Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bug, Version 9.11

Dear Bug,

I've wondered if I should write this at all.

Part of me wants to not write it. I want you to look back on your childhood and only remember the good. I want the rough patches and difficult moments to be overpowered by the joyful, sun-filled moments.

Part of me wants to write it. I want to accurately capture what you were like at this age. I want to capture our real life. I want to look back, remember how hard things were, and then laugh when we actually make it through all this. That part is winning out.

First, I want you to know that I love you. From the moment I saw two pinks lines on the pregnancy test to this moment now, I have loved you.

Things have been difficult. It feels that we are always butting heads on everything. It doesn't matter. I ask you to do your homework, you argue with me. I ask you to do your chores, you argue with me. I ask you to eat your dinner, you argue with me. I lay out clothes for school, you refuse to wear them. I ask about your day, you refuse to tell me. We try to go for our evening family walk, you refuse to come with us. You refuse to wear your glasses. You boss Monkey around.

Every single thing is a fight.

This was the amount of involvement you gave us during our trip to the apple orchard.

I honestly thought we wouldn't have to deal with things like this until you were a teenager. I don't know how to make this better. There are moments, whole days, that I just want to banish you to your room and scream at the top of my lungs. Those are the moments I bury my face in my hands and take a deep breath through my fingers. Over and over I say to myself, "I love this boy, I love this boy."

Because I do love you. I know that this is just a phase. I know that you are sweet, you are responsible, you are thoughtful. I have seen you be all these things. We will get through this. I will still do everything I can to make sure that the happy memories, the wonderful things we have as a family smooth out this rough patch until neither of us remember it.

Just remember, I love you. Even when I make you wear your glasses, eat your peas, and wear a coat to school.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why I'm Not a Survivor

The 23rd season of Survivor premiered last week.

What? You didn't notice? You haven't watched Survivor in 10 years? You're wondering who watches reality television anymore?

When Survivor first premiered in 2000, it was much like any other fad. I heard people talking about it everywhere, so I was determined to avoid it. This is how I usually am for anything popular (Harry Potter, LOST, Krispy Kreme...I avoid them for as long as I can. And then they get me in the end.)

And then, in 2001, I got pregnant with Bug. I had overwhelming morning sickness, all I was able to do was lie on couch, fight off the "wish I was dead" feeling, and watch television. During those long nine months, I started watching Survivor.

Ever since that time, I've been addicted. (And I might have a small crush on Jeff Probst.)

I love all things Survivor. The concept, the locations, the drama, the twists. However, despite my love of the show, there are many reasons I couldn't actual be a contestant.

1. I'm not a strong swimmer.
I can doggy paddle my way around a lake. In a pool, I may even get fancy and try out a few different strokes. When distance swimming or diving of any form are added, I'm hopeless. There is a lot of swimming on this show.

2. I'm too self-conscious about my body.
Watch Survivor for even a moment, and you realize that those people spend a lot of time either in swimsuits or their underwear. I don't like wearing skirts above my knee. Showing my belly...forget it.

3. I have a weak stomach.
I cleaned out the fridge in resident lounge at work. I came across a few forgotten Tupperware containers that had me leaning my head over the garbage can faster than anything. Someone starts making me eat weevil-filled rice or strange sea animals, and I would be sent home right away.

4. I have the upper body strength of a 6 month old infant.
'Nuff said.

5. I don't like confrontation.
I don't need to take another personality quiz to know that I'm an avoider. I will do extra work, put up with people I can't stand, anything to avoid confrontation. However....

6. I tend to take charge.
Despite my tendency to avoid confrontation, I do like to get things done. And if things need to get done, I will take over, boss people around, and get them done. And we all know what happens to people like...they get voted off the island.

7. I have a natural tendency to cry.
I am the girl that cries at Johnson&Johnson commercials. Anyone think I'm not going to cry when I'm cold, hungry, and haven't seen my family in days? Criers never make it on Survivor.

8. I'm a nerd.
There's always that contestant who just seems a little weird. That would most likely be me. I would get all excited about the birds and the view, or I would start talking about things no one else cares about (diving reflexes, for example.) Nerd don't win survivor.

9. I have never made a fire in my life.

10. I'm too nice.
Oh, I can gossip and scheme just as much as the next person. But to actually follow through on any of those ideas and risk hurting someone's feelings? I don't think I could do it. All the excuses about the game just being a game? I disagree. I think if you lie and back-stab and manipulate people during a game like this, you are probably willing to do that in real life, too. And I just couldn't do it.

Survivor may be my favorite show on television, but I'm obviously a horrible candidate. I will just have to continue to watch half-naked people in bright colored buffs compete for immunity from my couch.

Although I'm sure they're auditioning for the next season of Amazing Race.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where Fairies Live

I love raising boys. The dirt, the rough housing, the outdoorsiness. I love it all.

However, there are things I occasionally think would be so much fun about having a girl. Tea parties, princess dresses, doing hair.

When I first came across Fairy Houses, my first thought was, Oh, I kinda wish I had a little girl, so we could build these together. These charming, miniature dwellings made entirely from items found in nature appealed to both my inner little girl and my overly suppressed artistic side.

However, Bug and Monkey saw the pictures of fairy houses, and they couldn't wait to build one of our own. Who knew that boys would be as excited about fairy houses as girls would be?

We spent hours over the weekend, collecting material, picking out a spot, and then constructing the house. Both boys participated with unrestrained enthusiasm.

Bug was especially pleased.

When the wind blew our first attempt at a roof away, he built another (even better) one by himself.

Each day after school, the boys run to the backyard to check on their fairy house. They add to the path, find new decorations, and do minor repairs. They spend more time outside, away from the computer and television, completely unprompted.

Most of these outdoor sessions, despite the presence of a fairy house, end with Bug and Monkey chasing each other around the yard, sometimes with sticks, and trying to climb the fence into the neighbor's yard.

I love raising boys.

Go visit Leigh vs Laundry for 52 Weeks of Happiness and post a picture of something that makes you happy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Over The Fridge Door

It's 6 pm. Hubster and I have both just barely arrived home. The nanny has left. The boys are hungry.

Typically, this time of day results in Hubster and I staring at each other across the top of the refrigerator door, asking each other in near frantic whispers what we should have for dinner that night. There may or may not be actual food in the fridge. We've had conversations such as:

"Well, we have some baby carrots..."
"Oh, that's good. Children need vegetables. And if we serve it with cottage cheese, that's dairy and protein...
"Yeah, and we'll throw in some fruit snacks. The box says they have vitamin C, which is good, because we wouldn't want the boys to get scurvy.

And that's when all parenting pride goes out the window, the moment I realize I've served my family baby carrots, fruit snacks, and cottage cheese for dinner. With a pack of Twizzlers I bought when I was on call.

In reality, this only happened once...ish.

For the most part, we make fairly healthy dinners. But dinner making was always so stressful. I never knew what to make. We'd end up eating the same things over and over. If we ever wanted to make anything different, we never had the ingredients around.

Last month, I had finally had enough of the pre-dinner stress. I decided to tackle one of my Project 52 goals and make a monthly menu.

I couldn't believe how hard it was. I was tempted to just have a three day cycle: spaghetti, tacos, pizza. But I fought against that temptation, printed out a blank month calender, and went to work.

At first, I was overwhelmed. How could I come up with enough meal ideas for 30 days? The easiest way for me to do this was to break it down in to categories: Monday would be for grilling (at least while the weather is still nice), Tuesdays would be for pasta, Wednesday would be for crockpot meals, etc. This made it so much easier. All I had to do was think of meals to fit each category.

I hunted recipe websites (this one and this one are my favorites). I went through my cookbooks and folder of saved recipes. And slowly, tediously, I came up with a menu for the month. (Although Bug insists that since I'm not giving him any options, that I shouldn't be allowed to call it a menu. More like just a plan.)

And that's what this is, really. Just a plan. It's still flexible enough that if I forgot to set out the crockpot, we just switch around the days. And if, come Friday, I'm too tired to even think about cooking, the plan is flexible enough to allow for a pizza night.

We don't eat a lot of meat, which is probably evident from our menu (er, plan). Foods like spaghetti, lasagna, and even tacos and burritos are usually made meat free. This meant that I haven't been able to take a lot of ideas from other meal planning sites, because wow, people eat a lot of meat.

I tried to arrange meals so that left overs from one day could be used for the next day's meal. The other thing I tried hard to do was to take into account what we would be able to buy at the farmer's market. I love being able to use locally grown, in season food as much as possible. Which means we are eating a lot of corn, zucchini, and tomatoes right now.

It had made shopping so much easier. Each Saturday, I look at the meals for the week ahead, scan through the recipes to make sure I have all the ingredients, and make our shopping list from there. This has nearly eliminated middle of the week grocery store runs.

It has also nearly eliminated Hubster and I staring at each other over the refrigerator door, wondering what's for dinner.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Celebrating Fall

It is time to celebrate fall.

(I am convincing myself that I am celebrating fall, and not mourning summer. I have never struggled with this so much.)

And if one is to celebrate fall, one must pick apples.

There must be tractor rides and apple slushies.

There must be baskets and overgrown orchard rows.

There must be picking and sticky sweetness running down your hands.

There must be a chill in the air, but plenty of sunshine.

There must be 20 pounds of Honey Crisp apples.

There must be eating apples whenever one's five-year-old heart desires to.

The cool evenings must be spent turning those 20 pounds of apples into crisps, turnovers, and pies, and just eating them fresh, plain or with caramel.

Because if one is celebrating fall (and not mourning the end of summer), that is how it must be done.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Happiness is...

Finally accepting that summer is over and autumn is coming.

Happiness is remembering all the things that I love about the fall season. Why, at one time, it was my favorite season.

From the coolness of the morning, to hint of color in the trees, autumn is truly on her way.

Which means it is time for a hike through the woods looking at the undergrowth. (I know, we're a little weird.)

But autumn means that we can find this...

These beautiful Indian Pipe, or Ghost Plants are a favorite for our plant hunting strolls, only making their appearance for a short time during the early fall season

And the boys were also delighted to find these spots of color...

This little expedition into the undergrowth reminded me that fall is coming, I can't stop it, and there are still reasons to be happy.

Stop by Leigh vs Laundry for 52 weeks of Happiness and post something that makes you happy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Crossed Off

For a while, I thought that I would go through everything on my Project 52 list and give a full report of how things are going.

But then I remembered that I'm pretty tired (since I'm working night shifts right now), and the list is pretty long. So I've saving that for a grand finale in December (that's me making a commitment to posting in December, between holiday preparations and taking cardiac call. I'll just go ahead and make that Goal 53.)

Today, I'm focusing on successes, since last time I focused on goals I was struggling with.

These are the things that I have been able to cross off completely...

2. Complete 3 home improvement projects. We put in hand rails for the stairs (we only delayed that safety standard for, oh, two years.). We also installed new closet doors in the master bathroom, and repainted (most of) the storage shed. There are still several things that need to be done, but I'm calling this one crossed off!

4. Plan an awesome 10 year wedding anniversary celebration. When I said awesome, I totally meant Omaha, Nebraska (which I never blogged about). We did also do a day touring covered bridges in Madison County, and ate out at my favorite restaurant. And since that was our only 10 year anniversary, I have to call this done done.

6. Visit 3 new restaurants. Done!

7. Plan monthly menus. I can not even tell you how hard this was. It took me hours to make the menu for one month. I was exhausted by the end, and all I could think about was how I would have to do it again the next month. Now that the menu is done, it's been nice. No more staring at Hubster over the refrigerator door, wondering what on earth to feed the kids.

11. Go visit at least one new church. We've done this. I'm still looking for a church that feels, well, I'll know it when I feel it. I've been reading up about several churches I'm interested in checking out.

19. Register Monkey for kindergarten. Not only is he registered, he's actually attending kindergarten. Insert many sniffles here.

20. Grow herbs. There were many different herbs planted, but only the basil made it. I'm suspicious that the birds may have eaten all my oregano and cilantro seeds. And I know that a chipmunk made a large hole where a rosemary plant should have been.

23. Go to the doctor and get my hand looked at. The initial evaluation has been done. I still have several more appointments to figure out exactly what is going on, but the hand has been looked at, so I'm crossing this one off, too.

24. Introduce my children to musicals. The children have been introduced. How successful the introduction was is yet to be determined. I'm planning for a Sound of Music night. I'm bribing them all with kettle corn.

25. Have a Harry Potter marathon. I had originally intended this to be a movie marathon, but there is absolutely no way I can stay awake during movies anymore, let alone a marathon of movies. However, I did reread the entire Harry Potter series in a very short time period. That will be my marathon.

27. Read 5 non-work related books. I have more than done this.

31. Try to go visit family in Utah. We didn't just try. We went!

32. Visit the farmer's market 5 times during the summer. I've become quite the groupie of the farmer's market. I'm starting running into people I know. I buy tomatoes from the same person each week. I've been more than five times, and there is still so much growing season left!

33. Inner tube down a river. Done!

34. Go skiing. Done again!

37. Go antique shopping. I'm not exactly sure it counts as antique shopping if I didn't actually buy anything. However, I did spend two afternoons with my mother-in-law wandering through antique stores, and she bought me something. So I think this one is off the list.

43. Get a rough draft of my research project. I think I may finally be to this point. This is a particularly painful one. Give me making monthly menus any day over doing this thing.

47. Calculate my monthly grocery budget. This is done. This one was surprisingly non-painful.

48. Start my blogging project for my boys. It's been started (here and here). There is no foreseeable end, thank goodness.

51. Volunteer for something at my kid's school. Done!

52. Get my hair done. I finally did this. I'm not exactly sure why I put off getting my hair cut for two years, but it really showed.

The grand total is 21/52 things that are completely crossed off my list. 21 things that I don't have to worry or think about again.

Sometimes, I think the best part of making lists is just to cross things off of them.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

That Day

My story from that day isn't really a story at all.

I had never been to New York. I had no reason to worry that anyone I knew or loved was on an airplane, in the tower, or in the Pentagon. I didn't lose a loved one.

I was thousands of miles away. There is no story at all, but it will still be one that I tell my children.

It was Tuesday. That morning, like every morning, Hubster and I, newlyweds, woke up together, had breakfast, and watched the morning news before heading off for our days. We turned the TV off and left our house at 6:30 am. Hubster left for work and I boarded the commuter train for school. I promptly curled up in my seat, preparing to nap on the nearly hour commute up to the university campus. About half way into the commute, I starting hearing people around me talking frantically. Phones started going off every where on the train. I specifically remember, through my sleepy haze, one man standing in the aisle, nearly yelling into his phone, "The first tower has come down!"

I had no idea what he was talking about, but the conversations all around started to contain the same phrases, "planes," "New York," "towers."

When I got of the train, I made my way to my organic chemistry discussion group, and started asking people what was going on. Didn't I know, people said. How did I not know what had happened? But I didn't. I had left my house 16 minutes before anything had happened. Slowly, I started to piece the story together. Our discussion leader never came to class. After 20 minutes, students started filing out. I made my way over to my calculus class. My calculus professor, who had gone to school at Columbia University, came into the lecture hall in tears. He leaned against the lecture podium, barely in control of himself, and announced that due to the events of the morning, there would be no lecture.

I wandered around campus, not sure what to do. I didn't have a cell phone. I had no way to contact anyone, to make sure people knew. Standing outside the student union, I saw my first footage of the attacks. At that point, I knew that I had to go home. I made my way back to the train and rode home, lost in thought.

When I got to my station, Hubster was waiting for me on the platform. He had been waiting for me for nearly a hour, sure that I would be coming home early. I wasn't expecting him to be there, but I wasn't surprised. We held each other for several moments there on the train platform as people rushed around us. We then drove home in shocked silence.

The next 24 hours were spent in front of the television. Hubster and I sat side by side, holding hands, barely speaking, as we took in image after horrible image.

In the days that followed, American flags starting showing up everywhere. I donated blood. We started talking about what this meant. We started hearing the stories. Stories of terror, stories of sacrifice, stories of heroism.

My story isn't one of those. But 10 years later, the events and emotions of that day are just as vivid as they were Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I know that I'm supposed to just live my life the way that works best for me. That I shouldn't worry about what other people think. I should just do the things that make my family and me happy. I shouldn't give way to outside expectations.

But there are just so many expectations.

Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
Find time for myself.
Sleep 8 hours a night.
Quality time with my spouse.
Quality time with my children.
Have meals together.
Have a social life.
Study and read daily.

When is enough enough?

I wish I could separate out what are the things that I want for myself and what are the things that I just give into because of social pressure. Because there isn't enough time in the day for everything. However, I want all these things. I want to be good at my job, to be educated and well read. I want to be healthy, to exercise and eat right and to make healthy food for my family. I want family time with my boys and I want date night with Hubster. I want time for myself and time with my friends.

But when do you say that enough is enough? And how do you decide what to let go?

I went to a Women in Medicine panel as a very young undergraduate/new mom, and I heard a speaker say that as women, we can have everything, just not all at the same time. At the time, going to school full time while juggling the new demands of parenthood, I scoffed at this idea. I was going to have it all, all right now.

Now, years later and much more tired, I'm realizing the truth in those words.

I'm just not sure what I should let slide and what I should hold on to. How do I fill the expectations, not just of society, but of myself?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

All My Attention

Exhibit A: I'm cooking dinner. I'm chopping onions, stirring the soup, heating the oven for rolls. And every few moments, I call out a word. "Thoughtful." "Coincidence." "Understand." These aren't mantras. I'm doing spelling homework with Bug. With dinner preparations going on, I don't have time to visually check his spelling, so I have him spell the words back to me. I continue to wait for the soup for boil while I put away dishes, listening to "U-N-D..."

Exhibit B: I'm watching television. I'm a fan of cooking shows, but I don't have time to watch anything when it's actually on, so everything is on DVR. I can fast-forward commercials, so it means I can watch the show in less time (or more shows in the same time.) I have my computer on my lap, reading blogs, Facebook, CNN, and the weather while I watch my shows. Often I have to rewind the show to catch a key part.

Exhibit C: I'm at work. I watch the patient, chart numbers, prepare medications for when the patient is waking up, place orders for the patient for while they will be in recovery, watch the progress of the surgery, chart fluids. During a stable moment, I may skim over a journal article, check my e-mail, or log cases from last week.

All the evidence is there. I'm a multi-tasker. I have lived by the motto: if you aren't multi-tasking, you're doing something wrong. I prided myself in my multi-tasking abilities. I was used to doing two, three, four things at once. At being efficient with my time. Having the boys tell me about their day while I marched through the house, tidying up, sweeping, doing laundry. Listening to test prep material while I drove to school.

I was frustrated with people who didn't multi-task. People who didn't continue on a conversation while they worked. Hubster was always at the brunt of my frustration, since he rarely multi-tasks. When he does dinner, that's all he does. When he does spelling with Bug, he sits down at the table with him. When he talks to you, he stops doing what he is doing. It would drive me crazy!

Then, a while back, I was driving to work, listening to the radio, and I heard this.

Those few minutes listening to NPR changed my perception of what I was doing. I thought I had been so wonderful in my multi-tasking mantra. That I was an effective, efficient, organized person.

But all I was really doing was diluting out my attention. Nothing had my full attention. And it showed. Dinner was burnt more often than I would like to admit. I had to be prompted to give spelling words, and often didn't hear Bug spell them back to me. I was only half-absorbing what I read while watching TV and only half-absorbed what I was watching while I was reading. I hadn't been giving anyone all of my attention.

I would like to say that I am changed, that I have given up my multi-tasking ways. But I haven't. There isn't enough time in the day to do one task at a time. My job requires multi-tasking. And honestly, I'm still deluding myself that I'm really, really, good at this.

It's a work in progress. I burn dinner less often, since I've stopped reading textbooks while I cook. I sit down to do spelling with Bug.

At the end of the day, I pull Bug and Monkey into my lap and ask them about their day. I don't do laundry, I don't mop and tidy and sort mail. I do just one thing. I sit there and listen. I given them all my attention. And it's starting to show.