26 April, 2014

Last Dance

Our assignment here in Ottawa is coming to a close.  In fact, when this goes live, we'll be packing the last remnants of our lives into a Penske truck and living out of a hotel.  Seems like an evil deja vu, but this is what our lives are going to be like for the next 11 years and what they have been like for the last 9.  To say I'm used to it would be a lie; to say I am overwhelmed by and never will be used to it is much more accurate.  I've eaten my way through Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto and savored most of those moments.

Before I leave an assigned area I always wonder to myself if I am going to miss anything about the place I am.  The people, the amenities of the area, etc.  It takes me SO long to trust people enough to form actual relationships that it is hard for me to feel attached to any one person or place that we've been.  I can honestly say, however, that some real changes have happened to me while I was living here.  Most of them great and only marginally to do with food.

Last night my Mister and I hired our regular sitter and for the last time in Ottawa went out for a night on the town.  I hardly ever expect much out of a dining experience anymore.  I had a friend tell me 2 years ago not to flog restaurants in the downtown core of Ottawa because they are all hype.  He told me I needed to focus on the up and coming chefs in the outlying areas and put them on the map...cause who else was going to do it?  No one.  Everyone blogs downtown.  Over the following months, I discovered he was quite right.  But, I had a place on my "to eat" list that had just been sitting there...kind of festering really.  I put in on there shortly after the Sweet Pea was born.  It was a recommendation from a friend that LOVES all foods Latin.  I read up on customer reviews, Googled the place, and actually put quite a bit more research into going than I ever bothered to do anywhere else in town.  Mostly because the customer reviews were SO diverse and passionate.  People asserting that the food sucked, people saying it USED to be fabulous but wasn't anymore...people who are so in love with the food, they eat there twice a week.  Hmmm....  Quite a bag of confusion.  Then ha!  Color me surprised when the resident chef of this place ended up on the current season of Top Chef Canada.  It was a "What the what?!" moment if ever I had one.  How could a chef with such extreme differences in review end up on a show like that?  Well....geez...  Now I HAD to eat there, right?  Of course right.

We made a reservation for 5:30 and made the mistake of getting there early.  Most of the time, when I suspect the dinner hour will be packed and I want to get photos of the inside sans tons of people...I show up at least 15 minutes before my reservation.  But, to our surprise they don't open until 5:30...and I mean...they doors are locked until 5:30.  Lucky for me, I started my 3rd trimester the same day so the tweency little Meant to Be in utero was keeping me warm.   The Mister was a different story, he kept walking across Murray street so he could stand in the sun...wuss.  I made use of my time by staring at and reading the menu descriptions over and over...and over again.  Intermittently people would come in and out of the restaurant for a cigarette or...to leave.  I kept noticing that the chef himself was in and out and in and out 3 times or so before they opened the doors.  Seemed odd to me.  I would assume he'd be preparing his staff for the dinner hour.  Guess not...

The doors finally opened and before we even began talking with our waitress over the menu I took some photos.  It was just us and one other couple with reservations at the same time.  Perfect!  Navarra isn't very large so, all my worry was for nothing.  I was able to take my shots in less than 5 minutes.  Yay for no fuss!

I was informed that there is usually an equal amount of seating available on the patio once May hits but that for now, it is too cold to seat people outside.  Fair enough; my Mister could attest to that fact.

We talked over the menu between the two of us and with our waitress for a bit before making any decisions.  This is a tapas menu of Latin flavors.  A number of things caught my eye initially but...reading from left to right certain items slowly got crossed off my list of interest.  I SO wanted to try the roasted leg of lamb but....20 ingredient hibiscus mole??  *sigh*  Why 20?  Holy buckets...  Most of the time in my experience with food...less is more.  That being said...a mole with only 20 ingredients is actually middle of the road on the number of things I've seen get thrown into a pot.  But, these days when I am going to spend 30 bucks on a plate of food...even in Ottawa where that is a normal price to see...I want to LOVE it and KNOW I'm going to love it.  Not just hope.  I moved on from that item and settled on the "Farm to Table Chef Feature"...then they weren't serving it that night.  Grrrrr.....  >.<    I wanted lamb...I was going to get it one way or another.  SO!  Lamb Shoulder Chilaquiles it was!  Our waitress warned us that things could get a bit on the spicy side.  I told her I enjoyed Indian Vindaloo and her response was that the heat in this dish wasn't as spicy as an Indian curry.  Okee dokee...I moved on.  We sent in an app order for Chimichuri Mushrooms, my Mister's main of Confit Pork Cheek, and we had stared at the menu long enough to know we wanted to try the Granny Smith Apple Wild Blueberry Crumble for dessert.  Seemed simple...

Before our appetizer of mushrooms came our waitress brought us some smoked seasoned almonds and some flatbread with serrano ham baked onto it.

We both thoroughly enjoyed the almonds and the bread was...well, it was just good.  It wasn't great, but I wouldn't feed it to my dog either.  The smoke with the spice combination on the almonds really took them to a place I'd never been with an almond before.  I was really diggin them.  I was happy to munch away on them while we waited for the mushrooms to make their way to the table and it only took about 5 more minutes before the mushrooms appeared.  Yay!

Chimichuri Mushrooms

We both dug in with gusto.  It LOOKED amazing...but in ONE bite my palate was OBLITERATED.  Spice, spice, and more spice.  I immediately got annoyed.  Mushrooms, potatoes, peas, onion sofrito, grana padano cheese, and nitro spicy popcorn....delicate, hearty, delicate, bold, delicate...see the problem?  Mushrooms have their own distinct flavor.  Potatoes can stand up pretty well to almost ANYthing.  Peas are fairly delicate.  Onion sofrito can be pretty bold depending on what peppers and paprika you use.  Put this all together and BAM!...I couldn't taste anything but spice.  Period.  I honestly couldn't even have told you there were potatoes in there if my Mister hadn't said "Geez, it eliminates the flavor of the potato itself altogether."  He wasn't wrong.  We were starving, so we ate it anyhow.  I LOVE jalapenos, but this dish just didn't need so much spice.  It would have been more enjoyable if I hadn't been sweating like I was sitting in a Finnish sauna by the time it was all over.  I never had SO much heat in a mushroom dish in all my life.  I think my lips stopped tingling shortly before my main entree landed in front of me.

Quebec Lamb Shoulder Chilaquiles

Funny thing about this dish is...I was WARNED.  I was told it was a "bit" on the spicy side.  So...when I dug into it expecting to be blown away (because comparatively speaking...we weren't warned about the spice level in the mushrooms and they half killed me, I could only assume that actually being given a heads up on this food...I was going to be completely killed.  I wasn't wrong...) I was surprised for about 4.5 seconds when I was chewing away happily and pausing every couple of seconds waiting to burn alive.  It didn't happen.  Not right away.  The delay was about a half of a minute.  Then I felt like I was burning alive from the tip of my tongue to the back of my throat.  *facepalm*  Holy geez!  When you're serving something like lamb...WHY?!...why kill it with such an array of spices and heat that you have to alternately sip water with your food?  The worst part is, I'm not wuss when it comes to heat.  But I stopped eating for a couple minutes to take my food notes, whilst wiping the sweat off from under my poor eyeballs.  My Mister was sharing with me.  He didn't dig in too heartily.  After he saw my reaction, he waited patiently for his pork cheek instead.  Smart move.  I wanted to love this dish, but it just wasn't happening.  Add to the assault on my taste buds that the lamb was dry....I wanted to get up and go across the street to "Bite" and get a dang burger instead.  Dammit!  I hate it when I don't like my food!

Confit Pork Cheek

My Mister's plate looked just as awesome as mine did, but after two frontal assaults on my mouth...I wasn't about to mess with trying his food quite yet.  We meant to share but I was too busy trying to put out the fire in my mouth.  About 4 minutes into eating he said it wasn't spicy at all and that once he scraped all the red sauce off it actually was a very well composed dish.  He made a bite up for me with some of the pineapple and other tidbits and forked it over.  It actually was very good.  SUCH a contrast in dishes...  My Mister always warns me not to ask for recommendations from wait staff or even the chef and tells me to order what sounds yummy.  Why don't I listen?  If I had done that...I would have ordered the Carbonara and most likely LOVED my food and had a completely different experience.  Oh well...live and learn.  He made short time of his plate compared to me.

I'm sure any wait staff or kitchen staff reading this are wondering WHY in the world I didn't send my food back or why I finished my food.  I can tell you...I was paying for it, and I was HUNGRY.  I didn't want to wait for a new plate of food to be made.  Just thought I'd toss that out there for any inquiring minds...

Next...was dessert.  My LORD was a hoping for the moon...  But, all we got was Pluto...  And we WAITED for it too.  I noticed that FEELING had returned to my mouth after about 10 minutes of being finished with my main entree.  I noticed it more than once...then realized it had been about 25 minutes since she took our dishes away from the main course.  We saw on the note on the menu for the dark chocolate coulant, asking folks to be aware that it takes about 15 minutes for it to bake.  But there was no note for the crumble...and our waitress told us she put in the order for the crumble with our app and entrees.  So waiting almost an extra half hour was pretty annoying.  I always try to look on the bright side though...  At least I was going to be able to taste my dessert...the fire in my mouth was out.

Granny Smith Apple Wild Blueberry Crumble

Looks pretty great, doesn't it?  That's exactly what I thought every single time they set a plate in front of me throughout our time here.  "Wow!  That looks SO yummy..."  But...this was the fourth time someone put a plate in front of us, so I suspected I had better hold my mental applause until I took a bite.  My Mister got to it before me.  The first words out of his mouth were "NOT worth waiting for."  Damn...  I was afraid to even take a bite.  But of course I did.  It wasn't as bad as he made out.  He just wasn't used to the way it was made.  When I make a crumble I use brown sugar instead of white, I add oats to the crumble mixture, and sometimes nuts.   This was just straight up flour, white sugar, and butter...  Nothin' wrong with that.  But, the more I dug around in that ramekin the more I wondered...where the hell are the blueberries?  It was almost like they made a sauce out of the blueberries, strained the fruit out of it, then added the apples.  What the heck?

The vanilla bean ice cream sort of saved this dessert from the brink of disaster.  Every time I took a bite with the fruit, crumble topping, ice cream, and caramel in a composed bite, the dish made sense and it was good.  But when you go to a place expecting SO much more and you hear your Mister say "We should have skipped the appetizer and entree course and went straight to dessert." you know that we can't be the only people who have said that or felt that way.

Worst part about this whole experience is I sensed some REAL skill in the kitchen with concept and plating...but somehow this food got lost in translation.  I'm not sure what is going on back there in the kitchen but...someone has lost their passion or...the chef has turned over his recipes to novices that just don't "get it".  Trust me...I spent quite a bit of time looking around at the other tables of people.  By the time we were to our main entrees, the place was PACKED.  Saturday night packed.  Not an empty seat in the house.  The only people I saw smiling and looking remotely happy were the couple next to us that was drinking more wine than they were eating food.  What a bummer.  

So far I have decided I don't like Navarra.  I want to like it, but I don't.  I feel like I ALWAYS do when I give a place a bad review...I feel like I want to go back, try something else...you know, give them a chance to redeem themselves or show me what really makes them stand out.  Unfortunately I don't have that luxury here.  We're leaving in a week and with the pregnancy, packing, and two children at home....going out again just isn't in the cards.  Oh glorious let down!  Thwarted in food at my last...  Frick...lol...  100 loonies and two fires put out later, I won't be going back to Navarra and unless you have a remarkably resilient mouth...I wouldn't recommend eating the dishes that I ordered last night.  No way Jose!  If you chance to eat there, let me know how it went for you.  I HAVE to believe that there is something worth eating there...and even going back for.  How else could Navarra have been in the "best of" in Ottawa in 2013??  Right...they couldn't.

  Navarra on Urbanspoon

19 April, 2014

Heeeeeeere Piggy, Piggy, Piggy!!!

Ah yes....pork.  At one point called "the other white meat", and now gets very little play in the culinary world unless you're talking about, well...bacon.  Who doesn't love bacon?  Well, I actually know a guy AND he is from Chicago.  It just didn't seem possible, but he hates bacon.  I almost held a candlelight vigil....

These days I don't have tons of time to sit over a stove, I'm sure you've noticed.  My little sister was in town and I sure didn't want to spend all of the time she had in her visit in the kitchen.  As much as I would love to make her fabulous vittles, it would be a wasted trip!  So....what can I make that won't take forever but will TASTE like I spent days slaving away??  Ah ha!  Pulled pork.

The process of making an awesome batch of pulled pork starts way before you actually cook it.  You need to have a great recipe for a brine that it can soak in AND slam, bang recipe for a rub to put on it while it roasts.  I say "roast" because I don't currently have a smoker but I have taken care of that problem with my rub, you'll see.  The time spent letting this meat brine and roast is time that you don't have to cower over anything like a slave stirring or basting.  The other thing that you need to make this perfect is a great barbecue sauce.  If you follow me on Facebook, you'll have seen me post that recipe on my wall back in December or January.  These three elements go into the equation for perfection with your pork.  Brine, rub...sauce.  In that order and each element matters a great deal.  Let's get started folks!

Pulled Pork

3/4 c. black strap molasses
12 oz. pickling salt
1/2 c. grain mustard
2 quarts of boiling hot water
3 T. of dry rub mixture
2 bay leaves

Dry Rub
1 c. organic brown cane sugar
1/2 c. smoked paprika (smoked is VITAL if you don't own a smoker)
2 T. fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp. salt
4 T. garlic powder
4 T. onion powder
4 T. dry mustard
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. fennel powder
1/2 T. cayenne pepper (don't be scared....)

1 6-8 lb. pork shoulder/butt

Make the dry rub first, as you'll need a small amount of it in your brining mixture.  Take all of the spices and toss them together in a bowl or into a ziploc bag.  Mix with a whisk or close the bag and shake the spices together.  Voila!...you're done.  Now, for the brine!

First thing you do is pick out a fabulous bone in pork butt/shoulder.  Make sure it has a loverly layer of fat SOMEwhere on the cut, it keeps your meat moist as it roasts and basically bastes itself without you doing a THING to it.

Rinse the meat off and place it in a large container (able to fit 3 qts or more in it).  Prepare the brine in a large pitcher or bowl by mixing the molasses, mustard, pickling salt and 3 T. of dry rub together with a whisk. 

Then add to that mixture to your 2 quarts of boiling water.  Pour your brine mixture over the pork, toss in your 2 bay leaves and then cover the container tightly and stick it in a special place in your fridge for at LEAST 8 hours.  12 hours would be better...if you can hold out that long!  I always let ours go 12 hours, it is worth it in the end.  I just set a timer on my stove and walk away.

For whatever reason my pork kept floating...so I used this heavy bowl to weigh down my pork and the foil I covered the top with kept the pork completely submerged in the brine without question.

My process to make my pulled pork usually goes like this...  Have the pork ready and in the fridge brining by 9am, let it brine until 9pm (right before I head to bed!), then take the pork out of the brine, and pat it dry with paper towels.  Then I massage (seriously...massage the rub in like you're trying to save this piggy's life!) the dry rub into the meat, stick the meat it in a large roaster pan, toss it in the oven, and I let it roast for 10-12 hours (if you don't have a large roaster...you can roast it in your crock pot on low for 12-18 hours instead).  To test its "doneness" I stick a fork in and pull...if it falls apart with no effort...it is party time!

When it has finished roasting, it is time to dress it in sauce and serve.  You can honestly just serve it in a big pile next to some mac n cheese or cole slaw.  What I like to do with mine the most is make pulled pork sandwiches or pulled pork sliders.  The Sprout enjoys the sliders much better.  When I assemble my sandwiches I simply put on a couple slices of dill pickle and serve them.  Fabulous...

Eating pulled pork on a ciabatta is quite possibly one of my favorite things to eat....ever.  Ever, ever, ever...ever.  Add a bit of marble jack to it and...well...you could convince me to divulge government secrets (of which I have none....).  Mmmm....pulled pork.  So tender, so juicy, so spicy....and this one is ALL mine!  Make it for dinner this weekend, you have the time.  No, really...you have the time.  4 day weekend??  At least TWO of those days you can spend just eating it!  Enjoy!

12 April, 2014

Another Cookie Kind Of Day

It has been a whirlwind of a winter but, there is no substitute for great comfort food.  In the winter this means one of two things to me, cookies or something with bread...bread pudding or caramel rolls.  But, since I have a hard time getting the Sprout to eat anything but plain "Momma bread" with a smidge of butter or toasted with garlic olive oil, I don't often dip my toe into the water to see if his tastes have evolved and he is willing to try them.

Peanut butter and chocolate....one of the most common pairings in desserts, candies, and cookies.  Really, there is a reason that it is that common...just like there is a reason for almost every stereotype on the planet...it is because there is truth in it.  The savory peanut butter can more than hold its own against the sweetness of chocolate.  The perfect battle taking place in your mouth where YOU are the lone victor.  Yes people...let's make some cookies.  Sandwich cookies!

PB&C 'Wich Cookies

2 1/2 c. organic creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 c. organic brown cane sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 large organic brown eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract or paste

10 oz. organic milk chocolate 
1/2 c. organic unsalted butter, cut into 8 T. pats

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl combine the peanut butter, brown sugar, and baking soda. Beat on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix briefly just until combined.

Use a small cookie scoop (I used my small PC scoop) to portion the dough onto the baking sheets, leaving about 1-2 inches between them. Bake, one sheet at a time, until the edges of the cookies are set and the centers are puffed and cracked, about 10-11 minutes.

Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for a few minutes before removing them to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

To make the filling combine the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl for 30-second bursts on 50% power, stirring in between each, until the mixture is melted and completely smooth OR go the safer route and use the double boiler method.  Let the chocolate stand for 20-30 minutes, or until the mixture has cooled and thickened slightly.

To assemble match your cookies in pairs by size. Spread a few teaspoons of the filling onto the flat side (bottom) of one cookie of each pair. Sandwich the cookies together, pressing the filling to the edges. Set the sandwiches aside for about 20-30 minutes to allow the filling to set completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  It will make about 25-30 cookie sandwiches depending on how big you made your portions of cookie dough.

I've made these multiple times, in multiple ways and I have to say that with milk chocolate they are best and definitely taste better when NOT dairy free.  I also made sure this time that I whacked the pan of cookies on the top of the stove before I set them on the cooling racks.  It makes the cookies fall and as they continue to bake on the sheet they stay flat and are MUCH easier to eat than when the cookie is puffed up.  The cookies also seem to stay moist LONGER when they've been smacked and fall into thin wafer like cookies than when you allow them to stay puffed and thick.  The Mister thoroughly enjoyed them with dairy and using milk chocolate rather than any other kind.  I preferred them best this way as well.  They are a winner!  If there are peanut allergies, NO problem this would taste FABULOUS with almond butter or macadamia butter.  Oh!...yes...they sure would!  Have fun...and try not to eat them all by yourself.  Sharing is caring...  

01 April, 2014

The Meant to Be....

WARNING...this has NOTHING whatsoever to do with food, it mentions God, and it is SUPER long.  Proceed if you wish, but you've been warned lol...

When I discovered I was pregnant with our daughter, the Sweet Pea, I was shocked and excited all at the same time.  I had lost an ovary 7 months before that moment and wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to easily conceive again.  Apparently it wasn't an issue...cause there she was...

During my recovery from my brain surgery earlier that year I was on some pretty heavy duty meds for pain.  Percocet and codeine...oy!  After the first surgery was when I was given the Percocet.  Within the first couple of days being home I started to hear a little voice speaking to me...a little boy.  Our Sprout was in  full day, full week daycare while I recovered, so I knew it wasn't him.  The voice sounded happy, kept calling me "mother" (our son calls me Momma and nothing else), and was telling me how excited he was to be a part of our family.  Say huh????  I immediately stopped taking my Percocet that evening figuring I HAD to be hallucinating, and badly.  I'd only been home for 2 days and I was still in incredible pain but...who needs to feel crazy AND be in pain.  Right...not me either.

Fast forward to the Sweet Pea being sexed at my anatomical ultrasound.  Color me surprised when they told me it was female...  I KNEW what I heard and he spoke to me more than once, even after I stopped the Percocet.  How many ultrasounds do you think I had before I accepted that the Sweet Pea had a vagina??  I'll tell you...5.  The last one was 3D.  Yes...no mistakes, she was female.  As my pregnancy progressed I allowed myself to forget his voice and instead faced my deep rooted fear of being a mother of a female.  I don't typically get on well with females.  I'm not a fusser, I don't wear make-up; I love fishing, hiking, action movies, computer games, working on vehicles...  Sometimes I wasn't sure that *I* was meant to be female lol, ha!  So...what was I going to do with a little GIRL?  Love her...that's what! (There is a story behind this little girl as well...I knew she was coming for YEARS.  I dreamt of her often.  She aged as our marriage aged.  I was prepared in EVERY way to know she was coming, that she was a SHE and that she WANTED to be my daughter.  But I was terrified to be a mother of a girl so I pushed her out of my mind as often as she appeared.  Poor little lamb!  Now she is one of the few joys of my life!  Imagine that!  Do I HAVE to tell you that the Lord KNOWS what He is doing?  Do I have to tell you that His plan for you is most likely going to prove to be the BEST life you could have hoped for?  I hope you already know...)

The third trimester with Sweet Pea ate me alive in every way possible; extremely quick weight gain (partially due to the poly), no sleep, polyhydramnios (higher than normal amniotic fluid level), extreme pain in my head post brain surgery due to widespread fluid retention from pregnancy...  I was a mess.  Because the syrinx hadn't dissolved from my spinal cord either, my Mister and I made the last minute decision to have the Sweet Pea via c-section.  And that was the last straw...  I didn't want to have any more children, ever.  One of each...that's a good place to stop, right?  Of course right.

After my full recovery from the c-section my husband went about his business to do what needed to be done to get "fixed".  They weren't going to make it easy on him though.   Apparently there is a rule...no vasectomies before your last child is at least 6 months.  I've never heard of this "rule" in the United States.  Turns out, not many people HAD heard of it.  It was THIS Canadian doctor's personal rule.  He didn't want patients making the decision based on sleep deprivation or stress.  Fair enough...  Sweet Pea was only 5.5 months old at the time.  We could wait another half month to make the appointment.  Besides, family planning (AKA "the rhythm method") had never failed us in 8 years of marriage.  It wasn't going to now.  There are 3 or 4 tell tail signs when a woman is ovulating.  If you skip "activity" for a span of about 8-10 days beginning and ending on the correct days, you're golden.  NO babies.  Unless....  *sigh*  

Unless you knew better.

If you knew you were supposed to have another baby, and even your husband had gleaned that from various experiences and whisperings of the Spirit (some people call it intuition...) and you had discussed this together...it was common knowledge between you and your spouse.  You indeed were supposed to have another child, but you just "didn't wanna".  What do you think happens?  I can tell you what happens...it happened to us.

Me & My Family...three weeks before finding out

Aren't they sweet together?  I've never seen the need to "add to" perfection...  One boy, one girl; fast friends.

Where the Lord has a plan...you cannot override Him, and somehow you're going to have to learn to accept it, understand it, and live with it (move on).  At least two of those things I struggle with on even everyday matters, something as large as another life is infinitely difficult to accept when it wasn't a choice I would have made nor the timing of it all.  My whole life I had always been taught that the Lord gives us our agency and that, for better or for worse, the choices you make are up to you and the consequences (good or bad) that come are also upon your head.

So I did the only thing I could do.  I cried.  Tears of utter sadness, desperation, and defeat.  I sobbed while my Mister held me.  He held me like I was about to fall into a million pieces.  This time, this pregnancy...he didn't look happy about the blessed event either. 

For the first time ever, when finding out I was pregnant, I cried tears that weren't from a place of joy.  Then I lived in fear of anyone ever finding out that I did that.  Yes.  I have friends and family that canNOT conceive without assistance...some that tried for over a decade and finally adopted.  HOW?!  How could I ever tell them that I didn't want this?  Would my reasons be enough for them to accept my reaction?  Probably not, to both of the above questions.  Would the danger it places my body in, the way that it messes with my overall health and the impact my death could have on my family...would that be enough for people to understand?   Sound dramatic?  It wasn't.  I had only had a c-section 7 months ago to the DAY we found out...not safe for another pregnancy.  Not yet.  All of the sudden I was listening to OBs list off all of the risks to my baby and to me including the baby's failure to thrive in utero,  preterm labor, uterine rupture, and my death from the rupture.  My frustration level over the whole situation only got worse.  Add to it knowing the military is moving us this summer, I need to find a pediatrician who will work with us on our alternate vaccination schedule for the Sprout and the Sweet Pea, a new neurologist for me, internal medicine doc for me...  Aaaaaaaaaa!  WHY?!  Why now?  I never would have willingly gotten myself pregnant NOW!

If you think I didn't go over every detail of my "activities" with my doctor leading up to my THREE positive at home pregnancy tests, you're dreaming.  I all but brought in my calendar to show him our "schedule" of love making and how we safely and (usually) easily avoided pregnancy every single month.  I didn't bring my calendar...I did the next best thing and just showed him on his calendar.  He looked confused as to why it it happened as well...  "We all know the "how", don't we?  But WHY did it happen?"  Not even he could tell me. 

I still can't either.  

My mother and mother-in-law BOTH laughed at me, when three months before I found out I was pregnant again, I told them that we knew we were supposed to have another baby but we had decided together NOT to have that baby boy.  They giggled quite a bit during those two conversations, and politely as could be, let me know "that isn't how it works" with bringing spirits into this world.  You can NOT supersede the Lord with His plan for you OR anyone else in this world.  If He needs it to happen...get ready.  (The problem with me thinking that the LORD imposed Himself is backwards.  Entirely.  For...we KNEW we were meant to be the parents of another child.  Therefore, trying to prevent it was changing HIS plan, and not the other way 'round.  Let me tell you, living your OWN plan never turns out as awesome as living His.  I learned that LONG ago, but somehow that realization and that truth was completely OUT the window the first 4 months of this pregnancy.)  I, politely as *I* could, let them know I'd just deal with my eternal consequences on the back end for not having this baby.  I just knew I couldn't handle another child physically or emotionally.  I was sure of that and because of that, I wasn't going to let it happen. 

I suppose the joke is on me then, cause here it comes.

This was the 3rd and final test I took at home before getting the blood work...

July 20th is the due date...but we'll have to deliver by c-section before labor begins to avoid the risk of uterine rupture from contractions.  This doesn't seem like a situation I would have signed up for, even in the preexistence but here I am, hip deep in it.  Every morning I go through the same thought process while I am climbing out of bed and getting ready to care for my children who are waiting for me downstairs with my Mister...  

"I'm so tired.  This baby is literally sucking the life out of me.  I'm not going to be able to take care of the Sprout and the Sweet Pea properly.  Her teething is taking a huge toll on the 3 of us while the Mister is gone all day. I feel crazy by the time he walks in the door.  I have nothing left for him...I have nothing left for ME.  I hope we can all handle this.  This just isn't fair for the Sprout, and the Sweet Pea ESPECIALLY.  The Sprout had me competition FREE for 3 years before Sweet Pea joined the family...  She has always had competition and NOW...now she'll only be 15 months when this baby comes along.  How unfair for her!  We won't have had enough time to bond; just her and me.  We're going to be emotional enemies her whole life because we didn't get the time we needed to bond properly.  How did *I* let this happen?  This is all my fault."  Then I quickly think through my ovulation schedule for the month that I conceived and still...know that we did everything we could to avoid another pregnancy, short of being completely celibate.  Which we have mostly now become for a number of reasons, but unplanned pregnancy kind of lands at number one on the list of reasons and everything else pales in comparison.

I distinctly remember a phone call with my little sister in January, wherein, she laid into me about hoping that I wouldn't make this child feel unwanted because it wasn't a planned pregnancy and so forth.  I kept my cool while I was talking to her but afterwards I came UNGLUED.  Of course I would never make the child out to be a burden!  I couldn't dream of doing such a thing to any child.  Even so, I haven't been able to come to terms with this situation.  But here it is, in black and white.  Some day my children may or may not see this WHOLE thing and think what a total basket case I am and wonder how they survived to become adults with such a person as their mother.  Believe me...I'll wonder the same thing multiple times before *I* leave this world.  But, no matter what...one thing will remain true.  This child...the accident...the unexpected; it was meant to be.  There is nothing to change, nothing to be done...nothing else to say.  Except, here it comes.  Get ready.  Again...but for the LAST time, my life is never going to be the same.  I just have to hope and pray that the never "the same" is better rather than worse.  Hopefully the Sprout, the Sweet Pea, and the Meant to Be will be a strong trio that can make it through what this world has to throw at them.  I have to believe they will; I have to believe that the Lord has a purpose for this little one to come now at such a time, in such an unwelcome...unforgiving chain of events.  There have already been fearful moments in this pregnancy that have made me wonder why I am being tested in such a way.  You can't imagine my confusion when, on the day my second trimester began, a doctor couldn't find the Meant to Be's heart rate.  Then, because of the magic and irresponsibility of the way some people practice medicine in Canada, I wasn't able to truly KNOW if the Meant to Be was alive or had died for THREE whole weeks.  For three weeks I sat and wondered what was going on in there.  Emotional upheaval to the MAXIMUM during an already dangerous, high risk pregnancy.  Thanks Lord!  I finally took myself to an ER because of symptoms I was experiencing so I could find out once and for all if I had a live Meant to Be in there or not.  Turns out, it was alive and its heart was strong as ever.  Seems to me this little one is going to soldier on no matter what.  No matter what.

Someday I may look back and laugh at this whole situation, I eventually do that quite a bit in my life.  Most often since I became a mother.  Whether I do or not I will have to remember to give myself SOME credit.  I don't know many women who in a 2 year span lost a pregnancy, lost an ovary, had brain surgery twice, got pregnant again, delivered by c-section and had another baby 15 months later and lived to tell about it and...still smiled occasionally.  I have always been hard on myself; expected the unattainable at times.  Funny thing is, this time I HAVE to attain and I HAVE to handle...I HAVE to deal.  So...I suppose I can.  I suppose I MUST.  So, I will.  After all, this WAS meant to be.