Category Archives: Sister Blog

Happy Belated Fathers Day!

Sarah: We have apparently been busy and just realized that we haven’t posted in over a month! Since that time included our dad’s birthday AND Father’s Day, it seems that an appropriate first post back would be a tribute to the eponymous “Mister” of our blog. (Penned the 21st(ish) of June)

 

Meghan: Aaaaaaaaand over a month later, we will try this again…

 

Like Sarah was saying, our dad. People who know our dad would probably all describe him differently because he is part goofball and part most serious worker on the planet, as well as part sentimental and part WHO CARES.

Here is a picture of Daddy, Meghan, Granddad, and Uncle Steve deer hunting, one of our dad's favorite things in the world, which Meghan also inherited a love for.
Here is a picture of Daddy, Meghan, Granddad, and Uncle Steve deer hunting, one of our dad’s favorite things in the world, which Meghan also inherited a love for.
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Also demonstrating his masterful rock-fishing skills

 

Sarah: PERFECT description. Looking back through old pictures, his birthday pics always involve him wearing something as a hat that’s not really a hat, and posing in a crazy fashion (i.e., with a huge ball of used duct tape stuck to his face). Unfortunately for our mom, I think that’s one trait Meghan and I both inherited from him. I remember plenty of occasions when mom wanted a “nice” picture but would end up yelling “can ANY of you just be NORMAL when the camera is on you??!!??”.

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The many faces of Joe Labuda receiving gifts and hamming it up for the camera. He also doesn’t like cake (WHO doesn’t like cake??!?) and only eats banana pudding for his birthday.

 

Meghan: Daddy is definitely where Sarah and I get our sense of humor. In high school, our Sunday evenings revolved around us watching The Simpsons with our dad, and we would all laugh together and sing “Mr. Plow”. It was great bonding time. It still horrifies our mom that such filth was enjoyed by her husband and children, but we turned out okay, so whatever.

 

Sarah: Dad’s taste in comedy (The Simpsons) and sci-fi/fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter) were all very influential for me growing up. I turned into more of a nerd than Meghan, but we watched these creepy weird anime versions of The Hobbit and Return of the King together with dad so she got at least a small amount of the ingrained nerdiness, even if she hides it well sometimes.

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The late 80s/early 90s were TERRIBLE for my hair!

Meghan: No, I didn’t get sucked into the nerd movie vortex quite like Sarah did, but those books, especially The Hobbit, are probably my fondest childhood memory. I still remember sitting on Daddy’s lap while he read us a paperback copy of The Hobbit before bedtime (no picture books for us…he also read us Summer of the Monkeys when I was probably 6 or 7), and his big coffee table illustrated version was an obsession of ours.

 

A few years ago, I taught 8th grade in a district that used The Hobbit as one of their required readings for that grade level, and I’m pretty sure I scared my students with my enthusiasm for that book. I just had such positive associations with the story. I know that our dad’s sewing the seeds of a love of reading in us at an early age is what ultimately led me to love teaching reading and being a librarian. And obviously to Sarah’s geekdom. And, as I type this, my six-year-old son is humming the Imperial March from Star Wars. Not joking. So I guess it’s hereditary.

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Sarah’s First Communion, 1988-ish

Sarah: Dad is also a former firefighter and fire safety engineer by trade, so we grew up with the utmost in fire safety training. I’ll never forget the 4th of July always having dad supply a bucket of water for our sparklers to be dunked into IMMEDIATELY after use, and Meghan and I had to go collect all of the used fireworks from throughout the neighborhood each year on July 5th.

 

Once, I was on the phone with my mom while I was in college, and she suddenly burst out with, “Oh my, Joe Labuda is in the backyard in full bunker gear with a water hose burning the brush pile!”. FYI, when living in the country it is normal to burn your own brush, but *not* usually while wearing full firefighter gear.

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Dad’s surprise 50th birthday party in our backyard in Van Vleck, TX. Good times were had by all!

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Dad with cousin and siblings at his 50th

I’ve moved approximately 18 times since graduating from high school, so each time I find a new apartment I call mom to tell her about the kitchen and flooring, then she hands the phone to dad so I can tell him about the sprinkler system, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and accessibility of fire extinguishers.

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Dad at the first responders memorial at Ground Zero in NYC in 2003. Though he doesn’t work in a firehouse any more, he still feels a strong kinship with all first responders, especially firefighters.

Meghan: I still feel like I’m sinning if I burn a candle. They were always off limits in our house. I remember going to friends’ apartments in college and they would have a candle burning, and I would be so nervous because a paper 5 feet away could be ignited by a spark or something.

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Family vacation with Meghan rocking a sweet fanny pack

Sarah: Burning candles has always felt like a huge act of rebellion, for sure!

 

Dad is also, as Meghan said at the beginning, one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. His dad, our Granddad Labuda, was in the military in World War II and then an electrician, so dad learned from him both how to do electrical work as well as how to be CHEAP. He jokingly refers to himself as a “cheap Czech” because of his unwillingness to pay anyone for something he thinks he can do or make himself.

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Dad’s squad at his 50th

Meghan: When our Granddad moved out of the house he’d lived in 50+ years, we (Sarah, Daddy, Roye, and I) helped clean out his garage, which was FULL of odds and ends that Granddad couldn’t part with because they might be useful some day, such as 14 fan belts in various conditions hanging from the rafters, as well as a cast iron bathtub that almost killed Daddy and Roye. Our dad doesn’t necessarily have a fan belt problem (yet), but he definitely inherited the inability to throw things away. Yippee.

 

I guess I can’t really complain too much, because I do see some of the cheap Czech-ness in me; I follow our dad’s method of driving a vehicle until it literally falls apart, and then continuing to drive it until you have to pay someone to take it from you because no car is worth the money you have to pay a dealership and it’s all a scam, damnit. (Side note: Last week, one of the windows in my car, which has never been able to roll down due to the gremlins in my door, randomly fell down while I was driving the boys home from a friends’ house. The 100-degree air blasting in the car was glorious. Roye literally took off the door panel and rigged my window to stay up using a rope I made from aluminum foil. Us for the win. For now, at least.)

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On the beach in Florida on spring break vacation in high school

Sarah: After being Dad’s “assistant” for all sorts of fun projects growing up, I was able to breeze through my Ag classes in high school. I knew how to use power tools, how to stick my arm up through a hole in the sheetrock in a wall while someone (dad) fed down wires while putting in a new outlet, and plenty of other home-improvement projects that involved our free child labor to complete. Once, Meghan and I had to stand in the bed of dad’s truck in the garage holding the garage door opener track over our heads up to the ceiling while dad installed it. That one ended in tears, but no injuries (that I recall, at least).

 

Meghan: It’s funny. Dad’s such a safety freak, but his cheapness definitely wins in most cases. Such as the lawnmower of our youth…

 

Sarah: Ah, that darned lawnmower…

 

I will start by fully admitting my fault and that I deserved the punishment I was dealt. I had always been a hyperactive kid and after breaking 2 clarinet mouthpieces in my sophomore year of high school because I was twirling my clarinet like a baton, my parents made me mow the lawn all summer to pay them back.

 

Not with the nice riding lawnmower, though. With the push lawnmower that was older than me, only had 2 wheels that touched the ground, and had an engine that could only be turned off by REACHING INTO THE RUNNING MOTOR and disconnecting the spark plugs, which he had helpfully labeled. So that goes with dad’s cheap side.

 

To account for safety, though, he made me wear safety goggles, ear plugs, and closed-toed shoes while maneuvering this beast around the yard. And remember how we grew up “in the country”? Since we lived in one of very few “neighborhoods” in our area, ALL of my friends drove by all summer and were able to witness me *safely* mowing the lawn with an ancient, decrepit lawnmower. For a 16 year old girl, there could be little better form of public humiliation.

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The “picture trees” in our front yard, under which I spent that fateful summer mowing. And apparently we didn’t require shoes but Mom and Dad did?

Meghan: Aww, memories.

 

Back to our dad’s work ethic, though. He has not only taught but SHOWN Sarah and me what it means to work and help people.

 

Sarah: Even when it panicked and/or terrified our mom. Like when he picked up hitchhikers, or would stop to change flat tires for people on the side of the road.

 

Meghan: He’s the type who can’t tell anyone no (Sarah and I inherited that one, too), and he’s served on school boards and many church committees, organized fundraisers, etc. all while being dedicated to his demanding engineering career and keeping his family his first priority.

 

Sarah: We are SO lucky to have him as our loving, funny, generous, nerdy, stubborn, cheap, AMAZING dad!
We love you, Daddy!!

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The Labuda Family circa 1985

We Heart Our Momma!!

Sarah: Meghan and I have learned a LOT from our momma. Growing up, she taught us to be self-sufficient in life so that we could cook, clean, do our own laundry, and balance our checkbook (even though I generally refused to do it). I guess I thought there were times that she was tough, but when I moved to college and lived on my own for the first time I realized how lucky I truly was!!

Our mom LITERALLY cried when Meghan made these for the baby’s first birthday last year, because she didn’t think she would ever use her baking skills! (Or something like that?)

Meghan: Yes! Knowing to separate my whites and maroons so that I didn’t end up with a bunch of pinks was a big deal as a college freshman at A&M.

 

But in all seriousness, our mom deserves major accolades for dealing with Sarah and me, especially during our lovely teen years. It’s possible we weren’t the worst, but we definitely weren’t the best. I’m just glad I have boys and don’t have to potentially get payback in the form of raising a teenage Meghan.

One of the ways our mom made a huge impact on my life is her being a teacher. I always LOVED helping her in her classroom, and I can remember dressing up as a teacher for career day in kindergarten. I guess it stuck, or at least I wasn’t good at anything else, because fast-forward to now, and I’m a teacher (although currently staying home) and am so thankful for the opportunities I had to learn the ropes as I grew up and throughout my teacher training. But now I TOTALLY understand why she was always so eager to let me decorate her classroom at the beginning of every year. I need one of my kids to hurry up and be old enough to do it for me.

 

Cheers to all of the hardworking teachers out there!
Cheers to all of the hardworking teachers out there!

Sarah: Agreed – dealing with 2 teenaged girls like us should qualify her for sainthood!  

 

It may seem silly now, but one of the things I know our mom taught us that many people may have missed out on is canning our own foods. I learned not just to cook meals, but to bake (my favorite!) and make homemade pickles, jellies, and jams. It seemed like the HARDEST THING IN THE WORLD as a child, but Meghan and I actually CHOSE to can our own items a year or so ago and it was actually fun! I guess this just shows that she has some pretty cool skills and tricks up her sleeve, and she was awesome enough to want to pass them down to us.

 

HOWEVER – one of those skills I never took to was sewing. She tried to teach me to cross-stitch once, and even as a young child I had zero tolerance for it. I remember years later, in high school, finding the remains of a teddy bear cross stitching project thrown in the back corner of my closet, where I’d banished it when I lost my cool!!

 

Meghan: If Sarah has zero tolerance for sewing, I have negative eleventy billion. I beyond suck at it, and I have no patience for skills that I have no hope of improving on. It’s one of my more pleasant qualities.

 

One thing I NEVER understood when we were growing up was how Momma would get Sarah and me mixed up all the time. She was called Meghan and I was called Sarah. Or Maxine, the cat, or Aggie, the dog, or Joe, our dad. We were always like, “There are only two of us! How can that be so hard?!” Even until just a couple of years ago, Sarah and I gave Momma the hardest time over that. But I must beg forgiveness now and admit that it wasn’t Momma’s fault at all. It’s all our fault. That’s what kids do to you. They destroy your brain to the point that you can’t even recall the names you meticulously chose for them as you lugged them around in your body for 9 months. I’m sorry, Momma.

NOW try guessing which one is which!
NOW try guessing which one is which!

Sarah: Yeah, I got pretty used to responding to the calls of “SarahMeghanJoeWhoeverYouAreComeHere” growing up, and now – even without having kids of my own – I feel more understanding about the stress that we were for her to deal with!!

 

Like you said earlier, Meghan, one of mom’s biggest influences on me was through education, but more in the way she taught me to always work my hardest and helped me through stressful times. She was my first “study buddy” in school, and when I took Anatomy and Physiology in high school and it was the most insanely hard class I’d ever taken to that point, she would stay up to help review with me before tests. She would always be there to proofread papers (even to this day!) due to her expertise as a middle school teacher, and she and dad had the motto that’s always kept me pushing myself in my academic life. No matter how well or how badly something was going for me, they would say, “As long as you did your best, that’s all that we can ask of you”. This has kept me motivated to never half-ass anything, because I know that truly she (and dad) have worked their entire lives to give us the best possible opportunities in life, and I owe to it her to always try my hardest!

 

Meghan: ^^TRUTH. I’ve found myself telling my sons the same thing already about doing their best, and I’m so thankful they drilled that into us so much that it comes naturally as a parenting philosophy for me, too.

 

As awesome as our mom is, we wouldn’t be giving the whole picture without talking about her forgetfulness. Or misplacingness maybe is more like it. Keys, phone, COFFEE CUP. My whole life, her coffee cups have hidden from her. Once again, I think it’s a case of being a mom and having too much on her mind already to be able to recall something as menial as the location of a beverage, but still, I feel like she has spent more time looking for coffee cups and then having to reheat the coffee than actually drinking the coffee.

 

I recently found one of mom’s infamous MIA coffee cups in a microwave that hadn’t been used in over a month. So, in other words, she had reheated her coffee, forgotten it was in the microwave, and left the house with the coffee waiting for her all alone. When I found it, I learned that over time, coffee turns rather gelatinous and grows pretty fur.

Momma's coffee cup

You can pretend those are marshmallows.

 

Sarah: EWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!

 

I definitely remember the morning ritual of getting dressed, eating breakfast, and then searching the closets, freezer, etc for momma’s coffee cup growing up.

Mom taught us life skills, supported our education, drove us endlessly to dance/sports/cheer/whatever practices/games/competitions/meets, set an example of morality and empathy in dealing with others, and was a true example of dedication and love for me growing up through to this day.

Momma modeling a fascinator in Cambridge, England
Momma modeling a fascinator in Cambridge, England

 

WE LOVE YOU, MOMMA!!

Growing Up Country

It came as a sudden, shocking realization to me at about the age of 27ish that my family and I are rednecks. We are educated country-folk, but we remain country-folk all the same.  Meghan and I grew up in a tiny town in southeast Texas with a population of about 1000 – but no one knows for sure, since there’s no population sign. There’s currently 1 stoplight and 2 gas stations that make up the entire metropolis of Van Vleck, Texas, so there’s a reason we are the way that we are!

I caught this baby armadillo in my parents' neighbor's yard back in Van Vleck while I was in residency. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, and yes, the armadillo is alive in this picture!
I caught this baby armadillo in my parents’ neighbor’s yard back in Van Vleck while I was in pediatric residency training. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, and yes, the armadillo is alive in this picture!

I knew while listening to Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Know You’re a Redneck” jokes growing up that we were part of the target audience. Yes, we had the set of salad bowls that were actually old Cool Whip containers. Yes, I have seen the working TV sitting on top of the non-working TV. But it didn’t register until I was in my pediatric residency training and had gone home for Thanksgiving, when my sister was 27 weeks pregnant, wearing a beer t-shirt, and we were out at the shooting range to celebrate the holiday, that I had my A-HA moment!

 

Of course, there should have been other signs that tipped me off. We grew up *technically* in a neighborhood, but right on the border of a large area of private land with lots of cows. We learned from a young age the protocol for who is required to open and close gates when driving onto private property (duty of the person riding shotgun, always), how to get through a barbed wire fence without making contact (it’s a 2-person job), and how to shoot BB guns by using shaken-up cans of Coke in our backyard for target practice (makes for some interesting, sugary pyrotechnics!).

 

Meghan and I were roommates during my first 2 years of medical school and her sophomore-junior years of undergrad, and during that time we were homeowners. Of a trailer. I’m the only trailer park doctor that I know of in practice! I feel like that’s a special attribute that should be listed on my CV in some way.

This is one of our joint birthday celebrations in the trailer park. I am wearing ALL of my presents at once, and in an effort to be fair, our mom got us EACH a 1/4 sheet birthday cake. We both like yellow cake with chocolate icing, and our birthdays are 2 days apart - so we had 2 whole cakes!
This is one of our joint birthday celebrations in the trailer park. I am wearing ALL of my presents at once, and in an effort to be fair, our mom got us EACH a 1/4 sheet birthday cake. We both like yellow cake with chocolate icing, and our birthdays are 2 days apart – so we had 2 whole cakes!

It was a little surprising to me in college when I told a friend about this upbringing. She told me she would have NEVER guessed that I was a country kid, because I didn’t seem like it! She didn’t see me growing up, running barefoot in the gravel streets, climbing trees, trespassing – innocently – to explore the old cemetery hidden in a grove of trees near our house. I think she associated “country” with “ignorant”, which is very sad to me. Rural living is definitely something I aspire to experiencing again one day.

 

We weren’t the kind of country kids who had never left our home town, and were lucky to have parents devoted to making sure we had 1 out-of-state trip each year – but this usually entailed camping, so our worldliness was often tempered by experiencing the country aspects of other states!

 

I’m very proud of my upbringing and experiences, and wouldn’t trade them for anything. Meghan and her kiddos came to visit me in the New Orleans area recently, and packing a family of 5 up and getting out of my 3rd floor apartment any time we were going somewhere was an incredible ordeal. I haven’t lived in our small Texas town in 18 years, but I still can’t truly grasp the mechanics how childhood works in a city! I’m so thankful for the small town, the gravel roads, the barbed wire fences, and the lack of shoes that I grew up with, and I know Meghan feels the same way.

 

Even though I’ve lived in cities since going to college (though my friends who moved to College Station from Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio might beg to differ with my definition of a “city”), I have found that I have to regularly make an escape to open space on a regular basis to maintain my sanity. The convenience and excitement and entertainment factor of living in a larger community definitely has its perks, but my soul will always have a longing for open spaces and country roads.

 

Meghan says:

FYI–My Miller Lite maternity shirt was awesome because I got it for free at a bar in college, and they only had shirts that were about 4 sizes too big for me at the time, which means it was perfect for my pregnancies. Whatever.

But yes, it’s so true that you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. While I do enjoy visiting cities and seeing how THOSE PEOPLE live, I am way too country at heart to ever think I could survive living like that. I’ve lived in bigger towns for a while now, and I can’t wait until we can buy some land to live on, and our boys can pee/run around naked outside without having issues with neighbors.

I feel like Sarah is a little more refined than I am, probably due to her being a physician and traveling the world and stuff, but when she’s out of the city and at our deer lease in the Texas Hill Country, her country instincts definitely take over, and she’s a hiking, rock-throwing, lawn chair-sitting, beer-drinking, campfire-watching girl like me.

Roaches are the Devil

I don’t think of myself as being a high-maintenance, girly-girl type, but cockroaches are where I draw the line. I can deal with spiders, snakes, (not frogs, but that’s another post), general boy grossness, etc., but if I see a roach scurrying across the floor, I will push my children out of the way to save myself from it. So naturally, when my husband was out of town a couple of weeks ago, after I had gotten all of the boys in bed and was trying to prepare the kitchen for the typical mad rush the following morning, there it was: a huge, terrifying, nasty roach.

*Sidebar: My house is very clean. Our house doesn’t look like a Pottery Barn ad, a.k.a. people obviously live here, but I sweep, scrub, wipe, BLEACH, dust, and clean everything frequently, and my husband is a little bit of a control freak, too, so when I’m not around, he goes through my stacks of papers (boys’ school work I can’t throw away because it will make me a horrible mother, so I’ll just hoard it until it takes over their closets and then put it in storage containers and gift it to their wives when they’re grown and married, who will just throw it away and keep the storage container for Christmas decorations). We also have quarterly pest control services to murder the little a-holes who try to infiltrate our clean house. We just live in an older house in an area with lots of trees and other older houses that for whatever reason seem attractive to roaches.

So anyway, when the roach tried to attack me that night, and I had to be the responsible adult since my husband wasn’t there to take care of it for me like he usually does, I could only do the reasonable thing and whisper-scream while I taped a Styrofoam cup over the little jerk.

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I could hear its tentacles or whatever scratching against the cup and almost died.

 

It was still there the following morning, although I had to keep the boys away from it because all they wanted was to rip up the cup and play with the roach. A couple weeks earlier, I had scheduled our quarterly pest control service for that morning at 10, so my plan was to just look like an idiot to the pest control guy and make him deal with the roach instead of not using the kitchen for  2 days until my husband came home. Sure enough, Alex the pest control guy rescued me from the roach, but not before laughing at me. Whatever. It got rid of the roach, and he was even nice enough to ask if he could throw it in our kitchen trash can, or if he needed to take it farther away after he smashed it WITH HIS BARE HAND. I almost died again.

I’m glad I lived, though, because a couple days later, while going through my 4-year-old’s school papers, he proudly showed me the person he drew that day.

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Now, I am proud of his fine motor skills and all that, but all I could do was Google Cartman.

Cartman
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/77/EricCartman.png

It was entirely appropriate for our middle child because regardless of the fact that most people think he’s always super sweet, those of us who are members of The Inner Circle know that Cartman is probably Caleb’s spirit animal.  Thankfully it’s not a roach, or he’d have to live under a cup for the rest of his life.

Sarah says:

Meghan and I share an absolute petrifying terror of roaches. I’ve lived on the African continent, where monster-sized roaches roam freely, and one of the most horrifying experiences of my life was opening the silverware drawer in my kitchen of my apartment in Cabinda, Angola and having a giant roach run out and CLIMB UP MY ARM!!! My friends/coworkers living upstairs came to check on me because they could hear my shrieks of terror.

 

 

 

I Hate Mornings: The Story of How I Am Exactly Like Garfield

I hate waking up in the morning. I’ve never gotten better at it. You would think that, being in the field of medicine, I would have gotten used to it at some point – but it just has not happened. There is nothing that my brain loves more than sleeping.

 

Every morning that I have to wake up, it is the worst thing EVER. I have to build snoozing time into my alarm time, since I know myself well enough to know that it will take me at LEAST 30 minutes from the first time the alarm starts going off until I will actually get out of my bed. It’s just a fact of life.

 

When I finally do start to wake up, I stay in bed for a while reading email and news headlines before finally getting up to trudge my way through my morning routine. The hilarious thing is that I have been this way all of my life. From the time I was in 1st or 2nd grade, I had this poster on my wall:

Garfield rise but won't shine
From http://www.ebay.tv/sch/Collectibles-/1/i.html?_sop=15&_nkw=garfield+stickers&_frs=1

This piece of fine art is for sale still to this day, and I think I need a new one for my current residence – to hang right beside all of my diplomas. It just speaks so much truth about me!

Ernest Hemingway sleep quote
From https://www.pinterest.com/pin/372884044118404331/

Ernie got it – I mean, he also was an alcoholic and had severe psychiatric issues, but still…

 

Meghan and I have always gotten along alarmingly well for siblings, but this is one of my weaknesses which she has always been an expert at exploiting. As young children, my parents would send my very excited younger sister to MY bedroom early on Christmas morning when she had awoken to the potential of opening presents, leaving me to yell at her to “Be quiet and go back to sleep!!!” until a more reasonable hour.

 

Once she reached high school, she loved bringing our family dog into my room to stick her nose in my face to wake me up. Eventually, her children replaced the dog as the most noisy and surprising creatures she could sic on me at what I consider to be ungodly hours of the morning.

 

Luckily, I’m now in a more specialized field of medicine which rarely requires my brain to work before 8:30 or 9 AM – which I believe is better for EVERYONE involved in my day!

https://twitter.com/realgrumpycat/status/366973314905825281
https://twitter.com/realgrumpycat/status/366973314905825281

Apparently, cats are the standard grouchy-meme animal.

Meghan’s Word

Once again, this is a time where Sarah and I are total opposites. I have NEVER been able to sleep late. Even in college, after a night out, I would still be awake around 8 or 9, cursing my inability to hibernate like normal people. Yet Sarah could sleep until 1 or 2 p.m. every day if left undisturbed. Not fair.

If I lie in bed for 15 minutes after I wake up, I start getting antsy, so the whole idea of relaxing in bed is wasted on me. So these days, with the little people waking up and demanding food and such, I voluntarily get up at 5 most mornings to run and get my day started on my own terms, rather than waking up to screeches from the baby monitor. I hear one day my children will be teenagers and want to do nothing but sleep, so here’s hoping we all reach that point at the same time.

One of THOSE Days

Last week, I had one of those days. My husband was out of town, which meant our three boys were extra crazy. They just know when Daddy is going to be gone for a while, and their brains kick into hyperdrive trying to figure out things they wouldn’t normally do when he’s here. Such as eat wood chips during recess because they refused to eat their breakfast and just couldn’t make it until snack time. Or the baby suddenly learns the word booty and parades around everywhere we go singing his new knowledge. Or other schemes/fights/general chaos. And I’m often the victim.

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Now, I know my 19-month-old didn’t purposely stick Thomas in my hair knowing his little churning wheels would suck my hair in and cause it to wrap around tighter and tighter, until I finally got everyone buckled in their carseats and could finally locate the power switch, then have to find the scissors among the vases, candles, and matches all hidden from little people in the cabinet above the stove and butcher my hair.

Thomas hair ball

That’s just how it goes. Except that morning was going to be different. Even though our oldest was sick (and by sick I mean just enough to not go to school, but not enough to slow him down by any stretch of the imagination…he took a personal day) and Mr. 4 still didn’t eat breakfast, I was going to make the best of it. I had gotten a snack for Mr. 4 to eat on the way to school, we were going to be on time(ish), and I was psyching myself up to come home and jam to iHeart90s while cleaning bathrooms as Disney Jr. babysat the other two boys.

But then it hit the fan when BabyMan jacked Mr. 4’s coveted toy that he didn’t care about until his baby brother wanted it, causing Mr. 4 to pitch a fit and throw his pretzels all over the floor of the car. Of course, two minutes later he was over it and pining for his pretzels, which were by then coated in crumbs of everything else they’ve throw down there. Then he decided all of a sudden he didn’t want to go to school since his big brother didn’t have to go to school that day and protested LOUDLY and stiffly (ever had your kid do the thing where they think if they become stiff as a board, you can’t make them go somewhere?) as we walked to his classroom. I let his teacher know we’d had a morning and that I foresaw more wood chips in his future.

woodchuck
http://outofthewilderness.me/tag/viper/

Now, I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s also very easy for me to see other moms walking their calm kids into school and think about how much better of a mom/kid combo they must be because clearly they didn’t have to scalp themselves for the sake of a toy that morning. Or if I see a kid throwing a fit, I convince myself that probably never happens to that parent, and they will take care of it much more calmly and patiently than I would. I know it’s unreasonable to think that, but for some reason, judgement is just so stinkin’ prevalent in our parenting society. I don’t so much judge other moms’ decisions as I judge myself negatively based on them. And unfortunately, those moms do exist whose goal it is to out-mom everyone else, which totally sucks for people like me. 

I just have to take it one day at a time and know my sweet/chaotic/energetic/growing boys were meant to be mine, and because of that, I will be able to handle life.

 

Sarah Says:

 

Meghan’s little brood of wild men are also some of the sweetest guys you could ever want to meet. They are good sharers, (generally) very polite and well-mannered, and, when encountered individually, can play quietly and manage to behave. It’s just in combination, and especially when alone with Meghan, that they seem to go a little off-the-rails at times. I like to think it’s just their way of showing their Mama how much they love her!

 

My Current Music Obsessions

Listen to these fun jams while going about your day – you will be better for it!

I always need a catchy soundtrack to keep myself motivated, especially when I’m doing something like writing a research protocol or grant application, trying to motivate myself to go for a run, or simply vacuuming the house. I’m loving the great soul and old-school-ish R&B music that’s having a moment right now, so here are some of my current faves (with the caveat that the 3 of 4 below that I have seen live were MUCH better live than on studio recording):

 

Alabama Shakes – NBD, but I saw them live before their first album came out in 2012, and Brittany Howard is my spirit animal. Now that they have won 4 Grammys, I’m excited for more people to hopefully hear them, though I think my peak experience of their music will have been seeing them in a small club in Baltimore.

Brittany Howard Alabama Shakes

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – I saw them live at Tipitina’s in NOLA last year and did SO MUCH DANCING. They have the catchiest song about alcoholism that you could ever want to jam out to.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats Tipitina's

Leon Bridges – Accidentally crashed a wedding in Stanley Park in Vancouver last fall and they played “Coming Home” at the end. That’s when I knew those crazy kids just might make it, because I approved of the song!

 

(I don’t have a picture to go along with this story/artist, because as much as I wanted to, it felt creepy to sneak around and take pictures of someone else’s wedding!)

 

St Paul and the Broken Bones – I saw them live twice in 6 months last year, once including a cameo with Chef Emeril Lagasse on guest snare drum. Put on your boogie shoes and listen to Paul and the boys wail!

St Paul and the Broken Bones Emeril

Not sure why Emeril looks purple…

 

What music do you listen to for motivation or to keep your day fun? I’m always looking for new bands to enjoy!

 

Meghan’s Word
Sarah clearly wins the music fanatic of the century award, as far as I’m concerned. She lives for music and can’t handle driving for more than one second with a commercial or song she’s not into on the radio. Lucky for me, there’s usually too much screaming going on from the three carseats in the back to be able to tell if a crappy song or commercial is on the radio. If only Sarah had musical talent, she would totally be a rock star. Until then, she could definitely be a backup dancer.

Recommended Reading: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Okay, so I know it’s an oldie-but-goodie type of book, but I think every adult in the US needs to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, like NOW. Gah. It’s good on so many levels. It’s part coming-of-age, part tragedy, part love story, and part kick-in-the-face to all of us who whine about our wifi being too slow.

Chandler
http://shutterbuggery.tumblr.com/post/4956208663/day-10-favorite-chandler-moment

In the event you’re like Sarah and me and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn wasn’t required reading for you in school, here’s a rundown: Francie Nolan is a second-generation Irish-American adolescent girl growing up in a Brooklyn tenement in the early 1900s. She and her family are super poor, and while her dad, Johnny, is an extremely talented (and apparently gorgeous) singer, he is also a dreamer/alcoholic who can’t keep a steady job, so Francie’s mom, the beautiful but hardened Katie, has to pick up his slack by working hard cleaning apartment buildings.

Francie and her younger brother Neeley fall in line with all the other kids in their part of Brooklyn by collecting scraps of junk to sell to the pervy guy down the street for a penny, unknowingly being racist toward people of other cultures in their neighborhood, and generally being consumed by poverty.

The difference with Francie is that she has her dad’s dreamer qualities and loves to escape her pitiful life through books, which she reads in the shade of a tree by their apartment building. Francie just doesn’t quite fit in with any of the neighborhood kids, and she eventually ends up convincing her dad to lie about their address so she can attend a better school where she can actually get an education and not just humiliation. The reader can tell early on that Francie is special and has the potential to rise above her socioeconomic status, if only her dad didn’t suck at life.  

Francie watches her parents’ complicated relationship: Katie and Johnny are the epitome of being in love, but Johnny can’t handle life well enough to provide for his family, so Katie kinda resents him for that, but at the same time, she loves him so much, she does what she can to protect him and support him despite his disease. AKA they are beautiful and dysfunctional and you JUST WANT JOHNNY TO GET HIS CRAP TOGETHER so they can all be happy and sing together and be the WWI version of the Von Trapps. (Hey, Katie is actually Austrian, so maybe there’s a way…)

Von Trapps
http://letsgotothemovies7.com/2010/10/

I seriously get goosebumps just looking at this picture. Sarah and I are total TSOM nerds.

It doesn’t happen, and Johnny dies of pneumonia as a result of his alcoholism. Don’t crucify me here–I’m not spoiling anything. The book makes it clear from early on that Johnny dies. Knowing he is going to die makes reading up to that point all the more emotional. Seriously, you just love him so much but also want to punch him in the face because he could make things so good for his family.

Throughout their marriage, Katie had a tin-can bank hidden in the closet where she was saving up for land in the country where they could live happily ever after. When she had to drain the bank to pay for Johnny’s cemetery plot, she told her kids that they wouldn’t need the tin-can bank anymore anyway because they now owned a piece of land. [Insert ugly cry]

The book goes on to follow Francie’s completion of school, getting the shaft from her mother regarding going to high school (Katie can only afford for one kid to go, and she chooses Neeley because she know Francie has enough ambition to find a way for herself. Not a cool moment for me.), and going out in the working world. She stumbles some and she soars some, and she falls in true love and she falls in practical love. Francie has mama drama, but she always comes back around is able to understand her mom’s reasons for doing what she does because Francie is super intuitive and level-headed.

The reason I think this book should be read by all is because it appeals to basically anyone in any situation. Crappy relationship? Done. Money problems? Got it. Family issues? Yep. Want to go against all the naysayers and get out of your rut? Uh-huh. Think you’re better than everyone and poor people just need to get off their lazy butt and get a job? This is for you.

So many of our immigrant relatives planted their foreign roots in the US with lives like these; the book is a wake-up call that makes the reader contemplate just how they got to their current situation, gives hope to those beaten down by life, and will hopefully make you consider other people’s experiences before judging them as worthless.

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”-Mary Rommely

A-Tree-Grows-in-Brooklyn
http://ghilliesnstrings.blogspot.com/2013/07/book-review-tree-grows-in-brooklyn.html

Seriously, all the feels.

 

Sarah Says:

 

UGH – FINE. I’ll add it to the list.

Nightstand books to read
Just a few of the books I’m trying to read currently

On Being a Scatter-Brained Multitasker

I’ve managed to get pretty far in life – 2 graduate degrees, sub-specialty medical training, generally functioning as an adult at most required times – while I’m pretty sure the inside of my head looks something like this:

 

Credit to AP Photo/Jacob Harris, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidewalt/2011/10/11/albert-einstein-office-desk/#3b3436d768a8. Albert Einstein's desk. Not that I'm comparing myself to him on an academic level - Physics is the only class in college that I had to pay for tutoring in order to get my A as an overachieving premed student!
Credit to AP Photo/Jacob Harris, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidewalt/2011/10/11/albert-einstein-office-desk/#3b3436d768a8. Albert Einstein’s desk. Not that I’m comparing myself to him on an academic level – Physics is the only class in college that I had to pay for tutoring in order to get my A as an overachieving premed student!

I used to always drive my parents crazy when I was growing up because I did not appear to be really focused on what I was reading or studying, while also blaring rock music and hanging upside down off of the side of my bed (true story). Or the TV was on, or a zillion other supposed distractions were existing in my study environment.

Once, in college, my sister and I tried to study near each other – but I ended up crawling on top of the chair I was sitting in and crouching while reading, driving my much more structured sister NUTS. Needless to say, we did not study together after that.

When I was just starting medical school, one of the activities we participated in to help direct us in our future studies was undertake the Myers-Briggs personality test. This was actually very illuminating for me, because I realized there were structural reasons I studied the way that I did.

My personality type includes certain characteristics like needing to be alone around people, a hatred of monotony and routine, and difficulty with focusing on just one thing at times. This translates in to the fact that I currently have 12 internet browser tabs open with multiple simultaneous tasks going on, while also listening to an audiobook and doing laundry; it also explains my hatred of studying in libraries and tendency toward over-committing myself at times because there are so many things that I am interested in doing!

The good thing that seems to go along with this is that people with messy desks are more creative, apparently! So, if you ever see me watching TV while listening to music, drinking wine, and surrounded by piles of papers, I might actually be in one of my most productive moments!

 

Meghan’s Word

I have not and never will understand Sarah’s ability to learn ANYTHING in her preferred study environments. I’m the type who must have complete silence, numbered to-do lists, and prioritized stacks of papers. If the fluorescent light above me is buzzing even slightly, you can forget it. None of that matters any more, because my brain is basically devoid of its ability to learn academic knowledge, as evidenced below.

brain with three kids
http://www.fromtheleftfield.com/running-the-gauntlet-of-three/

 

Feeling Old

I work part-time with college students, mostly freshmen, who subconsciously have made it their goal in life to make me feel like an old hag. I mean, they’re all young and vibrant and happy and think college is the hardest thing they’ll ever do in their life, and I’m the old loser who’s like, ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN. IT ALL COMES CRASHING DOWN AS SOON AS YOU GET A DIPLOMA. In other words, that person I always detested when I was their age. Super.

Homer facepalm
http://clubpenguin.wikia.com/wiki/File:Homer_facepalm.jpg

D’oh!

So a few days ago, we were talking about movies while my students were CLEARLY studying for their first round of exams, and we got on the subject of horror movies, which I told them I can’t handle due to watching Scream at my friend Christina’s house when I was in 7th grade, and I tried to act all cool while we watched it, but I really wanted to curl up in a ball and cry.

I was in the middle of a lecture about how Scream was different from horror movies before that time and how it seemed to be revolutionary blahblahblah when one of my students was like, “But aren’t those comedy movies?” And it took me a few seconds to realize the only thing these kids know about Scream is from the Scary Movie franchise, which of course I’ve never seen but assume are all dumb because I’m old and boring, right?

Anyway, I started to explain the difference but realized it was useless and I was losing cool points, so I removed myself from the conversation, and they moved on to talking about Justin Beiber’s new stuff while I stared at the wrinkles on my hands.

Justin Beiber
http://www.memes.com/meme/515079

Will it be yes or will it be sorry?

I’m really not one of those 30-somethings who freaks out because she’s getting old. I honestly think age is just a number, and it’s all about how you feel and how well you take care of yourself that determines your mindset regarding that number. But sometimes it’s a little disheartening to see Texas A&M Class of 2020 t-shirts popping up in the stores at the mall. That’s all I’m saying.

Speaking of wrinkles, a couple of weeks ago, my son’s class celebrated the 100th day of school with all sorts of 100-related activities. If you have school-age kids, you know the drill: they have to take 100 somethings to school so the somethings can be counted, graphed, etc. So I dug around the stack of crap on top of the fridge and found the dusty sheets of Minions stickers we bought for some other school thing a few months back, cut out 100, and sent them to school. Mom for the win.

Anyway, one of the more disturbing things my son brought home from the 100th day of school was this picture.

IMG_5414

I mean, if that’s what he really looks like in 95 years, he’s golden, but I just wasn’t expecting that when I went through his daily folder. BUT it made me thankful because I may have the rikls, but at least I don’t have white haer. Yet.

 

Sarah Says:

 

I’m 3 years older, so I feel similarly. I’ve never really worried about my age, but here is a panicked text I sent Meghan a few months ago when I was observing the ravages of time on my poor visage:

IMG_7684

 

Sooner or later, age gets us all.