Easter in the daffodil glade

by karoline on April 18, 2014


One of my favorite spots for photos of little ones is the Morton Arboretum.  Last year, we timed our visit perfectly, and the daffodil glade was and endless sea of yellow blossoms.  Some of my most cherished pictures of O were shot that day.

morton arboretum

My god, what a difference a year makes!  Just look at all that cute baby chub — gone now, but at least she has some hair!

baby butt

This year, we wanted to take some Easter pictures, and as it has been a cool season, the daffodils have not yet fully made their debut.  Still, we found several sunny patches where spring had already sprung.

easter at the arboretum

Such a stylish kid

spring daffodils

Hunting for Easter eggs


Hanging with her best Aba and my photo assistant

easter at arb 061

easter eggs

easter basket

I found this adorable mini basket at Michaels, and it proved to be just the right size for a photo shoot.

easter bunny

She donned her ears and insisted on bringing along her stuffed bunny, which made for a sweet prop.

velveteen rabbit

bunny ears


The girl needs a Revlon contract.


Is there anything cuter than baby feet?

easter hat

She was infatuated with the benches.  Love the bench shots with the hat — like a little old man

easter photos

We made sure to snap a few without the hat to document the fountain pigtails.

daffodil glade

What a ham!

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I was 20 when I found out that having a family was going to be a struggle for me.  A college junior, I was more into appearance and partying than family building so the thing that tipped me off wasn’t my inability to conceive but my inability to lose weight, the fact that my hair was thinning, and that I had acne that just wouldn’t go away.

My first diagnosis was hypo-thyroidism, an easily medicated hormonal imbalance.  About a year after my diagnosis, I sat in the waiting room at the dermatologist’s office and read an article about women living with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).  Hmmm…absent periods, acne, hair where you don’t want it and not enough where you do…that sounds like me.  After months of pushing the doctors to look again, it was official.  I did, indeed, have PCOS.  My doctor handed me a prescription for metformin (to regulate my blood sugar and help with weight gain) and sent me on my way, assuring me that one day, I would get pregnant.

Fast forward through 10 years of hard living and harder working as a cook and a pastry chef.  At age 30, I had lived in several cities on a couple of continents, and I had been married for 5 years.  It was time to pull the goalie, as they say.  So, after one final appearance as a bridesmaid, I quit taking my birth control, and we decided to try the old fashioned way.  In 7 months of trying, I got my period a total of 3 times.  When we had been trying for a few months with no luck, I began live a little healthier: yoga once a week, Weight Watchers, and biweekly visits to my acupuncturist.  My cycles were totally out of whack.  So, “trying” was just for fun, whenever the mood struck us.  One fateful day, my college girlfriends were on their way into town for a girls weekend.  ”You better get it out of the way before we arrive!” they said.  And, so, the deed was done.  9 months later, the love of my life (and her father’s) arrived.

My pregnancy met minimal complications: an anterior placenta and mild pre-eclampsia which eventually led to an induction at 39 weeks.  She was perfect, though.  (She did spend 2 weeks in the NICU, but that’s a story for another time.)  4 weeks postpartum, we were finally having our newborn photos shot when I started hemorrhaging.  My husband called the ambulance, and I was rushed to the ER where they told me that my period had returned.  I tell you, no woman on earth has ever had a period like this.  The bleeding subsided, and I thought everything was ok.  A week later, more bleeding, worse this time.  Another ride in an ambulance to discover that I had a retained placenta that required an emergency D&C and a blood transfusion.  Whoa.  The girl may have been perfect but she broke the mold on her way out.

When O was 7 months old, I stopped nursing and got my period back.  So, we decided to try for #2, with no indications from our doctors that we had anything to be concerned about.  In fact, we thought it would be easier the second time, as it was for so many others.  This time, though, I was busy caring for an infant and not enough for myself.  I remembered to take my metformin on occasion and certainly didn’t have time for acupuncture.  Yet, after 7 months of trying, I found myself pregnant again.  Bittersweet, we learned of our pregnancy the same weekend my husband lost his grandmother.

Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.  I miscarried at 9 weeks and was once again scheduled for a D&C.  I quickly recovered with the hopes that we would soon try again and put our loss behind us.  Well, I can tell you that 364 days after my D&C, I am still not pregnant again.  But, when a pregnancy test 5 weeks after my procedure was again positive, I was elated.  That hope was shattered: not pregnant, just hanging onto another placenta.  It took 9 months, 2 rounds of methotrexate, 2 operative hysteroscopies and 2 tests for me to be cleared to once again try again.

In February of this year, I began taking Femara for a medicated, timed cycle at home.  2 weeks into our cycle, we found out that my husband’s sperm morphology was less than ideal.  We had hit yet another roadblock.  How had it come to this?  How had no one thought to test him?  We completed the cycle, switching gears to IUI at the last minute to improve our chances, but we failed.

Frustrated, hurt, and angry, we left our doctor’s practice and moved onto a fresh pair of eyes.  They ran every test in the book and looked for anything and everything that might get in the way of conception, and we were then designated as candidates for IVF, specifically ICSI (where the sperm is actually injected into the retrieved egg to guarantee fertilization during the IVF process).

Now, we wait and we hope.  There are a few more labs to review and a vacation to be taken.  But in June of this year, we will take our journey to the last frontier of reproduction with the hopes that it will enable us to FINALLY complete our family.

But if we fail, and we might, I am already a mother.  There are no words to describe my love for my sweet, sweet girl, and if she needs to be, she will be enough.  Motherhood is messy, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I write recipes for a living, and it should be noted that elegant prose is not my strong suit.  This blog was meant to be a food blog, but along the way it morphed into something else.  I needed a way to work through my feelings, to remove the shame of infertility, and to put my story out there.  When I started to do that, I was shocked at the number of responses I got from women who were suffering in silence, alone in their struggles as well.  When you talk about your pain, when you put it out there for the world to see, the pain becomes smaller.  And, something that permeates every thought you have, every moment of your life, every breath you ever take, becomes a little less significant.

I was inspired to write this post when I read this on Before the Belly:

“It makes me wonder: what if, instead of resisting our truth, we all told everyone we know? That we had a miscarriage, that it was devastating. That we’re struggling to get pregnant and wonder if we’ll ever be a mom. That we did fertility treatment to get our baby and we’re SO happy and proud. What if we took the silence out of struggle and loss? What if we took the shame and fear out of fertility treatment? Who could we help and what kind of community would it create?”

She says it so much more eloquently than I do, but the message is the same.  Speak up, and take the first step towards healing yourself.


This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!


Penny Hunt: sensory play with a rice bin

by karoline on April 11, 2014

rice play


Rice play!  Hours of fun with lots of things you already have around the house.  I found a 15 pound bag of rice at our local Asian grocery for only $16.  I had every intention to dye the rice pretty colors, but time did not allow.  So, I grabbed the change jar, dumped some rice into one of our signature clear bins and called O to come help.

rice play

We started by sorting out all of the pennies.  While O couldn’t tell the difference between a nickel and a dime, she did great finding all the pennies.  Next, we buried them in the rice and looked around for a few good instruments for rice play.  A plastic container with a slit cut in the top is where she would store her found treasure.

sensory bin

Not my normal use for rice, but it works.

penny hunt

This activity is great for fine motor skill development.  Just make sure they don’t put anything in their mouths.

rice play 014

Sure was fun.

rice play

She’s not quite ready to use the tongs, but the ladle was a big hit.


After all that stillness and concentration, it was time to do some running around in the yard.  Bet you can’t guess what her favorite color is.

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Red Bath, Blue Bath…

by karoline on April 10, 2014

red bath

I saw this activity on Pinterest when I was looking for a fun bath time activity to do with O.  It is designed to help kids learn their colors.  While O already knows her colors in English, we are working on them in Spanish.  Besides, it just seemed like a good time.

red bath

We went around the house gathering up all of her red bath-friendly toys.  O sought them out and placed them in a basket to carry upstairs.  Since I always have food coloring on hand, I added a few drops to the water to tint it pink.  No worries- it did not dye her skin in the slightest bit.  I really struggled to get her out of the bath.  She might have stayed in there for hours.

toddler bath activity

She had so much fun in her red bath that we decided to do a blue bath.

blue bath

As you can see, it was an absolute hit.  We’ll be doing more bath time activities.  She’s been begging me for a pink bath, but I’ll have to be creative about what I come up with to put in there.  It seems we don’t have too many bath-friendly pink toys, which comes as a little bit of a shock considering I hear, “pink is mine favorite,” about 1,000 times per day.


Chocolate layer cake

by karoline on April 5, 2014

mocha cake


Just finished shooting a series of gorgeous photos of this chocolate layer cake with mocha frosting for the Boston Globe.  To see a sneak peak of more photos, check out my Flickr page.

A note of gratitude to my husband: when the marble pastry counter at his restaurant cracked in half and the contractor agreed to replace it, B asked if we could keep the broken pieces.  The “pieces” are gigantic and each weigh about 100 pounds.  I carefully inched the 2 slabs to the perfect spot in my garage and set up my shot.  With the sun shining and the birds singing, I laid down on the garage floor and enjoyed every second of shooting this simply elegant cake.  Love this weather.  Love my job.


The proof is in the pudding

by karoline on April 4, 2014

PCOS is most commonly known for its role in reproduction, but women who have the disease are also considered pre-diabetic and at a greater risk for heart disease.  It has been a while since I had all of my level checked.  In the process of prepping for our upcoming IVF cycle, I wanted to be absolutely sure that I am as healthy as I can be.

Before conceiving O, I also checked on various overall health factors and blogged about it.  My current set of test results is slightly better than they were even then.  Hemoglobin A1C is a measure of how your body has managed blood sugar over the last 3 months.  Anything over 7 is considered to be a problem.  Mine was 5.4 last time and 5.3 this time.  Daily metformin, good diet and exercise seem to be working.

My blood pressure has generally been quite low- just another reason why I was so frustrated when it began to spike at the end of my pregnancy with O and eventually led to my induction.  At my annual gyne exam, my BP was 108/66.  Normal is considered anything under 120/80.

Total cholesterol should be under 200.  Mine was down from 195 at the last check to 169.  ”Good” cholesterol that helps the body rid itself of bad cholesterol is known as HDL.  This comes from healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados and fish.  HDL should be above 46.  Mine was 77.  Total triglycerides need to be under 150; mine was 50.  And the heart stopping bad cholesterol (found in animal products like butter and meat), also known as LDL, must be under 130.  Mine was 82.

Thyroid disease, another thing coupled to PCOS, is also factored in fertility.  I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroidism (meaning I have an under active thyroid) in 1999.  I have been taking thyroid hormones to supplement my body’s production for 15 years now.  My levels are very closely monitored, and I feel best where I am at.  The problem is that I was running a little bit closer to the hyper-thyroid end of the spectrum, which can cause miscarriage.  (Levels too low can also stop ovulation; so balance must be achieved.) Before we can start our IVF cycle, they need to see a drop in my levels.  I reduced my dosage over a week ago, but it can take several weeks or a month to see a real change.

I am about 5’9″ and I currently weigh 157 pounds.  My BMI is around 23. (Normal BMI is 18-24.9)  Many reproductive endocrinolgists will not allow you to proceed with IVF or require special permission if your BMI is too high.

We have received a lot of other good test results since switching doctors.  My prolactin, FSH,  and ovarian reserve are all normal.  I was tested for the most common genetically-passed diseases, and they all came back negative.  Since I was negative on all counts, there is no reason to test the hubby; our offspring would not be affected even if he was a carrier.

All this is to say that it appears that my fertility diet and lifestyle choices are having a big impact.  The only factors we are now dealing with are the Asherman’s syndrome (scar tissue in the uterus, which in my case, has been removed but leaves a thin uterine lining) and PCOS.  Once my thyroid levels are normal, we should be good to go.  I have to admit that it feels good knowing choices I made are having a positive impact and that no more bumps have come up on our road to fertility.

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A different kind of loss

April 3, 2014

Infertility robs you of many things: the ability to make medium and long term plans, the ease of feeling happy for a friend or a family member who just announced a pregnancy, intimate time with your spouse… I am reminded of a woman I met at the Still Missed support group at Hinsdale Hospital.  When […]

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Tempting photos

April 2, 2014

Thinking spring in this week’s edition of the Boston Globe.  Pictured here is my photo that accompanied my recipe for slow-roasted eye of round with mushroom gravy.  Not quite gluten-free, but there is only about 1 tablespoon of flour in the whole dish.  I fancy this shot partly because of the items that are a […]

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Musing for the day

April 2, 2014

We are fortunate to have decent fertility coverage through my husband’s employer.  For that, I will forgive their absolute mockery of a 401k match.  But, still, the cost is adding up at an alarming rate.  If you have not had the misery (or joy) of going down this path they call IVF, here’s a look […]

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