Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Review: Bringing in Finn

Last week, I was asked to review Bringing in Finn which, according to the press release, centered around "one woman’s hard-fought and often painful journey to motherhood", including "the tragedy and heartbreak of losing pregnancies; the process of opening her heart and mind to the idea of her 61-year-old mother carrying her child for her; and the profound bond that blossomed between mother and daughter as a result of their unique experience together."

When I first read the premise of the book, I debated on whether or not to review it. Although infertility, pregnancy loss, and parenting after loss are extremely relevant to me, as a practicing Catholic, Peter and I had nixed IVF (and therefore things like gestational hosts and surrogates) from our fertility treatment possibilities a decade ago. Was I really the right person to read a book that's premise rests on that? Could I do it without bias and without projecting my personal beliefs about the process itself onto the book?  After meditating about it for a bit, I ultimately decided that I could; after all, I work with clients all the time who have made choices that I wouldn't personally make. And I'm really glad that I agreed; while my personal views remain the same, I highly recommend this book for those battling through the trenches of infertility, suffering the devastation of loss, and those who have struggled with connecting with their parents- especially with a mother/daughter connection- on a deeper level, as well as anyone pursuing surrogacy.  Mrs. Connell writes with a voice that is passionate and real; it is not surprising that she is a successful life coach and workshop speaker. As I read through the book (which I began on Thursday evening and finished Friday afternoon because it captured me that much), I felt that I was sitting next to this stunningly attractive mother on my sofa and she was unabashedly (and with language that mirrors my own at times!) opening up the heart and soul of the 6+ years of infertility and loss that ultimately led to her 'bringing in' her son Finnean.

Part of the connection was that with her Irish looks, she looks a lot like one of my dear friends. The honesty in her language was another. Like me, she had a history of sexual abuse, and our infertility and loss stories were so achingly similar that it hurt. Even though our paths diverged, our outcomes are so close: we are both mothers who are parenting after a difficult war with infertility and the heartbreak that comes with the loss of beloved children.  We are mothers who, like those in the ALI community, choose to break the silence that has plagued our grandmothers and even our mothers and share with others the walk that we've taken.

Bringing in Finn begins with something many of us are familiar with: aching arms. After trying alternative options for getting her womanly health and fertility on track after she learned about the ill-effects of hormonal birth control and stopped using contraception altogether, Sara Connell and her husband, Bill, seek out the help of a reproductive endocrinologist and ultimately proceed with caution into the world of in-vitro fertilization. When they conceive fraternal twin boys, they are overjoyed. But when Sara begins bleeding and an emergency cerclage fails, she wakes from the fog of general anesthesia to learn that her sweet sons were delivered stillborn by Cesarean and that she almost died herself. With depth and honesty, she delves into the shards of her broken heart to walk the reader through her grief journey. There is no self-pity; neither is their shame in the fact that this happened to her. Instead, she openly expresses her anger, sorrow, and frustration; you are there with her- in the blinding lights of the hospital, on the floor as she sobs, bravely at her side as she hands over items to be cremated with her sons, sitting with her as she gazes at the shrine she and her husband prepare at their home for their sons. Her words are raw; her feelings are valid and, for the reader who knows this path (or is just beginning it), they are validating.

As the book continues, we see the emotional and financial turmoil of continuing IVF. She shares the sadness of a chemical pregnancy, of not getting pregnant at all, and the miscarriage of a singleton in the first trimester. In her honesty, Sara touches on the desperation, fear, and hope that are swelling inside of her in her quest to mother a living child, while at the same time openly discussing the strained relationship with her parents that she has struggled with since childhood.

But loss changes you.  And it changes those who love you.

Vowing to open herself to her family, Sara talks to her parents about her struggles to conceive and, in her losses, she comes to find someone in her corner that she never imagined: her mother, Kristine. Having always viewed their daughter a bit flippantly in light of her alternative healing choices and career path, Sara is shocked when her mother shows up at a seminar she is teaching. But there is a greater shock yet to come: after meditating on what her life in retirement should embody, Kristine drops the bomb. She believes that she- even after menopause and on the cusp of 60 years old- should carry Sara and Bill's baby.

The book could read like an awful reality show or try to inspire heartwarming fuzzy feelings like those happy-ever-after baby shows, but it doesn't. Instead, Sara is brutal in her feelings- the joys, the happiness, the envy and jealousy.
"I felt brittle that morning...I wanted to be the one sitting in the...chair. I wanted to feel the baby moving in my body...I was not unconditionally at a point where I felt grateful for my body's inability to carry our children, but our path had already revealed undeniable gifts. I was experiencing a physical intimacy with my mother that I had likely not had since I was inside her womb. The love I felt seemed to burn away what had caused us pain... I'd heard clients speak of experiencing such relational transcendence when they were with a parent as the parent died. Yet we were being given this experience while bringing in a life." (pg.253)

As the book closes in on Finn's birth, she openly talks about the desire that somehow the medical staff could transport the ready-to-be-born Finnean into her womb so that she, herself, could deliver him, both having that experience while at the same time, sparing her mother the pain of labor and, ultimately, a C-section. Sara doesn't sugarcoat the sadness of being unable to breastfeed (she did prepare and was able to nurse for a short time) or her feelings of brokenness. But in the places where the book could fall into self-loathing or create its own pity party, she uses her honesty to keep on point. In no way is her story happy-go-lucky, but in a way that, no doubt, has helped numerous clients, she maintains balance and integrity and finds not only motherhood in her loss and in the successful delivery of Finnean, but also a daughterhood that she thought was lost forever.  Bringing in Finn is more than a story of infertility, loss, and surrogacy; it is the story of mothers and daughters, of heartache and triumph, of suffering and healing.  She sums up her story beautifully in the Epilogue:
"Before you name [situations] as broken and bad, consider that there may be something profound and important- not just for you, but for a greater good- that could not come any other way... I liked the idea of being open to chosen-ness, contemplating how even the broken-seeming parts of my story were and could be a portal for good. Perhaps I had been chosen. Perhaps we all had been." (pg.313)

Book Information:
Bringing in Finn by Sara Connell
(c) 2012 by Seal Press
Available at and your local bookseller or library

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book at no charge in exchange for reviewing the title.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Awesome Autumn Apples

Today, our favorite orchard, Tabora, had a pick-your-own to welcome in fall.  After we took the kids to the farmer's market, we loaded up and drove to the Shrine for a brief visit, then to the orchard, where we ran around like kids ourselves and brought home several bags of fresh apples and a gallon of cider. 

Having a cookie at the Lansdale Farmer's Market...

Visiting one of their favorite places at the Shrine: "Papa John Paul"

Picking apples at Tabora Farm and Orchard in Chalfont

After chowing down on some of those delicious, freshly picked orbs of goodness, the kids had lunch and napped while I created a new recipe that, given Peter's current devouring of, I think might become a fall staple: Irish Apple Bread Pudding.

The bread pudding is good, but add the Irish Whiskey Cider Glaze and mmm.... Can I just have the whole thing at once???

The kids had a great time picking apples, although the more I see them, the more I realize just how much they are growing up... It's like no time at all has gone by and yet, here they are: babies but not really.  My babies but kids actually.  Little kids but still kids... not little ones...

They prove this time and time again, as they do the 'big kid' things at the playground. 

And school...  They love school, although Bobby is having a hard time adjusting (a post about that when I have more time).  They sleep through their nap completely dry and go to the bathroom when they wake up.  In fact, today, Bobby napped in his underwear.  He hasnt wanted to wear pull-ups but I usually beg him (and fight with him); today, Peter just let it ride.  When Bobby pulled up his underwear and pants, he said "Okay.  You want this, we'll do it."  So we did.  And dry.  He was so proud of himself when he went to the bathroom after and got two stickers (one for the potty, one for being dry) in addition to a new favorite: a small pumpkin candy treat from the farm store.  That gorgeous smile...  And Maya is such a little me.  Every time we have to do something, the words "I'll do it myself" emerge, and she is quick to shut down whatever you've done for her and redo it just to prove she can.  They pick their clothes, they dress themselves, they brush their teeth and hair... All these things that a part of me feels like I still need to do, but they are such capable little people.  We cook together, we talk together.  It's insane, yet it's so right.  It's the way it should be.

Today, as I smelled the breeze that tells me fall is indeed on the way and I enjoy my freshly baked goodie, I am reminded of all the beauty in the world- of all the beauty in my world.

I'll leave this on a note that makes me smile just thinking about it...  At the Shrine, we went into the candle chapel, where there is a candle burning for Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander, as well as one for my brother-in-law, Robert.  We look at their names, then we go in front of the floor-to-ceiling icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and kneel down, as a family, the kids bookeneded by Peter and I.

Bobby looks to Peter then to me and says "Our Father".  So, together, we prayed the Our Father.  At the end, I prayed, and they echoed, "Our Lady of Czestochowa, pray for us."  Those little voices, those bright eyes.  So full of hope and faith and love.

May that fill my autumn... and yours too.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Fall

Happy second harvest!

The weather is cooling, the pumpkins are growing, and the apples are ready for picking... I'd write more, but I'm wiped out and just want to take a nap in this delicious fall evening.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

God Speaks

God talked to me today.

I know... You're having images of me wearing a hat made out of foil, perhaps muttering into candlelight... Okay, maybe not.  But, seriously?

God talked to me.

Today wasnt going well around lunch time.  I'm feeling tired and under the weather and was just tired of telling Bobby over and over AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER!!!!!!!!!!! again to stop climbing up to the TV.  Then, he tops it off by tossing his lunch plate on the floor.  I lost it.  I'm not pro-spanking but I did... I spanked his bottom.  Two smacks, closed palm (so you dont think I'm a monster mother), and all it did was snap him into the moment.  He looked at me in shock and then sat on the floor and whined while I made him (modeled for him and held his hand) clean up the mess.  THen he hugged me and said he was sorry. 

When Maya was finished, it was time for nap and when I arrived to their bedroom, the bed that I had just turned down and prepped for him was destroyed.  COMPLETELY DESTROYED.  I was livid but it's prenap.  I know he's tired; I'm tired; and, at this point, all I want is to get the kids squared away in bed so that I can lay down on the couch.  I close my eyes, step away from the situation, and mutter in prayer (yes, I sometimes cuss in prayer.  Hey, I'm honest.  I'm sure God prefers that.), "God, I just wanted to be a good parent; why the f*ck does this have to be so damn hard???" Then, crisis averted, I go back and complete the pre-nap ritual.  Before I flip out the light, Maya looks me square in the eye and says "Bobby is one of the special ones.  It's a gift." Then, as though she never said anything to me at all, she goes back to readying her "babies" for nap.

Now, first off, I muttered so low and wasnt near her, so I know that she didnt hear me.  But even if she did, coming up with that? 

No, folks, that, I think was Providence.

Out of the mouth of babes...

(Hungry?  I just started compiling my recipes on another blog, since I didnt want this one to become all about food.  If you're ready for fall like I am, check out this: it's autumn on a plate!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Nameday, Bobby!

Today is Bobby's name day!  Happy feast day, St. Robert Bellarmine!  A gifted theologian, scholar, and writer, we ask for him to intercede for Bobby, to aide Bobby's verbal speech, and to continue to allow all of us who love him so much to know all the wonderful things that are going on in his mind!

St. Robert, pray for us, especially Bobby!

(Seems kind of fitting that Bobby has his first speech appointment today... I wonder what he'll want for dinner and his special dessert!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vegan Irish Oatmeal

My mom used to make oatmeal for us on cool fall and cold winter mornings, before we'd head off to school.  While Bobby and Maya aren't sold on the idea of oatmeal yet (unless it's in a cookie and, even then...), Peter and I have often spent a chilly a.m. with a bowl of piping hot, Irish oatmeal.  And there's no better way to have it than with a hot cup of tea!

Vegan Irish Oatmeal  (serves 4 @ 425 calories per serving)

In a pot, heat 1 cup of almond milk until boiling.  Add in 160 grams (4 cups) steel cut oats (also called Irish or Scottish oats) and reduce the heat to medium-low (around 4/10 on the range).  Cook for 10 minutes, then add 56 grams (about 1/2 cup) chopped walnuts and 80 grams (about 1/2 cup) raisins.  Stir well every few minutes and cook for another 15 minutes.  Add 28 grams (about 2tbsp plus 1tsp) brown sugar and 2tbsp vegan (or dairy if you prefer, but then it isn't vegan!) butter and stir well to combine, cooking for 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit for 2-5 minutes, then enjoy!

I find the oatmeal a tad sweet, so if I'm making a single serving, I usually only add 1tsp of brown sugar; Peter on the other hand, always tosses in an additional squeeze of maple syrup.  You could also omit the butter and add a dollop of apple sauce or omit/lessen the brown sugar and use maple syrup to sweeten completely.

BainigĂ­ sult as an bia!
(ya'll dig on in!)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

And So It Begins

Well, my friends, we have officially survived the first week of preschool!!!

Tuesday came way too quickly.  Both kids seemed really excited.  On Monday night, they wore their special night-before-the-first-day-of-school PJs (which they picked out) and, after having some homemade waffles for breakfast, they were both more than happy to put on their first day (and self-picked out) clothes and shoes.  I'd packed their snack in their new lunch boxes and stuffed their backpacks with the requested items and, before I knew it, we had two preschoolers with backpacks on in our kitchen where my babies had been seconds before!

First day of preschool: Bobby getting in the car and Maya saying "COME ON MOM- not another picture!"

Bobby loved his backpack so much that he actually got upset when Peter explained he couldnt wear it in the car, and Maya insisted on holding hers the entire ride to school.  Peter did drop off (since they tend to do better with him leaving than with me), so I did my hugs and kisses and waved good-bye as they pulled out of the garage.  Of course, then I grabbed the camera and followed behind in Peter's car!  I had the good luck of being right behind them in line at drop off, so I got more pictures!

At open house, Miss M had explained that they prefer the kids be dropped off at the school building, since preschool has their own entrance, and that an aide or teacher would meet the children and take them into school.  I was initially nervous about this, but Peter said that it went okay.  Maya walked into school on her own, holding the aide's hand; Bobby was carried and was a bit more shaken, but wasnt crying. 

When I picked the kids up, an aide brought Maya and Miss M carried Bobby.  As I loaded them in the car, she explained that Maya had a good day and, after an initial cry, was okay and got into the day.  She said that Bobby cried off and on for the morning, but did play a bit and, at centers, played for 20 minutes with the cars.  I'm assuming snack went well (since both kids love to eat).  The bad news?  He bit the aide (a few times) and pulled her hand.  Because we'd been emailing back and forth, they knew of his frustration issues, so they were prepared and I appreciate their willingness to work with him, but that doesnt take away the unacceptableness of the behavior.  I assured her that we will work on it and continue to talk to him about finding self-soothing methods that dont involve biting or hair pulling.  I also emailed her while the kids napped to follow up and let her know that I'm always open to her suggestions and thoughts, to which she replied in kind.  Have I mentioned that I love this teacher???

The rest of Tuesday went well, and on Wednesday, they spent the day with their paternal grandparents as usual.  We talked to them (especially Bobby) about biting, pulling hair, etc, and the importance of being nice to everyone, especially our teachers.  I picked up a few books (Teeth Are Not For Biting, Hands Are Not For Hitting, and Feet Are Not For Kicking).  Come Thursday, the kids were psyched for school again and easily got dressed, wanting to put their backpacks on by themselves and clammoring for the car.  Drop off went easily, although I did see Bobby cry as the aide took him from the car.  (On a positive note, I didnt see him try to pull her hair!)  Since it's only 10:30am, I'm not sure how the rest of the morning will play out, but I haven't received a phone call yet, so I'm taking that as a good sign!

It's an adjustment, no doubt.  And not just for them.  Tuesday, I said my good-bye with a smile and managed to make it through the car swap without tears, but before I'd even gotten a few blocks away from the school, I felt them in my chest and all I wanted to do was talk to my mom.  She answered her phone and I'd barely gotten the words "My babies are at preschool" out before a sob escaped too.  My babies...  My two pounders are now two rough-and-tumble preschoolers.  The baby phase and even the toddler phase are behind us, and now we are in that early 'child' phase.  It's both a feeling of joy and a feeling of sadness for me.  I am so happy for them and so proud of all they accomplish and yet, there is a lingering sadness.  Perhaps it is because, it seems, I wont have a do-over... There wont be another 'first, first day of (pre)school'.  I, most likely, wont have three years to get used to a baby turned toddler turned little person who struggles into their backpack and shoes (but MUST DO IT THEIRSELF) and waves goodbye as Peter takes them for that big first day.  It's possible, of course, but a decade of infertility (and especially this last year of getting it on without worry of incompetent cervixes and preterm labor and CDs on the calendar) have me pretty well squared away in life as a mother of two living children.  I tell myself that it's okay because it is.  I tell myself that every stage is a learning place for all of us (because it is).  I tell myself that the only constant in life is change because that is all that I know to be true.

But it's still pretty freaking hard.  And I still want to cry when I think about it.

I read Mel's post about taking her twins back to school on Monday and it was like hearing an "I'm not the only one" in my subconscious.  And, talking to my own mother on Tuesday helped a lot.  As I sobbed about feeling like a wierdo because I was the only one crying like a baby, she laughed and said, "Honey, don't think they arent crying.  Just like you, the other moms were strong for their kids when they dropped them off, and now?  Now, they're on the phone with their own mothers, asking 'was it like this for you? what's wrong with me?'.  And yes, it was like this for all of us too, and there's nothing wrong with you.  You're a mom who loves her babies. They'll always be your babies."  And she's right.  Like my mother before me (and hers before hers...), I cooked (homemade marinara) and froze, cleaned house, and did (all) the laundry.  I stripped beds (and, okay, maybe I snuggled their bears before I tossed them in the wash... No comment) and made them anew.  I opened all the windows and let the sunshine and fresh, soon-to-be-fall air in.  And then I left early to get to the pick-up line... Where I proceeded to be 15th in line because every mom wanted to get there before dismissal... :)  Guess I really wasnt the only one.

Today, there weren't any tears (at least, from me!).  I went to the market, prepped corn for the freezer, and currently, the smell of homemade chili (which I'm about to freeze) is wafting through the house on the breeze from the, once again, open windows.  I'm about to mop my kitchen and wonder (again) what the kids are doing.  And then, I'm going to have a cup of tea and pick up editing on a piece that has been dormant for a while as we've prepped for back to school.  And, although I'll leave earlier than I need to, I'll be fine sitting in the car, knowing that the kids (most likely!) had another good day. 

One day, this will become the new normal.  And that's okay.  It has to be.  (Right before it changes again...)

Updated at 1:30pm: So, I picked the kids up.  I think I may have heard Bobby crying, but I'm not sure :(.  An aide brought Maya to the car and Miss M, once again, carried Bobby out.  He wasnt crying then, so maybe I was wrong.  She said that today was better than Tuesday; he didnt bite (thank God!) but he did still pull hair (UGH!!!!).  She also said that he asked to go for a walk and, because he was so upset and crying, one of the aides walked him up and down the hallway outside the classroom.  She asked if I could meet on Monday, so I can soon check "first teacher requested conference" off my list...  So, I'm sitting down with her Monday afternoon to talk.  I'm nervous already... :(  And, as I was checking their folders, a cute little picture that Maya colored was there, but there wasn't one for Bobby.  He loves to draw and color; was he too upset?  Outside walking during that time?  Destroyed it because he was pissed off?  I dont know.  Kind of makes me sad. 

He nearly fell asleep in my arms at the school while I was talking to Miss M but, when I turned to put him in the car, he turned back to her and said "Bye bye.  See you later," with a smile and, when she asked for a high five and put her hand up, he gave her one.  So, I dont know.  He was dozing in the car (it's 2 miles from school to home, door to door) and we ate lunch as soon as we got in the door.  They were asleep before their heads hit the pillows.  He did have a nightmare and woke up at 5am (and didnt go back to sleep), so I want to write off part of it to being tired, but I know that's not the entire thing.  So, we'll see what Monday has in store!  Fingers crossed, still praying that he'll adjust soon.  One of the moms from cross country told me that it took 2 weeks for her little one to stop crying when she started preschool; she's now in kindergarten and loves every day of going to school, so there's hope!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I'm not a huge fan of labels.  I'm "me" and that should be enough.  I'm quirky and bitchy and funny and (let's face it, I'm perfect, am I right?) all sorts of things that no single label could hold.  I'm a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend... The list is endless, so why bother labeling at all?

When I shared Bobby's evaluation with the IU and our decision about holding off on IU intervention and just seeing how preschool goes (I'll post about day 1 soon- I promise!) with the addition of private speech therapy (first appointment is next week!), there were questions from people, both those we know in real life and those from virtual communities, asking why we didnt purse a label for Bobby in order to try and get other services, etc.  Why would we purposely avoid a psychological evaluation that might open up other avenues of services?  As I communicated with other moms, especially those who had children labeled as 'special needs' of one sort or another, I heard things that sounded a lot like I was ignoring a label for my own sake, as though labeling Bobby as "delayed" or any other thing would somehow make me a bad mother and, because I dont want to be a bad mother, I'm not doing my best for him by having him labeled.  (The two emails that I received on this note were not publishable comments; several people shared their stories with me, both via email and via comment, and how they went about getting a diagnosis for their kids, and those were very helpful.  What I'm referring to are nonconstructive comments.)


I'm a lot of things, truly, and I'll be the first to admit that my parenting skills dont get a gold star every day.  I love my kids with my entire heart and soul, but just like any other person, I lose my patience from time to time, I want to lock myself outside the house and scream periodically, and I run to let off steam because I am a sensory oriented person who gets more and more bitchy the more tightly wound I get (and, sense I bubble over when I get mad, running is a great outlet to poor that steam into).

But avoiding a label for the sake of not wanting to be considered a "bad" mom?  Because if my kid had a label it would be a reflection on me?

He has brown eyes (clearly a reflection on his father) and a short fuse (clearly a reflection on me).  There's a lot to Bobby and Maya's personalities that mirror ours, both in positive and negative ways.  I'm not sad about it; it is what it is.  They are (and we are) who we are.  I just dont feel the need to slap a label on it.  (Well, short of the "Irish temper" label...)

A friend of mine send me a link to an article on The Awakened Parent recently, and I have to tell you, reading it was like opening a window and letting a breeze blow in. One of the things that Peter and I have mused on is, regardless of the challenge or difficulty, trying our best to tell our kids to just achieve their personal best.  Maybe that's an "A" on an exam, maybe it's an "F".  If you are doing your best, that is that.  I run; I'm not fast, but I dont care.  I'm giving my all and doing my best.  It's all I can ask for, and it's all I can ask for from my kids.  Saying that Bobby has a speech delay is, for us at least, not labeling him, it's just saying what is.  Relationally, his speech is delayed off the average of a (now) three year old.  But it's not bad; it's just what is.  To help him acheive his full potential, he's having therapy.  He has certain behaviors, like pulling my hair to soothe himself, which are not appropriate, so we are working through them with him. 

I read a book called Children with High Functioning Autism after Bobby's evaluation because I wanted to know if I was somehow missing something; funny enough, it was that book that made me see that while he has some markers, so do most of the kids (and honestly adults) I know (which maybe says something about me!) and he definitely doesnt have enough markers to be labeled as "classicly autistic".  Is there something else there, possibly?  Possibly.  I dont know.  But there was one thing in the book that really hit me hard.  On page 103, she is discussing Jim Sinclair and quotes from his 1993 essay Don't Mourn for Us: "This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces."  The author goes on to discuss Mr. Sinclair and his feelings on language, both in phrases like "an autistic person" and "a person with autism". Placing the adjective of autism first defines the person by their difference, while placing it last implies that it is something that can removed from the person.  I highly recommend the book, even if you arent investigating spectrum disorders, because some of the things mentioned are true for all children.  But that quote...

"This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces." 

Never do I want my children to believe that I want them to be someone other than who they are or that anything about them- be it their eye color or some unlabeled difference or anything else- is something I'd change.  I want them to be them.  I love them for them.  Labels or not, they are mine and perfect in all they are and arent.  Reading that quote was like a hit to the gut and made me realize once at for all that regardless of if Bobby or Maya are ever diagnosed with anything, it wont matter because they are themselves, and that's all that matters...  I have dreams for them; I hope they live long, healthy lives and find happiness.  I hope that they find joy, regardless of where their paths take them.  But, I always want to see those brown or blue eyes looking back at me with an internalized knowledge that I love them unconditionally and am proud of them for just being who they are.

***A special thanks to BB for sharing with me the article that inspired this post.  You're awesome!***

Monday, September 10, 2012


In my head, it doesn't feel like three years have gone by, but in my heart, it feels as though Bobby and Maya have been here forever... Three years- so short a time since their birth and yet, so long of a time...  A lifetime... Their lifetime.
For my dearest Bobby and Maya, on your third birthday...
There is nothing in this world- nothing at all- that comes close to the joy that being your mother brings to me. We sometimes struggle, but it is all a part of our love journey and our life's road together.  Although the time will come- thank God it isnt today!- that our path's with diverge and you will choose to walk away from me rather than with me, for today, it is my priviledge to walk the road with you.  There are moments when I wish that I could walk it for you, that I could take away whatever stumbleblocks are in your path, that I could lift you over the puddles and the road work... There are moments of incredible sorrow when I know that I cant and that, for better or worse, you, my sweet children, must walk your path.  Moments when my salvation is knowing that I am with you.  Will always be, as long as you will have me, as long as you need me, as long as forever if that would even be long enough.
Yesterday (or it seems to me at times), you came into my life as a speck of sand and within sheer seconds, were born to a life outside of me into a world that could only begin to try and ready itself for you. With the Irish tempers you've both inherited from me, you fought and fought, and ultimately, you made the world your own.  For three years, I've looked on your beautiful faces.  For three years, I have sang, every day, sometimes multiple times a day, O Danny Bobby Boy, O Maya Girl and, while it may not be what Frederic Weatherly had in mind when he penned it (or was), there is never a truer truth than when I sing to you "O Bobby Boy, O Maya Girl, I love you so."
This morning, when you woke up, I was gone.  I'd left the house a little after 5am for a run that I intended to only be 12 miles or so, but as I rounded the corner around the parish where you were baptised, something that I can only describe as a compulsion came over me and I knew that my run would log a tad more than 12. It was as though I needed to physically visit the places that meant so much over these last three years and, while I couldnt run down to Lankenau (not if I planned to be home before your Dad left for work anyway!), I couldnt stop my feet from following my heart.  I ran to our old parish, the church family that got us through the rough days after losing Nicholas and Sophia and Alexander, and the walls that kept us together during their memorials...  The church that sustained us through your pregnancy and the bedrest and the preterm labor & delivery and your NICU stay... The place where prayers were prayed (and heard)...  The chapel where you were baptized in front of so many people who love and cherish you.  And then, I kept running and running... Until I ran in front of our old house, where you (and your siblings) were conceived and born, and on into the neighborhood where I used to push you in your stroller and to our grocery store, which is still your favorite grocery store because they still make a fuss over you when we drive out of our way to shop there.  And then, I kept running and running... Until I ran by your Uita and Grandpa's house.  I can't make it to all your grandparents, but a list of important places would be incomplete without Uita's place... The first person to babysit you... The first place I left you, without me, with your tears trailing behind me... The first place I left you, with sounds of laughter as you felt safe enough for me to walk away...  And then, I kept running and running... Until I finally came back home, 16 miles after I started.
Sixteen, my loves.  The number of weeks I was on bedrest... The number of weeks, between us, that we were at the hospital...
During those miles, I remembered those days and the years that have gone by since.  I remembered that first night in the hospital, where I prayed so fervently that you would stay inside and grow.  I remembered this day, 3 years ago, when you were born and I had my first look at your beautiful little selves.  When I longed to hold you and love you and keep you safe forever.
Sept. 10, 2009
I remembered 2 years ago, when we went to the shore for your first birthday, and you ate (and ate and ate) seafood and had homemade cake. 
Sept. 10, 2010
I remembered last year, when we'd only recently moved, and after your party, we just spent your actual day snuggling and cuddling (which is still one of my favorite things to do).  Looking into your faces and your smiles and seeing that you know I love you- it's a wonderful feeling.

Late summer, 2011
For a moment, I thought that I was chasing the sun, but then I realized that the sun was chasing me.  And why shouldnt that be true!  I left with the moon was still high in the sky, surrounded by stars and, when the sun came up, the truth must have hit: we on earth are supposed to rotate around the sun, but my world revolves around you... my suns...  It serves to think that the morning sun was jealous, especially on your birthday, when your light is brightest.
I love you, my sweets... My Robert Benjamin and my Maya Eirene.  I love you with every breath that I take and with every beat of my heart.  With each song that you sing, with each laugh that you share, with each story that you tell, I am captivated more and more with the gentle, wonderfulness that is in each of your spirits. 
Sept. 2012
Life is not easy, my babes.  But nothing easy is worth its trial, and nothing worth gaining comes without a fight- and a cost.  Sometimes, that cost is the steepest we think we may dare to pay.  When I look back on my own life, I know that my joys have come at the expense of my deepest sorrows and yet... Oh, sweet Bobby and sweet Maya, I would pay the price over and over again, for only one moment with you... for only one moment with your brothers and sister.  I would die a thousand times for one touch of all of your hands and one kiss on each of your foreheads and, at my last breath, I would know that my life was complete.  You make that so.  No matter what lies in our roads up ahead, you will always make that so.  And it is me- ME- who is the lucky one and the blessed one.  You are every prayer answered and, regardless of where life takes you or if I agree or disagree with your decisions as you grow older, there is never any doubt that, for me, you are perfect.  In your life, you have taught me more than I think I'll ever be able to return, and I am so thankful for you.
Sept. 2012
Happy Birthday, my baby son and baby daughter.  A very very happy birthday.
I love you.

And then you'll kneel and whisper that you love me
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mama Mary

For those who may not be Catholic or Orthodox, today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God.  In layman's terms, Happy Birthday, Virgin Mary (or, if you are in our house, Mama Mary).  It's fitting that since we asked for her intercession for Bobby and Maya so much during their pregnancy that their birthday falls near hers, and that we will every few years, celebrate their birthday on her birthday.  Not to mention the fact that I hold tight to the belief that She is mothering Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander until I can do it myself. 

This morning, at the Farmer's Market, Bobby and Maya each bought a bright colored zinnia and we went to their new school, where the children laid a flower at the foot of the new statue (the school just renamed to Mater Dei, since 2 other parish schools merged into our parish school).  We were at the prayer service for the "new" school and the blessing of this new statue on Thursday, and the kids loved her.  Instead of putting their flowers at the statue in our main outdoor shrine, they wanted to put it at the school.

When we got home, we made birthday cookies.  (With 60 cupcakes in the fridge for their birthday party tonight, I wasnt baking more cake!)  Before lunch, we sang Happy Birthday and Maya informed me that the party this afternoon is actually "Mama Mary's birthday party".  Alright then! Make sure to tell that to all your friends!

It's sweet to see how, at such a young age, they have so much love and faith.  Some days, it's a huge example to me.  Who am I kidding.  Every day, they are a huge example to me.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Vegan Orange-Almond-Chocolate Cake

I love orange and chocolate... There's something about it that just really makes me happy.  I've blogged before about my favorite chocolate cake recipe, so I modified it (it originally comes from the Veganomican) and came up with this winner!!!  At 200 calories a slice (and only 150 calories a slice if you dont glaze it), it's pretty groovy).

Come on: you know you'd eat whatever this little guy made... ;)

Vegan Orange-Almond-Chocolate Cake

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray/grease a bundt pan. (Or, if you are me, spray it with the 'flour'/'baking' spray.)

Over medium heat, warm 1 3/4 cup orange juice.  When it is hot, add 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa and whisk until well combined.  Remove from heat and rest for 10 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine: 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce, 1/4 cup coconut oil/butter, and 1/4 cup cornstarch.  Mix on low (stir setting on the Kitchen Aid) until smooth and creamed. 

In a measuring cup/bowl, stir together: 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup almond flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Set aside.

Add the (cooled) chocolate mixture and 1 tbsp vanilla extract. Mix on low until well combined.

Pour into your prepared bundt pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and continue to cool at room temperature.  Top with the glaze (below) if you wish, once the cake has cooled.

Nutrtional Info: Vegan Orange-Almond-Chocolate Cake

How we'll be eating cake tonight!

Orange-Almond-Chocolate Glaze

Over low heat, melt 1 tbsp butter with 75 grams of orange-almond chocolate.*  Slowly pour it into 1 cup of confectioner's sugar as you mix on low/stir setting.  Add up to 1/4 cup (or none, if you like a thicker glaze) of chocolate milk to make the glaze the consistency that you prefer.*+    Pour over the cake and, if you'd like, top with festive sprinkles to really put you in the autumn mood!!!

*this version is NOT vegan; to make it so, exchange the butter for a vegan spread and the chocolate milk for chocolate almond milk, in addition to using a vegan orange-almond chocolate)
+the nutritional information for this recipe includes 1/4 cup chocolate milk

Nutrtional Info: Orange-Almond Chocolate Glaze

6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

People tell you that time flies, but really... it does.  There are times when I'd like nothing more than to slam on the brakes and back up or, better yet, just hold a few moments in time.  It feels like The Final Countdown is on a perpetual repeat, and I'm stuck just going with it. 

In six days, my babies are three years old.  Full fledged preschoolers and no longer toddlers.  I know this not just by the days on the calendar but the attitude, the excitement about school, the thirst for knowledge that is everywhere.  Maya is more than happy to put you in your place (maybe she's two going on thirty instead of three...) and Bobby has now taken to not only labeling things but saying "I dont know" and looking for guidance on the items he doesnt know (which he then repeats back when he comes into contact with said item).  For example, today was a stalemate for lunch when, after asking for a grilled cheese (and we're talking a good grilled cheese: ancient grains bread with a local garlic and herb Irish-style cheddar), which she took to town last night, Maya refused to eat it and, when I told her she was eating what she asked for, she opted to not eat it.  Stalemate, chica- I have just as bad of an attitude and you wont win this round!!!  The other day, Peter took Bobby for a run around a 1/2 mile loop through the park (and a stop at the playground), and Bobby was identifying all he saw when he said "I dont know" and pointed.  Peter explained that it was moss and every time he encountered it again, Bobby would point and say "Moss".

Five years ago, we were packed up and on the verge of moving into the house that our children would ultimately be born in.  Not only that, but I'd just made an appointment with Dr. Lee... An appointment that would change our world forever.  It's crazy to think that it was all so long ago that the chain of events tied to our parenthood was set into motion. All the ups and downs of that rollercoaster, started (albeit slowly) five years ago. 

By the time four years ago had rolled around, we were already in the throws of grieving Nicholas and Sophia and newly pregnant with Alexander; in fact, it was September 3, 2008 that I announced on my blog we were expecting after loss. It was surreal.

What was more surreal was the feelings I was trying to wrap my head around three years ago, when we were in (what we didnt know) were the last days of my pregnancy with Bobby and Maya.  When Bobby's SVT and bradycardia episodes were forcing us to consider that even making it beyond 24 weeks might not be enough to bring our children home with us...  When I day-dreamed about hitting 28 weeks and my baby shower...  When Labor Day (aka Dont-Go-Into-Labor Day) gave me some relief because Bobby's heart arrythmia showed some positive progress...

Two years ago, we were on the cusp of that special first birthday! 

The babies were growing up from those 2 pound peanuts into actual, normal sized babies!  And they were beautiful... Perfect... (Some things dont change, I guess!)  Personally, I was battling some comments that hurt my feelings, making lifestyle changes (was that 2 years ago??? wow!), renting out my kids (not really!), and just enjoying the good things in life.

One year ago, this time last year, I was gearing up for my first half-marathon, trying to decide what the moral choice for our family was about my IC and more children, doing the 'days of firsts' leading up to their birthday (like cooking!), and getting rid of our nursery furniture.  In a lot of ways, last year feels farther away than the run of years before...  Was it only last year that the furniture was gone? That I ran that half?  Really?  Just one year ago???

And then we're here... The now... Bobby just woke from his nap and is cuddling in my lap, pulling my cheek to his lips when he wants a kiss and snuggling his face to mine when he wants one.  Holding his bear and playing peek-a-boo with the babies on the screen.  A cake fresh from the oven so that Maya can make the glaze and drizzle it over, while Bobby licks the pan it came from :).  A life stunted in some ways but so full and growing in many others.  A mom who couldnt leave her kids at a church nursery a year ago, who now leaves them two nights a week with the 12 year old from across the street so that she can coach cross country...  We're all growing up, I suppose.  It's a good thing.  It's a hard thing.

Oct 3, 2010

Sept 2, 2012

Oct 3, 2010

Sept 2, 2012

Yes, time is moving in high speed and we're all growing up... :)  And it is a good thing.  Even if it is the hardest thing at times.