Sunday, 29 July 2012

Going dark

Im going to be mostly offline for the next couple of weeks, so will not be making any new posts as my only Internet connection will be through my phone, which currently has a shattered screen.

Take care, good luck to those about to apply and to those about to begin their medical training.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Hey look, I skipped a day!

And it is unlikely anyone noticed.

Anyway, I have the day off today. My kids are with my parents. I am currently sitting at McDonalds with a coffee, people watching, reading, and blogging. Conclusion: Lots of seniors buy egg mcmuffins.

On a premed forum yesterday, someone brought up that they felt the applicant pools were unfair. I pointed out that it isn't about being fair to applicants, it's about getting doctors to the right places.

And it's true. Nothing about this process is 'fair' to the average applicant. I have far fewer volunteering opportunities, no MCAT prep classes, far fewer research opportunities, and even lower socioeconomic status than many other applicants (my province has amongst the lowest incomes in the country.) This does put me at a disadvantage, as it does for others from here. It's harder to compete with kids coming from big urban centres, who have parents who can pay for everything for them, allowing them to focus only on school while they are there - that isn't the case for people from here.

So we get a 'perk' at two schools because we happen to be from an area that is desperately in need of doctors, but has a far harder time producing competitive premeds due to lack of resources. I could whine and complain that it's unfair and I should get extra consideration at other schools because it's harder to be competitive when coming from here, but I won't. Because, it isn't about being fair.

If the process were about being fair, course difficulty would be evaluated. A BA and a BSc would not be looked at as equal in the application process.

There are lots of things about this that are unfair to premeds, but it isn't about us. It's about the doctors we can be, and getting the right types of premeds to become the kind of doctors the country needs.

It isn't about being fair to us, it's about serving the rest of the population, and I think that's a damn good lesson to the freshly minted adults who are applying: Life isn't fair and whining about it isn't going to help.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Next Summer

Yes, it's a little early to be making plans already, but I like preparing ahead of time.

When my husband started working out west, we knew there would be a slowdown around April/May, and could last for a few weeks. We found out in January that it wouldn't just be a slowdown, but there would actually be no work at all, and that they won't just lay the guys off so they can get unemployment, they are expected to just stay home unpaid until it picks back up. We also learned about two months ago that a fair portion of them just take the entire period of April-August off and get a summer job at home.

No one told us this. It didn't come up at all in looking into this. So, while we expected and prepared for a month or so of no income, the fact that it has been so little for almost four months now kind of blindsided us.

So we're making plans now for what to do next summer.

From the start of the school year, I'll be attempting to lay the foundations to get a summer research job next year. All else fails, I can go back to the call centre, or work two jobs (yay, ECs.)

My husband will take that period off and stay home with the kids. We will have to save enough to cover the difference between my income and our living expenses, but since we have enough warning now, we can do that.

So next summer should be a considerable improvement over this one. I actually like working - I'm a SAHM now only out of necessity, not preference.

Makes me feel better having a plan in place. We won't let this crazy struggle happen again next year. Bonus: I'll have my husband home for several months!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Lists

According to an inside source, a certain store near me is going to have a 15% student discount on non-electronic school supplies shortly. 10% off tech, which is good. Start August 12th.

So I'm making a list for the sake of fun, of everything I will need. Minus the desk and laptop, I think the rest should come in around $60, so that isn't too bad. I'm looking for a used desk for now. No sense paying $200 for a new one if I can get a used one for $50. Same for the laptop. My dad is thinking of possibly getting rid of his, but it may still be above my price range (MacBook Pro, only a year and a half old.)

These are all trappings, though. It is my determination and organization that will carry me through this. I absolutely have to throw everything I have at this.

For all the ups and downs, this is my only real shot at making this happen.

The countdown is on, the wheels are starting to turn. My organizational methods are established, my prestudy goals met and exceeded.

Can't we get this show on the road already?

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

I had to stop by the store today for a few things. As we shopped, they were putting out the school supplies in the seasonal section.

In an entirely unflattering move, I squeed.

Less than six weeks! New student orientation start on September 1st at my school, so it's really only 37 days for me until I start doing school stuff, not counting today.

I need everything. Binders, clips, report covers, paper, notebooks, pens, a desk, a computer, even a backpack. My son's school buys supplies in bulk, so I don't have to shop for him (he even got a backpack and lunch bag as gifts for his birthday) but I'll be going all out to get my stuff.

To somewhat temper my eagerness, I bought a pack of highlighters. As I'm one of those horrible people who writes in their books, I'll need them.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Relaxation

My kids are asleep, my house is relatively clean, my study goals for the day are met, and the laundry is washed and folded, so I'm just doing absolutely nothing.

Well, I'm writing this and listening to the rain. It has been very, very dry here, to the point farmers are getting quite worried, so the rain is much appreciated.

Even though yesterday was absolutely wonderful, today has not been so pleasant, so the downtime is necessary.

It's in these quiet moments that I most miss my husband, however. He is exhausted so he wasn't able to talk particularly long this evening. I miss him. On nights like this, we will usually watch a movie, or curl up on the couch together and talk about silly things or make elaborate plans for our future.

In 42 days, these calm, settled evenings will become a thing of the past as I dive into my first year with every shred of determination I can throw at it.

As of now, I'm trying to avoid thinking of it too much or I will drive myself crazy. My preparations to this point have been far greater than I originally intended.

I am ready to begin. Now I just need to wait, and enjoy my precious quiet moments, because they are numbered.

Monday, 23 July 2012

IT'S ON!!

I finally got the email I was waiting for. My kids and I were at the park so they could run around the splash pad. It was getting time for us to head home and I heard my email tone chime.

Saw that it was from the financial aid office. Packed up the kids really fast and headed home.

I have been approved for EXACTLY how much I needed! First semeter's tuition and fees, first month of daycare, and books. Well, not exactly - it's $20 more than I calculated, but pretty close! I can get most of my books online for a fraction of what they cost at the store, so I will do that and use the remaining amount to get my new computer.

Because it's CSL and a grant, and not provincial, it will be disbursed September 1st, so I'll go pick up the documents in the last week of August.

Appropriately, I just got my student card today.

The rest of the summer is just going to fly by now that I know I don't have to withdraw from school! I didn't even have to appeal.

I am so flipping happy right now. To make it an even better day, Isabel survived the night! She is weak, but doing better than yesterday.

I actually did a happy dance. My son was laughing and screaming and so very happy for me. I don't think he has any idea why I am so thrilled, haha.

Finally, finally, FINALLY! Things are going right. My husband's rig shut down for a week, but coincidentally another rig needed him for a week, which is even better. He's getting work, my tuition is going to be paid.

Oh blessed day, I couldn't be happier right now. Well, I could be if my husband were here to share the joy, but at least he is working.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Palliative Care

One of my birds is dying. I have made her as comfortable as I can, but I will be surprised if she makes it through the night. My finches have some disease - have been unable to determine what it is or treat it - and as such keep dying off on me. We've closed our house to birds - no new ones in, no breeding, no rehoming - and are basically just waiting for all the finches to die. Isabel is now on her third bout with whatever this is, and I have not had even one survive after three episodes.

It is depressing to have animals that are sick who I can do nothing for. I have considered culling the flock completely to prevent this protracted illness and death, but they seem so happy between episodes. In the last year, I have lost five adults and seven babies, though two babies died from unrelated causes (siblicide, parental neglect.)

She has been fed as best I could, and hydrated with electrolyte solution. She is on a hot bag, and comfortable as I can make her. The rest is down to nature. She is one of those rare finches that is hand tame, so I cuddled her for a while, but she seemed a bit uncomfortable with that so she is back with her cage mates. No sense using the hospital cage - all the finches have this, and her greatest support right now is her half-brother Han who keeps feeding her.

I hope she makes it. I adore all the finches, but Isabel is special. She is not only the first of her mutation I have ever had (European Isabel, hence the name) but also nearly died as a hatchling, having been thrown from the nest by her father. She was nearly dead, all dried up and shriveled, but she made it, and she is beautiful.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Study Centre

Figuring I'd need a more dedicated space for my studies, I have moved the computer desk to the master bedroom. I was planning to buy one, but this is a workable solution temporarily.

For one, it gives me a corner in the living room where I can put the toys, reducing mess (hahaha. We'll see.) Secondly, it's smaller than the one I want to buy so I don't have to give up too much floor territory right yet.

We'd been planning to buy me a new computer for school since I really just want something out of the box for simplicity's sake. I can build one easily, but we have few shopping options here so it's just straight up easier to buy one pre-built. In light of everything that is going on, it's not wise to make any such investment until I can be sure that I can pay for school first.

So, now I've got to decide which computer to use. Both use one monitor, but both can be hooked up to the TV as well. I'm going to convert one of them to a straight-up media centre. I have Frank (so named because it's cobbled together from parts of former desktops) and Marc, the MacMini.

Decisions, decisions.

Tiny Ears

My daughter is very prone to ear infections.

By the time she was nine months old, she'd had at least eight. We were referred to the ENT (I say 'the' because there is only one here) but it has been almost a year now, and I have yet to hear anything about an appointment. It is possible they may not want to see her until she is closer to two, so of we haven't heard anything in the next couple months, I'll ask to have another referral sent.

Anyway, as she got older, she typically held up better to ear infections. She'd get a little cranky, but be over it it 3-4 days. As antibiotics cause some very unpleasant side effects for her, I wouldn't take her for a prescription unless it had been 4+ days without it getting better. Strictly speaking, antibiotics only really lessen an ear infection by about one day, but as she generally will spend a week with bloody diaper rashes, my motherly risk-benefit assessment usually erred on the side of not giving antibiotics.

Today, I'm revising that policy.

Last night my adorable toddler who is so easy to put to bed spend two hours screaming herself hoarse any time I tried to lay her down. I have barely slept since my husband went back (two weeks now where I have averaged 5 hours a night, only two nights where I had more and those were last week) so I am beyond exhausted. But nonetheless, I spent two hours walking around with my writhing, screaming child until she finally passed out from exhaustion. Then I did it again when she woke up at 1am.

I got a good look into her throat with my penlight this morning, and I can see white spots on her tonsils, so I think she may have strep throat causing the ear infections.

Poor baby. Hopefully the wait at the clinic won't be too long.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Difficulties of a Well Rounded Education

My son, like me, can tend towards being a bit of a nerd.

Lately, he has decided he doesn't want to be a doctor, he wants to be a marine biologist. He likes anything scientific so we watch Discovery shows together.

A recent fascination of his, aside from whale sharks and jellyfish, has been thunderstorms.

Rather conveniently last night, we had a short-but-lovely storm while we were at a small shop, waiting in line. There was another boy about my son's age there, and he was looking out the window watching the storm play out.

The boy's mother told my son that her son likes watching the lightning. My son yelled "but you hafta be careful because it's so much energy it can kill you!"

The boy looked horrified, his mother a little scandalized.

Maybe I should be a little more careful about what Discovery shows I let him watch.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Oh my gods

Im religious - may have given that away a few times. I'm a member of a very minority relgion, and it may be evident that I'm a polytheist, given my regular pluralization of 'gods' in my posts.

I view divinity as a lens through which humanity interprets the unknown - the various gods throughout our history being our own creations, not actual beings. I look to the attributes of these mythologies to find inspiration for myself. When I pray to a particular diety, I believe it to be completely internal - calling on the parts of myself that are similar to that diety, encouraging my brain to work on those. I do not view dieties at all as external forces or beings, but expression of the many facets of me and my connections to the world. Hence the polytheism.

As such, my personal religious beliefs have absolutely zero conflict with my scientific education.

I'm a member of a Mom's group online. They are getting into a debate about evolution vs creationism.

So far, I've deleted at least ten posts without posting them at all. The group contains several YECs - that's young earth creationists to those unfamiliar with the term - and I've learned through past debate that it is impossible to argue with YECs. Not because they have good arguments - because they don't - but... well, to avoid offending, let's just say you should try it sometime, and you'll see what I mean.

Where my talents end...

To keep myself busy, I build computers, write in beautiful scripts, play five instruments, knit, crochet, write a crapload of fiction, and various other activities for fun. Hell, I've even done a fair bit of construction - including finishing a room with the only assistance being my husband holding up the drywall sheets while I screwed them in, and helping me lay the flooring (teehee. Lay) - and I enjoy it. As a present, my dad bought me a mitre saw. It's name is Choppy.

So, while I'm not particularly prodigious at anything, except cooking, I have an okay level of skill at a wide variety of activities.

Except drawing. I cannot draw my way out of a paper bag.

I've been trying to draw a banner for my blog. Simple stuff - a cartoon me chasing my toddler who has run off with my book, spilling papers everywhere, my son standing by holding my stethoscope and iPad.

The result looks like something a kindergartener would draw. Except it would probably be massively improved by the application of finger paints and crayons. Or fire.

Any lab that requires drawing cells is going to be a challenge, I think.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Day 2

Cleaning continues. My house is looking wonderful. I had the parrots out as I reorganized the craft supplies and my Quaker flew off with a pencil. The kids thought that was the funniest thing ever. I'm about to clean the bird cage - it's a triple stacked cage, three separate cages in one 7' tall unit - so they'll get to have a shower while I scrub the grates, trays, perches, and toys.

As a general rule, the house is much cleaner while my husband is away. It isn't that he doesn't clean, but he does seem to cause a lot more mess. One of the few advantages of him being gone so much, I suppose!

Plan for this week is to scout out a new shelf for linens, figure out some way to keep the flipping Tupperware organized, sort out the storage area downstairs, and sanitize the outside compost bin. We have compost pickup here, it goes out only every other week so as you can imagine, the bin gets a little... yucky in the summer.

The mosquitoes are too bad to go play outdoors with the kids today - they are both allergic - so I have them helping too. My daughter picked up all the toys, my son is finding any handprints or yucky spots on the walls and cleaning them.

The house is going to be in fabulous shape come fall. :)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Nervous Energy

I was up late last night talking to my husband. This three hour time difference is annoying.

At the moment, I'm a bit of a nervous wreck, so I'm channeling that energy into cleaning. Lots of cleaning. My house is not typically very organized. It's not dirty, but just tends to get cluttered easily due to a lack of structured organization and minimal storage, which makes daily cleaning take longer.

So I'm organizing, cleaning everything as I go. Desk, closets, shelves, etc. I've finished three quarters of the upstairs, including the kitchen. Next up is the master bedroom, then the laundry room.

I think this will really work to my advantage at school. When stressed, instead of shutting down, I work harder. That's a pretty damned good attribute, I think.

Perspectives

My school, like many, has a Facebook page for incoming students. Hoping to set up some study groups, I joined.

Several students are freaking out about 26 hours of class and lab a week. Three lecture hours per course per week, five courses total, three of which have labs.

Twenty six hours. Because one of the first year science labs is biweekly, it will be twenty two hours every other week.

Consider me underwhelmed.

Most of these kids have no obligations on their time besides school. How on earth is a measly 26 hours a week so scary?

Maybe it's because I have worked full time (yes, I include my time as a SAHM there. If you tell me that taking care of kids and a home round the clock with no help isn't work, I will laugh at you) since I was 18, I just have a different perspective. My husband has worked full time since age 16, and he laughed heartily when I read him some of the messages.

I feel so old compared to these other students, but I'm really only seven years older. I'm sure this does seem very daunting to them, and I don't think it's going to be a cakewalk for me either, even though I'm quite used to working long hours at things I don't necessarily enjoy. But still, the level of freaking out is one at which I can't help but roll my eyes a little bit and wonder what future goals they have that will require less than thirty hours a week of their time.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Getting Nervous

Just looked at the numbers. Since April 1st, my husband has had 30 days of work. Out of 107.

This needs to pick up. So far, the lost potential income is equal to a small down payment on a house, or two years' tuition and books.

That's why I'm so frustrated by this. There's no work in sight, we've both been looking as much as we can for other avenues, anything we can do to improve this.

Yet, we still apparently make too much for me to qualify for a student loan.

HOW?!? He went two months with no paycheque at all. We have lived 107 days on income equal to 45 days' living expenses - because I'm good at pinching pennies. We only had six months to build any savings before this started, and that has gone poof.

And the student loan office thinks I should be capable of forking out tuition, books, fees, and a month's daycare with no assistance.

I reiterate: HOW?!

Outside the Box

My morning started thusly:

‎"Mommy come look at this!"
"mmff?"
"Come look! It's so pretty!"
*lumber out of bed*
"Isn't the sun so pretty when it's all red?"
"That means you're up too early. Go back to bed, please."

In all fairness, it was a lovely sunrise.

He didn't go back to bed, instead his loud proclamations woke his sister, who usually sleeps to a far more reasonable hour.

They are having breakfast, I'm keeping a very large cup of coffee company.

Was up last night re-reading an old favourite: A Short History of Newrly Everything. It's a great book. Go read it. Just don't start at 11pm unless you can sleep in the next day.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Gushing mom break

My son is so very proud of himself, because he lost a tooth and he said it didn't hurt at all. He yanked it out at lunchtime yesterday.

He got $3 for it, and is saving his funds to buy a lightsabre.

He has been rather proudly showing off his new gap to everyone he sees. He asked me to put a photo of him "On Safari!" so here it is, for his enjoyment.




Saturday, 14 July 2012

Dammit.

So much for the turnaround.

The good news is the the land out west dried out, so they can move rigs around, which is necessary for them to work.

The bad news is that it dried out too much, and the areas they work in are currently aflame. Eighteen uncontrolled wildfires in the area my husband usually works, as of today. The crews have been evacuated and the rigs abandoned.

This does not bode well. The company is back to having far more workers available than work.

My student loan application has yet to be assessed. Talking to a few friends who have been through it in my province, I will have difficulty getting an appeal to go through.

My happiness at feeling we may have been through the worst of it was short-lived. Nature working against us yet again.

Dr. Web

Many physicians seem frustrated by Internet diagnosis patients. I'm sure you know who I mean - I'm not a doctor yet, and even I've seen friends start freaking out about cancer because they have had a bruise a bit too long, or cramping when unexpected. A nosebleed becomes cause for concern about leukemia, roseola sends parents to the ER, terrified about meningitis.

While I am sure this must frustrate doctors, it does have an upside.

Awareness. People are more aware of things they really do need to be careful about. When a friend of mine had just switched heart medications and posted about it on Facebook, I told her to call her pharmacist immediately, because I knew that a supplement she was taking interacted with that medication, as I'd read about it. She talked to the pharmacist, then her doctor, and ceased taking the supplement. One of my close 'imaginary' friends (people I know only online, at least at first) was the first person to tell me that I should have my son assessed, because she recognized some red flags in the behaviours I posted about. She helped get the ball rolling on the early intervention that has made such a huge difference.

Today, a life was saved by a group I'm a member of. They encouraged someone to go to the ER with what were fairly simple, easy to dismiss symptoms which turned out to be something very serious, where time was of the essence. The outcome was good, because of this group of people. Medical care can only save lives if people know to seek it.

It makes me wonder, really. Medical knowledge used to be the exclusive realm of physicians. Today, thanks to the Internet, pretty much every bit of information (aside from hands-on stuff, obviously) that a doctor learns in med school is available on the Internet. Patients who cherry pick the most sensationalist - or terrifying - information with which to diagnose themselves seem to frustrate doctors quite a lot. But, clearly, it can save and change lives too.

I wonder how that balances out, to a physician. Do they view this access to information as a positive or negative?

Hopefully, in a few years, I can answer that question myself.

I tried!

My son and I were doing a bit of writing this morning. He struggles with fine motor skills and, in fact, it's enough of a problem that if he hasn't come up to speed by the end of kindergarten, he'll be given a keyboard to use in class. We work on practicing writing together.

The problem is, my handwriting is atrocious. Funny enough, I do calligraphy as a hobby and I can draw absolutely beautiful letters. But actually writing a note means it is barely legible.

My son, frustrated with my 'examples' told me "Mommy, you can't write either!"

At least I'll fit in with my colleagues.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Musical Interlude

Best part about having kids is seeing what they like. Even better is when they like what you like.


I'm a big Queen fan. As my radio options here are pretty poor (Christian, news, country, or pop) I just have my iPod hooked up to the car at all times. I usually play fairly soft and simple music for the kids - I have a playlist titled 'driving with the kids' - but decided recently to just go ahead and play some of my favourite music.

My son LOVES Queen now. He knows every word to 'Bicycle Race' and most of Bohemian Rhapsody, I Want it All, and We Will Rock You.

Today, I was playing Bohemian Rhapsody a bit louder than I usually do, as my daughter was laughing her head off at my son's antics while singing along. He dances, sings, and air drums.

He started head banging along with the music, then came the air drumming as usual. Well, he was holding an open bottle of water...

He sprayed the whole inside of the car with water. I had to pull over because I was laughing so hard.

My kid is pretty awesome.

A good day

I'm tired, filthy, bruised, and sneezy, but we had an awesome afternoon at the park.

My son has become very socially driven for an autistic kid. He really wants to play with other kids, but he's still a bit unclear on some aspects of interaction. In particular, he can't read subtle (or even not-so-subtle) signs that someone does not want to play with him. Unless they state directly "I don't want to play with you" he assumes they are friends and follows them around.

There were two older boys - probably 10-11 - at the park, and my son just went and sat down with them, introduced himself (he gives a little resume "Hi, my name is Full Name, I'm five year old and I am a very nice boy") and started laughing at everything they said. They were bothered, and got up and moved away. He followed. They kept going, went into the basketball court and just ignored him completely.

He didn't quite get it. I called him over to the play structure, and five minutes later he joined a group of girls, who very clearly did not want to play with a little boy.

On the one hand, it's heartbreaking for me to see that the other kids are rejecting him. On the other, he doesn't realize this. As we left the park, he said "I have so many friends!"

Not one of the kids - besides his sister - would play with him. They all ignored him. But, that didn't bother him because he didn't realize it at all. I just hope he'll make real friends soon, ones that do play with him.

He had fun, though, and that is what matters most.

Planning

So I bought a planner for the year. It goes from July 2012-Dec 2013, so it's perfect. And it's pretty! Brown leather, gold leafed pages, just the right size.

As much as I love my iPad, I prefer writing things down and physically checking them off. It's just so much more satisfying. Plus, books are more tolerant of being dropped.

I've been talking to student friends and collecting organizational tips for the year. I have a plan of attack, now. Due to the fact that my kids are awake during the day, the few evening hours we have together during the week are no-study times, so I don't have the luxury of studying in spurts. I have an hour of review time before class three days a week, as well as two afternoons where my kids will be at school/daycare, when I don't have any class. My four hour chem lab is biweekly, so I'll have that time too. The majority of my studying will be between when my kids go to bed and when I do.

This means all household stuff - dishes, cleaning, laundry, vacuuming - needs to be done during their waking hours. I used to do most of it after they were asleep (aside from vacuuming) but have been transitioning to involving them or occupying them with something else while I clean.

My son, fortunately, is old enough that he is able to help, and young enough that he's still enthusiastic about it. I give that kid a rag and a bottle of diluted vinegar, and he goes nuts. He is expected to do his own laundry, so that helps. He does get paid for some things that are above and beyond his normal chores, and this kid drives a hard bargain. He knows the value of money pretty well for a five year old.

I also need to be able to maintain focus at the end of the day, and study effectively for those ~3 hours in the evening, every night. Fortunately I can stay focused on things that interest me for many more than three hours, but for stuff I don't like, I'll need to use my precious daytime study hours for that.

Going to be an adaptation, for sure.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Gross Anatomy

As we live in a heavily agricultural/aquacultural area, my son is under no illusions of where his food comes from. He knows the neatly packaged steaks at the store were, not too long ago, cows like the ones we see everyday. He knows that the adorable chickens he sees pecking around are just like the tasty chickens we roast.

As such, seeing food in its more or less natural (but dead) state doesn't bother him. For instance, we get chickens from my cousin, who raises them. A roast chicken always becomes a lesson on musculoskeletal structures. My son loves it, and can name many different bones on sight now.

Yesterday at the market, he decided he absolutely had to have a fish. A speckled trout, to be specific. Whole fish, glassy-eyed stare and all.

So before I prepared supper (it's in the oven at the moment) I had to look up fish anatomy, because I knew he'd want to know all the terms. I knew fins, and gills, and the other obvious stuff, but didn't know how to describe the different structures of the fin, or the fleshy bits inside the gills (lamellae, if you're curious.)

My son is awesome. I love that I have to do homework just to cook him a meal, haha.

By e way, I did the fish up with a bit of basil, garlic powder, and tiny bit of butter, and we'll be serving it with fresh beans and peas from up the road. Smells good, so far. Good choice, kiddo.

F5. F5. F5.

Why am I reading the OMSAS 2013 booklet? I won't be applying. The first one that will be relevant to my application attempts is OMSAS 2015.

I'm starting to think we premeds might be a little crazy. I won't even be applying for at least a year (if my first year marks are competitive enough to apply to the few schools that even consider second year applicants) if not two, yet I've learned the stats of successful applicants to every school I'll even consider applying to.

My binders and planner for the year are organized. Finished reading all my first year books in June. I've been doing practice problems from the books to make sure I'm ready before I've started. This has gone beyond making sure I won't be disadvantaged by being out of school so long, and has grown into "oh good gods, shut up already!" territory.

Not writing the MCAT for a year, but I've started studying foundational principles to build on (I have good long-term retention) and have done the free practice test as well as several other assessment tests. Consistently scoring in the 30s, by the way.

My husband looked at me weird when he saw my spreadsheet detailing med schools' admission processes and criteria as well as their approaches to evaluation (holistic vs. stat-heavy.)

Good gods, I'm a keener.

Hopefully, I won't drive everyone around me nuts. If I do anything obnoxious, smack my hand, please.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Turnaround

I had pizza and salad delivered to my husband's hotel last night. This had not occurred to me as something to do until a friend suggested it. I'd honestly never called and paid for something over the phone with a credit card before, so I felt rather dumb that the solution was such a simple thing. My husband managed to get the money I sent to him, so he's taken care of now. Yesterday must have been torture for him, though. A fifteen hour day of hard labour on a completely empty stomach.

On the plus side, he's getting hours. The company isn't back to full staff yet, so it's actually a lucky thing he got on a crew as fast as he did. A lot of the guys still aren't getting any hours. We don't know if this will continue, or if a couple days' rain will have him on standby, but signs are good for now.

I'm building September projections for several different scenarios. If everything goes our way, it *might* be doable even without the student loan. Maybe. If we scrimp and save in other areas of our finances.

We'll see. I can pinch a penny until it screams for mercy, so I consider this a challenge.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Not so lovely things about country life

Our house is a split level. They are very common here as they provide benefits of a poured foundation basement without the cost of a full basement; a cheaper option for a two-storey home. If you are unfamiliar with the style, we basically have a 4' concrete foundation so half of the lower level is below ground.

As we also have a culture of home construction that eschews building standards (and a lack of procedures to implement them), the basement is not as moisture-tight as it should be. My son's bedroom is downstairs, and we actually had to take our landlord to the department of health to get the mould issues resolved. We run a dehumidifier down there, and it makes it quite a comfortable area in the summer, particularly after we finished the other room as a playroom (which is appropriately vapour barriered.)

Half of the basement is still unfinished. At one point, someone went through the concrete to try to put in a sump pump, and gave up halfway through, so there's a hole with just dirt in it.

So we get bugs. Lots of bugs. Centipedes, ground beetles, gigantic spiders, you name it. There was a massive ant infestation when we moved in, but a visit from Orkin and careful food storage took care of that.

The big one at this time of year: earwigs. Earwigs EVERYWHERE!

Because they need moisture so much, they are staying out of the playroom, but they are all over the rest of the basement. I just vacuumed my son's room (had the dehumidifier off as I'm airing it out) and found fifteen. He has no toys in his room, just his bed and desk, so at least they weren't getting in anything, just running around the floor. I found at least several dozen in the cat box in the space under the stairs.

Ew. I hate earwigs with the passion of a thousand blazing suns. I wear gloves and sandals while cleaning down there, but I still gagged a few times.

Not his brightest moment

My husband is currently just outside of a rural town somewhere in western Alberta.

He packed some food to bring with him, just in case he didn't have time to get to the grocery store at first. Unless he's at a camp, food isn't provided. He usually ends up at camp eventually, but typically spends at least a week in hotels when he first goes back.

Good news, the ground has started drying up, he's getting some rig hours and it's looking good that he will get more.

Bad news: he lost his bank card and has no other payment cards of any sort. He's hours by car from the nearest branch of our bank.

He ran out of food Sunday morning. He worked 12 hours in 30°C heat yesterday, and he's been adding salt and sugar (free from the hotel) to his water to keep his electrolytes somewhat balanced.

I'm going to go send him some money by western union, but he can't access it until tonight, after another ~12 hour day.

Forgetfulness can have dire consequences, apparently.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Secondary Infection

Crap.

My son was doing better. Spent the past few days with his grandparents. I went out this morning to get him, and while we were running the dogs, he started coughing so bad he started throwing up everywhere. We got home, and he went to lay down (never a good sign when a five year old voluntarily takes a nap.)

He's running really hot right now. I can't find my thermometer, but my mom touch says at least 104. I've had enough experience with high fevers in him to be able to differentiate.

He's being difficult to rouse right now. I'm going to monitor him. Once I can get him up for a few minutes, we'll hit the store for some Motrin and Tylenol. I'm almost out. I hate medicating fevers for no reason since they are part of the process of killing off an infection, but since he is prone to febrile seizures and scary high fevers, I treat them for him.

Going to whip up a jug of pedialyte (yes, you can make it yourself, google it) and try to get some into him.

Poor kid. This is how all but one of his bouts with pneumonia went. He'd get a cold, get over it, then be sick again a few days later. Secondary infections suck.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Crossed wires?

My university has a veterinary college. As a result, there are many prevets in my program as life sciences covers their prerequisite courses.

I posted a message on our internal message board for first years, asking if there were any other future med applicants as I'd be interested in forming a study group for the MCAT and to practice interviewing, share resources, etc.

Someone replied about how he's aiming to go to veterinary school as well (seemed to be under the impression that was my goal) and that he'd love to form a study group, and already had others who were interested.

I thought about it for a minute, shrugged, and messaged him.

At this point, I haven't met any other premeds who will be in my program. There's only roughly fifty - could be more, but most people from here apply to the two schools where we have really good odds - applicants per year from my province, so while I'm sure there are bound to be a few, I haven't met them yet. I'd guess there are only a handful at my school, and they are probably spread out throughout various programs.

So I'll be studying for the MCAT and interviews with people who will be applying to completely different programs from me. Hopefully this will mean less of the cut-throat behaviour I've heard of in other premed groups.

Something new I learned today: vet students have MMIs and have to write the MCAT as well. The process is nearly identical to med school applications, but with only five schools to apply to instead of seventeen.

New Reality

My mother decided to keep my son for a few days, instead of just their usual sleepover. He'll be home either supper time tomorrow or Tuesday morning. She's taking him to Toronto to see my siblings for five days next month, so this is a bit of a dry run to see how well he does with being away from home for several days. He got to help book his flight and was very excited about it.

We've been talking about it with him for months. One thing about a kid with autism is that anything like this requires a lot of preparation to get them ready for it, or it will be a disaster. New situations are hard for him, and he hasn't been to a big city since we left Ottawa just after he turned one. They'll be seeing the Zoo, and the science museum, the Lego store, and Wonderland if they have time. They're trying to keep the schedule to one big activity a day so he doesn't get overwhelmed.

It's just the baby and I right now. She's taking a nap so I have a rather blissful hour or two to myself.

So what do I do? Pull out my books. An hour with no demands on me is study time. I need to get into the habit of making the most of time I have. This will be my reality for most of the next few years.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Ow.

Since my son is with his grandparents, and my daughter loves music so much, I decided it was a good time to pull out Oberon, my oboe.

Humid days are not kind to woodwinds, so I figured Amadeus, my clarinet, could use some exercise too. My daughter was sitting beside me, tootling away on her sopranino recorder (it's smaller and higher pitched than the ones most kids learn on in school.) All in great fun. Switched back to Oberon to work on Bolero (yes, I realize it is an oboe d'amore in Bolero, but I don't have one of those.)

Then, I guess my dog got sick of it all and came and whacked her head on the bell of my oboe.

Bamboo reed right into the top of my mouth.

Everyone's a critic.

Respite

Every week, my son spends a night at his grandparents' house. My daughter has a couple times as well and starting next year will have her own night, as the primary purpose is for my parents to have one-on-one time with the kids.

This started just over a year ago, when I absolutely needed the respite. While he has come a long way, my son still takes far more energy and focus than a typical child. Having one night off a week was a massive help when my daughter was still an infant. Now, it is just a perk for me and a fun time for my son and my parents.

I had rather severe postpartum depression following both births. In fact, it's a large factor in us deciding not to have more children. I'm still working through it, but I don't expect it will hang around forever. I'm not shy about seeking help when I need it, and the access to mental health services I've had has actually been pretty good.

In the course of this struggle, I encountered an agency I never thought would be a part of my life. When I recognized that my status was not good, I saw my family doctor to see about going on anti-depressants.

He called social services on me, because he didn't believe a mother with postpartum depression could adequately supervise a child with autism and an infant. He also refused to prescribe anything (I was asking for an antidepressant I had responded to well in the past, which is safe and non-addictive.) My son was taken from my care for nearly a week while social services investigated every facet of my life.

I'd taken the initiative to get into therapy, had a referral in to a psychiatrist, and had numerous backup plans and a crisis plan in place. Social services verified all of this, and closed the file as unfounded, but encouraged me to have a permanent regular respite plan in place, hence my son's weekly excursion.

I've often reflected on that event. It was extraordinarily stressful. My daughter and I were held in the office (I was told I'd be arrested if I left) for four hours, I had to call my husband home from work and get my parents involved to keep my son out of foster care.

Can't help but wonder if I would make the same decision when I am a doctor. I don't think I would, but maybe my answer will change when I go through my training. At the time, I was surrounded with mandated reporters, including my therapist who knew far more about my mental status than that physician, and none felt it necessary to make that call.

Can't help but wonder why he did, what experiences he'd had that caused him to call first before even asking questions.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Leaving on a jet plane...

My husband's flight leaves in just under an hour and a half. We're only a few minutes' drive from the airport, and because it is such a small airport, we usually get there around 45 minutes before his flight.

He's just running around getting the last of his stuff together at the moment, then we'll enjoy our last few minutes together as a family for the next two months. He won't be home until likely early September.

The day he leaves is always the hardest. During his first year working out there - he started August 31st last year, so won't be home again until after his 'anniversary' - he will have been home only seven times, for a total of 71 days, fourteen of which were traveling days.

But, even though sometimes he didn't get home from out there until 11pm, I will still count that one hour long space of time I had with him as a day, because when you see your husband so little, even an hour counts.

Seventy-one days, out of three hundred and sixty five. I have only been in the same province as my husband for one out of five days in the last year.

Residency will have nothing on this. Residents complain about all the time they are away from their partners and kids, indeed valid complaints. I'm sure it is very difficult, but I'm pretty sure that after surviving this, the demands of med school and residency on my family will be far lighter a burden.

I adore my husband, completely and totally. He is an incredible man, a wonderful father, and the best partner I could ever hope to have. Seeing so little of him - and knowing that once I start school, my precious time with him will be eaten up by classes, labs, and studying - is incredibly hard. His sacrifice is even greater.

Counting the minutes, now, and hopefully I can count them as hours. We leave in twenty minutes. Can I fit a day into that?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Picture This

I'm just back from checking on my son. Found out we were exposed to influenza in the past ten days, so I'm thinking that's what he has.

After the pneumonia issues last year, I keep a close eye on him when he's sick. He's in bed at the moment, and to go check on him I brought the bottle of Tylenol, my stethoscope, his chart (to note symptoms and meds, so we don't overdose him and can track how well the meds are working. Particularly useful when both kids are sick), and a freezie.

Fever's low-ish for him at 103, lungs are sounding okay, he's still experiencing body aches and a headache, and the cough is really hitting him hard. I expect sometime in the night, I'll hear "mooommmyyy....BLERGH!" He is usually kind enough to stand right beside my bed before he throws up.

At least patients won't puke on my bed.

Little lungs

Last year, my son had pneumonia four times in a six month period. It was scary. His fever would shoot up (hit 107 at least twice) and he would seize. He'd be unable to keep fluids down, but the hospital here is very reluctant to admit children for IV fluids, or even to give them in the ER.

To give you an idea, picture this:

Four year old. 44" tall. Weighed 42lbs. Hasnt gained any weight in 8 months.
- Loses 5 lbs (12% of body weight) in a single week.
- Can't keep fluids down. Throws up from as little as 50mL of water or electrolyte solution.
- Hands and feet are blue, lips grey.
- Purple mottled skin.
- Eyes so sunken the skin around them is almost black.
- Ribs sticking out.
- Tongue is white.
- Barely responsive/hard to wake.
- Hasn't urinated in 24h.
- Has pneumonia, for the 4th time in a six month period.
- Fever that has hit 107 (41.6) and isn't dropping below 104 even with Tylenol/Motrin alternating, with febrile seizures.

That was my son's condition when we hit the ER one time last year. I actually took pictures of his condition to send to a close friend who is a paeds RN, it was the worst I had ever seen him.

The hospital gave him ondansetron (just one pill, no Rx) and 40mL of electrolyte solution (10cc at a time PO over 30 minutes.) I asked - repeatedly - for IV rehydration. Instead, he was discharged with zithromax after he tolerated the pedialyte for twenty minutes.

So, for the next two days, I stayed up and gave him 10cc of electrolyte solution every ten minutes around the clock. He turned the corner, and was okay in another week or so.

At the moment, he has a barking cough, around 104° fever, and the upper lobe of his right lung doesn't sound right (having severe asthma myself, I've learned how to listen to lungs, at least on a basic level. I have an okay stethoscope, but it's no Litmann.) When he gets sick, he gets REALLY sick really fast.

So I'm grappling with whether to take him or not, or just tend him at home. I don't have any confidence in the hospital here, after the above-described experience. I'm hardly a 'doctor mom' type, but I do know my kid.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Fun times...

So, I have a phobia. Really, really severe phobia of bees, wasps, and anything that looks like them. Ever hear the Wilhelm scream in horror movies? That is what I sound like when one gets close to me.

Well, combine that phobia with the idiotic decision to walk the dogs through a hayfield (full of flowers!), and I ended up having a panic attack. Been a long time since I had one, but they really are a living hell.

I calmed down eventually (thank you, Vivaldi) but it really is terrifying to feel like you are dying and needing to run at the same time.

Three G

So, I'm sitting at a Tim Hortons with my iced capp right now, just chilling out and people watching. I'm waiting for a prescription to be filled at the nearby pharmacy.

My husband and I talked about it - at length - yesterday, and decided to give his mom a trial run living with us. She is currently living in very poor conditions. It is subsidized housing for aboriginals, and they don't have the funding to address the rodent infestation, the mould, or conduct necessary repairs. She is living in a basement apartment in a crime-ridden area of a large city and is afraid to leave her home.

My MIL is, as millions of Canadian seniors are, living on only her old age benefits, which means to get a different apartment would take almost all of her income. Even the subsidized ones are going up in price, and she can't afford a better one. She spent two years sleeping on an acquaintance's couch waiting for her current unit to open up. She cannot afford a retirement community, and is in far too good health to move into a provincially funded nursing home.

My sisters-in-law have no desire to have her move in with them, so it falls to us. The only way for her to get out of those conditions is to let her move in with us.

This is totally new territory to me. My parents wouldn't live with me if I paid them. They are in their fifties and rather well-off, so my siblings and I have always been aware that they have their long term care planned out. They *want* to move into a retirement community eventually, and have absolutely no desire to move in with their kids. So I hadn't thought this would be something I'd ever be considering.

But, here we are. I'm about to have a woman who is nearly the same age as my grandmother move in with us. Sometime in the next few months, we will become a three generation household. This isn't all that unusual, outside of North America, but I didn't grow up with the expectation that it would ever be something I'd do.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Oh, life is crazy

My MIL has a, shall we say, rocky relationship with most of her kids. My husband, being a mediator at heart, has kept a pretty decent relationship with her but maintains his distance for some very good reasons I won't get into here.

My mother-in-law was in her 40s when my husband was born, and she is now in her mid 70s, so approaching the end of her driving days, and finding complete independence burdensome. Considering that, culturally, an Elder would be cared for by their oldest son, the responsibility is about to fall on my husband.

She has asked to move in with us.

While I do maintain a civil-to-friendly relationship with her, I'm not quite sure I'm ready for her to move in. The dynamics of having a senior parent in the home are quite different, but there would be perks, like me not being the only adult in the house 90% of the time. Being able to go grocery shopping without the kids. Someone else available to watch them if the kids get sick and I have to go to school.

There would also be drawbacks. She and I both have strong personalities, and that is a recipe for disaster. I am... relaxed about the state of my home, she isn't.

I am also an uptight rule follower, whereas she has a more relaxed view of rules.

See? Disaster written all over it.

As it stands, the decision will be up to my husband, but the impact of it won't be on him. It's something we'll have to discuss at length.

Monday, 2 July 2012

64

Sixty four days until the first day of school, not counting today.

As it stands, my husband will be returning to his job on Friday. The weather out there seems to be doing okay, so he may get some rig time which should keep our heads above water. We still, at this moment, just don't know for sure what will happen next but there are at least some hopeful signs.

My student loan app is in. I hope it isn't rejected, but I'm prepared to appeal if necessary.

Still fighting to make it happen. Things aren't terribly promising, if the student loan doesn't work out, but I'm trying to remain hopeful. I have my backup plans (pitifully few options, though) laid out in spreadsheets for reference.

Spreadsheets are awesome, by the way. Such a nice way to organize ideas, so clean and orderly.

Maybe I'll make a schedule for the next sixty four days. In my spreadsheet program, naturally. Might help keep me sane.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Stats and Planning

Assuming that I manage to start school this year, I have the following plan:
- Write MCAT next summer.

Application cycle #1 (during second year)
- Alberta
- Calgary
- Saskatchewan
Chance of success: Fairly low (OOP, second year applicant)

Application cycle #2 (During third year)
- McMaster
- Queen's
- Ottawa
- Toronto
- Calgary
Chance of Success: Higher, depending on MCAT and GPA (GPA alone for Ottawa, VR only for Mac)

Application cycle #3 (During 4th year)
- McMaster
- Queen's
- Ottawa
- Toronto
- Calgary
- Dalhousie
- Memorial
- NOSM
Chance of Success: fairly high, particularly at Dal and MUN.

If third cycle is unsuccessful, keep applying to cycle #3 schools until I get in.

Statistically speaking, there are around 11,000 individual applicants to Canadian med schools every year, for ~2800 seats. On average, most successful applicants submit 2.7 applications. Realistically, a ~1/4 chance isn't that bad, particularly when you consider that the cutoffs for a few schools are as low as 3.0-3.3. Many people apply who have an extremely small chance of getting accepted. Additionally, for MUN and Dalhousie, I am in a very small applicant pool because of my home province.

Assuming I can pull a competitive GPA and MCAT - I am an extremely good test taker, for what it is worth - I will actually have a pretty good shot of getting in by my third application cycle. I will have submitted sixteen applications total by that point.

I think this plan gives me the best shot of giving in. Just need to live up to my commitment to myself to get the best GPA I can.

Happy Canada Day!

I love Canada Day. Well, up until around 10pm, before the drunks hit the roads (though I will hope, as I do every year, that they don't.)

We'll be heading down to the beautiful park downtown to spend an hour in line for face painting, then an hour in line for pony rides, then ten minutes in line for overpriced poutine.

But the kids will love it. There will be music and lots of other kids. We'll wake our sleeping children later tonight (if the neighbours and their illegal fireworks don't first) and drag them down to the waterfront to watch the fireworks through bleary eyes.

It is a gorgeous day, full of all the promise an east coast July can hold.

Happy Canada Day, my fellow Canucks, and to my readers of other nationalities, consider joining us for the party sometime, eh?