Sunday, March 9, 2014

Parents Who Appreciate and Respect Get What They Deserve: Love

Claire put me onto an article on Facebook the other day written by a mom who (explicitly) bashed parents who ask their kids to do things, rather than tell them to do things.  No caveats, no exceptions, no special circumstances; her rationale was that, if you ask your kids to do things, you're being a passive parent, and you are [expletive] irresponsible.

As a developmentalist, my head began spinning with reasoning like: cultural differences, shared meaning of an interaction, mutual regulation, and authoritarian vs. authoritative parenting, as a few possible starters.  And yet, for all that, in talking about it with Claire, I feel like my most potent lessons in this matter don't come from book learning or theoretical foundations; they've come from the simple act and cumulative experience of being a parent myself.

As most of you know, our oldest is about two-and-a-half.  She's a gregarious little thing, always smiling, running around, and saying "hello" to just about anything that moves.  Honestly, she's one of the most social little people I've ever known.  Also, one of the kindest.  At two-and-a-half, she uses, unprompted, "please", "thank you", "no thank you", "excuse me", and most recently, even "you're welcome".  She offers to share food and other things that she's enjoying with us.  She seeks out the baby's pacifier and brings it to us when she's crying, saying, "baby cwying?"  There was an instance just the other day when I was just sitting on the edge of my bed, looking out the window and thinking, and she came in, saw me, and asked, "Daddy, y'okay?"  She could see, just from my nonverbal cues, that something was off from my normal demeanor.  This is a toddler.  Now, I don't mean to say that she acts this way all of the time; she still has the occasional emotional tantrum over something seemingly unimportant or easily fixable.  This is still a toddler.  But she certainly has those capacities, and they become more pronounced and prominent every day through practice and repetition.

I think she's so much this way, because of the way that we try to be with her.  We try to model correct behavior and interactions with others, yes.  But, there's an additional layer of richness in what we try to do; we try to acknowledge, respect, and assist her with her emotional experience.  There's a whole body of work on this topic.  One researcher, Peter Fonagy, refers to it as mentalization.  Simply put, it's the capacity of one individual to imagine, respect, and interact with the mental and emotional experience of another.  As an example: consider the richness and complexity of something as simple as the exchange between a toddler who selects her own pajamas to wear and brings them to her parent, who then says, "thank you."  If we were robots, this would simply be the checking of the box at the completion of a task.  All the warm fuzziness of 0's and 1's.  Unfortunately, this does seem to be the way it goes sometimes; busy schedules and a society focused entirely on outcomes work constantly and unceasingly to make us this way.  But, if we were to exercise a little bit of mindfulness, and slow down this interaction, this is what we would see:

The toddler, at two-and-a-half, is incredibly busy.  Just getting her to sit still is a remarkable feat; forget the idea of getting her to actively do what you want her to do.  At this point in her life, she is more or less consumed by two contradictory passions.  First, her desire to be an independent, active agent in her environment, exploring whatever comes into her head, whenever it does so.  Second, her love for and fear of losing the love of you, her mom or dad.  It doesn't take much to imagine the fireworks that happen when these two come into conflict: cue the tantrum.  Except that, in the scenario given above, the toddler has put on pause her own desires to please you.  Chew on that.  Because she loves you, she's just done something that leads her one step closer to the hated bed, because you asked her to.  If that's not love, I don't know what is.  And yet, what do we often do as parents?  It's all too easy to get so caught up in the task (get her in bed), that we miss the subtlety of what just took place (I hate bed because it takes me away from you; but I'll do it, because I love you, Daddy, and you asked me to).  What an incredible disservice we do our children when we fail to acknowledge that act for what it is!  Instead, we take it for granted when our children do what we ask (or tell, as some choose to do), because we think that we somehow deserve it; that we are entitled to their obedience simply by virtue of our position as their parent.  In a way that's true: they love us because we are their parents.  But make no mistake: that love is given, and at relative high cost and effort for a toddler.

The parent's responsibility, in this scenario, is to graciously receive.  The toddler has given perhaps her most precious gift (her compliance), to her most loved person (you), at the eventual cost, in this particular instance, of separation from you for an entire night.  I think, upon viewing the situation like this, that they deserve a bit more gratitude than a perfunctory grunt of approval.

We need to slow down.  As a society, and as individuals, we are becoming so focused on outcomes, products, and results, that we rarely stop to consider processes.  As we take the time to look at what it costs our children, particularly young children, to choose to be obedient, I think that we will naturally begin to be a bit more sincere in our words of appreciation, our words of encouragement, and the confirmation and assurance of our love for them, rather than the continued, incessant, and insatiable demand for compliance.

Back to the article in question: do I think the mother is wrong?  Well, I think she made some good points; sometimes, in certain situations, young children do require a bit more guidance, assistance, and even intervention to do what's right or safe.  On the other hand, do I think she's right?  Not by a long shot.  Only ever telling leaves no opportunity for them to choose to tell you that they love you.  I don't think that respecting the emotional experience of another human being, showing appreciation and sincere gratitude for the gift of their love (by obedience) is coddling.  I call that decency.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Besides a baby

I've finally got a minute to write about the other things going on in our life besides a sweet newborn (that is quickly becoming a not newborn) and an adorable wild 2 year-old.
Career change:
Justin was leaning back and forth between being done with school after his masters degree and going with the original plan of becoming a triple boarded pediatrician for a while and decided that in order to do and accomplish what he wants to he needs to go all the way, so we're going the med school route.  We're moving home in May where we're both going to be starting school at some point, Justin doing 2 years of premed at Dixie starting this summer and me doing cosmetology school at Taylor Andrews.  We're super excited.  Justin wanted me to be sure to mention that he'll be getting a job, as well, as an adjunct at Dixie State.  After he's done with premed stuff, we're going to head up to (hopefully) the University of Utah for 4 years of medical school, then 5 years of residency, after which he'll be prepared to take the boards for pediatrics, psychiatry, and child psychiatry.  THEN we're going to move back to So. Utah where he' something.  We've not decided on that yet.  He may practice psychiatry for a while to get a good start on our student loans, but eventually he wants to have his own clinic where he'll be a pediatrician, but also be able to incorporate development and mental health issues as well.  Kind of a one-stop-shop.  When all is said and done he'll have a bachelors of psychology, a masters of child development, a doctorate of medicine, board certified in peds, psych, and child psych, a certificate of infant/parent mental health from UMASS Boston, plus certified in The Happiest Baby on the Block, NBO, NCAST,  and Floor Time.  Plus any other certificates he decides to pursue between now and then.  Whew!  That made me tired just thinking about it!
Louise is going stir crazy this winter.  Today was the first time we attempted to go out and play at a park for a week or two; it wasn't the greatest experience.  We thought we were good, since the air temperature was nearly up to officially freezing (23 degrees).  Wind chill brought it down to a measly 5.  Also, we were a bit surprised to find that the powdery inch of snow that fell last night covered nothing but solid ice, the entire length and breadth of the park.  It was like ice fishing, without the poles, water, fish, or occasional feeling of success.  So really, just cold.  I wish I could say this was the exception and not the rule for this winter; but, like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie.  Louise tried to make the best of the situation, as two-year-olds are wont to do at the park.  Unfortunately, she just succeeded in becoming extremely irritable and impatient without really knowing why (mild frostbite will do that to you, I guess).  So, kicking and screaming, we loaded her into the car with the promise of pretzels and cheese for a snack when we arrived home (don't judge me).  From there, we sought out another Chicago milestone; we got our car washed for the first time since crossing the state line into Illinois and Chitown (Peer pressure is a beast, when you park next to a sparkling black Cadi' and a Range Rover, while your car looks like something that wandered in off of a year-long hiatus on the salt flats).  Louise was none too certain about the wash.
Really, though, we couldn't ask for a better oldest child than Louise.  She's (almost) always so helpful, kind, and polite.  She's extremely perceptive and deliberate; when sleep time comes around, she turns into a cleaning machine, determined to make sure there's a place for everything, and everything in its place.  It's pretty adorable, albeit a shameless stall tactic.  With so much terrible winter weather, we've utilized a bit more screen time than we're happy to admit.  Louise has become quite the aficionado on "pinsince" movies (and their accompanying soundtracks).  We've discovered that her genetic inheritance at this point seems to be equally balanced between the both of us; she not only can quote lines and act out specific movie scenes after only one viewing (located on the Nuckles88 gene), but she also has the uncanny ability to recall "pinsince show" just by hearing a bit of symphonic soundtrack (located on the Chamberlain90 gene).
She's still taking pretty solid naps, from about 1:00 to 3:00 or 3:30, and sleeping from 7:00 to about 8:00.  She talks a mile a minute, and always surprises us with new words that we have to piece together from context, charades, and sheer toddler passion.  She eats like a champ.  I think we're going to have to claim that victory for our own; we seem to wait until she's gone to bed to eat all of our unhealthy snacks, treats, and desserts.  You're welcome, Louise; you can thank us later, when you're running ultra marathons, and we're cheering you on while spilling over the sides of our highly stylized power scooters.  We're only thinking of you, kid.  On that physical note, at her 2-year checkup she was the height of an average 3-year-old.  All of her clothes for the upcoming summer are 4T.  Go figure.
Cora: how does one capture the essence of a newborn in words?  In a blessing that Justin gave Claire toward the end of the pregnancy, it was said that the baby would be, "Happy, healthy, and strong."  Yeah, I guess that about sums it up, for a kid whose entire existence seems to be smiling, stretching her long legs and torso, and doing sit-ups.  Even when she isn't smiling with her mouth, her eyes still look like she's ready to break into a grin.  She's on the verge of figuring out giggling: she can manage these cute, significant, high-pitched intakes of breath so far.  Cooing and mumbling have surfaced in abundance, and she rarely cries.  When she has needs that aren't being met satisfactorily, she simply yells and screws up her face in a grimace, before quieting to see if someone has noticed.  It never lasts long, since she spends the majority of her day either in our arms or in the Ergo carrier on our chests.  She typically sleeps between 8-10 hours per night, and has for two months.  During the first couple of weeks, we really should have woken her up more to feed her at night.  We swaddle her at night, and she bedshares with us, right in the middle, with her head up toward the headboard (With the crack between mattress and headboard meticulously filled in to minimize risk).  Between these and the white noise that we use, she sleeps like a lumberjack in Canada.  We lay her down completely awake and she falls asleep completely on her own after being swaddled and turning the white noise on.  I can't believe how well she does.  Everyone should read The Happiest Baby on the Block Sleep book.  Breastfeeding is going so well.  So much better than with Louise.  I always felt like I was forcing Louise and that she was too distracted and active and always wanted to be doing other things.  I was nervous about it before I had Cora because I wanted a better experience, so I finally read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.  It's a wonderful book every new or old mom needs to read at least once.  The authors are a bit extreme in several aspects, but the information is golden.  I read it at the beginning of my pregnancy, and again at the end/right after I had Cora.  I'm so much more calm and relaxed about nursing and less concerned with timing and schedules.  At her two-month checkup, she was the size of an average 4-month-old.  She's wearing 3-6 month clothing.  We're noticing a trend here...
We're so very excited to move.  We've shipped six boxes of books already, have five boxes of other things ready to go, and have more in the pipeline.  We've sold three of our sitting room chairs and have other things listed for sale.  We're going to sell as much of our big furniture as we possibly can, ship as much as we affordably can via UPS and USPS, and then fill the Corolla to bursting for the return trip.  Claire will be flying back with the girls on April 14.  Justin will leave the 30, driving the Corolla.
The Dreamer

The Reality

Our little sleep bundle

"So who's the funky-looking donkey?"

Healthy... (per Dr. Louise)

Strong. (Cora 2 mos., L 1 mo.) 
Just about our whole world in a hug

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Life happens

It seems like we're always playing catch up.  A lot has happened in the last 4 months: a future career change, problems with the land lord, holidays, Chiberia, pipes freezing and bursting, another future career change, mothers visiting, oh yeah, and a baby.
I'm so glad she's here.  It's such a tremendous relief to not be pregnant anymore.  I can actually play with Louise and be a good mother again, because the pelvic and hip pain went away almost immediately after she was born.  The day after we got home from the hospital I deep cleaned my house. :) I've been pregnant and not feeling well the whole time we've lived here, so I was super excited to be able to clean and get it to the way I wanted it (no offense, Justin.  You did a wonderful job and I appreciated it immensely, you're just not OCD).  Cleaning is my happy place.
Right.  Back to Cora. ;)  I had always assumed she would come early.  I think I just have faster gestational periods.  At my 36 week appointment (4 days before December 1st) I was dilated to a 5.  This was fairly alarming because our insurance turned out to not be covering my appointments, so I switched carriers and it was going to take effect December 1st.  If I had Cora before then we'd be up a creek with no canoe.  I told her I absolutely couldn't have this baby before Sunday, to which she replied that I should sit or lay down until then.  This was the day before Thanksgiving and we had invited two other families over to eat with us, so I had a really hard time making Justin do all the work.  He ended up loving it, though.  He was in heaven cooking his turkey (I'll talk about that later).  So I sat in a rocking chair for 4 days giving instructions and reading stories to Louise.  On Saturday I was having some pretty strong, pretty consistent contractions.  Looking back, I'm pretty sure I put myself into labor by worrying about going into labor.  I got a blessing, made several phone calls to the hospital, doctor, and my mom, and we finally decided to go the the hospital.  We got there and told the main nurse our situation.  She said that since it's a weekend our insurance wouldn't be billed until Monday anyway, so it didn't matter that it was before December 1st.  As soon as I was all hooked up to the monitors, naturally the contractions started slowing down.  After a couple of hours of watching we were sent home.  Fooey.  At my appointment a few days later I was dilated to a 6.  A week and a half after that my water broke at 6:30 in the morning, then I threw up.  Did you know that only like 5% of women's water breaks outside of the hospital?  I'm really glad it did, though.  I was praying that I would know for sure when it was time to go to the hospital.  So we called our neighbor to come stay at our house for a few hours, and we arrived at the hospital at 7.  Still no pain.  They didn't check me, because apparently after your water breaks there's a big risk of infection.  The pain gradually started to worsen, along with the throwing up, so I got an epidural around 10, which was a huge relief.  It was fully effective about 30 minutes later, so they decided to see if I was dilated, and I was at a 10.  They hurried and got everything ready, the doctor came in and 10 minutes of pushing later, we had a beautiful, perfect little girl.  Cora Dixie Nuckles.  3 weeks early, 8 pounds, 19 inches (4 weeks later she weighs 10.5 lbs).
Breastfeeding is going so well, another huge relief.  I read the Le Leche League book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding in the weeks before, so I was all prepared.  I always felt like I was forcing Louise to eat, like she would just rather be doing something else and I was interrupting her schedule (hasn't changed much, has she).  Cora is the opposite.  She's so snuggly. :)  And, like Louise, she immediately slept well, by two weeks she slept 6.5 hours during the night.  She rarely cries, also like Louise.  
She really is the happiest little girl.  She first smiled when she was about a week old.  I know what you're saying, it's just gas, but I know they're real smiles because it's when she's awake and we're talking to her.  Louise is the cutest big sister.  A little rough at times, but over all, she's so gentle with her.  The first thing she says in the morning when we go get her is "Baby Cowa?  Baby Cowa?"  And she gets concerned when she doesn't see us holding her and has to go find her.
We just love having two little girls.  In my opinion, it's easier than being pregnant with a two year-old because I'm not in pain and I can put her down and play with Louise.  I think that's why Louise has had such an easy time adjusting.  Life is better now that she's here.  Busier, sure, and it takes much longer and more planning to go anywhere, but so much easier.
I think I'll leave it at that for the night.  More later.  Hopefully.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What a week!

     Okay, okay.  So maybe I failed at the posting every day thing.  At least I posted more than I have for the last year, right?
     This week has been kind of crazy.  We had Louise's birthday party on Saturday (actual birthday on Sunday) at a park here in Evanston and it was freezing!  We figured we'd be safe to have it outside because we had been to that park days before and it was beautiful.  How wrong we were.  It was still fun for Louise to play with some of her friends from the ward, though.  Then we had cupcakes, opened gifts, went home and, after much deliberation, decided to open the rest of her presents.  She was kind of thrown off and grumpy all day, not used to having so much attention on her, so we decided we didn't really want to stretch it out into two days like we originally planned.  She's had a blast with her toys.  As I think I may have mentioned before, we got her a play kitchen for her main gift, her Nana (Justin's mom) got her a bunch of food, and my parents gave her some pots and pans and utensils to go with it.  My sister gave her Finding Nemo, possibly her favorite movie (and possibly the only one she's seen...).  She was so excited when she opened it, she just giggled. :)  And we got her a Tinkerbell doll and a wooden/magnetic paper doll.  We put her kitchen on the other side of the breakfast bar, so it's been so fun to see her play with the kitchen while we're in our kitchen.
     On Monday Justin had a phone call with the head of admissions at the University of Utah medical school.  We had been tossing around the idea of moving home for Justin to complete his premed classes, but we thought that for him to have the best chance of getting in to the UofU, the Northwestern name would be a big deal.  Bigger than Dixie, anyway.  Turns out it doesn't really matter all that much where you complete the courses, just that you do.  The man Justin talked to said the experiences and what you learn from them matter a lot more than big names and things, and that there's an independent program in southern Utah affiliated with SUU and DSU to help potential med students get needed and beneficial experiences that has a really great reputation and acceptance rate into medical school.  We wondered if it was all a little too good to be true, so we called our parents and talked it over, hoping that if there was a flaw in the plan, somebody would see it.  They couldn't come up with anything, either.  Needless to say, we're pretty stoked.  Chicago's great and all, but Dixie, here we come (now that we've decided to make more of an effort to be happy here...)!  In May...
     Then Monday night/Tuesday morning at 2 I was awakened by the sound of the fire alarm.  I waited for a minute, waiting for Justin to do something, then realized he was still asleep.  I woke him up and we got up.  In my house growing up, the alarms all went off when the batteries died, so my first instinct was to turn the dang things off before they woke up the neighbors and we got fined or something.  When that didn't work we decided we had better throw on some clothes and go get Louise, who miraculously hadn't woken up.  While I was getting her Justin poked his head out the door to see if he could see anything or anyone.  One of our neighbors saw him and ran into our apartment panicking about how he was trying to get out.  Poor guy.  I think he has anxiety problems as it is.  Anyway, we grabbed a disoriented Louise and all of us booked it down 7 flights of stairs in our pajamas and bare feet to join the rest of our complex in the courtyard.  Thanks to adrenaline I had no trouble at all with SPD pain running down the stairs (later that day I could barely walk, though).  We ended up going into the lobby of one of the other buildings to wait since it was so cold.  Most of the others at least had the sense to grab coats and shoes.  I guess we figured that since we were on the top floor and had already taken more time than we should have, we'd better just get a move on.  Nobody really had any idea what was going on.  Somebody said they had seen smoke on the 5th floor.  We only ended up being out there for about 45 minutes before they firemen told us we could go back in.  No fire.  On our way into the elevator, we passed some policemen interrogating a man from the 5th floor with no shoes on, and when we got up to our floor we saw his flip flops in the hall and a broken alcohol glass with blood on the wall.  A policewoman assured us all was well, so we went in to our apartment and locked the door, feeling our tightly wrapped security blanket fall off a little bit.  We got Louise back to sleep with surprisingly little trouble, then went to bed.  It took us a little (okay, a lot) longer to get back to sleep.  Justin kept playing different home invasion scenarios in his mind and I kept thinking about the fact that I'd FINALLY met some of our neighbors (side note: out of everyone that lives in this building, 7 floors with 8-10 apartments on each, there are only 3 other children.  4 total).  After we finally drifted off we were awakened again by the fire alarm at 6.  We were a little quicker this time, and actually got shoes, but as we were going to get Louise they turned off.  Again, miraculously, she didn't wake up.  Later that morning we found out that the man had been drunk and vandalized the building with the fire extinguishers on a few floors and had been arrested.  I'm still not sure what he was doing on our floor, though.  Crazy night.
     As I said, I could barely walk when we finally got up that morning, the pain was so excruciating, so Justin stayed home from his internship to help.  We were still super excited about the idea of moving home, so we were talking about it a lot that day and at some point it occurred to me that maybe I could go to cosmetology school while we were there.  I've always wanted to be a beautician.  I looked into it a little and made some calls.  After talking to all 4 cosmetology schools in St. George I pretty much settled on one.   It has a part time program that lasts two years, but the schedule would be such that I could be home with my girls all day, then go to class in the evening when Justin is home studying anyway, only missing about an hour of Louise and Cora's waking time 4 days a week.  After hearing that, I kind of decided I couldn't do it, but Justin said that he would support me 100%.  He said that it would be a really good example to our kids for a number of reasons.  So I started thinking more and more about it.  I cried at the thought of missing bedtime a few days a week.  I've only missed 2 bedtimes in Louise's entire life.  But, although it will be hard - extremely hard some days - and I'm sure sometimes I won't want to go, I really think this is the time to do it.  I think it will be very worth it.  It's always been my dream, and I won't really have another chance for 13 years.  This way, I can work out of my home to help us through medical school and I'll be one step closer to becoming an image consultant, if that's what I choose.  After making the tentative decision, I got super excited.  Elated, even.  It's almost all I can think about now.  Well, that and getting to meet little Cora Dixie in 2 months. :)  It feels so right and so perfect.  I think it may be one of the reasons we're being able to move home.  Too bad I have to wait 7 months to start.
     Then Wednesday we had Louise's 2 year check up.  It went well.  Louise is doing wonderfully developmentally and physically.  As far as percentages go, she's in the 92% for weight and off the charts for height. :)  Like father, like daughter.
     Like I said, it's been a crazy week.    

Friday, October 18, 2013

Committing Marriage-Part 2 of 2

I shared last time, in nearly its entirety, ways in which I've been able to show and share my commitment to Claire through unity in our daily activities. It isn't anything that's going to win me any awards in the public view, but I certainly feel better about myself and about our marriage on those days when we are able to give a hard pull and pull together. I'm reminded of the analogy given by Elder Boyd K. Packer, a superb educator and an Apostle of The Lord Jesus Christ, of a team of oxen. They're not the most glamorous animal to be compared to, it is true. Yet, the principle that they teach is one so simple, and yet so vital and appropriate that I can't help but draw upon it.  There are competitions in more rural parts of this country, where teams of oxen are pitted in contests of strength, given the challenge to successfully move increasingly weighted sleds a predetermined distance.  Elder Packer, describing this event, tells of the impressive strength and sheer enormity of some of these teams. Being somewhere along the scale between a cow and a bison, it seems easy to understand his wonder. He makes clear, however, that the most successful teams are not always the biggest and most obviously strongest specimens. Instead, the deciding factor between victory and defeat has to do with the unity of the animals as a team, often referred to simply as a yoke of oxen. The yoke is the large wooden harness, often carved from a single beam and custom-fitted to each individual animal. Unity is exhibited in the ability of the oxen to pull together simultaneously, as well as equal in strength. There is no room for either superstars or freeloaders in this arrangement. Because the yoke is a single piece for both, if both animals fail to push in balance of timing and strength, the late or shirking animal is thrown to its knees, bringing the other with it. 

I'm reminded of a random chick-flick where the protagonist makes the mistake of comparing his beloved to his horse's flanks or something similar, giving deep hurt and offense to his intended, in spite of his good intent and adoration. I hope that Claire will forgive me, for comparing the both of us to oxen. I must say, at this point, that Claire is my perfect match, perfectly completing my yoke. She matches me, pull for pull, in everything I do. In the past several months, I've been trying much harder to step into my role as the Priesthood holder in our home, trying to initiate family prayers, scripture study, home evenings, and all the rest of the things that we, as members of the Chirch of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, have been counseled to do in order to strengthen our family.  She supports me and sustains me through each initiation and decision. Our family has been so richly blessed because she is supportive of what I am trying to do.  

To a much more visible degree, Claire supports and lends her strength and labor to my goals as a provider and a professional.  I've decided, in the past two-and-a-half years, that I want to become a pediatrician. More than that, I want to become a triple-boarded pediatrician, meaning that I'll be board certified in Pediatrics, General Psychiatry, and Adolescent and Child Psychiatry.  It gets worse. I've also recently decided that I'm very interested in a combined MD/PhD program. Are you impressed with Claire's patience and dedication yet?  If not, let me break down what that means for us, in terms of time investment. 

I have another year yet until I complete my Masters degree here at Erikson. In that time, I need to also take a course each in College Algebra and General Biology. These prerequisites will enable me to get into the certificate program, ideally a year-long program, that will give me the necessary background in the hard sciences to perform well on the MCAT and apply to medical school.  Medical school is typically a four-year experience, but an MD/PhD program doubles that, adding four years of doctoral study in Neuroscience between Medical years 2 & 3. Eight years of medical study later, I'll be ready to move on to my residency. For General Pediatrics, this represents a three-year commitment to hands-on practice and learning; with the Triple-Board program I've got my eye on, it represents five.  15 years from now, I'll ideally be ready to practice. The only upside to all this is that, in the MD/PhD program, all tuition is waived and they provide a small living stipend, which means minimal student loan debt. A very thin silver lining to this immense and totally elective thunderhead brewing over our family's collective head. 

My point in detailing these plans is this: if Claire had any slightly different attitude about our marriage, our role as a team, and what that means for us in living our daily lives, this would not even be something I would have remotely ever considered.  There have been numerous conversations where I've wanted to look figuratively behind me at the load I've elected to move and say, "It's too big, I can't move it, and were both going to die trying for my foolishness."  It's been these same times that Claire takes opportunity to calmly and serenely whisper encouragement and reassurance to my troubled dumb-ox mind.  It's been due to her attitude of, "We CAN do this. It will take both of us, and it will certainly be no walk in the park, but together, we can move this load, and we can be the better for it."  My only consolation in undertaking this load is to know that there will come a day that we successfully reach the end-goal, and we will most definitely be the stronger for it. At that point, our sled will be empty again, and Claire can load it with whatever it is that she wishes at that point, and the process can begin again. 

My last words of this post will be this:  marriage is about commitment and unity. In purpose, in desire, in faith and in tenacity, we must be united. I thank The Lord that I have been blessed with such an incredible woman who is so committed to me, to our family, and to her testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been already and will continue to be richly blessed, because we share such unified opinion and intent in our marriage. We will give a long pull, a strong pull, and we will pull together. This is our marriage. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day (in a loose, Biblical sense) 9: Committing Marriage- Part 1 of 2

I find it gruesomely fascinating to consider the popular view of marriage portrayed in movies and the lives of celebrities today. There is often meticulous attention paid to the details of what should happen when the marriage fails. There is little to nothing said about the details of ensuring that it doesn't fail. For some reason, the former perspective is regarded as being more practical or realistic than the latter. This post is to offer my humble perspective on this matter, in the form of my personal experience. 

I believe there are some who may have formed an unrealistic picture of my wife and what she chooses to accomplish in the course of a day, based on my previous posts. However, lest any come to resent her for seeming to accomplish more than is possible to the everyday woman, she is the first to confess her own imperfections and shortcomings. I must, however, preface my following words by saying first that I discussed the possible content of this post with Claire, and she supported it entirely. That being said, let me make clear a point that may not have been explicit in the previous posts. The experiences and examples that I gave of Claire are what she chooses to spend the majority of her time doing. They were not the accidental outcome of a random intersection of a mother-daughter dyad. Those practices and characteristics are conscious choices. As with all choices, there are consequences; in economics, they call it opportunity cost. It is the value of your forgone next-best-choice. For us, this has meant that meals are sometimes later than intended, dishes often pile up, and our house looks happily lived in. I'll be quick to say that this is not a criticism, nor is it a suggestion. It is, first and foremost, an opportunity. Not for Claire to become a better multi-tasker. Not for her to improve her prowess and acclaim as a mother by doing more in less time. No, this opportunity belongs to me. 

Reality is not what was portrayed in the 50's: there is no mother who cleans house in heels and pearls, laying out robe, pipe, paper, and slippers for her returning husband. (I wouldn't mind a pipe; I think they exude class and credibility. Mine would have to be custom, though. Maybe outfitted to blow bubbles...)  Claire is no exception. She is an exceptional mother.  In my opinion, the best I've ever seen. This does mean that there are some things which she does not have time to do in the course of her day. Enter me. I have my own apron. Not the flimsy, once-a-year "kiss the cook" variety for the annual outside barbecue where testosterone runs rampant. No, mine is sturdy, thick material, and is very familiar with much use. On days when Claire hasn't been able to fit in all that she wanted to, we dig in together to make things happen. It drives our little girl a bit crazy, to have us both working to clean up the house; she's very particular about her messes. I've seen her return an unused potty chair to the same spot on the floor repeatedly.  However, I think it is good for her to see both of her parents working together to accomplish a goal they both find desirable. We both enjoy a clean house. And it takes both of us, oftentimes, to keep it so. 

My point here is not to point out what a superb husband I am. Anyone who knows me knows the real truth to that, and those who don't, I assure you, I'm as flawed as they come. The point I wish to make is that setting and then achieving worthwhile goals for either or both parents is a joint venture. There is no way nor wisdom to go it alone in an institution initiated with the intent to have two become one.  I wonder if this isn't why marriages today so often fail. Marriage isn't a strategic pooling of assets to gain financial or social advantage. It's an expression of commitment to a person and an ideal. It means that, as couples take the time to counsel together and come to a decision on what is important to both of them, it becomes a joint goal and responsibility to assist the other person in achieving their goal. It's been said that we come to love those we serve. What better way to increase in love for someone than by helping them achieve their greatest potential and dream? 

It is ironic that, at this point, I must leave the telling of the other half of the story, the story of my better half's service to me, for tomorrow. Stay tuned; it makes my measly efforts look as significant as taking the lid off a pen. 

End of part 1.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 8 (sort of)

So much for "every day for a month," eh?  Oops.  Oh well.  I'm not going to give in to the OCD side of me that says to quit since I've already blown it.  I'm going to just carry on and pretend it never happened. :)
Justin made me sit down while he does the dishes this evening, and when I argued that he's just as tired as I am he said that's not true because he's not making life.  I thought it was usually the wife using that excuse?  He really is the most thoughtful, kind man I've ever encountered.
We were talking about how active Louise is last night and marveling over how easy she is.  Seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it?  Justin mentioned that by todays classification system, she would be deemed a difficult child because she's so incredibly active.  Always bouncing from one thing to the next, never sitting still for anything except books.  She's definitely a challenge to keep up with and keep occupied, but really is the easiest baby.  There's another oxymoron for you.  I wouldn't change a thing.  "Intense children grow up to be intense adults."  I've never known a more polite 2 year-old, and she's been saying please and thank you unprompted since she was 18 months.  Now she even says sorry when she bumps something or drops something on you or thinks she's hurt or inconvenienced you in any way.  She's pretty good at listening, not always minding, but what 2 year-old is?  She goes to sleep every night at 6:30 or 7 and sleeps solidly until 8 or 8:30 in the morning, and still takes a solid 2 to 2.5 hour nap every afternoon.  She's the happiest child.  She LOVES to dance, thanks to those good Nuckles genes.  I adore how uninhibited she is. :)  In nursery she never gets upset or offended when another kid pushes her or takes her toys, just stares at them in confusion.  She's so friendly to everyone she encounters and frequently says 'I love you' to people in the store.  At the library the other day there was a mother reading a book to her daughter on her lap and Louise just trotted over and plopped on her lap, too.  We're just so grateful for her and the joy that she is in our lives, and grateful that we've been entrusted to be her parents.  We're so excited to see what new dynamic little Cora brings to our family. :)  That's enough for tonight.  Time for some Doctor Who.
Louise with the random lady at the library.

She found some goggles and wouldn't let them out of her sight for a couple days.

This is one of her recent favorite dance moves. :)

Hard at play.

She asked me to take this picture. :)