33 Weeks and Counting

I can finally breathe again; let out the sigh of relief I’ve been holding onto for months. I can live days without fear but rather with joy and great anticipation. I can plan for you, like really plan. We set up your room, painted your walls, reassembled your crib. We’ve discussed names and I think we’ve decided. I even bought your coming home outfit. You see, for awhile there I was too afraid to plan. Afraid of the unknown, afraid of the other 50%, afraid that it would happen just like they said it would. So now, now that we are here, I am so incredibly thankful to finally feel safe. 

I’m 33 weeks, in the home stretch and although there is still a small hematoma nestled in near you, it has drastically shrunk in size over the last 18 weeks and the hemorrhaging has stopped. Bedrest has been lifted and with permission from our doctor you now join me on runs and laps in the pool. I think you like our little workouts. I know I love them. Slow as they may be at times, they lull you to sleep. My three wonderful miles of pounding feet on the pavement (or treadmill) each morning is a rhythmic ride for you and our laps in the pool, those are the best. My calves don’t scream at me due to their atrophied stated after 15 weeks of bedrest like they do when we run. I feel light in the water despite my extra poundage and as we slowly glide through our one mile weekend swim you calm down. The water soothes you the same way it does my aching body. And as soon as our workouts are done you perk back up again. Every single time, jumping, twisting, turning, reminding me you’re still there, as if I could ever forget. We have to take a few precautions still. We continue to monitor your growth and blood supply to make sure that pesky invader isn’t taking too much from you, but I can finally breathe again and I think you can tell things are now different.

33 weeks plus 1 day, 3 (very sweaty, but very happy) miles

But I will never forget that night. It was the worst in all my life. I will never shake the images of all that blood. I will never forget the gripping fear that took hold of me or the way all of life seemed to rush out of my body when they said I was losing you. I will never forget seeing your dad for the first time after they broke the news to me and before any hope had been restored. I will never forget asking him over and over again “why?”

I don’t believe every why has an answer. But perhaps this one does. Perhaps he needed to bring me to my knees, to fill me with fear only to remind me that I am nothing without him. I am not in control and my blessings are not owed to me, but rather gifts from him. Maybe he needed me to take pause. To stop running full speed ahead trying desperately to keep up and get it all done, to always do more. Maybe he wanted me to appreciate all I have right here and right now, even in all of its imperfections. Maybe he thought I’d forgotten all this in the hustle and bustle and the stress and chaos of every day life and overpacked schedules. And maybe I had.  

You are the strong one. You are the one who held on and fought. You are the one who said screw those odds and persevered. You were my strength. Out of my three babies you have been the most lively. And I was so grateful for your energetic personality in those dark days. Your kicks and rolls and jabs reminded me day after day that you were still there, still fighting, still thriving. You reminded me in my overwhelming fear to not give up hope, because you sure as hell weren’t. You’ve been fighting like hell and have proved those doctors and that one nurse so very wrong.

I joined a group of other moms going through the same thing. I’ve listened to their stories and seen their pictures. I’ve cried and had to turn away from images of too many angels born too early; perfect in every way, but defeated by this monster. I’ve rejoiced in the happy endings; of babies born full term and preemies thriving in NICUs. I’ve found hope and courage in their successes and prayed endlessly that our story will be the same.

But you and I kid, we had nothing but 50/50 odds and him. No doctors that could intervene or make a difference at that point, no semblance of control on my end. It was a waiting game and I didn’t want to play. And at the end of it all, we only had him. Maybe he just needed me to remember that. To remind me that I was in need of humility and grace. To shake me to my core so that I had no where to run and nothing to turn to but him and my faith. 

Knowing my future odds and chances of a similar situation or even a worse outcome, I sometimes wonder if I could do it all again down the road. If I’m emotionally strong enough. But that’s not a question I need to answer now. Perhaps I’m not even the one who should be answering that question at all. But I do know one thing, I would go through these last few months again. I would relive that night, feel that fear, have those images and moments seared upon my brain. I would sit aimlessly for weeks, worry day after day. I’d do it all again without hesitation or question to get me to you. It will all be worth it. And you and I kid, we will be better because of it. I cannot wait to meet you, to know you, to hold you, to love you, to be your mom and to never take you for granted. Less than seven weeks to go, sweet girl. 


Mother’s Day

Every year leading up to Mother’s Day, my husband asks me how I want to spend the day. My answer usually involves some combination of family time, the outdoors, a good meal (or two) and a fun drink (or three). And, a run of some kind.  Whether it’s a family run in North Park – with the two of us racing strollers up and around the hilly, five mile loop, trying to convince our restless passengers that we’ll stop at the next (and better!) playground – or a long solo excursion through Shadyside and Squirrel Hill, just me and my thoughts and Pittsburgh’s uneven sidewalks, the run is always a priority – something we schedule the rest of the day around.

This year the question came and my answer was pathetic: “I don’t know. Whatever.” I sat in a pile of self-pity, counting the things I wanted to do, but couldn’t.

This has happened from time to time over the last six weeks. I’ve wavered mainly between gratitude and fear, but occasionally self-pity has crept in and left me feeling ashamed.

I would be lying if I said this hasn’t been a struggle. A large portion of my identity is wrapped up in being active. I love pushing my kids on the swings, and planting vegetables in our garden. I love coaching my daughter’s soccer team, and going to barre classes. I love swimming and tennis and skiing. I love planks and pushups. And I really love my runs, even the hard ones. I love the routine and consistency they create in my life. I’ve come to depend on them. I love when I power through on a day I feel off. I love how even a few miles can sometimes feel like a physical triumph.  And I especially love when everything clicks and the distance flies by; three miles suddenly become six or seven or eight, and the runner’s high is real.

Over the years – and particularly as a mom – my runs have become a way of life, my form of stress relief and prevention, of maintaining health and energy, of getting from one day to the next. They’ve become such a part of me that I’ve been feeling a bit lost without them.


In my second year of grad school, as I worked towards my masters of science, I was tasked with creating a health promotion program for the City of Pittsburgh Paramedics; the 150 men and women who respond to over 56,000 emergency and medical calls a year. Over the course of two semesters I wrote out a plan and explained the benefits of physical activity and the vast health risks and diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle. I told them that physical inactivity kills more people than smoking. That being active and healthy is the key to injury prevention and safety in their high stress and often unpredictable job. I provided detailed statistics and dose response curves to prove my points. Through the development of online courses and in-person sessions, I provided our participants with the knowledge, support and tools needed to make specific lifestyle changes both on the job and at home to help them prevent musculoskeletal injuries and save the City millions of dollars in workers compensation and other costs. I spent eight months doing this; researching, writing, creating and finally presenting. Now they have my plan, and paramedics all across the City are (hopefully) out there following it. But I’m on the couch, just sitting here.     

It drives me crazy. It goes against everything inside of me because I measure my days in miles. In my planner, before the start of each month there is a full page layout of the days ahead. Thirty-or-so squares that I use only to track my miles. From speed work to intervals to long runs and various cross-training, I can add up my total and judge my week based on that number.

Since April 8th, every single box is blank. 40 empty squares.  And it frustrates and annoys and physically pains me. It pains me to only be able to watch as my husband chases after the kids outside. To listen to his pounding footsteps on the treadmill each and every night. And, most irritatingly, to give up my bib a few weeks back and stand on the sidelines of the Marathon. I was so proud and excited to cheer on my husband in his first half-marathon and my daughter in her first little road race, but I couldn’t help to feel a little race day envy with each passing runner, and more and more self-pity.

An unattractive emotion, I know. 

So last week, as Mother’s Day neared, I knew I had to once and for all shake off this self-pity and return to, and focus on, the overwhelming good in my state and in my life.

No, I can’t measure my days in miles right now, but I can measure them in kicks. Kicks that I alone have the privilege of feeling. Kicks that I thought were being taken away from me, but continue and strengthen day after day and cause me to pause: hello little one, I feel you in there, keep growing and fighting, I love you so much, I want you so much. With every roll and flip and bounce within me, I am reminded that there is no place for self-pity in me. Just a little passenger and a ton of gratitude. Because every morning that I feel a kick means I am one day closer to viability, the baby is one day closer to my arms, and we are one day closer to our Easter Sunday. 

On Mother’s Day I embraced the inaction. I sat on my in-laws’ porch, and took time to reflect on the beauty, difficulty, and wonder of motherhood and the many inspiring mothers who have touched my life. I thought of their sacrifice, through pregnancy and childbirth and years of sleepless nights. I thought of their devotion to their children’s wants and needs and their elevation of others above themselves. I thought of all the struggles they endured, both openly and silently. 

I am not alone in my fear and doubt and pain. Far from it. So many women have been there before me, and are there right now. Pregnant women with similar diagnoses, begging their bodies not to betray them. New mothers nursing throughout the night, anxious about the morning. Mothers (like the ones we saw at Children’s Hospital a few years ago) caring for gravely ill children. Mothers coping with unimaginable loss. 

As I sat there on Sunday, I thought, in particular, about a few of those mothers. Particularly Mary – who, in the face of great power and uncertainty, simply said “yes,” and set the ultimate example of love, faith and sacrifice. She knew there would be terrible heartache, but she believed in a plan far greater than her and her fears. 

Later, I wound my way to my own mother. A woman who has sacrificed so much to raise six children, but would never let you know the price. She loves being a mother; it’s who she is; it’s her great joy. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy or simple. I’m sure there were many difficult days we never knew about. Fears and heartaches that she never shared with us. But she has always trusted in God, and focused on the blessing of motherhood. The daily stresses and nightly tears are the small price for a much greater gift.

Finally, I thought about all the mothers who would give anything to be in my state, with hope still remaining. And with that, the self-pity dissolved, and I felt ashamed that it ever existed. 

This is not my ideal situation and this is not the exact pregnancy I had imagined and yearned for, but even so I am beyond lucky and immensely blessed. There are so many women who struggle with conception and who are desperate to have children of their own. I know their heartache is all encompassing and fierce. When I think of the millions of things that must go perfectly even before conception, through implantation and the various stages of development, it only proves that each healthy pregnancy and healthy baby is nothing short of a true miracle and a gift from God. There are so many opportunities for error, for heartache, for loss. The creation of each little life is beyond complex; it’s a miraculous biological process that requires the precision of millions of intricate steps.

These months are just months. The empty boxes in my calendar are just spaces on paper. They are fleeting blips on the radar of my lifetime. The child within in me is far more wanted and more important than any discomfort or frustration I may face. Mothers have been there before me. Mothers will be here again.

Someday, I will put on my running shoes again. But I keep reminding myself, that day can wait, because I have only so much time with this little one inside me and I refuse to wish it away.

So for now, I will measure my days in kicks. I will take comfort in them. I will be grateful for them.  I will cherish them. And with prayers of thanksgiving on my lips and a heart full of trust, I will embrace my current state. When it comes down to it, there isn’t anything a mother wouldn’t sacrifice for her children. This may not have been the pregnancy I wanted, but it is the gift I’ve been given, and it is worth far more than a few months of disruption, uncertainty, and sitting. I will take it, and I will learn to love it. Because that is what I – and all mothers – are called to do. To give their bodies and hearts and souls to the little lives created within them. To say “yes” and then to have faith.

Cindy and Laura

My Holy Saturday

I haven’t blogged in awhile and honestly wasn’t planning on doing so. But for the last 12 days I’ve been left mostly sitting with my thoughts and fears swirling aimlessly in my head. And right now my youngest is at preschool. A two hour period that use to be my dedicated running time. A time I loved and cherished. But I am no longer allowed to run or do any other form of exercise. So instead I just need to write, even though I’m unsure I’ll ever share it. For now, this is really just an attempt at my own personal form of therapy. A way to unload and process. A step forward. 

The story really starts many months back. You see, my life has generally been pretty good. Things have mostly come easily for me and the plans I set have somehow always found a way. Sure, I’ve had my ups and downs and disappointments the same as everyone. But I cannot deny how immensely blessed I am. But last year things stopped coming so easily. At first I felt disappointed, but still hopeful. But the more time that passed, the more worried I became. Maybe my plans wouldn’t actually work out. Maybe my life wouldn’t play out the way I had always imagined. I prayed endlessly and lit candle after candle. But still I found nothing but silence. Then one day in December three happy announcements all came in on the exact same day I received yet another heart-wrenching no. I sat upstairs in the bathroom of my childhood home, hot, desperate tears pouring down my face. I didn’t understand. I hit my rock bottom, or so I thought.

Only about a week later I found an answer. Not exactly the answer I wanted, but at least the silence was broken. God yelled down to me in his own way “Do you still not understand? Is your heart hardened? Do your eyes fail to see? Do your ears fail to hear? Do you not remember?” He was telling me simply to have faith. To let go and to trust in his plan. (You can read more about this part of the story here on the Faith.ND site). So I did. I let go. I learned again to have faith, to trust, to be still. And as if all along God had just wanted to teach me a lesson, two weeks later I got my yes.

So all seemed well. I was beyond ecstatic. I went to bed every night with prayers of thanksgiving and woke every morning with a grateful heart and an uncontrollable smile. I embraced the discomfort that was bound to accompany my yes and I refused to rush through any of it. I wanted to enjoy it, every last minute of it.

Then the Friday before Easter week began, my world came crashing down around me. In a split second I went from perfectly fine to horribly not. Sitting in the emergency room, my worst nightmare and greatest fear began to play out. At one point I was told it was over, hope was lost. The hot, desperate tears returned and I found my true rock bottom in the form of pain and heartache that accompanies your greatest nightmare. I just remember laying there saying “no” over and over again as if not believing it would make it not so. Nurses came in a flurry and rush around me poking and prodding me. I was asked for my preference on where to start my IV and which finger to prick and I just didn’t care. Didn’t even understand why they were asking. Just do what you need to do. The pain in my heart was spreading so far and deep through my body. I didn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. I sat there and bargained with God. I promised him if he would intervene I would be a better person, a better mother. I swear, I promise, just please. Please, please, please.

A short while later we were given a sliver of hope. We were told to be “cautiously optimistic.” I grabbed that optimism and held on with all my might refusing to let it go. Feeling slowly began to re-enter my body. My heart calmed slightly. It wasn’t over yet. We were in the emergency room for a few more hours, waiting for answers, desperate to know. We left that night with an unclear picture. We were told over and over again just to take it “one day at a time,” to “wait and see,” to “hope.” And as unsatisfying as that was, it was far better than what we had first been told.

The next day I felt raw. My fears and worries produced a sleepless night of tossing and turning and nightmares of blood; images I tried to suppress but kept surfacing and replaying in my mind in the darkest hours of night. I was left both physically and emotionally exhausted. I had to wait until Monday for a follow up appointment and hopefully more answers. I spent most of that weekend in bed, trying to distract myself with work and prepare myself mentally for the worst.

Each advent and lent my sisters and my mom and I do a book club. We read a book related to the season and break it up by chapters for each of us to reflect on in an email. This season I had not kept up with my readings. I had started off strong and fallen off after my reflection had come and gone. So in my waiting, I pulled out my book. I had promised God in the emergency room I would be a better person and mother and I might as well start here. Each page I read seemed like it was written specifically for me for this specific moment in my life:

“Jesus says “I will not leave you desolate: I will come to you”…the fear and grief that comes with not wanting to lose the one they loved most has them struggling to understand. Often times we worry about future events because we fear loss, pain, or the unknown. It is in times such as this that we must remember what Jesus said: he is with us now, and he will be there in the future, in our pain, problems and struggles…say “Jesus I trust you,” and let it go.”

That week was spent restlessly sitting around and trying to finish as much work as possible as graduation was and is quickly approaching. I was told to be “sedentary.” Yet life with a 3 year old and 5 year old doesn’t make that very realistic. My husband, being the wonderful man and father he is, jumped in and took on many roles. He works long, hard days and hurries to get home to help make dinner, drive to soccer practice and handle bath time. He’s taken on the laundry and runs errands at 9 pm at night. He gets up night after night with our three year old who still refuses to sleep. I hate not being able to do more, to jump in, to offer help. But he has done this every day, happily and with no complaints. The days are long though and our youngest doesn’t understand why I can’t lift him to go potty or wash his hands or get him in the car. He doesn’t understand why I am not taking him to the park and running around. Why we aren’t going on our regular runs in the morning and stopping at the playground to play. Why I can’t go to the store and lift him into the cart. I’ve pleaded with him and tried my best to explain, but some days are harder than others.

More doctor appointments came and went with the same results. Everything is still the same. Nothing has gotten worse. Remain “sedentary” and just take it “one day at a time,” we’ll “wait and see” and “hope.”

On Good Friday I sat in the pew at church, prayers pouring from me. On that same day many years ago, Jesus picked up his cross and carried it. He too had prayed that this cup would pass from him, but followed that prayer with a prayer for his Father’s will to be done. I knew this was my cross. That I have no choice but to pick it up; that I most likely will have to, and in all seriousness will be lucky do to so, carry it for 24 more weeks. Sitting there though, I struggled with praying that God’s will will be done. I prayed more that his will would be the same as my hopes and prayers. I lacked faith in that moment. But I just couldn’t bring myself to that point, to pray for something beyond the best possible outcome.

On Holy Saturday my sister sent me an article. It was about the meaning of that day. Of the world being in waiting; how most of our days are times of waiting. And how we as Christians should wait – not in despair, not in passivity, but rather in hope. This situation is my Holy Saturday and I will most likely live perpetually in Holy Saturday. I will be in waiting for months to come for my own personal Easter, but I’m choosing to wait in hope. I found some peace that day. For the first time in over a week my fear was turning to trust and faith. My mind still worries, but my heart has been learning once again to believe that God knows what he is doing, that he will not leave me, that he has a plan. I’m waiting in hope and finding some peace in that form of waiting.

I do not know what this outcome will be. I pray and beg for good results and believe deep down inside of me that all will be well in the end. Despite how much I hate sitting around and no longer living the life I once knew, I will give up running and moving and being the person I am to get us closer to a happy ending. Each new day is met with thanksgiving, for truly nothing is a guarantee. In my prayers, before I begin asking God to help us and to fix things, I try first to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. Thank you for getting us this far. Thank you for allowing us one more day. Thank you for not letting our story play out that night in the horrible way we thought it would. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Each day also brings a little more hope. We made it one more day. We can make it another. I imagine there are still some ups and downs to come, but I will remain in hopeful waiting, working on trusting and believing in God’s plan for us all; believing my Easter morning will arrive at the end of this long journey. That God will help me carry my cross. That Holy Saturday will come to an end eventually and we will rejoice in the break of a new day many months from now.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 is my mantra these days. I believe God has plans for our little one. Plans to not harm, but to give him/her hope and a future. So for now I will carry this cross. I will wait in hope and live in Holy Saturday so that those plans to not harm but to prosper may be done according to God’s will. And so that future, our future, can be one for a family of five.

(Image taken from cottoncastlekids.com)

Coming Back for a Thousand Thank Yous

A few weeks ago I knew something was wrong. There was that cry. I knew that cry. I’d heard it before. The high pitch, the panic, the desperation. My body immediately reacted – searching, calculating, trying to find the source of the problem. I furiously went through a list in my head, and marked off all the possibilities. Teeth. Temperature. Ears. A little pinch somewhere. But nothing made sense. What was I missing? Everything seemed fine.

Then I saw it. Swollen and blue.

And so began the calls, the conversations. Both doctor grandfathers agreed. An appointment with the pediatrician confirmed. There was no way around it, surgery was a must.

I tried not to worry. My brain knew the truth, everything would be fine, there was nothing to worry about. It would be simple. Routine. Easy. But my heart ached and my nerves fired and panic rose from deep within me. He’s only 7 months old. He’s too little. Too helpless. He can’t tell them what’s wrong, or what hurts, or that he needs his Mommy.

There was an appointment with the surgeon. She explained the surgery in great detail: where the incision would be, where the scope would go, how the stitches would repair. It would all go down on Wednesday. This Wednesday. Just two days away.

At 5:30 am the day of, my alarm blared. I was already awake. Anxious. After waiting as long as I could, I delicately pulled him from his crib, and his peaceful slumber. “Shhh…. Mommy’s here.” He looked at me and smiled. My heart melted.

Half an hour later, we were at Children’s Hospital.

And now, one day after a successful surgery, I have 1,000 thank yous to share.

Thank you to the scheduler who gave us the first appointment of the day so our sweet little boy didn’t have to stay hungry for longer than necessary. Thank you to the nurse who brought us his hospital gown and told us over and over again just how cute he really is. Thank you to the anesthesiologist fellow who explained how the drugs would be administered, and what a caudal is, and why he would react a certain way and that it was all perfectly normal. Thank you to every nurse and aid who came by and took his vitals. Thank for explaining everything in detail and always asking if we had any questions.

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Thank you to Dr. Eaton for listening to my concerns, for allowing me to carry him to the operating room and stay with him until he was asleep. Thank you for letting me be there to hold his hand and rub his head and assure him that it was going to be just fine. Thank you for letting me give him one last kiss as he drifted off to sleep. Thank you also for this super awesome outfit.

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Thank you to the aid in the waiting room who showed me where to pump. Thank you to the hospital for planning for the needs of nursing mothers. Thank you to the third floor cafeteria for a much needed coffee boost.

Thank you to Dr. Gaines for your kindness and skills. Thank you for fixing my baby and returning him to me, albeit with many more stitches but with one less hole. Thank you for coming straight to the waiting room and telling us it all went well. Thank you for explaining the procedure and the aftermath with so much clarity and empathy.

Thank you to the recovery nurse for holding my sweet boy while he woke and for calling us back immediately. Thank you for wrapping him in a warm blanket and placing pillows under my arm while I held him. Thank you for your kindness, your compassion and your sweet words.

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Thank you to the recovery phase II nurse who brought me water and sent pink and orange Band-aids and Doc McStuffins stickers home for Big Sister. Thank you for making sure he was nursing well and keeping liquids down. Thank you for checking on him and on us over and over again.

Thank you to the nurse who called today to check in.

Thank you to every person we encountered that day. Thank you for your understanding, your transparency, your gentle touches, your smiles. Thank you for answering a million questions, for easing our worries. You all held my heart that day. You had it wide open on an operating table. Ours probably seemed like a minor, even mundane, event to you – and, in comparison to the procedures and illness facing some of the other families that morning, it likely was. But to us, to our family, to our world, it was everything. Thank you for recognizing that, and making it, and us so important. Thank you for taking a minor surgery and treating it like it was major.

Thank you to Opa for sitting with us and answering our questions. Thank you to Nana for taking such wonderful care of Lyla. Thank you to all of our family and friends for your prayers and encouragement. And to one very good friend who had been there and done that and validated all my feelings.

Thank you to my husband for letting me cry when I needed to and for holding my hand as we waited. Thank you for being my rock when I was unsure.

And thank you most of all to my sweet little boy for being so brave and so wonderful, and returning to me all better.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, I pray I never have to see you again, but if I do, at least I know we’ll be in the very best of hands.



Ranting Tuesday

I am shy. Painfully shy. Always have been; probably always will be.  When I was little, it was a “problem”; something I had to “work on.” So I tried. And I tried. But quiet was always safe. And polite was always comfortable. It was (and remains) easier – much easier – to hide behind my books; to stand back; smiling (or sometimes not), but (mostly) quiet and reserved.

Me at a very young age. Too shy to even smile.

To me, any conversation could lead to confrontation. And I hate (underline, hate) confrontation – even when it’s only imagined. I simply don’t want to offend or slight or anger anyone.  Ever.  When I do (or when I think I do), my worry and guilt overcome me, weighing so heavily that it becomes a physical pain. I find myself replaying the situation over and over again in my head, agonizing every little word and sigh and sound.

When I need something, or want some help, I try to ask in the most delicate way possible, reassuring whoever it is that, “Really, it’s not a big deal. If you can’t do it, do NOT worry. You really don’t have to. I’m sure I can do it myself. I promise no bad feelings! Here are 5 reasons why you really don’t have to! Please, feel free to say no!”  Because – you know – asking someone for a favor is pretty offensive stuff. Or so I seem to think.

My shyness – and hesitance to speak – can be so bad that even when something is bothering me, or worse, actually physically hurting me, I still keep quiet. For example, when I get my hair cut and the hair dresser washes my hair and asks if the water is too hot, I always say no. Even if it’s scalding my brain. Because, again, if you tell the lady that she accidentally turned the knob too far, or that my scalp is a little sensitive, she’ll probably hate me. Or slap me. Or turn the knob even further to the right.

Hell, when I was 17+ hours into labor, a labor in which the epidural “did not take” (what the hell, how does that happen?!) I was too nervous to tell the nurse that I was in pain and instead, tried to carry on a polite conversation with my doctor, mid-contraction. “Yes, it does hurt a little bit, but please, don’t worry. Are you feeling okay?…”

It’s so bad that when my husband and I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I saw myself in the guy running for his life. Despite knowing that (spoiler alert!) Stellan Skarsgard is the murderer, Daniel Craig – not wanting to tip his hand, or turn down a drink, or, most importantly, offend the psychopath –  somehow says yes when asked if he wants to come in, alone, to the crazy person’s torture palace.  Not to get too weird, but I would be that person.  Better to accept the invitation, and keep my mouth shut, than to disappoint the murderer.

Look, I’m not saying I haven’t had my moments. There are plenty of times (many of which I regret – and many of which my husband can attest to) that I’ve been mean, or hurt someones feelings or just been a downright bitch.  But as good as that sometimes feels, when it comes down to it, speaking up is never as good, or comfortable, as silence.

Or at least, it never was … until I had a baby – a beautiful, curious, amazing daughter; a daughter I love so much I often fear my heart might explode. She brings me so much happiness, so much joy, so much love, that tears sometimes come to my eyes just at the thought of her. A perfect (if occasionally stinky) angel, barely 30 inches tall and 20 lbs small,  with the unique ability to make my heart stop … and my mouth open.

Motherhood really is amazing. The shift in my priorities, the ability for my body to function on 3 hours of sleep 6 days in a row, the natural instincts that just kick in and tell me what to do in specific situations in which I have zero knowledge and zero experience; it truly is amazing. When a helpless, little baby is put into your arms, a small innocent child that you’ve barely known for 5 seconds, the universe shifts and all the things you believed to be true, all the things you thought you knew about the world, about people, about yourself, they all fall away. Instantaneously. Because at that moment, nothing else matters. Not how you look, or how your clothes (don’t) fit, or how you feel like you’ll never, ever, again run a mile without collapsing in pain. Or that you will never sleep soundly again, or that your social life will be, well, nonexistent for the foreseeable future; that showering will become optional; that sitting down to eat a meal with your spouse, without spilled milk, screaming, or a stinky diaper, will quickly become a thing of the past; that your long-held fear of confrontation can suddenly and involuntarily be overcome. None of it matters. There’s your baby, and keeping her safe from harm, and fear, and disappointment, … and then there’s everything else.

She is not even 16 months old, and yet I am already trying to tame my mother bear instincts. When a little boy pushes her over at Gymboree, I have to stop myself. I have to force myself to wait just one second and not rush over and take charge. To see how she’ll handle the situation, to see if she really needs me. More times than not, she bounces right up, no tears, no problem. Or when another mom says something like “She hasn’t said elephant yet?” with a shocked expression and an annoying flip of the hair, I resist the urge to roll my eyes, keep my hands in my pocket, and just smile, as politely as possible. Yeah, I could – and I want to – roll down the extensive list of words she does say, the signs she uses and the mind-blowingly cool things she does every single day (like mimicking what an elephant says).  But I just smile, breathe, and walk away.  For the moment.

But when the time comes, I will be there to wipe away tears, to kiss every bump and bruise, to hug away fears, to comfort her through every insecurity and reassure her after failures. To tell her she is beautiful even when she doesn’t realize it, to encourage her to think bigger, and to love her when some stupid boy doesn’t. I will be there. Always. And I will do my very best to pause when necessary. To let her handle her own situations and learn to believe and trust in herself.

But you better believe when bad moments do come, when she does need me, when someone hurts her, threatens her, causes her pain, I will NOT be shy. I will not be afraid of offending anyone, of hurting someone’s feelings or of raising hell.  Because when you’re a Mom, and your little baby is in distress, shyness is no longer acceptable.

(End rant. I promise my next post will be food related.)

Black Bean Burgers



I have a lot of respect for the people in my life that have chosen to go meat-free. I really am not sure how they do it (I don’t think I could! and I don’t think my husband would be onboard), but I have nothing but respect for their decision and believe it to be not only a healthy choice, but also an honorable one. Although I am not quite ready to give up meat just yet (I’m a Kansas City girl after all!), I have been trying to make a conscious effort to serve more vegetarian meals in my own home. But when it really comes down to it, I am not that creative. When you are used to serving chicken, beef or pork almost every night, it can be a bit difficult to come up with interesting and appetizing meals without those staples. Lately, I’ve been sticking to vegetarian soups, pizzas, and pastas, which are good and all, but can get boring after a bit.

So this week I knew it was time to get adventurous with one of my favorite vegetarian meals. I love black bean burgers. I order them fairly often when we got out to eat, yet had never attempted to make them myself. I was actually getting a little irritated with the PGC this summer when they continued to list “Black Bean Burger”on their menu, yet never seemed to have them available. So this Tuesday I sent my husband an email at work. I warned him that I’d be making black bean burgers for dinner that night and then set out to create them.

I had saved a recipe from the New York Times awhile back and pulled it out to be my guide. I started by pulsing 2 cups of cooked black beans in the blender until they were chunky. I then added 2 cups of whole cooked black beans to the mix along with 1/2 cup of panko, 2 eggs (not sure what the substitute would be if you are trying to go vegan – any suggestions out there? A flaxseed mixture of some sort?), chopped scallions, fresh basil, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes. I mixed the ingredients together and started to form my patties.

I then covered them and put them in the refrigerator to firm up a bit. The molding of the patties had made them a bit sticky and I knew that wouldn’t work too well when I went to cook them, plus the husband hadn’t left work yet, so I had plenty of time to spare.

Once I got the daily “heading out soon” text message from Adam, I pulled the burgers out of the refrigerator, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and started to heat up my pan. I cooked each burger in a dry pan for about 4-5 minutes each side, making sure to only flip them once. While they were cooking I prepared our toppings of avocado, tomatoes, spinach and red pepper, plus Adam’s favorite buns (I usually go for whole wheat, but since I was already serving bean burgers, I thought Adam should at least get his favorite white buns). Along side the burgers I served sweet potato fries.

I have to admit Lyla was not a huge fan. She made quite the interesting face after taking her first bite. But, the burgers were VERY spicy, so I was expecting rejection. In the future I will pull out enough for one burger before adding the red pepper flakes so that Lyla can enjoy a non-spicy version. Instead, Lyla was treated to a different dinner, one that included her favorite yogurt.

But even though Lyla did not get to enjoy the burgers, Adam and I did greatly. They were packed with flavor and had a great kick to them. Adam liked them even more than I expected and has requested them to be included in breakfast Saturday morning to go along with his eggs. We might not be ready to commit to a meat-free lifestyle, but I am pretty sure we are up for at least one meat-less meal a week. I think it’s time I found a good vegetarian blog to follow…



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I grew up on the world’s greatest barbecue. I’m from Kansas City, so I got to sample, then, sometimes, stuff myself on Oklahoma Joe’s, Jack Stack, and Gates.  And I’m a Thesing, which means I got something even better: my Dad’s ribs.

My dad is what some might call a hobbyist. In his very limited free-time, he does a lot. And he does it well. He’s a photographer. A wine connoisseur. A boater. And a biker (think spandex, not leather). But as much as I love his pictures, and enjoy his taste in wine,  it’s his BBQ talents that I appreciate the most.  Maybe it’s his passion for science, and, in particular, his interest in chemistry.  Maybe it’s his patience, the necessary result of 35+ years of marriage, and 6 children (including 5 daughters). Or maybe it’s just that he’s really freaking smart. But whatever the reason, the man has mastered both the smoker and the grill.

I remember many weekends as a kid playing outside with my siblings and sneaking up and around the back of the deck, and through the sweet, smoky haze to watch my dad at work on the driveway: soaking wood chips in his huge, yellow Tupperware bowl, lighting and tending the coals, and gently mopping the meat. Inside, I’d watch with wonder as he carefully created his speciality rub, meticulously measuring and combining spices, sugars and mustard, then smothering slab after slab of baby backs and wrapping them in foil. With his hands a gooey mess, and his arms full of ribs, he’d ask someone to open the door. I always volunteered. I wanted to help; to be close to, and part of the magic. So I raced for the door, cleared a path, and became his shadow.

I miss those days. And I miss those meals. Summer in the Thesing family meant many things – tubing and skiing at the lake, long walks with my mom, and the occasional squabble between sisters.  But it always meant Saturdays and Sundays and birthdays and holidays with my family. And dinners around a big wooden table, with piles and piles of BBQ goodness – ribs, tenderloin, chicken, turkey and fish.

Mary and me on the boat at Lake Lotawana.

My Dad and Fiddle.


A little tubing; showing the little ones that this form of tubing is not scary.

My Dad’s smoker, always going. Lake in the background.

Happiness. The whole family. 2010.

Too often, my mom calls and tells me the whole family is heading to the lake; that they’ve packed up the coolers and raided the wine cellar; that my nieces are bringing their floaties and going to try tubing; and that my dad is planning to fire up the smoker.  On those days (and many others), when the conversation ends,  I can taste the sweet, spicy bark of a perfectly smoked brisket and I can hear the laughter of my favorite people.  On those days, I really wish I was home.

A few weekends ago, we brought some of home (er … my old home) to Pittsburgh. We invited the family over, uncorked some wine, and created, then celebrated, our very first Rib Fest.

I entrusted the smoker, and all the responsibility that came with it, to my husband.  Having watched my dad, and having previously smoked a brisket, he was up to the challenge.  For his first set of smoked ribs, he did pretty well.  Really well, in fact.  You’d almost think he was from Kansas City. Almost.

Lyla and I worked on the side dishes and dessert. Our spread included Asian slaw

corn bread

and baked beans (not pictured). And for dessert, my Blueberry-Lemon Bundt Cake.

Lyla, of course, was a huge fan of ribfest. Between the company, the attention, and the messy possibilities that barbecue sauce created, she was in heaven.  Before dinner, as the guests waited for the meat to cook and rest, she put on a show, distracting and entertaining them with new tricks and toys.

She’s a HUGE Pirates fan.

Her fancy new swing!

It was a wonderful ribfest filled with great food and delightful company. But even so, I will always long for those days; my dad at the smoker, my family enjoying each other’s company. I hope to not have to miss too many of those family weekends, but for the times I cannot make it, we will have to do with Kansas City barbecue in Pittsburgh. And with football season finally upon us, we have plenty of good excuses for additional fests. This city needs a lesson in what it’s been missing by focusing too much on chip-chopped ham, pierogies and sandwiches with fries on them (yes, I am shaking my head right now.) And I hope that someday soon enough, Lyla will look back and with a full heart remember her house filled with our family’s laughter, hearts filled with love and her tummy filled with KC’s best.

We are thinking smoked turkey for this weekend’s Steelers game…

Cake Decorating


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As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts (and alluded to in my last), I’ve been wanting to learn how to properly decorate a cake for some time now. I still have some learning to do and have really only been working on the basics but thought I’d share some pictures of my practice cakes and cupcakes.

Almost smooth, almost.

Simple heart with star-shaped filling. Not too exciting. Just starting slow.

Random practice cupcakes. Some not so good.

Pompom Flower done by hand before transferred onto cake. May be one of my favorite flowers.

Ribbon Rose by hand. Love these!

Ribbon Rose Cake with shell border. Getting better!

I’ve really enjoyed practicing these different techniques although I must admit it is very time-consuming. Hopefully with more practice I’ll become much faster! Now I just need to find some people to eat all these cakes and cupcakes! We have way too many! I’ll share pictures of other cakes and other techniques as I get better :)

Up next, Ribfest!

Chicken Salad Sammich


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We’ve been keeping busy these last few weeks. We’ve had a three-year wedding anniversary, and a trip to beautiful Bedford Springs to celebrate said anniversary;

a Bucco game;

a 61st birthday party for Opa; a couple tennis matches, and a handful of runs;

She’s working towards her future athletic scholarship.

some trips to the pool, a few play-dates, and several story-hours; plus, daily park outings, garden tending, and – per Lyla’s request – bird watching;

not to mention a classical concert, in which an increasingly musical 13-month old discovered her love for the 76 trombones.

Our meals have been here, there and everywhere in between. We sampled a few of Pittsburgh’s best and new restaurants, and enjoyed some of our favorite staples at the Golf Club.  We dined at friends’ homes and feasted on my father-in-law’s famous paella. And tried various treats at a 19th century resort, a 21st century ballpark, and places somewhere in between.

But when at home, I’ve been relying on the quick and easy, especially on the nights that the husband is walking in the door just as I’m on my way out. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had tacos, slow-cooked honey chicken, pulled pork, and even eggs. They’re quick and easy meals, but that doesn’t mean they’re not healthy and delicious. My two favorite quickies were Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini (thanks to Lydia!) and chicken salad sandwiches (or, as my yinzer husband says, “sammiches”) on homemade buns.

As my zucchini pile continues to grow (I’ve had to give them away!), it continues to make its way into our meals. This last week instead of being thrown into a dish or onto the side of the plate, they were stuffed.

Super delicious and amazingly fast and easy to prepare. I am loving the versatility of the zucchini right now.

One of the Fischer family staples is my chicken salad (recipe below). I love chicken salad but usually avoid it at restaurants and in grocery stores because I fear it is made with full fat mayonnaise and other not so healthy items. So instead I make it at home, where I can do it just the way I like (with less mayo, and a lot more crunch). And this time, I even made my first attempt at sandwich buns, which turned out better than expected – (although they were closer to Adam than Lyla in size).

We’ll have to keep coming up with a few quick and easy meals as our schedule looks just as busy in the upcoming weeks. With a fundraiser, a few classes, a big, end-of summer rib-fest this Sunday, a trip to Soergles, a couple of weddings, three doctor’s appointments, 1 big race to run, and even bigger one to sign up for (the husband finally agreed!) we are going to need a few more easy, go-to meals. And maybe even a few special desserts… rumor has it someone’s birthday season is fast approaching…

I’ll post this one soon!

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Season two chicken breasts with salt, pepper and Fox Point Seasoning (aka Lake Shore Drive Seasoning). Bake at 350 degrees until done. Shred chicken in large bowl and add to it a small scoop of light mayonnaise (just enough to moisten), a sprinkle of onion powder, salt and pepper, lots chopped carrots, sliced cherry tomatoes and chopped fresh parsley from the garden. Taste and add seasoning as necessary.

Scoop salad on to freshly homemade buns and serve immediately. Any leftovers are wonderful when eaten cold the next day.

Garden Update: Ratatouille Provençal


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We’ve had a string of ridiculous thunderstorms the last few weeks. Violent bolts of lightning followed by house shaking thunder. Incredible, tree-bending wind and torrents of rain.  When the storms came in the afternoon, Lyla would stand at the back door and watch in awe, hands and face pressed up against the glass, equal parts scared, impressed, and amused. But when they came at night (and most of them did), she was totally unaffected.  While Adam and I would startle at each flash, and struggle to sleep between the thunder, Lyla slept soundly, and quietly.  With each thunderous crackle, I waited for Lyla to cry, but she never did.  The storms would come and go, and Lyla would keep on dreaming.  Of course, an hour later, once the storm had passed, and I finally drifted back to sleep, I’d hear a mumble, a scream, and a bunch of crying.  A bolt of thunder can’t wake Lyla; but the rumble of her tummy always does.

While the storms haven’t been great for my sleep, all the rain has been a blessing for my little garden, which is now growing out of control.  It’s August 1, and my plants are the greenest they’ve ever been. I was worried after one particularly violent storm that my tomatoes and zucchinis might be in trouble. They looked so sad and pathetic, with their leaves forced to the ground by the high winds. But they popped right back up as soon as the sun came out.

Each morning Lyla and I venture out back to check on everything and last week we found a very pleasant surprise. Several of our zucchinis were ready to be harvested. With one slow turn, our first zucchini snapped of the plant. Lyla was very pleased.

Biggest zucchini I’ve ever seen! The others have not been this big.

The zucchini plant, which my husband refers to as “Jurassic Park.”

This guy needs another day or two.

Love the flowers. Am planning to make stuffed zucchini flowers for dinner one night soon.

Just a couple of weeks ago, as we suffered through day after day of 100 degree heat, and oppressive humidity, I had almost given up hope.  Because of our move, and because it’s hard to cultivate a garden with a babbling baby at your side, the garden hadn’t gotten my full attention.  Plus, we got a late start; it wasn’t until early June that we got the seeds in the ground.  But now,  everything – even the jalapenos and tomatoes, which were only planted just recently – is prospering.



Now, as my pile of zucchinis continues to grow (just picked another two today!), I need to find recipes that highlight their freshness and flavor.  Recipes like the one I used the other night, for Ratatouille Provençal.

Ratatouille Provençal (adapted from Joy of Cooking):

I started off by chopping up my eggplant and the two biggest zucchinis from the garden.

I then sautéed them in olive oil over medium heat. After about 10 minutes, I removed the vegetables from the pan.

Then added one sliced onion plus a little more olive oil to the hot pan. Once the onions were tender, I added in a chopped red pepper and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Next I added two fresh, chopped tomatoes, thyme, a bay leaf and a bit of crushed red pepper. Most recipes wouldn’t call for crushed red pepper, but I wanted to add a little heat and a bit of a heat to my dish. After fully seasoning the veggies, I turned the heat down to low and let the flavors meld together for about 5 minutes before adding the zucchini and eggplant mixture back into the pan. I covered the pan and let it all simmer for 20 minutes.

Before serving I added fresh oregano and basil leaves right on top and then dished it up along side of a loaf of homemade bread.

It was surprisingly filling and very tasty. It was a meal the whole family could enjoy – and one that we all worked to make happen.

Lyla wishes everyone happy eating!