Friday, May 27, 2011

Goatville, Population Two

Ever since we moved on to this property a year ago, we've been thinking about how we can best make use of our back acre of land. Our long-term dream is to be as self-sustaining as we can stand, and to use many of the ideas from The Backyard Homestead by having a garden, an orchard, and varoius livestock. So far we're doing well in the produce category. However, since I never had so ouch as a hamster as a child, I was nervous about venturing into the area of living things. But this week we finally took the plunge and got some goats! Meet our girls Daisy and Swingtail (or Swing for short), three month old Nubian/Oberhasli mixes.

These girls are the sweetest things. They were a bit skittish when we first brought them home, but now they run to us and follow us around like puppies and bleat at us mournfully when we walk away from their pen.

The pen that Mark built for the goats.

The goats' house, which Mark slapped together in a few hours using remnants from the compound. This is where the girls sleep at night to keep safe from predators.

"Swingtail", or "Swing" for short - Tommy's goat. He named her all by himself. The irony is that Swing's tail doesn't actually swing very much. Daisy is much more affectionate and even the slightest touch make sheer tail swish with excitement.

"Daisy", Benji's goat. She's a sweet girl who loves to nuzzle and play with us.

So far the goats' purpose is to be pets and to eat down some of our weeds. We're still deciding whether we want to milk them sometime in the future. Having a supply of fresh, raw goat's milk to make cheese and yogurt with sounds great, but milking a goat once or twice a day and figuring out what to do with a quart of milk a day sounds daunting at this point.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


"Mark and I are seeing a specialist for infertility."....That is one sentence I never thought I'd say. Infertility is one of those things that happens to other people, not to me. Especially because pregnancy has always come so easy to me. It took us only six months to conceive Tommy, three months for Ben, and zero months for Samuel since he was a surprise. How could infertility happen to someone like me? Well, apparently, it's not all that uncommon for someone like me to become infertile for seemingly no reason at all. It's so common, in fact, that there's a name for it: secondary infertility, which affects about 3 million Americans.

To give a brief history: two-and-a-half years ago we were four months pregnant with our third son when Mark got a vasectomy. We (foolishly) decided that three kids in two-and-a-half years was enough for us. Two weeks after his vasectomy, we lost our son. A few months later, God changed our minds and our hearts about children and gave us the desire for more children. We got Mark's vasectomy reversed and have been trying to conceive ever since. That was almost two years ago.

After trying the old fashioned way to conceive a child for about fifteen months, we finally sought the help of a specialist. We went through a battery of lab tests (both Mark and I) and ultrasounds (just me). After all the tests, the doctor didn't yet have a clear idea of what the problem was. So we tried a fertility drug (Clomidfor three months  to see if it would help move things along. It didn't. In fact, it didn't affect me much at all, besides giving me crazy mood swings one week out of every month. In addition to that other week that gives most women crazy mood swings. After all the tests and after seeing how my body reacted to Clomid, the doctor's best guess is that my ovaries are aging at a much quicker rate than my chronological age - they're behaving as if I'm 40, even though I'm only 28.

There have been a lot of different thoughts and feelings churning around in my head for these past eighteen months. To use a cliché, it's been a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Since the beginning, I've been struggling to be content with my two children and not want any more. I've prayed for a long time that if more children weren't in God's plan for our family, that He would take away that desire. By now I've realized that maybe this was not very realistic, and so I've settled for being content in waiting for God's plan to unfold, whatever it may be. Then over a period of six months God shifted my heart away from yearning to be pregnant - I still desired a larger family, but I would be happy with any child, adopted or biological. This was a huge milestone for me! 

And then, just when I adjusted to being content not to be pregnant, we started the process for Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) - a labor-intensive process to get me pregnant. Go figure. I was feeling confused and anxious about everything, to say the least. I was very close to deciding against doing IUI because the odds of success seemed so low and the risks and effort involved seemed so daunting. In a nutshell, the 'work' involves several blood tests to check hormone levels, daily drug injections, and driving 45-minutes each way for almost-daily ultrasounds for two weeks. It was the advice of a few more-mature ladies that convinced me the risks and the work involved were worth pursuing. Our first cycle of IUI takes place this week, and we'll see if it was successful in about two more weeks. We've decided to pursue IUI for only three months. 

The Lord has used this trial to teach me so much about how to deal with life when it isn't all sunshine and rainbows. These are some verses He has used with me:

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
This verse doesn't say to give thanks only when things are going well. It says to give thanks in all circumstances. So the Lord has shown me what I can be thankful for in our infertility journey: having lots of help with the boys when we have to go in for our numerous doctor visits; Mark's amazing health insurance benefit that covers about 97% of all of our costs. Without his coverage, we wouldn't be able to afford even a single doctor visit, let alone the slew of ultrasounds, medication, tests, etc.; friends who have gone before me in this journey who have given counsel and comfort.

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2)
I need to be reminded on a constant basis that adding more children to my family is not the defining thing of my life. The defining thing in my life is the fact that Jesus took the blame for my sins and now I can look forward spending eternity with Him. Whether or not I have more children is a small blip on the radar of eternity. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (Proverbs 3:5)
"...Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:6-7)
When hard decisions have to be made, it is very easy for me to feel overwhelmed and anxious about what the "right" choice is. But when the Lord helps me put my trust in His power to make His will known to me and His perfect plan unfold without my "help", I can let go and allow the His peace to fill my heart.

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things." (Phillipians 4:8)
There have been plenty of times that I've driven home from a doctor appointment thinking things were hopeless and we'd never have any more kids. Now, this wasn't necessarily true based on the information I'd received. My thoughts just usually lead to the worst possible outcome if I don't keep them in check. Sometimes it's all I can do to just keep running the words, "...whatever is true..." through my head to keep my thoughts in line with the facts that are known. 

In the end, there are a few options of things that could happen:
1. The IUI could be successful and I could get pregnant sometime in the next three months.
2. The IUI could be unsuccessful and I could never have any more children.
3. The IUI could be unsuccessful and God may choose to open my womb and bless me with children at some later time.
4. At some point we could be blessed with the finances to afford adoption.

I can say that right now I could be content with any of these eventualities. Option #2 would be the hardest to deal with, but God will give me the grace to accept His plan. Whatever happens will be within God's sovereignty and will be part of his good and perfect plan for my life. 

One final scripture that has given me comfort, from Habakkuk 3:17-19:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
he makes me tread on my high places
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Born to Run?

For the last six months, I've been doing a program called C25K, which stands for "Couch to 5K". It's a training schedule that helps non-runners complete a 5K (3.1 miles) in nine weeks. Beginning a few weeks before Christmas, I've been waking up at 5:15 AM, three times a week, to run on my treadmill. However, I've been stuck in the third week of the program for a very long time, unable to run more than three minutes. And my weight hasn't budged downward as I expected. Overall it's been a very dull and sometimes frustrating experience.

The change all started when I walked past a copy of Born to Run at the library. I'm one of those people who can't just walk briskly to my destination when I'm in a library or bookstore (or anywhere that has shelves full of books). I walk slowly and my eyes linger over the titles and  inevitably I find myself snagged by an interesting book. Born to Run is a book that I've heard lots of praise for from friends, even friends who don't care at all about running. I had heard that it's a great story and a real page turner. So I dropped it in my bag and moved on.

Born to Run was written by a journalist who wanted to answer a simple question: Why does my foot hurt when I run? Eighty percent of runners will incur some foot and/or leg injury every year. In short, what he found out was that people weren't meant to run in running shoes. He found a tribe of Native Americans living deep in Copper Canyons of Mexico called the Tarahumara- you've heard of these people: they're the ones that live high up in caves in the side of tall cliffs, accessible only by hanging ladders, and we Westerners can't imagine how they train their kids to stay away from the edge of the cliff. The Tarahumara can run amazing distances (100+ miles) without getting tired. Even their elderly still run distances most people in America wouldn't think of walking on a good day. And the kicker is, they have zero incidents of running-related foot or leg injuries. 

The author discovered that we were designed (he says by evolution, I say by God) to run in our bare feet. When we do, our body receives information from the amazing array of nerves in our feet and knows exactly how to align itself so we don't get injured. Put a cushy running shoe over our feet, and all those nerves are covered up and our body moves in such a way that it ends up injuring itself. We come down hard on our heel, which does long term damage to our legs and feet. Bottom line: Nikes, bad; bare feet, good.

I thought this was all very interesting when I first started the book. My only connection to running was my three-times a week early morning session on the treadmill, where I wheezed my way through a series of ninety second and three-minute runs. Though Born to Run was an engaging story, I didn't see much of a connection to my life.

It wasn't until I finally closed the book that I was inspired to make some changes in my exercise. I decided to ditch my pre-dawn treadmill date and instead go running through our beautiful neighborhood vineyard in the afternoon. I also got myself a pair of Vibram FiveFinger shoes, which would allow me to try out barefoot running.

I have to admit that I tried really hard not to get these because, well, they look plain weird. I looked into other minimalist running shoes (those that have a very thin sole), but the more I read, the more I learned that even those aren't flat enough to get the benefits of being barefoot. And so I decided to throw fashion discernment to the wind and get my feet into these. We took a family trip to our local REI and got outfitted.

The first time I ran in these shoes was an amazing experience. Instead of wheezing my way through three minutes of running, I breezed through four minutes, walked for a few seconds to catch my breath, then breezed through another four minutes. A few days later, I'm breezing through five-minute runs. I've only ran in the shoes four times so far, but each time I do, it amazes me that I barely get winded. 

I'm happy to say that I really enjoy running now. I actually look forward to my runs, instead of dreading them. It may seem unbelievable that one pair of shoes that mimic the barefoot experience can change so much. Check out the book, and you won't regret it.

Here is an article that has most of the books best information in one place: