Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Cook's Lemon Cookies

Tonight we said goodbye to some friends in our ward that are moving to Spain. SPAIN! I'm a little jealous. What an awesome life experience. Brian has mentioned before using his time off in the summer to "live" in another country for a few months. It is a dream, and who knows maybe someday we'll make it happen...
Anyway, I offered to bring some treats to their farewell party before I realized I had no butter. (A side note: is it bad that I couldn't think of a single goodie to make that didn't require butter?) I looked around pinterest for some ideas and found a chocolate chip cookie recipe that used coconut oil instead of butter. I have a huge tub of coconut oil and so I thought I'd try my hand and baking with it. The reason I didn't use the recipe is because we also wanted to give some treats to David's primary teacher at church, WHO IS THE BEST PRIMARY TEACHER EVER!!! But she is allergic to cocoa so she can't do chocolate. Thus, I came up with this recipe for lemon cookies.
This seems like a good time to also express my deep and undying love for coconut oil. We use it as a moisturizer, for eczema, for our teeth, make-up remover, etc. So many great uses. I wish I would have discovered it a long time ago.
I knew these would be really boring looking so hot out of the oven I sprinkled some...sprinkles...on each cookie. They were hot enough that the sprinkles stuck to them and stayed put when they cooled. If you make these and try that out, make sure and do it while they are hot out of the oven or they'll just fall right off. I figure you could roll them in sprinkles before baking too and they'd turn out nice. Or there are lots of other fun ideas you could try to make them fun.
RECIPE NOTE: I would use coconut oil that is solid. If your oil is liquefied you can pop it in the fridge and it should solidify to where it looks like shortening. It probably works okay if the oil isn't solid but it might make the cookies flatter than they are in the picture. Also don't over bake the cookies. After 8 minutes they may seem doughy at first but once they cool they are a perfect texture. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two before transferring them to a cooling rack.


The Cook's Lemon Cookies
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Coconut oil, packed
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Pure lemon extract
1 (3.4 oz) Lemon instant pudding mix
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
Cream oil and sugars. Add eggs, lemon extract and pudding mix. Beat together with electric mixture until well combined and smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Shape in to rounded balls, about tablespoon size. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes on greased cookie sheet.


Monday, March 23, 2015

David's Birth Story

A friend recently asked me for any advice that I could give her about birthing in a hospital naturally, without an epidural. I've been thinking a lot about my experience with this and decided to write about it. David's birth was completely unmedicated and lasted 12 hours from start to finish. Nathan's birth (you can read it HERE) was with an epidural and lasted about 4 days. Jonah was breech and I had a C-section. I learned somewhere that after your first baby labor gets shorter and shorter with each pregnancy. In my situation that is laughable. Each of my deliveries have been so incredibly different from each other.

****Caution!****This is a birth story!****Turn back while you still can!****

Brian blogged about David's birth (you can read it HERE) but I never did.

David was due Nov. 13th and born Nov. 1. I was not expecting to have him at 38 weeks gestation. I thought for sure I would go past my due date since that happened to my mom and sisters. So let me rewind to Halloween, the day before he was born. Brian and I had spent the day putting together the world's best costume (found HERE) and carving the world's best pumpkin. After I had my costume assembled we realized we had nowhere to go. This wasn't going to work for us so we decided to go trick-or-treating. Yes we went trick-or-treating...two grown adults (one extremely pregnant). We didn't ask for candy but gave out cookies to the doors we knocked. I think all the walking that day must have jump started my labor. Plus it was a full moon that night and some people seem to think that affects labor. Don't ask me. I started feeling some mild contractions that night. I assumed it was Braxton Hicks. The next morning was Sunday and I was feeling more contractions but nothing painful. I wasn't even convinced I was in labor. I did laundry and put some dinner in the crockpot for after church. Church didn't start until 1:00. By 11:00 am I knew I wasn't feeling well enough to attend church but still didn't think I was in labor. Brian and I took a walk and the contractions were pretty consistent. We finally decided to time them. By about 3:00 we realized I was probably in labor but didn't decide to go to the hospital until the contractions were 3-5 minutes apart. At this point I was in a lot of pain. I remember walking slowly around the neighborhood (looking back I can't figure out why I thought walking around was the best thing to do at this stage of labor). I was getting attacked by mosquitos (because mosquitos are cool like that in Houston and suck your blood even in November). We decided at about 4:00 that afternoon to check in to the hospital. They confirmed I was dilated 5cm, asked if I wanted an epidural and admitted us. I told them I didn't want one. About an hour after that I was in the hospital room with an IV access in my hand, a monitor wrapped around my stomach and another one attached to the baby's head between my legs (sorry I don't know how else to put that). My nurse, a sweet black woman, told us they would just turn the lights down and leave us alone. I was obviously confined not only to the bed but laying on my back. The contractions at this point were really strong and painful. The next two hours were a blur of pain, each contraction melting in to the next one. The nurse came in and told me to labor on my hands and knees, and we were grateful to get some kind of guidance. As I switched to the new labor position all the monitors I had on fell off or out, and I didn't even care.

The extent of my natural labor prep was an extremely old, worn out book that featured the Bradley method. I got it from the library a month before I was due, realizing that I should have some sort of grasp on how to give birth without medication. This book was so out of date. The entire thing was black and white, featuring pictures of couples going through labor. So much of the book emphasized the importance of the labor coach, and insisted where possible it should be the husband. I realized as I got closer to finishing the book that the person that really needed to read it was Brian. He was going through an extremely busy semester of grad school so I went through the book and made copies of the pages that contained pictures or information that he needed to know to coach me through labor. I stapled the giant packet of natural birth goodness and sent it with him to look at on the bus to and from campus everyday which was about an hour commute. We had a good laugh imagining someone peaking over his shoulder, finding him looking at grainy print-outs of naked women giving birth. Pretty sure nobody would have assumed that he was preparing to help his wife through labor when they saw him browsing a black and white illegally copied packet full of revealing pictures of men and women from the 70s in a birthing tub. Needless to say Brian never really did get the chance to go through the packet since I had David a bit early. We were so unprepared and undereducated. Looking back, if we could have had a nurse that was willing to guide us along it would have made the labor so much better. What I needed was a doula.

So after taking what little advice we received and laboring on my hands and knees for a few contractions the doctor came in and broke my water. I knew it wouldn't be too much longer before the baby came. I couldn't believe my contractions could get any worse at that point but somehow they became more painful and more frequent. It was at this point I started screaming. I've read books before that describe a women giving birth and hearing screaming but not knowing where it came from when all along it was the laboring woman. That was exactly how it was for me. I was not unconscious but most definitely not coherent and all I could do was curl in to a tiny ball and scream. My whole body was tense and suffering...not at all the way it should have been. I needed to be breathing through the contractions but couldn't even catch my breath. At some point Brian's face hovered over mine and he told me to sing through the pain. Can you believe that? He even modeled for me a deep inhale with a lovely singing/groaning exhale. Not having a clue what to do or who to listen to, I actually tried it one time before coming to my senses enough to push his face away from mine, which was only inches away. The smell of his breath combined with the suggestion of singing tipped me over the edge. The nurse came in to check me and told me I was almost fully dilated. I was in the transition phase of labor, the most painful part, and would be ready to push soon. At this point the pain was so bad I threw up. I still was stubborn about the epidural but asked for something, any sort of medication she could administer that would help. She told me there was something she could inject in to my IV but that if I was close to the pushing stage it would be better and safer for the baby to not take it. I was desperate and told her I would take that chance. Soon after she left the room I felt the urge to push. It was too late for medication. I was screaming "I FEEL LIKE PUSHING". I didn't have the mind to push the nurse call button and Brian was too occupied holding my hand and helping me cope with what felt like the end of my life. The nurse heard my yelling and came in with the doctor. This was the second time I had seen my doctor during my labor, the first being when he came in to break my water. Quickly the room changed and I was told to push. I had been in so much pain with the contractions it took me off guard when I didn't feel any pain pushing. I literally was numb. I've heard this is the body's natural anesthesia during the pushing process of labor as there is so much pressure when the baby crowns. I thought I'd feel the "ring of fire" at this point, which is supposed to be incredibly painful, but either I didn't feel it or it didn't compare to the pain of contractions for me. It only took 10 minutes of pushing and my beautiful baby boy was born.

Because David had meconium (all 3 of my boys have pooped in the womb during labor, what is the deal???) I couldn't hold him right away, which actually didn't disappoint me because as the doctor was stitching me up (I had torn) I began to shake violently. My body was in shock. I still wasn't in the right state of mind to get control and enjoy my baby...not just yet. After I was stitched up and had a few warm blankets on me David was cleaned up and ready to hold. It was a magical experience. I loved holding him for the first time. It ended too quickly as the nurse said I had to switch rooms (the hospital I was at had separate rooms for labor and recovery). The hospital had a nursery and took David to get his vitamin K shot and first bath while the nurse took me to my recovery room. They removed the blankets and had me get out of bed and go to the bathroom and walk to my room. I was so embarrassed when the nurse helped me go to the bathroom. I was shaking so bad I couldn't even sit down by myself. After that I was directed to my recovery bed and I tried to rest. My adrenaline was still too high to sleep even though I was exhausted. I was checked in to the hospital at 4:30 and had David at 8:30, just 4 hours later. Brian decided to go grab some dinner with his parents and told me he'd bring me back something. After Brian was gone I laid there thinking how surreal everything was. Just a moment before then I was surrounded by a large number of people and things were chaotic. Then I was put in a room where I was laying in a bed all by myself trying to rest unsuccessfully. I really wanted nothing more than my baby, and finally had the nerve to call in a nurse and ask what was taking so long. She thought I would want some rest after everything I'd been through and so had been keeping him in the nursery on purpose. Of course I asked that they bring him to me immediately, and I enjoyed some quiet time with my sweet newborn, just the two of us for a few minutes.

I had never thought my birth story was a negative one, but as I've become more educated and experienced in childbirth I realize that the number one thing that could have made my birth better was a doula. I really needed a birthing coach. Aside from Brian who really was trying his best, I had no support and real direction the entire labor. Birthing mothers don't have enough options for natural labor and delivery at a hospital. I actually love staying in the hospital. I love those couple of days where I don't have to worry about anything but holding my baby and nursing him. Medication and meals are provided and administered and there is no stress. But I hate that the only option for a natural birth in a hospital is an extremely painful one. It is no wonder women that deliver naturally usually do so in their home or a birthing center. But I know there are women out there like me, that feel most comfortable laboring in a hospital, where immediate care can be given in case of an emergency, but want an unmedicated birth. I am curious to know if there are hospitals that don't make a birthing mother have IV access and monitors on the baby at all times. I think mothers should be able to move freely the entire labor. I think mothers should be able to explore other pushing and laboring positions other than lying flat on their back for the entire process. I think nurses should be better trained to coach and aid mothers that are giving birth without an epidural. I think umbilical cords shouldn't be clamped and cut so soon after delivery in a hospital. I think sometimes the world sees birthing in black and white. There is the group of women that want an epidural the second they feel labor starting. They rest and relax and laugh until it is time to push. Their husbands watch TV and they have visitors in and out of the room the entire time. And then there is the group of women that have a midwife, set up a birthing pool in their home, have the baby in front of their children and encapsulate their placenta to eat later. Okay, I know I'm making major generalizations and there are excellent birthing centers available to mothers that don't want to birth at home but don't like the idea of the hospital either. The point I'm trying to make is that there is a vast number of women in that in-between gray area, that don't fit either of these scenarios, and more options need to be made for them.

Soon I'll be posting about Jonah's delivery, which was a C-section.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Naked Dragon

I had a funny experience with my 5 year-old today. A little voice in the back of my mind said "You should blog that. That is exactly something you would have written about back when blogging was your thing."

I feel like my family has entered a new chapter of life. My babies are now little kids, well except for my baby, he's still a baby but that'll change the next time I blink. We now live in Colorado. David is going to be a kindergartener and here they have an open enrollment system in the district. That means if I don't like our neighborhood school or if I like that this school has ipads or this school is dual immersion, or this school is all day kindergarten, or this school is an academy, I can try to opt in. I never thought of putting David in any school other than the public school we were zoned to, but here there are seemingly better options than the our home school. As I've attended meetings and talked to other parents I've gathered advice on what is and what is not important. One thing that has come up a lot is that David will learn things on the playground that I won't necessarily want him to know. I mentally was preparing myself for conversations with him about how our family might do things a little differently than his friend's families, and so forth.

 So after I picked David up from preschool today I said "Hey you look cute. Did anyone notice your haircut?" After a moment of hesitation as we were walking out to our car he said "Naked dragon." "Naked dragon?? What does that mean?" I asked. "Nothing" David said with a giggly grin. Knowing that this moment was coming at some point with him I jumped right in to having a heart to heart with him in our van about potty talk and bad language. I think I went a wee bit over board as I started firing questions at him like "Who said naked dragon at school today? Why were you talking about naked dragons? What does naked dragon mean?" David at that point was frustrated and defensive "MOM! I didn't say naked dragon, YOU did!" "What? Don't you remember you said naked dragon after I asked about your hair coming out of school today?" I asked. "Mom I said MAKE a dragon. I was wondering if we could cut my hair so there could be a dragon on my head".

I was so relieved David hadn't been talking about naked objects with other five year-olds! (But am slightly concerned he wants a dragon haircut). One thing I'm learning entering this next chapter of life is that it's important to keep calm and not accidentally teach your kid words that they could repeat on the playground to other kids at school.

Monday, May 12, 2014


So I visited my blog, which I haven't done in a loooong while, only to find that an extremely awkward post I had written a year or so ago about PMS OF ALL THINGS was randomly published. I have no idea how it was published and I know for sure I wasn't done writing it and wasn't planning on posting it. So if anybody read it, my apologies....and please still be my friend.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Update on the Cooks!

Hello friends and family!

Here is a brief update on some recent changes:

Brian got a job at Klein Collins High School and is enjoying the change from middle school to high school. Also exciting for him (he has been to modest to share this with most people) is that his arrangement of Sing We Now of Christmas is being published by Alliance Music! He has a SSAA and a TTBB arrangement and both are being published. You can hear the song on YouTube here.

We moved in to Brian's parents house again because they are leaving for Berlin, Germany on a 2 year mission. The high school Brian works at is just across the street. Couldn't have worked out better and it will be nice to save the money living here on future endeavors such as doctorate degree or our first house! (Or maybe a masters degree for Kayla).

We are expecting baby #3, a BOY in March. We are thrilled! Names up for the running are Elijah and Jonah. They are both very biblical--it wasn't planned that way. I don't know any Jonahs personally so I'm trying to get a feel for the name and how it is received. When I ask people between the two they always go for Elijah so...? Elijah would be shortened to Eli probably. I guess one will stick sooner or later! Nathan was almost Benjamin and I still like that name too.

I'm still teaching piano. David started preschool which has been awesome for him (and me!). Nathan is an early talker and is so fun-loving and carefree. He has been such a great addition to our family.

And of course I can't post without some kind of picture so here is a cute one:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Parable of Peanut the Pitbull

About a week ago we noticed a stray dog hanging around our yard. The first time I got a good look at him I felt a knot in my stomach. I was pretty sure it was an aggressive breed of some kind. My husband and I don't have a dog and don't know a lot about dogs in general so I got online to look at pictures of the breed and confirmed that our stray was a pit bull.

Woah. A pit bull? Even though I didn't have personal experience with this breed, I knew enough to have the following thoughts: This dog is going to kill my children. This dog could attack us unprovoked. This dog's bite can kill. This dog is evil. This dog is vicious.

With these thoughts in mind my husband and I decided that our kids couldn't play near the dog or even go outside to be in the general area of the dog. Animal control could come pick him up if he was contained so my husband and I set out to contain him. This was a challenge because we live on about 10 acres of land. I knew he must be hungry so I approached him with some slices of ham hoping I could trap him. When I got too close however, he barked at me and my husband. One time my husband got so close he gave him a low growl. This only confirmed our fears of the stray. Animal control came and tried to capture him but no amount of whistling or smooth talking would get him to come to us. He was smart. He could see the catch-pole the dog catcher held and knew what would happen if he got too close. So he disappeared for a little while. Animal control made plans to set a dog trap in the yard the following week if he was still around. The dog catcher left telling us that we did have the right to shoot the dog if it attacked or seemed vicious. The dog catcher wasn't the only one giving this advice. Everyone said we needed to scare it away...use a bb gun, bang pots and pans, use an air horn, target practice...I wasn't shocked at this advice at all. This dog could harm us and we needed to protect ourselves even if it meant killing the dog (I'm not quite sure how we would have done that, seeing as how we don't own a gun). I asked the dog catcher what would happen to him once he was captured. The reply was that the dog was unsafe to adopt out and if nobody claimed him within three days he would be put down. This made me sad because there was a possibility that this dog was loved by someone very much.

Animal control wouldn't be able to come around again for a few days so we were on the defensive. We watched the dog from inside the safety of our home and hoped he would disappear on his own. Instead he marched around marking his territory around the yard. He lay down under the shade of the trampoline or porch for hours at a time. It appeared to us that this dog was going nowhere so we resolved to bide our time with him around until animal control could trap him. Each time we had to go outside we tread our path carefully not wanting to provoke the dog in case he was dangerous. The dog became more suspicious of us and continued to bark at us when we came outside. It seemed he was just as uncomfortable with us as we were with him.

It was on our way home from running errands that we noticed a missing dog sign on a light post near our home. Sure enough it showed a picture of our stray pit. I immediately called the number and was greeted with much relief and appreciation from the dog's owner. They said they were going to come right over. I told them the dog wasn't around at the moment but maybe they could come call for him and he would show up. When they came we formally introduced ourselves. "What's the dog's name?" my husband asked. "Peanut" they said. "Peanut!? Peanut!? Not Killer? Not Spike or Brutus or Buster?" were my thoughts. They continued, "He's a great dog. He's great with kids and won't harm a fly. He loves to eat. Please, please let us know when he comes around again."

An entire day went by without a sign of Peanut. Now that we were assured of Peanut's harmlessness we whistled and called for him. Knowing how much Peanut's owners loved him and cared for him I was so hoping he would come back. I was worried that he had been killed somehow. I said a few silent prayers that he would show up. We checked before we went to bed one final time. I updated the owners that there was no sign of him. I was beginning to fear the worst. The next day when my husband and I woke up we searched the perimeter of our yard for him. No Peanut. At this point our 2 and 3-year old boys caught on. They would yell Peanut's name outside and my oldest asked if Peanut died. We were in our van and on our way to church when we saw a very ragged and hungry Peanut laying in his usual spot on the porch. He must have gotten there between the time we checked the yard that morning and the time we left for church.

I couldn't contain my excitement. "Get some ham!" I yelled to my husband. He came back with the ham and my camera. I called the owners and they were so joyful. While I waited for Peanut's "mommy" to come get him I noticed that he was dirty. He had an eye infection and his ribs were showing. Suddenly the ferocious dog I saw from my window was just a poor, vulnerable, sweet creature that needed some love and attention. I wished in that moment that I could have known that about him all along. How much better we would have got along!

When the owner showed up I was glad I had my camera. Even at the sight of their car coming down the drive, Peanut perked right up. When the owner stepped out of the car, he bounded toward her and immediately gave her a hug. I have never seen a dog look so much like a human before. He was so happy and for a moment I shared in the bliss of the owner and the dog. So much of the dog's suffering could have been eliminated if I could have seen past my fears and loved instead.

Of course I'm not saying we should trust stray dogs. Fear serves a purpose and I know my husband and I were just trying to protect our family. But I couldn't help but learn an important lesson through this experience. Sometimes our fears of the unknown eliminate the possibility for love. How many problems could be solved if instead of seeing each other through the windows of our homes, our jobs, or even our computers we could see each other face to face? If we could see people as they truly are we would probably see vulnerability and suffering. People need love. All people need love. It doesn't matter who you are or what you believe. In all the debate, the bullying, and the pride we stop seeing each other as people and start seeing each other as vicious pit bulls out to destroy what we are trying so hard to protect. We are all fighting for protection. Protection of our families, protection of our rights, protection of love itself. Is there a greater definition of turmoil than this--that what one person fights to protect is the very thing another is fighting for? There is no perfect outcome for this dilemma. Such things require great pain and suffering for both parties at one point or another. The only solution I can think of is to love more and love more easily.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Well, well, well

We just got back from another great Utah trip! Highlights included hiking the waterfall trail 3 times, fireworks, Hogle Zoo, baseball games, baseball games, and more baseball games, movie nights, homemade ice cream and popcorn and Chinese food, basketball in the driveway, car detailing, and swimming! It is always a little hard coming back to Texas because of course I can't help but think about how nice it would be to live near my family, but I also see how many blessings we have here in the Lonestar state. What started as Brian getting a masters degree at the University of Houston has turned in to quite an adventure. I never imaged the first 5 years of my marriage would turn out the way it has, but we truly have had some great experiences living here. Growing up in a close knit family with all of my married siblings living in Utah I just never experienced life outside of my comfort zone. Not only did we never move growing up, but I never really experienced visiting relatives outside of Utah/Idaho. After the masters degree I was more than eager to move back to Utah, but the job opportunity was here. Now Brian has just finished two years at Arnold Middle School and just accepted a job as a High School choir assistant in Spring, TX just a few miles down the road. Brian's parents are planning on serving a mission so we will be staying in their home for 2 years. Six years in Texas at that point! I just can't believe it!

I have definitely felt lonely and discouraged at times in the last 4 years but there has also been some great benefits to living here--I even made a little list of the awesome things:

-Members of the church here are really close to each other. There is a strong sense of ward family and most people truly depend on each other as you would family members. Not living near family has helped me reach out to others and make friends I probably wouldn't have made living somewhere surrounded by family.
-It is awesome talking to people about the gospel here. There are a lot of good Christian families in Texas and most people have a pretty good idea of Mormonism. Brian and I have both had some really awesome missionary experiences.
-Spanish! We use our language skills constantly here.
-The months Jan-April are just beautiful! So sunny and nice.
-Fine Arts. Brian and I have been to some amazing operas, concerts, plays. The culture in Houston is one that values the Fine Arts very highly. Next on my list is the Houston Ballet! Brian and I were able to sing in a choir called the Houston Camerata. It was such a fun experience for both of us.
-Brian's salary as a teacher here in Texas is one that provides us with a  comfortable standard of living. Teachers aren't paid enough in general, but Texas is one of the best states for teacher-pay in America.
-We've created strong friendships with people from totally different cultures and backgrounds. Some of our closest friends here are from Korea, India, and Brazil. We've had some really amazing Korean and Indian food! Some of the most thought provoking conversations I've ever had have been with our friends and I love learning from them.
-Since we live near one of the largest cities in America there is so much to do! Amazing museums, the beach, NASA...just to name a few.
-By living here I have spent a lot of time with Brian's parents and know them well.

Though I miss home and hope to return to the Mountain West in the future, I am grateful for our experiences in Texas and know that living somewhere out of my comfort zone has helped me become a better person. I think a good definition of a trial is when the unexpected in life happens and for me that was moving to Texas instead of Utah. It might seem a small thing for some people (what is a trial for one isn't for another) but living here has pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of.

I'll post some pictures of our trip soon!