Friday, June 24, 2011


A handful of months ago, I had a bad case of baby fever. Gracie had been asking for "one wish, and one wish only," one that only Jeremy and I could grant:
She wanted a sibling. Badly.
 On and on she went, hammering it into our brains, making sure we knew what her little heart desired. Well, the nail missed my brain and landed straight on my heart. A baby? A baby....Maybe? Maybe...Hmmm..
Over the years pregnancy has not quite been on our radar, you see, pregnancy and I have a little history of not getting along. I would love to give Gracie her biggest wish and in a parallel universe where my body handles it perfectly, it would have happened already, and maybe another one too. But, back to the grim reality that for us, pregnancy would bring with it a cloud of uncertainty which has outweighed our desires to keep growing our family, putting us in a holding pattern until final decisions are made.
I've had many tears about this and lots of anger, but the tiger inside still struggles with the desire, and darn it, is that ticking clock ever loud. So I did what any irrational person would do, and got a puppy instead. : )

So first, now that I've had a baby and now have a puppy, they are defiantly not the same. Although I will say, a puppy is more similar to having a toddler with a nasty chewing habit running around your house without a diaper on.

Daisy is the first puppy I've ever had. She was a 5 pound wiggly bundle of urine soaked fur when we got her, having somewhat rescued her from a bad situation. The minute I saw her I knew she was to be part of our clan. Her body relaxed when I picked her up, and so did my shoulders. Jeremy's voice went into that whispery falsetto that I love so much when he see's something small and cute. Babytalk. Something I  missed hearing him do so dearly.
For awhile this quieted Gracie as she fell head over heels for this adorable creature that we have nicknamed "Daisy the Destroyer.". Wherever Grace is, that's where Daisy wants to be, although when it all comes down to it, she's imprinted onto me. I'm her person.

For Grace though, this doggie is something magical. A confidant of sorts, a partner in crime, her childhood BFF, and so far, she has lived up to the expectation:

Someone to pal around the yard with.

A buddy to run through the sprinkler with.

Someone to get sudsy with.

 Someone to keep you company while you have pneumonia.

Someone to follow you on a path you've just blazed.

Someone to cheer you on.

 She's chewed holes in the drywall, ruined our carpet with pet stains, left Gracie with a slew of one-handed Barbies and legless polly pockets, yet still all she has to do is give me that one little hound dog look with her ears tilted slightly back and I get all softie on her. Her miniature size helps with her spell on us too. A tiny furry wiener with stumpy legs and a curly furry metronome of a tail that wags non-stop. You can't help but smile.

Lately, she's become smarter, and naughty-er when it comes to coming when she's told. She can sense when I am going to leave, and does not want to come near me if she thinks it means I am going to put her in the car or in her crate. Going through the list of discipline options I thought I had an idea. A-HA! I will bake her something that will make her mouth salivate at the thought of, something she would equate with the call of "Come Here!" I will concoct the ultimate doggie biscuit to make that naughty girl listen.

She will want to do anything for it. It will be the end of calling her name to come inside when I have to be somewhere else in five minutes and seeing her run the other way and dive into the tall grass where she knows I cannot go.
So Gracie and I headed to the kitchen after searching the web for dog biscuit recipes and here is what we came up with.

 I wish I wrote down the site so I could give proper credit, but didn't, so I tweaked a few things. The dough was very easy to work with and the biscuits baked up nicely.

 We used small cookie cutters, but feel free to use larger ones for your bigger furry or not so furry friends. I have named these:

                  People Biscuits (I'll tell you why, later)

3-4 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Reserved bacon grease
2 Cups whole wheat flour
1/4 Cup Flax seed
1/4 Cup wheat bran
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 Cup peanut butter
1 egg
3/4 Cup water

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Cook bacon and reserve all the drippings. In a bowl combine flour, flax, bran, and baking powder. Crumble the bacon into the mixture. In the microwave, warm the peanut butter. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and pour it into the bowl with the flour mixture. Next, add to it the warmed peanut butter, bacon grease, and water. Mix well.
Put the dough between two pieces of parchment paper or waxed paper and roll it out to about 1/2 inch thick. That way, your rolling pin won't get all sticky. Pull off the top piece of paper and start cutting out shapes with your desired cookie cutter. We found dipping it in flour before each use helped.
Put the cookies on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Turn off the oven, then leave them in for an additional two hours. We keep some in our fridge and froze the rest. They will keep in your freezer for about six months.

Well, I was fully intending on the dog dropping whatever she was doing and come running to these biscuits, but she didn't. Instead, they were more attractive to Gracie and Jeremy who shoved them in their mouths and gave me the thumbs up. Sure, Daisy likes them, but she also likes eating cat poop and used Kleenex, so that might not be saying much. My master plan did not work and I still see her hiney disappear into the thicket when she spies me reaching for my coat. Back to square one. Recently at a family bike riding trip, I brought some of these for the dog, only to have Gracie doing the begging to have one instead. I said, " Nope. But, here's an apple." And, so, they have been named people biscuits.
And as for the baby fever? Cured? Not a chance.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The story of Sabina

"Once upon a time, there was a little girl who's name was shrouded in mystery. This little girl, with curly black locks of hair and a gentle gaze was known for taking her time. Some people had a hard time understanding this, but the girl was content, secure in her knowledge of the reasoning behind her leisurely pace. It wasn't that she didn't know how to be in a hurry, she most certainly did, and it wasn't that she didn't mind that people were waiting for her, she most certainly cared. It was just she couldn't help but relish her surroundings, wanting to take in one last bit, one last look around, one last lap before it was time to leave. It was too perfect where she was, and she knew it, and what she also knew, was that there was no going back to this place. So, in no hurry, she took her time, only to make sure it was the right time before leaving this place...

My little sister was in labor for forty-five hours.
These last weeks I've kept the phone by my side, my cell charged and fingers crossed that I'd be one of the first ones to know that my sissy was in labor. Maria, my sister, is nine-ish years younger than me and has been dreaming of this day forever. My brother and I had babies years ago and I've always felt that she has been standing at the sidelines, watching her nieces (our family has girls, now six of 'em) be born wondering when it was going to be her turn. She's been a great auntie, so when she became pregnant, I just couldn't wait for the day when she could hold her own first born.  That rush of love, the biggest high you will ever know, the deepest sadness you will ever feel, all wrapped up in one moment as this new soul is placed in your arms. Your world is broken open like a cracked egg. It is the best, most special feeling ever, and I was so excited for her to experience that.
Back in the middle of last September at a family gathering, I noticed something different about Maria. Her face was more relaxed, the glances between her and Sergey (her hubby) were longer and more frequent, and every once in a while I'd see them speak in a quick hushed tone. She had a secret, and I was pretty sure I knew what it was. So, in private I sided up to her and said " So, how are you feeling?" She shrugged and said, "fine." And I said, "no, how are you feee-linggg." more of a statement, looking her square in the eyes. She caved, and told me she was preggers. It was hard to quell my excitement because she didn't want anyone else to know yet. Sooooo, I had to keep my lips sealed from everyone till  Halloween! Not an easy task.
Halloween is big at our house. It is tradition for a big gathering of family and friends to meet up at our house for dinner and ghoulish desserts after trick or treating. I look forward to it every year and this year my sister was planning on spreading the news on that very day. Her way, though, was with no words.
As family was gathering to get ready for tricks or treats, my sissy donned her witch hat, borrowed my broom, and rode it down the stairs for a grand entrance with this stuck to it:

My parents still have this hanging on their fridge. : )

It was a fun, celebratory evening, and finally, the secret was out. Ahhhhh....
Fast forward to last Monday, after months of a thankfully healthy normal pregnancy, my phone rings at 4:26am. In my sleep I hold up the phone to stare at it in the murky light. In my sleepy haze I can't figure out how to turn the dang thing on.
So, I hold the ringing phone staring at it until it stops ringing. Wake up!!!
Oh ya, that button that says "talk" ? press it. Ring tone. Too late.
I scroll to see it was my mom and call her and yes! She's in labor, they are picking me up in forty-five minutes to catch the next ferry.
I get ready and my mind is excited and I can't wait to see Maria. How is it? Is she able to handle OK? My little sister is in labor!
We get to the eastside and meet her at the birthing center. Sister wants no hospital, no drugs. I keep my mouth shut. I can respect that.
When we (my mom and I) enter the room we see Jordan, Maria's best friend and crazy perfect/awesome/expert Doula is there, helping her through a contraction. Jordan, is preggers with her first too, due in August. (yay!)

Birthing ball + Doula = Good thing

Sergey, bless his heart, is up on his feet the moment Maria gets "Ser-" out of her mouth. He is there. He is quiet. And in between contractions is busy doing this:

Coconut water, energy bars, blocks shots, someone has to organize it, right?

Maria labors for a while longer. The contractions are erratic, painful, yet not quite progressive.

They kick us out so they can check her. I am hoping she's between three and four centimeters. She is holding up well and I am amazed at her control, and tell her how proud I am of her.
Maria gets the news that after being in active labor for almost twelve hours she is only at one and a half centimeters. Urp. Talk about taking the wind out of your sails. This is discouraging to Maria and we gather her stuff and head out of the birthing center and the convoy heads to her house to labor at home. She is tired having not slept the night before, and still laboring so there is little sleep to be had in the coming hours. We get Pho and teriyaki for lunch. We talk quietly and send Maria to bed alone to "rest." Sergey tracks down nursing bras that were ordered and delivered to the wrong house. Jordan and I watch "The Secret life of Bee's." Mom sleeps on the couch. Pop is wandering around outside, which is what he does when he's ansty. Hours go by, and Maria is tired, but food helps. Me and Pop go get coffee and bring back rice crispy treats and lemon pound cake which peaks the interest of the two pregnant girls. We graze then we decide to leave the three of them to rest and head back to the Island.
A long night with no phone call gets me worried. During the night, side and stomach pains wake me periodically and I wonder if they are sympathy pains and really want to know how she is doing. Around eleven o clock the next morning I get a text. She is at four centimeters and we wait for a call to hop on the next ferry.
A call at four, and we are on the five o clock boat. Then a white knuckled drive through the thick Seattle commuter traffic doesn't get us there till seven. A very excited Sergey's mom is waiting in the family room with  Sergey's sister and husband, so we join them. We chat and laugh and wait for word and look at the baby wall of fame:

Maria has invited me to come witness and document the birth. After not wanting to "see " my own, I am nervous, but realize this is definitely something I want to do. In a moment of silence a deep moan breaks through the air and I hear my sister labor through a hard contraction for the very first time and tears prick my eyes and my stomach tightens. I hate hearing her in pain. I try and steer my mom from the sounds, but she looks at me and wonders if she can be strong enough to watch her baby in that much pain. She is, and she does.
My mom and I are whisked into the birthing room and she is laboring in the tub. To see her bulging belly, and arched back, face in so much pain, it is hard for me to know what to do. All I want to do is rush to her, hug her, and take away her pain somehow. Sergey has her hand and Jordan is talking her through each contraction and expertly doing so. You are the best, Jordan. She has her birthing team. She's got this. So I hang back and quietly do what I was told to do. Document this.

Team Maria

 Without Jordan, I am sure, this might have ended differently. This was my first time seeing a doula work, and if you are reading this and are expecting I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly helpful and needed they are during labor. Wow. They will be worth every penny. Promise. Treat yourself to one. You will not be sorry.
One thing I have noticed about Sergey over the years, is that when things are intense, he gets very quiet.  Silently, he held her hand and didn't let go. Not once. See? father already has his instincts. He was her rock and did everything perfectly, and I felt so ready at that moment to see him become a father. He is going to be one of the great ones. Happy father's day Sergey.

I love this picture. Dad in deep thought and Jordan's hand resting on her belly feeling what I think was a braxton hicks contraction with her other hand on Maria. Yikes!

The room is silent except from the sounds of a laboring woman and the shutter clicks from my camera. I hope they are not distracting to her, because to me at that moment they sound like an machine gun going off. They move Maria to the birthing chair very carefully,  because a couple more pushes, and that just might do it.

My brave sister. I am so proud of you XOXO

And it does. Sabina Rhiannon Tarasova was born at 9:07pm on the fourteenth of June. She gave out a hearty cry and was placed straight into the arms of her mother and father.
Now, most the photos I cannot post because they are for them to decide whom to show them to, but here are some pictures of her very first hour.

Brand spankin' new. Eyes open, a new soul absorbing the world for the very first time.

Introducing the Tarasov family.

"Beanie" wearing a beanie.

Can't take her eyes off her.

So Maria and Sergey have entered the fabulous, heart wrenching, soul stretching, breath taking, love drenched path to parenthood. I wish I could give them good advice, but judging from the labor, they already know what to do. It is already becoming second nature to them. Plus, you kinda have to blaze your own path. And Maria has joined the league of superwomen who can add that jewel on your crown: giving birth au naturele. My hats off to you.
So I will be here, Maria, to be your sounding board, when nights and days blur together, when you don't feel human in the days that follow, when crying that doesn't stop turns into tantrums in embarrassing places, when crawls turn to steps, when babbly sounds turn to words, when first smiles melt hearts, when your blood stops because you're so mad, when somehow the love deepens, when you don't think you could possibly love more than you already do, but you do... I am your big sissy after all.  Love you.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who liked to take her time, who's parents loved her more than anything else in this world, and her name is Sabina.......

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dark Passenger

I died eight years, seven months, and eighteen days ago.
 There was no funeral. No eulogy was spoken, no obituary made it to the papers. My headstone was not engraved, or even purchased. No phone calls made, no friends were ever contacted. That's what happens when your death is not physical.
In a forever life altering moment where the floor leaves your feet and you feel your soul get blown to pieces, there is not much you can do when you feel your life slip from your hands and leave your body. It happens so quickly and I wish, painlessly, yet it was anything but. Someday I will share the circumstances, but not now. not yet.
I wish I could say I hung on for dear life when it happened, but I didn't. I let me go without a fight or even a last glance, with not even a farewell, just a silent release.
It has taken years to find a solid spot to stand on, and try to rebuild a soul.
But, how does one do that?
If you find out, please let me know.
I am better now, and have learned to live a new normal, but if you listen closely, you will hear the wind whip through the gaping holes where I once was.
I have been diagnosed with having PTSD, my dark passenger. I've worked so hard to get here, to be this functional, and by the grace of god, most days I can manage. I have built an army inside that constantly checks the perimeter of memories and hold the walls so I can go about my day.  The dark passenger knows this army well, well enough to sense weak spots where in one dark opportune moment, it comes rushing in, guns blazing. I can be in the supermarket, washing my hair, about to go to sleep, chatting with a friend, and a word, a smell, or a sound will trigger that dark passenger to come steal my breath. I feel it reach deep into my chest from behind and fling me backwards in time to get close enough for me to hear it's throaty whisper " Hey, remember me?"
In the moments that follow, I can breath in, but I can't breathe out. A memory is struggled with and my heart doesn't pound, but instead gallops at a nauseating speed. I feel I could throw up, but never do. The air around me is static and noises are either muffled, or amplified depending on the depth of panic. My eyes dart around, but can't seem to focus, not on things, but on the now.
It used to take hours to come down from this, and sometimes it still does, but my army I love, and feel proud to have built it. Every day, battle wear is donned, swords are sharpened, troops are assembled and a war is fought to protect the fragile new person inside. After one fatality, she is worth the fight, and one day, this battle will be won.
Since we are sharing, tell me, what do your armies fight for?

This is her fight stance. I like it so much, I think I might borrow it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The great gig in the sky

The other morning, before my mind went from hazy dreaming to mildly awake I could feel something hit my face. It startled me, but not enough yet to lift my eyelids to confirm what I was thinking. Could it be? And, this early in the morning? Where was the familiar greyness that slips through the cracks in the curtains and into my soul?  Yes. It was the sun. Let me back up a little and tell you how much I have missed this dear friend. Here in the pacific northwest sunshine is like free heroin. People get giddy and crazy over it as they stampede over each other to flock to the nearest beachy bliss and grab for flip flops at the mere mention of 60 degrees. Eager beavers, that's all we talk about for weeks. Clothing is scant at 68 degrees and coffee goes iced at a weak 70. It's like turning on the chipper switch in people when the sun peeks out, and the grumblies melt away.

 I slid hopped out of bed, grabbed my fleece robe out of habit, bypassed the granola calling my name from the kitchen and went strait for the door to bask on the deck. The rays beat down on my skin as it slurped up vitamin D and I shed off my robe. I didn't need it. Sunshine, I love you. It takes a certain person to shoulder the northwest weather, and I am pretty certain I am not that person a good slice out of the year. I have lived here all of my thirty-something years and each year I am surprised I have survived yet another year here without my brain molding from the constant dampness. The grey pillows that crowd out the sky eight months out of the year reluctantly start to part around June and let the sun spill out creating fantasmic sunrises, blue skies with hours that mash together, and sunsets that bow out with a bang, creating dancing crazy purple and pink light across the backdrop of her majesty Mt. Rainier. Oh, sunshine, our affair has only just begun. Now is when those months fade like a bad memory and the trance of summertime activity hold my gaze.

This was our first 65 degree day this year. Yup, time to break out the sprinkler.

 In just a few short weeks school will be over and Gracie and I will slide into a new routine, one where clocks and hours don't matter,where the day is based solely on the position of the sun, and which side of the Island we want to play on.

Fern Cove, one of our favorite summer hangouts.

The Garden will bloom and the choirs will sing and beach towels will take over our porch and dinner will be dined outside every night. Fudgsicles always as the first course.

Now don't get me wrong, there are always a few sneaky days that ruin all the fun. When it rains in summer, I pull on a strained smile and try to shrug it off. Thank you weather, now I don't have to water the garden. Now, run along. 

Garden bounty last August. If you haven't heard, summer took a haitus last year so we are in sunshine debt, bigtime.

So, this summer, I will not take any sunny days for granted. I wait all year for it and it will not be spent cleaning, mopping, fussing, or taken over by checking facebook posts. If you happen by this little Island and see a sun worshiping, bikini clad, mojito drinking goddess planted in the padded lounger beside the pool, look past her, it won't be me. See that crazy chlorine haired, barefoot, full swimsuit wearin' fool spinning in the grass grinning up at the sun? Yes, you guessed it. That would be me.