The Armstrong Archives (91): The Highs and Lows of Residency Grind

Alan and Kids at DaytonaSaturday, August 23, 1980 We made it down to Daytona in a record twenty-four hours! I had twenty-eight hours of tapes to keep the fans content, and Jonny Brown Bear played on our laps or sat in his car seat. [This was in the days before mandatory seat belt laws.] You’ve just got to come with us one of these days. It’s absolutely spectacular. The water’s about 85°, and the waves just roll in—not too high though, because the boys even enjoy it. The weather’s perfect too. Alan says the only thing better than counting clouds is lying on the beach where there aren’t any clouds! This morning we caught a whole bucket full of sand crabs, then let them go. Yesterday a seven-foot hammerhead shark was sited, so no one could swim in the ocean for about one hour. Aaron with "Cupper"Tuesday, September 16, 1980 Back to the grind of residency! Alan has another busy week—93 hours scheduled—but the rest of us are just comfortably too busy! There’s a teachers’ strike going on, so all the neighbor children are still around. The kids hold “play school’ sessions and are actually teaching Aaron to sound out words, add, subtract, etc. He loves it!

This weekend was Alan’s one time off for the month. We went on two picnics—one for all the house staff (residents) and wives, and one for all the medicine department people. We played volleyball and softball, etc. and really had fun. Aaron and Michael found friends to play with and climbed trees, etc. They were so content that for the first time, we didn’t have to do anything but make sure they were safe. How quickly the stages pass!

The boys and I made a dozen cupcakes tonight that were devoured by a dozen neighbor children before they completely cooled! We have a good bunch of neighbors, and they all play together well.

Saturday, November 8, 1980 Thanks again for letting us visit last weekend, and for the scrumptious dinner. I hope you didn’t catch the plague from us! A & M are just about all better, and Jon has only a little cough hanging on. We’re all doing just fine. I’m cleaning cupboards and trying to do some fall housecleaning. It seems hopeless to keep things clean and straight, but I wouldn’t trade my little jokers for all the peace and quiet in the world! Michael with "Di"Friday, November 14, 1980 Hi! I just rocked all three urchins to sleep. They are so sweet when they’re sound asleep—like little fluff balls in their winter pajamas. And, Jonathan let me rock him too for about the first time! He used to always want to lie down and be patted, but lately he’s been complaining when I rock the boys…I think he’s decided he wants equal time!

Alan is in the CCU (coronary care unit) this month and working incredibly long hours. I’ve stopped counting because it discourages me, but he seems to be rarely home! However, he has been really happy and playful when he is home, so we’ve been thriving well.

I should explain that Alan cannot take time off any time he pleases. He applies in the spring for the following year; his vacations can only be in two-week segments either the 4-18th or the 18-3rd of a month. Once he gets his schedule in June, he is “locked in” so to speak and can’t take any other time off. In December he will get probably two or three days off, but they have to be on a weekend or on Christmas Day. He will try to get his call schedule, etc., as easy as possible for the days you’re here, but he dos not have any options to take any other days off. If he’d wanted time off for Christmas, he would have had to have applied last spring to be on an “elective” (the only time he can take a vacation) now!

The boys and I have been having a BALL lately. Aaron’s been studying photography. We’ve tried over a dozen new recipes from a kid’s cookbook out of the library; Michael’s started washing dishes too! We’ve planted an eggshell garden and are learning some piano and ballet!

Wednesday, November 19, 1980 Aaron and Michael are downstairs giggling, and Jon is on the bed practicing rolls and chewing on a cat with a jingling bell. It’s supposed to be rest time, but I seem to be the only one resting. At least the boys aren’t fighting! They are getting along quite well these days…I hope it keeps up until your visit—or forever!

Monday, November 24, 1980  Alan has just been working incredibly long hours this month. I will be glad when he’s “just” working on the wards in December. His brother, Terry, is planning to arrive this Wednesday and stay about a week. We are all excited about that, although Michael really would rather have Cindi Lou (Terry’s dog). You wouldn’t believe how Jonny has started scooting around. He’ll be into everything by the time you get here. Daddy, will you please bring your harmonica?

Tuesday, December 2, 1980 Terry just left a couple of hours ago, and the kids are in bed (though not asleep). Alan’s on call, as usual! I will certainly be ready for our Christmas vacation when you come to visit! We had a really super time with Terry. The kids had colds, so we didn’t do much but sit around and visit—which was just what Alan needed, and Terry is on the run so much that he didn’t mind. He went to the hospital with Alan one day, and on Sunday afternoon they took a walk in Kensington Park. We had Thanksgiving on Sunday (since Alan was on call on Thanksgiving), but we’ll have to have turkey for Christmas too so you don’t miss out too much. KathiIt’s discouraging to see how often one or the other of the boys has been sick since the cold weather came. I sure hope they’re all on a “well” streak December 23-28th! The first day Terry was here we went on a long hike, and the next day the noses were running. Sigh. It makes me feel a little cooped up, because I’m always the one who ends up staying at home with them.

Jonathan is now crawling and pulling himself to a stand on handy furniture. Fortunately, he hasn’t mastered the art of climbing up legs yet, so you may be safe. I think he is starting to lose a wee bit of his baby fat too and take on a more svelte form. And, he absolutely loves to bang on the piano when we all sing together.


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