Sunday, November 18, 2012

Real life is not scripted.  True love is not planned.

That's what she's taught me.  Every day.  Ever since I found out about her being along for the ride.  The time at which she decided she was ready to arrive.  Her newborn days.  Her learning and growing. 

My sweet honeymoon baby.

We'd been married less than two weeks.  It was so fast.  Neither one of us expected it to happen so quickly.  I think everyone else did. 

I'd never been so scared in my life.  I was going to bring a life into the word.  Me.  I was barely a wife, totally unprepared.  For weeks, I was terrified.  I worried of failing the baby, of not being a good mother.  Eventually the fear dissipated, and I was so excited. 

She took four days to come, despite the long labor.  The night before her arrival, I stayed in my dark bedroom, praying she would come soon.  Crying.  Yes, the fear was definitely gone now. 

After hours of labor and many tears, she finally was laid in my arms.  And that memory is forever blazoned in my mind.  Everything and everyone fell away.  There was only my sweet daughter and me. 

"Elizabeth Marie.  That is what we will call you.  And I shall love you everyday.  I promise to try to be a good mother to you, because you deserve the best.  I promise I'll never let you feel worthless.  Because you are beautiful.  And I will do my best to make you feel that way everyday.  I love you."

I spoke the words to her, sobbing.  Because as a chapter of expectancy and advent closed, another one opened previously uncharted for me.  Of hard work.  Gut wrenching emotion.  Constantly going. 

She would scream for at least eight hours everday.  Screaming the likes of which I'd never heard.  My emotions were intense.  I had no idea what to do with this tiny life that seemed so miserable.  Colic, my mother said.  Oh, colic. 

But, we prevailed.  And we bonded.  She was my first tiny love, my trial-by-fire introduction to motherhood.  As I learned to navigate the waters of parenthood, my sweet one learned how to live.  To roll over . Crawl.  Walk.  Talk.

Through her first cries, her first fever, her first tooth, I soothed her through her pain.  Patted her back, held her close.  And she learned to love back. 

She was so tiny once.  Yet, tonight, I held her head in my arms because that's all that fits these days, and watched her sleep.  Her lips move slightly.  Her chest heave through gentle breathing.  Her curls awash on the pillow. 

She's so big. 

"Mommy.  I love you!"  She told me that today, and leaned in and gave me a kiss.  And threw herself into my arms. 

My sweet Elizabeth, you turn three tomorrow.  We have learned so much together.  Seen each other through a lot.  Learned the ropes of life, watched each other grow.  We survived a deployment.  You and me. 

My battle buddy. 

So, I make the same promise to you today, as I did three years ago:

I promise to always love you.  And to make sure I will always try so hard to show you how much you are loved.  You are so beautiful.  Inside and out.  Never forget that.  It is because of that that you deserve the stars and the moon.  Always demand it.  God loves you.  Daddy loves you.  And Mommy loves you.  With all my heart.

Life is not scripted.  It happens when we least expect it.  And through that sudden surprise, comes the realization: Love--true love--is not planned.  No.  It is beautiful.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Made-From-Scratch (for real) Pumpkin Pie

It's that time of year again that I LOVE!!!  Fall--Halloween, Thanksgiving--and the days leading up to the kick of the Holidays (though, the "Holidays" for me start at the kickoff of the first College football game.  Go ahead. Laugh.  It's okay.)

So a few years ago, right before my eldest daughter turned one, I decided to make a real Pumpkin Pie.  I wanted to really use every part of our Halloween pumpkins that weren't carved (therefore not all buggy).  I *love* roasted pumpkin seeds, but hated the idea of throwing away a perfectly good pumpkin.  I felt a challenge.  So I did my homework.

I spent some time researching how to do a homemade pumpkin pie.  Although that Fall the research was hard to come by, making a real pie wasn't as hard as I had thought.  So, I took the recipe found on a website and made it.  This year, I did it again, and tweaked the recipe.  And I'm going to share them.

Make it.  Trust me when I say you won't regret it!

So, the first year,  I used a carving pumpkin.  This year, I used some baking pumpkins, because supposedly they're sweeter.  I think you can use either.  I also reconfigured some ingredients and measurements and it was *so* much better this year.  

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I wanted to share my recipe with you.  Makes me want to write a cookbook.

Baking pumpkins (one will give about 3 cups of smashed pumpkin, which will make either two shallow pies, or one deep dish pie.)

Dutch oven with steamer basket

Potato masher

Ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves (you can use pumpkin pie spice, but using separate ingredients like this will up the Wow Factor.  Trust me.)


Sugar, salt, eggs, evaporated milk

Brandy extract (Yes--this is the Epic Ingredient.  Trust me.)

So, I cut up the pumpkins, (the spiders are my shout-out for Halloween...because this was supposed to go up sooner...yeah, oops.)  cut out the seeds (roast them--you'll thank me for that, too!), and then I took pictures of my pretty, hollow pumpkins.

Cut them up, leaving the rinds on, like you are going to make mashed potatoes.  Put them in your steamer basket and fill the dutch oven with water underneath.  Cover and bring to a boil.

Let them boil until they are easy to pierce with a fork, once again like mashed potatoes.  Mine took about an hour and a half (but, I had a lot of pumpkin and had to split it into two batches).

When they are done, scoop the pumpkin off the rinds with a metal spoon or ice cream scoop. 

Mash with a potato masher.  If you are lucky, you have cute and happy helper to assist with the mashing.  After this, you can either split it up into three-cup batches and freeze, or continue with the recipe.  Told you it was easy.  And totally makes you feel all awesome and Pioneer-ish.

(So these instructions are for one shallow dish pie.  If you want to make a deep dish, double the recipe.  I just prefer shallow.  Not that I am shallow...anyway, moving on.)

1 and 1/2 cups of mashed pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1 (can be heaping) teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 rounded teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt (I don't use any, so this is totally optional)
1/4 (slightly heaping) teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 (again, can be slightly heaping) ground cloves
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon Brandy extract
Graham cracker pie crust (makes it taste so awesome)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Mix pie ingredients in mixer, adding in order listed above.  Bake 15 minutes (less if you are using a pre-made crust--more like five to ten minutes), then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (I start checking at 35 to 40 minutes).  Cool completely.

Enjoy.  And Happy Thanksgiving!!!

(A special thanks to my husband for helping prep the pumpkin and doing the majority of the clean up, because he's awesome like that, and to my mom who helped configure measurements in exchange for being part of the taste-test crew.)  

Leave a comment if you end up making it--I'd love to hear how it turned out! 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

I get it.  I am a minority. 

Especially in my generation.

I fell in love with my husband, realized he was going to aid me in being a better person, and...we married.  We didn't move in together.  We didn't date for years.  The "furthest" we went were sweet kisses shared before saying good night.  We walked down the aisle and, hand in hand, we stood before God and were married.  Period.

And three weeks later, found out we were expecting.  Honeymoon baby. She was born, and a few months later, we were pregnant again.  We lost our sweet baby, but the following year, we were pregnant again.  We have two daughters.  We've been married three years. 

I understand that others make very different decisions than us.  I'm not going to take that on here.  It's not my place.  I just know that my husband and I made the decisions that were right for us.  And that's all I have time to worry about--is us.  I don't make comments about those decisions others.  Because they are leading their lives.  They are responsible for their decisions.  I'm responsible for mine.

"Just make her walk!  Put her down and make her walk!"  The doctor was indeed telling me to force my less-than-one year old to walk so my carpal tunnel would heal.  "Once you are done holding her, it will heal." 

"I want more."  She stared at me, mouth open wide.  Then pretended not to hear. 

Another doctor last week: "You want more?!  How does your husband feel about that?!"


Less than a week before my husband deployed two years ago, a woman was lecturing me in the pharmacy as I waited to pick up medicine for my sick daughter: "Oh!  You don't want more!  I just got rid of my only child--she's moved out.  I'm so done!  Time for me.  Don't get pregnant before your husband's just more stress.  Just stick with one--you don't want a big family.  Trust me." 

Little did either of us know, but there was a tiny one already along for the ride. 

 I am constantly asked if I am done with the two girls, or if I am trying for a boy.  Trying for a boy?!  What in heaven's name is wrong with my girls.  They are so beautiful and such a treasure!  So many in my age bracket are putting off having children for years, and I am sad at the immense joy they are avoiding.  The decision is theirs, but children are so wonderful

Why is it that people are so shocked that I want more than two children?  A big family?  Why is this so shocking?  I keep thinking I'll get to the point with my two that I'll see why others stopped.  I haven't.  I find my children addicting.  So many kisses, hugs, funny comments.  So many lessons to teach, days to fill. So much love to give. 

Yes, there are days where I think I am going to rip my hair out.  Where I feel victorious that we all made it through the day.  But the days where I feel a joy grip my heart and manifests itself in a silent squeal because of my babies--those far outnumber the bad days.  Sure, I have five minute showers, and some days don't get make up on till the afternoon nap.  Yeah, I do not have nearly the time for myself as I used to.  Yes, life has dealt us blows and challenges I prayed I'd never face.  But when I look into the china-like faces of my daughters, when they ask for more hugs to stall bedtime, when they tell me I look "purdy" when I feel quite the opposite--these are the moments I live for

Yes, I choose to make different decisions regarding my family planning.  I don't put off tomorrow what can get done today, but it's so worth it. 

I sometimes have a hard time recalling the song to which my husband and I shared our first dance.  But, it's that last song, as the bubbles drifted around us from our guests, that comes back to me so quickly. 

"I had a good life
Before you came
I had my friends and my freedom
I had my name
Still there was sorrow and emptiness
'Til you made me glad
Oh, in this love I found strength I never knew I had"

Freedom.  That's it.  Most define Freedom so differently than I.  Freedom from responsibility, from people needing you, from constantly living for other people, free to take care of yourself.  All the time.  I smile--that's not my freedom.  I am free to love, to grow a family, add more hearts and souls and feet and hands to my family.  Free to spend a Saturday morning in the bed with my darling children, while they crawl all over us as we rise from our coma-like state.  Free to give more hugs and kisses, more laughs and joy.  

I am free.

And from that freedom, I garner strength.  To face those blows and challenges I never thought I'd have the courage to face.  

"And this love
Is like nothing I have ever known
Take my hand, love
I'm taking you home....
Where we can be with the ones who really care
Home, where we can grow together
Keep you in my heart forever "

Yes, I want more children--a big family.  What, really, is so wrong about that?  Because, I have found that the more I "chain myself" with the responsibility of family, the more free I truly am.   

Taking You Home, copyright Don Henley