I have no idea where to even begin in describing just how much this beautiful young lady means to the Forester & MacDade family. From the moment I met her I knew she was my answered prayer and not just mine but to the many that had walked down this path with me, who held my hand and gave me the strength to hold on for the perfect nanny. Meet Ashley …She is not mine, but in every way like my own. She is the one I place all of my trust in, the one that I have come to rely on like no other. She is my rock, my 10 year olds best friend; she is so much more than a nanny. She is our family. Ashley has walked through my darkest of shadows with me, she has been a mentor and role model to my children and through all the good and bad she has stayed with us.
Ashley begins her mornings at 6:45 with us. I can hear her banging around the kitchen, getting school lunches ready and pouring bowls of Lucky Charms. Most days Alex is up and dressed but Caroline will wait for Ashley to pick out her attire for the day. Ashley patiently pulls out one piece of clothing and then another until finally I hear … “Caroline get dressed!” Beds are made and Brady is fed and then I hear her in my room. She isn’t talking to me but rather carrying on a conversation with Elizabeth as if it were Caroline or Alex. She asks her how she slept, does she like the outfit Ashley picked out for her to wear. “Elizabeth, would you like to wear a white bow or pink bow today?” I hear Ashley tell the other two to hurry up that they need to go when I walk out, she stops and makes sure that she likes what I have on, that my shoes match and that I haven’t left a curler in my hair. She hands me whatever she knows I need to take to work, most days there is a pen in one hand and piece of paper in another I need to sign and all the while she has started a load of laundry.
If you have been following the blog you know by now that I have had my share of nannies. As I have said time and time again taking care of Elizabeth is a full time job in itself. I don’t think people realize, in fact I know people don’t realize what a day in the life of a nanny of a special needs child actually consists of. Ashley, who is not a nurse and had no experience with special needs children, would not be an ideal candidate for most. But this is what I liked about her. I could train her the way I needed her to care for Elizabeth, she would be open to learning and we could work together to make sure Elizabeth had the best care possible. This was not going to be easy but Ashley quickly proved to be up for the challenge.
It’s been well over a year since Ashley has been with us. We have endured some very hard times that I wondered if we would lose her over. Instead Ashley stood strong and was what held our family together in those desperate times. We have laughed together, cried together and have confided in each other. I have come to rely on her not just as a nanny for the kids but also as a friend and family member. She and Caroline bicker like sisters, there have been times she and I have fought like mother and daughter, she knows all of my dreams and secrets alike. When life has been hard on me she has been my rock when others divided our family. Trust was not an easy thing to come by with Ashley, she knew this going in. She knew the history; she knew the story of how she had come to be needed. She knew it would take time and in those moments she proved to me that she would not be like the last. I could go on for pages on all of the wonderful things that Ashley does for us. The house is always clean when I come home, most days there is a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies waiting. Clothes are carefully folded and put away, rooms are clean and children and animals have all been fed. Homework is done, Monday folders laid out waiting for my signature.
I often wonder what people think when Ashley says she is a full time nanny. What goes through their mind? A day of playing with kids, a little light laundry and maybe dinner if the parents work late. A nice nanny car to drive, living quarters and a great paycheck maybe? If only they knew, oh and Ashley would never correct them, that’s just not how she is. Along with the morning routine that I described earlier there is getting Elizabeth changed, from diaper to clothes and then the transport from bed to wheelchair. From the wheelchair teeth are brushed, medications given all the while she is putting the finishing touches on school lunches and cleaning up breakfast. She packs Elizabeth’s bag … feeding pump, formula, diapers and an extra change of clothes. I watch as she puts backpacks over shoulders and lunch boxes in hands and off they go. Elizabeth is lifted into her seat and Ashley goes around to then lift the 75 pound wheelchair into the back of the SUV. Ashley will repeat this step at least 4-8 times in a day depending on what activities the kids have going on. After school it’s snacks and homework, feedings set up for Elizabeth, more diaper changes which means more moving Elizabeth from chair to bed. Elizabeth weighs almost 70 pounds now and stretches out more than 5 feet, not an easy task when your hallways are less than that!! There is the calendar of sports and therapy, meetings and doctor appointments so Ashley hardly has time to sit down before off they go again. There are evenings that Ashley’s job lasts well into the night depending on my work and travel schedule. Kids are bathed, pj’s laid out and beds turned down …. And then she does the same things all over the next day. It’s hardly the life of the nannies you see in the movies.
Ashley has never missed a birthday, a holiday or special event since she has been with us. There are days I will come home to a vase of beautiful flowers and a note that says … just because I know you needed these today. When life is hard she seems to know and it is her strength that helps me make it through another day. Over worked and under paid but yet she never complains, always smiles and pushes through to the end. God knew this life He would lead her to with our family and I believe that He spent a great time preparing her for it. For you see there are very few that could endure a life with Elizabeth, she comes with great responsibility and even greater expectations of her caretaker. I have no idea how long I will have Ashley for but each morning I hear the familiar sounds around the house I am thankful for the love she has for my children, her selfless attitude, the willingness to care for Elizabeth and her spirit of perseverance.