Keeping tradition

I am alone in our living room for the moment. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are both currently being recorded on TV and “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” is playing on my Pandora Radio online.

There is a basket of laundry at my feet that has been waiting patiently for me to fold it — these baby pajamas won’t fold themselves, apparently. Hmrph.

I am too content admiring our new living room set-up (it’s our second reconfiguration of the furniture in the past month, but one I think we’ll keep) and am mesmerized by the white lights on our Christmas tree speaking to me of holidays past.

And there is the chirping and squeaking of a baby boy coming over the monitor to my left. Zachary’s belly is full, his eyes are heavy and he is about to drift off to sleep like a good little boy.

Say it with me now: Life is good.

This year, I have my first real Christmas holiday since I became a working girl. I’ve somehow always manged to be working either Christmas day or the weekend immediately preceding or following the holiday and haven’t gotten to really enjoy time back home in New Jersey with my family since before college. But in just a few weeks, I will visit with almost all of my mom’s family, showing off my handsome hubby and beautiful child and sharing in some of the traditions I’ve missed these past few years.

We’ve already started a great tradition with Zack. His Great Aunt Alice (my mom’s sister) got him a Baby’s First Christmas ornament — a beautiful, engraved one with his birthday and name on them. It joins the 20-plus ornaments I have from her that adorn our tree and highlight other special milestones for my family, like the key from the year we got our first home or the 2009 one from the year we were married. Zack and I walk downstairs each morning and I put the ornament in his hand so that he can feel it.

We’ll be making the trek to my mom’s brother’s house in Massachusetts in the days following Christmas and I can’t wait to be with my cousins and for Zack to be with his — perhaps we will have another Cousins on the Stairs picture like we’ve done before. And let’s not forget the Cousins on the Couch photo I take with other cousins on Christmas night following an evening of games and laughter.

(I think those are the only specific group photos with cousins we plan out each year, haha)

This time next year, Scott and I will have to get serious about starting our Christmas traditions with Zack so that we can keep them going and give him something to remember, treasure and look forward to each year.

I can’t wait!

Answers

Scott will laugh at just how much of an understatement this next sentence is: I am a really emotional, sensitive, deep-thinking person.

I ask a lot of “what if” questions and I ponder the past — A LOT. It’s just always been in my nature and I find myself going through ebbs and flows of where it takes a hold of me and I’m even more sentimental.

Zack just interjected from kicking his arms and legs out on the brightly-colored blankets on the floor and said “Ah-bah. Gah-ah. Bleeeeee. Meh. Bah!” (I wonder if he agrees?)

Anyway, the recent visit from my sister Shelby and brother Shamus (you’d never know we were an Irish family, right?) prompted me to bring out one of the many large boxes of photos taken by my mother during my childhood. I probably acquire two or three of these boxes every time I see my dad, who is as sentimental as I am, although with more packrat tendencies. I’ve received my mom’s old wallet, a broken watch, her drivers’ license and an envelope filled with my baby teeth, my mom’s lovely script in purple ink across the top. I appreciate it, but I would rather cherish the special or unique (or sentimental?) items of hers — things she made that I can decorate my house with or things specifically written for or about me, for instance.

Shelby and Shamus and I share a biological father (not the man I call my dad) but had different mothers. We never had the chance to grow up together or share in life’s ups and downs — until now. We’re making up for lost time.

There were envelopes filled with photos of people I didn’t recognize in some of my Mom Boxes and I decided to take a stab at bringing them out to see if my brother and sister could fill in some of the blanks.It was great! Shelby poured over the photos, writing names and family connections on the back of several of the photos and sharing stories of birthday parties, road trips and Christmas presents.

There was a point in my life, not that long ago, where I thought I didn’t want or need to know the Irish side of my family. But now that I’m a mother, I feel I owe it to Zack to learn all I can about one-quarter of who he is and where he came from. It’s not all pretty, but it’s all family, all answers.

Those old wounds are healed and sealed with hugs and kisses from my brother and sister. We look alike, we talk alike and we have many things in common. Answers again!

Among the photos was a school paper of mine from 1992. I was in second grade — an 8-year-old on the verge of losing her mother and lost in herself. It must have been an assignment to tell about yourself and among my being “funny” and a “nice girl”, I wrote about enjoying the mall and wearing a headband. But two lines really struck me:

Line One: “I am half Irish.” How proud I must have been to be that ethnicity, to have that family, despite not even knowing my brother and sister at that point.

And then the second-to-last line: “sometimes scared.” Imagine an eight-year-old girl who describes herself as being scared.

I overcame that fear, although it took more than 15 years to do so. But then, the day I learned for certain that Zack had Down Syndrome, I felt that great fright creeping up through my throat all over again. And just like I would have used “always scared” as an adjective for 26-year-old Wendy, feeling as though I’d never be able to drop that description for words like “happy” or “strong”, here I am, just a few months later, more proud than ever and more comfortable with being the mother of a baby with Down Syndrome than I ever thought possible.

Time heals all wounds.

I am no longer that scared little girl, not knowing who she was.

And I am no longer the frightened new mother, afraid of who she would become.

Merry and Joy-seph

For about an hour tonight, I was pregnant again.

No worries, the pillow — I mean, baby — was quickly, safely and perhaps best of all, painlessly, delivered. Tonight, our church held its Hanging of the Greens ceremony. Much of the congregation joins for a special service, telling the story of the birth of Jesus and helping to decorate the church. They needed actors and Scott and I were asked to portray Mary and Joseph.

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks practicing our lines as we wash dishes, fold laundry and play with the baby.

There is so much to be done before the baby arrives. The time is short and I must make this house ready for this special child…

Then, a quick run-through this morning made me nervous. There was a broom to be sweeping and memorized lines to be saying; garlands to decorate and a robe, complete with pillow/baby, belt and microphone to be wearing.

When I put the costume on and waited behind a door listening to the beautiful singing of a Christmastime hymn, it hit me that this was much more than a favor to the pastors (though we were very glad to help) and more than a game of pretend. There was a very important story to be told — to those who had heard it 100 times before and to the littlest ones in the room, wearing their bowties and slacks, their red, black and white dresses with black patent leather shoes, it was a story that they would need to refer back to when life gets hard (which it will).

The ceremony went really well (minus a few flubs here and there by a nervous Mary…), but my favorite part was sitting next to our pastor during the singing of several songs, including One Small Child, holding tight to my sleepy baby and watching Zack’s curious eyes staring intently, peacefully and calmly at the wonderful man and wonderful singing voice sitting next to him. I felt so proud to be a mom, a wife, a community member and a church goer.

We came home to our newly-decorated house, put a tired baby to bed and I couldn’t help but just sit looking at the lights on the Christmas tree, with Zack’s toys scattered before it, thinking about how beautiful this holiday will be and how blessed our last year has been.

I thought I was doing a favor for my church. Really, they did an incredible favor for me and my family.

 

Scenes from Turkey Day

It was a fantastic day here yesterday — definitely the best Thanksgiving I can remember having.

Scott and I hosted his parents and grandparents as well as my sister, brother and sister-in-law who are staying here for a couple of days. It was a great group!

We enjoyed turkey and about 500 trimmings made by Scott, a table full of desserts, non-stop conversation and a lot of laughs. Then, the younger crowd enjoyed a night of games.

We’ve been relaxing and being a bit lazy all day today, but I’m sure we’ll get our energy back soon enough and will continue to make a lot of great memories tonight and tomorrow.

For now, enjoy a glimpse or two (or 10) into our special day and Zack’s first Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful List: Version 2010

Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

My littlest man is snuggled in his Boppy pillow this morning, blowing raspberries and swinging a new rattle (sometimes into his face — ow!) as the Thanksgiving Day parade begins on TV. Scott is upstairs finishing our cleaning frenzy in preparation for company today.

I smell Aveeno baby lotion, my second cup of coffee and some powerful cleaning agent from upstairs. In a few hours, it will smell of turkey and potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.

It’s a dreary day outside but it will not be a dreary day in any way inside our country home.

I am filled with gratitude. It almost overwhelms me.

One year ago, I was pregnant — but didn’t know it yet. I knew I was on the edge of something great and that life would take me to unexpected places, but I had no idea where or how.

I am so thankful for so much. I am a lucky, lucky girl.

I have a job that is, on most days, pretty darned enjoyable. I meet fascinating people every week who I might not otherwise ever have met. I get to tell stories that will help people, touch people, educate people. And I get to do a lot of it right from my own home.

We have a home, awesome when we moved in two years ago, but now perfect with our own personal touches and tastes and filled with photos, knick-knacks and laughter that remind us of all the happy times we’ve shared.

And there are our neighbors, our community and our church family. Strangers who came into our life a couple of years ago and have shared stories in our driveway, taken care of our pets and given us great gifts, material and spiritual ones. And we are slowly but surely finding ways to give back to them and to share bits of our crazy life with them.

I have friends I only know through blogs and Facebook and forums; friends who I’ve never met in person and probably never will. Their openness moves me all the time and gives me strength in my own life.

And we have friends — wonderful, caring, beautiful friends from all over the country. Some of them we don’t see as often as we’d like, but keep in touch with thanks to the Internet. Some of them are so considerate and send us gifts for Zack and cards on every holiday. Some of our friends can only manage a call every couple of weeks and yet it’s like not a day has gone by and still others share their lives with us only once in a blue moon, but in conversations that are so special they’re simply unforgettable. We are so thankful to be a part of our friends’ lives, especially as some of them welcome babies, prepare for weddings or start new jobs. The love goes both ways.

I’m so thankful for the new friends we have or the friends we’ve gotten closer to this year, many of them because of Zack’s birth and the birth of their own children this year — Reva and Bret, Angie and Scott and Brandi and her family. It is amazing to know that Zack already has so many friends, friends whom he will hopefully grow up with and share in many of the fun milestones that lie ahead of him. And two babies smiling up at you is more exhilarating than just one!

And then, of course is family. My larger families — the LaLondes, the Dowhans, the McCardle/Goncalves clan and all of the Zooks and Devlins. Some of them I’m just getting closer to now after years of separation. Others have been there for me all my life and prove that you don’t need shared blood to be family. Others have shared grief and love with me this year and made me realize that you can not be strolling through life alone.

And my immediate family. Wow, wow, wow. My husband and son are my world. I don’t know that I truly lived until I found Scott and helped create Zack-Man. Every morning, I get kisses and snuggles from my best friend and then walk across the hallway to my smiling, babbling baby boy.

I’m not alone in my thoughts. I asked Scott just now, “what are you thankful for?”

His reply: “My family. Period.”

We have a great life. And I think I finally really know what it means to be thankful. I took so much for granted in the past, and I don’t plan on doing that ever again.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Party Prep in Pampers Land

You know how you’re in your mid-20s, single, baby-less with nothing to do but have a good time with friends and sleep in really late and you still feel like you have no time whatsoever to do all the things you wanted to do? (or the things you USED to do)?

Single, young friends, let me fill you in on something: You REALLY have no time to do anything (especially things you USED to do) once a certain Pampers-wearin’, mohawk-sportin’ fella comes into your life.

Things that were difficult and time-consuming to begin with, i.e. planning and hosting a Thanksgiving Day dinner for at least seven people, REALLY get complicated once you enter Mommyhood. Especially if you’re not quite an organized person to begin with.

Scott typically handles the main courses for our guests, who include his parents and grandparents and this year my sister Shelby. My man does a great job. (Don’t worry, honey, I won’t tell anyone about that first time when you forgot to get the guts out of the bird and cooked the ole thing anyway.) This year, we’re having turkey, candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes and carrots. (I’m probably forgetting something, too)

I handle the picture-taking, entertaining, table-setting and desserts. This year we’re having two pies, and while one is a simple easy-peasy pumpkin pie, the other is a time-consuming pie that involves several steps and parts, freezing, sauteeing, yadda yadda…

So, last night, in preparation for a busy week and a difficult dessert, I got creative — and organized! I took the containers/shells that the desserts would be baked in and put in all of the ingredients that I will need for the recipe (including measuring out things like brown sugar into labeled Ziploc sandwich bags). I also inserted the measuring cups and spoons that I will need as well as a Post-It list of refrigerated ingredients (like eggs or cream) into the containers.

All I’ll have to do when I want to make pies (probably tomorrow evening after work) is grab whichever container corresponds to the dessert of the moment and get to work. I won’t have to go hunting for spoons or re-reading the the recipe 100 times. I am just able to use the few precious moments I have and get ‘er done!

The further I get into my role as a parent, the more I realize that the little things I can do to save a few minutes or to think a little bit ahead go a long, long way.

Gobble, gobble!

On the third weekend of November…

… my baby brought to me…

 

 

…A new friend pinching cheeks (Hi, David!)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Cuddling with a cat…

 

 

 

 

 

 

…An old friend causing tickles…

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Two grown guys going ga-ga over goo’s…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Games and giggles, too…

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Smushed cheeks in a nap…

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Team pride with Dad…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… Too young for the Moose…

 

 

 

 

 

… Pastors say “hello”…

 

 

 

 

 

…and all in two days’ time.

Thank you to all who made it a great weekend. Have a fantastic chubby-cheek kind of week!

Things (and babies) are looking up

One of Zack’s physical therapy exercises right now is practicing his head and chin lifts. By putting him on his belly, whether on the floor or a pillow, he’s forced to use his shoulders, his chin and other muscles to lift up his head. Once he masters this, which takes a lot of daily practice, he’ll be able to roll over easier and will be able to move forward eventually and crawl his way away from his parents.

 

The Little Man is beginning to really master the exercise that would formally cause him to scream after only a minute or two. He makes funny faces, kicks his legs behind him and grabs at everything he can with his hands — if he’s not too busy sucking on his arm, that is.

Zack’s looking up and, as cheesy as it sounds, so am I. I don’t know what it is, but I woke up today feeling really positive, upbeat and invigorated. I got two stories done today, cleaned the house, had great fun with Zack in between and now we’re ready for a fun weekend of visitors.

 

 

My new friend (thanks work, Facebook and blog!) B is bringing her two kids over tomorrow morning for a little visit and I’m so excited to meet up with her outside of a courtroom, especially since we’ve both entered a difficult variety of mommyhood this year.

Then, our friends A, P and J are coming out from Baltimore for a weekend stay. It’s honestly been since Scott and I got married that we last saw them, so it will be fun to catch up. It’s always a good time, especially if there are Moose or Jersey songs involved (inside jokes!).

And on Sunday afternoon, our pastors are coming out to the house for a long-awaited visit to see Zack (and us too I suppose). Pastor Wayne offers us great comfort and the spiritual awakening we’ve felt this past year or so makes us appreciate what a fantastic church family we have even more.

Tonight is relaxation.

The baby is sleeping. Here Comes the Sun is playing on repeat on my laptop (seriously, does anything beat “doo-do-do-dooooo?). The Thanksgiving linens are washed and on the table. Scott started a brilliant fire and I’m leisurely sipping a glass of red wine.

 

I’m sitting in my favorite red chair in a comfy pair of sweatpants, my camera manual on my lap and suggestions on improving my photos from my Uncle Joe.

 

I look around and yes, yes life is very good indeed.

A Daddy and his son

Scott is an amazing father.

He’s a million amazing things. He’s a great husband and he’s my best friend, but the absolute best thing about him now is how wonderful he is as a father. He’s laidback, he’s calm and patient and he is just going to be such a fun dad to Zack.

 

He lays Zack on his legs at night and makes really cute noises to get the baby excited and happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They make funny faces at each other.

 

 

 

 

And just about every night, Scott handles bedtime.

He rubs lotion on Zack’s skin and talks quietly and soothingly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, the boys shoo Momma out of the nursery and Daddy gives Zack a bottle, rocking every now and then and collecting his thoughts from the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott makes me so happy, and I told him this tonight as I was leaving the baby’s room. He didn’t say much, but then a little while later he came up to me, and in perfect Scott Speak, told me it’s not that I make him happy… and I almost smacked him.

Instead, he said, when I leave him, even if it’s just to another room, he feels empty. Scott put his hand on his heart and said I complete him.

 

 

My guys, my guys, my guys. They complete me.

And make our trio a true family.

 

Trimming off the ends

Momma got a haircut today. A much-needed, long-awaited “trim” that nearly turned into a G.I. Jane cut because I was just fed up with the whole thing.

I had a lot more than split ends on my shoulders. I had a lot of heavy baggage that I didn’t realize I’ve been carrying all these months.

The last time I had my hair cut was this summer, in preparation for baby showers and to combat the fast-growing (thanks, hormones!) hair and ever-growing roots. I was 5 or 6 months pregnant, elated, excited and Miss Positivity. I sat in the swiveling chair chatting up about name choices, ultrasounds and dreams of a left-handed pitcher for a Major League baseball team. My world hadn’t been rocked, for better or for worse yet.

So when my hair reached the middle of my back, with little life to it, I used braids, ponytails and headbands to make it disappear.

My hair, you see, has been the container for depression; a holder of my Bad Mommy Thoughts about Down Syndrome. I only last week, phone in my hand to make an appointment at the hair salon, realized that I was afraid of going back to a place that reminded me of LBDS — Life Before Down Syndrome. There are a lot of places like this.

The grocery store? I remember waddling down the aisles looking at baby food containers, not realizing how late it would be before our child could eat cereal, mushed carrots, solid foods.

My work office? The first day I found out I was pregnant, I had to work in the city 40 miles away instead of at home. And I was so happy at my desk, imagining everything… everything that didn’t quite turn out the way I thought it would.

Gosh, I sound whiny. I’m not really this negative all the time. It just comes out in spurts when I least expect it.

Tonight’s appointment wasn’t bad. I laughed with my hair stylist and talked about baby’s sleep schedule, mohawks and a helpful Daddy. A part of me was sad. It’s a small town and there’s a lot of big mouths in the area, so I couldn’t help but wonder, “Does she know?”

She didn’t say anything and she didn’t let on, but I did feel like we were dancing around certain things. Why didn’t she ask me if he’s smiling or if he’s rolling over? Is it because she knows he’s behind in his development already?

But I left the place with one fewer black hole in my spirit and much less weighing me down.

I have a new ‘do and in a way, it’s a re-do that will let me move forward with yet another chapter. We’re in LADS mode for sure and there’s no escaping, but it doesn’t have to weigh me down like a forgotten bit of hair.

I’m refreshed.

And a wee bit sassy.