Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vegan, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

The kids and I really enjoy cooking together.  Maya is my chef. She loves to do meals.  Bobby is my baker. He gets excited when the oven flips on (but would rather eat what comes off the stove than make it!).  Cooking is a great way to toss a bit of math into our day; since I dont normally measure things unless I'm doing GF or V cooking, these cookies are the best of both worlds (and they taste AMAZING!)  So, in the vein of vegan banana bread and Peter's GF chocolate chip cookies, here are the most recent happy addition to Bobby and Maya's baking repertoire!

Bobby & Maya's Vegan, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cream together: 1/2 cup vegan butter (or 1/3 cup canola oil), 1/4 cup coconut oil, and 1/4 cup applesauce with 3/4 cup brown sugar and 3/4 cup sugar

Add 1 banana and 1 tsp vanilla and mix until smooth.

In another bowl, mix together 1/3 cup almond flour, 1/3 cup coconut flour, and 1 2/3 cup white rice flour with 1 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt.

Add flour mixture to your wet ingredients and mix until well combined.

Add a 12oz bag of vegan chocolate chips and continue to mix until well combined. 

Drop by tbsp on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and flatten with a fork; cool for 2 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack or wax paper to cool for 5-10 minutes.

These are moist and just perfect!  Enjoy with a cup of milk (dairy free, if you prefer!) or just shove them in your mouth before the little Bobby and Maya monsters get your house!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Yesterday morning was a 'rest' day; I long run on Sundays, so Mondays I usually lounge, do a bit of yoga-- okay, Mondays, I usually dont do squat. I take 'rest' pretty seriously so I walk my butt from the couch to the fridge to the couch, rinse, repeat. And yoga in the evening. So, there: I do something. But yesterday morning, I got out of bed, suited up, and went for a walk. I wanted to run, but I also want to avoid injury, so a walk it was. To make sure I didnt run, I left my music at home and let nature be the symphony of morning instead. It was a tad humid, with the last vestiges of summer lingering and starting (just slightly) to make room for autumn.  I'd gone about a mile when I saw something peeking out from the sky. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple... faint lines in a crescent and broken by a cloud. How can you not smile when you see a rainbow?

As I walked, I kept glancing up and, even when I turned, I would look over my shoulder, just to make sure that the rainbow was still there.  It was and the cloud dissipated so that, eventually, I could make out the entire thing.  It 'ended' somewhere where the border of town is on one side and, low and behold, at my house on the other.  (Okay, so not really... the 'end points' change the farther out or closer in you walk, but you get the idea).

Maybe a mile and a half into the walk, large drops of rain started to fall and turned into a drizzle, all while the sun stayed on the other side of town, continuing to reflect against the raindrops and cast that crescent of color across the darkening clouds.  At one point, as I looped around the neighborhood on my walk, I lost sight of the rainbow and my heart fell a bit, but just as I came out a few blocks down, there it was, still there, having never left in the first place.

The reflection of light against water, of hope against tears... Something always present, even if we arent able to see it... Sometimes the rainbow only disappears because we are so wrapped up beneath it that our vision has shifted; all we need to do is come out on the other side to see it again... Sometimes it only isnt there because the sunlight goes behind a cloud during a storm or because, by the time it returns, the water has already dried.

On my walk, a man I'd passed looped back around and found me, a smile on his face. "Did you see the rainbow?" he asked with excitement. I responded with my own smile, assuring him that I did.  Maybe he was chasing rainbows too...


My many thanks for all of the comments, emails, texts, phone calls, chats, and FB emails that I've received over the last few days. I have been overwelmed by the outpouring of love, hope, and sharing that those I know as well as those I dont know have heaped on in droves. Thank you for sharing the stories of your children- those with spectrum disorders, speech delays, and just those who were a bit off the 'average' in their development with no diagnosis or known concern- and your journeys with me. The support has been overwelming and has considerably lifted my spirits.  A friend of mine sent me an email that she titled "Motherhood is not for the faint hearted" and one of the things she shared was "When you become a mother, you just don't know the way the road is going to turn and what challenges lie ahead.  It is my belief that I have learned more about myself and life from being a mother than my children have learned from me.  Their journeys are still before them."  Those sentences have been with me since her emailed pinged my inbox and I still get a chill reading them.  How true... How very true...

So, for all of your words and thoughts, thank you.  Truly.  I may not have responded to you personally, but everything you've shared has meant so much to me.


I dont know what the road holds for us or for Bobby (or for Maya, either). What I do know is that we all, in one way or another, have challenges and special needs. Some of us hide them better than others, for some of us they are deeply on the inside instead of a part of our physical being that we have no choice but to show the world, and for some of us, we've learned to deal in a world that is meant for 'average' and 'typical'.  'Atypical' isn't bad; it's just different.  I'm atypical; so is my son.  In some way, we all are.  As my brother said to me recently, everything is all about finding a way to just deal and move beyond... move foward.

We've been really lucky to have such a wonderful EI team who cares for Bobby and wants to see him succeed. In six months, he has come out of his shell in so many ways.  Their help has been invaluable. Next week, we close the door on that chapter of Bobby's life, and it is sad to see J, who we've been with for those 6 months, and R, who we havent worked with as long, go. We'll all miss them, but what they've given and taught us will continue to play a role in how we work through issues. We've talked about it a lot and, although our course of action may not work for everyone, it's where we are right now.

I've emailed Bobby and Maya's preschool teacher and, if my first feeling of her being a good teacher wasnt spot on, then her email was a hammer hitting me in the face. This woman? Wonderful. We havent even had a school year with her yet and I love her already.  I sent her a copy of his recent speech eval and in her email, she thanked me for sharing it then went on to give me some of her personal experiences working with children who struggle with speech. I was in tears at the end of it. She clearly understands and wants to help Bobby succeed in school and, if he needs extra help, I have no question that she will reach out and make sure that we are able to get it. She also, God love her, is willing to have the kids come into the classroom this week and next to meet her and get a feel for the space before school starts in two weeks. Reading her words took a huge burden off my heart. The school year hasnt started yet and it may be rough; we may have to change our plan a hundred times. But I know that we have a partner in the journey with their teacher. Amen for that.

We have decided to decline a psychological evaluation at this time via the IU. If Bobby isn't adjusting to preschool well or if his teacher suggests after a few classes to get one, we will heed her advice and have it done, but prior to the school year starting, we aren't willing to undergo the possibility that he will have another bad experience with an evaluator whom he may visualize as a 'teacher' figure. I had enough of a hard time getting him back to ground level after the last eval; neither Peter nor I want to skew his first few school weeks with a negative experience.  This will delay his IEP. We accept that as a consequence and are okay with it.

We have also decided not to pursue interim therapists. EI told us that the IU is required to honor his 1 hour of special instruction (speech) and 1 hour of OT until they complete his IEP and make a determination on services. The flip side is that the therapists given wouldnt be the therapists he'd be assigned post-IEP.  It took Bobby a while to warm up to his therapists at the EI (and they rock); even today, with the last 2 weeks being vacation weeks from speech, he wasnt as responsive. He knows J, but it just takes him a while to set his routine and go with it.  If the IEP does come down the pike in the next 2 weeks, we are not planning on having therapists in preschool for at least the first month, unless his preschool teacher asks us to.  We want to give Bobby the chance to bond with Miss M and for her to find her own groove with him before automatically adding someone into the mix. She has told us she will tell us if she needs help or if he needs a therapist in class. We trust her on this.

What we are going to do, in spite of the cost, is talk with the SLP who evaluated him about weekly therapy.  Due to the generosity of Peter's parents who have put money aside for any special needs therapy that Bobby may need as well as a savings account that we have for Bobby and Maya's education, we are going to seek out private speech services.  The SLP recommended twice a week and we're going to try and work out some sort of situation where I take Bobby to her office, the next town over, so that he can have his therapy without Maya helping him (or feeling slighted that she isnt getting therapy). I think it may also help him grasp the concept of his SLP as a 'teacher' and he may be more open to working with her and learning with her.

And let me not forget to mention yesterday with Bobby... What a day... He was spot on all day.  Eye contact was good, he was talkative and demonstrative, and outbursts were minimal. One exchange will be in my head for a while. He told me he was hungry and got in his chair at the table. "Would you like goldfish or a graham cracker?" (typical snacks).  Bobby looked at me and said, clearly, "I want ice cream."  (with shock) "You want ice cream?"  He looked away, at his grandmother who was visiting, then back at me. "Yes. Want ice cream."  Still in shock, I got him a cone and put some vanilla ice cream on it. When I gave it to him, he smiled and danced in his chair. "Ice cream!" The delight of being understood was so clear.  And the delight of understanding? I cant even begin to describe it.

On Friday, when my dad visited, Bobby went to him and took his hand, wrapping his PawPaw's hand around his own. "Draw," he said. My dad guided Bobby's hand on the drawing board and then just held it while Bobby drew and wrote shapes.  They switched hands and afterwards my dad shared with me a few things he'd gleaned from the half hour (yeah... half an hour).  He said that Bobby's right hand seemed stiff, as though he was trying to write and draw correctly, while his left hand was completely relaxed although his penmenship stayed the same.  From an artistic standpoint, Bobby held his instruments in a more 'correct' and relaxed fashion in his left hand.  Keeping this in mind, when it was time for us to do some homeschool worksheets that I do with them daily, instead of modeling with my right hand (I'm a righty) and then trying to work with Bobby on the right (he usually has a crayon in both hands and we've tried to go with whatever hand is closest to the paper but realize we've been falling back on the right), I modeled with my left and then delicately held his left hand.  This exercise normally leaves us both frustrated and it can take 15 minutes to do one worksheet (we're talking drawing a line or two from point A to point B or tracing shapes) because, once I've started, we're doing the damn worksheet. This time? It still wasnt a Maya experience of "I DO IT MYSELF!!!!", but it was a ton easier. I kept my hand on his and explained what we were going to do, but he did it. And boy was his left hand more relaxed!  Is he left hand dominate in writing and drawing? Quite possibly.  And no wonder he hated doing his worksheets with his right hand if that is the case. Writing with my left hand is a stiff, unfun experience.  With my Irish temper, it's no wonder he was ticked off every time it was his turn.  (That being said, he still wants to do things on his time table and isnt thrilled when I tell him he's going to do worksheets, read, etc, but hey kiddo, life is life. We all do things we dont like or when we dont want to do them.)


A dear friend put me in touch with a mom who has a son with Aspberger's Syndrome, as a means of reaching out and getting a point of view of a Spectrum mom.  One of the things she said was that she often sees parents who describe themselves as desperate and that I didnt come across as though I felt like our home was desperate.

We arent.  Part of me feels bad complaining because we're lucky. We've got great kids and a great family and a great household.  I am so blessed.  We struggle, but everyone struggles.  The greatest lie we tell ourselves is that life is supposed to be without struggle (followed by the lie that life should be fair).  The one thing that we miss is that life is perfect- perfect for us as we live it.  Any other life wouldnt be ours.  It's not easy, it's not convenient, but regardless of how pissed off you may be, it's going to happen.  And if you arent in the mix, it's going to happen all around you.  With or without you taking a stance and making a difference.

I said it before- my son is perfect.  That's the only label he needs.  At this point, I know a lot about him- I know that he struggles to communicate functionally, I know that he has his mama's bad temper, I know that he is bright and smart and kicks me in the teeth with some of the amazing stuff he comes up with.  And I know that I have a hell of a lot more to learn about him.  There's an infinitesimal amount that I dont know about him.  I dont know if he meets the requirements for PDD-NOS or if he will always struggle to communicate.  And I dont care.  Not about the label.  I care about advocating for what he needs to make his mark on the world until he can advocate for himself.  I care about getting him the services he needs to make sure that he can tell the universe all the brilliant things that run though his mind.  And I care about learning all I can about every quirk and gift he's got going on so that I can help him learn the world around him.

I care about the same things with and for Maya.  And for Peter.  And for all the people I love.


I write music from time to time.  Many years ago, I wrote a piece that, a few days ago, drifted back into my head and it keeps playing over and over again in my mind.    You are me and I am you, and we make the world a beautiful place. Every being lovely. Every thing complete. All just the way it should be.  The light is changed by the reflector just as I am seen differently by you. We are all unique in our reflection... It goes on, but it is that last little bit. The light is changed by the reflector and we are all unique in our reflection of That Which Is.  I've never wished for Bobby or Maya to be anyone other than who they are because for a long time, I just wanted to be someone other than who I am. How much harder accepting me would have been if my mom had said "Why couldnt you be like X"... Funny enough, I dont even think she ever even wished that. She may have shaken her head at times or prayed for the strength not to strangle me, but if I had to point to someone who has stood behind me and cheered for me to find my own way, even when that meant stumbling and getting up bloody and with a tearstained face, it's that woman.

We're going to get there, wherever the elusive there is.  The road- it's going to be bumpy.  There may be tears or screams (yeah, probably both).  I may blog here twice a day or twice a year (okay, I wont be that awful), but this space is a part of my journey too, and from the depths of my soul, thank you thank you for choosing to be a part of the walk with me and giving me your own stories to sustain me (or to just throw me back into reality).

(And, on a housekeeping note, I'm being overrun in new tech over here.  The laptop and phone that I got while on bedrest with Bobby and Maya are on their way out.  My new phone is here and I'm trying to learn it but the 'smart phone' is a smartass and smarter than me so we are having a sort of fifty shades style relationship together. If you call, I may hang up on you- by accident of course!- but eventually, I will get this thing under my control!!!  The new laptop is here as well, but Peter is still setting it up for me.  If you know me in real life, you know that my skills lie in the Domestic Goddess realm, which is about as far from the technologically saavy realm as Donna-Reed-On-Crack gets.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Ache of Perfection

I've been putting this post off for a while... a few weeks, actually. I havent been able to sit down and air out my thoughts (and havent wanted to find the time either). Articulation just isnt coming to me. I havent really spoken to close friends because I havent had the words or the answers to the questions that are sure to come. In so much, I just dont know. Part of that is not knowing where to begin.

For six months, Bobby has been getting therapy through the Early Intervention program. For no cost to us, a Special Instructor (SI) has been visiting on Tuesday mornings for an hour to work with him on functional speech, verbal possession (i.e. 'this is mine' versus grabbing at a toy that was taken from him), and expressing refusal (i.e. 'no', 'dont', etc., since he wouldnt refuse). Six months ago, we had a child who rarely spoke; now we have a soon-to-be preschooler who sings and has a vocabularly (albeit smaller than the average 3 year old). He will say no or refuse things he doesnt want, and that has gotten better in the last month.  He's still struggling with possession, but we hear things every now and again. While he used to turn to his fists as a first resort when things werent going his way, he makes an attempt to use his words or get help first (most of the time). But he's still struggling and we are a far way from finished with the journey.

On his third birthday, Bobby ages out of EI and his therapy needs would be handled through the Intermediate Unit of our county (IU). We'd been told by other parents that the IU were a completely different can of worms, and our EI team had told us to not expect "warm and fuzzy". Whereas EI comes into the home to help the family unit and to help parents help their child, the IU is a teach-to-the-test, focused group that's basically there to get a young child ready for kindergarten (or an older kid up to snuff for their grade level). From that background alone, I wasnt excited about the meeting, but Peter and I decided to give the IU the benefit of the doubt. After all, it's the therapists who really make the difference and therapy isnt inexpensive.

So, we went... And the 'one hour eval' scheduled at 9:30 (for which we had to arrive 15 minutes early) that became 2 hours and had both kids ready to eat the car by the time we loaded them in. Other than the OT (occupational therapy) evaluator, who I thought did a great job, I wasn't impressed. The SLP (speech language pathologist) who came off as a bit cold although I thought she was competent and I down-right couldnt stomach the SI (special education instructor/special instructor).  Really, really, really didnt care for her. It didnt even feel like she was trying. Comments like "your son has problems" (are there folks who come here because their kids arent struggling in some way???), "your son is violent" (this was said when he was scared because the SLP had boxed him in with a wall and he was trying to get away from her; he has a nervous fidget where he tries to bury his hands in my hair and, yes, it hurts because he's pulling it, but it's a quest for solace, not a violent tendency, and this is what he did when he finally pushed behind her chair and got to me), "you need to take him to a psychologist right away" (while this is an okay recommendation to make, the tone with which she made it and the implications she made while she was making it the first of several times were off the mark).

The appointment was awful. (Awful enough that, when I was relaying it to his current EI team, our case mgr told me that she would be lodging a complaint- her second of the week- against the IU). Peter and I had debated not going to the meeting and canceling, and just seeing how the first few visits to preschool were, but at the urging of his current EI therapists, wanted to give it a go. Afterwards, we were wishing we hadn't. He was upset and off the rest of the day, and I'm still in a place where I feel upset about it. I'm sad to say that I've been eating when I shouldnt, cant find the energy to run, and just feel like whatever patience I had was used up yesterday every day. Even vacation last week was rough.  You wouldnt think that something like this would cause such a downward spiral for mom when, really, it's Bobby I'm most concerned for. But it is. And I feel like I am sprialing out of control. If not for my cross country kiddos, I dont know that I'd find the motivation to run at all (which is sad, considering the MCM is only 2 months away).

We opted to schedule (and pay for) a private evaluation with a SLP who is local and recommended by other community organizations. She was great and I thought she got a good look at Bobby, waaaayyyy better than the IU. He didnt participate in all of her evaluations, but, as I'd expected from the IU, she used non-standardized ways to measure his skills.

I got the report tonight. And it's killing me.  Just killing me.  Peter reads it with a positive eye, and I'm trying to get on board. Maybe it's the IU tainting it, I dont know. What I do know is that she believes that while is articulation is age appropriate, she feels that "Bobby is exhibiting a significant receptive and expressive language delay."  For that, she recommends twice weekly speech therapy. To pay for that out of pocket in our area is anywhere from $200-$300 for two hours a week. That alone, when I think about adding it to the cost of the 2 morning/week preschool boggles my mind.

To add to this, she agrees with the IU that he be evaluated by an educational psychologist or developmental pediatrician because his eye contact is inconsistent, responding to his name is inconsistent, he still utilizes self-talk/jargon/twinspeak, his skills are inconsistent (i.e. his language is delayed but in other skills (numbers, letters, spelling, etc) he is far above age level), he has practically no two-way conversations with anyone other than his sister unless he's prompted, and he will show physical aggression when he's frustrated.  These are issues- I know this. I'm not trying to sugar coat them. It's not great.

My breath catches in my chest. There is an ache that I cannot adequately express.

There is one truth that comes above all other and one that I tell Bobby in his darkest moments and on his brightest days. He is perfect. He is my perfect son and I never want to do anything to change him because he is perfect the way he is. (The same goes for Maya.) I count my lucky stars every damn day and thank God for the absolute miracle that my children are. I know I'm lucky. I know that things could be a lot worse. I know we could be battling medical battles and death. My children are precious and perfect and make the world make sense to me.

That being said, in all their perfection, it is my mission and my responsibility to make sure that they have the best of everything that I can, and that they have all they need to attain the dreams they reach for. If they want the moon, then I want to teach them to weave the lasso that pulls it from the sky. If they want to move mountains, then I want to show them how to build the strength. If they want to run circles around the world, I want to cheer them on from the track they practice on.  Bobby needs some help, and I want to make sure he gets it.

My son is shy. He doesnt love new situations and he takes his time warming up to new people. But he is one of the most empathetic people I've ever met. He will lay on the floor next to a crying child and try to get them to laugh. He will give you a hug when your heart hurts. He will smile and sign the ILY sign while saying, in the sweetest voice possible, "I love you", and you will have no choice but to let his sunshine warm your world.

My son is frustrated and tempermental. (And he gets his Irish temper from me.) If he is misunderstood or not understood at all, he loses his patience (like his mother). He will reach out with his hands instead of his voice and inadvertently hurt (although this is something he seems to do with those closest to him, like us and Maya, because he tends to not use hands first on the playground or with most other kids). He will pull hair or kick or hit and at times, the only thing I can do is wrap him in my arms and legs and rock, whispering that I love him, that I've been there, that I understand... That it will pass and he will find peace again. It hurts- to know that you cant fix it, but only hold him until it passes (and hope that it will pass soon). 

My son is sweet and soft and heartbreakingly empathetic. He will cry with you. He will hug you while you cry. He will make you laugh when you want to cry. And, when he knows that he is the source of your hurt, he will weep and hug you and apologize with the things that his words cant spit out. Sometimes that hurts just as much as holding him through it... the knowing that he knows... that he realizes, once it's over, that he was the cause of someone's hurt... seeing that knowledge in his eyes and that hope that his penitence will make it okay... that you will still love him at the end of the day.

My son is my son... He is perfect and wonderful, and he is struggling. Two weeks until preschool and I am terrified. Utterly terrified. What if he gets to preschool and is pegged as a troublemaker or a 'bad kid'. We'll speak to his teacher about his struggles and concerns, but that's not going to make up for him if he has an episode in class. Maybe he will suprise us all and become a natural; or maybe not. I dont know. I dont want the experience to do more damage than good.  Most of all, it's these words from the independent SLP that have me feeling sick to my stomach: "I do have concerns about Bobby going to school without support.  Of course I can't say for sure, but based on my observations and your input, Bobby may need more services than just speech and language therapy."

He turns 3 in 2 weeks.... 2 weeks until school... 2 weeks until things go well or go to hell... I dont want him to hate school because he is struggling without support or because he feels like no one understands him and he cant explain to them what he needs. But we've already been told that, due to the IUs vacation the entire month of August and his early September birthday that getting support by the start of the school year (the day after he turns 3) will be damn near impossible. His EI services stop completely the week before... Do we play it by ear for the first few times, which is what Peter thinks we should do, and ask his teacher for her thoughts?

One of the things that drove me up a wall at the IU eval was that the SI basically danced around "autism" at every corner. Practically any comment about seeing a psychologist was followed by 'because only a psychologist can diagnose if he is autistic'. In the days following that, I've reada all sorts of books on autism, PDD-NOS, sensory issues, and speech/language disorders.  And I'm feeling lost.  I've talked to special education teachers, special ed teachers who've had interactions with Bobby, and his therapists.  And I still feel like I'm not sure which way is up.  There are no easy answers, no one to take this and fix it in one easy swoop.

There are few things I know for sure. The first is that I love Bobby for every single thing that he is, that he isnt, and everything in between, and that he will always be perfect to me.  The second is that I'm coming apart beneath the surface and it's only a matter of time before the seams start to shred where those who arent the closest to me will be able to see and I have to get a grip: my kids deserve better, my husband deserves better, and I sure as hell cant advocate as Bobby needs (or will need) if I'm an internal mess. I havent been able to really talk to my friends because I cant find the words. I havent been able to blog because the words dont come; it's only thanks to some wonderful posts recently, by folks like Angie and Are We There Yet?, that I've been able to write this post. And it's been days in the making.  I just havent been able to do it.

Pray for us... Keep us in thought... Share your stories...  I know that we are lucky and that things could be much worse, but that knowledge doesnt keep the guilt of knowing that part of this (perhaps all of this???) is due to the fact that I wasnt able to gestate them longer and, therefore, is my fault in some way.  That knowledge doesnt wipe away the nagging questions of what didnt I do or what could I have done differently or better.  And that knowledge doesnt help when we are trying to give Bobby all the tools that he needs to succeed. Luck is only one piece of the puzzle; right now, it's the other pieces that arent falling into place.

I know that I have to grab the guilt by the horns and throw it into some pit somewhere. I have to. Otherwise, it will consume me until there's nothing left but it. And the guilt isnt going to help Bobby (or the rest of us).

It's just hard right now... Really hard.

Of course, no one said life would ever be easy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Their Very Own Book! (HHB)

Originally posted here

Bobby's speech therapist suggested we create a book to help the kids adapt to the idea ofgoing to preschool 2 mornings a week. Here's what I've come up with! It's only 14 pages, but I think it may help alleviate any stress or worry the kids may have about being in a strange environment for a few hours each week. When we drive by the school and our church (which are next door to each other), they really get excited, so hopefully this will another be another positive step.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Fearing What Might Be Out There

Tuesday, Peter and I had planned a date day. He'd taken the day off Monday to visit with out of town family, and decided to do Tuesday as well to hang out with me. After my whirlwind trip to TN, I was looking forward to the down time. We switched the day for the kids with my in-laws from Wednesday to Tuesday, and they even offered to keep them for dinner so that we could have a rare dinner out! Woo Hoo.  Of course, then word came that a family from church has been hit in such an awful way: a father of three young kids and husband to  woman who is a staple in our old parish for all the work she does, dead. A heart attack, at work... Gone... His family broken, anguished.  Peter and I spent the morning at church and then went out to breakfast, where I couldnt help by tear up over the memories that young family will miss. Alone, this would be awful, but combined wit last weekend... It's gut-wrenching.

Fourteen years with Peter isn't enough. I dont know that 1400 would be. I love him. He's the other part of my very soul. He's the father of my children... My children... How would I- could I- even begin to tell them that their father wasnt coming home? No more snuggles... No more kisses... No more hugs.  That he wouldnt be there to throw them up in the skylight to chase the moonlight across the sky.  That the days of walking hand in hand to the playground are over. No father-son barbershop visits, no father-daughter dances. No breakfast-for-dinner that he makes them (MUCH to their delight) when I'm teaching evening yoga.

We bury our parents, that is the way it should be, but not when we are children and, truly, are we ever not children? I'm not ready... I cant imagine saying goodbye to my parents or even my surviving grandmother. I'm still too young for that... The pain of even thinking about it hurts.

After lunch, we checked the closest IMAX theater for the showtimes for the latest installment of Batman. We get the times and grab the $10 off coupon that I had, and head out. We discuss the fact that we're about to spend 3 hours of our date day in a movie theater, park, and walk to the doors.

And someone pressed the 'pause' button. Well, I pressed it, figurtively speaking, of course.

I couldnt go in. We stood outside the large doors and I just couldnt go inside. I wanted to; I thought Peter really REALLYwanted to see it in the theater and, truth be told, when we saw the previews for it months ago, I was pretty excited too! Finally, Peter made the executive decision to get back in the car and leave. As we were walking towards our car, I stopped. "I'm scared."

And that was it, the truth. I was scared.

Going to the movies used to be fun. It used to be an escape. Now, it's another what might happen. Like driving a car... flying in a plane... hell, walking down  street. It might be a way that I break my promise. Mommy's always come back. Daddy's always come back.

But they dont. They dont always come back. My friend, B... our churchmate, S.... These parents arent coming back to tuck their kids in at night or to kiss their spouses for one more anniversary. They'll see each other again but probably not today. Probably not when they desperatey want one more hug at night or someone to help them buy a wedding dress or pat them on the back after a job well done.

Mommies and Daddies always come back.

I'm scared. I'm scared it could be me.

Or, worse, Peter.

I'm scared that one day, one of us wont come back. I know it's possible... likely... actually, going to happen. We all die, after all. But I'm scared it will come too soon. Forever isnt enough, but tomorrow? Next year? Twenty years from now? Too soon... All too soon...

Then there's that fear. That awful, nauseating fear. I dont want to lie to my children. I dont want them to grow up without one of us, due to illness or circumstance or anything else. We have to come back.

We just have to.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

First Harvest Traditions

Today is August 1st... the observation of First Harvest... the feast of bread (hence the latin name Lammas or Mass of Bread)... the first of several harvests of corn and barley and wheat.

For years, Peter and I hosted First Harvest gatherings, usually on weekend closest to August 1st, where we'd host a Tailteaan faire (think less Olympics and more a bartering of wares and services) in the afternoon as we made different seasonal foods an then have a bonfire and the participants would tell the creation stories and legends of First Peoples while breaking bread together.  Here's one from my mother's tribe for your virtual bonfire. (as a fun note, these grew in our backyard)

The Legend of the Cherokee Rose
In the latter half of 1838, Cherokee People who had not voluntarily moved west earlier were forced to leave their homes in the East. The trail to the West was long and treacherous and many were dying
along the way. The People's hearts were heavy with sadness and their tears mingled with the dust of the trail. The Elders knew that the survival of the children depended upon the strength of the women. One evening around the campfire, the Elders called upon Heaven Dweller, ga lv la di e hi. They told Him of the People's suffering and tears. They were afraid the children would not survive to rebuild the Cherokee Nation. Gal v la di e hi spoke to them, "To let you know how much I care, I will give you a sign. In the morning, tell the women to look back along the trail. Where their tears have fallen, I will cause to grow a plant that will have seven leaves for the seven clans of the Cherokee. Amidst the plant will be a delicate white rose with five petals. In the center of the blossom will be a pile of gold to remind the Cherokee of the white man's greed for the gold found on the Cherokee homeland. This plant will be sturdy and strong with stickers on all the stems. It will defy anything which tries to destroy it." The next morning the Elders told the women to look back down the trail. A plant was growing fast and covering the trail where they had walked. As the women watched, blossoms formed and slowly opened. They forgot their sadness. Like the plant the women began to feel strong and beautiful. As the plant protected its blossoms, they knew they would have the courage and determination to protect their children who would begin a new Nation in the West.

As we shared these stories, we would pass around the fruits of our afternoon labors: cornbread, bean stews, breads covered with the fresh jams we'd cooked that day. We'd finish off by making cornhusk dolls (from the freshly husked corn) and meditating on a trait we hoped to change (or at least start changing) by our third harvest celebration. By the end of the night, laying on blankets and gazing into the stars, you werent sure if you were a Lugh worshipper welcoming the halfway point of summer and fall or a First Person remembering when your world was simpler... It didnt matter. We were one. All one. All sharing in the changes of the earth and in ourselves.

We're busy these days. We havent hosted a faire in years (I think 2007 was our last one, honestly), and while I still bake a fresh loaf of bread and make jam on Lughnassadh, the kids have been too young for me to have time to do much else.

Not this year. This year, we are celebrating together. I dont know that we'll whip out a bonfire, but this morning, the kids and I made the rounds at local farms. We bought the food and began our traditions anew and yet renewed. Instead of making bread, the local orchard store had a freshly baked cinnamon raisin loaf- perfect for today's lunch and tomorrow's french toast- which we picked up with some of their fruit, the blueberries of which we made into fresh jam; the peaches are ready to be gobbled up in cobbler. Then, it was off to one of our two farm stops, where we got corn and a tomato and fresh bacon, followed by the second farm for eggs and milk. At home, we got the berries started on the stove for jam, husked our corn and made sure to save the husks!, and started our dinner sides of black beans with bacon (which are cooking now and smell HEAVENLY) and slow cooked (but not 'fried') corn (made with some of the bacon drippings),which we'll serve together with slices of that fresh tomato on top. I'll fry pork chops (which we already had from the farm) and make cornbread. Maybe, even without the bonfire, we'll share legends over dinner... who knows.

Later, we'll make our cornhusk dolls. Simple, hemp cord tied effigies that represent who we are and who, by the end of harvesttide, we hope to be.

Together, as a family.

It's strange to be here and yet, so right. So perfect indeed.

Happy First Harvest. May your cupboards, like your hearts, be full, and may you give that fullness to all those you encounter.