More Pictures from Kenya

A few readers have asked me to post some more pictures from our trip to Kenya. I would be more than happy to! Enjoy!

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First Day Back at Medical School…Year 2

Today was the first day back at medical school and I am excited to have started on the next block…Reproduction! From looking ahead at the schedule for the next month, we will be covering plenty of topics that interest me such as prenatal diagnosis, obstetrics and breastfeeding. The block will be heavy in anatomy and histology which is a big challenge! Although it takes me time to master anatomy names, I do enjoy this part of the medical curriculum. Histology has been one of my favorite areas since the beginning of medical school. I feel like my brain just gets it which is very rewarding!

This afternoon, I had my first session for my Community Health Alliance Project (CHAP). This is where we each get to volunteer with an organization out in the community in order to give us more exposure. My community organization is in the area of Mental Health. I chose this because I do not know much about mental health issues yet I have seen it affect people around me. I am curious to know more about it, how it is managed and how I can help to break the stigma around it. The people at the organization were very welcoming and seem extremely passionate about what they do. I was very inspired by the inter-professionalism and I am excited to be a part of the team for the next few months.

I am hoping to try and keep a balanced approach to life during this second year of medical school. I know it will not be easy but it is my sincere wish to keep God and my family as my top priorities, to make time for exercise and rest, as I give my best effort to my school work!

PS… If you love to read as much as I do, or if you’re simply looking for something new to read, please do visit my “Books to Read” page. I have updated it with several new titles that I read over the summer. I hope you will find them as useful or inspirational as I did! Enjoy!

Reflections on Family and Medical School

There are less than 3 weeks to go until the start of medical school! The countdown is on and we are so excited as a family. I have been spending as much time as possible with the kids before school starts and I am treasuring the simple yet special moments I have with them, like a visit to the zoo, the beach or making chocolate chip cookies together. Or simply having them envelop me in a hug and say, “Mummy, we love you…and we’ll always love you.”

I am so grateful to have had almost 3 uninterrupted years at home with my two children. It has been a gift and a refreshing break from my research work in the pharmaceutical industry. When my husband and I revisited the idea of me going back to school to pursue medicine, I had pangs of guilt about being away from the children. I wondered if they would understand why mummy is away for such long hours at school or the hospital. I know the guilt is something I may struggle with throughout my training and career. But I also know that the kids are very much loved and my husband and I have a game plan to maximize quality time with them. I hope that we can be a good example for them.

To my beautiful children, I have witnessed your first steps, your first words, your first falls, your first tears and your first laughs (and yes, changing more diapers than I ever thought were possible!). You have shown me a new side of myself and given me the gift of allowing me to nurture you.

Although the next few months will be a transition phase, I feel at peace that we are heading in the right direction as a family. Today, I was excited by the simple act of buying stationery for both myself starting medical school and my son starting kindergarten (my husband laughed at me enthusiastically showing him my stash from the dollar store: highlighters, stickies, pens, to name a few!).

I am also happy to announce that my very independent daughter decided to potty train herself in the month of June. I had been really hoping to get it done before the start of med school and was aiming to start potty training in July. She beat us to it telling us proudly, “I don’t want diapers any more mummy, I’m a big girl!”…….Well alright then! You go girl!

My husband and I have also been having some interesting discussions about what medical specialty to go into. I have been talking to several doctors in different fields and reading up as much as I can. So far, my interests are quite diverse: family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, surgery and pathology. I am going to remain open-minded throughout my learning and enjoy the process. I know there will be many challenges ahead but I am absolutely thrilled to be finally doing this after so many years of planning!

Thank you for staying with me on this journey! I am excited to share it with you!

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Her first visit to the Ecomuseum
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Relaxing on the beach
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Brother-sister love!
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Getting ready to bake some delicious  cookies!

 

Living a Less Distracted Life…Focusing on What Counts

Today, I was reminded once again what an incredible blessing it is to have children. I cannot think of another experience in my life that has challenged me, refined me and simultaneously made my heart full more than being a mother.

There are days when I am in tears from the frustration and exhaustion of parenting two little ones. But then are those days, when I finish the day feeling elated, needed and vastly important in the eyes of those two little souls who look at me with such hope, dependence and love. It almost takes my breath away.

Today was one of those happy days when I couldn’t take my eyes off my children. Their quirkiness, curiosity and energy had me mesmerized and I decided early in the day, that this was would be a day free of distractions. A day when I would be fully attentive to the needs of my children. The emails, internet, dishes, and other chores were going to take second fiddle.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when my 4.5 year old asked me what the heart was. I felt my nerdy “biology-ness” kicking into gear as I tried to explain what the heart was. Finally, we went on an expedition to our basement to leaf through one of my old biology textbooks. My son’s eyes opened wide as I showed him a schematic of the heart with all its chambers, arteries and veins. He was fascinated! He then proceeded to ask me how the brain works so we perused the biology textbook for a diagram of the brain and I explained the best that I could so that a  4.5 year old would understand.

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Our son Caleb having fun with our microscope

Our science lesson for the day concluded with my son asking if he could take a look at our microscope. At first he was frustrated that he couldn’t see anything through the eye-pieces but with some gentle manipulation of the reflective mirror, he was able to see at least a circle of light (note to self, time to find some slides and cover slips so we can observe some actual specimens). He was ecstatic when he saw the circle of light and I felt so proud of him for persevering. I think we have the makings of a young scientist! Despite my 2-year old daughter being sick and feverish the last two days, she was generally in good spirits today and regularly showered me with hugs and kisses.

As I took pictures and videos of my children doing various activities, I was reminded how precious this time with them is. I cannot take it for granted. I want to make more effort going forward to lead a less distracted life and zoom in on what I consider most important and worthy of my time. How many times has my son tried to get my attention but I’m too busy reading an email on my phone? It’s no wonder he was getting frustrated sometimes. Technology such as the internet is beneficial in many ways but I wonder how much of the outside world we miss when we get caught up in its web (no pun intended).

As I sit and write this, the house is quiet but I still hear in my mind the sound of laughter ringing from earlier in the day. Today reminded me that there can be a different way to live…a simple, less distracted life…a more focused life.

The funny things kids say:

“Mummy, you saved the day! You’re a super-hero!” Caleb said to mummy after she miraculously fixed one of his broken toys.

Mummy, just so you know, we’re going to marry ourselves…I’m going to marry Namz” Caleb informing mummy that he and his sister will be getting married.

“Mummy, why aren’t girls boys?” Caleb looking puzzled about the female ‘species’.

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Life is fun when you’re riding a stuffed monkey
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Our little musician…jamming on the piano!
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Our inseparable munchkins
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Brother-sister love…our darlings Caleb and Naomi

 

Scrumptious Black Bean Enchiladas

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Image courtesy of potentialdoctor.com

I’m always on the look out for new tasty recipes, particularly ones that are kid-friendly and nutritious. Last week I stumbled upon this delicious bean enchilada recipe. It was scrumptious and very easy to make. The main ingredients are beans, chopped tomatoes, onions, grated carrots wrapped in tortillas and topped with a dollop of yogurt and grated cheese.

Now, my kids have an onion ‘radar’ second-to-none, but I was able to disguise the onions by chopping them up as small as possible and frying them in some delicious spices that the kids could not resist. (The spices were Dhana jeera and Garam masala which can be found at Indian stores and some supermarkets. If you are unable to locate these particular spices, you can whip up something similar using ground coriander, cumin, cloves and turmeric).

You can use any type of bean for this recipe (I used black beans) and even include some lentils. A green salad complements the enchiladas nicely. This recipe was a hit with the entire family and refrigerates well for a subsequent meal. I hope you enjoy your enchiladas as much as we did!

 

 

 

Forgiveness Includes Forgiving Yourself

It can be so hard to forgive yourself when you make a mistake that hurts others, particularly those you love. This week was a lesson for me in the art of forgiving myself for not being the perfect mother I envisioned. Of course, I know deep down I cannot be the perfect ‘anything’. But given the weight of responsibility of being a mother, I figured I had better get this right. Two other little humans are depending on me for direction and to be the best example I can be.

Motherhood has been one of the most challenging, heart-wrenching, and tear-inducing experiences I have been through…and yet one of the most wonderful, joyful and rewarding. My children simultaneously bring out the best and the worst in me. Through seeing my own weaknesses daily, I am finding it easier to be more gracious towards others, because I know I sorely need grace myself.

Back to this week’s motherhood challenge. My son went through a difficult ‘terrible twos’ phase two years ago. This was to be expected at this age and with consistent discipline in the form of time-outs, his behavior improved significantly by age 3. I was then very surprised when at the age of 4, he seemed to embark on a ‘terrible fours’ phase (does such a thing exist?)

None of the usual discipline was working. Time-outs were ineffective and seemed to make my son very angry and upset. He seemed like a completely different child and I felt ineffective and helpless. This week we reached the zenith of the difficult behavior. Coupled with the stress of unexpected repairs to our house, I was hardly the in-control mother I hoped to be. I lost my temper, became very angry and said things I shouldn’t have. I felt like a different person.

I talked things over with my husband and we decided we needed to adapt our discipline methods. What had worked before was not very effective now. We decided to implement an approach of positive reinforcement. Specifically the behaviors we focused on were:

  • Obedience
  • No whining
  • No rudeness
  • No melt-downs

For each of these 4 behaviors that my son managed to achieve throughout the course of the day (one warning was allowed), he would get a star on his reward chart and a sticker of his choice at the end of the day. We would review how the day went and ask him how he felt it went. The idea is not to suppress his feelings but to teach him how to control them better.

Today was Day 1 of the new approach and it went fantastically! He would still get angry or upset sometimes (which is normal) but he handled it much better. My son likes stickers and reward charts (it worked really well for potty training) so I think this new approach will go well. I don’t expect every day to be perfect but I think this is a step in the right direction.

Parenting can be so difficult sometimes, but I’m reminding myself that I am helping to shape a human being who can then go out and have a positive impact on this world. All the disciplining, the tears, the heartache… will be worth it for the person who will emerge with character.

Today, I forgive myself for making many mistakes as a mother. Tomorrow is a new day with my beautiful family, with my wonderful children who I adore, a new opportunity to treat them with love and respect…no perfection necessary.

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My son (when he was  around 9 months old) and I going for a stroll along the boardwalk in Saint Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. Beautiful memories.

Building Your Cooking Confidence…New Recipe of the Week

One secret to eating healthily is finding delicious and nutritious recipes that are easy to make. I have been amazed by the sheer diversity of flavor that you can find in recipes, none of which have to be complicated or time-consuming. Cooking can seem intimidating but it doesn’t have to be! With time and practice, we can build our confidence in the kitchen and boost cooking skills to a new level.

Trying at least one new recipe each week is my latest goal towards eating healthily. Experimenting with new recipes is a great way to build your cooking confidence and has multiple benefits:

  • Improved cooking skills: My former roommates still tease me to this day about the ‘delicacies’ I used to prepare during our university days, namely, rice with ketchup. I really had very few cooking skills! The only way to improve was for me to roll up my sleeves, be willing to experiment and launch myself into the kitchen. Before long, I fell in love with cooking. Food is a great way to connect with people. It breaks down barriers and provides endless topics of conversation! Take your cooking one step further by learning one new recipe each week.
  • Increased confidence in hosting guests: I remember when my husband and I got married and I was nervous about having our first couple over for supper. I realized that I needed to build my confidence in the kitchen. The only way to do that was to practice! Fortunately my husband was willing to eat just about anything and was very patient as I found my way in the kitchen. The more I cooked, the more confident I felt and it wasn’t long before having a group of 30 people over to our house didn’t phase me. Keep trying something new in the kitchen. Even if it fails, you can always try again!
  • A wider variety of nutrients: I cringe when I think about how I used to eat in the past. I can remember a phase when vegetables were optional. I knew they were important but somehow I just didn’t know what to do with them. By trying a new recipe every week, this will provide the opportunity to try a wider variety of foods (vegetables included!) with a greater selection of healthy nutrients.
  • Sustained motivation: I personally am more motivated to cook when I am trying something new or tweaking an existing recipe. The same cycle of meals can be boring so keep it fresh by adding some diversity and expanding your repertoire!
  • Happy family: I have to say that when I try new recipes, the energy at our dining table is tangible. The husband and kids get excited and I feel a great sense of satisfaction in seeing them enjoy what they are eating. Make your cooking journey a shared experience where others can enjoy your new creations!

Without further ado, here is the new recipe of the week, courtesy of Closet Cooking.

Broccoli and Cheddar Quinoa Bites

A freshly baked broccoli and cheddar quinoa bite (image courtesy of potentialdoctor.com)
A freshly baked broccoli and cheddar quinoa bite (image courtesy of potentialdoctor.com)

I made a quick dip for this meal that consisted of soy-sauce, honey, dijon mustard and freshly grated ginger.

  • My review: Very simple to make, fast, nutritious and delicious.
  • Options: I used cajun spices instead of cayenne alone.
  • Kid-friendly? A resounding yes! My kids gobbled this up before I had time to sit down at the table
  • Tip 1: If you have babies or toddlers, you may want to steam the broccoli slightly before baking the mixture in the oven because the baking process does not soften the broccoli completely.
  • Tip 2: Cook a double portion of the quinoa, freeze half of it (prior to mixing with the other ingredients) and use it in subsequent meals such as salads, soups, stews etc.

If you are nervous or unsure about cooking, don’t despair! There is a wonderful world of cooking out there to discover. Take it one step at a time and soon you will have improved cooking skills and more confidence in the kitchen!