Sunday, December 28, 2008

All Is Merry and Bright

I apologize for the posting hiatus. I didn't have the best access to the internet during our visit to the in-laws in rural Montana.

We had a lovely Christmas.

Christmas Eve was spent mostly on the eight hour drive from the Wasatch Front to the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. Thankfully, we had fantastic weather on the drive northward.

After arriving and settling in, we spent the evening
reading Christmas stories to the boys. Then, we tucked them in, not to be disturbed until 8 am Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve stories
(How the Grinch Stole Christmas, in this case)

Since our boys and their cousin were the only children at the grandparents, they opened presents by themselves in the morning. It was delightful to watch them squeal and "oh" over their presents. And that is why we try so hard at Christmas as parents, right? To make it as magical for them as we remember it being for us as children.

The face of a happy Christmas

Blaise, enthralled by his new, noisy toy

After a wonderful Christmas breakfast (my mother-in-law is a fantastic cook!), and Keith's brothers showed up from their own Christmas mornings with their families, we finally got around to opening the rest of the presents (at around 1 pm!). (Now, I know that I'm "all grown up," but still, waiting until the afternoon for presents is not the easiest thing to do.)

Overall, it was a wonderful trip. We played games with Keith's family, which of course, always gets a little out of hand. We visited with some of Keith's friends from high school. And the cold wasn't too bad.

Oh, yes. Blaise is very silly!
Making orange faces Christmas morning

The trip back wasn't as pleasant as the trip up, due to wind and icy roads. But thankfully, Roman and Blaise are fantastic travelers (especially with their car seats separated.)

So, a belated Merry Christmas. Hope the holidays were merry and bright for all of you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lights and Houses

This post is mostly going to be an apology for the lack of pictures.

Last night, my mom, a handful of siblings, Keith, the boys, and I went to Temple Square to see the Christmas lights.

Living along the Wasatch Front in Utah, this is a holiday staple. Every year, we bundle up against the cold, brave the ice, and wander among the grounds surrounded by trees draped in millions of colored lights. The effect is quite magical.
There is also a place to listen to the re-telling of the Christmas story.

Nothing puts me more in the Christmas spirit. And as the boys get older, they enjoy it more (instead of just being cold.) This year, their eyes were huge as they took in the lights.

Afterwards, when the 18 degree weather had taken it's full effect, my family came back to my apartment so share some cocoa and cookies.

(And here is where the apology is: I was all set to take some truly magical pictures, only to realized that the memory card for my camera was not in my camera, but at home. So no beautiful twinkling pictures of millions of Christmas lights).

Today, as I frantically wrapped Christmas presents and attempted to finish things up before we go out of town early tomorrow, it was obvious the boys needed some diversion.

So we set to work assembling a "gingerbread" house (actually, graham crackers, because no boys here like gingerbread.) We actually go quite ambitious, constructing a gingerbread church. The boys were quite proud of it.

These are the before pictures.

Roman, demonstrating the finer points of the gingerbread house's architecture

Blaise, fully impressed by the "final" result

I would love to show you some after pictures, but those would look like a series of tears and then some full mouths of graham crackers and Mike-and-Ikes, since the house fell down after Blaise rather enthusiastically decorated the roof.

I think we'll stick with a kit next year. Might not taste as good, but is much sturdier. Which, in this case, is what counts in this house.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'll be home for Christmas

Actually, I won't. I'll be in the great white North with Keith's family. But that's a different story.

I just got home from Nashville yesterday. Um, I mean, this morning. With the holiday traffic, the horrific weather, and some other mysterious factors, the last two times I was supposed to get in from a trip around 11 pm, my plane has landed around 1 am. Horrible. I'm tired of it. I wish that I was done with my interviews. (After all, I've done 8 interviews so far. And I have at least 6 left, and could have as many at 10; still not settled. And not the point of this post.)

I was interviewing at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. I'm keeping with my policy of not "publicly" sharing my opinions of programs until after my match list is in (around February.) So I'm mum about Vanderbilt.

But I really liked Nashville. Kind of hard not to when it was 70 degrees the day I was there. In December. Fab-u-lous! It's a "big" city, with a small town feel. And of course, music. (No, I didn't see anyone famous. But who knows: one of the five people I saw playing guitar in the Nashville airport might be famous someday.)

The campus of Vanderbilt was beautiful. (And no, these are none of these are my pictures.)

One of the main parks in Nashville has this parthenon. Kinda cool.

These are also a lot of churches in Nashville, some of them very beautiful.

But no matter now nice the place, or how beautiful, it is always nice to come back home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hey Santa

We don't do Santa Claus in our house. Neither Keith or I ever believed in Santa. Before we had children, we discussed what we wanted to do for them. And we settled on no Santa.

This isn't entirely about keeping to the true meaning of Christmas. (Although that is important, and we talk a lot about it.)

It was more about not lying to our children. I remember my friends recalling the moments of their childhood when they realized that Santa wasn't real, and the devastation associated with that. I never wanted my children to go through that. And I wanted them to always be able to trust me, even in little things. The process of creating the hoax of Santa felt dishonest.

Anyways, this post isn't really about my family's take on Santa. It is about the magic of childhood.

Despite the fact that we don't do Santa, Roman wrote this darling letter to Santa. He just come home from school last week, pulled out a paper, and wrote this letter. (I am not going to translate his spelling; I want to be true to his writing. Just sound it out.)

Dear Santa,
I can't make up my mind what I want for Crismas. There is so mene toys.
I hope you eat lot of your cookies. So have fun dulivring your presints from the chimne. But I have a problam. I don't have one. So be quiet opening the dore.
I know you have a lot of elves, for evrey-one in the world.
Ho Ho. Merry Crismas.

I hope that the letter melts your heart, just as much as it did mine. And reminds you, that whatever you believe, this is still a magical time of year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Visions of Sugar Plums...

Well, actually, we were having visions of cookies.

I had set today aside for making cookies. (It had to be today, since I'm going back out of town for more interviews for the rest of the week, and then it is off to the frozen white north for Christmas when I get back.)

I can never decide what kind of cookie to make, so I made three kinds of dough: butterscotch chip-pecan, milk and white chocolate chip, and butter cookies. (I also wanted to make snicker doodles, but those will have to wait.)

I made the dough while the boys were at school, so there wasn't any disagreement about whose turn it was to stir or who had added more chocolate chips.

After braving the couple inches of new snow to pick the boys up, it was time to bake!

The boys scooped, and pressed extra chips into the tops, helped with the cookie press, and shook sprinkles. Halfway through, Blaise decided that he was good just eating the butterscotch chips.

Three fun-filled, sticky hours later...

Sweet success!

Aren't they cute cookies?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Deck the Halls

The tree is finally up!

Our Christmas tree!
(Okay, yes it is a little bit crooked,
but that's to be expected with the boys
hanging ornaments and
playing with a huge plastic ball, right?)

(Yeah, it only took three nights to get it that way, but between running out of ornament hooks and being unwilling to fully decorate it with Blaise awake, it is completely understandable. Right?)

I LOVE Christmas trees. The family outing to pick out the perfect tree. The smell of fresh pine. The lights and decorations. The way it changes our living room from everyday to festive.

Keith would really like a fake one (because of the said yearly picking one out and maybe the smell. But mostly for the needles). I have managed to win the conversation by bringing up the fact we would have to store the tree for 11 months out of the year. And since we don't have room for a bike that I would use for at least 6 months, we definitely do NOT have room for a completely un-Christmas-y plastic tree.

Our Christmas tree is no prize winner. While I love decorating it, I wouldn't say that I am the most gifted at it (I have a sister-in-law who wins that category). The decorations are a mix between hand-me-downs, yearly acquisitions of traditional (now non-breakable) baubles, and of course, the boys hand-made school ornaments.

When the tree is set up (Keith's job), and the lights are on (my job), Roman puts the ornaments on.

Roman, hanging ornaments

And then when he falls asleep, I move them around. Oh, come on. Like most of you parents don't do the same thing. After all, he can only reach the bottom half of the tree and hangs them all at the very end of the branches. But I would never want to deprive him of the opportunity to participate.

And I don't move
all of them.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New (Super-cute!) Addition

My sister Auralee just gave birth to her second baby on Friday, December 12, at around 5 pm in the evening.

A beautiful, healthy baby boy. 7 1/2 pounds.

The new addition to our family

Congratulations, Auralee! You look so happy, so peaceful holding your absolutely perfect, delicate baby. Snuggling him to your cheek to take in that glorious new baby smell. Smiling over his squeaky new baby cry.
To see you together, to see you so happy, makes me happy too.

Auralee with her baby
(who is yet unnamed)

There is nothing like a newborn. The softness, the sound, the smell. Drink in every moment.

Every new mother I visit reminds me of my own birth experiences. I'm sure it is the same for every mom. We remember the labor, the build up, the emotions, the unique circumstances surrounding our own children's birth. For me, these memories are some of the most vivid in my life.

Me, proud aunt, and Auralee
And darling baby

Welcome to this world, darling boy. You come into a family full of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who love you more than you will ever know. We cherished you fiercely from the moment we knew you had arrived; actually, even before. Our "circle of love" effortlessly has expanded to include you in it.

Proud, happy grandparents

Welcome, my darling nephew, and know that you are loved.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Greener pastures... I mean, beaches

I just got home from another interview trip.

This time to Southern California, to interview at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, Loma Linda, and San Diego.

Loma Linda isn't as close to the beach as I would like, but there are still palm trees.

Loma Linda: No beach, but still palm trees
(Oh, and smog.)

(Again, I am not discussing my opinion of programs here. At least, not yet.)

After interviewing at Loma Linda, I drove down to San Diego.

Everyone that knows me knows that San Diego is my favorite place in the world.

This is what San Diego looks like mid-December
Who doesn't love this?

At first, I didn't think I would have any time to go to the beach. I was upset, to think that I would travel all the way to San Diego and not make it to the beach. But my interview got over a little bit early, and I decided that I had plenty of time to go and get the best souvenir: a sunburn in December.

Pacific surf

The beach has lots of sea-weed on it
When I was little, we would look for brittle stars and shrimp
In the sea weed

I only lived at San Diego for maybe two years when I was little, but it always feels like home.
I was able to walk along the beach, pick up shells, play a little in the water, and enjoy the sand for over an hour before I headed to the airport. Which would bring me to the below freezing temperatures back home.

At least there is my darling family there. Home, best place of all. (Just wish home was a little closer to surfing.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Festival of Trees

It is truly the Christmas season.

As a small, relatively "new" family (I am always comparing us, time-wise, to Keith's and my families), we are still in the process of forming our own family traditions.

For the last couple of years, it has included starting the Christmas season with a visit to the Festival of Trees. All the proceeds go to Primary Children's Medical Center. So, it's great cause. But more than that, it is fun. Wandering among hundreds of Christmas trees, remarking how creative people are, and getting ideas for our own tree. Surrounded by trees, carols, snacking on $1 scones, it is hard not to feel Christmas-y.

My darling happy boys,
having a great time.

We are always on the look out for our favorite tree. Last year, there was a tree covered with Transformer toys, and Roman was really hoping for a repeat. Unfortunately, there wasn't. But there was still plenty to "Oh" and "Awe" at.

There were a lot of Ute trees, not surprising considering how well the football team did this year. There were plenty of Twilight trees, also not surprising.

One of the Twilight trees.
(Unfortunately, none of the pictures do justice to the trees.)

Keith's favorite was a golf tree.

The golf tree.

Yes, the tree is made entirely of golf clubs.
Pretty cool.

Roman's favorite was a tree made out of wood, that was a marble tree. The tree was amazing; I could have sat there forever, just watching the marbles move down the tree, over and over.

Amazing wooden marble track tree.

There was also an amazing Chihuly tree, made, of course, entirely out of glass.

Amazing glass Chihuly tree
The glass, music and flashing lights creating quite a crowd.

Chihuly tree came complete with glass presents as well

There were also a variety of gingerbread houses, made by people who are as creative and talented as I wish I could be. (Pictures are just a few highlights of my favorite ones.)

Giant castle gingerbread house.
Still not sure how anyone could actually make this.

Amazingly detailed, gorgeous gingerbread house

Darling CandyLand Game gingerbread "house."
So well done.

Even without any snow, I felt the festival feeling completely in the Christmas spirit. Ready to go home and decorate my home.

Friday, December 5, 2008

My Own Personal Celebration

After four and a half years of exhausting work, emotional breakdowns, personal growth, and mental exhilaration, I am finally done.

Today was my last day of medical school.

I am officially a doctor.

I "walked" with my class back in May, which I still feel was my real graduation, because I wore the cap and gown, celebrated with my friends, had a beautiful little party, and wore terrific shoes.

But, now, in the cold of December, I am truly done. I finished six months later because I took time off between my second and third year when Blaise was born. I think the decision to take time off and just be a mom, just be a normal person for the first time in my life ranks up there with the best decisions I have made in my life.

Many of you were there with me in May to celebrate. But I never got the opportunity to share some graduation pictures with you.

I'm going to that that opportunity now.

These are some photos of my friends that I made during medical school. The best group of friends I've ever had in my life. Many of them were also moms and going through the same struggles I did. Now, we are all spread out across the country, studying vastly differently specialties. I'm doing my best to stay in touch.

Me, Jennifer (OB/GYN), Nichole (ER)

Me, Kathy (IM), Nichole (ER)

Salwa (Ophtho), Ann (IM), Me

I would not have made it through medical school without my family. My mom, who let me cry as much as I needed, and watched the boys when I really needed it. My dad who would let me ramble about interesting cases and "sound smart" with my new found "language." He also helped me realize how much there really is to know. My grandma, for setting such a wonderful example of what strong women can accomplish. My husband, for being there every single moment, both the good and the horrible; for talking me out of dropping out multiple times, for knowing when to just let me cry, and for never regretting a moment of it. My children, who kept me grounded and reminded me why I was doing what I was doing, and helping me keep my priorities straight. I love you all. I could not have done it without you.

My mom, Keith, me, my dad, my grandma

My dad, a physician himself, got to "hood" me at my graduation ceremony, or place the hood of graduation around my neck. It was an amazing moment, when he got to do for me what his father did for him. After he "hooded" me, he grabbed my hand and raised it up in the air, and shouted "Yes." Best moment of the ceremony!

Medical school was hard. And that is an understatement. Even now, on this side out it, I'm not sure I would do it again. But now that it is over, I'm excited to move on with the next phase of my life. Residency. I honestly believe the only people who can appreciate how difficult the training is are the people who go through it, and those who are married to them.

After my graduation ceremony was complete, I had a moment where I broke down in tears, just remembering the difficult moments. The tears were short lived, but therapeutic. This may be the best picture to depict the emotion my family felt at that time. No caption needed.

I'm not delusional that the hard times are over. I'm currently applying to anesthesiology residency, and very excited about it. But residency, especially intern year, will be the next difficult, draining step in my life. But if I ever doubt, I have the most wonderful inspiration...

So here's to the future.

(Now I need to go and work on my new doctor signature.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Say Goodbye, Bink!

When the boys were young(er), I felt that the pacifier (or "bink" in our house) was the key to my sanity. Despite all the warnings that my children would have crooked teeth, suck their thumb forever, speak with a lisp, and other dire prophesies, I felt I needed the bink, even more than the babies did. It allowed them to comfort themselves, sleep better at night, and be quiet when I really, really needed them to. I had no guilt.

I, however, never wanted to be the parent of the four year old who still sucked on their pacifier to the grocery store.

Blaise is two. He has already successful been weaned from the bink at the daycare. But at home was a different matter. The second we mention a nap or bedtime, Blaise say "I want a bottle, bink!" And we let him have it, longer than necessary. Because we wanted to sleep!

But this weekend, Blaise bit a big hole in his last bink (to be expected with a mouth full of brand new razor sharp baby teeth.)

We decided this was the time to make the break.

We explained the his bink was broken. And that he should throw it away. At first he cried. Then we showed him the large hole in his bink. With both Keith and I cheering him on, he tossed it in the kitchen garbage.

(We then gathered any other back-up binks, tossed them in the garbage, and emptied the trash into the dumpster, as fast as possible, before any minds could be changed.)

Now, two nights later, when Blaise asked for his bink at bedtime, we remind him that it was broken, and that he threw it away.

He did pretty good last night. Just crying once. And tonight, after once again being reminded that he threw it away, he asked for a bottle.

Yeah, getting rid of that will be fun.