Always, Katie

Friday, February 7, 2020

Why I Haven't Forgiven... and why maybe you don't have to, either.

“Forgive… that’s a mighty big word for such a small man. And I’m not sure I can.” (Rebecca Lynn Howard, "Forgive.)

It was recently suggested to me that there are some people I need to forgive.  These people hurt me terribly, hurt my husband, and over the last few years of very low contact with these people, I’ve been able to move from bitter and angry to feeling just a little sad and nostalgic for the good times I had with these people. 
What I do NOT feel, however, is the need to resume the relationships. While I do miss the “old” them, the things that were said to and about me at an incredibly vulnerable time in my life, the attempted interference in my marriage, and the refusal to respect us as adults and parents were proof to me that the “old” them no longer exists. The absence of the “new” them from my life has been an improvement. I second-guess my competence as a mother less often, and I’m no longer walking on eggshells or looking over my shoulder for them to be judging my words or actions. My kids are not seeing their mother and father disrespected, bulldozed, or infantilized. 

“Forgiveness is learning to accept the apology you’ve never been given.” (Found on a meme, probably adapted from a Robert Brault quote.)

Although this is a common quote around the internet meme community, I find this position problematic.  To be clear, we have never been offered an apology from these people.  A few years ago, right after the rift, we were offered a few opportunities to sweep all of our problems under a rug and resume the relationship, and that is what has been suggested that we do by others in our lives recently. I do not believe that this is healthy or productive. 

According to researchers at The Ohio State University, a good apology has six parts. 
  1. Expression of regret: Simply, the person apologizing needs to say, “I’m sorry.” Not, “I’m sorry you feel –” and not, “I’m sorry if what I did –.” Nope. Just, “I’m sorry.”
  2. Explanation of what went wrong: It is important that the person apologizing can articulate what went wrong. This does not mean to make excuses; it means to demonstrate that they know which actions or words caused harm. 
  3. Acknowledgment of responsibility: Again, no excuses. “I hurt you. These actions or words were my fault.”
  4. Declaration of repentance: Acknowledge that you were wrong and promise to never do it again.
  5. Offer of repair: How are you going to make up for it? 
  6. Request for forgiveness: And then, after all of the other elements have been met, you can humbly ask for forgiveness, knowing that that may be a gift the person you hurt may struggle to give, and that the person you hurt has every right not to extend that forgiveness. 

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” (C.S. Lewis)

With all due respect to a great man, C.S. Lewis, the author of the above quote, this is not what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian means that one has repented of their sins, asked forgiveness from God, accepted the grace He extends, and strives to live for Him. In essence, when we become Christians, we offer God a genuine, complete, six-part apology! We try to be Christlike, and I understand that many people seem to think that this requires us to forgive any and every offense. But what does the Bible say about that?

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,” you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:3b-4)

Clearly, we are encouraged to forgive, but with a BIG condition. IF they repent, forgive them. IF they come back to you saying, “I repent,” forgive them. 

Are we being directed to treat people any differently than the Father treated us? No! God also requires repentance before granting forgiveness and salvation. In the same way, it is okay – even expected of us – to wait for the apology. 

“You don’t have to rebuild a relationship with everybody you’ve forgiven.” (Unknown)

It is perfectly okay to forgive someone but still keep your distance. If their apology and repentance were sincere, you will probably not be hurt again, but it is understandable to require some time and space for them to prove that they were genuine, to see their promises of repair and repentance bear some fruit. If they were sincere, they will accept this distance or any boundaries you set as part of their efforts to repair. If they fight these safeguards you place around yourself and your family, you will know that they did not truly understand or believe the statements they should have made in steps two and three.

So if there is somebody in your life who is urging you to accept the apology you've never been given, or to sweep atrocious behaviors under the nearest rug, rest assured... if waiting for the apology is the path that is giving you peace, it's okay. You can wait for that apology and still be Christlike. You can forgive and still maintain new, strong boundaries. 

Wishing you peace, love, and strength, my friends <3

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

IVF Superstitions and Traditions in Barbados

IVF patients – like many specialized communities – have our fair share of superstitions and traditions! While some of them are based in science or folklore, some seem to be pretty random. Some patients take them more seriously than others, but I think most of us know of at least a few and have at least given some thought to whether or how we will integrate these superstitious practices into our treatments.

However, when you do IVF abroad, some of these require a bit of advanced planning, and some need to be adapted to the locale of your clinic. For patients at Barbados Fertility Centre, here are a few common IVF superstitions and how they can be adapted or accomplished in Barbados.


Pineapple is probably the most famous IVF superstition. The fruit has become a symbol for the community, to the point that when I see someone wearing a pineapple on their clothing, I wonder if they’re a TTC sister or if they just like pineapples :-)  Specifically, the IVF tradition involving pineapple is to buy a fresh pineapple, cut it into five equal slices, and then eat one slice every day (including the core!) starting on the day of embryo transfer. This is based on the fact that pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which can aid in implantation. While the amount of bromelain in pineapple is probably not enough to make or break a cycle, it can’t hurt! (Unless you’re allergic to pineapple… in which case I suppose it could hurt quite a bit.) This is an easy one to follow in Barbados! Pineapples can be found relatively easily at grocery stores or even roadside produce stands. As long as your lodging has a refrigerator where you can store slices for a few days, you’re golden. If you’re flying home before those five days are up, just eat what you can in Barbados and then buy a new pineapple at home.

Warm feet, warm uterus. 

Supposedly, keeping your uterus warm helps embryos implant, and for some reason, keeping your feet warm is supposed to keep your uterus nice and cozy toasty. Keeping your feet warm in tropical Barbados is not difficult! Make sure to pack a couple of pairs of fun, fuzzy socks or slippers, just in case the air conditioning in your hotel is TOO awesome. 

Lucky socks. 

Probably an extension of “warm feet, warm uterus,” the tradition of wearing lucky socks is a fun one! Wearing good luck charms to procedures – especially retrieval and transfer – definitely helps boost morale, and a positive mind can only help the IVF outcome. If you have good luck charms, consider packing them. Balance that desire, though, with how devastated you would be if the charm was lost in transit. Socks are small and easy to tuck in a carry-on, so you can keep them close at hand. 

Lucky shirts. 

Again, good luck charms keep your spirits up! Lots of people order special shirts or have them designed for their retrieval and/or transfer days. Here are a few of my favorites from Etsy, or if you need something more quickly, here are some of my favorites on Amazon! If you want something custom-made, join the sneak-peek group for my upcoming Etsy shop and I’d be honored and delighted to help you design the perfect shirts for your big days!

McDonald’s French fries. 

A lot of folks believe in stopping for McDonald’s French fries on their way home from transfer. Unfortunately, there are no McDonald’s in Barbados! There are two options that my BFC friends and I have found that seem like great alternatives, though. Blakey’s is a restaurant and bar right across the street from the clinic. Their patio overlooks the ocean, and their fries are DELICIOUS! It’s easy and convenient to pop across the street to eat before heading back to your hotel. Chefette is Barbados’s version of McDonald’s… it’s chicken-based and a really fun menu (including ice cream). They do have fries (or chips, as they call them). They’re a little more out of the way, but there’s a location not too far from the clinic. Your cabbie can take you there, because you probably won’t feel like walking quite that far, but it’s not a huge detour. I definitely recommend trying both of those places at some point during your stay! And they’re not paying me to say that… even though I asked ;-) 


Turtles - especially sea turtles - are a symbol of fertility because of their massive clutches of hatchlings. Barbados is one of the best places you can be if you want to see sea turtles in person! 
  • You can snorkel with them from many of the beaches. All beaches in Barbados are public, so if you have a snorkel and mask, you're free to dive on in. 
  • There are several catamaran cruises you can take to see sea turtles. Some are glass bottom boats, so if being *in* water isn't your thing, you can still see turtles if they swim under the boat. Look into Cool Runnings and Shasa... I've never been on a catamaran cruise, but I've heard good things about both of these companies. Read reviews, though, because different companies have different atmospheres, so make sure the one you choose is your style. There are boozy party cruises, athletic adventure cruises, family-friendly cruises, even private cruises. 
  • We went on a really cool submarine ride with Atlantis Submarines Barbados during our first trip to Barbados, and saw two sea turtles on the night time cruise. I believe that they're even more common to see during the daylight cruise. Either way, it was an amazing experience that I highly recommend!
  • Follow Barbados Sea Turtle Project on Facebook for the possible chance to attend a release of hatchlings! They do great conservation work, and I love following them and learning about them. There has never been a release open to the public when I've been on the island, but SOMEDAY, I hope to get to attend one.
  • On a Friday night, head over to the famous Oistins fish fry. Grab some delicious fish as fresh as can be, and make sure to venture down the pier. You'll see workers feeding discarded fish guts to sea turtles off the dock, and you can watch them eat happily. If you stop by De Red Snapper, tell Althea I said Hi! She'll probably remember me as the mom of the little guy she held and comforted after he threw up. 

Brazil Nuts or Hazelnuts.

Both of these have been traditionally considered by various cultures to be lucky or fertility-boosting, and now we know that they are packed FULL of all kinds of good nutrients for moms and babies! I always (ALWAYS) recommend packing as much snack food as possible for couples going to Barbados for IVF because of the astronomical prices of food there, and packets of nuts and trailmix are one of my favorite things to suggest because low carb and high protein is recommended to prevent OHSS. So do some double duty and pack some mixed nuts that include Brazil nuts or hazelnuts. And maybe a jar of Nutella ;-) It's health food in this case, you know.

Sea Glass.

Barbados Fertility Centre patients have our own little superstition/tradition involving sea glass. Sea glass is broken pieces of glass that are tumbled in the sea and sand until they're smooth and frosted. I love the metaphor of how the process of creating sea glass is so much like infertility... you can check out my video about it above. Bathsheba is my favorite place to hunt for sea glass, but there are several other beaches where it can be found! I recommend going to a beach on the east coast and enjoying a relaxing day of leisurely beachcombing as a way to unwind and distract your mind from the IVF stress, and then hang on to your beautiful treasures as a reminder that sometimes beautiful results come from trials.

What are some other IVF traditions or superstitions I missed? I'll try to figure out how you can incorporate those while you're away from home for IVF, too!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Memory-Making in Barbados - Photography by Lou

One of the really great things about going to Barbados for IVF is that you get a bonus tropical vacation. This is an awesome opportunity to really connect with your spouse as you undertake this life-changing challenge together. Think of it as a pre-pregnancy babymoon ;-)

That's why I always suggest at least one fancy dinner, some sunsets, whatever floats your romantic boat. First and foremost, before infertility, before babies, you're a couple in love. It's important to remember this, and not lose sight of that fact as you work toward your goal of adding to your family. I've seen it happen too often - infertility can break the couple who doesn't deliberately nurture their relationship.

I love the idea of a romantic couple's photo session to capture the love and strength and hope you're feeling as you pursue treatments. How special to look back on that time and see those things reflected in the photos! If you're bringing hopeful big siblings with you, it would be special to capture your family as it looks right then, too, before a new baby is added.

If you're interested in professional photos while you're in Barbados, the photos in this post were taken by Photography by Lou. We had such a great time with Lisa! Not only was she super-flexible when the kids freaked out about the ocean when we tried to take beach pictures, she was so patient and creative in getting great pictures, despite my kids' being tired and uncooperative (and on the verge of getting sick). I wish the kids had been in better moods, because I would have loved to have Lisa get some individual pictures of me for blog use :-) Check out her body of work on Instagram to see what I mean - she has such a talent for taking pictures that showcase a woman's power and strength. We'll definitely have to schedule with her again next time we're in Barbados!

I hope this post encourages you to make some time to make some beautiful and romantic memories with your spouse, and hopefully even to book a session with Photography by Lou to capture those memories forever. <3

Monday, July 2, 2018

Barbados: Getting Around the Island

[Big thanks to BabyaGoGo for providing a complimentary rental in exchange for a review of their services!]

One of the interesting challenges when traveling is how to navigate the locale. Especially for destinations that are at least a flight away, getting around is going to require a little more creativity than hopping in the family car.

Barbados is small, just 21 miles by 14 miles, so the whole island is really accessible for exploration. While you're there, it would be a shame to not take in as much of the beautiful country as you can! Fortunately, there are several options available and you should be able to find ways of getting around that fit with your needs and comfort zone.


Barbados Fertility Centre is ideally located on the south coast, very near a bunch of great hotels. The clinic can provide you with a list of hotels that are nearby - some of which even have special rates or bonuses (like complimentary breakfast) for BFC patients. If you pick one of these, you will be easily able to walk to your appointments, and to plenty of delicious dining options. Barbados is very safe, and as long as you take the same precautions you would take anywhere (like, zip your purse... pay attention...), this is a great, comfortable option for most excursions. On days when your ovaries are extra tender, or following procedures, you may want to opt for one of the other modes of transportation. :-)


This was our favorite way of getting around on our first two trips to Barbados. We have a favorite driver and his phone number programmed into our phones. We'd still walk to most of our appointments at the clinic, but he helped us get home after procedures, drove us to the grocery store and came back to pick us up, and even took us on a lovely tour of the island as he drove us to Bathsheba on the east coast.

Taxi prices are pretty reasonable, really. Our trip to Bathsheba cost around $75 USD, which is comparable to the organized tours, but with personal attention and conversation with a delightful guide! Taxis in Barbados do not run meters; instead, they charge a flat rate. You should always establish the rate before you enter the car. As in many cases in Barbados, you can pay in USD or BDS, but your change will be in BDS. The exchange rate is an easy 1 US dollar to 2 Barbadian dollars, which makes this casual mixing of currencies possible, and so so convenient!


Buses in Barbados are plentiful and very cost-effective! Rides cost $2 (Barbados) per person, per ride - no matter how far you ride. I didn't know anything about the buses when we were in Barbados in 2014, and I wasn't quite up for attempting them with two toddlers this trip, so I still have never ridden one. You can learn more about buses in Barbados from


If you are the adventurous sort (I am NOT), you can always rent a car or a scooter. The catch? If you're an American, you're going to need to learn real quick how to drive on the "wrong" side of the car and the "wrong" side of the street! Bajan traffic is a little more aggressive than American traffic, but much more orderly and polite than we saw in France and Italy. So if you're feeling brave, go for it!

On the subject of renting, if you are bringing older siblings along on your trip to conceive younger siblings, you are probably going to need to rent a car seat!  BabyaGoGo rents a huge range of baby and child necessities - from car seats and strollers to cribs and even play equipment! We brought our own stroller because of needing it in the airport, but the ability to rent two car seats very inexpensively rather than dealing with checking them and all that was SO wonderful! BabyaGoGo even provides complimentary drop-off and pick-up to and from your hotel, or they and the clinic can help you arrange to have the driver who picks you up from the airport have your car seats already on board, saving you some hassle and worry :-)  The car seats we borrowed from them were very nice Britax models, in fantastic shape. You can learn more about their services from their website, and send them an email to check availability and get a quote!

I hope this helps you feel more prepared to find your way around Barbados! Your best bet depends a lot on where you stay and where your comfort zone is, but there are definitely options that are great for every traveler. If you have any questions, shoot me an email! If I don't know the answer, I'm glad to help connect you with someone who does.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Pack for a Purpose (Bougainvillea Barbados)

(This post is in no way sponsored - it's just something that touched my heart and I wanted to share!)

One of the resorts that we will be staying at in Barbados in June is Bougainvillea. While I was reading up on the property, I found this information about an organization they are affiliated with, Pack for a Purpose

I have been our church's coordinator for Operation Christmas Child for the past few years, and this initiative reminds me of that outreach. They ask visitors to the island to save some room in their luggage for school supplies for economically or physically disadvantaged students, and provide a list of most-needed items. 

Barbados is the most developed country in the Caribbean, but there is still significant poverty. We experienced first-hand how expensive imported goods can be on the island, and nearly everything has to be imported. So school supplies that we take for granted here are much-needed in Barbados. 

Ethan and I will be packing some things to take with us to donate at Bougainvillea, and wanted to offer to deliver items for my readers, too. 

Local friends and family can drop supplies off at our house (or church or wherever else you see us). Far-flung friends and family, if you want to bargain shop locally, can email me for our shipping address. I've also made an Amazon wishlist with some of the most-needed supplies that can be shipped straight to us if purchased from the list. For those shopping in person, so many of these items can be found inexpensively at dollar stores or Walmart! 

I need to have items in-hand by June 1, 2018 so that we can get it all packed up. Anything that arrives to us later than that - or that we can't squeeze into our luggage - will be packed into Operation Christmas Child boxes at my church this winter. 

I love that Bougainvillea is involved in this organization, and I'm excited about this opportunity to give back a little bit to the island that has given so much to us! 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

NIAW 2018: Flip the Script - 10 Gifts that Infertility Gave to Me

This past week has been National Infertility Awareness Week - NIAW - and Resolve has asked bloggers to write on the theme "Flip the Script."

As I thought about the innumerable ways of interpreting that phrase, I decided to write about an infertility topic that doesn't seem to make sense. Infertility is a monster. It steals so much from couples who experience it. That much is indisputable. But what if I talked about the gifts my infertility gave me?

Numbers 1 and 2 - Abbie and Sam

First and always foremost, our infertility battle gave us our twins. Abbie and Sam are our beautiful gifts at the end of a five-year struggle, and every single shot, every single appointment, every single night spent sobbing... were worth it when we hold our precious children. Had we not had to do IVF, those specific sperms would not have met those specific eggs (no pressure, embryologists...), and Abbie and Sam would not be the incredible people we have come to love so fiercely.

Number 3 - A Strengthened Marriage

Huge struggles - like infertility is - can make or break a marriage. Thankfully, it strengthened Ethan's and my teamwork skills, and taught us how to work together to face down a monster that felt bigger than either of us. We learned how to be strong when our spouse is weak, and how to hold each other up when neither felt like we could walk another step of this journey.

Number 4 - A Strengthened Faith

Similarly to marriage, infertility can make or break a person's faith. I learned to trust in a plan I couldn't see, and to trust that the Lord was leading me to something wonderful. I still firmly believe that He saw us through our struggle, and that our children - while the products of a lot of hard work from a lot of incredible experts - are a gift from Him. I love our testimony, and I love to share what a wonderful work God has done in our family.

Number 5 - A Community

The online infertility community is warm and supportive, and I have made lifelong friends through this blog and through Instagram. In fact, my best friend found me when I mentioned infertility in a guest post for a fellow diabetes blogger that she and I both follow. It's so cool to have a community of people who understand and validate the struggle and the darker feelings that come along with an infertility battle.

Number 6 - A Ministry, an Outreach

People find my blog often when searching for info about the fertility clinic we used, and they reach out to me. I love sharing my experience with BFC one-on-one, and for the last couple years, I've also been offering to add these ladies to a private Facebook group I administrate (extremely high privacy settings, so it can't be found in search, and their friends can't see that they're in it, unless the friend is also in it). There are almost 100 women in the group now, and they support each other and love on each other, and it makes me feel like I'm making a difference in the world. The feasibility - and AWESOMENESS - of pursuing IVF overseas has become a platform for me, and again, a vehicle that has introduced me to some lifelong friends.

Number 7 - More Compassion

It's so true that everybody you meet is facing some sort of battle you know nothing about. Watching so many infertility stories unfold - including ours - has taught me that people handle the stresses in all kinds of different ways. Seeing unkind behavior in strangers or acquaintances now makes me wonder what private pain has precipitated that behavior, and that pause allows me to show more grace to them than I may have in the past.

Number 8 - Twin Mom Club

I MAY have had twins on my own if we hadn't had to do fertility treatments. I mean, spontaneous twins are totally a thing. But I definitely increased my chances by having two healthy embryos transferred. :-) I had heard about support clubs for moms of multiples, and I knew there was a local one because Ethan's boss at the time was a member. So I looked it up online and joined. It is so wonderful to get out of the house once a month and meet up for fellowship and programming with dozens of other moms who are either where I've been or where I will be soon. They're a great resource for twin parenting advice, for venting, and for a good laugh. I'm really thankful for the support and information I've found there!

Number 9 - Confidence in My Ability to Overcome

We have been through some tough stuff, and done things I almost can't fathom. And we came out stronger on the other side. We both remind each other of this whenever we are feeling daunted by something in front of us. We now have a solid track record of winning when we feel like we never will, and this has changed the way we see ourselves. We're winners. We're overcomers. We are smart and strong and tenacious.

Number 10 - Island Home-Away-From-Home

Had we not needed to do IVF, I think our dreams of world travel would have been put on hold while our kids were young. We probably never would have spent more than a cruise's port of call in Barbados. I would never have met the clinic staff who became more than a medical team, I wouldn't have fallen in love with the warmth and humor of the Bajan people, or the sparkling waters that make my breath catch even in photographs. I wouldn't have a beautiful island calling to me all the time, and I wouldn't be planning a return trip to show my kids this unique part of their story. 

While I wouldn't wish the pain of an infertility battle on anybody, I also can't bring myself to wish away our own. Without that pain, I wouldn't have found these wonderful gifts, and my life would probably not be as rich or full.

PS: You can read last year's NIAW post here: NIAW 2017 - Listen Up!
And you can learn more about IVF in Barbados (and our return trip) here: IVF in Barbados

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

9 Things We are Packing in Our Toddlers' Carry-On Bags

When we go to Barbados this June, it will be the first time our kids have ever been on an airplane. Because they'll be a few days past their third birthday, and are generally very well-behaved, we're optimistic that with adequate preparation and strategic packing, they will enjoy their first flights.

We will be packing each twin their own carry-on for a few reasons:
  1. It will be a good chance to teach them to be responsible for their own gear.
  2. It will hopefully reduce bickering over what item belongs to whom.
  3. Each paid ticket gets two carry-on items, and we may as well maximize that as best we can.
  4. Their Daddy and I will have enough to carry on our own.
Now, three-year-olds aren't very big, so we don't plan to load down these carry-ons too much.  We're going to be very strategic in what we pack. We're going for quality items over quantity - items that will hold attention for a long period, rather than many things that will each only entertain them for a few minutes each.

The Packing List

(Some of the following links may be affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!) (CozyPhones were gifted to my kids for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts about them are entirely my own.)
  1. IPad - Okay, my first item is cheating a little bit. I'm not brave enough to trust a three-year-old to carry my iPad, so hubby and I will each be packing our own with the intent of letting the kids use them for games and movies.
  2. CozyPhones - We LOVE these!! I suspected that normal headphones would not go over well with my duo, but these soft, adorable fleece headphones are a huge hit here! Thankfully, the earphone parts and cord can be removed so that the bands can be washed (because... toddlers!), but also so my kids can wear their beloved fox and panda around the house without trailing cords! As far as I can tell, the sound is great quality and clear, and my super-picky and stubborn children are more than happy to leave them on! I'm sure everybody in the airports and on the planes will appreciate not having to listen to Word Party and Secret Life of Pets on repeat. I know I will. ;-) I'm so impressed with the construction and softness, a set of grown-up CozyPhones is going on my birthday list! I can't keep normal buds in my ears for ANYthing!
  3. Color Wonder pages (we like these blank pages) and markers
  4. iSpy books - My kids really enjoy expanding their vocabularies. These books are great for that, even if they don't quite get the riddles yet, and talking about the pictures keeps them both entertained for a long time. Plus, they learn!
  5. Fruity snacks - These are a special treat that the kids don't get to have often, so they will be excited when they come out at take-off time. We hope that chewing on these gummy treats will help keep their ears from hurting while we take off.
  6. Cereal necklaces - I plan on making up a bunch of these before we leave. Some for the car ride, for the airplane, maybe just for around the island. I'll put a few in their carry-ons for the first leg of the trip, and save the rest in my luggage for the return trip.
  7. Diapers - They're not potty-trained yet, and we're not going to push it. I'd rather bring diapers than be frustrated by a regression caused by a change of situation.
  8. Wipes - To use with the diapers, for meal clean up, or for any of the 8,9q3,705 other things they come in handy for when taking care of toddlers!
  9. Change of clothes - A fresh shirt and pair of shorts packed into a quart-sized zip-top baggie. In case of a messy accident or lost luggage.
The flight to Barbados is only about 3.5 hours long, and I am confident that the above will be enough to keep our toddlers entertained for that long. I also like that these items will fit comfortably in the carry-on bags I am making for each of them. Stay tuned for those bags! They're some of the most involved sewing projects I've attempted, so a fun challenge. :-)

Have you traveled with toddlers? What are some of your must-haves? Our list won't leave a ton of empty room in their bags, but we may be able to squeeze in another thing or two if you clue us in on something we're totally forgetting!

PS: Don't forget to sign up for my "Return to BarBABYdos 2018" newsletter! Details under my IVF in Barbados tab! :-)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Katie's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know that everybody's (or their mom's) chocolate chip cookie recipe is the best... but mine really is ;-)

I love a slightly puffy cookie with lots and lots of chips, so I combined and tweaked recipes I found online and on chocolate chip packages and finally came up with a winner. These cookies have a bit of a cult following in my area, and I love to make them to go with new mom meals, or for other folks who need a pick-me-up. They whip up quickly and easily, with a minimum of dishes, and are a real crowd-pleaser. 

They're great anytime, but if you can deliver or eat them still warm and gooey from the oven, you will NOT regret it! 


3/4 C margarine, soft. (I know everyone calls for butter, but let's be real. I use margarine because it's cheap. If you're a butter person, give it a whirl, but the recipe was developed with margarine.)
3/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C chocolate chips (I like semi-sweet, or a combo of semi-sweet and milk)


Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with foil. (I'm a lazy baker, and crumbling up and discarding foil is so much easier than washing baking sheets, haha!)

Cream margarine and both sugars together, in the bowl of a stand mixer, until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix. (Quick note - I like to remove the chalaza from my egg before I add it to baked goods. Yeah, they're safe and edible, but chomping into that by surprise can ruin a perfectly good cookie or brownie real fast!)

Add flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and mix until the dough is smooth. Scrape down the sides if you need to in order to get everything incorporated. Gradually add the chips. It's a lot of chips for the amount of dough, so your mixer may struggle if you add them all at once. :-) But the more, the merrier, right?!

I use one of these nifty scoops to drop globs of dough onto the foil - roughly a tablespoon. Bake for 8-10 minutes. The tops will stay pale, but the edges should be starting to get golden. (See photo below.)

I usually get 2-3 dozen cookies per batch, but I am the WORST at consistent batch sizes, so your mileage will vary ;-) 

Enjoy!! If you make these and happen to Instagram them, tag me (@always_katie) and let me know how you like them!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

My Child Wants to do IVF in Barbados!

So your son or daughter just told you that they are considering going to Barbados for IVF treatment, and there's a pit in your stomach. You've decided to scour the internet and figure out how to convince your children that they need to abandon this plan, and this research has brought you here.

I understand your concern. My husband and I did similar research almost four years ago (back in 2014), and I'm now a mom myself. I can think of several reasons why this decision would make a parent nervous. Please allow me the opportunity to respectfully try to calm some of those fears.

"Barbados sounds dangerous."

Barbados is the most developed country in the Caribbean, and the crime rate is low. The citizens - especially near tourist areas like the one in which the clinic is located - are warm and friendly, and everybody speaks English with easy-to-understand accents. The same advice for traveling to any foreign country (or, let's face it, anywhere in the US, too) applies... keep a close eye on your belongings, stick to populated areas, make good choices... but Barbados is absolutely a safe country to visit. One of Barbados's nicknames is "Little England," because it is one of the most popular vacation destinations for British people, and several famous people have homes there. Simon Cowell is a pretty tough critic, and it gets the thumbs-up from him!

"But are those doctors even 'REAL' doctors?"

Dr. Skinner, the medical director and one of the founders, was educated in Ireland, at the famous and prestigious Trinity College. IVF was created in the UK, so her training comes from right by the source! Medical advancements and extremely high-caliber medical training can happen outside the US, I promise. Dr. Skinner has published research in respected medical journals - my husband and I found her articles while we were researching the clinic - and is a world-renowned expert in artificial reproductive technology. Practicing in her beautiful native Barbados only enhances her practice, it does not detract from it.

Dr. Corona is a breathtakingly accomplished doctor who speaks several languages and has studied and worked in more places than I can wrap my brain around! While I have not yet been fortunate enough to meet her in person, I am in awe of her background and have heard wonderful things about her from fellow patients.

As a chronically ill woman, I have had dozens of doctors. Many of them well-respected and at the top of their fields. I've maybe met one or two whose education and experience rival this team's, but to be frank, their bedside manner was NOWHERE near as great as what I experienced from Dr. Skinner and have heard about regarding Dr. Corona. This doctor duo is educated, accomplished, and genuinely kind, in a combination and to a degree that is truly rare. Your adult children could not be in better hands.

"Foreign clinics aren't as clean or safe as American clinics."

Barbados Fertility Centre has earned the prestigious Joint Commission International (JCI) gold seal accreditation continuously since 2007. JCI is an American agency, and accredited clinics must meet or exceed American standards for cleanliness, clinical outcomes, and infection and mortality rates. Every three years when they apply for renewal, BFC opens their doors to incredibly detailed inspection, and they work very hard to be above reproach. It is not an easy or a casual thing to earn JCI accreditation!

"There's a perfectly fine clinic just down the road!"

I'm sure it's a lovely clinic!

However, in my experience, patients at American clinics often feel like numbers on a chart more than like people. Barbados Fertility Centre actively cares about their individual patients as whole people and as couples, and their patient-focused approach has resulted in astronomical success rates. Compare their success rates to the clinics near your child. I think you'll be surprised by how well BFC stacks up!

BFC has a Life Wellness Centre upstairs from the medical clinic. The Centre offers services such as counseling sessions, nutrition counseling, massage, acupuncture, reflexology, and Reiki. This is part of the whole-person approach, where they strive to help their patients be at peak wellness in multiple facets of health.

Cost is also a factor. IVF in the States can run from 2-5x as expensive as a full cycle in Barbados. I live in a relatively-inexpensive area for IVF, and by the time we paid for our flights, hotel, food, entertainment, medications, treatments, and spa services, we still saved a couple thousand dollars compared to what we would have spent on JUST treatment in Ohio. Plus, we got to do it in a beautiful, relaxing, distraction-free place.

Bottom Line

If your child and their spouse are considering IVF in Barbados, they are adults. They have no doubt researched this decision extensively. While they probably value your opinion, this is a decision they will have to make as a couple. At the end of the day, if that's the decision they have made, you need to try to trust that you raised them to make good decisions and that this is one of them. And if they have entrusted you with the details of their fertility struggles and treatment, they need your support and encouragement.

You are about to become a grandparent, and that means your role in your adult child's life is shifting once again. This can be difficult for many parents, but it's a natural, healthy part of raising children. I hope that the information and links I have provided can help you come to peace with their choice. And I wish them (and you!) the very best of luck!

If you (or your child) would like to email me with any other questions, my email address is and I am always happy to chat :-)  You can also explore my "IVF in Barbados" tab at the top of my blog page to read more about my own IVF vacation in Barbados.

PS: Follow me on social media (links in my sidebar!) to follow my family's return to Barbados this summer! We'll be introducing our twins to the clinic staff who helped conceive them, and writing about lodging and attractions around the island!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Matthew 22:39 - Bible Art Journaling

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39

A counseling session back in April of last year was a turning point for me in many ways, and it gave me a new way of looking at a familiar Bible verse: Matthew 22:39. We've all heard it. It's the one where Jesus tells us that the second most important commandment is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

The word we overlook far too often in that verse is "as." Love your neighbor AS you love yourself. To do this, you have to actually love yourself. I realized - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this - that I was expending enormous emotional and physical energy loving others, but not honestly loving myself. That's not His plan, and it's not His commandment. His commandment requires loving ourselves.

Pouring from an empty cup

You've probably heard or seen the admonition, "You can't pour from an empty cup." The illustration I painted in my Bible by Matthew 22:39 is of a teapot pouring into a cup. The cup is not tilted to pour out, though. As I told a sweet friend recently, it's not selfish to refill your cup just for you. It doesn't have to be with the sole purpose of pouring it back out.

When you engage in self-care, try to occasionally do it just to simply care for yourself. Not to refill your cup to pour it out for your family, but because you deserve to not be running on empty!

Bible Art Journaling Details

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I prepped the page of my journaling Bible with matte ModPodge and let it dry thoroughly. It felt very plasticized. I sketched the teapot and cup and painted it all with watercolor. I'm very new to watercolor, but I kind of enjoy the unpredictability of the paint on the plasticized paper. I used letter scrapbooking stickers from Michael's, the glitter ones to emphasize "LOVE YOURSELF" in the verse.

Then, and this is my favorite feature of this page, the little card that is taped in like a flap is a lined journaling card from Project Life and Stampin' Up! I taped it in with washi tape so that I could journal about my counseling session and the growth that came from it, while still being able to flip it out of the way and read the whole page. I also like taping sermon notes from my church bulletins like a flap, and then sketching whatever sermon illustration pops out at me. While I have no qualms about covering text with images, I do like being able to keep journaling on flaps and out of the way.

Do you do any Bible Art Journaling? I have a really fun board on Pinterest, you should check it out! Have you ever made flaps like this?

Have you been filling your own cup only with the purpose of pouring it back out? Doesn't it feel like you can just never catch up, like you're always drained? How are you going to commit to leaving a little something in your own cup?

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