Monday, January 30, 2012

Grateful for a Good Doctor

Today I drove down to Indianapolis to see my old neurologist.  I actually saw a new neurologist one time since moving to Lafayette, but suffice it to say that I didn't really "click" with him.  My migraines have escalated intensely during this pregnancy.  In fact, I have had a migraine every single day for the past 19 week.  I think this is what we call "a problem."

It's not really entirely shocking that I've been struggling with migraines during this pregnancy.  I very first started getting migraines when I was pregnant with Bryn, and they've pretty much plagued me ever since, although they do tend to be worst during pregnancy.  During normal life, I have to take Topomax as a migraine preventative, and even then, I still tend to get at least one bad headache a week.  So it's perhaps not surprising that with no preventative and my hormones raging out of control during pregnancy, I'm likely to get them really bad.

I know a lot of people that get migraines and have no idea why.  I, on the other hand, know exactly why I get them:
1. They are genetic.  My sister, several of my uncles, and my grandmother all had/have them.
2. They are caused by changes in hormone levels.  Thanks to the past nearly 7 years that I have spent either pregnant, breastfeeding, or miscarrying, I've had wayyyy more hormonal shifts than most.
3. They are related to my thyroid.  Of course, taking care of my thyroid is an epic in and of itself, which involves blood tests every four weeks and shifts in my medication nearly that often.
4. They can be triggered by changes in the weather.  Winter tends to be an especially rough time for this for me.

I have a lot of friends whose migraines have been greatly helped by seeing a chiropractor or making dietary changes.  There also some fascinating books on this subject.  However, since genetics, pregnancy, thyroids, and weather are not affected by chiropractors or diets, those things do not tend to help me.  I did see a chiropractor back in Indy for about two years, and while I enjoyed the back adjustments, it didn't do a thing for my headaches.  While I admit that I haven't explored every dietary option out there, I've tried a few, and none have helped.  (Plus I have so many food aversions during pregnancy anyway that eliminating even more stuff might leave me on a water-only diet!)  I talked to my neurologist about these options today, and he, too, pointed out since my migraines have traceable causes that aren't in any way related to those more organic cures, they're not likely to help me.  Darn!!

At any rate, the neurologist that I saw here in Lafayette didn't do a darn thing for me.  Since then, I've been relying on my OBs to control my migraines.... which, it seems, was a very bad strategy.  Several months ago, they put me on Fiorecet for my migraines.  While this medication usually does eventually knock the headache out, it usually takes 2 or 3 doses.  So I'm thinking.... hmm.... I'm taking 2 or 3 doses of migraine medicine every single day, and this has been going on for several weeks.  Surely this isn't good for me or the baby.

I raised this concern with my OB at my 12-week appointment.  He reassured me that never fear, my migraines would go away in the second trimester, so I wouldn't have to keep taking multiple doses of migraine medication on a daily basis for much longer.  I pointed out to him that while I am aware that migraines do, in fact, go away for many women in their second trimesters, I kind of doubted that they would for me, since 1) I suffer from chronic migraines even when I'm not pregnant and 2) the migraines had not gone away in the later trimesters of any of my other pregnancies.  He pretty much blew off my concerns and told me I'd be fine.  (Yet another reason that this OB sucks and I will be starting to see a new one next week.  Another post on that at a later time.)

Four more weeks passed, during which I continued to have to take multiple doses of Fiorecet every single freaking day.  At my 16-week appointment (which was with a different doctor in the same practice), I again expressed concern about what taking so much medication would do to both me and the baby.  The doctor (the same one that freaked out when she couldn't find the heartbeat) assured me that Fiorecet is perfectly safe for pregnancy.  Yes, I asked, but even in these quantities?  She again said it was not a problem and that this was all we could do.  When I again explained the whole chronic migraine / usually take Topomax thing, she finally conceded to put me on Procardia as a preventative.  This drug is usually used to stop pre-term labor (in much larger quantities than what I'm taking), but she said that it could be a headache preventative as well because it opens up the blood flow.  Okay, I figured, I'll give it a try.

Three more weeks passed, with absolutely no lessening of the headaches.  So I'm thinking: okay, now I'm taking both a preventative that doesn't work AND two to three migraine pills a day.  This can't be good for anyone (except possibly the pharmaceutical companies).  Since it had become glaringly obvious that my OBs weren't concerned and weren't going to do anything to help, I made an appointment with my old neurologist in Indy.... which brings me back to today.

I just need to say that today was the absolute best medical care that I have received in the past 10 months.  My neurologist actually KNEW MY MEDICAL HISTORY BEFORE COMING INTO THE EXAM ROOM.  (Unlike my ridiculous OBs, who I'm relatively certain have never so much as once peeked at my charts.)  And once he came in, he actually LISTENED TO WHAT I HAD TO SAY.  Personally, I think that these should be basic prerequisites for all doctors, but sadly, in my experience, that is not the case.

Anyway, after hearing about everything I've been through in the past few months, my neurologist was appalled and basically said that my OBs have no clue what they are doing (at least as far as headaches are concerned).  For one, he said, while Fiorecet can be effective in women that get migraines infrequently, or even just during pregnancy, it's pretty much an epic fail when it comes to chronic migraine sufferers... which I am, and my doctors should have known from both my charts and what I was telling them.

Secondly, a bit of background.  When I first when to see this neurologist, nearly two years ago, it was because I was suffering from massive rebound headahces (which I explain more here).  Well, lately I've been thinking--hmm, if I'm taking 2-3 migraine pills every single day, isn't that going to lead to massive rebounding when these migraines eventually stop?  Yes, says my neurologist.  Particularly because, he says, Fiorecet is pretty much the #1 drug to cause rebound headaches.  In fact, he said, it's likely that while it feels like it, I'm probably not actually having a migraine every single day right now.  Probably some days it's a migraine, and other days it's a rebound headache, because with that much Fiorecet, the rebounds have probably kicked in already.  He says that the OBs should have known from my medical record that I have suffered rebound headaches before and therefore should never, ever have prescribed me a drug that is likely to cause them.  Awesome.  Great.  Thanks, sucky OBs.

The solution: stop taking Fiorecet immediately.  Then he prescribed me with an actual migraine preventative that is safe during pregnancy.  He said that it might take a week or two to take total effect, so in the meantime, if I suffer any migraines (or rebound headaches), there are other things I can take.  He wrote me another prescription for a medication that he says is very effective but is likely to make me sleepy (so only to take it at night), and other one that is slightly less effective than that one (but wayyyy better than Fiorecet) which I can take during the day.  (Unfortunately, I don't remember the names of any of these medications right now, as the scips are at the pharmacy getting filled.)

He then reassured me that I am NOT a freak and that my condition is totally normal, although definitely heightened from what other people usually experience thanks to the mis-medication of my OBs.  He said that plenty of migraine sufferers go through things like this during pregnancy (although again, usually with better doctors) and that it is totally handle-able.

Hallelujah.  I love this doctor.  Fingers crossed for feeling better in the next few weeks and actually being able to enjoy the second half of this pregnancy!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

What Happens at 18 Weeks

Last Wednesday (when I was 17 weeks and 6 days pregnant), my Bible study group met for the first time this semester.  We had some new members, so we all went around and introduced ourselves.  One of the questions we were supposed to answer was regarding our current "pet peeve."  In response to this, I said that while I was nearly 18 weeks pregnant and none of my clothes fit anymore, I still didn't "look pregnant."  Sure, it's obvious that I've been putting on weight, but it kind of just looked like I was getting chunky, with no clear evidence of a baby under there.  (To soothe my own feelings, I should point out that I've actually only gained 2-3 pounds, but everything has redistributed.)

So that was last Wednesday.  On last Friday (18 weeks and 1 days pregnant), I was packing up for our family to go to Indianapolis for the weekend.  (The girls and I had tickets to Disney on Ice, and in deference to my varicose veins, we had decided to spend the entire weekend with our friends Rob and Andrea, in order to give me as much time to recover from the journey before driving back.)  I've been in mostly maternity clothes and the roomier side of my regular wardrobe for a while, but on that particular Friday, nothing that I tried on seemed to fit.  My belly just seemed to be in the way of everything.

Hmm, I mused--18 weeks must be when this baby decided to "pop."  Hello, baby bump.

Sure enough, when we got to Indy, Andrea looked at me and said, "Oh, now I can see the baby!  Hello, little guy!"

By Sunday (18 weeks and 3 days pregnant), Andrea said, "I'm not sure how this is possible, but you looked signifiantly more pregnant on Saturday than on Friday, and even more so today."  Pop pop pop.

I realize that claims like this need a picture as proof.  I actually don't think that it's quite as pronounced this week as last week.... since after returning from Indy, I came down with a yucky flu and lost 3 pounds (all that I had gained) in less than 24 hours.  Ewww.  At any rate, here's the current state of the belly:

(This was taken today--19 weeks and 1 day.)

In addition to belly growth, our little guy has also been making himself known in another way this week.  When I was at my 16 week check-up, the doctor asked if I had felt the baby moving at all.  At that time, the answer was no.  Ever since then, "can you feel him moving?" seems to be the question everyone asks.  And sure enough, this week, he has simply erupted.  It's like as soon as we hit 18 weeks, I can feel him every time I lie down or sit still.  He's an active little guy.  I had Ben try to feel it one night, and I was actually really surprised that he couldn't feel anything from the outside yet, since the kicks are so strong and constant on the inside!

So there you go.... apparently 18 weeks is the magic week for this baby!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book #3 of 2012: The Fault in Our Stars

My friends, you have heard me raphsodize before about the wonders of John Green.  And it's true, every single one of his books is downright freaking amazing.  His newest, The Fault in Our Stars, just came out this month, and it both lived up to and surpassed my expectations.  In fact, if you're looking for a good book, stop reading my blog right now and run directly out to your nearest library or bookstore and get a copy.

If you're looking for a little more information first, here you go:
Hazel Grace Lancaster, age 16, was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.  She has never been anything but terminal, but thanks to a wonder drug, she is currently stable.  In an effort to cure her "depression," her well-meaning parents force her to go to a Support Group, which is pretty awful, aside from the fact that she eventually meets 17-year-old Augustus Waters there.  Augustus had a bout with cancer himself a few years back and lost one of his legs, but he's in remission and only attends the Support Group as a favor to he and Hazel's mutual friend Isaac, who is about to have his cancerous eyes removed, resulting in blindness.

Let me pause right there.  Yes, this is a book about kids with cancer.  But it is not a "cancer book."  It's an amazing story about contemplating what really matters in this life.  Yes, it is sad.  I will admit that every time I read more than a single paragraph, I bawled like a baby (particularly in the second half of the book--but I blame that largely on the pregnancy hormones...).  But there were also plenty of passages that made me literally laugh out loud with their hilarity.  This is one of the many things I love about John Green: he can both reduce me to tears and make me snort with laughter, all inside 10 pages.

Hazel shares her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, with Augustus, and the two of them embark on a mission to contact its reclusive author in an effort to find out what happens to the characters after the story's abrupt end.  And I really can't say more than that without ruining this fantastic story.

A note on the origin of the title: at one point, Augustus writes to that reclusive author about his relationship with Hazel, and this is part of the response that he receives:

"Were she better or you sicker, then the stars would not be so terribly crossed, but it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.'  Easy enough to say when you're a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars."

For all my Indy friends, you might also appreciate that this book is set in Indianapolis, and basically every landmark is totally distinguishable, right on down to a gas station at 86th and Ditch.

In short, go. Go get this book now and read it immediately.  And if you like this one (or if all the copies are checked out at your local library), pick up one of John Green's other books as well (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, or Paper Towns, or Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which he co-wrote with David Levithan).  I love, love, love them all.  Not to be impatient or anything, but when is his next one coming out??

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Evening the Odds

Every time I have gotten to about this stage of pregnancy, people have started asking: "So are you going to find out?"  Meaning the sex of the baby, of course.  I have many friends who have elected to wait and be surprised on delivery day, but in the MeyPfan family, the answer is unequivically YES, we want to know.  In fact, when Ben and I went in for my 20-week ultrasound with Bryn and the ultrasound tech asked me if we wanted to check for the gender, I answered, "Let's put it this way: we are not leaving this office until we know!"  Perhaps not my least-cranky pregnant-lady moment.  But you get the idea.

So of course, we have been anxious to know the sex of this baby.  As I mentioned before, Ben has been absolutely convinced (or perhaps just really, really hoping) that this baby is a boy--so much that he has refused to even discuss girl names.  My gut instinct (which was correct with Liam and Shay, but wrong with Bryn) has also been telling me "boy."  But of course, the suspense remains.

My OB's office does The Big Ultrasound no earlier than 20 weeks.  So even though I have done it at 18 or 19 weeks before, and I have friends that have done it far sooner, I have been resolved to wait patiently until 20 weeks.  I'm 17 1/2 weeks right now, as a reference point.

So when I went in for my 16 week appointment, I knew that there wouldn't be anything too exciting happening.  I figured just a basic check, a discussion of my daily migraines (that won't go away no matter what--arghh!), and I'd be out of there.

But then the doctor couldn't find the heartbeat.

This panicked my doctor WAY more than it panicked me.  (Note to elaborate upon in another post: it is never a good thing when your doctor panics.)  During my previous pregnancies, my doctors also had a hard time finding heartbeats for Bryn, Shay, and Liam... pretty much every time I visited.  This used to worry me, but eventually I got used to it.  Then an excellent ultrasound tech told me once that I have a retroverted uterus, which basically means that it's tipped slightly backwards instead of forwards, so my babies don't sit in quite the same position as other people's--thus why it's hard to find their heartbeats.  So I explained all of this to my doctor, and she seemed somewhat reassured (again, it's never good when the patient has to reassure the doctor--one of a myriad of reasons that I am currently investigating other OBs).

Then she asked me if I had felt the baby moving yet.  I had not.  She got all panicky again, and was like, "Welllll, 16 weeks IS the very earliest that you would feel it, but if you haven't felt it move yet, AND we can't find a heartbeat, we'd better do an ultrasound to make sure everything is okay."  Not the picture of the calm doctor I was hoping for.

So I headed into the ultrasound room, where the tech found the heartbeat in less than 30 seconds.  As I had tried to explain to the doctor, my uterus just sits in a little bit of a weird position, and of course when the tech can see that on the ultrasound, finding the heartbeat is no problem at all.  (I kind of felt like issuing a big "I told you so" to the doctor at this point, but I refrained.)

I really like the ultrasound tech at this office, so I said to her, "Look, I know 16 weeks is kind of early to be able to tell the sex of the baby, but I'd be kicking myself for the next 4 weeks if I didn't at least ask you if you could see anything."

She was totally agreeable and said, "Sure, I can look.  Of course, you do know that 16 weeks is sometimes a little early to be able to tell anything conclusive.... Oh wait.... Yeah, that's conclusive!"

Yeah, that's right, we're having a boy!

Ben was SO excited when I came home and told him.  (He was also very excited about the Chipotle burrito that I brought him to celebrate.)  The girls had mixed reactions.  Bryn, who had been rooting for a boy on the rationale that "I want three boys and three girls in our family" (that's including parents), was thrilled.  Shay, who was desperate for a baby sister, was less excited.  After thinking it over, she asked, "Well, can our next baby be a girl then?"

Oh, mercy.  I think 4 kids aged 6 and under is plenty, thanks.

Anyway, we are very excited about our new little addition.  This will work out perfectly, since Liam will be sharing a room with the baby.  Now I get to spend the next few months boy-ifying it!  (which I started yesterday with some blue paint)  Plus we are very excited to have our 2 little matched sets, 2 girls and then 2 boys, all 2 years apart.

So it looks like Ben was right; we did not need to discuss girl names after all.  :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book #2 of 2012: Pregnant Pause

My official second book of the year is Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan (who is a woman, although her name doesn't quite sound like it).  First off, disclaimer: this is not a book about being pregnant.  I did not read it because I am pregnant.  I read it because it was on the "new arrivals" shelf in the teen room at my local library a couple of months ago and it caught my eye.  Secondly, I LOVED this book.

Okay, so 16-year-old Eleanor Crowe is kind of a mess.  She's pregnant.  She got pregnant the very first time she ever had sex--but don't let that fool you; she's no saint otherwise.  In the almost three years she has been with her boyfriend Lam, he has convinced her to do all kinds of other not-so-great things, like drinking and using drugs and stealing her parents' car.  Elly's been in juvie twice.  So when she finally confesses to her parents that she's pregnant, they view it as just the latest in a long line of screw-ups.

To complicate matters, Eleanor's parents are missionaries, and when Elly reveals the news of her pregnancy (when she's 5+ months along), they're preparing to move from the States back to Kenya to work with AIDS orphans.  Once they're done yelling at her, they seize upon what they view as the logical solution: to give Elly's baby to her sister Sarah, who is 10 years older, married, and has been trying unsuccessfully for several years to have a baby of her own.  Of course, Elly has never done things the easy way.

Just to make her parents mad, Elly says that she's going to marry Lam.  To her surprise, her parents call her bluff.  They get together with his parents and agree that marriage would be a good thing (later, Elly realizes this is likely because they all knew that it was destined to fail, while hopefully straightening she and Lam out in the process).  Furthermore, since her parents are moving to Kenya and she and Lam have no money, no jobs, and no plans in life, his parents "generously" give them a cabin at the camp they own and operate.  Oh, except it's only one room (with no kitchen or bathroom or heating of any kind), and it's actually a fat camp (where kids are sent to lose weight), and Elly is not going to be paid at all for her summer of work with the campers.  So at age 16, Eleanor finds herself pregnant, married, living in a cabin in the middle of the woods, working with troubled kids (for which she receives no training whatsoever), and financially dependent on her in-laws, who make no secret of their hatred for her.  On the first day of their marriage, Lam leaves her home alone while he goes out to party with his friends... not to mention the fact that he also blows his entire savings account.  Both Elly's sister and Lam's parents are like these vultures that are circling around her, just waiting for her baby to come so they can adopt it (Lam's parents had a baby die in infancy and have been dreaming of another one since then).  No one, and I mean no one, is rooting for this girl, believing in her in any way, or even being nice to her.

Through her work with the kids at the camp and the relationships that she forms with some of the other counselors, Elly slowly comes to understand herself in a whole new way.  She questions her love for Lam and eventually comes to understand his destructive role in her life.  She is forced to deal with the tough issue of what to do with her baby, especially when the birth (which happens on the same day as a camp tragedy) brings some unwelcome surprises.

From the very first chapter of this book, I just wanted to jump into the pages and tell Eleanor, "I'm on your team!  I'm rooting for you!  I would help you if I could!"  She is an awesome character, so much more multi-dimensional and REAL than any I have read in a long time.  I was constantly frustrated on her behalf about how much everyone around her just SUCKED and constantly belittled her, telling her that because of her past mistakes, she was worth nothing in the present (and likely future).  She was incredibly strong and brave, as well as incredibly sarcastic (which I happen to love).

In short, READ THIS BOOK.  If you are a fan of Sarah Dessen (or if you only read adult books, Emily Giffin), I think you will love Han Nolan even more.  I definitely plan on reading the rest of her books as soon as I can!

The Joy of Books

Stole this from Katie over at Book Love.  It is AWESOME.  Like Toy Story, but with books.  What's not to love?!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Book #1 of 2012: Delirium

In 2011, I was foolish enough to try to review all 54 books that I read during the year in a single post.  The post itself took ages to write, and I found that I couldn't provide nearly as many details as I wanted when it was all bundled like that.  So it seems far more reasonable to post individually about each book that I read in 2012.

The first book I read this year (and just finished today) was Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  It was recommended to me by my fellow camp girl, English teacher, and book lover, Sarah.
The book is set sometime in the unspecified future and is my (current) favorite genre, young adult dystopian fiction.  The basic premise is that the feeling of "love" has been idenified as a dangerous disease, called amor deliria nervosa.  A passage that basically explains that idea:

"Things weren't always as good as they are now.  In school we learned that in the old days, the dark days, people didn't realize how deadly a disease love was.  For a long time they even viewed it as a good thing, something to be celebrated and pursued.  Of course that's one of the reasons it's so dangerous: It affects your mind so that you cannot think clearly, or make rational decisions about your own well-being. (That's sympton number twelve, listed in the am deliria nervosa section of the twelfth edition of The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook, or The Book of Shhh, as we call it.)  Instead people back then named other diseases--stress, heart disease, anxiety, depression, hypertension, insomnia, bipolar disorder--never realizing that these were, in fact, only symptoms that in the majority of cases could be traced back to the effects of amor deliria nervosa." (pages 2-3)

When people in this society turn 18, they have a "procedure" (brain surgery) which removes their desire and ability to love.  Around this same time, people also undergo "evaluations," in which they are interviewed by a panel of scientists to "learn about their personalities," although people have found that the more generalized their answers are, the better they score.  Based on the results of these examinations, people are paired with someone of the opposite sex who is roughly their own age.  Without ever meeting (because boys and girls are strictly segregated), these two are promised to each other in marriage.  Their careers, future income levels, and future number of children are also determined for them.

The main character, Lena, begins the story mere months from her 18th birthday, anxiously awaiting her own procedure.  She wants nothing more than to be cured of emotion and live out the rest of her days in a bland, calm sameness.  Of course, she has her reasons--primarily, her mother's suicide when Lena was six, a result of a failed third attempt at the procedure--as well as other skeletons in her family's closet.  But as you might guess, things get complicated.

When I started reading this book, I got kind of stuck in comparing it to other books that I have read.  The premise of a society without love (as well as various other aspects of the world in which Lena lived) made me think of 1984 by George Orwell, and the idea of a mind-altering operation for teenagers in order to create a calm society made me think of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.  Lena's eagerness to go along with the operation until her best friend Hana opened her eyes to other possibilities, and Lena's subsequent relationship with Alex (because of course there has to be a boy!) also strongly reminded me of the Tally/Shay/David relationships in Uglies.  But once I got past those similarities, I loved, loved, LOVED this book and sobbed through probably the last 100 pages (of 441).

For starters, I thought it was beautifully written.  I also loved the introductory quotes at the beginning of each chapter, supposedly taken from books in Lena's society, which provided a great window into the peoples' mindsets.  And I especially loved that it focused not just on romantic love, but on all types of love: families, friendships, and everyday beauty and joy.  The procedure took all of that away.  Parents knew that they had responsibility to raise their children properly, but they didn't feel any sort of attachment to them.  Children formed friendships, but after they had the procedure, those friendships became nothing more than dim memories.  The friendship between Lena and Hana was one of my favorite parts of the book; I thought it was both realistically and beautifully portrayed.

Two thumbs up on this book.  Run out to your local library and check out a copy!!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Trouble with Naming

As we start to think about potential names for this baby, we run into lots of naming difficulties.  In theory, naming a boy should be easy.  Ben and I had two boy names picked out before we even got married.... which is, of course, why we ended up having two girls first. 

The two boy names that we loved right from the start were Liam and Aiden.  When we picked them out eight years ago, they were both unique.  Since then, both have become hugely popular.  I just got an email from BabyCenter identifying the top 100 names of 2011.  According to them, "Aiden" has just topped the boys' list for the seventh year in a row.  Similarly, "Liam" has raised in popularity from a mere #10 to #4.

This is sad for me, because we were hoping to have somewhat unique names for our kids.  Not anything super-crazy, but at least names that not everyone else in their generation has.  I say this because I have one of the most popular names of my generation, and I ran into lots of confusion while growing up because I had so many other friends (including my next-door-neighbor and college roommate) with the same name as me.  So I don't want to saddle my kids with some kind of crazy, made-up, unpronouncable names, but I also don't want them to have to constantly go by a first name and last initial (I was AmyP all growing up).

That all being said, I think we're still sticking with "Aiden" as our boy's name.  Ben tells me that we need to come up with some crazy way to spell it (Aden?) so that it will only have four letters, as "Bryn," "Shay," and "Liam" each have four letters.  I am against that for two reasons: 1) "Pfanschmidt" and "Meyaard" are both hard enough to spell, without doing anything crazy to the first name and 2) "Shay" is short for "Shaylee" and "Liam" is short for "William," both of which are more than seven letters, which, in my opinion, invalidates his argument.  :)

"Liam" is actually "William David."  We loved the name "Liam" right from the start, but we gave him the official name of "William" in honor of Ben's grandfather, uncle, and cousin, who are all also named William.  The "David" is for my dad.  If this baby is a boy, it will be "Aiden Thomas," with the "Thomas" being for Ben's dad.

But we are struggling to come up with a girl name.  Of course, this is partially because Ben refuses to seriously discuss the topic, since he is 100% sure that this baby is a boy and discussing girl names would be a waste of time.  :)

I had liked the name "Bryn" ever since my own growing-up years, so once Ben decided that he liked it too, the first one wasn't so hard.  But we really, really struggled to come up with "Shay" (or, more formally, "Shaylee").  In fact, this blog was instrumental in naming our Shaylee Grace.  (See the discussion here.)  If this should end up being a girl, we will probably need to ask for help from all of you again!

As a side note, I was amused to see that on the same BabyCenter post, it listed the most "up-and-coming" popular girls' names for 2012.  One of the names on the list was "Brynlee"--as in, half of our first daughter's name and half of our second daughter's name.  Yeah, we're such trendsetters!!  ;)

Monday, January 02, 2012

Goals for 2012

Much like everyone else, I'm thinking about "resolutions" or goals at this time of year.  A couple of years back, I posted my resolutions on this blog and then did a monthly evalution of how I was doing.  That really helped me to stay on track, so I'm going to try it again this year.  I may add to or edit these as the year progresses, but here's what I'm thinking right now (listed in no particular order):

1. Read the equivalent of a book a week.
As previously mentioned, I really enjoyed doing that this year.  I haven't read that much in years, but it brought me a lot of joy.  May be a little harder this year, as my classes are probably going to hinder rather than help, but I'm still going to give it a shot.

2. Blog regularly.
As I mentioned in my last post, I really enjoyed spending more time writing this past year.  Since I don't have a defined writing project for this year, I'm going to try to keep up my writing by posting on this blog.  Note: my loophole here is that I'm not currently defining what "regularly" means.  ;)

3. Monitor my own health; stay healthy; keep this baby healthy.
As I explained in my post about Number Four, I've had a lot of health problems related to babies, but also a lot of problems non-related (thyroid, migraines, etc.).  I really want to be more proactive about monitoring my health this year.  Hey, maybe I'll even get myself to a point where I'm not exhausted all the time!  And obviously, having a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and infant is a top priority.

4. Organize photos and memorabilia.
This is an ongoing struggle for me.  I love to take pictures and save memorabilia for scrapbooks, but I have not actually put together a scrapbook since my junior year of college.  Thus I have boxes in the garage labeled with every year since then.  Right now, I'm thinking that a gigantic scanning project is in order.  I'm not delusional enough to think that I'm going to manage to put together 11 years worth of scrapbooks this year, but seriously, it's time to go through the boxes and determine what needs to be saved and what doesn't.

5. Get our house into "finished" condition.
As much as any living space can actually ever be "finished," that is.  This entails actually painting the walls (which I meant to do before we moved in, almost 9 months ago), hanging picture frames, organizing our garage, and emptying some of those millions of totes and boxes.  I think there's a good chance that I'm a hoarder at heart, albeit a very organized one.

6. Love, value, and respect my family.
I don't know if there's any tangible way to measure this, but my family means the world to me and I want to truly appreciate my time with them.

7. Read the whole Bible and spend more time in prayer.
Pretty self-explanatory.

8. Be positive.
Again, I don't know if there's a tangible way to measure this, but I do know that as my aches and pains of pregnancy increase, I get more and more frustrated and negative (and this is with 25 weeks still to go!).  So I really want to be deliberate about changing my heart and my attitude.

So there you have it.  Hold me accountable, please.  :)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The 52+ Books of 2011

Back in 2010, one of my goals for the year was to read (at least) a book a month.  Since I succeeded in that goal, I decided to drastically up my ambitions for 2011.  My goal for this year was to read (the equivalent of) a book a week, and I'm proud to say that I did it!

I was greatly helped in this goal in a few ways.  In the spring semester, I was taking a grad class for librarians called Materials For Youth.  The class was designed specifically for grad students who want to become children's or youth librarians, so it was perfect for me.  In that class, I had to read at least one (if not more) novels a week, plus our textbook and various articles.  So while it was a ton of reading, I loved it, and it definitely got me off to a strong start for my goal.  For the first five months of this year, I also enjoyed the great company of my MOPS book club in Indianapolis.  Those wonderful ladies have given me some great titles to try.  Lastly, I should mention that the vast majority (although not all) of the books that I have read have been young adult novels, as that's the kind of librarian that I want to be.

So, without further ado, a brief overview of my 52+ books of 2011:

1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I would never, ever have picked this up on my own.  It looked creepy, but it was also my first assignment for my Materials for Youth class.  It was my first Gaiman book. Most people either love him or hate him, but I find myself to be pretty indifferent.  The premise of this book is that a baby's parents are killed and he somehow manages to then crawl into a graveyard while eluding the killer himself.  He is then raised by the ghosts and other mystical creatures that inhabit the graveyard.  I liked the book, but it felt somewhat disconnected to me, more like a book of short stories (all about the same character) than a novel.

2. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
A young girl named Lucky is raised in a teensy tiny town (think like 10 people) and needs to come to terms with her mother's death.  I liked it for what it was, but the sequels aren't on my short list of "to reads."

3. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schiltz
This book, which is a series of poems, was actually written by a teacher in order to get her students interested in medieval life.  I loved how each character had their own distinctive voice and thought that it captured the time period beautifully.  The illustrations were gorgeous too.  I can't imagine most people picking it up for a "pleasure" read, but it would be hugely useful in a late elementary/early middle classroom.

4. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
My class was pretty polarized on this one, but I loved it.  It's a very realistic story, aside from the bizarre element of time travel.  It tells the story of a city "latchkey" kid growing up in about the same era as me and hte friendships she develops.

5. Uncensored Grace by Jud Wilhite
This is the first non-YA book on my list, and also the first I did not read for my class.  It has also been published under the title of Stripped.  It tells the story of Central Church in Las Vegas and people whose lives have been radically changed by God.  It served as the basic model for the book God Can!, which I wrote with my dad and his pastor, Cal Rychener.

6. Looking for Alaska by John Green
This was my first book by John Green, and I must warn you now that I gobbled up every book he wrote in the coming months (and am SO excited about his new book, which is coming out soon).  Alaska was definitely somewhat of a dark story, as the entire second half focused on boarding school students contemplating whether or not their vivacious (and depressed) friend Alaska had or had not committed suicide.  Great, great book; I highly recommend it (and anything else by John Green).

7. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
I have to say that I loved this book.  I couldn't get it out of my head for a long, long time after I had finished.  But I also have to say that I think there were a lot of details included that didn't need to be, and I was left wondering about a lot of other details that I think would have really added to the story.  It's set in the Australian outback and is the story of an orphan being raised at a boarding school.  Throughout the book, she pieces together her past and reveals the story of her own parents growing up at the same boarding school years before.

8. Baby Proof by Emily Giffin
I read this one for book club.  I have also now read all of Emily Giffin's books, but I have kind of a love/hate relationship with her.  I like her writing and her books (although chick lit) always make me think, but I kind of hate all of her main characters and think they make terrible choices.  This book contemplates one woman's desire to remain childless and its effects on her marriage, as well as the effects of children on her friends' lives and relationships.  Clearly an interesting topic for a group of moms to discuss!

9. No Choir Boy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin
A totally different read than anything else on this list.  It's the nonfiction accounts of several teenagers who were convicted of murder and sent to death row (many are still waiting there) for their crimes.  Reading their stories, and their accounts of life in prison, is definitely sobering.

10. Smile by Raina Telegmeier
This was my first graphic novel, and I kind of loved it.  It's the simple story of a girl who has braces (and other pretty severe orthodontic problems), as well as the story of her growing up.  Cute, light, well-drawn and written, a great introduction to graphic novels.

11. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson
Also a graphic novel.  I would NOT recommend this one, nor will I be reading its sequel.  The illustrations were great, but I thought the plot was seriously lacking, or at least had major holes in the storyline.  It's about mouse soldiers defending their hidden kingdom, and I got the distinct feeling that the author had this whole world and epic novel in his head and just couldn't get it out on paper.

12. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
This novel dove into Norse mythology to tell the story of a crippled Viking boy and how he assisted the gods, in spite of a terrible family situation.  I didn't like it as much as The Graveyard Book, but it was a pretty quick read.  I did find that it was a little difficult to understand everything without knowing about Norse mythology--which provided me with a great excuse to learn. :)

13. Wait Til Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
I think I first read this book in fifth grade.  Back then, I thought it was the creepiest, best book ever.  As an adult, I still liked it, but many of my classmates did not.  It tells the story of a lonely little girl and how she becomes a little too friendly with a vengeful ghost.

14. White Cat by Holly Black
While this is the first book in a series, I spent most of the book feeling like I had jumped in in the middle of a story, trying to figure out what in the heck was going on.  It's about magicians, who can control thoughts, dreams, and actions by just touching your skin.  Lots going on, and I felt like I didn't really get with the program  until the very end.  That being said, its sequel (Red Glove) is on my "to read" list.

15. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Loved this book!  I read it with my book club, and it led to some really interesting discussion of how Chinese, Japanese, and American parenting are different.  It it set during World War II and tells the story of a young Chinese boy and his friendship with a Japanese girl, who is eventually "relocated."  You won't find this one in the YA section, but I definitely recommend it.

16. You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems about Boys by Sharon Flake
This is a book of short stories and poems about young, urban black boys.  While it did inspire Ben and I to walk around the house randomly retorting, "You don't even know me!" for several weeks, I really did like it.  Definitely very different than my life as a suburban (now rural) white 30-something stay-at-home mom, but well-written and thought-provoking.

17. Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
This book tells the story of a teenager autistic boy who loves to write and struggles to fit in.  I was fascinated to read a story from his point of view, and his own creative stories provided a nice offset to the narrative of his experiences.

18. Frindle by Andrew Clements
This one is a classic of late elementary/early middle literature, but I had never read it.  It's about a boy (who is not usually a troublemaker, or so he claims) who convinces his entire class to call "pens" "frindles" instead, which incenses his extremely strict English teacher, who happens to deeply love the dictionary.  Dunlap people, the teacher totally reminded me of Mrs. Applen.

19. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
The two authors alternate chapters to tell the stories of two teenagers named Will Grayson, who both happen to live in the Chicago suburbs and end up meeting in a most unconventional way.  Loved it!  Both storylines were great, and it only made me love John Green more.

20. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
I also read this one for book club.  I can't really say that I liked it; it skipped all over the place way too much for a logical, organized person like me.  :)  The narrator was a teenage autistic British boy, and it chronicles his quest to find out who killed his neighbor's dog (and incidentally uncover the truth about his mother's disappearance).

21. Prairie Songs by Pam Conrad
A hardy pioneer girl tells the story of the lovely schoolteacher from the East who comes to live in a dugout near them, and how she cannot endure the loneliness of the prairie.  Pretty depressing with the woman, but the girl loves the prairie's open freedom and paints some beautiful pictures of it.  It's an older book and written for a younger audience, so probably not one that you need to run out and get (unless you, like me, have a history as a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder).

22. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
As is the case with every  book that has ever been made into a movie.... this book is better.  At its core, the book is about a mouse who befriends a princess, and how they together manage to save the kingdom from despair.  The book has way more storylines though, also telling the story of a (questionably) evil rat and a lonely servant girl.  (This was also the last book I read for Materials for Youth, so the rest of them from here on out are free choice.)

23. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
It sounds like a weird book: it is written entirely in poetry (mostly free verse) and tells the story of a teenage girl's addiction to and struggle with meth.  Not to pun on the theme, but I found it totally addictive.  I rushed out and read both of the sequels (even begging my local library to order the second one for me), and I plan to do more Ellen Hopkins in the coming year.  It's a thick book, but it goes quickly because of the form.

24. Glass by Ellen Hopkins
See, I told you I ran right out to get the sequel to Crank.  In this book, Kristina's addiction worsens and we see more of the consequences for her family and loved ones.

25. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I'd heard really good things about this one, and I really liked the basic premise, which is that a boy finds a red moleskin book tucked away in a bookstore, filled with clues that will lead him to a girl.  Cohn and Levithan alternate the chapters, and both Dash and Lily are nicely developed.  All in all, I should have loved it, but I thought it was just all right.

26. Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin
Here, a woman runs into the former love of her life on the street, and he wants to reconnect.  Problem: she's happily (at least until then) married to a man who is much better for her.  This book explores the "what ifs" of marriage and the lives we could have had.  My favorite of Emily Giffin's to date.

27. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Another win for John Green!  The narrator, a prodigy of a teenage boy, has been dumped by 19 successive Katherines.  During a road trip to "find himself," he also tries to develp a mathematical formula for deterining dumpage.  Great book.  It was probably my least favorite of John Green's books, but that's only because I loved them all, and I would still rank it higher than a lot of other books on this list.

28. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
This one has gotten a good bit of buzz in YA circles this year, and I picked it up because the Young Adult book group from IUPUI (which I have never actually attended, but often read along with) was reading it.  I was disappointed.  I thought the whole thing (poor boy saves rich girl, overcomes his personal demons, and is rewarded) was pretty predictable and dull.

29. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
This was my first book by Sarah Dessen, and it started my obsession with her.  I've only read two of her books to date, but I plan on burning through all the rest of them in 2012.  In the summer before she goes to college, Remy finally faces her abandonment/love issues, and discovers that falling in love isn't always a choice.  If you like both YA lit and chick lit (which I didn't know that I did until Sarah Dessen and Emily Giffin), you need to read Sarah Dessen.

30. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
This one took me a long time to read, largely because I had to return it in the middle of my reading in order for us to move, and I didn't pick up another copy for a good long while.  I read it with my book club (though I finished way after them).  It's the true story of a poor black woman named Henrietta who died of cancer.  Her cells were taken without her permission or knowledge, and they went on to form the well-known culture of HeLa, which has been used in an incredible amount of important experiments over the years.  It's filled with science, history, and family.  It found it to be both shocking and depressing, but I'd still recommend it.

31. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Thomas wakes up in a box (actually a sort of elevator), knowing nothing but his name.  From there, he is deposited in a colony of all boys, who seem to be held prisoner by forces unknown, with the only imaginable way out to be a maze (whose walls rearrange every night) filled with nightmarish creatures.  Loved the story, but I thought the writing left a lot to be desired.  If you're into dystopian literature, though, (which I am) I'd recommended it as a good, quick read.

32. Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
This is her newest book (and as I said, I've read all of them). I thought it was her best by far. It alternates narrators, from the wife to the potential mistress. It contemplates what makes a marriage, what makes a family, and what those things are worth. Read it (you'll find it in the adult fiction section).

33. Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
I also picked this one up for the YA book group through IUPUI.  It's about two homeless teenagers, both on the run from their past and getting into plenty of trouble in the present.  There were some parts that I wanted to be better-developed, but overall, thumbs up.

34. Waiting for Orpheus by Melissa Raguet-Schofield
Sorry, folks, you can't check this one out at your local library.  I got to read a draft copy of my BFF's first novel.  Loved it!  Anybody know a good publisher?

35. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I decided to give the Cohn/Levithan combo another try, particularly since I'd heard so many good things about this movie (I know, I know, the book and the movie are never the same....).  I really didn't like this one and had a hard time finishing it.  Doesn't make my list of recs.

36. Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I read this one in conjunction with my old book club and then drove down to Indy to make a guest appearance and discuss.  It was a fascinating concept--reversing the concept of aging, until these women who were 160+ years old were teenagers again and facing the reality that in a few years, they'd be babies again, unable to care for themselves.

37.  That Summer by Sarah Dessen
I didn't like this one as much as This Lullaby, but since this was the first book that Sarah Dessen published, it stands to reason that she's gotten better over the years.  A teenage girl faces a summer in which both her father and her sister are getting married, and she longs for the simplicity of an earlier summer.

38. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
This is the second book in the Maze Runner trilogy.  I didn't like it as much as the first one, but I still devoured it.  I still think that James Dashner's writing leaves a lot to be desired, but dang, he comes up with some good plots.

39. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
This was probably one of my favorite books of the year.  Tally lives in a society where everyone has surgery to make them beautiful on their 16th birthday.... but at what cost?  I devoured this entire series and plan to do more Westerfeld in 2012.  A must-read for anyone who likes dystopian literature.

40. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
This is the second book in the Uglies series, and as I mentioned, I devoured it.  It's really a toss-up whether I liked the first or second one better.

41. Parfumerie by E.P. Dowall
This is the play that I helped to direct at Delphi High School.  It's the basis for the plot of "You've Got Mail," as well as several other famous movies/shows.

42. Specials by Scott Westerfeld
Once again, did I mention that I devoured the Uglies books?  This is the third in the trilogy.

43. Paper Towns by John Green
This is a really tough call, since I have loved all of John Green's books, but I think this one might have been my favorite.  A teenage boy's next-door neighbor (and long-time crush) disappears, but she has left behind clues that only he can follow.  It's both philosophical and hilarious.  Run to your library and get it.

44. The Death Cure by James Dashner
This is the final book in the Maze Runner trilogy.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on it when it came out this fall.  An interesting end to the series, though I was still left with a lot of questions.

45. Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Even better than her Turnabout.  It's the story of a girl who thinks she lives in the 1800s, but then learns that she and her family are actually part of a "historic colony" that is observed almost constantly by tourists.  Crazy stuff; good book.

46. Mercy by Jodi Picoult
Before this year, I would have said that Jodi Picoult was one of my very favorite authors.  I have loved everything that I have read by her previously.  But since I discovered so many great new authors this year, I only read one of her books.  Mercy (focusing on the concept of mercy killing) was definitely my least favorite of Jodi Picoult's books; I actually struggled to finish it.  The topic was fascinating, but I really didn't like the characters at all and felt like too much attention was given to a sub-plot.  I wouldn't recommend this one, but I'm still planning on reading more Jodi Picoult in 2012.

47. Extras by Scott Westerfeld
This one isn't exactly part of the Uglies trilogy, but rather a follow-up to it, set in the same society but with different characters.  It was okay.  (Not exactly a glowing endorsement, I know.)  I'm still a big Westerfeld fan, but this one kind of left me cold.  I think the trilogy stands better without it.

48. I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (James Frey and Jobie Hughes)
After all the hype about the movie (which I didn't see until after I read the book, and didn't like), I figured that the Lorien Legacies series was the next big thing in YA dystopian fiction.  I felt a lot about this book like I felt about the Maze Runner trilogy: great plot, but not so great writing (although I would say that this is better written than the Maze Runner).  Still probably worth checking out, but only if you're okay with starting a series and then not finishing it, as only the first two books have been published so far (grr).

49. The Spy Lady and the Muffin Man by Sesyle Joslin
I ran across this one while trolling around on Amazon for gifts and had to buy it.  In fifth grade, my best friends and I all passed around this book and desperately wanted to live it.  I am sad to report that it did not stand up to a rereading as an adult.  I struggled to finish it, in spite of my memories of it being so great.  I guess there's a reason why Amazon was full of library discard copies of this book.  :(

50. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
I had actually already read the first four books in this series (and loved them, because I'm a sucker for teenagers and lifelong friendship) and was really excited to see a few months ago that Ann Brashares had published a follow-up book, telling what happened to the girls 10 years after the last book (it's called Sisterhood Everlasting).  I'm very excited to read that book, but thought that I should reread the others first in order to fully appreciate it.

51. The Second Summer of Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
Obviously, the second book in the Traveling Pants series.  In spite of the fact that these were rereads, I have to admit to shedding a few tears during each book.  Blame it on my out-of-control pregnancy emotions.  ;)

52. The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore (James Frey and Jobie Hughes)
The second book in the Lorien Legacies series (and I've read that the series will eventually have either 3 or 6 books).  Ben read these too and couldn't put them down.

53. Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
Clearly, the third book in the Traveling Pants series.  This leaves me with only one more reread to go before I can enjoy Sisterhood Everlasting.  I hope it lives up to my expectations!

So there you have it.  In 2011, I read 53 books (not including textbooks) and published one.  Not too shabby!

So what's next?  What will I read in 2012?  I'm again aiming for a book a week (or the equivalent thereof), which I fear may be harder this year with taking classes that don't require fiction reading and, oh yeah, a new baby on the way.  But I'm determined!  Now that I've succombed to the reading fever, I don't think I can go back.

To finish up my aforementioned series, there will be a couple of Ann Brashares books.  I've already started Delirium by Lauren Oliver, so it will probably be my first book of the year.  I'm also planning on doing the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Stieg Larson (my dad and stepmom got me the first one for Christmas).  Sitting on my bookshelf right now are library copies of Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty, and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness... and I have a real policy against returning library books without reading them.  I've also felt some old favorites calling to me over the past few months, so I may revist the fantasy worlds of Terry Brooks and Raymond Feist.  While I love YA fiction (and definitely do need to be familiar with it if I want to get a job in that field), I'm also hoping to read a few more "grown-up" books this year, as well as delving back into some of my favorite Christian authors.  So I've definitely got a full  plate (or bookshelf, as the case may be).

I have no current plans of writing another book this year (unless my dad and Cal come up with another project for me!), although I would like to do that eventually.  Working on the book really reminded me of how much I love writing, and how little opportunity I've had to do it for pleasure in my adult life.  So now that the God Can! project is done, and we have semi-reliable internet here at the house, I'm planning on a return to blogging this year.... although hopefully not posts as long as this one because, phew, it has taken me a really long time to write!

So, friends, I wish you all happy reading and happy writing in 2012!