Friday, February 06, 2015

A Regular Thursday Night

“Beautiful hours move so quickly.” ― Irene HuntUp a Road Slowly

Landyn (10 months), Bri (5 years)
I left work a little later than usual, which meant it was about 4:45, and decided to take a different route home to see if it was faster. I was hesitant to do it because I would have to travel on 280, but it was surprisingly faster and I made it to Christian Life to pick up the girls at just a little after 5.

Landyn usually smiles and flaps her arms excitedly when she sees me walk in, but that day, she just smiled a little. Something wasn't quite right and I sighed, wishing she would take a longer nap or more naps while at daycare. Her teacher, a new one she's had for just over a week or so, showed me what she'd done to make Landyn laugh hysterically earlier in the day. Of course then, with  me holding her, and the sun disappearing from the sky, it was no longer funny.

Her teacher said she and Landyn were buddies; that she loved to hold her, and that made me feel good.

I put Landyn's hat on her (an Alabama elephant hat) because it was particularly cold outside and the last thing any of us need is for her to get sick again and end up with another ear infection. We went to the gym (or Omega Zone as the school calls it) where Bri's class usually comes at the end of the day. It was 5:15 and her class still hadn't walked over.

Several teachers said goodbye to Landyn as we walked out to my Accord. I still hadn't taken the time to fix the side mirror that I'd broken off last year by hitting a trash can someone left in the street of our old neighborhood, and I wondered what the other parents and the teachers thought when they saw it. Landyn cried (as she always does) when I placed her into the carseat. I wasn't the infant one we brought her home from the hospital in because she'd exceeded the weight limit for it.

She calmed down after I finished buckling her in and we drove over to the other side of the school where the K4 and K5 classes were. Halfway there, Miss Kanitra, the K4 teacher, stepped out and waved me down. The classes were on their way over to the gym and I was able to stop and let Bri get in the car. It felt like curbside service and I wished they'd offer that every day because by now it was already 5:17.

I put Bri's seatbelt on and kissed her cheek. She smiled a little. I asked her if she wanted to talk about her day or if she just wanted to be quiet for a while, and she chose quiet.

A minute later we were home, and I relished in our new short drive and the fact that Collin's Camry was already parked in his side of the garage. Bri hopped out of the car on her own and went upstairs calling, "Daddy." I told her he was probably downstairs in his Man Room and she shrugged and gave up finding him.

I took Landyn out of her seat and carried her up the stairs. It wasn't easy with her (24 lbs) on one hip, my purse on my shoulder and my lunch bag on my arm. People love chubby babies because they're so cute and squishy, but they're HEAVY.

Upstairs in the kitchen, I draped my purse, lunch bag and coat on the back of one of the dining chairs, and looked around. Bri had already shed her coat and backpack, leaving it on another dining chair. There were newspapers and mail, daily activity sheets from the daycare and Landyn's diaper bag covering the dining table and the kitchen island. I reminded myself AGAIN to get more organized and to teach Bri where to properly put things away.

She asked me if she could play on my phone. I told her to go get hers (one of my old ones that could only work with wifi) and after a small discussion about where it might be, she disappeared down the hallway.

Collin came up from downstairs and we all said hello and hugged and kissed. I didn't want to put Landyn down so soon, but I needed to change out of the dress I was wearing and start on dinner, so I put her in the exersaucer and held my breath, wondering if she would cry for me to pick her up. Usually only Collin can successfully put her in it. But this time she stayed and so I went and changed into my favorite nighttime uniform of too-big black sweatpants, thick, warm socks and one of the extra-large Kentucky sweatshirts Collin's mom gave us.

I passed by Landyn as I made my way to the kitchen and she whined at me so I picked her up. I tried to do a few things to get dinner ready while holding her, but it was hard using only one hand and she was sliding off my hip so I put her on the kitchen floor with a measuring spoon and a strainer to keep her occupied while I threw dinner together.

Bri was on the couch in the next room watching a video about someone opening and playing with a toy. The TV was turned onto basketball, and Collin worked on the dishes that had piled up since Sunday.

Luckily, I'd cooked a whole chicken in the crock pot earlier in the week so I already had shredded chicken waiting on me. I decided on chicken enchiladas, but knew it was too spicy for Bri. After a quick conversation about how she didn't want a quesadilla or banana pancakes, she decided on scrambled eggs and a smoothie.

While the enchiladas cooked, I blended some frozen strawberries and bananas together with some milk and quickly scrambled an egg. Landyn was getting fussy so I picked her up and spoon fed her some smoothie while putting Bri's egg and smoothie at the table for her. She joined Landyn and me at the table and Collin, finished with the dishes, sat on the couch with his smoothie and watched basketball. He muted it while Bri said the dinner prayer.

Bri's straw wasn't working so I gave her mine and got up to get myself a new one. Landyn screamed when the steady bites of smoothie were no longer being offered. I quickly made my way back to the table and tried feeding her again but she kept screaming and pushing the spoon away. Bri finished her egg and asked for two more even though when I cook two, she only eats one. Landyn wouldn't eat anymore and she was rubbing her eyes so I handed her to Collin and went to making Bri two more eggs.

I fixed Landyn a bottle and while Collin fed her on the couch, I ate an enchilada at the table with Bri. It was good and I was grateful dinner was simple and quick because it isn't always. Bri finished her eggs and took her smoothie to the couch to curl up beside Collin and watch her videos some more. Landyn finished her bottle and had fallen asleep. It was 6:15.

The night before, she'd fallen asleep at 6:30 and after holding her for 30 minutes, I'd put her to bed. Well, that was a big mistake. She ended up waking up at midnight. I fed her and then she was wide awake so I ended up giving her a bath at 12:30 a.m. Finally at about 1:30, I just put her in her crib and she did fall asleep until about 5:30 or 6. Luckily, Collin agreed to get up with her since I'd been up in the middle of the night.

So instead of letting Landyn sleep this time, I picked her up and told Bri it was bath time. The three of us got in the jacuzzi bath together because it's big enough and it's easier to keep Landyn from sinking and slipping around if I'm in there, too. Also, the warm water was nice on such a cold night.

Collin ate dinner alone while we bathed. Landyn perked up and played for about 30 minutes, splashing the water and chewing on the hands and feet of one of Bri's Barbie dolls. She started crying in frustration of being held so Collin took her to get her dried and dressed. I washed Bri's hair and got out to enjoy playing with Landyn for a few minutes before bed. She was laughing at everything, delirious, we guessed, and then when her laughs turned to cries, I put her in her crib to fall asleep.

Collin and I watched a spoof video about "Saved by the Bell" while Bri continued playing in the bath. Then it was her turn to come out and get dressed. She asked for a fudge pop that I'd made with yogurt, cocoa and maple syrup so I felt okay about her having it so close to bed. She ended up having two while I cleaned up dinner.

Bri's nightly routine is pray, read a scripture (lately she's been reciting the scripture she's learning for school) and then sing a song. For the last few weeks, she's chosen "Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam" while we all swing around holding hands and pick her up off the ground when we sing the word "sunbeam". But this time she chose "Ring Around the Rosie." Only she couldn't remember the name of the song. All she knew was that you fall down at the end. I was completely clueless. It was Collin who asked if she meant the "Ashes, Ashes" song and solved the nightly riddle.

Bri says every night, "Goodnight. I love you. Don't let the bed bugs bite." And then she sings "And don't let the frost bite biiiiiiite" from Frozen.  We hug and kiss and then we leave, her string of white LED lights on, her fan blowing and her door cracked open.

Collin retreated downstairs and I retreated into the kitchen to grab the paperwork to work on the taxes. Just after sitting down on the bed in our room, laptop open, Bri came in. "I have to tell you something," she said, which is code for, "I'm stalling going to bed."

So this is what I don't get. She doesn't want to talk in the car ride home, or at dinner, or after dinner. She talks a little at bath time. But it's not until bedtime that she opens up. Because of this and because I wasn't too exhausted like I sometimes am at this point, I humored her. So we chatted for 30 minutes. She told me about who got in trouble in her class, what snacks she had, conversations she had with her teachers, and I loved every tidbit. She told me she cried at music time, but then cheered up, and I didn't even know she knew the phrase, "cheered up." I marveled at how grown up she had become and at all the details of her day that I didn't get to witness.

I watched her as she animatedly recounted her day for me, lots of pauses and "ums" and "likes". I was immensely proud of the vocabulary she'd picked up. I was immensely grateful for all that her teachers were teaching her at school. Finally, when she ran out of things to say, she said, "Mama, Sam's Club is like the biggest store ever. It has all the things. All the things you need."

She looked at me and I tried not to laugh too hard at this declaration she'd made. And then she asked, "Right?"

I laughed and confirmed, "Right," not wanting to tell her the truth that Sam's Club actually doesn't have ALL the things. And she laughed, not knowing what was funny but wanting to be in on the fun anyway. She sat and we looked at each other laughing, and then I told her to get to bed; that I needed to work on taxes.

So she went, and I smiled at the empty space she had occupied, the memory of our conversation keeping me company while I worked.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Landyn Avery: Calm Soul in a Noisy World


On the evening of March 25, Collin drove us in my Honda Civic 10 minutes down the road, our last car ride as a family of three. Every available space was completely crammed with everything we owned, it seemed - Bri's animals (Bear and Puppy), toys and clothes, Collin's and my hospital bags, and the infant car seat. The infant car seat!

We settled Bri in at Collin's parent's house and then made our way to the hospital. Collin wanted to stop for a nice, quiet dinner with just the two of us. It would be the last chance we would have for that for months and he was right to want to make time for it, but I am a rule follower and I was told to be at the hospital at 7:30 and at the hospital at 7:30 I would be. So we parked and carried our bags and pillows and pink, feathery door hanger through the parking deck, into two different elevators, and through the maternity ward hallway, finally settling into what would be our home for the next 70 hours.

I was told to change into a gown and there was poking, prodding, and sticking from the nurse, And there was grimacing and gazing out of the window from me. Finally, Collin and I were left alone after being told that I would be given pitocin to push my body into labor around 11 p.m.

"11!" I complained, regretting not having that quiet dinner Collin had suggested. But we were already there and I was already hooked up and there was nothing to be done about that.

The television was on, but neither Collin or I watched it. I turned on some music and we daydreamed and slowly talked about Landyn's arrival. I was nervous about what my body was about to go through, even knowing (hoping!) I would be getting an epidural.

"What if she's not ready to come?" I said aloud or thought to myself, I don't remember which. I just remember worrying that she was comfortable in my womb and we were about to prematurely throw her into this world, cold and bright and noisy, and she wasn't ready. Or I wasn't ready?

But it didn't matter because my body wasn't hosting her as nicely as it hosted Bri. There wasn't enough amniotic fluid for the professionals to be comfortable with and it was just time to bring her out into the world so we could all make sure she was safe; her Doctors, her Daddy and I.

"I guess we should decide on a middle name," Collin said and I was happy for the distraction, grateful for it.

We had both liked Avery, but in the last few months of pregnancy, I threw out Victory, a play on my maternal grandfather's name, Victor. No one liked it but me and so I had conceded to defeat, but in the dimly lit hospital room on the eve of Landyn's birth, Collin told me I could give Landyn this strange middle name if I wanted to. It was so nice of him. It was a gift to me.

But with this freedom, I immediately questioned the choice. Would it be too weird? We were already giving this poor child a boy's name. I didn't want her to HATE me. It was too weird, wasn't it? And so I put off deciding.

Eleven came and went and then the nurse came in and asked if I was feeling any contractions. I wondered why I'd be feeling any since I wasn't in labor and she was alarmed to find out no one had come in to start my medicine. So she started it and I took a sleeping pill, and the next four hours were filled with falling in and out of sleep while the nurse came and left, and came and left.

At 4 a.m. the doctor on call (not my doctor!) gave me the grave news that if I hadn't progressed enough for them to decide it was okay to break my water then they would stop the pitocin, have me wait all day, and then begin the process again the next evening. Luckily I didn't have very much time to worry about this option because he checked my progress and yes! My water could be broken.

The doctor started talking to Collin about the Kentucky sweatshirt he was wearing. The nurse handed the doctor something and without any warning, my water was broken (after a lot of unexpected pain).

I cried. I didn't remember it hurting so much the last time. And Collin and the doctor were still talking about Kentucky and I thought, 'I am beginning labor and why are they talking about basketball of all things?!" But then, it was March.

The nurse was surprised to see my crying. "What's wrong?" she asked. I just shook my head, wondering why the doctor hadn't warned me about what he was about to do, and wondering why it hadn't hurt this much last time.

And then I remembered that I had already been given an epidural when my water was broken during Bri's delivery. I started feeling contractions and I started shaking a lot so the nurse started getting things ready for my epidural.

The anesthesiologist came in wearing a Kentucky cap (Go Big Blue!) and he and Collin chatted while the nurse held me and a needle was plunged into my spine. I thought again, 'I am beginning labor and why are they talking about basketball of all things?!" But then, it was March.

I was able to get some sleep after that and then early the next morning my doctor (Dr. Ellis, yay!) came in to check on things. I wasn't quite ready to push. She saw Collin's Kentucky shirt and they started talking about basketball. Why was everyone in this hospital so obsessed with Kentucky basketball? Turns out, she was a Kentucky graduate.

Dr. Ellis continued to talk to us and then was about to leave again to check on some other patients, but I told her I was starting to feel a lot of pressure so she checked me again.

It was time! A short while later, 9:03 a.m. on her Maternal Grandmother's birthday, Landyn was placed on my chest. She looked like my mom in that first glance I got of her. Dark hair, a very round red, red face, and two deep blue, soul-piercing eyes.

She had of course been crying at first, but the nurses tucked her under my gown so that she was skin-to-skin with me and she immediately calmed down. She was sticky and yucky from birth, but I didn't care about that. I was just so glad she was in my arms and healthy, and she was so quiet.

From that very moment, I was struck with how different her first few minutes and hours were from Bri's. Bri came into this world screaming and hot with temper. Landyn arrived peacefully and with a sweet calmness.

Landyn's first nursing was perfect. Latching immediately, she knew what she wanted and what she was doing. The nurse said that Landyn could teach a nursing class.

Reluctantly, I allowed the nurses the take her. Collin dutifully followed -- watching, smiling, taking pictures. And after she was bathed, weighed and diapered, she was laid down in a bassinet. And she stayed there.

She laid in her bassinet on her own -- something Bri wouldn't do until after that first, exhausting month.

The hours and days following were a blur of visitors, nursing sessions and hospital paperwork. At the last minute, a middle name was chosen. It was Avery after all.

Each hour that passed by, Landyn looked less like my mom and more like Bri (and Collin!).

Landyn got to meet her big sister -- her 4-1/2-year-before twin -- and when Big Sister wasn't there, the name Landyn got called most by me was "Bri". It was as if I'd gone to sleep and woken up in the past, living Bri's first few days over again. Suddenly and very clearly, I understood why most of my life I was called, "Heather, Valoree, Elizabeth, Caroline, Mary, I mean...Ashley."

My body healed more quickly this time. I was up walking that very evening, taking only Motrin for the minimal pain. Collin and I slept longer, sent Landyn to the nursery, allowed the nurses to give her a pacifier, and just enjoyed the time we had there while extra hands were around.

Motherhood made sense to me, holding Landyn those first 70 hours after her birth. Fear and worry didn't exist. Instead, it was replaced with laughter, long gazes, frequent napping and pure joy.

In that hospital room, it wasn't just me - the self-conscious, but otherwise carefree girl I once was. It wasn't just me and Collin - the newly married, madly in love, yet somewhat selfish couple we once knew. And it wasn't me, Collin and Bri - young first-time parents with a willful little girl, nervous and worried and scared, and wondering what the heck we were all doing. No, it was all of us; the four of us. We love each other fiercely and fully, and we are a family.

The Aynes Family.


An email to Dad on his 64th Birthday



Dad,

Happy Birthday! I hope you are having one heck of a good day down there at the beach. I wanted to let you know on this special day, exactly what you mean to me. 

When I think of growing up, I think of you working. A lot. And I don't mean that as a bad thing. When you come up in conversation (whether it's with people who know you or people who are just asking about my family), I tell them that my Dad is the hardest working person I know, and that he did what he had to do to provide for me and my sisters. I know it wasn't easy, but I love you for not giving up on us and for sacrificing food and sleep for us. 

One of the biggest sacrifices I think of fondly was how you drove me to seminary and slept in the car while I attended. I think of having to do that for my girls and I honestly don't want to. I would rather stay in bed where it's warm, but it's important, and you recognized that it was important for me to go. Thank you for that. 

You know, I tell Bri "I love you" a lot. Maybe I say it too much. Maybe she takes it for granted and it loses meaning by how much I tell her. Maybe I should cut back on saying it and do more to show it. Actions speak louder than words, they say.

I think about this because I notice that when you and I talk on the phone, we don't say "I love you." But you don't have to say it. You show me you love me by the things you do for me, and by the things you've always done for me. 

You do so much for me and my family -- too much, really. So much that I know I can never truly pay you back for all of it. Not monetarily and not by acts of service. I will never be able to catch up, but I think that's okay. I think that's part of it. You do for me, and I do for Bri and Landyn. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to pay you back, as impossible as it is. 

I think of you and I think of the perfect homemade ice cream, corny jokes and Ernest movies. I think of you and I think of someone I want to be like. 

I think of you and I think I'm the luckiest girl to be able to call you Dad. 

Happy Birthday

Love,
Ashley

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why I'm Grateful My Infant Doesn't Sleep Through the Night



After I first learned that I was expecting again, memory after memory surfaced of sleepless nights. Night after night after night of waking up or of not even going to bed in the first place with my firstborn, Bri. And this went on for nine months. Nine months!

I'm not going to lie, I was miserable the first few months of Bri's life. My entire world was turned upside down and I feared I would never sleep again.

I didn't know if I could do it again. I'm a sleeper and I knew it could possibly be even more challenging this time around because after Bri was born and I went back to work, it was part-time. So, the days I didn't work, I spent taking naps with Bri when she did. But this time, I knew I'd be going back to work full-time. Full-time outside-of-the-home job + no sleep = scary times for me. 

This was my biggest concern in having another child. So I consoled myself with the idea that maybe I would get a good sleeper this time, an early sleeper. Maybe I'd be diligent about following Baby Wise and I'd train Bri2 to sleep through the night at an earlier age.

But none of that happened. Landyn Avery was born and the first four weeks went by with her sleeping wherever I could get her to; in her bassinet, in my arms, in the bed beside me, on my chest, in a swing. Wherever. And when week five arrived, I borrowed Baby Wise from a friend and I attempted to follow it.

Landyn did the opposite of what I wanted her to do, no matter what it was. When the book said eat, she would fall asleep after only a few minutes. When it said have playful awake time, she would sleep. When it said it was time to sleep, she would be awake with no indication of sleep in sight.

And it depressed me. I got really DEPRESSED. Why couldn't I make this work? I had already failed at exclusively breastfeeding and now, I couldn't get my baby onto a schedule. What was wrong with me? My hormones raged and my confidence as a mother plummeted.

So I made a decision, a decision that went against what many experience mothers and books would advise. With only a few short weeks of maternity leave left, I decided to let Landyn do what she wanted: eat when she wanted to eat, be awake when she wanted to be awake, and sleep when she wanted to be asleep.

And I decided to not be quick to lay her down. I wanted to enjoy holding her and enjoy HER. She was a great newborn after all, calm and content from the moment she was born. She brought such sweet spirit into our home. Even her cry brought a smile to my face and I finally understood what people meant when they said it was cute when an infant cried. Her cry was cute. And I was ruining it -- the whole experience -- with my expectations and plans and wants.

So the last few weeks of being at home with her were filled with bending to her whim. This meant few errands were run and lots of naps were taken. The floors remained unvacuumed and the showers unscrubbed. Dinners became a nightly fend-for-yourself event.

My confidence as a mother grew and I reveled in each day as if it were our last. Because in a way, it was. Each new day would never be like the day before. Each day brought new developmental milestones and moments that I would never get back.

I spent the sleepless nights memorizing her features, running my hand over the fuzzy stubble of hair on the top of her head and across the fuzzy, soft tuft at the nape of her neck.

So, that brings me to today. Today, at 12-weeks post-partum, and Landyn is still waking up in the night. Sometimes only once, but other days up to three times in one night. She draws me out of bed, not with a cry but with a squeak and a grunt. I tiptoe into her room and find her chewing ferociously on her hands. She looks up at me with a smile.

I feed her and I rock her and I breathe her in; not just her scent, but her. I breathe in the moments we share together in the middle of the night. Uninterrupted by what-do-we-have-to-eats and mama-i-need-to-be-wiped.

And after I lay her back into her crib, before I know it, my alarm is going off and I'm getting dressed and tiptoeing down the stairs next to her room quietly so the tap-tap-tap of my heels doesn't wake her up. And I drive to work with a little pang of sadness of not being able to see her and hold her and kiss her, energizing me for the day like a morning coffee. But the sadness subsides with the sweet memory of the precious moments we shared in a quiet house, in a dimly lit room, in the middle of the night. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Seven Posts in 2013

I posted seven times to this blog in 2013. Seven...times...

I truly contemplated printing the blog and shutting it down. It's just not going to get the kind of attention I'd like to give to it, but then I realized that things are going to get a whole heck of a lot busier starting in April and that I need to take any opportunity I can to try and document things as they are now.

So what if I only post seven times? That's still seven thoughts or pictures documented that wouldn't have otherwise been. So, in an effort to document 2013 the best (and I'll be honest...the easiest) way I could think of was to let my iPhone do the talking. I'm abysmal at taking pictures. I just never think to, but every now and then I'll snap a picture with my (very low quality) phone.

I don't usually make resolutions for the new year, but after reviewing these pictures, I think I'll try and make an effort to take more pictures, especially of more than just our little family. There are others around us while these pictures are being taken; family, friends, friends that are like family...and to not have a single picture (not even on my phone) of the people we spend our lives with...well that's just sad. Wish me luck on that!

So to see what we were up to in 2013, according to my iPhone, go to the next post.

Disclaimer: Collin would be sad if I failed to mention that 2013 was the year we took Bri to her first amusement park (Holiday World in Santa Clause, Indiana) and she rode her first roller coaster! And...she loved it! I don't have a picture of it. I'm positive Collin does, but since this isn't 2013 according to COLLIN'S iPhone, we'll have to make do without.