Saturday, 29 June 2013

Full Length

To gauge my progress, I took a full length (Kaplan) practice test last night. Did it after a long day at work and I started at 9pm. I did not review my answers before submitting since I just wanted to go with my gut. I had 15-20 minutes left on the clock for each section.

With five weeks and six days to go before my actual MCAT, I got a 29. 9 PS, 11 VR, 9 BS.

Not great, but not terrible either. I have not prepared for verbal at all, really because I know it is my strongest area. I've been told the Kaplan practice tests do tend to be harder, so there is that too.

My actual BS and PS scores, so long as they are at least 9, will only matter to Queen's when I apply next year. McMaster only looks at VR, Toronto only cares that you meet the cutoff after which it doesn't matter, Ottawa doesn't care about the MCAT, but Queen's does care about your actual MCAT score overall.

If I'm going to have a weakness on the MCAT, at least it isn't VR. That section really is the most important.

Still, what this practice test does tell me is that I absolutely need to hit the books hard for the next month. I am working full time and with my son off for the summer, am more busy with family stuff.

Just under six weeks to go. I can do this!

Thursday, 27 June 2013


I have zebra finches, and a problem for anyone who keeps zebra finches is unwanted breeding. You cannot spay finches, so if you keep males and females together, you need to be vigilant about removing any unwanted eggs.

Unfortunately, I was not as vigilant as I should have been because I hadn't seen any eggs in months, and we ended up with some chicks.

One died quite young - around ten days. He was undersized, sickly, and the parents weren't feeding him. We tried to save him, but just couldn't. He died in my hand. Shuddered and gave a last little squeaky breath and died.

Last week, the oldest finch fledged. He started coming out of the nest daily, hopping around, picking at food, learning to be a finch.

Then one day, the other one was missing from the nest when I checked. I looked everywhere, until I heard a pathetic, tiny peep from the bottom of the cage. He'd fallen right through the grate, as he was tiny!

And he hasn't gotten any bigger. In a week, a baby finch should grow considerably, but he has not. Gizmo, as my husband named him, is the size of a hummingbird. Maybe a bit smaller.

Gizmo and his sibling, Dracula (my six year old named him). The bottom is covered with a cloth to keep Gizmo from falling through, and we can spread food on it for them to learn to eat. Yes, it's messy. Baby birds are messy.

He also has some deformities. His head, breast, and belly feathers haven't come in. They should have over two weeks ago, but so far, nothing. Not even pinfeathers, the part that breaks the skin then opens into a feather. His wing feathers came in on time, but the rest of him is just covered in down.

His feet are rotated inward - club foot - so although he is trying with all his little birdy might, he can't perch. He just hops around on the bottom of the cage, even though his sibling - who is only two days older - has started taking short flights when encouraged by the adults.

He is a determined little thing, though. I've been debating whether I will have him euthanized as a finch who can't walk, fly, or feed itself is doomed to a life of suffering. But he is adapting. He can hop around a bit, he's able to fly up a couple of inches. And he is friendly.

Usually, the only way to get a tame finch is to hand feed, but Gizmo seems to have some developmental delays, so he has no fear of us. He comes right up to us when we go to talk to the babies, and he peeps right back at me.

He's an awkward looking thing, as any bird without feathers tends to be, but he's a sweetheart. If he can learn to move around and feed himself, I will be keeping him, though I'll have to prepare an adaptive cage with platforms instead of perches, a water bottle (drowning in water bowls is a danger for reduced mobility birds) and open feeders and a flat nest.


It's pretty amazing to see how such a tiny animal can adapt to such challenges. I'm looking forward to seeing how he develops. He may not live long, but I'm going to enjoy having him while he does.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


As I've mentioned before, I do calligraphy as a hobby. I've never been very good, but I practice a lot. Because I have always had some fine motor control problems, much like my son does, I have a lot of hobbies that require me to work with my hands. Crochet, knitting, calligraphy, sewing. I do this on purpose, to help discipline my fingers so I have the control and precision I want, and to discipline my mind to focus for a long time on fine detail. Someday, I will need to learn how to suture; what better practice than years of fine motor control activities to help hone my control?

My command of Blackletter script has become very good, so I don't need to think much about the letterforms and spacing as I write, I can think more about the content of the piece.

S I've started taking notes in Blackletter with one of my parallel pens while I listen to MCAT material podcasts. I have always found that writing by hand forces me to think more about material, so now I've stepped that up a notch. I probably have the most beautiful organic chemistry notes written in a hundred years.

My MCAT is just over six weeks away. I am listening constantly to podcasts - I drive at least eight hours a week, so that is now study time too - to reinforce what I have been reading. I am gradually getting better and better at answering practice questions in my book. My confidence is building, but I'm not yet at the point where I feel I will get the score I want.

I found out that MUN has an exceptional circumstances application option which doesn't require that you be finished your degree. It is very rare to be able to get in under this option. One person told me that only one applicant in the last fifteen years has gotten in under it.

I think I might try anyway. Is there a chance I'll get in? Probably not. But it may well be worth the $225 for even a very remote chance. A gamble that could save me years and thousands of dollars. Probably not, but the risk is small for the potential payoff.

The application deadline is September 16th. I need to decide before then. It would mean finding verifiers and references, and making myself look incredibly good on the application, but I'd like the practice.

Still have to decide, though. It would also mean taking two English courses next year which I would rather avoid.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Today was a rough day. The entire department where I work is facing cuts and people were informed who has been affected today. It does affect me. I have a job through the end of the summer, but so far that is all I know. I was hoping to be kept on, which they do for many students, but that is seeming less likely.

Seeing people who had just been told terrible news was rough. My boss is amazing, I really like her, and she told me to leave early. Everyone else had gone home; she told me to pack up and go, nothing was going to get done. She gave me a pep talk, and I promised cookies for tomorrow (which are now in a container in my purse.)

I wish I could make things better for people, but I can't.

Today also was rough with regards to my son. He misbehaved after I warned him about a consequence, and so he is missing out on his year-end field trip tomorrow. The school can't accomodate, so he's spending the day with my mother who will make sure he does not view it as a fun day.

His behaviour is unacceptable, so I don't feel bad enforcing the punishment I outlined. He's being a brat at school, and it has to end now. He has gotten so much better at home - it has been a long time since his behaviour at home was worse than is typical for his age - but his behaviour at school is atrocious and the school isn't doing enough to deal with it even though I am forcing the issue. Fortunately we've got stuff sorted out for the summer at the daycare, but I am already working on solutions for next school year.

All this to say I haven't studied today. Besides listening to some podcasts on my way to work, I haven't had the brainpower to do a damn thing.

Why must life get in the way of my academic goals?


Monday, 17 June 2013


My husband is in Halifax again this week, so things are quiet around the house.

I'm listening to some audio lectures on Organic Chemistry. I'm finding audio works better for bio for me, but reading is better for organic and gen chem. Verbal, well, reading is obviously the ticket.

My studying has been a bit all over the place. I'm working on doing one section per book per night. It is working fairly well; my confidence is building bit by bit. I have only a few weeks, really, but I think I will be ready in time.

Work is going well. Job #2 is on the horizon shortly, but with my husband travelling somewhat randomly that is causing issues with my ability to schedule anything.

Now that we are more than a month removed from my husband's last Alberta paycheque, the reality of our much reduced (by about 60%) income is sinking in. It's worth it to have my husband (mostly) home, but it is proving to be a bit of an adjustment.

Hopefully by the end of the summer, we'll be more comfortable having returned to our former income level. Hopefully.

Sunday, 9 June 2013


I'm tired. It's been an ongoing thing, this exhaustion of mine. No matter how much sleep I get, I'm just absolutely wiped out most of the time. It's tough to get out with the kids and go to work every day when I barely have the energy to get up, but I do it because I know NOT moving will just make things worse.

I slept twelve hours last night. Just passed out in my clothes when we got home from my parents' house at 7, and woke up at 7:30 this morning. I'm still tired.

I'm expecting a rad report and labs back this week so we can maybe figure out what's going on. I've had enough imaging of the problematic area to know what is normal for me and I didn't see anything abnormal for me, but I'm not a radiologist.

It is making it very hard to study. I do not like taking things that give me artificial energy boosts besides my morning coffee, but it is sorely tempting to take an energy drink now and then so I can at least get some studying done. But my brain is so foggy I'm not really absorbing anything, so what is the point?

My MCAT is two months from today. I HAVE to make this work.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The name of the game


I'm very good at it. I'm studying (ish) and keep finding myself absolutely absorbed in other things.


Photography! I sat at the window for twenty minutes, hand on the shutter, to try to get a picture of her! She is the most skittish bird. Her mate is an idiot and regularly runs into the window, gets stuck in the garage, and sits out in the open where anything could eat him. It's how he got his name "SB" for either 'short bus' or 'stupid bird.'

I'm not terribly good at any of my artsy pursuits. Mildly okay. But they give me something to do when I don't want to do what I should be doing.

Might have to turn over my pens and inks to my mother until August 10th or I'm going to have a crap score.

Stolen Summer

My MCAT is two months and one week away. I already have approval to take that day (a Friday) off as ill be driving to Halifax the evening before.

So far, I have not been studying as much as I need to be. I should be studying heavily every single day. I have my husband home, he can take n the major responsibilities of kid and house care while I focus on studying. But I've been enjoying spending a lot of time with him instead of doing what I should be doing, which is studying.

This weekend, I've holed myself up in the bedroom during the day, breaking my long standing rule of no studying while the kids are up.

My husband deserves a medal, he really does. He doesn't complain about having to take on everything so I can study, he just does it. Because we both know this test is a big part of our future as a family. Beyond that, it represents a significant expenditure. Besides the $300 for the test, plus the additional materials I've purchased to prepare myself, the cost of traveling and staying in Halifax overnight will add an additional $300 or so to the cost of it. While the option of a rewrite exists for next summer, we'd like to avoid that if at all possible, obviously.

I'll be applying to four Ontario schools in the fall of next year. That really is not that far away. A year goes by so fast nowadays. It's hard for me to believe my son is six and a half, and my daughter will be three in just a few months. It feels like we just left Ottawa, but that was almost half a decade ago. Fifteen months until applications is nothing. It's fifteen rent cheques. It's sixty-five weekends.

The days pass quickly the older you get, because relative to your entire life each day is less and less an amount of your existence, and while I am far from old, I have noticed my perception of time passing has changed significantly from even when I was 19. My son's first year seemed to have gone on forever. My daughter's first year flew by. The eight months of my academic year seemed to just vanish in a puff of smoke, where once six months seemed like forever.

So two months and one week, that will be gone in the blink of an eye. That is nothing. It's a passing thought of time.

Even though two months is a long time to my kids, I know they'll forgive my absence for most of the summer.