Soaking it up

I learned a tip from married friends just before my Wedding Day: Soak it all up, they said. Hit the pause button on your big day and look around and glue that moment to your memory bank before it’s over and you haven’t even taken the time to enjoy it.

I do it all the time, but especially recently.

The start of spring, the upcoming growth of our family from three to four, visits and surprises and all the ordinary moments too; I’m taking a lot more time-outs and I’m hitting Pause as often as I possibly can.

20120425-233128.jpg

My love for my son, my husband, my friends, my family has never been stronger. Nor has their love for me and my world.

20120425-233330.jpg

My Dad and stepmother came out to visit a couple of weeks ago and their whirlwind of a stay was just what the doctor ordered. Just to have them sleeping in a room in the hotel that I dedicate so much of my time; to have them sitting in our living room watching their grandson’s latest tricks.. it was so easy and comforting.

20120425-233510.jpg

My Dad’s magic as a grandfather is just incredible. Zack’s every move and giggle just lights him up from the inside out and Zack is so obviously comfortable and in love with his PopPop. I spent so many moments that weekend just willing the clock to slow down, begging myself to never forget these moments.

20120425-233653.jpg

20120425-233738.jpg

And just a couple of days later, Massachusetts plates found their way in front of our home. My dear friend Nicole, who stumbled into my life in a study abroad program in South America nearly seven years ago, sacrificed most of her school’s break and traveled nine-plus hours to the country to squeeze in one visit with Zack before he became a big brother.

20120425-233944.jpg

20120425-234023.jpg

It’s so easy to play host when she’s in town. She makes herself at home and never once feels like a guest; it always feels like she was meant to be right there in the room blowing bubbles with our boy and quietly observing the everyday moments of our lives. She just fits. It was a beautiful week, and a relaxing week and I felt myself drawn even closer to her by the end of her time with us.

And she takes great photos, which appeals to my always-got-my-camera way of life. (New photography business and corresponding blog/website on its way…!)

20120425-234308.jpg

20120425-234341.jpg

20120425-234404.jpg

20120425-234448.jpg

And I thought to myself, Self, it just doesn’t get any better.
And then, me and Self were proven wrong.
With a surprise baby shower from local friends.

I thought I was going to a bowling banquet to support Scott. I dragged my feet. I almost faked contractions. And I was so dense that I still didn’t even put the pieces together until thirty seconds AFTER I walked in, saw some of our friends, noticed the Baby Shower signs and balloons… and had a girlfriend ask, “Were you surprised?”
(I was going to say yeah, this is the best bowling banquet I’ve ever seen…”)

Because it was a surprise, I didn’t even have my camera, but my friends have all promised me photos from the evening.

Just know this: Some of the most important people in my life were in that room and every single one of them have been there in some great respect during our journey these past two years. Some have struggled with us; some have learned from us; some struggle now; some pick us up before we even realize we’ve fallen. All love us.

I was so quiet the whole time, this I know. I just kept thinking over and over: “You lucky girl, you lucky girl, you lucky girl.” I just kept hitting that pause button to soak it all in.

The balance of not too much pink.
The gifts, the gifts, the gifts!
The most beautiful cake I’ve ever seen! (There’s a baby butt in my fridge!)
The nods from across the room. I-get-it; I’m-here.
The sharing of and passing back and forth of beautiful children; kids I hope Zack always can count on as friends.
The laughter.

And then I got in the car and squeezed Scott’s hand and cried the happiest tears I’ve shed in 20 months. Talk about full circle, baby.

Scott and I have shared a lot of special moments lately. Our friendship, our love, just keeps on growing. I keep hitting new peaks I didn’t know were possible, and while the realist and pessimist and girl-who’s-lived-it knows, it can all come crashing down. But I know that I’ve never been more prepared for it, never been as strong as I am now. No matter what happens, my support and foundation is just incredible. Not invincible, not cocky, just living.

20120425-235352.jpg

Today, Zack had his six-week follow-up from his surgery last month. It was short, it was sweet and it’s all over. One more checkmark on the list; one more sigh of relief.

20120425-235423.jpg

20120425-235501.jpg

20120425-235530.jpg

At my doctor’s today, I was told that a repeat C-Section is a pretty likely bet this time around; and that our timeline has just gotten bumped up to as soon as two weeks or so from now. Unexpected? Yes. Unmanageable? No. We’re ready to meet Little Miss and we would sell our souls to make her healthy and happy and to offer her the love and acceptance and support that so many have already given her big brother.

Bring on the obstacles; bring on the challenges. They are all gifts. They are all opportunities.

Our Down Syndrome journey has brought us down a path to people like Pam and Maddy with the National Down Syndrome Society who have been patient and helpful and loving as always; whose dedication to improving the lives of and advocating for children like Zack is a beautiful thing. This week, they’ve helped our family condense our two fundraisers into one. With their help, we’ve created a big of magic: a celebration of the more than $3,000 raised in these past 9 months and the goal of $2,000 more before Little Sister joins our family.

You can visit our new site and donate here.

And even more astonishing? Our family’s fundraising efforts have been featured as a profile on the NDSS Your Way website, visible here.

So we continue to soak in these last couple of weeks as a family of four; as two individuals so unbelievably lucky to be so loved by so many.

We will enjoy the moment, we will brace ourselves for impact incase the sky shall fall, and then we will turn those lemons into lemonade and drink, drink it all up.

20120426-000345.jpg

20120426-000408.jpg

20120426-000449.jpg

20120426-000534.jpg

20120426-000654.jpg

Advertisements

Bloom-ing

We are in the midst of many blooms here.
There is the literal kind, with the arrival of a long-awaited, therapeutic, she-gets-me novel that has wrapped itself around my every thought and emotion and has given me the much-needed reassurance of strength that I will need in these next few weeks.

Healing is a bit like watching a flower bloom. You don’t really know when it’s going to happen, and despite the fact that you might be sitting there in front of barren ground attempting to will a bare stem to blossom, it doesn’t happen on command. No, it is gradual. Like time-lapse photography. And as you are sitting, waiting, pleading for growth, you eventually begin to forget that you are waiting until suddenly, days later, you look and behold… a bloom.

Mom Blogger and Internet Friend Kelle’s poignant capture of those first few days in her Florida hospital just seven months before our Z-Man was born hit a deep part of my heart that I had pretty much boarded up, one piece of scrap wood at a time, these past 20 or so months. Ripping those pieces of wood off this week is much more healing than I could have imagined, even if it was a bit painful at times. I have to admit that after Chapter One, I laid the book down and spent an hour cleaning all of the windows in our house, trying to wipe away those private images she seemed to have stolen from our own journey.

My friend Nicole is reading Bloom as well, and I love that. I love that I have friends who have pre-ordered a novel so closely related to our own journey just because they get it.
Or my friend Krystal, who didn’t have to say anything other than to call her when I had my meltdown next month, because it would come. Because she gets the significance of missing my mom and starting a mother-daughter relationship right around Mother’s Day. Because she understands the journey we could be thrown any day now.

Friendships bloom, too, and usually when you’re not looking.

20120408-120621.jpg

My trusty Word Search book became the most recent tablet for hit-you-hard random thoughts the other day when I was getting some prenatal testing for blood sugar and anemia done at the hospital where Zack was born and where Little Miss Jellybean will be joining our world next month. I can’t stop the notes, the inspiration some days. I use the backs of business cards if I have an idea at work; scrawl on grease-stained napkins with a pencil or a tube of lip gloss to keep a word nearby. I’ve used (clean) diapers and the palm of my hand. But there I was, looking for a word to circle and minding my business in that waiting room the other day when I had.to.write.it.down.

I still hate hospitals. Probably always will. Maybe more so the older I get.

From my seat in the waiting room, I could crane my neck just slightly forward and to the left and see the windows of a hospital room where I processed my new life and journey during five days in this building two Augusts ago. I couldn’t stop staring. I was half-expecting to see a tired young woman cradling a newborn son staring back at me, eyes puffy from tears, new wrinkles and gray hairs and unbelievable exhaustion across her faded smile.

Soon enough, I’ll be down the hall again welcoming another child, another journey. I hope it’s another room. I panic when I think about that room and its layout, the secret moments its walls hold of the days when I thought everything was crumbling down to the ground.

Still, there is a serene happiness at the forefront of my life these days. My world is a collection of images, frozen in time, haphazardly thrown together like a piece of abstract art. The sun of a premature spring warms my hair. The baby calf spotted on a walk down the road with my two guys. That beautiful sound of a growing baby’s heartbeat in a doctor’s room. The voices of loved ones ore the phone; calls that touch me so much and refresh my heart and mind. My son bringing a toy or book over to me. His strengthening legs and feet who are taking more daring, larger steps. My daughter’s pokes and kicks, reminding me of her presence, her love, my love. The best days, those simple moments we’ve been sharing as husband and wife, as friends. The feel of my camera in my hands. The view of the world from its trusty lens.

I love the woman I’ve become, the blessings I’ve been given, the tests that have challenged me, the difference I know I can make through education and advocacy and love and new beginnings. The magic I can create. The bloom I can become.

It’s feeling the spring breeze when Zack and I scurry across a blanket sprawled across the grass but never forgetting where we came from, sad hospital view and all. It’s amazing how much I feel it all.

20120408-120531.jpg

I am taking in every moment with my son, his last few weeks with a family of three. I am mesmerized by the changes overtaking him every day, the improvements he’s making overnight.

I’m just taking it all in.

And now it’s a beautiful Easter Sunday.

20120408-120330.jpg

I’ve got the day off and our family is busy enjoying the beauty of the littlest moment. My littlest man is taking a nap. My handsome hubby is beefing up his Tiger Woods Golf character. And that breeze is beckoning to me from the open front door just a few feet away. We will pack ourselves up soon and make the most of this day we’ve been given. There will be talks and walks and grass under our feet and just me, my camera and my guys. And the big round belly to remind me of the joy and journey yet to come.

20120408-115922.jpg

We will run away and enjoy it and make the most of it all. Because there are more blooms to be discovered and more blooming to be done.

20120408-120449.jpg

20120408-120249.jpg

20120408-120822.jpg

20120408-120952.jpg