Friday, December 31, 2010

Gertie Update

I'm so thankful for a nice long weekend... our office is closed Monday, but I went ahead and took today off too since work will be a freaking ghost town today. So I've got four days to officially transition into 2011. The hub is working most of today and Monday also, so that leaves me here alone with the dogs. Normally I love this. Not that I don't love days at home with my husband around, but I love a day here and there by myself to knock a million things off my to-do list.

Since Monday's incident, however, being at home alone is weird. I'm not comfortable having both of the dogs out together when the hub's not here. It's not like our dogs are fighting more than they ever did, but the terror I went through Monday has me fearful of it occurring again while I'm alone. Not gonna happen. So, unfortunately I've got to put one dog up (Belly), while the other (Gertie) is out roaming around with me. I'd let them take turns but Belly honestly kind of likes it... she pitches a fit for about 20 seconds and then decides it's pretty cool. No one can bother her. Gertie would bark all day if I locked her up - she's very needy and must be within 10 feet of a human at all times. She does fine when she knows we're leaving, but if she realizes we're in the house still, it's not gonna fly. See, she's got her eyes on me as I'm typing here...

I was a blubbering fool most nights this week coming home (I usually beat the hub by an hour or so), having to immediately put Belly up. I felt like she was being punished for no reason and I just missed "hanging out" with both of my girls while unwinding from the day. Instead I'd just slump on the couch and rub Gertie's head and cry. My whole body was just aching - not only soreness from my feeble attempts to stop Monday's fight, but also from trying to hold back tears for 48 hours straight. I'm feeling much better though. And I certainly appreciate all of your prayers and advice!

We don't have a long-term plan yet, but we've decided to immediately put up baby gates at the top and bottom of our stairs so we can have both dogs out, but apart. That way, only one dog can harass someone at the door. Our upstairs has a bridge-way that overlooks the downstairs, so whoever is up there can still see what's going on in the den and at the door and hopefully won't feel too "left out." Gertie of course will have to have at least one human on her floor at all times - so I'm sure this will get annoying at times, but necessary. We figure it's a good short-term solution and we know we'll need baby gates on our stairs in the future anyway, so why not now? The standard pressure lock gates won't do - our girls will bust right through those, so I searched for a good one you actually drill into the wall or post...

These particular gates had great reviews on Amazon and some people bought them for the exact same purpose we are. So they're great for kids and dogs alike. I ordered two of these today, so I'm hoping they get here soon! Aside from that, we are also seeking the advice of some trainers and behavior experts. We know our situation is not uncommon, so we're curious to get a professional opinion. The hub's boss gave him the name of a police dog trainer. He said, "before you do anything, talk to this guy." So we'll definitely see what he has to say on the matter. Thing is, it's not just Gertie's "fault" - though I hate to call any of it a fault. We've just got two bitches that don't mix well - both of them contribute to the problem. Like I said, Belly is most often the instigator, but Gertie is certainly the finisher.

We haven't officially started looking for new homes - we want to hear out the behavior experts first. But assuming we'll still be looking for a new spot for Gertie, we have decided that we want to put our best efforts into finding a new family ourselves (versus giving her to a no-kill shelter or adoption group that would place her). We're not opposed to the rescue agency route - we're big fans as we got both Belly and Charlie from rescue groups. But right now the idea of handing her over with no knowledge of where she'll end up is... well, it's just not something we're ready for. That might be our only option at some point, but I have to believe there's a better way.

Right now, the gate idea gives me tremendous peace of mind. Our girls will continue to sleep with us at night, in the same room - we just don't let Gertie on the bed anymore. I really don't worry about them being together at night. We're both there and they are great sleepers and really don't bother each other. Really, with the hub there I'm much more comfortable. If the dogs were to go at it, it's much easier to break it up with two people. And for whatever reason, the hub has this amazing ability to calm me down. While I'm a basket case dealing with a dog fight alone, I have my head screwed on a lot straighter if he is there to lead the way. He's a keeper!

So yes, I'm feeling much better mentally and physically over this whole thing. There is still lots to work out and hard decisions to make, but I feel like we've got some good temporary solutions to make it a little easier. Please continue to pray for us and our girls! I appreciate all of your good thoughts and I'll of course keep y'all in the loop as to what we are doing.

Alright... on to the rest of my to-do list for the day! I hope you all have a very happy and safe New Year's Eve! We are starting off the night with some friends from our small group and plan to finish it at a neighborhood party. We're not big on getting on the roads on NYE, so the walking-distance neighborhood shindig is the way to go. Cheers to you all! Adios, 2010.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Ruff Week

Honestly, I don't want to write this post.  It is a hard post to write.  I think I've cried enough this week to solve the water wars down here.  I wouldn't have been able to get this out yesterday.  And it's literally hard to type because my wedding ring finger is bandaged up and doesn't bend so easily right now - though it's a ton better than yesterday.  Typing yesterday was damn near impossible.
So Monday afternoon I got home from work and did my normal routine of letting the pups out.  We always keep Belly and Gertie separated while they're home alone to prevent them from getting in a fight.  They don't fight often, but when they do it's bad - so we don't take a chance.  Anyway, I let them out and a few minutes later, while I'm rummaging through the mail, I hear Gertie run to the front window to bark at some passerby.  Then a split-second later Belly is running after her to see what the fuss is about and I immediately ran to the window - because this is when fights will break out.  It's most often over someone ringing the door bell or seeing something outside that is bark-worthy.  We don't know exactly what sets it off, but we think Gertie sees Belly's aggressive barking (at the door or person outside) as being aggressive toward her (feeling threatened).  And then she snaps and goes to town on Belly.  And Belly is of course like, "Aw HELL no!" and gives the fight her own 110%.  But poor Belly is just no match for Gertie.  The girl has the heart of a lion but no body to back it up.
Gertie is a lab/pit mix and while she's not a huge dog, she has incredible strength.  She fights like any other dog would fight, but she just has so much power behind her that it's near impossible to physically get her to stop.  And dangerous, hello bum finger.  So yes, a nasty fight broke out not 10 minutes after I got home on Monday and I was alone with them.  I've been alone with them before when they've fought and I managed to quickly break them up unscathed.  This time, however, I was helpless.  After reading this article, I realize I did everything wrong.  Running toward them screaming, "NO, NO, NO!" - yeah, that was me.  Rushing in and trying to grab the dogs and pull them apart?  Yep, that was me too.  (If you have a weak stomach, don't look at that article - it has some grody dog bite pictures.  I did get beat up a bit, but nothing like that - don't worry!)  Try as I might, I could not get the girls off of each other.  Dogs will typically just latch on to each other when they fight and Gertie gets in lock-down mode and won't let up.   I tried everything.  I tried dumping water on them.  I tried stuff I'm embarrassed to admit.  I was in a total panic and completely terrified watching my girls rip into each other with me not having the strength (or know-how) to stop it.  I was doing everything I could think of and getting worn out in the process, praying out loud for strength, "I can't do this, I'm not strong enough, please help me!!!"  Absolute terror.
It was probably only 5 minutes, but it seemed to go on for an hour.  By the grace of God, I finally managed to get them separated.  They actually separated several other times but dogs will immediately charge each other again - as they did.  So somehow I finally managed to get Gertie off, while simultaneously yelling "OFF!!!" at Belly.  She actually listened (a miracle, seriously).  I had Gertie pinned down and got Belly to back up far enough that I could escort Gertie out the back door without them locking up again. 
I just knew Belly had to be torn up, but of course she was prancing around wagging her tail 2 minutes later.  I, however, was a mess.  I managed to get a couple of bite wounds in the process since I unwisely tried to get in the middle of it.  Luckily nothing serious at all, but I'm definitely sore and bruised up.  I was getting in all kinds of awkward positions trying to over-power them, to no avail.  So yeah, lots of sore muscles and bruises.  Surprisingly, the dogs are actually OK.  Belly is definitely sore - she got scratched up a good bit around her neck, but only had one small puncture wound.  Gertie had a small puncture on her snout, but she's fine otherwise.  As long as that fight seemed to go on, I'm seriously amazed Belly was not more hurt.  Her worst fight injury to date was actually from Charlie years ago!  Knowing Charlie, it was over food, I'm sure.  We can tell she's sore though and have been giving her lots of TLC.  She's been curling up on the heating pad at night and getting lots of gentle rub-downs.
Being alone in the middle of that terrible fight Monday night left me mentally and physically drained.  It suddenly became really clear... "I just can't do this anymore."  These girls are just NOT going to get along.  Sure, 99% of the time they're completely civil with one another.  Gertie would actually love for Belly to be her buddy, but Belly is the Alpha and she is not interested.  Belly starts the fights most often it seems, but Gertie will finish them.  It's just a bad match.  If you remember, we got Belly almost immediately after getting married - so she's been with us for 8 years.  The hub rescued Gertie from a hit-n-run accident a little over 3 years ago.  We rehabilitated her and planned to foster her back to health and find a permanent home for her, but uh... obviously we fell for her and ended up keeping her.  We did have one family who really wanted her, but they backed out at the last minute. 
So we are at a crossroads.  And my heart is totally broken.  Especially with us looking to get pregnant and bring children into our home, we can't risk them getting in the middle of a fight like this.  I'm 110% confident that neither Belly or Gertie would ever attack my kid.  They both are so great with kids, actually.  But Heaven help us if a fight broke out within a few feet of a toddler.  When dogs are in fight-mode, they are in their own little world and anyone that gets in the way is sure to get hurt.  (Hello again, bum finger.) 
We love our Gertie more than I could ever explain in words.  She has the sweetest demeanor of any dog I've ever known and the girl loves us SO hard.  She especially loves her daddy, her own knight in shining armor.  She wants nothing more than to be with us.  She's always at our heels (and we're always tripping over her!).  She would be the *perfect* dog if she was by herself.  But being with another dog, certainly another particularly bitchy female, is not best for her.  My mom thinks maybe Gertie senses Belly getting older and is really starting to challenge her Alpha status.  I'm sure that's part of it, as Belly feels the need to constantly remind Gertie of her place.  She's always herding Gertie and anytime we tell Gertie "OFF" to get off the bed, Belly insists on escorting her off, growling the whole time.  As if to say, "Yeah, did you hear that?! Get off our bed, you dog!"
It's crazy because Belly is without a doubt the "dominant" one, but get them in a fight and Gertie just completely over-powers her.  You'd think Belly would just wave the white flag, but the girl is a true bitch and won't give in.  So with Monday's big fight and all of this considered, we feel something really must be done.  We think the best possible outcome, though it tears me up completely, is to find a new home for Gertie.  Of course everything I read makes this sound like an impossible feat.  There are hundreds and thousands of doggies out there looking for homes.  Gertie would be a perfect only-pet... but how are we supposed to convince people of that?  She deserves the best -she is SUCH a good girl.  She would thrive in the right setting.  It breaks my heart that our girls don't get along.  We really don't know what our solution is yet - we are still in research mode.  But I've already begun to pray for a new family to take our sweet girl.  If you were reading a handwritten version of this, you would see tear drops all over the paper.
I realize there are "behavior" coaches.  We haven't ruled that out, but we don't exactly have the cash to pay an expensive trainer and our pet insurance policies don't cover any such fees.  In my heart of hearts, I believe the best solution is to find a better place for our girl.  It is not what I want.  I feel like a failure of a mom.  I feel like the outside world will see it as us "giving up" on our girl.  But at the end of the day, we have to find a solution that is best for her, best for Belly, and best for us.  So please pray for us as we're seeking wisdom here.  I am praying hard for God to point us toward a family that will love our sweet Gertie.  She deserves nothing less.  This is so hard on us.  To me, it's worse than losing Charlie.  As tough as it was to let him go, we knew we were making the right decision for him.  This is different.  There is no clear, easy decision.  All we know is that something has to change quickly. 
I certainly welcome any advice on what to do in this situation.  We are absolutely not the type to kick a dog to the curb because we decided we don't want them.  This is about finding the best place for our beloved girl and you can't imagine how heavily this weighs on our hearts, so please don't go thinking this is easy for us in any way.  It's not a decision we ever anticipated having to make.  We sincerely appreciate your prayers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Prezzies

Santa was great this year, as usual!

Our big gift from my parents was a new computer - but that makes for a boring picture! That funny looking round thing is a modern take on a mortar and pestle set - super cute! My SIL gave me that - very cool. Mom and I took advantage of the $5 items at Old Navy last week and picked up lots of long sleeve basics, plus some hot jeggings (don't judge). And with my book craze, I've already spent my Amazon gift card. That didn't take long! Very grateful and excited for all of our new goodies!

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Social Network Christmas

I know the Christmas fanfare is over (sniff!) but take a few to watch this awesome video depicting Jesus' birth if it had happened in the days of Facebook. Sounds corny, but my SIL showed this to me and I had to hold back the tears. So creative...

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas weekend! We sure did. And we got a WHITE one! Lots to come this week including more recipes. Are you gearing up for 2011?!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve in the Kitchen!

Merry, Merry Christmas Eve to you all! I love hearing about other family traditions for Christmas. My side of the family has never had a big tradition on Christmas Eve. We don't open any gifts or have a big meal. We just kind of figure it out each year and go with it. This year we're going to the 4 o'clock service at church and my parents are coming back here afterward for pot roast! What are you doing for Christmas Eve?

Among several other things going on in the kitchen today, I've got the roast going in the crockpot. I'll be sharing my Christmas recipes in the works for tomorrow, but up first is my easy-peasy crockpot roast recipe. The ultimate comfort food...

Slow-cooker Pot Roast

- 3-4lb beef pot roast (I also do this with pork sometimes, but nothin' beats good ole red meat for this recipe)
- 3-4 potatoes, chopped (really however many you can squeeze in there)
- baby carrots (I like lots - however many you can fit)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 packet onion soup mix
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 can water
- salt and pepper to taste
- white or brown rice, prepared separately (if desired)

Place your roast in your crockpot - you'll want a good size pot for this if you like lots of veggies! Rub the roast with salt and pepper.

To me, the veggies are just as fun as the meat. I personally like big potato chunks with the skin on...

...and big ole onion slices - lots of 'em!

Dump all your veggies, including the carrots, in the crockpot. I literally just keep adding them till I can't squeeze any more in!

Prepare the sauce my mixing the cream of mushroom soup, onion soup mix, water, salt and pepper. Pour over your roast and veggies, cover and cook on low all day. Set it and forget it!

Once I arrive home, welcomed by the awesome aroma of pot roast, I immediately throw some brown rice in the rice cooker to serve the roast on. Tonight we're also serving it alongside a tossed salad of romaine, gorgonzola, tomatoes, and toasted sunflower seeds. Nom nom nom!

More recipes to come... Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

You smell like beef and cheese.

Somewhere around November 1st each year, I started putting Elf and Christmas Vacation on constant rotation. Here's a little goodie from Elf to get you ready for this weekend! Two days to go, dear readers...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Open your Bibles...

So I totally started my one "New Year's Resolution" early.  Like yesterday.  I told y'all, as part of my book craze and goals for 2011, I downloaded The One Year Bible for my Kindle.  It's a read-the-Bible-in-one-year kinda thing, hence the name.  And it starts you on January 1st, so I figured this would be an excellent goal for the New Year.  But I couldn't wait.  I totally started it yesterday before work.  But I am so glad I did because it had me reading the Christmas story as part of day 1!  What perfect timing.  It was Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, so it was more matter-of-fact, but it still had me tearing up. 
I know I'm only two days in, but I'm already in love with this reading plan.  Lots of Bibles provide "reading plans" in the back of the book so that you read it all in one year, two years, whatever.  But The One Year Bible is most excellent because it gives you a selection from four different books everyday, but you don't have to go digging for them.  It's all laid out for you, day by day.  The Bible is very intimidating if you don't know your way around it - so this is perfect for a newbie!  Plus you don't have to do it in one year.  It tells you how to stretch it out into a two-year or even a four-year plan if need be.
After I initially mentioned my one-year reading goal, my bestest asked for suggestions on Bibles.  I am by NO means an expert, but I'll tell you what I like to use.  I have a basic Bible on my Kindle (English Standard Version - I think it was a freebie) that I use at church.  My Kindle's on me all the time so I don't have to think to grab my Bible on the way out the door to church.  And the cool thing about Kindles is that the screen does not light up like a phone or iPad screen - so it's not at all distracting to the people sitting around you.  Because yes, if your something lights up, it's totally distracting. 
For studying and as a companion with small group studies, etc, I use my Starting Point Bible.  This Bible has lots of great extras, including some really good reading plans, but what I love most about it is the introductions written for each and every book in the Bible.  Awesome, awesome, awesome.  Before each book begins, there is a great introduction explaining who wrote the book, who it was written for, what was going on in the world at the time, what the central message of the book is, and when it was presumed to have been written.  Maybe it's just me, but that just takes the Bible to a completely new level.  I guess it just makes it more "real" or something.  More personal. 
So yeah, as I'm reading through The One Year Bible, I've got my Starting Point Bible at my side so I can read the appropriate introduction each time I start a new book.  I highly recommend both of those.  I know there are lots of other great study Bibles out there that have some fabulous footnotes.  One of my friends has one where the footnotes literally take up half of each page.  The Life Application Study Bible maybe?  Don't have one myself but it's apparently a popular one.  I went to a Christian school, so I had many a student Bible but I don't remember a one.  I was probably more focused on my current crush at the time.  Priorities!
It's the most popular book of all time, so what's your favorite Bible?
On a completely different note, my new obsession is mint hot tea.  I met a new friend at Starbucks a couple of weeks ago and I was stumped on what I should order.  Sbux is not very Moo Goo friendly - their only non-dairy option is soy, which I learned the hard way I do NOT tolerate well.  BTW, Starbucks, it's ridiculous that soy is your only non-dairy option.  So many people are allergic to or intolerant of soy.  Get some almond milk or something!  Geez.  ANYway, so I opted for one of their decaf teas.  They were out of like half of them and so I settled on the Tazo Refresh blend.  I added some honey and oh my - SO delish!  So I've been looking and looking for this blend at the grocery (most of ours sell Tazo teas) but I have yet to find the Refresh blend.  But the other day I noticed a Peppermint herbal tea from Bigelow.  *Sniff* - it smells like the Sbux variety.  Well, I'm drinking some now and it's darn near close!  Great for a sniffly nose too - which I'm often sporting this time of year.  It clears up the sinuses a bit.  Give it a try if you're looking for something new!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Decked Halls

If you can get past my lousy camera phone pics, enjoy these snapshots of all the Christmas goodness around our house! Five days and counting...

Decision Time

It's Christmas week, y'all!  The best week of the year!  We kicked it off with an amazing Christmas service at church yesterday morning.  And it's only a 3-day work week!  Our office is closed both Thursday and Friday, and I think I'm going to take Monday off too.  Woot!  Christmas this year is pretty relaxed... we're staying in town and enjoying good food and good company.  Every night my eyes pop at all the pretty prezzies underneath our tree - so fun!  I finished wrapping up a couple of last minute gifts yesterday, so it is all completely done. *Sigh.*
I keep thinking that December is over right after Christmas and I have to remind myself that we've got a whole other week to go on the back end.  I think I'm ready to get to 2011!  This year, while ending on a high(er) note, has been a tough one.  The hub and I are really looking forward to the progress we'll make in the New Year.  And it looks like the first thing on our list will be my surgery.  Yep, we've decided to go ahead with Plan A and knock out the surgery before moving forward with another IVF cycle.  As I mentioned before, I was ever so slightly leaning that way to begin with, but the more and more I thought about it, the more clear that choice became.  The potential of this 3rd surgery has been hanging over my head for 3+ years, so I really feel it's time to nip it in the bud.  If tax season was not a factor, I think we probably would do a frozen cycle first - because if it failed, we could immediately move forward with the surgery.  But in our case, if a January frozen cycle was a bust, I wouldn't be able to do surgery until after April 15th.  Getting the surgery out of the way now means I'll be fully ready to do a frozen cycle after tax season, with nothing standing in my way. 
Dr. T is also going to do some other testing while I'm under to rule out any other variables that could be giving us trouble.  And once we do a frozen cycle, we'll be able to get really aggressive with my lining to make sure it's good and plump.  He said all my energies went to making those 40 eggs during my last cycle, so it's not surprising that my lining wasn't quite up to par.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.  So we all are anticipating great success with our frozens.  This surgery will just be a little delay, but we'll be in a better position once we get there.  I definitely feel like this is the right choice.  So there you go!
Annoying thing is, my firm is switching over to a new insurance carrier, so we've got to wait till January 1st before we can actually schedule the surgery.  We're hoping nailing down a date for January will not be a problem.  I'll be out for about a week recovering.  And we also decided that it makes sense to put a halt to acupuncture and herbs until we gear up for the frozen cycle in the spring.  For one thing, all that junk is mad expensive.  And secondly, it'll be really hard for me to get away from the office during tax season for acupuncture appointments.  So my visit to Dr. Liu tomorrow will be my last for a while.  I welcome the break, though.  I've been doing this since May and it will be nice to chill for a few months.  I do, however, plan to stay on my Moo Goo diet.  Well, after the holidays that is - ha!  I am still on it now, but let's just say I've done a fair amount of cheating with all the holiday shindigs going on.  And hello, Publix had Ghirardelli brownies BOGO last week.  It's Christmas, right?  But for real, I plan to Moo Goo it hardcore in the New Year.  It will keep me feeling good and healthy through tax season, and honestly I'm so used to it now that it's just not that big of a deal.
So that's the plan.  I'm eager to get this surgery scheduled and on the calendar so it's not just *floating* out there in space.  I'm not nervous or scared or anything.  I'm ready.  Really, let's just do it.  Fix my uterus.  Let's make babies already.  OK?  I'm REALLY tired of getting to Christmas each year saying, "Well, maybe by next Christmas..."  I don't ever let my empty arms ruin my Christmas, but yeah, this is getting old.  I'm ready to buy another damn stocking already!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: Questioning Evangelism

As promised, I'll be reviewing each of the books I get through as part of my read-lots-more endeavor. Are you on the edge of your seat? I know you are! Last week I finished up "Questioning Evangelism" by Randy Newman. No, not the Randy Newman that writes feel-good Disney songs. This is Christian author and long-time Campus Crusader, Randy Newman.

The hub and I were actually given this book months ago at church and I finally picked it up to read recently. The title can be a little confusing. Well, at least it was for me - you're probably smarter than I am. At first glance I thought it referred to questioning the act of evangelism. But within the first page I realized this book was about using questions when practicing evangelism. Randy's introduction begins, "You may think this book is just plain weird." Good point, I think. If you're a brand new Christian or tend to have a more "politically correct" view of religion, this book may freak you out a bit. Shoot, just the word "evangelism" scares the hell out of some people. But the book addresses a lot of the common secular world attacks on the Christian faith and how to answer them - or better yet, how to come back with a more engaging question rather than a straight, conversation-ending answer.

For example, so many people - even Christians - get hung up on the claim that we can only get to God through Jesus. Randy responds, "Try asking nonbelievers, 'If Jesus is not the only way to salvation, why, then, did he have to die?' You'll likely draw blank stares or create tied tongues. But until one understands the answer to that question, one will not see the reasonableness of Jesus' 'I am the way' claim."

Perhaps Randy's greatest point throughout the book is that many of our quick answers to accusations about Christianity and the Bible "fail to compel belief because they fail to address the real issue." We have to dig a little, with questions, to get at the root of what people are after. Not everyone's after a history lesson. Some people are hurting and they're looking for justification for their anger. Some people are searching for a reason to hope. And many people, even though they're asking questions, aren't ready for answers. They're more interested in getting their objections out than understanding; they're not willing to listen. Randy says, "Until someone is more interested in truth than in airing his or her own opinions, it's best to talk about the weather."

More than anything, this book is about successfully relating to people when it comes to sharing God's word. With chapter titles like "If Jesus Is So Great, Why Are Some of His Followers Such Jerks?" Randy addresses a lot of the big obstacles that stand between believers and nonbelievers. And he obviously does so with a fair dose of humor. From his table of contents, you'll see that he tackles a lot of the big items addressed by books like The Case for Faith, so the book definitely touches on the importance of apologetics but kind of already assumes the reader knows his stuff. But no matter the questions we receive, whether genuine or masking anger, this book proposes that we be "more engaging and less confrontational in our sharing of the Good News."

I think Christians should definitely put this book on their short list - lots of great ideas and advice here. It's especially great for people who aren't really sure how to go about sharing their faith or how to answer questions that may come their way. I know I'm totally one of those... as confident as I am in my own faith, I'm not always so sure how to communicate it or defend it, so it definitely was a great read for me personally. If that's you, I'd definitely grab this book. It's an easy read with lots of good meat. If any of you have also read this book, I'd love to know your thoughts!

Next Up: "48 Days to the Work You Love" by Dan Miller

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Good things come in small packages.

Another Christmas favorite for you. This one never gets old!

I've got to hurry and get over to Costco today before the mall crazies take over the roads. Hope you all enjoy this last weekend before Christmas. Seven days and counting!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I just don't like your uterus.

Well, we had our post-IVF consult this afternoon with Dr. T to discuss next steps.  After talking to him a couple of weeks ago about my lousy beta dropping, I knew he wanted to look at possibly doing a third surgery.  So it was no big surprise today when he suggested that as our next step before moving forward with another cycle.  It would be a fairly "easy" surgery - if there is such a thing - much like my second one (back in September 2007).  But doing so of course would delay us some in trying another IVF cycle. 
Good news is I've got 20 frozen embryos.  TWENTY.  I should start selling those puppies on the black market!  That's ten day-1 embryos, four day-5 blastocyst embryos, and six day-6 blastocyst embryos.  Amazing!  We could make a Rogers army and have our own reality show.  So yes, Dr. T further confirmed that obviously egg or embryo quality is NOT our problem.  We knew that.  I told y'all my ovaries kick ass!  It ain't the bun, it's the oven.  My stupid oven.  So further surgery is needed to make my oven more bake-ready. 
But, given that we have such a supply of frozens on hand, the hub inquired whether it would make sense to try one frozen cycle first (before jumping in to surgery).  Because we don't know for certain that my uterine septum is the big issue here.  It could be my lining, or some kind of infection, or... who knows?  A frozen cycle is a much easier process on the body and the wallet than a fresh cycle.  And besides, Dr. T said I do not need to ever do a fresh cycle again.  Hello, 20 frozens.  So we're just trying to process all this information and figure out which way to go.  I think I might literally jot down a pros and cons list.  I'm so on the fence at this point! Plus tax season being right around the corner throws a whole other wrench into the equation.
Decisions, decisions...
Plan A.  Move ahead with surgery (probably would be scheduled sometime in January).  Tax season gets ramped up at the end of January (and maybe sooner), so I'd basically be sitting out till after April 15th.  We'd probably move forward with the first frozen cycle in April/May.  But maybe sooner if the process is easy enough that I could actually work it in during the tail end of tax season.  (Any advice, frozen IVF girls?  How much monitoring is involved?)
Plan B.  Do a frozen cycle in January (I would actually have to start the meds next week, so need to figure this out soon!).  If it's a bust, we'll do the surgery but it will most likely have to wait until after April 15th.  There's no way I can take a week off in the middle of tax season!  We already have two tax staff who will be out for maternity leave.  That's right, I'm picking up the slack for the fertiles.
Dr. T votes for Plan A, but is perfectly willing to go with Plan B if we want to give it a try.  Ugh, so do you go with your doctor's gut here or do you give it one more try first?  I think I'm leaning toward Plan A, but maybe by like a 10% margin at this point.  I trust my doctor completely, so I know his advice is sound.  But Plan B seems reasonable too - and he agrees.  Trouble with Plan B is that if it doesn't work, our time-line is pushed back even further.  We couldn't attempt another frozen cycle till probably mid or late summer.
But then I think of cool things like this... OK if we did Plan B and I got pregnant in January, then our baby would be due early October (if my cycles do what they're supposed to do).  That would be about a month before our 9th anniversary.  Sound familiar, Mom?  Though she was a few years younger than I would be, my mom had me in early October, about a month before my parents' 9th anniversary.  We share the same wedding day, if you recall - November 2nd.  And hello, the baby would be a libra, like me!
OK obviously our decision should not weigh heavily on that little fun fact, but seriously how cool would that be?  So, we've got some thinking and praying to do. I'm not at all discouraged - Dr. T believes wholeheartedly that we'll have a baby.  I'm just ready to have our plan in place!  Even if it's a long road ahead, I just like to know where we're going.  Seeking wisdom here...
So with all that spinning in my head, guess what I'll be doing tonight! Yep, wrapping a baby shower gift for one of the co-workers who's abandoning us in the middle of tax season to have a baby.  Hahaha... gotta love it!  ;-)

Christmas Greetings

I'm finally getting the bulk of our Christmas cards in the mail today! I started them back before Thanksgiving but am just now getting them wrapped up. We cut them out last year due to budget constraints, so we're super excited to be back in the game this year. I've still got some address changes to pull, but I'm nearly done! So here's your Christmas greeting, bloggyworld...

Don't we make for some fabulous stick figures?

Folded cards ordered from
Expressionery (with a big fat discount code of course!).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Wish It Was Christmas Today

T-minus 10 days till Christmas! Here's one of my all-time favorite Christmas goodies from SNL. Stay warm and enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Operation Book Worm

Brrr, you guys!  It is so freakin' cold here.  The wind is what's so brutal though -goodness.  But gosh have we gotten mad use out of our fireplace this season!  I *love* evenings at home with the burning fire and lit Christmas tree with all the gorgeous prezzies sparkling underneath.  As long as someone delivered groceries, I think I could stay at home in my PJ's for the entire month of December and be happy.
The poor hub had to fly out to Ohio today!  As if it's not cold enough here.  He'll be back tonight though - just a quick day trip (fingers crossed).  He is really loving his new job and I'm so proud of him!  I'm so glad that he feels like he found the right spot.  It was a very long and tough year for him (and us) being out of work, so we feel really, really blessed to finally be able to pick up some momentum with our financial goals.  More on financial to-do's later, but let's first discuss another big goal of mine... to read more!  Well, I haven't really quantified this goal yet for 2011, but I do know that lately I have had such a thirst for anything and everything on Christianity and the Bible.  The more I read and the more I dig into the Bible, the more I want to learn, learn, learn.  So I've got a lot of books from Christian authors on my Amazon wish list.  I'm currently finishing up "Questioning Evangelism" by Randy Newman, so I'll give a review on that soon.  But I also am interested in other non-fiction stuff, whether it be about business or money or whatnot.  And of course I love me some fiction too - duh!  But I think my true desire here is to pump up my brain.
So yeah, I love to read.  Which is funny because it's a love that I've only really discovered in adulthood.  I so was NOT the reader in school.  Cliff's Notes were my best friend and I did the bare minimum to get by with whatever assigned reading we had for English class, etc.  I don't know what makes someone dig reading... I know some people just physically can't get into it no matter how hard they try.  Like the hub - he loves learning and loves reading articles online or in magazines, but I don't know that he's ever gotten through an entire book.  To me though, especially when you're talking about fiction, there's just nothing like a good book.  As much as I love films and my favorite TV shows, you just can't beat a good read.  I think that's why readers are always left a little (or a lot) disappointed when their favorite books are adapted into movies.  It's just impossible to take the entire magic of a book and put it on a screen for 2 hours!
But as much as I love to read, I'm not so good at making time to read.  Thing is, I have a really hard time being at home doing nothing.  I love being at home - I think you know that.  But I'm always doing something.  Usually two or three things at once.  I can do other things while I watch TV.  But I can't multi-task while reading.  So reading - while I realize is doing *something* - falls into the doing-nothing category because I can't do something productive while I'm reading.  This is ridiculous, I know.  So to get around that, I do two crucial things.  First, I always keep my Kindle with me in my bag.  You never know when you're going to get stuck somewhere with a 30-minute wait.  So I love to have a library of books at the ready!  Second (and this may be TMI), I always keep a book in the bathroom.  Hey, it's either that or a trashy magazine.  You'd be amazed how fast you can get through a book just by keeping it next to the toilet paper!  Haha...
So I'm not really sure yet how many books I'm shooting for in 2011... maybe 20?  I'd be happy with at least one non-fiction book a month.  I'm super excited about this goal.  Oh and I don't really count this as part of my "books," but I downloaded The One Year Bible recently.  I guess that one would technically fall under the category of "New Year's Resolutions" - though I hate to call it that.  But seeing as the guided reading starts you on January 1, well...  But anyway, I am super excited about reading through it in the mornings.  I'm not going to beat myself up over it - it may take over a year to get through the whole thing, but I'm going to give it my best!  It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. 
Next on my book list is 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  And I've got both of Jon Acuff's books headed my way, Stuff Christians Like, and his just released one, Gazelles, Baby Steps, and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt.  My Amazon wish list is getting pretty long!  I'll of course give reviews of everything I get through.  So what recommendations do you guys have?  It doesn't have to be a Christian or non-fiction book (though I'd love your thoughts on some if you have any), but please share any must-read books that I need to consider!

Friday, December 10, 2010

iLove it.

I tried to get this video up yesterday, but youtube was crapping out on me. Our church opened up with this last Sunday at the main campus - a few Christmas tunes done completely with iPhone and iPad apps. The local news even had a spot about it last night. If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, fast forward to the 5:00 min mark to catch Feliz Navidad. Pretty amazing!

Hope your weekend is full of Christmas cheer! We've got two parties lined up to get our jolly on. Have a good one!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Well Begun is Half Done

As the new year approaches, the hub and I always start thinking about dreams and goals for said new year.  I'm not a big "New Year's Resolution" proponent... I mean let's face it, we're all setting ourselves up for failure here.  A bunch of random I'm-gonna-start-this and I'm-gonna-stop-this attempts, all to begin on January 1st?  BUT, I do love the idea of a fresh start.  I dig the newness of a new year and thinking about all the possibilities of the next 12 months.  It's fun to daydream about where we'll be this time next year.  And I think it's important to sit down together and develop goals we want to accomplish over the next year. 
We had fun getting out the Christmas decorations this season...  I told y'all a while back that we had tucked away 25 different goals, wishes, and dreams for 2010 in our little advent calendar.  So in the middle of decking the halls, we sat down and pulled out all of those old folded-up pieces of paper to see how well we did.  Um... out of 25, the count was 11 yes-we-did-it, 2 we've-made-progress-on-that, and 12 yeah-that-didn't-happen.  Not such a great score, Rogers!  It was fun though - some were of course kinda silly.  I mean hello, coming up with 25 items was tough.  But, we had a really good laugh. I had totally forgotten half of the ones we wrote. 
We haven't had our *official* sit down for 2011 goal planning yet, but we already know some of the major ones.  One of our biggest struggles in general is keeping the house straight.  Which is REALLY sad, seeing as it's just us two.  Plus two dogs.  Who shed.  Lord help us when we have little rugrats tearing the place up!  Our problem is that we don't have a good plan.  We have tried the scheduling chores thing but that never panned out.  We did have a cleaning lady coming every other week, but that got nixed from the budget as soon as we started our Total Money Makeover a couple of years ago.  I think part of our problem is that we don't have a really routine schedule.  Sure, we both work regular "9 to 5" jobs Monday through Friday, but we've always got other stuff going on, whether it's small group, dinners with friends, working out (ha!), or working late... any number of things can tie up our weeknights.  And then our weekends never ever look the same.  We're just all over the place.  Which is my excuse for always being behind on laundry.  I'm not home long enough to get it all done!  And the thing is, I'm a total homebody.  So when I have a whole weekend at home to do domestic stuff, I am thrilled!
Now I know what you're thinking... "does your husband help out around the house?"  I have to give a qualified *yes* to that.  Yes, he is very willing to help when I ask him.  When I ask him.  But he's not likely to pick up a cleaning task on a whim without my prodding.  Though I must say, once in a blue moon, he will surprise me and go on a steam-cleaning and vacuuming rampage.  Or he'll decide to clean our bathroom from top to bottom in hardcore fashion.  He thinks more in terms of big projects... and not so much in terms of daily "maintenance."  I don't fault him for this.  I mean let's face it - that's a man for you.  And God love him, but I'm most often the one left cleaning up the aftermath of the big project because he's gotten distracted and moved on to something else.  But obviously, I'm no Donna Reed either or we wouldn't be having this chat.  Part of our problem is having a big house with lots of room for mess.  But it's really just laziness and lack of a plan -what else can you attribute a less-than-tidy house to when it's only the two of you?!
SO... recognizing that our biggest problem is the day-to-day maintenance, I was very excited to stumble upon Stephanie O'Dea's Daily 7 recently.  I immediately emailed the post to the hub and was like, "this is what we need to do!!!"  I like things in steps.  Especially 7 steps - it's the perfect number.  Not too few, not too many.  Dave's baby steps have 7 steps.  Weeks are made up of 7 days.  Lucky number 7.  It works.  These are brilliant, totally manageable, and I already do some of them anyway...
#1 - Make Beds Right Away
#2 - Do One Complete Load of Laundry
#3 - Empty All Garbage Cans
#4 - Keep Your Kitchen Sink Empty
#5 - Clean Up After Yourself and Help Children Do the Same
#6 - Bathroom Wipe-Down
#7 - Before Bed 10-Minute Clean Up
See Stephanie's descriptions of each step on her original post - it's a fun read.  Honestly, I think #2 is going to have the biggest impact for me personally.  If I did one load a day - that means washed, folded, and put away - I would stay on top of laundry and not have to spend an entire day at home doing load after load after load!  Plus our dryer is a bit slow, so a load for us takes longer than a normal load for most.  So I've already started to gradually add these tasks to each day - I'm not waiting for 2011.  Of course our schedules will sometimes prevent us from being able to get ALL 7 tasks done every single day, but I don't see why we can't make it work for the large part. 
So what do you all do?  How do you tackle the day-to-day cleaning and maintenance without losing your mind?  I'm not after a perfectly clean home here - we do live here after all with some very hairy dogs.  Let's be reasonable.  Once we get through our debt snowball, I am pretty certain we'll hire a cleaning lady again to do the heavy duty stuff.  But the need for these daily 7 will still be there, no doubt!  Especially with little ones running around... seriously.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Egg Shells

"As you grow, your associates will change.  Some of your friends will not want you to go on.  They will want you to stay where they are."
I was perusing blogs the other day and noticed the above quote in the margin of a blog friend's page.  I did an audible "Hmmm..."  And I immediately thought, "OMG am I that person?  Do I make my friends feel like I don't want them to move ahead?"  No author was listed, so I googled the quote and it's supposedly a snippet from something Colin Powell once said or wrote.  If you look up the entire message, I think you'll see that it's about making wise decisions regarding whom you associate with, because you eventually become who you hang around.  Which I completely agree with, by the way.  A couple of weeks ago at church, we were asked, "who are you listening to?"  Because whomever you're listening to (and seeking wisdom from) is a preview of the future you.  So true - what a good way to put it.  And I realize I have no authority to give mom advice as I'm an ignorant non-mom, but I was a teenager once.  So I can say with confidence that it's absolutely crucial that you KNOW your teenager's friends.  They are who they hang around.  But this is something that follows us our entire lives - not just as kids.  We are always being influenced.  We are who we hang around.  So yeah, I'm very careful about who I hang around and you should be too.
But aside from that whole argument... that quote got me thinking on a different level.  I know I've mentioned again and again how I'd love to freeze time and keep my childless friends childless until I can join them.  It's not like I voice that to friends or even really mean it.  It's just that pit-of-my-heart selfish desire.  It's much like being the "eternal" single gal and watching all your friends get married.  You secretly want to keep a few unmarried pals to yourself until you can find your own mate.  Of course you're *happy* for your friends and all their milestones - truly you are.  But let's be honest, it sucks for you and me.  And it's OK that it sucks.  I know how all this crap affects me... I know my limits and what situations to avoid.  I realize the funk that goes on inside my own head.  I do.  But after reading that quote, I'm left wondering... do I somehow impress that selfishness upon my friends?  Do they feel like I can't be a good friend to them if they move on without me?  Yes, I DO want them to stay where I am.  I'd be lying if I said otherwise.  But the bigger question is, do I make my friends feel like I need them to stay put in order to be my friend? 
I've always considered myself to be very self-aware.  But that doesn't mean I don't get blindsided sometimes.  And I don't really know the answer to my question.  I guess I'm just saying, I know the issues I have and what I need to do to get past them... but is it possible that my inward angst sometimes spills over and makes my friends uncomfortable and our relationships awkward?  Do they feel like they have to tip toe around me?  I'd like to just keep the hurt and awkwardness to myself, deal with it, and let the world continue to spin. 
But I guess relationships are always growing and changing... it's inevitable, right?  Who you associate with changes as you go through different stages in life.  That's totally normal.  You tend to gravitate toward others like you.  Moms look for other moms.  Singles look for other singles.  And then there's us - the perpetual DINKS who can't seem to fit in anywhere.  And little by little, people keep leaving our little club.  I know I willingly alienate myself from certain groups... honestly, finding myself stuck in a circle of moms is my definition of hell.  One on one, no big deal - I have lots of great momma friends.  But when I get greatly outnumbered and all topics center around breast-feeding and labor nightmares and the terrible twos... just shoot me while I'm smiling and nodding.
I wish I had an easy answer.  But I guess the only thing to do is to be OK with the fact that things change.  I will continue to make time for the people who are important to me - no matter what stage of life either of us is in.  I love my friends for who they are, not where they are.  My friendships may look different from year to year, but that doesn't make them any less meaningful.  So what do y'all think?  Any advice?  I'm not even sure I have a clear question.  All I know is that quote made me go "Hmmm..."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Gifts? Check.

This is when it begins... all the holiday craziness!  The non-stop party schedule officially starts tonight.  Well, it's actually the hub's godson's birthday party tonight, but it's still a party!  But yeah, from here till Christmas, our weekends are jam-packed with festive shindigs.  I hate that we can't make it to all the big to-do's around town, but there are only so many days in December! 
And given that the month of December is always so nuts, I always have the goal of getting all my Christmas shopping done and all gifts wrapped before December arrives.  I think this is the FIRST year ever that I actually accomplished it!  Well, technically I was wrapping the last few gifts on December 1st, but hey - it's done!  I do have a couple of gifts left to buy, but they're for family friends we draw names with and I don't know who we've got yet, so can't buy those just yet.  But otherwise, I'm 100% done and wrapped up!  And it feels great.  Plus, I love being able to admire all the fun prezzies under our tree for a few weeks rather than feverishly trying to get everything wrapped up on Christmas Eve (like last year).
And you know I have my master Santa spreadsheet where I do my gift budget!  I had to delete Charlie's column this year... sniff, sniff.  But yeah, I set a strict budget (because we're on a strict budget, duh) for each person.  As I think of gift ideas randomly, I note them on the spreadsheet, because Lord knows that idea will disappear from my brain 5 minutes later.  A lot of friends tell me they try to set and stick to a budget for gifts but always go overboard.  Well, I don't have much of a choice but to stick to our budget, but I think my two big tips to do so would be (1) use cash - as in actual dollar bills, and (2) don't wait till the last minute. 
I'm usually a big online shopper, but I think I only got like two gifts online this year and bought the rest in store.  It's normally the opposite!  But, yeah my best advice is to use cash if you're shopping in stores.  We do cash envelopes for all of our spending anyway, so this is obviously not a big deal for me to do... but the easiest way to stick to a budget is to pull out the cash for that category (Christmas gifts, in this case), stick it in an envelope and write "Christmas Gifts."  You buy Christmas gifts with the money out of that envelope.  And only Christmas gifts.  Once it's gone, you're done.  So yeah, I think you'll pay a *little* bit more attention to how much you're spending, won't ya?  Heck yeah, you will.  Overspending is WAY too easy when swiping a card.  Not so much with cash. 
And I've found that any overspending that occurs, at least for me, is on those last minute gifts.  I find that I'm not as frugal or cost-conscious because I'm in a hurry and I need to just get something so I can cross it off my list.  Who cares if it was $10 more than I needed to spend?  Plus at that point, the *joy* has about run out and I am OVER it.  So yeah, I really try to avoid doing that!  And I'm proud to say that I came in right on target this year!  We budgeted a total of $500 for gifts.  And that is really, really tight.  We would LOVE to do much more, but hello... you know we're on our debt-busting mission.  Our list is not huge - neither the hub or I have huge families.  And outside of our fams, we really do not buy for many others except for a few close friends.  But I of course make that $500 stretch as far as humanly possible.  I always keep up with what I'm spending versus the value I'm getting on everything in my master spreadsheet.  I didn't do quite as well as last year, but we did average about a 45% savings overall.  Pretty decent.  I'll give that a B-.
So how do y'all tackle Christmas shopping?  Is there a method to your madness?
In other goings-on, we got an appointment set up with Dr. T for Thursday, the 16th.  So I guess we'll decide at that point if I'll be doing another surgery or not.  I started thinking about it this morning and remembered all the crap I had to do before my 2nd surgery and was like "OMG, am I going to have to do all that again for this one?"  Lord, help me.  Or help my husband!  I remember Dr. T had me on Depot Lupron shots for a couple of months prior to the surgery.  NOT fun!  Major menopausal symptoms.  Crazy hot flashes and the attitude to go with 'em.  And then I was remembering the pre-op procedure I had to go through and how I nearly passed out in the bathroom afterward.  Hmmm.... good times!  Maybe I won't have to do all that this time though - I don't think I will - at least not the Lupron.  Let's hope not.  But anyway, we'll get the scoop on all that junk in a couple of weeks.  For now, I'm enjoying little cheats here and there on Moo Goo.  I'm not dumping the diet altogether - I stick to it when it's just me.  But holiday parties and such?  If it's something I REALLY want, yeah I'll be a little crazy and go for it.  Oh but wine?  That's a different story.  I think I've had a bottle and a half of red wine since Wednesday.  Ha!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ice Ice Baby

As my dad put it in his email response just now, "Wow... there seems to be no end to the twists and turns in this journey."  Indeed!  Well, I just talked to Dr. T again - and let me say, how cool is it that he calls me personally?  He has a million nurses and a crazy schedule.  I know that he genuinely wants this to work for us as much as we do.  Anyway, as predicted, my beta did drop.  It's now down to 9, so it looks like we're definitely dealing with a chemical pregnancy here.  Not at all surprised as Flo made her grand entrance early this morning.  I had been spotting for nearly a week, so I seriously was not expecting any miracles here.  But I am glad to know it's definitely a *no* so we can officially move forward.
So no more progesterone popping.  And I ripped off that estrogen patch as soon as I got off the phone.  Dr. T does want me to do one final blood test next week to make sure my levels drop completely - just to ensure we're not having an ectopic pregnancy or something.  And then he wants to sit down in two or three weeks to have what he called a "come to Jesus" meeting (i.e. a post-IVF consult) to figure out next steps.  A frozen cycle is obviously next.  We got all our sweet frozens awaiting us!  But he wants to take a good look at what could be possibly preventing success here.  I asked about my lining and he said it measured 6.8mm at the last ultrasound before the retrieval (so on CD 11).  Not bad, but definitely on the lower end.  So that could've been an issue - who knows?  Good thing is, he said we can be really aggressive in a frozen cycle on the front end to plump up the lining.  Whereas in a fresh cycle, it's harder to do so because they don't want to interfere with the egg-fest.  Obviously my egg-makers are freaking awesome... why can't my uterus fall in line?!  Geez.  It's like someone who's ridiculously good-looking who can't leave their house... so no one ever appreciates how friggin' hot they are.
My doctor also brought up my nasty residual septum.  Yes, one of my many issues... remember I had two surgeries back in 2007 attempting to correct it?  He is not sure if this might be preventing implantation (or the ability to stay put), but he wants to discuss whether a third surgery might be warranted before moving on.  He just wants to consider anything and everything that might be to blame here.  We do know it's my damn uterus though. 
Honestly, failure is all I know here.  Ultimately, I've only ever gotten a "no" when it comes to this junk.  I'm not trying to mope here - my point is I don't let these failures break me.  My overall outlook and attitude here is pretty stellar most of the time.  If I could limit my time to home, RBA, and my family, I think I could do this forever, cycle after cycle, and just keep on keepin' on.  It's when I leave my little world that I'm reminded of what I don't have.  And to me, that's what is so hard.  No matter how long this journey is for us, the rest of the world keeps spinning.  We are waiting.  But no one is waiting for us.  
Don't you wish you had a Tivo remote for life?!  Someone invent that please! Actually, I really just need a *pause* button.  Is that too much to ask?!  Santa? Nevertheless, we do have friends and family holding on to us as we wait.  My dad said (in response to all this muck), "Know that we are with you and Scott all the way, so buckle up and have a glass [of red wine] on me."  I couldn't ask for anything more.  And yes, red wine is TOTALLY on my grocery list tonight!