Saturday, September 24, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mick!
(a few weeks ago)

On September 2, we brought St. Louis Gooey cake (a.k.a. Diabetic's Demise?) to Mick at school for his 38th birthday. We shared the cake with his classmates and then he opened his gifts from us: from Aubrey and Dane, Lance Armstrong's War (Dane saw the cover at B&N and said it would be the perfect book because it had a bike on it) and, from me, the latest by Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men. Mick finished the Lance Armstrong book in a couple evenings and will probably read the new McCarthy during break.

Break started yesterday at noon and he'll start back to school on Monday, October 2nd. Mick pulled some all-nighters in his preparation for his finals last week in Biochemistry, Anatomy and Dental Anatomy. He also took tests in Restorative Dentistry, Orientation to Clinical Practice and some other stuff I can't recall. He's vowed to organize a little better next quarter so he's even more prepared for finals week, but we're happy to
report that he made it through a-okay.

We have Grammy Jan in town this week (for two weeks total, actually) and she's not only joining us for some fun family activities (ferry ride, Discovery Museum, fish-n-chips, etc.--more pix/entry later), but she's going to stay with the kids Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so Mick and I can bike, read, drink coffee, chill at a little B&B in Point Reyes for two nights.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Aubs the Ballerina

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Skyhawks Minihawks Sports Camp

Sure, this is a little late in coming, but here are some photos from Dane's blissful week at sports camp. (Dane's wearing the yellow sweats in the group picture.) He played soccer, t-ball and basketball every day from 9 to noon and met his new best friend, Wilton; he rode piggyback on his coach, a tall and kind high schooler who let Dane give him a hug on the last day when Dane gave him a Kit Kat bar; and he got his first sports camp t-shirt as well as a sports camp basketball. He's already looking ahead to next year's camp session and he's signed up now for weekly soccer sessions through the Mill Valley Rec Center.

Also at the Rec Center: Aubrey just started her weekly half-hour ballet lessons. She learned how to stand with her feet in a "v" the first day and how to spin around with her arms up over her head. I have no idea what the real names are for those moves, especially since family members aren't allowed in the room during the lesson, but I know a girl in a black Hello Kitty leotard, tutu and pink slippers who's very happy. (Will post pix soon.)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Supportive Partners Night at Pacific
Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Tuesday night I attended the "Supportive Partners" dinner for first year students and their partners at the dental school. The program was set up about 25 years ago when Dean Arthur Dugoni noticed that in the intensity of dental school, couples who started off with big dreams together were splitting during the program. In light of Pacific's humanistic model, Dugoni decided to address the problem head-on, increasing the school's level of commitment to healthy families and relationships. (This humanistic, supportive model was, in fact, what Mick sensed so strongly in his interview at Pacific back in November '04.) This is why Pacific offers big catered events like "Supportive Partners Night," family picnics (this year's will be at the zoo, last year's was at Angel Island), a Halloween party, White Coat ceremony, Over-the-Hump party, and on and on.

It's also why Pacific has a remarkable open door policy. They encourage partners and families to visit not only during lunch in the cafeteria (which is fun--just ask Aubrey and Dane) but to step into the Sim Lab to really get a feel for the culture there (which is also fun--just ask Aubrey and Dane). Dugoni emphasized how it's in the Sim Lab, for instance, that you can understand not only the technical jobs at hand, but the tremendous stress and weight of school in general. I know that when I visited the Sim Llab I got a true sense of this; it was easy to assume Mick might just be taking his time, leaving things to the last minute (a.k.a. slacking), but that this really isn't the case (whew! and, of course). When the kids and I entered the Sim Lab I saw quickly how there's a lot at stake there and that the students live and breathed that stress continually.

During the meeting, the school psychiatrist, Dr. Bruce Peltier, spoke. He discussed two sheets in the folder we "supportive partners" had received as we entered the room. Here's one of them (his advice is in italics; my comments are parenthesized in standard):

1. It's an unnatural act.
(This is a stressful, scary situation. It'll also get better.)

2. Figure out what your priorities are.

(i.e. 1. Dental school, 2. Family, 3. Fitness... Mick and I lean toward a close tie between dental school and family, recognizing that sometimes choosing which is the top priority is necessarily linked to the other.)

3. "D" is a passing grade.
(Mick made me promise not to remind him of this too much--some days it looks really appealing! The purpose of this tip is to point out that not all grades will be strong--in fact, some might be weak--but because the standard is excellence, the bar is high. Some days, with so much to do and know, a student's best plan is to simply turn something in. In the end, not many grades can be a "D" and the gradepoint
average needs to be at least a 2.0.

4. Plan ahead, especially for finals and the breaks.
(Partner does this; takes load off student's mind. It was even recommended to leave town during finals week just to apply absolutely zero outside distraction for the student. And, as far as break is concerned, we partners were encouraged to make the plans, but then to step back and really lower expectations of the student--who might need to sleep or veg a lot.)

5. Set aside a time for each other. Don't break the rule.

6. If you are in a young relationship, don't expect the other person to be like you. Don't expect them to read your mind. (They can't.)
(I was dying to ask "What if you're in an old relationship?" Yeah, funny, huh... Good thing I didn't; I'd probably have Dr. Peltier calling to schedule an appointment with us.)

7. Get involved in the dental school community. Make some friends. We have a lot of fun here.

8. I am available. Get help! Bruce Peltier...
(Don't worry. You'll eventually make the money to pay back the loans. You will.) --Peltier's actual font size for this was teeny.

In all, the evening was really wonderful. And if it sounds like this was all about supporting the student, it wasn't. First of all, the night was focused on giving partners a sense of the great thing that they and their student are up to, but it was also to encourage partners to be expressed and communicative with their partners, to get to know and lean on other student partners, and to be excited with the student about life during and after dental school. This was enhanced by an activity led by Ms. Christine Miller, Associate Professor & Director of Community Programs (Mick's Orientation to Clinical Practice instructor), where each student had to stand up and introduce their partner, sharing how they met and what their partner's hobbies are. The night was also enhanced by the Q&A session of student panelists, two third-year couples and one second-year couple. (Biggest tip there: First year is the hardest--come March it gets lighter...)

Finally, you might wonder where the kids were during this event. At Sports Camp (which I still have yet to blog on!) Dane met his "new best friend," Wilton, and I met his terrific mom Margaret. Margaret and her family (husband, Bob, and two more children, Maury age 3, and Carly age 1) have become fun, reliable friends. She watched my kids for this event, and I watched hers the following night while she and Bob went to Parents Night at Wilton's school. We will be doing many other such swaps in the future.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Perhaps like many Americans who feel removed from (but saddened by) the hurricane disaster down south, I want to know how I can help. Please feel free to offer suggestions--safe, risky, expensive, cheap, etc. I want to hear any you've got. Email us or comment on the blogsite; I'll write a blog on what we ultimately do.

Thanks. And Peace.