Saturday, December 20, 2014

Internet take the wheel

Short story time.

The other night Phoebe was really needing the loving and undivided attention of my arms while I made dinner (frozen pizza) so I had the genius idea to just "put her on my back in the Ergo" because all the other moms make it look so easy! And so I did and she hated it (strike zillion, Ergo! I know everyone loves it but ... we must be missing something over here) but in the process of buckling one of the buckles I cracked my right index fingernail almost completely in half (okay, strike zillion and ONE) ... I won't post a photo but it's really gross and it's covered by five band-aids because I live in constant fear that it will catch on something and I will die. The pain kept Baby Grace up the entire night while she dreamt up the invention of fingernail epidurals and cursed the inventors of baby wearing (just kidding, but I am serious about the epidural). Anyway, my point is that I'm blaming my fingernail injury (slow typing, a true baby here) on the fact that I'm writing a post just to ship you off into a million other (better!) directions because I know you have nothing better to do five days before Christmas than click a grip of links. (Also, I ordered and am trying both this carrier and this carrier and plan on sharing my detailed thoughts on both - get excited.)

Okay, here we go.

First and foremost, please keep sweet Courtney and her family in your prayers during this undoubtedly difficult and trying time.

Here's a new-to-me blog that I'm loving. This post especially.

You probably saw this all over Facebook but why you should drink hot water and lemon every morning.

This is as close to holiday "baking" that I've come this season.

Theo is in the throes of a major cleaning phase so he may or may not be getting this for Christmas from a thoughtful and generous uncle (thanks for the idea, Amelia!).

Phoebe is getting nothing. Just kidding.

Because I've done 100% of our Christmas shopping online, I finally signed up (took three seconds) for this brilliant website and am just kicking myself for not doing it YEARS ago. Live and learn. And regret, I guess.

I'm reading and enjoying this book thanks to Fran's recommendation!).

I've said it once and I'll say it again ... I really think Alison would make the most fun friend.

I finally joined a gym! Was my main motivation the free + unlimited hours of childcare? Perhaps. But I've had to carry a flailing and kicking and crying Sebastian (the smallest Patton child, naturally) out of Kids Club the past two days while Julia crossed her arms and calmly said, "I don't like you right now" (um, look at my care) when I told them it was time to go so I don't think they hate their time spent in the room with 89 trillion toys. But my important question is ... any good upbeat music you care to share? I can only listen to this song so many times in a row before I start feeling a little bit obsessive.

Whenever I leave the house I really should be wearing my glasses, lest I mistake a perfect stranger for a friend and makes us both feel nice and awkward so these tips were so appreciated.

Simon accused me of playing favorites with Phoebe on Instagram ...

... to which I say the kids have all had their time to shine and hers just might be now. Or, yes I'm guilty. Whatever.

I'm sure I'll bug you before then but I hope you have four very merry and stressless days leading up to Christmas. Simon has tonight off (party emoji galore) so I'm off to scour Netflix for the best and cheesiest movie he'll let me get away with.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

what I wish I'd known before residency

You like that ominously somber and cliché title? I thought you might. I got the following email {edited a bit and author's name withheld!!} earlier this week and it wasn't unlike a lot of similar emails I've gotten so in the event that any other residency-esque emails are in the future works ... I thought I'd type this out since Simon is currently on a decent rotation and I won't be irrationally tempted to write a scathing diatribe about the past 3.5 years.

My husband is interviewing currently and we match in March and I am stressing out and am unsure how to handle this entire process. I am extremely close with my parents and all of the programs we are considering are minimum 6 hours away. I'm terrified of moving but happy that he is even getting interviewed at these incredible programs and knowing that someone would be proud to take him. We're considering children soon and I feel lost about leaving and having kids away from our families and any support system. I was hoping that you could give me some insight or advice on this roller coaster ride that we are about to embark on. 

*Grace again! before I answer I have to give a disclaimer like the funion that I am ...

I realize that my situation could be a lot more difficult. I could be a single mom, Simon could be deployed, Simon could be unemployed, and the list goes on and on. On the totem pole of difficult situations - ours ranks pretty low. I know that. If I sound like an ungrateful b, that's perfectly understandable and I could keep my mouth shut (or my keyboard untouched, polite laugh) but I've read a few "it's totally fine!" accounts of residency experiences from the wife's perspective and I felt a lot a bit duped. Simon is at a great program that does a phenomenal job of giving as many two day weekends off as possible and it is absolutely the best fit for him and our family for countless reasons. I just don't think there's any escaping a lot of the necessary realities of medical training.

With that disclaimed ... I'm probably the worst person to talk about this because I can't truthfully paint the rosy picture that some spouses might. I'm sure there are some couples that have been genuinely and pleasantly surprised by their residency experience because they were expecting much worse or the resident went into a relatively "easy" (in quotes because I don't really think there are any easy programs out there) field - as far as hours go or they have more optimistic temperaments than I do. We are not one of those couples. I think Simon had a much better idea than I did because as a med student he shadowed residents and knew how many hours they logged at that hospital and he encouraged me to talk to residency wives to learn what I should expect but I said I was sure I got it because "how much worse than med school could it BE?!" and I could handle it. Laugh laugh LAUGH. 

Let's break it down.

brace your lonely nerves: July of 2011 was a bit of a shock to my system as I found myself staring at a baby Julia while both of us sat on the kitchen floor in a new house in a new city mindlessly snacking on cereal straight from the box at what felt like 5pm but no, how could be a mere 10:00 in the am?! Day after day after day. No matter the residency (OB, Family Medicine, Surgery, Internal Medicine etc.) the hours are always going to be really long on some rotations. The nature of the medical beast is generally unpredictable and emergencies tend to arise at the end of shifts and patients always take priority over getting home for dinner - as they should. I'm not sure I necessarily understood that when Simon was "on call" he would be at work on the weekends for a minimum of 24 hours and not at home with a pager or at work getting sleep. Depending on if he worked overnight - when he got home he would need to sleep. This was a tough pill to swallow because I was so lonely and ready to interact with a human that could talk in sentences but eventually the shock wears off and it just becomes a fact of (temporary!) life.

the first year is the worst year: I can't speak for all residencies but I think getting acclimated to the rigor of the hours makes intern year the most difficult for both the resident and the spouse. After the first year, there's a better idea of what to expect during each rotation and I learned to set my expectations bar SUPER low during certain months to occasionally be pleasantly surprised. The interns are at the very bottom of the food chain and are learning a whole lot in a very small window of time. They tend to do a lot of the busier grunt work (so it seems) so second year seemed to be a little less of a grind for Simon as his autonomy and responsibilities changed for the better. 

holidays are hard: Unless you live near family and are able to travel to be with them ... odds are good that you'll spend a Christmas and Thanksgiving or two or three alone. The first Christmas Simon was working and Julia was throwing up and I was still in a bit of a postpartum haze after Sebastian so I think that set the bar pretty high for future and subsequent Christmases have been so much better. Simon's second year he was working a 24 on Thanksgiving and it was a beautiful day outside so I took my 32 (? I think) week pregnant self and the two older kids for a walk and saw countless families in our neighborhood walking into homes bearing casseroles and smiles and my baditude hit a real sour note. We tried to visit Simon who was busy (again, understandable! he was at work!) and I gained a huge appreciation for this past Thanksgiving when Simon was very much not at the hospital. 

expect no paternity leave: It's just not in the cards for most programs (although! I did hear something about some sort of mythical Psych program that gave three weeks of paternity leave .... say que?!) which is understandable but difficult when baby arrival times are unpredictable and you don't live near family. No one was able to come after Phoebe was born (although my wonderful friend Caitlin came a week later while Simon flew to an interview because she's an angel) and 7.5 months later I'm still feeling a little bit mentally fragile which is probably the most pathetic thing you've read all day, I know.

but having kids is totally doable: I would never discourage anyone from having kids during residency because having babies is always an adjustment and there's never a good or easy time to have them. The kids are mostly clueless that Simon is gone on some weekends and holidays and think it's totally normal that he sleeps "in his bedroom" at the hospital some nights and they LOVE visiting him. 

I think (?) most programs have pretty good health insurance so the cost is feasible and I would imagine after surviving the newborn phase during a tough rotation (hello night float!) ... any future newborn periods will feel relatively easy and breezy. 

it's not mission impossible: There will be some rotations with a light call schedule and decent exit times and you'll wonder why you ever thought residency was tough, you big baby!! And those months will save your sanity and keep you chugging along. It's tough for me to remember that eventually allllllll the med school loans WILL be paid off and that Simon will be able to take pager call on the weekends and there won't always be a month of nights looming in the near future. We've learned to really appreciate the weekends that Simon has off because they feel like such a luxury sometimes and I'm really thankful for that. 

it's important to be kind and gentle: with yourself and your spouse and remember that you're on the same team. It's easy to default to frustration with each other when there's snag in the schedule or weekends are anything but a breather in between rough weeks but it's not productive. It's perfectly acceptable to slip yourself straight into super survival mode on the more difficult months and turning your parenting blinders to level: HIGH so that you don't start comparing your survival tactics to other families who might be more on the thriving end of the spectrum for that particular season of life. 

it's a marathon, not a sprint: gross, I hate that phrase - I'm sorry! Julia was nine months old when Simon started his intern year and she'll be seven and a half when he is completely finished with his training. It's been vital for me to take it a rotation (four weeks) at a time. Yeah, yeah, "the days are long but the years are short!!" (I hate that saying even more) but the days can feel e-t-e-r-n-a-l and even though the years do pass at a relatively decent clip, it's not helpful to dwell on how many more night shifts you have to go because, it's just not (but 30 - I broke down and counted like the immature toddler that I am). 

it will all be worth it: Or so I've been told. Jury's still out. ;)

Reading this back - it makes it sound like I think I'm the one working the crazytown hours under lots of stress and little sleep. I don't! Simon is the true hero here and I know that. I think I get the lonelier side of things which is mostly my fault for not branching out more.

And also! I think the title is stupid because I think I had to experience all of these things to know and learn them for myself. It's like thinking if someone had (maybe they did!) sat you down and wagged their finger and outlined exactly how sleep deprived you would be post-baby ... it would actually prepare you for your new and enlightened fatigue but of course it wouldn't! I think every spouse would write something different (although I talked to a residency husband the other night who seemed to share a lot of my same thoughts and I appreciated the solidarity so much) so take this novella with a grain of iodized (or sea - if that's your poison).  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

chat with Bash

 photos taken by Mallorie Owens 
 with Simon's family over Thanksgiving

Illustrating what a fine parenting job we're doing on the biblical story fact front ...
Grace: What do you want to do today, Bash?
Bash: (taps mouth and furrows brow) hmmm
Bash: maybe, build an ark?
Grace: okay ...
Bash: yeah, let's build an ark like Jesus did

Watching me do my super frequent and favorite chore: vacuuming ...
Bash: hey!!
Grace: what?
Bash: only Daddy uses that!!!

The battle hymn of one entire morning ...
Grace: okay, it's time to cut your hair
Bash: no thanks
a little bit later
Grace: okay, let's cut your hair now
Bash: no, not today
a little bit later
Grace: let's just get your haircut done real fast
Bash: no, it makes my tummy hurt
and a little bit later
Grace: okay, let's get you ready for your nap
Bash: oh, you want to cut my hair now? 

Showing off his refined and mature sense of humor ...
Grace: what sounds good for lunch?
Bash: (cackle) how about a peanut butter and dammit sandwich?
Grace: what else sounds good?
Bash: (sigh) fine, I'll just have peanut butter and poop toast

The other morning while I was still in bed and very much asleep ...
Bash: excuse me Mommy
Grace: (sleeping)
Bash: hello Mommy
Grace:  (sleeping)
Bash: hi Mommy
Grace: (fake sleeping)
Bash: excuse me Mommy
Grace: (fake sleeping)
Bash: hello Mommy
Grace: (fake sleeping)
Bash: Mommy?
Grace: (opens one eye)
Bash: Oh!!! You're awake!!

Trying to shamelessly copycat Julia's incessant requests for bathroom "privacy" but missing the exact word mark just slightly ...
Bash: ahhh!!! need to go to the bathroom!!
Grace: okay, let's go!
in bathroom
Bash: excuse me Mommy, can you please close the door and give me some private parts?
Grace: sure, no problem

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

houseguests extraordinaire

Not to be confused with "housepests extraordinaire" which is what we've got going on in our kitchen at the moment. I'm hoping it's just a housepest {singular} because if there is more than one mouse frolicking behind the oven at all hours of the night ... well, I'll do nothing but I won't like it. I've named the one I do see on the regular Keller (as in Helen) because s/he (gender not determined, fortunately) does NOT give a diaper bomb if there are humans large or small present when s/he runs out and about on the open (oven) range or kitchen floor or even sometimes Patton feet. Shiver. I hate mice but at this point, I'm almost not fazed, "would like you like a lick of peanut butter, Keller? Theo left 8/9ths of a sandwich on the floor over there if you're hungry." As soon as Simon has a second off of work ... he'll get on the nighttime inhumane trap situation, don't worry ... worriers.

A tangent before the post has even begun. They don't call me Wild Patton for nothing.

And now ... the main course.


If on the VERY off chance you've ever thought to yourself, "I bet those Pattons would make fun friends!" ... please know that you are so very wrong.

The wrongest. You couldn't be more wrong. We lame.

Over Thanksgiving we made the drive over to Wichita to see Simon's family where his sister, Mary and brother-in-law Andrew graciously (too graciously, they would soon find out!!) let us stay at their house. They have a wonderful dog named Chevy that Sebastian adores and has grand plans to petnap one of these trips. I'm 110% certain that if we gave him the choice, "you can either have Chevy or Mom in your life ... " he would absolutely choose the non-human over the human that carried him in her person for nine short months. Make that 120%.

A few days before we depart for family trips - the great laundry catch-up of the century has to go down and then the traditional "Grace voices her concern and slight trepidation and mild anxiety at the thought of packing the family up for a trip" to which Simon does his old half laugh slash half eye roll because ... how hard can it be?! Well, considering that we travel with four sound machines and an extra pair of pants per day per child in case of worst case scenario (which will happen!) I haven't quite mastered the art of "packing easy breezy light AND easy!!" and I probably never will ... it's semi-difficult. But we are always happy to do it and know that everything will be unpacked and back where it belongs by Easter. So, know that when we descended on their house it was more like six pack mules plus a minivan arriving than six humans with a few overnight bags.

three of Julia's nine bags ... of trinkets. Or tiny shit.

But let's get down to the fun stuff ...

fun number one: The day before we arrived on the scene, Mary and Andrew had new basement carpet installed. You already see where this is going, right? Simon probably said 88 times on the drive over how careful we'd have to be with the kids and their tendency to make mess murals on every surface they touch and I agreed. And so ... when we arrived and joined in on a little happy hour and aperitif fun ... sitting on the freshly carpeted basement floor while we all watched the kids play ... you'll imagine my shock and horror when it was my glass of wine that Sebastian accidentally knocked out of my hand and onto the brand new floor canvas. Luckily, the carpet is beige and I only drink sweet white wine because I'll forever be 17 at heart but still ... less than one hour and in and we were on a roll.

fun number two: I'll admit that aside from Phoebe, my kids are not the easy going "will eat anything!" types. At all. Luckily, they'll go for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (no jelly for Julia!) in a pinch which is exactly what sweet Mary made up for a hungry would-not-touch-the-delicious-spread-of-appetizers Julia on the first night. Of course, Julia inspected the foreign bread and declared that she did not like "seeds" because it was a slightly different variety of the bread we buy. If you need my eyes they'll be occupied and rolled up to the heavens for many weeks to come. The funnest.

fun number three: Of course the trip wouldn't be complete without a little bodily fluid spill. I won't name names here to protect the guilty but surprise, surprise - after going to bed hours after their usual retiring hour and gleefully skipping naps ... a certain Patton child crashed hard on the couch on Friday night. Patton children do not tend to just sleep anywhere so I let said child be until we all went to bed when I discovered that the child had wet the couch. Cue panic and humiliation. We did the whole baking soda/vacuum thing but the evidence a la smell remained so we went on a fruitless hunt to find a dry cleaner that would do same day couch cushion cleanings but, nope. We left money for their trouble along with promises that kids aren't all urine and hassles. Really.

they can be biceps and triceps too.

fun number four: And finally the finale ends at 2:30 in the am when the ONE child that can always always always be counted on to sleep through the night (Sebastian) woke up in a crying panic and woke Mary and Andrew before I came to my senses even though I'm the lightest sleeper on the planet. Uncle Andrew kindly gave Sebastian some water in a glass to try to calm him down and Sebastian thanked him by dropping and breaking the glass all over the kitchen floor. So by the time I woke up I found them out with the vacuum searching for any last shards of sharp with a still-crying Sebastian. Vigilant Parents Be Us.

Sending the kids off on a very cold walk with our selfless hosts while we enjoyed the warmth and quiet of the indoors. Yes, I only packed a blazer for Sebastian because the forecast SAID sixty degrees. It lied. Hard.

And honorable mentions go to feeding Chevy forty four times the recommended amount of human food that dogs should eat in a day ... every day we were there. Our clothes/shoes slowly but very surely taking over and clogging the hallway into a massive tripping hazard. And playing ten too many rounds of pull Chevy's nub of a tail before he runs and hides from Theo, forever and ever. Amen.

I selfishly wrote this post because I'm hoping someone can top it. "There, there Grace, my daughter burned my aunt's house down the ground!!" or maybe, "oh, my little rascal actually killed my brother's brand new puppy!!" ... you know, something along those lines would be a nice balm for my soul that will ne'er see the likes of travel with children again.

Thanks in advance.