Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Vacation (Part 1)

Our Christmas vacation began on Saturday, December 15, when Ryan, Avery, and I flew from NJ to SC in the afternoon. The trip was an interesting one, as Ryan had hurt his knee on Wednesday night and couldn't walk at all on Saturday. On top of that, we had only brought one small suitcase and one carry-on suitcase up with us when we moved. So we filled up the carry on with as much (heavy) stuff as possible and sent it back with my parents who were up visiting that weekend. We brought as many carry on bags on the plane with us as possible. So we were quite a sight getting through the airport. Ryan was in a wheelchair holding several bags and I was pushing Avery in the stroller while carrying a couple bags as well. Thankfully, we had a direct flight to Greenville, so once we were on the plane, the trip was pretty easy. Avery ate as we were taking off, and slept the rest of the flight. What a blessing to have an easy, adaptable baby!

We enjoyed a wonderful evening with my family our first night home as we caught up with each other over delicious sandwiches and soup. The next morning at church, we had so much fun seeing our church family again. Avery loved getting to meet so many new people and was quite happy to let anyone hold her.

After  the evening service, mom invited my extended family to come over and celebrate Ryan's birthday (which was coming up the following weekend). We had meatball subs and Ryan's favorite dessert - carrot cake. Every time we get together with our family, I am so thankful to have so many aunts, uncles, and cousins living in town and for the fun we all have together.

Our first week home was full of Christmas parties, shopping, and lots of good eating! Mom, Avery, and I spent an afternoon at the mall together, and Avery loved her first shopping trip with Grandma. I'm sure there will be many more of those in the future.

On Saturday, we headed over to my cousin's house to celebrate his daughter's first birthday. Her party was A Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed, and the table looked so pretty! We loved watching Halle open and enjoy her presents, and laughed as she debated about whether or not she should get her fingers into the cake. Avery slept for most of the party in Halle's crib, but before she left, the cousins had a great time playing in Halle's new bouncy castle together.

Later that evening, my parents took us to our favorite Chinese restaurant for Ryan's birthday dinner. And we had another of Ryan's favorite desserts when we got back home - chocolate cake with a coffee-cinnamon buttercream - while he opened his gifts. I love this picture of Ryan and Avery from that afternoon.

Our first week at home went by too quickly, but we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with family and preparing for Christmas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

5 Months Old

Today our little girl is 5 months old. It hardly seems possible that we have had almost half a year with her. We could never have imagined how much fun it is to be parents. Avery makes us laugh every day with her silly faces, funny noises and never-ending curiosity. Here are a few stats and highlights from this month:

  • Takes 3 2-hour naps during the day
  • Sleeps 12 hours at night
  • Rolls over from tummy to back and back to tummy, but prefers to play on her tummy

  • Sucks her thumb while sleeping
  • Sticks out her tongue on purpose
  • Imitates noises that we make (cooing, blowing bubbles)
  • Laughs and giggles at funny noises or funny faces we make to her

  • Does not like when Mommy hands her to the nursery workers at church, but does fine if she is playing on the floor when Mommy leaves.
  • Smiles at anyone who talks to her

We thank the Lord for each day He gives us with Avery Lyn. Happy 5 months, sweet girl!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chocolate Butterscotch Trifle

During the days that we were without power last week, I occupied myself by reading through some of my cookbooks. I love learning about new ways to combine foods and create new dishes with favorite ingredients. All too often, I find myself making the same meals over and over again. So my resolution this week was to try at least one new recipe.

Over the weekend, Ryan was in the mood for some chocolate cupcakes which I decided to make for him while we was studying in the library. I brought Avery's bumbo seat into the kitchen and she talked and kept me company while I baked. I had a chocolate cake mix in the cupboard, but I remembered a cake I had baked from scratch in Grenada that was just about as easy as using a mix. Plus, it has coffee in it, and nothing is better than chocolate and coffee.

I mixed the cake, poured it into my favorite purple polka-dot cupcake wrappers and waited for them to bake. When I took them out of the oven, I was very disappointed to see that instead of rising to a nice round shape, they were spread out and flat. As I attempted to take them out of the cupcake pan, I noticed they were extremely soft (although they were fully baked) and did not hold their shape well. I knew I couldn't frost them and eat them as regular cupcakes. Since they still tasted fine, I thought I would break the cupcakes up into pieces and use them in a trifle dessert.

The next step was to think of what else to add to the cake. I had made a trifle a couple years ago with chocolate pudding, but I didn't want to go overboard on the chocolate (for Ryan's sake). I do love puddings, though, so I found a recipe for a homemade butterscotch pudding and decided to give that a try. It was a little time-consuming, but the result was so worth it! As the final layer, I beat heavy whipping cream with a little powdered sugar, cinnamon, and coffee. I topped the dessert with a few extra cake crumbs and caramelized walnuts. This might be one of my new go-to recipes during the fall. It was rich in flavor, but suprisingly light. And it tastes just as good a few days later. Excuse me while I go get a spoon . . .

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

After living in Grenada for 2 1/2 years without experiencing even a tropical storm, we were quite surprised to learn that Hurricane Sandy was heading our way up here in New Jersey. The weekend before the storm came, we stocked up on bottled water, canned goods, and other non-perishables from the grocery store. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but we decided to stick it out here at home and hope for the best. Ryan found out on Sunday evening that he did not have to go in to the hospital on Monday or Tuesday. I think if we had known that sooner, we would have driven down to Greenville for the week.

But Monday morning arrived gray and windy with a little rain off and on. We had no idea how long our power would last, so we tried to do everything that required power as early as possible in the day. Avery loved having her daddy home all day, and he kept her occupied while I cleaned the house, did laundry, and cooked some food we had in the fridge. No play date with daddy is complete without a little photo shoot!

Throughout the day, the wind continued to pick up and we watched the latest predictions on the news, praying it wouldn't be as bad as they said it would be. Around 7:30, I was finishing feeding Avery and putting her to bed when our power went out. We lit a few candles, watched a movie on the computer, and went to bed around 10:00 pm. Since there were some pretty tall trees outside of Avery's room, she slept in the Pack 'n Play in our room that night. I remember waking up around 2:00 am and realizing the wind had stopped.

The next morning, we looked outside and saw only a few branches and shingles scattered on the grass. Later in the day, we saw a small tree had fallen over outside our building, but did not hit or damage any of the apartments nearby. We kept ourselves occupied by playing with Avery, playing games, and watching another movie. I started a new knitting project and enjoyed having several hours to work on it.

Ryan had to go back to work on Wednesday, and by this time our apartment was beginning to feel a little colder. Avery was well-dressed  and I continually was checking her, but she always felt warm to me so I knew she was fine. In fact, I don't think she knew anything was different. She slept just as great as she always does and was happy and content during the day. We heard from the assistant pastor's wife that evening to let us know church was cancelled because the church did not have power. I don't think we would have made it anyway since we hadn't showered since Monday morning.

Thankfully, we still had water (although it wasn't hot) and we had a gas stove, so we were able to heat up water to wash up in the mornings and I had hot bowls of soup for lunch everyday. Ryan gets a discount at the hospital cafeteria (which has delicious food) so he brought home dinner each night. He heard that we would not be getting our power back until the following Monday, so we started to make plans to stay with friends in PA for the weekend.

On Thursday, Ryan came home during his lunch hour so Avery and I could sit in the warm car for an hour (while we ran a few errands). Since we hadn't been able to get on the internet or watch the news the past few days, we had no idea how bad the situation around us really was. What we could see, though, was that there was some sort of gas shortage in the area. The gas station at the corner of our street had cars lined up for miles, and Ryan had to find another way home from work.

By this time, we heard that the power may not be back on until Thursday or Friday of the following week. I didn't think I could stand sitting in a cold dark house for another week, so we started exploring other options. My favorite option was the one where we would fly home to Greenville Friday afternoon. Spending a week with my family and being with our church family again was a very exciting prospect. We talked to my parents that evening, and Dad said he would begin looking up plane tickets for us when we arrived home. I had prayed with Avery every morning that the power would come back on soon, but I have to admit that with each new prediction, I began to lose faith.

As Ryan and I sat there Thursday evening discussing our options, we heard a "beep" and the lights came on! We were completely surprised and I almost had tears in my eyes I was so happy. The apartment gradually began to get warm and we sat there in overwhelming thankfulness. I was disappointed, however, when I had to let my family know we weren't going to see them that weekend. But they will be here for Thanksgiving in just a couple weeks! This past weekend I have actually enjoyed cleaning and putting our house back together again. Plus, I read a lot of cookbooks this past week and I was inspired to try a few new recipes (blog posts coming soon).

But as we watched the news reports and began to understand the devastation in our area, we were even more thankful for the protection the Lord gave us. Our hearts go out to those who lost not only their power, but also their homes, possessions, and in some cases, their loved ones.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Avery and the Pumpkin Patch

A couple weeks ago, we took advantage of a free Saturday and visited a nearby farm and pumpkin patch. The weather was not too fall-like with temperatures in the low 70's and uncharacteristic humidity and clouds. Not to be deterred, we dressed Avery in a cute sweater dress from one of her doting aunts, a pair of tights, a jacket, and a hat I knit a couple years ago. Poor thing! But you can't take pictures with pumpkins while wearing a t-shirt, can you?

Since we are new to the area, the only way of finding a pumpkin patch was through a google search. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but the farm wasn't too far away, so we gave it a try. It turns out that Fairfield Farm is lovely little place kind of out in the country. It has a huge pumpkin patch, rows of corn, hayrides, games for kids, and an outdoor shop filled with selections of apples, mums, and cider. We walked out into the pumpkin patch and began looking for the perfect photo opportunity. After rearranging a few pumpkins, we put Avery down on the ground and started snapping.

Usually she loves smiling for the camera, but I think it might have been a little bright for her. Also, it was more interesting to touch her shoes and play with the pumpkins than to look at her parents who were trying desperately to make her smile. A nice family nearby offered to take a picture of the three of us.

There wasn't too much else to keep her occupied at the farm, so after a couple more pictures, we headed home. We thoroughly enjoyed our first visit as a family to the pumpkin patch, and look forward to many more years of memories!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

NYC in a Day

One of the reasons I was excited to move to New Jersey was the fact that New York City was only a short distance away. I've been to the city twice before and loved both visits. Ryan had never been, so it was on our list of things to do this fall.

Last Monday, Ryan had the day off for Columbus Day, so we decided to head across the river for the day. We had originally planned to bring Avery with us, but as we mentioned our plans to some friends at church last week, Mrs. Berry insisted on coming to our house and keeping Avery for us. She and her daughter have watched Avery in the nursery several times, and Avery loves them, so we were happy to take her up on the offer.

We left for the Newark train station around 9 am (about a 10 minute drive from our apartment) and boarded a train that took us directly to the World Trade Center. Thirty minutes later (and at only $2.25/person), the trip was quick and economical. We walked just a couple blocks to the 9/11 Memorial and spent a few minutes in the beautiful park. The pools representing the two towers are breath-taking, and are much deeper in person. One World Trade Center is only about halfway completed, but it is an amazing sight.

From there, we took a detour across the street to see Trinity Church. We didn't have time to explore this historic location on this trip, but Ryan got a quick picture while we were there.

Next, we walked a short distance to Battery Park for a view of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty. Once again, we plan to visit those places again in the future. From there, we headed up Wall Street towards the Brooklyn Bridge. Ryan had read about a great pizza place near the water, but we couldn't find it anywhere. Thankfully, NYC has no shortage of great restaurants. So we stopped at a cozy little Italian place that happened to serve the best gnocchi I've ever had.

After a delicious and filling lunch, we walked a couple block to the subway station and made our way to Times Square. While I stood in line for a pumpkin spice latte, Ryan took in the sights and sounds of Times Square.

Mr. Berry told us that the view from the top of the Rockefeller Center is the best in the city, and we were not disappointed! The tickets were a little expensive, but the 360-degree views were well worth it. The weather was cool but clear, and Ryan was able to get some gorgeous panoramic pictures. We plan to get one of them printed onto canvas for the blank wall in our living room.

After coming down from the Top of the Rock, we bought some soft pretzels and headed outside to view the iconic ice skating rink. We will definitely be coming back here at Christmas to see the huge Christmas tree in the plaza.

We had planned to eat dinner in the city, but after having a late lunch and walking for most of the day, we decided to beat the rush hour traffic and head home. The train station was only a short distance away, and we arrived back at our apartment a little after 5 pm. We absolutely loved our brief visit to the city and we are already planning a return trip very soon.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Avery's Birth Story

My due date (June 28) came and went with no signs of labor. As much as I imagined that I felt differently, I had to admit I felt as great as ever and she was probably going to be late. My doctor said we didn't even need to talk about getting induced until I was 2 weeks late. So back home I went to keep busy and try to encourage her to come with long walks in the evenings.

On Saturday, June 30, Rebekah and I came up with the idea to make a few decorations for the hospital room. We went shopping that afternoon, bought some cupcake wrappers, scrapbook paper, and ribbon and got to work making pinwheels, cupcake decorations, and a name plate for the door. Anything to keep busy, right?

Tuesday, July 3 was a big day for Ryan. He was scheduled to take his Step 1 exam for medical school. This is an 8-hour exam (8 am - 4 pm) that he had to pass in order to begin clinical rotations this fall. In addition, the score on this test will be one of the main factors in determining what residency program he joins in a couple years. All that to say, it is probably the most important test he will take during medical school. Fortunately, he was able to take the exam at a testing center just a couple minutes from our house.

Ryan left for his test around 7:30 Tuesday morning. I didn't have any plans for the day, so I stayed in bed a little longer. As I lay there praying for Ryan's test, I suddenly felt my water break! Ironically, I looked over at the clock, and it was exactly 8:00 am - the very minute that Ryan's test began. I think I actually laughed out loud! We had always joked about the baby coming on test day, but I thought there was no way this was actually going to happen. I had already thought about the fact that if I went into labor while Ryan was in his test, I wasn't going to tell him. This test was very important, and there was nothing he could do once he began taking it. So until his test was over, we didn't tell anyone outside of my immediate family.

I half expected contractions to begin immediately, but after a few minutes, I realized they weren't coming anytime soon. I decided that while I still felt good, I should probably be getting ready. I showered, put on some makeup, and finished packing our hospital bags.

About an hour later, I came downstairs and calmly told my parents that my water broke, but that I wasn't having any contractions, so I wasn't going to the hospital right away. I knew that once I got to the hospital, my food choices would be limited during labor, so Dad made me a delicious breakfast. After eating, I put in a couple loads of laundry and decided to start working on the cupcakes. I had my first contraction around 10:30 am. But it only lasted a couple minutes, and the next one didn't come for another hour. I continued looking at the clock and wondering how I was going to last until 4:00 pm when Ryan would finish his test. I tried to keep busy around the house in order to spend as little time in the hospital as possible. I did call my doctor right after my water broke and told them I would be there that afternoon.

Around 12:30 pm, the contractions started coming about half an hour apart. Dad left for a lunch meeting with someone, and Mom and I left for the hospital around 1:30. I walked up to the nurses' station and  told them my water broke and I was in labor. Apparently they get a lot of false alarms from first-time moms because they all seemed very skeptical. But once they brought me to my room and checked my progress, there was no doubt this baby was coming! I was only 2 cm dilated at this point, though.

One of the many blessings from this day was the fact that my nurse was a friend of ours from church! She was an amazing help to me during labor, especially without Ryan there. She encouraged me to try different positions - the birthing ball, the hot tub, walking around, etc. Also, I think we had one of the nicest hospital rooms in the country. We had a huge, corner room with a lovely view and tons of space. The rooms are also set up with an area to weigh and bathe the baby, so she didn't have to leave our room at all after she was born. We felt more like we were in a hotel than a hospital, and we were so thankful for such a wonderful experience.

From 2:00 - 4:00, I felt like my labor was progressing very quickly. The contractions were much stronger and so close together that I hardly had a break in between. I originally planned to go as long as I could without an epidural, but I think the combination of being there without Ryan and not being able to rest in between contractions had me asking for it around 4:00. By this time, I was only 4 cm. The nurse continued to encourage me to wait a little longer (at least until Ryan got there).

Around 4:15, Rebekah called Ryan from my cell phone, knowing he would be finished with his test. When she told him I was in labor, he thought she was joking. She assured him she was serious and told him to come straight to the hospital. I don't even want to know how fast he drove on the way over there! By the time he got there I knew I needed to get an epidural soon.

The anesthesiologist took his time coming up (per my doctor's instructions, as I found out later). He finally came up around 5:30. I don't even remember feeling the needle. I was so eager to have some relief from the pain. After about 30 minutes, I could tell it wasn't working, so he tried it again. This time, I began to relax almost immediately. By this time, it was about 6:30. The doctor came in to check me again, and I was at 10 cm! I'm so thankful for a doctor who postponed the epidural long enough for labor to progress on its own. At this point, there was nothing to do but wait for the urge to push. The nurse turned down the lights in the room, and left us alone for about an hour to relax and try to get some sleep. I don't think either of us slept, but it was nice to have a few minutes of peace and quiet. Around 9:30 pm, the nurse said we should begin pushing. I didn't find this part very difficult at all, and enjoyed the anticipation of finally meeting our little girl.

Avery Lyn Hudson was born at 11:12 pm on July 3. She weighed 7 lbs, 12 oz. and was 21" long.

She was wide awake right from the start. Ryan was able to cut the cord, and then the doctor placed her on my chest. I couldn't believe how beautiful and perfect she was.

After completing the necessary procedures, the nurses left us alone for about 30 minutes so I could nurse her, and we could spend some time as a family. A little after midnight, the nurse came back in and gave Avery her first bath. My family had been outside in the waiting room since around 11:00 pm, and were eager to meet her! Ryan went and brought them to our room and we had a wonderful, special time introducing Avery to her family.

They also brought us subs, fruit, snacks, and drinks since we hadn't eaten anything all day! Shortly after my family left, we all went to bed. One funny side note, we had not named Avery at this point! We were still debating between two names, and couldn't decide which one we liked better. Everyone said we would know what to name her as soon as we saw her, but not us! My parents encouraged us to take a few hours and decide in the morning. It was so late at night anyway, that we weren't going to announce her birth until the next day. So our poor daughter spent her first night without a name. (Some of her hospital paperwork still says "Baby Girl Hudson.")

The next morning, we finally agreed on her name (Lyn is my middle name, and we just liked the name Avery), and sent a text to friends and family. I was surprised at how good I felt. I put on real clothes (albeit sweatpants and a t-shirt) and got cleaned up for the day. I had bought a little 4th of July outfit a few weeks ago, assuming she would be here by then. We dressed her in her patriotic outfit and took a couple pictures before breakfast.

Can I just say how much I loved the food at the hospital? I know that is unusual, but it really was so good. That first morning, they brought French toast, eggs, sausage, cereal, orange juice, coffee, and a protein shake - enough food for both of us!

Just a couple hours later, our steady stream of visitors began arriving. My sister brought a beautiful name plate for the door and amazingly decorated cupcakes for our visitors.

We had so much fun introducing her to some of our closest friends and family. It was very special to spend the day surrounded by so many people we love. I still couldn't believe they were all there to see OUR baby, though. We had suddenly become parents! We truly were loving every minute, though.

I especially loved seeing how easily and naturally Ryan interacted with her. Coming from a family of all boys, he had not had much experience with babies and hadn't held more than a couple little ones. But from the minute she was born, he knew exactly what to do, how to hold her, soothe her, and talk to her.

After a good night's sleep and the last few check ups from doctors the next morning, we were finally discharged a little after lunch. It felt great to be back home and enjoy the time with our baby and my family.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

June 2012

The month of June was busy with various parties, shopping, and spending time with family and friends. And in the middle of all that, Ryan was very diligent with studying for his Step 1 exam. He was up early each morning, spent an hour at the gym, came home and ate breakfast, then went to the church until 5 or 5:30 to study in Dad's office. Mom packed him a lunch each day, and a few times I brought him dinner so he could study into the evening. I was extremely proud of how hard he worked for those weeks.

One weekend, my youngest sister, Rachel, had us over to her apartment for dessert. She completely painted and decorated her place, and I was so anxious to see everything she had done. Isn't her artwork amazing? She made those just a few hours before we came. Her strawberry shortcake was delicious as well!

I began having weekly doctor's appointments throughout the month of June. We are so grateful that I was healthy throughout the pregnancy, and we had absolutely no complications. I was due on June 28, and a couple weeks before my due date, the doctor's said she was very low. But despite my hope of her coming early, she decided to hang out a little longer. And you'll never guess what day she arrived!

39 weeks

Baby Shower

The month of June began with a beautiful baby shower given by our wonderful church family. My aunt hosted the shower, and she and several other close friends did an amazing job with the food (homemade breads, coffee cakes, truffles, and a yogurt bar) and decorations. They combined a few of my baby clothes and pictures with other vintage items for a unique and charming table display.

I especially enjoyed spending the morning with my sweet friends and family. Ryan and I were completely overwhelmed and so thankful for everyone's generosity. Later that evening, we went to Buy Buy Baby to use some gift cards and purchase our car seat and stroller set (and a few other necessities). I had so much fun the following week washing baby clothes and putting the nursery together.

We were so blessed to be able to live with my family for the summer. Mom and Dad repainted my old bedroom and made a cozy and adorable temporary nursery for the baby.
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