Monday, February 27, 2012

Severely Delayed

I love the words "severely delayed" when the weatherman is telling me that the storm that was going to screw up my afternoon run wont be in my neck of the woods until midnight due to some ever-changing weather patterns.  I even expect the words when discussing when the local train might get me to the City (due to 'switch problems' most likely). 

But they are two words that I never, even wanted associated with my children.


If I'm honest, I can say that the fear was always there.  Second trimester births come with problems; we all know this.  Prematurity breeds a lot of problems, chief among them death of course, but there are a slew of others.  Increased risk of learning delays and disabilities, autism, vision and hearing problems.  You name it.  Babies need those 40+ weeks to gestate (and sometimes, even that isnt enough to guarantee a life without difficulties).  Born at 27 weeks, I expected something.

But really?  Who expects bad when the road is fairly straight?

When Maya's eyesight showed problems while they were in the NICU and she had laser surgery, I told the Universe "Okay!  That's her issue!  No more!"  The Universe apparently heard me because the laser surgery corrected the ROP Stage 2+ and she is your average sighted 2 year old.  At their developmental assessment last month, she assessed chronological (as usual!) and at their Early Intervention assessment today, she registered between two and a half and three and a half years old.  Lots of words, lots of sentences.  Social butterfly.  That's my girl.  A bit like her Mama (seeing as she can barely keep her mouth closed long enough to let someone else get a word in edgewise!).

I hoped that one rollercoaster might be all we would have to ride.  I mean, let me be frank:  I think we've paid our dues and, since they missed out on 3 months of womb time, I think Bobby and Maya paid their dues early on as well.  I mean, really.  There's cosmic fairness, right?  Oh, wait... Not so much...  For a second, I'd forgotten that.

When they were smaller, Bobby always scored chronological age on his gross motor and Maya would score adjusted age; fine motor skills were the reverse, with Maya scoring chronological and Bobby at adjusted.  When all the scores were computed, they would score chronological and we'd move on, happy that another eval was behind us.  Around their second birthday, Maya's verbal skills took off.  She loves to chat anyway, but sounds became words and words became sentences, commands, and questions.  When I tell you that she loves to talk, love may not be a strong enough word.  Bobby, however, not so much.  Since both of our brothers were delayed speakers, our parents weren't that concerned, but Peter and I brought up the idea of possibly looking into speach therapy.  We decided to wait until we visited the hospital's developmental assessment clinic for their 2 year old appointment before calling someone, assuming that Britta, the therapist, would tell us if there was really cause for concern or if Bobby was just on the quiet side of normal.

We hadn't been to our appointment (last month) five minutes when Britta said "Call Early Intervention.  Today.  Don't wait."  That didnt sound promising.  She explained that she was no speech therapist, but that she was a bit more than concerned about his lack of speech.  She also felt that his frustration (when he didnt get his way) was due less to behavioral issues and more due to his being frustrated at his lack of communication. 

I called EI as soon as we arrived home, and scheduled assessments for both kids.  They came this morning and stayed with us for two hours.  In addition to a service coordinator, an education expert and speech therapist came.

Maya, well... She was Maya.  Typical Maya.  And, being herself, she registered at her (nearly) chronological age of 2.5 up to 3.5.  Woo Hoo, Princess!

Bobby.  I dont even know where to start.  In fairness, he was all over the board.  In some categories, he hit the 3.5 to 4 years old mark.  He knows his states, can identify them on a map, was counting to 20 (and backwards down to 1) and was more than happy to sing his ABCs.  They told us how smart he is and that he is an extremely intelligent boy, who shows no signs of autism or, at this point, of learning delays.  That being said, his speech is delayed.  Severely delayed.

He assessed at 10 months.

You read that right.  Ten months old.  Less than a year old.

I'm sure that my shock was visible.  The therapists explained that much of his skills are above that, so he is over compensating for a "shaky foundation" in verbal skills.  Imagine a ladder with 10 rungs.  You need to get to the top.  The average child would start at 1 and work their way up.  Bobby decided to grab the rungs at 3 and work himself up from there because, for whatever reason, the earlier levels werent working for him.  But, in skipping those levels, he's skipped some of the things he needs for good verbal communication and, if he continues to skip over them, it's going to make life harder on him the older he gets.

For example, he doesnt say "no".  Like, ever.  He might shake his head, he might even sign it on occasion.  He'll not let you have something you're trying to get or he might throw a fit, but he wont speak "No."  He rarely says "Mama" or "Daddy" unless we are coming in from somewhere and it's more like a "Hey, there's Mama!/Daddy!" type thing and not just a "Hey, Mama, can I have that banana?" type thing.  If he wants one of us, he comes up at takes us by the hand.  He's a very visual child and he prefers physical contact over verbal cuing. 

There are exceptions.  The child loves food.  He'll ask for a banana or an apple.  He'll cry for Mama if he's sick.  But they are exceptions.  Maya most often talks for him when they are together, and, while we've made efforts to reinforce language, because he's smart, we've given in I think and let him go to his counting, letters, colors, shapes, etc, and said "It's okay.  He must not want to talk in earlier stages." 

And now, we're here.  With a smart, beautiful, wonderfully intelligent boy who assesses as a 10 month old in his speech.  Part of me wants to know how we got to (nearly) 29 months without seeing this.  The therapists all said that these issues wouldnt become clear until around 24 months (because, until then, it could just be a selective nonverbality) and that, accounting for their birth age, it could have been up to 27 months before it became clear.  That's December, when we first started seriously discussing it.  They've said that this is the best age to address the issue... That there isnt a reason to delay his preschool and that, with weekly therapy, he should (fingers crossed) be on par with his classmates, from a verbal point of view, by the time he starts preschool in the fall.  They've said that we've done nothing wrong and that we've identified the problem at the beginning.

And yet, I still feel as though I've failed him.  It's not enough that he had to be born premature and spend the first months of his life in a hospital, but now he is struggling with his basic communication.  How long has he known (because he is smart and I have no doubt, as they had no doubt either, that he knows there is a problem and that's why he's turned to other techniques of communication)?  How long was he trying to tell us and we just missed it?  As I sat in the kitchen crying quietly, after the therapists left and Peter went to work,  he ran up to me and wrapped his arms around me, settling his head into my neck and breathing out "Mama".   Then a big kiss on the cheek, and continued kisses until I kissed him back and thanked him.  But even after he'd run back in to play with Maya, he kept checking on me (while I was making lunch) to hug my legs. 

Like I said, he's a smart boy.  And a very empathetic one.

In some ways, that hurts my heart more... To think- to know- that he's known there was an issue... to not be able to tell us... to not have us just pick up on it...  Has he been struggling?  I just dont know.

Going forward, we have a plan in place and I hope that it will be as smooth as the therapists think it will be.  Each week, beginning in about 2 weeks, a speech therapist will be coming to the house to work with Bobby directly and to encourage and give us skills for how to better cue his language skills at home.  They recommended that we take away the noise-making toys, especially his favorites like the map and the ABC drum, assuring us that he wont "forget" the info he's learned.  They just dont want him to fall back on it when he gets frustrated and doesnt want to work on his verbal skills.  As my mom said when I spoke to her this morning, it's possible that he'll ask for the map in a few weeks!  What I wouldnt give to hear him say "MAMA!  GIVE ME BACK MY MAP!"  I'll give him that one, and another one!

Over the next few days, we will take away the sound-making toys and we're asking that anyone who spends time with them not have sound making toys out for them (or give them gifts of sound-making toys).  I'll box them and put them in the basement, keeping out the more simple toys.  It's hard having the two of them, but Maya doesnt really play much with the sound toys anyway, so I dont think that she will mind (too much).  The goal is to focus on the building blocks of language for Bobby, so that he can climb up the rungs of the hypothetical ladder without any problems, instead of just jumping and grabbing onto a higher rung.  They've suggested reinforcing word connections and, if he doesnt repeat them, repeating them for him.  (For example, "Do you want a grape?" If he reaches and doesnt respond "grape", giving him the grape and saying "grape".  Or asking (without the object in sight), do "Do you want juice or water?" and having him respond, without an identifying object, "juice"/"water". )  We should reference names as well, by constantly referring to him as "Bobby", her as "Maya", Peter and I as "Daddy" and "Mama", etc.  He knows the labels, but the idea is to encourage the sound skills.

It's hard.  In addition to feeling like I've failed him somehow and the enormous guilt I've had since their birth about their prematurity (to which this gets added), it's a struggle because he's intelligent.  I know that he knows his name... but he doesnt say it.  I know that he knows I am his mother and that, if he wants me, he comes to find me... but he doesnt call to me if I'm another room.  I know he knows that the juice is in the fridge and that he's welcome to it... but he doesnt ask me for it (routinely... there are exceptions).  It's hard to know that the knows these things and cant? isn't? verbalizing them.  And that's the other thing: is it a "cant" or a "wont".  No one really knows at this age, so we have to assume it's "cant" and work from there.

The good thing is that the county is covering the cost of the speech therapy and that it cant hurt him.  When he can (or chooses to) communicate effectively, the therapist will recommend discharging him from therapy.  If it turns out that this is a concern that needs additional addressing, he'll be moved to Early Intervention (from ages 3-5) and, if it is on-going, then the school district will help us with therapy, whether he be homeschooled or at the parochial school.  So, that's good news.  And, because we are addressing it early, there is every indication to believe that in 6-12 months, he'll be discharged and speaking age appropriately. 

We love him.  We love Maya.  We will always love them, no matter what.  But the idea of one or both of them struggling causes the air to leave the room and I feel like a fish slapping around on land.  It breaks me to my very core and everything in my being wants to take whatever it is on myself so that they never have a moment's hardship.  It sucks that I cant...  That I cant fix it.  I remember that feeling with Maya's eyes, and now I have it again with Bobby's speech.

I know that we are so very lucky with them. In the grand scheme of things, we are unscathed and they are happy, healthy, toddlers.  There are parents who deal with so much more than this on a regular basis, and I can imagine that our challenges seem tiny in comparison.  I dont mean this post to be an insult to their challenges and concerns; but, for us, this is a big deal.  It's all about the fish bowl you are in, I suppose.

So, if you would, continue to ask St. Blaise to intercede for our little guy.  And hope with us that the speech therapy will give him what he needs to develop outstanding verbal communication.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Another Vegan Treat!

I promise... This is NOT going to become a vegan food blog, but I've had so many emails and comments about the vegan recipes, that I feel like I should share the good finds!

I love mousse... Wait, let me say that I LOVE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (that's better), so that was going to be a sad good-bye.  Or not... This one is all the deliciousness (and none of the post-delicious-eating-throwing-up).  Thanks to Whole Foods for the recipe (which I only modified slightly).  I'd had the WF mousse made with tofu and wasnt all that impressed, but this one?  OUT OF THIS WORLD.  I made it tonight.  YUM!

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

3/4 cup raw cashews
20 pitted dates
15oz pureed butternut squash
3/4 - 1 cup chocolate coconut milk
1/4c unsweetened dark chocolate powder
1tsp vanilla extract

Soak the cashews and dates in hot water for 2 hours (with my run and needing to go to the market, mine soaked for almost 4 hours and this worked GREAT).  Drain well.  In a food processor (or high powdered blender), process the cashews, dates, butternut squash, and 3/4 cup of the coconut milk until smooth.  Add the cocoa and the vanilla (and up to 1/4 cup of additional chocolate coconut milk if you need it), and process until the mixture becomes the proper chocolate mousse consistency.

8 servings/300 calories each

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My (Vegan) Happy Place

I have to admit... the vegan baking?  Yeah, I'm hooked.  Even on the (no)baking goodies.

When I was pregnant with Bobby and Maya, Peter used to go by the Whole Foods near the hospital and bring me these DELICIOUS vegan chocolate peanut butter bars.  Sadly, the WF near our house doesnt make these, but he'll periodically grab one if he's at the one near the hospital (which is about 15 minutes from his work).  I searched for the WF recipe, but alas... No go.

So, instead I just searched for vegan chocolate peanut butter bar today... and oh, what I found!  Thanks to Yummy Vegetarian Recipes for the recipe which I modified slightly.  They are chilling now, but I ran my finger along the left over peanut butter on the mixing bowl and dipped it in some of the dredges of chocolate... OH HAPPY PLACE.  How I have missed you PB-Choc Bars!! 

This whole dairy free thing... I could get TOO used to it!

Vegan Peanut Butter- Chocolate Bars
(no bake)
serves between 16-25, depending on how you slice them

9oz smooth peanut butter
2oz Earth Balance (or other vegan butter alternative) (for PB) plus 1oz Earth Balance (for choc)
1.25 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1tbsp vanilla
7oz Icelandic chocolate (I use half 56% and half 70% dark)

In a mixing bowl, blend the peanut butter, 2oz of EB, sugars, and vanilla until smooth.  Place a large sheet of wax paper in a 9x9 dish.  Spread the peanut butter mixture in the 9x9 pan. 

Melt the chocolate with 1oz EB.  Spread the melted chocolate over the peanut butter mixture. 

Chill until the chocolate is cool to the touch.  Cut into squares (and try not to gorge yourself on them!)

Servings and (approx) Calories:
16 bars- 250 calories
20 bars- 200 calories
25 bars- 150 calories

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Giving Up "Giving Up"

Days roll into weeks and weeks into months and, liturgically, a year has passed; Ash Wednesday is here again.  Our penitential season began with the traditional fasting (the kids are excluded from this, of course) and a visit to our local (new) parish for Mass.  I remember last year that the kids both had this interesting look on their faces when the priest gave them ashes.  (Their first ashes, they were asleep, so I dont think they even knew what had happened!).  I assume it is because they normally go up with us, in a similar fashion, for Communion, but don't receive (they get a blessing).  This is a time where they do "get" something: ashes on their forehead... a reminder to "turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel". 

There are certain Lenten things that we do as a standard way of operating in our house.  We go to Mass together and receive ashes.  We fast.  We break the fast after the sun sets with a simple dinner of vegetarian black bean soup (the recipe is as the end, in case you are interested).  These things are just the way we have celebrated for years (although it seems like forever).  It's simple.  But it is a ritual that, for me, says "Ash Wednesday" (and, in some ways, "Good Friday", since we fast and have the soup again on GF).  As funny as it may sound, for me it is a way to begin being more aware of penance because I hate black bean soup.  Okay, that's not really very nice; I strongly dislike black beans.  I made it the first year because of that; I figured that it was a way to do something out of the norm, that I didnt want to do, and to be grateful.  Because I'm able to not want a certain food...  Because I take for granted the fact that I can not just eat, but eat what I want.  So, on days of fast, it's black bean soup.  (Peter likes BBS, so this is not the same thing for him, but for me, it puts me in a special place and starts me on a special journey).

But, each year, as people discuss what to give up for these forty days (chocolate and Facebook seem to be the big winners I'm hearing), Peter and I are taken to a different place in our Lenten traditions.  It's probably been a good five years since we gave up on giving something up.  I'm not sure what brought us to that place on our journey, but we both had the feeling that it felt... for us... like something was missing.  Like it was too easy.  Oh, I'll just give up (insert the addiction of choice here) and then, on Sundays if I want or at the end of Lent I can just have it and LOTS OF IT.  I'm sure this isnt how it is for everyone, but giving up coffee or chocolate for me was basically a countdown until when I could have it again.  There was sacrifice, sure, but it wasnt as sacrificial as I think the penitent season had in mind.

I was reminded of this recently when Jenni, a fellow blogger, posted to her FB asking what folks are doing for Lent.  She comes from a faith practice that doesnt traditionally celebrate Ash Wednesday and the following days of sacrifice until Resurrection, so she had a variety of responses.  This was mine:
"We consider Lent a time of penitence. While "giving something up" is a nice idea, and sometimes we do that, we see it as a time of taking something on as well. One year, we committed to attending morning Mass, every day of Lent. So, I dont think you have to give up something, like a favorite food. It should be about doing something that brings you closer to God: if that's giving something up, then I think that's great. If it's taking something on, then that's great too. But I think that all too often people just pick something, give it up, and dont think twice about it. Then there are those who have no formal rituals, but give themselves fully to the season of penitence that Lent should be."

Last night, after we'd put the kids to bed, Peter and I discussed our Lent 2012.  And we came to a few conclusions.  First, as always, we'll observe the fasts and abstinence days (fasting on AW and GF, abstinence from meats on Fridays).  However, we normally practice Church abstinence on Fridays and eat something like pasta, a vegetarian soup or chili (with meat substitute) or have a fish dish.  So, that isn't really a sacrifice (traditionally, abstinence of Fridays happened on all Fridays, not just those in Lent).  So, we'll be going vegan on Fridays.  No animal products (including fish) or by-products (milk, eggs, etc) and we wont be using "fake" meats (like Quorn, Morningstar, etc) to try and replicate meats.  While it's not hard because we spent so many years as vegetarians and I dabbled them (and actually, more now) in vegan cooking, it is a sacrifice to make the effort, regardless of if we are entertaining people or out to eat.  (Although, we dont really do a lot of out-to-eat during Lent, as we are trying to be more socially conscience and aware). 

But moving on to the not-giving-up.  Weekly:
  • We will go to Adoration as a family, including the kids.  While we also would like to go by ourselves for a longer period of Adoration and plan to include that in the week, we are going to go with the kids, outside of attending Mass.  Our chapel is open 24 hours a day, so there are no excuses.  We can go anytime.  On the way to a playground, on the way home from the store.  Whenever.  We will go in, pray (the children are great at behaving when we go to the Shrine and we all pray in from of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, so I think that this will go relatively smoothly).  We tell the kids that Jesus is in the consecrated Host, so when they see one, they will point and say "Jesus" and want to pray.  (For example, after Mass this morning, Maya and I knelt in front of the Altar and Tabernacle and she crossed herself, pointed, and said "Jesus.")  So, weekly family Adoration.  It may be less than 5 minutes, but one day, it will be longer.  That is what I'm reminding myself.
  • We will go to daily Mass (individually).  Peter will go to the chapel near his office that has a lunchtime Mass.  I will get up extra early and go to the 6:30am Mass at our parish.  (Honestly, I've thought of this before... Just havent done it...  I can run to the Church is 15-20 minutes (it's 2 miles away) and I've often thought of running, going to Mass, and running home.)
  • We will pray the Rosary.  I try to pray the Rosary several times a week, but there are times that I fall behind and it's either read the daily reading, pray the Rosary, or keep a kid from hurting themselves.  Lately, I havent been as diligent and, if I get a Decade in, I'm doing well.  I try to do a Decade with the kids (and they like it).  It may be a Decade with the kids and then finishing the full Rosary on our own individually, but that's fine.  (Rosary Info)
  • We will give of our home to others.  A friend of mine explained that Catholics dont tithe; they sacrificially give.  While it may be semantics to some, the idea of "sacrificially giving" resonates with me.  For this reason, when we give a bag to SVDP for the food bank collection, we dont go out and buy food; we take from our cupboards.  Giving of what we have, what we want and bought for ourselves.  Sacrificing.  Sacrificially giving.  This year, a new way of penance will be to give a bag to  our local food bank, each week, taken from our pantry. 

There are a few other things that I really want to strive to do, like make sure I read my daily devotions, that I take time to do yoga when I'm not teaching (and not just the 10 minutes I do daily, but a real "class-for-me" so that I can focus internally and reconnect with the Divine in meditation, that I volunteer for the Church weekly (which, I'll be volunteering in the parish school library each week, so that will be that, but if I cant for some reason, that I do something else, even if it is just that hour of Adoration... but something).  But the above is what we, as a family, have committed to do this Lenten season.  The list may seem long, but it's minor in comparison to what we are focusing on.  The days leading up to the  Paschal Triduum are just a small taste of what we are emotionally and spiritually reliving on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday. 

The priest this morning asked that we think about Lents passed and ponder how Lent will be different this year.  That we stop trying to achieve an A on the perceived report card from God, and start living each and every day as penitents, striving to achieve a closer connection to the Divine.  His homily was, in my opinion, inspired.  And, as I think about it, I'm left with this thought.  We come into Lent, a season of penance, prepared to 'give up' to bring us closer to God, waiting for the end, for Resurrection Sunday, when we can revert back to our old ways, when we can take back what we've given up, when we can resurrect the old.  Can we resurrect something- someone- new?  Can we take the herald of Spring and new life and resurrection, and come to something greater?  Can we be reborn...  can our prison of penance rehabilitate us into better human beings?  Greater stewards of Mother Earth?  Renew us in a greater love for one another?

I want to say yes.  I want to hope yes.  I want to be what Gandhi imagined when he said "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

So, this Lent, that is my focus.  That's where my mind is. 

Where is your mind taking you?

Lenten Vegan Black Bean Soup
(modified from "Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker")

1 medium sweet onion (diced)
1 medium carrot (diced)
1 medium red bell pepper (diced)
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 cans (15.5oz) black beans (dont drain or rinse)
1 large can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes (dont drain or rinse)
4 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp chili powder blend
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
rice and chopped onions for serving (optional)

Toss all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.  Puree half of the soup before adding it back in.  Serve over rice and add raw chopped onions, if you'd like. 

4 servings.  calories per serving (without the rice and raw onions/svg suggestion): 400 calories

Friday, February 17, 2012

Much love, Aunt Sarah (part 2)

Another beautiful tribute from a beautiful aunt :)


Happy Birthday little one!!

Four years ago today.  Wow.  It was so much chillier than today, but it wasn't as rainy.  I ran both days.  The run four years ago was a five mile race which is special to me for many reasons, but the most important of which is that the race shirt has your birthday on it.  The shirt is in "my room" and your Mom and Dad's house and I regret not remembering to have it with me today.

I miss you, but for some reason I feel peace this year, like we've come to an end of a cycle and now I've reached closure.  Maybe it's because the Giants again were able to pull off a win against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.  Maybe it's because I am again running the Broad Street 10 miler like I did the year you were born.  I can't put my finger on it, but I feel like this is how it's meant to be.  It doesn't make me miss you any less, but it does take some of the hurt away.

I dedicated a lot of training runs to you and Nicholas four years ago, and the complete joy of finishing my first major race was eclipsed by the fact that when I started training in January for that race in May, I envisioned your Mommy on bed rest in the hospital on race day, sending me good vibes, and possibly watching the race on TV while incubating you and your brother.  And I would stop to visit her in the hospital on my way home.  But I guess that wasn't meant to happen so I drove by CHOP with a tear in my eye. 

I will continue to run with you and for you.  Please watch over me as I train again this spring, and guide me through to another momentous race, but maybe this time without the achilles injury.  :)

Much love,
Aunt Sarah

Sweets for Sophia

While my sweet little one may have wanted cookies, I wanted to do a cake as well... So, I made a cake (chocolate and orange, of course) on Valentine's Day, which I then took to my in-laws on Wednesday to have with dinner as well, and Sophia got her cookies.  Everything turned out so well, that I wanted to share the (vegan) recipes so that you could enjoy a bit of Sophia's sweetness in your life! :)

These recipes originated in the Veganomicon.  The cookie recipe was initially modified by Polly, and further modified (as was the cake) by yours truly. 

Chocolate Orange Cookies (vegan)
In a mixing bowl, combine:
1/4c canola oil
1/4c applesauce
1/2c orange marmalade (natural and unsweetened is best)
1.5tsp orange extract

While this is mixing, melt:
7.5oz dark chocolate
(I use a mixture of 3.25oz each Icelandic 56% and 70%)

Add in the melted chocolate to the wet ingredients.  Turn mixer off while you combine (in another bowl):
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup hazelnut flour
3/4tsp baking soda
1/4tsp salt

Add the dry to the wet, mixing on 3 (low-med) speed, a third at a time.  Then add in:
1/2 cup dried crandberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips ( I used 1/4 mini chips and 1/4 reg chips)

The mixture will be wet and sticky.  Make 24 balls.  Roll them in:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
(there will be a little sugar left over- keep it)

Press the balls into discs.  Place on a cookie sheet.  These wont spread out much, so you can easily do 10-12 per sheet.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and sift some of your leftover powdered sugar over the still-hot cookies.  Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

This recipe makes 30 cookies (2.5 dozen), 150 calories each.


Chocolate-Orange Bundt Cake with Orange Glaze (vegan)

Melt 7.5oz (Icelandic) chocolate (45%) with 1.75 cups of freshly brewed coffee.

In a mixing bowl, mix together:
1.5 cups sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4cup cornstarch
1 tbsp orange extract. 
1/2 cup orange marmalade (unsweetened)

Once cooled, add in the chocolate and mix together.

In a bowl, mix together:
1.5 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1tsp baking soda
1.5tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until well mixed.

Pour into a greased bundt pan and bake at 325 for 50-55 minutes.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate.  Let completely cool.  When the cake is cool to the touch, mix together:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp orange juice

The glaze will be fairly thick.  Add more sugar/juice to get the proper "glaze" consistency.  Spoon over evenly.

16 slices, 220 calories each

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday, Sophia

I always wonder if it will snow on your birthday...  There's no snow in today's forcast, but I still wonder.  A flake or two always seem to fall on the 16th (although last year was warm, a bit moreso than today, yet still unseasonable. :)  It makes me think of you (and, of your 2nd birthday, when there was a beautiful tree covered in snow).  If you'd been born at term in the summer, would you have still sent a snowflake to herald your coming into the world?

I had a goal for your birthday this year...  Since, I enrolled and began my doula training and started MHB on your birthday last year, I decided that, by this year, I wanted to have completed my coursework.  And I have, sweetheart.  I have finished all of the coursework for both the doula and childbirth education classes.  There's still work to be done (which, I'm hoping, I can say "Happy 5th Birthday!" to with certification documents in tow!), but what I wanted to finish has been done.  Happy Birthday, sweetie.  I like to think that, had things been different, you might be my homebirthed, hippie girl... hair in long braids, flowing skirt, organic fruit in hand as you lament the medicalized nature of womanhood before you run out to attend to one of your homebirthing friends.  Perhaps this is my way of channeling you, sweet girl.  I smile as I write that, and now I know I'll smile when I think it too.

I read over your birthday letter from last year and I wrote of an image that has constantly filled my mind over the last few years: that of your wedding day... brushing your hair before securing your veil... laughing with you and remembering your childhood before sending you off on that voyage of womanhood.  I still see that, from time to time.  Sometimes, it's you... Sometimes, it's a vision of Maya in the wedding dress, with you at her side.  You are there... Clearly...  Ever-present.

Just like now.  Different than we had planned, but ever-present.  Our wisdom.  Our sweet, sweet daughter.

I'd intially thought of making you a cake for your birthday- I mean, it's your birthday after all and what's a birthday without cake- but this year, I've felt like you'd want to be different... Special... Cookies.  So, I'm making cookies.  And, for whatever reason, I'm feeling like you want orange marmalade chocolate cookies, rolled in powdered sugar.  I havent even searched for a recipe yet... But, rest assured, you'll have your orange-chocolate cookies... Even if I have to go to Florida and pick the oranges myself! :)

There's another special event planned.  Your PawPaw told us all about a special library event this morning.  While we normally dont 'plan' events on birthdays, we thought you wouldnt mind, seeing as you are one of our heros, if we brought the kids to visit some great American heros.  So, we'll go to Mass, then head on down to meet the Airmen.  I think you'd have liked that too.  In my mind's eye, I see you as quite the history buff.  Your twin brother, too.  You guys always loved hearing Modern Marvels start on the History Channel.  (Your baby twin siblings, on the other hand, loved the opening to Good Eats, on the Food Network...)

You arent in our arms, sweet SophieGirl, but you're in our hearts.  And you're the spark that still shines in our eyes.  But I miss you.  My arms ache to hold you... My ears long to hear your laughter...  One day, my sweet.  One day.  I know, in my heart, this is true.

We love you, baby girl.  Happy 4th Birthday, Sophia.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Killing the Cow

For those who knew me growing up (like my mom), you probably already know the background part of this post.  Ever since I can remember, I havent liked milk.  The taste.  The smell.  Any of it.  Cheese and (Greek) yogurt- that's another story.  But milk, in general.  Yuck.  Even chocolate.  I can swallow it down and, sometimes, might even get the urge for a glass.  But, for the most part, it's not something I want as part of my day.  Not even over cereal.  (Until I found unsweetened almond milk- I vote we saint the girl at Whole Foods who turned me on to that one!- I was debating on either never eating cereal again or pouring juice over it.  Yeah.  I really really dont like milk.)

Ice cream... Love the ice cream that is made from milk.  Half and half... Love a splash of that in coffee.  Cheese... Oh, yes please!  Greek yogurt.... Get your hands off my crate- it's MINE!  Glass of milk?  No, please, you take it.  Really. YOU.TAKE.IT.  Now, preferably.  (There's one exception- I'll get to that.)  Lactose free milk?  You can have that too.  Ugh...

I didnt push this hatred onto the kids.  We had milk.  They would drink it.  We got raw milk.  They liked it better (and, honestly, if I have to drink milk, that would be the one.  It tastes better.  But better is still gross.)  We opened a local chocolate milk.  Man, those kids are nuts.  I actually cut it with 2 parts oat milk and 1 part chocolate milk.  Otherwise, Peter's paycheck should be made out to the farm!  But I will also admit that the fact they prefer nut milks (like almond and hazelnut) and grain milks (like oat and hemp) to dairy does cause me to smile a bit. :)

Why the hatred?  Well (and here's the aforementioned background), growing up, I would always get a sick stomach after drinking milk (even over cereal) and, when I ate or drank a decent bit of dairy (milkshake anyone?) I would have to drink something acidic (lemonade, soda, something) or risk puking.  Yeah.  Not cool- especially when you're a teenage girl making googoo eyes at a cute boy.

What's even more not cool?  Being a thirty-something mom who has to excuse herself after dinner to go puke.  Every other day.  At least. 

Yeah.  SO not fun. 

Welcome to the last few weeks here at Casa Haytko.

At first, I wasnt sure what the problem was.  So, I turned to my trusty food journal (which I keep by hand; I update Less of Me... weekly with stats, but not so much menus any more) and started noticing a pattern.  Dairy?  Puke day.  No dairy?  No puking.

Insert explicative here.  Not because of the moo juice.  But Greek yogurt... They have that in heaven- I'm sure of it.  (And if they dont, then I'm shooting off a text to the heavenly chef to get some pronto!) 

I brought this data to my resident scientist for some analytical mojo.  Certain dairy still seemed harmless.  Certain cheeses were okay (thank you Feta!!!), my beloved yogurt was fine (which includes frozen Greek yogurt which, if you havent tried, you need to!), and a splash of half and half in coffee didnt seem to do any damage.  Which left me feeling like 'what in the...' because you're either lactose intolerant or your not... Right?

Apparently not.  (for a great article on lactose intolerance, you can visit Wikipedia... very interesting! there's also a good article on milk alergies too)

Peter (and I love him, not just because he indulges my whims and crazy moments, but because, in some cases, he provides me for scientific back-up!) has an interesting theory built, surprisingly enough, around the one milk I would drink as a kid: sweet acidiphilus milk.  Apparently, I cant find this outside of visiting my mom (and the last time I was there, I nearly single handedly drank a gallon without any nasty side effects).  The bacteria (in this case acidiphilus and bidfidobacterium cultures) break down the part of the milk (which is what I'm apparently unable to digest, hence my projectile olympics in the bathroom), giving the milk a slightly acidic and sweet taste and odor.

And all this time, I thought it was the taste that got me. :)

He took my yogurt out of the fridge.  Yep.  You guessed it.  My favorite bacteria!  So, yogurt is saved!  It also explains why some cheese seems okay and other cheese doesnt.  Depending on the bacteria used and the amount of "eating" that it has done, I may (or may not) decide on a repeat showing a few minutes after dinner. 

But what about half and half in my coffee?  That, apparently, is a small enough dose of whatever the problem is that the acid in the coffee cuts it enough to make it okay.  (I'm a big black coffee girl so this isnt that big of a deal, but it's good to know.)  Which makes sense.  After drinking a milkshake or having something like a slice of cheesecake, I would always have my acidic beverage and, while my stomach would feel off, I wouldnt puke. 

But that brings us to a new place, food wise.  This week, we've decided to cut dairy from my diet to see if I am without puking.  (So far, so good.)  I had a vegan milkshake yesterday (Coconut Milk ice cream- NSA mint- blended with unsweetened almond milk)  It was so much like a dairy milkshake that I actually waited for the sick stomach and the urge to run to the bathroom.  And waited... And waited... And still- nothing!  No sick stomach!  No retching!  Nada!  (I'm waiting now to delve into the Coconut Milk Pomegranate Chip... Sounds like another delicious time!)

Part of me is excited about the venture.  I mean, I like vegan baking, and have things like this and this as staples.  But, at the same time... Does this mean that bread and butter is off limits?  I mean... hot southern cornbread with a slather of freshly made butter is... well, it's almost Greek yogurt good!  Ice cream I can live without (thank you coconut milk) but I will miss partaking in the ice cream outtings to the local dairy.  And what about cheese filled pasta dishes?  I made baked ziti florentine (which is a favorite in the house) and ended up in the bathroom... twice.  The food was fine (everyone loved it) but I couldnt handle the ricotta.

And vegan cheese?  The only vegan cheese dishes I've really enjoyed are the ones at Pure in NYC (where the cheese is made from nut sources), although thankfully our town is home to a raw, vegan cafe that makes pretty close versions!  And Sarah just found another raw/vegan cafe near her place that we are going to try out for her birthday celebration!  But, in general, the rice/soy based "cheeses" arent exactly on my "must eat" list.  While I'm good with feta and some others right now (or seem to be), I'm a bit fearful that, just as this issue hasnt given me a problem for 3 decades (as long as my acidic beverage was nearby!), it has now decided to rear its ugly head... Will that head also include a love of my precious feta and yogurt? (NO!!!!!)

Thankfully, we're crunchy enough (and live in a foodie enough area) that we are able to get a variety of non-dairy alternatives to the actual dairy that I enjoy (like the ice cream).  I've also found that raw dairy has less of an impact (not really that much of a sick feeling and, so far, no puking afterwards), so perhaps the pasturization that is killing off the bacteria in store bought milk is what actually helps me digest the dairy and, since the raw dairy has that, I'm better for it. 

Talk about a new fun to add to Casa Haytko!  Glass of (nondairy) milk, anyone?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Because Once Wasnt Enough

(both in my posting and in the "part two" I'm referencing)

For those of you who enjoyed DaddyConfidential's hysterical commentary on Doula's that I posted about last week, he has created a second installation.  I'll leave you with my favorite line.

"If you all were a cereal, you’d be granola sprinkled onto a big bowl of Cap’n Crunch. If you were a hip-hop band, you’d be Marky Mark and the Crunchy Bunch."

Go on.  You know it's funny.  And you know you want to read more... So click on over to DC's latest post and get your crunchy laugh going!

In Honor of St. Valentine's Day...

No warm and fuzzy posts... No religious ones either...  Just a priceless post by my quasi-baby sister, Brig.  (Brigid is actually Sarah, AKA Aunt Sarah's, youngest sister, but I love her enough to claim her as my own!  And now that she's started blogging, she's totally mine!)

So, pop on over to Babbling Bridge for a post that is sure to bring a smile to your face!

On my radio show this morning, they were reading last-minute Valentine gift ideas and ripping them apart. These “last-minute-gift-idea” lists are all essentially the same. And they’re all garbage. That’s what last-minute means. You couldn’t be bothered before, but now that it’s crunch-time, you got a flash of brilliant inspiration and are going to pull something amazing out of your ass? Hardly. 
Click here for the full post

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oh My...Cookies

Made these this afternoon... Oh My Deliciousness!   I modified the recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies from The Vegan Table (page 159, for those interested).

Vegan (Crunchy) Almond Butter and (Cherry) Preserves Cookies

75g coconut butter (about 1/3 cup)
1/2c light brown sugar
1/2c crunchy almond butter
2tbsp unsweetened almond milk
1tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
2tbsp cherry preserves

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.

Beat together coconut butter, brown sugar, almond butter, almond milk, and vanilla.

Mix flours and baking powder in a bowl.  Slowly beat into the wet ingredients.

Make 20 balls with the dough.  (I cook 2 rounds of 10 balls each).  Using your thumb, make an indentation in the cookie balls as you are flattening them.  Place them on the baking sheet and spoon in 1/4 tsp of cherry preserves into the thumb indentation.

Bake for 10 minutes at 375.  Cool on the rack for 2 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.  Cool for 5 minutes before eating.

20 cookies at 115 calories each

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 11, 2000

Sometimes I can see it like it was yesterday.  The empty ultrasound screen.  The doctor explaining to me that he was sorry... That there was no baby... That the baby that had been conceived in love and hope had died early on, but that my body just hadn't recognized it and had kept going on as though I were still pregnant.  I can still see him, sitting behind his desk as he gave me a prescription for medication that would cause my body to naturally miscarry.

Back then, babies didnt die.

Back then, infertility was a hidden fear that I thought had been wiped away by our pregnancy.

Back then, I was so young and life was so different.

Back then, on that cold February day, I miscarried my first baby and started the long journey of orphaned parenthood even though I had very little idea of what that meant.  I started dragging my feet up the mountain of infertility that ultimately brought me to Dr. Lee's office.  It was a lifetime ago.

I was a lifetime ago.

I barely recognize that girl now.  She was so different from the woman who sits her now. 

I wonder what I/she would say to the me/her of yesteryear?


Sweet baby P... Little Peter...  A candle is lit for you on our altar today and we send our love to you on the wings of angels and in the tiny hands of heaven's smallest saints. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Dad's Challenge

I saw this on FB, courtesy of another doula. And I have to tell you, while his self-depreciating comments dont apply to Peter (who has been known to say "Why cant men be midwives?" because, truly, he was a GREAT labor support person and I felt like he was really 'with me' in pregnancy/delivery), if I am ever pregnant again, I plan to seek out my own doula! (even with a planned c-section- my comment to the author, in response to his questioning of c-section doulas, explains why).

But, for a good laugh (and a dad's perspective on doulas!), if you havent seen this article, I highly suggest you pop on over to Daddy Confidential and give it a read!!!

I Challenge You To a Doula (2/7/11)
No way you’re expecting a baby!? Holy crap shut up congratulations that’s awesome. You’re probably freaking out in anticipation of the coming rapture. But heed one recommendation to vastly improve everyone’s birth experience – yours, your wife’s… even your baby’s: Totally get a doula.
Unless you live in Berkeley you could probably use a refresher on what the deal is with doulas. Fair enough.
Doula. Rhymes with “hula.” A doula attends a birth for the express purpose of supporting the mother. Why is this necessary? Because you, the expectant father, are beyond useless. You may be all set with clipboard, whistle, and stopwatch – ready to play Birth Coach. But your skill set is more suited to the role of cheerleader. JV squad... (click here to read the full article)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Good Things

The day is lovely and it's not even 1pm yet... 

First off, my first MHB "client" had her daughter yesterday!  She lost her son 2 years ago due to IC, and thanks to a TVC, carried not just to 36 weeks when the stitch came out, but all the way to 41 weeks before going into labor on her own at 4am and delivering before lunch time!  Congrats T and welcome Baby W!!! :)

On the note of previous things, on Monday, we had a kick-ass day at a local playground.  We played, then the kids and I took a nature walk!  It was nearly a mile and they were troopers.  We held hands and talked about all we saw, why the leaves were brown (instead of green) and the trees were bare, why some of the trail was raised (wetlands), some was paved, and some was sand, and about the different animals who lived in the park/forest area.  Afterwards, we played some more.  The weather has been REALLY nice for winter: in the 40s (and some days, 50s). 

I've also become that mom several times over.  The kids still dont eat the food (I'll order a salad or the fruit/walnut/yogurt snack and will bring food for them), but the LOVE the play area.  And the indoor play yard at the McDonald's near us is so incredibly awesome that playgroups actually meet there (like the one that I'm a part of! see more info below!).  Apparently (or so I'm told by other moms who go there and dont let their kids eat the food either), the management has told them that they dont care if you bring your kids lunch.  REALLY?  Wow... Then I dont even have to feel bad!  But, still, it's a business.  I respect that (even if not so much the product), so I order my salad and unsweetened iced tea, pay my $5, and let the kids run wild in a completely enclosed (with a bathroom!) space that has a play area that I am incredibly jealous of (because it looks like fun and I'm too big to play in it!).  One morning, we were there for over and hour and a half.  And because the tables, etc, are in the same space as the play yard, I can read a book, while still keeping an eye on the kids.  It's insane.  It's really great.  (And I'm sure it's part of the great, evil plan to get kids to love Ronald so much that they will eventually love- and eat- the food...  God willing, not my kids, but I still get it.)

Playgroups.  To cousin Paula and all the other awesome folks who suggested that I take a harder look and find time in the schedule for playgroups (and to search out Meetup for local ones).  THANK YOU.  YOU ROCK.  Not only are we getting back involved in the local parish's weekly playgroup, but we are also now active in a local group I found on Meetup.  And not just active- I'm the toddler playdate organizer!  They asked if folks were willing to help, I said I was, and boom!  In addition to a weekly morning playgroup at our house (I'm REALLY thankful for the playroom and the outside playground we spent the last year creating- thank you Craigslist and second hand stores!), I've also scheduled a monthly evening playgroup/potluck, as well as a monthly (right now) yoga class for parents.  It's a great bunch of parents, and I'm excited to branch out a bit more. 

The parish playgroup is run by a friend (and local mom).  We went when the kids were much younger, but decided recently that we should make the time to go.  It's on Wednesday mornings, when the kids are usually at Peter's parents, but we're going to alter the schedule a bit so that we can make it.  And today really shows why.  In addition to playing (which they loved), Bobby and a little boy their age connected last week (running up and down the handicapped ramp will do that!) and today, when the little guy, E, arrived, Bobby's face lit up.  They played together for most of the morning and, at one time, Bobby came up to me and said "Friend".  Bobby's not a talker; this is a big deal, and it really warmed my heart.  Maya, social butterfly that she is, loves to play and chat with whomever will talk (or listen!) to her.  She also ADORES the Virgin Mary.  There is a statue in one of the window areas.  No joke- FIVE times, I had to ask Maya to come out.  What was she doing?  Praying.  (I know... How do you ask your child to stop praying?)  She would go to the window, get on her knees and fold her hands, and start praying outloud.  The only words I would get when I found her were "Mama Mary", which is what we call Her, and she would kiss the statue when she was done, then come out and play... Before finding herself back there.  Apparently, a lot of folks needed prayer today... and we are raising a nun!  (or maybe not, she did give a heart sticker to a little boy (part of a twin set) a few months younger than she...) :)  The kids each made a heart craft for Peter (I was able to work one-on-one with them; one would play while one crafted- worked out really well!) and, as we were celebrating a birthday, they got to pick out a cupcake to eat (which they loved).  Maya even stayed in playgroup- calmly- while I left with Bobby to change his dipe.  So, all in all, a really awesome morning.  It runs until 11am, which is how long we stayed today because my in-laws are on vacation, but we'll probably cut out around 10am so I can take the kids to "Uita and Grandpa's house" normally.  But it's a nice group with a lot of nice families.  And several of the kids will be going to the Church preschool next year, so Bobby and Maya will know a few of the kids in their class from playgroup (which they will still be able to attend because preschool is Tues/Thurs and playgroup is Wed! Yay!).

As I mentioned before, we have to change our parish affiliation because we're sending the kids to the local parish school.  I emailed our priest and secretary this morning to let them know... they are SO wonderful.  It was heartbreaking to do, and their responses were so sweet.  I'll still be cantoring there each month, but still... We're going to miss attending there most Sundays and holy days.  But, come tomorrow, we'll be registering at our local parish.  I have an appointment with one of the priests (which is how this parish does its registrations) tomorrow afternoon.  I've already copied our baptismal certificates, etc, so I basically just have to go, have a chat, and fill out some paperwork, I suppose.

In other groovy news: Yay Yoga Solstice! :)  The studio has been ready to go and I'll be teaching a regularly scheduled Monday evening "Yoga for Infertility" class each week!  WOO HOO!  I'm kind of excited.  My other classes are still open, and other than some private instruction, this is a big deal (for me, at least:) ).  Yay!  I'm pretty psyched about it.

Oh and what post would be complete without some TMI.  Let me just say how incredibly cool it is to be able to "predict" for the most part when my period is going to start.  The years of not having and not knowing when one would show up were pains...  This whole thing of (relatively) monthly cycles- pretty darn nice.  I'm usually about 32 days.  This cycle?  31.  But I knew.  I felt when I ovulated and told Peter that I was due today. Even though I woke up without, guess what happened after lunch?  Yep.  Exactly.  CD1.  I'm actually quite happy to know that my body is behaving (in a multitude of ways).

This post is all over the place- sorry... I'm trying to update with recent stuff and my mind is running a mile a minute.  Not to mention, I have some homework that I've been working on since December (LONG assignment... It's killing me.) so I'd better get to that... 

Icing on a God-Awful Cake

I had a playdate Monday with a friend.  Her daughter is 3 and the kids all had a lovely time playing.  Bobby and Maya are at the age where they can be trusted (somewhat) in their bedroom and playroom, so T and I actually sat in the living room, drank coffee, and chatted like grown-ups!  It was quite a new experience!

Part of our discussion was weight.  While we'd kept up on FB, we hadnt seen each other since I attended a mom's group (where we met), back when the kids were still in infant seats... That's quite a while.  We both have eating issues and have struggled with our weight.

But it got me to thinking...  Especially now that I'm training for the Marathon, I've gotten back into monitoring my food (to make sure I'm fueling enough for my running days and not overdoing it on my non-running days).  In the couple of weeks since this started, I'm down 8 pounds (don't applaud... My weight had gotten back up to 178 from 165 (over my birthday) when I took the second half of 2011 off).  As of this morning, I'm back down to 170 (with a goal, still, of 150 at some point, but a happy place of 155-160, I think).  But, in talking to her (and this is someone who really gets it, so there's no need for me to be), I'm embarrassed.

It still bothers me to have to admit that the problem wasn't Hashimoto's or PCOS (not that those helped at all), but that it was me.  My lack of self-control.  My denial of what was right in front of my face. My fault.

August 2010

September 2010

December 2011

January 2012

I look back on the photos, and I can't help but feel, truth be told, awful.  Like I threw years of my life away.  That it didnt have to be that way.

Peter and I were chatting after the day, and when I told him that I feel like a phoney because I still have the exact same issues as the obese-me had (I just control them better) and I havent overcome anything, he said something interesting.  He said that it isnt about feeling like you've overcome... That it really is about the day-by-day, the just getting through the issue for the day.  That it's alright if I still feel like I want to ravage the fridge for no good reason- because I dont.  Because I found out that the reason is deeper inside that I ever thought before.  It's not that Bobby and Maya are the only reason- it's that they showed me the real reason is to be a better me.  For them, yes, but for me, too.

He's a smart guy, this man I married.  As we inch closer to the 14th anniversary of our meeting that fateful night in 1998, I'm reminded over and over again of why I fell in love with him in that moment, and why our love has endured and grown over the years.  Even in my mopey moments, he still can shine a ray of sunshine.

I look back with guilt and regret, but when I see him look back at those pictures, he doesnt.  I see a fat girl- he sees the woman he loves (then and now).  When I complain that I look awful, he tells me that my eyes were sparkling or that my hair framed my face nicely.  And it isnt just because he's trying to find the icing on the (GOD AWFUL) cake... It's because he really sees it that way.

I'm a lucky girl.  A girl with issues, but with a lot of luck. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Late But Done

So, I'm months behind, but I've posted pics...

December 2011 (Christmas)
January 2012

(There seemed to be a number of problems when I was trying to upload the pictures, so if the above links dont work, let me know and I'll try to fix them!)

And the Winner Is... (HHB)

Originally posted here

So, we selected the preschool that the kids will attend this fall. After visiting a Montessori, Quaker, and Catholic preschool, we ultimately went with the local Catholic school. We liked the school on the whole, although it was a tough choice between it and the Quaker one (which we also really liked).

I'll be volunteering at the school beginning this month, in their library. I havent done real library work since I resigned in 2009, pregnant with the twins! So, that's exciting. :) It was the suggestion of a mom in the parish, whose kids go to the school. It will give me a good understanding of the school, and help me get to know the staff, teachers, etc. Since I'm not altogether comfortable with the kids going to a traditional school, I'm hoping this will help.

One of the hardest decisions is transferring parishes. In order for our kids to attend the local Catholic school, we have to transfer our membership from our parish (in a neighboring town) to our local one. It's a nice church, but I will miss Fr. B. and our parish family. I still plan to cantor at our parish monthly, but it wont be the same. We're finishing up our ministries there and will be transfering membership to the new parish in the coming weeks/months. Tough choices... But with the school closures/combinings, we cant stay at our old parish and send the kids to this parish school.

So, lots of changes coming in the coming months!

Monday, February 6, 2012


Recently overheard.

Me: My foot hurts.  Maya stepped on it.  I wonder what happened.

Peter: Your foot hurts?  Your period must be due.

Me: What?????

Peter: Yeah, one of your feet always hurts the day or two before you get your period.

Wow.  How the hell does he know that when I dont????

The Same Ending

Yesterday was the Super Bowl.  I planned out some delicious goodies (black bean-quinoa nachos, anyone?), went for a run, had a great morning with the kids.  I knew the day would be hard.  What's hard about Super Bowl Sunday?  I mean, it's just a football game.

But a Giants-Patriots match-up is more than a game for me, emotionally that is.  It's a trigger...  A gateway back a few years.  And, as the commentators kept talking about "the same game four years ago", it was something else for the me that was there four years ago...  The me holding her dead son in her arms and feeling her daughter kick away from the inside...  The me watching that game and feeling as though my very breathing was dependent upon the Giants winning an unwinable game... breaking a full-season winning streak for the Patriots...

We didnt even watch football, save the rare game when a fan was visiting.  It was 'just a game'.  No big deal.

Why was that one so important?  Why did I take hold of that Super Bowl in 2008, as though somehow the underdogs winning would give me some guarantee that Sophia would live another moment?  Why did their winning become intertwined with me leaving the hospital, still pregnant, for those precious days? 

The game earlier in the season that rematched NY and NE was a tough one to watch, and it was a nailbiter, as the Giants eventually came out on top.  But it was just a game.  Albeit one that was hard to watch, one that I got through relatively unscathed.

But yesterday.  Oh yesterday.

I spent a fair amount of the first quarter in the bedroom, bawling.  TV on, listening, but in tears.  Head buried in Nicholas's blanket...  Fingers touching their hats... Looking at the polaroids from CHOP, before we'd gone to HUP.  Putting their small hospital bands on my finger... Looking at their names and weights and birthdays on the little birth certificate cards...  Even the crematory cards and little stuffed animals from the hospital.  Hot, salty tears... 

The second quarter I hovered between the snacks in the kitchen and the living room, eating, trying to laugh, verge of tears.  Although halftime brought a flood of what-do-you-mean-we're-behind-by-one-point anger, LOL. :)  We watched a cartoon instead of the halftime show, and switched back to the third quarter while the kids took a bath.

Then we turned it off and went to bed.

Part of it was that neither of us wanted to see the end.  Because, win or lose, it didnt matter.  There would be no repeat... No way to hold Nicholas again, or feel Sophia moving inside again.  A repeat of a 4 year old Super Bowl wasnt going to give us that again.   We laid in bed and talked...  Held each other... Remembered.... Discussed how what we fantasize about is a life with all five of them playing together and laughing together... a life that could never be.  That never would have been.  A dream that we can have, but not the life we were meant to live.  And this is the life we would choose.  Over and over again.  To have them all, even if not as we'd initially thought... Hoped... Dreamed of...

This morning, we watched the 4th quarter (thank you DVR).  Watched the game winning (and losing) plays...  Cheered for the boys in blue.  Looked at each other with a knowing look as we remembered cheering them 4 years ago, from a hospital bed in what seems like a world far, far away. 

But when the commentators mentioned how it was the same ending, I felt the lump in my throat rise.  The same ending.  Just not for us.

Thank God, not for us.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Go Giants!!!!  We're rooting for you (especially Maya, who will say, with such enthusiasm, "Go Eli!  Go Jacobs!  Go Bradshaw!  Go Tynes!  Go Pierre-Paul!  Go Cruz!"  We say it, excluding Go Eli, which she will say on her own, and she repeats with a dance!)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lá Fhéile Bríde

Today is the halfway mark between winter and spring...  Brigid's Day...  Some dear friends are coming to the house in a few hours (so I'd better go run my scheduled six miles for the! and get my butt back here in time for a shower!).   We'll celebrate together, meditate together, eat together.  Laugh and share stories and catch up.  Be grateful for the winter season (and even more grateful that the halfway mark is here and each day forward is a step closer to spring!)

A festival of milks (ancient folks were herding their ewes), we'll dine on cheeses for appetizers, risotto for dinner, and butter cake (complete with buttercream frosting!) for dessert.  (One year, we actually did a milk tasting, which was pretty darn cool!)  In keeping with the old tradition, each family will bring a candle (ours is red) which we'll bless (Candlemas, or the Mass of the Candles or Mass of Mary of the Candles as it is sometimes known, was Feb 2).  We'll also bless some oil to use in times of illness, as she is a patron of healing and health.   

Brigid is special to me.  She's not just my patron and Confirmation saint.  It's not even that she's Irish (although that helps!).  She's a patroness of the arts... of midwives... of women and babies...  When Nicholas was born and died, on her observed day of the 1st (the 4th is this year's astronimical date of the midpoint between winter/spring), we entrusted him to her care until we were able to be with him again.  I've always felt that his birth on that day, and Sophia's in the month of February, were symbolic of their being with this patroness of infants in the womb.  Of mothers...  Of me.

It's a special day.  For years, I prayed to become a mother on this day, for Brigid to intercede for me.  Then, there were the years (and they remain) that I pray for her to watch over my children.  Even now, on the verge of a birth for a doula client (who was due on the 1st!), I find that I'm asking Brigid for her help...  To watch over... To protect... To guide...

I joke with Peter that this, like St. Patrick's Day, is a day that he gets to pretend he's Irish :)  (I mean, we all know he wants to be- doesnt everyone!)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Yoga Babies

Who says that a yoga-mama doesn't make for gorgeous yoga-babies? :)

Tailor Pose

in meditation

Child's Pose

Downward Dog

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Much Love, Aunt Sarah

Happy 4th Birthday, Nicholas!!!
I can't believe you would be 4!!! I keep thinking about how grown up you would be and how we could go off on special adventures, just the two of us.  :)  Maybe we walk to the park and go to the playground.  I bet you like the swings and you are so big I can now start to teach you to pump all by yourself.  Do we then go for ice cream, or do you prefer water ice?  It's fun to think about, but I will never know, and that leaves me with an emptiness that will never be filled despite the constant rewards of being called Aunt by R**** [her other goddaughter] and Bobby and Maya.
Stay sweet, little one.  And thank you for celebrating with us by sending the sunshine and glorious weather.
Much love,
Aunt Sarah 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday, Nicholas

How is it that 4 years have now passed? One thousand, four hundred and sixty-one sunrises...  Fifty-two cycles of the moon...  Thirty five thousand, sixty-four hours... Two million, one hundred and three thousand, eight hundred and forty minutes... one hundred and twenty six million, two hundred and thirty thousand, four hundred seconds that have ticked off the clock, one by one.  You live for thirty-three hundred of those seconds... For fifty-five of those minutes...  For nearly one of those thirty five thousand, sixty-four hours.  And, for the rest of those 35,063 hours we have missed you...  been without your sweet laughs and smiles... arms empty of your snuggles...  noses void of your smells...  fingers dry from your tears... faces lacking your wet kisses.

And it hurts...  In the deepest places... In the hardest of ways...  It hurts.  And we miss you. Every.Single.Day. 

I daily read from a book of quotes from Mother Theresa.  Recently, the same quote kept coming back, every day as I turned to a random page.
"True love is love that causes us pain, that hurts, and yet brings us to joy."
It's so true, my dear boy... my sweet son.  And love you I do.

A year ago, I was angry.  I wrote your birthday letter, but that just wasnt enough.  I was just so angry.  I remember running and running... But I couldn't run from it.  I couldn't run hard enough.  I ran so hard that I couldn't breathe.  A penance perhaps?  For knowing that your early delivery brought your every breath as a struggle?  That you fought so hard against those tiny lungs that were collapsing against your strong yet frail body because my body couldnt fight hard enough to hold you inside?  I ran and ran and ran... anger pulsing...  breaths shallow... to the point that I had to get off the treadmill for fear that I would never catch my breath... And the tears that came as I exited the gym into the cold, dark night... Spatters of rain- of your kisses- melding with my hot tears.  Driving back home, to our fairly new home, a home you had never physically been inside but somehow had it radiating with your presence.

So much anger.  So much.


I wrote that, last year, Nicholas, you gave me the birthday present.  That you told me it was alright to let go of the hurt and the anger...  That it wasn't letting you go.  That I'd never be able to let you go.  That letting go of the pain didnt mean erasing the memories, too.  And now, as I look back at your birth, there is still the hurt of knowing you couldnt stay, but the deep rooted pain- that pain that was mixed with the anger and the unfairness of it all- I cant find it.  It as though you opened a window, blew on it with your Divine breath, and suddenly it dissipated.  The smothering, gone.

I wondered if it would come back on your twin sister's bithday, but it didn't... And, nine months later on your little brother's birthday, it was still missing.  And today, a year later, still... Gone. 

The effects of your peace still linger...  In fact, my first MHB client's EDD is today- your birthday.  I wouldn't have imagined being in a hospital on your birthday without the PTSD coming out and I honestly cant imagine taking a client with an EDD of one of your birthdays, but... Instead, I felt you say "Go for it!".  I felt you tell me that you were watching over this little winter peanut.  So, my scrubs are ready and the doula bag is packed and ready to go, and we're on waiting mode.

I wouldnt have imagined wanting to spend a day surrounded by children, and yet today, we took birthday cupcakes to playgroup, where Bobby and Maya played to their hearts contents while we chatted up other parents.  How would I ever have imagined spending the day my sweet boy was born in the company of other children?  But this is how you would have wanted to spend this too, I think.  Playing with friends... Eating homemade fudge cupcakes topped with buttercream frosting and red sprinkles, for Mama's patron, St. Brighid, for whom you share this special day with.

I wouldnt have imagined smiling at your Mass... Laughing over your lunch...  Running your birthday miles this afternoon and reflecting with peace...  Joking as we took a walk in this lovely (and unseasonably warm!) weather.  But your memories are full of joy for me.  They always were but now I can see them clearly, without the haze of new grief, without the sickening anger at the unfairness of your death. 

We put four flowers on our home altar today and added 6 more- one from each of us and your siblings- to the Blessed Mother outside.  (And Maya added a pinecone after the playground this afternoon).

My sweet Nicholas... My son... I've always said that I wouldn't change a moment of my life because it brought me you and your twin sister and your younger siblings.  And I wouldnt.  Even in the darkest days, I still wouldnt.  But now, now there is a peace... And easier way to breathe.  An understanding that you chose me to be your mother... That you showed my what love is.  I thought I knew, but the last few years really brought it home.

Your baby blanket hangs over my comfy "nursing" chair that sits in our bedroom.  Sometimes, I sit there while Bobby and Maya nap, and I cradle it in my arms.  I can still smell you in those moments.  And, while there are still tears in my eyes, there is so much joy in my heart.  Because you are my son.  And I am your mother.

One day, I know I'll see your smile again, and I'll feel your arms around me, just like I felt your fingers wrap around mine the night you were born.  Until then, I'll welcome the sunlight on my face and hear in it your laughter... I'll catch the rain in my hair and know it is your kisses, raining down on me from heaven...  I'll hear the windchimes knock together in the breeze and know they are echoing your "I love you". 

Happy Birthday, sweet Nicholas.  I can't believe that four years have passed since that night so long ago that you were born, but I'm so thankful every single day that you are my son.  I love you.