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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book #6 of 2012: Before I Fall

The blurb on the cover says "You'll have no choice but to tear through this book!"  SO TRUE.  Once I started, I could not put this book down.  I got so sucked into the story that whenever I emerged to interact with my actual family, I felt vaguely displaced, like I wasn't quite sure where I was or what was going on.  Yeah, it's that good.

The story is about the last day in the life of Samantha Kingston, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School in Connecticut.  For all appearances, she has the perfect life.  She and her three best friends are the most popular girls in school, and she's dating the guy that she's had a crush on since the sixth grade.  Life is good.

Under the surface, though, Sam has her share of insecurities.  Should she sleep with her boyfriend?  Does anybody besides her remember the days before she was popular and how she was teased back then?  Would she lose some of her popularity if she talked to people less "cool" than her?  Is the way that she and her friends treat people really right?

And then, she dies.  It's an accident, a car wreck on a rainy night.

And yet, she wakes up to the sound of her alarm the next morning.

But it's not the next morning--it's the same morning.  And Sam relives her last day six more times.  Each time, she learns more about herself, more about the people around her, and more about what it means to truly live.  She comes to realize what truly matters to her, and she comes to understand how everything is interconnected.

I'm not really sure that my description is doing this book justice.  It is an amazing read.  If you (are a girl and) like young adult lit, if you've enjoyed reading Sarah Dessen, if you're looking for a great new author, check this one out!!!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Book #5 of 2012: The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Chaos Walking trilogy was strongly recommended to me by my friend Katie.  She reads WAY more than I do, almost exclusively young adult lit, and she is also an English-teacher-turned-school-librarian.  She has an awesome blog called YA Book Love where you can find reviews for tons of fantastic books--it's one of my go-to sources when selecting a new read.  So when she said that I HAD to read these books, I rushed right out to my local library and got the first one.

I initially had a bit of a hard time getting into The Knife of Never Letting Go, largely due to the writing style, which is pretty much stream of consciousness.  But that same writing style, once I got used to it, allowed the last 200 pages (of 479) to just FLY, as I carried the book around the house with me, using every free second to read.

The story centers around Todd, a 12-year-old boy on New World (which would  make him 14 on our Old World, as the months run differently on New World).  He introduces us to his world, which the original settlers envisioned as an "Eden," but turned out to be rather more sinister.  According to the history that Todd has been taught all his life, the planet's original settlers got into a war with the Spackle (the natives of the planet) shortly after settling.  The Spackle released germ warfare, which killed all the women and many of the men.  So now Todd's settlement, Prentisstown, is the only one left on the planet, and it is inhabited by about 50 men and Todd, the last boy (boys become men at 13).  Without any women, clearly they are a dying race.

Another germ released by the Spackle created the Noise.  With the Noise, no one can ever be silent.  Every man can hear every thought of every other man.  They can even hear the thoughts of animals.  It's all chaos and clamor, all the time.  For Todd, this is the only way of life he has ever known--men's thoughts laid bare, unable to hide.  But for the adult settlers who remember the Old World, it's enough to make anyone crazy.

And then, while gathering apples in the swamp outside the village, Todd discovers a mysterious patch of silence.  And from there, everything that he ever thought he knew begins to unravel.

Todd and his loyal dog Manchee (who is everything that a dog and sidekick should be) set off in a harrowing race across New World, running from certain destruction, and toward a tenuous hope.

The end of the book is a gigantic cliffhanger, clearly designed to send the reader running back to the library to pick up the second book, The Ask and the Answer... which I will be doing today.  Looking forward to the rest of the trilogy, especially since Katie says the third book is the best!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Top 10 Songs of Glee, Season 1

When I drove down to Indy last week for the neurologist, I spent my car ride listening to cds of "Glee," season 1.  While I am a huge "Gleek," I hadn't listened to the season 1 stuff for a while.  Remembering all those songs led me to contemplate a Top 10 Songs from Glee Season 1 list.  I posted my question on Facebook, got some responses, thought some more, and here's my final cut:

1. "Don't Stop Believin'"
Clearly this has to make this list, as it is THE iconic song (can a song be iconic??) of season 1.  I'm actually not sure, though, whether I prefer the original version (from the pilot) or the regionals version.  On one hand, the pilot episode version was what made us all love and root for the New Directions in the first place.  On the other hand, the regionals version brought back all the great stuff from the first episode, while also letting us hear more of the voices that we had come to know and love.  Thoughts on this?

2. "Defying Gravity"
I also have a bit of a personal debate on this one: which is better, Rachel's version or Kurt's?  In the end, I'd say that I like the duet version from the volume 1 soundtrack the best.  It takes the best of both Rachel and Kurt's versions and blends them into the first of many great duets by this pair.

3. "Gives You Hell"
This one is from the first episode of the second half of the season, "Hell-O."  Rachel sings it after Finn says he doesn't want to date her.  And I don't really know what it is about this song, but I LOVE it.  It makes me smile and car-dance every time.  My favorite part is toward the end, where the rest of the group joins in.  Also, it helps that this was the first song that really featured the sweet dance moves of Mike Chang.

4. "What It Feels Like for a Girl"
This one was from "The Power of Madonna" episode.  I am a total sucker for acapella male voices (thus why if I were to make a Top 10 of Season 2 list, it would heavily feature the Warblers).  I just love this stripped-down version and the sentiments that it expressed in the episode.

5. "Beth"
This one is from the "Theatricality" episode and is sung by Puck, Finn, and the guys.  Again, I am sucker for male harmonizing.  But I also love the sweet intent behind this one and how Quinn ends up naming her baby Beth as a result.

6. "Somebody to Love"
A great number by the whole group, performed at the invitational at McKinley (in the episode where April Rhodes joins the choir).  I saw an interview with the cast about season 1, and in it, many of them said that this was their favorite song to perform that season.  It was the first one they did as a group at a competition, and it was also the first one to feature Mercedes wailing on those high notes at the end (another trait of great songs that we viewers have come to know and love).

7. "Bad Romance"
Since I've already got two of the guys' songs listed, it's only fair to pick one by the girls (and Kurt).  For one, this song was just so over-the-top that we had to love it.  Secondly, it's the first song on the show to feature the voice of Santana, and WOW, can that girl sing!

8. "Safety Dance"
This was in the "Dream On" episode.  What's not to love about this song?  Artie sings (he gets a lot more solos following this, but it's one of his first) AND dances (which has only happened twice to date).  And seriously, if I were to actually see a Glee flash mob in a mall, it would be one of the highlights of my life.

9. "Jump"
I may be a little biased toward this one, as I totally loved the Van Halen version if this song while growing up.  But pairing it with the kids in pajamas, jumping all over mattresses to shoot a commercial?  Totally great.

10. "To Sir With Love"
As a teacher, I dream of having students show their appreciation for me in some way (and this was a pretty awesome way).  Secondly, oh, the tears that flowed when we thought that glee club was at an end.  Thirdly, super-sweet harmonies featuring all of our favorite voices.

Honorable Mentions:
* "Bust A Move" or "Ice Ice Baby"
This list really can't be complete without at least a reference to Mr. Shue rapping in front of his students.

* "Sweet Caroline"
The first song performed solo by Puck.... and also, I think, the moment where most female fans stopped seeing him as just a "bad boy," but he instead became "crush-worthy."  Bonus points for the frequently-sung adaption around our house, "Sweet Bryn of mine."

* "True Colors"
The first (good) song to feature Tina, who is still rather under-used.

* "Poker Face"
While it was definitely a weird choice for a mother-daughter duet, you just can't argue with how great Rachel and Shelby sound together.

* "It's My Life/Confessions" and "Halo/Walking on Sunshine"
The first of many epic mash-ups performed by the New Directions.  Also the first boy/girl competition, which was great.

* "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
A great comeback for their performance at sectionals.  Also, a song that I frequently sing to my children when they're whining about not getting their own way.  ;)

* "Good Vibrations"
Because Mercedes is awesome, and Finn rapping is hilarious.

What about you?  What are your favorites?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Book #4 of 2012: The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie

I finished reading The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie a little over a week ago, but I'm just now getting around to posting about it.  I'd been hearing good things about Jaclyn Moriarty for several years now, but this was the first of her books that I've read.

Bindy Mackenzie is an Australian high school student.  She is a prodigy, a genius, and an incredibly hard worker.  She is ranked first in her class in everything and frankly, she considers herself to be far superior to her classmates.  Bindy is incredibly annoying.  Yet underneath her smug, superior exterior, we find a girl who is both sad and insecure (and has good reasons to feel both).

In Year 11 of her schooling, Bindy's school starts and requires a new course called Friendship and Development (FAD for short).  Oh, the horror!  Bindy is placed in a group with seven other students, none of whom are "her type" of people.  Bindy feels that the entire FAD process is a colossal waste of her time, and she thinks that her seven groupmates are as "poisonous" as they come.

But as the year goes on, things start to get a little strange for Bindy.  She feels sick all the time.  She is exhausted, but she has terrible nightmares and can't sleep.  She starts having problems with her memory.  She loses her motivation, stops doing homework, and starts failing quizzes.... and doesn't even care.  What could possibly be wrong with her?  Only her FAD group can unlock the answers....

The entire book is written in the form of emails, memos, and journal entries, mostly written by Bindy herself (but occassional notes from her relatives and FAD group).  I struggled a little with the beginning of the book, simply because the entire thing is written in Bindy's voice and she is SO annoying.  But that really sets the scene for the changes that occur in her later in the book.  It can be a very quick read, as evidenced by the fact that once I locked myself away in my bedroom, I read over 250 pages (of 491) in one sitting.

While I think this was the weakest of the four books I've read so far this year, I'd still recommend it to anyone looking for a quick-ish read with some humor and some unique personality.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Halfway Switch

WARNING:  long post ahead!

I'm officially at 20 weeks--halfway there!!  To celebrate, I'll be switching OBs.

When I first got the positive pregnancy test, I didn't have an OB in Lafayette yet.  So I made an appointment with the only doctors whose names I had heard.  I ended up not liking them at all.... which is highly unusual, because I see a LOT of doctors (family practioner, fertility specialist, dentist, endocrinologist, neurologist...) and have not previously had any problems finding ones that I like.  But let me explain to you the ridiculousness of this particular OB's office:

Appointment 1: 8 Weeks
At my first appointment, I spent almost a full hour talking with the nurse, going over my medical history in detail.  I explained that I had seen a fertility specialist two weeks before and that I was kind of paranoid because I had miscarried 3 times in the past.  I also explained my (long and complicated) history of thyroid problems and migraines.  I assume that all of this made it into my chart, as the nurse took notes the entire time.
When the doctor finally came in, he had me hit the medical history highlights again.  Then I told him that I had been having "frequent" migraines, and he prescribed Fiorecet, which I had not used before.  I then asked him what the office's policity on inductions was, since all 3 of my kids have had to be induced.  He replied, "We don't even discuss that until 41 weeks."  Um, okay.  I'm not looking to schedule right now, but I'd kind of like to know what your policy is before I get to that point, just so I'm prepared.

Before I could ask any more questions, I looked at his watch and said, "Sorry, I've got to go."  And then he left.  And that was the end of the appointment.

I was left feeling very unsettled.  I had never had a doctor just walk out on me, like "sorry, that's all the time I've got for taking care of you today."  Especially at my first appointment, it did not give me a good feeling about the practice.  But there were still two other doctors in the practice, so I figured they might be better....

Appointment 2: 12 Weeks
At my second appointment, I met the other male doctor in the practice.  He glanced prefunctorily at my chart and asked why I hadn't had an exam during my first appointment.  He said that all new patients receive exams, so why hadn't I?  Well, I said, I don't really know, but that doctor left my appointment in a hurry, so I guess he ran out of time?  This new OB seemed to think that was perfectly acceptable.

I told him that I was having daily migraines.  He kind of blew off my concerns and said, "Oh, don't worry, those always go away in the second trimester, and you're almost there."  I figured that since he had my medical records, he should have already known about my history with migraines, but I explained it to him anyway.... that I had suffered from migraines with all three of my older kids and that the migraines had NOT gone away in the second trimester in any of those pregnancies.  Furthermore, I explained, I have chronic migraines even when I'm not pregnant.  When not pregnant, I have to take Topomax as a preventative and still get at least 1-2 headaches a week, even with that.  So while it wasn't shocking to me that I was getting migraines daily during pregnancy, I also wanted to know what could be done about it.

"Oh," he said, "Just keep taking the Fiorecet."  But, I explained, I had to take 2-3 Fiorecet every single day to get rid of the migraines.  I said that I wasn't comfortable taking that much medication for the next 28 weeks.  "Okay," he said, "Can you get comfortable taking that much for just one more week?"  Um, okay, but what magic occurs then?  He reiterated his argument that he was sure that my migraines would magically disappear when the calendar flipped another week, but on the off chance that they didn't, he said to call the office and he would phone in a preventative for me.  He said the preventative wasn't safe until the second trimester, but once I crossed that line, he'd call it in.  The "not safe until the second trimester" thing didn't exactly inspire me with a lot of confidence, but it was clear that was the best he was going to do.

I then asked again for more information about the possibility of induction, and again, I was told that "we don't discuss that until at least 41 weeks."

"Anything else?" he asked, in a voice that indicated that I had already asked enough questions.  But, sorry, I had other questions.  I explained that I was having a severely upset stomach, resulting in horrible diarrhea a minimum of 4 times a day.  "Do you have any idea what might be causing that?" the doctor asked.  Um, yeah, I'm pregnant.  I suspect they're related.

I explained that since I was taking prometrium, and diarrhea is a common side effect, I thought that might be the cause.  "Wait, why are you taking prometrium?" he asked, confused.  I explained that I had seen a fertility specialist when I had discovered that I was pregnant, and that doctor but me on prometrium to help me sustain the pregnancy, since I had a history of miscarriages.  The OB's unfamiliarity with this entire story demonstrated to me that he had NO IDEA what was in my medical records (in spite of the fact that he had them in his hand).

"Oh, well, just stop taking it," he recommended.  Um, excuse me?  STOP TAKING the medicine that helps me prevent miscarriage?  Why on earth would I want to do that?

"That medicine doesn't really do anything," the OB said.  "It's completely a placebo effect."

I was utterly shocked.  I again explained that the medication had been prescribed to me by a FERTILITY SPECIALIST, who surely knows what he is doing.  "Sometimes older doctors think it helps," said the OB dismissively, "But they're wrong."

Well, I'm glad that you're smarter than ever other doctor.  But, I explained, of my past 6 pregnancies, I had used prometrium for 3 of them, and those children (hopefully including this one) were born safely.  The other 3, the ones I didn't have prometrium for, miscarried.  So even if you don't believe other doctors, I'd say that my own body has been a pretty good field test. 

Nope, the OB said.  Completely in my head.  Just stop taking the prometrium.  It wasn't doing anything anyway.

I was SO MAD.  Not only did this doctor have no idea what my medical history included, but he was dismissing other doctors' work out of hand without being familiar with that history.  Moreover, he was completely disregarding what I was telling him.  Folks, these are not signs of a good doctor.

I left the office angry, thinking that I would give them one more chance.  I had yet to see the third doctor in the practice, who happened to be both the only woman and the one who had actually been recommended to me.  So I decided to give it one more chance, then if I liked her, declare her as my primary and hopefully never see either of the other two again.

In Between: 13-14 Weeks
As I had predicted, my migraines did not magically go away when I entered the second trimester.  I gave it a couple of weeks, then called the office and asked to talk to the OB's nurse to get my preventative presciption, as the OB had instructed.  When I talked to her, though, she had no idea what I was talking about.  "I'll have to ask the doctor about that," she said.  "Let me call you back."  Clearly, he had not written a thing about it in my chart.

When she called back that afternoon, she asked how many days in the past week I'd had migraines.  "Six," I said, since I had been blessed by one rare headache-free day in the past week.  "Oh, sorry," she said, "The doctor said to only give you a prescription if you were having them every day."

What?!  He promised me a prescription at my appointment, yet wrote nothing about it in my chart?  He didn't think that SIX MIGRAINES in a single WEEK were enough to warrant treatment?  Particularly when they were actually EVERY DAY, but I'd for once managed to have a "good" week?  What was I supposed to do then?  "He says to just keep taking the Fiorecet," his nurse reported.  Yeah, thanks, because that's clearly done so much good so far....

Appointment 3: 16 Weeks
At this appointment, I met the third and final doctor in the practice, who happened to also be the only woman and the one who had initially been recommended to me.  So I had high hopes for the practice to be redeemed.  Sadly, I was disappointed... again.

I started out with my now-standard questioning about the particulars of induction.  And I received the now-standard response of "we don't discuss that until 41 weeks."  This time, though, I argued.  I explained that since I had never had so much as a single contraction on my own in any of my three previous births, the odds were good that I'd eventually be facing an induction, and I was not comfortable continuing with a practice that wouldn't even discuss the possibility with me.

She looked surprised but explained that she and the other doctors in the practice like to avoid inductions if at all possible, thus the policy of not even discussing them with the patient until 41 weeks.  Well, I said, I would love to have one kid without induction, since it's definitely no picnic... but considering that I'd had 4th degree lacerations getting out the kids I've had so far, it probably wasn't in my best interest to wait until they got 42- or 43-weeks huge.  "Hmm," she said, like she didn't believe me.

Next I again raised my concerns about my migraines.  I was STILL taking 2-3 Fiorecet EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I explained that I was VERY uncomfortable taking that much medication.  "Oh, it's fine," she said, "Fiorect is a very safe medication."  Really?  Even in those quantities?  Even if I had to take it for another 24 weeks?  Not a problem, she said. 

I argued.  I again explained that I suffer from chronic migraines and have to take Topomax even when I'm not pregnant, and told her that her counterpart had promised me a preventative and then not delivered.  Finally, she conceded and wrote me a prescription.... for Procardia.  Which is a drug to prevent pre-term labor.  Really, in a woman who has never gone into labor on her own?  Helpful.  But she told me that it's used in much larger doses to prevent pre-term labor, and for me it would just help to open up my veins to let the blood flow better.  Ok, I figured, it's worth a shot.

Even though I was not feeling overly impressed with this doctor at that point, I asked about declaring a primary within the practice.  Oh, no, she told me, we don't do that.  You'll see all three doctors throughout your pregnancy.  That was the point when I decided that I was going to find a new OB, which made the events of the rest of the appointment somewhat laughable to me.

Then she tried to find the baby's heartbeat and utterly failed.  And she FREAKED OUT.  I gave more details about this in an earlier post, but the shortened version is this:  She flipped out that she couldn't find the heartbeat.  I explained that since I have a retroverted uterus, doctors are often unable to find the heartbeat, and that this had happened frequently with my 3 older kids, and that this was not a cause for concern.  She continued to freak out, and I thought about how this was definitely NOT the kind of person I wanted in charge during my delivery.

In the end, she rushed me across the hall for an ultrasound, where the tech (who is the bright spot in this entire practice) revealed that 1) the baby's heartbeat is good, strong, and totally fine and 2) the baby is a boy.  Yay on both counts!!

But then I returned to "consult" with the OB, and she sat me down and gave me a lengthy talking-to about how she had looked at my chart, and she thought I was taking too many medications.  She advised that I stop taking some of my regulars.  Aghast, I explained to her that these medications had been prescribed by my endocrinologist and were basically all that kept my body functioning, and that I have blood tests every 4 weeks to make sure I'm on the right dosage.  Still, she said, couldn't I just stop during pregnancy?  Um, no.  My body doesn't make energy on its own.  I'd like to be able to grow this baby, thanks.  I then reiterated my concerns about the Fiorecet and the Procardia that she had just prescribed, and she blew me off.  "Oh, those are fine," she said, "I just don't like that you're taking so many other things."  Oh, right, so the medication YOU prescribe is fine, but not the stuff from other doctors?  Hellooo, double-standard!

In Between: 19 Weeks
Basically, I continued taking hearty doses of Fiorecet daily.  The Procardia did absolutely nothing to prevent headaches.  Finally, I gave up and made an appointment with my neurologist in Indianapolis.  You can read all the gory details here, but the basic summary is that
1) Procardia does nothing as a preventative--stop taking it immediately.
2) Fiorecet should never be used in patients with chronic migraines--stop taking it immediately.
3) Fiorecet is known for causing rebound headaches when taken in large doses.  Since I have a history of rebound headaches, I should never have been put on this drug.  In fact, I'm probably not actually experiencing daily migraines right now, but rather some migraines and some rebound headaches.
4) My OBs are clearly all idiots for recommending this course of action, especially given my medical history and all of the concerns that I expressed.

Appointment 4: 20 Weeks
I headed into this appointment knowing that it would be my last one at this practice.  I've already lined up a new OB, but since I was due for my 20-week ultrasound, the new practice told me to go ahead and do that with the old docs, so that it wouldn't have to be the very first time I saw the new ones.

The ultrasound was great.  Again, I love the tech.  She's the bright spot in that whole terrible place.  The baby is healthy, strong, and has all his parts.

And then I went in for my appointment with the doctor... which happened to be the second one I'd seen, who had not given me a preventative and had told me that prometrium did nothing.  This appointment was relatively painless, since I didn't ask any questions and just tried to get out of there as fast as possible, since by that point, I didn't trust a word he said.  He did ask how the migraines were going, and I reported that I had seen my neurologist, who had told me to discontinue both medications prescribed by the OBs.  I then reiterated what the neurologist had told me about Fiorecet (how it should never be used with chronic migraine sufferers, and how it causes nasty rebound headaches), and the OB was like, "Well, that's true.  Those are down sides."  Um, you KNEW about these things and didn't feel the need to warn me?  Particularly since you know, theoretically from my medical history (which I'm pretty sure he's never looked at) and also from me telling you repeatedly, that I am both a chronic migraine sufferer and prone to rebound headaches?  In other words, I am the exact portion of the population that should not be exposed to this medicine.  And I told you repeatedly that I wasn't comfortable taking so much, and you explicitly told me to keep doing it and that it wouldn't hurt me?  You, doctor, are incompetent.  As are your two cohorts.  Which is why I will not be returning to this practice.  Ever.

So that's the end of my (very long) story of the Most Terrible OBs Ever.  Looking forward to starting at a new practice next week and hopefully getting decent care for the second half of this pregnancy!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

January in Review

Since it's February 1, it's time for my monthly check-in on my goals for 2012.  You can find my original list of goals here.  Here's the assessment:

1. Read the equivalent of a book a week.
I've read four books this month: Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty (post on that one coming soon).  Next up: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

2. Blog regularly.
One month, 10 posts.  Not great, but far better than I did for the majority of last year!

3. Monitor my own health; stay healthy; keep this baby healthy.
For starters, I've realized an error in my original goal:  I really should have said "GET healthy" rather than "stay healthy," since I'm definitely not healthy right now.  But as you can tell by my last post, I made the very good decision to drive down to Indy and see my neurologist, and I have high hopes that the results of that appointment will improve my health over the next month.  I've also got my 20-week ultrasound tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to learning more about the about the baby and his health.

4. Organize photos and memorabilia.
After a month of valiantly sorting through photos, labeling them, and uploading them to Flickr for storage, I am pleased to report that all our 2011 photos have been organized.  Woo-hoo!  Now on to older ones...

5. Get our house into "finished" condition.
I haven't made it very far on this goal so far, as my daily migraines have prevented me from doing much more than basic daily maintainance and then falling into bed.  I did do a very tiny bit of painting in Liam's room (soon to be "the boys' room"), and finishing that is my top priority for coming months.

6. Love, value, and respect my family.
Obviously not a "measurable" goal, but I hope I'm doing okay on this.  My constant migraines and exhaustion have led me to fall into bed early a lot of nights and crash on the couch many others.  So Ben, if you're reading this, and in case I haven't told you often enough--I hugely appreciate all of your help this past month and love you very much!!

7. Read the whole Bible and spend more time in prayer.
I'm doing a chronological reading plan of the Bible this year. While I admit that I had to do some catch-up reading, I'm now on target.  We're hoping to check out a new church this coming weekend, so I'm hoping that will lead to good things.

8. Be positive.
Again, not measurable.  But I don't feel like I'm doing as well on this one as I would like.  I've been so frustrated by health problems and the struggles of daily life.  Hold me accountable on this one, friends.

And now, on to February!