Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Little Owen: Flying High

 I sometimes look at this photo in wonder. Here, my best friend Sommer is 32 weeks pregnant with Owen (which is a wonder in and of itself given that she is about the same size that I typically am when I'm eight weeks pregnant). We were enjoying a long visit out to Massachusetts and Maine in the summer of 2011, and times never seemed happier. Ellie and Silas had just turned a year old, Som was expecting Owen, and I was ten weeks pregnant with George. I marvel with a sad heart at what shortly awaited us all. When I think of Owen's life as a whole, I sometimes find myself coming back to Adele's line from "Someone Like You," in which she writes, "Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?" We never saw it coming. How could we have?--and yet, I feel foolish for never having seen it coming.

Nearly two years after Sommer and Pete received the devastating news of Owen's terminal brain disease, our little guy earned his angel wings last Wednesday morning. I had traveled to Massachusetts and was present for his passing, which was peaceful in the very end but difficult in the days and hours leading up to it. Owen entered Heaven a week ago, and I apologize for not providing the update on this blog more quickly. I know that many of my friends here ask about Owen and were emotionally invested in his life. Until today, however, my ability to put two intelligible words about Owen together on paper was a ridiculous expectation. The week spent in Massachusetts, as well as the past week spent recovering from his loss, has been very intense and at times I have been wholly consumed with either caring for Owen, supporting my closest friends, and then returning home to my own family and figuring out how to continue on with life.

My time in Massachusetts was, as I previously said, intense. In many ways it was the worst of times, but also at the same time it was a week of extremely deep fulfillment and bonding; when looked at from the latter perspective, my time spent in Amesbury with my friends wasn't all bad. I got to meet new people that I never would have encountered, and as we all shared a common goal of serving Owen and making him comfortable, I believe we forged some emotional bonds that may never be broken. I will never forget nurses like Robin, Bronwyn, and Amanda, and I will always be glad for my strengthened friendships with Sommer, Pete, and Sommer's parents Marylou and Tony. Time with Ellie is always entertaining and lovely as well. We cried on each other's shoulders, soothed Owen through some rough times, and reminded each other that something better awaited this little boy who never knew life as you and I do. We stroked his head and told him that if he would just let go, he could run and play in the leaves like little boys should. He could taste pizza for the first time, eat ice cream to his heart's content, and be free of physical ailments. Finally, he listened to us, decided he was ready, and entered the next realm. As Marylou has pointed out, in some ways death doesn't seem so forbidding for us anymore knowing that our O-Ster is waiting on the other side. That little boy, his parents, and his sister have endured hardships that no one should have to face, and I hope and pray for better times ahead for all four of them.

I saw a commercial the other day that immediately brought Owen to mind for me. If you'd like, please take the one minute to watch it. The beautiful message speaks to me about how choosing to love is a risk, but nearly all of us choose to take that risk because of the promised reward that comes with loving another person. Just because we love and lose doesn't mean that we stop loving, and I think that Owen has been a beautiful example of love that goes on and on, even after his presence is no longer here. His memorial service was estimated to include 500 people present, and that doesn't even count people who attended in spirit but could not be physically present. Owen has changed us for the better, and unlike with most of us, his angel wings were completely deserved.

I will love and miss Owen forever. I will always remember the red of his hair, the blue of his eyes, the sweet smell of his head in the final week I knew him, and those final hours of peace before he took his leave for a better place. I will always be fulfilled by the last time I got to hold him so tightly to my chest, with the full knowledge that he was in a better place, and his sweet head tucked tightly under my chin and his little bottom just resting on my own baby in my belly, a baby to be named after him. To an ornery turkey and beautiful, crafty soul: we're sorry it wasn't better for you here, but we can't wait to know you eternally in a place so much better than this life.  I will always love these pictures of you:

 For those of you interested, Sommer's blog can be found here.  She has an obituary in her most recent post with information about Owen and where to send donations, if you feel so inclined.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

I know that everyone seems to claim this, but I truly have found the recipe for the very best chocolate chip cookies in the world. I have not invented this recipe myself, although I have tweaked it as needed for our family and even created a dairy-free version that kicked every craving I ever had. Just look and see:

These cookies are giant in size, but they don't overbake because they are scooped on to parchment paper and baked at only 325 degrees. Allow me to share the recipe, originated by America's Test Kitchen, and the changes that I have made to "Big and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies!"

Listed to make about 20 cookies (my output is usually about 16, but I also usually eat some batter)
Listed prep time: 5 minutes. (It's easy but not THAT easy. Prep time for me is usually about 10 minutes.)

3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (I always use kosher)
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted ****
1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 (additional) large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I have always omitted this because I'm allergic to vanilla.)
12-ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips ****

****For a dairy-free version of this recipe, omit the butter and use butter-flavored Crisco instead. Butter-flavored Crisco actually is dairy-free. Also, make certain that you use GHIRADELLI Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. They truly are dairy-free and are the only good dairy-free ones that I ever tasted.

1. Put your oven racks in upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.

3. Beat the melted butter (or Crisco!) and both sugars in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, one or two minutes. Then add in the eggs, additional egg yolks, and vanilla if you're using it and beat for about 30 more seconds. Scrape down the bowl if needed.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour/baking soda/salt mixture about 30 seconds. To add the chocolate chips, I always disengage the bowl from the mixer and hand-stir them in. Remember, Ghiradelli semi-sweet!

5. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and use a 1/4-cup scoop (seriously, buy one--they make it so easy), or otherwise put in 1/4-cup size balls, onto the sheets. Only put six cookies on a sheet because they really are big! Bake until the edges are golden but centers are soft and puffy, which for me is 17-18 minutes. Halfway through baking time, switch and rotate the pans.

6. Let the cookies cool on their sheets for ten minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack like the one pictured above to keep cooling. Or, just eat them. If you can eat more than one and a half at a time, I salute you and call you my sweet-toothed superior!

Enjoy, my friends! And please don't sue me, America's Test Kitchen.