Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Bad Case of Wanderlust

I'm starting to get some seriously itchy feet. The open road, some remote tropical beach, unknown cities - they are all calling my name.

I've always wanted to travel. When I make a bucket list, nearly every item on that list involves traveling. I can't think of a single place that I wouldn't love to visit and learn more about. Greenland, the Middle East, the Sahara, Siberia. Sure, I'd go there.

I've got my dream locations. Italy, the Virgin Islands, Australia, Thialand, Belize, Egypt, Greece, China. But honestly, I'd be happy going anywhere, just as long as I'm going.

I often feel that I've never been anywhere. Obviously, that's not true. Just because I've never been anywhere that required a passport doesn't mean that I haven't traveled. I've been to Vancouver Island, the Bahamas, and almost half of the US states. 

But there is so much more to see.

For the last several years, we've been significantly restrained by tight budgets and even tighter schedules.  But I didn't let that stop us from exploring. We've visiting many local spots, as many state parks and forests and sites as I can find. We've visited nearly every major city within a day's drive from us.  Traveling doesn't have to be expensive or exotic. Our boys have loved our trips to tube down rivers, to explore caves, to hike through forests, see historic places. 

But now that I have a little more time on my hand, the rest of the world is starting to call a little louder. 

I spend ridiculous amounts of time planning island get aways, researching cities in Europe, checking ticket prices to Africa. I know exactly which beach house I want to in Hawaii.

All those trips are still just day dreams. With Hubster still in training, the miniscule dent we've made in my student loans, and three small children, my world tour can't start just yet.

This summer, however, we have two whole glorious weeks of vacation, all of us off at the same time. And I know just what we'll do. We'll pack the mini van to bursting, open the road atlas, and hit the open road, traveling through states we've never been to, hiking through forests, eating local foods, finding beaches to play on.  

Unknown places are calling to me, and I'm going to answer.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Capturing the Memories

Sunday afternoon is warm and sunny, idyllic mid May weather. Monkey and Bug are chasing each other around the yard in some made up game that includes several soccer balls and water guns. Their knees are heavily grass stained from dramatic falls onto the lawn that is still thick and green from all our April rain. 

I'm sitting on our red tree swing, with Duck on my lap. He is slightly sticky from a popcicle he devoured earlier, the front of his shirt tinged pink from the juice and I have no idea if it will come out in the wash.

We swing back and forth, Duck's blonde little head pressed tight against my chest, his little baby hands grabbing the white swing ropes just below mine. I wrap one arm about him as we go higher. I kick at the maple leaves on some low branches in front of us and Duck breaks into giggles. As we continue to swing and I continue to kick at the leaves with each swing forward, the giggles change into full toddler belly laughes that I can't help but laughing with.

That's how I spent my afternoon, swinging with Duck on my lap, listening to my older boys run and shout. Every one laughed. The sun fell in dappled patterns through the tree leaves. The snowball bush was starting to bloom. The first hummingbird I've seen this year zipped back and forth over the yard.

It was as close to perfect as a day gets. 

In a few months, I probably won't remember it. I may remember that we spent days in the back yard together, that we occasionally would swing together. But all the details - the exact size and weight of Duck in my arms, the way his pale cream and blue striped shirt accented his ever lightening hair, how exactly high Bug and Monkey come up to me, how their laughs sound at this age - all those details will fade, surer than the grass stains and popcicle drips come out in the wash.

Duck for sure won't remember the afternoons on the swing. Bug and Monkey won't remember the rules to their new game.

Right after Duck was born and I was home in his nursery, rocking him, a wall of emotion overcame me. It was a mix of sadness, panic, shock, and disbelief. I couldn't remember what it felt like holding Bug and Monkey when they were newborns. I remember the events of their births, and there are definitely memories of them growing up. But all the details, every thing that I try so hard to soak up on a daily basis, had retreated somewhere so far back in my mind I couldn't find it. The exact smell of their hair, the patterns on their feet, each silly sound and facial expression.

I'm taking a lot more pictures this time around. I'm making more videos. I'm documenting more.

There are people who scoff at the number of photographs parents take of their children, amassing hundreds or thousands of often blurry shots of every day events.  Maybe we do this because we understand how fleeting childhood is. Even if we aren't desperately longing for time to slow down, we understand that these beautiful moments won't last.

I know my children won't remember all the silly songs we sing. I know they won't remember reading A Very Hunger Caterpiller dozens of times each day. I know they won't remember each trip to the park and walk through the woods. I know they won't remember each piggy back ride to bed or story read in a blanket fort.  I know all these  beautiful moments will fade just as quickly for them as they have for me.

I'll keep right on doing all these things. We may not remember all the details, but we will remember that there were days that we were together and things were just beautiful.

I'll take too many pictures, write down little details, attempt to capture the memories, and continue to swing back and forth.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Smitten with Kittens

I feel tired most of the time. I'm pretty sure if people just left me alone, I could sleep 48 hours straight. I've felt this way for years.

Sometimes, being tired keeps me from doing things. Oh, there's a work function tonight? I think I'll just stay home and fall asleep on the couch. PTO meeting? Nope. Early bedtime instead.

Given my proclivity to just stay in bed every day, it's surprising that I keep taking on new projects.

Third baby? Why not? Not like we were sleeping anyways!

Huge basement remodel? Sounds like fun!

Enroll the boys in three different sports and two different clubs? Sure!

So, why not just continue the craziness and adopt two kittens?

The boys have been begging for a cat or a dog for the last several years. Apparently, our seven year old goldfish just wasn't quite rambuctious enough for them.

Prior to our move to Iowa, we lived in one apartment after another and pets were just out of question. Once we got to our current home, they started asking almost immediately. But it was always one thing after another: internship, residency, dental school, new baby, board exams.  No matter how much pleading the boys did, we were strong in our response that we were just too busy.

But the last year, we'd be softening our stance. Pets would be good for the boys. I just asked them to wait until after I took oral boards.

True to our word, earlier this week, we drove out to a farm where Hubster had been told there were kittens to adopt.

These two came home with us.

The boys have been absolutely smitten. 

Granted, they are loud, wild creatures. But the kittens are getting used to them. 

Already, the kittens are making themselves right at home and becoming a little less timid.  The boys are being incredibly responsible and have taken care of all kitten related responsibilities.

What was I so worried about?

The kittens haven't interferred with my nap time at all. In fact, we may actually be kindred spirits. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Monkey, May 2014

Dear Monkey,

Sitting down at your spring parent teacher conference, I was reminded once again what a difficult situation you're in. It's a situation I can't relate to at all, but I so strongly empathize with it. 

You are the younger sibling to a brother that many thing comes easy to. You watch Bug excel academically with a fraction of the effort it takes you. As the oldest child growing up, both your dad and your mom set the standard, the example, and the expectations. You, as a second child, find yourself constantly in the shadow of the example and expectations set by your older brother.

Part of it, I take full responsibility for. At the end of preschool, your teacher recommended that you be held back a year. After all, you were only making the age cut off for kindergarten by a week.  I scoffed at her recommendation, sure that my bright, enthusiastic child would do just fine in kindergarten. It's not that you didn't. You knew how to listen, you loved all the activities, you made friends easily. But at that young age, a year difference is enormous. There are skills that you struggled slightly with, but putting you up to the standard set by children 11 months older that you made those struggles seem magnified.

As you struggled, I watched the frustration, on both our sides, grow. You grew increasingly discouraged, I grew increasing demanding.

Thankfully, we have an amazing school. I had conversations very early on with your teachers. We got you involved in small groups and one on one lessons to focus on areas where you struggle. As you gain more skills and confidence, I've watched your willingness and enthusiasm return.

One of the things I'm trying to focus on is valuing the things that come naturally to you. As a family, we tend to be very academically oriented, placing value on good grades, reading, math, and science. And even if you struggle, I will hold you to certain academic standards, making sure you get the support along the way to reach them. 

You have so many talents outside my normal comfort realm. You are an active, outdoorsy, physical child. You love to run, and climb, and rough and tumble. We're getting you enrolled in sports and plan on encouraging you and building up all the talents you have, celebrating everything that makes you amazing.

I hope you know how much I treasure you.  Every part of you, from the unsteady handwriting to the filthy shoes and grass-stained jeans. 


Thursday, May 8, 2014


A mere ten days had gone by since my nerve-wracking trip to Chicago when I received the e-mail that my oral board exams results had been posted. Reading the email, I was shaking almost as bad as I did on actual exam day.

The flood of relief at seeing a passing result on the screen was overwhelming. My emotions included a little joy and excitement of passing and becoming a fully board certified anesthesiologist, but mostly relief that I wouldn't have to undergo that painful hazing procedure again.

And just like that, I'm done. There is no next big exam looming in my immediate future. There will be recertification, but that's years and years from now. It's almost a little unnerving, the mental quiet that is inside my head. After over a decade of medical training, with the one career impacting exam after another hanging over me, always there in my thoughts, I'm finally done.

For the first time ever, my time is my time. When I come home after work, there is absolutely nothing else I should be doing except being home. There is no longer guilt and anxiety that all the time I'm playing with my kids, or watching a movie, or reading a book, that there is something else I should be doing. There is no studying I should be undertaking.

My time no longer belongs to the USMLE, or the ITE, or the AKT, or the ABA. My time belongs just to me. 

Just to keep everything unbiased, here is Monkey's view of the whole oral board process...

(I was so surprised my mom past a huge test in a month. My mom's legs were shaking. Then...my mom past. I was so surprised.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dear Bug, May 2014

Dear Bug,

Spending all your childhood watching you grow and change didn't prepare me for how our relationship would grow and change.

When you were a toddler and a small boy, every day, multiple times a day, I'd hear, "Play with me, Mommy!"

And that's what we did, every moment we had. Blocks, Legos, puzzles, board games, Hot Wheels, stuffed animals, hopscotch, train tracks, dinosaurs. Countless rounds of the fishing game, the battery operated wheel whirring around with the plastic fish opening and closing their mouths with funny little clicks while we both aimed flimsy fishing poles into their mouths.

Having you approach your teenage years has changed that "Play with me, Mommy!" into "Leave me alone, Mom."

I do my best to not take it personally. I understand that you still love me. This is just the start of the time when you need a little more independence, a little more elbow room to become your own person. I do my best to make sure I'm not hugging you in front of your friends, that I'm not picking out all your clothes, that I'm giving you just a little of the space that you need.

Bug, self portrait (because he does not take "selfies.")

Hopefully, you understand why I still plant a kiss on your forehead (while you are still shorter than I am and it's easy for me to do it), why I still insist that you be involved in family activities, why I still ask to do things with you. I'm used to being your playmate, your friend, used to joining you on your adventures.

Watching you set out on adventures, such as junior high, without me is scary. For both of us, I think. I'm trying to approach these adventures with the same level of excitement as you are, instead of pining for Candyland on the living room floor.

So much of parenting surprises me. Going from your best friend, your playmate, to a strictly parental figure has been a tough transition.

But luckily, you are still willing to sign off of your Minecraft game that you play over Skype with your friends, and watch an episode of Doctor Who, or play a game of Clue, or read a few chapters of a novel. I worry that as time goes by, you won't want to do even these things with me. But worrying about it won't change anything. So I'll enjoy every second that you do spend with me.

And refrain from that hug in front of the school.