Six Months with Bonnie

Bonnie will be six months old tomorrow. Even typing “six months” seems so crazy. I can hardly believe she’s been in our lives for six months, and at the same time, it’s impossible to imagine our lives without her.

She has two teeth now, and she is sitting up by herself with ease. She is sleeping through the night again, and we typically don’t hear much from her between 7pm and 7am. This is so refreshing after the several-week-long rough patch she hit around the four month mark.

Her biggest area of struggle is her naps. She does not like napping alone, so this is something we are really having to work on. Even if she is being held, she takes very short naps, and they are even shorter if she’s alone in her crib… not to mention the time it takes her to fall asleep on her own! But we’re working on this, as painful as it may be…

Baths still seem to be one of the highlights of her day, and she’s completely obsessed with her feet and toes! When Andrew is home in time, he’s in charge of her bath time, since this is usually the only time he gets with her during the week. It’s their thing, and I love listening in on them!

Although Bonnie does give us lots of smiles and laughs, she is a pretty serious baby most of the time.

I don’t know what she weighs, but I do know that she is LONG. People comment often on how long she is for her age, and she is already wearing nine month clothing, thanks to her length.

Bonnie still gets her nourishment through breastfeeding, but she does eat (or at least play with) other foods a couple times throughout each day. She really seems to like bananas, apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes. She prefers her veggies to be mixed with other, sweeter things. Apparently she has a sweet tooth like her mom!

We are spending Christmas with my family, and I CANNOT WAIT to get there, but we are making a short stop in Andrew’s hometown to visit with his family for a couple of days first. I’m nervous about all the driving, since Bonnie has proven time and time again that she strongly dislikes the car. But it will be so worth it to see our families soon!

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Advent Season

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The season of Advent is one of waiting. Another season of waiting, something that women struggling with infertility are so familiar with.

But the waiting of Advent is such a sweet, holy waiting, and I am spending it worshiping my Savior, who has pursued me since the very beginning.

I won’t be blogging at all during the month of December, except maybe to post Bonnie’s six month post. I won’t be reading most of the other blogs that I normally follow either. Instead, I hope to spend this season of waiting simply and quietly and worshiping… Worshiping the Giver, who became the Gift, the Mystery so huge who became the Baby so small.

The season of Advent is the season to pause, to ponder, and to wait.

To wait for the Savior who has been coming for us all along. He came once when He entered into the chaotic darkness that was the world, and said, “Let there be light.”

He came again as a small babe in a dirty manger.

And He has come again and again and again, so many times since then.

He has come when I needed Him most, when I was worn out and heavy-laden.

He has come when I have doubted Him, and thought He had forgotten me.

He has come in my trials and in my joys.

He has never stopped coming.

I do not want to look back on this Christmas season and realize that I missed it: The fullness of the Love Story that is Christ, the slow unfurling of Grace.

So…

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

See you next year!

He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. He, The Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.

Saint Augustine

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Five Ways Working Out Prepares You for Motherhood {A Guest Post, An e-Book, and A Discount Code!}

Hi all!

I am super excited about today’s post by Erika Volk. She has lots to say about exercising while trying to conceive, and she really knows her stuff. If you are anything like me, the last thing you want to do while going through fertility treatments is exercise. You feel exhausted in every way possible, and exercising is just not top priority. Top that off with the fact that the winter weather is finally here, practically begging us to stay indoors and veg, and suddenly exercise is off the radar completely. But according to Erika, and lots of other medical and healthcare professionals, it really should not be.

Erika is a certified personal trainer, Nutrition Coach, and fitness writer. She holds certifications from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), TRX Suspension Training Systems, Precision Nutrition and has received additional Anatomy and Physiology instruction from UCLA.

Erika was diagnosed with PCOS in 2005. She believes that lifestyle modifications are the best treatment for PCOS. If you want to learn more about how exercise can alleviate PCOS symptoms, please visit her website at erikavolkfitness.com.

Erika lives with her husband in a small beach town somewhere in Costa Rica. Her hobbies include cooking, hiking, learning Spanish and traveling. At erikavolkfitness.com you’ll find at-home workout plans, healthy cooking tips, and stories about her life in Costa Rica.

If you’re trying to conceive, most of your attention, time and energy are focused on preparing for the amazing day when you meet that sweet baby for the first time. I would imagine that your heart and mind are overwhelmed with emotions and stress everyday. Oh, and let’s not forget, the infamous side effects that come with fertility treatments!

In the face of all this stress and excitement, you probably aren’t going to think much about washboard abs or getting ready for bikini season, but you should still be turning your attention toward fitness.

Exercising on the regular will help you look better naked, but the real payoff for women who are TTC is that the physiological changes that regular exercise creates can improve the likelihood that you will conceive. Not to mention that being fit will prepare you for the rigors of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.

I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2005. At the moment, I am not trying to get pregnant, but my husband and I would like to be parents someday. When I don’t feel like working out, I think about how my fitness level could help me become a mother and, suddenly, I am motivated again!

Maybe a doctor has suggested that you exercise and eat right in order to improve your fertility, but I’ve found that fitness is an often overlooked piece of the fertility puzzle.

Five Ways Working Out Prepares You for Motherhood

Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your risk of infertility. According to a study published in the journal Human Reproduction, a woman with a BMI of 40 or more is 43% less likely to get pregnant. Regular exercise, particularly strength training, is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. Being physically active can increase your resting metabolism; the amount of calories your burn at rest. A revved-up metabolism will help prevent fertility-jeopardizing weight gain.

Strength training can reduce your insulin resistance. Many women with PCOS suffer from insulin resistance, which is the inability to properly react to our own insulin. When our bodies don’t respond to insulin, we begin to produce excess insulin. These insulin spikes can create a hormonal imbalance that will boost androgen production by the ovaries. This vicious cycle is at the heart of the polycystic ovarian syndrome. Strength training can help break this cycle! Several medical research studies have reported that resistance training enhances insulin sensitivity.

Exercise can help you manage the stress of facing infertility. The ups and downs of TTC can take an emotional toll. Exercise can help soothe your anxieties by giving you a boost of the mood elevating endorphin, Serotonin.

Women who workout have shorter labors. Studies have found that women who exercise during pregnancy tend to have shorter labors and their babies respond better to the stresses of birth. Shorter labor? Now that is motivating!

Exercising moms have healthier babies. Time and again, studies have shown that babies born to fit mothers have higher Apgar scores. In fact, a recent research study found that children born to mothers who exercise may become healthier adults!

Exercise is a fantastic and empowering way to take charge of your health and fertility! To all of those struggling with PCOS and other fertility issues, my heart goes out to you! I am rooting for each and every one of you! Please don’t get discouraged, instead get active!

Thank you so much, Erika, for sharing your expertise and ideas with us. I certainly need all the help I can get when it comes to exercise… even more so now that I have a baby who has given me a few extra pounds, and stolen my time and energy! (:

So, if you enjoyed what Erika had to say, and if you’re like me, wanting and needing to exercise more regularly, but feeling a little overwhelmed at where to start, I have some pretty neat news for you:

Erika has an eBook! 

Appropriately, the book is called “The Just Start Workout: 30 Day Beginners’ Exercise Program for Women with PCOS.” 

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This is so up my alley. The book is filled with 30 days of 15-minute workout plans, along with detailed illustrations of how to perform each exercise. The exercises can be done at home without a single piece of equipment. A goal of fifteen minutes a day is so realistic and doable, which makes sticking with it for 30 days seem really attainable.

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And… the ebook is only $9.

Well, the ebook is usually $9. But Erika has graciously gifted us with a special, $5 discount code, which makes the book a whopping $4.

Yes, please!

The discount code is: great5

Click here to learn more about the book, and to buy it! 

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The End of the Beginning

My sister, who recently announced her pregnancy, miscarried her baby in the early morning hours on Monday, the day before her appointment to hear her sweet babe’s heartbeat for the first time.

Since I shared the news of her pregnancy here on the blog, I also feel compelled to share the news of her loss, especially since I know that so many of you can empathize with what she is going through right now. She is in so much pain, both physically and in every other way. I can only imagine the sorrow she must be feeling, and I wish so badly that I were able to be there with her.

She miscarried on her own, without a D&C. She was 12 weeks along. The doctor believes that her baby was nearly that far along before his or her heart stopped beating, because Avery’s hCG levels are still very high. Since an ultrasound showed no signs of remaining tissue, and as long as Avery’s hCG levels begin to drop, she will not need to have a D&C at all. This would be preferable, as a D&C at this point would be exceptionally invasive since the doctor would have to explore around a bit to find any remaining tissue that is not showing up on ultrasound.

The loss of life, no matter how small that life is, is absolutely devastating. I cannot fathom it. When you are pregnant you spend so much time planning for and daydreaming about the future… a future that will never come to pass, at least not for this child. I just cannot imagine how potent that sense of loss must be.

Avery was able to take the week off from work, and her husband was also able to take a few days off. My parents are nearby, along with her husband’s parents, and she has people cheering her on and praying for her. Even though she is eager to heal, and to begin thinking about trying to conceive again, more than anything, she is mourning the loss of the child that she carried and still loves. My heart breaks when I think about the traumatic experience she has been through: seeing her tiny baby, limp and lifeless, feeling the pains of labor without having a new life to show for it.

Please pray for her, and her husband Brandon during these next several weeks, as they work through their grief. Pray specifically for mental stability for Avery (as I have mentioned before, Avery has bi-polar disorder, so this is a biggie). Pray for swift physical healing for her, and for heart healing.

This is the hard stuff of life. The stuff that could give Satan a wonderful opportunity to sneak in and make us forget that God is good, faithful, gracious, and mighty. And that we are HIS, that we are HELD, and that we are VICTORIOUS. Please pray against this on Avery’s behalf. Pray that her faith would be encouraged and strengthened, and that her heart would be healed.

…I won’t shield God from my anguish by claiming He’s not involved in the ache of this world and Satan prowls but he’s a lion on a leash and the the God who governs all can be shouted at when I bruise, and I can cry and I can howl and He embraces the David-hearts who pound hard on His heart with their grief and I can moan deep that He did this- and He did. 

I feel Him hold me- a flailing child in tired in Father’s arms. And I can hear Him soothe soft, “Are your ways My ways, child? Can you eat My manna, sustain on My mystery? Can you believe that I tenderly, tirelessly work all for the best good of the whole world- because My flame of love for you can never, ever be quenched?” 

That which seems evil, is it a cloud to bring rain, to bring a greater good to the whole of the world? Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perseverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life? 

“See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal (Deuteronomy 32:39).” 

Let these truths reconfigure the battlefield under my feet.

Excerpts from One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp (Chapter 5)

*I mentioned Monday that today’s post would be a guest post, but felt compelled to share this first. So… come back on Friday to a great guest post to jumpstart your weekend!

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Ten Little Things {And A Thankful Heart}

Unfortunately, I don’t have a PCOS meal plan ready for you today. We are in the midst of packing up and moving, so half our kitchen is in boxes. This means our meals have been pretty sporadic (and kind of pathetic) recently.

In spite of the maze of boxes overwhelming our house right now, I am pretty much loving life these days. Bonnie is so wonderful. Andrew is over halfway done with this quarter in school, which means he’s also over halfway done with the program. The holidays are upon us…

My list could go on, because this is just a really sweet time in our lives.

Thank you God, for all seasons of life!

I’ve tried to be very intentional lately about being thankful for even the little things, both good and not so good. And it’s made such a difference in my attitude these past few weeks.

In recognizing the little goodies that each day holds, I’ve made a little list (Yes, I still love lists!) of eight simple things that make my days that much sweeter. But there is a catch: None of these things have to do with Bonnie, babies in general, or my husband. These are all just small things in my life, and my life alone, that are not dependent on anyone else… Just tiny nuggets of happiness that brighten my days when I remember to pause and be thankful for them.

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10 Simple Things that Make My Days Sweeter: 

1) A morning cup of coffee- albeit decaf!

2) The “snooze” button- I think I read somewhere that sleep experts say not to utilize the snooze button, but for me, pressing it a couple times gives me several minutes to just lay there, relaxed, praying, and wrapping my mind around the day that lies ahead. By the time I do actually need to get out of bed, I feel pumped up and ready for the day to begin!

3) Quiet time with God- usually coinciding with my morning coffee, or immediately before.

4) Allergy spray- The days I forget this, my eyes are puffy and my nose is runny by lunchtime!

5) Vitamins and supplements- On the days I remember my vitamins, I have so much more energy than on the days I forget them.

6) Getting myself dressed- Even if it means changing from pajamas to yoga pants… Taking even ten minutes to get “ready” each day helps make me much more productive and engaged with Bonnie throughout the day.

7) Taking a walk outside- Even just a short walk helps to break up the day. Not only does it rejuvenate me, but I can tell Bonnie enjoys it too. When we are home all day, every day, the change of scenery is incredibly energizing and refreshing.

8) Eating healthily- Now that I have two babies with me all day, this is much more easily said than done! But when I do actually do it, what a difference it makes!

9) Adult conversation- I LOVE listening to Bonnie and Luke babble throughout the day, but somewhere along the way I have realized that it is important to take with grown ups too! On days that are particularly taxing or lonely, a phone call from my parents or sister at the end of the day can really hit the spot.

10) A hot bath- Taking a hot bath before bed is the perfect way to end a day that was filled with bending down to pick up babies and carseats, carrying babies that seem to be getting heavier by the minute, crawling on the floor with them… you get the idea. On the nights when Bonnie goes to bed on schedule, I am usually able to do fifteen or twenty minutes of yoga before my bath, which makes it even more relaxing!

The funny thing is that once I started making a list of little things I was thankful for, it got easier and easier to think of more things. This list could have been hundreds of items longer! Of course, you’d get tired of reading, and I’d get tired of typing, so ten seemed like a good number to end on.

Learning to give thanks for everything, in every moment… all day long is slowly changing my life and my faith. It’s a really fun challenge, and I’d encourage you to join in!

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 Be sure to pop back in on Wednesday for a special guest post!

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Five Months with Bonnie

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Well, this girl will be five months old tomorrow. And she is pretty spectacular… spit and all! I love her more today than I did last month. It is so crazy how, every time I look at her, I just feel like my heart could burst with happiness.

God is just so, incredibly GOOD.

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Sometimes when I think about Andrew’s and my future with Bonnie, I feel overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility and purpose… not in a bad way necessarily, but WOW. Being a mom is a HUGE task, and such a wonderful gift. I sometimes fear that I will mess it up! Having these kind of thoughts has been a good lesson in prayer for me though, because each time they creep into my mind, I pray them away in the powerful name of Jesus!

I do not want fear to control any aspect of my life, and I certainly do not want it to control motherhood.

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Bonnie is becoming so active, and she’s navigated quite a few little hurdles over the past month too. She went to the doctor for what I was afraid was an ear infection. Turns out she was teething! This meant that she slept poorly during the day and night, and was very frustrated and in pain for several days. It was awful to watch her be so agitated, but we made it through, and she’s back to her happy self now!

She seems to be adjusting well to us having Luke around during the day. He is a big sleeper, but when he is awake, the two of them are really beginning to interact with one another, which is pretty cute!

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We are working on eating solid foods, little by little. She doesn’t usually care for them, but it’s been a really fun process so far. I am open to any pointers any of you have regarding this topic, because at this point, we are kind of winging it!

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Her favorite things lately are baths, (still!) her sippy cup (filled with water,) her legs and feet, and “talking.” She also enjoys going for walks in her stroller. She loves watching our dog Biscuit play. Biscuit never fails to make her laugh. She can roll over from tummy to back and back to tummy but does not do either very often. She wants to sit up, and tries often, but she still has a long way to go before she’s able to sit on her own!

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Come Home to the Present

“… We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

So, you know when you kinda get the sense that God is trying to tell you something? And then it slowly becomes more and more obvious?

Yep, I’m there now. I thought He was, maybe, trying to convey a little message to me, and now I feel like He’s practically screaming at me!

A week or so ago, a friend and I were discussing, via email conversation, how it’s so easy to let ourselves live for the future. Many of you may know that my husband quit his teaching job a few years ago in order to pursue chiropractic school. That choice required that we quit our jobs and move several hours away from family and friends. Because we are so excited for him to finish school, and for us to be able to move back home, I’ve struggled with living for the future ever since Andrew and I moved here.

I also lived for the future when we were trying to conceive, and going through fertility treatments. So many of mine and my husband’s conversations started with, “When we get pregnant…” or “When we have a baby…” or “What if we don’t?”

Now we have a baby, and I am filled with joy each time I look at, or even think about her. But I still catch myself living for the future, still thinking thoughts like, “When Andrew finishes school…” or “When Andrew starts a practice…” or “When we move back home…” or “When we are out of school debt…” or “When we are finished having children…”

Or…

What if Andrew just can’t finish school?

What if we can’t buy or start a practice?

What if we never get out of school or practice debt?

What if we are never able to have more children?

The list could go on.

Living for the future = worrying about the future. At least, that’s what it always leads to for me.

And let’s face it: That is lame. 

God has given me the desires of my heart. He gave me the gift of a child, in addition to so many other gifts He has given me that I could never deserve. At the top of the list, salvation. 

By living for the future, and fretting over the future, I am neglecting to be fully present in the moments that are happening now. I am overlooking the special-ness of them, and failing to be completely thankful.

A few days ago, I caught the tail-end of a radio interview with Mark Lowry. He was talking about God being the great I AM. He refers to Himself as this often. He never refers to Himself as, “The Great Used to Be,” or “The Great Will be One Day.” He is the great I AM, meaning that He can be found in the RIGHT NOW. And when we fail to live fully in the RIGHT NOW, we fail to capture all that God is. We miss out on gifts that He wants us to receive when we are living for the future instead of in the now. We can most fully embrace life with Christ when we can fully embrace the present, and be thankful for it, whether it be good or bad.

I thought that was really powerful (although I’m not re-stating it nearly as eloquently as Mark Lowry said it.)

But in case I needed God to speak a little louder, this is what He had in store for me during yesterday’s devotional:

Sit quietly with Me, letting all your fears and worries bubble up to the surface of your consciousness. There, in the Light of My Presence, the bubbles pop and disappear. However, some fears surface over and over again, especially fear of the future. You tend to project yourself mentally into the next day, week, month year, decade; and you visualize yourself coping badly in those times. What you are seeing is a false image, because it doesn’t include Me. Those gloomy times that you imagine will not come to pass, since My Presence will be with you at all times. 

When a future-oriented worry assails you, capture it and disarm it by suffusing the Light of My Presence into that mental image. Say to yourself, “Jesus will be with me then and there. With His help, I can cope!” Then, come home to the present moment, where you can enjoy Peace in My Presence. 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6

So. Good.

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This Day Last Year

On November 6th of last year, Andrew, my mom and I, along with my wonderful doctor and one of her MAs, heard Bonnie Claire’s heartbeat for the first time. (If you’d like to read that post, you can find it here.)

As Thanksgiving is upon us (Can you believe it’s already November?) I am working on being intentional about maintaining a grateful attitude, in every circumstance. And I have so, incredibly much to be thankful for… so many people who have already played such a vital role in Bonnie’s very existence.

1) Christ Jesus my Savior, who is ultimately responsible for the gift of Bonnie’s life, and without whom I would be lost in every way.

2) My husband, who stuck by me through the past few years, in the midst of failed fertility treatments, and through a rough IVF cycle, and then finally, a happy, frozen transfer. My husband, who builds me up when I was at my lowest, and makes me laugh when I am at my saddest. I cannot wait to watch him cultivate his relationship with Bonnie over the next many years to come.

3) My parents, who have relentlessly given their support to Andrew, Bonnie and me over the past few years, in every way imaginable. Words could never adequately express my gratitude to and for them.

4) Dr. McKarthy-Keith at Georgia Reproductive Specialists. She and her team are nothing short of amazing. They hold such a special place in my heart, and not a day goes by that I do not feel thankful to them, and to God for putting me in contact with them. When we moved to Georgia I took a job that required driving an hour, on way, just one day a week. And every Thursday during my commute, I passed a billboard for GRS and ivf.com. So when I knew it was time to make a change, and find a doctor who would help us conceive, that billboard came to mind.

5) All of YOU! So many of you have been following along with our journey, and praying us through. I’ve been astounded by the prayers and support of so many people whom I’ve never even met. Thank you for the continuous words of encouragement you’ve given over the past few years, and for the prayers you have prayed.

Here is Bonnie at this time last year:

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And here she is today:

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What a difference a year makes!

 

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Table of Delight

I share this quote every year around this time, because I absolutely love it!

When the present is difficult, we too easily forget past experience of God’s bounty, the tables spread with blessing when we were most conscious of our poverty and need. If we choose to remember the grace of God toward us in the past, the present is transformed by hope, and dry places become rich with the soul food for which we long. The gift of memory keeps us on the path. The wilderness of silence and solitude beckons us to discover once again that God loves and yearns for us. We are lured again and again by the Lover of our souls, whose unconditional love always waits to take us back, to forgive all our unfaithfulness.

- Elizabeth Canham, Feasting with God in the Wilderness p. 17-18

I have always loved this time of year. For me, fall = thanksgiving, and though I know we always have so much to be thankful for, this year’s season of thanks is particularly sweet. It is astounding to look back over the past couple of years and see what God has done in our lives. There were times over the past few years, when our present was difficult, that I nearly forgot past experiences of God’s bounty. I nearly forgot his supernatural goodness, and transforming grace toward us. But I will not do that this year. God is good in every season. He is good in the drought, and good in the harvest.

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Meal Plan Mondays {PCOS Style}

Well, a new week means a new meal plan! And keeping Luke during the day means that I have to be even more intentional about managing my weekends wisely, taking advantage of extra alone time, and prepping meals and snacks! I seriously do not know how women who work full-time, outside the home do it. Share your secrets, please. Spending time in the kitchen when I could be snuggling or playing with Bonnie is still difficult for me to make myself do, but I know that, ultimately, it is for her benefit as well. And I figure that when she is older, our meal planning and prepping days can be a family affair!

As far as I know, we have a pretty standard week… busy, but nothing out of the ordinary going on. At least, we don’t have anything out of the ordinary planned. Here is what we do have planned:

Monday

D: Shepherd’s Pie with Cheese-Crustsed Leeks

L: Salad topped w/ grilled, shredded chicken

Tuesday

D: Paleo Pizza Casserole

L: Shepherd’s Pie leftovers

Wednesday

D: Spaghetti w/ Zucchini Noodles

L: Casserole leftovers

Thursday

D: Baked flounder w/ Hot Cranberry Spinach Salad

L: Salad topped with grilled, shredded chicken

Friday 

D: Crock Pot Mexican Chili (I’ll share the recipe soon!)

L: Tuna salad salad

Saturday

D: Chicken salad served in avocado halves

L: Mexican Chili leftovers

Sunday

L: Chicken meatballs (similar to these) w/ brussels sprouts (I sauté them in olive oil and apple cider vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.) Slow-roasted sweet potatoes.

(I’m only planning lunch on Sunday, because we’ve been eating a big, late lunch, and then having a light dinner or snack in the evenings.

Breakfasts

Andrew has been on an egg kick lately, so he will scramble eggs for us, and we’ll both have those for breakfast, although sometimes I skip the eggs in favor of a banana smothered in almond butter.

Snacks

Apples, bananas, Larabars, nuts, frozen grapes, hardboiled eggs

We had a great, productive weekend, and I feel recharged, and ready to begin a new, healthy, productive week. I cannot believe we already into the first week of November!

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