Thursday, June 18, 2009


We are in Oregon for Spiff's sissy's wedding! We're on vacation...finally! And what is Spiff up to today? He is at the hospital, shadowing our anesthesioligist friend in the OR. It's great experience for him, especially since she is the doctor who really inspired him to be interested in anesthesia in the first place. So, he's taking a working vacation today.

What I am enjoying on this trip:
  1. Spending time with Spiff.
  2. Seeing our family.
  3. Seeing our beloved friends.
  4. Fabulous Oregon weather (it's cool, breezy, and I don't automatically break into a sweat when I step outside).
  5. And of course, I'm excited about the wedding! I can't wait to see what Connie has cooked up for the reception!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The wait

Well, I took the exam on friday. It took just over seven hours to complete. The exam is administered in seven blocks of 48 questions which you have an hour to complete. There is 45 minutes of break time as well, that can increase if you finish a block early, as I am prone to do. My strategy was to do four blocks, take lunch, do two, break, and finish the last block. By the end of my fourth block, I was pretty tired and my brain was starting to feel fuzzy. Block 6 was really difficult, either because my brain was foggy or because it truly was tough. There were many times when I could narrow it down to two answers, and would just have to take a semi-educated guess. The difficult thing about Step 1 of the USMLE is that there are 336 questions, but not all 336 are graded. The exam draws from a random assortment of questions from a huge question bank. In order to deem a question worthy of being included, it must be presented as a trial question for several years, which means it is included in the exam, but not scored lest it be an unfair question. Consequently, I could kill myself for several minutes on an insanely hard question that may not actually be part of my grade. The challenge lies in not knowing how many and which of my questions are not "real" questions.

I really don't have a very good feel for how I did. During practice exams I could usually tell how I did based on the inverse of my emotions. If I finished a practice block feeling good, then the score was usually lower than if I finished feeling apprehensive. All of the questions are blended together in my head though, and I really don't have a good feel for how I did. I would really like to do as well as my practice scores at the end of my studying, but I'm not too sanguine about that. Again, I don't know if that's realism or if I'm just psyching myself out in case I don't do as well as I would like. Here's a graph of my progress that I made using my practice scores.
As you can see, there is generally an upward trend, at least if you look at the lowest scores. Overall I improved significantly from my beginning scores, but who knows if that bears out in the real thing. I'll post in July when I finally find out my score, and that will settle things once and for all.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I take the boards tomorrow. Step 1 of the USMLE will, to a great degree, determine my options for residency. It is doubtful that I will score well enough to do dermatology or plastics, which fortunately do not appeal anyway. It is also doubtful that my score will consign me to the least competitive specialties. I've worked my butt off for 2 years, and doubly so for the past 5 weeks. Like many hard workers, I think that medical students are prone to overestimate the time they actually spend working. However, for the last 5 weeks, I have spent between 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week reviewing and learning what I spent 2 years studying. That means conservatively, I spent 300 -360 hours studying for this exam. I'm not boasting or bragging, just recounting what I have done for the last 5 weeks. Board studying is an insatiable beast. I can never "be done". Everyone always says "oh, you'll be fine, just take a break, you know everything you need" etc... Nope, there's always some cytokine that I've forgotten, some immunodeficiency syndrome to review, some drug side effect (thank you very much, psycho-active drugs) to learn and re-learn, and re-re-learn. At some point, which happened at 9:30 this evening, I admit that the time for preparation is over.

Inherent Flaw

I have done a little clothing shopping lately. I don't usually shop for clothes, due to lack of funds. In fact, the last dress I bought was my wedding dress 4 1/2 years ago. My wardrobe is full of old, worn, dated clothing, and with my changed post-baby body, I have found that some of it just doesn't fit me anymore. So, I am trying to find some items that will give my sad little wardrobe a small boost to get me through the next few years. I have a few requirements, and I don't think I'm picky. I still can't find what I need.

Dresses: There are about a zillion dresses for sale. I would say that 80% of these are of the sleeveless/spaghetti strap variety. The others are too short, too low, too old, too young, or just too expensive. The dress I found for my sissy-in-law's wedding is cute, but it had to be altered just a bit to make it modest (Thank You, Maggie!).

T-shirts: I believe that these requirements are simple. I want something that is comfortable. Not too tight, too short, too low, or too wide in the neckline, or expensive. Am I asking too much?

Here's the flaw, as said sissy-in-law pointed out: Most women don't actually have the bodies that fit the clothing that is being sold. Most of us don't have fabulous upper arms, so why are all the dresses sleeveless? Also, I would say that the majority of women don't want to dress like skanky chickies. So, why are all of the shirts tight and low?

Progress Report

The Binkie:  It seems as if we have gotten rid of our crutch.  Gunner hasn't taken a binkie in three weeks.  I still have them around, just in case, and I have reached for them in times of desperation.  But, he doesn't suck on them anymore.  He chews on them, and them takes them out of his mouth and waves them around in the air.  He treats them like a little chew toy.  And now I know that he no longer needs them at all.

Sleep Training:  Gunner is sleeping better these days.  I don't want to jinx it by announcing it to the world, but I have to acknowledge that he has done very well during this past week.  We have changed our bedtime routine a bit, and he has been responsible for putting himself to sleep at bedtime.  We have also decided that it is not hunger that wakes him up before midnight, and instead of rushing into him to quickly rock him back to sleep, he has to figure it out on his own.  I think that we had been over-stimulating him at these wakings, and the effect was hours and hours of crying (for all of us!) because he just couldn't get back to sleep.  This hasn't happened in over a week!  Nap times are getting better as well.  He has taken some good naps this week, and it usually doesn't take him too long to settle himself down for a nap.  Also, if he's asleep and wakes up while we're transferring him to his crib, he knows how to get comfortable enough to go back to sleep.  That has been a good good thing.

Again, I'm not trying to jinx anything.  Nor am I blowing my own horn by saying that we have done something spectacular that has solved all of our problems.  I am completely aware that this could be a week-long phase.  Maybe his problem was that he was teething (he doesn't have any teeth  yet), and it hasn't been bothering him this week.  Maybe he's in a growth spurt and he needs to sleep more.  Or maybe...just maybe...he is figuring out how to comfort himself.

Whatever the case may be, we have had a good week of sleeping.  It seems that this long, difficult five weeks of sleep training has done some good.  It couldn't have come at a better time because Spiff's big test is tomorrow.  And it sure has been nice to get a few good nights of sleep!  I sort of forgot how it feels to sleep for more than three consecutive hours.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Happy Place

I'm grumpy today.  I'm stressing about Gunner's sleep issues, Spiff's Grammy's living situation, and finding a modest and cute dress to wear to my sister-in-law's wedding.  And the baby has been crying at me.  So, I need to write about things that make me happy:
  1. A competent auto repair shop located three blocks from my house.
  2. The weather is beautiful today.  Sunny and warmish.  Not beastly hot and humid.
  3. I went on a walk with my baby, and he kicked his little fat feet the whole time.
  4. I'm making delicious turkey sandwiches for my picnic lunch with Spiff.
  5. I just discovered that Gunner likes avocado.  My son after my own heart.
  6. Gunner intentionally hugs and kisses us now (big sloppy drooly kisses).  As he comes in for a kiss, he pulls my hair, and it would be cute if it didn't hurt so much.
  7. Spiff will be done with his big bad test in one week from today.
  8. Then we get to go on vacation for three weeks, go to the wedding, and see our families.