"SEE YA Doc!" or... okay, no actually I WILL see you. Blerg.

As John and I were finishing up our preliminary fertility appointment with Dr. Colbert a few weeks ago, he re-capped the list of test and procedures I was to have done on my next cycle and then said, "But who knows? Maybe you'll get pregnant this month and say, 'Nice to meet you Dr. Colbert. See ya!'"

I tried like so super hard to not get my hopes up, but I thought about his words basically everyday. The last minute surprise! The can you even believe it?! The TAKE THAT weird probing ultrasound wand! SEE YA!


It was not meant to be.

So I cried and called John at work and told him all about how unfair this whole thing is and got upset about how I've already had my life pried open and scrutinized via my immigration experience and our adoption process. Not to mention the fact that I have also been fully examined- body, x-ray, and blood- by both the American and Russian governments in each of those respective processes.

Is nothing sacred? 

For once I would like to go through a major life event with some semblance of privacy, internet readers!
Privacy. It ain't what it used to be. (source)
After my cry and rant I made my peace and called up Dr. Colbert to make my appointments.

I don't know if you guys follow Glennon Doyle Melton over at Momastery, but she wrote this book which I devoured in the spring and I keep thinking about this one phrase she writes over and over again:

I can do hard things. 

I can. I'm a little nervous. Being brave about the what ifs of infertility is a little scary and a lot hard, but I can do hard things.

I also keep thinking about that often repeated verse from Philippians 4: "I can do all things through him who gives me strength."

As a child that verse used to make me wonder if I could life an ENTIRE YELLOW SCHOOL BUS by myself if God was with me.  That thought now makes me laugh because it is obviously ridiculous but also because it shows how immature I was both in thought and wisdom. My interpretation used to be:

"I can do whatever I put my mind to, with God by my side."

Today I'm thinking it's something more like:

"Only through the strength God provides will I make it through this storm."


Welcome September with your hard things. I can do this month and whatever it brings, in Christ.

Getting my hopes up, once again.



Refusing to compete: a little testimony

Lately I've been thinking a lot about scarcity, competition, and freedom. When I was in college I heard this amazing sermon about the Old Testament characters Jonathan and David. Jonathan was the king's son in Israel, due to inherit the throne, but God anointed David to become king instead. The thrust of the sermon revolved around 1 Samuel 18:4 where Jonathan gives David his robe and sword, symbolically bowing out of his right to become king.
(Photo source)
The preacher used this Bible story to demonstrate a profound truth about life in God's kingdom: we are not in competition.

I've heard a lot of sermons in my life but that one was particularly formative for me. When John and I got married, we reflected on this truth and determined to not live in competition with the rest of the world. We wanted to live according to God's economy of abundance. We did not want to live into the lie of scarcity: the lie that there is only so much stuff/happiness/popularity/etc to go around and whoever gets the most, wins.

It can be a hard truth to live by, this idea that not having as much as so-and-so doesn't rob me of anything, but it is also incredibly freeing.

When we were engaged, John's white '98 Jetta gave out and he went looking for a new car. His dad, ever the conscientious consumer, counseled him to buy a reliable Toyota Corolla. So he did. In black. And we still drive it today. This winter we lost a hubcap somewhere in our travels and spent $60 to have it replaced. Much to our dismay, two weeks later, it was missing again. Neither of us could bring ourselves to replace it a second time, so we've been driving around with a missing hubcap for about 6 months.

It looks terrible, that wheel. It looks unfinished and ugly and the gross rusty metal is showing underneath. But you know what? We are just as happy with three hubcaps as we were when we had four.

Obviously there is nothing moral about the number of hubcaps a person has on their car, but when I realized that our joy levels had not been affected by our ugly wheel, I felt so encouraged. After reflecting on our hubcap situation for a while, I realized that God has been working an amazing spiritual transformation in our lives as we have refused to live as if life is a competition:

He is taking away the desire we have for more.

He is making us incredibly happy with the gifts we do have.

And he is redirecting our desires to reflect his will.

I don't know if I could have said all that even just two years ago. When we moved into our new house back then, I struggled greatly with the desire to perfect every room with paint, furniture, and decoration. Today, I appreciate what I have, I enjoy decorating,  and I still have dreams for household improvements, but thoughts about perfecting our home aren't the things that I want out of life.  Today my greatest desires are not to impress you with what I have, but to impress upon you the amazing reality of what Christ can do with a simple sinner like me.

Slowly, as I refuse to compete with my life, I am finding freedom- both freedom FROM the bondage of a better car, a nicer home, and greener grass and freedom TO live the full, blessed, and eternally satisfying life that God has for me. There is so much joy in surrender to Jesus.

I'm so grateful for that sermon I heard 7+ years ago. Just the other day one of you reminded me of these truths when you commented on a post about my infertility that another woman's pregnancy doesn't take anything away from me. Yes.  The thing in my life that is robbing me the most of my joy in Christ is my desire to be pregnant. I don't think that desire is wrong, but is it is wrong for me to be dissatisfied with what I have as I long for something else. I'm learning every day what it means to take off my robe and sword, and lay it down. 


The consult

John and I had our first (technically second- the first was two years ago right before we changed courses to adopt Arie) fertility consult this morning.  Allow me to introduce you to our fertility specialist:

Okay so that is actually Stephen Colbert, but our doctor looks JUST LIKE HIM. Also as a sense of humor like him, which is like exactly what you need in the room when you're talking about such things as periods and sperm and all related awkwardness.

So Dr. Stephen Colbert encouraged us once again by reiterating that we do not have male factor infertility which is a huge blessing because that's the kind that is typically hardest to treat. Everything seems normal on my end, but- exact quote here- Dr. Colbert does not want to be "snookered by my ovaries" so he is ordering a whole slew of tests for me.

Working diagnosis: snookering ovaries.  I gots 'em.

In September I will start a battery of tests to measure hormone levels and look for such sneakily snookering problems as cysts or tube blockage. The one I'm looking forward to the most is called an HSG which involves- according to my instruction sheet- a speculum, iodine dye, an x-ray, "the position of a pelvic exam,"and "a small catheter passed through the cervix."

Oh hell.

I'm also supposed to let them know if I'm allergic to shellfish. So maybe they're thinking about taking me to dinner afterward?


The other tests are an ultrasound and blood work which I'm sure will be much easier. Right?
Super clear operating instructions. Super clear. 
I've heard a few things about these tests- mostly the HSG- and some of them have been rather TERRIFYING so I am just going to say upfront, if you had a bad or painful experience with yours DO NOT TELL ME ABOUT IT. Mine is going to be awesome and easy and comparable to a spa trip. I will come back and tell you all about it. Unless it sucks in which case I will lie to save the rest of you infertile worriers out there.

At the end of our consult we were feeling a little overwhelmed with our (my) list of tests and instructions and when-and-where to get them, but then Dr. Colbert smiled as he shook my hand and looked right into my eyes saying, "Let's get you that baby."

Deep breath.





Mackinac Island, the past, and a proverb for tomorrow

History. Just hearing the world induces a full body cringe for me. I hated learning about history in school. From my earliest memories, history lectures and textbooks were just endless cavities where dates and facts, events and names, and my brain went to die. In my college Church History class, I somehow received one of the highest class marks on the final exam, yet today I can tell you only approximately three things about church history and all I can remember about that class was how stressful it was, learning about so many important things by sheer rote memorization.

History just isn't my thing.

The past, however, intrigues me. As I struggled through all those long and boring student textbooks, I would sometimes come across a little sidebar on the page- a softly shaded yellow or green box of text on the edge of a page, sometimes with a picture, giving me a glimpse into the daily lives of people gone by. What they ate and wore or how they traveled.... sometimes a little information about an important figure's marriage or family life. That's the stuff that interests me.

I read everything Little House on the Prairie related and watched hours on end of Road to Avonlea. I'm mesmerized by Downton Abbey. I love looking into the past and taking note of the life that came before me. I'm fascinated with the way things used to be. I think of history as hard facts and interpretation of circumstance, but the past is all about the person who came before- the hands that built the castle, the child who slept in the bassinet, and the woman who stood on that same shore and shared your view into the horizon.

John and I were so blessed to take our little man to Mackinac Island here in Michigan on Monday. It was the first time for each of us and let me tell you- I don't think Disney has anything on the magic of this place.
Watching the ferry pull up to take us to the island! 
"A boat wide! A BIG boat wide!" 

It is the past in a quiet, happy little way. There are no cars. There are many bikes. There are horses and there is a background scent- mostly in town- of horse poop. A reminder of how life used to smell.

The island is town and tourism in one place and natural, scenic beauty in another. It allowed us to enjoy  sugary fudge, slow meals, playground slides and ice cream treats with friends on one hand....
Okay CHEEESE but we're going to eat that chocolate too right? Not just look at it? Right Mama? Chocolate? Right???

... and long bike rides, unspoiled shorelines, and miles of wildflowers on the other.

We will remember this as the very best day of our summer.

As we toured ancient forests and old structures, I placed in my heart a reminder to go slow in life. To not waste my precious days on fleeting things, but to remember, as James writes, that my life is "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14). To spend my days on kindness, doing the good I ought to do and remembering that I've come this far and go forward only in the Lord's will.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

I believe the Lord used our vacation to put this scripture on my heart because tomorrow John I will go to the city for our first fertility consult. We will spend the next year seeking treatment and hopefully having a baby.

Or maybe I should say it like this:

If it is the Lord's will, we will live and get pregnant and add a baby to our family. 

It was our plan to first have a biological baby and then, years later, adopt. But as you know, the Lord established our steps in a new direction and led us to our son. 

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." Proverbs 16:9  

That proverb encapsulates the wisdom I have learned from the past two years. It is the wisdom I want to remember tomorrow. As we walk forward in God's provision, I trust and pray that as we take each step forward and make many decisions about both our treatment plan and the future of our family, we will know the good we ought to do and we will do it.

Here we go.



Growing in a belly

This week Arie and I are attending a "Little Farmers" class at a local educational farm. It's been ridiculously cute. Arie has been full of squeeeeee and look Mama! which makes my heart swell at least three sizes.
Only had my phone with me for these; excuse poor picture quality! 

Unexpectedly, it was in the midst of this class that we had our first public encounter with the whole "birth mom" vs. "bio mom" idea. Maybe it would be more fair to say that I had my first encounter with it because Arie seemed to only mildly understand what was happening, but it was a notable moment for me.

I tell Arie his adoption story at least once every week, so I've told him that he didn't grow in my belly but so far he hasn't really seemed to appreciate this information as anything unusual. But on Tuesday, the theme of the morning at our farm class was Bunnies and Rabbits which opened the concept in a whole new way.
Angora Rabbit. I know. 
We learned all about bunnies and rabbits from our teacher Farmer Jane. She brought into the classroom rabbits for us to pet and even a box of newly born bunnies for us to look at.

Then it happened.

Farmer Jane told us all about how baby bunnies get milk from their mama bunnies just like we (the 3-5 year olds in the class) got milk from our mommies! And not only that, but baby bunnies have belly buttons from where they were attached to their mommies, just like we do. All the kids were invited to lift up their shirts and find the place where they were attached to their mommies. The mom beside me beamed at her little one's face as she excitedly pointed out the place where they were once attached. I praised Arie for finding his own belly button and my mind went to his birth mom and that bond they once shared.

Watching Arie listen to all that talk about mothers and babies was a poignant moment for me. I watched Arie's face as he paid close attention to the teacher's words and wondered how much he was processing. After, I asked him, "Arie did you hear Farmer Jane say that baby bunnies grow in their mommy bunnies' tummies?"

"Yea!" he replied.

I continued, "Did you hear her say that people babies grow in their mommies' tummies too?"

Again, "Yea!"

Cautiously I questioned, "But Arie did you grow in my tummy?"

Surprised at his level of understanding, I watched him shake his head no.

"Whose tummy did you grow in Arie?" I asked, emotionally anticipating his birth mother's name.

Seriously, he looked into my eyes and said softly, "A bunny's tummy."

.... so I guess we're about about halfway there. ;-)

I'm sure this is the first of many poignant, emotional, and blessed birth-and-adoption-related moments to come.

I'm ready.



Unsolicited reading recommendations for ya

Some of the bloggers I follow like to end each month with a "What I'm into this month" type post. I always find them interesting! I don't think I could ever do it, however, because some months it would read more like cricket chirps than a blog post (the month of February, every year), however this month I'm feeling inspired to pass on three books I've discovered in the past year. They've each inspired me in different ways and made both my life and parenting better. So much better that I've become a bit of a walking advertisement for them. Allow me to pester you with some recommendations!

1. The Joy of Less; a minimalist living guide.

You guys. This is not a parenting book by any means, but of all the books and articles I've read, this book has strangely impacted my parenting the most! I am not a super clean and tidy person, but if my house is too cluttered I feel very stressed and become a cranky mom (and wife?). It turns out that kids are the best at making messes and the worst at cleaning them up. A few months into Arie's homecoming, I felt like I was spending half my life separating out the duplo blocks from the Mr. Potato Head pieces and the Little People from the music toy box.

I know what you're going to say. Just leave them! They always get mixed up anyway. 

I can't do it. And besides, I've found that when kids walk into a disaster of a playroom, they don't know where to start playing and they get cranky too. It's just not good.
One part of parenting for which I was not prepared: the gifts. So many toys! Challenging the best of my organization skills. 
So I determined to simplify. Inspired by the Year of Less blog (which still up, but has sadly been discontinued), I bought the book and used it to help me minimize. I started by pairing down the playroom. I got rid of about half our toys and put the other toys into a closet, to be rotated out every few weeks.

Life changer.

No matter how messily Arie plays, it only takes about 15 minutes to clean up! Right now he has these toys out:

- duplos (currently his favorite)
- music toys
- blocks
- books
- 3 trucks
- play kitchen and play food
- train set

He is happy as can be. I could actually probably put the music toys and blocks away right now as they have fallen out of favor, but my closet is still a bit of a mess and I don't have the space. Ha!

I've been working my way through the house and pairing down whatever I can. My kitchen cupboards have fewer dishes now and it is much easier to both find things and put them away. My dresser and closet are tidier because they have fewer clothes to make a mess. The laundry loads take less time to fold! I purged 5+ years worth of old lotion bottles and lipstick tubes and nothing falls out on me when I open my bathroom cupboards anymore. It's amazing. I'm not "done" minimizing my house, but I feel so much better about being in it.

The side effects of living more minimally are freedom and peace. Freedom from that desire to want more and that feeling like I don't have enough. And the peace that comes from being contented with what I have. As I've discovered in the book, living minimally doesn't mean living in a sterile white place; it means living intentionally with the stuff that makes your life better, more beautiful and nothing else.

I could write more, but I'll just encourage you to check out the book for yourself.

2. Bringing Up Bebe.

When John and I were in Moscow adopting Arie, I was deeply encouraged by how optimistic the Russians we encountered seemed to be about children. Coming from the States where parents seemed to be deeply concerned (anxious?) about how their kids were turning out, the attitude surprised and refreshed me. Our facilitator especially was filled with stories about children, formerly institutionalized and subsequently adopted, were thriving in their new lives. Even when she would talk about her own (adult) son and his childhood, she was always relaxed and joyful.

I remember at the orphanage one of Arie's nannies giggled with our facilitator about Arie's lack of participation in the little group "gym" class they had. He stubbornly refused to kick the ball when it came his way. Our facilitator and his nanny smiled and raved about Arie being too "intellectual" for sports and gushed about how smart he would grow to be. I could only think to myself that in America, parents of non-paticipatory kids would be heading to their computers, worried, to research social behaviors and methods to improve their child's coordination.

As I read the reviews for the book Bringing Up Bebe, I noticed that French parenting seemed to embody that same kind of optimism. Excited by the connection, I ordered and devoured the book. It was fascinating. The author does not write from a "how-to" perspective, so don't go into this book thinking that it is a parenting book. It is a book that describes French parenting and makes fascinating comparisons to American (Canadian, English etc) parenting. As I read I felt challenged to evaluate my parenting from a new perspective and encouraged to make positive changes.
I don't know. This is me, camping and unglamorous, reading the book. Only photo I had for this section. 
Here's the change that most helped me: as I've remarked previously on this blog (and via at least a half dozen facebook and instgram posts), Arie tends to be a picky eater. He has not gained one single ounce since he's come home. Granted, he was a chubby baby and he has grown two inches, so we're not into medically concerning territory, but still- I wanted to see him eating more and with greater variety.
He was home for about seven months when I read the book and I knew we were not dealing with post-institutionalization food issues like texture or temperature problems.

I discovered through this book that not only do French mothers not walk around with granola bars and bags of goldfish in their purses, but they (adults and children alike) eat only a schedule of breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner.

What about the mid-morning snack? What about the snack before bed? What about if you're at the grocery store and your kid starts melting down and you don't have CANDY for them??!

Inspired by the beautiful descriptions of foods which French children readily gobble up, I determined to feed Arie more like the French. Breakfast at 8, lunch at noon, snack at 3 and dinner at 6 or 7.

He is like a new kid.

You know that mid-morning snack? I've discovered that it was throwing off his entire day! He was always just satiated enough that he easily rejected new foods at lunch. And then was so hungry by snack, that he'd fill up and not want dinner. *Duh* Probably should not have taken a book to get me to realize this, but I'm just so happy to have figured it out!

Now he gets breakfast and is hungry enough by lunch that he will try almost anything without a fight. He won't always eat the whole serving, but he knows that if he doesn't eat, there won't be any goldfish to fill his belly later. He gets a nutritious snack at 3 and he's hungry enough to eat his whole dinner. Since he goes to bed at 7:30 or 8, he doesn't need another snack and *surprise* he wakes up hungry and ready for breakfast. If he under eats and gets hungry early, he gets a piece of fruit or- if we're out- he gets an opportunity to learn patience.

Again, I could go on and on about all other parenting ideas I learned from this book, but you will just have to head on over to your local library or amazon yourself.

3. Lastly, I have to pass a cookbook on to you. John, Arie, and I spent a few days at our friends' cottage last week and our friend Paul cooked us meals from Super Natural Everyday. Before I finished eating the second meal, I knew I had to have this book. In fact, I ordered it from my phone before we even got home.

I've had the book in my possession for eight days and I've already cooked 5 meals from it. They are all extraordinary. Fresh, extremely flavorful, simple to prepare, very nutritious, and made with real, whole foods (no cream of mushroom soup cans!).... this is my new favorite cookbook. I cooked three of the five meals for my sister and her boyfriend when they came to visit last week, and they also raved about the recipes.

If you've been feeling a little uninspired in the kitchen lately, I can't recommend this cookbook enough! And at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, NOW is the time to buy it because you can get so many of the ingredients fresh and local at your farmer's market (which incidentally Arie's has adorably been calling the "Farmik Farmik" lately. Ha!). Do it now and come back to tell me how you love it.
John, Justin, and sister Jenna at the Farmik Farmik last week. 
Nervously giving a dollar to one of the street performers at our market. 

Now that I've filled you up with suggestions, pass some on to me! What have you read and loved lately?


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