Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Ornament Tradition and our 2014 Ornament

Our Christmas Ornament Tradition

A few short months after our wedding, my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas together. 

We decided to start something that has now become a special tradition for our family. We decided that, each year, we will find or make an ornament that especially represents that year and add it to our tree (we're both big on ornaments that have stories and are not just decorative). 

In 2012, we put a picture from our honeymoon into this small frame. It represented a year of a new beginning—the year we got married!

In 2013, we made the tradition "official." We decided that, each year on our anniversary, we would take some time to write in our anniversary journal about what we decided to make for our ornament that year and why. Deciding our ornament on our anniversary has proven to be a good plan—that gives us time to find or create our ornament before Thanksgiving weekend, when we put up our tree each year.

For 2013, we got a small jar and put a poppyseed in it. We decided to make this our ornament last year because God had given us a baby—a baby who we called poppyseed up until she was born in early 2014.

Our 2014 Ornament

I'm really excited about our ornament this year—maybe because of the symbolism, or maybe because it took longest to make. This year, we decided to make a tree.

We decided on a tree partially because of the symbolism in this Andrew Peterson song and the story behind it.

2014, has, for us, been a year of growth, planting, putting down roots. There are three main reasons we decided a tree represents this year:
  1. We have both been convicted this year about our need to pursue spiritual growth more fervently. This is something we are both, together, being more intentional about.
  2. We had our baby girl this year! We "planted a new seed" and are cultivating her growth.
  3. We've gotten more settled into our new home, our roles, and our routine. We are "putting down roots," so to speak.
The Making of the Tree

After we decided to make a tree, I set out looking for a tree ornament. But, the only ones I could find were Christmas trees. So, I decided to make a wire tree (which is significantly cheaper than buying one. About 10 times cheaper, in fact). I found this helpful (and silly) tutorial video about how to make gemstone trees.

I took some liberties and did my tree a bit differently... I added more "branches" (my tree has 11 of them). I also put crystal beads onto the loops so I didn't have to mess with gluing things. I also just curled the ends of my roots instead of gluing it to a rock since this tree will hang instead of standing. I added an extra little loop of wire and tied a green ribbon to it. With sale prices and a 40% off coupon, the materials for this project were only $2.50, and I still have at least half of the 26-gauge wire left over. I'm loving this tree and can't wait to hang it on our Christmas tree next week!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Easy Barley Soup

I invented a recipe today. We are always looking for affordable meal options, and barley is almost as cheap as it gets (this whole pot of soup was less than $3 to make)! We don't get fancy barley, just the simple kind, where you buy a bag of dry barley like you'd buy a bag of dried beans.

I got the inspiration for this recipe from the back of the Hurst's barley bag. I made quite a few modifications, though, so I think I can call it my own. It turned out so much better than I'd expected it would!

  • 1/2 c. barley
  • 7 c. water
  • 1-1/2 c. diced ham
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1, 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 beef and 2 chicken bullion cubes
  • basil to taste
  1. Combine ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Boil gently for about 2 hours, checking and stirring occasionally. Add water during cooking to reach desired consistency, if needed.
  3. Remove bay leaf and serve. Makes about 4 bowl servings.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Essential Oils: Essential Information

I know this post is not my typical type of post... please disregard it if this is not a topic that interests you.

Since seemingly everyone is hosting essential oil parties these days, I've been doing some research on them to find out what all the hype is. My dad is a massage therapist, so the fact that essential oils exist and are useful is not news to me. I have recently learned more specifics about the benefits of essential oils, but have already for years been using lavender oil to relax, tea tree oil spray during cold season, and citronella for homemade bug spray.

Do I think that essential oils are totally useless? No. Do I think that essential oils can fix any ailment and eliminate our need for ever going to the doctor? No. Essential oils have their place, and modern medicine has its place. I believe essential oils are worth trying for improving various conditions such as migraines, insomnia, eczema, sinus congestion, ADHD, and digestive issues. I also believe we can't use them as our only solution for many medical issues.

Mainly, I want to share some information that I've found in my research. I hope this is useful for you as you consider whether to try essential oils and/or what brands to use. I am in no way an expert on the subject, so please do your own research and don't just take my word for it.
  • Phrases such as “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” mean nothing. There is no actual classification in the aromatherapy world for “therapeutic grade”. There is no governing body that certifies essential oils. Phrases such as “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” are trademarked phrases by their corresponding essential oil company. The reason each of these companies can claim that “no other company can say….” is because their company has trademarked the words. (I do not doubt the quality of the products from companies that use phrases like this. I am simply pointing out that these phrases are meaningless, so look at other factors to determine the quality of any oils you purchase.)
  • Enormous amounts of plants are needed to produce essential oil. It takes anywhere from 100 pounds to literally tons of plant material to produce a pound of essential oil. Consider, then, how concentrated essential oils must be in light of how many plants are used to produce them.
  • Most essential oils should never be used undiluted on the skin. Instead, they should be combined with carrier oils, waxes, butters, alcohols, or other diluting measures. Because they’re so concentrated, if you don’t dilute, you may end up with an unfortunate reaction (and unhappy skin). Besides, the oils will go a much longer way when diluted. There are a few essential oils that are generally recognized as safe to use undiluted (sparingly), such as lavender, German chamomile, tea tree, sandalwood, and rose geranium.
  • You should never use an undiluted essential oil on a baby or child. Children have much thinner, more delicate skin than adults have and tend to be very sensitive to the potency of essential oils. In fact, even if you do use essential oil in a recipe for children, only use half of the essential oil recommended in the recipe. That’s all they’ll need, anyway. Be sure to find a reliable list of essential oils that are safe for babies and children before using them.
  • You really shouldn't take essential oils internally, especially oils like wintergreen and eucalyptus. While some essential oils may be used well-diluted in something like toothpaste with safety, it’s generally recognized that there’s no need to take essential oils internally. 
  • Certain essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding (and skip essential oils completely in your first trimester). These lists often include aniseed, cedarwood, chamomile, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, ginger, jasmine, lemon, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, wintergreen, vetiver, and more.
  • Essential oils cannot be patented, which means that you don't see essential oils in pharmaceutical drugs. You can expect that the vast majority of mainstream healthcare practitioners will not recommend essential oils as therapeutic alternatives to drugs. Because essential oils cannot be patented, drug companies will not waste money studying them. This limits our scientific knowledge of essential oils greatly.
  • Essential oils will last for at least 5 years (if not 10), so one bottle could literally last you a decade. Hopefully that thought will help mitigate the cost involved in purchasing some essential oils. Because they are so concentrated and only a tiny amount is needed in anything you do, they’ll last you a very, very long time. The only exception to this rule is citrus oils, which will see a reduction in potency after a year or two.
  • Most essential oils are high in antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. This makes them an excellent addition to your homemade cleaning preparations. Oils that work well for cleaning include lemon, grapefruit, eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, lavender, and rosemary.
  • Essential oils are miniscule in molecular size, which means they are absorbed well by the skin – making them perfect ingredients in personal care items intended to heal, soften, and nourish. However, they do not accumulate in the body over time – they simply offer up their healing properties and then pass on through.
  • Fragrance oils and essential oils are not the same thing. As a rule of thumb, if you see the word “fragrance” or “fragrance oil” or even “perfume” on anything, you can assume this is synthetic, not natural, even if it says natural fragrance. Look for oils that are labeled as 100% essential oil and do your research to make sure they are not diluted or mixed with synthetic substances.
I am not suggesting we should be afraid to use essential oils. They are very useful for health, cleaning, and aromatherapy. Just use them properly and it should be fine. I hope this post is helpful as you determine how and when and which essential oils to use.

NOTE: Many of the above bits of information were copied from here (but I've also seen them all elsewhere).

9/6 UPDATE: Here is a note my dad wrote about the second-to-last point:

“Minuscule” is a relative term and a poor one to use. Why not just say that they are absorbed well and leave it at that? I do see their implied point: the oils can be assimilated transdermally (through the skin just like a nicotine patch) for use in the body. Essential oils are NOT molecules; they are complex combinations of MANY molecules—sometimes hundreds of distinct molecules—many of which are terpenes. Terpenes, in turn are made of isoprene units, and can have anywhere from one to dozens of them (think of ladders with different numbers of rungs). See for more info on this. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Five Reasons to Respect Marriage

This morning, I stumbled upon an article entitled Top 5 Reasons Not to Get Married by Krystal Baugher. I was so sad when I read it!

I wasn't sad because this woman is choosing not to marry. I think that singleness can be a wonderful thing, and can be a good gift from God. (I'm thinking of several singles from my church who are accomplishing great things with their lives that married folks do not have the time/ability to accomplish.)

I was sad because Miss Baugher is completely missing the beautiful design God has for marriage! Please don't read this as me being somehow angry with this writer. I'm not. I'm angry with sin. I'm angry with our culture and what it had taught people about life, love, and sexuality. I'm angry that Krystal has learned by the things she sees that having this attitude toward marriage is the best way.

Because it isn't. It just isn't.

So, I hope to present the case for marriage as it was intended, by using Miss Baugher's article as a springboard.

1) The Beauty of God's Design (in response to The Pains of Patriarchy)

Krystal says that the tradition of a father "giving his daughter away" is oppressive:
This ritual, both historically and symbolically, gives the woman away as if she is a piece of property that a man is privileged enough to own.
It is true that our history has included innumerable instances of women being unjustly treated. Frankly, feminism hasn't fixed that. If you think it has, consider how much the pornography industry has grown in recent years, and what that has done to men and women.

The tradition of giving a daughter away is truly beautiful. It exemplifies God's design to leave your parents and cleave to your spouse:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
God's design is not for husbands to control their wives! A godly marriage can be a beautiful picture of the way Christ loves the Church—so long as husband and wife both have this understanding of the meaning behind marriage. John Piper says it well:
Headship is not a right to command and control. It's a responsibility to love like Christ: to lay down your life for your wife in servant leadership. And submission is not slavish or coerced or cowering. That's not the way Christ wants the church to respond to his leadership: he wants it to be free and willing and glad and refining and strengthening.

2) Someone to Live Life With (in response to I must find my prince and ride off into the sunset?)

Krystal brings up two different ideas under her second point. I'll address them both.

First, she states that "the idea of finding our 'one true love' is embedded in us all from a very early age." No argument there! Believe me—Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid were my two favorite movies growing up. This concept is all over just about every romantic movie out there.

The solution, however, is not to break out of the bounds of this thing she calls "heterosexual normativity." The solution is simply to recognize that, while there may not be someone out there who is our "soul mate," should we choose to marry, we can redeem "true love" to be all it was meant to be: a sacrificial, imitating-Christ love. Giving your life to another. For life. Finding someone to live life with—someone who loves God and who will lead us closer to Him.

Second, Krystal quotes the following:
“Most of the discourses on sex, be they religious, psychiatric, popular, or political, delimit a very small portion of human sexual capacity as sanctifiable, safe, healthy, mature, legal, or politically correct. The ‘line’ distinguishes these from all other erotic behaviours, which are understood to be the work of the devil, dangerous, psychopathological, infantile, or politically reprehensible. Arguments are then conducted over ‘where to draw the line’, and to determine what other activities, if any, may be permitted to cross over into acceptability.”
Beware this kind of thinking! Would you agree that there needs to be some sort of moral standard? If you don't draw the line somewhere... is pedophilia ok, then? What about bestiality? What if you bring this concept into other areas? Is it ok to kill someone for no reason? Why not?

See how this becomes a dangerous place to be? Maybe, just maybe, the reason why there are arguments over where to draw the line is because people have an innate sense that there must be some sort of moral standard in the world. And how could that sense get into our minds unless Someone put it there?

Bringing this back to marriage... maybe there's a better way. I would argue that there's much more enjoyment and beauty when sticking with one sexual partner for life:
The benefits of monogamy are huge, and they include better sex.
Experts say you get really great at something when you’ve put in 10,000 hours of practice. For instance, that piano player who can totally rock a Mozart or Vivaldi or Chopin tune. But imagine that you kept changing his instrument — piano, violin, percussion, trombone, etc. Would he be immediately as good at playing those other instruments? Not likely. In a covenant marriage, you get a lifetime to learn love with your particular partner, to try many different things, and to perfect your lovemaking. You can become quite the maestro!
Focus on the mate you chose. Invest yourself fully in this One True Love. Even if your original, natural bent felt a little more Don Juan than Romeo. Monogamous, covenant marriage, and awesome sex within, is God’s beautiful design, and the payoff is worth the investment.
More on monogamy now...

3) Monogamy, Beauty (in response to Monogamy, Monotony)

Krystal says:
Half of the people who tie the knot end up needing to untie it later—and usually it’s a really tight knotty knot that is difficult and expensive to untangle.
And I’m the weirdo for not wanting to be a part of that?
People get married because they’re told over and over again that this is the way it’s done, and yet over and over again it isn’t being done right (and obviously not for the right reasons).
I mostly agree (except the part about "needing" to untie the knot, and about why people get married). The whole purpose of marriage is that it should be a "really tight knotty knot"! Marriage is, by definition, a vow to remain committed and faithful to one's spouse for life. And, yes, marriage is unfortunately often entered into for the wrong reasons. Plus, we're sinners, so God's design for marriage has been drastically and tragically distorted.

Marriage is meant to reflect Christ's love for His Church. I'm so glad that God does not have the same attitude toward us that we so often sinfully have toward one another. I'm so glad He doesn't say: "Well, I love you, but only so long as you do what I want, make me feel fulfilled, and do everything you can to make me happy. I love you so long as I feel in love with you and think you're attractive." 

No, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." I'm so glad God loves us with a covenantal, unconditional love.

So, are we naturally monogamous? No, I don't think we are.
Monogamy is not natural. You’re right about that. 
It’s supernatural.
But is monogamy a good thing? Matt Walsh helps us think rightly about this:
I have found a woman who will be with me until I die, even while my hair falls out and my skin shrivels and wrinkles, even when I stumble, even when I fail, even through the doldrums of daily existence, through bills and dirty diapers, through all things — joyous or miserable, pleasing or painful — through every day until death comes. Why should it be hard for me to simply refrain from tossing such a gift into the garbage?...
If you won 600 million dollars in the lottery, would you go out the next day and break into cars to steal the change from the cup holders? That’s what sleeping around is like when you’ve already found a woman who will pledge her life and her entire being to you for the remainder of her existence.
Photo by Daniel LaBelle Photography

4) Lasting Benefits (in response to Benefits for Whom?)

In her fourth point, Krystal says, "I don’t think health care should be a high priority for a major decision like marriage."

I don't have much to say on this topic, other than that I don't think so, either. If you want to marry someone, don't do it for the healthcare benefits or tax breaks.

No, if you want to marry someone, do it because you have decided to make a lifelong commitment to that person. Do it because you want to love your spouse sacrificially and unconditionally. Do it because you want to be a blessing to your spouse by being a picture of Christ to him or her. Those are the lasting benefits of marriage.

5) Better for the Children—and Us (in response to *F* the Children)

Miss Baugher states the following:
We’re all really sensitive about our children, but guess what? We are the children, your parents are the children, your grandparents are the children.
This is, in one sense, a valid point. We all at one time were the children. I was once a child. And, boy, am I grateful that my parents gave me a stable childhood and exemplified a faithful, monogamous marriage. I'm so glad that I never had to experience the ravages of divorced parents, or the confusion of unmarried parents. So, yes, we once were the children.

There are statistics everywhere that prove that children who come from traditional families with loving, involved mothers and fathers experience less mental illness, less substance abuse, more economic opportunity... the list goes on and on. I don't think that this is a coincidence.

She also points out that children "are not innocent vessels of pure moral order." This is also true. They are sinners, like us all. That is why is is so crucial to be an example to them of what is good, noble, and right. It is so important to train them up to love God and the way He ordered things. It is imperative to show them what committed, sacrificial love looks like. Because they are sinners, too, and don't we want them to enjoy life the way it was designed, not experience the ravages of sin and death?

Krystal also asks,
When will we do what’s right for us instead of for some hypothetical person who hasn’t been born yet?
Well, that's just selfish (would you use this reasoning when talking about whether we should take care of the environment?). Besides, doing things God's way is not only better for "the children." It's better for us, too. And none of this is about us anyway.

Photo by Heather McKittrick Photography


Miss Baugher's article made me sad because it exemplified the way of thinking of so many in our culture today. So many people are missing the beauty of marriage as God designed it. It's affecting our culture, our worldview, our children, you name it. Marriage is meant to be so much more—so much better—than we so often think! Let's redeem our marriages and make them all that God intended—for His glory and for our benefit, too!
While it would be wrong to conclude that marriage is everyone’s answer to the “it is not good for man to be alone” problem, it is humanity’s answer in general and was the institution that God gave us to solve this trouble. It is and has been God’s delight and design that each of us come into His world through the communion, love and commitment of a husband and a wife. (The Family Project Blog)
I did not get married to (in Krystal's words) fulfill my "duty to be “princess” for a day (and wife for my life)." I got married because I wanted to love and be loved the way Christ loves. My husband and I don't do that perfectly, but we are committed to getting better at it for the rest of our lives. Why would I choose the loneliness and confusion of sexual "freedom" or sleeping around, or whatever else... if I can instead choose a life of deep, faithful love?

So, please, don't settle for our culture's view of marriage! Embrace God's design. There is so much more joy and satisfaction to be experienced when we respect and honor the way God designed things.


6/2 Update:

Given several comments I've gotten about this post, I feel the need to address something:

I recognize that the core issue behind why Krystal and I disagree is that we (very likely) differ in our worldviews (i.e. the lenses through which we view the world). I understand that she is not likely to change her views on marriage without a change in worldview. I am also not likely to change my views on marriage without a change in worldview (which isn't going to happen). 

I believe that there is a God who has always been. He is holy. He created the universe and everything in it. He is a God of love, mercy, and justice. He is the only being worthy of worship. I believe that humanity is fallen. We are sinners. We can't meet God's standard of holiness. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of this Living, holy God, and He was sent to the earth to redeem us through the sacrifice of His life in our place, so that we could be reconciled to God and live with Him forever in heaven. I believe that anyone who puts their trust in Him can experience this reconciliation. I believe that the Bible is Truth.

That is my worldview. And that is why I view marriage the way I do.

You may choose a different worldview. I simply encourage you to study up on your options, considering what you find is True, not only what you want to be true (I can say I don't want to believe in gravity, but that doesn't make it any less real). I encourage you to be sure about what you believe about God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, heaven, hell, and eternity. Because eternity is a really long time—much longer than this life you are living now. 
"Leave nothing unsettled that is eternal." –J.C. Ryle

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gratitude for My Husband

Earlier today, I was thinking about how romantic my life was when I got engaged. Wow. What a great date that was. I was swept off my feet! We danced, he sang, we were adventurous on our scavenger hunt. I ordered whatever I wanted at the restaurant—it was extravagant. It was romantic.

It was not how life is anymore.

Now, I iron his shirts.

And I get excited when we actually clean the whole house in one weekend.

And a trip to Culver's for ice cream is the event of the week.

And then I was tempted to wish for more romance—to say to my husband "why don't we go out on romantic dates anymore?" (Which we still do sometimes, anyway.)

But then I remembered a beautiful post by Ann Voskamp (who speaks much more eloquently than I ever could). It's about "boring" husbands. And it's about how boring is so much more beautiful than chick flick romance.

So I wanted to remember why my husband is wonderful.

I'm a little hesitant to write this post because I don't want it to seem like I'm attempting to brag about how I have the best husband or something.

However, when I see women really appreciating and valuing their husbands instead of criticizing them, it inspires me to do the same. I want to be a wife who pays attention to the eighty percent instead of getting hung up on the twenty percent like I am so often tempted to do.
“A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy.”
–Lars Gren, husband of Elisabeth Elliot
So, the list below is (certainly not exhaustively) about that eighty percent. These are my husband’s strengths. Your husband’s strengths are probably different. My hubby looks wonderful to me, but please don’t read this list and lament that your husband struggles where mine doesn’t. Think about your own marriage and how your husband is a blessing. I encourage you to make your own list.... and consider the heart behind these words I recently read on a blog: "Be his lover, not his mother!" I think that starts with gratitude.

20 Reasons I'm Grateful for My Husband
  1. He loves God more than he loves me. 
  2. Because of that, he isn't afraid to tell me when I've been sinful, unreasonable, or hypocritical. But he almost always does so gently, in a way that leads me to think, repent, and trust that God will keep working in me... he does not speak in a way that makes me tell myself that I am a failure and should not be such a bad sinner.
  3. When he has time, he washes the dirty dishes before I wake up in the morning.
  4. He eats the food I cook. And he thanks me for making it.
  5. He's super-adorable with our baby girl.
  6. He's not too proud to change a diaper, and is still willing to do so despite the fact that I almost always complain about how he did it.
  7. He goes to work every day to provide financially for our family so that I can be at home.
  8. He owns his mistakes.
  9. He is faithful. I have no fear that he will be unfaithful.
  10. He is still there! He doesn't go away, even when I'm being unreasonable, critical, super-emotional, or otherwise ridiculous.
  11. He took me to get flowers to plant in the garden for Mother's Day.
  12. He loves people equally—a trait I can learn from. He's genuinely interested in people and how they are doing.
  13. He tells me he loves me every morning and every night.
  14. He is my friend. We like to hang out. We enjoy our conversations. Like the one we recently had about eschatology, Israel, and Isaac & Ishmael. 
  15. He teaches his students. He also teaches me. Gently, lovingly. Just like he always did even before we were married and he taught me how to do my taxes and how to play ultimate frisbee and tennis.
  16. He balances me out: He has a different perspective that makes me think. He's a big picture guy, I'm a detail girl. Together, we make a great pair. He casts a vision, and I can figure out how to make the vision happen. 
  17. I love the vision he has for how to raise and discipline our child(ren).
  18. He's snuggly.
  19. He deals with the mice. The ones that were in our apartment. He's willing to take care of those things so I don't have to.
  20. Let's face it, he's pretty handsome ;)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Homemade Mother's Day Gifts

Butterfly Footprint Flower Pots

For our baby's first Mother's Day, I decided she needed to make something cute with her footprints for her grandmas. I found an idea on Pinterest and decided I loved it! There were no directions for how to do it, but it seemed easy enough. So I made two butterfly footprint flower pots.

1. Paint the flower pots white with acrylic paint.

2. Mix your colors for the butterfly wings.

3. Find a baby. Carefully paint the baby's feet and make footprints to look like a butterfly. This is the hardest part. Also make sure the footprints are on opposite sides from how their feet are.

4. Paint bodies for the butterflies. Let dry. Then paint over the pot with matte finish Mod Podge. Let dry.

5. Label the bottom with a Sharpie. Add a pretty artificial flower arrangement (I do not recommend planting real flowers—water and soil may mess up the beautiful art). Voila! Project complete!

Monday, April 28, 2014

"What Not To Say": On Infertility

Last week was National Infertility Awareness Week. A friend of mine posted one thing each day last week that people simply should NOT say to those couples who are struggling with infertility. I asked her if I could post her thoughts because I thought it would be beneficial to share.

I'm so grateful that infertility is not something that my husband and I have had to experience. I couldn't even pretend to understand the pain that some couples face when they experience this struggle. But I do want to do what I can to support and encourage my friends as they walk their journeys, whether or not I have experienced them. And I want to remember, most of all, that my child is a sweet, sweet gift... a gift that is precious and not something to be taken for granted.

So, here we are:
National Infertility Awareness Week and "What Not to Say"
  1. OUCH!: Why the rush? You're still so young.
    Age doesn't have anything to do with it. Every pregnancy announcement we hear, every baby we see, every expectant mother we sit next to while waiting to see the doctor about our latest test results is a reminder of all we don't have and can't be. Each time a sensitive, caring friend comes to tell you in the privacy of your own home ("before you find out anywhere else") that she is expecting, the only way you can survive it is by promising yourself that you'll be next. But when the next announcement ISN'T yours, it gets harder and harder to believe. I'm not trying to beat my biological clock. I'm trying to beat everyone else's! I'm trying to beat the pain. I'm trying to beat that next horrible blow. I'm trying to beat feeling that unbearable ache one - more - time.

    THE BETTER RESPONSE: You will be such great parents!
    Thank you for believing in us! And thanks for the reminder that we will get there eventually. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that. We may not get our child in the way we'd always imagined, but one way or another, we will be parents. (Hint: Be sure not to say this to someone who has chosen to remain childless and is healing from that.)
  2. OUCH!: Have you considered fostering/domestic adoption/international adoption/IVF/embryo transfer/egg donor/surrogate/kidnapping/etc? [Not so much a painful question as just one where the answer seems obvious. Although some do ask this question in a pointed, almost condescending way, as though trying to imply that we're not doing what we should be. That DOES hurt.] 
    Yes. Just yes. Trust me, we've been up and down the list five million times. Anyone going through this is going to explore EVERY option! The truth is that none of these options are ideal. There are unbelievably long waits, deep pain, unknown and frightening risks, incredible expense, questionable ethics, birthparent relationships, and a multitude of other issues no matter which way you turn when you can't conceive naturally. Please trust that we've made the right decision for US.

    THE BETTER RESPONSE: How did you arrive at the decision to pursue [insert chosen method of family-building]?
    I'm glad you asked! It wasn't an easy choice, I assure you. Thanks for being interested in our journey!
  3. OUCH!: Are you really going to do that? Haven't you heard that [insert any manner of negative objection]?
    Yes. I assure you we've read all the reasons we should and shouldn't do everything. We've done our homework, but everywhere you look, you can always find an organization or blog or protestor that is more than happy to tell you why any given choice is wrong. Sometimes you have to look at your options and ask, "Which option gives me the peace in my soul to let me sleep at night?"

    THE BETTER RESPONSE: That must be a tough decision.
    Yes, it is. Thank you for recognizing that. I hope you never have to make it.
  4. OUCH!: So which one of you has the problem?
    Seriously? If I wanted you to know that, I would've told you. If I'm the problem, I'm not sure I appreciate you being so curious about the failures of my baby-maker. If it's my spouse, I'm really not comfortable discussing his physical issues behind his back. There's no winner to this question. The point is not to blame one person. We are a couple striving for the same purpose and working through the same problem together.

    THE BETTER RESPONSE: How is your husband handling all this?
    How kind of you to think of him! Infertility can cause serious stress in a marriage. We're working through it together, and he's been an amazing, supportive husband on those days when I'm a wreck!
  5. OUCH!: All you need to do is ...
    Okay. I'm going to stop you right there. Because whatever comes out of your mouth next is going to either be incredibly awkward, uninformed, or obsolete, but most likely all three. It's amazing how many people who have never lived through this struggle are happy to advise me to take special vitamins, have my spine adjusted, add a "special ingredient" to my tea, monitor my body temperature, spin around three times chanting in German, or any other number of unhelpful rituals. Everyone and their great aunt has their own "fail-proof" cure. Infertility is a complex medical concern with many causes (many of which are unknown) and many levels of severity.

    THE BETTER RESPONSE: I'll be praying for you.
    Sometimes, that's all we need to hear. And sometimes, it's our only hope. Thank you!
  6. OUCH!: If you would just relax/adopt/stop trying, it'll happen.
    If I had a nickel for every time this was said to me, my costs would be covered. In a perfect world, we could all achieve what we want by closing our eyes, taking a deep breath, and wishing. The human anatomy is complicated. Infertility can be caused by chromosomal, hormonal, mechanical, genetic, disease-related, secondary, or even neural conditions, just to list a few of the physical gears that go into human fertility. But NOT failure to put one's feet up from time to time.

    THE BETTER RESPONSE: I hope it happens for you very soon, even if it's in a way you don't expect!
    Thank you. We do too!
  7. OUCH!: You want kids? You can take a couple off my hands. My kids will change your mind.
    This is probably the most hurtful thing that I ever hear. I know you mean it as a joke and that you're just trying to lighten the mood. I know you love your children. But you have no idea what a slap in the face it is. You have no idea that there's a deep part of me that wants to scream, "YES!" Everywhere you go, you can see parents who don't appreciate or take care of their children - people who just want to be parents when it's convenient. You just want to go tell them all what a blessing they are missing out on because they aren't cherishing their children.

    THE BETTER RESPONSE: Wow. Seeing what you're going through makes me appreciate my family more.
    This may sound insensitive to you, but it's the sweetest thing for me to hear. If my pain can do something so beautiful as to remind someone else of their blessings, then it *almost* makes it worth it. Every child should be treasured. Go home and hug your kids a little tighter tonight. Because you know you couldn't imagine a life without them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Super-Easy Hummus

I've been looking for healthy snacking ideas lately, since my body needs to eat small amounts more often during breastfeeding. I found a hummus recipe and have tweaked it to make pretty good hummus—especially for how easy it is to make! Here's my tweaked recipe:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained, liquid reserved
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • sesame seeds to taste
In a blender or food processor combine all ingredients. Blend on low speed, gradually adding reserved bean liquid, until desired consistency is achieved.

I've been eating it with sugar snap peas. Yum!

This will be a great addition to my other snacks, which currently include yogurt, fruit, string cheese, granola bars, and trail mix.

What are some of your favorite healthy snacks?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Several weeks ago, I had some friends over on a Saturday morning, so I decided to serve them this apple cinnamon oatmeal that I'd been wanting to try. I'd gotten some steel-cut oats for the first time and wanted to make something simple with them using the slow cooker, since working full-time I'd not had time in the mornings to cook steel-cut oats on the stovetop.

It was delicious! I served it with various topping options (cinnamon, syrup, sugar, natural cane sugar, honey, butter, brown sugar, dried apricots, and ground flax seed) and found I loved it with a little brown sugar and dried cranberries for some extra flavor.

  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2-1/2 to 3 cups chopped)
  • 1-1/2 cups fat-free milk (or substitute non-diary alternative like almond milk)
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or substitute maple syrup or other desired sweetener)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into 5-6 pieces (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Optional garnishes: chopped nuts, raisins, maple syrup, additional milk or butter
Coat inside of 3-1/2 quart (or larger) slow cooker with cooking spray. Add all ingredients (except optional toppings) to slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approx. 7 hours (slow cooker times can vary). Spoon oatmeal into bowls; add optional toppings, if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator. Freezes well.

To reheat single servings: Put 1-cup cooked oatmeal in microwave proof bowl. Add 1/3 cup fat-free milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Continue cooking for another minute, or until hot.

Recipe can be doubled in 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Increase cooking time 1 hour.

Nutritional Info (per 3/4 cup serving): 149 calories, 3.6g fat, 27.3g carbs, 3.9g fiber, 4.9g protein; Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 4 pts