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Three

My oh my. Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday we were packing up our apartment in Brooklyn and moving our little family to St. Louis. I was 8 months pregnant and needed to find a new OBGYN pronto.

I’ll never forget that July 21st three years ago. Opal arrived in record time after about 5 hours of intense natural labor (I’m still proud of myself for that).  And she was absolutely perfect.

And now, Opal, three years later, you are just so much fun. Yesterday we hosted a princess party in your honor. Complete with dress-ups, dancing, and a little “Pin the Tiara on Rapunzel” game. You couldn’t believe your friends brought you presents. In fact, you wanted to share your presents with all your guests so everyone would have something to open…that is until you actually opened them and saw your lute. Then you were content to just receive their kindness.

I’m 3!

We’ve been saying for a while now that when you turn 3 “NO MORE DIAPERS!” (since our first attempt at potty training was a complete failure.) Today, already, you have not had a good track record. Please hurry up and learn to poop on the potty or I’m going to be forced to buy some of those ridiculous rubber gloves my mom used to use for cleaning.

Opal June, I’m so thankful to be your mommy.

I love you, my little princess.

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The Disney Dream

Two years ago Joe and I received some money for Christmas and we said, “Let’s start saving for a trip to Disney World.” And so we did. Last week we got to take that trip. And it was everything we’d hoped for.

Let the magic begin…

We arrived on Saturday evening and began our 5 day extraveganza at Magic Kingdom. We quickly discovered that getting the signatures of the Disney characters and princesses was all Ira really cared about. So we did some (read A LOT of) standing in line to meet and greet the beloved Goofy and Woody and Daisy Duck and Belle and of course, Cinderella herself.

Cinderella, is it really you?

But seeing the main squeeze, the big kahuna, the Super Star of all Stars, M-I-C-K-E-Y, was the highlight of everyday for Ira. He just couldn’t get enough of the rodent. Just look at the smile on this face.

Oh Micky, you’re so fine

On Monday we went to Epcot. It was a fun day but not on anyone’s highlight list. Except for one really great ride called “Soarin'” which was amazing. Other than that we mainly tried to stay cool as it was another scorcher with temps in the 90s.

Opal was done before we even began at Epcot

The other super Epcot Highlight – Snow White! Literally the ONLY princess Opal wanted to meet.

On Tuesday we headed to MGM Hollywood studies. We LOVED this park. The Toy Story 3D ride, the Tower of Terror, the Rockin’ Roller Coaster all delivered on thrill. And Sophia was a gamer. She tried and loved all the rides. It was so fun to have her along. By noon on Tuesday, the rain clouds moved in to stay. And it rained for the next 3 days. Awesome. But, a little rain doesn’t shut down Disney and it sure didn’t stop us. We just purchased ourselves some ponchos and carried on.

The Hays Clan and the rain clouds

Sporting Toy Story 3D glasses

The Smiling Joes

Disney joy

We scheduled Wednesday to be our “off” day and thought we would spend the day swimming but due to the rain, we had to come up with a plan B. We went to Downtown Disney to shop instead. Gram and Grandad treated us to a souvenir (or two).

On Thursday we headed to Animal Kingdom. There we got to see some fabulous shows – one with Beauty and the Beast, one with Nemo, and one with the characters from the Lion King. We also went on the African Safari and rode the Mount Everest roller coaster in the pouring rain. Good times.

Rain – we are ready for you!

On our final day we had the choice of what park we wanted to visit a second time. We took a family vote and it was unanimous for Hollywood studios. When we arrived at the park on Friday we noticed is was considerably more busy than it had been on Wednesday. We discovered it was Star Wars weekend and people were coming from near and far to get a piece of it. But they didn’t get in our way of riding our favorite rides one last time.

Mickey and…Storm Troopers?!? Oh yes.

Glo telling Opal one of her many stories while the big kids ride the coasters

We are so thankful we had the opportunity to go while our kids could still enjoy the magic. And we couldn’t stop bragging on the cleanliness and friendliness of the parks and those that worked there. It is a well oiled ship, that Disney place.

We are also so thankful Joe and Glo were able to join us. It was so much fun to share the experience with them.

Troopers

Waiting for Belle

Goofy love…until next time…

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April 8

Flowers from Pete

This year I had the privilege of sharing my birthday with the celebration of the risen Lord! My birthday started a day early, however, with the delivery of these beauties from my friend Pete. He is always sweet to remember my special day.

On Sunday I woke to a table filled with homemade cards and …wait for it…A GRILL! Yes! Our very first and my very own, charcoal grill. I am so excited to put that thing to good use this summer. Now all we need is a deck to go with it.🙂

And what is Easter without some

Easter morning

Easter pictures? I have very fond memories of shopping for an Easter dress with my grandmother every year. A few years ago I found myself asking why we did that. I wanted to understand the meaning behind the tradition to know if I would continue it with my children. What I already knew, but realized anew, is Easter Sunday is a day of celebration! What my grandmother and I were buying, and what I now buy for my children, are PARTY clothes! Christ is risen! Let’s celebrate!

Cake plus a little ham from Ira

After enjoying a pancake breakfast and a fantastic service at our church, we headed over to my parent’s for a yummy Easter/Birthday lunch. My younger brother, Jonathan, was in town which made the day extra special.

The day was completed by a family bike ride to the school playground. Thanks to some friends, we were given a 3rd wheel to attach to my bike so that Ira can ride and keep up with everyone. I’ve been wanting all of us to be able to ride bikes together for a long time so this was the perfect way to end the day.

I feel so loved and lucky and am looking forward to what this year could bring. So far, 37 is not so bad.

The Parents

The Younger Brother

The Fam

All Together

And here’s one from Saturday’s Easter Egg hunt. Opal’s favorite part was eating the good stuff found on the inside of each and every egg.

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Louie

Me - The object of Louie's affection

This is Louie. Louie was rescued from a puppy mill late last year and became a part of our family just days before Christmas. He is a 2 year old miniature poodle and could not be cuter.

The Hayses have always been a “big” dog family so imagine my surprise in December when Joe suggested we think about getting a small dog. “Laura, wouldn’t it be fun to have a dog who could sit on our laps and snuggle with us while watching TV at night?” How could I resist? We found Louie at the Humane Society, spent some time with him, and adopted him the next day. The kids were thrilled to have a dog in the house again and Joe and I were excited to have a non-shedding lap dog that was (hopefully) out of the crazy puppy stage.

At first Louie would let anybody hold him. He would sit on Sophia’s lap while she read or Joe’s lap while he worked on the computer. But somehow, over the course of just a couple weeks, Louie decided I was the only person in the house he wanted anything do with. He followed me EVERYWHERE. He was always under foot. He would run away from the kids (well, what dog wouldn’t run away from Opal?) and one day he bit Joe when he was trying to pick him up. Not good.

From then on, Joe wanted nothing to do with Louie. And rightly so. Sometimes if Louie was on my lap (which was all the time, if I was sitting down, anywhere) and Joe came in the room, Louie would give a little growl.

But for me, it was nothing but love. He let me pick him up, carry him around, take him for walks. He trusted me completely. And he was very affectionate.

But then Louie bit our neighbor, Sean. And then he bit my Dad. All men. All when they were trying to pick him up or put him down from behind. I don’t know what the men at the puppy mill did to Louie before he was rescued but it must have been something awful.

And so, this past Saturday, we made the tough (tough for me, anyway) decision to take Louie back to the Humane Society where we adopted him. I cried all the way home and have cried a little every day since. I miss my shadow, my little snuggle puppy, my Louie Lou. If I was in a different place in life – single, no children needing so much of me – he would have been the perfect companion. But I am not in that place. And so, I can only hope he finds just the right woman who can love him and be the recipient of all the affection he has to give. And maybe even let him sleep on her pillow. I’ll miss you, Louie.

Louie

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March Madness

March is always a month we look forward to around our house. Sophia’s birthday falls on St. Patrick’s Day and so we begin to think in green and plan for what festivities may be in store.

This year, much to my chagrin, she opted for an ice skating party. Ugh. I really don’t like ice skating. However, after taking a few deep breaths and shoving my displeasure under the surface, I agreed. She invited 15 third grade girls to this ice skating party. Many had not ever skated. Yippee.

But, seriously, I had a ball. And since this party is just a tiny bit about me (it is my birthing day, after all) I’m glad I was able to enjoy myself. And I think Sophia had a blast as well. I can’t believe she is nine.

Sophia’s special dinner request was Chilis which is a little embarrassing – embarrassing that she preferred chain restaurant food over one of my yummy home cooked meals but also really nice that I didn’t have whip up anything yummy or otherwise. Then we headed over to my parents for cake and presents. Have I mentioned lately how much I love living close to family?

March has brought with it a fair share of rain. One afternoon Opal decided she wanted to take her shoes off and jump in the puddles. The next thing I knew, we were having ourselves a neighborhood mud party. Kids were stripping down and getting dirty. I love unexpected moments like these.

And finally, the past week was spring break for the kids and Joe. I worked the first half of the week so we could spend two nights at Trout Lodge, a YMCA camp in the Ozarks. It was a breath of fresh air to get out of the city and play together as a family. We did a little putt-putt golf, archery, horse back riding, geocaching, playing in the sand by the lake and last but not least see-sawing (Joe + Opal = Ira + Sophia + Me:)

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Life in the Fast Lane

This month marks one year of working at my job as a social worker. I am just as thankful today for the job as I was then. Last Tuesday our agency provided a small wedding ceremony for a couple who would not have otherwise had the means to get married. They tried getting married at city hall last year but didn’t realize the marriage license would cost $40. Though they are homeless, as a married couple (with two kids and one on the way) they will have more options for subsidized housing.

On Wednesday I went to court for the finalization of two of our adoptive families and their children. I suppose this is about the only reason one would want to go before a judge and it is a happy occasion every time.

On Friday our office received a call from a mother at a local hospital. She already had 12 children and though heartbroken, said she would not be able to take care of the one she had the night before. She needed us to find an adoptive family for the child.

I like working with people though some days feel like a roller coaster. The highs and lows can be extreme as we work to help those who are in crisis. But it feels important and I find it fulfilling.

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jersey boy

My dog of 10 years just died in my arms. Life is such a mysterious thing. One minute it fills a body, moving the chest up and down, and the next it is gone. And there is no in between. And there is no returning.

To say that I am sad does not capture the true depth of my emotion. Jersey was more than “just a dog” to our family. None of our children know life without Jersey. He came before them and he is one of us. When family pictures are drawn for school, Jersey is included. When prayers are said and family members are listed, Jersey in included. Just the other day I caught Joe accidentally calling our son “Jersey” before realizing he had picked the wrong name.

But I think what really made Jersey special was what he endured with our family over the last 6 years. My sister-in-law confessed to me the other night that she and her sister both thought we were insane to keep Jersey around when we brought Ira home from the hospital. After all, we were in a small New York City apartment with no outside space. We couldn’t just shew him out the back door when things got cramped. But here we were bringing Ira home with a trach, on a ventilator with an oxygen tank and everything that went along with that.

The beauty of it all was the bond he shared with Ira. Ira was essentially home bound for 3 years. He didn’t have many play dates because it was too risky to have people in our home bringing in their weird germs. So, Jersey was the ultimate play date. He would let Ira climb on him, bury his head into him, roll on him, sit on him(this is true for all my children). Out of all of Ira’s therapists, Jersey was the best.

Jersey ate dinner at 5pm sharp. One of our NYC nurses reminded me today how he learned to understand the phrase “Oprah’s over” to mean it was time to eat. (Oprah was on TV everyday from 4-5pm). Sometimes we would say the phrase just to watch his ears perk up and tail begin to wag. He was one smart, funny, dog. And he loved to eat.

Because we lived in apartments most of Jersey’s life, he had to be walked as a means of survival. He accompanied us on thousands of walks throughout his life. When we moved to the suburbs, we got lazy. It wasn’t until we moved in to our new house that I recommitted to taking him on an evening walk. I began to look forward to that time of the day when it was just the two of us circling the block.

A couple weeks ago I was telling Jersey how I couldn’t wait for some cooler weather. I imagined our walk a couple months from now when the leaves would be orange and red and I might even need to grab a jacket on the way out the door.

Jersey, I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer for that walk. Enjoy heaven, Old Buddy, where you can fetch and swim forever. And save a walk for me.

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