When A Great Man Dies

Disbelief and denial, that’s where grief begins. When we heard the news, the doctor in me had to know what happened. What could so suddenly fell this man, the rock of our church? Over the past five years, we’ve seen him as tall and strong, calm and smiling, never stressed, always present… but most of all, as a constant in our lives, a model of being.

What happened?

Fingers shaky, I dialed the rectory. Sketches of details, thirdhand: driving home with his teenage daughter, said he felt sick, pulled over, passed out. She called 911 on her cell, EMTs came. CPR at the roadside, continued to the hospital, over an hour of trying. They couldn’t get him back.

We can’t get him back.

What a loss. Our church held an impromptu prayer service Friday evening. This was really a chance for us to hug, cry, and talk about it, to talk about Steve and what he meant to each of us. The theme of loss came up again and again… we were not the only ones who counted Steve as a positive role model. His warmth, strength, and ready guidance made him a friend and father figure to many.

But, there was also thankfulness, thankfulness that we had had the opportunity to know him, to have had his leadership and example. He met challenges with an easy smile and steady demeanor. He eased tensions, smoothed ruffled feathers, averted drama. These are special qualities.

Hubby and I spoke of this yesterday. We’ve both been working on our tempers. There’s times that we flare at the kids, and at each other. Late workdays plus overtired children equal temper tantrums from everybody. We know we both need to learn to step back, breathe, and think.

We were in the car, driving home from dinner with friends, quiet. I thought of this and said, out of the blue: “You know those bracelets that people wear that say WWJD, like, What Would Jesus Do?”

Right away, Hubby smiled, nodded, and said,  “What Would Steve Do. I know. I thought of that too.”

“Yeah,” I said. “It would help, when the kids are driving us nuts. To think about Steve, how he would react… We’ll all be the better for it.”

“I know, I know,” Hubby agreed, and we drove on.

 

When a great man dies, for years afterwards, the light he leaves behind him illuminates the paths of others. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Steve, we will always look up to you.  Obituary: http://www.dolanfuneral.com/2015/02/steven-taber/

Steven Taber. For full obituary: http://www.dolanfuneral.com/2015/02/steven-taber/

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Nachos and Cookies For Lunch…Bad Mommy, or Healthy Moderation?

The kids and I had homemade nachos for lunch today, with girl scout cookies for dessert. Later, for an afternoon activity, we made and decorated sugar cookies. And no, I’m not  concerned about any of us. As a matter of fact, the kids had ice cream sundaes for lunch yesterday, and I’m still not worried.

The unconventional diet is only partly because we’re in extended survival mode, trudging through the Snowpocalypse, with Hubby away for what feels like the past month. Honestly, we allow wacky deviations like these at baseline.

The reason I’m not worried? I know that if our kids’ diet is represented by a pyramid, then not just the base, but almost the whole pyramid is made up of berries and yogurt, grapes, apples, oranges, bananas, macaroni and cheese, sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches, baked pea or lentil puffs, and Cheddar Bunnies.  Babygirl is, apparently, vegetarian, as well as finicky… I can safely say that her pyramid is mostly fruit, yogurt, and Cheddar Bunnies.

They’ve never eaten at a fast food chain, and only occasionally get things like hot dogs and fries or pizza. (Actually, Babygirl won’t touch any of those things anyways.) They’ve never had soda; they drink tons of milk. Yes, they get juice boxes in their lunch bags. Neither child has an overwhelming sweet tooth, and they enjoy dark chocolate or Fig Newtons as much as anything else. Kit Kats, MnM’s, and marshmallows have all served as potty-training prizes, but sadly, neither kid is that interested. (I’d let them eat those things all day if it would get either of them 100% potty-trained!)  They do love the occasional donut run; we make it something special. The girl scout cookies, hey, we’re supporting our local troop! They’re small, and they’re seasonal. Who can resist a Caramel deLite?

I don’t think there’s much nutritional difference between nachos and cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich, pasta with butter and parmesan, or cereal and milk. It all breaks down to the same molecules: some carbs, some dairy protein. We try to buy whole grain and organic dairy (today’s nachos were gluten-free quinoa and brown rice chips with organic cheddar cheese), but we’re not sticklers. Lower-sugar juice boxes, free range eggs and whole wheat Goldfish crackers may not be that different from their nutritionally and financially cheaper versions, but we feel a little better.

Hubby and I love to cook, and we let the kids help. Nothing fancy: soups and stews, salads, grilling. With plastic knives, they help chop cucumbers, melon, strawberries, pineapple, whatever. We bake plenty of cookies, brownies, and rice krispies treats, but in all honesty, they seem to enjoy mixing the batter more than eating the final product. (Ergo, our church and my office enjoys a regular supply of homemade sweets!)

The kids also help with shopping for groceries, especially with picking out produce. Babyboy continues to be obsessed with eggplants and peppers, insisting that we buy these every time. He’s never even tasted these things, but no matter. He knows what they are, and sees us eating them. Ten bucks says when he’s older, he’ll try these, and like them, too.

On the ice cream sundaes for lunch yesterday, there is a story there. It was Saturday, and I was solo with the kids. I found out that there were two last-minute openings at my gym’s child care center, and I dragged them there so that I could exercise. It was probably the coldest morning yet, and they were so, so good. I was able to get them dressed, in all of their crazy winter gear, in the car and to the gym within thirty minutes: a minor miracle. I dropped them in the childcare room, noting that the two “sitters” were very young and especially crabby. Still, I said bye and got myself a much-needed workout.

When I picked them up, Babyboy was sitting alone in a corner, quiet and sad. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, so seriously: “Mommy, please don’t leave me here again. I don’t like these teachers.”

The girls said they’d had to put him in time-out for not sharing. I’m sure the time-out was appropriate, but he’s a special kid. It wasn’t fair of me to stick him with people who probably have no training in autism spectrum behaviors. He needs things explained, really spelled out, and he responds best to a kind style of discipline. I felt like a selfish jerk.

Since we then had to go to the local grocery, I told him he could get a special treat, and he said he wanted ice cream. To make it really fun, we bought Hershey’s syrup and whipped cream along with the Brigham’s classic strawberry. Hence, my kids ended up having ice cream sundaes when we got home, and it only made me happy, because they were happy.

I did ask a fellow mom if she thought that was a “bad mommy move”. Probably knowing Babyboy, and that both of our families eat in the similarly basically healthy way, she was fully supportive, and shared that she’d had a hard morning, and so served something “fun bad” to her kids for lunch too.

In the big picture, our kids are normal weight and developing fine. They’re reasonably physically active, even in this endless winter. We’ve gotten them outside to play almost every day, even when there’s been a blizzard or deep freeze (if only for a few minutes). Today, Sunday, the kids and I went out icicle-hunting and built snow forts in the comparatively balmy 36 degree morning. Hubby and I strive to run, ride the spinning bike, or go to the gym whenever we can, hopefully setting an example of prioritizing and enjoying physical activity.

I think we parents can go too far in either direction with our kids’ diets, from stressing about an all organic, plant-dense menu with loads of restricted or banned foods, or, ignoring the whole idea of nutrition and allowing daily intake of sodas, fast foods, and sugars. I really believe that the healthiest approach is somewhere in the middle… As they say, everything in moderation, including moderation.

And sometimes, we all need something “fun bad” for lunch.

 

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My Parenting Skills Plummet with the Temperatures.

My parenting patience is directly related to the temperature. The colder it is, the more frustrated I am. Two kids, three errands to run, ten degrees and windy outside, infinite layers of clothes needed, and zero children are ready in time.

It’s school vacation week, and Hubby is away. Thursday is my day “off” with the kids, so they had to come with me to the animal shelter, the pharmacy, and the grocery store in the morning. For this, our first outing of the day, I managed to stay calm, despite significant delays secondary to a sudden craving for Cheddar bunnies, an overwhelming need to finish a Lego creation, and the wrong socks.

Then, the layers. We can’t even step outside without full gear, including snow pants. These kids cannot resist climbing the mountainous banks, slamming into the snow walls, dumping snow on each other. Just walking from the back door to the car will require me pulling at least one if not two kids out of too-deep piles and cleaning snow out of their necks. I have to bring extra gloves because the first set gets wet within one minute.

So it takes forty-five minutes to get out the door anywhere. We made it to the shelter, the little building dwarfed by the snow in the photo below. The kids love playing with the kitties, helping to brush them, feeding them too many snacks. But then, they get hot, and they want to take layers off. Uh- uh, I said, No way! It took too long to get all those layers on in the first place!

But, they insisted, and so layers came off, with lots of tugging, pulling, and yanking, only to go back on again within thirty minutes. More tugging and pulling and yanking. Ugh.

Once we got home, I didn’t want to go anywhere else. So we stayed in most of the day. Our planned activities were over and done within an hour: we made rice krispies treats, played with modeling clay. What next? Sure, some free-play, Legos and magnetic tiles and talking animals. But really, there was a whole lot of Curious George involved. I know the AAP recommends no more than two hours of screen time a day for kids, but when it’s this cold and annoying out, on goes Curious George.

This evening we had to go out again, and it was much, much colder. The kids again pulled their snow-day dawdle. I froze. When Babyboy went for another snowbank base jump despite my order to GET IN THE FREAKING CAR, I picked him up and put him in the car. I had my gloves off so I could get the kids in the car seats. He was covered in snow, so my hands got wet. He struggled, so it took an extra long time to get him buckled in. My hands were close to frostbitten, or at least, they felt that way; as they thawed, they hurt so badly, I got nauseated.

Of course, I dream of the days when we’ll be able to go outside without putting any layers on at all. I know my parenting skills will improve…

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Stocking Up For the Storm… And Not At The Grocery Store

Yes, we’re in the middle of another blizzard. At least it’s a long weekend, and hopefully, I won’t have to revisit the “when the doctor cancels clinic” theme again.

But, it’s a long weekend. And we’ve already had 77 inches of snow. Roads, parking lots, heck, even our little driveway have all been squeezed by encroaching massive frozen snow piles. My (leased) minivan is scarred from scraping up against glacial mounds as I try to maneuver in reverse onto our now one-way street. We’re already largely snowbound. So, I’ve been worrying about being trapped inside with the kids, again.

So, in the days leading up to this latest snow event, we’ve tried to stock up. I’m not talking about milk/ eggs/ bread; we’re all set, Hubby picked up the essentials early. Rather, we’ve been trying to spend time out of the house with the kids, as much as we can considering our work schedules, stocking up on experiences.

My Thursday off, Babyboy’s school had a delayed opening. What to do with a relatively short amount of time, on a weekday morning? I wasn’t sure, so I asked him.

“I want to go to the animal shelter, and then the coffee shop,” he stated. So, he came with me for my usual Thursday morning kitty care shift, and took great pride in brushing the longhaired long-term resident, Ginger.

Then, off to the coffee shop. Babyboy’s had some odd interests lately, and one of them is a just-short-of-an obsession with coffee shops. He seeks ads for coffee shops in magazines, clips coupons for coffee in the circulars; he’s even insisted that Hubby print out images of coffee for him. Our kitchen walls are currently decorated with Dunkin’ Donuts. We don’t know why. At any rate, he was elated to stop in at Starbuck’s for a hot cocoa. With a little extra time, we took a walk through the center of town, and watched the bulldozers clearing the snow.

Later that afternoon, when I picked Babygirl up from her school, I asked her if she’d like to go to the library. I haven’t ventured to the library with either of them since our last disastrous visit, the one with the explosive diarrhea and the temper tantrum. So I was  bit nervous. But Babygirl waltzed in and plopped herself down in the aisle, asking to be read to, and then “reading” book after book… she didn’t want to leave. Remembering the last time, when I struggled to carry her out under my arm as she kicked and screamed, I didn’t push it. So we got home late, and with a huge pile of books to carry us through these indoor days.

Today, knowing that the snow was to start this evening, I took them to the local Children’s Museum. We went with another mom and her son; it was a total winner of an outing. The kids were engaged and active all day, from the opening hour to the beginning of the snowfall.

Hubby tried to spend his free time with the kids this week similarly. And now, I won’t feel guilty at all when we spend the next 48 hours inside baking sweet carbs, reading and re-reading picture books, and watching endless Curious George and Disney movies…

 

 

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Sharing A Great Post (and Blog!)

Thanks to a reader, I have discovered another doctor-mom blog, and it’s wonderful, called Hot Heels, Cool Kicks, and a Scalpel: Trauma Mamas Balance Fashion, Fitness, and Family .

This post is particularly relevant: A Plea For Snow Days And Common Sense.

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Don’t Mess With Mother Nature…

Sometimes, we humans need to be put in our place, and made to feel small. Whatever power you believe in, be it God, Mother Nature, Gaia, or unnamed energy field, he/she/it is seriously messing with us.

I am very thankful that I was able to stay home today, because we have another 24 inches of snow in our town, and it’s still snowing. That’s about 76 inches of snow in less than three weeks.  Hubby and I, like everyone else in the region, have done a whole lot of shoveling. The kids got out and played, especially Babyboy. He loves climbing snow mountains.

Many folks had to go in to work, and have to go in tomorrow too. God speed and stay safe. Me, my practice was closed by the Powers That Be. Meaning, the hospital administration. More snow is falling, and thus, Hubby and I will enjoy another day with the kids, and shoveling. Honestly, even though I’ve got this right cervical radiculopathy, and I’ve had to substract vacation days and add sessions in to accommodate all these patients, I feel completely grateful. Hubby is home, there’s milk/eggs/ bread in the fridge, and we’re all safe.

I’m hearing that another snowstorm or two is headed our way before the end of the week. I’m sure there will be plenty more thankfulness (and snow photos) before then…

 

No bulldozer was used to help make this mountain of snow over at Nana's. Nana made this mound of snow over at Nana's.

This photo was taken Sunday morning BEFORE the most recent foot of snow fell. No bulldozer was used to help make this mountain of snow over at Nana’s. Nana made this mound of snow over at Nana’s. 

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When The Doctor Cancels…

We’re in the middle of an 84-hour “snow event”. This is our third major snowstorm within the past three weeks. I’ve been sitting here weighing the risks and benefits of trying to go to work tomorrow vs. staying home.

In my six years as an attending physician, I’ve last-minute canceled clinic several times: for weather (snow and hurricanes), illness (Norovirus), and for deaths in our family (sadly, twice).

But I’ve never had to call out this many times in short succession.

Hubby was out of town and I was alone with the kids for the last two snowstorms, and it was literally impossible for me to leave the house. My practice is all ambulatory, and most of my patients had rescheduled their appointments anyway. So, I didn’t feel bad. It was what it was.

But this storm is weird. It’s a long, steady, relentless snowfall. When it’s over, we’ll likely have another eighteen inches of snow on the ground.

I would think that with the snow accumulating this slowly, the roads would be more easily cleared. But, we were out and about today doing Sunday things, and the driving was far worse than we expected. My car was stuck, twice.

The snowfall is supposed to be heavier tomorrow. My dilemma is: do I make the huge effort and take the risk to get downtown to work, knowing that most of my patients will be rescheduling? Or do I simply stay safe and stay home?

The doctor culture, the message that is drilled into our heads during training, is this: “If you’re not in the hospital, you’d better be in the hospital.” In residency, if someone calls out sick, someone else has to be pulled to take their place. It’s inpatient care; there is no rescheduling. Those residents that called out frequently or who had prolonged absences were widely and heavily resented, even if they had a sound excuse.

I remember arising extra early in heavy snow to make an often perilous drive to one of the satellite hospitals where we rotated on the floors. Of course I struggled to get my car out of the lot. Of course I spun out and got stuck on the highway. I would either gun it and power through, or get my shovel from the trunk and clear my own way. I was damned if anyone was going to call me a slacker.  (I was even more afraid of getting the evil eye- and punishment-  from my colleagues.)

But these days, I have no inpatient duties. Most of my patients are coming in for physical exams or non-urgent issues. Much can be accomplished via communication online or by phone. On the bad-weather days when I have called out, my colleagues who made it in saw two, maybe four patients the whole session (as opposed to ten).

I imagine that tomorrow will be one of those days. Will I be one of the docs who makes it in? If so, I can use the down time to catch up on lab/imaging results review and reporting, and boards studying. That would actually be nice. On the other hand, I can do that kind of thing from home, if Hubby can cover me and I can hide from the kids.

And so, I ponder…

An early-morning weather report and peek out the window will help. Meantime, I may as well go to bed.

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