Small Moments - Chai Latte

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chai lattes are special. They remind me of coffee dates with my mom. She prefers it over coffee and the two of us crave it in the afternoons. Once in our hands this sense of relief washes over and all is good till the last drop. We go for chai dates often and now we go to remember Ryan. 

Chai lattes also remind me of my son. I can still hear him say 'chai watte' and the memory pulls on my heart. This memory makes my heart feel heavy and sad, with a small smile. These coffee house runs are such good memories, I wish I still had him by my side when I walk to get one now.
Ryan and I would frequent coffee shops, our favorite being Starbucks. It was a special treat and Ryan would love coming with me. He would eagerly ask for a 'hot coc-wate', he would always ask for whipped cream and I would always turn him down. 

You don't need the whipped cream, hot chocolate is enough. 
OK! He would say. 
He knew once he got the chance to go with my mom she would get him extra whipped cream.
As Abuelas (grandmas) always love to indulge in a little spoiling. 

Ryan began to remember I always ordered a chai latte and at home he would pretend to make them for me. "Here is your chai mom with whipp ceeem!" As if he was trying to show me, look I get you whipped cream! 

This morning I made a homemade chai latte and all these memories came flowing back. Like steam rising from a warm cup of chai, these moments rose up and swirled around in my mind. I closed my eyes and saw us walking hand in hand. Smiling at each other, me anticipating his requests. I'd open the door and he would run into line. I yearn for those moments again. I feel heavy and sad ... but I can't help but smile a small smile. 

I'm thankful for these small moments with my son. 
These small moments, thank God I have three and a half years full of them. 

I love you Ryan. 
I miss you Ryan. 
I'm drinking my chai with you Ryan.
Always.





Chai Latte - Ryan's Chai Latte

What You Need
- 1 teabag of chai tea
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 1 cup of almond milk (or whatever dairy you like)
- 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- sprinkle of nutmeg or allspice if you are feeling fancy

What You Do
- boil your water and then turn the heat off and steep the teabag for no more than 3 minutes. If you steep longer than 3 minutes the tea starts to taste bitter. 
- take your teabag out and pour in your milk. We love almond milk over here, but you can use whatever dairy you prefer. 
- turn your heat back on and keep extremely low. At this point you just want to warm the chai latte to your liking. Add spices and vanilla, stir. 
- once it is warmed through pour into a mug and enjoy. 
- you can also let it cool and then pour over ice. (which is what i did this morning) 




I hope you enjoy. 
If you feel like sharing, I'd love to hear your favorite small moment that you have with your little one. 




How Can You Live Loud & Wild?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Once my son had passed we had a few days there after to just be in a sad solid daze. Dan and I just gripped to each other really not understanding life at that moment. Not understanding anything really. We just went through the motions, hugged everyone back, listened to everyone talk. Things got really terrible when talks of a funeral started buzzing around. A funeral for my son? The process was heart wrenching and one of the hardest things I'd ever had to do. A few days before his funeral I wanted to call the whole thing off because it felt more comfortable to just sit and be sad and angry than it did to go through the act of a damn funeral.  I remember crying to Dan, begging him to make it all stop. Ryan's funeral, it seemed impossible. No matter the pain and gut wrenching act of sitting through my child's funeral service, we did it. We banded together and we knocked the whole funeral thing out of the park and it. was. beautiful. Painfully beautiful.

'Live Loud Live Wild' was something I came up with while my brain was deep within fog and my heart shattered in a million pieces. I was inspired by my son and his personality as I had to come up with wording for his funeral program. How can I make this funeral program positive and uplifting rather than sad with verses unknown to me? I knew I wanted it simple and saturated with Ryan. I think it turned out perfect. And now this 'Live Loud Live Wild' has become a way of life...in honor of our son.

My son, he was loud and he was wild. He lived life to the fullest and even at his young age I believe he knew what that meant. He definitely taught Dan and I the true meaning of living. With Ryan we were loud and wild all the time. Now, we try everyday to honor our son by living life just as he would want it ... it is so hard and some days I live by just barely breathing in bed while I watch television to numb my mind. But other days it comes easy, smiles and laughter comes easy.

Live Loud Live Wild. 

It could mean so many things for so many people.
This week we come up on five whole months with out our beautiful son. And as timing is truly everything, yesterday I received a package from a sweet stranger. Her name is Lindsay and she taught yoga at a children's summer camp in New York this year. Lindsay taught her little yogis one day about living loud and wild. She asked them what they thought it meant and their responses were wonderful, innocent and a few hilarious. Lindsay sent Dan and I the sweetest card and all the children's responses. It is painful to see other children's artwork and read their hopes and dreams of living loud and wild. I can't help but think that my baby won't get to do any of his hopes and dreams here with us. As parents ... we had hopes and dreams for him that will go unseen and un-lived. It breaks my heart. But then I think, Ryan was so great and amazing ... he taught his parents how to really live. And now, because this sweet stranger felt inspired by Ryan and his little legacy, a lot of children will ponder just how they want to live loud and wild. That is something special.



They are so important those hopes and dreams. They are such a beautiful thing and vital to living. What I need to remember is that even though I feel depressed and sometimes so sad and angry about Ryan's hopes and dreams being gone, there are different hopes and dreams in the midst of my grief. Hopes and dreams I need to hold on to and focus on during my times of sadness. What keeps me living loud and wild are my hopes and dreams for the future. I get stuck sometimes on the fact that I now live with out my son, but he is here with me and there with you. I hope we can all think about how we can live loud and wild. How we can cherish this life given to us, no matter how hard it can be. Ryan would have wanted us to live loud and wild just as he did. Just as he does.


Below are some of our favorite responses and drawings these creative children sent us.




I feel as though this would have been Ryan's response. I can live wild by living in a candy house!


'...always love life and live wild!' 


This one is Dan's favorite. I can live loud by working hard and playing hard! 


Love this child's response...I can live loud by being a DJ! 



Lindsay, we have no idea who you are but we are thankful for your heart. Thank you for having us on your mind and doing this exercise with your students. You are a special person and we are grateful that you taught these kids about Ryan and you let them explore their very own hopes and dreams and how they can live loud and wild. 


Chatbooks

Friday, September 19, 2014

It is no secret how much I adore Instagram. I know for a fact that a lot of people, including family members think the whole thing is ridiculous, or makes no sense. I mean who really cares what you are doing, what you are wearing or what you are eating. I guess no one. Or everyone?
Or maybe just my mom ... Hi Mom!

The point of it for me is to document the beauty in our otherwise mundane daily routines. When I say I take a photo of everything, I make no exaggerations about it. I literally take a photo of everything and looking back I think "THANK GOD I DID!"  I was so blissfully unaware of what kind of life I would have in the future as I took endless photos of my son. I had no idea he would be ripped away from me so soon. I took photos of; what he wore, what he ate, what I baked, what we crafted, park dates, play dates, being late for preschool, kisses on the cheek, Starbucks, beach days, Disney days silly faces, pancakes in the morning, pancakes in the evening, Target runs and most importantly I captured the three of us all together smiling and having fun. My husband, my son and myself, the three of us were perfect. The three of us are perfect. And it is all captured in wonderful, tiny squared images on Instagram.

I am beyond grateful of my overzealous need to post photos of my life on Instagram. If only I can collect all my favorite most memorable Instagram posts and create a book of them. A book I can hold close to my heart and a book that showcases how our life was with our Ryan Cruz.

Enter Chatbooks.





A huge gift from above that came at the right time for me.  Chatbooks is a company that prints your Instagram posts into beautiful 60 page books. Each book is only $6. You can just print a few or you or go nuts and print your entire Instagram feed. These books, you guys I can barely express to you in words how much I love them. My Chatbooks detail every move I made with my son...I have 3 glorious years wrapped up in perfect-bound covers forever. They are tiny, treasured time capsules. Each book holds a chapter of my heart mixed with all the fantastic things we as a family of three accomplished. It also holds countless smiles, milestones, events and features my son from when he was a little chubby thing with perfect wild red hair ... up till his last day rambunctious with perfect wild red hair.




If you want to see your Instagram photos printed into books then I urge you to give Chatbooks a try. I'm sure most of you have captured some pretty fun and memorable moments and would love to physically hold on to those forever. I know for a fact  that my Ryan would have loved looking through our Chatbooks ... I'm sure your little ones will too. As mentioned before, you can print your whole Instagram feed or pick and choose photos to create a special event book. Chatbooks can highlight just about anything from a vacation trip, fun parties, your child's first year etc. The best thing about Chatbooks is you can control everything and get extremely creative with your memories.

If you are new to Chatbooks, use the code BAKERY at checkout so you can receive your first book free! Cheers to Chatbooks and capturing the beauty in our daily routines.






Thank you so much Chatbooks for the most amazing gift. 


---

Download the Chatbooks app or check out their website. If you are new to Chatbooks, use the code BAKERY at checkout so you can receive your first book free!








Salted Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies - Gluten Free

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It is safe to say that while I find baking and cooking with out Ryan's playful chatter and strewn toys across the tile floor, I certainly still hold a deep love for creating in the kitchen. It hasn't been easy to get back in there and while some of you might not see just how hard it is ... You'll have to trust me when I say,  not having my son running in and out while I'm in the kitchen is something I'll never get used to. Ryan was always in the kitchen with me. YES, I do believe he is still with me ... but he really isn't  w i t h  me. [Insert sharp pain in the heart here.] I severely miss doing all things with my Ryan.  This battle of doing things with out my child is constant. It is a true battle. Everyday I cry and a lot of times I feel so alone and defeated. However, while I do feel like crap covered in more crap most of the time, I am constantly working very hard on conquering this battle and all the others that come with losing your three year old son in a sudden second. 

Ryan wants me to win. Being very competitive myself, I want to win these battles too. 

This new life of mine, I am learning it day by day. And while I may win a few battles, they sometimes come back the very next day. And I believe that is okay, I believe that is normal. I believe I will fight these battles everyday for the rest of my life. They just may get easier as time goes on. I don't know. I just have to find the strength to fight again and again. I have to let myself feel Ryan's will for me to win ... I have to let myself feel the want to win too. If I want to win, I can. 

The kitchen battle though has been won (for now) by my strong will and need to create sweet and tasty things. Also, my husband was getting hungry.  ;) I definitely stayed away from the kitchen for a long time, and while I love restaurants and take out Ryan was most likely screaming "Get back in there! I want to see you make cookies and 'cuc-cakes'!" (cupcakes as Ryan would say) So, I had no flour but I had gluten free oats I use to make oatmeal in the morning with. I also felt the need to bake and really I just wanted a cookie. 

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. I hope that when you find yourself fighting your own battles, strength will wash over you and push you to win. Please know, I am rooting for you. These battles we face, some are quick and others (like the ones I have) are terrible and last for what seems like forever. I will tell you the same things they tell me. 
They tell me God has a plan. 
They tell me you are strong. 
They tell me there is a light at the end of this darkness. 

But ... until we see the damn light, we will eat cookies and keep fighting. 

---


Salted Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies - Gluten Free


What You Need
- 3/4 cup of gluten free oats. I find mine at Trader Joes. 
- 1 cup smooth almond butter. Make sure it is un-salted. 
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup raw sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
- 1/2 a bag of semi-sweet (or dark chocolate depending on what you love) chocolate. 
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt. 

What You Do
- In a mixer toss in GF oats, both sugars, baking powder and almond butter. You will want to have it continue mixing until everything is incorporated. 
- Next add the egg and vanilla. Mix for at least a minute or more. If your dough looks a little dry add a few drops of water until it comes together. Be careful to not add to much. 
- Once the dough is glossy and forms a ball, place on parchment paper. Roll your dough up in the parchment paper and let it chill in the refrigerator. Let the dough chill for at least an hour. 
- When it is time to bake, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. 
- Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. 
- Measure out your dough and roll balls that are 1 1/2 tablespoons in size. 
- Bake for about 10 minutes. Take out the cookies and let them finish off cooking while still on the baking sheet. 
- The sugars mixed with the GF oats in this dough make the cookie somewhat chewy in texture. When the sugar bakes in heat it melts, so when you pull the cookies out they will look semi un-done and flimsy. This is why you leave the cookies to finish off cooking on the baking sheet OUT of the oven. Once the cookies have cooled and stiffened you can move them to a cooling rack to await their chocolate. 
-In a double broiler (or microwave) melt the chocolate. 
-Once the chocolate is smooth and melted dip the cooled cookies. I dipped them half way so you can still see the texture of the cookies. Plus, it is easier and keeps your hands semi clean. ;)
-Place the chocolate dipped cookies back onto the cooling rack and sprinkle the sea salt on them. 
-Once the chocolate has hardened they are good and ready to be devoured. 





Happy 4th Birthday Ryan

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It definitely wasn't something I was totally looking forward to.  
Sometimes it takes every fiber in my body to just get out of bed and look semi-presentable. How would I have the energy or courage for that matter to celebrate my son's birthday? 
My son who is no longer physically with us. 
How do you muster up all the qualities necessary to 'celebrate' when all you are currently equipped with are qualities of grief and sadness? It is hard I tell you. The hardest thing I've ever had to do. So hard, but yet, with the grace of God and Ryan by his side we were able to do it. Like really do it. Dan and I blew celebrating our son's birthday our of the damn water! (enter fist bump emoticon here)

Happy Birthday to our dear Ryan Cruz. 

Our baby sure did love Disneyland. I love Disneyland and it was a pure joy of mine to share that love with my son. We took it to the next level by going at least once a week...but seriously the smiles and laughs (and copious amounts of churros) we shared within those Disney walls are priceless. They bring tears to my eyes now, but I hold onto those memories so tight and think of them often. 

It was a no brainer that we would celebrate Ryan's birthday at Disneyland. We planned a few things, but really we just all donned our Ryan shirts and let the day fall into place. It was truly magical. My son had saturated Disneyland...I mean he seriously was everywhere. I saw him in everything and most importantly we all saw him shinning through our smiles and laughter. We did everything Ryan would have wanted us to do and then some. We bought bubble guns and ate lots of churros. We rode Ryan's favorite rides and never waited in a line longer than two minutes. We ate his favorite candy, Ring Pops. We ran through the park flashing 'Happy Birthday Ryan Cruz' signs. We hugged one another tight and looked up into the bright blue sky, constantly wishing our little man a Happy Birthday. 

In the afternoon we sang Happy Birthday to Ryan and released red balloons. We all cried. We cried and held on to each until we couldn't see his red balloons in the sky anymore. There were a lot of tears swept up with waves of calm and happiness. It was as if Ryan had his little hand on each of us. He kept saying " Guys, it is ok to cry, but I want you to have fun too. I want to have fun."

Overall, it was Ryan's biggest birthday yet. I'm so proud of my Ryan, he is finally four. He has been wanting to be four since he turned three. "When I turn four..." he would always lead with that and then ask for something outrageous. I'd always say "We will have to wait and see once you turn four dude." Oh wow, what little did I know then. Never did I imagine this...

Up in Heaven Ryan is telling everyone "When I turned four my parents celebrated me at my favorite place, with my favorite people doing all my favorite things." 




See what I mean? Ryan was everywhere, shining down on us. 



I see Ryan's shadow mixed with mine. If you open your heart and look, you can see his wild hair. 


We all had 'Ryan' leather bracelets made. That poor lady deserves a medal for dealing with all of us! She had twenty of us all asking for different things and they were all perfect. A few of us also got Olaf keychains because Olaf is Ryan's favorite. Ryan sings 'Suuuuummmmmeeerrrrr' and just adored that dorky little snowman. And now we love Olaf too. 


Ryan's favorite candy are Ring Pops. We had them at his service and we had them on his birthday too. My sister brought a giant bag and we took a group photo with all of us eating them like he used to. Of course I can't find the photo...I'll have to share it when pops up. 









Happy 4th Birthday Ryan Cruz. 
Mommy and Daddy love you and will continue to celebrate you with every step forward we take.


Soul Cycle

Monday, August 11, 2014

When you find something that helps with handling such terrible grief you tell everyone you can. When you find something you love you scream it from the mountain top, right? You try to get everyone on board, because "You guys! I found this amazing thing and I'm telling you it is more than just what it seems...it is a million times more." That is how I felt after my first Soul Cycle class. It was about 4 weeks after I lost my son and my friend Elizabeth was inviting everyone to try Soul Cycle with her. I thought to myself, why not. It might make me tired enough to where I can actually fall asleep tonight. I remember thinking something about endorphins and endorphins are supposed to make you happy...I was desperate to feel anything but what I was feeling. And so I signed up. 

I fell in love. 

Soul Cycle is not a cure. Most definitely not. But what it does, is forces you to clear your mind and free anything that is weighing you down. It brings out so many emotions for me. I let myself feel everything, I keep all the good and toss all the negative aside. I cycle myself to a better me and for forty five minutes I can throw my entire being in that damn bike. I can be angry and take it out on the bike. I can be happy and dance on the bike. I can be sad, cry and scream on the bike. 
At the end I feel refreshed. I no longer feel defeated. My soul feels strong and for a few hours after I feel happy and OK with how my life is at this moment. 

When the Soul Cycle in Pasadena reached out to me and asked if I would like to host a ride for family and friends I jumped at the chance. You don't have to be going through something terrible to enjoy Soul Cycle. You can be the happiest and still benefit from this class. Anything you feel you take to Soul Cycle and you let it turn you into a better person. I wanted to share that with everyone. I wanted to share how amazing this work out can really be. It can be different for each and every one of us. So, I extended the invite to all my lovely Instagram friends too. We were blown away by the response! 

The night was something else. It was all things amazing and incredible to meet so many new people who have had our son on their hearts. The entire time my husband and I felt so blessed and we really did feel Ryan amongst us. All of it was beautiful and I hope to do it again in the future. 



One thing though, taking photos of people pre and post work out isn't that glamorous. However, everyone was so extremely happy and in the end we were all giving each other sweaty hugs. 


Red balloon sign in sheet the lovely Soul Cycle girls made for us. 






Huge HUGE thank you to these girls. Everyone who works at Soul Cycle Pasadena is beyond nice. 
They made the event seamless and I love them. 
I guess endorphins really do make you happy...


We also had the best after work out treat on the planet. Thank you to Sweet Clementine's Popsicles for making us delicious Lemon Buttermilk popsicles to enjoy after working our butts off. 
I hope everyone loved them. Also I wish I could always have one after working out!


Dan and I wouldn't be where we are right now with our incredible family. We are thank God everyday for blessing us with such strong support. For our family we are grateful. 





Thank you to all the sweet souls who came to the event. Thank you for coming and thank you for becoming our friends through this pain we are experiencing. We are grateful and so happy to have shared this wonderful night with you all. 


One Year Does A Difference

Monday, August 4, 2014

It was one of those perfect days. When you wake up and the sun is on your side. Your eyes sort of flutter open and sleepy stretches easily flow through your limbs. You have no care in the world, except to make sure everything is packed before check out.

Stumbling down to the lobby for a latte in last nights concert tee and sweats I felt light and happy even. I hadn't woken up like this in three months. I ordered a large iced coffee and a cookie for later. Taking my time up the elevator back to our room, I let myself think about this time a year ago. This same day last year I woke up happy, excited. The sun was on my side. My eyes fluttered open and sleepy stretches flowed through my limbs. I had not a care in the world, except to make sure everything was ready before I walked down the aisle.

On our one year anniversary Dan and I sit and look the same. But, oh how we have changed. Most of the change happened in the last three months...and still is happening. We sit heavy with grief however, light gleams through. That light shows in our smiles and our strong desire to live even with these holes in our hearts.

Back in our hotel room. I climbed back into bed with my latte and cookie, listening to Dan's soft snores. Every two or three minutes his arm would twitch. A sign of deep sleep for him. I sat there thinking about all we have endured and tears came. Tears fell with every thought. I thought about the three of us having the best time at "Mommy and Daddy's party!", that is how Ryan referred to our wedding day. And it was a party. I let myself think 'what if'. Which is this slippery slope and it gets me into trouble mostly. Because I'll sit and think of impossible 'what ifs' and make myself sick with sadness.
But really, what if Ryan was still here?
Then I stopped, and thought come on. You are here now, eat your damn cookie and relax. And in that moment a sense of sweet calm washed over me and my brain began to think about all that we will encounter, rather than what we have endured thus far.

All we will encounter together. There is something extremely beautiful about our situation and even in the depths of darkness it can be seen. Our life and all the greatness we will encounter can be seen. Not specifics, no, those are still being worked out by God and Ryan. Those two are diligently planning our great path. So, ok sorry, I guess it can be felt rather than seen at this point. Yes, because I can feel it. I can feel that there is great coming for us. We can feel it.

When Dan wakes up there is this unspoken "I know this is painful, but we can at least celebrate us today" in the air. There were lots of hugs and kisses. Happy Anniversary whispered back and forth. We know Ryan is jumping all around us. We feel that too. And then it was as if Ryan was speaking through Dan as he said "I have a gift for you...but first lets find donuts!"
And my heart swelled because here I am feeling all these feelings of sad and yet I feel like I won the jackpot at the same time.

In the end, one year does a difference make. And that difference has sent us on a journey we didn't want to take. However, here we are falling in love all over again, with more strength than you can imagine. More strength than we even knew about.


Our perfect day, brought to you by my terrific selfie skills...


We stayed at the Ace in Downtown Los Angeles. The coffee and black and white cookies were the best. Although the rooftop pool and bar were also the best. It was the perfect place for our quick stay. 


The Rockefeller in Manhattan Beach is beyond delicious. If you are ever in the area...eat there. 
Go for the donuts...



After donuts went to the beach. Took two naps and one swim in between.



We had big plans to head out for a fancy steakhouse dinner. But that second wave of energy never hit. Plus we are creatures of habit and were more starving than wanting romance. Dinner was a big feast at PF Changs. We both had wet hair and sand between our toes. 

Cheers To One Year




 

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