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I wish there was a manual on moving forward after a miscarriage. Sure, there’s a lot of information out there on what to do and what not to do, and the pamphlet they send you home with at the hospital talks about doing lots of nice things for yourself, like buying yourself small things and getting regular massages. (Really? I mean, it would be nice, but it seems like you’re milking it, rather than processing through your feelings.) Without a doubt, writing about miscarriage is strange. I’m sure there are many readers who have skipped these posts because they make them uncomfortable or they don’t think they have anything to do with their lives. I was like that, too, thinking miscarriage was just something that happened to other people once in a while, until I was that person and it happened to me. Twice. And then I couldn’t get enough of the personal stories and blog posts on grieving and processing and moving forward.

As I sat in church a few Sundays ago, God made me painfully aware of the hurt that is happening in the church as it relates to miscarriage and infertility. There was the woman across the room who has struggled with secondary infertility for years, unable to have a second child. I only know of her story secondhand, but I feel her pain just the same. There’s was couple a few rows behind us who I know first hand has struggled to conceive and feels like they are at the end of their rope. There’s the family friend back home who gave birth to a stillborn baby and then had a miscarriage a few months ago. I’m sure those stories are just the tip of the iceberg.

When I went to the doctor’s office for our 12 week appointment, I told my mom that if there was anything wrong with this pregnancy there was absolutely no way that I was going to be okay. It was too much, I told her, to see my sister-in-laws and friends go on being pregnant while I got “left behind.” If it happened, I would be devoid of hope, destroyed, broken into a thousand pieces, distrusting of God.

And then something funny happened. Well, not exactly funny, but you know what I’m saying. We went to the doctor and got that bad news and had our heart broken into a thousand pieces, but I was okay, and so was Joe. I faced what I had been so fearful of all along and lived to tell the tale. And now, a few weeks removed, I’m experiencing something I never though was possible, something only possible by the grace of God.

I feel peace right where I am today, and I’m not just saying it because it’s the “Christian” answer. In fact it may sound strange, but I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at this moment, right where God’s hand is holding me temporarily. Not pregnant, in the “valley” if you will, experiencing sadness but also an enormous amount of peace, too.

The first time we miscarried, I couldn’t wait to move on and get pregnant again. It was an almost frantic need to move forward, to put this chapter behind us and have a healthy baby. This time I don’t feel that same frantic need to move beyond this. Sure, I do hope that this is just a season and that we move forward eventually and have the family that we so desire, I am cherishing being part of this community of hurting, humbled women. (Miscarriage, by the way, humbles you in ways I never thought possible.) Before our second miscarriage, being part of the “infertility club” as I called it scared me to death. It was a club I wanted nothing to do with. That was not me and not my story! But it is me and it is part of my story, for however long God wants it to last, and I feel peace in the valley, in the waiting, in the not knowing.

A blog reader and new found friend said that she and her hubby read Lamentations 3 a lot while they were going through their infertility journey. The other day I sat outside on our patio furniture in the sunshine while Joe worked in the yard and read those words over and over again, letting God wash me in His beautiful truths:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.

What a beautiful reminder, no? The Lord is good to those who hope in Him! My greatest fear through this experience has been that I would loose hope and would be discouraged and fearful about our future. When friends have asked me how they can be praying, I have responded almost every time with, “Pray that I wouldn’t lose hope, that I would continue to feel encouraged about the future for our family and God’s plan for our life.” I have no idea what the future will hold, but I’m trusting and hoping in God and His great plan.

My prayer for each of you who are going through the valley is that you, too, would be encouraged and feel peace that surpasses all human understanding. I welcome each and every e-mail from anyone who is going through this experience and would love to be praying for you and your own journey.

Madison

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Joe and I returned last night from celebrating Easter with both our families in Iowa and what a weekend it was! Although the forecast for the weekend was cloudy and rainy, the weather decided to cooperate with the most beautiful, warm and sunny Sunday, and a pretty nice Saturday as well. Let me tell you, when winter feels like it might never end, a sunny 80 degree day feels about as good as it gets.

We celebrated with Joe’s side of the family on Saturday night and with my mom on Easter Sunday. We did all sorts of summery things, like take the dogs on a long walk, eat out on the patio my mom had built last year, grill and play our first outdoor game of tennis of the year. Did I mention it was perfect?

The last couple weeks I have deeply felt the need for new life in Jesus. We’ve been working through a variety of emotions, including uncertainty, sadness and pain. But something about the beautiful weather on this Easter Sunday completely overwhelmed me with the joy and peace we have knowing Christ died for our sins and, most importantly, rose again!

Slowly, day-by-day, I’m starting to feel alive again. I think it shows in these pictures. Sure, I can still shed a tear quite easily when asked how we are doing, but I’ve also felt so much peace about where we are at this very moment. Just the two of us (and our pups), no baby on the way, with a lot of uncertainty ahead, but completely at peace knowing that God holds us in His hands every day.

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After today, I plan to write one more post about miscarriage before I resume to a more normal posting schedule. I realize that not all of you are interested in reading about this topic, but I hope that someday you might be able to send links to these posts along to someone who is recovering from a miscarriage. Or perhaps you may, down the road, come back and re-read them yourself. I wish there wasn’t a need for such posts, but I don’t want to ignore the need, either.

One of the areas where I found the least amount of information was the physical recover post miscarriage. I had no idea what to expect, what I was going to feel, and how to recover in the wake of such a horrible experience. So, let’s get practical today and talk about the physical side instead of the more talked about emotional side.

Last time around, I opted to miscarry natural with the help of some medicine from my doctor. However, this time around I opted to have a D&C done (aka surgery) instead. For someone like me who hates surgery it was very scary, but the process was quick, relatively pain-free and gave me peace of mind that everything was cleared out and I could move forward with healing. It was one less thing to think about when my mind was already loaded down with things.Ultimately it’s a very personal decision that you have to make on your own, that’s just my experience.

Physically, I’ve been doing a few different things to help my body recover and prepare for the testing that is going to begin in the weeks to come. Here are a few things I am finding to be helpful (some of which I found to be helpful last time around, too):

1. I’m continuing to take my prenatal vitamin and added a few other vitamins to the mix. To combat blood loss, I added in an iron supplement and have been taking a Stress B-Complex, which contains 8 essential B vitamins that help with energy, boosting your immune system and nervous system health. I’ve also been taking a dose of vitamin D since our time in the sunshine has been limited and I could use a little mood booster.

2. I started acupuncture. In the three months leading up to getting pregnant this time around, I had started acupuncture to regulate my cycles. It helped, but for some reason I quit going, mainly because my doctor didn’t speak much English and I didn’t like not knowing what he was doing and what progress to expect. I’ve re-committed to going to acupuncture regularly, this time with a new doctor that I really love, while we deal with this miscarriage mystery. It does wonders on my stress levels and I strongly believe in the healing properties of alternative/complimentary medicine. This time around, my acupuncturist specializes in fertility issues and carrying babies to full-term, so I feel more at peace about the care I’m receiving.

3. I’ve lined up testing to try and diagnose potential issues that are causing our miscarriages. Our doctors, as I’ve mentioned, are amazing and supportive and believe strongly that having two consecutive miscarriages isn’t normal. I feel so much peace about the practice God placed us in, and am truly looking forward to getting some answers about what could be at the root of the problem. Side note: If you have any resources for reading up on multiple miscarriages, I would love for you to send them my way! I want to be well-informed leading up to our appointment.

4. Since the miscarriage, I’ve been focusing a lot on eating plenty of whole, plant-based foods with a healthy amount of protein mixed into my meals. Lots of fruits and veggies have been consumed, a small amount of sugar and caffeine and a small amount of lean protein in the form of fish and chicken. I’m giving my body what it needs to heal and recover in the best way I know how.

5. I added drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea to my daily routine, usually 2 to 3 cups a day. It’s said to help restore regular menstrual cycles and tone the uterus (whatever that means…) and I figure it certainly can’t hurt! When possible, I tend to gravitate toward natural and alternative options. I realize that’s not always an option, but I do what I can. If you’re interested in red raspberry leaf tea, I suggest you do a little research online. There is SO much information out there about it, certainly more than I can cover right now.

6. This time around one of the worst physical parts of the process has been the extra 3-4 pounds I gained in the first timester that I now have to loose. I didn’t exercise at all for the first week after the D&C, but I’ve recently felt ready to get back to the gym and keep my body moving. This is both for my physical state, so I can feel strong and healthy again, and my mental state. There are few things that are as healing to me as a good sweat session at the gym with my favorite guy. I am not pushing my body to the max, since that seems counter intuitive to what I’m doing to heal and build-up my body, but I am sweating and working out again.

If you’ve personally experienced miscarriage, any tips on physical recovery are welcome below! I would love to have a comprehensive list for people who come back to read this post down the road.
Madison

firstbirthday

Eli Smash Cake 1
A few weeks ago my dear friend Laura asked me if I would be interested in making her son, Eli’s, first birthday smash cake. Laura and I have been friends for years and she has the most amazing blog about life as a stay-at-home mom and DIY/craft expert. Seriously, some day I hope to do half the projects she completes around her house.

Joe and I both agree on the fact that Laura and Mike’s son, Eli, is one of the cutest kiddos we’ve ever seen. He has this adorable little natural mohawk hair and the sweetest personality. So of course I was trilled to be asked to make his cake!

I was also excited to do a little blog collaboration with Laura, something we’ve wanted to do for a while. So I made the cake, and Laura made the adorable flags/bunting on top of the cake. In fact, if you want to know how to make the flag, hop on over to Laura’s blog, Oakland Avenue, today to learn how!

Unfortunately we were planning on being out of town for the actual birthday party, but I made the cake in advance and gave it to Laura a few days before the party. Which, now that I think about it, is a great make-ahead tip for moms who are busy with other party details and want to make their cake in advance. It can be done!

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Laura didn’t have a lot of requests for the cake, but she did want it to be slightly healthier in nature. That said, Laura didn’t want to sacrifice having a beautiful cake just to have a healthy cake, so the goal was really to fall somewhere in the middle. For the cake, I made a lower-sugar yellow cake with mashed banana in the batter to add natural sweetness. Since I wanted the cake to still be “smashable” I decided not to use whole wheat flour since that adds denseness.

For the frosting I focused on lower sugar content and went with a Swiss Meringue Buttercream. This type of frosting isn’t healthy by any means, since it does have plenty of butter, but it is much lower in sugar, in fact the entire batch only had 2/3 cup sugar. And since I used organic butter, I figured a little fat is good for babies, right? This is by far my favorite frosting for decorating because it’s so smooth and spreadable, resulting in a very beautiful cake.

Eli Smash Cake 2

Eli’s First Birthday Smash Cake
 
Recipe type: Dessert

Ingredients
  • Cake
  • Cooking spray and flour for the pans
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2¼ cups milk
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 4 egg whites
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 6-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, banana and butter until smooth and well combined, about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add some of the flour, followed by all of the milk, finishing with the remaining flour mixture. Beat until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Bake 28 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the cake and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire cooling racks, about 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Cut rounded tops off cakes with a serrated knife. Cut each layer in half horizontally to make four total cake layers. Refrigerate cake layers 45 minutes for easier handling.
  6. Meanwhile, make the buttercream:
  7. In small saucepan, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches 160F (food safe temperature) with a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, the egg white mixture should be very warm to the touch and sugar completely dissolved.
  8. Transfer egg white mixture to an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat egg whites on high speed about 8 to 10 minutes or until bowl of electric mixer is no longer warm to the touch. Add the vanilla and the butter, one pat at a time, until the mixture is smooth, creamy and has the texture of buttercream frosting. If the mixture separates while adding the butter, don’t worry. Just keep on whisking on high speed until it comes back together.
  9. Place one cake layer on cardboard cake round. Top with some of the buttercream. Repeat with remaining cake layers until you have a four tiered cake. Use a small amount of buttercream to coat entire cake with a crumb coat, about ½ cup buttercream total, just enough to create a smooth surface on the outside of the cake.
  10. Reserve ⅔ cup of buttercream for decorative detailing. Use remaining buttercream to coat outside of cake with a smooth layer of buttercream.
  11. Color reserved buttercream your desired shade of blue, pink or other color. Place in a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch tube tip. Pipe a dollop of frosting on the top edge of cake. Use the back of a teaspoon to pull the frosting into a petal shape. Repeat with dollops and pulls around the entire top edge of cake.
  12. Use a small round pastry tip to make small dots around the bottom of the cake where the cake meets the cardboard cake round.
  13. Make Ahead Tip: This cake can be made ahead and frosted up to 3 days in advance. Simply make and frost as directed, then store in the freezer. I recommend freezing the cake uncovered for 3 hours first, then lightly covering with plastic wrap and storing in a plastic cake container/carrier in the freezer until ready to serve. To de-thaw, remove from freezer 12 hours in advance and allow cake and buttercream to come to room temperature.

 

Cheesy Farro Broccoli Bake 2 | Espresso and Cream

Let’s be honest, the amount of cooking that’s been going on in our house lately has been minimal. But as life slowly transitions back to “normal” (and no, it still doesn’t feel normal if you really want to know) it feels good to do things that come naturally, to create something out of raw ingredients and nourish the body. Plus, eating take-out and snack-y type foods can only keep you going for a certain amount of time. Sometimes you just have to get in the kitchen and cook.

I didn’t grow up in a house where we ate a lot of casseroles, and consequently I don’t cook a lot of casseroles to this day. However, there is something about being able to toss all your ingredients together and throw it in the oven when hunger strikes that I find so comforting. Dinner is ready when you need it to be, cheesy and comforting and semi-healthy, too, minus the cheese part. The cheese is absolutely not healthy, but makes this dish taste amazing.

My favorite use for a casserole is to make it on Sunday and have lunches for Joe to take to work for the rest of the week. I grilled up a package of chicken breasts and made this casserole, then divided the chicken and casserole among four containers, a complete meal ready to be tossed into a lunch container when we’re busy and running out the door in the morning.

Cheesy Farro Broccoli Bake 1 | Espresso and Cream

Cheesy Farro-Broccoli Bake
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Make this dish a meal by topping with grilled or baked chicken breasts.
Recipe type: Side Dish/Vegetarian Entree
Serves: 4

Ingredients
  • 1 cup farro, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, blanched
  • 2 cups Italian blend cheese, divided
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup 2% or full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, if desired

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch pie plate or square baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the all the ingredients until well-combined. Spoon mixture into baking dish.
  3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.
  4. Alternate method: If you’re looking for a more traditional casserole-type dish, I would suggest substituting the Greek yogurt for a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup.

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