Q&A… with “Aunt” Jeannine

Happy Friday! It’s time for another question-and-answer post, this time with Zack’s honorary aunt, Jeannine.

She’s known as Jeans to me and she’s been one of those people. You know the kind, or at least I hope you find the kind.

We’ve known each other about 10 years, from an instant click our sophomore year of high school when we began to cause more trouble than our parents ever want to know.

I never thought it was possible to have so many hilarious inside jokes with somebody. Jokes that hold up a decade later.

Beyond her gorgeous grin and thoughtful character, Jeans has saved my life. A lot of you are probably shaking your head at such a crazy statement, but please trust me, it’s true. I repeat it to myself every time I see her. Jeannine saved my life.

I love the text messages I get from Jeannine, even if it’s not for days later thanks to our fantastic cell service out here in the country. I get ‘life update’ e-mails from her and despite our ups and downs these last few years, she’s taught me the importance of aging well, and the need to do that growing up with somebody you love.

They say
“I’m so glad that you finally made it here, You thought nobody cared, but I did, I could tell,”
And “This is your year,” and “It always starts here,”And oh-oh oh-oh-oh oh-oh, “You’re aging well.”

 

I’m smitten with the way that Jeannine looks at my son and I know that he will be lucky to have such a fantastic woman in his life.

 

 

 

And don’t get me started on her wonderful man, Jeff.

You know how some people just bring out the best in each other, make the whole world so stinkin’ happy just by their presence together as a couple? Yep, that’s Jeans and Jeff.

 

 

 

Enough! I present without further ado, the one, the only… Ms. Jeannine.

 

– How do you know Wendy and Scott?
I’ve known Wendy since high school, and I was able to meet Scott not too long before they got married.
– What’s your first memory with Wendy? What’s one of your favorite memories with Wendy?
Haha! Being in Mrs. Niper’s English class.  We were supposed to be working on a collage about a novel we had read as a class…but instead we were looking around the window and laughing and generally having way too much fun.
– Explain the importance of veggies.
Well it turns out that good friends make for a good life – and vegetables are good for the soul!  So eat your greens and don’t be stingy with the laughs 😉
– If you and Jeff could corrupt Zack for one day, what would you teach him?

I would definitely dye that mohawk if I could!  And I’m sure that Jeff would have him rocking out to that crazy rock n’ roll those darn kids are listening to these days.
But  real…what is the fun of being the cool aunt if I report back to his mom on everything??

– What makes Wendy and Scott a good couple?
They treat each other with respect – and that goes a long way and covers a lot of ground.
– Zack loves his new red hat. He wants to know how you came up with the design/idea and how  long it t ook you to make.
Haha!  I’m glad he likes it – it was fun to make.  I saw the pattern for the beanie in a book (just two half circles, nothing fancy) when I was in Barnes and Noble, but I didn’t really think to put it to use until one night when I started to freak out over my thesis and needed something hands-on to do. I had the spare red fabric from a sweater, and added the Z (which used to be trim on another garment), b/c I had this very blog on my mind 🙂  It took an hour or so, and reminded me that while I’m proud of myself for sticking it out in grad school, I’m happiest being creative and making things for people I love – so thank you, Zack, for a wake-up call that I really, really needed.
– 5 or 10 years ago, did you think we’d be here? (you can define here)
Here: “Doing the right things at the right time, in the best way we know how”  (how is that for a definition?)  I think its one of those things where you get so caught up in life, or I do at least, that you don’t notice that you’re “here” or “there” until one day you look around and say to yourself, you know, we’re aging well.

– Truth or Truth: A movie about your life is going to be made. What is the name of the film? What’s the main soundtrack song from the best scene? What actress is playing you? What one quote from our friendship MUST be included in the movie?
WELL. Wendy is a cheater b/c this question has been asked in this game about a million times!  😛

You know, lets call it “Here, in Progress” – and I think Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren should play us! I think the soundtrack should be a mix of Madonna songs, the Sound of Music, everything from Beaches, some Springsteen and also some ABBA – and we sing all of them.

I would love to give your readers a preview of some of the quotes from this movie, but none of ’em are fit to print 😉

The magic and the wonder

Between the snow, the Christmas decorations and atmosphere and a certain blue-eyed baby, this winter I think will be a little less dreary than most.

My cousin Nicole recommended I listen to this song (it even says Zachary!) and now I have it on repeat as I look over photos from an evening with my two guys.

I love the phrase the magic and the wonder our ole Rocky Mountain friend sings about in that song. This year has given me much magic and wonder. These past four months have been magical and wonderful and more so because of the moments where the magic and wonder was hidden in a deep dark place that I HAD to visit. To get from there to here. There is magic here. And great wonder.

I’ve also been reminded to, quoting the title of my absolute favoritest blog ever, enjoy the small things. There are moments where I am oblivious to the attention my little blog has gotten already, although I’ve asked for it with Facebook sharing and word of mouth and a mass e-mail here and there. But then there are people I never knew who are sending me thoughts of love; there are acquaintances-turned-friends simply because they spent a few minutes ‘in my world’ here.  Church members are reading and people I work with or see through work are cheering us Z’s on every day.

 

That’s huge.

 

 

I don’t blog for the comments (though they make my day!) or for attention (I like being behind the scenes). This post explains why you blog. At least it hits the nail on the head for me.

 

 

This is such therapy for me.

 

Some days I’m barely hanging on and just letting my fingers roam the keys puts a calmness in my soul. Other days, I’m so proud of my son, my husband, my life, that I have to stop uploading photos and laughing out loud. And some days, very much today, is a neutral ground somewhere in between.

Don’t laugh, but it makes me feel whole. It makes me stop and take notice of the magic and the wonder in my life; of the small things and beautiful things that might otherwise escape my reflection of a busy day.

 

It heals me.

 

 

 

 

 

Four Months Old

One. Done.

Two. Came and went.

Three. Flew by.

Four?! Four months already???!

The Dude, formerly known as Baby Z and before that, a lil poppy seed, is four months old today. I know everybody says time goes by quickly, but this is almost unreal.

Anyway, this has been a great and exciting month.

We’re not sure about Zack’s weight since we don’t own a scale and don’t go back to the doctor’s office until next week, but we figure he’s got to be about 17 pounds, give or take a little. And our yardstick just told us that he’s about 26 inches long!

He eats 5 to 7 ounces or for about 30 to 45 minutes every three or four hours. And would probably not stop eating if he had a choice. Thankfully, he doesn’t.

He’s wearing 6-9 months clothes, although his shirts are usually tight and his pants are too long. The boy’s all torso. We’re also now in Size 2 diapers.

We enjoyed our first Thanksgiving and visitors that included Aunt Shelby, Uncle Shamus and Aunt Michelle from New Jersey and an honorary aunt and two honorary uncles from Baltimore. We met new friends David, Lexie and Hailey, too.

Zack has seen his first snow, albeit briefly and only in flurry form so far.

 

 

Momma got her brand new, fantastic camera and has been obsessed with taking Zack’s photo this month.

 

 

 

The mohawk continues to grow. Z’s hair is getting much longer and some days it stays relatively flat, but it looks REALLY ridiculous then, with some plastered against his head and some flipping two inches up in the air. We get so many comments on his hair, and we love it (even the old ladies who yell at us for “doing that” to him).

 

 

 

We gave up the swaddle this month after Zack made it a game every night and every morning. He’d toss and turn and talk out loud as he tried to get first one arm, and then another arm out of the fabric. If the velcro was loose enough, sometimes he’d even get his legs out and it would turn out to be more of a cape than a wearable blanket. He sleeps in a ‘sleep sack’ now, which is going much better.

 

 

 

 

Zack is very curious and observant now. Suddenly, he sees EVERYTHING, whether it’s a moving person or a new toy or the lights on the Christmas tree. He just HAS to follow things with his eyes, studying every detail.

 

 

 

 

Zack has just, in the last few days, and thanks to our physical therapist Kathleen, started to sit up better and for longer periods of time. It is the first of many amazing feats that I feel I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to experience. The anticipation and delay is so worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My other favorite thing that Zack is practicing often is his smile. It’s a gorgeous, huge smile that just fills up the entire room. And his giggles. Oh, don’t get me started on the giggles. He gives them out for free and they’re worth so very much. Man, I love the giggles.

 

 

 

 

Zack isn’t the only one that grows each month. Scott and I both learn so much from him and about him.

Scott has always been a great father, but now it’s just so amazing to watch. He and Zack are most definitely going to have a special bond that no one else can every compete with in this lifetime.

My favorite time of the day is waking up and listening to Zack’s babbles (he now talks to the puppy decal on the wall above his crib) while I get dressed and ready for work. I go in to his room and am, on some days, greeted by a sound that seriously sounds like “hi” along with a  signature Zack Smile. My world is complete in those moments and empty when I’m not with him.

 

Another great month.

POSITIVE

It was one year ago today.

I came home from work that Sunday and opened our kitchen door to find a bouquet of flowers, with a note underneath that read, These are for you, Mommy.

It was the first day that I knew about Zack. The first day of the rest of my life. (No, that day wasn’t my wedding day — sorry Scott — and it wasn’t the day Zack was born. My life changed that weekend after I peed on a stick.)

Earlier that day, Scott was downstairs watching TV and I went up to get ready for work. I brushed my hair, put on my make-up and was just hit by an unbelievable urge to pee.on.stick.now. We had been trying for a couple of months and I was just absolutely crushed after that first month when the test, er all three tests, said NOT Pregnant. I don’t know why they can’t word it nicer.

Try again, perhaps. Or, better luck next time. But the NOT in front of that beautiful “P” word just made me so sad that month.

But back to the happy month.

I had been feeling a bit run down for a few days, but other than that, there really was no clue that a mohawked-baby was chillin’ out inside of me. I didn’t want to be hurt again and I didn’t want to get Scott excited. So, I just did it really quickly and nearly forgot about it. I was pulling my hair up into a ponytail when I happened to glance on the white stick on the windowsill.

Hold the phone, I thought. Does that say PREGNANT?!

I looked, and then I shrieked. Loudly and as if there was a five-headed, three-eyed alien in the bathtub.

Scott came up stairs in about three leaps.

“WHAT DOES THIS SAY?!?!” I asked him, shaking the stick in his face.

He paused, he smiled, he paused.

“Merry Christmas,” he said with a smirk on his face. (Because this was ALL Scott’s doing, you know…)

We didn’t even have a chance to celebrate. I had to get to work! I gave Scott a huge kiss and a huge hug and I think I even got a belly pat from him. And then I got in the car and drove down the Road O Life in the beginning of a huge journey I didn’t know I was taking.

I promised Scott I wouldn’t tell anybody and then picked up the phone and called a friend as soon as I got in cell service. And then I texted another friend. Then called another one…

I was on Cloud Nine when I walked into the office later. I couldn’t have been happier… or more naive.

I sat down and almost immediately, a co-worker confided in me about he and his wife’s struggles with infertility for YEARS. Like, drive two hours each way at last once every single week to see a fertility specialist. And did I mention trying for YEARS?

Some great guy up in the clouds reminded me immediately how precious and special this gift was. And how blessed I truly, truly was.

And I haven’t forgotten that lesson yet. I hope I never do.

I told Zack several times today, on this very special day, that he was the best Christmas present for me. Two years in a row.

I kept a journal all pregnancy in a book called Letters for Tomorrow. Here are some excerpts:

From Dec. 10, 2009: I am five weeks along and am still teetering back and forth between excited and nervous… You are so loved already.

That same day, Scott wrote: …Today was the five-week mark. I’m overly excited. It feels like time is moving so slowly, but I know it will fly by soon enough. We’re both excited to have you in our lives. But for now, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. And don’t worry, help is on the way. We’ll get you outta there as soon as we can. Love, Your Daddy. PS – Remember who I am. A popular saying of the time is “Who’s Your Daddy?” — Soon, you’ll know.

All I can do is smile.

Zack has been loved for a year. And will be loved until the end of time.

Q&A… with Zack’s Grandma

Zack’s parents are not the only swell people in the Mohawked One’s life. I thought a fun feature of the blog could be a sort of Q&A with our loved ones. It is my intention for you (and me!) to see our world from a different point of view in ways that can be thought-provoking, entertaining and interesting all at once.

Our first victim, er, spotlight will be with Scott’s mother, Debbie, my mother-in-law and Zack’s paternal grandmother and full-time babysitter.

[Interview done during the baby’s feeding earlier this week]

What were your first thoughts and emotions when told that Wendy was pregnant? Did you have a hunch ahead of time?

Debbie: Excitement. Happiness. Sheer joy which I still feel.

I knew. On Christmas Day, I offered Wendy some coffee and Scott clearly said, “My wife won’t be having any.” It was given away. I didn’t say a word to anyone.

[Blogger’s note: Wendy and Scott found out they were pregnant in early December 2009, but didn’t tell Scott’s parents or most other people until a month or two later.]

What was the best part of our pregnancy journey for you?

D: Watching you guys grow, not just physically. [Laughs] It’s really neat to watch somebody else go through the experience. It was a good time. A very good nine months.

Did you honestly have a preference on the baby’s gender?

D: Absolutely not. We love babies. We didn’t care.

How was the official “labor day” for you?

D: I didn’t put the phone down. I carried one cordless phone around until the battery went dead. Then I carried the other one around with me.

[Blogger’s note: We stopped at Debbie and Calvin’s house on our way to the hospital for the third day of contractions. We thought we’d be discharged again and would see Debbie for lunch. We called her an hour later and told her today was the day. And then we left her hanging for nearly six hours.]

What was your reaction when you found out I had to have a C-section?

D: That was scary. The doctors know what they were doing.

What was that momen t like when you first saw the baby?

D: I didn’t cry right away. [She said as she started to well up.] There’s just no words. [Debbie started wiping tears] I loved him from the moment I laid eyes on him. It’s unconditional love.

And what about when you were told he had Down Syndrome? [Blogger’s note: We were told it was a possibility by the pediatrician at the hospital Monday after Zack’s birth. Zack’s discharge was delayed Tuesday until we could line up an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist. We didn’t tell anyone about the pediatrician’s hunch about DS until we told Scott’s parents Wednesday after that appointment. We found out for sure when test results were called to us Saturday.]

D: Sunday, right when I saw him, he opened his eyes and looked at me and I knew. Tuesday, when you were not discharged, I completely fell apart. I told Calvin the baby had Down Syndrome. Wednesday was one of the hardest times we’ve ever had together. Right now, I wouldn’t trade him for the world. It was so scary at first because we didn’t know that little person yet. He’s not that baby with Down Syndrome. He’s our grandson. He’s a healthy baby boy and he’s doing great. He’s just such a joy.

How would you describe Zack’s personality?

D: I think he’s precious. He’s very mellow. The best times are sometimes when you’re changing him and his eyes are looking and you and he’ll just watch you until he makes a noise. Then he’ll smile. Having little conversations with him are really special to me. I love letting him talk to me.

How would you describe Scott and me as parents?

D: I’m so proud of my kids and the parents you’ve become. You were parents before you even had Zack. You thought like parents do. It’s very natural for both of you. I think you’ve been very comfortable with him since Day One.

How is being a grandparent different from being a parent?

D: I think we’re in a different place in our lives. It’s hard being a parent, working, taking care of the house, putting food on the table and taking care of the baby. We’ve been there, done that. It’s not easy.

We’re looking forward to him growing up and getting older and playing ball, things like that. Grandparents come and play and then they leave. Get ’em good and dirty and high on sugar and then give them back. [Laughs mischievously.] I love every minute of it.

[Blogger’s note: I think we’re in trouble… :-)]

Therapy Thursdays

Zack has a couple of ladies that visit him every week or two. As his mom, I’m not too concerned about my Ladies’ Man. You see, his female visitors are therapists from our local Early Intervention program.

Our physical therapist Kathleen comes every week. Our special instructor Sheri visits every other week.

I was so nervous about Early Intervention, which, by the way, I knew nothing about prior to August. EI is a free public program sponsored by our local MH/MR office. It started with a consultation meeting in which officials from EI determined our eligibility and gave us paperwork to fill out. Then there was a meeting to see in what what areas Zack may need extra assistance. At two months old, Zack was measuring about on par for his age, with the exception of a slight possible delay in gross motor skills.

His Down Syndrome diagnosis however makes for an extra need for a bit of extra help, if you will. It can’t hurt, right.

It was hard for me to watch the EI officials studying Zack that first time. I knew they were looking for delays, for trouble. I knew it was just them doing their job and helping Zack out in the long run, but that was my baby boy’s actions they were scrutinizing.

Moreover, that was his future they were debating. They were seeing the signs of a syndrome I was still frightened to accept at that point. They were holding him and staring at him like he was a science experiment and it hurt my New Mommy Soul.

As we started visits from Kathleen and Sheri, however, I soon changed my mind. These ladies are helping him. Every exercise Zack’s support group — me, Scott, Grandma, friends, therapists… — do with the dude is a step closer to “normalcy,” a smidge easier his life will be as he gets older. It’s a hard, cold truth that stares me in the face every Thursday.

But, I love these ladies.

They come in, the second or third or fourth stop on their day of traveling a long coverage area and dealing with traffic, pets, annoying parents and upset babies. You would think it was their only stop for a month, though, or that Zack was their own child.

 

They get the work done, but in a way that makes it so enjoyable and fun for Zack. The smiles while he lifts his head or spends time on his stomach or grasps a toy doesn’t make all the muscle-hurting stretching so seemingly cruel anymore.

The ladies have nicknames for our guy and sweet voices they chirp those names in, all the while loving him so sweetly.

They cheer his accomplishments and sometimes surprising achievements and make our entire family feel like a million bucks.

And even our homework comes out like a fun challenge. (We have weekly assignments of what to work on and how our progress on certain goals is going)

Our hour visits from them fly by and a part of me is sad when they leave.

Will I be able to make as much of a difference? I ask myself as they march down our front steps, ready to make another family feel special.

Are we doing enough? I always ponder that one. And sometimes, Do I worry about it all too much? Is that even possible?

I’ve realized that all I can do is my best. My best for Zack, my best for myself, my best for my family.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about leg stretches or Zack’s ability to follow objects and noises with his eyes. We’d play or we’d be lazy and that’d be the end of it all. It wouldn’t matter.Maybe I could snuggle with him more and stretch his limbs less. Maybe I wouldn’t even have to think about any of it.

But as long as I live, I have to know that every day I did what was the absolute best for my son.

I don’t ever want to ask

what if?

Warming a cold heart

My job takes all of the fun out of life sometimes.

You wake up, heavy eyes and aching back but ready to face the day — and your smiling baby cooing in his crib. You leave your house, sad without your handsome dude in your arms (or safely in the backseat!) but happy with life.

And then you find yourself in a courtroom listening to disgusting things done by people who never should have been allowed to procreate.

That was my day.

My heart was sad and heavy as I drove through flooded roadways (hello, Mother Nature!) on my way home this afternoon after covering a preliminary hearing. I was excited to hold that baby of mine but also so frustrated that people can waste a good thing, hurt a beautiful, innocent person. It just doesn’t make sense.

 

But, despite a long day and a hard day, my heart has become warm as our living room fire; warm as my husband’s laugh and my baby’s smiling eyes.Our Christmas cards have arrived and envelopes need filled out while watching TV on the coach.

Then, I will trudge slowly up the stairs and cuddle into my dear friend the electric blanket, just to wake up and face another day, sure to be a hard one, tomorrow.

 

 

 

I will make it through this day, this week.

 

 

 

My heart is warm again.