Peace in the Breaking

Jude 1:20-21 ~ But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. ( NJKV) … Continue reading

Pumpkin Pie Porridge (Paleo, AIP)

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It’s November and finally feeling like fall in Southern California! We are loving it. And on chilly mornings who doesn’t love a hot breakfast? At our house we can eat pumpkin something or hot porridge any time of year, but in the spirit of pumpkin everything going on right now, plus the fact I haven’t posted a recipe in ages I thought I would throw my pumpkin into the pot so to speak. I haven’t posted anything pumpkin related since this time last year, my own version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte, which you can find here: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/pumpkin-spice-latte-dairy-free-aip-variaton-refined-sugar-free/.

I love porridge and hot cereal and miss oatmeal since going grain-free over a year ago and have made several paleo-friendly recipes that we like but I decided to combine the two. We tried a pumpkin porridge last year that we all enjoyed (including my husband who isn’t a porridge fan) and have made since, but it is loaded with nuts. I follow a version of the paleo diet called the Autoimmune Protocol and can have nuts, but they are a treat for me and I really have to limit the amount I eat or else suffer some pretty unpleasant consequences. Many others contain eggs or seeds, or frankly ingredients I find a little odd (cauliflower seems to be a popular choice and I haven’t gotten the gumption to try it yet). I have been trying a few of the so-called forbidden ingredients as of late, trying to reintroduce a few things, which I do every once in a while as my body continues to heal, to see how I do. I’ve had mixed results so when I can find something that will fill me up and taste good and be completely AIP I prefer that.

This version is nut, seed, dairy, egg, and nightshade free and contains several very healthy ingredients but tastes like a treat with texture really reminiscent of the oatmeal I miss. A few notes about the ingredients if you’re curious…or just skip ahead to the recipe! Lately when I cook I try to use things full of healthy fats and proteins; it is really hard for me stay strict AIP and feel satiated. Several of these really help with that.

Coconut contains fiber, which helps you fill up, and also stabilizes blood sugar (even if you don’t have blood sugar issues – which I do not – stable blood sugar makes you feel full and happy). It also contains a fair amount of protein, a bit of calcium, and even Vitamin C! When buying make sure you check the label; they often contain added sweeteners, preservatives or anti-caking agents. There should be just one thing in the ingredients list…coconut! You can make coconut milk yourself (I should really do a tutorial!), but right now my blender is broken so I am buying it. Make sure you find it in a BPA-free container; some contain additives like guar gum which some are sensitive to so keep that in mind when choosing a brand to buy.

You can use either fresh or canned pumpkin in this; did you know that pumpkin is one of the only foods that keeps its nutrients when canned (again, a BPA-free container). When using fresh you may need to adjust the liquid and use a little less, but it’s up to you. Pumpkin is a good source of carbohydrates (no, carbs are not bad for you!), and also is loaded with vitamins, fiber, mono-unsaturated fats, and even contain anti-inflammatory properties.

Collagen is high in protein and I add it to all kinds of things (I actually add it to my coffee or tea every morning!). It’s great for your hair, skin, and nails, as well as the tummy and other digestive issues, and even your hormones! Look for a good, clean source. I am currently using the Great Lakes brand, green can, but I have heard good things about the Vital Proteins brand as well.

Molasses I added for the flavor, but did you know it’s also a good source of iron, calcium, and potassium? Look for unsulphured and avoid any with added ingredients.

Even maple syrup has a few health benefits (the real stuff anyway). A darker, pure maple syrup is the best choice. Did you know it has up to 24 different antioxidants as well as vitamins like zinc, manganese, potassium, and calcium? We use it because we like the taste and it’s a healthier alternative to refined sugar or artificial sweetener. You could also use honey here if you wanted (I just thought the maple would compliment the pumpkin really well).

The spices pack a nutritional punch as well, believe it or not! All three are very anti-inflammatory (a big plus when dealing with autoimmune issues) but also protect your heart and can fight diabetes and are also a good source of antioxidants. And they taste great, giving it that spicy, yummy pie flavor.

I used Himalayan Pink Salt which contains more minerals than regular salt and is very detoxifying, but it’s a matter of personal preference.

But enough of all that! On to the good stuff!

Pumpkin Pie Porridge

Serves 1-2

¾ to 1 cup coconut milk (depending on how thick you like it)
3 Tablespoons coconut flour
2 Tablespoons finely shredded coconut
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon collagen powder
1 teaspoon molasses
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup (according to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of sea salt

Combine coconut milk, coconut flour and shredded coconut and whisk together to combine and remove the lumps. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin puree then add remaining ingredients, stirring thoroughly to combine. Serve with your favorite toppings (I used chopped persimmons and pomegranate seeds here – very fall!). Add a little love and enjoy!

I made a single batch this morning and shared it with my four-year-old, but we often like to double this. Re-warm on the stove with a little extra coconut milk and it turns out great!

Have a great day,
Emily

Moving & AIP ~ What I Wish I Had Known

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This is actually a post I considered writing about six months ago and never did. Most of the reason will be evident by the end of this. The other was because I thought of it and dismissed it after a while, and then suddenly felt the urge to write it so hopefully it will speak to someone out there.

If you follow me then you have probably previously read about my healing journey, so I will be brief, but if you haven’t, I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease in 2008 and then last year moved from a gluten-free diet to a grain-free, paleo, and autoimmune protocol diet to deal with some ongoing issues that I learned were all autoimmune-related and inter-connected.

What is the autoimmune protocol? Simply put, it’s a stricter version of the paleo diet which removes any potential gut irritants, such as dairy, nuts, seeds, eggs, nightshades, alcohol, and other things. These things in someone like me can actually cause an immune reaction in my body; in my case, the eczema and asthma flare and I have digestive issues and it can even effect me emotionally. I consider myself on a “modified” AIP diet in that I have successfully reintroduced certain foods. For instance, I can have a small amount of good-quality dairy and I can have a little coffee, an occasional glass of wine, or nuts as long as I don’t over-do it and they are all “treats” for me.

My body is still healing and I am still learning about myself, different ways to heal, and come to term with what I am dealing with. There is much more to the story, but I’ll focus on the task at hand. Moving is hard. It can be stressful and exhausting and even emotional. If you are dealing with any kind of health issue it can all be even more so, but especially one that can be exasperated by things like stress, fatigue, and emotions!

We moved into our current home last December, after only living in our previous home for ten months. It was not planned. Something happened at the end of October. We began searching for another place shortly thereafter then placed notice on November fifteenth and began moving on December first. It was crazy. It was stressful. It was emotional. Then in the middle we almost had to move again. When we were finally moved in after two weeks it was the middle of December and the holiday rush was on.

I don’t recommend that, but as I stated it couldn’t be avoided. Now, I don’t really want to go into the whole story. I thought about talking about here at the time and dismissed it for various reasons, but thought I would start at the beginning just so you can understand what happened and the effect it had on me.

A little over a week before Halloween my three-year-old son and I were at the park on our apartment complex property. It was a daily occurrence for us and I had always felt safe there, but odd things had been happening of late. Security sort of things and none of it to us but we had heard about it. So my son is playing in the park and I notice a car pull up and stop out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was strange and looked at them once or twice and felt very uncomfortable. There is watching, staring, and just plain leering at someone. I finally took a step in their direction to politely ask if they were lost (although I really didn’t want to be that nice) and in the moment I moved toward them they literally screeched away they left so fast.

The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I felt sick. Something about that was just not right. I grabbed my cell-phone from my pocket and snapped as many pictures as I could, but only got two before they sped out of sight. I was so freaked out I grabbed my son and we headed home. I saw this car twice more on the walk back to our apartment. They followed us home and parked and watched my garage door go down.

I have never been so frightened in my life. I called our office and the security company on site and when I called my husband he told me to call the police. Even thinking back on it to write about it I am almost shaking. It was beyond horrible and the six more weeks we lived there I could never go back to the park or on the walks we used to take every day. I was too freaked out and had never felt so unsafe in my life.

I’ll skip ahead a little bit because it is all a very long story but what happened next surprises me almost as much as what initially happened. I had to leave a message at the office and the security company representative I spoke to was sitting in an office in Texas! The next day I received a phone call from our apartment office from someone absolutely livid I had called the police and they actually berated me for reacting as I had. I was flabbergasted I was being punished for being the victim. Our community had an online forum and I had posted something the night before, explaining what had happened and the blurry photo of the car as it retreated. They demanded I take the post down and apologize to the couple in the car. I was at a loss and got off the phone in tears, refusing to take the post down. I felt my neighbors had a right to know what had happened. Regardless of who these people were or their intentions, their behavior was completely inappropriate and I felt (and still do) I was well within my rights to react as I did, as a mother protecting her child.

They took the post down for me and the next one after that when I posted something again. They dragged things out, even threatening to evict us. After about two weeks and a particularly rude e-mail from the community manager I filed a complaint with the corporate office and then replied to her, stating I didn’t understand what the problem was, I felt unsafe and unwelcome in my own home, and I did not appreciate her behavior and let her know I had filed a complaint and forwarded all her e-mails with it. Shortly thereafter we received a letter of apology (and frankly quite an insincere one) and permission to break our lease without penalties. We jumped on it and began the move. I was packing before we had even found another place.

I told you this was a long story, and believe me, this is the short version! One thing I will add, DO YOUR RESEARCH! We didn’t look into our community much and just for the heck of it when we were still deciding what to do my husband looked up the crime rate, etc, for our area and we learned one, the crime rate was pretty crummy, and two, there were SIX registered sex offenders in our community. SIX! In the midst of this, we kept hearing more bad stories about our area so that was the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, and we practically ran out of there. Just a few miles up the road, the crime rate drops drastically, and truth be told we are paying slightly more for less space, but there are no registered sex offenders and we live in a gated community with ONSITE security and a lot goes for feeling comfortable in your own home.

So on to the move! Before it even started I was beyond stressed. I had a hard time eating or sleeping. I have never been the paranoid type that will check every door and window and peek in on their sleeping child twelve times in the night and suddenly I was that person. I fought my husband for fifteen years on buying a gun (I have no issue with it, I just didn’t think we needed one) and gave in earlier that year but had hardly even seen it. The night this happened my husband got home, took me to our bedroom, showed me how to open the gun safe and load it, and then he took me to a firing range that next weekend and showed me how to shoot it. My husband got home early one night and I didn’t know it and walked into the garage from the house as he was entering it from outside; I hadn’t heard the garage door and he scared me out of my mind. I was mortified after issuing a blood-curdling scream and knocking over boxes as I tried to get away from him. My own husband. We run a car service with drivers that come and go and I nearly attacked one of them one night when he came to our front door instead of the garage and I could hear something downstairs. That is what this did to me. That takes a toll on your mind, your body, and your emotions. Believe me.

Then I made another mistake. I let people get to me. Anyone else guilty of that? I like to think I am not bothered by the opinions of others but I am only human – and a sensitive one at that – and sometimes the little things get to me. A lot of people we knew seemed to think we were being evicted from our current home and that was mortifying to me. We were leaving of our own accord simply because we did not feel safe. I didn’t feel like I needed to tell them everything why so after we announced we were moving on Facebook and told a few people I received several odd and some downright rude comments or texts, eluding to them wondering why we were moving. It was none of their business and we finally told a few people what had actually happened just to get them to drop it, but it broke my heart. Especially when someone particularly close to us all out asked me if we were and didn’t believe me when I told him/her that we weren’t. It was embarrassing that people could think something like that of us, a little maddening too, and it only added to my stress.

We moved over a period of two weeks because as part of a move-in deal we received two weeks free. It was great for us, in our situation, but as I already stated we placed our notice on November 15, began the move on December 1, and finished on December 15. It sounds like a lot of time but we packed up our entire life in two weeks with a major holiday in the middle and another looming a month away. We run our own business and have a three-year-old son. There was a lot to do in those few very short weeks. Our first angel baby’s birthday was also right in the middle of it and I was riddled with guilt and anxiety we missed our usual family fun time because we were so busy and focused on the move; not to mention the fact at the best of times it is a difficult, trying, and emotional day.

Then one day I was at our new apartment, having some me-time while I worked on my new kitchen, lining cupboards and such. My mom had had a great idea that one of the first things I should do was unpack Christmas decorations so I had them all out on our patio and I was playing Christmas music and sipping a dairy-free latte with plans to move on to decorations when I finished in the kitchen; I was about half done. I walked into the master bedroom for something and was completely assailed by the scent of cigarette smoke. And on came a whole new bout of stress.

I am extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke. I suffer from at times debilitating asthma and cannot stand to be around it. And it was so strong I could have sworn there was someone actually in the room smoking. I felt sick. In more ways than one! What happened next is another long story, but to make it short the people below us smoke AND the previous tenant smoked exclusively in that room. They had done a treatment but it was also damp which can make the smell worse and I had had our windows open, airing out what was already stuffy and chemical-filled air from a not recently occupied apartment that was filled with new carpet, paint, etc.

The management at our new place was fantastic and very sympathetic. They immediately did another treatment and gave us an open-ended offer to move to another unit at no additional cost. This is where the almost moving again in the middle of it comes in. We had no idea what to do and were at almost a complete standstill for a couple of days and then finally just started dumping things in our garage while we tried to make a decision. I actually made myself sick about it. What if we moved and not one person near us smoked but several? And we felt so good in our apartment; it already felt like home. And I had been working so hard and so much was already done. My list of worries went on and on.

In the meantime they did the mentioned treatment and we bought an expensive air purifier (Merry Christmas to me!). To make an even longer story short we stayed where we were and have put up with it. The air purifier does it job and was something I had always thought of getting anyway. The biggest bummer is I can rarely open the windows on that side of the apartment but we make due. And the people below us that are doing the smoking are lovely, very kind people. I diffuse essential oils and have filled any extra space I can find with air purifying house plants, to name a few things; we make the best of it. It’s part of apartment living, unfortunately.

Which brings me to another piece of advice. There is legislation in California that you can no longer smoke in apartments and so it never occurred to me to ask. When I brought this up to our management they stated it was true but they really had no way to enforce it. We were looking at another apartment that actually advertised as no smoking that we may have moved to instead had we known they allowed it on this property. Another place to do your homework and an experience I will chock up as lesson learned.

I didn’t plan on going this much into it so I’ll move on to what I really wanted to talk about, but hopefully now you’ll see what an ordeal this was and why I felt compelled to share. I know there are others that may be moving for reasons much, MUCH more stressful; maybe they have been evicted or their home was destroyed in a natural disaster, or they were transferred out of the blue in their job, or there was a death in the family, or one of a million other reasons. I share what I do to hopefully encourage others and let them know if they are dealing with something similar to me that they are not alone.

So, how does one move in two weeks time? Start with anything you do not absolutely need and keep going! In all honesty, I had slightly more than two weeks because I technically started packing before we placed our notice. What did I pack? I started with books and all my craft stuff, which is quite a bit actually! From there I moved on to extra linens, pictures, knick knacks, and movies. Once I really went all out my husband joked that anything not nailed down was about to disappear and he was right. I turned into a packing machine!

It can be a little overwhelming but just stop and take stock – even make lists if you need to – of what you think you absolutely do and do not need. This is useful even if you have a lot of notice and can take your time packing. By the time the first of December arrived and we were ready to begin we were almost ready to go. I saved the china hutch filled with my husband’s grandmother’s china both our grandmother’s teacups because my plan was to pack it up and take it over and immediately unpack it. For a while we really didn’t know what the Thanksgiving holiday would hold so my kitchen was the last to be packed. I left several pictures on the wall but they were large paintings or professional photos that were taken off the wall, put in my car, and taken right to the new place. I took a good-sized basket and had my son pick out a few favorite toys for the interim during the move and the rest were packed; one was a Rubbermaid container that was taken right to his new room so he had a selection of toys at both places. And there was my husband’s office. That was the very last to go. Much of our business is handled online and so he unhooked everything and packed it up and hauled it to the new place, immediately setting it up again because we couldn’t afford to be down and out of business for any length of time. It’s all about priorities. And sort as you go. Trash or give away anything you don’t need. Clean as you go if you can too. I would clean off a pantry shelf and scrub it, fill nail holes as I pulled off the pictures, etc. It’s a lot less overwhelming that way.

We didn’t spend the night in the new place until almost toward the end of our two week move so that entire time we were in limbo between the two and my time was pretty split between them. I took a couple of laundry baskets and left a few clothes; a couple of pairs of jeans or sweats for both of us, socks and unmentionables, and both short and long-sleeved shirts. The rest got packed into luggage or boxes; which brings me to another point – use your luggage to pack! It works great to put all your clothes in there and then while I was trying to decide how to organize the new bedroom they all slid under the bed and out of the way. I am very environmentally conscious and don’t like using plastic tableware and paper plates but sometimes you have to. The dishes got packed and we made do. I kept a couple of insulated coffee cups plus a mug or two for the microwave and a couple of knives. Everything else was packed. I didn’t go room by room and simply pack it up because we were still living there, but if it wasn’t absolutely needed, it was packed.

This brings me to food. Whether you are on a restricted diet or not, it is really hard to eat well during a move! Our prior move the year before I had planned ahead and had a freezer full of soups and leftovers, but even though I usually have a few in my freezer, that wasn’t the case this time. So what did I do?

During the course of our move, at the new place, I kept a big basket on the counter in the kitchen that was filled with fresh and dried fruit, baby food pouches (both me and my son eat them – they’re great on-the-go), and gluten-free goodies, tea, and instant coffee (we love the Starbucks VIA). In the fridge I had lunchmeat and a big fresh veggie tray for quick meals or snacks and lots of bottled water. I kept a frying pan out at the old place and we were still cooking and the coffee pot waited to make the move until we did. We went out more in those few weeks than we had in a few months at least. We made concessions.

How do you do that on AIP? Well, I am the only one on AIP, although our son is strictly gluten- and dairy-free. One of the concessions I mentioned was I bought more packaged “convenience” foods than I usually do, but I tried to keep them as clean as possible. I very rarely buy cereal but did, although I chose one that was organic and gluten-free with no refined sugar; it’s what I call a “clean cheat.” The veggie trays and bottled water I don’t make a habit of buying but we had our water cooler at one place and needed pure water at the other. And a bottle is more convenient when you are running to and fro all day. I had my favorite stainless steel water bottle with me I would fill from the water cooler when I could and use the bottles when I couldn’t. As far as the going out we have a natural market nearby that has an awesome salad and soup bar where many things are marked gluten- or dairy-free, but we weren’t moving far and I had been shopping there for a while and had also done my homework and knew the staff and what I could and could not eat. There was another local restaurant we had frequented before and I knew the menu and they were very accommodating. I found a paleo-friendly bakery with a staff that was very knowledgeable. (I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when someone told me they knew what a nightshade was – and I am not exaggerating! That had never happened before.) I treated myself a few times with their coconut milk lattes, chocolate brownies, and amazing sandwiches.

Did I do perfectly on my diet? No, not entirely, but the things I cheated on were things like dairy cheese and yogurt and nut-based grain-free granola when I needed some quick protein or calories. And coffee. I drank way too much coffee over those weeks! Bone broth is a great AIP-friendly option. I had many times I would simply warm a cup of bone broth and put in an insulated cup and head off for the day. Having that on hand also works great for a quick and easy soup. Boil a quart of it and add a package of frozen mixed vegetables and some leftover chicken and voila. It tastes like you slaved for hours. Another tip? Don’t pack your slow cooker. Buy a chicken or roast and some pre-cut veggies, throw them all together in the slow cooker and work all day and have a home cooked meal at the end that will give lots of leftovers. Here’s a sample of what I was posting to Instagram. There are blog posts, meals, World Prematurity Day, trips to the paleo bakery, shopping trips, moving boxes, my first selfie at my front door, salad takeout from the natural market I mentioned, and lots of my cute son, Henry. (You can find me on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/preciousbelovedblessing, by the way.)

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Need some more inspiration? I posted a nightshade-free guacamole recipe in the midst of all this chaos that sprang about from a craving. I used horseradish instead of jalapenos and it was so good I had to jot it down and share before I completely forgot to. You can find it here: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/aip-guacamole/. The post has some more tidbits about the move and food we were eating. Like the idea of the bone broth but have never made your own? I have a post for that too, at: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/homemade-bone-broth-from-a-whole-chicken-plus-a-yummy-soup-recipe-2/. There’s a yummy soup recipe to make in this post but another good one here – also wrote in the midst of the move – so you know it’s quick and easy. Find it at: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/bone-broth-butternut-soup-paleo-aip-dairy-free/.

If you’re looking for an easy on-the-go breakfast or healthy snack and you can handle nuts or seeds try my Paleo Granola; it’s one of my faves and I can eat it right out of the jar but it’s also super yummy with cold coconut milk and fresh fruit on top. It can be found at: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/ems-paleo-granola-plus-how-and-why-to-soak-or-sprout-your-nuts-and-seeds/. There’s also a note at the bottom of this post on soaking and dehydrating nuts. If you can handle them, nuts are a great way to add some protein, vitamins, and calories to your diet and make such an easy, healthy snack, but you need to make sure they are prepared properly. I can only handle small amounts of them but I handle them even better if they are soaked and dried to remove the enzymes that make them hard to digest.

So what else can I add? Thanksgiving passed with a day with my husband’s family. His aunt was gracious enough to invite us and then send us home with a ton of leftovers! I still had a lot of things yet to pack in my kitchen so I made a dairy-free cashew cheese for a gluten- and dairy-free appetizer for my son and I plus to share, and it was amazing; I went to the paleo bakery I mentioned earlier and bought some grain-free crackers to serve with it. Want that recipe too? (Think hummus but with cashews.) You can find it on my Fall/Thanksgiving board on Pinterest along with the Paleo Pumpkin Pie Cheesecakes I made for dessert at https://www.pinterest.com/epselos/fallthanksgiving/. Neither are my recipes, but I wish I could take credit for them; they are amazing! It was great to get away for the day and relax with family. Check out what my caring auntie did on the buffet table!

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Can you see? All the gluten-free dishes were labeled! And that was after calling me and reading labels and checking ingredients. I was so touched. I almost forgot – at the lower left is a grain-free stuffing I also made. I don’t think I’ve posted the recipe before, but may have to. It’s a stuffing recipe I have made over and over and used to use gluten-free cornbread. This year I made it with some grain-free muffins and it was so good! I think I meant to and forgot in the all the crazy. Look for it in a few months then (fall is coming and I am so excited!) It’s my favorite time of year and Thanksgiving my favorite holiday so I look forward to being able to enjoy it this year.

On to my last point: take time to enjoy the little things. Moving is hard. Having to drop everything to celebrate a holiday was hard. Grieving for a beautiful boy I will never see grow up is even harder. Having finally finished the move only to dive head-first into Christmas was exhausting. At one point I just wanted it all to be over. And I had to stop and take stock of what I was thankful for. We live in such a beautiful apartment in a lovely area (you’ve seen how much we enjoy it if you follow me on social media). We took a break over Christmas and I didn’t get much more than Christmas stuff unpacked and that was ok. Here are a couple of happy snaps of taking time to enjoy the little things.

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I love this picture. I was using any box or basket we could spare and the ones I could unload I did as soon as possible then reuse them over and over. We were at the new place one night and were tired and ready to go but not done yet. And I was all proud of myself for having this pile to take back to the old place and I asked my husband to get a picture. Neither of us can remember what he said, but he made some joke, and he caught a picture of me laughing. This is a lot of joy at the end of long day in the middle of a string of long, not very joyful days. The pictures at the heading were the first pictures I took at our new place; our front door and the first time I put my key in the lock, as well as our first family selfie. Joy in the little things.

We would finish working at one place, stop and get some dinner, and then take the scenic route home and look at Christmas lights. Here is my house with little else but Christmas decorations unpacked. I love it. The Christmas tree is a whole other dramatic story that took about three weeks to get up, not getting lit or decorated until two days before Christmas but it was worth the wait. It had been in storage for over ten years and all we had during that time was a tiny little table top tree. With nothing else on the walls it looked like an elf had thrown up in there and it was awesome.

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We took time out for friends and family and didn’t get hardly any unpacking done over Christmas but so what? It was our first holiday in our new home and that is special. Looking back, even as hard as it was, we made some wonderful memories in those weeks. Focusing on that got me through it, as did the real reason for the season we were celebrating. And then over New Year’s we had a huge surprise, it snowed in Southern California! We got several inches that lasted almost a week and every day was spent outside as much as we could stand enjoying it. We have only gotten snow once before in the almost seventeen years I have lived here and it barely lasted a day, so we lived it up this time! (Here is Henry, hugging a snowman a neighbor had made.)

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In all honesty, I stressed at first about the holiday. Christmas is expensive and moving is expensive. The move took priority. Grandparents got homemade ornaments and our gifts to each other were small but meaningful. I like to bake and give homemade treats and that didn’t happen. Nor did the fun party for all our awesome employees I had been thinking about for months. Not to mention all the great holiday blog stuff I was planning for all of you. Again, I had to make myself focus on what was really important.

But that only took me so far. I haven’t talked about this really, but the truth is I had a really hard time of it early this year. My body retaliated for all the missed sleep and meals and cheating I did (albeit how “clean” said cheats may have been) and all the stress and physical labor, and it was just too much. I was exhausted, burned out, and actually got very sick several times (which rarely happens to me) because my immune system was simply on overload.

When you are down and out already everything seems worse and even though we are very thankful for the miracle boy we have big holidays make us miss our two boys we have lost even more. It all snowballed over the last several months for different reasons and you can read more about that in my most previous post.

I went very strict AIP for a while and have only just recently begun reintroducing things like nuts and dairy. And those I can still only handle in very limited amounts. Nine months later. I’ve been looking at other natural and alternative remedies and have gotten back into exercising, yoga, and mediation as a way to heal my body and spirit. It’s slow going and takes patience.

I have a confession to make. We have been here almost nine months and are still unpacking. I just fell into a bad funk and didn’t really have the heart for any decorating and am only just now unpacking some of the boxes I love the most, my books and craft supplies. I’m waking up so to speak, and my husband is very busy and we don’t always have time for projects around the house. The garage where things were dumped in the chaos I mentioned earlier? It is finally being cleared out. Boxes are being unpacked, things organized or gotten rid of, and life is coming together. I am hanging more pictures and planning projects. Life is moving on. It’s not easy, but like me, is a work in progress.

I hope I helped someone with my moving two cents. Leave a comment with your moving tips or on-the-go favorite healthy goodies. I’d love to hear about it!

Love and Hugs,

Emily

A Few Thoughts on Grief, Jealousy, and Dealing With It

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I’ve lost count how many times I have mentally written this post in my head. I’ve been meaning to write it for over a year and have physically been trying to write it for months, having stopped and started more times than I can count. It was one I had in my mind when I first started my blog but have hesitated because I know not everyone will like to read it and it may step on some toes. Then I thought, ‘Wait, I’m not writing it for them! I’m writing it for me and for all the other people who have gone through circumstances like mine and have thought and felt like I do!’ After that I had another thought – maybe it was for them – that by reading this they would have a glimpse of my heart and know me a little bit better and we could get along better or they would know better what to do the next person they meet that has gone through what I have gone through.

A quick note…If you fall into this category, you know me, and think you may recognize yourself in what I’m about to say then please don’t take it the wrong way. I am not criticizing you (there are no names in this post!) but simply sharing my story.

I started this blog to share my story. I have lost two babies and for years people were telling me I needed to write about it but I never did. I started the blog because I suddenly felt ready to share. I thought it would be a place to talk about it and connect with other parents that experienced loss, and also to share about my experiences with Celiacs disease, eating a gluten-free diet, and clean living. I thought it would be a place to practice my writing (I am first and foremost a fiction author) and market my art which has always been just a hobby. I had grand ideas and not much has come of it. It became more of a food and health blog, but that was the direction my thoughts were much of last year as I worked on some ongoing health issues. I have been learning so much about my own health and my body and natural ways of healing I simply wanted to share.

If you follow me here on WordPress then you might notice I’ve been pretty quiet lately. I am a little more active on social media and my blog posts don’t always take precedence, although I’d like to get better about that. Someone asked me recently why I didn’t post more and then they mentioned a couple of other blogs they followed – who are professional bloggers! They actually get paid for what they do. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet and I’m a wife and mother first along with being co-owner of the family business, and those things take priority.

The other reason I have been kind of quiet is I am trying to focus back on why I started my blog – to talk about my boys – and I thought I was ready but it is easier said than done. I have started their birth stories over and over and over. That was to be my very first post – many, many posts ago – and I still haven’t gotten it done. It’s strange; I can talk and talk and talk about them. It’s not always easy but I don’t mind it. Just the opposite; it feels very validating to talk about them, like they matter, that they existed. But I just can’t write it down. There’s something different about it. I know it will be very cathartic to do it, and I will, but I’m still working on it. Even our third baby’s story, who is now three and thriving, has a story that is difficult to recall at times. Which brings me to what I was going to talk about today.

Grief, jealousy, and dealing with it. What did I mean by that? First of all, isn’t that penguin picture the cutest? I was looking for a pretty background for my heading and that little guy just made me smile; and talking about something like this I needed something to make me smile. Don’t you just want to reach into the screen and squeeze him? If you relate with me as you read with this, consider this post my virtual hug to you.

Grief, jealousy, and dealing with it refers to some feelings I have dealt with and know I am not the only one. I wanted to share and hopefully encourage someone else. There is nothing wrong with the way you feel. You need to feel what you feel and deal with it. This is my story.

As I wrote this post in my head one of the many times a few stories came to mind that made me decide to write this post. I was inspired by stories like of someone who after I opened my heart to them they were given a new understanding of the process and went to someone – sixty years or so after a miscarriage – and apologized for not being there as they should. Or someone who was close to me but didn’t understand what I was going through and I didn’t understand what they were going through and there were hurt feelings and several awkward moments over the years.

Maybe you have a sister, friend, brother, aunt, neighbor, co-worker, etc. who is going through something difficult and you can gain a different perspective. Or maybe YOU are that sister, friend, brother, neighbor, co-worker, etc. that simply needs to know you are not alone. And people don’t really talk about it. People clam up when this subject comes up and I have to say many say it’s because they don’t want to upset someone – which is kind – but if we bring it up it usually means we NEED to talk about it. I haven’t seen many posts like this one and that made me decide to share.

Our first baby died in December of 2003. My first experience with jealousy and dealing with it came barely a month later when a family member gave birth to a healthy full-term baby. Right there under our noses was someone whose world had not stopped turning. Who were celebrating. I listened to the phone message of the person who called to tell us the news and cried. Then I felt terrible. I was happy for them but sad for us. Where was our happy ending?

It can help knowing there is someone who does understand. Maybe not exactly how you feel, but grief can be EXTREMELY isolating. If you are a grieving parent I share this to tell you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Whether you have lost someone or know someone who has I wanted to reach out to you and hopefully encourage or inspire you with my story.

As I said, I have debated about writing this many times over, and then a couple of months ago I was thumbing through Facebook one night on my phone and a friend had shared an article I clicked on that was very similar to what I am writing about today. Our situations are different, she was talking more about infertility than loss, but I have dealt with that too (just not to the same extent) but still what she was saying and how she was feeling really resonated with me. That was the first time I’d ever read something online like that and there was something very validating in it. My heart goes out to this hurting mama who wrote it, but in reading it I felt a little less alone. So I decided to share my story with you.

After losing a baby in December of 2003 I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix; around eighteen to twenty weeks the fetus simply gets too heavy and for unknown reasons the cervix cannot hold it and begins to thin and dilate and labor begins. We had no idea. My first pregnancy was completely normal and one night our entire world came crashing down. I was twenty-two weeks and our beautiful, perfect little boy weighed only fourteen ounces. He lived for an hour then died in my arms.

It took a long time before I could even think of trying again. The idea simply hurt too much and I felt in some way guilty that I was thinking of having another baby, like it was unfair to the one we lost, but eventually I was ready and we began trying again. And we tried. And we tried.

Four years went by. At first I thought we just needed to relax. We would take a little break then try again. And nothing. I began to worry something was wrong with me. I finally spoke to my doctor about it who referred me to a fertility clinic and ordered a slew of intimidating tests. I went to the aforementioned best friend who has dealt with infertility and asked for advice. I wasn’t sure I was ready to dive headfirst into that world. She advised me I needed to be ready. That the testing itself wasn’t easy but the hardest part was the results; I needed to be ready for whatever the outcome might be, be it good or bad.

So we took some time to decide. And then my husband was laid off from his job and we lost our health insurance. There went my dream again.

In the meantime I was surrounded by babies. I was in charge of the nursery at our church, running two rooms, one for birth through twelve months and the other twelve through twenty-four months. All my friends had babies. A friend got married and had three kids in the midst of the happenings in the last couple of paragraphs. Another told me one Sunday at church (in the nursery with her one-year old) that she and her husband were thinking of trying again (adding to their brood of three). Less than a month later she came to church again with the news she was pregnant.

I was babysitting that baby – and all of his/her siblings – one day and I was sure I was pregnant at the time. I was late, I had all the symptoms, and I had even taken a test that morning. I was shocked when it was negative. I didn’t believe it and took another. It too was negative. I was sure they were wrong. Absolutely certain. My plan was to take another the next day and if it was negative again then schedule a doctor’s appointment; I was that sure those little store-bought tests had to be wrong.

So here I am at my friend’s house, watching her young family. While there I got my period. I remember sitting in the bathroom just staring in disbelief. All the kids were napping and so I just sat there and cried. Not five minutes after leaving the bathroom the baby woke up. I walked into the room and it just hit me like a freight train that I was alone and empty and had no baby of my own. I picked that baby up and rocked and cuddled it and cried some more. It felt so unfair.

Late in 2008 I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease; it is an autoimmune disease where your body cannot process gluten (a protein in the molecule of many foods like wheat, rye, or barley among others) and causes an immune response in your body. I was sick and had no idea why; come to find out my own immune system was basically attacking the insides of my intestines. One of the side effects of this disease if left untreated? There are many and I was dealing with several but one that leapt off the page at when I read it was infertility.

There is debate in the scientific community, but though it is genetic, there are some that believe the gene can remain dormant your entire life and it not be an issue, but something can wake it up, so to speak. It is usually an extreme event of physical ailment or stress. In the last few years I had had both. If that is true we think that may have been my trigger, though I had had stomach issues in the past. Regardless, I took that information and moved on. I have been strictly gluten-free ever since and it took some time to heal but early in 2010 I got pregnant again, after only trying for a couple of months.

We moved forward cautiously but optimistically. At fourteen weeks I received a cerclage, or stitch in my cervix, to hold it closed, but a routine ultrasound at nineteen weeks showed it not only had failed but my baby was coming through. I had no pain of labor yet, but my baby was basically sitting in the birth canal. It was the same day we learned we were having another boy. We were excitedly talking about names and ways to announce the news to friends and family when they called us back in to recheck because something hadn’t seemed right. I’ll never forget that sick feeling as I walked back into the room and the deafening silence as they took another look. I was rushed to the hospital and spent the next three weeks on complete and total bed rest, but on April 28, 2010 an infection set in, causing labor to begin and our sweet and beautiful angel baby was born sleeping and my world changed forever again.

I was suddenly the mother of not one but two babies that were no longer here. I had no idea how to handle that, to live with that. I had arms that actually ached and felt empty. I would awake in the night to the sound of a baby crying and realize it was all in my head. I would feel phantom kicks in my belly. I still experienced morning sickness. I lactated with both of my boys and after hearing a baby cry, my milk let down and took over two weeks to dry up. I would hear a baby cry months later and feel that sensation again. I have nieces and nephews on both sides of our family that are within months of both of our boys, leaving me with living reminders at every family holiday and function exactly what we were missing out on. I was surrounded by friends having babies, inviting me to showers and asking me to babysit.

I had no idea how to deal with it.

To be honest, in a way I sort of didn’t deal with it. I had never really been a jealous person but at times I swear I could actually see green. And to me it seemed like I was literally surrounded by the thing I ached for the most.

We waited only eight months before trying again after our second loss and I became pregnant in early 2011. I had been on light to modest bed rest with number two as soon as I had the cerclage but this time around it started immediately and once I had the cerclage it went to strict. I went from my bed to the couch with only bathroom and occasional shower privileges. The only place I ever went was the doctor’s office. I was willing to do absolutely anything to save my baby, but it is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It is extremely isolating and can be very lonely. Not to mention frightening.

After a while I gave up on Facebook. I had several friends who were pregnant and if they weren’t complaining about how uncomfortable they were and unhappy they had only mere weeks left they were posting pictures of themselves hiking, putting furniture together, or any myriad of seemingly simple every day things when I was barely allowed to get out of bed to use the restroom. It made me uncomfortable and so jealous and Facebook wasn’t fun anymore.

I was admitted to the hospital at twenty-four weeks with Henry when the cerclage began showing signs of failing. Again. Those people that were complaining about being thirty-six weeks and had an agonizing four weeks to go had no idea we were literally holding our breath and rejoicing at the smallest victories. My pregnancy was not measured in months or weeks but days and sometimes by hours. Waking up I would thank God I had made it through another night, say another thankful prayer at lunchtime, late afternoon, and breathe a sigh of relief when another day was over and we had made it through. Then the next day it would start all over again.

I don’t fault these friends. And I know even the most picture-perfect pregnancy can be uncomfortable; it was just hard for me in that moment. Even now. I still feel insanely jealous every time I see a pregnant woman hauling around a toddler or carrying something or lying on the beach or even shopping. All those things I couldn’t do.

Our miracle boy was born on August 8, 2011, our thirteenth wedding anniversary; the number thirteen will always be lucky for us. He was thirty-two weeks and only three pounds, fourteen ounces but he was here and alive and now at three he is healthy and thriving and a blessing we thank God every day for. But…

My husband and I desperately want to try again, but are not sure we should. We want another baby so much it literally hurts. We had always dreamed of a large family and though we are so thankful for Henry but our family feels incomplete. And we find ourselves faced with an agonizing decision. What do we do? What is the right choice? Are we brave enough to try again? And I wonder if I am brave enough to face the truth if we decide no. I don’t know how to face that.

And I find myself once again surrounded by babies and pregnant women. I thought I was imagining things and counted one night (you know, one of those weird, random things you do when you can’t sleep and the most odd things just float through your head) and I counted seven. Then the next morning – yes, that morning, I am not exaggerating – I get onto Facebook and here is another announcement. I closed the app, set my phone aside, and cried.

When I react like that some people react negatively. I have never done that in front of those people with the news, mind you, but others have said to me things like I just need to be happy for them. And that bothers me. Do they think I’m heartless? That I don’t know that every baby is a miracle and though my heart is aching I’m not happy for them? That I don’t wish them the best? All that is true and more, but it still hurts sometimes.

So…how do I deal with it, you might be wondering. I’m still figuring that out, to be totally honest. Sometimes you just have to deal with it as it comes. People are going to say seemingly insensitive (and sometimes to you will seem downright cruel) things but I doubt anyone who has ever done such a thing to me has actually done so to be hurtful. They simply do not understand. Realizing that has helped me deal with it in some situations. Do my feelings still get hurt sometimes? Yes, they do, although I do my best to not let it get to me.

I have not been to a baby shower since we lost our first baby. Is that the right way to handle it? Maybe not, but it works for me. Do I show up with the happy face when I don’t want to? Often, but not always. There are certain situations that I have begun to avoid after realizing that life is too short to constantly make myself miserable. If it’s a baby shower I will still send a card and a gift. I have turned down birthday party and lunch date or other get-together invites simply because I did not feel I could handle it.

I used to babysit all the time and I can now count on one hand how many times I have in the last ten years. I still don’t feel comfortable with it, and if I do it is only because they are little friends of Henry’s or we are trading babysitting with someone.

Does everyone understand? Is everyone sympathetic. NO. Some are even almost rude about it. Maybe they’re offended, but they cannot understand and I can’t make them. There’s no way they can understand.

So how do I deal with it? The best that I can. Do I always do a good job at that? Another big NO.

There have been births recently and when I received the news I felt so down. I went out for a little retail therapy, bought myself some chocolate, and had a pity party. On the event of another I cried and cried and cried. And I felt horrible because someone’s miracle had the power to hurl me into a giant pit of depression. It made me feel like a terrible, awful person, but losing a child will do that to you. The simple act of receiving pregnancy news from a person had done the same thing, which only added to those feelings in those moments.

In that situation a best friend who has experienced loss and infertility was a god-send and spent hours on the phone texting and calling and getting me through it. Deal with it with someone who will support you and encourage you. Someone who will lift you up, be there for you no matter what, and will never judge.

Have I lost friends? YES. I have not purposely written people off, but they have me. Many have simply disappeared. I wonder if they have any idea how hurtful that is. Never do that to anyone. Be honest. If you are uncomfortable or just never know what to do and say it’s ok to tell us that. We’ll appreciate your honesty and the friendship will be all the better for it. Don’t leave.

I have gained friends too. The friend I just mentioned? I met her at the local farmer’s market. She was a vendor at the time. She heard what happened after my first baby and reached out. We bonded over shared heartache but a true friendship grew out of it and she is probably one of the people I am closest to; because she knows the real me. There was someone else in my life I had never been very close to but he reached out to me after our first loss and has been there ever since; they are one of those people that is just there with a smile and a hug for me and my husband and though they has no idea what we went through they have cried with us, celebrated with us, and are always there when we need them. A friend of my husband’s was there for us after our first baby and went through the ringer when we moved in with us; I can’t imagine what it was like living with crazy, neurotic, emotional me and I count it to this person’s character he is still our friend. (He’s been such a good friend, in fact, we’ve named one of our other children after him.)

Then again, I have a couple of people I do not communicate with as much, simply because they have not been there for me and have been discouraging and negative and/or judgmental, and I need positive people in my life right now. I still count them as friends and I will be there for them when needed in any way I can, but I had to take a step back. It took a long time to realize that was ok. Again, life is simply too short.

How else do I deal with it? I honor my boys. Any way I can. We have photos and momentos of them all over our house. We tell our son about them. We make their little lives matter. We have donated gifts at Christmastime to orphanages or charitable organizations in their name, age-appropriate to what they would be. And I am beginning to work through some of my feelings.

Right now it is very hard. My heart hurts so much. I miss them more than I ever have. Time is not healing my wounds, but making them worse. I am working through my feelings, dealing with it as best I can, and it’s not always perfect and I am still learning, but I really am doing my best.

I have been physically working on this post for almost three months now. I started it on March 3. Many of the pregnancies I have felt surrounded with have turned to births and I am dealing with it as best I can. Am I doing a good job? No, not really.

I crochet. I love to do it and rarely keep anything I make. They are all gifts. And I have been working on the same baby blanket since February. Now, I put a lot of love into everything I make and can be a bit of a perfectionist about it, but that’s a little extreme. I should have finished it weeks ago, and it is literally ALMOST done, but some days I just can’t pick it up. Other days after five minutes I feel I’ve been sitting there working for days. And I have another to do when it’s done. I offered to do them and now I can’t remember why.

I have started more than one that were never finished and I do not intend to add these two to the list, but it has happened. I have actually thrown the yarn and pattern, partly finished project, and all in the trash. Or put it away and finished it later for someone else.

It’s hard, but I know it’s good for me. As hard as it can be it really is a rather little thing I can do. It’s something. I only do these for people I am very close to and it is a gesture of love for these precious little ones. I love them already and I know I don’t show it always how I should, so this is a way to do that.

I deal with it with my fiction writing, by escaping into make-believe worlds of my choosing. It is my escape, my way out, and my salvation some days. I love to craft and paint and make jewelry. I like music and water and I do yoga. I love to read. The list goes on. You have to find things that make you happy.

I deal with it by reaching out to other hurting moms when and how I can. It’s not always easy but I know how alone I sometimes feel. Just to have someone that says they’ve been there and they’re hurting too and say they will be there for you – and mean it – means the world to a hurting heart.

Am I always handling it how I should? Probably not. I have tried to be honest with some and some have been supportive and some not. Many do not understand why I don’t want to go to a gender-reveal party one weekend and the baby shower a few weeks later. And yes, maybe you feel ignored but I was honest with you but made some lame excuse to the other invitation I received for the very next weekend. And maybe when you shove an ultrasound picture under my nose and I make a polite excuse of why I suddenly have to go, I am not being rude. I simply don’t want to cry in front of you and embarrass myself or make you feel bad. Or when I decline to hold your baby when you offer them to me that is not rudeness either. Again, I don’t want to cry in public or sometimes honestly just can’t do it. I can’t explain it to you because you have not been in my shoes, but it’s true; sometimes you literally and physically can’t do it. Some don’t realize I am now afraid to open social media or check my mail some days because I am going to receive one more invitation or be inundated with borages of pictures and news and updates that turn what was originally a pretty good day into one where I am left feeling lonely and sorry for myself. It’s not your fault; it’s just the way I feel.

I don’t want anyone to walk on egg shells around me but sometimes I wish some people would be a little more empathetic. On the other hand, I want people to be able to celebrate. I simply appreciate it when they try to understand. When they accept that I am hurting and though you may not think I am being the best of friends at the moment it is because in that particular moment I am more in need of a friend. We celebrated every milestone with Henry when I was pregnant and as he has developed, but I don’t share as much anymore and if we do decide to get pregnant again I’m not sure how much I will shout from the rooftops. Because I have been the one on the other side of said shouting and know that even in those moments of celebration it can hurt.

My advice? If you are hurting and feel alone I am here. I don’t pretend to understand what you are going through because you are you. We are all different, but I am sharing all this to reach out and connect with you so we can help each other. Leave me a comment here or go to one of my social media sites and send me a message. I will reply. Find me by searching my name, PreciousBelovedBlessing.

If you are on the other side, dealing with a friend or loved one who has experienced loss I am here to talk as well. But to you I would say be there. Don’t judge and there really is nothing you can say to fix it or make it better. Just be there. It’s a lot easier than you might think. And thank you for taking the time to read this, for trying to understand.

If you have read this far I send more hugs to you, no matter who you are and what you are dealing with. None of us are alone. I am not perfect. I do not pretend to know it all. I just want to put this out there and maybe touch somebody. I just have a hurting heart that suddenly feels the need to connect to someone outside my small circle and I do not feel it is an accident I am feeling compelled to do it at this moment.

I have shared different stories and close it by applauding my husband. Grieving is hard and you feel alone but you have a spouse that is hurting too. Men and women grieve very differently. We are still learning but our marriage is all the more stronger for it and I thank God I have such an amazing man in my life that loves me in spite of my crazy, emotional self. We are healing together.

I wish you healing and hope and happiness. Hugs to you.

Love,
Emily

Easter 2015 ~ Food, Family, & Finding Joy in the Little Things

The Pselos Family's Easter 2015

Easter has come and gone and I’ve been meaning to write this for the last two weeks because there were some things I wanted to share. I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Ours was lovely. We had been very hot in Southern California the entire week before and it cooled off to where I was chilly outside in my little spring sundress! It was awesome; I am nowhere near ready for summer yet. There is plenty of year left for it to get blazing hot so I will take the cool when and where I can get it!

It ended up being just the three of us. Over a month before we had started asking family what everyone wanted to do and no one ever gave us an answer. Then hubby got a couple of runs that day (our transportation business, Integrity Transportation Service, is always open, which sometimes includes working holidays) so we decided to have our own get-together so that we could plan the day around his schedule. Plus, I actually prefer to cook these days. Yes, it is a lot of work, but at least I know I can eat everything! I often leave dinner parties hungry and/or sick even after trying to communicate with the host and I don’t expect everyone to become an expert, but am sometimes left feeling like an inconvenience – on top of hungry and/or sick – so I just prefer to do the hosting myself.

Everyone else apparently had their own plans, and it turned out to be a nice day, but I was kind of hoping for a busy day. As nice as it is to have just us, sometimes – particularly on holidays – just the three of us makes the house seem kind of empty and overly quiet.

Our son, Christopher, would be eleven this year and his brother, Joshua, five. Both died as a result of extreme prematurity and I miss them more now than I ever have. They are never far from my thoughts and I had been preparing and planning for Easter for weeks. I had been working on my menu and shopping and meal and goodie prepping, and doing fine. Until late Saturday night when I made up the Easter basket for our three-year old and it hit me hard. I was only making one basket when I should have been making three.

Henry's Easter Basket

Henry’s Easter Basket

So I admit a few tears were shed while I put together this fun Easter basket full of things my little boy loves. Everything he received was completely junk-free and fun. There were a couple of books, bubbles, a new baby (as he calls stuffed animals), a Thomas the train engine that chugs and whistles, and a card handmade by his mama. The only sweets he received was a box of Chirps, the clean version of Peeps made by a favorite local grain-free bakery. Here’s a close-up; aren’t they the cutest? They are made with honey and natural colors and real flavors and he was thrilled. He’d actually never had a marshmallow before; it was hilarious but now he may be hooked! I will be sweet-talking Laura at Snackin’ Free to make me a batch before our next camping trip for sure!

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep!  The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow.  We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep! The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow. We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

My husband was out early working, so it was just me and the little guy for breakfast. I have to eat grain-free for health reasons and he has to eat gluten-free, so fun meals can take a little planning. I had had several ideas, about making things or ordering things. I love cinnamon rolls and had found a recipe for them to try and then the bakery we got the Chirps from also had them to order, but in the end I bought a loaf of bread. Yes, plain bread. And it was a huge treat! I rarely have bread around I can eat because it’s quite expensive to buy and though I love to bake it can be a lot of work when you already are preparing a large meal from scratch, plus the ingredients (though it is cheaper than buying in the store) aren’t cheap either.

Then I was doing my meal shopping and my little guy asked for bread. So sweetly and he can be so hard to say no to! So we wandered over to the gluten-free baked goods section in the bakery and there was this loaf of grain-free bread, made locally, that is pretty expensive for bread, but really good. (It’s by Jackalope Good Food Company and worth the occasional splurge.) So while I saw many others on Facebook and Instagram and such serve a fancy brunch or make pancakes, or crepes, or eggs benedict, or such, Henry and I had toast and were absolutely thrilled. Oh, the simple things!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me.  Simple but divine!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me. Simple but divine!

My husband got home around mid-morning or so, and I was fighting to get motivated. Our original plan had been to eat at two and I had my plan all laid out and had gotten a meager start, but that was it. And I was emotional. I could hardly stop crying, though I was trying to hide it. Sometimes it just hits you. Many don’t understand, but the fact is you don’t have to be consciously thinking about someone you’ve loved and lost for it to hurt. It can just hit you out of nowhere like a freight train and take you by surprise. It wasn’t like I was thinking, Oh woe is me…my boys aren’t here…I’m sad…etc, etc, etc. It’s just there. And usually has hit you and run you over before you even realize that it’s there.

So my husband, bless his heart, came home to a weepy wife and didn’t even have to ask. He just knew and asked me, “Thinking about the boys?” He understood because he was too. He hugged me and encouraged me a little and then went to take care of some things and play with our son. I could hear him on the phone and the next thing I knew his schedule was cleared for the rest of the day; he had had one more run for later that night he wound up giving to one of our drivers. He had a run early the next morning and would have been out late, so that was part of the reason, but when I asked him later he admitted part of it was he also didn’t want to leave me on a difficult day. I was so touched.

I was initially really disappointed no one joined us, and the house still felt kind of lonely and empty through the day, but on one hand it was nice. It was so relaxed, it took the pressure off the schedule with no one showing up and no work for my husband to get to. On the other hand, there’s nothing like someone showing up your door soon to get you moving and motivated! I set aside my disappointment, worked through my down emotions, and we ended up having a really nice day.

Grief doesn’t go away. And you learn lessons from it. I am still learning but I think most days I do pretty well at just working through it and finding what works for me. (If I didn’t I would never get out of bed in the morning!) One of my struggles is my faith. I am working through it and have come spades and bounds, but there are still days I purposely avoid church. They are Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Even now that we have our little miracle (that I know we have God to thank for!) it still is hard to show up and put on a happy face and pretend I’m not hurting on days that are so focused on the little ones. I’m not saying I am dealing with it exactly as I should, but maybe I am. I have found what works for me. I turned on Pandora radio and turned to our favorite Praise and Worship station, which is so nice in the background, and after fifteen minutes the same song had come on three different times in different versions, but the same song. The last time was the version I was familiar with and why that made me change the channel in tears takes a story.

When I was in labor with my firstborn at twenty-two weeks and trying to stop it a pastor/friend from our church came to visit and brought me a beautiful worship CD by the group, Passion, with the song, Here I Am to Worship. It’s a beautiful song with an amazing message, but it was playing in the background when my son was born, and then again an hour later when he died. It will always be a song I associate with him, and that’s not always a bad thing, but that morning it was. So I changed the channel and after a few minutes came a song that made me take a deep breath and stop what I was doing to see what it was.

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

It was so beautiful and just spoke to me somehow and the breath caught in my throat again when I saw the name of the song and the album. Several more popped up through the day and now I want to download the whole album so I can listen to it whenever. It’s instrumental and very soothing, and I am a person really motivated by music. It speaks to me and inspires me – and is one of the places I find joy – but more on that later.

So I turned on my music, started on my dinner, eventually made myself get dressed and put makeup on, and spent time with my family. Our little boy, Henry, is such a joy and made me laugh many times that day. That brings me to the food.

My husband loves ham, and that was my first idea, but then we got to talking about his paternal grandmother who passed away two years ago last month. She was Italian and her husband Greek, and she melded the two together seamlessly and every big feast at Grandma’s house was big on traditional fare, but she loved Easter. Our family is a big melting pot, including along with the Greek and Italian, there is Polish on that side, and mostly German on my side with a little French and Irish mixed in. Quite a combo and we are tried and true American made with Greek, Italian, Polish, and German etc. parts, but I love teaching our son about his heritage and I LOVE family traditions. So we started a new one this year and wanted to honor Grandma Jean on one of her favorite holidays and share it with the little boy she loved so much. Here is Grandma, meeting Henry the first time – one of my favorite pictures of the two of them.

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Grandma Jean was a sweet, fun lady who had quite a personality and we didn’t always get along, but we loved each other fiercely. She was never Mrs. Pselos, or Jean; from the moment I met her, even though me and her grandson were only dating, she was Grandma. And even later, I was never her grandson’s wife, but her granddaughter. She could be a little secretive when it came to her cooking, but I learned a lot from her. She would give advice – just not share recipes! – but she loved company in the kitchen so I learned to watch and help where she let me.

It was really hard on me when she died, and that was part of my tears on Sunday, just thinking about her and the memories. I must admit, I’m tearing up even now as I write! I know she was looking down at us and smiling as we tried to honor her that day and recreate recipes she had perfected over her lifetime and guarded so closely! We worked from memory plus a recipe book she gave us years ago, did some tweaking to make it compliant with me and Henry’s diets, and here was our menu. Completely gluten-free, paleo, and (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly.

Antipasto
Italian Wedding Soup
Roasted Lamb
Pasta and Homemade Sauce
Salad

For dessert, Grandma made these Italian shortbread cookies covered in powdered sugar, but she made those more for Christmas. Other big family dinners she made cake or would buy these amazing pies from a local market. I ended up making a carrot cake and some almond butter chocolate-covered eggs.

The only thing missing is the potatoes. The Greek part of the meal came from the lamb and potatoes. I thought about it, but that was already going to be a lot of food for three people so we left them out this year. Then when it came time for dinner we had filled up on appetizers, so I nixed the salad too, but notice how it’s at the end of the meal? That’s an Italian thing and one of the lessons from Grandma – flashback to one of my first meals with her and I asked where the salad was at the beginning of the meal!

Our appetizers were super simple and not really planned to be honest. I had thought of a few things in case people came over and we were waiting for my husband to get home from work. Then my son finally fell asleep for his afternoon nap right about the time I was about to put finishing touches on dinner so we paused, pulled out some goodies and relaxed. There was a chicken liver pate I had made a few days before with some grain-free crackers (purchased from the bakery the Chirps came from), olives, fresh vegetables, and cheese.

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies.  With red wine.  I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies. With red wine. I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

One thing I have learned from eating real food is preparation is key. You can’t just open a bunch of cans, boxes, and packages the day of and throw together dinner. It takes planning and a lot of prep but is so worth it! For a big dinner like this I shop as soon as I can and start cooking absolutely everything I can ahead of time. And I make lists. Here I am trying to get organized about five days before Easter, which is actually a little last-minute for me, finalizing my shopping and to-do lists; this was posted to my Instagram.

We are also on a budget. Planning things out allows me to stretch out the expense. If I have a basic idea of what I want to do I can start planning weeks in advance, making sure I am stocked up on pantry staples, or picking something up ahead of time because it’s on sale and then freezing it, or such. It takes a little work, but it’s not hard and well worth it. I spent a lot on groceries for this meal, but we ate leftovers the entire next week. We happen to like leftovers and we like playing with them and making things different. (Like sandwiches, salads, fried rice – made with cauliflower – and the lamb and veggies on top of sweet potatoes for example.)

Dinner turned out amazing, though we still want to tweak the recipes of Grandma’s we tried to recreate. The others I got on-line. I used recipes I found for the pasta and sauce, cake, and candy. As I mentioned earlier everything was (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly and I was referring to the pasta and almond butter eggs; the pasta was made with almond flour and the eggs with almond butter and chocolate. Those three things are cheats for me but I do ok with them in small amounts as long as I don’t overdue it and it was worth it. It had been so long since I had had pasta, I was beyond excited!

I found the recipe for it on Pinterest, and I was a little intimidated at first, but it was very easy. It is by Paleo Cupboard and you can find it here: http://www.paleocupboard.com/paleo-pasta.html. The sauce is a nightshade-free sauce I have made before and love; it works great in anything calling for tomato sauce, including pasta or pizza. My husband doesn’t like beets, but he likes this sauce, if that’s an indication how good it is, although he had his own sauce. We had one jar of homemade, canned tomato sauce given to us by one of our clients from her garden last year, so he used that (I love it when he gets homemade tips like that!). The No-Mato Sauce comes from The Curious Coconut and can be found at: http://thecuriouscoconut.com/blog/the-best-no-mato-sauce-autoimmune-paleo-marinara. A note about the No-Mato Sauce; I have made it many times and I often have a batch in my freezer, but didn’t this time so I made it fresh. It freezes beautifully and I usually portion it out into two-cup portions (perfect for a pizza), but for a big dish of pasta for the family I might thaw two.

Here is our finished dinner:

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes.  Grandma always served soup in this tureen.  Always.  It means a lot to have it.

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes. Grandma always served soup in this tureen. Always. It means a lot to have it.

The finished dinner:  roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup.  All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free.  And oh, so good!

The finished dinner: roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup. All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. And oh, so good!

I’d been feeling very deprived of lately and still dealing with some eczema, but my body is still healing. I do cheat on things like almond flour and chocolate and red wine on occasion because I am so diligent all the time and I think occasional treats are ok as long as your body can handle them. As I stated already I can eat them; just not all the time or too much. And that bottle of wine is still sitting on my counter a couple of weeks later as I have yet to finish it, and I enjoy and savor each glass because it probably won’t be until the next holiday I open another one! Life is too short to constantly deprive yourself if you ask me. Like dessert!

I love cake and actually haven’t made one since going grain-free. I’ve made cupcakes but not a whole cake. And I had been craving cake. My birthday was last month and I had a couple of recipes I wanted to make and considered ordering one from the bakery I mentioned earlier but didn’t do either and regretted it, so when Easter came around it didn’t take long to decide what I wanted. Carrot cake! It is one of my favorites and so springy! I found this recipe from Health Nut Nation which happened to already be nightshade-free, although most recipes aren’t hard to make that way. She had several frosting options but I ended up using the Best Ever Paleo Frosting by Real Food RN because it has become the only frosting we use; it really is the best ever and is so good and very easy. I used it because I knew it was good and easy and turns out every time. You can find the cake recipe here: http://www.healthnutnation.com/2013/03/27/paleo-carrot-cake/ and the frosting here: http://realfoodrn.com/best-paleo-frosting-ever/.

I made the Copy Cat Reese’s “Peanut Butter” Eggs last year and they were a hit. Hubby isn’t crazy about carrot cake, but loves chocolate and peanut butter so I made these. Last year we had a big family gathering and no one could believe they were dairy- and refined sugar-free. They come from My Whole Food Life and you can find the recipe here: http://mywholefoodlife.com/2014/03/09/copycat-reeses-peanut-butter-eggs/. I tweaked it this year by using half almond butter and half homemade coconut butter. Oh my, so good; I may do them that way from now on. I was trying to lessen the almond impact and it made the inside a little fluffier too. They still really tasted like almond butter. I could slightly taste the coconut, but was never sure if it was simply because I was looking for it. They are very simple and quick and this year it was a joy to have Henry help. He made funny ropes and wanted me to make a bunny and a snowman. Such fun.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun!  These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free.  The eggs are super easy.  Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun! These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free. The eggs are super easy. Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs.  So, so good!  I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost.  This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit.  I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out.  I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs. So, so good! I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost. This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit. I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out. I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

That brings me to my next point ~ finding joy in the little things. That can be really hard when you are hurting, either physically or emotionally. I don’t always do well at this, but I have learned you have to search for it at times and it’s usually never hard to find. Take for instance the music I mentioned earlier or treating myself to pasta, which I love and haven’t eaten in over a year. There was something else I wanted to share as well. In the middle of feeling sorry for myself that morning I sat down for a break to get lost on my phone and opened Instagram, seeing this.

This Instagram account comes from a woman named Nathalie Hillelrich. I know I did not find her by accident. I don’t spend very much time on Twitter. I follow quite a few people, but it’s not often I actually browse my timeline. I did that day, several weeks ago, and an account about infant loss I follow shared a picture and for some reason I clicked on it. What popped up was the picture of a woman and this tiny baby in a NICU that just took my breath away. I ended up following the link to her website which led me to her Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Find her website at http://www.nathaliehimmelrich.com. You can also find her at http://www.grievingparents.net. She has written a book titled, Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple. I’ve ordered it but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. She is inspiring and shares beautiful things, a grieving mama like myself who is moving on after the death of one of her twin daughters. I sent her an e-mail the day I found her and received the loveliest note back. I stumbled across her on a day I was really struggling and felt such a connection to this woman who lives literally half a world away. I sent her another note, asking if I could share this post of hers, to which she graciously agreed; check her out. She’s amazing.

So I submitted the names of my two angel babies, to which she replied, bringing me to tears. It was such a beautiful gesture and to have someone else acknowledge them meant the world to my husband and I.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram.  Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram. Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

As hard as it is, and as much I miss them, acknowledging them brings me such joy. We do little things, like hanging their pictures, talking about them to our son, hanging stockings at Christmas, lighting candles, buying little trinkets that make us think of them; we have planted trees in their memory, made donations in their names, I wear jewelry with their birthstones, and so on and so forth. After ordering Nathalie’s book this suggestion came up on Amazon and I immediately ordered it. Reading it the first time made me cry.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com).  A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss.  My advice?  Read it with a box of tissues.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com). A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss. My advice? Read it with a box of tissues.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My son received this in his Easter basket. Henry is three but knows who his brothers are. He recognized them in pictures the first time very young. It gave me goose bumps. I walked by a picture of the two of them and he wasn’t speaking yet but I knew the look of recognition on his face and he reached for them. Believe what you want, but I believe his little spirit recognized them; like he remembered them from Heaven. Even now he likes to kiss their pictures and the boxes of their ashes and he knows who they are. I always wanted it that way. When someone asks me how many children I have the answer is always three. If someone asks if we have any more children than Henry I politely answer we have two boys who are no longer with us. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out thing. Some people ask more, some don’t, and both are ok. Just for me and my heart, I have to acknowledge them. This was another way for me to do that.

So this Easter I found joy in many things. I found joy in enjoying some wonderful, healthy, yet delicious food that is compliant with a sometimes difficult diet and I enjoyed treating myself to a couple of things. I found joy in honoring a woman whose legacy will always leave a mark on our family. I found joy in starting a new tradition. I found joy in getting all dressed up in a pretty little black and white sundress my mama bought me while here in February; it’s a lot of fun dressing up when you don’t do it that often! I found joy in some beautiful music and a lovely gesture from a new friend that served as a salve for my soul on a difficult day. I found joy in a beautiful little boy that I thank God every day for. Henry is a miracle, no doubt about it, and he himself has such joy and sweetness, and you can’t help but smile when you are with him. I found joy with my husband who my relationship with isn’t perfect but we understand each other, love one another unconditionally, and I know I am extremely lucky to have him in my life. And I found joy in my two angel babies whom I also thank God for. I wish they were with me. I wish I could wrap my arms around them right now and hold them close. I ache for them. Every. Day. But I know I will see them again one day and that brings me some small amount of bittersweet joy.

You have to look for it. You have to work for it. But it’s there. Trust me.

Thank you for listening. I know I really went on and on with this one, but I gave you a rare piece of my heart I don’t often share. I hope it touched one of you, whether it be about the food or the family. I have put myself out there to connect with you, be encouraged by you, and an encouragement for you. Leave me a comment or visit me on social media and let’s connect. Thank you again for sharing my journey.

Blessings to you today,
Emily xo

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