Over the last year or so, my friend Cathi has written periodic posts about her work with Moms Demand Action and common sense gun control laws (click here to read her latest post) (by the way, as someone who is pro-gun control and pro-hunting (yes, the two can co-exist), I'd like to give a huge shout out to my husband for shooting two deer this weekend - we now have SO MUCH FOOD!!).
Anyways, the response to Cathi's posts has been wonderful (thank you everyone!!), so I've decided to branch out and ask other friends about issues that are near and dear to them.
For today's post my friend Kelly has written a wonderful piece about her struggles with infertility, including links to resources and support networks. So if there's anyone out there struggling with similar issues, remember you're not alone. And if any readers have an issue or cause they'd like to write about, please email me!
My Journey to Parenthood - by Kelly Maguire
Four years, four miscarriages, four treatment cycles (in vitro fertilization and IUI) and $40,000 later my husband and I welcomed our first child, a son, into our lives in 2005. This was not the journey we imagined, dreamed, hoped or planned for, and it was hell along the way. But, the journey to parenthood ultimately has impacted our lives in ways for which I am forever grateful.
Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system and is defined as the inability to conceive after 1 year for women under the age of 35, or 6 months for those over 35. It affects approximately 10% of the United States population, which means that it’s likely that your neighbor, colleague, cousin or college suitemate are having issues building a family.
After trying to conceive for a year with no success my husband and I went to my OB/GYN for evaluation. There’s a standard battery of tests to make sure the pipes are open, ovaries are plump, uterus is hospitable, and swimmers are healthy. Like many couples we “passed” these tests. While we were grateful there wasn’t any devastating news, we were looking for answers and had none. We were then referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) for further evaluation.
The RE sells treatment. Yes, they are there to do further evaluation, but they basically have a toolbox of alternative ways to get pregnant and depending on your age, test results, tolerance for invasive treatment, and depth of your pockets you can choose from the low-budget option (e.g., intra-uterine insemination or IUI) to more invasive in vitro-fertilization (IVF). While a doctor oversees and recommends option there is nothing short of a menu to choose from, most with “payment plans” for the more expensive options.
We found the choices bewildering, the decisions overwhelming, and the process intimidating. For the price of a new car I had around a 15-20% chance of getting pregnant. (www.sart.org publishes all sorts of statistics by clinic across the U.S.) I wouldn’t take that bet in any other situation, but somehow our family’s future was riding on this unpleasant lottery. In order to help navigate the options we were fortunate enough to both stumble upon and seek out resources that provided significant insights, additional information, and most importantly, a sense of normalcy about our situation.
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association (www.resolve.org) became our go-to resource for education and support. RESOLVE is the premier patient resource for all-things infertility. We attended a local conference is 2002 and immediately felt a sense of relief. We heard from a variety of medical professionals about various treatment possibilities and were able to explore options for building our family, such as adoption, surrogacy, and donor eggs. Equally important was the opportunity to meet people who were facing the same fears, hopes, and concerns as us, as well as seeing families that were built in creative, unique, yet entirely normal ways.
I ended up becoming a RESOLVE volunteer and started coordinating their education programs. It felt good to channel my own fears about family building in a positive way. But, more importantly, I made friends. People from all walks of life who were facing the same thing I was. It normalized what I was going through and at one point I thought, “all my friends are infertile.” We had our own little club and I kind of liked it! Funny how life takes funny twists like this. To this day, my RESOLVE friends are some of my closest and while we’ve all “resolved” our infertility in different ways we remain connected through this unique experience.
I also found a great therapist who very quickly diagnosed me with “unresolved grief.” Through talk therapy and a few concrete activities I was able to address and move through the never-ending stream of losses that come with infertility. There is a Native American tradition that if you write a letter to a loved one who has died and plant the letter at the roots of a tree as the tree grows it carries your message to the heavens. We aren’t religious people, but this was right up my alley. I wrote a letter to all the losses we had experienced . . . the miscarriages, the failed treatment cycles, and the lost years of parenting. My husband dug the holes and we planted the letters and then the trees. Acknowledging the losses, and honoring them, provided immediate relief.
Finally, a few books became invaluable resources. Ali Domar’s Conquering Infertility gave research-based information about the mind-body connection. Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility taught me more about the female reproductive system than any science class I took in high school or college. And Randine Lewis’s The Infertility Cure talked about alternative resources when it seemed like traditional medicine was not going to be enough.
While the infertility journey is the lowest period of my life and still causes pangs of sadness, I’ve woven it into my life in ways that I hope have made me more understanding and sensitive of what others might be going through to build their families, or just navigating life in general. And, when I look at the 3 children I have I am both amazed and grateful for the journey to bring them into this world.
Kelly Maguire lives in Arlington, VA with her husband and 3 children, ages 8, 5, and 19 months.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Monday, December 2, 2013
For the past three years, I've made the kids a "countdown to Christmas" Advent calendar, usually full of books and crafts, though this year I've deviated somewhat and gone with more games than crafts (as games are what the kids seem to be into these days).
I try to keep everything low budget - I check the books out of the library (based mainly this year on recommendations from Julia's Book Bag) and look for sale items for the rest.
The kids love it and I find that this takes a lot of pressure off of Santa and Christmas, forcing us all to enjoy the month, rather than hurry through it.
December 1 (Sunday) - Bake cookies
December 2 - Read Christmas in the Big Woods
December 3 - Play a new Wii game
December 4 - Stargaze and come home to hot cocoa
December 5 - Watch Home Alone for family movie night I
December 6 - Make some Christmas Doodles, using these cards:
December 7 - Watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas for family movie night II
December 8 (Sunday) - Decorate ceramic ornaments from Oriental Trading Company
December 9 - Read Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury
December 10 - Assorted peg games from Oriental Trading Company
December 11 - Watch Elf for family movie night III
December 12 - Play new card games:
December 13 - Souvenir money (for a big day in the city)
December 14 - Special play tickets (more on this later)
December 15 (Sunday) - Play letter games from Oriental Trading Company
December 16 - Read Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree
December 17 - Assorted peg games from Oriental Trading II
December 18 - Read the book then watch Polar Express for family movie night IV
December 19 - Read Gift of the Magi
December 20 - Play Headbanz
December 21 - Read A Coyote Solstice Tale
December 22 (Sunday) - Make frame ornaments from Oriental Trading Company
December 23 - Make snowflakes, we love this book:
December 24 - Read The Night Before Christmas
Thursday, November 28, 2013
(Other than the fact that I took these pics in November, they have absolutely nothing to do with the following post. But I like them, so just go with it.)
Just putting this out there - November has been crazy. Lots of work (awesome amazing work, as I love being invited into a family's life for an hour or so - seeing what makes them laugh and how happy they are together, hoping they'll almost forget about me for awhile and just be themselves, sort of the polar opposite of when I was a lawyer and everyone always seemed to be at their worst), but still lots of pictures, lots of editing. And then the cold came (and, for the last two days, the rain - freezing rain!). And two dogs and three kids. And Dan working even more than usual. And right before the LON party Coco attacked the couch - full-throttle with a green permanent marker - pillows, rug, everything - completely destroyed. Luckily, Target sells slipcovers (crazy expensive slipcovers, but still . . . ).
So I spent the month feeling overwhelmed and a little bit crazed, but right now I'm feeling overwhelmingly lucky for all of it - the work, the kids, this life - especially after I watched this movie with the kids and we all became really sad and thought how is this possible? HOW? And I realized I have to get over myself because really food (esp. good food) is a luxury. One that I should not take for granted.
So HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!! Thank you for reading this, thanks for following and sometimes commenting and emailing (I LOVE emails!!). And really, thanks for it all.
Anyways, on Thanksgiving, as this is the day I usually post on Things to Read, I try to write about my favorite blogs (click here for past years). This year I had big plans to make this a "pretty" post, but it's 9:30 pm on Wednesday so hyperlinks will have to do. Here goes, my new(ish) reads, and by no means all inclusive -
BLOGS I'M THANKFUL FOR:
* Julia's Bookbag - In the last year or so, this has been my favorite find, it has books, it has photography, it has TONS of randomness, and (most importantly) is has sarcasm and an ability to laugh at oneself. I love it all. My new favorite morning read.
* Still + Life - Beautiful pictures and amazing writing. Very honest. Makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and read the archives for hours.
* A Feteful Life - Rebecca and Suzanne have such a good eye for design, but they also don't take it too seriously. I love that their projects and suggestions are simple and yet incredibly creative. Plus they saved my party :)
* Cherish This Day - It seems a little self-indulgent to include a blog I contribute to on the list, but I feel so privileged to be in the company of such a wonderful group of photographers. And I love the weekly dose of inspiration they bring. On a similar note, I also love the group that puts together You Are My Wild, they shoot crazy good photos on that blog.
* Enjoying the Small Things - I know there are a lot of Kelly Hampton naysayers (as always happens when one become uber-famous in blogland), but I can't help admire how Kelly always nails the perfect shots (so in awe), plus this year she's really opened up about religion and life in general, which can't be easy when you have about a million followers. And I'm loving her for it.
* Bleubird Vintage - Everyone on this blog is so pretty (how do you have four kids and stay that f***ing pretty?), and everything about this blog is so pretty that I want to hate it. But I just can't. Because if the world has to have pretty people, well, at least these people seem to do a really great job at being fun too. (Plus, I find it really hard to take great product placement photos, whereas they make it look so easy (so jealous)).
* Jessica Stanley - Jessica's read.look.think feature is a must read. Seriously. MUST. READ. (though grab a glass of wine, it will take you all day).
* National Geographic Found - We are all connected. Really.
* Olivia Bee - Her photos are amazing. Absolutely amazing. And they capture a sense of nostalgia for a youth I never lived.
Okay, now go eat some turkey! Speaking of turkey, remember this? (And, seriously, how could you not remember?)
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
PROJECT 1 - LUNCH BOX NOTES
Last week F asked me to start leaving notes in her lunch box. I thought lunch notes would be the height of uncool, but apparently I was wrong on this one. (By the way, have you seen this HYSTERICAL post on Pottery Barn lunches? ). So after preschool last week, T and I decided to make some lunch notes. Then I remembered - I am not an artist. How many googly hearts and exclamation marks cane one draw before feeling like a bore? (Not many, for those of you who thought this was a serious question).
But I do like to take A LOT of snapshots. Thus, we have several boxes of 4x6 photos scattered throughout the house. I decided to start writing lunch notes on the back of photos (using Sharpies). Then I ran out of things to say. Luckily, I found this site and this site. I copied several of the jokes and facts and printed them on the back of the photos.
Then the real magic occurred. T HATES to write any letters (including his name) and (sadly) his handwriting is, well, awful (how is it possible that F could read at the age of 4 and T can't even write? Something about a third child . . .). Anyways, T started signing the cards too, saying "wow, mom this is so fun, like we're playing post office." And the early afternoon moved itself along.
As you can tell by the snarkiness, I'm a little embarrassed about the cheesiness of this "things to make", but at least I didn't pay pottery barn to write notes for me, right? And F did actually ask for the notes . . .
PROJECT 2 - PUPPETS
Unlike F, P wasn't a huge fan of lunch notes (apparently 1st graders and 2nd graders do not agree on what is cool). But P did like looking at all the old photos. So one weekend, P and her best friend asked for popsicle sticks, scissors, and glue to start work on a puppet show. I was a little nervous that some cruel jokes would occur once we all became reduced to minature figures controlled by young kids, but the show was nice and tasteful (though I'm not sure it really had a plot). The girls also used photos of plants and animals to make odd "creatures", like the talking tree monster (?).
PROJECT 3 - PAINT & SHARPIES
Since the whole photo theme seemed to be working out well, on a rainy day a few weeks ago I decided to cover the kitchen table with newspaper and give the kids sharpies and paint to create with (we used biocolor paints, so the colors wouldn't all blend to grey). Some of their designs turned out really awesome (F made rainbows in skies, smiley faces on bridges, etc.). But then the paint became messier and messier until it was one huge finger painting operation, which was all fine and good, but a little "much".
Any other good projects for old photographs? I thought it would be fun to make collages, but the kids still seem to prefer using magazines.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Last Thursday, I opened up my home for a a super fun "road show" party previewing Land of Nod's Christmas line. When LON first contacted me, I was elated because I love their stuff. But then I grew hesitant - I'm not exactly a party planner, my idea of a good time is pizza or bbq and a keg. So when LON started asking about my planned menu, I responded with "um, maybe Trader Joes? They sell a lot of appetizers, don't they?"
Luckily my friend Rebecca (also known as Not-So-SAHM) just started a new blog/business with her friend Suzanne called A Feteful Life, their motto is "always simple, never plain." After I saw their blog I almost screamed out "THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED!!" Once they agreed to cohost, things became fun.
A Feteful Life planned our whole menu, coordinated decorations, and BUILT A CHALKBOARD FIREPLACE (seriously, isn't it the coolest thing ever?). They also styled the first floor of my house, turning the whole place into a winter wonderland. All I had to do was (1) unload boxes (lots and lots of boxes); (2) find an Xmas tree (we ended up cutting one down a tree from our backyard, as Dan has new landscaping plans for the spring); and (3) keep my kids from playing with the numerous toys that now occupied our home.
The third was NOT an easy task, eventually I caved and allowed for "gentle" play, especially from T and his friends (as adorable as John Murphy's plush-o-saurs are, they're even more adorable when engaged in dinosaur attacks). Of course, now that we've actually sampled many of Land of Nod's Christmas products, we're even more eager to purchase some for keeps.
Aren't the signs awesome? The best part about hosting this party was that at the end of the night we raffled off all of the toys (thousands of dollars worth) to our good friends (regarding the guest list, I couldn't decide who to invite, so I kept it simple - in order to receive an invitation you needed (1) small(ish) children (2) and to live within walking distance of my home).
For the raffle cards, Rebecca and Suzanne created these funny little quizzes next to the party's stuffed animals. The guests just had to fill them out and put their names in a kneatly knit storage bin (love these) - so much more fun than dropping names into a hat.
The fox sleeping bag is one of my all time favorite LON products, T sleeps in his every night (on top of his comforter).
I found it pretty challenging to keep my kids off the adorable rocking pig, but I wasn't sure the pig could carry the weight of an 8 year old.
When it came to the Where the Wild Things Are masks, I caved and let T and his friend become rabbits and tigers for awhile (they couldn't agree on who would be what, so they both became half tiger/half rabbit).
For the craft table (can you believe I had an adult party with a craft table? And people actually crafted at it. Crazy world we live in), Land of Nod sent us several crepe paper flower kits. Suzanne and Rebecca made an awesome chalkboard table runner (using craft paper) to write directions on, isn't it incredible? Click here to see how they made it (note - it's easier than you think).
Land of Nod sent all of the hosts Cottage dollhouse kits to personalize. (By the way, did I mention that several of these parties took place throughout the country last Thursday? Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the other awesome bloggers and how they decked out their digs.) Rebecca and Suzanne created a "chalkboard" house that made me want to shrink myself and move in for awhile.
As my kids are growing a little old for dollhouses (sniff, sniff, it goes so fast), I gave mine to an artist neighbor who made it look AMAZING. Then T added zoo animals because "every house needs some" (??). Anyways, just a quick shout out and thanks to Melissa! (while she builds dollhouses, her husband builds crazy beautiful real houses - check them out here).
And finally, a few pics from the party itself. The food was so yummy that we didn't have any leftovers (sadness) and everyone seemed to have a good time (so much fun watching the city folks and the Arlington folks (I still refuse to call us a "suburb", rather we're an "almost suburb") mingle). Thanks to everyone who came!!
I (of course) drank a little too much of the punch, but had a fabulous night.
EVEN IF YOU MISSED THE PARTY, YOU CAN STILL RECEIVE THE DISCOUNT - JUST GO TO LAND OF NOD AND ENTER PROMO CODE "MONSTER" TO RECEIVE 15% OFF FROM TODAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY (THE 27TH). SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? HURRY UP AND SHOP!!
Other party hosts:
*Atlanta: Joni Lay of Lay Baby Lay
*Boise: Kirsten Grove of Simply Grove
*Charleston: Chassity Evans of Look Linger Love
*Kansas City: Carrie + Morgan of Ampersand Design Studios
*Los Angeles: Kelly Lanza of Studio DIY + The Honest Company
*Nashville: Raechel Meyers of Finding My Feet
*Salt Lake City/Provo: Kirsten Krason of 6th Street Design School + Small Fry Blog
*San Francisco: Cristin Bisbee Priest of Simplified Bee + Michaela Warner of Michaela Noelle Design + Mary Heffernin of The Makery