Thursday, June 30

Sweet Summertime

I am thoroughly enjoying my summer.  Since school got out the first week in June life just seems to be getting better and better.  For one thing, Jonah and Adah are my favorite little people in the world to hang out with, really I believe God hand picked the coolest children he had available and gave them to me.  And for another (more important?) thing, they are great helpers!  How did I do things without them?  It also helps that the newborn phase is officially over.  Whew! Joshua is so blessed that they love him more than anything else in the world (if Jonah is willing to tell his friends he can't play because he has to babysit and still be smiling while he says it - this is big love).

I am thinking back to the days when Adah was a baby and Jonah was going on 3.. and I am very impressed with myself because I survived that, and I think I actually did a good job.  Without my Jonah and Adah to help me with the baby and the household chores now I'd just be lost!  I am able to keep up with an online class this summer, with the help of a weekly babysitting stint from Nana, and the house is actually pretty clean (as much as a house with 3 resident children can be) ...WOW.

Jonah and Adah help me with:  cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, babysitting while I do other things like cook, remembering my to do list sometimes better than me, yardwork, taking out trash, washing vegetables, fetching things for me and Joshua, ... the list goes on!  I love them so so much, and I am proud of the amazing kids they continue to be as they get older.  In addition to all the "work" they've done this summer, we have also had lots of fun at 2 different VBS's, 2 triathlons, 5 friends' birthday parties, ballet classes, library trips, and tons of other great things.

Here are some pictures from the last month.  When it started, Joshua was 5 months old, and now he is 6 months.  It was really the perfect timing for the older kids to get out of school because at 5 months he was just starting to really play with them, and he was now sturdy enough for me to be comfortable with them holding him without my help.  Adah just gets to sit with him for now. Jonah can stand up and walk with him - its a matter of strength and wise/intuitive decision making, which I'm sure Adah will develop soon enough.

Adah feeding Joshua while I supervise

Adah made this birthday card for her friend
Jael and I love it. She did this all on her own.
It's an owl with big pink feet.

Joshua in his crib at 5 months, he finally
caught his feet.

Another, prettier, one of Joshua at 5 months. The
photoshop app makes me a little less bitter about
only having my phone for a camera right now.

Best big brother!

Why they love this game is beyond me.

Joshua's first swim. He wasn't thrilled.

cool kids

Joshua loves his Adah.

Thursday, May 26

2011 May Red Hills Kids Triathlon

The day finally came on Sunday, May 22 (which happened to be our 7th wedding anniversary) for the triathlon Jonah has been training for and anticipating.  It was so much fun, and Jonah did such a good job achieving his personal goals.  It was emotional for me seeing my baby do something so difficult and being so brave.  I teared up before he even started!  I tried cheering for him during the swim, but I got choked up...I'm such a sappy mommy!  I get choked up at lots of things, it doesn't even have to involve my own kids, but that's another blog post.

I am always happy when childrens' sporting events are well organized and there is a spirit of acceptance and encouragement present. The Red Hills Kids Triathlon sponsored by Rowe Roofing, Inc. is a wonderful example. It even made the news! Video here.  I love the atmosphere of everyone cheering on all the kids and any fitness level kid being able to complete the race even if they need assistance.  Jonah needed assistance in the water last year, but he was still able to race, and that set him up for this year's goal of swimming by himself.  And he DID IT!  WOW!!  A little help from "coach" Tim Batey went a long way for Jonah. Thanks Tim!

Here are some pictures:

before the race with daddy

before the race with mommy

marching over to the pool lane with Andrew, an old buddy
with whom Jonah happily shared!

Shannon McNees talking to the boys before the swim. 
Thank you Shannon for introducing Jonah to triathlon!

Jonah on the left and Andrew on the right about to swim

Jonah head-down in his good form, which he held for
at least a little while

Victorious over that swim, Jonah runs to the transition
area to jump on his bike

And he's off!  This is the "easy" part he says.

Oh yeah, biking over and he is smiling that
this run is his last leg (and he's not pooped yet)

Here's our buddy Lily running toward the finish line!  She
looks like a gazelle with those long legs!

Had to add my friend Jenn and daughter Lily after the
finish line.  Is that a proud momma or what?

Jonah and Lily High-Five, the training partners
have completed their race!

Cole Batey, Jonah, and Lily Batey
serious racing over, silly time begins.

And in the end, for Jonah, its really all about the free
doughnuts and soda they give you after the race along
with some hanging out time.

Monday, May 9

Jonah's Tri-ing

Just like last spring, Jonah has decided to compete in a local triathlon for kids.  Info here if you're interested, its a wonderfully organized event.  This year I made him think about it for a couple of weeks and then asked him a few times if he was SURE he wanted to do it.  Last year we put so much time into training him for it (which was chaotic scheduling wise) and we were SO PROUD when he finished!!  Jonah, however, was not so proud because he placed last in his age category, a difficult thing for a naturally competitive person.  He announced then that he didn't want to do that again...

This year Jonah told me that his "final decision" was to do the triathlon again with the goal of not finishing last place.  I am so proud of this attitude!  What a trooper!  So, in support of his healthy outlook, a few weeks ago we began his run/bike/swim training all over again.  Once we started it was obvious that Jonah was way out of shape and would have to work even harder than last year because he hasn't done any sports in months (he can thank his baby brother and our renovation/move for that).  So we dug in our heels, and at the advice of Jonah's personal trainer (aka Nana) he began to workout 6 days a week.  He has been doing either a bike/run or a swim workout nearly every day. 

Jonah is a very special guy.  His outgoing personality, dramaticism, and ability to make friends are his trademarks, and his argument and persuasion skills are infamous in our family.  He is always brimming with ideas.  If one idea doesn't work he has another waiting in his back pocket. Jonah has always been as smart as can be and keeps us on our toes constantly (trying to stay one step ahead of him).  Something Jonah is not famous for around here is hard work and attention to detail...he wants everything done quick, fast, and in a hurry.  For this reason Jonah is becoming my hero.  With a personality like his, training for an endurance sport has got to be excruciating.  I know how much it pains him to do the same thing over and over and for a long period of time because I can identify with the feeling. 

Last week, 4 weeks into our 6 week training blitz, Jonah decided he had had enough.  He told me he didn't want to do the triathlon any more because it was "taking over his life."  After homework, chores, and training he barely had any time for hanging out with friends (which is his absolute favorite thing in life).  Empathizing with this sentiment, I arranged for one day of playing for a chunk of hours across the street with his buddies, and I called it his "off day."  I told him I wanted him to have all the fun he could that day.  He did no homework, no chores, no training.  He had earned it, and he appreciated it like I had given him a million dollars.  The next day at training he had his best bike/run yet!  Its amazing what an "off day" can do :)

Another step I took to encourage my little hero was to set up some group training with the Batey Family who's two oldests kids are also competing.  They are an athletic family and such wonderful people, and they agreed to help me out.  So Tim and Hays took the kids to the pool and for a run and Jonah did a great job!  A little company goes a long way to motivating this guy.

With 2 more weeks until the race, Jonah will be working it, making his momma so proud.  He has improved a lot in these weeks and that alone is cause for celebration.  I really couldn't care less how he performs on race day.  My heart is already bursting with pride at my little hero for pushing through physically, mentally, and emotionally in these last few weeks.  Jonah you are so strong!

(Sorry I have no pictures to show, our camera got broken by an unnamed child.)

Tuesday, April 19

A Worthwhile Job

In the last 3 months there has been a lot to do.  Since moving into our "new" home we've encountered many challenges.  Most of the challenges have been related to the home itself with each week bringing a new mini-crisis our way in the form of things around the home malfunctioning.  When we moved in we knew there were still renovations to be completed and we anticipated taking it slowly getting those things done with our newborn at home.  Well, 3 months in, NONE of those things are done, yet we have been working our tails off.  We're trying to keep up with things like busted water heaters, 2 different plumbing leaks, clogged drain pipes, getting dropped from our homeowners insurance, electric panel issues, broken dishwasher, etc.  We have also been sharing a car because since Joshua was born mine has only worked about 3 out of 15 weeks.

Since Joshua's birth Michael Hays has officially had strep throat 3 times and I have been through 3 different illnesses as well.  In the same amount of time we've had some of our most difficult trials as parents.  Our family shifting from 4 to 5 people has been unbalancing, and we're still struggling to get the train back on the tracks just right.  Joshua is the most adorable baby I've ever seen (each baby is even more heart-melting than the last), but he has not been an "easy" baby by any means.  I have to abstain from eating both dairy and gluten in order to keep his tummy settled because he is an allergic baby just like his daddy and sister.  This issue has brought me literally to tears more than once!  You better believed a sleep deprived momma will cry over some cheese.

Adah and Jonah have both had their share of adjustment issues regarding the new brother and new house.  Jonah most of all has been slightly traumatized and we've dealt with behavior issues from him that we never dreamed would come our way.  So from taking care of our house, which seems to be coming apart at the seems in certain moments, and nuturing our beautiful children, there is no time left.  While in certain moments of exhaustion it feels like life is nothing but struggle, in other moments I have clarity to see that the job I am doing is of utmost improtance.

On a daily basis I sustain the life of my 3 month old.  Now on a daily basis he smiles and laughs at me in thanks.  Each day I feed, bathe, and clothe my other children as well as listen to them and work through whatever new issue the day brings for them.  And each day they hug me and make me laugh in return.  I've learned that when an issue comes my way and feels as though it will break me completely, it doesn't.  I pick up the new skills needed to work through it, and I keep going because I know my children are worth it.  Ultimately this season of seemingly endless struggles will change into a new season holding new things for our family, but until then I will hold onto the truth that what I am doing now matters.  Nurturing our children and making a home for them is the most worthwhile job I can think of doing right now.  This job won't always require every ounce of my attention and energy, but for now it does.

These are things that are helping me get through, moments of light in my day:
the cutest Joshua pouty face ever

Jonah making up a hysterical fight between his action
figure and Joshua's bouncy seat:  cracked me up!!  I always
tell him he should be a comic book or cartoon show writer.

Adah came home from school and went straight to her room
emerging 10 minutes later with this card for me. It says, "Dear
Mommy, I love you, you are special.  To Mom from Adah."

Sunday, April 3

Recounting My Blessings

Recently we unpacked our boxes of books, which had been stacked in the living room since our move.  I found such a treasure in one of those boxes.  When Jonah was a baby I kept a journal
(for like a couple months before I forgot about it) and I wrote to him about himself and our life together.  He is my first baby and our story is unique..  Reading the journal brought that lifetime into the present so strongly, and it made me grateful again for the blessings God has given me and the trials he has carried me through.  One particular entry is very touching, so much so that I've tried to read it outloud 3 times to Jonah and Michael Hays and I can't get through it without tears.

This was written on August 4, 2003.  Jonah was 4 months and 1 week old.  I was 21 years old.

Dear Jonah,
       So many things are new since my last entry.  Last week your sputtering sound turned into a "B" sound.  You started saying, "Bah..Bah.."  You are also getting really steady when I stand you up.  You are only 4 months old and you can already stand up on your own while holding onto something!  The exersaucer has become your favorite toy because it allows you to sit and stand whenever you want.  You are reaching out and grabbing the toys on it now too.  Michael and I finally found a teething ring that you like.  We accidentally left it at a friends house though.  We took you there to celebrate her graduation from college.  Everyone loved you and thought you were SO CUTE!  You really are the cutest baby I have ever seen.  A lot of people say that, not just me. 
      You are definitely developing preferences.  You seem to like some people better than others.  Don't misunderstand, you like everyone; you are very good with strangers.  But there are some who can make you smile and laugh so easily.  You love Michael the most.  He is going to be a great daddy to you.  Once he and mommy get married we can all be a happy family.  God blessed us with a wonderful man Jonah.  He gave us Michael because he loves us and knows exactly what we need.  I hope you never feel sad that your biological father didn't choose to be in your life.  You are so loved!  God blessed you more than most babies.  Everyone who comes in contact with you simply falls in love with you.  This has been especially true for Michael.  He has loved you from the first day you were born and he seems to love you more every day, the same way I do.  Michael is our gift from God baby.  He was sent to us in our time of need.  God only gives perfect gifts.  Just know that a God-ordained daddy is the best there is.  I can't wait for the day that you can talk and call Michael and I "Mommy"  and  "Daddy."  You are growing so fast.  I know that day is just around the corner.  I look forward to every moment with you...
                                                                    With all my love, Mommy

Wow.  So good to be reminded of this place that I was once in.  Also of interest:  this was written 3 months before I was actually proposed to.. how did I know we were going to get married?

Saturday, March 19

Field Days

I am so blessed to live where I do and have amazing family members.  This week the school had field day.  Adah's grade had it wed. and Jonah's grade had it thurs.  Since we live so close to the school (literally next door to it) and since my sweet mother-in-law loves her new baby grandson..and me of course.. I was able to leave the baby for a couple hours and walk over to help out with field day.

It was very strange and pulled at my heart to send Joshua off to someone else bright and early at 8:15 am, but I knew he was in good hands and I knew how much it meant to his brother and sister, so I pushed through.  Besides, I absolutely love being at the kids' school.  The atmosphere is energetic and fun and it makes my kids grin proudly when they see me on campus.

My favorite part of field day 1 was the story Adah's teacher told me.  I dropped her at her classroom and went to get my game assignment from the PE coach, and apparently during that time Adah put her whole class into stitches :)  She burst through the classroom door and promptly flexed her muscles and growled!  Then she hit the floor and started doing push-ups.  The girl was ready to destroy at those field day games.  She is so hilarious..  Her personality is totally not to get all competitive and sporty, it was all a show for the sake of being theatrical.  I love her soooo much.

My favorite part of field day 2 was watching my big boy do push-ups.  My station was the push-up station and I helped every class do them.  When it was Jonah's turn he sure made mama proud.  Though he is the smallest kid in his class by both height and weight he dominated the push-up competition!  Jonah did upwards of 50 push-ups in good form. How amazing is that? 

I took my phone the second day and got some snaps of Jonah and his classmates.

Tuesday, March 15

the best birthday gift ever.

Let me tell you about a good birthday present.  It is one that is personal and meaningful and desired by the receiver.  That's a tall order for the gift giver, so if you can't think of something that significant get a gift card...seriously gift cards may seem lazy but they are the next best thing, especially when paired with a personal, meaningful, card.  Guess what, I not only got my best gift ever but I also got 2 gift cards this year..LUCKY GIRL!

My best birthday gift ever (this year) came from my mommy.  She always tries to get me something I really want, and usually succeeds, because she is my mother after all.  So on my birthday 2 weeks ago she gave me a 12 class pass to work out at Goodfriends Group Fitness How perfect.  Just had a baby 2 months ago, feeling out of shape, love to work out, money is tight, voila!  She gave me a jumpstart that perfectly met my need and desire to get strong again (not to mention cute...of course).

I've taken 3 classes so far, and my favorite was last night's monday evening spin at 6:30 with Becca.  It was an endurance ride...ugggh...BUT it totally paid off in endorphins.  I left there feeling like a million bucks and having burned probably a million calories.  YAY!  Thank you mommy!!

And it gave me the energy I needed to get up at the crack of dawn today
with this little guy..

Monday, March 14

enter: joshua AND i am woman

January 2, 2011 changed everything. 

In the last week we had been feverishly trying to wrap up renovations, had closed on the house officially, and had celebrated Christmas and New Years with family.  When I say "we" I do not mean simply Hays and I.  I mean: Mom, Dad, Laura (mother-in-law), and Mike (father-in-law).  That doesn't even count the others who have helped us along the way...   Also when I say "we" I don't really mean me.  I did "nothing" other than walk around pregnant and take care of the kids mostly.

During the hectic week of New Years I had experienced night after night of sleeplessness and annoying contractions.  This of course made the week all the more intense with the threat of going into labor at any moment constant.  By Sunday, January 2nd going into labor was no longer a threat... it was happening!  Only 3 days after signing our mortgage and before we had finished and moved in, Joshua was arriving...

Hays was of course spending his day at the new house working, so Mom and I stuck close together and went to Target for provisions.  By about 4 pm I called Hays to come home and be with me, and it was only about an hour after his return home (6 pm) that I knew it was time to go see the midwife.  Contractions had been constant since 12 pm and were intensifying.

We opened the front door to the birth cottage by 6:30 pm and were promptly settled in and assessed by my midwife, Alice.  Upon initial assessment Alice wasn't so sure Joshua was really on his way, but in my heart I knew this was it.  She let me stay (though I could see in her eyes she didn't think it necessary) and rest for an hour before a reassessment.  Mom and Hays stayed by my side comforting me and reassuring me (for the record neither of them doubted me), and after that hour Alice could see for sure I wouldn't be leaving that cottage without my baby in my arms.  In fact I remember poignantly declaring that exact sentiment to my friend Rene' via text after Alice's initial skepticism.  This momma was serious!

After 4 more hours, the most intense agony I have ever experienced, and repeated cries out to the Lord to spare my life (who knew natural childbirth would feel like dying?)... I again wanted Alice to assess me, I knew I felt different and that it was time to deliver.  Despite her repeated skepticism, Alice checked and found that I was absolutely ready to bring another precious human into the world... (thank you momma's instincts: I love being right).

Delivery was intensely uncomfortable, overwhelmingly emotional, and downright quirky.  God brought my little boy into this world (with LOTS of help from me, hello!) halfway between one day and another.  His head was delievered (and crying!) at 11:59 pm on January 2nd.  Then, with a serious scream of encouragement from me (we'll just not reveal WHAT words of encouragement I used) the rest of Joshua was delievered at the stroke of midnight on January 3rd.  What a rush.  It was my first completely natural childbirth and I had not only survived (despite my own doubts that I would), but at the moment a new day began I personally reached for my child and pulled him into the world and up onto my chest.  I had done it.  This is one of my most proud moments.  I am so grateful to my husband and mother for supporting me every minute of the experience, without them I would have probably never made it through (seriously, I would have run out of that old house screaming for drugs).  Thank you Michael Hays and Mom!

Joshua Hays Layerd
6 lbs 5 oz
January 3, 2011

photos by:  Ashley Poole at

Before the Storm

After months of exhausting house-hunting, we finally settled on a fixer.  You see, Hays and I have a wonderful abundance of vision between the two of us.  Its a gift really... Sure, you could argue that our lives would be simpler if we did not constantly envision newer, better, and bigger.  Or that maybe we would be spared a few headaches if our preferences weren't quite so specific. But, so what if all of the houses in midtown that fit our family are unaffordable for us?  Does that mean we can't live in our favorite spot?  Well, where a lot of couples would swallow the pill and move out of the city a ways so they can have the 3 bedrooms, updated kitchen, large yard for the kids...  We simply dig in our heels and keep trying to find a way that our vision can become reality.  Are we annoying or what?  Try being our realtor!

And here is our reality:  A home in the right place with the right yard and the right number of bedrooms (4!) that just may need a little help.

It was built in 1957 and renovated a bit in the 1970's.  Now that spells CHARM.  Since putting an offer on this place WAY back in September, we have spent countless hours working out how in the world to update it within our budget and other constraints.

And renovation HAD to be done. 

For instance, The Kitchen:
Leaking sink
40 year old yellow lenolium
Original cabinetry, some rotten
yellow countertop
broken wall oven
disfunctional diswasher
stove with one working eye
ceiling damage
horrible lighiting
wood rot in subfloor

Case in point number 2: the front bathroom before we unleashed our fury on it!

More pics to come of our progress.  We moved in January 15th, 2 weeks after our new love Joshua was born.  Another wise idea from the Layerds..  So after a broken water heater and disfunctional washing machine on our first 2 nights (with a newborn, yes), we started to settle in and try to make house.