The B Life

Cooking My Way Through Pinterest - Week One: Chicken + Bacon Stuffed Manicotti

I'll be the first to admit that, in my effort to present a weekly delicious meal for this segment (albeit a few weeks late to the start, but hey, 2018's been like that, so whatever), I've been at least a month into my "Cooking My Way Through Pinterest" challenge, and have been hoarding the results in an attempt to hone in on some basic cooking skills - that are usually otherwise found wanting.

Ironically, my first recipe, though inspired by Pinterest, is actually my own original. I've been tweaking this carbonara-alfredo sauce until I was confident enough in it's versatility.

But let me tell you - adding a ton of cheese puts it on a whole new playing field. And really, what's a good Manicotti without COPIOUS amounts of cheese?

That's right.. not good.

I suppose too, that it's kind of funny that I'd start with something like a home-made manicotti. Not that it's complicated, but there are a lot of steps (which I now realize I have to type out), and it requires some basic knowledge of how to reduce a cream sauce.

Luckily for slackers like me, manicotti pasta is readily available in grocery stores. 

I'd also like to say I'm lying about how fantastic this cream sauce is, but lying is wrong so I don't make a habit of it. THIS SAUCE IS AMAZING.

Honestly, you'll want to use it for all your chicken/pasta dishes. I've even poured it over risotto, and it was the most brilliant thing ever.

Additionally, I'd like to note that if you're not a manicotti fan, you can use this for a lasagna roll-up and it'll be just as good.

And if you want to make it a little healthier (cause it's a lot of cheese), add in some roasted cherry tomatoes, spinach, and sautéed red peppers - that'll add some nice colour, too. Really this recipe is a basic, and it can be built and changed as your tastebuds desire. I promise I won't be offended that you aren't cooking it EXACTLY like the recipe says - ad libing is one of the best parts of cooking.


Mom-Tribes Matter (and why special needs Moms need each other, too)

Navigating motherhood as a new mom is never easy. 

As new moms, we can all relate to the same list of struggles: is baby eating enough? how long should I be depending on my husband for help around the house? what if I don't like being a mom? why did no one tell me I would need to wear a bra all the time? The list goes on.

We all complain about the absurd amount of diapers we use (honestly, HOW DO THEY POOP SO MUCH?!), and we share stories of first smiles, milestones reached, and those precious moments we spend holding our sweet babes in the wee hours of the morning. 

Motherhood is a tribe. No one can deny that. Similar questions bring us together; joys are shared, successes celebrated, and differences provide fodder for interesting conversation. And you know what? We need our tribe. 

Special needs moms need their tribes too, perhaps more. 

I don't think I quite believed the doctors and social workers when they told us that anyone with a "normal" child would never understand what we are going through. They told us to learn where to spend our energies, and that relationships with our friends are families would change. I didn't want to believe that my tribe of moms would not be there when I needed support, or understanding. I didn't want to believe that my own parents or in-laws couldn't understand what I was going through. It seemed so pervasive, so assuming. 

They weren't wrong, though. And they weren't right.

Moms have a unique and innate understanding of each other's troubles.

But moms of special needs Trisomy children have their own way of coping with additional challenges. 

Because the fact is that our children won't reach the milestones when "normal children" will - if at all. We understand life with machines and monitors and specialized care. We live life with G-tubes and Oxygen back-ups. We have nursing staff in our home, and medical appointments to attend almost weekly.

We have had people tell us that our children are "incompatible with life."

We have had to reconcile with the fact that our child may succumb to health issues at any time. 

We didn't take our babies home from the hospital right away. Instead, we visited an NICU for weeks and weeks, and asked permission to hold our own children.

We've mourned our children with the diagnosis. Mourned expectation, faced reality, and tried to adjust to a normal - even one where our child may not be living. We prepared for the worst when we wanted to prepare for the best. And we tried to remain gracious to others, because they offered so much grace to us. 

But grace isn't always understanding, by no fault of its own. 

We have to worry about feeding bags, expensive medications, tubes, ventilators, and sterile water. "Normal baby things" like toys, diapers, and a change of clothes make up maybe a third of what we actually carry in our diaper bags. 

We worry about nursing schedules, flu shots, and how on earth we're going to get groceries this week (whether because we can't afford it because medical supplies needed to be purchased, or because bringing our child out in public during flu season is too great a risk and need appropriately trained childcare). 

We struggle with normal - because it will never exist for us the way it exists for other moms. 

Special needs changes everything.

Yet we find so much joy in the smallest accomplishments. And when these accomplishments come, EVERY mom from EVERY tribe celebrates with us. It's a beautiful celebration too - one filled with Instagram likes, Facebook comments, hugs, smiles, and joy - and in my case red wine and ice cream. There's something universal in the joy of mothers when their children succeed in finding their own strength. We rejoice together - special needs or not.

Truly, we've been blessed with Joseph. His medical needs pale in comparison to other Trisomy children. We have been able to start living our lives away from machines: away from saturation monitors and feed pumps, syringes, tubes, wiring, and vents. Of course, we have it all ready just in case. 

But in some ways, that makes me stuck between tribes. We don't live our lives towing ventilators. We have only three medications to give. We've had success with oral feeding. And we're working on meeting some average milestones. 

In either regard, my mom-tribes are irreplaceable. Why? Because I couldn't have gotten through the early days without many of my closest mom-friends and family. They knew ME (albeit not necessarily all Joseph's complications), and that was invaluable. They prayed with me, and laughed with me, and their hearts poured out with love and sympathy and grace beyond measure. 

And now? They celebrate wildly and fully in Joseph's achievements. They offer encouragement in daily struggles.

My Trisomy mom tribe? They rock too: they have insights on medical gear, toys, hospital appointments, and general development. And that's why special needs mums need each other - those relationships form for our children and often inform their success. 

But your tribe of normal mums? They feed your soul. 

Because even though I'm a special needs mom, I'm still one who needs other moms in fellowship and love. Ultimately, that's what our tribes are for.

Our Journey to Trisomy 13: An Unusual Pregnancy

"Let's start at the very beginning; a very good place to start."
Maria, The Sound of Music.

It's been a while. Somewhere, in the last few years, I lost track of the sort of life broadcasting one does on their blogs. Many things happened - Nick and I got married, we had some excellent summers at the Farmer's Market, Nick learned he actually has a severe bee allergy (more on that later), and I gave birth (ish) to our son, Joseph. At some point, I stopped posting here and restricted my goings-on to Instagram - so creep away! - where it was just easier to snap a photo and not have to think too deeply. But now, at the end of what has been the most intense year of my life thus far, I feel the need to share our story again. This time around, I have no rules for my writing other than complete honesty. I'll share, uncensored, because our son is a gift that we've been given. He's not your average kid, and so this isn't your average story.

On January 2, 2017, Nick decided that I needed to see a doctor. I was suffering from sharp, burning pains in what I thought was my urethra muscles. My period was late, but home pregnancy tests had read negative, so I assumed that I had a bladder infection or UTI. As this was the holiday Monday, our regular doctor was not in office, so off to the walk-in clinic we went.

Half an hour later, we were given the news that I was pregnant. I'd like to say that I was one of those women who immediately embraced the "mother-to-be" persona, but in reality I cried. A lot. I did NOT want to be pregnant. I knew my husband wanted kids, but I still wasn't sure that I did. I remember the exact moment the result came in, and I think I turned a shade of white reserved only for apparitions. 

In the weeks that followed, I was sent for my first ultrasound. The pain that had originally brought me in to the clinic was concerning to the doctor who thought that perhaps the pregnancy was ectopic - meaning, implanted on my fallopian tube. As it turned out, the embryo was in the proper place, but the heartbeat was lower than it should have been at that stage in the pregnancy. They suspected the pain was because of some small cysts on my ovaries. I was put on rest and told to take leave from my jobs. This ended up being for the best, as my first trimester was a STRUGGLE. Everything made me sick - hamburger, mashed potatoes, eventually I even threw up ginger ale. 

At about 14 weeks, our little nugget's heartbeat was finally normal, and I was cleared to start doing normal things again. By this time, March was rolling around and it was time to open some of the beehives. I love seeing the hives for the first time after a long winter, so I was excited to be able to take part in some normalcy again.

The second trimester brought more ultrasounds. At 20 weeks, we went in for the long one - the tech took all the pictures, and I snagged a glance at the screen as she put in the gender identification in. We were having a boy. (Although, I didn't tell Nick I knew, instead I kept my mouth shut until our appointment with the OB the following week). The OB also gave us some news we weren't expecting: the radiologist had not reported a nasal bone visible on the ultrasound scans. This was a heavy marker for Down's Syndrome, and so I was scheduled for the genetics clinic at London Health Sciences Centre. We had decided against any of the genetic testing at the 12 week mark of the pregnancy, and so this was a surprise.

The genetics clinic verified what I already knew: our baby did NOT have Down's Syndrome. The ultrasound showed a nasal bone. It also showed that there was an enlarged kidney pelvis, which is common in boys, and so other than a brief follow-up with nephrology, no one was too concerned.

The next 2 months or so were pretty normal. Baby Z was growing well, my appointments were standard, and I was feeling good.

Then June hit. By the end of the month, temperatures were climbing (because we live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, and our weather only seems to operate in extremes) and so was my blood pressure. I was admitted to Antenatal on July 12, 2017 due to pre-eclampsia. I was immediately put on medication and nurses took my blood pressure like every 8 hours. I was also given meds for the heartburn (THE BEST) and had ultrasounds done every other day to make sure Baby Z was not in distress.

On July 18, after a few days of my BP spiking again, the OBs told me that they needed to induce me. My pressures were too high, and Baby Z was now at the point where they were confident he would be okay to be delivered early. In all honesty, I wasn't concerned that Baby would be compromised as the hospital in which I was admitted has one of the best NICUs in the province. I was concerned because, as a first time mom (who hadn't been sure she every really wanted to be a mom), labour scared the crap out of me, and not only that, since I was being induced 7 weeks early, they had some extra procedures that needed to be done in order for me to actually dilate.

Now, as I write this, I realize there is a lot from the birth I don't remember. It's funny how memory works that way. As far as labour goes, I don't remember much other than I wasn't allowed to eat or drink (because pre-eclampsia meant I had oxytocin and magnesium sulphate kicking around in my system). I had blood in my urine. AND I DIDN'T DILATE! Not at all. 

And to be honest, since I wouldn't dilate, induced contractions never made it past the stages of uncomfortable menstruation cramping. Still, at some point in the early hours of July 20 (and I mean like 1am early), I had to have the other thing I dreaded: the epidural. 

Just to be clear, I have nothing against pain medication. Was I worried about potential side effects of the epidural? Heck no. I was scared of the huge a$$ needle that was going into my back. And my poor (and very brave and caring) husband had to hold my hand. The first position they wanted me in (hunched over with your head between your legs) wasn't happening. The second they sat me up, all the blood rushed and I got clammy and probably would have passed out if Nick didn't inform the nurse and anesthesiologist that there was no way I was getting the epidural in this position. 

Route # 2 was way better. The epidural guy had to completely re-set up, but I didn't care. So, on my side rolled into a ball was the way that giant ass needle went in. I closed my eyes while Nick held my hand and neither of us watched. 

When it finally kicked in I slept. I was in giddy-la-la-land where all the world was good and I was happy to not feel anything at all. 

At about 5am on July 20, the OBs came in and told me that it was finally time for a C-Section because Nugget's heart rate was compromised. I remember thinking (and probably saying out loud) "finally". I had no objection to a section. I would have requested one anyways because my tolerance for pain is so low to begin with that my half-assed experience with induced labour that never really ended up being labour was more than enough for me. In hind sight, I'd do the section again, in a heartbeat. 

And so, around 5:30am, they wheeled me in. It was baby time. be continued.

The Etsy.

I've finally done it. I've reopened and restocked the Etsy Shop. It's gotten a new look, a new name, and has been given a fresh batch of goodies that I cannot wait to begin shipping out. My crochet and knitting needles have been going non-stop, and I'm looking forward to creating beautiful items. I even have some lovely hand-spun yarn which I cannot wait to turn into a lovely creation. 

Custom orders are encouraged, and I'd love to create a beautiful scarf or hat or blanket just for you. So go on and visit the shop. Share it with your friends, and visit it often. There will be so many goodies added in the coming months.

How do you get there, do you ask? Go ahead and click the OUR SHOP icon at the top of the page, or the E below my signature, or click HERE


N&B Engagement Photo by Bear and Sparrow
Courtesy of Bear and Sparrow Photography

Nick and I got engaged in August (2015), and I realized a few weeks ago that I never formally announced that here. So, yay! We're engaged! 

We've set a date (in September 2016), and I've bought my dress (you'll have to wait and see!) and most of the big stuff is done. We're both excited, and now that the holidays are done, we can get on with looking into dresses for the bridesmaids and suits for the groomsmen, and all the fun things that come with wedding planning.

In the meantime, I am thrilled to share some of our engagement photos. These were done by the lovely Jenna of Bear and Sparrow Photography. If you're a bride in Southwestern Ontario, I STRONGLY recommend meeting with Jenna. She is wonderful to work with, and is excellent at capturing those candid, un-staged moments that only the best photographers can. 

I hope you enjoy a selection of my favourites!

N&B Engagement Photo Bear and Sparrow
Courtesy of Bear and Sparrow Photography

N&B Engagement Photo Bear and Sparrow
Courtesy of Bear and Sparrow Photography

N&B Engagement Photo Bear and Sparrow
Courtesy of Bear and Sparrow Photography

N&B Engagement Photo Bear and Sparrow
The exact spot where Nick proposed!
Courtesy of Bear and Sparrow Photography.

N&B Engagement Photo Bear and Sparrow
Courtesy of Bear and Sparrow Photography

N&B Engagement Photo Bear and Sparrow
Courtesy of Bear and Sparrow Photography

Yellow Gold Engagement Ring Bear and Sparrow Photography
Courtesy of Bear and Sparrow Photography

Happy New Year, friends! Hope your 2016 is as awesome as I hope mine will be. :) 


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