Memories... Like Mom Made!

Memories... Like Mom Made!
Out of dark moments, flowers grow.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Herbed Chicken En Croute

Fancy, huh?

It is.

Or at least, it looks fancy.

And it definitely sounds fancy.

I mean we are talking impress your guests, get that girl to fall in love with you or get your boyfriend to propose fancy.

Yeah, it's that good.

So take my advice and RUN, don't walk, RUN to the store.

Or you know what, take a car.

That would be much faster.

Oh so I guess you are wondering what this deliciousness is, right? And you probably might be wondering what the heck "en croute" means... Well basically it is French for "in a crust".

One of my favorite things in the world is Brie En Croute... Which is where you take a delicious wheel of Brie cheese and wrap it in a puff pastry (and if you are like me you also slather some peppered jelly or raspberry jalapeƱo compote before the pastry) then bake it until it is fluffy and golden and delicious. So good...

SO, I figured why not give that same flaky deliciousness to some boring old chicken...

And since feeding my kid vegetables turns into WWIII, I figured I would sneak some of those in there too...

And why not top it all off with some cheese. Swiss cheese, and some herbed spread cheese to. That oughtta do it...

And it did. Oh it SO did.

Here is how you can do it, too!

Herbed Chicken En Croute

1 sheet puff pastry
2 chicken breasts (cut in half so they are about 3-4 inches long and 3 inches wide)
salt and pepper
some butter
a bunch fresh spinach
a container of herbed cheese (i got the allouette stuff...)
2 slices swiss cheese
1 egg

Start about an hour and a half or so before you want to serve dinner. Sprinkle your chicken with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat and cook the chicken until nice and golden brown (and mostly cooked all the way through). Then put on a plate and cover with foil and let rest in the fridge until you need them.

Then add the spinach (wash first and remove stems.. or if you are like me just rip the leafy green part off of the bunch and rinse and pat it dry) to the skillet with a little more butter. Saute until it wilts and turns deep green... You will know, don't worry. Set aside.

About 30 minutes before you want to serve dinner, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Flour your work surface lightly and roll out the sheet of puff pastry until it is big enough to cut in to 4 good sized squares.

Place one half of a slice of Swiss cheese on each square, followed by a generous heap of herbed cheese, then by 1/4 of the spinach. Place one chicken breast on top of each square.

Beat the egg with a splash of water, then brush the edges of each pastry with the mixture. Bring the ends of the pastry to the center and press until sealed. Next place each chicken pastry seam side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. I HIGHLY recommend the parchment paper. If you don't have parchment paper, grease the cookie sheet well.

Brush each pastry all over with the remaining egg mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until nice and flaky and golden.

Look at all that juicy, melty, cheesy deliciousness... I was so excited I couldn't even wait to put it on a plate before cutting in to it!

Enjoy your amazingly impressive dinner.... Serve with some crisp white wine, a side salad, and finish the night with this dessert, and you have yourself a superb gourmet meal. Way to go!

You can thank me later.

And oh, you will.... trust me... :)

Happy eating!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Moving Forward, One Step at a Time

That's all there is to it.

I miss her.

I miss a lot of things.

I miss being pregnant. I miss being able to blame things on pregnancy...

Boy do I miss that one.

I miss being so confident in her ability to thrive.

I was so sure she was going to make it. I wouldn't let any negativity set me back. I just kept believing in her strength. Believing in the strength of this tiny little person. I felt invincible... so sure that nothing would break apart our perfect little family.

I miss that feeling.

That feeling of completeness.

When I was pregnant, my husband and I would talk about how happy we were that Leila was going to be a part of our family. That we loved our little family the way it was, but that something was missing.

And that Leila would complete us.

How do I move on from that? How am I supposed to handle these emotions?

Am I incomplete now? Is my family going to recover?

I don't know.

I think the answer to both those questions is yes...

With time our little family will heal. And maybe, just maybe, one day we will be ready to add to our family again.

And God willing, maybe this baby will survive.

Am I incomplete?


There is a gaping hole in my heart and I feel it in everything I do.

I find myself imagining that she had survived... That she just turned two months old and that she was laying in her hammock next to me...

Then I wake up and reality hits me hard.

I feel numb all over.

I am not torturing myself. At least not intentionally.

I imagine that these are natural thoughts and feelings for someone going through what I have gone through, though I don't know for certain. Grief is so different for every person.

So individualized.

So am I handling my grief the right way?

I don't know.

But I am doing the best I can.

I am keeping busy. I am "crafting" every chance I get.

I have been redoing and ripping apart and painting and sewing everything I can get my hands on.

I think about Leila with every thing that I do.

But not always with sadness.

Sometimes I imagine that she likes what I am doing... I know she wasn't old enough to have a particular taste, but I imagine that she does.

Pretty much I imagine that she likes everything that I like...

She is my own person Angel cheerleading squad...

I have recently started a business. I make and sell extremely unique and custom handmade rings, necklaces, headbands, purses and so much more. You name it, I will make it. Or at least, I will try.

I decided to use the colors and patterns from Leila's room as my business theme and colors. Everything to do with my business (my logo, business signs, even my business card holder and display racks) are all hot pink, black and white, and damask patterned.

She is with me in every thing I do.

Even Landon loves helping Mommy with the new business... Tonight as I was laying out hot pink buttons (that I spray painted), he kept saying "I help! Here you go mama! I help!"

He is such a light in my life.

Such a beautiful little person.

And he's mine.

Just like my angel, he is my own little cheer leader...

The only difference is, I can hear him.

Here is some of the stuff I have been working on for my business, "Decked Out".

A beret I made from a tshirt with rosette clippies.

A beret I made from a tshirt with rosette clippies.

A rosette headband made to a customers style request.

A gorgeous one of a kind handmade ring.

A custom made bib style necklace.

A purse made from a recycled book.

This is only the beginning of what I have been up to!

Check me out at my business page!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Lately I have been so focused on my own pain from losing my daughter that I have forgotten how lucky I really am.

I have a beautiful healthy son who is alive.

Sure, my heart aches every day over the loss of Leila, and sure my pain will probably never go away.

But my son is healthy, and happy, and loving.

And he's here.

About 3 weeks after Leila died a friend sent me a link to this blog. At first I just read the blog and cried for this couple.

I felt their pain. So deeply. Our daughters passed away in different ways, but the pain is still so raw, so intense, so...


I have prayed for the words to take away their pain, just as others have tried to comfort my husband and me. The words have never presented themselves, because they don't exist.

But this woman... She is incredible.

She has exhibited this kind of strength that I only wish I could possess. She has thrown herself into her new role in life with as much positivity as anyone could possibly face it with. She hurts everyday, but she somehow manages to push through the sadness and find the beauty in the world.

Today they asked that everyone that reads their blog take their own children out into the sunshine and play with them, while telling them about Maddie.

Yesterday, we released two balloons in to the sky for our own baby. She would have been two months old.

I didn't realize until today, but there was one for our Leila, and one for Maddie. I like to think the Leila would have shared.

It was rainy and windy and the world felt as sad as I did in my heart. But today, we laughed and played in the sunshine for Maddie, and it felt like she was smiling on us from Heaven.

Landon may only be 2, but he is wise beyond his years. I told him that Leila has a friend in Heaven named Maddie. He nodded and said "babies." I said "Yes, babies. They are playing together." Landon said "Babies night night".

Leila and Maddie are together, playing in Heaven. I truly believe that. My daughter is not alone in her eternal resting place, and I am not alone on earth. It breaks my heart that other women, like Kellie, have had to experience this pain, but her strength reminds me that I am not the only one, and that I have to push forward.

Thank you, Kellie, for reminding me of that. I will continue to pray for your peace, and every day I will kiss my beautiful son and thank God for allowing me to have one healthy baby, even if He had to claim the other.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Two Months My Angel...

Happy doesn't feel like the right word.

I'm not happy about facing this day alone.

With empty arms.

Two months ago today I was laying in a hospital bed, an IV dripping magnesium into my body in an effort to stop early labor.

All morning I felt the contractions... Around 8am they finally hooked me up to a machine to measure the contractions I said I felt... The machine couldn't register them, but still I continued to count them all day, Donovan watching the clock when one would begin.

Around noon or so Donovan left to go back to town and see Landon. The doctors still weren't convinced I was in actual labor so we carried on not realizing the severity of the situation at that moment in time.

Around 1:30pm a very sweet nurse came in and gave me a "bed bath". We talked about how she had lost a child several years ago. She gave me a hug after I was all cleaned up and told me that she knew it wouldn't happen to me and that she would be praying.

We still had no idea that I was actually in active labor.

Toward the end of my bed bath an ultrasound technician came in with a big fancy machine and started checking on my sweet baby girl.

The images I saw on that machine were the last I would ever see of my baby girl safe in my womb.

The last images I would see where she wasn't fighting for her life.

She was just kicking. Waving. Flipping. Swimming.

She was perfect.

But she was coming.


The ultrasound technician kept pressing on my belly, trying to get a better look. She kept making those noises that everyone dreads hearing a doctor make.

She paged my doctors and a flood of nurses and doctors came pouring in to the room.

One doctor jumped up on my hospital bed and checked to see how dilated I was.

Her words sent me into a panic.

"I can feel her. She's coming down...

You are having this baby NOW."

I started shouting "No! It's not time! Please no! Please put her back! Please sew me shut! PLEASE!... Save my baby, please."

I was sobbing uncontrollably.

I knew this wasn't good.

I called my husband and told him to get here as soon as possible.

I called my mother and begged her to pray.

I updated my status on facebook and asked everyone to pray.

And within an hour, I was the mother to a gorgeous, perfect, but very tiny baby girl.

I was so scared to see her for the first time.

I can't even describe that feeling. I wanted her more than anything, I wanted the perfect pregnancy, the perfect delivery, the perfectly healthy, plump, pink baby. I was so scared to see her and know that she wasn't "normal".

But when I finally laid eyes on her, I was completely and totally in love.

My throat tightened and tears came pouring out of my eyes, but I was so incredibly proud of her.

And so in love.

So incredibly in love.

Today my daughter would be two months old.

Two months.

I don't even know what else to say.

Except that I wish I could see her now. I wish I could hold her. I wish I could dress her up in a special outfit and take pictures of her.

I wish I could see her smile. I wish I could watch her fall asleep on her daddy's chest, or laugh at her brother's antics.

I wish I had insomnia because I was up all night feeding my newborn. Not because I was up all night crying over the loss of my daughter.

I wish I had a million diapers to change and stains to get out of onesies and cute pink outfits to wash in the laundry.

I wish I had a baby to nurse and snuggle and kiss.

I just can't believe it was two months ago today that I met her. That was one of the happiest yet scariest days of my life.

Happy Two Months, Leilani Marie. Mommy loves you. Mommy misses you.

I hope you are happy. I pray that you are living in a world of light and of no pain. I hope that you can see how much love you have here. I hope you can feel it where you are.

I love you, Always.


The first and last time I would ever hold my sweet baby girl. Rest in peace my Angel. I love you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

I have been slowly making progress.

I have to say, getting back into sewing and "creating" has been a very healing process for me.

And of course my son... He is my bright light. He heals me a little more with each hug, each kiss, each shout of "Mama!!"

He is my angel on earth.

Today (well, at this point it was actually yesterday), my husband, Landon, and I went to a nearby town to shop. We went to World Market, which I absolutely love.

We can spend WAY too much time in that store.

We had been shopping and carrying on, laughing and joking and talking about all the different items and where we could use them.

Then I saw this gorgeous aged metal rose hook. It was the most simple of things: yet somehow this tiny item caused me to break down in public... which is one thing I try so hard not to do...

It caught my eye and I instantly started chattering to my husband about it: "Look honey! Isn't this the cutest thing you've ever seen? These would be perfect for Leila's ro-".

I froze.

My heart stopped in my chest.

And then I broke down.

I had to walk away for a minute and I just sobbed.

Right in the middle of the store. With people staring at me like I was some crazy lady.

I didn't know what to do.

I just cried.

For the first 3 weeks after Leila passed away, I wouldn't even step foot in her room. I couldn't.

I was terrified that going in there would solidify reality.

I would have to face that fact that my daughter would never step foot inside her very own room.

It would just be... a room... again. Not her room anymore.

But we still call it "Leila's Room"...

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Kaylee came home from the boat. She had been out to sea (oh that military life) when Leila passed away. We were going to ask her to be Leila's godmother, but we never got the chance to make it official.

Leila's passing was especially hard on her. She had such a special connection to the two of us: she had been with me through almost my entire pregnancy. She had pretty much bought Leila an entire wardrobe before I even hit the halfway mark of my pregnancy.

When Kaylee came home she was suddenly plunged into this new reality... Her best friend wasn't going to be having the much anticipated little diva in May. The little diva had already come and gone, without getting to meet her "Aunt Kaylee" once. As soon as we saw each other we both broke down sobbing. She kept saying "I am so sorry... How did this happen? Why did this happen?... I am so sorry." And we cried.

It was with Kaylee that I went in to Leila's room for the first time since all this happened.

Together we sat down in the midst of Leila's blankets, stuffed animals, presents, and dozens of keepsakes from the hospital. We went through each one: touching the things that had touched her body, smelling them, crying into them.

I can't imagine another person I would have wanted to do this with. It wasn't easy, in fact, talking about it makes my heart rip open once again. But it was a step.

One tiny step forward.

And that's all I can do...

Continue to take baby steps forward... Even though I occasionally get set back, like in the store today, I am so blessed to have support from people like Kaylee, and my wonderful husband and precious son, to keep pulling me forward.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mama's Gettin' Crafty! Easy Peasy Dress...

If you haven't already figured it out, I LOVE things that are homemade.

But that doesn't just apply to the kitchen. I love anything that we can make or do ourselves to save a buck, reduce our carbon footprint, or improve our quality of life by lessening the chemicals and preservatives we are exposed to...

Et cetera, et cetera...

Well ever since Leila passed away, I have been desperately trying to find different things to keep myself busy. To keep my mind busy so that I won't dwell on what is tearing me up... But I realized that that is probably not the best way to handle my emotions. So instead I have been reverting back to one of my first loves: sewing. I have always found some kind of rhythmic therapy from the clicking of the sewing machine and the monotony of sending fabric through the machine... And something else I learned... I can cry and still keep a straight line.

Very therapeutic.

So this morning I woke up well before the time I normally do... I ACTUALLY got to take a shower while Landon still slept... Boy that was amazing... Showers are therapeutic too. I tend to save most of my tears for the shower. It's very cleansing, no pun intended.

So this morning, after I took an uninterrupted shower, it seemed that Landon was still very much asleep.

So I decided to give myself a task:

To see what I could come up with in 30 minutes or less using solely items from my "sale or donation" box...

Side note: this box will probably never make it outside my door. I keep digging in it for "materials"...

Okay so I pulled out a very teeny tiny T-shirt that has an awesome blue, silver, and black graphic print on it. I LOVED this shirt in college, but over time the shirt just got shorter and shorter and got to the point where it just looked ridiculously obscene on me...

But I mean, come on! Just check out that awesome bird graphic! It's epic! I really love the screen printing on this shirt... And ironically, birds are very in this season! So it is the perfect time to reinvent this little shirt!

The other shirt was a black cap sleeve shirt I wore once when pregnant with Landon... I had Landon in December of 2008, if that tells you anything... I would have continued to wear it, but honestly the style wasn't all that flattering, and the material was so delicate that it had a little rip in it.

So I cut the top off of the birds shirt... First, I put on the shirt and measured to about 3 inches below the bottom of my bra line. I stuck a pin in it horizontally to mark the point, then took off the shirt and laid it flat on my table.

I then cut at the marked point all the way around the shirt.

Next I took my other shirt. This shirt already had some gathering and serging on it so it pretty much took care of some of the work for me. If you have a shirt that you can utilize that has an empire waistline or already has gathering in it, then you will want to cut your fabric so that you can take advantage of that line. I left about 1/4 inch above the gather line so that I would have something substantial to hold on to while pinning, then after I sewed I trimmed it back.

Ok so after you cut both parts of your dress, put the top shirt inside of the skirt, with the rough edges facing you. This means the bottom of your "skirt" and the shoulders of the "top" will be facing the same direction, and the two cut edges will be facing you.

The top shirt should be right side out, inside of the skirt. The skirt will be inside out. This way the two "right" sides of the dress will be touching, so when you sew your skirt in place and put it on, the skirt will fall over the sewn edge. No lining required!

See how the serged edge is lined up to the cut off shirt edge? This will all be hidden when you get done sewing!

Ok so now is the "tricky" part.

Oh and I want to take a second to apologize for not taking pictures throughout the whole process... But I was more concerned with finishing before Landon woke up rather than making a tutorial... It wasn't until I put on the dress and realized how awesome it was that I went "Dang! This would have been an awesome tutorial!"

Well, I am sure I will do it again, so I will take better pictures then...

Actually it's not hard at all, but it will take a little planning to make it perfect.

Line your two pieces up starting at the seams. Both of my tops had side seams, so it made a congruent line that was easy to keep in tact. Just lay the two side seams flat on top of each other and pin. Then pin the other side the same way.

You will probably have more slack in your skirt garment than in your top. This is where you will need to think ahead. If you want to have definite pleats in your skirt, you can "pleat" the extra fabric. I wanted to gently gather the skirt fabric without having to sew and gather separately (which would be the "correct" way to achieve this, but remember my 30 minute time limit?).

So I started pinning 3 inches away from the side seams and gently "gathered" excess fabric and made a mini pleat. I only had an excess of about 5 inches to allow for, so my pleats were hardly noticeable, but it did make for an easier time of sewing, rather than sitting down at the machine without a plan and whizzing away on the skirt, to then end up with a ton of extra fabric and one GIANT pleat..

Planning is almost always a good way to go...

Anyway, so finish your pinning, then sit down at the machine and start sewing. Sew as close to the original gather line as you can, removing pins as you go.

When you are finished, trim the excess, them turn your dress right side out and try it on!

Now if you have a lot of extra fabric left over from the top or bottom of either shirt, you may want to make a band. I did not have much fabric leftover, so I just threw a belt over the seam line and it made for a nice congruent look.

Gotta love 30 minute projects!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Knot In My Throat...

Last night Landon and I were video chatting my parents. He was being as cute as always. He loves to show off to anyone, but especially his grandparents!

Well Leila was mentioned. And whenever someone asks about baby sister, Landon always does the same thing. He throws back his head and points up.

This time was a little different... Landon pointed up, but then ran to the windowsill where I have three pictures of Leila resting. He carefully picked up the middle picture of her, which is my favorite because the frame says "SWEET BABY: wonder, hope, and dream of possibilities", and he ran back to the computer and held the picture up for them to see.

We all had tears in our eyes. He showed them the picture of his baby sister and said "My baby! My baby!" He pointed up and said "Baby night night." Then he kissed her picture and sat it down.

I had this lump in my throat the size of a golf ball as I swallowed and blinked through my tears. He never got to hold her. All my friends have these "big brother" pictures of their firstborns in the hospital holding their baby brother or sister. But I will never have that picture. Not of Landon and Leilani.

He loves and adores her so purely. There is no jealousy or selfishness in his love for her. He loved her as soon as we told him that Mommy was pregnant and in several months he would have a baby brother or sister. And when we told him that he was having a baby sister, we took him to the store and let him buy her a present. He bought her many things: a cute bunny blanket/stuffed animal, a stuffed Bunny he made at Build a Bear, a little stuffed dog. He adored her, and he never even got to meet her.

When I was still pregnant he would talk to her through my belly. He would give her kisses and tickle her, and even try to feed her through my belly button.

He was going to be the world's greatest big brother.

And he is...

But I wonder if he really knows it. Or if he thinks Leila is just this beautiful picture to look at.

This is probably one of the parts of my reality I struggle with the most. It has been so hard watching Landon and knowing that he never got to see her.

When laying Landon down for his nap today he hugged his glow-worm (which he carries around and calls Leila and says is "his baby") and asked for his baby. I told him he could talk to her and see her in his dreams. He popped his little head up so fast and said "My baby? Yeah?" I choked through the knot and my throat and said "Yes bubba. You can play with Leila in your dreams." He closed his eyes and smiled. I really hope he does. I hope he does see her and hug her and kiss her and play with her in his dreams. Then, when he wakes up and I kiss him and hug him tight, I will be hugging a little piece of her, too.

Bacon Parmesan Penne

I know what you are thinking:

I somehow managed to combine three of my all time favorite things in to one dish...

Now all it needs is some leeks and then it would be perfect...

Oh boy... That would be awesome. I am definitely doing that next time.

Okay anyway, Bacon Parmesan Penne. This is a delicious recipe that I borrowed from The Pioneer Woman's website. Except I tweaked it a bit... you know, for the sake of the art, man.

Well anyway, I am pretty sure I stumbled on to something amazing. And I am pretty sure you will agree.

Here goes:

Bacon Parmesan Penne

1 lb bacon, fry it up, chop it up, set it aside
crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb penne
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 block cream cheese, (4 oz)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan (the kind in a can)
4 eggs
freshly ground white pepper (or black if you just don't have it)
1 small carton grape tomatoes (maybe it's a lb? I don't know!)
olive oil

Ok so you have your fried and chopped bacon draining on a paper towel. Sprinkle the bacon with some red pepper flakes... NOT TOO MUCH! Literally a pinch or less.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta according to the directions on the package.

Line a cookie sheet with foil. Drizzle it with olive oil and spread it around (or spray the sheet with cooking spray) and dump your tomatoes onto it. Pop in the oven to broil for about 5-10 minutes, or until they get nice and roasted and pop open. Yum! If you are in a hurry or using the oven for something else, you can dump them into a microwave safe baking dish (greased, of course) and pop them in the microwave on high for about 3-4 minutes. When they pop open, they are done. Set these aside... Maybe next to your bacon? They can hang out together.

Meanwhile, put your garlic into another large pot with a tad bit of olive oil and cook over medium heat until fragrant. Then add the cream cheese and the cream and cook, stirring frequently, until the cream cheese is melted. Then add the Parmesan and white pepper. Stir until it makes a creamy sauce. Remove from heat.

Beat your eggs in a small bowl (I used a 2 cup measuring cup). Add a large spoonful of the hot sauce mixture and mix well. The point of this is to raise the temperature of the eggs without cooking them, that way when they hit the hot sauce mixture they won't turn in to egg drop soup. Because in this recipe, that would be yucky.

Okay so keep adding spoonfuls of the sauce until you can feel the side of the cup or bowl and it isn't super cold. I probably added a total of 3/4 cup. Now carefully whisk this in to your sauce.

Now dump in your cooked drained pasta, your bacon, and your roasted tomatoes and toss... Gently!! You don't want to end up with pasta all over your cook top!

Sprinkle with plenty of Parmesan cheese. We used fresh grated (not the can.. the real stuff!) But the can stuff works great too.

Wasn't that an easy and impressive dinner?

Oh and did I mention that it makes enough to serve an army? Yeah... it's definitely not just a two person recipe. In fact, if you are just cooking for two, I recommend dividing the entire recipe in half.

It does make terrific leftovers though. I even mixed in a squirt of Tuscan Italian salad dressing to mine today to "change" the flavor a bit. I bet a spoonful of pesto would make a nice change as well. Or you can just enjoy it for the honest deliciousness of the original... It's just that good!

:) Happy eating!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Homemade Potato Chips

In the Microwave...

Ok wait, did that get the proper reaction? Let me try that again...

Homemade potato chips made IN THE MICROWAVE!!!

Yes! In the microwave!

This recipe is SO simple and so delicious that I apologize in advanced for getting you addicted...

I'm sorry.


I mean, sure these are made from white potatoes (though you can also make a delicious sweet potato chip!) and sure they have some oil on them. But it's extra virgin olive oil. And virgin is good... you know. Purity rocks and all.

Go with it.

Anyway, these puppies are ready to enjoy in less than 10 minutes, you can make enough for a decent snack out of just one potato, and you don't have to feel guilty about ingesting all the preservatives and junk you find in the store bought variety.

It's a win win!

Microwave Potato Chips

Olive oil
Sea salt

If you have a mandoline, now is the time to get it out. Wash your potato and if it has any bad spots, cut them out now. Slice your potato as thinly as possible (for thin crispy chips) or about 1/8" thick for a good dip bearing chip.

(See my mandoline? I love this thing!! It makes slicing things a breeze!)

I did mine both ways and they were good either way!

Throw your potato slices into a small bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Stir to coat evenly.

Coat a microwave safe plate with olive oil or cooking spray.

Place the potato slices on the plate in one layer. I had to do three batches to make them all.

Pop in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until brown looking.

If the chips look a little dry and the plate doesn't have oil left on it, spray the tops of the chips with more cooking spray (or rub with olive oil) before flipping. Flip the chips to the other side and microwave for another 2 minutes or until nice and crispy. The really brown ones are ridiculously good!

Remove from the microwave and place on a paper towel to cool off. They will get crispier when they cool.

(I had already eaten most of the chips when I realized I forgot to take a picture! Whoops! They are that good!)

If you want salt and vinegar chips, you can sprinkle on some vinegar while they cool. Yum


Leila's Legacy... Looking Up.

When Leila was still alive, I was approached by someone I hadn't spoken to in about 6 years. She wanted to let me know that she had been working on a document in Leila's name.

You may already be confused. I apologize. I don't know how to explain something of this magnitude.

Okay. Let me start over and slow down.

So this woman that contacted me: we had met in high school through speech and debate. She was always very eloquent and focused, and VERY good at what she did.

It isn't surprising at all to me that she has pursued a career in politics. She currently works for the speaker of the house in Illinois.

Okay, so now that I explained that part, let's move on to the document.

A resolution. She wrote a resolution concerning premature birth in honor of Leila. Those words don't do her words justice, so I will paste the resolution for you to read yourself.

I hope as you read this, you feel what I felt. I felt purpose. I felt pride. I felt this overwhelming sense of "God's plan" shining through.

Maybe Leila's life was meant to inspire this very resolution. Maybe God is working through my long lost friend, and the state of Illinois, to spark something bigger.

It is my dearest wish that this resolution not only continue on in the state of Illinois, but that it can spread to other states to inspire the same conversation and improvement that is already happening in Illinois.

Thank you, to my friend, for letting Leila inspire you the way she inspired me. I hope you know how much this means to me, and so many other premie Mothers.

Please forgive the roughness of this copy. It was taken directly from the Illinois General Assembly website.

HR0094 LRB097 07105 GRL 48085 r


2 WHEREAS, Premature birth is a serious and growing problem
3 that affects families from every walk of life and in every
4 corner of the country; and

5 WHEREAS, 12.8%, or one of every eight, of all babies born
6 in the United States are born prematurely; and

7 WHEREAS, Premature births have increased by 36% since the
8 early 1980s; and

9 WHEREAS, In the United States, prematurity/low birthweight
10 is the second leading cause of all infant deaths in the first
11 year of life and the leading cause of infant death among black
12 infants; and

13 WHEREAS, Premature babies who survive may suffer life-long
14 consequences, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation,
15 chronic lung disease, and vision and hearing loss; and

16 WHEREAS, Preterm birth and low birth weight are a
17 significant financial burden in health care; and

18 WHEREAS, The medical, educational, and lost of
19 productivity costs associated with preterm birth in the United

HR0094 - 2 - LRB097 07105 GRL 48085 r

1 States was at least $26 billion in 2005; and

2 WHEREAS, Low birth weight, especially in conjunction with
3 environmental stress, is associated with the development of
4 diabetes and other chronic diseases later in life; and

5 WHEREAS, It is a fact that pre-term infants are more likely
6 to have health problems that result in re-hospitalization; and

7 WHEREAS, The causes of premature births are not fully
8 understood; and

9 WHEREAS, The cause of approximately half of all preterm
10 births is completely unknown; and

11 WHEREAS, To reduce the rates of preterm labor and delivery,
12 more research and funding is needed on the underlying causes of
13 preterm delivery, the prevention of preterm birth so that
14 babies are born full-term, and treatments improving outcomes
15 for infants born prematurely; therefore, be it

18 we recognize activities and programs that promote awareness of
19 and solutions to the dangers of premature birth across the
20 United States; and be it further

HR0094 - 3 - LRB097 07105 GRL 48085 r

1 RESOLVED, That we designate the 16th of every month in 2011
2 as Premature Birth Prevention and Awareness Day in the State of
3 Illinois; and be it further

4 RESOLVED, That we encourage Congress to reauthorize the
5 PREEMIE Act, which is currently scheduled to expire at the end
6 of fiscal year 2011, to continue and enhance federal support
7 for research into the causes and prevention of premature birth
8 and to reduce infant mortality caused by prematurity; and be it
9 further

10 RESOLVED, That we dedicate this resolution to the memory of
11 Leilani Marie Decker and her courageous struggle; and be it
12 further

13 RESOLVED, That suitable copies of this resolution be
14 presented to the Governor, the Speaker and Minority Leader of
15 the Illinois House of Representatives, the President and
16 Minority Leader of the Illinois Senate, and the members of the
17 Illinois congressional delegation.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Yesterday Was Rough...

I wanted to write a post all day yesterday, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Yesterday was rough.

Every day seems to have some significance to Leila's life for me, but yesterday was one of the worst yet.

Yesterday was supposed to have been my baby shower.

My awesome, fabulous, Hollywood inspired baby shower.

It was going to be a day all about us. I was going to be pampered, lavished with delicious food and silly games, I was supposed to be the center of attention (and Miss Leila, of course). My belly was going to be the guest of honor.

That belly.

The belly that, to my disbelief, is completely flat and gone now. Most women pray for this, spending hours watching what they eat and hauling themselves to the gym...

But I look at my flat belly, with it's ugly scar serving as my own personal tattoo, constantly reminding me of the way in which my daughter entered the world, and I feel sick to my stomach. It isn't supposed to be flat.

I am supposed to be 7 months pregnant. I am supposed to be waddling around with all the other preggos, rubbing my belly and gasping softly as Leila gives me a strong, reassuring, "I'm still here" kick.

But the kicks never really come. Sometimes I have "phantom" kicks. I swear I can feel her somersaulting in me. I expect to look down and see the crazy "belly dance" that I got to experience with my first born.

But when I look down, I see nothing.

And I cry.

Leila was quite the little belly gymnast. Even at only 4 months my belly (though not very big), was always in action. I am pretty sure she NEVER slept, which she proved during her life as well. When she was in the hospital the nurses and doctors kept explaining to us that her high level of activity was just unheard of. She should be sleeping 20 hours a day, yet she was ALWAYS moving. Her little eyes never opened, so we couldn't use that as an indicator to whether or not she was sleeping, but every time we came to visit, it seemed like she was always wide awake. Kicking and moving and reacting to our every word.

The day I was admitted to the hospital, two days before sweet Leila was born, she had been displaying some Olympic Gold worthy moves.

Constant somersaults.

I mean, some serious flips.

She just seemed so active and happy.

Even though each flip and turn literally made me sick to my stomach, I smiled every time. My baby was moving. She was healthy. It was a constant reminder to me that my baby was with me, and that she was going to be healthy.

I guess I should explain why that was so comforting to me.

If I haven't already wrote about this: the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy were spent with me worried sick. I was terrified that something horrible would happen and I would lose my precious angel.

I did everything I could to be extra cautious and careful. I ended up in the hospital 6 times during my pregnancy. I just couldn't put anything to chance. Nothing was worth losing my baby over.

It wasn't until about 4 months in to my pregnancy that I actually started to breathe more easily.

I felt her move.

It was like whenever I would start to worry again, Leila would give me a good strong kick and say "Here I am, Mommy! Don't you worry about me!"

She always seemed to know just what I needed.

I can't even put in to words how much I wanted my baby girl. Like any mother would, I dreamed about her constantly. I dreamed about the relationship she would have with her brother. I dreamed about how she would have Daddy wrapped around her finger the second she was born.

But that wasn't true.

She had Daddy wrapped around that finger the second he learned she was a girl.

Honestly, even before then, but the second it was confirmed she was a girl (we just knew from the start!) his heart was completely hers. A special "daddy and his baby girl" bond. He wanted his little daddy's girl more than anything.

And he was going to get her.

It's just the letting go part that still doesn't make sense to me.

I still can't understand how we could be given something so precious and perfect and just have it ripped away.

And yesterday, of all days, was the aching reminder that "this wasn't supposed to happen".

I am still supposed to be pregnant.

I am supposed to be happy.

Miserable with pregnancy, but blissfully happy.

But instead of playing "how big is Virginia's belly" games, and baby food testing, and baby themed word scrambles (which I have not yet lost one of!), and every other amazing game my dear friend Kaylee would have thought of...

Instead of those things, I spent the day mourning over my daughter. My heart literally breaking any time I even thought of anything remotely related to "baby".

I did, however, create a wildly successful appetizer recipe, which I will share later.

But right now, I am sharing with you a little piece of my heart.

The little piece that died the second my Leila's heart stopped beating.

That piece of my heart is trying so hard to figure out how to beat again. How to not be broken.

One way is through writing. Every keystroke is one closer to fixing me. It's my therapy. It's my release.

And now I have found another: crafts. But more about that later.

Right now I just want to say: thank you. Thank you for following me on my journey.

It is certainly an up and down ride.

Some days I feel like I am finally coming out of the dark tunnel... I can see the light, still pretty far away, but bright enough that I almost have to squint...

And then I take a turn even deeper in to the tunnel... And I have to start all over again.

And I know you are there with me at every turn, squinting when the light gets near, cheering that I can get closer to it, then struggling to see with me when it goes dark again.

It may not be the most eloquent of metaphors, but it's my metaphor.

You are my metaphorical passengers, so thank you for joining me on my ride.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Downward Spiral

Normally when I sit down to write, it comes easily.

My fingers flick over the keys, my thoughts seem to connect directly to my fingertips, and out comes what I am feeling.

Today I stared at the blank screen for a long time... Not knowing what to say, not knowing how I feel. I am ashamed and embarrassed. I feel like I am failing at one of the few things that usually comes easily to me.

I have been crying off and on all day. I had a nice distraction: took Landon to the gym with two other girls and their boys.

They both have babies.

Beautiful, gorgeous babies.

One is an adorable chunky monkey of a little boy.

The other is a breathtakingly gorgeous little girl. I can barely bring myself to look at her because she reminds me of Leila so much. A much bigger version of Leila, but the same dark coloring and features, though I can't ever be sure about the eyes, since I never saw Leila's eyes.

I love my friends: they are so wonderful and they care about me so much, but this numbness inside of me makes me feel socially awkward and inhuman. I wonder why any one would want to torture themselves by being around miserable old me. I feel sorry for the burden my friends have been given.

I can only pray that if one of my friends ever needs me the way I have needed them, that I can show even a fraction of the love and support I have been shown.

I realize that most of my thoughts today haven't been fully strung together. I guess it's mainly because I can't grab onto one and hold it down long enough to know what I am truly thinking. My mind is cycling through a million thoughts rushing through my head.

I keep going back to my pregnancy.

My perfect, strong, stubborn little girl.

My pregnancy was extremely difficult and very hard on my body, but Miss Leila... she was such a fighter! I was taken to the emergency room about 6 times throughout my pregnancy. Twice for seizures (one ended up being dehydration related), once for intense pain, once for contractions (at 18 weeks), and I can't remember the other two reasons. I was so terrified my entire pregnancy that I never let anything go unnoticed. I am sure my doctors thought I was crazy, but I was determined that I was going to have a perfect and healthy baby, no matter what it took.

She was perfect.

She was healthy, in the womb.

But four months early is too much for a baby, and she succumbed to this world.

I replay everything over and over in my head. She was so strong, she was so perfect. She was born too early.

What did I do wrong? I ate healthy, I remained moderately active, I took my prenatals, I listened to my doctor, I went to my weekly (yes weekly, from the very start I was seen every week), appointments, I didn't drink caffeine (except for the occasional latte now and again, which my doc said was completely fine), I wasn't around smoke, didn't smoke (never have anyway so that was easy), I didn't drink alcohol. I did everything by the book.


I still failed.

Something, like writing, that is supposed to just come naturally to me, and it didn't. It just... slipped away from me. My body failed at being a good mother. My body failed her.

I failed her.

And now I am just falling. Constantly falling... Momentarily time freezes and I feel like things might turn so I can start "falling up" and get back on my feet... But then a baby cries, or I see an outfit I had bought one of for Leila on another baby, or I have to explain what happened, or I look in the mirror and hate what I see... and I start falling again.

But there is more to this story... There is an "up"... And it's all Leila. It's all her. It always was. She was always so amazing, before her life, and after it. She is a miracle. And next, I will tell you more about her legacy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Woke Up Today...

Yesterday was unbearable.

It was awful.

It was probably up there with the worst days since Leila passed away.

I went to bed last night crying and wishing all the pain would just go away and I could go back to being pregnant and excited.

My shower was supposed to be this Saturday. I am supposed to be excited and preparing for my precious baby girl...

I am not supposed to be mourning her.

Yesterday we had to relive the pain of losing her all over again. We had to retrace all the mistakes made that led to her early arrival. It was excruciatingly unbearable.

I don't wish this on my worst enemy. I am not a person that wishes pain on people... But apparently people wish pain on me. When I got home some horrible woman had emailed me making up rumors about my husband. It was disgusting. Who does that? Who kicks someone when they are down? Thank God that I actually trust my husband, or it may have actually done damage.

Needless to say, yesterday was rough.

I went to bed last night miserable and at a very low point...

But eventually the tears stopped coming and I fell asleep. And then, something incredible happened:

I woke up today.

And the sun was shining. And my son was smiling. And I had made it through another awful day.

You know what, so far, today has been better.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Don't Wanna...

I think I have been avoiding thinking into the future. I simply try and make it through each day as best I can.

But for the first time, today I thought about the future. About all of the plans we had altered to accommodate our new life with our sweet Leila in the picture... I was reading the heartbreaking blog of a fellow mommy to an angel, and she talked about seeing Easter things in a store and realizing that her daughter was missing her first Easter...

And the tears started coming...

All I could think about was Christmas. How am I going to get through Christmas with my husband deployed and my daughter... dead... It will just be me and Landon. I am sure we will go back home for Christmas, so we won't really be alone, but Christmas 2010 was such a joyous time: Leila had her own huge stack of presents and she wasn't even born yet! We had no idea she would be born just three weeks later, when she wasn't due to be born until May 18, 2011...

Life is so cruel.

I feel like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum, I just want to scream "IT'S NOT FAIR!"

Because it's not. I would gladly trade places with my Leila. I wish she could be alive and on her way to recovery. Every holiday is just going to ache with the emptiness she left in my life.

I hate feeling empty.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fighting the Feeling...

Of jealousy.

I said it.

I am now feeling jealousy. Horrible, awful, deep down inside my gut, green-eyed-monster jealousy.

I hate it.

I am not by nature a jealous person. Not at all. I have always been very content with my life, even with its ups and downs... I have endured every test and climbed every mountain without much complaint. I have watched those around me succeed with little effort, or fail miserably and still come out better than me on the other side, and still marched on. Because I am forever an optimist, forever believing that what I have, my life, is a wonderful gift and that I am so lucky for everything in it.

I don't think I can do that anymore.

All I can think about is what ISN'T in my life. How empty my heart feels. How empty I, quite literally feel. I unintentionally torture myself with updates of "how far along" I am in my pregnancy, only to be reminded that I am no longer pregnant... and that my daughter is no longer alive. I am supposed to be carrying this precious life. I am supposed to be excited and happy and ready to welcome her with open arms. To cradle her and snuggle her and smell her hair and her sweet baby breath and nurse her and dress her up and show her off.

But I am empty.

I have no baby to offer for any of those roles.

No Leila to welcome, no Leila to cradle...

Just emptiness.

Usually, when I am going through a rough spot in my life, I can still find this never ending supply of positivity and joy for other's good fortunes. I never let my circumstances stop me from being happy for others. I am trying so hard to continue that part of me, but I can't help but ache with jealousy from every pore when I see a new mom with her baby. When I hear about someone finding out they are pregnant, or what they are having, or talking about their baby.

I love babies.

I love ALL babies.

I do not discriminate against baby love of any kind.

Babies are incredible, amazing, innocent, loving, beautiful little people, and I can't help but smile when I am around them. They mend my heart, while breaking it all over again at the same time.

It's a bizarre experience.

But about the jealousy: I don't know why I am all of a sudden plagued with this emotion. It's a new one to me, even since Leila's passing, I have just begun to feel it over the past couple of days. I don't like having an ugly emotion in me. I wish I could control it, but I am just so jealous of those who have their children. Who don't have to walk through life as the "mother of an angel".

I truly believe that I am one, though. The mother of an angel, that is. It may sound corny, but even when she was alive, she was truly an angel, and in her death she has changed the lives of so many people, brought so many people closer to God, and affected the world in such a profound way... I can honestly say I think she is the closest anyone could ever come to meeting an angel in this life.

But I would give anything to have her here. To not have to wait. I think one of the things that makes it all worse for me is seeing women, especially those portrayed on certain TV reality shows, that are able to get pregnant and have perfectly healthy babies, who don't really seem to want them. If I could rescue every baby that is born into a world without truly loving and devoted parents, I would in a heartbeat...

But I digress...

I guess there isn't much more for me to say about this new emotion... I have been fighting the crap out of it. I don't know if it's a part of the "Grieving Process" or if it's a "normal" feeling, but it makes me feel inhuman. I don't want to be bitter. I don't want to be "the mother of the baby that died"... But you can't fight reality...

If I could, well...

I would fight like hell.