Climbing, leaping, loving

He’s climbing steps.
Not just a few, not just every now and then.
He is climbing up all 14 of our steps to the second level of our house all the time.

Pause button, please!

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When we say “Time for Night-Night,” he turns from wherever he is in the house, crawls to the first landing and points up, then begins the slightly awkward shuffle of left foot up, right foot up, balancing butt up off the stairs as his hands keep grasping upwards.

When he sees a dog or a cat go up the stairs, he feels the need to follow, to explore, and then to torture them in rooms previously off limits to his imagination and exploration.

If he hears a noise upstairs or is tired of waiting for Momma or Daddy to come back down, he just finds them in his own way, his own time.

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He’s getting bigger and braver and making his Momma bite her lip and hold back her own crazy, selfish fears as she applauds his every courageous moment.

Z-Man’s not just a courageous lil boy, he’s a mischievous little bugger, too. Remember throwing socks down the cat door? Well now, he throws everything down the little hole, peering down to giggle at his nifty trick.
His toys, cat toys, paper towel holders from the recycling pile, empty cereal boxes, toilet paper scraps… you name it, he’s probably thrown it down the basement steps with a maniacal laugh.

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And as much as The Dude’s been turning into a clingy Momma’s boy and sharing a kiss or two with my belly lately, he is still so in love with his Daddy, and his Daddy has just blossomed, almost overnight, to the most amazing father I could ever imagine for our children.

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It was Scott, excitement in his voice, who told me on my way home from work a few nights ago that Z-Man had a surprise for Momma. And Scott who followed up the stairs behind the Little Man on his first full night of stair-climbing, two Daddy hands just close enough and just far enough behind the little guy to give him room to fall — but just a little — and to succeed — and so, so much.

It is Scott who is teaching himself Sign Language after months of dragging his heels on that area of therapy for Zack.

It is Scott who is patient at mealtime and offers new and exciting things for Z-Man to try.

Scott offers up applause with which I can barely compete. He gives more frequent hugs, he shares more giggles and funny commentary.

I used to think about “Poor Me” a lot when re-living our first few months with Zack and his unexpected diagnosis. But the path Scott had to travel down was sometimes much darker and definitely a longer, windier way, with pain he couldn’t even put into words himself. He suffered… and then he survived. And now, our family is in such a beautiful place.

It’s like Zack senses this healing, too.

Yesterday, he was putting a towel over his head and I called it (and signed) his “hat.” He smiled, crawled up to the chair where Scott’s beloved 13-year-old WVU hat lay, placed it on his head with a huge grin.
“Daddy’s hat,” I said.
And Zack blew kisses to the door, as if in anticipation of Scott’s arrival from work in a short while.

He played with Daddy’s hat for hours and went back for more this morning.

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But it’s so much more than that.
It’s the way Scott talks about his soon-to-be-arriving Little Miss. How he rubs my belly before he falls asleep.
It’s the way he kisses Zack’s head every now and then.
How he makes Bathtime so fun for the The Dude that I half-want to jump in myself (if it weren’t for fear of not being able to ever get out!).
It’s the breakfast he made for the two of us the other day… spelling my name out in pancakes and singing songs from a CD I got him for Valentines’ Day.

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It’s just the crazy, silly, growing love that is taking over our home, our world lately. (And the Snickers ice cream bars Scott went out and bought me at 8:30 last night help, too)

And it’s all because we made it down this long ole road.
And because we’ll make it through anything. Anything at all.

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Today would have been my Mommy’s birthday. She was a Leap Year baby — and another blonde baby, too! I miss her as always, but it’s fun to think of her as a grandmother lately, and the damn good one she probably would have been, too. I imagine a fun grandma, full of spunk and energy.
And I’ve talked about her to Zack a lot today, pointing out pictures and sharing big smiles and big, much-needed hugs.

She is missed and she is loved.

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They say it’s my birthday…

28 years ago, there was a day of awesomeness. Because I was born, of course!

With the beautiful moments I’ve enjoyed of family and accomplishments these past few weeks, I can’t help but be particularly sentimental today.

I’ve been thinking, as I hold my growing belly, about my mother in those months and weeks and hours before she met me for the first time. And I can’t help but think about that mother-daughter bond I’ll soon experience myself.

I rocked a little boy back to sleep in the early hours of this morning and despite my exhaustion and his reluctance to fall back asleep, I loved it. It instantly became one of my favorite moments with the Little Man. Ever. There have been a lot of late-night/early-morning rockings in his baseball-and-puppy covered room. Some of them, in the very, very early days were filled with anger and tears — not toward my son, but toward the hand that had been dealt to him.

I remember staring at those sports scenes on his walls and feeling very, very bitter about the plans we had no business making for him and how we had just set ourselves up for disappointment.

18 months later, less than a month away from our second celebration of World Down Syndrome Day and our family’s attempt at bringing awareness to others, and Down Syndrome isn’t everything. It really isn’t anything. It’s brought us a greater awareness of the little things I think most parents take for granted; it’s brought us three Early Intervention therapists who have become family; it’s brought us an understanding, a peace, a love, that we are so blessed to experience.

18 months ago, my son’s slanted blue eyes brought me a level of sadness I thought was unconquerable. And here we are, just a mother and her son rocking side to side in the quiet darkness of his room. A little hand sliding up and down strands of my hair, a thumb-sucking noise on my shoulder. “Life is good, so beautifully good,” I thought over and over and over.

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This past weekend, we went to my Homeland of Jersey. No armpit jokes, no exit questions; this is my home. This is the land of memories and happy times and most importantly, family. We had a lot of that great family time this weekend. We celebrated another blossoming belly and growing family with a baby shower for my cousin, who is one of the most radiant, beautiful mothers-to-be I’ve ever seen.

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Zack tried to steal the show and I tried to capture all of these magical moments on camera — my aunt’s first entertainment stint since the passing of her husband last year, thinking about that absolutely insane circle of life and how it was never more evident than on a Saturday afternoon in Bayonne; the bonding between Zachary and his great aunt and great uncle, cousins and grandparents; the love that is found in precise decorating, uncontrollable laughter (and sometimes snorting) and the strength found in the loved ones in that room.

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There were a lot of people in that room who had at some point, some of them very recently, been through something they didn’t think they’d survive. And yet there we all were, getting each other through another day, another year. Sharing secrets and plans and dreams and fears. A lot of delicious bread and food, walks to the park, photos of the Bayonne Bridge. And enough love to fill a million party favors or birthday cards.

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There’s a sleeping boy upstairs, laundry whirring in the dryer and a cat purring next to me. It’s a simple life, but it’s one I wouldn’t exchange for anything. The weather is supposed to be mild and sunny today and that calls for some time outside with my guy to celebrate my day, but really to celebrate EVERY day.

My birthday wish is simple. I don’t want to forget this euphoria; this feeling of acknowledging that you have no control over life, but you have control over how you react to and how you handle what life offers you, good or bad, ugly or beautiful, expected or unexpected.

To forget that would be my ultimate failure. It would mean the hard lesson learned was for nothing. It would mean that I hadn’t learned to just accept life unconditionally, to live life unconditionally.

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While the Daddy’s away…

My handsome hubby returns to us today after several days away. He was missed, but I’m so happy he had this trip, this chance. And it was a great opportunity for me, too. I had these hours and days with The Dude; this chance to prove that I can overcome the creaky, lonely house and the potential for mice in the mudroom (even if I just simply chose to never use the mudroom…).

Z-Man and I had a great few days.

There was standing. And almost walking! And lots of snuggles, of course. We laughed a lot. We talked a lot. Well, he babbled incomprehensively and I responded with deep thoughts about life.

And we felt a lot of love from a lot of amazing people. So many of Zack’s little friends came to spend time with us. And that meant so, so much to both of us.

It’s been a really, really great few days.

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*Remember, 3-21, World Down Syndrome Day, is coming up quickly. Make sure you’ve visited ndss.org and please think about all of our Zacharys and all of our possibilities for tomorrows.

Speaking of 3-21… I’ve been presented with a great honor, a great possibility myself to bring about some awareness in our area. I’m thinking it over and thinking that it requires a little bravery for a lot of that awesome possibility. Zack would want me to, I think. More soon…

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Empty half of a bed

My Love has gone on a short journey. Wednesday evening, really Thursday morning, Scott backed his Cruiser of a car down our driveway and I watched the red lights go down our country road, imagining the left at the post office, the long highway miles until he pulled into an airport to catch a flight or two.
He is visiting family, namely his ill grandfather in Florida, until late Monday. (Please keep them in your thoughts)

I miss him.
Especially at nighttime. As soon as the house is surrounded by the darkness and the creaks of the old structure pick up, I feel on edge, I feel alone. I woke up three times last night — conducive to my bathroom visit schedule but not to gaining much-needed rest.
But the daytime hours get me through; the love of friends who come to visit and help the minutes pass along.
And a handsome towhead (just for you, Reva) who gets his Momma’s undivided attention one long last time before I go back to work; before we become a family of four in a few months. This is something very, very special.

Zack is an amazing little fella and he makes his Momma and Daddy feel so fortunate so much of the time. He babbles little phrases excitedly, battles with friendly kittens, crawls so very, very fast and notes every movement and sound in the room.

And he stands.
He crawls to the middle of the floor, uses arms and legs and stomach muscles to pull himself up, slowly, teetering, to a standing position. He lingers there three, five, eight seconds, and lands with a thump on the floor. Barely there for a second and he tries it again.

I simultaneously hold my breath and cheer with loud clapping every single time. He seems so tall, he seems so fearless. What was I ever worried about?

And I’ve been told I need to dedicate more lovin’ to Lil Miss Z. She is is large enough for me to feel her twists and turns and small enough to do a somersault in my stomach at least every 23 seconds. (She’s between papaya and grapefruit size… which just makes me hungry for fruit). Our last doctor’s visit two weeks ago was uneventful and the only major “milestone” coming up is my gestational diabetes testing in a couple of weeks.
We are slowly but surely coming up with a list of duplicate items we need (another crib, yes… a double stroller, perhaps…) and Scott has been making terrific headway finishing up our basement project and clearing out the old office which will be Lil Miss’s nursery in a few months. I’m starting to get excited about our little girl, although not quite the level of pink-shag-carpet-on-the-ceiling-in-celebration level that my husband is at currently. I pick out an outfit (usually blue or yellow or purple) and am told that No, actually all girls are required to wear strawberry-and-flowers decorated dresses with ruffly underwear and matching headbands. We’ll see if I get my tomboy.

Two things of note before I bombard you with photos from the last couple of weeks:
– There are only six weeks until 3-21, World Down Syndrome Day, a fantastic opportunity to reflect on Down Syndrome, learn more about DS and spread the word about DS.
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– Also, please check out this touching video done by my Mommy Blogger “Friend” Kelle Hampton, whose daughter Nella just turned 2 (and has helped raise $200,000 for the National Down Syndrome Society).
“Down Syndrome doesn’t define our family…”

And now, I present without further ado, photos of my handsome little man. Have a great weekend!

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