Archive | January, 2014

distracted

I’m having a hard time concentrating on anything lately. When I do get time alone, I seem to start something and then get distracted and want to sit and look at old pictures or find other memories.

I came across this photo the other day. It’s the last one taken from Greg’s phone. Squeaky’s little hand on top of his, about 12 hours before he died.

last picture on Greg's phone

xxx,

Mariah

 

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trains

When I was little I always thought that someday I’d hop on an empty train car like a hobo. I heard a news story about people who did this as a hobby – a vacation – and I thought that was awesome. Do you remember the movie, The Journey of Natty Gann? I loved it and thought it looked like a great adventure. Plus, I’ve always wanted to befriend a wolf. I forgot that John Cusack was in it too.

The Canadian National railroad line goes right through our new town. I have never lived in a place where I saw trains so often. I think they are beautiful and watching this huge metal beast just glide right by is mesmerizing. I love to see the train coming through town.

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Because there are no railroad crossings, the train doesn’t need to blow it’s whistle here so all you hear is the low rumble as it passes through. At first it bothered me to hear it at home but it’s already a comforting sound.

DSCN2340Squeaky’s daycare is just one house away from the railroad tracks so we always stop to watch if it comes through at drop-off or pick-up.

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xxx,

Mariah

 

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the gift of music

When I was a kid, we had a piano in our living room and my brother and I took lessons from a neighbor until we got busy with other things and didn’t want to do it anymore. Years later, we still had a piano in our living room so my parents put a PIANO FOR SALE sign on it. This was before craigslist so I guess having a big sign in your home was the best way to sell something. :) Next to the sign, was a framed embroidery that read, “Long after the toys of childhood are gone, the gift of music remains.” We still laugh about that quote right next to the PIANO FOR SALE sign.

Squirmy and Squeaky love music and singing. They both wanted to learn to play an instrument so we started ukelele and piano lessons.

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The ukelele was originally for Squeaky and the piano for Squirmy but since we all go to the lessons, it seems as though we are all learning, including me. Time to brainstorm band names!

xxx,

Mariah

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spaghetti squash with turkey balls

Yes, this recipe is for turkey MEATballs. Greg liked using the word balls. Whenever he referred to his eyes, he just called them his balls. “That light is bright on my balls”, “I can see the cancer in my left ball”, “I’m rubbing my balls”…you get the picture. :)

Last night, I was telling a friend that I’m running out of things to write about on my blog. I think the intense posts recently have wiped me out a bit. Anyway, she told me that she misses my recipes so I immediately started searching for one.

This is a recipe that I used to love to make (still not really cooking much for myself and my two birds who peck, peck, peck away at things). I got this from another magazine that has since gone under. It seems like all my favorite magazines are no more. There was Domino, Wondertime, Whole Living, Parenting and Everyday Food. All of them gone. This recipe is from Whole Living and you can still find it online HERE.

I buy the 20 oz pkg of Jennie-O ground turkey so I had to adapt the recipe a bit. If you want to make their recipe using 8 oz turkey, click to the link. Here is mine, adjusted:

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey (Meat)balls

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  • 1 large or 2 medium spaghetti squash (about 4-5 pounds), halved lengthwise
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (I usually only have dried on hand)
  • 6 Tbsps grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoon dried breadcrumbs (I’ve used herb stuffing or panko breadcrumbs)
  •  20 ounces lean ground turkey
  • 16 ounces mixed mushrooms, I usually use baby bellas
  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 6-8 ounces baby spinach (about 8 cups), washed well
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season cut sides of squash with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake, cut sides down, on a baking sheet until tender, about 45 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Scrape flesh into strands using a fork. Let drain, covered to keep warm, in a colander set over a bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic, stirring, until soft but not brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add oregano; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Divide mixture between 2 bowls.
  3. Stir 3 tablespoons cheese into 1 bowl of onion-garlic mixture. Mix in breadcrumbs, turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper using your hands. Form mixture into 16-20 balls.
  4. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. You might need to do half at a time since you now have lots of balls. :) Brown meatballs, turning, 4 to 6 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add remaining teaspoon oil to skillet. Cook mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, adding a few tablespoons water if skillet browns too quickly, until soft and beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add remaining bowl of onion-garlic mixture, meatballs, and stock; bring to gentle simmer. Cook, partially covered, until meatballs are cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook until just wilted, about 1 minute.
  5. Divide squash and meatball mixture into 4 servings. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

It’s worth every step – very yummy. Enjoy your turkey balls!

xxx,

Mariah

 

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an elevator to heaven

We have this menorah gel cling on our window that I haven’t had the heart to take down for the season.

The reason I can’t take it down is because it isn’t a menorah anymore. It’s an elevator panel and when you push the buttons, it will take you up to heaven to see Daddy.

How could I take THAT down?

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So there it clings.

xxx,

Mariah

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squeaky’s party and skiing

Tonight (Sunday), I’m recovering from a busy weekend consisting of Squeaky’s party, an impromptu sleepover (thanks again A and T!) and x-country skiing.

Did you know that you can order fondant cake toppers on Etsy? So all I had to do was make and frost the cake and Squeaky helped put the owl and flowers on top. We found them HERE.

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Our good friend, Tom Pease, came to sing and made it a proper party! Thanks again, Tom!

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We planned on going to the ski hill on Sunday for a leisurely day of skiing but we got there and the place was packed for some ski races! Squirmy has only been skiing once before (and loves it!) but she clicked on those skis and participated in the kid’s race. She came in last but there were a few people that waited at the finish line to cheer her on. She had such a great time, she insisted on going out again. Squeaky fell asleep on my back during the race but after she woke up, she wanted to go out too.

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We went out together but had to turn around after awhile since BOTH (err…ALL) of them (us) were worn out and cranky.

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Squirmy was just a little angry with me for taking this picture. It was such a cool shot, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. :)20140112_150804

Have a great week everyone!

xxx,

Mariah

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death and bodies, part 2

Since Greg died in the early morning while the girls were asleep, I had a choice to make. Should I wake them to say goodbye or just let them sleep and tell them when they woke? Part of me wanted to just let them sleep because all I wanted to do was to curl up in a ball and cry and cry and cry. But deep down I knew that was not the right answer. We had done our best to be truthful and include them as much as we could when Greg was sick. I knew I had to wake them so that they were able to have closure in their own way, as much or as little as they understood at the time.

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When Greg was healthy, he went into work around lunchtime and every day the girls would hug him goodbye and make sure to put a bunch of kisses in his pocket to last him throughout the day until he got home. On Greg’s last night, as the girls were saying goodnight, he gave both of them a crystal butterfly box full of his kisses that would last them their entire lives. We still take kisses from their boxes every night before bed. I do too. I figure there are probably a few in there for me as well.

That evening, Greg had taken an obvious turn for the worse and we knew his time was very close. I told the girls that Daddy might not have much more time and that he would be dying soon. We had talked about it a lot before this but because he hadn’t been ‘actively dying’ I could always tell them he still had time. As I was tucking Squirmy into bed, she asked me, “Is Daddy going to die tonight?” I told her yes, he might. She nodded and cuddled up in bed.

I woke Squirmy and Squeaky at about 5:30 in the morning and told them Daddy had died. They both clung to me and Squirmy started crying with me. I took them upstairs to see Greg. He had the white teddy bear tucked under his arm that the girls picked out for him when he was away from home at hospice.

We had a little ceremony to say goodbye to Greg before the funeral home people came to take him away. The girls both continued to cling to me but they saw him. The thought of them being scared of him hadn’t crossed my mind until we went into the bedroom to see him. But they had also seen Greg with his eyes and mouth open while he slept so they were used to it. A few times, Squirmy buried her head in my lap. Squeaky held me tight but her eyes jumped around to watch facial expressions, taking cues from everyone around her. The Hospice Chaplain said a few prayers, the girls and I quietly sang the Barney, I Love You song and we played the Talking Heads song, This Must be the Place (Naive Melody).

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I don’t remember if either of them touched Greg but I don’t expect a 2 and 4 year old to have the same kind of experience that I did. They are both so young. I’m just glad that they were there. They were (and continue to be) a huge support to me even if they didn’t know it and they were there to be a part of something very important. While they both exhibit a surprising understanding of what happened for kids their age, it’s still quite hard for them to grasp the concept. When the funeral home people took Greg away, the girls said goodbye to him one last time and watched as his body was wheeled out the door. Then they went back to playing with their cousins.

And that’s when I went back upstairs, curled up in a ball and cried and cried and cried.

xxx,

Mariah

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death and bodies, part 1

Years ago, I heard a news story about how removed from death we (as a society) have become. We have a harder time dealing with the finality of death because we aren’t exposed to or spend time with dead bodies anymore. People die at the hospital, a nursing home, a hospice unit and are taken away and we don’t have the chance to get our final goodbyes at home.

When I was younger, I thought that was a good thing. I was terrified of death, the thought of finding a loved one dead, dead bodies at funerals, even my own family members (grandparents, great uncles and aunts, etc) and I wouldn’t get close to the casket, let alone actually touch the body.

At some point in my relationship with Greg, I had the thought that someday I would see him die or find him dead. I know that’s a morbid thought but it popped into my brain and I thought, “Well, yeah – since he’s 11 years older than me that’ll probably happen…in my 70s or 80s.”  And I kind of terrified myself by that thought. Of him dying…not really, because it was going to happen when we were much, much older. But I was terrified by the thought of his dead body. I had never been very close to a loved one who had died so I guess I just assumed it would be like the other deaths I had experienced.

Turns out that assumption was wrong. And I’m so glad I was wrong.

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The evening of Greg’s death, his bed was surrounded by our friends and family, talking to him, crying with him, calling loved ones who live far away. We all stayed up late to sit with him but at about midnight, after a hospice nurse had come to check on him and confirm that he was ‘actively dying’, I decided I’d like someone to be in the room with us, to take shifts. My sister-in-law (J) and I stayed up, quietly sitting and laying with Greg, trying to stay awake. I lay on our bed which was pushed up against his hospital bed so I could be as close to him as possible while J took a spot on the floor. I held his hand and talked to him. His breathing had become so labored and it was beginning to be painful to watch how much he struggled to get a breath.

I tried to stay awake and Greg started to call out after awhile. It was hard to understand what he was saying. I thought he was saying, “Red” and “Mariah” but I really didn’t know for sure. His legs were restless and I got a little scared that he was in pain so I helped make him comfortable and gave him a boost of his medication.

I lay back down and then it was quiet. I’m not really sure when it happened but I think we may have fallen asleep because Greg had gotten quiet. I felt bad that I hadn’t been awake for his last breath but when I woke up shortly after, I was still holding his hand. And it was warm; warm but limp. And I didn’t want to let it go. In fact, I couldn’t stop touching him. It was like as long as I was touching him, he would still be here with me. Maybe I wanted to touch him as much as I could before I couldn’t anymore. Or maybe because I had missed touching him during the couple months he was in so much pain and we couldn’t squeeze him for fear of hurting him. Or maybe I was scared that when I stopped, he would become that dead body that I was afraid of. But that didn’t happen. I was never scared.

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It was about 3 a.m. when Greg died so while we waited for the hospice nurse to come and clean him up, the chaplain to come to talk with us, the funeral home to take him away to be cremated, I just kept touching him. He slowly became colder. He died with his mouth and his eyes wide open. It should have been scary to me but it wasn’t at all. It was how he slept the last few weeks so I was used to seeing him that way. The hospice nurse told me that I could ask the funeral home people to keep his face uncovered until he was out of our house. So I did. And as they carried him down the stairs and to our entryway, I gave him one last kiss and touched his face as it peeked out from the body bag. That lifeless body that had been so good to me, to him, until it eventually failed.

Death, ghosts, the dark – they’ve always scared me. I know that becoming a mother has made me much more brave. Because how can you be scared when you have to kick some ass (ghost ass, intruder ass, mean kid on the playground ass!) to protect your kids?!  But now that I’ve witnessed a loved one – my loved one – die, death seems more like a friend. Not something scary at all but something very natural, almost comforting.  Because he is there and he has done this first, for me, so I don’t have to be scared anymore.

xxx,

Mariah

 

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squeaky is 3!

Our sweet little Squeaky nugget is THREE today!

DSCN2260I went into false labor with Squeaky on January 3rd, both my parents drove down and then they had to drive home when my contractions stopped. But two days later, the contractions started again and the next morning, she was born. When Squeaky was about to come out, the doctor saw that she was posterior and wanted me to wait but that was NOT happening. The next push and Squeaky literally did a corkscrew somersault into the world. And nobody’s been able to stop her since!

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Greg loved her dark hair and thought the way she came into the world meant that she was going to do something very special in this life. He thought that her and her sister were going to take on the world. He was so proud to be their Daddy. We were both proud of ourselves (and even surprised!) that together we made such wonderful, innocent and sweet little people.

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DSCN0876Squirmy couldn’t stop touching Squeaky and holding her when they first met at the hospital. As soon as someone else would hold her, Squirmy would say, “Can I hold my sister now?” Come to think of it, she still loves carrying Squeaky around. She takes care of Squeaky when she’s sad and if they are playing with other kids, Squirmy waits for Squeaky to catch up and comes back to hold her hand.

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And when I hold her now, I sometimes tuck her legs up and imagine she’s still in my tummy. My baby.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

xxx,

Mariah

 

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