Friday, September 30, 2011

Pizza Party

Jared and Ryann had several Daddy-Daughter dates while I was in Lincoln for training. For dinner one evening they dropped by Sweet Basil, a little Walla Walla pizza shop. Usually Ryann was a fan of the housemade minestrone soup. That day, she decided that Daddy's pizza looked the best.




Thursday, September 29, 2011

Breather

Moving is exhausting.

Losing a Friend

I've frequently talked about Ryann's little friend Kayla here on this blog. Because we moved away and the girls had a chance to say bye to each other, there's never been a reason for Kayla's parents to mention anything about Ryann to her. Besides, Kayla's still extremely young and no one even knew whether or not she remembered Ryann or missed her. Jared and I have been excited to find out whether Kayla remembers us when her family comes to visit in November, although up until now we didn't really expect her to remember us.

Becky tells the story on her blog.

So sweet. So sad.

I can't wait to hug Kayla. But I'm afraid that while she'll be happy too see us, she'll quickly start to look around for Ryann, thinking that they'll be able to run off and play together. At the same time, I'm afraid she won't remember and won't look.

When we were visiting our friends out in Iowa earlier this summer, at the end of our first supper there, almost everyone had migrated into the livingroom. I was left in the kitchen munching on fruit with little C. We had been talking about dolls and games. Missing Walla Walla and the exciting new neighbor kids. Then C turned to me and asked, 'Ryann died, didn't she?'

It's bad enough that we hurt. It's awful to know our friends hurt. But once in a while we remember that there's a younger set who lost a member. There's nothing I want more than to shield them from this. It's too unfair. They're too young. This shouldn't happen to them.

Little C, as little as she is, took a moment to make sure that I was okay with remembering Ryann. When she saw that I didn't cry and wasn't upset with her for bringing it up, she told me about Ryann. She told me about how my little girl had played tag and tea and dolls. How they had shared a meal and made messes. Little C shared her memories of Ryann with me and gave me another glimpse of my daughter. One where she was a playmate, a conspirator, a friend. One where, although too short, she had a childhood filled with friends and adventure.


Playing with the big girls at the Lincoln Children's Museum.
 
Meeting new friends at the library.
(This was taken on May 27, the day before we rushed to the hospital.)



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Piano Love

Ryann unsurprisingly loved the piano.  This is far from unusual for babies and children. What was unusual was her proper posture, careful poking, sudden smashing, and thoughtful selection of sheet music. Although she couldn't yet read the notes, she knew that the sheets were somehow connected to what we played. She would carefully shuffle through our books and when she found something she deemed suitable she would shove it onto the music stand, study it carefully, and play. 

I gave my senior recital when I was three months pregnant, Jared practiced every day in the practice rooms with Ryann until she was seven months old, I brought Ryann to Assumption with me several times a week while I played for the service. Ryann learned that not only does the piano makes a satisfying racket, but that it's something to share and gather around. That it's one of the pieces of our family. And that we loved watching her embrace it.



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Monday, September 26, 2011

'Sharing' the Keys

I never fail to get a laugh out of these pictures. Ryann loved playing the piano and sharing was still a skill that we were working on. And so I present Ryann and Clara (Auntie Rachel's little girl).

'Dude, this is so not what I had in mind.'

'I'm outta here.'
Clara's munchkin grin betrays her sneakily successful plan.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Christmas Morning 2010

There's nothing quite like feeling snow crunching under your boots for the first time, church bells tolling behind you, and a Christmas dinner waiting at home. Completely squeal worthy.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Comprehension

Ryann was just starting to hit that incredible moment in which words and ideas suddenly meld. Words are no longer just sounds. They're no longer even simply indicating objects. They are ideas. Every day she would surprise us with new words. Every day we found new ideas she hadn't understood just the day before. Every day this little person became a bit more of a little person.

Jared took this video just a week before we moved. The house is full of boxes and there are countless things that need to be done, but Jared and Ryann took a moment to play and talk and live. Ryann had just gotten a green plastic necklace from her friend Chloe at Easter, thus the 'jewels' Jared refers to in the video below. It's mind-boggling to watch my baby listen to her Daddy, comprehend what he's saying to her, create an independent idea from his, and walk away to enact that idea. How did we possibly manage to create such an amazing creature!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Phantom Child Syndrome


Most of the time I remember that Ryann is gone. I know I'll never catch her reading in a corner of her room or chasing the cats into the closet. Most of the time I remember that it's just Jared and me now. Once in a while I'll catch myself reaching down for a little hand or turning to check on a small passenger. And then I remember that she's not there.

I used to have such a hard time dropping her off with her babysitter for the afternoon. Leaving her always felt like there was a rubberband stretching, stretching, pulling me back. The rubberband is still there and still pulling, but there's nothing on the other side. It's disorienting and breathtaking. When I find myself looking around for her I feel it snap back and I gasp.

The strongest thing I remember of those first few weeks was the overwhelming sense that my arms were empty. I could literally feel the wriggly little body. Feel her weight settled on my hip, my arm snugged under her, her hand on my shoulder. But there was nothing there. No little fingers grabbing my nose. No soft cheek rubbing against mine. Gone. It was suffocating.

I feel a constant pull forward to our other children we hope to have. To feel the incredible little life in my arms again. But a part of me is so scared that instead of embracing the lives to come, the me who is Ryann's-Mommy will only be able to be bitter and jealous of the me who is Again-a-Mommy.

It hurts to know that there will be people who will know and love the rest of my family, but who will never be able to know and love the first set of chubby little arms I will always feel. So we tell stories and remember and share the baby girl who will always be our firstborn.



On moving day with Auntie Rachel
 
A champion wiggle-worm

Content in eachothers arms


Capitol Capers

The Nebraska State Capitol building is generally viewed as being the most beautiful in the United States. Whether or not it's true, the top dome makes a great playpen.


Monday, September 19, 2011

A Taste of Things which Could Have Been

Jared took this video during one of Ryann's last days. They had gone on a run around Holmes Lake and stopped to play on the playground for just a bit before heading home.

We remember the times that we had and try to fill them with every bit of memory of the sounds and colors and the breeze. How the wheel on the stroller wouldn't cooperate and how Ryann wanted to run straight into the lake. The buttons on her sweater. Her topknot and glitter shoes.

We make the memories that we do have as vivid as possible in pointless attempt to fill the void of the memories we'll never make.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two-Wheeled Toy

As alluded to previously, Jared has a new toy. In Washington we were a two car family, due to juggling Ryann back and forth between the two of us and living about ten miles out from work. When we moved to Nebraska, we sold my beloved beater car so that we could make the drive sans car trailer. We figured being a one car family would work fine for us, since I would be working full-time and Jared would be a stay-at-home Dad to Ryann. Now that Jared needs to jet around town to work and school, having only one car was becoming a bit cramp-ish.

This was just the excuse we needed to fulfill Jared's decade-long dream of owning a Vespa.

Cherry-red, natch. We are Huskers now, are we not?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Early Evidence

Ryann was always a ridiculously happy little being. Early on, when Jared and I would brag about Ryann's early interactions, people were quick to dismiss it. They naturally thought that our stories were simply the ramblings of proud parents who were severly overblowing their child's accomplishments.

Our conversations with people at this point generally went like this:

     Us - You should have seen Ryann this morning! She was being so silly!
     Them - She had gas.

Or like this:

     Us - Oh man, Ryann really likes that color. Look at her grin!
     Them - She has gas.

I leave the below evidence for your review. Ryann was two weeks old when this video was shot.

A Post Support Group Treat

Is there anything that fries and softserve can't cure? Well, yes.

But at least they make a valiant effort.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Neighbor Kid

We are occasionally lucky enough to catch him leering down as we pass.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Best Friends


One of the hardest things about moving away from Walla Walla was leaving our friends. I have never in my life lived in one spot as long as I did in Walla Walla. It's where I graduated, met Jared, got married, had a baby, made a home. We left already looking forward to going back to visit. And we will. But it won't be what we imagined.

One of the families we grew close to during our time in Walla Walla was the St. Clairs. While we had known them for quite a while, we didn't begin getting to know each other until our little girls were on the way. For some reason we had always travelled in parallel groups rather than in the same. Ryann and Kayla brought us together and bind us still. Jared and I are still able to see a bit of Ryann growing up in watching Kayla and experience a bittersweet thrill at every little milestone we hear about her reaching.

This November, just a few weeks after Ryann's second birthday, the St. Clairs are coming for a week long visit. We cannot wait to see them again. We're already planning meals and zoo outings and museum trips. And we're so looking forward to having a toddler in the house again.


An early Ryann-Kayla playdate. The very first one ended with Jason (Kayla's Daddy) in Jared's jeans.
Another story for another time.

Taken during the small window in which Kayla outpaced Ryann in the motor skills department.
Ryann's half-birthday party.

Playdate at Southfork.

Early standing adventures.

'The Girls' at Kayla's birthday party.
Ryann - 9 months, Kayla - 1 year, Chloe - 1 year, Natalie - 9 months
 
After playing in the sprinkler, Ryann and Kayla taunted the dog.


First experience camping.

Reading Winnie the Pooh is apparently a riot.

On second thought, it's a very serious business.

Sabbath school cracker break.

Shopping cracker break.

Time for a quiet one-on-one.

Ryann and Kayla's last playdate. This was taken during the 'trash supper' the St. Clairs and Jared had to clean out our fridge while packing up for Lincoln. I was in Lincoln for training at the time.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Watching Death Come

When I was younger, I had a cat named Bob. Bob was a beautiful longhaired black cat who was stupendously dim-witted and amazingly lovable. We actually went through a terrible few months when Bob was a half grown young thing because he was such a sweet tempered cat that he would never stand up for himself and we just so happened to also have a half grown red-freckled cowdog at this same time who loved Bob. She loved Bob so much that she would regularly drag him up and down our deck by his luxurious black fur. She would gnaw and drool into his ruff. She would pounce on his belly. And Bob would lay there and try to continue purring. As a result of this friendship, Bob did go through a fairly rag-tag looking half grown phase.

One day my Mom went out to feed the cats and came back in carrying Bob. We don't know exactly what happened to him, whether it was a snake bite or poison, but he was sick and weak and dehydrated. I kept him by my side all day and every ten minutes or so would feed him droppers of water. He was so weak and limp, but so happy to be near us all day. I thought he would recover in a few days.

In the evening, when I was feeding him another dropper of water, he suddenly went slack. His eyes went dim and his head flopped over. After a second, he looked back up and I continued feeding him water. It happened again. Then he started choking on the water. I was in my room alone with him and when he started choking I got so scared. I had no idea what was happening. I yelled for Mom. She came running in and I pushed Bob into her arms. He was starting to seize. I ran out of the room. I just couldn't stay and watch and not be able to do anything. I felt guilty. A few minutes later, Mom came out of the room without Bob. 'He died.' I was shocked. Just the day before he had been fine. How could such a loving little being just be gone?

When we were in the hospital with Ryann, we thought that we'd be walking out in the morning. When they started talking about tranferring us up to the ICU and then to the Omaha Children's Hospital, and we still thought that it just meant that we were in for a hard week, trying to manage schedules and vehicles so as not to leave Ryann alone in the hospital. We never thought that we would be walking out without her.

In the hospital, Jared and I took turns holding her. Although Ryann was unresponsive when we first arrived at the hospital, after she had massive amounts of fluid through her IV, she was generally alert even if she was oddly limp the entire night.

But the last time I held her it was different. I saw Bob. And I knew.

I hoped I was wrong. I prayed that I was being morbid. But I knew. And this time I was the Mom who had to hold her until the end. I was the one who had to watch my baby's eyes dim. I was terrified of what I knew was coming. Terrified that I wouldn't be able to make myself stay. Terrified that I would run out of the room because I wasn't strong enough to hold her until the end.

I wasn't strong enough, but I held her anyway. I was scared, but I tried to not panic. And when she passed out once again and the doctors asked me to hand Ryann to them and leave the room, I did. And I knew she was gone.

But I had been with her when she needed me. I held her hand and sang her songs and loved her.

Love her.

 

Ryann's Half-Birthday Party

Photos by Aric Vyhmeister

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Family Dress-Up

Neither Jared or I have ever been big into Halloween. I agree that it's fun to dress up and hang out with friends, but I've found that it's just way to easy for things to start skewing scary or sluttish. I have no appreciation for either and would generally prefer to not hang out in the midst of several hundred horny headless horsemen.

Last year, one of our good friends hosted a small party at their house. Two of Ryann's best friends would be there as well, Kayla and Chloe (the daughter of the hosts). For some unknown reason, I was seized with the desire to make up an amazing set of Family Costumes.

Jared and I threw ideas back and forth and finally settled on Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the White Rabbit. I stayed up entirely too late sewing Ryann's costume, but the effect was amazingly worth it. Ryann was always a ham, and she quickly realized that her little blonde wig was a hit. She refused to take it off all night! I finally had to remove it a few hours after we arrived because she was overheating so badly.

I think that this year Jared and I will probably revert back to our former ways and stay in on Halloween. Possibly start brainstorming for next year.


Kayla - Ladybug, Chloe - Alpine Girl, Ryann - Alice

Friday, September 2, 2011

Travels

Since Jared and I are hoping to add to our family in the relatively near-ish future, we have utilize this short period of quiet to travel. So far we have visited friends in Iowa, road-tripped it down to Kansas City (to pick up Jared's long awaited Vespa), and flown to Newark. We have trolled the shops on the banks of the Mississippi, chatted up bikers in KC, and sipped coffee on 5th Avenue.

Tomorrow we're flying out to Chicago to spend four days soaking up the Windy City. I'm looking forward to running the lake-front trails, eating in Chinatown, and once again seeing the Chagall windows in the Art Institute.

Ryann's best friend, Kayla, (and her parents) are coming for a week long visit in November and my Mom will be here at the beginning of the month. My Mom will be here over Ryann's second birthday and we're planning on beginning work on sorting her things and turning her room into a guest room. I have no idea how that will go, but it feels good to have a goal in mind and to know that there will be someone here to help us.

At the end of January we'll be flying into New Orleans to spend a few days before shipping out on a Carribean cruise with the rest of my family. My bitty neice, Mei, will be almost ten months by then. I'm looking forward to a relaxing family vacation.

Jared's hoping to enroll at the Goethe Institute in Chicago for an intense four-week session in German next summer. Hopefully this will be the end of our random excursions for a bit, as we're planning to add a small Hiscock in the fall.

We're both loving the travels and we're happy to be spending so much time with our friends. But I think that the trip we're most looking forward to, and yet dreading at the same time, is a distant return to Walla Walla to show the rest of our family the spots where their sister lived.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pining

I have rarely been truly content. I usually struggle with being excited for the next step, the next thing. It gets annoying, even for me. I always wanted to be a year older, to be reading the next chapter, to be taller. It's so frustrating because after I get to that longed for point, I realize that I never truly appreciated the last step while I was in it, and yet I would already be pushing to move on to the next point.

A strange thing happened when we found out I was pregnant. I felt settled. Happy. Content. I was scared that I would lose this feeling, since I really had no idea how I had finally come upon it in the first place. I made a point to relax into it. I purposefully loved every moment of being pregnant. I had no idea whether or not this feeling would last, but I loved it. Several times I marveled to Jared about how amazing it was to thoroughly enjoy every stage of experiencing Ryann. And it didn't leave. I was always able to completely enjoy every single stage our little family went through. It was incredible.

It's gone now, that feeling of fully living. I hope that I can find it again. Now that I've experienced it and know that it really is as great as it seems it would be, I miss it terribly. But this time, instead of constantly being pulled forward toward the next great thing, I'm also being pulled back. If there were any way to turn back time and relive the two years we had with Ryann, I would do it in a heartbeat. I would choose to live in a constant loop of those two years rather create new memories.

But I can't.

Instead I long for the next thing. I sometimes find myself so focused on the future that I haven't valued what I have now. And while that might not seem like such a terrible thing at times, I can't help but think of how I would feel now if I had done that when we did have Ryann. What if I hadn't soaked up every moment, every smile, every belly laugh and scrape?

So I try to look around instead of only forward or back. I make a point of meeting new friends and eating good food and enjoying these last summer days. And I hope that someday I can again find more than just a moment of that complete contentment.




Pictures from our last playdate with Ryann's best friend, Kayla, before we moved.
Ryann was a bit of a daredevil.