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Friday, December 30, 2011

Number Four

To follow up on the bombshell that we announced in the last paragraph of our Christmas letter: Yes, we are having Baby #4.  I'm due on June 21, which puts me at 15 weeks right now.

There are so many things that just amaze me about this baby already.  This baby is completely and absolutely a gift from God.  I'm going to be very real and honest here to explain why I'm so surprised and happy about this baby and what a huge blessing he/she is.

People have asked me if this baby was "planned."  I guess I probably have to say that the answer is "no."  As those of you close to me know, I have miscarried three times: twice between Bryn and Shay and once between Shay and Liam.  Ever since that first miscarriage, I have really been challenged to accept my children on God's time, not my own. 

Obviously, we wanted another child before we got Shay.  She was actually conceived only a month after my second miscarriage, and I had a very hard time being excited about her pregnancy until I was well into the second trimester because I was both afraid that something would happen with her and still grieving over the last lost baby.  After the second miscarriage, I had made an appointment with a fertility specialist to research why I might be miscarrying.  When I showed up for that appointment, I found out that I was pregnant with Shay.  That wonderful doctor was able to monitor me closely throughout the first trimester and help me sustain that pregnancy.  And thus, we got our sweet Shay.

The next time around, I miscarried about two months into my school year.  I was teaching high school English.  That was a very dark time for me.  I had a lot of angst about not being able to spend time with my girls because of my teaching load, and I wondered if I could have even justified another baby if I wasn't going to be around.  I wasn't very happy in that job, but it was a huge financial blessing to our family and allowed us to pay off all our debts.  By the second semester of that school year, I was so anxious for another baby that we again sought the help of the fertility specialist.  I went through six months of fertility treatments but was not able to conceive.  However, I did feel terribly sick for those entire six months.  With a month and a half left in the school year, I learned that my position was not going to be renewed for the coming year, and the rest of the year was a terrible struggle for me after that.  Without my job, we could not afford to continue fertility treatments, so not only did losing that job cause me to cast all kinds of doubts on my professional capabilities, but I also had to let go of the dream of having a third child.  In another complete miracle, Liam was conceived on my first cycle off the fertility treatments, and again thanks to the wonderful fertility doctors, I was able to sustain his pregnancy.

Honestly, I pretty much thought that was the end of the road for us.  While we really wanted a fourth child, I was terrified of facing another miscarriage.  Financially, we knew that fertility treatments were not an option, and they hadn't been successful for me anyway.  Each successive pregnancy has been harder and harder on my body, culminating in terrible vaginal varicose veins that left me largely unable to get around at all during my entire third trimester with Liam.  Once a woman gets varicose veins in a pregnancy, it's guaranteed that they will come back in successive pregnancies, usually significantly sooner.  So while we wanted a fourth child, it didn't seem like that would probably happen.

As Liam got older, I thought a lot about how I wanted a fourth child and eventually got to the point where I said that we would do that "someday."  But I was still completely shocked to realize that I was pregnant this time around.  Shocked and terrified.  I didn't even have a local OB after our move.  Since I was only able to sustain Shay and Liam through the assistance of a fertility specialist, I was terrified that I would lose this baby.  I called around to the OBs in Lafayette, and even after I begged and explained the situation, the soonest that any of them could see me was four weeks away.  If this pregnancy went the way of my second and third miscarriages, I wouldn't still be pregnant in four weeks.  I didn't know what to do.

So I called my old fertility specialist and drove down to Indianapolis for an emergency visit.  They did an ultrasound and reassured me that everything looked good.  They gave me prometrium (progesterone supplements) as a precaution as well.  Even with their help, though, I had the huge worry of my thyroid to contend with.

I have severe thyroid problems since before Ben and I were married, and while they are not the sole cause, they are a definite contributing factor to my miscarriages.  I started with subclinical hypothyroidism, and as my thyroid slowly dies inside me (wish it would just hurry up and finish the process!), I now swing from hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism.  I have to have my levels checked every six weeks, and I end up with an adjustment in prescription almost every six weeks as well.  My condition is such a mess that it's almost impossible to keep me regulated; rather, we just have to play "catch up" with the results of each new blood test.  I see a wonderful endocrinologist who is very proactive with my case and I trust and respect completely.  All of that being said, the month that started this pregnancy was the worst I've had thyroid-wise in years, maybe ever.  With our move and change in insurance, I admit that I had been pretty negligent about keeping up on my regular blood tests. I saw the endocrinologist two days before I found out I was pregnant, and my most recent TSH levels were basically off the charts.  I had gained a huge amount of weight (almost 30 pounds) from my thyroid spiralling out of control, and my doctor worried that I might start experiencing body tremors or heart palpitations.   She adjusted my medication accordingly, but obviously that would take some time to take full effect.  To say the least, not the ideal time to find out that I was pregnant.

Against all odds, though, I have managed to sustain this pregnancy.  In fact, assuming that everything else goes well, the gap between Liam and this child will be the only one that does not contain at least one miscarriage.  Assuming that this child continues to stay put until the appropriate time, this pregnancy will tip the balance and I will finally be able to say that I have had more successful pregnancies than miscarriages.

The doctors say that I am now out of the "danger zone" and that there is no longer any reason to worry about losing this baby.  In a mere 5 weeks, we'll have the "big" ultrasound and hopefully find out the gender.  I am so, so thankful for all of the miracles I've seen in the past 15 weeks.  My track record is none too good, and especially considering my out-of-control thyroid and lack of a local doctor.... Well, clearly this baby and all the circumstances surrounding it are straight from God!

Another couple "funnies" (it's definitely time to lighten the mood of this post!!) to demonstrate that this baby is definitely on God's timing, not our own....  For one, my due date is a mere two weeks before my sister's wedding... in which I am the maid of honor.  Since all of my kids thus far have had to be induced (apparently I make such a nice comfy home for them that they don't ever want to come out!), I'm pretty much assuming that I will basically have to check out of the hospital with this baby and then drive directly to Peoria for the ceremony!

Secondly, as I said, my due date is June 21.  Pause for just a moment to consider that we now live and work at a summer camp.  June is pretty much the absolute worst time possible to have a baby!  Everyone we know locally will be in their busiest time of the year, and we don't anticipate much slowing down on account of this baby!

So as I said, God is good!  This baby is clearly on His timing, not ours.  I could not be more thrilled about this child and just know that God has great things in store for him/her!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” –Joshua 24:15
 Dear family and friends--                                                                                                                                                   
 Season’s greetings to all!  2011 has been a year of change for the Meyaard-Pfanschmidt family.  Our first and biggest change of the year came to fruition in April, when Ben left his job in corporate finance at Ingersoll-Rand to accept a brand-new position as the Director of Camper Support at Camp Tecumseh YMCA.  In this position, Ben is in charge of fundraising for camperships to enable kids of all different financial backgrounds to enjoy the Camp T experience, which focuses on personal growth, a love of the outdoors, and personal relationships with Jesus Christ. 

 With the change in jobs came a big move for our family, from the Indianapolis suburbs to the rural setting of Delphi, Indiana. We were incredibly blessed to have a wonderful crew of friends to help pack us up in Brownsburg, and we were greeted by the Tecumseh staff for unloading help in Delphi.  After years of living in suburban neighborhoods, our front yard/cornfield seemed HUGE, and the kids settled in to our “log house” and new adventures quickly!

our "log house"

the view from our front porch

forging a new path

Amy and the kids spent most of May traveling back and forth between Indy and Delphi, finishing up all of our activities, while Ben learned the ropes of his new job.  The girls finished up the year at St. Andrew’s Preschool (Bryn’s third there), performed in their dance recital, and got to have plenty of “last” trips to the Children’s Museum and the Indianapolis Zoo with friends.
 June brought summer camp and all of the craziness that goes with it!  Amy attended Camp Tecumseh as a camper and Ben and Amy both worked there as counselors, so we both knew what to expect, but our kids were blown away by the fun of it all!  They became best friends with all the counselors and spent the entire summer eating in the dining hall, singing at chapel, going on trailrides, playing at the lake, swimming in the pools, hiking in the woods, exploring camp’s playgrounds, and attending campfires.  We also managed to work in a trip to Peoria for a family wedding and a trip to Grand Rapids to see Ben’s parents’ new lake house and to meet our first niece, Elizabeth (daughter of Jill and Jim King).  Most importantly, the entire past year has given us daily lessons on trusting in God and knowing that His plan for us is infinitely better than our own.

our camp kids

fearless Shay

Liam explores Main Field


And now an update on each family member:
Bryn, age 6, started full-day kindergarten this fall at Camden Early Childhood Center, the local county kindergarten.  She loves every last bit of it: the bus ride, her teacher, her classmates, lunchtime, recess, and the academics, especially learning to read.  Her favorite stories are the Magic Treehouse series, which she especially likes to listen to on CD.  Bryn also had the opportunity to appear in her first two dramatic productions this year: as a squirrel in “Doo Wop Red Riding Hood” through the Delphi Public Library this summer, then as a young customer in Delphi High School’s “Parfumerie” this November.  She has also kept plenty busy with dance and gymnastics lessons.  The best week of her summer was when she got to be a camper at Tecumseh Day Camp!

Shaylee, age 4, is still full of energy and spunk (some might call it sass….).  She has enjoyed her classes at Sonshine Preschool in West Lafayette this fall, especially loving the crafts and music.  However, the 35-minute drive each way has gotten to be too much for us, so Shay will be learning at home with Mommy next semester, then enrolling in a local preschool next fall.  In the interim, Shay made her dramatic debut in Delphi High’s “Parfumerie” this fall, and she also enjoyed dance and gymnastics lessons.  Her favorite activity by far, though, is playing at camp—she loves taking every opportunity to eat in the dining hall, climb on Fort Discovery, and play with the animals in the mini-farm.

Liam, now 21 months, has developed into quite a friendly, energetic, active, talkative little man.  We think that growing up as “camp kid” is definitely going to make him fearless!  Already, he loves splashing around in the pool (and putting his face in, which neither of his big sisters will do!), monkeying around on the furniture, and achieving daring feats on the playground.  He’s also experiencing quite the language explosion, learning multiple new words every day, with his favorite tricks being animal noises, counting from 1 to 10 (though not always in the right order!), and repeating everything his big sisters say.  Liam has also developed some “favorites” of his own, including trains, Mickey Mouse, dinosaurs, cars, Diego, and animals—all welcome additions to our previously all-princess toy collection!   Liam eats non-stop and loves cuddling up with Mommy for a good board book.

Amy has just finished up her third semester in the IUPUI Masters of Library Science program.  She has loved taking advantage of this opportunity to read as much as possible!  She has also done a good bit of writing over the past year, and this fall, she published a book entitled God Can!, a collaboration with her dad and his pastor.  She occasionally works weekends at camp’s Leadership Center and has gotten active in the local community.  She co-directed Delphi High School’s production of “Parfumerie” this fall and will be coaching their Academic Superbowl team this spring.  Amy was also thrilled with the expansion of her extended family this year: her brother Brian married a lovely woman named Lakshmi this October, and her sister Kristin got engaged to a wonderful Brian of her own.


Ben continues to enjoy his new job and just got back from a YMCA fundraising conference in the Catskills.  He especially enjoys camp’s disc golf course and hiking trails, and has already converted several other camp staff to his love of complicated board games.  He loves living on camp grounds, with less than a three-mile trip from home to office every day, and has occasionally even been known to canoe to work.  His job will take him on the road a lot in the coming year, so don’t be surprised if you get an invite from him for coffee or lunch!


Our family’s next big change will come at the end of June 2012, when (drumroll, please!) we welcome MeyPfan Baby #4 into the world!  We couldn’t be more excited about adding to our sweet family, and we look forward to all of the adventures that the future holds!                                                                       

Blessings to you and yours—
Amy, Ben, Bryn, Shay, and Liam

Friday, October 07, 2011

God Can!


Many of you have asked about the book that I recently published in conjunction with my dad, David Pfanschmidt, and his pastor, Calvin Rychener.  It's called God Can! and contains nine stories of people whose lives have been radically changed by God.

The project began about 19 months ago, when my dad and Cal were having a conversation about how attendance at their church (Northwoods Community Church in Peoria, Illinois) was overflowing at Christmastime, yet declined again in the New Year.  My dad suggested that Cal put together a book of the letters that he receives regularly from people whose lives have been changed by the church, then hand those books out to visitors.  And Cal said, "I've got a better idea!"

Cal wanted to put together a book about people who had stepped out in faith and experienced amazing consequences.  It took the idea of letters and expanded it; the book's chapters would not just be about one experience or the effect of one sermon, but rather a window into real people's real lives, and the very real power of a real God.

A similar approach was used by Jud Wilhite, pastor of Central Church in Las Vegas, for his book Stripped (alternately titled Uncensored Grace).  But Cal wanted this book to go deeper, to look at the long-lasting effects and life change that come from a relationship with God.

So Cal identified nine stories in from Northwoods Community Church that he wanted to tell.  Some were from individuals; some were from couples.  Then my dad sent out to interview those people, to hear their stories straight from their own mouths.

That's when I got involved in the project.  My dad and I were talking one day, and he said, "You know, I love doing the interviewing, getting people to open up and tell their stories.  But I really don't enjoy the writing at all."  Thinking back to my original college major of journalism, I said, "That's funny.  I always loved the writing part of journalism, but I'd never want to actually be a journalist because I don't like the interviewing."  "Hmm...." said Dad, and thus our collaboration was born.

To create the book, my dad interviewed the nine people/couples whose stories make up most of the book.  He then sent me transcripts of their interviews, and I went to work writing.  I chose to use many direct quotes, allowing the people to speak for themselves.  But often they hadn't told their stories in chronological order during the interviews, responding instead to specific questions that my dad asked.  So even when I used direct quotes, I often had to rearrange the order, cutting some parts and emphasizing others.  I wove their stories together as a whole, including commentary on the lessons that Cal wanted readers to learn from each.  Often this involved going back to the sources with more questions for clarification, or consulting secondary documents such as newspaper articles, blogs, or cds.

After each chapter was written, my dad, Cal, and the subject of the chapter read it over and noted any changes they thought should be made, and then I went back and cleaned it up.  Meanwhile, Cal wrote an introductory chapter, explaining the goal of the book.  He also wrote an introduction and conclusion to each chapter, emphasizing what he hoped readers would get out of each.  My dad wrote a forward and conclusion to the book, and I reworked one of Cal's old sermons to turn into the final chapter.

Then we began the painstaking process of editing.  Each of us went over the entire book again, and we each selected two editors from among our personal acquaintances.  This left us with nine versions of the edits, which my dad then compiled and applied to the master version of the text.

Then, finally, publication!  We had a pre-release party for the "chapter people" in Peoria on September 15, and we then released the book to the public at Northwoods' four services on the weekend of September 16-17.  Copies are now available at the Northwoods resource center and Peoria's Berean Bookstore.  In coming weeks, it will also be available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

If you'd like a copy now and don't live near the Peoria area, you can get one directly from the publisher by sending a check for $13.00 to:

Inspire Publishing
10518 N. Manchester Dr.
Peoria, IL 61615

If you order directly from the publisher, you will save the shipping cost of what Barnes and Noble and Amazon will eventually charge.

I hope you enjoy these amazing, heartfelt stories about what God has done in the lives of members of Northwoods.... and can do in the lives of anyone who follows Him.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Call (Part 2)

A few weeks after that brief conversation with Dave at the end of visit to camp, Ben and I drove up to Lafayette to meet Dave for dinner and discuss what all of us had on our hearts. As Ben and I made the drive, we were still completely uncertain about what the conversation might hold. We still felt God calling us to camp, but we had no idea what form that might take. As we drove, we brainstormed what either of us could possibly offer professionally to camp... and didn't come up with much. In spite of our years as counselors, we're rather lacking in "outdoor skills," and as far as we knew, there were no open positions at camp.


We had a really great conversation with Dave that night, during which he shared with us that he and camp's Board of Directors were contemplating adding a new position for a "Director of Camper Support." The person who filled this position would be in charge of fundraising for camperships, to enable kids who would not otherwise be able to afford it to attend camp. He said that he had been praying over the position for quite some time, and God had really put Ben on his heart as a good fit for the job.


Wow.... we were completely blown away. At the same time that God had been preparing our hearts to accept a role at camp, He had been working on the hearts of Dave and the Board to create just the right position. Truly God's plans for us are infinitely better than our plans for ourselves.


No decisions were made that night. The position didn't yet exist at camp, and there was a long process ahead of getting both the position and a budget for it approved. And of course, once the position was created, there was always the possibility that other people would apply for it, and maybe one of those people would be more qualified than Ben. For the time being, we all agreed to pray over the new position, to pray that if it was God's will for Ben to take the position and for our family to move to camp, that He would just keep opening the doors ahead of us.


And as the subsequent months passed, those prayers were answered. Every door opened ahead of us and every obstacle was conquered before it even became a serious concern. The call was clear.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Call (Part 1)

I've been off the blog for several months now, and our family has experienced some huge changes in the interim. Liam has turned 1. Shay has finished her first year of preschool. Bryn has "graduated" from preschool. I've wrapped up another semester of grad school, finished writing the bulk of the book that I'm doing with my dad and his pastor, and packed up my entire house. Ben has quit his job in corporate America and started a new career in fundraising. And our entire family has moved, from the suburbs of Indianapolis to the adventures awaiting us in the countryside surrounding Camp Tecumseh.

All of these things have their own stories, which I hope to catch up on in the coming days and weeks, now that the craziness of all our transitions is starting to slow a bit and allow me a little time to write. But to start, I need to begin at the beginning....

Truth be told, I'm not really sure where the "beginning" of this adventure is. Does the story of our move to camp begin when I was 11 years old and checked in at the Trading Post for my very first week at Camp Tecumseh? Or in the summer of 1999, when I had "the experience of the century" with my first summer as a counselor? Or does our collective story start in the summer of 2001, my third summer as a counselor, my first summer dating Ben, when he came to camp for the very first time, to visit me on a night off, and I couldn't wait to show him around the place I loved so much?

He started working weekends with me that fall, and we both worked as counselors in the summer of 2002. We volunteered for a week in the summer of 2003 before heading off on on our epic cross-country roadtrip. Since then, we've taken as many opportunities as possible to stay close to camp. I've brought school groups on retreats here. We've visited for reunions, bringing our kids. And all the while, our hearts have longed for something more.

Which brings me to one year ago. Exactly one year ago this weekend, we came to Family Camp. You can revisit my posts about it here and here. In those posts, I talked about what an amazing time we had, how much my kids loved camp already, how much I loved the effect that camp had on my girls. What I neglected to mention was that I cried all the way home.

I can't really explain the overwhelming feeling that took root in my gut that day. All I know is that it felt like a terrible separation, a physical tearing when it came time to leave camp that night. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were supposed to be at camp permanently, not just for a visit, but to let it shape the direction of our lives. I say this was a feeling in "my gut" because I can't really speak for how it felt to Ben, but I know that he felt it too. We both kind of had the sense of having been hit by a lightning bolt, of our direction and our purpose shifting.

It didn't make any sense. Liam was only 2 months old. Ben had just started a new position in his company, a position with more responsibilities and more pay. We had a beautiful 5-bedroom house in the suburbs. We loved our church, our friends, our lives. And I think that's why I cried all the way home that night, because I was just so overwhelmed by the feeling of what I knew God was calling us to--change so big and so improbable, when life right where we were was already so good.

Back in Indianapolis, Ben and I started talking an ongoing conversation about what we should do. We both heard God calling us to camp. We just had no idea how He could possibly want to use us. At that time, we actually thought that the call was for me. After all, I was the one without a job. I had more experience working at camp. We figured that, in theory, Ben could keep his lucrative corporate job and commute back and forth from camp if necessary. We began journaling back and forth to each other about the possibilities.

But of course, God's ways are not our ways.

As Ben and I prayed over the matter, we got a strong sense that whatever God had in mind for us would come before the next summer. I looked around at my Indianapolis friends, at our daily outings to the Children's Museum, the park, the zoo, and got a lump in my throat, wondering if I could give up the life that I knew and loved, even for another one that would be so good.

In mid-July, we came up to camp again. I spent the whole day at camp, volunteering at a special event for the anniversary of YMCA camping. Ben and the kids came up for a campfire at night. We had done a lot of praying before coming up that day, unsure what the day would hold, but we both had a nervous sense that whatever the future held, the next piece might fall into place that day.

Nothing happened for most of the day. Nothing, in fact, until we were loading our kids up in the van after the campfire and preparing to return to Indy. And then, just as we were about to leave, the executive director (Dave) drove by, saw us, and stopped to say hello. He gave us both big hugs and greeted us warmly. He and Ben chatted for a few minutes while I stood with the kids. Ben asked if we could get together to talk in the coming weeks, as we had something on our hearts that we'd really like to discuss.

Dave's response? "That's interesting. There's something I'd really like to discuss with you too..."

And that, I think, is the beginning of the story of God's call for our family and our subsequent move to camp. More to follow. For now, we have a campfire to attend.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rebounding

Many of you have heard me mention my frequent headaches before. A little over two weeks ago, I went to the neurologist for my six-month check on my migraines. While my migraines have gotten significantly better since he started me on Topamax as a preventative six months ago, I've still been suffering from nagging daily headaches, which I really didn't think should be the case if I was taking a headache preventative twice a day.

When I mentioned this to him, he was like, "What do you mean by daily?" Um, exactly what I said. Daily. "So how many times a week would you say you have to take medication for 'daily' headaches?" Um, again, daily.

So it turns out that's not normal. Which probably any of you could have told me.

After looking into my medical history further and testing some things, my neurologist (who I am really coming to love, because he's actually Fixing Things) determined that I am suffering from rebound headaches, most likely as a result of all the painkillers I had to take during my pregnancy with Liam.

So what is a rebound headache? Well, it really, really sucks. For more information, you can visit this very helpful website. The gist of it is that your body gets so used to having painkillers that it forms kind of an addiction. So you wake up feeling fine, but after a few hours, your body is like, "Hey, where are my painkillers?!" and develops a beast of a headache until you give in and take the painkillers that its craving. Every single day. And the kicker is that those painkillers then become utterly inefficient. Down the road, people can end up taking like 12 Advil a day and still having headaches, and even devloping chronic migraines, which means migraines 15 or more days a month, with medication utterly unable to touch them. So obviously, this is something you want to nip in the bud.

The problem, of course, is that there's really no way to get over it except to just quit cold turkey and not take painkillers anymore. Which means that I have had a helluva headache every day for the past two weeks. Thus my absence from the blog, as my head has been kind of pounding out of my skull after doing my reading for school and I haven't wanted any more reading/writing than strictly necessary.

The bad news is that I did a lot of whimpering that first week. The good news is that I think I'm over the hump and am feeling much better. The headaches did go into one medication-necessitating migraine last week, but they were manageable the rest of the time.

On the migraine front, I had heard so many good things about magnesium as a preventative that I had been hoping to switch to that instead of Topamax, but the neurologist says that magnesium alone basically won't do anything for someone suffering from rebound headaches. But he agreed that it's very helpful as a supplement and added a low dose of that to my regime. As I said, I've been feeling a lot better, although it's too soon to really say if that's due to the mag or just because I'm starting to shake the rebound headaches.

Anyway, it's nice to actually be seeing some progress health-wise. I'm hoping the good news holds for the next few days, as we've got major snowstorms moving in and storms of any kind are usually a migraine trigger for me. I guess this will be my chance to see if the magnesium works, right? Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reference Pathfinder

Yes, I'm still here....

The past few weeks (ahem , months...) have held a lot of craziness for the MeyPfan family, some of which will be chronicled in due time.

And thus I present the final product (or at least one of them) of my first semester as a student in the graduate school of Library and Information Science. For one of my classes, we were assigned to create a pathfinder, which is essentially a compilation of resources on one topic that we have evaluated and think would be helpful to patrons seeking further information in that area. We could choose any topic we wanted. Since I was in the thick of deciding whether to keep pumping for Liam or switch to formula, and then starting on solid foods (all of which we've done homemade), I decided to kill two birds with one stone and do my project on "infant feeding," with subtopics in "breastfeeding," "formula-feeding," and "introducing solid foods." I actually learned tons of great information (some of which I really wished I had known for my first two kiddos) and enjoyed the project... or at least as much as one can enjoy pulling together a high-stress final project in the last week of the semester while sick with a raging sinus infection. ;-)

If you'd like to view the fruits of my labor, you can do so at http://infantfeeding.wordpress.com.