Wednesday, August 31, 2011

These are her magic shoes

Sometimes the hits just keep coming.  Today, Brooke showed Reagan a new pair of sporty shoes for her to wear to school.  There could be a lot of reactions to these new shoes from Reagan.  Could be happy, could be thankful, could be a wide range of emotions.  What does Reagan tell her Mom and teachers? "These new shoes will help me run fast and catch the boys on the playground."

There are times as a Dad when you feel kicked in the stomach, without actually being kicked in the stomach.  This was one of those times.  When her teacher told me that, I wanted to vomit.  Reagan is 5, catching boys should not be on her mind.  That doesn't happen until she is like 25.  Her Mom doesn't understand why I flip out when I hear stuff like this, I don't think she ever will.  While she doesnt fully understand, I think she knows why.  Only the Dads of little girls will understand.  You know its going to happen, you know that there is nothing you can do to stop it, but it still hits you like a ton of bricks when it does.  You have this battle that rages inside of you.  Its an inevitable part of them growing up and there are parts of you that are thankful.  Thankful she is at a good school, thankful she is healthy enough to run, thankful enough she can see the object she is trying to catch, thankful enough that she isn't backing down.....even to boys.

Way to stand on your own two feet Reagan, deep down your Daddy is proud of you.  As much as I hate to see you growing away from me, I know that in some ways it is because I am doing my job as your Daddy.  A Daddy daughters relationship is very much like the story of The Phoenix.  Just because with each passing day you become your own person,  It still hurts and I'm sure it always will. However, I have something they will NEVER have, I loved you first.  There is no doubt in my mind that no matter how big you get, now matter how many boys you chase, a piece of my heart will always be yours. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today I was a sad Daddy....

Today was sort of a sad day for Dad.  I woke up and took the big girls to school so that Brooke and the Baby could "ease" into the day after a rough night last night.  I normally enjoy taking the girls to school because its our time before the craziness of the day hits us.  Today they were unusually quiet which meant either there were some nerves or they were tired.  Regardless, I even enjoyed the silence with them.  We get to school and Caroline goes in first.  I give her a hug and kiss, tell her I miss her already, and off she goes.  She doesn't even look back.  Then its Reagan's turn.  She hugs me, tighter than Caroline did, and is slower to let go.  I tell her I love her, miss her already, and to be good.  She takes off and about 3 steps later, turns and waves with a million dollar smile.  She then runs into class and disappears into the school day. 

Then it was Baylor Grace's turn.  We were the last ones there today, so all the kids were already in the class room and it was sort of crazy. We get to the doorway and she plants her feet into the ground and begins to cry.  She wont move.  She isn't really saying anything but you can tell she doesn't want to go in.  The last thing I want is for her Daddy to choke and have the "what do I do?" look on his face.  I scoop her up and take her to her cubby.  We look at her whoosta (rooster), I take off her pack pack (back pack) and attempt to get her to sit at a table.  She wants none of that.  She gets the bear hug on my right leg going, with her tears being soaked up by my shorts.  Her cry is only intensified when Ms. Estep trys to pick her up to wash Baylor Grace's hands.  I told Ms. Estep it was fine but truth be told it was heartbreaking as a Daddy.  I could only imagine the feeling if that was occurring because of something serious, as opposed to just school.  Ms. Estep said Reagan did the same thing but I don't recall that.  Caroline never really did.  This was a hard one for me to swallow.  I stood outside for a bit to watch and see her adjust.  After Baylor had washed her hands, Ms Estep was showing her around the room and while BG's eyes were puffy and red, I think the crying was about to stop.  I left the school sort of sad.  Your instinct as a Daddy is to protect your kids and stop whatever is making them cry.  I have always said that telling your kids no is one of the best things you can do.  Truth is, that is much harder in practice than in theory.  I wanted to take Baylor Grace home and ease her pain. 

She came running home today talking about how good she was in school, all the things she did, and she showed me her painting she had made.  She may fuss on Thursday when she goes but it wont be long before she will run into the class like Caroline does.  It will get easier and easier, for her at least. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Today I am a proud Daddy.

Regan has now been to school for two weeks and is doing really well.  She has a girl in her class named Grayson.  This new classmate has a dehabilitating muscle disease that will eventually send her to a wheelchair.  As a result, Grayson must hold the teachers hand whenever they walk anywhere for stability purposes.  Reagan noticed this early on, she thought it was strange that this girl always held her teachers hand.  Brooke, being a teacher at Reagan's school, knew the story and explained it to Reagan.  Brooke has an amazing ability to explain anything to kids Reagan's age.  She thinks of ways that I wouldn't begin to think of which probably explains why she is such a good teacher.  Reagan accepted Brooke's explanation and we didn't hear another word about it.

In Reagan's class her teacher gives them "pebbles."  These are essentially coins. You get them for doing things the right way or doing the right thing.  Once you accumulate enough pebbles you can buy stuff.  We do the same thing at the house which is how we got a trip to Chuck E Cheese's this week, courtesy of Baylor Grace.  Today Reagan comes home and tells Brooke that she got 3 pebbles when everyone else got 2.  Brooke asked why and Reagan said that she got it because she helped Grayson get her pebbles.  She later said that Grayson probably could have gotten them but she wanted to make it easier on Grayson and save her the effort. She didnt want Grayson to struggle.  She said it in a matter of fact way, like it was the normal, appropriate thing to do.

I was floored when Brooke told me this, almost to tears.  I am not entirely sure I have ever been as proud of my kids as I was of Reagan for her actions today at school.  Being a advocate is a tough road and sometimes a lonely road.  But there is never a wrong time to do the right thing, and I was so proud of the way she handled that.  She is getting to be a big girl.

P.S.- FRIDAY UPDATE.  Reagan's teacher told Brooke today that she was so impressed with Reagan and that Reagan has really taken Grayson under her wing.  She did this on her own, such a good kid despite all my attempts to ruin her.  Thanks Reagan for giving us hope!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to my blog!

One year ago today I started this blog.  Thanks to so many of you who have stuck with me over the course of the year.  I have no idea how long I will continue to do this but there is a potential of having some big life changes ahead....which only inspires me to blog more.  Thanks so much for reading (9700+ views)!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Baby blue eyes is off to school!

So today was Baylor Grace's first day of school, ever.  This was different than Caroline or Reagan's first day this year.  Even for Caroline last year, which was her first first day of school ever, she was a year older.  Baylor Grace was actually too young for the class but they let her in because they know us, Brooke works at the school, and this will be the teacher's 3rd Ayers girl in 3 years.  I barely remember dropping Reagan off that first time when she was in the 2 year old class.  I remember she didn't talk much at that point, still going through speech therapy.  Baylor Grace, on the other, talks up a storm and you can make out a good bit of what she is saying.  She is also hell on wheels.  When we dropped Reagan off, we said to the teachers "She is a rule follower, wont cause a problem, great kid."  With Caroline it was "She is a sensitive soul, sweetheart, be gentle and she will love you back."  With Baylor Grace it is simply "Good luck."

I expect her to be a holy terror in (Ms)Estep and (Mrs)Mapplesauce's (Macintosh) class but apparently it will be delayed some.  When we left her at school today she looked lost, sad, confused, sitting alone at her desk by herself.  Which of course made me sad.  She loved the idea of getting a "pack (back) pack" and I think going with me so many times to pick up the big girls, she sort of was familiar with the location.  However, she had never been dropped off and left.  She had a look on her face that was very heartbreaking for her Daddy.  She didn't cry, she sort of just played by herself at a table.

You know as a parent you want you kids to love school, fit in, make new friends, and be safe.  That's all I can really hope for with this girl too.  So much of my life and all I care about is in that hallway right across the hall from each other.  In some ways its pretty neat that all three girls classrooms are so close.  In today's crazy world, it is also a bit scary too.  When we got home from dropping them off it was just Hadley, very odd.  On Thursday even Brooke will be gone, 4 of my 5 girls (including Brooke) will be at Seton 

Baylor Grace's friend "Camel" (Campbell) is in her class but I worry because she doesn't know anyone.  Baylor Grace never met a stranger in our house but that is in her element.  Who knows how she will do at school.  Caroline came home today talking about a boy who was mean to her and your parental instincts are to go find the 4 year old boy and beat him and his parents for making your girl sad.  But, its part of being a parent.  You have to let them go and sometimes work out their own problems.  Sometimes you have to walk away and leave them at the desk by themselves, even if your instinct is to run in and hug them.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The "Mayor" has returned!

The Mayor of Seton Catholic School has returned.  Today was Caroline's first day back to school.  She was in a new classroom with a new teacher.  Caroline was so excited, not at all nervous about it.  I am convinced she is the most popular kid in the school, I have never seen a little girl kiss so many babies and shake so many hands- regardless of their age.  Everyone knows Caroline and everyone loves Caroline.  That's good too because as a parent of multiple kids, you always worry that one will get lost.  It wont be Reagan, she is the oldest.  Probably wont be Baylor Grace because she is the beauty queen, and probably wont be Hadley- she is the baby.  I am thankful that Caroline has the personality that she does.  She is such a joy to be around and such a kind girl.  You miss the little squirt when she isn't here. She is always the first one to say "I love you Daddy," for no reason at all.  Its funny too because with Reagan and I being so close, it's Caroline that likes the things I do (non sports related).  She loves Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean.  If you ask her what movie she wants to watch, she will tell you the Star Wars and the # (1-6) and why she wants to watch that movie.  She knows more than most men about the series and spends time reading books on the topic.  Or she will pick which Jack Sparrow she wants to watch and why.  Caroline loves super heroes and pirates.  She like bugs, digging, and all sorts of cool things.  We got lucky with Caroline and its appropriate her school name is called Seton "Stars" because she is a bright, shining, star. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A catch with Dad....and Reagan

Yesterday is a day I hope to always remember.  It was, for the most part, a normal Saturday.  We had some work being done in the kitchen, my parents came up for dinner, but other than that nothing much different happened.  We were a bit displaced due to the construction in the kitchen so we ate on the back porch.  It was a nice change and not too hot.  Brooke couldn't cook everything she wanted to but it was a good meal anyway.  After the meal and as my parents visit was winding down, we were sitting on the back porch playing with the girls. At some point I asked my Dad if he wanted to "have a catch?"

See throwing a baseball back and forth is probably one of my favorite things I ever did with my Dad.  It is one of the favorite things he did with his father.  Fact is, fathers and sons all over America spend so many afternoons throwing the baseball back and forth.  It is time spent that I have gotten my father in law to appreciate.  He understands that it is much more than baseball.  Its a time for reflection, its a time for thinking about the future, its a time to bond.  I barely played baseball as a kid and my Dad's baseball days are over by 40 some odd years.  I was all about football.  Fact is, I would probably rather throw a baseball in the backyard than a football.  There is something so symbolic about playing catch with my Dad.  Back and forth, back and forth.  It was one of those things I always envisioned doing with my son when he grew up.

To my surprise when I asked Dad to have a catch he said yes.  The times we play catch don't happen as often as the used to or for as long as they used to.  When you're a kid you think you have forever to play catch with your father.  To the point where the dad probably is sick of throwing the baseball.  Then comes a time when the son doesn't want to play much anymore, yet the dad would probably give anything for a Sunday afternoon in the backyard playing catch with his boy.  You only hope that the son eventually comes back and plays catch again with his dad as much as they can with the time they have left.  How many more times will I play catch with Dad?  You think the number is limitless, there are always more afternoons to play catch.  But life happens and in reality- there are a limit on the times for Dad and I to have a catch. That is why I want to enjoy it as much as I can.

Well I go to grab my glove and Dad's glove that I have here just in case he ever decides to toss it around with me.  As I get up Reagan begs to play with us.  At first, I refuse.  This moment I was about to have was strictly for me and between my father and I.  I didn't want Reagan slowing us down.  I could see the disappointment in her eyes when I told her no but at first I felt she just didnt understand.  I knew she couldn't throw very well and I was worried about her catching a hard ball.  I didn't want her to get hit by a hard baseball, cry, etc.  She was not going to play.  As I went to the garage to get the gloves I had a change of heart.  I'm probably not going to have a son to play catch with so I need to take advantage of the time when my girl wants to.  So, I found her pink glove.  A first as far as I am concerned for the Ayers family backyard catch tradition.  Reagan's face lit up like a Christmas tree when I came out and handed her the glove.  She attempted to put the glove on her right hand and I then thought perhaps I had made a mistake.  I took a deep breath and put the glove on the proper hand, then three of us ran out into the backyard, taking the field like every home team at every ballpark in America.  I was on one end and there was my father on the other end of my backyard.  Right next to PawPaw was Reagan, big smile on her face, pink glove in hand.  Now my Dad was an excellent pitcher in baseball.  Drafted twice to the Majors.  Even at 65 years old, just like in basketball, I never worry about his accuracy.  I, on the other hand, have been known to break a few fence posts with my Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn antics.  With that in mind, I didn't think it was safest for Reagan to be next to Dad.  I knew his throws would be pretty much on target and I can catch, so she would be safest by me.  The three of us got into a pretty good rhythm.  About every other pitch I would underhand it to Reagan and she would throw it back to me.  She only got hit in the head in the once and did a good job playing with us.  I think it is possible she enjoyed the catch as much as we did.  After a while, Dad's arm was getting tired and I knew the game was coming to an end.  Reagan had the line of the night when she looked at me and said, "Dad- my glove is the coolest because it lights up (which it does when a baseball hits the glove)."  I told her she was absolutely correct that her glove was the coolest because it lights up.  I looked at Dad and said "things I'd never thought I would say while playing catch with my Dad."

It was an amazing night and unfortunately I don't think I can put it words what it means for a father and his son...and the granddaughter, to play catch in my backyard.  Like all things in life you must adjust when it throws you a curveball.  Reagan taught me a very valuable lesson that I had lost sight of.  It's not just about baseball, its about doing something so symbolic with people you love.  That is why she so desperatley wanted to play with me.  It doesnt matter that she has a pink glove that lights up, it doesnt matter that she will never play in the Majors.  Playing catch has very little to do with baseball.  Sometimes being able to make that adjustment can make the difference between a good day to a great day, a minor leaguer to a major leaguer, a baseball player to a dictator that outlives every US President (Castro wanted to play in the Majors but couldn't hit a curveball).  I'm not sure last night was heaven, but it was pretty damned close. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Like a duck to water

So while I was gone at Leadership School, Brooke secretly gave Hadley a little piece of a banana just to see if she was interested.  See dinner is always interesting, and loud, in our house.  Hadley has only added to the "fun." If Hadley is not in your (normally Brooke's) lap during dinner she will sit there and talk, and talk, and talk, until you pick her up.  And it really is talking, except it sounds like E.T or probably more like a tauntaun.  Every noise she makes sounds like something from The Empire Strikes Back movie.  She  also talks more than any kid we have and if you have never met my kids, they all talk like mad.  So Brooke picks up Hadley tonight in her lap and Hadley is literally watching Brooke put the food on the fork and then following with her eyes and head, as Brooke puts the food in her mouth.  I swear I have seen my dogs do that 1000 times when they want people food.  What does Hadley then do? No, not slobber like a dog, she starts smacking her lips.  Apparently, that is the first sign they are ready to eat.  I didn't know there were signs.  I just assumed Brooke got tired of whipping her boob out (blog about that later) and so you start supplementing with food.  Who knew?  I learned something even after 4 kids today.  Anywho, after the lip smacking, Brooke decides to smash a pea or two, maybe a carrot- to see how Hadley reacts.  She downs it like  champ.  So, why not go for some real baby food.  The next sign is if they spit out the food they aren't ready.  Well after a thing of squash and a thing of prunes, we are pretty sure she is ready to eat people food.  She ate and ate and ate like it was her job.  In Hadley's mind I am sure this was the greatest night of her entire life.  It was one of the funnier things we had seen.  The "big" girls were interested in the prunes that Hadley was eating so they all tried it as well.  So not only did Hadley provide some comic relief, she did so in a healthy way. 

Its sort of funny that humans, when grown, are the most evolved species.  Yet when we are born we are the most helpless.  In a week where one girl goes off to school full time (and doesn't talk much about it when she gets home), we have another who decided it was time to eat.  Sort of a cycle I suppose.

P.S. Trinity wins 45-7 over Brentwood Academy in Nashville.  Trinity 1- Tennessee 0.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What a powerful video

I saw this video this morning and was moved to tears.  I couldn't help but think of my Dad.  Dad pretty much had one hero his entire life, his father, my PawPaw.  They were always so close in every way you want a father and a son to be.  When I heard this song, I couldn't help but think of my Dad, alone in a hospital room, holding his father's hand as Cancer finally took PawPaw from us.  There was no desire to bring PawPaw back, finally he didnt hurt anymore, finally he was Cancer free.  I also thought about Dad outside in a cold waiting room as his wife (my Mom) of so many years went into surgery to remove some Cancer they had found on her.  Man, what strength Dad has shown through all of this.  Even though the endings were different for each case, did Dad "love them through it" or what?

I thought of Pops too.  He had Skin Cancer twice (the real bad kind) pushed him to the brink to where he almost gave up.  But he fought back to see his kids grow.  I didn't know him them but I suspect he was more upset when his wife (Mimi) of so many years was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  He was on his way to my house when they found out.  We were all there when they arrived (my parents too) and we just cried together, hugged each other...we loved them through it.

I was really touched by two lines in the video "when your diagnosed with Cancer, everyone around you is diagnosed as well."  Also, "all I wanted to do was to live to raise my children."  Wow, so true.  I think this video is not just a video for the Cancer survivors, those who were the tip of the spear in the Cancer battle.  I also think this is a song/video for those people like Dad and Pops the Grace of God, kept things together as their soul mates and their heroes were fighting this disease. 

You can't survive in this world have to love each other through it.    Jimmy V, who himself was taken by Cancer, said we should do three things every day.
1) You should laugh every day
2) You should think, spend some time in thought
3) You should have your emotions move you to tears. 

If you do this 7 days a week, you are going to have something special.  Thanks to all those who never gave up during their battle with Cancer and who are still here today to celebrate another day.  Thanks to all those who sat there bedside, on a bench, in a waiting room to support their loved ones.  You are an inspiration to us all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Today was the day I have been dreading forever.

I have made my feelings known about how difficult it is for me to drop my girls off at school.  You would think after doing it as much as I have had to do, it wouldn't sting anymore.  The truth is, it still does.  Every time I watch them walk into their room,  I know they need me less and less.  They are all getting so big and next Tuesday, Reagan, Carolina, and Baylor Grace will all be in school.  I cant believe how fast time flies.  Today was Reagan's first day of kindergarten.  I remember when I was in kindergarten.   Today was her first full day of school.  No more picking her up before lunch every day.  Every day she would give me whatever sticker she got at school that day.  She would smack it on me somewhere.  No more of that.  No more naps.  No more picking out clothes for school.  She is a big girl, in her big girl uniform.  Now she will come home with her Mommy after school.  There is a lot to be thankful for, I get that.  A lot to be proud of, I know.  That doesn't change the fact that my BFF for the past 5 years is getting a little more independent.  I kept thinking over over this morning about the first time I held her in my arms after she was given to us.  I could barely see her because of the tears in my eyes.  I felt a love then that I have never felt before and that you can't describe in a blog.  It doesn't seem like that long ago when I looked at the most beautiful thing ever, who is now going off to her first day of school.  I know that seeing her in her Catholic outfit would make her PawPaw proud, and my Granny proud.  It was a big deal for Granny to send my Dad to Catholic schools, no matter the cost.  Just the same as it was for my father to do for Patrick and I.  So in my sadness today, I do feel a sense of satisfaction that Brooke and I can do this for our kids. 

I gave Reagan a hug and kiss and fought back the tears.  As she sat in her desk ready for the day, ready for her future...I called out one last time.  "Bye Reagan, I love you."  She looked back and said "bye Daddy Boohoo."  She already has me pegged.

For the record I didn't cry....until I got back to the car. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hoist the sails!

Hello to my blogosphere, sorry for my lack of updates. I have been on a ship sailing the Caribbean for the SAE Leadership School. Caroline would be in heaven here since every where we went they named everything after a pirate.  Most of the places had some connection to Blackbeard, her favorite pirate behind Jack Sparrow.  None of these stops are as great as they could be because the girls are not here with me, I cannot wait to return to them tomorrow night. 
We are pulling up to Key West (hence the Internet connection) but aren't getting off.  On to Miami early in the morning (tomorrow) and then a LONG travel day tomorrow.  Cant wait to hold all 5 of my girls.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Moments in time...

There are moments in time, life, that you will always remember.  Those moments sometimes come out of nowhere  other times you have enough warning you can "prepare" for them.  There are good moments and bad moments.  Good moments like when you graduate, when you get married, or the birth of your children.  No matter how much you prepare or say you will be ready for it, it hits you like a ton of bricks.  When those church doors open and you see your wife down the isle, or when you hold that precious life in your hands for the first time...its an amazing moment.  You wait 9 months for the baby to come and you get the crib/baby room together, car seat, etc.  You are ready.  But then you hold the baby for the first time and it hits you.  Those moments stick with you forever.

There are moments that stick with you in the opposite way as well.  That moment when you realize you are old, the moment when the doctor says the word Cancer, or the moment when you say goodbye to a loved one for the last time.  All those moments stop you in time and stick with you, forever.

There are subtle moments too, sometime less dramatic but important in their own way.  Moments like the first time your kid goes on a play date and you drop them off without you.  The first Christmas when Santa is just a pop icon and not a real guy. Or that moment when you son or daughter brings home a mate and it is obvious that they are "the one."  We had one of those moments two nights ago.  A moment we knew was coming, we even looked forward to the day it would come.....but when it gets here you are sort of sad.

Brooke and I call Hadley our roommate.  Since she was born every night she has slept next to our bed.  Every night when Hadley rings the dinner bell Brooke rolls over and feeds the baby.  Some nights the baby goes back into her bed, others she cuddles with her Mom- in her Mom's protective arms.  When they are little babies like that is the only time we let them sleep in our bed. So its special in its own way.  We always joke about eventually evicting them back to their room.  Since Hadley has been born, she has probably spent more nights our room than I have.  The other night I walked upstairs to go to bed and I heard the air cleaner (noisemaker) on in Hadley's actual room.  I went to lay down and realized Brooke was in a very relaxed position, sprawled out on her stomach in bed.  Reason being, Hadley was sleeping in her own bedroom for the first time.....we no longer had our roommate.  Brooke would still have to get up a few times a night and feed her but she is getting to the age where after she eats she goes back to bed.  It is getting to the point where there is no reason to have her sleep right next to our bed anymore.  As I got in bed, the silence was deafening.  I couldn't help but be a little sad.  Brooke and I talked about how much we wanted to be able to watch TV again, have our room back to ourselves and it was finally here.  To be honest, I couldnt sleep because all the nights shared with a baby, starting with Reagan, replayed in my head.  We have done this four times and now it seems that they are all big girls and needing us less and less.  I dont think Hadley made it through the first night in her own bed/room.  But the past few nights she at least starts the night by sleeping in her bed, on her back, by herself. 

We wanted this moment to come, we longed for it, and it is here.  It is for the best and it means things are progressing like they should but I cant help be be a little sad and miss the grunts, the toots, and the 3 am blowouts.  However, the loss of those baby noises is replaced by the deep sleep of my wife.  So that is a good trade off.