30 November 2010

Stereotype Alert! My Indian Name Should be "Pees On Sticks"

If it wasn't harrowing enough to have to commit urine to a couple of pregnancy tests each month (for the last 18 or so) while crossing my fingers for a positive result, now I'm doing it on a daily basis with OPKs--ovulation predictor kits.  At first glance, they look just like your standard pregnancy tests with their slender white sheaths and pastel plastic caps.  Yet they are unique in that instead of measuring for HCG (human chorionic gonadrotopin) to indicate pregnancy, OPKs test for LH (Luteinizing Hormone), the hormone that indicates that your ovaries finally came to their senses and spat out a much-needed egg.

I started using an OPK after news came down the pipeline from my NP.  She disappointedly told me that I had not ovulated by the time they took my last blood sample, which led me to believe that I was incapable of ovulation.  This, of course, didn't make sense because I was being sentenced to the torture chamber that is also known as my period, and you can't go through that kind of hell unless you ovulate beforehand.  Scratching my head, I asked the NP to explain the test results in greater detail.  Her conclusion was not that I wasn't ovulating but rather that I was ovulating later in my cycle as compared to other women.  She suggested I try another month of Clomid at the same dosage,  but she would test for my progesterone levels later in my cycle than she did during the last two.  In the meantime, the goal of the OPKs would be to pinpoint ovulation before any such blood tests so I would know when to woo my husband to our bedchamber.  Like a man needs wooing…

It took trips to a couple of different stores to find an OPK that wasn't under the pharmacy's lock and key  alongside the condoms and nicotine patches.  I mean, come on--if I was in need of condoms, I wouldn't need the dang kit.  Kroger ended up being the winner.  No keys or special permission for their kits, though I did opt for the store-brand.  The pharmacist swiped my Kroger card and charged me $15.88 for the blue box with a picture of a smiling baby.  Maybe it's just me, but the picture just adds insult to injury.

So on Day 10 of my cycle, I began my very first ovulation kit.  Pee.  Cap the test.  Wait.  Stare.  Screw watched pots and all that mess.  I wanted to know if the variable (being my hormones…or lack thereof) would create a darker pink band than the control band.  A darker pink band would mean ovulatory success.  Watching the urine wick across the test window reminded me of the thin layer chromatography trials from my high school science fair project.  Even though I wasn't trying to measure the retention factor of colors components on a chromatography slide, I was waiting for those pink bands to give me an answer.  After 3 agonizing minutes and practically going cross-eyed, the variable showed up lighter than the control band.  The insert told me that means the test was negative.  No LH.  No ovulation.  I used a Sharpie to document the event on the sheath.  Day 10 -

And no LH for the next 5 days…

This morning, with only 2 tests left from my kit, I was starting to lose hope.  Was I going to fail my first ovulation kit?  Would I have to go out and plunk down $15.88 for another blue box with the baby mocking me?

Pee.  Cap the test.  Wait.  Stare.  Blink.  Holy crap, is that variable showing up darker than the control?  Wait again.  Look away.  Look back.  Affirmative.  The variable IS darker.

With my Sharpie, I documented my first plus sign: Day 15 +

My first ovulation kit, all lined up in a row.  Ovulation has been confirmed.

21 November 2010

What Teachers Really Want for Christmas (Aside from Motivated Students and Job Security)

Each year during my childhood, my mom's family would gather on or around Christmas at my grandparents' house.  My uncle (a music director in a private school) would bring a large box of gifts he had received from dozens of students.  He did this in hopes of pawning them off to my brother and me.  We thought we had hit the jackpot; a second Christmas, of sorts, since the gifts ranged from homemade muffins to Godiva chocolates to musical ornaments.  It never made sense why my uncle would voluntarily part with such treasures.  Looking back with keen teacher eyes, I finally see my uncle's annual holiday dilemma: keep and eat all gifts received whilst combatting indigestion and having a little less closet space than last year, or use what can be used and part with the unnecessary.

Maybe it seems a little cruel that a teacher would give up a gift from a student, but there is only so much room for "World's Best Teacher" coffee mugs in our kitchen cabinets.  Speaking from experience, they don't get used for coffee so much as pencil holders or a change jar.  Needless to say, I get excited when a parent asks me what I would want as a gift at Christmas.  It's an opportunity to reveal what teachers really desire.

"Oooh, Lysol wipes would be great!  Maybe some markers and crayons.  Really any classroom items would be awesome."
"But Mrs. Wynne, don't you want something more, well, special?  It's Christmas, after all."

Well, truth be told (and maybe we're dorks for it), teachers find the replenishment of school supplies pretty darn special.  When the economy tanked, so did our budgets for such supplies.  Whether a gift shows up somewhere during the holidays or as one of those "just because" donations, teachers are tickled pink over shiny new boxes of Crayolas or handed-down chapter books from the local Goodwill.

So if you're a parent, guardian, or mentor of a student and you find yourself wondering what kind of gift your child's teacher would want, here are some suggestions and general guidelines to help ease that gift-giving stress.

General parameters:
  • Never, EVER spend a ton of money on a gift!  There is no reason why the dollars spent on a teacher gift should come before paying the bills or buying groceries.  We would rather do without a gift if it would only cause a financial burden.
  • If gift-giving just isn't your thing, but you really want to show your child's teacher you appreciate their hard work, volunteer in the classroom or offer to participate in your school's mentor program.
  • If Christmas is a holiday your family doesn't celebrate, don't feel obligated to buy a gift simply because the teacher celebrates it.
  • Check to see if your school displays teachers' "wish lists" in a common area or via newsletter.  You can also check with the PTA/PTO.  They might offer a few ideas.
School-related gifts we LOVE!
  • sticky notes (in all colors, shapes, and sizes)
  • markers and highlighters
  • grading pens
  • paper (notebook, copy, or construction)
  • stamps and ink pads
  • disinfecting wipes
  • tissues
  • individually-wrapped candy
  • crayons
  • subscription to an educational magazine for students
  • used books for classroom library
  • craft sticks
  • paints
  • magnets
  • playground equipment (soccer ball, basketball, jump rope)
  • sidewalk chalk
If you insist on non-school items, here are a few:
  • stationery or blank notecards
  • coffee or tea
  • gift cards (which we will most likely spend on our classroom)
  • "niche" gifts (e.g.--if the teacher has an affinity for turtles, the gift could be a turtle ornament or turtle candies)
  • picture frames
Gifts to avoid…
  • the aforementioned coffee mugs
  • candles (we get more of these than coffee mugs…and they're always apple scented…)
  • homemade foods (not because we don't like them…there are just too many poisoning incidents you hear about with these)
  • stuffed animals
  • clothing
Hopefully, this will assist parents who are ready to attack the Black Friday sales in hopes of nabbing a quick teacher gift after all the family shopping is done.  Beyond the palpable gifts, though, one we love more than any other is a verbal "thank you" from student or parent.  We always appreciate any kind gesture made by the family of our pupils, and your acknowledgement of our dedication to our passion is one that makes it all worth while.

16 November 2010

Round One: Epic Fail

Day 32 of this dang cycle.  No plus signs.  No period.  Ugh.

My NP called last Friday with my latest progesterone level results.  Since it was the first prog test while on a round of fertility-boosting meds, the NP's obscure voicemail led me to assume she was saving the good news for conversation.  Would my levels be better than before?  Would they fall somewhere near the top of the hormone bell curve?

Sadly, I was a couple of standard deviations to the left...

Not only did the Clomid not do its job, my progesterone levels were EXACTLY the same as they were before.  7.8.  What does that mean?  It means I didn't ovulate with medical intervention.  They tried to jump-start my finite number of follicles, and they refused to crank.

Therefore: epic fail.

So back to the drawing board we went, the NP and I.  She was shocked the Clomid had no effect on my ovaries.  Her suggestion was to use a higher dosage of the same medication should my period start on time (as in 2 days ago) or try another type of medicinal intervention: Femara.  As a fertility treatment, it would decrease your natural estrogen levels, sending a message to your brain that the necessary hormones for ovulation are incognito.  The brain realizes this is a problem and goes into hyperdrive, trying to tap into all internal hormone reserves for the right ones.  They are then found and are jet-propelled to stimulate the ovaries for egg production.  Sounds like fun, right?

Well, I did a little research on Femara.  This drug was actually created for postmenopausal women who are battling breast cancer since estrogen can lead to the development or recurrence of breast cancer.  Novartis, the company who created the drug, released a statement back in 2005 stating that women shouldn't take this drug as a fertility treatment because it could lead to birth defects, the thinning of the uterine lining (which can inhibit pregnancy), or loss of pregnancy.  I'm confused…how is this a "good suggestion" for a woman who is walking the path toward motherhood?

Assessing, reassessing, praying, cursing, blogging…  We have now entered the "Poof! There Goes the Baby-Making Magic" phase where babies don't just come from special hugs their mommies and daddies share.  Babies now are going to come from orange pill bottles and calendars and "we have to do it tonight because I'm ovulating."  Double ugh.

Here's to hoping we can bump up the Clomid dosage for Round Two.  The whole idea of Femara has me feeling a little jittery.  I'll just have to suffer through a few days of an upset stomach and try to ignore the oppressiveness of calendar-checking if we do another round of Clomid.

Here is where I will leave it tonight, with an affirmation I will use on this journey:

I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door--or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.                     - Rabindranath Tagore

07 November 2010

Recipe: Hash Brown Quiche

I found this recipe in one of the Kroger coupon flyers that shows up in our mailbox every so often.  Problem is, I almost never follow a recipe exactly.  I might add a little extra of the ingredients we fancy or replace an objectionable ingredient with one we prefer.  As a result, the recipe' originality is only somewhat recognizable, but the quality of the dish is always to our liking.  So while I am sharing a recipe with you that I highly recommend you try, please be aware it's a loose adaptation on the original.


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