hello doggie my old friend

Monday, April 13, 2015

We can never really remember the exact moment when doggie went from stuffed toy to best friend but I do remember when we first introduced him to Birdie. 
It was a blustery and gray December day when we pulled into our driveway as a family of three. I carefully carried Birdie up the stairs to our deck and happily stepped inside the warmth of our home to the sound of floorboards creaking under the weight of our bodies, still together, but on the outside this time. I looked around and realized for the first time, just how small this home really was. We seemed to outgrow it in a few moments. I sat down on the sofa to extract her now tiny, screaming body from her bear suit and rushed to the nursery to feed her. Crying turned to sucking and pretty soon she had pulled off my breast, her lips had puckered in that way that they do when they fall asleep nursing and I tiptoed into our bedroom to put her down for a nap. I gently laid her down in the crib but I couldn't shake the feeling that she looked so tiny and uncomfortable. I ran into the nursery and returned with doggie as he seemed the perfect length, shape and softness to help baby girl feel a little more "nestled" while she slept. 

Eventually she outgrew the co-sleeper crib and we moved her into the nursery and began putting her to sleep in her permanent crib. Doggie made the transition with her. At some point, I can't remember but I think around seven or nine months old, she began snuggling with him while she slept. During the day he would remain in the crib waiting for nap time or bedtime to once again be cradled in the soft and chubby arms of his friend. Then around the time that Birdie started cruising I found her in tears one day attempting to yank doggie free from between the spindles of the crib. She desperately wanted him out and I quickly placed him in her arms as I wiped away bit fat tears that poured down over her cheeks. She was instantly relieved, comforted and happy. And so doggie began to be a part of our daily routine -wherever Birdie went doggie went too.

It soon became apparent to us that not only was doggie her favorite toy, he was her... well, everything. There was no sleeping without doggie to snuggle with, there was no activity that he wouldn't be a part of and any time things got too frightening, confusing or just plain sad all she wanted was doggie. We finally realized his significance when we made the mistake of not bringing him with us on an outing - she was inconsolable. We eventually just had to scrap all plans for that day, return home and reunite the two. From that day forward, in addition to the standard laundry list of fears you carry as a parent, we became terrified of losing doggie (which could easily happen with a tiny toddler who is easily distracted). One day we did lose him, at Target (of course). Papa bear and I spent an hour combing the store with shaking hands, checking with customer service and asking people if they had seen it. We had practically given up when I decided to run through the store one last time. It was the day after black friday and the store was an absolute wreck. As I scanned the floor for what felt like the millionth time I finally spotted his tell-tale blue paws under a garment rack and my heart practically exploded out of my chest!! We were so lucky that all this time Birdie had been sleeping in her carseat, unaware of what was taking place. But a lesson was learned and as soon as we returned home we promptly ordered "doggie II." I hid him away in the dark recess of my closet where he lived ensconced in plastic for almost an entire year. 
As we entered 2015 doggie was really looking worse for the wear. I had stitched the same holes over and over again. Even after a round in the dryer he was no loner looking as "puffy" as he used to and there were stains that no amount of cleaning would remove. We began to mull over the idea of switching him out for doggie II... Then a few weeks ago I decided to give him one last chance. I washed him, I patched up the holes again and sewed his ears to his head lest he lose them completely. Unfortunately, just a few days later he looked just as bad. On Easter Sunday she had been complaining all day that doggie looked "duwtty" and that his "eas was cazzy" and asking "mama sik it." So we just jumped on the opportunity. Papa bear sat downstairs with her and told her that mama was going to go "fix doggie." I ran as fast as I could, knowing that she would want to follow me, ripped open the plastic bag and took out doggie II and ran downstairs. She was halfway up when we ran into each other and I cautiously handed him to her... She grabbed him from me, her eyes widened and she held him out to look him over. Then she began to meticulously point out all the changes "Eas nice, feet clean, arm clean..." She turned him over. "What's that?!!" she demanded as she came upon his tail. Papa bear and I looked at each other and thought oops!! We totally forgot that original doggie came with a defective tail that we ended up removing before she even had a memory of doggie. I excitedly chimed in that it was doggie's amazing new tail and she seemed to take the bait! She continued looking him over until she finally wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tighter than I've ever seen her hug him and exclaimed "doggie's OK!! doggie's OK!!" I tell you I will probably regret not getting a video of this for as long as I live. At the same time I don't think it is something I will ever forget. 

And that was that! Life has continued on as usual and doggie lives on via his new and improved self! Last night I tiptoed past her room after I put her to sleep and I could hear her sweet little voice reading doggie her Goodnight Moon book (because anything Birdie does doggie has to do also). Whenever she reads to him she does it with this adorable high pitched whisper voice and I sat down next to her door and listened as she read:
"Red balloon, beahs sittin chairs, kittens, mittens, old ladee ssshhhh, nigh nigh woom, nigh nigh kittens, mittens, nigh nigh old ladee ssshhhh, nigh nigh stars, nigh nigh moon..."

changing seasons

I recently finished reading Donald Miller's new book Scary Close that was recommended to me by so many people. Finding time to read these days is extremely difficult for me but I just couldn't put this one down. I read it in three sittings and it has been on my mind ever since. Miller unpacked so much of what has been on my mind lately regarding relationships and people and it has helped move me to a place of growth and understanding. Do you ever find that you chew on something and chew on something and then someone comes in and just says "here, here it is, the missing part?" This is what the experience of reading the book was like for me.
Now that I'm almost thirty (how???) I have had relationships that I've had my entire life, relationships that I started as an adolescent, relationships that I began as a young adult and then there are some fairly new relationships as well. What I've learned from all of these above anything else is that - people change. A lot. People go through seasons - good seasons and bad seasons. Sometimes people are changed for the better after the bad seasons, and sometimes for the worse. Sometimes a person's life is hard and people react negatively by withdrawing or lashing out. Sometimes life is hard and people react by reaching out and drawing closer. My dad said to me many many years ago "If I can tell you one truth about human beings it's that they're always changing, sometimes for worse, sometimes for better, but they are always moving." Keeping this perspective in mind has helped me navigate relationships so much over the years.
My early twenties were very tumultuous when it came to my relationships with people, as I'm sure they were for most. I loved the popular mantra of "cutting out toxic people" because it felt so good ice people out. I know better now. If we're all honest I think we can admit that we've all been toxic at any given time. With the idea of "toxic people" comes the presupposition that we ourselves are the paragon of human perfection and thus must protect and isolate ourselves from everyone that does not match our level of excellence. Separating people this way is futile and will only confuse you down the road because spoiler alert: those "toxic people" may actually just be working something out for themselves. Ten years down the road you may begin to question "cutting them out" and the whole ordeal will begin to seem pretty perplexing.
However, do I believe that we need to give ourselves space from certain individuals at certain times? Absolutely. I think a better way of looking at it is to understand that often times the season of life that we are in is incompatible with the season of life that someone else finds themselves in at any given time. Sometimes it's because they still need to grow a little, sometimes it's because you need to grow a little and sometimes (most often) it's because you both need to grow. And that is ok. The need for growth or change is not a character flaw or deficiency it is simply a part of life. Giving someone the space and time to do that is generous and being honest about the fact that often we need time and space to do that ourselves takes humility and courage.
I think all too often we place incredibly unrealistic expectations on our relationships with people. We feel frustrated when we have a negative experience with a friend because we want two things simultaneously in our friendships - vulnerability and perfection. Those two things are completely incompatible. We understand that when it comes, to say our marriage, there will be negative experiences (big or small) and we are forgiving and understanding and yet we don't cut our friendships the same amount of slack. We want depth in our friendships, openness, honesty, understanding and vulnerability but we need to be cognizant that by allowing for complete openness and vulnerability we must also allow for mistakes. If we're always on our best behavior with our friends and vices versa then there is probably not a lot of openness going on. To really get deep in a relationship you need to allow for the possibility that that person will open up areas of themselves that are not so perfect in order to see if you will accept them as they are, unconditionally. Because we're all human and because there are so many factors that affect how we feel or behave whether it be work stress, stress stemming from other relationships, our health or even simply the weather. Sometimes you may catch a friend on an off day - they may send you a snappy text, they may be shutdown emotionally, they may even act out but to say that we've never been guilty of the same just wouldn't be fair. I think it's ok to cut everyone a little slack every now and again. But for full disclosure if any of this becomes a pattern then perhaps it's not a bad day but a "season" instead and that's when it may be healthy to consider pulling back.
I've come to realize over the years that I never want to close any doors, or--as I often did in my early twenties--nail those doors shut. I want the people in my life to know that sometimes I need to just close the door a little bit for my own peace and health but it's technically always open. I'm always there to talk, to try again, to ask for or grant forgiveness or just to talk. Relationships are messy and ever changing because we as humans are messy and ever changing. We go through seasons, bad and good, and sometimes we are the good friend and sometimes the bad friend. We've all needed forgiveness and will continue to need it and I think it's only fair that we grant it generously to those around us. There are times when knowing that you can start again is exactly what we need to usher in a new fresh season and I think that is beautiful. Knowing that we can give and receive that gift is what makes relationships sublime.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

birdie: I feel like her development at this point has hit lightening speed. She is so interested in everything around her, learns new words every day and is just so excited about LIFE!!
teddy: he is getting ever so close to sitting and crawling and I can hardly believe it!

vegan chocolate cupcakes!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Since having to cut out dairy as much as possible because of breastfeeding Teddy (I allow myself an occasional small treat here and there) I have been craving cupcakes or cakes or... frosting like crazy. But six months in I couldn't keep the craving at bay any longer so I took to Pinterest to find a solution to my problem. Well, lo and behold, turns out humans are quite inventive. I found a phenomenal recipe for completely vegan chocolate cupcakes - frosting included!! Bonus points for this recipe being super easy! 
I have to tell you I was holding my breath with the frosting, I really couldn't believe that it would actually taste good. But!! It really is divine! There is a slight hint of avocado but it's oddly good and everything else is pretty much identical to what regular buttercream frosting tastes like. I've made these twice now and everyone is crazy about them! Even Birdie! I hope you like them as much as I do!

1 c unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

3/4 c granulated sugar

1/3 c canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 c whole-wheat flour

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

2 ripe avocados

1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper or silicone cups.
Whisk together the almond milk and apple cider vinegar, and set aside for a few minutes so the milk curdles. Beat in the sugar, oil, and vanilla until foamy. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Slowly beat the dry ingredients into the wet until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cupcakes. Bake for 18-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and after a few minutes, move cupcakes to a cooling rack.

While the cupcakes bake, make the frosting. Scoop out the avocado flesh, and place in a food processor. Add the cocoa powder, maple syrup, and vanilla, and puree until smooth.
Frost the cooled cupcakes, and enjoy!