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Showing posts from 2012

What a Long, Strange Trip it's Been

Ok, so it's only been 9 days since Quinn was born, but given all we've experienced in that week and a half, it feels like a lifetime. Shortly after my last post about Quinn's birth , the nursery pediatrician came in to let us know that he would be moved to the NICU because he had failed to get his jaundice and breathing under control. Despite expecting a long NICU stay upon our little dude's arrival, we were still pretty devastated. They suspected an infection and wanted to get him on antibiotics as soon as possible as a proactive measure. Infections and illnesses in newborns are serious business, especially in preemies and infants with Down syndrome. Sad little guy... One of the most challenging aspects of his NICU stay was that I had been discharged even though Quinn wasn't allowed to go home. Brian and I decided to spend that first night by our little guy's side, trying to sleep on the painfully narrow bench (Brian slept on the floor) amidst the constan

The Mighty Quinn: A Birth Story

If you're already a parent, you know your kids are the ones really calling the shots. On Monday afternoon, Quinn made that apparent with his early and unexpectedly quick arrival. Just when I thought I would be pregnant forever, I woke up at around 2am with a pretty intense, but short-lived contraction. I know that this tends to happen toward the end of pregnancy, so I ignored it and fell back asleep, but this continued for most of the evening. At around 5am, I decided to get up, take a shower, and start timing the duration and frequency of the contractions. They hurt, but there was absolutely no pattern to them at all. Most labor and delivery rooms have a strict policy that laboring women are not admitted until their contractions are 4-5 minutes apart and at least 60 seconds long. I was nowhere near there, so I decided to head into work. I needed to help my students prepare for their finals and, after laboring with Atticus for 19 hours before any real progress was made, I felt like

A Sneak Preview

Technology is amazing. We went in for yet another follow-up ultrasound to check on little dude and everything looks great! Not only is the plueral effusion minor and static, but his previously dilated kidney is back to normal and the calcifications on his liver and stomach have disappeared. We were smiling from ear to ear, to say the least. What's more, our ultrasound tech decided that since we've been through the ringer with this pregnancy that she would do us a solid and take some 4d ultrasound pictures for us. Women pay tons of money for this service (Despite the fact that these ultrasounds cost us a small fortune each time we go in, they're medically necessary and not for vanity's sake), so it was pretty cool to get this added bonus yesterday. May I present to you your first glimpse of the Mighty Quinn...

Giving Thanks

This year Brian, Atticus and I were lucky enough to visit my dad and his wife, Barb in their beautiful Colorado home for Thanksgiving. We adore the mountains and dislike the cold, so we were in heaven with moderate temperatures and stellar views from their front porch. Normally, I'd throw on my chacos and hike Garden of the Gods (which is a mere mile from their house) or plan an excursion to a remote mountain pass, but the third trimester of pregnancy and excessive exertion don't mix, so we settled for a more relaxing experience this visit. We drove to 11-mile canyon and poked around, took Atticus to the "North Pole," a Christmas-themes amusement park, watched entirely too much football and indulged in copious amounts of holiday food. The best part, however, was the chance to spend time with my family, especially my dad, since we only get to see him a few times a year. We miss them already and can't wait to get back this summer. Until then, we'll have to reliv

A Silver Lining

The past few weeks have been a haze of worry and stress. Brian and I found ourselves going through the motions: wake up, eat, work, eat, sleep, repeat. We tried to smile around others and remain upbeat. We attended weddings and visited with family. We worked late and met friends for dinner. We took walks and went trick-or-treating with Atticus. But we were never truly present for any of these things because of the hypotheticals weighing on our minds.  You might remember my last post describing our latest doctor’s visit, in which the cardiologist said Quinn’s heart looked good but there was fluid around the lungs. Our OBGYN called later that afternoon to express her concerns and essentially said that we should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Since she’s typically not the gloom and doom type, we took her advice to heart and began to mentally prepare ourselves for further testing and observation, knowing that it could very well end with a worse-case scenario. People

Gnome Sweet Gnome

Let's be perfectly honest with each other; this blog has been a bit of a downer lately. It's also been pretty focused on Quinn, though for obvious reasons. That said, we do have 2-year-old who is mad cute and deserves a little love right now, especially since his Halloween costume is so rad. So without further ado, may I present to you, Atticus the Gnome:                              

Positive Vibes Needed

We went in for our fetal echocardiagram today, which was an important appointment to check the structure of Quinn's heart and see if he falls into the 47% of babies with Down syndrome with a congenital heart defect. All our ultrasounds looked good in this area, so we were relatively optimistic about the exam. Granted, every appointment seems to come with some semblance of bad news, so I was a nervous wreck going in. First, the good news: dude's heart is awesome. This was a huge relief and we couldn't have been happier. Of course, that happiness was short-lived, as we were right to expect the usual bad news. Turns out that Quinn has fluid build-up in his chest, also known as pleural effusion. There are a number of underlying causes, the most common of which is a heart defect. Since this was already ruled out, we're left to wonder if this is the result of a virus (remember the scary spots we found on his liver and stomach?), poor lymphatic drainage, or simply a manifest

John Franklin Stephens is a Badass

You've likely come across the public outcry regarding Ann Coulter's use of the word "retard" to describe President Obama. It was top news on CNN today and, given my new-found role as special needs advocate, I immediately informed myself on this recent injustice. This lack of class is nothing new from Coulter, who frequently uses terms like "raghead" and "tent monkey" to describe those of Middle Eastern descent and even said of 9/11 widows, "these self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them.  I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." Though while I was reading about this latest incident of foot-in-mouth, I found myself cursing Ann Coulter (pretty typical behavior, actually) and using words that I can only say inside my head to describe her. She is a vile woman and one I try to ignore based on her own hate-fill

Houston Update: our feelings, months later

You might remember my previous post regarding our first few months in Houston , where I shared with you the good, the bad, and the ugly of this giant metropolis. It was an honest reflection of our time here up to that point, but I feel like we’re far enough in to truly reevaluate our feelings about this city. Things we like: Last time I started my post with a list of the things we like about Houston. Rain, amenities, great food, proximity to family and cost of living were all celebrated, and still are. But I’d like to add a few more, as things are finally starting to look up a bit: -Access to the best medical care in the south : This is one of those things you hope you never have to worry about, but if and when you do, you have a whole new appreciation for top-notch facilities. Even as the bills are piling up, we already feel like we’re in the best place for Quinn’s care should he need any serious interventions at birth and beyond. Even services like Early Interven

I'm Feeling Lucky...

After watching Notre Dame's very close victory against Stanford today (we're not even going to discuss Texas' dismal performance against OU), we felt like celebrating the luck of the Irish with pancakes for dinner. The unconventional time for breakfast foods takes me back to my childhood, when my mom would make pancakes or french toast for dinner as a reward for making the honor roll or winning the big game. So I head into the kitchen with pumpkin pancakes on the brain. I will admit, I used a box mix. Don't judge. I'm pregnant and looking to do the least amount of work possible for my food lately. There were two columns of instructions on the box depending on if I wanted 6 or 12 pancakes. Honestly, I wanted somewhere in the middle. But for six pancakes I needed one egg, while twelve required two was quite the dilemma. How the hell do you come up with 1.5 eggs? Throw half of one out? It seemed wasteful, but in the end I figured it was less wasteful than t

What to Say to Parents Struggling with a Down Syndrome Diagnosis

I love this blog for a number of reasons. First, it allows me to release some of the tension and trouble I’ve been carrying around with the whirlwind of information, doctor’s appointments, and late-night online research sessions. My emotions bounce back and forth like a yo-yo and writing helps me feel grounded. But it’s not all selfish. I also enjoy sharing this journey with you all. It’s good to know that I don’t have to have these conversations a thousand times, that you’re all getting accurate and updated information directly from me instead of as hearsay from someone else, and that so many of you have read the posts and sent your thoughts and words of support our way. It feels as if we’re not going through it alone.  As the weeks tick by and we gain some perspective on Quinn’s diagnosis, I realize how difficult it is to be in your shoes. What do you say to someone who has just received life-altering news? How do you react? The answers aren’t simple, and I’ve actually spent


We went in for a follow-up ultrasound to check on Quinn’s heart and kidneys and to make sure there were no other red flags. While one of his kidneys is still dilated, his heart looks great, which is good news. The bad news is that they found white spots/calcifications on his stomach and liver. The doctor (not our OBGYN, but a specialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine) said it could be a result of a viral infection, but told us it’s probably related to Down syndrome. Either way, she encouraged me to get tested for infection and dodged my questions about worse-case scenarios. She left us feeling  more than a little shaken up with her awkward bedside manner. We assumed she was hiding something from us and waiting for our regular OB/GYN to share the bad news with us. This was at the end of the day, so naturally our regular doctor would learn nothing about the appointment until today. Enter Dr. Google. After much research, I learned that these calcifications are not especially common in

Suburban drives

Yesterday Atticus and I took the long way home from school to listen to music and feel adventurous. The kid adores the car and music, so it was really a win-win. I've been listening to a lot of Milo Greene lately, namely this song:  and this one: We were contemplative and taking in the scenery of West Houston. I know, most of you are wondering what scenery I'm talking about, and I haven't painted a very positive picture of this part of town over the past few months, but I grew up around here and I know where to find beauty. There are trees and trails and well-kept yards that make some of the nearby neighborhoods a blast to drive through. Plus Atticus got a kick out of the many, many school buses we saw en route. That kid loves anything with wheels. And then, as I was thinking this exact phrase, "Wagon Wheel" by Old Crow Medicine Show miraculously started playing on the iPod. I say miraculously because I had it set for Milo Greene, so how it switched gea

Dark Thoughts and a Lack of Sleep

Sleep. Oh, how I took sleep for granted. I’m so physically and emotionally drained by 9pm that I can barely keep my eyes open. But 2am always arrives and I jolt awake like clockwork. What seems so much clearer in the daylight hours, all my research, all the reassurances I can give to my fully conscious mind about the future of my child and my family become groggy and clouded in the wee hours of the morning. My hopes that my joy in this pregnancy and the excited expectations for Quinn will be restored are dashed by the darkness and the silence. And my already frantic inner dialogue does nothing to quell my fears, especially when I’m left alone with my thoughts and there’s nothing to distract me. I am terrified. I’ve learned a lot of great facts about kids with Down syndrome…they are sweet and more like typical kids than they are different. The Ds community has taken huge strides toward achieving a better quality of life in the past decade, and Quinn has a greater chance of atten

One Day at a Time

I have a feeling that this blog will see a lot more action in the coming weeks, as writing is so incredibly therapeutic for me. The past few days have been a roller coaster of emotions in which Brian and I will go from sobbing uncontrollably to suddenly reaching a moment of acceptance and back again. I assume this will be the norm for us as the weeks progress. Yesterday I found a box of baby toys in Atticus’ closet that had not been unpacked from the move. As I lifted the cardboard flap, I was overwhelmed with the most soul-crushing sadness I have ever felt. You see, the two years following Atticus’ birth were the happiest of my life, and seeing those toys transported me back to our humble Austin home with the big backyard and owl-themed nursery, where we were surrounded by friends who were always just a phone call away. It left me with a feeling of homesickness and a worry that I would never be that happy again. So I cried in mourning for the life I knew, until Atticus looked

What's To Come...

I knew I was pregnant the moment I conceived. Call it a woman’s intuition or a case of mother-knows-best, but I knew. As the weeks went on and I could finally take a pregnancy test and receive reliable results, Brian and I stared at the giant plus sign and I said, “I told you so.” As things progressed, I also knew I was having another boy. Friends and family members would wink and say, “oooh, what if it’s a girl this time?” And I would smile and nod and join in the what-ifs, but I always knew deep down that Atticus would be getting a little brother. And when our doctor confirmed this at 16 weeks, I just shrugged at my own intuitive nature. So when I got the news today about our son, I was shocked that I didn’t already know…. It all started at our 20-week ultrasound. It’s supposed to be a fun glimpse at the life growing inside, a check of basic anatomy, and a reassurance that all is well. For most moms it is. Our doctor found that our little guy had slightly dilated kidneys

I Won't Touch your Belly if you Don't Touch Mine

Pregnancy is one of those rare moments when your body is not your own, and everyone expects you to be ok with it. And only a pretty marginal section of the population can truly understand what I’m talking about. Not only am I playing host to a growing human being who, much like a [very cute] parasite, is making himself cozy and freeloading on my resources, but people also want to tell me exactly what I need to do for the well-being of the baby (though they are wise enough to disguise this a genuine care for me as well). I really don’t mind these things and find them comical most of the time. But as any pregnant woman in the modern age is well aware, there’s entirely too much paranoia surrounding what’s actually the most normal thing in the world.  Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time. Obviously. But visit any message board on or and it’s full of crazy-ass women telling other, more suspecting women what terrible people they ar

Our First Months in Houston: a Reflection

Well, we’re officially settled and back at work and finally able to take stock in our new home. Our friends want to know how things are going and how the city is treating us…let’s just say it’s been an adjustment. Change is tough. We spent the past year finding fault in Austin in the hopes that it would make the transition to a very different city a little easier. And for the most part, we kept an open mind before the big move. Now we realize how much we took our former home for granted and that all the little things that bugged us about Austin (the traffic, the high concentration of fixed-gear bikes and hipster bars, the cost of living) were blessings compared to what we’ve seen in the suburbs of West Houston. That’s not to say it’s all bad; there are definitely some perks. Maybe I should start there. Things we’ve liked: -Rain It rains here. I know, right? Austinites might not even know what that word means since it happens so infrequently in Central Te

Agnosticism 101

--> As we embark upon the next great journey in our lives, Brian and I worry about a number of things: will we find friends in the suburbs of Houston? Will our liberal views mark us as lepers in a largely conservative community? And most recently, will our lack of religious faith go so far as to shun us from society? You see, Brian and I are agnostic, a word that many, many people in this country misunderstand. As a result, we don’t talk about it much. Part of that is our mentality that spiritual beliefs in general shouldn’t be thrown in others’ faces. Also, people get mad or worried and want to save your soul and/or hide you from their children.  So before we make the move to Houston (where I’m already receiving invitations to church functions), I wanted to take the time to spell out our agnosticism and clear the air. Let’s start with common misconceptions… What agnosticism is NOT: ·       Atheism ·       Devil worship ·       An excuse to do whatever th

The Lake

Once a year, my father's side of the family gets together in an historic cottage in Holland, Michigan for a reunion of sorts. When Atticus made his first appearance last year, it marked the 5th generation of our family who has attended this yearly gathering that we have lovingly dubbed "The Lake." Yes, it's important enough to earn an definite article. Situated in the historic Ottawa Beach neighborhood along Lake Michigan, the house itself is well over a hundred years old with the amenities to match. It sleeps 20ish people (more if you count the year Brian and I bought an air mattress and slept on the screened-in joke), but boasts only two bathrooms and one shower. There's no heat or AC, virtually no insulation, and the floors have bowed in the middle after over a century of wear. It smells like mothballs, is in terrible need of redecorating, and there's always sand in the beds no matter how many times you wipe your feet. Sure, we could rent another

Here we go again!

10 Young Adult Novels That Don't Suck

As a middle school English teacher, I've read a lot of young adult literature and, quite frankly, there's a lot of crap out there (I won't even climb on my anti- Twilight soapbox). Navigating the muddy waters of YA lit can be akin to, well, teaching middle school, but there really are some amazing reads in this genre. As a result, I've compiled a list of my favorites. Some are old standbys, while others are recent publications. They all deal with a greater theme worth discussing and a style that even grown-ups can appreciate. And for those of you who were racking your brains for ways to connect with your adolescent daughter that don't involve vampires or LMFAO, you're welcome. 1. The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton Hinton's requisite novel of classism and coming-of-age tells the story of Ponyboy, an orphan from the wrong side of the tracks. He and his fellow greasers are constantly at war with the Socs, the West-side rich kids who enjoy picking fight


It's official, people. The person who claimed that Houston was akin to America's nether-regions (and not the fun parts) is packing up and moving back. Before you judge the decision and take the same close-minded attitude to my hometown as I have these past 12 years in Austin, give me a moment to explain our justifications and why the idea has us really, really excited. First, some background. Brian has been working as an Environmental Investigator for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since 2007. It was his first job out of college and one he adored until his workload became excessive. Now he's stuck in a position that he idealistically thought would make a difference in Texas' environmental quagmire, only to learn that he has little to no impact on changing things for the better. We know who's running this state, and they don't really care about water quality or suburban sprawl. So when Brian's dad offered him a job in his insurance brokera

Book Review: The Dovekeepers

I'm a literary snob. I admit it. I'm an English teacher and book critic who turns her nose up at most fantasy, true crime, and so-called "beach reads." I watch television to zone out and be entertained, but I read to be inspired and informed. So when I came across Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers, my first instinct was to pass it by. It's not that Hoffman isn't a serious writer (she has currently published over 33 books, to date), but her style is one I typically avoid because it's almost too accessible. Her typical work is to literature as romantic comedies are to film; not bad, but not terribly cerebral either…until now.

DIY Scrabble Coasters

I was cleaning out a few cabinets that Atticus managed to explore the other day, thus reminding me that it was time to get that mess in order before I have to pick up old batteries, cat toys, and CD's (you remember CD's, don't you?) from the living room floor for the third time in an hour. In the process, I came across not one, but two Scrabble games. Seeing as how I don't think I've ever played either, I pondered over what I could do with the extra Scrabble tiles and came up with an easy and ingenious notion to turn them into coasters! After perusing Pinterest for some loose instructions (which delayed the start of this project for another hour because, let's face it, that site is addictive and amazing), I came up with a plan of action. Behold, the Scrabble tile coasters! So easy! So affordable! So aesthetically pleasing for your coffee table!

To Make Up for my Long, Unexpected Absence

I know, I know…I've been a terrible blogger. It's been nearly two months since my last post and you probably assumed I had either dropped off the face of the earth or (more likely) allowed the holidays to consume me like a bad fruit cake from your Aunt Maude that you really don't want to eat but, hey, it's there and you don't really feel like cooking anyway. The latter is more accurate, though at times during the season I felt like the former was more appealing. What's odd is that I typically love Christmas, but something was amiss this year and I honestly couldn’t wait for it to end. And here's why: 1. It was the first time I wasn't someone's granddaughter at Christmas. For three consecutive years, I've lost a grandparent, starting with my Grandpa Bob in 2009. Then, last December I said goodbye to my Nonnie. And this year my Gummy passed on Thanksgiving, though I am thankful I was with my father and sister when it happened and we could se