Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getaway to San Antone

Zach and my 9 year wedding anniversary is in a couple weeks. To celebrate, we took advantage of doting and willing grandparents by leaving the kids with them and escaping to San Antonio for two nights. We did this about 3 years ago, too...it was a great break then, and even more welcome now. The fall semesters were great in many ways, but Zach was so busy with, well, everything that we hardly spent any time together (and looking ahead, the first couple months of the new year may be just as busy). We did a few touristy things like the Riverwalk and strolling through the King William district (everything looked so pretty all decorated for Christmas), but focused mostly on something we rarely get to do-- just hang out together, no distractions.

Yeah, it was really nice.









Friday, December 21, 2012

37th Street Lights

A few days ago I took Donovan and my niece to meet up with a couple friends of mine to check out the 37th Street lights together. I don't know how or when it started, but it's become an Austin tradition for the residents on this street to put up neat/funky/ornate holiday light displays. This year's adornments included a stuffed animal petting zoo, a sock monkey nativity scene, and a longhornicorn (whatever that is). D's favorite was the decorated motorcycle, of course.

We'd intended for this to be a photowalk to practice shooting night/christmas light photos. Since my fancy camera is still out of commission, my trusty iphone had to suffice...















Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chiming in {like everyone else}

I've been debating whether or not to write about the Sandy Hook shooting. My commentary is probably not needed*, and if you've kept up with me on Facebook or twitter over the weekend you know full well how I feel about our desperate need for stricter gun control (background checks, assault weapons ban, mandatory safety training... are these things really so much to ask?), and for a better mental health care system (not to prevent mass shootings because I don't think it will, but because it is the moral, humane thing to do).

Like everyone else, I was shocked and heartbroken when I heard the news last week. Like everyone else, I shed many tears thinking of those children and adults-- the ones who died, and the ones who are now trying to deal with the trauma of witnessing such an act. Like everyone else, I am anxiously waiting to see if this will be the catalyst for our leaders to enact needed change.

But I also wonder why we are not as outraged by the adults and children killed by guns every single day-- about 30,000 every year. As everyone points the finger at mental illness and how we need better mental health care to stop "the crazies who shoot people up"**, I wonder why no one pays attention to the fact that over half of all gun deaths are suicides. Or how about the several hundred who die every year from accidental gun shots? Are these numbers too large, too abstract to garner as much attention?

There is so much more that can be said, but others have already said it better than I could so I will instead leave you with these links. I hope this can be the beginning of long-lasting discussions and change instead of letting these issues fall away again once the media attention fades (until the next shooting, anyway).

Violence and Mental Illness

Facts about Mental Illness and Violence

Musings on Mass Shootings: The Second Amendment

The Inconvenient Truth about Mental Health and Gun Control (I don't necessarily agree with everything in this post, but she has some good points and it's nice to see someone lay out concrete steps we could consider)

More Guns, More Mass Shootings

White House petition to address gun control
Inspirational Card Decks for Families of Sandy Hook


* yet here I am giving it anyway...
** note how when a brown man goes on a killing spree we call it terrorism and blame his (assumed) religion, when a white man does the same we call it mental illness and blame his mother.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Six word Sunday: there's no place like {Lala/Papa/Grandma/Grampa}'s house

















We made it! Barely.

So, we made it. We flew "home" (funny how I still call it that even though it's been about 10 years since I last lived here) to Austin on Wednesday and arrived safe and sound... Though we almost missed both our flights.

Zach took his last final Wednesday morning, then raced home so we could get ourselves sorted and back out the door. We left a little later than planned, and the drive to Manchester took a little longer than we thought, which combined meant we got to the airport with only 30 minutes till our estimated departure time. Thankfully, upon getting to the check-in desk to drop our bags we found out our flight was delayed by 2hrs. And, thankfully, Zach had made a point to book a long layover for us in case our first flight got delayed bc of weather. So we had a couple hours to kill at the Manchester airport... We ended up running into about 10 other Tuckies on their way out for the holidays, and we discovered a play area near our gate so we spent a good bit of time over there. At the gate right before boarding the boys were running around like wild banshees and I could just see the look of fear on the faces of our soon-to-be fellow passengers.... But, the flight went fine. The plane was almost empty so we had plenty of space, and it was short so no one got too restless.

We got another dose of excitement in Newark- we'd used up our long layover and raced to the gate, getting there just as they were making the last boarding call. Miraculously, this flight was also nearly empty so we got a whole row to ourselves in the back. By then it was past the boys' bedtime, and after a while they both passed out asleep (WOOT!) and slept for a good portion of the four hour flight (DOUBLE WOOT!). So that made things way easier. Of course, then we landed and we had simultaneous meltdowns as Quinn wasn't at all ready to wake up and Donovan suddenly got some pretty nasty leg pains, but we managed to get off the plane and over to baggage where our welcome committee (aka the grandparent brigade) was waiting.

Zach left the very next morning on a recruiting trip on the west coast with several other Tuckies. The boys and I have been just hanging out here, enjoying grandparent time. One of my favorite parts of these visits is watching our parents and our kids just revel in each others' presence. So amazing.

In another bit of news, I took my camera to a local shop the other day to see what was wrong with it. They confirmed my suspicions-- the shutter is busted. Not a huge surprise after 5 years of heavy use, but sad nonetheless. They said they couldn't fix it in house, I'll have to send it to Canon for repair and it'll take 2-3 weeks and cost $200-$300. At first I was sure we'd just fix it, but it's already needed one repair last year and now this, and I'm wondering what else might go wrong with it again? So now Zach and I are tossing around the idea of upgrading to a new body instead (probably still fixing my 30D to have as a back-up, but maybe waiting some time to do so). I stayed up late the other night reading up on different models and trying to decide what would make the most sense.... Not that we have the money to spend on a new camera right now (hello, loans!). I'm a little heartbroken at the timing of all this, since it means I'm without a good camera while we're here with everyone (other than my phone, which is great for what it is but just not the same). Pictures of D & Q playing with their grandparents and cousins are some of my favorite shots that I take all year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Error 99

Update: after all my stressing, Quinn's party went just fine.  Ok, so the cake was a total flop and I may or may not have had a minor meltdown in my kitchen Saturday morning when I realized it was beyond salvageable. But, I got over it and sent Zach out to buy a cake before the party on Sunday and everything was fine (except for my ego, but that will heal).

There was one other casualty, though...
*sob* So this happened RIGHT when we started doing the birthday songs & cake at Q's party. =(

This happened right after taking this picture:
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We tried everything we could think of to revive the camera (turn on/off, remove batteries, remove memory, try different card, etc...) but nothing worked.  I get the error when I try to take a picture- I click the shutter button, the shutter clicks and then the error message pops up.  

Thankfully, our friends came through so we did get pictures of Quinn eating his chocolate cake.  And now we're about to go to Texas for the holidays, and my camera is packed up in my suitcase and I'll take it in to a camera shop get looked at in Austin.  Here's hoping it's something minor.... 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Two Years Old

It's been two years, and our little dude has gone from this
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to this.
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Amazing, isn't it?

Happy birthday to the cutest, sweetest, funniest, coolest two year old I know.

Music: Ice Cream by Sarah McLachlan

Friday, December 07, 2012

stressing for no good reason

Quinn's upcoming birthday has been stressing me way out and I do not understand why.  Usually I'm so low-key about birthdays- pull a small party together, fun, whatever. No big deal.  But for some reason this year I'm all in a tizzy.  I have a tendency for indecisiveness and it is in full force right now, I guess.  I'm wigging out about every detail about the small, casual, absolutely-no-need-to-freak-out-about-it party we're having this weekend.  I've also had a hell of a time making Quinn's birthday slideshow, particularly picking a good song for it.  I have some homework to do before making Donovan's in a couple months...  At least I feel pretty good about my plans for Quinn's cake, so hopefully that turns out for me.

It may not help that we leave for Texas just a few days after Quinn's birthday.  I'm psyched about spending 3 weeks with family and catching up with our Austin friends, but I'm also worried about prepping & packing; about the long voyage from New Hampshire to Texas (10+hours of travel, people...god help us); about leaving our car in a parking lot for 3 weeks and whether we'll come back to it a) covered in snow, b) not starting, or c) both.  I'm sure it'll all be fine, but... still.

In happier news, we met up with friends tonight to check out the Dartmouth Christmas tree lighting and other activities downtown.  Despite the light sleet, it was a pretty great evening-- the tree was very pretty, we got to see a really cool train set that Donovan and his buddy Ethan were super into, and the boys got to meet the Grinch.  We even managed to end the night with some pizza and minimal meltdowns.  Woot!

Here's hoping this weekend and the week ahead go smoothly, and all my fretting turns out to be for naught.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

list blogging 11.28.12

Listening: over the weekend I made a spotify playlist of a bunch of the country music I was so into back in the early 90's. It's been a trip listening to Reba McEntire and George Strait again.

Eating: leftover pumpkin pie.

Drinking: a cup of tea (with milk and sugar, of course)

Feeling: good, but tired (ha! what else is new?). It's been about 3 weeks since my surgery and my incision doesn't bother me much anymore which is great, but my energy levels are still kinda dragging... better than before, but still get tired more easily than normal.  I'm under doctor's orders to still (try to) take it easy for another few weeks.

Weather: I looked at my weather app earlier today and the high for friday is 25 degrees F.  It is getting cold, people. Though still no snow, other than the occasional snowflakes.

Wanting: to get back to our usual routine.  It's been a month of disruptions, between the surgery and recovery and then D getting sick last week, etc. I'm ready to get back to "normal" again.

Needing: to plan out our time in Austin next month.  We'll be there for 3 weeks which is a long time, but there's always lots to fit in-- seeing local friends, Zach and I want to take advantage of grandparently support to take a kid-free overnight trip somewhere, and I may try to take the boys to DFW to see my sis and her family one weekend...

Thinking: about Quinn's birthday coming up. I still don't know what exactly I want to do, how big of a party to have.  Which I guess I need to figure out stat because it's less than 2 weeks away.

Enjoying: watching Parenthood on netflix; reading Susan Cain's book about introverts; spending time with friends and their adorable kiddoes.

Wondering: about where we'll go from here-- Zach's started submitting applications for his summer internship.  Many of the firms have offices in a few different cities, so we're talking more about where we may want to live and the pros and cons of different locations.  It's weird and difficult to weigh options when it's all this big hypothetical with no offers or even knowing who'll want to interview him or offer him an internship (let alone a job, though of course I think he'll have his pick because I think he's awesome like that), but then again we've kinda lived in a state of limbo the past, um, 6-7 years? So I'm kinda used to it in a way....

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A very sucky thanksgiving

You know how I wrote a few days ago about looking forward to a great thanksgiving here in New Hampshire?  Right. About that...
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Poor D threw up early Thursday morning, and didn't stop until bedtime that evening. Then he spent all of Friday and Saturday just lying on the couch or one of our beds, half awake and half asleep, feeling too worn out to even want to watch movies most of the time. It was miserable and awful and so stressful, trying to figure out how I could help him, how to make him more comfortable, if we needed to take him to the hospital, etc.

This morning when he woke up he actually got out of bed on his own and walked down the stairs and asked for breakfast, and I could have danced for joy I felt so relieved to finally see him doing better.  He's still far from 100% and he still spent a lot of time on the couch tired and resting, but today was a vast improvement.  Now we'll just wait and see and hope that none of the rest of us come down with this bug...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Homesickness and birthday traditions

The boys and I skyped with my mom and niece today. It was a nice chat, the boys love seeing Lala and their cousin Ryan. As they talked of their plans for tomorrow, I suddenly felt these pangs of homesickness and wishing we were in Texas with them. My grandmother turns 90 years old in a few days, and so all my uncles and aunts are in town to celebrate and my mom and step-day's house will be filled with thirtysomething people (my aunts, uncles, cousins, and many of my siblings and nieces) to partake in a massive thanksgiving meal together. We'll see most of these people next month when we'll spend an ample three weeks at home for the holidays, but still. One of the things tugging at my heart strings right now is that my sister Jen is there, my little sis who I used to see about once a month until she moved to Hawaii a year ago, and who won't be there at Christmas (there are tentative plans for her to visit us here in March or April....).

Our dear friend Sasha is here in New Hampshire with us right now, and I know we'll have a great day tomorrow eating turkey and pie with her and our own little family, and a great weekend spending time with dear friends both old and new. Yet I still feel that longing, that sadness at being far away from so many of the people who mean the world to me.

Quinn's birthday is a little more than two weeks away. I recently realized that this will be the first birthday in a long time where we won't have any family or long term friends present... Meaning Zach and I will be the only ones who'll know and sing the three birthday songs that have become a tradition (started by my soon-to-be 90yr old Grammy) in our family. So I thought I'd sit down with Donovan and teach him the songs, so that we'd have at least one other (small) voice singing along with us at Quinn's birthday. Ok, so D has heard these songs several times at other birthday celebrations, but I figured these events were few and far-enough between that he wouldn't have learned the songs well enough to sing them himself.

Turns out I was wrong. He knows the usual Happy Birthday, but as I sang through the other two songs, ready to then break them down by lyric to teach them to him, he blew me away by already knowing and singing most of the words right along with me.

We don't have a whole lot of established family traditions, but this simple one is near and dear to my heart. And it melted some of my homesickness away to know that Donovan knows these songs, that we are passing this little tradition on to a third generation. It helps me not feel quite as far away from family.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

sunday morning frosted landscape

The temperatures are dropping, and every morning the past week it's been well below freezing overnight...and then we wake to a landscape covered in a layer of frost and ice.  Sunday morning I braved the cold and headed outside for a brief photowalk.  I quickly realized I'm not quite in good enough shape yet for such ventures-- particularly for trying to capture the crouching-down low-to-the-ground perspectives of sparkling grass and fallen leaves (and rubber ducks forgotten outside overnight)-- but I still managed to snag a few keepers.  I'm especially fond of photo of the heart-shaped lichen on the tree bark and the fire hydrant.  

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Results are in!

(the first two posts about this saga are here and here)

I got a call from the surgeon yesterday with the results about my lump: turns out it was a desmoid tumor. There's all sorts of semi-conflicting information on the internet about these types of tumors, but the main gist from what I can tell is they're technically benign (don't spread to other parts of the body) but can be locally aggressive when they do occur.  There's also a 20-40% chance of them recurring after being removed.  Oh, they're pretty rare, like only 3 people out of a million get them, so I guess it's like I won the Random Weird Growth lottery?

I've been kind of processing this information over the past day or two, trying to figure out how I feel about it all.  On the one hand, the news could have been much, much worse.  I never really allowed myself to consider the worst-case scenarios, but in the back of my mind it was hard not to think about my brother's battle with cancer years ago, and the treatments that saved his life but put his body through hell in the process. By comparison this surgery has been a piece of cake, and confirmation that the growth was benign is very good news indeed.

On the other hand, these desmoid tumors aren't exactly cheerful to read about.  My doctor is confident that he got everything out and I won't need further treatment, but there is a decent chance that it could come back.  I'll need to go in for MRIs every so often (don't know how often or for how long yet, those are questions on my growing list of Things To Ask when I go in for a follow-up appointment in a couple weeks).  I just had a chunk of muscle taken out of my abdomen, I'm sore and tired and miss running around and wrestling with my kids (or even just snuggling with them without worrying that they'll accidentally lean on my tender stomach)... and it sucks to think of possibly having to go through all this all over again if it comes back.

Overall, though, I'm mostly feeling grateful right now.  Grateful that this lump was small, and that we got it checked out early. That is was relatively easy to access and remove, rather than occurring deeper in the abdomen mixed up with important internal organs and such (as is common with these things, apparently).  I'm grateful for these amazing people in our lives, for my mom who was here for a week which allowed me to fully focus on resting and getting better, and friends who have brought us food and watched the kids for us.  It feels really good to know you have people you can lean on when you need help.  I'm grateful for health insurance, and that we were able to go ahead with what needed to be done without having to worry about how we'll pay for it.  There's a lot about all this that feels pretty crappy, but I can't help but also feel incredibly lucky over how it all went down and the community around us.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Making up for the lack of pictures in the previous posts

The past several days Sierra and I have been doing a lot of this:
Sierra, my recovery buddy. Sweet feline companion.
The boys have been doing a lot of this:
Morning play-dough play. #love
And there's also been a good bit of this:
With my buddy. He's been coming in to keep me company while I rest and ask how I'm feeling. My sweet boy. With my other sweet little bunny...who somehow seems so tiny here. Must be a trick of the lens.

The boys have been very sweet, Donovan especially, wanting to keep me company and help me here and there. Hopefully they'll continue to go easy on me once Lala leaves tomorrow...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Post-Op Update

It's day 3 post-surgery and I guess about time for an update, huh?

Basically, everything went well and has been going well since.  My mom arrived Wednesday afternoon, which I think helped the boys feel super excited rather than at all nervous about Mommy having surgery.  To be honest I'm not sure they quite realize yet that having surgery is anything to get worried about. Yay blissful childhood ignorance.

Thursday morning Zach drove me to the hospital at the bright (er, still very much dark) hour of 6am. I tried not to feel too nervous.  As the nurses and doctors came in and explained to me what they'd be doing during the surgery (Breathing tubes! Catheters! Whee!) I couldn't help but think, "Thank god I'll be asleep through all this."

Around 7:30 they took me to the OR and within minutes of lying down on the operating bed I was out, and n ext thing I knew I was indeed in the recovery room.  The pain wasn't bad, except when I tired to actually, like, get up. Or move much.  I rested and dozed for a while, then they let us go home around 1pm.  I spent most of the afternoon sleeping and resting, but did get up to join everyone for dinner and was relieved to notice that already the pain and discomfort was getting better.  Donovan and Quinn dealt really well with everything-- they kept asking to see my "hurt", apparently not at all grossed out by the 4in gash or drainage tube in my belly.  And they were still so excited about Lala being around that they didn't mind me being pretty absent.

Each day since I've been getting better, able to do more and feel less discomfort.  I'm resting lots and moving pretty slowly still, but I can lie down and sit up (very carefully) without it hurting.  The biggest annoyance now is the drainage tube, which comes out tomorrow morning (yay!).  My mom has been amazing with the kids, allowing me to rest and nap and hole myself up in my bedroom without feeling too much guilt since I know they're in awesome hands (Zach is obviously awesome, too, but he's also been spending some time trying to study and take care of some other stuff).

I've been completely blown away this week by how lucky we are to have such great people to help us. For one thing, my mom who dropped everything to fly out to see us literally the next day.  But also the many friends who have offered all kinds of help, brought us food, lent an ear, entertained the kids... It all helps, immensely.

So tomorrow we'll see the nurses, and sometime next week we should hear back from the pathologist on what the lump actually was.  Mom flies back to Texas on Wednesday. I'm hoping I'll be in pretty good shape again by then, though Zach only has class on Thursday morning and then will be free all weekend so I'll still be able to lay low if I need to.  Till then, I'm kind of enjoying being a bit bored, being forced to just lie around and read books and watch movies.  It's been a long time since I got to be this lazy. ; )

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

WARNING: Moving to New Hampshire may be hazardous to your health

I have decided that New Hampshire is not good for our health.

We've lived here all of 4 months and have spent more time at the Dartmouth hospital than I'd hoped to do for the entire two years we'll be here.  In the first month after we got here Quinn got impetigo on his stomach. Then we had to take Donovan to the ER for his breathing thing. And now I'm about to go in for surgery tomorrow morning to remove a (most likely benign) lump in my abdomen.

Ok, so the story-- sometime in August I noticed this small lump on my upper abdomen, about the size of a large-ish marble. I chalked it up as something weird and gave it a little while to see if it would just go away on its own.  It didn't, so a few weeks ago I went to a doctor to get it checked out. She didn't seem very concerned and was almost certain it was just a benign lump, but suggested getting an ultrasound to find out more.

After the ultrasound she called me and said they had found blood vessels going into the lump, which is not necessarily a bad sign but is a potential red flag and that the radiologist strongly suggested getting an MRI and talking to a surgeon about possible removal.  I talked it over with a med school friend (yay grad school community!) and decided to go with the MRI, which got scheduled for the next day.  This was the point where I kinda freaked out for a couple days.  My rational brain kept thinking, "Ok, this is no big deal.  It's most likely nothing, we just need to make sure. No need to worry."  Meanwhile my back and chest were a tense mess and I could just feel my subconscious freaking out.  Nobody had mentioned the c-word yet (and still haven't), but just the thought of getting an MRI and possibly having to deal with surgery made me simultaneously nervous as hell and also really annoyed.  I realize there's never a good time to deal with this sort of stuff, but GAH I didn't want to be dealing with this.

So I did the MRI a little over a week ago (which was long and kinda uncomfortable especially since I had to hold my breath when they were taking images that sometimes took as long as 40 seconds), and then yesterday morning I met with the surgeon to discuss the results.  He still doesn't really know exactly what it is (and won't until a pathologist is able to analyze the tissue), and because it has the potential for growth (given stuff they saw in the MRI) and will only be a bigger pain to remove if it does grow bigger, he was pretty insistent that it needs to come out.  Thankfully it's pretty small, so removing it should be easy enough and that should be the end of that.

Ok, the other annoying part-- the lump itself is within my abdominal muscle wall, meaning when they take it out some of the muscle tissue will come out with it. I asked what I should expect for recovery, and he said it should be similar to after a hernia repair, recommending I have help around for a week or so afterwards and that I'll need to not lift anything heavy for 6 weeks afterwards. It's a good thing I don't have a toddler who likes to get picked up... um, wait. (he did say I should be fine after the first week or so as long as I use my legs/back to pick him up, not my abs)

Zach's taking a bit of time off from schoolwork to be home, and my mom has already booked a plane ticket to get here this afternoon.  I won't lie, I teared up a bit after she said she'd figure out a way to get here-- I'm a bit overwhelmed at how amazing it is to have a mother who's willing to drop everything to fly out to help us like this.  It's a massive relief as I know her presence will make everything so much smoother for us and for Donovan and Quinn.

I'm hoping that since I'm young, healthy, and in fairly good shape the recovery will be on the speedier side.  I'm a little freaked about the whole idea of SURGERY-- the last time I went under a knife was to get my wisdom teeth out when I was 17, and I didn't have to go under full anesthesia for that.  The doctor said I should be able to go home Thursday night, but to be prepared to stay overnight if needed.  So yeah, I think that's all there is to tell.  Depending on how I'm feeling post-surgery I'll probably post updates on twitter (and maybe facebook) if you'd like to follow.

PS- I can't write a post today without acknowledging all the amazingness of today-- OBAMA! Three new states legalizing marriage equality (by popular vote, no less!), and other exciting results from yesterday's election.  Also, it was 15 years ago today that Zach and I first started officially dating.  That means we've been romantically involved in some way or another for almost half my life.  Yay for silver linings. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

at play

A few pictures of the boys just playing around in the living room, building ramps on the couch from 18wheeler flatbeds, you know the usual.

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A few of our current favorite books (a mix of our own and library books). Quinn really loved Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Let me tell you, it is really friggin adorable to hear a 22 month old repeatedly asking to read "Leonahdo, Tewibul Monstuh!"

Last night I was playing around with these in Lightroom and I found a preset that I really liked (from this set), So then I tried looking through the preset's settings and deconstructing it to figure out how to get that "look" on my own.  It reminded me yet again that while I feel fairly comfortable with Lightroom, there is still so much that I just don't know-- whole develop panels that I rarely use, and certainly don't know how to take advantage of.  I'm in this weird spot right now where I like most of the photos I've been taking, yet still feel frustrated because I want to do more, do better, expand my skill and abilities...but I don't have the time or energy to focus on that at all.  Life's kinda intense right now and it's all I can do to keep on top of the sorting, keywording, and uploading/sharing of the photos I take, let alone spending much time actually playing or reading or learning.  Which is just how it is right now, I guess.

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