Archive for May, 2014

Decorating From Photoshop to Reality

I don’t know how most decorators or just decorating-lovers plan their projects, but I have learned over the years that I am a very visual person when it comes to designing a room.  I usually have an idea of what I want, but it really helps me if I draw out what I want, make a mood board, use tape to “sketch” my idea on the wall or floors, or look at photos online of something similar.  I’ve been lucky enough to have used Photoshop for many, many years, starting in high school when I just had a hobby of making fangirl art of almost-celebrities like Jesse McCartney (facepalm).  Yeah . . . lame, I know.  However, this dorky teenage phase turned into something useful when I started my photography business because I already knew my way around Photoshop pretty well.  Now, when I really want help figuring out what I want to do with a room or a certain nook of our home, I turn to Photoshop and play around!

For example, I really wanted yellow-striped curtains for our living room, but I was really worried about how they would look with everything, so I Photoshopped them into a photo I had of our living room!

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Pretty cool, right? It was the encouragement I needed to go ahead with painting them.  here is the after with the real curtains:

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Obviously, they aren’t exactly the same, but that would have been nearly impossible.  For fun, I also changed out the ottoman with a gorgeous wooden coffee table and added a navy lamp to the console behind the sofa (with the fake rendered curtains):

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Here’s a little before and after gif so it’s easier to see the difference:

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I’m so excited to add some wood into this room because I just feel it makes it feel more cottage-like, adds warmth, and is just so beautiful!

Before we added the board and batten in the dining room, I played around with it in Photoshop as well to figure out the spacing of the battens.  Here’s the Photoshop version:

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And here’s the real deal:

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Pretty crazy, right?

Originally, we had meant to paint the dining room a darker gray than what was in the living room because we thought it would balance out all the white, but through color matching certain colors, the color ended up being almost exactly the same as the living room color (it is virtually impossible to tell the difference without knowing they are really two paints from two different cans).  Before we added the board and batten, I also tried out adding a darker gray paint color to see what it would look like along with the gallery wall I want to add, some curtains and a different light fixture (just for fun – we still aren’t sold on any curtains or chandeliers yet).  White curtains:

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Blue curtains:

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And gray curtains:

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We decided against the darker gray after seeing these renderings and after installing the board and batten.  We really like the lighter gray with the white (since the white pops so much more with the walls than it seems to in these renderings).

So, for fun again, here is the room with the lighter walls, the gallery wall, a fun chandelier, and different colored curtains.  Blue curtains:

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Gray curtains:
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White curtains:

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And here’s a gif to see the difference between the blank walls and somewhat of the direction we are headed in:

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We also plan on switching out the black chairs for white x-back chairs and possibly upholstered chairs on the ends of the table, but for now it is just so fun to play around with all the possibilities!

I’m seriously slightly addicted to this!  I’m working on one right now for the exterior of our house to plan out some of the landscaping, but that’s not a project we plan on tackling any time this year, so I’ll probably share it later after stewing over it for a while.

So, what do you think?  Are you a visual decorator?  What direction would you go in the dining room?

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How & Why We Prep Meals

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If you have been following myself or Sarah on social media lately, you’ve been seeing those little black to-go containers full of food, neatly packed together, in a methodical, yet practical fashion.   Did we order 5 of the same entrees from our favorite restaurant? Even better friends. We made those meals ourselves, with a widely known method called “meal-prep”.

Meal-prep has been around longer than most people think and not just something bodybuilding goons do so they can get their meals or calories in for the day.  Meal-prep is a just a simple way of planning  your meals for the week for whatever meal period and having a corresponding entree.  It is a matter of picking a protein, a carb source, and a vegetable that you wouldn’t mind eating for a couple of meals.

Depending on your goals, whether it is to lose or gain weight, maintain, or just to simply have a lunch packed everyday, meal-prepping ensures you are always prepared.  Remember; failing to plan is planning to fail.

 

Why We Prep Meals for the Week

Last September, I started intermittent fasting with the goal of losing weight.  I was researching meal-prep ideas and learning a little about nutrition until I finally decided to start planning our meals for the week.

By doing meal-prep, Sarah and I are able to control each portion of food, down to the last ounce.  It allows us to eat healthier while we are out working or when we are at home on our days off.  It helps save us money because it reminds us we have a meal ready to go versus having to eat fast food .  It also eliminates making  bad choices at work like having fried, greasy food.

Since Sarah and I are on a “fertility-diet” so to speak, meal-prepping allows us to know what ingredients go into each meal and allows us to know what goes into our bodies as well.

 

How We Prep Meals for the Week

It all begins with a grocery list. We research recipe ideas beforehand so we can get some ideas floating around. We start with a couple of proteins (like beef, chicken, pork, etc.) and then decide on the starch (sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, etc.).  We usually have a lot of frozen veggies on hand, but we also pick up a few more bags because we go through them so quickly. Depending on the recipes we chose, we may pick up some barbecue sauce or some salsa too.  We go through many bottles a month!

Once we have all the groceries ready to go, we cook the starch while cooking the protein.  We love using our crockpot for our proteins because it allows us to just throw the ingredients in and forget about it for a couple of hours.  We usually bake our sweet potatoes or boil up some rice with some herbs and spices and coconut oil.  So, our meat can be cooking in the crockpot while the carbohydrates are cooking in the oven or on the stovetop.  We love multi-tasking for saving time!

Once everything is cooked and cooled down slightly, we portion each meal accordingly.  Sarah usually can’t eat as much as I do so I usually opt for more protein than her. I usually don’t like too many veggies so we load her meals up with those. Once they are portioned, we simply refrigerate them on separate shelves so we know whose is whose. It’s usually easier to determine when both of us have different proteins/starches/veggies too.

This is all done in one day, usually in just a few minutes of prep time and a few hours of cook time while we are doing other things.

 

Our Meals for this Week

Items from the grocery store:

This past week we picked up some chicken thighs, lean ground beef, a large jug of salsa, sweet potatoes and green beans.

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Salsa chicken:

Using our slow cooker and liners, this is the easiest way to make salsa chicken.

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We first put the chicken thighs in the lined slow-cooker.

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Next, we put a generous cup or two of salsa.

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We then throw in whatever spices we feel like.

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A generous shake of paprika, a dash of red pepper flakes, a few sprinkles of meat magic and chili powder and a cap full of Mrs. Dash

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Can you tell that this has gotten a lot of use?

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After a  5-6 hours on low, the chicken is easy to shred and looks amazing. Drool.  This recipe makes for SUCH juicy chicken!

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Meatballs:

We started with some nice lean ground beef.

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Next, some Italian seasonings. I never have measurements, I usually just wing it!

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Since we are trying our best to avoid gluten and dairy, we used about a half-cup coconut flour for this recipe instead of all-purpose or whole wheat flour.

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We then added 4 eggs to this particular recipe.

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 Coconut flour, seasonings, and eggs, all together.

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Next, we mixed all the seasonings together until they were fully incorporated in the meat.

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Using a small 2 oz. ice cream scoop, we portioned out each meat ball.

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Making sure the meatballs didn’t stick to our pans, we used coconut spray.

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All the meatballs – portioned and ready to go into a hot oven.

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We set the oven to 375 degrees (F) and covered the meatballs.

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We cooked them covered for 30 minutes, removed the foil and let them brown up for an additional 10 minutes.

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Roasted sweet potatoes:

We first washed and cubed up the sweet potatoes.

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After it was cubed up , we tossed it in a large bowl.

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We drizzled some olive oil,  salt and pepper, and cinnamon on the potatoes.

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Next,we lined a  baking pan with foil, sprayed it with some coconut oil spray and laid out the potatoes. We baked it at 375 (F) for 40 minutes (or until they are fork tender)

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The final product:

Here’s what the meals look like when they are all done and portioned out. I chose green beans for my meals as the veggie.  I drizzled some barbecue sauce on the meatballs for flavor.

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Sarah was having the salsa chicken and she decided on corn for her meals
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By doing meal-prep, we have saved a lot of time, and it has helped us eat healthier by controlling not only the portions, but the ingredients as well.

Sarah and I dedicated an entire afternoon to make these meals. It took us a couple of hours to have  ten meals prepared for the week.  With our busy schedules and time spent away from home, it’s nice knowing that we have a home-cooked meal waiting for us whenever we need it.

Have you ever tried meal prepping? Did you see a benefit in your health and  your time?

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Meet Lucille Sue, Our Newest Love

I think it is pretty obvious that we are obsessed with Clementine, our first dog.  She has seriously brightened our world since the day we got her and has brought laughter into a home full of sadness during this really rough patch brought on by infertility.  We baby her like she is our human baby and I don’t regret it and am not ashamed about it one bit.  We will be writing about how we have coped with the emotional side of infertility soon, but I think it goes without saying that Clem has played a tremendous role in our happiness in the midst of lots of pain.

San had been hinting for a few months that he wanted a second dog.  I was very apprehensive because although Clem is serious the sweetest dog I have ever known, she is also extremely high-energy, full of life, and a lot of work!  I wasn’t sure how adding a second dog to the mix would be.  And truthfully, I loved spoiling just one dog with our love.  However, we went to a few pet stores to look around to help me warm up to the idea.  After that, I still wasn’t sure.  What if the new dog didn’t get along with Clemmie?  Clem is not a dominant dog and warms up to other dogs really quickly, but she is also very in-your-face and loves to play, so some mellow dogs aren’t a huge fan of her.

Well, then, one of San’s coworkers was leaving and wasn’t able to bring his dog with.  She was an eight year old rat terrier mix named Lucy.  We had her over for an hour without her owners and completely messed up the introduction so Clem ended up getting very scared and attacked Lucy.  So not like her.  She didn’t draw blood, but it wasn’t pretty to say the least.  We immediately brought Lucy back.  Well, after realizing our mistake in leaving Clem crated and letting the other dog wander our house, we had a playdate with Lucy at her owner’s house where they could play outside.  They played for about an hour with no fights.  Lucy growls a lot which really confused Clem at first because Clem rarely growls, but I think through play, she was able to see that Lucy’s growling isn’t aggressive, it’s just what she does.

The next day, we picked her up, and she’s been our second baby ever since.

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I am happy to say that I love having two dogs.  I definitely did go through a kind of mourning period where I really missed my alone time with Clem, but it’s worked out that Clem is still the more cuddly of the two, so I still get lots of cuddle time with her.

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We think of Lucy more as the older, wiser, more sophisticated sister (we sometimes refer to her as Audrey Hepburn).  She’s thinner and a little more fragile.

1658343_10202893144071191_539940111_oAnd Clementine is the younger, more playful, kind of ditzy, more laid back sister (we sometimes refer to her as Marilyn Monroe).  She’s more cuddly and soft.   Both are so beautiful and sweet, but they balance each other out so nicely.
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We need to update our sidebar photo with a new family photo that includes Lucy.  We aren’t sure how one day having a baby will work with two dogs, but both are great with babies, so I think it should end up being just fine.

A week ago was Clem’s one year anniversary of joining our family.  We all celebrated with some pup-cakes.  San was able to bribe them with the cakes while I snapped some photos.  You can see Lucy’s intense gaze:

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puppiversary-9 And Clemmie’s innocence:

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Here are a few iphone shots of them together:

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I’m sure you will be seeing lots of both girls on our blog and social media, so I thought it was high time we introduce Lucy Sue (middle name given by us)!

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Infertility, with a Side of Guilt, Anger, and Loss of Identity, Please!

I’m sure many women have experienced the dreaded negative pregnancy test at some point on their journey to start a family or add to their family.  Each negative is sad on its own, but added to the sadness is the thought and secret fear many women have: what if we can’t get pregnant on our own?  That fear was on my mind more and more as each negative pregnancy test seemed to laugh at me month after month.  Many of my friends have commented to me at one point in our lives that it is their fear, too.  However, even I just brushed it off during our first year of trying.  No, it’s just stress.  No, it’s just the timing.  No, God doesn’t have it in the cards for us this month.  No, it’s probably better that it happens next month.

 

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During January of this year, when we had reached the point where we could no longer just sit around and wait for a positive test, this fear was on my mind a lot.  Why can most couples get pregnant within a year without timing it and yet we timed it so many times and here we are?  Do I need to exercise more?  Is there something wrong with me?  Is my body a toxic environment?  What if there is something wrong with San?  What would happen to our marriage if we can’t have kids?  What will we do?  Will I be able to handle it?  We spent much of our time researching all the possibilities and we hoped that if there was anything wrong, it would be something very minor that the doctors could fix.  Even after seriously thinking about it and imagining what it would feel like to learn that getting pregnant naturally would be rare for us, nothing in the world could have prepared me for the emotional shock that would kick in upon learning the results from our testing.

I think so many women think they know what it would feel like, but I have learned through this that there is no way you can fully comprehend the struggle an infertile couple goes through unless you are experiencing it first hand.  I was not prepared for the many levels of sadness, the way it infiltrated all areas of my life, and the looming pessimism that would follow me everywhere.

I would like to paint a picture for those of you who haven’t experienced infertility (and I’m so glad that 7/8 people will never experience this) of what the roller coaster of infertility is really like, so that you may begin to understand what a couple is going through, what you might be able to say to them, and perhaps so that you may feel the urge to advocate for those suffering from infertility as well.

 

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As a person currently going through this, I have spent a lot of time researching what is normal to feel because at times, I thought perhaps I was going crazy.  I have read articles that state that learning about one’s infertility often brings up similar emotions and cycles of emotions that someone would feel when diagnosed with cancer or losing a loved one.  Some may read that and think it is being dramatic, but although I have never been diagnosed with cancer or lost one of my closest loved ones, I can’t imagine myself feeling much sadder than I did during the first few weeks of learning about our infertility.

When a couple learns they can’t have children on their own, they go through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).  Personally, I have felt all over the board with my emotions depending on the day, if something triggers the emotions such as a pregnancy announcement, what information we received from the doctors, and probably based on my normal womanly hormones as well.

Here are some of the emotions and thoughts I have had throughout the last few months.  I apologize in advance if these thoughts and emotions offend anyone.  At times, I was even surprised by my own thoughts because I work really hard at being non-judgmental and loving, but yet these thoughts can be overwhelming at times.  I just want to be honest about what I went through and continue to go through.  This is a very long post, but I tried to include as many emotions/thoughts I could recall from the past four months or so since we learned we are infertile.

 

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 Anger

When I got the call with the results that changed everything for us, really the whole course of our life from that point forward, I felt sadness mixed with a huge amount of anger.  I was so angry at the teenagers randomly getting pregnant.  I couldn’t even think about those having abortions.   I was furious at the people who just started dating who were now pregnant and posting photos with their dogs and their ultrasounds.  If I were a violent person, I would have probably punched my laptop when reading about celebrities who were pregnant and not married.  It wasn’t godly, it wasn’t like me, and it wasn’t a pretty thing, but it was real.  I was so angry that San and I had waited so many years to start a family as a married couple only to have it ripped away from us.   It wasn’t that I wanted to take those babies away from those who were pregnant, but I was just so angry that we had “followed the rules” so to speak and our reward was not waiting for us in a nice little easy package back on month one of trying.

 


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Loss of Identity

This is probably the hardest thing I am still dealing with.  My entire life, just ask my parents, I have placed my identity on being a mom.  As a little girl, I had my kids’ names all picked out.  I dreamed of my future family daily.  As I grew older, I kept a list of favorite names and all the cool ideas I found that I wanted to do with my kids (before the days of Pinterest).  When San was in the picture, we would talk about our future family often.  I started collecting photos of nurseries.  I just could not wait to be a mom.  My whole life has been spent waiting for that one role that I was waiting to fill that I believed would finally fill in the part of me that is not yet complete.   Learning that I may never experience pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the magical bond a mother feels the first time the baby is placed in her arms, has shook my world into disarray.  I feel that I no longer know who I am.  This has led to me not knowing what I am doing or where I am going because I have no clue who I even am.

 

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Loss of Purpose

Piggybacking off of a loss of identity, infertility has led to a loss of purpose.  I dramatically quit my teaching job last year, and I sobbed uncontrollably as I told the principal that I was leaving.  Actually, he had to ask me if that was what I was trying to say because he couldn’t understand me through my sobs and rambling.  It was the scariest thing I ever did, to walk away from a career I prepared for for five years, spent way too much money on, and invested so much of my life into.  I quit because I just could not see how I could be the mom I want to be with the amount of time I was spending on teaching, planning, grading, and all the other extras that go into teaching.  It ate up so much of my life that I decided a family was worth so much more to me than a career as a teacher, so I quit.  I now nanny full-time and was hoping to take my photography business full-time once this nanny job is over and we have a family to raise.  Now that children don’t look like they are on the horizon for us any time soon, I feel as though I have no idea where I am going.  My job no longer feels like it has a purpose.  Each day, I wonder what the point is because I don’t know where I am headed.  I am such a diligent planner who loves to get things done and work toward goals, and now my ultimate goal has been compromised and I am left feeling as though I am wandering aimlessly through life.  It’s completely terrifying for me.

 

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Wishing I Were Ignorant

A couple weeks ago, I looked through our wedding photos while the tears flowed continuously into my lap.  I hope one day I can look at those photos and feel the happiness I did for the first year of marriage, but right now, they are completely bittersweet to me.  They remind me of the dream that was so real to us, probably more so on that day than any other.  Finally, we could try to be parents because we were married!  Finally, we could hold our babies in our arms.  Finally, we could give some of the love that was overflowing between us to another human.  Finally, our time had come.  Except, it didn’t.  All I see now when I look at those photos is the tragic unfolding of events that was our infertility diagnosis.  My heart breaks all over again just thinking about how sweet and innocent the desires of our hearts were on our wedding day and how deeply we would be crushed come two years later.  Sometimes I forget that we ever had the dream to get pregnant naturally without all of this infertility stuff in my mind.  It’s sad to have to relive it all again.

What is the point?

I won’t lie.  I have definitely asked myself this question a few times.  Now that we are heading down a path that could last for just a few months or possibly many years, it is hard to remember why we are doing all this.  There are no guarantees for an infertile couple.  I’ve read about marriages destroyed, failed cycle after failed cycle, bankruptcies due to infertility treatments, hollow shells of people at the end of it all, failed adoptions, you name it.  I sometimes wonder if perhaps it would be better to just give up while we are “still ahead,” when still ahead means behind but the alternative is much scarier.  I still have hope, but some days, I do wonder if I will look back and wish we had just decided to remain childless before starting treatment.

 

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Do I really even want a family?

This seems like a crazy question, but after all of this heartache, I have found myself wondering if I really even want a family anymore.  Of course I do, when I am thinking logically, but gone are the days of imagining what our children will look like, decorating their nursery in my head, and strolling through the baby aisles with a smile on my face.  All of those things reminded me that a family is what I want more than anything.  Now that I don’t do those things because it hurts too much, I often forget that I even want a family at all.  I figure it is a protective mechanism to keep more sad news from devastating me all over again, but it is scary to start to wonder if the very desire that started all of this was not a real desire at all.

 

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Why do our children have priced tags attached?

I would not have been surprised if, during the IVF seminar we attended a couple months ago, I had run out and gotten sick in the girls restroom.  That seminar made me completely lose it emotionally because I just could not believe how much the procedure costs that is most likely our only ticket to a biological family.  The thought of children now brings up images of dollar signs rather than pink and blue bundles of cuteness.  I can’t help but wonder if we will ever pay off our student loans when it may cost as much as our student loan debt to have a child.  How could we ever afford that?  Is having a baby in the face of infertility a rich couple’s dream?  Could we possibly never meet our biological children (or any children to call our own) because of money?  And that leads to anger again when I think of all the people who conceive babies for free.  It just doesn’t seem right that all of this is so expensive, but I could write a whole other post on that subject!

 

What if we choose the wrong thing?

One of the common misconceptions about infertility is that adoption is cheaper and easier than the other options.  So many people will say, “Well, why don’t they just adopt?” when learning that a couple is going to go through infertility treatment.  What many don’t consider is that even if a couple is willing to adopt or wanted to adopt anyway down the road, adoption is often the most expensive option given to infertile couples.  There are so many things a couple can try that are cheaper than adoption, but, nobody knows if those other options will work.  I have spent a lot of time worrying about whether x, y, or z will work when we are throwing money at various treatments.  No one wants to spend money on something that won’t work because that’s money that could have been used for whatever will work.  Except, nobody knows what will work.  It’s so frustrating that there are so many options, but so many of them could lead to losing precious money and time.  Beyond the pressure a couple feels when they go through a treatment of whether it will work or not because they want a family, is the pressure of the financial piece of all of this.

 

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Loss of our “Asian Redheads”

As much as we would love to adopt one day, I would be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt to think that we may never meet our biological children.  I love my husband unconditionally so much that sometimes it makes me cry because I feel so grateful to have him in my life.  I have dreamed of our children for so long and I have been so excited to see his beautiful heart inside of them.  I’ve stared at baby pictures of him, hoping our kids would look just like him.  Our kids, in my mind, will love to cook just like him, will get his sense of humor, and all I care about on my end is that I might get some redheaded grandchildren one day.  It sounds silly, but what parent doesn’t love seeing their own and their spouse’s best traits passed down to their children?  In college, I minored in Family Studies, and whenever I could, I wrote research papers on multicultural children.  I could not wait to raise half-Lao, half-English-Irish-German-Scottish children.  I couldn’t wait to show them all the different aspects of their history.  Now, a big piece of what made me so excited to have kids has been compromised.

 

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Damn baby commercials

Especially right after learning the news of our infertility, I could not go anywhere without being smacked in the face with our current reality.  Everywhere I would go, there would be babies smiling at me, packages with families on them, baby clothes, little kid shopping carts, slogans about family, etc.  It would turn up in places I least expected it.  I went to see Jillian Michaels on her Maximize Your Life Tour in March and in the intro before she came on stage, she showed a video of two realities.  The first was a dark video with genetic mutations, smog, death, disease, war, etc that represented our life if we don’t eat right, exercise, and maximize our full potential.  The second reality was much lighter and happier that represented a happy, full, complete life.  I kid you not, every video clip in the second reality portion of the video was filled with children running to their parents, babies being born, parents playing with their kids, and other family-oriented clips.  It was so hard to watch that I actually looked away and clenched my eyes shut because I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I started to wonder, is that what I am faced with?  If I don’t have a family, basically my life is filled with disease, pollution, and oil spills?  The point she was trying to make was lost on me because I was so clouded by the perpetual family = happiness message.  It is really hard to not think about the infertility and to cope with it when there are reminders of our lack of a baby everywhere we look.

 

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What’s going to happen to our marriage?

As strong as our marriage is, and as committed as San and I are to maintaining a strong marriage, we can’t predict the future.  It scares me often that our infertility is changing us on an individual level and that could mean some scary things for our marriage.  We are desperately clinging to one another, hoping that we won’t become a statistic.  We have a no-divorce policy in our marriage, but that doesn’t mean our marriage won’t become a loveless one.  It’s just such a scary thought.  Infertility puts a huge strain on a couple emotionally, physically (stress, eating habits, etc.), and dare I say sexually.  When so many parts of a marriage are strained, it is very difficult to keep that once well-oiled machine running.

 

Are we being punished?

Although I know the hits that come in life are often not justified, it is hard for us to not feel like we are being punished.  I’ve started to feel like a bad person and have magnified the small things I’ve messed up in my life (which we all mess up from time to time as humans).  It’s hard not to wonder why this is happening to us when we’ve done A, B, C, D, E, etc. “right.”  But, “right” doesn’t really matter when it comes to these kinds of hardships.

 

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The biological clock is ticking

Although we are only 24 (just barely as my birthday is in June) and 25, we still feel very pressured to figure this out quickly because we know we only have so much time to conceive a baby.  Also, adoption is much harder to do as an older couple when competing with younger couples.  If we had a whole lifetime (however long that will be) to have children, I think the pressure would be lessened, but considering we probably have about ten years to really give this our best shot when so much time seems wasted on researching, saving money, testing, etc., it is very hard not to let the stress of our biological clocks get the best of us.

 

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Will there be anything left of me when we finally have a family?

Considering all the emotions I’ve felt in just this over three month journey, I have wondered what will be left of me at the end of all of this, if we ever reach an end.  I already don’t recognize myself sometimes when I am feeling things I have never felt before and thinking mean things that just aren’t like me.  I worry that all that will be left of me will be a hollow shell and I won’t even be the great mom I’ve always dreamed of being.  I won’t even appreciate the child I am blessed with.  I won’t even have the life that we worked so hard to have because I am no longer the girl that dreamed of this life.  We are working hard to stay strong emotionally so this doesn’t happen, but I can see this journey slowly taking away some tiny parts of me, and that can add up over time.

 

We wanted a big family

I can’t help but worry, as a future-thinker, about not just our first child but our children after that.  It might seem selfish to not think one is enough given our circumstances, but what person who wants to have kids doesn’t think about what size of family they want?  It’s funny to me how infertile couples are labeled as “selfish” for desiring the same things that so many others do who are able to obtain them easily and naturally.  You are “selfish” for not choosing adoption right away when most people don’t adopt that can have children naturally.  You are “selfish” if you are sad you can’t have more kids when it was a tremendous amount of work to have just one, and yet nobody is called selfish for having a large family naturally.  Anyway, San and I decided early on we wanted 3-5 kids.  Three was the minimum.  We didn’t want any fewer than that.  Now, I can’t help but wonder how that would even be possible if we end up spending as much as so many do with infertility on our first.  I will feel so blessed and grateful for any child we have, but we are definitely also dealing with coming to terms with the idea that our dream of a big family, of large parties, crazy game nights, many grandkids, etc. may never happen.

 

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 How am I going to do this over and over again?

Something that is very hard for people struggling with infertility is being happy for those who are blessed with the things they desire to be blessed with.  It’s so strange to explain this to someone who hasn’t experienced this.  Obviously, when I find out someone I know is pregnant, I am genuinely happy for them.  I would never wish for anyone else to not have children because we might not be able to.  However, seeing someone else pregnant reminds me that I am not and makes me very sad.  Baby showers are very hard because no matter how happy we are for the other person, we are still going through a very emotional journey and the baby shower is filled with triggers that bring up all of those emotions again.  I have often wondered how I am going to deal with friends getting pregnant over and over again.  Will I turn into a bad friend?  Will I have any friends left?  Will anyone even want to tell me anything anymore?  It’s so hard to be a good friend while also trying to guard myself from spiraling right back to the bottom that I just picked myself up from.

 

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The Worst Roller Coaster Ever

What I have found really draining and exhausting is the fact that these emotions are cyclical.  A woman’s cycle is just that: a cycle.  Every period so far has led to despair.  That despair will eventually fade into a little hope as we try for yet another time, and that little hope turns into, “The next two weeks are going to be really hard.  Do you think it will actually work this time?  I’m going to try not to think about it.”  That turns into, “Was that a sign?  Is that implantation bleeding?  Oh my goodness, I feel like I’m pregnant!  Maybe it finally worked!!!!” and then back to a negative pregnancy test and Aunt Flo laughing hysterically.  It’s viscous and no matter how many times I’ve gone through it, it always happens all over again, even though every time the hope is kicked down a notch.  If this was something permanent and concrete that we couldn’t change or resolve, coping would be different.  But, infertility is a constant process that never seems to go away, so it is constantly showing up and bringing back the same emotions over and over again.

I was hesitant about sharing the photo, but I think it is helpful to see a real photo of a real person going through this.  As much as all of this hurts and is so hard to deal with, I don’t ever want to forget it.  I don’t ever want to take our children for granted or forget how much we wanted them.

 

Every emotion comes with a side of guilt

I never imagined at the start of all of this that guilt would be attached to everything I felt.  It is hard enough going through each emotion on its own, but adding guilt to it makes me question myself constantly and makes me feel like a bad person.  I find out someone is pregnant and I get sad.  Then, guilt comes because I should feel no sadness and be totally happy for her.  I am angry at another episode of Teen Mom.  Guilt comes because that teenager is probably having a rough time and it is not my place to judge.  I worry about our marriage.  Guilt comes because I’m lucky to have such a wonderful marriage in the first place.  I worry about the ten years we have to try.  Guilt comes because so many people are faced with infertility in their late 30’s and don’t have years like we do.  I feel sad that we may never meet our biological children.  Guilt comes because we will be lucky with any child we have.  It just never ends!  Guilt is tied to everything and makes it even worse by making us feel as though we are bad people for even being emotional about infertility.  It really doesn’t seem to make sense, but it’s such a huge piece of what someone goes through when dealing with infertility.

 

There are lots of other things I’ve thought about over the course of the last four months, but I think this is a pretty good list.  This is not easy to post because I’ve been really worried about coming off like I’m feeling sorry for myself.  We want people to know what it is actually like because simply imagining it does not uncover the multiple levels of pain, questioning, and confusion that arises when a couple is struggling with infertility.  I encourage anyone suffering with infertility to pass this on to your loved ones if you agree with what I posted.  I hope it helps them understand what you are going through.  I hope it also can help you feel less alone in this isolating period of your life.  I pray that everyone desiring a child into a welcoming home is able to hold their little one without going through any pain.  I hope we can all rise up and raise awareness about this so that we can work to make some changes happen in our medical field and within the insurance companies.

I also want to say that what this post doesn’t talk about is how we are coping.  God, our family and friends, our pets, each other, etc. all have a role in coping.  These feelings are just what I felt in the moment throughout this journey.  That doesn’t mean I feel them all the time or am feeling them at the moment (right now, I’m doing really well). I definitely have brought these thoughts to God, but I wanted to share how it felt in the heat of it all when my thoughts were flowing freely.  These are the downs, but there have been ups along the way.  Life keeps going and we continue to look for and cling to the good.  However, I think it is important for us to share the bad as well.

Photo sources: 1(mine), 2, 3(mine), 4, 5, 6,  7, 8, 910, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15(mine is photo on right)

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Two Dogs, A Messy Eater, and a WHITE Couch?

I think it is pretty obvious by looking through our blog at photos of our house that we love the color white in decorating. Although I love cottages filled with white walls, white furniture, white just about everything, I am also a huge color girl! I love pops of color! So, we use white in our home to balance out the color, to add more light (since white reflects the light from the windows and just makes our home so bright and happy), and to make everything feel very neat and clean.

Most of our favorite features of our home are white.

White entertainment center.
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White board and batten.
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White buffet.
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White kitchen cabinets.
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White closet system.
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No one has ever said anything about us being crazy with the amount of white we have. In fact, most people who come over or look at our blog comment on how bright and happy our house looks because of the white. And, we agree. However, there is one piece of white furniture that has some people scratching their heads and questioning our sanity. Any guesses?

Our white Ektorp sectional couch.
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Yes, our white couch.

We had planned on buying this particular couch in this particular color a long time ago and knew it was the right decision for us, but I kept that decision from most people because I knew I would get feedback I didn’t want to hear.   Sure enough, after we bought it and people saw it or heard about it, they said things like, “You will need a new slipcover when you have kids.  White just won’t work,” or, “I would never have a white couch . . .”  or, “What are you going to do when your dog comes in and she is all dirty?”  I think people seriously thought we were nuts.

We have had our Ikea Ektorp 2+2 Corner Sofa in Blekinge White for about six months or so, and I think it is high time we did a little review on it.

 

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Let’s preface this by stating that we are “normal” people.  We make messes.  We have pizza dinners on the couch as a cheap date night.  We have two dogs.  While overall, they are very clean dogs (especially Clem who has magical fur that never traps dirt), they still go to the bathroom outside on rainy days and come in with messy paws no matter how much we try to keep them clean.  Our house has dust.  Our three new rugs shed all over the place and the fibers love to attract to anything touching the floors.  San is a chef.  Sometimes he comes home with food splattered all over his pants and then he sits down on the couch.  Life happens.  I am definitely not going to tell you that our couch stays clean 100% of the time and it isn’t work to keep it looking beautiful.

Dust, hair, and shedding carpet along the skirt:

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Some faint dirty paw prints by the pillow (even though it is white, dirt doesn’t show up that much on here):

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Some hair and dirty from paws in the middle of this cushion:

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Before this couch, we had two brown couches.  Let me tell you, with a dog with white hair, those couches looked gross most of the time when Clem’s hair would cover them.  They didn’t clean up very well, they were impossible to lint roll or vacuum, and it was just frustrating!  With a white couch that isn’t made of a material that hair naturally sticks to very much, we just don’t have that issue.  Lucy’s hair shows up a little since a lot of her fur is black, but it comes up really easily with a vacuum or a lint roller.  We have lived with both a dark couch and a white couch, and hands down, the white couch wins for us.  Because this couch has a custom slipcover that is tailored to fit it perfectly, it doesn’t pull away from the cushions when vacuuming or lint rolling, which makes cleaning it between washings so much easier and keeps the couch looking great most of the time.

Here are the things we love about our white slipcovered couch:

We typically follow these steps for keeping or couch looking nice:

I will be honest and say that the tag of the slipcover says not to bleach it, but I have read reviews (like this one from The Tiny Twig) that talked about how bleaching may break down the fibers over time, but with normal washing, it doesn’t seem to affect the fibers that much.couch7

To wash them, I simply unzip all the cushion covers and sort the covers into three piles: back cushions, bottom cushions, and frame cushion (that goes over the entire frame of the couch).  Three pretty small loads – not bad!  I then spray a stain remover on any largers spots of dirt or stains from food.  I use a gentle bleach, but am not shy about it and use the most they recommend.  I also use detergent with the bleach.  Normally, I wash it on a normal setting and then throw that load in the dryer.  If I go longer between cleanings or just really want the slipcover to shine, I will sometimes wash it again with a little less bleach just to make sure it is really clean.  Then, I always dry them for about twenty minutes and take them out when they are still slightly damp so they are stretchy enough to not rip when putting them back on the cushions.  Three loads of that and I’m done!  Seriously not a big deal at all!  I can do it all in about 2 hours, with time to do other things while the cycles are running!

I always sit and just gawk at our sofa after it is all freshly clean.  It seriously looks brand new every time and I haven’t noticed any breaking down of the fibers.  Even with two dogs who run back and forth on top of the cushions when they are on squirrel patrol, this couch has showed no signs of wear.  It’s awesome!

So, if someone were to ask me if I have ever regretted our decision to buy this sofa with a white slipcover, I would say, “Heck no!”  Honestly, with any other color, I wouldn’t be able to bleach it.  That means the stains would possibly never come out and would still show up sometimes (for darker things).  Or, there is always the possibility that it is not actually getting clean.  With our sofa, knowing it is bleached and that white will not lie about whether it is clean or not, I know our couch can be thoroughly cleaned often and look (and smell) gorgeous every time.  Sure, sometimes we have to live with some light brown paw prints on a cushion for a week or two before I clean it, but with dogs or children, no one ever is able to have a perfectly clean house all the time.  Our dogs are so worth it to me and knowing our couch is just three laundry loads away from looking perfect again is the peace of mind I love!  I often just clean the cushions and leave the frame alone because it stays cleaner longer, so really it is usually just two loads away from a pristine couch!

We love our home, and honestly, our couch is pretty much the heart of our home.  The dogs spend their days looking out the window, playing, and sleeping on this couch.  San and I spend date nights on this couch.  Friends and family come and we all sit on the couch.  It is where our memories are made.  Whenever we are able to have a baby, we will make so many memories with them on this couch, and I won’t have to worry about him or her spitting up on it, spilling, drawing on it, or anything else because it is completely cleanable.  This couch really does mean a lot to us, as corny as that sounds, and we would buy it all over again!

I never imagined I would ever get sentimental during this post, but now I have, so I’m off to go blow my nose because thinking about babies on this couch has got me all worked up.  I’d love to know what piece of furniture you or someone you know was apprehensive about you getting and what the outcome was!

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Making a Baby: Our Three-Month Program

Before the title scares you away, I will preface this post by giving you some relief (or perhaps letting you down if you are creepy or just insanely curious) that I will not be detailing the intimate details surrounding “making a baby.”  I think we all know the fundamentals.  Instead, I am going to share pretty much everything beyond the actual making of a baby that we are doing to facilitate the fertilization of an egg (AKA: the starting of the family we have been desperately longing for).  There may be some personal details, but I’m sharing this in hopes that it could give someone else some ideas of things to try before going the “extreme” route.

To go back to our story that I shared two weeks ago, the doctors have told us that conceiving without IVF will be very rare.  Rare, however, gives us some hope that it could happen.  Impossible would have probably made us choose a different course, but rare we can work with temporarily.  IVF, for us, would cost anywhere from $15,000 – $30,000  starting depending on what financial options we chose and how successful we were from round to round.  Let’s be real here.  San is 25.  I am 24.  We have more student loan debt than I would ever care to share (I’m still kicking the 18 year old version of myself).  We don’t have high-paying jobs.  IVF is not our first option, if it is even an option for us at all, which right now I’m hoping it is not.  And please don’t even say, “Well, why don’t you just adopt?”  Adoption is most likely the most expensive option.  Trust me, if it were a whole lot cheaper, I’m pretty sure the paperwork would already be started.

So, we are trying to start a family in the most natural, affordable, and efficient way possible.  I’m not going to lie and say we don’t want biological children.  We do.  I’d love a mix of biological and adopted, but right now, I’m not sure what is in the cards for us.  I do know that if we could conceive naturally or with insemination, we would save A LOT of money, time, stress, and our life.  I’m all for it!  Plus, I would get to know what it is like to be pregnant, to give birth, and to share that immensely special time with the man of my dreams.  There is no price on that, but it is our goal to be able to do that without shelling out thousands of dollars.

Immediately following our one negative test result, I started scouring the library for books that could help me emotionally.  A friend recommended I read Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility.  I scoffed at it at first, thinking we had already tried everything and that it would tell me nothing new, but since it was available at the local library, I picked it up and read it.  Let me just say that this book may be the only reason I still have hope for conceiving naturally or even through insemination.  The book was written by a reproductive endocrinologist and an acupuncturist/Chinese medicine expert who together have helped thousands of couples get pregnant when they didn’t think they would be able to.  The book outlines all kinds of things that promote fertility as well as including different “fertility types” with specific recommendations for each type based on symptoms, cycles, libido, stress level, etc.  I figure if we are going to do anything for three months, we might as well do so with the help of a book written by people who know what they are talking about.  Go big or go home is the motto for our three month program!

We will basically be doing anything and everything we can in the natural lifestyle realm to promote fertility in both of us (since we aren’t sure what exactly is causing the low number in San and there could theoretically be something going on with me as well that doctors do not yet have a test for).  Plus, I want my body to be as ready for pregnancy as possible. This is our plan in a nutshell:

 

For those that would like more information, I will break down everything we are doing.  I would encourage any couple who wants to know more about any of these steps to read the book Making Babies because there are millions of recommendations for virtually any possible test, symptom, lifestyle, fertility type, gender, age, etc.  These are the things we are doing that the book recommended based on our specific situation.

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Charting

I have already been well acquainted with dipping little pieces of paper in my morning urine.  Ew.  It’s gross, but it’s something I’ve done for 1-2 weeks every month for a few months.  I’ve tried Basal Body Temping as well, but now I will be doing both!  The book provided a chart I could mark, but I find it much easier to use an app.  I’m using the Kindara app.  Every morning, as soon as my alarm goes off, I stick a special thermometer in my mouth (the book recommends the mouth but I’ve read about other recommendations to stick it in other parts…) for about a minute and it reads my temperature to the first decimal place.  Then, I plug it into my phone.  After doing this for three months, I will know my body a lot better, know if there is potentially an issue with my reproductive system based on the temperature changes, and will know when I am ovulating.  Doing BBT only tells you that you already ovulated.  I’m using ovulation predictor kits starting the day after my period ends to see when my LH surge is, which then alerts me that I am hours away from ovulating.

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Just Keep Trying, Just Keep Trying . . .

So many articles and books tell couples so many different tactics when it comes to when to try, how to try, and how often to try before and after a woman ovulates.  In the past, we have tried two days spaced one day apart leading up to ovulation.  We’ve tried on the day of ovulation.  We’ve tried after ovulation.  We’ve tried every other day for a month.  Now, based on the book’s recommendation, we are going to try every day during my fertile window.  I’m not going to wait for the shift in temperature or the positive ovulation test (although those will help me know when we don’t need to try every day any longer).  Instead, we don’t see any harm in trying every day just to up our numbers and ensure we are not missing my ovulation.  Trying before ovulation is definitely the key since sperm can live typically a few days, but we are up for trying after a couple days just in case the predictor kit and my temperature were inaccurate.  Some articles will tell a couple not to try it every day, but with male factor infertility, we figure our odds are much better by doing it more often instead of waiting a day or two in between.

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Diet

At the beginning of the year, I gave up gluten and dairy for a month to see if I showed any intolerance when introducing them back in.  San swore he would never give up either of those things because he is a chef and chefs love all foods.  Coincidentally, now he will be giving up both of them for three month but will also throw in some of his other favorites such as coffee, water flavorings, and beer.  Poor guy!  We are going to do our best to find delicious recipes that won’t make us feel like we are giving up our favorites.  Here is a list of all of our dietary dos and don’ts: We should eat:

We should not eat:

 

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Supplements

Before starting this program, San would typically take a high-quality pre-workout supplement with BCAA’s and a post-workout high-quality whey protein shake.  There is very little information that is consistent about whether these things would be bad, good, or neutral toward fertility.  Some say good things, some say bad.  However, we are trying to eliminate as many possible denominators as possible, so he will not be taking those during the three months.  After the first semen analysis, we looked up every possible vitamin we could that could help his number that was significantly low and he started taking them.  The number rose very slightly, but it gives us hope that maybe that is working.  His urologist also suggested taking the vitamins to help promote fertility.  In addition to a multivitamins (a regular one for San and a prenatal one for me), San will be taking the following supplements:

 

Exercise

San has been very into exercising for a few years.  He has lost 50 pounds and is overall in great health.  I used to be a huge health/exercise nut until I started working more than full-time and have a hard time fitting it in.  Based on the recommendations of the book, I will be doing low-impact exercises three to five days per week for no more than thirty minutes.  I plan on taking our dogs for a walk/jog after work three to five days a week for thirty minutes.  San will have to actually tone down his workouts by doing less intense workouts up to five times a week for only forty minutes.  He was focusing on losing some more weight and building muscle, but during this three-month program, we both will be focusing on getting exercise without really exerting ourselves or overheating our bodies.

At-Home Stress Reduction

I am a very stressed out person by nature.  I put too much on my plate, become overly ambitious, only to realize that I’m stressing myself out.  It’s very hard for me to balance because I am an introvert and crave some alone, relaxation time at home on the weekends and yet I usually fill my weekends up with things to do because I work so much and commute pretty far during the week.  So, for these three months, I will be doing a lot to keep stress down while at home.  Daily, I will be doing self-massages based on where I am at in my cycle as well as visualization exercises, which are both taken straight from the book.  I will also be setting parameters for keeping my stress as low as possible during these three months.  I feel kind of selfish, but we really want to start a family and we are hoping this will work, so I suppose we can be selfish for three months. I will also be following stress-relieving rules I have set up for myself:

 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is also a great stress reliever and can promote blood flow to different parts of the body so they work better.  The book really persuaded us to try it.  We have done one session so far.  Due to finances and time, we may not do it as often as we wanted to.  We wanted to do acupuncture weekly for ten weeks because our insurance provider told us it would be covered with a small copay, but like everything with infertility, we learned that is not covered, and because it would cost about $150 per week if we both went weekly and San got the herbs we want him to have, that’s just not feasible at $600 a month for almost three months.  We are rethinking it now.  Our acupuncturist recommended San go at least four times.  I will maybe go every other week or once a month during this time.  As helpful as it could be, like everything, sometimes finances get in the way.

Counseling

Due to the overwhelming amount of stress infertility has brought to my life, the sadness of it all, and the way it has shocked my whole world (identity, purpose, etc.), San and I decided I should get some professional help for a while before it could ever escalate to a drastic level.  It was really important to me to talk to someone who specializes in infertility because that is where all this stemmed from.  We want help knowing we are really thinking through our decisions and coping with this well, and we feel that would be best done with someone who works with couples like us all the time.  It is just nice to have someone to talk to who has been through this, helped others before, and knows what this feels like.

Finances

As I stated in the beginning, this is our cheapest option at this point.  However, this option is by far not free.  We will definitely be spending significantly more each month on things we usually don’t buy than we have done previously.  Here are the things we will be spending extra money on:

 

And there will also be extra time spent doing these things that we won’t be paying for with money but we will be paying for with our extra time we won’t have.  Overall, we are hoping it is worth it, but it is important that we share the reality that even this kind of treatment has its cost.   We plan to check in after each month to share our progress, what is going well, what is not going well, and any changes we have made.  We appreciate any prayers that this works!  Every step forward with treatment may also result in a step backward emotionally, so are really hoping this works so we can reclaim our hope and inspire others as well!

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Spring/Summer 2014 House Tour

It has been just about a week past the one year mark of moving into our house.  What a year it has been!  It has been about six months since we finished renovating with the amazing help of my parents over weekends and holidays.  We posted a tour back around Christmas when it was all decorated for the holidays, but now that we have tackled a few more projects and it is FINALLY not winter here in Minnesota anymore, we thought it was time for an update home tour!

 

And, here are the updated photos!

Entry Way

Here is the “entry way.”  We don’t have a formal entry way that is a separate room, but we do have a little landing just upon opening the front door with a closet, stairs to the basement, and then it steps out into a little walkway with a storage unit before opening up into the living room.  We haven’t really done anything new to this part of the house since we last showed it except add a rug to the landing.  We plan on painting the light fixtures so that they are no longer brass but instead, oil rubbed bronze.  We also would like to take the shade off the window over the stairs and frost the glass for privacy while still letting light in (because it is too high for us to reach the shade to open it).  We also still have to paint the trim and doors.  Some trim is primed white already because we had to add new trim or replace it when doing the renovation, but all of it still needs to be painted Cloud Cover by Benjamin Moore to match the rest of the white paint in the house.  The walls in the entry, living room, dining room, and bedroom hallway are all Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore.

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Here is a view of the wall opposite the front door.  We still need to do something on the space to the left of the half wall (we are thinking a giant, retro, coastal, wooden clock or something with a lot of impact.  On the space to the right of the half wall, we used to have a bookcase (that is now in the second bedroom), but I want to add a couple shelves to decorate for the seasons/holidays as well as a little piece of furniture painted a cool color (maybe coral?).

Here is the view from the front door.  You can see how the entry way is part of the living room and it all flows into the dining room.  We have an Ikea Expedit 2×4 storage unit/console table behind the couch to drop our keys.  We plan on adding an accent chair to the right of the table for sitting to put shoes on and to make it more welcoming.

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Living Room

 The living room is one of our favorite rooms in the whole house!  It has a ten-foot-wide picture window that overlooks a lake (no neighbors across the street), so you can find the dogs or us just laying around looking out the window more often than not.  We have an Ikea Hemnes entertainment center that we LOVE!  It just brightens up the room and is so cute.  The shelves are not decorated or styled the way I want them to be, but they are fine for now.  We recently added the yellow striped curtains and the gray curtains.  They are both from Ikea, but the striped ones were just plain white.  I painted the yellow stripes on them.  The couch is an Ikea Ektorp couch that has a white slip cover.  I plan on doing a review of that couch soon, seeing as we have two dogs, are messy people ourselves, and many look at us like we are crazy when they find out we have a white couch.  The gray side table is from World Market (LOVE LOVE LOVE it!).   The ottoman is not staying.  It will be replaced eventually by a nice rustic, wooden coffee table.   I made the lamp shade a few years ago by gluing some fabric to an existing shade.

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We love this little side table from World Market so much!  I found the vintage fruit crate a few years back and use it to hold our blankets.

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Here is a great view of how everything is open to each other.

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Dining Room

Ahhh…the dining room!  Our newest big project!  We absolutely love the coastal cottage decorating style, and when I think of that style, I think of board and batten.  I knew this room needed something big and kind of flashy because it can be seen from the front door and the living room, and it just felt so bare without room for more furniture on the right side of the table.  I envisioned board and batten in here the second we opened up the wall between the living room and dining room.  After one weekend, some hard work by my parents and me and San, we had this beauty!  The chandelier now looks even more outdated.  It will go one day.  It makes me a little sad to get rid of it because it is one of the few remnants of the old house and its history, but it just doesn’t go with our decor (it is brown and orange and very autumn looking).  The table is from JcPenney originally, but we scored it on Craigslist for $80!  The chairs are Ikea, but they are far from permanent.  We would like to add some white x-back chairs to the sides of the tables and maybe some upholstered chairs on the ends.

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I scored that mirror above the buffet from a thrift shop for something like $5.  The mirror itself is warped, so I will eventually be replacing the glass, and I plan on painting the frame a different color.

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The floors make it very obvious right now that the stairs to the basement used to be where the buffet is.  When we hire someone to refinish them, it will be much less obvious!

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I’m in love with the way the board and batten curves around the corner here.  So pretty!  So classic!

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Here’s a view of the dining room from the kitchen.  You can see the back door and the little “cleaning” closet where we keep a lot of our cleaning products.  Like I said, all trim and doors will be painted, and all the old handles will be updated.

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Kitchen

 The kitchen has had an incredible overhaul since we bought the house, but we haven’t changed much since the last home tour.  We did add this little coffee station between the window and the back door.  There is a large walkway here, so we figured we could get away with adding a piece of furniture.  The shelving unit and bins are from Target.  We will be adding art and probably a shelf with a place to set or hang mugs above the coffee pot. The garbage and recycling will eventually be going in the cabinet next to the dishwasher, but for now they are still hanging out by the coffee station.

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We still need to replace the lights in here.

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And, we will be adding a built-in microwave most likely above the stove one day, as well as replacing the white appliances with stainless steel to match the dishwasher.

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I’m rethinking the chalkboard here.  I’m just no good at decorating chalkboards.  I thought about hiring a professional to decorate it permanently, but that is very expensive.  Instead, I’m thinking of hanging a little shelf with hooks for some vintage aprons and decorating the shelf.  Thoughts?

We did add this coral rug from Target. I love it!  This room was made for the color coral!

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Bedroom Hallway

The only thing we have done to the bedroom hallway (that is accessed from the living room) is rip out the carpet (as well as in the bedrooms, too).

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We plan on adding a full-length mirror to this wall to make it brighter and to allow guests (and us) to see how we look after leaving the bathroom.

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Bathroom

Nothing has changed at all in the bathroom since the last home tour.  We still need to paint the walls a pale aqua blue.

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Second Bedroom

 Ahhhhh….a room!  In the past, I haven’t shown this room because it was basically just a futon with a bunch of random stuff that didn’t go anywhere else.  I couldn’t take it anymore, so last week, I cleared everything out and brought up any office stuff we had in the basement or other parts of the house.  We don’t plan on decking this room out anytime soon because we are holding on to hope that we will need to convert it into a nursery soon, but for now, we like that it has a purpose, even if it isn’t the office of our dreams.

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I am in love with this navy lateral file cabinet!  I bought it in its once dingier form as a laminated Goodwill find for $10.  Some primer, paint, brass corners from the hardware store, and some Rub-N-Buff on the handles and it looks like a campaign chest.  I will probably do a more in-depth look at this file cabinet because the inside has been organized beautifully as well.

 

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Master Bedroom

From this view, it is hard to see the major change that has rocked our world: a new closet system!   The rug is from Rugs USA

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Here she is!  We bought two Pax closet systems from Ikea in chunks when things were on sale or in the “as is” section and save probably about $200!  This opens up both the bedroom closets that were being used by us for our clothes, so now we can use them for other things becasuse 95% of our clothes fits in these closet systems.  My dad added the crown molding and helped us add filler strips to the wall and between the closets so that the doors could open fully.

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And, here is the swatch graveyard we have stared at for close to a year.  We have the paint already for all the unpainted rooms, but we just haven’t found the time to dedicate to painting them.  This room will be a gray-beige (greige?) because the rug in here is taupe and doesn’t look good with a true gray wall (we tried it in the living room) but we want something nice, calm, and neutral so we can add more color throughout the room.

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We hope you enjoyed the home tour!  Let me know if I missed any important information!  Also, I’d love to know what your favorite part is or what you might have done differently (or would still do with the unfinished parts)!

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The Many Pathways to Starting a Family

Some of you reading know a lot about infertility and the many options an “infertile” couple can choose for trying to start a family.  Some of you know a lot because you’ve been down this path yourself.  Some of you know someone who has struggled to make this choice.  And some of you have never had your eyes opened to what lies ahead after a couple has been diagnosed with infertility.  Wherever you are coming from when you read this, I hope this post can help you feel as though you are not alone (if you are struggling with infertility like us), can help you be better prepared to support the people you know who are struggling with infertility, and/or can help you understand a little bit of what a couple goes through when weighing their options.

 

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There are many options available to a couple diagnosed with infertility, but many of them leave a couple feeling sad, helpless, and hopeless because the majority of them don’t involve making love, a positive pregnancy test, and happy tears.  Most of them involve medications, doctor’s appointments, bruises, scars, therapy, lots of waiting, tons of money, and no guarantee that all of this will result in a family.

A quick Google search can teach you all about the different options out there for helping an infertile couple start a family, so instead of telling you just what each thing is, I want to walk you through our opinions on what the pros and cons are of each one.  Please keep in mind that I would never judge anyone for choosing any of these options.  This is a completely personal choice.  I also don’t feel like any of these options are inherently “bad” or “wrong.”  Some of them just aren’t for us, and that’s okay.  Everyone tells a different story of how they started a family, and I have to look at that as a beautiful thing in order to hold on to hope throughout this process.

I may overlook some of the options, and I apologize for that.  I simply am sharing what we considered given our specific diagnosis.  For couples who know they are dealing with female factor infertility, there may be some other options, but since we are dealing with male factor/unexplained infertility, these are the options we considered.  I’m leaving out things like surgery and treatments of underlying conditions because the doctors found no underlying condition causing our infertility, and thus, there is no surgery or treatment related to “curing” whatever is causing our infertility.  Also, I’m sharing the pros and cons for us or that we know of, and some may not agree that something is a “pro” or “con,” but please keep in mind that these are our opinions based on the facts.

 

Lifestyle Changes

When a couple is diagnosed with infertility, chances are, they have already tried everything related to their lifestyle to help their odds (not drinking alcohol often or at all, laying in bed for twenty minutes after intercourse, wearing loose boxers, not using laptops on laps, etc.).  They have scoured websites, talked to friends, and listened to talk shows that revealed the latest tip or trick for getting pregnant quickly.  However, there are some things a couple can do to possibly increase their odds of conception:

None of these things are proven to always increase fertility, but changing these things has happened prior to people getting pregnant, so some couples may try these things and see if it changes anything before choosing a more invasive/costly option.

 

Pros of Lifestyle Changes:

Cons of Lifestyle Changes:

 

Fertility Drugs

Any couple diagnosed with infertility has heard doctors talk about all kinds of fertility drugs that could help them conceive.  If hormone levels are in the normal range, the two drugs that a woman can take to help her ovulate and increase chances of conception are Clomid and Femara.   Men can also go on clomid, but it is not recommended unless they have a hormonal imbalance.  Fertility drugs may be tried as a couple tries on their own to conceive naturally or with other treatment options (which I’ll discuss later in this post).

Pros of Fertility Drugs

Cons of Fertility Drugs

 

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) with Fertility Drugs

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is the first invasive treatment option most couples will consider when diagnosed with infertility.  It involves a semen sample collection which is usually washed and injected into the woman’s uterus where fertilization can then occur.  IUI is most often used by couples with male factor infertility when the sperm are low in numbers or may have trouble swimming to the egg, as well as those with unexplained infertility.  There are no tests for how well a  man’s sperm can swim up to the woman’s egg, so by bypassing that part of the process, it is thought that this can help if there are any problems with cervical mucus or sperm.  IUI can be done with or without fertility drugs.  We are considering doing it with fertility drugs just to hopefully increase our odds.  It also can be done with or without monitoring.  The monitoring allows the doctor to place the sperm in the woman’s uterus when the follicle as of optimum size and maturity.

Pros of IUI:

Cons of IUI:

 

In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

In-Vitro is the most invasive treatment option and the most expensive.  Regular IVF involves monitoring and medications to increase the amount of folicles the woman produces per cycle.  The hope is to retrieve as many folicles as possible to increase the odds of multiple healthy embryos at the time of transfer.  The egg is then put in a dish with the sperm and fertilization is hoped to occur. For our situation, we would use ICSI which is when the sperm is injected directly into the egg.  This is done most often with male factor infertility when there is a chance the sperm may not be able to fertilize the egg.  Over the course of a few days, some of the fertilized eggs usually will not make it, leaving only a few embryos left.  The couple and the doctor usually decide before the process how many embryos they will transfer into her uterus (usually they choose the lowest practical amount to decrease the chances of multiples because multiples involve a high-risk pregnancy).  If there are enough healthy embryos, the chosen amount will be transferred to the woman’s uterus with the hope that at least one will continue to thrive into a healthy pregnancy.  Any leftover embryos are often frozen in case none of the transferred ones survive or the couple chooses to do IVF for future children (this ensures that the embryos were created with younger sperm and egg than when the couple ages a few years and desires another child when their current sperm and eggs may be deteriorating due to age).

I don’t know about other states, but in Minnesota, there are warranty programs a couple can use to pay for IVF.  The typical warranty runs about $25,000-$30,000 and offers the couple up to three rounds of IVF (including frozen embryos from each of the three rounds, so this could potentially lead to many, many transfers depending on how many embryos survive).  If at the end of the three rounds, they do not have a live birth plus thirty days, they will receive all or most of the money back.  If the couple conceives on the first try (and sometimes on the second), they will be out thousands of dollars.  If they choose not to use a warranty program and it takes more than one or two cylces to reach success, they will be out a lot more money than they would if they chose the warranty program.  As far as I know, a couple cannot switch between cycles to a warranty program and count the prior failed cycle.  The decision needs to be made before starting which is very hard to predict.

Pros of IVF:

Cons of IVF:

 

Donor Sperm with Intrauterine Insemination or In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

When a couple is faced with male factor infertility, they may consider using donor sperm which would then be injected into the woman’s uterus just as it would be for regular IUI or used to fertilize the egg just as it would be for regular IVF.  Couples typically can read some general information about the donor (race, skin color, height, weight, eye color, blood type, education level, etc.) and choose which donor they would like.  Contrary to popular belief, most clinics will refuse to mix donor sperm with the male partner’s sperm (which sometimes helps couples feel better about doing donor sperm because there is always the possibility that the egg was fertilized by the male partner and not the donor).

Pros of Donor Sperm:

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Adoption

Most people are familiar with adoption.  Adoption can be done locally or internationally.  Both are often rigorous, time-consuming, and expensive, but they allow a couple to parent a child who was born into not the best of circumstances.  For us, we have always dreamed of adopting.  If finances were unlimited, we would already have started the process while hoping we get pregnant in the future but allowing us to do what we have always wanted to do anyway in the meantime.  We have said that since we are already an interracial couple, we would love to have a family of all different shapes, sizes, and colors.  Unfortunately, finances are not unlimited, so this is more of a “last resort” option for us right now, although not because we don’t like the idea of it, but because it is expensive.

Pros of Adoption:

Cons of Adoption:

 

Childlessness

A couple choosing childlessness after learning they are infertile do so often with very different reasons than a couple who chooses to remain childless due to personal reasons without ever trying to start a family.  A couple may choose to remain childless despite their desire to have children for multiple reasons.  The two most common reasons are that the couple cannot afford (financially as well as physically or mentally) to undergo any more treatments (or any treatments at all) and that the couple has come to accept that their odds are not good and decide that perhaps their destiny in life is to remain childless.

Pros of Childlessness:

Cons of Childlessness:

 

I know that was really long, but even if you just skimmed it, I think you are better off because of it!  Deciding what to do is just the beginning of the battle, and often a couple will revisit their options often throughout the course of their treatment when things fail, ideas change, or finances/emotions become stronger or weaker.  It is important that you recognize that each option has many pros and cons, and many of the pros and cons are subjective.  Trust me, an infertile couple thinks long and hard about their path toward a family, and that path is never easy, so judging them without walking in their shoes is not advisable.  I support any decision a couple makes, even if it differs from our own, because I know just how personal and emotional the decision is.  No two couples have the same diagnosis, life, personality, emotions, financial state, etc., so no two couples will ever make the same exact choice for the same exact reason.  Please keep that in mind if you are ever listening to a loved one’s plan for starting a family.  Please don’t judge, just listen and give feedback if it seems like a good idea, but respect their choice.

Now, our plan at this point in time is pretty complicated and detailed, so I will devote a whole post to it but give a brief description here.  We hope to conceive a child in the least expensive way possible.  Least expensive meaning financially, emotionally, and physically.  Truthfully, our odds would be best and possibly our only way of conceiving a biological child is through IVF with ICSI, but right now, that is not an option we are willing to try.  That may change, but right now, it is off the table.  I read an amazing book I will share about in the full post on our plan, but it gave me some hope that perhaps making some lifestyle changes in conjunction with IUI with fertility drugs may work.  We will try that probably up to three times before most likely moving forward with adoption.  Like I stated, this is our plan right now, but our thoughts may change as we move forward with our plan.

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