Monday, 31 December 2012

A Curious Hobby

I have terrible handwriting. People have pointed out to me since I was very young that my handwriting looks rather like something you'd find on a prescription. Perhaps it is why I am able to read prescriptions so well.

What's funny is that I do calligraphy as a hobby. My normal writing is so messy as to be illegible to anyone besides myself (and well-practiced pharmacists) but I can write absolutely beautifully, in a number of styles.

I think it is something that will be rather amusing to the admissions committees to see on my application. Years of work as a calligrapher. Horrible handwriting.

This is fast calligraphy, with one of my not-so-nice nibs and practice ink, so it does bleed a bit. I don't take the nice stuff out when the kids are up.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

True Test of Focus

We got some bad news relating to a family member's health recently.

Right now, after the initial shock has worn off a bit, I'm planning how I will handle things this semester. There will likely be surgery before long, and what happens after that, I honestly don't know.

I'm going to be more than a bit stressed out over this, I imagine. But I absolutely cannot let it get in the way of my schooling. So between now and when I go back, I will just work on getting out the frustration and anger, and then starting on the third, fall back into my role as a student. It my require some adjustments to backup plans and so on, but those are challenges to be faced as they arise. I just don't know much right now.

What I do know is that whatever stresses and anxieties I have do not step foot onto campus with me. I will lock the in the car when I go to class. I'm probably going to make more use of my blog this semester to deal with this stuff, so forgive me a bit if the subject matter gets a bit heavy.

Honestly, though, I have to face this now as I will in the future. I cannot fall to pieces because of bad news. I cannot let difficulties distract from my professional life - and yes, I view my education as part of my professional life, even if it is only the beginning of it. No matter what is going on outside of school, my little academic bubble has to be insulated from it.

If I am to be a doctor, the person who will eventually deliver this kind of news to my patients and their families, I have to be able to deal with hearing it myself. This will give me a deeper understanding of what my future patients will feel when they hear that a loved one has cancer.

Fuck cancer.


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Surprise Surprise

We weren't able to afford a flight home for the holidays for my husband. Given that airfare would be well in excess of a semester's tuition, we just could not afford it since he has been getting very little work.

A few days ago the dog started going nuts at 2:30 in the morning. I heard a bit of tapping, but with as many animals as we have, that's nothing to worry about so I went back to sleep.

A few minutes later, the phone rang. I answered, foggy-brained and half asleep. My husband told me to go to the front door.

And there he was, standing out in the cold with his bag. When he showed up at work a few days before, the only person to do so, his boss brought him in and booked him a plane ticket. I had no idea he was coming. The kids were very surprised when they got up in the morning, and my parents almost fell over.

We got some very bad news the day before he got home, something I'll delve into a little later, so his timing was perfect.

Been enjoying the break with him home. The new semester starts on January 3rd and he does not leave until the 5th so it has been a wonderful time.

He'll be home next around reading week, and then home for the summer sometime after I finish exams.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Happy Solstice!

In my family, we do not celebrate Christmas. In accordance with our beliefs and traditions, we have a celebration of the solstice. We borrow some old Germanic traditions from solstice celebrations, in that we have a tree and a big feast. We give a few small gifts, but that isn't a huge focus. I spent about $100 and got four things for each of the kids.

We gather around the fire, tell stories, talk about the winter ahead and the bounty we are thankful for in the past year, and we greet the sunlight after the longest night in celebration, because each day we get a gift of a little bit more sun.

Honestly,without all the baggage of Christmas that my friends all have to suffer from, I'm glad we have our own traditions! It makes life a great deal more calm for us.

My kids loved their gifts. My son got a microscope, a set of three action figures, a storage bag for his Lego, and a crazy carpet. My daughter got a MagnaDoodle, a set of mini stainless steel pots and pans, a box of blocks, and a sled. Like I said, simple stuff, not very expensive. The idea of going thousands of dollars into debt for a holiday is a little absurd for me. We have eight holidays, my kids often get a little gift on each of them. Sometimes a gift of food (for the harvest festivals) or a light, or clothes, things like that.

All of this to say that my son is convinced his microscope is the coolest thing ever. It is actually very good for a $25 microscope. He can see cells!

In the grand tradition of nerdy parents raising nerdy kids, I taught him how to prepare simple slides and he is very good at it.

Maybe he'll be a pathologist someday.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Woohoooooo

I was waiting for my final marks to come in before I made another post.

Drumroll please:
Biology: 94
Physics: 95
Chemistry: 93
Calculus: 97
Spanish: 93

I did it!!!

Just need to do this again next semester. Shouldn't be too hard, I think. I'm taking bio, chem, physics, Spanish, and stats. I think I can pull off a 4.0 fairly comfortably this year.

I am very pleased with my marks and can't wait to get started on a new semester!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

It's only a day away...

My chem final, that is.

I had a rather disappointing showing on my bio practice test, so as soon as I'm done my chemistry exam tomorrow, I'll be re-reading all the bio chapters just to make sure I've covered everything. My mother is going to watch my kids on Saturday so that I have some time to study for my chemistry, physics, and Spanish finals which are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Final marks will be in on December 18th and I am eagerly awaiting them.

This semester has gone by so incredibly fast. It's really amazing how fast time seems to go when you are having fun every day.

As of next Wednesday, I'll be a quarter way to med school applications. I've decided to measure it in semesters instead of time.

Also, next semester, I am taking on a leadership/organizer role in an organization I've been a member of for a while. I'm really excited because I've wanted to for a long time and now the opportunity presents itself. The fact that it will help my application is secondary to the fact that I really want to help continue contributing to my community. It is a healthcare related advocacy organization, so I'm sure that will help too.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

It's the final countdown...

Not really, but I only have a week of class left.

Last physics quiz and lab on Monday, then my bio laboratory exam on Friday, but nothing else will be marked this semester.

My calc class was technically supposed to do up to Chapter 7, but as of Thursday had only reached chapter 5, so it should be interesting to see if she crams one chapter into each of the remaining days. I'm not particularly worried about that class, though. It's all stuff I've done before.

As the semester wraps up, I realize that none of my original study buddies are still there. They've all had to withdraw. I wonder how many students actually finish the first semester vs. how many started.

I have a feeling a few of my classes - four of which are continuations of classes from this semester - will be a lot smaller next semester. The prevets have figured out that though two semesters of physics are recommended, they only need one semester, and given how large a portion of my classes is made of prevets, I'm pretty confident it will be a lot smaller.

Exams start a week from Wednesday, chemistry and then biology on the Friday. The three remaining exams are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the following week.

Final marks will be in by December 18th. Going to be a loooong wait.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Deep Breath

My first final - chemistry - is in two and a half weeks. December 5th.

Then biology on the 7th, calc on the 10th, physics on the 11th and Spanish on the 12th. I'll be done my first semester in just over three weeks.

Hard to believe I've made it this far. It simultaneously feels like the semester has passed in the blink of an eye and that it has been the longest journey of my life.

If I decide to apply to U of A next year - still on the fence - then I'll be applying in ten months. Even if I don't, I'm only three semesters away from Ontario school applications. Based on how fast this semester went, that is no time at all.

Next semester, I'm going to start my volunteering. Just one thing every week, and other one-off opportunities as they come up. Just stuff to flesh out my application. I know what I can handle now and a weekly commitment is definitely feasible.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Thank you math hating people!

I really wanted to get into statistics for next semester but it was full. So I got on the waitlist.

As of yesterday, I'm in stats! Very excited.

It required dropping the online-only religions course I signed up for, but after talking to other students it sounds like that class has a LOT of writing, and I don't want any writing-intensive courses in my first year.

I am hoping to take two classes in the two summer terms, organic chemistry I and II. If my husband is home as planned, I should be able to manage it.

The insane part is that I am planning to write the MCAT in August. It will be my first attempt, and I'm open to the possibility of having to write more than once but since I want time to make sure I can write it in 2013/2014, before they make huge changes to it, I figure it is best to get it out of the way ASAP.

If I can get in to English 102 and 192 (composition and lit, respectively) for next year, then I will have all prereqs for all schools - except Manitoba because they require full year Biochem which my school doesn't offer - done. I want to take orgo in the summer specifically because most schools exclude summer classes from your GPA calculation, and it is the class I am most nervous about.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Why Science?

To many students, science classes are ones they just have to slog through on their way to the graduation stage. People seem to go one of two ways, they either love science and want to know more about everything, ir they abhor learning science.

So, why do I love science so much?

Simply put; my five year old son knows more about the universe than the most intelligent human being on the planet did a thousand years ago.

In a thousand years, a fraction of the shadow of a hand on the cosmic clock, we as a species - us, these infinitesimally small sacks of meat on a relatively tiny rock hurtling around a rather average star - have taken what were not so long ago seemingly impossible mysteries and come to understand them so clearly that a child understands them.

It's amazing, isn't it?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Rate of Absorption

I have my second chemistry midterm on Wednesday. I'd nearly forgotten about it and possibly would have until recently if it weren't for the fact that I have two weeks before each midterm marked in my agenda. So, two weeks ago, I saw my note and went "Oh crap."

As I missed two classes - one due to my son's surgery, one because he did a demo in class that uses balloons and I am allergic enough to latex to not want to be in a room with a ton of balloons - I was feeling totally unprepared. I sat down and did one of the practice tests and panicked. I NEVER panic with tests, so that was a bad sign.

So I've spent the past two weeks preparing. But with my husband home, he was very distracting during my study hours. Then after he left, the kids got a stomach bug and I spent much of the past week cleaning vomit and worse out of sheets, hair, clothing, etc. Completely exhausted and feeling overwhelmed, I asked my mother to help. So yesterday she took my pooping, vomiting kids for the day and I got to study undisturbed.

Did another practice test, and I sailed right through it with just a few minor mistakes that I noted on my summary sheet to go over again.

As a general rule, I despise cramming but I'm damn good at it when I need to be.

Fortunately, the calc test I have on Thursday won't be difficult. It's only on two sections of one chapter - chain rule and product rule - which I can do in my sleep.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Because I can..

I'm going to take a minute to talk about my son.

He is awesome. Extremely difficult kid a lot of the time, but he is so smart that sometimes it catches me off guard. Today we went tote bookstore. He asked what I wanted to get and I told him it was a book about physics, so he asked what physics was. I explained, briefly.

He asked me if gravity was physics, so I told him yes, we use physics to understand gravity.

"Gravity means we get pulled to the middle, right?" We'd had this discussion before, so I said yes.

Over our discussion following that, he came to the following conclusions:
We get pulled if nothing is under us to push us up.
- The sun has more gravity than the earth which is why we go around it.
- If you put a bird in space, it couldn't fly because it had no air to push against. 

It's fascinating, to me, that he can understand these concepts. Yet, he struggles to play with other children. He is such an interesting mixture of amazing and frustrating. I adore him so much. 

Thank you, subconscious

The past couple nights I've had very little sleep. The time change screwed up my children's internal clocks so they have been up very early, like 4am early. My husband was getting up with them and letting me sleep,but he left on Wednesday.

Friday I had a quiz. On one question, for the life of me I couldn't remember the answer, it was on the purpose of chloroplasts in guard cells. I had read it, I could see where on the page the answer was, but I couldn't 'read' it in my mind like I normally can. This question was worth 20% of the quiz.

So, I used what I know of how things work, made a logical conclusion, and put down an answer that sounded good.

After the lab, I checked my book. I was right.

I love how even though I couldn't remember the exact answer, it was possible to logic it out based on the functions of the structures in question. That's the beauty of science. It makes sense, pieces fit together, and you can figure things out by logic.

That's also why comprehension, not memorization is always the more effective study goal in the sciences.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Excel

I am slightly obsessed with spreadsheets. So much so that I have Numbers on my phone and keep things updated as I go about my day, and that syncs with my iPad and computer.

This evening, I updated my grades spreadsheet which I had been slow about doing.

Although I just lost my 100% in calc due to two lost points on a recent quiz (which I am kicking myself over) my average is up overall since I last reported it. I have, as of right now, 97.13%

My lowest mark is in chem, surprisingly, at 95.16%. I had a rather disappointing showing on the last midterm (89.17%, 53.5/60.) I lost four points on a very simple question that I completely blanked on. I answered what I could and got two points out of six. I was pissed at myself over that. I lost another point for a stupid arithmetic error, one point for not explaining the intricacies of Rutherford's gold foil experiment in enough detail, and the remaining half point was where I wasn't careful enough and wrote down the wrong thing. Largely, stupid stuff.

I am always very frustrated with myself over stupid mistakes. On that chem midterm, if I had been more cautious, I'd have had a respectable 56/60 (93.33%) instead of the disgustingly low mark I got. The midterm was significantly longer than the sample ones had been, so I rushed myself too much and didn't double check some of the lower value questions, and that is where I lost my marks.

In the ruthless pursuit of excellence, constant self-review is a must. The second chem midterm is next Wednesday. I am going through and doing every single question assigned (roughly 80) for the relevant sections to ensure I know it front and back. Much of it is stuff that I have not done in a class setting before, so I need to drill constantly to ensure my understanding is absolute.

My first final is in 27 days, so I'm slowly stepping up my review for that too.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Crossroads

As I've mentioned before, I'm being very strategic about my course selections. Everything is made to optimize my GPA and increase my chances of getting into med school.

So far, so good. I have spectacular grades, I'm flying through. I enjoy going every day and feel very out of sorts if I don't get my studying time in the evenings. My husband was just home for a while - from October 27th until today - and I actually felt a little miffed that he was cutting into my study time. I was glad he was home, mind you, but I really, really enjoy working on school stuff.

Due to my son's surgery last week, I missed two days of class and everything felt wrong. I think I may go to pieces next month, after my exams are done, when I have nothing to do for three weeks.

But, as much as I am enjoying all of this, I'm kind of sad. As much as I enjoy biology, physics is and always has been my first love in science. It challenges me,  and forces me to think differently. It helps me express the world outwardly the way I've always seen it mentally: as a complex, interwoven fabric of mathematical relationships.

I want to take more physics courses, but felt I'd limited myself by my strategic choice of the life sciences version. However, after speaking to my prof, he told me I could get into several of the upper year courses with the permission of the instructor. He said I'm a strong enough student that it shouldn't be a problem.

I am so, so tempted to take a few of the classes. Waves and oscillations, astronomy, biophysics, and modern physics are the ones that most immediately come to mind.

Thing is, physics classes have a tendency to be GPA killers. Everyone says so. I'm not so sure it would be for me, because I am extremely interested in this stuff. But, that doesn't guarantee success.

So, my two favourite things are coming head to head. Physics vs my chances of getting into medicine. A difficult decision. Lots of other premeds recommended I not take those classes, but whatever happend to the desire to learn for learning's sake?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

"It's good being alive isn't it?"

My rather optimistic five year old said the above this evening.

He's healing very well. Incision site is a bit purple and bruised, but there's no redness or swelling. The stitches are dissolvable so he doesn't need to be seen again until the 4 week follow up. He'll be back to school tomorrow.

Well, provided he isn't throwing up like he was this morning.

While at the hospital, the nurses were talking to me, taking history, etc. My husband generally defers to me in these things, because I've ended up with a better idea of his own medical history than he has.

I suppose it may be in the way I explain things, but any time I'm giving my (or my son's) history, and I do mean every time without fail, I am asked "Are you a nurse?" If I'm wearing my school sweatshirt or have my backpack with me, they ask if I'm a nursing student (that is obviously a recent development.)

Usually, I explain that I'm not and that I just have a lot of nurses in my family so I've learned the lingo, so to speak. Honestly, though, I've just spent so much time as a patient, and discussing medical stuff with family members, that I default to speaking in medical terms and I have to actually have to think about it if I want to explain things differently. I don't do it to sound smart or sound educated, it's just how I catalogue information in my mind. Seems wasteful to store two ways of saying something.

There is a problem with this, though. In my experience, some doctors do not take well to patients who use medical terminology. The 'are you a nurse?' is generally an insult coming from them, I think, at least by their tone. So, I make it a point to dumb myself down when I am meeting with a new doctor and explaining my complaint, at least until I get to know them.

And it's funny, when I think about it. I've only been asked a handful of times if I'm a doctor. They always ask if I'm a nurse, and once I was asked if I was a med student. Curious about that.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

I'm Procrastinating

I have a paper due at 1:30 tomorrow. I'm almost done, but I just really don't want to write the last little bit right now so I'm procrastinating.

My son had his surgery this morning. It was fairly minor, done in 45 minutes or so. We spent the last few days leading up to it talking about what he could expect. As I've had a few surgeries in my time, I knew how to describe things to him; how he'd feel afterwards, what it'd be like to fall asleep,the IV, etc.

When the nurse came to take him to the OR, he smiled, took his hand, and waved to me on his way down the hall. He was downright enthusiastic. The nurses were very pleased with how well he took everything. He's not really afraid of much, and we talked a lot beforehand so it seemed to have helped a lot. He found the IV absolutely fascinating. Not a tear was shed, no fear, nothing. He was a perfect patient.

When he came back from recovery (parents aren't allowed in the recovery ward) he was still sluggish but was telling me that he wants to be a nurse. He seems to barely notice that he had surgery, hah. Except he keeps wanting to show everyone his incision site (it's bandaged, so you can't actually see it.). Problem is that it was an inguinal hernia repair. If you don't know what that is, google it and you will understand why him showing people the site probably isn't the best idea. Especially in public.


With his permission, I'll post a photo of him heading in.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Crazy Days

This week is getting to me a bit.

Monday. Oh, Monday....
Because of my son's surgery this Thursday, I've had to condense my entire week into three days. I won't be going to class on Thursday or Friday.

Monday had two midterms and a quiz. Today, I had another quiz. Tomorrow, a huge lab. I arranged to do my bio lab - normally on Fridays - this evening, so at least I have that out of the way. I've been going at 100% since last Friday, when I kicked up my studying for midterms, and I am just about fried.

One more midterm after this week. I have a big lab report which I have to email by 1:30 on Friday, but that's no trouble. I'm taking a break from it right now to write this. My prelab for tomorrow is done.

So, I just need to get through class tomorrow, and my lab, then I am done until Monday.

On the plus side, I'm still maintaining really good grades, right with my goals. My overall average is still around 96%. All I have left this semester is two chem labs, one chem midterm, three physics labs, two bio labs, one more quiz in calc, one small assignment and a quiz in Spanish, and finals.

I'm one of those people who is really comfortable with tests, so I'm not worried about finals. My first is over a month away but I've already started reviewing.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Sorted

Well, I sorted the daycare situation out.

The daycare the kids were going to was not... ideal. It was poorly run in general, not as clean as I'd like, and rather crowded. I needed a place in short order and it was available. When I started the kids there, I did intend it to be short term until I found a better place anyway. Them kicking my son out accelerated that timeline.

Besides that, I was getting pretty sick of my kids coming home filthy. Now, kids get dirty while playing outside, that's normal. But they had so many kids there (perfectly within legal limits, but at the higher end of them) and the play yard was poorly designed enough that they just frankly got completely filthy. Head to toe, needed a bath as soon as we got home every day. In the past couple weeks, my daughter has had a dirty diaper every time I have picked her up, and she's developed a stubborn diaper rash, despite my telling them to change her more frequently.

Every day she'd have a snotty nose when I picked her up, dry and crusty from them not wiping it.

Clearly, not a good centre and we're well rid of it. The one I saw today was sparkling clean, nicely decorated, the kids were all nice and clean and tidy, noses wiped, everything nicely organized. MUCH better.

Even better is that it is right along my commute route, so I won't need to go to the other side of town anymore (not a big town, but still annoying to deal with) and it is two blocks from my son's school so he won't be on the bus for nearly an hour after school anymore, which should help his behaviour considerably.

Overall, works out nicely. Gave our notice at the current place, and the kids start at the new on on November 13th.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Precocious

My son cleaned the living room today without me asking and got his sister to pitch in, so as a 'thank you' he got twenty minutes of iPad time.

Five minutes in:
"mommy, what is tes-tos-ter-one?" (he pronounced the last syllable like the number.)
"What?"
"Tes-tos-ter-one. What is it?"
*the clue-by-four hits me*
"Sweetheart, stop reading my biology book."
"But I like it!"

Definitely my kid.

Methods

Tomorrow, like almost every Monday, I have a physics quiz. After our lab -  which takes an hour and a half - we have a 90 minute tutorial to go over questions assigned the previous week. At the start f tutorial, we have a quiz on last week's material. The quiz is completely based on a certain portion of the questions we are assigned (typically 5-6 analytical problems.) It actually can be quite difficult.

By the time Monday rolls around, I have usually done these questions three or four times. I do not study material the day before a quiz or test, generally. My brain just doesn't work well doing that, so I just do something completely different.

But for today, I'm going to break that habit and I'm going over the questions again tonight. Just to make sure I really have it.

I absolutely must know this material, because it's going to get a lot harder from here out. I am really enjoying physics, though. The prof I have is very tough, he marks very strictly, and most of my class is not doing well at all. I love the challenge.

Wish I could afford to take more challenging classes. I like having to work hard to maintain my grades, but I just can't risk potentially jeopardizing my GPA. Makes me a bit sad that my choice of future career is limiting my ability to enjoy my undergrad to its fullest extent, but I can always come back and do the things that I most enjoy. Later.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Biased

You know, I think it is wonderful that my profs post notes. I will refer to them for clarification, but for the most part - except for in one class - I do not use them as my primary notes. The notes are a red herring for the unprepared. It'd be too easy to fall into the trap of thinking the notes have all the information that will be tested. They don't, probably only around 60-80% depending on the class. 

I have a notebook for every class. I hand write everything, adding clarification, highlighting things as I go. I have a little code; underline it if brought up twice, highlight if mentioned three times. Underlined means it will likely be tested, highlighted means it will definitely be tested.

So far, this has proven a very reliable method. My bio prof makes things particularly easy in that he actually says "X will be tested." Those things are highlighted and circled. But, he also will bring up things in class 'as an aside' but they end up being things that are tested. I note these things in the margins of my notebook. Figures that he refers to more than once are noted in the margins, highlighted, rapidly sketched in my notes, and I take a screenshot from the ebook and put them directly into my typed notes.

Two of my profs made it clear that we can expect everything they bring up in class to be tested. Fair enough, I study to make sure I know everything.

Thanks to my lecture notes habit, I'm able to fairly accurately predict what is on tests. I even bet a few friends that something that was neither in the book nor notes would be on our bio midterm. I was right. Now that I got my bio midterm back, I cross-referenced the actual midterm with my list of highlighted/underlined topics. Everything I highlighted and underlined was covered. All of it.

So, I seem to have found my method and it does appear to be working well. The key to succeeding in university does, in fact, appear to be the exact thing everyone has been saying all along. GO TO CLASS!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Why I have not been blogging much.

More than a dozen quizzes, a handful of midterms, many labs, and several assignments in and my current GPA is 4.0 on the OMSAS scale.

My actual average is 97.66%, with no class lower than 95% and only one (sadly) still at 100%. I'm doing better with not beating myself up over one or two mistakes here or there, but it still does sting a bit when I lose marks for not properly expressing something that I do really understand. I am very pleased with my performance so far, I'm doing as well as I'd hoped and better than I'd expected. It is an insane amount of work, but it is fun so I suppose that helps.

Two midterms left; second bio, and the second chem (which I previously forgot about.) My marks are artificially high right now, though. Most of my exams are worth 40-50% each so there is room for me to royally screw up yet.

For next semester, I dropped the much-complained about Global Issues class that I really, really don't want to take. I've registered for a web-only class in religious studies that looks interesting. The fact that there's no lecture time and it is primarily a discussion-based class means it will be both fun and challenging. Also means I have two days a week with only one class, conveniently.

Strategic planning. Less lecture time means more study time.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Vet vet vet vet vet vet vet vet MED vet vet vet

My school has a veterinary medicine college. They have designed a science program that covers all the prerequisites for vet school in two years, and have obviously called it the prevet stream.

Almost everyone I meet who is serious about their grades is in the prevet stream. I can tell which of my classes are part of it, because they are the largest. I have so far only met three premeds, but one has already dropped out. One of the other two is failing two classes and doesn't study (by their own admission) so I'm doubting this person will make it into med school without a serious shift in perspective.

It's now making sense why so few people from my province apply to med school. It's in the range of 30-50 a year. They all want to be vets because they can do that here, without leaving home.

Thing is, you can't throw a stick in this province without hitting a vet clinic. There's no way for these kids to practice here except in the off chance that they can buy a practice fom a retiring/relocating vet. So, we have a bit of a brain drain. Our best and brightest get into vet school, then leave. Of the ones who get into med school, fewer than half will pursue family med, which means their chances of coming home are relatively small as well.

The rabid competitiveness that premeds from other schools see amongst premeds is not present at my school. My school is very small - fewer than 4,000 students, including graduate students - but there are still so few premeds that many of us don't even encounter the others. There's no reason for competitiveness amongst us as, provided we get decent grades, the majority of us will get in somewhere if we keep our options open.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Tough Lesson

My chem prof uploaded the midterms he has given for the past three years so that we could use them as study aids. I set a timer for 50 minutes, sat down with my pencil and calculator, and wrote each of them, then graded myself according to his rubric. My scores were spectacular, so I was pretty confident.

I still studied, did a lot of reading through my notes, doing the questions assigned for work, poking around the online homework tool, and so on.

Then we got the actual midterm. It was 25% longer. Three quarters of the questions were long, calculation based ones. There was one 'fill in the blanks' and one where we had to circle the molecules with a particular property, and explain why they are soluble, those were the shortest two. There were two short answer questions, which he has never had on tests before.

I almost ran out of time. No one in the class left until the very last few minutes. No one. I am usually one of the first out of any test because I don't get nervous at all about tests, and I read very quickly.

Around a third of the people I have spoken to ran out of time completely.

So, lesson learned: Do not make the mistake of assuming a test will be anything like ones from previous years. It's a trap, sometimes. Bio was. Chem was a totally different ballpark.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

I feel better

Well, after the rather nasty business of that terrible mark on my first physics quiz (which I still have not gotten back so I do not yet know *how* I lost so many points) I am feeling better. Got 100% on my last one.

This last one, I had to write it with my left hand because my stupid right hand wasn't working. I was, at one point, ambidextrous, but I had gotten completely out of the habit of using my left hand. A week of having to write completely with my left seems to have reactivated my skills, anyway.

I also got my first big Spanish quiz - which counts for as much of my mark as my midterms do in other classes, so I'm calling it a midterm - and was disappointed to have only gotten 96% on it.

Which is ridiculous, really. I can't get 100% in everything, and I need to accept that I will make mistakes. Accepting it doesn't mean I have to like it though, or that I don't have to work to make them as rare as possible. But I shouldn't be beating myself up over marks that really are quite good.

Still, next year is going to be harder. Many, many people are telling me that second year is a killer. So, I need to be ready for it, which means a certain level of fanaticism when it comes to the material so that I have no gaps in my foundational skills.

Study, study, study. I can and will rock this. Big chemistry study group tomorrow in preparation for Friday's midterm. I think it's going to be great!

Monday, 8 October 2012

I knew this day would come

I don't feel like studying. At all. I've been a bit lax about it this long weekend since my daughter has been cranky and kept waking up during my study time so I've probably only put in 6 out of a possible 9 hours since Friday. I'm really comfortable with my preparation so far for my chem midterm and the upcoming calc one (in ten days.) I have no outstanding assignments, the only thing I need to do is study, but I really don't feel like it.

To be honest, I'm putting in 35 hours or more a week of studying outside of class and labs, so 60+ hours a week dedicated to school. If the kids are asleep (or even if my daughter is napping and my son is occupied) I am studying. Doing questions, flash cards for chem, running through potential problems in my head as I walk places.

I described my walk to the car in vectors. Did it all in my head, but I estimated my displacement and already knew the time - I have actually timed how long it takes me to walk places on campus, my schedule for myself is *that* precise - so I calculated my average velocity, then started considering the downward slope towards the parking lot, then when I got to my car, glared at the speedometer because it's so much easier for the car to tell me how fast I'm going.

Unless I am engaged in playing with my kids, I am thinking about school. Cooking prompts thoughts of chemistry and biology. Cleaning the cat box definitely makes me think of chemistry (I *hate* ammonia!) I call my mother and we chat in Spanish, or I listen to Spanish music while cleaning, trying to translate it as I hear it.

While my grades are good, it is not a matter of inherent talent, it is because no waking hour goes by without my coursework entering my mind.

So tonight, I don't feel like studying and I am slacking off. I think I've earned it, and I should give my brain a break.

Maybe do some light reading. About neurotransmitters.

Well, that's cool.

I logged into our course management site this morning and as usual, my first stop was my grades page to see if anything new had been entered.

To my surprise, my bio midterm grade went up. The majority of it was on Scantron sheets, and I did erase a couple and correct them so I suppose they may be going though manually and checking them for scanning errors. 

Still, very pleasant to wake up and find out I actually have 96%. :-D

It could have gone down, in which case I'd have likely cried. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Q & A with a Five Year Old

"Mommy, can I come to your lab and light things on fire?"

No, dear. That's what the girl at my bench who doesn't know how to use a Bunsen burner is doing. I'll be surprised if we don't lose at least one pair of eyebrows in my session this semester.

"Are labs dangerous?"

Only when there are other students there.

"Do you get to cut things up?"

Yep. That elodea plant was absolutely vicious and only my scalpel saved me. Didn't think I'd survive the potato, the starchy bastard.

"Is your school like Mythbusters?"

Well, we did discuss why the anti-evolution arguments are bunk in biology, so I suppose.

"Are your teachers nice?"

Nerd, nerd, nerd, awesome, and terrified to be in front of the class. All are nice. The nerds are the best, particularly the nerd who jumps off of tables and the one who used hydrochloric acid instead of water accidentally.

Midterms!

So far, two are out of the way. A couple of my classes have more than one, so it's nice to have two gone.

The remainder:
Oct 12th: Chemistry
Oct 18th: Calculus
Oct 29th: Biology #2, Spanish Part 2

Physics doesn't have a midterm because we have weekly tutorial quizzes and graded in-class response device questions ('clicker.')

I've been doing the practice tests for Chem, and I'm feeling comfortable about it, but am practicing over and over to keep my skills sharp.

A few people I know don't quite get why I'm so rabid about my marks and knowing the material. I don't learn so I can pass tests, I'm learning it so I can understand it.

Thing is, to do well *next* year, I need to know everything from *this* year. I made a poll on the premed board, and a plurality of respondents felt second year was hardest. I've heard this from many people now, so really, I'm just preparing for second year right by doing well in first year.

I am such a freaking nerd.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Bitter Medicine

My son had, for a long time, been really rough with the birds, enjoyed scaring them and so on. As a result, they were afraid of him and I didn't let them out when he was around.

He'd been working very hard to regain the trust of Kiwi, my Quaker, and it was going well. She'll sit on his shoulder, steal his food, and if he starts moving too fast, she flies to me.

  Well, my kids wanted the birds to come out. Okay, fine.  B For, my cockatiel, usually just hangs out on top of the TV. Kiwi will come down to play. The finches only free fly in very controlled surroundings without the kids home/awake.

B For, instead of hanging out in his usual spot, flew into the kitchen and, being rather old, landed on the floor instead of the counter or fridge. My son promptly stepped on him.

I scooped him up and examined him. His right leg was bleeding profusely, with what appeared to be bone sticking out of it. A compound fracture in a bird this old and frail is a death sentence. So, after about an hour of trying to stop the bleeding and get him loosely splinted, I called the vet. 

I do not think any f my animals has ever been injured during business hours. Im starting to think the vets must groan when the after hours answering service tells them I called. Three visits in the last eighteen months, two on holiday weekends. 

Anyway, the vet came and checked him out. My parents took the kids as I was sure he'd have to be euthanized. The leg is injured pretty badly, but the vet didn't feel a fracture. Something punctured his leg (his legs are about 2.5mm in diameter, there isn't much flesh to begin with) and that must have been sticking out, looking like bone. I have no idea what it could have been. Maybe a long-unnoticed sliver from a broken cup or something? I have no idea. 

He isn't out of the woods. He is hurting, he is still oozing a bit of blood that even the styptic isn't stopping. He is stressed out and in pain, and he is old. He may not survive. But this bird has been through so much, I think my shock should long have worn off. He'll be 16 in January and while he's old, I guess he's still got some time left in him. 

If the leg gets infected, we may have to reevaluate, but the vet didn't think he needed to be euthanized immediately. B is not terribly happy about the hospital cage, though. It is small and has no toys. So I gave him a bunch of clover to keep him happy. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Midterms rolling in and I am going to brag for a few minutes

First midterm: 94%. Class average: 65%

It really was not at all hard, but I guess a lot of people didn't study.

Most recent bio lab quiz: 105%. Class average: 68%

I honestly am not studying a whole lot, I just review as soon as I've learned things, and I have a set time to study every night. Nothing special. But, I am pulling in grades like these in every class. Well, my physics is somewhere around 95% right now because of a bad quiz mark, but they drop your lowest at the end of the semester, so I expect good grades.

I'm consistently amongst the top performers in all of my classes.  I also have a good memory, which certainly helps. I'm thinking I can keep up with my current pace, and more, as time goes on. I'm pretty confident now that I can and will get the marks necessary to get into medicine

This was my braggart moment for the week and yes, I realize how obnoxious this post sounded but I'm proud of my marks so far. But it's going to get harder and harder to maintain them as time goes on.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Curveball

Today was unpleasant.

Well, my Spanish dictation went well. Physics was fun, calc was, well.... we're a month in and *just* started derivatives today. So, the usual.

I have bio lab tomorrow (osmosis. yay.) and a big Spanish quiz in the morning, but aside from that it should be a calm day.

Well, except for the fact that I need to find a new daycare because my son is being kicked out of his.

Now, I'm perfectly aware of the fact that he's a difficult kid. He does not understand when enough is enough, he does not understand that others have feelings like he does. He has limited impulse control, and maturity wise he's closer to 3 than almost 6.

Thing is... this is a special needs daycare. It's right in their ad: "Accommodates Special Needs." They should be able to handle this. They have him, typically, for less than an hour a day.

But, no, they gave me two weeks notice today. Next week, daycares are only open two days because of Thanksgiving and then the teacher federation conference on the Thursday and Friday, so I have very little time to find a new place.

It took me months to find this one. Several didn't even call me back once they learned he has autism. Funny how time after time, the spaces they told me were open would fill up in the 2 hours it took them to call me back after my inquiry.

It's pissing me off. A lot. You hear about disability discrimination, but it's ridiculous how blatant it really is.

So here I am, middle of midterms, stressed to the max, and I have to figure out what to do with my son who gets off school when I am in the middle of labs or my afternoon classes. I have absolutely no idea what to do.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Coming Home

I'm so very in love with my school, with this education I am now pursuing. It sounds odd, perhaps, but it's true. I'm honoured to be there, and treat every day as a gift. Every class is a new experience, every quiz a personal challenge, every lab time to try something new.

My dedication to school is paying off. As of now; many quizzes, labs, assignments, and a midterm into the year, I still have a 4.0 GPA on the OMSAS scale (4.3 at my school.) 99.0% is my actual grade right now. I only have less than 100% in one class, physics. I am refusing to allow myself to get overconfident though, because I absolutely have to keep working hard.

Today, I encountered a very pleasant gentleman in my biology class who is also pursuing med school admissions. I've directed him towards the premed forum I frequent as he has many questions about the process.

It's amazing, really. I'm spending on average 10 hours a day doing school-related stuff, and I am not tired of it. I look forward to my evening study times. I've asked for extra work to hone my skills.

The nerve issue in my right arm from June is recurring so I can only use my left at the moment, which is inconvenient as I'm right-handed. So I've been writing labs and quizzes with my left hand. My professors have been immensely understanding of my barely legible script, and seem pleased that I'm not using my medical note to get out of things. They are giving me extra time, which is nice of them.

I love my school. I love science. I am so, so very happy to be doing this and I *know* I can meet my goals for this year.

Friday, 28 September 2012

*twitch*

Physics is the only class I do not have perfect marks in. Hell, I even have better than perfect in Biology as I got 110% on my last quiz thanks to getting all the bonus points.

I have answered every in-class question in physics correctly. When we work examples, I am one of the first t have my hand up with the answer. I am contributing meaningfully to in-class discussions, and the prof has praised my understanding.

So, the one stupid brainfart moment on my first physics lab that cost me 4/20 points, fine. I can cope with that.

But, losing five points (OUT OF TEN!) on my most recent quiz is completely unacceptable.

I understood exactly what I was doing when I did the quiz. It made perfect sense. It was only slightly different from several of the questions we did for homework (and I do all of them, plus extra.) I actually explained it to several other students who were having difficulty, and two of them have perfect marks on this quiz.


I won't get the actual quiz back until Monday. But now my confidence is shaken. Physics is actually one of my favourite subjects. It makes sense to me. I know how to do it.

So how could I get such a terrible mark?

Ugh. I was planning to take tonight off, but I'm hitting the books again. Over and over and over until I do not make any mistakes.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Everything I'd Hoped

I am thriving. 

The past few years - particularly the last two - have been extremely hard for me. I am someone who craves constant mental stimulation. As much as I love my children, being a stay at home mom is not something I am terribly good at. I was constantly in a rut. 

Even before that, working at call centres and in fast food- wherever I could get a job and pay the bills - just did nothing for me. The drudgery of it left me constantly drained, depressed, and resentful. 

That is why I was so excited to return to school, I thought it would give me the stimulation I was craving. And it has. 

After bio lecture yesterday, I spoke with my prof and brought up some research I'd read that was related to the lecture topic. We ended up talking for quite a while about it. 

After physics today, I brought up some differences in notation between what the book uses and how I have done it in the past. The prof praised my concise and clear notation, and said it was something he disliked about the book we were using. 

I'm back. This is who I am, the scholar. 

So far, I have only had one thing handed back - amongst the many assignments and quizzes and in-class response device questions - that I did not have perfect marks on, and it was only one multiple choice question I got wrong. 

My first midterm is on Monday. I have another next Friday, another the Friday after, and two the following week. My bio class has two midterms, the second being at the end of October. 

I am loving this. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Happy Floaty Days

Three weeks in, and I absolutely love school. That's not to say it is all easy - I can feel the rust falling off the cogs and gears of my brain as I ramp back up to full speed thought - but it is fun.

I'm so very much in love with the subject matter that studying is a hobby, not a chore. This is, largely, stuff I already know, but it's like going back and reading an old favourite book all over again. You see more in it than you did the first time.

That said, I've decided that one of my books is far more dry than Campbell Biology ever could be; the second edition of Physics for the Life Sciences. It is boring, just right out boring to read. I love physics, but I hate this book. Fortunately I can work out most things myself, but I still read the book to make sure I don't miss anything, and to do the problems.

Honestly I haven't found anything particularly difficult at this point material-wise, it's just getting into the routine of everything has taken some adjustment but we're doing okay.

I had my first <100% grade on Monday. On my physics labs, one question (a multiple choice question in this case) counts for 20% of our mark. It was worded poorly, I answered it wrong, and lost that 20%. It is annoying me to death. Everything else I have had marked - including many quizzes - has been 100%.

So I'm off to a really good start, at least. One 80% mark in one class I can overcome easily.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Intended Consequences


I am trying to reduce the number of meds I take. There is some evidence that shows PCOS can often be greatly helped by losing weight, 10% or more of body weight, so I'd like to see if my symptoms improve which could allow me to drop two meds. 

Ten percent? Psh. I can lose that from a stressful month. I'm going for 30%. 

So far, so good. I have lost 13% of that in 16 days. As my weight loss will plateau sometimes and slow down occasionally, my overall goal is to reach my goal weight by the end of the school year. I know I can do it because I have done it before.

Quite honestly, the absence of depression has unlocked - and I realize this sounds horribly cheesy - the 'real' me. I am actually quite a high energy person. I hate to sit still. But when I am depressed, it feels like moving mountains just to get out of bed. Now that isn't much of an issue at all. I'm more focused, less distractible. 

And, hey, most antidepressants make you gain weight. The fact that I'm doing the opposite is pretty awesome. 

So I'm patting myself on the back a little this weekend, and I am sitting in my recliner for the first time in two and a half weeks (seriously) after my kids and I had a half hour dance party in the kitchen before lunch. 

Things are good. Really good. I'll see how I mentally handle midterms now. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Gulp

My first midterm, in Biology, is a week from Monday. It's only on two chapters, so it can't be that bad... (watch me return here and bang my head against the desk for saying that.) Bio will have two midterms, the second being on my daughter's birthday.

I also have an in-class test on Monday, and a Spanish midterm at some unspecified date.

We are, most wonderfully, given a four day weekend in October for Thanksgiving. Awesome.

Except my chemistry midterm is the day we come back. Joy.

It feels odd to already know when most of my midterms are, and to see them approaching rapidly on the horizon. I'm studying like mad, which is why there have been fewer posts, but the fact that I am not panicking is, itself, making me panic a bit.

Why am I not worried? Is this excellent metacognition, or extremely poor metacognition?

Only time will tell. It could have to do with the fact that I'm on a medication that has finally - after years of attempting meds - leveled me out. I'm not racing willy nilly around, my brain is firmly in place and doing what I tell it to do. For the first time in many years, I actually feel completely normal; the cloud of depression has been shot to hell.

Only problem is I may be allergic to it. The hives are getting to be annoying. I'm just not sure if the hives are linked to the medication, or my labs, as they seem particularly bad on lab days, after I've been in the lab.

Guess I'll see over the weekend.

Well, it happened.

I slept through my alarm.

It's set to wake me at 7:00am. Given that the kids have a mild cold, as do I, we all slept right on through it. When I woke up, I thought it was earlier. Nope.

7:23.

Crap.

Shoved a nutrigrain bar and a cheese stick into my kid's hands, had him munch on those while I pulled his clothes on. My poor daughter, I don't think she even realized I was dressing her because it was over so fast.

Boots on, raincoats on, out the door, just in time for the bus.

Then I was bustling towards the car, pulling on my coat with one arm while I buckled my daughter in with the other, trying to make up for the lost time.

At that very second - half into the car, toddler half strapped in, coat askew, - I realized my first class for today was cancelled. I didn't need to be at school until 10:30.

So I went inside and made coffee. Despite the extra bit of sleep, I was curiously not feeling at all rested.

Wonder why....

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

White Board

I have a big whiteboard on which I used a permanent marker to make a calendar. Each month, I go write in the days, important events, etc. As the days pass, and more things come up, I add more to my calendar.

The calendar is getting quite full. But, I am still managing everything.

Routine has settled into:
7:00 Wake up, start breakfast.
7:30 Get self and kids ready.
8:03 Kid 1 onto school bus.
8:25 Drop Kid 2 at daycare
8:40 Get to school, hang out in library or student lounge studying until classes start.
(Class/Labs)
4:30-ish: Pick up kids.
4:45 Start supper. Go through Kid 1's communication folder.
5:30 Supper
6:00 Relaxation time and TV for kids, I clean.
7:00 Baths then bed
7:30 Make lunches, lay out clothes, pack bags for next day.
8:00-11:00 Study

Fortunately, by 11 I am exhausted from the day so I just pass right out.

Two days a week, I have several hours between my classes, so I walk around, run errands in town, and so on. My schedule is working out quite well. I'm keeping to this very strict routine, because it means I always know exactly what I should be doing when, and it means stuff gets done. An hour of upkeep cleaning a day is enough provided I do a deep clean on Saturday.

I don't have much (any) leisure time by myself, but that's fine. I actually am really enjoying school. Class is fun, labs are awesome, and it feels like a far simpler life than the one I lead outside those buildings.

At school, I'm just a student like any other. At home, I have to be both mom and student. So home isn't for relaxing anymore, that's what school is for.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Well, this is new

All summer, I felt like I couldn't study enough. That there wasn't enough time to do all the studying I needed to do. In the last few days before school started, a calm came over me and I was content with what I knew.

Then classes started, I freaked out a tiny bit, revisited some of my supplemental material, and got back up to speed.

I just sat down, went through my agenda, and realized I'm done everything for this weekend and everything assigned or posted but not yet assigned for next week and the week after. There isn't a thing not crossed off in my (ridiculously detailed) agenda.

It isn't even 10pm on Sunday. Assignments, prelabs, readings, and chapter end questions; all done, except obviously those that haven't been posted yet. I'm even spot testing myself with a few extra unassigned questions, as well as random Spanish vocab, and getting them all right.

Laundry is done, house is clean, lunches and bags are packed, and clothes for tomorrow are laid out.

It's not going to stay this easy, is it?

I suppose if I feel like I'm done studying, that must mean I just need to do more. I have an hour left of scheduled study time this evening. Guess I'll review everything we've done in chem and bio.

See? Premed mentality right there. 


Friday, 14 September 2012

Phew

First (real) lab went surprisingly well, especially considering I had a pretty nasty fever and was seeing double during it. Ah, viruses, fascinating and infuriating little things.

Still, it was rather fun. My lab partner-ish person (we share two classes and a lab) and I were discussing our plans. She is doing the prevet program (it's a loosely organized life sciences program, essentially) and actually has quite a bit of experience in a veterinary clinic, and on farms, so she's seen surgeries and cattle inseminations, used ultrasound on cows and so on. We were discussing stuff in quite a bit of detail and some people were getting a little queasy looking.

When the lab instructor started talking about some of the really fascinating stuff we can look at, some people in class looked decidedly green. He mentioned the specimens they had available for trying out the stereoscope, and one girl actually laid her head down on the table and groaned.

It's biology, one would think people coming into this class would realize that the lab will likely include some dissection of things they might consider unpleasant.

Ah well, I can't be concerned about their performance. It's all about how hard I work. Hard work and efficiency will get me where I need to go.

Baby steps. One day, one chapter, one assignment at a time.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Challenge #1

I have a morning full of lectures, then a three hour lab in the afternoon, during which we are not allowed to sit.

Currently, I have a rather impressive fever, my lymph nods are attempting mutiny, and I feel rather like I'm on a ferris wheel. Weeeeeeee up, weeeeee down. *Smacked in the face with the nausea stick.*

Tomorrow's going to be fun. My language lab today was cancelled so I went home and slept for four hours. My husband is awesome, because he was home alone with the (sick) kids all day and is coming down with this too.

And this is just the beginning. Seriously,how do you study effectively when you can't stop shivering long enough to read the text?!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

I live!

I haven't been writing much as I'm spending every possible minute with my husband while he's home.

So far, so good n classes. Physics is proving a bit of a stumbling block; the math we are using is stuff I haven't had much experience with so I'm just not as fluent in it as I'd like to be so I'm spending a lot of time working on developing stronger skills. My calc class actually doesn't touch on much of it, which I find annoying. This phyiscs class requires that I take this calc course at the same time. The calc course barely covers some of the material we'll do in physics.

It just means more self-study. I'm starting at a disadvantage, I can't let myself be tripped up like that or fall behind. Falling behind is never, never okay.

My daughter loves daycare, my on loves school. We had meet the teacher night yesterday, and I found out my son had cut a little girl's hair. This is going to be a long school year, I think.

Friday, 7 September 2012

So far so good

My agenda is awesome. I have my readings in there with date to complete by, and I'm checking them off as I go. I'm ahead in readings/chapter questions in all classes so far by at least a week. Still need to get my online codes for chem and bio, but I'll be doing that this weekend, hopefully. 

In Spanish today, another student asked me about my organizational method, so I explained it in brief. Turns out she is a mom and mature student as well, so we got to chatting for a while. We have very similar schedules, the only exception being our chemistry courses. 

I've met a few people in my chemistry section as well; the gentleman I wrote about previously, a wonderful woman from the Bahamas, a younger girl who is rather shy but knowledgeable, and a funny, goofy, but very smart young man from my orientation group.  I should be able to work a study group here, I think as we all have similar schedules. 

So far, I've been able to contribute in class several times with answers and so on. I'm feeling very comfortable with the material and I can call it to mind very quickly. When I see the slides come up in class, I'm making connections between my core science classes. The material we cover is so complementary that I don't see why any student wouldn't take all three sciences at once! Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, they are so alike, and have so many common concepts. 

I suppose maybe I see the connections more since I've spent so much time readying myself for it.

It is rather easy to be enjoying myself right now, though. My son loves school, my daughter loves daycare. Neither is particularly bothered by the fact that they are away from me all day. But we're only a few days into it, so that may change. 

I'm sure my mettle will be solidly tested the first time the kids get sick. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Waiting...

First day of classes went well. We don't have labs this week so I had little to do this afternoon, but we shortly will be having a formal welcome from the dean of the faculty of science.

Apparently, there are presents to be had. Kind of irks me a bit that I'm being given all this 'free' stuff that I'm paying thousands and thousands of dollars for.

I've been lurking around campus all day. Don't think I've talked to more than three people. It's not that I'm shy, it's just that I don't really have anything to say to them. I don't seem to have a great deal in common with many of them, and I'm not terribly good at icebreakers.

I did, however, have an interesting encounter.

In my very first class, the first person I spoke to... is a doctor. He did his MBBS in Sri Lanka, and has done the three exams he needs to do here to qualify for a Canadian residency. He's just awaiting the score for the third exam, and he will presumably apply for the second iteration of CaRMS next year. He said he's taking courses that interest him, just a way to pass the time He's older, married with kids like I am, so it was rather refreshing to meet him.

Seems almost like foreshadowing, though. Here I was, in my first class of my first day of my first year of my premedical education, and the first person I talk to is a doctor.

Makes me hopeful.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

This will be interesting

My son's paediatrician is wonderful. She is everything I could hope to be as a physician; knowledgeable, personable, great with kids, careful about prescribing and makes sure to do regular follow ups, knows her patients well, and is passionate about medicine. Seriously, I could not ask for a better physician for my son.

We saw her today and she's referring him for surgery. Working out the logistics of it should be interesting as here they tend to just tell you when to show up; patients don't have much input on scheduling. Any, really. He'll be seeing a general surgeon here, and she picked the one who has young kids just to put me at ease which was a nice touch.

So in a few months, we'll be hitting up the hospital for my little guy. It will be done laparoscopically, so he won't have a long recovery time, about a week. Makes me nervous to think about him going under for surgery, but I think he will treat it as quite the adventure. He's never scared of anything, and that is a lesson I need to learn from him.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Prestudy Paying Off

My months of prestudying are paying off already. Not concretely, as in with grades, but definitely with knowledge and fluency with the material.

I went through doing all the assigned chapter end questions and examples for everything that has been posted so far, which is roughly two weeks of lessons in three out of my five courses. Between the three courses, I did not get a single question wrong.

The funny thing is that with Spanish - which is the only course I did not do significant pre-studying for - I am so far completely comfortable with the material. I've never studied Spanish formally before, but because I'm fluent in French and English, and have a fairly good understanding of Latin, I'm able to read paragraphs of Spanish, translate it on the fly as I read, and am about 95% accurate. There are a few words I occasionally have to look up, but not many as I'm usually able to understand it by mentally taking it apart and looking at the root. This is good, as our final will be dictated.

My confidence is pretty high right now, so I need to be very careful not to let myself get into the trap of coasting. I can never, never, never let myself rest on my laurels when I need to be the best possible student. Complacency will lead to bad grades.

Right now, I am a semester ahead in readings, two weeks ahead in working lessons (for the 3/5 classes for which lessons are posted) and I absolutely need to keep it this way. A spare moment is a studying moment from here out.

Classes start Wednesday. I can do this.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Guess I'm just not that fun.

So I've spent the past couple of days at my new student orientation.

A few events were rather amusing, but overall, I'm just not one of those outgoing, centre-of-attention types. I am quiet, not shy but reserved. I will gladly act silly with friends and family, but outside of personal situations prefer to carry myself with a level of decorum.

This tendency does not lend itself to bouncy castles and water fights.

My goal from the day I got accepted was that I would be treating this endeavour with a high degree of professionalism, so I'm feeling a bit out of place amongst the screaming eighteen year olds at frosh week.

I think I'll stick to the dry info sessions and wait for lectures to begin on Wednesday.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Juggling

I've been studying pretty heavily the past few days, so my online time has cut down a lot.

Seems like this is the way it will be going forward. Lots of time hitting the books, much less time for hobbies.

My son starts swimming lessons on the 15th, so after his Friday night sleepover with his grandparents, he'll be at the pool with my mother until around 11am, which means I have about 4 hours each Saturday morning to clean without (most of) it being undone behind me. YAY!

The kids wake up around 6am. I may need to start getting up well before them just to make sure I can do everything; get stuff packed up, clothes laid out, driveway cleared in the winter.

The winter is what scares me a bit. Clearing the driveway can take me 45 minutes to do it properly, even with the snowblower, because I really suck with anything machinery-ish. I've been spoiled by having a husband who enjoys that kind of stuff. Last winter I had no strict schedule so it wasn't a big deal if I didn't clear the driveway until 10. My son went to preschool 4 days a week, but if the weather wasn't great I'd just call in. Can't do that for university; if I miss two labs, I fail.

This is the kind of stuff that's going to take a lot of adjustment. 


Not long now!

Now student orientation starts in TWO DAYS!

I am so excited. Today the kids and I are going to run around cleaning the house, getting it absolutely perfect as my husband gets home tomorrow and we like him to come home to a spotless house.

Well, that's the goal anyway. Nice house, clean kids,very fifties-esque. I can't guarantee it, but I try.

Tomorrow morning, before El Husband's arrival, I am going to get my hair done. Now, I am not very girly. I prefer being in the woods to going shopping. However, I tried to dye my hair.

Consider, I do not have girl skills. Anything more complex than a ponytail evades me, I have no idea how one uses the majority of cosmetics. I do not own a blowdryer, or a hot iron (whatever those flattening thingies are called.) When it comes to hair, I shampoo it and brush it and that's it. My daughter, poor thing, is going to have to live without cute hairstyles.

With that background, I really should not have tried to dye my hair. Something so seemingly simple, and I screwed it up. The colour was supposed to be auburn. I look like someone crossed a Dalmatian with a pomeranian. My hair is fried, the dye didn't take in certain areas, and it's like carrot top orange.

Disaster.

So tomorrow I'm going to go pay a lot of money to have someone who actually knows what they are doing fix it for me. My mother, between guffaws, agreed to watch my kids.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Damsel in Distress

I just said goodbye to the lovely, professional members of my regional detachment of the RCMP. I live in the country, so we don't have a local police force, so we get the mounties (no, they do not ride horses for actual policing. They have Crown Vics.) People who aren't Canadian, or who live in the cities and are not aware of the fact that there are non-city places in our country, are often surprised to find out that RCMP are, in fact, actual police, not just a ceremonial guard of sorts. They do that too, yes, but actual mounties are actual cops and they are actually pretty badass.

Someone tried to get into my house while I was making a cake in the kitchen. My dog flipped out, I flipped out and called 911.

911 works. Quickly, at that.

I'm home alone with my kids. My house is surrounded by woods, fields, and there are no streetlights. It is VERY dark here at night, so the officers brought in the K9 unit (which is one dog... small population, smaller budget) to sniff around and fortunately didn't find anything.

I am sending those officers a thank you note. Seriously. They found nothing, my dog probably scared off who/whatever it was. In all likelihood, it may have just been a drunk neighbour or some teens getting up to nonsense, but I am glad to have had the RCMP come put my mind at ease.

Also, the dog got a few strips of bacon. She earned it.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Home Stretch

My husband will be home Friday night. His flight gets in at 11:33 and he is going to take a cab home so I won't see him until after midnight likely, but I'll be waiting up for him.

He doesn't have a house key, so I kind of have to, unless he develops a sudden desire for overnight camping in our front yard.

I've learned not to count down too much when he's about to come home, or it feels like it takes forever. I try to schedule as much as I can for the week before his return so I can keep busy instead of idling away the time waiting. So this week we have two doctors' appointments, speech pathology assessment, and my own personal cleaning/organizing schedule. Just stuff to keep me busy.

Especially because on Saturday, new student orientation starts. So I'm excited for two things.

And it's only Sunday. I just need to not count the days or this will feel like a very long week.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Pulling Teeth

Getting details out of my son is like pulling teeth. While he has volunteered a few things about his trip, he hasn't said much until today.

I went to sign him up for swimming lessons at my shool's aquatics complex, and while there he started going on about the pool he went to in Toronto.

That branched into everything else about Toronto. He was enthusiastically telling me everything about his trip, and it was lovely to hear him so thrilled about it.

Of course, he is now of the opinion that we should move there. I told him it was a possibility, that if I get into a certain school we might move there in as little as three years, but I will have to work very hard to be good enough for that school.

So he told me we had to go home so I could work on my school work, and he dragged me to my desk as soon as we got home.

Clearly, someone now has a personal interest in me getting into med school, hah. Poor thing will be heartbroken if I don't get into U of T, it seems.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ramping Up

So far, several of my classes have preliminary readings and even questions we should be doing before the first class.

I've done them. I used my international edition of bio to do those, but I'll check it against the actual book when I get it to make sure I did the right questions.

Thing is, it's easy to get this stuff done now. It's easy to have the enthusiasm and to be thrilled to sit down with my books, read, study and finish questions right now.

The trick will be keeping this momentum for the next four years and beyond. When I'm sick, when I'm tired, when it has been a crazy long day and I need to do six loads of laundry. That's where it is going to get tough.

Also, I only have assignments for a few classes right now. No pre-labs, no reports, nothing other than a few chapters of reading and a few dozen questions. The real workload is still a few weeks away.

On my way

I have three of my five books now and have already done the pre-reading for Chem (again. Always best to keep it current!)

My son asked if I was sure that they were books since they are so big. My chemistry book is almost 3" thick. I won't be bringing that one to class...

The only supplies I have left to purchase are my biology book, Spanish book, and the access code to the online component of my chem class. I'm guessing it'll be around $400 for those, since it is looking increasingly like I will need to buy my biology book new, but we'll see.

I do so like the smell of a new book.

Picked up my student loan documents yesterday and will be sending them off tomorrow so hopefully there won't be much of a delay in getting the funds.

My husband will be home in eight days, and orientation week starts the next morning. I can't believe it. Just over a week left.

Think I'll go walk around campus again. It is such a beautiful campus; 100+ year old oaks towering over red brick buildings. It's just gorgeous.




Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sixth

Today is my husband's and my sixth wedding anniversary.

It's rather hard for me to believe we've been married for six years, but we have. There have been a lot of struggles, a lot of heartache, and many tears over the years, but we've stuck it out and we're happy.

Not terribly happy with our current circumstances, but happy overall. It'd be far better if he were home instead of on the other side of the country, but it's just not possible. He'll be home in ten days, to help me get the next chapter of our lives started.

Six years ago today, on a very similar day to this; bright, summery, a light breeze stirring the trees,  we stood in abject terror in front of a handful of family and friends while my dad officiated. Neither of us likes to be the centre of attention, and I absolutely loathe being photographed, so there aren't many pictures of us that day. We both look scared in most of them, me especially because my parents - to whom I left almost all of the planning because all I wanted to do was go to city hall and I had zero interest in planning an actual wedding - had the grand idea of having us all eat outside. Remember, I am terrified of wasps, and wasps like food. They were *everywhere.*

During the ceremony, which was thankfully brief, I kept shooing them away from me. I am rather proud of how well I restrained myself, as usually I take off on the opposite direction. It's just that screaming and bolting away from one's soon-to-be husband is generally considered bad form.

I was also five months pregnant with our son at the time, so I couldn't so much run as waddle a bit quickly.

I'm pretty sure my husband reads this occasionally, so happy anniversary, love. We've made it this far without killing each other, here's to another few decades!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Worries

School starts two weeks from Wednesday. I'm meeting up with someone to buy my dissection kit and clicker used.

My classes do this thing where the prof will ask questions during class and we have to use a clicker (around $70 new) to put in what we think our answer is. The clickers are registered to us, and the profs make our in class responses part of the grade. In my chemistry, it's 3% of my grade, just whether or not I responded, not whether my response is correct.

It's electronic attendance taking, really. I'm sure there has to be a cheaper way of doing that.

I'm getting really worried about the logistics of my son potentially needing surgery. If I have to stay home for a week, it will jeopardize my year. According to the syllabi, we have to make up a missed lab in the week it was missed, and missing two labs means you fail the semester for that class, no excuses. If I'm out for a whole week, making them up is not going to be possible, especially if we have to go to NS. Then were something to happen - car breaks down, kids get sick and my parents can't take them - then I'm done for and I have permanent fails on my UG record.

I may have to bite the bullet and have my husband come home for an extra week, which is a significant expense as he only has a few months of steady work. Hopefully if my son does need to go in for surgery, it can be scheduled during a time when my husband is home. They don't do elective surgeries during the last two weeks of the year (when I'd be off), and if it fell during exams, I'd be screwed.

How on earth do other parent students manage this stuff? Especially the single moms without much family support?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Not good advice

On the new student forum, the student leaders are regularly telling people not to buy their books until after first class. The bookstore recommends this, as do the advisors.

Thing is, this is probably not a good idea for science students. Our classes require a textbook, there really is no question about that. We need texts, solutions manuals, 'clickers,' lab guides, online access codes, dissection kits, lab glasses, and a lab coat. It's right on the faculty sites, and in the syllabi posted already. 

In fact, for two classes, I already have two chapters each of reading - plus review questions - assigned to be done before the first class. The students who follow the advice of upper year students, advisors and the bookstore, will actually be starting out two chapters behind. 

I realize that a class having books you don't need does happen, but the required materials for first year science are really straightforward and they really shouldn't be telling us stuff that is demonstrably untrue. We do need books for our core classes, and we need them ASAP. 

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Bounty

I love summers here. Aside from the bugs and my allergies, summers are incredible.

Yesterday, I saw the most perfect, beautiful complete arc of a rainbow over a freshly baled hay field.

Today, a kestrel flew alongside my car for a few moments on my way home. I stopped to watch him fly. They really are very acrobatic birds.

My daughter and I started off the morning at the Farmer's Market in town (curious thing that we have to go into town to get the food grown on our road!) We each got a freshly made macaron, and browsed the produce. Blackcurrants, carrots, ciaggia beets, purple wax beans, fresh eggs. Ah, it was fabulous. I picked up some sausages for breakfast for tomorrow.

Being somewhat old fashioned, I made some blackcurrant cordial, which I've been sipping all day. It's very good for you. My daughter likes to eat the currants whole, which is something I find absolutely disgusting. They have a very strong flavour.

She got a lovely little sunflower which she carried around at the market, and is now in a vase on our table, somewhat pitiful looking after being manhandled by a toddler for most of the morning.

We went up and made supper for my dad with the bounty we'd found at the market, let the dogs run around the fields, then cleaned up and headed home.

It was a perfect summer day. I will miss days like this when we have to move to a city.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Networking

I have secured my first study buddy. We share four of the same classes this year, though we have different professors for two.

He's gunning for veterinary med. The application process is essentially identical: LORs, MCAT, need roughly the same level GPA, ECs (with clinical and hands-on ones being the best to get.) I think it's even better that we aren't even looking into doing the same program, because while the process is similar, we aren't directly competing against each other.

We each want to have a small group to work with; 3-4 max. He's frustrated that a lot of students aren't really serious about studying, as am I, so hopefully we can keep the group very focused by only selecting students who are very focused on academics.

So, I'll see how this goes. :)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Ambulance

My sister's boyfriend is a paramedic, as previously mentioned. My son and mother are staying with her and her boyfriend while in Toronto, and this morning my son was up in time to drive Le Boyfriend to work.

He got to see the inside of an ambulance, and saw another go out on a call. All before the time when most people wake up. He's off to the Toronto Zoo for the rest of the day, and I'm sure I'll hear about it in detail this evening.

The house is so quiet, it is eerie. My daughter largely likes to play on her own, so I've been doing my own things; cleaning, organizing, a bit of research and school preparation. These will be the last quiet days before the beginning of my academic career, so I'm going to cherish them, as well as the time spent with just my daughter. When my son is home, he takes most of my attention so I do not get to focus on my youngest very much. It makes me sad at times to realize how this isn't easy for her either.

But enough moping, off to clean the playroom. I may not make it out alive...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Logistical Nightmare Approaching

So it's looking like my son may need to go in for surgery soon. Right now I'm waiting to find out whether we'll see paeds first (paed was rather confused that the family doctor wanted us to see her about the issue) or whether we'll go right to see the surgeon.

It's unlikely to be much of a wait, as my son is in quite a bit of pain. He did go to Toronto as planned, but I let him because a) we won't see anyone within the next five days. Just doesn't work that fast and b) my sister is an emerg RN, and her boyfriend an advanced care paramedic. If there are issues, my son is in good hands.

This sucks, though. Mostly because my son is in pain, but also partially because it will mean missed school for him (and me.) As far as I'm aware, he may well be referred to the children's hospital in the next province over instead of ours, which will mean a couple trips at least; consult + actual surgery. Lacking a children's hospital here, it's distinctly likely that a non-emergent paediatric surgery wouldn't be performed here.

So for now I will wait. I feel bad for him, terrible, because there's nothing I can do right now.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Up and Away

My son leaves for Toronto with his grandmother tomorrow morning. He's spending the night at my parents' house as the flight is early.

I'm very excited for him, he will have a great time. My siblings have a great deal of fun stuff planned for him - the zoo, the Lego store, CNE, etc. - though I don't imagine he'll be able to do all of it. He gets overwhelmed sometimes, and with all the sights, sounds, smells, and new experiences in a big city, he's likely to need some downtime. Where we live, there are precisely two buildings over 6 storeys, and he has not been in either. Downtown is about a square kilometre, and we go into town to buy stuff, we don't live there. This will be something completely new for him.

If it goes well, it may become an annual thing, which will eventually include his sister. By the time she is five, though, I may well already be in med school, quite possibly in Ontario already.

Still, I think it very well could be an amazing experience and a great memory maker for my son. Had we not had such financial difficulties, my daughter and I would be going as well, but it simply was not possible to afford another plane ticket this month. I'm rather sad that I will not get to see him experience so many firsts because firsts are precious to parents. I hope my siblings realize how special all this is.

Anyway, as my mother put it this morning "Either it will go really well, or they will both decide to never have children."