Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Apple Pie - Completely From Scratch

I'm sharing with you a recipe I just used to make apple pie completely from scratch, on the eve of Thanksgiving. I've never made a pie before, and it was really easy. Well, I've made things like banana cream using a pre-made crust, but never an entire pie from scratch. So, if I can do it, it will be even easier for you! I pieced together three different recipes that I found on Pinterest. Photos are my own. I've never cooked with shortening before, and learned that it will now keep, unrefrigerated, for up to a year in our cupboard - eew!

Finished product. Next time, I'm going to try a lattice-work pattern.

Apple pie was my Mom's absolute favorite, and I'm sorry that I never made one for her. But hopefully, she's smiling down, and likes knowing that making this pie every year for, and eventually with, Autumn is a new tradition.


Learn how to make a pie crust the way Grandma did. Grandma’s Pie Crust is buttery, flaky, and takes just a few minutes to make. It’s our long-time family favorite! 
Visit this site for pictures and more details.
  • 3 cups pastry flour
  • 1 teapsoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • ½ cup ice cold water
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut in the shortening and the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. That's what that tool is for - I've never used it! I did also use our mixer. 
  2. Mix the water and vinegar together in a cup. Add the mixture to the crumbs. Mix together just until the dough is combined and handles well.
  3. Sprinkle flour on the counter before rolling out the dough. Split the dough into two chunks. Another site I looked at suggested putting the dough in the freezer for a few minutes, and this helped.
  4. Roll out one piece on a floured surface. Roll the dough about ½ an inch larger than your pie pan.
  5. Lay the crust in the pie pan and press down lightly on the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
  6. If you are making just a bottom crust, turn the edge under and use thumbs "flute" the edges of the dough.
  7. If you are making a double crusted pie, fill the pie, roll out the other half of the dough and lay it over top the filling. Fold the top dough under the bottom dough and use your fingers to seal it together.
  8. Bake according to your pie recipe (see below).
  9. This recipes makes enough for a double crusted pie. I doubled the recipe because I also needed two crusts for my pumpkin pies.

Homemade Apple Pie Filling
Approx. 10 sliced apples - I used a mix of Gala and Granny Smith.
Toss the apples with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and set aside. Pour 3 cups of water into a large pot. Add 2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir well and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. The sauce will thicken up, which is good.

Add apples and stir gently to combine. Return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6-8 minues or until apples are tender. Let the apple filling cool, then ladle into freezer bags or jars. This recipe will make enough filling for 2 pies. I froze a bag and made a pie right then. 

Bake 40-50 minutes at 425 degrees with foil covering to prevent excessive browning. Remove foil for last 15 minutes of baking. Pie is ready when crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in the crust. Keep and eye on it, I had to bake ours for close to an hour, but our oven runs on the cool side.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I fell off the cabbage soup wagon

It seemed so easy and promising. A friend, who is smaller than me, posted on facebook that she lost 11 pounds on the 7 day cabbage soup diet. That's exactly what I need, I have 9 pounds of baby weight left! This is going to be easy I naively thought as I excitedly wrote out my shopping list and bought enough supplies to last me through a long winter.

I cooked up a huge batch that boiled over, wondering if it would get me through half the week. After all, you can have limitless amounts of this concoction. But what I didn't realize at the time was that I wouldn't want to. It's cabbage soup. Soup, with cabbage in it. When you're hungry, just about anything tastes good, yet by the fifth day, I preferred not having anything to having a bowl of the soup.

Day 1 - On this day you're supposed to have only fruit. Somehow, I missed that, mixing it up with day two when you can only have vegetables. So I ate a raw bell pepper and a huge bowl of sauteed mushrooms in addition to the soup. I had my coffee black, which was an improvement since I usually add a lot of creamer, and not the low fat or low sugar kind. I probably did not drink enough water, and couldn't resist my 10 calorie root beer.

Day 2 - You get to start the day with a baked potato, which I eagerly placed in foil and put in the crockpot on low for 9.5 hours the night before. Boy, was I excited for that potato, with butter! We went on our usual 3 mile morning walk and I was famished by the time we got back. I started talking myself out of the diet, knowing having simple carbs at any time of the day was pointless, and that's all that was in the potato. We went to story-time at the library and I gave her a bath, while heating up the soup. I poured myself quite a large bowl, and didn't even eat half of it. I weighed myself, which I won't do again until the end and was relieved to see I had lost 2 pounds. But, knowing each pound must be lost by creating a deficit of 3,600 calories, I didn't consider it "real" weight loss or attribute it to the magic soup. Most likely, it was because since I knew I was going to be doing this, I splurged and had four (!!!) pieces of pizza the night before I started the diet, and they were now likely out of my system. This is the day I first caved. Knowing that day four allowed for protein, and having a surplus of 90% lean in the fridge from our first trip to Sam's Club, I decided to make myself a burger. A big, fat burger. In fact, Nathan watched me pressing it and adding the seasoning and said it was more accurately described as three burgers. But I didn't have a bun! Hours went by, and I should have had more veggies or soup, but it just didn't seem appealing. We went on another 3 mile walk with Autumn all bundled up. When we returned home, Nathan made himself burritos and the whole house smelled amazing. I resisted as long as I could, then swooped in for leftovers, which fortunately was only about four tablespoons full of meat. I did not have a tortilla. I went to bed still mildly hungry, and with a resolve to do better the next day.

Day 3 - On this day, you're only supposed to have fruits and vegetables in addition to the limitless soup. I started the day with a baked apple with cinnamon. Realizing the only time I have ever had a baked apple was in pie, something definitely seemed to be lacking. It did make the house smell good though. I grabbed a handful of blackberries and packed the cold soup in Tupperware to take to visit my friend. She was nice enough to have a veggie tray for me and slices of pineapple, which I nibbled on while I heated up the soup. When I came home that evening, I was starving but not hungry enough for a second bowl of soup. Instead, I cheated and had a big glass of my 10 calorie root beer.

Day 4 - On this day, you're only supposed to have unsweetened yogurt, milk and bananas. But, I added two scoops of chocolate muscle-milk protein powder to the milk, yogurt, ice, coffee, banana and cinnamon in the blender. You're not supposed to have any fruits or vegetables, but I figured an avocado and two cucumbers were innocuous enough, and blended them with plain Greek yogurt to make a cold soup, with a pinch of dill and sea salt on top. Maybe I wouldn't need to do this if I was actually having the soup, but have completely gone off it today. I would rather have nothing than the soup, if that tells you anything. It doesn't taste's just not good. Around 2 pm, I made myself a burger, no bun, and thought this is starting to seem more like the atkin's diet than the cabbage soup one.

Day 5 - I couldn't bring myself to have any of the soup today, in spite of the fact that there was a gigantic tub of it in the refrigerator. I started my day with a protein bar, and then went on our usual 3 mile walk. When we returned from the walk, I did a Denise Austin post-pregnancy ab workout on the floor by Autumn. She likes me being on the floor with her and interacting. The video was too easy and too short, so I followed it with a regular ab video that was more challenging. I didn't complete everything on the second one, but tried. When she napped, I went into the garage and did 2 sets of lunges with the 35 pound bar, squats and chest press. For a late lunch I had another hamburger and the leftover chilled cucumber, avocado, yogurt soup. Today was the day on the diet where you just eat protein like steak or chicken in addition to the soup, so I feel I followed it pretty well, considering. Are you still reading this? It's getting awfully boring, isn't it? There's probably a lot of other thing you would rather be doing, aren't there? You should probably stop reading and go check on the laundry and just assume that I followed the rest of the diet. Okay, if you're still with me and holding out for when I really mess up, here it is. I had my book club in LA and on the drive there, actually believed that I wasn't going to eat any of the food, even though I was famished! Walking through the door, the delicious smell of home-made onion soup wafted over me. Onions are pretty much like cabbages, I thought, as I was handed a big jadeite bowl filled with steaming soup. Maybe so, but cabbage soup doesn't have a delicious hunk of bread smothered in baked Gruyere cheese in it. This wouldn't have been so bad if I stopped there, but I must confess that I had one of my friend Helen's peanut-butter bars. Then, another, and then two more. Yes, I had four of them, but in my defense they were only about one square inch each, so it was really only like having 1 1/2. Or so I told myself.

Day 6 - Almost there! Started the day with a protein shake and 3 mile walk/jog. I ran about half of it, pushing the stroller. I did wake up feeling guilty for not following the diet, but still not bad enough to eat any of the soup. I was determined to not let yesterday's transgressions affect today. I did zero snacking, and had 1/3 of a burrito from Baja Fresh (split with my husband) and some of his nachos. One thing I did notice is that usually, this is all I eat but I feel like I could eat more. But instead, I was stuffed. I feel like my stomach is shrinking.

Day 7 - Today! Finally, the last day! It was easy to be good today because I knew I didn't have to make it through an entire day. We had 6pm reservations at Gulliver's for our 2nd wedding anniversary (forth as a couple) and I was planning on having a nice, 11 ounce filet mignon. First thing I did after making Autumn a bottle was weigh myself and discover that

my total weight loss was 3 pounds.

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by this, until I put it in perspective. On a given week, I would be thrilled with that amount. I just had high-hopes with this diet that all my baby weight would be conveniently gone before Thanksgiving. But, I know that the slower the weight comes off, the more likely it is to stay, and that it's actually small changes over time that make the biggest difference. I still have 6 more pounds to go, and am already planning a before and after posting, with photos taken one month after I had Autumn. This won't be the end of my diet and fitness posts, as that what my blog started out with, but it may be the end of the crazy fad, quick-fix posts.

What I learned: it is small changes over time that make the real difference, not some crazy cabbage crash diet. I knew that going into it, but wanted something to put the unhealthy eating habits that had crept up in check. Being on this did prevent me from mindless eating. There were many times during this week when I would have grabbed a handful of this or that and resisted. Case in point: I went into the garage to do laundry and noticed an old, unopened box of swedish fish that Nathan had taken out of his Mustang. they had been in his car since February. Ooh! Sweedish fish! I thought, knowing but not caring how old they were. Maybe it was the hunger speaking, but I was fully intending to open the package right there and scarf down a whole handful. Doing this also helped hit the reset button and possibly shrink my stomach a bit. The portion and plate size has more than doubled since the 1950's and I know that in many ways, its not what we eat, but how much we consume. By the end of the week, I was noticing I was filled by much smaller portions.

Now, time to get ready for that steak!

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Cabbage Soup Diet

I have 9 more pounds until I'm at my pre-pregnancy weight and they are being pretty stubborn. In spite of the fact I've done at least 6 miles, 6 days a week since the beginning of September, they're still here. My eating has not been the best. Since my hubby eats fast food, it has been too easy to have him pick me up a bean and cheese burrito, or "just" an order of animal-style fries. My motivation to loose the extra weight before the holidays, combined with our super-small food budget since I'm still off work has left me few options.

So, I found the perfect solution. The Cabbage Soup Diet, also known as the poor man's diet. Perfect! I'm blogging to hold myself accountable, because sticking to this is going to be tough, especially for me since I'm home all day.  If I didn't blog for accountability, chances are I would only make it 3 days. I'm starting on Sunday the 15th since I have a baby shower on Saturday that will probably have some really delicious food, and because I want to be finished before our anniversary on the 23rd. I have two events during the 7 days that will be challenging; visiting my friend Andrea and my monthly book club meeting in LA. As luck would have it, we read Kitchens of the Great Midwest, a fiction novel with some really amazing recipes in it that a few of the girls are planning to prepare when we meet up to discuss. I'll report here how I do, good or bad. My friend Nicole lost 11 pounds in 7 days, so I'm hopeful.

Cabbage Fat-Burning Soup Cabbage Fat-Burning Soup

  • Prep
  • Cook
  • Ready In

Recipe By:Nell Marsh
"This tomato and cabbage soup was rumored, in days of old, to melt away those thighs."


  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 large head cabbage, chopped
  • 1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix

  • 1 (15 ounce) can cut green beans, drained
  • 2 quarts tomato juice
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 10 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) can beef broth


  1. Place carrots, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, green beans, peppers, and celery in a large pot. Add onion soup mix, tomato juice, beef broth, and enough water to cover vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are tender. May be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

(My friend added Italian seasoning, garlic, chili powder, paprika and cumin, saying that without it, it was too bland.) 

The Cabbage Soup Diet meal plan: Day 1: Unlimited cabbage soup and fruit (excluding bananas). Water and sugar-free fruit juice to drink. Day 2: Cabbage soup and additional vegetables. One jacket potato with butter for dinner. No fruit at all. Day 3: Unlimited cabbage soup plus any fruit and vegetables you choose (excluding potatoes or bananas). Day 4: Unlimited cabbage soup and skimmed milk. Plus up to eight bananas. Day 5: Unlimited cabbage soup and 565g of beef and 6 tomatoes. Drink 6-8 glasses of water today to flush extra uric acid from your body. Day 6: Unlimited cabbage soup and limitless beef and vegetables (excluding potatoes). Day 7: Unlimited cabbage soup with a little brown rice, vegetables and sugar-free fruit juice

No coffee unless black, lots of water and obviously no alcohol.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Ten Things I Want My Daughter to Know Before She Turns Ten

After reading this article, I decided to write my own list of ten things I want Autumn to know before she turns ten.

  1. How adored she is. This is the most important thing for her to not just know, but feel in her heart. We will always love her unconditionally and she will always be the center of our universe. Our lives are better and hold more meaning because of her. There is nothing she can do to lessen the love we have for her.
  2. How to be kind to animals. People who don't have empathy for animals just aren't good people in my book. We love dogs and hope that she will too. She already seems very interested in Trevi and pets her whenever she can reach her. By the time she is 10, Trevi will be 13 years old and we will have other dogs, too. I hope she will have the same enjoyment in caring for them as I did when I was a child. Nathan wants to start a family lineage dog. He plans to get one male dog of a certain breed (we are not sure of the breed just yet) and then a few years later, a female. He wants to breed them a few years after that, and keep one of the male puppies. And when that puppy is older, breed him again so that we have grandpuppies from our original dog. I know breeding is frowned upon and not good for our animal population, but at least one of these dogs will be a rescue, and Trevi is a rescue as well.
  3. The harm of drugs, and alcohol. Here is this precious, pure little body that I am planning to feed healthy, organic food to and the thought of her putting substances in her that could cause her harm, not just physically but also by lowering her inhibitions or morals, terrifies me. It doesn't help that I'm a middle school counselor. While I must break confidentiality if a student tells me anything that will cause harm to themselves or others, many still share with me things they don't tell their parents. I worry about how rampant marijuana is now, and know of students who have a prescription for it. It's of a much higher concentration than it ever was in the 60's, and has tripled in potency over the last two decades. I've also heard that heroin in pill form is an increasing problem in Orange County. We need to begin our conversations with her about the dangers of drugs while she is little, and not wait until she is a teenager and possibly exposed to it. I also want her to know that there is a reason that the drinking age is 21, and do not want her drinking before then. I remember being 18 and hearing my peers talking about how it wasn't right or fair that we were legal adults and could die for our country, but "the government" didn't want us to even drink a beer. Yea, that's true! I thought. But I want Autumn  to be smarter and to have the knowledge that her brain is still not done developing at 18, and that alcohol use, especially binge drinking which most teenagers do, can cause permanent damage to her brain. It also can set up a pattern of addiction and put her in compromising situations.
  4. A passion for travel. She will have a passport next month, and her first trip overseas this summer when we go to eastern Europe for three weeks. We are also planning Venice, Italy February of 2017. We will then take a break for a few years on international trips, but hope that even when she is in high school we can take her and a friend places. I dream of a girl's week in Paris or London with her, and hope she will continue to travel with us into her adulthood, and after we are gone. I want her to know that her grandmother traveled the world before she was married, even finding herself lost in the desert on a camel in Egypt. As it turns out, she was not really lost but the group she was with was playing a joke on her. I want her to know that her Nana spent summers in Ireland, and that she moved to a different country (America) when she was married at 18.
  5. Empathy for those that are less fortunate than us. This can include those that are less fortunate in health, be it mental, physical or emotional, those who are financially less fortunate, or those that are social outcasts and picked on. I hope that she will have enough self-confidence to stick up for those who may not have as strong of a voice, and that she will feel compelled to help not condemn. She has family members with special needs and hope that our love and acceptance of them will serve as a guide. I also plan to volunteer with her, even if it is only seasonal, rest homes at Christmas time, for example.
  6. About finances. We want her to have an understanding of interest, saving and the value of property. I want her to know that saving for retirement if she doesn't have a pension should begin as soon as she starts working. This will be Nathan's area since he marched in to the offices of his job at Leisure World on his 18th birthday and asked to sign up for retirement. He's a bit of a planner, and much better with finances than I am.
  7. To have a strong faith and understanding of the Bible. I lost my faith before I was ten, and still do not know many of the stories in the Bible. I hope that we are able to do a good job cultivating that in her so that even if she drifts away for awhile, she always has it to come back to. I think it can also be effective in teaching her how to be a good person and live a good life. Maybe she will help my faith through hers.
  8. Her family heritage. I want her to know my Mom, her Nana, and all of the amazing qualities that made her saint-like. I want her to know about her grandparents and great grandparents and how they made sacrifices not just to enhance their own life, but the quality of life for her as well. I want her to know that her grandmother's family is related to the Trapp Family Singers whose book was adapted into The Sound of Music and hail from Trier in Germany. I want her to know about what it was like for my Mom to grow up in England as an Irish immigrant and know her recipes for shepherd's pie and Irish soda bread. I want her to love and honor her commitment to family.
  9. The value of education and a plan for college. When I was a toddler, my Dad began talking to me about college. It was never if I went but when. It was a given. I remember one of these conversations after a karate lesson when I was eight years old. Even at that young of an age, I knew I was going to college, even though I didn't really know what college was. In fact, education is so important to my Dad that although he did not graduate college when he was younger because he was working (sometimes, two jobs) to support his family, he has now gone back to school full time at the age of 70. As trite as it may sound, I hope she becomes a life-long learner, as we plan to take a class here or there once we retire.
  10. How to be happy and healthy. I want Autumn to know that the two are intrinsically linked, and hope that she will love physical activity, whether it be swimming, a sport or running. I want her to know that although we cannot choose what happens to us, we do have control over how we respond to it. In many ways, happiness is a choice and all about our perspective. This idea is nothing new. As I read on one of my favorite blogs yesterday, Epictetus said way back in 100 AD that it is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. I want her to know she can choose happiness no matter what life throws her way, and that it was possible to find happy moments with Mom even while she had brain cancer and we knew our time was limited.

Monday, November 2, 2015

October, 4 Month Update

Autumn turned 5 months on October 26th, so for the majority of the month she was 4 months old.

The word fall is now banned in our home and must be replaced with Autumn. Sometimes, I'll slip and Nathan will catch me and correct me, or vice versa. Obviously our favorite season, it was filled with many Autumn-esq activities but unfortunately not much cooler weather. It was still above 80 degrees by Halloween.

We started the month with two zoo visits: the local, small Santa Ana zoo with my brother (uncle Glen!) and San Diego, with a friend. I was tempted to buy Autumn a pass to zoo that's just a few miles from us, but decided to wait when I realized she was just as interested in the trees as she was in the monkeys.

We set up our Halloween decorations and walked to a local fall fair, Tustin Tiller Days. It was the first time she went forward-facing in her stroller. Unexpectedly, it made me a little sad because she seemed so grown up! But by the end of the month, we were regularly going for 3 mile runs and were both used to it. I say run, but it is more accurately described a very slow jog with walking mixed it. Running while pushing that beast is tough, but I'm getting used to it.

On Tuesday evenings, we started walking to story-time at the library. I continued taking her to the 11:15 am one on Mondays too, but it was nice to be able to walk there in the evening with Nathan so he can watch her observe all the older kids. She continues to be mesmerized and fascinated by them.

We went to the Tanaka Farms pumpkin patch with some friends on October 11th. Autumn loved taking in all the sights and as usual, didn't cry at all.

I had her Halloween photos done by Juls Megill and am in love with her work! She has a really cute studio in Huntington Beach and will be out new family photographer. In part, because she was beyond reasonable. Guess how much I paid for five images? Twenty dollars. Total. That was the sitting fee, the price for pictures... everything. It was very important for me to have professional infant photos done in our home and they were not cheap. It was also very important to invest in a really good camera. Now that we have those two things, I am willing to go the reasonable route, especially since I am still off work.. We already have Christmas booked!

Mid-October, Autumn started her first swim lesson at Blue Buoy in Tustin. Nathan took swim lessons there when he was a kid! She absolutely loved it, and didn't cry once. She even went under water on her first day. At first, I wasn't sure that she would benefit from going because she might be too young. But after just one trial lesson, I saw the benefit which at this age, is mainly helping her be comfortable in the water. On day one, she was passed off to several different instructors and her face was dipped in a few times. She didn't cry at all. The pool is filled with toys, and she had fun reaching for them and putting them in her mouth.

On the second lesson, there was a kid twice her age screaming the entire time. Thankfully, he's in the class after ours, but I could still hear him as we packed up in the car. This reaffirmed to me me that it's a good thing I'm starting her young. The instructor comes around to each parent/child pair in the group and demonstrates something new for them to learn. That week, there were only three other kids and he was training a new instructor using Autumn as an example, so she had a lot of attention. Then, when he goes around to others in the group, I practice with her what he has just shown us. This last week, I had her feet braced against my stomach and my hands under her arms, holding them out as I spun her left and then right so she could feel the resistance of the water on her. I also put my arms loosely under her arms and would move her forward and backward, her body tipping slightly in which ever direction I leaned her. On the last lesson of the month, she went completely under water (before, it was just above her eyes) and stayed under for a few seconds longer.

It must be a good workout for her, because she sleeps so well on swim days! Two hours, solid, instead of her usual 45 min.

We visited the Irvine Regional Park Railroad and Pumpkin Patch by ourselves on October 22nd. It was packed and I know my husband, who dislikes crowds, was even more thankful that I didn't make him go on the weekend when the lines would have been even longer. It was fun to do something on a whim, just the two of us. I wore her in the Ergo 360 and she liked taking in the sights, mainly watching the other kids. I was able to take some really cute pictures of her in with all the pumpkins and love the idea of returning there every year. As usually is the case when I'm alone with her, my Mom was ever-present in my mind.

Autumn had her first train ride while we were there, and I just thought it would take us around the pumpkin patch. Instead, we went around Irvine Regional Park and passed all the places where we had our engagement pictures taken. As I sat holding her on the train looking out and remembering that day, I felt so blessed. I remember Nathan wanted certain outtakes or awkward photos of us taken too, and how much he made me laugh. I remembered how much I had to look forward to and now here one of those things I longed for was sitting in my lap.

On October 23rd we met one of Nathan's high school friends at Durty Nelly's an Irish bar and restaurant where Nathan and I first really talked at a work function, and I noticed him. Just like the train ride had done the day before, it was a pause for reflection on all that has happened since then, and how much our lives have changed for the better. 

On October 24th I put her in her baby carrier (love the Ergo 360!) and we walked to Starbucks for my first pumpkin spice latte of the season. I've been holding off because of the calories. Unfortunately, we still didn't have cooler weather, so I ordered it iced. As we walked the two miles round trip, I talked to her periodically. I try to talk to her as much as possible.

We have been doing a little tummy time every day since she was born, but until that Saturday I had not left her on the ground for more than about 15 minutes.  I realized I was probably holding her too much, and made it a point to give her more floor time. She's usually in my lap, in the stroller, on my hip, or I'm wearing her. As soon as I left her for on a blanket on the floor for a bit longer, she started rolling over. I made a mental note to myself to leave her on her own a bit more. All of her waking time does not need to be filled face. I have to remind myself that if she's not fussing, it's okay for her to spend some time independently playing or babbling. I don't need to interpret this as her being bored or neglected.

If she is crying, of course that's another story, I do not subscribe to the "cry it out" idea. Infants cry for a reason, and there is zero risk or spoiling them or ending up with a demanding child if their needs aren't met, In fact, the reverse is true: a child who is neglected or not loved as much will become more needy, not less.

All month long, she continued to be a good sleeper. She woke up only once up during the night for the whole month and always slept 8-10 hours. The one time she did wake up at 12:30 am was Halloween, and she drank 7 (!!!) ounces, much more than her usual 4. I chalked it up to her not getting enough to eat during the day with the excitement and guests. She is such a good sleeper that the one night she was up past 9:30 pm, we were so concerned that we took her temperature which showed a normal reading before she promptly fell asleep 10 minutes later.

I'm not sure if she is teething, or just using that sense to learn about her environment, but everything goes in her mouth and she loves her teething rings that we freeze for walks and her Sophie the giraffe.

The month ended with Halloween, and trick-or-treating on our street with family. Her friend Olivia who lives on our street was coincidentally also a unicorn! 

Olivia is 3 1/2 months older than Autumn, and not a small baby.

She continues to be an absolute delight; the happiest baby I have ever encountered. When she smiles, she opens her mouth so wide that her eyes and face seem smile too. I actually miss her when she sleeps, and look forward to her first feeding of the day even though its usually before 6 am because she always falls back asleep on my chest. It is the best feeling in the world.

  • Started sleeping in her crib
  • Making "Mmmm" sounds in addition to "ooh and ahh" Also, learned to squeal
  • Better use of her hands, more intentional
  • Rolling over more than once or twice
Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • When she falls back asleep on my chest after her first feeding, she now explores my mouth with her hand and looks up at me
  • The sounds she makes when she yawns
  • That huge, mouth-wide-open smile
  • How she idly scratches the top of her head when she's sleepy
  • How she wakes up with happy babbling
Routines we're continuing:
  • Listening to Pray as You Go most mornings
  • Listening to songs: Love Me Do (Beatles), What a Wonderful World (Louie Armstrong), Gold Digger (Kanye)
  • Singing: You Are My Sunshine, Que Serra, Amazing Grace
  • Story-time at the library
  • Reading daily, usually the book from my book club
  • Watering with Daddy when he gets home from work
  • Morning and evening walks
  • Crocheting
  • Skype calls with Uncle Glen and Grandpa- the only time she gets screen  time!
  • Nightly prayers
Routines we're establishing:
  • Sensory bags with shaving cream or ice
  • Singing "Happy Together" by The Turtles every morning
  • Longer play time in the bath
  • The made-up "Poop Dance" song. Poop, poop, poop. Shake it out, shake it out.
  • Waiting for Daddy on the bench by the front door
  • Swim lessons
  • Walking with her in the ergo 360 - training for Eastern Europe next summer!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Meaning in Life

A blog reader from Canada and I have been corresponding for just over a year. When she found my blog, both of our Mom's had cancer and we were both getting ready to do IVF. Her Mom is still undergoing treatment and doing well, and her daughter is now a few months older than Autumn. When it felt like no one knew what I was going through back then, she did. I consider her more of a friend and hope that one day we can meet. On my last entry, she commented:

Lindi  Another beautiful post, as always.heart emoticon PS whenever I see that you've written a new blog post I make myself a cup of tea and sit down to enjoy reading it, as opposed to the usual skim reading I do online wink emoticon
Megan That is really touching Lindi. Some of them aren't that great though! I worried I was reading too much into this experience or trying too hard to make meaning out of it....but it's really how I felt. I like the tea part. Know who else did that daily? Mom, of course. Xo
Lindi Cee I don't think you're trying too hard to make meaning. I'll PM you why wink emoticon

When I published my last posting about the St. Regis and my experience there, first with Mom and then with Autumn, I wondered if I was trying too hard to make meaning out of it. When I read my original post to my husband, who is great about giving me feedback and helping, he said it was too fact-based. We went here. We saw this. He helped me bring out and articulate the deeper meaning that I was having trouble expressing. But I was left wondering: Was it silly? A little too much? I don't normally second-guess my postings, but the "old" me, the one wanting proof and concrete evidence for everything was doubting that all this meaning was "real."

Lindi's email came at just the right time, as a reminder that I was definitely on the right path.

Hey Megan So here are my thoughts, which may or may not be coherent... Still battling major sleep deprivation here wink emoticon
You may already know all of this given your profession, so glaze over if I'm "preaching to the choir" but anyway, here goes.
I don't think you're trying to hard to find meaning. I think finding meaning in one's life/events in one's life is a valuable coping mechanism. In my pre-occupational therapy life I ran a psychology research lab. Our work looked at people who face difficult/extreme circumstances and factors that lead to salutogenic (health-enhancing) and pathogenic (illness-inducing) outcomes. This was in 2000, just before the positive psychology movement became well known. We were looking at, among other groups, survivors of genocide. My work happened to focus on Holocaust survivors, but the findings held true in many other situations. I had over 60 survivors answer (lengthy) questionnaires about coping mechanisms, their psychological well-being, and experiences in talking/writing about their experiences. One of the measures we used was looking at something called sense of coherence. It looks at how manageable, comprehensible and meaningful people feel their life is. The survivors who were able to find meaning in their experiences had much lower levels of PTSD and higher levels of positive outcomes (ie happy marriages, satisfactory careers etc). Viktor Frankel wrote a whole book on the topic (Man's Search for Meaning) and his entire method of psychotherapy is based on this premise (ie I don't claim to have 'discovered' this at all!!). Aaron Antonovsky, the psychologist behind the sense of coherence theory has also written extensively on the subject and studies have found higher SOC linked with increased health in all kinds of populations...from astronauts on long duration space flights to families raising kids with complex disabilities, higher meaningfulness is linked to better outcomes. Our drive to find meaning is innate it's a valuable coping strategy and it in turn, improves our health.
The other thing which you probably know is the value of recounting/writing about difficult experiences as a way of coping. James Pennebaker did a ton of work in this area. He published a book "Writing to Heal" around the same time I published some of my findings. It's great if you haven't already seen it. Anyway, he explains how/why writing about emotional experiences is healing much more eloquently than I could!! Interestingly in my study, the majority of Holocaust survivors I interviewed had not started taking/writing about their experiences until 1991 - the year the film Schindler's List came out. They all reported being initially reluctant to discuss their experiences, fearing people's reactions. But once they did start talking, they all noted increased sense of meaningfulness and an improvement in overall well-being. I don't remember specific quotes but I remember being struck but how powerful they found it not only to speak about their experiences, but to hear others responses and how healing it was. In a way, I think your blog has a bit of that. I think it's a beautiful tribute to your mom, and now Autumn, but I think It's also healing for you to write, and to get feedback from others. At least I hope it is.
So that's my very long winded way of saying nope... You're not trying too hard at all. Keep on doing it it's good for you and I enjoy reading smile emoticon

The day before Lindi emailed me, I was going to take Autumn four miles in her BOB. It was the first time that we had taken it for a run in the morning, and I wanted a small blanket to cover her legs to protect them from the sun. In a rush, I opened her closet drawers and saw the gender-neutral one my Mom crocheted for her, before I was pregnant. I put it over Autumn's legs and she idly explored the basket-weave pattern and new texture with her fingers as we set off through the front door.

At a stop light half a mile in, I ran into two other Moms with two kids in a stroller. We exchanged pleasantries and then the toddler-aged girl looked at Autumn's blanket and said "Mommy, I'm cold." Knowing it wasn't really cold out, I had the fleeting thought that the blanket was made with so much love, this little girl could sense it, and that's what she wanted. Don't be silly, I thought. My thoughts turned to all Autumn is missing because my Mom isn't here. Then, I asked myself which would be better: for Autumn to "only" have this blanket made with love from the most loving Nana one could dream up, or a real Nana who is here, but disinterested in her life? Without a doubt, the former.

My Mom's love is seen in all these things she did for Autumn, not even knowing her and how she loved me, giving me the tools to be the best Mom to her. I shouldn't look at what Autumn looses by not having her here, but what she gains because she was that high of a caliber. Bringing this blanket out also meant that Mom was very much present on my mind.

We were going to go home and get ready for swim lessons when I saw signs for an estate sale the street over. Famous for trying to squeeze in too much and often running late, I had been planning to go home and get ready for swim. We didn't have a lot of time and are short on money right now, so going to the sale wasn't practical but I very much had the feeling that we should go, because it was something Mom would love and want us to do. The fleeting thought: Maybe there is something there for me, from Mom came and went as we turned down the street. Autumn and I had been to an estate sale a few weeks before, and I did not wonder this.

We walked through the door of a dated home filled with mid-century furniture. There was a card table set up in the living room with with dishes and china piled on top of it. Most of them were grouped together in sets, but one cup and saucer was by itself. It had pink roses on it and read Mother. My heart skipped a beat. Turning it over, I saw it was made in England.

At first, I had a pang of sadness because it was something I would pick out for her. Then my thoughts skipped back to, and settled on, the feeling that there was something in this house from her, to me. I picked it up and wandered through the rest of the house, thinking of the woman who owned it who I now had gathered was in a wheelchair before she died, like Mom was. Only with Mom, it wasn't due to old age. I thought about this woman's child, likely older than me now, who bought this cup for her and how they too must be missing their Mom.

But if they're lucky, like Mom, this lady gave them enough love to last a lifetime and beyond. I have to remind myself, almost daily, that it was quality not quantity. Some adults still grapple with a deficit of love from a childhood overshadowed by it's absence, real or perceived. Their Mom may have been too busy, self-absorbed or just repeating the pattern of how she was raised. Though their Mom may still be alive, the uncertainty of where they stand in her love can cause a whole host of problems. There are many adults out there who still feel unloved, unwanted or in competition with others due to their insecurities, all stemming from lack of love from their Mom. I have to remember how blessed I am that this was never the case with Mom. She loved my brother and I, and my father too, with every fiber of her being and there was never any doubt how much she loved us. She loved us with a pure, non-judgmental love, and gave us enough love to last a lifetime. A love that we would never question and that no one can take away. A love so powerful and fierce, not even death could stop it. A love I still feel.

If it were not for Lindi's email and encouragement, I would have chalked the cup up to coincidence. No sooner was it in my hand than I was dismissing the potential meaning as me reading too much into it again. But what else could be more important than finding meaning in life, even if sometimes finding it is a stretch?

Either Mom had nothing to do with that cup being there, or she had something to do with it. If bringing the idea into focus that she could have played a role is comforting to me, then why not believe that? But what if it's not true? What if it's silly? My old self would ask. Does it matter, if being open to the possibility makes it more valuable? Not at all. That cup and saucer is worth a whole lot more to me than the $3 I paid for it. Really, it becomes invaluable in this light.

Do I really think Mom put the cup there? Not really. But why work so hard to shut down the possibility that it could be a sort of sign "from" her, like how we ended up in her hometown of Reading, England instead of Italy where we thought we were headed on our babymoon? After-all, her love was certainly powerful enough. She said she would give me a sign if she could, and any overt ones would either land me on TV or in the hospital, so maybe this is the most she can do, for now. And if I'm open to it, maybe there will more small reminders of her love in the years to come.