Monday, February 9, 2015

Reflections just hours prior to finding out your gender

In approximately 5 hours, your father and I will be told if you are a boy or a girl.

I can't help but find myself so nervous to know the news.  Not because I want or don't want you to be one or the other, but because our lives are about to change forever.  My role as mother will be defined by the words we hear later this afternoon.

For weeks I have been feeling you move inside of me.  You kick when I sip some coffee, eat a cookie, or finish dinner and then go relax on the couch.  I first felt you on New Years Eve while driving home.  I guess you wanted to make sure that I didn't make it all the way through 2014 without physically feeling you inside of me.

Your father first felt you the other night, 2/3, on one of the evenings that I was relaxing on the couch.  I felt such relief when he felt it too.  I had been placing his hand on my belly for weeks and the three of us finally succeeded in timing everything just right.  I knew he felt it before he admitted it.  His eyes wrinkled up in the genuine smile he gives when something brings him instant joy that he can't even try to hide it.  He looked at me and nodded.

I imagine he will flash the exact same smile this afternoon.  Once we see you for the first time since our 8 week ultrasound.  Once we hear your heartbeat again.  (It was 152 at the last Dr's appointment)  And of course, once the sonographer announces what you are.

What you are will become who you are and who God plans for you to become.  It is an exciting adventure to be called to assist you on that path.  To help form your conscience, to teach you to talk and listen to God.  He will put paths before you in life and through much prayer, you can determine which ones He wills for you.  You will make mistakes and sometimes choose wrong over right, but it is your father's and my responsibility to show you God's forgiveness and how to try again through His mercy.  We are prepared to do whatever it takes to lead your soul to heaven.  What an awesome responsibility asked of us.

There are only a few hours that remain that separate what I've always known and what is to come for the rest of our lives.  Whether you are a boy or a girl, we will love you unconditionally and spend the rest of our lives working for the good of you and your soul.  See you in a few hours, sweet baby of ours.

Monday, January 5, 2015

"Miracles DO Happen!"

"Miracles DO Happen!"
My FIL could not have worded it better when he found out the news that after 6 1/2 years of infertility, we were finally expecting.
6 and a half years. That is 78 months. 78 times that our hearts were broken and tears were shed; the uncontrollable kind that show up no matter where you are. 78 times that we pleaded with God and questioned what our purpose in life was. 78 times that I cursed my body repeatedly and then quickly turned around and gave it a pep talk to try again.
We felt our share of letdowns, heartache, grief and mourning. Anyone who has ever experienced any length of infertility can attest to this: the pain is not a one-time thing that you eventually come to grips with over time. It is not "Oh yeah, I can't have kids, that's just life. Now let's travel the world." You are reminded monthly of a loss of something that you never had to begin with, and thus begin a entirely new grieving process at the very beginning, every 28 days or so. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Even as I would near the end of a new month, I would tell myself that I was not pregnant, to try and ease the approaching pain.
It was so excruciating. But we never, ever, ever lost hope. (Though we came oh so close.)
Yes, we changed our game plans, numbers of times. We revised our outlooks constantly, which is what kept our hope alive. I had 4 surgeries, the two final ones through a local Naprotechnology doctor. I took countless medications and gave myself plenty of injections. I had HSGs, where they inject dye into your fallopian tubes and take xrays, probably a few dozen times. I took hormone tests. I had my blood drawn. Sometimes once a month, other times every other day for a month.
Throughout each of the phases of each and every step, I always thought to myself: this is out of unconditional love that I have for someone who may never exist. I would tell my future child in my head over and over: "This is for you. I love you."
So when I found myself alone in the bathroom staring down at a positive pregnancy test one early morning in October, I went into a state of shock.
My only coping mechanism for the past 6 1/2 years had been to convince myself that it was not going to happen. (I still had hope that it would- but would try to trick myself into believing that it would not. Devil's advocate, if you may.) And now I had to not only convince myself that it had happened, but also convince my husband, doctor, and everyone else around me? I did not even know how to *be* pregnant. What would I do?
After screaming Jim out of sleep and showing him the shaky test that rested between my unsettled grip, I contacted my Napro doctor. True to her nature, she replied back immediately, on her day off, at 7:30 am. Along with some advice on medical management, she wrote:
"God's will is always done, especially when we surrender."
So there I stood. At the edge of my bed, a test in one hand, my phone in the other, carrying a life inside of me that I prayed for years for. And almost instinctively, I knew instantly that this was the time. This present moment was planned for his or her life to be beginning. This is the time that God intended it for. Because something great and wonderful is destined for him/her in the future. Just like I was not meant to be born before 1982- (I would not have known my friends in the way I know them today, I probably would not have met my husband and father to this baby); he or she was not called by God until now. What a beautiful life that He must have planned.
I have no regrets on any part of this journey. I am happy that my husband and I said yes to every treatment, surgery, diagnostic measure and medication. I am glad that we surrendered every step of the way to God's will and never gave up hope that we were to constantly remain open to life. I am eternally grateful for Naprotechnology, my incredibly talented doctor who performed some major miracles during my most recent surgery, and my dear friend who recommended her to me.
I may tell my Naprotechnology story one day. It is an incredible testament. But for now I am going to enjoy these days that we prayed so long and hard for and finally say:
I am pregnant. I get to labor and give birth to our child. I will breastfeed and rock him/her to sleep at night. Together with my husband we will teach him/her to pray, the ABCs, how to ride a bike, when to apologize, and how to make the best ice cream brownie sundae.
I anticipate someday when my life has neared its end, I will look back over everything. It may be at that moment when life is full and everything is lined up and in place in my memory when I can finally say: "God, I now understand why you waited until 2014 to send us our child. What a life you had planned to be lived!"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Summer: Lake George Vacation

We spent a week at Lake George again this year.  It was a week full of relaxing, laughter with friends and family, and some adventures with the dogs.  The week always goes by too quickly, but we always spend the next year anticipating our next trip!  Here are a few pictures:)
 We hiked up Sunrise Mountain one day.  I was on this hike when I found out about Robin Williams' passing, and that is what I will always think of now when I think of Sunrise Mountain.  It's hard to stay up on current events at Lake George because we don't have a tv, internet, and there is no cell service (love that!).  My friend Amber told me about it on the way up the mountain, as her friend had seen it on the newspaper earlier that morning.

I was SO excited to learn before our trip that we would be seeing one of the "supermoons" of the summer while at the lake; which meant seeing it come up over the mountain!  Amber and I found the perfect spot to set up our tripods and camp out while we waited for the moon to rise.  (We went to the neighbors' for the best view!)  The next few pictures are the August supermoon rise, and some of the moon over the lake, making it very bright and looking like daytime.

 This is taken at 10 pm, shortly after the moon rose!  It was so calm and beautiful.

One of our neighbors' houses.  So cozy.

We rented a boat on the warmest day of the week.  Here are a few shots:

 We had such a wonderful time catching up with life-long friends.  My cousin was there for the week as well with her son and husband:

Me + Tracey = BFF!

My niece and I having fun one afternoon.  (photo by Erinn Spack)
We had some fun nights at the campfire (photo by Erinn Spack)
Lastly, a hummingbird that Opa keeps well-fed:)

Until next year!

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Summer (Part Bobby's Visit)

2014 was a great summer!  There were several highlights.  One of the best was my favorite nephew coming to visit!

This is how every out-of-town visitor who is flying in starts.  I sit at my desk at work, hitting "refresh" every few seconds, until I see that they are descending.  It is torture and like watching water boil!!!!


Of course, we had to take a pit stop at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. 

Sadie and Bobby picked up right where they left off- goofing around and catching up:)

 I highly recommend Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson!  We took our friends there in January (which embarrassingly enough was my first time!  oops!).  It is definitely a place for children and adults.  Bobby loved it!  As did Jim's mom.

 Using an old fashioned camera.

The gardens there were beautiful.  They grow every vegetable and herb you can imagine.  I took about 50 photos because I wanted to capture all the ideas down!  You're welcome for not posting them all :)
We had lunch at the tavern at Monticello where they served southern food buffet style, by candle light.  Outside of the tavern, they had an area where you could play old fashioned games.  Here's a blurry shot of Bobby trying his hand at one.
Fortunately there was a carnival in town the weekend that Bobby was here!  He loved it, and even won me a goldfish.... (RIP Mr. Skittles:(  )


 More fun at home....

It had been a few years since Bobby had been to visit.  One of his favorite memories though, was tasting the oil and vinegar at the local shop.  He begged us to go back.  However, it wasn't quite as he remembered, as evidenced in this picture!!!!

 We hung out at the pool for a few days...

We took him to the local farmer's market, where he picked out this unusual peach.

Jim smoked two different types of meat, wow!!!!  I am drooling just looking at this picture again!  Delicious!!  

When Bobby was little, he couldn't say "Auntie"; it always came out "Tummie".  To this day, he calls me "Tummie Emmie".
He told me to close my eyes at one of the antique shops that we were in.  I obliged, only to open them and see this!!!  I think it would be so cool to have this picture framed.  Bobby is a very sweet child and I look forward to his next visit!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Best Vanilla Iced Coffee!

for Lisa

A strong claim, I know.  But it's really good and pretty easy!

This recipe has multiple steps that you can start days in advance.  I always have 2 items on hand:

-Coffee Ice Cubes (Not necessary but makes it less watery)

-and Vanilla simple syrup.  (Similar to the syrup they use at Starbucks!).

I always make extra coffee on Sunday mornings and pour the excess into ice cube trays.

The recipe for the vanilla simple syrup is below.

I usually anticipate that I am going to drink iced coffee several hours to a day ahead of time.  That way, I have time to make a normal cup of coffee, and either sit it on the counter to cool or put in the fridge overnight:)

Once I am ready for the coffee, I start by putting several ice cubes in a cup, followed by about 1-2 tablespoons of the simple syrup.

Sometimes, I will add a squirt of this delicious caramel sauce.  It is the closest I have ever found to the kind they use at Starbucks.  I found this in Walmart in the coffee aisle.  It just adds a tiny bit more sweetness!

After the optional caramel sauce, I pour in the coffee (not pictured).  Now comes the good stuff.

 You can use your favorite creamer.  I personally love this local half & half.  It is SO rich and very creamy.  For a long time I was using plain milk until my husband brought this home one day.  I have to say, it makes such a difference!

 Add the optional straw and mix up!  It goes great with any breakfast and tastes so refreshing on these warm summer days!

What I love about iced coffee is you can drink it fast!  Which means you can wake up even faster:)

A great outdoor space always helps too!

The Best Vanilla Iced Coffee
-Few cups of brewed coffee, chilled (however many cups you'd like)
-Several coffee ice cubes
-1-2 tbs Vanilla Simple Syrup (recipe below)
-Splash of Milk, creamer, or half & half
-Caramel sauce, optional

1.) Start with a cup mostly full of ice cubes.  Pour in 1-2 tbs of simple syrup.  Can increase/decrease depending on desired sweetness.

2.) Pour in chilled coffee, leaving room for creamer.

3.)  Add creamer.  Enjoy!

Vanilla Simple Syrup
-Vanilla Extract

1.)  Add one cup of water and one cup of sugar to a saucepan.  Bring to a light boil over medium-high heat.

2.) Once boiling, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

3.)  Remove from heat.  Once mixture has cooled, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Stir well.

4.) Store in refrigerator until ready for use.

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Favorite Holiday

The 4th of July has always been my favorite holiday.  It started that way mostly because it meant it was the beginning of a long summer at Lake George.  While that's unfortunately not the case anymore, it remains my favorite because everyone is so happy!  There's good food, festive activities, and reasons to get together and have a BBQ.  This year was great since July 4 fell on a Friday, that meant a 3 day weekend!  Nothing kills the 4th of July buzz faster than a July 4 Wednesday, with work early the next day. :)

This year we went to the annual car show in town again. 

We went to 2 different BBQs: one at an English family's house, and another at some friends across town.  One friend has a knack for making killer sangrias.  Here was her July 4th one:

We made peach cobbler and homemade vanilla ice cream.

On Saturday we took a hike in the Shenandoah! 

We hiked along a stream nearly the entire way, which meant lots of little waterfalls.  Sadie was in heaven.  The water was so clear, cool and refreshing!


We found a patio set for 50% off in July!  I was expecting to wait until October at least to find a sale like that.  We got lucky:)

I've been perfecting my iced coffee recipe.  I think I finally have it down.  The secret is coffee ice cubes, vanilla simple syrup, and half-and-half produced locally.  So refreshing!

Also not pictured: our Hibachi night out with friends, complete with the chef pouring sake into our mouths and drinks that came out on fire.

It was such a beautiful weekend.  There was 0 humidity and the weather stayed in the 70's/low 80's for the most part.  It was almost like I was at Lake George. :)