Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas for the MeyPfans

Last week, Ben and I packed up the girls and headed to Peoria for Christmas with my family. This trip was rather shaky at the start. We had not yet decided if we were going to leave Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. We had declared that we were just going to "play it by ear," which, for an obsessive organizer like me, is clearly a recipe for disaster.

While the girls and I were out with friends on Tuesday morning, my mom called to tell me that she had fallen on the ice in her driveway the night before. And broken her wrist. In three places. And was going to need to go in that for surgery. And wouldn't be able to drive or take care of herself. BUT, she said, there was a big storm coming, and we shouldn't try to drive through it to get to Peoria.

After many, many phonecalls to husband, sister, brother, and father, the decision was made that not only were we going to go to Peoria, but we were going to go right away. Ben and I both rushed home (me from the playdate, and him from work) to spend two hours frantically throwing together all our gifts, clothing, baby travel supplies, etc., and then we took off for Peoria, hoping to beat the storm and get there in time to take care of Mom.

We slid on the ice and almost crashed into a telephone pole within our first five minutes out of the neighborhood. Seriously, inches away, one tire suspended in midair. Not good. But we persevered, and after finding an alternate method out of our neighborhood, as all the usual roads were blocked with wrecks, we slowly made it the two blocks to the interstate entrance. It took us an hour and a half to go 20 miles. By the time we would normally have been all the way to Peoria, we weren't even yet to Champaign (our rough halfway point). All in all, it took 7 hours and intense concentration, but we did make it to Peoria in one piece.

It was a long night, between the girls sleeping in a new place (which is always a struggle with Bryn) and me getting up every 4 hours to get my mom her Vicodin. My poor mom has a metal rod on the outside of her arm, drilled into her bones, to keep everything in place. She calls herself "the bionic woman." Out of sympathy for her, no photos of this contraption will appear on the blog. :)

The rest of our time in Peoria was spent helping Mom with everyday tasks, celebrating Christmas three times (Mom, Dad, and Mom's extended family), catching up with some dear friends (much love goes out to Jarrod, Corey, David, Melissa, Maria, Amy, and families), and sleeping on an assortment of couches and air mattresses. We are now safely back home, attempting to find places to stash all the girls' Christmas loot....

Here are Bryn and Shay having Christmas at our house on Sunday night. In spite of the plethora of gifts they received, the absolute winner was this drum/maraca/harmonica/tamborine set. Shay is already pretty amazing at making music (thank you, Kindermusik class!). Bryn, of course, likes everything better when dressed like a princess. :)

Speaking of "dressed like a princess..." The above picture features her new "Sleeping Beauty" gear (which is actually a Barbie dress that I snagged at a garage sale last summer... shh, don't tell Bryn!), and this is the "Snow White" ensemble she received from Grandma Diane. Yes, we've branched out beyond just Cinderella. And Bryn's other favorite gift? Three Barbies--dressed as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White. Yep, we're all princess, all the time around here!

Grandpa Dave loves to give books as gifts... Here, Shay is thinking, "That's a lot of heavy reading for a one-year-old!" (But Mommy and Daddy are both looking forward to their new reads!)

Five Pfans.... Me with brother Brian, sister Kristin, and of course cuties Shay and Bryn, under the tree at my mom's house on Christmas morning.

My favorite picture--Daddy Ben and Baby Shay on Christmas morning.
So, all in all, it was a good one, although rather different than we had planned. Hope you all had wonderful holidays as well!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Seasonal Reminder

Luke 2
1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Merry Christmas To All

A Merry Christmas to all!
(And to all a good night!)

Love, Amy, Ben, Bryn, and Shay

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shay's First

Shay hit a milestone yesterday morning. What makes this especially notable is that it was a milestone that her sister Bryn has not yet hit...

To set the scene: It's 10:00 on a Sunday morning. Ben and I are trying to get ready for church. Bryn is eating breakfast. We have not heard a peep out of Shay yet.

Me: We'd better get the girls moving towards church if we're going to make it on time.
Ben: Okay.
Me: Where's Shay?
Ben: In her crib, asleep.
Me (checking the video monitor): Um, no... she's not in there. Where is she?!?!
Ben (still unconcerned): Probably Kristin got her up then.
Me (running into the hall and checking): Uh, no. Kristin's door is closed. I don't think Kristin would just get Shay up, take her back into her room, and close the door.
Ben: Well then, I don't know.

Frantic Mommy runs into Shay's room, eyes landing immediately on the empty crib, imagining all kinds of horrible baby-snatching scenarios (although who could make it into our house to do this, with three adults, 2 kids, and 3 dogs that bark at everything that moves is beyond me). Then my eyes travel to the floor, where Shay is sitting, happy as a clam, grinning up at me, surrounded by all the toys she had pulled off her shelves.

Yes, folks, that's right--my 12-month-old daughter climbed out of her crib.

What's more, she didn't cry. I had been in the same room as the monitor for the last hour and hadn't heard a peep out of her. This means she apparently crawled out with no problems, rather than some kind of falling to the floor and crying incident. By our estimates, she had been out of the crib for at least a half an hour by the time we found her. And she wasn't the slightest bit upset. In fact, she was having the time of her life, playing with all her toys with no Bryn to grab them away from her. She had a full diaper and was sucking voraciously on an empty bottle, but apparently those things were not enough to overshadow the joy of her newfound freedom.

Thankfully, she did not repeat this feat during naptime yesterday, last night into this morning, or naptime today. Still, the big joke is that she will now be sleeping in a big bed before her sister, since Bryn is 3 years old and completely opposed to getting out of her crib and changing to the big-girl princess bed that has now been sitting in her room for the past year and a half.

Ah, my little big girl. She's growing up so fast!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Teacher's Wish

I was reading my friend Carrie's blog the other day and absolutely loved what she had to say about one of her former English teachers and her continuing education. Check it out--if only all English teachers (or all teachers in general!) could be this effective!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

For You I Will

I saw this on Joe's blog several days ago. I am currently looking for a bit of a mental break from grading, so I thought I'd fill this out while eating lunch.

Side note: I am not technologically advanced or rich enough to have my own iPod, but I do have iTunes on my fancy school computer, so I'll use that instead.

1. Put your iPOD on shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write that song name down no matter how silly it sounds!

If someone says, "Is this okay" you say?
Wherever You Are (Jack Ingram)

What would best describe your personality?
Self-Portrait In Three Colors (Charles Mingus)

What do you like in a guy/girl?
Prelude to A Kiss (Alicia Keys)

What is your life's purpose?
It Matters To Me (Faith Hill)

What is your motto?
Lucky (Britney Spears)

What do your friends think of you?
Behind These Hazel Eyes (Kelly Clarkson)

What do you think about very often?
Undo Me (Jennifer Knapp)

What is 2+2?
Boondocks (Little Big Town)

What do you think of your best friend?
Wonderwall (Oasis)

What do you think of the person you like?
I'm Gonna Miss Her (Brad Paisley)

What is your life story?
Take Me There (Rascal Flatts)

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Rebecca Lynn (Bryan White)

What do you think when you see the person you like?
In Repair (John Mayer)

What do your parents think of you?
Little Red Rodeo (Phil Vassar)

What will you dance to at your wedding?
If You Go Away (New Kids on the Block)

What will they play at your funeral?
Another Day (Rent soundtrack)

What is your hobby/interest?
Welcome to the Jungle (Guns 'n' Roses)

What is your biggest secret?
Play Something Country (Brooks & Dunn)

What do you think of your friends?
Can't Fight the Moonlight (Coyote Ugly soundtrack)

What's the worst thing that could happen?
Real Wild Child (Pretty Woman soundtrack)

How will you die?
Love Song for No One (John Mayer)

What is the one thing you regret?
This One's For the Children (New Kids on the Block)

What makes you laugh?
Ants Marching (Dave Matthews Band)

What makes you cry?
Do You Remember (Jack Johnson)

Will you ever get married?
Dirty Pop (Justin Timberlake)

What scares you the most?
Mambo #5 (Lou Bega)

Does anyone like you?
Ready to Run (Dixie Chicks)

If you could go back in time, what would you change?
Goodbye Earl (Dixie Chicks)

What hurts right now?
Move This (Technotronic)

What do you say in the morning when you first wake up?
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf (Disney's Greatest Hits)

What will you post this as?
For You I Will (Teddy Geiger)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Beautiful Girls

Aren't my girls just gorgeous?
Scroll down to the past couple of posts for yet more cuteness...

Shay's 1 Year Portraits

My little girl is getting so big!

Bryn's 3 Year Portraits

So much cuteness, I just had to share. Isn't she getting to be such a big girl?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Picture Tag

I stole this from a blog that I enjoy creeping on. :)

The object of the picture tag is to:

1) Choose the 4th folder where you store your pictures on your computer

2) Select the 4th picture in the folder

3) Explain the picture

4) Tag 4 people to do the same

NO CHEATING! (cropping, editing, etc!)

Here is mine!

This is from way back in October of 2006, when Bryn wasn't quite a year old yet. It's her and Elaina playing together one afternoon when Caroline was babysitting her. So cute! I'm a little disappointed that I ended up with a picture that didn't show faces, but just from the top of the head, doesn't Bryn look so much like Shay? You can also check out Caroline's blog to see how much bigger little E has gotten since then!

Friday, December 12, 2008

"To Do" List

How's this for holiday spirit?

To do before 8:00 Monday morning:
* write three final exams
* photocopy final exams for all seniors and all freshmen
* write instructions for British Literature and AP English Literature exams

And if that sounds like fun, check this out...

To do before 4:00 Friday afternoon (1 week from now):
* grade 14 1st period essay tests (2-3 pages each)
* grade 15 2nd period essay tests (2-3 pages each)
* grade 16 6th period essay tests (2-3 pages each)
* grade 17 senior Macbeth imagery analysis papers (3-5 pages each)
* grade 14 1st period creative projects
* grade 15 2nd period creative projects
* grade 16 3rd period creative projects
* grade 14 1st period project analysis papers (2 pages each)
* grade 15 2nd period project analysis papers (2 pages each)
* grade 16 6th period project analysis papers (2 pages each)
* grade 45 freshman vocabulary quizzes
* grade 30 senior vocabulary quizzes
* grade 45 freshman final exams (12 pages each)
* grade 13 AP English Literature final exams (6-9 pages each)
* grade 17 British Literature final exams (19 pages each)
* grade 105 freshman blogs
* read 45 freshman project evaluations and figure participation grades from these (2 pages each)
* grade all makeup work
* input grades

In sum, this totals somewhere between 1142 and 1575 pages of grading in the next week. Plus writing finals, grading creative projects, and inputting grades.

Holiday spirit? Bah humbug. Talk to me 8 days from now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Medical Update

I've been hesitant to post about this, but so many wonderful friends have emailed and called over the past few months to inquire about the state of my health since my most recent miscarriage that I thought I should give an update.

I have started seeing the wonderful Dr C at a local fertility clinic. This is the same doctor who treated me during my pregnancy with Shay, thus enabling me to sustain the pregnancy. So we clearly owe him a lot, although I don't think either of us realized how much at the time.

I went to see him about two and a half months ago to see if we could figure out why my body hates me and keeps miscarrying. He first reassured me that he will give me progesterone supplements and monitor me very carefully when/if we are able to start trying to have another baby. Then, after studying my file, he pointed out that when I had come to see him when I was pregnant with Shay, my thyroid levels were way off. He asked if I had been having regular blood tests to check my levels.

A bit of background on this--I was diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism about six months before Ben and I got married. This answered many questions that had plagued me for about three years at that point. I was displaying all the symptoms of a thyroid condition, but even though I had thyroid tests performed by several different doctors over those three years, they all showed that mine was functioning completely normally.

Then, finally, in early 2004, the wonderful Dr Z pointed out that we might have been doing the wrong test all along. While hypo-thyroidism and hyper-thyroidism show up on the same test, there is another side branch that doesn't show up on that test. And you guessed it--I have the freakish one that doesn't show up on normal tests: subclinical hypothyroidism.

In very simplified terms, the normal thyroid test measures whether your body is making the proper amounts of the chemicals it needs to make. And mine is, so that test shows up normal. However, what the other test shows is that my body completely lacks the ablility to take those chemicals and convert them to a usable form of energy. Thus why I'm freakishly tired all the time, as well as several other problems.

This means that I will need to be on syntheroid for the rest of my life. This causes problems of its own, but that's another story. But in short, I need to have my blood drawn every 3 months, or more often, to determine if my dosage is correct for regulating my levels. And I have been doing that faithfully, but my dosage hadn't changed since January 2007--meaning, before I was pregnant with Shay.

Now, clearly, my body has been through a LOT of changes since then. But the blood tests performed by my OB (the evil Dr M) and my general practioner always came back normal, so I figured I was okay. Sure, I was hugely tired all the time, but I just kind of assumed that this was a result of having two small children.

Let me point out here that every time I have gone in to have my blood drawn at either location, I have specified, "Now remember, I have subclinical hypothyroidism, so that's a different test." Considering that, I felt pretty silly telling Dr C that yes, my levels had always showed up as fine, but maybe, just maybe, was it possible that these other doctors were testing the wrong thing? After all, I had been tested for thyroid problems with the wrong test for three years before the right test revealed my illness, so it wasn't completely improbable. But one would think that with my actual disease listed in my chart and me telling them what to test for, the doctors do the right test. Right?

Wrong. Dr C thought my theory might be correct, so he immeadiately did a blood test? The result? According to him, a normal person's TSH hovers around 1.5 or 2. Mine was 0.0004. Yeah, that's right. It seems that in an effort to treat my subclinical hypothyroidism, my previous doctors had medicated me right into experiencing all the symptoms of untreated hyperthyroidism. Awesome. That, at least, explained all of the intense migraines, nights of insomnia, and hot flashes I had been experiencing for months.

Dr C cut my syntheroid dosage in half and instructed me to come back in a month, after the medication had time to kick in. When I went back, my blood test revealed that my TSH level had rocketed up to 3.54 and I was feeling all the effects of hypothyroidism. This, at least, explained my intense exhaustion and inability to stay awake.

The question, though, is what to do with my dosage now. I'm now on a dosage between the last two, and I go in next week for this month's bloodwork. I have a hunch that it may not be good, because this month, I've been feeling aspects of both sides of the illness. I'm so tired that Ben was struggling to keep me awake as I drove home at 9:00 last night, yet I'm back to having migraines 3 out of every 4 or 5 days.

Dr C said that if this dosage switch didn't fix me, I would need to go see an endocrinologist, because what's wrong with me is beyond his ability to fix. This is particularly discouraging, since the endocrinology center is roughly an hour from our house, and right now, new patients can't get in until May. So I may continue to feel sick for a good long while before I get better. And until we get my medication under control, Dr C says we are not to try for another baby. This is devastating news on all fronts.

Right now, I'm feeling sicker than I have been in years with this thyroid thing. A large part of that is probably that my medication has been switched around so many times lately that my body is kind of reeling from all of that. Plus now that I'm working, there are just not enough hours in the day to even begin to get the sleep that I need to balance out my disease. So I just keep popping migraine pills, chugging caffeine, and hoping for a chance for the better....

More news to follow, as I learn any.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Recent Stats

The girls recently both had appointments with Dr Z, Bryn for her 3-year well-child check and Shay for her 1-year check and shots. Here are the most recent vital stats:

Bryn is now 34.6 pounds, which puts her in the 75th percentile for age. She is also 38 inches long (which comes out to be 3'2", for those who don't want to do the mental math), which puts her in the 70th percentile. Yay, she's proportional! :) She doesn't have go back for another well-child check until she turns 4, and no more shots until she enters kindergarten--yay!

Shay's was a little more exciting, since she's hitting so many milestones. Her head is 18 inches in circumference, which puts her in the 75th percentile.... and again, Mommy breathes a deep sigh of relief that she's not in the 99th like her sister. :) Shay is 28 3/4 inches long, which puts her in the 60th percentile, and she weighs 20 pounds exactly, which puts her in the 30th percentile. Looks like she's going to be tall and skinny... Mommy is soooo jealous!

Of course, it's ridiculous that she's that skinny, because she is a ravenous beast and will eat anything that we put in front of her. She eats fruits, veggies, grains, meats.... you name it, nothing is safe from her lightning-fast pincher grasp! She now has the official go-ahead for whole milk instead of formula. We were a little worried that she would protest about giving up her beloved formula, but she hasn't even seemed to notice the switch. She loves the whole milk every bit as much and burned through her first half-gallon in the first 3 days.

Shay is also moving right along with the teething. She already has four bottom teeth (one of which is a molar), with another molar coming in right now. She also has three on top. This clearly means that she has been a bit fussy (and has had some really nasty poops) over the past month or so, but she's still so much more of a sweet, laidback baby than Bryn ever was. At church this past Sunday, all the nursery workers kept talking about how much they adore Shay and how happy she always is. Her Mommy and Daddy couldn't agree more!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Finally, The Kid Gets Some Cake

Shay's first birthday was not quite all that we had hoped. In fact, we eventually just had to laugh about the many events that seemed to get in the way of our celebration.

For starters, Bryn, Shay, and I all have our birthdays in November. We do a visit with each branch of our extended family during the month, but since Shay's birthday isn't until the 27th, she had already received all her presents from family before her actual birthday--good at the time, but a little anti-climactic on the actual day.

Then, Shay's actual birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year. We went to Peoria for the holiday-- it was the first time I'd been with my family for Thanksgiving since 2000, so it was very exciting on that front. But we didn't get there until 10:00 on Wednesday night (11:00 our time), and then, in typical MeyPfan fashion, neither girl slept well away from home. So on Shay's actual birthday, she and Bryn pretty much tag-team napped all day, so there was never a good time to celebrate. And with all the Thanksgiving celebration, there was no real birthday celebration. That's right--no singing, no presents, no cake.

We planned to do the whole hoopla with some friends back in Indy on Saturday night. But Shay woke up from her nap that afternoon in the worst mood she's ever been in. She cried hysterically for an hour, and then finally, relieved from pain by two teething tablets and a dose of Tylenol, fell back asleep at 6:00. Our friends had brought over gifts and everything, but Shay seemed determined not to have a celebration.... she slept straight through from 6:00 that night until 10:00 the next morning.

The next day, Bryn decided that Shay's presents needed to be opened and took it upon herself to perform this task. She took off all the wrapping paper and then played with all of Shay's new toys. When I scolded her, she told me sweetly, "Mommy, I sharin' with Shay." On the up side, Shay did get a huge kick out of this, and she sat there applauding as Bryn modeled the use of the new toys.

We had our last Kindermusik class on Monday night, so no celebration then. On Tuesday night, we hosted small group at our house. I was absolutely determined that this night would feature actual cake and singing for Shay, no matter what. So when she wanted to go to bed early, I was a mean mommy and made her stay up. We did do singing and cupcakes. She actually wasn't all that interested in the cake--she ate a bite or two, but then wanted to get down from her high chair and go to bed.

Tomorrow night, we're taking her out for an actual family celebration. Hopefully we've managed to somewhat redeem our "horrible parent" status!

Oh, and to complicate all of this, we left our camera in Peoria. My mom is mailing it back to us, but it isn't here yet. So we took all our pictures of our attemps at birthday celebrations with our old camera, which is ridiculously slow, so I have several shots of Shay crawling out of the frame. Below, though, you can see the evidence that she really did get some cake for her birthday!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Morning Thought

Saw this on an anti-war bumper sticker this morning on the way to work, and liked it so much that I thought it was worth passing on:

"When Jesus said 'Love your enemies,'
I think he probably meant don't kill them."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Catching Up: More Apples

Grading update: I have now eaten dinner at my desk, and 3 more essays are complete. My stack of grading and I are now going over to the other building to watch part of the dress rehearsal for the play, since I will not be able to make it to either of the actual shows this weekend. Then my grading and I will be going home to continue our fun-filled evening. Since the grading and I will be on the move, this is the last blog of the night.

However, I am very excited that I am now officially caught up on all the cute pictures that I have been wanting to post. Yay! I'll conclude with a few more of our trip to the apple orchard:

Catching Up: A Trip to the Apple Orchard

Grading update: my after-school hours are flying by far too quickly, by I am now 2 papers into my final class set. 15 more to go.

These pictures are from a family trip to a local apple orchard last month. They're just so stinking cute that I don't think I can limit myself to just one post; I may need to post on this topic twice just to show off all the cuteness!

Catching Up: Zoo Boo

Grading update: taught my afternoon classes and am now back at work. One more to go in this class set.

Here are Bryn, Shay, and their friend Chris at the Zoo Boo last month. The Indianapolis Zoo hosts this event every year, and it's so cute to see little kids roaming all over the zoo in their Halloween costumes. I love how Bryn is being all protective of Shay in this picture, and how happy they all look. It wasn't easy to get the princess, the giraffe, and Mickey Mouse to all line up on the bench and hold still, but we did manage to get a cute shot before they all got down and ran off to see more animals!

I just think this is too cute. During Zoo Boo, zoo employees hand out candy at various trick-or-treating stations throughout the zoo. Shay always wants whatever Bryn has, so she cried when she saw that Bryn got to eat candy and she didn't. So we gave her an unopened box of Nerds, and she happily shook it and teethed on it all night long--and it was still in good enough shape that Mommy could enjoy the candy on the way home!

We were pretty bummed that some of the animals went to bed or went inside for dinner before we got to see them--including the giraffes, which was sad because we wanted to take a picture of Shay in her costume with them. But we did take the girls on the train, which we had never done at the zoo before, so it was a big special treat. Here's the four of us at the end of our fun night.

Catching Up: Eerie Express

Grading update: Graded through lunch. 9 essays down.

Here are Bryn, Shay, and their friend Chris at the Eerie Express at the Children's Museum. Ben and I took the girls, accompanied by Chris and his mom Cathy, during friendly hours, when all the lights were on--which is good, because we agreed that several parts would have definitely been scary to both kids and adults in the dark! It's safe to say that the kids' favorite part was receiving a different treat from characters in each room of the haunted house. Ben liked the huge "whole world built of Legos" display by the exit and snapped dozens of pictures, intending to use them for inspiration for future plaster block projects. I think Cathy and I were largely just amused by the much baby cuteness!

Catching Up: Butler Homecoming

Grading update: Prep period is over, but I've graded six essays total.

Butler's Homecoming was at the end of October. It gave us a great chance to get up with some friends from out of town and meet the newest members of some friends' families. Since Krysten was here, of course we had to enjoy some Bazbeaux pizza. :) We even had a Butler band hang-out and game night after the Homecoming festivities ended. Okay, we didn't intend for it to be all band members, but what can we say? We were band geeks then, and we maintain a bit of that now. Apparently all our friends were in the band! (All the friends that came to visit that weekend anyway!)

Catching Up: My Little Pumpkins

Recently, I've been completely snowed under by the vast amount of work I have to do. For example, before 8:00 tomorrow, I need to grade 30 essay tests, approve or deny 30 project proposals, write two quizzes, and read approximately 80 pages Black Hawk Down. Yikes. I'm also feeling a large amount of burnout, and I'm having a hard time motivating myself to keep going and get it all done.

So you, my dear friends, are going to be both my reward and my accountability today. For every 3 papers that I grade, I will allow myself a five-minute break to post a few of my "catching up" pictures. So get ready to cheer me on--or just view the cuteness. :)

These pictures are from the week of Halloween. Ben's parents sent the girls these super-cute matching pumpkin sweatsuits. The girls wore them when we went on the Haunted Hayride (during friendly hours, of course) in our town. Don't we all look cute and ready for fall? The matching brown coats on Ben and I and his coordinating orange hat are just accidents though. :)
Here's our littlest pumpkin, ready for a snack after her big hayride. This was a few days before the haircut that I wrote about a few posts ago, so you can definitely see how badly she was in need of one. This picture also shows my absolute favorite thing about the sweatshirts, which is the adorable little stem on the hood.

And here's our bigger pumpkin, totally hamming it up for the camera. She loved her "punkin shirt" and wanted to wear it for the entire week leading up to Halloween. I had to sneak it down to a box in the basement when she wasn't looking to prevent her from wearing it all the way up to Christmastime! Luckily, hers is big enough that it can make a repeat appearance next year. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Next 30 Years

I thought this would be appropriate as a continuation of my last post. This is a song written by Phil Vassar (my favorite country artist) and made popular by Tim McGraw. I listened to it this morning on my way to school, and it put me in quite the good mood. Not all of the lyrics apply, but I love the sentiments.

"My Next 30 Years"

I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now its time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

Hey my next thirty years I'm gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I've done
Maybe now I've conquered all my adolescent fears
And I'll do it better in my next thirty years

My next thirty years I'm gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I'm doing here
In my next thirty years

Oh my next thirty years, I'm gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I'll remember my next thirty years

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years.

My Last 30 Years

Today is my 30th birthday. When I woke up this morning, my first thought was, "Wow, I'm old." While in the shower, I started reflecting on how I have spent previous birthdays. While I do have very good memory (Ashley would say freakishly good), I couldn't remember as many as I wished, or more particularly, which went with which years. So I then went on a quest through old scrapbooks, childhood diaries, and my baby book (thanks, Mom) to compile a list. I have scrapbooks from every year from eighth grade on (okay, the post-college scrapbooks are not actually assembled yet....). Clearly I get my scrapbooking/memory-preserving gene from my mother, who kept details accounts of my first 12 years in my baby book (which she gave to me when Bryn was born). So here it is: my chronicle of the past 30 birthdays:

1 - family party at our house on Hushaw in Chillicothe, Illinois. According to Mom's records, I got my first doll and a popcorn pusher, which is kind of funny, since I have a popcorn pusher in the basement right now, waiting for Shay's first birthday later this month.

2 - I could say that I was "two" and say "blow out candles." I apparently knew what was going on when my extended family came over for a party, and I was too wound up to sleep afterwards. That night, I climbed out of my crib for the first time.

3 - I moved into a new room and a "big girl bed" and had my first birthday party with friends. The party was at McDonald's, and the party involved, among others, Todd, Chad, Chris, Trent, and Mimi, who were the children of my parents' friends, and became good friends throughout my childhood, as we took many family vacations together.

4 - We had pizza at Blarney Castle in Chillicothe (a family favorite all through my childhood) with my grandparents, Hattie and Parky. Then I had a party at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour with kids--much the same crew as the year before.

5 - My grandparents on my dad's side, Bob and Mimi, visited from Florida. We went to Show Biz (now known as Chuck E. Cheese, the favorite birthday location of my own daughter). Apparently the big hit was a Smurfette cake, which I do have a vague memory of.

6 - I had a party at Pizza Hut with my friends, which this year included a few kids from my kindgergarten class. On my actual birthday, I was in Indianapolis (perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come?), having a family visit with several other family friends.

7 - I had a family birthday party at my great-grandma's house (which I do remember), and then with some school friends at Show Biz Pizza. I was big into the Princess of Power (She-Ra) and My Little Pony this year, and my gifts reflected it. This birthday was particularly notable because my dad wasn't there--he was in Philadelphia working at his new job, and we moved to join him a month later.

8 - This is the first birthday party that I have clear memories of. I mean, I remember being at McDonald's and Show Biz with group of kids, celebrating, but I can't place which year was which. This year is a bit easier for me to place chronologically, as it was my only birthday in Philadelphia. A group of my friends from school went roller skating at Cornwell's Skating Center in Philadelphia, and I was thrilled to receive Barbie and the Rockers as a gift.

9 - We had recently moved into our "new house" in Dunlap, Illinois, where my mom still lives. My parents hired a magician, and he did a show for me and my friends in our basement. I remember thinking that this was incredibly cool. This was the first birthday party attended by people who have become lifelong friends of mine, most notably my then-next-door neighbor, also named Amy.

10 - I went ice skating with a group of friends at Owens Center in Peoria. Most notably, this party was attended by Melissa and Caroline, who became lifelong friends. I also had my first sleepover party, with two girls who I have long since lost track of.

11 - I thought my birthday party was incredibly cool. I had a sleepover with several friends (most of whom I am still friends with now), and we stayed up "all night" (in the words of my diary, which probably means until midnight or something) playing Dare, Double Dare, or Triple Dare. This was my golden birthday (11 on 11-11), and my grandparents gave me a necklace with a real gold heart. I still have it, and actually even wore it about a week ago.

12 - I took a group of friends out to dinner at Agatucci's, my family's favorite pizza joint in Peoria (where I still insist upon eating during every trip home). Then my friends Melissa, Caroline, and Nicole slept over. I also got a box set of J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Lord of the Rings" as a birthday gift from my grandparents. I still have this set, and have recently been contemplating re-reading them when time permits.

13 - This is where my mom's records stop, and in my own diary, I was too busy agonizing over junior high issues to record anything. If memory serves, however, this was the year that Caroline scared the living daylights out of me by reading Edgar Allen Poe stories aloud at my slumber party.

14 - Much against my protests, my parents decided that I was "too old" for birthday parties. I went out to lunch at Vonachen's (another family favorite, now sadly closed) with my aunt and cousins, as well as several friends, including Melissa and Ashley. I got a brown leather jacket from my parents, which made me the epitome of cool.

15 - Completely disregarding the forced maturity of the year before, I started back into birthday parties by having the coolest one ever. My parents designed a clue hunt through the town of Dunlap and surrounding area, and my friends and I went out in several cars driven by parents to follow the clues through town. Afterwards, we all came back to my house and hung out. Also extremely notable for being my first boy/girl birthday party. It also featured the beginnings of the Dunlap Clan, who remain some of my dearest friends to this day: Melissa, Jolyne, Caroline, Nicole, Ashley, Meghan, Kelly, Maria, Derek, Chuck, Corey, Jason, Matt, Damon, and David.

16 - Also a contendor for "coolest birthday party ever." My mom drove me and five girlfriends up to Oakbook (outside Chicago) for an all-day shopping trip: the second-most ideal gift ever for a 16-year-old girl (the first-most ideal being a car, which I received that spring, when I inherited my dad's old maroon Lumina when he got a new car).

17 - Based on the success of my last birthday, we planned another shopping excursion, but I was hugely disappointed when a massive snowstorm forced us to cancel the trip. I moped around for most of the day, before my parents totally redeemed the day by allowing me to invite all my friends (quite a large group of both boys and girls, spanning from freshmen to seniors in high school) over for an impromptu party that night.

18 - Biggest birthday party ever. I remember opening windows in the basement because it got so hot with all the people down there. Tons of hilarious gifts from friends, including Anna and Nikki each giving me one shoe. My friend Amy also took me to see "Superman: The Musical" in downtown Peoria, as I was hugely in love with all things Superman.

19 - I was massively disappointed to learn that in Indiana, school is not cancelled for Veteran's Day, so my freshman year of college was the first time I ever had to attend classes on my birthday. I spent most of the day on the phone with my wonderful friends from home, all of whom called me. Jarrod sent the first of many "birthday trash cans," ordered from a local florist and filled with junk food of all kinds. The girls of 1E in Schwitzer Hall braved the tempermental oven in the basement to bake me a birthday skillet cookie.

20 - I got very sad about leaving my teens, but my wonderful roommate Amy (different Amy than my childhood neighbor) decorated our dorm room with 20 "20s" while I slept. Amanda, Lisa, and Julie took me out to lunch at Chuck E. Cheese to demonstrate that I could still be a kid even if I was technically in my 20s. Betsy helped me carry Jarrod's birthday trash can to our Brit Lit class in the afternoon, where the whole class feasted as we discussed literature. In the evening, my roommate Amy threw me a surprise party, complete with Jarrod arriving in a surprise visit from Peoria.

21 - Jarrod sent another birthday trash can, and then he and Tony drove over to celebrate with me. Many friends accompanied me out to what I termed "an adult Chuck E Cheese," and was actually called Gameworks, or something along those lines. Everyone was shocked when I elected to continue my trend of not drinking. We culminated the night with a Denny's run, including a table of Ken, Jen, Gwyn, and Sven (which was actually Tony).

22 - The fourth and final birthday trash can from Jarrod. This was the first year that Ben and I were dating, and Jarrod, Tony, and Derek drove over to celebrate with me and give Ben the official Dunlap Clan stamp of approval. These friends from home accompanied Ben, Amanda, and I to the Schwitzer Hall formal. We culminated the night by assembling many friends from the Butler band in my dorm room and playing Taboo into the wee hours of the morning.

23 - Post-college, the birthdays stopped being so fun. This was the first year that I actually had to work on my birthday. I was student teaching at a local middle school at the time, and I desperately hated it. I decided that being a "real adult" wasn't very enjoyable.

24 - This was my first year teaching at ZCHS. I was hugely depressed about some major conflicts at our church, which prevented me from continuing as a youth group leader and led us to change churches shortly afterwards. Not what I would call a fun birthday.

25 - My sister Kristin (then a senior in high school) came over to visit for the day, so I took the day off school to hang out with her. Ben took a long lunch from work (we were engaged at this point) to meet us for a festive birthday lunch at Steak 'n' Shake.

26 - My first birthday as a married woman. Unfortunately, not a good one. I again took the day off school, but for far less happy reasons this time. I spent most of the day sleeping and moping. The night before, Ben, our friend Elizabeth, and I had sat up until the wee hours of the morning talking with our Young Life committee members about some pretty major concerns we had about the direction our program was taking. This later led to all three of us resigning as leaders. Another not-so-fun birthday.

27 - Bryn was eight days old, and all I wanted for my birthday was a nap! I spent most of the day in bed with a migraine.

28 - Biggest present ever--I got a new house for my birthday! :) This was the day that we moved into our current house in Brownsburg. Unfortunately, Bryn decided to mark the occassion by coming down with her first-ever case of the flu and spent the whole day throwing up all over both me and the brand-new carpet in our brand-new house.

29 - I was two weeks away from delivering Shay, and all I wanted was to "get this kid out of me!"

30 - So here I am. I'm spending the day teaching at UHS, and my students have covered my board with "happy birthday" messages. I've heard guesses that I am anywhere from 25 to 37--some encouraging, some not so much! This morning, I opened my annual card from Mom R, Melissa's mom, who never fails to remember me. Over the past few weeks, I've had birthday visits from both sets of my parents and Ben's parents. Ben and I went out to breakfast together before work this morning, and Bryn is very excited about me opening my "big present" tonight, because, as she says, "Mommy, you want birthday!"

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Princess Brynderella

On Saturday night, we had Bryn's big princess birthday party. We had never had a birthday party for her before. When she turned 1, we were about to move to our new house. When she turned 2, I was hugely pregnant with Shay. So we figured that when she turned 3, it was high time for a party. We had over about 10 of her little friends. Here's one of my favorite shots of a group of them on the couch.... although, admittedly, it would have been far better if I had snapped the shot about 30 seconds sooner, when they were all sitting together adorably.

The theme of the party, of course, was princesses. What else would it be for Bryn, really? :) Yes, this is the point where all of those of you who knew me when I was pregnant with Bryn and said things about how my child would never wear pink, can all sit around and laugh.

We had such festive games as "pin the crown on the princess." The kids also colored pictures, made their own crowns with sticky foamies, and decorated their own cookies (with parental assistance). Bryn's "best friend" (this is what she calls him) Chris was the one and only brave boy at the party, and he was wearing one of the little girls' princess high heels by the end of the night. Overall, a very fun evening!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Catching Up: Haircuts

It had been over a year since Bryn's last haircut. We have been growing her bangs out and didn't see much reason to keep cutting the length while enduring this process. But Ben, Shay, and I all needed haircuts last week, so we decided that we might as well make a family night out of it. Because it had been so long, Bryn couldn't remember ever having had a haircut before, and she got a little nervous when we told her where we were going. She thought about it for a minute, and then declared, "Brynie cut hair like Mulan!" Apparently the only frame of reference she had for "haircut" was the scene in Disney's "Mulan" where the title character cuts her own hair with a sword in order to pass as a boy and join the army.... Well, we didn't go quite that far with the haircut, but it is now shorter, and very cute... she looks like quite the big girl.

And here's Baby Shay, getting her very first haircut. Bryn didn't get hers until she was over a year old, but Shay was already badly in need of one. Her "bangs" had grown ridiculously long and hung in her face, regardless of my best efforts to dry them going to the side or to clip them back with little barrettes. Since she kept getting both food and snot crusted in this long hair, and since people kept telling us that she looked like a little punk chick with the one chunk of long hair hanging in her eyes, we decided it was time for baby's first haircut.

Shay actually seemed to really enjoy the experience. She got to sit up in her own little "car" like a big girl, and she enjoyed getting to watch a video without big sister Bryn getting in her way. Thank goodness for Cookie Cutters child haircuts! We also had the stylist trim up the back of Shay's neck a bit, since she still had a faint trace of the rat-tail she sported as a 3-month-old. :)

And here's the finished product--my big girl! She looks great. I love being able to see all her adorable facial expressions without her long chunk of hair getting in the way. I have to admit that I'm not such a fan of the fact that the cut makes her look so grown-up.... she needs to stay a baby for a while longer!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Catching Up: Halloween

I am going to make a valiant effort to get caught up on blogging about the events of the past few months for my faithful readers who care about the day-to-day events of our family (meaning: grandparents). :) It will be mostly photos, but hey, if I make it through this, surely I will have developed the discipline to update in a more timely manner in the future!

I'm going to go in reverse chronological order when posting, if that makes any sense.
So here's my first effort at "catching up".... Halloween. Bryn went as a princess (what else?) and Shay went as a giraffe. Ben made it back from a work trip to Cincinnati just in time to trick or treat around the neighborhood with us. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

Shay was largely mystified as to why we put her in this silly costume that had a hood that kept covering up her face, but she loved carrying around her pumpkin, and she even enjoyed teething on some (still wrapped) candy. Love this shot of Daddy and his girl.

Here are the girls just before we set out for trick-or-treating. Our neighborhood had a party at the clubhouse, where many neighbors gathered to enjoy hot dogs, juice, and other snacky items before setting out on the rounds. Bryn was especially entranced with the large blow-up pumpkin on the front lawn. "Mommy, is a BIG punkin!" Here you can see Shay the giraffe, enjoying a snack of Cheerios while in her stroller, and the very excited Brynderella.

More updates to come!