Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Testimony from Infertility

Last week I was asked to share my testimony to a group of about 100 women in a community-wide Bible study I attend weekly. I didn't hesitate because I have always asked God to make the hard times of benefit to someone. I struggled with infertility for 4 years and only when I talk about it do I learn so much about the people around me. They did too or they are currently. So, I decided to share it here with you all as well. I hope you are blessed by it.


I started attending church regularly in seventh grade… because the cool kids did. I was baptized and had great attendance, but not really a relationship with God. It was more of a relationship with the church and the people in it. And, that didn’t last very long.

I was a good girl who followed the rules, made straight As, volunteered, and made my parents proud. So in my mind, I was good enough and didn’t need church or Jesus. I graduated high school and college with honors, earned a Masters degree and got married.

We moved to Austin a few months into our marriage and put church on the To Do list. We became Christians together in the fall of 2003 and life was beautiful. We bought our first house, had good jobs, and took vacations each year. We grew in our church and for the first time, in Christ.

In March 2004 on my 28th birthday we decided life was “boring” and wanted to have a child. So, we tried to get pregnant in 2004, and in 2005, in 2006, and 2007. During this time we joined a club lots of couples in our generation have entered, one that nobody imagines or desires to be in- we had infertility issues.

Anytime you go through something difficult, like infertility, I think it is so important to recall God’s promise that he works all things good for those that love Him. I so badly wanted a baby and now looking back, I can see all the good that God worked in me during my 4 years and 2 days of waiting to become pregnant.

One of those good things is that I have a testimony of God’s provision and grace and comfort from my time of waiting.

I know many of you have kids already or even grandchildren. But, I also know that infertility is so widespread right now, that you all will likely know someone who is waiting on the Lord to bless them. I have more friends than I can count who have struggled with infertility, have had painful miscarriages, and those who have children via medical interventions, adoption or even by what doctors can only call a miracle.

I asked those friends to tell me the most painful and most helpful things said to them along their journey. I know we all want the right words to say when a friend is hurting and wanted to give you all some words for that moment. 

Here are some of the things NOT to say:

Just try to stop thinking about it
Some people are only meant to be aunts, not mothers
It must be because of sin in your life
It will happen when it's supposed to

Practice makes perfect
Everything happens for a reason

This is probably a sign that you shouldn't have children
Something was probably wrong with the baby
You lazy girl. Why do you not have children yet?
It will happen when you least expect it
Just give up and adopt, then you'll surly get pregnant
You're young and have plenty of time
oh wow, I can't imagine, I just look at my husband and get pregnant!
Do y'all not want children?
When are y'all going to have kids? You're not getting any younger!
You and your husband must not be very compatible
At least you were able to get pregnant or at least you already have one child so you know you can have kids 
And my favorite is “well, it is probably for the best, there are so many babies in the church nursery right now anyway!”

We have probably all said something like this to a friend. We want to give them an answer, a solution to their problem. I bet most of these friends walked away thinking what in the world did I just say? It is such a painful issue and there often are no words to say.

But, here are some things other found helpful:
Sometimes you need a pity party or a good cry. And a good friend to say yea it sucks.

The best thing for me was to have someone there to listen. Having a success story gives hope and knowing that it happens to more people then you think; that you're not alone. Knowing you're not a failure for not being able to have a child on your own.

Another friend said, “Just listen. It frustrated me to no end when I heard the slew of advice. I embraced the visits from family and friends that offered to listen, asked what I would like them to do, and especially those that prayed for me but even more so, with me. “

What would've been nice is for a friend or family to help with meals and kids for a couple of days. With 3 kids, it was hard enough to get out of bed, let alone put on a happy face for my littles after my miscarriage.

I'm so sorry y'all are going through this! And How can I pray for you? I also felt loved when people would ask for me to keep them posted on how they could pray specifically for us through the different steps.

A friend of mine who now has 4 kids said, The best thing was friends who had been through infertility and now had kids writing cards, praying for us & asking how treatments were going. I struggled with God blessing others while our arms were empty. I know some people rejoice with those who rejoice way better than I did. There was a time when prayer request time in Sunday School became pregnancy announcement time. I remember dreading it and fighting back the tears. 
It meant a lot to have forewarning from friends so it wasn't as big of a shock.

And the lone male responder said, “I could write a book on this subject, but what it boils down to....don't give advice. When talking about it to a friend, the friend is only thinking about it less than 5 minutes while I've been living with it every minute of every day. Offering any kind of advice, insinuating that I haven't thought of something, is insulting and completely belittles the issue.”

Looking back with Romans 8:28 in mind, I can see the good that He worked because I called to Him during infertility, I invited Him in and handed Him my broken heart. The night before I found out I was pregnant, I wrote this about my 4 year journey:

I have learned to pray with passion.
I have seen Him alter our finances, jobs, and insurance with the most heaven sent timing.
I have learned that God has a plan for my life and it will be bigger and grander than the plans I have for myself.
I have been able to share my faith with so many people.
I have reached out to other women struggling with infertility and hopefully given as much as I have received.
I have learned to swallow pills and inject myself with needles. It is not nearly as bad as the internet made it out to be.
I have grown closer to my husband when many couples divorce because of infertility.
I have been able to take the time to discuss parenting with my husband before the stress of a newborn arrives.

 I am part of the infertility community, but even better than that, I am part of God’s community and through my infertility struggle, that community became real to me. It served as the hands and feet of Jesus. God came down into my life in a way that I’ve hadn’t experienced before. And for that, those 4 years and 2 days are just precious to me.

You can read more about our infertility journey here or a video of it here

Monday, January 27, 2014

#annaisgrateful- Week Three

Follow me on Instagram for more #annaisgrateful updates during the week! 

This sweet girl had her 5 year checkup and she is everything she is supposed to be and that always bring me joy!

I love that music is so accessible now and I can just worship all afternoon while cleaning! Aren't you amazed how easy it is to grab your favorite song within seconds of hearing it on the radio? We've come so far from the mix tapes of my youth where missing the first part of a song meant your tape was ruined! ;)

We are grateful Mimi lives just an hour away for impromptu birthday parties. Abby insisted her birthday party needed a theme so cupcakes, balloons, and blowers later, Abby was happy.

I am grateful to have a great Dad and celebrated his birthday with him over lunch and a little Top Golf last week.

So very grateful Bath & Body Works brought this candle back. It is all kinds of goodness and smells up the house long after you have stopped burning it.

This right here made schools across our city cancel last Friday. I was grateful to have a warm house, a full pantry, and all my people at home with me.

On Saturday we did dinner with these sweet girls and their families. Believe it or not, they were all infants in the baby room in daycare together. They all go to different schools now, but we get together every now and then for them to play. I am grateful even at age 5, Abby has "old" friends.

Finally, I woke up on Sunday feeling yucky with a scratchy throat and killer headache. I am grateful my husband still took Abby to church and he brought home lunch for me. That's a good man.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Let's Talk "Fresh" Herbs

I love cooking with fresh herbs, but without an herb garden in my backyard, I feel like the herbs often cost more than the meal. That frustrates me! Here are some creative solutions I have found:

Have you seen these 5 blade scissors for cutting fresh herbs? They are inexpensive on Amazon and you'll find that when you do buy fresh herbs, you'll use up every little piece because they cut so easily. Plus, you won't dread dealing with herbs since the scissors are so fun and easy! I chopped up cilantro fresh from my cool shower cap storage for tortilla soup in less than 1 minute. 

When I talked about herbs with some of my friends in MOPS, another Mom mentioned these frozen herbs. They are in what looks like ice cube trays and you can pop them out into your dish and they will melt and incorporate into the meal. Plus, they are only a couple of dollars and last forever. For my local friends, I've seen them at HEB at 1431/Parmer and at 620 and Anderson Mill. They have lots of different herbs to select from.

I have fallen in love with this orzo recipe and make it often using this basil paste instead of fresh basil. It is found in the produce section and it basically finely chopped basil in olive oil. It works great and lasts forever! I've made the orzo 4 times and still haven't used all the paste up. 

Do the cost of fresh herbs frustrate you too? Hopefully these can be found in your store and help you, too!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Abuelo's Restaurant Cheesy Mexican Potatoes

I love Abuelo's Papas Con Chile. If you are from West Texas, Abuelo's is the "nice" Mexican food restaurant and their papas are the best. They serve these over Spanish Rice and I promise, you won't miss the rice. When I found the recipe online, I had to try it. And, they are almost exactly the same! 

The key to these potatoes is the mix of cheesy gooey goodness and the spice of green chiles, jalapenos, and bell peppers. 

Check out the recipe from Mommy Travels here

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Broccoli & Bacon Salad

 At our Sunday school party last month, a friend brought this Broccoli & Bacon salad. I don't normally like broccoli, but my plate was full of carbs and I needed something green. Plus I thought with bacon it must be good. And, it was good!

I made it for Christmas Eve lunch with family and we all liked it. Well, except the picky kids. We also shared leftovers with other family and friends, and the verdict was good from them too. It makes a lot and doesn't stay well long, so it is perfect for a potluck.

Kati's Broccoli & Bacon Salad

4 broccoli crowns, cut very finely
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup cooked and chopped bacon pieces
3/4 cup mayonnaise

Combine bacon jam and mayo in a medium serving bowl. Mix well. 

Add all other ingredients and toss to coat.

If possible, chill for 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to mix well and settle in.

*Note: HEB is a local grocery store. I'm not sure if this product is made by other regional stores as well. Here is a recipe for bacon jam if you couldn't find it in store. If you had to make your own, I would just coat the salad well using your eye as the measurement. Or, I would just use a salad dressing with a bacon flavor in place of the mayo and jam.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

#annaisgrateful- Week Two

So to help with my 2014 resolution, I am keeping track of 3-5 things I am grateful for each day and trying to snap a picture of one things per day that I am grateful for. You can follow along on Instagram with the #annaisgrateful hashtag. 

I am VERY grateful that someone else in my house likes gingerbread cookies. I would eat them all myself! (Ginger Spice dough from Immaculate Baking Company)

MOPS started back up this week- I am so grateful for it and the Be-You-Tiful Mess it embraces.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my testimony on Thursday morning. Talking about infertility is never easy, but each time God blesses me and helps me understand my own 4 year jounrey even more. (You can read about our infertility here)

On Tuesday we had pancakes for lunch and I was grateful for a little connect the dots quiet time before the meal came. 

Grateful for good friends, a great park, and amazing weather this week!

Friday night was date night! Yea! Grateful for this man, massages, yummy dinner, and Target in our four hours of adult time!

Super grateful that Abby has a Daddy who will make this happen for her and a friend while the Moms are at a church planning meeting. 

And this morning, I am grateful I didn't have to dress her.... and, she is only going to Wal-Mart in this amazing ensemble!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Trader Joe's Grocery Review

We just recently got a Trader Joe's in the big city next to the suburb I live it. It is a big deal that they came to Texas and everyone has been talking about it for months. My friend and I took a little field trip there a few weeks ago. We both did our research looking online at the top selling products and things we HAD to purchase. We each spent just under $100 and came home with new things to try with our families. 

A couple of general comments- the store is small, but I think we are used to everything being large in Texas. It was a nice size though because I found everything I really needed there. I was amazed that everything I looked at was filled with things I could pronounce. I get headaches from corn syrup and loved having so many snack options made with real sugar! Plus, so many things were the same price or less than the everyday grocery store. I spent less, bought organic, and skipped lots of chemical junk. 

Let's talk about how it tasted!

Here is my stash we can talk through top left to right and going down....

International Chocolates- these are a gift, but I know she will love trying all the different ways chocolate is made, flavored and sweetened around the world.

Sprouted Wheat Bagels- sprouted wheat is less processed wheat, so that is a good thing.

Marinana Sauce- this was good and without corn syrup! Why does tomato sauce need corn syrup!

Sweet Chili Sauce- I love this on my cilantro chicken and it was less expensive than HEB, so I bought it. Tastes the same!

Charles Shaw wine- this wine is only $2.99/bottle. It is known as Two Buck Chuck. My husband drank it and liked it. Great to have on hand. We bought three bottles for the price on one that he normally drinks.

Let's talk about Midnight Moo- I was most excited about this. My daughter loves chocolate milk and I hate what is in chocolate syrup. This one is totally natural and she loved it. It is thick and takes a little work to break up in the milk, but worth it.

Cookie Butter- looks like peanut butter, but it is made with ground up gingerbread cookies, cinnamon, and coconut oil. AH-MAZING! No wonder this stuff has it's own Facebook page. Tastes great on waffles, bagels, animal crackers, and even ice cream!

Candy Cane green tea- this smelled wonderful and tasted great. It is strong and great for the holidays. 

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Jo Jos- these are dark chocolate covered peppermint Oreos. Enough said. We ate them just fine. :)

Chicken Tamales (under the Jo Jos)- we loved these! They were great for a quick and good dinner on Christmas eve after church. We will buy them again!

Honeycrisp Apples- these are like the cadillac of apples- super sweet and always expensive. I bought an organic bag for the price of one large apple at the grocery store. 

Strawberries- I first bought strawberries organic last summer and the difference is very noticeable. The color, the taste, you'll be able to tell!

Garlic Herb Chicken Sausage- this was so tasty and not greasy at all. Perfect protein for a busy night.

Bagged Kale- it is washed and torn and ready for this salad! Plus it was only $1.99 as opposed to $3.99 in the grocery store.

Cheese Tortellini- we ate on this bag for days! My daughter and niece liked them and they reheated well the next few days. I just tossed in a little olive oil and Italian seasoning.

Spinach Sour Cream Dip- this was all natural and tasted just like the over processed dips I would normally buy. It tasted great with carrots. My only complaint- it is best by the day after the day I bought it. I should have looked!

Edamame Hummus- Marcus didn't think this had much flavor. He tasted the bean part of the hummus more than the edamame part. They had tons of flavor options, so I'll try a different one next time.

Dark Chocolate Almonds- oh my heavens- these were awesome! Covered in dark chocolate and then sea salt and turbinado sugar. Really tasty!

Mac and Cheese- this really did taste like homemade. It was an easy side that I will buy again!

Let's talk about the taco seasoning mix. I've made my own and while it is easy, I don't always have enough on hand to make a big container for future uses, but I hate seeing all the sodium and junk in taco seasoning. Check this one out- all the things I would have put in there myself. Hooray for that! Plus, it was only 79 cents. Love that!

Mandarin Orange Chicken- this might be my favorite purchase- easy to make, tastes great over rice, and my daughter ate seconds!

Ground Beef- we used this in a casserole and it was no different from the grocery brand we buy. It just cost a little less and was in a flat container which stacked so easily in the freezer.

I love having Trader Joes nearby and am certain I will visit at least once a month to stock up on my favorites!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

CIlantro and Radishes

 I spoke to my MOPS group a few months ago about Meal Planning and Grocery Budgeting and had the best time looking for ideas we could use online. When I saw an easy way to keep cilantro fresher longer, I had to try it. Cilantro is a Mexican food staple in Texas, so I buy it often. It is only 28 cents a handful which is nice, but it never last long. I feel like I am always throwing it out and buying fresh.

This cilantro has been in my refrigerator for 5 weeks! It is still standing tall, bright green and totally edible! Amazing, huh?

When you buy the cilantro, wash it off, place it in a glass jar with water and add a shower cap or open baggie on top. I haven't even changed the water. You can see the stragglers outside the cap and dried up, but the cap is key and those inside are fresh!

And, I saw this in the store the other day. I don't know about you, but I don't want my hands or any part of me to smell like a radish. Ewww.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Candyland Party: Dream Party Ideas

Anytime I start planning a party, I immediately go to Pinterest and start pinning lots of ideas for my party. I've blogged before that I don't feel pressure to do everything on Pinterest, but I love the ideas it gives me. I eventually have to narrow down because I can't do everything that I pinned and I can't afford all the pins I love. Here are some Candyland party ideas from my board that I loved, but didn't include. Let them inspire you and not shame you!

You can see my full board here and her actual party here

There are some amazing cakes out there! Wow, these were really impressive!

I love all the details in this one including the candy ribbon on the top layer.

The melted cone on top of this one is my favorite! 

We almost did this cake! It is a great idea since we already had so many sweet things for people to eat. In the end, I was afraid it would be costly to have this kind of impact and we'd end up throwing away a bunch of candy hot glued to Styrofoam. 

I loved these cones and had all plans to buy the stuff needed when I found chocolate dipped cones at Target. It was less money and a lot less time to buy pre-dipped cones. I would have loved these covered in sprinkles!

I think my party needed cotton candy somewhere! It just didn't happen but these cotton candy cupcakes are a great option! I love the pink and blue together. These would be sweet for a baby shower, too!

The amount of decoration ideas on Pinterest for a candyland party is overwhelming! One could easily spend hundreds of dollars on decor alone! Here are some of my favorites-

Love the giant cones made from quilt batting and butcher paper!

If I had served more of a meal with utensils needed I would have wrapped the napkins with ribbon and a lollipop. Such a cute idea!

This would have made quite an entrance in my front yard! Wow!

How much fun would this path have been throughout my house! I feared people tripping on the paper or tape residue on my wood floors; however, I think this is super cute if you have the right setting!

It sure is fun to dream of a party with unlimited funds from the endless ideas online!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

#annaisgrateful- Week One

So to help with my 2014 resolution, I am keeping track of 3-5 things I am grateful for each day and trying to snap a picture of one things per day that I am grateful for. You can follow along on Instagram with the #annaisgrateful hastag. Ideally, I'll post these about once a week. 

January 1- I am grateful for His word and excited to read the one year chronological Bible. I am meeting with ladies from my church to discuss every Wednesday morning. 

I am grateful for this sweet girls lack of interest in clothing. Most of my friends fight with their daughters in the morning. This one just puts on what I lay out. We fought about pants when it was time to pack away the summer dresses, but not anymore. We just put it on!

I am grateful for the friends I made in Sunday school last year and the fun fringe scarf I won at our scarf exchange this fall.

I am thankful for the creative outlet party planning for Abby's birthday gives me. A little part of me would do it as a business... just a little part of me!

On this cold and rainy day, I was thankful I have the opportunity to work from home, in my jammies, on my couch with this on!

I was on my couch a lot this week! Thankful for a relaxing afternoon in part to a little girl who listened and stayed in her bed all of rest time. Momma needed rest, too!

Corn syrup and fake corn products give me headaches. Before I knew this, cheese chips was my lunch of choice. I found yummy chips from Target (On The Border brand) that are GMO free, so cheese chips are back! My budget is grateful, too!

Grateful for a lunch date with Abby after she had her 5 year pictures taken! We celebrated her smiling and listening to the photographer with pink cake. It was delicious!

Grateful to FINALLY own a boxwood wreath. I have wanted one for years. I needed a basic everyday front porch wreath and snagged this one at Target. I am certain I'll be changing out the ribbon all the time. Fun!

I am grateful for a new fun and easy game on my iPhone. Having a game means I plan instead of shop around while killing time on my phone. DOTS is much cheaper than "browsing" Zulily, Nordstrom or Amazon!

I am already starting to see myself looking for things to log at night in my grateful journal!