Thursday, October 6, 2011

Since I was here last I decided to be a flapper for Halloween. I'm SO excited to be competing in a costume contest for the first time ever. The Rooster will be Mayhem, of the AllState insurance commercials. Hopefully I can create a realistic looking bruise with make-up. I'd rather not give him a black eye the traditional way.

Tonight I made pumpkin spice lattes for me and the Rooster. I love Starbucks pumpkin spice, so when my mom sent me this link I hardly dared to hope anything I made at home would measure up. I couldn't have been more wrong! It's a simple recipe. Milk, strong coffee (I used instant decaf), pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and sugar all go in a small pot on the stove.

Heat until steamy, wisk to create frost, and serve! I didn't achieve much froth, but I'm ok with that.
 (There are rules in our house about mugs. The Big Ben mug belongs to the Rooster. The Eiffel Tower mug belongs to me. I get upset when he uses my mug.)
I topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel. Can you say YUM? I sure did! The pumpkin flavor was so rich and delicious, way better than fake syrup. I used half the amount of vanilla called for, mostly because I'm almost out. My dear readers, you have to try this one! If you listen to nothing else I tell you for the rest of pumpkin month listen to me this once: make this latte. One thing I discovered in this process, there's a reason the baristas at Starbucks keep the caramel in those squeezy bottles. It's impossible to drizzle caramel on a drink with a spoon. Not that I was upset about the big lump of caramel that fell in my drink, it just wasn't as pretty as it could have been.

Earlier this week I tried Target's store brand (Archer Farms) Pumpkin Pie yogurt. Delicious! I was originally under the impression that all Archer Farms items were organic, but that's not true. This was lowfat yogurt, it may have had some artificial sweetener, I didn't study the label. It was a lovely seasonal treat. Their Vanilla Maple was good too. The Rooster wasn't impressed with the Apple Cider flavor, and I'll be trying Apple Cobbler tomorrow. They were a great deal at $.50 each.

Have you started decorating for fall yet?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oatmeal & Yogurt, plus a Dream Come True

Leftover pumpkin is just a delicious something or other waiting to happen. I'm happy to just add a little Splenda, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and warm it up in the microwave. All the delicious flavor of pumpkin pie with so few calories, it's ridiculous! Try it, really, you'll love it. Instead of my basic, though, I went for pumpkin oatmeal. YUM! I didn't have time to cook up a batch of steel cut oats last night, and the poochies were in rare form this morning, so I had to dump the pumpkin in a bowl and grab a packet of instant to cook up at work. The instant was maple & brown sugar, and it really complimented the pumpkin perfectly, while the pumpkin tamed the somewhat overboard sweetness of the oatmeal. Just what I wanted for breakfast on this chilly autumn morning!

Lunch brought yogurt plus pumpkin apple butter. I was a little concerned about the interaction of my Trader Joe's European Style Organic yogurt, which is a bit thinner than traditional plain yogurt, and the apple butter. I've become addicted to plain yogurt plus frozen fruit plus honey. To me, it just tastes better. It works best with Greek yogurt, because as the fruit defrosts you get a lot of natural juices flowing, and I think the fruit pulls some of the moisture out of the yogurt somehow. With traditional yogurt the result can be pretty thin. So when I added the pumpkin apple butter (not frozen) to the European yogurt, I was afraid it would end up being something I could sip through a straw. Not so! It stayed thick, and the butter gave it such a rich flavor; it was lovely.

Now, as I've mentioned, I LOVE Halloween. I don't know if that's emphatic enough. I luuuuuurrrrrrrrvvvvvvve Halloween! It's just so much fun! And I've always dreamed that my house would be the house that every kid looked forward to visiting on Trick or Treat night. Just slightly creepy, but mostly fun and over the top. Maybe a cauldron full of dry ice, definitely some spider webs on the porch (because obviously in this fantasy I live in a house with a huge wrap around porch), Rooster lurking somewhere dressed like a vampire/Frankenstein's monster/mummy to scare the older kids, and pumpkin sculptures in the yard. Well, when I opened the 2011 Halloween issue of Martha Stewart and saw her version of my little dream, I almost got choked up! It's exactly what I want my someday house to look like. Glowing windows, spider webs and pumpkin towers on the porch, and eyes peering out between the porch railings. Go out and look at a copy. I can't tell you how much I want to work my way up to something like that. When I do, you're all invited!

Now go eat something pumpkin!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Month of Pumpkin

Before I get to my main post, I want to say that I've been meaning to post about Liam's birthday, but I'm not sure what I want to say yet. I will get to that eventually. 

Fall is one of my favorite times of year for so many reasons. My birthday is at the end of October, which lends a feeling of excitement and expectation, and I've always loved Halloween. This year I'm actually enjoying our first cool snap, since our fireplace is in working order. We had a fire last night and tonight, and I just can't get enough.

The crackling sound is so soothing, the smell is delicious, and our living room is nice and toasty warm!

Back to fall. I love carving pumpkins, decorating the house (a la Martha Stewart), coming up with a costume, and the food! Oh, how I love pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread... If you put pumpkin in it, I'll probably eat it. I even convinced the Rooster to make Pumpkin Chili once, and it was delicious! So when I found out that Gooseberry Patch was offering an entire cookbook of Pumpkin recipes free for download to Kindle, I snatched it up. As I paged through the recipes I thought about the movie Julie & Julia, and how that blogger got her start cooking her way through Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking, and I thought "what if I made one of these recipes every day in October?"

And so, my Month of Pumpkin was born. Due to my 30th birthday this month I'm forgoing my annual Halloween party, and I've taken a season off from the chorale I normally sing with, so I don't have as much to take up my time. The perfect opportunity! Unfortunately, I developed a nasty ear infection in the last few days of September, and on October 1st I was not exactly up for cooking.

This afternoon I felt much better, so I went right ahead and knocked out two recipes. First, I whipped up a batch of pumpkin pie spice. Yeah, yeah, easy stuff. I could have just bought some, but why bother when I already have all of the required spices in my cabinet? Besides, there was a recipe for it in the book. Easily accomplished. Besides, the next recipe called for it.

Next, I set out to make Pumpkin Apple Butter—two things I love combined, and the recipe seemed pretty simple. I peeled some MacIntosh apples, which are my fave for pie, so I thought they'd work for butter.

Then I cored and grated them. If I had it to do over I'd run them through the food processor until they were like applesauce. We'll get to that part later.

Then I measured out the pumpkin (thanks to Mama-hen for finding it, since there was none to be had in Leola), apple juice,

pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar (dark).

It all went into a medium pot.
I brought it to a boil, and then turned it down to simmer and prepared to wait 1.5 hours for it to be done. As the first hour went by I started to wonder if I had done something wrong. I used my box grater to grate the apple, but I guess it was more of a shred. The apple didn't break down the way I expected. So when it looked like this after the full cooking time,

I dumped it into the food processor and blended it to a lovely velvety consistency.

I put it back on the stove to try to cook a little more liquid out of it, and once it cooled I spread some on bread and it is delicious!

The pumpkin and apple play well together, giving it a sweet, caramel-like flavor. Perfect for stirring into oatmeal, spreading on toast, or... well, that's pretty much all I can think of at the moment, but it's darn good. I plan on trying it mixed with yogurt tomorrow, as an experiment. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Four Quartets

What we call the beginning
is often the end.
And to make our ends
is to make a beginning
The end is where we start from.
~ T. S. Eliot

We're planning a party to commemorate the anniversary of the day Liam was born. His birthday. I've pulled out a book, Still to be Born which has an order form in the back for birth announcements for subsequent children, as well as invitations to a first birthday party. I'll admit it, I'm using their text as a guide for the invitation we're designing. Might be out and out plagiarism, but somehow I think the authors would understand. They're not out to make money, they just want to give people someplace to go to order these sorts of things. Cause I'll tell you, the internet has a lot of things, but I haven't found anything for this (yet). As I was flipping through the book, I found this T.S. Eliot quote and remembered how much I enjoyed Four Quartets. I'm going to have to find it somewhere and re-read it. Mr. Eliot quotes Julian of Norwich in the same poem:

All shall be well 
and all manner of thing shall be well.

Julian's version was a bit longer.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

And she said that God told her that. What comforting words! Even the rhythm is soothing. To think that God gave her such amazing revelation... I think that those are words every bereft parent needs to hear. Maybe not in the first week, or the first month. But with almost a year under my belt, I can hear those words and the truth rings through. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Waiting is the Hardest Part Two

I realized today that yesterday's post was somewhat incomplete, and I sort of stopped mid-thought. So, where was I?

The rain falls on the just and the unjust. The truth is, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with my plan, how I'd like my life to work out. It's just that God's plan is better. He sees my whole life, and to Him there are good and probably manifold reasons why it was not in His plan for us to have a baby this past January. Someday, when I get to heaven, I'll get my answers, and all of the pain and frustration will be gone. Does that make me feel better today? A little. Do I spend my days skipping around like a little ray of sunshine? Uh, no. But I haven't lost hope. Even when it feels like it will be forever until I get the answers I seek, I know that the answers exist and that whatever God holds for the Rooster and me is infinitely better than what I can imagine. In the mean time, I hope that I can find a way to reach others who have been through the pain I've been through, ways to do good in honor of Liam. Every good deed I do because of him is a brick in what I hope will be the grand castle of his legacy. It's a way to take all of my frustrated energy, all the effort I ought to be putting into motherhood, and giving it another outlet.

Life is not always simple, easy, or clear, but God is always there to catch me when it feels like everything is falling apart.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I'm dealing with a couple of situations in my life right now where I just have to wait and see what happens. Waiting is not my strong suit. If I have to wait for something, I distract myself. When I wait in line, I play Angry Birds on my phone or check Facebook. When I wait for a doctor, I read or knit. When I wait for documents to print at work, I do other work. Waiting at traffic lights makes me crazy. I rarely just sit and wait for anything. So when the timing of an event is out of my control, I don't know what to do.

Losing Liam has taught me that pretty much everything is out of my control, and that's not a fun realization to make. I used to think that I knew how my life would go. I did well in high school and participated in plenty of activities so I could get into a good college with a scholarship. I studied hard (and had lots of fun) and graduated college with honors. I met a wonderful man and after an appropriate length of time we got engaged. We got married, we bought a house, we got a dog. And after a reasonable amount of time, we decided to have a baby. For me, through all of that, I knew I wanted to be a mom. It was in the back of my mind all through college: what kind of job can I get so that I can be at home with my kids as much as possible? When I married my Rooster, I thought the right thing to do would be to wait several years to enjoy being young and somewhat free before we started having kids, even though I didn't want to wait that long. It was the right thing to do. I am so sick of doing the right thing.
 All of my life leading up to that horrifying moment in the hospital was planned. It all worked the way I expected it to work. I was a good person, I loved God, and I lived my life the right way, so God would bless me. I never had to work that hard for anything, and I didn't see why that should change. It's not as if I didn't work hard in school. I did, it just wasn't difficult for me. Being good wasn't difficult either. I don't know why, I'm just wired that way. I'm not saying I'm perfect, far from it. I'm just saying the most rebellious thing I've ever done is get my belly button pierced, and when I called my mom to tell her I was going, she said she thought it would be really cute (I was a bit disappointed). I've totally run off on a tangent, but the point is that my life has been pretty easy. This is the most difficult thing that has ever happened to me, and I pray it's the most difficult thing that ever will happen to me. I can't imagine anything much worse than burying your child.
Now I know how true the saying is, "Man plans, God laughs." I know what the plan would be if I was in charge. I can't see any flaws in the plan, even when I'm at my most objective. The things I want are good things, but there's nothing I can do to make those things happen in my timing. I used to believe that God would give me good things because I was a good person. Now I know that the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


A week or two ago my mom brought me a bouquet of queen ann's lace for my cubicle at work. They were gorgeous (thanks Mom!), but little did I know they harbored stowaways. After it had been there a few days, I noticed something on the flowers out of the corner of my eye. A caterpillar! Upon closer inspection, there were two. One yellow, black and green striped, the other black and orange. I brought them home, someone gave me a big (empty) pickle jar to keep them in, and I started feeding them. It was a little difficult to figure out what kind of butterfly they'll be, but it turns out they're both Black Swallowtail caterpillars (visit this website for photos of each life stage)

They were well taken care of while we were on vacation (thank you Neighbors!), and just this morning I noticed that one of them is in pre-pupa stage. Soon he'll create a cocoon and take a little rest, and when he's ready he'll come out as a beautiful butterfly. I was hoping that the whole process would take long enough that we could release the butterflies on Liam's birthday, but according to the information I've read, it won't take that long. Either way, I'm excited to see this miracle unfold before my eyes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

If You want me to

This morning we were heathens and didn't go to church. We decided instead to do one of the devotions from a book we're working through and it suggested listening to praise and worship music together. While I dug through my dusty pile of CCM cds I found "A Night in Rocketown". It's a collection of live music from a live concert, including Ginny Owens. When her single "If You want me to" came out, I loved it, but I haven't picked up the disc for years. After we had gone through some of the songs we both knew I pulled out "Rocketown" and played Ginny's story and the song for Mike, knowing he probably had never heard it before. Ginny is blind, and after graduating from college she tried to get a job as a high school choir director, but no one would hire her. As she worked through the disappointment, she wrote "If You want me to", and hopefully she'll forgive me posting her lyrics here.

The pathway is broken
And the signs are unclear
And I don't know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I'm gonna walk through the valley
If You want me to

No, I'm not who I was
When I took my first step
And I'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to you
Then I will walk through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When you lead me through a world that's not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'd never go alone

So when the whole world turns against me
And I'm all by myself
And I can't hear You answer my cries for help
I'll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the valley if You want me to

When I cross over Jordan
I'm gonna sing, gonna shout
I'm gonna look into Your eyes and see
You never let me down
So take me on the pathway that leads me home to you
And I will walk through the valley if You want me to

Yes, I will walk through the valley, if You want me to

It's as if God sent that message through her directly to us. Sometimes we can't understand why we have to go through such difficulties, but God is leading us all the time, and when we get to heaven, He will dry every tear, and we will understand. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

I’ve been avoiding posting since Mother’s Day.

I had a really nice Mother’s day at the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival with my mom. I’ll post pictures of the beautiful sheep soon. This hen would love to add some sheep to her personal farm (we’d never have to mow again!) but that’ll have to wait. I can barely keep up with the dogs, let alone animals who can’t be trained where to go to the bathroom.

Ever since Mother’s day, I’ve been in stormy seas. Grief is often described as coming in waves. For a while there I didn’t have a lot of waves, and they weren’t very strong. But the surf has been rough of late. I miss my Liam very much, and I’m struggling with the fact that so many people I know are pregnant. Fortunately none of my see-you-in-person friends are pregnant, but my Facebook wall is covered. Facebook is a huge pitfall for me. There are people I am “friends” with who I’ve blocked from my feed because I can’t stand to see the belly bumps, or the new baby pics anymore. It’s nothing personal, it’s just where I am right now.

I recently found out that an acquaintance had lost her baby 10 days before her due date. This isn’t someone I know well, but I instantly wanted to go to her. As I was learning about her situation, I discovered that we have a friend in common, someone I had mostly lost touch with. I thought that meant that God was doing something through me in this situation. I ordered books for her, I emailed her, I friended her on facebook. I only hope that I can giver her a small amount of comfort in this horrifying time of her life. The only way for me to keep Liam's memory alive is to help others in his name. 

I don't know what heaven will be like, but there is one thing I hope is true. I hope that the children who end up there too soon are together. I hope they know each other the way we (their mothers) know each other here on earth. I know there will be no more sorrow or tears, so they won't need to comfort each other, but even if you're not sad it is good to be with others who understand. For me, one of the hardest things is not being able to mother Liam in the traditional way, so a large part of my grief is feeling as if I should be taking care of him. I like to think that in heaven they take care of each other.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Physical and Emotional

Today a coworker brought her beautiful 8-month-old daughter to work to visit. She’s an adorable little girl, and for some reason she’s one of the few babies who doesn’t make me flinch in pain. She was born just after I got back to work, so by rights seeing her should rip my heart out. I honestly don’t know why she’s the exception. Another coworker heard the baby cooing and emailed to ask me if I was ok after they left. As I was talking with her, I said something that only struck me fully when I re-read my own words. Explaining about my new blog I said, “I find it really helpful to have a creative outlet for what I’m feeling. The gardening helps too. It gives me time to think, and it’s nice to do some physical labor and see a payout.”

I just meant that the physical labor was helpful, because somehow the physical work helps me work out my emotions, and it would be rewarding to have fresh produce. And then I realized that what I said was really much deeper. After having worked for 5 months at growing a baby, and then having gone through labor (completely unprepared, I might add), I have nothing* to show for it. No child to hold, no physical scars from delivery, no birth story to share with other moms. Instead I have a grave to visit, I have a hole in my life and in my heart, I have new emotional reactions that I can’t control. Working in my garden, planting seeds and watching them take root, seeing plants produce vegetables for us to eat; these acts of labor will hopefully provide me with the physical evidence of my work that my pregnancy did not.

Vegetables and flowers certainly can’t replace my child, but I think part of me wants to prove that everything I touch does not die. No matter what I know in my head, for a while I felt in my heart that I had to have something green and growing around me or I would lose my mind. That’s why I forced two planters worth of bulbs for Christmas/New Year’s. I had to prove I could grow something. Then I was much closer to my grief, and more aware of what I was doing. This spring my desire to start a garden wasn’t as transparent to me.

Sunday was Babylost Mother’s Day. To all of the moms who might be reading this with no child to hold, I pray that God grants you peace, understanding, and if it be in His perfect will, the amazing gift of children. I pray that this week and this weekend are gentle for you, and that you are gentle to yourself. Don’t expect too much, and don’t be shocked at what you feel. No one can tell you how your grief should look. No one can or should silence you. Even if you feel alone, know that there are others like you in the world who would listen to your hurt, look into your eyes, and say with all truth “I know exactly what you mean.”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Getting Started

Starting a garden from scratch isn't easy. This was our first year of having a vegetable garden that isn't just in pots. We started by using a rototiller to dig up a 10x15 foot patch of grass in a sunny part of the yard. Even after we tilled the dirt, there were still huge clods of grass to pull out. (I tried putting some over dirt patches in the yard, but I'm not sure they took.) We used a garden weasel to work the dirt further. The great thing about the weasel is that it not only breaks up the clods, it also catches the grass & roots, to a certain degree, so you can pull them out of the garden. I added top soil and sort of stirred the dirt around with a pitchfork. Tough work. Once all of this was accomplished I could start planting. There's still grass coming up though, so I have to get in there and weed it out. Nature abhors a vacuum; any empty dirt will grow weeds.

All of this is symbolic for my spiritual life. When we lost Liam, it was like God took what seemed like a perfectly good idea and tore it to pieces. There was nothing inherently wrong with Hubs and me having a child. We're financially stable, our relationship is stable, it's something we both want. For some reason it was not part of God's plan for Liam to stay with us on earth beyond 5 short months. And similarly there was nothing wrong with the patch of grass we rototilled into a garden. It was nice grass, green and growing. But I can see the whole plan. I can see that in order to have a garden and grow vegetables the way I want to grow them, I had to destroy all that nice grass. That's what keeps me going: I believe that God has a plan greater than what I can see. I believe that at some point in my life my family will grow, and I'm not letting go of that belief until God tells me to let go.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Fluffy little cottontails, hippity-hopping along my yard. Adorable? Of course. But also irritating little varmints that have decimated the few plants I've gotten into the ground. I supposed I should have known better. My little Pixie (our chihuahua terrier mix, fiercer than a pack of rabid Rottweilers) scares them out from under our bushes on a regular basis, and when she can't find the actual rabbit, she finds his little presents all over the yard. She thinks they're doggie M&Ms. 

But I digress. 

The point is, I know they're there. We've lived in our little corner of suburbia for almost a year now, and I'm familiar with the natives. But when I planted lettuce, onions, cauliflower, garlic and sweet peas, I didn't even consider fencing them in. I don't need no stinking fence! I want to gaze out my kitchen window at my growing cornucopia unobstructed. I was more concerned with the slugs, nasty little buggers. I put out little containers of beer and caught many more than I cared to count. The rabbits though, they knew what was up. They snuck out at night and devoured my lettuce first. Then they started on the cauliflower. By the time I realized the seriousness of the situation, all that was left was the onions and one cauliflower (the garlic & sweet peas are ok too, but they're not out of the ground yet). One sad cauliflower. I don't know why they left that one. Maybe all those cruciferous leaves gave them indigestion.

A few nights ago my mom came over and we worked the soil to get it ready for seeds, and put up the beginnings of a fence. Just chicken wire and stakes, but it should be enough. We need some more chicken wire and we'll be in business. For now the cauliflower is hiding under an urn (one of two in the world custom painted by Butcho for my wedding). I'll turn it over in the morning, and as soon as that fence is complete it'll be safe from rabbity harm.

So, to sum up my recommendations for rabbit issues:
*get a fence
*plant things that rabbits don't eat

There are products out there that you can spray to deter them, but I don't relish the idea of spraying chemicals on things I want to eat later, so I'd suggest avoiding that for a veggie garden. If the rabbits are eating your flowers, it probably wouldn't cause any harm, just keep your kids and pets out of that area, and always use gloves when working there. (which you should be doing anyway. get yourself some mud gloves and be done with it.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter flowers

Tonight I took flowers to Liam's grave. My mom was so generous and put together three planters for me: one for Liam, one for my Aunt Rose, just next to him, and one for my first random act of kindness. The Miss Foundation sells little cards that say "This random act of kindness done in memory of our beautiful child____". I filled in Liam's name, and walked around and around the cemetery to find the right grave. I don't know what I was looking for, but I prayed that the flowers would be found by the family. I pray that it will touch their heart and that even for just one moment they'll feel God's love.

The sunset was beautiful as I stood by his grave. It's so bizarre and incomprehensible. Why is my child there in the earth and not in my arms? He should be almost 3 months old. This should be his first Easter. I should be searching high and low for the perfect blue seersucker outfit for church on Sunday. Instead I brought him miniature daffodils, pansys and forget-me-nots. My heart aches for the day that I will be with him in heaven.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." Revalation 21:4

On the way home I listened to Mumford & Sons "Sigh No More". Almost every song on that album reminds me of Liam or our journey through grief in one way or another, but the one that touches me the most is After the Storm.

And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Introductions all around

I remember very clearly listening to my mom read The Little Red Hen. Who will help me plant the wheat? Who will help me bake the bread? And the farmyard animals who didn't help didn't get any bread, which the little red hen worked so hard to make. I, like the little red hen, tend to think I can do things all by myself. Unlike my feathered namesake, I sometimes get in over my head because of it. But it's all an adventure.

This blog is mostly about the adventure of finally starting a garden from scratch. A little less than a year ago we moved into this house and there was no garden, and really no time to start one with all the unpacking and preparing for our first child's arrival, scheduled for January 2011. But in life as in gardening, sometimes the things we plant don't produce the fruit we expect. In September 2010 an infection took our sweet Liam, and he was stillborn. This spring instead of growing a little blue-eyed boy, I'm growing a garden of vegetables. I'm hoping God will teach me through my garden, and I will find a physical outlet for the emotions that are sometimes so overwhelming.

Sometimes this blog will be funny (I hope!) and sometimes it will be serious. Sometimes it'll be about my garden, and sometimes it'll be about the grief and the pain and the faith I must cling to, that God knows the end of my story and He knows the deep desires of my heart.