Wednesday, December 23, 2009

East Coast Holidays (Part 1)

On the East Coast for the holidays.

It's been an incredible year to say the least! Leigh and I hope to post an "End of Year" summary before the New Year arrives, but if nothing else you can just review all the posts here and galleries over on Picasa (http://picasaweb.google.com/aylajadesangster).

We came East for the holidays. The family left Portland last Wednesday, the 16th. A day after I finished up my University of Portland semester (hard to believe I'll be graduating in May!) and with a 50 mph tailwind made it in record time to Atlanta (just a little more than 4 hours). Ayla was a real chill champ and only in the last 30 minutes did she really start to get restless.

Staying only the night in Atlanta, we rented a car and drove up to North Carolina to spend the last couple nights of Hanukkah with Leigh's folks and her Great Aunt Sallie. It was really nice to start involving Ayla in her family's Jewish traditions. Leigh and I started the candle lighting in Portland and we were able to conclude the Festival of Lights with Lois leading the blessings.



In NC, Ayla was able to spend some great time with her 84 year old Great Great Aunt Sallie. This was such a special treat for the both of them, the meeting of the different generations. It was immediately apparent that they would be two peas in a pod. Ayla was comfortable and drawn to Sallie very early. They spent a lot of time together, with Sallie reading to her and talking to her a lot. To see such a generational melding (there's 3 generations difference between them), was a rare and special treat.



In NC, Ayla was finally old enough to be introduced to her Grandpa's (Pop-Pop) enourmous train passion. He has taken the basement of their house in Wintson-Salem and created quite the hobby train collection, with three running trains on the tracks. She was shown how to drive the trains, blow the horns and generally enjoyed watching them go round and round the tracks. I honestly think it was more a thrill for Grandpa than it was for Ayla though!



It snowed 6 inches while we were there in Winston too! Luckily it snowed the day after we arrived and melted soon enough to allow us to leave back to Atlanta on schedule. I'm not sure what my mom would have done if she got denied Ayla time two years in a row b/c of snow! Remember last year, the freak snow storm that Portland got before Christmas? Those 2 feet of snow that Portland got trapped us there until after Christmas and basically cut the East Coast visit last year in half. Not sure what it is about Ayla, snow and the East Coast. She brings the weather I guess.

We also got her first sledding in. It was super fun. Leigh's folks live on a street with about a dozen kids under 7 and sleds were out and readily available for use. I had forgotten how much fun sledding can be!



We are back in Atlanta now and we'll be here for a couple weeks. We'll celebrate X-mas with my folks and family. She is already quite frustratingly attracted to the tree with all its lights and shiny balls. Now that Ayla knows how to open presents, should be a lot of fun to watch her go to work. Apparently, she's getting all the loot this year!

It's really nice to know we won't have to pack or move again for awhile. No snow here, but lots of sun. Being used to Portland's cooler, wetter winter climate, I'm walking around with bare feet and short sleeves here in the balmy South! Aaaaah...Georgia winters.

We'll leave y'all with this little laugher...Ayla's 1st Dancing:



Merry Solstice, Happy X-mas, Blessed Hanakkah and Joyous New Year to all!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Walking (and more)!!!

I really wish we had more time to add commentary to the blog right now...but for now just the pure visual experience will have to tide you over.

The rumors are true...SHE'S WALKING!




She loves to play chase. This has become a wonderful afternoon ritual with Papa and her. At first, she was crawling around alot like this video. But now, she's full on trying to run away or towards me! Awesome.




Leigh was home with her the other day and caught her playing peek-a-boo behind the curtain. Precious!




And this is just random funny weirdness...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy First Birthday Ayla!

The moment arrived and it was most perfect!




And she continues to be awesome...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Almost 1 Year Old!

Almost 1 and a few weeks away from walking...




...continues to charm us with her giggle and very clear communication...




...and yet, she is a unique individual that does things only she knows why!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Several New Videos....Lots Happenin'!

So much happening these days with the little one!

She is getting much more confident in her body...and making new synaptic connections everyday. Such as learning how to climb up & down stairs:




She is becoming quite the little gardener! (Though she's not good at letting things ripen...too impatient):




We have no idea what's she doing here, but at least she does!





We went apple picking today and almost immediately after this video was taken she said "apa"! She's brilliant!




And finally, it's only a matter of weeks now...we're so doomed.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's been entirely too long!

Our deepest apologies for the entirely too long delay in getting more stuff posted on this blog! I guess our excuse is that our video camera had a little run in with an overly excited 9 month old girl and a kitchen tile floor. We had to send it off to be repaired and it's finally back. Wooohooo!

It seemed perfectly cruel and ironic that we lost our means to record motion just when Ayla started getting most mobile. Since July (which seems eons ago), she gotten proficient at crawling, started to pull herself up to standing, cruising along furniture and if we hold her hands she'll walk across the room!

She's also starting to cut her two top teeth, eat much more solid food and more often and talk talk talk!



Oh and she's gotten even cuter and more adorable!



Of course there's much more going on these days than these two short videos can capture. But for now it's what we got. Obviously, life continues to be extremely busy for us. I'm back in school (only got 7 months to go!) and Leigh is focusing on getting Ayla into some sort of part-time child care so she can concentrate on finishing her dissertation sometime this decade! Hopefully, they'll be more to come...somebody's got their 1st birthday coming up soon...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sleep....the final frontier



Oh the sleep subject. The center of our universe for the last 2 months....it is IMPROVING but slowly. We are currently on night 8 of letting her "cry it out" with regular check ins. We have gone from crying virtually all night long on night 1 (I think we got maybe 2 hours of sleep) to last night's almost personal best of 11 hours straight! There is still at least 20-40 minutes of crying (tonight was 28 mins - not bad) when we first put her down in her crib (yes, we broke down and got one, but it has made a huge difference) and she is still waking up around 4 or 5am and refuses to go back to sleep at that point (so we bring her into bed, nurse her and sometimes she falls back asleep, sometimes not). We are trying to push her whole cycle back an hour so that it's more like 7 to 7 instead of 6 to 6 like it is now, but that's really hard to do. She has been sleeping really, really well (like 10+ hours a night) for several nights now. But she still fights it. Most of the time she falls asleep like she just fell face first from sitting. This is an awkward yoga-like pose where she looks like she's sitting on her butt and touching her toes. Doesn't seem comfortable but she sleeps like that for hours. The naps are still VERY difficult to nail down and that's where we are starting to focus our attention. She just fights naps tooth and nail. Might miss something. Doesn't want to be alone. Whatever the reason, she is a terrible nap taker right now. Oftentimes we have to resort to drives in the car or long walks in the backpack to put her down. Naps and nights are strongly linked and if you improve one you're supposed to improve the other. Right now, her naps are getting worse...but we're working on it. So, all in all, definitely improving...just slowly and with difficulty. She's done SUCH a great job adjusting to this and we are really, really proud of her (and ourselves sometimes).

Her dramatic and continuous changes are astounding. She is more like a toddler EVERYDAY! Pulling herself up on couches, nightstands, parents. Hanging on with one hand while the other explores. Letting go sometimes to teeter for a split second of standing bliss before crashing on her juicy booty to the ground....only to immediatley grab something to pull herself up again to practice more. She knows the signs for milk, food, up, water, drink, bird, mama, papa. She's learning dog, cat, more, finshed, bath and sleep. She has made the sign for milk and up and we think she's really close to waving bye and hi. We are trying to feed her solids three times a day. Recently she just has not been that into them. Today for some reason, she ate two cherries, some watermelon and a quarter of a banana. Hard to predict. We ordered a high chair and it should be in soon. When it arrives, we'll have much more of a station for feedings. Right now we just kind of chase her around the house as she's crawling trying to convince her she really wants this spoonful of food more than that dust bunny, random piece of dropped paper or fire grate. She has been REALLY into papa recently and loves to play with me for long periods of time (i'm the 'fun' one). We wrestle, play horse and airplane, go outside and play in the flowers, read books, play with toys, play with food, water the garden, make faces, laugh, zerberts, ticklings...She is becoming more intensely interested in books and looks at our face/mouths when we read words off the page. We swear she's tried to say dog and ball already! She claps, giggles, laughs out loud, squeals, babbles, sings, crawls, protests, expresses desires, cuddles, hugs, sticks out her tongue, makes raspberries...

Finally, our camera has crapped out and that's why there hasn't been any new photos or videos in quite some time. We apologize. It's been sent off and should be repaired soon! We miss it too.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Simple Toys & Giggles

Six and a half months old now and things are flying by!

She's taking some sort of food everyday now. We've fed her sweet potato, hard boiled egg yolk, pear, apple,peas, liver (leigh's idea, not mine) and of course rice cereal. So far it seems her favorites are sweet potato, apple and rice cereal. Our next big purchase will be a high chair so she can eat at the table with us.

She is mere days away from crawling. She can go from her belly to sitting back to hands and knees. She can periodically put one hand in front of her and then move her other hand with a sort of hopping/scooting in between. She gets the concept I think, it's a matter of practice, balance and confidence now. Just yesterday, she was able to "crawl" about three feet to me!

Her babbling has increased dramatically. And our understanding of her has increased too. We can definitely tell her "pick me up" from her "I'm hungry" fusses. Her content and happy coos and sighs are just heart warming. Her giggle/laugh is precious and she has this really cute, almost meditative "tired song" she sings as she falls asleep in our arms or the car seat. This week she has started doing the wet razz.

She's somewhere around 20 pounds and 26-27 inches long now. She's upgraded to the next level of car seats (thanks mom!). We also had to go through her drawers and do some major rotating of 6-9 month old clothing, while outing the 3-6 month old stuff (just doesn't fit her gorgeous little chub anymore!).

The last few weeks have been dedicated (or obsessed) with her sleeping schedule. We are trying to get her to sleep through the night (which technically only means 5-6 hours at a time). Previous to now, she's been bed sharing with us. She would wake every 3-4 hours to nurse, but was basically pretty restless and kept both of us up. Recently, we have tried to move her to the co-sleeper next to the bed with sporadic and minimal success. I think there was once where she slept 5 hours. And most of the time it was pretty dreadful - waking every 10 minutes sometimes!

Basically, Ayla doesn't yet know how to fall asleep by herself, or without some parental intervention (rocking, nursing, bouncing, singing). And she doesn't know how to go back to sleep when she does wake in the night. So we are pretty sleep deprived and frustrated (me more so than Leigh). We are trying to work with Ayla and find something that is not too traumatic or abrupt, something other than "crying it out". It's a struggle right now, but we're working on it.

Outside of Ayla, Leigh and I are doing alright. School is good for me. I've got Public Health this summer and I'll be working with a Head Start program with Hispanic children. I can't believe that a year from now, I'll have graduated! We also came up with a daily/weekly schedule so that Leigh can get more time for her work as well.

Summer has finally hit here. It's been in the upper 70's, low 80's for the last several days with blue skies and bright sun. The nights are still chilly (in the low 50's), but makes for great sleeping. Our garden is booming. Potatoes, peas, squash, watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, broccoli, kale, collards, spinach, carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and lots of lettuce! I've been enjoying a lettuce smoothie (has lots of fruit too - it's yum!) everyday for the last two weeks.

I'm also off of coffee! After realizing that 32 oz a day and crashing a couple times a day was getting out of hand. So after spring semester, during the break, I stopped drinking it...and for 4-5 days I felt like crap. But it's done, I haven't had any coffee/espresso in over 2 weeks now. I have a cup of Earl Gray tea, but just one. I went from 300 mg of caffeine a day to now maybe 15mg. I feel much better too!

Enjoy the movie of Ayla playing with one of her favorite toys - paper. The laugh at the end is worth the wait!

Much love to all,
Jason (and Leigh & Ayla)


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

6 Months Old!

Ayla has started to eat some solid food. She had her first solids about 2 weeks ago. Bananas and breast milk...yum yum! She's since had rice cereal (twice) and this is her first sweet potatoes. She loves food!



She has also become quite the active little monkey. She loves to spend her time these days crawling/climbing all over mama and papa. Buy to see such delight in her face as you swing her through the air...pure magic.



How can you not just giggle in glee with her? So precious!



We're teaching her the very important things...like blowing raspberries.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Latest Videos (Mar/Apr)

- She just may skip over crawling altogether!




- This balloon was just meant to be played with by Ayla. I had just stopped at a red light when this flower balloon cruised across a very busy intersection at ground level heading straight for my car. I opened the driver side door and it literally "jumped" into the car...




- In reality, her thumb is caught in the strap, but it's still super funny!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Spring!!!

It's about time we had a White House veggie garden again...Go Michelle!



Let's get back to basics folks!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Four months already!

There have been so so many changes…and too terribly long since I’ve written of them here, so this will of necessity pale with all I mean to say.

She is amazing, delightful, mysterious, magical. When we go out with her, she always draws compliments, so I can say this is an objective, unbiased thing. One of my favorite occassions was after a hike in Forrest Park. We stopped in at St. Honore, the amazing Parisian bakery, for croissant and orange gateau and cappucino. Ayla had on a smart pink cap with a brown flower on the side and was beaming smiles at everyone. A cultured older woman approached and commented on her beauty, to which Ayla just lit up and the woman clasped her hands together and exlaimed,"Why, everything about her is just So Appealing!" Indeed!

Over the winter holidays, we met so many family members and friends, and friends of family and family of friends, and I was shocked to learn how many people had actually read our postings! I think the words of appreciation were a little paralyzing to my writing, both for the way I created subsequent high expectations, and, mainly, because I had thought with all the bazillion people and their blogs in the world, surely very few folks would be reading this one (though I checked for comments often!). In any case, it is one of those holding spaces for keeping a sort of record, for Ayla’s future and for swimming around in our own memories, and so important.
This blog is supposed to mainly be about Ayla, but I am going to indulge in talking about myself for a moment too.

A dear friend and colleague, A, recently assured me the first few months are hard; ‘kind of like being taken apart and put back together again in a new way.’ I can’t think of a better way to put it. In some moments, I really don’t know who I am. There is an entire new me that I did not know I would manifest, and I do not mean a feeling that was a latent part of me now revealed, I mean totally and wholly unexpected and ripe and inhabiting my being. (I almost said ‘inhabiting my body,’ but ‘my body’ is also still quite different, though I have fleeting sensations that feel like a long lost physical bearing, agility, lightness. But shock! I didn’t expect to still be pregnant-lady hungry at this point! Although I am still building a human body – and a big one! She’s already almost 16 pounds at 4 months!) One example of a me I am getting to know: I was an academic. A mostly rational, level-headed, sometimes skeptic, sometimes romantic, but generally even-emotions, grounded kind of person. Now, I feel long recurrent moments of overwhelming emotion, which entirely circumvent my reasoning brain. These moments all have to do with intense love, protectiveness, and, embarrassingly, neediness and possessiveness with my baby. There are other emotional struggles too, but they all arise from this mother-me which is begrudgingly learning to share and still also be a wife-me, and grad student-me, and alone-me (poor little alone-me, she really only makes appearances on rare baby-free showers and shits). I try very hard some days not to have incredible pity parties – they are so boring and pathetic – and am grateful for the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama that occasionally come to me at the right times: "The main cause of suffering is egoistic desire for one's own comfort and happiness." No kidding! Why make myself miserable over yet another cup of tea gone cold? He also said over and over again the last time I saw him, when I was barely-showing-yet pregnant, “Children need MAX-i-mum Affection!!” which always makes me giggle to replay in my head –“MAX-i-Mum AFF-fection!!” and I delight in having a little one to shower with affection and kisses.

A also, I am sure very rightly, said “some stages are harder than others, but each is actually very short. each goes away (and never comes back for better or worse) and then you have a 'new baby' to deal with!” Ayla has truly been through so many stages already, and I wish I could recount them all to you in poetic narrative, but I am sure she is going to wake from her nap far sooner than that would require. I am keeping a calendar on the nightstand and try to record at least one little thing in it each day that she has done. So there is that record.
It’s been a very busy month: she learned about her thumb, that very useful thing; rolling over; chewing on anything she can bring to her mouth; talking louder; …

One of very most joyous things was hearing her truly laugh out loud for the first time, and the subsequent laughs, giggles, and squeals of delight she has begun to share with us. The very first one came one day when I was home alone with her and while I was holding her, she started to suck on my chin. I thought that was pretty funny and that it felt pretty interesting and silly, so I did it to her too. We started sucking on each others’ chins and she just was so absorbed with it she let out a feminine, petite, pure and sweet little laugh! I wasn’t sure I was right about this, but she did it again and I was in heaven. Since then most of her laughs, and her all-out giggle spells have been elicited by her ever-loving papa! (Whom she is unabashedly back in love with this week – his mere glance and she’s all flirty smiles.)

I can also see phases of a single emerging and developing action, like stretching. And, by the way, the stretches she does are definitely worthy of imitation – they feel great and some muscle memory tells me that I used to do them naturally too. In the first month, a big stretch sequence upon waking was to bring her fists up beside her face and twist her head back and forth in a small arc, scrunching up her face. In the second to third month, she began raising her fists above her head, and now that newborn gesture is gone, totally replace by a full body reaching out lengthwise - from tips of fingers to tips of toes – as far as possible, eyes wide open. This unfurling and opening has brought her more and more into the world, more curious and active as those fingers increasingly rest and explore uncurled. And she is really exploring these days, with eyes, hands, and mouth!

Her hand-eye coordination is making leaps and bounds, as with her hands have progressed from moving in little balls, to mitten-like sweeps and gathering movements, to reaching with opening fingers that then grasp around something. Just this week those fingers have started raking motions to try picking things up – which is great for smaller toys, but doesn’t work so well on the prism rainbows on the bed, the grout lines between the table tiles, or my nipples! ;)

I’ve also enjoyed the changes in the way we touch each other. Her flat palm and open fingers move across my skin so amazingly soft. Her touch can be very gentle and light, or a good strong grip. Often I really have a hard time opening her fist full of my hair. When she is sleepy and nursing, she strokes my chest. I fall in love again every time. I also notice how my touch affects her differently now too. In the early weeks, she was so new and sensitive – air was even a new sensation upon her skin – that she needed the lightest of touches for soothing affections, subtle vibrations for settling down, and yet a good solid pat for burping and an encompassing hold for security. Then was a time it seemed stroking her back or head was startling or too distracting – can you imagine not yet knowing that a back rub or a head stroke was relaxing and loving? Now though, especially if I match her pace when she strokes me, my petting her helps send her off to sleep. Yes, you can picture it, a warm snuggly puddle of circling love caresses. I feel so honored. Think about how comfortable and secure and loved one must feel to fall asleep in another’s arms. The whole mother-baby bond is so intimate in sensory ways, not just emotionally.

Ayla is also very sensitive to our moods and energy, and trustful of us and our communication. I notice if she is taking awhile to fall asleep, I might examine myself and notice I am anxiously trying not to rouse her and impatiently waiting for her to go into deep sleep so I can sneak off. Taking a few deep slow breaths and relaxing every muscle in my own body, she quickly does the same. I doubt anything visible or audible has changed, but she feels the difference immediately. She is also beginning to check in with us when she encounters new things. She eyes curiously a cat, dog, new person, tree, then looks to one of us. If we smile, reach out, or introduce her, she smiles and reaches out too. Her eyes follow us, especially me, around the room, and she quiets when she hears our voices, but still hasn’t figured out ‘object permanence’ (as in I’m GONE behind that shower curtain.)

I am tired and it’s so very quiet upstairs – ayla and Jason may be already sleeping… He is very good at putting her to sleep. It is very inviting.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Reflections of a Nursing School Dad

Aaaaahhhhhhhh...spring break! Finally, I feel there’s a moment or two to take a deep breath and relax.

I probably don’t need to restate the obvious, but life is really crazy these days. Craziest part of my life I’ve ever had really. Since nursing school started back in August I’ve had a hard time finding free time (more than an hour here or there). And what little free time there was (and a good part of my school time too) got completely engulfed by our beautiful and very dependent daughter, Ayla.

Don’t get me wrong. 98% of the time it is joy and bliss and all those cheesy clich├ęs and Hallmark card phrases. The way that she can look at me when I walk into the room and just light up makes my heart jump and a lump form in my throat. I have never felt this much love and adoration for anything in my life before (sorry Leigh!). She is the brightest star in my sky. The deep, deep love that I feel for her takes me by surprise. I just never knew it could be like this. I mean, she’s not even talking yet and she’s one of my best friends. There is no doubt that I would do absolutely anything for her.

This reminds me of a dream I had the night before she was born. I might have shared this with some of you already. I was sitting on my front porch watching a 12 or 13 year old girl dancing in the sun. She was twirling and laughing and smiling so bright. She had long light brown hair, big eyes and was so beautiful. I was then struck with that dream knowledge that comes to you in that world that this was my daughter. This was Ayla! I felt so happy! Here is this beautiful, joyful girl and I am the proud father. Well, I just swelled up with pride and enjoyed watching her dance for a few moments….until I noticed a couple of adolescent skater punk boys watching her with unveiled admiration and attraction. All of a sudden, I felt the hackles on the back of my neck raise. A growl grew in my throat and I surprisingly started growing thick brown hair all over my body. Claws grew from my hands. None of this was painful and it happened very quickly. Within a moment or two I had turned into a bear! With this new shape and power, I promptly turned on the very frightened skater punk boys and chased them far away from my precious, fairy-like little girl. It was at this point in the dream that Leigh woke me up and said, “I think my water just broke.” A very powerful and appropriate dream.

Thankfully, I’ve got a few years to get used to these Papa Bear feelings of protecting her innocence and purity. She’s only now learning how to roll over, reach out and grab objects and giggle out loud. But the changes are happening so quickly! The difference between Ayla at 3 months and 4 months is incredibly dramatic. She’s just doing all kinds of new things now.

We practice rolling over a lot. She’s got the belly to back down and is currently working on the back to belly. She’s even started to tuck her knees under herself sometimes and lift up on her arms…in other words crawling is coming! Yikes! One of the major advantages to balance out the dependency and short attention span of a 4 month old is the fact that you can put them down somewhere and know that if you walk away or turn your back they’ll still be there when you come back! Once crawling becomes a skill of hers, all bets are off. Even more time and energy will be needed to watch her. And the whole house will need to be moved up a couple shelves as well.

She is so curious. Always looking around with those bright greenish-blue-brown eyes, touching, tasting. If it’s in her hands then a second later it’s in her mouth. Mama and papa’s fingers, toys, clothes, rags…anything and everything. And the drool, oh lord the drool. She’s a freakin’ Saint Bernard these days! The teeth are coming. She’s chewing on her hands and ours as often as she can. The drool is now measured in ounces now, not tablespoons. I believe we have a month or two at least before the first one breaks the surface, but the process has started. And that’s another whole new phase of growth and change we’re not quite ready for yet. Especially Leigh’s boobs! Ouch.

Our plan is to keep her exclusively on breast milk through 6 months at least. When she starts to show serious interest in food and tries to grab stuff for herself, we’ll let her into the world of solids, but for now, she’s growing fast and furious on the ½ & ½ coming out of Leigh. Weighing in at 15 lbs and 8 oz at her 4 month pediatrician wellness exam. She is a solid and very strong little girl. And yes, I’m afraid she does have the tree trunk thighs of her father’s side of the family. Maybe she’ll be a soccer star?

She’s still sleeping with us in the bed or at times the co-sleeper next to the bed. She’ll feed at least a couple times a night, sometimes 3-4 times. But she is always wiggly! I’ve had to retreat to the living room couch on the nights before my clinical just to ensure I get enough undisturbed sleep. Leigh typically will stay in bed as long as it takes her to feel rested. I just don’t have that luxury (or patience) to stay in bed that long.

Will you excuse me for a sec? Leigh just shouted down “Will you come up here? She just shit all over me. I’m totally covered. I need back up!”

*Sigh* These treasured moments are my life.

More to come…

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Giggle Fest!

Ayla's started giggling! (Bonus - papa gets a work out)

More Like a Chin Suck...

Ayla has started to put anything and everything in her mouth. We think she has started the long road to teething - drooling, chewing, a little fussy when feeding, etc. She especially likes to chew/suck on mama's chin!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ayla's First Slide!

Went out for a long walk, all three of us, to enjoy the beautiful sunny (rare) winter day. It was gorgeous. We've got about 3 playgrounds within 10 minutes of us and we decided it was time to introduce her to one. Don't look for any overt reaction....there isn't one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If the drool is high, then so is the concentration

She is really into the elephant...

Trade you fingers for glasses?

Ayla's learning how to use her thumbs and grasp at things with much more accuracy, detail and precision...but sometimes she gets more than she intends!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Latest Video, Part I

Ayla's favorite new game is "Sit Up, Stand Up" and she sometimes DEMANDS we play it with her. We think she's just going to skip crawling altogether and evolve straight into running. Her vocal cords are growing, her lungs are expanding and she is learning how to use her voice with much more authority. It's hilarious and oh so cute. But after about 25 sit up-stand up turns, mom and dad start going a little loopy.

Latest Video, Part II

Ayla's dexterity has increased dramatically the last couple weeks. She is reaching and grasping with much more accuracy. She holds things. She's amazing.

Latest Video, Part III

The little mosquito bites again!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Another Rockin' Friday Night!

The small joys of new parenthood...

Having a Conversation with Dad

She's telling me about her day....

Friday, January 23, 2009

ayla's amazing update

greetings dear family,


we had such a wonderful time seeing you all on the east coast. now we are settling back into our portland lives, and all is well. this is belated, but so are most things with a babe in arms...

last thursday i went to a new mamas group at alma. i met some other ladies and babes,and I was also able to weigh her, and she came in, naked, at 12 lb 14 oz! She's surely over 13 pounds now, a week later. ayla was invited to model for a photo shoot for a new ad for alma! Yes, she is that beautiful, and it isn't just us that thinks so! In fact, she has taken to riding in the moby wrap carrier facing outwards, and at the grocery recently, three people stopped me to say, "sorry, but I just have to say she is so cute/pretty/beautiful and engaged/interested/alert!" Yes, that's really true.

We've begun to enjoy 'conversations' with her severl minutes long. She coos and makes various sweet and amusing sounds in response to our questions and statements. She is also more accurately mimicing me sticking out my tongue at her, getting some really long and pointy tongue faces! She's getting more adept with her hands, holding onto things now a little longer, sometimes bringing them to her face/mouth. She's still not finding her thumb, but seems content with various hand parts between her gums.

Since we returned from our trip, she has been sleeping in shorter spells than before, rarely longer than three hours at a time through the night. That's a bit of a bummer and begining to take a toll on me, but she is happy as can be. She's certainly becoming a daddy's girl too; Ayla just beams and does her silent giggles whenever he walks in the room.

Ayla has also shown her clearly brilliant and advanced nature this week with an increased engagement with books! The past few days she seems to really attend to the pages and images in Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you see? and has done likewise with some pages of The Very Hungry Catepillar as well, touching them or seeming to really concentrate on them in a sustained way.


She and Jason are camped out on the couch and the dinner I'm preparing of tandori mustard chicken, sweet potatoes, and lemon butter kale is just about coming together. This much for now, and love to all,
Leigh

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Rattle in the Hand

Ayla is making leaps and bounds in her development lately. Her motor skills are becoming more refined. She is more engaged and interested in her outside world. She tracks things with her eyes. She has found her hands. She is spending more time on her belly. She reaches for things.

We just can't believe she's already 10 weeks old!

Hold Your Head High!

Yet another developmental marker - ability to hold her head up at a 45 degree while on her tummy.

Just another sign Ayla is the definition of perfection.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Six Weeks Postpartum Reflections

More maternal musings, six weeks postpartum (written December 23, 2008)

In an unusual turn of events, I have finished the day’s most requisite emails and Ayla is still asleep, but beginning to stir, in the newfound baby-delight mother-liberator known as the battery powered swing. Yeah, my no-electric/battery operated, no plastic, no artificial substitute for parents idealism has lasted all of six weeks. At least we haven’t plopped her in front of the television yet.

Last week was our last appointment at Alma with our midwives, and it generated some reflections at six weeks postpartum. Last night Jason and I wrote of some of the newest discoveries, but also on my scribbled list of notes from reflecting on recent weeks were some particularly maternal observations to record. I had thought that six weeks was an arbitrary marker, defined by the end of occupational maternity leaves and the medical definition of the end of the postpartum period by the return of the uterus to the non-pregnant size and location. Women have written about the marked absence in such definitions of the emotional, psychological, spiritual and bodily experiences following birth, which are not ‘over’ in a mere six weeks. Those interested in evolution and cross-species biology have noted human babies have a “fourth trimester” of three months (that is, twelve weeks) outside the womb of intense, rapid development (humans, unlike other animals, cannot be born ready to run, for example, because our brain and skull size required for such coordination and autonomy would be impossible to deliver, and so is born utterly helpless, minus a handful of neato reflexes.) Thus, I have been surprised how much six weeks actually does feel like a significant transition time, but am reminded that ‘traditional cultures’ worldwide have celebrated the first 40 days.

I was talking with another new mama about Ayla’s new, engaging smiles [that, by the way, make you feel like the most special person in the universe! and, as Jason said this morning, we may be jealous when the Blizzard ends, we leave the house and she starts smiling at other people!]. It has been so fun and remarkable to see these new things she can do suddenly emerge that our orientation seems to have become quite in the moment, and even slightly forward looking, in anticipation of more to come. My friend reminded me of the conversation we’d had a few weeks ago, when it seemed the preciousness of the sacred cocoon, the very newness of birth and her body and spirit here with us in a quiet protected inner world of our bedroom, was beginning to slip away. There was a sense of needing to treasure every moment, for it would soon become only available through nostalgia. The transition now feels less sad for the loss of recent days, and instead more matter-of-factly getting on with daily life, and excited for the coming days. For this I am actually glad, for it is not easy to fully inhabit time when you are also too acutely aware of its fleeting nature.

Those early days and weeks had a preciousness, but also a tender fragility and subtlety, that, as Ayla packs on the pounds, has become more solid, grounded and less dreamy. It seems in recent months we have become aware of many babies and parents who have not had the ideal development and start to life that we’ve enjoyed (so often we think of William Jude, Prajna, Calvin, Filipe, Isabella, and the ones without names). But our sense of gratitude and fortune could also take on a heavy obligatory feeling when mixed with knowledge that we can never completely empathize with others’ struggles. Thus, it was so refreshing to just delight in the way our midwives exclaim over Ayla’s perfect eyelashes, her substantial heft, her shockingly long head-to-toe measurement, her evident gusto for breastmilk, and her sweet feminine features; to laugh about her appointment in the midst of a virtual blizzard recalling how the power went out during her birth, and wondering who and what she might pee all over this time. In their soft, smiling and sure ways with her, I can see a definite appreciation for the preciousness of life and the miracle of birth, but with a levity and grace that expects nothing less. Health, they helped me remember just by their example, is natural, not a state of fragility warranting anxiety over its potential demise. So, these days I am thinking of the balance of “miracle” and “normal” in one lovely little body.

For my birthday, one month and three days after Ayla’s birth-day (which feels like my real birth-day!), I chose to do a long walk in Forest Park, and Jason knew a relatively level trail. I’d still been feeling some looseness in my pelvic joints, and some continuing healing in pelvic muscles when we went for longer walks in the neighborhood. Some ways into the woods, silently breathing in the moist clean air and the vibrant greens of mosses, lichens, ferns and evergreen needles, I felt those ‘bruises’ as receding and had a surprising moment of not wanting them to completely disappear! Those pains were the last remaining evidence of the birth, proof to myself that it had been challenging and that I had done it – had it not really been that momentous I wouldn’t still be feeling it, after all, yet here I was, still carrying bodily remnants and memories. I’ve had moments of missing being pregnant, but mostly shock at how long ago it seems that I was ever pregnant. That birth could also feel like it was a long time ago was held at bay somewhat by lingering pains. But now, at six weeks (really, probably at five weeks), the pains I feel are new ones: upper back aches from carrying and feeding a baby! And, in fact, the constant, constant, constant presence with her is so immediate that there isn’t much time or energy really to dwell on what’s passed.

Gladly, we have an increasing sense that we understand her communications and are anticipating her needs. She rarely cries these days, and only for shorter bursts while we do whatever’s needed in order to respond appropriately. She has learned the sequence of breastfeeding, for example, and, if I haven’t prepared early enough to pre-empt hungry fussing, will immediately calm as soon as I lie her across my lap, watching and waiting patiently as I undo a bra and lift my shirt. We feel that we are building trust and security in our relationship with her, and that our presence to her and our attentiveness, even in the absence of a perfect ‘solution’, creates the more important lasting impression.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Ayla's World Tour of Love, 2008-2009

Below is a YouTube compilation of images made from your visit to Atlanta and New York City. Just click on the play button, turn up the volume (soundtrack courtesy of Phish) and enjoy! (The full 250 photo gallery can be viewed on Ayla's Picasa site here - http://picasaweb.google.com/aylajadesangster/AylaSWorldTourOfLove20082009#)
It was an amazing visit! 11 days, 2 cities and Ayla must have met over 75 friends and family (50 alone in Atlanta!). We had such a great time. It was chaotic, frenetic, fun, exhausting, very special and such an honor. To be loved by so many, to have so many friends and family go totally out of their way to visit us and meet Ayla speaks to the depth of our love for each other and the happiness that people have for our new family and life.
Ayla was, of course, a rock star. She basically slept the whole time we were traveling in the plane and in the airports. Very lucky and blessed with that! She met for the first time 2 of the 3 grandmas (Leigh's mom came out shortly after she was born), both grandpas, both aunts, cousins, great uncles and aunts and so many friends we lost count!

It was such a special time for everyone to meet her too because she is just starting to interact with her environment and look outward. For the first 6 weeks or so, she would get upset if we had her facing out. She was only happy facing our chest or looking over our shoulder. But now she has begun to really explore the outer world a bit and it is so much fun. She just learned to smile at people right before we left and so that was such a sacred and pure gift to give everyone - her full face smile. She would just beam the love at people. I think it made their whole day or week after seeing such a pure, beautiful baby smile!

We are very thankful that she was able to meet so many people this early. I look forward to the day when folks meet her again in 5, 10, 20 years from now and say, "I remember when you were this big..." Witnessing the growth of this human being is such a joy and wonder. We are so happy (and proud) to share Ayla with other loved ones.
A huge thanks to all of you who came to visit us! And of course a special thank you to our parents and family for making this trip possible, giving us a special place in their homes, driving down from Indiana and North Carolina and flying up from Tampa. And thanks to friends in New York for giving us their apartment to stay in while they were out of town, an invitation to a great, fun wedding, driving down from Vermont for a well overdue visit, and a brunch afternoon full of delicious food, warm hospitality, old friends and new life!

We are blessed. Enjoy the movie!