Saturday, March 31, 2012

31 Is the New 30

Ha ha, that's one of my favorite birthday jokes this year.

So!  A couple of weeks ago I had a birthday!  I turned 31.  It seemed like a little less of a milestone, though I guess it IS the actual start of a new decade.  In any case, I was looking forward to it, and it turned out to be quite an exciting and drawn-out celebration indeed.

First things first, as a sort of early present to myself, I finally paid off my one and only student loan.  Story time: Once upon a time I graduated from BYU with zero debt. Then for some ridiculous reason(s) I decided to go back to school for another year, thus acquiring my first-ever student loan. And then, one glorious day of days, days and months and years later, my unnecessary extra year of college and one and only student loan was paid off. A happy ending!

On my actual birthday (excluding the workday formalities), The Wife and I were able to revel in birthday festivities, which included surprise presents throughout the day.  Julie started off the day by giving me the boxed set of The Hunger Games, complete with two tickets to the movie on opening night!  (So that's why she was so insistent we go that night instead of the day before or the day after...  And I don't know why it didn't occur to me that we hadn't bought tickets yet.)  There were lots of Facebook messages (Facebook birthday parties are the best!) and this remarkable little number from Elise:

And this epic piece from my co-worker, Matt:
There were a few other surprises throughout the day, and the Wife's thoughtful and creative theme of paper presents was revealed: books, printed out coupons for movie tickets and a weekend getaway in SLC, and even a paper crown!
I am da king today.

That night we went to dinner at Brick Oven (where they have finally provided bigger plates at the salad bar... this may seem silly, but trust me, it's a big deal), and then had a double feature of new movies about old movies -- We saw The Artist at the Thanksgiving Point theaters, which was really quite good and not at all the artsy, pretentious snoozefest I was for whatever reason expecting (I blame it on its popularity at the Oscars this year), and then watched Hugo from the Redbox, which kind of WAS the artsy, pretentious snoozefest I expected, though there were some things I liked about it (but was it better than Harry Potter, which DIDN'T get a hefty handful of nominations?  No way).
Yes, the Chicken Al Forno was probably the best thing I've ever had there, and I have had MANY things there.
This is Julie's best picture face, I tend to think.
We were planning on a family party later in the weekend, so Julie made me a mini cake of Oreos to tide me over until then.  It was delicious.


The excitement about next day was that we finally conquered Donkey Kong Country Returns (the origin of which we are still unaware, but for which we are still grateful).  We have been stuck on the last boss for pretty much three months, just because we were too scared to go back and try to beat him.  But beat him we did!  I promise we only looked at YouTube walkthroughs once or twice.  I'm not ashamed.  It must have been the luck o' the Irish.
BLEARGH, beware the hands.  They will slice you!  And they don't play fair!

The Sunday following we had a fun family get-together for me and Jonny, whose birthday is the day before mine), which included lasagna and lots of other likewise yummy food and one of Julie's exquisite cakes, which was a huge hit, and a nice round of arm- and leg-wrestling (I was the champion at leg-wrestling for a minute until Jake dethroned me), the effects of which I felt in my neck for the next few days.
We didn't get a picture of the full cake, but here's the remains.  It was strawberry chocolate, and it was very popular.

It was a great weekend, and each day had its delights.  So by the time we went back to work, I pretty much thought the fun was done.  We went about our daily lives, and my supply of birthday cereal of Lucky Charms slowly diminished.

BUT, fast-forward to last Friday night, when we had our big Hunger Games night.  I was actually really excited for the movie, though it's been a couple of years since I read the books, and even then I only liked them pretty well, not like they were the BEST BOOKS EVER to me or anything (though I still avoided spoilers, and wish to this day those dumb girls at that wedding reception hadn't been blathering about the ending of the third book SO loudly when it had just come out like two days before).  Anyway, apparently in this case, time and hype have worked some wonders, and I was very much looking forward to what looked so amazing from the trailers.  Julie surprised me with some magical shirts that combined two of our favorite book/movie series, and then off we went to the movie theater.  Imagine my surprise when I saw appear, one by one, my very best friends in the lobby!  At first I thought it was some kind of amazing coincidence, but then I realized that couldn't possibly be the case, especially as more and more appeared, and then of course my parents of all people.  What a clever and resourceful and thoughtful (and secretive!) wife I have!  She really knows how to plan a surprise!  Besides how well she pulled off the weeks-long plan, my evident inability to catch on to major hints and spoilers by unwitting friends and family helped.   Seriously, a couple of people basically said things right out, and I still somehow didn't get it.  I like to think I'm marginally clever myself, but when it comes to surprise parties, I guess I'm a good guy to throw one for.
So excited for the movie!
This is Julie the Hostess being pleased that I'm surprised, and me the Birthday Boy actually being surprised.
Most of us made it into the same theater and the movie was marvelous.  I actually haven't stopped thinking about it since, and I can't wait to see it again.  It has so much happening on so many layers and levels, and it was just fantastic.  And if one more person compares it in any way to Twilight (except that they're both books that were made into movies), I may throw a fit.  After the movie everyone came to our apartment for root beer floats and cookies and hilarious conversation, the hilarity level of which may or may not have taken our neighbors a little by surprise.  (Believe it or not, I took not a single photo of this after-party event, but believe me when I say it was really fun and funny and lasted until it was no longer PM.)

So that was it!  Birthdays have always been fun, but as the years go by and one enters one's adult years the excitement kind of wears off, but ever since I had a Wife, they have been really fun again!  I can't wait until my next one. :D

Monday, March 5, 2012

Valentine's Times 2012

I've never really disliked Valentine's Day, even when I was single and ever so lonely (Single's Awareness Day... my loathing knows little bounds), but it's infinitely more fun when you actually have a valentine to share it with (and no, I don't mean Valentine, I mean valentine).  So this year we had a very nice one, and it was spread out over a couple of weeks.

First, on Valentine's Day proper, instead of braving the hours-long waits of every single public dining venue in existence, we went to Amber's house for sushi night and fun times with all (or most of) the local married siblings and their spouses.
We laughed and talked and played and ate sushi and stir-fry and sticky rice and various incredible desserts and went around the table taking turns telling all the concerts we've been to in our lives and trying to avoid repeats.  Dad and Mom win for the most obscure bands, but Cami and Jake probably win for having seen the most contemporary (read: relevant) ones.  (I also forgot to mention one that I am pretty sure no one would have been able to repeat...  I'm not ashamed.)  We didn't take a lot of pictures, but there are a few, including this one of my delightful loverface:
And by way of surpreezes, I gave The Wife this:
On DVD and CD.  Some of it is ridiculous, but it's probably the best principal cast ever there has been thus far.  Ramin and Sierra FTW.
And then my clever wife gave me this!  (Not the computer itself, that's from work.)
It has made my work computer far cooler than it could ever have hoped to be on its own, and far more awesome than a Mac has any right to be.  I work at the Dharma Apple Station! XD
Then things were kind of put on hold for a week or two while we waited for the crowds to die down in the local eateries and such, and until it was a good weekend when we could really celebrate in style.  Last year we spent a really nice long weekend at The Homestead, and hoped to do so again this year, so we were a little bummed to discover they're closed for renovations until April.  So,  we looked around the Midway/Park City area online to see if there might be another fun place we could spend a couple of nights, and decided to try Zermatt, which is apparently the Homestead's sister resort, and located directly across the street.  In some ways it wasn't quite as fun as last year's trip (more like a hotel, less like a private cottage, no fireplace, no included breakfast), but in other ways we liked it better (no ants, better amenities, interesting German theming, great indoor/outdoor pools/hot tubs, fun exercise room with saunas and steam rooms, etc.).
We really liked the art chosen for the decor.  Poor awkward suitor.
It was definitely fun to try a new place.  We had dinner at a really great local Mexican place we ate at last year, which is basically the only restaurant in town (which means it was incredibly crowded, especially with this being ski season), and which features an awesome salsa bar; we slept in and went shopping at our convenience; we spent the evenings watching a bunch of Oscar-nominated movies from Redbox, ranging in quality and enjoyability (Least to most: The Tree of Life, Moneyball, The Help); and we ordered a delicious pizza, Greek salad and German chocolate cake (of course) from food service.  It would have been nice to have an extra night like we did last year, but we were definitely glad to take advantage of our time there and were glad it turned out to be a nice place, contrary to some of the reviews we had read online.  It was great for a weekend getaway, even if we weren't there to ski and just wanted a nice place to stay and relax for a few days.
Of course we love to take pictures of ourselves.
No peeking.
Then we had a jumping photo shoot.
She's getting better and better.
I get by.
Then we took some more pictures of ourselves.  And of course we always take pictures in mirrors.
Then Julie decided to embark on a photo shoot all her own.
True art.
So fierce!
Just getting a li'l drink.
Be our guest!
A statue of a bear playing an accordion?  But of course!
So there you have it!  It was Valentine's weekend a couple weeks later, which seems like the way to go.  Who wants to spend Valentine's Day sitting in a crowded lobby waiting to be sat by a rushed and frantic serving staff?  Maybe some people, but not this guy!  Happy Valentine's Day, everyone, and especially you, Wife whom I love.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Doctors and Hospitals and Tennis Balls: A Husband's Perspective

I have an epic Valentine's Day post about ready to go, but in the spirit of doing things chronologically, I wanted to do a quick post about The Wife's recent visits to see the doctor from my point of view.  I don't need to give a lot of details here, since she has done such a good job of chronicling her adventures over at her blog, but I still wanted to give a little info and some links to her posts for people who are interested and might not regularly visit Hinkypunk Station (though of course you all should... she is funny and clever and witty).  I don't think this will be TMI or anything, but just be aware.

First, a story:  One day it was Christmas 2011.  In the earliest morning my beloved wife gave me my first Christmas present--the news that we were finally expecting our firstborn.  Most of the dozen or so people who read this blog are probably aware by now that we've been hoping to add a small humanoid to our little family for a while, so this was really exciting news.  She was just a few weeks along, so we didn't spread the word right away (it was the hardest secret to keep during the Christmas festivities, believe you me), but things took a troubling turn just a few days later when certain curious bodily signs and/or symptoms led us to visit the doctor.  To make a long story (involving several hospitals, a very long ER visit --a word to ER doctors:  DON'T say something like, "There's some kind of big mass here..." and then never address it again--and finally seeing a good specialist, which Julie has documented much more fully here and here), it was discovered that we lost the poor wee thing, but this led to a few tests and getting some real information.  As it turned out, what Julie was carrying, as it were, and had been for some years, was a benign mass the size of a tennis ball on her uterus (it was attached to the outside by a stalk, which leads to it being termed a "pedunculated fibroid," which is like the funniest medical term ever).  It wasn't extremely serious, just a mass of tissue, especially since she didn't even know it was there (some people feel extreme pain from them), but it could cause problems with future pregnancies and life in general, so a few weeks later out it went (which Julie has documented here).  It was a fairly non-invasive surgery due to interesting and exciting technology described in the links above, and she was left with just a few little incisions on her tummy.  I really wanted to be present for the procedure, I was like, come on, I promise I won't get in the way, I'll just stand in the corner quietly and watch!  I even (later) illustrated it to get my point across:
But I guess that's just not how things are done. While she was in recovery Doc came out and gave me the scoop, including showing me high-quality, super-sharp pictures of my wife's insides.  I mean, how many people get to see that?  It was fascinating.  He showed me her appendix and her fibroid and her many other innards, and explained to me what he did and what was removed and how it all went (that is, successfully).  He also indicated that she has endometriosis and that they removed an endometreoma from one of her ovaries, which might have had something to do with our difficulty conceiving for these past many many months.  So that was taken care of too, and when it was all said and done she spent a couple of hours looking like this:
Julie was a champ in surgery, especially for a rookie, and it was my great pleasure to wait on her hand and foot until she was feeling better, and beyond of course.  Before too long we went home and recovery continued.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and a few days ago we had our follow-up appointment with Doc, where he showed Julie the pictures I saw (which she was really hoping to see), and checked her incisions to make sure they were healing well and right (they were), and where he explained again the things he told me while she was recouping.  He gave us some options for managing the endometriosis and assured Julie that biologically and reproductively she's still young and has many child-bearing years ahead of her, should she desire such, and was particularly encouraging when we reminded him that she had in fact been pregnant before the surgery.  Anyway, there's a lot more to it all, but that's the gist, and Julie wrote about it here, including an artist's rendering of what has been dubbed the Tennis Ball, since (alas!) we didn't get copies of the pictures to take home.  In the end it was a good visit, and we know our options going forward.  We are of course sad to have lost our first positive pregnancy, but we have high hopes for the future, and we're glad to have resolved some of these issues about which we wouldn't even have known otherwise.  Like our neighbor said, it's like when you get glasses after all your life and only then realize that you weren't able to see very clearly.

This has been a heckuva way to start the new year, but we have come a long way and are determined to make the rest of 2012 better than the first part of it!  Mostly at the moment my biggest concern is with the obvious miscommunication between hospitals and billing and insurance people, since they keep sending us odd statements that don't make much sense.  Here's a tip, hospital folks:  Don't send the bill until the insurance has had a chance to process and figure out their portion, and THEN send the final statement and I'll be glad to pay it.  Having said that, I am ever so grateful for our excellent insurance and our having added Julie to it just last fall.