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 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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Run For Your Life

In the spring of 1999, I took a big journey. I left behind my amazing friends, my family, my safe and beautiful and idyllic college campus and I went to London. For five months I denied myself absolutely nothing. I knew how precious my time as a college kid, studying abroad, really was and I was intent on making the most of it. I saw beautiful life changing things. I experienced heartbreak. I made new friends. I saw priceless works of art, experienced the best musical theatre in the WORLD on a random weekday afternoon, and watched the sunrise over the Costa del Sol. My memories from those months could fill a very large journal.

I've always loved beer and enjoyed a nice dessert here or there, those five months? I drank the good, dark, smooth, amazing beers...daily. I had dessert...daily. I ate deep fat fried fish and chips with reckless abandon. And I tried everything someone told me to try, whether that was paella in Spain or nutella filled crepes in France. All good things must come to an end and at the end of five months, I had gained 25 pounds.

I came home and found none of my clothes fit. NONE.  I couldn't keep up with my nieces and nephews who were a cute and formidable brigade of toddlers. I could not take a flight of stairs without getting completely winded. I just felt, miserable. And not long after getting home I realized I could not afford a whole new wardrobe. I did not like how I felt. I did not feel comfortable in my new body and I truly just needed to lose the weight. I had watched members of my family struggle with weight for my entire life and I was determined not to start down that path. I was 21 and not about to resign myself to a life of obesity or struggle or pain.

And so, I researched. What exercise burned the most calories? What foods were the best to drop weight quickly and safely? For the first time in my life, I "dieted." And I learned some pretty important lessons. Moderation, patience, persistence, discipline, balance, reward.

Back in Kansas, I did not hit the pub every night on the way home. Probably 700-800 daily calories removed. I did not hit up the evil tempting Cadbury's machine in the tube. 200-300 calories removed. I ate almost no deep fried foods. Unknown calories removed. I replaced all those wonderful delicious splurges with low fat yogurt, reasonably portioned sandwiches and salads, fruit, vegetables, no seconds at dinner, oatmeal at breakfast.

Most importantly, however, I started running. I ran 3-5 times a week. I ran at 5am before my office job started at 8. And I detoxed, for months. I ran slow. I sweat like a you know what in church. I wore all the wrong clothes. I wore the wrong shoes and socks. I got blisters on my feet and chafing from my too large cotton t-shirts.  But I slowed the weight gain train down, brought it slowly to a creeping halt and then put it in reverse. It took me 5 months to gain 25 pounds. And 4 months to lose it. I had youth and energy and fierce determination on my side. But I lost that weight. And when my new friends saw me back at college that fall, every single one of them was amazed by my transformation. To me, I was just returning back to normal.  That said, the "new" normal was stronger, fiercer, more confident.

I learned more about myself and my ability to change the course of my own destiny in that summer than I have at any other time in my life. I am so grateful for the opportunity to lose weight the "right" way. I am so glad I experienced unhealthy weight gain and healthy weight loss. It has profoundly impacted me ever since.

Taking advice from a few of my college friends who were runners, real honest to goodness fast runners, I believed them that once you can run 3 miles you can run anything. They were right. It took me 60-90 days of strict 3-5 (and mostly 5) times a week running to get up to three miles. But once I got to that point? I ran all the way up to 14 miles. I even had the idea of a "marathon" in mind.

I returned to college that fall a runner. I was slow. I was still a bit overweight. I still had the wrong shoes and shorts and shirts (don't even get me started on sports bras). But a spark had been lit. And I knew in my heart, I was a runner. There was something very liberating in sweating out your stress, in grasping your own destiny, and in taking control of your body. There was something profoundly empowering in watching my body transform.  What I could not do one day, I was able to a week later.  I did not run a marthon that year. Or the next. Or the next. But I did in 2005. And since then I've run 16 more. And there is no question that running has saved my life, over and over and over. Running is pure and simple and requires little to no preparation, or equipment or plan. You just go.

This pregnancy and a brutally hot summer has revoked my running card. And I miss it dearly. I do not look forward to returning to pre-pregnancy level of fitness, as it will take me well over a year to get back there. But I am nervous and anxious like a little kid. I know it's coming. In December, I get to run again. And until then? I just think about it. I (literally) dream about it and daydream about it. And I get giddy when I imagine running another race.

I'm still not fast by runner's standards. I'm still not maximizing my potential. I still have a lot more to accomplish. A LOT more. But the lessons I learned 13 years ago as a very young woman play out every day in my life. And without that rapid and terrible chapter of weight gain, I might have never learned those lessons in such an abridged fashion. Moderation, patience, persistence, discipline, balance, reward.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Butter. Flour. Magic.

One of my favorite places in the world, in the kitchen, near a stove. Up to my arms in butter and flour, sugar and eggs. I grew up in a family where everything was homemade. My memories of spending time in the kitchen with my mom are some of my favorite childhood memories. I find myself getting in a zone in the kitchen where all the stress of life sort of falls away and it's just a happy place. And my kiddo is already a great cook--he made cupcakes for his pre-school class on Thursday night and they were quite delicious.

With less than 6 weeks til baby, it's time to stock the freezer with pre-made meals. I did this with the first baby and it was the best preparation I could have done. As it turns out returning to the practice of law, with a 6 or 8 week old baby, is really hard (who knew?). Having dinner made and in the fridge is absolutely one of my favorite feelings.

So this beautiful Saturday morning, the husband ticked off a 40 (not a typo) mile training run and I found some happy quiet activities for E$ (prounounced "E-money"). I got busy in the kitchen, cranked out 3 quiches from scratch and cajun red beans and rice.

Quiche is one of our family's favorites. It is rich and filling and while we do not eat it all the time (because of its fat content and calories), it is wonderful cool weather comfort food. A piece of quiche with a large spinach salad and we are in business. Typically one quiche makes it 2-3 meals for us.

Today's quiche was an combination of 3 recipes and they turned out beautifully. I use Williams Sonoma's pie crust recipe; Betty Crocker's quiche filler and some lovely woman named "Suzanne" told me what to put inside it.

Suzanne's contribution: I sauteed a pound of bacon, cut into one inch strips. Once the bacon was almost cooked, I added one diced onion and about a 1/2 pound of sliced mushrooms.  I could have stopped here and had a private moment with a fork. These ingredients smelled better than anything I could ever imagine. And they looked like this:

Oh bacon, the things you do to me. And everything that touches your magical goodness.
Williams Sonoma's contribution: I've been using their pie crust recipe for years. Yes, you can do store bought crust. But I love homemade crust. This recipe always turns our flaky and light and golden and just perfect. Pie crust is, of course, a labor of love. It is not, however, rocket science and well worth the effort. If you've never made pie crust from scratch, know this, I've been making pie crust for 8 years. It took some persistence but guess what? I'm basically a pro now. And with a little practice, it will be consistently wonderful.

So here's how I do it:

1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Teaspoon salt

Dump in food processor with dough blade inside. (Yes you can do it by hand and I did for many years. But a food processor cuts your time in less than half.)

29th birthday present was a food processor. A moment of common sense levelheadedness that rarely happens for me but possibly the smartest thing I've ever asked for.
Add one stick of COLD butter cut into tablespoons. Yes, it has to be cold. Cold butter, hot oven, remember that.
The start of many happy moments.
Push the dough button, turn it on. Combine for about 30-60 seconds.
See the dough button? Turns out it TOTALLY makes dough.
Stop the food processor when the ingredients look like cornmeal.
Butter. Flour. Magic.
Here's the part that takes a little practice. Adding ice water. Depending on humidity, elevation and probably a lot of things a scientific person could explain better than I....different batches take different amounts of water. I don't know why. I just start with 3 tablespoons. The ice has melted here but the water is very very cold.

That is a tablespoon inside a cup of cold water.
Once again, on the "dough" setting, press pulse three or four times. The water becomes the glue and after another 20-30 seconds of combining, magic happens. You get a dough ball!  It's cold and slightly damp.
Pie crust recipe works again. I'm telling you that butter is MAGIC.
 Plop your ball of crust onto a floured surface and scrape out all those little pieces in the corners with your fingers. Dust your hands with flour and gently work the dough into a flat disc. (Note: at this point, this little guy can be frozen or refrigerated until you want to make multiples or use it later. Just cover in plastic wrap.)

My disc is not as pretty as say, Martha Stewart's. But I bet it tastes just as good.
Begin rolling your dough out. I use a marble rolling pin. Be gentle, work from the middle out, try to keep the pressure even. Full dough size (about 12-13 inches across). Then gently fold this sucker in half.

It's okay that it isn't perfectly's the thickness that counts :) Dust generously with flour top and bottom and throughout rolling so your dough doesn't stick to your rolling surface.
Until you really know how to handle your dough, just be slow and careful while you move it around. And only touch it with floured hands.
Slide your pie crust into your pie pan and gently press it into the bottom of your pie pan. At this point in time you have done the hardest part. Smile because you are almost there. (Also, this is where you ask I really want to make quiche? Perhaps I should slice up some apples instead. Or some peaches. Or lemon curd. Perhaps what I really want is dessert. Today I stayed on focus...and made quiche...the bacon filling smelled so amazing I knew I had to see this through to the end.)
Almost. There. Ehhhhhh!!!!

Boom. I got this.
Now, you can either trim the excess with scissors or fold it under itself and press against the pie plate. Unless there is extensive overhang, I use very floured hands to fold the excess dough under and pinch it on top of itself. Then I make it pretty. I have never done crazy edges to my crust. Maybe someday but these days I stick to what I know. Right index finger, left thumb, and right thumb pull the dough edges into the basic ruffled edge. 
Check it. I rule.

So much promise.
I always refrigerate my crust for about 10 minutes at this point. It just bakes better if it's really cold. This usually allows me to mix up whatever wonderful thing will make its home inside this crust. This whole process used to take me 20 minutes or more. After getting my amazing Cuisinart food processor and years of practice, I go from nothing to this point in about 5 minutes.

Betty Crocker's Contribution: the filling. This is 4 eggs, 2 cups heavy cream (do not substitute half and half or milk, it will be runny and won't set up--yes this is why we run marathons in our house), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne.
Whatever you do. DO NOT READ the heavy cream container calorie count. It will ruin quiche and ice cream and alfredo sauce for you forever. Just go work out for 1 hour, get really sweaty and then eat your quiche.
 Now, dump your cooled filling into your pie crust.
If bacon is wrong, I don't want to be right.
Now pour your egg mixture over this thing of beauty.
Look at all that piggy goodness poking out. Trying not to drown in the velvety deliciousness of the cream. There is no escape little piggy, you will now be quiche.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. This will set your crust.
Look Mom, I cleaned my oven.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour. Test with a sharp knife to make sure the eggs are cooked through. The knife needs to be spotlessly clean to ensure your filling is cooked through.
Why yes, my kitchen does smell amazing at this moment.
I went all assembly line today. Two for the freezer and one for my ultra-running husband for lunch. He was pretty excited to have a fresh homemade quiche waiting for him for lunch. The other two were wrapped in foil and put inside a gallon sized freezer ziplock. The only thing you do after the fact is defrost in the fridge and heat in the microwave. If you feel like going all out...put your individual pieces in the toaster oven for a minute to crisp up the bottom crust.
I think Betty and William and Suzanne would be proud. Their combined efforts created some serious deliciousness in my kitchen this morning.
Other fillings we fall back on:
  • cubes of ham + mild cheddar + 1 small diced onion
  • mild ground sausage + raw spinach + chunks of brie
  • tomatoes (seeded and diced)+ spinach + mushroom + roasted red pepper
  • roasted broccoli florets + mild cheddar
Basically anything you'd like in your omelet, you'll love in your quiche. It's a wonderful vegetarian meal but I struggle to deny the lure of bacon or sausage. That is picture of many meals we now don't have to make when baby arrives. Happy morning.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


It's pretty clear...I'm pregnant. Take one look at me and there's no questioning. I've carried both of my babies high and protrude like a very large globe or basketball is duck taped on to my stomach. I'm mostly okay with this but just laugh at my body when I see myself in a mirror these days. (Does this baby make me look pregnant?)

Overall, for me, pregnancy and labor and delivery and all of it, is just so...humbling. While I've always believed in a higher power and at times in my life know that I was moved by God and something greater than myself, at no time in my life have I truly felt like I was watching a miracle unravel--a miracle that I had very little part in, yet still intimately involved me. Until I became pregnant.

Both pregnancies, I have felt something wonderful and miraculous taking place inside me. And this miraculous thing was hardly my doing or anything I could control. Losing control of the process, of my body, of my rituals, frankly, has been a very good practice for someone like me who is mostly in control. Control is such a funny thing as it seems the more you seek it, the less you find. (Topic for another blog post perhaps?) Parenthood is a very large exercise in losing control and finding ways to manage what otherwise seems uncontrollable.

My pregnancies have been vastly different. With my first son, I ran forever. I felt amazing pretty much the whole time. I never craved any weird foods; I just was hungry and tired mostly.  And at the end, when I got really tired, I slowed down and that time coicided with Christmas so it worked out perfectly. The primary side effect of that pregnancy was snoring and insomnia the last couple months--neither of which bothered me too much (can't speak for my husband...). This baby boy, however, has caused a plethora of the problems so many women experience. I've been nauceous and even thrown up in the middle of a trip to the grocery store. [For the record, yes, I rallied to finish my shopping.] I've experienced significant aches and pains. The timing of my pregnancy (during the heat of a very hot summer) forced me to quit running much much earlier than I would have liked. I have headaches, backaches, foot cramps, stomach pains and anemia.  I have gone completely stir crazy at times and I miss running with my friends so much it hurts. But oddly, none of it makes me feel resentful at what I'm missing. Because every time I start to throw a pity party, I am smacked in the face with the miracle I am participating in.

For a very short time in my life, I am able to harbour new life.  I am the sole provider and caretaker for God's newest addition to earth. I am sustaining and tending a little man. We have decided that our family will stop at 2 kids. As I am on this home stretch, I find myself reflecting on the fact that out of how many weeks of my life, I'll only get to be pregnant for 80 of them. I'm already nostalgic and know how bittersweet it all is.

In the time I have left to participate in this baby making process, I will try to do the right things. Eat well, drink tons of water, take my vitamins, avoid all the "no no" foods. I will exercise when I can muster the strength. I will make sure I get enough sleep.These are the things I can control. I want to do everything I can that will help give baby boy every advantage he can get.

This morning, my baby boy lay inside me kicking and squirming like crazy. I hit snooze three times until I just turned the alarm off. I didn't want to get up and put him to sleep with my movement. I wanted him to keep up his morning exercise ritual because I know this feeling won't last much longer and I just wanted to soak it up. I had the ability to watch an amazing Kansas sunrise from my bed and laid there, hand on belly, listening to my husband's and son's deep sleeping breaths while baby and I greeted the sunshine.

I was overcome yet again by how humbling of an experience this is. How am I living this life? I am healthy. My baby is healthy. I became pregnant without the struggle and pain imparted on so many of my peers. I am living in a society with abundant access to clean water and adequate food. I have a wonderful career that provides my family with (mostly) affordable healthcare. I have a caring and compassionate doctor. I have a partner who more than pulls his share at home. I have family and friends who love and support me through this journey. Frankly, I think I have it as good as I can possibly get. So as I lay in bed I just tried to express gratitude to God for my life and my opportunities to be the custodian to this new little human, untainted by the heartbreak of the outside world. This human who does not know hate or prejudice or oppression or anger. This human who will soon be walking among the rest of us, just another guy to the rest of the world but the complete center of mine.

As I reflect in these quiet moments despite the chaos of my otherwise very busy life, I hope I never lose that sense of wonder and gratitude. I hope I am able to see the miracles in every day activities and not just the huge momentous occasions like pregnancy and childbirth. I hope that women everywhere are provided the tools they need to provide for their families the way I am able to provide for mine. I hope that every society provides women the support they need to bring healthy babies into the world without risking their own health. And I hope that every mother, no matter the circumstances in which she finds herself, every so often has a moment like I had in my bed today. Where she is surrounded by peace and love. And where she feels thankful for the opportunity to be a mother and to shape and form another human life.