497 miles of laughter

497 miles apart…

Wendy and I don’t get to see each other that often.  Actually, we’ve only gotten together 13 times since the summer of 2005.  Most people say, “That’s crazy!”  but we prefer to say, “That’s lucky!”  Thank God for phone calls and our regular and impromptu charlas that let us catch up, reminisce, and share in those amazing belly laughs, the kind that knock you down and leave you gasping for breath.  I remember a time when Wendy was pregnant and she was laughing so hard over the phone lines that she started wheezing.  Finally the words spluttered from her mouth that a big pregnant belly just didn’t let her belly laugh like before.  That baby was taking over her gasp-for-your-breath lung space!  Which of course only made us laugh harder and made Wendy wheeze a little bit more forcefully.  :o)  Those are the amazing moments when those 497 miles just don’t feel like 497 miles.  Sometimes those moments make you feel like you’re right there in each other’s kitchens laughing over a mug of tea, but sometimes they make you feel like you’re a thousand miles apart laughing into a little plastic phone as your tinny voice  gets carried over the cyber phone waves to a house far away in the mountains.

So this week I hit the pavement and left those 497 miles in the dust.  This week I went to those Pennsylvania mountains.  This week we bridged the gap to make those belly laughs a little bit more real.

Now, I’ve seen Wendy in her college days, her brand-new-job-what-am-I-doing-with-this-life-of-mine days, her just-met-the-future-hubby days, her blushing bride days, and her glowing pregnancy days.  This was Lucky Visit #13: Mommy and Baby Days!  This visit, I saw a new Wendy, one who was cuddling with her baby boy and falling more and more in love with him with each soft kiss of his head and smile from his lips.  I watched Wendy look at her son, her head tilting down and just drinking him in, taking in each and every small and precious moment with him.  But what I heard was even more vibrant and more real than those images… the Z house is filled with LAUGHTER!  Laughter of all kinds floats through the air: small little giggles, shy smiles behind baby hands, Daddy’s chuckles, Mommy’s shrieks of glee, and this bubbly baby laugh that weaves around your heart and brings a huge smile to your face because you cannot possibly help laughing at the sound of this baby’s joy.  Zack becomes ELATED when you tickle him just so, or toss him up in the air, or open your mouth into a huge smile for him to imitate.  At only 6 1/2 months old, he even has his own version of a belly laugh.  The Zachary Belly Laugh is this bubbly little cackle/guffaw that swallows itself at the end, and then bubbles out all over again to create this funny kind of chuckle.  Of course, this puts Mommy, Daddy, and Auntie Gem into hysterics, starting the little guy off all over again with his laugh.  One night this week the four of us sat on the floor for a good 15 minutes just LAUGHING.  The joy was tangible and you could practically see the laughter convert itself into these little soap bubbles floating around the room, bouncing off the walls and ceiling, and popping all over the place as one laughter bubble collided with another…….

 


That’s what I will take away with me as I drive those 497 miles back to my own home.  And the next time Wendy and I pick up the phone and share in one of those belly laughs that leave us gasping for breath and clutching at our abs, I will smile and I will remember that she is teaching her son the joy of this laugh  and the healing power of such a laugh.  I will know that those 497 miles really aren’t that far because it’s not the phone lines or the highways that are connecting us… it’s the laughter.

~Auntie Gem

Hello, 27

It was a great birthday.

(Even though that groundhog is a filthy liar and 10 inches of snow dumped on us!)

 

There were the usual moments of beauty that I’m blessed with every day — the sleeping sounds of my son, resting on my shoulder, a favorite song playing on iTunes, a deep conversation with someone I love.

A nighttime fire. A game or two.

Laughter, beautiful laughter.

Cuddles and snuggles and kisses.

 

 

And then there were added bonuses.

 

 

Having my own Birthday Buddy to share our day.

 

 

 

 

A bit of glamour in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers for both of us from my mother-in-law, thoughtful as she always is.

 

 

 

It wasn’t that far removed from a typical Tuesday, but I allowed myself to be pampered and to feel special. And I made sure to not make any big plans for myself in the next year. Because there’s that old saying about life making plans for you. And that’s definitely something I’ve learned in this past year.

 

So, I promise to enjoy my life, every mundane Monday (which are infrequent) or worrisome Wednesday (which it’s not) and make the most out of it all. I promise to love all these great things I get to hold on to, get to wrap myself around every day, not just on “special” days.

 

 

Thank you to everyone who sent a card (many people!), wrote a message or sent a text (which I probably didn’t receive yet!), sent presents (love ‘em, thank you!) or called with love.

 

 

 

It was a great day.

 

Q&A with friend Nicole

My friend Nicole is visiting us this week. It’s a special week, not only because she’s here visiting and our home is all the better for having her spirit to share our world, but we will both be celebrating our birthdays on Tuesday.

 

Yes, that’s right, we share the same birthday, albeit in different years. (She’s the younger sister).

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole and I have known each other for nearly six years, as she explains below. Our friendship began in a foreign country in what seems now like a totally different lifetime ago for both of us. She was the Maid of Honor for my wedding in 2009 — and that was only the 10th time we had ever seen each other in person. This visit brings us up to 13 times together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A summer abroad. A bridal shower/bachelorette weekend. A wedding celebration. A baby shower and visit. A few trips to Massachusetts by me. Many visits to PA by Nicole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything, every visit is an adventure of some sorts. And it usually involves a dangerous game of Truth or Truth and a pensive gaze over the waterfalls, across the city or over the covered bridge — or whatever scenery we’ve surrounded ourselves with this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We call each other ‘gemelas’, which means twins in Spanish, the first passion we shared together. Nicole is in real life a twin, and I hope her sister doesn’t mind much my being Nicole’s spanish twin.

 

 

 

 

 

Life is crazy. The journey is sometimes bizarre. You always need a traveling partner.

And now, I present, mi gemela…

 

Explain how you and Wendy met:

Wendy and I met 5 1/2 years ago in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We were studying abroad at the young, innocent ages of 20 and 21 when we thought we knew everything, but in fact we knew nothing at all. I still can’t quite figure out what it was that bonded us, but that summer I traveled halfway across the globe to find my best friend and my “gemela.” Looking back at my travel journal I kept that summer, I smile to see that only seven days into meeting Wendy, we both already knew that we had found our soul sister. It must’ve been the dulce de leche! That stuff was better than wine!

 

What were your first impressions of Wendy? Were they accurate? How has W changed since then?

I remember thinking that Wendy was one of the strongest and most fascinating persons that I had met…. and that still holds true. That girl has faced more challenges in her life than most people, but she has magically turned them all into stepping stones bringing her to where she is today.

 

What was your first impression of Scott? Has that changed?

 

Right off the bat, Scott struck me as a fun person to be with. I remember some silly pictures taken during a car ride through a snowy Boston suburb, a crazy visit to the Jersey Shore that involved moose antlers, and just a lot of laughter and comfortableness around him right from the beginning. Clearly that was part of what attracted Wendy to him. I could see right away that he made Wendy so happy. She just has this contented smile on her face when she is with him.

 

 

 

What was your reaction to finding out we were having a baby? To us having the baby? To hearing he had Down Syndrome?

Having a baby – I shrieked! I was so excited for Wendy and Scott. It took me a few days to fully process that they were going to have a BABY, but their news made me float on air for a few days, I was so happy for them both and was dying to see them in action as parents! Hearing he had DS – I’ll be honest: at first I was stunned. There was this sharp intake of breath, the pit of my stomach just dropping out, and a good half hour of sitting there in the middle of the night, staring at the message on my computer in shock. And then shock gave way to reason and other emotions came into it, and I realized that already Zachary was such a lucky little man to have come into YOUR lives. He couldn’t have asked for better parents. And now every day that passes, I cannot agree more that he has helped to make you who you are, and that you are taking these impressive and powerful strides to help others and bring a voice to the cause.

 

 

 

What makes us good parents?

Love. Pure and simple.

 

Everyone thinks twins have a secret sense between them, sharing pain and feelings and all that. Do you think it’s true? What about gemelas? :-)

How do you share a belly laugh with someone who is 497 miles away? Gemelas, that’s how. Wendy and I are soul sisters, have been for 5 years, and always will be. We may be separated by physical distance, and we may be at different stages of our lives, but that connection is still there. There have been so many moments when I’ve wanted to just beat that distance to the ground, travel across the phone lines, and be there with my gemela for a hug, a kind word, a shared belly laugh, or just a knowing look. But distance doesn’t get in the way of that, because we are still just as much gemelas now as we were wandering the streets of Buenos Aires together. Gemelas para siempre.

 

What is the best/most fascinating moment of your life so far? If you could plan out your future best moment, what would you wish it to be?

You mean I have to choose just one???? Everyone that knows me knows that I look for the little moments that mean so much to me, and I savor them. When I travel, I don’t come back telling you about my favorite place. Nope. It’s all about my favorite moments. So in my day-to-day life, it’s all those little moments that add up to make me who I am. Moments at a kitchen table with the sun streaming through the window, on a front stoop in a little garden-filled alleyway of Boston, walking across my family’s farm with my boots trekking through the fields and the mud, snapping photos of my favorite places, looking in wonder at my students’ upturned and smiling faces, a familiar and comforting voice coming through the phone lines…. THOSE are the most fascinating moments of my life. As for the ones to come? I would hope that my best future moments would be a small moments with loved ones, a simple act or word that will carry so much joy and strength that it will be with me para siempre.

 

 

 

What advice/words of wisdom are you dying to share with Zack?

This is Nicole’s great answer.

 


Date Night and healing

It’s been at least six months since the last one. And my belly was so large we could barely fit in a booth.

I’m talking about our last Date Night.

We got relatively dolled up after work yesterday, bid adieu to our son and his grandma and hopped in the car for our first adults-only evening away in more than half a year. I have to be honest, the nerves were high. I can’t remember having such a hard time getting dressed or having such a feeling of butterflies since our first dates together four and a half years ago.

(these two photos courtesy of Grandma Zook)

I love  how Zack is looking at us in this photo. :-)

 

 

 

 

There’s a lot of reasons why we waited so long to have our first excursion by ourselves, and most of them are my fault. I wouldn’t recommend waiting that long to any of my new parent friends.

Our romantic (cough, cough) evening began by looking at possible new trucks for Scott. For nearly TWO HOURS.

But it made my handsome hubby happy, so we just went with it, although I eventually started answering his questions about how this vehicle felt or what I thought of this spacious back seat with “I’m really hungry.”

Does this truck smell funny to you? “I don’t know, but I’m really excited for the breadsticks.”

I’m not sure I like the tint on these windows. “I’m not sure if I’m in the mood for soup or salad.”

Finally, we moved on from that oh-so-exciting (and did I mention romantic?) adventure and found our way into a booth at the local Olive Garden, perhaps my favorite restaurant of all time.

The wine was poured, the appetizer and meals ordered, and the conversation began. Innocently enough and about some pretty mundane items. And then it progressed, as I realized the serious items we just never really talked about these past few months. Not for an extended period of time at least. Like, oh, what an abslute hellish few months it was as we came to terms with Zack’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome. And how our first few weeks with our son was not at all like we had planned and prepared for over our pregnancy. And how absolute rock bottom we both hit, all the while trying to be strong for the other person and completely aware and unaware all at once of how they were handling our lucky Life Lottery.

The conversation continued in the parking lot while holding hands. And all through our 40-minute drive home, my head on his shoulder as he drove us back to reality.

I have several people who tell me constantly how amazed they are at how well we handled our unexpected surprise last August. I think their comments are simply a testament as to how well we faked it. Don’t get me wrong, I am still amazed myself sometimes at how we made it through to this healthy mindset we’re in now. But it was a long, scary road behind the scenes.

Scott and I agreed last night that unless you live it, you just don’t understand. The grief. The shock. The numbness. The ridiculous thoughts, the hopeless feeling, the wondering and the “what if” moments. And then that slow, back-burner healing that follows.

It was five months before my husband and I realized we were healing. And six months before we could really talk about it.

We’ve shared everything together and we’ve been through some tough times in our relationship, but for some reason, we had to go this alone. We had to fake it and make it, we had to almost break it. (Rhyming is funny, but in this case also true). We had to take it.

It was two days after my son’s birth that we were told he might have Down Syndrome. And it was one week after that we got the results of a test we wish we didn’t have to take.

And it was months before I realized I would never get the manual on How to Live the Life You Never Dreamed You’d Live. I searched with all of my might for the instruction booklet that tells you how to live your life when you can’t believe it’s turned out the way it has. I imagine it’s the same for people with a cancer diagnosis. Or who  lose a loved one.

But, Scott and I said last night, ours was a Question-Mark Diagnosis.

We just don’t know so much.

Will Zack be able to walk? Will he say “I love you” to his parents? Will he be the all-star left-handed pitcher we imagined for nine months? Will he prove the doctors wrong? Will he prove his parents’ hard work is worth it?

We just don’t know.

We had a huge support group. People who did everything they could; people who did everything right. People who said “Hey, bud, we’re here for you guys.”

But they couldn’t step into our shoes. They couldn’t take us out of that deep, dark, ugly place and make it all go away. And so we ran away from some of them. We hid out in our grief and immersed ourselves in the beautiful blue eyes that stared up at us each day with love and innocence. Such love and innocence that made me feel such guilt for those ugly thoughts and feelings in my Mad Momma Mind.

But here we are. We made it, friends. We are on the OTHER SIDE. It’s a beautiful place. I’m glad we’re here.

Scott always has a sports analogy for whatever situation we’re in. Last night, he told me this story about some coach (clearly I pay attention to the details… maybe West Virginia baseball?) who would yell at his players that if two guys were trying to catch the same ball, one should yell “Same team!” and one of them should step away. They’re going after the same objective, Scott tells me, and you need to work together by sometimes letting one person handle it and be there for back-up.

There’s a lot of situations lately where I’ve been fighting for the same ball with someone on my team.

And so my new mantra is Same Team. Same team. Same team.

I bet you weren’t expecting all of this from a tale of our first Date Night post-baby, huh? Please don’t feel sad or troubled by how it turned out. Scott and I are in a fantastic place now. I loved snuggling up close to him last night and felt like a million bucks this morning when he wished me a great day.

Same team, love, same team.

And now, I leave you with some photos of a great week with our beautiful son. The boy who has made us better people. The boy who will change the lives of so many in ways we don’t know yet.

Our son is our blessing. He is our life. He is the most beautiful thing to come into our world.

And I can honestly say we wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

May you have a great weekend!

Same team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good times, good friends… good Momma!

First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day! May your heart be all swoon-y over somebody today — whether it’s a significant other, family member, dear friend or beloved pet.

I had a fantastic weekend away.

I might have overdone the last blog entry because a lot of you seemed really concerned about how I was doing and the state I was in — I apologize for the fear or worry, but really things are not that bad. I think a lot of people were making a much bigger deal out of it than was necessary (perhaps me, too).

Don’t get me wrong, there was definitely some apprehension about leaving and having a selfish two days by myself, but I was pretty much over that approximately five miles into my drive. Oooh, that sounds bad, huh? Eh, I think I’m beyond entitled to blast the music in my car, drive slightly above the speed limit and shower as often as I’d like while enjoying doing absolutely nothing. I think everyone deserves that every now and then.

I arrived at Jeannine and Jeff’s place in Wilmington, Delaware Friday evening and enjoyed some wine and lots of giggle fits with that crazy girl. I love how seamlessly our relationship works now.

It hasn’t always been that way, mostly because of oh, I don’t know, LIFE.

Now, we pick up practically where our last conversation left off. We know each other’s friends and family by name, profession, hobbies and favorite jokes. We know the glazed over sad-to-think-about-it looks and the glazed over too-much-wine-too-much-belly-laughing looks, too.

Oh, and speaking of looks. The way that Jeannine and Jeff look at each other is just so beautiful. I mean that, J & J… please don’t ever lose that. It makes me want to wrap that up in a box and distribute it to everyone in the world who needs that glorious feeling of love in their lives.

On Saturday, after I LITERALLY sat on their couch for about four hours without moving an inch or uttering a word. And I loved every second of it, honestly and truly.

Later that day, Jeans and I went for a drive that I will refer to as the Jeannine Childhood Tour adventure. In addition to a few wrong turns (the two of us should probably NOT be allowed behind the wheel together for many reasons, dating back to 2000), we saw Jeannine’s childhood home, elementary school, high school, friends’ houses and much more. It was amazing. I enjoyed it so much. I like to think I know Jeannine so very, very well — post 10th-grade Jeannine, that is. But I didn’t realize until we drove the streets of Wilmington (which IS the place to be somebody…)together this weekend how very little I know of Jeannine through age 14 or so. I loved filling in those pieces together.

And Saturday night was just as great as the rest of the weekend — a dinner together at the restaurant where Jeff works and more chats far past my Old Lady Bedtime. I woke up Sunday morning and headed back westward, feeling blissfully content as the miles crept around my tires. A carseat base sat in the middle of my backseat the entire trip and as I looked back one time, about to travel through the three mountain tunnels that let me know I’m almost home, I saw some toys dancing in the backseat. And I realized how much I love having stuffed animals and carseat bases in my car. How much I love the smell of baby — even if that baby smell has a bit of milk scent to it.

How I love walking through the door and seeing the two most important people in my life standing there, amidst their normal but busy day, not knowing that in that moment I was healed.

And a shower of kisses and hugs from both of them helped was the last remnants of doubt, stress and fear away.

It was good, so good, to be home. I love what I have.

 

 

Life is perfect.

The Dude grows big, Momma gets out

Happy weekend! (Momma has the day off today, hooray!)

The Dude had his six-month check-up at the doctor’s yesterday. He did great and, like everywhere else, was a huge hit with the staff.

First, the numbers. Zack weighs 16 pounds, 7 1/2 ounces and is 26 inches long. If you’re curious, his head has a circumference of 16 1/2 inches. (In December, he weighed 14 pounds, 3 ounces, was 25 3/4 inches long and his head was 16 inches around).

If Zack had to make an acceptance speech for his two-plus-pound increase, I’m sure it would be something like this:

“I’d like to thank my rice cereal and my especially yummy wheat cereal. Oh, and my Momma and Daddy for piling it into my mouth one or two times a day. And I’d like to thank my formula, for always being there for me, even when I spit you up or projectile vomit you across the floor. I guess we all know that most of it really IS staying inside my belly.”

Now is a good time to say that growth charts are STUPID. I mean, first of all, how do they even come up with this crap? To say that at a certain age your baby should weigh x pounds or be y inches from head to toes? And aside from charts specifically for babies with Down Syndrome, which infuriates me even more, they have charts for babies born prematurely. I’m sure there’s a growth chart for babies who have red hair somewhere, too. Oh, and don’t forget about those babies who are just plain SMALL. Or LARGE.

You know how I measure my baby’s growth? He’s happy. He has a nice lil belly but it’s not keeping him from functioning or being healthy. Oh, and his length? Well, I’ll let you know in 25 years when he’s 5-feet tall. Or 6-foot, 10-inches. I meeaaaaan, really.

Moving on.

Zack has a couple of little things we’re still watching (things I doubt he’d want me to share with all of you, no offense) but no major problems, hooray! The doctor seems really pleased with him and still can’t believe how great he’s doing, being all Super Baby-like and showing off all the time, even in the doctor’s office. (By the way, our doctor had a daughter with Down Syndrome, so he’s more knowledgeable than we are with all of these things sometimes)

Z-Man had to get a couple of shots, but after five seconds, the tears were over and all was well.

 

Duders and I have had a great day together so far, although it would probably be a great afternoon if one (or both) of us took a nap. I’m referencing you, Mr. Baby Who Just Threw All His Stuffed Animal Friends Out of the Swing in a Fit of One-Quarter Irish Rage.

 

I’ve finally given in to all of the attempts and pleas (mostly from my husband) to get me out of the house/away from the baby/ get some Me Time and am leaving in just a couple of hours to spend the weekend with my dear, dear, DEAR friend Jeannine and her boyfriend Jeff.

Just me.

No baby.

Heck, no hubby.

I am beyond excited to go and have had just enough time to really accept the idea that Zack will be just fine without me but also that I will be just fine without him without feeling guilty looking forward to some selfish Me Time.

But I still spent 20 minutes apologizing to Scott last night, who is handling this all so well and is being patient and totally understanding. I still think he’s going to lock the door behind me when I leave tonight, though, just to make sure I really leave. He may have the baby for a day (that’s all it really amounts to when you take into account The Dude’s early bedtime) but I think he’s looking forward to me having some Me Time too. I’ve been so stressed lately and in such a funk that before some other exciting events (visits from friends and family, a big case to cover for work, oh, and my birthday!), I know I need a clean slate.

 

It’s just that I can’t help but know I’ll be missing out on some great feats and accomplishments.

 

 

 

 

 

Missing some awesome smiles. And raspberries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some sweet kisses from both of my guys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m really excited to, for just a few hours, not think about balancing it all — house, baby, marriage, work, ME — worrying if I might drop one of them (it’s usually that “me” part) and wondering if it’s OK to fail every now and then.

I can almost guarantee that the baby is fed, clean and giggling. And that the laundry is done or being done and the floor is as clean as possible with five animals. I do my 40-plus hours of work to the best of my ability every week and I never go to bed without telling my husband I love him — at least five times.

 

But sometimes. Hmm. Often times. I forget to tell myself that I love me. (Ooooh, that’s SO cheesy) I forget to read a book. Or finish the book. I forget to put my feet up and turn my mind OFF.

Sometimes, I just forget.

 

 

I’m excited about finding the Me that I’ve buried under all of my other “responsibilities” and I’m really, truly looking forward to that homecoming on Sunday.

 

I hope there will be kisses.

 

 

 

 

For now, I look forward to shared thoughts and giggles with a lady who knows that ME, that real and true me. And who always puts her in her place.

Oh, and there might be pirates.

And voodoo.

 

 

Have a great weekend.

Zack’s got friends in low places

(‘Cause they’re all babies, yo. No redneck references here, I swear, although I’m sure many of their parents would be darned proud of the country song reference. Others are 100 percent mortified and will never let their babies play with The Dude.)

Zack’s social calendar is much more impressive than both of his parents’ put together and I’m sure it’s going to be like this at least through his mid-20s.

We have guy friends and lady friends, older friends and newer friends. We even have a birthday buddy and two friends with the same first name!

Through all of them, Momma and Daddy now have a dozen or so spectacular people in our lives, too. The babies share their drool and exclaim an “aghhh” or two now and then, but we parents raise our beers and talk about colors in diapers, nap schedules and pet peeves of the week.

Because of our location, it’s between 20 and 40 minutes to visit any of them or for them to visit us, but we all do it willingly, excitedly and lovingly, sometimes bringing gifts of coffee or much-needed pearls of wisdom. And did I mention the cute babies? And love, definitely love.

The funny thing is prior to six months ago, only one of these couple was SERIOUSLY in our lives on a regular basis and only another was a couple we would call acquaintances. Our babies have brought our crazy, fun group together, for better or worse, and the group just keeps on growing, too.

My Mom Friends are fantastic.(I love you all)

Some give me such hope and such great ideas — they just make parenting seem like the easiest thing in the world. They and others also share the darker secrets of motherhood — those times we moms need a time-out away from our babblin’ bebes, the scuffles with in-laws, the exciting ups (someone’s pregnant!) and the devastating downs (nothing gives strength quite like a sympathetic and/or ticked-off Momma) and the difficulty in being a working mom (we all are).

It’s not to discredit the dads, too, but really I don’t see them as much as the guys. When the two (or more) couples get together, it’s usually a quick segregation by gender. Scott tells me their talks are usually about power tools, golfing or some similar combination. Apparently Dads deal by talking about the stuff they can no longer talk about, haha. The manlier, the better.

And something has to be said about having a “playdate” with infants. I mean, the chances of both babies being awake at the same time is slim enough, although that gets easier as Zack gets older and is awake longer. But then to have them both with clean diapers and not hungry or cranky at the same time — that’s just one of those Super Mom moments where you feel like you have successfully climbed Mt. Everest — without a Sherpa. Oh, and you want to get a photo of the two together? Sure you do. Good luck. Arms are flailing, one baby is rolling, another has spit up coming out of his mouth and oh, look, just in time for the click of the shutter, here comes a meltdown!

But I snap away anyway, because I never want to forget these moments — these first friendship connections — connections that will hopefully last Zack a lifetime.

Let’s start with the ladies first, shall we?

Little Gabrielle “Bree” came into the world as a Christmas Eve present to her mommy, Meghan, and so many loved ones. I met her for the first time last week. Bree is so sweet and quiet and just a beautiful, beautiful girl. Meghan has already adapted so well to being a Mom, despite only being out of the gate for six weeks now. I’ve had six months and I’m just now starting to feel like I know a thing or two about my lil man.

I really enjoyed being teammates with Meghan eight years ago. (WOW. Old Moment, please hold. OK, it’s passing…) BUT I NEVER would have imagined that we’d be in touch all these years later, let alone living 20 minutes apart with babies born in the same year, talking about our favorite baby bottles and formula preferences. I have a feeling Meghan and I will be having a lot more playdates (and Momma dates, too!) in the future, too.

(And aside from Zack literally grabbing Bree’s pants with his one fist when we put them together on the floor for a photo-op, I’d say their friendship is off to a swell start.)

 

 

Zack was much more shy when it came to meeting Miss Hailey for the first time, perhaps because she’s an older woman. I’m not sure, but I do know that ever since that afternoon (far too long ago — ahem, calling for a get-together again, soon Hailey’s Mom!) Zack has perfected the “shy smile,” which he reserves almost exclusively for around women (or girls). It consists of a quiet giggle, a turn of the head and covering his smile up with both of his hands, all shy-like. It’s hysterical.

Hailey didn’t have much time for Z-man during their first encounter. I mean, first of all, she’s like three months older than him. At this stage of the game, she might as well be a cougar. She’s also far too busy crawling, and from the looks of things, trying to figure out that walking/standing thing. The girl is quick and I think she might just go straight to running and her Mommy and Daddy are going to be left in her trail of dust trying to keep up.

Hailey’s mom Krystal is another one who I probably never thought I’d be hanging out with — but it really, really works. We are both members in the My Mom Died Club, which is a really crappy club to belong to — unless you have someone else in the club with whom you can share your really crappy missing-mom moments. We’ve already messaged each other at random times just to let the other one know that that day was a little rough. It’s so nice to share that, because it really and truly is one of those things that I don’t think anyone outside of the club would understand. It’s amazing what bonds you together with people.

 

 

I have to give a quick shout-out here to another new lady friend of Zack’s who we haven’t had the privilege of meeting yet — Miss Madilyn. Madilyn is the naughty, naughty almost-three-month-old girl who gave her parents quite a fright by arriving WEEKS premature when they were home in Georgia for a baby shower around Thanksgiving.

She’s doing great now, though, and I know her parents — a dear, dear couple we met on our honeymoon in St. Lucia in 2009 — are so grateful for this new blessing in their lives. We share a wedding day, were part of each other’s memorable honeymoon and now have had our first babies born in the same year. This is a remarkable family and we only wish we didn’t live so far away from one another. (They live in Texas now). I can still remember that after only barely knowing the two of them for a matter of days, when we came across each other in one of the pool areas, the topic of when we were going to have babies came up… and I just can’t help but smile thinking how far we’ve come in that time.

[I stole this photo from Victoria's Facebook and I will probably be in huge trouble for doing that, so everyone please tell them how absolutely adorable their baby is!]

 

 

And then there are the boyz. (They’re so cute and will all be up to SO much trouble someday that I just feel the need now to add the gangsta “z” to that word).

 

Another new addition to the group and the youngest of its members is Owen 2 (we know two Owens now), who perhaps we should refer to as Owen G.

Lil Owen G. was born Jan. 9 and is the handsome lil son of Scott’s old friend Mark and his wife Jodi. We went to Mark and Jodi’s wedding last year and there was so much love — and fun — in the air that I doubt you could find anyone who didn’t have a great time. I hung out with Jodi a time or two last summer, when my stomach was about four feet in front of me and the thermometer was broken because of the record-setting heat. We exchanged pregnancy stories (she was in the easy part by then!) and grew closer. I was checking Facebook like a maniac for baby updates from her early last month and was so excited to learn about lil Owen’s arrival.

If you’re a mom, don’t ask Jodi how long her labor/delivery is, because although she’s a sweet girl, her answer will probably tempt you into punching her.

And Owen’s little blue eyes (at least for now) are so sparkling and sweet, I could just stare at them forever. I met him for the first time the other day and oh my goodness, that Baby Fever hit me hard!

 

While we’re talking about Owens, I should mention Owen S., or our Owen 1. He was born two days after Zack (by induction, hmrph, another lady you might want to hit when talking about birth stories, haha!) and outweighed our dude by at least half-a-pound.

I share a LOT with Owen’s mommy Reva and I know Owen’s daddy Bret and Scott LOVE finding an excuse to leave us for an hour or so (usually it’s a trip to get dinner or something along those lines, but I can’t help but wonder if they try to take the long way home). Bret and Scott grew up together and were in a slew of sports with each other, but I don’t even think they had a close friendship like this until just recently. And while I’ve known Reva for several years and even went to her wedding a couple of years ago, we were never very close until our boys came into the picture. (While I hid from the temperatures last summer by basically sitting inside the air conditioner, Reva would call me up to see if I wanted to go to a state park or a local lake… or other things outdoors. I always declined and I hope she realized it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with my melting body).

Zack and Owen are hysterical together. On one visit, I swear to you, it was like they were having a conversation together, “goo”ing back and forth with pauses in between. And this weekend, Owen army-crawled his way OVER Zack, who was like totally in his way.

I love watching the two of them together.

 

 

 

 

David and his family are some of our newest friends. David is another naughty preemie who gave his parents quite the fright a couple of months before Z-Man was born, but we love him anyway.

I’ve known David’s mom for a few years through work. She’s one of the assistant DAs in the county I cover and she’s always been so kind and sweet to me, which is more appreciated once I watched her tear through some defendants in court cases. I’m glad I’m on her nice side! It’s funny because I never realized how much a premature baby requires extra care (like Early Intervention) and so much worry from his parents. Brandi and I have really bonded over that whole dont-have-the-baby-experience-I-was-expecting angle that’s been thrown at us in the last year. I think it’s definitely made us stronger, dont-mess-with-my-babies mommas. And better people, too. Her David is doing so great and after our last visit with them, I really kept saying to Scott just how unbelievably healthy and big he seemed. He’s come a long way and it looks like things are going so well for them now.

And in talking about David you can NOT forget about his big sister Lexie, who loves chasing our cats, (sort of) playing with our dog Izzie and her toys and being a big help, like offering toys to Z-Man and helping to set the table before dinner. She just turned three, so happy belated birthday to a great big sister and really funny girl!

 

 

And last but not least, our Birthday Buddy Chase. Zack and Chase, the news boys, first met in utero when their mommies, both news reporters (Angie works for the local TV station) were interviewing the now-Governor of PA, Tom Corbett. I can still recall the “whoa!” exclaimed by the candidate when he walked in the door and was greeted by the two of us, maybe two weeks from the lil fellas came into the world.

Then, after my two and a half days of labor, with all due respect, Angie is probably the last thought on my mind. I figured she had a few more days to go and maybe I’d hear about it on Facebook when I was home recuperating. Until I had Zack, had someone post the info on my Facebook wall and had a message within MINUTES from Angie saying our boys were born on the SAME DAY, less than half an hour apart (different hospitals). It was insane.

Naturally, we had to get the birthday buddies together immediately. That first visit from Angie and Chase (who has so much handsome, stylin’ dark hair it’s just groovy) was quickly followed by another one. And we try to get the boys together every month for the birthday photo together — and some catching up for the Mommies, too. I love this friendship, I love this friendship, I love this friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that about covers our littlest friends — for now. I’m sure there will be more in the coming weeks and months and years, but I don’t know if anything will touch this first group. These boys and girls whose birth stories I know as well as my son’s; whose doctor’s appointments and hospital visits and complications and worries are as frightening for me as it would be if Zack were in their place. They are soul friends, sharing a timeframe and a proximity in age and location, but whose births have brought my entire family a safety net, there to catch us when we fall. We will happily return the favor anytime.

We love you all. You make this crazy journey a little easier on the hard days and a lot more fun on the mediocre days. I’m excited to see what the future brings.


Six months old, lil man

Every once in a while over the past few days, Scott and I will just stop — in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of a march to get some item on the ever-growing to-do list done. Stop and just say something along the lines of, “Half a year, really?”

Then we do a funny laugh or smile at one another. Then comes the silence. Just 30 seconds or so, but it feels like an hour. Our eyes go out way far ahead of the moment we’re actually in (or are they going back in time?) and then a shake of the head and it’s over. Until the next realization later that night or the next morning.

We’ve watched the first-through-fifth months fly by and it hasn’t hit us quite like this one. There’s something about one-half of a year with this unbelievable, impressionable, life-changing entity in your world.

I sometimes can’t help but compare months of Zack’s life with the months I spent pregnant. And it’s impossible not to compare how slowly my first six months of pregnancy seemed to go at the time. Or how unfair it is that the six months of Zack’s life have gone by much faster than I would have liked.

Yesterday he was just a cute lil blob we were getting used to. Today he’s rolling and babbling and raspberrying. Tomorrow he’ll be driving to his job at the White House.

Sigh. As long as he has quit his new addiction of blowing raspberries/poofs by then. Or not. It’s like the one thing he can do that instantly makes me and Scott burst into giggles. Like after Scott put him to bed the other night and then called me (at work) so that I could hear the last of a five-minute series of raspberries from the dude who was supposed to be sleeping. Scott was almost in hysterics and I could just make out this muffled “pffft” sound over the static-filled monitor.

 

 

It’s been a great month. We’re starting to have so many “firsts” happen that it’s hard to keep track of them all, and I’m certain this will the month where I finally completely forget one. Or two.

 

Sitting up is all the rage. We can see more things, look directly into faces and admire sunshine coming in through the windows or movement on the TV.

Despite all of our previous weeks of complaining about how much Belly Time sucked, we just can’t get enough of it now. Zack gets put on the floor and usually within SECONDS, he’s flipped over to the tummy, often times followed by drool and/or a milk mustache, depending on how soon after a meal it is.

Speaking of rolling, the other day Zack was on the floor and he flipped, in quick succession, to his stomach from his back and then returned to his back while flipping in the same direction. And then looked up at us like, “WHOA!”

Our therapy with Early Intervention is going great. Miss Kathleen, our PT, said last week’s physical therapy session was THE BEST ONE YET. And congratulated Z’s parents on working hard with him because it’s paying off. Mommy Tears? You betcha. I could have (should have?) hugged that lady. Maybe this week…

 

Then there’s food. Mmmm. Not sure if there is really enough food for Zack to eat sometimes. Eating 8 ounces of formula at a time is nothing big for Lil Big Dude. Combine that with our absolute love for wheat cereal (movin’ on up from last month’s rice cereal adventure), and we are all quite pleased with his perfectly round belly.Which is where he prefers to rest his hands a lot of times now. So cute!

 

Z-Man’s desire to literally reach out and grab everything he can get his hands on is so exhilarating for his parents to watch. He reaches up, up, up over his head if the toy is interesting enough to him. And will follow it with his eyes in all directions.

He grabs on to things with such ferocity and strength, too, often smiling when he achieves victory.

And the hair. Oh, the hair.

It’s no longer reddish in color, which Daddy is quite happy about, apparently in a hatred of all Irish people! It’s becoming very, very light blond. And there are some days ZZ still rocks the mohawk and other days where it’s very much a Donald Trump combover. The funniest, however, is when it’s a cross of the two. All party and business all over the place. And our big ole bald spot in the back is starting to go away, too, which makes the hair on the bottom look less than a mullet (which makes Mommy happy).

And there is one strand of hair by his one ear that has to be four inches long. All by itself. Hysterical.

 

He’s still a pretty mellow, happy-go-lucky Duders most of the time.

His parents think he’s starting the teething process (hello, drool!) and so we have more cranky-potamus moments than we used to, but even those are pretty easy to handle. Especially with all that blubber on his chin. :-)

 

He gets in the funniest positions, too, usually involving his feet resting where his hands should be or grabbing for a toy with his toes instead of rolling over to reach out with his arms.

 

We don’t know his weight or length at this point, but we head to the doctor’s for a check-up on Thursday, so we should have some fun details then. (And perhaps the green light for something crazy — like a veggie or two!!!)

 

 

 

This has been my favorite month so far.

 

Life is good. Great. Grand. Perfect. And this guy reminds us of that every single day.

And they make it all better…

You love me, you really love me! I go a week and a half without posting and in the past few days I’ve gotten phone calls, e-mails, texts and messages wondering if everything’s alright and that you miss my posts. Thanks, loved ones! I am sorry to have put you in Zack Photo Withdrawal, but I’m back.

 

There… feeling better already?

We’ve been working very, very hard at clasping hands and fingers and feeling everything we can get, well, our hands on.

 

 

 

Is everything alright? Yes and No.

Nothing serious has happened. No one is sick, and, just to get this out of the way, no one is pregnant. Zee Momma, Zee Daddy and Baby Z are all doing well. I’ve just had a lot on my plate and a lot on my mind and I hope to share more details soon.

 

 

In the meantime, I have been surrounded by two guys who can, in less than a minute, take that frown and turn it upside down.

 

(even if they both now shoot me looks when I take the camera out)

 

 

 

 

The bigger of the two handsome dudes has been so supportive and understanding in my recent “funk” and has reminded me for about the 1,000th time that he’s not just my significant other, but he’s my absolute best friend.

And the littlest dude is amazing. I see, first thing every morning, this huge happy smile looking up at me from behind the bars of his crib, followed by a gurgle of cute little oooohs and ahhhs and bleeeees. It’s heaven.

 

To start my day like that every day and to end it listening to the sleepy sighs or a conversation between him and his daddy over the monitor, well, it makes life’s problems seem pretty insignificant.

 

 

I have about five half-done posts that will see completion in the coming days, Girl Scout’s honor.

For now, I’ll catch you up with some photos of Zee Family and our beautiful little world.