Friday, January 31, 2014

Thank You

Hey guys...

Guys, hey guys. Guys. Guys. Guysguysguysguysguysguys. Guyyyyyyyyyyssss!

Can I just read you something??

It's an excerpt from a long document I just received in my inbox. It ends a little something like this...

It has been determined that John and Stephanie have met all of the preadoptive requirements for a selected and accepted child's permanent placement. I highly approve and recommend John and Stephanie to adopt. 


So, in case you couldn't tell, that's from our home study. And our social worker. And we're like 99.9999% approved!! We're just proof reading the document for errors and then, once it's perfect, it's done! Finito! Finished!

We're (basically) approved!!!!

Ssssssooooooo exciting!

THIS IS HOW EXCITED WE ARE!!!! (Getting way too into "Living On A Prayer" on our wedding night.)

And guess what...

We owe you all a HUGE thank you. Seriously, huger than huge.

Like this...


(Seriously, I'd go huger if blogger would let me.)

From the top and the bottom of our hearts, we thank you so much for your prayers this month. They have been so fruitful. So many blessings have come our way in the past 31 days. And all of it is very likely due to your heavenly petitions for us. We are so grateful.

Looking back, here's what really stands out:

  • I did not shatter into a million pieces on CD1 (this past Wednesday). In fact, I went about my day like it was any other day. With no tears. I was my bubbly self the whole day and it felt wonderful!
  • We have more peace about our infertility.
  • We have more peace about our decision to adopt. 
  • My overall mood has been more positive and cheerful. This one might not seem like a big deal to most of you, since I'm usually pretty positive and cheerful here in blogland. But even my husband yesterday commented on noticing this new-and-improved happy version of me. Feels good! 
  • I helped plan and execute one kick-butt retreat!
  • I survived an unexpected public pregnancy announcement. 
  • And as previously (excitedly) stated: We're 99.999999999% approved to adopt!!!
  • Plus, probably a bunch of other stuff I'm not even aware of.

Wow, you guys are some serious prayer warriors! :)

Thank you. We are in awe of the power of prayer. We are humbled by this beautiful gift you've given us. We are changed for the better because of your love.

Thank you, God.

If you don't mind, I'm going to ask just one last prayer favor...

There'll be a new Adopt-a-Blogger come tomorrow. And a new one each month after that. Please click on the button below (or in my sidebar) and pray like crazy for the Adopted Blogger each month. Because if this past month is any indication of what these prayer can do for someone, your prayers are seriously worth it. Because your prayers are being answered! So shower these Adopted Bloggers with love (aka prayers)!

And please know of our continued prayers for all of you. 

So here I go, one last time, because it's really not enough, but it's all I've got right now...

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stephanie's Recipes: Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Back in November, I mentioned I was starting the anti-inflammatory diet.

Well, let's just say I haven't been very good at it. Not so far anyway. I lasted about 2 weeks and then totally caved on a CD1, eating every yummy, gluten-y thing in sight. And then we went away for Christmas and I didn't want to burden anyone with my diet, so I just ate what was put in front of me. And it was yummy. Then, after Christmas, I decided to get back on the horse. Give it another solid try. Yeah, still not 100% successful. Probably not even 50% successful.

But at least I'm trying right? Though, Yoda probably wouldn't be happy to hear that.

"Do or do not. There is no try." -Yoda
Gosh, he's so harsh sometimes.

Anywho, here's one of the recipes I've tried recently that's helped me get back into the anti-inflammatory/gluten-free-ish swing of things: Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad.


My lovely sister-in-law bought me the Weeknight Gluten Free cookbook by Kristine Kidd for Christmas. I had seen it on Amazon as one of the top-rated gluten-free cookbooks, so when she asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told her my tummy (and diet) would really like that book. And so she bought it for me (and my tummy and my diet). And thumbing through it the first time, I knew me and cookbook were going to be good friends. It all looked so yummy!

We've now cooked from it a few times, and everything has been delish! So if you're looking for a gluten-free cookbook, I highly recommend it.

Our most recent favorite from the cookbook is the Quinoa Tabbouleh, which we've made twice now. It's so easy, veggie-centric, and tasty! And there's plenty to go around. Our one batch covered three meals. It's really just lovely.

We varied the original recipe just a tiny bit, adding some extra veggies here and there (like roasted red pepper!) and cutting back on the cucumbers and herbs. That's just another thing that's so great about it: you can easily adjust it to your liking. So have fun, be creative, and enjoy! :)

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
6 radishes, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
2 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, minced
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 head romaine lettuce (optional)
Salt and pepper

Place the quinoa in a medium sauceplan. Rince with cold water, drain. Repeat rinsing 3 more times, and then drain the quinoa and return to the pan. Add 1 1/2 cups water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Transfer the quinoa to a large shallow bowl and cool to room temperature. (Refrigerate to speed up the cooling.)

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combing the tomatoes, chickpeas, radishes, cucumber, green onions, avocado, parsley, mint, and feta. Add to the cooled quinoa. Add the oil and lemon juice and toss to combine evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over chopped romaine lettuce, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Adapted from Kristin Kidd's recipe.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An Unexpected Announcement & My Expected Reaction

We know lots of couples struggling with infertility. Especially now that I have this here blog. It really helps me feel less isolated, less alone while it seems the rest of the world is out there pregnant or parenting without me.

But in real life, we only know of a few IF couples.

And of all the IF couples we know, only one lives in the same city as us.

A few months ago, while hanging out at that couple's house, they told us of their struggles with IF. I had briefly mentioned one time that we had been trying to get pregnant for a while, so that night, they felt safe opening up with us. They had been trying for over a year with no success. They hadn't sought any medical help yet, but were interested to hear what we had done so far.

We felt bad hearing that they were hurting from the same hurts we felt and knew all too well. But we also felt the news of their struggle draw us closer in friendship. We now had this big, bad thing in common and it made our connection with them feel even more special. They got us, ya know? And we got them. While I'd prefer that neither of us were experiencing the pain of IF, it was good to know that we were less alone in our big city.

Friends <3

Oh, and they're Catholic too. That made our connection even better.

Fast forward two months.

We were out celebrating the wife's birthday a few weeks ago with a big group of friends.

Halfway through the meal, she says, "We have a special announcement to make... We're pregnant!"

The table erupted in happy noises: excited squeals, clapping, loud intakes of air. Tons of joy.

The joy we thought we'd be bringing to a table of friends like that by this point in our lives.

Put on a smile, Stephanie. Be happy for them. This is good news. Smile. Say something!

I had to talk myself into properly congratulating them.

I went through the rest of the night in sort of a daze. While I wanted to be so, so happy for them, it was just so, so hard. Just two months ago we felt very safe with them because of our shared pain. And now, they were getting to experiencing the joy we've been trying, very unsuccessfully, to capture for what has felt like an eternity now. I felt so sad.

And then the husband of the couple, who I'm sure could sense I was a little uneasy from their news, leaned into us and said, "You guys'll be next."

Which was honestly very sweet of him, just to be considerate of our feelings in their moment of joy. In their moment in the spotlight.

But I still couldn't help the sadness I felt inside.

In the IF blogger circle, I've read many reflections about this situation -- feeling sorrow in the shadow of another's joy. Though I felt sad that evening, I know it had nothing to do with our friends and their news. It only had to do with the pain I feel over my own situation. Their joyful news just reminded us of our lack of joy. It wasn't them, it was me.

(Side note - thank you to all the IF bloggers who've written about this before, because I'm not sure I would have made that realization that night had it not been for your past reflections.)

But what made it even worse was that I had never experienced a public pregnancy announcement before, where a couple announces their pregnancy in a large group. And what especially threw me off was that it came from a couple we thought would have issues with IF for at least a while longer.

All other pregnancy announcements from friends or family (especially since we discovered we were infertile) have been private. Through a phone call or individual text message or something along those lines. Where we had an opportunity to process the news privately. And it helped immensely.

But there I was, stuck in a restaurant with a large group of friends and no room to truly process how I felt. It was rough. It took me a week to realize what was really going on inside my heart. Luckily, giving myself time to process helped me put a more positive spin on it all. Here's what I came up with...

We are so happy for our friends. 

Seriously, couldn't be happier. They overcame IF. And without the time, money, and energy of fertility treatments.

God is good. And He did a beautiful thing here. Making these two beautiful people parents.

But, unintentionally, in blessing our friends with a baby, God took our IF-buddies away from us. In fulfilling their dreams, He made us lonely again, leaving us without local Catholic IF friends to lean on in the tough times.

It's kind of like a weird version of the Principle of Double Effect.

(And if you know what the Principle of Double Effect is, you're probably thinking I'm being a little dramatic. And I am. But it sorta works here.)

Making this realization helped me feel a little less sad. And for two reasons:

First, because I acknowledged that God did good and only intended good in this situation. Babies are always a blessing.

Second, because I was able to recognize where the sadness was really coming from. I was glad to discover it wasn't because our friends were experiencing something very happy while we weren't. No, the sadness was really coming from: 1.) feeling like we were losing our trusty companions on this stinky IF journey... 'cause we sorta did. And 2.) feeling like we were alone in our big city again... 'cause we kinda are.

So overall, we really are so happy for our friends. Babies are always a blessing. And we realize God didn't mean for us to feel lonely when He blessed our friends. That was just an unintended side effect.

Also, our friends are still so awesome. And that's not going to change. It's not like them getting pregnant is going to stop them from being stellar and supportive friends. Just the other day, the husband of the couple was hanging out with John and asked him how I was handling the news. Now, isn't that a thoughtful friend?

It also helps that we still have this great, big online community of support. Even if we never find another IF couple in Memphis (which would honestly be a good thing!), we'll still feel very loved and certainly prayed for.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Since Last We Spoke...

A lot has happened!

Sorry to keep you all in limbo. The husband had last week off from work, so instead of updating the blog, I spent my free time chilling with him. Family first, blog second, that's what I always say!


Let's start with the retreat, because you're probably wondering how the it went. Let me just say, it was...





Thank you for all the prayers!! It really ended up being a wonderful retreat weekend. We've heard such positive feedback from so many of the teens.

"I wish I was still on retreat! I miss it!"

"I can't wait 'til next year's winter retreat!"

"I did not expect to experience this much love and friendship this weekend but I am so happy I went and had so much fun."

"Met so many new people and love learning about my Catholic faith."

Praise be to God!!

And in case you're wondering, yes, there were minor glitches here and there. Like drivers getting lost in the dark on the way there. And kicking off the first night of the retreat an hour late. And sending the teens to bed at 1am on the first night. And the teens being bored to yawns by my talk. And one of the teens burning his hand on a wire marshmallow skewer. And one of the adult leaders throwing some serious disrespect my way the entire weekend.

But overall, I couldn't be more pleased. And I couldn't have done it without such a supportive team. (God included!)

Retreat leaders - Beloved 2014

Oh, and no one noticed the major mistake on the back of the retreat shirts. Win! 


Then there was the home inspection for our home study.

We started the morning with a serious cleaning of the apartment. This included taking a trip out to JC Penny to buy a vacuum cleaner since our old vacuum cleaner 1.) spit out little bits and crumbs instead of sucking them up and 2.) started smoking after a few minutes of use. Not pretty. 

John was so pleased with our new vacuum cleaner, he let me snap a picture of him using it.

I love a man who cleans. :)

Our case worker arrived at exactly 2pm and away we went. We sat and chatted for a little bit to make sure we had all of our paperwork and documents and fingerprints and physicals and background checks and etc. ready to go. Then she walked through our apartment for about 2 minutes, mainly just looking for smoke detectors and our fire extinguisher. And that was it! 

It was over in a flash. I couldn't believe it! Maybe I was just extremely clueless on what a home study's home inspection was supposed to include, but she didn't even look at our freshly scrubbed tub or our nicely dusted counter tops or our embarrassingly messy catch-all closet in the guest bedroom. Which, honestly, I'm 100% ok with, so long as that means we've passed!

She told us she'd have our home study typed up and ready to go by next week. Which is now this week!! So pretty soon, so long as she really has all our paperwork, etc. and she was pleased with the inspection, we should be done-so with the home study!! Weeee!!

I need to stop for a second and say... it was likely all of your prayers that made this part of the process so easy. So, thank you. We are so, so grateful.


Speaking of adoption, John picked up a stack of adoption books for us at the library last week!

I was shocked and excited to see how many books the library had on adoption. And husband said this was just a small portion of what they actually had available. He picked the ones he felt were most relevant to us. What a sweetie.

I've already started reading the top one, Inside Transracial Adoption, and the bottom one, Adoption: Your Step-by-Step Guide. They both have wonderful insights. Transracial adoption is something we are really interested in learning more about, so I was happy to see that in the pile. And the step-by-step guide is neat too, as it covers everything and anything adoption related. Though it seems to be more pointed at parents who aren't using an agency, but instead an adoption facilitator or lawyer. And it focuses on using the internet as the "best" tool for connecting birthparents and adoptive parents. So, not sure it's exactly the right book for us, but it's still got some great info. 

I can't wait to dive into these books over the next few weeks. 


Still speaking of adoption, the next step for us is creating our profile for our agency. The profile is what agencies show to birthparents when they are trying to find the perfect adoptive family for their child. 

So I'm a liiiiittle stressed about getting that done. Because I just want it to be perfect, ya know? I want the birthparents to really get to know us through our two pages of words and pictures. And I realize to be that authentic, putting our profile together will probably take lots of time, effort, and reflection. It'll be worth it, but I'm just nervous to start the task.

I already have a few ideas, but we are definitely open to helpful pointers. For anyone out there that's made an adoption profile before: any tips? 

As soon as our profile is done, we'll be in the actual waiting stage of adoption. Where it could happen at any time. We could actually be matched with a precious forever son or daughter!

And we couldn't be more excited!


Cycle day 1 seems to be right around the corner, which I am more acutely aware of than ever before, especially now that I have my own personalized AF's-coming-to-get-you signs and symptoms list.

I honestly feel more at peace with the idea of a looming CD1 than I ever have before. Maybe it's because our adoption adventure is really taking off. Maybe it's because time and experience have helped heal my bitter IF heart just a little bit. Or maybe it's the abundance of prayers I have coming my way this month. Whatever the case may be, I'm thinking I'll be ok come Wednesday (or Thursday or Friday or whenever AF decides to show up). I guess we shall see. :)


Finally, for those curious about the status of my Aerogarden:

BOOM! Monster herbs!

Look how tall the plants have gotten! And I've already pruned several of them. Now to figure out ways to use them. Who wants a mojito? Some pesto? Tzatziki? :)


Thanks again for all of your prayers. I felt them through the retreat. I felt them through our home inspection. I feel them today! We are so appreciative. Friends are so good. Life is so good. God is so good!

Friday, January 17, 2014


What's that you say? You love my t-shirt? Why, thank you! I designed it me-self. For my youth group's Winter Retreat. Happening THIS WEEKEND! We're leaving tonight!!! I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so... scared!

Mostly kidding. :)

But seriously, this is the first retreat I've ever planned! I'm hoping it's 100% awesome. Lucky for me, I had the pleasure of planning it with two other youth directors, as we're joining our three youth groups together for this retreat-a-palooza, if you will. They're a little more experienced at retreat planning than me, so they really helped take a lot of the stress off.

If you couldn't tell by the t-shirt, the theme for the weekend is "beloved" or "be loved." You love the double meaning, amiright?

And check out the back of the shirt...

That's the bible verse we chose for the weekend. As you see, it works very well with our "beloved" theme. 

Except, do you see the error? Yup, one huge, stinky error on the back of the shirt. And it's all my fault for not quadruple checking everything. I'll give you a hint. Look up the verse John 2:3.

Oh, alright, fine. I'll spare you a second and do it for you:

When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." John 2:3

Yup, that's right. A verse about wine. On the back of a teen retreat shirt. And it was all my doing. And I'm a little mortified. And we don't have the money to reorder the shirts, so...

Let's just keep this our little secret, shall we? 

I mean, when just looking at the shirt, you'd either have to have the bible completely memorized or reeeeeally love that verse or reeeeeally know your stuff to know that the verses don't match.

If any of the teens notice, I'm hoping to play it off like, "We did that on purpose. So that we could include Jesus' first miracle on the shirt in addition to the other verse."

Do you think they'll buy that?

Oh, and for anyone wondering, the verse "Beloved, we are God's children now..." is actually 1 John 3:2. Gah! I was so close. Yet so far.

Though, I guess if that's the only big issue for our weekend retreat, I'll be one happy camper. Or, errrr, retreatant. :)

And if you wouldn't mind, could you spare some prayers for the teens? I'm giving a talk on Saturday about encountering struggles in our lives and how to handle them. 'Cause who knows struggle better than an IFer?! Not that I'm going to be mentioning IF at all, but at least I'll feel confident about what I'm saying. I actually used this post from Infertile Minnesota as inspiration for my talk. (Thanks, girl!) I highly recommend giving it a read if you haven't yet. 

So if you could pray that my message reaches the teens and draws them closer to God, that would be so wonderful.

Thanks, friends! Catch you on the flip side!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Our Adoption Journey So Far

It started with a baby.

Back in July, and completely out of the blue, a good friend called me.

Katie: Hey, Steph. A friend's sister is pregnant and is probably going to get an abortion, but she has a little bit of interest in adoption. This is a long shot, because I'm pretty sure she's made up her mind, but can I tell her that you and John are interested in adopting? I think if she was connected with a potential adoptive family, she may change her mind.

(Katie knew we were struggling with IF and were open to growing our family through adoption.)

Me: Wow. Ummmm. Yes! Please do. We can't guarantee we'll be ready by then, but we're surely interested!

And then a few weeks and several prayers later...

Katie: She's changed her mind! She's not going to go through with the abortion and she wants to talk to you about adopting her baby. Praise God!

Katie gave us the birthmother's contact info and, after a long discussion with John, we decided to go ahead and contact her. We certainly were unsure of where this would lead us, but we felt it didn't hurt to gather more information.

The birthmother was so sweet and easy to talk to. Though she was only 8 weeks along when we started our conversations, she seemed very certain about adoption. She talked to us about yearly visits, naming the baby, her four children that she was already a mommy to, and the birthfather.

Her relationship with the birthfather was unfortunately very unstable, and we quickly learned that he was probably not on board with the adoption. This was a big red flag for us, so we guarded our hearts and assigned the adoption a very low probability of happening, though we still continued looking into the process. Through all the uncertainty of this situation, we still felt very called to go forward with our adoption research, which I believe was the gentle hand of God, guiding towards really diving into our adoption journey.

Long story short, the birthmother changed her mind and decided to parent. Lucky for us, she made this decision very early in the process. We had only been in contact with her for about two months and had just started working with an agency on our home study. Also, lucky for that sweet baby, the birthmother was still choosing life! If our only part in her story was to steer the her away from abortion, it was a wonderful part to have played.

Many moons ago, when John and I were in marriage prep, we completely agreed that if IF interfered with us having children, we would absolutely adopt. No doubt about it. So we were already talking more seriously about it when we suspected something was wrong and started seeing Dr. G for our IF work up. We just didn't know how soon we'd pursue it.

So, when the birthmother decided to parent, we found ourselves in an interesting position. We had already starting working with an agency and were just days away from meeting our home study case worker for the first time. That meant we had to choose --

Should we put a hold on adoption stuff for a while and just focus on IF treatments?


Was it time for us to just jump right in to adoption and trust where it felt God was leading us?

My heart, my head, John's heart, and John's head all agreed. Adoption!

I purchased Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It by Dr. Ray Guarendi to read up on this new adventure we were embarking on and then went ahead with the meeting we'd scheduled with our case worker.

We're so thrilled we did, because we have continued to feel strongly called to adopt ever since.

And since September, when the birthmother decided to parent, these have been our steps in our adoption journey so far:

Meet with case worker
Interviews with case worker (as a couple and as individuals)
Several background checks
Lots and lots of paper gathering and copying (birth certificates, tax info, etc.)
Lots and lots of general information applications
Medical screenings
Adoption-related questionnaires (5 of them each!)
Writing our autobiographies
Asking friends and family to be references
Finding an adoption agency
Filling out adoption agency's required paperwork
And this one's my favorite...
Starting to tell friends and family about our plans to adopt :)

And there's only been one, small snag in our process so far -- the agency we're working with to complete our home study cannot place a child with us since they don't work with couples in Memphis.

When we originally decided to work with them, we thought our adoption was going to be independent, meaning we didn't need an agency to help us match with a baby. We had already found a birthmother, after all. So when that fell through, we had to find an agency that could match us with a child. That's why "finding an adoption agency" is part of our list. We're still working with the original agency (which also happens to be Catholic, the reason we were attracted to it in the first place) on the home study, but soon we'll be working with a more local agency, one that was recommended to us by our NaPro doctor (he's adopted 3 babies through them!), and they will hopefully place a precious baby with us in the next year or two.

It's taken us since September to get through all of these steps of the home study, but we're nearing the finish line. Come Monday, we have our last big hurdle to jump: the home inspection! Our case worker will walk through our apartment, making sure everything is safe for baby (i.e. working smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, working bathroom and kitchen, cleanliness, etc.). As far as I can tell, if we pass our home inspection and the case worker thinks we're fit to adopt, our home study will be complete! She'll just need to write it up and then send it off to our new placing agency.

And here's how we feel about that:

One of the pictures I just sent in to our placing agency!

Though that sweet baby (and birthmother) Katie had connected us with in the beginning of our adoption journey will not be a part of our family, we're hopeful that the right baby will come to us at just the right time. It'll just require a bit of patience on our part. But we're pretty okay with that. Because just as this journey started with a baby, a baby not quite meant for us, our adoption journey will almost certainly end with one too. And that one will be meant for us. And that'll be worth waiting for. <3

I do have lots and loads more to add about some other recent feelings I've had about adoption, all whirling and swirling inside of me, but I'll save that for another time. For now, I hope it's alright that we ask for prayers, that everything goes off without a hitch during our home inspection on Monday afternoon! We'll be sure to update as things get more exciting. :)

Also, please offer up some prayers for the birthmother we were originally connected with and her little one. We pray that all goes well with the birth (she's due next month!), and that baby girl is welcomed with lots of love and kisses into their family!

St. Joseph, pray for us! St. Thomas More, pray for us! St. Clotilde, pray for us! St. William of Rochester, pray for us!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Christmas Memories 2013

I know, this one's almost a month behind. But better late than never, right? Plus, I wanted to post about my birthday before I posted about Christmas. I like to keep things all chronological. And we've been busy with company this past week - my brother and his girlfriend came to visit! While it was a blast, blogging had to take a back seat. But I'm back now! So here goes my Christmas recap.

As you might recall from this post, Christmas was a bit different for me this year: I finally got a chance to celebrate the holiday and all of its wonder with my husband's family. While their traditions were a bit different from the ones I grew up with, the holiday love and joy of Jesus were still very present. Reflecting back on that week with John's family, I've come up with my favorite memories of Christmas 2013. Listed in no particular order...

A new puppy!

The in-laws very recently welcomed a new puppy into their home. He's an adorable black lab named Cholmondeley (pronounced Chum-lee) Samwise. While he was as cute as can be, he was also in the biting phase, which apparently goes along with his teething. Everything was biteable to him. The wooden furniture? Gonna bite it. Your Christmas tights? Gonna bite 'em. Your barefoot toes? Gonna bite 'em. Despite all the biting, he was absolutely adorable and fun to play with. I loved shouting his name (which he doesn't quite know yet), running and sliding around the hardwood floors in my socks, encouraging him chase me around.

Christmas nails.

On Christmas eve, I treated my nails to some sparkly prettiness. Gotta love golden glitter!  It ended up being a perfect color pick because every time I looked down at my nails, I felt festive. I felt the Christmas love. From my nails. Weird, I know. But pleasant. And wonderful. And glittery!

Midnight Mass.

Growing up, we never attended midnight Mass. I'm not sure if it was because my parents felt we were too young to stay up that late, or if my parents wanted to be in bed early, but midnight Mass was never a thing for my family. We were Christmas morning Massers. My in-laws, on the other hand, are strictly midnight Massers. From what I can tell, it's always been a part of their tradition, so it was a part of my Christmas this year. The Mass was lovely and the pre-Mass Christmas music was fun, though it did feel a little strange attending Christmas Mass so late at night and not attending Mass amidst all the other celebrations of Christmas day. It was still nice to try something new, though.

Atop the stairs.

This was an example of me forcing my family's Christmas traditions on John's family. I think they mostly liked it. We took a picture on the tippity top of their staircase on Christmas morn', and texted it to my mother, who obviously loved that we were keeping up a family tradition while far away.

Generous gifts.

Can I tell you a secret? I love, love, LOVE giving gifts! I just love the thrill of finding that perfect, thoughtful gift for a loved one. And I just love seeing them experience the joy of receiving something special, a symbol of how much you care for them. It's my favorite! 

This year, we waited until Christmas afternoon to exchange and open gifts, once all the family had arrived at the house. Just like my family, we opened gifts one at a time, experiencing the joy with the gift receiver as they revealed their gifts. It made me smile a lot.

I received so many generous and thoughtful gifts this year. We really, honestly don't need anything, aside from gifts people can't wrap up in a box and give you on Christmas morning (ahem, like a baby, or fertility, or a lifetime-of-happiness guarantee). And I know Christmas is not about the presents. But I would still like to mention the gifts my sweet family and in-laws shared with me this year. Because overall, gifts are a reflection of love the gift-giver feels for you. And love is what Christmas is all about.

Some of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I received this year were...

A robe! Because I love being lazy in warm things. Thanks, husband!

Delicious smelling candles from Anthopologie. I'm obsessed with candles! Thanks, husband!

These earrings, which I've worn pretty much every day since. Thanks parents-in-law!

This bar for our apartment. 'Cause before this, we were storing our liquor in a plastic tub in our overflowing, catch-all closet. A very thoughtful gift, indeed. Thanks, sister-in-law!

Games! Liars Dice and Munchkin. You know us too well. Thanks, sister and brother-in-law!

This thermometer, because before owning this, our chicken was always dry. Thanks, parents!

And these cool coasters. Putting drinks on wooden surfaces never felt so stylish. Thanks, brother!
Unexpected Christmas guests.
I have to be honest, I was pretty happy that Christmas with John's family was going to be a baby-, toddler-, and pregnancy-free Christmas. I was a liiiiiiittle nervous about my sister-in-law announcing a pregnancy, not because I thought she was, only because I didn't know how I would react. Though suspicions were quickly squashed when she drank a delicious alcoholic beverage the first night we hung out. (Side note - this is typically my special trick for "announcing" to everyone that we're not pregnant. I drink some sort of alcohol as quickly as possible and in front of as many people as possible when hanging out with crowds of family or friends. It helps stop the "is she pregnant?" stare at my belly pretty much instantly.) 

Anyway, it was looking to be a baby-, toddler-, and pregnancy-free Christmas until a few days before, when my mother-in-law announced that she invited a couple from church to celebrate Christmas with us. A couple with a toddler and a baby on the way. Sigh. So much for those plans. 

I was pretty bummed and a little peeved (though, deep down, only at myself and my sad, baby-less state). I thought, of all the people that would be invited to join us for Christmas, does it really have to be a pregnant couple, Lord? But, as it turns out, they had moved to the U.S. from Africa only a year or so before. They were strangers in a foreign land. And my mother-in-law was just being a kind, loving person, taking them in on Christmas day, when they likely had no where else to be and no one to celebrate with. 

Their stay ended up being short; they actually did have another party to attend. But I enjoyed every minute hanging out with their little toddler, Maria. She was cute as a button! And the couple was so sweet. So, even though I was dreading hanging out with a pregnant woman on Christmas day, it ended up really lovely. Silly infertile heart.

Sister-in-law's birthday.

My sister-in-law was born twenty-something years ago, on the day after Christmas. That means her birthday is always celebrated in the shadow of Jesus' birthday. Which is lovely is many ways, but also means her wrapping paper is usually Christmas themed and her birthday dinner is usually Christmas leftovers. I wracked my brain for a few days to think of something we could do to make her birthday stand apart from Christmas and then, BAM, it hit me. I thought of something perfectly special and wonderfully fun: A Chopped Challenge.

Have you ever seen the show Chopped? It's basically a cooking competition where professional chef competitors are given 3 to 4 random ingredients and then have a short amount of time to come up with an appetizer, main course, or dessert featuring all the secret ingredients, plus any other ingredients they find in the well-stocked pantry. My sister-in-law loves this show. And I thought, wouldn't it be fun to have our own Chopped Challenge? 4 secret ingredients, one appetizer, 45 minutes (I decided to be generous with time, as they only get 20 minutes on the show to make the appetizer). I told her about the idea and she loved it. So I headed out to the store and bought these 4 secret ingredients: pineapple, sweet potato fries, jalapeno, and coconut milk. And then I revealed the secret ingredients, they (my SIL and husband) cooked up a storm, and I taped the whole thing. My parents-in-law were the judges. The whole thing was a blast. And the results were delicious.

I'm so happy we were able to share this special fun with her on her birthday.

Oh, btw, my brother is editing my video footage from this as we speak! I'll link up to our Chopped Challenge video once it's done so you can take a look at just how much fun we had.

Games, games, games.

When we didn't know what to do, we turned to our stash of board games and played to our hearts' content. From Liars Dice to Munchkin to Farkle to Set to Agricola and Dixit, it was a great way to spend many hours with the in-laws.

A new-to-me Christmas movie.

The last night with John's family, my mother-in-law asked us all to watch a Christmas movie with her - Millions. I had never seen it before, but his family loves it and (I think) watches it every year. It's about an adorable young boy who sees and talks to Saints. One day, he randomly happens upon 1 million pounds, and the rest of the movie is about what he does with the money. I wasn't sure about it, going into the movie, but I can now say that it's great! Fantastic! If you're like me, and you've never seen/heard of it, go ahead and watch it with the fam next Christmas. I bet you'll like it too.


As you can see, though I wasn't with my Rhode Island family this Christmas, I had a wonderful time experiencing Christmas with my Tennessee family. And as I was hoping, I picked up on a handful of the in-laws' traditions that I'd like to share with our kids some day. And though I may be late with this, there's no such thing as spreading too much Christmas joy, so Happy Christmas!! I hope yours was as merry and bright as ours.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Just a few weeks ago, I turned 27!

It was a fantastic birthday, one which I hope to remember for years to come. Hopefully, this photo-journalized recap of my birthday weekend will help with that. :)

It all started the Friday before my birthday with a dinner out to my one of my favorite restaurants, The Melting Pot, with three of my favorite people.

Fondue for four!

The next morning, my friend Rachel joined us for some Ethiopian food and a trip to the theater to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Finger food. (We were trying to eat like Hobbits. Does this

That night, the husband and our Melting Pot friends made our way to the Starry Nights drive-thru light display at our nearby park.

Our view from the car.

On my actual birthday, I awoke to a plateful of delicious (gluten free) blueberry waffles, topped with blackberries and coconut oil.


We slowly got ready for the day and eventually headed out to do our one non-fun task of the day: a background check at the downtown police station. I don't think I was expecting how blahhh this experience would make me feel, though we didn't have much of a choice. It was either do it on the birthday or wait several weeks 'til we had time again to do it together. And I didn't want to wait because this was our last piece of necessary paperwork before our adoption case worker can do the walk through of our home.

So, we ventured downtown, ended up getting a bit lost in a series of overcrowded police buildings, finally ended up where we belonged, only to find we needed money orders in order to get the background checks done. Bah! So we gave up for the day (because the birthday princess had a hungry tummy) and left in hopes of being able to do the background checks another day at a different, less crowded and less downtown-ish police station. (This never happened, as it turns out that police station is the only one that does background checks, but that's a tale for another time.)

Though our background checks were not a success that day, seeing the poverty around us -- the lines and lines of poor folks in and around the police station; the young mother carrying her baby in a car seat near her knees, severely knocking the baby's head around with each step she took; the negative attitude of everyone we interacted with -- it all helped to encourage our decision to adopt. To be able to possibly help, in a very small but significant way, to break this cycle of poverty. To hopefully give a better life to a helpless little babe that would otherwise be destined for a life of poverty, abuse, neglect, negativity. Earlier that morning I wasn't sure I how felt about adopting a child of a different race from us; I just felt like it would be too foreign for us. But after our short time at the police station downtown, my heart was softened and I felt called to open our home to any newborn, any race. What a special gift to receive on my birthday, and in the strangest of places.

(Edit: What I've written here is just a short reflection on a situation that encouraged me to continue discerning transracial adoption. Please see the comment section of this post for a little bit more information regarding our thoughts on adoption.)

With these thoughts stirring in my mind and a very empty tummy, we headed to our lunch destination: a Venezuelan restaurant called Arepa & Salsa.

Instead of bread, they used smashed, fried plantains
for their sandwiches (called tostones). Be still my
gluten-free heart!

From here, we ventured to the Pink Palace, an old mansion in midtown Memphis that was turned into a museum once the owners couldn't afford to finish building it.

In the grand entrance hall of the Pink Palace.

Next, we went and bought an ornament, which I'm hoping turns into a yearly birthday tradition.

Handblown locally.

Followed by a quick pick-me-up of coffee and Trivial Pursuit.

And then on to dinner! Mmmmm. Sushi!

And the evening ended with some cupcakes, cuddles on the couch, and an episode of Doctor Who. A perfect day, if I do say so myself. And very delicious too! Can you tell I like food? :)

Oh, I almost forgot! My birthday gift from John this year was an AeroGarden! He was so sweet to let me open it two weeks in advance so I could have real, live herbs growing on my birthday. It's been so fun watching them grow each day. And since they've been growing about a month now, we've been able to use our new herbs in several recipes. What a treat - fresh herbs growing in our home in the dead of winter!

Just after planting my little herblings. 

My herbs pose for me on my birthday!

My herbs as of yesterday! Parsley, chives, genovese basil
thai basil, mint, and cilantro.

What a lovely birthday! It couldn't have been any better. I'm so blessed to have good friends and one great husband to thank for that.

See ya next year, December 16th!

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Note to Self on CD1

Dear Future Stephanie,

It's that time of month again. Yup, the dreaded CD1. Blahhhh. Pretty lame. And I know your hopes were particularly high this month, seeing as you had just finished faithfully praying St. Andrew's Christmas Novena with the husband AND you started another new medication (HCG injections) AND you now have a whole army of prayer warriors praying for you this entire month. So it's no surprise that you're feeling a little bummed. I'm really sorry you had to have your hopes dashed again.

sad panda

But I'm here now to point out a few signs and symptoms that you will hopefully pay more attention to next time around. You know, the signs that you usually just ignore because you'd rather convince yourself that you're pregnant than not pregnant. I've been keeping track these past few cycles and it seems like the following symptoms always lead to another CD1. Just trying to help here. So why don't you take a look, take note, and allow yourself to really notice these signs next time around, before it's just too late for your hopes to be saved yet again.

If my calculations are right, when you see these signs, AF is just around the corner:

  • Low energy
  • Constipation
  • Sore boobs that suddenly stop being so sore after several days of soreness
  • Getting overheated at night
  • Pimples all over your face
  • Zings of pain in your nipples
  • Lower back pain
  • A little bit of clear, stretchable mucus a few days out
  • A sensation of wetness down there
  • Heightened emotions -- e.g. crying while watching Love Actually, which you've never done before
  • Worse-than-usual acid reflux -- avoid ketchup, salsa
  • Nausea -- I think you think yourself into being nauseous, silly
  • Short bouts of cramping here and there
  • Wanting to eat EVERYTHING
  • Painful teeth -- that one's just weird

So, next time you encounter any or all of these signs, immediately stop all pregnancy thoughts in their tracks. It just ain't happenin', toots. 

Though, I guess it's true that you've never been pregnant and thus don't have any clue what your early pregnancy signs would actually be like. Perhaps they'd be identical to everything I've just listed here. Hrmmmm. Yeah, ummmm, just ignore that thought. 

For now, let's just hold back the hope until it's, like, P+17 and you're holding a pregnancy test and it's so obviously positive. K?

Alright, well I hope this has been fruitful! (Oops, sorry. Didn't mean to make a pregnancy pun.)

Just looking out for ya, deary.

Wishing you all the best in future cycles! Oh, and do treat yourself to something yummy (chocolate? pizza? buffalo pimento cheese dip?) and one of your favorite guilty pleasures today, will ya? You deserve it. 'Cause this IF stuff is just no fun.

With love,
Past & Present Stephanie

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Adopt-A-Blogger (Humbled.)

Something pretty awesome happened...

I have been chosen as the Adopted Blogger of the Month for January!

And so my heart is filled with happy.

If you've never been to this little corner of the interworld before, welcome! My name is Stephanie and I'm married to my best friend in the whole wide everything, John. We currently live near Memphis, TN; I work as a youth minister at our parish and John is a pediatrician. On the regular, you can find us doing things like playing board games (our new favorite is Agricola), cooking up a storm in the kitchen, being Catholic, cuddling to episodes of Doctor Who (and soon Downton Abbey!), and being nerdy, quirky goofballs together. Life is good.

A little over a year ago, we started TTC. It didn't take more than a few months for us to really feel something was wrong. So, at exactly the 6 month mark ('cause Stephie doesn't wait around), we sought out a NaPro doctor and started treatment. Endometritis (infection) was the first issue we discovered, followed by low periovulatory estradiol levels, an egg-sized fibroid at the top of my uterus, and finally, after a laparoscopic surgery this past September, a mild case of endometriosis.

Currently, I'm on Clomid on CD 3-5, B6 and Robitussin for mucus, and HCG injections on P+3, 5, 7, 9. I'm also slowly finding my way around the anti-inflammatory diet. My NaPro doc, Dr. G, is hopeful that we will conceive in the next few months; it'll just take some time to get the medications and treatments perfectly right. I, on the other hand, am not as hopeful; it's just what happens when you've never passed a pregnancy test. So, we're also working on our adoption home study at this time. If we can get all of our paperwork squared away, we should be approved to adopt in the next month. Though our journey has not quite shaped up the way we'd thought, we're pretty darn excited about where all this is leading us.

So here's hoping that parenthood will be part of our story in 2014. :) Nothing would bring me more joy or make me feel more complete than experiencing the miracle of parenthood alongside my loving husband.

Many, many thanks for this beautiful opportunity, to be showered with your prayers throughout this month. What a blessing! Please know that my prayers will be with each and every one of you during the next 31 days.

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