Archive | August, 2013

i should go to class more often

30 Aug

As I sat in the first seminar of Medical Humanities, one of the bioethics classes I’m taking this semester, John and Ari were not missing me at all:


Each on our respective adventures: them trying out the new backpack around the arboretum; me discussing the evolution of the male midwife.  Win-win.



light in august

29 Aug

I’m a UVA grad, so I have to have a soft spot for Professor William Faulkner.  (In Sanctuary, he writes that at the university in Virginia, he “learned to drink like a gentleman”–wahoo-wah!)  But it’s been years since he’s been brought up in conversations.  Last week, Kristen was visiting.  She’s a high school English teacher who thinks often and long about the impact of certain texts on her students.  It just felt like a little extra literature and culture was infused in everything we did, from strolling Olde City, to trudging through the local arboretum.

Faulkner was all set to publish the book Twilight, the title of which I believe he had also considered for what is The Sound and the Fury.  (Apparently, that time of day fascinated Faulkner, as it was a moment of tension as light slips into darkness.)  But one evening, he was sitting on the porch with his beloved Estelle, and she said casually, “Don’t you just love the light in August?”  Stop the presses.

I thought about this supposed interaction several times in the last week, as the sticky purple August evenings hang over us.  I think we’ve gotten to appreciate this month so much more than most years, as taking a break from school and having an infant slows down the pace of things.

I’m a part-time student of bioethics this semester, and my first class is tonight.  John caught himself ask me, “So, am I babysitting–uh!  Parenting?”  My love, my considerate as hell, progressive partner…we’re fighting the slowly changing societal norms.

Pictures from the last week:

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i want to go to there

28 Aug

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I recently learned that 30 Rock ‘s Liz Lemon’s catch phrase “I want to go to there” was swiped from Tina Fey’s young daughter Alice (maybe everyone already knew?).  And I keep watching Ari–that must be exactly what she’s thinking.  Oh my goodness, it’s going to be ridiculous when she can communicate with words and phrases!  And we’ll be in so much trouble.


Look at how excited she is about a stick!


Tired of pictures yet?  You’ll let me know?



in the interest of full disclosure…

26 Aug

We’ll start and end with the good stuff:


My daughter has perfected that double hand wave.  It’s pretty adorable.  And she has had plenty of opportunity for practice this week as we’ve welcomed a number of old, kitchen floor friends into our home: first yaya Liz and grande-yaya Mary Ann, then Aunt Kristen, and finally Aunt Jen this weekend.


This week was a good one for visitors, as I received my step 1 score.  Not as hoped (but I passed).  I cried.  I kicked the shit out of dead lifts at crossfit.  I ate chocolate.  I am now ready to strategize.  My score reflects competence, and I hope that the hard work and dedication I will put forth for the remainder of my med school track will help direct me into a fulfilling next step in my training.  But it was especially good to be surrounded by girlfriends (and my main squeezes) to soften the disappointment this week.  As John reminded me, things have a habit of working out for our family…

And more good stuff: Ari is pulling up to standing with more confidence.  It’s a pleasure and a privilege to see the delight she derives from these new skills.


All pictures taken by the very talented Julie.  Hope it’s okay that I’m including these pictures in fits and spurts–there are just too many that we love for just one blog entry!

breastfeeding for the win!

21 Aug

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It just got me out of jury duty.  Dude!



to a head (literally)

19 Aug

Last Friday, 10 days ago, we returned after a glorious week of wedding + beaching culminating in a not so glorious shriek-filled car ride home, and we promptly put our girl down in her own crib.  Nearly three hours later, concerned she wouldn’t sleep at night, we decided to wake her up.  Ari was sweet but so hot to touch, and her cheeks looked like they could light the way in a moonless night.  Over the weekend, as long as we kept her fever in check, she did okay…different, certainly not always pleasant, with feeding and sleeping effected, but okay.  And we started to wait.

By day seven of a moderate fever, we had her pediatrician examine her.  Everything looked well, except for the fever and mild changes in behavior resulting, so he agreed to let us wait it out for a few more days sans antibiotics before considering further interventions.  I still shutter at the idea of catheterizing her to see if she has a urinary tract infection.  (I actually remember having to be cathed myself when I was three–it was traumatic and, though I know at 10 months she wouldn’t remember, I dearly wanted to avoid it.)

Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-004Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-486Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-494(photos above taken by Julie at the end of our session last week, as Ari was starting to melt down…a prelude to the coming weeks)

So we kept at it, each of us getting progressively more sleep-deprived each day, since fevers have a habit of waking up lil’uns abruptly and often in the middle of the night.  We made it to Virginia for one of my closest friends’ wedding this weekend.  Wanting to scape up as much time as possible at the friend-filled toast and roast on Friday, John and I alternated bouncing Ari around in her carrier.  Concerned her squawking might interrupt a tender moment of a toast, I impatiently paced the hallway outside the banquet room, Ari strapped to my back.  As she seemed to be getting close to sleep, I decided to rotate her to the front of my body.  As a slipped one of the straps off my left shoulder, I felt her body weight shift oddly and suddenly fall away.

I heard the most unnerving, muffled but abrupt thwack (it was reminiscent of the sound a medicine ball makes at the gym when its exhausted user lets it drop to ground) before I turned to see her head below her body, against the thinly carpeted hallway floor.  Her mouth twisted in anguish, her face turned beet red, and there was a second of confused silence before Ari let out a deafening cry.  How awful it must have been to be so close to sleep only to be so cruelly and painfully woken up.  I immediately scooped her up, crying myself, and held her close, which did very little to console her.  I felt such an intense conflict of thought: logically, even in the moment, I knew she was fine (immediate crying, no confusion or loss of consciousness, no vomiting, etc.); but then oh-my-god-oh-my-god I broke my daughter!

My friend Ted, standing in the doorway to the banquet room, saw me, and I sobbed, “Please get John.”  And John was perfect. He gingerly yet firmly took Ari from my arms, we walked outside, he started to distract her while feeling her scalp for bumps, all the while answering my stuttering questions I knew were absurd but I just had to get out: Is there any chance she broke her neck?  No, babies are flexible–I’ve seen babies fall from two stories and not have neck damage (please don’t test it!).  What about a skull fracture?  No, and she didn’t fall much further than her standing height, so wouldn’t that be a horrible trick of nature.  OH god, could she have an intracranial bleed?  She’s already looking better, acting herself, no vomiting.  Is she aways going to hate me?  I asked this question as Ari started reaching for me…  (Only later, with Ari safely sleeping in her peapod and her parents sipping a malbec, John sighed, “Shit, that was scary.”  Love that he has feelings!)

Still, I was freaked and, after having calmed down, I restarted my snotty sobfest several times when I recounted the event while saying goodbyes and gathering up things.  And, of course, Ari’s fever raged on, her face got stuck in a crevice of her pod, and we had another bad night.  I was so lucky that my friend, despite being the queen of spreadsheets and the organizer of all things, was the most tolerate/loving/chill bride-to-be on the planet and supported my emotional roller coaster bullshit, which is just not cool to whip out on someone else’s wedding day.  Ever.  After leaving Ari in the comforting and capable arms of Vovi, I experienced a few more bouts of sobbing with flashbacks to when I heard the thwack of her head against the ground, but arrived at the salon heart full and happy to celebrate Erica and Dan’s marriage.  I was doing better, really.

And then I forgot my special underwear.  No, this is actually as ridiculous as it sounds.  I forgot the underwear I planned to wear: the uber comfy, no-line, tummy-tucking lucky spanx that I wore at my own wedding.  And while I recognize that this is counter to any measure of feminist pride and acceptance of one’s own body, dammit I wanted my spanx to make me feel better about myself!  There wasn’t a good solution to this problem, since I lacked time to go back or go shopping without missing something like watching Erica slip on her wedding dress.  So instead I cried.

Hmmm, I need to paint this picture.  I didn’t just cry.  I ugly cried.  Sitting on the floor of Erica’s hotel room while the other bridesmaids gathered, a breast pump suctioned to my breasts, and the rhythmic wompa-wompa accompanying my sniffles.  And in my head I heard the thwack of my baby’s head hit the ground on repeat.  And I thought, Oh God, what if her fever doesn’t break and she needs to get cathed this week–I can’t do that to her, and I won’t be able to hold her body down.  And I didn’t even have my lucky, make-me-feel-better-about-my-body underwear.  And what if I failed the boards?!?!?!

Clearly this emotional riptide was something I just needed to roll with for the moment.  Again, logically I knew I was completely absurd, but I could not. stop. crying.  I think for a moment I even forgot why I was crying.  In response to the underwear dilemma, John (on the phone) suggested, “Why don’t you just freebuff it?”   To which I snapped, “Have you forgotten how I leak?”

It’s amazing the wonders of a splash of cold water to the face, some carefully applied de-splotching make-up, a strong mimosa, and girlfriends who love you and think your hysterics are adorable rather than repulsive.  The wedding was magnificent, the celebration epic.  If substances impede our memory, we’ll always have the photo booth.

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Ari’s fever finally broke yesterday (day 10), her energy is up, her eyes mischievous.   There continues to be no discernable bump on her head, although we did accidentally run it into some hanging apparatus at the local stop-n-go.  We lack evidence of any love lost between us, and she remains appreciative of Aunt Erica and Uncle Dan for getting hitched and bringing together such a wonderful assortment of characters.


sneak peak

12 Aug

Since John and I started our family, we knew we wanted to rope Julie, our incredibly talented and kind wedding photographer, into helping us document it when possible/feasible/practical.  I didn’t entirely anticipate it, but I developed a cherished friendship with both Julie and Meg (who was kind enough to photograph a boudoir session when we lived in Boston).  I think the best photographers must also have the best EQs; they know people, and they are somehow able to capture their essence on camera.

Earlier this summer, John lamented that we only had a few pictures of the three of us.  And so we finally got on it, and we were very lucky that Julie was available to squeeze us in for a family photo shoot a week ago while we were in Virginia.  We are eager to share more soon, but for now, a shot that makes my heart melt:


And a few taken on my phone with the legend herself:

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the other side (& suggestions for step 1)

11 Aug

Step 1 of the boards, it happened.  Early last week.  And, in typical, John and Anna fashion, we thought SO much would get done since (house clean-up, stack of papers waiting to get finished, catching up with old friends)…our hopes are always so much bigger than realistic possibility.  Now When I finally started writing this post, we were at the beach with some of our oldest heart friends, having just celebrated the marriage between Liz and Zach (more soon!), and I cannot believe we’re already in the middle August.

I wanted to dedicate at least one post to this bitch of a test I just completed.  If you google something along the lines of “step 1 advice,” you will find a string of blogs written by students who would be heart-broken to not break 260 (for those not in medicine, that’s like top 99.9th-percentile), and several written by others praying to scratch 190 (barely passing).  As one might assume, the study schedule/tips for both is overwhelming and intimidating.  To my understanding, I am in neither camp.

In the six weeks that I studied for this exam, I learned a lot.  Probably 30% of what I learned was either interesting (I had no idea of some of the inheritance patterns of Downs syndrome [germline mosaicism]) or helpful (relearning the contraindications of statin therapy in a patient with high cholesterol), at least 65-70% was not (do I really need to know the three different multisyllabic names for each enzyme in the heme synthesis pathway?  will I ever even see a patient with porphyria?).  Some days I studied effectively/productively, most I did not.  While many of my classmates secured 8-14 hours of good studying in daily, I probably averaged around 6–life (and shit) happens.  All this is to say, if you want advice on how to crush the boards, this blog should probably not be your only resource.

If you would like some suggestions on how to not lose your mind in the process (though I can’t promise there won’t be temporary lapses in sanity), here are the three suggestions I received from friends and family that I found benefited me the most:

  1. My friend and classmate Alex provided the following: Bring a two burritos.  It’s a day-long test.  In between sections you’ll feel a little beaten down–but then there’s a burrito waiting for you in your locker!  Unfortunately, I can’t eat gluten, but I did stock my locker with probably 3,000 calories worth of gluten-free goodies.  I remember during the MCAT not having the stomach to touch any of the food I brought.  But the first of seven sections of step 1 left me feeling like I had sustained a dementor’s kiss, and having both a GF brownie and a stash of chocolate available helped me find happiness.  (If Remus Lupin’s advice is ever wrong, I don’t want to be right.)
  2. From John: You can’t go in scared; go in ready to destroy!  I took the SAT twice, the GRE once, and the MCAT three times.  I taught several MCAT prep courses and tutored many other students privately.  So I believe I can speak with some authority: while you have to know your shit to do well on these tests, you also have to be confident.  There is absolutely a psychological component to performing well on standardized tests.  I can’t say that I ever felt 100% confident, so I recruited loved ones to help out.  Nothing gets me more pumped than a last minute text message from John: “I love you, I believe in you, you worked hard.  Be proud, be confident.  Nom, nom, NOM!!!!!”
  3. From me (substantiated by Emilia, Ellen, and Ari [med student, not daughter–though I’m sure she’ll agree]): Once you start the test, do not go back and check your notes.  Do not think about looking up answers after leaving the testing center.  Focus your mind instead on how you’re going to celebrate the marathon completed.  When I took the MCAT for a third time, I almost canceled my score.  The only reason I didn’t was because I had planned a huge party in celebration following.  It feels like the entire month of August is my celebration, filled with weddings and beaches and excursions.  But I also had some very specific occasions that recognized what I had just completed.  When I got home, John and Ari had some of my favorite flowers waiting for me, and John had chilled a bottle of champagne we had brought back from Israel.  We ate steaks and I later vegged watching Gilmore Girls reruns–it was glorious! photo (43) photo (42)And this week, Ellen, Christina, and I toasted whiskey smashes and respective drinks at Hop Sing Laundromat.  It felt so luxurious hiring a babysitter, slipping on a dress that was not nursing-friendly, taking a train into the city, and getting tipsy with girlfriends.  Some variation of the above should be a post-step 1 mandate.1119947_10100856324829977_867818548_oAnd now we’ve drastically reduced Ari’s daycare hours, to allow for a lot more of the following (cuddling, and coffee to be sipped and not guzzled–thanks Matt!):IMG_0541