Tulip Time

This week is another week off for Eric.  He actually only has 4 days of work left...soon we'll be off for phase 4 of our year in the States, Colorado.  More to come.  In the meantime, we are visiting some friends in West Michigan/Illinois this week.  First stop, Holland!  That's Holland, MI for the non-MI natives.  But certainly, some similarities to its European namesake.  Namely, the tulips!  Holland is full of tulips and has a big tulip festival every year.  We've never gone, since we hear it's crazy packed with tourists.  It's actually in late April or early May.  But THIS year, due to the abnormally warm weather, the tulips bloomed quite early.  The weather is pretty chilly again, so none of the blooms are open, but it was still beautiful to see the multicolored buds.

We visited a park in the downtown area with our friends, Jay and Laura.  Their son Levi became immediate fast friends with Maggie and Ben!
 Fields of tulips...
 Maggie especially liked the purple ones.  Ironically enough, because of the warm weather I had just given most of our borrowed winter clothing back to its original owners.  So Levi graciously loaned Mags the tiger hat.
 Levi will make a great big brother soon!
 Also at Jay and Laura's was every kid's dream toy:  a ball pit!  It was an inflatable swimming pool filled with plastic balls of all sizes and colors.  SO much fun.
 The obligatory kids in a bathtub photo:
 And many happy moments spent reading, side by side.
Thanks for the great visit, Jay/Laura/Levi!  On to the next adventure...


Profile of my Job

For those curious for a little nuts and bolts of daily life (or for that matter, any update at all on this blog, sorry about that), I thought I would give a little info on my job.

This is a picture of Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where I have been working since late January, and where I will be working for a bit more, until the first week of April.  It has about 160 general medical beds, plus a big ICU, Labor and Delivery, a huge ER, and a small peds ward. 

I am working there as a hospitalist, which means that I only take care of patients in the hospital, without doing any clinic practice.  The hospital employs quite a few hospitalists, and most days (8a-8p), there are between 10-14 of us working together.  At night, there are 2 or 3 covering.  We take turns admitting patients into the hospital, and generally direct and coordinate their care until discharge.  I am like most of the hospitalists, in that we are doing block scheduling, so I work 7 days on, and then 7 days off.  This is good from the standpoint that it has allowed Rachel and the kids to stay some in Ann Arbor, where they know more people, and I join them on my weeks off.

The hospital was interested in hiring some extra hands for this time period, because on February 25, the entire hospital switched over to an Electronic Medical Record, which was a huge undertaking.  So, the good news for us is that it created an employment opportunity for me.  The bad news was that I had to learn the old, complicated system just in time to ditch it for the new one.  Oh well.

The size of the hospital is interesting to me.  Almost any specialist is there, and almost any service or test can be performed.  Thus, I have only transferred one patient to another hospital for reasons of needing a service we couldn't provide (which was a heart transplant).  Nevertheless, it's not a real big place, and the number of doctors and nurses are pretty limited.  I've enjoyed this, because even after a couple months, I feel like I know the majority of them pretty well.

The other unique thing is that this hospital hosts a number of doctors from Southwestern Medical Clinic, which is a Christian group practice, with a commitment to international medical missions.  This is not all the doctors, but it's enough of them that it changes the overall feel of the place noticeably.  For example, when they hear that I lived in Kenya for the last two years, I don't get one of the normal responses, which is "So, are you with Doctors without Borders?" or "Did you take your kids there?"  Instead, I get "Oh, do you know Mike Chupp?" And I say, "Yeah, he lived across the yard from me."


Happy Birthday Ben!

My little boy turned one year old yesterday!  Happy birthday, buddy. :)  We celebrated on Sunday so Eric could be with us.  The #1 birthday cake below...
Was a success!

A video I made of Ben's first year.  It's 11+ minutes, but enjoy if you want to!

Untitled from Rachel McLaughlin on Vimeo.


Video for 60 years

My grandparents just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.  We are so thankful to have their example and heritage.  Their numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren put together some video footage, which my cousin Ryan compiled into the below video.


Family Apart

I (Eric) have settled back down in St. Joseph, MI, for my fourth week of hospital work.  Rachel and the kids drove out with me from Ann Arbor this afternoon, and now they are on their way back there.  I almost wrote "back home", but that wouldn't be right, and I guess that's really the issue.

Two weeks ago, I was also alone, working while Rachel was at the Faders taking care of the kids.  She had several rough nights, and I know the days can be busy with Maggie and Ben.  I was busy during the long workdays, but had a bit of time to myself in the evenings.  I was looking forward to only driving a couple hours for my week off (as opposed to driving a lot longer, as I had in the two prior cases), and hoping that, with both of us there in Ann Arbor, this past week would be the week of real rest that we both felt that we badly needed.

Instead, I'm actually a lot more tired.  Ben didn't sleep very well, and I have been gradually coming down with a head cold that is seriously interfering with sleeping, to the point last night where I was awake about half the night, and fitful the rest of it.

Getting ready to leave today, Rachel asked if I was looking forward to being on my own, having some time each day to myself, and no sleeping interruptions.  And, in a way, I guess I do.  At least, I'm hoping that my 2am nose-blowing won't wake anyone else up (it would have to be pretty seriously loud).  But this is the third 7-day period that I've been on my own, and I have discovered the following:  Yes, life with two little kids, especially on the road when they are not sleeping very well, is chaotic.  It's pell-mell and exhausting.  But after a couple of days away, I can still appreciate the quietude, but it's just not my life anymore, and I just want to be back with my family.

If that's the case, then why are we apart for another week?  The family who has extended their hospitality to me here in St. Joseph would gladly take the whole family (and I actually think they say that, knowing what they would be getting into).

But we continue on in our months of homelessness, and our premium is on finding some sense of stability.  We knew that we would take several of my weeks off to go visit our friends and family in Ann Arbor.  So, rather than uproot every week to a new place, we have tried to make Ann Arbor a less-transient locale for Rachel, Maggie, and Ben, and choose to take the cost of a family apart for the time being.

We hope it's the lesser of evils, but it's the decision we've made for now, and we look to the hand of grace that has sustained us thus far to continue to provide for our family through to the next phase.