Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Very Harry Halloween

Happy Halloween from Harry & Ginny!


It's raining cats and dogs here, so I'm not sure there'll be much trick-or-treating in the area. Though it's not like we, as a married couple, have ever had trick-or-treaters because the two of us have always lived in an apartment. One day we'll own a house and get to enjoy the cuteness of kiddos in costume on Halloween.
When I was younger, my dad was pretty awesome at making our house spooky, but in very subtle ways. He'd shine a single spot light on our house, which was at the top of a big hill, and blast "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Bach out of a window on repeat. And a few years ago, he programed several pumpkins to light up and "sing" along to "This is Halloween" from the Nightmare Before Christmas. He also keeps record of the number of trick-or-treaters who come by the house every year, I guess to be better prepared for candy inventory the next year. Love that man. I hope I can be just as Halloweenishly creative as him some day.
Tonight, our plans are to enjoy $3 burritos at Chipotle (a special treat for going there dressed in costume) and see a show at the community theater, "Black Coffee" by Agatha Christie. It's sure to be a spook-tacular evening.
Oh, and just FYI... next year, if we have a little one to dress up, we're going to be Ariel, Prince Eric, and Sebastian. I'll let you guess who will be who. :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Stephanie's Recipes: Pulled Pork & Black Bean Tacos

Remember that time my husband and I bought a 10-pound smoked pork butt from a Knights of Columbus fundraiser? Here, I'll show you a picture I posted about 2 months ago as a reminder of this crazy/awesome purchase...

Let's just say we still have a bit of that big butt left in our freezer. The first time we defrosted a bag for dinner, I poured some water over the pork and threw it in the microwave. Turns out, that's not the best way to reheat frozen pulled pork. It was just kinda soggy and bland. No bueno. The next time we wanted a pulled pork dinner, I reheated it in BBQ sauce. That was a bit better, but still not awesome. So by the third time we decided to use our stored up pork for dinner, I thought really hard about how I could make it stellar. Somehow, within seconds, it just came to me to use a can of black beans to simmer and reheat the pulled pork on the stove. I'm not always this creative, but I knew we had a can of black beans on hand and the combo of pork and beans is just about as good as it gets. So I went with it. And the results were so mouthwateringly good!

I turned to google for a little help and found this recipe for jazzing up a plain ol' can of beans. I tweaked it a little, grabbed my favorite tortillas, found some taco toppings in the fridge, and the rest is history. I know I've talked about how awesome tacos are in the past, so it should be no surprise that I'm writing a blog post about creating a delicious taco recipe. But seriously folks, these things are gooooood! I don't feel bad about posting this on a blog that's supposed to be about infertility. Nope. Not one bit. They're just that delicious. I'm to excited not to share. And they bring me and my tummy (and my husband and my husband's tummy) so much joy. I hope they can do the same for you and yours. 

Mouth. Watering.

Pulled Pork & Black Bean Tacos

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large green pepper, chopped
15 oz can low sodium black beans, not drained
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
few pinches of cumin
few pinches of chipotle chili powder (optional)
pinch of oregano
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
12 oz pre-cooked pulled pork (preferably smoked)
8 corn tortillas (we prefer La Tortilla Factory)

Optional Toppings
1 roma tomato, chopped 
2 leaves romain lettuce, chopped
8 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
1 bell pepper, sliced and sauteed 
1 small onion, sliced and sauteed
1 lime, quartered 

Add oil to a medium-sized pot on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and pepper to the pot and saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Add beans, water, bay leaf, cumin, chipotle chili powder, oregano, red wine vinegar, salt, and defrosted pulled pork and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover, simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (adjust water as needed). Taste for salt.

Spoon about 1/2 cup of black bean and pork mixture onto a tortilla, then add any of the desired optional toppings. Recommendation per taco: 1 tbsp salsa, 1 tbsp tomato, a bit of lettuce, 1 tbsp of feta, some slices of sauteed bell pepper and onion, and a squeeze of lime.

Serves size: 2 tacos. Serves 4, likely with leftover pork and bean mixture.

And it's a good thing the pork and bean mixture is even better on the second day, after the pork has had a nice long chance in the fridge to bond with the beans and all the yummy spices. Reheat in the microwave and make even more tacos orrrr go all Chipotle on them and make a burrito bowl - make some rice and top with leftovers and other yummy burrito-like toppings. The possibilities and pretty much endless. (Ok, so maybe not endless. Please don't try to make a dessert out of the leftovers. That would just be icky.)

Our preferred salsa is Arriba! Salsa, sold at most Krogers.

I hope you lovely readers don't mind if I post recipes from time to time. I do really love cooking and sharing good food with good people. I'm no professional food blogger or photographer, just here to have fun. Hope you enjoy! :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Life Lately

The sweet husband and I have been very busy lately, but having a complete blast while we're at it. I should admit, when he has his weeks off, I tend to have trouble finding time to blog. We'd just rather spend the precious free time together, ya know? But he's back to work today, so I figured I'd take a few mins to fill everyone in on the whirlwind of fun we've been having these past few weeks.

With my new job comes new responsibilities. For the month of October, our parish runs a pumpkin patch as a fundraiser for our youth group, which actually means I run a pumpkin patch. And I'll tell you what, while it's a fair bit of work, it's also a fair bit of fun. During the first weekend of October, with the help of over 40 teens, we unloaded over 1,000 pumpkins from a large truck trailer, all sent to us from a Native American Reservation in New Mexico. We've worked with this pumpkin supplier for over 10 years and though they travel far to bring us pumpkins, they're great, high quality pumpkins, and we're happy that our fundraiser also supports Native American families out west.

After several hours of unloading and pumpkin patch set-up, we're
kinda stinky and very happy with the work we've accomplished.

After the great pumpkin unloading, I now mainly spend all my time begging the youth group teens to sign up to work the cash box every day and checking for rotten pumpkins. Oh, and I also try to wrack my brain for creative ways to advertise. So far we've made decent money, so that's been good. What's best about it, though, is the opportunity it provides for the teens to spend more time together, getting to know each other outside of our regular meetings. It's pretty adorbs watching the friendships blossom.

Posing with the pumpkins.

Teens working the cash box. 


Last weekend, a friend invited us over for a pumpkin carving party. Good thing I know a good place to buy pumpkins. :) John and I decided on the "skeleton with a mustache and monocle" design for our pumpkin, 'cause we're classy like that.

Our pumpkin mustache you a question.

Sir Pumpkington hanging outside of our apartment with
his two other pumpkin friends we bought at the patch.

Unfortunately, our carved pumpkin didn't last very long...


That mold grew overnight! We've had some unseasonably hot and humid October weather here in Memphis, so I think that's what caused it. Oh well, at least we got a cute picture with him when he was moldless.

Last weekend I also got a great idea to make a blanket for my four-year-old niece, Lindsey. My sister is pregnant with baby #2, due in February, so I thought it would be cute to make Lindsey a "big sister blanket." I wrote her a card explaining that her new blanket was for cuddling with her baby brother once he arrives. My sister tells me Lindsey had nothing but a big ol' smile on her face when she read her my card. It can be hard living so far from my family sometimes (they all live in RI), so making my niece smile from afar with this little present brought me lots of joy.

Tying the blanket and watching some Sherlock.

In the past week, we've discovered two new favorite board games - Dixit and Pandemic. Dixit is a great family or party game, kind of like Apples to Apples, but with pictures instead of words. And Pandemic is a cooperative game, where you try to beat the game together rather than competing against each other. Both provided lots of fun in our little apartment these past few days.

We've also gotten into Doctor Who. We heard from a friend that the first season was not the best, so we went into it expecting that, and now that we're past it, it's gotten awesome! Not to mention, the 10th Doctor is prettttty dreeeamyyy! Don't worry, my husband knows, and he's not jealous, because he also knows I think he's the dreamiest of them all.

My sweet in-laws got me season tickets to 2 different community theaters here in the Memphis area as a verrrry early birthday present. I'm pumped that John and I now have a whole bunch of free date nights in our future. Last Thursday, we used our first two tickets to see Young Frankenstein, the musical, and it was HILARIOUS! Also, the acting, set designs, costumes, all of it, was so well done! Looking forward to seeing more shows at that theater now, especially Jesus Christ Superstar in March.

In addition to all the random fun, we've also spent a bit of time tackling some of our adoption paperwork. It's quite a stack to get through, but we've enjoyed diving into it together. This week, our focus was completing several questionnaires - one about our feelings towards adoption and what kind of connection we'd like with the child's birthparents, one about infertility, one about our marriage, and one about our parenting styles. I have to say, I wasn't expecting the questionnaires to take as long as they have. Though all of the questions are good to think about, I don't think I would have reflected on any of them had we gotten pregnant and hadn't looked into adoption. For example: Define how you see your spouse's role as a parent. How or will it be different? What values were emphasized in your childhood and which of these values do you plan to instill?How do you feel you might react to your child's decision to search for his/her birthparents? Hard questions, right? I'm glad I took time to reflect on them, but it gets me thinking...

It's interesting to reflect on how different this path is from the path most families will take to have children. It requires much more screening, much more preparedness, and much more time (not to mention money) to adopt. I understand the reasons for all of these things, but it doesn't help me from wondering why our journey can't just be like most everyone else's. Especially knowing that every day there are women out there who are so far from being prepared to parent a child getting pregnant so easily. Maybe I'm just called to something bigger and better than having a large family. And maybe their own crosses are ones that are far worse than IF. I suppose it'll all make more sense one day.

And that leads me to the last bit of my little life update. I started on a low dose of Clomid earlier in this cycle and now I'm doing a little ultrasound series to see how the follicles are growing. After my first ultrasound on CD10, where the ultrasound tech didn't see a single dominant follicle, Dr. G said he didn't think the Clomid was working the way he had planned it to, so I think that means an adjustment for my next cycle is already in the works. I went back today for a second ultrasound, now CD13, and there was a dominant one on my right ovary (thank you, ovary!) though the ultrasound tech couldn't see signs of an egg, just like the last time I had an ultrasound series. I'm going back on Thursday for a third ultrasound and then for bloodwork around P+7 to see if Clomid has affected my post-peak hormones. The good news is I didn't turn into a Clo-monster on this low dose of Clomid. Yay! We'll see if that story stays the same next cycle; I'm assuming Dr. G will considering upping my Clomid dose.

Honestly, though adoption paperwork and silly follicles can be a bit of work, John and I have had a lot of fun filling our time in between those activities with plenty of adventures this month. Life lately gets an 8 out of 10 from me. And that's keeping this IF girl happy.

Now it's back to the pumpkin patch for me. Time to look for squishy, moldy pumpkins and count the cash box. All in an October day's work!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Silver Lining

The only nice thing about getting your period while TTC...

On your H and M days, you don't have sit on the toilet and hold it while trying to get a flat toilet papery wipe in before you pee.

(This will only make sense to Creighton users. Sorry to be exclusive. Not sorry for the TMI.)

In other news, today is my first day of Clomid ever. Hoping I can keep up the positive outlook and not turn into a Clomonster :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Day I Saw My Insides

I had my surgery follow-up appointment with Dr. G on Monday earlier this week. We went into it knowing we'd see a short video of my insides during surgery, but that didn't mean I was exactly prepared to see my insides. Honestly, I guess nothing can really prepare you for that.

I remember watching an episode of the Magic School Bus when I was younger where the bus shrunk and they were able to go inside a human body. They explored and Ms. Frizzle, the teacher with the awesome red hair, explained the different body parts and their functions as they passed by. I remember thinking, "This is neat. I wish I could see inside my own body like this." Well, Stephanie of the past, your wish has been granted. But seriously, it was a little weird.

Apparently it's a book too?

I have now seen my: liver, intestines, bowels, uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and probably a few others, though I'm not exactly sure. I had trouble keeping track of all of it while Dr. G explained what we were looking at. It's not like your insides are labeled like the pictures we studied in our high school biology books.

The video was only about 5 minutes long. We were able to see the little robotic instruments he used to go in and perform the surgery. He mentioned the different organs as they came on the screen and pointed out several small spots of endometriosis in a few different locations and a golf-ball-sized fibroid at the top of my uterus. The end of the video was a short clip of the hysterosalpingogram, where they inject a blue dye into your fallopian tubes to see if it flows through easily. I was able to watch it glug, glug, glug straight out the end of both tubes; Dr. Gray said this was a good sign of clear tubes. Yay! But still weird to watch.

When the video ended I said something like, "Thank you for sharing that with us. I never thought I'd get to see something like that," with a slightly goofy look on my face. Dr. G chuckled a little. I mean, he sees stuff like that every day. It must be comical when he gets to share that part of his work with his patients.

The rest of the surgery follow-up went pretty well. He said he was very hopeful for us especially based on how mild the endometriosis was and how good the anatomy of the uterus and fallopian tubes looks. He also said the biopsy came back negative for another infection (woohooo!), but I'm not so sure it's gone for good. If it does come back, he said prednisone would be another treatment option.

Then he asked how I was feeling about everything we had found since we started working with him. And that's when I almost started crying. I am truly, truly grateful for everything he's done for us so far, but I can't help but think that now being diagnosed with endometriosis, endometritis, and low periovulatory estrogen, we're looking at a long road of infertility struggles ahead of us. Sure, things are looking better than when we first started working with him 5 months ago. The endometriosis has all been excised and the endometritis has been treated (twice). We actually know what our issues are and have a good plan set up for us. But I'm still feeling pretty low about all this stuff. There's just no guarentee, ya know? We still may never be able to have children. And even if we do get pregnant, how about secondary infertility? John and I have always wanted a bigger family, but with my biological clock (loudly) ticking, and all the struggle we've had so far, that's really not looking like a reality anymore. At least not in this present moment, anyway. I just feel like doors are closing and dreams are fading. And I told Dr. G all that. And what a sweet guy he is... he listened so patiently.

I went on to tell him that we've started our home study for adoption, not because we're giving up on having biological children, but because we're very open to growing our family both biologically and through adoption. He definitely perked up when I mentioned it. Turns out, he and his wife have adopted 3 babies now. And they already had 4 children before they decided to adopt. He said it was the best thing he and his wife had ever decided to do. He gave us good information about adoption agencies and told us the stories of how they adopted their children. I actually felt very comforted by his stories and his excitment for adoption. He was so sweet to allow me to steer the conversation away from infertility and my diagnoses for a second to talk about adoption - it stopped an ugly cry in its tracks.

When we finally did get back on the topic of my treatment, I was able to hold it together while we talked about what things will look like from here on out. He's going to be working with me every cycle now, tweaking things here and there, checking hormones post peak, performing ultrasounds when necessary, and so on. We'll meet up towards the end of each cycle for a cycle review and discuss what to try the with the next cycle if I'm still not pregnant.

The plan for this first post-surgery cycle is Clomid, just a low dose on CD3-5. I'll have an ultrasound around peak time to see how the Clomid affects ovulation and then a blood draw post-peak to make sure Clomid isn't messing with hormones then. We'll see how it goes and then reassess and adjust from there.

Oh. I almost forgot. This one's a biggie. Before we left his office on Monday, Dr. G uttered the most hopeful thing I've heard in a while. He said based on everything he's seen, he has every reason to believe we're in the 60-80% couples who are helped to acheive pregnancy with NaPro. It's just a matter of time now.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?

I have to be honest - I was skeptical when I heard it. And I'm still skeptical today. (The fact that it's CD1 doesn't help.) In fact, today I've been feeling pretty darn low about all of this stuff. I'm sad and I'm angry and I'm feeling forgotten. But I guess I'll still continue hoping because it's probably (hopefully) only a matter of time now. At least that's what Dr. G thinks. Hopefully he wasn't just trying to make me feel better. Doctors don't do that, right?

Praying for patience, patience, patience. Please, God, give me patience!

And please, God, help me to stop thinking about what my insides look like. It was sorta neat to see, but now it's just weird. Please and thank you :)

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