Saturday, November 30, 2013

Missing Bogi

Logan's tree. 
Today marks exactly three years since my brother Logan died. In the past, on the anniversary of his death, I have always had the feeling that it had just happened yesterday. For some reason this year, it feels more like it has been forever since it happened. Sometimes I worry that my memories of him are fading, like some irrational fear that he will be forgotten. I almost feel guilty enjoying myself during this time of year, like if I do I am showing him that I have moved on and that everything is okay without him here. But everything is not okay without him here. It never will be. I want him back so badly it hurts, but at least understanding and accepting the fact that it will not happen is getting somewhat easier with time. I know he wouldn't want anyone wallowing instead of enjoying themselves, and that helps a little too. He usually hated any attention on him at all. I remember attempting to get a senior picture out of him was like pulling teeth. Actually it was a lot of fun and I am so happy it was something I got to experience with him, but obviously being in front of the camera, just like being the center of attention, was something that made him pretty uncomfortable. Humor was usually how he coped.

Sometimes looking at photos of Logan is unbearable. Seeing his face and memories simply brings up too many emotions of anger, sadness and unanswered questions. There are also times that I am just numb, and feel nothing when I see his photos. It's a strange sensation, but while other times the tears flow uncontrollably, at these times I couldn't cry if I tried. I just feel nothing. Today as I look through some of his old pictures, I am surprised to notice that there is some happiness and joy behind my tears of sadness from missing him. I am remembering some of the good times that I actually got to have with him with joy for having those moments instead of anger and sadness that I will never have them again. It reminds me of something that my old grievance counselor Marilyn Gryte had told me. It was something along the lines of this: when someone dies, you are initially mostly focused on the way that the person died, then just the fact that the person died, and finally that the person lived. While I still think that I might be in the phase of focusing on the fact that Logan died, that he is gone forever, I can see moments like today where I can focus more on the fact that he lived. That he had a few years of life, and memories with his friends and family. I am so thankful that I got to be his sister for the short time that I did. He was such a bright and complex person, and deep down I know he cared so deeply about his family and friends. Grief has a funny way of throwing your emotions around all over the place like that. Ask me tomorrow how I am feeling about Logan, and I will probably tell you that feeling thankful for the moments I had with him is stupid, that it isn't fair that he was taken too soon. That saying "at least I got the time with him that I did" isn't what I want to hear at all and discredits my sadness. That I don't even want to think about him.

For now at least, I can focus on what I am thankful for. I am so thankful Logan agreed to be in my wedding. This is a big one, considering his extreme aversion to having attention on him. He was also one of the most stubborn people I have ever met, especially at that point in his life. I was convinced that when Kevin asked him to be a groomsman for our wedding day that he was going to refuse and that there would be no changing his mind. Much to my and I think many other people's surprise, he agreed and followed through. I loved having my baby brother be a part of one of the best days of my life. I will never forget those memories.

I absolutely love this picture, I am so happy he walked my mom down the aisle.

He looked so handsome and grown up.
I miss my brother every day. Holidays and days like today are the toughest. Luckily I have a great support system of family and friends, and plenty of distractions in life. My sister Sara is home visiting, and while she is still quite engrossed in her medical school responsibilities, it is always fun to spend time with her and see her with Ellie. We had an amazingly relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving, that so fittingly also happened to be my mom's birthday. I am so thankful for her! Spending more than two days straight with Kevin and Ellie, with the three of us as a family, has been amazing, I love it. Of course my little girl Ellie is the biggest distraction of all. She sure keeps my mind occupied. I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving! Bring on the Christmas music and decorations!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tell-All Tuesday: I'm Obsessed with Rhinos

A photo with the rhino at the zoo. According to my mom the rhino was hiding all day, and I insisted on waiting to see it. The people at the zoo said that it wouldn't be coming out, but sure enough it made an appearance for me.
Alright, so I know this Tuesday's confession is not all that juicy, but it is still something that I consider to be a little odd and different about myself. I have absolutely loved rhinos for as long as I can remember. When most little girls are asked what their favorite animal is, they will excitedly tell you something like a bunny rabbit, or a horse, or maybe soft cuddly kittens! Cats most definitely do come in as a close second for me, simply because they are just all around awesome creatures, but also because they are undeniably cute...

My cat Balto in one of his usual sleeping positions.
...and they love boxes, adding to their undeniable cuteness...
My brother's cat Shasta (more commonly known as Large) enjoying a holiday puzzle.
The moment my mom discovered the reason why there had been so much cat hair in her lettuce for the past few weeks.

...and lastly, because they can make for some adorable baby entertainment. 
Ellie and Balto discovering a balloon together.
While "cute" might not be the first word that comes to mind when most people think of rhinos, I have always found them to be adorable, especially the babies. Those sweet round little noses with stubs for horns and curious hairy little ears are irresistible! Have you ever watched a video of a baby rhino clumsily running or playing? If not you should, you will smile about it all day. It is truly saddening to know that rhinos are almost extinct. I can't believe the cruelty that people are willing to inflict on innocent creatures for the sake of money. It is sickening.

My rhino obsession and collection started at a young age, when I was given a stuffed animal rhino from Santa that I decided, with the help of my older sister Sara, to name Aaliyah. It seemed that from then on, the only gifts I received for any occasion were rhino things, and honestly that was how I wanted it. My collection grew and grew, and today I have hundreds of rhino related possessions, from stuffed animals and figurines to books and Christmas ornaments. I don't actively collect rhino things anymore, unless someone I am close to passes one on to me, or I see something adorable that I just can't resist of course. You might now be wondering if my house looks like I belong on the depressing show that makes us all feel a little better about the clutter we might have a little of called Hoarding Buried Alive, but don't fear, they are all packed away in bags and boxes. Well most of them at least. 

A photo of me with Aaliyah.
My rhino snout, no big deal.
I have been anxiously waiting for Ellie to start leaning towards liking one animal more than the others, to find out what her "rhino" might be, but she seems to just like them all in general as of yet. Those who knew of my obsession made sure to start her on the right track with various rhino books and stuffed rhinos though, so she has a fair chance of following in mommy's footsteps ;)

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Buddy-ful Week

Ellie's week was full of visits with other toddlers and she had so much fun spending time with all of her little friends. Last Saturday her cousin Quinne and friend James came over to play during the Beaver football game. They sure are a rowdy bunch, it was fun to watch them all shout and dance and play together.

Ellie's best bud and cousin Quinne, James and Ellie actually sort of sitting still. It's funny how James and Ellie look more related than the cousins :)

We also payed a visit to Ellie's friend Harper's house during the week. These two always have a ball chasing each other around the house and giggling uncontrollably about it. They make such a cute little pair :)
I'm glad I remembered to snap a photo, even just with my phone. I often forget in the moment, and later find myself wishing I had more photos of Ellie with her little pals. I have a feeling she will enjoy seeing all of these later in life.

Ellie had so much fun seeing her friend Alegra on Friday. Although it was a chilly afternoon and she inevitably wriggled her way out of her coat and hat, she loved running around and exploring the leaves. It was a nice change to be outside, and they were apparently feeling very lovey together.

How Ellie's outside attire started. I promise I dress my child appropriately, I just can't keep clothes on her!

Alegra was all about the hugs.
Makes my heart smile.

I absolutely love watching babies and toddlers interact. While there are undoubtedly some universal baby and toddler traits that are shared by most, every child is really such an individual, and it is incredible to see their little personalities start to emerge more and more. With these new personalities also comes a sense of independence and defiance, at least in Ellie's case, accompanied by an experimental phase (I am hopeful this is just a phase at least) with behaviors that are not so conducive to friendly play such as hitting, yelling, toy-taking, and tantrums when toys are taken. With Ellie being my first experience raising a child, this toddler phase she is now fully engrossed in has brought up some new anxieties for me. When I meet with other moms to let our babies play, I always find myself overly stressed and intervening, afraid that someone might think my child is mean. Or worse, that I am a bad mother for allowing her behavior and therefore making her mean. I hate having these feelings, and as I watch Ellie play more with others it is becoming more and more apparent that the hitting and toy-taking seem to be something that most toddlers experiment with, keeping me hopeful that this is just a phase. Still, it isn't easy watching her do these things, and even more frustrating feeling out of control about them. 

After a little bit of research online, I came across an interesting article that emphasized toddlers learning to work through conflict with minimal adult intervention, specifically when it comes to toy-taking. The article explained how there was a group held where parents were able to observe their children playing, and only intervene if one were in danger of being hurt. After countless unsuccessful attempts to intervene with Ellie EVERY time she snatches a toy from another child or proceeds to throw herself to the ground as if her life is over the second someone tries to take something from her, this article really caught my attention. Thinking about the concept behind the whole idea seems to now be so clear to me. If I am always stepping in when a conflict like this arises, then I am not letting Ellie learn an important life skill of how to resolve conflict on her own. She will expect me to be there to solve her problem every time it happens, because that is what she is used to. Also, as the article points out, she may be participating in this toy-taking behavior for an adult's reaction and attention to it all in the first place. Giving her this reaction each time could therefore just be feeding the fire and continuing the behavior. I sat back after reading the article and sort of had one of those "duh, why didn't I think of that?" moments that I have had so many times after learning about a new way of solving an issue with Ellie. I like to blame it on the pregnancy brain, which should really just be called "mommy brain" because it doesn't go away, even when you aren't pregnant anymore. I am somewhat excited and curious now to have a more laid-back approach to the issue, and let Ellie play more freely (as long as the other mom is on board of course) and work through her toy-taking episodes on her own. Like it was mentioned in the article, I am hoping that I will be pleasantly surprised with how often Ellie and other toddlers will be able to work through a conflict on their own, especially once she is no longer used to having me step in every time. Luckily, since we all know things don't always go as you had hoped, there is also some helpful information on the website about how to properly deal with the habitual toy-taker, where intervention might actually be needed to stop the pattern of behavior. If you are interested at all and want to check it out the website is .

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pumpkin Pear Bread

Around this wonderful time of year in Oregon, as the leaves change color and the autumn air turns crisp and cold, and well lets be honest it usually starts to rain...a lot, I can't help but feel my inner housewife start to emerge, exciting my senses into desiring to bake everything that includes the word pumpkin. I picture myself in an adorable little apron, my hair up in a beautiful bun, with a warm little home consumed in the aroma of holiday spices. My little Ellie is in a sweet dress, her perfect golden curls pinned up with a bow, and she is gently helping me stir a bowl of batter. We can't wait for daddy to come walking through the door and see what we have done! *sigh*

Truth be told, I don't even own an apron, I typically spend my entire day in pajama pants and an old T-shirt, and my hair resembles something more from a movie you might call "I haven't showered in a few days and forgot where my brush is." My house is not usually that warm (heat is expensive!) and smells more like the dog and cat somewhat masked by a holiday candle scent. Ellie's typical daily attire consists of footed pajamas that are zipped on backwards because she cannot control her toddler urges to undress constantly. She never allows bows in her hair these days, and why would she considering she doesn't even want clothes touching her? Having her help me "gently" stir a bowl of batter is just a comical sentence in itself. This would most likely end in an on the floor, kicking and screaming tantrum because I won't let her have it all and half of the delicious concoction would most likely be on me, her, the unsuspecting animals and various parts of the kitchen. Lastly, we actually do really love when daddy comes walking through that door at night. We look forward to it and it is truly the highlight of our day!

An oldie but goodie of Daddy's little girl.
Don't get me wrong, I do love to bake. Also, eating delicious holiday treats isn't really so bad either. It just isn't always as much of a fairytale as I might like to picture it. A quick and easy solution if I am having an "I want to bake and eat yummy things all day but have a toddler to take care of" type of day? My mommy! She recently made this amazingly delicious Pumpkin Pear Bread, and all I had to do was make some coffee to enjoy alongside it. It is so moist and delicious. She changed a few things from the original recipe, which can be found here: pumpkin pear bread .

Mommy's version: makes 2 loaves

Pumpkin Pear Bread
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 large ripe pears, peeled and mashed (it's okay if there are small chunks)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 TBS+1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 TBS cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream the butter and sugar with a standing or handheld mixer.
  • Add the pumpkin and pear purees. 
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  • In a separate bowl sift the flour and remaining ingredients.
  • Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture a little at a time until combined. Do not overly mix or beat the mixture. 
  • Place in two 9x5 inch greased loaf pans.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes and then run a knife around the edges of the loaf pan to help release onto a cooling rack. 
  • Enjoy!
Muffins can be made by baking for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tell-All Tuesday: I Beat Anorexia. Sort of.

I have been somewhat inspired by the popular "things you might not know about me" game that is circulating Facebook right now. There is something comforting in seeing the more imperfect side of people who mostly only show the best of what is happening in their lives to the world. That is a reality of social media that is sometimes hard to remember. That most people are portraying only the best parts of what is going on in their lives. I know I, for one, am guilty of this. I jump on the chance to share a photo of my little cutie smiling and happy, or of my husband and I sharing a loving kiss that was captured on camera. I don't always go running to try and capture and share a moment, however, when my child is throwing a tantrum I cannot control (although sometimes this is worth sharing, simply for the humor of it all) or my husband and I just fought over something trivial. While this is a perfectly normal part of the whole social media atmosphere, it is still important for your sanity to keep in mind that not everything that is going on in people's lives is being plastered on the internet for all to see.

I have decided to participate in my own way and assign Tuesdays as a day to reveal something about myself that not everyone might know, hence the name Tell-All Tuesday. I find that sharing past experiences or things that I would normally just want to forget about or keep secret is actually quite therapeutic. It's no wonder so many people on Facebook are jumping on board to participate and get some things off of their chests! So here goes my first one.

Back in 2002, when I was a 16 year old in high school, I spent about 3 months in an in-patient program through Kartini Clinic at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland where I was treated for anorexia nervosa. I then spent a good amount of my time attending sessions with Kartini Clinic's out-patient program that involved various therapies over the next couple of years or so. The first couple of weeks I spent in a hospital bed while my vitals were brought back to normal. I first had to be physically treated to make sure I was safe before starting therapy for the real issue involved with the illness, the mental aspect. Once things such as my temperature, blood pressure and heart rate were stable, I was transferred to a day treatment center where I began the journey to recovery. While a lot of this time in my life is just a big blur, there are still certain parts that I remember quite well. I reluctantly participated in things that at the time I had no idea were actually having an impact on me such as art therapy, family therapy, yoga, group therapy and so many more. If I took away nothing else from this experience, I learned that talking about and sharing your feelings and experiences is key to recovery. Effective communication is one of the best skills anyone can ever possess. 

I can now look back on my experience and see that I am almost fortunate to have gone through it all. While it would have obviously been more ideal for me to learn these lessons without the eating disorder that came along with them, I came out of it all with such a greater understanding for mental illness and the importance of a good support system. Without my family and friends that stayed by my side through the whole thing, (I put a whole new meaning to the term "hangry," which is a slang term I like for the bitchiness brought forth from hunger) I do not think I could have come out of it alive. Believe it or not, that amazing man that I married 8 years later stuck by my side the entire time. Seriously, a 16 year old boy who had me pushing him away as hard as I could decided to stick it out and support me. I think I'll keep him ;).

Kevin and I getting ready for homecoming, not too long before I entered treatment.

The summer before I ended up at Kartini Clinic. I didn't want a picture of myself eating.

The biggest support I was so fortunate to have was my mom. She was of course the one who forced me, out of love, into an appointment up there in the first place. She could not watch me die slowly anymore, and was brave enough to put her pride aside and say "my daughter has an eating disorder and needs help now." While this was an obvious reaction in her mind, it's amazing how many parents of children with any kind of mental illness this does not come so easily to. I am forever grateful for her forcing me into treatment, and everything she sacrificed through the whole thing. She stuck it out, even with me kicking and screaming in defiance, and she did it all with a smile. She brought light to my darkest days like no one else could. One of my favorite memories of my time in the hospital is when she took me on an "excursion." I was allowed excursions by wheelchair to leave my room. My mom would push me around as we explored the hospital. My favorite place to visit was always the maternity ward or the neonatal unit, where I got to see all of the newborns! It was also a time where I was able to feel like I had some freedom again. When you are under 24 hour supervision in a hospital room, a simple visit to a public restroom somewhere else in the hospital to take a poop without being watched was like a vacation. Anyway, she was wheeling me around in the basement, through some empty hallways when we came across a sloped area and she let go! I was yelling at her as my chair sped up faster and faster and we laughed so hard. Her fun spirit and ability to make me laugh is irreplaceable.

An awesome example of my mom's fun and hilarious attitude. I love you mommy!

Okay back to the serious stuff. I added the "sort of" to the end of the title of this post because I wanted to express something that I really feel is important to know about eating disorders of any kind: they never truly just go away. While they can be effectively treated and a person can learn to live quite normally again while managing their disorder, the thoughts and daily struggles with food never fully go away. I think that eating disorders can be closely compared to an addiction of any kind. They are like a coping mechanism for people, and typically require treatment to manage them. Just as I view addiction to drugs or alcohol, I think eating disorders are a mental illness. It is always going to be there with the person, waiting for a trigger to release it, a reason for it to take over their life again. Unfortunately, I think that there are people who don't fully understand the seriousness of the issue. I can remember times, and they still happen every once in a while, when a person would say something like "I think every girl has a little bit of an eating disorder, it's a normal part of growing up" or "I wish I had a little bit of your anorexia, then I would be able to stay thin!" These kinds of comments make my blood boil. Seriously. While I am sure they mean no harm, they are being ignorant to the fact that a true eating disorder is just that, a disorder. It is something that fully consumes you, it controls everything you do and forces you into isolation. I would not wish this upon anyone, nor should they wish it upon themselves. Eating disorders are not all about appearance. It is an easy misconception to assume that a person just wants to be thin. The misconception that the treatment is as simple as "just eat" is often paired with the thought that the disorder is simply about being skinny. The illness is really so much more complex than most people think, and is a serious issue. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am to find recovery and manage their disorder.

The difference in me between these two photos? Well obviously about 10 years and quite a few pounds, but more importantly the look in my eyes. I see a happiness and spirit in my photo on the right, as opposed to the blank stare with sadness behind my eyes on the left.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder of any kind, please seek help. I know from experience, because of the loving support of my family and friends, that the sooner someone can start getting help the better. I would highly recommend the Kartini Clinic in Portland, OR. If nothing else, they have some pretty good information you can check out on their website at .

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ellie's Love

Okay, so I wasn't kidding when I said that this blog would most likely be filled with an abundance of photos of Ellie. While this little human pretty much became my whole world the moment that I found out she was growing inside of me, it has really been lately that her existence has meant everything to me. She keeps me going. Grieving the loss of your baby is in the best words I can even come up with to describe it, indescribable. Helpful isn't it? Honestly though, if you have not experienced such a loss, you will not get the insurmountable amount of pain, longing, emptiness, anger, confusion, or pretty much any other terrible emotion you can come up with simply from having it explained to you. I will save this topic for another post though, where I will do my best to put my experience into words. It is, as most would at least assume, debilitating. To intensify the issue, in a time where I might normally get all of my support from my other half, this loss has actually created an unpredictable tension between my husband and I that has been leaving me grateful that the simple presence of my little girl keeps me going every day. I have no doubt that Kevin and I have the strength to work through this with time and that this conflict is a normal part of grieving, but it is still extremely painful and terrifying when there are moments of tension and conflict with that one person you need comfort from the most. Which is where Ellie has been coming in to save the day for me lately.

I believe it is a combination of the more obvious, her simply sweet and quirky personality, and the fact that she is in need of my love and attention to keep her alive and well. It is my job to be her mom. I love my job, and it keeps me getting out of bed in the morning every day. Literally, that girl has zero patience these days and if I am not in her room before I even have the chance to fully wake up and use the bathroom, well lets just say I really didn't need to buy that baby monitor to hear what is going on in there after all. While taking care of another human life, and a toddler's in particular, is very demanding, it keeps me busy in a positive way. Just when I don't think I can handle things anymore, she has a way of showing me how awesome it really is that I get to be her mom.

 While this is an older photo from about 5 months ago, (wow her hair has really grown!) I think it pretty accurately displays Ellie's "seriously mom, where the heck have you been I have been trapped in this cage yelling for you for an eternity and there can't possibly be anything more important for you to be doing than changing my vomit-worthy diaper" look.

This morning was filled with a much needed display of Ellie's genuinely sweet demeanor. While I was slumped on the couch with a blanket, trying to tune the world out, she brought me back with what is really a normal thing for her, but still gets me every time, loving on her stuffed animals. It made me get off of the couch and grab my camera, and I was smiling and talking with her within seconds as I tried to capture it all.

 She's a thumbsucker like her mommy was.

 The Ellie pucker! My favorite :)

How can I not see how wonderful life is? It really is the little things. While this doesn't change what has happened, and does not in any way discredit how (please excuse my word choice) extremely shitty life actually is right now, it can still brighten my day a little and keep me going. I guess she just makes me realize that life can be awful and beautiful, all at the same time. My brain doesn't tend to like this realization, and would much rather wallow in the fact that everything is coming down around me instead. Therefore I am eternally grateful that Ellie forces me into this realization, and gives me not only a literal purpose in life, but actually a joy in that purpose as well.


Friday, November 15, 2013

The Meaning of Monny

My goal for this blog is to post updates about my family and my life as well as stories or feelings that might arise at certain times. Also, of course, to post more photos than necessary of my little mini for all to see. 

I am new to this whole blogging thing, but have recently found myself desperately reading blogs written by people I don't even know. The recent loss of my little baby girl Grace sent me into a whirlwind of Google searches, looking for some similar experiences as my own for comfort. I found a lot of "mommy" blogs, and decided writing about my experiences with life and loss would not only help me in my grieving, but maybe even help someone else who might be going through any of the same things. 

For those of you that might be thinking I spelled mommy wrong in the title of my blog, it is actually intentional, and what I tend to answer to these days. 
"Oh Monny, oh Monny." This is what Ellie likes to say in the sweetest little voice possible if she ever decides to surprise me with a hug. She places her little arms around my shoulders and pats my back, head nestled in my neck. Talk about melting my heart into gooey love, but this little act also never fails to make me giggle. While her initial name for me was the oh so popular and easy-to-say "mama," she has recently given me the title of Monny. Since she obviously had no problems saying the "m" sound in mama, I am really not sure why I have now graduated to Monny and not the expected Mommy, but I am more than okay with it. I love that it is something unique, and like I said before, it can often add some humor to my day. 

So with that explained, I will leave you with a photo of what is happening at the Alsip residence today. A typical day of playing with something that was not purchased to be a toy but is way more fun, stripping off her clothes even though the house is freezing, and a silly face. :)