Thankful Everyday

Friday, December 19, 2014


This holiday season has been all over the place. In the beginning I told you how afraid of them I was. How I just wanted to crumple them all up and toss them away. Having to brave them with out Ryan feels as though we are losing him all over again. The pain is uncomfortable and at times feels so physical. I'm alive, but my heart is literally broken. Who knew that was even possible? The holiday season is meant to be enjoyed, over enjoyed really with lots of traditions, delicious food and thoughtful gifts. 
Ryan enjoyed it and continues to enjoy it. I used to enjoy it ... I need to try and continue to enjoy it. 

I've found that in order to enjoy the things around you, you have to be thankful for them. Half of me always asks myself "How can you be thankful? You are walking down a path brightly lit with twinkle lights and garland, people all around buying gifts for their children who will be surprised on Christmas Day. And you are with out your son. You don't get to buy gifts for Ryan, or take him to see the Christmas lights. Or see him sing festive songs. What is there to be thankful for?" I know I've mentioned how extremely easy it is to take the negative path. Sometimes the negative path feels so damn good. Sometimes letting yourself feel the negative and explore those depressed thoughts is needed. But in order to grow and rise from the grief, I have to push through the negative and search for all the beautiful things there are to be thankful for. Ryan is no longer physically with us, but there are still a million and more things to be thankful for. 
Being thankful everyday is hard, but worth it. 

Dan and I are incorporating Ryan in everything possible during each holiday and of course all the days in between. For Thanksgiving we made a table setting for him. He had his own name tag and plate. It was never used, but it was nice to imagine him sitting there. Actually, that is crazy to imagine. Ryan would have never sat there ... he would have been running around with his cousins. All hot and sweaty shrieking with excitement that all the family was together and here to play. Thanksgiving was exactly this; Me trying to catch him, "No running in the house! Make sure you guys share the toys!" When it came to dinner time Ryan only ate the marshmallows off the top of the sweet potatoes and bread rolls with butter. He had a hilarious phobia of mash potatoes (he was literally afraid of them.) and really the day for him was just about having fun with family. He had the right idea it seems. Having fun with family...isn't that what it's truly all about anyways?

This year I covered my table with craft paper and during our dinner we all wrote down what we were thankful for. Once done writing we shared... 
What Are You Thankful For?
Everyone said family. Everyone said memories. Everyone said Ryan. 

I'm thankful for three and half full years with my son. I'm thankful for all the memories we made during that time and all the memories to come with him above. I'm thankful for my husband and our ability to hold on each other. I'm thankful for this life of mine. I'm thankful for the future and I'm curious to see where it will lead me. 

So, we made it through another holiday! I learned a little more about myself and how to handle this grief. I know it will be hard to try and enjoy the biggest holiday just on the horizon. However, if I continue to focus on all the things I have to be thankful for it may be a little easier to enjoy. This is all so hard and frustrating ... but worth it. It is so worth trying your hardest to live a full life in honor of those we have lost. 

Are you going through something difficult right now? Can you try and focus on things you can still be thankful for? It is so hard right? Or is it just hard for me? Let me know, maybe we can help each other as Christmas is approaching...


Photos from our Thanksgiving table ... 









Braving Halloween ...

Monday, December 1, 2014

This is my most favorite time of year. Well, it was my favorite time of year. Hopefully it might become my favorite again some time. Usually, once the air starts blowing crisp and everything turns pumpkin flavored I get giddy with excitement and start thinking of ways we can celebrate and decorate. This time of year started to get really, really good once Ryan was born because I could share my insane enthusiasm with my child. Also, getting to see the holidays through your child's eyes is gift enough really. The first time he understood costumes or gifts under the tree happened when he turned two ...  and I would do anything to do last years holidays over again. I wouldn't change anything, I just want to do the holidays with Ryan again.

My thoughts of this time of year have changed. Violently changed. I'm angry, streaked with jealously. I feel anxious, eager to just get this all over with already! The days leading up to Halloween I couldn't help but think of how excited Ryan would have been. I knew what he wanted to be for Halloween which was a blessing because I was able to purchase a costume for him. Even though his body would never get the chance to wear it. Buying that costume helped me. It made me feel like a mom again. Walking into that Party City with determination, "I'm buying this for my son. Yes, he loved Dash." Walking out of that Party City with tears brimming my eyes, my sister saying "You got this Jacqui, he has his costume now. He is happy." I'm scared for next Halloween, I feel like I will be too far from Ryan at that point. I won't know what he would have wanted to be ... I can only guess. Also, is it crazy to accumulate costumes my child will never wear year after year? I'm getting ahead of myself, I tend to do that. I need not to think of next years battles, just about how I'll get through the current ones.

Halloween. The first major holiday Dan and I have to brave with out our son.
Dan and I planned a trip up to San Fransisco to visit family and our best friends from college. We wanted to get away from the traditions we shared for the last three years. We wanted to escape Halloween and all it reminded us of. We planned to just have a normal weekend in hopes of having more laughs than cries.

We were successful. Minus one detail. We weren't able to escape Halloween. As if our minds wouldn't allow it. The day of Halloween I woke up in tears. Jealous of every single person in our family that was able to trick or treat with their children. I was overwhelmingly sad. I fiercely missed telling Ryan "Not yet dude! We have your parade at school. Then we have to wait for Daddy to get home..." and getting him dressed in his costume. I woke up feeling almost worse than I did the morning after we lost Ryan. Living through these holidays with out Ryan  has made me feel like I've lost him all over again. And that, that is truly painful.

Thank God for family and friends. Thank God for our friends who got down on our level of grief. Who devoted themselves to help us through this first holiday. We remembered Ryan, we celebrated Halloween and we had a great weekend. Despite the pain and all the other feelings that tagged along.
It is so damn easy to get caught up in the feelings of pain and hurt. I seriously could have wallowed within those feelings for the entire weekend. I wanted to. But, I'm positive Ryan wouldn't have wanted me to.

The hardest thing is learning how to pay attention to your grief. You have to let yourself have your sad and angry moments. Then you have to force yourself up off the ground and try to live life with fierce grief hanging above you like a dark cloud. So far it isn't getting easier...I'm just getting used to the dark cloud.


I love this photo. Since Ryan's first Halloween we would always go over to my sister's house to trick-or-treat in her neighborhood. It was our tradition. This year she made this little memorial outside her house and her neighbors even left him candy and notes. It meant the world to Dan and I. 


Happy Halloween To Our Dash. To our Ryan.

a few  favorite photos from our trip ...







"cheers to Ry!"


love the photo below ... I can see Ryan in the sun shining down on us and in Dan's monster face. 










A Weekend Full Of Nothing & A Recipe

Monday, November 17, 2014

You know those weekends full of nothing to do? Those delicious weekends with no plans, no work and in our case no food in the fridge. Weekends were you end up living in lounge wear and maybe rearrange some photo frames or actually have time to clean out your underwear drawer. Long days wrapped up in a movie, and deep hearty laughs with your spouse. Time to actually breath and enjoy the feeling of nothing in particular.

Our weekend, it was awesome. It was awesome because our bodies slept straight till lunch time each morning. It was awesome because we walked to Trader Joe's in our work out pants topped with the shirts we slept in the night before. It was awesome because we camped out in our bed in the afternoons watching football (I watched movies on my computer) and ate nothing but snacks. Anyone else totally in love with Trader Joe's and all their snacks!?

Happily doing nothing with the one you love. Whatever that feeling is ... it is a good one.

We needed this weekend full of nothing more than we knew. Of course I can't help but remember our weekends full of nothing were truly the best with Ryan. But, I can't think of that right now because I'll start to cry. And I don't want to cry...not today. What I'll think about are all the moments from this past weekend with my husband...

The moment of us giving each other high fives after realizing we slept in till 11am! Or when I said "I'm going to take a shower." and Dan said "Why?" My favorite moment was when we were walking home from dinner and decided to stop into this travel bookstore for "just a sec." We stayed for an hour tucked away looking at a million books, dreaming of a million adventures.

Dear Weekend Full Of Nothing, 
Thank you. We needed you badly. We needed happy, lazy and lots relaxation. We needed to ease off the sadness for just a few a days. We needed to just be. 

---

This weekend wasn't totally full of nothing if you count my time in the kitchen Sunday afternoon. I had a can of pumpkin puree burning a hole in my cupboard and a serious craving for sugar...as I typically always do. I love these "donut" muffins which aren't really anything like donuts except for that sugar coating. It reminds me of my favorite kind of donut. You know those round ones coated in white sugar? Those are awesome. These are awesome too...Enjoy!


Pumpkin "Donut" Muffins





What You Need
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tsp pumpkin spice
 or if you don't have pumpkin spice try...
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp all spice

For the cinnamon and sugar coating
1/2 cup of raw sugar
2 tsp cinnamon



What You Do
-sift all your flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and spices together.
-with a whisk mix your eggs and pumpkin.
-add your oil and vanilla to your eggs and pumpkin. Whisk until all incorporated.
-slowly whisk in your dry ingredients.
-mix until there are no lumps.
-scoop batter into a greased muffin pan.
-bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
-while your muffins bake mix your sugar and cinnamon together in a big bowl.
-once your muffins are out of the oven and cooled, use a butter knife to loosen them out of the pan.
-toss your muffins one by one in the cinnamon and sugar coating.

Are You Ryan's Mom?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

This morning felt like it was going to be another hard one. I wish I could crumple the last few days up like paper and throw them away. I guess I am more sensitive because the holidays are here. Talks of gift giving and sparkly decor is spreading like wild fire...it all makes me feel anxious and depressed. Really, I wish I could crumple up the holidays like paper and throw them away ... just for this year at least.

Anyways, I had to go to Target for laundry soap. When I got there I became side tracked by the Christmas ornaments. I immediately started searching for ones that reminded me of Ryan. I don't want anything to do with the holidays and yet it took two seconds for me to become obsessed with trying to find ornaments that somehow related to Ryan. It doesn't make sense, but in that moment I felt strongly about finding the perfect ornaments. Thats the thing about this grief, it has me all over the place sometimes. While reaching for a Raphael Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle a kind woman came up to me and asked,

"Are you Ryan's mom?" 
I smile and pride begins to beam out of me. At least I feel it beaming.
"Yes! I am Ryan's mom." 

I had lost the feeling of being a mother the second I lost my son. How am I still a mom? I don't feel like I am anymore. Everyone told me otherwise and I never truly believed them.

I miss my daily responsibilities like;
making school lunches and making baby food before that, preparing healthy snacks, thinking of fun activities that foster creativity and learning, making sure we head outdoors for adventures, preschool drop off and pick up, doing his little laundry and keeping a good clean stack of underwear just in case, breakfast making, singing Katy Perry and Bruno Mars in the car (which isn't a responsibility, just me being silly with my son), our bedtime routine, story time, teaching him where money comes from...

Does this make sense? I miss the act of motherhood. I miss my days as a mother. A real mom.

This afternoon things sort of clicked. This stranger asked me a simple question which gave me a sense of validation.

"Are you Ryan's mom?"

I am a mom. I am still a mom. A real mom. Just a different one. It clicked that I still have major responsibilities as Ryan's mother. The most important one being to honor my son in every move I make.

I have new responsibilities like; getting up and dressed to show my son that his mom is strong and hasn't lost her will to live,  planning adventures with my husband to show Ryan his mom and dad haven't lost their will to love, smiling and continuing to make people laugh to show Ryan that his mom is still funny and silly, going to work to further teach Ryan where money comes from. I also sing louder in the car as if the louder I am the clearer he can hear me.

What a blessing it was to meet this kind stranger who knew about Ryan and was willing to hug me in the middle of Target. I told her I was trying to pick out Christmas ornaments that reminded me of Ryan and she didn't even give me those 'sad eyes' when someone feels sorry for you. No, she smiled with me. We hugged and talked about life. We talked about school for our kids and I was able to refer her to Ryan's preschool with out turning into a bubbling hot mess! We also discussed how cruel this life can be and there were a bit of tears. We understood each other and in that moment it was what I needed.
As soon as she walked away I texted Dan "I just met the nicest girl!" She was a gift. Things have a funny way of working together. Having a crappy last few days, feeling like I can't do this anymore. Questioning myself and what I am doing, what are we doing here with out Ryan? I never see these gifts coming, but I am so grateful to have them pull me out of my cloud and give me a sense of clarity. It is all so emotional and moment to moment this grief. I have to lean on these gifts and really use them to get me through...

I left Target with two Christmas ornaments, a new friend and a proud smile that screamed
"I am Ryan's mom!" 
... I forgot the laundry soap though.



If You Give Ryan A Smoothie, He'll Want To Pick His Straw

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Smoothie making was a huge thing in our house. It always will be. 
When I think about mornings with Ryan, I think of smoothies. Well, I think of a lot of things that made up our morning routine. But, smoothies were definitely an important factor. 

It started the year before last when Ryan fell in love with Jamba Juice or "Juice Jamba” as he would say. I took him there on a whim before walking to the park. I told him it was a special treat. He drank the whole thing in less than two minutes and declared it the best kind of drink because of the straw. He loved drinking from a straw.
He started asking for "Juice Jamba" often and then I decided to just start making them myself. Because those suckers aren’t really that healthy, and the cost adds up quick. I bought fun colored straws and all kinds of fruits to blend up. I started freezing the fruit for colder, thicker smoothies and played around with fruit and veggie combinations too. I could pretty much blend up anything and Ryan would slurp it down, so long as he got to choose his straw. Smoothie making turned out perfect for squeezing extra greens and healthy things into his body. 

Every morning he would help me pull out all the ingredients from the fridge and lay them out on the counter for me. I would pull the frozen fruit out of the freezer and take out his favorite cup. Ryan would think long and hard about which colored straw he would want to use on that particular morning. He usually always chose the green straw because there were no red straws, and the pink straws were always for me. "Mom, you have pink."

Us two, we made such a good team. We weaved in and out of each other in the kitchen and our chatter covered all the hot topics;

Can we go to the park instead of pre-school?  
What shape is my "hamich" today? (sandwich. I always cut his sandwich into different shapes.)
Who goes fasters, Lightening McQueen or Dash? (Which he always followed up with running in place.)
Why does Caillou have no hair? 

I miss everything, but mostly his voice. His laugh. His thoughts moving through his mind out to his little mouth. 

Now a days smoothie making has resumed. It is a lot quieter as it is only me in there. But my son loved making smoothies every morning, and I need to pick back up from where we left off.

I pull all the ingredients out, just he would and spread them all over the counter.
I think about all of Ryan’s favorite things. I replay his words and actions in my mind.
I carefully choose which color straw to use. I now bounce between green and pink.
I wonder if he is watching me.
When I think of him watching me, I smile.

All these things may seem so small and meaningless, but I assure you they mean the world to me.
Something as simple as making a smoothie became such an important routine. It was an adventure every morning that Ryan and I got to experience. I miss it. I miss him. 

I hope you can make smoothies too, I'm sure most of you do. You can make them with your little loved ones. You can get creative like we did. Ryan will love to see you choose your straws.

You can click here to see a past blog post where Ryan and I created some kid-friendly smoothie recipes. 
Feel free to mix them up and create something of your own liking.
                                                                    Happy Smoothie Making!

---

Pumpkin Breakfast Smoothie

Ryan most likely would not have liked this. 
But I love it! So I thought I'd share with all my pumpkin lovers out there.



What You Need

1/2 cup Pureed Pumpkin 
Half a Banana (I like banana. You can also use dates!)
1/2 Handful of Oats (these make this smoothie filling. You can toss in a lot or a little.)
1/2 cup to 1 cup Almond milk (you might have to add more if your smoothie is a bit thick.)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Vanilla
Drizzle of Maple Syrup (if you are feeling fancy)
Pinch of Flax Seed (not necessary, but I like the nutty flavor)


What You Do

-I like to freeze all my fruit for smoothies so the texture is thick. I start out by freezing my pumpkin puree in ice trays the night before I make this smoothie. Though you don't have to freeze if you don't want to.
-Toast your oats tossed in cinnamon in the oven for a quick 3-5 minutes at 375 degrees. Again you don't have to do this either, I just like the texture and flavor.
-In a blender pour in your almond milk. I say 1/2 cup, but make sure it covers your blender blades completely. You might have to add more milk in if the smoothie is too thick.
-Now just add the rest of ingredients (except maple syrup) and blend till smooth.
-Pour into a glass and drizzle the maple syrup on top.






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. 


 

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