Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Closet Reno Part Deux & some Quick Crab Chowder too

I feel like we've been counting sheep waiting for the other half of our closet re-organization to come together. Back in October, I embarked on turning our closet into something other than the remnants of a category 5 hurricane. At that time, I decided to organize my shoes myself in order to save $. We realized pretty quickly, that since we aren't cabinet builders and have no interest in staring at dressers in our bedroom, our best option would be to get custom drawers installed in our closet.

Well, the turtles carrying the supplies on their shells all the way from FL to TX finally arrived, and our drawers were FINALLY installed last weekend! Thank goodness, because we had a couple canvas shelves that were literally hanging from a thread. One false placement of a boxer brief and it was coming down! Check out the before and after's of Closet Reno Part Deux...

AFTER: Option 1- With clothes above
AFTER: Option 2- Space to decorate with mirror, flowers, decorative bins, watch valet?

So, I'm still deciding what to do with the space above the drawers. It looks nice with clothes hanging neatly, but hubby suggested decorating it or using it for something else.  Might be good to keep some space for folding laundry too. If you have any ideas what on earth do with this space, I would love to hear them!

In case you missed the shoe organizing frenzy from a couple months ago, here are the pics from that...


My mission to replace any crappy plastic hangers with wooden and felt hangers is about 80% complete in the areas not pictured as well. So, still some finishing touches left, but all in all WE ARE DONE with the big stuff! I'm a dork about this stuff, but it's just amazing to me what a difference some organization can make in your mood each day. I can just breathe easier. It's easier to get ready and find everything. I have worn shoes I forgot I even had! We decided to make this an anniversary/Christmas gift to ourselves, and it was so worth it.

Speaking of gifts, I also received the sweetest gift from my sister yesterday. We have nothing but fake Christmas decor in our house, so the little burst of evergreen among the roses is so welcome. Luckily, no misbehaved cats have discovered it yet either. Every time I pass by, I stop and take a whif.

Smells soooo good.

And speaking of things that smell good, I'll leave you with one last thing that made me smile this week. I created this recipe for Quick Crab & Veggie Chowder a couple years, but this is the first time I made it with almond milk (in place of half & half) and gluten-free flour (in place of regular flour). It turned out just as good in my opinion. If you are looking for some healthy comfort food that's super easy to throw together, here is the recipe...

Quick Crab & Veggie Chowder

1 small head cauliflower (about 4 cups once chopped)
1 medium onion
1/2 red pepper
2 stalks celery
12 oz. frozen sweet corn
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. pasture butter
3 Tbsp. flour (I used Namaste gluten-free flour)
1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
2 cups lower sodium chicken broth (MSG free)
2 cups original unsweetened almond milk (or half & half)
9 oz. Super Lump Crab meat
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
chopped green onions, optional for garnish

1) Dice onion, red pepper, and celery coarsely. Chop cauliflower into small 1/2 inch bite size pieces. (Cauliflower is a great substitution for potatoes and will give the same meaty texture with very few calories).

2) Heat a large pot over medium high heat on stove top. Add butter and turn to coat pan with butter. Add cauliflower, onion, pepper, and celery. Cook 2 minutes to soften just slightly.

3) Sprinkle with flour and cook 2 minutes more, stirring to coat evenly. Add Old Bay seasoning, sea salt and black pepper. Continue to cook 2 more minutes, stirring constantly to coat veggies with seasonings.

4) Add broth, bay leaves, and stir well. Add almond milk and stir well. Lastly, add frozen corn and lump crab meat and stir well. Bring to boil and boil uncovered 10 minutes. Chowder will thicken slightly upon cooking and standing. Remove bay leaves and serve garnished with chopped green onions.
You can certainly make it with full fat dairy, glutinous flour and add oyster crackers if you aren't on any dietary restrictions. It's quite good the full fat/gluten filled way too! Ha! Let me know if you try it and like it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

You Cannot Be Defeated: Last Chance FET Follow-Up

You Cannot Be Defeated…this was the message of Joel Osteen’s sermon on Dec. 8th. I lay there on the couch with my feet snuggled in my trusty electric foot warmer watching my Tivo’ed episode, tears streaming down my face. I’ve been praying every single day for peace and patience and HOPEFULLY a positive outcome for our last chance FET cycle. 

I’d just prayed that morning for God to give me some sign of reassurance that it’s even possible. I was praying to just feel a cramp or some boob soreness or have what my friend Caroline calls a “blue sock moment”…anything to help me stay sane and hopeful during the dreaded 9 day waiting period following our blastocyst transfer.

And here was Joel Osteen, looking me directly in the eyes saying, “God is going to send the enemy packing. The infertility- It’s not going to be with you your whole life. God is not only going to send it packing, but He’s going to release the healing, the breakthrough, the baby you’ve been praying about.” I about fell off the freaking couch! It could have been coincidence he used that example of course, but the entire sermon could not have come at a more appropriate time for me.

Needless to say, I was pretty moved, and I knew that I needed to share this message with you all as well. Please take 30 minutes out of your day when you have a chance, or when you need some uplifting, to watch. No matter what you’re struggling with, I hope that it moves you as much as it did me…


3 days later, the following Wednesday, I decided to take a HPT. Something inside was nudging me to do so, and I truly felt I would be ok emotionally, no matter what the cheapie Wondfo test strip said. I wasn’t going to let it dictate my mood. Low and behold there was a second line. I tested again just to make sure, and there was still a line….2 days before I was even due to take a blood test.

Never, in any of the last 3 short-lived pregnancies have I detected a pregnancy this early. This was promising, but I could tell my husband was extremely guarded…we both were and still ARE of course. Two days later, we got the blood result and received the strongest initial beta we’ve ever received. 3 days later, the result still remained strong and doubled in the appropriate time. So far, it’s reached an all time high for us, and we’re cautiously optimistic, yet still very guarded since it’s so very early.

I won’t be making individual posts about every single beta here. It’s an absolutely maddening rollercoaster of emotions taking these blood tests and waiting by the phone for the results each time, and I’d rather not take you along for the ride. I’ll be updating stuff in a new tab at the top if you care to look, but I also respect your decision not to.

I am intensely aware of how difficult it is to hear pregnancy news from other women, not only in real life, but also in the infertility community from those you’ve developed very deep and loving relationships with. I know that very strange feeling in the pit of your stomach of being happy for someone else but sad for yourself. I know how heartbreaking it is to congratulate someone else and then go right back to wherever you’re at in your infertility treatments or TTC journey.

I have been part of online support groups for 2.5+ years now and have watched almost EVERY single person I know become pregnant and have a baby…literally hundreds of women. Some are now onto #2.  It is extremely painful to feel like you’re the last woman on the planet that will ever become pregnant, especially when those who’ve been your “infertility sister” the longest have eventually reached “the other side” and you are still spending every last resource and ounce of energy you have on trying to start a family. I know that pain all too well.

I am resolved to be respectful and humble and sensitive to the journeys that anyone out there reading is going through. I completely understand if you need to hide me from your blog list, and I totally respect anyone’s decision to do so. I can assure you though, that you won’t see a bunch of posts with ALL CAPS or overused exclamation points!!! proclaiming every milestone of this pregnancy. You also won’t have to endure any version of an “Oscar acceptance speech” thanking all of the little people who’ve helped me survive this infertility journey.  You ALL know how much I love you already, and we are far from being out of the woods.

It’s still very early, and there is still a lot of surviving to get through, but my hope is that this works out…not only for us, but for all of you too.  Being stuck in the nightmare that is infertility, I believe, will earn us all a special place in heaven someday. I also believe that we will all become mothers, even if it takes longer for some of us. We will not be defeated. It WILL happen.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Quinoa & Black Bean Stuffed Avocados

Me thinks I've officially reached hermit status today. The errands I had scheduled for yesterday got cancelled because of icy road closures outside of my town, and it's a gloomy cold wet mess outside. I'm sure all the Northerners would laugh at us, but in Austin, everything starts shutting down when temps reach freezing. They even delayed school in our neighborhood yesterday for kiddos...um, because it's cold I think? ha! Thank God for HGTV, Food network, and Sex in the City.

Speaking of Food network, has anyone seen the show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives with Guy Fieri? That show is going to be the absolute death of me! About 80% of the food comes with a complimentary heart attack, but man does it ever look good! It's amazing I haven't eaten myself into a food coma as much as I've been laying around and salivating over cooking shows.

However, I did whip up something totally by accident today that blew my taste buds away. I've been craving quinoa and avocados like craaazy and was trying to whip something up without having to leave the house for any ingredients. Here's the result....

Quinoa & Black Bean Stuffed Avocados

Tadah! Holy smokes, these are tiny little avocado bowls of heaven. Doesn't hurt that they are ridiculously healthy too. Unsaturated fats like those found in nuts, olive oils, cold water fish, and avocados are great foods to reduce inflammation, and a recent study also found that eating avocados more than triples IVF pregnancy rates.

Now, obviously I don't think that eating avocados is a key determinant in IVF success. Chances are if someone is eating avocados and all these other healthy sources of fat, they probably have a healthier lifestyle overall. Furthermore, I'm not even sure being healthy overall results in any real advantages for IVF at this point, because I know a whole lotta people who eat like crap, pound the coffee daily, smoke cigarettes, and have babies or are expecting.

However, avocados are healthy enough to earn super food status in my opinion, and even if they can only possibly help IVF by indirect means of decreasing inflammation, it can't hurt to include them right? Heck, I'm going to be eating this recipe all the time from now on no matter what, because they're just that good!

Here's the recipe for anyone who's interested in making it. It's gluten-free, dairy free, soy free, vegan and packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats and essential amino acids. Plus, in Chinese medicine the quinoa salad would be considered a "warming food," nourishing Yang energy to assist with implantation.

Quinoa & Black Bean Stuffed Avocados

1 cup (uncooked) quinoa
2 cups broth (or water)
1 can black beans (rinsed & drained)
1 heaping cup frozen corn
1 Tbsp. evoo
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup diced tomato
chipotle chili pepper
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
juice of 1 lemon
Haas avocado

Cook the quinoa in large pot according to package directions (use broth instead of water for extra flavor). Set aside.

Cook corn and drain. Then, in a skillet add evoo, red onion, cooked corn, tomato, black beans, chipotle chili pepper, cumin, salt & pepper.  (Just eyeball the spices and add to taste). Stir together and cook about 3 minutes.

Add all ingredients from the skillet to pot of cooked quinoa. Add juice of one lemon and parsley, mix well. Cover and let sit a few minutes to allow the flavors to marry.

Halve avocado and remove seed. Transfer heaping spoonfuls onto each avocado halve and serve with spoon.

Easy peasy! This makes a big ole pot of yummy warm quinoa salad, and you'll have a ton of leftovers for more avocados later. It would also be a good side dish to grilled seafood or eaten plain by itself. However, the smokiness & spiciness of the quinoa salad pairs perfectly with the coolness of the avocado.

I've got 4 more avocados just waiting to be eaten like this, and I already want another one. This could be dangerous!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Post-Transfer: Fertility Affirmations & Stress Free Zone

Yesterday's FET went off without a hitch. I would definitely say I had a peace that passes all understanding throughout the day. To begin with, we had some crazy fog like I've never seen before in Austin, and of course it caused a ton of traffic on the drive to our pre-transfer acu session. However, I wasn't phased and just had this overwhelming amount of calm and peace. My acupuncturist arrived 15 minutes late because of the crazy weather. I knew this would cut our session somewhat short and that we'd be late to our FET, but still I wasn't phased one bit. I was just so calm and content. I seriously felt like I'd taken a xanax or something, but I hadn't.

When we arrived we went through the normal drill...paperwork, gowns, hats, fuzzy slippers. The embryologist came out with pics of our embryos. To be honest, I would have liked to see them expanded a little further, but I think they just snap these pics kind of early in relation to the actual transfer time at my clinic. Don't get me wrong. They are good blasts! I just like to see them re-expanded fully out to the zona pellucida, but I really can't complain. Just as all of our other embryos, they have about 150-200 cells each and a clearly defined inner cell mass...

By the time we were rolled into the transfer room and saw our embabies on the screen they'd almost fully expanded. No luck seeing them hatching this time around, but the fact they'd progressed since these photos was reassurance they were indeed alive and kicking!

I think I've mastered the art of filling the bladder just enough for the ultrasound guidance by now and so did not need to have my bladder drained by my RE and did not even need to use the restroom after the transfer. I used my time laying on the table to listen to one of my favorite new affirmation CD's. I highly recommend this for anyone doing IVF or currently pregnant from IVF...

Fertility Affirmations by Sarah Arkell

When I first listened to this, I found myself rolling my eyes quite a bit I'll admit. Some of the affirmations you are supposed to repeat to yourself are...

"I conceive easily."
"My body always has normal cycles."
"The IVF process is easy for me."

Well, when those things haven't exactly been true in the past, it's seems a little pie in the sky to repeat at first. However, I realized that for every affirmation I was rolling my eyes at, it was a reminder of the negative script that was actually rolling in my subconscious and thus causing me to doubt these statements. If I'm rolling my eyes, it means I'm telling my body those things aren't true right? Well, I believe strongly in the power of the mind, and whether it's happened yet or not, I want my body to know I believe in it. I want to tell my body how powerful and amazing it is. I want to invite a successful pregnancy into our lives and put faith in my body to achieve this.

Even after everything we've been through, I have never EVER called my body "stupid." I hear women doing this all the time, and while I get the frustration with infertility 100%, it's kind of a pet peeve of mine to hear this. Doing the affirmations made me realize that even if I'm doing right by not constantly professing defeat over my body out loud,  I can still do even better. I can change the subconscious script that lays dormant even deeper in my psyche by talking to it and training my brain to think more positive thoughts. If it takes a cheesy affirmations CD from a lady with a soothing Australian accent to give me daily reminders of where my mind should be, then so be it!

Here is another one for all you ladies not undergoing IVF. It's designed for natural conception...

Hypnosis for Fertility by Bree Taylor Molyneaux

By the way, I downloaded these for free through Rhapsody. Both mp3's are available on Rhapsody, iTunes and Amazon, as well as other places online.

In an effort to stay in my little Zen bubble, I am definitely not rushing into any substitute teaching jobs the next few days. There is a lot of running around some days when subbing, to cover other teachers (during what it supposed to be the teacher's normal "plan time"). We get redirected to another class we may not even be signed up to sub for (their cheapskate way of saving $ on subs). There are days when I've barely had time to pee or eat lunch, and I don't feel comfortable running myself ragged when so much is at stake here.  My RE does not require strict bedrest, but just very limited activity and no doing anything you don't absolutely have to do.

My acu likes to do a session 24 hours after transfer, so I'll leave the house briefly to do that today. I will have one more session next week before our hCG test, which is on Friday 12/13. Let's hope we prove all the superstitions of that day wrong! My main focus has been and still is on remaining stress and drama free. And because I have way too much time on my hands today, here are some fun images which capture this...

Some good rules to live by. You don't have to ask me twice. If it doesn't make me feel good emotionally, spiritually or physically, I'm not subjecting myself to it!

Hubby flew out to FL this morning to take finals for his MBA program and begin new classes for next semester. Did I mention how proud I am of him? Well I am. He has managed to do extremely well in school, while working full time at a new position in his company, all while going through fertility treatments and attending EVERY single doctor's appointment throughout IVF....not to mention all the extra stuff guys "get to do" as part of this process.

Last night was one of the nights where we got to do 3 not so fun injections: Delestrogen, PEO & Lovenox. I turned around and watched him do the IM shots for the first time. Usually I just close my eyes really tightly and grab onto the kitchen counter like I'm bracing for hurricane force winds. While it was more painful watching the needles go in and out, I didn't faint or throw up.

Tonight will be the first night giving myself a PEO shot. Yikes! I'm actually not stressed that much about it in comparison to the one I'll be doing on Sat... It's the Delestrogen that scares me to death, because that's the thickest needle and it's like it grabs my ass cheek on the way out and the flesh clings to the big fat needle as it's being removed. It's so gross! All 3 of these shots have been bleeding more lately too, but perhaps that's a good sign my blood is actually flowing instead of clotting? Who the heck knows. All I know is that if other women before me have done these shots, then so can I.

One small step at a time...