Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The remarkable thing about maternity leave is how much free time it seems like you should have, but how little free time it is you actually have.

Nina is a sweet, delicious baby (again, I note our culture's predilection for comparing babies to confectionary--however, if you've been with this baby, you would understand, she's basically a giant lump of fondant shaped into human form) but she, like all babies, is fairly time-consuming.  That, and she enjoys being held, ideally constantly, unless she's asleep.  Actually, even when she's asleep, she prefers to sleep like this, which is why I have since switched to one of those Tom's of Maine hippie dippie deodorants that--sorry Tom--barely deodorizes.  Everyone step back three feet.

People probably have different schools of thought on this when it comes to babies, but I sort of tend towards the thinking that newborn babies can't really be spoiled, and that all they need to learn at this point is that they're going to be taken care of.  So if she wants me to hold her all day long, well then, by gum, that's what I'll do--it's why I'm on maternity leave, after all.  However, it also means that I can't really do much of anything else (I do have a growing list of dinners that can be cooked one-handed while the other hand is holding a baby, the Cliff Notes version of which is: cook not anything that requires peeling or a can opener) and that's my roundabout way of explaining why I haven't updated this blog in more than a month.  It's not that I can't type, but anything that requires more typing than can be accomplished with one thumb on an iPhone is perhaps more bimanual dexterity than I have been able to reasonably accomplish recently.

Cue gratuitous baby photos...and go.

(On a related note: if you've e-mailed me in the past month or so with a non-emergent message, I really apologize if I haven't returned it.  Life is triage, and so I've been somewhat unplugged from some of my outside obligations as of late.  Lo siento, etcetera etcetera.)

I started (well, multiple times) to write about the life of an anesthesiologist, pecking away at it until my fingers were damn near bloody bone stubs, because that entry was not even half finished and it was already, like, a skrillion pages long.  But then about two weeks ago I got an e-mail from someone at the AAMC (funny trivia: if you Google "AAMC," it will ask you, "Did you mean AAMCO?" and divert you to a page with links to mufflers and transmission changes; but no, as many of you know, AAMC stands for the Association of American Medical Colleges) who is doing an article series on medical specialties, and will be featuring the noble specialty of Anesthesia in September.  So since I'm going to be doing that interview anyway, I figured I'd just link to that when it came out instead, and add bits and pieces to it or field questions as opposed to posting a dense and possibly stultifying brickwork of text not unlike The Cask of Amontillado.  Fair?

So here's what else we've been up to.

Well, school started.  Actually it started the second week of August, which seems just shy of barbaric to me, but such are the regional variants of the academic year in the South.  I think the reasoning is that they time it such that the first semester ends right as the kids are breaking for Christmas (as opposed to having the semester end at the end of January like it did for me growing up--a two and a half week holiday vacation is a more natural break point) and as another plus, school ends usually the week before Memorial Day, which enables us to do things like this.  But the downside is that we live in Atlanta, and August is monstrously hot.  So pick your poison.

The transition to third grade has been pretty good so far.  As expected, the fact that we were making this transition after finishing up first grade in full made the switch much more natural--new class, new teacher at this point in the year is par for the course, so Cal blended in with his classmates pretty seamlessly.  There is one girl in his class who towers over him by a full head, but on the whole, he's not that much smaller than his classmates (despite being one to almost two full years younger than some of them), and that has helped.  He's also making friends, which is a huge relief.  (Somewhat on-topic: I still remember when the term "playdate" entered my lexicon--growing up we just called it "going over to [insert friend name here]'s house" but my sister, ten years younger than I, was set up on "playdates" in a semi-regular fashion--and at the time, the terminology seemed overly formal, like saying that your four year-old had a pressing engagement at the sandbox.)

Veering back on topic, Cal is making friends, and while it seems that the size and age difference isn't a really big deal so far, Cal's lack of working knowledge about miscellaneous juvenile pop culture ephemera is.  "You don't know who Usher is?" one of his new friends asked Cal.  Cal did not.  Ditto Justin Bieber.  He did, however, just finish reading a biography about Albert Einstein, but somehow the conversation didn't quite take off with that one.  So maybe we should consider some remediation with respect to such topics, though honestly, I myself wouldn't know where to begin.  (Something something vampires?)

The schoolwork is very manageable so far, Cal doesn't seem to be having a problem with it (even with French class, which I was the most worried about because it seemed like the class that most needed to build logically from one year to the next and for which Joe and I are the least equipped to provide help).  But there is more homework, and it's a little more free-form and independently generated (for example, learning to write expository essays and do research, as opposed to mindlessly filling out worksheets as in first grade) and that has created some dramatic frission in the afternoons.  I'm still on leave until the end of the week so I've been able to help him get it going up until now, though I have some concerns with how he's going to handle it after I go back to work and won't be home until after The Homeworking Hours at least four out of five days of the week.  But we'll deal with those problems if and when they come up.  We have a meeting with his teacher on Thursday to discuss how the transition is working, but from all indications, he's doing well.

Mack has been on the difficult side of perfection lately.  Likely it's his age more than anything else--Cal at three and a half made me seriously consider the risks and benefits of tubal ligation--but I'm not ruling out that some of it may be reacting to being usurped as The Baby by, you know, a real baby.  But it's nothing unusual, just the usual battles over control, stubbornness, whining, perseveration on details and assorted other miscellany.  If there's a reason that siblings are rarely spaced four and a half years apart, I am convinced it is because most three and a half year-olds are nightmarish maybe 20% of the time, and what might be euphemistically described as "cheeky" another 40% of the time.  But on the whole he's a pleasure.

The thing about Mack is that, after Cal, he's just so reassuring.  Cal is, to put it gently, a little bit of an unusual child (nothing pathologic, he's just kind of peculiar--overly cerebral is probably the best description, with an overlay of quirky) and so we naturally worry about him because worrying is what we do best.  But Mack is, in contrast, the prototype of Boy In Early Childhood.  He runs and plays and pretends and makes his action figures talk to each other.  He jumps off things while making rocket blaster sounds.  He loves cars and light sabers and wrestling, and has a bin full of superhero costumes that he cycles through on a near-constant basis.  (Current favorite: a Spiderman costume with foam muscles built into it.)  He can be a stubborn fool, and he can scream very loud when he wants to, but he's our screaming stubborn fool, and he's a delight.  You know...most of the time.

I'm on call Labor Day weekend (everyone I tell this to thinks this is cruel and unusual somehow, but our holiday call schedule was actually determined almost a year ago, before I was even pregnant, and the timing is such that my maternity leave would be close to ending anyway so I'm more than pleased to fulfill that particular responsibility) so I'll be back at work bright and early on Friday morning.  I won't lie, maternity leave has been really nice.  Yes it's been nice to have a slightly different pace to my day (though I'm not really getting up much later nor getting any more sleep than usual), but mostly I appreciate having so much time to spend with Nina.  For the rest of her life, she's going to have to share me with her brothers, and I'm going to have to share her with, well, everyone.  But these past eight weeks have been, for the most part, just about the two of us being together.  And that's been really, really special.

I know that me going back to work doesn't mean I'll never see her again, and this being our third time around we have most of the larger issues of scheduling and childcare largely blocked out.  But it's still going to be hard to leave that first morning, and every morning after that.  I work full-time, take overnight call and work long hours, so it's hard not to feel (and I felt this way with Cal and Mack too) like I'm giving away huge swaths of her babyhood away for someone else to enjoy.  Is this the ideal solution?  Is this the correct balance for us?  It's hard to say at this moment, and I know that this is something that everyone struggles with, and that I'll continue to struggle with--what worked well with two kids may work differently with three, after all.  But I am lucky in that I love my kids, and I also really enjoy my job, so while my daily life does feel like living between a rock and a hard place, at least I like the rock, and I love the hard place, so finding the right space between is hopefully worth the blisters.


  1. OMG your kids. So cute. Thanks for the update! Did I say 'so cute' already?

    As for Cal, I suppose, don't worry? I was very much a child like that - down to reading Harry Potter in first grade! - and I like to think I turned out okay. (: He might enjoy being with an older crowd more too. I know I did, and yes, this is anecdata overload, sorry. (:

  2. Nina is BEAUTIFUL!

    glad you posted, i had been thinking about you (as much as i can in a non-creepy blog reader sort of way.)

  3. "I like the rock, and I love the hard place..." may have just become one of my favorite quotes ever.

  4. Omg Nina is so precious

  5. Anonymous9:23 AM

    We thought about skipping a grade for both our kids. They both are 2 years ahead in math. But they can't spell or write essays. Yesterday we had to prepare for school free essay writing tomorrow (thanks to someone who gave us a warning it was coming). We had a painful evening of both kids procrastinating not knowing what to write and then correcting numerous mis-spellings. I am from a different culture and we were asked to write essays starting in middle school. And yet we still graduated high school with college level knowledge. In some areas modern day schools remain on mediveal ages level(math) and yet in other areas schools ask too much of kids. When you did not teach spelling, penmanship or making stories skills, how can you ask 7 yo write an essay? (All depends on the parent, I know thats why I took a job without call). And of course annual school "research project" is done by parents. To the point where last year school mandated each child present their poster orally. See, school found out that children not only cannot explain their "project" - children did not even know what their project was about. I always feel sorry for kids whose parents have less education than me.

  6. This is all so lovely! "I like the rock, and I love the hard place..." Agree with above, this line is a keeper!
    I like you writing about Cal vs. Mack...I think my older is a Cal. He is different, intense, worrisome, definitely cerebral already at 2.5. Hopefully the little one will be a Mack, but we don't yet know (he's not even 1 yet).
    Looking at those pictures of Nina makes me seriously consider trying for #3....
    Good luck with the transition back to work.

  7. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Thanks for sharing the baby photos, she's adorable! Looking forward to how you handle being a mother of 3 and an awesome anesthesiologist. You give this med student hope!

  8. nina is a doll -- you're a lucky mama! (the boys sound wonderful, too.)

    my younger brother and i were both moved up a grade in elementary school -- him, 1st to 2nd sometime in the spring, and me, kindergarten to 1st about a month into the school year. not going to lie, things were difficult for both of us -- not so much right away, but definitely a few years later, at the point we got to junior high (being a 10-year-old taking math and science with the 8th graders may have had something to do with that, too). i envied/resented our younger sister, who was one of the oldest in her class and entirely "normal," but all in all, i wouldn't have wanted things different. my parents didn't seem to have a clue about how hard it was, though -- they kept an eye on my brother, because he was runty and a smart-mouth, but everyone assumed i was doing fine when actually i was miserable. kudos on making a hard decision, and best of luck in helping all your kiddos be their best selves, and yourself as well.

  9. What a beautiful post.

  10. Integrating Cal with older kids/pre-teen cultural literacy:
    start with the music. listen (with him) to top 40's stations (you'll hate the music, but he needs to hear it). Discuss the issues with him. Google cultural references so you know what the issues are...
    I came out of this one actually liking Rap music (some of it).
    Stubble came out of it knowing about cultural issues, societal ills, etc. The kind of stuff the "kids bop" CDs can't supply.
    Yes, it was harrowing, but he was hanging out with MUCH older kids and needed to be informed.

    I know that they are not around any longer except maybe as re-runs, but the tv shows Seventh Heaven and Boy Meets World also opened a window into "things he needed to know and discuss with his parents first",.

  11. Cal should see the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies--while I think the kid in the movies has questionable moral character it is fairly realistic in its depiction of elementary/middle school life. Also, a little Disney channel (Jessie, Good Luck Charlie, Austin and Ally) will also help him with the disconnect.

  12. I've been checking your blog almost every day for a month, and every time it wasn't updated, I'd be happy, because I knew that meant you were busy enjoying (that astoundingly adorable) Nina.

    Although my kid didn't skip a grade, he arrived at kindergarten supremely ignorant of most pop culture. (He thought it was a lifesaver the other boys were pretending to whack each other with, not a light saber, just for starters.) But really, it all worked out and didn't cause him any social difficulties that we could detect. He picked this stuff up by osmosis, without our schooling him in any of it (we confined our schooling to the Beatles and old movies like Singin' in the Rain and Robin Hood with Errol Flynn). And now, at 12, without any assistance from us, he listens to Z-100 and kindly explains the nuances of "Call Me Maybe" and the like to his mother. Which is a long way of saying that Cal will be just fine in that department, too. (Which I'm sure you know.)

  13. Anonymous4:08 PM

    I skipped a grade (fifth) but I had an older sister (five years older) so pop culture--and really, everything else--came rather easy for me. I kept up with schoolwork just fine and actually was at the top of my class but also had time for exploration of music/movies/etc that were "cool" at the time, mostly because of my sister. Being the oldest kid like Cal seems rather tough in that the exploration of such things has to be entirely on one's own, but I wouldn't worry. He seems so inquisitive so I'm sure he could do well at whatever he set his interests on.

  14. She is SO CUTE! I love that montage of faces. And wow, Joe and Cal are like twins, aren't they? I didn't realize until I saw that picture of Joe snuggling with the baby.

  15. Great post!!! And they're all so cute, btw :)

  16. Steph9:15 PM

    I am so happy to hear that you've had this time to bond with Nina. I do believe it means so much, especially (though by no means exclusively) for the same sex parent. I have a 2 year old son and 4 month old daughter, and while I regret not having pursued a valid career beforehand on most days, I do recognize that I am very fortunate to be able to spend so much time with them both in these early years. (Although, my brain does feel like Cream of Wheat many days.)
    My oldest (a boy), at age 2, sounds much like Mack, whereas my husband and I were both more like Cal as kids. I was no prodigy, did not skip any grades, but I was a nerd and I remember very clearly being in homeroom in 7th grade, 1986, not knowing who Michael Jordan was and being asked if I lived in a closet. (Yes, pretty much.)

    I just believe in nurturing whatever protoplasm is there in your kids while trying to instill some drive and passion as well. Find what you love, and do your best at it.
    Good luck to me and the Red Sox, no?

    In all seriousness, you have a beautiful family and you handle life's issues with integrity, intelligence, and grace.

  17. Anonymous10:37 PM

    Check out an Ergo baby carrier. When you absolutely, positively need to help with homework while peeling vegetables, I loved my Ergo. Bonus: when Nina is stable enough to wear on your back, you can just flip it around. You're a great mom. And, from what I can tell, a kickass anesthesiologist. I wish I could have all of my internet friends over for coffee. You're at the top of my list.

  18. Anonymous3:19 AM

    Your kids are too adorable! Good luck with transitioning back to work. Don't know how you juggle it all but you seem to do it beautifully.

    I know you are busier now but keep updating your blog whenever you can! Love reading it.

  19. Anonymous7:42 AM

    She is so pretty. Some of her pictures look a lot like Mack but those ones with her mouth open remind me of when Cal was a baby. I bet you do dread the idea of going back to work. I agree with you that if babies want to be held then we should hold them. My dil held our youngest grandchild almost non stop for the first year of his life.

  20. Anonymous8:29 AM

    I like to keep my kids uninformed of kid popular culture for as long as possible. Because it lets them be kids, avoiding vulgar and superficial attitudes. CT - you said it, Whimpy Kid has queastionable character. I was horrified when I saw parts of the movie. I am at the stage of life where I do not believe kids need to know bad culture ahead of time.

  21. Anonymous4:22 PM

    I was never into 'pop' culture. Accepted I wasn't interested in it, and am glad I didn't waste my childhood/teenagerhood on it. While the other girls were debating which boyzone/backstreet boy was the most 'gorgeous', I was reading books - getting lost in great pieces of literature, the memories of which still stay with me today. My friends knew that I wasn't into pop culture, and I accepted they were not that into literature. it was fine - we just shared different interests. My parents were also supportive of the fact I was not into pop culture. Just because the majority are into something, doesn't mean I need to be into it too. That there is a life skill, that has stood me in good stead along life's journey.
    What I'm trying to say, don't stress about lack of knowledge of pop culture. It's constantly changing, impossible to keep up with, and there is far more to life.

    Like the above poster stated - kids do not need to know bad culture ahead of time.

    Thanks for the uber cute baby photo's!

  22. Anonymous2:31 PM

    haha I love reading about Cal and Mack's personalities. They sound absolutely hilarious. It's so nice to read about how you raise your kids and the balance between work and family. I'm a medical student right now and I really can't wait to get where you are in life right now. Please keep posting, they are such great reads. :)

  23. "I like the rock and I love the hard place". Is a great line! Reminds me of this: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/im-drowning-in-busyness/article4279989/
    Which I read sometime in residency I think. "It's a good drowning" has also made my household vernacular. I have no idea what the right balance might be either. I comfort myself with how much I love to see them enjoying each other, and the thought that they at least have allies in their own generation.

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  47. Dr. Au:
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