I had decided not to start a blog here, since Drey's got an excellent one, and we're at the same school. Then I realized that we have several differences:
1) I had my kids before I started med school.
2) I'm significantly older than Drey (I turned 30 in October) even though I look pretty young, so people think I had my boys when I was in college.
3) I'm a bit of a peds clinical research nerd. (Oh, who am I kidding, I've already got my research set up for this summer, pending funding. More on that in another post.)
4) I'm definitely in the middle of the pack academically. On a good day. (But hey, I have 3 year old kids and a grad student husband who works part time in addition to his graduate funding. I'm feeling not-so-bad about being in the middle-ish.)
and 5) I started doing our school's independent study program yesterday.
This ISP thing is pretty crazy, since it's not a great idea if all you want to do is skip lecture. (We have podcasts for that, so anyone who just didn't like getting out of bed at 8:30 does that. We even have a guy who speeds up our podcasts.)
But 38 of us have decided (well, the MD-PhD people didn't have a choice) to:
1) Learn a different curriculum
2) Forgo lectures
3) Learn from course packets and books, going to module leaders with questions
4) Schedule our own exams, given only guidelines and max dates (after a max date, apparently you get a zero)
5) Pass some NBME shelf exams at the end of the year
6) Get a pretty nice set-up in the ISP lounge/library.
We still do our physician development and patient centered medicine components with the rest of the class, but otherwise, we're on our own.
But why on earth would I do this if I don't even really have to show up to lecture anyway? Simply put, I haven't been able to get much from lectures, so for me, lectures are benign at best, counterproductive at worst. After that, I looked at how the curricula were structured, and realized I like the organization of ISP better. And the days that I haven't had to do anything but study have been the most productive and fastest-moving for me.
So, here I am. Two days in, and I'm ahead of the schedule I set for myself, which gets me finished in 80% of the recommended time. (I want breathing room for things like getting sick, kids getting sick, insanity, etc.)
I'm learning biochemistry now, and it's amazing A) how much I forgot from my undergrad biochem course, and how quickly it comes back. I will put in a plug right now for Lippincott's Illustrated Review. It's pretty much the perfect tool for me. I read it after my course packet and everything that was fuzzy becomes clear.
My kids are also doing really well right now. We had parent-teacher conferences last night. I was really dreading it, since at their old childcare centers they turned into "how much I hate your kid" sessions. (Okay, I'm projecting, but they did like to nitpick and bring up negative things.) But last night was wonderful. I knew that my kids had really pretty great literacy skills (they learned to read a year ago and now can read pretty much anything they have the attention span for), but I didn't know that they could count to 100. I also (and call me a bad mommy, but he never colors at home!) learned that one son is left-handed! The teachers talked about what fun my children are and what a pleasure they are to have in the class. I guess they have been adapting quite well for new 3 year olds. (Obligatory plug for Montessori schools. At least this one is perfect for busy families who need some help bringing sanity to the life of a preschooler.)
Anyway, we're home together for the next 5 days. We're going nowhere for Thanksgiving. We've been so busy with life that we just want to relax (and get my kids over their coughs). We'll cook a Thanksgiving meal together, kids involved in every step. Tomorrow we shop, Thursday we cook, Friday we get the Christmas tree. And I hold my breath and hope the kids don't beg to go to the zoo again, because we've been twice in the past week.
My Sons' Interpretation of How Santa Works (at age 3 3/4)
(I got part of the story, so I had to get to the beginning and ask "what comes next" about 30 times.)
Santa uses his sleigh to get down the chimney.
He then comes out of the chimney.
Then he is in our house.
Then he gets some cookies.
He eats the cookies.
He goes back up the chimney.
He moves on to the next house.
We've just finished a unit on human development in our Patient Centered Medicine class, and it was "bring the kids in" day. There was also a "human development jeopardy" thing, too. So I brought my boys in.
They were very, very busy, very friendly, and had a great time. I brought books, paper, crayons, scissors and glue for them to keep them entertained. So, next thing you know, one son is handing out papers to most of the small group (18 people, counting me) and getting them to do various things (color, cut, glue) and asking them what they're doing.
They enjoyed playing with our facilitator's 18 month daughter, and our facilitator was bringing up significant developmental issues in all 3 kids as they came up, and how it would play out in a clinical setting. Good stuff.
I think it was also nice for my small group (that we have a lot of stuff with, so we know each other pretty well) to see me as a mom, and not just someone who talks about her kids.
One of the funniest things was that one of the "answers" was "Children have generally learned to stand on one foot and ride a tricycle by this age" and at that very moment both boys stood on one foot and one said "I like my tricycle." Everyone knew instantly that the answer was 3 years.
Of course we got back home too late to return them to school or take a nap, but that's okay. They'll go to bed early today, since they're totally worn out.
I love ISP. Having, in general, a day with at most one interruption for an hour or two, with the rest devoted to study, is my idea of academic perfection.
First, performance-wise: my biochemistry grade was my best yet in medical school, including "easy" things like biostats and epidemiology. My genetics, not so much so, but then, yeah, whatever, no one did well.
That and I hung out playing ultrasound for a while the night before the exam. So, we have an elective ultrasound class taught by fourth years, modeled by second years, that had its first "real" meeting this week on Wednesday night. It was a lot of fun, and ironically, this is better for me understanding locations of structures than all of gross anatomy was. Anyway, I found a liver, kidneys, heart, spleen, and bladder. The best part, however, was hanging out with the fourth years and getting their perspectives on life and med school.
Anyway, I'm "done" till January 3, but I'm getting a start on my neuroanatomy and writing my proposal for this summer's research funding. Without going into too many details it's a cool project in neonatal clinical research. I'm really excited about doing this. But I'm such a geek that way. The more I read, the more I think I want to do this thing. (The big test, of course, will come when I return to the NICU as the clinician, rather than as an observer or as a parent.)
So I'm in a good place.
Our class was having a canned food drive competition with the second years, and I wanted to have my kids get involved. So we got a list for a "kid pack" and got everything on the list. After school today, we let my kids pick out each item (Thomas toothpaste, Sesame Street toothbrush, a huge tub of reduced fat Jif, and so on). Then we drove over to school (husband was in tow, thank goodness) and dropped it off in the med student lounge. We, of course, had to take a tour of the entire school, it seems. Lots of running up and down the aisles of the lecture hall. (It was very hard to explain that this was the room for listening quietly and learning, while my classroom that they'd been to before was the room for working together.) Then I took them upstairs to the ISP lounge and library ("the quiet rooms") and they just loved every minute.
Good day, in all. I can't believe Christmas is in a week and a half. Presents ordered online are coming in and promptly being hidden, but I really do need to wrap them. We never got the house lights up, and I feel astoundingly terrible for this, since I have this "thing" about Christmas - my parents never did much and I hated it. So maybe the lights will go up this weekend. But the tree's been up since the day after Thanksgiving, as well as our mantle decorations, so I'm not too broken up.
I am really realizing that, while it's difficult to have kids and be a medical student, and while life would've been easier if I'd gone when I was 21 (late birthday), I really wouldn't trade my current life for anything. I have beautiful children and an amazing husband who's way smarter than me and who has great dreams of his own. I go to a school that genuinely cares about the practice of medicine. I'm in a program in my school that I love. And I'm learning medicine. Not really the most clinically relevant stuff yet, but still. It's really clear why I'm learning what I'm learning and the answer is not "to pass Step 1."
Put this one in the "surreal bedtime conversations" category.
Last night my husband and I are putting the kids to bed. I'm by one son, he's by the other. Here is the conversation:
Him: There is something sticky behind my ear.
Me: It's probably ear wax. Don't worry about it. [My kids have lots of ear wax. This is a regular thing at our house.]
Him: It's not ear wax. It's sweet.
Me: It's probably just candy cane or something. [They'd been eating candy canes.]
Him: Nope - it's peanut butter!
Me: Well, I don't think your ear is a good place to keep your peanut butter; I certainly wouldn't try that.
Him: Why not? It's a great place for peanut butter. Then I can eat it later. It is very good.
(By this point, my husband and I were stifling laughs, and my son keeps trying to convince me that his ear is a great place for peanut butter if he wants to have some later.)
This was, of course, the highlight of my week so far.
What am I doing? I'm writing a proposal for my summer research scholarship. When is it due? Not for another month. But considering I didn't get any schoolwork (okay, about an hour and a half) done while my kids were on break, and my goal was to have this thing knocked out before Christmas, I'm feeling a little under the gun. After all, my research advisor has to read (and, presumably, edit) it. The head of ISP and my advisor have to sign the thing. And I have to turn it in, in triplicate, I believe.
This is a really cool project, one that will really stretch me without breaking me. Plus, it's a very fascinating area, one which, if I were actually starting my career (rather than starting my education) I'd want to be studying. However - I will say this: my loves in research seem to be *doing* the stuff and *reading* the journal articles. I'm not so into the whole writing thing. Which is ironic because growing up I loved to write. I think I don't enjoy citations, largely because once I've synthesized the material enough to be able to write about it, I've forgotten where I read each bit of it even if I write down sources as I go along.
Christmas was fine, lots of traveling. I think that we will stay home next year. I'm one for "perfect Christmas morning" and I think my home is much better for that than my parents'. It's nice to visit relatives, but perhaps we can do that for Thanksgiving or something.
On our way home, we stopped in the city where my husband and I did undergrad (the same school where I would've gone to medical school, were it not for the little fact that my husband is not a graduate student there, but rather 2.5 hours away). It was a lovely little trip, reminding us that A) the city is, for us, a better city than where we are, but not enough that we'd give up much to live there, and the restaurants there are fabulous. (This was why we made an hour detour: we're always craving food from about 3-5 restaurants, but there's not a whole lot else to do on the tourist front, so we've never gone up for a weekend.)
Oh, yeah, and we got rear-ended. It pushed the exhaust pipe way up into the trunk (cracked the bottom of the trunk) and caused all sorts of other problems. We'll find out on Wednesday if our car's totaled, which all of the "responsible" adults in our life think it might be, since the blue book value is only $5k. Dang it, this car was supposed to last till I graduated. It's a Honda Civic with 180K miles, and we were assuming it would make it to 200K. But there are good people in the world. The other driver admitted fault to us, our insurance company, and her insurance company. She was absolutely horrified that it happened. (The road was wet, she braked too hard and slid into the back of our car at a stoplight.)
On that happy note, good night. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. 2008 will be great. I'm just sure of it.