Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Childhood Dreams

I love hearing little kids tell what they want to be when they grow up. When I was a kid I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, a soap opera actress and a waitress. I used to practice my waitress skills on my parents' friends. I had a special little apron and note pad that I used for my orders. After dutifully delivering food and drinks, I would sometimes receive some coins as tips. Now that I think about it, this might qualify as possible child labor law abuse.

Ashley has her own big dreams and I never want her to forget what they are. For about a year she has been telling us she wants to be an ice cream girl and a fruit stand owner. Where she got these ideas I have no idea. At least she is all about building a family business. She has told us we can all help her at her ice cream store and fruit stand. She now has a new dream, one that suits her very well. The ice cream and fruit selling still stand but in her free time she wants to be a "weather girl." This is right up her alley because each morning she will come and tell us what the weather is and what the forecast is for the day. Tonight a possible big storm was coming and she was all a flutter with excitement. She ran around the house with updates every second of the storm. Unfortunately for our drying landscape, the storm was short lived and Ashley was very disappointed. I am glad she has her life figured out, I think I am still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

In Other News.....

My kids reached two very important milestones today. These milestones will have no interest for most of my readers but I have to record them because I won't remember them otherwise.

Ashley's Big Moment: I have written before how Ashley hates swim lessons because she hates putting her face in the water. This has not changed. She continues to scream and cry when the teacher forces her under. I told her today that if she went under water at today's lesson and her last lesson tomorrow, she could have whatever reward she wanted. She thought about it for a moment and quickly decided on a "Family Mexican Party." Yes, those were her exact words. So, I agreed. At lessons she continued to scream about it but finally at the end of the lesson she stood on the edge of the pool and jumped all the way in and under the water. It was truly amazing for her to be that brave. I guess a Fiesta is in order around here. Someone call the Mariachi band! I am not sure what her idea of a Mexican party is, but I do know mommy margaritas and Mexican parties go hand and hand, so Arriba!

Landen's Big Moment: I have been pseudo-potty training the little man this week. By pseudo I mean not really trying too hard. I know he is probably not ready and still a little young (barely over 2) but I thought I would at least get some basics in before I start teaching in a few weeks. He already knows how to do his #1 business when he wants to but #2 business needed a lot of work. He would freak out anytime I would mention doing #2 on the potty. Tonight after bath he announced that a BM was in the works so J put him on the potty and he actually went!! I swear miracles do happen people. Don't get me wrong, this boy is nowhere near potty trained but at least I have a good start. I never thought anything potty related would ever excite me. Life is funny that way.

One last thing......

My favorite song this week is Mercy by Duffy. For those of you smart people who watch So You Think You Can Dance, Twitch and Katee danced an incredible number to this song last week.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Little Behind..

I have always been a little behind on stuff that is cutting edge. I remember when email came out I really hesitated to start using it. I felt like nothing could replace a good phone call or a letter. How silly I was!! Then of course TiVo was my sworn enemy for a long time. I had my VCR and felt anything else would just mess my shows up. Now, my life would be ruined if I didn't have my TiVo. And don't even get me started about cell phones. It nearly took an intervention to convince me to change over to a Blackjack. I think my problem boils down to the fact that I like things to be tried and true before I introduce them to my life. I don't like a lot of change, so if something new enters my circle, it better be darn good to stay awhile.

The newest thing to take hold of my life is something not so new. A couple of years ago I remember J telling me about a new kind of MySpace thing called Facebook. I laughed and made fun of him for using something that clearly was for teenagers. Fast forward to this week and now everyone can make fun of me because I am officially addicted. My fellow blogger and friend, Michelle, innocently asked me to be her friend on her page. Now, I am a rabid friend seeker hoping to find as many people as I know. Just in a few days I have already connected with people I haven't seen in many years. I love knowing how everyone is doing and the best part is the sense of power I feel with each touch of the button. "Do you confirm or deny John Doe's friendship?" The computer asks me. Well let's see....John Doe was not very nice to me in high school...I think I will DENY! DENY! DENY! If only I had the luxury of doing that before and my life would have been perfect.

So what is the moral of my story you may ask. Who cares about Facebook? You, that's who. You need to get on and become my friend right away. I am not saying I will confirm you but I will say that you will no doubt become addicted like me. Furthermore, don't be like me and push aside new things just because they are new. For so many years I have missed out on things because I have been to slow to accept new additions to my life. I will never forget how many years ago everyone talked and talked about that hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Tons of people told me I would love it, but I declined to watch it. Then it became syndicated. Ok that was my sign that it was for sure a good show. I finally watched it and I did love it. I had missed out on all those years of laughter. Don't be like me. Get on Facebook right now, join, then the first thing you need to do is ask to be my friend!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Special Happy Birthday

Tomorrow would have been my dad's 59th birthday. I had mentioned once before that I would like to share more about him as a person and I thought it would be a good time to do that. I am writing this a day early because I know I will not have time to do it tomorrow and I don't want to let it go.

Awhile back I was going through some books I have and found a scribbled copy of the eulogy I did for my dad at his funeral. The handwriting is hard to read and not always in complete thoughts. After reading it again I realized I wanted to have a better written copy. It took a lot for me to get up and share my thoughts on him in the middle of a stressful time and I don't want to lose what it was I said. It might not translate very well to the written word, but hopefully it will give you an idea of who my father was to me. Happy Birthday dad.

Here it is, my eulogy to my father. Originally spoken on January 28th, 2002. For those that were there, it may vary slightly due to my nerves at the funeral, but this is how it was originally written.

"As I was going through some of my dad's things this weekend I discovered something I had never known. Inside a folder were several ribbons that were dated 1958. They were from a District 118 UIL meet, which was when my dad lived in Barstow, TX. I had never seen these ribbons before so I started reading the back to find out what my dad had won them for. There were the standard events - 1st place for Boys Track, 2nd place for Boys Doubles, Placed in Boys Singles...Then one particularly struck me. First Place in Storytelling. Now mind you my dad was only 9 years old in 1958 and he was already the best storyteller in Barstow, TX. Now any of you who knew my dad can certainly bet he was still the best storyteller you knew! One "story" he had me believing for many years was his lack of friends. When I would ask him about his friends, he would jokingly tell me - "friends? no one likes me, I run them off!" As I look around the room today, it just confirms he was once again practicing his storytelling for the love and support all of you shown far surpasses anything I could ever have imagined. Nothing was more important to my dad than friends and family so having everyone here means everything to me.

After talking with many people these last few days I understand everyone knew how much my dad loved me and how important I was to him, but not many of you know how I felt about him. If everyone had as much love and support as I received from my father, this world would be a perfect place. There was never a minute that went by that I did not feel his love. It was this love and devotion to me that pushed me to excel in life. Everything I did in my life was done to make him proud. Every grade I got, every activity - I did it for him. I did it because I knew how much my dad wanted me to succeed and I never wanted to let him down. He always had full confidence in my abilities and that confidence kept me going.

My dad made me what I am today. He always pushed me to be independent and strong-minded, even though these very traits were often used against him. I will never forget when we bought our house and I argued that I should have the master bedroom instead of him. Of course I didn't get the bedroom in the end, but he actually considered my arguments. Many a heated discussions went this way. He always let me vocalize my opinions and would disagree with me, even if he secretly agreed, just to give me that push to be confident in my thoughts and words. Many were shocked at the way we would be banter but my dad thrived on getting me all "riled" up as he used to say because he knew he was encouraging me to be a stronger woman. Even in little things he allowed me to make decisions that would later give me a strong foundation. If you saw us at the grocery store you would probably have laughed to see me, even at age 10, pushing my own cart around. He would give me a budget for groceries and I could buy whatever I wanted. Of course at that age, my cart would be filled with tubs of icing, marshmallow cream, Dr. pepper and candy bars. He never said a word but would just let me buy them and then realize later how silly I was when I was hungry for a "real snack." He granted me the opportunity to make real decisions and have a real voice and that has carried me my entire life.

I also admire the way my single father gave up every Friday and Saturday night just so he could take me to play mini golf or rent a movie. We loved to play mini golf together. I didn't know it at the time but my dad, a good golfer, would let me win most of the time which at the time made me feel like I was the best golfer in the world. He always knew how to make me feel important.

I am thankful to a man who sacrificed personal luxury so his daughter could go to college, or who was adamant about living in the same town my entire life so I could get a good education and have a stable environment. As a child he moved around a lot because his father was in the oil business. He felt that this made him less successful in school, so he wanted me to have every advantage there was despite other job offers that might have been more interesting to him. On the day I graduated from A&M, I had a special diploma made with both our names on it to show that it wasn't just me that earned a degree but it was both of us. My dad, who never graduated from college, beamed with pride when he saw it and I will always consider my dad a Fightin' Texas Aggie.

Finally, I am inspired by the role model my dad was. He had a love of life that I will never forget. This was displayed by his incredible sense of humor and ability to make any situation more fun. I remember when I pulled out of the driveway to go to college, the last words he said to me were "Don't let college get in the way of life." He knew how I tend to work too hard and he wanted me to focus on what was really important; not the academics, but the life. I carry these words with me today. He also carried his love of life into his hobbies and made the most of his free time. At 52 he was still playing racquetball twice a week, playing golf all the time and had even participated in the MS 150 mile bike marathon. I also don't want to forget all the work he did for Habitat for Humanity. He enjoyed Habitat because he actually got to do the work himself and not just write a check. All of these traits are what made my dad such a role model to me and inspired me to be a better person.

There is no doubt my love for my dad was as great as his was for me. Which is why these past few days the only question I can think to ask is "why?" Why did this happen? Why is it a man who is in better shape than his 25 year old daughter die? Why will my dad not be there to walk me down the aisle in 4 short weeks? This is probably the hardest one for me. My dad was so excited about the wedding. He would call and ask me about the details constantly. When the RSVP's started coming in, he diligently placed them in a box, recorded each name and would call me with excitement at news more people were coming. I looked forward to the actual wedding day when the man who supported me all these years would walk me down that aisle and give my hand to Jessie. So I really can't understand why he would have left before. The pain is almost unbearable. I feel lost without the main person who has guided me my entire life.

Despite the sadness there are times I am gaining a new sense of perspective and comfort. The other night after everyone had left, I had a chance to really stop and feel everything. I then saw what my dad had in his life when he left us. He was the happiest I had ever seen him. For years I prayed for him to find a person he could share his life with and when my prayer was answered with Cynthia I could never have imagined someone more perfect for him. My dad was also in the best shape he had ever been. Finally, he knew I was taken care of and truly happy with Jessie. He was on top of the world and would never have wanted to come down from that.

A special friend of my dad's shared something with me. A few weeks ago her and my dad were talking about me and the wedding. She said my dad finally came to the consensus that his job in raising me was finally done. I was officially grown up. Maybe this is true in many ways. My dad had touched so many lives and brought happiness to so many people. Maybe it was just time for his job to be done here so he could go on to his next one - a better job in a better place. For my dad I think that place includes one amazing golf course where he can play with all his friends and family who are already there and who will be there to come."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Results Are In....

As I have mentioned before, J took his mega, huge, gigantic Board Exam a few weeks ago. This test is probably the most important exam he will take as a doctor. Of course, he will have to pass other Boards later but he just has to pass those, the exact score of this test is what makes it so important. If a person does really, really well on this exam, called Step 1 to the doctor types, then they can basically have their choice of specialty and residency program. If they do bad, then they will have a difficult time. Since J wants to do a very competitive specialty like Orthopedic Surgery, ENT or Dermatology, he needed a good score.

After J completed the exam he was not happy. Apparently he had misjudged the number of sections and thought he was running out of time during the test. This made him feel like he didn't do as well as he hoped. He has been super down about it and I have been trying to stay positive but secretly was very nervous. After all this test pretty much determines our future and I didn't want all his hard work to disappoint him.

We knew the results would be ready at 11:00 pm our time on Tuesday night and J thought he did so awful he was just going to go to bed instead of see the score; however, enticed by an episode of "Rock the Reception" he managed to stay up. At 11:01 I ran to get J and tell him it was time. I was a nervous wreck. J logged on to the site but of course it took forever since everyone else was logging in at the same time. Finally, he announced he was in. I took my place behind him and peered over his shoulder. The score sheet appeared on the screen with the word "Pass" on it. Whew!! At least he passed. Slowly he scrolled down to reveal his actual score.......and it was PHENOMENAL!!!!! He scored in the top 1% of the nation!!!! We just stared at the computer in disbelief, then erupted in cheers. We both jumped up and down and hugged, shrieking like little girls the entire time (sorry J, but there is no shame in that!)

So, now here we are, much like a time 3 years ago when the sky is basically the limit for J and his medical career. What will he do? Where will we go??? I don't have the answers yet, we are still in discussions. What I do know is I am extremely proud of J and his amazing accomplishment. He worked so hard and it shows how this path is without a doubt the right path for him.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Going Crazy

J has survived his first couple of weeks on his Psychiatry rotation. Psych is a less intense rotation as far as hours go but is still pretty intense on the type of patient you see. His official diagnosis - there are a lot of crazy people in this world. This is perhaps the most evident in the ER where psych patients are brought in by the police and held in a private, enclosed room. Personally, I would find that way more scary than jail, but that is just me.

When J started his rotations he had to undergo a self-defense lesson and was told not to wear a tie as it could present a safety risk for him. I had never really thought about these scenarios before. As an official member of the Nervous Nelly club, I was more than just a little nervous. This was especially true on the night he took his first overnight shift at the ER. The shift lasted from midnight until 8 am the next morning. The hospital is in a very dangerous neighborhood and the clientele fits the area. I didn't sign up for this "pseudo-policeman's wife" bit. Fortunately, on this night J did not have to practice any extreme martial arts.

I can't reveal too much about individual patients but I have heard some snippets of what many would consider the standard psychiatric patient - stuffed animal companions thought to be real, extreme cat lovers, prosthetic limbs being literally thrown in anger, and of course the usual person who believes they are being contacted by "aliens" in the form of code. Just your boring day in the psych ward. In fact, his duties are much like mine at home. After his all-nighter, J informed me that his night mostly consisted of him making sure his patients were still alive, breathing and not causing any harm to others. Hmmm......sounds a lot like what I do around here.

I think the most surprising thing about this gig is that J is becoming more sympathetic towards people with these afflictions. He is realizing that for the people who are truly ill, they do not choose being the way they are and just want help. He has taken an special liking to a couple of patients and wants to help them so much, but is very limited in what he can do. I think the hardest part is becoming so involved in these patients' lives. J has to talk to family members who beg for their relative to get better, but there are no guaranteed solutions. Of course that is medicine in general. Doctors can try everything possible but at the end of the day it is really up to a higher power what happens.

On a lighter note, J wanted me to be sure and make a notation of today's date. Apparently while I took little A to see the American Girl movie today, an important event took place. J informed me that today, July 13th, 2008 marks the official beginning of Landen's sports training. Last night while we had some of our favorite, close friends over, the men decided to film their golf swings. They were on the side of the house but little man caught a glimpse of them and ran over to me, "Mommy, where is my golf club?" I pointed it out to him and he ran over to join the rest of the golf nerds to swing away. J has never been more proud, hence the official training period has begun. So, take note ESPN and Sports Illustrated, our future pro is now in the game.

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Chapter, New Title

Many of you may remember me mentioning a slight change in my blog. For those who are really on top of it, you will notice that I now have a brand new title. If you have been reading you know I have an obsession with titles. So, I went and changed my title to fit the new phase of our life we are starting. Don't worry we are still filled with lots of Bon Bons and Boo Boos, but times change and I want to change with them. What can you expect? I have no idea.

I will never forget that orientation day 2 years ago when J and I walked through the med school doors. For me, I was taken back to my first days at A&M. You know the feeling... the butterflies of excitement, the feeling of a fresh start and the confusion of not knowing what the heck to do. It was the same way this day. Being a sucker for schedules and meetings, I was having a blast. There was also lots of cookies and snacks, I just knew this place was going to be great.

It soon came time for a special "significant others" session. Since I considered myself one of those, I decided to go. In this group we were going to learn all about what to expect the next four years. A very pleasant looking lady, who we can call Dr. Jekyll, explained that the first two years are all pure academics. Our students would be learning the basics of medicine. We should support them in their studies and encourage them at all times. Seemed simple enough to me. Then it was time for third year. A hush fell over the crowd. Dr. Jekyll suddenly turned into Mrs. Hyde. As she turned to face us, I was reminded of that scene in "The Wizard of OZ" when the bad witch is flying on her broom cackling as loud as can be.

"Third Year is not like the first two..." [Mrs. Hyde cackles while the theme to Jaws echoes in the background.]

"Third year will be the true test of your student and your relationship. All rules are off"

**Excuse me? What happened to the cookies and snacks and hugs we were getting earlier??

"Just know that if you depend on your student for any kind of support, you just need to get over that and learn how to do everything by yourself because that is how it will be during third year. Just prepare yourself now." [This was followed by lots of loud cackling and I believe a broomstick flying off into the recreation center. But don't quote me on that.]

What a welcome! I would have dismissed this Jekyll and Hyde woman but the horror stories continued. Other wives told me tales of never seeing their husbands and the enormous stress. All the literature they gave us had the facts printed in black and white: The insane hours, the tests, and the pressure. Even my OB/GYN who graduated from J's school, reaffirmed what I had been hearing. Bottom line - I needed to get ready.

So, here we are. The dreaded third year has begun. J started a week ago. Up until this point I have not talked very much about J's school and our life in dealing with his studies for a couple of reasons. First, like I wrote, the first two years are filled with book learning. There were some interesting stories but basically it would not have been very exciting for me to write about J reading his biochem book for the millionth time.

The other reason it has not been a huge focus in my writing is for more selfish, personal reasons. Many of you know what it feels like to lose your identity after having kids. You are no longer an unique individual but belong to someone else. For example, no matter what I do I am labeled Ashley and Landen's mom. With Jessie's school it just takes my identity one step even lower. I can't even tell you how many times in conversations I have been asked about his school but not one question about me. Here is often how it goes:

Anonymous Person: "Hi, how your kids?"
Lost Identity Jennifer: "Good, they are just growing every day."
Anonymous Person: "What about J's school, how long does he have left? what specialty does he want to go into? how does he like it? tell me ALL about it!"
Lost Identity Jennifer: Usual standard answers.
Anonymous Person: "Ok bye"

As you see I got a mention as a mom and as someone's wife. Nothing that screams Jenn in there. Silly? Of course it is. Is what I do very interesting? Nope. I realize staying at home is not as exciting as cutting open dead bodies and saving lives. I do realize that supporting J is an important part of my life and I should embrace it. After all it is interesting. It is not everyday that someone quits their stable, cushy job of 8 years to attend med school with a wife and two kids in tow. Third year will make all of that even more interesting and I think writing about it will not only interest a lot of people but also give a nice little record of the crazy things J will get to experience. Let's not forget I will also be starting a new chapter as I embark on my year of teaching four year olds at the kids' school, hence my preschool life as a third year wife.

So, what does this year have in store? Third year consists of about 8 rotations in different clinical specialties; Psychiatry, OB/GYN, Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Surgery, Surgical sub-specialty, Neurology and Pediatrics. Each rotation lasts from 4-8 weeks and varies on the intensity of hours and stress. Right now, J is in Psychiatry, which brings lots of interesting things. As the weeks pass, I will share some of his interesting experiences (without violating any privacy laws of course!) I will also share some of my thoughts on his rotations including my feelings on my hubby doing pelvic exams. How many of you out there can relate to that????? Once my job starts in August, I am sure I will also have some interesting tales of four year olds. Let's not forget the most important figures in all of this, my very own special little ones. Ashley and Landen will still get front and center attention. It's still me and I will still be writing about me, I am just in a new chapter, I can't wait to see how it will end.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy Birthday Sweet Baby Girl!

It was on fourth of July 5 years ago that our very own 8 lb 1 oz firecracker entered this world. At 6: 20 am on July 4, 2003 Ashley Rose changed our lives forever.

Finding out I was pregnant with Ashley was a surprise, ok I will admit it, a major shocker. I think I took about 10 pregnancy tests to confirm. The doctor was a little surprised too considering he had just told us a few weeks before that we would most likely have to undergo fertility treatments when the time came for us to have kids. Of course when he told me this, kids were the last thing on my mind.

J and I had only been married for 7 months and it had been somewhat of a hard year. After all it is not every year you buy a new house, remodel the house, lose your job, lose your father, get married and start a new job all within a few months. I guess you could say I was at my limit as far as stress went and a baby was not on my agenda. I couldn't even take care of a dog. J had given me a puppy after we got married and I was so stressed with everything going on in my life, I simply couldn't handle taking care of it. My mom took the dog and luckily Buckley is still living happily ever after with her and my stepfather. Even in my frazzled state of mind I knew I couldn't give my baby to my mother to take care of. I had no idea what I was going to do.

My pregnancy was not fun either. I was desperately sick with 24 hour vomiting and nausea. At work I would go and lay on the cold bathroom tile just to get some relief. The vomiting and nausea was followed by gestational diabetes. This was almost worse than the sickness. Telling a pregnant lady she can't have sweets is like telling a bee they can't have honey. I just knew that since I had a hard pregnancy I would have an easy labor and delivery - WRONG! That was awful too. I ended up pushing for three hours and the epidural didn't work very well for most of that pushing. Then, she was here. It was as though everything suddenly disappeared. Nothing mattered. Not the stress, or the sickness or the all the pain. Nothing mattered except her. It was as though I had been living in a coma all years leading up to this very moment just waiting to meet her and start living.

It turns out Ashley was an amazing baby and that was my reward for all the hardships of pregnancy and labor. She was an incredible sleeper (she slept from 9 pm until 7 am at 3 weeks), a good eater, hardly cried and the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Even to this day she is an amazing little girl. When I look at her I just feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to have her in my life and know what love really is. I look back on the timing of her arrival and I realize now that it is really the decisions that are made for us that truly shape our lives. I never would have chosen that exact time in my life to have kids but I now realize I needed Ashley to save me. She opened my heart and world up in a way no one else could have done at that time.

As if this post isn't long enough, here are some special things about Ashley that I want to remember as she reaches this important 5 year milestone:

  • When you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she replies, "An ice cream girl and a vegetable grower."
  • She is as "girly" as they come. She loves anything to do with baby dolls, dresses, pink, princesses, dancing and make-up. My early brain-washing obviously worked.
  • She has always loved to read. Her favorite books are the Tinkerbell fairy chapter books. We read a chapter a night.
  • She is obsessed with fairies, especially Tinkerbell. When she lost her first tooth a couple of months ago, she wrote a letter to the tooth fairy wishing that she could fly. When that didn't happen she was very upset. When she lost this last tooth, she wrote another letter asking why her wish didn't come true.
  • She is a wonderful big sister. She is so sweet to Landen and has always helped take care of him. Now, they are super close and adore each other.
  • When you ask her what her favorite restuarants are she will say "BBQ" and "Jason's Deli."
  • Her favorite movie is "Annie." She knows all the songs.
  • She knows the name of every major retail store and restaurant we pass. When we drive she will tell me the name of all them so I will hear such things as "Red Lobster! Subway! Kohls! Best Buy!" shouted in the back seat.
  • She is quite an artist. Her pictures are very good and she will draw for hours.

I could go on and on, but bottom line - she is officially her own little person with her own little attitude and I love it. Recently, she has been telling me, "I don't want to get any bigger, I want to stay this size forever." I wish the same thing.