Sunday, December 27, 2015

Seven Months


Hudder-Budder,

Merry Christmas sweet baby! This picture was one of the ways we announced that we were expecting you last Christmas to friends and family. It was such a joyful time in anticipation of what Christmas would look like with you this year.

A whole seven months have gone by without you. As Christmas came and went, I couldn't help but imagine what we should have with you. In my mind I could see you - a seven month version of you and in another daydream the five month version of you if you had come when you should have. You were there in each daydream, maybe sitting in a Bumbo or on a play pad, loving the boxes, tissue and wrapping paper. Your little eyes content with only that as we tried to shift your attention to the gifts "Santa" brought you. We've decorated this house for Christmas but never stayed up late to do Santa. We would laugh at ourselves for making this kind of fuss for you at such a young age but it was supposed to be your first Christmas so of course we would! After all the fuss we'd sit there and think, "maybe next year he'll be really into it."

In our actual reality, your Daddy and I did Christmas differently this year. We needed to distract ourselves from what wasn't there. We took a trip to get away and find peace in Montreal and Quebec. It was so beautiful, we were immersed in our own Winter Wonderland especially in Quebec City. Just like when we went to Vancouver and Victoria last summer, pieces of you were evident all around us. It was another "family trip" in a different kind of way.


On Christmas Eve we went to the most beautiful church service, a midnight mass at the Notre Dame Basilica. We were early enough to walk around and see the different saints and found a candle we could light for you. Tearfully, we stood there and prayed for you. A smile appeared on my face as I thought about how Jesus is the Reason for the Season and you were there in Heaven, with the reason for the season.


In the church Mommy grew up in, the church you are laid to rest, I sang in the choir. Every Christmas Eve service at the very end, the choir would line the walls with candles and sing Silent Night to the congregation. It was my favorite and what I looked forward to every year. Your great-grandfather also taught me that song in German when I was little. Hearing it in French consumed me with emotion as I listened to the beautiful choir from above us sing Douce Nuit! Sainte nuit!, while hearing in my mind my grandfather bellowing Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht! from my childhood, and remembering the look of the sanctuary at home as I sang Silent Night! Holy Night! by candlelight. As this all spun around in my mind, I saw you.

Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright.
Round yon virgin mother and child,
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

Tears just kept falling and all I could think about was you in my arms. The anticipation of you for eight and a half months, then finding out you would never experience this life with us. The wait in the hospital before you came, the feeling of seeing you the first time, of holding you and discovering every little thing we could about you. Then finally the hardest of all, saying goodbye to you. In these moments, I played the experience back in my mind and I missed you so much, I wanted you with us so bad. I didn't want to be 1700 miles away from home, I wanted to be at home spending our first Christmas with you.  

I wished you were in my arms, asleep as we sit by the tree as a little family of three with George laying on mine or Daddy's legs. I would hum Christmas carols to you and thank our Father for this blessing of you. But I don't have you and oh how I miss you. Today we are home so I rock in your rocker instead. I hold my special Hudson lamb as tears fall down my face. I think of what used to be my all-time favorite Christmas song and now it is my Christmas lullaby to you instead, my angel baby.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

All my love, forever and for always.

Mommy



Sunday, December 20, 2015

All I Want for Christmas


The Christmas songs, decor and celebrations seem to start earlier and earlier each year. For those experiencing a season of grief during the holidays, it can feel like the most un-wonderful time of the year.

I had started writing this post on December 2. That was a day I felt consumed with his memory, a day all of my thoughts revolved around what we should be doing as a family at the holidays if he were here. How different our life would be. That week I had started receiving Christmas cards of happy families and while I'm very thankful and appreciative to the people who didn't take us off their mailing list or instead of the card they sent out to everyone else, they sent us a special card to let us know we were in their thoughts and prayers this year, I was saddened that we didn't have a picture as a family of three to reciprocate.

We did decorate the house for Christmas. I always feel that my house is most beautiful during this time of year, when it is decked in lights, holly and jolly. We added some new decorative pieces that read JOY so it would lift our spirits as needed. As we were hanging ornaments, we stopped to pause and Max said "our tree is beginning to tell a story." As I gaze at it, it is kind of like a scrapbook. We have ornaments received as wedding gifts from our December wedding three years ago. We have an ornament to represent different adventures we've shared together all over the world. We have ornaments from our respective Universities and things that depict where we came from like sports teams, jobs we've held and sorority symbols. This year we have received some very special ornaments in memory of Hudson. From a framed picture of his sweet face, angels and angel wings, a beautiful silver medallion with a fitting quote, and one monogrammed with his initials. That HJS that will always represent him and whatever future children we will hopefully be blessed with one day. Looking at it tells the story of our past, our present and of a future that we hope to have, and he is part of our story. The ornament with those initials is something that can help give me hope of those future babies when I feel very beat down this holiday season. It is so special to have these dear keepsakes to continue to tell our family's story on our tree.

I had a draft for this post that I wrote, deleted, re-wrote, re-worked, deleted again, etc. about five times. My original premise was my real life Christmas wish list but when I saw this article posted by Angela Miller in one of my favorite grief Facebook Groups, A Bed For My Heart, that I realized it was everything I was feeling and wanting to express.This is exactly what I want to share with those grieving this Christmas and for those looking to understand.

Angela's full article is in the link above. This is a paraphrased excerpt from her full post with some of my own additional commentary and shared feelings that I feel best applies to me and our Hudson. Her original words are in bold.
-----

I had a hard time creating a Christmas list this year. Simply because there just was not much that anyone could give me that would help fill the void for what I truly want. Ever since you were taken from us, certain things in life, like Christmas, just doesn’t have the same excitement and joy as it once did.

No offense to baby Jesus. In fact, I quite love him– a lot– but the sight of Him in the manger makes me ache for you, my own “baby,” beyond any words, in any language. Beyond any ache I ever knew was humanly possible to survive. The birth of Jesus completed the Holy Family. The contrast of that next to mine, a family forever incomplete, is too much for me to handle most Christmases as a bereaved mom. Every time I hear "Mary Did You Know" or "Little Drummer Boy" and even the non-secular favorite "Where Are You Christmas" my eyes swell with tears.

Grief, Christmas and rooms overflowing with predominantly non-grieving people mix about as well as oil and water. I wish more people could really, truly get that.  As in, get it without being bereaved, or grieved, or any of that. Just get it, period.

For every holiday picture taken, meal eaten, carols sung, families gathered, trees  decorated, Christmas morning presents opened, are always those achingly incomplete. The joy of the season and the ache of the ever missing you taunt me like a cruel, unending joke. Our family will be forever incomplete. And there’s nothing that could make that broken circle close the way it should– like a kiss beneath the mistletoe gone horribly wrong, two lips never meeting as one– the edges of our family circle are permanently broken, never again will we be a family complete.

Sigh.

I don't want to have to “celebrate” the season this way, wishing for impossibilities that can never be, longing for what is no longer.

Some moments are surprisingly survivable, sometimes even filled with unexpected moments of laughter and joy. Others are barely bearable– a land mine of grief explosions grinchingly waiting for me around every corner.

Oh. my. heart.  

This is what Christmas without you looks like. Every step holds the very real possibility of getting pulled totally and completely under– of being over my head, gasping for air in a whirlpool of holiday induced grief. Drowning in a thick sea of Eggnog and misjudgments. If I don’t show up, it’s mistaken as, “Oh, she doesn’t care.” If I do show up, with tears and the real sound of my own heart breaking, it’s “Ohhhh, she mustn’t be OVER it yet,” or “Clearly she’s not doing (hush-hush, voice lowered) very well.”

If only it could be understood that it is exactly because of the holidays– the gatherings, the pressure to be merrily on, the exaggerated empty chair that is often unrecognized and not spoken of in a room overflowing with a family otherwise glaringly complete– that leaves a grieving parent spinning in the holy-daze of grief. Just when I think I’m doing ‘ok’, a half cup of tears unexpectedly floods my perfectly measured Christmas cookie batter, and drowns me right along with it– a not so ironic analogy indicative of an entire season filled with far too much salt in a bereaved parent’s wounds. Or, if things have been feeling slightly jolly and even joy-filled, I’ll find myself perpetually holding my breath, shoulders up to my ears, cautiously waiting for the other shoe to drop without even realizing it. Or with the anxiety of a mother scanning the crowd for her lost child, one might find me relentlessly surveying every holiday gathering for mine, while also making note of every blessed Kleenex box, bathroom location, the quickest escape routes and nearest exists that will lead to a corner where I can safely let my tears for you endlessly fall.

If one were to ask me what I really want, I’d sob that all I really want for Christmas is this:
(edited and adapted from the writer's list, some are her shared words, others reflect my own wishes)

1)  A normal life, one with you in it, growing bigger and older every day instead of this tidal wave of grief washing over me at times I want more than anything to be happy and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. To feel truly alive again, instead of trying to survive underneath the weight of life and death I feel in every single breath.

2)  A Christmas card with all three of us and Georgie pup. One complete with your cheeky and gummy grin, maybe snapped as we turn toward you and smile brighter or laugh. A family that is knowing of true joy, not this pain and emptiness.

3) To celebrate a Christmas with all of our family this year with you. A holiday that started with you last Christmas, as we shared the news you were coming with our loved ones. With my side of the family, you would be the only grandbaby and it would have been an exciting first for us all. On your daddy's side of the family, you would be joining Brooks as the second boy cousin with Olivia and now Kiley as the two girls. You and Kiley would be having your first Christmases together, cousins around the same age. How fun it would have been to watch you grow together.

4)  The untainted joy of Christmas, the birth of possibility, of dreams untainted by the broken, jagged, shattered pieces of our missing puzzle piece, our missing you.

5)  To be expecting new life again, carrying your little brother or sister. How badly we want to fill our home with little ones, as Mommy and Daddy to you in Heaven and to children on this Earth.

6)  The space at our table, full with a high chair, that would later become a booster seat, and then a chair once you are big enough to sit in one. You would be there, full of life, full of laughter, full of every amazing part of you.

7)  A circle of loving hearts who could understand that although I carry both the ache and the joy of the season in me all at once, the ache often times feels stronger and more overwhelming, because the joy of the season is jollying everywhere, greeting my broken places with a slap in the face, and a swift punch to the gut with every photo of a child on Santa's lap, every pregnancy announcement, gender reveal and baby born. If only the world could understand that for me, the holidays feel more like an emotional war zone, than an exciting season of Yuletide cheer.

There you have it. One wish for every month you have been gone and should have been with us instead.

The thing is, I don’t care about what kind of tree we have– real or fake, sparkly ornaments or dull. I don’t care about what kind of food we eat, or if we decide to put lights on the outside of the house or nowhere at all. I don’t care if anyone gets me a present. I don’t care about holiday fruitcake, or gingerbread houses or where so-and-so gets to vacation for Christmas this year.

All I care about is that we’re together as a family, creating priceless memories that money can’t buy and death can’t steal.

Oh yes, and one last thing. I hope to figure out how to keep your light on inside my heart bright enough to make my pores glow with the light of you all year long. That’s my Christmas wish.

If it happens, I figure that’s the closest I’ll ever get to having all I really want for Christmas–
 
Our precious, perfect, wonderful You.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ten Seconds



The other night I had some quiet time to myself. I needed something mindless so I took to Netflix and found myself watching the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. This is not at all a terrible show, in case you were wondering but then again, how can something by Tina Fey be terrible? I kind of love it. 

As I sat there watching the first episode, the affable Ellie Kemper (Kimmie Schmidt) gives brilliant and beautiful advice. “Do you think you can handle this for 10 more seconds?” she asks at one point. “You can handle anything for 10 seconds. Then, you just start a new 10 seconds.”

I sat there and was almost put out that this silly show caused me to stop and think. It made me reflect on the way I've tried to manage my triggers by avoiding them as much as possible. The way I can feel the pain coming on sometimes without cause and then I'm flooded in it.

That night in particular, I was exhausted from the day but other than that, I had been in relatively high spirits. In the past couples weeks, I felt I had hit a break through in my grief, having learned to start channeling it ways that brought me comfort and peace, but also made me feel constructive and productive - that is a post for another time. Max and I had a plan for the holidays so my anxiety had been lifted but there was still a looming sadness that would hit with certain Christmas songs or store window displays around town reminding me what Christmas with a child should be like. 

Though I had been experiencing some very good days (consecutively, which is a big deal) today however, I spiraled down again after receiving some tough news from my doctor. As I had shared with you at the end of November, without any difficulties in conceiving Hudson, trying to get pregnant again has proved to be challenging. After the last 5 months of trying, I finally asked my doctor what we could do because I needed hope. I was ready to do anything to be that much closer to having a baby in our arms. Though I did have a pregnancy and made it into my eighth month, my child is gone. It feels as though we've been trying all this time, essentially for 14 months. This month I went on Clomid. I went in for blood work this week to check my progesterone levels. Though I've had positive ovulation tests since I started charting in September, that doesn't necessarily mean I am releasing an egg. The blood screening would check my progesterone levels which would be high if I had released an egg or if I had conceived. After 9 days of positive ovulation tests - which is not normal but they said Clomid could cause that - I had positive thoughts. My body was definitely releasing the surge of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which precedes an egg release. However, my blood work showed a low progesterone level of a 2, meaning I had not ovulated meaning I had not conceived.

I feel consumed with anger, frustration, sadness, and confusion. I lack understanding and the ability to stay graceful towards others. After hearing from my doctor, I didn't want to go to work, I didn't want to function, I didn't want to do all the things I needed to do, the things people were counting on me to do. I wanted to allow myself to dwell in all those emotions because sometimes, you just want to. Then I remember the many other people in my life that are coming to terms with their own grief for one reason or another or those having fertility issues as well. I'm not the only one, so today I counted to ten. I can do anything for ten seconds, even if it is painful and hard. Even if it is the last thing I want to do because I'd rather surrender to my grief. I count to ten, then if my heart and head are still screaming, I'll count to ten again, and again, and again until the inner turmoil ceases or can at least chill for a little while.

For those battling grief or a difficult season of life, let's just take it ten seconds at a time. As Christmas draws closer, and all the ugly feelings start to stir, I'll be counting to ten with you.

We can do this.
Ten seconds at a time.

Thanks Kimmy Schmidt.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad


My friend Casey brought this salad over for dinner recently and I had to have the recipe. This type of salad is my absolute favorite and I was thrilled to find an easy enough copycat recipe that is just as good as the restaurant versions I crave. She found it on the Pinch of Yum blog and shared it with me, so I must share it with you.

We added it to dinner as a side but it can easily be a full meal for either dinner or lunch.

Ingredients:
Yields 4 servings for a side

For Salad:
  • 20-25 brussels sprouts (makes about 3 cups shredded)
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
For Dressing:
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. honey (I added an additional tbsp to thicken)
  • 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard (I added this ingredient because after tasting it the first time without, I felt it needed something. This gave it another savory flavor and another dimension.)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
Start by frying the bacon over low heat until crispy. Remove and set aside to dry on paper towels. Crumble and set aside.

The shredding of the brussels sprouts is probably the most time consuming part of this, but using a box cheese greater makes it go by quickly. I always chop off the end of the sprout, then peel back the top layer leaves that are often discolored. Using the slicing blade on the cheese grater (located on the side), shred the sprout. You can gently massage them to help separate the sprouts from one another and fluff a bit.

Toss the shaved sprouts, bacon crumbles, pomegranate arils, almonds and the grated cheese together.

Place all the dressing ingredients in the food processor and pulse until creamy. This made a lot of dressing, I used about 1/4 cup of it and kept the rest for salad use later this week. 

Toss the salad with dressing and serve.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Jalapeno Bearnaise Sauce

 

A few weeks before Christmas, Max and I tried to get into a cooking class. We had not done one together in a while and thought it would be a fun thing to do! The menu of this particular class had a Southwest flair and looked amazing but we didn't get into it. Years ago, when he was preparing for the CFA and would need quiet nights at home before a long day of studying on the weekends, we would look up different menus and come up with fun things to create at home for our date-nights-in. We decided to do "vintage us" and create that cooking school menu at home instead.

The menu consisted of a pecan-crusted crab cake salad, beef tenderloin with a jalapeno bearnaise, a creamed corn souffle and a bread pudding. After looking at it, we ended up choosing the crab cake salad, the beef tenderloin and supplementing with our own vegetables and didn't even get to making a dessert.

Let me tell you that I typically do not like bearnaise sauce - like, at all. Anytime I'm at a steakhouse and that is the sauce that is served, I ask if they other options. I prefer a wine reduction, a madeira or a chimichurri. I've always felt those to be more savory and complimentary of dark meat. However, we were intrigued by a jalepeno bearnaise so I decided why not give it a try?

I searched around for some recipes and came across this one. I followed it step by step so I am simply sharing this person's recipe with you and a testimony that it was fabulous. It is not something I came up with or altered in any way to make it my own, except I did omit the optional nutmeg. If you want to jazz up your New Year's Eve steak, this is a very delicious way to do it! The flavor was wonderful and not at all too spicy despite using the jalapeno and cayenne. It had the perfect amount of kick to make it more savory that usual.

Once I started it, I became concerned because it seemed really hands on and like I could ruin it very easily if I wasn't paying attention. So, I will give you that warning - this is one you will need to pay attention to as you make it. I would wait until the rest of the meal is about 15 minutes away from being done so you can serve this promptly for best results.

For the meat, Max got a seasoned beef tenderloin from Central Market and smoked it on the Green Egg following instructions based on the desired doneness and size of meat cooking. 

One thing you should know before you start making it is that you need a double boiler.

Ingredients:
Makes about 4-6 servings
  • 2 tbsp. jarred pickled jalapenos, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper    
To begin, combine the jalapeno, cilantro, vinegar and wine in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer. You will allow the heat to reduce the liquid to about 1/3 cup, then let it cool. 

Fill the bottom pot with water. Place the egg yolks into the top pot of a double boiler, then set that pot on top of the bottom pot. 

Strain the cooked liquid reduction into a bowl. Reserve the strained peppers and cilantro, setting aside. Take the liquid reduction and pour it into the pot with the egg yolk. Make sure the liquid reduction is completely cool before adding it to the egg so that it does not cook the egg at all once combined. Whisk together well.  

Bring the water to a simmer but do not boil. Begin to continuously whip the egg and reduction together quickly as the water from the bottom pot heats the top pot. Slowly add the melted butter, whisking well before adding more. Continue this until all butter has been used. The sauce should continue to thicken as it heats, but if it starts to curdle, remove from heat and keep whisking to get it back to a sauce-like consistency, then add back to the heat.

Once butter has been added, take a tablespoon or more (to your discretion) of the reserved peppers and herbs, then whisk into the sauce along with the cayenne. 

Serve sauce immediately and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

For Better or For Worse


December 8, 2012 
I, Katie, take you Max.
To be my lawfully, wedded husband.
To have and to hold, from this day forward.
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, 'till death do us part.
This is to be my solemn vow.

Three years ago, I said these words with a shaky voice and tear-filled eyes. Looking at him, I pictured our life together. Buying our first house, traveling the world, having babies, raising a family, retiring, growing old together and all the wonderful moments in between. 


You don't stand there picturing the pain and heartache that life can bring.

When I stood at that alter as his bride, I never thought that the for worse part of our vows would be put to the test so early into our forever after. I didn't envision that we'd gather at the same church, just two and a half years later, with at least a third of that sanctuary who watched as we exchanged our wedding vows now joining to mourn with us after the death of our first baby. Music speaks to me and for our wedding ceremony, we used a family favorite hymn Be Thou My Vision during the seating of the families. That hymn was chosen because of the way our parents and grandparents shaped us to be who we have become, they had been our vision when we couldn't always see. It was the first song played in the wedding ceremony procession and chosen as the first song we sung at Hudson's funeral.


While I couldn't ever imagine this type of pain, I did anticipate sorrow at some point because that is life. I will tell you that everything does not happen for a reason until I am blue in the face, but I do believe that every good and perfect thing comes from Him (James 1:17) and my husband is at the very top of that list. Therefore, I knew that under any circumstance, this is the man chosen for me to go through life with. I've spent some time this week looking at our wedding pictures. I see the look of sheer joy and happiness. I see the love between us, the love that is somehow even stronger in my heart today than it was three years ago. It is that love that sustains us, an unconditional love to carry us through both the for better and the for worse. 
 

Last year we clinked glasses of ice water as we toasted to our 8 week sonogram and two years of wedded bliss, anticipating the joy of starting our family with our first little one on the way. Our third year of marriage did not turn out the way we had planned for it to, a year later, it is still just the two of us with a lot of heartache and sorrow. However, the love has grown exponentially. This year I toast my husband, a man who has the integrity and fortitude of my father, as well as the compassion and resilience of my grandfather. I am thankful to have him as my partner and best friend, that this is the man I get to celebrate the for better with and battle the for worse alongside of. This year as we celebrate, we are both a little broken, but together we are whole. He has carried me through the last six months during times I could not stand. Then there are times I've stood a bit taller when he's needed to lean on me to get by. Our life looks different than we thought it would, but as long as I have him by my side, it's the life I want to have. Together, we can weather any storm.

To have and to hold.
Forever and always.





Monday, December 7, 2015

Short Rib Pot Pie






Next time you find yourself making this Butternut Short Rib Ragu, this too can be yours. After making the ragu for a girls holiday dinner, I found myself with leftovers and wanting to reinvent it for a new meal. I had been playing with another idea for a Cajun Chicken Pot Pie - I'll get to that, maybe around Mardi Gras - and that's when it occured to me that this little hybrid could be prettay, prettay good. 

All you need is the recipe for the short rib, some crescent rolls, a muffin pan and then you are set.

Each crescent roll tube will make 4 servings, so plan accordingly. Instead of ripping them apart in the triangles, leave them as one big rectangle. Set that into a large muffin slot on the tin, pressing down to create a small pie-like base. Fill with 1 large or 2 small scoops, then fold the sides over top.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.




Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Chicken Curry and Veggies


 Going on the ninth consecutive night of cooking dinner at home, we were a little bored and having a hard time coming up with something inspiring. We sat there at lunch asking, "so what do you want for dinner?" "I don't know, what do you want for dinner?" Over and over...and over. We sounded like the vultures from the Jungle Book (please tell me you know what I'm talking about). Max finally had an a-ha moment and remembered one of the first dishes we made together, one of his favorites that we used to make a lot, then kind of forgot about as we continued to try new recipes.

This is a great low calorie, low fat, high protein dinner solution that takes all of 30 minutes to make if you grab pre-chopped veggies at your local grocery store. Both Whole Foods and Central Market have pre-chopped onions and sweet potatoes, as well as cubed chicken, so all you'd have to chop is the bell pepper.

Ingredients:
Yields 4-5 servings

  • 1 lb. chicken, cubed
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. Soy-Ginger Sauce, divided (I have the 365 brand)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups sweet potato, cubed
  • 3 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • dash of cayenne
  • 3/4 cup low fat, unsweetened coconut milk 
  • Base of choice (rice, quinoa)
Boil the cubed sweet potatoes until, softened and you are able to pierce with a fork. Drain and set aside. While those are cooking, marinate the cubed chicken in the soy-ginger sauce.

In a wok, add the chicken and cook on medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the wok and set aside.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the wok, allowing them to soften. Once the onion is translucent, add the sweet potato to the wok and turn up the heat. Cook the vegetables until lightly browned, then return the chicken to the wok to join the veggies.

In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp. of the Soy-Ginger sauce and the coconut milk.

Sprinkle the spices over top the veggies and chicken, coating well, then pour in the coconut milk mixture. Take a taste and then add your desired amount of cayenne pepper to give it the right amount of kick for your taste. 

I used a brown rice/quinoa blend as a base and ladeled the curry over top. 





Friday, November 27, 2015

Six Months

 Give thanks in all circumstances...
I Thessalonians 5:18

Dear Hudson,

Sweet baby, six months have come and gone. It has now been half a year without you. Some days it feels so far away but the pain is still so raw, I close my eyes and suddenly it feels like it was yesterday. 

Six months. What would we be doing with you right now? What milestones would we be experiencing? Who would you be? What would you look like?

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. 

Last Thanksgiving, I was 6 weeks pregnant with you, trying to keep it from everyone. I remember looking around the room of Camp Dickson, with the secret of you in my head, thinking about how the next year would be so fun with you there. This year, we had to do things differently, I needed change. I thought different would help. Your Daddy and I stayed busy, we cooked a full meal and hosted Thanksgiving for the first time with your Grandparents, your MaMaw and Uncles, Michael and Patrick. I had a place for you at the table, next to me. I imagined you in the high chair that would sit to my right. Maybe we would have introduced some solid foods by this point, like sweet potatoes, bananas or peas. Maybe I would have tried to make my own puree, a little something special for your first Thanksgiving. You'd make a mess, we'd laugh, I'd clean you up with your Grandma and MaMaw helping because they just want to touch those cheeks and chubby hands. I'd rub our twin noses together and then your Daddy would get up from the table, lift you high above his head and blow a raspberry on your tummy, he'd walk around with you to relax you. Your Uncles would take turns playing with you but ultimately, you would end up in your Granddaddy's arms as we all watched football while you drifted off to sleep. We'd feel so complete.

Over the next few weeks I'll be picturing the life we should have had together, the joy we would be experiencing. We would be celebrating three years of marriage with you in tow. Celebrating your baptism with friends and family, which I had planned to do the weekend after our anniversary. Would you have been the baby Jesus at the church's Lessons and Carols? Would we be doing pictures for our first Christmas card as a little family this weekend? The other day we ran to the mall and while walking through, I saw the Santa Workshop. I envisioned us taking you to sit on Santa's lap and we'd laugh as you either loved it or hated it. Can you believe that mall Santa is the same one that was there when I was little? I have your Christmas stocking, I got an extra one last year when picking them for your Daddy and I because I was too excited about the thought of you. I never imagined it wouldn't turn out the way I had pictured.

Hudson, I had so many ideas and plans for us, especially for the holidays. The traditions we would start together, the way we would celebrate as a family. I wish you were here to do that with, to experience it all with. So I'll picture it in my mind, live it with you in this parallel universe. I will have to patiently wait for the day to come when you have a little brother or sister that will join our family and we can experience these things with them, finding special ways for your memory to be part of it, but I'll always envision you there among us. My dark, curly haired boy with chubby cheeks and brown eyes. I imagine you with brown eyes like your Daddy.

Some days it is really hard to be thankful, but I am, even in this sadness. Know this, I am so thankful for you Hudson. I am thankful that you made me a mother. I am so thankful to have my faith and know that I will see you again.

I love you. I miss you. I am always thankful for you.

Mommy



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Buttermilk Pecan Pie


 

Growing up, buttermilk chess pie was a treasured favorite for both my dad and myself. A month ago I went to a luncheon at the Dallas Women's Club with speaker P. Allen Smith, gardener extraordinaire and overall, ultimate renaissance man. I was in awe of his Arkansas plantation and everything he does with it, check it out.

For lunch, they used a few of his recipes including this buttermilk pecan pie. I was skeptical because I do not love pecans. Yes, I am southern and do not care for pecans. There, I said it. However, I tried it because I couldn't resist the buttermilk pie aspect and ended up very pleasantly surprised by the combination. We each received recipe cards and I told my dad I was going to kick his hiney at our buttermilk pie bake off.

Quick funny story: the recipe card had a typo on it. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please direct your attention to the highlighted portion of the document below.
 

Notice how it calls for 14 cup of flour. I couldn't comprehend how in the world a pie would call for 14 cups of anything, never the less, a thickening agent like flour. I then noticed the cup was not plural. I googled Mr. Smith and his pie to discover it called for 1/4 cup. If I had been on autopilot mode, I would have tried to do 14 cups of flour. Like the time I tried to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and didn't pay attention to the fact that I was using a 4 cup measuring glass and the recipe was, well, doubled with just oats by accident. This is why I don't bake y'all. Cooking allows me to just do ma' thing and add as I go to taste, baking requires me to pay attention and be precise.

For a non-baker like myself, this was easy as... well, pie. I used a store-bought crust and had this in the oven in just under 30 minutes. Candying the pecans taking up most of the prep time. This was so good, and I can't wait to serve it tomorrow. I'm having a personal victory of baking something from scratch that worked on the first time. So, if I can do it you can do it too. Do make sure you get a deep dish crust, my first pie was more shallow and didn't fit all of the filling. My second pie was a deep dish crust and it was perfect.

Enjoy! I may or may not be enjoying a slice as I finish typing.

Ingredients:
Serves 8

For the filling:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick of butter, melted)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 easy pie crust, unbaked

For the Candied Pecans:
  • 1 cup pecan halves, plain
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark corn syrup

Start with making the pecans first. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil, and lightly grease the foil. In a small mixing bowl, combine the pecan halves and brown sugar, stirring in the corn syrup until well coated. Spread the mixture out on the pan and bake, stirring every 4 minutes as the glaze thickens, for 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and spread the pecans in a single layer on wax paper. Let the pecans cool completely (I put them in the fridge to assist with this).

Now heat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Scatter the chopped glazed pecans evenly on top of the pie filling.

Bake for 1 hour or until set. Let the pie cool on a wire baking rack. Chill until ready to serve, then let it sit out to serve at room temperature.

 

Thanksgrieving


Thanksgiving used to be my favorite family holiday get together. I have an extended family of individuals who love to cook so it was wonderful to create a meal together, with all the laughter and fun the day would bring. We'd relish in a delicious meal, enjoying the company, then watch football, maybe take a little nap, finally, we'd start the annual viewing of Christmas Vacation to kick off the season, drinking egg nog (or wine, I definitely drank wine) out of moose mugs.

This Thanksgiving is different. This year, it's called Thanksgrieving.

For those who have experienced loss, it is just hard to find thankfulness and joy in a time that you feel there is a big blinking arrow pointing to where the one who is missing should be. You need change, you need different because it can be too hard to be in the same setting where that person was or where they were anticipated to be.

Figuring out the holidays has definitely been a struggle. Because I write this as a healing method for my heart and soul, and because I've connected with individuals who have found my posts, individuals that are also on a journey of loss or grief, I'm going to remain candid with you. I know there are scrolling eyes in need of sharing a similar path as well. I had hoped to be entering this Thanksgiving pregnant again. In a time of joy to the rest of the world, I had hoped to put one foot back on that side of the dividing line with a new pregnancy to begin the holiday season to ease the pain, soften the heart, have hope and promise with a new life.

I'm an individual that looks really hard into everything. Always have, always will. I over-analyze and create symbolic meaning for things. For example, numbers. Our house number is 819. It was perfect because 8 is my lucky number and then 9-1 equals 8. Double eights. Or, it's 8 (the day of the month of my birthday and our wedding anniversary) and 1+9 equals 10 (Max's birthday). Therefore, a perfect house number for us. Or when I turned 24 and my birthday that year was 8/8/08 which equaled 24. I've always done things like that, for as long as I can remember. The cycle of my chemical pregnancy, I thought it was so symbolic that I would have a positive test that time because the due date would be 4/4. My birthday is 8/8, my brother's is 7/7, my dad's is 12/12. How symbolic and perfect to have my Rainbow Baby with the same pattern. That was not the case. So this time, doing the calculations based on this last fertile window, it would have put my due date the same as Hudson's original date. My doctor has said that for all of my future pregnancies, I will be induced at 38 weeks. Monday, July 18 would have been the start of the 38th week. In my heart, I saw that as some kind of beautiful symbol of the struggle of losing Hudson and the new life that would have come from it. I wouldn't look at that date as a sad milestone of a missed due date, it would have held a new purpose, a special purpose. Instead of mourning that date again, it could be celebrated with new life and Hudson's May 27 birthday would be his day and July 18 would be the date this baby would share as another bond with his big brother and guardian angel. 

Well, as of Tuesday morning of this week, that is not the case. After five tries, my doctor is treating me for what she calls secondary infertility, when it was easy to conceive the first time and then not the next time. The past three of five tries have involved ovulation tests, terms I've learned like TTC (Trying To Conceive), DPO (Days Past Ovulation), CD (Cycle Day), BFN (Big Fat Negative), BFP (Big Fat Positive), PAL (Pregnancy After Loss), women wishing other women to have "baby dust" sprinkled on them this time. I know many women are instructed 8 months to a year, my doctor typically has a six month TTC rule, but she told me I more than likely will not feel "normal" until we have conceived again and she wants me back to that point as soon as my heart can bear it. My head and heart are there, though I know PAL will bring it's own new set of trials, fears and yes, even still sadness. But it's a step in the direction we need to be in, a direction we need to get back to.

So this Thanksgiving, instead of taking a pregnancy test like my fertility app had me set up to do, I will start my first round of Clomid, followed by Estrace. I will continue ovulation testing every morning, every evening, tracking the lines to look for the surge of LH (Luteinizing Hormone) to indicate ovulation. On CD21, I will go in for blood work to check my levels and know if an egg truly did release. My doctor said that though I've seen positive ovulation tests, I could produce LH but the egg may not be actually releasing. Clomid should force that, then if fertilized, Estrace will help implantation stick. In a perfect situation.

So back to Thanksgiving. A time of thanks and joy. No, it's Thanksgrieving. My child was taken from me and my womb is still bare. I have to seek out thanks and joy because it isn't occurring naturally over here.

While most of me wanted to run screaming for the hills this Thanksgiving, we are focusing on distraction and keeping busy. Cooking makes us happy, it's what we love to do together, so we are hosting just my immediate family members for dinner. Then, our door is open to any friends who are orphaned without a place to go or have finished with their own families and want to come over and watch football, have dessert and play games in the evening. We are going to surround ourselves with family and friends, with distraction, in our own home so that I can escape if I need to, and there won't be any little ones or expecting parents to trigger an unsightly reaction. I know, it's kind of awful of me to still feel that way. I can't wait to be on the other side of that.

So, we cook. We bake. We get the house ready to entertain. I have the centerpiece done, the china out. I've mapped out a list of what needs to start cooking when, how it will stay warm until we serve, and where it will be placed in a serving line. We will cook our big Thanksgiving feast, but no Parade on the TV this year because of all the reminders of the child I should have such as the Wiggles, Sesame Street and of course, Santa. 

If you are a prayerful individual, my prayer request is this: while of course I want this next cycle to be successful, for this solution to be the little nudge my body may have needed, I ask that you continue to pray for peace and comfort in our hearts. Every time there is a negative test or my cycle starts, it results in waves of my grief all over again, crashing down. It is so defeating and gut wrenching. I mourn losing Hudson all over again, I mourn the life we don't have with him, and there is an intense sadness that it is not yet time for our Rainbow Baby to bring us out of the storm. The next time I will be eligible for a pregnancy test? Christmas Day. Fantastic.

I pray for this next HJS (Harrison James? Hadleigh Jane?) baby. I pray for the continued healthy development of the Rainbow Babies I know that still have a little ways to go and the parents fearfully, yet hopefully, awaiting their arrivals.

I pray for the Parents of Loss whether they are facing their first or twelfth holiday season without their precious child. I pray for those who are missing a loved one no longer at the table this year. I pray for any person struggling with infertility and long to hold a child of their own. I pray for all of these hearts during this holiday season, a time when it is so apparent as to what is missing.

I pray to see the incredible gifts that have been bestowed on us, though grief can make you blind to them.

I recite Psalm 136:1 over and over as a mantra to my heart.

I am thankful for the man chosen to be my husband, the home we have built together, the pup that helps heal us and fill a void of someone to take care of. I am thankful for our families. I am thankful for our health, our family's health, and our friends' health. I am thankful for food on the table. I am thankful for a support system that continues to lift us. I am thankful to be Hudson's mommy.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Meatballs a la Max


Sometime after we got married (approx. three years ago), Max started making these incredibly tasty meatballs. The secret is in the different ground meats, pan searing them and then cooking them the rest of the way through in the sauce. On occasion we've played with making our own tomato sauce, but I just haven't mastered that yet, Newman's Own is still much better.

Ingredients
Yields 4-5 Servings
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/4 lb. ground veal
  • 1/4 lb. ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tsp. Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs, stale and crumbled (* see note below)
  • 3/4 c lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Pasta of Choice
  • Sauce of Choice
  • Red pepper flakes
Prep time is 30 minutes.
Cook time is 1 hour.

Roll up your sleeves, it's time to get your hands dirty. To start, combine the meat in a large bowl. Add in the garlic, egg, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

*For the bread crumbs. We like to get a loaf of fresh Italian bread from the grocery store, then using a mini food processor, grind up 1 cup worth. Then, lay out on a flat surface for a few hours to allow them to harden a bit. For optimal use, let the crumbs be exposed to air for 24 hours OR you can bake them in the oven at 250 for 10 minutes.

Add the breadcrumbs into the meat mixture, then slowly add the water, 1/4 cup at a time. Massage the water in so that it is well absorbed before adding more.

Next it is time to shape the mixture into meatballs, then set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on high heat. To lock in the moisture, pan sear the meatballs on each side until slightly browned, about 2 minutes, then remove. In a large pot, add the meatballs, then cover in a jar of sauce. Let the meatballs finish cooking in the sauce on low heat (simmer) for 1 hour. We add a few shakes of red pepper flakes to spice it up a bit.

Prepare your pasta of choice, then top with meatballs and sauce. Garnish with your favorite Italian cheese and additional parsley.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Brisket Chili


I received the D Magazine Cookbook as a Christmas gift from a coworker two years ago. It is filled with various recipe contributions from Dallas chefs, including a fun take on a chili recipe, submitted by the Twisted Root Burger Co. Founder and Chef, Jason Boso.

This is the original recipe:

The first time I made it, while the flavor was outstanding, it had so much liquid to it and seemed more soup-like than that of a hearty, chunky chili consistency. This time, I added some more "girth" to it with the black beans and butternut squash. Instead of stewed tomatoes, which created more excess liquid originally, I used the diced tomatoes and opted for the flavor of the fire roasted with green chiles. I switched out his granulated sugar for a more rich flavor with brown sugar. I also added the cayenne, garlic powder and my favorite secret weapon, Cajun seasoning.

This takes about 5.5 hours to make - 30 minutes prep, 5 hours in the oven.

Ingredients
Yields 8-10 Servings 
  • 3 lbs. brisket, trimmed and cut into 1/2 lb. sections
  • 1 large onion, chiced (that's a hybrid of chopped and diced - somewhere in the middle)
  • 2 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 can beer (I used Miller Lite because it was in the fridge)
  • 1 14.5 oz can of fire roasted diced red tomatoes and green chiles
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 5 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • Green onion (optional)
Heat your oven to 275 degrees.

Season your brisket with garlic powder and Cajun seasoning. In a large cast iron pot, brown the sections of meat on all sides (3-4 at a time, don't let them touch in the pan) on high heat. Remove the meat and add the onions, scraping up the brown bits. Turn the heat down to medium and allow the onions to caramelize (15 minutes).

Add the meat back in, along with the butternut squash, black beans, diced tomatoes and green chiles. In a separate bowl, combine the liquids and the tomato paste, followed by the spices. With a wooden spoon, mix it all together thickening the base with the tomato paste, then stir in the brown sugar. Once well blended, add to the pot with meat and veggies, fully coating. Make sure the meat is submerged in the liquid at least three quarters of the way.

Place the pot in the oven and let cook for 5 hours, or until the brisket is shreddable. Once it is, completely shred, discarding any excess fat left from the brisket. Take a taste test and if you need to add any of the spices to your liking, do so.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with your choice of sour cream, shredded cheese and green onion.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Two Pink Lines


A year ago today, I woke up and knew our world was about to change for the better.
A year ago today, I made an early morning run to the drug store to buy a pregnancy test.
A year ago today, I saw two pink lines.


Sweet Hudson,

A year ago today is when you became our reality. I couldn't wait to let the world in on our little secret that we had created this precious new life, that you would be ours, that we were our own little family. I couldn't wait to hold you, to know you, and to see who you would be. I felt like I was learning your little personality with every kick, I got to hold you but the rest is paused until we are together again someday.

Just like I did at this time a year ago today, I cry, but the reasons are different. Instead of expecting parents, we are bereaved parents. Instead of learning how to do life with you, we are learning how to go through life without you. A life we had done for 30 years before you but once you entered it, it is now irrevocably changed.

A year from now, I will still think of you on this day. The day we found out about you, the day you became ours.

My heart beats for you.

With love always,

Mommy


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Beef Goulew


Goulew? Nope, not a typo.

Goulash + Stew. I call it Goulew.

We had a few days of solid rain. When this happens in November, it's called crock pot weather. On a weekly grocery trip, there was a special on beef stew meat so I grabbed it and decided I'd figure it out later. After paging through some of my stew favs, I decided to make a hybrid of a traditional stew and a goulash for a tasty result.

When I said crock pot weather I deem that as a meal category that may or may not actually require a crock pot. This one does not. Using a cast iron pot, you can achieve the same look and feel in a shorter amount of time than a crock pot requires.

Now to the Goulew. Which Max likes to sing like Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet. Try it, it's more fun and perhaps the true reason behind the name.

Ingredients:
Yields 5-6 Servings
  • 1 lb. beef stew meat
  • Olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tbsp. paprika + an additional 1 tsp.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. parsley
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 2 cups carrots, chopped into 2-3 inch sticks
  • 1 16 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Beef Broth
Toss the beef, flour and paprika in a bowl, coating the meat completely. In a skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat, then begin to brown the meat on all sides, flipping every 3-5 minutes.

While that is taking place, in a large pot (such as a dutch oven), add a little more oil and sauté the garlic and onions on medium heat until fragrant. Add the beef, then the celery, carrots, thyme, parsley, and a few more shakes of paprika. Let that become nice and aromatic, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar and beef broth, and bring to a boil. Settle everything in there, nice and cozy-like, then let it simmer for an hour on the stove.

Some people like to make it with chopped potatoes, I like mine as a base, all mashed up with cauliflower included. I made my quick, go-to version and served the Goulew.
(you know you sang that like Goulet.)

Mashed Cauliflower/Potatoes
Yields 3-4 servings
  • Salt
  • 2 cup frozen cauliflower
  • 2 small Yukon Gold or Red Potatoes, cubed
  • 1 spoonful of greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Paprika
  • Garlic Salt
Fill a pot about 1/2 the way with water and salt it (hearty shakes, 4-5 times). Boil the potatoes on high for 10 minutes. Add cauliflower, boil for another 5-8 minutes. Once potatoes are soft enough to pierce through with a fork, remove and drain the water. Place cauliflower and potatoes in a bowl, add butter and greek yogurt, then using an electric hand mixer, beat until smooth. Season with Garlic salt and Paprika.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sriracha Turkey Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries

 
 


Max was a bit skeptical when I said I was making turkey burgers for dinner. Then I told him they were sriracha turkey burgers and his eyes lit up a bit. This was a fun recipe to create and very quick to pull together. Paired with an easy side of crispy sweet potato wedges and you have a lightened up version of burger and fries.  

Turkey burgers:
Yields 5 patties

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tsp Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • Garlic powder
  • Cumin
  • Avocado
  • Cheese of Choice
  • Bread of Choice (I used Hearts of Romaine lettuce to sandwich mine for a carb-less option)

Heat your grill or griddle to desired heat.

In a skillet, heat oil then add the onion and red bell pepper. Cook until onion is translucent and bell pepper is softened. Fold the cooked onions and bell pepper into the ground turkey. Add Tamari and the Sriracha. Season with garlic powder and cumin (3-4 shakes). Form into patties (roughly 4 inches in circumference) then cook on the grill for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Top with cheese of choice (we used muenster), lettuce and avocado.

Sweet potato fries:
Yields 4 servings
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder 

For fries, heat oven to 450. I used an apple corer to save time on chopping for initial chunks, then cutting smaller from there. Toss in the oil then season. Bake for 15 minutes, flip the fries then bake another 15 minutes. If you like them pretty crispy, you can broil for an additional 2 minutes per side for desired doneness.

Cider-Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Sweet & Spicy Sprouts




People, this is just all kinds of yum. We took a bite and thought this is what fall tastes like.

The first time I made this was roughly a month ago. I took some ingredients that I know blend well together from experience with other recipes and set out to see what we could create here. Because I wasn't following a recipe, after I finished it, I realized I didn't have the accurate amounts of each ingredient to list.

Therefore, I had to make it again.

The second time, I intended to be more accurate, paying attention to the details and writing them down as I went. I became distracted and failed miserably at that task.

Third time was the charm. This round, I made a concerted effort to get my ingredients and their measurements down on paper. Who knows how this has varied each time but the end taste has been the same, so here it is!

Ingredients
Yields 3-4 Servings

For Pork:
  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 2 tbsp. Honey
  • 2 tbsp. Tamari
  • Sriracha to taste (I probably used about 1 tbsp.)
  • Water
  • Cornstarch
For Sprouts:
  • 1 tbsp. Honey
  • 1 tbsp. Tamari
  • Red Pepper Flakes to taste
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a skillet, add the oil on high heat, then pan sear the tenderloin on all sides until browned, about 1-2 minutes per side.

In a saucepan, combine the ingredients for the pork and whisk on medium heat. Turn up and allow it to reduce and thicken, turning slightly syrupy - takes about 10 minutes. If it is not thickening for you, an easy trick is to take 1 tsp. of cornstarch and mix with 2 tbsp. of water, removing all clumps. If the sauce is not thick enough for your liking, take that cornstarch mixture and add, then turn up heat to boil, lower back to simmer. Continue to stir until desired thickness is reached.

Cover the tenderloin in the sauce, then bake for 18-20 minutes or until the center of the tenderloin reaches 140 degrees.

For an additional side, I've made this with cauliflower mashed potatoes and my new favorite, butternut squash puree. Both are wing-it recipes below.

Mashed Cauliflower/Potatoes
Yields 3-4 servings
  • Salt
  • 2 cup frozen cauliflower
  • 2 small Yukon Gold or Red Potatoes, cubed
  • 1 spoonful of greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Paprika
  • Garlic Salt
Fill a pot about 1/2 the way with water and salt it (hearty shakes, 4-5 times). Boil the potatoes on high for 10 minutes. Add cauliflower, boil for another 5-8 minutes. Once potatoes are soft enough to pierce through with a fork, remove and drain the water. Place cauliflower and potatoes in a bowl, add butter and greek yogurt, then using an electric hand mixer, beat until smooth. Season with Garlic salt and Paprika.

Butternut Squash Puree
Yields 4 servings
  • 1 butternut squash, cut in half and seeds removed
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. butter
Roast the butternut squash at 375 for 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and scoop out the inside of the squash into a small food processor. Add in butter and brown sugar, pureeing until desired consistency.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What We Need You to Know: Parents of Loss


It was my first child, I had no idea what to expect. I hadn't taken a birthing class yet, I hadn't finished reading about labor, breathing exercises, recovery, things I may need...I knew nothing. I was forced into it blind and in the worst way - my baby was already gone.
 
When I was in the hospital, my mom reached out to a high school friend of hers on Facebook. This tragedy had hit their family seven months earlier when her daughter learned that her baby didn't have a heartbeat. Our situations were the same: first babies, both boys, 33 weeks, cord accident. The wisdom this friend gave my mom is something I cherish. This insight helped our grieving process and provided the only memories we will ever have with our first born child, memories that we may have passed on because we didn't realize in the clouded moment how important they would be to us. This is what my fellow Loss contributors and I want to impart on you if you are ever in need.
 
If you ever find yourself in this position, hearing the most painful words, I'm sorry, there is no heartbeat, these things will help guide you through what you need to know.
 
1.) Some doctors give you the opportunity to schedule your induction, others take you immediately, depending on your situation. Because my doctor's office was at the hospital, she admitted me then and there. We didn't get a chance to let it sink in, to go home and get anything, to contact friends and family - it was immediate and sudden.
 
One Mother of Loss described her experience. "My doctor's office was located a few blocks away from my hospital. Upon learning he did not have a heartbeat, we were told to go home and come to the hospital the next morning at 8 am. We got our hospital bag, still took the little things we had planned to have for our baby in the hospital, our family was all able to get in town to be there every step of the way. However, I didn't sleep and I had a very hard time leaving my house again to go to the hospital knowing what I would have to do." Another Mother of Loss says, "I wish we had the ability to grab special things I had already collected for our son. I didn't think to have anyone go to our house to get them. I had special family heirlooms and monogrammed items, I would have loved to have his belongings with him in his pictures."
 
2.) Being induced when your body is not yet ready can mean that it may take time. All of us were told it could be 24-48 hours of labor. I was induced at 2:00 pm, I gave birth at 1:47 am so just under 12 hours. Another Mother of Loss said it took 17 hours, another was 22 hours. If they do not need to do a C-Section, they will give you a drug called Cytotec every four hours as needed. You can request an epidural whenever you need to. Expect to run a low grade fever and to have the chills.
 
You have a long time to be in that hospital bed. During that time, you are going to experience a lot of different emotions. You may feel as though you are having an out of body experience or a divine acceptance that we like to call Survival Mode. We knew what we had to do, at moments we broke down, at others we held it together to get ourselves through and maybe it was our maternal instincts kicking in. It's okay if you think it's helpful to watch TV. It's okay if you want to cry. It's okay if you ask for distractions.
 
3.) The nurses are going to ask you all kinds of things. If you want to see your baby, if you want to hold your baby, if you want pictures. You do. To all of this, you do. Trust us.
 
Most hospitals have Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep on call but they do have certain hours. If no one is available, designate a family member or friend to track down someone who can do professional pictures for you. One Mother of Loss says, "I kept the photo CD in a keepsake box. My pain was so deep I couldn't bring myself to look at them until after I brought my Rainbow baby home. I got out the box and I looked at those pictures for the first time, comparing how our the baby looked to his big brother and now to his little sister. I wish I had looked at them sooner, but even though it took time, I am so glad that I had them to look at so I could see the resemblance between my angel baby and my living ones."
 
I have looked at my pictures of Hudson every single day. They are beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. When I look at him, I see this precious baby who is a perfect combination of my husband and myself. That's who we made, he is our baby always.
 
4.) Know that you can spend as much time with your child as you want. Hold them, love on them, sing to them, rock them, kiss them, wrap their fingers around yours. Unwrap the blanket and look at them. See their arms, legs, their little toes and that sweet belly. Had we not unwrapped him, I never would have found the birthmark on the middle toe on his left foot, same as I have. I would have missed that serendipitous moment where I felt another bond with my baby.
 
Another Mother of Loss said that "at one point, I asked everyone to leave the room, even my husband. I needed a few moments alone with my baby, just the two of us, to sing to him and talk to him. All these little things I had stored away in my mind to say to him at some point in his life, I wanted that time to still do it. I needed that memory with him."
 
Allow the nursing staff to do hand prints, foot prints, cut a lock of hair. Get anything and everything you can to remember them by.
 
Give yourself as much time as you can with them because you'll never get that time back. Saying goodbye is so hard, sweet mama and daddy, it hurts so much but please know, all that baby ever knew was love.
 
5.) There will be end of life decisions you will need to make. If you are having a moment of calm and clarity before your baby comes, this would be a good time to discuss your wants and options. Before you leave the hospital, you will need to know whether you will do a burial or a cremation and where that will occur. If a family member, like your parents, can help take care of this for you, that is most helpful given your emotional state.
 
If you decide to cremate, don't feel like you need to rush into a decision of where you want to lay your child to rest. I wish I had thought about it a little more to realize that we didn't have to purchase a niche and have this permanent place for him immediately. We knew we wanted to have him cremated, because that's what we wanted for ourselves, but didn't consider that we could choose to have his ashes with us instead of in a wall. We had to suddenly discuss something so final and think about our own mortality as well.
 
Financially and emotionally, one Mother of Loss said "it was much easier to bring our son home with us so we didn't have to make a decision on our own final resting place at that time, too. Our judgment was already blurred, it was too difficult to think of our final wishes, and that of future children we didn't have yet. We have him in a special box and have also sprinkled some of his ashes in places meaningful to us, such as where we were married and went together on our babymoon, the three of us."

Another mother of loss said that they have their son's ashes and received a Blooming Bed at the Dallas Arboretum as a special gift from friends. This is where they go to honor their son. It isn't a place of sadness, they don't have to see his name etched in stone, but it's a place of beauty that changes by the season and offers them peace.
 
6.) At some point, you will need to be taken from labor and delivery into a recovery room, which normally would be on the post-partum floor. A Mother of Loss advises that "if possible, ask your nursing staff if you may be able to go to a different floor separate from other new parents and their living babies. The nursing staff can get you everything you need for recovery into those rooms in another wing. Hospital walls are not very thick, you can hear the cries of a baby next door or down the hall, and you are already enduring too much."
 
7.) Oh Mama and Daddy, my heart breaks all over again because you will have to say goodbye to your child. You will also have to leave the hospital without your child. You will have to go home without your child and face life in a changed way. For this, our hearts are heavy with our own memories of this and for you experiencing it.  
 
8.) Mamas, your body will not know that there is not a child to feed, therefore, your milk will come in within 24-72 hours of giving birth. It is painful and very full of sorrow. If this is your first baby and you have no idea what to expect, ask the nursing staff what you need to know about your recovery and your body before you are discharged.

For those that want their milk to dry up, find some No More Milk Tea right away so you have it. Have someone get you sports bras and nursing pads to help with leaking. Get cold compresses/ice packs and cabbage leaves.  

If you would like to donate your milk, there are options for you to do that. Your hospital may be able to provide you with local donation collections and centers.
 
9.) You have just given birth. Your baby may or may not have been full term. Regardless of your baby's size, your body will be going through post-partum recovery, the same as it would if you had your baby the way you should.

This is so important to remember. Some women struggle with this because without their baby, they may not feel like a mother. Your body went through labor and delivery, regardless if your baby was born alive or sleeping, there is the same kind of recovery to expect.
 
10.) Seek out grief resources, you will need someone to talk to in the days, weeks, months to come. Grief is a roller coaster so you need to be gentle on yourself. You are not crazy. Every single thing you feel is normal. Try not to feel angry with yourself for things you may, or may not, feel.

However, it is important to note that just like any woman that has given birth, you too will be susceptible to post-partum depression. Stay in tune with yourself and seek the help of a professional if needed. Find a counselor, therapist and/or preacher. This is vital to do for yourself as an individual and as a couple. Also, don't be ashamed to get medication to help with depression, anxiety, or sleep if it is needed. You have been through trauma that the majority of people will never experience in their lifetime. Your hospital or doctor may have a list of support groups in the area. Some helpful online support groups that also offer local chapters include:
  • Swell Mamas: Life After Loss
  • PAILS (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support)
  • Hope Mommies
  • Still Mothers
Seek out other Parents of Loss. The Mother of Loss that I've connected with have been critical in my personal healing journey. They understand the journey you are walking. When you feel like no one understands your pain, it gives you people to turn to that do. They also can celebrate the joys in life with you on a deeper level that others don't truly know.
 
11.) Take as much time off work as you need to, even if it is unpaid. Finances will work themselves out. Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally is vital. Talk to your work about what is helpful to you when you do return. It may be helpful to start back slowly and build up to a full-time schedule again. Do not push yourself.
 
12.) Get out of town with your spouse. When you feel like you are ready, take a healing trip. You may need multiple chances to escape the tough reality of your new normal, to get away from everything and reconnect in a place that makes you happy. Whether that is a beach, the mountains, something new and different, or a favorite place you've been several times. Just do it for yourself and for your partner.
 
13.) Everyone is different, but when your doctor says you are ready and your heart feels like it is ready, start trying for another baby. This is no one's business but your own. Some couples are ready at 6 weeks, some 6 months or a year. Only you know what your head and heart can handle. The promise of new life may be what you need for your heart to soften again. Having another baby does not replace the one that is gone, but you may not feel "back on track" or "normal" again until you conceive.
 
14.) Forgive yourself. This is so hard. Some days you may know with every fiber of your being that there was nothing that could have been done differently. Other days you blame yourself and feel like you should have known something was wrong, or in some way you are at fault. You ask yourself if there is something you could have done to save them? You must be kind to your head and your heart, you did nothing wrong.
 
15.) Have patience with yourself as you navigate your new life post-loss. This is so much easier said than done. I hadn't realized it until our grief counselor shared that earlier in the month, she found herself thinking that her son would be 16 and they would be buying a car. It clicked that this wasn't short-term, this was forever. You cannot snap your fingers and wish yourself back to the person you used to be, or the life you used to have. Family and friends may not know the best ways to support you, try to be understanding but don't be afraid to guide them (these highlighted links would be helpful to them). Give them grace, you need them more than ever. It is okay to be selfish right now. It is okay not to hold it together. It is okay to be angry. It is okay to experience happiness in the midst of your sadness. It is okay to need to take a break from certain people in your life that hurt more than help. It is okay to feel whatever it is that you feel - it is your grief, it was your child. There is a lot you need to work through and you may need to take the time to focus on yourself to do that.
 
Finally, a letter to the Parents of Loss.
 
 
Sweet Mama and Daddy,
 
I am so sorry. My heart breaks for you and I hate that you have to know this kind of devastation and pain. I hate that life as you know it is different and your path altered from what you know. You need to know that grief is a journey, one that changes by the minute sometimes. You need to be gentle with yourself and feel whatever it is that you need to feel. As you enter your grief journey, know that you will now look at everything differently than before, and that is okay.
 
I began writing this to you four months ago but I have had to step away several times, including recently. You see, my heart is having a hard time lately and I want to write to you in a place of strength, not in darkness. This is an example of the grief journey, a constant ebb and flow of emotion. The first thing you need to know is that there is sunshine again. Even when it doesn't feel like you can ever smile or laugh, when you don't think you can talk without crying, or that you can feel something other than pain or numbness, know it will exist again.
 
When you first experience loss, you feel so close to it. You are living in the thick of it. In talking with many of my new soul friends, these Mothers of Loss, we felt closest to our child in that deep state of grief. That is also when I felt the closest to God. Shortly after I was induced, our pastor came to visit us in the hospital and he set the tone for our grieving process. All my life, I thought I was supposed to believe that God had a divine plan, that everything happened for a reason. When my pastor, this man of the Word, looked at us and told us that this wasn't God's plan, that He is mourning with us and feeling our pain, I accepted it and have stood firm in it. Because of that, none of the anger I have had throughout my grief process has been aimed in a spiritual direction. I felt the closest to God and Hudson in the month following our loss.

As time goes on, grief does not necessarily get easier, but it will become more manageable. You learn what triggers may elicit any kind of emotional reaction - on a scale of breakdown to a few tears, there's everything in between. As time wares on, some Parents of Loss refer to their grief as a dark closet you have to open and step into to allow yourself to go to that place, and others describe it as placing it up on a shelf, then they have to take it down when they need to. You do reach a point where it feels further away, but it is always there.
 
As I write this, my husband and I just weathered through the five month mark. Each month on the 27th, our hearts are a little extra tender. I have a particularly hard time with Wednesdays, waking up in a state of gloom. In your marriage, there will be times that you lean on him, there will be times that she leans on you. A lot of the time, you will be leaning on each other when neither one of you is strong enough to stand individually, but together you are. Communicate with one another, always. There are things that may hurt one of you but not the other. Help each other through that to constructively figure out what you both need in order to grieve. Talk about your child together. Cling to each other. Talk. Cry. Scream. If you do, your marriage will only be stronger. 
 
Take your time and grieve at the pace you are comfortable with. There is no rush when it comes to grief - even if you wanted to, you can't. You might have moments when you think you are doing really well and then just like that, it hits you again. That's perfectly normal. One reason it was so hard to finish this letter to you was because I was planning to have it complete by the end of this Pregnancy Loss and Awareness Month, which would fall on Halloween. A "holiday" I felt I would be okay for, but I was so wrong about that. I spent six hours in our bed or on the couch, crying or staring at the computer, wanting to write but the words wouldn't flow, only tears. It was a realization that a year ago, I was actually pregnant at that time, but didn't know it yet. That in the coming weeks, I would hit the milestone of discovering that we were pregnant with our Hudson. A reminder that Halloween is the start of the "holiday season" and we had imagined this time to look very different. How right about now I just want to close my eyes and wake up in January, to skip the next two months completely. Or hop on a plane to go somewhere new, away from everything, to just escape. This is part of the journey.
 
I leave you with this, "someone once told me the analogy that losing a child is like suffering a horrible wound. At first it is gaping and oozing and raw. Then it starts to heal and itch and may get infected, becoming worse before it can get better, but slowly the wound closes. It finally heals but there will always be a scar. Sometimes you spend too much time in the sun and the scar darkens and appears more prominent. It never goes away, it is part of you. It is the "new" you. Every time you look at it you are reminded of the time and place when you got that scar. But it makes you the person that you are and you are still beautiful."
 
Much love to you from those who know and understand,
 
Hudson's Mommy, Austin's Mommy, Lennon's Mommy, Greyson's Mommy, Wells' Mommy, Kollyns' Mommy and Olivia's Mommy