Tuesday, March 31, 2009

8 Months Old!


Brynna celebrated the day by consuming what for her was a vast quantity of solid food—lots of fruit mixed with oatmeal, and many many Cheerios. Go little B!

We are hoping that the celebration will continue with a looooong, peaceful night of sleep. No success at all last night, most wretchedly. I pumped some extra milk while I was at work today and we're going to give her that after a nighttime nursing if she seems to be having trouble tonight. Keep your fingers crossed for some return to sleep sanity soon...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Back in a Suit

So, after my weeks and weeks of khakis and sweaters in New Hampshire (yay, family practice in real life), I am back in The Clinic and therefore back in The Business Suit.

This, despite the fact that I am spending the week on a radiology rotation and therefore am not seeing actual patients. Just sitting in the dark looking at computer screens (very little actual film is used anymore), trying not to fall asleep. However, we did have a couple of very good teaching sessions today. My goal is to learn enough about reading chest x-rays and head CTs to be able to spot impending disasters in emergency patients.

Next week I am doing an internship boot camp, which works on the skills that we will need to survive our first year of residency. The actual scenarios are a secret, but I think it will be things like answering pages in the middle of the night, dealing with upset/difficult patients, running codes (when a patient's heart stops), assessing patients who are suddenly not looking very good, communicating with other care team members, and so on.

The following week is "Social Medicine," a whirlwind tour through hospice, social work, local underserved care clinics, and chaplaincy.

Then four weeks of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, which is an obstetrical subspecialty dealing with high-risk pregnancies. My main goal with that rotation is to learn a lot more about OB ultrasounds. It also counts as my 4th year surgery rotation, because OB is a surgical specialty and I may occasionally scrub in on a c-section.

Then...less than seven weeks from now...is graduation!

I will probably make it until then. I will be much helped in this endeavor if Brynna would start sleeping again. Last night she woke up every two hours—yes, EVERY TWO HOURS ALL NIGHT LONG—to eat. She is hungry. Like a one-week-old. Because she won't eat very much solid food. Arrgh. Today we stuffed her with fruit puree and Cheerios and even some oatmeal at every possible opportunity (she nursed too, don't worry), so we are hoping for a slightly quieter night. But she is so cheerful and giggly that it is impossible to stay frustrated at her anyway.


I only wish. Though I would definitely favor a plasma cutter for that.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


My office is not large in the grand scheme of things. My desk tends to be a bit cluttered, though not nearly as much as my packrat office mate's. Earlier this week, I received a big box full of...tubes. One thousand 50-mL centrifuge tubes, to be exact, which chewed up about half the available open floorspace. My chair takes up the other half. The geeky among you can guess where this is going:

My office is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck! It's...it's a series of tubes!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Loving the Books

One of Brynna's favorite pastimes these days is to crawl over to the bookshelf and pull all of her board books out onto the floor, where they can be opened and closed, carried around, stroked, and gnawed on. (I will note that I have seen in the developmental pediatrics literature a reference to chewing on books as an "early literacy skill." Brynna is very literate indeed, then, as the pages of her books are starting to get stuck together with drool.)

Having all the books out on the floor provides a nice Brynna-sized space on the shelf:

Sometimes she lets us take one of the books for long enough to actually read her a story:

But usually she lunges at the book unless she has something else to do (like nursing) to distract her. Alex caught this picture as he was reading her bedtime story this evening. What a nice post-shower mohawk! She might have enough hair to need combing, pretty soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Brynna's Play Palace

Getting the house under contract, as Alex mentioned, means that the house no longer has to be show-ready.

So we replaced the dining room table with a play area for Brynna!

The fence may seem a bit mean, but without it we would constantly be chasing her across the floor and saying "no!" as she tried to stuff various inappropriate things, like floorboards, into her mouth. So now she has a safe space to play downstairs.

She spends a lot of time kneeling there like this, which seems sad and pathetic:

But I think it's mostly because she likes balancing that way, rather than "please let me out of this prison!" She's going to start using the gates to pull up to stand any second now, I am sure.

Over the last few days, Brynna has also developed into a big fan of Cheerios. She started out a couple of weeks ago on little organic puffy things that dissolved very quickly, but it is easier for her to manipulate the Cheerios into her mouth since they don't stick to her fingers quite so readily. Then I realized that they also have a lot more iron than the organic puffs, so we've pretty much switched over. She ate a bunch of them today, and banged on her tray every time she ran out. So perhaps the trick to this solid food thing is just to give her things she can feed herself!

We've also been trying to introduce the concept of juice from a sippy cup. She loves chewing on the mouthpiece, but seems quite perplexed by the liquid-that-is-not-breastmilk (usually diluted pear juice) that comes out when the cup tilts up high enough. Most of it dribbles down her front and makes her nice and sticky.

We'll just continue to work on this move toward "real" food, and I will try not to panic about the small amount that she is eating or whether she is getting enough iron or that she is (still, again) waking up three or four times a night to nurse.

Because she is lovely, and everything will be OK.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


It would take a long time to relate the ins and outs of the last few days. In short: we have sold the house. Technically, all we have at the moment is a purchase agreement. There's still an appraisal for the bank's purposes, and the prospective buyer has to finalize a mortgage. However, we have good reason to believe this will go ahead as planned. The closing will be at the end of May, a bit after Hilary's graduation.

The important detail: sale price. Well, I'm not going to post it here. Suffice to say it was less than we paid for the house four years ago.

Unfortunately, without delving into specific numbers, it is difficult to relate the tale with sufficient drama. I had a very long and complete draft post that spelled it out without using figures, but I realized that A) most people would have difficulty following it and B) most people probably don't care. That's OK, I'll try for a short version.

After five weeks on the market, we received our first offer on Friday afternoon. It was rather abysmal - an unworkable closing date in mid-April, and a price that was tantamount to an insult. Still, it was our first and only offer, and we felt compelled to play ball and counter offer over the weekend.

By Monday morning our spirits were low - we were still negotiating, but the likely outcome was still a few thousand below our list price, which was itself a few thousand below what we'd paid for the place. Then we had a showing Monday morning, which turned into a second showing that afternoon, which turned into an offer from a second potential buyer. There was also another person that came to look at the house that afternoon, who intended to come back Tuesday morning for a second look before likely placing his own offer.

All this flurry of activity was pretty exciting. If nothing else, it was gratifying that our house was getting more serious looks. We had been informed by our agent that incoming residents, a demographic we expected to start turning out right around now, had already been looking, and for whatever reason, had decided to look past our house. The fact that we'd gotten zero traffic over the weekend - the weekend after Match Day - didn't give us confidence that we'd get many more serious looks.

As it turns out, the second offer was more pathetic than the first. Fearing a bidding war, the third potential buyer decided to bow out upon learning of the multi-offer situation. The first buyer, however, knew only that there had been a second offer, with the potential for a third on Tuesday. As a result, he loosened his position, and we were able to negotiate up to a purchase price all of us were comfortable with. What a change from Sunday night to Monday night!

In the days since, the purchase agreement has been signed and paperwork is being processed by our respective agents. We will close in late May.

Possibly the best part of the end of this saga is that we can now relax on this front for the next two months, and let our less tidy tendencies reign. Skipping the make-the-house-showable routine each morning and night will be nice in an of itself. It's just in time, too: Brynna just received her foam tiles in the mail today, which along with a safety fence is now taking up a ostentatious portion of our dining room.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

On the Market

So, now that the cat's out of the bag that we are leaving Rochester, here's another tidbit: our house has been on the market since mid-February. All of those recent home improvements weren't solely for my benefit, after all.

"But, Alex," you say, "aren't we in the worst housing market in over a generation?"

"Yes, yes we are. And verily it sucketh."

That pretty much sums it up. We purchased our home almost four years ago. Rochester has more turnover than most cities its size, and being in the Midwest missed much of the wild highs and subsequent lows of, say, Las Vegas or Miami. Nevertheless, if one looks over the historical data for home prices in Rochester for, say, the last decade, you'll see that prices today are roughly where they were this time in 2004. Therefore, one could expect that we would be selling for at or a touch below what we paid for it. And, in fact, we are currently listing below what we paid for it. Based on recent sales and current listings in the area, out list price is what the market will bear.

And although we have paid dutifully on the mortgage this whole time, we can't claim to have a whole lot of equity in the house. What equity there is will more or less get wiped out by the agent's commission. Closing costs will start eating into the down payment. So, all in all, we can expect to take a bit of a loss.

Out of this, I have a few consoling thoughts:
1) Despite the loss we will take on the house, it is still significantly less than what we would have paid over the last few years if we had rented. Owning over renting has had plenty of other, non-financial, benefits.
2) The pain we feel is the pain everyone is feeling. The economy at the moment is what it is. The timing of selling our house is what it is. In the end, there isn't anything that we can do about it.
3) Although we are taking a hit as home sellers at the moment, we will certainly benefit from depressed home prices when we buy our next house.

It is tough to not feel a little bitter, however. We've done a lot with this house: refinished hardwood floors, a reshingled roof 2-1/2 years old, a renovated bathroom, new front steps, an efficient new dishwasher and fridge. In the normal course of things, we could have expected a nice appreciation based just on that. So, the cynic would look at the situation and proclaim: "Congratulations, you put thousands of dollars into this house, only to see its value drop by an equal amount - ain't life grand?"

Still, the market is what it is, and no amount of wishing is going to change that. Time could change things, but we haven't really got time to wait the market out. So, rather than gripe about it more, I'm trying to focus on just gettin' it done so that we can move on. Even if we don't like the situation, we may as well accept it.

You'll surely hear more about this as the weeks pass by. Hopefully it won't be too many more weeks...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Us A Match...

Thursday was Match Day, when all 4th year medical students found out where they will be residents next year.

Except for urologists, child neurologists, and ophthalmologists, who found out in January...

And except for us...we've known for awhile too. And now we can reveal:

New Hampshire!

(Cue total lack of surprise)

I will be a family medicine resident in Concord, and will also board-certify in preventive medicine (which involves finishing my Masters in Public Health and then applying that knowledge to an improvement project at the residency in Concord). Total residency time will be just under four and a half years.

Concord was our first choice because 1. it is in New Hampshire, 2. faculty and other residents are fantastic, 3. it is an unopposed residency (we are the only residents in the hospital, so we don't have to fight with other residents for learning opportunities), 4. I had a chance to get a jump-start on the MPH thing.

The house is on the market and Alex has a good lead on a job. We're on the move again!

And incidentally, my entering class of interns is seven women and one man. Wow.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009



Mileage: 1357

We apologize to parents and pet owners everywhere, but we must declare that we have the best baby and dog anywhere.

The most tolerant, anyways.

Sent from my iPhone


We have crossed the mighty Mississippi, and entered the last hour of our 1400-mile, cross country trip. We are on track to get back at a thoroughly reasonable hour to enjoy some late-day sunshine on our porch before an early night to bed.

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The Badger State

Hello, Wisconsin! We are being called homeward by the Prairie Home Companion joke show...

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The land of Lincoln...and Obama

We arrived in Chicago about 9:30 last night, just about 24 hours after leaving New Hampshire. Hot food and a comfortable bed with excellent friends...what a blessing! Now we're heading out on the last leg of our drive. We've already come 1000 miles.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Ohio is very wide. Indiana is very flat. And the drive continues...

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We are making more frequent stops on this trip than we would like, to give Brynna and Jasper a break.

But, we are helped by the addition of an EZPass. This wireless transponder, for those that don't know, allows the user to drive through toll booths without having to stop and exchange money or tickets. The transponder is linked to a prepaid account, from which tolls are deducted.

Although it grew out of the Jersey Turnpike and NYC bridges, EZPass is compatible with similar systems used in other states we are passing through: New Hampshire, Indiana, and Illinois. That last one one is particularly useful, because there are about 3-5 tolls to pass through on either side of Chicago. The Illinois system is able to work at full highway speeds, too, so you don't even need to slow down.

Unfortunately, Ohio isn't with the program, and still uses tickets and cash exclusively.

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The Buckeye State

Coming up on Cleveland. This might seem like progress, except that Alex was here on his flight layover yesterday. He's still driving...what a champ!...and I am working on my take-home exam. B and J both sleeping.

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The Keystone State

Finally out of NY. Just stopped for a quick stretch break. Much squeaking and rattle-shaking coming from the backseat, naptime is apparently over. Very tolerant J looking on.

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After a brief respite...

We are driving again. It was wonderful to have a few hours of horizontal sleep, and then there were pancakes for breakfast! B showed off her new crawling skills, tried out a sippy cup from Grandma and Grandpa, and ate some banana with Aunt Katherine.

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Hallo Rochester

Time for a few hours of sleep.

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The Empire State

2 states behind us, we've been out of New England for about an hour now. On the Thruway, after passing through Troy (home of Uncle Sam). Hurray for the new EZ Pass!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

The Green Mountain State

1 state down, 8 to go.

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On the road again...

10:30 pm: Heading out from Concord, A driving, J keeping an eye on B snoozing in the backseat.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vomit Pants

So, remember a couple of weeks ago when Jasper was throwing up all over? Including into my hiking pants? (That'll teach me to leave dirty clothes on the floor...)

Well, I just washed them (they got demoted into the dog laundry, which doesn't get done very often), and they seem to have fully recovered. Which is great, except I thought I was going to get a new pair of hiking pants out of the deal!

In other news...

My first exam is tomorrow morning, which will wrap up my finance class.

Alex arrives in the evening, we will pack up our rental car, have dinner with some friends coming up from Boston, and set out for Minnesota around 9 PM (Brynna's bedtime).

We will stop in Rochester NY in the wee hours of the morning for a little sleep, some breakfast, and so Brynna can show off her crawling to her grandparents. Saturday night will be in Chicago. Sunday night, if all goes well, we will be back in our bed in Minnesota. Boy oh boy will I NOT miss sleeping on the world's thinnest futon mattress on the floor...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Cat on the Hat

Brynna still adorable. I still need about 8 more hours in the day. Anyone out there figured out how to manage without sleep? Or how to hire a house-elf away from Hogwarts?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Almost Done...

No blogging recently, due to large amounts of end-of-term studying and project-finishing, Brynna-chasing, and packing-up-the-apartment planning!

We did have a chance to go and visit some New Hampshire family last week, and so I am stealing Candace's pictures because I don't have any new ones myself! We had a lovely time and even went to some consignment shops and found a few bigger outfits for our ever-growing B. (Not the snowman one she's wearing in the photos...that one is only a 6 month suit but I love it so much that I keep putting her in it. Will have to be retired VERY soon.)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Shifting Gears

Brynna crawled on Monday!

As we've written, she's been right on the verge for a couple of weeks now. On Monday, after watching her struggle as her little knees kept sliding, I put my yoga mat down over her regular mat, and that did the trick. It was sticky enough for her to get the traction she needed, and she was able to do hand-foot-hand-foot before falling back onto her tummy.

By Tuesday she was staggering a little farther and crash-landing on top of her toy of interest. And she was getting started from a seated position.

Wednesday, she was crawling all the way from the wall to the bed.

By Thursday she was phasing out the crash-landing and just picking up whatever she wanted and stuffing it into her mouth as she reclined on her side.

Now she is zooming all over the place chasing toys, charging up to the computer when we are talking to Alex, and generally going crazy. She doesn't even need the yoga mat for traction anymore.

And now we need to childproof.

Here's a quick video taken earlier today. We're in Connecticut with my parents, and Brynna got to show off to a big crew this evening. I wish the film wasn't so dark...I'll get a brighter one up soon!

Monday, March 2, 2009


This weekend, the family converged on "the other Rochester," heading to upstate New York to celebrate Alex's mom's birthday. Dad, Brynna, Jasper and I weathered a total of about 17 hours in the car, and Alex flew in from Minnesota.

This was all TOTALLY worth it, as the surprise was perfectly planned and executed by Kate and Art, and tons of fun to boot!

Denny was shocked when Alex wandered into the house on Friday afternoon.

Then she was astonished when Brynna, Dad and I showed up at the door that evening.

Then we went out for a celebratory dinner on Saturday night, and she was amazed to find a group of friends waiting to eat with us, along with Big Surprise Number Three, her best friend Sue, who flew in from the DC area.

Brynna loved having the time with her dad and grandparents, of course. It was a mini-birthday for her, too: seven months! Here she is celebrating with Grandma:

In other news, Jasper is doing great. He is starting back on kibble (sorry, Clara, I'm not ready for the raw food dog diet quite yet...) and we went for a run on Saturday.

Brynna, however, has regressed a bit in the food department. She is showing very little interest in the oatmeal now...perhaps the mashed banana that I have also been offering her over the last week has turned her off solid food entirely! I am trying to relax about it. She's nursing like a champ, so it's not like she's going to starve. Eventually, she will start eating solids, and pretty soon she'll be coordinated enough to pick up little pieces of food and stuff them in her own mouth. That may be what she is waiting for.

The other possibility is that she is really, truly, actually, finally teething this time, and it is making her mouth feel funny. The drooling has picked up again, she keeps chomping on her pacifiers rather than chewing on them, and she has been making funny tongue-thrusting motions.

I'll believe it when I see a little tooth poking out.

More Traveling blues

I made my mother cry on Friday.

No, no, this is a good thing. I surprised my mother for her 60th birthday by showing up. She hadn't thought that I was going to make it at all.

Still, that was Friday. It was supposed to be Thursday. It came down to weather, poor timing, and a bad call.

It snowed here on Thursday. This is not a big surprise - it's February in Minnesota, after all. I had arranged to fly from Rochester, MN (RST) to Rochester, NY (ROC) on Thursday afternoon/evening. I had a layover at MSP (minneapolis / st. paul airport, that is) at 7 pm Thursday.

It should have been a apparent that this wasn't going to go well when, the day before my flight, I was pre-emptively bumped to a slightly later flight out of Rochester (RST), 5 pm, which still left me with an hour to make my connection in MSP. When I left the house at 4 to head to the airport, the flight was on time.

By the time I got to the gate half an hour later, the 5 pm departure had been delayed to after 6 due to the weather (and ensuing snarl it caused in flight traffic across the upper midwest). It ate up just about all my slack time in MSP, but I figured that I could still make the connection, because surely things would be delayed in Minneapolis as well. I should have checked: that flight was still on time.

At this point, had I been smart, I would have left the airport and immediately started driving north. RST to MSP by road is nominally about 95 minutes. In this bad weather, it would have been a touch over two hours. It would have been dicey, but I could have made it. Had I been really smart, I would have realized that Rochester would have had problems and gone straight to MSP when I left the house. I would have had plenty of time.

But no, as it turns out: I wasn't that smart. I put my faith in the airlines. How idiotic that seems in hindsight! No one trusts the airlines for anything! Least of all punctuality! No, I dutifully sat at the gate in Rochester for the flight that wasn't going to happen. When the attendant got on the horn at 5:30 to say that it would be delayed past 8, I dutifully got in line to see about my connection. My flight out of MSP was indeed still on time (not sure how they managed that one, but it I checked it a few more times that evening and it did indeed leave on scheduled). Unfortunately, it was the last flight that could get me to Rochester that night. The next availability on Northwest (or NWA's new owner, Delta) wasn't until 10 the following morning.

Well, that really put a damper on my mood for the rest of the evening.

Weather is weather, and I've been stung by it before. Although frustrating, it is tough to stay angry at the weather. No, I was mostly pissed at Northwest for being so unhelpful and getting me to my parents' nearly a full day late...and at myself. Had I taken a moment to think things out, do the math, I would have quickly concluded that there was no way that flying out of Rochester was going to work. Although hindsight is 20/20, I do believe I could have made the right choice and driven directly to MSP and made my flight - if I'd thought it through. My only defense against self recrimination is that it's possible that, had I risked driving to MSP at that time, I could have ended up in a ditch, in which case I'd probably be kicking myself even worse.

All in all, I did manage to get to Rochester (NY) on byFriday afternoon. Boy, was my mom surprised!