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Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Will Brace for the Battle of the Birthday Parties

There's nothing I love more than throwing a party.  My wedding registry was littered with everything you could think of for the entertainer.  I was thrilled to receive every piece of china and serving ware, from chafing dishes to chip and dip sets.  But more than getting these incredibly generous gifts from friends, I love getting to use them.  When it comes to hosting a party, I take on every imaginable role: planner, chef, decorator, graphic designer, DJ, server, etc.  And I'm a sucker for a theme!  If you want more proof, check out the wedding shower we hosted for our friends earlier this year here.

Tensions run a little high between my husband, Kevin, and me during the planning and setting up stages of the hosting process.  My party plans are always highly ambitious, usually calling for complicated gourmet recipes and custom signage and decorations.   Kevin becomes a parrot:  "K-I-S-S!  Keep it simple, Susan."  Sometimes, he'll throw in "This is too expensive." His other favorite word in our party planning dialogue: "No."  

This is only slightly problematic now.  Honestly, I do need some resistance in my life or I really will get carried away.  Despite our clashing priorities, I think our parties always turn out great.  However, I think this dynamic is setting us up for some trouble once the first birthday party comes along. 

My nephew's first birthday was a wonderful little affair.  It consisted of immediate family only.  A gathering and a cake.  Kevin thought this was ideal.  That all kids' birthday parties should be that simple and that he'd hope we'd follow suit with our own kids, especially when they're at age too young to remember anything.   I think my first reaction was something along the lines of "Do you not know me at all?!!" Of course I'm going to be one of those mothers that comes up with some cutesy, not too mainstream, theme and custom design the invitations myself, and spend hours in the kitchen creating a kid-friendly but elegant menu of hors d'oeuvres.  I know, a ton of work!  But I never really understood the term "labor of love" until I figured out how much I enjoy cooking.  I can't explain the gratification I have in pulling off a successful event, particularly when it involves food that I've created.

Also, birthdays were kind of a big deal in my house growing up.  I loved that once a year, the very fact that you were brought into existence was celebrated in whichever way you desired.  And my mother always knew how to throw a great party.  In fact, I can recall the details of every single one to age five, including all the new birthday outfits that accompanied each fĂȘte.

For me, entertaining family and friends, is a mutually beneficial form of affection.  I can't say it's a completely unselfish act to cook for others, because I sometimes feel like I'm doing it for myself, given all the joy and pleasure I take from it.  But when it comes to children, I can't imagine a more joyful experience than giving them one day a year that reminds them how special they are while creating a lifetime of lasting memories.  I can already hear Kevin's rebuttal in my head, "You can do that without spending a fortune!"  I know, dear.

In the meantime, I know that when I have kids, I will have to brace for the battle over the birthday parties.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm Keeping Them FAR FAR Away from Pit Bulls

While I am not a clinician or researcher by any stretch of the imagination, my work puts me in close proximity to some of the world's leading scientists.  I find myself at forums, symposiums, workshops, etc. where biomedical researchers share their knowledge, work, findings, and hypotheses.  While I usually understand only about 40% of what's being said, I am frequently fascinated and inspired by what these pioneers are doing for the good of humanity.  I frequent Wikipedia a lot more now than I ever have before, but I'm glad to be learning things outside of my discipline, even if it's mostly lessons in latin.

With that said, I found myself at Emory University's School of Medicine early yesterday morning for a pediatric technology and surgery research symposium.  I brought my laptop to work in case the terminology of the presentations became too overwhelming for me to understand.  I was pleased that I was able to keep up with most of the topics.  I did get a little lost during some presentations on stem cells and T-cells and isolating them and how they proliferate.  Even as I write this, I have no idea what I'm relaying. 

Well, there were a couple of presentations that really resonated with me, specifically one clinician's presentation,  "Pitbulls and Children: A Deadly Combination."  This clinician (meaning he is an M.D. who doesn't practice medicine per se, but mostly conducts research) decided to conduct a retrospective study using patient data from two years of children admitted to all of the Atlanta area children's hospitals with dog bite injuries.  You'll have to bear with me now, because I am terrible at remembering numbers and statistics.  (remember no where close to being a scientist.  could never master the numbers thing.) I know that I will misquote specific statics, so you'll have to take my word for it when I just go with term "majority."  So, their findings showed that children admitted with dog bite injuries, the breed that was responsible for the majority of the attacks were pit bulls.  (I think it's something like 60%).  And a child attacked by a pit bull had the most severe injuries, which was evidenced by some pain quotient physicians use and their length of stay in the hospital.  A child injured by any other dog averages a 3 day stay versus 7 days for children attacked by pit bulls.   Most pit bull attacks occurred in suburban areas and the overwhelming majority of the time (~80%, I think), the dog belonged to either a family member, neighbor, or friend.  

Unfortunately, his presentation featured some very graphic photos of injuries.  It was heartbreaking and disturbing for this sensitive, non-scientist person to see.  

I got a chance to chat with this presenter during the break.  This two year study was just the beginning of their work.  Now, they're conducting a prospective study which will allow them to gather more data such as socio-economic factors.  If I understand correctly, the end goal of this study is to draw some correlations to dog fighting and help influence legislation with regards to vicious dogs.  

I probably got to spend about 10 minutes talking to this doctor after his 12 minute presentation.  That's how long it took to set my mind against letting my future children near any pit bulls: 22 minutes.  Now, this is not a campaign against pit bulls.  I'm sure people have plenty of positive testimony about their personal experiences with this breed.  Allow me to give you some insight on my personality:  I am an excessive worrier.  I'd say that 75% of the time my thoughts are either in the past brooding over "coulda, shoulda, wouldas" or in the future fretting over hypotheticals.  (That should come as no surprise given the very nature of this blog.)  But I only have to hear of a tragedy happening once in order to fear that the same misfortune will surely befall me someday.  And my brain operates under the theory that if I allow myself to worry about something no matter how much the odds are already stacked against it of actually happening, then the less likely it will occur.  There is the flawed logic of me, the worrier.   

Just one photo or one story was all I would ever need to know that when I have kids, I am keeping them far far away from pit bulls and I won't care who they belong to.