August 21, 2013

Football = Pizza + Beer

Yes.  It's that time of year again.  Football.  Of course it's only pre-season.  And why would one waste his/her time with such nonsense, especially when that nonsense has no significant influence on the REAL season and all the "good" players are played on the field just long enough to tease the sports fans?

Oh, we have our reasons.

See, we've waited SO. LONG.  Patiently tolerating basketball season, and really stretching ourselves through baseball season... Of course there's March Madness, and it's always fun to catch a baseball game here and there with those who really enjoy the game.  This past year the waiting was especially difficult since our 2012 football fix was...muted.  Honestly, east coasters, how do you maintain a regular sleep schedule if you want to keep up with your football?  The games usually ended well past our bedtime.  Nevertheless, we put up with the eastern time zone, staying up late to catch the whole game.  And forget about keeping up with our Seahawks.  The local channels only feature the eastern conference.  How rude.

But what exactly are we patiently waiting for?  What is it about football that is so wonderful?  It's not the news or drama associated with various teams and players.  It's not even the curiosity to see which team will reign supreme this season.   And it's certainly not about the hitting.  Even David would agree with that.  I think we look forward to football season all year because it's a wonderful activity gather around with friends, the game is casual, it's complex, it's a sign that fall and winter are coming.

Even more than the game are the rituals to which I've been introduced since marrying my husband. His love for football also includes a set of rituals.  Traditions.  I did not know of these traditions when I first married him.  But let me tell you, that did not last very long.  I was quickly schooled in the world of Football = Pizza + Beer.

The problem is I don't really like delivery pizza.  I think it's far too expensive for a greasy mess that may or may not taste delicious.  And it's a gamble whether or not my stomach will approve of my source of nutrients later. Lately, the distaste for it has been mostly the cost.  Delivery fees are RIDICULOUS, folks!  Thank God I can make me a mean pizza with my own two little hands.

There are a couple pizzas I've made that are David's favorites: 1) BBQ chicken, ham, and pineapple and 2) turkey pepperoni, chicken and zucchini.  I made the latter last weekend.  So I thought I'd share it with you!

A good pizza really depends on the crust.  I have been successfully using Betty Crocker's recipe as long as I've been cooking for myself.  But a delightful little gift from David's brother and sister-in-law a few Christmas' ago has improved that crust even more.  Yes, I highly recommend a pizza stone as a standard kitchen gadget thingy.

Before I cook anything I gather all my ingredients.  I find I become distracted by too many things--other people, thoughts, laundry buzzers--when I'm cooking.  My results are far better when I don't forget to add the sugar.  Or yeast.  Yes, most importantly the yeast.

Sugar, all-purpose flour, olive oil, salt, yeast (and water...not pictured)

Combine all the dry ingredients.

1 c. flour, 1 T. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
Heat 1 cup water to activate the yeast.  Some folks, like my mom and grandma, can tell the perfect temperature with the back of their pinkies.  I cannot.  So I use a thermometer :)  120-130° F seems to give this recipe the best results.  I just nuke the water for about 45 seconds.  Sometimes that's too much time, sometimes it's not enough.  But I'm a perfectionist.  So I wait until the temp is juuuuust riiiiiight.  I'm Goldie Locks, too.

But I digress.  Pour in the warm water.  And 3 T. olive oil.

How about takin' the little hand mixer for a whirl and beat everything for 3 minutes?  

hmm...what do bananas have to do with pizza dough?

Ok.  All done.  Now add some more flour (1-2 more cups) gradually...I started with 1 more cup...

Nothing.  Ignore the bananas.

Mix in the flour with a wooden spoon.  The flour will be completely incorporated into the dough. I then measure my second cup of flour.  But it just sits there, longing for me to use it.  Calling my name. Don't do it, Beth.  Use your willpower.  Resist its calls.  Over-flouring is bad.

But you can add a little...just a little from that pre-measured cup. Mix some more. Add some more flour.  Mix some more. Just until the dough comes together.  About one more 1/2 cup later, my dough was ready to knead.  

My goodness!  The bananas are multiplying! 

Now, if I had added too much flour and the spoon wasn't incorporating it into the dough...that would not have been that big of deal (I've done this many a time before. My dough was not a failure).  I would have simply dumped the whole floury mess onto the counter and start kneading to incorporate that flour.  Deep breath, little grasshopper, it will all come together. **If I were a really-amazing-always-thinking-about-my-blog-blogger then perhaps I would have a picture for you from this morning's happenstance. But I don't.  So please just trust that I do in fact over-flour my dough :-)** 

But here was this beautifully cooperative dough, ready to knead.    

Ah yes. My mama would be so proud.

Using the remaining flour from my pre-measured cup, I sprinkled a little flour on the counter and over the dough.  I set the timer for 8 minutes.  And go!  I started kneading.  Sometimes I'd add a little bit more flour, especially when the dough stuck to my hands.  

I kneaded until the dough became nice and elastic.  This particular dough didn't need the entire 8 minutes, I think I only gave it about 6.  Honestly it depends on the day and the humidity.  But 6 minutes passed and I had a nice round pizza dough ball.  

The dough is still sticky-ish at this point.  So to prevent it from sticking to the counter (or bowl) after it's done rising I spread a little olive oil on the surface, then a little more on top of the dough.  I place either a damp tea towel or plastic wrap over the sucker and wait.  

That was MORE than enough olive oil.  Perhaps a lighter hand next time?

K, 30 minutes to prepare my pizza goodies.  Efficiency! 

Like I said earlier, one of David's favorite pizzas is topped with turkey pepperoni, chicken (I just pan-fry up a breast with a little S&P or use left-over chicken), zucchini and a combination of cheddar and monterey jack cheeses.  I make my own tomato-based pizza sauce in large batches and freeze it for future use.  I pulled a portion out of the freezer to thaw. 

Oh my gosh, look how old that sauce is!  Clearly I haven't made pizza in a LONG while.  The sauce was just fine.  I bet it would still be good for another 3 months ;-)

While the sauce thawed I chopped the zucchini--1/4 inch slices. 

I shredded the cheese, then sliced my pan-fried chicken breast across the grain.  

Oh!  I heard the timer.  Perfect.  I turned on the oven to pre-heat at 375.  Time to play with my dough! I took half of it and formed a nice round crust, pressing the dough with my fingers from the center to the rim, rotating along the way.  I sometimes picked the crust up to stretch it, then I'd lay it back down and perfect the sucker.

Some of that cornmeal (yeah, I store it in a quart mason jar) gets sprinkled on the pizza stone, then I moved the crust on over.  Time for toppings!

Sauce, little cheese, pepperoni, zucchini, chicken
I sprinkled a little more cheese over everything before popping the pizza into the oven.  That way the toppings don't fall off when you try to eat it!

While the pizza was baking....

the hubby made himself comfortable
18 minutes later our pizza was done!  I definitely scored brownie points last weekend.

I haven't the slightest idea which team won the game.  I can't even remember who was playing.  But it was SO nice to have the sound of the game back in our home.  The casual coziness of pizza and beer. Mmm.  It was a long time comin'.  Happy happy girl. :)  

August 16, 2013

Happy Friday!


Well, I thought I'd try out this 7 Quick Takes thingy today.  Where shall I start?

- 1 -
For the first time all summer, we've had a number of dreary days!  This is more like the summers that I experienced growing up, far more normal than the rain-free 80+ degree days.  For once I'm not fighting to keep the house cool.  Lovely!

- 2 -
I tried a new recipe this week that was a brilliant hit with the hubs: Balsamic Roast Beef French Dips. Oh. My. Heaven.  I have to give all the credit to Robyn at Add A Pinch.

Photo courtesy of
I first found the recipe on Pinterest (of course!), keeping it for a dreary day in the fall or winter.  But I realized a crock-pot dinner works in the summer, too!  Why had I never considered this?  We were gone allllll day on Sunday and wouldn't be back until dinner time.  It just made sense to have dinner waiting for us.  So.  I grabbed a beef round roast from the freezer, plopped it in the crock pot along with a cup of chicken broth (I haven't made my beef stock yet, so I just grabbed one of my frozen chicken broths), balsamic, Worcestershire sauce (ran out of soy the day before, so just subbed in more Worcestershire), garlic, red pepper flakes and honey.  Bam!  Tender pulled beef with ready made au jus for dipping.  Wow.

Now if only I was better at capturing these moments on my own camera....

- 3 -

I FINALLY saw Le Mis (the film)! David and I love, love, love that show.  Actually, he was the one who really loved it long before I did.  But now it's a mutual love.  We saw the 25th anniversary tour two years ago (gosh, has it really been that long? yeah, guess Fall 2011 was two years I still get chills from my memories of that performance.  Just wow.  Anyway, so finally saw the movie production.  It was... okay.  I was disappointed in Russell Crow's depiction of Javert, but Hugh Jackman was a pretty good Jean Valjean.  I expected to be disappointed with "Bring Him Home", which made it easy for Jackman to surpass my expectations. :)  I really couldn't stand Amanda Seyfried as grown-up Cosette. Very disappointed in her pathetic little voice.... harsh.  I know.  But I recall feeling the same way about the 25th Anniversary Cosette.  So maybe that's just how the directors interpret her character?  *shrug* Oh well. The movie was still entertaining.  I might as well also comment on Anne Hathaway: her acting was raw, and therefore moving.  I thought she did a beautiful job.  No wonder she's been so highly praised and awarded.          

- 4 -
My "Mom-Badges-of-Honor" are fading.  I'm talkin' stretch marks and that (hideous) dark line down the middle of my bell-ay.  And I'm actually sad about this!  I hated them so much just a month ago. They were a painful reminder of what I didn't have... but now that they are almost gone I am surprisingly sad.  Every one of my mom-friends had offered reassurance about the greatness of these badges.  With that I found acceptance, seeing my stretch marks as proof that I'm a mom.  With them gone, what physical reminder do I have of Samuel?

- 5 -
Hmm, what else.  Oh, I've applied for a couple volunteer opportunities.  Hopefully I can pass as a 55+ year old.  :-/  Apparently part of the criteria for being a math & reading tutor for kids at the local elementary school is to be 55 or older.  I also need to be that old in order to help manage the food flow at the local food bank.  One opportunity I have also applied for is to be the country 4-H office assistant (my mom is totally laughing right now.  She "slaved" away in a similar volunteer position for almost 10 years).  I'll keep you posted on the outcome.  What do you guys think, can I pass for 55+?

- 6 -

Did you know that hospitals must toss all equipment, even if it's NEVER been used, once it's been associated with a patient?  How wasteful!  Needless to say we have a good-sized collection of tube feeding equipment sitting around the house.  Never been used.  But guess what?  There is this nonprofit organization called MedShare that will accept any donation of medical equipment, even used!  They will then sterilize, organize and ship it out to locations in need.  Pretty cool, yeah?

- 7 -
One of my sisters-in-law has had a pretty--actually, an incredibly tough year.  I won't share too many of the specifics, but she experienced her own sudden loss, then was diagnosed with cancer, then we lossed Samuel, and her grandmother just passed away earlier this week.  Even though this woman has been dealt quite the crappy hand lately, she's one tough cookie.  She doesn't give up.  She is the true example of perseverance.  If you think of it today, or this weekend, or any time, would you join me in keeping her in your prayers?   

That's it for my first 7 Quick Takes!  For more sweet 7QT's, hop on over to Conversion Diary. Happy Friday everyone!


August 14, 2013

Ready for Baby #2?

I've been debating for quite some time whether or not I wanted to share this part of myself with the world.  It is so personal.  So private.  So much a decision that is just between David, myself and God.

I have thought of a few angles in which I could write about this.  I could share with you the beautiful process that is Natural Family Planning.  Alternatively, I could give you the status of my "baby-time" clock.  Or, I could tell you about the journey since Samuel died, pondering, imagining, preparing for the possibility of having baby #2.

What?!  Think about having another baby so SOON after your first diiiiied?!?!  Yes.  Yes, I am.  But it hasn't been, and isn't always a "yes, let's have another baby!"  For example:

June 26, 2013 (7.5 weeks after Samuel died)

I'm so afraid.  Not to be pregnant again.  Not of the possibility of complications with a second pregnancy or baby.  But I'm afraid that I won't ever reach the point of "being ready" to welcome a second baby into my life with total openness, total fullness of heart.  I am not sure I will be able to love a second baby with the same capacity that I love(d) Samuel.  It would not be fair to a second baby for me not to love him/her as much as I love Samuel.  I don't want to constantly be thinking of Samuel, day dreaming of what he'd be doing at a certain moment with my second baby...I want to be present with my next baby.

But there's something my mom said, and I reheard it while I was sleeping last night: just as it would be a challenge to balance my love between two living children, it will be a challenge to balance my love between my child in Heaven and my child on Earth. 

With that in mind I know I can and will love a second baby with total fullness of heart.  I was very unsure about loving Samuel before I met him, worried through most of my third trimester.  But I had SO much love. I surprised myself.  I am sure this will be the same with baby #2.

That was almost two months ago.  Since then, I've had days where I feel like we could try again now. There are other days that I feel less sure.  But either way, that's where Natural Family Planning comes into play.

**Bam! You see where I decided to take this post?  Yeah, total hook, line and sink.**

Oh, I know.  NFP has its stigmas.  i.e. NFP obviously doesn't really "work" since you see all these Catholic families parading through the grocery store, tarnishing the planet with their large eco-footprint. I mean, c'mon.  Really?  NFP is just a load of crap.  Besides what a draaaaaag to have to abstain from sex for 9+ days every month (and really, it's waaaay more than that because who really wants to have sex while she's on her period!  EEEEEEWWWWWW).  Talk about a wet blanket for the libido.  And honestly, who can really control him/herself for that long?!  Oh, and don't get me started on how avoiding having sex completely goes against human nature.    

Am I right?

But those stigmas are SO. WRONG!

I'll start with the parade of children tarnishing the planet.  There are two points I have on this.

Number 1!) not every family is called to have 19 children. One of the beautiful aspects to NFP is that it opens the door for the couple to discern if they are called to welcome a new soul, a baby, into their family each and every month.  After all, God created woman to be fertile for a (roughly) short 24 hours once a month.  A couple must discern together and with God how to approach that fertility. If they feel moved to welcome a child into their family, the couple may choose to pinpoint the day that they try (generally, the date of ovulation) or simple acknowledge the green light and let go of all precautions. This aspect of NFP is identified as "Responsible Parenthood."  David's and my NFP teachers, Chris & Christine, have been shining examples to us.  We felt so blessed to have God place them in our lives to show us what "Responsible Parenthood" truly means.  Their story, Are We Done?, is beautiful--one of conversion, heartache and steadfast faith.  I won't give anything away about their story, but I will say that we witnessed how practicing NFP truly keeps the heart open to God's love, as seen through Chris & Christine, and in our own experience.

Point #2) large families do not necessarily have a larger footprint than a family of four.  For example, a family of four may have a large 3,000 sq. ft. 4 bed/3.5 bath house.  They have to have a guest suite, you know!  Meanwhile, the family down the street also has a 3,000 sq. ft. 4 bed/3.5 bath house.  But this family has 6 kids.  The oldest two share a room, as do the next two.  Number 5 has his/her own room (for now) while the baby is in with mom and dad.  Are there more mouths to feed?  Yes. And I do understand that this can be an issue for the world, namely contributing to the demand of more beef/pork/chicken/lamb farms and therefore increasing the amount of methane released into the atmosphere; soon all the forests will be gone to make way for more fields 'cause you'll need more corn fields to feed those animals... oy vey.  I did not mean to go there.  So sorry.  Let me just reiterate my point: having many children does not necessarily indicate environmental irresponsibility.  

Okay.  The second stigma, which I think is a little more taboo to discuss, is the idea that practicing NFP leads to a lame and stifled sex life.  Ahem.  Yes, just typing that sentence for the world to read makes me squirm a little in my seat.  Heart beating pretty fast with trepidation.  But seriously!  Let's talk about it. Throughout my reading (of various articles, books, blogs) and conversations (with Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mormons, agnostics, and even a few atheists) I have learned that many people believe:

1) those who practice NFP don't have sex unless they want to get pregnant, and

2) those who practice NFP are--how shall I put this?--unadventurous.

Yes, my mother is probably reading this whole thing.  I know.  Scandalous. For for goodness' sake, it's true that people think this about devout Catholics practicing NFP!  In fact, Catholics think this about practicing NFP!  Not that I need to prove whether or not my sex life is fantastic, I just want to share that NFP is not the cause for a boring sex life.  So let me try and elaborate.

Consider this.  If you have decided that postponing pregnancy is best for your family this month, you have decided to abstain from fully giving of yourselves (as opposed to using contraception) out of respect for each others' bodies and personhood while she is considered fertile.  While abstaining for 9+ days (more likely a full two weeks), the wait is intense.  Hormones are raging.  Her body says, make a baby now!  Together you desire to connect in the most intimate way possible.  It's tough.  But through mutual respect for each other, out of your mutual love for God's creation, you somehow find a way to be patient (and yes, this takes time to figure out.  That's part of the art of NFP).  And then...then the butterflies start fluttering deep in your belly as the green light draws nearer and nearer.  Remember what it was like as you grew closer and closer to your wedding day and/or honeymoon?  Ok, there were probably quite a few nerves, but excitement too!  Imagine having a honeymoon once a month. Yeah, once a month! Pretty cool right?  Furthermore, imagine the intimacy you would experience as you give yourself 100% to your spouse, fertility and all because you can.

The real kicker about practicing NFP is that it starts to mold our minds, so that we end up offering ourselves more fully to our spouses.  Oh yeah.  It's sneaky alright.  See, by remembering that the possibility of life is a very real outcome of two people having sex--an act so sincere, so vulnerable, so intentional that is it reserved only for those within a marital bond--that the couple's entire mindset could change.  The reason married persons have sex changes. Hearts are opened. The married couple becomes more and more intimate with each other as they focus on why they are abstaining, and therefore focusing on other ways to be intimate.  Hearts are freed outside of the bedroom, and therefore within the bedroom (this in no way is meant to suggest sex must happen within the bedroom. ;-) Its all metaphorical, folks).  Now, I can't possibly share alllll the wonderful benefits of NFP for your sex life, but you know who has done a pretty fantastic job?  Dr. Gregory Popkak.  Yep, he's the awesome Catholic psychologist who wrote Holy Sex: A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.

And guess what?  After that study came out announcing that devout Catholics have the best sex out of anyone on July 17, Popkak's book climbed to #8 on Amazon's Best Seller list.

Quick little review: it is a fantastic--though in depth--read for you and your spouse. In fact, it is meant to be read together.  Well, separately then you can come together and discuss.  Like a book club. Only better because what you then put into practice...well.  Use your imagination ;)  You may discover some things about yourself that are tough to come to grips with, some things about your spouse that may be disappointing, and some things that may very well shock the socks off your feet.  I felt that Dr. Popkak explained sex as it is intended to be in a simple, yet thorough manner.  All with a slice of humor.  One last little note: may I also suggest pairing it with some light reading on Theology of the Body?

Perhaps Christopher West's Good News about Sex and Marriage?  There are a few sections of Holy Sex that could use more background information from Theology of the Body, and this is the most straightforward book I have found regarding the matter.  


Well, that was quite the digression, wasn't it?  :)  Glad we could have that talk.

What I'm really trying to say is why NFP has truly been a blessing within our marriage.  For me, well for both David and me, our mindsets about sex, about marriage, about personhood, about the creation of life as introduced to us through NFP has made our ability to find healing in the loss of Samuel so much more peaceful.  It taught to me incorporate God into my decision making process regarding our family. By design, it encourages me be open with David about how I'm feeling in regards to welcoming another child into our family, to be honestly discerning every month.  It encourages David to do the same.  Together we are being responsible parents.  

Photo courtesy of Aaron Barna Photography

NOTE: There are several resources to further educate yourself on the ins and outs of Natural Family Planning:

I am in no way sponsored by any of these organizations.  I will disclose that we were trained through Couple to Couples League and had a great experience. 

N.B. For another great read on NFP or Theology of the Body check out Real Catholic Love and Sex, written by a couple of fantastically educated people.  Kate is a wife and mom to several kiddos.  James is a Catholic revert and NFP revert, married and no kids.  They offer great answers to tough questions.

August 7, 2013

Busy busy busy....and SILENCE.

Well, let me tell you, the last three months have been quite the whirlwind!  This week I am finally catching my breath.  Earlier in July, my youngest sister got married, so many days in June were spent preparing for that exciting occasion (though in the throws of the preparations it was more stressful than joyful, to which anyone who's planned a wedding can relate).  There were bridal showers, bachelor parties (okay, only one bachelor party), a bachelorette party...

Basking in the sun with homemade facials purifying our faces.  Yum.
...rehearsals.  It was all very fun and exciting, but busy, busy, busy!  My sister made a GORGEOUS bride, and I've never seen her hubby (who just so happens to be one of David's best friends from college!) smile as much as he did on their wedding day!

Beautiful bride and her handsome groom with his godchildren

Finally at the reception.  I just love the elegance of her veil :)
The weekend after my sister's wedding we went to one of David's childhood friend's wedding reception. The reception was quite the drive for us, so we made it into a mini road trip. Gorgeous I'm telling you. We saw four of the Cascade volcanoes in the one weekend (Hood, Adams, St. Helens, Rainier) and toured the Columbia River Gorge.  Just beautiful.  

The following weekend my cousin got married--another wedding with which I helped extensively.  

Another beautiful day! 
Last week my in-laws spent their vacation with us.  An incredibly wonderful time, but still...busy, busy, busy!

And now.  Now it's quiet.  No plans.  No expectations.  No commitments.  Just quiet.  Huh.

I am alone with my thoughts and (this will come to no surprise to those who know me well) an extensive to-do list.  I work on that to-do list...slowly.  But the to-do list does not fill the silence.  While finalizing my August meal plan, the silence handed my thoughts a blaring megaphone.  HEY!  HEY, BETH!  WHAT KIND OF PERSON ARE YOU?  YOU JUST SIT AROUND ALL DAY CLEANING THE HOUSE, PREPARING MEALS, WORKING ON YOUR SEWING PROJECTS, PLANNING OUT THE FAMILY FINANCES, GOING TO THE GYM...HOW IS THAT MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TALENTS? SINCE YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR BABY SHOULDN'T YOU GO BACK TO WORK, OR AT LEAST VOLUNTEER SO AS TO CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY IN SOME WAY OR ANOTHER? YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR BABY LIKE YOU EXPECTED. YOU'RE NOT MOTHERING.  GO FIND ANOTHER WAY TO MAKE YOURSELF USEFUL!  

Man, don't be so mean!  Shut up you silly voice-in-the-silence.  Go away.  I don't like you.  Enough of this "should this, should that" crap.  Quit should-ing on me.

But these thoughts, finally able to be heard as I pushed the pause button in my busy life, certainly made a good point--a bit harsh, yes--but good.  See, I really do need to critically look at myself, at my new identity; that is, mom without a baby to mother.  I thought I had a good idea of my roll in the world.  Just over a year ago, I intentionally chose to quit my full-time job and move out east with my wonderful hubby.  I took on the role of housewife (in a hotel...hah), mom-to-be, and community volunteer.  Over the nine months that I grew our Samuel I prepared to be a SAHM.  I expanded my repertoire of quick, easy dinner recipes.  I found workouts I could do at home with baby.  I read as much as I could about caring for babies so that once baby got here I could simply follow my mama's intuition in caring for him.  I practiced my weekly routine of doing regular laundry, spreading out the cleaning chores, and running errands, all in preparation for any sort of regular routine going out the window upon the arrival of baby.

That night when David and I left for the hospital to birth Samuel, I said good-bye to my days of routine, my days of predictability.  That night I was fully prepared to accept my new role in the world: MOM.

So, today, life on pause, I have the chance to truly think about how all of that has changed.  Who I want to be/how I want to contribute to society now, after the loss of my son.  Someone once told me our identities can sometimes be understood if we consider them as pie charts.  NERD ALERT!  I love this!  Anything in chart form is totally up my ally.  So.  Here is how I would describe my pre-Samuel self (disclaimer: the lines BLUR.  Hah.  Blurred Lines...hey hey hey...anyway, dumb song.  My point is this chart isn't black and white. But I digress):

Then I expected my life to look something like this...

As with many expectations or plans, they change.  So, in this sudden moment of silence, my life on pause, I finally take a breath and realize....

I could really benefit from adding Volunteer back in the mix.  Stay tuned on that front.  I guess this silence is wonderful blessing.  It gives me the opportunity to really think about who I am after such a dramatic (I hate the word tragic.  Don't call Samuel's death tragic.  At least not to my face), life altering event.  It takes time to grow.  It takes patience.  I'll be prayin' for lots of that.  I always have prayed for's always the thing I seem to need.  If you'd like to send some prayers my way that God grants me some more patience, that would be greatly appreciated! :-)  

P.S. Samuel, would you pray that God grants me some more patience, that I may accept the growing pains, that I may be patient for the day when both David and I are ready to add to our family again, that I am patient with myself when I still have moments of missing you?  Thanks, son.  Love you much.    

In a few weeks, my life will be once again loaded with activities and events.  But for now, more silence. More time with God.  More time getting to know myself again.      

Hubby & I before our hike up Multnomah Falls


August 6, 2013

Grieving our Infant Loss

The first thing we were told by our grief and loss counselor while still in the NICU was everyone grieves differently.  Yep.  That couldn't be more true.  I have witnessed more accounts of grief in the last three months than I ever imagined I would in my lifetime.  I have learned that reading articles or books or blogs about "how to grief the loss of a loved one" is not very helpful for me simply because no one's experience is like mine.  BUT.  Reading others' accounts has definitely helped me accept my unique grieving experience as being perfectly normal.  My perfectly normal.  :)

People have asked me--or perhaps secretly wonder--how I'm doing.  About six weeks ago I hated that question.  It was a dumb question.  Dumb because how I was doing was a general question.  It seemed people didn't actually know what to say to me, so they decided that simple question was the best approach. I mean, what does a person say to a mom who just held her baby as he died at only 12 days old?  Even now, I honestly don't know what I would say to someone in a similar situation.  But I wouldn't ask "How are you doing?".

Why exactly is that a dumb question, you ask?  Six weeks ago it was a dumb question because I didn't want to talk about how I'm doing.  I wanted to talk to you about my son.  I wanted to tell you about him.  Tell you about his little quirks, the joy he brought us, how he changed us.  I want to tell you about what it was like holding him as he died, as his soul went to Heaven.  I think the hardest part about the question, and this is still true today, was that my honest answer to "how I was doing" surprised people:  yes, I missed my son.  I was (and some days still am) incredibly overwhelmed with sorrow that I don't get to raise him.  However--and this is a BIG however--I felt more joy over the fact that we got to meet our son, got to spend 12 days with him, getting to know his spunky personality.  I felt joy over the fact that we were able to baptize him so that he could be return to our Father in Heaven.  We had so many happy memories in those 12 days.  I have no regrets.

Sharing my joy about my son, even when he was no longer with me, really seemed to shock people. That perceived shock led me to question my grief.  Was I actually grieving "properly"?  Was I dishonoring the memory of my son because I was mostly joyful and at peace with the situation?  This questioning of my own grieving became yet another aspect of my grief--it led me to isolate myself from others.  From a "fix-it" perspective, not very productive.  But it was all just part of the process for me.

For those who have never experienced tragic loss, let along the loss of an infant, I'd like to share different aspects of my experience.  Many people--friends, family and even strangers--have asked me about it.  I'll start by saying, and this will come as no surprise if you've read Samuel's story (it starts here), my grief is VERY faith-based.  Without my faith, I have no idea how--no, if I would be able to find peace with the loss of my first child.

My grief has come in waves.  Waves of overwhelming, life-stopping sorrow.  Waves of disbelief and shock (did I really have a son, is he really gone?).  Waves of ferocious anger, at people for no reason (I could chew your head off for driving 2 over the speed limit rather than 5 or 7...) and with God for letting this happen.  Waves of guilt--as David puts it, bargaining--questioning my actions as if I could have done things differently and had a different outcome.  And then there are waves of peace, joy, acceptance.  I guess that would be when the waters are calm ;-)  Needless to say, life is an ocean... nah, I'll spare you the silly metaphors right now.

The Monday after the funeral (a Saturday), after all the visits from family and friends were over, once it was truly final that our baby wasn't there with us as highlighted by the empty co-sleeper, the days were incredibly lonely.  My arms were so sore, literally aching with emptiness.  The weight of the loss made deep breathing a challenge.  David seemed to be a world away, experiencing his own grief in a very different way.  I wanted to talk through it all.  I wanted to cuddle with David, finding comfort in the physical contact.  But David needed space.  He needed to be with his own thoughts, his own emotions.  How could I talk through my grief if David wasn't available?  This distance deepened my sense of loneliness.

But David was not the only other person who experienced the loss of Samuel.  My mom, my dad, my sisters, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, my friends.  We all were grieving in our own way.  I found so much comfort in talking to my mom every day.  In the past, we talked on the phone maybe once a week. Samuel had changed that.  We now talked every day.  We talked about little triggers in our days that would bring on a heavy wave of sorrow.  I found this to be incredibly helpful in understanding my experience.  One of my sisters--the one who met Samuel the morning before he died--was also a tremendous support.  She spent time with me, filling that sense of loneliness.  My girlfriends emailed words of encouragement.  And all of our loved ones continued to offer prayers.  While I felt alone, I was far from it.

Five weeks after Samuel was born--three weeks after he died--David went back to work.  This was a huge step in continuing on with our changed lives.  We were going to have to learn how to live in this new normal. What was this new normal?  We had to learn how to be a mom and dad without our baby.  We would have to learn how would we answer the question, "Do you have any kids?"  We both had to experience Mother's and Father's Day.  I had been planning my youngest sister's bridal shower during the pregnancy and was looking forward to wearing my little baby while hosting, playing pass the baby.  How was I going to get through that weekend?  Then there was my sister's wedding...and my cousin's wedding...and camping with our college friends... So many events that we had planned to share with our baby.  How were we going to get through those?

Both David and I have embraced this new reality.  It's taken time to learn how to walk into the fire, to allow ourselves to feel the sadness, feel our loss whenever it strikes us.  But by doing so, I have discovered who I am as a mom.  Sure, I'm a mom without my baby here on Earth, but I have learned how to be a mom with my baby in Heaven.  Whenever we can, David and I visit Samuel's grave site (an hour or so south, sharing with his maternal grandparents' pre-purchased grave sites).  We pray every day.  We don't need to pray for Samuel--generally, we pray for people who died so that they may find peace in Heaven since we cannot be sure how long they are in purgatory.  We know Samuel is in Heaven.  He was baptized and 100% pure of sin since he was years away from the age of choosing to do wrong.  Instead we talk to Samuel, asking him to pray for us.  This has been a tremendous source of hope for me, and it's been remarkable helping me get to know my son on a spiritual level.

Throughout our journey, David and I have been very intentional with every decision about our response to the loss of Samuel.  It has helped us find healing.  It's helped us cope.  The funeral was our last act of parenting.  We were very deliberate in our choices of funeral directors.  Deliberate in where and how Samuel would be buried.  Deliberate in the choice of readings, music and ministers for his funeral.  We were deliberate in all of our final gestures in regards to Samuel's body before the burial.  After his funeral, as I mentioned before, I had moments of confusion and loneliness.  But eventually I found more ways to cope, find peace and healing.

Most rewarding has been sharing our story of Samuel with everyone.  Sharing on my blog was incredibly therapeutic.  Before the blog, I finished Samuel's baby book to share with people at the funeral.  We made a photo album of our 12 days with Samuel.  David and I have a nice leather box that holds all the sympathy cards that we can read and re-read.  We have "Samuel's Box," which holds his hippo onesie and footie sleeper, his hat, his blanket, his canula, pacifier, and all the other little things that were Samuel.  We will be making a cardboard photo book of Samuel for his future brothers and sisters to read.  When we have the land (hopefully soon!) we will be planting Samuel's Garden. David and I, and our future children, can care for the garden.

David's parents took a stone from their yard and had it engraved with "Samuel's Garden." That way grandma and grandpa can always have a tie with Samuel.  All of these little things have helped me discover my new normal.  They have helped me grieve to the point of acceptance and peace.

Every day is a new day.  And every day has been different.  But I'm so full of joy knowing my son is in Heaven.  I have felt him comfort me.  And for how crazy it sounds, I've even heard him call me mom in my dreams.  I so deeply believe that Samuel brings a unique perspective to our family, a perspective that will hopefully teach our future children about the beauty of death, the power of community, and the grace and unconditional love of God.  If there is one thing that Samuel has given, it is the laser-like focus on living a life worthy of Heaven.  And for that I am grateful.