Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cookie Therapy

Nothing beats a really great chocolate chip cookie.  Yes, I am fond of many other sugar filled treats…ice cream, brownies, pies…just to name a few.  But, honestly, for me, the chocolate chip cookie most often wins out.  It has everything…simplicity, tradition, warmth and always hits the “spot”, whatever and wherever that spot may be?

I was always true to the traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe, the one that Nestle told me was the best and the one that I remember making with my mom.  Well, Nestle lied to me… and my mom.  They are, in fact, NOT the best.  I have found the best and it brings me much joy to share with you today the actual Best, Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie.  I can’t take too much credit for this fantastic find, a mere search will bring you to the same conclusion, but I can take credit for the tender loving care that has gone into baking these precious gems.

These cookies have meant a lot to me.  I have been making them for numerous years and have upped my production over the last few years.  I have made them many, many times and always get rave reviews from those on the receiving end.  Yes, I do share!  In fact, the sharing is my favorite part. 
But these cookies mean more to me than just a fantastic recipe and flattering accolades.  After losing our babies there was not much that I found “comforting”.  People would wish us “comfort” or make suggestions about where we might find comfort (by turning to our faith, exercising, journaling, etc).  The thoughtful suggestions pretty much exhausted what other people had found comforting when they experienced difficult times.  I had nothing.  I had a hard time sleeping, felt like I was suffocating most days, and was constantly on the verge of falling apart.   I could not find “comfort”.   

The days were long and I started to bake again out of boredom, to give me something to do with Addison as we passed through some of the most miserable of days.  What I ended up finding was my “comfort”.  I baked a variety of items but most comforting were these Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Don’t get me wrong, I had loved to bake (and eat what I baked!) prior to our losses, but now baking was my therapy.  There was just something so cathartic about starting something from scratch, perfectly measuring out ingredients, listening to the soft monotony of the mixer going round and round, the oven warming, and most importantly the completion of something that I alone started.  I could start and finish something.  I could produce, even if I could not reproduce.  I could bring joy to those around me even if it was only through these ooey gooey  cookies.  And so I baked. 
I want to state that I am not claiming that baking cookies can replace the true benefits of actual therapy, but for me,  the simple act of baking provided me with a level of “comfort” that pushed me forward and made me feel, if only momentarily, purposeful. 
These amazing cookies will continue to be a staple in our household and hopefully will be made more for celebrations and less for therapy in the days to come.  They will be made for picnics and parties, first days of school, bad days, boring days and just plain old “I feel like a cookie” days.  Whether you are celebrating or needing some therapy of your own I hope you will give this recipe a whirl.  I promise that peace and love will radiate from your oven.  Happy Baking!  

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
  4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
(Tip:  I use parchment paper on the cookie sheets and only about 1.5 cups of chocolate chips!) 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Sister lives in Texas

Addison has an imaginary friend that she calls “my sister”.  Most days her “sister” is living in Texas but her “sister” also enjoys road trips and airplane rides and sometimes ends up in Oregon, Maine or any of the other fabulous 50 that Addison has taken to memorizing.  Her “sister” varies in age, anywhere between 0-30, sometimes changes into “my brother”, and usually finds a way to accomplish all of the things Addison is either fearful of doing or has dreams of doing.  Her “sister” does some serious exploring and has quite the schedule for an imaginary friend!   Although it seems her “sister” has taken to an independent and adventurous lifestyle, I am reassured by the fact that her “sister” usually makes it back to our dinner table in the evening.  

Yes...the fact that my daughter has created an imaginary sibling absolutely tugs on my heart-strings.  But even though my heart sinks a little every time I hear her say “my sister”, I have to say that I am really proud of my little girl.  She made a change.  She decided that she wanted a sibling and so she created one.  She saw that all of her friends had siblings, so she thought she should have one too.  And so she does.  When people ask her if she has a brother or sister, she and I always glance at each other knowing that “my sister” exists, but wondering if the person asking will understand.  Sometimes she or I tell the inquiring person about “my sister” and sometimes we don’t. :)  

It has been a common question(s) among our friends and family since losing the babies and embarking upon the adoption journey…How is Addison doing? What does she know about the babies? What does she know about the adoption?

She knows just about everything.  Although she was quite young when we lost both babies, and still is quite young, she is, and always has been, a very perceptive and observant little girl.  She knows about each of the babies and has grieved their losses in her own way.  We talked with professionals to help us guide her through the process, not wanting to expect too little or too much from her.  She has grieved normally.  She asks a lot of questions, less now than before and sometimes she has days when it is obvious that her heart is heavy.  When we lost Connor, the hospital gave Addison a special book (We Were Gonna have a Baby, But We Had an Angel Instead) and an angel teddy bear with wings.  She gets the book out periodically and sleeps with the bear as she needs to.   She mostly just asks the same questions over and over… questions the adults have yet to find the answers to.   The largest part of Addison’s grief was dealing with two grieving parents.  She lost the babies and, in so many ways, she temporarily lost her parents too.  At no point is it lost on us the effect this journey has also had on Addison. 

The only thing that Addison does not know is that Connor had a heart defect.  We do not feel that she is ready to know that information, and the last thing we want is for her to worry about her own heart and health.  We have had Addison looked at by a pediatric cardiologist, and thankfully, her heart is perfect.   

Addison knows that we are trying to adopt a baby and seems to really “get” the concept of open adoption.   She seems most interested in wanting to know more about the birth mom that we will (hypothetically) be matched with (What is her name? Where does she live? etc.).  We simply explain that we don’t know who that mom is yet and we are waiting to meet that person.  She very clearly understands that another mom will be pregnant with the baby and then that mom will make a decision if the baby should live with us or not.  Addison knows that if the mom decides that the baby should live with us, then we will be that child’s forever family and at that point she will be a big sister. 
Now that she has a better idea of the whole adoption concept, and now that we are further along in the process, we have started talking more about the logistics.  Where will the baby sleep?  Where will the baby sit in the car?  Where will the baby be when we eat dinner?  Addison’s latest interest has been the baby’s name.  She knows that we may name the baby, or the baby may already have a name, or that we may name the baby together with the birth parents.  She has a few suggestions but I don’t think Baby Gooseberry is going to make it to the top of the list!

So, that is what has been going on with our little sweetheart.  We will continue to talk, continue to encourage her questions, and continue to help her navigate her own path through this process.  Someday there will no longer be a need for an imaginary sister, although “my sister” and the stories of her amazing adventures will always hold a special place in my heart.  And, my little girl’s strength and perseverance during these challenging times will forever make me proud.    

Friday, March 18, 2011

When Life became Unexpected

Two years ago today the most unexpected event of our lives happened.  I miscarried a baby.  I miscarried our baby.  Even though the statistics are out there and you hear stories of other women miscarrying, you never, ever, EVER think that it will happen to you.  Well, it happened to me and to us and that is when the grand plans we created, the life that had lived up to our expectations thus far, our dreams, our hopes, our future became blurred and life as we knew it became … unexpected.  

For me, having a miscarriage in my 12th week of pregnancy was crushing.  It threw off my center of gravity and made me question everything that I once thought was true.  I blamed myself, I blamed my body, I blamed the doctors, I blamed the whole medical community.  I spent hours and days researching causes of miscarriage and tried so hard to find the answer to “Why?” our baby did not survive.  Of course, the answer was never found.  We gave our hearts some time to heal, well… it really never heals, but time to adjust and mend, and then we decided that we would try again.

Six months later I was pregnant again.  Pregnancy was rough on my body.  All three of my pregnancies were difficult in the first trimester.  Sick as a dog does not even begin to describe it.  This time I was sick as a dog and scared to death.  We were told over and over again how “statistically” unlikely it would be for me to miscarry again.  Once it happens to you, and you become a statistic, you don’t really care what the “statistics” say.  Our doctor’s appointments were going well, I was growing, and gaining, and feeling better.  The most reassuring sign was the sound of that tiny heart beat…we heard our baby’s heart beat on two different doctor visits.  We were cruising into our second trimester and we’re told that in our situation there was only a 1% chance of losing our baby in the second trimester.  My fears started to lift.  Chris became more fearful.  

We walked into the ultrasound room on December 16, 2009 painfully aware of everything that could possibly be wrong, but realistic in that everything was probably “just fine”.  Our emotions were all over the place.  This was going to be a really big day…we had no idea.  It is every parent’s joy to take a peek at the little soul growing inside.  Oh were we excited and scared…mostly just wanting it to be over, to know that our little one was just fine, to go home and show Addison a picture of the sibling she would meet in just a few short months.  The ultrasound was quick…way too quick.  The technician turned off the machine and left us in the room by ourselves.  Chris knew before I did.  When the technician came back and told us that our doctor needed to meet with us upstairs, we knew.  It is not possible to explain to another person what it is like to learn that your baby is dead.  Unless you have been through it, you have no idea.  

After two days of doctors and medicine trying to force my body to go into labor, I delivered our baby boy, Connor, on December 18th, 2009.  I delivered him naturally, with no pain medication. I wanted to feel every second that I had left with him.  We had only hours to spend with our Connor after his birth.  As any new parent does, we examined him from head to toe.  On the outside he was perfect.  10 perfect fingers. 10 perfect toes.  He was born with his bottom lip sucked in…exactly the same way Addison was born sucking in her bottom lip.  We later learned that on the inside Connor was suffering from a severe heart defect.   No one knows if the heart defect was the cause of his death and no one knows why the heart defect occurred in the first place.  Science was not our friend.   

The days, weeks and months after losing our little boy were the darkest of our lives.  I did not know how I would go on and was only thankful that I had Addison to keep me moving and keep me a part of life.  I moved forward because I had to, for her and for Chris. 
So there we sat, two babies lost, our souls crushed and the outlook for our future anything but what we had expected.  There was nothing, nothing Chris and I had wanted more than to fill our house with children.  When we were in the hospital after Connor was born, we agreed that getting pregnant again was not an option.  We were not sure we could survive another loss.  We went to many doctors, specialists and did much reading and research.  Our agreement was secured.  No more pregnancies.  

Adoption had always been an option for us as a way to grow our family.  We agreed that what was once a thought for the future, could now become a much sooner reality.  We once again did our research and learned as much as we could about adoption and realized how strongly we felt specifically about open adoption.  

I want to make it very clear that adoption is not our “second” choice.  Adoption is our next chapter.  The child or children that come to us through adoption are not replacements for the babies we lost.  The scars we bear and the babies we lost will forever live in our hearts.  Our hearts however, the amazing vessels that they are, have room for much more love and much more life.  The timing of us pursuing adoption was merely unexpected, and the path in which our children will enter our hearts and our home is merely an unexpected route.   

We sit here tonight, stronger and better, waiting anxiously for a little one to enter our lives and join our family, we wait for a woman considering an adoption plan to choose us to parent her child.  Although scary at times, to think about what else life might throw unexpectedly at us, we can honestly say we have never been more excited to see what life has in store for us next.    


Thanks for visiting our new blog.  This is new to us, so please bear with us as we work out the kinks!  We created this blog to continue connecting with as many people as possible and to also share our journey in a more real and personal way.  Dana will probably be doing most of the blogging, but Chris will also be chiming in here and there.  So again, we welcome you and thank you for joining us on our journey through life!