Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On being an identical triplet

As the school year was wrapping up and planning began for the third grade, I asked the girls if they wanted to be in the same classroom.  Massachusetts is a state allowing for the parents to decide how to place multiples.  For the past five years, which includes two years of preschool, they have been in separate classrooms.  If you had asked me when they were babies and toddlers what we planned to do in the future, I would have told you that I was going to keep them together.  They are fairly shy kids and while being a triplet has its downsides, I viewed being able to have the comfort of not only one, but two of your sisters in class with you as a benefit.  Sorry you've always had to share Mom and Dad but look, sisters will be in class with you! 

It was easier for the preschool to place them in separate classrooms and when kindergarten finally rolled around, it was recommended that we keep them separate because they are, sometimes painfully, shy.  Now at eight, I feel like they are old enough to have a well informed opinion.  They unanimously voted for separate.  Their reasons?
  1. Kids are always going to think I'm (insert identical triplet's name here.)
  2. I want my own friends.
  3. I don't want to do everything with sissies.
I did request (of the school) that they have the same lunch/recess and the girls are okay with that.  In my mind, recess would be the worst time to be alone.  After all the issues with this one girl in Allie's class last year, it's nice to know they have each other at recess.

It's funny how they desire to be separated at school but at home, I hear a lot of "I don't want to play in the yard unless someone comes with me" and "Will someone play Barbies/doll house/school with me?" or "WAH! No one wants to play with me."

Around the time we were discussing the upcoming school year, Rich and Emily were at church one Saturday afternoon.  A little boy approached Emily and said, "Hi, Anna."  He was in Anna's class and I'm not sure if he's up to date on the triplet situation but he thought Emily was Anna.  And then there was the new kid in Emily's class who, one day at recess, exclaimed, "Emily, why am I seeing three of you?!"

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Family Fun Day

At the lake that's really a pond but seems too big to be called a pond so we usually refer to it as a lake.

I'm behind, in some cases by months, on my photo editing.  These are from the July 4th weekend.

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She calls him "Honey" to which he responds, "Don't call me Honey."

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Come back, Honey!

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The face when she realizes I'm taking her photo.

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Sister swim lessons.

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Movie star

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Mini movie star.  She loved wearing Emily's sunglasses.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Toothless Kid Club + Surgery Update

The weekend after Anna's surgery, she lost both of her front teeth.  On Saturday night, I handed her a tissue and suggested she pull one out.  I walked out of the room and thirty seconds later she announced, "It's out."  I didn't believe her which is ridiculous because the teeth were just sitting there in her gums.  The next morning, I handed her another tissue and she immediately pulled the other tooth out.  I wish I had thought to do that prior to the surgery as I had to repeatedly point out to the nurses and the anesthesiologist that her teeth were loose.  Anyway, I'm loving the toothless smile. 

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At the end of last week, one week post surgery, Anna returned to the hospital for follow up appointments.  First up was an ultrasound of her kidneys and bladder.  After lunch in the cafeteria, we met with her urologist.  The ultrasound can't reveal success/failure of the deflux injection but is used to ensure that there aren't any complications from surgery, such as blockage.  The first good news we heard was that there were no signs of any complications.  Her urologist also told us that the ultrasound was "encouraging" with respect to success.  She will return in October for an RNC which will show if there is any reflux.    

A few people have asked how Emily and Allie reacted to Anna having surgery.  We tried to downplay it as much as possible so in their mind, it seemed almost like another doctor's appointment.  When the word "surgery" was used a few days prior in order to explain why she could eat/drink, Allie said, "Wait, Anna's having surgery?"  They asked a lot of questions, which we answered.  Emily tried to give Anna a hug as we were leaving that morning but Anna ran away.  While we were at the hospital, we texted updates to Grammy so they would all know what was going on and when Anna was in recovery, Allie requested that we take a picture of her and send it to them.  So just typical eight year old stuff.    

Monday, July 20, 2015

Beach Photography Tips

If you were to arrange a beach photo shoot, the best time of day would be when the light is the most ideal - either early morning as the sun is coming out or later in the evening when the sun is going down.  Life isn't a photo shoot though and a day at the beach isn't scheduled around lighting.  Tide charts?  Yes.  Sunset? No.  My camera has become an extension of me, which is why it accompanies us on a majority of our outings.  When I view the world, I find myself judging the light and framing out shots.  Somewhat similar to how I think of everyday situations in terms of tax.  As a CPA specializing in tax, it's hard to turn that off.  Just like it's hard for me to ignore that need to photograph.  So when we head to the beach, I like to bring my camera to not only capture time but to challenge myself, as no two days at the beach are the same.

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If you're thinking of bringing your DSLR to the beach this summer, here are some tips from my crazy photography-thinking mind.

Learn Manual

I'm a firm believer that the camera is not smarter than me.  Learn to use your camera in manual mode.  (This doesn't mean manual focus.)  Taking control of the camera's settings will lead to creating photos that look the way you want them to, not the way your camera thinks you want them to.  Understand your camera and you'll see a world of difference.  This tip applies to any type of photography and will always be the first piece of advice I give.

Accept Challenges

I remember being terrified at the thought of photographing people out in the sun.  Now I think of it as a challenge.  And it's a non-stress challenge because these aren't clients.  There won't be any repercussions if I overexpose all the photos, rendering them unusable.  You can't learn if you don't step outside of your comfort zone.

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(I like to call that one Baywatch Junior.)

Be Creative

It's high noon and there's no escaping the sun's brightness.  What to you do?  When you photograph people, keep in mind that they don't always have to be looking at the camera.  As a general rule, if you are photographing in the sun, you should keep the sun behind your subject.  Often, this isn't conventional especially if you aren't posing your subjects but rather capturing lifestyle-like frames.

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Watch Your Composition

I always scan the entire frame before I click the shutter.  My biggest pet peeve is a crooked horizon line and even though I try to keep it straight, 50% of the time, it comes out crooked.  The simplest solution is to straighten while editing.  My goal is to get it right in the camera though.  Also, check for people or objects that will distract from the final photo.

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The Art Of Appearing To Have The Beach To Yourself - A quick guide.
  1. Choose the least crowded spot on the beach 
  2. Wait for people to walk/swim by before taking photos
  3. Learn to use the clone tool post processing to remove what you couldn't in the frame
That picture above with Emily wearing the hat originally looked like this:

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Even though you couldn't clearly see the people in the water, they were distracting so I cloned them out.  Bye-bye.  

The two poles in this next one couldn't be avoided.

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So I removed them post processing.  It gives the photo a cleaner look.

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Don't Make It A Photo Shoot

Don't feel like you have to spend your entire time at the beach photographing.  I don't.  Children tend to quickly tire of hearing, "Look here!"  Take some pictures and then put your camera away and enjoy the day.   

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Protect Your Equipment

Here's an older post regarding taking your camera to the beach.  I recommend bringing a bag that is for the camera only and that can be cleaned of sand easily because no matter how careful you are, some sand will always find its way into your bag.  Changing your lens at the beach and keeping sand out of your camera can be viewed as an art.  

What lens should I use?

This is completely up to you.  What are your goals?  What is your "everyday" lens?  Do you want to pack/carry more than one lens and change lenses at the beach?  I sometimes prefer to use my wide angle lens for a different perspective.  Lately, though, I've been sticking with my 50mm.  All the photos in this post were taken with it.

Get out there and shoot!

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

This kid is a rock star

So Anna had surgery last Friday to hopefully correct, or begin the process of correcting, her kidney reflux.  Rich and I met with her urologist at the end of June for a consultation and to go through the options, of which there were two.

Option Number One was the deflux injection.

Pros:  It's a noninvasive and quick procedure.

Cons:  It still requires surgery and has an 80% success rate.

Option Number Two was full out surgery.

Pro:  The success rate is considerably higher than that of the injection.

Cons:  It's big time surgery with a c-section type incision and recovery time.

Option Number One seemed like the obvious way to go but apparently some say, why bother, it may not work, and jump right to the surgery that will work.  Well, I'm making it seem like the obvious decision but spina bifida complicates matters a bit.  If you have spina bifida, chances are high that you have a neurogenic bladder and those with neurogenic bladders have a lower success rate with the deflux injection.  We were also told that they may not be able to do the injection if Anna's bladder is inflamed but they wouldn't know if her bladder was inflamed until the surgery was underway.    

The last minute urodynamic study was completed to gather more data as to whether or not the deflux injection was a viable option.  After the study, her urologist said that she was a good candidate and surgery was scheduled for the next week.  We waited until after our NH vacation to tell Anna what was happening.  I first told her that we needed to go see Dr. P again.  She was not too happy and asked if he was going to do the same test.  The urodynamic study was extremely uncomfortable for her so I told her that he did have to do a test BUT she would be sleeping through it.  She was okay with that.  I specifically did not use the word surgery.

We were told to be at the hospital at 12:30 (afternoon) and because she was going to be knocked out, she wasn't allowed to eat anything after midnight the night before.  She had a snack of yogurt and granola right before bed and because she's not a big fan of eating first thing in the morning (neither am I), I was hoping the no food bit wouldn't be a big deal.  Let's just say that if this was Allie, she would have been a bear from lack of food.  We arrived in Boston before 12:30, and waited for about 10 minutes before we were whisked into the preparation area.  The surgery was schedule for 2:45 and we were told right away that they were running behind.

This waiting area was fairly comfortable.  We had our own cubby.  Anna was snuggled up in a (hospital) bed and she had her own TV with access to the Disney channel.  This kid never once complained about hunger.  A few times she told us her tummy was growling and once, right before they brought her into surgery, she stated that she was hungry but there was no complaining.  None.  No whining, no crying, no fussing.

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She had a very long wait.  They didn't come pick her up and wheel her to the operating area until 4:15 and then from there, we had an hour wait until she was brought into the operating room.  The hospital staff was fantastic.  Although there was a significant delay, they provided updates and apologized profusely.  It's surgery at a hospital.  We couldn't really get mad.  Anna had brought three buddies with her - Buttercup, Zebe and Zebe's mom, Mrs Gomez.  While waiting to go into the operating room, one of the nurses took Buttercup and gave her a hair net and mask and returned her to Anna wrapped in a warm blanket.

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If your kid has undergone surgery, you know how emotionally heart wrenching it can be accompanying them into the operating room.  I kept my emotions in check by reminding myself that this was a quick, routine procedure.  There are parents who do this not knowing if they'll see their kid again.  Anna was given some happy juice and appeared inebriated.  She was relaxed and face planted into her pillow a few times.

Although the procedure itself was short, Anna was in the operating room for almost 90 minutes.  Her urologist emerged with good news.  He said that we had been doing a great job with the intermittent catheterization - there was no inflammation of the bladder which allowed him to proceed with the deflux injection.  It will take some months before tests can be run to determine if the procedure was successful but he was happy with how it went.

Anna was a mess in recovery.  They didn't get us back to her before she woke up and she kept focusing on that.  It had been 24 hours since she had eaten so I'm sure that didn't help matters.  In speaking of it now with her, she doesn't really remember what happened in recovery.  Here's an example:

Anna:  "I looooove yoouuuuu."

Me:  "I love you too, sweetie."

Anna:  "Okay, now shush."

Although that's not far from the real Anna.

She kept looking at the monitor clipped to her finger and asking what it was.  We would tell her it was a monitor.  Three minutes later, she would look at her finger.  "What IS this?"  "Buddy, it's a monitor."

Fingers crossed for success.  Anna has already told us that she will lock herself in the bathroom if she has to do that again.