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Showing posts from August, 2018

Toddler Interrogations

I invited Ezra to sit with me this morning as I wrote my blog post.

His eyes immediately were drawn to the thumbnail pictures of me on the screen.

"There's Nate. And there's Nate," he said.

"Daddy," he continued, "is that your glasses and your head and your hair and your chin?"

Yes, dear. Yes, it is.

Now it's onto the computer battery.

"Daddy, what's this called?"

A computer battery, I responded.

"Oh. A computer battery. Daddy, why is this for your mouse [pointing at the USB]? Is that to make the mouse and that to make the mouse move on the screen [point at the keyboard]?"

And so it goes.

Little minds connect all of the dots, starting with the right questions.

All we have to do is answer them, and keep answering.

Why Big Families Can Be Big Fun

A wonderful piece in The Wall Street Journal this past weekend beautifully summarizes the joy of having a big family. Written by Mark Oppenheimer, "Yes, We Really Do Want to Have A Fifth Child" articulates why more children doesn't (always) mean more crazy.

For example, Oppenheimer shares that:

"Every one of our four children has improved my life""With a big family, I never have to feel guilty about the clutter""Having children has made our marriage stronger
Here, here. The column reminded me of comedian Jim Gaffigan's routine about having four youngsters, which seems to be frequently frowned upon, viewed as an Olympic feat or solemnly mulled at a distance by people mourning our adult autonomy:



Of course, Gaffigan now has five children, as will Oppenheimer.

Julie and I have thrown in the towel at four. But there's still a lot to live for, and by living,  I mean running at breakneck speeds through life, stopping for no one and dragging our…

Parenting Energy At Zero? Find A Jump Rope

Tonight, we sent the boys outside to burn off energy. A strong breeze nearly made up for the muggy air. They opted to clamber onto the tire swing suspended by yellow rope from a towering maple in our backyard.

I had Phoebe strapped to my chest, so to push them I simply gave them a series of forceful shoves with my sneaker. This wouldn't cut it.

"Spin push us. Faster. Hold on, I need to get off. Hold on, I need to get on. Why aren't you pushing me higher?" So it went.

My energy tank had nearly drained dry when Julie took an extra piece of rope lying nearby and turned it into a jump rope. I held the other end. The boys became fast friends with the game. In short order, they learned to jump as the rope arrives at the ground in front of your feet. They laughed as the rope snagged their ankles and black wading boots. They jockeyed to be next in line.

The moral of this story is twofold. First, marry a creative person. Second, allow yourself to find simple ways to entertain…

Adoption Grit: Take Ownership Of Your Destiny

I once tried to climb Pikes Peak with my brother and two friends, also brothers. Morning dawned and we had all the enthusiasm in the world. Gradually moving up the side of a 14,000-ft. rock tends to be wearing, but we pressed on.

Periodically, we stopped to take in the beautiful views and to laugh about something. The higher in elevation you rise, the funnier things get. It's probably the lack of oxygen. I like to credit my impeccable sense of timing.

As the afternoon began to pass us by, it eventually became clear we had somehow wandered off the path. It hadn't been marked properly. Instead, we found ourselves climbing alongside the blacktop that winds its way to the top. Providentially, some friends we'd intend to hike with drove right past us and took us up and back down again.

Back at more moderate Mile High elevation, we ate pizza and took naps. Evidently, mountain climbing isn't in my life description.

Even though I'm not particularly talented at racing to th…

Early Praise For 'Frozen, But Not Forgotten'

I'm deeply honored that our family's embryo adoption journey is inspiring others -- not because we're involved, but because it means other little people could have a better chance at life.

As a case in point, I have been actively pursuing endorsements for my new book, "Frozen, But Not Forgotten" and recently received the following from Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D., President of Nightlight Christian Adoptions:

“I have read the few books that exist about embryo adoption. This book makes a unique contribution: helping people really envision themselves as adoptive parents. Birt helps prospective adoptive parents become  psychologically healthy to prepare for adoption, with profound advice on topics such as how to explain your story to other people in front of your children. Anyone considering embryo adoption, or working in the field of artificial reproductive technology should read this book.”  

Adoption is a deeply personal choice, but it takes an enormous network of cham…

5 Benefits Of Embryo Adoption

I've found that one of the first barriers to considering embryo adoption is often simple: Parents want to understand what exactly it is. That's the barrier I personally ran up against until I had considered why it might be a fit for our family.

Embryo adoption can be a good fit for a number of reasons, five of which I'll explain here. Every family is different, and you might determine it won't work for you. With any adoption, you must first consider whether you and your spouse are physically, emotionally and financially ready for the journey ahead.

If those pillars are in place, these benefits will come naturally:


Embryo adoption allows you to bond with your baby from the beginning. Because embryos created during in vitro fertilization (IVF) are frozen at sub-zero temperatures, which pushes pause on development, your embryo baby essentially starts from just a few days old at transfer to the uterus. Contrary to a popular myth, your baby's age isn't determined by…

How To Create Your Adopted Child's Origin Story

Few responsibilities as a parent are as important as helping your children understand their origin story -- a term I'm borrowing from the great comic book heroes. If you've ever told little people an anecdote about their life many years ago, or even before they were born, you haven't had to wait very long for their eyes to light up or their questions to roll in.

Even at an early age, the idea each of us is reliant on the generation before us to get our bearings is awe-inspiring. What's more, we all find it fascinating to know what we were like at an age we can't remember.

For example, my mom always enjoyed the story about the time I stood on a stool in the living room banging on the old pie chest, which was a big no-no. When Mom, who was working in the kitchen, asked what I was doing, I told her that I was standing on the promises -- a reference to a Christian hymn I'd undoubtedly heard sung many times during worship services.

Creating an origin story for your…

Four Arguments Against Embryo Adoption

As a cub newspaper editor, I had a lot to learn. This proved especially true when it came time to coach the paper's only reporter,  who happened to be perhaps 30 years my senior.

You can probably guess what happened next: differences of opinion. These differences are common to any hot-button issue, and that includes embryo adoption, as I'll explain in a moment.

Allow me to set the stage. Back at my first real newspaper job, a woman had been arrested on suspicion of hitting and killing a construction worker while driving drunk. We knew about the story early and had the opportunity to send our reporter out to the scene.

This would make any decent person uncomfortable. But as a reporter, your role is to understand the story, treat everyone involved with the greatest respect and share what you can--as dispassionately as you can--with your audience.

Well, our reporter didn't agree with me or my publisher. She didn't want to go. In the weeks that followed, a common refrain …

Why Children Shouldn't Break The Bank

I wrote earlier this week about funding your embryo adoption. So I felt compelled to share a brief post on this article, about the cost of raising children, at Fatherly.com by Dave Baldwin.

The premise of the article is that even though some costs, such as food, have fallen precipitously in the past several decades, other costs have risen. Baldwin points the finger at child care, education and health care as the three most obvious areas where prices have climbed and will continue to pose challenges.

Those points are well taken, and depending on where you live or what health challenges your children may face, they are likely especially pronounced.

Yet it bears noting that children don't have to be all that expensive, barring catastrophe. I'm no financial planning expert, and I'm sure our family's expenses will grow as our children age. I certainly hope that's the case. All along, we've been praying that our children will reach adulthood. Part of the commitment …

Living The Nightmare

How often do we mentally characterize our days as living the nightmare while publicly declaring we are living the dream?

There's no need to varnish the truth. Politicians have a corner on that market.

Live with bruises. Admit when you are hurting. Ask for help. Complain if you must. Celebrate when you can.

If you had a bad day, say so. If your feet hurt, stop walking for a minute and throw them on the ottoman. (Literal throwing not advised; "placing" is probably best.)

This afternoon, I attended to half a dozen phone calls from the home office. I had to beg mercy from my mentor, who covered for a schedule conflict. Meanwhile, Phoebe dozed in her room and Ezra rolled around in his bed. He didn't nap, but he minded his manners and hopefully snatched a little rest.

The older boys arrived home and I poured circle crackers into plastic bowls while staging a conference call and troubleshooting through some technical issues.

It seemed like an epic battle -- hereafter known…

How Much Does Embryo Adoption Cost?

One of the reasons embryo adoption stood out to Julie and I from the beginning is the price tag. In general, it is more affordable than other types of adoption.

What's more affordable? All told, we spent approximately $14,500 on our adoption journey. This includes expenses such as:
Adoption agency fees (e.g. application phase, drawing up the contract between your family and your placing family, the matching process, etc.)Home studyEmbryo shippingEmbryo transferPre- and post-transfer fertility clinic visits plus fuel to/from (our clinic was located about 2 hours from our home) You can dig into the numbers in more detail by viewing this infographic for our agency, Nightlight® Christian Adoptions, or by viewing this breakdown from the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center. The center also has put together a webinar on the cost topic, which I've embedded below.

To be clear, these costs assume a successful pregnancy that is carried to term. Recent research -- admittedly one study versus…

My New Embryo Adoption Book 'Frozen, But Not Forgotten' Publishes April 1, 2019

In first grade, I turned my journal into a book depicting scenes from my young life. I titled it "Little House in the Big City" and made it official by writing the title in permanent marker on the gold spine. The cover had a picture of a droopy-eared golden retriever against a red background.

OK, so the title and the cover didn't exactly line up. Work with me here.

Today, I have a different and arguably more exciting announcement. My first real book publishes April 1, 2019, from Carpenter's Son Publishing, and I couldn't be more thrilled because of the content.

This project has a singular mission: Help parents discover, learn about and consider embryo adoption as they build their families.

It is titled "Frozen, But Not Forgotten"**. Each chapter guides parents through the process Julie and I encountered, including making initial inquiries with adoption agencies, debunking myths about stolen babies, explaining why a fertile couple spends months with inf…

Make No Excuses

I come from a long line of apologists. By which I mean, we apologize and express regret for many if not most of the things we do, most days of the week. Perhaps you know people like this.

As a parent, I have come to realize that this approach is largely a waste of time and energy. Both of those resources are in short supply.

Who cares what other people think about your decisions? It's tough to critique people who act with integrity and within the framework of their faith.

For example, tonight my energy is waning. Julie and I just completed our monthly budget. It is prime-time entertainment, let me tell you.

I'd like to keep on pushing forward on my manuscript. That big announcement I've been promising is coming any day now. I'm beyond excited. It pains me that my eyelids are drooping.

Microsoft Word will be around tomorrow, just as it is today.

But tonight, I am saying: No. I've heard it's a complete sentence. You have my permission to say "no" to so…

Like Sardines In A Storm

Last night, I awoke to the sound of rain pounding the sides of the house, thunder pealing, and hail nicking the windows. The storm seemed to be escalating itself into a frenzy.

One of the boys wandered into our room -- Titus, I think? -- and Julie asked whether I thought we should bring the other children downstairs. I hemmed and hawed. I couldn't totally gather my thoughts, it being about 1 a.m., and I didn't think the storm seemed particularly out of the ordinary.

Eventually, Julie and I marched upstairs. She gathered the remaining boys, all of whom rolled into our bed a la this scene from "If A Body Meets A Body," one of the greatest Three Stooges episodes of all time:

I gathered Phoebe, who enjoyed some late-night snuggles with her mommy as her brothers tossed and turned and I admired it all from the foot of the bed.

Like sardines in a storm, our boys packed tightly together and survived until things had died down.

Then, we marched everyone back up the stairs wi…

'A Link Between Angels And Men'

I ran across a quote today that I think is particularly true and that parents know better than anyone: “A babe in the house is a well-spring of pleasure, a messenger of peace and love, a resting place for innocence on earth, a link between angels and men.”

That observation comes from the English writer Martin Farquhar Tupper, who lived from 1810 to 1889.

How is it that those words still resonate nearly 130 years after his death? Perhaps it is because they capture the joy of a newborn. Few sights are as innocent as a baby fast asleep, a hand across the chest, tiny fingers spread out and still. Indeed, it is this restful and unimpeded state so many adults seek and so few seem to find.

Another explanation for the power of the passage is this: We have become so accustomed to the violence and suffering in our world that we long for the opposite state of being.

It is a reality accessible only in our imaginations--and in the lives of our children.

No wonder we seek to give them the very bes…

Growing Older

Phoebe looks nothing today like she did four months ago. But at more than 15 lb. and growing taller than ever, she is more adorable and lovable by the day.

The boys are growing up, too. I realized this as Titus managed to take care of his bedtime routine without a thousand complaints. He simply set his mind to gathering his blankets around him and picking up one stuffed animal after the next, squeezing as many as possible into his hands and arms before lying down.

You can't stop progress. Or cuteness.

Might as well enjoy the the journey.

A Plea To Abandon Technology

Our children risk becoming a generation of robots programmed by mass media. As a journalist, I'm skeptical of anyone who claims the media are simply a tool of evil people used to manipulate and disseminate falsehoods. So I make that statement only half-seriously.

On the contrary, I believe strongly in the First Amendment as a vehicle for free expression; in the free market for the economic opportunity it creates and the platform it provides for the innovation and development of new products and services; and in technology for its ability to connect people and create value in ways past generations never dreamed possible.

Nor am I neglecting the value of a thoughtfully designed children's tablet game or the joy of educational TV programming, which I consumed voraciously as a youngster.

My point is this: We should encourage our children to spend more time outdoors and less time inside. I heard a tremendous presentation at the Sustainable Brands 2018 conference in Vancouver earli…

Are Embryos Property Or People?

It depends on your point of view.

Under U.S. law, embryos are property. Earlier this year, many embryos perished when two fertility clinics experienced malfunctioning technology that had kept them frozen, as The Daily Beast has reported. Families filed lawsuits arguing the embryos should be given protections as humans, but legal scholars shared a variety of reasons that likely wouldn't happen.

Many Christians believe life begins at conception, though even that idea increasingly appears up for debate amid people adhering to a Judeo-Christian point of view. Arguments against embryos as people include uncertainty over when the soul and the body are fused, the notion life develops in stages and that God distinguished between fetus and fully born person in Old Testament law, according to the Slate link shared earlier in this paragraph.

On the other end of the spectrum, bloggers such as Empires and Mangers have noted it's impossible to get to a fully born person without starting fr…