Wednesday, March 30, 2016

FET Prep

So, I'm just a bit over a week into my Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) prep.  What does that mean exactly? Shots, pills, patches, appointments...hoping...
Currently, I take Lupron every night to shut down my reproductive hormones.  I'm also still taking birth control for a few more days.  This is all in preparation of hopefully being able to craft the perfect uterine environment for it's potential incoming inhabitant.  Next week I will start taking estrogen while decreasing the Lupron so my lining can build back up over the next three to four weeks.
I have one procedure left, a saline ultrasound where they inject saline into the uterus to measure the space, and see the shape of the uterus.

Lupron
Lupron is a sub-cutaneous injection, which means it goes just below the surface of the skin into the fat.  The needles are small, not even an inch long and are relatively painless.  The medication itself sometimes stings or itches depending on the night.  I haven't found a common denominator as to what makes some injections hurt, or itch, or sting, and some nights they're even painless!  If pain is a concern, I've found ice to be very helpful in numbing the area.  Since I've been around this block a few times, I've definitely manned up to the task.  I remember during my first round of injections back in 2008 during our Intrauterine Insemination, it took many many attempts, and tons of convincing in order to safely receive my injections.  Thankfully, I have a very patient husband, otherwise I'm sure several of the injections would have ended up with me being pinned against the wall with a needle shoved into any readily location.  Side effects of the Lupron include constipation, nausea, dizziness or headache, hot flashes and trouble sleeping. Thankfully it seems that I'm taking to the medication like I have previously with very little side effects.  I have noticed that I sometimes get slightly over heated, which isn't necessarily anything new for me, and my breasts are ever so sore. Although that's not a listed side effect, it happened soon after beginning the Lurpon, so I'll blame it on that! Thankfully I haven't had any problems with my plumbing, but I guess it's a good thing I decided to buy a box of Fiber One Brownies at Costco a couple weeks ago.  Yumm...
Estrogen
Estrogen is the medication that helps build the uterine lining, which is hopefully where the embryo will implant after the transfer.  I was supposed to take estrogen in the form of patches that get switched every other day, however my insurance doesn't cover it, and the out of pocket cost was $700!!! The second option was an intramuscular injection of estrogen taken every third day.  Now, for those of you not aware of the intramuscular injections, I'll be frank-it's a huge ass needle, no pun intended.  It's a huge needle, meant for your ass.  But I've never been so excited for a needle in my ass until they called to tell me that my co-pay was only $10!!!! I'll take it...but to be honest, it's a huge blessing.  The raw costs for all the medications for the transfer are about $2,000.  With insurance coverage, I've paid $160.00.  

Ways to Get Covered Medication 
Should you be reading this and are embarking on this journey, there are some options for medication cost.  
1. First, always ask your doctor or clinic if they have samples of medications.  Many times they do.  2.Next, ask if they have any medication that can be donated.  Often times, people order all the drugs needed for a cycle at once.  Sometimes, the dosing changes, cycles get canceled, people back out, get pregnant, you name it-and they'll have medication they don't need! Most likely, patients donate unused and un-open medication to their doctor/clinic.  I have been on the receiving end of these drugs and it's always appreciated.  
3.Ask around!  There are several fertility related forums, blogs, Facebook groups, websites and even word of mouth! Post, talk, e-mail and try to find connections to those who might have left over medications that they would be willing to donate.  
4.  Talk to your insurance and/or doctor about medications that are alternatives to the ones not covered.  Often times it has to be the generic brand, or in a different form. My insurance denied the estrogen patches, but didn't offer an alternative. My doctor offered me a different option-not his first preference, but fine nonetheless, and it was covered!  I have prescription benefits through a separate program other than my general insurance.  They actually don't cover my fertility medication since it's not a regularly received medication, but with some help, you can possibly get coverage through an unsuspected avenue.  You can also pay out of pocket and file an appeal or submit for reimbursement.  This measure will require a willing physician, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.
Unless you have deep pockets, it definitely is worthwhile to make a plan about how you'll tackle the unexpected expenses like non-covered medication, or surprise injections, or all the co-pays for the frequent monitoring appointments.  

And honestly, just remember...always 
Never. Give. Up.:

Life has ebbs and flows; fair weather and storms. Keep your ship well-maintained and upright, knowing it's always darkest before that glorious sunrise.:

"Do not give up! Never give up!"—James B. Martino:

It's hard to wait around for something you know might never happen, but it's harder to give up when you know it's everything you want.:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Monday Munchies...

If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don't, you should...) you already know that a few days after my Zayde passed away, was my Bubby's (grandmother) 86th birthday.  She wasn't exactly up for a cake, but I insisted.  My aunt, insisted on thick, white, frosting.  I mentioned last week that I tried a new frosting recipe because I had just not found one I loved.  My Bubby pulled out her recipe box, and gave me a recipe to try.  It even has the note "very good" on it.  So, what could be bad about that!  I was a little hesitant since it uses shortening, and in my experience, white frosting that uses shortening not only leaves a residue in your mouth, it didn't have much taste.  This one, as stated, is very good and not like any other recipe I've tried! It is pure white, it doesn't have the left over residue, it has no egg whites so it's completely allergen, kid and pregnant woman friendly, and it's so quick! 
 

Bubby's Very Good Frosting 
1 box of powdered sugar (a small box is 1 lb)
1 cup Crisco 
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 teaspoon almond flavor (I used vanilla)
1/2 teaspoon lemon flavor

I wouldn't normally keep 1 lb boxes of sugar, but to make it more convenient, I would definitely stock up on a few boxes of powdered sugar and some of the sticks of Crisco shortening.  I also used vanilla extract instead of almond extract, which according to my aunt, did impact the flavor.  I also used lemon juice instead of lemon extract.  

I dumped it all in the mixer, and let it mix on high once the sugar was incorporated so I wouldn't have a sugary mess on my hands...it got nice and whipped, and was truly white! It also tasted delicious and went onto the cake smoothly! My Bubby told me this frosting is also great for piping and making cake designs.  And since it's white, iit's perfect for coloring.  I really can't wait to use this again, can you tell?!?


Let me know if you try it and love it! 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Art on a Cart

Some time ago bar carts were all the rage.  Then, Target sent me a mailing, and it advertised the Threshold bar cart.
It came with a coupon, I knew I loved it, and when I just so happened to spot one at my Target shopping during one of my trips, it came home with me. #sorrynotsorry 

This cart is long sold out, but there are so many options 
  Image result for wood and nickel threshold bar cart
This is the most reasonable option, and it can easily be transformed with some gold spray paint.  Or any color for that matter, and with the extra shelf, that makes it that much more versatile. 

Although this isn't gold, this texture is popular and versatile.  I could easily see working with this one.  

This beauty is also a stunner, use some gold spray paint, or whatever color is your fancy and this is a real winner at only $29!!!  You can't tell from the picture, but not only does it have 3 shelves, it also has a drawer and hooks!  I can only imagine all of the things I could put in there!  

Since I don't have much of a need for a typical bar cart, I do have a need to store all the arts and crafts as well as homework supplies for the kids.  Hence why I renamed the bar cart,  art on a cart.  



Over time we had accumulated several coloring books, painting books, stickers and learning books.  All the books were sorted and placed into magazine holders from IKEA.  These aren't super sturdy, so I'd only recommend them if they'll be receiving minimal use and movement.  I decorated them with washi tape and labeled each holder using a Martha Stewart bookplate.  When these wear out, I'll probably switch to a more sturdy holder.   All of my other holders came from the Target dollar section, or are mason or glass jars.  


On the bottom I have larger containers that hold the bulkier items, playdough, clay. and kind of a catch-all bin. In the future, I might add more stackable bins and label them.    

We aren't going to be in our current place too much longer, and for now this works well, but in the future I'd be interested in adding some shelving and making it more of an art nook as oppose to a random cart shoved in a corner. But for now, it works.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Remembering my Zayde

Not so unexpectedly, but still too soon, Sunday morning my Zayde (grandfather in Yiddish) passed away.  He was almost 88, and had endured about two years of dialysis, among many other health problems.  I knew I would speak at his funeral, but had refused to think about it until I absolutely had to.  That meant sitting at breakfast Monday morning, just hours before the funeral drinking coffee and wiping my tears.  
Without further ado...

It’s been since my Bat Mitzvah that I stood up and spoke to a crowd like this...I’m not sure how many of you know or remember, but Bubby and Zayde drove their camper van to my Bat Mitzvah and parked in the shul parking lot so they could be within walking distance to the shul.  My Zayde never flew anywhere, because, “I wasn’t born with wings.”  Thankfully, he loved to drive, and distance was never a hindrance.  He even drove his beloved camper van to Alaska!  But, most importantly, they would frequently drive in to Columbus for quick visits that consisted of performances, recitals or baseball games, and when I got married and moved to New York, they continued their driving tradition.  They visited during Thanksgivings, graduation, and the births of Moshe and Dovy, and a few times after.  Growing up, I always heard of the story where Zayde took the kids to get milk, and they ended up in Cincinnati.  I’m not sure if that’s true, or just a myth, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was true.  

If I could think of a few words that describe my Zayde, one would be selfless. The definition of selfless is, “concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own.”  When my Great Aunt Hi had a stroke, my Bubby’s older, unmarried sister-Zayde insisted on taking over her care.  He coordinated round the clock care from a distance-actually I think sometimes  he was a little too happy to have a reason to excuse himself from family dinners.  “Gotta go check e-mail…” he’d say, because at every shift change the caregivers were to check in with him.  But it didn’t stop there!  In addition to coordinating care from afar, Bubby and Zayde would cook all of her food because her caregivers didn’t know how to keep kosher, and they would drive up to Michigan every day to check on Aunt Hi.  I want you all to know, that Zayde still knew in his last days where all the caregivers were and what they were up to.  Another example of his selflessness was his love for his community.  For as long as I can remember he was the videographer for the Yeshiva, videotaped shul dinners, and even a community member’s wedding, and he did these jobs with pleasure. I remember I was in a production at Stern College and I volunteered him to take the video footage and make 50 DVD copies, and he did it with no complaints.  To be honest, I don’t remember a time where he ever put his concerns before Bubby’s, or who ever he was with.  His most common response to a question that required an opinion was, “whatever,”  and no matter what “whatever” got him, he never complained.  Yesterday on the way here we stopped at Rita’s Italian Ices because they were giving away free ices and I knew, had he been there, he would have said “whatever,” to the flavor choices, gotten what I got, and probably eaten it in about three bites and been happy. Even on his deathbed, he was more concerned with how he was affecting us, and he kept telling everyone, “sorry to be a bother.”  

Another way I would describe my Zayde is that he was always grateful.  If you ever asked Zayde how he was doing, he’d respond with, “terrible.” However it wasn’t until things were actually terrible, that he responded with, “I’m fine.”   Over the past few years, little by little, the things he loved were no longer attainable.   First it was his camper van, then it was his ability to drive, and then it was his eyesight which robbed him of what was left of his pleasures.   Zayde loved his laptop, and then he became inseparable from his ipad and we would frequently get Facetime requests from him at all times of the day.    When his sight became so bad that he couldn’t go on the computer and couldn’t go on the ipad, he didn’t really complain.  In the end, throughout his constant pain and aggravation, and dependency on others, all he really wanted, was to see his grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Thankfully, 4 weeks ago we traveled here for a week and we had a great visit with him.  We had many conversations around the kitchen table drinking coffee, laying in bed in the mornings, and he even shared his secret lemon poppyseed cake recipe.  I was sworn to secrecy, so my apologies, I won’t be able to share the recipe for what is now called, Zayde’s cake.  

Another way I would describe Zayde is that he was so funny.  He didn’t come in contact with a single person he didn’t make smile. His jokes, his sarcasm, his wit, made him unforgettable!  I have friends who hardly knew him, but would ask, “how’s Zayde?” Because in short time, he could make a lasting impression. As Bubby would say, “he’s just so loveable isn’t he?!?”   In his last few days, countless jokes passed his lips,When I spoke to Bubby on Thursday, she told me, “he’s just so funny talking about his own death!” Ephraim and I were not surprised in the least to hear this.  Last night we sat around reminiscing and laughing about his jokes from the past few days.

I want to publicly thank a few people for their true acts of kindness to my Zayde and our family. First, I’d like to thank the Gerwirtz’s for always keeping an eye out for my Bubby and Zayde and in the final days, being such a support to the family and arranging last minute details.  I’d like to thank Joyce Mishkin for her friendship to Bubby and Zayde, and of course her chicken soup which Zayde loved. I also want to thank Dr. Ephraim Hollander, my husband, for his constant medical advice and countless phone calls to Zayde’s doctors to help manage his care.  I want to thank our Columbus “friends that are like family,” for making the drive today and bringing food and their love.  Lastly, I want to thank Katie.  Katie was Zayde’s caregiver, and in his final days she hardly left his side.  On Thursday when things weren’t looking good, I called and spoke to her, and it brought me such comfort to know that she was there with him.  On Friday she texted me asking how I was, and I got updates on Zayde’s condition throughout the day.  She even recorded him singing our song Does the Spearmint Lose it’s Flavor on the Bedpost Over Night.  Before Shabbos, she helped me talk to him one last time where he told me, “I’ll be ok…” that he loved me, sang me our song one final time, and of course, apologized for “messing it all up.” If Zayde had a choice, he would have continued on forever with his pain just to continue living.  Katie, you’ll never know how much comfort it gave me knowing you were with him at the end, and I know he loved you and is looking forward to seeing you again one day.  And I just have to add, that after all, as Jean Rubin’s granddaughter, I have to continue his tradition of keeping in touch with the caregiver, as you’re part of the family now, so I hope you don’t mind!  

In our second to last conversation, Zayde said to me, “soon you’ll forget about me.” Zayde, I’ll think of you often, especially when I make your cake and take it with me to my doctors, just like you did.  We recently discovered that, just like Zayde, I also frequently take baked goods to my doctors and to work.  At Moshe’s recent school production, the principal asked the parents to “set their cell phones aside, and just be in the moment,” and  I actually turned to Ephraim and said, “he acts like this is something new, but my Zayde always walked around with his big video camera on his shoulder!” Over time the cameras  got smaller, but your love for recording did not and because of that, we have an anthology of VHSs that you recorded from my childhood that you know I always loved watching, and I’m thankful I have countless pictures and videos to remember you with.

Well, I know you’re off to “get some milk” now in your camper van, with some 

wonderful four-legged pals. Aunt Ellyn thinks Blondie is with you in the front seat, but I 

know Zeke and Gracie, and Shemp and Spike and Pal are with you too.  I know we’ll 

meet again, but I hope it’s not too soon, because as you always said, “it beats the 

alternative.”


Alternatively, Zayde requested the funeral be recorded, in typical fashion, and you can watch the video by clicking on the link below. I'm the second speech...


In an ironic twist of fate, the same day we buried my Zayde, I also began my injections for my upcoming frozen embryo cycle...the epitome of the circle of life...


Monday night I began 10 units of Lupron, and I go back on Tuesday for my endometrial biopsy, and the polyp removal.  I went last week and thankfully did not need any cysts  drained.  

Perhaps they are not stars in the sky but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Munchies...

One of my daily Instagram checks is The Doughmestic Housewife, and not only does she create absolutely stunning royal icing cookies, she also makes fabulous cookie cakes with her to-die-for cake writing and decorations! Take a look...





 

When I would see these cakes, I was reminded that my local grocery store, Stop and Shop, had the yummiest cookie cakes-but we can't eat them anymore because they may contain traces of nuts.  So, I kind of forgot about how awesome those cookie cakes were-until my first trip to Hobby Lobby where I scored a pan meant for baking these delicacies! Of course, my arm doesn't have to be twisted too much, and when our friend asked when I was making the crock pot Chinese chicken, I suggested they stop over for some belated birthday celebrations (his wife and myself) and we'd have both the chicken and the cookie cake!  The cake was super easy to make, and I will definitely be making this again, but dare I say-reducing the chocolate chips say what?!? Yes, if you love chocolate, this is for sure a winner! As usual, I made my dough the night before, it was simple, easy clean up, and super yummy.   

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie 
1 cup butter, softened 
3/4 cup white sugar 
3/4 cup packed brown sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 eggs 
21/4 cups flour 
1 teaspoon salt  
1 teaspoon baking soda 
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) 

I made this recipe non-dairy, so I substituted margarine for butter, and I used non-dairy chocolate chips.  I also omitted the nuts.  

In a mixer, beat the butter (margarine), sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.

Add flour, salt, and baking soda and mix well.  Incorporate chocolate chips and nuts if you so desire. 

Spread into a 14 inch round "pizza" pan, and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.  The time is just a guideline, the top should be brown and have more of a cooked look.  I was afraid, based on how brown it got in order for the entire cookie to be baked, that it would be burnt, but it was pure perfection.  




 After seeing all of Holly's goodies, I was itching to work with buttercream again, but I wanted to try a new recipe, as my old one wasn't doing it for me anymore.  So, I found what claimed to be an easy, fast and delicious recipe.  

2 lbs. unsalted butter at room temperature 
2 lbs. powdered sugar 
1-2 Tablespoons vanilla extract 
1 Teaspoon sea salt 
1 cup egg white 

Again, I made this non-dairy, so I used margarine.  

Whip the egg whites and sugar on high for five minutes.  Then add the butter (margarine) in chunks, then add the vanilla and salt.  Whip it for an additional 8-10 minutes until light and shiny.  

People raved about this recipe, but I have to say, I didn't love it-for a few reasons.  First of all, it has uncooked egg whites; which means it's problematic for people with allergies (like my daughter!!!How could I forget?!?) and pregnant women. It also can't be left out for more than 24 hours, and typically these items don't go back in the refrigerator, so I left it out without realizing!  Even though the recipe said it was easy for piping, I found it difficult to write with.  I also found it had a whipped egg texture and an egg taste.  I definitely won't be making the frosting again. The cookie however, will definitely be making an appearance again!  



Follow me on Instagram to see more of my baking and every day happenings!

UPDATE: I made the Chinese crock pot chicken  and although it was good, the coating wasn't your typical Chinese texture, but it was definitely yummy.  It takes time to cut the chicken, and coat it, but it was a crowd pleaser, so I could definitely see myself making this again by special request. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Monitoring Appointment #1

There have been plenty of moments recently that have made me take a moment and realize that no matter what, there's so much to be grateful for.  Of course, in typical fashion, I'm preparing for heartbreak, but hoping for the best! 
We all have struggles, but they all come together to make us the beautiful people we are. 
Train yourself to find the blessing in everything. Check out the link below to find out how in under 24hrs! http://positiveaffirmationsandthinking.com/2014/12/29/top-10-positive-affirmations-for-women/:  

I was supposed to be on birth control (did I mention it is mint, and chewable?!?)  for three weeks, but my period decided to grace it's presence a week early.  I called and was told to come in anyway just to assess what was going on.  My lining is thin, but ironically the original cyst is gone, but an even bigger one has grown on the opposite ovary.  In hindsight I'm realizing that my general lack of comfort and bloating was most likely from the cyst.  As of now, I'm to continue the birth control, skip the placebo pills, and go back next Thursday to check on it.  If it shrunk, it can be left alone, but if it is still there-then it'll be drained that morning. Apparently all I need are three extra strength Tylenol to survive! 

On Tuesday March 22 I go back for my endometrial biospy, and the polyp removal.  Again, three extra strength Tylenol will take the edge off.  I'm mostly ok with the pain, but I have had a couple bad experiences in the past where thinking about the pain I'm in and how I got there makes me almost pass out.  So I know I will need to take time to recover.  I've also had an endometrial biopsy before and it hurts like hell. In fact, it hurt so much that I pushed myself back which prevented my doctor from getting an adequate sample.  Knowing what I have to look forward to makes the anticipation a lot worse!  

My projected schedule is as follows: 
March 21-begin Lupron
April 4, blood work and ultrasound
April 4/5-begin wearing estrogen patches 
April 8-blood test and ultrasound 
There will be more monitoring and medication, but the exact dates are unknown.  
Transfer is April 25/26-as long as things go as planned. 

For now, there is still plenty of time until the transfer, with much to focus on! 


Monday, March 7, 2016

Monday Munchies...

What a weekend and beginning of the week it has been! These next few weeks' have a lot on the docket! 
We enjoyed the circus with my brother and my almost sister-in-law last night.  

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We didn't realize the show was two hours, plus an intermission-an hour in, the adults and Hannah were ready to go! The boys, not so much...I opted to push/entertain Hannah in the hallway for the remaining hour, and thankfully she allowed me to sneak a peak at the trapeze artists, always a fave! 



 Mondays are always a fresh start to a new week, and I'm sure many of you tell yourself you're going to dial in the diet this week.  So, this week I bring you a diet friendly Monday Munchies.  
I had started hearing about cauliflower rice from some blogs, but I never really thought about what that actually meant because I knew most likely the frozen pre-made option they would talk about, most likely wasn't kosher.  I found out last week I was right, but also decided that maybe it was worthwhile looking into how to make it, and it seems relatively easy.  Honestly, anything that involves the food processor, I don't  consider easy.  Rice isn't something that was commonly served in our house, so I'm not needing to find a replacement for it, but it is interesting to see all the different metamorphosis cauliflower can go through to become a classic staple.  

There's faux potato kugel, made out of cauliflower 

Cauliflower Kugel - chickinthekitchen.com:

There's cauliflower crust for pizza 

Cauliflower Pizza Crust - Low carb, low calorie and gluten free cauliflower crust pizza that can take on any of your favourite toppings. Foolproof & delicious low carb meal recipe.:

Cauliflower lasagna 

Cauliflower Noodle Lasagna. This is seriously good. (The Iron You):

  And most recently...cauliflower rice

How to make cauliflower rice and stock your refrigerator or freezer with a 5-minute paleo side dish that will go with just about anything. {gluten-free, grain-free, paleo} | cookeatpaleo.com 

I'm going to give you the basic recipe, but there are so many variations, such as: Spanish cauliflower rice, cilantro lime, Hawaiian fried rice, and the list goes on! The cauliflower list is endless! Cauliflower is a cheap vegetable to buy, it lasts well, and it's not too hard to prep.  

1 head cauliflower, any size
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter, optional
Salt, optional

Cut the cauliflower into large florets, and then place in the food processor. 

Process until the texture is crumble-like or couscous like.  Make sure the large florets that don't get processed originally are separated out so they can be processed again later, otherwise, the cauliflower will become over-processed and the desired texture won't be reached,  

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large skillet and stir in the couscous and sprinkle with a salt. Cover the skillet and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes until the couscous reaches your desired tenderness.

Of course cauliflower rice is also awesome because it can be stored in the freezer for up to three months! Isn't batch cooking great?  I also love eating food that allows me to eat more-which is why cauliflower is a dieter's dream come true, and these recipes sure don't look like a diet food, I just might have to try all the cauliflower!

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