Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas baking

I can't quite figure out why there are no cookies in my house. I've done more than my usual holiday baking over the past couple of weeks, and there isn't so much as a crumb to be found.

I'm on a ginger kick these days and my baking reflects that. So far this season, I've made white chocolate gingerbread blondies and chocolate chunk sour cherry cookies. (Long gone!) Alison and I did our traditional baking for care packages: sugar cookies, chocolate ginger cookies and cranberry shortbread. The cookies that remained after I mailed our packages were gone in a day or two and we've been left with a serious Christmas cookie shortage for the past week. To compensate, I made chocolate dipped gingerbread men (are you getting the pattern here?) for a parish meeting earlier this week ... but those were gone by Day Two as well. Now I'm contemplating some more baking this afternoon ... I have another ball of gingerbread dough in my fridge, but at the same time, I'm wondering what untried ginger recipes could possibly be left in my cookie cookbook.

I need some inspiration. What kinds of cookies are you enjoying right now? And no pine nuts, please. :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008


For Sam's sake, I'm hoping he cuts a couple of teeth sooner rather than later. I can't wait to introduce him to foods other than rice cereal and pureed prunes. The kid's going to go nuts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All for you, Matt!

Sam recently got a new bathtub. He loves it!

Needless to say, there will be bath toys for Christmas. Oh, will there ever.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The thrill of victory

Lately, I've had a few triumphs, large and small:

1. Today I got my eyebrows waxed while sitting up, with my kid still strapped into his Ergo carrier. Begone, frumpy mom-ness!
2. Last week, I interviewed at Stanford for a spot in their internal medicine residency program, and it went very well. In terms of its philosophy, the program is a perfect match for me and my interview day deepened my already deep sense that Stanford is my intellectual home. I've been here so long, I almost feel as though the institution has remade me in its image. I fit here, and it's a lovely, comfortable feeling.
3. I mailed my last Christmas card yesterday.

I'll leave you to discern which triumphs are the large ones.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Girly man

Why does everyone think my baby son is a girl?

Today, Sam and I went to Target and as we were leaving the store, we stopped to talk with the Salvation Army volunteer collecting Christmas donations. She referred to Sam again and again using female pronouns and I didn't bother to correct her. For what it's worth, he was wearing denim overalls, a shirt covered in little cartoon bugs and a navy blue hoodie. Gender-neutral, maybe ... but hardly girly. Then, as we walked to our car, a woman walking the opposite direction caught his eye and said, "Que linda!"


This happens all too often and I think it's strange. My feeling is, sure, it's hard to tell if a baby is a boy or a girl. If the clothes don't offer sufficient clue, ask. But geez, when my kid is dressed in head to toe blue, don't say she-she-she! My favorite of these conversations happened at a Starbucks in Oregon. I had Sam perched in his Baby Bjorn and I was chatting up a stranger as we waited for our drinks. It went like this:

Her: *she-she-she*
Me: *he-he-he*

... repeat and repeat ...

Her: Wait ... is your baby a boy? Are you sure?

For anyone else wondering: yep. I'm sure. Short of karyotyping my kid, I'm sure.

Here are a couple of recent pictures. Does he look like a girl?

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I ordered Christmas cards.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Express mail

Yesterday, I received a shock. I got a Christmas card.

On December 2.


The card was from a dear high school friend and displayed a lovely picture of her family. Coordinated outfits. Everyone smiling, all at once. In a word: impressive. Also: unsettling. I am just never going to be that woman who sends Christmas cards in November. Never ever EVER.

Am I OK with that? I'm not sure.

The funny part about all of this is that yesterday was also the day I decided not to send Christmas cards at all this year. I figure, it would cost somewhere around $100 (50 cards and stamps) and take a couple of (pleasant, latte-fueled) evenings to write personal notes in each card and address them. In years past, I've used Christmas cards as a way to stay somewhat familiar with out of town family and friends, old bosses and coworkers. I was hashing and rehashing all of this with my husband last night. His take: Does my old boss reeeaaaally care if he gets our Christmas card? (Probably, no.) And wouldn't I rather spend that cash on something else -- like a massage? (Definitely, yes.)

OK, so he didn't actually suggest I blow our Christmas card budget at my fave day spa. But still, the guy has a point. The truth is, the people with whom I most want to stay connected ... I already do. And the folks I only think of at Christmas? Maybe it's time to let them go.

Which brings us to the present. I'm having a full-blown personal crisis over the Christmas card issue. Not because I'm mourning the loss of a beloved holiday tradition and not because I think my old boss will be hurt (or even -- who are we kidding? -- notice) when he doesn't get my Christmas well-wishes. But because I've bought into the idea that homemaking is a competitive sport, and I fall further and further behind every day. Holiday preparations are a race and a contest and my friend -- who I am certain intended only to spread holiday cheer and not to make me doubt my very womanhood -- has qualified for the Boston Marathon of Christmas.

Which, I admit, is small-minded and counter-productive. Not to mention, crazy.

Part of me is ready to chuck the Christmas cards into the same heap where I already offloaded homemade baby food and cleaning my own bathroom. This year, I'd like to focus my Christmas energy on what matters most to me: co-chairing the Adopt a Family drive at my parish, sending holiday goodies to the trio of lonely, elderly ladies in my life, helping the Sunday School kids get ready for their pageant. I'd like to go to more concerts and more church services. And I maybe I should get that Christmas massage.

But part of me is simultaneously thinking ... I could order the cards tonight ... they'd be here next week ... two day turn around, three max ...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Surprise, surprise

Despite the fact that its advent couldn't have been less of a surprise -- that's what happens, I suppose, when you're infertile and conceive only on monster doses of recombinant gonadotropins followed by in vitro fertilization, then go on to have what I can only describe as an intensely monitored pregnancy -- motherhood itself has consisted of one revelation after another for me. Ever since Sam was born, I feel continually surprised. Something new and unexpected, just about every day. Almost all of the surprises are wonderful. I never would have guessed how fun it is to take a baby for a walk or to the park. I didn't expect my infant son to be such terrific company. I didn't know how immediately and thoroughly my friends and parish family would embrace my baby, how sincerely they would delight in him. And my husband has bowled me over with his skill, patience, instinct and love -- he is an even more wonderful father than I dreamed he would be.

But the biggest surprise for me has been my own response to motherhood. Specifically, I expected to be torn apart by guilt when I returned to work. I expected to agonize. I anticipated crying jags, threats to quit, despair.

Didn't happen. At all.

Instead -- shockingly -- I don't have any guilt about working whatsoever. It's so clear to me: my working is what's best for my family. And -- more shocking -- my passion for the practice of medicine and my pride and optimism about becoming a doctor has only expanded and deepened. Not a small part of me is actually looking forward to residency. I can't wait to introduce myself to my future patients as a physician rather than as a medical student.


Another thing I didn't fully anticipate: being a working mother ain't easy.

Sam is sick today; I think he probably has an ear infection given his spiking fevers in the absence of an obvious source, although since I cheaped out a couple of years ago and declined to purchase the otoscope my medical school recommended, I can't actually confirm this diagnosis. Both Brian and I had important and full days planned for today, so a sick kid presented a real challenge. There was very, very little sleep in our house last night and today was a logistical maze that resulted in me sprinting through the halls of our university hospital twice, once with a sick baby strapped to my person. I'm sure I looked like a lunatic, shuffling frantically along, carrying two large bags (diapers, a half curdled bottle of breastmilk, the results of my logistic regression all stirred together) and singing to my son to keep him (and me) from crying. No doubt: working motherhood at its worst.

On the other hand, somewhere between the two sprints, I sat between two senior and accomplised researchers, calmly and competently leading them through my recent analyses. Quiet murmurs of agreement, surprise, interest. Smart questions. Plenty to think about as I begin to draft our manuscript this week. More important, these men support me as a colleague. We plan to undertake a small interventional study on the basis of my new results, the kind of study that might provide pilot data for a larger grant. Needless to say, I am ridiculously excited about this possibility. Walking out of our meeting, my boss grinned at me. "You won!" he said. "Now go home and take care of that sick baby."

Working motherhood at its best.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Catch up

Sam and I are home from our whirlwind trip to Boston. We had a wonderful time! We stayed with my college roommate, Rachel, and her husband, Eric. We were joined by my other college roommate, Teena, and her finance, Matt. In the space of two days, we celebrated Rachel's pregnancy and Teena and Matt's engagement. We shopped, cooked, took walks, hosted parties, and caught up on the happenings, big and small, in each other's lives. Weddings and babies are blessings under just about any circumstances, but this wedding and this baby could not be happening to lovlier people. I'm so happy for them!

In other news, yesterday was my first residency interview. I interviewed for a categorical spot in the internal medicine program at our county hospital. Definitely my lowest pressure interview ... the only non-academic program I have on my list. Despite that, the program impressed me. The people are smart and kind, the call schedule is sane and -- I hadn't considered this until yesterday -- the patient population is almost ideal for residency training. At a tertiary referral center like Stanford, most patients arrive at the hospital with a diagnosis. There's plenty of learning in caring for these patients, to be sure, but there often isn't much diagnostic mystery. At the county hospital, on the other hand, patients mostly come from vulnerable, underserved groups: immigrants, refugees, homeless, the poor. These folks have limited interaction with the health care system before getting sick and as a resident, I'd be the one puzzling out the diagnosis. And, on a personal level, I think I'd really enjoy caring for them. I wasn't strongly considering this program before yesterday, but my interview may have changed my mind. I could remain involved in the research I'm currently doing while receiving excellent clinical training AND sleep in my own bed seven out of eight nights during internship. Not bad at all.

I'll post pictures from my trip to Boston when I have a chance.

PS. Just for my own accountability: mama-mojo makeover is in progress and going very well:

1. Haircut
2. Brow wax and pedicure
3. Better skin care
4. New glasses
5. New make-up
6. A pretty new dress

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In which my life is awesome

I learned yesterday that UCSF offers part-time residencies for parents. I am so excited about this, I feel a little giddy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Defining success as a mother

Lately I've been thinking about how I'll know, someday when my son is grown and gone, if I was a good mother to him.

I spend my mornings these days doing epidemiological research in geriatric nephrology, which is a fancy way to say that I mess around with huge data sets, trying to coax out new stories about the way kidney disease plays out in the lives of elder Americans. So I do medical research, basically. One of the first things you learn as a medical researcher is that you must be very explicit about outcomes and endpoints. You must be clear, from the begining, about how you're going to measure whatever it is you're going to measure.

So I'm trying, as a thought experiment, to apply the same concept to my mothering.

As a matter of belief -- because I don't have any proof; the idea is controversial on both sides -- I happen to think that parenting has a negligible effect on intellectual development. I don't think there's much parents can do to make kids smarter. I think, chances are, my kid is probably pretty smart. Chances are, he's about as smart as Brian and I are: smart enough to have plenty of choices and opportunities in this life, but likely not a rare genius. And short of locking Sam in a closet for the next 18 years, he's going to be about the same smart. No amount of Baby Einstein, Kumon, oboe practice, flashcards, or whatever other enrichment nonsense is going to transform him into a genius. (I do think parenting affects fund of knowledge, of course. My choices will help my kid learn more stuff. So we're planning to send him to private school and we'll probably do some part-time homeschooling. Because, hey, knowing more stuff is useful. But knowing stuff and being smart aren't the same thing at all.)

But I do think that parenting can affect character development. So that's where I'm going to focus my attention as a mother, on forming my kid's character. I'm making a list of the ways I hope to shape his character. It's a work in progress.

1. Kind. I can't stand mean. If Sam isn't kind, I failed. It's that simple.
2. Disciplined. It's critical that my kid can do stuff he hates, delay gratification, work hard, save money, etc.
3. Humble.
4. Generous. My husband has a tendency to be stingy and I don't like it.
5. Manly. This one is tricky for me, because as a woman, I have only an indirect appreciation of manly virtue. But I know it when I see it, and when I see it, I like it. The heart of masculine virtue, in my opinion, is strength and courage coupled with a sense of duty to protect the weak. There is also an "uncomplainingness" about men that I so admire, a willingness to do the hard job and take the hit and get up tomorrow and do the whole thing over again in service of those they l0ve.

So that's my list. Harvard, Schmarvard. If adult-Sam is kind, disciplined, humble, generous and manly, I've succeeded. I'd love to hear how other mothers are thinking about this issue. What do you hope to teach your kids? How will you know that you've been a good mother?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

First Halloween

Earlier this week, Sam helped Brian carve our pumpkins.

Despite this seeming endorsement of all things Halloween, he was decidedly unenthusiastic when we put his costume on last night.

Eventually, he perked up.

We spent Halloween with some friends after all. (I really hope they don't catch Sam's cold.) They made the most amazing lamb for dinner. Definitely going to add this to my recipe box.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Least worst

I'm crabby today. My kid is mildly sick -- just a runny nose, just sick enough to keep him home from day care, keep me home from work and keep us both completely crabby. And we canceled our Halloween plans in order to prevent spreading the baby germs to our friends' toddler son. And it's raining. And Brian took our shared car to his consulting gig.


In order to cheer myself up, here's a list of 10 things I don't completely hate:

1. My new trench coat. Whereas I usually look like a rumpled and disheveled mother when Sam and I take our morning walk to Starbucks, today I looked like a rumpled and disheveled mother with a snazzy trench coat on. Vast improvement.
2. My housekeeper. She came yesterday, so today I may be trapped inside, but at least it's clean in here.
3. Baby saline nose drops. Utterly ineffectual, but they give me the illusion of doing something to help my son's stuffy nose.
4. My ridiculously flexible work schedule and absurdly supportive boss. Enough said.
5. The Grocery List Generator from Mozilla. Just discovered it this morning. Neat-o.
6. I'm having fun playing around with different photo Christmas cards. (Aside: what is it about becoming a parent that makes you suddenly want to send photo Christms cards?)
7. Martha Stewart's cookie cookbook. I think I'll make some of those chocolate chunk gingerbread cookies this afternoon. Cheeriness increasing all around.
8. Daydreaming about how wonderful it's going to be to have my parents, my in-laws, my sister, my brothers and my brother's girlfriend gathered in my home for Thanksgiving. Magic.
9. Lentil soup and crusty bread for dinner. (Maybe a rainy fall day is good for something after all.)
10. Ombligo. Probably the only face that can reliably make Sam smile, even when he's sick. God save us if anything were to happen to him.

Feeling better already. :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mama mojo

As much as I am loving being Sam's mother, there are certain aspects to my new life that leave a little to be desired. The one that's bugging me most right at this moment is the very limited time I have (make? take?) to maintain my appearance. I haven't had a haircut in six months. I haven't waxed my eyebrows in nearly that long. No pedicure since the beginning of the summer. And my chronic lack of sleep is really messing with my skin. Not to mention: I have been to the gym exactly twice since Sam was born and I still have seven or eight pounds to lose.

Not a pretty picture.

To be fair, this slow slide into frumpery started long before Sam was born. During my third year of medical school, the busiest year, I neglected my workouts and my eyebrows. And my wardrobe has been in an ever-increasing state of paucity and disrepair for years. So really, Sam's arrival has only exacerbated an already disturbing trend.

Well, I've had enough. I can't diet right now because I'm breastfeeding. But the other stuff can and will be addressed. Here are my beauty resolutions:

1. Haircut. Not a trim. A cut with real style. Something that requires blowdrying.
2. Brow wax and pedicure. Bring Sam along if I have to.
3. Change up my skin care routine. It's time to starting using a richer eye cream and a better daily moisurizer. I'm not 18 anymore.
4. New hip-er glasses. Actually hip would probably give me whiplash, but I can go for hip-er.
5. Department store "make-over" and splurge on at least one new make-up item.
6. A pretty new dress ... not for special occassions. Something I can actually wear.

I'll report back on my progress.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Park on Park

Last night we took Sam to one of the several parks within walking distance of our apartment. This park is down the street from the house where I lived during the summer after my junior year of college. I have such fond memories of the place. And the park itself was just recently "remodeled" ... so the play equipment is all new and there are always plenty of other children and parents buzzing around. I think we'll spend a good amount of time there in the coming months.

Best of all, the light was just gorgeous last night, so Brian was able to get some really lovely pictures.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flu shot

Every few months for the past several years, I catch the real estate bug the same way people catch the flu. For a few days, I'm under the weather: endlessly checking and ... plugging numbers into online mortgage calculators ... updating and revising my various spreadsheets, all of which -- inevitably and definitively -- tell me the same thing: we can't afford to buy a house.

I caught my most recent bug when I saw a headline in the San Jose Mercury News: prices in some Bay Area towns and neighborhoods are down 20-30%. For the first time, it appears we may actually be able to afford a place of our own. Of course, we'll need to wait until after the Match and after Brian graduates and is gainfully employed. Even then, it may be difficult to quality for a mortgage, given the current credit crisis. And who knows if the dip in local prices will last into the spring. It's anyone's guess.

But ... maybe ... maybe we could buy something. And that's enough to keep me logged in to movoto and spinning my spreadsheets. We would almost certainly have to buy a fixer-upper, in a neighborhood that oculd only be described (generously) as up-and-coming.

For example, check out these pictures of places in our price range:

Who takes pictures like this when listing their home for sale? Seriously? You couldn't move the tub of clothes off the bed?

This last one is the best. Just looking at it makes me laugh.

What you can't see from these delightful picitures is that the house is in a terrible school district. But at least the Mexican food is great. And I'm wondering if maybe that isn't enough. A place of our own, and great Mexican food. Sounds pretty good to me.

My family

Because my blog is looking a little sparse and lonely, here's a picture of what I love most in this world: my husband and baby son.

Anyone out there?

I'm going to give this blogging thing a try.

By way of introduction, I'm a 29 year old wife and the mother of one wee boy. I'm also a medical student in my last year, applying to residency programs in internal medicine this fall. I'm hopeful that blogging will be a way for me to record my progress through the residency application process and will help me make the most thoughtful decisions possible when I create my rank list. I also want to provide encouragement and commeriseration for other medical mamas out there. And I never shy away from yet another venue to post pictures of my adorable son.

So, here we go!