How To Distract Your Children With Lasting Life Lessons

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The boys were thrilled to learn recently that my parents would be joining us from Colorado for a week-long visit. For days, Micah, Titus and Ezra asked whether the moment had arrived. So last night, before Mom and Dad got here, I introduced a little creative distraction to strengthen one of their wonderful character traits: work ethic.

Our sons love to be part of a project, and we needed to clear out space in the garage for Julie’s car. First, we rearranged the boys’ bicycles at the back of the entryway. Then, we took some old mouse-eaten items to the burn pile.

I quickly realized I needed to include them at all stages. At one point, as I carried something heavy outside, Ezra said, “I’ll help you.”

“It’s too heavy,” I responded. “I think it would be easier if I did it.”

Ezra’s shoulders and face fell like a burst balloon inside his hooded sweatshirt. How can you resist a three-year-old who craves responsibility and has a better work ethic than many men 10 times his age? So I urged him repeatedly to come and help me, and eventually he did, as did Titus.

We moved this and then that, and when it was all through, Ezra joined me in the car so we could pull it into the garage. Titus grinned from ear to ear as he sat inside the garage to make sure we did it properly. Then he pressed the button to lower the door.

About an hour later, MumMum and Granddaddy arrived for their visit. The boys are thrilled about the adventure ahead.

So am I—this week, and as they grow up. Because if you know how to work hard and stick with a task, you can really go places. It all starts in the garage.

Parenting Through The Noise

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If you have a child, or have been around children, you understand there is generally no such thing as a quiet moment.

But peace is relative. Little voices, incessant questions and tugging pudgy hands all point to the presence of a sure thing. It’s called life, and it’s far preferable to the alternative.

Mature people I respect tell me the silence in a home can be deafening after children grow up and move away.

Bring on the noise.

Together, We Can Overcome Embryo Adoption 'Bewilderment'

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Every day, men and women around the world are doing their part to champion embryo adoption and lead couples toward it.

This often goes unnoticed, apart from a few flash-in-the-pan, breathless TV news segments that marvel at the process of bringing a baby to term that is not the parents’ biological offspring.

It’s one of the many reasons I’m so pleased to have met some true embryo adoption champions on my journey to publishing “Frozen, But Not Forgotten”.

Two recent examples come to mind. Dr. Marisa López-Teijón is CEO at Institut Marquès, an assisted reproduction center and driver of the first European embryo adoption program. People come from across Europe and beyond to undergo the frozen embryo transfer process at her clinic.

About my book, she wrote: “Nate and Julie showed an immense love and generosity when they adopted the embryo of their little Phoebe. However, it is even more admirable that they have now decided to share their experience. We could write a book filled with love, devotion and gratitude to life from every child born thanks to the adoption of embryos.”

Gratitude to life, indeed. And might I add gratitude to God for making the adoption process possible in the first place, and for leading parents who have experienced in vitro fertilization to take the truly heroic step of placing their embryo babies for adoption.

I also have had the privilege of corresponding with Daniel J. Hurst, Ph.D., Cahaba Family Medicine Residency. He graciously perused “Frozen, But Not Forgotten” and provided the following endorsement:

“Embryo adoption is simply not discussed in the church today, leading to scant Christian resources and bewilderment. Nate Birt has written a storyline on his family’s adoptive process that is captivating. This unique and practical book is a timely resource to equip church leaders and prospective adoptive parents to walk through this confusing subject with sound wisdom.”

Mr. Hurst is exactly right. When Julie and I adopted Phoebe, we didn’t have a stack of books to build our journey on, nor did we have a long list of detailed materials on the morality or biology of embryo adoption. Yet this topic is going to become increasingly important — and morally urgent — as we become more adept at reproductive technology outside of natural means.

Every human life matters. I’m grateful to Dr. López-Teijón and Mr. Hurst for recognizing the need to link arms and tell this story to the Christian community and the world.

How To Factor Embryo Adoption Into Your Will And Estate Plan

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As a present for our ninth anniversary, I gave Julie the gift of death in writing. In most circles, this is known as a will. (But Halloween is approaching, and I’ve been learning about the Grim Reaper as part of my continuing education.)

If you and your spouse are even thinking halfway seriously about embryo adoption — or already have children — this is mission critical. No one explains the need for a will better than Dave Ramsey, so I’ll let him be the mean one. You can scroll down to the bottom to check out the clip.

You need a will because the odds are high you will eventually die. Your spouse needs the legal documentation proving everything will be OK financially. Your children deserve the security of knowing they will have a caretaker.

As we worked through the paperwork with our attorney, we had Phoebe in mind, even though the embryo transfer hadn’t happened. Our attorney made sure to write the will in such a way that it included any future children we might bring into our family. That way, we wouldn’t have to go back and rework the text in a year’s time.

Along with our will, we decided to put into place some additional documentation:

  • A living will, which identifies what our loved ones should do in the event that we remain alive yet medically unresponsive.

  • A trust, which ensures our children’s finances will be easy to manage in the event a loved one needs to administer those resources rather than handing over the checkbook to our darlings.

  • Power of attorney so that Julie and I can, or trusted loved ones, can manage the other’s business in the event we are physically or mentally unable to do so.

If memory serves, this entire process of visiting with our attorney about our needs, reviewing the drafted paperwork and making the documents official during a signing marathon at her office took just a couple of months.

During this process, you should be prepared to:

  • Carefully read the details of lengthy and sometimes tedious documentation that will ensure your spouse and children are protected in the event of your untimely death.

  • Find an appropriate location to file these documents in both physical and digital format. In our case, our attorney compiled all of these materials in an easy-to-spot binder with a label affixed to its spine. It is easy to spot in case someone ever needs to grab it off the shelf in a pinch.

  • Communicate your plans with your family.

That last point will not come naturally. It’s highly likely none of your family members have ever done this for you. But I can guarantee you if you are hit by a bus tomorrow, you’ll be glad you alerted them to your plans today.

If we’re being honest, it took me a good year to compile an email to my siblings, Julie’s siblings and our parents providing digital editions of our documents and explaining in bullet points who gets what (e.g. children, finances, physical assets) if something happens.

Surprisingly, I got several positive responses from family members who appreciated the gesture, as bizarro as it sounds, and saw it for what it is: An act of love in preparation for a day everyone knows is coming but few are comfortable acknowledging.

Embryo adoption shouldn’t be a reason to delay finalizing your will. If anything, it should be the trigger that pushes you to make it official.

Ask your older and wiser friends to recommend a good attorney. You might even know someone who can offer a discounted rate.

You will forever be remembered for the things you did, not the things you wish you had done. This one will put you out of a few hundred dollars, but there’s no question I sleep better knowing it is in place.

You will, too.



One Rule For Chaos Parenting

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One rule for chaos parenting is to keep it flexible.

That’s it.

Our October calendar is proving to be a mix of wait, wait, go crazy nuts and book everything back to back.

Yours might be, too.

As a parent, your responsibility is primarily the well-being of your children. So as much as your life might be crazy, keep the little ones’ exposure to that chaos to a minimum. Stick to your routines — bed times, snack times, play times.

Give them something to look forward to each day. Our daily schedule includes breakfast and dinner together, post-dinner playtime, and, before bed, Bible reading, stories, a prayer and two songs.

Then promise yourself that you’ll slow down a bit when the chaos has passed you by. It might not be for a while, but it will give you the sanity each moment to power through the present.

'But Adoption Isn't For Me'

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If adoption isn’t for you, it might be a fit for another family you know.

In fact, it might be for you after all. In my book, “Frozen, But Not Forgotten,” I write about the fact that I staunchly opposed embryo adoption in particular.

My stupid reason: It weirded me out. (Incidentally, I get to use the word “stupid” because I was.)

Adoption affects all of us and has a special urgency, even when we’re unaware of it. As Paul told the Christians in Rome: “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons” (Romans 8:15, ESV).

All of us started life as children. There are many children who need homes. Frozen embryos are children awaiting a nurturing environment — a mother’s womb — where they will have the best chance at life.

You might never adopt a child. But you can share the hope of adoption with people you care about.

You might just save a child’s life and bless a family in the process.

Adoption, Food And The Future Of America

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On paper, my resume looks like it came out of a blender. What in the world do embryo adoption, conservation agriculture and the future of the U.S. have in common?

A lot, actually.

Embryo adoption has occurred for the past 20 years. Many more people know about the process today than they did back then, yet awareness remains lacking. If more people knew about embryo adoption — and realized that yes, life really begins at conception, even if it occurs in the lab — they might share this critical pro-life issue with others or even adopt themselves. Couples might shift away from using in vitro fertilization to build their families and toward adoption.

In the world of food, conservation agriculture has been an important part of federal rule-making since the mid-1980s, probably earlier. Farmers, input companies, conservation organizations and government agencies recognize the importance of clean water, healthy soil and pure air. Yet the incentives required to change behavior and improve environmental outcomes are complex, require wide adoption and often take years to implement.

Our nation’s future is just as complex and urgent. Last week’s Supreme Court hearing is but one example of the deep polarization we face. There is no doubt we must do much better to support victims of sexual assault and bring perpetrators to justice. There can be no question that people deserve to be heard, and facts should be fully weighed and examined. Yet often all we hear is an explanation of these terribly massive issues in the context of Republican versus Democratic politics.

I am hopeful that as a society, we can move toward greater justice for women and for life at every stage of development. I am hopeful we will place a higher premium on the natural resources God has given us to steward. I am hopeful we will embrace, once again, a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude for the men and women who ensure the food and water that sustain us are readily available, safe and nutritious.

There are many, many places in the world that don’t have anywhere near the abundance or security our nation offers. But we can do better — for the unborn, for our farmers and for our nation.

How To Overcome Unfounded Parenting Fears

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I took a brief trip today to pick up luxury-brand cat food for our feline friend who refuses to eat cheap. In the process, I began thinking about crazy fears and their connection to parenting with confidence.

Why? For one, I happened to be driving in our truck, which I’m 90% certain is now home to a mouse.

I hate mice. They give me the creeps. My only other fear next to mice is being followed while driving by a police car. This stems from my first-ever parking ticket this past year. I drove 11 miles over the speed limit in a 35 mph zone. That’s a big no-no, for obvious reasons.

Parenting brings its own set of fears, adoptive parenting included.

Will I offend my placing family by something I say or do? Will I offend my own family?

Will I scar my child for life if I discipline him or her?

Will I regret a decision and have to walk it back?

There are all kinds of desperate thoughts that enter our minds as parents. You’ve no doubt experienced this. I listened to a podcast where the hosts advised the listener to avoid taking seriously any thoughts that entire the mind after 9 p.m. Chances are good you’re tired and not processing rationally. I think that’s good advice.

On the other hand, parenting doesn’t follow the rigid tick-tock of the clock. You are sometimes thrown into decision-making at the most inopportune times, under the strangest and most uncomfortable of circumstances. In those cases, my advice to myself is:

  1. Take a deep breath (often mental, not literal — actual breathing takes too long, as one of my wife’s advisers once quipped)

  2. Say a short prayer followed by an internal statement to myself that grounds what I’m about to do

  3. Get as much information about the situation as possible

  4. Make the best decision at the time, recognizing I’m not perfect and that while the outcome might not be perfect, it’s better than caving and hedging

We all have choices, and we have to make them in the best interest of our children, not any fears we might harbor. Chances are good the choices we make, assuming they’re grounded in truth — eternal, not earthly — will be better than we realize.

In Sickness And In Health

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Over the past week, various members of our family have done battle with stomach bugs, strep and the aftereffects of vaccines. We’re all swiftly centering ourselves once more as the back half of the week approaches, but it has been a lesson in balance.

Or, perhaps, counterbalance. In their book, “The ONE Thing,” authors Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan talk about life’s seasons and the need to be realistic each day. Rather than worrying about trying to strike an exact even balance between work and life, they say, focus on achieving counterbalance.

Some days will be more about family and getting through the messes life creates. That’s OK. Other days will be more about work and powering through deadlines. That’s OK, too.

During weeks such as these, I find it helpful to set timers and rewards. If I can tell myself, “In just 4 hours, I can move onto the next task,” my mind calms and I can focus on whatever needs to be done. I can further punctuate those time increments with rewards — whether it’s a 10-minute tire swing break with my 3-year-old, a 30-second perusal of Twitter or a momentary email catchup session.

This approach helps me ensure I make progress every day as a parent and as a professional, even if I’m working from home or in other unusual circumstances. Every day will be different and yield different outcomes.

But if you can reach the end and mentally tick through accomplishments — related to work, family, spirituality and other areas of personal development — you will go a long way toward a fulfilling life.

3 Radio Interview Tips For Embryo Adoptive Couples

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Julie, Phoebe and I had a blast sharing our embryo adoption story this past week with Mathew Pilger of KXEO Radio in Mexico.

If you or your family are hoping to spread the word about your embryo adoption so more couples will consider it, here are a few tips I found helpful:

1. Prepare A Media Kit. I learned this from Michael Hyatt's Get Published course. If you're not planning to write a book, you don't need to include this much information. Even sharing a few basic topics or bullet points about your family in advance is all you should need to help the radio host prepare.

2. Keep It Casual. It’s helpful to talk through questions you might be asked with your spouse. Go into the interview relaxed and ready to have fun. This is your time to shine!

3. Keep It Conversational. Pretend the interview is a conversation over coffee with a friend. Unless there’s something particularly controversial about your story, you probably don’t need to anticipate any gotcha questions. If there are, revert back to your talking points about embryo adoption and your growing family.

As Hyatt describes in his book, “Platform,” you won’t always have the megaphone to reach the right people — but your friends in the media probably do. Together, you can spread the word about embryo adoption and help other families find joy from these precious lives.

What’s the best way you’ve found to share your embryo adoption story — or to research others’ stories? Post a comment below to share!

Embryo Adoption Begins With One Question

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It doesn’t matter what the question happens to be.

This is your journey. Ask what is on your heart and mind.

“What is it?”

“How did you do it?”

“What should my wife (or husband) and I know about it before moving forward?”

Dave Ramsey brilliantly describes our decision to get control of our money as a step toward changing our family tree.

The same could be said for embryo adoption.

Only in this case, you are changing three trees: your adopted child’s, your own and that of your placing family.

Did you know 80% of land-based biodiversity is in our world’s forests? When you choose embryo adoption, you are planting the seeds of a family forest.

How it grows is in God’s hands. Whether it grows at all is in yours.

Eat The Soup: How To Feed Your Children Without Compromising

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Tonight for dinner, Julie has made chicken noodle soup with squash. She raised the important question of whether to include the squash at all, given that some of our boys have a proclivity to be picky.

After some discussion, we agreed that she would include the squash. She cut it up in big enough chunks that the boys can easily remove it if they so desire.

With food, as in life, the goal is to expose our children to new experiences without requiring full-body immersion. A taste of this. A try at that. A hint of the joys of the unknown frontier.

But at the end of the day, it’s squash. It is nutritious but not essential to a well-rounded diet.

Perhaps they will like it. And if not today, they will eventually come around.

Hypothetical Pro-Life Versus Pro-Choice Scenarios Will Get Us Nowhere

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A commenter on social media recently attempted to toss a truth-bomb on a pro-life post. The post posed a hypothetical question that went something like this:

Suppose you suddenly find yourself in a room that has caught fire. There is a 6-year-old child in the room with you, and there are dozens of embryos in storage in the room next door. You can only save the child or the embryos. Which do you choose?

This scenario is intended to force you into a seemingly obvious conclusion: You should save the sentient 6-year-old who is screaming and crying and deserves a safe space. After all, his entire life stands before him. The embryos aren’t yet walking around, talking to others and forming relationships. How could you ignore the plight of the 6-year-old?

What this scenario ignores is the fact that all outcomes are tragic. Further, the scenario itself is unrealistic. Few youngsters I know spend their time adjacent to IVF clinics, where embryos are commonly held.

Further, embryos already are endangered before the fire even begins. Freezing and thawing can damage embryos to the point where they can no longer survive. Parents who choose to preserve their remaining embryos because they recognize each is a human life are to be commended. But even those parents are aware of the inherent risks of the preservation process.

Another social media comment on the same thread remarked that under Old Testament law, a pregnant woman’s child was designated as property in the sad event that the glancing blow of another landed upon the baby and killed him or her.

Let us be clear that there are various kinds of laws, some that carry more weight than others. Ancient law might have ascribed some type of material value to a child to compensate the family. Indeed, most embryo adoption contracts today identify embryos as property, not as people (there are a handful of notable state-level exceptions).

The more important distinction is made in moral law. In Jeremiah 1:5, we see God ascribes personhood to each of us before conception. In the Christian world, we often talk about the fact life begins at conception. In reality, our lives are crafted even before that point. Notice: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

It is a sobering reminder that hypothetical scenarios and verbal bomb-throwing are but a distraction from a larger issue: God crafts each person, and conception is merely the earthly marker of his or her arrival in our physical reality.

The 6-year-old and the embryos all have inherent value. There are dozens of moral lenses and frameworks we could use to “make the call” in the event of the fire, but any outcome that involves the life of any child — at any stage of development — ought to grieve us deeply.

If it does not, perhaps we have forgotten the higher calling of the moral law that guides our steps.

Embryo Adoption Happens Around The World

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Chalk it up to my egocentric American way of thinking: I had no idea other countries had well-established embryo adoption programs.

Turns out, I was wrong. (Big surprise.)

This week, I had the pleasure of connecting via email and social media with the team at the Institut Marquès. They recently celebrated their 1,000th successful birth from embryo adoption, with clinics for embryo transfers in Spain and Ireland.

Then I ran across this past (admittedly a few years old) from the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center about couples exploring embryo adoption in Australia.

I’ll keep an eye on the names of countries whose residents are visiting my website and use that information to inform future posts on the ways other countries are approaching this critical issue.

Every life matters, and I’m delighted to see that hope for frozen embryos has spread so widely.

Making Sense of 'Mean Daddy' Syndrome

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In recent weeks, a favorite retort of my three sons — the youngest two in particular — has become, “Mean Daddy.”

The translation is simple: “You did something I don’t like, and therefore you are dead to me.”

Probably not so harsh. But it has a purposeful bite to it.

This used to bother me. How dare you call me a mean daddy! Aren’t I good enough for you? Who pays for your food, clothing and shelter? You wouldn’t know “mean” if it jumped out from behind a corner!

Then I realized “Mean Daddy” has two sub-meanings that are more beneficial to your relationship as a parent. They are:

  1. Discipline is tough, and I need a moment away from you to regroup.

  2. I need you to coach me about why you made that decision because I don’t understand it.

Children are often more capable of understanding our rationale for a decision, even if they don’t like it. These days my response tends to be something along the lines of, “It’s OK if you think I’m a mean daddy, but I decided to tell you to stay out of the road to keep you safe and prevent you from being hit by a car.” Or whatever the case might be.

“Mean Daddy” used to hurt my feelings. Sometimes, it still does. But I’d encourage you to think of the accusation as a conversation starter — and an opportunity to showcase to your child your ability to love them and protect them before they enter the world as an adult and must do it on their own.

5 Incredible Embryo Adoption Statistics

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The figures behind embryo adoption are surprising to many people. I count myself among them.

For example, did you know?

These statistics are incredible because they speak to the incredible odds embryo babies overcoming in being born into the world; the incredible love hundreds of parents have shown in placing their embryos; and the incredible opportunity to bring the joy of embryo adoption to more families.

Which of these statistics surprises you the most, and why? Share your reaction by posting a comment below.

One Brilliant Way To Calm A Fussy Baby

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There’s nothing sadder than a fussing baby, particularly a little one who’s teething.

Phoebe is generally the calmest baby around, but those teeth are mighty painful.

Do you want to know a solution my wife shared with me the other day?

Take her outside.

It sounds ridiculously simple. Whether it’s the fresh air, the sounds of nature, the natural sunlight — it doesn’t really matter. The point is, almost without fail, bringing Phoebe outside changes her mood entirely.

That’s why I’m crafting this post with Phoebe on my chest. I’m using the side table on the gas grill as a standing desk.

How do you calm your baby? Share your tips by posting a comment below.

Why Parents Should Resume Dropped Personal Goals

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In preparing for the launch of "Frozen, But Not Forgotten," some goals I set months ago have gone by the wayside. No more. This post is intended to push me (and you, I hope) to pick them up again.

You see, shiny objects tend to distract us. I'm not suggesting BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals) are trivial or unimportant. I'm simply advising you to go after greatness while remembering to take care of yourself and the promises you've made.

Case in point: Exercise and reading. 

I told myself earlier this year that I would run regularly. Julie advised that three days per week would be a great place to start. We purchased a used treadmill. I trucked it to the back door and managed to unload it single-handedly. (Miraculously, it didn't break apart on first use.)

The first few months of the year went really well. I killed it on the 30-minute marathons. 

Fast forward to now. I tend to walk fast to the bathroom. That's about it. 

I started to turn the corner this evening by picking up my 30-minute routine once again. I have no desire to run a marathon. I don't need to compete in an Iron Man. All I want is to survive to spend time with my family and my grandchildren into old age, assuming God graces me with the privilege. So exercise is important. 

The same is true for reading. It feeds my mind, challenges me to think strategically and in different ways, gives me the opportunity to peek inside brilliant minds. We joined the Ramsey Book Club this year, and it has been one of the best decisions we've made all year. I've got my eye on LeaderBox in 2019.

Here, I've done a little better. My reading has been intermittent at times. Work travel is a great way to get in extra reading. Having new and interesting books shipped directly to your home or e-reader is another necessary kick in the pants. 

What lost goals would you like to rediscover this new week? I encourage you to think about one thing you'd really like to change or do differently, and take a step toward that goal in the next seven days. It doesn't have to be ridiculous or help anyone else but yourself. 

Never forget: Before you became a parent, you were a unique and important person with hopes and dreams. You still are. And you don't have to sacrifice the best of yourself to ensure those around you are served well. All it takes is a little budgeting of time and effort to invest in yourself -- and in the activities that energize the other parts of your life, like parenting.

What will you do this next week to take a step toward a personal goal you've set? Share your plan by posting a comment below!

How To Avoid Adoption Panic

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Last night, we informed Titus that it would be raining for the next few days because of the moisture pushing its way north from Tropical Depression Gordon.

"ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT?" responded Titus, his voice rising to a fever pitch. 

We explained that yes, this was the case. He continued to ask the question, increasingly panicked. We reassured him everything would be fine and that it would be a steady rain, not a violent storm.

You might experience the same sense of panic mixed with urgency along the road to adoption. I know I did. You aren't looking for reasons to worry, but those reasons arrive at your doorstep anyway:

  • What if we never get through all of the paperwork?
  • What if no placing family likes us enough to place embryos with us? 
  • What if something bad happens and none of our embryos come to term?
  • What if we never have the chance to meet the baby we've dreamed about?

These questions are terrifying, and they're normal. 

I want to reassure you and encourage you. Don't focus on the "What if?". Focus on the "What next?".

Keep moving forward. Draw strength from your spouse, your close friends and, above all, from God.

Yes, praying and asking for spiritual support only He can provide has become something of a cultural taboo. Ignore that, too. There are many occasions in life where the strength and support you need are supernatural, and no one I know can provide the same level of encouragement.