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22 July 2010



She has started to jump, after weeks of frustration of her feet not leaving the floor. She holds onto my hands after I lift her onto the bed and she bounces, giggling, head thrown back, alive.

She never stops moving, this one. After a couple of toddling months of walking, she began running, at full tilt. We chase after her all day long, all three of us laughing (except when she's tempted to run toward the street, and then there is no laughing). She finds her joy in movement. She would sit on our laps and have us fling her backwards on our knees, then back up again, all day long, if we didn't grow so tired after awhile. ("Upside down! Right side up. Upside down! Right side up.") She hangs from any available surface, gripping her fingers like she is rock climbing, then lifts up her legs and dangles. This happens everywhere, whether it's on the edge of a restaurant table or on a monkey bar on a play structure ten feet above the ground.

She's fearless. Maybe it's because of her major skull surgery that she barely complains when she trips and skids sideways, picking herself up after a beat and running again. Everything else feels like no big deal. (That's what we tell ourselves, too.)

Everything fascinates her, whether it's the cool feeling of the fog off the front porch, the sound of the plastic bottles from the recycling bin hitting the floor, the texture of raspberries in her mouth, the sound of airplanes high in the sky, or how crayons pressed onto paper makes colors. ("Circle!" she shouts as she draws one after another.) She never stops looking and listening and taking it all in. She is always there.

She laughs at prat falls and spilled milk and silly tickling sessions. Just lately, she has started laughing first, rather than following our lead when something cracks us up. Mostly, Mr. Noodle makes her scream with laughter, when he puts his elbows in the sink instead of his hands or tries to roll over a drum to pick up the sticks. She loves Mr. Noodle and Elmo and the characters on Sesame Street and the Wiggles with a joyful intensity it is impossible to describe.

She talks, babbling words dozens at a time, some of them still a little hard to decipher, most of them clear as day. When she says please, she still makes the sign and says, "Plea-pul-e-pl-ea?" (I sort of hope she never says that word properly. We love those entreaties.) Thank you sounds like Seck u! But she says them, every time, and that we love. The last month or so, she walks around the house chanting from 1 to 12, counting everything in sight. Thanks to Sesame Street and the hundreds of books she has heard by now, she knows about 3/4 of the alphabet, and likes to sing the letters wherever she goes. She read her first word last week: charcoal. (She read it off the bottle of charcoal briquet lighter on the porch.) Yesterday, it was yak. As much as she loves to move, she loves books just as much. Several times a day, she needs her space to study the books splayed out on her bedroom floor, one after another absorbing her. Several times a day this brings me to tears, thinking of the joy I have found in books, and watching her find that joy too.

And boy, does this kid love to eat. We lucked out. Sure, maybe we did a few things that helped her love food more. But we know from friends that it's a lottery: some kids seem to be born disdaining fruit or meat or all vegetables. She eats everything: avocado slices falling from the knife, quinoa with poached eggs and prosciutto, pizza with caramelized onions and leeks, noodles with pesto, whole carrots, warm peanut butter cookies. We eat together, at the table, at nearly every meal, telling stories and reading books, talking about our days. It's my favorite part of the day, eating with her.

We also lucked out because it seems she can eat gluten. We started giving her Cheerios, then letting her eat off her dad's plate when we go out. So far, so good. This was my fervent hope: that she didn't have celiac. However, I know that it can rise up at any time, so we'll keep an eye on her. We're just happy that she could have French toast at Daddy's restaurant the morning of her birthday.

(By the way, she owns that place. We stop by in the late afternoon several times a day to see Danny, and she runs toward him, standing on the line. He carries her into the back rooms, into the cold walk-in for a carrot, or she runs toward the box where she knows the apples are and grabs one. Dick has taught her to say Ciao! She gives Tino high fives. She loves Amy fervently and chants her name when they see each other near the espresso machine. She's a restaurant kid now.)

She picks up her dolls and says, "Hi, baby!" then gives them all kisses. She wakes up at 5:30 every morning, on the dot, awake and excited to start the day. (We're still not thrilled with the early hour, but at least she's sleeping through the night now.) She turns somersaults on her own, at a whim. She stands on a chair at the kitchen counter and helps me bake or helps Danny cook up breakfast. She opens her mouth wide in amazement, astonished by the sight of her friends, green leaves on the trees, being at the beach, and every moment of every day.

hello, two!

Our little Lu turned two this week.

She is, in so many ways, like almost every two-year-old in the world. We don't think she's more extraordinary than anyone else. In fact, one of the joys for us of being parents is watching this child, and the other children around her, and seeing how much alike we all are. We don't want her to be a genius or better than anyone else. She is alive, and we are daily grateful for this. We just want her to be herself.

So far, that's what Lu is: utterly herself.

Happy Birthday, Little Bean. We love you so.

cherry-chocolate cupcakes for Lu

Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes with Almond Cream Cheese Frosting, adapted from this recipe by Chockylit

Lu's birthday this year fell on a Wednesday. Danny and I met on a Wednesday, so we still say happy Wednesday to each other every week. Wednesday is also one of the two days that Lu goes to preschool in the afternoon. (Whoo hoo! We have a second car now! I have a couple of afternoons to work!) This little school is run by one of my former students, a lovely woman named Jenny who is even kinder now than she was at 16. Lu adores her time there. She runs! goes down the slide! plays with the boys! plays in the water! (She tells me the highlights of her two hours there on the drive home.) After the first week, she stopped crying when I left. Instead, she bounces away toward the green grass and her friends.

I knew I wanted to make her cupcakes for the day of her birthday. As my friend Tara told me later, now I really know I'm a mom: taking birthday cupcakes to preschool. After much fun deliberation — considering cupcake flavors is hardly work — I decided on these chocolate cupcakes filled with dried cherries, topped with almond cream cheese frosting. The recipe comes from Cupcake Bakeshop, a beautiful website created by Cheryl Porro, also known as Chockylit. She's amazing. I knew I could trust her recipe.

These cupcakes were soft on the teeth, then filled with a quick chew from the cherries. You make them like you create a flourless chocolate cake, melting the chocolate and butter together, then add a little flour. This makes them light and airy, unlike many gluten-free cupcakes, which have the density of a brick. I would highly recommend you allow them to cool fully before you frost them, however. Rushing, I frosted them too soon, and the tops grew a little ragged. There were crumbs in the frosting.

The kids didn't care, of course. Lu told me, in her own language, about the birthday hat Jenny made for her, and how all the kids gathered around her to sing Happy Birthday and eat cupcakes with her. She hasn't stopped grinning since.

100 grams unsweetened bittersweet chocolate, chopped
210 grams (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter
185 grams (1 1/2 cups) baking sugar
4 large eggs
110 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon guar gum
12 grams (3 tablespoons) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
110 grams (1/2 cup) dried cherries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Melt the chopped chocolate and butter in a large bowl set over a pot of boiling water. Stir occasionally, to avoid burning, until both are melted together.

Take them off the heat and add the sugar. Stir well. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.

Mix together the AP flour, guar gum, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Sift the mixture into another bowl. Add the salt.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Let it run for a few moments to make the mixture lighter. Add the eggs, one at a time, letting the mixer run for 30 seconds between each egg.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in the dried cherries.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners (or, if you're like me, straight into the tin). Bake until the cupcakes are firm and browned, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes about clean, about 25 minutes.

Makes 12 standard-size cupcakes.

Almond Cream Cheese Frosting

115 grams (about 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces (about 3/4 a package) cream cheese
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar

Mix the butter and cream cheese together in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the almond extract and mix. Pour in 2 cups of the powdered sugar and mix. If the frosting isn't the consistency you want (some like it soft, others more stiff), add more powdered sugar.

This makes far more frosting than you will need for these cupcakes. We kept the extra for the carrot cake we're making for Lu's birthday party this week. You could cut this in half, if you don't want frosting sitting around.


At 10:00 AM, Blogger Cooking Confections said...

Happy, happy Birthday - Lu. Isla and Maisie cannot wait to meet you. You are a lucky, lucky girl to have such loving and adoring parents. Love, Lal (Isla and Maisie's granny)

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Ally B said...

First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LU! She's adorable! Second, I cannot WAIT to make those cupcakes. I'm new to gluten-free, so I'm super excited to try these out. They look awesome. Thanks!!!

At 10:22 AM, Blogger GFree_Miel said...

Happy Birthday to Lu! I'm sure any little girl would have the best birthday with such a perfect dessert! I can't wait to try those cupcakes. And it's so great to see how well Lu is doing.

Great post!

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Krista said...

Happy Birthday to Lu! She's so adorable! I can see a lot of you in her :) She's a lucky little girl to have parents who gush over her!
Great post! I was captivated :)

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Tinsley, Yet Another Gluten Free Gal said...

What a sweet sweet post and a precious little girl. Thank you for not only sharing your amazing gluten-free goodness with us, but also giving us these beautiful snapshots of your family life. You inspire me in so many ways.


At 10:37 AM, Blogger silly aunt sarah said...

Yay! I love your family! Thanks for sharing with us, Lucy is a special little girl (and BUSY!)!!

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is she not the cutest? Such a beautiful, happy girl!

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Happy Birthday Lu! Such a wonderful celebration of life and love.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Deanna said...

Happy birthday, Lu!

Shauna, have you considered having her tested for the celiac gene? I know it's an expensive test, but it might be worth it just to know for certain if she could develop it later in life.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two?! Didn't she just turn one??!

Oh, but who cares, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SWEET GIRL!!!

We've been cheering madly in your corner since before there was a face to see. We just clap that much more wildly now, what with those cheeky smiles and giant strides. The best is yet to come...

At 12:15 PM, Blogger ChupieandJ'smama (Janeen) said...

Happy Birthday Lu!! You are a cutie :)

At 12:32 PM, Blogger McDolan said...

Happy Birthday Lucy! I also love how you say Jenny is much sweeter now than at 16 :) teenage years are hard... I am so glad to be out of them, not looking forward to when the kiddos hit that age... Also you are so lucky to get to use her school, another reason I should move back to the island :)

At 12:51 PM, Blogger kayenne said...

my first thought looking at the cupcakes were... "so cute, but what would she do with so many sunny-side up eggs on toast?"

i agree with the adorable factor of 2 year olds... my own niece was just precious at that age... but now at 4("and a half", she insists), she's also getting quite good at exasperating us .

Happy many more birthdays and good health to Lu!

At 1:47 PM, Blogger The Country Mouse said...

My little almost-two honey is called Bean, too. Or Beanie. :D Are they SO MUCH FUN right now, or what?

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Hockey Mom said...

Happy birthday to Miss Lucy. I've enjoyed watching her grow and discover through this blog. She's truly blessed to have you two for parents. So much to do, learn and discover.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Cindy said...

Oh my goodness! She is so cute! I'm sure you've heard it before, but time goes by so quickly. Really, really quickly. I'm still wondering where the years went after recently celebrating my daughter's 21st birthday.


At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to your sweet girl! The cupcakes look divine - you are lucky that you are allowed to bring homemade treats to her preschool. Here in Ohio, we can only bring in "premade, prepackaged" treats per state regulations - they can't go and inspect all of our kitchens, you know. grrr it really fries me, and our preschool teacher feels badly about it, but she has to abide by regulations. We can bring homemade treats to the elementary schools, but my son's school discourages edible treats because they want the kids to "eat healthy" and prefer that you bring in things like pencils or small toys for birthday parties. Makes me long for the old days...

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Jules said...

Happy Birthday, Lucy! I must say you wear your two years well. Congratulations to you and Danny for the family and the life you are giving this little girl every day. Those cakes look fab.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Happy Birthday Lucy!
She's growing up to be such an amazing little girl, and is learning so fast. 3/4 of the alphabet already? She's such a smart girl!

The cupcakes sound super yummy. Our marching band is having a band dinner and my section is in charge of dessert. Every one loves chocolate rigt?

At 3:33 PM, Blogger EponaRae said...

Happy Birthday to Lu,
Happy Birthday to Lu,
Happy Birthday Lil' Beanie,
Happy Birthday to you!!

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Happy Birthday Lucy!

She's becoming an amazing little girl and learninthg so fast. 3/4 of the alphabet already? What a smart girl!

The cupcakes look (and sound)super yummy! Our marching band is having a group dinner and my section is in charge of dessert. Everyone loves chocolate right?

At 3:42 PM, Blogger MJ said...

My heart filled with happiness for you just reading this....happy birthday to Lu and to you and Danny! May her joy and yours grow through the years. Please take a moment to print this out, and the photos, and put them in a scrapbook you can give her if she marries or if she chooses to become a mother. Don't lose this beautiful birthday celebration to digital bumps in the road. :) I wish all children could be as loved and treated as gifts as Lu obviously is - this was just beautiful:
"We don't want her to be a genius or better than anyone else. She is alive, and we are daily grateful for this. We just want her to be herself.

So far, that's what Lu is: utterly herself."
All the best..........

At 3:47 PM, Blogger FridaWrites said...

She is beautiful! What a cutie.

At 3:49 PM, Blogger sweetpea said...

She just takes my breath away! So happy for all of you, so much to celebrate. I think about you often my dear.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Happy birthday Lu! What a sweet girl. I can see a lot of both you and Danny in her face. :)

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Dee said...

What a darling, wonderful child. Happy Birthday, Lu!

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Best Wishes, Marie said...

the picture of lu with the straw on flickr was "SO SO SO CUTE."

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Nina Laden said...

Happy Birthday Lucy!!!
Come back to Ballard and play in the sprinklers in the park and eat frites at Bastille with Mama, Dada and me- Aunt Nina.

Lots of love from "the other island."

At 11:24 PM, Blogger Banannas said...

Happy birthday, pretty Lu! 생일축하해!

At 11:36 PM, Blogger Julie said...

Aw, happy birthday Lu. Mine (W) turns 4 next Wednesday. I remember the day when I realized that with a summer birthday I'd never be able to bring cupcakes to school. He starts real school this September. Already I'm scheming some other reason to bring cupcakes. Love the look of these.

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Ellemay said...

I take back what I said about the raspberry smeared face photo as being my favourite Lucy photo.

The new favourite is that last one of her in the post.

I hope my godson grows up to be just as gorgeous, only male..... He was born on Tuesday and I'm very excited!

At 2:26 AM, Blogger Gemma said...

Happy birthday Lu! Fab dungarees!

At 3:24 AM, Blogger the veg artist said...

Shauna and Danny - Lucy is loved all over the world thanks to you two. We know why she is called Lucy. We know the heartache and pain you three have gone through. We can only imagine the joy at firstly finding each other, then having Lucy, when, maybe, that expectation was starting to die a little.

Happy Birthday to all of you!

From Linda, in Wales, UK

At 5:42 AM, Blogger Meagan said...

Adorable pictures :)
I actually thought the cupcakes were broiled eggs on bagels! LOL

At 5:45 AM, Blogger Sarah Katie said...

Lu is so adorable. Elmo. He was my favorite. I still have my little Elmo dolls. I used to cart Elmo with me absolutely everywhere. Then again I also carted around a TV Guide magazine with Spock on the cover. I guess my parents watched a Star Trek a little too regularly when I was in the womb.

What is hardest for me to believe is that I am about a year and a half away of being 20. 2 to 20 went oh so fast. I actually remember my terrible 2's.

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Laura said...

I miss those days of utter curiosity and fascination, my kids kind of lost that now that they are older. It is wonderful to see the world through the eyes of a two year old, it is an amazing reminder to stop and smell the roses. Happy birthday to your little one, she sounds adorable, and yes you are lucky about her eating habits, I am still struggling with a picky eater, and she is almost 10! Enjoy every second, they grow really fast!

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Happpy Birthday sweet Lucy! Shauna your story made me cry. You two have one lucky little girl to have such awesome and loving parents. You and Danny are so blessed with each other as well (Happy Wednesday, that is just too wonderful! Don't ever stop saying that.) Wishing you all the best always!! The cupcakes look amazing as well, thanks yet again!

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Rosiecat24 said...

Hippo birdie two ewe, little Lu! Little kids are the best, and Shauna, I love that you are sharing stories about your little one with us. I'm so glad you are not holding back.

Also, I was really curious about how you were handling the gluten question with Lu, so I'm feeling satisfied that you know that she's not gluten-intolerant (for now, of course). Given the amount of food at kids' birthday parties and other events, it seems like you'd want to know whether gluten or any other food was off-limits.

At 1:21 AM, Blogger deborah said...

Happy Birthday to Lucy. She is as sweet as ever ... please give her a hug for me. xxx

(And congratulations to both of you for the last two years... you've done everything with such grace ... it is truly inspiring).

At 4:16 AM, Blogger Laurie said...

my little Addie turned two as well last week and like you I'm enjoying this precious age! So far no celiac, and I'm glad because she sure loves goldfish crackers!

At 6:05 AM, Blogger Joy said...

Has it really been two years? Your blog was one of the first I found when I was diagnosed in 2007, and I have loved every minute of Little Bean's life. I'm expecting my first child now, and it is such a comfort to me to know that I'm not the only one worried about whether or not my baby will be gluten free. Any tips you can pass along would be wonderful!

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Sea said...

Awww... my little one just turned one year. I am amazed by her more every day. I can't wait for it to be two years!

Congrats on your beautiful baby girl. I see both of you in her, which is one of the many magical things about kids.

I always think of the quotation from lost in translation, Bill Murray,
"Bob: The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born.
Charlotte: Nobody ever tells you that.
Bob: Your life, as you know it... is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk... and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life."

Here's to delightful people!

Happy birthday to Lu and many happy returns to her parents.

-Sea of ye old Book of Yum ;)

At 5:02 AM, Blogger שלומית נעים נאור said...

happy birthday greetings all the way from Jerusalem.

Just got your book today. So excited!

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Kristy said...

Happy belated birthday precious one. May your days be filled with wonder, may you never stop feeling the love of those around you, and know that the world is a much better place just because you are a part of it!

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Tasty Eats At Home said...

Happy Birthday Lu! She has grown so much. Those cupcakes sound amazing - perfect for toddlers and grown-ups alike!

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Alisa said...

Happy Belated Birthday Lu :)

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Lucy said...

Wow, she is such a cutie. I can tell just by her pictures that she's a little firecracker, not to mention very well loved. Happy birthday to your little bean! I call my daughter little bean as well. It's a good nickname...and Lucy is an even better name :)

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Ally B said...

I already commented when this post first went up, but I had to come back because I made these cupcakes today and WOW. I'm not a baker, and am notorious for making a mess and then having so-so baked goods as the end result. Well, I totally still made a mess, but these were AMAZING. I made them for my dad's birthday, and we were all in agreement that these tasted delicious and you would never know that they're gluten-free. The frosting was perfect (I can't believe I actually made frosting) with the chocolate and cherries. I cut the recipe in half because the last thing we need in this house is delicious cake sitting around tempting us, and it made 4 four large cupcakes. PERFECT! Thanks so much!!


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