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It’s been awhile since I posted a recipe, but this was an inspired idea (I’m absolutely positive it’s been done, so I don’t claim to be original). We made this pizza tonight and it was delicious and satisfying. It was easy, too, since we had all the parts ready to go yesterday. If you haven’t made muhammara, you really should. It’s one of my favorite dips.

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Chicken Shawarma Pizza

Ingredients
Shawarma marinated chicken (see below)
Muhammara (see below)
Pomegranate molasses (for muhammara and topping the pizza, see below)
Sliced red onion
Crumbly salty cheese (like feta)
Melty white cheese (like mozzarella)
Pizza dough

For the pizza dough, you can use your favorite recipe. We make ours a lot of times, but lately we’ve been buying the dough balls at Sams Club (the ones they use for their pizza). They’re cheap, good, and super convenient to keep in the freezer. The cheeses are completely up to you. We’re flexible, and use what we have on hand. Make the pizza however you like – in the oven or on the grill. We barbecued this one because it’s too hot to turn the oven on. Start with some corn meal on the pan (you can throw the dough straight on a hot grill too, but it’s hard for us to do that they way we made this pizza, so we put it on a perforated pizza pan first). Oil up your hands and stretch/throw/push the dough into roughly pizza shape. Top with a generous layer of muhammara, then chicken, thinly sliced red onion, and cheeses. Grill until the crust is crispy/chewy and the cheese is melty. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses. Some chopped cilantro would be good here, but we didn’t have any.

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Pomegranate Molasses

I can’t get pomegranate molasses here, so whenever I want to make muhammara I have to make my own. Fortunately, it couldn’t be easier. You just boil pomegranate juice until it’s reduced to a thick syrup. Kind of like thick sticky cough syrup, but tastier.

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A quart of pomegranate juice makes maybe 3/4 cup of pomegranate molasses, depending how thick you let it get. It keeps forever in the refrigerator, so you can make extra if you want.

Muhammara, aka the best dip ever

I’ll tell you a secret, and I bet it will shock you if you’ve read my recipes before (not, haha): I don’t really follow a recipe here. I add things until it tastes right and is the right consistency. This time I used pecans instead of walnuts because I didn’t have walnuts. This recipe is a good starting point, though.

7 oz. jar of roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 C fine fresh bread crumbs
1/3 C walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 tsp of salt
1 Tbl fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
3/4 C extra virgin olive oil

Combine everything! Best if you let it sit overnight. I don’t bother chopping anything finely because I put it all in the blender. I grind the cumin and red pepper flakes in a mortar because I use whole cumin. I usually end up adding more olive oil. This recipe makes more than you will need for the pizza, but once you make it, you’ll find yourself dipping vegetables and crackers in it, eating it on pita, and smearing it on sandwiches.

Chicken Shawarma

Again, I don’t really use a recipe for this, just kind of throw things in. You can use whatever boneless chicken you like. I used chicken breasts this time. I cut them into small (maybe 1/2″) pieces and let them marinate overnight. I cooked them today before assembling the pizza. 2 breasts was more than I needed for this pizza.

2 chicken breasts
Juice of one lemon
1 Tbl of salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 C plain yogurt
1/2 chopped red onion
4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
Pinch of turmeric
Pinch of cinnamon

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I started writing this days ago, and meant to publish on her birthday, but I couldn’t finish it. I can’t imagine why it felt so much harder this year.

Dear Lucy,

Happy third birthday, sweetheart. It’s hard to believe you would have been such a big girl by now. Time keeps passing, but you’re still just a baby. It’s so wrong and heartbreaking that you don’t get to grow up. What would you be doing now? Would you be an outgoing little chatterbox? That’s how I imagine you. I see you as a little adventurer. You would have loved to go exploring with William, I think. He loves to be outside, and he’s not afraid of anything. You two would have scared me during your explorations. You would have loved your little brothers. I have two little brothers too, and although we fought a lot growing up, I love them very much. Would you have been a daddy’s girl? I suspect so. You had your daddy wrapped around your tiny finger from the moment he first saw you.

As we enter the season of your life, I feel like I’m in limbo. For these next two months, my mind will flit back and forth between two alternate realities – the one we live in now, without you, and one where you are alive. Every day, I look at pictures of you from that day and try to remember what we were doing. Easter – the day you had to have steroids, and we missed Easter dinner with a nice family who’d invited us over because I couldn’t stop crying. Every memory I have with you is a memory that I cherish, but so many of them are sad or scary. I try to focus on the others: May 3, the day I first held you, my beautiful girl. April 18, the day we first got to take down the walls of the isolette and give you kisses and nuzzle your neck. April 19, the day you looked at me and I knew you saw me, and I knew that I would die for you.

A month ago, you got a new little brother, Andrew. Maybe you already knew him. Maybe you chose him to be your little brother, because you knew he’d be the perfect fit for our family. If so, you were right, he is the perfect fit. Sometimes he looks just like William, but somehow he reminds me more of you. While I was pregnant with Andrew, I couldn’t think about you the way I wanted to. When the memories got hard and I cried, I got really sick and my contractions got out of hand. So, to protect Andrew, I had to stop thinking about you so much. It felt like a betrayal, and I’m sorry. After Andrew was born, it all came crashing down, and I’ve done a lot of crying. It seems strange to cry so much at such a happy time, but Spring will always be bittersweet for me. When I see the grass greening and the wildflowers blooming, I think of you. The daffodils remind me of your short bright life. When the magnolias start to bloom, I’ll know we’re nearing the end, and my heart will break all over again.

Lucy, your mommy and daddy and brothers have a beautiful life together, but we’ll always miss you. Now that we have Andrew, I keep thinking that maybe if we have a girl, our family will feel complete. Then I realize that our family will never ever feel complete without you. We’ll just do our best to keep you with us, and hope that it will be enough. Darling girl, your light and beauty changed us forever.

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For your birthday, we took William and Andrew for a picnic in the mountains, like we wanted to do with you. When we came home, we had Matilda cake and sang happy birthday. William sings “happy to LeeLee,” which is very cute.

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First cuddles:

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The last picture of happy, hopeful times with Lucy:

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Loving and missing you, baby girl.

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“Lightening”

This is just a quick (I hope) complaint. Here I am, almost 38 weeks pregnant, 8 days from my c-section. The baby has dropped, which if you don’t know, is exactly what it sounds like – baby has settled down farther into my pelvis in preparation for birth. I guess nobody told the child that it can’t get out that way, but anyway. I know this because of the way I feel, but also because my fundal height (height of the top of my uterus) was only 35 at my last doctor visit, where before it was 37.

So they call it “lightening” when the baby drops, and I just want to say that whoever came up with that phrase was on crack. There is nothing light about it, and I’m more miserable than ever. You’re supposed to be able to breathe a little easier, but I haven’t noticed it. I definitely still have a pair of tiny feet stuck up in my ribcage. In addition, my hips and whole pelvic girdle are under extreme pressure and hurt every single time I move.

The worst part for me is those darn muscle adhesions from my surgery. Every time the baby moves, or I move, or I get a contraction, the increased pressure in that region makes it feel like my muscles are shredding. You know how you’d shred pork or chicken with a pair of forks? Yeah, it feels just like that. Blinding pain.

Anyway, that’s the end of my complaint, because I only have 8 more days to go! Yay! But really, “lightening?” Come on.

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Just another day

Yesterday we had another prenatal appointment, and I expected it to be completely uneventful. It mostly was – baby’s heart rate was good, did another test for GBS (Group B Strep – not my favorite test), asked some questions about the c-section. I’ve gained 5 pounds now, and I’ve started to notice that some of the rest of me is a little thinner than it was. Maybe I’ll be lucky and come out of this pregnancy slightly ahead, weight-wise. There was one slight problem: my blood pressure was just slightly elevated (130/80) and I had protein in my urine, so the doctor sent me over to L&D for serial blood pressure monitoring and a HELLP blood panel to make sure I wasn’t becoming pre-eclamptic. Sigh. So I spent the next few hours hooked up to monitors in labor and delivery, even though I wasn’t contracting and felt fine. The triage room is terribly uncomfortable, so it wasn’t that fun, but we did see several people we knew: Tori and Tim, (Lucy’s nurse and RT) and two L&D nurses we know. Actually, I had one of my new favorite nurses. She said they have a name for people like me: frequent flyers. How embarrassing. Anyway, baby’s heart rate never fluctuated and I didn’t have a contraction the whole time. Blood work was just fine and my blood pressure was low (102/60 the last time it was read). So now I apparently have two more appointments before the c-section, although I’m not really sure why I need two.

I’m actually looking forward to the c-section. Surgery is no fun, but I recovered quickly from the TAC surgery, which was pretty similar to a cesarean. This time I’ll also have a new baby to care for afterward (not to mention the weakness caused by 2.5 months on bed rest), but I’ll have a lot of help. Also, our hospital and doctor are pretty progressive in this area, so even though I always wanted a more natural birth this will be okay. David will be there for the whole surgery, and I get to hold the baby while they finish the surgery (as long as it stays out of their way). I can even nurse while they finish up if I feel like it. After the surgery I don’t have to be on a liquid diet – she said I can have anything I want. I was worried about that, because I was starving after I had Lucy. I was on a liquid diet after the TAC surgery for a while, and all I wanted to do was eat real food. We go straight from surgery to our room – no recovery room – and the rooms are spacious and private. The baby rooms in with me unless there’s something wrong. David stays with us in the hospital the whole time and has his own little bed and can shower in the room. We’ll get to see some of our favorite people while we’re there too. So I’m excited about everything. This will be a much different experience for us than having Lucy was.

After we left the hospital yesterday we went to visit at the Ronald McDonald House, as we often do. It’s so nice to get to see some of our friends there. And, as usual, we were well-fed. Food has become quite a priority for this pregnant lady; I am always hungry these days. We got home late and went to bed, then today was a leisurely day of nursery building. We finally put together our crib (this one from Pottery Barn Kids) and I’m very pleased with it. It’s pretty and seems durable. It’s finally coming together, which is good, because we’re counting down the days now.

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Today I’m feeling like a major hypocrite. I remember thinking after Lucy died that I would have done anything – given anything – to help her and keep her with us. I still think that’s true. Then I told myself that if I were lucky enough to get pregnant again, I’d endure whatever I had to without complaint in order to keep the baby safe. Well, I’ve endured so far, but certainly not without complaint.

Then, earlier in this pregnancy, I felt such righteous indignation when a woman with a history similar to mine mentioned that she wanted to schedule her Caesarean section at 37 weeks instead of 39, because she was just so tired of being pregnant. I didn’t know her personally, but I was kind of mad. How could anyone who’d been through what we’ve been through not want to stay pregnant as long as possible? Didn’t she know that there’s a reason we gestate as long as we do? That babies are still developing during those last few weeks? Wasn’t she willing to sacrifice a little comfort to make sure her baby was as healthy as possible?

Sigh. That’s all well and good, and true even, but I have a hard time remembering that after a night like last night. I haven’t had as many contractions lately, which is a very good thing, but I am so intensely uncomfortable. Skip this if you don’t want to read a whiny rant, okay? Because I’m sure I’ll come back to this and be embarrassed and ashamed that I’m so weak.

Bed rest is really taking a toll. I’m not sure how much of this is actually caused by bed rest (versus normal pregnancy stuff), but I’m pretty sure this is not a normal level of discomfort, even for advanced pregnancy. My hips are excruciating, and the constant dull ache makes it impossible to find any comfortable position. My lumbar spine grinds and tries to realign itself every time I shift. The contractions I do have are painful and leave me breathless and moaning. The baby is huge, and whenever it moves its head and shoulders it feels like my muscles are tearing themselves to shreds thanks to the adhesions. The constant pain is exhausting, but I can’t seem to get enough sleep (and when I do, I dream about rotting things and spiders laying eggs and swimming across shark-infested lakes). I can’t shower at all, and even taking a bath requires an hour of recovery before I feel back to “normal.” My favorite time, other than when someone visits to distract me, is night, because even though I don’t sleep well and am very uncomfortable, at least time goes by faster when I’m asleep. I’m 100% dependent on David and my family, and while they have been wonderful, it’s not a good feeling for somebody as self-reliant as I’d like to think myself. And in addition to all the physical discomfort, I’ve been torturing myself with thoughts of stillbirth or heart defects or accidents – anything that might result in the loss of this baby, even now.

Some times are better than others, of course, but all night last night and this morning I couldn’t help but wish the baby would just come early. Even though it will involve another surgery, the pain won’t be any worse than it is now and I’ll finally be able to start actually recovering. Knowing how big the baby is and knowing it probably wouldn’t have any trouble if born at this point make me feel like it would just be a relief to have it safe on the outside.

All that said, I don’t actually want the baby to come early, and I would certainly never try to schedule an early c-section. I would definitely be too ashamed of myself to try anything like that, and I do want what’s best for my little squirmer. If tons of women can handle months of hospital bed rest, then I should be able to deal with this more gracefully than I have. And if my poor little Lucy could deal with everything she had to and still seem so happy, then I should certainly be able to suck it up for a few more weeks.

Boy, the entire last year has been one very humbling experience after another. I know I’m feeling humbled at the moment. Still, I’ll be really glad to be on the other side of this with a safe healthy baby. I’m ready to try to find a new “normal” for me and my family.

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Happy Halloween!

I love Christmas, but I think Halloween might be my favorite holiday. At least, Halloween is my favorite holiday every year until November first, then it switches to Christmas. My freshman year of college, David and I became a couple on Halloween after taking a walk beneath a blue moon when he finally kissed me. Then, last year (too much information warning!) Lucy was conceived on Halloween, on our tenth anniversary. It’s kind of weird that I know that, but because of the fertility treatments we were doing, it was easy to know the exact day. Anyway, everything felt perfect. This year is a little different, but still good. I’ll admit, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days just feeling sorry for myself, knowing that our little pumpkin should have been here with us while we put up decorations and made costumes. She was going to be a Viking, complete with crocheted Viking helm and attached beard (we decided this before we knew if she was a she or a he). So I cried as I carved the pumpkin into an owl jack-o-lantern (because she always had her little owl with her in the isolette), and I cried when David told me about how the NYU hospital NICU had to be evacuated because of the hurricane, and I even almost cried when one of our neighbors showed up last night to tell us that we had a 60 foot geyser in our backyard (broken pool filter pressure valve), and when we noticed our pool was a solid green color (it’s been way too cold to swim, but apparently not too cold for algae).

Still, I can’t help but getting into the holiday spirit. I carved pumpkins and made Halloween costumes (I’m counting that as a finished project for my list, btw). I’m roasting pumpkin seeds. David and I are passing out candy at our new house for the first time (although I don’t expect many trick-or-treaters). I was going to make cookies, but decided that 1) that’s kind of overkill with all the candy we have, and 2) my oven still doesn’t work. Besides, I have lots of tasty apples and pears and pomegranates.

Baby woke me up this morning, kick kick kicking, like “mama, mama, mama, mama, time to wake up mama.” It was a good way to start Halloween.

Update: we got 4 trick-or-treaters at our house. Oh well, it was still fun. David made yummy pizza, then we gorged ourselves on candy. We made ginger molasses cookies and hot chocolate with ghost marshmallows, and we relaxed. The four trick-or-treaters that we got were very cute and polite: a witch, a cowboy, a spaceman, and Charlie Chaplin. Here are some pictures!

First, pre-Halloween at Mom and Dad’s house with the siblings and the sweet niece.

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I have a freaky baby in my belly, David has candy corn. Both accurate.

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Justin’s costume consisted of that terrifying mask, and my Dad was pretending to ride him.

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Baby Hallie was one unhappy pumpkin.

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Turned out she was just sleepy, and was a lot more cheerful snoring on Aunt Jill’s shoulder.

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Then on Uncle Justin. She’s a pretty adorable pumpkin.

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At our house, I really quickly carved some jack-o-lanterns. The owl, as I said, was for Lucy. David said to carve the other one into a normal jack-o-lantern face, but a happy one (he won’t touch pumpkins – too icky). We weren’t really feeling like sinister things this Halloween.

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I made our costumes glow in the dark! We had a skeleton dance party in the dark bathroom, and that was kind of hilarious.

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Two of our little trick-or-treaters handed us these slips when I gave them their candy. Isn’t that sweet?

Happy Halloween everyone. I hope you’re ready for Christmas, because folks don’t wait until after Thanksgiving anymore.

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Surgery and a Surprise

Well, we’re home from New Jersey and I’m recovering pretty well from my surgery. (I’m posting this from my phone because I’m not quite up to sitting at my desk yet.) I’m going to write up a post on the whole surgery experience for anyone else going through it, but for now, the important thing is that my TAC is securely in place. I have a new and improved bionic cervix, which is a very good thing, because we’d really like to meet this little person in March and no sooner!

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Meet Lucy’s little brother or sister. This Baby Donald was quite a surprise, especially after how long it took us to get pregnant with Lucy. It just . . . happened, without any medical intervention. I went to see my OB to see if it was okay if we started trying again, and I saw a new reproductive endocrinologist the same day to get started on the whole process. We didn’t want to waste too much time, because we thought it would take a while. We didn’t know then, but I was already pregnant. I didn’t figure it out until I was 6 weeks and we were preparing for a tough hike, since I didn’t have any of the symptoms I had with Lucy. Boy was I shocked to see those two pink lines. Then, two days later, the morning sickness and exhaustion hit full-force.

Anyway, it’s been quite an emotional time for us. It’s hard for me to deal with the fact that I’m already pregnant again (now 13 weeks) when I still cry for my sweet Lucy every day. It’s hard to even really believe it, although now it’s feeling more real. I got pregnant before Lucy’s original due date, and it doesn’t really make sense, but I hate thinking that I couldn’t have had this baby and a healthy Lucy in the same timeline. I don’t like that we probably would never have had this baby if Lucy had survived. There are a lot of emotional hang-ups to deal with. This baby is even due on Lucy’s birthday, if you can believe that. What are the chances? Of course, my c-section will be the week before that if all goes well.

We’ve been worried sick about this baby too, of course. Medically, but emotionally as well. I worry that my grief about Lucy will somehow affect this baby’s temperament, or that I will somehow feel resentful that this one had a better chance to live because of what happened to Lucy. We’ve had a hard time really getting excited about this pregnancy, because it just feels like we’re waiting for something to go wrong. I was sure I was going to have a miscarriage, especially when the baby measured 3 and 4 days small at 7 and 9 weeks. Now it’s measuring three days big, so I guess it was just growing at its own pace. Now that I have the TAC in place, that’s one less thing to worry about, but there are still so many other things that can go wrong. Worse, it seems like women with IC have a much higher incidence of those rare problems. I guess I really won’t relax until I’m holding my (term) baby, and then there is a whole new world of worries.

It’s been a crazy week. Two days before we flew out, we were in urgent care, where David was diagnosed with pleurisy (inflammation of the lungs – uncomfortable, but not a big deal). The night before we flew out, my sister-in-law went into labor, and just before we boarded our plane we became Aunt Jill and Uncle David to baby Hallie. We got to meet my friend Ruth and her lovely family for a yummy home-cooked meal the night before my surgery, and her sweet little girl gave my belly kisses for the baby. Now here we are.

Our little one endured the whole ordeal very well, and it’s looking like he or she will give Lucy a run for her money in sheer squirminess. The ultrasound tech was having a hard time getting good measurements because it was moving around so much. So at this point, although we’re still worried about everything and having a hard time adjusting to yet another major life change, we’re hopeful that the TAC will keep this baby safe, and that the rest of this pregnancy will be uneventful.

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