Brown Sugar Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lately, I have had zero desire to bake or do much of anything in the kitchen. I think about how I always had Ryan with me in the kitchen and we would make anything and everything. Now, it is just me in the kitchen and if I am bring honest ... It sucks being alone in there. I miss him grabbing my legs, his chatter and his little voice always asking to taste and help. I miss him dragging in his foot stool from the bathroom to get a better look. And every once in a while when he couldn't care less about what I was making but still wanted to be in the kitchen, he would bring in his toys and play around my feet. Then he would find something else interesting or daddy would come home and they would go play outside. Leaving me in the kitchen, and I would step on a car or plane toy and scream because stepping on tiny toys hurt! I would yell for Ryan to come pick up his toys and remind him if he is going to play with something else, then you have to clean up this mess first. 
My heart hurts. So bad. I miss being a mom. I miss my son. 

A few weeks ago a stranger from New York sent me a giant box. You know those white boxes with iconic black lettering on it? When I say giant I mean giant. So, my whole family is there because it is big and I'm saying out loud I didn't order anything from here! I undo the ribbon and there is a tiny, tiny card. When I say tiny I mean tiny. I open it and read, my family yelling "what does it say?!".
It says...
We don't know each other, but your story has touched me so much. 
Please keep baking. Ryan is so proud of you. 
HUGS all the way from NYC. 
The Robitaille Family.

In that moment I started to cry. I cry from reading three words 'Please keep baking'. Then I pulled the tissue and bubble wrap and tears came out so hot and fast. My whole family was teared up and really we all were floored by the immense love this stranger had showered us with. Inside the giant box was everything you could ever want while baking. The gadgets were nothing compared to her simple note that urged me to step back into the kitchen, with out my son, and continue to do something I love. Their hugs from a far gave me courage and showed their faith in me. It was all nothing short of amazing and in that moment it was everything I needed. Because right now I am living moment to moment. Some are really bad, some are violent and nasty, some are fine and some are full of love and glimmering hope. So this hopeful moment led me back into the kitchen and I decided to make these. Probably the worst thing for you because they are stuffed with margarine and sugar...but really who cares. 


One of my favorite things to eat is cinnamon rolls and making them from scratch is really rewarding. Plus, if you have overnight guests and bake them cinnamon rolls to enjoy in the morning you become a rock star. So, I'll teach you how to be a baking rock star ... 

Brown Sugar Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

What You Need
- one package of dry yeast
-one cup warm water
- 1/4 cup sugar
-pinch of salt
-2 tablespoons of melted margarine (for the dough mixture)
-1/3 cup margarine (for the pecan mixture)
-2-3 tablespoons softened margarine (to spread on the dough after rolling out)
-1 egg
-4 cups flour (plus extra for rolling out dough)
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2 tablespoons corn syrup
-1 cup chopped pecans
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 teaspoons cinnamon

What You Do
Start the day before you want to eat your cinnamon rolls. The dough has to rest at least overnight before you roll it out and bake it. 
- Use a mixer and in your mixing bowl add the package of dry yeast with the warm water. The warm water helps the yeast bloom and this whole process should smell like your making soft pretzels. Which might throw you off, but stay focused because at the end of all these steps will be a sweet reward. 
- Once the yeast is some what dissolved add the 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of softened margarine and one egg. Mix these until fully incorporated. 
- Now, slowly mix in the flour and pinch of salt. Adding a little at a time so you don't make a flour mess and so the dough mixes smooth with no flour lumps. 
- Be sure to not over mix your dough. Once the dough is smooth and slightly sticky stop the mixer. 
- Coat a separate large bowl with cooking spray and place to the side. 
- Spray one of your hands with cooking spray and pull the wet dough out of your mixing bowl and place in the large coated bowl. 
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in your refrigerator over night. You can make this dough up to four days in advance and just let it hang out in the refrigerator. Any longer than that and the dough will go bad. 

- After you let your dough rest, it is time to roll it out. 
- Coat a large surface area with flour and place your dough in the center. Use flour to kneed it into a ball shape. Coat your rolling pin with flour and begin rolling out your dough. This part always gives me trouble because it isn't like cookie dough where you can roll it and it stays still. The yeast in this dough gives it a rubber band feel and it takes a lot of muscle to roll it all over and have it stay rolled out. If you have any tips on rolling out dough please tell me. 
- Once your dough is rolled out mix the 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon.
- Rub your dough down with 2-3 tablespoons of softened margarine and then sprinkle on the sugar and spice mixture all over. 
- Once coated, begin rolling your dough. 

- Once tightly rolled up, use a knife and cut the edges off. 
- Now, leave the dough for a second and in a bowl mix 2 tablespoons of melted margarine, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of corn syrup and 1 cup chopped pecans. Pour this mixture into the pan you will bake your cinnamon rolls in. Make sure to coat the pans with cooking spray first. Spread out the sticky pecans so it creates a bottom layer on your pan. 
- This dough usually makes around 10-13 cinnamon rolls. Depending on how large you cut them. Once you cut your rolls you can see how big of a pan you will need. 
- Place your cinnamon rolls on top of the pecan layer and cover with a damp paper towel. 
- Leave the covered rolls for about an hour. You will see the rolls rise and get bigger.

- Once you have waited for the rolls to rise. Bake them for about 30-45 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. They will be golden brown and bubbly once they are ready to come out. 
- While still hot, place a large plate over the rolls. Protect your hands with pot holders and flip the rolls onto the large plate. Use a butter knife to spread the gooey brown sugar pecan mixture all over and between the rolls. 
- Serve them warm and enjoy these sticky sweet treats!

Thank you to the Robitaille Family and to every single one of you here with me. Helping me through each one of my moments. 

Back To Work

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Its like those little butterflies you got the night before going back to school. When you have been away for awhile, your skin is sun kissed and maybe you grew a bit. All your new school things are being readied and you lay out the new outfit for your first day back. You think, this could be a chance to re-make myself. I'm a new person. So, you set your alarm for the first time in weeks. Enough time planned to fully get ready and be early even. Nerves rock you to sleep as you envision tomorrow's debut. You see yourself walking into those walls with a shaky smile. This will be the first time, since the last time everyone saw you. You think to yourself, "I better make this good."
Walking into my first day back at work was a little bit nerve wracking. Ok, a ton bit nerve wracking. I had this heavy want to be just as good as I was. I felt a strong need to pick back up from where I left off. From where I left off just six weeks ago. Within my first steps inside I realized very quickly that, for me to be able to pick back up from where I left off, would be impossible. Right then, in that moment on my first day, I felt so completely out of it. I felt like my head was all foggy. I felt heartbroken to learn that yes, work has moved on with out Ryan. I felt slices of anger mixed with disbelief. Why am I back here? Can I actually do this? This all was coursing through my body even before I stepped into the office. So, I promised to be nice to myself. I forced myself to ease into each of my tasks inch by inch. Much like slipping slowly into an ice cold pool. Submerging each part of my body limb by limb.

The support waiting for me at work was immense. I consider myself extremely lucky to fall back into a workplace such as mine. My girls in one word are, incredible. There was a handmade 'Welcome Back Jacqui' banner, my favorite treats including a dozen donuts and a beautiful journal they kept while I was gone. The journal is filled with love letters from them to me, encouraging words, artwork and words of remembering Ryan. Forever. It was all nothing short of amazing and I let myself feel their love and compassion. Those first few days I let their love and compassion fuel me. Because with out it I would have been to weak to continue. I'm sure of it.

On the second and third day I was having to learn a few new things that were installed while I was away. Before I left I was on top of my game. I was quick to learn and quick to please. Now with each step it felt as if I was knee deep in mud. Learning everything all over again made my skin crawl because I used to be so good. Another mountain I had to climb was seeing other mothers. The place is  full of browsing moms pushing strollers, moms trying to contain their toddlers and moms to be. All the days long I am faced with this. Please don't get me wrong, because being a mom is a blessing and wonderful and every good thing you can possibly imagine. Believe me, I am a mom. However, for a mother such as myself, seeing all the moms in action is intense. A little too intense at times. My smiles mask my screams and tears. I feel jealous, but mostly heartbroken. Heartbroken, because my heart is literally broken with out my son.

On the last day I felt fed-up. I felt so full of frustration that one more bite would send me to the bathroom sick. Currently, I feel worried that I may never be able to overcome this. Worried that I may never have a sliver of what my life used to be like. Work for me is something I can hold onto. It was a part of me in the past and I'm trying to make it a part of me now. I think the key word here is, trying. I'm trying just six weeks after my life came crashing down. Trying to make sense of my life as I know it now. I believe I'll get there at some point. Hopefully, God grants more patience on my co-workers as I try to work through this.

So, what do I do? What would you do?
For now I am heading back for week two.
Praying it will be a little better.
That is all I expect.
Just a little better than my first week.


I found this quote on Pinterest via Moorea Seal during my first week back and it really hit me. As much as I am trying to be strong and make tiny sense of what is happening, I'm truly going through hell. Every day my husband and I struggle. Life right now is absolute hell with out our son. Sometimes I feel like people forget just how awful this is. That even though we smile and speak, inside we feel all kinds of hot anger and sadness. Everyone gets to move on with their life and their children. Let it be known, the pain we feel is downright excruciating.

Even so, we must still more forward. 

Hope For The New Me

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it's what's in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will."
 -my favorite quote from the movie 'Hope Floats'. 

Dan and I have our good days and we have our bad days. We even have those really awful days when we can't breath between sobs. When our family just holds us because their words don't make a difference. And at the end of those really awful days we are left broken, but in some weird way we feel pieces of us being put back together in a new way.
After the initial shock of my son's death died down and panic set in, I remember frantically asking my family "Will I still be me, will I still be funny?". Most told me yes of course. A few who knew the truth told me no. They said that I will be become a new me.
Two weeks after we lost Ryan I found myself wanting to go into work and see my girls. All my girls at work are my friends and through this difficult time they have become a type of family that I feel so blessed to have. I sat in the office and cried with my boss Hanah. She cried with me. She made me laugh a bit, but she also gave me some insight. There was a break in our cries and conversation. It was quiet and she blurted out "I can't wait to meet my new friend!".  I looked at her and I remember thinking, what is she saying? What does she mean? I thought for a second she was trying to tell me she was meeting a new girl that was coming to work for us. Then she explained that she couldn't wait to see me come out of this as a stronger woman. Hanah told me through her smile and tears, she couldn't wait to see me become more bad ass than ever. It all made me laugh, and then it stuck with me. It gave me immense hope and I've been clung to it ever since.
Each time I break down, I let myself have it. I relish the moments where I can't stop crying. Where I can't seem to see straight and all I think are negative, nasty thoughts about why this happened. I let myself have these dark moments for one simple reason.


I have to hope that after I fall apart, I will be re-built into a stronger woman. I will be re-built with a hole in my heart, but able to live with the absence. I will never not be Ryan's mother. I will just be a new version of Ryan's mother. A more wise and patient version filled with grace, everlasting hope and immense strength. That is not to say I wasn't all those things prior to loosing my son. However, I have to believe those qualities and more will be reinstalled within me. These qualities I hope will shed light on not only my life but others as well.
It was scary at first to learn that no, absolutely not, will I be the same as I was. Hell, it is still scary! I've gotten to know and love me for the last 29 years. I loved me. I loved being Ryan's mother. As I say good bye to the old me I am frightened. I'll be scared for a while. But, I do feel a sliver of comfort knowing that I will become a new me. In Hanah's words "a new friend".

A new wife.
A new sister.
A new daughter.
And please God, oh please I pray to be...
A new mom.

The end of my son's physical being is sad. It has left my husband and I stripped raw.
The beginning of our life with out Ryan is scary. It has my husband and I terrified, holding each other.
But it is the middle that counts. The middle being the 3 1/2 years we had with our son. The middle giving us strength and hope that we will be that happy and more one day. While Ryan watches proudly from above.

We hope to be re-built and to have happy days come soon.
I hope to see and love the new me.


These photos are from BlogShop. It was the first thing I did by myself, for myself and I had a really great time. Here is to learning about me all over again....I hope you stick around and help me figure it all out. 

Always, We Whisper I Love You

Friday, June 13, 2014

It is around 2:30 in the morning. I wasn't really asleep to begin with, just laying down with my eyes closed and my mind racing a mile a minute. I sit up with angst, because I can't take it lying down. Lying down feels like I'm going to be sick. I'm scared of the scenes replaying in my mind. The scenes are mixed with vivid panic and deep, deep sadness. I'm feeling hot and angry. When I close my eyes all I see is my beautiful son who should be snuggled between his mom and dad, yet he is not.  Now I'm crying that loud, uninhibited, ugly cry and my husband reaches out. My husband wasn't really asleep to begin with, just laying down with his eyes closed and his mind racing a mile a minute. He sits up with hurt in his eyes and pulls me closer to him. We sit, limbs intertwined and cry for our son.
This happens most nights. I cry out "I just miss him. I miss my little man." My husband rubs my back and whispers "I miss him too. I know, I miss him too." Sometimes, the roles are reversed and I rub my husband's back offering all I have to give to him. As he does for me. Always, we end up tangled within each other, our tears smeared together against our bare skin. Always, my husband whispers "We'll be okay. We are going to be okay." Always, I make him promise me.
"You promise we will be okay?" 
"Yes, I promise."

Always, we whisper "I love you."

It has been six weeks and the loss of our son feels like it just happened seconds ago.
Life lately has been clouded with dark moments and cleared by a few really good moments. The good moments swoop in, brush a soft kiss on our face and then leave us just as quick as they came. Almost as if our son is bringing the good moments to us himself. At least I like to think of him doing so.

Six weeks since and I am proud of my husband and I. Our son loved hearing us tell him we were proud of him. Even when he finished his dinner he would say "Look momma! Are you so proud of me?!" Then I would cheer and say "Yes, I'm so proud of you Ry Ry!" His giant little smile was perfection. Thinking of that toothy grin gets my breath caught up in my throat. Now, when I  have a moment alone I find myself whispering "Look Ryan, are you so proud of mommy and daddy?" I whisper to him "I hope you are proud baby because we are trying really hard to make you proud." 

Always, I whisper "I love you."

These photos are terribly grainy, but I love them so. I loved when my son would lock his arms around me from behind. He would thrash his body around if I tried to steal a kiss or keep him in my embrace for too long. How I wish I could feel his little body again. 
I love you Ryan. I love you. 

Keeping Busy - DIY Succulent Garden

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ryan and I did a lot of crafts. We always were painting new pictures to hang from the mantel or tape to our kitchen wall. Recently he was into painting and learning how to use markers. I had bought him a large marker set for Easter and we practiced using the colors and then putting the lid back on when finished. He loved snapping the lid back into place. He also loved coloring on things that were not paper. I find myself thinking of when I would scold him for coloring on himself or the carpet. I smile a bit, but I feel this deep rooted sadness at the same time.

I wish I could have him back and would let him color all over the place.

This deep sadness, I don't know what to do with it. As I mentioned it before, it sometimes takes my breath away. Sometimes it makes me cry with out warning. Sometimes I can ignore it and move on for a bit. Either way it is there and it is scary because I know it won't ever go away. I'm scared that I will feel sad for the rest of my life. To deal with the sad feelings I keep busy. I keep busy to try and keep the sad at bay.

Recently, in efforts to keep busy I've been doing a few crafts or cooking. Last week I make mosaic stepping stones for my sister's backyard, salted caramels, and spaghetti and meatballs for my family dinner. This week I painted pots and planted a bunch of beautiful succulents. And one tiny red cactus for Ryan. It all feels therapeutic.

I absolutely adore the way my succulent garden turned out so I thought I would share.
Thank you for listening...

What I Used
// Terra Cotta Pots
// Spray Paint & Acrylic Paints
// Paint Brushes
// Painters Tape
// Various Succulents
// Potting Soil
// Protective Gloves (if your planting cacti)

Spray paint the pots and let dry over night. I did at least 3-4 coats on each pot.

Tape designs on the pots. Then paint the areas with different colors. I wanted triangles on my pots so I taped like this. But you can pretty much create whatever design you feel. That is the best part...getting creative.

Let dry completely before removing tape.

Place potting soil into pots. Fill nearly to the top?? I'm not really sure, but I just went with it. Then I made a little hole and placed the succulents into the hole. I'm not the best gardner, but it did feel good getting dirty. I was in my own head and went for it.

With and With Out Ryan // A Night At The Ball Game

Sunday, June 8, 2014

For my husband Dan, the one thing he was looking forward to do with his son is play sports. Dan pretty much knows everything there is to know about sports. And for a sports guy the golden ticket is having a son. What is more heart breaking than that? Going to a baseball game with out your son and seeing your brave husband try and have a good time. Doing these types of things is always hardest the first go and then they tell us the pain decreases a bit as you get used to the hole in your heart. Are we ever going to get used to it? I don't think so, the hole will just become a part of us. Always painful.
It is the way we deal with our pain that makes a slight difference. Right now the thing that eases the pain is keeping busy. We are brave with our pain. Challenging our selves each and every day. 

What is silly is that Dan is a huge Dodger fan. But, we went to an Angel game. What is even more silly is that we never had the chance to take our son to a Dodger game...which breaks my heart. We did however take him to an Angel game. 
Last fourth of July. It was the best time. We ate so much and Ryan bounced back and forth between my lap and Dan's lap. Ryan even has his own seat but he was all over the place to get a better look. He kept hitting an imaginary bat and ball. After that game Ryan started running imaginary bases and got really into baseball. It was either baseball or football...he wanted to hit with a bat or hit with his body. The best part of that game was the 7th inning stretch. The three of us stood up and screamed "Take Me Out To The Ball Game". Ryan didn't know the words so he just screamed with excitement. 

So Dan and I are trying to do as much as we can. Going to a baseball game was painful but worth it. We enjoyed taking Ryan last year and we enjoyed taking him now. We carry our son in our hearts everywhere we go...with and with out Ryan. A baseball game is a baseball game, whether it is Dodgers or Angels. Though the truth is, we now have an Angel. 

At the game I ate cotton candy and we wore our red shoes for our Ryan. 
Words can not express how much we miss you Ryan. 
We are trying every day to honor you and make you proud. 

Once a Momma...Forever a Momma

Thursday, June 5, 2014

One thing I struggle with daily is whether or not I am still a mom. Most will say right away "Of course you are still a mother!" Everyone tells me this, but I struggle with it all. When they tell me I'm still a mother I have two sides that fight within my clouded head;

My dark side will come fierce with sharp pains of,
No not really. You are not really a mother anymore. You have nothing to do as mother. No one to buy for, no one to make sure veggies get eaten, no one to tuck in at night. No one to kiss all over, no one to show things to, no one to raise. 
The other side is my son battling my mind with,
Yes momma you are my momma. Even though I'm not with you physically, I am here and you still have to take care of me by taking care you. 

September 3rd, 2010 I went to visit my doctor. I was 36 weeks pregnant. I had a routine "you are almost at the end" appointment to make sure everything looked good. Except it didn't really and next thing I knew I had an appointment to induce labor the following day. So, I invited my entire family to come have dinner with Dan and I at an Italian restaurant by our tiny apartment. Sort of like a last supper. A bit of calm before the storm you could say. It was a lot of fun. I remember being extremely nervous about being induced and having a baby in general. As per usual my family delivered the comedic relief Dan and I needed. My whole family came together and uplifted Dan and I as we were about to embark on one of the greatest gifts from God. Parenthood. We sat around the table whilst eating pizza, pasta and copious amounts of garlic bread. We entertained ideas of what our baby boy would look like, what we couldn't wait to do with him and whether or not he really would have red hair...

My induction began at 11pm on Sunday.
There was a lot of pain, it was uncomfortable.
I threw up once or twice, then I fell asleep.
My water was broken at 9am Monday morning.
My family was there with us.
I was told it was time. My sisters held my legs and Dan held my hands.
"You are doing great, Jacqui." "Come on Jacqui! That's it!" "Oh my gosh! Jacqui he has lots of hair!"
I pushed for 45 minutes.
Then our beautiful red headed boy was out and ready to conquer the world by 1pm Monday.

The days after labor are a slight blur, but I remember feeling whole. I felt like Dan and I were complete. I remember the joy Ryan brought to everyone at just being hours old. His hair was a force to be reckon with and from the second he was born he was mine and I was his. He was a perfect little baby with his eyes always open wide. Sometimes the three of us would just stare at each other. Dan and I would shower him with kisses all day. Every day it just got better and better and better.
Until it all came to a abrupt end.
I have those tender moments though, that I hold close to my heart. Those precious moments of when my son was days old. When we milked maternity leave and stayed cooped up in our apartment. I become a mother the day I brought my son into the world.

I want to keep replaying all the said memories to justify the sheer fact that Ryan happened to me. And no one can take that away from me. Not even my dark side. My dark side questions everything and sometimes it can get hard fighting the negative thoughts. Sometimes I fight them and try to keep busy. Sometimes I let them consume me and I end up in a fog for the day.  I am trying really hard to train my thoughts into reliving all those tender moments of Ryan's birthday instead of replaying all the panic of his death day.

This struggle of mine is one of the hardest. I guess it will be for a while. I am still a mom. My son is just not physically with me. Which is such crap and I wish everyday I didn't have to go through this. However, I need to continue to be strong. Strong for myself and for my husband and for my son.

I'm Ryan's mom and he is my son.
Forever and always.
It just looks different than I what I had planned or imagined.
...and that is alright.


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