Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gratitude

On facebook at the beginning of November, some friends were writing that they planned to post something they were thankful for each day of November. Since I like goals, I decided to tag along. Could I find 30 things to be thankful for? I thought it would be a good exercise for me.  Turned out, time ran out. And instead of running out of things to be thankful for, I ran out of days.

I was partially inspired to participate in the gratitude game because of a speaker I heard at a local attorney luncheon meeting, Laura Ling. After being inspired by her story, I purchased and read her book. One of the things that Laura used to get through her very long and hopeless imprisonment in North Korea, was to play the "gratitude game." Laura found something, anything to be thankful for. Can you imagine? You've been captured by the North Koreans, brutalized by your captors, and yet, you force yourself to be grateful. One day, Laura was thankful that she got to see a butterfly. One day she was grateful that she had hours of sunlight in her room. She practiced the act of being thankful to keep herself focused on the good that was present, even in the worst possible circumstances. Her story may have turned out quite differently, she could have died or been imprisoned forever. And she would have died thankful, not bitter. Makes you think about how you spend your life. If you are not grateful in your deepest heart, you are wasting the beauty that is gifted to you daily. There is always always something to be thankful for.

When I started the month, I wanted to make sure that I was thankful for the big things, each member of my immediate family. I wanted to make sure I was thankful for the little things. I wanted to make sure I didn't get too carried away and planned out and that I was thankful for what was happening right then. But like anything, it gets easier. Initially I felt a little too exposed, a little too heartfelt going on facebook, shouting out about all the good in my life. But as is typical for me, I quickly stopped caring what anyone thought. It was a very good moment for me to consider every day my blessings. The 2 minutes I spent reflecting and writing were often the best two minutes of my day.

I sputtered in late November and missed the 28th and 29th. It was not because I wasn't thankful for anything. It was because life got sticky with a newborn and I didn't use my phone or computer or get near facebook for bit.... Anyways, here is my list. And as December begins to amp up, and the pressure of having no presents under the tree is starting to get to me, it's good to slow down, be thankful, and spend a little time just observing the beauty around me. I won't always be so focused on it, but hopefully from time to time I return to positive reflections that I had this past November.

30 thankful things:
Nov. 1 - on his birthday, my older brother jeremy
Nov. 2 - technology, which allows me to work from home and take a longer maternity leave
Nov. 3 - Nicholas laughing in his sleep at 10 days old
Nov. 4 - my friend who threw me a very fun baby shower for Nicholas
Nov. 5 - beautiful orange trees with berries spotted on my walk, had never seen them before
Nov. 6 - a successful surgery for Eliot
Nov. 7 - my friend Shelley's beautiful and healthy new baby who arrived quickly, safely and to some pretty ecstatic parents
Nov. 8 - my husband's delicious coffee
Nov. 9 - brotherly love and that my oldest has shown no jealousy of his brother, only affection and kindness
Nov. 10 - on her birthday, my wonderful sister-in-law, Trena
Nov. 11 - bloody steak and red wine
Nov. 12 - those in military service
Nov. 13 - intuitive friends who are just there when you need them
Nov. 14 - a free chocolate glazed cream filled donut (winning)
Nov. 15 - my mama
Nov. 16 - running and the adventures and friends I've gained through it
Nov. 17 - my undeafeated football team. GO IRISH!!!!!!!!!!
Nov. 18 - the holiday spirit! And getting to watch Grinch with my kiddo
Nov. 19 - my son's wonderful preschool and the teachers
Nov. 20 - Eliot
Nov. 21 - gorgeous warm weather and a little girl that helped me have perspective on my own wealth and privilege and blessings
Nov. 22 - my dad
Nov. 23 - my husband's hard work to finish a beautiful remodeling project
Nov. 24 - Firefly Yoga
Nov. 25 - that my hair grows quickly. (I might have whacked off my bangs in a fit of hormonal rage...)
Nov. 26 - Nicholas
Nov. 27 - my brother Keith
Nov. 28 - DOH!!!
Nov. 29 - DOH!!!
Nov. 30 - on his birthday Scott, my phenominal husband.

Friday, November 16, 2012

QOTD: Ironman

Many people ask "why do you run" or they ask my husband "why on EARTH would you want to run 100 miles?" As if there's just a simple neat little answer like to lower your cholesterol or something.

I watch the broadcast of the Kona Ironman with my husband every year. Every year I bawl my eyes out. Al Trautwig's voice will make you cry like a baby as he tells the story of these AMAZING people. They highlight specific stories and at the end, when all the "slow" (yet still amazing) people are crossing the finish line and the finish line announcer is saying "Joe Six Pack YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN." I usually bawl like a baby and have goosebumps. Because I'm a sentimental fool like that.

So, in my typical fashion, I sit on my couch. I sit next to husband. I bawl my eyes out. A chubby balding man tells the story of his Ironman and of how he cannot describe how strong he feels as he crosses the finish line. He discusses how amazing the experience is to complete this amazing race. And he sort of hit the nail on the head.

If you have to ask why, you'll never understand.

-Random Ironman Finisher

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2.7; 45; 34

2.7 miles; 45 (ish) minutes; 34 degrees

Today I attempted to actually raise my heart rate for the first time, in a very very long time. So I suppose this is my first official "running" blog post.

The weather this afternoon was very cold and brisk. There was a massive freezing wind creating a loud rustling sound all around me. I took my slap-happy chocolate lab, Pavlov, and we left the house about 2:00 p.m. We walked our .7 mile "loop" around the neighborhood. We then walked one mile out and back to my house. I walked about a 16 minute mile. I probably never got out of breath but I did eventually walk quickly enough to get myself warmed up, just a bit.

Other than the very cold wind, it was a beautiful day. There were no clouds and a beautiful bright sunny afternoon.

Overall this "workout" was a major success. A little mileage, a little warm up for the legs. A little test of the joints and ligaments and at the end, I felt pretty solid. I'm laughably tired from the effort but that's ok. Baby steps. Long road back.

Quick check on my body. I am the softest, doughiest, weakest version of myself I have been in a very very long time. I looked at my legs in a pair of shorts last week and giggled. I have chubby thighs and skinny calves. This means, my calf muscles have basically atrophied from lack of use and my baby fat has settled where my fat always settles-butt and thighs. My core is very very weak and I feel this mostly through low back pain.  My lower abdomen muscles and pelvic muscles are sore a lot and I can tell pretty stretched out.  While my legs tire quickly, they actually feel reasonably stable.  My feet (my usual weakest spot) are holding up very well. I stuck to very sensible shoes while pregnant and currently am living in shoes with high arch supports. My upper back and shoulders actually feel pretty strong, probably from all the baby lugging.  My arms, however...jiggly.

My basic plan for returning to a fit and lean version of me...DO NOTHING for the first two weeks after baby. Start walking between weeks 2-4. I have fulfilled the plan. I sometimes think I was born to do nothing so I was really good at that for weeks 1 and 2. Walk on treadmill, at incline between weeks 4-8. 30 day yoga challenge from November 23-December 23. (This translates to daily yoga on each of the these days and this goal may well kill me.) Start walk/running after January 1. That's as far as my "plan" goes.

All of the reflection and record keeping serves a greater purpose for me. I am a very goal oriented person. If I don't have something keeping me motivated and moving me forward, I tend to fall way way short of my capabilities. I don't believe I am a particularly talented runner but I have seen my body respond to being pushed and formed and re-formed many times over the years and I honestly believe I am capable of every single goal I set out below. That said, I realize that many of these goals are so lofty that it's going to take an behemoth effort to accomplish. I think part of this "journal" or blog for me, is about accountability to myself. Making myself stick to my goals and keeping me focused. I mean, if I say it online...I have to do it, right?

So here goes (GULP):

(1) I want to finish the 2013 Wichita Half Marathon.

(2) I want to run the local 4 mile Superbowl run, preferably with no walking.

(3) I want to run a marathon in all 50 states. I am (I believe) 14 states in. This should be accomplished by approximately the year 2030.

(4) I want to run a sub 1:45 half marathon. (Current PR Is 1:51:30).  This should be accomplished by 2018(?).

(5) I want to run the Chicago 2013 marathon in 4:30.

(6) I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon. [This is the biggest most lofty, most unrealistic and ridiculous goal I've ever actually said out loud. But now it's out there. And maybe, in 10 years or so(?), it will happen. In the meantime, it's cooking in the back of my head at all times and will be a driving force me in my running for a long time to come.]
(7) I want to be able to hold the following yoga poses: crow; headstand; firefly; wheel and pigeon. I am a very inflexible girl with terrible balance and limited strength, especially upper body strength. So all yoga goals are way way outside my comfort zone.
In the meantime, 2.7 miles at 16 minute miles. Baby baby steps. New baby still nursing every 2.5 hours steps. Newborn baby still 15ish pounds overweight steps. New baby, still feeling my insides getting adjusted to not having a 8+ pound boy resting on them steps. At least I'm taking those tender steps right?

Friday, November 9, 2012

QOTD: Urgency

In discussing the crazy state of the upcoming holiday season, one of my fave bloggers, Kelle Hampton, said on Wednesday:

Nothing is more urgent than being kind to ourselves and present for our families. 

-Kelle Hampton

Preach it sister. There is happily busy and there is urgent and crazy. I hope this holiday season to be the former. Slow down, soak in the little happy moments. Feel calm in the quiet and the peace of family and friends.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nicholas Robert, a birth story

So both my husband and I thrive on being busy. Like really stupidly, over the top busy. We both just seem to perform the best, in every possible capacity, when we have a lot on our plates. And despite knowing since Valentines Day that we were supposed to have a baby October 25, we went ahead and booked up a very busy October. People told us we were crazy for trying to do so much so close to our due date, but we just don't seem to know any other way.  We received invitations for three different gatherings on Saturday, October 20:

Party #1: Eliot's friend from preschool and one of our running buddies planned a family friendly pumpkin carving party. I had concerns about whether we would get pumpkins carved if we were tending to a newborn or in the hospital, so I definitely wanted to take our little guy to this gathering. 

Party #2: One of our favorite couples was scheduling a birthday dinner for the Mister. Aaron and Joni are old friends and ones we don't see nearly often enough. October is usually a busy time for us and we'd missed several of his birthday parties in the past because of the timing. Scott and I discussed the party and said "we really need to go to his birthday dinner this year, no excuses."

Party #3: Renee (aka Ray Ray) was also turning fabulous on Saturday, October 20. And our running family was organizing a fun little surprise party for her at our absolute favorite bar, the Anchor. So one of our favorite people + one of our favorite places + our awesome friends = have to go to this party too.

The week leading up to this night was...interesting. Monday I was in labor for literally 6 hours. I had low back pain and nausea, all day. When I got home that night I couldn't eat. And I thought, wow, this is it. Around 6pm the contractions started. Scott kept checking--is this it? Do we need to pack the car? Call your dad? There was zero pattern to the contractions and rather than speed up, or form a pattern, they just sort of would hit, make me feel awful and then go away. At midnight, suddenly I felt wonderful. I felt hungry. I ate some cereal. All contractions stopped and with a heavy sigh...I went to bed.

Tuesday, I woke up and felt amazing. Naturally. After feeling so crummy the day before, I was great on Tuesday. That evening I attended my Inns of Court meeting, I presented to a group of fellow lawyers some thoughts on Bryan Stevenson, a truly inspiring guy, and came home. Nothing of consequence to report.

Wednesday. Felt great again. This is my bestie's birthday and it was quite evident little man was no showing for this date as well.

Thursday. Busy busy day. Doctor appointment (dilated to a 2 and based on everything, I appeared to be stalled. And I would be pregnant for the REST OF MY LIFE), phone conference with client. Lunch meeting. Court hearing. Partners meeting.

(Spoiler Alert) 39 Weeks Mirror Picture: My Last One!
And then...joggers and lagers. Running, then drinking, with friends. My friend Shelley and I walked two very slow, very tough miles--she is just two weeks behind me in pregnancy but she and our other walking friends were moving along just fine. The walking was really truly hard for me, not going to lie. I was very uncomfortable and baby was just giving me a heck of a time. But I followed up my two mile walk with frito chili pie, the dinner of champions.

Friday. Pumpkin patch! I really wanted to seize the moment and grab a solid beautiful fall family photo. Due to a freezing Kansas wind and below normal temperatures, we got one shot, in a sheltered spot behind trees.  I had dressed us in matching clothes, done my hair and makeup and was so excited for this amazing picture. That didn't happen.


Preparing for pumpkin patch, hair still intact.
Spoiler Alert: Last Picture as a Family of 3.
Don't let this picture fool you. It was bitterly cold out there.

Friday night--my cousin's wedding! We had a blast, let Eliot stay up 2-3 hours past his bed time so he could dance with me and eat wedding cake. He loved it, I loved it and he looked super handsome in his big boy dress up clothes.

My handsome wedding date!
Saturday. Cleaned house. All day. Eliot was a champ and helped me clean and we just scrubbed and dusted and vaccumed and mopped and scrubbed from 8am until about 4pm. And at the end, we had a sparkling house!

Saturday night was finally here and it was time to party. I donned a purple sweater, a jean skirt and some black boots.

Party 1: 6:00 p.m. Courtney and Edgar's beautiful pumpkin carving party. Their home, straight from a magazine, had been completely dressed up for fall. The giant pumpkin carving station in their driveway, allowed Scott to carve a pumpkin, complete with pipe cleaner mustache and glasses. Eliot painted a pumpkin. I ate...everything in sight while my pumpkin sat neglected nearby. Dips, crackers, veggies, hummus. I was starving! We had a wonderful time and afterwards took Eliot to my parents home for a little slumber party. We wanted the option of staying out late and not worrying about getting home to a sitter.  This turned out to be the single best decision we have ever made. (blatant foreshadowing)

Party 2: 8:05 p.m. Birthday dinner at a fun seafood restaurant and steakhouse. Since I had stuffed myself at Party 1, I opted for a appetizer of beef satay and loads of water. I was suddenly incredibly thirsty. And uncomfortable. I went to the bathroom and the funniest thing happened. I felt like I had to go, and couldn't. But I felt so much pressure, like the baby was just right there? I returned to my chair and noticed, I really did not feel so hot. But I wasn't going to let a little discomfort ruin my grown up night out. My friends who know me crack up at this story. Yes, I am dedicated to partying...as it turns out. I am so dedicated to partying that I will ignore multiple early signs of labor to keep it rolling.

Party 3: 10:00 p.m. Birthday party at our favorite bar. With no less than 10 optional Octoberfest beers to choose from. We pulled in to the final stop. Again I was chugging water and asking the waiter to please for the LOVE...keep it coming. Scott was enjoying the beer selections and suddenly I was nauceous. And in pain. But not intense pain. Dull aching pain, in my gut.  The pain came and went but since I was engaged in witty banter with beautiful people, I was not paying enough attention to notice any pattern. But, I realized that perhaps just maybe, I would be having a baby in the next day or so. And so, at about 10:45, I looked at my husband and said, "I think it's time to go." But before we left, we took loads of pictures, with the birthday girl, with friends, posing looking silly, and just in general. Because clearly, pictures were in order.


Me and my littlest friend, Ray Ray!!! Happy Birthday Love!!!
The ladies...
Yes, Kristen on the right is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. In case you're wondering.
The gents...
Spoiler Alert: So we are about to parents. Again. Like really really soon.



10:45 p.m. We get in the car. I drive because Scott has had multiple beers throughout the evening! I mean, these were parties after all.  We leave the last establishment and I turn to him and say, I think I might be in labor? He laughs and then looks at me, "seriously?" "Seriously."

"Are you having contractions right now?"

"Well not like right now but I think it's contractions? I don't know, let's go home and time them."

I drive the rest of the way and each time the pain would hit, I would squeeze the steering wheel very tightly until it passed. But I never felt overwhelmed by the pain.

11:00 p.m. Home. I race for the bathroom where I proceed to get sick from everything I ate all evening. WHAT??? And I remember, this happened with Eliot. Very sick to my stomach. Oh dear. This really is happening. I briefly smile and think "October 21, 2012, what a lovely birthday." I head upstairs to take my high heeled boots off. I take out my contacts. I brush my teeth. Tell Scott to get ready for bed because we weren't going to head to the hospital any time soon but to be prepared.

11:05 p.m. Scott gets out the iPhone to start timing the contractions. First set, 2:15 seconds apart. WHAT???? Next set, 2:14 seconds apart. I think "This phone must be broken." I sit on the edge of the bed, while Scott brushes his teeth and prepares for bed. "Do you want to just go in to the hospital?" I respond, "No, let's wait 15 minutes and see if they slow down."

11:10 p.m. *silence as I try to breath through contraction* Holy crap. This just got real. I blink away tears, look at Scott "It's time. I don't think we can wait. Get dressed."

11:12 p.m. Scott jumps out of bed. Gets dressed. I'm in jammies I want to wear to the hospital.

11:22 p.m. Car is packed. Scott grabs me a towel to sit on in case my water breaks over my protest. "Oh my god, we aren't that close to this happening. I don't need a towel." I probably roll my eyes.

11:25 p.m. The drive begins. The contractions are real. I start the low quiet moaning thing each time. It's so weird and I can't control it. But every two minutes on the drive, I'm closing my eyes, breathing as deep as I can, sometimes grabbing Scott's hand, and softly moaning, unable to speak. In between contractions, I'm lamenting how the traffic lights are conspiring against me and how I can't believe this is really happening. I mean honestly, I was just at a bar.

11:40 p.m. Arrive at the hospital. Scott asks if he needs to drop me off at the door. I shoot him a look that garners the nervous laughing response of "yea, okay so I will drop you off at the door then? I'll park and be right there."

11:41 p.m. I check in to the front desk. "Hello, how can we help you tonight?"
"I think I'm in labor, my contractions are two minutes apart and they are pretty intense."
"Your name? Date of birth? Can you fill out this form? Proof of insurance?"
"I can start working on the form. I really think I need to get to a room please."
Takes another look at me. "No problem. Let's call you a nurse. You work on that form when you can."

11:45 p.m. Nurse arrives. "Can you walk to a room? Do you need a wheelchair?"
"I can walk. But let's just go fast and in between contractions."

11:49 p.m. In room, breathing heavy from the walk.
"Here's your gown. And a cup for your urine sample. Do you want an epidural?"
"Yes let's order up some drugs please."
Husband walks me to the bathroom as at this point, the contractions are causing me to be woozy.
Bathroom...get sick. Really really sick. SIGH.
I get my gown on. Seriously, why must one's backside be on display again?

11:55 p.m. Nurse returns. "Well, we should probably check you. See how dilated you are." *pause for embarrassing medical reality*
"You're almost to a 4. How are those contractions?"
"Intense."
"Okay, your nurse anesthetist is on her way."
"Thank God."
*pop*
And there it is. This is happening.
Nurse looks at my face and smiles. "Did your water just break?"
"Yes, it did."
"Well you just bought yourself a ticket to stay. We will call your doctor. And, so you know, your contractions are going to get much more intense."
Scott laughs and says "So about the towel you didn't need." He's gloating. While I'm in labor. Rude.

Midnight. Scott holds my hand. These contractions are overwhelming. Each time I lay on my side, grab the hand rails of the bed and Scott's hand and just moan. I don't even know where this sound is coming from, but everything is getting more and more dream like. The world is going fuzzy. I stop hearing sounds. I feel nothing except the deep and intense ache that fills my body. And during the contraction, I am aware of nothing else.

And now, the timeline is gone. I have no idea when anything happens.

Nurses arrive, a bunch of them. They start my IV. They ask me my name and why I am at the hospital. Scott leaves to bring our stuff in, most importantly, my contacts. I put contacts in.

Nurse anesthetist arrives. Consent is given for the epidural. I start shaking. I'm suddenly terrified and second guessing. I don't think I want the epidural. But I'm not mentally prepared for the pain I'm in. And I flash back to Eliot. I labored for 16 hours with no epidural and was stuck at a 4 for HOURS. I am at a 4 now. I cannot do this again. I cannot labor with no end in sight again. Consent is given. I look at Scott "I'm so scared." I'm shaking. He sits in front of me and says "You are great. You are going to be fine. This is scary but you will feel so much better, just look at me." I get local anethetic. I feel huge amounts of pressure but she nails it. First time and the epidural is in perfectly.

Nurse lays me on my right side. Montiors are beeping. She says "Let's roll you to your left. I need to check you. How far were you dilated when you came in?" I respond "4, the first nurse said I was a 4." The nurse eyes get big and she looks across the table at her co-worker "Uhm, she's a 9. Page the doctors." I look at Scott. It's maybe been a half hour since I was a 4. I'm a 9???? He starts laughing. I start laughing. This could not be any more different than labor and delivery with Eliot.  And...if they had checked me immediately before getting my epidural, I would not have gotten it.

Resident comes in and introduces herself. I remember her round soft face and wispy blond hair. But not her name. She is kind and professional. And then, she's there. My OB, Dawne. Scrubs, KU headband, crazy curly mane of brunette hair and a big smile. "So we're having this baby tonight huh?" Dawne is a personal friend, a fellow runner and basically the best OB/GYN in the world. I cannot say how much I love her. "Is your block working? Are you comfortable?"

I laughed and said "Actually, it hasn't kicked in at all. I'm still feeling every thing."

"It will work soon. I'm going to scrub up. I'll be back."

At some point one of the nurses informs me that there's muconium in my urine, which means the baby has pooed...inside me. A neonatalogist shows up and introduces himself. He explains that if the baby has ingested or breathed in the stool, he will have to suction out his lungs upon birth. He also indicates that "So long as he is vigorous and active and crying, though, we'll leave him alone and just monitor him." Scott and I both feel a little worried but the contractions are still slamming my body and wrecking my ability to process any information. I know I'm scared that he's okay but I also feel much more at ease after the doctor has explained that usually there are not any problems with a baby that has done this.

Nurse points out that I have a button to push to administer more anethesia. Uhm. Yes please!!! She said, "dont worry, it's controlled so we won't let you overdose." So I proceed to push the button several times and say "I just need to make sure it works."

Short time later the doctor comes back and checks me "Let's get dressed. It's time for a baby."

And then, the room goes dark except for the spotlights, on my nether regions. I'd forgotten about this quiet, dark environment. It was quiet, it was peaceful, despite the 8+ people standing around me, looking squarely at my lady bits. Everyone put on gowns and gloves. And suddenly, I'm partially numb and the pain subsides. I stop feeling so blurry. My epidural is working...so at the very least, I will not feel the pain of pushing.

My primary nurse is named Cinnamon. She is a flaming redhead like myself. She said "Let's do a practice round of pushing. Are you ready?" We practice. 3 pushes. Counting to 8 on each push. I can do this. She asks if I'm okay with baby laying on my stomach immediately after birth. "Of course."

Someone tells me, it's just past 1:00 a.m. Scott and the nurses take bets on babies's birth time. Scott guesses 1:28. I pushed for 3 hours with Eliot. I think he's lost his mind.

I push for four sets. Scott's eyes get big on the last set. And I realize, he's here. 1:26 a.m. Dawne holds him. He's huge. And blue. And has a full head of black hair. He's beautiful. And...he's screaming his lungs out. In about 10 seconds he's bright red and the neonatologist smiles. "He's quite vigorous. We won't interfere."

They lay him on me. He starts peeing and then pooping all over me. GEESH. This kid! The nurse cleans us both up and diapers my little defecator.

I notice several things immediately. His head is perfectly round. His mouth opens so wide as he screams. He has hair all over him! Dark soft feathery hair. His skin is just perfect and unbelievably soft. I'm at a loss. He's wiped off but not clean and I don't care. I just touch him over and over. Hello Nicholas. You are perfect. I love you I love you I love you. Scott touches his head. We are just both in shock. He's here. Weren't we just at a party?

Nicholas calms down and starts listening to us and staring at us. He alternates looking at Scott and I and the nurses leave him there for close to an hour.

The doctors finish work on me. And they are done in very short order. Dawne hugs Scott, admires the baby and slips off to return to her bed. There is noise in the room again as everyone shuffles around. But somehow the cocoon of newness and love just sort of swallow the three of us. We both feel relief with his safe arrival. We both can't believe how fast he's gotten here. We both just can't believe. We're here. Parents again.

Scott leaves to make phone calls to our parents. A couple pictures are snapped and then it's just the four of us. Scott, me, Nicholas and Cinnamon, our wonderful nurse. She weighs him. He's 8lb, 3 oz, 19.75 inches. She bathes him. Holy cow...babies just smell like heaven I think. She measures his head and chest and takes his footprints. And after an hour, he acts ready to nurse, rooting around on any skin he can find. And she helps me nurse him. He's big and strong and cuddly. From moment one. Nicholas just cuddles in. He looks at me curiously. He responds to our voices. He looks intently.

Pink and precious and perfect.
And both of us speak to him. He's so fully himself. He's tired and hungry but more than anything, he wants to be held and be touched.

After being awake for about 90 minutes he falls into a deep deep sleep. He proceeds to sleep the rest of the early morning hours. Scott's parents arrive at 6:30, shortly after I shower and from there...it's all family all the time. The quiet moments give way to happy loud chaos.  The most exciting memory I have of this entire experience is 9:00 a.m. when my first born arrives to meet his little brother. He's so adoring, so thrilled and just so loving with his brother from moment one. It's positively overwhelming to be around him and watch him love little Nicholas.
Eliot's first look at Nicholas. Very clearly, it's love at first sight.
I know someday they will fight. But I will always think of them like this I think.
And then Monday, we're home. Nicholas is a perfect little baby for the first 36 hours.  And now here we are. He's two weeks old and he's just becoming more and more his own little man.








This kid...so much a lover already. He's happiest with his head squarely at the base of our necks, nuzzled in, looking around curiously. He loves it when I sing to him (our current favorite is "Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin). He smiles in his sleep all the time and even laughed heartily the other day at 4am. He has a temper. He hates being naked or having his diaper changed. He's learning how to squirm and his awake time is increasing more and more during day time hours. He looks almost exactly like a darker version of his brother.

 
He came out like a freight train. An hour and forty minutes from when we got to the hospital. It was a miracle, a race and a beautiful evening. My recovery was quick. My husband again stepped up and took amazing care of me while I recovered. And now, we are falling back into a routine. But this time there are two beautiful boys to kiss good night. We know we are lucky and frankly, each time I look at Nicholas or Eliot with Nicholas, I just feel the presence of God in my life. I have been so infinitely blessed.

First picture ever of my new family of 4

Thursday, November 1, 2012

QOTD: Jedi Truth

I think Yoda speaks a little truth here. I know more than anyone that you have to try and sometimes you won't always get the desired result. That said, in life, sometimes you just gotta put up or shut up. And in the movie, at this moment, Luke is whining about something being too hard in his training. Oh Luke...just get it done :)

Do or do not, there is no try.

-Yoda

My kid might be a bit obsessed with Star Wars. And when we gave him full license to be whoever he wanted for Halloween, he decided to be Darth Vader and assigned roles to all of us, including his then unborn brother.


Eliot provided a lot of dramatic breathing while in costume. I was thankful not to be 41 weeks pregnant and as usual, I have too much hair to fit in a wig.  Scott's Luke Skywalker but didn't make it in the shot and Nicholas is just flat out angry. He was resting comfortably on my mama when we disturbed him for the photo shoot.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

He's Here and He's Fantastic

I just wanted to take a second to give a shout out to anyone who has taken the time to read my blog. After months of not feeling so hot...guess what? Baby boy arrived. Only a few days early but in fully surprising fashion. And in a manner completely the opposite of his big brother.

One of my absolute favorite blogs in the whole wide world is "Enjoying the Small Things" authored by Kelle Hampton. She's basically a wonder woman writer/ photographer/ philosopher/ postive thinker. And she did something few women take the time to do. She wrote "birth stories". She sat down and wrote, start to finish, the labor and delivery process for her two girls, Lainey and Nella. She's expecting her third baby this winter and I can't wait to read his birth story as well.

So sometime later this week, I'm going to write you a story about how little Nicholas Robert arrived. In very very speedy fashion. And then someday, even though it's almost 4 years later, I'm going to write everything I can about what I remember from Eliot. If strong feelings and memories evoke powerful writing...then hopefully my words can possibly convey the absolute overwhelming love and happiness I feel right now. I'm honest to goodness drunk off the love I feel for my kids. And every time I look at Nicholas, I just shake my head. So unbelievably beautiful.


Pure bliss and love and just plain old joy.

Proud daddy with his fresh and squeaky clean little mini-me.
 

Nicholas Robert. His first car seat experience. Pacifier. Check. Blankie. Check. Unneccessary but ridiculously adorable chapeau. Check and check.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

QOTD: Goals

A goal without a plan...is just a wish.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Thank you pinterest for not only SUCKING my productivity but making me stop and think once in a while. Oh Pinterest...the time I would spend with you if time were not an issue.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It Takes a (Running) Village

My house is on the full marathon course for the Prairie Fire Marathon and for the first time ever, I got to host a big marathon watch party.  I created a silly and fun playlist; my husband hooked up a giant stereo system; my neighbors made pancakes and bacon and we had a killer block party.

The runners came through our neighborhood at mile 9 and we greeted them with signs, cowbells, bloody mary's and cheer. I sometimes struggle with spectating as opposed to participating...but today I just LOVED it. I sang and danced and high fived a bunch of strangers, all pushing themselves to achieve more, be more. And the smiles and love and thankfulness I got in return were simply amazing. It's hard to describe the positivity you experience in being a part of a marathon, whether as a spectator, runner or volunteer. But it is tangible and magical. It's why people spend months preparing for something that only last a few hours.

As I watched everyone today smile and embrace their challenge, I felt such motivation and inspiration and as always...community. While some runners are crazy and some competitive and some cuthroat...they are the vast minority. Almost every runner you meet is just excited to share that part of themselves with another runner.  Our little group of running friends we refer to as our "running family". We all just love and support each other and go to each other's events and help each other plan our next adventures...all the while solving each other's life problems at 5am and often times wearing matching shirts.  Today, many of my friends ran the full or the half marathon.  My only regret was I couldn't be at the finish line to watch all of them revel in the sweet victory of completing their events!

On Saturday, I worked a booth at the marathon expo for our local running club, Run Wichita. In that time, I met four specific runners that touched me and whose stories I don't want to forget.

Paul Shimon: This guy is the only person who has run every single Wichita marathon since the race's inception. A kind personality, a quiet guy in his 60's, Paul came over and caught up with a couple old friends while he picked up his race packet. I had heard of him but never met him and enjoyed speaking with him.  In his 33rd Wichita marathon, he was as excited as ever to take on the 26.2 miles. He laughed at himself and his "old man" aches and pains but was very excited for the projected beautiful weather. I told him to look for me at mile 9 and he did! During the race, I got a big high five and smile.  He then proceeded to crank out a 4:19.  Now, in his heyday (and because I stalked him), Paul's marathon PR was right around 2:30 so he clearly is a gifted runner with amazing credentials. You'd never know it passing him on the street or even at the race expo. Paul exhibited one of the things I love the most about runners. Humility. It often seems like the more a runner has accomplished, the more understated the runner's acknowledgement of their own achievements.

Inspirational weight loss half-marathon lady: A lady's whose name I don't know came over and asked me what Run Wichita was. We started talking and I of course, asked her what race she was running the next day. She shyly looked up and said "just the half marathon." I told her that was wonderful and was excited for her, as it was obviously her first foray into running. She then told me about how she signed up because October 14 was the anniversary of her new life.  On October 14, 2010, she started walking. Her goal had been to walk an hour a day and there were many times she said she had to sit on the curb and just wait to catch her breath. After being told by her doctor to "start walking or prepare for the worst" (she had a heart attack at a young age), she started walking. She said she eventually ran a little to help the monotony of the walks.

In the last two years, she lost over 100 pounds. She looked trim and like any other 50 something. But then I looked closer. She had on jeans that were a way too big, belted tightly to not fall off. Her face had extra skin. And in her misty eyes, she clearly had some history. I was sort of overcome. She started asking me questions and as we talked she seemed to gain a little confidence. She had ran/walked 12 miles and wanted to know if I thought she'd finish the next day. I couldn't help myself. I came across the table, gave her a big hug and said she would absolutely finish. She said she didn't care about her time and that the race had been very expensive and a bit of a hardship for her to pay for but it was an important gift for herself. By this point, I am tearing up and telling her, it was worth every penny and it was really a good deal because she's going to get two shirts and a big necklace out of her race registration. Warm fuzzy quota for the day was met, in about 5 minutes of speaking with this stranger whose name I will never know.

Montana man: Another runner whose name I cannot be sure of came up to our booth and just talked to me for a bit. He was nice guy with long grey hair and a full beard, one might venture to say...a hippy. As we chatted, he told me he was from Montana and it was his first time in Kansas. He was excited to see the town and run the race tomorrow.

When I saw him during mile 9 at my house, he was running with the 3:45 pace group. His long grey hair was flowing freely and he was wearing some old school short shorts and a beat up tshirt. He had a truly beautiful running stride and I imagine in his hey day was probably a very fast runner. He was very excited to see me and yelled "Kansas is so beautiful. I love your trees and your parks and your sky is just so huge!!!" For someone from a state known for its scenery, I was proud and a little tingly that he loved his trip and his run through our town.

Really fast guy from Boulder: Finally, during the expo, a younger runner approached our booth and started asking questions. He was very clearly, a fast guy. He was thin, wiry, all muscle. A little sunburnt wrinkled face but he just had that body. You know, the one that just posts ridiculously fast times. His girlfriend was very cute and soft spoken. He asked first for hotel recommendations and then restaurant recommendations. And then, some frank advice.

When we asked what race he planned to run, he said he hadn't decided between the full or half. And that...get this....he was there because he wanted to win prize money. (Can you even imagine??? Running for some easy cash?) Again, almost embarassed and very humble, this very elite runner was asking our thoughts on what a winning time would be for either race the next day. He told us his anticipated finish times and we said he had a very solid chance of winning either race. In fact, we said "unless someone else like you shows up tomorrow, someone from out of state who is here for prize money, your time should win the marathon." He decided, just like that, he would run the full.

And to my best estimation, in checking the results, he took second. He finished 6 minutes after another guy, also from Colorado. The local newspaper quoted the 2nd place marathon finisher as saying "He [the winner] shows up to any race, he wins." In a blazing fast time of 2:23:26, the winner was probably only using our marathon as a "training run". And sadly, the guy looking to score some "easy cash" finished exactly where he thought he would 2:29:40, a finishing time that any other year would have easily won the event for him. I felt a twinge of guilt for giving him shaky advice...but who knew? Our little marathon is now attracting some pretty elite runners. Again though, perhaps the funniest part of all of this was this guy's humility and flat out embarassment at discussing whether he could win with a couple local strangers.

So why is it that running creates such humility within most? Why is it that instead of beating your chest like a preening peacock on Jersey Shore, these runners look down, smile shyly and discuss their goals and times and best case scenario's? No one needs to tell me Mr. Sub 2:30 marathon is something special and works very hard. I know this. His humility was evident and I truly wanted him to win so he could get a little money for his efforts.  Why is it that the woman who lost 100 pounds over the last two years wasn't wearing tight clothes to show off that new body? I think it's because in sweating and suffering and fending off injuries and earning your stripes, you recognize the power of your body to conquer but also the fragility of your body to falter at any time.  The happy hippy from Montana ran for the joy of it--it was so clear in his huge smile. Everyone runs for a reason but most runners know it can't last forever. Cherish it while you can. And in recognizing the fleeting time you have to run, you gotta make it count.

And it all brought it back to my own goals for my body and for running. I may not be elite but I am part of the running community. And next year, I am running the Chicago marathon. It will be my return to the 26.2 distance and probably the first time I leave my new baby behind. I am planning to go with a giant group of friends. This weekend made me want to start a Chicago calendar countdown!!! Days til my next marathon finish line: 353.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

QOTD: Daring Greatly

This seems timely...in our current political culture, where all anyone does is hate hate hate, rather than come up with solutions. That plus I generally love this quote and try to be someone whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Makes life MUCH more interesting and in turn, rewarding.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
 
-Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, October 8, 2012

Say Cheese

Self portraits are all over the place. With the invention of camera phones and social media, they are inescapable. And almost every random self-portrait out there makes me smile. I have a friend that is taking a picture of herself and her 5 year old daughter as they wait for the school bus and posting it to facebook daily. The pictures are completely adorable and hilarious. I have friends that do self-portraits to ensure wardrobe choices are appropriate and people who just take their own picture just for the heck of it. And yet, I completely and totally hate my own.

I don't know what angles I look best at or how to smile or what exactly I should do to ensure my pictures are cute and show my "best" side. I'm bad at self-portrait hair and angles. I feel awkward about any photo of me, that is me by myself. I don't mind having my picture taken with friends or family or maybe in front of a landmark. But I feel incredibly awkward about a photograph of me, by myself, for 'no reason'. Does not matter the circumstances, I won't like it. And as a result, I have failed to document either of my pregnancies at all. And I hate that.

Some people (mostly women) despise being photographed at all. This article broke my heart because luckily, I've never let the self-criticism go this far but I know so many women that do. My mother, in fact, has never seen a photo of herself that she likes. She hates them all. And like the 5 year old son in the Huff Po piece, I don't see my mom's flaws in her pictures, I see her warm smile and twinkly eyes.

As I've mentioned before, I am done having babies after my newest arrival gets here. In just a few weeks, I will never be pregnant again. And somehow, despite how privileged I am and how excited I have been for these babies...I have almost no pictures of me pregnant. I'm not even sure how that happened but both times, I've just been too "busy" to document my pregnancies. And I have never stopped to take pictures of this very amazing chapter in my life.

I haven't had formal (professional) maternity shots taken. I haven't taken weekly belly profile pictures. I haven't even snapped informally funny pictures with my funny belly . And sadly, I think it's all because I am not particularly comfortable with pictures of me by myself for 'no reason'. And so the amazing and beautiful progression and transition of my body is something I will have to rely on from a few scattered photos and memories.  I have enormous regret that I have not put my own issues with self-portraits on hold and just made a point of creating some type of journal of this amazing transition of my body.

And so, at 35 weeks pregnant (never mind that I'll be lucky to make 38 or 39 weeks, let alone 40), I decided, no time like the present. And I decided if anything I could get the last 4-5 weeks. See if there was any noticeable difference between week 35 and week 39. And so with the lovely instagram's help, I present to you weeks 35, 36 and 37.

Self-image issues placed on hold. I'm throwing it all out there. And for anyone newly pregnant or not so newly pregnant, DO SOMETHING to document this. You will not remember what it looked like or how your body supported the squirmy little person inside.  And you cannot know what your body looks like by looking down at your shoes a couple times a day. Honor your beautiful changing body and the miracle within by capturing it and its changes. Do it naked, clothed, weekly, monthly, daily, I don't care. Just do it. And here's my final rule: absolutely, positively no criticism of yourself or comparison to someone else. You are creating new life and you are blessed and lucky to be doing so.  Now is not the time to complain about your hair not cooperating like you'd like or asking why someone else's stretch marks are less visible than your own. Share with the world or share with no one, just don't fail to document the beauty. It's why God created camera phones. And photo filters.

Week 35. I call this look "business baby". I argued 4 motions in court this day.

A little fuzzy but I had to add because of how cute Eliot is peeking in on the picture.

Eliot, getting his picture "with MY baby."

37 weeks. Full Term. Doctor says all systems are "go". Holy cow. This is really happening.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

QOTD: "Big Stuff"

I am addicted to my iPhone. I am obsessed with Facebook. I adore Instagram.  I have a full schedule and a demanding career. I have 101 things to be doing, all the time. In this day and age of 5 million distractions, added to just the incessant background noise of life, I stumbled on this quote on pinterest (another glorious distraction).

It was a very humbling reminder of the need to be a good listener and to be present in our conversations with our children. Not distracted, saying 'mm hmm' while we check our work email on our smart phone. Frankly, there isn't any person in our life we shouldn't really give 100% focus and attention to. But when your kiddo (or coworker or mother or anyone really) is telling you something that maybe seems a bit mundane and unimportant, solid reminder, right here.

Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what.  If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big. Because to them all of it has always been the big stuff.

-Catherine M. Wallace

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

QOTD: "Do It Anyway"

I love hearing wise people's words. I decided to share words that inspire me when I stumble on them...that way they are at least easy for me to find later. Hopefully, anyone reading will find some good stuff in them as well.

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend year creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and peace, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

-Mother Teresa

Monday, October 1, 2012

Lemons, Lemonade, Lemons, Lemonade

One of my favorite expressions has always been "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."  There are definitely times you have to shake yourself off, dust yourself off, slap on some lipgloss and carry on.  I can't possibly count how many times in my life I have cried tears of anger/ frustration/ helplessness/ hurt, wiped away misplaced mascara, and then greeted whatever part of my day comes next.  Follow up the bad by salvaging good from that day, that moment. 

A week ago my father-in-law was in surgery...getting some plumbing reworked in his heart...also known as quadruple bypass. Two known heart attacks and one massive surgery to repair the damage and all I kept thinking about was that 50 years ago, he would not have made it. The first REAL brush with death for any of my husband or I's parents. And I can say, it was as rough as I had imagined it might be.

The good news is that after a 5+ hour surgery, several days of very slow recovery and whispers of the worst possible outcomes, he took a big turn in the right direction. We are so unbelievably blessed and thankful as every day brings a new milestone. Recovery is a realistic word.  And lots of "if's" are now "when's". WHEN you get out of this ICU room. WHEN you finish building that clock you're working on. WHEN we watch that next football game at our house. WHEN you hold your new grandson. But there is so much work for him to do. Luckily he's stubborn and strong and is not the type to throw in the towel just because it hurts to move or hurts to quit smoking or hurts to make changes.  He's just stubborn enough to turn himself around and get on that road to recovery. He just retired and he has things to do and projects to work on and he'll be damned if he lets a few heart attacks stop him.  I see in him the strength I see and love in my husband and often times the stubborn determination that leads someone to live their life the way my husband lives his (future blog post foreshadowing).

So trying to find the silver lining. Trying to find the lemonade. This particular lemon posed a very difficult challenge for me. Where in the HELL is the sugar I need to make my lemonade? The entire last week, we had lots of family stay with us as they are all out of town and the hospitals and specialists he needed were in our town. Schedules were upside down. The last few weeks of pregnancy are supposed to be quiet and peaceful. And we moved on...to Plan B. Everyone was in crisis mode. We did not know what the next hour held for anyone, let alone the next day.

All week I kept trying to make lemonade from the lemons and I realized that sometimes there isn't any lemonade to be made. There is nothing GOOD to be made out of nearly losing an immediate family member. There is not anything POSITIVE to take from the clutch in your gut and the tears burning at the back of your eyes for days on end. There is not anything happy to LEARN from someone almost leaving with lots of unfinishined business and life to live on earth. People leave all the time before they have finished all their business and the truth is, it is never okay. 

So rather than make lemonade out of the bitterest, nastiest of lemons, I decided to make my own lemonade, perhaps from a powder, without sugar or real lemon juice. I didn't even try to make lemonade until Friday. And by then, I was so frazzled, so spent, so upset with this lemon, that I almost did not make it at all.

So I boxed up the nasty lemons.  I found good in other areas of my life and I focused as hard as I could on the amazing beautiful support and friendship and love that popped up in expected and unexpected places.

Without really even asking, I had dinner every night, delivered from people who have hectic crazy lives. We had bottled water and cokes and chocolate cake and lasagna and just about everything we could possibly want or need. All I had to do was answer an email that said "What time do you want dinner?" Family, co-workers, running friends. The love just kept pouring in. I had more offers than I could possibly accept for more food and support. If half the people on facebook actually prayed for him that said they did, well, we know why he made it.  I have never been more grateful for basically everyone in my life. The bitter lemons were in garbage disposal.

Friday my little three year old has his field trip to the fire station. Due to all the crazy circumstances, our four year old nephew tagged along. I got to oversee these little cousins make memories while they travelled through the fire station, inspecting big fireman boots, going inside a fire engine, running through the "stop, drop and roll" drill. It would have been wonderful to take my little boy to a field trip on a normal day and get a little time away from the office. But taking both he and his cousin made for some hilarious moments. They live two hours apart, don't get to see each other all that often but make the most of every minute together. Between playing ring-around-the-rosie around my legs to sharing juice boxes after the trip was over to Eliot proudly introducing his cousin to every one of his classmates, I saw it! There it was! My lemonade pitcher.

Then I dropped the boys off, made a mad dash downtown, completed a brief on a case, filed it in federal court and a few hours later was somehow giving the two monkeys a bath. I silently observed them splashing each other, making up rules to various games, filling bath toys up with water and squirting them at each other. They posed for me in their bath towels and I captured what may be the cutest picture in the history of the world. And then suddenly my pitcher had some pre-made generic brand lemonade mix in the bottom.

Saturday morning I spent a quiet few hours with just the little man and I, of all places in Target and Barnes and Noble. Target provided us a solid 90 minutes of entertainment as we slowly, very slowly pilfered through every aisle of Halloween decorations, scoured the candy selections, picked up a few groceries and just giggled and laughed and discussed everything in the Halloween section. And then Eliot helped me find pajamas that fit. They are Hello Kitty and they are awesome. We followed it up with story time at Barnes and Noble, where the lovely B&N employee read multiple fall themed books about leaves and raking and scarecrows, and then Eliot had an M&M brownie. It was a perfect morning. Someone actually measured the water for me and added it to my pitcher.

The rest of the weekend was busy, hosting family, pulling together meals for the people who were in town visiting our patient, shuffling various bodies here and there. But huge progress was made, medically, for dad. And suddenly he was out of his bed walking. And discussions shifted so noticeably that everyone was smiling. Thoughts were positive and the lemonade was being stirred.

Finally, Sunday night, he was moved to a non-ICU room. We took our little guy up with a poster that says "get well PAPA! <3 Eliot" and despite some initial hesitancy because Papa looks much different...pretty soon he was telling his grandpa all about his match box car and star wars and everything else that matters when you're a three year old boy. And when I told him to give papa a kiss on his hand and he happily obliged with a sweet little kiss and I got to hug him again and know he was on the right path...sigh, sweet relief.

Glass filled with ice, lemonade poured. It might just be generic powdered mix, but honestly, lemonade has never been quite so delicious.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Butter. Sugar. Eggs. Flour. Magic.

 
I found some seriously amazing friends in high school.  There was a group of us that grew close over those four years and since 1996, we have had 4 weddings, 3 babies (all boys) and countless memories made.  And no matter the time or distance, we gather and reconnect and before we know it, it's like we never left our teens. I have no "real" sisters, but I have these girls. And for that I am forever grateful.  They say friends are the family you chose for yourself. Well, my family is amazing.

We have regularly joked that no one can get married or have baby unless Kate makes chicken salad and I make sugar cookies. Kate's chicken salad is perfect...every. time. She doesn't have a recipe and no one's is even close to as delicious. I have watched her many times. She just chops things and stirs and suddenly, it's perfect. Slap that on a croissant and honestly, it is HEAVEN.

Marina is having a baby. A NEW YEARS baby. And another boy! We will have five of them now. And to celebrate her first born, we gathered to, you guessed it, eat chicken salad and sugar cookies. So here's my first of many posts, about sugar cookies. My mom made sugar cookies for every holiday as I grew up. She still has cookie cutters that pre-date me. And they were always delicious. If you've ever wanted to try homemade, I can PROMISE YOU, it's worth it. Over the years, I have put own spin on them and I can assure you, these are as good as you will buy anywhere. They are some work but frankly, follow my time line and you can work them in to your busy schedule too.

Day 1: Make your dough. (This time, I made it Wednesday but it can be made up to a week in advance or you can freeze it. I've had it frozen at the end of this stage for up to 4 months and it still turned out a beautiful cookie.)

Combine 3 sticks of softened, unsalted butter with 2 cups of sugar:



This butter was out at room temperature for over an hour. Three sticks of butter = the start of something very good.
After you mix together your butter and sugar, it will be light and fluffy. Like a cloud, full of saturated fat instead of rain. Like a happy face without the soul-less black eyes. Like fat cottony petals of yellow roses.
 Then add 4 whole eggs and two teaspoons of vanilla extract:

Dough will be fairly runny after you add these babies.
Then the dry ingredients. Add 6 cups of flour; 2 teaspoons of baking powder; and 2 teaspoons of salt:

All in all, it's about as simple of a recipe as you can get.

This is basically found in my kitchen around any major holiday; birthday; or anytime anyone for any reason decides to throw a party to celebrate marriage or children.
Add the dry ingredients a bit at a time so you aren't sloshing flour everywhere.  Scrape your dough out of your bowl and store in the fridge until you're ready for the next step. It works fine to freeze in ziplocks or bowls or whatever you have on hand but regardless, the dough needs to chill overnight.

15-20 minutes; 7 easily available ingredients; and good memories are about to be made.
Day 2: Bake Cookies (I did this on Friday night).

There are literally thousands of cookie cutters out there. THOUSANDS. The best ones are copper. The stainless ones can lose their shape and get rust but they still work well. Most of what you will find out there is stainless. Plastic cookie cutters (in my humble opinion) are just plain crap.

So now you are ready to roll out your cookies.  Even though you have to let the dough chill overnight, it's probably too cold to work with very easily. You will have to spend a little time kneeding the dough into a workable mound/ ball. Take about 1/4 of the dough in your dough blob and work until it becomes a ball.

Then get yourself more flour. Floured work surface; floured hands and floured rolling pin. Turn that ball into a large 1/4 thick rough of dough. Work from the center out with your rolling pin.

Doesn't have to be pretty. The goal here is even thickness throughout your blob. Let's all submit ideas about what this blob looks like. I'll start. Grimace from McDonalds.
Time to get adorable up in here. Rocking horse; baby bottle; stroller cookie cutters. CHECK!

Stainless cookie cutter. Not always perfect but definitely gets the job done.

Can you feel how precious it's about to get in my kitchen???
And now we bake. 375 for 8-12 minutes. They are done when there is the tiniest bit of tan around the edges. Remove to a cooling rack as soon as you take them out of the oven. You can frost these as soon as they are cool but frankly, I prefer to just focus on baking and save frosting for another day.

Baking on parchment or a silpat...ALWAYS a good result.
Baby bottle sugar cookies. Baked up, delicious and adorable.
One batch of cookies in three shapes took close to an hour to bake and get cooling on racks.

Day 3: Frosting/ icing/ decorating. (Icing takes 5 minutes to make; cookies took probably 30-45 minutes to decorate.)

Another day I will post about icing. I work with no less than FIVE icing recipes and depending on the occasion, I have a recipe that will work well. This time around absolutely #1 issue was taste. So we used my mom's recipe. It's a "true" buttercream but isn't the prettiest of options. That said, with just a little work you can have very cute cookies that taste like small doses of hedonism.

Combine 1 1/2 sticks SOFTENED (very soft) unsalted butter; 2 teaspoons vanilla; 1/4 teaspoon salt and 6 tablespoons milk.

I put a little of my powdered sugar quantity in at this time so it isn't quite so liquidy or splashy. (Yes those are WORDS.)
This is what a good recipe looks like. Handwritten; stained; smudged.
Add 6 3/4 cups powdered sugar, incrementally. I usually add in 4 separate additions. After mixing with a hand or a stand mixer for about 4-5 minutes, it will be light, fluffy and off white. And ready to be dyed to make your cookie a small piece of art!

We put the butter in buttercream.
I was surprised by how uhh...blue my blue was. Undeterred, I started smearing icing on the cookies. With reckless abandon.

Behold. Electric blue.
Some delicious goodness. Right. Here.
This icing sets up a little so that you can add some detail to your decoration.With very little work, (I seriously just outlined the shapes in white), the cookies are very cute, and most importantly, delicious! Like I said, other icing options offer you the ability to make a prettier cookie, but none of them will have the taste of this--this little stroller, right here, tasted like the morning dew from a rainbow wrapped in the buttery sweetness of perfection that smelled of fresh lilies while someone played Mozart's Moonlight Sonata on the piano with such passion that you were moved to tears. Never had that experience while eating a cookie? I'm sorry for your loss.    

Nothing fancy here. Just some good clean fun. And cookies!
The horses manes are made from a tiny little Wilton star tip.
This icing probably needs 15-30 minutes to set up before you stack the cookies on top of each other. But the nice thing is that at least this frosting recipe allows that to happen.

But most importantly, now we are safe. Marina can now have her baby as the time honored chicken salad/ cookie ritual is complete.
 
 

Monday, September 17, 2012

You Can't Take It With You

Unexpectedly this weekend, I bought a new car. My old car had been through ten and half years of mistreatment and neglect from me. It drove me on countless trips to and from remote Kansas towns for court hearings. It was rarely ever cleaned. It survived my first born's abuse. And after taking us safely to a little weekend getaway trip destination on Friday, it died. Poor thing was not worth the money to fix it. I don't speak car or anything mechanical really. But I do understand simple math and simply put, I had to put it to rest. And I just have to say thank you as that car was the most reliable little car over those 140,000 (ish) miles anyone could have asked for. It never left me stranded on the side of a highway or refused to start in the cold. It just drove endlessly and for that, I am forever grateful.

We all know that things are just things. The clothes you buy today are out of style tomorrow. My new car will someday get used up and go the way of my last car. My furniture will wear out. Even my beautiful jewelry, which is so precious to me, will someday be given to my kids or grandkids or other family members.

I have tried my whole life to work hard and buy things that are a good deal. I try to spend money on people, on memories and on experiences. For example, I recently spent an obscene amount of money taking my 3 year old son to the Broadway production of the Lion King. Our tickets were front and center and yes, it hurt the pocketbook to buy them. But I will never forget his open mouthed awe at the opening number. His excitement and rapt attention during the entire 3 hour musical is a memory I will always cherish (I never thought we'd make it through the whole thing).

And yet, despite my honest attempts to focus on memories and not things, I cannot help but become attached to stuff. I honestly struggled to leave my car behind. In my head, my little blue Saturn was devastated that I would rather dump it than fix it and let it come home with me. Yes, I know. It's a thing. It's metal and plastic and grey fuzzy carpet. It doesn't have feelings other than those I assign to it. And my feelings for that car are more related to the feelings it evokes. My first car ever purchased with my own money. The car I drove to countless hearings, only to have clients and other people comment on what it must mean that their lawyer drives a Saturn (and not a fancy luxury vehicle). The car that I took on countless trips (running and otherwise) with the husband and friends--Vail, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Kansas City (probably 300 times) and many other destinations I can't recall. So memories of those things and the feelings about that chapter of my life are all tied in to the car itself.

I place far too much value in clothes and purses and gadgets and stuff. I covet the next best thing, whatever that may be. It's difficult for me not to in our culture and society. I have an iPhone 4. And it's magical. But now, see there's this iPhone 5...but I try. I make a conscious effort not to be driven by STUFF or THINGS but to be inspired by PEOPLE and EXPERIENCES. No purse in the world can replicate the feelings and views of sitting on the side of a mountain and just sucking in your breath because the views are so fantastic. (Okay, maybe a Hermes Birkin, but I can't know that because the Birkin is still just a dream.)

And so I struggle. To be a person of depth and meaning. To spend money on books and vacations with friends and family. To recognize that physical stuff is transient. And yet, this morning, my little son asked whether or not we still had his bottle of apple juice left from this weekend. He told us that he wanted to drink the rest of the juice with breakfast and then keep the empty bottle FOREVER because it would help him remember his wonderful vacation with mommy and daddy. (We took a toddler focused "babymoon" and went a bunch of places that were all about him...when we were not buying a new car that is.)

We laughed a little. How SILLY! Keeping a bottle of apple juice that you bought at the bagel shop to remember a vacation by? But then it hit me. He was assigning the same importance to that empty apple juice bottle that I was assigning to a broken down 10 year old car. It wasn't just a plastic bottle, it was his last trip with mom and dad as an only child. And so we assign value to things because simply put, it cannot be helped and it's how our brains work. That necklace isn't just a necklace. It's the first gift I ever received from my boyfriend (who would later become my fiance and then my husband and then the father of my children) who took a lot of time to pick it out and spent money he didn't have all to match it to a bracelet I had. That purse is not just a purse. It's a statement that I am successful and I have done what it takes to reach a certain level of success.

It's a very tenuous line. The innocence of keeping an apple juice bottle as a souvenir is the best way to remain connected to the very disposable stuff in our life.  The problem comes in projecting too much on to the things and expecting anything in return from them. I know that a new purse won't fix my problems but doesn't the temporary buzz of unwrapping it, all shiny and new, help suspend life's hiccups for a bit? A car is still just a way to get from point to point and yet, I'm already projecting a lot on to my new car because it's my "mommy" vehicle, complete with a third row of seating.

And then there's the reality that I work hard. And I believe that I should be rewarded for my hard work once in a while. So with all of that, I attempt to live a philosophy that is based on honesty with myself about what things can give me. Stuff can be a lot of fun and reminders of wonderful memories. Stuff is mostly necessary as we need houses to live in and clothes to wear to work and cars to drive us to where we have to go. I struggle but I try to remember that the new shiny fun thing is just that. It is fun and shiny and new. I am not bad for enjoying that which is shiny and new. It can't solve my problems or make me laugh a big belly laugh the way a good joke or a witty remark can. It can't make me feel warm and loved the way a hug from someone I care about or a compliment can. I cannot assign more to that object other than simple enjoyment for being what it is. Because that is where I get into trouble...when I expect a thing to be the answer to my problem or in and of itself provide happiness.

And so with a heavy heart, I must say goodbye dear Saturn. You and the memories that go with you are cherished. Thank you, again, for never dying on the side of a busy highway in rush hour in the winter, leaving me to walk miles in high heels or some other such fate worse than death. And thank you, again, for transporting me and my family countless times over countless miles. I'll never forget you...or rather, I'll never forget my twenties and early thirties. Because really, that's what you are is a symbol of that time. Cheers.