Friday, December 28, 2012


I am utterly exhausted these days. I think I'm suffering from mother's brain and long-term sleep deprivation. "Mother's brain" may be a term that I just coined, but if you're a mother, chances are you know exactly what I'm talking about. With the birth of your children you acquire (okay, work hard for) certain talents like being the one to figure out why your child is unhappy when no one else can figure it out, somehow operate as though you have 14 arms when you really only have one (the kid is always in the other one!), etc. What you sacrifice, however, is the concentration and memory skills that you might have boasted of before. I can probably count the number of nights that I have slept through the night since January on two hands, as I seem to always be up with one boy or another at night. It took months of George crying it out at night to finally learn that he is perfectly capable of getting himself to sleep (believe me, I wasn't starving him! I still often feed him around 5:00 in the morning if he wakes up because it has been over eight hours). George is a light sleeper, unlike Silas, and he is also an early-riser, so 6:20 seems to find us up-and-at-'em regularly these days.

I'm not too tired to tell you about today's small events though. Nothing special, just an ordinary day, but I thought I would share my ordinary day with you. First off, I knew that disaster would befall my floors because I steam-mopped them yesterday. It never fails that something hideous splashes on my floor within moments of me sterilizing it. Today, it was chocolate milk. Somehow, and I say somehow because I didn't see it but I strongly suspect that Tex was involved, Silas managed to fall right out of his dining room chair this morning. I'm no sleuth, but the scene upon my arrival seemed to indicate that he had fallen backward as he was drinking his chocolate milk, and as he lost control he inadvertently emptied the entire cup over the top of his head. He was sitting on his rear, screaming in the middle of the dining room floor, Tex was happily licking at chocolate puddles, and Silas had streams of milk running from his thick head of hair all down his face and clothes.

So there was that. One of my other favorite parts was when Silas later accidentally knocked a glass of water over on to the table as I was putting away groceries. That one I did see happen, and it was definitely an accident. However, he turned right around to me and asked with wide eyes, "Mommy, what did you do?" Ha ha. Yeah right.

We have George now climbing onto window ledges as if he owns the house, and standing on his own while "reading" books or playing patty cake. We have Tex happily crawling up into my kids' laps, uninvited mind you, to eat the foods upon which they are feasting. We had snowfall, a visit from a great friend in from Maine for the week, and a trip to the grocery store. We had cupcake-baking, Christmas-shaped pancakes, and Mickey's Christmas Carol (yes, it's still Christmas here) and long conversations with Silas about his perceptions of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. A very ordinary day, followed on the heels of another ordinary day in which George pooped in the tub (again) and we read a million books and we played with new toys. And all on five hours of rest, which is, sadly, very ordinary for me. But my word, how lovely 'ordinary' truly is to me these days.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gender and Violence

I love my feminist husband. He and I have some amazing conversations, and over the years we have truly challenged one another toward becoming better individuals by simply talking, debating, agreeing, and arguing topics out. One topic that has been on our 'discussion table' time and again is the problem of violence. What doesn't seem to be discussed frequently in society is, truly, whose problem violence really is. Well, looking at statistics, the answer is that violence is a man's problem. Women have their own generalized issues, and yes, there are exceptions to the rule when women become violent and go on a killing spree. Overall though, anyone with a brain at all must concede the fact that, by and large, violent crimes are the doing of men.

This is not our debate topic. We obviously both agree on this. (If you care to keep reading about this soapbox, check out the part at the end of this post regarding Carol Gilligan and the TAT.) Our discussions have more centered on why this might be the case. Why is it that men are more physically violent than women? Why are males nearly ten times more likely than females to commit murder? Why does it seem that every stinking act of mass violence that we see on the news is perpetrated by one or more men? So many factors can really come into play, including the ways that boys versus girls are raised, societal norms that condone violence and objectification of women, exposure to violent media, etc. Another factor that comes into play that BJ and I don't feel gets the attention it deserves, however, is evolutionary tendencies themselves. Looking at evolution itself helps to provide an understanding of all kinds of human behaviors and phenomena, from nurturing to sex to violence. Not so long ago (in the grand scheme of time), it was imperative that men be physically aggressive in order for their families and offspring to survive; the men who were the most physically aggressive were the ones who won meat, fought off enemies who sought to kill, and established themselves as leaders within their clans, thereby ensuring the safety of themselves and the survival of their children (and thus the species itself). Only the fittest survived. Women, on the other hand, were expected to care for children and take care of duties to keep the home running smoothly, including preparing meals, gathering water, etc.

So here we are, post-Industrial revolution, and what do we have? Well, we still have these biological tendencies within us to be physically aggressive if we are male, and nurturing and domestic if we are female. Our human race has survived until now precisely because of these instincts that we have adopted. Obviously, these stereotypes do not generalize to each and every individual--I'm no idiot. But evolution has also proved that there are exceptions to every rule, some of which succeed and some of which do not. Unless men are in third-world countries these days, there is really no use at all for the physical-aggression tendencies, and thus they are primarily latent. Businessmen and plumbers aren't facing lions and warring villages these days. However, the biological need to be aggressive seems to rear its ugly head at times, and not for the purposes for which it was intended. Instead of fighting off enemies, violence is turned toward intimate partners (it probably was way back in the day too, but now it is considered unacceptable---at least it should be), colleagues, fellow men who are not actual physical threats. It has become a dysfunctional part of this society; as BJ would say, it has become a "vestigial organ" that we can't seem to get rid of entirely because biology won't let us, and now we're stuck with crazy guys who can't get that impulse under control and they go around shooting kids with semi-automatic weapons. Evolution, it seems has turned in on itself. Or at least that's what we think.

If you're interested in the topic of gender and violence, read on!
One of my favorite authors is a feminist psychologist by the name of Carol Gilligan. Dr. Gilligan spent the bulk of her career studying gender differences on moral issues, and she wrote a book called "In a Different Voice" that simply rocked my world.

Check this out:

Dr. G writes about a study that she and Susan Pollak conducted in 1982 using college students and the Thematic Apperception Test. In this test, pictures of various scenarios are shown to subjects and they are encouraged to tell a story that incorporates the scene that they are shown. Gilligan and Pollak were both intrigued by responses to a card that showed a "tranquil scene" of a couple sitting on a bench together overlooking a river. She notes on page 40, "In response to this picture, more than 21 percent of the eighty-eight men in the class had written stories containing incidents of violence--homicide, suicide, stabbing, kidnapping, or rape. In contrast, none of the fifty women in the class had projected violence into this scene." The following quote is a specific example from a man in the class who viewed the card:
Nick saw his life pass before his eyes. He could feel the cold penetrating ever deeper into his body.  How long had it been since he had fallen through the ice-- thirty seconds, a minute? it wouldn't take long for him to succumb to the chilling grip of the mid-February Charles River. What a fool he had been to accept the challenge of his roommate Sam to cross the frozen river. He knew all along that Sam hated him. Hated him for being rich and especially hated him for being engaged to Mary, Sam's childhood sweetheart. But Nick never realized until now that Mary also hated him and really loved Sam. Yet there they were, the two of them, calmly sitting on a bench in the riverbend, watching Nick drown. They'd probably soon would be married, and they'd probably finance it with the life insurance policy for which Mary was the beneficiary.
  It seems crazy to me that some people can actually draw this nature of thought from something that seems so innocent, and yet it seems to not be so uncommon. There is a huge leap, though, from entertaining violent fantasies to actually acting on them, which is what makes today's tragedy in Connecticut seem all the more incomprehensible.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Saturday evening in our house was spent decorating the Christmas tree and hauling out boxes with stockings, Santas, and the assortment of holiday decorations that I have purchased from Pier 1 in moments of impulse throughout the years. This was the first year that Silas participated in the process; the last two years we decorated the tree while he napped and surprised him with it upon awakening. He will NEVER let us do that again! This kid was on fire to decorate for Christmas. He unwrapped all items from the boxes and wanted to be the one to place them where they belong. Many of these items have since 'moved' from their places because he just can't seem to resist touching them, either. (Three times yesterday I replaced the two glittery Christmas trees from the nightstands in our bedroom, only to find that someone had moved them back again to the couch or dining room table.)

So here is my cute story: among our ornaments is a red metal bell that belonged to BJ when he was a small boy, and it is marked with his name. On Saturday night, I asked Silas what letters were on the bell and he replied. "B. (pause) J." I said, "That's daddy's name, B.J. This was daddy's ornament when he was a boy like you."

The next morning, Silas ran out to the Christmas tree and began removing ornaments at will, just so that he could inspect them again. When Silas pulled the red bell from the tree, BJ asked him, "What does the bell say on it?" Silas looked at the bell and replied matter-of-factly, "It says you, Jay-Bay!" And this is precisely what he is now calling BJ half the time.

My adorable two-year-old (who has also mastered a gorilla impersonation, by the way).

My littlest turkey-boy, just for good measure.  Since dairy is no longer an issue, this guy ate big-time on Thanksgiving Day--cranberries, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, bread, stuffing, corn, and pumpkin pie! Sparsity of teeth wasn't stopping him!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pics by Holly

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Wishing you all a happy day spent with loved ones!

May I sing the praises of Ms. Holly Hooper-Stover? On this day when we spend so much time reflecting on what we are thankful for, I would like to say thank you to Holly for capturing such beautiful images of my family. Holly is new to professional photography, but she definitely doesn't give herself enough credit. I am tickled with these shots of us, and now I will always be able to remember our family exactly as we are right now. Holly is located in Elk City, Oklahoma, but she quickly volunteered to drive to Oklahoma City for our pictures. I highly recommend her. Here are some of my favorites from that freezing morning (literally! 28 degrees at the time of the shoot!):


 Thank you again, Holly!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Yet Another Reason to Give Thanks

In my last post I lamented the end of nursing, which I presumed was coming because I made the decision to put dairy back into my diet believing that George would react to it. George has always thrown me curve balls, and his NON-reaction to dairy when I began eating it again was definitely one of the bigger ones he has thrown! My dinner on that first night consisted of a flour tortilla with queso in it, approximately ten chips dipped into queso, and an ala carte sour cream chicken enchilada with most of the sour cream sauce (but not all of it!) scraped off. It was enough dairy that even I felt nauseated afterward, which maybe isn't surprising since I have consumed zero dairy in the last seven months. There may or may not have been a large frozen margarita on my ticket that night as well. (Of course, I let that burn out of my system before I fed George.) All of this dairy, and not a thing from fussiness, no rash on the face, no Desitin required on the cute little buns, nothing! So I ate some dairy the next day, and then the next, and the next, and he kept repeatedly showing me that he just wasn't reacting to dairy anymore! So then I took it a step further and fed HIM foods that contained dairy, such as mashed potatoes and whipped cream (the good stuff), and still he has shown no problems! I am giving thanks that next week I can actually eat the Thanksgiving meal and Georgie can even have bites, and I am thankful that we can continue to nurse until George is ready to wean (within reason). Mostly, however, I am thankful that my son is not going to be dairy-allergic for life.

I have so much to write about, but I don't want to overwhelm readers with one ridiculously long post, so I will pledge to write a series of posts throughout November that will highlight things that have happened in our family; I'm seriously so behind. I'm the parent that still hasn't even posted my kids' Halloween pictures for all to see! A few quick updates though:

  • Our good friends the Marshalls came all the way from Massachusetts to visit our humble abode a couple of weeks ago, and we seriously had a major blast! We made sure to give the Marshalls some of the good things that Oklahoma has to offer, including delicious Mexican food, warm weather, a Thunder game (for BJ and Pete), and plenty of time with loved ones. During their visit we marked the one-year anniversary of the day that Sommer and Pete received the heartbreaking news of Owen's progressive brain disease, and we decided to honor Owen for the occasion by participating in a 5K and dedicating every step to their little guy. Som and I ran the whole way and finished in our personal best time, while the rest of the clan was a great cheerleading section. Pete even made fantastic Owen shirts for the occasion. 
  • At this point last year, BJ and I were pretty unhappy. I chronicled our unhappiness in this post a year ago and discussed that the Christmas season came early to our house as a coping mechanism for dealing with the greatest sadness that we have ever known. A year later, we know Owen well and are pleased to have gotten to kiss his cheeks so many more times than we ever expected; still, I find myself reminiscent of that intense pain. In a tribute to the last year, I am running yet another 5K (I run a lot of 5K's apparently) this Saturday through the park in Yukon, which will be decorated with the awesome Christmas lights display that will be unveiled just prior to the run. The family doesn't know it yet, but we are also eating at Alfredo's that night, just as we did a year ago when BJ's parents attempted to lighten our gloominess by taking us to dinner at Alfredo's and then driving us through the Christmas lights to kick off the season. What a year of intense highs and lows it has been for our family...
  • Which brings me to my last point of this post: the importance of this holiday season. As I told my friend Julie last night, my sanity is hanging on my ability to fully enjoy this season and engage with those I love. This Christmas season I am truly dedicating myself to time spent with loved ones, and letting frivolous details fall to the wayside. This means I will do less cleaning and more baking, less stressing and more Grinch-watching, more knitting, more fires, more hot chocolate, and more Christmas-light looking. Family and friends are welcome to drop in at our house at any time; I can't promise a spic and span house, but I can bet there will be some fresh baked goods lying around, two beautiful and hilarious children to entertain you, and hugs to be shared. The season is coming soon, friends. I can't wait to share it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dairy: This Is the End

I feel like it has been a long road of nursing with George. From those first two months when I knew that something was wrong with my baby but couldn't figure out what it was, to the decision to eliminate all forms of dairy from my diet, and then throughout the next six-plus months of adhering to that decision, it really has been interesting. I know more about milk proteins like casein and whey then I ever knew I could, and I have learned that milk is in an enormous amount of food. And now, here we are; the first line of Adele's new superfly James Bond song has been repeating in my head all afternoon and evening: "This is the end."

Poor George before I cut out dairy

Do you know the feeling of carrying in heavy groceries that you know you're about to drop? You feel them slipping from your hand so, if you're like me, you pick up the pace dramatically to try to get every step underfoot possible before the peanut butter and lunchmeat hit the floor (okay, maybe it's just me. Maybe I load my grocery bags too heavily.)? Well, this is where I am with the no-dairy diet. These days, every week underfoot is considered a victory to me. In the beginning and middle of this journey it was fairly easy. When the pediatrician looks you in the eye and says that your son has a better chance of overcoming this allergy if you will just eliminate cow milk from your own diet and continue to nurse, rather than putting him on alimentum formula, how do you not choose this for your child? So, the choice was easy. Sure, I had weeks that were hard, like when those Doritos Locos tacos first came out, when I drink disgusting black coffee, and when I think of Pioneer Woman's Potato Leek Pizza. But I can say that I honestly held strong with no slip-ups, except for once when George was four months old and I ate a single hush puppy that I knew had milk in it, just to see if such a minute amount would make a difference (He was covered in a rash the next day and ended up needing prescription steroid cream. Yeah, this kid really has/had an allergy.). Now, these moments of weakness are coming every day. I am starting to feel consumed by the decisions about food, thinking about dairy versus non-dairy, and thinking about the foods that I crave and cannot eat even in moderation. The absurdity culminated the other day when I caved in and put a dairy item (a McDonald's french fry, if you must know) into my mouth, chewed it, and then spat it out. This hasn't even been one of my cravings, and now here I was impulsively shoving a fry into my face, feeling like a fool, and then spitting it out and brushing off my tongue with my paper napkin! Other people must have thought I had a problem, and they were probably right.

Add to this the physical stress that I know my body is under. I seriously don't know how vegans do it. Since the day I checked into the hospital to give birth to George, I have lost 65 pounds (including George himself); 34 of these have come since the day I decided to go dairy-free. I just can't keep the weight on, which doesn't sound like a problem but is not characteristic of my frame. Not sure if it's my imagination, but I think my teeth feel a little different. And the kicker was at a doctor's appointment today when the dermatologist told me that the itchy, bleeding rash I have had on the palms of my hands since April is undoubtedly a result of having eliminated dairy from my diet. She advised, "Your baby will be okay. I suggest that you take care of you so that you can keep taking great care of him."

Happy George now

So this is the end. Next week, Sommer and her lovely family are visiting, and we have a delicious meal planned at our favorite Mexican restaurant. The pediatrician told me to eat dairy on purpose when George turns nine months old (which happened last week) so that we can see where he stands, and I have been planning this meal for five months: chips and queso, and sour cream chicken enchiladas. Lifting that fork to my mouth is going to be one of the harder things I have done in recent years; after having so vigilantly watched every single morsel going into my mouth for seven months and reading every ingredient label so closely, now I'm going to put the allergen there on purpose. Hopefully, George has grown out of his allergy, and I can incorporate dairy back into my diet while continuing to nurse. However, if George shows signs of reaction, I will go back dairy-free for a week or two, just long enough to wean him, and he will then be put on formula because I just don't think I can do this anymore.

I feel racked with guilt about this decision. I feel nearly certain he will still show allergic reaction, and that I'm going to have to guide my baby to a bottle rather than my breast from now on. This honestly breaks my heart because we both love to nurse, and I love the benefits that come from breast-milk, like extra immunities. But the price just seems higher and higher to me these days, and so I'm hoping that ten months of breast milk will be enough in the end.

Friends, do you have thoughts?

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I have about ten favorite days in the calendar year (family birthdays, Christmas Eve, the day of BCS bowls, Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day are some, if you must know), and Walkaround is one of them. Every year as a kickoff to OSU's Homecoming, Stillwater puts on a remarkable Walkaround festivity where we all get to return to our college home, walk the streets around campus, and take in all of the awesome house decorations. When asked to explain what these house decorations are like, I explain the facts of them: they are huge, made of tissue paper stuffed into chicken wire, and move around. But that just sounds like something, well, crazy-like. Giant pieces of tissue paper that move around like chickens? Um, no. Here is an example of what some of them this year looked like:

We never miss Walkaround. Now that we have kids, we arrive there early and leave a little earlier, but you'll find us there each year. Silas particularly enjoyed our time this year. Some of the house decs were exciting to him, especially the one that had moving puzzle pieces and the one that had a moving front-end loader. He liked looking at the camels in the carnival area, throwing sticks into Theta Pond, viewing Pistol Pete (albeit from afar), eating popcorn, and watching the tubas in the OSU marching band (a shout-out to Hooge is appropriate here!).

Time with the boys at Theta Pond really brought back memories, as always. I could practically see my 19-year-old self reading about the Rwandan genocide on a bench by the water, and getting bit by the local swan as I tried to walk through heading to the NSC one day (that son of a bitch drew blood on my leg, and I was minding my own business!). Go Pokes!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day Out With Thomas

It's been a long time since I have blogged. At this point, I honest to God have a list of about eight topics that I want to get up and running, but time is ridiculously limited. Between raising two children, working (albeit part-time), building a deck, and the laundry list of house projects I always seem to have us completing, I'm finding myself short on time these days. I just had to share some pictures from early October though, when Grammy and Pop treated Silas, George, BJ, and me to a Day Out With Thomas. He received the tickets for his birthday in May and had been eagerly awaiting the day that he could meet Sir Topham Hatt and ride Thomas in a blaze of glory. BJ's parents joined us for the occasion, and we also got to spend our time there with our friends Jeremy and Laurie and their kiddos. We find it pretty neat that BJ and Jeremy were friends when they were Silas' and Miles' age, so the tradition will hopefully live on with friendship being passed down.

If it looks like we're cold in these pictures, it's because we were. This year we had the coldest weather on record for October 6 in Oklahoma City, so we spent the rest of the day hanging out by the roaring fireplace. Silas' often bland look is the result of both camera-shyness and illness at the time. Don't let the pictures fool you; he had a ton of fun!

Waiting to ride on Thomas

Seeing Thomas at last. Silas was cracking us up...
as we parked and slid open the van door you could 
plainly hear Thomas' "peep peep" as he was pulling into
the station. BJ and I excitedly asked him, "Do you 
think that's Thomas?" He said, as though guarding 
his emotions, "Uh....maybe."

Even Georgie got in on the fun!

We got to ride up top...even had to climb a ladder to get up there!

It's a good thing that my boys look beautiful in orange. 

That 'James' tattoo was a source of pride for some time
before it eventually got scrubbed off in the bath. On 
one hand, the tattoo, and clutched tightly in the other 
was the toy "Diesel" engine that Grammy and Pop bought
for Silas in the gift shop.

A giant thank you to Grammy and Pop, and to all of you in Silas' life that share his enthusiasm for Thomas with him. He loves talking about Thomas. If you missed the Thomas Masterpiece some months back, you might want to check that out for your edification as well.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rivers and Roads

There have been three songs that I have listened to for the first time in the last year that have made quite an impact on me personally. I thought tonight I would write about one such song, entitled "Rivers and Roads" by The Head and the Heart. Upon first hearing this song, I conjured up images of long journeys and loss; when I think about what this past year has brought for me and those I love, long journeys, discovery, and loss are major factors. In the year 2012, the birth, death, and decline of babies has utterly transformed me to the core. January brought George's birth, and with it a sense of joy that I never knew possible. July brought the passing of Aiden, an anguish for me surpassed only by my anguish for Owen, who has presented such a bittersweet situation throughout the entirety of 2012.

The song "Rivers and Roads" means so much to me, and it will always remind me of Owen. I feel totally swept up in its current right as the intensity picks up after my favorite line. The song is about the physical separation from someone that the songwriter loves, and hints at an epic journey which the songwriter will take across rivers and roads to eventually be reunited with the beloved. I think of the distance as more symbolic, that Owen is with us but in some sense is not really with us. I hold him and I don't know where he really is existing or how to reach him, but I imagine a spectacular journey of beauty, sweat, and tears to get to where he is so that we can reach him in a way that he can understand with our messages of love, hope, and apology. "Rivers and roads, rivers and roads, rivers till I reach you." In my mind's eye I imagine the journey to be very green and wooded, much like parts of the Pacific Crest Trail that BJ and I have walked. And a healthy Owen is at the end.

I pause and reflect, what about me has changed the most since November? Really, several things have, but the most obvious to me is the way in which I now choose to prioritize people in my life. The second facet of this song that speaks to me is about the ability of other people to understand our pain. In the song, the writer notes that his family lives in a different place than him. He then follows with my favorite line of the song, "If you don't know what to make of this, then we will not relate." THIS is where I think of my own life, and about the people that have caught me and supported me this past year. There are now two kinds of people in my life: those that can "relate" and those that either can't or choose not to because they have their own priorities to deal with. For those that are unable to relate to the grief I feel and find that connection with me, I have precious little energy to give. Then, there are the people who will relate, whether because they understand loss or because they are my friend and will hold my hand while I go through it. In the most sincere of losses, when I have stood there with raw grief, swollen eyes, and those crazy hives that always break out on my chin when I cry, I have been supported by the most solid of my family and friends. These are the people that I will pour the best of me back into and hope that I can do them some semblance of justice. These people are the ones who are the most real for me; they are the ones who have walked with me when I have treaded across this balance beam, encouraging me, cracking jokes to relax me, but most importantly being real with me and reminding me that they are there to spot me should I lean too far one way or the other. These people check on me frequently, encourage me often, hug me, share their lives and joys with me, and don't expect easy answers when they ask me how I am doing (which sometimes is good, and sometimes isn't so good).

BJ, Mom, Susan P., Christa A., Sommer M., Chanda K., Laurie L., Sara D., Heidi H-K, Heidi W., Cyndi R., Linzy L., Rachel K., Amanda K., Elizabeth W., Vicky H., Linda K., Laura W., Angie H., Jeremy L., Julie J., and Natalie D.---you have bolstered me with words, gestures, and/or actions specifically in this past year, and you have made my life better. May I return the favor throughout the years of our lives. I'd travel rivers and roads for each of you.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie and Fall Recipes

Despite continued warm weather in the state of Oklahoma, which is typical for this time of year, I was in an exuberant autumn-ish mood yesterday. As BJ can well attest, often the nature of my mood is reflected in the meals that we eat that day. Average, content mood? You can expect pastas, goat-cheeseburgers, Mexican dishes, and other fairly normal meals. Stressed, unhappy, sad days? You might expect the likes of hot dogs, spaghetti, take-out, or fast food. Ridiculous, pregnant, tantrum moods? These are the times when BJ leaves the house and comes home with ice cream and Honey Nut Cheerios for me. But the days when I feel jubilant? Ah, these are when some of our family's greatest dishes have made their first appearances: pumpkin mac-n-cheese, creamy baked chicken taquitos, homemade tomato soup with cheese toasties, and of course desserts like Julia Child's "reine de saba," hand-packed Grasshopper ice cream cake, and chocolate peanut clusters. Yesterday was one such day, the day of the dairy-free pumpkin pie and the beer glazed sausage and apples.

Let's begin with the pumpkin pie, since I built it up on facebook. I must begin by saying that pumpkin pie is a certain addiction of mine. Sometime around the beginning of football season, the smells of the first pumpkin pie can be detected in our home, and this will continue long through January. It's my favorite pie of all. I do limit it to the fall and winter months, but I have no qualms about bringing this delicious gem to my table well before the Thanksgiving season. Why wait? So, the bummer is, nearly every pumpkin pie recipe I have ever seen calls for evaporated milk. Those that don't call for evaporated milk instead call for sweetened condensed milk (which, incidentally, I have tried and don't find to be as classic). Neither of these can be consumed in our house right now, so I'm left drumming my fingers concocting a solution. Some pumpkin pie recipes actually called for tofu, but hell-to-the-no! I don't do tofu, plus I can't have soy anyway because George is also sensitive to that. Just when I was starting to think all was lost, I stumbled across this recipe for dairy-free pumpkin pie by Alisa Fleming. It uses coconut milk instead of evaporated milk or other crazy substitutions. I bought two kinds of coconut milk, the one by Silk (also makes soy and almondmilk) and one from a can in the Asian aisle. After opening and tasting both, I ended up using the Silk variety because there were no clumps in it.
Looks normal enough, right? Well, it tastes normal and delicious too! Now, I know that my taste-buds are a little off these days because I haven't tasted actual dairy in almost six months, but I swear, I absolutely couldn't tell a difference. BJ, who consumed the pie with a glass of whole milk, said that he couldn't taste a difference either. His direct quote, "It was quite good." We agreed that we would scale back the cinnamon a bit; the recipe calls for a whole teaspoon so next time we'll go for half that. I say "next time" because I will certainly make this again with a glad heart; of the many beloved foods I won't be able to eat this holiday season, at least the best was spared.

Prior to the pumpkin pie, we also celebrated the coming of autumn with a delicious dinner found in this month's edition of Better Homes and Gardens. I would recommend signing up for a free on-line membership at their website,, as they have a history of great fall recipes. Seeing as how there will be no pumpkin mac-n-cheese this fall, which was our festive go-to last year, I knew I'd have to find something different. With the recipe of Beer Glazed Sausage and Apples, I do believe I found it. I have never been much of a pork eater myself, but Pete kindly convinced me a few weeks ago with his football kielbasa recipe, that perhaps I have prematurely judged this brand of sausage (on the other hand, breakfast sausage I won't touch with a ten-foot pole!). This recipe calls for kielbasa, and I stood in the store for two minutes racking my brain over which kind of kielbasa Pete used, but I found it in the end (it's also dairy-free, which is clearly a must). Basically, the recipe consists of kielbasa, apple slices, and fresh green beans sautéd and simmered in a glaze made from beer, brown sugar, cider vinegar, orange zest, and crushed red pepper. Butter is included as part of the recipe, but I obviously had to omit it. For sautéing I used a bit of olive oil, and for the glaze I just left it out completely. Sage leaves are sprinkled on top of the finished dish. It calls for a Belgian White or witbeer, but this wasn't possible for us. I shopped on Sunday morning, and we live in the antiquated state of Oklahoma where, not only are liquor stores closed on Sundays, but the sale of alcohol is prohibited everywhere before noon on Sunday (hmm, do you sense some religious influence here?). So we settled for a variety already in our fridge, which was Summer Honey brewed by Big Sky Brewing in Missoula, Montana. This meal was so delicious that we each got seconds and wanted thirds. Hearty, sweet, and filling, this meal was lovable on all counts. If you're feeding bland palates, I'd suggest cutting the red pepper and the sage out, and I would bet you have a winner.
Please note the gorgeous octopus bowl, which I drooled over for way too long at a kitchen boutique in Rockport with Sommer and her mom, and which Sommer secretly ordered for me the next morning as a surprise. I still smile just thinking about this story.

The dairy-free recipe trials will continue in our house. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Second 2012 MA Trip

In exchange for watching the boys for BJ during many late-night Thunder playoff games in May and June, I received a four-day trip to Massachusetts to visit Sommer, Pete, Ellie, and Owen. George kept me company on this trip, and he made sure that there were never moments of boredom; this boy is both entertaining and on-the-go. Sommer described his personality as "winning," and I must say I agree. He hammed it up for nearly everyone he encountered during the four-day stretch! It was great to see Sommer and her family. Time with Baby Owen is so special and limited, so we plan to make lots of trips there during his lifetime. Our previous visit in March just seemed too long ago; good news for us is that their family is coming to crash our pad at the end of next month. A few highlights from our trip:

George and me at the airport dark and early on Friday morning.
Two buddies just chillaxin'

We spent Saturday in Rockport, MA on a girls' day out (plus George). Rockport sits right on the ocean (NOT the Cape, as I was quickly corrected) and is the home of a famous red building with lots of buoys hanging off of it that Sommer convinced her mother and me that we must have seen before. Said famous building is in the background. A simple Google search indicated that the building is called Motif #1.

Here I am trying to force my excitement on to George. It didn't work.

Somehow I didn't get pictures of Ellie. You should have seen her sporting a Patriots cheerleader outfit on Sunday for the big game, though. Too stinking cute. I showed up with Patriots colors (but no official Pats paraphernalia) for George and me to wear, and the family deigned to keep us in their home for the afternoon anyway. That was a close one. I also somehow never took a picture of the Dunkin Donuts iced coffees that were endlessly put into my hands. These are a coffee-loving people, and Dunkin's iced mocha almond coffee did not disappoint. George had me up so many times in the middle of the night that I do remember remarking my relief that "Dunks" (as they call it) is not a religious establishment that closes on Sundays. I stopped at two iced coffees that day, but I can't say the same of Som and Pete. Thanks to them both for a fantastic stay. I am beginning to feel like their home is a home of mine as well.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

First Chili Test

To celebrate the kickoff of college football, BJ and I decided to cook our first batch of chili this season. BJ was pretty eager to tweak a recipe by Sir Alton Brown that he had tried before, so we chose his recipe and BJ went to work. The recipe predominantly calls for chilis, chuck steak, chili powder, and beef stock; I'll be happy to send you the whole recipe if you'd like. We decided to make some changes that seemed appropriate for us---namely, the reduction of steak by half (seriously, who wants that much beef in her chili?), the addition of pinto and kidney beans, and a doubling of the entire recipe to accommodate BJ's parents, who were our guinea pigs tonight.

Bottom line is, I strongly disliked the chili. It was way too flipping hot, and beyond the burn in my mouth, I tasted very little. This is the perfect kind of recipe for my kick-ass friends Heidi and Ty, who put the sriracha sauce on top of their "spice-level-5" pad thai. For me, not so much. Of course, everyone else at the table said it helped immensely to add cheese and sour cream to calm the raging burn, but of course I was out of luck with that one since the Cow is not George's friend. I sliced avocados, but they did not rescue me.
Everybody's grades for this batch of chili were as follows:

Terry: A-
Susan: C at best
Jenny: D+
I'm not giving a passing grade when I have to fix a sandwich for the remainder of my dinner!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dairy-Free...Still At It!

People often ask me how George is doing these days with regard to his dairy allergy, so I thought I'd update here. It seems like so long ago that George was constantly broken out in a rash and difficult to soothe, but those days really are in the past. I am nearly five months dairy-free now, and I am continuing to nurse George with no milk and extremely limited soy in my diet. An exception is two ounces per day of Alimentum formula that he gets with his baby oatmeal, as I long ago told BJ that I'm just not dedicated enough to add a 20-minute pumping session into the end of my day for that. George struggled with other types of formula, but the Alimentum seems to work really well.

George's dairy and soy problems are not equal in nature. It has become apparent to me that he does have sensitivity to soy, so I limit my intake quite a bit for him. Dairy, however, cannot be consumed even in moderation. As I believe I said in a previous post, I experimented months ago by eating a single hush-puppy that I knew had milk in it, and he was broken into a rash all over his face the next day; worse, it didn't go away (which was par for the course) and we had to apply the steroid cream all over again. I was so daunted by a soy-free diet in particular, because soy is in practically everything; however, some quick research led me to understand that the two most common soy ingredients on the labels, soy lecithin and soybean oil, are not considered allergens by the US Food and Drug Administration and therefore are safe to consume. This organization has not led me astray, as I consume soy lecithin all the time with no apparent recourse for George. As it stands now, I can't consume a quantity of soy sauce such as a quarter of a cup that goes into a marinade; I can, however, dip the corner of my sushi rolls into soy sauce guilt-free (no edamame to accompany it, though!).

The health benefits that have come of this for me have not gone unnoticed. Although my weight loss has finally stabilized, I'm a good 15 pounds under my George pre-pregnancy weight and more than five pounds under what I weighed before my pregnancy with Silas. This is encouraging, especially because my running has slacked and I've still kept it off. (Note: The Moore War Run 5K was this past Saturday and I ran the whole thing without stopping in 35 minutes. What what. I decided to stop making fun of myself when the posted results showed me in 7th place out of 23 for women in my age group!)

This being said, the real challenge for me will come this fall, as I approach my favorite time of eating, with all of my favorite foods, and will find myself quite limited. I do plan to nurse George until his first birthday in January, so that puts me through the whole Christmas season scrambling to find my dairy-free favorites and somehow try to take the milk out of my favorites that do indeed utilize the cow. I will be looking head-on into a Christmas season of no Hello Dollies, creamy gravy, green bean casserole, hot chocolate, homemade egg nog, pumpkin ice cream, etc. I have decided to begin focusing on the foods that I CAN eat though, and I'm still quite excited about the options: homemade cranberry sauce, pumpkin bread, sweet potatoes, turkey, homemade marshmallows...Yum. I'm also excited about the potential for experimentation to make my favorite foods work for me. Butter crisco can easily substitute for butter in baking and, surprisingly, does not contain dairy. Mashed potatoes also taste delicious when made with chicken broth (thanks for the tip, Rachem!). I'll try substituting rice milk for cow milk in our family's traditional fried bread. And I'll be damned if I'm going without my favorite of all, pumpkin pie! Who needs evaporated milk anyway? Who even knows what evaporated milk is? I have put some research in and found this dairy-free, soy-free recipe for pumpkin pie, and I'll report back on results.

Additionally, I intend to finish what I started last year with the chili exploration. The truth is, BJ and I did experiment with two different chili recipes, but I only posted one of them on the blog. Toward the beginning of our quest for finding good chili recipes, Owen received his diagnosis and sent our plans into a tailspin. The season was never the same after that, and we lost the motivation for frivolous things like chili. This fall we're going to try it again, and I'll finally put up some belated posts because I took good notes.

Finally, a happy first birthday to Owen today. We love this little man and I get to see him next week! (Did I mention that George and I get to visit Massachusetts for a long weekend??) Tomorrow morning before I head into work I will plant some Black-Eyed Susans in our front garden in his honor; Som has declared these as her flower of choice to commemorate our man and the life he brings to our lives, in spite of his difficult journey over the past year. We love you, birthday boy!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Colorado, 2012

Yesterday we returned from a nine-day trip to Estes Park, Colorado, with my parents and the boys. To say that the trip was refreshing and badly-needed is a bit of an understatement; we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and had a great time in the beautiful Rocky Mountains! There was plenty of fly-fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, rock skipping (by some more than others!), reading, and eating to go around! Bouts of sadness were few and far-between for me, which was a nice change of pace. Our family took a few days to drive there, spending the majority of the second day enjoying Denver and its Butterfly Pavilion, hotel swimming, and microbrewery ammenities. On the third day of driving we arrived at our cabin, where we spent the next five nights particularly enjoying life. Here are some pictures from the adventure. Believe it or not, I have vastly pared them down; please feel free to look at as many or as few as you wish.

Cuteness in the cabin

A preface shot to the above-mentioned rock throwing. Silas was a master of dumping rocks, sticks, and pine cones into the river right outside of our cabin.

 He may be getting big, but he'll always be my baby!

It may be hard to see, but there are two male elk tangling horns just below that center tree. Each evening we walked and/or drove down Fish Hatchery Road, which was adjacent to our cabin. Every night we had success spotting wildlife there, typically elk..but once we saw a black bear walk across the road in front of us while we were walking the boys!

 Gots to get clean to get dirty again the next day!

George and Daddy on a rock in the middle of the river.

Georgie fell asleep for a morning nap, and when he awoke he found himself in his jam-jams inside Rocky Mountain National Park! And in Papa's arms to boot! Dream come true!

My mom in the alpine, 11,700 feet up. It was noticeably chillier above the timberline, if you can imagine.

Hiking time! BJ and I have come to learn that hiking with two little ones is quite unlike the grueling backpacking days of yore. Sometime I will write a post about the time we hiked the 60 miles through Yosemite and the Ansel Adams Wilderness on the John Muir Trail...before we had children.

This elk, seen around town commonly, has Christmas lights stuck in his antlers. They didn't seem to be bothering him in the least though.

I wish I could say that all of these hours spent fishing resulted in even a single fish caught...but I cannot tell a lie.
 Can you see BJ way down there?

An excavator was parked right outside of the Subway we ate at in Russell, Kansas, on the way home. The only thing that could have made this better for Silas is a treasure trove of Sour Patch Kids tucked into the scoop.

 This wildfire was enormous and only two miles downwind of our hotel in Colby, Kansas. From where we were as we drove past, you could hear and feel it. Utterly amazing.

A great time had by all!