The empty space in the room

I had a fluoroscopy today, which is basically a test where you don’t eat for a day, then you chug cement, then you get x-rays taken every 15 minutes over the course of several hours, then they use a strange paddle to smoosh your insides around to take even better pictures, and just when you think you’re going to puke, they tell you it’s time to go.  I’ve got several more tests like these in the next few weeks (all the things that end in SCOPY!) — all of which require fasting and cement mixtures and some of which add in sedation for the trifecta win!  All trying to see might have caused the volvulus, and what has been going on since.  Do I know how to have fun?

But since I feel like an absolute slug right now, it’s a good time for another back blog post!

When we first moved into this house in 2013, we did a lot of updates/remodels — most notably, the kitchen, the bathrooms, the basement, and the guest house. After that initial burst of GETALLTHETHINGSDONE, major updates slowed down, in part because, yanno, kids, life, work, etc., but also in part because the things we didn’t do right away were more often than not the things we were undecided on.  Things like the fence — when we first moved in, we had expected to fence a much larger portion of yard until we realized our property lines were wider and more complicated than that, and the change in plans led to so much indecision.  But the fence for the yard and the gates for the deck turned out to be such a wonderful change that really enhanced our quality of life outside around the house.  And things like the stairwell and the loft — we puzzled over solutions for that for years before realizing what we wanted to do to update the space and make it safer and more usable (and I do owe this blog some proper photos of that transformation at some point).

And, most recently, things like the big empty gap between our kitchen and dining room that just existed.  As you will recall, our kitchen looked like this when we moved in:


We remodeled the kitchen, but kept it on the same (more or less) footprint as the old kitchen, which meant that we still had one annoying problem: the empty space between the kitchen and the dining room that was just useless.  (Also, I forgot what it looked like to see the wood railing! Wow, I don’t miss that!)


We tried different solutions for the space over the years — a rug, the kids’ play table, that little sideboard, but nothing felt right.  I had one (spectacular, if I do say so myself) idea for the space, which would have only required a major remodel of the kitchen and some plumbing here and there to move the laundry but for WHATEVER REASON, G vetoed that.  So, luckily there was a second idea in place that I sketched to G in concept and he ran with and built himself.  And it turned out to be one of the most fabulous changes we have made to the house!

He redid the bar top and extended it into a full counter over the empty space.  More seating (cough, when we buy more bar stools, thanks IKEA for discontinuing these), space for appetizers and platters when we have folks over for dinner and meals, and an area for everyone to gather and have snacks while I cook that isn’t actually IN the kitchen.


And since we were IKEA-ing, and G likes to wrap all projects into one, we also replaced those awful laundry doors with beautiful glass sliding doors.  And by “we,” I mean G. This was all his project.


Pre-Easter, Easter Fun

We are getting ready for Easter around here. Since I am desperately behind on holiday preparations and anything else life-related, Mom and Dad stepped in and hosted the egg dyeing party today.  Nell took her time and enjoyed the colors available to her, while Guy dyed all of his eggs blue as fast as he could.  You will notice the rapid accumulation of light blue eggs…

20170409_091641_HDR 20170409_091759_HDR 20170409_091808_HDR 20170409_091841_HDR

Officially the fastest egg dyeing party ever, but the kids had a blast!  Even if we did end up with a very blue non-assortment of eggs.


After the real eggs came the fake eggs: the county hosts massive egg hunts for all of the different age groups at each of the country parks, so this afternoon, Nell and Guy joined a gazillion other 3-5 year olds on the field to scoop up 2,000 eggs with candy and prize tickets.

The face of a competitor.

IMG_8511 IMG_8509 IMG_8507 IMG_8505 IMG_8500 IMG_8497 20170409_143107_HDR

Of course, downtime is pretty good, too, when you’re a toddler with a basket.IMG_8486 IMG_8485 IMG_8484 20170409_143244_HDR  Look how well-behaved we look…20170409_141559_HDR

We didn’t hang out with the Easter bunny at the park — he looked too intimidating — but Nell did sit down at the daycare egg hunt with this totally legit, not at all creepy looking version…


And yes, it was 30 degrees on Friday for that picture, and 70 degrees today.  Must be spring in Maryland.

40 Fish

We were amped up for a snow day today, but alas, while the rest of the eastern seaboard got hit with a blizzard, southern MD and “areas on the coast” just got rain and wind.  Nell was very disappointed to wake up this morning to a non-snow day, but they did at least get a two hour school delay, so they enjoyed a lazy morning and breakfast at home as a small consolation.

We are snuggled up by the fire tonight, so it seemed a good time to catch up on another back blog post I have been meaning to write since, well, Christmas. Because G had a big surprise up his sleeve this year for Christmas — one that he kept even from me!  And I have been meaning to show it off.

You see in 2016, we had zero fish.  We were not a fish family.  And in 2017, we have 40 fish.  Yes, that’s right, 40.  Because for Christmas, G bought a massive fish tank for Guy’s new shark/surf/underwater big boy room.


The tank is gorgeous. While it was a lot of work to get it up and running for the first month or so, it is doing so well now.  And it is a busy, bustling tank that is full of activity!  A picture from the early days before our fish collection had grown (and before Nell picked out the pineapple decoration that really does make the tank):


While Nell started as the early fish feeder, Guy has taken over the job. He LOVES feeding the fish and watching them scurry around the tank for their food. And there are a lot of fish to feed!  The tank currently holds:

1 dalmation molly
3 yellow mollies
2 silver mollies
2 black and orange sailfish mollies (we call them cheetoh mollies)
5 glofish
1 yellow guppy who thinks he is a rockstar and hangs out with the male mollies
3 malibu sunset platy fish (we call them Mickey Mouse fish because of the design on their tail)
1 bristlenose pleco (my favorite!)
2 albino bristlenose plecos
2 spotted corydora catfish
1 emerald cory
1 panda cory (another favorite!)
2 albino corydoras
1 otocinclus catfish (dwarf sucker!)
2 black stripe neon tetras
9 small blue neon tetras
And also two snails, including a tiny zebra stripe one and a huge yellow one that hauls across the tank like a maniac.


But wait, you’re thinking — that is only 38 fish.  Did you count? Really?  Yes, well that is because we now have a second tank.

You can’t have a freshwater tank and not a saltwater tank, right?


Meet Nemo and Stripey, our clown fish, and the reason that Nell handed over her freshwater fish feeding duties to Guy.  Because she feeds these guys in the saltwater reef tank.


20170314_185856_HDR~2 20170314_185810_HDR~2

And they have quite a set of fishmates, from snails and hermit crabs, to this shrimp guy who scares me, to some worms that randomly come out of the rocks at feeding time before disappearing again and we pretend we don’t see them.

Seriously, I find the shrimp really terrifying — and it hangs upside down from the rock like a total creeper — but G loves it.


There is also a gorgeous anemone that we got as a host for our clown fish, but they host in the corner of our tank near the filter head, so oh well for that.


And G is slowly building up a bright, colorful collection of corals.

20170314_173456_HDR 20170314_173708_HDR 20170314_173822_HDR 20170314_173914_HDR 20170314_174050_HDR

I think this means we’re a fish family now.

Just keep swimming


It has been more than three weeks since surgery, a little over halfway through my doctor-prescribed surgical recovery and restrictions.  So far as I can tell, my recovery from the surgery itself seems perfect.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel when my restrictions will fall away, and I am desperate to get back on my board and stretch out the muscles that tighten a little more each day.

The serum sickness is still there with aches during the day that stay manageable so long as I keep moving around.  But in the late afternoon/early evening, the pain starts to settle back in like an old friend.  By the end of the evening, my back, my knees, my ankles, my wrists last night — but that one was new — all feel shredded.  My doctor prescribed weeks more of steroids and painkillers, but I am not interested in those.  Luckily my resolve to not fill those prescriptions is stronger during the day when the pharmacies are open.  I question the decision every night when I can no longer walk without pain, but then I wake up the next morning, again thinking it’s going to be a better day.

There isn’t so much online in terms of anecdotes about serum sickness — and I think it’s likely an issue of the fact that no really gets diagnosed with serum sickness.  It’s a guess when all the other obvious things — like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc — get ruled out and nothing more makes sense.  What there are a lot of, however, are stories of shared symptoms, pain that comes back at night, and a discouraging time-frame that makes me think I am in this for the long haul.

So I’m ignoring the aches and pains as best I can, and I’ve got my eye on all the things that will get better and will change as I get deeper into my recovery — like my restriction on swimming, which makes G the designated swim parent right now.  Normally that wouldn’t be an issue — Guy usually spends all his pool time in the shallow end by the fountains, where I can easily play referee, but on our last trip this past weekend, he was all about all of the pool — including all of the slides.

20170305_093233_HDR 20170305_091747_HDR 20170305_090823_HDR

But just look at the sheer happiness on Guy’s face hanging out in the deep end with Daddy:

20170305_095423_HDR~2 20170305_095406_HDR~3 20170305_095430_HDR~2 20170305_095414_HDR~2

I think his fountain days are done.


Sunrises and Healing

I saw the sunrise today. It started out like this.


And then gradually got a little lighter, a little brighter.


Until finally the sun appeared on the horizon and squeezed in for just a moment before it slipped behind the clouds for the rest of the day.


My dawn outings began as the only time to paddle that didn’t interfere entirely with family life and our day. In the summer, when it’s light enough out that I can get on the water exceptionally early, I can even manage to slip back inside the house on certain days before Nell wakes up.  (Guy is always up.)

But now, dawn is my favorite time.  I love the sunrise — I can’t count how many I had the privilege of seeing in 2016.  I love paddling toward the light, witnessing the colors, and watching the night give way to morning.

I am not on the water right now.  I am sidelined for 4-6 weeks depending on who you talk to (me or a doctor), but the one thing I didn’t want to lose during this recovery window is my time with the sunrise.  So since I’m not paddling there, I am walking there.

A shot of the pre-dawn light earlier this week.


I never wrote about the surgery or shared anything here in the lead-up to it primarily because it all happened very fast and it all happened over the holidays. In fact, the call that I got from my doctor explaining that the surgery would be a bit more intensive than we thought came while we were at the airport on the way home from Florida.

(If you’re not in the mood to read a surgery story, feel free to skip down to the beach pictures below!  I won’t mind, really.)

It started as a lot of pain that came in waves throughout 2016.  Pain so severe on some days that I couldn’t walk.  The bad days became more frequent, and the good days became less good, until there was never really a day when I was without discomfort.  I told my doctor in December that I thought something was wrong, and just before Christmas, I had an ultrasound that found a tumor that would need to come out, taking one ovary with it.

I had a follow-up MRI (also known as the most expensive procedure ever) between Christmas and New Year’s which confirmed the tumor and also showed that my uterus was sick (unrelated to the tumor).

So, about a month after finding all that out — last Monday — I had surgery to remove the tumor, during which I also had a hysterectomy and an oophorectomy and kicked in my tubes for good measure.  (Going in? Take it all!)

The surgery went really well. There were two major concerns going into it: that I would have too much scar tissue from my c-sections that they wouldn’t be able to perform the surgery laparoscopically and I would need full open abdominal surgery; and that they wouldn’t be  able to save my second ovary, which would have put me into medical menopause.  But neither of those things happened, and so for the last week I’ve been focused on recovery.

I really had no idea what to expect from the laparoscopic surgery.  One of my most vivid memories from my c-sections is of the first time I tried to stand up after Nell’s birth. Moving upright felt like my insides were ripping apart, and I’ve never forgotten that sensation — that awful moment when your body feels like it’s doing unreal things. I had expected something similar, but to a lesser degree, from this surgery, but I was really surprised at how different it was.

Admittedly, it took a while to get pain management under control after the procedure. My blood pressure and heart rate were too low for them to be able to start on the prescription painkillers, and there were several hours post-surgery that were almost unbearable.  But once we got on top of things, all I could think was that I needed to get up.  The bed was making every part of me ache, and I was in a near panic wanting to get up.  I hadn’t been cleared to get up until the following morning, but around 9pm that night, I begged the nurse to call my surgeon and get permission to start moving around, and doing so provided so much relief.  And I was so scared for that first time I sat upright — thinking of my c-sections and the pain in that moment — and it was absolutely fine.

It’s been a week now.  The worst of the pain early on was from the trapped air in my shoulders, which my pre-op nurse warned me about (but which no one could have fully warned me about because OMG, the pain).  But I tried to find a balance between staying active and resting, and within five days, I could no longer feel air in my upper body.

While I wouldn’t say recovery has been painful, it’s hard.  I still get tired easily, I can feel when I overdo it, and I need to lay down for portions of the day to give my body a rest.  Sitting at my desk for too long or standing for too long causes a painful pressure that I can only relieve by laying flat, which is about all I want to do by the end of the day.  But I am definitely getting better.  The incision sites themselves still hurt when they are touched or something brushes against them, so I am limited right now to sweat pants that sit below the incisions.  I am working from home this week and next to recover and regain my strength and my stamina.  I couldn’t wear a single pair of work pants comfortably right now, and I definitely couldn’t walk a mile from the parking garage to my office carrying my laptop and other work stuff.  Hopefully, by the time I return, none of that is an issue!

In the meantime, I am going to try and be the best recoverer I can be!  That means walking slowly twice a day on the beach, which is fabulous for my sea glass collection.  These four handfuls were from my first two days home.  Being slow has its benefits!


It means walking to the sunrise instead of paddling to it.


And it means staying off the water for now.  Admittedly, it’s been hard — we’ve had unusually warm days coupled with low winds (who knew that was even a thing around here!) and the flattest water.  I asked G whether there is a lesson to learn in the fact that almost all of my winter paddling was done on cold, windy days during small craft advisories, and as soon as I am off the water, it’s warm and calm.  He looked at me like I was nuts.

Those aren’t waves; they’re rollers coming in from barge traffic.


Although, if we’re going to have a stretch of calm, glassy water, I am glad it is now, when I am fresh enough in my recovery that I don’t have a single thought to try and paddle.

Random picture of a very small lion’s mane jellyfish I took the other day on my walk. 


However, in a few weeks, when my resolve is less steady, then let the seas rage!