Sunday, June 23, 2013

The One for Candace's 22nd Birthday


Hey shorty. It's your birthday!

Last year around this time Georgia and I were making cupcakes for your 21st birthday. We had dinner at La Casa and couldn't get a good picture because it's so dark in there. I thought it was trivial at the time. (Funny the things we take for granted. The inconveniences we don't pay much attention to.) I'm really glad I didn't miss your 21st. I'm glad I came home to celebrate with you. And I really enjoyed when you came to Portland the next weekend. We had so much fun, and soul-baring, that night. I will always cherish those memories. 

Somedays I get kind of mad at you for leaving. Not because it's your fault, but because I don't know who else to be mad at. 

And now I can't believe I have to live the rest of my life without you. That realization hurts so much, every moment of every day that I come to it. It seems so unfair that your absence will be felt at every special occasion, every family dinner.The shadow of our loss will cling in the air at every Christmas. My heart will break a little more every time I send a group text message and have to remind myself not to include your number. I will be at a loss for how to explain the story anytime someone innocently asks me how many brothers and sisters I have. 

The immediate time following your death was such a fog. A blur so thick with confusion and grief and misery that I can still feel it. It seems now that I have entered a new conscious understanding of how our lives have changed, of what is different. But I still reel in disbelief that I will never see you again. 

I think of the last time we really talked. I brought you a pita and we just chatted while the girls played on the trampoline at Mom's house. It was so innocent. So perfectly reflective of the ease, the subtlety with which we handled ourselves as sisters. We took for granted that we would both always be there. Always moving in and out of deep connection, assuming there would always be time. Not even thinking there wouldn't be another day to eat pitas by the trampoline. Never imagining the last time I saw you in Mom's kitchen with your new hair cut would be the last time I would see you well. Never beginning to comprehend that the last conversation we had on HeyTell would be the last time we ever talked. 

I've never had anything in my life truly end. I've never lost something I could never, ever have back. Except you. And you are one of the worst things to lose. I just can't wrap my mind around this. 

Did you know the ancient Babylonians were the first to come up with the idea of zero? A way to mark the absence of something? Before that, humans didn't have a way of defining negation, lack of existence. How could they have? And how can we bear it, now that we have a way of marking it? Some days I feel like I've just stumbled upon the concept of zero. All the realms of understanding it opens up. A whole new life in the shadow of death. Everything is different now. 

But nothing about this new reality makes me wish I hadn't known you. In fact, it makes me realize over and over again how grateful I am that we had you for 21 years. Helen Keller said, "What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us."  And it is so true. The love we shared is a part of me and will remain with me forever. I will never cease to be grateful for the light you carried with you. The smile even in trying circumstances. The compassion and kindness you always showed to those around you. 

I am touched to see the many lives you affected, the friendships you made, the way you have encouraged others, even in your death, to make their lives better. To strive for something worth having. You met many struggles with great resilience. You loved deeply even when you were hurt. And even now your life prompts us to seek the beauty in all things. 

Your birthday will always be so important to me. It's the day you came into our lives and changed them forever. 

Happy Birthday, beautiful. I miss you.

Love you always and forever. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The One Where Henry is 3 Months Old

This sweet little boy is growing and changing so much!

He LOVES to be tickled. It is his favorite thing! He usually gets tickled while being changed on his changing table and he gets so excited every time I lay him down there. As I start to unbutton his pajamas or onesie he gets a big look of anticipation on his face that culminates in a sweet, hysterical laugh. He'll laugh so hard he almost starts crying from being so overwhelmed with excitement. And then as I start to re-clothe him he gets a sad, "Is that all?" look that just begs for a little more tickling. It is very fun.

I think I already see a very silly side to him, although he is quite calm and patient as well. He likes to just sit in new places and look around. And when we took him on his first long road trip to Idaho last weekend he was very upset if we put his carseat hood up so he couldn't see what was going on. He did pretty well on that trip, and was great at sleeping in my family's very chaotic house. He was happy and content the whole time. Of course, with so many people to love you, how could you be unhappy?

And he loves his big sister, Ellie, so much. She always gets right in his face to play with him and tickle him and screech high-pitched sweet nothings at him. I'm always concerned she's a little too close for comfort, but he often starts cracking up the minute she is in sight. It's a very delighted little laugh. The kind that comes from contentment and happiness.

And speaking of Ellie, this kid has a nice round belly just like she did. He weighed in at 14 pounds, 11 ounces, and measured 25.5 inches at his last appointment two weeks ago. I say this only because, if he's anything like the other babies, this is the only chance he's going to have to be the biggest kid around. Enjoy it while you can, baby boy. 

He's still pretty little though. The picture above is of the first time he rolled over. And he kind of throws his body in all sorts of weird ways trying to see this or that. Last night Steve said, "I think I'm going to nickname this kid Willow Smith. He whips his hair back and forth." Hehehe. My boys. So funny.

Dear Henry,

My favorite part of the day is when daddy brings you in for your night-time feeding, which is usually between 5 and 6 am. Since it's the summer it is very bright already and I can see that you are
 conflicted between ravenous hunger and a need to just smile and giggle because you're in my arms. And once you've satisfied your hunger you look up at me with such satisfaction and milk-drunk joy. It is the sweetest thing. And then you are really, really nice to me and go straight back to sleep for a few hours. It's such a marvelous start to my morning.

You are such a fun addition to our family. So fun, in fact, that I have to constantly remind your sisters to just back up a little and give you some breathing room. They would surely smother you with kisses if I didn't. And I apologize right now for the fact that you may be tone deaf from all the loving screeching they do so close to your tiny baby ears. You're such a good sport about it, though.

We took you to Moscow for the first time this past month for your Uncle Chad's graduation. His middle name is Campbell, too, and he loves you a lot. He is a really good man, very kind and smart and talented. I hope that you see him as a good role model. He also has lots of practice dealing with sisters, and lots of them. So far he has twice as many as you do. He may be able to offer some pointers in the future. 

I love you desperately, my sweet boy. I miss you even when you are asleep in the other room. You bring so much joy and completeness to our little family.

Love, Mommy

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The One With The Things I Love About Olivia (2 Years, Part II)

This little girl. Seriously. She is ridiculously cute. I've informed her that she can never grow up. Never.

Olivia is such a sweetie. Somehow, even though she has entered the screamy age of two, she is just the cutest all the time. These are some of my favorite things she has said and done lately.

1. She has one of those personalities that lights up a room, even when the room is just the post office or the grocery store.

2. Her eyes. My goodness those big grey-green eyes could melt mountains, I swear. Every once in a while I'll just be going about doing things, making lunch, or folding laundry or whatever and I'll look over at her and she'll stare back with those beautiful peepers and my heart just stops. How can she be mine?

3. She is still the little tank, who just loves to eat. The other day, right before dinner she said, "Let's eat! Eating! Yay!" It's a regular thing that makes her excited. And when we went strawberry-picking last week, her friend Adahlia rightly named her the "Strawberry Monster." She picked a lot of berries and then devoured them in a few minutes. Her face was covered in red.

4. Her favorite meals right now are pasta with broccoli and marinara and, of course, yumm bowls. She would eat those for every meal, every day.

5. She loves to put things in lines. Little lines of stuffed animals in her bed. Little lines of Sesame Street characters on the floor. Little lines of crayons at the table. I kind of love it.

6. At bedtime she'll often say, "Daddy, can you bring me anything?" She is just trying to think of something to get him to come back so she doesn't have to go to sleep.

7. She has had a little obsession with Lightning McQueen. She had a little matchbox replica of him that she carried around for a while. She insisted on taking it everywhere and then always left it at other people's houses. And then when we were a few minutes away from their house she would remember it in a panic and we would have to go back and fetch him. Well, somewhere along the line she actually misplaced him and we haven't seen him since. Now she just carries around an imaginary "Whyming" which she shows me every morning.

8. Steve used her love of Whyming to try and teach her about being nice and gentle. When she threw Whyming he told her that Whyming got hurt. So she spent the next several days doing pennance for her mistreatment of Whyming. "What are you doing?" I asked her. She replied, "I'm reading Whyming a story. He has an owie. I just throw him in my bed."

9. She likes to talk to Henry and try and keep him happy by screeching at him in a high pitched voice things like, "Are you so tiny?" And "Mama will be there in just a minute, Henery." And she always says it like that, with an extra syllable in the middle.

10. She loves to dress up just like her big sister. And they've been playing wedding lately. Like last week when I said, "You look fancy. Where are you going?" She told me, "I'm getting married." If only she new that it's going to be at least 39 years before I let her do that.

11. Her conversations with Ellie are pretty funny. They have a monitor in their room with the parent unit in ours. You can talk from the parent one to the kid one like a Walkie-Talkie. I showed her how to do it and she was talking to Ellie:
         Olivia: "Your'e so silly."
         Ellie: "No, you're so silly."
         Olivia: "You're right, Ellie. I am so silly."

12. She is still a little snuggle bug. She doesn't get snuggled quite as much now that she has been usurped as the baby of the family. But when she gets her chance she wants to be held and cuddled and rocked. And she sinks down into your arms like it's the best place in the world, asking repeatedly, "Can you squeeze me again."

There is so much about her sweetness that is impossible to describe. It's in her lithe body hopping along everywhere she goes. It's in that untamable hair that is always floating about her head like a halo. It's in her insistence on wearing her Silver Sparklies all the time. It's in the way she cries when daddy is packing the car because she doesn't want him to leave without her. It's in her cheesy smile when she thinks you're taking a picture, or her genuine look of happiness when she is all wrapped up in someone's arms. She is silly. She is serious. She is smart. She is ridiculously adorable. I wish I could bottle up all the cuteness and keep it forever. I know this age will pass all too quickly. But I have a feeling the adorableness will stick around.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The One With the Whole Wheat Strawberry Scones

We went strawberry-picking last week at Columbia Farms on Sauvie Island. It was our first time, but it won't be our last. It was so much fun! The girls were actually very helpful and picked lots of strawberries for their buckets. Of course, Olivia ate all of hers before they made it very far. But we were still able to bring home plenty to make homemade jam (yummy!), dice and eat with Greek yogurt and granola (our favorite breakfast these days), freeze some for future ice cream creations, and use some in our Whole Wheat Strawberry Scones that we made Steve for Father's Day brunch. And by "we" I mean that I made these scones all by myself. Sometimes Ellie likes to help in the kitchen. On Sunday, however, she did not.

We brought home a flat (about 10 pounds) of the Hood strawberries, which are deliciously sweet all by themselves, making them just ideal for baking as they don't require the addition of a lot of sugar. I modified my old faithful scone recipe to use whole wheat, turbinado (or raw) sugar, vanilla Greek yogurt, and, of course, these lovely berries. It turned out so well that we ate the whole batch in one sitting. And I thought I'd share it with you.

Whole Wheat Strawberry Scones

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1/2 cup strawberries diced for the puree, + 1/2 cup strawberries diced small to add at the end
1/2 cup vanilla Greek Yogurt*
3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup turbinado sugar**
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold
1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Grease a baking sheet and set aside.

Place 1/2 cup diced strawberries in a food processor and chop until a chunky puree. Combine puree with vanilla Greek yogurt. Stir in water, olive oil and 2 teaspoons baking powder and set aside.

In a separate bowl, use a fork to sift together flour, sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use a cheese grater to grate the butter into the flour mixture and then use a fork, a pastry blender or your fingers to combine the butter and flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal.

Use a fork to stir in the strawberry and yogurt puree. Stir in diced strawberries. Once combined, shape the dough into 2 1/2-inch balls and then roll them flat (until they are a 1/2 inch thick) on a floured surface. (Or you can cut them into triangles as shown here.) Sprinkle with a light dusting of sugar and bake for 8-10 minutes.

These are pretty wonderful served with butter, and if you're feeling really exciting, strawberry jam. That's how Steve liked them. As you can see, we have a great affinity for all things strawberry in this house.

* You could substitute plain yogurt for vanilla, but if you do, add 2 teaspoons vanilla and use 1/3 cup turbinado sugar instead of 1/4 cup.
**You can substitute turbinado sugar for raw or refined, whichever you prefer.

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