I dressed up and did my hair.) Once in August for a friend's birthday party. And since neither of us had to leave to take anyone potty, it felt sorta like a date.

Oh, fine. Call my bluff. We suck at this. Although since we've spent several nights on weekends talking until 1-2 am just about things, we're still bonding. But I agree. It doesn't really count.

-Pass the boards the first time.

-Use my crock pot (at least) once a month. 7/12
January: Barbecue chicken.
February: A whole chicken with red potatoes and carrots.
March: Blackberry-balsamic marinaded chicken.
April: Some weird taco-cheese-chili thing. I don't remember. I thought it was good.
May: Artichoke dip.
June: Pulled barbecued beef.
July: Barbecue chicken.
August: Nada.
September: Still time to dust the thing off again.

-Finish moving in.
I emptied several boxes back in June. I finally found the meat thermometer. There is still more to do. Although I'm not even sure what's in those boxes. Maybe I should just toss them before I think that I need them.

-Finish moving into this blog.
I had all these huge plans about a beautiful blog make-over. I still plan on it. But right now, it's just not feasible. You should just be happy that I'm posting at all. Although I'm thinking that a blog make-over would be a great birthday present to myself. It will also mean that I survived another Midwestern winter. Maybe that's enough.

Karen and Jennee have been amazing. They've been posting nearly every single week this year about their goals. While I'm apparently going for seasonal updates. Stop by and see how great they've done. And please share goals you made that you've worked on this year.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


There are plenty of things to obsess about. Like how we are going to manage daycare next year, who I'm going to find to mentor my resident research project, and that Survivor starts this next week.

One of the things that I don't obsess about at all are my blog numbers. The number of followers (although all are welcome and enjoyed), the number of visitors, the number of hits.

But I'll be honest, I do love the key words on my Goggle Analytics.

It's always interesting (and occasionally confusing) to see how people come across my neck of the woods, so to speak. For example...

"Boys don't appreciate swimming"
Well, if you just throw them in the deep end, it's true. They don't. They also don't really appreciate a kiddy pool in the backyard full of ice cold water from the hose. (Although, I assure you, none of those occurrences have ever been documented here.) What's with kids these days?

"Why I hate Wuthering Heights"
I don't know why you do. And I don't think you found anything here to add to your dislike. Although my mom hates it too. You should talk.

"Just walk it out"
It's true, this would probably work. It worked as a child. At least that's what we would tell each other when we fell off the roof or out of the tree that we had explicitly been told to stay away from by our parents. I wonder why I don't use this more often.

"Closet optimist"
If you're truly looking for a closet optimist, you'll have to look else where. I am a self-proclaimed, rose-colored glasses, glass-half-full type of girl. There is no closet here. Only there is, it's just filled with Transformers and 50 piece puzzles.

"He took up the slack"
Boy, does he ever. Apparently, Hubster does such a great job of doing this, even Google is aware of the fact.

"Mature, loves boys"
Well, I attempt to be mature. And I do love my boys. And if you mean this in any other way, you are free to leave. Actually, I insist.

"Medical school is hard, how to survive"
Ooh, I don't think I can help you here. And I'm sure that reading my stories don't help. The only thing I can tell you is that it is hard. And that almost everyone comes through the other side. You survive the same way the rest of us do. One day at a time, one moment with loved ones at a time, one latte at a time.

"Optimists make poor decisions"
Hey! I resent that. We make perfectly good decisions. Although I did think the eggplant would go over well, so maybe you have a point.

"Post call haze"
Ah, yes. The "30 hours straight, paged non stop, can't feel my feet, can't remember where my car is, thank goodness no one died" post call haze. I'm not sure if you're looking for a definition or a solution. No amount of reading will provide satisfactory definitions. And there is only one solution. Sleep. Glorious sleep.

"My female ego"
I'll be the first to admit, I've got one. I was pretty sure that I didn't. But I get off easy and call it maternal instinct.

"Mom making me do worse at school"
Never! After all, the only reason I follow you around the house asking questions about how your day was, who you played with, what you learned, where is your homework, when is this due, and why did you spell it that way...that was all love.

"Self-help for optimists"
Like I said before, I'm good.

"Who is The Katherine Wheel"
That is the question, isn't it? I've got the demographics pretty much nailed: 20-something, wife, mom of boys, anesthesia resident, newly Midwesterner. But as to who Katherine really is? That's something that always in transition. I was a painter, now a DIY home owner. I was a poet, now I'm a lullaby singer. I was a student, now I'm a life-learner. I was a uptight mountain girl, now I'm a laid-back flat-lander. Who is Katherine? Now that's the real search.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Considering it was only a two month wait for Mockingjay to be released (instead of the years for the last Harry Potter), it felt like an exceedingly long time before the brown box from Amazon containing my copy showed up on my porch.

And then, with my work schedule, it was longer before I could read it.

I started yesterday afternoon. I just finished.

And now I need to talk.

I'm not sure what to think. I'm not sure what my feelings are about Mockingjay. I feel similar to how I did when Lost was over. I had spent so much time and effort loving and enjoying the whole journey that to say I'm disappointed in the destination is painful. But as I closed the book, it was all I could do to choke back the tears. I felt empty, broken, and sad.

I adore Hunger Games and Catching Fire. I re-read them earlier this week. Once again, I got caught up in the horror, the tradegy, the heart break, the fight for survival. I felt Katniss's despair, her uncertainty, her fury so much more this time.

While Hunger Games and Catching Fire are a page-turning, adrenaline pumping, story about survival and humanity, Mockingjay feels more like a documentary of the brutality of war. Page after page of atrocities. So much that I feel like I may turn into Katniss and lock myself away from the world. While violence levels picks up, the emotions tone down.

I love Katniss in the first two books. Her lack of self-awareness, her love of her sister, her survival skills. However, as Mockingjay progresses, the Katniss that was the heroine of before slips away. On one hand, I can't blame her. She's seen so much terror. Just look at the other victors of the Hunger Games, each one fighting to maintain their sanity.

But, on the other hand, with all great heroes (and heroines) there comes a point when they realize what they need to do. When they become what is needed. When they rise above. This never happens for Katniss. I kept waiting for it. It never happened.

She recognizes that she is hurting people. She recognizes she puts people in danger. She never changes. She leads a mission that occupies much of the last chapter and succeeds in nothing except getting people she cares about killed. The goal of the mission is never accomplished. It feels all the death and destruction was pointless.

And in the end, the thing that matters most, the thing that had driven her and motivated her, is taken from her.

I do admire Suzanne Collins in stepping out from other authors with their natural inclination to protect their characters. Things may happen to them, bad things, but they usually come out whole and even better on the other side. Collins does not do this. She lets horrible things happen to Katniss, to Peeta, to Gale, to Prim. She lets them break, burn, and die. And, as a reader, it's painful. Almost too much so.

The thing that bothers me the most is that this was a book about what humanity means, what we are willing to do and not willing to do. And in the end, the characters seem they were willing to do anything. Even reinstate the horrors that were brought down on them. In the end, they didn't seem different from the enemy. There was no lesson learned. No victory won.

Maybe there's no other way for the book to end. If it has been real life, this is how it would have gone. Katniss, scarred and broken, no normal life to return to. No real hope, no end of of the nightmares.

But I don't read for real life. I want my happy ending.

And even if not a happy ending, an ending that made all the suffering and horror worth it. And ending that mattered.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mixed Emotions

Happiness is...

First day of preschool.

Well, not exactly. I can't say I'm actually happy that Monkey is now four. He reminds us of this fact at every occasion. When he reaches the top of the play structure. When he gets his shoes on. When he goes to the bathroom (and washes up) unassisted. All are announced with a cheerful, "I'm four years old!" I'm not quite as cheerful, since "four" means "older" and "where has the time gone."

Four also means preschool, which means twice a week, childless hours for Hubster at home.

It's a lot of mixed emotions.

But I do have to say, if my Monkey is going to have to grow up and start school, this is the perfect place.

I could not be happier with his preschool.

The garden, the animals, the old barn, the surrounding corn fields. That's where he gets to go to preschool.

And that is reason to be happy.

Visit Leigh at Leigh vs Laundry for The Happiness Project and post of photo of something that makes you happy.