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.