Infertility Awareness Week - For the Should-Be Moms

Did you know that April 21-27 is National Infertility Awareness Week?  I didn't either, but thanks to a few of my friends on Facebook, I've been made aware of this, and ever since it came to my knowledge, I can't put it out of my mind.

I know what you're probably thinking.  What does a gal who is pregnant with her fifth child know about infertility?

The answer?  Nothing.  Well, very little.  I know a few families who have had success with fertility treatments and are now the most awesome parents to their little blessings.  What I don't know is how many couples I know have endured these procedures without success, and what they must be going through emotionally as a result.

I think this is how we must fail, as a society, and certainly how I've failed personally at being aware of this condition.

And for this reason, this girl right here, can't stop thinking about what I can do and why I felt compelled to write about it.

To My Dear Friends Whom Have Struggled With Infertility In Any Capacity,

I am sincerely sorry.  In a broken world, where so many moms end the lives of children they don't desire to have before they have a chance to be, where so many children are born to homes where they are seen as  burdens and not blessings, where so many kids are born into families that cannot or do not or fail to care for them, it just isn't right that someone who so desperately desires to be a parent cannot be one.  It just doesn't seem fair that some unworthy men and women are effortlessly gifted with the blessing of children.  I cannot explain this other than to say that we live in an imperfect world.  And to my deepest sorrow, that sometimes affects innocent children and the most amazing should-be parents.

I am sincerely sorry for the times I have have been flippant about my own fertility.  While other people may joke about it, I am quickly learning that it is not something to be tossed around casually.

"He looks at me and I get pregnant."
"All he has to do is hang his shirt on the bedpost."
And anything referencing rabbits and/or the word "prolific"

I can see how these things would be hurtful.  And I will make a conscious effort not to take my fertility for granted.  And certainly not to boast about it.

Just like I get weary of fielding questions about my family size, I will refrain from commenting on yours.  I do not want to be the one who causes you pain by asking, "Aren't you going to have kids already?" or "When are you going to have another?" or "Don't you want kids?"  It's none of my business in the first place, but I will be cognizant of the fact that these types of comments are not acceptable forms of small talk.

I will do my best to keep my pregnancy moans and grumbles to a minimum or at the very least a dull roar.  Obviously, pregnancy is not always a walk in the park, but I bet there are a lot of women who would gladly trade places with a first-trimester mom who is combating waves of nausea, or a second-trimester mom whose biggest problem is finding pants to fit her growing belly, or a third-trimester mom who is tired of wearing out the trail between the bed and the toilet overnight.  And I bet it is especially painful to hear the mom of a newborn complain because she is so tired she can't think or see straight.  The back aches and the sweats and the food cravings and aversions are all part of a blessed thing called growing life that is a gift.  The sleepless nights are a natural side-effect of raising a baby, which is a blessing.  And these things should be counted as such, even when they don't feel much like blessings. 

What can I do?  I don't know.  But I can promise you this much.  I will love my babies because I should, and because I know it's what you would do, and I pray, someday, will do.  I will not take my kids for granted.  I will count my blessings as such.  I will not boast.  And I will pray for those of you who desire with all of your heart to be a mom or to be a dad.  I can't know the depths of the pain you are suffering whether out loud or silently, but I would love to pray for you, if you'll let me.  Email me.  You are loved, dear friends.  And as much as I'm not a hugger, I would love to wrap a big one around you right now. 

Love in Christ,


To be honest, I did not know when I sat down how this was going to go.  But I succumbed to the "itch" that gets me sometimes when I have thoughts in my brain and I need to put them down into words, and this is what came out.  What it lacks in eloquence, I hope I made up for with sincerity.  My heart grieves with you and for you tonight.  I would love to give this up to God on your behalf.  Blessings, always.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

A [Gratis] History Lesson

When I was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school, I signed up for my first advanced placement class.  AP European History.  While most of the other 10th graders were taking world history, I and about twenty of my classmates sat in Mrs. Drasser's class for, what would be for many of us, the first actual challenge of our academic careers.  I had heard the horror stories from those who'd endured this class before me.  "Just don't do it.  She's intense.  It's way more work than it's worth."

Well, that was just motivation for me.  Because that's how my twisted mind works.  I guess I like a challenge.  (That and I felt the need to take every AP class offered because I was obsessed with my high school GPA, but that's a whole different blog post altogether.)

A challenge it was.  We had to read.  And outline.  And read more.  Then outline some more.  Write essays.  Write another essay.  Write still another essay.  What did she think we were doing?  Preparing for college?  Oh.  Right.  Yes.  We were.

The homework was awful.  The reading was torturous.  But there is something about a history teacher who is passionate about the subject matter that can turn what would be a boring lecture into a living, breathing story.  Mrs. Drasser had this gift.  She was pretty ill in the years prior to me entering her class, and she would leave a couple of months into the year to be replaced with a long-term sub because she had to go on dialysis.  While having her as a teacher kicked my butt, I will never forget the power in the way she conveyed history to us through her words.  And I am grateful for the brief time I had her for a teacher.

I remember reading about the Greco-Persian war the night before in the text, all the while I painstakingly outlined the material, for what reason, I'm still not sure.  When we got to class the next day, Mrs. Drasser took her spot at the front of the room and began to talk.  On this particular day, the story she presented to us was told with such conviction that she shed tears. 

Obviously, I will never remember the exact words she spoke to us, but I'm going to give you the Jennie-paraphrase, as I had the privilege of studying this with my children just a couple of weeks ago.  

At this point in history, there had never been a more expansive and powerful empire than that of Persia.  They essentially ruled over the entire known world with the exception of Greece.  As history tends to show, those with exceedingly large amounts of power tend to crave more, so Persia set their minds to conquering Greece.  For the first time in Greece's history, the city-states united to fight against the Persians instead of fighting against each other.  The war raged for about twenty years beginning in 500 B.C.  Around 490 B.C., the Persians set their sights on attacking the little seaside village of Marathon on the coast of the Aegean Sea.  The Athenians panicked.  If the Persians landed there, they would march straight to Athens and take the city.  The best runner in Athens, Pheidippides was sent to plead with the city of Sparta to come help them fight.  (The Spartans were the trained soldiers who dedicated their lives to perfecting their bodies and minds in order to become superior fighting machines.  Spartan children were not educated in poetry and philosophy and music, like in Athens.  They were taught how to fight and fight well, how to be brave and stoic like warriors should be.)  Unfortunately for the Athenians, the Spartans were in the middle of a peace-requiring religious festival and would not be able to help until the next full moon, ten days later.

The Athenians were grossly outnumbered by the Persians, facing what they thought was sure annihilation either way, but marched forth with valor and self-preservation as their goal.  They arrived in Marathon before the Persians.  As the Persians closed in from the sea, they fired thousands of arrows at the Athenian troops, but the Athenian troops charged forth and attacked.  The Persians were so caught off guard that they ended up losing the battle despite the imbalanced number of troops.  It was a tremendous victory for Greece.  A Cinderella story.  They went in facing sure defeat and marched out the decided winners. 

The news was so fantastic they called upon Pheidippides again to let the people of Athens know that Greece had been secured.  He ran.  Up and down the hills, across the rocky terrain with one goal: to deliver the good news.  He ran the 26 rough miles from Marathon to Athens and as he reached the city gasped out, "WE HAVE WON!"  As legend goes, those were his last words.  He died from sheer exhaustion.

This is the part of the story that brought tears to Mrs. Drasser's eyes.  This is the part of the story that caused me to well up as I shared it with my children.

This is where the modern marathon got its start. 

Men and women today run the marathon, 26.2 miles, knowingly or not, as an homage to the brave Athenian who ran it first with the good news of victory. 

People run (at all) for a lot of different reasons.  Health, general fitness, to push themselves to new limits, to prove to themselves that they can, for the endorphins (the runners "high," if you will), because it is a great way to clear the mind, it's a chance to talk to God, it's an opportunity to think about nothing at all.  While I've never been a true distance runner, it's something I dream about.  Some day...when I have the time...  There is something about running that just gets people.  In a good way.

People who run marathons are an elite class of runners. They push the human body to a limit that, some would argue, shouldn't even be pushed.  Distance running of that caliber is superhuman.  I am told it's more mental than physical at that point, but I cannot even imagine.  It transcends comprehension for those of us who've never been there and done that.  It is, in a word, amazing.

The Boston Marathon is for the elitist of the elite.  Your run-of-the-mill marathoner can't just walk up and register.  You have to qualify.  It's an international event.  A bucket list item for a chosen few in this world.

I cannot fathom what would make this event a target for anyone.  They're just runners.  Crazy, amazing, committed runners - from all walks of life, running for all different reasons.  I cannot fathom the depths of hatred or insanity that would motivate a crime of this nature.  I cannot fathom the terror of innocent spectators who were simply there to encourage and to witness dreams coming true.

To all of my running friends, I salute you.  I support you.  I will continue to encourage you as you pursue your goals and dreams.  Just like Pheidippides, you are brave.  Now that these attacks have occurred, by continuing to run, you are delivering a message.  And when you cross that finish line, whether after 1 mile, 5K, 10K, 13.1 miles, or 26.2 miles, you are victorious.

“Human beings are made up of flesh and blood, and a miracle fiber called courage.” -George Patton


Being E-free

...if only for three days.

On Palm Sunday, I posted this to my FB page: 
We are in need of a serious detox at our house. This school week, we are going cold turkey on screen time. No surfing the internet on my phone. No ipad. No computer. No TV. Just each others' pretty faces. Books. Paper. Outside. ("But Mom, it's too cold!" Hey - that's what coats are for.) Bikes. Scissors. Glitter.

This week, I want us to be bored. To find creative, old-fashioned ways to fill the in-between moments. Maybe, just maybe, we'll catch some of that still, small voice.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
Psalm 119:15
Can anyone relate?  Sometimes, I just have this deep-rooted desire to literally pull everything with a plug from our home and throw it all out the window.  In fact, sometimes I threaten to do just that.  My kids think I'm crazy.  In a tech-saturated world, they don't know that this has only recently been deemed "normal" to stare at a lit-up screen, whether portable or not, for hours a day.  If this is your job, slightly different story.  If you are nine years old, inexcusable. 

So...we pulled the plugs (figuratively).  On Monday morning, I broke the news to the kids that there would be no tv in the mornings, no computer after school, no ipad, nothing.  I braces myself, and to my surprise was not met with a backlash of tears or outright anger.  I got a few shrugs of the shoulder, one "You mean NO screens?" inquiry, and that was it.  Oh, me of little faith.  My kids are so much more than I give them credit for.

As it turns out, I think that I was divinely moved to to pull the plugs that Sunday evening.  Last week, as I'm sure you're well aware, social media was ablaze with opinion after slicing opinion on one of the same inflammatory social topics of our time due to something about Starbucks and something about the Supreme Court.  (Okay, so I know it's a little more than that, but it's been hashed out so many times I'm sure you don't need to hear it again.)  For two solid days, save a text conversation with a dear friend or two, I was cut off from the venom.  I was not inundated with opinions.  I did not have to fight with all of my self-discipline to not read things.  It simply wasn't in front of my face.  On Tuesday evening, I cheated a little, read some FB posts, and felt my heart sink.

So...I retreated back to the relative peace of my e-free world.  I wouldn't call it blissful ignorance, by any means, but I do find solace in hanging out with these little people.

Instead of feeling a need to offer up my opinion in an opinion-saturated climate, I found myself occupied doing other things last week (that is, until Thursday when the e-free thing flew out the window, 'cuz when Mama gets the flu, exceptions are allowed if not essential). 

We did things like...

...straighten up the bookshelves in Abby & Sarah's room, during which Abby held two small books in her hand and very seriously asked me, "Where should I put my diarrheas?"  Umm, I think you should put your diaries on the bookshelf with the rest of the books.

...danced to the beat of the steamer on my espresso machine.  I'll tell you what, little Leah got the party started, and no one else could resist a little booty shaking.

...entertained ourselves doing the silliest things, like marveling at how disgustingly dirty the water draining from the washing machine into our utility sink is.  It's pretty amazing that all of that dirt was in our clothes!

...jumped off the coffee table in an attempt to reach the pull chain on the ceiling fan.  SO close.

...carried Leah around, despite her protests.  (So typical.  E-free or not, they do this.  Can't help themselves.  Methinks little Leah is going to pack a powerful punch some day.)

...checked out books from the library befitting each childs' personality.  Ben got the next three titles in the 39 Clues series.  Sarah got multiple Wonder Woman and Backyardigans easy readers.  Abby got "Animals Nobody Loves" and other "learning" books about venomous animals and sharks.  She's always been a little unexpected.
...we made no-bake cookies and "Kris Krappies Treats" (ala Sarah) for our church office staff and friendly librarians and delivered them with a note of cheer. 

...decorated our recently pruned rose bush with holly berries so it would be beautiful while we wait for the buds and leaves to return.  (Any guesses who did this one?)

...used our imaginations to come up with some good, old-fashioned fun.  Ben created his own form of "March Madness" by racing his matchbox cars, complete with brackets and everything.  Of all the things that happened last week, this was probably my favorite.  I just love seeing him be a little boy.  Those moments feel like they are slipping away.  But this.  This was awesome.

...tried Leah on whole milk.  Turns out, she wasn't impressed.  Poured it everywhere.

Then...she and Sarah splashed around in it.  Great fun, apparently.

...reorganized the drawers and closets in their room without letting Mommy know.  Instead of alternating every other drawer, Abby/Sarah, Abby decided to make one set of drawers Sarah's and one set hers.  It was a better idea, but it turned into Abby creating Sarah own room-within-their-room.  Clothes piled everywhere, with a makeshift bed on the floor, and a wall of toys to separate her out.  (Note to self:  Check on them more frequently when they are "playing" in their room.)

...made an edible school project by carving a Greek war ship (part of the floating wooden wall used to defeat the Persians) out of a block of vanilla ice cream.  It was definitely a hands-down favorite for the year so far.  Sarah, our ice cream fiend, even enjoyed history that day.  I consider this one a particular success because it happened on Friday, mid-flu, when I was so not in the mood.  The kids were rock stars.

Somebody kept prematurely sneaking tastes.

...played pretend out the wazoo in the playroom.  I can count on the girls to do this for hours a day.  Even if they are saying things like, "We are the crotchy girls!"  (Umm, what?)

...locked themselves in their room so they could make a surprise for me.  This one was great too.  Ben made a castle facade for me, complete with towers and a working drawbridge, all of which he calculated the areas for using his new math skills. 

E-free week = Bliss

We are definitely doing that again.  Like, maybe every week.

And I missed the day of record, but I can celebrate it every day if I want to and because we should -

Happy Resurrection Day from my crew to yours!!!

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ~Romans 10:9
It's Tuesday.  And the tomb is still empty.

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